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Paul Ryan Fueling Saudi War in Yemen, Undermining Congress

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Conan O’Brien tweeted Tuesday night: “Wow. The rule for the Farm Bill approved tonight by House Rules strips privilege from any War Powers resolution that limits U.S. involvement in Yemen for the rest of the year. The rule still must pass the House.”

Congressman Ro Khanna ‏tweeted Wednesday morning: “This is why people hate Congress. @SpeakerRyan is not allowing a vote on my resolution to stop the war in Yemen because many Republicans will vote with us and he will lose the vote. He is disgracing Article 1 of the Constitution, and as a result, more Yemeni children will die.”

See this just-published piece in Bloomberg. “U.S. Crackdown on Saudis Over Yemen War Imperiled by House Move.”

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich at yahoo.com, @reeseerlich
Erlich writes the syndicated column “Foreign Correspondent.” His recent columns include “Senate tumult reflects popular discontent with Yemen War.”

Erlich was in Turkey when Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered there. He wrote the pieces “What the Khashoggi case tells us about terrorism” and “Murder of Saudi journalist builds opposition to Yemen war.”

He writes: “International relief organizations now consider the Yemen War the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The country faces a devastating cholera epidemic. An estimated 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation and 85,000 children have already died of hunger. The Royal Saudi Air Force intentionally targets civilians according to a UN report and human rights groups. …

“[The Saudi government claims that] the Houthis are controlled by Iran and part of an Iranian plan to dominate the region. In fact, the Houthis are an indigenous political Islamist movement allied with, but not controlled by Iran. The Saudi military promised a quick victory, but the war has dragged on for over three and a half years.”

Erlich’s books include The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. and Policy and the Mideast Crisis. Listen to his recent interview on WAER, the Syracuse University public radio station: “Horrors of Yemen War and How U.S. Policy Shift Could Help.”

Background: Paul Ryan used a similar maneuver last month. See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Paul Ryan Tries to Keep Saudi Attack on Yemen Going.” Vox reported at the time: “The War Powers Act of 1973 allows for declaring a special privilege, essentially letting the matter come to a vote, and congressional parliamentarians said Khanna’s resolution met those requirements, a Democratic source said.”

France: Protests Force Macron Retreat; Austerity

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The Real News reports that “France’s president Emmanuel Macron made a major concession to nationwide protests this week when he decided to postpone fuel tax hikes and promised to freeze electricity prices.” The Real News also reports Macron is “promising an increase in the minimum wage and tax reductions for pensioners and for overtime work.”

JEAN BRICMONT, jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be
Noted author and academic Bricmont has been in France as the protests have gripped that country. He just arrived in Belgium, seat of several European Union institutions, where similar protests began this weekend. He has been posting his analysis as well as videos on Facebook.

Bricmont’s books include Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War and he is co-editor of Chomsky Notebook. He is a physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Louvain in Belgium.In his interview with The Real News Bricmont said of the “Yellow Vest” movement: “I pretty much believe it’s spontaneous. … It’s certainly an unstructured movement. …

“I did not expect the level of misery that I hear in the testimonies of people saying they can’t make ends meet, they don’t have anything to eat after the 20th or the 25th of the month. People describing the situation in the hospital, which used to be one of the best medical systems in the world, being absolutely dramatic. Waiting lines. You know, I mean, all these things, I mean, just unbelievable how much France seems to be being destroyed. …

“And I think the problem is not Macron. Macron, of course, was speaking publicly like the elites are speaking privately, by showing utter contempt for the people. And you know, that, of course, made him unpopular. But I think the problem is much, much deeper. …

Bricmont highlighted a series of deeper problems, including: “the left should have been leading this movement for years, you see, and it hasn’t been doing so.”

Bricmont also highlighted what he sees as structural problems with how European integration has been achieved, saying the current treaties create “imbalances between economies within the eurozone, because there is no transfer of wealth between the rich countries and the poor ones. And it’s impossible to have the same currency between countries which used to have huge fluctuation between their currencies. …

“So if you have these fluctuations, then suddenly you say all these countries have the same value. But how would you do that? It’s a free market economy. We didn’t go to a planned economy, as far as I know. And then how do you prevent these fluctuations? You prevent these fluctuations by austerity measures. That’s what they’ve been doing.” Also see The Real News overview piece with Greg Wilpert: “France’s Macron Makes Concessions while ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Continue.”

