Street art in Sao Paulo (Jardim Tres Coraçoês), Brazil,
by artist Gatuno.
Photo by Gatuno.
Street art in Sao Paulo (Jardim Tres Coraçoês), Brazil,
by artist Gatuno.
Photo by Gatuno.
The Pentagon’s final report into last October’s deadly US airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in northern Afghanistan is a brazen whitewash. The protracted attack by an AC-130 gunship on the medical facility in Kunduz killed 42 civilians, some of whom were burned alive in their beds, and others mowed down as they attempted to flee.
General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, told a press conference yesterday that the attack on the MSF hospital was not a war crime because it had not been intentional. He claimed that neither the gunship crew members nor the Special Forces on the ground directing the attack “knew they were striking a medical facility.”
The report blamed the deaths on “human errors compounded by process and equipment failures.” None of those involved will face a court marshal or criminal charges. Instead, 16 American military personnel have been punished with “administrative actions” that range from suspension and removal from command to letters of reprimand. None have been named, and some are still active in overseas war zones.
The Pentagon’s account of events on the night of October 3 is riddled with contradictions. The AC-130 supposedly took off early without the crew being briefed and without a database being uploaded to the aircraft’s computers that would have identified the Kunduz hospital as a protected building. MSF had previously provided coordinates to the US military, and the hospital was marked with the organisation’s insignia.
The report claimed that the hospital had been mistaken for the intended target—the National Directorate of Security building that had been taken over by Taliban forces—some 400 metres away. The aircraft’s data link failed and it came under fire, forcing it to move to a safe distance. The coordinates provided by Afghan ground forces supposedly directed the aircraft’s weapons at an empty field, forcing the crew to rely on visual identification.
At 2:08 am, the AC-130 gunship, which is armed with 40mm and 20mm cannons as well as a 105mm howitzer, began its devastating attack. Within minutes, MSF personnel contacted the American military saying they were under fire, but the onslaught continued.
According to the Pentagon report, the Special Forces commander on the ground finally called off the attack at 2:38 am—half an hour later. A MSF inquiry based on eyewitness statements found the assault continued for between 60 and 75 minutes, clearly contradicting the Pentagon’s claims.
Moreover, the Pentagon report itself concluded that the hospital was not being used by the Taliban as a base of operations—negating Afghan government allegations to the contrary. No one was firing or carrying out hostile acts from the hospital. Yet the Special Forces commander on the ground ordered the attack anyway in violation of rules of engagement that authorise airstrikes only to protect US or allied forces.
At his press conference, General Votel justified the attack by declaring that the American aircraft was operating in “an extraordinarily intense combat situation” in which it was trying to support Afghan troops. At the same time, he claimed that it was often not possible for trained operators to tell if fire was coming from a particular building or location.
The Pentagon’s account is simply not credible. If the aircraft was plagued by equipment failure and the crew had difficulty identifying the target, why was the mission not simply aborted?
Doctors Without Borders has reiterated its call for an independent inquiry. MSF President Meinie Nicolai told the media: “Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during when US forces failed to follow the basic laws of war…
“There are questions here, on the self defence called in by the troops, even though it was a quiet evening. Why didn’t they call off the operation if they had such a malfunctioning system, they had a duty to take precautions, and they had doubts about the target?” Nicolai said.
John Sifton, Asia policy director of Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times that the failure to bring criminal charges was “inexplicable”. He said that the Pentagon’s assertion that no war crime had been committed because the attack was unintentional was “flatly wrong”, pointing out that recklessness or negligence did not absolve someone of criminal responsibility.
In reality, the Pentagon’s elaborate account of human errors and equipment malfunctions stinks of a carefully contrived cover-up. A far more straightforward explanation is that the US military deliberately targeted the hospital either to assassinate a particular “high-value” individual, or to destroy a facility that treated everyone, including wounded Taliban fighters.
The chief responsibility for what is clearly a war crime rests not just with the immediate operational commanders but with the Pentagon top brass and the Obama administration. Hundreds of civilians have been slaughtered as a result of indiscriminate drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries.
