By Jess Guh, M.D.
CIA ‘K-9 test’ gone wrong or something else?: Plastic Explosives Found in School Bus Engine Compartment by school's mechanic
By Dave Lindorff
What on earth was the CIA doing putting plastic high explosive charges on school buses and in hidden places in a Virginia public school in a “test” of K-9 dogs reportedly belonging to the Agency itself?
Note: Only 30 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters say that the primary process has been a good way of determining "the best-qualified nominees.” Among Clinton voters 37 percent have a positive opinion of the primary and among Sanders voters 25 percent. The Independents, which account for the majority of the voters, were not polled as a separate group; I guess that, given the limited role assigned to them by the primary system, their percentage would be even lower than the Democrats.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Gar Smith
In an unprecedented act of geopolitical contrition, Barack Obama has become the first US president to apologize to another world leader for America's role in overthrowing an elected democracy and installing a brutal military regime that murdered and "disappeared" more than 30,000 civilians.
The apology was tendered on March 24, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Well, actually, what Obama apologized for was the US being "slow to speak out for human rights." Washington's military role in supporting the coup, the dictatorship and the "dirty war" were only inferred. As Amanda Taub observed on Vox World: "Obama was, unsurprisingly, pretty vague on what role the US played in that conflict."
Obama reportedly was compelled to offer the mea culpa at the insistence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri who made it a precondition of Obama's state visit—on the 40th anniversary of the US-backed military coup.
Hartsoughs 721 Shrader St., San Francisco, CA 94117
March 30, 2016
Dear Friends at the IRS,
We cannot in conscience pay for the killing of other human beings or pay for war and preparations for war. Human life is too precious to drop bombs on people because we do not like their governments. Developing a new generation of nuclear weapons which could put an end to life on our beautiful planet is insane.
Giving the Pentagon hundreds of billions of dollars when we are cutting funds for schools, libraries, head start programs, job training and creation, and now even social security, does not increase the security of our people.
The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and the use of drones have NOT increased our security, but have created more enemies of the United States in these countries, in Pakistan and around the world. Let’s end the war on terror and bring the tax dollars home to meet the needs of the American people.
We are Quakers and cannot in conscience contribute in any way to the killing of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Fifty percent of our tax dollars go for wars and preparations for wars. Together with our IRS Form, we are sending a check for $424 or 50% of what we owe to the Department of Health and Human Services and ask that you designate all those funds for health and education and human well-being – and NONE for war and killing.
The other $424 or 50% (the portion which goes for war and killing) we are contributing to organizations working for peace and justice and programs meeting human and environmental needs in the US and around the world.
Instead of paying for war and killing, we are joining together with others to build what Martin Luther King called the “Beloved Community”. We hope and pray that all the taxes from people all over the world can go for schools, good health care and housing for all people on earth and a healthy planet for our children and all future generations rather than for wars and killing one another.
Sincerely, David and Jan Hartsough
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Ann Wright, VFP and retired 29 year army veteran, and former U.S. diplomat, Hawaii
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
By Brian Trautman
Violence against American Muslims is growing faster than at any time since 9/11, with assaults on Muslim individuals and their places of worship having tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. A NY Times article published last December cites several examples, which include shootings and vandalism. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), last year set a record for the highest number of incidents targeting U.S. Mosques. As a result of this violence, Muslims across the country, including women and children, have conveyed to the public that they genuinely fear for their safety and security.
Hostility toward Muslims because of their religious faith is fundamental to the root and expression of Islamophobia. A 1997 reportof the Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination." The report also identified eight common misconceptions about Islam, such as the religion is inferior, primitive, and barbaric and embodies a political ideology rather than a true religious faith.For these reasons, among others, it can beargued that Islamophobia is a form of racism.
The hate propaganda and political demagoguery observed in the current presidential election season has fueled Islamophobia and contributed to the sharp rise in hate crimes. Many public figures, social commentators and members of the media tragically conflate terrorism with Islam, despite the lack of credible evidence pointing to any connection between the two. Sadly, it is quite possible that the anti-Muslim responses to the terror attacks in Brussels from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others may have incited more Islamophobia and put Muslims at greater risk of victimization.
There are about 3 million Muslims in the U.S. today and more than 1.6 billion worldwide. They have the same right to religious freedom, freedom from fear, and human dignity as members of any other religion, particularly in a nation that touts itself as a beacon of hope and the "Land of the Free."As citizens, we have a moral responsibility to act to protect and preserve these rights. Accordingly, Islamophobia must be confronted every time it rears its ugly head. There is no room for apathy or complacency on this matter.