Barr as AG? Bush and Trump Dovetail

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While much media coverage the last several days sought to contrast recently deceased former president George H.W. Bush and current president Donald Trump, Arun Gupta was on the podcast “Intercepted,” making parallels between the two presidents.

Gupta argued that the Trump presidency was largely an outgrowth of past presidencies, especially that of George H.W. Bush.

On Thursday, USA Today reported that William Barr “is a leading candidate to become President Donald Trump’s replacement for ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two administration officials and a person familiar with the discussion told USA Today on Thursday.” Barr worked at a time for the CIA, including while Bush was CIA director.

Barr was also attorney general during the Bush administration. Specifically, he was attorney general in 1992 when Bush pardoned six individuals implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, including Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams and Robert C. McFarlane.

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
On Wednesday, Gupta was on the “Intercepted” podcast “George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), American War Criminal,” hosted by Jeremy Scahill. He is writing a piece for The Intercept on George Bush, the secret government, and the Iran-Contra scandal.

Background: The Iran-Contra affair involved the Reagan-Bush administration trading missile sales to Iran for U.S. hostages, and using the proceeds of those arms sales to fund anti-Sandinista Contras in Central America — in violation of U.S. law.

Consortium News founder Robert Parry (whose books include Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq) would later write in “Firewall: Inside the Iran-Contra Cover-up“: “The Republican independent counsel [Lawrence Walsh] infuriated the GOP when he submitted a second indictment of Weinberger on the Friday before the 1992 elections. The indictment contained documents revealing that President Bush had been lying for years with his claim that he was ‘out of the loop’ on the Iran-Contra decisions. The ensuing furor dominated the last several days of the campaign and sealed Bush’s defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton.

“Walsh had discovered, too, that Bush had withheld his own notes about the Iran-Contra Affair, a discovery that elevated the President to a possible criminal subject of the investigation. But Bush had one more weapon in his arsenal. On Christmas Eve 1992, Bush destroyed the Iran-Contra probe once and for all by pardoning Weinberger and five other convicted or indicted defendants.

“’George Bush’s misuse of the pardon power made the cover-up complete,’ Walsh wrote.”

CNN Fires Hill for Arguing for Equal Rights in Israel-Palestine

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AP reports in “CNN Fires Analyst Marc Lamont Hill After UN Speech on Israel” that “Hill, a professor of media studies at Temple University who had been a recurring political commentator on CNN, called for countries to boycott and divest from Israel in the Wednesday speech given for the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“‘We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,’ Hill said in the speech.

“The ADL and others said the ‘river to the sea’ phrase is code for the destruction of Israel often used by Hamas and groups bent on its destruction.”

Hill said on Twitter: “My reference to ‘river to the sea’ was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant.”

“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination,” Hill tweeted, adding, “I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.” See video and transcript of Hill’s speech.

ALI ABUNIMAH, aliabunimah at me.com, @AliAbunimah
Founder of the Electronic Intifada, Abunimah just wrote the piece “Marc Lamont Hill Politically Lynched for Telling Truth about Palestine.”

Hill also wrote: “I called for a single democratic state where everyone votes. Jews, Muslims, Christians and everyone else deserve to live in peace and safety. And with self-determination. No one’s freedom should come at the expense of others.”

Abunimah — whose books include One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, wrote of Hill’s explanation: “This is precisely the message Israel and its lobby are most terrified of — because it resonates with ordinary people. This is why they smear and defame people who call for justice and equality.”

Wrote Abunimah: “The accusations against Marc Lamont Hill are outright lies promoted by high-level operatives of the Israel lobby in their latest effort to silence and punish anyone who dares speak out in support of Palestinian equality and freedom from Israel’s brutal regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

“They perfectly match the kind of smear and sabotage tactics revealed in the censored Al Jazeera documentary on the U.S. Israel lobby that was recently published in full by The Electronic Intifada.”

