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TBR News February 28, 2018

Feb 28 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. February 28, 2018:” The 9/11 atacks were carried out by Saudis, recruited by one of their police officials, at the specific request of former President George H.W. Bush. Bush and Rove (and three others) wanted a “Reichstag Fire” incident to gain unqustioned American public support for draconian control laws.

The then-President, George W. Bush was prepared to introduce and organize the implementation of programs designed to maintain the right wing Republicans in political power.

Only the unfoseen crash of the hijacked airliner that was slated to crash into the Capitol building in Washington when Congress was in session (decimating legislators and permitting the President to rule by decree until some possible future date) caused the plot to fail.

The air attacks on ISIS have so enraged this group that in retaliation they have ordered their members to carry out civilian attacks in Western countries. Such attacks are virtually impossible to defend against.”

 

Table of Contents

  • How Lenders Are Turning Low-Level Courts Into Dickensian “Debt Collection Mills”
  • Israel backtracks on plans that enraged Christian Churches in Jerusalem
  • Unhealthy state of affairs: Three-quarters of young Americans unfit for military service, study says
  • Deadly ‘Beast from the East’ winter blizzard batters Europe
  • Intelligence That Neither Hears Nor Sees
  • Texas primary: Democrats see rare surge of enthusiasm in early voting
  • Polish priest sparks outrage after claiming ‘truth’ to Jews is ‘whatever serves their own interests’
  • Suffering for Fun and Profit

 

How Lenders Are Turning Low-Level Courts Into Dickensian “Debt Collection Mills”

February 28 2018

by Rebecca Burns

The Intercept

On Christmas Eve in 2013, an out-of-work welder named Rex Iverson was rushed to a Utah hospital. He survived, but was hit with a hefty bill for the ambulance ride. There is a widespread assumption that that indigent patients never have to pay emergency room bills they can’t afford, and instead the cost is passed on to those with insurance.

But in fact, companies and municipalities pursue such debts aggressively. In Iverson’s case, the city operating the ambulance service won a $2,300 judgement against him in small claims court, but he had no wages to garnish. A judge issued a warrant for Iverson when he didn’t return to court to discuss the unpaid debt.

“We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward later said. “But we make every effort to resolve the issues without making an arrest on a civil bench warrant. The reason we do that is we don’t want to run a debtors’ prison. There is no reason for someone to be rotting in jail on a bad debt.”

In January 2016, a deputy sheriff knocked on Iverson’s door and arrested him. The judge had set a $350 bail, which Iverson told jail officials he could not pay. Later the same day, Iverson, 45, was found dead in a holding cell, an all-too-common occurrence in American jails. An investigation determined that he had killed himself by ingesting strychnine poison.

The sheriff’s office “made every effort to keep Mr. Iverson out of jail in relation to warrants issued regarding this debt,” Ward told The Intercept in a statement, noting that his office would not defy a court order. “When the court issues a warrant for arrest we are obligated to serve that warrant as ordered, no matter what the underlying reason may be.”

Iverson’s story is just one of many documented in a damning new report from the American Civil Liberties Union that finds that collectors ranging from federal student lenders, to third-party debt buyers, to utility and ambulance services routinely wield the threat of arrest to intimidate people into paying up.

Federal law outlawed debt prisons in 1833, but lenders, landlords and even gyms and other businesses have found a way to resurrect the Dickensian practice. With the aid of private collection agencies, they file millions of lawsuits in state and local courts each year, winning 95 percent of the time. If a defendant fails to appear at post-judgement hearings known as “debtors’ examinations,” collectors can seek a warrant for contempt of court — even if the debtor didn’t realize they were being sued.

In one case documented by the Baltimore Sun, an affiliate of Kushner Cos. — the firm run by the family of Jared Kushner — secured a warrant for a Baltimore bus driver and mother of three who had moved out of her apartment early after receiving a federal housing voucher. She said she never received a notice to appear, and eventually declared bankruptcy to avoid arrest.

“A Pound of Flesh: the Criminalization of Private Debt,” the ACLU report, sheds light for the first time on the frequency of modern-day debt imprisonment, estimating that courts are issuing tens of thousands of arrest warrants each year for debtors owing as little as $30. Forty-four states permit judges to issue these warrants, often known as “body attachments,” in civil cases.

On Christmas Eve in 2013, an out-of-work welder named Rex Iverson was rushed to a Utah hospital. He survived, but was hit with a hefty bill for the ambulance ride. There is a widespread assumption that that indigent patients never have to pay emergency room bills they can’t afford, and instead the cost is passed on to those with insurance.

But in fact, companies and municipalities pursue such debts aggressively. In Iverson’s case, the city operating the ambulance service won a $2,300 judgement against him in small claims court, but he had no wages to garnish. A judge issued a warrant for Iverson when he didn’t return to court to discuss the unpaid debt.

“We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward later said. “But we make every effort to resolve the issues without making an arrest on a civil bench warrant. The reason we do that is we don’t want to run a debtors’ prison. There is no reason for someone to be rotting in jail on a bad debt.”

In January 2016, a deputy sheriff knocked on Iverson’s door and arrested him. The judge had set a $350 bail, which Iverson told jail officials he could not pay. Later the same day, Iverson, 45, was found dead in a holding cell, an all-too-common occurrence in American jails. An investigation determined that he had killed himself by ingesting strychnine poison.

The sheriff’s office “made every effort to keep Mr. Iverson out of jail in relation to warrants issued regarding this debt,” Ward told The Intercept in a statement, noting that his office would not defy a court order. “When the court issues a warrant for arrest we are obligated to serve that warrant as ordered, no matter what the underlying reason may be.”

Iverson’s story is just one of many documented in a damning new report from the American Civil Liberties Union that finds that collectors ranging from federal student lenders, to third-party debt buyers, to utility and ambulance services routinely wield the threat of arrest to intimidate people into paying up.

Federal law outlawed debt prisons in 1833, but lenders, landlords and even gyms and other businesses have found a way to resurrect the Dickensian practice. With the aid of private collection agencies, they file millions of lawsuits in state and local courts each year, winning 95 percent of the time. If a defendant fails to appear at post-judgement hearings known as “debtors’ examinations,” collectors can seek a warrant for contempt of court — even if the debtor didn’t realize they were being sued.

In one case documented by the Baltimore Sun, an affiliate of Kushner Cos. — the firm run by the family of Jared Kushner — secured a warrant for a Baltimore bus driver and mother of three who had moved out of her apartment early after receiving a federal housing voucher. She said she never received a notice to appear, and eventually declared bankruptcy to avoid arrest.

“A Pound of Flesh: the Criminalization of Private Debt,” the ACLU report, sheds light for the first time on the frequency of modern-day debt imprisonment, estimating that courts are issuing tens of thousands of arrest warrants each year for debtors owing as little as $30. Forty-four states permit judges to issue these warrants, often known as “body attachments,” in civil cases.On Christmas Eve in 2013, an out-of-work welder named Rex Iverson was rushed to a Utah hospital. He survived, but was hit with a hefty bill for the ambulance ride. There is a widespread assumption that that indigent patients never have to pay emergency room bills they can’t afford, and instead the cost is passed on to those with insurance.

