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TBR News September 23, 2017

Sep 23 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 23, 2017:”About 10,000 years ago, give or take, the climate in what is now the arctic, was quite warm. There was extensive growth of semi-tropical trees, huge areas of grass and many warm-blooded animals throughout the northern areas. And very suddenly, the climate changed, so suddenly that herds of the mammoth were frozen to death, standing up and with fresh food in mouth and stomach. And snow fell and formed ice which built up into massive glaciers that covered a great deal of territory in the northern hemisphere. The plants and trees were also frozen and decayed under the ice, forming pockets of methane gasses. The suddenness of the freeze is obvious and many theories abound, as they always do on such subjects. Cosmic radiation, bombardment by comets, the planet flipping over are pet theories but no one knows exactly why there was a freeze or why it thawed but it is interesting to note that the so-called “polar vortex” cold waves that regularly descend on north America in the winter match, almost exactly, the physical areas covered by glacial ice during the last ice age.”


Table of Contents

  • Korea? It’s Always Really Been About China!
  • Germany’s Heckler & Koch to stop selling guns to Israel
  • Turkey Desperate to Stop Kurdish Vote; 41 Killed in Iraq
  • Kurds ready to pay any price for freedom, Barzani says, sticking by independence vote
  • McCain to oppose latest Republican bill to sink Obamacare
  • Madrid cracks down on looming Catalonia independence vote
  • Outrage at Catalonia crackdown a likely spur for independence
  • Germany faces first far-right party in parliament since second world war
  • Islamophobic U.S. Mega-Donor Fuels German Far-Right Party With Viral Fake News


Korea? It’s Always Really Been About China!

September 22, 2017

by Paul Atwood


How many citizens have ever asked themselves what the United States is doing in Korea in the first place?

In November of 1945, two months after the surrender of Japan, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall spoke to President Truman and the chief figures of his cabinet about his fears of a “the tragic consequences of a divided China” as Chinese Nationalist forces and Communists resumed their struggle for power and Soviet forces seized control of large areas of Manchuria. The resumption of Soviet power in Manchuria Marshall emphasized would result “in the defeat or loss of the major purpose of our war with Japan (emphasis added).

What could the general have meant by such a statement? What WAS the “major purpose” of the Pacific war? Most Americans are taught that the foremost reason the United States went to war with Japan was the attack on Pearl Harbor. But the reality was that the U.S. and Japan had been on a collision course since the 1920s and by 1940, in the midst of the global depression, were locked in a mortal struggle over who would ultimately benefit most from the markets and resources of Greater China and East Asia. Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was steadily closing the “Open Door” to American penetration of and access to the profitable riches of Asia at the critical moment. As Japan militarily took control of East Asia the U.S. moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii in striking distance of Japan, imposed economic sanctions, embargoed steel and oil and in August 1941 issued an overt ultimatum to quit China and Vietnam “or else.” Seeing the latter as the threat it was Japan undertook what to Tokyo was the pre-emptive strike at Hawaii. The real reason the U.S. opposed the Japanese in Asia is never discussed and is a forbidden subject in the establishment media as are the real motives of American foreign policy writ large.

The U.S. had long envisioned profitable management of client regimes throughout greater East Asia. After Japanese surrender the U.S. wished to occupy as many of the numerous industrial plants Japan had built in East Asia the most important of which were in Manchuria and Korea.  Washington was also keenly anxious to preempt Soviet occupation of these territories. That is one major reason Truman decided to use the Atomic Bomb on a nation already reduced to cinders. It was also intended to induce Tokyo’s formal surrender only to the U.S. and not also to the Soviet Union since that would have enabled Soviet co-occupation of Japan itself and led to similar problems as were occurring in occupied Germany.

Politicians never use the term any more but the Open Door Policy remains the bedrock guiding strategy of American foreign policy writ large. Applicable to the entire planet the policy was enunciated specifically about the “great China market” (actually greater East Asia) but has evolved to encompass the planet. Simply stated it asserts that American finance and corporations should have untrammeled right of entry into the marketplaces of all nations and territories and access to their resources and cheaper labor power on American terms, sometimes diplomatically, often by armed violence. Consider the frame of reference of Edward Said who questioned in 2003 “if the principal product of Iraq were broccoli would the United States be in Iraq?” The U.S. has intervened militarily and covertly in so many nations it is impossible to recount them all but in every case the American military is protecting some investments of value to American corporations, or a strategic position or both.

Formulated in response to Japan’s war with China of 1894 that resulted in Japanese control of key Chinese and Korean territory and resources, the policy was announced in 1899 to forestall the establishment of autarkic “spheres of influence” across other areas of China and coastal Asia. Anxiety abounded among American business classes that beside Japan Russia was encroaching in Manchuria, that Britain would capitalize on its control of Hong Kong and Shanghai to enlarge its sphere, and that rapidly emergent Germany would also gain concessions, all circumstances potentially combining to close the door to the detriment of American desires to exploit China. Further south the French and Dutch were busy conquering territories later known as Vietnam and Indonesia.

Benign as they appeared the centrality of the Open Door notes cannot be overstated. The policy eventually extended the American “frontier” to the entire world. As enunciated its liberal language also asserted that such rights should also apply to all other nations. Yet as American financial and industrial dominance intensified in the early 19th Century it soon became apparent to the U.S.’s rivals that Washington and Wall Street held most of the advantages and the policy would enable the U.S. eff

But the outbreak of World War I in 1914 soon eliminated most European empires as great powers. The prime beneficiaries of that self-inflicted calamity were the U.S. and Japan, and, some may say, ultimately the Soviet Union. The future of China and its environs was thereafter to be contested between the U.S., Japan, the USSR and the Chinese themselves.

