Wednesday 1st of February 2023

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President Joe Biden is undermining his party’s Congressional prospects through a deeply flawed foreign policy. Biden believes that America’s global reputation is at stake in the Ukraine War and has consistently rejected a diplomatic off-ramp. The Ukraine War, combined with the administration’s disruptions of economic relations with China, is aggravating the stagflation that will likely deliver one or both houses of Congress to the Republicans. Far worse, Biden’s dismissal of diplomacy prolongs the destruction of Ukraine and threatens nuclear war.

 

BY Jeffrey D. Sachs

 

Biden inherited an economy beset by deep disruptions to global supply chains caused by the pandemic and by Trump’s erratic trade policies. Yet instead of trying to calm the waters and repair the disruptions, Biden escalated the U.S. conflicts with both Russia and China.

Biden attacked Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for expressing doubts on another large financial package Ukraine, declaring: “They [House Republicans] said that if they win, they’re not likely to fund—to help—continue to fund Ukraine, the Ukrainian war against the Russians. These guys don’t get it. It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine—it’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s real, serious, serious consequential outcomes. They have no sense of American foreign policy.” Similarly, when a group of progressive congressional Democrats urged negotiations to end the Ukraine War, they were excoriated by Democrats following the White House line and forced to recant their call for diplomacy.

Biden believes that American credibility depends on NATO expanding to Ukraine, and if necessary, defeating Russia in the Ukraine war to accomplish that. Biden has repeatedly refused to engage in diplomacy with Russia on the NATO enlargement issue. This has been a grave mistake. It stoked a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia in which Ukraine is being devastated, ironically in the name of saving Ukraine.

The whole issue of NATO enlargement is based on a U.S. lie dating back to the 1990s. The U.S. and Germany promised Gorbachev that NATO would move “not one inch eastward” if Gorbachev would disband the Soviet Warsaw Pact military alliance and accept German reunification. Convenientl—and with typical cynicism—the U.S. reneged on the deal.

In 2021, Biden could have headed off the Ukraine War without sacrificing any single vital interest of the U.S. or Ukraine. U.S. security absolutely does not depend on NATO enlarging to Ukraine and Georgia. In fact, NATO enlargement deeper into the Black Sea region undermines US security by putting the U.S. into a direct confrontation with Russia (and a further violation of the promises made three decades earlier). Nor does Ukraine’s security depend on NATO enlargement, a point that President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged on numerous occasions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the U.S. repeatedly since 2008 to keep NATO out of Ukraine, a region of vital security interests for Russia. Biden has equally resolutely insisted on NATO enlargement. Putin made one last diplomatic try at the end of 2021 to stop NATO enlargement. Biden completely rebuffed him. This was dangerous foreign policy.

As much as many American politicians don’t want to hear it, Putin’s warning about NATO enlargement was both real and apt. Russia doesn’t want a heavily armed NATO military on its border, just as the U.S. would not accept a Chinese-backed heavily armed Mexican military on the U.S.-Mexico border. The last thing the U.S. and Europe need is a long war with Russia. Yet that’s just where Biden’s insistence on NATO enlargement to Ukraine has brought about.

The U.S. and Ukraine should accept three absolutely reasonable terms to end the war: Ukraine’s military neutrality; Russia’s de facto hold on Crimea, home to its Black Sea naval fleet since 1783; and a negotiated autonomy for the ethnic-Russian regions, as was called for in the Minsk Agreements but which Ukraine failed to implement.

Instead of this kind of sensible outcome, the Biden Administration has repeatedly told Ukraine to fight on. It poured cold water on the negotiations in March, when Ukrainians were contemplating a negotiated end to the war but instead walked away from the negotiating table. Ukraine is suffering grievously as a result, with its cities and infrastructure reduced to rubble, and tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers dying in the ensuing battles. For all of NATO’s vaunted weaponry, Russia has recently destroyed up to half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

In the meantime, the U.S.-led trade and financial sanctions against Russia have boomeranged. With the cutoff of Russian energy flows, Europe is in a deep economic crisis, with adverse spillovers to the U.S. economy. The destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline further deepened Europe’s crisis. According to Russia, this was done by UK operatives, but almost certainly with U.S. participation. Let us recall that in February, Biden said that if Russia invades Ukraine, “We will bring an end to it [Nord Stream].” “I promise you,” said Biden, “we will be able to do it.”