Also see: Yousef Munayyer at Huffington Post: “CNN Fired Marc Lamont Hill for Saying Palestinians Deserve Equal Rights.”

Glenn Greenwald just wrote the piece “CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to His ‘Offensive’ Defense of Palestinians at the U.N.

Will Congress Save Nuclear Treaties with Russia?

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JOHN BURROUGHS, johnburroughs at lcnp.org

Burroughs is executive director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and co-author of “U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Racing: Still Crazy After All These Years.” His group is participating in a RootsAction-led online campaign to oppose U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

He said today: “In October, President Trump announced the intent to withdraw from the INF treaty, a key nuclear disarmament pact with Russia signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and approved by the U.S. Senate. It required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles. Through the campaign, constituents can contact their representative and senators to urge that they support legislation or a resolution clearly stating congressional opposition to U.S. withdrawal and that they oppose funding of weapons prohibited by the treaty.

“The INF Treaty was the first agreement to eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons delivery systems, and served as the foundation for subsequent U.S.-Russian agreements to reduce long-range nuclear forces. Its termination now will destabilize the U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship and make further bilateral or multilateral nuclear arms control much more difficult. The issues the U.S. and Russia each have regarding claimed violations of the treaty by the other side can be resolved through negotiations. And given Democratic control of the House next year and the positions taken by the likely incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, it is doubtful that Congress will fund treaty-prohibited activities — the testing, production, and deployment of the missiles — whether or not the treaty remains in effect. If that is so, what is the strategic rationale for withdrawing from the treaty?”

Burroughs adds that the online campaign — which is also backed by other groups including Daily Kos and The Nation — has an “emphasis on the need for Congress to step up to the plate that is much needed. Already, there have been signs of movement. Smith and Eliot Engel, the likely incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, signed a letter in response to Trump’s announcement complaining bitterly that their committees had not been consulted about the plan to withdraw. Under the Constitution, treaties are part of the supreme law of the land and their ratification is approved by the Senate. The Constitution is silent on allocation of the power of treaty termination, but from the beginning numerous treaties were ended by joint action of Congress and the president. While evidence of the framers’ intent is fragmentary and mixed, it is noteworthy that Jefferson and Madison maintained that Congress or the Senate have responsibility for treaty termination. It was only with the advent of the imperial presidency after World War II that it has become commonplace flatly to assume that treaty termination is a sole presidential power — though that assumption has not gone unchallenged, as former senator Russell Feingold explains in ‘Donald Trump Can Unilaterally Withdraw from Treaties Because Congress Abdicated responsibility.’

“This dynamic played out in the fateful decision of the George W, Bush administration to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Now is the time for Congress to reclaim its power, through spending decisions which the House can control and if possible through legislation or a resolution adopted by both the House and Senate.”

Background: Congressman Ro Khanna has tweeted: “I am alarmed that President Trump is withdrawing from the INF treaty with Russia. This action plunges us back into a nuclear arms race and endangers our troops, allies, & the world, while wasting taxpayer dollars to prepare for a nuclear war that must never be fought.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which now shows the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight, points out: “The INF withdrawal is part of a pattern. It is not the first nuclear treaty the U.S. has terminated; at the end of 2001 the United States walked out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty it had signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.”

Left-Right Alliance for Closing U.S. Military Bases Around the World

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DAVID VINE, vine at american.edu
CATHERINE LUTZ, Catherine_Lutz at brown.edu

Author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, Vine is professor of anthropology at American University. Lutz is professor at the Watson Institute and Department of Anthropology at Brown University and author of The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts.

At the U.S. Capitol, on Thursday afternoon, “military experts from across the ideological spectrum will hold a public event to release an open letter arguing for the closure of wasteful, damaging, and unneeded U.S. military bases abroad. … Consensus is growing around a long-overlooked but crucial part of how the United States engages with the world: the nearly 75-year-old strategy of maintaining some 800 U.S. military bases in 80 foreign countries.”

