Rights & Justice
War & Peace
Wonder Wart-Hog, an underground comic book character akin to Kissinger

A Rank Immunity: Henry Kissinger Is Still A War Criminal

When he turned a deeply unjust 100 last week, U.S. media feted Dr. K as an urbane "elder statesman" who wielded power "with wisdom and compassion." WTF, said a horrified world that recalled "history's bloodiest social climber," "one of the 20th century's most prolific butchers," and a pitiless strategist for American empire-building. Hence the rise of caustic sites like "Is Henry Kissinger Dead?" Given a "back-of-the-envelope" body count of 3 or 4 million, they argue, "The least he could do is add his own body to it."

The stomach-churning, history-revising hoopla surrounding Kissinger's 100th birthday offered more grievous proof if we needed it there is "precious little true justice in the world." Despite estimates he left up to four million dead in the wake of his often illegal actions around the world, "one of the most decorated war criminals in 20th century history” remains not only hale but held to no account, swathed in the silken world of wealth and power - "Don't you love to hurt the weak?" - and free to celebrate his heedless decades of support for "brutal dictators, brutal regimes, brutal wars...without an arrest warrant or war crimes tribunal in sight." Vapid mainstream accounts described a former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State - Nixon and Ford - who has "continued to hold sway over Washington’s power brokers," is "still active in global affairs," and "maintains an international consulting business"; predictably, given his famed duplicity, the accounts fail to name which small, frail democracies he's now working to bomb or undermine. There's his flight as a teenager from Nazi Germany, his "major foreign policy events" like Middle East "shuttle diplomacy" and detente with China and Russia, his jet-setter, "playboy of the Western Wing” status among "America's schmanciest people," who regularly, politely decline to mention his monstrous record.

Amnesiac accolades have long extended across the social and political spectrum, from the Playboy Mansion to Hillary Clinton, who called Kissinger "a really good friend" to Gerald Ford, who deemed him, "An elder statesman who wielded America’s great power with wisdom and compassion in the service of peace" - laughable if not for the "Everest-sized mountain" of dead bodies" left in the wake of his bloody, decades-long policies. Despite those bodies, he remains untouchable in a nation where the rich and powerful champion him as "an asset and not an aberration" for his ceaseless support of empire, from Southeast Asia to Latin America to the Middle East. Given this unconscionable moral and legal pass, Dr. K has remained an obdurate, remorseless "stranger to shame," denying all criminality in a long criminal career. He's never apologized for or even questioned his complicity with Nixon to "just cream the fuckers" in the carnage of Vietnam - its lies and miscalculations, its up to two million Vietnamese civilian deaths, its napalm-seared children and ravaged villages and vast devastation from what he boasted was "wave after wave of planes," the dead and maimed U.S. soldiers he deemed “dumb, stupid animals to be used." his complicity with Nixon to "just cream the fuckers" On all those crimes against humanity - a fraction of the ghastly whole - he says, "I fail to see the moral issue."

Of course not only did he help Nixon sabotage peace talks to end a war he'd stoked and lied about, but Kissinger orchestrated the savage, illegal expansion of the war into Cambodia, personally approving each of 3,875 bombing raids - after his chilling call to hit "anything that moves" - against a neutral country we were not at war with. From 1969 to 1973, formerly classified U.S. military documents reveal, the rabid U.S. campaign dropped 540,000 tons of bombs that killed between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians, far more than the U.S. ever acknowledged, in a vain effort to destroy alleged enemy supply lines and otherwise put pressure on an intractable Vietnam. As he argued, “I refuse to believe a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point." He was very hands-on - "Strike here in this area" - and very enthused - "K really excited," wrote a Nixon aide - with records of the illegal attacks assiduously burned. The decimation he undertook, in turn, hastened the overthrow of the Cambodian government by a genocidal Khmer Rouge that killed at least two million Cambodians. There, too, there has been no renunciation: Last week, in an interview with ABC's Ted Koppel, who once called Kissinger “the most admired man in America, the best thing we’ve got going for us" and who now dared to question the "criminality" of Cambodia, the great man sniffed, "It was a necessary step."

