Friday, April 28, 2017

By 2020 Two-Thirds Of Wild Animals Will Have Been Wiped Out Over A 50 Year Period

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It has been called “the long extinction”.  Our planet is in the process of dying, and as you will see below, this process of death and destruction appears to be accelerating.  According to a report that was put out by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, the number of wild animals around the globe appears to be decreasing at a rate of about 2 percent a year.  2 percent may not sound like a lot to you, but over 10 years that would mean that 20 percent of all wild animals in the world would be gone.  And according to that same report, it is being projected that the total loss of wildlife during the 50 year period from 1970 to 2020 will be a staggering 67 percent
The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.
The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.
In other words, we are watching a global slow-motion extinction event which will ultimately claim hundreds, if not thousands, of species.
And as I mentioned above, this slow-motion extinction event appears to be accelerating.
In recent years, mass die-off events have been popping up in the headlines with startling regularity.  Fish, birds and animals are dying off all over the planet in absolutely frightening numbers.  One website that tracks these things says that there have been 152 mass death events in 48 different countries so far this year.
When something happens on the other side of the world, most Americans don’t seem to care very much, so let me share with you just a couple of examples of this phenomenon from inside the United States.  This first example comes from Atlanta
Someone, or something, is killing thousands of birds in Atlanta. Since spring, the death toll began rising every week.
For Atlanta office workers, the dead birds are a sad sight at their doorstep. Now, Audubon Society volunteers are tracking and finding the dead or dying birds, many of them in Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Buckhead.
If the death of thousands of birds in Atlanta does not get your attention, perhaps the death of millions of fish on the west coast will.  The following comes from Natural News
As the salmon are dying by the millions, the government issued an emergency order along the western U.S. coast to cancel the spring king, or Chinook, salmon fishing activities. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, salmon runs have dropped to record levels. Experts predict that the return of spawning Chinook salmon to the Klamath River will hit its lowest point ever this fall. It will be a huge challenge and difficult year for ocean salmon fishermen, especially in Oregon and California, reported the Council Chair Herb Pollard.
“We’ve been in a period of low productivity, not just on the Taku, but on several rivers up and down the coast,” said Juneau Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske, who expects a second-straight year of record-low salmon returning to their birthplace. Teske added that he is almost certain that the increased die-off must be happening in the ocean since all four rivers are being affected by low returns of the Southeast king salmon.
Of course the cold, hard reality of the matter is that everything around us is in the process of dying and deteriorating, and this even includes the human race.
If you don’t believe this, you may want to consider research from Cambridge University that found that human bodies are “significantly smaller” than they were thousands of years ago and that human brains are also smaller than they once were…
An earlier study by Cambridge University found that mankind is shrinking in size significantly.
Experts say humans are past their peak and that modern-day people are 10 percent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer ancestors.
And if that’s not depressing enough, our brains are also smaller.
The findings reverse perceived wisdom that humans have grown taller and larger, a belief which has grown from data on more recent physical development.
On top of all that, scientists have known for a very long time that the human race is heading for an inevitable “mutational meltdown”.  The following is an excerpt from a study that was originally published by Gerald H. McKibben and Everett C. McKibben…
Geneticists have long worried about the impact of mutations on the human population, and that at a rate of one deleterious mutation per person per generation, genetic deterioration would result. Earlier reports were based on estimates of mutation rates considerable lower than what we now know to be the case. Findings going back to 2002 show that the human mutation rate is at least 100 mistakes (misspellings) per person per generation. Some scientists believe the rate is closer to 300.
Even a rate of 100 has profound implications, and the mutation rate is itself increasing. Furthermore, most, if not all, mutations in the human genome must be deleterious.  “And nothing can reverse the damage that has been done during our own generation, even if further mutations could be stopped.”  It would appear that the process is an irreversible downward spiral that will end in “mutational meltdown”.
If you didn’t grasp all of that, let me break it down for you very simply.
The human race is on borrowed time, and at some point our DNA will be so full of harmful mutations that we will no longer be able to continue.
If all of what I have just shared was not enough, scientists have also discovered that the entire universe is actually in the process of dying.  The following comes from CNN
The conclusion of a new astronomical study pulls no punches on this. “The Universe is slowly dying,” it reads.
Astronomers have believed as much for years, but the new findings establish the cosmos’ decline with unprecedented precision.
The experts that conducted this study found that the universe is only producing about half as much energy as it once did.  As the amount of energy continues to decline, all of the lights will slowly go out until none are left.  Or as one scientist put it, the universe “is about to nod off for an eternal doze”
The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze,” said astronomer Simon Driver, who led the team.
We can certainly do some things to try to prevent the mass animal extinctions that are happening all over the planet, but nothing that we can do can stop the deterioration of human DNA or the slow death of the entire universe.

How the U.S. Government Spins the Story

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Sounds like we’ve heard it all before, because we have, back in August 2013, and that turned out to be less than convincing. Skepticism is likewise mounting over current White House claims that Damascus used a chemical weapon against civilians in the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on April 4th. Shortly after the more recent incident, President Donald Trump, possibly deriving his information from television news reports, abruptly stated that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had ordered the attack. He also noted that the use of chemicals had “crossed many red lines” and hinted that Damascus would be held accountable. Twenty-four hours later retribution came in the form of the launch of 59 cruise missiles directed against the Syrian airbase at Sharyat. The number of casualties, if any, remains unclear and the base itself sustained only minor damage amidst allegations that many of the missiles had missed their target. The physical assault was followed by a verbal onslaught, with the Trump Administration blaming Russia for shielding al-Assad and demanding that Moscow end its alliance with Damascus if it wishes to reestablish good relations with Washington.

The media, led by the usual neoconservative cheerleaders, have applauded Trump’s brand of tough love with Syria, even though Damascus had no motive to stage such an attack while the so-called rebels had plenty to gain. The escalation to a war footing also serves no U.S. interest and actually damages prospects for eliminating ISIS any time soon. Democratic Party liberal interventionists have also joined with Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio to celebrate the cruise missile strike and hardening rhetoric. Principled and eminently sensible Democratic Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, has demanded evidence of Syrian culpability, saying“It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia—which could lead to nuclear war. This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning.” For her pains, she has been vilified by members of her own party, who have called for her resignation.

Other congressmen, including Senators Rand Paul and Tim Kaine, who have asked for a vote in congress to authorize going to war, have likewise been ignored or deliberately marginalized. All of which means that the United States has committed a war crime against a country with which it is not at war and has done so by ignoring Article 2 of the Constitution, which grants to Congress the sole power to declare war. It has also failed to establish a casus belli that Syria represents some kind of threat to the United States.

What has become completely clear, as a result of the U.S. strike and its aftermath, is that any general reset with Russia has now become unimaginable, meaning among other things that a peace settlement for Syria is for now unattainable. It also has meant that the rebels against al-Assad’s regime will be empowered, possibly deliberately staging more chemical “incidents” and blaming the Damascus government to shift international opinion farther in their direction. ISIS, which was reeling prior to the attack and reprisal, has been given a reprieve by the same United States government that pledged to eradicate it. And Donald Trump has reneged on his two campaign pledges to avoid deeper involvement in Middle Eastern wars and mend fences with Moscow.

There have been two central documents relating to the alleged Syrian chemical weapon incidents in 2013 and 2017, both of which read like press releases. Both refer to a consensus within the U.S. intelligence community (IC)and express “confidence” and even “high confidence” regarding their conclusions but neither is actually a product of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which would be appropriate if the IC had actually come to a consensus. Neither the Director of National Intelligence nor the Director of CIA were present in a photo showing the White House team deliberating over what to do about Syria. Both documents supporting the U.S. cruise missile attack were, in fact, uncharacteristically put out by the White House, suggesting that the arguments were stitched together in haste to support a political decision to use force that had already been made.

The two documents provide plenty of circumstantial information but little in the way of actual evidence. The 2013 Obama version “Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013,” was criticized almost immediately when it was determined that there were alternative explanations for the source of the chemical agents that might have killed more than a thousand people in and around the town of Ghouta. The 2017 Trump version The Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017,” is likewise under fire from numerous quarters. Generally reliable journalist Robert Parry is reporting that the intelligence behind the White House claims comes largely from satellite surveillance, though nothing has been released to back-up the conclusion that the Syrian government was behind the attack, an odd omission as everyone knows about satellite capabilities and they are not generally considered to be a classified source or method. Parry also cites the fact that there are alternative theories on what took place and why, some of which appear to originate with the intelligence and national security community, which was in part concerned over the rush to judgment by the White House. MIT Professor Theodore Postol, considered to be an expert on munitions, has also questioned the government’s account of what took place in Khan Sheikhoun through a detailed analysis of the available evidence. He believes that the chemical agent was fired from the ground, not from an airplane, suggesting that it was an attack initiated by the rebels made to appear as if it was caused by the Syrian bomb.

In spite of the challenges, “Trust me,” says Donald Trump. The Russians and Syrians are demanding an international investigation of the alleged chemical weapons incident, but as time goes by the ability to discern what took place diminishes. All that is indisputably known at this point is that the Syrian Air Force attacked a target in Idlib and a cloud of toxic chemicals was somehow released. The al-Ansar terrorist group (affiliated with al-Qaeda) is in control of the area and benefits greatly from the prevailing narrative. If it was in fact the actual implementer of the attack, it is no doubt cleaning and reconfiguring the site to support the account that it is promoting and which is being uncritically accepted both by the mainstream media and by a number of governments. The United States will also do its best to disrupt any inquiry that challenges the assumptions that it has already come to. The Trump Administration is threatening to do more to remove Bashar al-Assad and every American should accept that the inhabitant of the White House, when he is actually in residence, will discover like many before him that war is good business. He will continue to ride the wave of jingoism that has turned out to be his salvation, reversing to an extent the negative publicity that has dogged the new administration.

The Price of Resistance

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This is a talk that Chris Hedges gave Monday at Princeton University in New Jersey.

In the conflicts I covered as a reporter in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, I encountered singular individuals of varying creeds, religions, races and nationalities who majestically rose up to defy the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed. Some of them are dead. Some of them are forgotten. Most of them are unknown. 

These individuals, despite their vast cultural differences, had common traits—a profound commitment to the truth, incorruptibility, courage, a distrust of power, a hatred of violence and a deep empathy that was extended to people who were different from them, even to people defined by the dominant culture as the enemy. They are the most remarkable men and women I met in my 20 years as a foreign correspondent. And to this day I set my life by the standards they set.

You have heard of some, such as Vaclav Havel, whom I and other foreign reporters met most evenings, during the 1989 Velvet Revolutionin Czechoslovakia, in the Magic Lantern Theatre in Prague. Others, no less great, you probably do not know, such as the Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuria, who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1989. And then there are those “ordinary” people, although, as the writer V.S. Pritchett said, no people are ordinary, who risked their lives in wartime to shelter and protect those of an opposing religion or ethnicity being persecuted and hunted. And to some of these “ordinary” people I owe my own life.

To resist radical evil is to endure a life that by the standards of the wider society is a failure. It is to defy injustice at the cost of your career, your reputation, your financial solvency and at times your life. It is to be a lifelong heretic. And, perhaps this is the most important point, it is to accept that the dominant culture, even the liberal elites, will push you to the margins and attempt to discredit not only what you do, but your character. When I returned to the newsroom at The New York Times after being booed off a commencement stagein 2003 for denouncing the invasion of Iraq and being publicly reprimanded by the paper for my stance against the war, reporters and editors I had known and worked with for 15 years lowered their heads or turned away when I was nearby. They did not want to be contaminated by the same career-killing contagion.

Ruling institutions—the state, the press, the church, the courts, academia—mouth the language of morality, but they serve the structures of power, no matter how venal, which provide them with money, status and authority. In times of national distress—one has only to look at Nazi Germany—all of these institutions, including the academy, are complicit through their silence or their active collaboration with radical evil. And our own institutions, which have surrendered to corporate power and the utopian ideology of neoliberalism, are no different. The lonely individuals who defy tyrannical power within these institutions, as we saw with the thousands of academics who were fired from their jobs and blacklisted during the McCarthy era, are purged and turned into pariahs.

All institutions, including the church, Paul Tillichonce wrote, are inherently demonic. And a life dedicated to resistance has to accept that a relationship with any institution is often temporary, because sooner or later that institution is going to demand acts of silence or obedience your conscience will not allow you to make. To be a rebel is to reject what it means to succeed in a capitalist, consumer culture, especially the idea that we should always come first. 

The theologian James H. Conein his book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” writes that for oppressed blacks the cross was a “paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.”

Cone continues: “That God could ‘make a way out of no way’ in Jesus’ cross was truly absurd to the intellect, yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk. Enslaved blacks who first heard the gospel message seized on the power of the cross. Christ crucified manifested God’s loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life—that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God’s eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the ‘troubles of this world,’ no matter how great and painful their suffering. Believing this paradox, this absurd claim of faith, was only possible in humility and repentance. There was no place for the proud and the mighty, for people who think that God called them to rule over others. The cross was God’s critique of power—white power—with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.”

Reinhold Niebuhrlabeled this capacity to defy the forces of repression “a sublime madness in the soul.” Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ ” This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, “truth is obscured.” And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history.”

The prophets in the Hebrew Bible had this sublime madness. The words of the Hebrew prophets, as Abraham Heschelwrote, were “a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.” The prophet, because he saw and faced an unpleasant reality, was, as Heschel wrote, “compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.”

This sublime madness is the essential quality for a life of resistance. It is the acceptance that when you stand with the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed. It is the acceptance that, although empirically all that we struggled to achieve during our lifetime may be worse, our struggle validates itself.

Daniel Berrigantold me that faith is the belief that the good draws to it the good. The Buddhists call this karma. But he said for us as Christians we did not know where it went. We trusted that it went somewhere. But we did not know where. We are called to do the good, or at least the good so far as we can determinate it, and then let it go.

As Hannah Arendtwrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.” They know that as Immanuel Kant wrote: “If justice perishes, human life on earth has lost its meaning.” And this means that, like Socrates, we must come to a place where it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. We must at once see and act, and given what it means to see, this will require the surmounting of despair, not by reason, but by faith.

I saw in the conflicts I covered the power of this faith, which lies outside any religious or philosophical creed. This faith is what Havel called in his great essay “The Power of the Powerless” living in truth. Living in truth exposes the corruption, lies and deceit of the state. It is a refusal to be a part of the charade.

“You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career,” Havel wrote. “You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. ... The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public. He offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin—and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.”

The long, long road of sacrifice and suffering that led to the collapse of the communist regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their tiny protests, ignored by the state-controlled media, would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot of the state.

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Squareas the singer Marta Kubisovaapproached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubisova had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubisova. [Editor’s note: To see YouTube photographs of the 1989 revolution and hear Kubisova sing the song in a studio recording, click here.]

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery. But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest to cover the uprising in Romania, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’├ętat carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state.

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist, we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

Dr. Rieux in Albert Camus’ novel “The Plague” is not driven by ideology. He is driven by empathy, the duty to minister to suffering, no matter the cost. Empathy, or what the Russian novelist Vasily Grossmancalled “simple human kindness,” becomes in all despotisms a subversive act. To act on this empathy—the empathy for human beings locked in cages less than an hour from us [here in Princeton], the empathy for undocumented mothers and fathers being torn from their children on the streets of our cities, the empathy for Muslims who are demonized and banned from our shores, fleeing the wars we created, the empathy for poor people of color gunned down by police in our streets, the empathy for girls and women trafficked into prostitution, the empathy for all those who suffer at the hands of a state intent on militarization and imposing a harsh cruelty on the vulnerable, the empathy for the earth that gives us life and that is being contaminated and pillaged for profit—becomes political and even dangerous. 

Evil is real. But so is love. And in war—especially when the heavy shells landed on crowds in Sarajevo, sights so gruesome that to this day I cannot eat a piece of meat—you could feel, as frantic family members desperately sought out loved ones among the wounded and dead, the concentric circles of death and love, death and love, like rings from the blast of a cosmic furnace.

Flannery O’Connorrecognized that a life of faith is a life of confrontation: “St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: ‘The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.’ No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.”

Accept sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful at the state of our nation, the world and our ecosystem—but know that in resistance there is a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, a strange, transcendent happiness. Know that if we resist we keep hope alive.

“My faith has been tempered in Hell,” wrote Vasily Grossman in his masterpiece “Life and Fate.” “My faith has emerged from the flames of the crematoria, from the concrete of the gas chamber. I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious leaders, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.”

Washington pushes world to brink of nuclear war

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The repeated statements by US Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials Monday that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over and “all options are on the table” have laid bare the mounting threat that Washington will provoke a war on the Korean peninsula involving the use of nuclear weapons and the deaths of millions.
“Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” Pence declared during a provocative visit to South Korea that brought him to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the North Korean border. “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Pence said.
This boasting about the reckless acts of military aggression—first, the cruise missile attack on Syria on April 7 and then, a week later, the use in Afghanistan of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, the most destructive weapon unleashed anywhere since the US incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—cannot be read by the government of North Korea as anything other than an ultimatum to accept US demands or expect to be on the receiving end of far greater violence.
With the naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson set to take up a position off the Korean peninsula, the means of inflicting such violence are being put into place. The global implications of this buildup were underscored Monday with the report that both Russia and China have dispatched spy ships to trail the Vinson battle group. For these two nuclear-armed countries, Washington’s launching of a war against North Korea poses an existential threat.
The drive toward a military confrontation in Asia that could lead to a nuclear third world war has unfolded largely behind the backs of the people of the United States and the entire world. Neither the politicians of the two big business parties in the US nor the corporate-controlled media have so much as hinted to the public the horrific consequences of even a “limited” nuclear exchange on the Korean peninsula, nor the likelihood that such a catastrophe would draw all of the major nuclear powers into a global conflagration.
The recklessness of the path being pursued by Washington is staggering. Why the “era of strategic patience” has ended is not explained, nor are the conclusions drawn from this declaration even challenged. There are a whole number of states that now have nuclear weapons. North Korea’s pursuit of such arms does not represent a credible threat to the US.
“All options are on the table” can only mean that Washington is prepared to launch an unprovoked first strike against North Korea. Yet, within the media, there is barely a mention that such a course involves the threat of nuclear war. Nor is there the slightest suggestion that the US Congress should convene to vote on whether to authorize an attack that could produce casualties in the millions. The accepted wisdom is that Donald Trump doesn’t have to tell anyone what military action he will take until after the attack is executed. The only hint Trump gave of his intentions was at a Monday Easter egg-rolling event on the White House lawn, where he declared that North Korea has “gotta behave.”
The real character of the policy being pursued by Washington was indicated by John Bolton, the Bush administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, who told Fox News that the “way to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is to end North Korea,” i.e., topple the government and militarily smash the country.
The real and growing danger posed by Washington’s reckless policy is beginning to be registered, if only in the mildest form.
The New York Times, which had previously celebrated the Trump administration’s turn toward stepped-up militarism against Syria and Russia, proclaiming its feeling of “emotional satisfaction and justice done” over the cruise missile strike of April 7, has become somewhat nervous that things are spinning out of control.
The newspaper, which increasingly functions as the house organ of the CIA, expressed concern Monday that Trump’s “intemperate talk is adding to regional tensions, unnerving allies and likely reinforcing North Korea’s longstanding fear that it could one day be attacked by America—the very reason North Korea invested in a nuclear arsenal in the first place.” It warned that the US president’s bellicose threats served to “box him into some kind of showdown” and paved the way for a “devastating miscalculation.”
Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs columnist of the Financial Times, wrote in a piece posted Monday that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “concludes that the US is indeed poised to attack his regime, he will be tempted to attack first. His incentive to move fast will only have been increased by stories in the media that the US’s war plans involve an early attempt to kill the North Korean leadership.” In fact, the same US Special Operations unit that carried out the 2011 assassination of Osama bin-Laden has been reported carrying out exercises in South Korea.
While Trump’s intimidation and threats could produce a capitulation by Pyongyang, Rachman continues, “... It is more likely that North Korea will not back down--and that the Trump strategy will therefore fail. In that case, the US president is faced with a dilemma. Does Mr. Trump’s ‘very powerful armada’ steam away from the Korean peninsula with its mission unaccomplished?”
To ask the question is to answer it. Neither Trump nor the cabal of active duty and retired generals who are setting his foreign policy are inclined to back down from the brink of war without having achieved the objectives over which such a war would be fought, i.e., the complete capitulation and disarmament of North Korea.
After 25 years of waging continuous war against largely unarmed oppressed countries and killing millions, while suffering relatively few consequences, US imperialism is now being driven by its own internal crisis and contradictions to an entirely different level of military confrontation.
More and more the situation resembles that which prevailed in the late 1930s on the eve of the Second World War. If Adolf Hitler had possessed a Twitter account, it is hard to imagine how he would have used it much differently from the way the US president is using his own.
“Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!” Trump tweeted Sunday.
Three days earlier: “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the US, with its allies, will! USA.”
Trump’s rhetoric echoes that employed by Hitler in the run-up to Germany’s march into Czechoslovakia and Poland. The Nazi leader proclaimed of the Czechoslovak “problem” that it “must be solved.” Then it was the Polish “problem” that “must be solved.” He deliberately created crises as pretexts for military action.
Trump employs similar rhetoric, describing an entire nation, North Korea, as a “problem,” and then warning menacingly that “it will be taken care of.” Why this problem is now so urgent, no one explains, and, as far as the media is concerned, virtually no one asks.
What could Pyongyang possibly do to satisfy Washington? It would have to renounce its nuclear program and open itself up to an inspections regime, going down the same road traveled by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, ending in their nations’ destruction and their own violent deaths.
The assumption that China can be pressured into imposing Washington’s diktat in relation to North Korea is without foundation. China was compelled to go to war in 1950 when US troops reached the Yalu River, sacrificing hundreds of thousands to drive the American army back. Now Washington wants China to intervene to hand the US and South Korea what they were unable to achieve half a century ago through war. If Beijing were to accede to these demands, it would have immense strategic implications for China as well as major internal political consequences.
There are already indications that tensions between Beijing and Washington are escalating on the Korean peninsula after Seoul’s announcement that it intends to move ahead rapidly with the installation of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, which the US claims is designed to defend against North Korean missiles, but which China recognizes as a means of assuring the US a nuclear first-strike capability.
Twice in the 20th century, the crisis of world capitalism drove capitalist heads of state and their general staffs to seek a way out through war, leading to the deaths of tens of millions. Today, similar pressures are unleashing a drive toward a nuclear confrontation that could lead to the destruction of life on the planet.
Everything that is being done by the US government involves astonishing levels of risk, including that of a nuclear war. Whether it happens in the immediate confrontation with North Korea cannot be predicted, but that this is the course Washington is prepared to pursue all over the world is undeniable.
No one can afford the illusion that today’s capitalist governments, unlike those of 1914 and 1939, will not risk war because of the threat of nuclear annihilation. If anything, they are far more reckless than their predecessors. Confronted with deepening economic and social crises for which they have no progressive solution, they are even more prone to dragging humanity to the brink of destruction.
The present crisis is characterized by a terrible chasm between the scale of the danger of war and the absence of any organized movement against it. There is no way to stop the drive toward war outside of the politically conscious intervention of the working class within the United States and internationally.

Trump plans detention force and network of camps for immigrants

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The Trump administration is advancing plans to create a national force of paramilitary guards and officials aimed at deporting millions of undocumented people from the United States. According to the Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning on jailing tens of thousands more immigrants in the coming period, hiring thousands of agents, as well as the construction of a wall between the US and Mexico.
According to an internal DHS memo acquired by the Post, the government is expanding the number of detention beds by 33,000, including some for “unaccompanied minors,” in other words, children held in prison.
These facilities will include five private, for-profit prisons and two government facilities. The total number of immigrants imprisoned on a daily basis will rise to around 70,000—approaching the number of Japanese-Americans interned by the Roosevelt administration during World War II.
The memo also explains that “progress” has been made and that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is “taking all appropriate action to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall” along the border. One contractor proposed to build a wall with a moat filled with nuclear waste that immigrants would fall into if they attempted to cross.
DHS is also dredging up the most backward and fascistic elements to hire 5,000 new guards and agents who will serve as modern-day slave catchers. The memo announces that the agency has eliminated the most basic physical and mental fitness requirements for applicants and has dropped the requirement that applicants must pass a polygraph test.
To combat widespread hostility to immigration raids, DHS will engage in propaganda to “further improve brand awareness and convey the importance and scope of our mission within the public sphere.” To do so, DHS is targeting young people: “We will also continue to focus on increasing our digital and social media presence to reach the millennial generation; [and] expand our outreach at high schools, colleges and universities.”
The new memo comes after DHS announced it has hired two fascistic white nationalists, John Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Julie Kirchner of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to serve as policy advisers to ICE and CBP, respectfully. The fact that CIS and FAIR are now helping direct the government’s immigration policy is a warning of even more brutal treatment to come.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the Trump administration is also seeking to eliminate even the minimal requirements for services at immigrant detention centers. The administration is considering dropping translation services for immigrants, eliminating rules that detainee requests for medical attention be granted within 24 hours, and closing a bureau responsible for overseeing conditions for protecting immigrant women from sexual assault.
Immigrant detention centers are already hellish places, often located in isolated areas, where immigrants are fed rotten food, barred from seeing their attorneys, and housed with violent non-immigrant criminals. Many immigrants are housed in county jails. One Ohio police sheriff told the Times, “Jail is jail … we don’t put chocolates on the pillows.”
Private prisons house roughly 65 percent of detained immigrants, and this figure is likely to rise when the new expansion is carried out. The Democratic and Republican parties established a “detention bed quota” whereby the government is required to fill prisons with immigrants, producing windfall profits for privately-run facilities whose corporate executives donate heavily to both parties.
This massive expansion of the internment camp system for immigrant detention is taking place with the tacit approval of the Democratic Party, which has maintained an almost complete silence on Trump’s attack on immigrants in recent weeks. The Democratic Party has instead attacked Trump from the right, demanding that he prosecute the ruling class’s war drive against Russia in Syria while also threatening to attack North Korea.
Speaking at an event in Brooklyn, New York Wednesday, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said that Trump’s immigration program is “terrible for America because these are people who work and you’re taking people’s breadwinners away, you’re taking people away who businesses need. That’s why they’re here. And so we’ll do everything we can to stop that.”
Aside from Schumer’s cynical declaration that he “defends” immigrants because corporations need to exploit cheap labor, his claim that Democrats will oppose Trump’s immigration programs is a lie.
Schumer and the vast majority of Democratic senators showered DHS, ICE, and CBP with money during last year’s appropriations bill, which “provides appropriation for … Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology,” as well as “construction and facilities management.”
Democrats Schumer, Booker, Durbin, Feinstein, Franken, Gillibrand, Kaine, Klobuchar, Leahy, Reid, and many more agreed to pay the “salaries and expenses” of every immigration officer and border patrol agent. Each time an immigrant is deported, the Democratic Party has effectively signed their next check.
Widespread demonstrations have taken place against Trump’s immigration policies, and polls show large majorities oppose the construction of a border wall. Ninety percent of Americans support granting citizenship to immigrants who have lived in the US for several years. Last week, roughly 30,000 people demonstrated in Dallas, Texas to defend the rights of immigrants.
Democratic politicians spoke at the rally, including former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, who as HUD Secretary sold 98 percent of long-delinquent mortgages to Wall Street speculators at sweetheart rates through the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program.
Democratic state legislator Roberto Alonzo told the crowd to vote for Democrats: “The 2006 march and the movement around that is what turned Dallas County blue in 2008. First we march, then we govern.”
Alonzo failed to mention that when the Democrats governed under Obama, they deported 2.7 million undocumented people and set the stage for Trump’s expanded deportation program.

The bombing of Syria: A new chapter in the US drive for global hegemony

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With the cruise missile attack on Syria, the United States has opened up a new chapter in its war for global hegemony that it began more than a quarter century ago with the invasion of Iraq.
The claim that this attack is a response to the Syrian government’s use of poison gas is a transparent lie. Once again, as in the air war against Serbia in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, and the attack on Libya in 2011, the United States has concocted a pretext to justify the violation of another country’s sovereignty.
The bombing of Syria is a unilateral abrogation by the US of the agreement negotiated with Russia in 2013, which resulted in the calling off of a long-planned direct military intervention by the US in the on-going civil war.
As the International Committee of the Fourth International warned in September 2013, “The postponement of war does not lessen the likelihood, indeed, the inevitability, of the outbreak of a major war. As the bellicose statements emanating from Washington make clear, the ‘military option’ remains on the table. Nor is Syria the only target for military attack. US operations against Syria would set the stage for a clash with Iran. And, still further, the logic of US imperialism’s drive for global dominance leads to a confrontation with Russia and China. Nor can it be excluded that the conflict of interests among the major imperialist powers—for example, the United States and Germany—might under certain conditions metastasize into armed conflict.” [1]
This warning has been substantiated.
Moreover, the attacks signify at least a partial resolution of the bitter conflict over foreign policy that has been raging within the highest echelons of the American state since last November’s presidential election. With the support of the most powerful factions of the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency, the Democratic Party’s demand for war against Syria and intensified confrontation with Russia has prevailed. The Trump White House has been compelled to execute an astonishing about-face from the policy that it had publicly announced only days earlier.
What is most extraordinary about these developments is the speed with which they have unfolded. The launching of cruise missiles against Syria came barely 48 hours after the first report of an incident in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, an area largely controlled by the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, in which approximately 70 people were allegedly killed by poison gas.
Literally within minutes of the incident becoming known, the US corporate media swung into action denouncing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the culprit. Editorialists for the New York Times and other major newspapers, along with the talking heads of television news, all worked off of the same script, voicing moral outrage and demanding that Washington carry out retribution. Everything points to the media having been thoroughly briefed beforehand in order to carry out a carefully orchestrated war propaganda exercise.
On Wednesday, Trump echoed this media narrative at a White House press conference, declaring that the “heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” while his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, issued an open threat of unilateral US military action. Trump repeated this line in a statement to the media from his Mar-a-Lago resort home on Thursday night.
The denials by the Syrian government of responsibility for any chemical attack have been summarily dismissed by the White House and the media, as has the record of Al Qaeda forces in Syria carrying out their own chemical weapons attacks and blaming them on the government.
The case of who was responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack was “solved” in less time than the New York Police Department devotes to investigating a street mugging. The verdict was in and the sentence is now being carried out.
One only has to compare this forensic fast-track to the methods employed when the US military carries out air strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen killing hundreds of civilians. The Pentagon routinely insists that it has no credible evidence of any civilian casualties. In those cases in which it deems an investigation unavoidable, it usually takes weeks before it issues a report either denying the carnage or reporting a small fraction of the real death toll.
Barely 200 miles away from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack, in the city of Mosul, the US has slaughtered hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children, burying entire families alive with bombs and missiles and destroying entire city blocks. Needless to say, the US corporate media is not broadcasting footage of the aftermath of these attacks with their charred dead and scattered body parts. None of the talking heads crying crocodile tears over the alleged gas attack in Syria have managed to summon up an ounce of moral outrage for those killed by the American military.
There is no doubt that the incident in Syria was a concocted pretext for the launching of a long planned US military intervention. The first place to investigate in order to get to the bottom of what happened in Idlib is the division of the CIA responsible for dirty operations in Syria and coordination with US proxy forces organized around Al Qaeda.
We have been here so many times before that it is hardly worth wasting the time required to refute the official story. It is now 14 years since the US launched its invasion of Iraq over similar lies about weapons of mass destruction, setting into motion a vast slaughter that has claimed the lives of over one million people and turned millions more into refugees. Similar lies were told in 2011 to provide the pretext for the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya.
The media breathes not a word about these notorious precedents. Nor for that matter is there even a hint that this new US war is being carried out in alliance with Al Qaeda. The days of “embedded” journalism during the Iraq war now seem almost quaint. The media has abandoned the slightest pretense of independent journalism.
America’s ruling oligarchy demanded another campaign of military aggression to secure its hegemony over the Middle East and push back against its regional and global rivals, particularly Iran and Russia.
Like the invasion of Iraq, the intervention against Syria is a war crime. The US is intervening into a civil war that it itself provoked, armed and financed with the aim of toppling the Assad government and installing a US puppet regime. The attempt to achieve these aims by means of Islamist proxy forces has failed after claiming nearly half a million lives and turning five million Syrians into refugees. This failure is due to not only the Russian and Iranian backing for Assad, but also the fear and hatred felt by the majority of Syrians for the US-backed elements linked to Al Qaeda.
The abrupt shift in line by the Trump administration is a measure of the immense pressure for war from within the US capitalist ruling class. Only days before the alleged incident in Idlib, administration officials were stating that Assad’s rule in Syria was a reality that had to be accepted. Trump himself repeatedly voiced his disagreement with the Obama administration’s policy on Syria, insisting that the only US aim there should be to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The bitter denunciations of Trump by the Democrats and the Democratic-aligned media like the New York Times have been precisely over this question, his perceived softness on both the Syrian government and, even more critically, its chief ally, Russia.
Had Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton won in November, it can be safely assumed that US bombs and missiles would have been striking Syrian targets within days of her election. Trump’s delay in pursuing such a course underlay the furor of the Democratic Party, the political instrument of Wall Street and the US military and intelligence apparatus, in denouncing him for alleged ties to Moscow.
Trump has now been brought into line. The shift in policy has been accompanied by a shakeup within the White House staff. Stephen Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council amid an increasing assertion of power by the military.
This was an entirely predictable change of course. As the World Socialist Web Site commented last December, amid Trump’s naming of one senior military officer after another to top posts in his administration: “As much as Trump is choosing ex-generals, the generals may themselves be choosing to join his administration, confident that they can ultimately dictate policy.”
For its part, Russia’s foreign policy lies in shambles, exposing the false perspective of those within the government of President Vladimir Putin who naively believed that something as insignificant as a change in presidents could alter the elemental drive by US imperialism toward new and ever wider wars.
The war against Syria has no popular support. The political shakeup in Washington and the preparations for renewed military aggression have unfolded behind the backs of the American people. The indifference of the ruling establishment to popular sentiment is reflected in the absence of even so much as an opinion poll on this new war of aggression.
No critical voices are being raised against the war, either in Congress or the media. There is not even the pretense of a debate. Democrats who denounced Trump yesterday are now rallying in a bipartisan show of support for their “commander in chief” and the military. Typical was frequent Trump critic Congressman Adam Schiff (Democrat, California), who allowed that he would “feel more comfortable knowing that [Trump] was relying on Gen. Mattis and Gen. McMaster.”
Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate, self-described “democratic socialist” and leader of the supposedly “progressive” wing of the party said nothing about the war plans, because he supported them.
The entire opposition of the Democratic Party to Trump was based on these issues. All the talk about Trump’s hounding down of immigrants, deportations and wholesale attacks on democratic rights will quickly fade in the interest of unity on the question of war.
An attack on Syria carries with it the direct threat of a far wider and potentially world catastrophic war. What will be the reaction of Russia, a nuclear power, if American missiles kill its military personnel on the ground in Syria?
The American ruling class is willing to take the risk. Confronted with the protracted decline of its once unchallenged dominance of the world economy, it is forced to rely more and more on its military power as a means of asserting global hegemony. That such a course points inevitably to a new world war that would threaten the survival of humanity will not cause it to change course.
The actions of the US oligarchy recall nothing so much as Trotsky’s description of the world bourgeoisie on the eve of World War II, hurtling “with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.”
The conflict that has erupted will not end with Tomahawk missiles. The drive of the United States for global hegemony cannot be resolved outside of an endless series of military escalations, each more reckless than the one before, leading ultimately to catastrophe.
These events express the burning necessity for the building of a mass anti-war movement, based on the working class, and having as its aim the abolition of the capitalist social order that is the root cause of war.