Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Calling for an 'End to Violence,' Bernie Sanders Becomes First 2020 Democratic Presidential Contender to Criticize Bolivian Coup

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to the media
after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate
on June 27, 2019 in Miami. (Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Published on
"I am very concerned about what appears to be a coup in Bolivia, where the military, after weeks of political unrest, intervened to remove President Evo Morales."

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday became the first 2020 Democratic presidential 

candidate to speak out against Sunday's military coup in Bolivia which saw that 

country's President Evo Morales forced to resign before going into hiding.

"I am very concerned about what appears to be a coup in Bolivia, where the military,

 after weeks of political unrest, intervened to remove President Evo Morales," Sanders 

tweeted. "The U.S. must call for an end to violence and support Bolivia's democratic 


The Vermont senator's comments came after a day of mounting pressure to speak out 

from his left-wing grassroots movement. Earlier Monday, as Common Dreams

reported, Sanders supporter Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) condemned the 

coup in no uncertain terms."The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair, and peaceful 

elections," said Ocasio-Cortez, "not violent seizures of power." Sanders' expression of

support for Morales was welcomed by supporters."By far the biggest difference

between Bernie and the rest of the Democratic candidates is how well versed he is in

and how much he cares about the type of international left issues that, say, The Nation

writes a lot about," said reporter Matthew Zeitlin.Earlier Monday, Sanders released a 

new plan to help veterans; held a town hall with veterans in Des Moines, Iowa 

and published at Jewish Currents an essay on combatting anti-Semitism.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign Releases Letter on Hillary Clinton’s Defamation of Congresswoman Gabbard

LOS ANGELES — Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s (U.S. Rep, Hawaii) campaign’s legal counsel released the following letter today concerning Hillary Clinton’s defamation of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. 

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We write you on behalf of our client Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

On October 17, 2019, you published this statement on the podcast Campaign HQ With David Plouffe: “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And, that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset. I mean, totally.”

One day after making this statement, CNN asked your spokesman whether this statement was made about Congresswoman Gabbard. He responded yes: “If the nesting doll fits.”

Your statement is defamatory, and we demand that you retract it immediately.

The statement is false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not being groomed by Russia to be a third-party candidate. Nor is she a Russian asset. Rather, she is a patriotic loyal American, a sitting four-term United States Congresswoman and a Major in the United States Army National Guard. As such, she is a loyal American who has taken an oath declaring her allegiance to the United States of America both as a soldier and as a member of Congress. She has been serving for over 16 years in the Army National Guard, having voluntarily deployed twice to war zones in the Middle East.

It appears you may now be claiming that this statement is about Republicans (not Russians) grooming Gabbard.

But this makes no sense in light of what you actually said. After you made the statement linking Congresswoman Gabbard to the Russians, you (through your spokesman) doubled down on it with the Russian nesting dolls remark. This Republicans-not-Russians spin developed only after you realized the defamatory nature of your statement, and therefore your legal liability, as well as the full extent of the public backlash against your statement.

Moreover, the Republicans-not-Russians spin cannot explain away your statement that Congresswoman Gabbard is “a Russian asset.”

That is, of course, because your Republicans-not-Russians spin is rubbish.

In any event, this strained interpretation bears no legal weight. Defamation claims are not determined by the speaker’s post-hoc rationalizations. They are determined by how the statement was “read and understood by the public . . . .” Here, the public universally understood your statement exactly as you intended to be understood, and exactly as you made it: that Tulsi Gabbard—a sitting Congresswoman, U.S. Army Major, and candidate for President of the United States—is a Russian asset. This is how your statement was understood by those in political circles, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang.

In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia. Besides your statement, no law enforcement or intelligence agencies have claimed, much less presented any evidence, that Congresswoman Gabbard is a Russian asset. This fabricated story is so facially improbable that it is actionable as defamation.

In light of this, we demand that you immediately hold a press conference to verbally retract—in full—your comments. We also demand that you immediately publish this full and fair retraction on the twitter account @HillaryClinton, and distribute it to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post:

On October 17, 2019, I made certain statements about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Among other things, I accused her of being a Russian asset and that Russia was grooming her to be a third-party presidential candidate.

