Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Filing and Draining the Swamp

Filling and Draining the Swamp

by Stephen Lendman

Appointing generals and billionaires to top administration posts isn’t what most people consider “draining the swamp.”

In fairness, judge them by their actions. Most aren’t in office yet, Senate Dems holding up confirmations - one of many appalling examples of how America is run.

Trump’s EO on “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees” is an action deserving praise. It bans every executive agency appointee from: 

  • lobbying any US government official for two years after returning to private life, and the agency they worked in for five years;

  • lobbying America on behalf of any foreign government or political parties; or

  • accepting gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of” their public service.

The order is “enforceable…by any legally available means,” including “debarment proceedings within any affected executive agency or civil judicial proceedings for declaratory, injunctive, or monetary relief.”

What’s unclear is whether loopholes in the EO can be used to circumvent the intent of this order, such as former government officials returning to private life spending less than 20% of their time lobbying to avoid registering as the Lobbying Disclosure Act requires. 

Executive orders are detailed, precise, and easily understood. They’re supposed to be legal - written by lawyers, but you don’t have to be one to understand what they cover.

Here’s the text of Trump’s “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees EO:

“By the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and sections 3301 and 7301 of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:
     
“Section 1. Ethics Pledge.  Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:
     
As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in an appointee position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:
    
1. I will not, within 5 years after the termination of my employment as an appointee in any executive agency in which I am appointed to serve, engage in lobbying activities with respect to that agency.
     
2. If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post-employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions.
     
3. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraphs 1 and 2, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to engage in lobbying activities with respect to any covered executive branch official or non-career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.
     
4. I will not, at any time after the termination of my employment in the United States Government, engage in any activity on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party which, were it undertaken on January 20, 2017, would require me to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended.
     
5. I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.
     
6. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.
     
7. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 6, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.
     
8. I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate's qualifications, competence, and experience.
     
9. I acknowledge that the Executive Order entitled ‘Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees,’ issued by the President on January 28, 2017, which I have read before signing this document, defines certain terms applicable to the foregoing obligations and sets forth the methods for enforcing them. I expressly accept the provisions of that Executive Order as a part of this agreement and as binding on me. I understand that the obligations of this pledge are in addition to any statutory or other legal restrictions applicable to me by virtue of Government service.
     
Sec. 2. Definitions. As used herein and in the pledge set forth in section 1 of this order:
     
(a) ‘Administration’ means all terms of office of the incumbent President serving at the time of the appointment of an appointee covered by this order.
     
(b) ‘Appointee’ means every full-time, non-career Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointee, non-career appointee in the Senior Executive Service (or other SES-type system), and appointee to a position that has been excepted from the competitive service by reason of being of a confidential or policymaking character (Schedule C and other positions excepted under comparable criteria) in an executive agency.  It does not include any person appointed as a member of the Senior Foreign Service or solely as a uniformed service commissioned officer.
     
(c) ‘Covered executive branch official’ shall have the definition set forth in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
     
(d) ‘Directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients’ shall mean matters in which the appointee's former employer or a former client is a party or represents a party.
     
(e) ‘Executive agency’ and ‘agency’ mean "executive agency’ as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, except that the terms shall include the Executive Office of the President, the United States Postal Service, and the Postal Regulatory Commission, and excludes the Government Accountability Office. As used in paragraph 1 of the pledge, ‘executive agency’ means the entire agency in which the appointee is appointed to serve, except that:

(1) with respect to those appointees to whom such designations are applicable under section 207(h) of title 18, United States Code, the term means an agency or bureau designated by the Director of the Office of Government Ethics under section 207(h) as a separate department or agency at the time the appointee ceased to serve in that department or agency; and

(2) an appointee who is detailed from one executive agency to another for more than 60 days in any calendar year shall be deemed to be an officer or employee of both agencies during the period such person is detailed.
     
(f) ‘Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended’ means sections 611 through 621 of title 22, United States Code.
     
