US Trump administration, more war and torture

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump pick for new CIA director Gina Haspel oversaw torture

14 March 2018

Gina Haspel has been tipped to take over from Mike Pompeo – and become the first woman to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

But she could face a tough confirmation hearing in the senate, given past allegations she oversaw the torture of detainees in a secret CIA prison in Thailand.

She has been the agency’s deputy director since 2017.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane reports from Washington, DC.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Trump’s firing of Tillerson signals further shift toward global war

14 March 2018

President Donald Trump’s sudden firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday and the announcement of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement is bound up with the accelerating shift by the US administration toward a policy of global war as the solution to the deep-seated crisis of American capitalism.

Fired by a morning tweet from Trump, Tillerson was reported by his aides to have had no advance warning that he was to be removed from his post. The tweet came just hours after Tillerson had returned from a week-long trip to Africa, basically an apology tour over Trump’s reference to the continent as “shithole countries”.

Trump also announced that Pompeo will be replaced by Gina Haspel, an individual who is directly implicated in crimes of torture and forced disappearances.

While Trump’s method of removing Tillerson was abrupt, rumors that the secretary of state would lose his cabinet seat had circulated for months in Washington amid the repeated interventions by the US president to undercut his supposed spokesman to the world.

In an extraordinary rebuke to the US secretary of state last October, Trump tweeted from his New Jersey golf club that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”, the nickname he had adopted for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, adding, “we’ll do what has to be done!”, suggesting military action. The tweet came just as Tillerson was holding talks with Chinese officials on the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

During the same week, it emerged that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a “moron” at a Pentagon meeting over the president’s statement to advisors that he wanted a tenfold increase in US nuclear weapons.

Whatever the frictions between the US president and Tillerson, the multi-millionaire former CEO of ExxonMobil, Trump on Tuesday pointed to a particular difference over foreign policy.

“I actually got along well with Rex but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking”, Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to California. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay. . . So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.”

With a personal fortune of over $300 million and a career that brought him to the top of one of the largest oil conglomerates in the world, Tillerson is a dedicated defender of US capitalist interests. He had significant tactical differences with Trump and others in the administration, however, including over whether some of these interests could be achieved by means of diplomatic negotiations rather than military aggression.

Tillerson was reportedly among those in the White House who last month dissuaded Trump from upending the 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and the P5+1—the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany—by refusing to sign the four-month waiver of US sanctions imposed over the nuclear program. Trump has reportedly complained that he regretted the decision and has vowed to reimpose the sanctions in May, the next waiver deadline, unless there is a deal to renegotiate the agreement, including terms that Tehran cannot and will not accept.

In an apparent response to the cabinet reshuffle, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Tuesday: “Mr Trump has made habit of being unpredictable and thus unreliable for anybody to engage with. Nobody will be interested in reaching any agreement with the White House if US signature only good for 4-8 yrs.”

Tillerson had also repeatedly spoken in favor of negotiations with North Korea, even as Trump threatened “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people.

In the end, however, Tillerson was caught off guard by Trump, who suddenly declared last week his willingness to participate in direct talks with Korea’s Kim Jong-un on the de-nuclearization of North Korea to be held by May. Trump made his announcement just a day after Tillerson had told reporters in Ethiopia that it was unclear “whether the conditions are right to even begin thinking about negotiations.”

Tillerson’s proposed replacement as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has repeatedly made clear his determination to scrap the Iran nuclear treaty and pursue a strategy of regime change in Tehran. After Trump’s election, he tweeted: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

As CIA director, Pompeo, who has repeatedly engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric, referred to Iran as a “despotic theocracy” and a “pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.”

A former US Army tank officer and right-wing Tea Party congressman from Kansas, whose political career was bankrolled by the Koch brothers, Pompeo boasted last October that under his leadership, the CIA would become a “much more vicious agency.” He directed the deployment of CIA assassination squads in Afghanistan to eliminate opponents of the US-backed regime in Kabul.

