Category: Michael Curtis

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Spies, Enticing and Otherwise



The new art form is cyber-espionage, obtaining secrets and classified information from individuals, companies, or governments using the internet.



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Sweden (Still) Resists the Right


Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather.  The concern about an increase in the popularity of the far-right political party and national populism was the theme song of forecasters and commentators of the parliamentary general election on September 9, 2018 in Sweden.  The general belief was that the far-right Sweden Democrat party, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment, would increase its share of the vote, perhaps to about 30%, and become the leading party in the country.  The forecasts were only partly correct.  The party did increase its share of the vote by 4.7% but obtained only just under 18%.  Different conclusions may be drawn; the optimistic one is that Sweden only partly followed the path of far-right parties in other European countries in recent years.

Far-right populist movements have grown in strength in European countries – in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, as well as in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and France.  The biggest threat to the European Union’s program comes from Viktor Orbán, prime minster of Hungary, who has refused to accept E.U. refugee quota arrangements and challenged the leadership of E.U.  Orbán has been rebuked by the European Parliament, which approved a report that he threatened the rule of law by hampering press and academic freedom and then voted to censure Hungary.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be with the arrival in Europe of immigrants bringing uncertainty and often violence.  Sweden, if no longer a socialist utopia, with its broad liberal consensus, generous welfare state, and social peace, ruled for long periods by Social Democrats, seemed to typify Newton’s law of inertia: an object at rest will stay at rest.

For most of the world, Sweden is a country best known for Nobel Prizes; Abba, the pop group quartet, who started in 1972; Ingrid Bergman, who left Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca; film director Ingmar Bergman; playwright August Strindberg; and IKEA, founded by a 17-year-old in 1943, the firm of modernist designs appliances and furniture and now the world’s largest furniture retailer, delicious meatballs, and pickled herring.  Sweden is an affluent and progressive country with a strong welfare system and high tax rates.

The country is now also one of fragmented political landscape and voter volatility. 

At the general election on September 9, 2018, about 41% of voters said they voted for a different party from 2014.  In a high turnout of 84%, the result was inconclusive, with eight parties being represented in the parliament, leaving the country in political uncertainty about the formation of a coalition government, with the two major blocs almost equal and the far-right Sweden Democrats an outsider.  One bloc is center-left (consisting of Social Democrats, Left, Greens), getting 40.7% and 144 seats, and the other is center-right (Christian Democrats, Moderate, Liberals, Center), getting 40.3% and 143 seats.  The Sweden Democrats, the far-right party outside the blocs, who got 6% in 2010, got 17.6% of the vote in 2018, the third largest proportion, and 62 seats.

Both of the two blocs are short of a majority, and any government will need support from the opposite bloc for policy approval since neither wants support from the Sweden Democrats.  The major parties all lost votes and seats in the new Riksdag of 349.  The Social Democrats, the largest party, often got 45% of the vote in the past but this time received only 28.4% of the vote, down 3% since 2014, and won 101 seats.  It is still the largest party.  The opposition Moderates, who adopted some of the far-right ideology, had 30% of the vote in 2010 but now, with 19.8%, lost 3.5% and got 70 seats.  Thus, there was less support for mainstream politics and parties, in spite of the fact that they had accepted a moratorium on asylum-seekers, the deportation of illegal aliens, and stronger rules for citizenship.

The Sweden Democrats did better, though the party’s increase was less than the rise of 7.2% between 2010 and 2014 and less well than expectations.  What, then, explains the rise in far-right support, the increase in populism, the dislike of globalization?  A number of issues disturbed the country: shortage of doctors, teachers, police; and violence in the city of Malmö, especially in the foreign-populated Rosengard area, that some regard as a no-go area, with its violent anti-Semitic outbreaks, general lack of safety, increase in gangland shootings, crime, rape, and murder.  In 2017, there were 320 shootings and 7,226 rapes, over half committed by foreigners, the immigrants.

The key is immigration, stress on identity politics, and concern about crime and lack of law and order.  One fifth of Sweden’s 10 million have foreign roots, and many are not well integrated.  Unemployment is 4% among natives but 16% among foreign-born and 23% for non-European immigrants, who are accused of a disproportionate number of crimes, terrorism, and lack of Swedish values of tolerance and openness.

Clearly, the most important factor is criticism of immigration.  In 2015, Sweden admitted 162,000 immigrants, the second largest number of migrants per capita of any E.U. nation.  As a result of public criticism, the number dropped to 26,000 in 2017.

The Sweden Democrats party, founded in 1988, is led by 39-year-old Jimmie Akesson, a charismatic speaker, usually casually dressed, a college dropout and heavy gambler.

The dilemma remains for a period of negotiation, and the evidence is mixed because of the relative weakness of the mainstream parties, which must now deal with the immigration issue.  The country now has a fragmented legislature and possibly a weak government.  It will take some time to agree on a new coalition government.  Already the present prime minister, Social Democrat Stefan Lofven, P.M. since 2014, has rejected a demand from Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition center-right Moderates since 2017, to help form a coalition.

One problem is that if the two blocs joined in a grand coalition, the Sweden Democrats could claim they are the only opposition group.  But this does not indicate that the far right will play a role similar to that in other European countries.  Akesson, the party’s leader since 2005, insists that the Muslim population is the biggest foreign threat to Sweden since World War II.  With the existing concentration on immigration and opposition to refugees and migrants, the far right will have some influence until the mainstream parties deal with the issue.

It is gratifying that the Sweden Democrats did not do as well as some had feared.  The question for the country is whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.  When the worst are full of passionate intensity, for a healthy political system, the center must hold.  As Mark Twain once wrote, if your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.

Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather.  The concern about an increase in the popularity of the far-right political party and national populism was the theme song of forecasters and commentators of the parliamentary general election on September 9, 2018 in Sweden.  The general belief was that the far-right Sweden Democrat party, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment, would increase its share of the vote, perhaps to about 30%, and become the leading party in the country.  The forecasts were only partly correct.  The party did increase its share of the vote by 4.7% but obtained only just under 18%.  Different conclusions may be drawn; the optimistic one is that Sweden only partly followed the path of far-right parties in other European countries in recent years.

Far-right populist movements have grown in strength in European countries – in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, as well as in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and France.  The biggest threat to the European Union’s program comes from Viktor Orbán, prime minster of Hungary, who has refused to accept E.U. refugee quota arrangements and challenged the leadership of E.U.  Orbán has been rebuked by the European Parliament, which approved a report that he threatened the rule of law by hampering press and academic freedom and then voted to censure Hungary.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be with the arrival in Europe of immigrants bringing uncertainty and often violence.  Sweden, if no longer a socialist utopia, with its broad liberal consensus, generous welfare state, and social peace, ruled for long periods by Social Democrats, seemed to typify Newton’s law of inertia: an object at rest will stay at rest.

For most of the world, Sweden is a country best known for Nobel Prizes; Abba, the pop group quartet, who started in 1972; Ingrid Bergman, who left Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca; film director Ingmar Bergman; playwright August Strindberg; and IKEA, founded by a 17-year-old in 1943, the firm of modernist designs appliances and furniture and now the world’s largest furniture retailer, delicious meatballs, and pickled herring.  Sweden is an affluent and progressive country with a strong welfare system and high tax rates.

The country is now also one of fragmented political landscape and voter volatility. 

At the general election on September 9, 2018, about 41% of voters said they voted for a different party from 2014.  In a high turnout of 84%, the result was inconclusive, with eight parties being represented in the parliament, leaving the country in political uncertainty about the formation of a coalition government, with the two major blocs almost equal and the far-right Sweden Democrats an outsider.  One bloc is center-left (consisting of Social Democrats, Left, Greens), getting 40.7% and 144 seats, and the other is center-right (Christian Democrats, Moderate, Liberals, Center), getting 40.3% and 143 seats.  The Sweden Democrats, the far-right party outside the blocs, who got 6% in 2010, got 17.6% of the vote in 2018, the third largest proportion, and 62 seats.

Both of the two blocs are short of a majority, and any government will need support from the opposite bloc for policy approval since neither wants support from the Sweden Democrats.  The major parties all lost votes and seats in the new Riksdag of 349.  The Social Democrats, the largest party, often got 45% of the vote in the past but this time received only 28.4% of the vote, down 3% since 2014, and won 101 seats.  It is still the largest party.  The opposition Moderates, who adopted some of the far-right ideology, had 30% of the vote in 2010 but now, with 19.8%, lost 3.5% and got 70 seats.  Thus, there was less support for mainstream politics and parties, in spite of the fact that they had accepted a moratorium on asylum-seekers, the deportation of illegal aliens, and stronger rules for citizenship.

The Sweden Democrats did better, though the party’s increase was less than the rise of 7.2% between 2010 and 2014 and less well than expectations.  What, then, explains the rise in far-right support, the increase in populism, the dislike of globalization?  A number of issues disturbed the country: shortage of doctors, teachers, police; and violence in the city of Malmö, especially in the foreign-populated Rosengard area, that some regard as a no-go area, with its violent anti-Semitic outbreaks, general lack of safety, increase in gangland shootings, crime, rape, and murder.  In 2017, there were 320 shootings and 7,226 rapes, over half committed by foreigners, the immigrants.

The key is immigration, stress on identity politics, and concern about crime and lack of law and order.  One fifth of Sweden’s 10 million have foreign roots, and many are not well integrated.  Unemployment is 4% among natives but 16% among foreign-born and 23% for non-European immigrants, who are accused of a disproportionate number of crimes, terrorism, and lack of Swedish values of tolerance and openness.

Clearly, the most important factor is criticism of immigration.  In 2015, Sweden admitted 162,000 immigrants, the second largest number of migrants per capita of any E.U. nation.  As a result of public criticism, the number dropped to 26,000 in 2017.

The Sweden Democrats party, founded in 1988, is led by 39-year-old Jimmie Akesson, a charismatic speaker, usually casually dressed, a college dropout and heavy gambler.

The dilemma remains for a period of negotiation, and the evidence is mixed because of the relative weakness of the mainstream parties, which must now deal with the immigration issue.  The country now has a fragmented legislature and possibly a weak government.  It will take some time to agree on a new coalition government.  Already the present prime minister, Social Democrat Stefan Lofven, P.M. since 2014, has rejected a demand from Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition center-right Moderates since 2017, to help form a coalition.

One problem is that if the two blocs joined in a grand coalition, the Sweden Democrats could claim they are the only opposition group.  But this does not indicate that the far right will play a role similar to that in other European countries.  Akesson, the party’s leader since 2005, insists that the Muslim population is the biggest foreign threat to Sweden since World War II.  With the existing concentration on immigration and opposition to refugees and migrants, the far right will have some influence until the mainstream parties deal with the issue.

It is gratifying that the Sweden Democrats did not do as well as some had feared.  The question for the country is whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.  When the worst are full of passionate intensity, for a healthy political system, the center must hold.  As Mark Twain once wrote, if your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.



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The Use of Poison in International Politics


The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.  This tongue-twisting line, uttered by Danny Kaye in the 1956 film The Court Jester, grounds perhaps the funniest scene in Hollywood movies, but it is also relevant to past and present attempts and actions to commit murder by operatives of the Russian regime.

Hamlet’s father knew of the vial of poison poured into his ear that moved like quicksilver though the veins and curdled the blood.  British officials during World War II were successful in preventing a similar poisoning of the well known writer, artist, gardener, protector of the Barbary Apes in Gibraltar, 1953 Nobel Prize winner for literature, and smoker of 3,000 cigars a year and 250,000 in his lifetime, Winston Churchill.

We now learn from documents recently revealed that the prime minister was protected by the British secret service in extraordinary fashion.  All his cigars, bought or given to him by well wishers, were tested on mice to ensure they were not poisoned with cyanide by Nazi spies.  The head of MI5’s counter-intelligence, Victor Rothschild, believed there might be “tiny explosives” in the cigars, which would detonate when lit.  In addition, MI5 tested, and no doubt tasted, a case of 1798 Armagnac given Churchill by a French general he met in Parliament Square, close to the House of Commons.  The expensive liquor was tested on a cat, who survived, as did Churchill.

None of the cigars was poisoned.  They remain valuable.  Likewise, various exhibitions have indicated the value of objects associated with Emperor Napoleon.  A baton used at his ceremony to become emperor at Notre Dame in 1804 was sold for 100,000 euros and his first wedding certificate for 25,000 euros.  Objects of the less majestic Churchill, if not equally valuable, are sought.  At an auction in Boston in March 2018, the two-inch butt of a La Corona Habana, said to come from the cigar smoked by Churchill in 1947, was sold for $12,000.

The use of poison has claimed the lives of prominent individuals throughout history.  Among those murdered or suspected of having been poisoned are Alexander the Great; Emperor Augustus; Emperor Claudius; the victims of the Borgias, Medicis, and Viscontis; and the Venetian Council of Ten.

More immediately relevant is the legacy of the Special Office, “The Cell,” created in the Soviet Union in 1921, the first poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services that became an institute in the KGB.  Among its actions were assassination of critics of the regime: Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian writer working for the BBC in London, killed in 1978 by a poisoned pellet shot from an umbrella, and Alexander Litvinenko, former officer of the KGB and FSB, the Federal Security Service, on November 23, 2006 from a drink poisoned with Polonium-210 after meeting with two Russians in the Millennium London hotel.