(g) ‘Foreign government’ means the ‘government of a foreign country,’ as defined in section 1(e) of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. 611(e).
     
(h) ‘Foreign political party has the same meaning as that term has in section 1(f) of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. 611(f).
     
(i) ‘Former client’ is any person for whom the appointee served personally as agent, attorney, or consultant within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment, but excluding instances where the service provided was limited to a speech or similar appearance.  It does not include clients of the appointee’s former employer to whom the appointee did not personally provide services.
     
(j) ‘Former employer’ is any person for whom the appointee has within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment served as an employee, officer, director, trustee, or general partner, except that ‘former employer’ does not include any executive agency or other entity of the Federal Government, State or local government, the District of Columbia, Native American tribe, or any United States territory or possession.
     
(k) ‘Gift’

(1) shall have the definition set forth in section 2635.203(b) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;

(2) shall include gifts that are solicited or accepted indirectly as defined at section 2635.203(f) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations; and

(3) shall exclude those items excluded by sections 2635.204(b), (c), (e)(1) & (3), (j), (k), and (l) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.
     
(l) ‘Government official’ means any employee of the executive branch.
     
(m) ‘Lobbied’ shall mean to have acted as a registered lobbyist.
     
(n) ‘Lobbying activities’ has the same meaning as that term has in the Lobbying Disclosure Act, except that the term does not include communicating or appearing with regard to:  a judicial proceeding; a criminal or civil law enforcement inquiry, investigation, or proceeding; or any agency process for rulemaking, adjudication, or licensing, as defined in and governed by the Administrative Procedure Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.
     
(o) ‘Lobbying Disclosure Act’ means sections 1601 et seq. of title 2, United States Code.
     
(p)  ‘Lobbyist’ shall have the definition set forth in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
     
(q) ‘On behalf of another’ means on behalf of a person or entity other than the individual signing the pledge or his or her spouse, child, or parent.
     
(r) ‘Particular matter’ shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.
     
(s) ‘Particular matter involving specific parties’ shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 2641.201(h) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, except that it shall also include any meeting or other communication relating to the performance of one’s official duties with a former employer or former client, unless the communication applies to a particular matter of general applicability and participation in the meeting or other event is open to all interested parties.
     
(t) ‘Participate’ means to participate personally and substantially.
     
(u) ‘Pledge’ means the ethics pledge set forth in section 1 of this order.
     
(v) ‘Post-employment restrictions’ shall include the provisions and exceptions in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, and the implementing regulations.
     
(w) ‘Registered lobbyist or lobbying organization’ shall mean a lobbyist or an organization filing a registration pursuant to section 1603(a) of title 2, United States Code, and in the case of an organization filing such a registration, ‘registered lobbyist’ shall include each of the lobbyists identified therein.
     
(x) Terms that are used herein and in the pledge, and also used in section 207 of title 18, United States Code, shall be given the same meaning as they have in section 207 and any implementing regulations issued or to be issued by the Office of Government Ethics, except to the extent those terms are otherwise defined in this order.
     
(y) All references to provisions of law and regulations shall refer to such provisions as in effect on January 20, 2017.
     
Sec. 3. Waiver. (a) The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person.
     
(b) A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the President or his designee.
     
(c) A copy of the waiver certification shall be furnished to the person covered by the waiver and provided to the head of the agency in which that person is or was appointed to serve.
     
Sec. 4. Administration. (a) The head of every executive agency shall establish for that agency such rules or procedures (conforming as nearly as practicable to the agency’s general ethics rules and procedures, including those relating to designated agency ethics officers) as are necessary or appropriate:

(1) to ensure that every appointee in the agency signs the pledge upon assuming the appointed office or otherwise becoming an appointee; and

(2) to ensure compliance with this order within the agency.
     
(b) With respect to the Executive Office of the President, the duties set forth in section 4(a) shall be the responsibility of the Counsel to the President or such other official or officials to whom the President delegates those duties.
     
