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Democrats, Brazil’s PEC 55, and Syria

The lack of questioning in the past, as we all know, has spawned horrible events…

First item…

The Democrats continued the blame game…

Following the November election, the Democrats did a lot of complaining.

In Manhattan before a group of donors, Hillary Clinton accused both FBI Director Comey (for his letter) and Putin — “because he has a personal beef against me” — for her defeat. (NYT)

Then Donna Brazil, speaking with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, said, “we were attacked by a foreign adversary” and that the federal government of not doing enough to protect the DNC. “The emails were weaponized,” she complained.

When Raddatz asked Brazil about the FBI reaching out to the DNC tech people in September 2015 regarding issues of email insecurity, Brazil said that wasn’t good enough.  She explained that the DNC tech “vendors” were the equivalent of the geek squad at Best Buy. (Somehow the FBI agent was supposed to know this?)

John Podesta also wrote in the Washington Post that FBI’s response to the hacking was shockingly inadequately that “…something is deeply broken at the FBI.” He quoted Former CIA acting director Michael Morell who said the cyberhacking of the DNC was “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

Then on the day the Electoral College met, elector William Jefferson Clinton defiantly stated, “We had the Russians and the F.B.I., and she couldn’t prevail against that, but she did everything else and still won by 2.8 million votes.”

Surprisingly, when Rep. Adam Shift (D-CA)—the Democratic leader on the Intelligence Committee—was asked to look into the camera and say he absolutely knows that the Russian government hacked Podesta’s emails, he accuses Tucker Carlson (FOX News host) of “carrying water for the Kremlin” and suggests Carlson go work for the RT News network.  Classic.

Craig Murray speaks out on DNC emails

According to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail, Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a close associate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claims the emails were leaked by whistleblowers motivated by ‘disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders.’

He told Daily Mail he personally went to D.C. “for a clandestine hand-off with one of the email sources in September…in a wooded area near American University, in northwest D.C.  Ray McGovern, on the Peter LaVelle’s CrossTalk, stated that he could confirm the event.  He was with Murray that evening at the Sam Adams Award ceremony, which Murray emceed. McGovern said he watched as Murray slipped away “over a hill into a wooded area.” He remarked, “I thought, that’s really strange.”

The Daily Mail was also told by Murray that the individual he “met with was not the original person who obtained the information, but an intermediary.“  The article goes on to say that “Murray insisted the DNC and Podesta emails published by Wikileaks did not come from the Russians” but from “Americans who had authorized access to the information.”

U.S. intelligence veterans dispute the claims of Russia hacking. 

Former U.S. intelligence agents, including Ray McGovern, in statement sent to Consortium News that they had examined the claims of Russian hacking of the DNC and determined “the email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack.”

Below are their definitions of “leak” and “hack”.

Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization and gives it to some other person or organization, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did.

Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.

According to the group, “the NSA is able to identify both the sender and recipient when hacking is involved. Thanks largely to the material released by Edward Snowden, we can provide a full picture of NSA’s extensive domestic data-collection network including Upstream programs like Fairview, Stormbrew and Blarney. These include at least 30 companies in the U.S. operating the fiber networks that carry the Public Switched Telephone Network as well as the World Wide Web. This gives NSA unparalleled access to data flowing within the U.S. and data going out to the rest of the world, as well as data transiting the U.S.

“In other words, any data that is passed from the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) – or any other server in the U.S. – is collected by the NSA.  These data transfers carry destination addresses in what are called packets, which enable the transfer to be traced and followed through the network.”

If the DNC were hacked, as U.S. intelligence agencies say they were, the NSA would have irrefutable proof that Russia was involved and not simply circumstantial evidence.

“In short, since leaking requires physically removing data – on a thumb drive, for example – the only way such data can be copied and removed, with no electronic trace of what has left the server, is via a physical storage device.”


Brazil adopts neoliberal Constitutional Amendment PEC 55

The neoliberal amendment, known as PEC 55, was proposed by the right-wing (and unelected) President Michel Temer, who came to power following the political parliamentary coup ousting President Dilma Rousseff. PEC 55 will freeze public spending (health, education and social programs) for the next two decades.

The Brazilian government claims “the constitution will increase investors’ confidence by reducing public debt and interest rates, and will therefore help pull the country out of recession.”

U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, countered that claim. “This is a radical measure, devoid of all nuance and compassion. It will hit the poorest and most vulnerable Brazilians harder, increasing the levels of inequality in an already extremely unequal society, and definitively points out that for Brazil, social rights will have a very low priority in the next twenty years.”

He stated that over the last three decades, Brazil has established an “impressive” system of social protection aimed at eradicating poverty and recognizing the rights to education, health, work and social security. “These policies have contributed substantially to reducing levels of poverty and inequality in the country.”  All this will change.

Rodrigo Nunes, a lecturer in modern and contemporary philosophy at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, agrees.  “The new government’s idea of what is “good for the economy” is as revealing for what it leaves out as for what it includes. No mention is made of transforming Brazil’s tragically regressive tax system, in which the large base of the pyramid pays proportionately much more than the very narrow top.

“At a time when the $50 billion public deficit is used to call for sacrifices, nothing is said of fighting tax evasion, taxing large fortunes or introducing a tax on dividends – which estimates say could raise as much as $12.5bn while affecting only the richest. Neither is there talk about plugging Rousseff›s disastrous policy of corporate tax breaks, arguably the main reason for the present crisis.”

And finally…

The attempt to shame

December 7, in a joint statement, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States condemned the actions of the Syria, Iranian, and Russian governments. They described the daily bombing of Aleppo as a humanitarian disaster denying 200,000 civilians of “food and medicine”.  They charged that hospitals were deliberately attacked, that hospitals “appear to be targets” designed to “wear people down.”

Continuing on December 13, Samantha Powers, US Ambassador to the UN, gave a scathing speech accusing the Assad regime, Russia and Iran of war crimes of encircling “tens of thousands of civilians in your ever tightening noose.” “… It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? …Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child, that gets under your skin? [Does] that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about, or justify?”

In later December, Russian forces discovered mass graves in Aleppo with “bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation.” (CBS)

The mess in Syria

In 2011, Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunsian street vendor, set himself on fire igniting the Tunisian Revolution as well as the broader Arab Spring. In Syria, a non-violent Syrian movement rose in response. Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent, in an interview on DemocracyNow! described ,“The people who actually started this, people who had done time in prison over the years, who were prisoners of the Assad regime who wanted popular demonstrations, who wanted civil disobedience, who wanted negotiations with the regime, to have a transition — a peaceful transition — in which there would ultimately be free elections by which the regime could would lose.” This was the plan.

“Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, actively worked to encourage the forces of counter-revolution throughout the region,” Samer Araabi wrote a few months later in Right Web.” From Morocco to Bahrain, Saudi financing, support, and intelligence… sought to prevent political turmoil, reinforce existing dynasties, and crush nascent democratic movements before they could reach critical mass. This reactionary tide has been supported by some ideologues in Washington, who worry that Arab democratization would be detrimental to U.S. policy objectives…Though allowing Saudi Arabia to stifle change and suffocate democratic aspirations within the region may appear to serve U.S. interests in the short term, it will certainly have blowback down the road.”

But it’s not just a civil war in Syria…

Phyllis Bennis writes in her October 2016 article for The Nation “that what we call ’the war in Syria’ is not one civil war. It is a complicated chessboard of players, with multiple wars being waged by outside forces fighting each other alongside the Syrian civil war still raging between the regime and its domestic opponents. Those outside forces are fighting for various regional, sectarian, and global interests that have little or nothing to do with Syria—except that it is Syrians doing the dying.”

In addition to the civil war, she mentions eight other conflicts—

Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting for regional hegemony and for Sunni versus Shi’a dominance;

the United States and Russia are fighting for global and regional positioning, military bases, and control of resources;

secular versus Islamist forces fight for dominance of the anti-Assad front;

Turkey was fighting Russia (until recently, when it seemed to settle its differences with Russia before invading northern Syria, where now it is primarily going after the Kurds);

the United States and Israel are fighting Iran (unlike in Iraq, where the United States and the Iranian-backed militias are on the same side in a broad anti-ISIS front);

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar vie for dominance among the Sunni monarchies;

while Turkey is fighting the Kurds, progressive Syrian Kurds are challenging the more traditional peshmerga of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government;

and then there’s ISIS fighting the Syrian regime and some of the regime’s opponents, while seeking to impose its brutal dominance over Syrian and Iraqi land and populations, while the United States, Russia, and a number of European countries, along with the Syrian and Iraqi governments, wage a lethal and increasingly global war against ISIS. All of them fighting to the last Syrian. 

Bennis also describes the conflicting views within the peace movement on the desired outcome of the Syrian conflict. Some support the Assad regime, others the “non-military” revolution,   the U.S.-backed opposition, or Russia and Iran, or the Kurds. Bennis notes that “it is important to recognize that by far the largest contingent of antiwar activists and progressives are not fighting to win the war for any side, but are committed to ending the war.” She recommended for “those who do recognize the need to focus on building a movement to end the war,” they “should be able to unite around some combination” of recommended demands (below) of the US government.”

You can’t defeat terrorism with war, so stop killing people and destroying cities in the name of stopping others from killing people—that means stop the airstrikes and bombing, withdraw the troops and Special Forces, make “no boots on the ground” real.

Work to achieve a full arms embargo on all sides, challenging the US and global arms industry. Stop the train-and-equip programs. Stop allowing US allies to send weapons into Syria, making clear that if they continue they will lose all access to US arms sales. Convincing Russia and Iran to stop arming the Syrian regime will become more realistic when the United States and its allies stop arming the other side.

Create new diplomatic, not military, partnerships involving outside powers and those inside Syria, including regional governments and other actors. Real diplomacy for ending war must be at center stage, not fake diplomacy designed to enable joint bombing campaigns. All must be at the table, including Syrian civil society, women, and the nonviolent opposition as well as armed actors. Support UN efforts toward local cease-fires and new diplomacy.

Increase US support for refugees and other regional humanitarian needs. Make good on all pledges to UN funds, and vastly increase money and aid to UN agencies as well as the number of refugees welcomed for resettlement in the United States.

“There is no military solution. It’s time we rebuilt a movement based on that reality.”

Minnie (Sylvia Smith) is a long-time WIPster, Evergreen grad, public employee, and resident of Thurston County.

(Suggestions on news topics welcomed!


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(revised and edited version of article in the 2016 Fall…