Determined to defy and combat Islamophobia before more innocent Muslims are targeted and harmed, Veterans For Peace (VFP), working closely with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), has organized a campaign called “Veterans Challenge Islamophobia” (VCI). This national campaign is a broad-based, action-oriented effort which calls on military veterans everywhere to defend the values of religious freedom, equality and individual rights – the very same values that are embedded in the U.S. Constitution. The campaign strives to prevent further abuse of our Muslim neighbors while building strong, positive relationships with Muslim communities to help guard them against hate-motivated threats and behavior.
VFP understands that terror groups like ISIL do not speak for Islam and in fact the vast majority of ISIL’s victims are Muslims. To quote Muslim Navy veteran and VFP member Nate Terani, ISIL’s atrocities represent “utter cowardice carried out by thugs who know NO religion except violence and destruction. They are NOT members of my faith which preaches the sanctity of creation.” In a recent op-ed, Paul K. Chappell, retired Army Captain and a member of VFP’s advisory board, argues that ISIL deliberately provokes Islamophobia for the purposes of recruitment. The terror organization requires two specific conditions before this objective can be fulfilled: “It needs to dehumanize the people it kills, and it also needs Western countries to dehumanize Muslims.” Chappell contends that ISIL “commits horrible atrocities against Westerners because it wants us to overreact by stereotyping, dehumanizing, and alienating Muslims.” Islamophobia, therefore, has the real potential of strengthening ISIL, especially if left unchallenged.
Besides being used as a mechanism to denigrate Muslim Americans, Islamophobia has been employed as a vehicle to demonize Muslims in foreign lands, functioning as a convenient tool for lawmakers pushing to reject war refugees from the Middle East or furnish a pretext for sending more military troops to the region. VFP also believes that the pro-torture rhetoric of several presidential candidates is linked to Islamophobia, a position that VFP has articulated publicly. The ongoing vilification and targeting of Muslims both here and abroad demonstrates the urgent need for and importance of the VCI campaign.
The formal statement of the VCI campaign reads as follows:
“We are U.S. military veterans, many of whom saw combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam, who are appalled by the current spate of bigotry, racism and hatred expressed toward Muslims, the huge majority of whom are law-abiding and productive citizens.
Bigotry and racism violate all of the values we believed we were defending during our military service. The ideals contained in the Constitution, to the degree they have been manifested in America, have been a beacon to much of the world because of the diversity, openness, and respect for people of all faiths that most Americans live by. It will be a great calamity if we let fear give rise to hatred.
Fear-mongering endangers our national security and gives rise to hatred and racism that play into the hands of an enemy that wants to convince Muslims around the world that the West, led by the U.S., hates them, and that joining ISIL or similar organizations is the only way to truly observe and defend their religion. We can never defend ourselves effectively by playing into our adversary’s strategy, giving credibility to their recruitment propaganda. We endanger ourselves whenever we make that mistake.
We call on all Americans to let their voices be heard and to stand up for the values of tolerance, respect and love. As Pope Francis told Congress, “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”
The above statement is published on the VCI campaign website where veterans can sign on to support the campaign and non-veterans can sign upfor campaign news while helping make sure the voices of veterans are heard as we defend freedom of religion and stand against bigotry.
A number of campaign-related activities have taken place since VCI was launched last January. At the end of February, for instance, a VFP sponsored rally titled “Muslims Are Not Our Enemy” was held outside the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, New England’s largest mosque (video). The campaign has inspired the hashtag #VetsVsHate, a movement of veterans who have posted personal messages of solidarity to social media and held nonviolent protests at political events nationwide, including in South Carolina, Alabama, Nevada and Arizona. Veterans involved in protests have displayed banners with appeals to stop the hate, two of which read, “Veterans to Mr. Trump: End Hate Speech Against Muslims” and “We Stand With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters.” During some of these actions, several veterans were accosted and manhandled by security officials and belligerent political supporters.
It is the hope of VFP and its allies that the VCI campaign functionsas an educational instrument and a call to action. The attempts to manufacture fear and hatred of Muslims in our society must be stopped. All veterans, whether or not they agree with VFP on other issues, can be prominent and influential leaders in the struggle against Islamophobia and in persuading their fellow Americans to oppose hate. This campaign is intended as one small but significant contribution toward that effort.
