The Dangers of Environmental Toxins

While California, Brazil and Bolivia have spent the past Northern Hemispheric summer burning and we all await more chaos created by more frequent natural disasters, a climate emergency of a different nature has gone under the radar for some time.

In fact, to even raise it as something that requires alarm or a sense of emergency seems to often be dismissed as conspiracy in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Environmental toxins are wreaking havoc through our environment and while it’s cool to challenge our major polluters we ignore some of the other major corporations that are letting toxins go unchecked.

One of the most obvious and best culprits to challenge on this particular topic is Monsanto – one which many perceive as attracting perhaps unwarranted ire.

Worker spraying strawberry fields with pesticide

But yet, Monsanto were discovered in 2018 to have been ghost writing scientific studies only revealed when plaintiffs filed suits against the mega-corporation in an attempt to prove that glyphosate or Roundup was a carcinogen and in particular the result of their aggressive Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The court case also revealed that a prominent academic and proponent of GMO crops had asked Monsanto to draft an article for him which was identical to an article he had purportedly authored on Forbes.

Even further, one of the ‘BBC reporters’ at the trials was also later revealed to be a “reputation manager” for FTI consulting who’s clients include Monsanto. The results of the trial saw the plaintiffs walking away successfully with a jury satisfied that there is sufficient evidence that it is in fact a carcinogen.

The trial pushed open the door into a world that even the biggest tin-hatters could not have really imagined. Monsanto was revealed to have feelers and money spread all throughout industry and including scientific boards like the American Council on Health and Science, which purports to be independent of industry.

When the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glysophate as a possible carcinogen in 2017, it was revealed that one of Monsanto’s PR firms had ‘contacts’ at Reuters who immediately published an article questioning the legitimacy of the IARC decision.

What’s most troubling about this of course is that the only study on Roundup since the EPA studies with fraudulent data implies that Monsanto has known since 1974 that their products are carcinogenic. In Australia, the agricultural chemical regulator, which receives funding from Monsanto, received pressure to review Roundup after the IARC decision but it refused despite a revelation in a Four Corners episode that they are in fact themselves funded by the agricultural industry.

Companies like Monsanto are a product of the post-WW2 blending of military and industry in the United States.

The military industrial complex sought to normalize the use of chemical weapons in warfare and the consequence of this was the rapid expansion of pesticide industries.

As Frank A Von Hippel reveals in his new book the Chemical Age, DDT an organic pollutant now primarily used for killing mosquitos is not just dangerous and harmful in that it negatively disrupts our hormones but that is has trans-generational epiginetic effects revealed after a study across Africa where it is used heavily. Organaphosphates were later developed as a purported replacement for DDTs as they were considered to able to degrade in the environment and detoxified by the human body several decades ago but this is now known to not be true.

The EPA banned them from being used in the home as late as 2001 because they were revealed to be disrupting developing brains and childrens nervous systems. However, pyrethroids and pyrethrins (a class of insecticide) continue to be used across suburbs, lawns and farmlands globally.

The EPA still considers this class safe for use despite a 2011 study of New York mothers which found that prenatal exposure to piperonyl butoxide — an additive commonly used in pyrethroid sprays — is strongly associated with delayed mental development in toddlers. The Transport Workers Union of Australia even in 2013 considered a class action suit for their airline workers over a link between Parkinsons Disease and insecticides used in long-haul flights since it is an Australian government measure that all flights are sprayed for insects before landing.

Hippel proposes that there is absolutely no square inch of Earth (including extremely remote tribes of the Antarctic, the upper layers of the atmosphere and in women’s breast milk) that insecticides and pesticides do not exist. And what’s more, there are a plethora of other herbicides have known impacts on human health.

Alex Jones is more infamously known for his theories around Atrazine but what we do know is that Atrazine is in fact an endocrine disruptor meaning that it can dysregulate hormones in the human body and any dysregulation of hormones necessarily leads to adverse health effect. And it is a herbicide found in many global populations water supply and was found in a Melbourne University study to be affecting men’s fertility.

Another better known endocrine disruptor is BPA found in most plastic which is most commonly linked to endometriosis or other forms of infertility in women but it can also act to suppress the production of testosterone in men. And if you think you are one of those people that can simply ‘go plastic-free’ I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn that, that is quite impossible because it is literally everywhere.

Plastic is not just in your computer, your lunch box, your car or your phone, your clothes but more importantly in the form of microplastics covering the entirety of the Earth from sediments on the deep sea floor to ice in the Arctic.

Microplastics are said to poison the soil and in turn enter into our food supply.

And we know that microplastics are harming animals organs including their liver and bloodstream so its reasonable to guess that they are having at least a low grade negative effect on human health. The Lancet dubbed microplastics an “urgent human health problem” calling for strong regulations on plastic producers. And in fact, with so many endocrine disruptors now in the atmosphere and in every day items that we encounter its suspected to be at least partially linked to drastically declining fertility rates in men – declining by over 50% in the past 40 years. Which not only leaves men less healthy but the species in jeopardy of real decline.

Not only do insecticides and pesticides destroy human fertility but they also destroy long-term soil fertility too creating larger and larger chunks of the Earth that will not be arable in decades to come. But what’s damning right now is that GMO crop production methods are increasingly producing vegetables with higher and higher levels of lectins. If you are unfamiliar with lectins, it is a natural insecticide produced by some plants (a part of their natural defensive mechanisms) which high intake in humans is increasingly showing strong association with an array of chronic diseases from diabetes to fibromyalgia and association with damaged gut permeability.

Most vegetables have some level of lectins already but it’s inconsequential to most GMO Big Agra companies how high the level is that they are raising them to if it is a cheap and profitable guard for their crops.

It’s no coincidence of course that we don’t treat these issues with the same level of alarm that is afforded climate change, which of course deserves weight in its own right, but to ignore a holistic approach to environmental destruction leaves us not knowing the full array of people (or more accurately multinational corporations) to point fingers at. Because ultimately, the reason so many of us are hoodwinked into, in many cases, dismissing this aspect of environmental destruction as nothing but sheer conspiracy is exactly because of industry conspiracy to hide the real harm these producers in fact do.

The only difference is that they’ve somehow managed to wage a much better PR campaign than most coal producers. Most countries regulate these chemicals in different ways the UK has 50% less pesticides and insecticides in their foods than the US does for example but until in all countries we have determined that there are safe human levels (and exactly what that is) without corporate fraud and bullying, we may never know if there even is a safe level for human exposure. Whether it’s the insectides in your soft tissues, or the microplastics you are ingesting, we will never not feel the consequences of pollutant mega-corporations from the military industrial complex to Big Agra, and in the West we need to learn the confidence to teach them to pay a price for it.

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Jemma Nott is a multimedia journalist.

Featured image is from Shutterstock

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The Neoliberal Capitalist Lockdown: Class Consciousness in the Age of COVID

Prior to the appearance of COVID-related restrictions and lockdowns, neoliberal capitalism had turned to various mechanisms in the face of economic stagnation and massive inequalities: the raiding of public budgets, the expansion of credit to consumers and governments to sustain spending and consumption, financial speculation and militarism.

Part and parcel of this has been a strategy of ‘creative destruction’ that has served to benefit an interlocking directorate of powerful oil, agribusiness, armaments and financial interests, among others. For these parties, what matters is the ability to maximise profit by shifting capital around the world, whether on the back of distorted free trade agreements which open the gates for plunder or through coercion and militarism which merely tear them down.

In the so-called ‘developed’ nations, notably in the US and the UK, along the way millions of jobs have been offshored to cheap labour economies. In effect, societies have become hollowed out. They have increasingly resembled empty boxes whereby the main component lurking inside is a giant mechanical hand of government and media propaganda with the threat of state violence lying in wait. And its only function is to pull the lid shut if anyone ever dares to tear it open and shed light on things. If successful, they will see the immorality, the lies, the hypocrisies.