I was wrong. I never should have made these remarks, and I apologize. I did not have any basis for making the statements. I acknowledge my grave mistake and error in judgment in this matter.

I support and admire the work that Congresswoman Gabbard has done and will continue to do in serving our country.

Journalists with questions should reach out to press@tulsi2020.com and cullen@tulsi2020.com.

About Tulsi Gabbard:
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the first female combat veteran to ever run for US president and, along with Tammy Duckworth, one of the first two female combat veterans elected to Congress. Currently a major in the Army National Guard, she has served for more than 16 years and deployed twice to the Middle East.
Tulsi is a Democrat and was first elected to Congress in 2012. She has served there for more than 6 years, including on the Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, and Armed Services Committees.
Tulsi was Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2013 until she resigned in 2016 to endorse Bernie Sanders in his bid for President.
Tulsi’s campaign for president is powered completely by people. She does not accept campaign contributions from corporations, lobbyists, or any political action committees.
Tulsi was born a US citizen on April 12, 1981 in American Samoa. When she was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii, where she grew up. As is typical of many residents of Hawaii, she is of mixed ethnicity — Asian, Caucasian, and Polynesian descent.

More Information and Updates from Tulsi Gabbard:
If you'd like to receive these releases please fill out our press list form.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Civil Rights Memorial commemorates 30 years

Carolyn Wells Gee was in bed watching TV with her younger sister when she heard the shot that killed Medgar Evers. 
Gee, now 71, and who still lives in the Jackson, Mississippi, house next door to where the civil rights martyr was killed by Klansmen, was a high school student on June 12, 1963, when the shot rang out late at night.
“I looked out the window and I could see, he [had fallen and] was halfway like on the steps,” she said, adding that Evers’ children were standing there. “There was a lot of blood, and they were just screaming.”
Gee’s father rushed out of his house and fired two shots into the air to scare off the shooter. Her father and another neighbor placed Evers on a mattress, loaded him into a station wagon, and drove him to the hospital rather than wait on an ambulance that would never arrive.
Evers, an NAACP field secretary for Mississippi who organized voter registration efforts and economic boycotts, is one of the martyrs whose names are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorialin Montgomery, Alabama. The Memorial will mark its 30th anniversary beginning Monday. 
The Memorial, dedicated by the SPLC on Nov. 5, 1989, honors 40 people killed during the modern civil rights movement, a period framed by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. 
The martyrs selected for the Memorial fit at least one of three criteria: They were murdered because they were active in the movement; they were killed as acts of terror aimed at intimidating the black community and civil rights activists; or, their deaths, like that of Emmett Till, helped to galvanize the movement by demonstrating the brutality faced by African Americans in the South.
Their sacrifices are not lost on Gee, particularly on Election Day. “I vote all the time,” she said. “You got to try to put people in office who you think are going to help the community. I mean, people died for our right to vote.”
Today, the Memorial provides thousands of visitors each year with a vehicle for education and reflection about the struggles for equality. It is located just yards from the church that King pastored when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott that sparked the movement.
“As we celebrate 30 years of the Civil Rights Memorial, we are reminded that everyday people – including each and every one of us – have the power to bring about social change by standing up and speaking out against injustice,” said Tafeni English, director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center (CRMC). “The 40 names of civil rights martyrs inscribed on the Memorial provide lessons on the courage, commitment and sacrifices these individuals made in the past to bring us where we are today, and they inspire us to continue the march until justice is a reality for everyone in society.” 
