Trump Move to Decertify Iran Nuclear Agreement, Would be a Clear Danger to U.S. and World
Interview with David Swanson, author, journalist and campaign coordinator with Roots Action.org, conducted by Scott Harris
Through his own words during the presidential campaign and more recent remarks before the United Nations, Donald Trump is expected to take steps that could kill the international nuclear agreement with Iran that some observers assert is the most important nuclear anti-proliferation pact this century. Trump has indicated he will decertify the agreement that President Obama and five other world powers negotiated with Iran in 2015. The deal, strongly opposed by Republicans, conservatives and Israel, suspended Iran’s nuclear weapons program and in return lifted internationally observed economic sanctions.
If Trump decertifies the agreement, the issue moves to Congress, which opens a 60-day period for debate. If Congress votes to re-impose sanctions against Iran, it would effectively withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear agreement. While Trump says Iran violates the “spirit” of the agreement, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency maintains that Iran is in compliance, a determination shared by the other signatories to the deal – Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both indicated they support maintaining the agreement with Iran.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with David Swanson, author, journalist and campaign coordinator with RootsAction.org. Here, he talks about his group’s current campaign opposing any congressional move to kill the international Iran nuclear weapons agreement and what’s at stake if the agreement is terminated. [Rush transcript]
DAVID SWANSON: If you look for a consensus among those in power even within the Trump administration, as well as the Congress, as well as the major media outlets and the academic political talking heads, there’s a widespread consensus among U.S. nationalists that it’s a good deal and should be stuck with, and it’s one of the few things that’s gone right in recent years and there’s no reason to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, Trump apparently thinks that the national interest is whatever suits him personally. And that’s a problem.
But it’s not clear what he’s trying to do because, as you say, he’s passing this to Congress. He’s chosen not to refrain from waivers that he had to renew that if he had not, would have created new sanctions in the form of renewing old sanctions on Iran. Rather, he’s chosen to, as everyone is predicting by the deadline of Oct. 15, announce that he decertifies the agreement. This is, of course, after months of the White House very openly seeking to find some way to claim that Iran was violating the agreement. And in the absence of that, Trump is simply going to announce that it’s decertified. But that really doesn’t change anything other than rhetoric. Congress, as you say, then has to decide whether it wants to impose new sanctions.
From the point of view of people in Iran, the United States is already you know, failing to live up to its side of the bargain in terms of sanction relief. The question is whether yet more sanctions are going to be imposed and whether this sort of rhetoric, any substantive new sanctions, or other steps that have been announced – including Trump’s intention to declare the Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian military, a terrorist organization. Whether any of these things successfully provoke Iran to withdraw from the agreement, or provoke Iran into launching a war, both seem to be the intention of numerous parties in Washington, D.C.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What’s the motive here, do you think? Is this just a hollow campaign commitment that Trump made while he was speaking before adoring crowds during the election campaign, that he was going to get rid of this “embarrassing” deal, the “embarrassing” agreement with Iran? Is this really what we’re dealing with on that level?
DAVID SWANSON: I think that’s a big part of it, and certainly the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with whom Trump has now started a public insult match believes that Trump is still living in a reality TV show. And he appears to be. And the fact that the United States Congress recognizes that and has not impeached him and removed him from office is extremely disturbing. At least to me, and I think it should be, to everyone.
But there are people in the Pentagon, high-level officials who talk fairly openly, if anonymously, to journalists these days about the Cold War with Russia being motivated by weapons sales and by bureaucratic inertia and you know, the future of NATO and the future of the Army.
If you look at Iran, the one thing that Iran is in the United States is incredible war propaganda. I mean, it’s better than Russia; it’s better than ISIS. A couple of years ago, Gallup did a poll, December 2013 in 65 nations. And in the vast majority of them, the answer to “What is the greatest threat to peace on earth?” was the “United States government.” But in the United States, the answer was “Iran.” That is a high value to the biggest industry in Washington, D.C., and that is weapons making.