Litvinenko had accused his superiors of murdering Boris Berezovsky, had held that Vladimir Putin’s rise to power was the result of a coup organized by the FSB, and accused Putin of ordering the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.  She, who had criticized Russian military and governmental actions in Chechnya, was murdered on October 7, 2006 in the elevator in her apartment house.  It needs no explanation that Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, now a political activist opposing the policies of Putin, drinks only bottled water, eats food prepared by his bodyguards, and lives in New York City.

In 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention outlawed the production and use of chemical weapons but was disregarded by President Assad in Syria.  Now, as a result of murders and attempted murders of Russians in Britain, especially the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, the issue of poison has become an important one, if not the central one, in Western relations with Russia as two announcements show.  One by Prime Minister Theresa May is that two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Rusian Boshirov, probably aliases, alleged members of the GRU, were charged with murder in Salisbury.  They are unlikely to come to trial and probably were killed in Russia to hide traces of their alleged crime.  The second is the announcement by the British home secretary, Sajid Javid, that the government is reopening the investigation of the deaths, said to number 14, of ex-Russians suspected of having been murdered by poison and other methods in the U.K. in recent years.

An investigation of this kind will take some time, considering the number of victims.  Among them is Nikolai Glushkov, found on March 12, 2018, strangled in his home in New Malden, southwest London.  Glushkov, who had been deputy director of the Russian state airline Aeroflot, was accused in Russia of criminal conspiracy and sentenced in 1999 to five years in prison for “money laundering and fraud.”  He sought asylum in U.K. in 2006.  He had previously got no kick from champagne, but in the company of two Russians in a Bristol grand hotel, he drank a glass of the liquid that had been poisoned.  His problem was he was a friend of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was found hanged in his bathrobe in his house near Ascot in Berkshire on March 23, 2013, but who, Glushkov said, was murdered by Russians.

Those Russians are to be found, but the two involved in the attack on Skripal have been identified as individuals with official passports and alleged to be affiliated with the GRU military agency (Main Intelligence Directorate), linked in the past to the Cheka, the NKVD, and the KGB, and which changed its name in 2010 to the G.U. (Main Division).  The stated offense is spraying, through a perfume bottle, the nerve agent Novichok on the front door of the house in Salisbury of the 63-year-old former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.  The two Skripals survived, but others died from exposure to the nerve agent.  What is important is that the GRU gets orders from the highest level of Russian government, the military, the defense ministry, and the Kremlin, possibly including Putin, but it does not report directly to the president.

In the constellation of Russian agencies, the FSB is viewed as the domestic intelligence and counter intelligence body and the SVR as the foreign intelligence service.  More attention must be paid to the GRU, the main directorate, formed as the intelligence agency of the armed forces, competing with the KGB security service.  Its head, Igor Korobov, reports to the chief of the General Staff and the defense minister. 

Most recently, the GRU has participated in hacking, using malware called X Agent, and in cyber-warfare aimed at U.S. military facilities.  It was active in the seizure of Prague’s airport in 1968, leading to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; the assassination of the Afghan president in 1979; the end of the Malaysian passenger airline in July 2014, killing all 298 aboard; the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016; and the Russian invasion of Crimea.  It is a highly disciplined organization, essentially more aggressive and more secretive than other Russian institutions, able to strike at British and U.S. facilities.

It is a useful start that the U.S. Department of Justice on July 13, 2018 indicted 12 Russians for attempting to hack U.S. emails and computer networks.  All responsible were operatives of GRU.  It is time that Congress pay more attention to and take action against the GRU menace.  Perhaps Special Counsel Robert Mueller might more profitably turn his attention to this rather than to the seemingly endless search for a mole in the 2016 electoral campaign of Donald Trump.  More important is an answer to this question: are the actions of the GRU directly linked to the Kremlin and the office of President Putin?

The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.  This tongue-twisting line, uttered by Danny Kaye in the 1956 film The Court Jester, grounds perhaps the funniest scene in Hollywood movies, but it is also relevant to past and present attempts and actions to commit murder by operatives of the Russian regime.

Hamlet’s father knew of the vial of poison poured into his ear that moved like quicksilver though the veins and curdled the blood.  British officials during World War II were successful in preventing a similar poisoning of the well known writer, artist, gardener, protector of the Barbary Apes in Gibraltar, 1953 Nobel Prize winner for literature, and smoker of 3,000 cigars a year and 250,000 in his lifetime, Winston Churchill.

We now learn from documents recently revealed that the prime minister was protected by the British secret service in extraordinary fashion.  All his cigars, bought or given to him by well wishers, were tested on mice to ensure they were not poisoned with cyanide by Nazi spies.  The head of MI5’s counter-intelligence, Victor Rothschild, believed there might be “tiny explosives” in the cigars, which would detonate when lit.  In addition, MI5 tested, and no doubt tasted, a case of 1798 Armagnac given Churchill by a French general he met in Parliament Square, close to the House of Commons.  The expensive liquor was tested on a cat, who survived, as did Churchill.

None of the cigars was poisoned.  They remain valuable.  Likewise, various exhibitions have indicated the value of objects associated with Emperor Napoleon.  A baton used at his ceremony to become emperor at Notre Dame in 1804 was sold for 100,000 euros and his first wedding certificate for 25,000 euros.  Objects of the less majestic Churchill, if not equally valuable, are sought.  At an auction in Boston in March 2018, the two-inch butt of a La Corona Habana, said to come from the cigar smoked by Churchill in 1947, was sold for $12,000.

The use of poison has claimed the lives of prominent individuals throughout history.  Among those murdered or suspected of having been poisoned are Alexander the Great; Emperor Augustus; Emperor Claudius; the victims of the Borgias, Medicis, and Viscontis; and the Venetian Council of Ten.

More immediately relevant is the legacy of the Special Office, “The Cell,” created in the Soviet Union in 1921, the first poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services that became an institute in the KGB.  Among its actions were assassination of critics of the regime: Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian writer working for the BBC in London, killed in 1978 by a poisoned pellet shot from an umbrella, and Alexander Litvinenko, former officer of the KGB and FSB, the Federal Security Service, on November 23, 2006 from a drink poisoned with Polonium-210 after meeting with two Russians in the Millennium London hotel.

Litvinenko had accused his superiors of murdering Boris Berezovsky, had held that Vladimir Putin’s rise to power was the result of a coup organized by the FSB, and accused Putin of ordering the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.  She, who had criticized Russian military and governmental actions in Chechnya, was murdered on October 7, 2006 in the elevator in her apartment house.  It needs no explanation that Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, now a political activist opposing the policies of Putin, drinks only bottled water, eats food prepared by his bodyguards, and lives in New York City.

In 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention outlawed the production and use of chemical weapons but was disregarded by President Assad in Syria.  Now, as a result of murders and attempted murders of Russians in Britain, especially the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, the issue of poison has become an important one, if not the central one, in Western relations with Russia as two announcements show.  One by Prime Minister Theresa May is that two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Rusian Boshirov, probably aliases, alleged members of the GRU, were charged with murder in Salisbury.  They are unlikely to come to trial and probably were killed in Russia to hide traces of their alleged crime.  The second is the announcement by the British home secretary, Sajid Javid, that the government is reopening the investigation of the deaths, said to number 14, of ex-Russians suspected of having been murdered by poison and other methods in the U.K. in recent years.

An investigation of this kind will take some time, considering the number of victims.  Among them is Nikolai Glushkov, found on March 12, 2018, strangled in his home in New Malden, southwest London.  Glushkov, who had been deputy director of the Russian state airline Aeroflot, was accused in Russia of criminal conspiracy and sentenced in 1999 to five years in prison for “money laundering and fraud.”  He sought asylum in U.K. in 2006.  He had previously got no kick from champagne, but in the company of two Russians in a Bristol grand hotel, he drank a glass of the liquid that had been poisoned.  His problem was he was a friend of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was found hanged in his bathrobe in his house near Ascot in Berkshire on March 23, 2013, but who, Glushkov said, was murdered by Russians.

Those Russians are to be found, but the two involved in the attack on Skripal have been identified as individuals with official passports and alleged to be affiliated with the GRU military agency (Main Intelligence Directorate), linked in the past to the Cheka, the NKVD, and the KGB, and which changed its name in 2010 to the G.U. (Main Division).  The stated offense is spraying, through a perfume bottle, the nerve agent Novichok on the front door of the house in Salisbury of the 63-year-old former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.  The two Skripals survived, but others died from exposure to the nerve agent.  What is important is that the GRU gets orders from the highest level of Russian government, the military, the defense ministry, and the Kremlin, possibly including Putin, but it does not report directly to the president.

In the constellation of Russian agencies, the FSB is viewed as the domestic intelligence and counter intelligence body and the SVR as the foreign intelligence service.  More attention must be paid to the GRU, the main directorate, formed as the intelligence agency of the armed forces, competing with the KGB security service.  Its head, Igor Korobov, reports to the chief of the General Staff and the defense minister. 

Most recently, the GRU has participated in hacking, using malware called X Agent, and in cyber-warfare aimed at U.S. military facilities.  It was active in the seizure of Prague’s airport in 1968, leading to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; the assassination of the Afghan president in 1979; the end of the Malaysian passenger airline in July 2014, killing all 298 aboard; the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016; and the Russian invasion of Crimea.  It is a highly disciplined organization, essentially more aggressive and more secretive than other Russian institutions, able to strike at British and U.S. facilities.

It is a useful start that the U.S. Department of Justice on July 13, 2018 indicted 12 Russians for attempting to hack U.S. emails and computer networks.  All responsible were operatives of GRU.  It is time that Congress pay more attention to and take action against the GRU menace.  Perhaps Special Counsel Robert Mueller might more profitably turn his attention to this rather than to the seemingly endless search for a mole in the 2016 electoral campaign of Donald Trump.  More important is an answer to this question: are the actions of the GRU directly linked to the Kremlin and the office of President Putin?



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The Question of Palestinian Self-Determination


Peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinians will be a little late this year.  It is a truism that peace is made with your enemies, but the problem is that the latter may still continue hostilities.  This was conspicuous on September 1, 1967 at the Khartoum Summit, attended by eight Arab heads of state who called for continued belligerency against Israel and issued the “three nos” statement: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with it.  Since then, the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Hostilities persist. On September 6, 2018, a number of bus stops in Central London were plastered with signs reading, “Israel is a racist endeavor.”  This was a parody of the clause in the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, finally accepted the previous day by the British Labor Party, “that denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination such as claiming the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is anti-Semitic.  The vandalism was organized by the London Palestine Action group, which opposed to the Labor Party decision and which claimed responsibility for the signs, part of its war against “Israeli apartheid.”

Another feature of the war is waged by the 83-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the PLO and now in the fourteenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.  In a speech to the Palestinian Central Council on January 14, 2018, he declared that Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.  He demanded an apology and reparations from the U.K. for the Balfour Declaration and denied that the U.S. could be a mediator in the Middle East.  The rival Hamas, ruling the Gaza Strip, has called for the “liberation” of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre, and Haifa.

These extreme statements and behavior are indicative of the realities hindering the resolution of the conflict.  A more balanced, though not neutral, view of the conflict is presented in a brilliant, well argued, and controversial new book, Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo (Princeton University Press) by Seth Anziska, an American lecturer at University College, London.  Anziska assumes that the “Palestinian Question” is at the heart of the regional conflict.  The book is based on detailed research; interviews; recently declassified documents, especially about the 1982 Israeli war in Lebanon; and analysis of what the author calls “uncomfortable truths.”

Anziska reveals that as a student at a Yeshiva in a settlement in Gush Etzion, he became concerned with the lack of attention to the fate of Palestinians and non-Jewish inhabitants of Israel and to the issue of a Palestinian state.  That outlook, concern for Palestinians, remains at the heart of his book, with its generally critical view of Israeli policies.  Linking Camp David and the Oslo Accords, he holds that Camp David led to the “triumph of an Israeli vision” in suppressing the path to Palestinian self-determination.

Anziska goes over much of the familiar background of relations between Palestinians and Israel and believes, somewhat arrogantly, that much of it has been ignored or glossed over.  The main point of his book is to trace why the negotiations starting with the Camp David Accords of September 17, 1978 among President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and President Carter, which led to a peace treaty in 1979, did not lead to a Palestinian state.  What prevented Palestinian sovereignty?  The Accords focused not on Palestinians, but on normalization of Egypt-Israel relations, the return of Sinai to Egypt, and opening of the Suez canal to Israeli ships.  It was the first formal recognition of Israel by an Arab state.

Anziska comments that President Sadat sacrificed Palestinian rights and a Palestinian homeland for his own objectives.  Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem on November 19, 1977, and peace with Israel, whether for domestic economic reasons, strategic interests, frustration with the Geneva peace conference, movement away from the Soviet orbit, or desire for the return of Sinai to Egypt, served as a stumbling block for the PLO, to which he was hostile.

Camp David called for an autonomous self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognized the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” but it did not deal with the Palestinian right of self-determination.  Anziska emphasizes the role of Begin, who, besides wanting continuing settlement in the occupied territory, opposed the idea of Palestinian statehood and proposed limited Arab autonomy.  The inherent paradox is that a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt led to failure of Palestinian aspirations.