The commemoration activities will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, with a panel discussion examining current voting rights issues and the civil rights movement. The discussion will be broadcast on Facebook Live. During the voting rights panel, Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for voting rights at the SPLC, will discuss voting rights in Alabama and the SPLC’s work in the Deep South.  
On Tuesday, Montgomery Mayor-elect Steven Reed, who will become the city’s first black mayor, will deliver an address during a “Day of Remembrance” ceremony. Participants will lay a wreath and flowers on the Memorial to honor the civil rights martyrs. The day’s events, which begin at 11:30 a.m., will include remarks by SPLC Interim President Karen Baynes-Dunning and special performances by the Park Crossing High School Choir under the direction of Darrian Stovall. 
During the ceremony, the SPLC will announce the winner of the CRM30 Art Competition, a contest open to all Montgomery public school students in grades nine-12. Participants were asked to create an original drawing, painting, or other two-dimensional medium related to the modern civil rights movement. First-, second- and third-place winners will receive cash awards, and their artwork will be displayed at the event.  
Also in honor of the anniversary, the CRMC, an interpretive center behind the Memorial, will offer free admission to visitors on Tuesday. All anniversary events are free and open to the public.
‘Let us rededicate ourselves to freedom’s fight’
When the Memorial was dedicated three decades ago, 6,000 people gathered to witness the dedication of the nation’s first monument to the martyrs of the movement. Water emerges from the center of a round, black granite table and flows evenly across the top, where the names of martyrs and the history of the movement are inscribed. 
Behind the table, water cascades over a curved black granite wall inscribed with a paraphrase from the Bible’s Book of Amos that King quoted on several occasions: “… until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” The Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
During the dedication ceremony 30 years ago, the crowd heard from Rosa Parks, whose refusal to yield her bus seat to a white passenger in 1955 sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and energized the civil rights movement. Parks reminded the crowd that the march for justice was far from over – a sentiment that continues to undergird the SPLC’s work today.
“It never ends,” Parks said. “But we are living in hope that the future, as we gather for peace, justice, good will and the priceless life of all, that we will not have to mourn the dead but rejoice in the fact that we, as a nation of peace-loving people, will overcome any obstacle against us.” 
Since the dedication ceremony in 1989, hundreds of thousands of people have visited the Memorial to pause and reflect on the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for justice and equality. Busloads of schoolchildren visit on a regular basis, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis – himself an icon of the movement – leads wreath-laying ceremonies with congressional and civil rights leaders.
The ensuing decades, however, saw the black granite of the Memorial table deteriorate. On Aug. 6, the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the table was replaced. The newly installed table records exactly the same names that were on the previous one. But the names on the new version are more deeply ingrained in the table, making it easier for visitors to see them and run their fingers across them through the water.
This Monday and Tuesday, we invite you to join us in the Civil Rights Memorial’s 30th anniversary events, as we honor those who died for voting and other civil rights. And, as the SPLC’s first president, the late Julian Bond, noted to the crowd that gathered in 1989, it is an opportunity to look to the future and the challenges that remain.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to freedom’s fight,” Bond said. “Let us gather, not in recrimination, but in reconciliation, remembrance and renewed resolve.”

