It was 12 years ago this week that the Supreme Court handed down it’s notable, even infamous ruling in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission. Even after 12 years those who vilify the case are completely unable to accurately describe the legal questions at play, the Court’s primary holding, or what effect this decision has had in any applicable area of law or politics.
What was the Citizens United case was about? Well, the organization Citizens United challenged a Federal Elections Commission violation they were hit with. What FEC regulation did they violate? Did they bribe a politician? Did they give donations without disclosing them? Were they spending money that originally came from foreign governments? No, Citizens United got in trouble for showing a movie.
That’s right, “Hillary: The Movie” was a 2008 political documentary produced by the nonprofit organization. The movie was offered as an on-demand video on cable before the 2008 Democratic primaries and therefore it was considered electioneering. And the money that was spent on the film qualified as an independent expenditure. According to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or McCain-Feingold, a corporation, including a nonprofit corporation, cannot advocate for or against a candidate running for office 30 days prior to a primary election, or 60 days prior to a general election. So under this law, a group of people needed the government’s permission regarding whether or not they could show a film critical of Hillary Clinton. That’s the law that the Citizens United case nullified and Citizens United is the case seemingly everyone on the left seeks to overturn.
Many of you likely didn’t know those details. Most people don’t. It’s one of the most misunderstood things in all of American politics. Most people think that this Court decision established that money is speech and that corporations are people. Amazingly enough, those two specific phrases that everyone associates with the case never actually appeared in either the decision or the dissent. Second of all, neither the concept of corporate personhood nor the connection between money and speech were ever disputed by either party to the case.
Most commenters, though not all, grounded their opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling in two rather absolute principles; (1) corporations are not persons and therefore have no First Amendment or free speech rights and (2) money is not speech and therefore restrictions on how money is spent cannot violate the First Amendment’s free speech clause. What makes those arguments so bizarre is that none of the nine justices, including the four dissenting justices, argue either of those propositions or believe them. To the contrary, all nine justices, including the four in the dissent, agree that corporations do have First Amendment rights and that restricting how money can be spent in pursuit of political advocacy does trigger First Amendment protections. As Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote the dissent says,
“Of course, speech does not fall entirely outside of the protection of the First Amendment merely because it comes from a corporation and no one suggests the contrary.”
Justice Stevens also wrote, “that even though the expenditures at issue were subject to First Amendment scrutiny, these restrictions on these expenditures were justified by compelling state interest.” In other words, Stevens believes that spending money on speech is covered under the First Amendment. Congress just has an interest in regulating it in some situations.
You see, the legal concept of corporate personhood goes back hundreds of years. Remember, a corporation legally speaking is just a group of people. Yes, it includes large, multinational for-profit corporations like Walmart and Exxon Mobil. But it also includes labor unions, nonprofit corporations like the ACLU, (which endorsed the Citizens United decision), and the Libertarian Institute itself is a 501(c)(3) that benefits from the First Amendment protections of this case—as well as small, limited liability corporations.
Granting these entities constitutional rights is simply predicated on the idea that individuals don’t sacrifice any of their civil liberties when they form into groups. So, to pose a simple question to all those who are against Citizens United and wish to see it overturned—and anyone who claims that since corporations are not persons, they have no rights under the Constitution—do you believe the FBI has the right to enter and search the offices of the ACLU without probable cause or warrants and seize whatever they want? Do they have the right to do that to the offices of labor unions? How about your local business on the corner which is incorporated? The only thing stopping them from doing that is the Fourth Amendment if you believe that corporations have no constitutional rights, because they’re not persons. What possible objection could you voice to Congress empowering the FBI to do these things? Can they seize the property, the buildings, cars, and bank accounts of those entities without due process or just compensation? If you believe that corporations have no constitutional rights, what possible constitutional objection could you have to such laws and actions?
Now to the point of money and speech. This is just the idea that engaging in speech in any meaningful way (anything more sophisticated than standing on the street corner and yelling) costs money, therefore regulations on the money somebody can spend on speaking is regulating speech by proxy. Think about it; printing a newspaper costs money, hosting an online news show costs money, placing a television ad costs money and so forth.
Regulating the amount of money someone can spend, where they can get that money, when they can spend it, and where they can spend it undoubtedly jeopardizes the speech itself. All nine justices of the Supreme Court at the time agreed. This actually goes back to the 1976 Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo.
Here, the majority ruled that limits on expenditures are necessarily at odds with the First Amendment because restrictions on spending for political communication necessarily reduces the quantity of that expression. The funny thing is, the Citizens United critics acknowledge this. So for Senator Bernie Sanders or Justice Democrats this is actually part of the point of their campaign finance efforts. In their understanding, if money is speech then the more money you have, the more speech you have. And if corporations are people, people who have a lot more money than you or I (ie corporations) have a lot more speech than the rest of us.
They think that it’s unfair that some candidates can purchase more advertisements than others and that needs to be corrected in Citizens United. The dissenting justices never said that money isn’t speech. What they did argue is that Congress had a compelling state interest in regulating it on the grounds of preventing corruption. So does this money in the system cause corruption? That’s what critics emphasized, arguing the Court’s ruling will produce very bad outcomes, primarily the exacerbation of corporate influence on the republic. Even if that is true, it’s not really relevant. Either the First Amendment allows these speech restrictions or it doesn’t. In general, a law that violates the Constitution can’t be upheld because the law produces good outcomes, or because its invalidation would produce bad outcomes.