Anziska’s book appears on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, a meeting of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, with President Bill Clinton moderating.  The Palestinian Authority, the P.A., was set up as the official representative of the Palestinian people and given limited self-government of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, but not as a Palestinian state.  The Accords called for withdrawal of Israeli military from Palestinian territories.

Anziska implies that Arafat could be a partner in the peace process and that the PLO was moving from armed struggle to diplomacy.  This has always seemed a remote possibility.  Rabin later confessed to Elie Wiesel that initially he thought Arafat was the solution but became convinced he was the problem.  His conviction was correct.  Arafat in a speech on May 10, 1994 in Johannesburg declared that the Oslo Accords were a modern version of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah 628, a treaty signed and soon broken.

It is arguable that Arafat was never genuinely interested in peace but cynically planning resistance.  Certainly it was he, not the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000, who was responsible for the Second Intifada in 2000 that led to death of 1,000 Israelis and 4,000 Palestinians.  Anziska partly excuses the actions of Arafat, who was constrained by the need for factional consensus, given the contending factions in the PLO.

The book provides a critical analysis of factors preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state.  At the core is Begin’s insistence on limited Palestinian self-determination and self- rule for the “Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria,” neither a nation nor people in their own right.  He criticizes the U.S. for going along with this and undermining the prospects of collective rights of self-determination.

Peace between Egypt and Israel came at expense of sovereignty of Palestine.

Anziska gives little attention to the Palestinian terrorism that was a major factor.  Among the terrorist incidents were the Munich Olympic massacre, 1972; the Achille Lauro hijacking, October 7, 1985; the First Intifada, 1987; the March 11, 1978 Fatah commando coastal road massacre, killing 30 civilians; the suicide bombing on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, 1994; and the killing of 19 at Beit Lid Junction, January 1995.

Anziska might also have given more attention to Israeli proposals for a Palestinian demilitarized state if Israel was recognized as the state of the Jewish people.  This was proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu on June 14, 2009 in his speech at Bar Ilan University; by Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000; by Ariel Sharon on December 2003; and by Ehud Olmert in January 2006.  The refusal of Palestinians to discuss the proposals is a revealing reminder that the root of the conflict is not the construction of settlements or Israeli soldiers in the West Bank; rather, it has been and remains the refusal of Palestinians to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own.

Anziska asks whether the Camp David legacy is so deeply entrenched in terms of preventing a Palestinian state that the peace process was and is bound to fail.  His controversial book provides a useful starting point for discussion, but his argument must be seen in the context of Palestinian negative actions, activism for BDS against the State of Israel, and false accusations of Israel as an apartheid and racist state.  If Benjamin Franklin were considering this context, he might have utilized the axiom, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinians will be a little late this year.  It is a truism that peace is made with your enemies, but the problem is that the latter may still continue hostilities.  This was conspicuous on September 1, 1967 at the Khartoum Summit, attended by eight Arab heads of state who called for continued belligerency against Israel and issued the “three nos” statement: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with it.  Since then, the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Hostilities persist. On September 6, 2018, a number of bus stops in Central London were plastered with signs reading, “Israel is a racist endeavor.”  This was a parody of the clause in the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, finally accepted the previous day by the British Labor Party, “that denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination such as claiming the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is anti-Semitic.  The vandalism was organized by the London Palestine Action group, which opposed to the Labor Party decision and which claimed responsibility for the signs, part of its war against “Israeli apartheid.”

Another feature of the war is waged by the 83-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the PLO and now in the fourteenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.  In a speech to the Palestinian Central Council on January 14, 2018, he declared that Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.  He demanded an apology and reparations from the U.K. for the Balfour Declaration and denied that the U.S. could be a mediator in the Middle East.  The rival Hamas, ruling the Gaza Strip, has called for the “liberation” of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre, and Haifa.

These extreme statements and behavior are indicative of the realities hindering the resolution of the conflict.  A more balanced, though not neutral, view of the conflict is presented in a brilliant, well argued, and controversial new book, Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo (Princeton University Press) by Seth Anziska, an American lecturer at University College, London.  Anziska assumes that the “Palestinian Question” is at the heart of the regional conflict.  The book is based on detailed research; interviews; recently declassified documents, especially about the 1982 Israeli war in Lebanon; and analysis of what the author calls “uncomfortable truths.”

Anziska reveals that as a student at a Yeshiva in a settlement in Gush Etzion, he became concerned with the lack of attention to the fate of Palestinians and non-Jewish inhabitants of Israel and to the issue of a Palestinian state.  That outlook, concern for Palestinians, remains at the heart of his book, with its generally critical view of Israeli policies.  Linking Camp David and the Oslo Accords, he holds that Camp David led to the “triumph of an Israeli vision” in suppressing the path to Palestinian self-determination.

Anziska goes over much of the familiar background of relations between Palestinians and Israel and believes, somewhat arrogantly, that much of it has been ignored or glossed over.  The main point of his book is to trace why the negotiations starting with the Camp David Accords of September 17, 1978 among President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and President Carter, which led to a peace treaty in 1979, did not lead to a Palestinian state.  What prevented Palestinian sovereignty?  The Accords focused not on Palestinians, but on normalization of Egypt-Israel relations, the return of Sinai to Egypt, and opening of the Suez canal to Israeli ships.  It was the first formal recognition of Israel by an Arab state.

Anziska comments that President Sadat sacrificed Palestinian rights and a Palestinian homeland for his own objectives.  Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem on November 19, 1977, and peace with Israel, whether for domestic economic reasons, strategic interests, frustration with the Geneva peace conference, movement away from the Soviet orbit, or desire for the return of Sinai to Egypt, served as a stumbling block for the PLO, to which he was hostile.

Camp David called for an autonomous self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognized the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” but it did not deal with the Palestinian right of self-determination.  Anziska emphasizes the role of Begin, who, besides wanting continuing settlement in the occupied territory, opposed the idea of Palestinian statehood and proposed limited Arab autonomy.  The inherent paradox is that a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt led to failure of Palestinian aspirations.

Anziska’s book appears on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, a meeting of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, with President Bill Clinton moderating.  The Palestinian Authority, the P.A., was set up as the official representative of the Palestinian people and given limited self-government of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, but not as a Palestinian state.  The Accords called for withdrawal of Israeli military from Palestinian territories.

Anziska implies that Arafat could be a partner in the peace process and that the PLO was moving from armed struggle to diplomacy.  This has always seemed a remote possibility.  Rabin later confessed to Elie Wiesel that initially he thought Arafat was the solution but became convinced he was the problem.  His conviction was correct.  Arafat in a speech on May 10, 1994 in Johannesburg declared that the Oslo Accords were a modern version of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah 628, a treaty signed and soon broken.

It is arguable that Arafat was never genuinely interested in peace but cynically planning resistance.  Certainly it was he, not the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000, who was responsible for the Second Intifada in 2000 that led to death of 1,000 Israelis and 4,000 Palestinians.  Anziska partly excuses the actions of Arafat, who was constrained by the need for factional consensus, given the contending factions in the PLO.

The book provides a critical analysis of factors preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state.  At the core is Begin’s insistence on limited Palestinian self-determination and self- rule for the “Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria,” neither a nation nor people in their own right.  He criticizes the U.S. for going along with this and undermining the prospects of collective rights of self-determination.

Peace between Egypt and Israel came at expense of sovereignty of Palestine.

Anziska gives little attention to the Palestinian terrorism that was a major factor.  Among the terrorist incidents were the Munich Olympic massacre, 1972; the Achille Lauro hijacking, October 7, 1985; the First Intifada, 1987; the March 11, 1978 Fatah commando coastal road massacre, killing 30 civilians; the suicide bombing on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, 1994; and the killing of 19 at Beit Lid Junction, January 1995.

Anziska might also have given more attention to Israeli proposals for a Palestinian demilitarized state if Israel was recognized as the state of the Jewish people.  This was proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu on June 14, 2009 in his speech at Bar Ilan University; by Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000; by Ariel Sharon on December 2003; and by Ehud Olmert in January 2006.  The refusal of Palestinians to discuss the proposals is a revealing reminder that the root of the conflict is not the construction of settlements or Israeli soldiers in the West Bank; rather, it has been and remains the refusal of Palestinians to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own.

Anziska asks whether the Camp David legacy is so deeply entrenched in terms of preventing a Palestinian state that the peace process was and is bound to fail.  His controversial book provides a useful starting point for discussion, but his argument must be seen in the context of Palestinian negative actions, activism for BDS against the State of Israel, and false accusations of Israel as an apartheid and racist state.  If Benjamin Franklin were considering this context, he might have utilized the axiom, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”



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The Scallops War: Food for Thought


Music may be the food of love, but the quest for food has often been the cause of friction and political insecurity.  That friction has been evident throughout history. Ancient Rome was troubled by the increase in the price of bread.  In the 15th century, 1482-84, the Salt War took place among papal forces, their Venetian allies, and the Duke of Tuscany over the salt that had been reserved to Venice, the only port allowed to trade in salt.  The famine in Ireland in the 1840s still has political overtones in British-Irish relations.  The 900-day Nazi blockage of supplies to Leningrad, September 1941 to January 1944, caused the deaths of 1.5 million Russian soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of another 1.4 million. 

The Cod War, really a number of interstate disputes in 1950, 1958, and 1972 between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic, was concluded in 1976 with the U.K. conceding a 200-nautical-mile fishing zone to Iceland.  The Turbot War between Canada and Spain for the large saltwater turbot (halibut) took place in 1995 off the coast of Newfoundland.

Now we have an outbreak of a new food war: a Scallop War between Britain and France.  Differences and rivalries between the two countries are not new in history.  If one side proclaims there’s always something fishy about the French, the other can respond that you can’t trust people who cook as badly as the English.  In the present-day context of Brexit negotiations, political and cultural animosity between the two countries is to be expected.  The Scallops War is a reminder of the 1748 painting “The Roast Beef of Old England (The Gate of Calais)” by William Hogarth, which reflects both the tension between a French soldier looking at a large side of British beef and the meat as a symbol of British wealth and power.

The night was bitter, the stars had lost their glitter, and all because of the interaction between the two countries that took a dramatic turn on August 29, 2018 and for a few days in September 2018.  The scene resembled Dover Beach, and “we are here as on darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and fight,” a bitterly internecine conflict of two allied countries, displaying lack of civility and acerbic tone.  The event on August 29 took on the appearance of ignorant armies clashing by night, even if so far no one’s life has been endangered by threatened warlike conduct.

The physical clash is in the area of the English Channel.  There, the Scallop War is being fought between British and French fishermen over the delightful Coquille Saint Jacques, one of the few species whose catch is regulated by national rather than E.U. regulations.  The battlefield is the area of international waters known as the Baie de Seine (Bay of the Seine), about 15 miles from the French coast.

The context of the issue is that U.K. fishermen can dredge for scallops all year round in the international waters in the English Channel, while France is barred from doing so during the summer months, May to September, evidently to allow the species to reproduce.  Therefore, one irony in the situation is that the U.K. claims the right to fish in French waters, which are closed to French trawlers.  The issue is complicated by the charge by the pro-Brexit group Fishing for Leave that France has caught 60% of the fish in U.K. waters over the past 40 years.

In previous years, there has been a French-U.K. agreement that the British could enter French waters for a limited number of days.  Since 2012, the U.K. agreed to limit shellfish dredging during the summer months in return for some French permits.  However, in 2018, there is no agreement.  The French complain that larger U.K. boats are being used, which can capture larger amounts of scallops and which, according to the French, leaves the seabed like a plowed field because their techniques damage the sea floor.  By present law, U.K. ships are not allowed within 12 miles of the French coast, but smaller boats can dredge for scallops in the 40-mile stretch of international waters in the Baie de Seine.

There has for many years been a problem over getting the lucrative scallops.  It has rarely led to the use of violence.  But the tension almost became war on August 29, 2018 when 35 French vessels confronted five British boats more than 12 miles off the Normandy coast, a confrontation in which stones and smoke bombs were thrown, and boats were rammed leaving holes in three vessels.

Somewhat ominously, French agricultural minister Stéphane Travert warned the U.K. that the French Navy was ready to intervene to prevent further clashes if the Scallop War continues.  He also commented that the U.K. cannot expect a separate deal with France if the U.K. leaves the E.U. as a result of Brexit negotiations.  The Scallop War is not directly linked to Brexit, but the issue of reciprocal access to fishing waters is one of the items in the negotiations.

On the other hand, U.K. fishermen want the Royal Navy to help protect their dredging the Baie from Cherbourg to Dunkirk.  One reason for this is the fishing of bluefin, a protected fish.  Bluefin is usually found only in the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean, but warmer waters have sent the species into U.K. waters.  Recently, French trawlers took a haul of 44 bluefin tuna off the coast of the island of Jersey, worth £100,000.  U.K. fishermen are not allowed to catch tuna, but there is no ban on France.

The threat of war continues.  French fishermen have warned the U.K. that they may use “heavy artillery,” slingshots and ball bearings, if there is more violence.  For her part, Prime Minister Theresa May, who narrowly, 307-301, avoided defeat in the House of Commons on Brexit, has called for calm and an amicable solution to the “row” in the Channel.  Is it a fight for love or glory?