And they would also be able to identify cynical methods of social control that have assumed a different level in 2020 with constant COVID fear propaganda being pumped out on a daily basis. If we take the UK, the fact is that excess deaths in 2020 are not out of the ordinary when looking back over a 25-year period.

But we continue to see the rolling out of near-endless restrictions and tiered lockdowns across the country based on questionable PCR tests and the designation of healthy, asymptomatic people as ‘cases’. The narrative has shifted from COVID deaths and ‘flattening the curve’ to an obsession with ‘cases’ as the curve became flattened and COVID-related deaths bottomed out. Even at the height of government- and media-driven COVID paranoia, over 90% of ‘COVID deaths’ were most likely due to the serious co-morbidities listed on the death certificates of the mainly over-75s who make up the vast majority of such deaths.

But this is precisely what is supposed to happen when we acknowledge that it is all part of the ‘great reset’ as explained by the recent article ‘Klaus Schwab and his great fascist reset’ which appeared on the OffGuardian website: a transformation of society resulting in permanent restrictions on fundamental liberties and mass surveillance as entire sectors are sacrificed to boost the bottom line of the pharmaceuticals corporations, the high-tech/big data giants, Amazon, Google, major global chains, the digital payments sector, biotech concerns, etc.

In other words, a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ which historian Luciana Bohne recently noted on her Facebook page is going to result in a different economy based on new businesses and sectors. In turn, this means older enterprises are to be driven to bankruptcy or absorbed into monopolies. It also entails massive job losses.

Although COVID is being blamed, Bohne notes that the shutting down of the old economy was already happening as there was insufficient growth, well below the minimum tolerable 3% level to maintain the viability of capitalism.

Bohne quotes the World Bank to underline her point:

“In order to reverse this serious setback [COVID] to development progress and poverty reduction, countries will need to prepare for a different economy post-COVID, by allowing capital, labor, skills, and innovation to move into new businesses and sectors.” World Bank, October 2020 Report.

Economies are being ‘restructured’ and ‘downsized’ and COVID restrictions and lockdowns are being used as a battering ram to implement this agenda.

It is very revealing that Matt Hancock, British minister for health, gave a speech to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in October 2017. Klaus Schwab was also in attendance.

Hancock stated:

“And I’m delighted to speak alongside so many impressive colleagues who really understand this, and alongside Professor Klaus Schwab who literally ‘wrote the book’ on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Your work, bringing together as you do all the best minds on the planet, has informed what we are doing, and I’m delighted to work with you.”

If readers take time to read the aforementioned piece, they may well be disturbed by many of the beliefs Schwab holds for the future. And now, three years on from Hancock’s presentation, we are seeing him play an active role in implementing the type of scenario Schwab has set out in his various books and speeches by rolling out further restrictions and phased lockdowns, mass surveillance measures, vaccination projects, authoritarian government and economic devastation.

Hancock really does seem to be taking his cue from the influential Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

COVID is being used to inject neoliberal capitalism with new life by destroying livelihoods and implementing a social and economic tectonic shift. If people in the richer countries are perplexed by the destruction of livelihoods under the pretext of COVID, they need look no further than India to appreciate why governments wage financial and social war on their own people and the type of brutality they are capable of and whose interests they ultimately serve.

There is a plan for the future of that country and most of its current farmers do not have a role in it. India remains an agrarian-based society with over 60% of the population still relying on agriculture either directly or indirectly for their livelihood.

Successive administrations have been making farming financially unviable with the aim of moving farmers out of agriculture and into the cities to work in construction, manufacturing or the service sector, despite these sectors not creating anything like the number of jobs required. By uprooting the agrarian base, we are seeing a fundamental attack on Indian society.

The aim is to displace the existing labour-intensive system of food and agriculture with one dominated by a few transnational corporate agribusiness concerns which will then control the sector. Agriculture is to be wholly commercialised with large-scale, mechanised (monocrop) enterprises replacing family-run farms that help sustain hundreds of millions of rural livelihoods, while feeding the urban masses.

As is currently happening in the West, small independent concerns (in this case, smallholder farmers) are being driven to bankruptcy. So why would anyone set out to deliberately run down what is effectively a productive system of agriculture that feeds people, sustains livelihoods and produces sufficient buffer stocks? Similarly, why in 2020 are governments facilitating economic destruction?

Politicians are effectively facilitating the needs of global capital and all it entails: a system based on endless profit growth, crises of overproduction and market saturation and a need to constantly seek out, create or expand into new, untapped markets to maintain profitability.

India’s agrarian base is being destroyed at the behest of predatory commercial interests (via the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, World Bank directives and WTO policies) and the peasantry is being dealt a knock-out blow so global agribusiness and retail concerns can capture financially lucrative markets and further incorporate the agri-food sector into their global supply chains.

Looking at the Industrial Revolution in England, historian Michael Perelman has detailed the processes that whipped the English peasantry into a workforce coerced into factory wage labour. Peasants left their land to work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of industrial capitalists. Perelman describes the policies through which peasants were forced out of agriculture, not least by the barring of access to common land. A largely self-reliant population was starved of its productive means.

It was brutal, just like ongoing developments in India. And what we are now seeing are vested interests forcing through a Fourth Industrial Revolution across the world. This too is brutal and is also having dire consequences in places like India as I have previously outlined in the article ‘Coronavirus Capitalism: Entrenching Dispossession and Dependency’.

The encouragement of identity politics, narcissism, apathy and consumerism’s irretrievable materialism, among other things, have undermined ordinary people’s capacity for action. Not so the billionaire class pushing through the ‘great reset’ which is acutely aware of its own interests.

A lack of class consciousness among ordinary people debilitates their ability to unite and recognise that their interests and those of the government and the people they really serve are diametrically opposed. Free from the shackles of mainstream propaganda, ordinary people would be better placed to resist current restrictions and challenge the prevailing narrative on COVID.

Unfortunately, those who might be expected to be pivotal in this – prominent figures and media outlets which claim to be of the ‘left’ – have failed to lead by example and have capitulated to the agenda of those who are driving the COVID narrative, the restrictions, the fear, the rolling out of draconian surveillance and rushed-through vaccines and the economic devastation leading to millions of job losses.

What must be regarded as the ‘establishment left’ has done little more than cheerlead restrictions and lockdowns.

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Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

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US versus Russia in Syria. “A Fake ‘Revolution’ Using Islamic Gangs”

At the request of Syria’s government in September 2015, Russia intervened in the country to combat ISIS and other US/NATO/Israeli-backed jihadists.

Moscow’s freedom-fighting operations turned the tide of battle, enabling Syrian forces to liberate most parts of the country.

Most of Idlib province remains occupied by many thousands of jihadists — heavily armed and trained by the Pentagon and CIA.

Along with illegally occupied northern and southern parts of the country by US forces, Idlib remains to be liberated so Syrians again may be free from the scourge of US aggression — launched by Obama/Biden, continued by Trump.

There’s nothing “civil” about a near-decade of US-launched war in Syria — part of its longstanding aim to redraw the Middle East map to control the region unchallenged.

In his important truth-telling book titled “The Dirty War on Syria,” Tim Anderson explained what US involvement since March 2011 is all about.

Separately he said the following:

“Washington and its allies tr(ied) another ‘regime change’ in Syria.”

“A fake ‘revolution’ uses Islamic gangs, during an ‘Arab Spring.’ The Western media constantly lie about this covert, dirty war.”

US, NATO, Israeli, Turkish, Saudi-backed jihadists “carry out a series of massacres, falsely blaming them on the Syrian Army and President Assad.”