Moreover, in nearly a decade-and-a-half of war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has routinely denied responsibility for civilian deaths. It has acknowledged such crimes only when, as in the case of the Kunduz hospital, the evidence is overwhelming. In the wake of the Kunduz slaughter, the US military provided a so-called condolence payment of $6,000 to the families of the dead and $3,000 to injured victims.
The Pentagon’s whitewash of the airstrike on the Kunduz hospital is in marked contrast to the immediate US condemnation of an alleged Syrian government attack on a MSF hospital in the city of Aleppo on Wednesday. At least 27 patients and staff were killed in the attack.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US was “outraged” by the attack. Without waiting for facts and details, he declared that “it appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities.”
Kerry’s denunciation of the Aleppo attack simply underscores the crimes of the Obama administration for which no one has been held accountable.
For the record, I still believe Bernie Sanders will become president, especially since the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and server. According to The Daily Banter recently, “She almost certainly isn’t going to be indicted.” This is about as reassuring as phrases like “It’s highly unlikely you won’t die from this medication,” and “Don’t worry, the brakes on your car have an 85% chance of working.” In reality, what loyal supporters of Hillary Clinton fail to realize is that even best case scenarios (she doesn’t get indicted, but the FBI confirms Obama’s assertion that she was “careless”), will only hurt Clinton’s already low national favorability ratings. Six months before Election Day, she’s not far from Trump in terms of negative favorability ratings, and in some polls, Trump is seen as more trustworthy.
If Clinton circumvents political repercussions from storing 22 Top Secret emails on a private server, and becomes Democratic nominee, there are alternatives for Bernie Sanders. I state the case for Bernie Sanders to run as an independent, if he must, in this YouTube video.
Thus far, Bernie has defied the odds. Vermont’s Senator has already achieved the unimaginable, almost tying Clinton nationally and winning 18 contests. Bernie is “in it to win it,” but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t consider an independent run.
He could win the presidency, running as an independent.
The myth that Ralph Nader gave us Bush’s Iraq War ignores the fact Hillary Clinton voted for Iraq, didn’t regret her vote in 2004, and stated the Iraqi insurgency wasfailing in 2005. According to CNN in 2004, Clinton stated “No, I don’t regret giving the president authority because at the time it was in the context of weapons of mass destruction…”
If the Democratic Party blatantly ignores the values and beliefs of millions, and then risks a mutiny from an independent campaign because of this hubris, then it’s the DNC that must acquiesce; not the voters against Clinton’s neoconservative appeal, or ties to Wall Street.
If you’re a Hillary supporter and fear the repercussions of a Trump presidency if Bernie runs as an independent, then switch to Bernie if he runs an independent campaign. This way, you’ll ensure that your candidate isn’t at risk of an ongoing FBI investigation, and you’ll ensure (since Bernie Sanders defeats Trump by awider margin), that Trump will be defeated. Refusing to support Bernie’s independent run, would also be admitting that you don’t truly fear a Trump presidency; you just want to instill that fear into others.
From war to Wall Street, and flip flops on everything from the TPP to Keystone XL, a great many Bernie supporters will never support Clinton. On a national stage, Clinton has negative favorability ratings in every single national poll. Beyond the confines of the Democratic establishment, it’s a different ballgame. The DNC can’t limit debates with Trump, and believe me, Trump won’t watch his tone.
No, America isn’t a closed Democratic Primary.
Bernie Sanders should run as an independent, if he must, since he could easily win the presidency.
Ralph Nader won 2,882,955 votes in 2000, in a world where gay marriage, diplomatic relations with Cuba, an arms treaty with Iran, and an African American president were seen by millions as virtually impossible. Times have changed, and Bernie is a Democratic-socialist, not a Fox News socialist. That poll you’ve heard cited, even by Democrats, is completely irrelevant.