See event livestream/phone-in: zoom.us/j/943926933 / (646) 876-9923 (ID: 943 926 933). Event is scheduled for Nov. 29, 1:00 p.m. ET in the Russell Senate Office Building, Room SR-188.

The open letter is addressed to the Trump administration and Congress and was drafted by the new transpartisan Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition. The Coalition “reflects growing agreement among military experts that reducing the excessive U.S. military footprint could, counterintuitively, make the country safer while saving billions of dollars a year.”

For more information, see: OverSeasBases.net.

The signatories to the letter include “Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and Independents. They span a retired army general and other retired military officers; peace advocates; a former GOP member of Congress; Clinton, Reagan, and George W. Bush administration officials; and academics and think tank analysts across the ideological spectrum.”

In addition to Lutz and Vine, scheduled speakers include Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, (U.S. Army, Ret.), former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Glaser, director, Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Sayo Saruta, director, New Diplomacy Initiative (Japan).

Will Sen. Sanders Press for Peace?

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On Wednesday, over 100 U.S. scholars, intellectuals, and activists published an “open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders and invited others to add their names to it. Sanders was working to force a new Senate vote on ending, or at least reducing, U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. Signers of the letter wished to encourage such steps and, in fact, to urge Sanders toward far greater opposition to militarism and support for peace.”

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh at riseup.net
DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com
Signers include Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and Swanson, the director of World BEYOND War and advisory board member, Veterans For Peace. He is a lead organizer for the letter.

Other signers include Christine Ahn, Noam Chomsky, John Dear, Jodie Evans, Margaret Flowers, Kathy Kelly and Ann Wright. Full letter and IDs of signers here. Excerpts from the “Open Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders“:

“Military spending is well over 60 percent of discretionary spending. A public policy that avoids mentioning its existence is not a public policy at all. Should military spending go up or down or remain unchanged? This is the very first question. We are dealing here with an amount of money at least comparable to what could be obtained by taxing the wealthy and corporations (something we are certainly in favor of as well).

“A tiny fraction of U.S. military spending could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases worldwide. No humanitarian policy can avoid the existence of the military. No discussion of free college or clean energy or public transit should omit mention of the place where a trillion dollars a year is going.

“War and preparations for war are among the top destroyers, if not the top destroyer, of our natural environment. No environmental policy can ignore them.

“Militarism is the top source of the erosion of liberties, and top justification for government secrecy, top creator of refugees, top saboteur of the rule of law, top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry, and top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse. There is no area of our social life that is untouched by what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

“The U.S. public favors cutting military spending.

“Even candidate Trump declared the wars since 2001 to have been counterproductive, a statement that appears not to have hurt him on election day.

“A December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found the United States to be far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world, and a Pew poll in 2017 found majorities in most countries polled viewing the United States as a threat. A United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world; that result would cost a fraction of what is invested in making the United States resented and disliked.

“Economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program.”

Will Senate Move to Stop U.S. Backing for Saudi War on Yemen?

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JEHAN HAKIM, hakimjehan at gmail.com
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee [see on Facebook], which is working with other groups including Just Foreign Policy and Action Corps. The groups noted that Trump last week defended U.S. government support for the Saudi-led war.

The groups just released a statement: “The Senate will likely vote Tuesday on U.S. support for the Saudi Coalition in the Yemen war. As 14 million Yemenis face the world’s worst famine in 100 years, Yemeni-American activists and allies will rally Monday after Thanksgiving at Senate offices across U.S. … [See from CBS News on Sunday: “Bernie Sanders confident bill stopping U.S. support of Saudi Arabia in Yemen can pass.” See Sanders’ recent New York Times oped: “Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop Helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”]

“Last week activists in San Francisco and Los Angeles succeeded in obtaining support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff for a bill to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-Houthi war in Yemen. The legislation invokes the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to end all U.S. support for the war in Yemen. Tuesday [Senate Minority Leader] Schumer tweeted his support for the Senate version, SJRes54, but he, Sen. Menendez of New Jersey, and many other senators have yet to co-sponsor the bill.