Brian Trautman serves on the national board of directors of Veterans For Peace (VFP). He is a post-Cold War veteran of the U.S. Army. Brian teaches peace studies and economics at Berkshire Community College in western Massachusetts and resides near Albany, NY. On Twitter @BriTraut.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
A new film narrated by Roger Waters, The Occupation of the American Mind, traces the rise of Israeli war propaganda in the United States. This propaganda, which has skillfully swayed U.S. public opinion in support of Israeli wars and occupations, has in fact been not so much a matter of skill as a matter of control.
The U.S. corporate media has obeyed the Israeli propaganda office, because the U.S. government has done so, and the U.S. corporate media generally obeys the U.S. government. How much the U.S. government's stance is shaped by its own independent, albeit perverse, interests, and how much by Israeli propagandizing and corruption is one question. But the U.S. corporate media's lockdown on criticism of Israeli wars is only a slight variation on its coverage of U.S. wars.
What happens when you take the control away? When young people in the United States get their news from the internet and foreign media, their support for Israeli wars and occupations plummets. Backers of Israeli wars find it necessary to start trying to ban criticism on U.S. college campuses. Just as young people have overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders despite corporate media opposition, those who avoid the corporate media are able to back justice for Palestinians (and often to a much greater extent than Sanders does).
When informed people in the United States hear about international opposition to Israeli crimes, they are hardly shocked, and might just yawn. But Fox News reports shock, outrage, and disbelief in its staff:
"You can't make it up. UN names democratic Israel as world's top human rights violator"!
Fox wants enemies, and thus reports in this way on a story that much of the U.S. media will likely ignore or downplay. If most corporate media consumers in the United States learned that Israel was viewed by the world as a top abuser of human rights, they would react approximately like Fox News.
One of the great services that The Occupation of the American Mind provides is that it shows us footage of news coverage of Israeli wars in the United States and, in great contrast, in Europe. In Europe we see Palestinian voices included, and we see false claims questioned by tough grilling of Israeli officials. In the United States we see top U.S. officials of both political parties, and top media figures parroting over and over again the same exact words dictated by Israeli propagandists or their U.S. advisers.
This film is good for beginners who've never escaped their televisions before, in that it provides a basic history of Zionism and the Nakba. But it quickly turns to a particular subject that should intrigue the better informed as well, namely the rise of Israeli propaganda since 1982. We see footage of U.S. network TV news readers reporting honestly and straightforwardly on Israeli bombing of Lebanon, and on Israeli facilitated massacres in refugee camps -- and showing footage of the carnage.
In 1984 the American Jewish Congress held a meeting in Jerusalem on "hasbara" (propaganda, war lies) chaired by a U.S. advertiser who had made "tastes great / less filling" ads for Miller Light beer. In 2009 Frank Luntz produced the Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary. These efforts are not kept secret. In fact, a television show in Israel similar to Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" is called "The Ambassador," and it challenges contestants to do the best job of selling Israeli war crimes as being justified or admirable. The acceptance of such a show is itself terrific hasbara, of course, as it suggests that concocting excuses for killing people is justifiable and admirable.
The central lie of Israeli war propaganda is also the most effective lie in the United States and the focus of the first chapter of my book War Is A Lie, namely the lie that wars are defensive. Just as the U.S. corporate media engages in blowback denial with September 11 or Brussels, it tells us that Palestinian resistance is spontaneous irrational aggression, unprovoked and inexplicable except by understanding Palestinians as less than human. In the U.S. corporate media, the Palestinians always started it, and Israel is always acting in defense, even when it's aggressively bombing civilians as it was doing in 1982 when U.S. media voices had not yet been properly trained.
The undercurrent to the "defense" lies is the justification of revenge, which threads through all war propaganda, even that for U.S. wars, which has often tended in recent years to emphasize a lie of "humanitarianism" in which a war that is also supposedly defensive and a last resort is somehow also a benefit to people it is rescuing. Israel has not used that line, and it's worth noting that the U.S. government has found it ineffective in reaching more than a sliver of the U.S. population.
It would be humorous if it weren't so blood-soaked to watch U.S. politicians and pundits parrot specific Israeli military talking points over and over. The 1988 Hamas Charter, long since disavowed by the Hamas leadership, is quoted over and over again, like the mistranslation of then-Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and with identical words in both cases, while the actual platform of the Likud Party is never mentioned. The lie that Israel freed Gaza in 2005 is repeated so many times a Gazan might start to believe it.