In 1799 the American Museum of the China Trade was established by Boston sea captains calling themselves the East India Marine Society and is well visited today in Salem, Massachusetts. The members regularly undertook the dangerous journey around both Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope to profit themselves and their investors by opening commercial relations with a then powerful and integrated China which had not yet succumbed to the British predation that would undermine and fatally weaken that nation’s independence until the mid-Twentieth Century. Thus American interest in and, ultimately, obsession with China began more than two centuries ago.

By the mid-1840s the London based East India Company had wrested control of what is now modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and then set its sights upon China. The principal weapon involved was a peculiar agricultural commodity native to India that ultimately served to undermine Chinese sovereignty as surely as the cannon the company unleashed upon China’s ports. Unwilling to open their commercial doors to what in their own version of an open door the British called “free trade,” the Brits simply battered those portals down in a series of “Opium Wars” that progressively enfeebled China’s central authority and led inexorably to the addiction of millions of Chinese, all to the great profit of London’s elites. Greater East Asia would soon succumb also to the incursion of the French, Germans, Russians, Japanese, even the Italians, and ultimately the Americans. The Age of Imperialism had commenced and soon Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines would be targets as well. The seeds of the 20th Century’s Asian Wars were being sown.

Lagging behind much of Europe in industrializing and stifled by the Civil War the United States, like Japan and Germany, was a latecomer to the great game of imperialism but by the turn of the 20th Century the U.S. was poised to make its move toward what most of its elites believed was America’s fated destiny.

In 1853-54 President Millard Fillmore dispatched naval Commodore Mathew Perry to Japan with the mission to “open” that nation to American commerce and to serve as a staging area for further penetration of the continent itself. The Japanese had resisted relations with the West (as did Korea and Vietnam). When the Japanese refused Perry’s demands he demonstrated the power of American cannon, an event that shattered the complacency local daimyos had about their ability to resist western incursions. Under duress from a technologically and militarily more advanced society Japanese leaders undertook the total transformation of Japanese society, leading Japan to “modernize” along western lines in every respect to overnight became a formidable military power poised to compete with Europeans and Americans on their own terms in the “scramble” to occupy and exploit East Asia. When Japan occupied much of that very territory after 1932 the Pacific War became inevitable.

Immediately after the Civil War the U.S. Navy maintained a sustained presence throughout the Pacific Ocean especially in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam where it undertook numerous armed interventions. This Asiatic Squadron’s mission was, as historian William Appleman Williams wrote, “to ensure law and order and ensure economic access…while preventing European powers…from obtaining privileges that would exclude Americans.”

By the 1890s ruling opinion demanded outlets beyond the landed frontier, to the Pacific and on to the Great China Market. Since native regimes would resist the rapacity of American penetration, as would imperial rivals, the strategy to expand markets would also require military exploits. The leading ideological exponent of the military approach was Alfred Thayer Mahan of the U.S. Navy whose work The Influence of Sea Power Upon History had enormous influence upon political elites like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.  Mahan coupled his analysis of the economic and social crisis facing the U.S. to the anxieties of the business elites about their inability to sell their growing surpluses of industrial production and called upon political leaders to leap beyond the landed frontier to the oceans and establish “colonies” as markets for the surplus and bases from which to protect and administer them. This, in turn, would require the expansion of naval power, a proposition the emerging steel and ship building trusts and their Washington confederates, especially Roosevelt, leapt to initiate. Mahan’s gaze fell upon China whose population he considered “sheep without a shepherd.” Seeing the vast land as “inefficient” he contended that its people were not entitled to control their own country, and even proposed that its capital Peking (Beijing) be moved southward out of Russian influence to become “the core around which to develop a new China.” American efforts to that end would be pursued right up to 1949.

Responding to the international dissection of their country Chinese nationalists rose against all foreigners in what became known as the “Boxer Rebellion,” during which the U.S. and others dispatched troops to crush the insurrection. Casting themselves as unselfish the Open Door policymakers cared little about what the Chinese thought but were concerned only to stake the American claim and ensure that other imperial competitors could not close the door. Meanwhile its imperial competitors understood that the U.S. was now the most powerful industrial nation, able to out produce and undercut their own rivalry and therefore to close the door and doom themselves “to an inferior position.” Left purely to economic circumstances the outcome would ensure American predominance. But none of East Asia’s imperial plunderers, especially the Japanese, were willing to accept that. Nor, most importantly, were the Chinese themselves.

In response to the the weakness of the imperial Manchu throne to counter western and Japanese predation Sun Yat-Sen and the Kuomintang, or Chinese nationalists, overthrew the monarchy and declared China a republic. But China was highly fractured and the Kuomintang soon splintered. After World War I the Chinese communist Party began to grow in influence and power and after World War II would engage in a civil war won by the communists. In the immediate aftermath of WWII General Marshall was dispatched to China to broker a government composed of both communists and nationalists but this was a fool’s errand even though simultaneously he and others had received a promise from Stalin that the Soviets would not aid the Chinese communists. They had fought the Japanese as the Nationalists had not and popular support and the tide of history carried them to victory in 1949. Having sacrificed more than 150,000 American lives in mortal combat with Japan for control of China Washington was about to lose China to the Chinese. Of course they were the wrong Chinese from the perspective of America’s ruling elites, especially the Republicans who immediately charged the Truman Administration with the loss of China. Truman refused to recognize the new communist government and supported the regime of Chiang Kai-Shek (Jiang Jieshi) who had retreated to the island of Formosa, today Taiwan.

Perceiving the hostility of the United States and fearing inevitable armed attempts to overthrow communist power in China the new leaders of that nation prepared its defenses. They would soon require them in Korea.