The Editors of SPLC "Week in Review"

Understanding Trump’s ‘Withdrawal’ From Syria And Advocating For Peace In The Middle East

President Trump recently announced he was withdrawing US troops from northeastern Syria where they had fought and imprisoned ISIS members with the Kurds. This move gave the green light for Turkey to invade and try to push the Kurds out ostensibly to replace them with the three million Syrian refugees from the western region currently living in Turkey. Democrats and Republicans are criticizing Trump for withdrawing and abandoning the Kurds. This has created a dilemma for peace activists – should the troops stay or go? We speak with Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace who has spent time in the Middle East, most recently in Syria, to clarify what is going on and how best to advocate for peace in the region.

MF: You're listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we’re joined by our guest Ajamu Baraka. He is currently the national organizer and national spokesperson for the Black Alliance For Peace. Thank you for taking time to join us, Ajamu.
AB: Always my pleasure. Thank you.
KZ: All right. Well, we’re going to talk about Syria and there’s a lot going on with Syria right now. There’s a great political debate in Washington DC where everybody seems to be against Donald Trump, except for Ron Paul, everyone’s against Donald Trump’s desire to get US troops out of Northeast Syria. And in Syria itself, the Turkish incursion into the Kurdish area. Lots of violence. Lots of confusion. Got to figure this out. Can you kind of give us a sense of how you see the Syria situation right now?
AB: Well, I think you hit on the right term. It can be very confusing because it’s very complex. This latest incursion or invasion if you will by Turkey, it took place and it’s taking place in a context related to the general war in that country and informed by the shifting and complicated relationships between a number of states –  Russia. Of course, Iran, and of course Syria, the Turks the US,  Isreal and of course the Kurdish independent forces. So it’s a very very complex situation. So, you know, but what appears to be quite obvious to me is that with the long-awaited incursion or invasion by Turkey to try to create a so-called buffer zone in Northern Syria, that there was a general agreement, it appears, at least between Turkey and the US and maybe even the Russians that was going to allow this to happen, very similar to what happened when the Turks invaded Afrin some months ago or a year or so ago. There was a general agreement that resulted in the Russians basically letting the Turks know that there was going to be no response in terms of air protection from Russia, which gave them a free hand to go in and take province back and to allow the forces to engage in what was characterized as ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. And so this situation now that the Turks have been advocating for for quite some time is connected to that invasion. It is their attempt to try to reconfigure facts on the ground to push back the Kurds but also to engage in their own brand of taking territory to dismember and to weaken Damascus. So it is a very fluid and complicated situation that requires more than just a sort of a pedestrian understanding of that part of the world and Syria specifically.
MF: And of course, this isn’t the first time that this kind of situation has happened. Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence has an excellent article writing about in the 1990s and early 2000s when the US was inhabiting a base in Turkey. Sometimes they said it was Turkey’s base and sometimes they said it was the US base and they were supposed to be there to defend a no-fly zone in that region. But he reports that when it came to Turkey wanting to go in and bomb the Kurds in that region, the US would just completely stand down. The Kurds have a long history of defending their right to self-determination. Can you talk a little bit about the situation that they’re in right now allying with the US, now starting to talk with Syria. Can you comment on that?
AB: I can but let me first comment again on the context. I mean because we are talking about a global context and a regional context. You know, the late Samir Amin said, I think he was correct, that the US, EU, what we call the axis of domination were not going to allow for any independent states to be able to assert their independence and to resist the global hegemony of the US and that policy was reflected in US policy, primarily the full-spectrum dominance approach. They said that they were not going to allow any regional power to emerge to challenge US hegemony. What this meant was that any state and any region was going to be in the crosshairs of US aggression if they appear to be attempting to be independent and also to expand their influence in the region. So for the so-called Middle East or Western Asia, that became Iraq and when they destroyed Iraq, it shifted power to Iran and they quickly realized that they had made a mistake. And that now they had to deal with Iran and the consequence of that was also noticing that they had to disrupt the so-called axis of resistance that included also Syria. So this is the context within that part of the world and here we look at the Kurds. The Kurds who have been involved in a war of national liberation against Turkey and for their attempts to try to carve out some degree of autonomy and Iraq and even in Syria, they found themselves often at the receiving end of state aggression. When the US moved into the region more aggressively and specifically into Syria, it provided an opportunity for the Kurds in Syria to, well I wouldn’t even say opportunity, the reality of that invasion of Syria put the Kurds into a very difficult position. They had carved out some degree of autonomy with Damascus. Damascus was providing some degree of protection if you will while at the same