(c) The Director of the Office of Government Ethics shall:

(1) ensure that the pledge and a copy of this Executive Order are made available for use by agencies in fulfilling their duties under section 4(a);

(2) in consultation with the Attorney General or Counsel to the President, when appropriate, assist designated agency ethics officers in providing advice to current or former appointees regarding the application of the pledge; and

(3) adopt such rules or procedures (conforming as nearly as practicable to its generally applicable rules and procedures) as are necessary or appropriate:

(i) to carry out the foregoing responsibilities;

(ii) to apply the lobbyist gift ban set forth in paragraph 5 of the pledge to all executive branch employees;

(iii) to authorize limited exceptions to the lobbyist gift ban for circumstances that do not implicate the purposes of the ban;

(iv) to make clear that no person shall have violated the lobbyist gift ban if the person properly disposes of a gift as provided by section 2635.206 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;

(v) to ensure that existing rules and procedures for Government employees engaged in negotiations for future employment with private businesses that are affected by their official actions do not affect the integrity of the Government's programs and operations; and
(vi)   to ensure, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, that the requirement set forth in paragraph 8 of the pledge is honored by every employee of the executive branch;
     
(d) An appointee who has signed the pledge is not required to sign the pledge again upon appointment or detail to a different office, except that a person who has ceased to be an appointee, due to termination of employment in the executive branch or otherwise, shall sign the pledge prior to thereafter assuming office as an appointee.
     
(e) All pledges signed by appointees, and all waiver certifications with respect thereto, shall be filed with the head of the appointee's agency for permanent retention in the appointee's official personnel folder or equivalent folder.
     
Sec. 5. Enforcement. (a) The contractual, fiduciary, and ethical commitments in the pledge provided for herein are solely enforceable by the United States by any legally available means, including any or all of the following: debarment proceedings within any affected executive agency or civil judicial proceedings for declaratory, injunctive, or monetary relief.
     
(b) Any former appointee who is determined, after notice and hearing, by the duly designated authority within any agency, to have violated his or her pledge may be barred from engaging in lobbying activities with respect to that agency for up to 5 years in addition to the 5-year time period covered by the pledge. The head of every executive agency shall, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, establish procedures to implement this subsection, which shall include (but not be limited to) providing for factfinding and investigation of possible violations of this order and for referrals to the Attorney General for his or her consideration pursuant to subsection (c).
     
(c) The Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized:

(1) upon receiving information regarding the possible breach of any commitment in a signed pledge, to request any appropriate Federal investigative authority to conduct such investigations as may be appropriate; and

(2) upon determining that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a breach of a commitment has occurred or will occur or continue, if not enjoined, to commence a civil action on behalf of the United States against the former officer or employee in any United States District Court with jurisdiction to consider the matter.
    
(d) In such civil action, the Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized to request any and all relief authorized by law, including but not limited to:
(1) such temporary restraining orders and preliminary and permanent injunctions as may be appropriate to restrain future, recurring, or continuing conduct by the former officer or employee in breach of the commitments in the pledge he or she signed; and

(2) establishment of a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States, requiring an accounting and payment to the United States Treasury of all money and other things of value received by, or payable to, the former officer or employee arising out of any breach or attempted breach of the pledge signed by the former officer or employee.
     
Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) This order supersedes Executive Order 13490 of January 21, 2009 (Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel), and therefore Executive Order 13490 is hereby revoked. No other prior Executive Orders are repealed by this order. To the extent that this order is inconsistent with any provision of any prior Executive Order, this order shall control.
     
(b) If any provision of this order or the application of such provision is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and other dissimilar applications of such provision shall not be affected.
     
(c) The pledge and this order are not intended to, and do not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party (other than by the United States) against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
     
(d) The definitions set forth in this order are solely applicable to the terms of this order, and are not otherwise intended to impair or affect existing law.
    
(e) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(1) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(2) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
     
(f) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.”

