Billboards to End War Going Up and Not Going Up

By David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War

New billboards are going up around the United States and elsewhere opposing war. Some are not going up because the message is deemed unacceptable. Many more are being planned.

This ad at right is going up in various sizes and dimensions around Lansing, Michigan, thanks to the Peace Education Center. We’ll post the details on the billboards page when we have em.

The billboard below is going up for the month of January in Albany, NY — specifically on Erie Blvd. 1,000 ft north of Nott St., thanks to Upper Hudson Peace Action:

This one below is enlightening the good people of Pittsburgh, thanks to WILPF Pittsburgh:

Meanwhile, this ad is not going up anywhere, because we have not found any company willing to post it for good cold American cash:

If you can identify a billboard or busstop or other large-advertisement company that will take our money to post the above ad, it’ll be up immediately. Meanwhile, we’re going to try it out with online advertising.

Other antiwar and propeace billboards have gone up in these places:

  • In Albany and Schenectady, NY, in September, 2018, thanks to Women Against War.
  • In New York City thanks to the Puffin Foundation, huge billboards at 11th Ave and 49th St August 21 to Oct. 28, 2018, and 11th Ave and 45th St August 21 to Nov. 25, 2018.
  • From week of Aug. 27 to week of Sept. 23, 2018, two ads in each of these Toronto subway stations: Dundas, St George Bloor-Danforth, St. George Yonge Line, and Queen.
  • In July-August 2018 in Toronto, Canada, in dozens of subway trains.
  • In July 2018 on bus shelters near White House in Washington, D.C.
  • In April and May 2018 big billboards in Albany, New York, USA.
  • Through March – July 2018, on stationary and moving billboards all over Syracuse, New York, USA.
  • For the month of January 2018 a billboard in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
  • For the month of December 2017 a billboard in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

We can put up more, and you can tell us where you want to see which ones, if you fund them.

Possibilities in the works include: messages of friendship against war and sanctions on billboards in Iran, and messages against NATO and for peace when NATO meets in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2019. Send us other ideas!

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“Yellow Vests” and the Downward Mobility of the Middle Class

The middle class, virtually by definition, is not prepared for downward mobility. A systemic, semi-permanent decline in the standard of living isn’t part of the implicit social contract that’s been internalized by the middle class virtually everywhere: living standards are only supposed to rise. Any decline is temporary.

Downward mobility is the key context in the gilets jaunes “yellow vest” movement in France. Taxes and prices rise inexorably while wages/pensions stagnate. The only possible outcome of this structural asymmetry is a decline in the standard of living.

This structural decline in the standard of living of the middle class is complex.One of the definitive identifying characteristics of the middle class is that is supposed to be largely immune to the insecurity and precariousness that characterize much of the working class.

In other words, this isn’t supposed to happen to us. This is especially true in nations with longstanding generous social welfare programs: should the unexpected happen and a household’s income declines, the state is supposed to step in and fill the gap with subsidies, unemployment insurance, cash payments, etc. until the household recovers its previous standard of living.

None of that is happening. The erosion of middle class standards of living is not abrupt enough to qualify for social welfare programs; the erosion is gradual, via the higher taxes and living costs the “yellow vests” are highlighting.

State benefits aren’t as generous as they’re cracked up to be. Lower-income pensioners in France are called sans dente, without teeth, as France’s universal healthcare program doesn’t provide much in the way of dental care, hence the poor with missing teeth.

Part of downward mobility is becoming politically invisible, a topic I discussed in France in a Nutshell: “The Government Stopped Listening to the People 20 Years Ago”(December 12, 2018).

The protesters rightly perceive that they are politically invisible: the ruling class, regardless of its ideological flavor, doesn’t believe it needs the support of the politically invisible to rule as it sees fit. The ruling class has counted on the cultural elites to marginalize and suppress the politically invisible by dismissing any working-class dissent as racist, fascist, nationalistic and other words expressly intended to push dissent into the political wilderness.

Many commentators have listed the systemic sources of the erosion in standards of living and financial security: the loss of cheap, plentiful oil to fuel “growth” at rates that lift all boats; the financialization of the economy, which favors capital over labor; globalization, which increases corporate profits via labor, social welfare and pollution arbitrage (move production where these costs are the lowest), and the corruption of the political machinery via pay-to-play (favoring the corporations and super-wealthy) and the concentration of financial and political power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

Another way to understand this downward mobility is: the elites no longer need a vibrant middle class to hold power and increase their wealth. The real money is in globalized capital flows, access to central bank credit and ownership of debt. The role of the middle class has largely been reduced to being compliant, passive debt-serfs who can borrow money to fill the yawning gap in their standard of living and make the payments.

For an example of how this works, please read I’ve Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000 (via Maoxian).