BETWEEN THE LINES: And David, looking down the road, if the Republican-controlled Congress does impose new sanctions on Iran and abrogates the U.S. part in this nuclear weapons treaty, what is the danger for future tension and conflict between the United States and Iran?
DAVID SWANSON: The real danger, of course, is of war. And we’re dealing with a White House that has a clear interest in war. It’s increasingly threatening war, even nuclear war on North Korea, as well as Iran, as well as Venezuela and other parts of the world. And North Korea has nuclear weapons. Iran does not. And the lesson that the world is going to learn is going to be disastrous if the United States attacks another country that has very publicly disarmed itself of any nuclear weapons, as was the case with Libya.
But this is going to be a war to make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child’s play. It’s going to be horrific if the United States attacks Iran.
For more information, visit RootsAction at RootsAction.org.
Many Puerto Ricans Believe ‘Second-Class Citizen’ Status Contributed to Failed Federal Hurricane Response
Posted Oct. 11, 2017
MP3 Interview with Ana Portnoy, Puerto Rico-based writer, poet and performer, conducted by Scott Harris
Puerto Rico suffered the most damage from hurricanes this season than the island has witnessed in almost 100 years. Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the island is still struggling to recover. As of Oct. 10, 85 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity, more than 40 percent don’t have running water, and some 80 percent of cell phone service is out of commission. By some estimates, it may take six months or more to restore power and other basic services. The death toll in Puerto Rico attributed to Hurricane Maria has risen to 43, but officials say that number is likely to rise. Islanders continue to fall victim to storm-related hazards including infections, dangerous road conditions and lack of emergency medical care.
The Trump administration has been condemned for its slow and disorganized response to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Now, Trump faces more criticism for allowing a temporary waiver of the Jones Act to expire. Without a waiver of the Jones Act, that permits only U.S. flagged ships to carry goods to American ports; Puerto Ricans will continue to face shortages of critical goods urgently needed for storm relief and recovery.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Ana Portnoy, a Puerto Rico-based writer, poet and performer reached on the island by a spotty phone connection. Here, she discusses the post-Hurricane Maria reality, the status of relief efforts and the political impact of the disaster on the Puerto Rican people. [Rush transcript]
ANA PORTNOY: The metropolitan area of San Juan, which the U.S. and international media has been focused on, is on a completely different plane than the rest of the island. Communications are a lot more functional there. Provisions and aid have either reached communities or aren’t as urgent as in towns outside of the metropolitan area. Fuel and supplies routines have reached levels closer to normalization. And overall, aid and relief have been made more available there, which speaks volumes about the metropolitan area and colonial inter-island dynamics.
But, for example, the central part of the island and the west side of the island, which is where I am currently, have been abandoned by both the central and federal government. It wasn’t until recently that this side was declared a disaster zone and therefore qualified for individual disaster assistance. The communities have been reaching a point of utter despair because no aid or relief has reached them yet. They haven’t seen any FEMA representatives, because they have no roof over their heads; FEMA hasn’t delivered the tarps. People are rummaging through trash cans, walking miles to springs, creeks and rivers to bathe, to get water to drink to take care of basic necessities. The situation is dire here.
BETWEEN THE LINES: There’s been quite a bit of discussion since the mayor of San Juan had been very publicly critical of FEMA and the federal government’s response to the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico. From your understanding, what has been the weaknesses in FEMA’s response and the other agencies of government, as well as the military, which has participated in relief efforts as well.
ANA PORTNOY: FEMA has been complaining a lot that roads haven’t been cleared yet, while news reporters have been saying that roads have been cleared. I’m not sure what difference that should make to FEMA because double helix helicopters are specifically engineered to carry exorbitant amounts (of supplies). Why are are they resorting to blocked roads as an excuse? I mean the federal government can send helicopters and planes halfway across the world or further to the remotest parts of the planet to make a drop-off and deliver supplies to their military-occupying nations that advance the U.S. hegemony, but they can’t send to the humanitarian crisis on the island that Jet Blue flies to and from a hundred times a day because the roads are blocked? I mean, that just makes no sense to me. I’m not buying it and many of us aren’t.