Many think that America is too far gone in terms of corporate control of politics. I think it’s a very overrated problem. But it is a problem. And our current campaign finance regime contributes to that problem. But that’s not relevant to the speech question. We also have racism in this country. And that’s a problem too, and allowing the Ku Klux Klan to hold one of their stupid rallies contributes to that problem. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to hold it, and invoking the state interest isn’t really persuasive either. Virtually anything can be justified by that rationale. And that argument has been used to curtail civil liberties in other contexts. So when people talk about limiting independent expenditures, they’re actually talking about limiting your ability to engage in political advocacy.
Citizens United simply doesn’t stand for what many people say it does. Their erroneous lamentations are well characterized by President Obama’s famous statement during his 2010 State of the Union Address:
“The Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates of special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”
In that one sentence, the former law professor made four errors that are all too common.
First, Citizens United didn’t reverse a century of law. The president was referring to the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned corporate donations to campaigns. Such donations are still banned. Instead, the decision overturned a 1990 precedent that upheld a ban on independent spending by corporations. That 1990 ruling, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, was the only time the court allowed a restriction on political speech for a reason other than the need to prevent corruption.
Second, the “floodgates” point depends on how you define those terms. In modern times, nearly every election cycle has seen an increase in political spending, but there’s no indication that there’s a significant change in corporate spending. And the rules affecting independent spending by wealthy individuals, who are spending more, haven’t changed at all.
Indeed, much of the corporate influence peddling in Washington that has reformers concerned has nothing to do with campaign spending. Most corporations spend far more on lobbying lawmakers already in Washington than they do in political spending to choose which politicians come to Washington.
Third, Citizens United said nothing about restrictions on foreign spending in our political campaigns. In 2012, the Supreme Court summarily upheld just such restrictions.
Fourth, while independent spending on elections now has few limits, candidates and parties aren’t so lucky. Even last year’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate—not per‐candidate—contribution limits, only affected the relatively few bigwigs (about 600 in the 2012 cycle) who had hit the $123,200 cap. The amount that an individual can give to a single campaign remains untouched.
And so, if you’re concerned about the money spent on elections—though Americans spend more on Halloween—the problem isn’t with big corporate players. Exxon, Halliburton, and all these “evil” companies (or even “good” ones) aren’t suddenly dominating the conversation. They spend little on political ads because they don’t want to alienate half of their customers.
On the other hand, smaller players now get to speak freely: groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business, Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Rifle Association. Even if we accept “leveling the playing field” as a proper basis for regulation, the freeing of associational speech achieves that goal.
People don’t lose rights when they get together, be it in unions, advocacy groups, private clubs, for‐profit enterprises or any other group.
By removing limits on independent political speech—spending by people unconnected to candidates and parties—Citizens United weakened the government’s control of who can speak, how much, and on what subject. That’s a good thing.
If you were to read the local news sites in Las Vegas earlier this month, you would think that police—while saving the public from a dangerous murderer—were ambushed and two of them were shot, barely escaping with their lives. The “shooter’s” face, plastered on news sites, telling the public that he fired 18 shots at officers before they finally and heroically killed him. But Isaiah Tyree Williams wasn’t so much a shooter as he was a victim of police violence. Their badges do nothing to change this reality.
After police executed Williams in his own home, a report from a local CBS affiliate read as follows, “Police said the shooter, 19-year-old Isaiah Tyree Williams, opened fire when officers broke a window and entered the apartment near Nellis Boulevard and Vegas Valley Drive at about 5 a.m. on Monday.”
But the question is this: does defending your home from armed intruders make you a “shooter”?
Had Williams been accused or suspected of a crime, perhaps police may have been more justified in their actions. However, he was not. Williams was not the person police were looking for and thanks to their brutal incompetence, two cops are recovering from bullet wounds and a black teenager is dead.
On that early morning raid, police were looking for 23-year-old Wattsel Rembert who was not staying at that apartment. Rembert is accused of participating in a shooting at a casino back in November. Instead of simply arresting Rembert in a normal manner, police chose to dangerously show up in the middle of the night, bash in doors, throw flash bang grenades, and put everyone involved in danger.
During the raid, Williams, who was asleep on the sofa when armed intruders broke into his home, began firing after a flashbang grenade smashed through his window. Police answered back with their AR-15s and pistols, firing 23 shots into the teen’s body—executing him on the sofa. He was still under the blanket when he died.
Two of the armed intruders, Officer Kerry Kubla, 50, and Officer Brice Clements, 36 were injured in the shooting.
After the shooting, police held a press conference, during which they demonized Williams, rattling off all the charges Williams would have faced for defending himself in his own home against armed intruders who threw a grenade through his window as he slept.
“Had he survived,” police explained, “Williams would have been arrested on counts of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon on a first responder; battery with a deadly weapon on a first responder, assault on a first responder and three counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied structure.”
For defending himself against armed intruders, clearly intent on doing him harm in his own home as he slept.
As you watch the video below, it is clear that police did yell, “police department, search warrant.” But they did so as they bashed in windows, set off a flash bang grenade and used a battering ram on the door.
The idea that a person—who had committed no crime—is supposed to wake up calmly as windows are breaking and grenades are exploding in their home is utterly asinine and speaks to the failed and ineffective nature of no-knock raids. Sadly, judging by the comments from Assistant Sheriff Andrew Walsh, police still think that early morning no-knock raids keep them safe.
“You have to take into consideration the danger to officers, the danger to the community if you’re ever in that area and in that neighborhood,” Walsh said. “In the early morning hours, it’s much safer for the officers and it’s much safer for the community for us to do it at that time because there are less people out.”