When Israel broke a ceasefire on the day of the 2008 U.S. elections and then claimed the Palestinians had done so, the facts were available, but the lie was endlessly repeated on U.S. television. We see footage in The Occupation of the American Mind of a European journalist confronting an Israeli official with an Israeli report acknowledging the truth, but nothing like that on U.S. corporate newsertainment networks.
Phrases like "rockets raining down" and "what would you do?" and "what would the U.S. do?" are chanted like mantras. Sadly, we know what the U.S. would do in response to blowback. We know what it has been doing for the past 15 years.
The chief difference in U.S. discourse between propaganda for Israeli wars and for U.S. wars (other than awareness of where the weapons came from -- the United States in both cases) is the difference between "anti-American" and "anti-Semitic." In the film we see Ted Cruz object to criticizing Israel because of the holocaust. Any criticism of Israel is defined as anti-Semitic.
There have been times in U.S. history when any war criticism earned one the title "anti-American." Currently it is far more likely to earn you the title of "peacenik who would have opposed World War II" -- with World War II falsely understood as having been fought for the Jews who in fact the U.S. government refused to allow in and certainly didn't give a damn about. Thus, advocating civilized conflict resolution in the United States circles back to a charge of "anti-Semitism" as well.
As the corporate media's dominance crumbles, so potentially does all of this nonsense. And the first to fall may be U.S. support for Israeli wars. That opposition to U.S. wars lags behind among U.S. youth may suggest a certain power to the label of "anti-American" after all, or rather an internalized nationalism that hardly needs name-calling to prop it up. But any failure of war propaganda advances the total failure of war propaganda, if we can keep organizing, keep educating, keep BDSing, keep the internet open, and go watch The Occupation of the American Mind.
David Swanson's book War Is A Lie: Second Edition will be published April 5, 2016.
This month, French authorities (supported and funded by the UK government to the current balance of £62 million)  have been demolishing the 'Jungle,’ a toxic wasteland on the edge of Calais. Formerly a landfill site, 4 km² it is now populated by approximately 5,000 refugees who have been pushed there over the past year. A remarkable community of 15 nationalities adhering to various faiths comprises the Jungle. Residents have formed a network of shops and restaurants which, along with hamams and barber shops contribute to a micro-economy within the encampment. Community infrastructure now includes schools, mosques, churches and clinics.
Afghans, numbering approximately 1,000, constitute the largest national group. Among this group are people from each of the main ethnicities in Afghanistan: Pashtoons, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks. The Jungle is an impressive example of how people from different nationalities and ethnicities can live together in relative harmony, despite oppressive hardship and infringement of universal rights and civil liberties. Arguments and scuffles sometimes break out, but they're normally catalysed by French authorities or traffickers.
Earlier this month Teresa May won a significant battle to restart flights deporting Afghans back to Kabul, on the grounds that it is now safe to return to the capital city. 
Just 3 months ago I sat in the Kabul office of 'Stop Deportation to Afghanistan.’  Sunlight poured through the window like golden syrup on a top floor apartment, the city of Kabul shrouded in dust splayed out like a postcard. The organisation is a support group run by Abdul Ghafoor, a Pakistan-born Afghan who spent 5 years in Norway, only to be deported to Afghanistan, a country he had previously never visited. Ghafoor told me about a meeting he had recently attended with Afghan government ministers and NGOs - he laughed as he described how the non-Afghan NGO workers arrived at the armed compound wearing bullet proof vests and helmets, and yet Kabul has been deemed a safe space for returning refugees. The hypocrisy and double standards would be a joke if the upshot was not so unfair. On one hand you have foreign embassy staff being airlifted (for security reasons)  by helicopter within the city of Kabul, and on the other you have various European governments saying it’s safe for thousands of refugees to return to Kabul.
In 2015, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and, 7,457 injured) exceeding the previous record in 2014 .
Having visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years, I’ve been acutely aware that security within the city has drastically declined. As a foreigner I no longer take walks longer than 5 minutes, day trips to the beautiful Panjshir Valley or the Qarga lake are now considered too risky. Word on the Kabul streets is that the Taliban are strong enough to take the city but can't be bothered with the hassle of running it; meanwhile independent ISIS cells have established a foothold . I regularly hear that Afghan life today is less secure than it was under the Taliban, 14 years of US/NATO-backed war has been a disaster.
