News Releases

Kamala Harris: “More AIPAC Than J Street”

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Al-Jazeera reports: “U.S. Senate advances controversial anti-BDS legislation” — see Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Senate Job One: Attack First Amendment Rights of Israel Critics.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He just wrote the piece “‘More AIPAC Than J Street’: Kamala Harris Runs to the Right on Foreign Policy” for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Zunes writes that Kamala Harris “is being embraced by many progressive Democrats, and she’s branding herself as a progressive. Yet in the course of her little more than two years in the U.S. Senate, she’s taken some foreign policy positions that should give pause to supporters of human rights and international law.

“In her very first foreign policy vote in January 2017, for instance, Harris sided with President Trump in criticizing the outgoing President Obama’s refusal to veto an otherwise-unanimous, very modest, and largely symbolic UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements. Among other things, that resolution reiterated previous Security Council calls for Israel to stop expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice. …

“While most Democrats today ally more with the moderate pro-Israel group J Street rather than the hardline AIPAC, which has generally backed Republicans in recent years, Harris has been virtually the only Democrat to appear before the right-wing pro-Netanyahu organization each year since being elected to the Senate. Indeed, as the Jewish Telegraph Agency observed, her record demonstrates that ‘She’s more AIPAC than J Street.’

“It is not unusual for otherwise progressive members of Congress to have a blind spot when it comes to Israel and Palestine. However, Harris’ views are not only particularly extreme and dangerous, but may be indicative of a wider contempt for human rights and international law in her foreign policy views overall. …

“She’s accused campaigns supporting boycotts and divestment targeting the Israeli occupation of anti-Semitism, and she claims that efforts in the United Nations to pressure the Netanyahu government to end its violations of international humanitarian law are actually designed to ‘delegitimize Israel.’ She even signed a letter criticizing the United Nations and its agencies for such efforts which commended Trump’s former UN Ambassador Nicki Haley’s attacks on the world body.”

Will Elliott Abrams, “Abettor of Genocide,” do to Venezuela What he did to Guatemala?

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On Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Elliott Abrams to “lead our efforts on Venezuela” as that country is threatened by civil war. On Saturday, after making remarks to the UN Security Council about Venezuela, Pompeo vacated his chair and Elliott Abrams took over as representing the U.S. government, sparring with the Russian representative and others. (Partial textfull video).

Among the highlights of Abrams’ career: He was found guilty in the Iran-Contra scandal, and then got what prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called a “cover-up” pardon from George H.W. Bush. The pardon was approved by Bush’s attorney general, William Barr (who is also Trump’s current nominee for attorney general).

Abrams was a leading U.S. backer of right-wing forces during the 1980s in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, resulting in tens of thousands killed in 1982 in Guatemala alone. See from the Guardian last year: “Guatemala: ex-military officers convicted of crimes against humanity.”

Abrams was George W. Bush’s point man in the 2007 U.S.-backed coup by Israeli-allied pro-Mahmoud Abbas militias against the elected Palestinian Hamas-led authority, leading to the division of West Bank and Gaza. See from Vanity Fair: “The Gaza Bombshell.”

ALLAN NAIRN, allan.nairn at yahoo.org, @AllanNairn14
Currently in Indonesia, Nairn is available for a limited number of interviews. He is a noted independent journalist. On an appearance with Elliott Abrams in 1995 on the program “Charlie Rose,” he accused Abrams of crimes against humanity — see video posted on Twitter on Friday which has been viewed over 400,000 times; now on YouTube with transcript. Also see interview with Nairn on the program “Intercepted” with Jeremy Scahill.

Nairn recently tweeted: “Elliott Abrams does indeed represent longstanding U.S. policy. The problem is that that policy is to be willing to abet genocide, as the U.S. did in Guatemala (under Abrams), as a Guatemalan court ruled last September after hearing evidence in a genocide trial in which I testified.”

“Last September 26 a Guatemalan court ruled that the U.S. policy pushed by officials like Elliott Abrams was behind the rapes, tortures, & mass murders of indigenous people, which they formally determined to constitute ‘genocide.'”

“Elliott Abrams, who dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ the idea that even he should be subject to trial for abetting massacres, may now be in position to do for Venezuela what he did for Guatemala.”

