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While Turkish Bodyguards Brutalized Protesters, This DC Think Tank Connected Erdogan With Foreign Policy Insiders

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Turkey’s authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has dominated his country’s politics since 2003. He has transformed the state from a relatively democratic parliamentary system to a centralized presidential one, purged 130,000 people from the government, harshly cracked down on journalists, violently stifled dissent and waged a brutal war on his own people—all while enjoying staunch support from the U.S. government and its allies.

President Erdogan met President Donald Trump on May 17. Immediately after the head-to-head, Erdogan was shuttled to the Turkish ambassador’s residence to meet with a group of prominent former U.S. foreign policy officials. The meeting was arranged by the Atlantic Council, one of Washington’s most influential think tanks and one of its most heavily funded, thanks in part to large donations from Turkish Petroleum and the Turkey Army College.

On his way into the meeting, Erdogan watched as his burly bodyguards and pumped-up supporters attacked dozens of protesters in broad daylight. Many of the demonstrators were from ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey like the Kurds and Yazidis. At least 11 people were injured and nine were hospitalized.

The symbolism of the attack was striking, perfectly encapsulating the impunity Erdogan’s Turkey enjoys as a member of NATO.

This was not the first time Erdogan’s security detail has roughed up critics in the U.S. In March 2016, Erdogan spoke at another influential Washington think tank, the Brookings Institution, which also enjoys generous funding from Western governments and their allies. Outside the event, his bodyguards roughed up journalists and menaced protesters.

Shilling for Erdogan

Located just blocks from the White House, the influential Atlantic Council is a key component of the whitewashing of Erdogan and his government’s repressive policies. At the same time, the think tank has focused heavily on exposing human rights abuses and pushing for regime change in countries like Syria that have resisted alignment with the West.

On the eve of Erdogan’s visit, Al Monitor published an exposé on the “Atlantic Council’s alleged cozying up to the Erdogan regime.”

Among those invited to the closed session the Atlantic Council co-hosted for Erdogan were ex-CIA director David Petraeus and former Secretaries of Defense William Cohen and Chuck Hagel, the latter of whom previously served as the chairman of the think tank. Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State who co-chairs the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, was also in the room.

In April, the Atlantic Council held its annual energy summit in Istanbul. Al Monitor’s Amberin Zaman cited four sources who alleged “that the Atlantic Council had bowed to Turkish pressure and excluded speakers, including a member of its own staff.” (Atlantic Council president and CEO Fred Kempe denied the allegations.) The summit, titled “Strengthening Transatlantic Engagement with a Turbulent Region,” featured officials from the Turkish government and state-linked institutions, along with Erdogan himself.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also spoke at the Istanbul summit.

Attendees recalled that “there was no discussion throughout the summit about Turkey’s unchecked descent into one-man rule,” according to Al Monitor.

At his widely read Angry Arab blog, the academic and Middle East commentator As’ad AbuKhalil joked, “By the way, did Atlantic Council pundits participate in beating up protesters the other day?”

Government Funding for an ‘NGO’

The Atlantic Council is sometimes described as a “non-governmental organization,” and is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In reality, it is funded by the U.S. government and its allies, and essentially acts as an unofficial arm of NATO. Its list of donors is a who’s who of prominent governments and corporations. In 2015, top financial contributors—at the price of more than $1 million—included the United Arab Emirates and Lebanese billionaire Bahaa Hariri.

Other significant funders were the U.S. State Department and the Bahraini monarchy, along with weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and oil giant Chevron.

The European Union; the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines; ExxonMobil, and the foundation of Syrian-British billionaire Ayman Asfari, a top financier of the Syrian opposition’s public relations apparatus, have also funded the think tank.

Atlantic Council fellows and panelists at its events have explicitly and persistently called for U.S.-led regime change in Syria, even while conceding that the armed opposition is dominated by al-Qaeda.

A letter released by the Atlantic Council in 2013, following pressure for transparency, showed that the think tank had in the previous five years received funding from NATO, the European Commission and the U.K. government, as well as the Western-backed monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The think tank’s ties to the Turkish government, particularly its energy sector, have received less scrutiny. Various Turkish state institutions, including Turkey Army College and the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, have provided financial support to the think tank.

In fact, of the eight institutions listed in the 2013 Atlantic Council document disclosing foreign government entity funding, five were Turkish. Four were Turkish fossil fuel companies, including the state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS), the national Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), the Istanbul Natural Gas Distribution Company (IGDAS) and the Electricity Generation Company.