There have been a lot of problems with distribution efforts and I think that has a lot to do with the state of emergency that was declared here with bureaucratic holdups, with the Jones Act. The army here, the military of Puerto Rico, people from different communities and sectors haven’t been receiving any aid from them. It’s more of a military occupation in a colonial sense.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I’m wondering what your neighbors think about the federal response in regard to the feeling of some in Puerto Rico that they perceive themselves as second-class citizens in the eyes of Washington. Is that something you’ve encountered.
ANA PORTNOY: Absolutely. And not just here in Puerto Rico, but stateside as well. Our diaspora feels the same exact way. We felt abandoned and especially in non-metropolitan towns and municipalities in Puerto Rico, absolutely.
BETWEEN THE LINES: How will the destruction caused by these two hurricanes impact or affect people’s views on politics in terms of the debate, the long-standing debate about commonwealth or statehood or independence?
ANA PORTNOY: I think first and foremost, it’s going to have a significant effect regarding public opinion on the federal government itself, on its efficiency or lack thereof. And hopefully, this will eventually lead to discussions and conversations on Puerto Rico’s political status, because for the past 18 days, we, the people of Puerto Rico have been taking whatever (amount) is possible into our own hands. Communities involving our diaspora have been at the heart of Puerto Rico’s recovery, so disaster relief, aid, provisions and groundwork is taking place at a micro-community level, where local efforts such as neighborhood brigades and watches to keep the community informed by local AM radio stations. So, once we register and internalize this amazing feat we have taken on alone, which is our survival, I think the possibility of a discussion on autonomy and hopefully on sovereignty and independence will arrive and maybe become action.
So I think this is an opportunity to push that political status conversation regarding independence and sovereignty.
Read Ana Portnoy’s article, ““Irma and Maria: Shedding Light on Puerto Rico’s Colonial Reality.””
Protests Greet Newly Dedicated Memorial Honoring Christopher Columbus in Connecticut
Interview with Susan Dantino and Erica Roggeveen Byrne, activists, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
This year has seen dozens of cities and four states recognize the second Monday in October as “Indigenous People’s Day,” replacing the nation’s Columbus Day holiday. Columbus is being exposed more widely as a person undeserving of honor for his personal behavior toward the indigenous peoples he encountered, and for his larger role in the genocide of millions of people native to the Americas. This year has also seen more defacing of Columbus statues around the country. Bucking those trends, the town of Southington, Connecticut, unveiled a brand-new bust of Columbus on Oct. 9, honoring him for “discovering America.”
The statue was promoted and funded by Italian American groups and the Knights of Columbus, a conservative, Catholic organization. The town council of Southington voted unanimously to install the Columbus bust on public property in a prominent location in front of a municipal building.
Dozens of people – mostly women – protested silently at the dedication ceremony, holding signs with quotes from Columbus’s own diaries revealing his racist, misogynist and genocidal tendencies. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus was there and spoke with Erica Roggeveen Byrne, co-founder of the group, Southington Women for Progress, which led the opposition to locating the statue on public property. We also hear from Susan Dantino, a local Italian-American woman who came to protest the dedication of the Columbus monument.
ERICA ROGGEVEEN BYRNE: When we found out in July that the town council had approved and that a statue of Columbus was being put up on public property…
BETWEEN THE LINES: Unanimous, right?