DONALD J. TRUMP

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

European Council President Hypes Nonexistent Threats

European Council President Hypes Nonexistent Threats

by Stephen Lendman

Like America, the only geopolitical threats Europe faces are ones it invents, no others.

Not according to European Council President Donald Tusk, stoking fear irresponsibly, calling America under Trump, China and Russia threats to Europe.

Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, his remarks mirrored what he said in a letter to EU heads of state. Without justification, he claimed challenges facing EU nations “are more dangerous than ever before in the time since the signature of the (1957) Treaty of Rome.” 

“Today we are dealing with (multiple) threats, which have previously not occurred, at least not on such a scale,” nonsensically citing:

  • China, especially in its offshore waters, where it has every right to defend against aggressive intrusions;

  • Nonexistent “Russia’s aggress(ion)…toward Ukraine and its neighbors;

  • “wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa” - US-dominated NATO fully responsible, he failed to explain;

  • “worrying declarations by the new American administration…” - Trump hasn’t interfered in the affairs of EU nations and shows no signs of doing it, so far at least;

  • “the rise in anti-EU, nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU” - referring to movements like what propelled Trump to power in France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and elsewhere, because previous governments made such a mess of things, people want change; and

  • growing anti-political union sentiment, again because of longstanding failed policies.

The EU is a flawed alliance, Brussels usurping power from member states, undermining their sovereignty, what ideologues like Tusk won’t admit.

All nations are much better off, waging peace, not war; cooperatively with all other countries responsibly; while governing independently from a higher external power, meddling in their internal affairs - especially Eurozone states with no control over their monetary and fiscal policies.

Tusk saying “(o)nly together can we be fully independent…(u)nited we stand, divided we fall” is utter rubbish.

The EU is a sinking ship. It’s only a matter of time before it crumbles because it’s too flawed to stand the test of time. Like the Berlin Wall (1961 - 1989), one day it’ll disintegrate.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Where's the Outrage Over US Imperial Wars?

Where’s the Outrage Over US Imperial Wars?

by Stephen Lendman

Days of protests in America against Trump’s entry into America order smack of dark forces manipulating and agitating against him no matter what he does or doesn’t do.

Denigration of Muslims is longstanding in America, taken to a fever pitch post-9/11, wrongfully portraying them as gun-toting terrorists, using them as a pretext to smash one country after another, responsible for appalling levels of carnage and human misery?

Where’s the outrage over an issue dwarfing all others? Why aren’t people furious about imperial madness, possible nuclear war if not curbed?

Why aren’t they protesting against bloated military spending and America’s empire of bases - used as launching pads for more wars? 

Where’s the outrage over mega-corporations ruling the world, exploiting it for profits, harming millions, despoiling the environment?

Why aren’t people protesting against repressive laws, breaching international law, spurning constitutional rights, turning America into a police state - perhaps one more major 9/11-type false flag attack away from full-blown tyranny!

True enough, restricting or banning free travel to America by Muslims from designated countries is disgraceful. But the issue pales in importance compared to others the public largely ignores.

Why aren’t people protesting against what matters most? Where’s the outrage over bipartisan neocon lunatics infesting Washington?

Why is there mass silence over fantasy democracy masquerading as the real thing? What about deep poverty affecting millions, mass unemployment and underemployment, governance serving the privileged few at the expense of most others?

Where’s the outrage over the world’s richest country using its resources irresponsibly - for imperial wars, handouts to Wall Street and other corporate favorites, militarizing America against its own people, turning its inner cities into battlegrounds, enriching the few at the expense of so many?

Why aren’t people directing their anger against what most harms their rights, welfare and futures?

The main issue isn’t what Trump does or doesn’t do. It’s the appalling way America is run by its privileged class for its own self-interest exclusively - causing so much harm to so many at home and abroad.

Now that’s just cause for endless protests to change things!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Anti-Trumpism Still Raging

Anti-Trumpism Still Raging

by Stephen Lendman

Nationwide street protests following Trump’s entry into America order are more about him than his EO. Are pro-Hillary dark forces behind them?

