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Climate Change and the Struggle Against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

By Socilaist Project.

Thousands have been pouring onto Vancouver streets, as well as protesting across Canada, against the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been attempting to square the impossible – expanding oil sands production and building pipelines while addressing climate change. The governments of BC and Canada have ignored theses issues, as well as wider questions about First Nations consultations and sovereignty claims, already in the cases of the Pacific Northwest LNG, Woodfibre LNG and the Site C Dam in BC.

The recent Liberal announcements of ocean protection funds and carbon taxes are partly political dodges as they continue on with Harper’s plans to make Canada an energy super-power based on fossil fuels. Kinder Morgan is in line for approval, even as the arctic ice melt reached frightening levels, extreme weather events become commonplace and the climate change crisis deepens.

Political activism around climate change, from Standing Rock to Vancouver to innumerable cities across North America, is growing. Another failed climate meeting in Marrakesh this month and the climate denialists surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump have given these struggles added urgency in themselves and in the solidarity linking them to other social justice struggles. No need to even invoke the necessity of an eco-socialist political project as it is where all alternatives are pointing. Revolution in a warming world.

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An Oil Price Rally Is Likely

By Nick Cunningham /

Oil prices seesawed at the start of the week before jumping close to multi-year highs on geopolitical concerns, with Brent hitting $70 and WTI at $65. However, geopolitical pressure is only able to influence oil prices to such a degree because the market is fundamentally getting tighter.

Ongoing declines in Venezuela and concerns about heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran have significantly raised the risk premium for oil, even as some short-term factors recently pushed up prices.

The weekly EIA report was a bit mixed. U.S. oil production jumped again by 26,000 bpd in the week ending on March 23, putting output at 10.433 million barrels per day (mb/d), yet another record high. Still, the report wasn't exactly bearish. Although crude stocks rose, they increased by a modest 1.6 million barrels, and much of that is largely the result of a big jump in imports. More glaringly, gasoline stocks fell sharply by 3.5 million barrels.

In other words, U.S. production is indeed soaring, but it doesn't appear to be swamping the market, at least as of now. A variety of analysts have argued that oil demand is so strong that the market will continue to tighten, even after considering the explosive growth of U.S. shale. "This year will be the eighth year of continuous growth since the Great Financial Crisis; and the seventh consecutive year of annual growth of more than 1 million b/d," Wood Mackenzie said in a note. "Our latest forecast suggests that demand will grow by 1.7 million b/d in 2018, the fifth-highest this century."

In fact, some of the recent weakness in oil prices lately can be chalked up to fears of a trade war, which could upset economic growth projections. "The biggest risk to oil demand's winning growth streak is a trade war undermining the global economy," Wood Mackenzie said. However, the uptick in oil prices at the end of this past week, some analysts say, are at least in part a result of those trade fears subsiding. "Worries about demand being affected by a possible trade war kind of receded," Gene McGillian manager of market research at Tradition Energy, told Reuters.

At the same time, some attribution for the oil price increase belongs to a rebound in global financial stocks after a recent selloff. "The equities market is rallying and that's lending support to oil," Philip Streible, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, told Reuters. The flat dollar also lent some support to crude.

With trade war concerns on the wane, and global equities on the rise, oil prices rebounded. While these short-term factors no doubt played a role in pushing up crude benchmarks, they are occurring against a backdrop of a tighter oil market. The surplus of OECD inventories is now below 50 million barrels, whereas it was above 300 million barrels a year ago.

Indeed, the IEA sees the oil market tipping into a supply deficit as soon as this quarter, and inventory drawdowns will pick up pace in the second half of the year.

"The voluntary production cuts are only playing one part in this," Commerzbank said in a note. "The involuntary production outages in Venezuela are weighing more heavily, as they mean that OPEC is reducing its output by considerably more than originally intended."

As long as OPEC keeps the current production limits in place, the oil market will continue to tighten, even after taking into account U.S. shale growth. And OPEC has even signaled that it is considering extending the cuts for another six months, pushing the expiration date to mid-2019. If they follow through on that, there is a pretty decent chance that there is a lot more room on the upside for oil prices.

Still, there are a handful of uncertainties that would completely upend any reasonable oil forecast. On the bearish side, if OPEC somehow abandons its cuts, begins a phase out sooner than expected, revised the deal to account for sharp declines in Venezuela, or members simply started cheating, then oil prices could slide significantly.

But, arguably, there are more upside risks. The most dangerous is the likely return of sanctions on Iran from the U.S., which could curtail a significant chunk of supply. Worse, the Trump administration could head down a dangerous road that ends in war. Meanwhile, Venezuela's oil production continues to fall off a cliff.

In short, because U.S. shale growth is already baked into the current oil market projections, the risk to oil prices is probably skewed more towards the upside due to the variety of geopolitical ticking time bombs.

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Israel’s systematic violence against Palestinian women

By Greg Shupak / The Electronic Intifada

A Bedouin woman watches as Israeli bulldozers destroy her shelter in the village of al-Araqib, August 2010. The village has been razed more than 100 times.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Crucial to Israeli colonialism is an attempt at the destruction of Palestinian society. This is part of a bid to secure demographic majority over non-Jewish people across all of historic Palestine and maximal control over the territory and its resources.

Pursuing these goals necessarily involves hindering Palestinians’ ability to raise their next generation and to sustain, educate and care for themselves and each other.

The institutionalized destruction of Palestinian women’s lives has thus been an essential feature of the Israeli project. And as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, and in a time of the #MeToo movement, it is important to remember how Israel has systematically carried out violence against Palestinian women, undercut their healthcare, and undermined their socio-economic conditions.

In this regard, Israeli settler-colonialism can be seen as intrinsically anti-feminist and a form of gendered violence.