Biden’s flawed foreign policy has also brought about what generations of foreign policy strategists from Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski warned against: driving Russia and China into a firm embrace. He has done that by dramatically escalating the cold war with China at precisely the same time as he is pursuing the hot war with Russia.

From the start of his Presidency, Biden starkly curtailed diplomatic contacts with China, stirred up new controversies regarding America’s long-standing One China policy, repeatedly called for greater arms sales to Taiwan, and implemented a global export ban on high-tech to China. Both parties have rallied to this destabilizing anti-China policy, but the cost is further destabilization of the world, and also the U.S. economy.

In sum, Biden inherited a difficult economic hand—the pandemic, excess Fed liquidity created in 2020, large budget deficits in 2020, and pre-existing global tensions. Yet he has greatly exacerbated the economic and geopolitical crises rather than solved them. We need a change of foreign policy. After the elections, there will be an important time for reassessment. Americans and the world need economic recovery, diplomacy, and peace.

 

 

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development. He has been advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author, most recently, of “A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism” (2020). Other books include: “Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable” (2017) and “The Age of Sustainable Development,” (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.

 

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american gulag.....

 

BY John Kiriakou

 

All of the major media outlets announced recently that former American women’s basketball sensation Brittney Griner had been moved to a “Russian penal colony” after an appellate court rejected the appeal of her conviction and sentence of nine years for trying to smuggle a vial of THC oil into Russia.

The sentence is draconian, but it’s not unlike drug sentences here in the United States.  But that’s not the point that I want to make here.  What I do want to point out is the U.S. media’s use of the term “Russian penal colony.”  Other outlets have thrown out the word “gulag,” harkening back to the days of Josef Stalin.

NBC News reported that Griner was “transferred to a penal colony, the successor to the infamous Russian gulag.”  Insider Magazine said that Griner “fears facing inhumane treatment at Russia’s penal colonies, where abuse is common, disease, is rampant, and labor is forced.”

Even the storied UPI, United Press International, said that Griner is going to a penal colony, “the descendant of the notorious Soviet-era gulags, where prisoners have been subjected to harsh treatment and poor conditions.  Prisoners in the system have been beaten by other inmates, endured torture, and forced to watch Russian propaganda for hours every day.” 

These breathless admonitions are nothing more than a bad joke.  Have none of these journalists and writers ever been inside an American prison?  They wouldn’t have far to look to see that the U.S. prison system gains nothing by casting aspersions on the Russian system or pretty much any other.

Violence also continues to be a problem in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP.)

 

Alec Arapahoe

Alec Arapahoe, a Native American, was 21 when he arrived at the BOP’s medium-security Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Florence, Colorado. He tried to hide his homosexuality but another Native American prisoner, William Mexican, a gang member, had already heard that Arapahoe was gay.

Mexican attacked Arapahoe, extorted money from him, accused him of being gay and threatened to rape him. Eventually, the Native Americans at the prison met on the recreation yard and, after a disagreement that neared violence, a faction led by Mexican “voted Arapahoe off the yard” due to his sexual orientation. That meant Arapahoe had to leave the prison immediately or be beaten.

Arapahoe asked his stepmother to call the prison and intervene to help him seek protective custody status. She did, and he was placed in the Segregated Housing Unit at USP Florence, a maximum-security facility adjacent to the prison.

Staff who investigated the protective custody request found a video recording of the meeting on the yard and interviewed Mexican, who said there would be trouble for Arapahoe if he returned. They nonetheless filed a report stating they could find no evidence to support Arapahoe’s claim that he was in danger.

Mexican was later transferred to the USP and, because a staff member only looked at his paperwork, not Arapahoe’s, he was placed in a cell with Arapahoe.

Arapahoe told the guards who escorted Mexican to his cell that he was nervous about having Mexican celling with him, but Mexican assured them there would be no problems and they left.