“Most of Syria’s opposition backs the state and army against terrorism. Washington calls a puppet exile group ‘the Syrian opposition.’ ”

So-called “moderate rebels” are US-recruited jihadists.

What’s been ongoing in Syria for a near-decade is a failed US imperial effort to transform the country into a vassal state — replacing legitimate President Assad with puppet leadership subservient to US and Israeli interests.

It’s also about wanting Iran isolated regionally. Longstanding US policy calls for gaining control over all independent states not bending to its will — by whatever it takes to achieve its aims, endless wars by hot and other means its favorite strategies.

On Tuesday, Sergey Lavrov explained what Moscow faces on the world stage, saying the following:

“Washington and a number of EU capitals have redoubled their efforts to contain Russia’s development.”

“They are trying to punish us for an independent foreign policy, for consistently upholding our national interests.”

“To justify their actions, the introduction of ever new anti-Russia sanctions, they throw in various accusations and insinuations.”

“At the same time, no one has shown any facts or evidence.”

Anti-Russia Western “rhetoric is always being kept at the ‘highly likely’ innuendo level.”

“Those claims are based on fabricated accusations and run contrary to even elementary logic.”

“All the proposals we make to set up a professional dialogue on any concerns remain without any reaction.”

“So we have no other choice but to conclude we cannot count on” respect from Washington and EU governments.”

“(T)he West has made it a rule to talk with Russia based on the presumption of its guilt.”

Western nations forgot “what diplomacy is and have sunk to the level of vulgar rudeness. Our retaliatory steps in the US and EU are well known.”

Among other issues, hardliners in the US, UK, and other Western nations are smarting over defeat of their imperial project in Syria by Russia’s involvement.

Yet they continue endless war and efforts to starve and otherwise immiserate 17 million Syrians into submission — part of endless US war on the country.

On Monday, Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East and African countries/Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met with Syrian ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad, saying the following:

Views (were exchanged) on the current situation in and around Syria,” adding:

“The Russian side reiterated its unfailing solidarity with the Syrian people, support to its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, as well as its readiness to continue efficient cooperation in restoring the socio-economic infrastructure.”

In mid-October, Russian airstrikes in southwestern Idlib reportedly killed or wounded “over 200…Turkish-backed” jihadists in response to their “shelling and rocket fire,” according to AMN News.

Southfront reported that these elements are “being trained on anti-tank weapons and mountain warfare by Turkish officers and private contractors…”

“(P)hotos released by RusVesan.RU confirm that the strikes targeted military installations located far from any urban area.”

Claims of numerous civilian casualties were fabricated like most always in response to Syrian and Russian military strikes on US/Western/Israeli or Turkish-backed jihadists — serving as their proxies against Syrian sovereign independence.

On Tuesday, RT reported that leaked documents revealed a “UK-(run) secret training and PR (operation) for” jihadists in Syria, “costing millions” of dollars, adding:

“(T)he hacktivist collective Anonymous…expose(d) a variety of covert actions undertaken by the UK government against the Syrian state over many years.”

Britain partners with all US wars of aggression against invented enemies.

Efforts to replace Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with pro-Western puppet rule failed.

Yet endless war continues despite Trump’s earlier vow to exit US troops from the country.

More recently he said that US troops are in Syria “only for oil…to “secure the oil” — code language for stealing it.

A near-decade of US proxy war with Pentagon air support is all about gaining control over the country and replacing the government of an Israeli rival state.

On Tuesday, AMN News reported that “Turkish-backed” jihadists “resumed…large attack(s)” in northern Idlib province — in “retaliation” for Russian airstrikes against their fighters that took a heavy toll.

They “launched dozens of rockets and artillery shells towards the government areas…mostly hit(ting) open fields…”

“At the same time, Russian and Syrian military reconnaissance planes are conducting flights over the militant positions to identify where the shelling and rocket fire is coming from” to strike back.

The struggle for Syria’s soul continues to keep the country and its people free from US imperial control.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image is from Sputnik International

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Will US Continue to Further Implement RAND Corporation’s Strategy in Relation to Russia?

The recent conflicts in the Russian zone of influence have attracted attention around the world. But little has been said about the possibility that such conflicts are part of a single common plan, designed to geopolitically destabilize Russia. This possibility is what we can deduce when we recall some recent writings of the renowned think tank RAND Corporation, which, in 2019, openly defended the adoption of a series of measures to weaken Moscow, exploiting its vulnerabilities. Among such measures in the economic sphere the document proposed the manipulation of oil and gas prices that affect the Russian defense budget, as well as the imposition of increasingly rigid sanctions and in the political sphere – the spread of regional conflicts in its “periphery” which could perfectly include Nagorno-Karabakh, Kyrgyzstan and others.

Several of the points highlighted in the RAND’s document entitled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia”, in its more than 350 pages, have been implemented so far, especially in the “immediate periphery”. The recent Belarusian political crisis itself, for example, highlights the role of external agents interested in the destabilization of this historic Russian ally – something that is openly defended in such a document which proposes a colorful revolution in Belarus. In addition, the incitement of conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the deterioration of the Syrian and Ukrainian situations, among others, are also strategic points raised by the dossier.

RAND’s goal is to define the areas where the US can compete most effectively, providing reports and proposals based on concrete data. Such reports must accurately define the vulnerabilities in the economic and military spheres of each nation against which the United States is competing, helping Washington to create its strategies. Several of the policies adopted by the US are the result of advices from RAND’s analysts. In this sense, RAND’s analysis about Russia and its draft strategy for a competition between the US and Russia today proposes that the best way to weaken Moscow is through a siege of conflicts in its territorial proximities. Obviously, it is not proposed to attack Russia, but to create wars along its entire border, destabilizing international security in the region – a scenario from which many other possibilities arise.

Despite all the complex political and military strategy, in the RAND document it is highlighted that the biggest Russian weakness in a dispute with the US is the economic issue. The think tank’s proposal focuses on heavy investment in energy production, mainly renewable energy, as well as encouraging domestic production of such energy sources in countries allied to the US, with the aim of reducing Russian exports – which would strongly affect Russian defense budgets. The central role of the US in the boycott against the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a clear example of how such strategies are being put into practice.

Another type of measures that RAND recommends is in the ideological and informational spheres. The Corporation advises a vigorous pro-Western information campaign aimed at highlighting aspects allegedly present in the Russian regime, such as endemic corruption. In any case, RAND considers this disinformation strategy to be “risky”, as it would encourage Moscow to highlight the weaknesses of Western democracies, leading to a new ideological war through disinformation campaigns.

Interestingly, Russia is constantly accused of interfering in the American electoral process through campaigns of disinformation and cyber war since the rise of Donald Trump four years ago. Now, with the new elections, the tendency is for such accusations to grow exponentially, showing a strategy of mass disinformation meticulously planned by strategists with clear goals.

In fact, there is no doubt about the power of influence of RAND Corporation’s analysis in the construction of US foreign policy strategies. The siege that is being proposed in the document gradually materializes, with strategies of economic suffocation, disinformation and inciting regional conflicts, but it remains to be seen what the consequences for the US domestic scenario will be. The RAND report had no way of predicting the emergence of a global tragedy such as the new coronavirus pandemic. In the context of more than 220,000 deaths due to the virus in the US, popular rebellions and inflamed racial tensions across the country and in the midst of a decisive electoral process, will the Washington be able to maintain such a siege strategy? Is it sustainable for the US to stir up conflict in the vicinity of Russia when its internal bases are crumbling?