But in fact, companies and municipalities pursue such debts aggressively. In Iverson’s case, the city operating the ambulance service won a $2,300 judgement against him in small claims court, but he had no wages to garnish. A judge issued a warrant for Iverson when he didn’t return to court to discuss the unpaid debt.

“We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward later said. “But we make every effort to resolve the issues without making an arrest on a civil bench warrant. The reason we do that is we don’t want to run a debtors’ prison. There is no reason for someone to be rotting in jail on a bad debt.”

In January 2016, a deputy sheriff knocked on Iverson’s door and arrested him. The judge had set a $350 bail, which Iverson told jail officials he could not pay. Later the same day, Iverson, 45, was found dead in a holding cell, an all-too-common occurrence in American jails. An investigation determined that he had killed himself by ingesting strychnine poison.

The sheriff’s office “made every effort to keep Mr. Iverson out of jail in relation to warrants issued regarding this debt,” Ward told The Intercept in a statement, noting that his office would not defy a court order. “When the court issues a warrant for arrest we are obligated to serve that warrant as ordered, no matter what the underlying reason may be.”

Iverson’s story is just one of many documented in a damning new report from the American Civil Liberties Union that finds that collectors ranging from federal student lenders, to third-party debt buyers, to utility and ambulance services routinely wield the threat of arrest to intimidate people into paying up.

Federal law outlawed debt prisons in 1833, but lenders, landlords and even gyms and other businesses have found a way to resurrect the Dickensian practice. With the aid of private collection agencies, they file millions of lawsuits in state and local courts each year, winning 95 percent of the time. If a defendant fails to appear at post-judgement hearings known as “debtors’ examinations,” collectors can seek a warrant for contempt of court — even if the debtor didn’t realize they were being sued.

In one case documented by the Baltimore Sun, an affiliate of Kushner Cos. — the firm run by the family of Jared Kushner — secured a warrant for a Baltimore bus driver and mother of three who had moved out of her apartment early after receiving a federal housing voucher. She said she never received a notice to appear, and eventually declared bankruptcy to avoid arrest.

“A Pound of Flesh: the Criminalization of Private Debt,” the ACLU report, sheds light for the first time on the frequency of modern-day debt imprisonment, estimating that courts are issuing tens of thousands of arrest warrants each year for debtors owing as little as $30. Forty-four states permit judges to issue these warrants, often known as “body attachments,” in civil cases.

“This has been a largely invisible problem, because the people it’s happening to typically don’t have lawyers and aren’t speaking out,” says Jennifer Turner, a human rights researcher at ACLU. “Many low-level courts have essentially become debt-collection mills.”

One in three Americans has a debt that’s been turned over to a private collection agency, and the ACLU found cases of warrants being issued over almost every kind of consumer debt—payday and auto loans, utility bills, even daycare fees. Many cases begin with an emergency expense that someone is unable to pay, sending them into a spiral of debt and imprisonment. The use of cash bail often compounds the problem; debtors languish in jail for up to two weeks, according to the report. In some jurisdictions, judges routinely set bail at the exact amount of the debt owed, then surrender it to the collector once paid.

In other cases documented by the ACLU, people with outstanding medical debt were too ill to go to court, as in the case of an Indiana mother of three who had been living with family in Florida while she recovered from thyroid cancer. Unbeknown to her, a small claims court had issued three warrants in a suit over her unpaid medical bills, and she was arrested when she returned home.

“Collectors have little incentive to properly notify defendants in these cases,” said Turner. “We found examples of people missing court dates due to work, childcare responsibilities, lack of transportation, physical disability, illness, or just because they didn’t receive notification of the court date.”

Even when debtors aren’t arrested or jailed, the threat is often potent enough to compel them into surrendering income from Social Security or other public benefits that are legally exempt from debt collection. In other cases, they take out high-interest payday loans continue the debt cycle.

Debt collectors are well aware of the leverage a warrant gives them. According to Turner, one debt collection attorney in Washington files 20 to 30 warrants a week, largely against noncitizen Latino farmworkers who are often terrified to enter a courthouse in case immigration officials are present. Another attorney in Texas who teaches a “Collections 101” course for the State Bar of Texas has a section in his handbook entitled, “It’s Easier to Settle When the Debtor is Under Arrest.”

The “Jared Kushner Act,” a bill currently under consideration in Maryland, would rein in a controversial business practice associated with the president’s son-in-law: seeking the arrest of tenants who are behind on rent.

Reporting by the Baltimore Sun last year uncovered that the apartment-management firm owned by Kushner’s family had sought the arrest of more than 100 delinquent tenants since 2013, giving it the most aggressive record of any landlord in the state. The new bill, introduced in January by Maryland delegate Bilal Ali, D-Baltimore City, would prevent landlords from seeking warrants for unpaid rents less than $5,000.

“A lot of my constituents were being penalized because they were poor,” explained Ali.

In recent years, a handful of other states have taken steps toward reforming debt collection. In 2012, Illinois banned “pay or appear” notices requiring debtors to appear in court each month to explain why they were unable to pay, even if their financial circumstances had not improved. In one case documented by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who authored the legislation, a mentally disabled man living on $690 a month in legally exempt Social Security benefits had been ordered to either pay $100 a month or appear in court once a month for a three-year period; as soon as he missed an appearance, he could be arrested. The new law requires courts to evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay before issuing an order.

Yet an outright ban on debt-related arrests has proved elusive, thanks in large part to the influence of the collection lobby. Maryland legislation that would have prohibited body attachments in collections cases failed in 2013, but consumer advocates managed to pass a law requiring courts to establish that issuing a warrant was the “least onerous” way to collect a debt.

Maryland consumer advocates say that the implementation of the new law has lagged in many district courts. This month, they’re back to the statehouse pushing for the “Jared Kushner Act,” as well as a separate bill that would eliminate bail when body attachments are issued. Instead, defendants would be released on their own recognizance once they complete the “debtor examination” required by the court.

According to a review of Maryland collections cases by the University of Baltimore and the Maryland Consumers Union, bail for debtors who missed more than one hearing has been set as high as $10,000, even though the average underlying debt was less than $5,000. In one case, bail was set at $5,000 for a $2,800 debt. These punitive costs intersect with the more well-known issue of criminal justice debt, the steep fees levied by police and courts that keep poor defendants trapped in the system.

When being in debt can get you sent to prison, and being in prison can drive you further into debt, “what we’re really seeing is the broad criminalization of poverty,” said Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumers Union.

State legislatures aren’t the only ones with the power to halt abusive debt collection. The ACLU notes that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could issue regulations or advisory opinions clarifying that threatening debtors with arrest violates consumer laws, or Congress could amend the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act directly to prohibit collectors from seeking or using arrest warrants.