Music may be the food of love, but the quest for food has often been the cause of friction and political insecurity.  That friction has been evident throughout history. Ancient Rome was troubled by the increase in the price of bread.  In the 15th century, 1482-84, the Salt War took place among papal forces, their Venetian allies, and the Duke of Tuscany over the salt that had been reserved to Venice, the only port allowed to trade in salt.  The famine in Ireland in the 1840s still has political overtones in British-Irish relations.  The 900-day Nazi blockage of supplies to Leningrad, September 1941 to January 1944, caused the deaths of 1.5 million Russian soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of another 1.4 million. 

The Cod War, really a number of interstate disputes in 1950, 1958, and 1972 between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic, was concluded in 1976 with the U.K. conceding a 200-nautical-mile fishing zone to Iceland.  The Turbot War between Canada and Spain for the large saltwater turbot (halibut) took place in 1995 off the coast of Newfoundland.

Now we have an outbreak of a new food war: a Scallop War between Britain and France.  Differences and rivalries between the two countries are not new in history.  If one side proclaims there’s always something fishy about the French, the other can respond that you can’t trust people who cook as badly as the English.  In the present-day context of Brexit negotiations, political and cultural animosity between the two countries is to be expected.  The Scallops War is a reminder of the 1748 painting “The Roast Beef of Old England (The Gate of Calais)” by William Hogarth, which reflects both the tension between a French soldier looking at a large side of British beef and the meat as a symbol of British wealth and power.

The night was bitter, the stars had lost their glitter, and all because of the interaction between the two countries that took a dramatic turn on August 29, 2018 and for a few days in September 2018.  The scene resembled Dover Beach, and “we are here as on darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and fight,” a bitterly internecine conflict of two allied countries, displaying lack of civility and acerbic tone.  The event on August 29 took on the appearance of ignorant armies clashing by night, even if so far no one’s life has been endangered by threatened warlike conduct.

The physical clash is in the area of the English Channel.  There, the Scallop War is being fought between British and French fishermen over the delightful Coquille Saint Jacques, one of the few species whose catch is regulated by national rather than E.U. regulations.  The battlefield is the area of international waters known as the Baie de Seine (Bay of the Seine), about 15 miles from the French coast.

The context of the issue is that U.K. fishermen can dredge for scallops all year round in the international waters in the English Channel, while France is barred from doing so during the summer months, May to September, evidently to allow the species to reproduce.  Therefore, one irony in the situation is that the U.K. claims the right to fish in French waters, which are closed to French trawlers.  The issue is complicated by the charge by the pro-Brexit group Fishing for Leave that France has caught 60% of the fish in U.K. waters over the past 40 years.

In previous years, there has been a French-U.K. agreement that the British could enter French waters for a limited number of days.  Since 2012, the U.K. agreed to limit shellfish dredging during the summer months in return for some French permits.  However, in 2018, there is no agreement.  The French complain that larger U.K. boats are being used, which can capture larger amounts of scallops and which, according to the French, leaves the seabed like a plowed field because their techniques damage the sea floor.  By present law, U.K. ships are not allowed within 12 miles of the French coast, but smaller boats can dredge for scallops in the 40-mile stretch of international waters in the Baie de Seine.

There has for many years been a problem over getting the lucrative scallops.  It has rarely led to the use of violence.  But the tension almost became war on August 29, 2018 when 35 French vessels confronted five British boats more than 12 miles off the Normandy coast, a confrontation in which stones and smoke bombs were thrown, and boats were rammed leaving holes in three vessels.

Somewhat ominously, French agricultural minister Stéphane Travert warned the U.K. that the French Navy was ready to intervene to prevent further clashes if the Scallop War continues.  He also commented that the U.K. cannot expect a separate deal with France if the U.K. leaves the E.U. as a result of Brexit negotiations.  The Scallop War is not directly linked to Brexit, but the issue of reciprocal access to fishing waters is one of the items in the negotiations.

On the other hand, U.K. fishermen want the Royal Navy to help protect their dredging the Baie from Cherbourg to Dunkirk.  One reason for this is the fishing of bluefin, a protected fish.  Bluefin is usually found only in the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean, but warmer waters have sent the species into U.K. waters.  Recently, French trawlers took a haul of 44 bluefin tuna off the coast of the island of Jersey, worth £100,000.  U.K. fishermen are not allowed to catch tuna, but there is no ban on France.

The threat of war continues.  French fishermen have warned the U.K. that they may use “heavy artillery,” slingshots and ball bearings, if there is more violence.  For her part, Prime Minister Theresa May, who narrowly, 307-301, avoided defeat in the House of Commons on Brexit, has called for calm and an amicable solution to the “row” in the Channel.  Is it a fight for love or glory?



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Jeremy Corbyn Is Too Liberal Even for Britain


At the length, truth will out.  If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.  Now the truth about the venomous presence of anti-Semitism in the British Labor Party is being told, told in all its lack of glory.  In July 2018, three Jewish newspapers in Britain simultaneously wrote United We Stand, stating that a Labor government led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose “an existential threat” to Jewish life in the U.K.

A month later, in August 2018, more than 30,000 British citizens signed a petition organized by the Campaign against Anti-Semitism , an organization to educate people about the issue, calling on Corbyn to resign as leader of the Labor Party.  In the House of Commons, Dame Margaret Hodge, M.P. for Barking in East London, who lost family members in the Holocaust, called Corbyn a “racist and anti-Semite” and asserted that the Labor Party is a “hostile environment” for Jews.

At the outset, it should be clear that the complaints and allegations against the persistence of Labor Party anti-Semitism and his refusal to condemn it is not motivated by animus against Corbyn, but results from perusal of his utterances and actions and his non-actions and silences.  Any animus is in fact displayed by supporters of Corbyn.  One influential close ally is Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, the second largest trade union in the U.K., with 1.2 million members, who spoke of Jewish “truculent hostility” and called on Jewish community leaders, whose motives he somewhat surprisingly said he did not understand, to “dial down the rhetoric.”  There can be no misunderstanding the motives of McCluskey and Unite.  In a “statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” issued on July 11, 2014, a call was made for sanctions against Israel, which was described as an “apartheid state.”

Even Corbyn himself in March 2018 recognized, if belatedly, that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets of the Labor Party, “causing  pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the L.P. and the rest of the country.”  However, over the years, Corbyn has denied that he is personally anti-Semitic, though he has uttered classic tropes that suggest otherwise.  This can now be judged by videos recently made public showing that he shared platforms and took part in events with anti-Semities, terrorist sympathizers, and other political extremists and never publicly challenged them.

The weightiest stinging comment on Corbyn, an unprecedented attack, came in August 2018 from Lord Sacks, Cambridge and London University-educated chief rabbi, 1991-2013, who referred to Corbyn as a person who has legitimized the public expression of hate.  Sacks was unqualified in his remarks of an indigo hue: within living memory of the Holocaust, Britain has an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labor Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition.  The danger is that where he leads, others will follow.  According to Sacks, Corbyn’s hate defiles British politics.  He is low, dishonest, and dangerous.  First he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates.

Sacks was particularly incensed by revelation of remarks Corbyn had made in 2013 at a meeting of the Palestinian Return Center, where he attacked a group of “British Zionists” who had dared to criticize a speech by  Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian.  Those Zionists, Corbyn said, had two problems.  One is that they don’t want to study history.  The second is that, having lived in the country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they “don’t understand English irony. … Manuel does understand English irony.”  

Sacks saw this as the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell.  Like Powell, the leader using the language of classic prewar European anti-Semitism, Corbyn depicts an entire group of British citizens as essentially alien, with implications of double loyalty.   Corbyn said “Zionists,” but “Jews” were implicit, unable to appreciate irony, a figure of speech absent in his own speeches.  Corbyn was not only offensive, but ignorant and foolish.  All Jews, Isaiah Berlin once said, who are conscious of their identity as Jews are steeped in history.  Jews, we know, have too much history and too little geography.  Corbyn may be a slow or inattentive reader.  Otherwise,  he can start with Jewish irony in the Bible and, more recently, in British novelist Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question.

By a remarkable coincidence, the case of Enoch Powell and his controversial 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech was being discussed when Sacks referred to it in August 2018.  In February 2018, Powell’s former constituency of Wolverhampton, for which he was an M.P., 1950-74, planned to remember him with a blue plaque.  As a result of opposition by many, including those who intended to tear it down or deface it, the plan was scraped.  In his speech, Powell proposed control and limit to mass immigration into Britain, especially from the black Commonwealth: we must, he said, “be mad as a nation to permit the annual flow of some 50,000 dependents.”  The country must prevent discrimination against the native population.  Curiously, in spite of the invective, Powell had never used the phrase “Rivers of Blood” but had alluded to the poet Virgil, who wrote, “[L]ike the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Corbyn’s statements and the recent emergence of video footage occasion a comment.  One video shows him in 2014 in Tunisia attending a ceremony honoring three “Palestinian martyrs,” the Black September group, and the group’s founder, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), responsible for torturing and then for the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympic games.  He denied laying a wreath but said he was “present though not actually involved in it.”  However, he mislaid the truth, since photos show him with a wreath.  They also show him close to the grave of Atef Bseiso, intelligence chief of the PLO, also involved in the 1972 massacre, who was killed in Paris in June 1992.

Corbyn urged an end to the “stranglehold of elite power and billionaire domination” over large parts of the British media, familiar in many anti-Semitic utterances.  His remarks echoed and were praised by David Duke, Holocaust-denier and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Nick Griffin, former leader of the neo-Nazi British National Party.

Corbyn was also defended by Haneen Zoabi, Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset, who calls Israel a “fascist” state, about his remarks concerning speeches made by the British MPS, but which she, and L.P. members, insisted were written by Israeli diplomats concerning the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010.  Zoabi was aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, along with IHH activists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, who tried to end the Israeli blockade of Hamas in Gaza.  Israeli commandos boarded the ship and were attacked by IHH, ten of whom died in the fighting.

Corbyn in 2011 called for Holocaust Memorial Day to be changed to Genocide Memorial Day to reflect that Nazis targeted not only Jewish people.

In 2010, he hosted an event and made no comment when a speaker compared Israeli policy with Nazi policies.  Again in 2013, at a meeting of the Palestinian Return Center, he compared Israeli control of the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of Europe, with endless roadblocks, imprisonment, and irrational behavior by the military and the police, “of the very sort that is recognizable by many people in Europe who suffered occupation during World War II.”

In an interview on TV on August 12, 2012 concerning a terrorist incident, Corbyn said Israel had an interest in violence in the Sinai, though it was Islamic jihadists who attacked an Egyptian army base, killing 16 Egyptians.

Corbyn has endorsed BDS with the argument that “I think the boycott campaign is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted.  Sanctions against Israel are the appropriate way of promoting the peace process.”  He described former foreign minister Tzipi Livni as a war criminal.

No one will accuse Corbyn of being a war criminal, but equally he is not the best the U.K. can offer to cleanse the disease of anti-Semitism.  The Labor Party, for its own good and for the good of the country, should end his position as leader.  Dayanu: Enough is enough.

At the length, truth will out.  If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.  Now the truth about the venomous presence of anti-Semitism in the British Labor Party is being told, told in all its lack of glory.  In July 2018, three Jewish newspapers in Britain simultaneously wrote United We Stand, stating that a Labor government led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose “an existential threat” to Jewish life in the U.K.

A month later, in August 2018, more than 30,000 British citizens signed a petition organized by the Campaign against Anti-Semitism , an organization to educate people about the issue, calling on Corbyn to resign as leader of the Labor Party.  In the House of Commons, Dame Margaret Hodge, M.P. for Barking in East London, who lost family members in the Holocaust, called Corbyn a “racist and anti-Semite” and asserted that the Labor Party is a “hostile environment” for Jews.

At the outset, it should be clear that the complaints and allegations against the persistence of Labor Party anti-Semitism and his refusal to condemn it is not motivated by animus against Corbyn, but results from perusal of his utterances and actions and his non-actions and silences.  Any animus is in fact displayed by supporters of Corbyn.  One influential close ally is Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, the second largest trade union in the U.K., with 1.2 million members, who spoke of Jewish “truculent hostility” and called on Jewish community leaders, whose motives he somewhat surprisingly said he did not understand, to “dial down the rhetoric.”  There can be no misunderstanding the motives of McCluskey and Unite.  In a “statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” issued on July 11, 2014, a call was made for sanctions against Israel, which was described as an “apartheid state.”

Even Corbyn himself in March 2018 recognized, if belatedly, that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets of the Labor Party, “causing  pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the L.P. and the rest of the country.”  However, over the years, Corbyn has denied that he is personally anti-Semitic, though he has uttered classic tropes that suggest otherwise.  This can now be judged by videos recently made public showing that he shared platforms and took part in events with anti-Semities, terrorist sympathizers, and other political extremists and never publicly challenged them.

The weightiest stinging comment on Corbyn, an unprecedented attack, came in August 2018 from Lord Sacks, Cambridge and London University-educated chief rabbi, 1991-2013, who referred to Corbyn as a person who has legitimized the public expression of hate.  Sacks was unqualified in his remarks of an indigo hue: within living memory of the Holocaust, Britain has an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labor Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition.  The danger is that where he leads, others will follow.  According to Sacks, Corbyn’s hate defiles British politics.  He is low, dishonest, and dangerous.  First he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates.