Routine violence

Israeli violence against Palestinian women is routine. The United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur on violence against women notes that the “establishments and expansion of settlements has been accompanied by an increase in settlers’ violence against Palestinians, including women and girls.”

The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, a Palestinian organization, gathered statements from women who describe being “scared to leave their houses alone after experiences of [attacks by Israeli settlers] during both day and night.”

The group also collected testimony from 100 Palestinian women living in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and found that when Israeli governments illegally settle Israelis in East Jerusalem and Palestinians protest, “women frequently report an increase in Israeli police brutality including nighttime raids on family homes and the arrest of young men and minors.”

Palestinian women who have been detained report being subject to torture or ill treatment or both, as noted by the UN special rapporteur: “Beatings, insults, threats and sexual harassment were reported to be common practices as well as intrusive body searches, which often occur before and after court hearings or during the night as punitive measures.”

Israeli violence against Palestinian women is also frequently fatal and on a large scale. During Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 offensive against Gaza, 110 Palestinian women were killed. During Israel’s summer 2014 assault on the territory, Israel massacred 230 women.

Targeting healthcare

Base violence is just one of the weapons being deployed against Palestinian women. Targeting Palestinians’ access to healthcare and reducing its quality, both in Israel and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, is another.

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a recent report finding that Palestinian women and girls residing in Israel “continue to register poor health outcomes, particularly infant and maternal mortality.”

The rate of infant mortality among Palestinian citizens of Israel is 6.4 per 1,000 live births, almost three times higher than it is among Jewish Israelis. Last month Israel’s high court took steps likely to worsen this problem by rejecting a petition demanding the reopening of a mother-infant health clinic serving some 1,500 people in two Palestinian communities in Israel.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, meanwhile, has outlined a variety of mechanisms through which Israel undermines Palestinian healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza.

These include Israeli control of the Palestinian Authority’s budget, including its health budget, and limiting the free movement of patients, medical personnel, ambulances and medications between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as within the West Bank.

Such practices contribute to Palestinian women having worse health outcomes than their Israeli counterparts. Maternal mortality in the West Bank and Gaza is four times higher than in Israel. Life expectancy of Israeli women is on average 10 years longer than it is for Palestinian women.

Moreover, Palestinian women in the West Bank live under the omnipresent threat of having their homes demolished or of being evicted. This, according to the UN’s special rapporteur, has a “severe psychological impact” on women, “causing anxiety and leading to depression.”

Israeli military forces regularly carry out night raids in the West Bank. The special rapporteur describes these as “psychological violence” against Palestinian women to the extent that they “experience severe sleeping disorders, severe stress issues and depression.”

Meanwhile, at the checkpoints Israel has established throughout the West Bank, Israeli soldiers have blocked pregnant Palestinian women on their way to hospital to give birth.

In Gaza, health care is inadequate because of the Israeli blockade. Patients in need are at the mercy of the Israeli military to grant them a permit for travel, which is often delayed or denied.

In 2016, for instance, the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling reports that 1,726 such permits were denied and 8,242 were delayed so long that they did not receive a response in time for their medical appointments.

These restrictions are “arbitrary,” according to the center, and “target seriously ill women who pose no threat [to Israel] … For women – mothers, wives and daughters – the burden these restrictions place on them and their families is unbearable.”

Israel’s large-scale military assaults on Gaza have further undermined women’s health there.

According to UNESCO’s Commission on the Status of Women, Israel’s 2014 attack left healthcare centers damaged, without sufficient medical equipment and supplies, and healthcare providers unable to properly meet the needs of women and girls requiring sexual and reproductive health services.

During the Israeli attack, UNESCO reports, “more than 45,000 pregnant Palestinian women were deprived of access to basic reproductive health services, and approximately 5,000 of them gave birth in extremely poor conditions.”

Destroying potential

Similar problems exist with Palestinian women’s education and employment.

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has expressed its “concern about the systemic discrimination experienced by national minorities” living in Israel, specifically Palestinian women and girls. The committee notes that Palestinian women and girls have unequal access to education – as do their ultra-Orthodox Jewish counterparts – which leads to higher dropout rates and poor outcomes in higher education.

According to the scholar Suheir Abu Oksa Daoud, “Israeli state policies toward Palestinian women workers [living in Israel] have been central to their marginalization in production and employment.”

Daoud points out that the “severe shortage” of daycare centers in Palestinian areas prevents Palestinian women from entering the labor market, noting that only 25 government-supported daycare centers operate in Palestinian areas in Israel whereas 16,000 operate in Jewish areas.

In the West Bank, the violence, vandalism and property destruction that Israeli soldiers and settlers carry out “overburdens women with increased responsibilities, including financial ones, for members of their family.”

In a study of the Israeli-occupied Jordan Valley, an area of the West Bank largely populated by Bedouin Palestinians, the rights group Al-Haq notes that Palestinian women are especially “vulnerable to the impacts of Israel’s unlawful measures in the region, which have had direct adverse impacts on their standard of living and on the various roles and responsibilities they undertake.”

For example, the organization points out that in 2015 and 2016 Israel demolished 240 Palestinian houses, tents, animal sheds, stores and poultry farms in the Jordan Valley, displacing 647 Palestinians. These measures, Al-Haq says, resulted in “devastating consequences” for Palestinian women and deprived them of their right to an adequate standard of living.

Al-Haq adds that Israel’s discriminatory planning and zoning regime systematically denies Palestinian communities building permits so Palestinian women and their families in the Jordan Valley “are forced to live with little to no privacy, in overcrowded, unsanitary and uninhabitable environments.”

These poor living conditions affect “the livelihoods of women and children and their access to basic services and facilities, including water and sanitation, healthcare and education.”