Pol Pot's "killing fields" and desperate choppers fleeing Saigon were only the start, a bloody glimpse of the coups, lies, extrajudicial wars and bolstering of tyrants in America's long tradition of toppling governments for corporate profit in the name of defending "freedom." For decades, Dr. K played a vital role in nearly every conflict the U.S. took part in: Indonesia’s massacre in East Timor, Pakistan’s in Bangladesh, Latin America's Operation Condor that helped dictators "disappear" each other's opponents, Argentina's Dirty War - the warning to expect "a good deal of blood" met with, "If there are things that have to be done, do them quickly" - and Chile's "insidious" democratic election of Socialist Salvador Allende, who the CIA overthrew in 1973 to usher in Augusto Pinochet's 20-plus years of fascist terror. On a 1976 visit, Kissinger told Pinochet, "You did a great service to the west." He is not "singularly responsible for the evolution of the U.S. national security state into a monstrosity," writes Greg Grandin, author of “Kissinger’s Shadow. "But his example, especially his steadfast support for bombing as an instrument of 'diplomacy,' has coursed through the decades, shedding a spectral light on the road that has brought us to a state of eternal war." Proposing a 1975 intervention in Cyprus, Dr. K summed up his approach: “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

Inevitably, Kissinger's chaos-spawning practice of subverting or unseating those he views as inimical to American interests - geopolitical rivals, progressive revolutions, insurgencies in unhappily occupied countries, balky electorates in key client states - has played out in a moneyed, perennially unstable Middle East, where in the name of power and petrodollars he counseled U.S. administrations to "capitalize on continuing hostilities” - fueling the fires by helping sell so many arms to so many Gulf states "the proxy wars in the Middle East could last for years." And they have. He urged the removal of Saddam Hussein and the “surgical destruction of Iraq’s military assets”; Dick Cheney said, “I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more (than) anybody else." He propped up and fawned over the Shah of Iran, but when they went to war with Iraq wistfully mused, "Too bad they both can't lose." He forged an "iron-clad alliance" with a brutal House of Saudi, then ceaselessly funneled arms and money to support their atrocity-filled war on Yemen. He sold out the Kurds, wondered, "Can’t we overthrow one of the sheikhs just to show we can do it? How about Abu Dhabi?", and baited fellow hawks with Cold War rhetoric about “abdication" and "consequences" in support of dubious interventions and repressive regimes "to ensure favorable conditions for American investors in as much of the world as possible."

Always, en route, he made millions. Over four decades, the globe-spanning consulting work of Kissinger Associates has epitomized the queasy convergence of U.S. corporate and governmental power in both foreign and domestic policy, a symbol of the profitable status quo with no thorny questions asked. Merging his public policy clout with savvy business advice, he's guided behemoths like American Express, Lehman Brothers, Merck, JP Morgan to massive profits as a top strategist for America’s empire. At the same time, he's guarded the secrecy of his "client list" so fiercely that when questions arose - what conflicts of interest? - he resigned as head of George Bush's 9/11 Commission rather than reveal it. Just as consistently, Grandin writes, Kissinger's zealous support for "American interests" no matter the human cost - and his utter lack of consequences for any crimes committed in pursuit of them - further affirms, "The United States can do whatever it wants in the rest of the world." “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Grandin notes Barack Obama once said, thus "offering Kissinger his retroactive absolution" for a lifetime of questionable military adventures and cementing the swaggering belief an unaccountable U.S. has the right to violate the sovereignty of any country. "Here, then, is a perfect expression of American militarism’s unbroken circle."

Still, the tributes poured in last week when the "political genius" and "great sports enthusiast" turned 100, with no unseemly mention of war crimes to be heard. The Post let his son David Kissinger tout his dad's "rare brain," "unflagging energy" and glad longevity thanks to "a diet heavy on bratwurst and Wiener schnitzel." Dr K will enjoy “centennial celebrations (from) New York to London (to) his hometown of Fürth, Germany,” he said, adding his dad's "force of character" helped him outlive "most of his peers, eminent detractors and students." Among the detractors was the late Anthony Bourdain, who in his 2001 book A Cook's Tour famously wrote, "Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands"; he ripped a "treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag" who ravaged and "threw to the dogs" a country "still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg." After a kick-off event at NYC's Yale Club, Bourdain's fury was bitterly echoed when a Vox writer queried what readers wanted to ask the famed perp: “How does he sleep at night? Can he feel the flames of hell gently tickling his toes? Whose organs did he steal? What do you think your eternal punishment will entail? Which circle of hell do you think is waiting for you?"