Had Williams not been executed and two officers shot during this raid, Walsh’s comments would be laughable. Unfortunately, however, they highlight the sheer disconnect between the reality of policing and playing warrior cop.
Exposing the entirely unnecessary nature of the raid is the fact that the actual person police were looking for, Wattsel Rembert, turned himself into police without incident.
Watch as cowboy cops in Las Vegas, Nevada serve a warrant on WRONG person; KILL HIM as he tries to figure out if he’s victim of home invasion. *Full shooting shown. pic.twitter.com/je7UoPBrt4
The Navy has now removed 45 sailors for failing to take the covid vaccine. [Link]
The US donates 900,000 Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Laos. [Link]
The US will send two million Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Kenya and Morocco. [Link]
In the first half of 2021, Twitter received fewer requests from governments for information on users but complied with the requests more often. When US law enforcement made informal requests for information, Twitter gave the info 68% of the time. [Link]
The Pentagon wants to accelerate its development of hypersonic missiles. [Link]
The Army will begin testing anti-aircraft lasers on Strykers. [Link]
One body was found and 38 people are missing after a migrant boat capsized off the Florida coast. [Link]
The Coast Guard intercepted nearly 200 Haitians attempting to sail to the US. [Link]
Cuba asks the US to restaff its embassy after a CIA report on ‘Havana Syndrome’ found no diplomats were attacked by a foreign power. [Link]
Some large US companies lobby the Biden administration and Congress for waivers to continue business in Russia if more sanctions are imposed. [Link]
Germany offers Ukraine 5,000 military helmets. Some Ukrainian politicians felt insulted by the German aid. [Link]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Americans should strongly consider leaving Ukraine. [Link]
Ukraine says the number of Russian troops near its border is insufficient for a large-scale invasion. [Link]
Ukraine and Russia agreed to uphold the ceasefire in the Donbas during ‘Normandy format’ talks that included Germany and France. [Link]
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says Nord Stream 2 will not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine. [Link]
The US delivers its written response to Russia’s security proposal. [Link]
China says it is dissatisfied that the US is allowing embassy staff to leave China because of strict lockdowns. [Link]
North Korea test-fires two short-range ballistic missiles. [Link]
Jeff Flake became the US Ambassador to Turkey. [Link]
US special forces continue to have an active role in the fight against IS. [Link]
The SDF claims to have regained control of a prison that holds alleged IS members and 700 children after IS captured the facility six days ago. At least 70 were killed in the fighting. [Link]
The Houthi threaten to attack The Dubai Expo. [Link]
France leads a group of 15 countries demanding Mali allow Danish troops to remain in Mali. [Link]
At least 20 Congolese soldiers were killed in an attack by M-23. [Link]
Known as “The Butcher of Prague,” Reinhard Heydrich was for the government of Nazi Germany an accomplished senior figure. He had the preferred look that many racialists enjoyed, clean cut and Germanic. A man that Adolf Hitler had described as having an “Iron Heart.” For many of the monumental events in the history of the Nazi government, Heydrich had helped organize or participated in them. From the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the Kristallnacht persecutions, he was a crucial element of the prewar government and its growth. Heydrich was an excellent administrator and would be an ideal asset for most any government; obedient, a stickler for bureaucraucy and administrative detail and void of compassion. A man of action. The particular ideology of the Nazi regime seemed to suit his talents and principles best. It was one of those perfect historical matches, where the outcome was terrible.
Heydrich became instrumental in establishing the task forces that rounded up Jewish people and placed them into ghettos. Some estimates claim that one million innocent people were murdered during the process of this bureaucratic implementation. Heydrich’s planning and attention to detail ensured that no child was left behind or no family was spared. No exceptions were made, it was the law. By 1941, Heydrich’s reputation was such that he was appointed as Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, what was formerly known as Czechoslovakia. Executions, arrests, and slavery ensued. For the history that was being written for the Nazi State, he was a great man. Which is why he was one of the key figures at the Wannsee Conference, the ninety minute meeting that would write the laws allowing for the mass extermination of those determined to be of Jewish descent. Genocide was to become official government policy.
The cruelty of Heydrich’s administration in Czechoslovakia was brutal. He was an efficient government director, calculating and obedient to the ambitions of the state. He was the viceroy of an already industrial and productive sector pre-occupation, and he milked and bled the people under his rule to gain profit for the state. The nation was at war and men like Heydrich were crucial in protecting the state from defeat from its many enemies. In 1942 Heydrich was killed by British military-trained Czechoslovakian operatives. For the Nazi state, a hero had been slain by foreign backed terrorists. The reprisal was horrible.
Immoral Revenge of the Law
The German government’s instinctive proposal was to kill 10,000 random Czechoslovakians, but after some consideration the plan was dropped. The region was an important industrial sector for the war effort, so such random mass murder could interfere with production. Over 13,000 people were arrested, most tortured. Approximately 5,000 were then executed. German military intelligence falsely linked the village of Lidice to the assassination. Everyone in Lidice was punished. On the spot 199 males were murdered. 195 women and 95 children were taken into custody and ended up in concentration camps. Rape and torture ensued; eventually the women were gassed to death along with 81 children. The village of Lidice and neighboring Lezaky were destroyed. The full power of the state and control over human life was on display as the spirit of vengeance took hold.
A thorough manhunt followed; the German government threatened to murder more innocent people if information relating to the culprits did not reach them by the end of a deadline. A bounty was also set for information leading to the capture of the killers of Heydrich. One of the culprits, Karel Caruda, gave himself up and shared the location of his contacts. For his confession he was paid one million Reich-marks. When the Nazi agents raided a safe house, a 17-year-old boy was tortured, forced to get drunk, and then shown his mother’s severed head that had been placed in a fish tank by the authorities, all attempts to get him to talk. He was told that if he did not give up information, his father would be next. He ended up revealing what he knew to save his father. He was later executed with his father, his fiance, and her family. The state rarely keeps its promises.