“If Trump really wanted to stop the Guatemalan and Honduran refugees, he’d stop propping up the thieving, repressive presidents (@jimmymoralesgt [Guatemala], @JuanOrlandoH [Honduras]) who are compelling them to flee in the first place. #TrumpAddress #TheWall”

“The U.S. doesn’t care about elections or the poor. In ’02 they tried a coup v the cleanly-reelected Chavez even as his govt was improving health, nutrition, living standards. But now, as Maduro runs the country into the ground, the U.S. is salivating at the chance to resume pulling the strings.”

Venezuela Intervention: Pretexts and Solutions

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FRANCIS BOYLE,fboyle at illinois.edu
Secretary of State Pompeo has announced he is going to New York for a UN Security Council meeting Saturday regarding Venezuela. Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “The U.S. government refusing to withdraw its officials from Venezuela may well set up a pretext for further intervention or blockade.” Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

ALEX MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main was recently interviewed on FAIR’s program “CounterSpin”: “U.S. Administrations Have Been Intervening in Venezuela Since at Least the Early 2000s.”

In a new segment with The Real News, “The U.S. Strategy for Regime Change in Venezuela,” Main states: “The case of Cuba is sort of emblematic of how Latin American governments both on the right and the left have been very much opposed to the U.S. strategy of regime change in Cuba for a very long time. … Venezuela is not just an outlier in political terms in the region now, but is a country that represents a real threat to the right regionally, to the extent that if they recover economically, if oil prices go up again, it can become once again a regional powerhouse as it was under Chavez.”

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74 at gmail.com, @sellner74
Ellner lives in Venezuela and is currently in the Washington, D.C. area. He is associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives and is the editor of The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America. He appeared this morning on the program “Democracy Now!” He signed the statement: “An Open Letter to the United States: Stop Interfering in Venezuela’s Internal Politics.”

He said today: “Obama issued an executive order calling Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security and created a list of Venezuelan officials who were sanctioned. The Trump administration’s escalation included financial sanctions against the Venezuelan government and measures against the nation’s oil industry. In addition, top administration officials have played an openly activist role by traveling throughout the continent to promote the campaign to isolate Venezuela. …

“When Secretary of State Pompeo offered $20 million of ‘humanitarian assistance’ to the Venezuelan population. Many Venezuelans see this as humiliating and nothing short of a bribe designed to pressure the country into submission. …

“Never since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role throughout the continent in favor of the isolation of a government that is not to its liking. In the process it has further polarized Venezuela and the continent as a whole. The moderates in the Venezuelan opposition, including two former presidential candidates of the two main traditional parties, Claudio Fermín and Eduardo Fernández, have favored electoral participation and recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government. Washington’s actions pull the rug from under the moderates and strengthen the hands of the extremists in the opposition. …

“But just as there are moderates in the Venezuelan opposition who support dialogue, which the mainstream media have pretty much ignored, there are moderates in the international community who are also in favor of dialogue. These figures include Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Pope Francis, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and ex-president of Chile Michelle Bachelet.”

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

Rep. Ro Khanna‏ tweeted: “Let me get this straight. The U.S. is sanctioning Venezuela for their lack of democracy but not Saudi Arabia? …” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar: “A U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.”

Jerry Brown: Democrats’ Posture on Putin is “Stupid”

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Former California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday stated: “I think it is stupid for Democrats to be attacking Putin on all issues and not holding open the channel of nuclear dialogue.”

His comments were made at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock unveiling at the National Press Club. Brown is executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

He continued: “Yes, deal with the issues in Syria, and killing diplomats, and Ukraine, and Crimea and all the rest of that, but that doesn’t warrant a nuclear blunder that kills billions of people, or millions. So yes, whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, we need to have dialogue. And something that might help is a bit of humility. Yes, the Russians have plenty of faults, and sins I might even say, but we too have to look in the mirror and see ourselves, and we’re not perfect. So, in an imperfect world with imperfect human beings, the only path forward is dialogue. Dialogue about the most important threat facing humanity. So yes, knock it off guys, and ladies. Let’s talk to Putin. Let’s talk to anybody else who can do the kind of damage that you’re hearing about from this panel of nuclear scientists.” [See video]

STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu, and via Caitlin Graf, caitlin at thenation.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University. He is author of the just-released book War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate. His recent pieces include “Anti-Trump Frenzy Threatens to End Superpower Diplomacy” and “The End of Russia’s ‘Democratic Illusions’ About America” for The Nation.