Sacks was particularly incensed by revelation of remarks Corbyn had made in 2013 at a meeting of the Palestinian Return Center, where he attacked a group of “British Zionists” who had dared to criticize a speech by  Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian.  Those Zionists, Corbyn said, had two problems.  One is that they don’t want to study history.  The second is that, having lived in the country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they “don’t understand English irony. … Manuel does understand English irony.”  

Sacks saw this as the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell.  Like Powell, the leader using the language of classic prewar European anti-Semitism, Corbyn depicts an entire group of British citizens as essentially alien, with implications of double loyalty.   Corbyn said “Zionists,” but “Jews” were implicit, unable to appreciate irony, a figure of speech absent in his own speeches.  Corbyn was not only offensive, but ignorant and foolish.  All Jews, Isaiah Berlin once said, who are conscious of their identity as Jews are steeped in history.  Jews, we know, have too much history and too little geography.  Corbyn may be a slow or inattentive reader.  Otherwise,  he can start with Jewish irony in the Bible and, more recently, in British novelist Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question.

By a remarkable coincidence, the case of Enoch Powell and his controversial 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech was being discussed when Sacks referred to it in August 2018.  In February 2018, Powell’s former constituency of Wolverhampton, for which he was an M.P., 1950-74, planned to remember him with a blue plaque.  As a result of opposition by many, including those who intended to tear it down or deface it, the plan was scraped.  In his speech, Powell proposed control and limit to mass immigration into Britain, especially from the black Commonwealth: we must, he said, “be mad as a nation to permit the annual flow of some 50,000 dependents.”  The country must prevent discrimination against the native population.  Curiously, in spite of the invective, Powell had never used the phrase “Rivers of Blood” but had alluded to the poet Virgil, who wrote, “[L]ike the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Corbyn’s statements and the recent emergence of video footage occasion a comment.  One video shows him in 2014 in Tunisia attending a ceremony honoring three “Palestinian martyrs,” the Black September group, and the group’s founder, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), responsible for torturing and then for the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympic games.  He denied laying a wreath but said he was “present though not actually involved in it.”  However, he mislaid the truth, since photos show him with a wreath.  They also show him close to the grave of Atef Bseiso, intelligence chief of the PLO, also involved in the 1972 massacre, who was killed in Paris in June 1992.

Corbyn urged an end to the “stranglehold of elite power and billionaire domination” over large parts of the British media, familiar in many anti-Semitic utterances.  His remarks echoed and were praised by David Duke, Holocaust-denier and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Nick Griffin, former leader of the neo-Nazi British National Party.

Corbyn was also defended by Haneen Zoabi, Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset, who calls Israel a “fascist” state, about his remarks concerning speeches made by the British MPS, but which she, and L.P. members, insisted were written by Israeli diplomats concerning the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010.  Zoabi was aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, along with IHH activists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, who tried to end the Israeli blockade of Hamas in Gaza.  Israeli commandos boarded the ship and were attacked by IHH, ten of whom died in the fighting.

Corbyn in 2011 called for Holocaust Memorial Day to be changed to Genocide Memorial Day to reflect that Nazis targeted not only Jewish people.

In 2010, he hosted an event and made no comment when a speaker compared Israeli policy with Nazi policies.  Again in 2013, at a meeting of the Palestinian Return Center, he compared Israeli control of the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of Europe, with endless roadblocks, imprisonment, and irrational behavior by the military and the police, “of the very sort that is recognizable by many people in Europe who suffered occupation during World War II.”

In an interview on TV on August 12, 2012 concerning a terrorist incident, Corbyn said Israel had an interest in violence in the Sinai, though it was Islamic jihadists who attacked an Egyptian army base, killing 16 Egyptians.

Corbyn has endorsed BDS with the argument that “I think the boycott campaign is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted.  Sanctions against Israel are the appropriate way of promoting the peace process.”  He described former foreign minister Tzipi Livni as a war criminal.

No one will accuse Corbyn of being a war criminal, but equally he is not the best the U.K. can offer to cleanse the disease of anti-Semitism.  The Labor Party, for its own good and for the good of the country, should end his position as leader.  Dayanu: Enough is enough.



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Is China Ending the Pax Americana?


It’s still the same old story, a fight for power and glory.  Although the trade war between the U.S. and China dominates the news headlines, more attention must be given to the crucial issue that China is a formidable imperial colonial power, exhibiting the latest form of foreign domination over populations and polities that are weaker or less developed.  The significant issue for Washington, D.C. is that China is aspiring to be leader of the world.  It is alarming that recent statements by Chinese personalities focus on the old concept of tianxia, or “all under heaven,” ending chaos in the world.

We are informed by the former Chinese foreign minister that China is “a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s a fact.”  One facet of this is that China has more than 800 million internet-users, more than the U.S. and India combined.  Equally significant is that China is posing itself not only as a superpower, but as an alternative to Western democracy, liberalism, and capitalism.

The immediate problem is the unwillingness of the Chinese to enter into a deal in the trade war with the United States, perhaps the biggest in economic history.  The reality is a U.S. trade deficit, $376 billion in 2017, an increase of $28 billion from 2016.  This results from the U.S. importing $506 billion’s worth of goods from China and exporting goods valued at $130 billion.  Understandably, the U.S. is concerned about unfair trade practices, particularly the theft by China of intellectual property, and a variety of restraints on U.S. goods.

Despite of continuing friction, it is unlikely that the bitter trade war will lead to any kind of military confrontation or use of force.  Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers are conscious of the challenge of Chinese developments,  economic, political, cultural, and geostrategic, which are altering the balance of power in international relations between the two countries.

Chinese international influence is likely to increase now that the 64-year-old Xi Jinping was in March 2018 unanimously – really, 99.8% of the vote – re-elected president of the People’s Republic of China.  Xi has been general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP, since November 2012 and president since March 2013.  Previous presidential limits of two terms were removed.  Xi is therefore a powerful figure.  He has consolidated power, exercising virtual absolute control, as head of state, CCP chief, and chair of the military commission that controls the armed forces.

There is the ideological challenge.  China is still nominally Marxist, and the power of the Leninist-type C.P. remains.  Underlining this is China’s gift of a large bronze statue of Karl Marx to his native city of Trier on the 200th anniversary of his birth in May 1918.  Xi, like his predecessor Deng Xiaoping, has combined the Leninist concept of the dominant role of the CCP with a more open market economy and reforms.  Most of China’s economic growth in recent years has come from the private sector.

However, Xi’s ambitious policy formula is “socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era,” which entails a large role for the CCP, which leads the government, the military, society, and the schools.  He regards the Chinese autocracy, which combines restrictions on political freedom with economic growth and technological development, as more viable than Western liberal systems.  Ideologically, China has used “Panda Diplomacy,” soft power, activity that includes a presence in art forums, musical and dance festivals, and cultural exchanges, and more than 500 Confucius Institutes on university campuses throughout the world.  China is a competitor in political and cultural influence as well as in world trade and global security and reform of global governance.  The question can be raised: is the center of gravity of the world economy shifting from Atlantic to Pacific?

Soft power and geostrategic influence go together, as is illustrated in a number of ways.  One is the 16+1, formed in 2012, a grouping of 11 E.U. and five Balkan central and Eastern European countries led by China, involved in investment, transport, science, and finance.  It is a gateway to Western Europe and useful for political purposes such as policy concerning the South China Sea, countering the Dalai Lama, and preventing Taiwanese independence, and preventing criticism of human rights violations and environmental standards. 

Another body is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which came into force in 2003, the Eurasian political, economic, and security body led by China and including Russia and four Central Asian republics.  It is the largest regional organization in terms of geographical coverage and population.

China’s recent activity in military and strategic matters is troubling.  It already has ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  In 2015, it established its first overseas military base at Djibouti, off the Horn of Africa, ten miles from a U.S. base.  The Chinese base is useful for commercial purposes, to protect its commerce and Chinese nationals abroad, but also as a strategic asset, since it controls access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as well as Europe, Africa, and the Far East, and access to Middle East oil.  Interestingly, China defines Djibouti not as a military base, but as a support or logistical facility.

For some time, China has been developing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the ambitious policy to expand trade, with operations in direct rail lines and railroads, ports, pipelines, highways, all built and funded by China to connect with countries. 

There are two problems with all this.  One is that there is more recognition that China has negotiated lopsided deals.  An example of this is the case of Sri Lanka, which cannot pay back the $8 billion it owes China.  It therefore agreed to lease its port in Hambantota for 99 years.  The second issue is that cyber-espionage is linked to the BRI involving companies and countries such as Belarus, the Maldives, Cambodia, and European nations.

China has been exerting control over much of the South China Sea, building artificial islands and installing military equipment there, using fishing boats protected by coast guard ships.  This has been happening despite the ruling of The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 that the Chinese claim to a large part of the Sea is invalid.  The U.S. must respond by insisting on freedom of navigation.

Once, the U.K. and France were Africa’s main trading partners.  Now it is China.  In 2014, China-Africa trade amounted to $200 billion.  Moreover, between 2000 and 2011, China spent more than $73 billion investing in natural resources, mines, oil wells, and other projects in Africa.  Many African counties have been recipients of Chinese finance, the largest amounts going to Nigeria, Ghana, and Ethiopia.  In Nigeria, a $5-billion infrastructure project was built in return for oil rights.

The tallest building in Ethiopia, with a 2,500-seat capacity, was built and maintained by China and in 2011 was the venue where the African Union summit was held.  Chinese donations or assistance takes many forms: hospitals in Luanda, Angola; the major road from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to Chirundu in the southeast; stadiums in Sierra Leone and Benin; sugar mill and sugarcane farms in Mali; a construction company in West Nigeria; a water supply project in Mauritania; and a considerable number of schools, anti-malaria centers, agricultural technology demonstration centers, and shoe factories.

Criticism of Chinese activity has come from the unlikely country of Malaysia, which is indebted for projects that are not viable or necessary and is $250 billion in debt. 

Mahathir Mohamad, the 93-year-old former prime minister (1981-2003), reappointed on May 1, 2018, spoke strongly on August 20, stating that a new version of colonialism is happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries.  Benefits mostly go to China, which wants raw materials for its economic growth.  Mohamad wants to renegotiate free trade, but also fair trade.

Unquestionably, China wants to achieve great power status, to play a global role in the world order now that it is the second largest economy in the world and has supplied billions throughout the world to construct rail, highway, port, and power plant facilities.  Does it have a genuine message of peace and multiculturalism?  Or is it a case of do or die?

It’s still the same old story, a fight for power and glory.  Although the trade war between the U.S. and China dominates the news headlines, more attention must be given to the crucial issue that China is a formidable imperial colonial power, exhibiting the latest form of foreign domination over populations and polities that are weaker or less developed.  The significant issue for Washington, D.C. is that China is aspiring to be leader of the world.  It is alarming that recent statements by Chinese personalities focus on the old concept of tianxia, or “all under heaven,” ending chaos in the world.

We are informed by the former Chinese foreign minister that China is “a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s a fact.”  One facet of this is that China has more than 800 million internet-users, more than the U.S. and India combined.  Equally significant is that China is posing itself not only as a superpower, but as an alternative to Western democracy, liberalism, and capitalism.

The immediate problem is the unwillingness of the Chinese to enter into a deal in the trade war with the United States, perhaps the biggest in economic history.  The reality is a U.S. trade deficit, $376 billion in 2017, an increase of $28 billion from 2016.  This results from the U.S. importing $506 billion’s worth of goods from China and exporting goods valued at $130 billion.  Understandably, the U.S. is concerned about unfair trade practices, particularly the theft by China of intellectual property, and a variety of restraints on U.S. goods.

Despite of continuing friction, it is unlikely that the bitter trade war will lead to any kind of military confrontation or use of force.  Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers are conscious of the challenge of Chinese developments,  economic, political, cultural, and geostrategic, which are altering the balance of power in international relations between the two countries.

Chinese international influence is likely to increase now that the 64-year-old Xi Jinping was in March 2018 unanimously – really, 99.8% of the vote – re-elected president of the People’s Republic of China.  Xi has been general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP, since November 2012 and president since March 2013.  Previous presidential limits of two terms were removed.  Xi is therefore a powerful figure.  He has consolidated power, exercising virtual absolute control, as head of state, CCP chief, and chair of the military commission that controls the armed forces.

There is the ideological challenge.  China is still nominally Marxist, and the power of the Leninist-type C.P. remains.  Underlining this is China’s gift of a large bronze statue of Karl Marx to his native city of Trier on the 200th anniversary of his birth in May 1918.  Xi, like his predecessor Deng Xiaoping, has combined the Leninist concept of the dominant role of the CCP with a more open market economy and reforms.  Most of China’s economic growth in recent years has come from the private sector.

However, Xi’s ambitious policy formula is “socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era,” which entails a large role for the CCP, which leads the government, the military, society, and the schools.  He regards the Chinese autocracy, which combines restrictions on political freedom with economic growth and technological development, as more viable than Western liberal systems.  Ideologically, China has used “Panda Diplomacy,” soft power, activity that includes a presence in art forums, musical and dance festivals, and cultural exchanges, and more than 500 Confucius Institutes on university campuses throughout the world.  China is a competitor in political and cultural influence as well as in world trade and global security and reform of global governance.  The question can be raised: is the center of gravity of the world economy shifting from Atlantic to Pacific?