Of course, neither of those scenarios is likely in the current political climate. While acting CFPB head Mick Mulvaney told staff that promulgating new rules for debt collection could be a priority under the agency’s new “data-driven” approach, he has already scrapped a plan to gather additional data on consumer understanding of debt collection disclosures. Debt collectors’ lobbying footprint is often heaviest at the state level, but the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals International reported nearly $400,000 in federal lobbying expenses in 2017 and gave $183,000 to the campaigns of 2016 Congressional candidates, including $3,000 to Mulvaney’s.

Despite stiff industry resistance, Turner hopes that successful campaigns against cash bond and criminal justice debt in recent years can lend momentum to stop the criminalization of private debt. Given that every state prohibits imprisonment for failure to pay civil debts, there’s also room for litigation that calls a spade a spade—even though collectors and courts typically insist that debtors are being arrested for contempt of court, not for failure to pay.

“The use of contempt is being used to get people to pay up,” said Turner. “I would say that constitutes unlawful imprisonment for inability to pay.”

 

Israel backtracks on plans that enraged Christian Churches in Jerusalem

Israel has suspended a plan to tax Church property in Jerusalem following a backlash. In response, Christian leaders have re-opened the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after closing it due to the controversial measures.

February 27, 2018

DW

Israel’s government on Tuesday said it would suspend a controversial tax and expropriation bill that Christian leaders in Jerusalem had earlier described as a “systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land.”

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in protest against the Jerusalem municipality’s tax and land right plans. However, Christian leaders reversed their decision on Tuesday following the Israeli government’s decision to suspend the measures.

Suspension of tax collections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it would:

  • Suspend tax collection on Church properties.
  • Suspend a proposed bill covering the sale and expropriation of church lands.
  • Assemble a team to negotiate with Church leaders.

Jerusalem’s original plans: Jerusalem’s Municipality wanted to tax church “commercial” properties, saying that churches have uncollected tax debts of roughly €151 million ($185 million). The tax plan would not affect places of worship.

A separate piece of legislation in parliament sought to allow the Israeli government to expropriate land the Church sold to private land developers. The land bill, according to its drafters, is designed to protect homeowners from not having their leases extended.

Church shutdown: In protest, Church leaders of all denominations had closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday. Church leaders said Israel was trying to upset the status quo running back to the Ottoman Empire, and later the British Mandate in Palestine.

The Churches are major landowners in Jerusalem. They said both the tax and land rights changes would make it more difficult to fund operations.

Palestinian concerns:  Palestinians are concerned the land purchases are designed to expand Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem, which they claim as the capital of a future state.

What is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places in Christianity. It is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

The Church is located in the Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. Christians from around the world make pilgrimages to the Church, which is run by several denominations.

 

Unhealthy state of affairs: Three-quarters of young Americans unfit for military service, study says

February 28, 2018

RT

The US could be facing a security crisis and it has nothing to do with the Russians this time. According to a new study, the majority of military-age Americans don’t meet the criteria for service – mostly due to health problems.

As many as 71 percent of young US citizens are ineligible to serve in the armed forces, research conducted by the Heritage Foundation in mid-February says. This state of affairs – which that the study describes as “alarming” – could soon lead to a serious shortage of recruits for the US military, which relies on a “constant flow of volunteers every year.”

Out of 34 million people aged between 17 and 24, over 24 million are unable to join the armed forces, the paper says, warning that the US military will “inevitably suffer from a lack of manpower.” It further adds that it is not a “distant problem” as the military is already experiencing problems with recruitment.

The US Army in particular is expected to have a hard time meeting its 2018 goal to enlist just 80,000 volunteers, the study says. “I would argue that the next existential threat we have… is the inability to man our military,” Army Major General Malcolm Frost, the commander of the army’s Initial Military Training Command, said during a panel discussion co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation back in October 2017.

Out of all those who are unfit for military service, almost 60 percent are ineligible to join the ranks of the US Armed Forces due to various problems related to their health or physical fitness. About one third are too obese to become soldiers. Some 27 percent of young Americans are “too overweight for military service,” the study says, adding that about 15,000 potential recruits are rejected annually precisely due to this reason.

“The obesity issue is the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction… By 2020 it could be as high as 50 percent, which means only two in 10 would qualify to join the army,” the former commander of US Army Recruiting Command, Major General Allen Batschelet, said back in 2015. Other common health issues that prevent young Americans from joining the army are asthma, hearing and eyesight problems, as well as mental illnesses, the research says.

Particularly alarming for the US military is that the southern states that traditionally supply the armed forces with the largest percentage of new recruits are facing even more concerning health problems among their young population. Recruits from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are “significantly less fit, and consequently are more likely to encounter training-related injuries than recruits from other US states,” according to a recent study conducted by the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, together with the US Army Public Health Center and the American Heart Association.

The 10 states mentioned in the study account for more than 37 percent of the new recruits, Task and Purpose reports, citing the data from US Army Recruiting Command. Health issues, however, are far from the only problem afflicting potential American soldiers.

The Heritage Foundation study also says that about a quarter of all those unfit for service are unable to successfully complete their high school education and are thus lacking “a basic understanding of written and cognitive skills … to complete an organized program.”

The research further adds that those who are accepted by the military despite failing to complete their high school education, “rarely pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)” anyway. A further 10 percent of those considered unfit for service are rejected because of their criminal record.

 

Deadly ‘Beast from the East’ winter blizzard batters Europe

Extreme weather warnings have been issued across Europe as the full force of gales and blizzard conditions from Siberia loom. The death toll from freezing temperatures across Europe has risen to at least 45.

February 28, 2018

DW

Extreme weather warnings were issued in Europe as more blizzards were expected on Thursday.

Since last Friday, when the freezing weather began, 18 people have died in Poland, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four each in France and Slovakia, two each in Italy, Serbia and Romania and one each in Slovenia and the Netherlands. Even countries used to dealing with extreme weather such as Denmark and Sweden have recorded the worst conditions of the winter.

Record snowfall of 182 cm (72 inches) hit the northern Croatian town of Delnice.

A jump in temperatures over the Arctic has weakened the jet stream that usually carries warm air in from the Atlantic. As a result, a strong blast of cold air from Siberia has brought the snow and blizzards in from the east.

Called the “Beast from the East” in the UK, the “Siberian Bear” in Holland, “Snow Cannon” in Sweden and “Moscow-Paris” in France, it has brought freezing temperatures and snow from Romania’s Black Sea ports to Spain’s Catalonia and France’s Corsica and Biarritz. Italy’s Naples has seen the most snow since 1956.

Out in the freezing cold

A number of those who have died in the cold weather were homeless people, and emergency shelters across Europe have opened to protect people who would otherwise be sleeping out in the open.

The head of Germany’s BAG W national homeless association urged shelters to open during the day as well as at night. “You can die of cold during the day too,” Werena Rosenke said.

In France, 50 regional lawmakers were planning to spend Wednesday night on the streets in Paris to protest the “denial of dignity” suffered by the estimated 3,600 homeless people in the French capital.

A 75-year-old Dutchman died when he went out to skate only for the ice to crack beneath his feet. Three Dutch children and two adults were rescued from similar situations on Wednesday.

Temperatures across Europe fell to below -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) overnight into Wednesday and overnight Sunday to -40C in the Italian Alps at Campoluzzo.