Over the course of the next three days, Mexican repeatedly assaulted Arapahoe, forced him to perform oral sex and anally raped him. Arapahoe repeatedly stationed himself in front of the cell’s video camera, often covered in blood, and hit the cell’s distress button, but no one came to investigate.

Mexican forced Arapahoe to face the back wall when food was delivered, so staff could not see his injuries. Finally, Mexican left the cell to go to recreation and, as soon as the cell door closed, Arapahoe told the escorting guards he was in danger. He was moved to another cell and a medical examination yielded evidence of the sexual assaults.

An internal BOP investigation found that staff had failed to conduct cell checks every 30 minutes, as required by regulations, and had falsified documentation to show they had performed the rounds on time.

The investigation sustained allegations of “inattention to duty,” “failure to follow policy” and “falsification of documents” against 26 employees.  Arapahoe won $750,000 in a lawsuit against the BOP.

 

Morgan Greenburger

Earlier this year, a federal judge in New York awarded $273,246.88 to a prisoner who alleged that a guard beat him brutally and lied about the incident. 

Morgan Greenburger, a mentally ill prisoner, told a guard that he had eaten a toothbrush and he asked to be taken to the medical unit.  He was placed on “special watch,” where he was supposed to be under constant supervision so as not to hurt himself again. 

Greenburger asked guard Phillip Roundtree for a bottle so that he could urinate.  Roundtree told him to wait 15 minutes.  Greenburger asked again 15 minutes later, and Roundtree responded, “You sure you want it?”  He then placed the bottle just inside Greenburger’s cell.  When Greenburger reached down to pick it up, Roundtree began pummeling him with a baton on the back, arms, head, and shoulders so hard that the baton splintered into pieces.

Two hours later, other guards took Greenburger to a hospital, where he received five staples to close the wound on his head.  Greenburger was also charged with “initiating an assault” and “refusing a direct order.”  He was given 50 days in solitary confinement.

Nearly a year later, after Greenburger was released from solitary, the verdict was reversed and he filed his federal action.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, we’re supposed to believe that medical care in American prisons is oh so much better than it is in Russian prisons? 

 

Marques Davis  

As just one example, let’s look at the case of Marques Davis.  The 27-year-old was a prisoner in the Kansas Department of Corrections, where Corizon, the largest prison “healthcare solutions provider” has an exclusive contract to provide medical care. 

Davis went to a Corizon nurse saying that he felt weakness in his arms and legs.  The nurse determined that Davis was “malingering,” that is, making it all up so he didn’t have to work.  He was fined $2 and told not to do it again. 

Months later, with the numbness worsening, Davis began to complain that he felt like something was “eating his brain.”  In fact, something was eating his brain.  It was an untreated fungus that caused his vision to blur, his speech to slur, and his cognition to become so impaired that he began to drink his own urine.

Davis finally had a heart attack and was taken to a local Kansas City hospital.  A CT scan revealed “dramatic swelling of the brain.”  A day later, he was dead.  Davis’ lawyer hopes to prove in court that this was not an isolated incident, but “a clear and consistent pattern of Corizon delaying, postponing, or not providing necessary medical treatment.”

An ACLU spokesman said, “Corizon is simply writing off the damages they’re having to pay as the cost of doing business without doing anything meaningful to improve.”

And what about forced labor?  This is, perhaps, the biggest joke of all in Western coverage of Griner’s imprisonment.  The Constitution of the United States actually enshrines forced prison labor.  The 13thAmendment states quite clearly in Section 1, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Slavery exists in the United States.  It’s in black and white.

I feel sorry for Brittney Griner.  I really do.  She got a raw deal.  She didn’t appear to have criminal intent.  And Russia’s drug laws are draconian.  But so are America’s.

The media are remiss in pointing fingers at the Russians while ignoring exactly the same problems in the U.S. prison system.

Perhaps they should reflect on something that Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky opined on when he wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

He was right.

 

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

 

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https://consortiumnews.com/2022/10/31/john-kiriakou-american-gulag/

 

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