Those sentiments animate multiple parody sites eagerly awaiting the great "statesman"'s demise. And no, they insist, despite the left's mandate to be tolerant, none of them are as tasteless as "the amount of blood on Kissinger's hands." “I think Americans in particular are very susceptible to this very stupid idea that it's bad to celebrate the death of an evil person," said a Peruvian law student who runs Is Henry Kissinger Dead? Its posts run the gamut from "NO" and "NOOOOO" to "Soon please God" and, in March, "He is going to make it to 100 FOR FUCK'S SAKE." Others argue Kissinger's "firm refusal to die" through a long career "devoted to destroying every foreign democracy that posed even a minor threat to U.S. hegemony" represents "evil forces bigger than you." To help balance the scales, online charity death pools like Henry Kissinger RIP offer prizes - donations to organizations that undo some of the damage of U.S. imperialism, a “selection of liquors" from countries where Kissinger overthrew elected leaders - to whomever accurately predicts his death day. Facts owe: Despite years of rehabilitation efforts and preposterous declarations like John McCain's, at Dr. K's 90th birthday, that "I know of no individual who is more respected in the world," that "rare and foul beast" Kissinger remains for much of the world a reviled war criminal who "should be ashamed to be seen in public."

He does, in fact, need to think twice before traveling; in recent years, he has avoided visiting several countries, including Chile and Brazil, for fear of being charged with war crimes. In this country, for those of a certain age and political leaning, he often summons Gilbert Shelton's 1962 underground comic-book character "Wonder Wart-Hog," a far-right "Hog of Steel" whose "excessive force often (goes) overboard." All told, he remains wholly unrepentant, stunningly resistant to moral nuance, and awash in a blind hubris so enduring and over-arching he can still babble about his "public honor" and losing a brutish war in Vietnam, not because it was unholy but because, "I didn't have enough power." "Does Henry Kissinger Have A Conscience?" asked one New Yorker profile. Evidently not. Most fundamentally, writes Ben Burgis in Jacobin, it's vital to remember that "Kissinger isn't the only Kissinger." The fact he's free and celebrated isn't an oversight, he stresses, but a symptom of "a much deeper pathology," an American empire that rages and lumbers on. "The ugliest truth about Kissinger is that he isn’t a unique monster," he argues. "He is an unusually plainspoken representative of a monstrous system of US global hegemony...There may be something almost demonic in how unabashed Dr K is about his crimes. But when it comes to his basic willingness to disregard legal and moral obstacles (to) the U.S. working its will in the world? It's Kissingers all the way down."

“His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs; strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand.” - Christopher Hitchens in "The Trial of Henry Kissinger."

Henry Kissinger is 100 and still free, somehow | The Mehdi Hasan Showyoutu.be

Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger shake hands in 1976Kissinger and Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet shake bloody hands in 1976.Photo from National Security Archive

President Joe Biden

Funding Poland LNG Project Would Break Another Biden Climate Promise, Warns Group

Climate campaigners on Thursday said that within days, President Joe Biden's promises to end public finance for fossil fuel projects may prove empty if plans that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation has indicated it has for an LNG project in Poland come to fruition.

The DFC, which oversees U.S. investments in development projects in lower- and middle-income countries, listed on its pending project list on May 23 a $500 million guarantee to support the Polish oil and gas company PKN Orlen to increase its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.

The pending transaction was listed ahead of the DFC's board meeting, which is scheduled for June 7.

Oil Change International (OCI) noted that the LNG listing was removed on May 30, but the "public information summary" remained live as of Thursday, suggesting the board could still approve the project.

The project, which would involve Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs helping the company to increase its imports, would be in direct contradiction to President Joe Biden's statement at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021 that his administration would end public finance for fossil fuel development after 2022.

"President Biden has cited his promise to end international public funding for fossil fuels as a sign of his ongoing commitment to climate leadership, even as he boosts fossil fuels and breaks many of his core climate promises at home," said Collin Rees, U.S. program manager at OCI. "The Development Finance Corporation approving this dirty project would show once and for all these claims are nothing but empty words."