Pompeo has also made clear his support for regime change in North Korea, declaring last July that he was “hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system … The North Korean people, I’m sure, are lovely people and would love to see him go.”

Speaking on a news talk show Sunday, Pompeo stressed that in any negotiations between Trump and Kim, “there will be no concessions made.”

Sources in Washington have indicated that Trump wanted to install Pompeo as secretary of state before any negotiations began.

The appointment of Pompeo strongly suggests that the acceptance of talks with Kim is a ruse on the part of the Trump administration, aimed at paving the way to US military action.

Asked on Sunday in an appearance on ABC where there was a possibility that the talks would not take place, White House spokesman Raj Shah responded, “there’s the possibility. If it does, it’s the North Koreans’ fault, they have not lived up to the promises that they made.”

The replacement of Tillerson by Pompeo provoked worried responses from Washington’s erstwhile European allies.

“The dismissal of Rex #Tillerson does not make anything better,” German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth said in a tweet Tuesday.

Thomas Oppermann, the deputy speaker of the German parliament, meanwhile, warned that the removal of Tillerson, whom he described as “a reliable, intelligent interlocutor”, would result in a “further setback for German-American relations.” The sudden changes at the top of the US administration, he added, was a manifestation of Trump’s “capricious and erratic” methods.

Trump’s ostensible political opponents within the Democratic Party responded to the cabinet reshuffle entirely from the standpoint of the anti-Russia campaign that they have made the focus of their opposition to the administration.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said that Tillerson “was not close to tough enough on Russia”, and that he hoped that Pompeo “will be a lot tougher and we hope he can persuade the president to be tougher.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, attributed Tillerson’s firing to his having implicated Russia in connection with the poisoning of an ex-spy living in Britain. “President Trump’s actions show that every official in his Administration is at the mercy of his personal whims and his worship of Putin”, she tweeted.

When Tillerson was nominated as secretary of state, Democrats opposed him not out of concern that a top oil CEO would be taking over the senior foreign policy position in the US government, but rather over his deals he struck with Russia.

Now, far from opposing the further turn toward war by the Trump administration, they are only demanding that it focus more directly on nuclear-armed Russia.

In a statement on Tuesday, Schumer also made it clear that he was not calling on Democrats to oppose Trump’s nominee to replace Pompeo as director of the CIA, Haspel, a 30-year CIA veteran who was directly involved in the torture of detainees under the Bush administration, as well as in the destruction of video evidence documenting those war crimes.

British physicist Stephen Hawking, RIP

This video says about itself:

The Theory of Everything – Official Trailer (Universal Pictures) HD

The Theory of Everything is the story of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Wilde the arts student he fell in love with whilst studying at Cambridge in the 1960s. Little was expected from Stephen Hawking, a bright but shiftless student of cosmology, given just two years to live following the diagnosis of a fatal illness at 21 years of age.

He became galvanized, however, by the love of fellow Cambridge student, Jane Wilde, and he went on to be called the successor to Einstein, as well as a husband and father to their three children. Over the course of their marriage as Stephen’s body collapsed and his academic renown soared, fault lines were exposed that tested the lineaments of their relationship and dramatically altered the course of both of their lives.

From Reuters news agency today:

LONDON (Reuters) – Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76.

* His children Lucy, Robert and Tim:

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world. He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

* Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web:

“We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”

* Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge:

“Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularization of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed.”

In 2016, a United States American Christian religious fundamentalist threatened to murder Stephen Hawking for not being a religious fundamentalist, but an atheist.

Stephen Hawking campaigned against Tony Blair’s Trident nuclear arms plans; continued by Blair‘s Conservative successors Cameron and May.

Hawking maintained a generally left-wing political stance throughout his life, declaring that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a “war crime”: here.

This 2014 video is about the book by Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

This video says about itself:

Memorable scene from Star Trek TNG, Season 6, Episode 26 The Descent (part 1). Lieutenant Commander Data is playing poker with the most famous physics scientists of our recent history, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Simulated on the holo-deck.

TRIBUTES ARE POURING IN FOR LEGENDARY PHYSICIST STEPHEN HAWKING Who died from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 76. [HuffPost]

Trump to NATO summit, Brussels, 11/12 July?

This video from Brussels, Belgium is about the big demonstration there against the militarism of Donald Trump and NATO on 24 May 2017.

See also here.

Dutch NOS TV reported on 13 March 2018 that on 11/12 July this year there will be another NATO summit in Brussels, with Trump probably present.

One should hope that there will again be a big demonstration then, like the one in 2017.

Belgian right-wing minister of the interior Jambon wants to protect Trump and other NATO bigwigs from hearing demonstrators shout anti-war slogans and protect the warmongers from seeing pro-peace signs. So, Jambon wants 3500 police from all over the country to stop Trump and his ilk from being aware of opposition to them. However, local police are not keen of going to Brussels, so it is not certain yet whether Jambon will get his 3500 police.

Saudi warmongering crown prince, darling of British corporate media

This video from London, England says about itself:

Saudi crown prince’s visit to UK sparks protests in London
7 March 2018

There were crowds of protesters and supporters of the royal visit on Downing Street, being separated by police. They gathered as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held the first of two meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May and her senior ministers.

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Media: The Saudi prince’s state visit was a clear example of propaganda

The adverts for Mohammed bin Salman that smeared the papers last week show how the corporate media serves as a mouthpiece for the powerful, writes BEN COWLES

LAST week showed up the Orwellian nature of Britain’s so-called free press.

The corporate newspapers ran advertisements declaring that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “empowering women” and “bringing change to Saudi Arabia”.

And while the Guardian ran stories last week entitled “The crown prince doesn’t listen to Saudis — why would he listen to Theresa May?” and “A national disgrace: fury over £100m aid deal between UK and Saudi Arabia”, its edition of Wednesday March 7 included three half-page ads in praise of the man at the front of the paper.

What change is the crown prince of a theocratic, absolutist monarchy bringing to 21st-century Saudi Arabia? Well, his regime is allowing women to drive, apparently.

With no thanks to this crown prince and his misogynist regime. 100% of thanks to the courageous Saudi women’s movement, persisting in spite of being jailed, flogged and tortured for driving.

Hurray. Next he’ll be empowering women by allowing them to go outside without a male chaperone, to wear whatever they chose, hang around with whomever they want whenever they want, and maybe even vote.

Oh wait, no-one gets to vote for anything in a despotic kingdom, do they?

The country’s human rights record is atrocious. Amnesty International’s summary of last year notes: “The authorities severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Many human rights defenders and critics were detained and some were sentenced to lengthy prison terms after unfair trials … Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common.

“Despite limited reforms, women faced systemic discrimination in law and practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. The authorities used the death penalty extensively, carrying out scores of executions. The Saudi-led coalition continued to commit serious violations of international law in Yemen.”

Oh yes, Yemen. Since 2015, the Saudis have led an international bombing campaign in the country, killing at least 10,000 people and regularly carrying out what observers say are war crimes — all with British weapons, British training and even British advisers in the Saudi war room.

Oxfam reported last year that “the number of people with cholera in Yemen is now the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year since records began.”

The world’s major arms exporters — which include the UK and US — are making more money from arming the Saudi-led coalition force than they are spending on Yemen’s humanitarian appeal.”

Oxfam pointed out that, in 2016, Saudi Arabia spent nearly £2.1 billion on British and US weapons and, as of last July, those same governments had given just £446m towards the £1.15bn UN appeal for Yemen.

Could the reason why Theresa May, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and other neoliberal leaders don’t harp on about regime change in Saudi Arabia — as opposed to, say, Iran — be because it supports Western capitalism by dishing out its oil, buying up Western weapons and backs imperialist foreign policy in the region?

With friends like these, how can the British Establishment wag its fingers at Venezuela, Cuba or anyone for that matter? Imagine the uproar in the corporate press if the Morning Star were to carry advertisements for Raul Castro or Nicolas Maduro.

Why then did British newspapers — especially the Guardian, which presents itself as the world’s leading liberal voice — agree to smear their newspapers with Saudi propaganda during Mohammed bin Salman’s state visit to Britain? The answer of course is money.

Corporate media is dependent on advertisers to survive and the reason why the mainstream press can sell their papers below the cost of production. In effect, the readers of the Sun, Mail, Express, Independent, Metro, Guardian and so on are the product sold to corporate advertisers. The nature of this business model means profits come before truth.

In their seminal 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, US dissident academics Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky describe how the corporations which own the media shape and control news coverage so that it is framed in a favourable way to their interests.

The authors describe how every story passes through five filters before making it into print. Articles are influenced — though largely not directly meddled with — by the owners, the advertisers, the sources used to gather and comment on the news, the flak newspapers face for stepping out of line, and a prevailing acceptance of the dominant ideology — anti-communism at the time the book was written.

Herman and Chomsky highlight the differences in news coverage between those killed by the West and its allies and those killed by the West’s enemies.

They state that “worthy victims will be featured prominently and dramatically, that they will be humanised, and that their victimisation will receive the detail and context in story construction that will generate reader interest and sympathetic emotion. In contrast, unworthy victims will merit only slight detail, minimal humanisation, and little context that will excite and enrage.”

One example they give is that of Archbishop Oscar Romero, recently confirmed as a saint by Pope Francis, who was assassinated in a El Salvador hospital chapel by a US-armed and trained death squad but whose murder was played down by the US media.

The corporate media’s role as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Establishment is the reason why the war in Yemen, Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds, and the Western-backed al-Qaida forces in Syria received such scant coverage. It’s also the reason why the blood-soaked crown prince of a medieval state has his face all over our papers.

NATO governments support Saudi dictatorship

This video says about itself:

Western Governments Whitewash Saudi Dictator Mohammed bin Salman as “Reformer”

12 March 2018

While the U.S. and European governments claim Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is dedicated to “reform”, analyst Ali al-Ahmed says this is propaganda that covers up his crimes in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

This video says about itself:

Will Trump Help Saudi Arabia Build a Nuclear Program?

12 March 2018

Media reports say the U.S. is considering selling nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. Analyst Ali al-Ahmed is skeptical, and says Trump has just removed the fig leaf of concern for human rights abuses by the Gulf dictatorship.

British demonstrations against Turkish invasion of Syria

This 27 January 2018 video is about a big demonstration in Cologne, Germany against the Turkish military invasion of northern Syria.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Turkey’s attack on Afrin sparks more demonstrations

PROTESTS against Turkey’s military offensive on Syria’s Afrin escalated around Britain yesterday.

Further protests took place in Yorkshire, following weekend protests at major rail stations in Cardiff, London and Manchester.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through central London on Sunday evening, with activists shutting down Kings Cross station to raise awareness of the involvement of British arms trade deals.

Demonstrators closed off the roads in Westminster, where a speaker announced: “We are sorry for the inconvenience, but people are dying.”

Activists chanted: “Wake up UK, stop defending Turkish state” and “Turkish state is Isis.”

Piccadilly station in Manchester was also occupied as activists jumped onto the tracks, cancelling trains coming in and out of the city.

Former PYD leader Salih Muslim spoke at a meeting by Kurdistan National Congress and the Committee to Protect Afrin on Sunday and said it was “unacceptable” that Turkey was “massacring people in Afrinwith European weapons.

He said: “Afrin is a continuation of the massacres in Sur, Cizre, Nusaybin and Shengal.

“The Turkish state seeks to finalise its massacres against Armenians, Syriacs and Kurds in the 20th century.”