There is something hugely hypocritical in the way that American political leaders and media pundits denounce the imprisonment of American citizens abroad, while staying silent about mass incarceration for similar offences in the US. Quite rightly, general outrage was expressed when the basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years imprisonment on drug charges in a Russian labour camp earlier this month.
Vice-President Kamala Harris was swift to hop on to her moral high horse, demanding that Griner “should be released immediately. POTUS [President Biden] and I, and our entire Administration, are working every day to reunite Brittney …with loved ones.”
Nothing wrong with protests over what looks like a nasty bit of Russian hostage taking, but not a word yet from the White House about an equally appalling case closer to home. This took place in Mississippi where the Supreme Court upheld in June a life sentence without parole for a man called Allen Russel who was convicted of possessing 43.71 grams of marijuana. On any given day, 374,000 Americans are in prison or jail for drug offences, often of the most minor kind.
I owe the above story to Jeffrey St Clair of CounterPunch who also gives a devastating quote from an interview with John Ehrlichman, former long-time senior lieutenant of President Nixon, about Republican strategy 50 years ago. It is not much different in its ultimate aims today:
“You want to know what this [war on drugs] was really all about?” Ehrlichman said. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
In case anybody in Britain should feel any sense of superiority compared to America after reading the above item, it is worth reflecting on the British kow-tow to Washington over the incarceration of Julian Assange.
Consider also the extraordinary report of the CIA plan to kidnap Assange from the Ecuador embassy which I wrote about here.
The latest violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has been largely ignored by the Western media so it is salutary – and alarming – to read this piece by somebody as well-informed as David Hearst.
He concludes that “if the campaign to defang the West Bank is clear, it is equally the case that such an operation would provoke the very uprising it is designed to stem. An armed uprising in the West Bank is no longer a matter of if, only when. This is not just a consequence of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, whose writ no longer runs in Jenin, or indeed Nablus. Both cities have formed their own brigades. […] Put simply, the West Bank is bristling with guns, most of which can be acquired easily on the Israeli market. A new generation of Palestinians is trading in their cars, careers and, ultimately, their own lives for them.
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