Considering its sources of funding, it is easy to understand why the Atlantic Council held its annual energy summit in Istanbul.

Turkey’s Oil from ISIS Scheme

The Turkish energy sector’s links to ISIS are noteworthy as well.

Before the Atlantic Council summit in Istanbul, Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister (and President Erdogan’s son-in-law), allegedly criticized speakers who were banned, Al Monitor noted in its report. The publication did not explore the accusations that Albayrak has facilitated oil deals with the genocidal extremist group ISIS, however.

In December 2016, WikiLeaks published thousands of personal emails showing how Albayrak was effectively running the fossil fuel company Powertrans, which transferred oil from ISIS-held territory to Turkey.

Ahmet S. Yayla, a former counterterrorism police chief in Turkey and senior research fellow at the NATO-linked International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, published an article in October 2016 detailing the allegations that the Turkish government was indirectly buying oil from ISIS.

Yayla cited a report by Rystad Energy, which had been commissioned by the Norwegian government and which found that the majority of the oil sold by ISIS went to Turkey.

For years, Turkey’s right-wing Islamist government played a double game with the self-declared Islamic State, allowing thousands of extremists from around the world to cross its border to join the jihadist group and allegedly even supporting ISIS directly.

This did not damage Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and European countries, which remain close allies.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heartland’ In Syria?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
By Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton / AlterNet

After formally calling off the longstanding U.S. policy of regime change in Syria, the Trump administration is sending signals of shifting its Syria policy under massive political pressure following a grisly chemical attack in the rebel-held area of Idlib.

The chemical attack allegedly took place in Idlib on April 3. Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed, although many details are still unknown.

“We have not yet any official or reliable confirmation” of what took place or who was responsible, said the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, at a press conference on April 4.

“We also do not have evidence at the moment,” added Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.

The chemical attack occurred just as peace talks were beginning in Geneva, and with the Syrian army in a dominant position in the sixth year of a civil war fueled by outside powers.

The attacks threaten to reverse the political gains made by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, leading to unrelenting bipartisan pressure for Donald Trump to authorize a bombing campaign targeting the Syrian government and its military.

For the Al Qaeda-allied rebels who were ousted from their stronghold in eastern Aleppo in December 2016, and whose gains in a recent series of offensives have been rapidly reversed, Western military intervention is the only hope.

Given its dominant position, why would the Syrian government authorize a chemical attack that was likely to trigger renewed calls for regime change? The answer remains elusive.

War on the table

Despite a dearth of independently sourced evidence about the attack, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., warned that the U.S. was “compelled to take our own action” in Syria, although it was unclear what she meant by this.

For his part, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there was “no doubt in our mind” that the Syrian government carried out the attack in Idlib, but provided no evidence to support his claim. Tillerson warned Russia it should reconsider its alliance with President Assad, suggesting regime change was back on the table.

The Pentagon has reportedly begun drawing up a list of targets to attack.

The media has helped spread the war fever. New York Times columnist and Iraq war cheerleader Thomas Friedman reflexively proposed that Syria be partitioned, with U.S. troops if necessary. On CNN, correspondent Arwa Damon wept over the lack of U.S. resolve, suggesting that a bombing campaign against Damascus would somehow salve the wounds of Syria.

But there was one issue the mainstream media have refused to touch, and that’s the nature of the rebels who would gain from any U.S. military offensive. Who holds power in Idlib, why are they there, and what do they want? This is perhaps the most inconvenient set of questions for proponents of “humanitarian” military intervention in Syria.

The reality is that Idlib is substantially controlled by al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, which has gone through a series of rebranding schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jabhat al-Nusra. In the province it rules, al-Nusra has imposed what a leading scholar has described as a Taliban-like regime that has ethnically cleansed religious and ethnic minorities, banned music and established a brutal theocracy in which it publicly executes women accused of adultery.

Even analysts who have repeatedly called for U.S.-led regime change in Syria have described Idlib as the “heartland of al-Nusra.”