Soft power and geostrategic influence go together, as is illustrated in a number of ways.  One is the 16+1, formed in 2012, a grouping of 11 E.U. and five Balkan central and Eastern European countries led by China, involved in investment, transport, science, and finance.  It is a gateway to Western Europe and useful for political purposes such as policy concerning the South China Sea, countering the Dalai Lama, and preventing Taiwanese independence, and preventing criticism of human rights violations and environmental standards. 

Another body is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which came into force in 2003, the Eurasian political, economic, and security body led by China and including Russia and four Central Asian republics.  It is the largest regional organization in terms of geographical coverage and population.

China’s recent activity in military and strategic matters is troubling.  It already has ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  In 2015, it established its first overseas military base at Djibouti, off the Horn of Africa, ten miles from a U.S. base.  The Chinese base is useful for commercial purposes, to protect its commerce and Chinese nationals abroad, but also as a strategic asset, since it controls access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as well as Europe, Africa, and the Far East, and access to Middle East oil.  Interestingly, China defines Djibouti not as a military base, but as a support or logistical facility.

For some time, China has been developing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the ambitious policy to expand trade, with operations in direct rail lines and railroads, ports, pipelines, highways, all built and funded by China to connect with countries. 

There are two problems with all this.  One is that there is more recognition that China has negotiated lopsided deals.  An example of this is the case of Sri Lanka, which cannot pay back the $8 billion it owes China.  It therefore agreed to lease its port in Hambantota for 99 years.  The second issue is that cyber-espionage is linked to the BRI involving companies and countries such as Belarus, the Maldives, Cambodia, and European nations.

China has been exerting control over much of the South China Sea, building artificial islands and installing military equipment there, using fishing boats protected by coast guard ships.  This has been happening despite the ruling of The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 that the Chinese claim to a large part of the Sea is invalid.  The U.S. must respond by insisting on freedom of navigation.

Once, the U.K. and France were Africa’s main trading partners.  Now it is China.  In 2014, China-Africa trade amounted to $200 billion.  Moreover, between 2000 and 2011, China spent more than $73 billion investing in natural resources, mines, oil wells, and other projects in Africa.  Many African counties have been recipients of Chinese finance, the largest amounts going to Nigeria, Ghana, and Ethiopia.  In Nigeria, a $5-billion infrastructure project was built in return for oil rights.

The tallest building in Ethiopia, with a 2,500-seat capacity, was built and maintained by China and in 2011 was the venue where the African Union summit was held.  Chinese donations or assistance takes many forms: hospitals in Luanda, Angola; the major road from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to Chirundu in the southeast; stadiums in Sierra Leone and Benin; sugar mill and sugarcane farms in Mali; a construction company in West Nigeria; a water supply project in Mauritania; and a considerable number of schools, anti-malaria centers, agricultural technology demonstration centers, and shoe factories.

Criticism of Chinese activity has come from the unlikely country of Malaysia, which is indebted for projects that are not viable or necessary and is $250 billion in debt. 

Mahathir Mohamad, the 93-year-old former prime minister (1981-2003), reappointed on May 1, 2018, spoke strongly on August 20, stating that a new version of colonialism is happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries.  Benefits mostly go to China, which wants raw materials for its economic growth.  Mohamad wants to renegotiate free trade, but also fair trade.

Unquestionably, China wants to achieve great power status, to play a global role in the world order now that it is the second largest economy in the world and has supplied billions throughout the world to construct rail, highway, port, and power plant facilities.  Does it have a genuine message of peace and multiculturalism?  Or is it a case of do or die?



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Where Is the Ace in the Presidential Deck of Cards?


Considering the nature of the muster of political figures now on the scene aspiring to be president of the United States, one may conclude they’re either too gray or too grassy green.  The pickings are poor, and the crop is lean.  How many have appropriate qualifications for the position?  This is not self-evident, since the necessary and desirable qualifications are debatable, partly relevant to changing times, the issues confronting the nation, and the suitable relevant character of the aspirant.

All can agree that honesty is essential for potential candidates, who should be rejected if they “make their faces vizards to their hearts disguising what they are.”  The latter individuals may have dangerous ambition that “lurks under the specious masks of zeal for the rights of the people.”  At the same time, care should be taken that those who advocate the truth are in fact influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. 

A particular problem in the game of U.S. presidential politics, as in poker, is that, as the song says, you’ve gotta have that slippery hazardous commodity, you’ve gotta have the cards.  For candidates, the right card must be found to be successful.  For the electorate, the task is to shuffle up the cards, eliminate the joker, and find the ace.  The decision on the right card depends on priority given to experience, talent, character, style, desirable principles, and ability to implement them.

The Founding Fathers tried to help to some extent.  The Declaration of Independence calls for prudence in the act of making change.  With that, in the present political climate, should go civility, recognition that unanimity in the nation does not exist, that competing “factions” are inevitable, and that compromise of principle and policy is often essential. 

One Founder, Alexander Hamilton, is much admired on Broadway in the hip-hop musical bearing his name.  He should be equally admired for his paper, No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, written on March 14, 1788, on the mode of electing the president of the U.S.  The particular electoral process he suggested is inappropriate and would not be acceptable today, but it was important for him because it afforded a moral certainty that the office of president would go to a person “endowed in an eminent degree” with the requisite qualifications.  This would not be a person with talents for low intrigue and the “little arts of popularity,” but one pre-eminent for ability and virtue, and with the aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

James Madison, Hamilton’s colleague in writing the Federalist Papers in support of the proposed Constitution, though not listing the talents needed for president, warned in Federalist 55 that in politics, “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”  A presidential candidate must ensure that passion and emotions do not overpower and distort political and moral judgments.  Passion and prejudice rarely if ever favor the discovery of truth.

The U.S. Constitution itself does not provide any list of qualities for the president position, but Article II contains the key statement that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  Executive ability is therefore crucial.  So are qualities of character and ability: integrity; honesty; leadership skill; ability to understand problems, national and international; ability to decide, communicate, negotiate, and persuade Congress; and capacity to take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Presently, the number of those who are considering or have proposed themselves to be president are likely to fill Madison Square Garden in New York to capacity.  Before surveying some of them, it should be pointed out that none of them is a felon, or charged as such.  None appears to have had a ten-minute talk with a Russian lawyer in a public space or entered into any form of collusion.  All of them know the way to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and speak English when they arrive. 

First, there is the covey of present senators, members of Congress, past and present governors of states, mayors, and former public office-holders, all different in age, sex, background, and experience.  All appear to believe that their present or past public position is insufficient for full display of their political talents and believe that elevation to the presidency would be appropriate recognition of their ability and wisdom.  Among Democrats who are conspicuous or back in the limelight are Joe Biden at 75, Andrew Cuomo at 59, Elizabeth Warren at 67, Bernie Sanders at 75, Corey Booker at 49, Kamala Harris at 52, Eric Garcetti at 47, Martin O’Malley at 54, Lincoln Chafee at 65, and Julián Castro at 43.

 Success in business, a positive achievement, is seen as a logical stepping stone and preparation for the highest public office.  Prominent are Michael Bloomberg, who was also mayor of New York, now 76, and is spending heavily, at least $80 million, on 2018 midterm elections; Howard Schultz at 65, formerly head of Starbucks and owner of the Seattle Supersonics; Mark Cuban at 60, formerly owner of the Dallas Mavericks and TV networks; Mark Zuckerberg at 32, belatedly learning what Facebook does, and Tom Steyer at 61, hedge fund manager.

There’s no business like politics show business.  Superstars are on the horizon: Oprah Winfrey at 64, media star and probably richest African-American; Kanye West at 41, successful rapper; Beyoncé at 36, pop star who said she’s not sure she’s ready yet for the presidency; Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at 46, actor and former wrestler; and a novelist, Marianne Williamson at 66, New Age author, spiritual teacher, who informs us of the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, and a person who would get the “yoga” vote.

And now the enticing Michael Avenatti, the 47-year-old brash, aggressive lawyer class-action litigator with high-profile cases against large companies and individuals.  In a curious unfitting image, he boasts that he has had 18 years of fighting on behalf of Davids and Goliaths.  He did take part in cases involving important organizations like the NFL, Fortune 100 companies, the Dallas Cowboys, and celebrities like film star Jim Carrey and Paris Hilton.  Nevertheless, his 15 minutes of national fame result from his function as lawyer of “adult” actress Stormy Daniels in her dispute with Donald Trump regarding a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged sex encounter in the 2000s.

A gift for titillation is not among the expected characteristics of presidential candidates.  Nevertheless, Avenatti found the right road to Iowa to “listen to the people [apparently clothed] and learn about the issues,” other than sex, that are facing the citizens there.  Other than listen, he did speak to the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser in Des Moines.  Avenatti is also a professional racecar driver, a participant in over 30 races.  He has engaged with similar drive, speed, and aggression against Donald Trump, even verbally assaulting him with the Italian exclamation “basta.”

That exclamation, “enough ” in English, might properly apply to the large, somewhat bizarre list of applicants for the presidency.  Alexander Hamilton wrote of the need for a president of ability and virtue who has the esteem and confidence of the whole country, a vigorous executive capable of protecting the country, able to control a steady administration of the laws, and a securer of liberty against assaults of ambition, faction, and anarchy.  We know there are jokers in the present pack of cards for the presidency.  Where is an ace?

Considering the nature of the muster of political figures now on the scene aspiring to be president of the United States, one may conclude they’re either too gray or too grassy green.  The pickings are poor, and the crop is lean.  How many have appropriate qualifications for the position?  This is not self-evident, since the necessary and desirable qualifications are debatable, partly relevant to changing times, the issues confronting the nation, and the suitable relevant character of the aspirant.

All can agree that honesty is essential for potential candidates, who should be rejected if they “make their faces vizards to their hearts disguising what they are.”  The latter individuals may have dangerous ambition that “lurks under the specious masks of zeal for the rights of the people.”  At the same time, care should be taken that those who advocate the truth are in fact influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. 

A particular problem in the game of U.S. presidential politics, as in poker, is that, as the song says, you’ve gotta have that slippery hazardous commodity, you’ve gotta have the cards.  For candidates, the right card must be found to be successful.  For the electorate, the task is to shuffle up the cards, eliminate the joker, and find the ace.  The decision on the right card depends on priority given to experience, talent, character, style, desirable principles, and ability to implement them.

The Founding Fathers tried to help to some extent.  The Declaration of Independence calls for prudence in the act of making change.  With that, in the present political climate, should go civility, recognition that unanimity in the nation does not exist, that competing “factions” are inevitable, and that compromise of principle and policy is often essential. 

One Founder, Alexander Hamilton, is much admired on Broadway in the hip-hop musical bearing his name.  He should be equally admired for his paper, No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, written on March 14, 1788, on the mode of electing the president of the U.S.  The particular electoral process he suggested is inappropriate and would not be acceptable today, but it was important for him because it afforded a moral certainty that the office of president would go to a person “endowed in an eminent degree” with the requisite qualifications.  This would not be a person with talents for low intrigue and the “little arts of popularity,” but one pre-eminent for ability and virtue, and with the aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

James Madison, Hamilton’s colleague in writing the Federalist Papers in support of the proposed Constitution, though not listing the talents needed for president, warned in Federalist 55 that in politics, “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”  A presidential candidate must ensure that passion and emotions do not overpower and distort political and moral judgments.  Passion and prejudice rarely if ever favor the discovery of truth.

The U.S. Constitution itself does not provide any list of qualities for the president position, but Article II contains the key statement that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  Executive ability is therefore crucial.  So are qualities of character and ability: integrity; honesty; leadership skill; ability to understand problems, national and international; ability to decide, communicate, negotiate, and persuade Congress; and capacity to take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Presently, the number of those who are considering or have proposed themselves to be president are likely to fill Madison Square Garden in New York to capacity.  Before surveying some of them, it should be pointed out that none of them is a felon, or charged as such.  None appears to have had a ten-minute talk with a Russian lawyer in a public space or entered into any form of collusion.  All of them know the way to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and speak English when they arrive. 

First, there is the covey of present senators, members of Congress, past and present governors of states, mayors, and former public office-holders, all different in age, sex, background, and experience.  All appear to believe that their present or past public position is insufficient for full display of their political talents and believe that elevation to the presidency would be appropriate recognition of their ability and wisdom.  Among Democrats who are conspicuous or back in the limelight are Joe Biden at 75, Andrew Cuomo at 59, Elizabeth Warren at 67, Bernie Sanders at 75, Corey Booker at 49, Kamala Harris at 52, Eric Garcetti at 47, Martin O’Malley at 54, Lincoln Chafee at 65, and Julián Castro at 43.

 Success in business, a positive achievement, is seen as a logical stepping stone and preparation for the highest public office.  Prominent are Michael Bloomberg, who was also mayor of New York, now 76, and is spending heavily, at least $80 million, on 2018 midterm elections; Howard Schultz at 65, formerly head of Starbucks and owner of the Seattle Supersonics; Mark Cuban at 60, formerly owner of the Dallas Mavericks and TV networks; Mark Zuckerberg at 32, belatedly learning what Facebook does, and Tom Steyer at 61, hedge fund manager.