"LNG is a false solution that will intensify the climate crisis and increase the world's dependence on fossil fuels."

LNG is gas that has been cooled and liquefied after being extracted by drilling or fracking. As Common Dreamsreported in April, 116 climate action groups wrote to Biden ahead of the Group of 7 (G7) climate and energy meeting in Japan last month to warn that "the global LNG boom" must be stopped.

Campaigners say the continued expansion of LNG would harm communities that lie near fracking and drilling sites as well as LNG export terminals, while disregarding the warnings of scientists and energy experts who are unequivocal in their warnings that new fossil fuel extraction projects have no place on a pathway to keeping planetary heating under 2°C above preindustrial temperatures.

"If approved, this $500 million climate-wrecking handout would further threaten the air, land, and water of frontline communities in the United States and in Poland, making a mockery of Biden's purported commitment to environmental justice," said Rees. "A rapid buildout of 100% renewable energy is the only pathway to global energy security."

The DFC's potential approval of the project would mark the second time in less than a month that the Biden administration has agreed to finance new fossil fuel development. In May the U.S. Export-Import Bank approved nearly $100 million for the Balikpapan oil refinery in Indonesia.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel also spoke at a recent Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference about a proposal for an 807-mile gas pipeline across Alaska and an LNG export terminal that he claimed would be in the United States' economic and national security interests.

"LNG is a false solution that will intensify the climate crisis and increase the world's dependence on fossil fuels," wrote Kay Brown, Arctic policy director for Pacific Environment, at Common Dreams on Thursday. "LNG is methane compressed and chilled to make it easier to transport. Methane emissions are 80 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, in the short term."

While Biden said at COP26 and at the G7 meeting that he is committed to ending public financing for fossil fuel projects past 2022, the White House has not released guidance outlining how that promise will be kept.

"Biden's refusal to publish public guidance upholding the international fossil fuel pledge is enabling DFC to keep funding dirty fossil fuel expansion," said Rees. "In removing this massive handout to the U.S. LNG industry from its pending project list, DFC is following Biden's lead and keeping ongoing fossil fuel support hidden from the public eye."

​94-year-old Edward Bates receives a meal delivery from the Wyandanch Nutritional Center in Wyandanch, New York on March 17, 2020.

Among the GOP's Debt Ceiling Hostages? Social Security Payments for Oldest Americans

As the U.S. edges closer to a self-inflicted economic disaster whose most immediate cause is House Republicans' refusal to raise the debt ceiling unless President Joe Biden agrees to slash social programs and give the fossil fuel industry more handouts, the earliest potential victims of the GOP's hostage situation—which could provoke the nation's first-ever default as early as June 1—are coming into view.

"Seniors nationwide are on the frontlines of the fight to raise the debt ceiling, because if the federal government can't make a June 2 payment slated for Social Security recipients, the oldest beneficiaries—those over 88—and people with disabilities will be the first to suffer," The Washington Postreported Wednesday amid ongoing negotiations. "Roughly $98 billion worth of benefits, including Medicare, Medicaid, and military and civil retirement payments, are scheduled to go out in the first two days of June, according to an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center."

"Social Security benefits are distributed four times a month, but the earliest round of payments go to retirees older than 88 years, as well as people with disabilities and seniors with especially low incomes—and less than $2,000 in assets—who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)," the Post noted. "Even a weeklong holdup, economists say, could be devastating for the roughly 27 million Americans who rely on Social Security for most of their income. Food insecurity and poverty rates will almost certainly rise, and people will probably forgo medical treatments, as families struggle to make do without necessities."

"There's no fallback if these checks are late," Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the newspaper. "These are people who are literally not allowed to have emergency savings."

Progressives have long accused House Republicans, who know full well that failing to increase the federal government's arbitrary and arguably unconstitutional borrowing limit prior to the quickly approaching default "X-date" would unleash devastating impacts domestically and globally, of weaponizing the nation's credit rating to advance their reactionary agenda. With a five-seat House majority and the ability of any party member to introduce a motion to remove the speaker—a rule the far-right Freedom Caucus secured in exchange for electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to the role—the GOP has significant leverage over the fate of the U.S. and world economy.