Back in the Jungle, north France, 21 miles from the British isles, around 1,000 Afghans dream of a safe life in Britain. Some have previously lived in Britain, others have family in the UK, many have worked with the British military or NGOs. Emotions are manipulated by traffickers who describe the streets of Britain as paved with gold. Many refugees are discouraged by the treatment they've received in France where they’ve been subjected to police brutality and attacks by far-right thugs. For various reasons they feel the best chance of a peaceful life is in Britain. Deliberate exclusion from the UK just makes the prospect even more desirable. Certainly the fact that Britain has agreed to take only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years , and overall the UK is taking 60 refugees per 1,000 of the local population who claimed asylum in 2015, compared to Germany which is taking 587 , has played into the dream that Britain is the land of exclusive opportunity.
I spoke with Afghan community leader Sohail, who said: "I love my country, I want to go back and live there, but it's just not safe and we have no opportunity to live. Look at all the businesses in the Jungle, we have talents, we just need the opportunity to use them". This conversation happened in the Kabul Café, one of the social hotspots in the Jungle, just one day before the area was set ablaze, the whole south high street of shops and restaurants razed to the ground. After the fire, I spoke with the same Afghan community leader. We stood amid the demolished ruins where we had drunk tea in the Kabul café. He feels deeply saddened by the destruction. "Why did the authorities put us here, let us build a life and then destroy it?"
Two weeks ago the south part of the Jungle was demolished: hundreds of shelters were burnt or bulldozed leaving some 3,500 refugees with nowhere to go . The French authorise now want to move onto the north part of the camp with the aim of rehousing most refugees within white fishing crate containers, many of which are already set up in the Jungle, and currently accommodate 1,900 refugees. Each container houses 12 people, there's little privacy, and sleeping times are determined by your 'crate mates' and their mobile phone habits. More alarmingly, a refugee is required to register with French authorities. This includes having your finger prints digitally recorded; in effect, it's the first step into forced French asylum.
The British government has consistently used the Dublin Regulations  as legal grounds for not taking its equal quota of refugees. These regulations prescribe that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in. However, that regulation is now simply impractical. If it was properly enforced, Turkey, Italy and Greece would be left to accommodate the millions of refugees.
Many refugees are requesting for a UK asylum centre within the Jungle, giving them the ability to start the process for asylum in Britain. The reality of the situation is that refugee camps like the Jungle are not stopping people from actually entering the UK. In fact these blights on human rights are reinforcing illegal and harmful industries such as trafficking, prostitution and drug smuggling. European refugee camps are playing into the hands of human traffickers; one Afghan told me that , the current going rate to be smuggled into the UK is now around €10,000 , the price having doubled over the last few months. Setting up a UK asylum centre would also remove the violence which often occurs between truck drivers and refugees, as well as tragic and fatal accidents which come about during transit into the UK. It's perfectly possible to have the same number of refugees entering the UK via legal means as there are by the ones which exist today.
The south part of the camp now stands desolate, burnt to the ground other than for a few social amenities. An icy wind whips across the expanse of littered wasteland. Debris flaps in the breeze, a sad combination of rubbish and charred personal belongings. French riot police used tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets to aid the demolition. Currently there's a stalemate situation wherein some NGOs and volunteers are reluctant to rebuild homes and constructions which might quickly be demolished by French authorities.
The Jungle represents incredible human ingenuity and entrepreneurial energy exhibited by refugees and the volunteers who have poured their lives into making a community to be proud of; simultaneously it's a shocking and shameful reflection of the decline in European human rights and infrastructure, where people who flee for their lives are forced to inhabit communal crate containers, a form of indefinite detention. Unofficial comments made by a representative of the French authorities indicates a possible future policy whereby refugees who choose to remain outside of the system, opting either to be homeless or not to register, could potentially face imprisonment for up to 2 years.
France and Britain are currently shaping their immigration policy. It is especially disastrous for France, with a constitution founded on "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite", to base that policy on demolishing temporary homes, excluding and incarcerating refugees, and forcing refugees into unwanted asylum. By giving people the right to choose their country of asylum, assisting with basic needs such as accommodation and food, responding with humanity rather than suppression, the State will be enabling the best possible practical solution, as well as complying with international human rights, laws set down to protect the safety and rights of everyone in the world today.