Was Obama appointee, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, part of it. Agree or disagree with his action, she refused to enforce it, a legitimate cause for dismissal, a White House statement saying:

She “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.”

“Tonight, President Trump relieved Ms. Yates of her duties and subsequently named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as Acting Attorney General until Senator Jeff Sessions is finally confirmed by the Senate, where he is being wrongly held up by Democrat senators for strictly political reasons.”

Militantly anti-Trump Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Trump’s EO. His over-acting was inexcusable. Referencing the Statue of Liberty, he said “(w)e will not let this evil order extinguish that great torch.”

“(T)his order is against what we believe in in America…We will not let this evil order make us less American. We will fight it with everything we have and we will win this fight.”

Though the order was all about politics, not its stated purpose, it’s far short of “evil.” Where’s Schumer’s outrage over the real thing - endless imperial wars he supports, Wall Street favoritism he champions, along with force-fed austerity harming millions and homeland police state repression?

The defining feature of Congress is hypocrisy. House Democrats are preparing legislation to overturn Trump’s EO - a nonstarter given GOP Speaker Paul Ryan’s opposition and Trump’s certain veto if legislation reaches his desk. The effort is pure grandstanding, nothing else.

In 2011, House and Senate Democrats supported Obama’s six-month ban on Iraqi asylum-seekers - on the phony pretext of preventing possible domestic terrorist attacks.

On Sunday, top House judiciary, homeland security and foreign affairs committee members demanded an “emergency” meeting with DHS in a letter sent to Secretary John Kelly, saying:

“As ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction for matters of immigration, border security, and admission of refugees, we write to you on an emergency basis to request a meeting to discuss the implementation and guidance concerning the Executive Order.”

A DHS statement said “(w)e are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the executive orders, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under the law.”

“We are also working closely with airline partners to prevent travelers who would not be granted entry under the executive orders from boarding international flights to the US. Therefore, we do not anticipate that further individuals traveling by air to the United States will be affected.”

Separately, Kelly said green card holders are exempt from Trumps’s EO.

For good or ill, it stands. Congressional Democrats don’t have enough votes to rescind it. “Methinks thou dost protest too much” applies to their ranks.

Led by House and Senate minority leaders Pelosi and Schumer respectively, congressional Dems intend an upcoming rally outside the Supreme Court against Trump’s EO.

A combination protest/candelight vigil is planned, joined by local refugees as convenient props. 

Democrat party outrage is all about anti-Trumpism, unrelated to his EO - part of a persistent plot to delegitimize him and undermine his agenda.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump's Proposed Syria Safe Zones

Trump’s Proposed Syria Safe Zones

by Stephen Lendman

Syrians need all the help they can get, America fully responsible for ravaging the country, together with its rogue allies.

Trump’s safe zones proposal remains unclear, no details forthcoming so far. Russia is amenable to establishing them, likely under UN auspices, as long as Damascus agrees and Syrian sovereignty remains inviolate.

On Sunday, Trump spoke to Saudi King Salman by phone, Washington’s partner in high crimes regionally, especially in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia supports ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Its regime wants Assad ousted, replaced by an extremist Wahhabi caliphate like the scourge of the kingdom. 

A White House statement said King Salman “agreed to support safe zones in Syria” and Yemen. So did UAE crown prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan in a separate phone conversation with Trump.

He and King Salman also “agreed on the importance of rigorously enforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran,” a departure from his earlier position, wanting the nuclear deal rescinded.

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned against establishing safe zones in his country without government approval. Otherwise they’ll be unsafe and violate Syrian sovereignty, he said.

Separately, al-Moallem urged Syrian refugees in neighboring countries to return home to areas where fighting subsided, promising needed aid will be provided.

Russia alone among foreign countries is providing it - nothing from America, nothing from Britain or other EU countries, nothing from Saudi Arabia and other regional rogue states responsible with Washington for endless regional war and suffering.