Others were arrested and a siege occurred at the Karel Boromejsky church. The defenders fought back with determination against a larger German paramilitary force. The defenders were armed with pistols and the German government, besides using conventional weapons of war, also deployed tear gas and had the local fire fighters flood the church. The defenders were eventually killed and identified. The bishop and senior church leaders were tortured and then murdered by the Nazis. The mathematics is always simple: the death of one government official is worth the blood of thousands of innocent civilians to the state.
An Exceptional Man and Collective Responsibility
Heydrich was mourned as a hero. Two large funeral ceremonies were held in his honor. A great leader of the Nazi Party had been assassinated by terrorists and the reprisal was a punishment to those associated by any collective identity to have been linked to the killing. It is the mindset that all governments impose when they embrace policies of vengeance. It may be the carpet bombing of cities, the targeted attacks on infrastructure, embargoes, or the destruction of Czechoslovakian villages. Because of his position in the German government Heydrich was an important human being. He is above others; in some ways such an individual is sacred and in death the government will sanctify such a man and justice will be absolute to any who would dare defy.
The collective responsibility of punishment utilized by the German government was not unique to the Nazi regime. It is in essence common among all governments. It is found inside of prohibitions and censorship and each regulation. The assumption that all are to be held responsible because of the imagined potential actions of a few or because in the past a minority had in some way been linked to that which is now being banned or controlled. The collective belongs to the state, to be ruled and regulated by the government. Regardless of the ideology of the government the outcome always is that the state is more important than individuals. The state is absolute but the elites that fill its key positions or hold influence are examples of unique human beings that transcend the rest of the citizenry. The more egalitarian the policies of the state, the more it collectivizes and the more the planners, experts, and policy makers of importance become exceptional and above all others.
Because the Nazi regime was defeated, men like Heydrich are no longer seen as heroes (except from among the ranks of a perverse few). Heydrich is seen as a criminal though he acted lawfully according to his own government. He was cruel and savage, though in victory he would have been justified. People like Heydrich are called monsters, though they were human beings. They left a path of pain and death for millions of innocent civilians. Any neutral moral observer would judge a person for such outcomes and that is all that should matter. No context needs to be considered other than the contribution to so many innocent deaths and countless tortures. We however do not live in a moral and neutral world; context and perspective seems to reign and steer many minds. For those inside Nazi Germany proper, Heydrich was a hero. His victims were necessary eggs to be broken in order to improve the omelette of the state, or so it is often said well beyond the bloody history of Nazi Germany.
Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell is given credit for popularizing the “Pottery Barn” rule of foreign policy. Though he denies using that exact phrase, in arguing against what became the disastrous 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq Powell made the point that, as in Pottery Barn, “if you break it, you own it.”
Bush and his neocons—ironically with the help of Colin Powell himself—did indeed break Iraq and the American people as a result “owned” Iraq for the subsequent 22 years (and counting). It was an idiotic war and, as the late former NSA chief Gen. Bill Odom predicted, turned out to be “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.”
Attacking and destroying Iraq—and executing its leader—not only had no value in any conceivable manner to the United States, it had negative value. In taking responsibility for Iraq’s future, the U.S. government obligated the American people to pick up the tab for a million ransacked Pottery Barns.
There was no way out. Only constant maneuvering and manipulation to desperately demonstrate the impossible—that the move had any value or even made any sense.
So it is with Ukraine. In 2014 the Obama/Biden Administration managed to finish what Bush’s neocons started a decade before. With the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Ukrainian government that year, the U.S. came to “own” what no one in their right mind would ever seek: an economic basket case of a country with a political/business class whose corruption is the stuff of legend.
Rather than admit what a colossal blunder the whole thing had been, the U.S. foreign policy establishment doubled down.
“Oh, this might be a neat tool to overthrow our own election: let’s pretend Trump is Putin’s agent!”
In fact Trump was impeached because a certain Col. Alexander Vindman—himself of Ukrainian origin and doing the bidding of a Ukrainian government installed by Washington—solemnly testified to Adam Schiff and his Democrat colleagues in charge of the House that Trump was clearly Putin’s puppet because his lack of enthusiasm for continuing to “own” Ukraine went against “the Inter-Agency Consensus.”
We “own” Ukraine and there is no way back—at least if the U.S. foreign policy establishment has its way.
That is why our hapless State Department today continues to peddle the fiction that Russia is about to invade – and thus “own”—Ukraine. U.S. foreign policy is one of projection: accuse your rivals of doing what you yourself are doing. No sane country would want to “own” Ukraine. Except the Beltway Think Tank class, thoroughly infused with military-industrial complex money.
That is why the U.S. government, though its Embassy in Kiev, is bragging about the arrival of $200 million in lethal aid, all pointed directly at Russia.
That is why the U.S. State Department is maintaining the fiction that Russia is about to launch a ground war to occupy Ukraine by dramatically announcing an “evacuation” of all “non-essential personnel” from its Embassy in Kiev.
It’s just too bad that we don’t share the opinion of who are really “non-essential” State Department personnel in Kiev: the last person out could be asked to turn off the lights.
By overthrowing an elected government in Kiev in 2014, the U.S. government disenfranchised millions of voters in eastern Ukraine who voted for the overthrown president. Those voters unsurprisingly came to view the U.S.-installed regime as illegitimate and sought self-rule under the concept of self-determination. As ethnic Russians, many of these successfully sought Russian passports.