Perhaps the strategies designed by RAND last year are absolutely useless today. The pandemic structurally changed the dynamics of world geopolitics and currently the idea of an American siege against Russia is not conceivable. The tendency is that all conflicts will diminish as no major military power will intervene. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh shows how the tendency is for conflicts to gradually stabilize. On the contrary, within the US, everything just tends to get worse. Perhaps Washington is taking a step beyond its reach. Or perhaps the interests of strategists at RAND Corporation and the American Deep State do not exactly imply what is best for the US.

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Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

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“The World That I See Today”: Sanity, Her Son, and the Credulous

I have recently completed a large painting (oil on canvas), exploring the emotional and spiritual side of mandatory masks, and what they symbolize. Visual art can serve as a medium to express sentiments from an angle that cannot be achieved verbally. (Jordan Henderson)

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This painting is the culmination of a long, careful, visual exploration of the world that I see today, the world that I see when I go to get groceries, or run an errand.

The mundane world only looks boring because we are used to it, we see it everyday, but the prosaic has never been more than a deceptively simple facade for a fascinating place where nearly everything we do has spiritual, and ethical significance.

Often we must observe the everyday world with great care to perceive these things, but sometimes they surface in an obvious manner.

Imagine throwing dust on an otherwise invisible person, masks are like that; power struggles, and beliefs are now proclaimed, for all to see, with a prominent symbol.

Link to the painting webpage.

Oil on Canvas – 30 x 48 inches

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Jordan Henderson is a renowned artist from Washington State. He works in oil on canvas and charcoal on paper. A portfolio of his works can be viewed at jordanhendersonfineart.com

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The June 2018 Arrest in Germany of Iranian Diplomat Assadollah Assadi. Violation of International Law?

In June of 2018, Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi was arrested in Germany on his way back to Vienna. He has been accused of involvement in a plot to bomb a rally of supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK), a terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Iranian government. Mr. Assadi has been incarcerated since his arrest, without trial.

There are many troubling aspects to this arrest. In order to better understand them, we contacted Professor Eileen Denza, a globally known and distinguished Professor of International Law. She has no close association to Iran; in fact, she has criticized the Iranian government when she felt it was in violation of international law. She looks at the law, without regard to political considerations. Her responses to our questions are below.

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Robert Fantina: As you know, Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was arrested on his way back to work in Vienna while crossing Germany in July 2018, and his case was sent to court in July 2020 after two years. Was the German Government authorized to do so under the 1961 Vienna Convention?

Professor Eileen Denza: On the information given to me, Mr Assadi was a member of the diplomatic staff of the Iranian Embassy to Austria, and at the time of his arrest he was in transit through Germany in order to return to his post. Under Article 40 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations he was therefore entitled to ‘inviolability and such other immunities as may be required to ensure his transit or return.’ Germany was therefore not entitled to arrest him.

RF: Given the text of Article 40 of the Convention and the emphasis on the duty of the third State vis-à-vis a diplomat returning to his workplace, has there not been a clear violation of the Convention concerning our country’s diplomats?

PED: On the information given to me, Germany was in violation, but I have not seen the judgments of the German court and so do not know the reasons why they took a different view.

RF: Were the actions of the German and Belgian Governments contrary to the purpose of the Convention on Diplomatic Relations enshrined in its preamble, that is to develop friendly relations between States and to ensure the effective functioning of diplomatic agents?

PED: On the assumption that there was a breach, it would clearly have an effect on relations between Germany and Iran and on relations between Belgium and Iran.

RF: In your opinion, legally speaking, what should be the response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to this violation of international law?

PED: On the assumption that Iran believes there was a breach of the Vienna Convention, their first response should be to protest to the Governments they believe to be in breach.

RF: In your opinion, what can be the role of the legal community and lawyers, especially professors and researchers of international law, in this case?

PED: In the first instance to ensure that they are fully informed as to the facts of the case and the reasons why courts in Germany and in Belgium took the view that Mr Assadi was not entitled to inviolability under Article 40 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

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During this time of global instability, caused mainly by the United States, it is increasingly vital that all nations adhere to international law. There are two main issues in this situation:

  • Germany violated international law by arresting Mr. Assadi, and holding him for so long without trial, and
  • The MEK is recognized in most countries, with the United States being the most notable exception, as a terrorist organization. Germany must answer for why it was allowing a known terrorist organization, with a history of deadly violence, to hold a rally within its borders.

Much of the world seems to take its cue from the United States, a violent, racist and brutal regime. The administration of President Donald Trump, which may or may not be ending in three months, has torn the mask off any semblance of support for self-determination and respect for international law that the U.S. pretended to encourage. Without the rule of law there will be total chaos internationally, a situation that the U.S. has sewn in many nations and wants to sow in Iran. Terrorist organizations must be condemned, and people around the world must be supported in choosing their own form of governments.

The words and judgment of Professor Denza support law, and the rogue nations of the world, such as the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, must abide by international norms.

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Cultivated Lunacy, Nuclear Deterrence and Banning the Nuke

Are international relations a field for cautious minds, marked by permanent setbacks, or terrain where the bold are encouraged to seize the day?  In terms of dealing with the existential, and even unimaginable horror that is nuclear war, the bold have certainly stolen a march. 

The signature of Honduras was the 50th required for the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Parties to the treaty are barred from possessing, developing, acquiring, testing, stockpiling, transferring, stationing, or threatening the use of nuclear weapons, amongst other prohibitions.  The treaty also makes it illegal for any of the parties to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited” by the document. 

Set to enter into force on January 22, 2021, the signing was cheered by the UN Secretary General António Guterres through his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, who saluted “the work of civil society, which has been instrumental in facilitating the negotiation and ratification of the Treaty.”  It was also a harvest for those who had survived nuclear explosions and tests, “the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequence of any use of nuclear weapons.” 

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), was also celebratory in calling the coming into force of the TPNW as “a new chapter for nuclear disarmament.  Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: nuclear weapons are banned.” 

ICAN, in a statement released on Sunday, promised that this was “just the beginning.  Once the treaty is in force, all States’ parties will need to implement all of their positive obligations under the treaty and abide by its prohibitions.” In a pointed warning to those states yet to join the TPNW, the organisation suggested that the document’s “power” would reverberate globally in discouraging companies from continuing to manufacture nuclear weapons and institutions from investing in those companies. 

In looking at the debates on nuclear weapons, one tension remains ineradicable.  Those who do not possess such weapons, nor put their stake in their murderously reassuring properties, have little interest in seeing them kept.  They can moralise, stigmatise, and condemn from summits of humanitarian principle.  They aspire to the credit of sanity. 

Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) and their allies promote themselves as the world weary adults, soberly reliable in the face of such immature flights of fancy.  The opposite is true; their philosophy is a cultivated lunacy accepting of the very thing they wish to do away with.  Everyone might well agree to the abolition of nuclear weapons but disagree on how, exactly, the goal is to be achieved.  If changes are to take place, the school of cultivated lunacy insists it be done gradually, achieved through more acceptable, if constipated fora, such the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  The result is that disarmament takes place slowly or suffers, as is happening now, reversals, usually in moves to modernise current arsenals.   

The march of the TPNW is something nuclear weapons states have fought from negotiating rooms to chambers of ratification.   US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-proliferation Christopher Ford stated the common wisdom on that side of the fence in August 2017.  The TPNW suggested that advocates for the ban were “fundamentally unserious about addressing the real challenges of maintaining peace and security in a complicated and dangerous world, and unserious about trying to make that world a genuinely safer place.”   

The joint statement released by the United States, United Kingdom and France on July 7, 2017 was sternly disapproving, even ill-wishing.  The countries promised to avoid signing, ratifying or ever becoming parties to it.  Obligations towards nuclear weapons on their part had not, and would not change.  It would, they stated menacingly, do nothing to alter or add to the nature of customary international law.  They could point, triumphantly, at the absence of other nuclear weapon states and those relying on nuclear deterrence in the creative process. 