On Monday, Syria’s military said 1,142 terrorist fighters and 760 family members were evacuated from Barada Valley northwest of Damascus after agreeing to surrender.

They were bused to terrorist-held Idlib province areas, ending a six-week standoff, resulting in water cut off for Damascus residents.

Some pumping resumed. Work is underway to restore it entirely to areas affected.

At the same time, combating ISIS and al-Nusra continues, Syrian forces greatly aided by Russian airpower - including involvement of long-range Tu-22M3 bombers flying from Russia, able to deliver powerful payloads on terrorist targets.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Anti-Trump State Department Staff Oppose Trump's Entry Into America EO

Anti-Trump State Department Staff Oppose His Entry Into America EO

by Stephen Lendman

It’s more about politics as usual than “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.”

On January 30, a draft letter supported by over 100 career foreign service officers and other diplomats expressed opposition to Trump’s action - headlined “SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED (SBU).”

“(I)t runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants,” it said.

Fact: These and similar values are important, ones America consistently spurns at home and abroad, waging endless wars on humanity.

SBU: The EO “will not achieve its stated aim of to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

Fact: True enough! State-sponsored terrorism is a homeland threat, not violence from refugees or other foreign nationals.

SBU: Trump’s EO “will increase anti-American sentiment.” It’ll be “counterproductive.”

Fact: Indeed! It’ll make more enemies than friends abroad. It’ll do nothing to make America safer.

SBU: “We have a special obligation to maintain an immigration system that is as free as possible from discrimination, that does not have an implied or actual religious tests, and that views individuals as individuals, not as part of stereotyped groups.”

Fact: US immigration was never free and fair, favoring Western Europeans, white Christians from inception, Jews post-WW II over other religious faiths, largely demeaning people of color.

State Department staffers against Trump’s action should either resign or carry out their duties as ordered by superiors. 


Either way, they’re free to express their views. America’s First Amendment is endangered, but it’s still the law of the land.

Sergey Lavrov Blasts America's Imperial Agenda

Sergey Lavrov Blasts America’s Imperial Agenda

by Stephen Lendman

He’s a world-class diplomat, a model foreign minister, working tirelessly for world peace and stability - shaming his US counterparts, supporting endless wars on humanity.

Last week, he repeated what he said many times before. Sovereign independence is inviolable. No nation has the right to interfere in the affairs of others.

“(I)nternal reforms should be carried out in a peaceful, evolutionary way…(P)eople should determine their destiny on their own.”

Supporters of “messianically imposing their own ultra-liberal values, changing sovereign countries’ political systems, among them through ideologically motivated operations to topple undesirable regimes,” reflect longstanding US-led Western policy.

It’s responsible for mass slaughter, vast destruction, chaos and appalling human misery wherever it shows up - indefensible, untenable, its days numbered or we’re all doomed.

“The failure of such attempts is obvious, but they will be dealing with the aftermath for a very long time,” Lavrov explained.

“The so-called Arab Spring is a vivid example. We supported the commitment of people in the Middle East and North Africa to a better life, sustainable prosperity and necessary reforms.” 

“It was obvious to us though that these issues should have been tackled by relying on national accord.”

Instead, US-led Western intervention created “chaos and anarchy,” dark forces taking full advantage. Imperial madness raped and destroyed one country after another, causing millions of casualties and the severest refugee crisis since WW II, victims blamed for their own misery.

Lavrov is heavily involved in trying to end six years of US war on Syria, impossible under Obama, hoping Trump favors conflict resolution, not continuing it for regime change - serious about combating terrorism, not supporting it like the Clintons, Bush/Cheney and Obama.

Lavrov looks forward to working with his US counterpart. Cooperating with America in combating terrorism “is a top priority for Russia,” he said.

All parties interested in resolving Syria’s conflict should be invited to Geneva on the basis of Syrians alone deciding the nation’s policies, not foreign powers or groups, Lavrov stressed.