Russia has been clear for a long time about Ukraine: it will not allow an armed invasion of eastern Ukraine that would result in the deaths of thousands of Russian citizens. Were the shoe on the other foot, the U.S.—and any country—could be expected to react the same way.
The U.S. is nearly the last country on earth that still holds to the WWII-era concept of war for territorial gain. Russia wants to “own” Ukraine like most people want to “own” a 2003 Saturn. That is why despite neocon/neo-liberal hype, magnified by the lock-step U.S. media, Russia is not about to invade Ukraine.
This fantasy is being pushed by those who desperately need to continue to gin up enthusiasm for a thoroughly idiotic and counterproductive imperial enterprise.
Biden while vice president sowed the regime change winds in Ukraine. Now his inept Administration will reap the whirlwind of that continuing train wreck and eventual dissolution of the country. No matter what Antony Blinken peddles to the contrary.
Even the comedian Zelensky knows this is a really bad joke.
The Department of Labor drops the OSHA-enforced vaccine mandate. [Link]
As many as 500 criminal cases could be dropped because NYPD detective Joseph Franco was caught planting drugs. [Link]
Twitter says it removed nearly 45,000 accounts in the first half of 2021 for promoting violence or terrorism. Over the same time span, Twitter forced users to delete 4.7 million posts. [Link] Twitter also saw a record number of government requests to remove content. [Link]
Lockheed Martin is investing heavily in hypersonic missiles. [Link]
The US-recognized leader – although he holds no actual power – of Venezuela Juan Guadio offers the country’s true leader – Maduro – talks in exchange for the possible reduction in some US sanctions. [Link]
US and Ukrainian officials are giving conflicting statements on the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. [Link]
The UK delivered thousands of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. [Link]
The US delivered 80 tonnes of Javelin missiles and launchers to Ukraine. [Link]
The House will vote on the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act as early as next week. The bill would impose sanctions on Russia and give Ukraine $500 million in military aid. [Link]
China and Russia conducted joint naval war games. Russia said it discussed conducting bilateral trade with China in national currencies. [Link]
The US flew operations with patrol and spy planes around Taiwan. [Link]
North Korea test-fired two cruise missiles. [Link]
The accounts for the Afghan embassy in the US have been frozen. [Link]
Thousands of Afghans – many CIA-trained commandos – have been stranded in the UAE. [Link]
A senior Human Rights Watch employee had their device hacked by the Israeli NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. [Link]
Talks between Israel and Russia could reduce Israeli airstrikes in Syria. [Link]
The US says it is ready for direct talks with Iran. [Link]
Ted Cruz introduces a bill that will put the Houthi on the terrorism list. [Link]
UAE-backed forces report making gains in Marib against the Houthi. [Link]
The Biden administration approves a $2.5 billion weapons sale to Egypt. [Link]
Senegal says two of its soldiers were killed and nine went missing while on operations in The Gambia. The Senegalese military said the Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance was behind the attack. [Link]
On COI #222, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman cover the hawks advocating the killing of Russians, the ongoing Cold War with China, and recent violence in Syria.
Connor reviews his latest column discussing the Washington imperial elite’s calls for Russian blood during the Ukraine crisis. The Biden administration, the CIA, Senators from both parties, and NATO officials have been promoting policies that will lead to war. Military aid to Kiev is skyrocketing. U.S. lawmakers seek to tie Biden’s hands and only continue increasing tensions with Moscow.
Kyle details military and political escalations with Beijing. In a move sure to anger the Chinese, Taipei’s Vice President is visiting the U.S. soon. The Seventh Fleet is carrying out war drills with dual aircraft carrier strike groups in the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea. An F-35 recently crash-landed on the USS Carl Vinson’s deck during the provocative South China Sea exercise. In response to a U.S. destroyer’s recent FONOP in the region, China’s military is demanding an end to these frequent hostile maneuvers.
Kyle updates the chaotic situation in Syria. An Islamic State attack on a prison in Kurdish territory reportedly holding ISIS suspects, including child detainees, has left scores dead and thousands displaced. The prison break in Hasakah began with two car bombs. Daesh prisoners overpowered prison guards, killing them and taking their weapons. Backing the Kurds, the U.S. has been committing airstrikes. On top of this, U.S. lawmakers are attempting to put a stop to Arab states’ efforts to normalize relations with Damascus.
Scott is joined by Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute to discuss Yemen. Sheline wrote an article recently about the shifting balance of the war. One year after Biden announced an end to U.S. support for offensive Saudi operations, the bombing campaign remains as brutal as ever. Sheline argues that, while all sides have committed atrocities, the scale of the Saudi coalition’s brutality has outshone all others. Further, the war can only happen with continued U.S. support, which puts it on Americans themselves to stop this tragedy.
Annelle Sheline is a Research Fellow in the Middle East program at the Quincy Institute and an expert on religious and political authority in the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her on Twitter @AnnelleSheline.
Archival institutions are not known to be pioneers of technological innovation. They are preoccupied with the past, after all. That is why censors still often black out classified information physically, with a marker, a piece of paper or whatnot.
The Israeli State Archives, on the other hand, have apparently been experimenting with virtual censorship tools. In the minutes of a cabinet meeting of Israel’s provisional government during its “War of Independence,” released following requests of the Akevot Institute, digital blackouts were included to cover the more problematic statements made by the Zionist leaders present. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently found out, however, these comments could be unveiled with a simple click. Woops! (Perhaps due to a similar technical error, I was able to access the paywalled Haaretz article once. Fortunately, the details can be found at Middle East Eye, too.)