Since the political machinery serves the oligarchy, there’s no real need to pander to the middle class or the working class. Being tossed in with the politically invisible hurts the pride of the middle class, as does being expendable, but as we see in this chart, the top .01% have skimmed the vast majority of whatever wealth and income have been generated over the past decade.

Whatever crumbs fell to the middle class must have been sufficient, as they’re still paying their mortgages, student loans, auto loans, etc.

The general decline in living standards tracks the general decline in labor’s share of the economy:

Capital garners the gains, and labor’s share continues eroding. That’s the story of the 21st century.

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The Self-Psychoanalysis of the American Liberal

Bryant Welch’s new edition of his book, State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind, purports to diagnose the mental illness that produces support for and tolerance of Donald Trump in particular, and the Republican Party in general. To some extent it does so, although it’s mostly very familiar stuff, partly excusable because the first edition came out a decade ago. Welch, by the way, deserves credit for opposing participation in torture by the American Psychological Association.

What I find most illuminating in the book is the first-person account of an apparent sufferer of PHSD (Post Hillary Stress Disorder). I imagine that someone unfamiliar with the notion that Fox News lies and that political campaigns exploit bigotry and fears, or someone eager to hear reassuring accounts of how all evil originates among Republicans, would have a very different reaction to the book. My reaction is sympathy for the apparent trauma inflicted on apparently well-off educated people by Hillary Clinton’s defeat, combined with outrage at the hypocrisies and in particular the militarism of Democratic partisanship.

“Awareness, deeper psychological awareness itself,” Welch writes in his new prefatory note, “must become America’s new Manhattan Project.” Seriously? The creation of a new nuclear bomb? Is that the absolute best metaphor for the efforts of a book that diagnoses half the United States as remarkably evil and the other half as essentially good — even while the bipartisan effort to build “more usable” nuclear bombs speeds ahead back here in reality? Well, yeah, perhaps it is. What else was the Cold War on the international level?

The fact that most everything Welch denounces in Republicans is accurate, while Democrats share many of the same faults and pile on others of their own is apparently disturbing in its perplexity. It’s not difficult to comprehend. There has to be resistance to comprehending it. “The mind,” Welch writes, “becomes so dependent on and pays such irrational obeisance to anyone who can protect it from perplexity that it steadfastly overlooks incompetence or severe character flaws in the admired charismatic leader.” Welch’s book proceeds to overlook all of the following in Hillary Clinton’s performance as an outstanding neoconservative:

She said President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.

She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.

She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009. (Where do those refugees come from, again?)

She long backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.

She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.

She did not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.

She consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.

She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.

She did not hesitate to warn that she could obliterate Iran.

She was not afraid to antagonize Russia.

She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.

She had the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.

She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.

She supported President Bill Clinton’s wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.

She advocated for arming fighters in Syria.

She supported an escalation in Iraq even before President Bush did.

Here are comments from a few of her supporters:

“For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.” —Robert Kagan

“I have a sense that she’s one of the more competent members of the current administration and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president.” —Dick Cheney

“I’ve known her for many years now, and I respect her intellect. And she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.” —Henry Kissinger

Welch objects to criticism of Hillary Clinton’s financial corruption, and associates such criticism with trying to connect Barack Obama to Paris Hilton or questioning John Kerry’s war-heroism, suggesting I guess that Hillary Clinton’s financial corruption is either nonexistent or heroically militaristic.

The 2007 escalation of the war on Iraq, for Welch, was the work of President George W. Bush and not in any way of the Democratic Congress that had just been elected to end that war. Meanwhile, the 2009 escalation of the war on Afghanistan doesn’t exist or isn’t worth mentioning. In fact, the whole presidency of Barack Obama almost doesn’t exist in various sections of this book which repeatedly leaps from accounts of Bush’s outrages right into Trump’s as if there was no gap between them during which the same or very similar outrages continued.

This partisanship is paralleled in its division of people into good and bad groups by Welch’s patriotism. Welch explicitly claims that nations, not just actual individual people, can go through mental processes. He writes that the crimes of 9-11 traumatized a nation and its people, including Welch himself, because for the first time — and apparently the last time — violent deaths occurred in world history. And those deaths were all of “Americans,” Welch writes, and therefore worth acknowledging, he implies, ignoring the 12% or so of the 9-11 victims who were not from the United States. This sort of attitude, in which mass slaughters by the U.S. military before and after 9-11 are not “traumatizing” but 9-11 is, results from an extreme and extremely accepted sort of bigotry, but it also causes it by suggesting the same view to readers.

The war on Iraq of 2003 was, according to Welch, the “first openly acknowledged preemptive war in American history,” and waging it had negative effects “for our country” and apparently for nobody else worth mentioning. I wonder if any Iraqis were hurt? According to Welch, “America,” and not just its government, is responsible for the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the creation of ISIS. But Welch acknowledges that Bush was eager for war on Iraq prior to 9-11, and that his excuses for it were just that. However, Welch walks right up to the edge of claiming that believing war lies is acceptable because people are pathetic babies. He then denounces the war lies. He then proclaims his belief in them.