“The U.S. administration recently announced it would stop refueling Saudi warplanes over Yemen. But the week before Thanksgiving the U.S. House narrowly voted to block debate of a bill to withdraw the U.S. completely from the Saudi Coalition in Yemen. The U.S. continues to provide critical military support and diplomatic cover for Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The Saudi Coalition has stopped the flow of food, medicine, and fuel into Yemen.”

Incentives for Ukraine Crisis

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LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee. Since the book’s release, he’s had pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post and numerous other outlets.

Golinkin states that both sides in Ukraine have an incentive for escalation. He said today: “Looks like the Ukrainian president [Petro Poroshenk] will get that declaration of martial law. Again, this will most likely result in postponing the election, which works to his advantage since he’s currently polling at 8 percent. Martial law will allow mass suppression of anything from public gatherings to groups that are considered a ‘danger’ to Ukraine.

“It’s noteworthy that Ukraine had NOT declared martial law over the past four years, even when the fighting with Russian-backed rebels was very hot. This makes it suspicious that the president suddenly wants to declare martial law so close to elections. If losing hundreds of soldiers a day wasn’t enough to declare martial law, why are they doing it now?

“It’s also dangerous given some of the radical paramilitaries employed by the Ukrainian government. In the past they’ve been given free rein to attack Roma, LGBT groups etc. — with no consequences — it’s disturbing to think of how much that would escalate under martial law.

“On the Russia side, Moscow has not given a valid reason for opening fire on — and seizing — the three Ukrainian ships. That also is a problem. Past four years of this conflict has been mostly he-said-she-said, but here is a clear case of Russia seizing ships — they should be providing reasons.” He also notes that Putin’s popularity has “taken a big hit” recently “after backing unpopular pension reform.”

He added: “This year has been terrible for the NATO/DC charade of pretending Ukraine is a beacon of democracy. There’s been report after report from human rights groups saying the far right is out of control, coverage of pogroms against the Roma, and endless stories of corruption. … This is doubly important given that now, the Trump administration is actually supplying weapons to Kiev.”

Dems Eye Hawkish Eliot Engel to Chair House Foreign Affairs Committee

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes

Zunes is professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. He just wrote the piece “Dems Eye Hawkish Eliot Engel to Chair House Foreign Affairs Committee, which states: “Congressman Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, currently the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will likely be the choice of the Democratic Party leadership to chair that influential committee when the new Democratic majority comes to office in January. In that role, he will serve as the Democratic Party’s most prominent figure on foreign policy.

“Unfortunately, on many key issues, his views are closer to that of Republicans than the majority of his fellow Democrats. Indeed, the prominent pro-Trump neoconservative activist Morton Klein has praised Engel’s likely ascension to the chairmanship, describing him as someone ‘who fully understands the truth of the Arab-Islamic war against Israel and the West.’

“In order to frighten Americans into supporting a U.S. takeover of Iraq, Engel falsely claimed just prior to the 2002 war authorization vote to invade Iraq that the Iraqi government was still producing chemical and biological weapons. He was among a rightwing minority of Congressional Democrats who voted to authorize the illegal, unnecessary, and predictably tragic U.S. invasion of that oil-rich country.

“More recently, Engel worked successfully to kill a Democratic-sponsored 2017 measure that would have ended U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and threatens millions more with starvation and disease.

“He was one of only a handful of Democrats to oppose the Iran anti-nuclear agreement. …

[Forbes reports “The U.S. Never Dropped As Many Bombs On Afghanistan As It Did In 2018.'”]

“In addition, Engel has opposed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, has called for expanding NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia, and supports Morocco’s illegal annexation of occupied Western Sahara, insisting that the United States accept Moroccan sovereignty and deny the former Spanish colony the right of self-determination as demanded by the United Nations and the World Court. …

“It is no longer the case that those with the most seniority automatically become committee chairs. Democratic House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer could decide to appoint a less rightwing chair. Roots Action and other progressive groups have organized a petition to persuade the Democratic Party leadership to not give Engel the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and to appoint someone without such dangerous views.”

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