Such sentiments have been reiterated with the promise that the TPNW will enter into force.  In a letter to signatories from the Trump administration obtained by Associated Press, the United States claimed that the five original nuclear powers (US, Russia, China, Britain and France), along with NATO, stood “unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions of the treaty”. The document “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament” and threatened the NPT, “considered the cornerstone of global non-proliferation efforts.”  Already divisive, the TPNW risked “further entrenching divisions in existing non-proliferation and disarmament that offer the only realistic prospect for consensus-based progress”. 

The two words – “nuclear deterrence” – remain ludicrously attractive to policy classes who learned to love the nuke from its inception.  The nuke is paternally comforting, a stabilising foothold in a treacherous world.  While it has, at its core, a terrifying rationale, it brings with it, claim its defenders, the power to keep the peace, albeit through terror.  As the joint statement served to remind the starry-eyed abolitionists, nuclear deterrence had been vital “in keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for 70 years.”  The TPNW did little to address the security dimension and would not serve to eliminate “a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security.” 

Countries such as Australia insist that their alliance obligations with powers possessing nuclear weapons – in their case, the United States – make signing and ratifying the TPNW incompatible.  Under the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States (ANZUS), goes this argument, Australia would be expected to participate in joint operations that might involve the deployment of nuclear weapons.  In the blunt assessment of Australia’s former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, joining the TPNW would effectively see Canberra “tearing up our US alliance commitment”.  A very orthodox reading, though not necessarily accurate, given that the ANZUS regime is not, strictly speaking, a nuclear one. 

More to the point is the elevation of extended nuclear deterrence to the level of a state religion, streaked with schizophrenia.  The Australian 2013 Defence White Paper discloses this in full: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, we rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia.  Australia is confident in the continuing viability of extended nuclear deterrence under the Alliance, while strongly supporting ongoing efforts towards global nuclear disarmament.”  Richard Tanter of the Nautilus Institute could only describe such a policy as “absurd, obscene and reckless,” not least because it is premised on an assurance that has never been given. 

Certain voices earning their keep in this field argue that the regimes of the TPNW and the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty are not exclusive but complimentary projects.  A claim has been made that the TPNW, far from diverging from the NPT with heretical defiance, is compatible with it.  As Thomas Hajnoczi suggests, the NPT was not intended as a complete and “comprehensive regulation of all aspects that were indispensable for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, non-proliferation, and nuclear disarmament.”  The TPNW added to the “existing ‘building’ a layer necessary to realize a world without nuclear weapons.”   

The international law fraternity is divided on this.  Arguments rage over the vagueness of the TPNW about legal obligations, along with potential tensions vis-à-vis the NPT.  Newell Highsmith and Mallory Stewart go so far as to see the lineaments of discrimination in the TPNW, seeing it as an unviable “legal vehicle for disarmament” with prospects to harm non-proliferation.  The result? Two estranged regimes, parallel and never meeting. 

For the establishment veterans and their converts in the nuclear disarmament business, nuclear weapons remain a perverse form of reassurance and currency.  It keeps arms chair theorists, planners, technicians and engineers in jobs.   Abolishing them would be tantamount to altering the power balance of international relations.  It might discourage that daily quotient of self-hate and suspicion that makes the human world go round.  For the fantasists of nuclear deterrence, this would be even more diabolical. 

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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70+ Climate Journalists Pen Open Letter Condemning Barrett for Enabling the ‘Ecological Crisis of Our Times’

“At the moment when the facts of the case were presented to her, this arbiter of justice freely chose to side with mistruths. Judge Coney Barrett’s responses are factually inaccurate, scientifically unsound, and dangerous.”

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More than 70 science journalists have signed an open letter warning that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett‘s close ties to the fossil fuel industry and refusal to publicly acknowledge the established science behind human-caused climate change make her an enabler of “the ecological crisis of our times.”

First published in Rolling Stone on Sunday, the letter slams Barrett’s responses to basic climate questions during her confirmation hearings as “factually inaccurate, scientifically unsound, and dangerous.” As Common Dreams reported, the right-wing judge insisted she has “no firm views” on the climate crisis and, in later written responses, called the science of climate change “controversial.”

“It is frightening that a Supreme Court nominee—a position that is in essence one of the highest fact-checkers in the land—has bought into the same propaganda we have worked so hard to dispel,” reads the letter, which was signed by author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, and other prominent climate writers.

“How can Judge Coney Barrett rule on pending issues of climate change liability, regulation, finance, mitigation, equity, justice, and accountability if she fails to accept even the underlying premise of global warming? The answer is that she cannot,” continues the letter, which came hours before the Republican-controlled Senate cleared a procedural hurdle and paved the way for a final vote on Barrett’s confirmation Monday.

Below is the full letter and list of signatories:

We are science and climate journalists. We are researchers and weavers of information, creating a fabric that explains the work of scientists who themselves are working to describe our natural world and universe. We are published in the nation’s leading outlets, both large and small, including Scientific American, Nature, National Geographic, MIT Technology Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and many more. Over decades of reporting on the threats and now deadly and devastating harms of worsening climate change, we have succeeded in at least one respect. The vast majority of the world’s people, including those in the United States, not only acknowledge the scientific certainty of climate change, but also want action taken to address it.

We have succeeded because the science is clear, despite there being a massive well-orchestrated effort of propaganda, lies, and denial by the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries and fossil-fuel-backed institutes and think tanks. It is frightening that a Supreme Court nominee—a position that is in essence one of the highest fact-checkers in the land—has bought into the same propaganda we have worked so hard to dispel.

And it is facts—a word under repeated assault by the Trump administration, which nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett—that are at issue here. “I’m certainly not a scientist…I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it,” Judge Coney Barrett told Sen. John Kennedy during the Senate confirmation hearings on October 13th.

The next day, Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked Judge Coney Barrett if she believed “human beings cause global warming.” She replied: “I don’t think I am competent to opine on what causes global warming or not. I don’t think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge.”

When asked that same day by Sen. Kamala Harris if she accepts that “COVID-19 is infectious,” Coney Barrett said yes. When asked if “smoking causes cancer,” Coney Barrett said yes. But when asked if “climate change is happening, and is threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink,” Judge Coney Barrett said that while the previous topics are “completely uncontroversial,” climate change is instead, “a very contentious matter of public debate.” She continued: “I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that’s inconsistent with the judicial role, as I have explained.”

Judge Coney Barrett repeatedly refused to acknowledge the scientific certainty of climate change. This is an untenable position, particularly when the world’s leading climate scholars warned in 2018 that we have just 12 years to act to bring down global average temperature rise and avert the most dire predictions of the climate crisis.

At the moment when the facts of the case were presented to her, this arbiter of justice freely chose to side with mistruths. Judge Coney Barrett’s responses are factually inaccurate, scientifically unsound, and dangerous.

How can Judge Coney Barrett rule on pending issues of climate change liability, regulation, finance, mitigation, equity, justice, and accountability if she fails to accept even the underlying premise of global warming? The answer is that she cannot.

Judge Coney Barrett’s ties to the fossil fuel industry have already proved problematic, forcing recusal from cases involving Shell Oil entities related to her father’s work as a long-time attorney for the company. She may also need to recuse herself from future cases due to her father’s former position as chairman of the Subcommittee on Exploration and Production Law of the American Petroleum Institute—the nation’s leading fossil fuel lobby.

Climate change is already an increasingly dominant aspect of American life, and an issue of growing import in American law. On the Supreme Court docket is BP P.L.C v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore—a case that involves Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and other major oil companies, and could impact about a dozen U.S. states and localities suing Big Oil over its contribution to climate change.