time agreeing with the Turks to contain Kurdish nationalism, but when the jihadist forces begin to invade Syria, it required that the Syrian government had to consolidate its military forces, which meant they had to pull back the military forces and they pulled away from Northeast Syria where the Kurds were located. They provided some degree of arms to the Kurds, but everyone understood that the Kurds were targeted for genocide and that basically they were on their own and so they appeared to have made what some people argue was a practical decision to align themselves temporarily with the US in order to have the means to in fact protect themselves. This is where it gets really complicated. And you know, we talked about trying to avoid the weeds but you know, we know that there are some many left forces in the US that see the Kurds only in terms of some divisive force aligned with the US and Israel to dismember Syria, but it’s important to point out that in all of these years of conflict, the Kurds continued their relationship with the central government of Syria. In fact, and they have not engaged in military operations against the Damascus government. We know that the Syrian forces attacked the Kurds in 2016, but you know, there was no retaliation if you will so, you know, the principles of self-determination on the part of oppressed people come into play, you know, that people see the Kurds as an occupation force that they are attempting to engage in ethnic cleansing with Arabs, but many of the Arabs that have been complaining about the Kurds were also communities that were in alignment with some of the jihadist forces. So it becomes a very very complicated situation. Now, this agreement between the US and the Turks for the US to withdraw their forces to allow the Turks to move in, you know, it created a situation again where the Kurds had to make a decision because again, they were being targeted for elimination and it forced them into an accelerated negotiation with Damascus in order to make sure that they were not going to be militarily wiped out.
KZ: Wow. So one part of the Kurdish region, Rojava, the three cantons of Rojava about the size of Connecticut, that has gotten a lot of attention as a kind of an experiment in local democracy and municipalization, Bookchin-style, socialism. Do you know much about Rojava and what’s your impression of whether that’s a model that needs to be protected or supported or in solidarity by people from around the world?
AB: Well, you know, Kevin, it is already a model that many people are studying very closely. Many people support it and it has some real potential in terms of how one can reorganize society in such a way where political power really is being exercised from the bottom up, where you can incorporate various communities and peoples into one political project. And so we’ve seen that that is in fact happening in that part of Syria. But again, there is those broader questions of what does all of this mean in terms of the relationship of that project to the broader Syrian State. Should the Syrians allow for that to continue? What should be the relationship of those parts of the region that have an Arab majority? Well, for the Kurds and for the project itself, there are cantons there that are a majority Arab. It’s important for people to understand that this is a political project and that the idea of it being a ethnic project, you know, it’s questionable. There are some things that people have talked about and looked at that can be suggestive of some type of ethnic project. But many people argue that if you look at how things are organized, how things are organized politically, how the various groups are relating to one another, that the ethnic character of this is subordinate to its political objective. So, you know, it’s something to take a look at very closely but its ability to survive is really dependent on what is resolved with this current invasion by Turkey and the new configuration of relations between itself and Damascus.
MF: Right. So much to digest here. Let’s pull back briefly to the United States. Donald Trump announced he was removing troops, turns out it’s a very small amount of troops and they’re not actually leaving Syria so much as moving to another area. He’s also shifting more troops into Saudi Arabia. We understand that this year an additional I think 14 or 16,000 troops were sent to the region of the Middle East. We have the Democrats all up in arms that Trump has announced that he’s removing some troops. What should be..
KZ: And Republicans up in arms. It’s bipartisan attacks.
MF: Yeah, that’s true. I think people are confused about the politics of this from the US standpoint. What do you recommend for folks in the United States that are trying to look at this and what should they be advocating for?
AB: I think that we have to suggest to them that they have to remain consistent in terms of advocating for solutions to Syria to be arrived at by Syrians themselves. The idea that the US should not move out of Syria to end its illegal occupation because of the situation with Kurds is one of which we have to be very very careful with. On one hand, of course, we know that real live human beings are going to suffer and are suffering as a consequence of allowing for the Turks to invade that territory, but on the other hand, we have to point out the fact that it was the decision by the Trump Administration to give the green light to the Turks to move into this country. But even more, we have to remind everyone that this whole situation we will not even be talking about if the US had not engaged in quote-unquote regime change politics and war in Syria. So it says that we’ve got to be consistent. That we should demand that the US, in fact ,pull out its troops. That the United Nations can play a role in terms of working with the Syrian government to come to a decision on how that process in Northeast Syria is going to be resolved so that there’s