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Iraq works with Kurds to reduce tensions – lift sanctions

Iraq continues to approach the Kurdish question with far more grace than that which Spain has approached the Catalan issue.

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Iraq has consistently expressed its disapprobation in respect of the unilateral secession referendum in Kurdish regions of the country, which took place on the 25th of September.

Today, after a delegation of officials from Baghdad visited the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, both sides have confirmed that they have reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions.

While the full details of the agreement have not yet been disclosed, Baghdad has confirmed that it has lifted internal sanctions against autonomous Kurdish regions. It is also expected that Baghdad and Erbil will now reach an agreement on air traffic which Baghdad in cooperation with Iran and Turkey suspended over northern Iraq, shortly after the referendum vote.

This appears to be a first step in normalising the situation in Iraq, ever since the unilateral referendum caused Baghdad as well as Iraq’s neighbours, Iran and Turkey to threaten Kurdish regions of Iraq with a total embargo.

Today’s agreement is proof positive that Iraq has approached the Kudish issue with far more maturity, tact and pragmatism vis-a-vis the Spanish approach to the Catalan independence movement.

As I wrote yesterday in The Duran: 

Iraq and Middle East show more dignity over Kurds than Spain and EU show over Catalans

The Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Salim Jabouri has travelled to Erbil in northern Iraq, to meet with the Kurdish secessionist leader Masoud Barzani. The move comes as Iraq has made it clear that it will not tolerate secession, but will instead work to reach an agreement with Kurdish secessionists with the aim of preserving the status quo, wherein Kurds in norther Iraq had substantial autonomy within the framework of the Iraqi state.

Iraq and its neighbours have spoken with a singular voice on the issue. They have made it clear that they see Kurdish secessionism as a threat to the territorial unity of embattled states of the region and also a treat to regional security, not least because of Israel’s deep and dangerous connections with Kurdish nationalist movements. Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran have also spoken plainly of their legitimate fears that a Kurdish state would openly discriminate against Arabs and Turkomen in their borders, a fear which is based on present worrying trends of non-Kurds being systematically disenfranchised in Kurdish regions of both Iraq and Syria.

Not all secessionist movements can be viewed through the same prism nor be ultimately judged via a universal standard:

“In contemporary geo-politics, there are several varieties of such movements, each with unique characteristics.

1. The Reunification of Peoples 

In many ways, this ought to be the most clear-cut and least violent form of ‘independence’ movement, but history has proved that this is not always the case.

While the German people began a process of peacefully reuniting after November 1989, the single Korean people remain divided due to similar political considerations which once split Germany.

While the Korean War is effectively a frozen conflict, the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir face separation from their brethren in Pakistan due to the militant policies of successive Indian governments. In Jammu and Kashmir, violence and war is a daily fact due to India’s insistence that the Kashmiri people do not unite with their brethren in Pakistan.

In Crimea, Russians peacefully voted to reunite with the Russian Federation in 2014, but in other parts of the former Russian Empire and former Soviet Union, Russian refugees remain either ransom to foreign governments or in the case of many Russians in the Baltic states, they live as stateless people.

The votes in Donetsk and Lugansk for independence from the fascist Kiev regime are examples of an attempt to begin a peaceful reconciliation and re-unification process with other Russians, although the Donbass referenda also correlate to another kind of independence movement.

2. Independence for survival 

Prior to 2014, the Russian populations of Ukraine, were more or less comfortable with the uneasy balance of Ukrainian internal politics which was achieved by the Party of Regions which consistently won votes in Russian areas.

While The Party of Regions was committed to the unity of a Ukrainian state which artificially slammed together regions of historically rival nations, the Party of Regions worked within international institutions. in order to maintain an economic and free movement union with the fraternal Russian Federation.

This all changed drastically when the Kiev coup of 2014 put a regime in power which was and remains actively hostile to the Russians of Ukraine and to Moscow itself. Hence, the Donabss Republics were proclaimed after a democratic vote to separate from the Kiev regime.

3. Independence through terrorism 

The late 20th and 21st century has seen a number of independence movements which do not represent a significant majority of people in a given region, nor are they achieved peacefully or with any form of consent.

The classic example of this was the breakup of Yugoslavia where ultra-nationalists in Croatia, Bosnia and later the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija used violence, warfare and terrorism to break-up the unity of Yugoslavia a state whose federal model of third way socialism, was once a model for peaceful coexistence through a unifying state ideology and mutually shared prosperity.

However, foreign actors, particularly Germany, France, Britain and later the United States, aided militants and terrorists in their break-up of Yugoslavia.

Far from being an independence movement, the break-up of Yugoslavia evolved into an encircling attack on the Serbian populations of Yugoslavia. Serbs continue to be ethnically cleansed and disenfranchised in the occupied province of Kosovo and Metohija as well as in Republika Srpska which continents to shelter Serbs from the Bosnia regime in Sarajevo.

The former parts of Yugoslavia are without few if any exceptions, worse off today than they were prior to the wars and terror campaigns of the 1990s.