Earlier this week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) admitted that his party, led by the House Freedom Caucus to which he belongs, is exploiting the ongoing standoff in a bid to gut the nation's already meager welfare state and weaken its embryonic climate policies.

Referring to the austerity-or-default bill House Republicans approved last month, Gaetz told reporters, "My conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage."

Soon after the passage of the Limit, Save, Grow Act, the White House abandoned Biden's earlier refusal to hold debt ceiling negotiations and began signaling its openness to certain GOP proposals, only for McCarthy to make even more extreme ransom demands and constantly move the goal posts.

As the Post reported: "Republicans in Congress have maintained that they don't want to cut Social Security benefits, though at least one recent budget blueprint calls for raising the eligibility age for full retirement from 67 to 70 to account for longer life expectancies. The GOP has also proposed a host of cuts and additional work requirements for other federal benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps, that experts say would have an outsize impact on the country's seniors."

In a Thursday statement, Accountable.US spokesperson Liz Zelnick said that "every option on the table from the MAGA House majority leaves millions of vulnerable seniors worse off—either extreme cuts against seniors' health and food security, or a manufactured default crisis that delays Social Security checks many can't live without."

Biden and House Republicans have yet to reach an agreement. According to Thursday reporting from The Associated Press on the contours of a possible deal, the GOP may abandon its demand to further boost military spending in favor of maintaining the already historically high levels proposed by Biden, while Biden may agree to roll back Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding if the GOP lets his administration funnel that money into the social safety net.

The fact that Capitol Hill's deficit hawks are eager to attack the poor but don't support reducing the ever-expanding Pentagon budget or hiking taxes on corporations and the rich to increase revenue exposes the "fraudulent" nature of their current crusade, journalist David Sirota tweeted.

Rescinding the recently enacted IRS funding boost would help wealthy households evade taxes, adding an estimated $114 billion to the federal deficit. Meanwhile, House Republicans are reportedly working on legislation that would make permanent certain provisions in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a Trump-era law whose benefits have flowed overwhelmingly to the top 1% while adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit.

On Thursday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) sounded the alarm about House Republicans leaving the Capitol with no debt limit agreement reached just days before the X-date.

Tlaib, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), was echoing warnings made Wednesday by CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), both of whom said that some Republicans are eager to create an economic crisis because they think it would help their electoral chances next year.

Notably, the latest episode of fiscal brinkmanship could have been avoided had Democrats listened to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other progressives who called on the party to raise the debt ceiling—or abolish it altogether—when it still controlled both chambers of Congress last year.

Corporate Democrats refused to act during the lame-duck session despite Warren's warning that GOP lawmakers desperate to win the White House in 2024 will "blow up the economy" and run ads blaming Biden for it.

A growing number of congressional lawmakers—including prominent progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—have implored Biden to invoke his 14th Amendment authority to unilaterally avert a default, an option the president has thus far resisted.

On Thursday, Social Security Works and Indivisible led more than 30 progressive advocacy groups in urging Biden to take executive action to disarm the debt ceiling.

"The choice facing the executive branch is clear: Act or default; act or increase the suffering of millions; act or go into economic tailspin," says the letter. "If Republicans in Congress prove unwilling or unable to produce the votes for a bill that avoids default without catastrophic cuts to critical programs, it will fall to you to protect working families from their economic sabotage."

"You have promised to prevent a default, without granting legitimacy to the legislative hostage-taking being undertaken by congressional Republicans," the letter concludes. "Fortunately, the 14th Amendment provides a clear route for you to deliver on that promise. We will stand with you should that route prove necessary."

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) joined Senate Republicans in voting to take away student debt relief on June 1, 2023.

Manchin, Tester, and Sinema Join Senate GOP in 'Cruel' Vote to Repeal Biden Student Debt Relief

Economic justice advocates cried foul Thursday after the U.S. Senate passed legislation that aims to block President Joe Biden's pending student debt cancellation plan and reverse already-delivered relief.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), along with right-wing Independent Sen. Krysten Sinema (Ariz.), joined Senate Republicans in supporting H.J. Res. 45.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which House Republicans approved last week with the help of Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), passed the Senate by a margin of 52-46. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Mark Warner (Va.) didn't vote. The White House has vowed to veto the measure.