The technical malfunction put the war-time document, dated July 1948, suddenly in an entirely different perspective. The censored version had shown David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of the brand-new State of Israel, as saying that “I am against the wholesale demolition of villages.” But then, once the blackout was removed, there followed a “but.” Indeed, he quickly elaborated: “But there are places that constituted a great danger and constitute a great danger, and we must wipe them out. But this must be done responsibly, with consideration before the act.”
These comments are testimony of the well-documented ethnic cleansing of Palestine during Israel’s foundational war.1Ilan Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, 2006). In fact, the ‘wiping out’ of Arab forces and the “expulsion” of the Palestinians was officially sanctioned policy during the conflict. The censorship, which the Israeli State Archives claims to have been unintentional, is only the latest attempt to obscure this historical crime against humanity.
The Roots of Ethnic Cleansing
David Ben-Gurion is widely celebrated in Israel as the country’s founding father who led the war effort during and after the declaration of independence of May 14, 1948. Travelers flying to Tel Aviv today are immediately reminded of this historic figure as they land in Ben Gurion Airport. But the airport in fact predates the founding of Israel. Established in 1934, Arab and European airlines used Lydda Airport, as it was called before World War II, for local and transcontinental travel. In July 1948, however, the same month as the above-mentioned cabinet meeting, the Israelis seized the airport and gave it a Hebrew name: Lod Airport. In 1973, after Ben-Gurion’s death, it was renamed again to its present name in honor of Israel’s first prime minister.
This is just one tiny example of how Palestinian land—and Palestinian history for that matter—was ‘wiped out’ as a result of the 1948 war. This process, as well as the massive expulsion of Palestinians that went along with it, was not a haphazard outcome of the war, however. Rather, as this article argues, ethnic cleansing was at the root of the Zionist project and was implemented as policy by Ben-Gurion in the late 1940s.
From the very beginning, political Zionism implied the “transfer” of the indigenous population to other countries. In their early efforts to gain support from Western nations, Zionist leaders proclaimed that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” In reality, they knew that the first part of that slogan was a lie. The Palestinian people were like “the rocks of Judea, obstacles to be cleared on a difficult path,” as Chaim Weizmann, a prominent Zionist figure and future first president of Israel, put it in 1918.2Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: the concept of ‘transfer’ in Zionist political thought, 1882-1948 (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), 5-48. Quote at page 17.
This dismissive attitude towards the pre-existing civilization in Palestine perhaps explains the early Zionist optimism surrounding the “Arab question.” Theodore Herzl, the founding father of political Zionism, believed that the Palestinians could be uprooted with non-violent methods. In 1895, he wrote that “we shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.” The property owners, on the other hand, could easily be tricked into giving up their lands according to Herzl. “Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us something far more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”3Idem, 8-9.
The free market turned out not to be a very good ally, however. Only 5.8% of Palestinian land was under Jewish ownership by December 1947, more than half a century after Herzl’s remarks. Realizing that Jewish immigration, establishing kibbutzes and buying property was not enough, Zionist leaders soon turned to political and military means.
Political help was secured first. During the First World War, a great-power patron was found in Britain, which pledged to put its weight behind “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in the so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917. When the British secured a League of Nations mandate over Palestine in 1922, words were followed by deeds. During the Mandate period, the British allowed for the creation of a Jewish Agency to function as a semi-governmental body while denying similar advantages to the Palestinians. As such, the Palestinians had to bear the brunt of two colonial movements simultaneously: a settler-colonialist movement in Palestine, aided and abetted by the world’s foremost colonial power in London.4Rashid Khalidi, The hundred years’ war on Palestine: a history of settler colonialism and resistance, 1917-2017 (Metropolitan Books, 2020), 17-54.
The more extreme branches of the Zionist movement, such as the “Revisionists” led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, were the first to resort to military means. As far back as 1925, Jabotinsky wrote that “Zionism is a colonizing venture and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.”5Idem, 51. Since he was open about an “Iron wall of bayonets” that needed to separate Jews and Arabs, there was little confusion about the purpose of the paramilitary militias that Jabotinsky endorsed. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Irgun and the Stern Gang launched a terror campaign against Palestinian civilians (and British officials towards the end of the Mandate period) that left hundreds of casualties.
Lest these extreme forms of intimidation be seen as evidence that the need for ethnic cleansing was solely a right-wing policy aim, it was actually accomplished under the leadership of the dominant “Labor” branch of the Zionist movement. With the help of sympathetic British officers, the Jewish Agency was allowed to expand its military arm, the Haganah, during the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936-1939. Meanwhile, the mainstream Zionist leadership, too, was gravitating towards a military solution to the “Arab Question.” Ben-Gurion, for instance, told his compatriots of the Jewish Agency in June 1938—ten years before the ‘wipe out’ comment—that “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.”6Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, XI.
The Execution of Ethnic Cleansing
But how was this “compulsory transfer” to be accomplished? How, indeed, did the Zionists gain control over the majority of Palestine by the beginning of 1949 if a little over one year earlier they owned barely 5% of the land, the majority of which was concentrated in the cities? Here, the political and military clout they had built up over the years converged.
This time, foreign political help came from the recently founded United Nations, which, bear in mind, before decolonization in Africa and Asia was in large part a club of the Western Great Powers. These nations felt obliged to compensate the Jews for the Nazi Holocaust. In February 1947, the British decided to turn the fate of Palestine over to the UN. On November 29 of that year, after nine months of deliberation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which envisioned the partition of Palestine into two separate states. 56% of the land was to go to a Jewish state, while the Palestinians were left with only 43%. (A small enclave around Jerusalem was to become internationally governed.)