Belgium and Switzerland both recorded their coldest nights of the winter so far. The coldest-ever temperature recorded in Switzerland was -41.8C in January 1987 in La Brevine village, Neuchatel

The highest, red weather warning alerts of a risk to life were issued in Ireland and Scotland on Wednesday where people were encouraged to stay at home. Schools and universities were closed on Wednesday and to stay closed on Thursday while transport networks shut down on Wednesday afternoon. Total snowfall may reach 25 cm (10 inches) by Thursday.

The snow also fell on London

 

Intelligence That Neither Hears Nor Sees

From Where Does the Intelligence Community Get Its Intelligence?

February 28, 2018

by Ted Snider

AntiWar

On February 13, the American intelligence community issued its Worldwide Threat Assessment. It is a frightening document to read. On North Korea, the agencies that hear everything cannot seem to hear anything North Korea has said; on Iran, the agencies that see everything cannot seem to see what they have long known.

The Worldwide Threat Assessment is a regular ritual of the intelligence community in which it shares a declassified summary of threats to U.S. national security with congress. The current assessment is published under the name of Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence. In theory, the assessment is the result of input from all of America’s sixteen intelligence agencies.

Worldwide Threat Assessments, according to Ray McGovern, are not as important as National Intelligence Estimates, but they are not unimportant. McGovern, a former CIA analyst who prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, explained to me that, though they are less important for shaping policy, they are no less important for shaping public perception. When it comes to North Korea and Iran, congress exaggerates the truth, and, according to McGovern, Worldwide Threat Assessments serves the interests of those who benefit from exaggerating the truth. When congress misleads the public on North Korea and Iran, it can claim support from the intelligence community by referencing the Threat Assessment. Neocons and irresponsible journalists can all quote its exaggerated and unsupported claims.

North Korea

North Korea receives a scant three paragraphs. North Korea is identified as “a complex and increasing threat to US national security and interests.” That threat cannot be removed by negotiations, it is always said, because North Korea is not willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapons program. That is the Trump administrations justification for bypassing diplomacy or even talking with North Korea. That premise is asserted when the Worldwide Threat Analysis insists that “repeatedly stating that nuclear weapons are the basis for its survival, suggests that the regime does not intend to negotiate them away.”

But the intelligence community that can hear everything you say apparently cannot hear anything North Korea is saying. The North Koreans do say that their nuclear weapons program is the basis of its survival – a deterrent – but they have repeated many versions of the formulation that if the threat to its survival were removed, the deterrent to the threat would be removed. North Korea’s position is not a refusal, it’s a conditional: North Korea is not saying it will not negotiate over its nuclear program; it is saying it will not negotiate away the deterrent until there are guarantees that they no longer need the deterrent. To change North Korea’s undesirable behavior, America has to change its undesirable behavior.

It is well known – or would be well known if the essential role assigned to historians and journalists in a democratic society had not been appropriated by propogandists – that both times the United States seriously engaged in diplomatic discussions with North Korea – in 1994 and in 2005 – when the US promised to stop threatening to attack North Korea, North Korea promised to stop its nuclear weapons program.

But, it is not necessary to appeal to distant history or to previous North Korean leaders. The same conditional formulation of abandoning the deterrent when the need for the deterrent is abandoned has been articulated repeatedly in very recent history.

North Korea’s Deputy Ambassador Kim In-ryong put it this way to UN Secretary-General António Guterres in August of 2017: “As long as the US hostile policy and nuclear threat continue, the DPRK, no matter who may say what, will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table.” Ju Yong Chol, a North Korean diplomat, expressed the formulation exactly the same way.

The same conditional North Korean formulation was expressed by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho in August of 2017. RI said “We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table. . . . unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the D.P.R.K. are fundamentally eliminated.” The next month, RI Yong-ho explained to the U.N. that its nuclear program is “to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the US and for preventing its military invasion, and our ultimate goal is to establish the balance of power with the US”

Most importantly, Kim Jong Un, himself, has also expressed this conditional formulation. Kim has stated that “Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the US and make the US rulers dare not talk about military options.”

And despite the Worldwide Threat Assessment’s assurance that “the regime does not intend to negotiate [its nuclear weapons] away,” North Korea has not ceased to assure the world that it would. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has recently reported on the possibility of an “intra-Korean” agreement between North and South Korea. Porter says that in a South Korean proposal that has never been reported by the US media, the US and South Korea would “discuss reducing the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises if North Korea suspends its nuclear weapons and missile activities.” South Korean President Moon Jae-in has further suggested that the US and South Korea could refrain from including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines during their joint military exercises.”

Kim Jong UN has responded in a way that suggests that this proposal satisfies the conditional formulation of North Korea’s terms. He called for a “détente” with South Korea and requested that South Korea “discontinue all the nuclear drills they have staged with outside forces,” meaning the US, and “refrain from bringing in nuclear armaments and aggressive forces of the United States.” Separating nuclear cooperation with the US during the drills from the mere existence of drills, suggests, as Porter points out, “that Kim was signaling [his] interest in negotiating an agreement along the lines that [South Korea] had raised.”

The Worldwide Threat Assessment’s position on North Korea is not based on real world intelligence. An intelligence community that can hear everything cannot seem to hear anything that North Korea is saying. Or it can but is using its Worldwide Threat Assessment to shape public perception in a way that serves the way the US government wants the public to perceive North Korea.

Iran

Iran receives a lot more space in the Worldwide Threat Assessment than North Korea. And, although there are a number of incredible claims made in the Iran section, the most incredible claims about Iran are made in the section on terrorism. In that section, two insupportable claims are stated as accepted fact. The first reverberates out of the Washington echo chamber: “Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism. . . .” The second is that “Lebanese Hizballah” – which is lumped together with Iran – “has demonstrated its intent to foment regional instability by deploying thousands of fighters to Syria. . . .”

The American intelligence agencies that can see everything apparently cannot see what they have long known. They know Iran is not “the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism” for two reasons: they know it’s not Iran, and they know who it really is.

US intelligence knows Iran is not a leading state sponsor of terrorism. And, it is not only because all of the recent attempts to link Iran to terrorism have failed, but because their own reports on terrorism don’t list Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorisms “rarely identifies a terrorist incident as an act by or on behalf of Iran.” And, the most recent Global Terrorism Index from the Department of Homeland Security clearly states that, not Iran, but “ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qaeda” are the biggest terrorist threats. None of these four groups is Shiite and none is aligned with Iran, but combined they are “responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths from terrorism.” The Index also clearly identifies “ISIL,” not Iran “as the deadliest terrorist group.”

The intelligence community also knows that Iran is not the leading state sponsor of terrorism because it knows that Iran’s enemy, Saudi Arabia, is. As early as December of 2009, the State Department already knew that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban . . . and other terrorist groups.” A 2012 classified Defense Intelligence Agency Information Intelligence Report that made the rounds through the US intelligence community identified the “supporting powers” of ISIS to be “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey.” In 2014, Vice President Biden admitted that “[O]ur allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. . . . They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.” Point 4 of a memo written by Hillary Clinton on September 17, of the same year confesses that based on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region,” the US knew that “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia . . . [were] providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” And, in 2015, President “Obama and other US officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.”

So, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the American intelligence community does not reflect what the American intelligence community has known for at least eight years: Iran is not the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Saudi Arabia is.

As the intelligence community cannot see what it has long been shown about terrorism, so it cannot see what it has long known about Iran’s role in the region. Iran and Hezbollah are not “foment[ing] regional instability by deploying thousands of fighters to Syria. . . .” Iran is in Syria to fight the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. According to the very same Worldwide Threat Assessment, “Sunni violent extremists – most notably ISIS and al-Qaeda – pose continuing terrorist threats to US interests and partners worldwide.” So, Iran is fomenting, not regional instability, but regional stability by playing a leading role in the fight against the most destabilizing terrorist organizations in the region. The Worldwide Threat Assessment identifies al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as destabilizing forces in the region but simultaneously identifies Iran – whose role in the region is to combat those destabilizing forces – as destabilizing.

Ever since Iran tried and failed to mediate the dispute in Syria in an attempt to avoid the conflict, Iran and Hezbollah have backed Assad against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the other rebel forces. Iran’s role against destabilizing forces in the region has not been a trivial one. Iran and Hezbollah have played a crucial role in defeating the rebels. For many people who are being threatened by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, Iran has surpassed the United States as their most important ally. And it is not like the authors of the Worldwide Threat Assessment don’t know this. Ayatollah Khamenei has authorized his top commander to coordinate military operations with the US, and the Israeli media reported in 2014 that Iranian F-4 Phantoms that have bombed Islamic State targets were “most likely” working in “coordination with the US military.” Patrick Cockburn has suggested that advances by Iranian-controlled Shia militias against the Islamic State on the ground have been made possible by coordination with US airstrikes on Islamic State positions.

On both Iran and North Korea, the Worldwide Threat Assessment is a terrifying document to read. But it is not terrifying for the threat to America or the world that it reveals. It is terrifying for the incompetence it reveals: the best briefing that the US intelligence community can offer congress is an assessment based on incompleteness and inconsistency. The ears of America cannot hear what North Korea is saying; the eyes of America cannot see what Iran is doing.

 

Texas primary: Democrats see rare surge of enthusiasm in early voting

The largest counties have returned almost 10,000 more votes than Republican, but it is not clear the surge can turn into election wins

February 28, 2018

by Robert Moore in El Paso, Texas

The Guardian

As Texas’ political parties choose their nominees for the November midterm elections, Democrats are seeing a rare surge of enthusiasm in a state long dominated by Republicans.

The Democratic and Republican primary elections are on 6 March but many Texans are casting ballots in the two-week early voting period that runs through 2 March. Through the first week of early voting, the largest counties have returned almost 11,000 more Democratic votes than Republican. In those big counties in the last midterm primary, in 2014, Republicans surpassed Democrats by more than 100,000 votes.

Democratic early votes are up 93% on 2014 in the largest counties that are tracked daily by the Texas secretary of state’s office. Republican votes are up about 17%.

These numbers likely indicate higher Democratic turnout in November, Texas political experts say. It is not clear, however, that Democrats can convert such enthusiasm into election wins.

“Given Donald Trump’s residence in the White House,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, “there is good reason to believe that Democratic turnout in November will be greater than in 2014, just as the fact that Barack Obama is no longer in the White House means Republicans no longer will be able to utilize opposition to President Obama and his policies as a mobilization tool.”

Texas Democrats must prove they can take advantage of their energized base, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

“If Democratic candidates can run solid, well-funded campaigns,” he said, “they would be in better position to take advantage of an enthusiastic base”.

Democrats have long eyed Texas as a major prize, buoyed by changing demographics. One in six Texans was born in another country and Latinos comprise 35% of the voting age population. But those changes have not yet translated into electoral victories: Democrats have not won a statewide election since 1994.

This year, Democrats hope to win a handful of Republican-held congressional and state seats in areas Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential race.

Their dream scenario would be winning the US Senate race between Beto O’Rourke, the current El Paso congressman, and incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has waged a vigorous in-person campaign across the state and raised $8.7m in campaign contributions, even though he refuses to accept money from special-interest groups.

The Democrats’ early voting boost is most evident in the big urban counties: Harris (Houston), Dallas, Bexar (San Antonio), Travis (Austin), Tarrant (Fort Worth) and El Paso. At this point four years ago in those urban areas, Republicans had a 39,000-vote advantage over Democrats. Through the first week of early voting this year, Democrats had a 35,000-vote advantage.

“Squeezing more Democratic votes out of urban areas is critical to the party’s future,” Rottinghaus said. “Democrats need to run up the score in urban areas and cut into Republican margins in suburban Texas to make Texas a two-party state.”

The other major voting base in Texas is in large suburban counties around Houston, Dallas and Austin. Republicans still hold a huge advantage in those counties, more than doubling the number of Democratic ballots cast in the first week of early voting this year. But four years ago, Republicans had a six-fold advantage.

The number of Democratic votes in those suburbs has almost quadrupled.

“Suburban Texas is changing,” Rottinghaus said. “What was once the home of ‘white flight’ and sleepy bedroom communities … [is now] booming with younger, more educated and more racially and ethnically diverse voters. These demographic changes are breaking the Republicans’ solid hold on many of these areas.”

The other key strength for Texas Republicans has been the state’s rural areas. The secretary of state’s office has not tracked early voting in smaller counties but it is unlikely Democrats are making much of a dent.“I suspect Democratic enthusiasm is less marked in those counties,” Jones said, “but in the end political power is decided by voters in the major metro areas, where almost three-fourths of the state’s population now resides.”

Democrats have a legitimate chance at picking off several state legislative and congressional seats, both Jones and Rottinghaus said. But ousting Cruz seems unlikely.

“Barring a shocking revelation or some other type of major October surprise, Beto O’Rourke has no realistic prospect of defeating Ted Cruz,” Jones said.

“The best O’Rourke can hope for is to hold Cruz to a margin of victory in the single digits, which would bolster O’Rourke’s political capital and potential for achieving victory statewide at some point in the next decade.”

Nonetheless, Texas governor Greg Abbott on Monday sent an email to supporters raising concerns about the Democratic early voting advantage. The email urged Republicans to vote in the primary and donate to Abbott’s re-election campaign.

“Democrats are already on a winning streak, flipping seats in special elections across the country in GOP strongholds,” the email said.

“We’ve seen a surge of liberal enthusiasm in deep red states like Georgia, Alabama and Oklahoma. We had always hoped the liberal wave would never hit Texas, but these early voting returns aren’t encouraging so far.”

Trump on Tuesday urged Texans to cast votes for a number of state Republican leaders.

“I want to encourage all of my many Texas friends to vote in the primary for Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz, Lt Gov Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton,” the president tweeted. “They are helping me to Make America Great Again! Vote early or on March 6th.”