ERICA ROGGEVEEN BYRNE: Unanimous, and with very little public input. We, frankly, were kind of shocked that that was going to be happening in 2017, especially given what we now know about Columbus and his actions and how they’ve impacted indigenous people and African Americans through the slave trade. And so we first began with a petition asking that the statue not be put up on town land; they started putting up the statue before we could present the petition to the town council. And so we’ve been working since then trying to mitigate some of the harm that can be done by putting this statue of Columbus up on public property.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Say a little more about the harm…
ERICA ROGGEVEEN BYRNE: We now know from the historical record and from his own diaries, that Columbus was responsible for spearheading genocide of native American people – primarily himself in the Caribbean, but that then spread through the rest of the Americas – and also helped to spearhead the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
BETWEEN THE LINES: It does seem a little anachronistic. I don’t know how many other places are putting up statues of Columbus in 2017. But people know what they want to know, I guess, and the word hasn’t spread.
ERICA ROGGEVEEN BYRNE: Yes, there was a quote from a town council person saying that, “What we learned in school is that Columbus discovered America. That’s what we learned.” And it’s like, yeah, but we keep learning, and we learn more information, and we learn how it impacted people, and maybe we didn’t know that piece of it before.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So, now the statue is here. I’m looking at it. It’s got a little walkway. It’s got lovely roses planted all around it; it’s got American flags. It looks pretty permanent. So what is your group’s plan or hope going forward?
BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Erica Roggeveen Byrne, with Southington Women for Progress. Italian American Southington resident Susan Dantino was also there. She said her opposition was not an attack on people of Italian heritage, who revere Columbus as one of them.
SUSAN DANTINO: I believe that this is a national conversation that we need to be having, something we all need to be participating in. And while we want to protect culture, we also want to protect the truth. And I believe that, by his own admission, Columbus participated in and led the annihilation of over three million indigenous people. We believe that this [the statue] is revisionist history. I’m a grandmother. I don’t want my grandchildren learning lies. I want them to know the truth, and we really do support the truth. This is a national conversation that needs to happen, that we don’t celebrate those people who, by their own admission, commit atrocities. If you want to erect a statue then put it in a museum where it can be put into its historic context.
I’ve worked with an organization for indigenous people for over 15 years now. If I didn’t come out here today, I would really question those 15 years that I spent with an organization that supports our native people. And we’ve done a lot of good in bringing to light the many atrocities suffered by our indigenous people. So, I believe that’s the reason I’m here today.
For more information, visit Southington Women for Progress at southingtonwomenforprogress.org.
This week’s summary of under-reported news
Compiled by Bob Nixon
For the first time in three years, the Palestinian government led by President Mahmoud Abbas met in Gaza to settle the differences between Hamas and Fatah whose leadership has been bitterly for a decade. The meeting, backed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, was seen as a milestone for Palestinian unity. (“Palestinian Government Meets in Gaza for First Time in Three Years,” The Guardian, Oct. 3, 2017; “Palestinian Factions, Fatah and Hamas, Move Toward Reconciliation in Gaza,” New York Times, Oct. 2, 2017)
ProPublica reports Texas first responders were disappointed with the performance of the American Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With less than a day’s notice the DeWitt County school superintendent was forced to run an emergency shelter in an unused district building to house 400 people. For the first three days the shelter was opened, only two Red Cross volunteers were assigned, and neither had any experience running a shelter. (“Texas Official After Harvey: The ‘Red Cross Was Not There’,” ProPublica, Oct. 3, 2017; “Media Statement – Red Cross ProPublica Response,” Red Cross, Oct. 3, 2017)
Right-wing California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with Putin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during an April 2016 trip to Moscow. This development emerged as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation takes increased interest in a later meeting between Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Trump Tower. During her meeting with Rohrabacher, the Russian lawyer gave Rohrabacher a copy of a documentary attacking the credibility of U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, which the representative unsuccessfully attempted to screen before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (“GOP Congressman Met in Moscow With Kremlin-Linked Lawyer at Center of Russia Investigation,” Foreign Policy, Oct. 3, 2017; “The Magnitsky Affair and Russia’s Original Sin,” Foreign Policy, July 21, 2017)