no additional suffering and death from this incursion or this invasion. So, you know, we have to advocate that there has to be a peaceful solution to this and that parties need to adhere to the international law, that all parties not invited into the region or into the state by the internationally-recognized government of Syria should depart and in fact the Russians for example have indicated that if they were invited to leave by Syria, they, in fact, would do that. So this notion of US exceptionalism, lawlessness has to be combated because if it is allowed to continue with Syria then we’re going to see a continuation of this argument for humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect to be used as a weapon to give cover to the US imperialist adventures. We’ve got to stop. This process is very destructive not only to the people who are in the crosshairs of US imperialism, but it’s destructive to US society also who are being manipulated into supporting the permanent war agenda of the ruling class. And the result of this in terms of the general morality, we find in the US.
KZ: You know, it’s interesting how in the last presidential debate of the Democrats, Tulsi Gabbard described Syria as a regime change war, a pretty apt description, and Pete Buttigieg took the other side arguing that the US should stay and not abandon the Kurds, keep our forces there, otherwise we’re unreliable allies. It is interesting to see that debate unfold that kind of plays out in your answer there. Now Pepe Escobar had a really interesting article where he described the US defeat in Syria as the biggest CIA failure since Vietnam, that it’s a geopolitical game changer. Syria’s regaining Northeast Syria, Russia’s continuing to play a role as Syria’s protector, Turkey’s getting its buffer zone. The US is being pushed out and the Kurds are pretty much losing their hope for a homeland, although maybe something can be worked out as we talked about earlier. How do you see this as a geopolitical game-changer or as a defeat for the US, biggest since Vietnam?
AB: Well, I would question whether or not this is the biggest defeat for the US since Vietnam. I would think that the biggest defeat took place in Iraq, but you know that’s something that could be debated. I would also question…
KZ: So many defeats of the US to choose from. It’s pretty pitiful. Afghanistan was a big defeat.
AB: Yes. It’s really, you know, and I would say that the and I hate putting it in these kinds of broad geopolitical terms in terms of these very states, but from the point of view of the Russians, it’s sort of a win-win. You see, I don’t think that there’s going to be a buffer zone in Northern Syria. I think that the Turks made a severe miscalculation in moving into Northern Syria because I think it played right into what the Russians saw as the only viable solution to Syria, which was to regain and re-establish the territorial integrity of the state by Damascus and that that was not going to happen very easily with an armed Kurdish movement and that with the invasion of Northern Syria and the degrading of the Kurdish military capacity by being abandoned by the US, it had the effect of accelerating the stalled negotiations between the Kurds and Damascus so that now we have a new configuration with the Syrian Arab Army fighting alongside the Kurdish military forces to try to repel components of the invasion. And with now the Syrian State regaining control or in the process of regaining control of that part of their state. The real losers are the Turks, who going to be pushed back, and the US. Now the question you raised earlier about the so-called withdrawal of US forces, you know, they’ve been redeployed and it’s interesting to note that even though Trump claimed that they’re going to be withdrawing forces, it appears that elements of a deep state seem to be dragging their feet on that process. In fact, the Secretary of Defense said that there was no plan to withdraw troops from Syria. In fact, it seems like they have redeployed most of the troops to the Deir ezZor area to you know, protect the oil fields and to continue to act as a blocker for the so-called Tehran to Beirut land corridor. So, you know, it seems like there’s some powerful elements in the US state that are resisting the demands or the orders from the Commander in Chief to in fact pullback US forces, so it’s a very very interesting process to watch to see this struggle even within the context of the US State around the policies in Syria.
KZ: So our movement for peace will need to be advocating for US out of Syria, if not the whole Middle East. The one thing I wanted to comment on with you, your response there on Turkey. I think Turkey is paying a big political price for this. They’ve been criticized pretty roundly and I agree that it seems like they’re being pushed back by Russia and Syria. Pushback is maybe the wrong word. Maybe they’re agreeing to withdraw as Russia urges them and what’s going to happen though, they may not have a buffer zone but they will have the Syrian government with Russia backing it up keeping Kurds from going into Turkey. So they’ll get their protection, but it may not be a buffer zone.