The ‘Talibanization of Idlib’

Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma’s Middle East Studies Center, is among the country’s leading scholars of Syria and lived in the country for several years. In a January 2016 article in Foreign Affairs, Landis provided a chilling survey of life in Idlib:

“To judge how incompetent the rebels have been in providing a viable or attractive alternative to Assad, one need merely consider the situation in the province of Idlib, where the rebels rule. Schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Government offices were looted, and a more effective government has yet to take shape. With the Talibanization of Idlib, the 100-plus Christian families of the city fled. The few Druze villages that remained have been forced to denounce their religion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No religious minorities remain in rebel-held Syria, in Idlib, or elsewhere. Rebels argue that Assad’s bombing has ensured their failure and made radicalization unavoidable. But such excuses can go only so far to explain the terrible state of rebel Syria or its excesses. We have witnessed the identical evolution in too many other Arab countries to pin it solely on Assad, despite his culpability for the disaster that has engulfed his country.”

More hawkish experts have acknowledged the same. On a panel in January at the Atlantic Council, a pro-regime change think tank that is funded by Western governments and their allies, Nancy Okail, executive director of the Tahrir Institute, acknowledged that Syria is today the “newest and most important safe haven for [al-Qaeda’s] ideology.”

“There is a new generation of Syrian children that is growing up with al-Qaeda’s ideology in some parts of rebel-held Syria as the norm,” added Jennifer Cafarella, a lead intelligence planner at the neoconservative think tank the Institute for the Study of War, which has received funding from the biggest names in the military industry, including Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and DynCorp.

Charles Lister, perhaps the foremost advocate of regime change and the arming of Islamist rebels in Syria, sounded a similar note. He explained, “People on the ground in different areas of Syria are increasingly willing not just to accept al-Qaeda operating within their midst, but are actually willing to overtly support the fact that they are in their midst.”

He later warned, “Al-Qaeda’s relative success in Syria has seen its ideology and its narrative mainstreamed, not just in parts of Syria, but also in parts of the region.”

Lister noted local populations have protested not just the Syrian government, but also the al-Qaeda extremists terrorizing them. People living under rebel rule in Idlib, Lister indicated, have been lamenting, “This place is hell; we don’t want to live under this Islamist rule, under all this oppression.” In Idlib, “they see what life would be like under this organization, and they don’t like it.”

In 2016, Amnesty International published a report documenting an array of “serious violations of international humanitarian law” committed by militant groups in Idlib and elsewhere, including summary killings, torture, abductions, and sectarian attacks. The report detailed how extremist Syrian rebels have imposed harsh Sharia law in the areas they control.

With music officially outlawed in Idlib, the U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Fresh has resorted to novel measures. Instead of music, station director Raed Fares has been reduced to broadcasting the sound of bleating goats and bird chirps. Ordered by Idlib’s authorities to fire all his female employees, Fares instead relied on a computer program that auto-tuned their voices to make them sound male.

“They now sound more like robots,” he said.

‘The most loved cleric’

When Al Nusra and its ally, Ahrar Al Sham, took Idlib’s Abu al-Dhuhur Air Base in 2015, a cleric appeared on the scene in camouflaged battle dress uniform. Standing among a group of blindfolded, exhausted captives, all Syrian army regulars, the cleric blessed their mass execution, cursing them as takfir for fighting on the government’s side.

“I don’t like to call them Sunni. They were once Sunni but became apostatized once they enlisted in the Alawites’ regime,” he said of the 56 captives. Moments later, they were lined up and riddled with bullets.

The cleric was Abdullah Muhaysini, a 33-year-old zealot from Saudi Arabia, who was a student of Sulayman Al-Alwan, the Wahhabi cleric who oversaw what his Muslim critics have called a “terrorist factory” in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Qassim Province. Al-Alwan was also the instructor of the 9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari.

Today, Muhaysini commands an almost mystical status among the Islamist armed groups rampaging across northern Syria. According to Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American-born rebel propagandist currently in Idlib, Muhaysini is “probably the most loved cleric in the Syrian territories today.”

After moving to Syria in 2014, Muhaysini embedded himself among the rebels’ most powerful factions and worked to unite them under a single banner. At first, he helped cobble together the coalition known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest. Drawing on his connections in the Gulf, he successfully oversaw the “wage jihad with your money” fundraising effort that raised some $5 million for the rebels’ push to take the northern Idlib governate from the Syrian army in 2015.

Through his Jihad Caller’s Network, Muhaysini has mobilizing resources thanks to a collection of wealthy Gulf oligarchs. In an online interview, Muhaysini thanked “a group of brothers in Islam from Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), some from our brother Abu Ahmed from Kuwait, some from our brother Abu Joud from Qatar.”