Bernie Sanders has thus far earned 8,967,401 votes, despite widespread allegations of voter suppression and a DNC that limited debates; stifling his name recognition for early contests.
Most importantly, Bernie Sanders finally enjoys name recognition. Bernie is now only 3.7 points behind Clinton, nationally. This 3.7-point lead includes recent wins for Clinton, illustrating Bernie’s overall strength among voters.
Imagine if the Democratic Primary started today, instead of February 1, 2016.
Bernie Sanders could choose to ride his momentum into November 8, 2016; with independents and Republicans also able to vote in a general election.
Worried about Trump? Bernie beats Trump by a wider margin that Clinton.
Remember, this 8.5 points is before Donald Trump pivots into a semi-normal human being, where he pretends to care about babies and alludes to the fact he“identified” as a Democrat not long ago.
Also, Hillary Clinton squandered astronomical leads over Obama and Bernie Sanders, losing them both in a matter of months. Name recognition helped Obama and Sanders immeasurably against Clinton, and once voters know there’s another choice out there, they tend to pick Clinton’s challenger. Like Seth Abramson writesin The Huffington Post, “…on Election Day — among voters who’ve been present and attentive for each candidate’s commercials, local news coverage, and live events — Sanders tends to tie or beat Clinton.”
Also, Sanders would easily beat Trump at his own game. Independent voters are the biggest partisan group in the United States, with around 43% of American voters identifying politically as independent.
As for trustworthiness nationally, Quinnipiac states that 74% of independents find Clinton “not honest and trustworthy.” Independents find Trump more trustworthy than Clinton, with 65% of independents finding him “not honest and trustworthy.”
Why should Bernie Sanders run an independent campaign?
Because he’d win.
True, Clinton has earned 12,135,109 votes in the Democratic Primary. However, a great percentage of these votes came early on in the primaries, when Americans nationwide, and Democrats, didn’t know Bernie Sanders. Tony Brasunas explains why Bernie’s name recognition matters in a Huffington Post piece titled Only Voter Suppression Can Stop Bernie Sanders:
Bernie is the one national candidate who people like the more they get to know him. As people learn more about Clinton, Trump, and Cruz, they like them less. As the country learns more about Bernie, they like him more. He’s still relatively unknown compared to Clinton and Trump, yet he already outpolls them. Looking at the current trends, one would predict that Bernie Sanders will be the most popular politician in the country come November, just as he is now.
Trump’s candidacy is almost a third-party run; a great many Republicans will not vote for him on Election Day.
Another big issue is the fact 25% to 33% of Bernie voters will never support Hillary Clinton. There are Bernie supporters in America who make H. A. Goodman look like Huma Abedin. Also, the more a pro-Hillary super PAC uses it’s $1 million to “correct” Bernie voters online, the more animosity generated among Democrats.
It’s late April. We have a little over 6 months before Election Day. Bernie is almost tied nationally with Clinton; before the FBI discloses its findings. About 1 out of 3 Bernie voter won’t support Clinton (this will increase), and many Republican won’t support Trump. Bernie Sanders dominates both Trump and especially Clinton with Independent voters, and Sanders also has great support among Democratic voters. Many Republicans also like Sanders.
Establishment Democrats worried about Bernie splitting the votes, or future Supreme Court justices, will have to put their fears to the test and vote Bernie Sanders, if indeed these fears are real, especially since he defeats Trump by a wider margin.
Bernie isn’t Ralph Nader, and he’ll likely be more popular than Clinton or Trump in the polls by November. I explain on CNN International that if you fear Trump, you better vote Bernie Sanders. This sentiment goes for an independent run as well, should Bernie choose to win the White House in this manner. The time is now, and Sanders has come too far, to simply give up if Clinton “wins” the Democratic nomination. Also, if Clinton gets indicted after the Democratic convention, Bernie’s independent run would be assured of the White House. Cenk Uygur is absolutely correct in this segment of The Young Turks. Future indictments only bolster the case for Bernie Sanders to run an independent campaign, if superdelegates still side with Clinton, even with the reality of DOJ indictments.