Al-Haq interviewed women in al-Qilt al-Foqa, a community in the southern Jordan Valley, about the acts of violence Israeli settlers routinely commit, often under the protection of Israeli soldiers. The organization states that “women expressed anxiety about living in a constant state of psychological distress from fear of potential settler attacks on the community.”

This anxiety, Al-Haq adds, “stems from both experiencing and witnessing incidents of violence that in the past posed a serious threat to the lives of the women, children and other family members.”

Al-Haq finds that “the right of Palestinian women to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including to sexual and reproductive freedom, is severely undermined by Israeli practices in the Jordan Valley, including demolitions, denials of road constructions, and restrictions on access to healthcare services and facilities.”

In Gaza, UNESCO reports, food insecurity among women-headed households is 51 percent while in the male-headed households in which most women live, it stands at 58 percent.

UNESCO attributes this problem to Israel’s closure of the Strip. The report notes that food insecurity worsened after Israel’s summer 2014 assault because it increased the number of displaced Palestinians in Gaza, made it harder for the population to access their livelihoods, and increased unemployment rates. UNESCO says that it expects this situation to “contribute to a deterioration of the nutritional status of women and children.”

As the “primary caregivers in Gaza, women are faced with acute challenges in coping with the large number of families with members killed or injured, the long-term impact of damaged infrastructure and reduced services,” UNESCO states.

Systematic and deliberate

Israel’s oppression of and violence against Palestinian women is pervasive and occurs at every level of their lives. It can only be seen as systematic.

The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling describes the Palestinian women of Jerusalem as a “community deliberately and systematically placed under enormous physical and psychological pressure by the prevailing authority with an apparent intention of making not only day-to-day life unbearable, but destroying any hope in a brighter future.”

The World Health Organization finds that Israel’s measures as an occupying power are “designed to expel [Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip] and prevent them from reaching their agricultural land and property. This has a devastating effect on the health of inhabitants, particularly women (and especially women who are pregnant), children and the aged.”

Israel’s settler-colonial policies undermine Palestinian women’s abilities to live full, secure lives, and to contribute to building communities capable of flourishing in the present and in future generations.

On this International Women’s Day, one way to support the global emancipation of women is to support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

Dr. Greg Shupak teaches Media Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber. His book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media, can be ordered from OR Books.

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The CIA's 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted Many American Writers

By Robert Scheer / Alternet.

"They drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom"

Photo Credit: MuckRock

Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” explores how the CIA influenced acclaimed writers and publications during the Cold War to produce subtly anti-communist material. During the interview, Scheer and Whitney discuss these manipulations and how the CIA controlled major news agencies and respected literary publications (such as the Paris Review).

Their talk comes at a particularly tense time in American politics, as accusations of fake news and Russian propaganda fly from both sides of the aisle. But the history detailed in Whitney’s book presents a valuable lesson for writers hoping to avoid similar manipulations today.

Scheer opens the discussion with the question: “Were they really tricked?”

“It could have been ‘paid,’ it could have been ‘subsidized,’ it could have been ‘used,’ it could have been ‘collaborated with,’ ” Whitney responds. “So yeah, it might have been any other verb there besides ‘tricked.’”

The two then delve into the tactics used by the CIA to influence writers. Whitney notes that the fearful political atmosphere at the time led to “secrecy being used to preside over and rule over the free press — which we’re supposed to be the champions of.”

“They drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom,” Scheer agrees.

The discussion underscores the need for analysis of Cold War-era media as a way to avoid propagandized journalism today. Scheer says, “I look at the current situation, where we don’t even have a good communist enemy, so we’re inventing Russia as a reborn communist power enemy.”

“I call it superpolitics,” Whitney concludes, “where essentially there’s something that’s so evil and so frightening that we have to change how our democratic institutions work.”

Listen to the full interview below. Don’t have time to stream the full interview? Download it and listen on the go by clicking on the “arrow” button. You can also read a full transcript of the conversation below.

Robert Scheer: Greetings. This is another edition of Scheer Intelligence. I’m Robert Scheer, but the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case it’s Joel Whitney, who’s just written a really terrific book called “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” And actually, my only disagreement with the book is a little bit with the title. So let me just begin there, and you can lay out the thesis. But it’s the story, of course, about how the CIA secretly funded the Congress [for] Cultural Freedom and lots of other organizations, and got involved right after World War II and continued right through the Cold War, basically manipulating publications and movies, everything else, to so-called “win the battle of ideas” with the Soviets, and ended up in the process adopting some of their more nefarious means. But when you say the CIA tricked the world’s best writers, you’re talking about a pretty sharp group of people, like [George] Plimpton and [William] Styron and all that. Were they really tricked?

RS: What I found, and knowing some of these people, they’re a pretty sharp bunch. I mean, this really goes to, I think, more David Halberstam’s idea in “The Best and the Brightest,” his classic work on what happened in Vietnam. That these were the best products of the meritocracy; this was the creme de la creme of Harvard and Yale, and the Yale Review, and all that sort of thing; the brightest minds, the most talented people. And for whatever reason, sometimes for greed but also, you know, they bought into it–what they bought into was basically a stupefyingly simplistic and wrong-headed notion of what was going on in the world. That’s the overwhelming thought I came away with from your book, which is great in detail, great storytelling; you know, whether it’s about Pasternak or whether it’s about Sontag or anybody–I mean, they’re all in there, there’s a lot of really rich detail. But the overwhelming sense that I got from this book was how once again, using Halberstam’s idea of “The Best and the Brightest,” how did this group of people–who certainly were literate and well-traveled and tested well and got great grades at the best schools and studied under the best people–get it so wrong?