Dialogue is just beginning. Things have a long way to go to restore peace and stability to the war-torn country. Achieving it will benefit the entire region - accept for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other rogue states wanting continued turmoil.

If Trump wants conflict resolution in Syria, it’ll happen. Otherwise, it’s back to square one.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Neocon Infested Congress Proposes Preemptive War on Iran

Neocon Infested Congress Proposes Preemptive War on Iran

by Stephen Lendman

Trump’s geopolitical agenda is largely unknown. His foreign policy point man, secretary of state designee Rex Tillerson, has yet to be confirmed.

Neocons infesting Congress are well known. HJ Resolution 10, introduced in early January, is titled “Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution” on the phony pretext of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons it doesn’t want, urging abolition of these weapons altogether.

Their existence risks eventually using them, by design or accidentally, threatening humanity’s survival.

War plans on Iran were prepared years ago, updated through the years, depending on conditions at the time.

Enormous pressure is exerted on Washington to attack the Islamic Republic by Israel and AIPAC, despite no credible Iranian threat, not now or at any time since the 1979 revolution.

HJ 10 lied, claiming “Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon has and will continue to destabilize the region” - threatening America and its “allies in the region.” Utter nonsense!

The measure is madness. It authorizes the president to use military force as “determine(d) necessary appropriate in order to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” - without Security Council or congressional authorization, a flagrant breach of international and constitutional law, if ordered.

Trump sent mixed signals earlier. On the one hand, he argued against interventionism, saying it wasted trillions of dollars, created a deplorable mess, accomplishing nothing except turning nations to rubble and making more enemies than friends.

On the other, he’s been militantly anti-Iran for years, vowing to renegotiate the nuclear deal “or worse,” ludicrously claiming Tehran “suckered us.” In 2007, he said “I believe you have to go in and strike Iran - not with soldiers,” he added. “(W)e’ve changed.”

He absurdly believes the nuclear deal paves the way for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons, despite no evidence suggesting it - while ignoring Israel’s illegal nuclear, biological and chemical arsenals.

Tehran has great cause for concern with Trump as US president. His ideologically over-the-top support for Israel risks big trouble.

Hostility toward China and Iran would destroy the credibility of his outreach to Russia.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russia Willing to Negotiate with US on Safe Zones in Syria

Russia Willing to Negotiate with US on Safe Zones in Syria

by Stephen Lendman

Earlier safe zone proponents, notably Hillary Clinton and other neocons infesting Washington, wanted regime change, Syria balkanized, its sovereign republic destroyed. 

Trump’s idea needs clarification. If intended to keep displaced Syrians safe in their own country, perhaps under UN auspices, stemming their flow abroad, Russia is amenable to considering it - provided Damascus agrees.

A government statement said any attempt to establish safe zones on its territory without its permission, including how and by whom they’d be administered, would constitute a “violation of (its) sovereignty.”

Syrians alone should decide these things, not foreign powers or other outsiders. Commenting on the idea, Lavrov said “in the process of our dialog with our US counterparts we will try to clear up this theme.”

Trump appears to be proposing something different than earlier - not a “replica of the events that took place in Libya and were used as a pretext for military intervention in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions.”

“If the issue on the agenda is letting people who have been forced to abandon their homes as a result of the internal conflict in Syria feel secure, get the basic services and keep their children in safety where at least some education services are available until their homes have been restored and their native lands have returned to normal life, I believe that in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies, including the International Organization for Migration it might be possible to consider creation of safe havens for internally displaced persons in Syrian territory.”

“Of course, this will require practical coordination of the details and the very principle of creating such territories with the Syrian government. Work along these lines is already in progress.”

Russia is prepared to work with Washington on this issue and combating terrorism - knowing it’s dealing with a duplicitous nation, notoriously agreeing to one thing, then doing another, breaking its word time and again.

Is this time different? Don’t bet on it after so many previous betrayals.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.