Likewise, in Pakistan, Baluchistan has been a hotbed of terrorism aimed at Pakistan, much of which is funded and aided by India.  Pakistan has continually warned India not to fund terrorist separatism in Baluchistan, but these warnings have been to little avail.

4. Geo-strategic/puppet independence movements 

The recent vote among Iraqi Kurds to separate from the rest of Iraq is a very clear example of a group of people using ethno-nationalism to weaken the geo-strategic positions and security of multiple nations, all while serving the imperialist agenda of a third power: Israel.

Israel is keen on carving out Kurdish statelets from Iraq and Syria in particular, in order to better realise the Yinon Plan to create a so-called Greater Israel at the expense of other states.

Something similar is happening in the west Balkans where Albanian terrorists are fomenting a campaign of ethno-nationalism. In using minority populations in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, in order to make moves towards a so-called Greater Albania, the Albanian NATO state is exploiting minority populations in the service and for the benefit of the United States, just as sure as Israel is exploiting the Kurds in order to destroy Arab unity and weaken the position of Iran and Turkey in the Middle East.

Implicit if this form of separatism is also an ethno-nationalist component wherein the seperatist groups disenfranchises or even ethnically cleanse minorities in their historic homes. This is increasingly the case in respect of Kurds via-a-vis Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomen, just as it was and remains the case in respect of Albanians vis-a-vis Slavs, most prominently, against Serbs.

5. Historic regional/sub-state national identities 

When a state is comprised former states who entered into a voluntary union or regions which did something similar, sometimes one side or both agrees to dissolve the union.

A peaceful example of this was the so-called Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and Slovaks in the former Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Other unsuccessful attempts to do something similar were made, including during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

Against this background, it is clear to see why Kurdish secessionism is a threat to four nations and several ethnic groups, while Catalan independence is not a direct security threat to anyone.

In spite of these realities, the firm movements against secessionism among Iraq’s neighbours have been tempered by rhetoric which often conveys sentiments of disappointment rather than violence. In many ways Iraq and her neighbours are mores shocked and insulted than enraged. Turkish President Erdogan who has been the most vocal critic of regional Kurdish secessionism, has on several occasions, asked rhetorical questions of Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Primarily, he has asked them why they seek to sacrifice good relations with Turkey and others for far flung ideas of independence that are supported only by Israel’s rogue leader, Israel’s deep state and Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service?

Iraq’s Parliamentary Speaker’s visit to Kurdish regions is a further sign that Iraq seeks to restore a previously functional status quo, rather than inflict a kind of punishment for a unilateral Kurdish move against the interests of Iraq. Iraq is of course going to act in its interests if threatened, but Baghdad is also working at the same time to de-escalate tensions. It is a carrot and stick approach which is similar to the Sino-Russian approach to Pyongyang.

Iran’s soft spoken President Rouhani’s statements of disappointment have been matched by a Syrian government that says it is willing to engage in dialogue with Syrian Kurds after the conflict against jihadists is over, in a move that will help to separate Kurdish radicals from ordinary citizens looking to reach a peaceful and amicable agreement with the legitimate government.

Finally, the leader of the Lebanese party Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has condemned Kurdish secessionism while calling Kurds “brothers” in a well reasoned statement arguing for total equality within the framework of Arab states remaining united against Israeli and western imperialist aggression.

While Catalan independence poses minimal problems for Spain and the wider European region when compared to Kurdish secessionism in the Middle East, the leaders in Madrid, the EU and other European states, have responded to the Catalan referendum in a manner that can only be described as heavy-handed without justification and unrealistic without any hint of willingness to reconcile undeniable differences. Arabs, Iranians and Turks have genuine fears of a Kurdish state that could act as an Israeli puppet and a home for terrorists, yet they are still trying to convince the Kurds of Iraq to go back to a situation of generous autonomy in northern Iraq.

By contrast, one of the very reasons that Catalonia held an independence vote a week ago, is due to the fact that the deeply corrupt Spanish Constitutional Court abolished much of the autonomy given to Catalonia by the left of centre government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2006.

Today’s right-wing/neo-Francoist Spanish regime, lead by Mariano Rajoy has done everything it can to push Catalonia further away. From open police violence against unarmed, peaceful voters, to speeches from both the Prime Minister and Spanish King slamming the very idea that Catalans have the right to express an opinion, Spain is treating Catalonia not like a part of a united nation, but like a colony fit to be exploited and spat upon.

Just today, in spite of Catalonia’s President  Carles Puigdemont calling for respectful dialogue with Madrid, Mariano Rajoy has stated that the Spanish Civil Guards (heavily armed riot police) will remain in Catalonia, against the wishes of Catalans and that furthermore, Madrid will not engage in any dialogue with Barcelona.

The response from the EU has been equally disappointing. No major EU figure has tried to calm tensions and assure an even handed approach to the biggest crisis in the union since the 2007/2008 financial crash. The silence from the EU has been shocking, not least because there is no organisation that is theoretically better placed to solve an internal EU crisis than the EU itself.