AB: Well, yeah that remains to be seen and yeah, we got to be very careful about the role of the Russians for the Russians are not going to have any kind of direct military confrontation with Turkey and it is even questionable to what extent the Syrians are going to be engaging directly with those Turkish forces even though there’s some engagement. Everybody’s trying to avoid this escalating out of complete control and that’s what makes it so incredibly dangerous. But again, I think that what appears to be the real winners will be the Syrian State. I do believe that there’s going to be an agreement to allow for some degree of at minimum re-establishing the autonomy of the Kurds. The Kurds would probably end up having to disarm because the state is not going to allow an armed force within these territories, but whatever the final agreements will be, it will be among Syrians themselves. And I think that is a good thing. For the peace movement, again, we have to be consistent. We’ve got to call for a peaceful resolution in Syria. We have to call for adherence to international law and we have to continue to call for a role, an effective role, by the United Nations and remind people of the United Nations Charter, that this is the only established entity even with all of its flaws and contradictions that we have in place that is committed to trying to maintain international peace. And that we’ve got to demand that these various states adhere to the Charter that they are in fact a part of and that’s important because there seems to be a real commitment on the part of these states to jettison international law and to ignore the United Nations. If that is allowed to continue, it will only be to the detriment of the smaller and weaker states on the planet. So you’ve got to advocate for those elements and we’ve got to begin to move toward a real understanding that even our pro-peace position, while they are morally sound ,we’ve got to understand that if we don’t take a more resolute anti-imperialist position then in some ways we are continuing to fail the peoples of the global South who will continue to find themselves in the crosshairs of Western aggression because it is imperialism that is driving these wars. It is the reluctance, as I said at the top of this interview, on the part of the western states, the US and Western Europe, to allow states to really develop along independent lines. And so their commitment to maintaining capitalist domination and imperialist control is pushing a logic of aggression and war and we’ve got to recognize that and be in a place to resist it.
MF: Absolutely. Those are excellent points and you know, we’ve talked about this before, I know Kevin and I have talked about it, how the US Empire is fading, global power is shifting. The US is no longer the dominant force in the world and as part of that period, that transition, what typically happens is that a country starts to engage in these projects that fail and we’re seeing this over and over again with the United States and Afghanistan not having control there, you know the failure in Syria and in Iraq, the most recent coup attempt by the United States in Iraq that was discovered and failed. It’s really time for the US to pull out. And of course, when you talk about violators of the United Nations Charter, the United States is probably one of the biggest violators of that UN Charter. Can we talk a little bit about how power is shifting in the Middle East? The United States has been waging its maximum pressure against Iran and Iran has been able to resist that and it seems like that, the failures of the US and Iran’s strengths, are starting to create some shifts in power where even Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are starting to negotiate with Iran as a significant power in that region.
AB: I think it’s quite clear that US policies that resulted in weakening of the US’s ability to influence events in that part of the world. And that’s why it is a very dangerous situation because the US is still relying on military force to try to compensate for the loss of its political influence. For example, we see that the US is now shifting forces or more forces into Saudi Arabia. This is happening. Even though they understand that this is a change in policy that is going to continue to give support to those jihadist right-wing Islamic elements that see the US involved in a crusader a mission to take over their most holy sites. And remember it was the stationing of US equipment and forces in Saudi Arabia that helped to spark the Al Qaeda resistance against the US. But they are shifting these forces, Margaret and Kevin, because of their loss of influence and the fragile nature of the regime in Saudi Arabia. So, you know, they are trying to bring some degree of coherence to a incoherent policy in which they are systematically being jettisoned from the region, but they’re not going to leave quietly. That’s where we come in. We’ve got to demand that there are peaceful solutions to these various conflicts. We have to demand that the Saudis cease their illegal and immoral war in Yemen, and we have to demand that the US stop providing support to that illegal war in Yemen. And we have to again remind people of the absolute necessity for supporting national sovereignty and supporting the resolution of these ongoing conflicts in places like Afghanistan and to support sovereignty in Iran, in Iraq. So we have a lot of work to do in that part of the world as we do in other parts of the world, especially now that the US has a moving toward using economic sanctions and economic seizures as part of the strategy of destabilization.
KZ: Let’s finish up with some comments regarding your recent trip to Damascus. You were there for a labor conference. Whenever we travel, we’ve traveled with you before as well, whenever we travel outside the US we always are starkly reminded about how many lies we are told in the United States. So what was your impression of Syria going there and did you get a sense from people in Syria where they see their government going now?