The Soviet Union entered the war in Asia in its last phase. Russia had plenty of reason to war with Japan since Tokyo’s government had delivered that nation a humiliating defeat in 1904-1905 and annexed Russian territory in the Far East. So it was the Red Army that delivered the death blows to Japan on the mainland of Asia as an ally of the United States. American troops played no land combat role in China or Korea. Hoping for amicable relations with the U.S. given the agreements he had reached with President Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta Stalin agreed to a co-occupation of Korea under the auspices of a United Nations mandate to work out an agreement to reunify the tiny nation. Korea had existed as a unified and cohesive country, with its own unique language and culture, despite being almost enveloped by China’s land mass, for more than a millennium.

By 1910 however, Korea had been conquered and occupied as a Japanese slave colony Theodore Roosevelt actually endorsed Japanese rule as a means of “civilizing” Korea. The Japanese sought to annex Korea entirely as they later would in Manchuria. During the period of Japanese rule (1910-1945) a resistance movement grew eventually led by Kim Il-Sung, who had fled to Moscow and turned to Soviet communism, much as Ho Chi Minh had done in disgust at Woodrow Wilson’s dismissal of the nationalist aspirations of colonized Asians. The resistance in Korea won widespread support among Koreans. Most were deeply nationalistic partisans, not committed communists but, as in the case of Vietnam, turned their loyalties toward those leaders who resisted Japanese dictatorship and not those who collaborated with their subjugators. The Japanese found willing Koreans to serve as armed police to suppress their fellow Koreans. As events unfolded from 1945-1950 the forces of Kim remained largely in the north in the Soviet zone, though his movement also had widespread support in the south where numerous armed rebellions broke out against the southern regime sponsored by Washington and their right-wing South Korean clients.

As early as 1945 the American commander in the U.S. zone, General John Hodge, “declared war” on communists whom he identified with all hostile nationalists tied to Kim Il-Sung or not. Americans employed Japanese trained armed police who violently repressed those who resisted this extreme affront. The UN had called for a plebiscite throughout the peninsula but the north refused to participate primarily because the elections in the south were forcibly controlled by American occupation forces and their southern minions and voting was limited to landowners and taxpayers thereby eliminating most ordinary peasants and factory workers, the very people who would have voted for reunification under Kim (shades of Vietnam). Shortly after the government of Syngman Rhee was inaugurated as a result of this provocative and incendiary election a major revolt broke out on the southern island of Jeju. The response by the new extremely right-wing government, was swift and exterminative. Approximately 30,000 South Koreans were slaughtered.The Jeju massacre, as it came to be known, and numerous similar atrocious purges, were among the principal motivations that led Kim Il-Sung to attempt to unify Korea by force and remove the American client government in the south. In June 1950 Kim’s forces crossed the 38th parallel, the artificial border decided in Washington and agreed by the Soviets thus precipitating the three-year long Korean War that resulted in the deaths of three million Koreans and nearly 50,000 Americans

But Rhee’s government had been attempting to cross the border itself and on the very day that the war began South Korean forces also attacked the north. Which incursion was first is still debated. At first the North Koreans swept in and almost unified the peninsula on their terms. The American press demonized to the northern Koreans seeking to reunify what had for at least a millennium an integrated, single nation as “hordes” and “barbarians” illegally invading a separate and independent nation. Then calling upon the UN to authorize a military response by forces largely composed of American troops Truman intervened in this incipient civil war and thereby initiated a large scale and utterly cataclysmic one.

The northern forces overwhelmed both the Republic of Korea troops and the limited number of American soldiers already in the south. The UN Supreme Commander, Douglas MacArthur rapidly introduced numerous combat ready troops and air power and routed the northerners and drove them back across the border. Though the UN mandate limited the military response to repelling the North Koreans MacArthur ignored orders and drove toward the Chinese border, believing that the communists would not react. But China’s foreign minister, Zhou En-Lai, warned in no uncertain terms that China would not allow American troops anywhere near China and on June Chinese troops crossed the border. Eventually numbering almost a million these forces inflicted what the U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, described as the “worst defeat since Bull Run.” Actually the rout was the worst defeat in American history for American forces by foreign troops. The legendary 1st Marine Division was sent reeling but insisted they were “advancing to the rear.”

In truth the Chinese, under ordinary military circumstances could have driven the UN Army off the peninsula entirely but the atomic bomb had changed the nature of large scale land war. Both Truman and MacArthur and, later, President Eisenhower, threatened the use of the Bomb and that resulted in Chinese withdrawal to roughly the original border. What followed was an armistice (merely a ceasefire: a technical state of war still exists) that remains in effect today although numerous infractions of its terms have been committed by both the U.S. and the Koreans on both sides. The one of most relevance to the crisis ongoing today is the U.S. repudiation of Paragraph 13(d) which obliged both sides not to introduce new weapons on the peninsula. In 1956 Eisenhower, with full support of the National Security Council, unilaterally abrogated Paragraph 13(d). By 1958 short range nuclear capable missiles were deployed in South Korea.

No threat worthy of nukes emanated from North Korea. Nor was it capable of launching another cross border attack. At least 20 % of the north’s population had been killed. All of its cities and towns were destroyed; its crops inundated and ruined in 1953when the American Air Force destroyed the dams along the Yalu River (a violation of the Geneva Convention. Nazis had been tried for exactly that war crime). North Korea was never weaker than during this period.

The message Washington wished to send was directed at both China and the Soviet Union, which had just launched Sputnik, effectively demonstrating its capacity to launch Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles that intense Cold War propaganda continued to claim were intended to pose an existential threat to the national security of the United States though Soviet ICBMs were developed in response and as a deterrent to the overwhelming air superiority and threat of the U.S.’s nuclear armed fleet of B-52 bombers, the Strategic Air Command.