Judge Coney Barrett says, “I’m certainly not a scientist,” but she does not need to be a scientist, rather she needs to have faith in science. Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is an ardent supporter of action on climate change, releasing in 2015 the “Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home.” The Pope embraces hard science in order to keep close to his faith.

Judge Coney Barrett has displayed a profound inability to understand the ecological crisis of our times, and in so doing she enables it.

Signed,

Bill McKibben, journalist and author, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College

Rebecca Solnit, author and journalist

Sonia Shah, science journalist and author

Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize winning author, science journalist, and professor at Columbia Journalism School

Jeff Goodell, climate journalist and author of The Water Will Come

Naomi Klein, journalist and author

Michelle Nijhuis, science journalist and author

Amy Westervelt, climate journalist

Rachel Ramirez, environmental justice reporter

Iris Crawford, climate justice journalist

Anoa Changa, movement and environmental justice journalist

Tiên Nguyễn, multimedia science journalist

Eric Holthaus, meteorologist, climate journalist at The Phoenix

Jenni Monet (Laguna Pueblo), climate affairs journalist and founder of Indigenously

Nina Lakhani, environmental justice reporter

Samir S. Patel, science journalist and editor

Clinton Parks, freelance science writer

Meehan Crist, writer in residence in biological sciences, Columbia University

Elizabeth Rush, science writer, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Anne McClintock, climate journalist, photographer and author, professor of environmental humanities and writing at Princeton University

Ruth Hopkins (Oceti Sakowin, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), tribal attorney, Indigenous journalist

Wade Roush, science and technology journalist and author

Kim Stanley Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of climate science fiction, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards

Jason Mark, editor in chief, Sierra

Kate Aronoff, climate journalist

Richard Louv, journalist and author

Heather Smith, science journalist

Judith Lewis Mernit, California climate editor, Capital & Main

Madeline Ostrander, climate journalist

Julie Dermansky, multimedia environmental and social justice journalist

Kenneth Brower, environmental journalist and author

Alexander Zaitchik, science and political journalist and author

Hillary M. Rosner, science journalist and scholar in residence, University of Colorado

Wudan Yan, science journalist

Debra Atlas, environmental journalist and author

Rucha Chitnis, climate, environmental justice and human rights documentarian

Drew Costley, environmental justice reporter

Jonathan Thompson, environmental author and journalist

Carol Clouse, environmental journalist

Brian Kahn, climate journalist

Geoff Dembicki, climate journalist and author

Peter Fairley, energy and environment journalist

Nicholas Cunningham, energy reporter

Nina Berman, documentary photographer focusing on issues of climate and the environment, professor of journalism at Columbia University

Michele C. Hollow, freelance journalist

Ben Depp, documentary photographer, focusing on issues of climate and the environment

Virginia Hanusik, climate photographer

Philip Yam, science journalist and author

Maura R. O’Connor, science journalist and author

Chad J. Reich, audio and visual journalist covering energy and environment in rural communities

Steve Ross, environmental writer/editor, former Columbia environmental reporting professor

Starre Vartan, science journalist

Michael Snyder, climate photographer

Brandon Keim, science and nature journalist

Tom Athanasiou, climate equity writer and researcher

Hope Marcus, climate writer

Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, freelance journalist

Dana Drugmand, climate journalist

Tom Molanphy, climate journalist

Roxanne Szal, associate digital editor, Ms.Magazine

Dashka Slater, author and climate reporter

Jenn Emerling, documentary photographer, focusing on issues of climate and culture in the American West

Christine Heinrichs, science writer and author

Clayton Aldern, climate and environmental journalist

Karen Savage, climate journalist

Charlotte Dennett, author, investigative journalist, attorney

Carly Berlin, environmental reporter

Ben Ehrenreich, author and journalist

Ibby Caputo, science journalist

Lawrence Weschler, former New Yorker staff writer, environmental author, most recently with David Opdyke, of This Land: An Epic Postcard Mural on the Future of a Country in Ecological Peril.

Justin Nobel, science journalist

Antonia Juhasz, climate and energy journalist and author

From Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

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Featured image is an official White House photo

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Scientists Welcome Key Milestone for Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) welcomes the 50th ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – reached late yesterday – which means the treaty will now enter in force on 22 January 2021.

The treaty bans the production, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons by signatory nations, along with other activities that could enable or assist any other nation to acquire or use these weapons of mass destruction. The treaty now puts nuclear weapons in the same category as other weapons of mass destruction – i.e. biological and chemical weapons – which are banned by international treaty.

The treaty is the culmination of the efforts by campaigners led by ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) – 2017 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize – of which SGR is a partner organisation.

Dr Philip Webber, Chair of SGR, said,

“Since SGR’s forerunner Scientists Against Nuclear Arms was formed in 1981, we have argued that nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable threat to human civilisation and indeed all life on Earth. There are still currently 1,800 nuclear weapons deployed and ready to fire at short notice – and some of these deployed by the UK. We strongly urge the UK government and other nuclear nations to support this treaty.”

Dr Rebecca Johnson, peace activist and first president of ICAN, said

“The treaty exists now because of 75 years of humanitarian activism, from the ‘Hibakusha’ and indigenous survivors of nuclear weapons and testing, to the Aldermaston marchers and Greenham Common peace women who helped to ban nuclear testing and get US cruise missiles removed from British soil. Together we persuaded UN governments to bring this ground-breaking nuclear disarmament treaty into international humanitarian law.”

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Notes

1. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was agreed by the UN in 2017. Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify on 24th October. For more details on the treaty and the wider campaign, see: https://www.icanw.org/the_treaty

2. Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) is a UK membership organisation promoting responsible science and technology. Its 700 members include natural scientists, social scientists, engineers and others with expertise in peace and environmental issues. SGR has been a partner organisation of ICAN from soon after it was formed. For more information, see: https://www.sgr.org.uk/

3. Dr Philip Webber, a physicist by training, has written and campaigned about the threat from nuclear weapons for 40 years. He is an author of the 1982 book, London After the Bomb, as well as numerous SGR briefings and articles on the issue, including some used by ICAN in a range of international meetings in Norway, Mexico and Austria in the run up to the agreement of the treaty. For a list of SGR’s key outputs on nuclear weapons, see: https://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/nuclear-weapons-threat-main-outputs

4. For more details on the current numbers of nuclear weapons, see: Federation of American Scientists (2020). Status of World Nuclear Forces. https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

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‘This Land – the Story of a Movement’: The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Corbyn

In his latest book, ‘This Land – The Story of a Movement’ (Penguin, ebook version, 2020), The Guardian’s Owen Jones charts the rise and fall of Jeremy Corbyn.

Jones depicts Corbyn as a ‘scruffy,’ (p.8), ‘unkempt’ (p.50), thoroughly shambolic backbench MP, ‘the most unlikely’ (p.50) of contenders for the Labour leadership. In May 2015, Corbyn reluctantly dipped his toe in the water of the leadership contest, saying: ‘You better make fucking sure I don’t get elected’ (p.54), only to be swept away on a tide of popular support.

As this suggests, Jones argues that while Corbyn was indeed relentlessly savaged by forces both inside and outside the Labour Party – including the ‘mainstream’ media, with ‘profound hostility’ from ‘the publicly funded, professedly impartial’ BBC (p.68) – he was out of his depth, his team making constant, massive mistakes from which all progressives must learn. It is not at all inevitable, says Jones, that future leftist movements need suffer the same fate.

Much of this analysis is interesting and useful; Jones interviewed 170 insiders closest to the action, ‘people at the top of the Labour Party right down to grassroots activists’, who supply important insights on key events.