Trash street art installation in Lisbon, Portugal,
by Portuguese artist Bordalo II
Phot by Bordalo II
Class Divide is indeed appropriately named. This documentary film by Marc Levin provides a concrete examination, largely through the eyes of the young generation, of life in one of the most unequal cities in the world.
This is the third in a series of films made by Levin on significant social issues. Earlier ones examined the disappearance of New York City’s garment industry, and the lives of families in the city’s suburbs who lost good jobs in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.
In Class Divide the setting is the West Chelsea neighborhood in the lower midtown area of Manhattan. The neighborhood had already seen an influx of the upper middle class over the past quarter-century. Since 2009, however, with the opening in successive stages of the High Line, the aerial greenway and park built on old New York Central railroad tracks, hyper-gentrification has arrived.
One luxury high-rise apartment building after another has been or is being built along the High Line, which has become one of New York’s top ten tourist attractions. The new residents, paying millions of dollars for an apartment, are taking advantage of the views and the prestige of the address, as well as the proximity to the trendy art gallery scene west of Tenth Avenue and the new Whitney Museum and night life only a few blocks south. For some of the new owners, the apartments are merely an investment, and little time is spent living there.
Catering in large part to the wealthy newcomers, Avenues, a private for-profit school from kindergarten to the 12th grade, opened its doors several years ago. Tuition is currently more than $45,000 annually. All of the students, even in the lower grades, study either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. Avenues enrolls more than 1,200 students, a relative handful of whom (45 students) receive full scholarships. Most of the students at Avenues come not merely from upper middle-class families, but from the top one-tenth or even one-hundredth of one percent on the income scale.
Directly across from Avenues, on the east side of Tenth Avenue, lies the Chelsea-Elliot Houses, a public housing project that is home to 2,500 people. Half of the development dates from 1947 and the other half from 1964. A typical example of New York’s public housing, Chelsea-Elliot is plagued by poor maintenance, a backlog of basic repairs and occasional loss of heat or hot water. Most of its households have annual incomes that are far less than the tuition demanded across the street.
The film holds our attention and works as a documentary largely because the bare statistics are translated into the experiences and the honest and unfiltered views of young people on both sides of the class divide. Interviews with youth from Chelsea-Elliot are interspersed with ones from students at Avenues, and we also hear from adults connected to the school, the High Line, the neighborhood, and the real estate boom that is remaking the area.
Joel, a 7-year-old from the projects, speaks about his hopes for the future, and his fears as well. His mother, Candida, comes from the Dominican Republic. His father, Fernando, is an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who leaves for work every day at 5 am. The family worries that he could be deported. Seven people live in two small rooms.
Juwan, Hyisheen and Brandon are teenagers. Juwan’s mother died when he was eight. Brandon works as a doorman while making plans for the future. Hyisheen does well in school and studies social work in college.
Rosa De Santiago is perhaps the liveliest presence in the film. About 9 years old, she declares that she admires Beyoncé, and has decided, after wondering, “how did pieces of rock get on the Earth?” that she wants to become a professor of geology when she grows up. “I hate money,” Rosa passionately declares. “People fight over money. My mom pawned her jewelry to pay the rent.”
On the other side of the street we meet Yasemin, a high school student at Avenues who lives on the Upper West Side and who worries about inequality. Nick, whose father is a currency trader, hopes to become an architect and looks forward to building for the rich. Luc lives in a building with a “poor door,” with the lower half providing apartments, with a separate entrance, for low-income families.
Also interviewed are Ricardo Scofidio, the lead architect of the hugely successful High Line; Chris Whittle, the “educational entrepreneur” who is one of the founders of Avenues and has been a prime mover in the attacks on public education through charter and private schools over the past two decades; Ken Jockers, from the Hudson Guild social services center in the Chelsea Houses; and Joe Restuccia, a local advocate of affordable housing, who tells us that 40 percent of the city’s low-income housing has disappeared in the last decade.