The Palestinians were vehemently opposed to partition, however. They considered it unfair since they held almost all of Palestine and had lived on their lands for generations. Moreover, while only 10,000 Jews would end up under Palestinian governance, 438,000 Palestinians—as well as hundreds of villages and the most fertile land—would end up under Jewish rule overnight. Leaving these Palestinians in the hands of an ideology which had openly vowed to de-Arabize Palestine contributed to the fate that was to befall them.
Indeed, the Palestinian and Arab rejection of the UN plan allowed the Zionist leadership to claim the moral upper hand. Ben-Gurion was a good tactician; like many of his successors, he kept the most extreme Zionist elements at bay and made sure to demonstrate to the outside world that the Jewish side, contrary to the Arabs, did accept the UN plan. Behind closed doors, however, he knew that the borders of the Jewish state “will be determined by force and not by the partition resolution.”7Idem, 36-7.
Still, the two-state solution created a huge problem that preoccupies Zionists until today: the so-called “demographic balance.” Jews would constitute only a tiny majority in the future Jewish state, and this did not stroke with the exclusionary Zionist ideology. As Ben-Gurion said in a speech a few days after the publication of the UN partition plan, “there are 40% non-Jews in the areas allocated to the Jewish state. This composition is not a solid basis for a Jewish state. […] Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state.”8Idem, 48.
And thus, the plan to ethnically cleanse Palestine was born. By the end of the year, parallel to an escalation in terrorist attacks by Irgun and the Stern Gang (and later on also the Haganah), Ben-Gurion gave the green light for lethal assaults on Arab villages. The object was clear: “Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.”9Idem, 64. In early March, ethnic cleansing was adopted as official policy in Plan Dalet (or Plan D), which sanctioned operations aimed at “destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble). […] In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.”
It is difficult not to read “in case of resistance” here as a silly pretext. Indeed, in a letter to the commanders of Haganah brigades, Ben-Gurion stated unequivocally that “the cleansing of Palestine [is] the primary objective of Plan Dalet.”10Idem, 128. Moreover, although there was certainly Palestinian armed resistance (and at times acts of retaliation), the systematic ethnic cleansing of 531 villages and eleven urban neighborhoods and towns that followed happened regardless of the presence and activity of Arab armed forces. Hundreds of civilians were killed in dozens of cold-blooded massacres, which, as intended, drove more than 750.000 Palestinians to flee beyond the territory under control of the Israelis. These refugees would never be allowed back in.
The Memory-Holing of Ethnic Cleansing
Like all subsequent assaults on Palestine, Israeli propaganda has done its best to try to paint the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1947-1949 as a defensive war. Echoing later proclamations that the Jews were about to be “driven into the sea,” Ben-Gurion and company justified their military action as a desperate attempt to stave off a “second Holocaust.” In private, however, Ben-Gurion was well aware of the superior military power of the Zionist forces. In a letter from February 1948, for instance, he wrote that “we can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief, but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.”11Idem, 46.
The Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and Jordanian forces that entered Palestine following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948 almost exclusively operated in the areas allocated to the Palestinians under the UN partition plan. For the Jordanians, not crossing the UN-proposed borders was even part of a secret deal with the Jewish Agency. But even at defending those borders the Arab forces did a bad job. Indeed, after the war was over the Israelis controlled 78% of historic Palestine, having conquered almost half of the land that was supposed to become part of a Palestinian state. What was left was the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the first two of which were annexed by Jordan and the last by Egypt. In 1967, finally, Israel conquered and occupied these areas (as well as the Egyptian Sinai and Syrian Golan Heights), too.
In the procrastinated peace process that has dragged on ever since, the acceptance of the State of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called “Green Line”) has formed a sine qua non for the Israelis. Everything that happened before 1967 is considered a fait accompli and is simply not on the negotiating table. Israel, with diplomatic help from its new great-power patron, the United States, to this day ignores UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which affirms the right of return for the millions of descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians it expelled between 1947 and 1949. Meanwhile, under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return, every Jew in the world has the right to “return” to Israel and acquire citizenship.
The fate of the Palestinians that the Israelis failed to expel beyond the borders of historic Palestine is perhaps even more tragic. Palestinians inside the State of Israel, which today make up around 21% of the population, live under a system of Apartheid. Palestinians living in the West Bank continue to live under occupation. And Palestinians in Gaza are confined to what is often called “the world’s largest open-air prison,” suffering at the hands of a devastating fifteen-year-old Israeli-Egyptian blockade and intermittent Israeli bombing campaigns.
Charges against the now-disgraced NYPD detective Joseph Franco are being welcomed by the families of more than 130 more New Yorkers as it is leading to the dismissal of their family members’ charges. Franco was reportedly caught framing innocent individuals last year and this is the second wave of case dismissals tied to his corruption..
Last April, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s Conviction Review Unit asked for the dismissal of 27 felony convictions and 63 misdemeanor convictions based on Franco’s corrupt policing. Now, that number has grown as Bronx Supreme Court Justice David Lewis granted the motion to drop the felony cases against 133 defendants who were indicted between 2011 and 2015.
“We did not want to dismiss or vacate out of hand all cases he was involved in; we investigated those that hinged on his testimony and sworn statements,” Bronx County District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement.
“[Franco’s] compromised credibility suggests a lack of due process in the prosecution of these defendants, and we cannot stand behind these convictions.”
