Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael
Taking a Human Rights-Centric Approach to Israel/Palestine w/ Zaha Hassan

Taking a Human Rights-Centric Approach to Israel/Palestine w/ Zaha Hassan

June 15, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, should the U.S. consider taking a different approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict? A new paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues it should and says that a more human rights-centric approach is necessary not only on moral grounds but also for national security reasons, civil liberties in the U.S., and the sake of U.S. foreign policy objectives trumpeted by the Biden administration concerning the re-establishment of America's leadership in a rules-based international order. Joining us to discuss the paper is one of its co-authors, Palestinian human rights lawyer Zaha Hassan. Please be sure to read the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace paper "Breaking the Israel-Palestine Status Quo" if you are interested in this conversation. We discussed a number of issues including the Occupied Territories, Gaza, the West Bank, changing attitudes about Israel/Palestine, settlements, and much, much more.

International Law and Israel/Palestine w/ UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk

International Law and Israel/Palestine w/ UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk

June 15, 2021

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NOTE: In the intro I repeatedly say "Palestinian Occupied Territories" when, to avoid confusion, I should have said "Occupied Palestinian Territories" to make clear that those territories are occupied by Israel.

On this edition of Parallax Views, we continue our exploration of the Israel/Palestine conflict. This time Canadian legal scholar and current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Since 1967 Michael Lynk joins us to discuss Israel/Palestine from the perspective of international law. We discuss issues like annexation, human rights abuses, the siege on Gaza, the West Bank, the work of previous UN Special Rapporteurs Richard Falk and John Dugard, the issue of permanent occupation. and taking a rights-based approach to Israel/Palestine. Also, in the intro find out why there was a lack of new shows last week. All that and more on this edition of Parallax Views.

The Iranian Elections, Gen. Soleimani, and Geopolitics w/ Arash Azizi

The Iranian Elections, Gen. Soleimani, and Geopolitics w/ Arash Azizi

June 10, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, the Iranian Presidential elections are coming up on June 18th, 2021. What to make of the election and the most likely successor to President Hassan Rhouhani, Ebrahim Raisi? Joining us to answer these questions as well as to delve into the life and assassination of General Qassam Soleimani is historian Arash Azizi, author of The Shadow Commander: Soleimani , the U.S. and Iran's Global Ambitions. Arash and I discuss discuss the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps., the IRGC's foreign policy goals, assessing the U.S. foreign policy towards Iran so far under the Biden administration, Arash's opinions about U.S. interventionism and his critique of U.S. progressives/the left on American foreign policy, and much, much more.

Israel/Palestine & the One Democratic State Campaign w/ Jeff Halper

Israel/Palestine & the One Democratic State Campaign w/ Jeff Halper

June 4, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, anthropologist Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the One Democratic State Campaign joins us to give a history lesson on Israel/Palestine as well as to discuss political Zionism vs. cultural Zionism, the issue of antisemitism, and his support of the the one-state solution calling for equal citizenship and rights. During the course of our conversation Jeff helps us understand some of the key points of his new book Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for One Democratic State as well as put to rest myths about Palestine peddled in books like Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial. All that and much more on this edition of Parallax Views.

Emily Wilder’s Firing by the Associated Press w/ Ari Paul

Emily Wilder’s Firing by the Associated Press w/ Ari Paul

June 4, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, Ari Paul of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) joins me to discuss the recent case of journalist Emily Wilder. Wilder had just graduated Stanford University and went to work for the Associated Press. Her tenure at AP would prove short-lived, however, after a campaign from Stanford Young Republicans and publications like The Federalist began attacking Wilder's integrity and objectivity as a journalist because of her activist activities as a university student in groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and pro-Palestinian groups. Wilder was fired by the AP shortly after the latest flare-up in Israel/Palestine. Was Wilder cancelled and what does her case mean for journalism?

Afghanistan, the U.S. Withdrawal, and  the War on Drugs w/ Inge Fyklund

Afghanistan, the U.S. Withdrawal, and the War on Drugs w/ Inge Fyklund

June 1, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, former Chicago prosecutor and current Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP; formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Dr. Inge Fryklund has extensive experience in Afghanistan having spent years in the country while working for USAID and the Marine Corps. Dr. Fyklund recently penned an op-ed for the Institute for Policy Studies' Foreign Policy in Focus project entitled "Decentralization Could Reduce Conflict in Postwar Afghanistan". In said op-ed she argues that the kind of local control permitted by Afghanistan's 2004 constitution, if put into practice, could protect women and minorities in Afghanistan if the scenario of a Taliban takeover of Kabul occurs in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal in September 2021.