The message broadcast unmistakably stipulated that America’s foot was still in the door where Washington intended it to stay and which stance it intended to defend by any means necessary. There it remains today. For their part responding in grave alarm to this deadly game of atomic chess the Chinese, and later North Korea, initiated the processes by which both would acquire nuclear weapons of their own.

Which leads us finally to today’s crisis.

A Gallup poll issued last week showed that a majority of Americans, 58%, favor war with Korea if a peaceful resolution fails. The figure climbs to 82% among Republicans. This is madness of the first order. A peaceful resolution is more than possible if the American public wakes up to realities (of the present and past) and demands such an outcome. Diplomacy actually stopped North Korea’s earlier efforts to build nukes and then in each case the U.S. violated the terms. It can happen again but the United States government will not do what is necessary owing to the longstanding commitment to the Open Door. Just this week Defense Secretary and former Marine Corps General James Mattis proposed the use of tactical nuclear weapons with his South Korean counterparts though his pronouncements to the American public insist that diplomacy is the first choice. An attack on Korea will be unimaginably cataclysmic and has every potential to threaten China and Russia and enflame nuclear apocalypse. Either we accept a nuclear armed North Korea, and that means also in all probability a nuclear armed Japan, and perhaps even South Korea, with all the increased and acute jeopardy that entails, or we accede to a catastrophic, destabilizing and potentially all out cataclysm, or the American public somehow awakens from its fantasies of exceptionalism, and realizes that the essence of U.S. foreign policy has always been aggressive and exploitive in contradiction to our claims. Eisenhower’s warning about the “Military-Industrial Complex” has become a cliche but he was dead serious. The most powerful, and decisive branch of the American ruling class is that faction and it has held sway since 1945. Unless the public comprehends that this reality has brought us to the brink of global catastrophe, and then demands a fundamental reordering of our national priorities we face a  future fraught with extreme jeopardy.

The latest heir to the North Korean throne, Kim Jong-Un, like all despots, wishes above all to remain in power. The North Koreans are not jihadists intent on martyrdom. It is perfectly clear to any rational observer that North Korean nukes are intended as a deterrent to Washington’s nukes, which, history demonstrates, is based on obvious reality. They are not a means to suicide. At the same time if Kim believes his avowed enemy will try to overthrow his rule he will unleash what we now know is a formidable arsenal of conventional weapons on the southern capital of Seoul, where more than 20 million people live including about 200,000 Americans, civilians and military personnel. A conventional attack alone will result in millions of deaths and injuries and will destroy the 5th largest economy on the planet, in which American capital has been heavily invested, both in the military-industrial complex and, since the 1950s the creation of the modern Korean industrial and financial system (Think Hyundai auto and steel, Samsung. Where did their capital originate? Why did American capital abandon what is now the Rust Belt for better financial and profit climes in Asia?). Such a war will involve millions of refugees, many streaming into China and Russia, both of which share borders with Korea. But since we also know that the northern regime has nuclear weapons which will be launched at American bases and Japan, we ought to be screaming from the rooftops that an American attack will unleash those nukes, potentially on all sides, and the ensuing desolation may rapidly devolve into a nightmarish day of reckoning for the entire human species.

Korea remains divided today because the armistice that ended warfare in 1953 was enacted because of China’s intervention and because the U.S. could not wage total war on China because that would have set off World War III and very possibly nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Absent those facts and overwhelming American firepower would have crushed North Korea. Under no circumstances, however, would China or Russia, have allowed this outcome then or now. Nor will they sit passively and allow a colossal inferno and nuclear radiation to envelop much of northeast coastal Asia today though if that commences then catastrophe follows. To be frank, an American attack on North Korea, even with conventional weapons, will immediately turn nuclear on the North Korean side. South Korea, Japan and American bases within range will be targeted and the American response will also be nuclear. I doubt that any bookie would take bets that China and Russia will remain passive and neutral.

For more than a century China has resisted and fought against foreign domination and intervention, as have most of the nations of Asia. China is now a superpower and despite calling itself communist it is a formidable capitalist competitor with the West and Japan. When American policy strategists finally had to concede that China had indeed been lost to American financial and commercial dominance in the early 1950s they immediately turned their attention to the remainder of East Asia. Thus the calamity visited upon Vietnam: Thus massacres and purges in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, East Timor. If China itself closed the open door then American ruling class strategy resolved to keep it open throughout the rest of Asia. That is why the Obama Administration (with much influence from Hillary Clinton) conceived the military “pivot to Asia” paralleled by the Trans Pacific Partnership, which aimed at corporate supremacy over governmental regulations, both foreign and domestic, and now on hold in the Trump administration

The U.S. will always be able to trade with any other nation if it accepts that this cannot be on rigidly American terms. That policy is dead in Asia. While Washington has sought global dominance since the end of WWII, it has never achieved it and never will. The attempt will bring on nuclear catastrophe. I am always telling my students that the very existence of nuclear weapons in the current framework of the world’s international relations is like leaving a loaded handgun in a childcare center. Sooner or Later! But some students answer: A child care center has responsible adults who will ensure the threat is removed! Listening to the overt threats emanating from Trump himself, Secretary Mattis, UN ambassador Haley, National Security Adviser General McMaster, and Senator Lindsay Graham leaves one reeling with profound apprehension and incredulity about the sanity of such “leaders.”

All signs indicate that global warming and climate change will in the near future bring increasing human-made disasters that have every potential to increase refugees, political ruptures and more potential for war.  The only sane response is an all-out effort at global cooperation to minimize this worldwide threat and a repudiation of the geo-politics of the past. Trump’s speech to the United Nations this week repudiates the very founding basis of that institution.