Brown made his comments in response to a question about Russiagate posed by Sam Husseini, contributing writer to The Nation and senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy.

“Attempted Coup” in Venezuela

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Thursday morning, former U.N. independent expert Alfred de Zayas called what is happening in Venezuela an “attempted coup.” (On the program “Democracy Now!”)

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger has written extensively on Venezuela for the media watch group FAIR — see his pieces including “WaPo: Trump Needs to Destroy Venezuela to Save It.” He has also written for Venezuela Analysis, including the piece “Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017.” He has also written for Z magazine: “Amnesty International Replied to Questions about Venezuela.”

Among his recent tweets: “Maduro is democratically elected but it does very little to defend a country against a U.S.-backed coup or economic assault. If you aren’t a dictator the Empire’s propaganda apparatus will simply declare you one or otherwise smear you to facilitate U.S. aggression.”

“We are coming up on the 15 year anniversary of the US-perpetrated coup in Haiti that took place on February 29 of 2004. U.S. troops kidnapped the democratically elected president Aristide. Canada and France helped out to provide cover for the widely loathed ‘W’ Bush in 2004.”

“In her book, Hilary Clinton boasted of her role in rendering ‘moot’ the return to office of the democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya who was ousted in a military coup in 2009.”

“And of course the only time Venezuela really did a have a dictatorship in the last 20 years (for two days under Pedro Carmona in 2002) the Bush administration, New York Times editorial board, and IMF all made it crystal clear that they were delighted with it.”

Background: See Bill Blum, author of The CIA: A Forgotten History and other books, piece: “Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List.”

On Venezuela, Trump “Clear Violation” of International Law

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President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition as the interim president of Venezuela on Wednesday. Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the United States.

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, mrt04747 at pomona.edu, @mtinkersalas

Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press). He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He said today that the U.S. government’s actions were a “clear violation of the UN Charter and multiple international treaties.

“It is preposterous to suggest that the president of the U.S., Brazil or Colombia should dictate who should hold power in Venezuela. That is a decision to be determined solely by the people of Venezuela.”

He appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release on Tuesday: “Is Venezuelan Opposition Aiming for ‘Ungovernablity’?

UN Charter reads in article 2(4): “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Organization of American States Charter:

Article 19: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”

Article 20: “No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.”

In Pro-NATO Vote, Did Dems Ditch Medicare for All “Gold Standard” HR 676?

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Russell Mokhber just wrote the piece “Single Payer Gold Standard HR 676 Rest in Peace,” published by CommonDreams.

He writes: “HR 676, the gold standard single payer legislation for the past sixteen years, is no longer.

“The House Democrats have decided that their single payer Medicare for All bill will not carry the HR 676 number.

“They let that number go this week to a bill that reiterates ‘the support of the Congress of the United States for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).’

“Some in the single payer movement see the abandonment of HR 676 as a betrayal of years of grassroots activism, activism that drew 124 co-sponsors to HR 676 in the House last year.

“Now, with Democrats in charge of the House, the Medicare for All single payer bill is being rewritten, watered down and renumbered.”

Mokhiber reports Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) is writing a new bill “behind closed doors.” Last month, he wrote the piece “Advocates Call on Jayapal to Release Draft Text of House Single Payer Bill.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @H_O_P4E

Flowers is with Health Over Profit for Everyone and said today: “Now that the Democrats can no longer ignore that their base is demanding a single payer health system, we have lost both HR 676 by number and its status as the gold standard. From what we have heard, as we have still not seen the text of the draft as promised, the new health bill being written by Jayapal has an unnecessarily long transition period and maintains the for-profit providers in the system. The delayed transition means more preventable deaths and suffering. Keeping the for-profits means higher costs and lower quality of care.”

Is Venezuelan Opposition Aiming for “Ungovernablity”?

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The New York Times reports: “Pence Tells Venezuelans That U.S. Backs Efforts to Oust Maduro.”

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, mrt04747 at pomona.edu, at mtinkersalas
Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press). He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He said today: “The issue for Venezuela is how to create the context to reconcile differences, recognize the existence of the other and avoid a crisis of ungovernability.

“Even if there were elections tomorrow, it is unlikely that the loosing side would recognize the outcome, and we would face yet another political crisis. The Chavistas will not disappear and neither will the opposition.

“Each group needs to recognize the existence of the other and avoid a much larger crisis.

“Unfortunately, elements of Venezuelan opposition have given up on an internal strategy to achieve political change in Venezuela.

“They now rely on foreign pressure and potentially foreign intervention hoping that rightwing governments  such as  Brazil, Colombia or Argentina can oust the Maduro government. This strategy will backfire with the majority of the Venezuelan population who are against a foreign intervention.

“The Trump administration’s increased sanctions have inflicted real pain on the local population.”

MLK and the Silence on Palestine

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Michelle Alexander, a New York Times columnist and author of The New Jim Crow, over the weekend wrote the piece “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine:Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War. We must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time.”

Wrote Alexander: “On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. …King … said, ‘I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.’ Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal’ and added, ‘that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.’ …

“It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It’s what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

“I have not been alone. Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.

“Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well, not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns.

“Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers. …

“Just as King received fierce, overwhelming criticism for his speech condemning the Vietnam War — 168 major newspapers, including The Times, denounced the address the following day — those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash. Bahia Amawi, an American speech pathologist of Palestinian descent, was recently terminated for refusing to sign a contract that contains an anti-boycott pledge stating that she does not, and will not, participate in boycotting the State of Israel.

“In November, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for giving a speech in support of Palestinian rights that was grossly misinterpreted as expressing support for violence. … And just over a week ago, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, apparently under pressure mainly from segments of the Jewish community and others, rescinded an honor it bestowed upon the civil rights icon Angela Davis, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and supports B.D.S. [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions].”

MICHAEL FISCHBACH, mfischba at rmc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Fischbach is professor of history at Randolph-Macon College and author of the just-released book Black Power and Palestine from Stanford University Press. He recently wrote the piece “The Firing of Marc Lamont Hill Raises This Question” for History News Network.

See just-released “Open Letter to the Leadership of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Support of Dr. Angela Y. Davis,” initiated by the Scholars for Social Justice, a “new national network of progressive scholar-activists.” A contingent of the group will “travel to Birmingham, Alabama on February 16th to participate in an alternative ceremony to honor Angela Y. Davis organized by local activists and officials in the city.”

Teachers’ Strike and PR Campaign Against Them

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ISABEL NUNEZ, nunezi at pfw.edu
Nunez is professor and director of the School of Education at Purdue University, Fort Wayne. She is the co-author of Worth Striking For: Why Education Policy Is Every Teacher’s Concern (Lessons from Chicago).

She just wrote a piece about the teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, where she began her teaching over 20 years ago: “When Alex Caputo-Pearl was elected the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in 2014, I knew that children, families, and communities would soon have a newly energized and empowered defender in the teachers union. Today, as a Los Angeles native and a supporter of public schools and their teachers, I am on the edge of my office chair following the news of the first strike by L.A. Unified School District teachers in 30 years.

“Caputo-Pearl’s election was part of a nationwide wave of teacher activism and movement building that hit closest to my then-home in the Chicago teachers’ strike of 2012. After witnessing a decade-plus of destructive educational policy making, teacher deskilling and disempowering, and inroads to school privatization, I felt like the Chicago teachers strike saved my life. The Chicago Teachers Union under President Karen Lewis led a united teaching force in a labor action that was supported by a majority of the residents of the city — and a bigger majority of Chicago Public School parents. The strike taught me that resistance to the neoliberal project in education is possible. … The wave of activism in teachers is not losing momentum, as evidenced by the past year’s statewide actions by teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona.

“However, teachers aren’t the only ones learning these lessons. Significantly resourced pro-privatization forces in Los Angeles spent nearly $10 million to elect a market-friendly Board of Education and have been waging a strategic public opinion battle to frame the striking teachers as selfish and out for their own gain. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the advantage of being able to appoint the members of the Chicago school board, in addition to highly supportive media outlets. The L.A. Unified School District should be forewarned that the Chicago Teachers Union emerged victorious from that fight nevertheless.”

Nunez is also the co-editor of Diving In: Bill Ayers and the Art of Teaching into the Contradiction.

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