Joel Whitney: Well, that’s a great first question. I did an event in Berkeley last week, and actually had a Paris Review magazine veteran come by and ask me essentially that same question. And his reservation was the word “finks” and the word “tricked.” More “finks,” though, which he thought was derogatory as someone who had been at the Paris Review. He, you know, he may have felt that there was some, whether well-intentioned or misinformed, idea of patriotism. And “finks,” of course, as you know when you finish the book, comes from one of my characters. “Tricked” was the word I settled on, “how the CIA tricked the world’s best writers;” it could have been “paid,” it could have been “subsidized,” it could have been “used,” it could have been “collaborated with.” And I actually envisioned at one point–I couldn’t sell this to my editor–a cover where in sort of lighter shadow behind the word “tricked” would be all those other words going up and down the front of the book. Yeah, I think a lot of the writers had different motives. And actually, some of them, throughout the book, you’ll see–you’ll remember they changed their minds. So some of them were more in favor in the early fifties; by the time the Vietnam War hits, and the CIA’s reputation is a little more tarnished, some of them were less enthralled with the agency and other kinds of anti-communist institutions. So, yeah, it might have been any other verb there besides “tricked.”

JW: Yeah, I think the idea of the oversimplification that you described in your question, I think that’s accurate. And I think the sharper ones were further, were more removed from that simplification. And then what you see are several groups in the anti-communist movements, several actual organizations that were sort of recruiting people that were representing the CIA’s slush funds, who are luring people in who have standing internationally, people who can do some soft power work but might, if they know exactly what’s going on, they might be a little too critical of it. So if you start, for instance, in Berlin after World War II, you have a group of people who were familiar with Stalinist methods to the degree that perhaps they were traumatized by them. So those people were sincere, but they weren’t necessarily nuanced in their understanding of maybe how to fight totalitarianism. They thought essentially that the best method was to fight fire with fire. So in a way, these were guys who had a conspiracy theory. Their conspiracy theory went like this: Soviet Russia is penetrating organizations around the world; they had some evidence, Comintern and other organizations. But they had no sense of scale, and I think by the time you have McCarthy discredited in the middle fifties, some of these guys were probably willing to dial back some of their initial fears. But by then, they’d set this great movement in motion where it was just huge amounts of money that the CIA could offer. And so what I look at, as you remember in the book, is just I look at these little intellectual magazines that were initially recruited to do two things: one, to push back against anti-Americanism. So they wanted to tout and brag about our high culture, because in Western Europe, which was the key battleground, we were known for our pop and low culture; we were known for martial funds, we were known for our tanks. So one can sort of appreciate that. But then it comes with another idea, which is to discredit the Soviet Union as often as can be. And when you see that, how it plays out, you start to see disinformation beginning to spread. And what you see presiding over both sides of that idea is a regime of secrecy, which is problematic when you’re talking about magazines, because you’re talking about secrecy being used to preside over and rule over the free press that we’re supposed to be the champions of.

RS: The reason your book is compelling, and I think people should read it–and let me just be clear right up front, I read it straight through, [laughs], I think I had one breakfast break. But I enjoyed it enormously, because it really makes these characters come alive. And they’re not cardboard characters, whether you’re talking about Irving Kristol, or you’re talking about, you know, Irving Howe or George Plimpton or anybody–there’s whole bunches of them run through the book, and you really are introduced to the cultural life of Paris and London and New York and so forth. But again, I keep getting back to this one question, you know; there’s a thing in the newspaper business, I remember one editor telling me “too good to check.” And maybe when somebody’s writing you an actual check, and you’re getting money and you’re getting first-class airfare, and they’re funding your wonderful magazine, your little magazine, so you don’t have to go to your parents–because most of these people were super rich, and they could just go to their uncle or father or something and get some more money. But still it was now, you know, classy to get it from some secret Fleischmann’s Yeast or something [Laughs], that was a front for the CIA. You know, and so yeah, you’re involved in intrigue and all that, which I guess a lot of writers like to be involved in; but the idea that they drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom is the part that I still don’t get.

JW: It does seem like there was a big pivot after World War II, and I think one of the organizations that normalized the idea of secrecy ruling over the media–which is eventually what you end up with in a program like this–was the OSS. A lot of the people, the founding lights of the CIA, came to see that the OSS had done some great work in, as they saw it, thwarting the Nazis during World War II. So a lot of the people who founded the CIA, they understood that if the Soviet communists were using secrecy to penetrate our organizations, instead of thinking of how do we stop the penetration, it seems like it turned into a system of let’s preemptively penetrate our own organizations, just to make sure we can watch them and keep them on the up-and-up. And of course one of the ways that they keep people in line, as you say, was through the money. So in terms of the official magazines that the CIA created and presided over, the British spy who overthrew Mosaddegh, he would have been, in June of 1953–his name was Christopher Montague Woodhouse–he would have been working on the CIA magazine for London, Encounter. He would have empowered the two editors, one American, one Brit, Stephen Spender on the British side, Irving Kristol on the American side, both working out of London; one paid through secrecy of the British state, one paid indirectly through the CIA. The spy overseeing this, Woodhouse, he would have then turned in the late summer towards overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. And then later, he’s also feeling so good about this system of, what essentially you have are coups as covert ops and then long-term soft-power propaganda, also on the covert ops side of the CIA and British secret services. So he feels so good about this that he’s later on a contributor to Encounter. So magazines like Encounter, they were created in Paris, they were created in Italy, they were created all over Europe; and then they spread to the Nordic countries, they spread to the Third World. What they did was they involved people at different levels. So the people in the know would be people who were editors and regular contributors, and it would even for them be kind of an open secret. So one person I interviewed was a guy named Nelson Aldrich, and he collaborated first–well, he worked for, I should say, first with the Paris Review. The Paris Review was not one of those magazines created by the CIA, or if it was, it was sort of indirectly used. It was used as Peter Matthiessen, the writer who was one of its founders, as his cover in Paris in the early fifties. But then he says he resigned from the CIA and there was no connection. Well, later on, George Plimpton, the famous writer and man about New York, was the public face of the Paris Review through its formative years and for many decades; he found a way to get CIA money through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, its cultural propaganda front. So that’s a second tie. Later on in my research, I found a third tie through a founding managing editor. So you have such a vast network of money for culture that in one organization, one magazine that’s sort of only a tangential CIA asset or friend, you can find three big separate ties.