I initially reached out to Dr. Fyklund to discuss this op-ed, however the focus of our conversation took a much broader tone as we delve into her work on Afghanistan as it relates to the U.S.'s longstanding "War on Drugs" since the Nixon Presidency and its effect on U.S. foreign policy. As those even slightly familiar with the country likely know, Afghanistan is known for it's involvement in poppy production and opium trade. Dr. Fyklund argues that U.S. domestic policy's hardline stance on drug trade has spilled over into U.S. foreign policy as it relates to Afghanistan. This, Dr. Fyklund believes, has been unnecessary and unbeneficial in the long-run.

In the course of this conversation Dr. Fyklund and I discuss her thoughts on Biden's planned withdrawal from Afghanistan and why decentralization could prevent the Taliban from taking full control of the country. Moreover, Dr. Fyklund and I take a deep dive into the issue of the War on Drugs and it's relationship to not just foreign policy in Afghanistan but also the problems it has caused domestically and for countries like Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador since its inception. In Dr. Fyklund's view the War on Drugs has done more harm than good and has even contributed to a driving a displacement crisis that has led to desperate immigrant refugees arriving at the U.S. border. In addition to these issues Dr. Fyklund and I discuss alternatives to the longstanding War on Drugs and why the War on Drugs could potentially be brought end in the future.

The Pro-Trump, ‘Anti-Deep State’ Deep State Plot Against Gen. McMaster? w/ Russ Baker

The Pro-Trump, ‘Anti-Deep State’ Deep State Plot Against Gen. McMaster? w/ Russ Baker

May 29, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, on May 13th, 2021 the New York Times published a tantalizing report by journalists Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti. "Activists and Ex-Spy Said to Have Plotted to Discredit Trump ‘Enemies’ in Government", read the eye-catching headline that promised to add yet another scandalous chapter to the already scandal-ridden story of the Trump Presidency.

Following the attention-grabbing headline, Goldman & Mazzetti, through documents and interviews, details a "campaign" by pro-Trump elements to discredit government officials perceived as potentially disloyal to the modus operandi of President Trump in the early years of his Presidency. Brining to mind Richard Nixon's "dirty tricks" and the tradition of what in D.C. slang has come to be known as political "ratf*cking, said campaign included a "planned sting operation against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster" and "secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees, aimed at exposing anti-Trump sentiment in the bureau’s ranks". According to Goldman & Mazzetti's reporting the plot involved former British spy Richard Seddon, controversial private security contractor Erik Prince of Blackwater infamy (and, for what it's worth, the younger brother of Trump's Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos), and operatives of Project Veritas, a right-wing conservative activist group founded by James O'Keefe and previously known for its operations against Planned Parenthood, ACORN, and others.

In regards specifically to the sting operation against Gen. McMaster, which involved what in intelligence circles is known as a "honey trap", the NYT story mentioned another player in this cast of character: Barbara Ledeen. A former GOP Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, Ledeen admits to at least a minor role in the plot against McMaster in the NYT report. However, she is only mentioned rather briefly in the article itself.

Investigative journalist Russ Baker, author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years and CEO/Editor-in-Chief of the news outlet WhoWhatWhy, joined me to discuss his recent article, co-authored with Matt Harvey, detailing how there may be another angle to explore in this story after taking a closer look at who Barbara Ledeen is and the circles she travels in. As Baker explains, Ledeen is the wife of one Michael Ledeen. Michael Ledeen, for the uninitiated is "a historian, campaign adviser, and freelance intelligence operative, who served as a consultant to the National Security Council and departments of State and Defense under Republican administrations" who figures into such political intrigues as the Iran/Contra affair and the Niger yellowcake forgeries that played a role in launching the Bush administration war on Iraq on the basis of that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

Michael Ledeen is part of a milieu that has come to be known as the Neoconservatives. The neocons reached the apex of their political influence during the Presidency of George W. Bush and took hawkish positions on Iraq, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East even prior to 9/11. Prominent elements of the movement included the Project for a New American Century think tank and long-time D.C. mainstays like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Elliot Abrams among others. 

In our conversation, Baker notes the complexity of this story and why the Ledeen connection matters. Chiefly, Baker points out the the Ledeens are heavily associated collaborators of Gen. Mike Flynn, who was fired from a prominent position under President Obama only to return to prominence under President Donald Trump. However, Flynn's return proved short-lived and he was ultimately replaced by Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Additionally, Baker discusses the issue of neoconservatism and its relation to Israel and Netanyahu's Likud Party. Specifically, neoconservatives take an approach of strong, hardline support to Israel. In fact, for some neocons, this support is so hardline that it has led to right-wing admonishments of generally Israel-friendly Presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for being perceived as not sufficiently supportive of Israel. McMaster, Baker, argues may, despite not having a particularly radical stance on Israel, be seen in this regard by some neocons.