“With remarkable ease,” Welch writes, “America’s cause went from eliminating weapons of mass destruction to evicting an evil dictator to spreading democracy, because the idea that our leaders might have been wrong, incompetent, or worse was simply too disconcerting a proposition for many Americans to consider.” Welch cannot even write the obvious and well-documented fact that “our leaders” were lying. He never mentions that Hillary Clinton promoted the weapons-of-mass-destruction lies. Welch goes on to make clear that he actually believes the evicting an evil dictator lie and describes the war as “America’s attempt to liberate Iraq from a ruthless dictator who had killed tens of thousands of Kurds.” He also believes the spreading-democracy lie but blames the Bush Administration for failing to realize that there was “no historical basis” for democracy among the primitives being bombed in Iraq. Welch even believes in the whole mission and denounces the outing of Valerie Plame as putting at risk “our efforts in the war on terror.” Whose what?

This is typical Democratic partisanship. You denounce an unpopular war while supporting it. You claim the loyalty of anti-Republicans, then hopelessly try to win the votes of Republicans, while alienating independent, thinking people. Welch even admits that Al Gore’s top advisor and speech writer on his presidential campaign was eager for war on Iraq and believed Gore was too, but praises Gore as radically different from Bush because he deleted a line threatening war on Iraq from a speech.

John Kerry throughout the book is repeatedly “a decorated war hero” much like Gore who becomes “a foreign-policy expert” and “one of the most respected experts on defense matters in the history of the United States Senate” who “served [defensively??!] in Vietnam.”

For Welch, war is not illegal or immoral, but a nation should analyze its emotions prior to launching a war, and should make proper emotional use of its enemies: “[O]ur enemies actually help us maintain a cohesive sense of reality.” Is he referring to foreign enemies or Republicans? This book suggests both. Welch refers without any attempt at evidence to “Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election” and claims “We actually appointed a Russian operative to be our National Security Advisor.” He laments energy invested in opposing documented outrages by Trump which he thinks should go into “the possibility that Russia is gaining control of our executive branch of government.” The line between the Russian enemy and the Republican enemy is blurred, and the blame for Post Hillary Stress Disorder is dispersed.

Welch diagnoses in “the American mind” paranoia, sexual perplexity, and envy. The first he believes has been created by exploitation of 911, the big real fact, while the other two have been created out of whole cloth. And the combination serves, he thinks, to explain hatred of Hillary Clinton. But all three, as far as I can tell, are generated by a wide variety of lies, while there is no such thing as “whole cloth.”

Welch’s understanding of envy seems to especially lack understanding: “What could Americans be envious of? Despite our national pockets of poverty, most Americans participate heavily in a vast consumer economy their parents never imagined.” Let’s set this comment against reality for a moment. For many in the United States life is harder than it was for their parents. It’s also harder than for many around them. Poverty and economic insecurity are extremely widespread. The United States has the highest inequality and the highest poverty of any wealthy country. This almost certainly contributes to envy of wealthier U.S. citizens and, to a far lesser extent, envy of people in other nations — while contributing to a passionate patriotism that is stronger among the poor than the wealthy, perhaps in part because it covers up envy of more equal and prosperous places. Welch goes on to rightly criticize advertising for promoting envy, but the notion that it promotes it out of nowhere is a notion shared by the right wing of U.S. politics.

In Welch’s view, Trump exploited women’s envy of Hillary to get them to vote against Hillary, while men hated her out of pity for themselves and their need to look down on all women. This is certainly a plausible part of an explanation for the attitudes of some people, mostly people who were probably planning to vote for whoever was the most racist, patriotic, and plutocratic regardless of any specifics. And Welch himself promotes the attitudes he criticizes through the usual hypocrisies, such as mocking George W. Bush for having been a cheerleader. But the paranoid-sexually-insecure-envious-hateful-people-did-it does little better than the Putin-did-it explanation of Hillary Defeat Trauma. I would recommend, instead, the following healing steps:

Stop identifying with a corrupt government or any portion of it. Work to improve it, but don’t consider that work self-improvement.

Stop imagining that social change comes primarily through elections.

Stop identifying with a political party and with a population that makes up 4% of the species you should identify with.

Recognize that an extremely broken and corrupt election system allowed Trump to “win” despite his having lost. Fix these problems before worrying about nefarious Russian masterminds or bitter insecure racists: the Electoral College, voter ID laws, the lack of verifiable hand-counted paper ballots, the Presidential Debates Commission, the corporate media, the rigged Democratic Party primaries that deprived that party of its strongest candidate according to numerous polls, the racist stripping of names from voter rolls in various states, the open criminal intimidation and incitement of violence by Trump, the disenfranchisement of people convicted of crimes, the ridiculous lack of automatic voter registration and of an election holiday and of sufficient polling places.