RS: I’m glad I got this chance to talk to you, because the book reads the way you talk. It’s not vindictive, it’s not smearing people, it’s not doing what they did, actually. What these folks did in the name of anti-communism was they were perfectly happy, thrilled, to sail out and destroy their buddies, their college classmates, to smear them, smear intellectuals that they respected. That’s really what happened. You know, you’re using your power, your clout. And there’s an analogy right now, I think, with this whole discussion of fake news. These people were actually doing fake news. They were being paid by a government agency, the CIA, cooperating, following instructions, and sometimes censoring articles, editing them and so forth, so they’re part of an official government propaganda regime that continues right up through Vietnam and everything else. And so they become a caricature of the whole, you know, democratic experiment, which is certainly not what the Founders had in mind. And they get very vindictive towards people who disagree with the narrative. And the reason I began the way I did, asking you–the irony here is the people who objected to their official narrative turned out to be, quite early on, right. So for example, you mentioned Nelson Aldrich, and you have him placed as one of those people who knew what was going on. Well, I knew Nelson Aldrich as a guy I would chat with at Elaine’s in New York for years. And by that point, of the sixties, he knew it was all bogus. He was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. And in fact he wrote a very good book about the elite and how out of touch they are, the economic elite, and so forth. And I found him quite supportive of Ramparts, you know; I couldn’t get any money from him, from his wealthy relatives, but nonetheless he seemed like a–

JW: [Laughs] Gotta try.

RS: And you mentioned another person, you know; one point where, I don’t know, I was a little unhappy with, you mentioned Frances Fitzgerald, the famous writer of “Fire In the Lake” and “Wild Blue Yonder,” great journalist; and her father was a well-known, you know, deputy head of the whole CIA, Desmond Fitzgerald. But the fact is, Frances Fitzgerald also–she’d studied with Zbigniew Brzezinski, she’d gone to the best Ivy League schools– but the fact is, very early on, she embraced an opposite view. She saw that the Vietnam War was bogus, it was a fiction, and the claims made were wrong. And she wrote a devastating book on it very early on. So it just seemed to me, the crowd you’re describing, I’m not going to minimize the damage they did, because they stifled debate; they prevented a good discussion from taking place that would have avoided Vietnam. OK? It would have avoided the confrontation with Cuba. It would have avoided the overthrow of Mossadegh, you know, and we go down the whole list. So I’m not minimizing the destructive, you know, impact that they had and the stupefying, really, the ignorance of the debate. And I’ll just give two examples of that, you know, but I want to get back to how quickly some people, at least, escaped this net, including William Styron and others. But two villains that really emerged in their world were Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. And it’s interesting, because both of those people, particularly Bertrand Russell, had impeccable anti-communist credentials. Bertrand Russell, you know, had famously attacked communism as an evil, and anti-intellectual and stifling of thought; and certainly Sartre had shown a considerable independence. But yet because they teamed up to do something called the Vietnam War Crimes Commission, and they challenged America in a very fundamental way on what it was doing, not only in Vietnam, elsewhere–this same crowd, the ones that were still influential, went out to destroy Sartre and Russell. So what I want to get across is it’s not minor what they did; your book exposes the fundamental distortion of American politics during the post-Cold War period, which is where all the stupidity came from. My only question–and it makes for a great read, and it really reveals a lot. I look at the current situation where we don’t even have a good communist enemy, because the communists that are in power are the ones we’re trading with in [China] now. So we’re inventing Russia as a reborn communist power or enemy, and we have this whole campaign now as if, you know, now Putin is the evil empire. And so there is a current echo in sort of how easy it is to manipulate people.

JW: Yeah. Well, just on the first point you made about the meanness or the lack of meanness in the book, that was something I wanted to be very conscientious about when I went through edits with my editor. There’s a great scholar and writer at UC Berkeley who said something that I saw quoted recently: “Be tough on the institutions, and be soft on the people.” And that was reinforced again and again when I saw some of the collaborators with these cultural fronts of the CIA changing their minds, learning from things like Vietnam. And seeing them change their minds actually gave me a lot of hope, because you know, you can be on the payroll; you can be someone who’s an operator; you can be someone who thinks of the world as a good side and a bad side, and therefore whatever we do represents the good side. And then you can wake up from that. You mentioned Sartre; he was absolutely attacked by one of the CIA’s magazines, and his magazine was seen as a threat, and the French magazine Preuves, based out of Paris, was in some ways an answer to Sartre’s magazine and his attempts to deal, to treat the United States the way it should be treated. When it was going against its values, he would call them out on that. Neruda, Pablo Neruda, the poet, was another one who suffered severe reputational damage by this cultural front of the CIA, the Congress for Cultural Freedom. When they found out, some of these operators found out that he was up for the Nobel in ‘63, they wrote a quiet, sort of secret white paper about him, and they made some links to Stalinism through his Stalin [Peace] Prize. And it was, of course, the year that Stalin had died that he took it. And they also made up some stuff that I think was, you know, viciously untrue, that he was in on the attempt to murder Trotsky. So this is reputational damage that then is doubled later by the CIA’s actual overthrow of his friend in Chile, Salvador Allende. So what I see is if someone’s being physically harmed by the CIA, that’s one thing that we’ve accounted for in a lot of historical books and political books; if someone’s being reputationally damaged by CIA propaganda, you see that in some of the academic books that look at the so-called cultural Cold War. But I wanted to remove the wall between those two areas and show that both of those things happened in a context where a lot of people were just made terrified by the fact that you had evil on one side and a fighting-fire-with-fire mentality on so-called, quote unquote, our side.