A deeply unsettling video from Muhaysini’s Jihad Caller’s Network shows him recruiting child fighters insde the Atmeh Refugee Camp on the Syrian-Turkish border, a squalid redoubt for some 30,000 war victims, handing the adolescent volunteers rifles before trucking them off to Idlib and elsewhere. More recently, Muhaysini appeared before an assembly of fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, his latest jihadist coalition, to deliver a motivational battlefield sermon.

Tahrir al-Sham was responsible for a twin suicide bombing that killed dozens of civilians at the Palace of Justice in Damascus and during a birthday celebration at a restaurant on March 15. It has waged a furious campaign to retake lost territory around the city of Hama, wielding suicide attacks but ultimately failing to hold on against a Syrian army counter-attack.

If the U.S. and its Western allies carry out their threats to attack the Syrian government, the intervention is the last best hope for Muhaysini and the al-Qaeda-aligned forces in his thrall.

Trump’s Saudi connection

One of the least reported yet most significant developments of the Trump administration’s foreign poilcy has been its warm embrace of the ultra-conservative, theocratic Saudi monarchy. Immediately after he entered office, Trump made a pact with Saudi Arabia to escalate aggression in Yemen.

After a friendly White House meeting with Trump and Steve Bannon, the architect of Trump’s Muslim ban, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hailed Trump as “his Excellency,” describing him as a “true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim world in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote.”

Trump has also pledged to work with Saudi Arabia to create so-called safe zones in Syria. What exactly these would look like has been unclear. Hillary Clinton campaigned on the promise to create such zones, although in a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs, she conceded that safe zones could “kill a lot of Syrians.”

At the heart of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been diehard opposition to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s mortal enemy. The Syrian government is one of Iran’s closest allies.

In Yemen, U.S. and Saudi intervention has driven the growth of al-Qaeda, even while the U.S. carries out airstrikes against the extremist group. As the International Crisis Group reported in February 2017, thanks to “state collapse” brought on by war, the “Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQ) is stronger than it has ever been.”

U.S. intervention would be the last hope for Syrian rebels, and a shot in the arm to al-Qaeda, which has grown to record size thanks to America’s military meddling across the Middle East.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

White Supremacist Who Traveled to New York to Murder Black Men Followed Extremist Racist On-Line Groups Who Support Trump

 

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

A white supremacist who traveled to New York City to kill black men subscribed to numerous neo-Nazi, anti-feminist and far-right conspiracy theory channels on YouTube, according to what appears to be his personal account on the website.

James Harris Jackson stabbed a black man with a sword on the street in Manhattan on Wednesday, March 22, in what he admitted to police was an intentional hate crime. Jackson, who is from Maryland, told police he is a member of a white supremacist hate group.

Jackson had traveled to New York with plans to kill black men in relationships with white women, but wound up targeting a homeless man in an act of terrorism. Jackson says he carried out the attack to “send a message” and claims he’s written a racist manifesto.

On what appears to be Jackson’s personal YouTube account, he subscribed to a variety of fascist YouTube channels, many of which support President Donald Trump and other far-right leaders and circulate anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. His subscription list is a who’s who of alt-right figures, including Alex Jones, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Ray Ramsey and many more.

YouTube page of white supremacist terrorist James Harris Jackson

Jackson subscribed to the channel for the National Policy Institute and Radix. The former is the white supremacist organization founded by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer (who led a “Hail Trump” chant at a white supremacist conference last year), and the latter is the fascist journal Spencer publishes.

Openly neo-Nazi channels Jackson subscribed to include Cybernazi, Politically Incorrect and Esoteric Truths. He also frequented many racist, anti-Semitic, white nationalist and anti-feminist channels.

Jackson did not upload any videos onto his channel, but he did recently favorite racist videos, including two titled, “Is It Time For Whites To Start Voicing Their Displeasure With Black On White Crimes?” and “Blacks Know That Blacks Are Violent So Why Does The White Media Pretend They Are Not?”

YouTube subscriptions of white supremacist terrorist James Harris Jackson

The channel was uncovered by Internet detective @HenryKrinkIe, a leftist Twitter user who hunts Nazis. KrinkIe previously uncovered the white supremacist website and manifesto left by neo-Nazi Dylann Roof, who massacred nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in hopes of starting a “race war.” Roof said in his manifesto that he was radicalized by far-right white supremacist websites.

Krinkle was able to uncover Jackson’s YouTube channel through some master sleuth work.