 

Polish priest sparks outrage after claiming ‘truth’ to Jews is ‘whatever serves their own interests’

February 28, 2018

RT

Poland’s Jewish association has accused a Catholic priest of spreading hate speech after he claimed on a TV show that Jews have their own perception of truth, which is often something that “serves Israel’s interests.”

Jewish people have “a completely different system of values, a different concept of truth,” Henryk Zielinski, a priest and editor-in-chief of Catholic magazine ‘Idziemy’ (‘We are going’) told broadcaster TVP during a show aired last Saturday. He proceeded to claim that truth was a very flexible notion for Jews.

Zielinski argued that “the truth corresponds to facts” for the Poles but, for Jews, “truth means something that confirms to [their] understanding of what’s beneficial.” If a Jew is religious, “then truth means something God wants,” the priest claimed. In secular Jews, “the truth is subjective or whatever serves Israel’s interests.”

In support of his claim, Zielinski claimed to have good knowledge of Jewish spiritual literature, citing the Haggadah, namely a text that describes the Biblical story of the Jewish exodus from ancient Egypt. “Often these stories have nothing to do with facts,” noted the Catholic priest.

The remarks have caused outrage among Poland’s Jewish diaspora. The Union of Jewish Communities in Poland have filed a complaint under laws that stipulate “broadcasts or other messages may not propagate illegal activities… they may not contain content that incites to hatred or discriminate on the grounds of race, disability, sex, religion or nationality.”

It also lambasted TV host Michal Karnowski for not challenging Zielinski’s views. He is not the first Polish public figure to make an odd reference to Jewish people or the Holocaust, fueling the ongoing spat between Warsaw and Tel Aviv.

In mid-February, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the 2018 Munich Security Conference that there were Polish perpetrators in the Holocaust, “as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian and German perpetrators.”

The remarks have been criticized in Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused his Polish counterpart of an “inability to understand history.” Other politicians branded Morawiecki’s comments “anti-Semitism of the oldest kind.”

Relations between Poland and Israel began to sour after the eastern European state passed a law earlier in February that outlawed blaming Poles for their complicity in Holocaust crimes during the Second World War, and took particular notice of the words “Polish death camp.”

 

Suffering for Fun and Profit

February 28, 2018

by Christian Jürs

In the years intervening since the end of the Second World War, there has built up a legend about the planned murder by the Germans of European Jewry. A program of euthanasia, it is said, was later developed into a wide-spread program of mass gassings of Jews in several of the German prisons called Concentration Camps.

The motivator behind these mass killings was, the legend states, Adolf Hitler whose personal hatred of Jews drove him to order his dread Gestapo and SS to round up and kill every Jew they could lay their hands on.

Initially, the camp at Dachau, outside of Munich, was stated to be the center of the murder machine but as it became evident that this camp did not gas large numbers of Jews, the center was arbitrarily moved to the east, to the town of Auschwitz located on several rivers in Upper Silesia.

Here, it is said, a vast death camp was built to house tens of thousands of Jews awaiting their turn in the enormous gas chambers, and a second camp, Auschwitz II or Birkenau was also built for the sole purpose of slaughtering the Jews who made up almost the entire population of this murder central.

Jewish victims, it has been written, poured into Auschwitz from all over conquered Europe. They arrived, jammed into cattle cars, were dragged out of their transport, lined up and immediately forced into the huge gas chambers. Later, after they were dead, their stiffened corpses were dragged out by other camp inmates and shoved into equally gigantic crematoria and burned to ashes.

In recent years, bits and pieces of evidence that would tend to bring some of this into question has resulted in a further shift to the east. Supporters of the mass murder theories now postulate that the SS Einsatzgruppen or Combat Units, composed of Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and German police units, who were operating behind the German front lines in Russia, were the true murders of millions of Jews. In the savage anti-Partisan wars, the Einsatzgruppen were stated to have slaughtered millions of Russian, and some Polish, Jews.

Opposing an enormous body of literature and media productions, a number of dissatisfied historians began to question the validity of the allegations of an immense German murder plot aimed primarily at Jews but also expanded to include Gypsies. Any attempts to bring these allegations into question were met immediately by loud outcries from their proponents and needless to say, no major publishing house anywhere in the world would dare to publish even the most moderate and meticulously researched revisionistic work.

The enormous death toll, it is firmly said by proponents of the murder machine theory, is immutable; these figures are well and permanently established in history and questioning them is the work of anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and professional, unbalanced hate-mongers.

It is the actual figures, however, upon which the legend of the Holocaust stands or falls. Are there such figures? Are they reliable? Surely in the enormous official German records, captured by both the Soviets and Americans, there have to be specific confirmations of the awful death tolls.

In fact such records do exist; some in Moscow and some in Washington, DC, but these original documents are generally not available to what Holocaust supporters state are prevaricators, liars and anti-Semites. They can be found today in official state archives, some difficult to find because they have been misfiled and others because pressure groups who fear their publication have pressured the archives to keep them hidden.

In this study, we have explored these forbidden or obscured documents, collated them and are presenting the results in an effort to achieve some balance for a subject that heretofore has been the private playground of individuals and organizations who have a vested financial and political motive in preventing any erosion of what they see is their own territory.

As huge sums of money have resulted from the maintenance and careful nurturing of what has proven to be an extraordinarily successful cash cow, the desperation of its creators can easily be understood.

Truth, however, is mighty and shall prevail.

To open this investigation, consider the following article produced by the people calling themselves the “Nizkor Project”

This article represents the Jewish theory of the Auschwitz work complex as a death camp solely intended for the slaughter of European Jews

“How many people died at Auschwitz?

“…Foner’s Spotlight article made assertions regarding the number of people killed at the Auschwitz camp:

Most Americans have been instructed in the “irrefutable fact” that homicidal gassings had taken place at Auschwitz. The number of those so executed – also declared irrefutable – was 4.1 million.

Then came the Leuchter Report in 1988. This was followed by a “re-evaluation” of the total deaths at Auschwitz (down to 1.1 million).

Previous to 1992, anyone who publicly doubted the 4.1 million “gassing” deaths at Auschwitz was labeled an anti-Semite, neo-nazi skinhead (at the very least). Quietly, because of revisionist findings, the official figure was lowered to 1.1 million. No mention of that missing 3 million.

Foner’s assertions are simply not true; although it is correct to note that the Polish Communist government did claim that four million people were exterminated at Auschwitz, historians (Feig, Reitlinger, Hilberg, et al.) have never supported that figure. Consider the estimates provided by Buszko at the end of his article on Auschwitz, which appeared in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust:

  • Of the 405,000 registered prisoners, 65,000 survived
  • Of the 16,000 Soviet POW’s, 96 survived
  • Various estimates suggest 1.6 million were murdered

Buszko’s article, and the above estimates, appeared in the 1990 edition of the

Encyclopedia, which clearly puts the lie to Foner’s comment that “anyone who publicly doubted the 4.1 million .. ” figure “previous to 1992…” was “…labeled an anti-Semite…”. Buszko is not only a Jewish historian, but Polish as well.