RS: [omission] We’re back with Joel Whitney, and the book is called “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” So, Joel, let me ask you a question that I was about to ask when we took our break. I’m going to talk a little bit about the CIA, because the [sub]title of your book is “how the CIA tricked the world’s best writers.” And there we get into a pretty sinister cast of characters. And I just want to bring up one who shows up a lot, because I know something about him from my own Freedom of Information files, because I was the editor of Ramparts and I was involved in some of this stuff. And that’s James Jesus Angleton. And I am the proud possessor of a record in which J. Edgar Hoover, at one point after all the Ramparts stuff, exonerated me and said he’s going to close the Scheer case–I was the last, well, not the last, but I was the editor of Ramparts at a critical moment. And he had investigated me at the behest of the CIA and, largely, James Jesus Angleton. And he said, there’s no there there; this guy likes to have a good time, he wants to meet women, he wants to have good meals [Laughter], but the fact is we’ve been investigating him for, I don’t know what it was, five years around the clock and there’s no there there. OK. And James Jesus Angleton, and others in the CIA, denounced him! And said, you can’t do this. You know, and so forth; I wasn’t the only one they wanted to go after. But you know, these guys were playing hardball. And they wouldn’t mind, when you traveled to another country–because I found myself getting harassed in different countries. I was in jail briefly in Mexico and I was in jail briefly in Lithuania, you know, and other places, Algeria and so forth; I didn’t want to get paranoid about it, but they had a reach worldwide where they could make your life really rough, or end it, for that matter. So what about James Jesus Angleton? What have you learned about this guy?

JW: Well, he was part of this post-OSS group that understood how important spying and covert ops had been in World War II. And from there, he makes all kinds of terrible mistakes. He and his group believed essentially that they needed to do better propaganda than the Soviets did, and one of the ways that they thought they could do it better was to do it subtly and, you could say, secretly. So when this program is threatened with exposure in ‘64, ‘65, ‘66 and ‘67 through various sources like Ramparts and The New York Times, this privilege of secrecy that they enjoyed was not something that they were willing to give up. So you have something that is described as relatively benign, this funding of culture through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a funding of student movements through the National Student Association, the funding of labor unions that would be less communist-influenced than the communist-dominated ones that they presumed were out there. These were seen as benign answers. They were reactions to Soviet penetration. So secrecy is a key to making them work. So even if you want to make the argument that, for instance, the Congress for Cultural Freedom never censored its magazines–which I think has been severely disproved; they did censor. Even if you wanted to say that they published all sorts of great writers–which clearly they did; that was part of the subtlety of it and part of the brilliance of it, and part of the soft-power charm of it. Even if you wanted to say all that, when the secrecy is exposed by honest accounting in the media, the fourth estate, the adversarial media of American bragging around the world, they are so attached to their secrecy, and so upset, the CIA group led by people like Angleton, that they commit something that is about as anti-American as anything in our system. Which is: more secrecy, more media penetration to the point of penetrating, first, the anti-Vietnam War press; second, the student, the college student newspapers and press; the alternative, so-called, press. Which essentially is a license to do what they did later. So that first thing I described, where Ramparts was penetrated, leads to Operation CHAOS, presumably; that leads to Operation Mockingbird in the seventies. By the time we have Carl Bernstein reporting on Operation Mockingbird, and John Crewdson reporting on its international equivalent in the New York Times–Bernstein in Rolling Stone–you essentially see the CIA trying to have at least one agent at every major news and media organization it can do in the world. And Crewdson reporting in the Times at the end of 1977 essentially says that they had one agent or contract agent at a newspaper in every world capital on Earth. That’s astonishing. They could get stories killed or get stories to run that portrayed the CIA’s views in a favorable way, or kill them if they did not.

RS: Let me point out–yeah, go ahead–

JW: And so Angleton is behind a lot of this, just to sort of circle back to your question, but go ahead.

RS: No, well, but I want to get at–there’s an interesting contradiction here. Because this is not benign. But what happens is, you create an atmosphere in which–and you could have it in a contemporary moment; oh, let’s get rid of Assad in Syria, for example. That sounds like a good liberal thing to do. And yes, there are great human rights violations by this dictator; yes, he kills innocent people. So did Stalin. Yes, yes. So did Khrushchev. OK. We get that. And then you build that up into an argument of, that there’s war going on between obvious good and obvious evil, and any discussion about any gray area is some kind of moral equivalency; it means you’re insensitive, it means you’re saying the same. And the irony here is that–and Angleton was the product of an elite education; actually, he was half Mexican, so maybe that gave him a burden in those circles. But the fact is, he could drink cocktails with the best of them. And what came out of this was an arrogance. That because you were on the side of the angels, the best and the brightest of Halberstam, it was OK–Robert McNamara famously, you know, one of the Ford company geniuses and so forth–it was OK to kill three and a half million Indochinese, including and in addition to almost 59,000 Americans. Because you had figured this out, you know, and you knew who were the good guys and bad guys. Now, looking back on it, it’s just of course absurd, you know. That you’re in this country that had no way of inflicting damage on us, and that had a thousand years of hostility towards China, and had no real interest in Russia, and it didn’t fit the model at all. And you know, in terms of the specific incidents that you have a chapter on, this Michigan State project, where Stanley Sheinbaum, who you describe as a whistleblower, which he was–you know, I wrote about that before there was a Ramparts. I wrote about it in a report to Robert Hutchins’ Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Henry Luce was on the board, it was very respectable. But, because Stanley Sheinbaum, one of the few individuals that I interviewed to do that story, he had seen the horror of it and he was willing to speak out. None of the others were. By the time I got to Stanley, I had gone through almost every professor, everyone had worked for either the CIA–that I knew about–or had worked on this Michigan State project, which was foul from the beginning. You take a guy, Ngo Dinh Diem, who didn’t even share the religion of 90 percent of the people there; you find him in a Catholic monastery in New York and you decide he’s going to be the George Washington of Vietnam [Laughter], and you get into this crazy intervention, right? And then 10 years after you do that, prevent the Geneva accords and everything, in the early sixties–the only reason I knew about that story, I went to the stacks at Berkeley, I wanted to know, what’s this place Vietnam about. And one of the guys involved in this thing had died, and his widow had donated his papers. It was totally accidental. I blew the dust off the papers and I found the evidence of their engineering torture and everything else to keep this guy Diem in power, and fortunately Stanley Sheinbaum was willing to say it. The depressing thing about that, and about why we don’t have more Edward Snowdens and so forth, is none of the other folks talked about it. They all stonewalled me. And they didn’t come clean.