AB: I got a sense that the Syrians have gone through a very traumatic experience and they feel that they have come out of the side of it a much stronger people and much stronger nation. I was struck by the level of regard that the people have for their military forces. I had a chance to also talk with people who are in Lebanon who predicted the intensification of the situation there in Lebanon with the people rising up and demanding some real fundamental changes in that country. There’s optimism. There may be a real possibility of peace in the region. That’s what makes this think this invasion by Turkey so much more criminal because it appears that one of the objectives of the invasion was to keep the conflict going. It wasn’t just to establish a buffer zone and to forcefully insert Arabs into Northeast Syria who aren’t from that part of Syria, but it was also to liberate if you will the prisoners and their families under guard there in north, these ISIS prisoners, in order to make sure that they’re still a military capability, an open one on the part of ISIS. So it is to keep the conflict going on. It is to try to manage the chaos of that kind of conflict. And that’s what makes it so incredibly criminal. Hopefully, this is going to be beaten back. The evidence suggests that it’s already happening. But again, these policies are allowed to occur because in the US and in the west, there’s not sufficient pressure being put on these states by the public to put a brake on these imperialist misadventures and that is a real failure on our part.
MF: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us and clarify some of this and I think that our listeners have gotten their direction. We need to be calling for the United States to get out of that region. We need to call for a peaceful solution, for respect for the self-determination of all peoples and that countries respect the international law. So thank you so much for taking time with us.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights defender whose experience spans four decades of domestic and international education and activism, Ajamu Baraka is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles. He is currently the national organizer and national spokesperson for The Black Alliance for Peace.
Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As such, he has provided human rights trainings for grassroots activists across the country, briefings on human rights to the U.S. Congress, and appeared before and provided statements to various United Nations agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission (precursor to the current UN Human Rights Council).
As a co-convener with Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Worker Center for Human Rights, Baraka played an instrumental role in developing the series of bi-annual Southern Human Rights Organizers’ conferences (SHROC) that began in 1996. These gatherings represented some of the first post-Cold War human rights training opportunities for grassroots activists in the country.
Baraka played an important role in bringing a human rights perspective to the preparatory meetings for the World Conference on Racism (WCAR) that took place in Geneva and in Santiago, Chile as part of the Latin American Preparatory process, as well as the actual conference that he attended as a delegate in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
Ajamu Baraka was the Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) from July 2004 until June 2011. The USHRN was the first domestic human rights formation in the United States explicitly committed to the application of international human rights standards to the U.S. Under Baraka, the Network grew from a core membership of 60 organizations to more than 300 U.S.-based member organizations and 1,500 individual members who worked on the full spectrum of human rights concerns in the U.S. During Baraka’s tenure, the Network initiated the Katrina Campaign on Internal Displacement, after Baraka was the first to formally identify the victims of Hurricane Katrina as internally displaced people (IDPs).
Also while at the Network, Baraka ensured that the Network spearheaded efforts to raise human rights abuses taking place in the U.S. with United Nations human rights processes and structures, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Human Rights Council, through its Universal Periodic Review process. By coordinating the production of non-governmental reports on human rights and organizing activist delegations to UN sites in Geneva and New York, the Network gave voice to victims of human rights abuses and provided opportunities for activists to engage in direct advocacy. These efforts resulted in specific criticisms of the U.S. human rights record and recommendations for corrective actions.
Prior to leading the USHRN, Baraka served in various leadership capacities with Amnesty International USA (AIUSA).  As AIUSA’s Southern Regional Director, he played a key role in developing the organization’s 1998 campaign to expose human rights violations in the U.S. Baraka also directed Amnesty’s National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, during which time he was involved in most of the major death penalty cases in the U.S.
In 1998, Baraka was one of 300 human rights defenders from around the world who were brought together at the first International Summit of Human Rights Defenders commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 2001, Baraka received the “Abolitionist of the Year” award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The following year, Baraka received the “Human Rights Guardian” award from the National Center for Human Rights Education.
Baraka has also served on the boards of various national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (USA), the Center for Constitutional Rights, Africa Action, and the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.
Baraka has taught political science at various universities and has been a guest lecturer at academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. A commentator on a number of criminal justice and international human rights issues, Baraka has appeared on and been covered in a wide-range of print, broadcast, and digital media outlets such as CNN, BBC, the Tavis Smiley Show, Telemundo,  ABC’s World News Tonight, Black Commentator, Russia Today, the Washington Post and the New York Times.  He is also a contributing writer for various publications including Black Commentator, Commondreams, Pambazaka, and Dissident Voice.
He is currently an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.