Passage of the legislation elicited a firestorm of criticism from progressive advocates and lawmakers.

"Forty-five million people with student loan debt will never forget when politicians, led by Republican extremists, went out of their way to push millions of working families, including their own constituents, into economic catastrophe by passing this reckless CRA resolution," Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) executive director Mike Pierce said in a statement.

"The American people are watching and expect President Biden to keep his promise to veto this horrendous bill."

The Biden administration's popular move to erase up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of federal borrowers with individual incomes below $125,000 and to improve the income-driven repayment (IDR) program is currently on hold as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of deeply flawed legal challenges. A decision in the case is expected sometime this month, but right-wing lawmakers are doing everything in their power to sink the president's relief initiative regardless of how the high court rules.

Last week, the SBPC and the American Federation of Teachers warned of the "ruinous impact" H.J. Res. 45 would have on millions of working-class households nationwide, with AFT president Randi Weingarten condemning it as "an immoral clawback of the absolute worst kind."

In addition to blocking the potential cancellation of up to $20,000 in student debt per eligible borrower as well as money-saving changes to the IDR program, the CRA resolution would nullify the seventh and possibly eighth extensions of the federal student loan payment freeze first enacted by President Donald Trump in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, it would retroactively undo several months of already-canceled payments and waived interest charges, immediately leaving tens of millions of people past due on their loans.

Furthermore, the CRA resolution seeks to reinstate the student debt of more than 260,000 public service workers whose loan balances have been wiped clean since September 2022. If that were to happen, a combined debt burden of nearly $20 billion, which amounts to more than $72,000 per person, would be put back on the shoulders of teachers, nurses, first responders, and others who recently finished making 10 years of qualifying payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that was enacted on a bipartisan basis in 2007 and streamlined by the Biden administration in 2021.

"Despite right-wing proponents' attempts to gaslight their own colleagues and the American people on the impact of this bill, this effort would push hundreds of thousands of public service workers back into debt and require the government to charge tens of millions of borrowers for interest that has already been canceled," said Pierce. "If enacted, it will cause irreparable damage to an already severely broken student loan system and undermine Americans' trust in our government."

"Today's vote makes crystal clear exactly who stood up and fought to protect the economic livelihoods of millions of people with student loan debt—and who schemed to keep them drowning in the debt despair of our nation's student loan crisis," he added. "The American people are watching and expect President Biden to keep his promise to veto this horrendous bill and deliver on his promise of student loan debt relief once and for all."

Ahead of a Wednesday vote to bring H.J. Res. 45 to the Senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that "Republicans in Congress have shown time and time again that they'd much rather deliver relief to giant corporations and protect tax cheats than help working Americans whose biggest sin was trying to get an education."

On Thursday, the Massachusetts lawmaker called the bill's passage "shameful," and expressed confidence that Biden "will veto" it. Congress doesn't appear to have the two-thirds majority in each chamber needed to override a veto.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a senior member and former chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, stressed that "this Republican bill wouldn't only rip away relief for borrowers who qualify under the president's plan."

"This CRA could impact the pause on loan payments and cause major problems for borrowers who have received relief through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment programs," Murray continued. "That means these Republican efforts could create the perfect storm for more than 260,000 public service workers who have already earned relief."

"Today's vote makes crystal clear exactly who stood up and fought to protect the economic livelihoods of millions of people with student loan debt—and who schemed to keep them drowning."

"If Republicans were to get their way and pass this bill into law," she added, "people across the country would have relief they are counting on snatched away from them, plans they have made upended, less money in their pockets, and monthly payments not just abruptly restarted—but maybe even abruptly jacked up by hundreds of dollars."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the HELP committee, echoed that sentiment.

"Republicans' cruel attempt to stand in the way of President Biden's plans to provide relief to tens of millions of Americans suffering under the crushing weight of student loan debt is damaging to our economy and wildly out of touch with the financial realities facing working families," said Markey.