Recognize that Hillary Clinton was one of the few candidates awful enough to have come anywhere close to shocking Donald Trump by losing to him. She was the epitome of financial corruption and the lack of any consistent belief or integrity. She lost a couple of swing states, studies suggest, to the understandable belief among military families that she was the most likely to get their loved ones killed. She turned off all kinds of constituencies by appearing to give a damn exclusively about herself.

Face head on the apparently somehow frightening perplexity that is somehow supposed to arise in your poor little brain from the fact that lots of people also disliked Hillary Clinton because they were sexists or racists or other despicable things, and from the fact that this fact doesn’t somehow erase all the facts listed above.

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U.S. Demands Europe to Join Its War Against Russia

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

On December 16th, the Russian Senator, Konstantin Kosachev, who heads that body’s foreign-affairs committee, went public accusing the U.S. Government of coercing German corporations to abandon their investments in the key Russia-EU gas-pipeline project, which is now nearing completion. It’s a joint project of Russia and of corporations in some EU countries. He called this U.S. pressure against European corporations an affront to the national sovereignty of both the German and the Russian Governments, and, more broadly, an affront against the sovereignty of the entire EU, which, he pointed out, is not like America’s NATO alliance with Europe is, an instrumentality of war, but is supposed to be, instead, an economic and political union — an instrumentality of peaceful international cooperation, not of any sort of international coercion.

Here is the historical context and background to this:

In recent decades, the U.S. Constitution’s clause that requires a congressional declaration of war before invading any country, has been ignored. Furthermore, ever since 2012 and the passage by Congress of the Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russia, economic sanctions by the U.S. Government have been imposed against any company that fails to comply with a U.S.-imposed economic sanction; a company can even be fined over a billion dollars for violating a U.S. economic sanction. And, so, sanctions are now the way that the U.S. Congress actually does authorize a war — the new way, no longer the way that’s described in the U.S. Constitution. However, in the economic-sanctions phase of a war — this initial phase — the war is being imposed directly against any company that violates a U.S.-ordered economic sanction, against Russia, Iran, or whatever target-country the U.S. Congress has, by means of such sanctions, actually authorized a war by the U.S. to exist — a ‘state of war’ to exist. For the U.S. Congress, the passage of economic sanctions against a country thus effectively serves now as an authorization for the U.S. President to order the U.S. military to invade that country, if and when the President decides to do so. No further congressional authorization is necessary (except under the U.S. Constitution). This initial phase of a war penalizes only those other nations’ violating companies directly — not the target-country. Though the U.S. Government punishes the violating corporation, the actual target is the targeted (sanctioned) country. Sanctions are being used to strangle that target. The fined companies are mere ‘collateral damage’, in this phase of America’s new warfare. In this phase, which is now the standard first phase of the U.S. Government’s going-to-war, the U.S. Government is coercing corporations to join America’s economic war, against the given targeted country — in this case, it’s a war against Russia; Russia is the country that the U.S. Government wants to strangle, in this particular instance.

On Tuesday, 11 December, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously (no member objected), by voice vote — unrecorded so that nobody can subsequently be blamed for anything — that President Donald Trump should impose penalties, which could amount to billions of dollars, against any EU-based corporation that participates with Russia in Russia’s Nord Stream II Pipeline to supply gas to Europe. This “Resolution,” H.Res.1035, is titled “Expressing opposition to the completion of Nord Stream II, and for other purposes,” and it closes by asserting that the U.S. House of Representatives “supports the imposition of sanctions with respect to Nord Stream II under section 232 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” With no member objecting, the U.S. House thereby warns corporations to cease doing business with Russia, because the U.S. Government is determined that any such business will be terminated and will maybe also be fined. The U.S. Government imposes its will as if it were the dictator to the entire world, and without even needing to use its military, but just economic coercion.

The U.S. Senate doesn’t yet have a similar bill, but the unanimous passage of this one in the House constitutes a strong warning to Europe’s corporations, that unless they obey the U.S. sanctions, huge financial penalties will be imposed upon them. There are not many issues on which the U.S. Congress is even nearly 100% united in agreement, but during this phase, the introductory phase, of America’s war against Russia, the war against Russia is certainly among those few instances — entirely bipartisan.

According to Russian Television, on December 12th, headlining “US lawmakers want to put a cork in Russia’s gas pipeline to Europe”: “On Monday, Austria’s OMV energy group CEO Rayner Zele stated that the company is set to continue financing the pipeline next year. OMV has already invested some 531 million euros ($607 million) into the project, Zele told Ria Novosti. In early December, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said that Berlin’s abandoning the project would not make sense as Russia will still go on with it. Germany earlier rebuked Trump’s criticism of the project after the US leader accused Berlin of being a ‘captive’ of Moscow citing Germany’s alleged dependency on natural gas from Russia.”