Baker is quick to point out in our conversation that this discussion of neoconservatism and pro-Likud politics should not be used to support anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Instead he believes we should examined how the foreign policy ideas of neocons like the Ledeen and their relationship to Flynn may figure into the contour of a broader story about why politically right-wing elements in Washington, D.C. would seek to craft a sting operation against Gen. H.R. McMaster. And moreover how this plot against McMaster by alleged 'Anti-Deep State' elements may instead actually represent feuding factions of the deep state (by which, Russ points out, we mean the entrenched bureaucracy in D.C. rather than the lunatic fringe conspiracy theories of QAnon and its ilk).

All that and more on this edition of Parallax Views!

Leak Reveals Power Shift to Hardliners Ahead of Iranian Election w/ Gareth Porter

Leak Reveals Power Shift to Hardliners Ahead of Iranian Election w/ Gareth Porter

May 26, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, leaked material reveals a shift to hardliners ahead of the June 18th elections in Iran. Journalist Gareth Porter joins me to discuss this development as well as to cover the rocky history of U.S.-Iranian relations. During the course of our conversation Gareth and I delve into Iranian Foreign MinisterJavad Zarif conflicts with the late General Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and how Soleimani's death at the hands of a drone strike during Trump Presidency has effectively pushed many in Iran towards potentially voting for candidates that are opposed to negotiating a new deal with the U.S. In addition to this Gareth and I also delve into the history of the Iran nuclear program, Reagan vs. Iran, Soleimani vs. ISIS, Soleimani in Syria and Iraq, the tension between Shia principles and the IRGC, the JCPOA and Obama, and much, much more.

An Inside View of the UN and Sanctions w/ Hans-Christof Von Sponeck

An Inside View of the UN and Sanctions w/ Hans-Christof Von Sponeck

May 24, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Hans Von Sponeck joins us to discuss the nature of the United Nations as well as to provide his thoughts on the negative impacts of sanctions.

Hans begins by explaining how he became involved in the United Nations as a German in 1968. From there we delve into his insider's perspective of the United Nations and the difference between what he calls the "two UNs": the political UN (represented by the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and International Court of Justice) and the operational UN which is development-oriented and humanitarian. We then delve into the issues of and between developing nations and Western nations like the United States. In this regard we talk about the UN as a multinational body or "People's Organization" dealing with international law and its potentialities for global cooperation in a world facing global crises like climate change. In this regard Hans argues that an international body for the benefit of civil society, whether the UN or another organization, is necessary for our collective survival. In addition to all of this we delve into the issue of disinformation about the UN, the budget of the UN and lack of resources allocated to the organization, and related matters.

Late in the program we delve into Hans work in the UN as it related to Iraq and sanctions. Like Dennis Halliday, Von Sponeck would leave an important post at the UN in relation to Iraq in protest of the sanctions against Iraq. Hans respond to a study by the London School of Economics claiming that the UN, specifically UNICEF, was fooled by the Saddam Hussein regime on the issue of the sanctions (the claim being Hussein's regime "cooked the books" to make the impacts of sanctions look worse than they were). Hans also goes into details about the negative impacts of sanctions on Iraq that he bore witness to while in the UN.

During the course of our conversation Kofi Annan, John Bolton, and other figures makes appearances and Hans offers insider details about how the UN works and how it can be more effective as an institution in the future. The subject of sanctions seem particularly relevant given debates about the negative impacts of sanctions on countries like Iran, Syria, and Venezuela today as discussed by previous Parallax Views guests like UN Special Rapporteur on Sanction Prof. Alena Douhan and Brian McGlinchey of the The Stark Realities newsletter. We also discuss war and sanctions, foreign policy, political forces inside the UN, clashes on the 38th floor of the UN, the resignation of Dennis Halliday and himself from their positions, securing a better future for our children and grandchildren in our increasingly complex world, the shifting view of sanctions as an instrument, the importance of communication and dialogue, civil society and global policy issues, zero sums games vs. creating win-win situations, the integrated world we live in, and much, much more.

The Israel/Palestine Conflict, International Law, and Human Rights w/ John Dugard

The Israel/Palestine Conflict, International Law, and Human Rights w/ John Dugard

May 20, 2021

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On this edition of Parallax Views, we wrap up our series on the Israel/Palestine conflict with John Dugard, international law scholar and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in the Palestinian Territories. Born in South Africa, Prof. Dugard was a prominent critic of his home country's apartheid regime. His work on Israel/Palestine is particular of interest in light of the recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights organization B'tselem invoking apartheid in relation to Israel. Prof. Dugard invoked the question of apartheid years prior to the publication of either aforementioned report this year.

Dugard and I will be discussing a number of issues including the question of apartheid, the role of the international community in resolving this conflict long-term, why he believes the U.S. has disqualified itself as a broker of peace, the U.S. blocking of UN statements concerning the latest developments in the conflict, the International Criminal Court, right-wing demagoguery in Israeli politics, and much, much more. 

* Please note that this episode was recorded just hours before the announcement of the latest ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

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