Leon Poliakov, the author of the well-documented “Harvest of Hate,” which was, we note, first published in 1956, provides the following information, which clearly demonstrates that Foner’s contention, cited above, is an outright lie:

After some thirty months of intense activity, the Auschwitz balance sheet showed close to two million immediate exterminations (this figure can never be fixed exactly), (8) to which one must add the deaths of some 300,000 registered prisoners – Jews for the most part, but not entirely – for whom the gas chamber was only one of any number of ways by which they might have perished. (Poliakov, 202)

In his affidavits, Hoess spoke of two and a half million, ‘a figure set officially,’ he wrote, under the signature of [Eichmann], in a report to Himmler. This figure has been accepted by several authors, and it appears in the verdict at the trial of the major war criminals. However, there is no reason for accepting without question the statistics attributed to Eichmann, which may err on either side.

Adding the number of victims to those deported from different countries gives a lower figure, although we have little data, for example, on the number of Polish Jews sent to Auschwitz. An approximate figure in the neighborhood of two million seems closer to the truth.” (Ibid.)

Feig also provides evidence of the false nature of Foner’s comment when she notes that:

Höss testified that the Tesch directors could not help but know of the use for their product because they sold him enough to annihilate two million people.’

Feig’s book was published in 1981

According to Snyder, Adolf Eichmann reported to Himmler, in 1944, that four million had been killed in the camps, and another million had been shot or killed by mobile units. (Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. 1989) Eichmann’s report, which referenced all the camps (most of which were in Nazi-occupied Poland), may have been the source of the Polish Communist government’s figures. (Snyder is a Professor of History at the City College and the City University of New York.)

During the war crimes trials, Höss was asked if it was true that he had no exact numbers because he had been forbidden to compile them, and he agreed. He also agreed that Adolf Eichmann had told him that that more than two million people had been exterminated there. (von Lang, 120)

The Institut Für Zeitgeschichte, Munich, provided the following capsulated paragraph about Auschwitz in a March, 1992, letter of inquiry.

The extermination camp in Birkenau, established in the second half of 1941, was joined to the concentration camp Auschwitz, existing since May 1940. From January 1942 on in five gas chambers and from the end of June 1943 in four additional large gassing-rooms gassings with Zyklon B have been undertaken. Up until November 1944 more than one million Jews and at least 4000 gypsies have been murdered by gas. (IFZ)

While it is admittedly difficult to compile exact figures, (emphasis added) since the Nazis did not maintain registration records for those who were to be exterminated immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz, it seems accurate to assert that the number of Jews killed fell somewhere between one and one-point-six million.

According to figures provided by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the overall number of victims of Auschwitz in the years 1940-1945 is estimated at between 1,100,000 and 1,500,000 people. The majority of them, and above all the mass transports of Jews who arrived beginning in 1942, died in the gas chambers. (Waclaw Dlugoborski and Franciszek Piper, Eds. Auschwitz 1940-1945. Central Issues in the History of the Camp. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2000, 5 vols., 1799 pp., ISBN 83-85047-87-5)

Jews were not the only victims of this Nazi German killing machine – historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles (mostly political prisoners), approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and over 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities.

The Leuchter Report, which Foner alludes to extensively in his Spotlight article, has been thoroughly refuted. For detailed information about the report, see the Leuchter FAQ.

Two German firms, Tesch/Stabenow and Degesch, produced Cyclone B gas after they acquired the patent from Farben. Tesch supplied two tons a month, and Degesch three quarters of a ton. The firms that produced the gas already had extensive experience in fumigation.”

This overview is entirely typical of the death camp argument. It is not based on official figures obtained from various archives but solely upon the personal opinions of individuals who are obviously writing to an idea. Such phrases as “absolutely established”, “irrefutable facts” and “thoroughly refuted” are the easily-recognized hallmarks of the propagandist, not the historian. In point of fact, writers attempting to confirm the allegations of astronomical death tolls for European Jews are not writing from any kind of an objective historical point of view but from thoroughly skewed and propagandistic one.

Truth is the first casualty of the propagandist.

The argument is made that since it is “clearly evident” that six million European Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis under Hitler, the fact that nowhere in the through and extensive files of the Third Reich can be found any specific reference to such acts, the answer to this absence is also clearly evident; there are special and secret lists made of Jews who were not entered onto the rolls of the camps but who were immediately executed.

However, if there are no existing Third Reich documents proving the mass murders, neither are there any of the secret lists to be found.

The “secret list” theory is one of desperation, not a clever invention.

When the Glücks files emerged in Moscow, the archivists at the Central Archives stated that Jewish groups were well aware of these documents and had repeatedly insisted that the Russians not release them to “outsiders” who were “not able to properly understand them.”

What obviously was meant is that these extensive, and complete, files clearly did not support the murder of six millions of European Jews and their release would merely complicate the fundraising efforts of the proponents of the planned extermination theories.

As an historical footnote to this commentary, the following officially recorded conversation of Hitler’s is set forth. The first part of it has been widely quoted in a number of books but the second part, for obvious reasons, has not.

On Saturday, October 25, 1941, Hitler received Count Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister at his East Prussian military headquarters for a conference. Present were a number of senior government officials. Following the conference, Hitler held a small, private dinner for several of these personages. One of them was Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS and the other was (SS-Obergruppenführer) Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Main State Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt-RSHA) which controlled the Gestapo and the SD. During the course of the dinner, Hitler said:

“From the rostrum of the Reichstag I prophesized to Jewry that, in the event of war’s proving inevitable, the Jew would disappear from Europe. That race of criminals has on its conscience the two million dead of the First World War, and now already hundreds of thousands more.”

At this point, historians generally comment on Hitler’s obvious intention to slaughter all the Jews he could lay his hands on. The balance of the conversation conveys a rather different meaning.

“Let nobody tell me that all the same we can’t park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who’s worrying about our troops? It’s not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumor attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing.”1

The question of the number of persons who died in Auschwitz has been addressed in a publication entitled Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp.2 A chapter by Franciszek Piper entitled “The Number of Victims” addresses the issues discussed here and sections of it deserve to be quoted and enlarged upon.

“In erasing traces of the crimes perpetrated in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis destroyed documents that could serve as the basis for determining how many people died there. When the Soviet soldiers liberated the camp in January 1945, they found documents that confirmed only 100,000 deaths. Yet surviving prisoners maintained that millions had perished at Auchwitz.

Faced with this disparity, officials of the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, the organization entrusted with investigating the crimes committed at Auschwitz, conducted an in-depth study. Based on witness testimonies regarding the capacity of the camp and the length of time that its machinery for mass murder was operative, (emphasis added) the commission concluded that no fewer than four million (emphasis added) persons were put to death at the camp…Four million…is the number recorded in Polish literature, as well as in publications of other countries.”

In The Final Solution, one of the first books to deal with the Holocaust, published in 1953, the figure of four million was radically reevaluated. English art historian Gerald Reitlinger estimated the number of victims at Auschwitz to be roughly 800,000 to 900,000, (emphasis added) based on an analysis of the losses of Jews reported by specific countries…

The destruction by the Nazis of most Auschwitz records is the most important cause of divergent estimates…researchers had to rely on discrepant and imprecise data from testimonies and depositions of witnesses, former prisoners and Nazi functionaries and on court decisions and fragmentary and incomplete records of camp registries, archives, (sic) and other institutions. (Emphasis added).”

