blog

February 3, 2019

The US Is Orchestrating a Coup in Venezuela

As Venezuela’s second president, Simon Bolivar, noted in the 19th century, the US government continues to “plague Latin America with misery in the name of liberty.”

From engineering coups in Chile and Guatemala, to choreographing a troop landing at the Bay of Pigs intended to establish an exile government in Cuba, to training Latin American strongmen at the School of the Americas in torture techniques to control their people, the United States has meddled, interfered, intervened and undermined the democracies it claims to protect.

Now, Vice President Mike Pence, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and the infamous Elliott Abrams are working with opposition groups in Venezuela to carry out a coup d’état.Read more

January 26, 2019

Michelle Alexander Is Right About Israel-Palestine

As a progressive Jew, I find that many of my family members and friends are still what we call “PEP” — progressive except Palestine. Amid ever-worsening injustices created by the Israeli system of apartheid and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, it is past time for this to change.

I am hopeful that the firestorm sparked by Michelle Alexander’s recent New York Times column, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” will finally generate the heat necessary to force more people and groups on the left to overcome the fundamental hypocrisy of the “progressive except Palestine” approach.

I was deeply inspired by Alexander’s column and her decision to speak so honestly about the difficulty of overcoming the fear of backlash over taking a public stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Striking a comparison between the risk taken by prominent critics of Israel and the risk Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took by publicly criticizing the Vietnam War, Alexander observes, “Those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash.”

Invoking Dr. King’s exhortation that “a time comes when silence is betrayal,” Alexander reflects on “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.”

Alexander’s words resonated with me, a Jew who uncritically supported Israel for many years until I saw the parallels between US policy in Vietnam and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. My activism and critical writings have followed a trajectory from Vietnam to South Africa to Israel to Iraq to Afghanistan and other countries where the United States continues its imperial military actions.

Although many of my articles are controversial as they criticize the actions of the US government — under both Democratic and Republican regimes — I get the most pushback from my writings about Israel-Palestine. When I analyze Israel’s illegal occupation and crimes against the Palestinians, I am often called a “self-hating” Jew.Read more

January 19, 2019

William Barr Will Be a Loyal Foot Soldier in King Trump’s Army

At his attorney general confirmation hearing, William Barr sought to reassure senators on the Judiciary Committee that Robert Mueller’s probe would be allowed to continue, saying, “I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.”

But Barr, who champions a disturbing radical right-wing theory of all-encompassing presidential power called the “unitary executive,” refused to say whether Congress would see Mueller’s report when his investigation is complete, instead pledging only to provide a summary of it.

Federal regulations do not prohibit the release of the special counsel’s report to Congress or the public. They simply state that, “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

What the attorney general does with the report is up to him.Read more

January 11, 2019

If Trump Declares a National Emergency, He’ll Be Breaking the Law

Congress refuses to enact legislation containing the nearly $6 billion that Donald Trump is demanding for an unnecessary wall on the southern US border. In response, Trump is considering whether to declare a national emergency, take money Congress has appropriated for other purposes, and divert it to build his wall. But under US law, the president cannot usurp the spending power the Constitution grants only to Congress.

Desperate to appease his right-wing base and Fox News pundits, Trump backed off his commitment to sign a bill that would have reopened the government that has been shuttered for 20 days. Although Congress unanimously supported that bill, Trump is stubbornly holding out for money to build his wall, continuing to hold the American people hostage. One quarter of the federal workforce has not been paid, airline safety is imperiled, the Food and Drug Administration is postponing food safety inspections and national parks are being desecrated while Trump plays wall politics.Read more

January 7, 2019

As Trump Orders US Out of Afghanistan, Notorious CIA-Backed Units Will Remain

Politicians and pundits alike have roundly criticized Donald Trump for stating he will pull our troops out of Syria and cut US forces in Afghanistan by half. James Mattis immediately resigned as secretary of defense, writing in a letter to Trump, “you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”

As the US military kills civilians in Syria and CIA-led Afghan forces continue to commit war crimes, it appears Trump is doing the right thing in pulling out military troops. But the CIA will remain and grow stronger after the US troops leave. “[A]s American military forces are set to draw down, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency is only likely to grow in importance,” according to The New York Times.

On December 31, The Times described a CIA-sponsored Afghan strike force that operates “unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity.” In the article, journalist Mujib Mashal cites an October 2018 United Nations report that raised concern about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention and other abuses.”

Mashal reports that the abuses by the CIA “are actively pushing people toward the Taliban” and when few US military troops remain, “the [CIA-led] strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence.” Indeed, Mohibullah, whose relative was killed when his home was attacked by a strike force, told The Times he saw “no difference between the CIA-sponsored force and the Islamic State if the result was to be attacked with no warning.”Read more

December 30, 2018

School Employee Sues District for Israel Loyalty Oath in Contract

In a return to the bad old days of McCarthyism, Bahia Amawi, a US citizen of Palestinian descent, lost her Texas elementary school job after refusing to pledge in writing that she would not participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Earlier this month, Amawi sued the school district that fired her.

The BDS movement against Israel has become a hot button issue in the closing month of 2018. A bipartisan group of senators tried to attach the Israel Anti-Boycott Act to the unanimous spending bill that Trump almost signed to avoid the current government shutdown. Meanwhile, Donorbox, a US software company, blocked the BDS fundraising account at the behest of a pro-Israel group.Read more

December 18, 2018

Trump Can and Should Be Indicted

As evidence of law breaking by Donald Trump continues to emerge, commentators are speculating about whether a sitting president can be indicted. The Department of Justice has twice opined in the negative — during both the Nixon and Clinton administrations. But nothing in the Constitution would prevent Trump from being criminally indicted while he occupies the Oval Office.

Trump is apparently implicated in at least three federal criminal investigations. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining violations of campaign finance laws in connection with Trump Tower Moscow. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have documented campaign finance violations stemming from hush money paid to Trump’s alleged paramours in order to influence the presidential election. And the New York US attorney’s office is analyzing whether Trump’s inaugural committee received illegal payments for presidential access and policy influence.Read more

December 11, 2018

Public Pressure Could Halt US Support of Yemen War

US tax dollars are supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has already claimed the lives of some 85,000 children, and 12 million more people are likely on the brink of starvation. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, “the starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it.”

The United States has long been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have provided considerable military support to the Saudi war in Yemen.

But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has finally spurred both Democrats and Republicans to take steps to end US military involvement in Yemen.

On November 28, the Senate voted 63-to-37 to advance a resolution that would direct the removal of US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. However, S. J. Res. 54 carves out an exception for continued US-supported military measures against “al Qaeda or associated forces” that could be twisted to rationalize nearly any military assistance Donald Trump provides to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.Read more

November 28, 2018

Matthew Whitaker Was Illegally Appointed and Should Be Removed

After forcing Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general on November 7, President Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, even though Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was next in line for the job. As a result, Whitaker assumed the functions of attorney general.

Whitaker’s appointment was an illegal and blatant end run around the Attorney General Succession Act and the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Whitaker must be removed and Rosenstein should be appointed acting attorney general.

Trump’s firing of Sessions and replacement with Whitaker appears to be an effort to terminate or dilute special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump election campaign. Infuriated after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, Trump had been champing at the bit to replace Sessions with an attorney general who would have his back. As acting attorney general, Whitaker will assume authority over the Mueller probe.Read more

November 20, 2018

Trump’s Military Deployment to the US-Mexico Border Is Illegal

Donald Trump’s decision to send thousands of troops to the US-Mexican border to intercept migrants who intend to apply for asylum is not just a bald-faced political stunt — it is also illegal.

Passed in 1878 to end the use of federal troops in overseeing elections in the post–Civil War South, the Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of the military to enforce domestic US laws, including immigration laws. For this reason, Trump’s decision to deploy the military to the border to enforce US immigration law against thousands of desperate migrants from Central America — who have undertaken the perilous journey over 1,000 miles through Mexico to the US border in order to apply for asylum — is an unlawful order.Read more