A real estate broker brags about the huge sums apartments are going for in the West Chelsea area. Showing apartments to prospective buyers, she mentions that the asking price for a penthouse is about $15 million. One buyer is shown a four-bedroom apartment for $10.35 million. When she asks the agent whether the playground outside is “safe,” the reply is, “I can’t guarantee safety.”
An 11-year-old from the projects tells the camera, “They use all our parks, but they don’t even like us.” Only late in the film do students from both sides of the street get the opportunity to meet one another. A group from the projects is taken on a tour of Avenues. We are informed that a single scholarship student from the Chelsea-Elliot Houses has been admitted to Avenues.
One of the most important and valuable insights from the film, in the words of the young people themselves, is that the dividing line between the overwhelmingly white student body at Avenues and the equally overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic population across the street is one of class, not race. As Hyisheen explains, “it’s not racism, it’s classism.” An adult comments, “It’s America, that’s the way it is…not race, but wealth.”
Filmmaker Levin has accurately described a state of anxiety among the young people, on both sides of Tenth Avenue. They are concerned about the class gulf that they navigate every day, and wonder about the future. In the case of one of the Avenues students, as the film recounts, this has tragic consequences.
At the end of the movie we are given an update on the current plans of some of those who have been interviewed. Rosa tried to get admitted to Avenues but did not succeed. Juwan is pursuing his hope of a career in stand-up comedy, and Hyisheen has graduated from college.
Class Divide is clearly a cry of liberal concern. According to the Huffington Post, “Levin did not want to make a political film but rather to put light on ‘how these forces impact real people and how that is sometimes missed.’”
The film succeeds in showing this impact and has many worthwhile and revealing moments, but it also reflects a definite political outlook, one that remains very much within the framework of the social and political status quo.
The term “classism” used by Hyisheen is significant. It is a word that only came into more common usage in recent decades, in line with identity politics. It signifies—analogously to racism as well as to such terms as “ageism”—discrimination against the poor. It strongly implies that nothing can be done about poverty, that it is just another “identity,” along with race, age and gender. Those who object to “classism” usually mean that the poor should be treated with fairness, not that poverty can or should be eliminated. As we hear on several occasions in the film: “This is America,” a phrase that says nothing will ever change.
In another revealing moment, Rosa’s older brother Danny declares himself a conservative, an entrepreneur and a Republican, because the Republicans stand for “free enterprise” while the Democrats “are for the lazy, poor people.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course the poor are not lazy, nor do the Democrats stand for the poor. The Democrats, while always a big-business party, have become in recent decades even more trusted representatives of the financial aristocracy. Danny is merely repeating phrases that come from the Republican right wing but that also reflect the increasingly threadbare claims by Democratic politicians to defend the “less fortunate.”
It is perhaps significant that the film includes this snippet, suggesting that young workers see their salvation in right-wing demagogy. Danny’s comments leave the impression that the choice (in 2016 and beyond) is between the two parties of the ruling class. We never hear from the workers and youth in the Chelsea-Elliot Houses who have no use for either of their parties of the corporate and financial establishment. Their bitter hatred of the system would have introduced a dissonant note in relation to the movie’s overall theme. Although we don’t hear from them in Class Divide, they will be heard soon enough.
In an interview published Thursday in the New York Times, US President Barack Obama expressed his “frustration” at the persistent belief of the American people that their economic circumstances are not improving.
Obama declared that despite the fact that his administration managed the 2008 financial crisis “better than any large economy on Earth in modern history,” leading to an economic recovery that “outpaced that of every other advanced nation,” his efforts were, in the words of reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin, “vastly under-appreciated” by the US population, a fact that left the president “frustrated.”
Obama’s comments were a continuation of a theme laid out by Obama in March, when he declared “America is pretty darn great right now” and disparaged “an alternative reality out there from some of the political folks that America is down in the dumps.”
The problem according to Obama, channeling the sadistic prison warden in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, is a “failure to communicate.” He told Sorkin, “We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market.”