Media reports noted that Jackson served in the U.S. Army for four years and was deployed to Afghanistan. Using this information, he was able to track down his LinkedIn profile, where Jackson included a copy of his résumé, which has his email address. When one searches this email on Google, only one result comes up: a Russian hacking website which posted the personal information of video game players. The webpage showed that Jackson played the video game “Assassin’s Creed II” on PC, and used barris417 for his username. Type in barris417 on YouTube and an account with the name James Jackson pops up.

This attack is part of a massive surge in hate crimes in the past year, with the rise of far-right politicians like Donald Trump. In January, white gunman Alexandre Bissonnette massacred Muslims praying at a mosque in Quebec, Canada. His social media accounts and testimonies from classmates showed Bissonnette was a white nationalist, anti-feminist and staunch supporter of Trump, Marine Le Pen and other far-right demagogues.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

How Corporations Make A Killing Out Of Catastrophe

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

“It is profitable to let the world go to hell,” wrote Jørgen Randers, professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, in 2015. “I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually increasing difficulties.”

Journalist Antony Loewenstein opens his book Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe with these portentous words. Having crossed the globe, he has seen firsthand just how profitable disaster can be.

Loewenstein’s work is nothing short of virtuosic, having traveled to dozens of countries on multiple continents in recent years for his multifaceted reporting. Like his accomplished compatriot John Pilger, Loewenstein has tackled a dizzying array of topics, with the expertise of a scholar and the vigor of an explorer.

Disaster Capitalism, a 300-page tome that is more like seven books in one, is based on more than a decade of research and reporting. Loewenstein traveled to wartorn Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan to study how the defense industry and for-profit private military companies are turning one of the longest wars in U.S. history into a lucrative business opportunity. He also visited crowded refugee camps in Greece and fully privatized detention centers at Christmas Island, off the coast of his native Australia, to meet asylum-seekers fleeing the wars multinational corporations are profiting from.

Loewenstein continued his reporting in post-earthquake Haiti, where he got to witness disaster capitalism in real time. He also saw how international mining corporations are profiting from the extraction boom in Papua New Guinea. In addition to these expeditions, Loewenstein has spent time in Sudan, Mongolia, Kenya, and Israel.

At a public discussion of Disaster Capitalism at McNally Jackson Books in New York City recently, Loewenstein discussed the privatization of wars and detention facilities for refugees and migrants. He also examined the refugee crisis, and how Western wars and intervention have fueled this crisis, highlighting the links tying together war, detention, mass incarceration, the military-industrial complex, and the prison-industrial complex, and how private prison and security companies are profiting from it all.

The journalist also addressed the rise of far-right and neo-fascist movements around the world, from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen to Greece’s Golden Dawn, and how these forces will be incapable of solving the structural global problems exacerbated and reinforced by a profit-driven system.

“I believe that bearing witness to what I see, and giving unequal players the right of reply, gives balance to the privatization debate, rather than the false construct of ‘balance’ that permeates the corporate press, which merely pits one powerful interest against another,” Loewenstein explains in the book.

The concept behind Disaster Capitalism is loosely rooted in Naomi Klein’s 2007 opus, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Loewenstein picks up where Klein left off, analyzing not only how natural disasters and war can be vehicles for capitalist policies, but how corporations push their neoliberal agenda and rake in enormous sums of cash from immigration, refugee detention, prisons, and discoveries of natural resource reserves.

“This book is a product of the post-9/11 environment,” he notes. The explosion of the so-called war on terror, the rapid expansion of the surveillance state, the slew of never-ending wars, the privation of public institutions and services, and the militarization of police, the border, and all of society—this is the brave new world Loewenstein devotes himself to dissecting.

And there is even a movie! A Disaster Capitalism documentary has been several years in the making. Loewenstein says they are wrapping up the production process, and are in discussions for distribution of the film.

Loewenstein’s previous book, Profits of Doom, explores similar subjects, while 2008’s The Blogging Revolution presages the 2011 protests that swept the globe. And his book My Israel Question became a bestseller in 2007 and helped foment critical public debate about Israel-Palestine.

In the past several months, Loewenstein, who presently lives in Israel-Palestine, has come under attack for his critical reporting on the government’s violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinians. Since asking prominent Israeli politician Yair Lapid a frank question at a press conference, the government has moved to kick Loewenstein out of the country, citing his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Loewenstein is the definition of a cosmopolitan. In a Guardian article  about his Australian-German-Jewish identity, he wrote, “My identity is a conflicted and messy mix that incorporates Judaism, atheism, anti-Zionism, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs. And yet I both routinely reject and embrace them all.”