An addition 250 cases are under review and a total of 500 cases could be dropped.
According to ABC 7, Franco was indicted in Manhattan for perjury, official misconduct and other charges in connection with four incidents whereby he allegedly framed numerous individuals for making narcotics transactions.
According to the Conviction Review Unit, the dozens of cases are being dismissed because Franco’s crimes have discredited his witness testimonies.
“Criminal convictions largely based on the work of corrupt former or active NYPD officers who engaged in misconduct while executing their duties flies in the face of the oaths officers take to protect and serve New Yorkers,” said Elizabeth Felber, director of the Wrongful Conviction Unit at The Legal Aid Society, in a statement, according to the NY Post.
After Gonzalez moved to dismiss cases under his office, Judge Matthew D’Emic moved to dismiss dozens of similar drug convictions tied to the corrupt cop. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Keisha Espinal followed suit vacating more than 50 drug convictions.
As for Franco, he is currently awaiting trial on dozens of counts of first degree perjury and other related charges. Despite facing over a dozen charges in April 2019, and again in July 2019, Franco was not fired from the department until a year later in May of 2020.
“It shows you the unbelievable ripple effect that one individual who wears a shield can have on lives of hundreds, if not thousands,” said Aida Leisenring, a criminal defense attorney with Barket Epstein. “Overturning a wrongful conviction is not a substitute for justice, because the damage has already been done. Filing a lawsuit against the NYPD and receiving financial reparations for that, that’s a step towards justice.”
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of police officers like detective Franco. Here at the Free Thought Project, we report on cops who frame people frequently. One such cop, whose actions were similar to the actions of Franco was Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Wester.
Wester was arrested in 2019 after video surfaced of this drug enforcement cop planting meth on an innocent grandmother. After the release of that video, other videos surfaced, showing the officer planting drugs on other folks as well.
While it is no question that folks will claim that drugs found on them or in their possession “aren’t theirs” and “they don’t know how that got there,” nearly all of Wester’s cases had this characteristic. The videos showed that people were utterly shocked when Wester claimed to have found drugs in their vehicles. While a single person may have been lying, when everyone reacts the exact same way, something is up.
This characteristic led to assistant state attorney at the 14th Judicial Circuit, Christina Pumphrey, investigating the corrupt cop, and she discovered he’d been conducting this framing scheme for some time.
As a result of Pumphrey’s actions which led to Wester’s arrest, 119 people were exonerated and freed from jail.
The Massachusetts Department of Health reports that about half of people hospitalized with covid have incidental covid infections. [Link]
The US donated 150,000 doses of the Pfizer covid vaccine to Kyrgyzstan through Covax. [Link]
Seven sailors were injured during a landing accident on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. [Link]
The US deploys two aircraft carrier strike groups to the South China Sea, including the USS Vinson. [Link]
Cyber Partisans – a ‘pro-democracy’ hacker group – claims to have carried out a ransomware attack on Belarus’ rail system to prevent the transportation of Russian weapons. [Link]
Ukrainian separatists warn the government is planning to invade the breakaway Donbas region. [Link]
Ukraine is unhappy with the US withdrawing staff from its Kyiv embassy. [Link]
The Department of Homeland Security warns Russia could launch a cyberattack. [Link]
Without providing details, NATO announced it was moving additional aircraft and warships to Eastern Europe. [Link]
The US places 8,500 troops on heightened preparedness to deploy. [Link]
Iran rules out any preconditions – including releasing American prisoners – for returning to compliance with the JCPOA. The US recently suggested Iran would have to release American prisoners to return to the nuclear deal. [Link]
Iran says it is willing to engage in direct talks with the US. [Link]
The Deputy Iran Envoy, Richard Nephew, leaves the nuclear deal negotiation team. [Link]
Airstrikes in Iraq killed ten militants, and three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. [Link]
The US carried out airstrikes on a prison in northeastern Syria. The prison is run by the US-backed SDF but was taken over by IS. Fighting for control of the prison continues. [Link]
CENTCOM reports it used Patriot missile interceptors to defend the UAE. [Link]
The UAE-backed Giants Brigades say they have halted their offensive in Marib. [Link]
Mali calls on Denmark to withdraw its special forces. [Link]
Burkina Faso soldiers claim they have captured the country’s president. [Link]
Three protesters were killed by security forces in Sudan. [Link]
On COI #221, Kyle Anzalone discusses the Ukraine crisis. Biden has overextended American commitments and now must make concessions to defuse the crisis. Even if it leads to war, the Blob will demand that Biden hold firm against Putin. While the US continues to take aggressive positions against Russia, behind-the-scenes talks could be working towards a deal to prevent such a war.
Kyle talks about the U.K. High Court’s ruling that Assange can appeal his extradition to the U.K. Supreme Court. The decision is key in the Wikileaks founder’s fight for freedom. However, Assange will remain entangled in the UK justice system for months.
Kyle updates Saudi’s brutal war in Yemen. Following a Houthi drone strike on the UAE, the U.S./Saudi air war on the people of northern Yemen accelerated. After knocking out the internet, Riyadh dropped American-made bombs on a youth soccer game and a migrant detention center.
Kyle looks at the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took control of the country in August, the U.S. levied a brutal economic war on the Afghans, sending millions to the brink of starvation. The U.S. is talking with the Taliban this week. The Taliban, as well as the UN, are pushing the U.S. to unfreeze Afghan government accounts.
Kyle breaks down the career paths of former Trump defense officials. Many are joining smaller tech firms’ boards. The smaller firms give more control to the former officials to direct the companies.
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