The question of the destruction of Auschwitz records has been raised over the years to support the claims that large numbers of people died in the camp but were not recorded. If the SS camp administration did destroy or remove official records from Auschwitz before the complex was overrun by the Soviets in early 1945, they did not and could not touch the records that had been sent to the headquarters of the camp system outside of Berlin, or any other copies sent to different agencies. According to the author of the article, the Soviets did find records indicating 100,000 deaths.

Reliance on anything originating from Stalin’s agents is totally unrealistic. The Soviets had no problem continuously rewriting their own history and obviously would have had no problem rewriting the history of other nations. The concurrence of the Poles in Soviet findings has no validity whatsoever. Poland was under complete control of the Soviets at the time of their reports and any official commission would do precisely as it was told by its masters.

It was only after the implosion of the Soviet Empire that their state archives became available to outside researchers, at least on a limited basis. As has been noted before, it was the standard policy of the Soviet government to denigrate and attack the government of West Germany, not support it. The microfilms released by the Russian archives in the early 1990s were copies of documents found at the SS camp headquarters in 1945 and had these supported the theory of extensive extermination programs, they certainly would have been released years before.

There is another argument used to explain the lack of documentation supporting the thesis of a million or more dead at Auschwitz. This argument claims that endless transports of Jews were delivered to the camp, not recorded anywhere and immediately executed. This, it is claimed, explains why there is such a disparity between official German figures and those proposed by others.

This argument has some fleeting validity but the question arises that if these transports were unrecorded in German records, how could anyone use them as references other than by supposition and speculation? It is very difficult to have one’s cake and eat it too.

The question of transport also needs to be addressed. When the German Reichsbahn scheduled rail transportation to Auschwitz, it was listed officially as special trains (Sonderzug) which indicated that the transports were privately contracted…in this case by the SS. If these transports were of an official, State nature, they would be listed as regular traffic, paid for by the government. While in the beginning of the forced Jewish emigration prior to the war, the Jewish community in Germany and overseas was compelled to pay for the emigration out of their own pockets, such accommodations were not operational during the war except in rare cases. It should also be noted that transport from Auschwitz taking manufactured products to various points in Europe were also listed as Special Trains. Auschwitz was part of the SS economic empire and as such, was run by the SS and not the German government. The Armed SS (Waffen-SS) was not an official part of the Wehrmacht and its operating expenses, as were the operating expenses for the entire SS, had to be paid for by the SS itself.

This in itself would cast considerable doubt on the thesis that a vast extermination program had been ordered by Hitler officially as State policy. When the SS ran out of operating capital, the transports stopped running.

The use of prisoner labor was certainly addressed in the numerous trials held after the war.

Another thesis often expressed is that the victims at Auschwitz were nearly all Jewish. Reports from the camp break down the exact number of inmates by groups, to include Jews. At Auschwitz, by far the largest group were those held in protective custody or as political prisoners.

With former Soviet archival material now available, a greater balance should be much easier to obtain. It was only their stubborn refusal to release these records that allowed inflated figures, supported only with anecdotal and unsupported material, to flourish and, like ivy, expand and cover every aspect of the building beneath.

This archival material has, in fact, been available on microfilm since 1989 but is rarely discussed.

An article in the New York ‘Times’ of March 3, 1991 quotes the Soviet sources with considerable accuracy. Forty-six camps are covered with a total death toll of more than 400,000. Auschwitz records contain approximately 70,000 death certificates and in addition the death totals of 130,000 among the forced laborers in all camps and 200,000 additional names of various classes of prisoners in all camps to include Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Gross Rosen. When queried about this article and the numbers reflected in it, Red Cross officials in Washington, DC agreed that they were indeed the figures contained in the microfilms they had received from Soviet sources but that “special secret lists” existed that boosted the death toll far higher. Further questioning elicited that no one had seen these “secret lists” but that they must certainly exist and that quoting from the official records was “misleading” and should not be done.

The records of the concentration camp system discovered by the Soviets at the system headquarters outside of Berlin in 1945 are complete. From a chronological point of view, there are no gaps. Many of the records found by the Soviets at Auschwitz are not complete but the headquarters files contain copies of all the Auschwitz records

The arrest, deportation and forced labor of a large number of people, including Jews, was repugnant and on a parallel with the British concentration camps (from whence the name came) instituted during the Boer War in which over 20,000 Boer women and children died in conditions of disease, filth and squalor, and is not possible to ignore or justify.3

Aside from the records of the camp headquarters siezed by the Soviets in 1945 from Oranienburg, another source exists that deals with the monthly population reports made by the individual camps to headquarters. These consisted of radio reports sent in to Oranienburg on a monthly basis. From early 1942 through February of 1943, British intelligence was monitoring these reports and in their official history of the British intelligence system, stated that,

“The returns from Auschwitz, the largest of the camps with 20,000 prisoners, mentioned illness as the main cause of death, but included references to shootings and hangings. There were no references in the decrypts to gassing.” (emphasis added) 4

Given inaccurate demographics about the post-war Jewish population, there is still a considerable gap in the number of Jews, mostly Polish Jews, who were living in Poland in 1939 and unaccounted for in 1945. The assumption was made, and is still being made, that these differences were clearly explained by the extermination theory.

The former Soviet Union maintained a rigid control over its files until its collapse, and it has only been since this point in time that a much clearer picture of events has become evident.

In 1995, Russian author Arkady Vaksberg, a Jewish writer, attorney, and investigative journalist, published a book entitled ‘Stalin Against The Jews’, the basic theme of which is the persecution of Soviet Jews by Stalin after he had used them against his enemies. Vaksberg goes into some detail about the Polish Jews who, in September of 1939, fled the German advance into Poland and went into the Soviet Union. Vaksberg states that these Polish Jews were seized by Stalin’s agencies and put into prison camps.

The author states that exact figures of these prisoners are not presently available but speaks of “hundreds of thousands.” He also mentions that Soviet border police shot down many escaping Jews before they crossed the border into Communist territory. Survival in Soviet Gulags was very poor; of the 80,000 German prisoners of war captured at Stalingrad, only 6,000 were alive in 1955 to return to Germany. How many of these hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews survived the war is not known, but perhaps former Soviet archives hold the final answer to this issue, an issue that has persisted for half a century.5

After the breakup of the Yugoslav state in the 1990s, the “ethnic cleansing” by the winsome Serbs of anyone they disliked, including Catholics and Jews, was greeted with a chorus of dismay from other nations…but nothing more.

1“Hitler’s Secret Conversations, 1941-1945,” New York, 1953, p 72, Protocol 52.

2 “Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp,” ed. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, 1994, Indiana University Press. pps 61 et seq.

3 Amery, vol.5, 252, 253, 601; vol. 6, 24-25

4 “British Intelligence in the Second World War,” Hinsley et al, London, 1980, vol. 11, p 673.

5 “Stalin Against the Jews,” Vaksberg, New York, 1995, pp 103-107.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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