JW: Yeah. It feels very lonely to be a whistleblower.

RS: Well, and what’s interesting about your book is there’s denial–even, you know, Peter Matthiessen – I mean, Matthiessen’s a very good author, very interesting guy and everything. But at the end, he’s still putting down a documentary filmmaker who he had actually told his story to. And they don’t really come clean, as you point out in your book. That’s why your book is so important. Because the story is not well known.

JW: The story is not well known. It gets buried, it gets buried under other things. I mean, the beginning of your question and your comment, I see it now–in my own notes, I call it superpolitics. Where essentially there’s something that’s so evil and so frightening that we have to change how our democratic institutions work, and whether they remain democratic. And so on the first part of your question, yeah, there was this notion that since we’re on the side of the angels we can do a lot of things that we wouldn’t normally do to fight Lucifer. And what you end up with–I think anyone who uses the moral equivalency argument, you know, you can’t compare American crimes to Stalinist crimes–it starts off as true, and the more you use it, the more it’s a shield to make us more Stalin-like. I mean, I don’t compare American history or American foreign policy to anything that Stalin did, except when I do in detail. And people who talk about Vietnam, if you count all of Southeast Asia, some of them like Viet Nguyen, the current Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction for his book The Sympathizer, he talks about it in terms of six million lives lost. Which is getting up into monumental numbers.

RS: The book is “[Finks:] How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” by Joel Whitney. And the more I talk about the book, the more I think, yes, they were tricked. Because they–well, it’s not a bad title, because–

JW: [Laughs] I used a soft sell over you, let you talk yourself into it.

RS: Well, no, but the fact of the matter is these were–again I get back to Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”–they were smart people. And yes, I’ve known them; I’ve known them personally, many of them. And they weren’t, you know, they didn’t want terrible things to happen, and a good number of them denounced the previous stuff. And so I guess “tricked” works. But the problem is, it’s not a game in which there are not victims. You know, you claim you’re going to make it a safer world and you make it a far more dangerous world, and you end up with a situation that Martin Luther King in his famous Riverside Church [speech] described, he said, you know, we’re talking about violence; he said my government today is “the [greatest] purveyor of violence in the world” today. And we got to that through a pattern of to stop being critical of our government, to stop thinking about it. And so I’m really happy that we have this book, [Finks:] How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” Joel Whitney, available–you get it from OR [Books]/Counterpoint. So thank you.

JW: Thank you.

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US Doubles Down As Empire Declines

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers / Popular Resistance

US empire is in decline. Reports of the end of the US being the unitary power in world affairs are common, as are predictions of the end of US empire. China surpassed the United States as the world economic leader, according to Purchasing Power Parity Gross National Product, and Russia announced new weapons that can overcome the US’ defense systems.

What is happening in the United States, in response, is to do more of what has been causing the decline. As the Pentagon outlined in its post-primacy report, the US’ plan is more money, more aggression and more surveillance. Congress voted nearly unanimously to give the Pentagon tens of billions more than it requested. Military spending will now consume 57% of federal discretionary spending, leaving less for basic necessities. The Trump administration’s new nominees to the State Department and CIA are a war hawk and a torturer. And the Democrat’s “Blue Wave” is composed of security state candidates.

The US is escalating an arms race with Russia and China. This may create the mirror image of President Reagan forcing Russia to spend so much on its military that it aided in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US economy cannot handle more military spending, worsening austerity when most people in the US are in financial distress.

This is an urgent situation for all people in the world. In the US, we carry an extra burden as citizens of empire to do what we can to oppose US imperialism. We must be clear that it is time to end wars and other tools of regime change, to become a cooperative member of the world community and to prioritize the needs of people and protection of the planet.

There are a number of opportunities to mobilize against US empire: the April 14-15 days of action, the Women’s March on the Pentagon in October and the mass protest planned against the military parade in November.

Turmoil in Foreign Policy Leadership

This week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Tillerson, nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo for the State Department and chose Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo at the CIA. As we write this newsletter, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is on the verge of being fired. The deck chairs are being rearranged on the Titanic but this will not correct the course of a failing foreign policy.

The Pompeo and Haspel nominations are controversial. Pompeo believes torturers are patriots. He is a war hawk on every conflict and competing country, including Russia and especially Iran. And, unlike Tillerson, who stood up to Trump on occasion, Pompeo kisses-up to Trump, defending his every move. Haspel led a CIA black site torture center and ordered destruction of evidence to obstruct torture investigations.