If the U.S. Government fails to strangulate the economies in the countries such as Russia and Iran against which it has imposed sanctions, then the next step, of course, would be some type of armed invasion of the given targeted country. Before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, America’s economic sanctions killed from 100,000 to 500,000 Iraqi children, but then the U.S. invaded and destroyed the country vastly more than just that.

Economic sanctions are an attempt to coerce a targeted courntry’s — in effect — surrender, but without needing to use a military invasion as the coercive means. Any sanctioned country is therefore in America’s bomb-sights, and will be conquered in one way or another, unless the U.S. Government backs down, at some point.

According to the most extensive study that was ever done of U.S. military bases worldwide, there are over a thousand such bases, and this is a huge multiple of all non-U.S. military bases put together. That study was published in 1995. Many new U.S. military bases have been built and manned since 1995, such as several dozen in just one country, Syria, where the sovereign Government has never invited them in and many times has ordered them to leave, but they refuse to leave. Currently, the U.S. Government spends more than half of all monies that are being spent worldwide on the military.

Regarding the Nord Stream II Pipeline, the beneficiaries if that Pipeline is never completed and placed into service, will be American LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) producers, and also America’s allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. World War III could actually start as a result of the U.S. Government’s serving America’s (and its allies’) fossil-fuels producers above all other concerns regarding not only global warming, but even world peace itself. Those are the interests that are, in effect, at war against the entire world. This is not a statement of opinion: it is established and well-demonstrated fact. It is the overwhelmingly documented reality.

Here, translated by me and slightly abbreviated, is the December 16th statement that was made by Russia’s Senator Kosachev, the Chairman of the International Affairs Committee:

A categorical statement by the United States on Nord Stream 2, calling for Germany to abandon it, and for the European Union to rally the ranks “against Russian aggression” is a clear and unceremonious interference into the affairs of sovereign nations, to which the United States has no right to have any official opinion. …

Washington’s attempts to dominate and interfere in the affairs of other states are extremely dangerous for the whole world and destructive for international cooperation. This line directly contradicts the interests of any countries that are not US satellites. And it obviously contradicts the interests of Russia.

And if Russia followed solely its own egoistic interests, we should just as unceremoniously intervene in, say, the trade disputes of Washington and Beijing on the side of our Chinese ally, in the NAFTA crisis, in order to impose upon the US additional problems regarding its relations with both Canada and Mexico, or the fates of the Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific partnerships, where the United States is again working hard. To do that would be proceeding from the American principle, “the worse it is for our competitor, the better it is for us”.

We do not do that. Firstly, because Russia respects the sovereignty of other nations and never interferes in their internal affairs. Secondly, because, in principle, it is not proper for a world power to behave in such a way. …

What especially disappoints me in this situation [is] … Germany’s silence. The United Statyes is actually encroaching on Germany’s rights. That silence is disappointing, as is the EU’s passivity, which doesn’t respond to the intrusion of Americans into their sovereign affairs. The European Union is not NATO. …

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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What You Don’t Know About The Saudi-Trump Tower Scandal

By Kristen Breitweiser, one of the four 9/11 widows – known as the “Jersey Girls” – instrumental in forcing the government to form the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 2001 attacks. Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: .

Interestingly, just recently, the story about the illegal Saudi lobbying campaign from 2016 has made media headlines. The jaded skeptic in me would say that’s only because—on it’s face—the Saudi lobby story implicates MBS and Trump. Maybe so. But the Saudi lobby story runs deep; it implicates a slew of other former Administrations, former and current Congressional representatives, and Washington insiders.

Two years ago, the 9/11 Families fought for long overdue legislation called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that enabled us to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) accountable in a court of law for their alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.

Prior to JASTA, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was protected from any liability for its role in Sunni radical terrorism by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Under FSIA, the only way a foreign nation can be held responsible (legally, punitively, financially, etc.) for its participation in terrorism was if it was placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List.

Being formally placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, more than anything, inhibits a nations’s ability to conduct business around the globe. It’s this inability to participate in global business transactions that truly controls whether you end up on the list—not whether you deserve to be on the list because of your participation/support of global terrorism. Essentially, like all things, it comes down to money and influence. And, even if you are placed on the list, often, there are “exceptions,” otherwise known as financial loopholes for the special, chosen few. And not surprisingly, those exceptions typically benefit the rich elite while punishing the poor. Sudan, and Libya are good examples.