There’s no business like politics show business.  Superstars are on the horizon: Oprah Winfrey at 64, media star and probably richest African-American; Kanye West at 41, successful rapper; Beyoncé at 36, pop star who said she’s not sure she’s ready yet for the presidency; Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at 46, actor and former wrestler; and a novelist, Marianne Williamson at 66, New Age author, spiritual teacher, who informs us of the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, and a person who would get the “yoga” vote.

And now the enticing Michael Avenatti, the 47-year-old brash, aggressive lawyer class-action litigator with high-profile cases against large companies and individuals.  In a curious unfitting image, he boasts that he has had 18 years of fighting on behalf of Davids and Goliaths.  He did take part in cases involving important organizations like the NFL, Fortune 100 companies, the Dallas Cowboys, and celebrities like film star Jim Carrey and Paris Hilton.  Nevertheless, his 15 minutes of national fame result from his function as lawyer of “adult” actress Stormy Daniels in her dispute with Donald Trump regarding a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged sex encounter in the 2000s.

A gift for titillation is not among the expected characteristics of presidential candidates.  Nevertheless, Avenatti found the right road to Iowa to “listen to the people [apparently clothed] and learn about the issues,” other than sex, that are facing the citizens there.  Other than listen, he did speak to the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser in Des Moines.  Avenatti is also a professional racecar driver, a participant in over 30 races.  He has engaged with similar drive, speed, and aggression against Donald Trump, even verbally assaulting him with the Italian exclamation “basta.”

That exclamation, “enough ” in English, might properly apply to the large, somewhat bizarre list of applicants for the presidency.  Alexander Hamilton wrote of the need for a president of ability and virtue who has the esteem and confidence of the whole country, a vigorous executive capable of protecting the country, able to control a steady administration of the laws, and a securer of liberty against assaults of ambition, faction, and anarchy.  We know there are jokers in the present pack of cards for the presidency.  Where is an ace?



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Danger Ahead: The Game-Changer Drone


Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.  The unease of rulers may result from personal factors, constant worry, lack of sleep, and guilt for past odious actions, but also often from fear of assassination.  The list is long of the sad stories of the deaths of murdered kings.  The Bible tells the story of Joab, commander of King David’s army, who killed the king’s rebellious son and rival, Absalom.

A quick survey of some of the well known victims illustrates the targeted killings.  Phillip II of Macedonia was assassinated in 336 B.C. and Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.  For a number of centuries, the 8th through the 14th, an Islamic sect called the Assassins was active in the areas of what is now Iran and Syria, killing, often under influence of hashish, caliphs, viziers, sultans, and Crusaders for political and religious reasons.

The Renaissance illuminates a catalogue of tyrannicide.  Rulers and challengers for power continued to be subject to assassination, which then influenced official policy: Henry IV in France in 1610; Russian tsars Paul I and Alexander II and Rasputin in 1916; Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in May 1812, the only British prime minister to suffer this fate; Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914; and Leon Trotsky in Mexico City on August 21, 1940.

The U.S. has lost four presidents to assassins, and Huey Long in Baton Rouge on September 10, 1935; Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968; and Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968.  In recent years, other countries have lost leaders or leading figures; among them are Mohandas Gandhi in Delhi on January 30, 1948; Anwar Sadat in Cairo on October 6, 1981; Olaf Palme in Stockholm on February 28, 1986; Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995; and Benazir Bhutto, prime minister in Pakistan and the first woman to head a democratic country in a Muslim-majority nation, in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

Though some attempts at assassination failed, the most memorable and significant being Operation Valkyrie, the attack on Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 in his Wolf’s Lair field headquarters, most assassinations, successful or not, throughout history have been well planned, with perpetrators using crossbows, knives, firearms, bombs, car bombs, or poison.  An event in Venezuela on August 4, 2018 showed a new departure, the newest attempt at targeted killing of leaders, ominous in its implication.  At a military rally celebrating the National Guard in Caracas, attended by President Nicolás Maduro, at which he spoke, an alleged attack on him was made by two drones equipped with explosives.  Minor damage and casualties were caused in the failed attempt.  The world is now aware of this technique of assassination.

Few would mourn the loss of the 56-year-old Maduro, former bus driver, trade union leader, member of the Venezuela National Assembly, vice president and protégé of Hugo Chévez, whom he succeeded as president in April 2013.  In the election, widely seen as a “show election,” on May 20, 2018, Maduro was re-elected president for a term of six years.  His victory was predictable and inevitable, since opposition candidates were prevented from running, were arrested, or were in exile.  Maduro’s government had arrested the critical mayor of Caracas in February 2018, and the government controlled the electoral council.

Under Maduro’s rule, the rights of citizens have been abused by human rights violations; use of violence; repression; criminalization of demonstrations; arbitrary detention on false charges of conspiracy; rule by decree; drug money-laundering; profits from the cocaine business; military prosecution of civilians; and assault, torture, and assassination of critics.

Though Venezuela has large oil reserves, estimated to be the largest proven oil reserves in the world, the country has been plagued by economic mismanagement, by corruption, crime, high inflation, poverty, hunger, bad health, and malaria outbreaks.  Because of the poor conditions, a considerable number, reaching a million at one point, have left the country.

On July 31, 2017, the U.S. Department of Treasury, calling Maduro a “dictator,” who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people, imposed sanctions on him, froze his assets, and asserted that U.S. persons were prohibited from dealing with him.  This action came a day after Maduro held elections for an assembly that would replace the democratically elected National Assembly and would revise the constitution.

Already Maduro has blamed others for the attack: the ultra-right; U.S. citizens in Florida; individuals in Bogotá; the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos; Yankee imperialism, though not Russian collusion or Vladimir Putin.  In spite of this absurdity, his experience, genuine or a stage farce intended to dispose of political opponents held responsible and possibly charged with murder, treason, and terrorism, is important because of the use of drones as an instrument of assassination and the knowledge of accessible technology to produce drones.

Pilotless drones have some time been used for surveillance and more recently as risk-free remote killing instruments in military warfare.  They have been used against terrorists, and for the most part, they are accurate and reduce the risk of civilian casualties.  The U.S. has Predator drones in bases in Kuwait, Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Incirlik airbase in Turkey and has used them in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.  The U.K. in Syria has used “vacuum bombs” (thermobaric missiles) that suck oxygen to create a powerful high-temperature explosion.  Russia has used drones to jam U.S. signals.  Hamas has used drones against Israel, as has Hezb’allah, which, at an airstrip in North Lebanon, has deposited and later used various drones – Ababil-3, small with limited range, and the larger Shahed-129, similar to the U.S. Predator.  Hezb’allah boasts that it is a constant threat to Israel.

The danger to the world is immediate, as drones, unmanned flying objects, are proliferating.  Technology to produce them is accessible and does not require considerable funding.  Commercial drones are available to be used for violence.  The significance of the event in Venezuela is that it demonstrates that the use of drones is increasingly possible as a threat of assassination of political leaders.  The democratic world recognizes that safety and security measures are vitally needed.  The U.S. is responding with appropriate counter-technology.  Radio frequencies can be jammed.  Safety nets can be use to grab a drone near a high-risk area.  High-powered microwaves and compact laser weapons systems are being developed to dispose of drones.  It is comforting that the U.S. is beginning to see the light. 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.  The unease of rulers may result from personal factors, constant worry, lack of sleep, and guilt for past odious actions, but also often from fear of assassination.  The list is long of the sad stories of the deaths of murdered kings.  The Bible tells the story of Joab, commander of King David’s army, who killed the king’s rebellious son and rival, Absalom.

A quick survey of some of the well known victims illustrates the targeted killings.  Phillip II of Macedonia was assassinated in 336 B.C. and Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.  For a number of centuries, the 8th through the 14th, an Islamic sect called the Assassins was active in the areas of what is now Iran and Syria, killing, often under influence of hashish, caliphs, viziers, sultans, and Crusaders for political and religious reasons.

The Renaissance illuminates a catalogue of tyrannicide.  Rulers and challengers for power continued to be subject to assassination, which then influenced official policy: Henry IV in France in 1610; Russian tsars Paul I and Alexander II and Rasputin in 1916; Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in May 1812, the only British prime minister to suffer this fate; Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914; and Leon Trotsky in Mexico City on August 21, 1940.

The U.S. has lost four presidents to assassins, and Huey Long in Baton Rouge on September 10, 1935; Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968; and Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968.  In recent years, other countries have lost leaders or leading figures; among them are Mohandas Gandhi in Delhi on January 30, 1948; Anwar Sadat in Cairo on October 6, 1981; Olaf Palme in Stockholm on February 28, 1986; Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995; and Benazir Bhutto, prime minister in Pakistan and the first woman to head a democratic country in a Muslim-majority nation, in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

Though some attempts at assassination failed, the most memorable and significant being Operation Valkyrie, the attack on Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 in his Wolf’s Lair field headquarters, most assassinations, successful or not, throughout history have been well planned, with perpetrators using crossbows, knives, firearms, bombs, car bombs, or poison.  An event in Venezuela on August 4, 2018 showed a new departure, the newest attempt at targeted killing of leaders, ominous in its implication.  At a military rally celebrating the National Guard in Caracas, attended by President Nicolás Maduro, at which he spoke, an alleged attack on him was made by two drones equipped with explosives.  Minor damage and casualties were caused in the failed attempt.  The world is now aware of this technique of assassination.

Few would mourn the loss of the 56-year-old Maduro, former bus driver, trade union leader, member of the Venezuela National Assembly, vice president and protégé of Hugo Chévez, whom he succeeded as president in April 2013.  In the election, widely seen as a “show election,” on May 20, 2018, Maduro was re-elected president for a term of six years.  His victory was predictable and inevitable, since opposition candidates were prevented from running, were arrested, or were in exile.  Maduro’s government had arrested the critical mayor of Caracas in February 2018, and the government controlled the electoral council.

Under Maduro’s rule, the rights of citizens have been abused by human rights violations; use of violence; repression; criminalization of demonstrations; arbitrary detention on false charges of conspiracy; rule by decree; drug money-laundering; profits from the cocaine business; military prosecution of civilians; and assault, torture, and assassination of critics.

Though Venezuela has large oil reserves, estimated to be the largest proven oil reserves in the world, the country has been plagued by economic mismanagement, by corruption, crime, high inflation, poverty, hunger, bad health, and malaria outbreaks.  Because of the poor conditions, a considerable number, reaching a million at one point, have left the country.

On July 31, 2017, the U.S. Department of Treasury, calling Maduro a “dictator,” who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people, imposed sanctions on him, froze his assets, and asserted that U.S. persons were prohibited from dealing with him.  This action came a day after Maduro held elections for an assembly that would replace the democratically elected National Assembly and would revise the constitution.

Already Maduro has blamed others for the attack: the ultra-right; U.S. citizens in Florida; individuals in Bogotá; the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos; Yankee imperialism, though not Russian collusion or Vladimir Putin.  In spite of this absurdity, his experience, genuine or a stage farce intended to dispose of political opponents held responsible and possibly charged with murder, treason, and terrorism, is important because of the use of drones as an instrument of assassination and the knowledge of accessible technology to produce drones.

Pilotless drones have some time been used for surveillance and more recently as risk-free remote killing instruments in military warfare.  They have been used against terrorists, and for the most part, they are accurate and reduce the risk of civilian casualties.  The U.S. has Predator drones in bases in Kuwait, Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Incirlik airbase in Turkey and has used them in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.  The U.K. in Syria has used “vacuum bombs” (thermobaric missiles) that suck oxygen to create a powerful high-temperature explosion.  Russia has used drones to jam U.S. signals.  Hamas has used drones against Israel, as has Hezb’allah, which, at an airstrip in North Lebanon, has deposited and later used various drones – Ababil-3, small with limited range, and the larger Shahed-129, similar to the U.S. Predator.  Hezb’allah boasts that it is a constant threat to Israel.

The danger to the world is immediate, as drones, unmanned flying objects, are proliferating.  Technology to produce them is accessible and does not require considerable funding.  Commercial drones are available to be used for violence.  The significance of the event in Venezuela is that it demonstrates that the use of drones is increasingly possible as a threat of assassination of political leaders.  The democratic world recognizes that safety and security measures are vitally needed.  The U.S. is responding with appropriate counter-technology.  Radio frequencies can be jammed.  Safety nets can be use to grab a drone near a high-risk area.  High-powered microwaves and compact laser weapons systems are being developed to dispose of drones.  It is comforting that the U.S. is beginning to see the light. 



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No Time for a Cold or Hot War


Nations prefer the temperature low, but we’re having a heat wave because of Russian defiance of international norms. As patrons of fashionable steak restaurants know, for over a year sophisticated chefs, for economic and other reasons, have created a standard of undercooking, serving steaks on the rare side. The trendiest steak is served “medium rare plus,” just enough to bring out the flavor and retain moisture with juice kept in the meat. If customers complain about overcooked meat, it has to be thrown out. If customers complain about undercooking the steak will simply be cooked a little longer. Overcooking is a sin in the fashionable contemporary culinary world. Recent events and the memory of various anniversaries evoke a parallel in the political world as political activity is being or has been overcooked.