He’s also a darn good writer.

While he boasts an impressive collection of bylines in prestigious publications, Loewenstein has largely been relegated to the sidelines of mainstream journalism, much like the muckrakers before him.

“Far too few reporters demand transparency or challenge capitalism, preferring instead to operate comfortably within it,” he observes in his book. “This work is an antidote to such thinking… This book considers the view from below, the experiences of people who are all too often invisible in the daily news cycle.”

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

IMAGE: Vehicles of the Iraqi security forces move toward Falluja on the outskirts of the city in Iraq, June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Steve Bannon’s Intellectual Influences Are Mostly Fascists And White Supremacists

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Steve Bannon just can’t help himself. The president’s chief strategist, and former executive chair of Breitbart News, has repeatedly cited fascists and white supremacists without compunction or even discretion.

A recent investigation by the Huffington Post exposed how Bannon’s fondness for The Camp of the Saints, an obscure French novel that portrays a race war between the “civilized” white West and the evil brown hordes of the so-called East. The Huffington Post even highlighted several interviews in 2015 and 2016 in which Bannon compared global politics and the refugee crisis to the plot of the book, which has been likened to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The Camp of the Saints, which takes its title from the Bible, was written by ultra-reactionary French author Jean Raspail, who openly describes himself as a “royalist” who wants to restore the Catholic monarchy. In the book, he describes hordes of Indians trying to conquer white Western Christendom as “thousands of wretched creatures” and “turd-eaters.”

The Huffington Post described the novel Bannon admires as “nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within.”

Yet Bannon’s admiration of The Camp of the Saints is by no means an isolated example of his extreme far-right politics. The New York Times pointed out that Trump’s right-hand man cited Nazi-affiliated Italian philosopher Julius Evola in a 2014 speech at a Christian conference.

Benito Mussolini, the founder of Italian fascism, greatly admired Evola. The Italian leader of the extreme right-wing Traditionalist movement wrote for fascist publications and journals, espousing anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian ideas. Evola was virulently racist and anti-Semitic and openly claimed that non-European races were inferior. He also condoned patriarchal domination of women and advocated rape.

A big fan of Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, Evola spent years in Nazi Germany, where he gave lectures. He personally welcomed Mussolini to the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s military headquarters. In a post-war trial in 1951, Evola denied being part of Mussolini’s fascist movement, which was apparently not bombastic enough for his tastes; instead, he proudly declared himself to be a “superfascist.”

Neo-fascist leader Richard Spencer told the Times he was excited that Bannon knew of Evola.

“It means a tremendous amount,” Spencer said, adding that Trump’s chief strategist “is at least open to them.”

AlterNet previously reported on Bannon’s 2014 speech, in which he described his belief in an intractable violent conflict between the “enlightened” Christian West and the forces of Islam, secularism, and socialism.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict,” Bannon warned. “We are in an outright war against jihadists, Islam, Islamic fascism.”

He condemned the “immense secularization of the West” and the increasing secularism among millennials, and insisted that Christians must “bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the Church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity.”

Right-wing pundit Glenn Beck went so far as to compare Bannon to the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, calling Bannon “quite possibly the most dangerous guy in all of American politics.”

Fascist forces in the West are not the only ones that find a kindred spirit in Bannon. His mortal enemy, Islamist extremists, share Bannon’s eschatological, clash-of-civilizations worldview — albeit from the opposite side. In fact, al-Qaeda identifies so much with Bannon’s ideas, it put him on the front page of an affiliated newspaper, al-Masra.

The genocidal Islamic State has made it clear that its goal is to destroy the so-called Grayzone, or space where Muslims are accepted in Western countries. Far-right leaders like Trump and Bannon—along with their extreme, anti-Muslim counterparts Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and beyond—help extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda fulfill their missions.

ISIS has rejoiced at Trump’s presidential victory. An ISIS-affiliated media network said, in a translation quoted by the Washington Post, “Trump’s win of the American presidency will bring hostility of Muslims against America as a result of his reckless actions, which show the overt and hidden hatred against them.”