Suffice it to say, when you are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s larger producers of oil, geographically well-placed in the Gulf, and you have lots of money that U.S. foreign policy and military establishment folks likes to spend, it’s always been pretty easy for the KSA to keep itself off the State Sponsors list—even if the KSA rightfully deserve to be on it.

Thus, in some ways, JASTA was a legislative go-around to the formalities of being named to the State Sponsor of Terror list. Put simply, JASTA enables victims to hold a foreign nation accountable for its role and/or acts of terrorism, without stopping the “business” end of things that would normally be halted if such a country was named as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Ruefully, the 9/11 Families would never get the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the States Sponsors List, but we might be able to get JASTA.

Some say that in life, timing is everything. For the 9/11 Families, it was more a timing thing than a noble gesture by Congress that yielded us JASTA. It’s important to note that at the time of our fight for JASTA, luckily for us, the Saudis and their friends on Wall Street (and Washington DC) were bidding for the Saudi Aramco IPO (the world’s largest in history estimated at $2-3 trillion) to be hosted by the United States on Wall Street. Put simply, there was no room for any Saudi listing as a States Sponsor of Terror when billions were at stake. To some it would seem, JASTA was the more palatable (and lucrative) alternative.

Nevertheless, the 9/11 Families still had to fight to get JASTA. We faced enormous resistance since the Saudis don’t take kindly to being held accountable for their role in global terrorism. Saudi pockets run deep, and Saudi Royals are very good at taking care of their friends in Washington.

Moreover, at the time of the JASTA fight, the 9/11 Families fought against more than 15 highly paid Saudi lobbying firms that were openly getting paid millions to lobby against us. Firms like: MSLGroup/Qorvis; the Podesta Group; Squire Patton Boggs; DLA Piper; Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck; King & Spalding; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; Hohlt Group Global; Flywheel Government Solutions; Howard Buck McKeon; and BGR Government Affairs. Suffice it to say, we were up against many, many formidable foes.

During the fight for JASTA an uncanny thing happened in a very David and Goliath sort of way. In the vein of true patriotism(unlike the hundreds of former U.S. officials who run, work, and cash checks at the aforementioned lobbying firms), a U.S. veteran contacted the 9/11 Families about something that upset him. He told us that some of his friends were being asked to go to Washington to lobby against JASTA and that many of these vets did not understand what they were being asked to do. The vet felt that it was wrong for vets, many of whom had joined the military in the wake of 9/11, to be asked to go to Washington to lobby against the 9/11 Families.

Things got even worse once this vet had discovered who the folks enlisting his vet buddies truly worked for— the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s number one financier of Sunni terrorism. The sick irony of the Saudis hiring U.S. veterans who went to war and risked their lives to fight against Sunni radical terrorism to be paid to now go to Washington to lobby for Sunni radical terrorism was not lost on this man. And that is why he contacted the 9/11 families.

Indeed, the Saudi lobby braintrust (all those venerable Americans, the highly paid DC lobbyists and former officials) had decided to purposely pit U.S. veterans against 9/11 Family members. I guess it was envisioned as a kind of divide and conquer sort of thing. How sick.

So, the Saudi hired guns offered the U.S. vets an all expenses paid, five-star trip to Washington, where they could eat and drink for free, meet with key Senators and Representatives, and, most importantly, provide the “political cover” (that JASTA put our troops in harm’s way) those Senators needed to oppose JASTA, please the Saudis—and, snuff out the 9/11 Families. During this time, of course, the election had just taken place. Trump had become President. And what better place for the vets to stay, then Trump International Hotel, located a few steps from the White House. A strategic gesture of goodwill to the incoming President. There’s a reason those lobbyists are paid the big bucks, I guess.

Recall that at this point, JASTA had already been passed into law by an overwhelming (nearly unanimous) vote of Congress. JASTA even survived an Obama Administration veto, that was soundly overridden by Congress. (Notably, this was the only override of Obama’s presidency.) Though, none of that mattered to the Saudis, because they knew that they still had time to torpedo JASTA during the lame duck session. And, so they got to work.

Key members of Congress (some of them even JASTA co-sponsors) started making rumblings that JASTA needed to be “fixed.” The 9/11 Families were candidly told by a few of our elected officials that something needed to be “given to the Saudis.” Yes, that’s right: Given to the Saudis.

Now, you have to understand the very special kind of FU it is when a duly-elected United States Senator tells an American citizen and 9/11 family member—a victim of Sunni radical terrorism— that he needs to stab you in the back to please the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s number one funder of Sunni radical terrorism. Why would any U.S. elected official whose job it is to represent U.S. citizens—not Saudi Royals—want to give anything to a nation that contributed to the mass murder of 3,000 souls on the morning of 9/11?

Welcome to Washington.

Suddenly, a constant refrain started filtering through the airwaves from the halls of Congress, to the White House, and all over the media—JASTA needed a “tweak”; a “fix.”