The only rational and sane policy as a foundation for de-escalation is for diplomatic talks to begin among North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia and the U.S with a firm commitment from Washington to sign a formal peace treaty and to withdraw its troops and armaments from South Korea in exchange for the disassembly of North Korea’s nuclear program. China especially, also Russia would oversee the north’s nuclear disarmament. South Korea is well armed itself and does not need the U.S. to protect it and neither China nor Russia wants another war on the Korean peninsula. Nor, most importantly, do most Koreans. The U.S. has been there since 1945 to keep its foot in the door to Asia and safeguard what it has long seen as its entitlement to profit, not to protect democracy. The Open Door Policy on American terms can never be achieved. China, like it or not, will be the dominant power in East Asia and most of the other nations of Asia are coming round to accept this because the alternative is a losing proposition. The U.S. and China can find grounds for further mutually advantageous and amicable political and economic relations but these will have to be on reciprocal and honest grounds. The U.S. can also continue mutual relations with all the other nations of Asia but not on terms dictated by Washington and the major banks and corporations. The best start is for Washington to take its foot out of the door in Korea before it is too late but only a determined and truthfully informed public can make this happen.



Germany’s Heckler & Koch to stop selling guns to Israel

  • Exclusive: Iran sought chemical and biological weapons technology in Germany
  • Berlin suspends submarine deal with Israel amid corruption probe

September 20, 2017

by Anna Ahronheim

Jerusalem Post

Weapons manufacturer report says it won’t sell its guns to active war zones.

Known as Germany’s deadliest weapons manufacturer, Heckler & Koch will no longer being selling guns to war zones or countries that are corrupt, including Israel, according to the company’s most recent report.

Countries in the company’s current ban include: Israel, Mexico, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia or any African countries.

The company quietly announced the move as a side note in its most recent annual report, stating that they will now only sell to “green countries,” which they defined as being NATO-members or “NATO-equivalent” (Japan, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand) and those that met Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index.

While Heckler & Koch did not respond to an inquiry regarding why Israel was added to the list, the German economic ministry told The Jerusalem Post in an email that while they are aware of the media reports, “we don’t comment on company trials or decisions.”

According to The Guardian, the move makes Heckler & Koch the first arms company to have a more ethical export control policy than its own government. Germany, the world’s fifth largest arms exporter with a total of 6.85 billion euros ($8.22 billion) in sales last year, is in a two-year pilot phase of a new initiative to monitor the end use of its arms export.

Heckler & Koch faced harsh criticism last year when it was accused of illegally exporting close to 9,500 high-powered G3 assault rifles to Mexico between 2003 and 2011. A report from the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne accused the company of delivering around 4,800 guns to countries where exports are banned due to suspected police corruption and human rights abuses.

Company directors have reportedly promised to consider setting up a compensation fund for victims of its guns. “We can also understand moral criticism of such exports,” an anonymous company manager was quoted by Germany’s Die Welt as saying.

Arms produced by Heckler & Koch are estimated to have killed more than two million people since 1949, including Osama Bin Laden who was killed by the US army in 2011 by special forces soldiers using a version of the company’s HK416.

Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.


Turkey Desperate to Stop Kurdish Vote; 41 Killed in Iraq

September 23, 2017

by Margaret Griffis


Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım submitted a motion to the Turkish parliament on Friday asking to extend for another year Turkish military authority in Iraq and Syria — where Kurdish-dominated regions are holding elections. Turkey currently has troops stationed in Iraq that Baghdad wants out. Turkey views an independent state in either country as a threat to its own security due to the large population of Kurds there.

Turkey has continued to call on Iraqi Kurdistan to cancel its independence referendum, threatening Erbil with sanctions, but Kurdish President Massoud Barzani has rejected all demands to stop the vote. The Kurdish supreme council of the referendum underscored that sentiment by declaring that the voting would take place as scheduled on Monday. However, the councilmembers also intimated that talks with Baghdad were still possible on Saturday.

In Syria, voting was held in Kurdish controlled areas. It is the first of three elections that they hope will establish a government system in the autonomous region. It is unrelated to the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan; however, the Syrian government is as opposed to this election as Baghdad is to the independence referendum.

Security forces are in control of 39 villages in the Hawija region and 30 more in Shirqat.

At least 41 were killed and 11 were wounded:

Three people died in a bombing at a booby-trapped home in Sinjar.

Near Khanasour, clashes between Shi’ite militiamen and members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) took place. Three militiamen and two P.K.K. members were killed. Seven militiamen were wounded.

A lawyer was killed in Husseiniyat al-Rashidiya when a bomb planted on his car blew up.

A bomb in Mahmoudiya wounded four people.

In Shirqat, 23 militants were killed.

An airstrike on Basateen al-Mukhisa left five militants dead.

Three suicide bombers were killed in Garma.

A suicide bomber was killed in Salah ad Din province.


Kurds ready to pay any price for freedom, Barzani says, sticking by independence vote

September 22, 2017


ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani said on Friday that Iraq’s Kurds were ready “to pay any price for freedom”, rejecting international pressure to call off the referendum on independence planned for Monday in northern Iraq.

Addressing a rally in support of the vote in Erbil, the seat of the KRG, Barzani reacted to a United Nations Security Council statement that expressed on Wednesday concern over the potential destabilizing impact of the vote on Iraq.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Angus MacSwan


McCain to oppose latest Republican bill to sink Obamacare

The US senator has said he will oppose the latest Republican attempt to replace Barack Obama’s health care law. Another ‘nay’ from the Arizona senator could be the fatal blow, given the party’s small Senate majority.

September 23, 2017


The announcement by Arizona Senator John McCain – a Republican often at odds with President Donald Trump and who cast a deciding ‘no’ vote in July that helped defeat the second Republican repeal bill this year – could sink Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans to pass the bill before the end of September.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said of the bill proposed by Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” the senator said in a statement.

McConnell has been trying to schedule a vote by September 30, the last day on which the bill could pass with only a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate. A vote taken any later than that would have to get at least 60 votes.

To pass the Graham-Cassidy bill, the Republicans will need at least 50 votes in the 100-seat Senate, which they control 52-48, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a potential tie-breaking vote.

Several other Republicans are undecided, while no Democrats support the bill.

McCain said he would consider supporting the bill if it had come after extensive hearings, debate and amendment. “But that has not been the case,” he said.

The bill

The bill would take federal money spent on the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, as well as subsidies to help Americans buy private insurance, and then allocate it to the states in block grants.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – a liberal think tank in Washington – has estimated the bill would cause more than 30 million people to lose insurance.

Third time unlucky

If it fails, it would be the third failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law often referred to as “Obamacare,” which brought health insurance to millions of Americans and became former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

President Donald Trump made repealing Obamacare one of his top campaign promises in 2016. Democrats have fiercely defended it.

In July, McCain made a dramatic return to Washington from Arizona after a brain cancer diagnosis to become one of three Republican senators who helped sink their party’s earlier efforts to replace Obamacare.

After McCain’s surprising vote against that effort, Graham said in a statement he was not giving up. “We press on,” he said.

“The Jimmy Kimmel test”

Late night television host Jimmy Kimmel, who criticized the Graham-Cassidy bill on his show, thanked McCain on Twitter. “Thank you @SenJohnMcCain for being a hero again and again and now AGAIN,” he tweeted on Friday. Kimmel became part of the healthcare debate in May when he discussed his newborn son’s emergency heart surgery.

The talk show host said he felt a sense of personal betrayal from the bill’s co-sponsor Cassidy, who made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in the spring. Cassidy came on the show to promise that the health care reforms he was proposing would “pass the Jimmy Kimmel test,” meaning that no family should be denied medical care because they cannot afford it.

Kimmel said earlier this week that Cassidy “lied right to my face” by giving him false assurances of Republican health care plans. Cassidy, in turn, said the comedian was misinformed and did not understand the bill’s components.


Madrid cracks down on looming Catalonia independence vote

Local officials were arrested, though some have been released, and millions of referendum ballots have been seized. Despite the setbacks, separatist leaders are vowing to go ahead with the plebiscite

September 22, 2017


Spain is deploying thousands more federal police to the Catalan region in an effort block an October 1 independence referendum it says is illegal, and the Constitutional Court has ordered suspended pending further legal review.

Civil Guard police have arrested about a dozen regional Catalan officials and seized approximately 10 million paper ballots, dealing a severe blow to the organizers of the plebiscite.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement Friday saying the police “will be tasked with surveillance of public space and maintaining order and they will act in case the illegal referendum is maintained.”

The statement said the extra police will provide backup for the regional Catalan police, known as the Mossos d’Esquadra, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

The ministry did not say how many extra federal police are being sent but local media put the figure at 3,000 to 4,000. Three ferries docked in harbors in Barcelona and Tarragona, about 60 miles (100 km) south of the regional capital, will provide accommodation for the extra police.

They will join the approximately 5,000 state police normally based in Catalonia and around 17,000 Mossos officers.

Some 2,000 protesters, many waving red and yellow Catalan independence flags, hit the streets of Barcelona on Friday for the third day of demonstrations against the Spanish authorities’ crackdown on preparations for a banned Catalonian independence referendum.

Also Friday, a regional judge in Catalan ordered the release, with restrictions, of six Catalan officials arrested Wednesday in a crackdown on referendum preparations. A statement said the six declined to testify.Abuse of power

They remain under investigation for disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement in relation to the planned referendum and were ordered to appear before the court every week.

Hundreds of pro-independence supporters had protested outside the courthouse to demand the officials’ release.

Catalonia already enjoys considerable autonomy and is one of Spain’s wealthiest regions. It represents 20 percent of Spain’s €1.1 trillion ($1.32 trillion) economy. The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters. Polls consistently show the region’s inhabitants favor holding a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

No police in Catalonia are allowed to take time off between September 20 and October 5.

Earlier in the week, the Catalan government accused Madrid of essentially taking over the regional administration after federal police raided its offices and arrested officials. In addition, the finance ministry seized control of the local finance department amid fears that Catalan officials were using Spanish tax dollars to finance the ballot.

Despite the setbacks Catalan’s regional leader Carles Puigdemont has vowed to press ahead with the referendum, defying a court ban. .\


Outrage at Catalonia crackdown a likely spur for independence

Madrid deploys series of measures widely seen as heavy-handed in Catalonia

September 22, 2017

by Guy Hedgecoe

Irish Times

The Spanish government informed the authorities in Catalonia on Friday that it was deploying police reinforcements to the northeastern region to boost an already substantial security force presence ahead of the independence vote scheduled for October 1st.

“Their duties will be to watch over public spaces and maintain order and they will act if the illegal referendum takes place,” said interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido in a letter to the Catalan government.

That missive suggests that although the justice system has taken unprecedented steps to prevent the controversial referendum from taking place, the government still fears it may go ahead.

On Wednesday civil guards raided several premises of the Catalan regional government, arresting 14 officials believed to be involved in preparing the vote. The police also searched other properties for election-related material and seized 10 million voting slip

Those drastic actions followed the central government’s decision to take control of part of the Catalan regional finances in order to ensure public funds are not being used for the vote. In addition, about 800 Catalan mayors are under investigation for having offered their public spaces as venues for it.

Wave of indignation

The response to Wednesday’s raids within the pro-independence movement has been a combination of uncertainty, outrage and defiance. Catalan deputy premier Oriol Junqueras admitted that the police action had “changed the rules of the game”, hinting that the vote had been irreparably compromised.

But regional premier Carles Puigdemont has been more bullish, insisting it will go ahead, because his administration has “contingency plans to guarantee it, but, above all, because it has the support of the immense majority of the population, which is fed up with the arrogance and abuses of the [Spanish] government”.

Although recent polls offer varying pictures, they tend to show that Catalan society is more divided on the referendum issue than Puigdemont suggests

However, while Wednesday’s events have undoubtedly delivered a blow to the logistics of the referendum, they have sparked a wave of indignation that is likely to benefit the independence movement.

Demonstrators took to the streets almost as soon as the civil guards had entered the regional government buildings. Although the 14 detained officials have now been released pending charges, noisy but peaceful protests have continued in Barcelona and other Catalan cities since.

“The independence camp’s problem is that they have always said ‘we represent the will of the people’, but the truth is that they don’t represent a majority in Catalonia,” says Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist at Barcelona’s Autonomous University.

“So what does the independence camp want to do?” he added. “To generate so much tension that Catalans rally round the regional government – and I’d say that [on Wednesday] they very nearly managed that.”

The Basque angle

Support for Catalan independence has been hovering between 40-45 per cent in recent months, according to the regional government’s own polls. But the perception that the Spanish state and government are being heavy-handed could push many of those on the fence into the secessionist camp.

“The day support for independence hits 60 per cent, no number of civil guards will be able to stop it,” noted author and journalist Enric Juliana.

Although there has been little suggestion the central government plans to pull back from its strategy of strident financial and legal action against the Catalan government, ironically it might be restrained by other nationalists, in the Basque Country.

Rajoy is relying on support from the Basque Nationalist Party, which governs the northern region, in order to push the 2018 national budget through Congress. With historic but currently muted secessionist ambitions of its own, the Basque party is watching the central government’s handling of the Catalan crisis with a critical eye and is poised to withdraw its parliamentary support if it doesn’t like what it sees.


Germany faces first far-right party in parliament since second world war

Alternative für Deutschland could become main opposition group if Merkel keeps her coalition together, bringing raft of entitlements to populist party

September 22, 2017

by Kate Connolly

The Guardian

Germany is bracing itself for a watershed moment in its postwar history, with an overtly nationalist party is set to emphatically enter the country’s parliament for the first time in almost six decades.

Rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland has strengthened its upward trajectory in the last week before the vote, with two polls published on Friday showing the party on third place.

Founded just four years ago as an anti-euro force, the AfD is polling on between 11% and 13%, with Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and the Social Democrats dropping percentage points while the Left party slipped into fourth place.

According to polls by respected institutes INSA and Enmid on Friday, Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance was on between 34% to 36% and the SPD on between 21% and 22%. Die Linke was polling at between 10% and 11%, the pro-business Liberal Democrats on 9% and the Greens had crept up to 8%.

The results would pave the way for the continuation of a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD or a so-called Jamaica Coalition between Merkel’s conservatives and the FDP and Greens, never before seen on the national stage.

AfD leaders have urged their members to act as election observers, keeping a close eye on the voting process amid mounting suspicions within the party that their results might be manipulated, citing the threat the party posed to the established parties.

The AfD, under their top candidates Alice Weidel, a 38-year-old management consultant – who has made much of her same-sex relationship in recent days – and Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old German nationalist with strong anglophile leanings, have made considerable strides over the course of the campaign in spite of a rightward lurch in its rhetoric criticised even by the party’s leader.

Vowing in its manifesto to ban all mosques and minarets, prohibit Muslim calls to prayer and criminalise people wearing the veil, the AfD has also called for a change in attitude to Germany’s historic crimes in the second world war.

If polls are accurate, the AfD is expected to garner between 60 and 85 parliamentary seats, and would become the largest opposition group in parliament if Merkel’s conservative alliance and the SPD agreed to continue their coalition.

Among the entitlements it would receive as a result would be the influential chair of the budget committee as well as top positions on the committees of everything from the broadcasting council to the parliamentary assembly of the European council, as well as the right to be sent to meetings of international organisations such as Nato or the United Nations as representatives of the Bundestag.

Created four years ago in protest at the eurozone bailout of Greece by a group of academics bankers and economists, the AfD already appeared to be a spent force by 2015. But Merkel’s decision that same year to allow more than 1 million refugees to enter Germany reanimated the party. Amid fears over inner German security, its popularity soared as it responded with demands to restrict asylum rights and to seal Germany’s borders and developed a strong anti-Islamic rhetoric.

It is currently represented in 13 of 16 regional parliaments.

With around a third of voters still undecided as to how they will vote, some pollsters have warned that the AfD’s result could be even higher than 13%, referring to those voters, some distrustful of pollsters, who either refuse to divulge their voting preferences or choose to lie about them. Polling institutes have previously underestimated support for the AfD most significantly in Saxony Anhalt, where ahead of regional elections last year they were predicted to get 18% but ended up with 24%.

A poll by the tabloid Bild said that almost 40% of Germans believe the party could do better than predicted.

The AfD has continued to go from strength to strength despite a series of scandals.

Gauland prompted outrage when he said Germans had the right to be proud of its soldiers in both world wars, a statement that completely contravenes a consensus in German politics to condone anything to do with Germany’s role in the war.

He also said the government’s commissioner for integration, Aydan Özoguz, who has Turkish roots, should be “disposed of in Anatolia”.

Then came an email written by Weidel in 2013 which was published in the German press in which she described the government as pigs, calling them “nothing other than puppets of the victorious powers of the second world war, tasked with keeping the German people down.” Having initially denied its authenticity, Weidel’s lawyer has stopped suggesting it was a fake.

At a final press conference earlier this week, Gauland and Weidel pledged to shake up the Bundestag by introducing a far more argumentative tone, insisting that the prevailing mood of consent had greatly damaged German democracy. They also said they would pursue their attempts to have Angela Merkel prosecuted for breaking the law over her open door refugee policy. “It is imperative that we define the political background in the Bundestag so that we can come to a clear legal solution,” Gauland said.

Even the AfD’s head, Frauke Petry, once considered a firebrand in her own right but who has since been greatly marginalised, criticised her colleagues and sought to distance herself from them, saying they were putting off many middle class voters. “I can understand why they are horrified,” she said.

On Thursday, Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff urged voters to stay at home rather than vote for the AfD, prompting a strong backlash from other politicians who called his remarks defeatist.

“Pleading with people to abstain from participating in the parliamentary elections amounts to a capitulation of the Christian Democrats before the rightwing populists,” Sigmar Gabriel, the foreign minister and leading Social Democrat said.


Islamophobic U.S. Mega-Donor Fuels German Far-Right Party With Viral Fake News

September 22 2017

by Lee Fang

The Intercept

The rise of Alternative for Germany, the new far-right political party competing in the upcoming federal election, has unsettled the consensus-driven, moderate politics of postwar Germany with its rabid anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, unabashed nationalism, and winking gestures embracing the country’s Nazi past.

Election-watchers expected a flood of fake news and inflammatory social media aiding Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials, AfD, to come from Russia. But one of the major publishers of online content friendly to the far-right party is an American website financed in large part and lead by Jewish philanthropist Nina Rosenwald.

Rosenwald’s site, the Gatestone Institute, publishes a steady flow of inflammatory content about the German election, focused on stoking fears about immigrants and Muslims. In one of the most recent posts, the website warns of the construction of mosques in Germany and claims that Christianity is becoming “extinct.”

The Gatestone posts, which are often translated into German, are regularly promoted by AfD politicians and AfD-related social media groups to justify the party’s crusade against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.

One viral Gatestone story claimed that Germany was “confiscating homes to use for migrants.” The piece — which was shared by AfD supporters, including Thomas Rudy, a senior AfD politician in the central German state of Thuringia — claimed that vacant homes in Hamburg were seized by local authorities seeking new housing solutions for the “hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.”

The article closed with a question about what might happen next: “Will authorities now limit the maximum amount of living space per person, and force those with large apartments to share them with strangers?”

Local German press, however, condemned the Gatestone story as false. A single house in Hamburg went into temporary trusteeship after several apartments at the home remained vacant. “Refugees did not play a role in the district’s decision,” fact-checking website Correctiv noted.

The story was typical of Gatestone’s approach. The website’s Germany-related coverage includes story after story about migrants raping German women, claims that migrants are bringing “highly infectious diseases” to Germany, and Muslims are transforming entire German neighborhoods into “no-go zones” where local police have lost control. Many of the claims about Muslims in Europe have been debunked as false or sensationalized.

Gatestone articles in the past have notably elevated Björn Höcke, an AfD leader who represents the party’s far-right faction. Höcke has since sparked controversy in January with a firebrand speech denouncing German guilt over its Nazi past and criticizing the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, claiming that Germans suffer from a “mentality of a totally vanquished people.”

Gatestone articles are also regularly reprinted by far-right German blogs and web forums that are popular among AfD’s grassroots base. Philosophia Perennis and Politically Incorrect News, two popular sites that specialize in German nationalist content, routinely syndicate Gatestone’s articles. Gatestone content can also be found on Krautchan, a German knockoff of 4chan, the online forum frequented by the far right.

An episode of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s podcast, Reveal, exploring the rise of AfD found supporters yelling Nazi-era slogans, including lügenpresse, a term for “lying press,” at a recent campaign event.

Rosenwald, the president and funder of Gatestone, did not respond to a request for comment. She is the daughter of the late William Rosenwald, a famous Jewish philanthropist who used his share of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. department store fortune to settle Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror in Europe. Nina, however, has emerged as one of the most generous donors to campaigns against Muslim refugee in the U.S. and Europe.

As The Intercept previously reported, Rosenwald’s foundation not only finances Gatestone, but also funds leading Islamophobic pundits, including Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, and David Horowitz. Horowitz is the conservative activist who mentored Stephen Miller, a White House aide who was closely involved in President Donald Trump’s executive order temporary banning individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. As journalist Max Blumenthal reported in 2012, Rosenwald is an active supporter of hardline pro-Israel groups, and a former board member at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The push to influence the German election is part of Gatestone’s broader effort to influence European elections, including ones this year in the Netherlands and France. The New York-based foundation that supports the website hired a number of writers in the Netherlands earlier this year, who primarily wrote in support of anti-immigrant political parties across Europe.

“There’s quite a lot of news, quite shocking, often with rape or violence and immigrants,” Gatestone Europe’s Timon Dias told the Washington Post. “We want people to learn what’s happening in Europe and vote accordingly, especially ahead of elections this year.”

The website is currently chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the former Bush administration official who was reportedly vetted by the Trump administration for a national security-related role, but was ultimately passed over. The Gatestone Institute lists Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Fox News pundit Pat Caddell, and Breitbart News editor Raheem Kassam as “distinguished senior fellows” who contribute to the site.

Rebekah Mercer, a major Trump donor and financial backer of Breitbart News, was listed as a member of the Gatestone Institute “board of governors” earlier this year, but her name was later removed from the website. Mercer is the daughter of billionaire hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, whose foundation has supported Gatestone over the years.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said this month that if the AfD gets its projected 10 percent share of the vote, “We will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War II.”

New polls show that AfD may place third when voters go to polls in Germany on September 24. Such a performance would mean that AfD will become the largest minor political party in Germany and enter national parliament for the first time.













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