One overcooking event sparked the racial problem. It is exactly 50 years ago that the passionate British Conservative politician Enoch Powell delivered his “Rivers of Blood” speech to Conservative party members in Birmingham. On the anniversary of the speech, the BBC broadcast the reading by an actor of the text of what many people considered an incitement to racial hatred. Discussing the contemplated government bill on immigration, the Race Relations Bill, which made it illegal to refuse housing or employment to anyone because of ethnic background, he declared, “I am filled with foreboding: like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” He insisted that immigrants be returned to their country of origin.

More blood flowed on banks of U.S. rivers than on the Thames, but Powell’s premonition, that the “black man would have the whip hand over the white man,” was unfulfilled with the weakening of the system of racial segregation in Western countries. Nevertheless, the continuing existence of discrimination, the increase in anti-Semitism, and the fact that mass immigration is a key issue in Western countries show the need for undercooking of existing prejudice. 

A second anniversary is that of the Hadassah convoy massacre on April 13, 1948. A convoy, escorted by Haganah militia, bringing medical and military supplies to Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus, outside Jerusalem, was ambushed by Arab troops that had blocked Jewish access to Hadassah hospital and the Hebrew University campus nearby. Seventy-eight Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members, and Haganah fighters were murdered.

The tragedy is the continued overcooking of Palestinian violence, by wars, rocket and mortar attacks, underground tunnels, indiscriminate assaults against the State of Israel and its citizens. Golda Meir once gave the recipe for undercooking, “When will the Palestinians love their children more than they hate their neighbors?”

Connected with overcooking is the fact that memory, especially of details, of the Holocaust is fading. A recent study by Schoen Consulting shows that in the U.S. detailed knowledge of the Holocaust was very low, especially among millennials, 22% of whom are ignorant of the Holocaust. In general, 41% of Americans, 66% of millennials could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Similarly, though the number six million has been endlessly restated, 31% and 41% of millennials believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed.

The result of this ignorance or disinterest about the reality of the Holocaust, or eradication of its memory, was displayed in an overcooked demonstration on April 11, 2018 at Columbia University in NYC. While preparations were being made at the university for a memorial to the six million Jews murdered, a group of students tore down all material supporting Israel and called for a Palestine “from the river to the sea… Palestine will be free.”

But clearly, the most egregious contemporary political overcooking is the behavior of Russia in disregard of international norms, and penchant for lying and spread of misinformation. Since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, international treaties, customs, and general principles of law have contributed to international rules accepted as binding, even if not precise legal texts, on relations between states as well on issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage. apartheid, and civil rights.

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate over the justification of military action. Is a “just war,” whether the decision to conduct hostilities or the precise conduct of those hostilities, morally justifiable? If there are differences about this on some issues and events, there are none on the use by a state of some form of poison gas or nerve agent. As a result of revulsion towards the use of poison gas by Germany on April 22, 1915 against French troops at Ypres, Belgium, the Geneva Protocol treaty was signed on June 17, 1925 prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It is true that the agreement has been violated by a number of countries: Japan, Italy, Spain, and by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But it is the use of chemical weapons in recent days by Syria and Russia that has caused international overheating.

The overcooking of chemical weapons and poison gas, along with denials of responsibility by Russia has led to a situation which, if not as dramatically menacing as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 or the Berlin crisis of 1961, is serious, and calls for political chefs to lower the temperature. This is unmistakable now that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack by military grade nerve agent, Novichoks, developed by Russia, used in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. The reckless and indiscriminate attack threatened the lives of innocent people as well as the intended targets, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia.

What is important is not simply the immoral nature of the nerve agent and gas attacks, but the denial and counterattack by the responsible party. Russian spokespersons provided alternative explanations of the real actors. One emphasis was that British MI6 was directly involved in the Salisbury attack; the Russians claimed “irrefutable evidence” that the attacks were staged with help of a foreign secret service.

As usual, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that there was no evidence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible, and more time was needed to find “incontrovertible” evidence that Assad was behind the use of chemical weapons in the attack on Douma on April 7, 2018 that killed at least 40 people.  However, he did know that the airstrikes on selected Syrian targets by four British Tornado jets were “legally questionable” actions.

The 19th-century French diplomat Talleyrand might have had Corbyn in mind when he wrote of the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” One imagines Corbyn in 1939 calling on the League of Nations to take time to verify the “alleged” Nazi aggression in Poland, and meanwhile for all parties to cease violence. In similar vein, Corbyn’s colleague Diane Abbott was uncertain who was the greatest danger to world peace, the U.S. or Russia.

He did not need help from Corbyn when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Russia had “irrefutable” evidence that the attack on Douma on April 7 was staged with the help of a foreign secret service. According to British newspaper reports, Russia may have been helped by some senior British academics, at Edinburgh, Leicester, and Sheffield Universities, who have formed a group called SPM, Syria, Propaganda, and Media, that spreads disinformation that benefits Syria, and conspiracy theories propounded by Russia.

SPM had published a statement that questioned whether Russia had a secret nerve agent program. It then spread the allegation, repeated by the Russian ambassador, that a rebel-associated organization, the White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) staged the Douma attack. The White Helmets consists of 3,000 volunteers who engage in search and rescue after bombings in Syria.

It is disquieting that some countries, groups, and individuals persist in defending or not criticizing the actions of Assad. His forces had used sarin gas in an attack on August 21, 2013 on Ghouta, Damascus where hundreds were killed. After that, Russia promised to ensure that Syria would abandon all its chemical weapons. But Syria on April 4, 2017 used sarin gas in an attack on Khan Sheikhoun, killing 90 people. In response to this atrocity Trump on April 6, 2017 ordered U.S. forces to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.

Despite Russian denials, the use by Russians of chemical weapons in Salisbury and by the Syrian regime in Douma is clear, as are the responses that have taken place. French President Emmanuel Macron called the use of such weapons a “red line.” Trump threatened on April 11 that there would be a “big price to pay” for the mindless chemical attack, and that Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Assad. The rhetoric was followed by action by a U.S., French, and British coalition that French UN ambassador Francois Delattre called “proportionate and targeted.”

At the emergency UN Security Council meeting on April 14, 2018, the Russian resolution to condemn the U.S. was rejected by eight to three (Russia, China, Bolivia) and four abstentions. It is welcome that in this case international norms have been upheld.  It is now up Russia to find its moral compass, to stop its contentious actions and destructive effect on the system of international relations, and to consult its political cookbook to concentrate on undercooking its actions.

Nations prefer the temperature low, but we’re having a heat wave because of Russian defiance of international norms. As patrons of fashionable steak restaurants know, for over a year sophisticated chefs, for economic and other reasons, have created a standard of undercooking, serving steaks on the rare side. The trendiest steak is served “medium rare plus,” just enough to bring out the flavor and retain moisture with juice kept in the meat. If customers complain about overcooked meat, it has to be thrown out. If customers complain about undercooking the steak will simply be cooked a little longer. Overcooking is a sin in the fashionable contemporary culinary world. Recent events and the memory of various anniversaries evoke a parallel in the political world as political activity is being or has been overcooked.

One overcooking event sparked the racial problem. It is exactly 50 years ago that the passionate British Conservative politician Enoch Powell delivered his “Rivers of Blood” speech to Conservative party members in Birmingham. On the anniversary of the speech, the BBC broadcast the reading by an actor of the text of what many people considered an incitement to racial hatred. Discussing the contemplated government bill on immigration, the Race Relations Bill, which made it illegal to refuse housing or employment to anyone because of ethnic background, he declared, “I am filled with foreboding: like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” He insisted that immigrants be returned to their country of origin.

More blood flowed on banks of U.S. rivers than on the Thames, but Powell’s premonition, that the “black man would have the whip hand over the white man,” was unfulfilled with the weakening of the system of racial segregation in Western countries. Nevertheless, the continuing existence of discrimination, the increase in anti-Semitism, and the fact that mass immigration is a key issue in Western countries show the need for undercooking of existing prejudice. 

A second anniversary is that of the Hadassah convoy massacre on April 13, 1948. A convoy, escorted by Haganah militia, bringing medical and military supplies to Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus, outside Jerusalem, was ambushed by Arab troops that had blocked Jewish access to Hadassah hospital and the Hebrew University campus nearby. Seventy-eight Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members, and Haganah fighters were murdered.

The tragedy is the continued overcooking of Palestinian violence, by wars, rocket and mortar attacks, underground tunnels, indiscriminate assaults against the State of Israel and its citizens. Golda Meir once gave the recipe for undercooking, “When will the Palestinians love their children more than they hate their neighbors?”

Connected with overcooking is the fact that memory, especially of details, of the Holocaust is fading. A recent study by Schoen Consulting shows that in the U.S. detailed knowledge of the Holocaust was very low, especially among millennials, 22% of whom are ignorant of the Holocaust. In general, 41% of Americans, 66% of millennials could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Similarly, though the number six million has been endlessly restated, 31% and 41% of millennials believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed.

The result of this ignorance or disinterest about the reality of the Holocaust, or eradication of its memory, was displayed in an overcooked demonstration on April 11, 2018 at Columbia University in NYC. While preparations were being made at the university for a memorial to the six million Jews murdered, a group of students tore down all material supporting Israel and called for a Palestine “from the river to the sea… Palestine will be free.”

But clearly, the most egregious contemporary political overcooking is the behavior of Russia in disregard of international norms, and penchant for lying and spread of misinformation. Since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, international treaties, customs, and general principles of law have contributed to international rules accepted as binding, even if not precise legal texts, on relations between states as well on issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage. apartheid, and civil rights.

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate over the justification of military action. Is a “just war,” whether the decision to conduct hostilities or the precise conduct of those hostilities, morally justifiable? If there are differences about this on some issues and events, there are none on the use by a state of some form of poison gas or nerve agent. As a result of revulsion towards the use of poison gas by Germany on April 22, 1915 against French troops at Ypres, Belgium, the Geneva Protocol treaty was signed on June 17, 1925 prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It is true that the agreement has been violated by a number of countries: Japan, Italy, Spain, and by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But it is the use of chemical weapons in recent days by Syria and Russia that has caused international overheating.

The overcooking of chemical weapons and poison gas, along with denials of responsibility by Russia has led to a situation which, if not as dramatically menacing as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 or the Berlin crisis of 1961, is serious, and calls for political chefs to lower the temperature. This is unmistakable now that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack by military grade nerve agent, Novichoks, developed by Russia, used in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. The reckless and indiscriminate attack threatened the lives of innocent people as well as the intended targets, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia.

What is important is not simply the immoral nature of the nerve agent and gas attacks, but the denial and counterattack by the responsible party. Russian spokespersons provided alternative explanations of the real actors. One emphasis was that British MI6 was directly involved in the Salisbury attack; the Russians claimed “irrefutable evidence” that the attacks were staged with help of a foreign secret service.

As usual, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that there was no evidence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible, and more time was needed to find “incontrovertible” evidence that Assad was behind the use of chemical weapons in the attack on Douma on April 7, 2018 that killed at least 40 people.  However, he did know that the airstrikes on selected Syrian targets by four British Tornado jets were “legally questionable” actions.

The 19th-century French diplomat Talleyrand might have had Corbyn in mind when he wrote of the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” One imagines Corbyn in 1939 calling on the League of Nations to take time to verify the “alleged” Nazi aggression in Poland, and meanwhile for all parties to cease violence. In similar vein, Corbyn’s colleague Diane Abbott was uncertain who was the greatest danger to world peace, the U.S. or Russia.

He did not need help from Corbyn when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Russia had “irrefutable” evidence that the attack on Douma on April 7 was staged with the help of a foreign secret service. According to British newspaper reports, Russia may have been helped by some senior British academics, at Edinburgh, Leicester, and Sheffield Universities, who have formed a group called SPM, Syria, Propaganda, and Media, that spreads disinformation that benefits Syria, and conspiracy theories propounded by Russia.

SPM had published a statement that questioned whether Russia had a secret nerve agent program. It then spread the allegation, repeated by the Russian ambassador, that a rebel-associated organization, the White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) staged the Douma attack. The White Helmets consists of 3,000 volunteers who engage in search and rescue after bombings in Syria.

It is disquieting that some countries, groups, and individuals persist in defending or not criticizing the actions of Assad. His forces had used sarin gas in an attack on August 21, 2013 on Ghouta, Damascus where hundreds were killed. After that, Russia promised to ensure that Syria would abandon all its chemical weapons. But Syria on April 4, 2017 used sarin gas in an attack on Khan Sheikhoun, killing 90 people. In response to this atrocity Trump on April 6, 2017 ordered U.S. forces to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.

Despite Russian denials, the use by Russians of chemical weapons in Salisbury and by the Syrian regime in Douma is clear, as are the responses that have taken place. French President Emmanuel Macron called the use of such weapons a “red line.” Trump threatened on April 11 that there would be a “big price to pay” for the mindless chemical attack, and that Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Assad. The rhetoric was followed by action by a U.S., French, and British coalition that French UN ambassador Francois Delattre called “proportionate and targeted.”

At the emergency UN Security Council meeting on April 14, 2018, the Russian resolution to condemn the U.S. was rejected by eight to three (Russia, China, Bolivia) and four abstentions. It is welcome that in this case international norms have been upheld.  It is now up Russia to find its moral compass, to stop its contentious actions and destructive effect on the system of international relations, and to consult its political cookbook to concentrate on undercooking its actions.



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