Jones portrays himself as someone who fundamentally agrees with much that motivated Corbyn, emphasising that his disagreement lies in tactics and strategy. But, once again, we note a remarkable pattern of omissions in the work of Jones, an ostensibly outspoken, unconstrained leftist, and by his serious misreading of the antisemitism furore that engulfed Corbyn.

Jones recognises that people loved Corbyn because, unusually for a UK politician, he was made of flesh rather than PR plastic; he told the truth:

‘While other contenders refused to give direct answers to questions, and were caught squirming between their principles and their political compromises, he spoke with immediacy – sometimes rambling, always authentic, always passionate.’ (p.57)

Ironically, Jones does plenty of his own ‘squirming’ between ‘principles’ and ‘political compromises’ as he airbrushes out of existence facts, views and voices that are consistently and conspicuously Guardian-unfriendly. He writes:

‘Corbynism… was woven together from many disparate strands: from people who marched against the Iraq war in 2003’ to people hit by the ‘trebling of college tuition fees in 2010’ and ‘the millions more frightened by a looming climate emergency’. (p.10)

Above all, of course, ‘Corbyn’s entire career had been devoted to foreign affairs’. (p.29) Andrew Murray of the union, Unite commented: ‘Corbyn was very prominent in the anti-war movement.’ (p.33)

Thus, deep popular outrage at the Iraq war is key in understanding Corbyn’s popularity. And yet, in discussing this central feature of the movement, Jones makes no mention at all of Julian Assange (or WikiLeaks), of Noam Chomsky, or John Pilger – the most important anti-war voices – exactly as he made no mention of them in his previous book, ‘The Establishment’, published in 2014.

Jones has not mentioned Assange in his Guardian column in the last twelve months. Indeed, his sole substantive mention came in April 2019.

Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, but Jones mentions NATO’s catastrophic, 2011 war on Libya, opposed by Corbyn, once in passing, noting merely that Labour MP Chris Williamson had ‘supported the war in Libya’. (p.251)

Jones’ previous book, ‘The Establishment’, published three years after NATO’s assault, similarly granted ‘Libya’ a single mention, noting that UK voters were ‘Weary of being dragged by their rulers into disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya…’. (Jones, ‘The Establishment – And how they get away with it’, Penguin, ebook version, 2014, p.275. See our discussion.)

The fact that the US-UK assault resulted in mass death, ethnic cleansing, mass displacement for millions of Libyans and the destruction of the entire country was not mentioned in either book.

Elsewhere, Jones has been more forthright. In February 2011, with NATO ‘intervention’ clearly looming, he tweeted:

‘I hope it’s game over for Gaddafi. A savage dictator once tragically embraced by me on left + lately western governments and oil companies.’ (Jones, Twitter, 20 February 2011)

On 20 March 2011, one day after NATO bombing had begun, like someone writing for the ‘Soaraway Sun’, Jones commented:

‘Let’s be clear. Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive.’ (Jones, ‘The case against bombing Libya’, Left Futures, March 2011)

Similarly, in 2012, Jones reacted to news of the killings of Syrian ministers in a bomb explosion with:

‘Adios, Assad (I hope).’ (Jones, Twitter, 18 July 2012)

After all, Jones tweeted, ‘this is a popular uprising, not arriving on the back of western cruise missiles, tanks and bullets’. (Jones, Twitter, 18 July 2012)

As was very obvious then and indisputable now, Jones was badly mistaken – the West, directly and via regional allies, played a massive role in the violence. The New York Times reported that the US had become embroiled in a dirty war in Syria that constituted ‘one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A’, running to ‘more than $1 billion over the life of the program’. (Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, ‘Behind the sudden death of a $1 billion secret C.I.A. war in Syria’, New York Times, 2 August 2017)

As though tweeting from the NATO playbook, the same Guardian columnist now analysing the peace movement supporting Corbyn, wrote:

‘I’m promoting the overthrow of illegitimate and brutal dictatorships by their own people to establish democracies.’ (Jones, Twitter, 18 July 2012)

In ‘This Land’, Jones mentions Saudi Arabia’s disastrous war in famine-stricken Yemen exactly once, again in passing:

‘…Labour MPs refused to back Corbyn’s call for a UN investigation into alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen’. (p.81)

There is no mention of the UK’s support for these crimes since 2011, no discussion of the horrors the UK has inflicted (See our discussion). The word ‘Yemen’ was unmentioned in Jones’ previous book in 2014. To his credit, he has written several Guardian pieces on the war in Yemen, the most recent in 2018.

Gaza was mentioned once, in passing, in Jones’ previous book and three times, in passing, in ‘This Land’. Our media database search found that, since he joined the Guardian in March 2014, Jones has made three substantive mentions of Gaza, in 2014 (a philosophical piece focusing on ‘How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier’, with few facts about the situation in Gaza) a brief piece here, and one in 2018 (with a single paragraph on Gaza).

‘This Land’ simply ignores the Western propaganda wars on Iran and Venezuela.

Remarkably, while recognising the role of climate fears in the rise of Corbyn and discussing the UK’s ‘Climate Camp’ in the late 2000s, Jones makes no mention of Extinction Rebellion or of Greta Thunberg, both strongly supported by Corbyn, further fuelling popular support for his cause.

There is no mention of the Guardian’s lead role in destroying Corbyn; although, ironically, Jones does celebrate the fact that, ‘I wrote the first pro-Corbyn column to appear in the mainstream media: a Guardian piece’. (p.53)

The silence is unsurprising. In 2017, Jones tweeted:

‘I’m barred from criticising colleagues in my column.’ (Jones, Twitter, 19 November 2017)

He wasn’t joking:

‘Guardian colleagues aren’t supposed to have these public spats…’

Of his own opposition to Corbyn, in the Guardian and elsewhere, Jones writes:

‘Although I voted for him again in 2016, I had a period of disillusionment before the [June 2017] general election – something which still riles his most ardent supporters.’ (p.14)

In fact, the ‘period of disillusionment’ was extensive and began long before the 2017 election. In July 2016, fully one year earlier, Jones wrote:

‘As Jeremy Corbyn is surrounded by cheering crowds, Labour generally, and the left specifically, are teetering on the edge of looming calamity.’

He added:

‘As things stand, all the evidence suggests that Labour — and the left as a whole — is on the cusp of a total disaster. Many of you won’t thank me now. But what will you say when you see the exit poll at the next general election and Labour is set to be wiped out as a political force?’

Similar comments followed in February, March and April 2017. For example:

‘My passionate and sincere view is Jeremy Corbyn should stand down as soon as possible in exchange for another left-wing MP being allowed to stand on for leadership in his place: all to stop both Labour and the left imploding, which is what is currently on the cards.’ (Jones: ‘“I don’t enjoy protesting – I do it because the stakes are so high”’, Evening Standard, 3 February 2017)

Blaming The Victim – The Great, Fake Antisemitism Scandal

Time and again, Jones criticises the Corbyn leadership for failing to deal adequately with antisemitism claims: ‘there was no coherent strategy within the leader’s office on how to tackle claims of antisemitism’. (p.227)

While Jones accepts that there were ‘bad-faith actors opposed to Corbyn’s policies’, his emphasis is focused elsewhere: ‘ultimately there were severe and repeated errors by the leadership, which resulted from those two characteristic failings: a lack of both strategy and emotional intelligence’. (p.254)

Remarkably, Jones concludes that the crisis ‘need never have happened’. (p.254)

This is nonsense. The crisis had to happen because sufficiently powerful forces within the Labour Party and Conservative Party, and across the corporate media ‘spectrum’, were determined to make it happen.