Senator Bob Corker, Chair of Senate Foreign Relations said, “We may have a better opportunity to soften this once the bill has become law.” Corker had spoken with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir and said that, “representatives from Saudi Arabia would be open to making tweaks to the law.” Yes, that’s right, Senator Bob Corker—the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Congress—had checked in with the Saudis, and, the Saudis were ok with a “tweak” to the legislation. Well thank god for that!

But, unfortunately for Corker, Jubeir, and Secretary of State John Kerry (as you will see below), the idea of “tweaking JASTA” outright for the Saudis was not exactly a winning soundbite. No, something else needed to be ginned up. Something that could defeat the 9/11 families, weaken JASTA, downright protect the Saudis, and yet still have the shine of patriotism. And that’s when our nation’s war veterans were called up for their service to the Saudis. The vets became the Saudi cover: JASTA needed to be fixed because JASTA hurt our troops. Jackpot.

Want to know how effective Saudi money is? Want to know how far and fast it reaches to the highest places? Here are the soundbites that prove it:

President Barack Obama argued that JASTA could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits if other countries passed reciprocal legislation, and may anger important allies. He called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and wrote a letter to him explaining that he strongly believed enacting JASTA into law would be detrimental to U.S. interests.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that JASTA could have “devastating” consequences for U.S. troops overseas. “Its potential second- and third-order consequences could be devastating to the Department and its Service members and could undermine our important counterterrorism efforts abroad,” Carter warned in a letter addressed to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

Secretary of State John Kerry (while holding a joint press conference with Saudi Ambassador Adel al Jubeir!!): “We[meaning Kerry and Jubeir] discussed ways to try to fix this in a way that respects and honors the needs and rights of victims of 9/11, but at the same time does not expose American troops and American individuals who may be involved in another country to the potential of losses.”

CIA Director John Brennan: JASTA “will have grave implications for the national security of the United States,” Brennan said. “The most damaging consequence would be for those U.S. government officials who dutifully work overseas on behalf of our country. The principle of sovereign immunity protects U.S. officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity”. “If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation’s officials in danger,” Brennan said. “No country has more to lose from undermining that principle than the United States—and few institutions would be at greater risk than CIA.”

Speaker Paul Ryan: House Speaker Paul Ryan said the law needs to be changed to ensure that US troops are protected. “I’d like to think there is a way we can fix it so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference.

Richard Clarke, NSC Advisor for Presidents Clinton and Bush; Rand Beers, Homeland Security Advisor for Obama, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, former CIA Director Michael Morell, former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley: “If JASTA is allowed to become law, it will completely undercut sovereign immunity protections upon which the United States and all sovereign nations have relied for centuries, and our troops, our diplomats and all U.S. government personnel working overseas could very well find themselves subject to lawsuits in other countries. This must not happen.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), “My primary concern is that this bill increases the risk posed to American military and intelligence personnel, diplomats, and others serving our country around the world,” Thornberry wrote in the letter circulated among Republican lawmakers. “Many of us have long resisted any attempt to subject U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic personnel to criminal or civil courts around the world. These individuals who are carrying out U.S. policy must be protected. Differences should be resolved between governments based on policies, not by individual litigants in the courts.”

Gen. Joe Dunford, the top U.S. military official, weighed in with a letter, outlining his concerns for U.S. service members and risks to the close security cooperation relationships with allies.

And finally, we had Senator Lindsey Graham and the late Senator John McCain, who led an effort to force a “reconsideration” of JASTA — even though both of them voted for the bill and for the JASTA override of Obama’s veto. Graham and McCain proposed a “revision” that they said was needed to protect American troops. “Here is the problem: Every time a drone is launched, every time Americans go in harm’s way, every time a diplomatic engages in activity abroad, we are subjecting them and our nation to lawsuits, potential imprisonment,” Graham said. “We need to fix this because if we don’t fix this, it will come back to haunt us.”

Of course, none of that was true. It was all said to serve the Saudis.

First and foremost, in America, there is nothing held more sacrosanct than the protection of our troops. That is why arguments made on grounds of needing to “protect our troops,” are taken so very seriously by all Americans – especially when delivered, in earnest, by a war veteran in uniform. The 9/11 Families would NEVER place the lives of our soldiers in danger. For us, many of our veterans joined the military in the wake of 9/11, and we see our veterans as our loved ones—members of our family and true American heroes.

JASTA does not place our troops in harm’s way. In fact, our troops and our diplomats, along with their actions overseas, have always been protected by the Vienna Convention and individual Status of Force Agreements. JASTA does not affect these long-established protections. Moreover, JASTA was a well-thought out, extremely carefully written piece of legislation that was thoroughly studied by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and their attorneys before it became law. Any concerns or possible unintended consequences from JASTA – including its impact on our troops – were thoroughly raised and addressed prior to JASTA becoming law.

One of the attorneys representing the 9/11 Families crystalized the “fix” being offered by McCain, Graham and so many others, “Sens. McCain and Graham have indicated that they intend to address concerns, but if you read the record discussion, quite frankly, they’re proceeding on the basis of a complete misunderstanding, a lack of knowledge about the bill. The concerns being expressed by them, and the proposed fixes, are the concerns that were expressed and the fixes that have been authored by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is demonstrable. They are using the language that the Saudi foreign agents and lobbyists and PR firms are using. They are simply parroting their line.”

The 9/11 Families took our demonstrable evidence and information about the Saudis, their illegal lobbying campaign, and their low-life duping of our veterans, and we filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice. We provided all the proof that DOJ would need to hold the Saudis accountable for their factually proven violations of FARA. As of today, we have heard nothing back from DOJ.

According to Brian McGlinchey at 28pages.org (who originally broke the Saudi/US Vet lobby story nearly two years ago), today, “nearly eighteen months after the 9/11 families filed their formal complaint, there’s no indication any investigation ever took place[by the Department of Justice]. “It’s one of the most deceptive campaigns that any foreign lobbying operation has ever done, and yet there’s been no punishment whatsoever,” says Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative. Meanwhile, according to McGlinchey, a recent revelation by a retired FBI counterintelligence agent offers yet another indication of a systemic DOJ tendency to put protection of the kingdom’s reputation ahead of the pursuit of justice.

The 9/11 Families have grown accustom to the DOJ not thoroughly investigating, indicting, prosecuting, or holding anyone accountable when it comes to 9/11—especially if that person is a Saudi or even worse, a Saudi Royal.

Recall that in early 2017, when the 9/11 Families were trying to get DOJ to investigate the illegal lobbying of the Saudis against JASTA, DOJ was more focused on proving the Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

And yet now, suddenly, in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi, I guess it is finally part of DOJ’s agenda to take a look at the Saudis—at least as far as their FARA violations back in 2016 are concerned. Frankly, the 9/11 Families don’t care if the Saudis get indicted for FARA violations, we want them indicted for their financial and logistical role in the 9/11 attacks that killed our 3,000 loved ones.

But in life, you take what you can get. And right now, the media and DOJ seem intent on focusing our attention on the Saudis illegal lobbying campaign that involved U.S. vets who stayed at Trump hotels. I just hope people are willing to delve deeper.

Take a look into the leaked emails of Yousef al Otaiba, the Emirati Ambassador to the United States, that were made public back in June of 2017. To me, these emails should be made part of any illegal Saudi lobbying campaign investigation. They provide information and, perhaps clearer context, of how the UAE and Saudis were influencing our members of Congress and those in Washington DC during 2016-17. And maybe, DOJ should ask why these two “allies” were so very concerned about facing 9/11 litigation and being held accountable for their logistical and financial role in the 9/11 attacks.

According to the Otaiba emails, a senior US official, emailed Otaiba on 1 December, stating that he “cannot reach Adel [al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister]”. He forwarded a message to al-Jubeir about the “fix”, asking: “Is the Kingdom ok with it?” Otaiba replied: “Adel is trying to reach you. The answer is YES.” A senior official at the Emirati embassy then told Otaiba that Graham “needs three Dems [Democrats] to co-sponsor his legislation”. She suggested three senators she believed “would be open to you making the ask that they co-sponsor, if you’re comfortable doing so.” “Happy to do it,” Otaiba replied. He asked about whether to approach a fourth senator, but was told: “Adel went to see him at 12:30 today.”

In a separate letter to a fifth senator, Otaiba conceded he understood “the desire to provide justice for those who were affected by 9/11”. But the “unintended consequences” of the legislation posed a large risk to the US and its allies. He highlighted three reasons for supporting the “fix”: “the impact of JASTA on US troops and military personnel, the impact of JASTA on the US’ counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing efforts, and the impact on US investments both domestic and abroad.” He added: “JASTA would also have a chilling effect on the global fight against terrorism. In order to effectively fight the scourge that is terrorism, the US needs reliable, trustworthy international partners. “If a foreign sovereign nation is at risk of being sued in a US court, even if it’s an ally, that nation will be less likely to share crucial information and intelligence under Jasta. Why risk alienating key allies at a time when their cooperation is absolutely necessary?” For further UAE and Saudi foreign influence, see also, herehere, here, and here.

The 9/11 Families are tired of waiting for justice. And we’re tired of the overt pandering and playing around our government does with the Saudis and their Emirati friends. Whether its for illegal lobbying and FARA violations, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, decades worth of human rights abuses and torture, the horrific atrocities in Yemen, or the murder of 3,000 on September 11th, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should be held accountable.

 

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