The Democrat’s record on torture is not good. President Obama said he would not prosecute Bush era torturers, infamously saying, “we need to look forwards as opposed to looking backwards.” John Brennan who was complicit in Bush-era torture, withdrew under pressure from becoming CIA director in 2008, instead becoming Deputy National Security Adviser, which did not require confirmation. After Obama’s re-election, Brennan became Obama’s CIA director.

Brennan was inconsistent on whether torture worked. He tried to elevate Haspel, but the controversy around her prevented it. When the CIA spied on the US Senate Intelligence committee over their torture report, Brennan originally lied, denying the spying, but was later forced to admit it. He was not held accountable by either the Democrats or Obama.

Haspel headed a black site in Thailand where torture was carried out. She ordered the destruction of 92 secret tapes documenting torture even though the Senate Judiciary requested the tapes, as had a federal judge in a criminal trial. According to a federal court order, the tapes should have been turned over to comply with a FOIA request. Counsel for the White House and CIA said the tapes should have been preserved. Haspel’s actions should lead to prosecution, not to a promotion as head of the agency, as CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed torture and served time in prison for it, reminds us.

The Trump nominations leave the Democrats on the cusp of a complete surrender on torture in an election year. Caving on torture by approving Pompeo and Haspel will anger Democratic voters and risk the high turnout need for their anticipated 2018 “Blue Wave”.

Republican Senator Rand Paul says he will oppose both nominees. If all the Democrats oppose, the Senate will be split 50-50, requiring one more Republican to block the nominees. Fifteen Democrats supported Pompeo’s nomination as CIA director, so Democratic opposition is not ensured. Will Democrats oppose torture or be complicit in normalizing torture?

Democrat’s Security State Blue Wave

Militarism and war are bi-partisan. When Trump submitted a military budget, the Democrats almost unanimously joined with the Republicans to increase the budget by tens of billions of dollars. But, that is not all, a series of investigative reports by the World Socialist website reported the Democratic Party is becoming the party of military and intelligence candidates.

The series identifies more than 50 military-intelligence candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 102 districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as targets for 2018. The result, as many as half of all new congressional Democrats could come from the national security apparatus. An example is the victory in Pennsylvania by Conor Lamb, an anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-drug war, ex-Marine, which is being celebrated by Democrats.

The Sanders-Democrats, working to make the Democratic Party a progressive people’s party, are being outflanked by the military-intelligence apparatus. In the end, Democratic Party leadership cares more about numbers than candidate’s policy positions.

Patrick Martin writes:

“If on November 6 the Democratic Party makes the net gain of 24 seats needed to win control of the House of Representatives, former CIA agents, military commanders, and State Department officials will provide the margin of victory and hold the balance of power in Congress. The presence of so many representatives of the military-intelligence apparatus in the legislature is a situation without precedent in the history of the United States.”

Just as Freedom Caucus Tea Party representatives hold power in the Republican Party, the military-intelligence officials will become the powerhouse for Democrats. This takeover will make the Democrats even more militarist at a dangerous time when threats of war are on the rise and the country needs an opposition party that says ‘no’ to war.

What does this mean? Kim Dotcom might be right when he tweeted, “The Deep State no longer wants to rely on unreliable puppets. They want to run politics directly now.” What does it mean politically? There is no two-party system on militarism and war. Those who oppose war are not represented and must build a political culture to oppose war at home and abroad.

US Foreign Policy Elites in Denial About Russia’s New Weapons

There is dangerous denial among US foreign policy elites about the Russian weapons systems announced by Putin in his state of the union speech last week. Military-intelligence analyst the Saker compares the US’ reaction to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. US elites are in the first two stages.

The US does not have an adequate defense to the weapons announced by Putin. As the Saker writes, “Not only does that mean that the entire ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] effort of the USA is now void and useless, but also that from now US aircraft carrier battle groups can only be used against small, defenseless, nations!” US leadership cannot believe that after spending trillions of dollars, Russia has outsmarted their military with ten percent of their budget.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry exemplifies this denial, claiming Putin’s weapons are “phony,” exaggerated and do not really exist. Then he blames the Russians for starting an arms race. Of course, in both the National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review, published before the Putin speech, the US announced an arms race.

US political and military leadership brought this on themselves. The US’ leaving the SALT treaty in 2002 and expanding NATO to cover the Russian border led to Russia’s development of these new weapons.

Further, Obama, and now Trump, support spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons. Perry falsifies history and blames Russia rather than looking in the mirror, since he was defense secretary during this era of errors.

The new Russian weapons systems do not have to lead to an unaffordable arms race. The US should re-evaluate its strategy and find a diplomatic path to a multi-polar world where the US does not waste money on militarism. We can divest from the military economy and convert it to civilian economic investment, as the US has many needs for infrastructure, energy transition, health care, education and more.

US global dominance is coming to an end. The issue is how will it end? Will the US hang on with an arms race and never-ending wars, or it will it wind down US empire in a sensible way. The Saker writes:

“The Russian end-goal is simple and obvious: to achieve a gradual and peaceful disintegration of the AngloZionist Empire combined with a gradual and peaceful replacement of a unipolar world ruled by one hegemon, by a multipolar world jointly administered by sovereign nations respectful of international law. Therefore, any catastrophic or violent outcomes are highly undesirable and must be avoided if at all possible. Patience and focus will be far more important in this war for the future of our planet than quick-fix reactions and hype. The ‘patient’ needs to be returned to reality one step at a time. Putin’s March 1st speech will go down in history as such a step, but many more such steps will be needed before the patient finally wakes up.”

As of now, the Pentagon and US leadership are in denial and not ready to face reality. The people of the United States, in solidarity with people of the world, must act now to end the war culture and convince US leadership that a new path is necessary.

Join the days of action!

April 14-15 – National Days of Action to End the Wars at Home and Abroad.

October 20-21 – Women’s March on the Pentagon

November 10 – 12 – No Trump Military Parade

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