Compare Jones’ account with that of Norman Finkelstein, whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps. Finkelstein’s father was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. In an interview with RT in May, Finkelstein commented:

‘Corbyn, he did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign. Now that’s unprecedented – the entire British elite, during this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’

He added:

‘Yeah, there’s some fringe members of Labour who, you know, play the anti-semitic [interrupted by interviewer]… I read the polls, I read the data – it hovers between six and eight per cent are hardened anti-semites in British society. It’s nothing! Yeah, so there are a few crazies, but there’s no “institutionalised” anti-semitism in the British Labour Party. There’s no threat of anti-semitism in British society. I’ve read all the data, I’ve studied it closely. It just doesn’t exist. It’s all being designed and manipulated… I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, as you know, but this is a conspiracy.’

Jones accepts that ‘the former leadership and the vast majority of Labour’s membership abhor antisemitism’, arguing that the problem lay with a ‘small minority’. (p.254) But Jones does not cite an October 2016 report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found:

‘Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.’

And he does not cite a September 2017 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which found:

‘Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population… The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.’

Instead, Jones pours scorn on leftists who ‘still were in denial, claiming that the antisemitism crisis had been entirely manufactured by a media “out to get” Corbyn…’ (p.254)

Rational commentators have always accepted that antisemitism exists within the Labour Party. The point is that making that ugly reality a ‘crisis’ specifically for Labour, rather than for other parties and other sectors of society, and above all making it a ‘crisis’ for Corbyn – reviled as a dangerous antisemite – was entirely manufactured.

Jones cites ‘the passionately anti-Corbyn editor of the Jewish Chronicle’, Stephen Pollard, who grotesquely claimed to perceive ‘nudge, nudge’ (p.253) antisemitism in one of Corbyn’s self-evidently anti-capitalist critiques. Such outlandish claims, Jones notes, only encouraged leftists to believe the whole furore was a smear campaign:

‘It was a vicious circle, and it turned to nobody’s benefit – least of all Corbyn’s, while causing more hurt and distress to Jewish people.’ (p.253, our emphasis)

But this is absurd. Quite obviously, the smear campaign was to the very real benefit of the political and media forces trying to crush Corbyn’s version of socialism.

The claims targeting Corbyn were fake and they depended on ignoring as non-existent a mountain of evidence indicating that Corbyn is a passionate, committed and very active anti-racist. What is so outrageous is that this was accepted by essentially everyone before Corbyn stood for the leadership in 2015. As Jones comments:

‘Anti-racism is core to Corbyn’s sense of identity. He believes, proudly, that he has fought oppression all his life, so being labelled a racist was a cause of profound personal trauma to him.’ (p.228)

Corbyn’s chief of staff, Karie Murphy, commented on the impact of the smear campaign:

‘This was a man who was beyond broken-hearted, that, as a proud antiracist campaigner, he was being accused of racism. So he was paralysed… It wasn’t true – no one will convince me that he has an antisemitic bone in his body…’ (p.242)

Genuine racists are not left ‘beyond broken-hearted’ by claims that they are racist. They are not ‘paralysed’ by a sense of injustice and grief.

Jones comments on Corbyn: ‘no one close to him believes for a moment that he would ever willingly associate with a Holocaust denier’. (p.222) And Corbyn ‘could point to an extensive record opposing antisemitism and showing pro-Jewish solidarity’ (p.221). Jones lists some of Corbyn’s efforts in this regard: helping to organise a counter-mobilisation to a demonstration by National Front fascists in the so-called Battle of Wood Green in 1977; taking part in a campaign to save a Jewish cemetery from being sold off to property developers in 1987, calling on the British government to settle Yemeni Jewish refugees in 2010.

Before the sheer intensity of propaganda caused most commentators to find truth in lies, Corbyn’s deep-rooted opposition to racism was simply unquestioned. Chris Mullin, who did not vote for Corbyn to either become or remain leader, commented:

‘I’ve always liked him as long as I’ve known him. He’s a thoroughly decent human being, almost a saintly man.’ (p.30)

As Jones writes of Corbyn at the time he stood for the leadership in 2015:

‘Corbyn had no personal enemies. Everyone liked him. Relentlessly cheerful, endlessly generous with his opponents, he exuded integrity.’ (pp.50-51)

Despite this, Jones says of the antisemitism crisis:

‘The damage to Corbyn’s Labour was grievous. The crisis led to months of media coverage.’ (p.254)

In fact, the media coverage was the crisis! It was this real crisis that was the cause of the ‘crisis’. The antisemitism ‘crisis’ was just one more fabrication by an awesomely corrupt and immoral media system willing to throw, not just the kitchen sink, but – God help us! – Nazi gas chambers at Corbyn.

The key to understanding the anti-semitism ‘scandal’ was explained by Jones himself:

‘Anybody who knows anything about the British press knows that it is almost unique in the Western world for its level of commitment to aggressively defending and furthering right-wing partisan politics… the media onslaught that greeted his [Corbyn’s] leadership win in 2015 was as predictable as it was unrelentingly hostile.’ (p.67)

Jones lists only a few of the endlessly fabricated stories used to smear Corbyn: he supposedly planned to ‘abolish’ the army, refused to bow his head on Remembrance Day, danced happily on Remembrance Day, didn’t sing the national anthem loudly enough, and so on. The London School of Economics reported in 2016:

‘the British press systematically delegitimised Jeremy Corbyn as a political leader’ through a ‘process of vilification that went beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy’. (p.68)

Corbyn’s great anti-semitism ‘scandal’ was a non-story, a fabricated non-event, a Soviet-style propaganda smear. Sufficient numbers of people wanted it to be true because they wanted to be rid of Corbyn. Everyone else bowed their heads to avoid being subject to the same career-destroying smears.

Jones often mentions Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite Union, in ‘This Land’. McCluskey commented in the New Statesman last week on Corbyn’s press chief Seumas Milne and chief of staff Karie Murphy:

‘Having given a brilliant and detailed polemic of the history of anti-Semitism, he [Jones] veers away to lay blame at the [door of] Milne and Murphy, based on a distorted view of what it was like trying to deal with the constant daily attacks.

‘When you are in a war – and be under no illusion, from day one of his leadership, Corbyn was subjected to an internal and external war – you develop methods of defence and attack that change by necessity almost on a daily, if not hourly basis.  Being in your living room, observing with a typewriter, is a damn sight easier than being in the ditches on the front line, trying to dodge bullets flying at you from all angles, especially from your own side.’

Establishment forces were out to destroy Corbyn with antisemitism, or whatever else they could think of, no matter what he did, how he replied. And it worked. The incompetence of Corbyn’s team may have made things worse, but the truth that matters is that a form of ruthless fascism arose out of British society to crush an attempt to create a more democratic politics.

Needless to say, Jones has not one word to say about the lead role of his employer, the Guardian, in the antisemitism smear campaign.

Conclusion

Why do we focus so intensely on popular progressives like Owen Jones, George Monbiot and loveable, NATO-loving loon Paul Mason?

The reason is that they breathe life into the faded dream that progressive change can be achieved by working within and for profit-maximising corporations that are precisely the cause of so many of our crises. Even the best journalists cannot tell the truth within these undemocratic systems of top-down power. As Jones freely admits, they have to compromise, to self-censor. Guardian colleagues may not be criticised! Ultimately, they have to compromise in ways that allow the state-corporate status quo to thunder on.

Our most celebrated public radicals – almost all of them made famous by corporate media – function as dissident vaccines that inoculate the public against a pandemic of authentic dissent.

Corporate media are careful to incorporate a tiny bit of progressive poison, so that we all hang around for a whole lot of propaganda-drenched news and commentary, and a perma-tsunami of unanswered corporate advertising persuading us that status consumption, status production and paper-thin concern for the problems of our world are all there is.

Ultimately, corporate dissidents are the final nail in the corporate coffin, normalising the blind, patently doomed rush to disaster called ‘business as usual.’

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