"The loan forgiveness the president is proposing would mean the difference between buying a home, starting a business, and getting an economic leg up for nearly 50 million working and middle-class Americans, particularly for borrowers of color and their families," he concluded. "If you kicked Republicans in the heart, you'd break your toe."

Fukushima protest

'Simply Inconceivable' to Dump Fukushima Water in Pacific, Critics Say After Latest IAEA Report

Critics of a Japanese plan to release filtered radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean intensified their opposition to the proposal on Wednesday after the United Nations agency responsible for promoting nuclear energy said the company that operated the plant has adequately demonstrated its ability to measure the water's radioactivity.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week released a report that found the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)—the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that was catastrophically damaged during a 2011 meltdown in three reactors caused by an earthquake and tsunami—"has demonstrated its capabilities for accurate and precise measurements of the radionuclides present in the treated water stored on site."

While proponents of the Japanese government's 2021 proposal to gradually release more than 1 million metric tons of filtered Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific view the IAEA's latest findings as a milestone on the road toward realizing the plan, opponents renewed their calls to keep the radioactive water out of the ocean.

"It's applying a 19th-century 'dilution is the solution to pollution' approach to a problem that really should be dealt with in a much more modern way."

"Piping water into the sea is an outrage. The sea is not a garbage dump," 71-year-old Haruo Ono, who has been fishing off the coast of Fukushima his entire life, toldCBS News. "The company says it's safe, but the consequences could catch up with us 50 years down the road."

Kinzaburo Shiga, a 77-year-old, third-generation fisher from Fukushima, toldCNN the government's plan makes his "blood boil."

"I know that the government has decided to go ahead with the policy of releasing treated wastewater into the sea, but for us fishers, it really feels like they made this decision without our full consent," he said.

Fears of radioactive contamination from the planned wastewater release have prompted protests from the governments of China, South Korea, some Pacific island nations, and international environmental groups like Greenpeace, which argues the proposal violates international law.

"Continuing with ocean discharge plans at this time is simply inconceivable," Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum intergovernmental group, wrote earlier this year. "I fear that, if left unchecked, the region will once again be headed towards a major nuclear contamination disaster at the hands of others."

Lee Jae-myung, a South Korean opposition lawmaker from the centrist Democratic Party, said earlier this month that "Japan is putting forward claims that the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, if treated, is safe enough to drink."

"If it is safe enough to drink, they should use it as drinking water," he added.

Last week, a team of 21 South Korean nuclear experts visited the Fukushima site to inspect equipment and facilities that would be used during the proposed wastewater release.

"This visit has made significant progress in the process of scientific and technological review through direct on-site confirmation and more detailed data acquisition, but additional analysis and confirmation work is planned for more precise judgment," said Yoo Gook-hee, head of the inspection team, according to World Nuclear News. "Based on this, we plan to comprehensively evaluate Japan's plans for Fukushima-related water pollution and disclose the results."

The Korea Heraldreported Wednesday that the team of experts would conduct an additional review.

The wastewater release plan has also sparked popular protests in South Korea, where 85% of people oppose the proposal, according to a survey released last week by the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements.

"The Pacific Ocean is not some dump where contaminated water from Fukushima can be deposited. Japan must comply with [United Nations] conventions and the U.N.'s vision of protecting the oceans," a coalition of South Korean activists said in a statement ahead of a May 22 demonstration in Seoul's Gwanghwamun Plaza, according toThe Hankyoreh.

"Since the Pacific is the largest ocean in the world, pollution in the Pacific would soon spread to every ocean in the world," the activists added.

Common Dreamsreported in 2012 that fish contaminated with radioactive cesium from Fukushima were found off the California coast months after the disaster.

Nuclear and public health experts have also weighed in against dumping radioactive wastewater into the ocean, even as others argued the plan poses "zero risk to human life."

Tilman Ruff, an Australian infectious diseases and public health physician who co-founded of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said during a Friday Australian Broadcasting Corporationinterviewthat dumping Fukushima water into the Pacific would be "a really unfortunate regressive step."

"It's applying a 19th-century 'dilution is the solution to pollution' approach to a problem that really should be dealt with in a much more modern way," he continued. "They haven't really considered adequate alternatives to store this water to use it in ways that don't have long-term transboundary and transgenerational impacts across the Pacific."