Other figures from leading EU states, have either said nothing, or dismissed Catalan grievances with total arrogance. This includes Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who revealed the extent of his own hypocrisy when supporting Spanish unity, while at the same time leading the charge for a British exit from the European Union in the most extreme manner possible. This is the same Johnson who maliciously said that the only trouble with turning Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte into “Dubai” is that one must clear the city of “all the dead bodies”. These of course were dead bodies created by a war his own regime conducted.

While Arab, Iranian and Turkish leaders are attempting to firmly, but transparently put a lid on a genuine threat to their region, Spanish and European leaders have turned what may have only ever amounted to an isolated localised problem, into a crisis of confidence, democracy and human rights in the heart of the European Union. This is the same EU which claims it is a bastion of stability, democracy and human rights.

Many European figures often talk about their part of the world as being among the planet’s most civilised places. A simple exercise in contrasting Middle Eastern responses to Kurdish secessionists and European responses to Catalan secessionists, demonstrates that this simply is not true. The much derided Middle East has outclassed Europe in its handling of issues which on the surface, have some resemblance to one another. Europe ought to examine its own exceptionalist claims, claims which date back to and remain guided by an imperialist attitude which has no place in the civilised world.

 

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Erdogan accepts Syria DMZ off-ramp, in deal with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The deal struck in Sochi averts a large scale Syria’s offensive on Idlib, as Turkey gives it guarantee to monitor what will effectively become a demilitarized zone.

According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Idlib, from which ISIS/Al Qaeda rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 15 to 20 km-wide zone would be established by October 15th. The DMZ would require a complete “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Putin also noted that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from the DMZ by all opposition forces by October 10th, which is a move supported by the Syrian government.

The Russian President described the agreement as a “serious result” further saying that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms”.

Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarized zone:

“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime.”

“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area.”

According to Al Jazeera Iran’s foreign minister has hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province, as an example of “responsible diplomacy”.

An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the agreement reached in Sochi, which for now avoids full scale conflict in Idlib, Syria. Who won, who lost, and which interests were met with the DMZ agreement?

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Via Xinhuanet

An anticipated Syrian military offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib is on hold after Turkey and Russia reached a deal following Ankara’s guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, experts said.

The deal was reached Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, as the two sides agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

This agreement brings Turkey to a position of giving a guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, the experts said.

“Moscow is convinced that it would not be able to handle the burden of a humanitarian tragedy in case of a military offensive in Idlib,” said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst with the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University.

Russia has also secured its airbases in northern Syria, including its airbase in Hmeymim as a guarantee by Turkey under the Sochi agreement, he said.

Gurcan recalled a trilateral summit of Turkey, Iran and Russia held in Iranian capital Tehran early September, which ended without agreement as Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire in Idlib was rejected by Moscow and Tehran.

Erdogan’s proposal for a ceasefire by all parties in Idlib was rejected by Putin on the grounds that those groups were not represented at the table there, he said.

“Now Turkey has given a guarantee on behalf of radical groups which Putin earlier said that ceasefire cannot be discussed because they were not represented at Tehran meeting,” Gurcan said.

Now everyone is curious how Turkey has given guarantee to Moscow and how will those radical groups accept a proposal for demilitarization by surrendering heavy weapons and withdrawing from the demilitarized zone, Gurcan noted.

“Ankara has given this promise relying on its military power on the ground and on its capacity to convince armed opposition groups,” he said.

Turkish army has reinforced its presence in Idlib in the past few months, and Turkey has 12 military outposts with 1,200-1,300 troops on the border line of the province separating the rebel stronghold from the pro-Iran militia-controlled South of Aleppo and the government-controlled southeast, Gurcan said.

Rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, in the region are gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”

Putin and Erdogan agreed on Monday in Sochi to create a 15-20 km buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said at the joint press conference after signing the deal with Erdogan.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as the city of Hama must be restored, Putin added.

The Russian leader also said all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from the zone by Oct. 10, according to Erdogan’s proposal.

Ankara has been warning against any military offensive by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in Idlib, warning that it would lead to a humanitarian crisis and refugee influx to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Russia, along with Iran, are guarantors of the Astana deal which declared ceasefire in four de-escalation zones in Syria, including Idlib.

Turkey will deploy more troops in Idlib province after the Sochi deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We will need extra troop reinforcements. Turkey and Russia will patrol on the border areas. Civilians and moderate (opposition) will stay here,” Cavusoglu said.

Another outcome of the Sochi deal is that Turkey and Russia prevented a possible attack by the United States in Idlib, Naim Baburoglu from Aydin University said.

He recalled that the U.S. was giving signals that it wanted to intervene in the situation in Idlib, if Syrian government troops launch an assault on the rebel stronghold.

Washington recently threatened to take swift and decisive actions against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

“This agreement showed that the U.S. has room for maneuver only in the east of Euphrates and Manbij region,” Baburoglu said.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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