Obama attributed the feelings of the US population—according to one poll, 64 percent believe the economy is still in recession—to disaster-mongering by the Republican Party. “If you have a political party—in this case, the Republicans—that denies any progress and is constantly channeling to their base, which is sizable, say, 40 percent of the population, that things are terrible all the time, then people will start absorbing that.”
Obama made these statements in the context of an election campaign that has been dominated by enormous anger over social inequality and Wall Street criminality, which has found expression in broad support for the campaign of “socialist” Bernie Sanders, as well as, in distorted form, that of the quasi-fascistic Donald Trump.
The fact that in the midst of such a tumultuous election campaign, Obama feels it is appropriate to make such statements is a testament to the contemptuous attitude of the financial elite of which he is a part, who see the great majority of the population as ignorant dupes who would be happy if they only realized how good they have it.
Any serious look at economic realities for working people in the US makes clear that this widespread anger is entirely justified.
During the decade between 2005 and 2015, seven years of which Obama was president, all net job growth was accounted for by people working in “alternative work arrangements,” or those working as independent contractors, temps, through contract agencies or on-call. In 2013, a typical American household had 40 percent less wealth than it did in 2007. The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013.
Suicide and mortality rates are soaring, while life expectancy is falling for a significant share of the population. Drug overdoses are becoming an epidemic, and the gap between the expected lifespan of the top and bottom 1 percent has reached nearly 15 years.
To the extent that Obama accepts the existence of any of these social realities, he merely presents them as inevitable byproducts of “sweeping changes transforming the global economy,” outside of and working counter to his administration’s supposedly egalitarian economic policies. Sorkin sums up Obama’s views with the statement, “We’re not only losing jobs to overseas competition, we’re losing them to technology.” In other words, automation and globalization, and not the White House, are to blame for the growing economic distress felt by broad sections of the American population.
But any sober assessment of the policies described in Obama’s interview makes clear that the growth of social inequality and the impoverishment of working people under the Obama administration were the deliberate and predictable outcome of the White House’s economic agenda.
The Obama administration presided over a sweeping restructuring of social relations in the US in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, eliminating decent jobs, incentivizing companies to gut health care, and carrying out an all-out assault on workers’ pension benefits, while providing essentially unlimited amounts of cash for the financial elite.
Even before taking office, Obama proved himself a vociferous defender of the social prerogatives of the financial oligarchy. In his interview with the Times, he recalls his role as a presidential candidate in whipping the Democratic Party into line behind the Bush administration’s 2008 plan to bail out the banks, lending them trillions of dollars essentially interest-free, while doing nothing to hold those responsible for the financial crash to account.
With large sections of the Republican Party coming out in opposition to the Bush administration’s bank bailout, and some Democrats inclined to make at least a rhetorical show of opposition, candidate Obama, “convinced that anything short of a major bailout could lead to economic catastrophe, said Democrats should back [Treasury Secretary] Paulson’s plan. They did.”
Once Obama came into office, the White House imposed wage and benefit cuts on workers. The Obama administration’s much-touted 2009 auto bailout was contingent on slashing the wages and benefits of autoworkers, helping produce record profits for auto makers.
These policies were designed to have precisely the effect they did: driving the stock market, as Obama boasted in the interview, “from in the 6,000s to 16,000 or 17,000.” This helped ensure that the wealth of America’s richest 400 individuals nearly doubled, from $1.27 trillion in 2009 to $2.34 trillion in 2015.
Despite their occasional invocations of the growth of social inequality and the economic distress facing large sections of the US population, the campaigns of Democratic presidential nominees Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are notable for the complete absence of any criticism of Obama’s economic policies, which they consistently single out for praise.
Moreover, given the fact that Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has wrapped herself in Obama’s mantle, the president’s statements are a clear indication that her presidency would be even more hostile to the needs and sentiments of broad masses of the population than that of Obama.
This fact underscores one fundamental reality: The Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans, is nothing more than the tool of Wall Street, impervious to reform or popular pressure.