Ruff said the best course of action would be to "clean the water as best you can, then use it in concrete for structural applications like building foundations, bridges, under roads, where it's not gonna have a lot of contact with people, and where some of the important radioactive releases… will be trapped in the concrete, where it's much safer."

"There are also options of long-term storage, because radioactive materials decay over time," he added.

Marcos Orellana, the United Nations special rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, toldAl Jazeera earlier this month that he does not believe the IAEA is the neutral body it claims to be.

"The IAEA has a mandate to accelerate and enlarge peaceful atomic energy," he said. "Why would the IAEA, on the same day that Japan announced its decision to discharge the contaminated water... come out publicly in support of Japan?"

"How this impacts the food chain, how this impacts human health, this is not at all clear," Orellana added. "Alternatives are expensive, but even more expensive is the cost of contaminating the Pacific Ocean for hundreds of years with radioactive substances."

U.S. President Joe Biden greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a fist-bump at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 15, 2022.

US Sold Weapons to Roughly 60% of World's Authoritarian Nations in 2022: Analysis

President Joe Biden claims that the United States is leading "democracies" in a fight against "autocracies" to establish a peaceful international order, but his administration approved weapons sales to nearly three-fifths of the world's authoritarian countries in 2022.

That's according to a new analysis conducted by Security Policy Reform Institute co-founder Stephen Semler and published Thursday in The Intercept.

The U.S. has been the world's largest arms dealer since the end of the Cold War. Data released in March showed that the U.S. accounted for 40% of global weapons exports from 2018 to 2022.

As Semler explained:

In general, these exports are funded through grants or sales. There are two pathways for the latter category: foreign military sales and direct commercial sales.

The U.S. government acts as an intermediary for FMS acquisitions: It buys the materiel from a company first and then delivers the goods to the foreign recipient. DCS acquisitions are more straightforward: They're the result of an agreement between a U.S. company and a foreign government. Both categories of sales require the government's approval.

Country-level data for last year's DCS authorizations was released in late April through the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. FMS figures for fiscal year 2022 were released earlier this year through the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency. According to their data, a total of 142 countries and territories bought weapons from the U.S. in 2022, for a total of $85 billion in bilateral sales.

To determine how many of those governments were democratic and how many were autocratic, Semler relied on data from the Varieties of Democracy project at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, which uses a classification system called Regimes of the World.

"Of the 84 countries codified as autocracies under the Regimes of the World system in 2022, the United States sold weapons to at least 48, or 57%, of them," Semler wrote. "The 'at least' qualifier is necessary because several factors frustrate the accurate tracking of U.S. weapons sales. The State Department's report of commercial arms sales during the fiscal year makes prodigious use of 'various' in its recipients category; as a result, the specific recipients for nearly $11 billion in weapons sales are not disclosed."

"The Regimes of the World system is just one of the several indices that measure democracy worldwide, but running the same analysis with other popular indices produces similar results," Semler observed. "For example, Freedom House listed 195 countries and for each one labeled whether it qualified as an electoral democracy in its annual Freedom in the World report. Of the 85 countries Freedom House did not designate as an electoral democracy, the United States sold weapons to 49, or 58%, of them in fiscal year 2022."

Despite the White House's lofty rhetoric, it is actively bolstering the military power of a majority of the world's authoritarian countries, from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to dozens of others, including some overlooked by researchers at the University of Gothenburg.

For instance, the Varieties of Democracy project characterizes Israel as a "liberal democracy" even though human rights groups around the world have condemned it as a decidedly anti-democratic apartheid state. Washington, meanwhile, showers Israel with $3.8 billion in military support each year, resources that the government uses to violently dispossess and frequently kill Palestinians at will.

As Semler put it Saturday in his "Speaking Security" newsletter, "These findings fly in the face of Biden's preferred framing of international politics as a "battle between democracies and autocracies."

The president's narrative "lends itself more to a self-righteous foreign policy than an honest or productive one," Semler argued. "Dividing the world between democratic and autocratic countries—in the spirit of 'with us or against us'—makes conflict more likely and has had a chilling effect on calls for diplomacy and détente. It's also harder to cooperate with the international community while insisting you're locked in an existential fight with roughly half of them."