Before becoming Trump’s right-hand man in the Oval Office, and CEO of Trump’s campaign before that, Bannon was previously chair of the far-right website Breitbart News, where he was also a founding board member. Bannon proudly described Breitbart as “the platform for the alt-right,” using the popular euphemism for the white supremacist movement led by neo-fascists like Richard Spencer.

Spencer, who adores Trump, is an avowed white supremacist who coined the term “alt-right” and edits a website of the same name, where he published an article justifying “black genocide” and pondering “the best and easiest way to dispose” of “the Black race.”

At a white supremacist “alt-right” conference in Washington, D.C. in November, Spencer was caught on camera shouting “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” — a reference to the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil.”

The Huffington Post created a video compiling Bannon’s references to these far-right, fascist, white supremacist thinkers and views. You can watch it below.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

IMAGE: Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

St. Louis Manifest: The Tragic Story Of Refugees Denied Entry To The U.S. In WWII

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Hundreds of Jewish refugees were turned away by the U.S. government on the eve of World War II, and as a result, many went on to perish in the Holocaust’s horrifying concentration camps. St. Louis Manifest, a powerful new Twitter project that takes its name from the vessel bearing that precious human cargo, pays homage to its victims as the U.S. and other European countries ban Muslims fleeing catastrophic wars fueled by the West.

In May 1939, the MS St. Louis traveled from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba. Nearly all of the ship’s 937 passengers were Jewish, most of them German citizens trying to escape the Nazi regime. Cuba, which was a virtual U.S. colony at the time, refused to accept most of the refugees. Right-wing newspapers and politicians stoked fear and paranoia about the asylum-seekers, claiming they were communist infiltrators.

After Cuba turned them away, the ship’s passengers contacted U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, requesting asylum. He declined to respond. The State Department and the White House decided to reject them, acting on strict immigration quotas and pervasive xenophobic sentiment. The refugees were forced to return to war torn Europe, where hundreds died.

St. Louis Manifest puts a human face to the refugees who were turned away, using photos and stories documented by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The project was launched on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the day in 1945 when Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp, was liberated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army.

Russel Neiss, a St. Louis-based Jewish educator and activist, co-created St. Louis Manifest with Charlie Schwartz, a rabbi in Cambridge, Massachusetts. AlterNet interviewed Neiss via email.

“It was made on a whim last night over the course of about two hours,” Neiss said, referring to Thursday, January 26. “Its primary purpose is to honor the memory of a small sliver of the 10 million victims of the Nazis on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

Far-right political movements and anti-refugee xenophobia are on the rise across the West, amidst the worst refugee crisis since World War II. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, January 27, President Donald Trump signed an explicitly racist executive order banning refugees and barring nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., including those with green cards and visas.

Neiss drew parallels between the plight of Jewish refugees who were turned away 80 years ago and the Muslim refugees fleeing Western-backed wars today.

“‘We Remember’ and ‘Never Again’ ought to be more than empty platitudes,” he said.

Neiss condemned the Zionist Organization of America in particular for its anti-refugee stance. Leading pro-Israel groups have jumped on the Trump bandwagon and either expressed support for, or remained silent on Trump’s extreme anti-Muslim, anti-refugee policies. The Zionist Organization of America even hosted Steve Bannon, a far-right racist who has been accused of anti-Semitism, to speak at its gala.

Neiss also criticized the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, “for their silence on the issue.”

“If the goal of these organizations actually means ‘Never Again,’ and ‘We Remember,’ they ought to do something to prove it,” he said.

“The Anti Defamation League has been the only mainstream Jewish group to have taken a pro-refugee stand on this issue and they ought to be commended,” Neiss added.

The anti-Muslim sentiment that plagues the U.S. and Europe today echoes the anti-Semitism of the early 20th century. In fact, many of today’s Islamophobic myths employ the same language as the anti-Semitic stereotypes of yesteryear.

In World War II, the Nazis and their fascist allies killed more than six million Jews in one of the worst genocides in human history. They also murdered millions of communists, socialists, anarchists, labor organizers, feminists, Romanis, people of African descent, homosexuals, and the disabled. Nazi Germany was only defeated through the enormous sacrifices of the Soviet Union. At least 26 million Soviets—more than half of them civilians—lost their lives in the fight against Nazism. In contrast, just around 400,000 Americans and 400,000 Britons died in the war.

Some 20 million Chinese, more than three-quarters of whom were civilians, also died in the war against the fascist Japanese empire, which was allied with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

IMAGE: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum