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Updated: 3 hours 52 min ago

Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism

11 hours 33 min ago

The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?

— Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Ant-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1972

There is a fairly typical and recurrent notion among many Americans that Donald Trump and his administration is some sort of aberration. As if his brutal, venal, racist, and bullying nature is something new, or different from previous leaders. For those not inclined to look at the historical record; one only has to look beyond our borders to view the authoritarian personality type that Trump represents in power all over the world: Modi, Orban, Erdogan, Jinping, Duterte, and Bolsonaro being the most obvious comparisons.

Our president is not an exception but the logical culmination of a nation built on genocide, slavery, empire, and capitalism. His virulent nationalism, his racist and sexist attitudes, and unbelievably fragile ego are all undisputable proof that millions of people enjoy, tolerate, or acquiesce to his behavior. Liberal pieties and paeans towards restoring normalcy don’t move the needle for most center-left voters either, as it is at least tacitly/subconsciously understood that after Trump and Brexit there is no going back towards “liberal democratic” rule. A threshold has been crossed.

Trump and his billionaire cronies are simply doing what capitalists do best: doling out more death and destruction, which many US citizens are all too comfortable eliding; except for the understandable shock and anger over the most outrageous travesties, such as the burning of the Amazon or children in concentration camps on our southern border. Even then, there is no programmatic analysis of what caused the problem (capitalism and empire) and very little visionary leadership with any social power or pop-cultural relevancy to propose realistic solutions.

It’s crucial to look outside the borders of the US to see how capital really operates. Western multinationals pay foreign governments to murder, ethnically cleanse, pillage, rape, and despoil entire nations and natural habitats. US transnational corporations as well as federal funding for various authoritarian regimes (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) pay for their militaries, private security forces, death squads, proxy terrorists and spies, as well as corporate espionage.

For these reasons and many more it cannot be considered hyperbole to call the USA a fascist state. For those unconvinced, I suggest reading Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay  “Ur-Fascism” to understand why. Henry Giroux uses the term “neoliberal fascism” and his recent book American Nightmare, which I reviewed for New York Journal of Books, spells out in detail the deepening spirals of violence and ignorance American society is succumbing to.

The near total focus on purely domestic policies in mainstream media and by our politicians is excruciating, maddening, and cringe-inducing. The constant domestic policy myopia contradicts any statements that liberals and conservatives actually understand, or have genuine interest or empathy for foreign causes or solidarity with those in need around the globe.

One only has to find old news programs, for example, from the fifties through the eighties to remember that news media for all its flaws then was much more informed and nuanced about international relations compared to today. Dissidents, counterculture figures, communists, and radicals appeared regularly on TV talk shows and were generally encouraged or at least tolerated by liberal establishment journalists, whereas today there is a huge zero. Foreign wars and overseas events were covered more extensively.

There’s no doubt many liberals earnestly want Trump gone for his racist border policy and global warming denialism, among other issues. Yet, of course, much of the outrage revolves around the pseudo-moralizing, a way of saying: “He doesn’t represent us, the good-hearted progressive people in the USA.”

A petty, corrupt, racist, chauvinistic, violent grifter is exactly the type of person to represent the United States. It needs to be said, and repeated, over and over.

There are tens of millions of mini-Trumps all over the nation, exploiting, killing, jailing, and materially and mentally impoverishing working people. Here’s something to ponder. How many US citizens would support kicking out all undocumented immigrants in our country? Almost certainly the number is in the millions, if not tens of millions of people.

Where do US citizens think this is all leading towards? Have we not been locked in a death spiral, circling the drain for centuries, and have our leaders not plundered, murdered, enslaved, and ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, nature, and resources at a horrifying and increasing rate? Even further back, isn’t this where Western civilization has been headed towards for 6,000 years: a system based on brutal and authoritarian hierarchies propped up by organized religion, barbaric racism and tribalism, imperial delusions of grandeur, and myths about a world full of limitless resources?

Also, the ruling classes have been getting more ignorant, more venal, less philanthropic, and less empathetic. There are studies that can confirm this: for instance, through measuring emotional intelligence (EQ), it has been found that in corporate firms, positions above middle management show a dramatic drop in EQ. Of course, we know most CEOs and corporate owners are borderline if not full-blown psychopathic or sociopathic. The ownership of our nation are perfectly willing and able to exploit workers, cut benefits, destroy public programs, ignore the poor and minorities, and breed mass alienation at a level unseen since the Gilded Age.

There are about 585 billionaires in the US, about 175,000 people with over 25 million in total (0.05% of the population), 1.4 million individuals with wealth over 5 million (0.42% of the population), and it’s estimated there are about 12 million millionaires in the US (about 3.6% of the population). They are on the other side of a class divide that is widening more every year.

The 2016 election clearly showed white voters turned out in droves for Trump, but what mostly went unmentioned is that for all voters making over 50k a year, the edge also went to Trump, 49% to Clinton’s 47%. So much for the idea that those with wealth are part of a enlightened and tolerant “meritocracy” as our corporate overlords and their media puppets like to constantly remind us: rather, those with just a little bit of money, unconsciously or not, use their vote to crush the lower classes through Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and trade wars, etc.

Umberto Eco also points this out: he correctly demonstrates that one of the features of fascism is an “appeal to the frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”. Erich Fromm also mentions this phenomenon at length in his classic Escape from Freedom.

The insatiable desires of the elites and the economic leverage the “Global North” holds further absolutely dirt-cheap prices for all manners of consumer goods, by externalizing the costs onto faraway nations, the environment, and the poor who inhabit nearby industrial or manufacturing sites, and other “sacrifice zones”.

This accounts for the burgeoning phenomena of the worker as an “independent contractor”, a model touted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists. The new model is to cut as many benefits as possible and use low-wage service work or the threat of falling into this precariat as leverage to squeeze as much work and productivity as possible out of what remains of the middle class.

Small businesses which serviced the rich in previous eras are now forced to compete more fiercely or die, and thus compelled into deflationary business models with price wars, etc.; while the large-sector service corporations effectively have monopolies and can force workers to accept low pay due to the reserve army of labor.

Perhaps soon, the majority of the rich will be forced to acquiesce due to popular demand on issues such as free college or universal health care. Yet, they will never, ever choose voluntarily to surrender their basic model of economic power or to restructure corporate America. Freedom without economic equality is impossible. The majority of us are relegated to a form of serfdom, with no prospects for democracy in the economy and the workplace.

Another point worth mentioning is that reform is never going to happen in time through legislative and judicial means. The amount of hoops to jump through, in our constitution and in the legislature, to structurally change the system will take way too long, sap momentum, and destroy any movement based in electoral politics however good the intent.

Requiring any mass movement to follow every legalistic framework for change is just another form of elitism: forcing the multitude to advance at the glacial pace of the legal system is simply an authoritarian call for law and order to cement unjust property rights. Any form of reformist policies will be denied by appealing to the status quo of existing laws, and their deluded obsession with following corrupt legal procedures and bureaucratic red-tape written by corporations and lobbyists. Rather, citizen assemblies, general strikes, direct action, and public referenda should be used as much as possible to counter the dirty tricks of the elites.

The main strivings of the members of our government, Democrat or Republican, are for power, money, and fame: they are not any substantially or qualitatively different from Trump in this respect. Their warped, huge, and fragile egos have convinced themselves that they really are the right people for the job, regardless of their obvious corrupt nature, lack of knowledge, and moral failings. Rather than being devoted to public service, their actions imply that they view themselves as doing the public a favor by simply existing and choosing to run for office to provide us with an “enlightened” political class, rather than those scary “populists”.

There is an unacknowledged anti-democratic strain in US society which insists every public policy position must be run by an expert, a technocrat, despite all evidence suggesting these professional-managerial class types (personified by Obama, his reign marking the apotheosis, the high-water mark of meritocratic and liberal democratic ideology) are craven, corrupt sycophants beholden to the power elite.

Apparently there are about 5 million people in the US who hold clearance to view classified material. There are about 1.3 million military and about 700,000 police officers. So that’s 7 million right there which constitute the national security state. The 21st century Praetorian Guard, if you will. If you count the defense corporations, fossil fuel multinationals, and various conglomerates which profit off the destruction and exploitation of workers and the environment, and all the sub-contractors which rely on the largesse (trough) of defense, fossil fuel, and other anti-life industries, that’s a few more million easily.

What I’m getting at is dislodging Trump, or any figurehead president, is small potatoes, because there are at least 10-30 million Americans with a shitload of guns and money who do not want to see any — and I mean any — fundamental progressive changes. Without a mass base advocating for socialist and revolutionary democratic policies, there is nothing the ruling classes won’t do to protect their privileges.

Forget an imbecile like Trump. The power elite would rather re-animate the corpse of Genghis Khan than have Bernie Sanders or anyone left of him in charge. Believe that. They would rather use the power of capital flight and take their money to Swiss bank accounts or the Cayman Islands and bankrupt our entire country than see any socialist in power. Bank on it. Forget elections as the exclusive means towards dismantling the power structure. Only mass movements in the streets can fight the barbarism we are confronted with.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Banana Kingdom Denmark

16 hours 53 min ago

September 2, the day that Yankee President Donald Trump should have been in Denmark, between 1200 and 1500 demonstrated against US-Denmark wars to tell both states: “Yankee Go Home” and “Take Back Denmark’s Sovereignty.” This was the largest anti-war gathering in a long time. Some people came out just to protest vulgar Trump, or to oppose planet pollution, and other issues.

Trump cancelled the trip because the Kingdom of Denmark, as the Queen and her politicians call Denmark, would not sell the real estate capitalist its colony island of Greenland [As much as many danes might like to believe such is the case, Greenland is not Denmark’s “colony island,” and the Danish PM intimated as much herself — DV Ed]. I suppose Trump figured that since Denmark had already delivered its foreign policy sovereignty to “the greatest country in the world” two-three decades ago that it would be willing to sell him Greenland, so that the US Military Empire could have more military bases with nuclear armament placed there. Yet his logic was premature.

On the same day we demonstrated, Denmark’s “social democrat” war minister “coincidentally”, sent four F16 war jets Denmark had bought from Trump-land years ago to “protect” the Baltic from the big bad bear.

Denmark’s government also announced it was buying top-notch sonar, so it could play along with its Big Daddy, when they go searching for allegedly Putin-run submarines and, of course, there would be more funds for NATO. Not least, Denmark’s war minister announced that she would assure that her elite killers—Commando troops and Navy Seals (Jaegerkorpset and Froemandskorpset)—will be used all the more to protect Denmark against Russia. She announced this without stating what the threat was, but assured us that this “fellowship” with NATO and the US will “be effective when there is need for it.”

So, Big Daddy got what he wanted without wasting his time and tax money with a trip to Banana Kingdom Denmark.

On Flag Day, September 5, mothers and fathers in military uniforms pinned war medals on 700 children chosen that day, because their parents were or had been sent out to do their duty. The media printed a photo of a mother in uniform pinning a war medal on a child about five years old.

On the following day that the feminist prime minister (Mette Frederiksen) and feminist war minister (Trine Bramsen), alongside the male feminist secretary of state (Jeppe Kofod), announced the same number of soldiers (700), coincidentally, would be sent to war zones or potential war zones: Syria, Africa, the Baltic for starters. The explanation for this escalation was “Russia’s aggressive behavior in the East” and that there were terrorists in many countries. They will also sail Denmark’s largest vessel, a frigate, to assist a US aircraft carrier group. Denmark will assist the US in its sanctions and saber-rattling against Iran.  Denmark already participates in war missions in Afghanistan (now for 18 years) and Iraq, and “defense” of Kosovo and Estonia. They will continue to do so.

“We have once again been asked to contribute to peace and stability out in the world’s hot spots. I am proud of that,” asserted the “Social Democrat” war minister. (Note)

One would have thought, Banana Kingdom Denmark has certainly proven itself, yet once again, to be the best possible warring ally the US Military Empire could wish for, but no, these contributions to US/NATO war-making were not enough.

During this week of jingoistic swashbuckling, 40 war ships with 4,500 marines from 16 NATO countries docked in Copenhagen’s harbor. The government also extended its territory reserved for military war game maneuvers from 6000 to 14,000 hectares. Finally, at least for now, the Royal Family’s main home, Amalienborg Palace, will be blocked off from all traffic by 1.2 meter tall bronze bollards. Christianborg’s Parliament was similarly blocked off earlier but with mere 85 centimeter tall granite balls.

I mean, what more could the US Military Empire ask of its little Viking ally?

Note: On an historical note, we should recall that there are two direct opposite definitions of “fellowship” (or “unison”) for social democrats and socialists and communists. Back during the days leading up to the Russian Revolution, the Russian social democratic party had two factions, “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks”—the former wanted socialism (leading toward a stateless communist society), and the latter opted for “social democratic” capitalism—a la Bernie Sanders of today. The split ended with the Russian Revolution being attacked by social democrats and their allies, the aristocratic “white army” and its allies the US, six European states and Japan. Before the 1917 revolution, German social democrats had gone along with the bourgeoisie’s senseless world war, and social democrats have since followed suit in scores of countries and in hundreds of wars.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis

21 hours 47 min ago

Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which experienced three massive meltdowns in 2011, is running out of room to store radioactive water. No surprise! But now, what to do about phosphorescent water?

Addressing the issue, Japan’s environmental minister Yoshiaki Harada held a news conference (September 2019). Unfortunately, he proffered the following advice: “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it.”1

“The only option”… Really?

Over the past 8 years, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) has scrambled like a Mad Hatter to construct emergency storage tanks (1,000) to contain upwards of one million tonnes of contaminated radioactive water, you know, the kind of stuff that, over time, destroys human cells, alters DNA, causes cancer, or produces something like the horrific disfigured creature in John Carpenter’s The Thing! That’s the upshot of a triple nuclear meltdown that necessitates constant flow of water to prevent further melting of reactor cores that have been decimated and transfigured into corium or melted blobs. It’s the closest to a full-blown “china syndrome” in all of human history. Whew! Although, the truth is it’ll be a dicey situation for decades to come.

Ever since March 11, 2011, TEPCO has scrambled to build storage tanks to prevent massive amounts of radioactive water from pouring into the ocean (still, some lesser amounts pour into the ocean every day by day). Now the government is floating a trial balloon in public that, once the tanks are full, it’ll be okay to dump the radioactive water into the ocean. Their logic is bizarre, meaning, on the one hand, the meltdown happens, and they build storage tanks to contain the radioactive water, but on the other hand, once the storage tanks run out of space, it’s okay to dump radioactive water into the ocean. Seriously?

Meantime, the Fukushima meltdown brings the world community face to face with TEPCO and the government of Japan in an unprecedented grand experiment that, so far, has failed miserably. Of course, dumping radiation into the Pacific is like dumping radiation into everybody’s back yard. But, for starters, isn’t that a non-starter?

Along the way, deceit breeds duplicity, as the aforementioned Guardian article says the Japanese government claims only one (1) death has been associated with the Fukushima meltdown but keep that number in mind. Reliable sources in Japan claim otherwise, as explained in previous articles on the subject, for example, “Fukushima Darkness, Part Two” d/d November 24, 2017, and as highlighted further on in this article.

When it comes to nuclear accidents, cover-ups reign supreme; you can count on it.

As such, it is believed the Japanese government is lying and should be held accountable for hoodwinking the world about the ravages of Fukushima, especially with the Olympics scheduled for next year.

For example, the following explains how death by radiation is shamefully hidden from the public via newspeak: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station worker deaths “that expire at home” are not officially counted. Accordingly, how many workers on a deathbed with radiation sickness leave home to go to work (where deaths are counted) just before they die? Oh, please!

Meanwhile, the last thing the world community needs in the face of an uncontrollable nuclear meltdown, like Fukushima, is deceptiveness and irresponsibility by the host government. Too much is at stake for that kind of childish nonsense. And just to think, the 2020 Olympics are scheduled with events held in Fukushima. Scandalously, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is A-Okay with that.

In contrast, a Greenpeace International March 8th, 2019 article entitled: Japanese Government Misleading UN on Impact of Fukushima Fallout on Children, Decontamination Workers: “The Japanese government is deliberately misleading United Nations human rights bodies and experts over the ongoing nuclear crisis in areas of Fukushima… In areas where some of these decontamination workers are operating, the radiation levels would be considered an emergency if they were inside a nuclear facility.” Enough said!

“In its reporting to the United Nations, the Japanese government deliberately misrepresents the scale, complexity, and radiation risks in areas of Fukushima, the working practice and conditions for workers, and its disregard for children’s health and wellbeing. This reality should shame the government to radically change its failing policies,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

As such, either Greenpeace or the IOC is “dead wrong” about the conditions at Fukushima. Take your pick.

After all, the trend of misrepresentation of nuclear accidents has been established for decades. Not only Fukushima, Chernobyl (1986) is a nuclear disaster zone where the “official death count from radiation exposure” has been considerably discounted by various governmental agencies and NGOs. For inexplicable reasons (actually explicable but a long story), nuclear accidents are given Get Out Jail Free cards by the world’s press and associated governmental orgs and NGOs.

Yet, over time, the truth comes out, and when it does it’s dreadfully atrocious:

A BBC special report, The True Toll of the Chernobyl Disaster d/d July 26, 2019 says:

The official, internationally recognized death toll, just 31 people died as an immediate result of Chernobyl while the UN estimates that only 50 deaths can be directly attributed to the disaster.

That’s the official tally. Ugh! It’s so far off the mark that, if it were a baseball pitch, it’d be in the dirt, and a prime example of the public not getting the truth about the ravages of nuclear power accidents.

Of course, it is important to take note of how “wordsmiths” describe the death numbers; i.e., “died as an immediate result of Chernobyl” can only include someone standing at the site when it happened, leaving out all cases of radiation exposure that kills and cripples over subsequent days, months, and years. Or, in the case of the UN statement, “only 50 deaths can be directly attributed.”  Only those standing there when it happened… ahem!

According to the BBC article, the Russian Academy of Sciences said as many as 112,000-125,000 died by 2005. That’s 2,500xs more deaths than the official reports, which also never increase in number over time as radiation takes its merry ole time blasting, destroying, and/or altering human cell structure. Ukrainian authorities claim death rates of Chernobyl cleanup workers rose from 3.5 to 17.5 deaths per 1,000 between 1988 and 2012 on a database of 651,453 cleanup workers, which equates to 11,392 deaths. Additionally, Belarus had 99,693 cleanup workers, equating to 1,732 deaths. Not only that, disability among workers shows that approximately 5% are still healthy in 2012 (only 5%, meaning 95% unhealthy) with commonality of cardiovascular and circulatory diseases and nervous system problems.

By 2008 in Belarus alone 40,049 liquidators or cleanup workers of Chernobyl were registered with cancer.

Viktor Sushko, deputy director general of the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine (NRCRM) based in Kiev, Ukraine, describes the Chernobyl disaster as:

The largest anthropogenic disaster in the history of humankind.2

Thus begging the most obvious of questions re Fukushima victims in the years ahead; how many cases of cancer, and how many will die? Unfortunately, radioactive isotopes don’t stop once they’re activated in a nuclear meltdown. They’re pernicious over time destroying and/or grotesquely altering human cell structure. For proof, visit second-generation Chernobyl children locked up in orphanages in Belarus.

As of January 2018, 1.8 million people in Ukraine, including 377,589 children, carried status of victims of the disaster, according to Sushko and his colleagues. Not only that, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people with disabilities, rising from 40,106 in 1995 to 107,115 in 2018.3

According to a USA Today article – “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016”:

There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.

Many of the children are hidden away deep in the forested countryside in orphanages in Belarus.

Back to Fukushima, there are numerous instances of governmental meddling to hide the truth, starting with passage of the 2013 government secrecy act, The State Secrecy Law, aka: Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS), Act No. 108, which says that civil servants or others who “leak secrets” will face up to 10 years in prison, and those who “instigate leaks,” especially journalists, will be subject to a prison term of up to 5 years. Subsequently, Japan fell below Serbia and Botswana in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index.

Horrifically, at the end of the day, when nuclear goes bad, it takes everyone along on a daunting trip for years and years and more years, outliving life spans but continuing generation after generation, like the 453,391 Chernobyl-radiated-influence children born after the nuclear blowout in 1986. Chernobyl altered their genes before they were born…. Imagine that!

Cliodhna Russell visited children’s orphanages in Belarus in 2014:

Children rocking back and forth for hours on end, hitting their heads against walls, grinding their teeth, scraping their faces and putting their hands down their throats.4

Postscript:

It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.5

Post-Postscript:

The ashes of half a dozen unidentified laborers ended up at a Buddhist temple in a town just north of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Some of the dead men had no papers; others left no emergency contacts. Their names could not be confirmed and no family members had been tracked down to claim their remains. They were simply labeled “decontamination troops” — unknown soldiers in Japan’s massive cleanup campaign to make Fukushima livable again five years after radiation poisoned the fertile countryside.6

  1. Justin McCurry in Tokyo, “Fukushima: Japan Will Have to Dump Radioactive Water Into Pacific, Minister Says”, The Guardian, September 10, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. How My Trip to a Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus Made Me Proud to be Irish“, the journal.ie, March 18, 2014.
  5. Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba (Fukushima Prefecture) “Fukushima Disaster: Tokyo Hides Truth as Children Die, Become Ill from Radiation – Ex-Mayor”, RT News, April 21, 2014.
  6. Mari Yamaguchi, “Fukushima ‘Decontamination Troops’ Often Exploited, Shunned”, AP & ABC News, Minamisona, Japan, March 10, 2016.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Empires Are a Secret until They Start Falling

Mon, 2019-09-16 20:24

In the past, we have written about the 2020s as a decade when the United States Empire will end. This is based on Alfred McCoy’s predictions (listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG). Sociologist and peace scholar John Galtung believes US Empire will fall much faster, losing world dominance by 2020. Much of what he predicted when he said this in 2016 is happening now. In particular, there is a rise in “reactionary fascism” or a desire to go back to the “good old days,” the cost of maintaining the empire is taking an increasing economic toll and other countries are starting to rebuke the US, both its requests for military assistance and its unfair economic demands.

What this means for people in the United States and around the world depends on whether we can build a mass popular movement with the clarity of vision, skills, and solidarity necessary to navigate what is and will surely be a turbulent period. There are no guarantees as to the outcome. Failure to act could result in a disastrous scenario – at best, that the US will continue to try to hold on to power by waging economic and military warfare abroad, weakening the economy at home, and undermining necessities such as housing, healthcare, education and the transition to a Green economy. At worst, as Galtung describes, there could be “an inevitable and final war” involving nuclear weapons.

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is next weekend. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. You must register in advance for the Monday night solidarity event. RSVP at bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. And sign the Global Appeal for Peace here.

When Empire Is In Decline

Alfred McCoy says that it is only when empires are in decline that people begin to recognize they live in an empire and start to talk about it. While discussion of empire hasn’t broken into the corporate media, it is certainly happening in the independent media. A concerted effort by a popular movement could bring it to the fore, just as Occupy changed the political dialogue about wealth inequality and the power of money. People in the US need to face some stark realities when it comes to declining US global power.

For starters, the United States does not currently have the capacity to wage a “Great Power Conflict” even though that is the goal of the national security strategy. The loss of its manufacturing base and lack of access to minerals necessary for producing weapons and electronics means the US does not have the resources to fight a great war. Much of the US’ manufacturing has been outsourced to other countries, including those targeted by US foreign policy. Resources necessary for weapons and electronics are in China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. It’s no surprise that the US is maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan, has increased its presence in Africa through AFRICOM and is struggling to wrest control of Venezuela.

Despite these attempts, the US is not having success. There is no military solution for the US in Afghanistan. As Moon of Alabama explains, the Taliban has taken control of more territory than it has had since the US started the war and has no reason to negotiate with the US. He advises, “The U.S. should just leave as long as it can. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof.”

Alexander Rubinstein writes the failures in Afghanistan can be attributed to Zalmay Khalilzad, currently the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Khalilzad has led US foreign policy in Afganistan and Iraq since the presidency of George W. Bush, and before that worked with Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who provided crucial support for the Mujahideen to draw the Soviet Union into a quagmire. The writing is on the wall that the US must leave Afghanistan, but that is unlikely to happen as long as people such as Khalilzad and Elliott Abrams, who has a similar ideology, are in charge.

As the US-led coup in Venezuela continues to fail due to a lack of support for it within the country, resilience to the effects of the unilateral coercive economic measures (sanctions) and exposure of attempts to create chaos and terror by paramilitary mercenaries, the US grows increasingly desperate in its tactics. There has already been a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro, a US freight company tied to the CIA has been caught smuggling weapons and the US and its Puppet Guaido have been implicated in a terrorist plot as the failed coup enters a more dangerous phase. This week, the Organization of American States voted to invoke a treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which would allow military intervention. Mexico strongly opposed that possibility. This comes as Venezuela has strengthened troops at the Colombian border after discovering terrorist training camps on the Colombian side. With allies such as Russia and China, an attack on Venezuela would not only hurt the region but could go global.

Despite the Asian Pivot under President Obama during his first administration and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s comment this week that the US is directing a lot of energy toward China, analysts predict the US will fail to achieve dominance in the Asia-Pacific. China is purchasing weapons from Russia that are superior to US systems, is strengthening its military coordination with Russia through drills and is expanding its global ties through the Belt and Road Initiative. Matthew Ehret writes in Strategic Culture, “Those American military officials promoting the obsolete doctrine of Full Spectrum dominance are dancing to the tune of a song that stopped playing some time ago. Both Russia and China have changed the rules of the game on a multitude of levels….”

Protests in Hong Kong, as we described in a recent newsletter, are being used to stoke greater anti-China sentiment in the US. As often occurs, the sophisticated propaganda arm of US-backed color revolutions excites leftist activists, but each day it becomes clearer just how deep the US’ influence is. K. J. Noh provides a helpful guide – a list of seven signs a protest is not a popular progressive uprising. One sign is Hong Kong protesters are supporting a bill in the US Congress, the so-called “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill would allow the United States to sanction Hong Kong officials.

Andre Vltchek attended a recent protest and interviewed some of the participants. He found the democracy protesters have little grasp on the oppression Hong Kongers faced under British colonization, they attack anyone who disagrees with them and they are destroying public infrastructure. One of the protest leaders, Joshua Wong, is openly meeting with figures connected to US regime change efforts, and NED-backed organizations are planning an anti-China protest in Washington, DC on September 29. Their new propaganda symbol is a Chinese flag with a Swastika on it. No surprise that was evident at the protests in Hong Kong this weekend.

The US is already at war with China with battlefronts on trade and the Asian Pacific. The propaganda around Hong Kong showing prejudice against China is part of manufacturing consent for the conflict between the US and China, which will define the 21st Century. US militarism is also escalating to involve space. This week, the US conducted its first space war game and Putin warned of a space arms race.

Our Tasks as Activists

It was good news this past week that President Trump asked John Bolton, a white supremacist neocon who disrupted any attempts at negotiation, to resign from his position as National Security Adviser. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes, “Every sane person on the planet should be glad to see Bolton go.” But, even with Bolton gone, the US War Machine will rage on with bi-partisan support. Whether Trump starts to live up to his campaign rhetoric of non-intervention remains to be seen. The appointment of Michael Kozak as the new US envoy to Latin America is a bad sign.

Almost two centuries of Manifest Destiny that went beyond North America to spread US Empire across the globe will not end overnight. It will take a concerted effort to build a national consensus against the dominant ideologies of white supremacy and US exceptionalism to change the course of US foreign policy. Fundamental tasks of that effort include education, organizing and mobilizing. Below are some examples of each.

Education:

The Palestinian Great March of Return, a weekly nonviolent protest in Gaza demanding the right of return granted by the United Nations, continues and each week Israelis injure and murder unarmed Palestinians. Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of The Empire Files produced an excellent documentary about it, “Gaza Fights For Freedom,” and are touring the country to raise awareness. Listen to our interview with Abby Martin on Clearing the FOG. Find a showing near you or organize one.

The United States uses unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) that are illegal under international law to wage war on other countries. The Treasury Department currently lists 20 countries sanctioned by the US, but the US also uses threats of sanctions to wield power. Sanctions are warfare, even though they are not commonly viewed that way. They result in the suffering and death of mostly civilians. Kevin Cashman and Cavan Kharrazian explain how sanctions work, why they violate international law and how they threaten global stability.

Organizing:

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani encourage activists to avoid the organizing pitfall of getting caught up in debates about the internal politics of countries targeted by US imperialism. Our tasks, as citizens of imperialist countries, are to stop our governments from intervening in the affairs of other countries and demand they respect international law. We also have a task of building solidarity with civilians of other countries. It will require a global mass movement to address major issues such as the climate crisis, wealth inequality, colonization, and violence.

Citizen to citizen diplomacy is critical in building this mass movement and solidarity. Ann Wright, retired from the military and State Department, writes about the challenges of citizen to citizen diplomacy as she tours Russia. Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of Black Alliance for Peace, reminds us that war and militarism are class issues in his address to an international meeting of trade unions held in Syria.

We are strong believers in breaking out of the confines of the narrative presented by corporate media about countries outside the US. Our trips to Iran and Venezuela this year were invaluable learning experiences. We hope to visit more targeted countries. An effort that came out of these trips is the new Global Appeal for Peace, first steps toward creating an international network to complement the more than 120 non-aligned movement countries that are resolved to respect international law and sovereignty and take action to create peace and prevent the catastrophic climate crisis. Sign on to this effort at GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.

Mobilizing:

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet starts next weekend. On Saturday night, Black Alliance for Peace is sponsoring a discussion, “Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the ‘Americas’” in the Bronx. On Sunday we will rally and march to the UN with Embassy Protectors, Roger Waters and many more. On Monday night, we have a special solidarity night at Community Church of New York. Registration is required as there will be high-level representatives of impacted countries speaking about the challenges they face. Click here to register.

Rage Against the US War Machine will take place October 11 and 12 in Washington, DC. This is the second annual event organized by March on the Pentagon. Click here for details.

We also ask you to join the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Sign the petition to drop the Trump administration’s charges against us for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy this spring. We are facing up to a year in prison and exorbitant fines even though it was the US State Department that violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the embassy in May. We will tour Northern California in October and are planning more tours to raise awareness that the struggle to end the US  coup and interventions in Venezuela continues.

John Galtung predicts that the fall of the US Empire could have a devastating impact on domestic cohesion in the United States. As the US loses its position of global supremacy, we have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape what we as a nation represent. We can become cooperative global citizens in a world free of oppression, violence, and poverty if we do the work of joining in international solidarity for these goals.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Will the IMF, FED, Negative Interest and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

Mon, 2019-09-16 09:07

The IMF, has been instrumental in helping destroying the economy of a myriad of countries, notably, and to start with, the new Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Greece, Ukraine and lately Argentina, to mention just a few. Madame Christine Lagarde, as chief of the IMF had a heavy hand in the annihilation of at least the last three mentioned. She is now taking over the Presidency of the European Central Bank (ECB). There, she expects to complete the job that Mario Draghi had started but was not quite able to finish: Further bleeding the economy of Europe, especially southern Europe into anemia.

Let’s see what we may have in store to come.

Negative interest, we have it already. It’s the latest banking fraud stealing money from depositors to give to large borrowers. It’s a reverse cross-subsidy, the poor financing the rich. That’s the essence. It’s a new form of moving money from the bottom to the top. Now, a Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage. It provides mortgages to home owners for a negative rate of 0.5%. The bank pays borrowers to take some money off their books. Of course, as usual, only relatively well-off people can become home owners and benefit from this reverse cross-subsidy. It is a token gesture, duping the public at large into believing that they are benefitting from the new banking stint. The bulk of such operations serve large corporations.

The borrower pays back less than the full loan amount. Switzerland may soon go into the direction of Denmark. Bank deposits with central banks pay negative interest almost everywhere in the western world, except in the US – yet. It’s only a question of time until the average consumer will have to reimburse the banks for their central bank deposit expenses, meaning, the customers are getting negative interest on their deposits. That’s inflation camouflage. A sheer fraud, but all made legal by a system that runs amok, that does not follow any ethics or legal standards. A totally deregulated western private banking system, compliments of the 1990s Clinton Administration, and, of course, his handlers. As Professor Michael Hudson calls it, financial barbarism. We are haplessly enslaved in this aberrant ever more abusive private  fiat money banking shenaniganism.

RT’s Max Keiser recently interviewed Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker.org. Denninger told Keiser:

Negative yielding bond is forced inflationary instrument: you buy it, you’re guaranteed inflation in the amount of a negative yield.

He blasted the tool as plain “theft” by any government that issues these bonds, which is done in an effort to nominally expand a country’s GDP.

If the government is issuing more in sovereign debt their GDP is expanding in nominal terms. If you have negative interest rates on those government bonds, you’re creating excess space for the government to run the fiscal deficit […] in excess of GDP expansion. Nobody in any civilized nation should allow this to happen because it is theft, on the scale of that differential, from everybody in the economy,

To make sure the little saver doesn’t think about depositing his savings under his mattress or in a hole in the ground instead of bringing it to the bank, money will be digitized and cash will disappear. Madame Lagarde has already more than hinted at that, when she gave a pre-departure speech at the IMF – explaining on how she sees the future of monetary banking. The future, according to her, being no more than 15 to 20 years away, is a no-cash society. Just enough time for the elder generations, those that may still feel an instinct of rejection and have some consciousness about personal privacy, those that may resist money digitization, may have died out. The young, up-and-coming age groups may be brainwashed enough to find a cashless society so cool.

Since Madame Lagarde is moving to head the ECB in Frankfurt, it is fair to assume that Europe will be one of the largest test grounds for digitized money; i.e., towards a cashless society. In fact, it is already a test ground. Many department stores and other shops in Nordic countries — Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland — do no longer accept cash, only electronic money. In Denmark already up of 80% of all monetary transactions are made digitally.

Imagine, for your chewing gum wrapper, pack of cigarette, or candy bar, you swipe a card in front of an electronic eye, and bingo, you have paid, not touching any money – “that’s mega cool!”.  That’s what the young people may think, oblivious to leaving a trail of personal data behind, among them their bank account details, their GPS-geared location, what they are shopping, a pattern of data that is in ten years-time expected to amount to about 70,000 points of information about an individual’s characteristics, emotions, preferences, photos, personal contacts… what Cambridge Analytica in the superb documentary “The Great Hack” revealed as already today on average 5,000 points of data per citizen. The system will know you inside out better than you know yourself. And you will be exposed to algorithms that know exactly how to influence every action, every move of yours. Cool!

That, combined with face recognition which is advancing rapidly around the globe, will be super cool.

A horrendous trial on how an entire country, India, with the world’s second largest population, may react to demonization, was introduced in 2016 by President Modi, bending to the pressure of the western financial system, with support of the IMF and implementation funding by USAID. It amounted in a disastrous and cruel demonetization, invalidating almost over-night the most popular 100 Rupee (Rs) bank note, replacing it with a 200 Rs note which in most places, especially in rural towns, where banks are scarce, was not available. Never mind that less than half of the Indian population has a bank account, where the bank note exchange transactions had to be carried out.

The sudden disappearance of the most popular bank note – more than 80% of all monetary cash transactions in India took place in 100 Rs notes – was a proxy to digitization of money. Countless people starved to death especially in rural areas, because their 100 Rs were declared worthless and became unacceptable to buy food.

The 340,000 citizens of Iceland have already a fully digitized e-ID, now moving towards a mobile ID; i.e., accessible through your smart phone uniting every possible data that belongs to you, from medical records to insurance policies, all the way to dog, cat and car registrations. You name it. Most say they trust their government and are not unhappy with their divulging their most intimate data. Many have no or little idea, though, to what extent the private sector is involved in setting up such a hermetic countrywide data bank for the government. Even if the regulator is within the government and you trust your government, how much can you trust the profit-oriented private sector in protecting your data?

The surveillance state that you, among other clandestine intrusions into your privacy, will allow by willy-nilly accepting digitization of money, and eventually digitization of your entire private data, pales Orwell’s imagination of “1984”. Every citizen is registered in every western “security agency’s” electronic data bank, and, of course, those of the empire and Middle East affiliate, Israel, CIA, NSA, FBI, Mossad, and so on.  No escaping anymore.

It just so happens that you, dear citizen, are oblivious to all of what is going on behind your back, since your attention will be captured by massive marketing and directed towards the nefarious machinations of the corporate elite-ruled, globalized world, making you an eternal and ever-more intense consumer. You must spend the last penny of your income on trendy stuff, all those fashion things that will be pumped non-stop day-in-day-out into your brain, what’s left of it, by propaganda on television, radio, electronic cartoon-like billboards, internet, and that at every turn you take. And let’s not forget sports events.  They increase every year and are the most direct deviation tactic take-over from the Roman Empire.

The most aberrant trends will be cool, like shredded jeans, for which you pay a premium, body-paintings called tattoos, footballer hair styles, because they are fashionable and your looks are key to fit into a standardized, globalized society that has seized thinking for itself, no more interest in politics, in what your non-democratically elected representatives decide for you. It’s what Noam Chomsky calls the marginalization of the populace.

You are made to believe that you are living in a democracy where you can do what you want, shop what you want, watch what you want, and even when the elections or occasional referenda are offered to request your opinions, you are cheated into believing your choice is free. Of course, it is not. It is all programmed. Algorithms drawing on your profile of 70,000 points of information on emotions, desires and dreams, will clandestinely help the ‘system’ to enslave, cheat and master you, and you won’t even notice.

That’s where we are headed, largely thanks to digitalization of money – but not only, because surveillance will also follow all your steps on internet, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp – and many more of those especially created marketing tools, implanted in societies’ social media, that make life and communication so much easier.

And there is more to digital money. Much more. In 2014, the unelected European Commission (EC) has put on its books of regulations, following a similar decree in the US, the rule that an overextended bankrupt too-big-to-fail private bank will no longer be rescued by the state, by your tax money – which used to be called a “bail-out”. Instead, there will be “bail-ins”, meaning that the bank will seize your deposits, your savings and sanitize itself with money stolen from you. You have no choice. There will be no ‘run on the banks’  because there is no cash to withdraw. We have seen signs of this when Greece collapsed after 2010, and cash machines spitting out no more than 20 € per day, if at all. For many Greek citizens, especially the poorer class living from day to day, this meant often cruel starvation.

Bail-ins are little talked about, but they happen already today and ever more so. In 2014, the Austrian bank Hypo Alpe Adria – the Heta Asset Resolution AG, was given green light by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA), to refinance itself by a so-called “haircut” of an average 54%, meaning, stealing 54% of depositors’ money.

But the first and largest “haircut” test took place in Cyprus, when in 2013 the Bank of Cyprus depositors lost about 47.5% in a “haircut” to bail out their bank. Of course, the big sharks were forewarned, so they could withdraw their money in time and transfer it abroad.1

It could get worse. The state, tax authority, an institution, a corporation says you owe them money which you deny, possibly for a good reason, but they have access to your bank account and just seize the amount they pretend is their due. You are powerless against these tyrannical monsters and may have to hire expensive legal service to get your stolen money back if at all. Because the “system” is run by the “system”. And once that level has been reached, a form of Full Spectrum Dominance, a key target of the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century), there is hardly any escaping. That has all happened already, in front of our publicity-blinded eyes, little spoken about, the trend is growing and this even without necessarily a digitized world.

Is it that the kind of society you want?

Then there are the rather prominent gurus who bet on gold and bitcoins to replace the faltering dollar, like a last-ditch solution. None of them is any more viable than the fiat dollar. Gold is highly volatile due to its vulnerability for manipulation – as it is largely controlled by the BIS (Bank for International Settlement, in Basle, Switzerland, also called the central bank of all central banks, and yes, the same bank that helped the FED finance Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union.  (So you see where this bank is coming from.) It is entirely privately owned and largely controlled by the Rothschild clan. And as an associated side note — few people talk about it — there is in excess of 100 times more paper gold in circulation than you could ever cash in, if you needed it. It is another one of those bank-invented ‘derivative’ bubbles that will explode and serve to enrich them when the time is ripe.

Bitcoins, the most prominent of some 3,000 to 4,000 cryptocurrencies flooding the world, is totally unreliable. A year after it was created in 2008 allegedly by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s value in 2009 was US$ 0.08, It gradually rose and eventually jumped in December 2017 briefly above US$ 20,000, but dropped within a year to about US$ 3,500. Today bitcoin is hovering around US$ 9,500 (August/September 2019). Bitcoin – along with other cryptocurrencies – is highly speculative, lends itself to Mafia-type money-laundering and other fraudulent transactions. It is about equivalent to fiat money and certainly inept to be the backing for a monetary system.

And let’s not forget, the latest Facebook initiative — a cryptocurrency, the Libra, to be launched in 2020 out of Geneva, Switzerland – is expected to dominate within a few years 70% to 80% of the international money market. You see, the same clan that has been manipulating and cheating you with the dollar, is now ‘banking’ on you falling for the Facebook currency  as it will be so easy to use your smart phone for any kind of monetary transaction, thus, avoiding traditional predatory banking. Looks like a good thing at the outside – right? – Nope! It’s entirely privately owned and run by an unscrupulous mafia that is being set up to continue milking the masses for the benefits of an ever-smaller elite.

There is ,however, a role for blockchain cryptocurrencies, to circumvent private banking, those that are government controlled and regulated. China and Russia are about to launch their government-controlled cryptocurrencies and others – Iran, Venezuela, India – are following in the same steps. But they all ban privately run cryptocurrencies in their countries and rightly so. A combination of government-regulated blockchain cryptos and public banking, where no private profits are in the fore, but rather the well being of the citizen and the country’s economy, may be a viable solution into a new monetary scheme, protected from the kleptocracy of western banking.

Desperation about the dollar losing its world hegemony is growing – and growing fast. To salvage the western fiat monetary system, Madame Lagarde and others are also talking about some kind of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to replace the dollar as a reserve currency, since there is no escaping – the dollar as reserve currency is doomed. The current IMF SDR basket consists of five currencies, the US-dollar (weighing 41.73%), the British Pound (8.02%) the Euro (30.93%), the Japanese Yen (8.33%) and since 2017 the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the world’s largest economy compared by Purchasing Power GDP (10.92%).

At this point thinking of any reshuffling of the SDR basket’s contents is purely speculative. However, it can easily be assumed that the dollar would remain in a very prominent position within the basket, as it should remain the leading hegemon of world economy. Let’s not forget, the US Treasury controls the IMF with an absolute veto, in other words, 100%. It can also be assumed that the Chinese Yuan would either be kicked out altogether or would be given a minor weight in the basket so to diminish its role. If this was to become the chosen option by the US Treasury, it could and probably might prompt China to withdraw the Yuan from the SDR basket, as the Yuan does no longer need SDR recognition in the world to be considered a primary reserve currency.

Unless this is stealthily done — outside of public sight and in disguise of countries still holding major US-dollar reserves — the world would unlikely accept such an alternative, especially since it is widely known among treasurers of countries around the globe that the Chinese Yuan is rapidly raising to become the key world reserve currency.

As reported by William Engdahl’s analytical essay “Is the Fed Preparing to Topple the US Dollar?”, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, delivered at the recent annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a set of ideas that went into a similar direction, towards a shift away from the dominant role of the US dollar as a reserve currency. Similar to Mme. Lagarde’s earlier remarks about an SDR-type reserve currency, he made it understood that though the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the key trading nation, may have a role in the basket, it would – for now – not be an important one. He also was clear about the current disturbing and destabilizing imbalance where a faltering dollar still pretends to hold the hegemonic scepter over the world economy.

Keeping the dollar still in a leading role, while the US economy is declining, was no longer a viable option for an increasingly globalized world economy. Carney was hinting at a multipolar monetary and reserve system for a multipolar globalized world. Similar remarks came from former New York Federal Reserve Bank chief, Bill Dudley. However, Dudley, hinted that for the United States to give up her dollar dominance, the backbone for her world hegemony, may not come voluntarily. Might that lead to a major, maybe armed world conflict?

Much of this is speculation from the western perspective. It is, however, clear that there is a tremendous and mounting uneasiness about the western dollar-based fiat monetary system, backed by nothing, not even by the western economy. You compare this with the Chinese Yuan and the Russian Ruble, both backed by gold and – more importantly – by their own economy. It becomes increasingly clear that much of the speculation and efforts by influential central banking figures to save the western monetary Ponzi scheme maybe just propaganda to calm the minds of western financiers – holding them back from jumping ship.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

  1. See: Peter Koenig: “Infringing upon the Eurozone’s Sovereignty on behalf of Wall Street.  The EBC’s “Haircut” Measures, Undermining Trade and Investment with Russia and China“, Global Research, November 7, 2015; and Peter Koenig, “Retrenchment, Robotization and Crypto-Currencies: The Runaway Train Towards Full Digitization of Money and Labor“, Global Research, December 27, 2017.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Impact on Yemeni Attack on Saudi ARAMCO Oil Facilities

Mon, 2019-09-16 07:58

PressTV Interview with Peter Koenig
15 September 2019

Enhanced and partial transcript of a PressTV Interview

Background

Saudi Arabia says the recent drone attacks on the state-run oil company Aramco led to a temporary closure of its facilities and disrupted the kingdom’s oil production and exports.

[Saudi] Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks led to the interruption in production of an estimated five-point-seven million barrels of crude per day. The amount is equivalent to five percent of the daily global supply of crude oil. Meanwhile, Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, said his country is willing and able to deal with Saturday’s drone strikes. Also, the U-S secretary of state has accused Iran of being behind the recent attacks. Mike Pompeo claimed there is no evidence to prove that the attacks were launched from Yemen. He was actually adamant about blaming Iran for the attack, without any shred of proof. This is while Yemen’s Ansarullah movement [the Houthis] has claimed responsibility for the drone strikes.

Saudi stocks dropped dramatically following drone strikes on two Aramco facilities by Yemeni forces; an attack that halved the kingdom’s crude production.

Saudi shares have dropped three percent after Yemeni drone attacks on two major state-run Aramco oil facilities knocked out more than half the kingdom’s production.

Saudi Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks led to the interruption in production of an estimated five-point-seven million barrels of crude per day. The amount is equivalent to five percent of the daily global supply of crude oil. Yemeni forces launched the massive drone attack in response to the Saudi-led coalition war that has lasted for more than 4 years on the impoverished nation on Saturday.

PressTV:  Could you please comment on the consequence of this reduction in the oil supply by Saudi Arabia?

Peter Koenig:  First, let’s make one thing crystal clear.  Mr. Pompeo is a flagrant liar, has been in the past with everything he says against his own fabricated enemies, and he will very unlikely change, as the type of his hawkish aggressive warrior character will not change. Therefore, everything Pompeo says and pretends with such assurance that most people realize it’s a fabricated lie as he did not – and never does – provide any evidence. Therefore, whatever he says and pretends to be the truth without evidence has to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

In fact, immediately blaming Iran for the drone attack on ARAMCO is without any foundation; it is an outright lie, just to put more dirt on Iran, to further denigrate Iran. It is very clear to me – who have worked for 7 years in Yemen – that the Houthis have the capacity to develop their own drones.  They have a flying range potential of at least 1,000 km.

It is very simple and very logical. The Houthis are gradually getting their strength back and are revenging themselves for the horrendous aggression launched for more than 4 years by the Saudis against their country — of course, with staunch support from the US, UK and the French.

Let’s just remind ourselves that inhuman abhorrent aggression has cost tens of thousands of Yemeni lives — most of them children, women and the elderly and weak — from direct bomb attacks, from famine, and from cholera and other sanitation-related diseases. Today still a million people are at risk of a cholera epidemic.

Having said this, the consequences or impact of a 5% oil output reduction due to the burning ARAMCO wells is insignificant. Of course, speculators – the Goldman Sachs type, who are the chief manipulators behind oil prices – would like you to believe that this is ample ground for hefty fuel price increases.  In reality not at all.

Of course, in our predatory capitalist world, the stock market wheelers and dealers may try to cash-in on this event – which in reality has – or should have – zero impact on the world oil supply.

This shortfall could easily be made up by lifting sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan oil sales… so it’s just a question of logics and foremost of justice, international law and Human Rights.

PressTV:  What about the fragility of the Saudis military power?

PK:  Of course, the Saudi military power is nothing without the full support and guidance, by weapons and technical and strategic advice directly from the Pentagon, CIA, and the European vassals, and, of course, from weapon manufacturers and weapon sales sharks in the UK and in France.

The Saudis from day one – in October 2015 – were just launching a proxy war for the US against Yemen. Yemen has a key strategic location in the Gulf and Middle East, and also off-shore deep hydrocarbon deposits, and god forbid, may not be ruled by a people-friendly — a socialist leaning government. For the last 50-some years Yemen was ruled by a US puppet, or puppets, which was okay for the US, but once people got tired of injustice and corruption, they decided to dispose their nefarious regime and replace it with the popular Houthi movement.

When the Saudis agreed in the early 1970’s as head of OPEC and on behalf of OPEC, to sell crude only in US-dollars, the US Administration offered them in turn “forever” military protection in the form of multiple military bases in the Saudi territories. Without this protection, the Saudis would not have survived as long as they did with their horrendous discriminatory and corrupt government and, of course, without that protection, OPEC may not have stuck to the “dollar-only” rule to trade hydrocarbons.  We might be in another world today, but we really don’t know how dynamics might have worked out.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

How to find a Tiger in Africa

Sun, 2019-09-15 00:08

Agostinho Neto declaring independence of Angola 11 November 1975

What I want to do here is something very simple. I want to explain how I began to search for Agostinho Neto. I also want to explain the perspective that shapes this search.1

When I was told about the plans for a colloquium I was asked if I would give a paper.2 I almost always say yes to such requests because for me a paper is the product of learning something new. So I went to the local bookstores to buy a biography of Dr Neto. The only thing I found available was a two-volume book by a man named Carlos Pacheco called Agostinho Neto O Perfil de um Ditador, published in 2016. The subtitle of the book is “A história do MPLA em Carne Viva”. When I went to the university library I found another book, a collection of essays by Mr Pacheco and a book by Mr Cosme, no longer in print.3

Obviously the sheer size of Mr Pacheco’s book suggested that this was a serious study. Since these two ominous tomes were the only biography I could find in print in a serious bookstore, it seemed to me that the weight of the books was also designed as part of Mr Pacheco’s argument. The two volumes, in fact, comprise digests of PIDE4 reports and Mr Pacheco’s philosophical musings about politics, culture, psychology etc. There is barely anything of substance about the poet, physician, liberation leader and first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, in nearly 1,500 pages.

As I said, I knew little about Dr Neto, but I knew something about Angola and the US regime’s war against the MPLA.5 I was also very familiar with the scholarship and research about US regime activities in Africa since 1945—both overt and covert. I also knew that dictators were not rare in Africa. However, in the title of Mr Pacheco’s book was the first time I had ever heard Dr Neto called a dictator. What struck me was that Dr Neto was president of Angola from the time of independence until his death in 1979—a total of four years. In contrast his successor remained president for almost 40 years. So my intuition told me if Agostinho Neto was a dictator he could not have been a very significant one. However, I wanted to know what the basis of this charge was. Certainly he was not a dictator on the scale of his neighbour, Joseph Mobutu.6 I reasoned that Agostinho Neto was called a dictator for the same reason all heads of state are called “dictators” in the West—because he held office by virtue of processes not approved in London, Paris or Washington. In the jargon of the “West”—a euphemism for the post-WWII US Empire—anyone called a communist who becomes a head of state must be a dictator, since no one in their right mind could elect a communist and no communist would submit to an election.

However, there was apparently more to this accusation than the allegation that Dr Neto must be a communist and therefore a dictator. Agostinho Neto had good relations with the Cuban “dictator” Fidel Castro and he enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union. When there still was a Soviet Union, anyone enjoying its support, no matter how minimal or ambivalent, could be considered at least a “potential dictator”. Then I read about a brief but serious incident in 1977, an attempted military coup against the Neto government on 27 May, led by Nito Alves and José Van Dunen. The coup was defeated and all sources agree there was a purge of the MPLA and many were arrested and killed. Writers like Mr Pacheco argue that Dr Neto directed a blood bath in which as many as 20-30,000 people died over the course of two years. There appears to be agreement that many people were arrested and killed but the exact figures vary.7

However, I still wondered whether this incident and its apparent consequences were enough to justify calling Dr Agostinho Neto, dictator of Angola.

While researching for this paper, while searching for Agostinho Neto, I found many people who had an opinion about him but very few who actually knew anything about Neto, and often they knew very little about Angola.

First I would like to deal with the coup attempt and the aftermath because that is the most immediate justification for this epithet. I am unable to introduce any data that might decide the questions I feel must be raised, but that does not make them less relevant to an accurate appraisal of Dr Neto’s four years in office.

  1. How, in the midst of a civil war, and military operations to defend the country, including the capital from a foreign invader—the Republic of South Africa—are the casualties and deaths to be distinguished between police actions and military actions? What reasonably objective apparatus existed to produce the statistics upon which the count could be based?
  2. What was the specific chain of command and operational structure in place to direct the purge on the scale alleged by Dr Neto’s detractors? What was the composition of the forces operating under government direction during this period? What was the composition of the command at local level?

Without claiming to answer these questions—they would have to be answered by research in Angola—there are some points that make the bald assertions of those like Mr Pacheco, who claim Dr Neto is responsible for the violent aftermath, for the thousands of victims, far from proven.

Casualty reporting during war is highly unreliable even in sophisticated military bureaucracies like those of the US or Britain. There were rarely bodies to count after saturation bombing or days of artillery barrage. To add a sense of proportion Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force at the Somme during World War I, ordered the slaughter of nearly 20,000 British soldiers in one day with total casualties of some 50,000—the excuse for this was war.8 One’s own casualties are usually a source of embarrassment. But in Angola, like in other African countries, the presence of a stable and professional bureaucracy capable of generating any kind of statistics was certainly sparse. Whether those statistics can be deemed objective is another issue.

The absence of written orders or minutes is not by itself proof that no orders were given. In fact, as has been established in the research on the whole sphere of covert action, written orders can be issued “for the file” while operational orders are transmitted—deniably—by word of mouth.9 Then the question has to be answered in reverse: how did the actual enforcement officers receive their instructions and from whom? Here it is particularly important to note that the MPLA could not have replaced all police and other security force rank and file with personnel whose loyalty to the new Angolan government was certain. This means that many police or other security personnel had been performing under orders of the New State officers until independence and were still on duty.10 The actual relationships these personnel had to the people in the districts where they were deployed would have been known, if not notorious. It is not unreasonable to infer that a general purge would give opportunities to people at all levels to solve “problems” arising from the fall of the Portuguese regime.

Then there is one other factor—a question raised by the fact that Mr Pacheco’s book relies almost entirely on PIDE reports about the MPLA. One can, in fact, read in several accounts of the independence struggle that the MPLA was thoroughly infiltrated by PIDE operatives. So do we know if the orders which rank and file personnel took were issued by bona fide MPLA cadre acting on instructions from the president or issued by PIDE operatives within the MPLA command structure? In fact, it is a highly practiced routine of covert operations, also by the PIDE during the independence war, to appear and act as if they were the MPLA while committing acts intended to discredit it.11 While it is true that the Salazar/ Caetano regime had collapsed the people who had maintained the regime—especially in covert operations—did not simply disappear. Moreover, the world’s premier covert action agency, the CIA, was an active supporter of all MPLA opposition and certainly of factions within the MPLA itself. We know about IA Feature because of the revelations of its operational manager, John Stockwell.12 We also know that the PIDE and the CIA worked together and we know that the US ambassador to Portugal during the period (1975 to 1979) was a senior CIA officer.13 We also know many details about the various ways in which covert operations were run then.14 What we do not know is the extent to which it may have been involved in the coup against Dr Neto. But there is room for educated guessing.

I do not believe it is possible to reconstruct the events of the purge with evidence that can provide reasonable assurance of what responsibility Agostinho Neto bears for the deaths and casualties attributed to that period—beyond the vague responsibility which any head of state may have for actions of the government apparatus over which he presides. There, are however, grounds for a reasonable doubt—for a verdict at least of “not proven”.

Which brings me to my second argument: from what perspective should the brief term of Agostinho Neto as president of the Angola be examined.

First of all we must recognise that Angola prior to 1975 was a criminal enterprise.

It began with the Atlantic slave trade, which really only ended in the 1880s (although slavery did not end). Then, like in all other colonies created by Europeans, a kind of licensed banditry was practiced, euphemistically called “trade”. By the end of the 19th century most of this organised crime was controlled by cartels organised in Europe and North America.15

Why do I call this organised crime and not commerce? First of all if one uses force to compel a transaction; e.g., a gun to make someone give you something, this is generally considered a crime and in Europe and North America usually subject to punishment as such. To travel to a foreign land with a gun and compel transactions, or induce them using drugs or other fraudulent means, does not change the criminal character—only the punitive consequences.

Angola’s economy was based on stolen land, forced labour, unequal/ fraudulent trading conditions, and armed force, the colour of law not withstanding. Neither Portuguese law (nor that of any other European state) would have permitted inhabitants of Angola to come to Portugal, kidnap its youth or force its inhabitants to accept the same conditions to which all African colonies and “protectorates” were submitted.

In other words, Agostinho Neto was the first president of an Angolan state. He, together with his supporters in the MPLA, created a republic out of what was essentially a gangster economy protected by the Portuguese dictatorship in Lisbon. Does this mean that all European inhabitants of Angola were gangsters? Certainly it does not. However, it can be argued that many Europeans or children of Europeans who were born in Angola recognised this when they began to demand independence, too. Some demanded independence to run their own gangs free of interference from abroad and some certainly wanted an end to gangsterism and the establishment of a government for the benefit of the inhabitants.

The performance of Dr Neto as president of Angola has to be measured by the challenges of creating a beneficial government from a system of organised crime and defending this effort against foreign and domestic armies supported by foreigners, specifically the agents of the gangsters who had been running the country until then.

But stepping back from the conditions of Angola and its plunder by cartels under protection of the New State, it is necessary to see Dr Neto’s struggle and the struggle for independence in Angola within the greater context of African independence. Like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Toure, Nasser, Qaddafi, Kenyatta, Nyerere and Cabral, what I would call the African liberation generation, Neto was convinced that Angola could not be independent without the independence of all Africa.16  In other words, he was aware that the independence from Portugal was necessarily only partial independence. Like the others of this generation Neto rejected race as a basis for African independence.

The position of African liberation leaders who rigorously rejected racialised politics has often been criticised, even mocked as naïve. It has often been pointed out—accurately—that the African states were created by Europeans and hence the ethnic conflicts that have laid waste to African development are proof that these liberation leaders were wrong: that either Africa could not transcend “tribalism” or that the states created could not manage the inherited territories in a modern way.

On the contrary, the African liberation generation was well aware of the problems inherited from European gangster regimes. Moreover they understood quite well that race was created by Europeans to control them, that there was no “white man” in Africa before the European coloniser created him. The “white man” was an invention of the late 17th century. First it was a legal construct—the granting of privileges to Europeans in the colonies to distinguish and separate them from African slave labourers. Then it was elaborated into an ideology, an Enlightenment ideology—white supremacy. By uniting the colonisers, who in their respective homelands had spent the previous thirty odd years slaughtering each other for reasons of religion, ethnicity, language, and greed, the Enlightenment ideals of ethnic and religious tolerance or even liberty bound Europeans together against slave majorities. By endowing these European servants with the pedigree of “whiteness” the owners of the plantation islands could prevent them from siding with other servants—the Africans—and overthrowing the gangsters and their Caribbean drug industry. The white “identity” was fabricated to prevent class alliances against the new capitalists.17

It is not clear if the African liberation generation understood the impact of African slavery in North America. Many post-war liberation leaders have admired the US and seen in it a model for independence from colonialism. Perhaps this is because in the preparations for entering WWI, the US regime undertook a massive propaganda campaign of unparalleled success in which the history of the US was virtually re-written—or better said invented. There are numerous stories about photographs being changed in the Soviet Union under Stalin to remove people who had fallen from favour or been executed. There is relatively little attention devoted to the impact of the Creel Committee, a group of US advertising executives commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson to write the history people now know as “the American Dream” and to sell it throughout the world.18 This story turns a planter-mercantile slaveholder state into an “imperfect democracy” based on fine Enlightenment principles of human liberty. In fact, the contemporaries of the American UDI saw the actions in Philadelphia and the insurgency that followed in the same terms that people in the 1970s saw Ian Smith and his Rhodesian National Front. It is very clear from the record that the US regime established by the richest colonials in North America was initiated to avert Britain’s abolition of slavery in its colonies. It was not an accident that African slaves and Native Americans were omitted from the protections of the new charter. On the contrary the new charter was intended to preserve their exclusion.

Which brings me to my concluding argument. I believe there are two widely misused terms in the history of the post-WWII era, especially in the histories of the national liberation struggles and so-called Third World: “Cold War” and “anti-communism”. Since the end of the Soviet Union it is even very rare that these terms are explained. The reintroduction of the term “Cold War” to designate US regime policies toward Russia is anachronistic and misleading.

To understand this we have to return to 1945. In San Francisco, California, shortly before the end of formal hostilities representatives of the Allies met and adopted what would be called the Charter of the United Nations. Among the provisions of this charter were some ideas retained from the League of Nations Covenant (which the US never ratified) and some new ideas about the future of what were called non-self-governing territories (i.e. colonies, protectorates etc.) The principle of self-determination, a legacy of the League used to carve up Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, was to be extended to all empires. After the propaganda war by which colonial troops (natives) were deployed in masses against Germany, Italy and Japan, to defend freedom and independence, it became clear that the exhausted and even more heavily indebted European colonial powers could not return to the status quo ante. Britain was incapable of controlling India and with the independence of India it would become increasingly difficult to justify or sustain rule of the rest of the empire. The Commonwealth idea basically kept the “white” dominions loyal.19 But how were the “non-whites” to be kept in line? The US regime made it clear that there would be no support for European empires of the pre-war type. So the stated policy of the Charter was that independence was inevitable—meaning that all those who wanted it had a license to get it.

At the same time, however, an unstated policy was being formulated—penned largely by George Kennan—that would form the basis for the expansion of the US Empire in the wake of European surrender. That unstated policy, summarised in the US National Security Council document0 – NSC 68 – was based on some fundamental conclusions by the regime’s policy elite that reveal the essential problem with which all liberation movements and new independent states would be faced but could not debate. NSC 68 was promulgated in 1947 but remained secret until about 1978.

Kennan who had worked in the US mission to the Soviet Union reported confidentially that the Soviet Union, although it had won the war against Germany, was totally exhausted and would be incapable of doing anything besides rebuilding domestically, at least for another 20 years! In another assessment he pointed out that the US economy had only recovered by virtue of the enormous tax expenditure for weapons and waging WWII. It would be devastating to the US economy—in short, a massive depression would return—if the war industry did not continue to receive the same level of funding (and profit rates) it received during the war.

Furthermore, it was very clear that the US economy consumed about 60 per cent of the world’s resources for only 20 per cent of the population. Kennan argued the obvious, that this condition could not continue without the use of force by the US regime.

Although the US appears as (and certainly is) a violent society in love with its military, in fact, foreign wars have never enjoyed great popularity. It has always been necessary for the US regime to apply extreme measures—marketing—to generate support for wars abroad. The war in Korea was initially just a continuation of US Asia-Pacific expansion (aka Manifest Destiny).20 When US forces were virtually kicked off the Korean peninsula, the machinery that had sold WWI to the masses was put in motion and the elite’s hatred of the Soviet Union was relit in what became known as the McCarthy purges. The McCarthy purges were necessary to turn the Soviet Union—an ally against Hitler—into an enemy even worse than Hitler (who, in fact, never was an enemy of the US elite, some of whom counted the Führer as a personal friend.21  It was at this point that anti-communism became part of the arsenal for the unstated policy of the US regime. Anti-communism was enhanced as a term applicable to any kind of disloyalty—meaning failure to support the US regime in Korea or elsewhere. It also became the justification for what appeared to be contradictions between US stated anti-colonial policy and its unstated neo-colonialism.

The term “Cold War” has been attributed to US banker and diplomat Bernard Baruch and propagandist Walter Lippman. It has become accepted as the historical framework for the period from 1945 until 1989.  However, this is history as propaganda. The facts are that as George Kennan and other high officials knew in 1947, the Soviet Union posed absolutely no threat to the US. On the contrary the secret (unstated) policy of the US—declassified in the 1990s—was to manufacture enough atomic weaponry to attack the Soviet Union twice. Generals like MacArthur and Le May were not extremists. They simply discussed US strategy openly.22 The point of the “Cold War” was to create a vision, which would explain the non-existent Soviet threat as a cover for the unstated policy of US imperial expansion—against national liberation movements—while officially supporting national liberation.

Together with anti-communism, the Cold War was a propaganda/ marketing strategy for undermining what every member of the African liberation generation knew intuitively, that the liberation of Africa depends not only on the liberation of every African country on the continent but on the liberation of the African diaspora. Anti-communism and the Cold War myth successfully isolated African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans from the international struggles for liberation and human dignity and an end to racist regimes.23 In that sense anti-communism is a direct descendant of white supremacy and served the same purpose. It is particularly telling that Malcolm X, who had matured in a sectarian version of black consciousness- the Nation of Islam—was assassinated after he returned from Mecca and an extensive tour of Africa and began to argue not only that African-Americans must demand civil rights, but that they must demand human rights and that these are ultimately achieved when humans everywhere are liberated.24 Malcolm was murdered not just for opposing white supremacy but also for being an internationalist.

If we look at the fate of the African liberation generation we will find that those who were committed internationalists and non-racialists were also socialists and not did not confuse possessive individualism with human liberty. We will also find that all the leaders of newly independent African states who were most vilified, deposed or murdered were those who did not surrender those ideals or the practices needed to attain them. They were not Enlightenment leaders building on European hypocrisy. They were Romantic revolutionaries who knew that there was no salvation—only honest struggle for liberation.25 I believe that Agostinho Neto was one of those Romantic revolutionaries. And the honest struggle is not over.

Neto’s Funeral in September 1979

• Photos courtesy of Fundação Antonio Agostinho Neto

  1. Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (1983) includes an episode set in South Africa as a parody of the film Zulu (1964). The upshot is that an army medical officer suggests that a tiger could have bitten off the leg of a fellow officer in the night. To which all respond, “a tiger in Africa?!”. Of course, tigers are indigenous to Asia but not Africa. Salazar was also to have attributed the indigenous opposition to Portuguese rule in Africa as “coming from Asia”. See also Felipe Ribeiro de Meneses, Salazar A Political Biography (2016).
  2. Presented at the colloquium “Agostinho Neto and the African Camões Prize Laureates” at the University of Porto, Portugal, on the 40th anniversary of Agostinho Neto’s death.
  3. Leonel Cosme, Agostinho Neto e o sua tempo (2004).
  4. PIDE, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, Salazar secret political police, also trained in part by the Nazi regime’s Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo).
  5. MPLA, Movimento popular de libertação de Angola: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
  6. (Joseph) Mobutu Sese Seko, (1930 – 1997) dictator of Republic of the Congo (Zaire), today Democratic Republic of the Congo, aka Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the French Congo/ Congo Brazzaville, previously Congo Free State and Belgian Congo. Mobutu seized power in the wake of the overthrow and murder of Patrice Lumumba and ruled from 1965 until 1997. See Georges Zongola-Talaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002).
  7. Alberto Oliveira Pinto, História de Angola (2015); Adrien Fontaellaz, War of Intervention in Angola (2019),
  8. Jacques R. Pauwels, The Great Class War 1914-1918 (2018).
  9. Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (2001) originally De Moord op Lumumba (1999). The Belgian foreign minister during the “Congo Crisis” wrote several memoranda in which the government’s position was that no harm should come to Patrice Lumumba while the Belgian secret services were actively plotting his kidnapping and assassination. Historical research generally privileges documents and they survive eyewitnesses.
  10. Estado Novo, the term used to designate the Portuguese regime under the dictatorial president of the council of ministers (prime minister) Antonio Salazar Oliveira from 1932 until 1968 and then under Marcelo Caetano until April 1974.
  11. This is also discussed in Fernando Cavaleiro Ângelo, Os Flêchas: A Tropa Secreta da PIDE/DGS na Guerra de Angola 1969 – 1974 (2016) history of the PIDE’s Angolan counter-insurgency force. Since the concept and organisation of the Flêchas bears considerable resemblance to the PRU formed by the CIA in Vietnam under the Phoenix Program, it would not be surprising ifCIA cooperation with the PIDE extended to “Phoenix” advice (see Valentine, 1990 p. 159 et seq.).
  12. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (1978) Stockwell had left the agency before the extensive covert support for UNITA was enhanced under Ronald Reagan, despite the Clark Amendment. However, Stockwell noted that when he had returned from Vietnam duty and before getting the paramilitary assignment for IA Feature, he noticed that the busiest desk at headquarters was the Portugal desk.
  13. Frank Carlucci (1930 – 2018), US ambassador to Portugal (1975 – 1978), Deputy Director of the CIA (1978 – 1981).
  14. Philip Agee, CIA Diary (1975), and Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990) and The CIA as Organized Crime (2017) Douglas Valentine uses the terms “stated policy” and “unstated policy” to show the importance of overt and covert language in the conduct of political and psychological warfare.
  15. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944) and Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1982).
  16. Ghana, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea-Conakry, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea Bissau, Mozambique: Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup and forced into exile. Lumumba was deposed and murdered by a Belgian managed corporate conspiracy with US/ UN support. Cabral was assassinated. Both Mondlane and Machel were murdered. Years later Qaddafi would be overthrown after massive armed attacks, tortured and murdered by US agents. The general attitude rejecting “race” and “racialism” can be found in the speeches and writings of these leaders, esp. those delivered on the occasion of independence. See also CLR James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977) and A History of Negro Revolt (1985) See also Jean-Paul Sartre Kolonialismus und Neokolonialismus (1968) in particular “Der Kolonialismus ist ein System” and “Das politische Denken Patrice Lumumbas” originally published in Situations V Colonialisme et Neocolonialisme.
  17. For a thorough elaboration of this see Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776 (2014) and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism (2018).
  18. George Creel, How We Advertised America (1920) also discussed in Stuart Ewen, PR: A Social History of Spin (1996).
  19. “Dominion” status was granted under the Statute of Westminster 1931 to the “white colonies”: Canada, Irish Free State, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This gave these colonies so-called responsible government based on local franchise, largely eliminating the jurisdiction of the British parliament in London.
  20. US war against Korea, combined with a Korean civil war, began in June 1950. A ceasefire was agreed on 27 July 1953. However, the war has not officially ended and the US regime maintains at least 23,000 personnel in the country—not counting other force projection (e.g. regular manoeuvres, atomic weapons and naval power, etc.).
  21. Prescott Bush, father/grandfather of two US Presidents Bush, was nearly prosecuted for “trading with the enemy” due to his dealings with the Nazi regime. Henry Ford had even been awarded a decoration by the regime. These were the most notorious cases in the US. There were many other forms of less visible support to the Hitler regime from US corporations before, during and after the war. The fact is that the US did not declare war against Hitler’s Germany. Hitler declared war on the US in the vain hope of bringing Japan into the war against the Soviet Union. See Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (2002) The US war against Japan was a continuation of its standing objectives for expansion into China—see also Cummings (2009).
  22. This argument has been made and documented in the work of Bruce Cummings, The Origins of the Korean War (1981, 1990) and Dominion from Sea to Sea (2009).
  23. Gerald Horne, White Supremacy Confronted (2019).
  24. Also formulated very clearly in his Oxford Union speech, 3 December 1964. Malcolm X was assassinated on 21 February 1965.
  25. For an elaboration of the term “Romantic revolutionaries” see the work of Morse Peckham, especially a collection of essays, Romantic Revolutionaries (1970).
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Many Teachers Keep Leaving Charter Schools

Sat, 2019-09-14 05:48

Yet another academic study shows what many have documented for years: the teacher turnover rate in charter schools remains much higher than the teacher turnover rate in public schools.1 High teacher turnover rates has been a longstanding problem for privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools across the country. Here is a typical example:

Average [teacher] attrition across the charter school sector in Massachusetts has hovered around 30 percent for the last decade. That is more than double the rate at traditional districts in the state, which have been averaging about 12 percent over the last 10 years.  (Jung, 2019, para. 5, emphasis added)2

Charter school teachers also leave the profession of teaching at higher rates than public school teachers.

This revolving door of teachers (“charter churn”) is one of many reasons that the quality of education is lower in privately-operated charter schools than public schools.

Students need a large number of qualified professional teachers who work together regularly for extended periods and develop collegiality, continuity, stability, and common understandings. An environment in which teachers are coming and going frequently is not good for students. Too many different teachers in a short period of time is destabilizing for students and lowers the level of education. Continuity, stability, and high-quality teaching and learning are impossible under such conditions.

A main reason that privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools lose so many teachers so frequently is poor working conditions. Generally speaking, conditions in public schools are better than conditions in privately-operated charter schools. Overall, teachers in public schools tend to make more money and have more credentials and years of experience than charter school teachers. Their jobs are also more secure, have better benefits, and are usually unionized. The same cannot be said of teachers in charter schools. Most charter school teachers are not unionized and often lack any type of pension benefits. They also tend to work longer days and years than their public school counterparts. Further, charter school employees, like employees at a business corporation, are usually considered “At Will” employees, which means that an employer can terminate an employee at will for any reason or for no reason at all.

As “cost-cutting” and “revenue-maximizing” private entities that fetishize the individualism, competition, and consumerism of the “free market,” charter schools do not put the right to education in first place. Narrow business considerations come first. Everything is viewed as a narrow budgetary issue. Charter school advocates try to deny all this and strive to prettify charter schools in order to fool the gullible and to keep siphoning funds and property from public schools. In this way, privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have made many “entrepreneurs” very wealthy—all at public expense.

  1. Gulosino, C., Ni, Y., & Rorrer, A. K. (2019, August). Newly hired teacher mobility in charter schools and traditional public schools: An application of segmented labor market theory. American Journal of Education, 125(4), 547-592.
  2. Jung, C. (2019, January). Mass. charter schools test new ways to reduce high teacher turnover. WBUR.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Challenging the NDP on Palestine During the Election Campaign

Sat, 2019-09-14 05:37

Last week I interrupted Jagmeet Singh at a public event to criticize the NDP’s suppression of Palestine solidarity activism.

Holding a placard with the words “Jagmeet, Palestinian Lives Matter”, I demanded the NDP leader apologize for overturning the vote of members who elected Rana Zaman to represent the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour ridding because she defended Palestinians mowed down by Israeli snipers. I also asked him to apologize for suppressing debate at last year’s convention on the modest “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”, which which was unanimously endorsed by the NDP youth convention, many affiliated groups and two dozen riding associations. I also criticized his refusal to heed the call from 200 prominent individuals, labour leaders and party members — including Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Linda McQuaig and Maher Arar — for the NDP to withdraw from the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG).

While my intervention was a bit chaotic — there was a concurrent disruption and my phone rang — it served its purpose. It was mentioned in a La Presse story and Global News did a 2 ½ minute clip titled “Protester asks Jagmeet Singh for apology over removal of former NDP candidate in Halifax.” Two hundred people in the room heard the criticism and the video I shot of the intervention was viewed more than 3,000 times online.

In his response, Singh claimed he wasn’t responsible for ousting Zaman but rather a party committee. While technically correct, it’s hard to imagine he didn’t okay it, particularly considering NDP National Director Melissa Bruno – quoted justifying Zaman’s ouster – was Singh’s chief of staff as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP between 2012 and 2017. (Bruno took a break to be “part of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign”, notes her bio.) Similarly, during the 2018 convention Singh mobilized his family and dozens of members of his community to vote against allowing debate on the Palestine Resolution at the convention. Additionally, Singh explicitly rejected the call for the NDP to withdraw from CIIG.

Zaman is not the only candidate the NDP blocked from running at least partly because they support Palestinian rights. A number of individuals who signed the open letter calling on the NDP to withdraw from CIIG had their bids sabotaged. Robbie Mahood and Barry Weisleder were formally disallowed while Saron Gebresellassi and Sid Ryan’s bids to run in the upcoming election were subverted. Christeen Elizabeth who didn’t sign the letter but supports the Palestinian led boycott movement was also blocked.

The recent decision to block pro-Palestinian candidates follow on the heels of the NDP stopping as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates in 2015 for defending Palestinian rights. Back then at least the NDP had the excuse that it was the official opposition and atop the polls with Thomas Mulcair explicitly positioning the party as the mainstream alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Today, after the Liberals campaigned to their left in the last election, the NDP has the third most seats in the House of Commons, is languishing below 10% in the polls and the Green Party is polling ahead of them. Many NDP MPs are not running again and the Liberals are portraying themselves as the only credible “left” alternative to the Conservatives.

While it is clear that most voters have decided there is little point to a ‘Liberal-lite’ brand of NDP, the party brass seems determined to follow the same anti-democratic, anti-Palestinian, centrist script that proved a dead end before. It seems they are more eager to play to the dominant media than party members.

But, there’s a better way. When the Liberals recently ousted Hassan Guillet as a candidate for challenging Israeli apartheid, the NDP should have asked the high-profile Imam to run for the party. The winner of the Saint-Leonard—Saint-Michel riding nomination gained global notoriety for his sermon at the memorial for the victims of the 2017 Québec City mosque attack. Offering Guillet a spot would have embarrassed the Liberals, brought many Quebec Muslims into the NDP fold and increased the party’s chance of winning Saint-Leonard—Saint-Michel or another Montréal riding. It would be good for the NDP to be seen as willing to challenge the Israel lobby, dominant media and Liberals over the issue.

Pro-Palestinian supporters of the NDP should not be afraid of challenging the party leadership during the election campaign. Having seen Singh in action during a confrontation, as well as Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer, I can tell you the NDP leader performs better than the others. Rather than have security usher me out, he at least responded by expressing sympathy towards the plight of Palestinians.

The right wing, Israeli nationalist lobby will be active during the election campaign. So too must the Palestinian solidarity movement.

While B’nai B’rith can garner coverage of their criticism of the NDP by releasing a statement, Palestine solidarity activists must disrupt public events for the media to take interest. If that means wherever he goes across the country Jagmeet Singh is confronted by Palestine solidarity activists raising the name of Rana Zaman, the Palestine Resolution and the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group, so be it. Palestinian lives matter. Certainly, more than the comfort of politicians and political parties.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

The Rise and Rise of Green Politics

Sat, 2019-09-14 02:50

Alongside the flag-waving surge of right wing and extreme right wing groups, political parties concerned with environmental issues are on the rise.

Public awareness of climate change and associated issues is growing; a recent poll in Britain found that 85% of people are concerned about climate change, 52% ‘very concerned’. As a result of this increased concern we are witnessing a major turning point for green parties, particularly in Europe, and it’s young people that are driving it.

In the May EU elections green parties achieved unprecedented levels of success in northwest Europe, a third of under 30 year olds voting Green, and in Germany (where The Green Party has historically been strongest), a national poll ranked the Greens first in a federal election. Green centered parties, the Financial Times reports, now, and for the first time, have “a strong hand at the European level and in the national politics of more than half the EU’s population.”

At the heart of the Greens’ campaign is a “Green New Deal”, (something that is also animating some on the US left), which requires huge public investment in green infrastructure, and the idea of a ‘Carbon Tax and Dividend’ scheme. The model proposes a levy to be applied on, for example, fuel, airfares, education etc., creating a dividend or rebate to be universally distributed to offset the costs involved in moving to a low carbon economy. The German Green Party has endorsed the scheme, as has Ska Keller, the European Green party leader.

Differences in approach, values, policies and attitudes between Green Politics and the Divisive Ways of the Right could not be starker: Contrary ways of approaching the issues of the day representing broader divisions within the world; divisions that, as we transition from one civilization to another, are becoming increasingly stark.

The present modes of living, values and structures are crystallizing. Based on ideals that promote the individual over the collective, life is defined in a somewhat narrow materialistic way. Ideologies, religious, political and social, exert a powerful influence, creating separation and intolerance, entrapping all who adopt them in dogma. In contrast the Movement of the New, tends towards synthesis, cooperation and understanding.

As the differences become more apparent, the choices clearer, the methods of the right and far right become more extreme, lines of polarization increase, the demands for change intensify.

The principle obstacles to change are the reactionary, conservative forces in the world. They are powerful groups, many of which are actually in power: Trump’s Presidency, the Republican Party in the US more broadly, the Conservatives in Britain, which, under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have formed what may constitute the most far right cabinet ever assembled in the country.

Russia, Turkey, Israel, Hungary and Poland all have right wing governments, Japan, under Shinzo Abe has moved the Liberal Democratic party to the right, and, eager to take their share of the populist vote, governments in Australia and Canada are drifting. India has recently re-elected the Hindu nationalist BJP party with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, and in 2018 Brazil voted in a former army captain and rabid right wing politician Jair Bolsonaro. He has been much in the news of late over the deliberate, government-sanctioned burning of the Amazon rain forest – an act of Environmental Terrorism.

All such governments are inward looking, promote tribal nationalism in varying degrees and seek not only to maintain the unjust status quo, but to intensify it. They represent the past, their methodology and ideals are completely out of sync with the rhythm of the times, and, as The New Narrative becomes increasingly defined, and forms are set in place through which the purifying waters of justice and unity can flow, they will fall into ruin.

The demographics of the divide are complex, of course, but are broadly founded not so much on class and occupation as age and education. In 2017 a YouGov survey in the UK found that the Labour Party were 19% ahead (in the polls) when it came to 18-24 year-olds “and the Conservatives [led] by 49% among the over 65s.” Research from the Pew Institute shows that younger people (18-29) in every country cited ‘favor greater [cultural and ethnic] diversity in their country’, and that education levels play a major part in forming attitudes ­– progressive or otherwise; in America, e.g., 71% of people with ‘more education’ favored diversity compared to 51% with less education. In Germany it’s 65% – 44%, Brazil, 67% – 38%.

Despite outward signs to the contrary, and the bullying tactics of those that would obstruct change, an unstoppable momentum is being established that will sweep away the old worn out structures. The Green Wave is a sign and expression of this global movement. All that divides and destroys must be laid aside; unity, sharing and tolerance are the values of the time, and, these will increasingly be the principles upon which a new world order will be built.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Improper Purposes: Boris Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament

Sat, 2019-09-14 02:48

There was something richly amusing in the move: three judges, sitting in Scotland’s highest court of appeal, had little time for the notion that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension, or proroguing, of parliament till October 14, had been lawful.  Some 78 parliamentarians had taken issue with the Conservative leader’s limitation on Parliamentary activity, designed to prevent any hiccups prior to October 31, the day Britain is slated to leave the European Union.

It did take two efforts.  The initial action in Edinburgh’s Outer House of the Court of Session was unsuccessful for the petitioners.  Conventional wisdom then was that such issues were, as a matter of high policy, political and therefore non-justiciable.  Legal standards, in other words, could not be applied to the decision.  (British judges tend to be rather reserved when it comes to treading on matters that might be seen as the staple of political judgment.)

All three First Division judges thought otherwise, taking the high road that this was exceptional.  Lord Carloway, the Lord President, accepted in principle that advice by the Prime Minister to the Queen would not normally be reviewable by courts.  Such a realm was customarily one above and beyond the judicial wigs.  That said, as a summary of the judgement records, “it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution”.  That principle was drawn, by implication, from the “principles of democracy and the rule of law.”  Feeling emboldened, Lord Carloway, on examining the documents supplied by Johnson and his team, felt that improper reasons could be discerned.

Lord Brodie similarly noted the singular nature of the circumstances. Under normal circumstances prorogation advice would not be reviewable, but if it constituted a tactic designed to frustrate Parliament, it could well be deemed unlawful.  In this case, Johnson’s move was “an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities.”  It could be inferred on the evidence that “the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no deal Brexit without further Parliamentary inference.”  Bold stuff, indeed, and hard to fault.

The third judge, Lord Drummond Young, was bolder still.  No need to be nimble footed here: the entire scope of such powers, relevant to prorogation or otherwise, could be legally tested.  The onus was on the UK government to show a valid reason for the prorogation “having regard to the fundamental constitutional importance of parliamentary scrutiny or executive action.”  The clues of evident impropriety in Johnson’s action lay in the length of the suspension and the general circumstances suggesting a prevention of scrutiny.  There could be no other inference that the move showed a wish “to restrict Parliament.”

The full bench, accordingly, made an order “declaring that the prime minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and thus null and of no effect.”  Few more damning statements have ever issued against a prime minister of the realm.

In an effort to remove some egg on the faces of government officials, a spokesman for Number 10 claimed to be disappointed by the decision, insisting that Johnson needed “to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda.  Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”  This was a somewhat milder version from those offered by other sources close to the Prime Minister, claiming political bias on the Scottish bench.  “We note that last week the High Court in London did not rule that prorogation was unlawful.  The legal activists choose the Scottish courts for a reason.”  The cheek of it all!

As for certain conservative outlets, accepting the judgment of the Court of Session was, well, unacceptable.  The Supreme Court, it was hoped by the likes of Richard Ekins, would clean up the mess made by their northern brethren with clear heads.  The Scottish decision had been “a startling – and misconceived – judgment.”

Which brings us to the second front opened up by petitioners in England, itself.  A High Court challenge, with an appeal now expected to be heard in the Supreme Court next week, initially failed to yield any movement.  But Johnson had little reason, or time, to gloat.  The government is now reverting to a stalling game, refusing to act on the Scottish decision till the English equivalent is handed down.  Not all business, however, will be suspended: the work of select committees, for instance, will continue.  The government also finds itself in the trenches, facing a Parliament intent on extending the Brexit date in order to achieve a deal.

The publication of the full, previously leaked doomsday document, the Yellowhammer contingency plan, anticipating measures if a no deal Brexit takes place, has also done its bit to pockmark Johnson’s efforts to maintain a steady ship.  The prime minister, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accusingly, “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it.”

The government’s hope is that the Supreme Court case will move at its usual snail’s pace, thereby making any point ventured by Johnson’s detractors a moot point.  Richard Dickman of Pinsent Masons has observed that such appeals “take months sometimes years, but the court can move quickly in urgent cases like this one.”  The occasion promises to be quite a judicial party: 11 of the 12 law lords will be sitting.

Testing the judicial weather, Dickman suggested that there might “be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision from the court with a more detailed judgment to follow.”  Another chapter in the annals of British law and parliamentary farce is being written.  In the meantime, the sentiment of the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, reverberates through Europe. “We do not have reasons to be optimistic.”

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Iran: A Club of Sanctioned Countries in Solidarity Against US Economic Terrorism

Fri, 2019-09-13 21:33

PressTV Interview – transcript

Background links:
https://ifpnews.com/iranian-mps-propose-formation-of-club-of-sanctioned-countries
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-china-iran-fight-sanctions-1458096

Excerpts:

An Iranian parliamentary faction has come up with the idea of establishing a club of sanctioned countries for concerted action against the US economic terrorism.

The chairman of the Parliament’s faction on countering sanctions, Poormokhtar, gave a report on the formation of the faction and its activities, as well as the ongoing efforts to establish the club of sanctioned countries. Iran’s FM, Zaraf, said this would be enhancing the already existing alliance of Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela against US economic terrorism.

PressTV:  Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela are among the nations that have come out against the United States’ use of sanctions to enforce its foreign policy around the world. In what ways can they fight these US sanctions as a group?

Peter Koenig: Brilliant idea!  Solidarity makes stronger and eventually will attract other countries who are sick and tired of the US sanction regime, and since they have the backing of Russia and China, that’s a very strong alliance, especially an economic alliance. The sanction regime can only be broken through economics, meaning decoupling from the western monetary system. I said this before and say it again, at the risk of repeating myself.

After all, China is the world’s largest and strongest economy in Purchasing Power GDP measures which is the only comparison that really counts. I believe this solidarity alliance against US sanctions is certainly worth a trial.

And personally, I think it will be a successful trial, as more countries will join, possibly even non-sanctioned ones, out of solidarity against a common tyrant.

The countries in solidarity against sanctions, in addition to ignoring them — and the more they ignore them, the more other countries will follow-suit — that’s logical as fear disappears and solidarity grows.

For example, Iran and Venezuela, oil exporting countries, could accompany their tankers by war ships. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but think of it as temporary and as a long-term gain. Would “Grace I” have been accompanied by an Iranian war ship the Brits would not have dared confiscating it. That’s for sure.

PressTV: Many of the US sanctions have led to death of civilians in those particular countries. At the same time, sanctions have also led to the improvement of these countries to the point where domestic production in various fields advanced. Don’t sanctions become country-productive to US aims?’

PK:  Of course, the sanctions are counter-productive. They have helped Russia to become food-self-sufficient, for example. That was not Washington’s intention and less so the intention of the EU, who followed Washington’s dictate like puppets.

Sanctions are like a last effort before the fall of the empire, to cause as much human damage as possible, to pull other nations down with the dying beast. It has always been like that  starting with the Romans through the Ottoman’s. They realize their time has come but can’t see a world living in peace. So they must plant as much unrest and misery as possible before they disappear

That’s precisely what’s happening with the US.

Intimidation, building more and more military bases, all with fake money, as we know the dollar is worth nothing – FIAT money – that the world still accepts but less and less so, therefore military bases, deadly sanctions, and trade wars. Trump knows that a trade war against China is a lost cause. Still, he can intimidate other countries by insisting on a trade war with China or that’s what he thinks.

PressTV: The more countries US sanctions, illegally, more people turn against the US: doesn’t that defeat the US so-called fight against terrorism and violence?

PK: Well, US sanction and the entire scheme of US aggression has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, as you know. It’s nothing but expanding US hegemony over the world, and if needed, and more often than not, the US finances terrorism to fight proxy wars against their so-called enemies, meaning anybody not conforming to their wishes and not wanting to submit to their orders and not letting them exploit – or rather steal – their natural resources.

Syria is a case in point. ISIL is funded and armed by the Pentagon, who buys Serbian produced weapon to channel them through the Mid-East allies to Syrian terrorists, the ISIL or similar kinds with different names — just to confuse.

Venezuela too – the opposition consist basically of US trained, financed and armed opposition “leaders” – who do not want to participate in totally democratic elections – order of the US – boycott them. But as we have seen as of this day, the various coup attempts by the US against their legitimate and democratically elected President, Nicolás Maduro, have failed bitterly, and this despite the most severe sanctions regime South American has known, except for Cuba, against whom the US crime has been perpetuated for 60 years.

So, nobody should have the illusion that Washington’s wars are against terrorism. Washington is THE terrorist regime that fights for world hegemony.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

A Morning in Afghanistan

Fri, 2019-09-13 20:41

On a very warm September morning in Kabul, several dozen men, women, and children sit on the carpeted floor of a room at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center. The women cluster together. All wear burqas, but because of the heat they push the steel blue veils back, revealing their faces. Most of the men wear traditional tunics and pakol hats.

Parents and children alike listen intently to Masoma, a young Afghan woman who coordinates the Center’s “Street Kids School.” She explains the importance of steady attendance, and parents nod in agreement. Most of the 100 students come on time for their Friday classes, but a handful had recently skipped, showing up only on the day when the center distributes monthly food rations for the Street Kids families.

The previous Friday, those who had missed more than two classes prior to the food distribution day walked away empty-handed — a hard lesson, but the volunteer teachers felt they must abide by the short list of rules governing the center. Anyone who misses classes two or more times in a month won’t receive the ration.

Then Masoma’s colleague, Dr. Hakim, stands and poses two blunt requests. “Please raise your hand,” he says, “if you and your family have at least enough resources to meet your basic needs.”

About six hands are raised. Next he asks people to raise a hand if they couldn’t make ends meet. Seven hands go up. Hakim says his organization wants to help families become self-reliant so that after their children leave the Street Kids School, they will have another way to acquire essentials like beans, rice, and cooking oil.

Hakim now asks people to raise their hands if they could send one family member, like an older brother, to a three-month course on how to repair mobile phones. The idea is well-received. Notebook papers are circulated to gather parents’ names, and, if possible, mobile phone numbers. Several women seek Masoma’s help to write their names. She assures them she will stay in touch.

A tall young man, Habib, carrying a large tray of bananas and apples, politely offers fruit to each guest. Six years ago, Afghan Peace Volunteers members had befriended Habib when they met him in a busy market-place. His father had been killed when a bomb exploded in Kabul. I remember watching him work on a dusty, crowded street during a chilly afternoon shortly after he and his family had taken up residence in a miserable shack in Kabul. His little brother walked alongside him, holding his hand, while Habib carried a scale and asked people to weigh themselves on it. Habib looked forlorn and worried. The shy, anxious youngster had been regularly beaten by an uncle who tried to force him to join a militia; he now recognizes that Habib was wise to run away from the militia.

Today, Habib towers over me. Yesterday, he spoke eagerly at a small group meeting he had helped plan about ways to build caring relationships. Over the past three years, he has learned to read and write and has been at the top of his classes at a government school. He has also developed some construction skills. When I remark that several walls at the center were repaired and newly painted, Masoma smiled happily. “Habib!” she says. “He was a big help.”

A few adults linger alongside the center’s shady garden, filled with fruit trees, grapevines, herbs, and flowers. Some of the Afghan Peace Volunteers used permaculture methods to design and cultivate the space. Others recently dedicated themselves to a “renewable energy team.” Last year, the team helped forty-four families acquire solar energy. This year they hope to expand the effort.

Over the past week, young volunteers have gathered to plan for an upcoming “On the Road to Peace” conference. This will be the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ third annual gathering of participants from each of Afghanistan’s thirty-four provinces. The conference offers four days of intensive learning and discovery about cross-cultural understanding, nonviolence, and ways to abolish war.

Yesterday, Dr. Hakim and I asked for complete quiet inside the center’s “office” — a large room lined with bookcases, file cabinets, mats, and sturdy pillows. In the center of the room, a jumble of cords and power strips are connected to a solar power battery, a fan, a router, and a collection of  cell phones and laptops.

Earlier, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! had invited Dr. Hakim and I to participate in interviews regarding President Trump’s sudden decision to call off a secret meeting he claimed to have arranged between himself, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, and representatives of the Taliban who have been meeting with United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Sitting on the floor, we huddled over Dr. Hakim’s well-worn laptop waiting for Democracy Now! engineers to contact us by Skype.

Hakim and I suggested that neither Trump nor any of the negotiators in Doha were participating in a genuine peace process. Rather, it was a cruel charade, with each side seeking greater leverage by demonstrating their willingness to kill innocent people.

Many people living in Afghanistan greatly fear increased Taliban power over their cities, villages, roadways, and crumbling infrastructure. Taliban war crimes are frequently covered in global media. Less obvious to people in the U.S., but horribly real for people in Afghanistan, are acts of aerial terrorism regularly waged by the United States military.

Writing for The Daily Beast earlier this year, Andrew Quilty described how one Afghan family in the Helmand province suffered a vicious attack on their home last November. Two Taliban fighters had come to their home, insisting that Obaidullah, the householder, let them in. He pleaded with them to leave, but instead the Taliban fighters fired on a joint United States and Afghan military convoy. Shortly thereafter, a United States A-10 Warthog plane strafed Obaidullah’s home.

“Hundreds of rounds of ammunition—bullets the size of large carrots—fired by a weapon designed to disable armoured tanks, poured out of the plane’s Gatling gun,” Quilty wrote. “The two Taliban fighters had fled. Instead, Obaidullah and his fifteen-year-old son Esmatullah were killed; thirteen others suffered broken bones and shrapnel injuries from head to toe. One boy, fourteen-year-old Ehsanullah, lost both his eyes.”

In a report on civilian casualties, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan attributed a rise in civilian deaths in 2019 to an escalation of the U.S. air war in the country. In addition, countless night raids carried out by joint U.S./Afghan forces have struck terror in families whose loved ones were killed in front of them. Ordinary Afghans whom I have met with in the past week are acutely aware of the night raids and link the gruesome pattern of killing civilians to United States trainers and the CIA.

Before Donald Trump pulled back U.S. participation, there had been nine rounds of talks, and the United States special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was supposedly edging closer to a “peace” deal with the Taliban.

A genuine peace process would hold all warring parties accountable for crimes against humanity and would call for an immediate end to U.S. and NATO militarism in Afghanistan. It would urge the United States to humbly acknowledge the recklessness of its invasion and occupation. Reliable non-governmental parties would be asked to develop ways for Afghans to receive reparations from all countries who’ve participated in the past eighteen years of war. Those responsible for pursuing a genuine peace process would need mentors and advisors. I recommend the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Parents of Borderfree Street Kids School Students

 

Habib (standing, left) serves fruit to parents at the Borderfree Street Kids School

 

• Photos by Dr. Hakim

• This article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

What Is Energy Denial?

Fri, 2019-09-13 10:05

The fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day of 1970 will be in 2020. As environmentalism has gone mainstream during that half a century, it has forgotten its early focus and shifted toward green capitalism. Nowhere is this more apparent than abandonment of the slogan popular during the early Earth Days: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

The unspoken phrase of today’s Earth Day is “Recycle, Occasionally Reuse, and Never Utter the Word ‘Reduce.’” A quasi taboo on saying “reduce” permeates the lexicon of twenty-first century environmentalism. Confronting the planned obsolescence of everyday products rarely, if ever, appears as an ecological goal. The concept of possessing fewer objects and smaller homes has surrendered to the worship of ecogadgets. The idea of redesigning communities to make them compact so individual cars would not be necessary has been replaced by visions of universal electric cars. The saying “Live simply so that others can simply live” now draws empty stares. Long forgotten are the modest lifestyles of Buddha, Jesus and Thoreau.

When the word “conservation” is used, it is virtually always applied to preserving plants or animals and virtually never to conserving energy. The very idea of re-imagining society so that people can have good lives as they use less energy has been consumed by visions of the infinite expansion of solar/wind power and the oxymoron, “100% clean energy.”

But… wait – can anyone really challenge the belief that solar and wind power are inherently clean? Yes, and that is the crux of the problem. Many have become so distraught with looming climate catastrophe that they turn a blind eye to other threats to the existence of life. Shortsightedness by some who rightfully denounce “climate change denial” has led to a parallel unwillingness to recognize dangers built into other forms of energy production, a problem which can be called “clean energy danger denial.”

Obviously, fossil fuels must be replaced by other forms of energy. But those energy sources have such negative properties that using less energy should be the beginning point, the ending point and occupy every in-between point on the path to sane energy use. What follows are “The 15 Unstated Myths of Clean, Renewable Energy.” Many are so absurd that no one would utter them, yet they are ensconced within the assumption that massive production of solar and wind energy can be “clean.”

Myth 1. “Clean energy” is carbon neutral. The fallacious belief that “clean” energy does not emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) is best exemplified by nuclear power, which is often included in the list of alternative energy sources. It is, of course, true that very little GHGs are released during the operation of nukes. But it is wrong to ignore the use of fossil fuels in the construction (and ultimate decommissioning) of the power plant as well as the mining, milling, transport and eternal storage of nuclear material. To this must be added the fossil fuels used in the building of the array of machinery to make nukes possible and the disruption of aquatic ecosystems from the emptying of hot water.

Similarly, examination of the life cycle of producing “clean” energy reveals it requires machinery that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Steel, cement and plastics are central to “renewable” energy and have heavy carbon footprints. One small example: The mass of an industrial wind turbine is 90% steel.

Myth 2. “Clean energy” is inexhaustible because the sun will always shine and the wind will always blow. This statement assumes that all that is needed for energy is sunshine and wind, which is not the case. Sunshine and wind do not equal solar power and wind power. The transformation into “renewable” energy requires minerals which are non-renewable and difficult to access.

Myth 3. “Clean energy” does not produce toxins. Knowledge that the production of fossil fuels is associated with a high level of poisons should not lead us to ignore the level of toxins involved in the extraction and processing of lithium, cobalt, copper, silver, aluminum, cadmium, indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, neodymium, and dysprosium. Would a comparison of toxins associated with the production of clean energy to fossil fuels be an open admission of the dirtiness of what is supposed to be “clean?”

Another example: “Processing one ton of rare earths necessary for alternative energy produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste.” Similar to what happens with Myth 2, toxins may not be produced during the operation of solar and wind power but permeate other stages of their existence.

Myth 4. “Clean energy” does not deplete or contaminate drinkable water. Though water is usually thought of for agriculture and cooling in nuclear power plants, it is used in massive amounts for manufacturing and mining. The manufacture of a single auto requires 350,000 liters of water.

In 2015, the US used 4 billion gallons of water for mining and 70% of water comes from groundwater. Water is used for separating minerals from rocks, cooling machinery and dust control. Even industry apologists admit that “Increased reliance on low ore grades means that it is becoming necessary to extract a higher volume of ore to generate the same amount of refined product, which consumes more water.” Julia Adeney Thomas points out that “producing one ton of rare earth ore (in terms of rare earth oxides) produces 200 cubic meters of acidic wastewater.”

Myth 5. “Clean energy” does not require very much land usage. In fact, “clean” energy could well have more effect on land use than fossil fuels. According to Jasper Bernes, “To replace current US energy consumption with renewables, you’d need to devote at least 25-50 % of the US landmass to solar, wind, and biofuels.”

Something else is often omitted from contrasts between energy harvesting. Fossil fuel has a huge effect on land where it is extracted but relatively little land is used at the plants where the fuel is burned for energy. In contrast, solar/wind power requires both land where raw materials are mined plus the vast amount of land used for solar panels or wind “farms.”

Myth 6. “Clean energy” has no effect on plant and animal life. Contrary to the belief that there is no life in a desert, the Mojave is teeming with plant and animal life whose habitat will be increasingly undermined as it is covered with solar collectors. It is unfortunate that so many who express concern for the destruction of coral reefs seem blissfully unaware of the annihilation of aquatic life wrought by deep sea mining of minerals for renewable energy components.

Wind harvesting can be a doomsday machine for forests. As Ozzie Zehner warns: “Many of the planet’s strongest winds rip across forested ridges. In order to transport 50-ton generator modules and 160-foot blades to these sites, wind developers cut new roads. They also clear strips of land … for power lines and transformers. These provide easy access to poachers as well as loggers, legal and illegal alike.”

As the most productive land for solar/wind extraction is used first, that requires the continuous expansion of the amount of land (or sea bed) taken as energy use increases. The estimate that 1 million species could be made extinct in upcoming decades will have to be up-counted to the extent that “clean” energy is mixed in with fossil fuels.

Myth 7. “Clean energy” production has no effect on human health. Throughout the centuries of capitalist expansion workers have struggled to protect their health and families have opposed the poisoning of their communities. This is not likely to change with an increase in “clean” energy. What will change is the particular toxins which compromise health.

Creating silicon wafers for solar cells “releases large amounts of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Crystalline-silicon solar cell processing involves the use or release of chemicals such as phosphine, arsenic, arsine, trichloroethane, phosphorous oxycholoride, ethyl vinyl acetate, silicon trioxide, stannic chloride, tantalum pentoxide, lead, hexavalent chromium, and numerous other chemical compounds.” The explosive gas silane is also used and more recent thin-film technologies employ toxic substances such as cadmium.

Wind technology is associate with its own problems. Caitlin Manning reports on windmill farms in the Trans Isthmus Corridor of Mexico: “which is majority Indigenous and dependent on agriculture and fishing. The concrete bases of the more than 1,600 wind turbines have severely disrupted the underground water flows … Despite promises that they could continue to farm their lands, fences and security guards protecting the turbines prevent farmers from moving freely. The turbines leak oil into the soil and sometimes ignite … many people have suffered mental problems from the incessant noise.”

Though the number of health problems documented for fossil fuels is vastly more than those with solar/wind, the latter have been used on an industrial scale for a much shorter time, making it harder for links to show up. The Precautionary Principle states that a dangerous process should be proven safe before use rather than waiting until after damage has been done. Will those who have correctly insisted that the Precautionary Principle be employed for fracking and other fossil fuel processes demand an equivalent level of investigation for “clean” energy or give it the same wink and nod that petrochemical magnates have enjoyed?

Myth 8. People are happy to have “clean energy” harvested or its components mined where they live. Swooping windmill blades can produce constant car-alarm-level noise of about 100 decibels, and, if they ice up, they can fling it off at 200 miles per hour. It is not surprising that indigenous people of Mexico are not alone in being less than thrilled about having them next door. Since solar panels and windmills can only be built where there is lots of sun or wind, their neighbors are often high-pressured into accepting them unwillingly.

Obviously, components can be mined only where they exist, leading to a non-ending list of opponents. Naveena Sadasivam gives a few examples from the very long list of communities confronting extraction for “clean” energy components: “Indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine … has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company is proposing mining the seabed for gold and copper.”

Myth 9. No one is ever killed due to disputes over energy extraction or harvesting. When Asad Rehman wrote in May 2019 that environmental conflicts are responsible for “the murder of two environmental defenders each and every week,” his data was out of date within two months. By July 2019 Global Witness (GW) had tabulated that “More than three people were murdered each week in 2018 for defending their land and our environment.” Their report found that mining was the deadliest economic sector, followed by agriculture, and water resources such as dams in third place. Commenting on the GW findings, Justine Calma wrote “Although hydropower has been billed as ‘renewable energy,’ many activists have taken issue with the fact large dams and reservoirs have displaced indigenous peoples and disrupted local wildlife.”

GW recorded one murder sparked by wind power. Murders traceable to “clean” energy will certainly increase if it out-produces energy from fossil fuels. The largest mass murder of earth defenders that GW found in 2018 was in India “over the damaging impacts of a copper mine in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.” Copper is a key element for “clean” energy.

Myth 10. One watt of “clean energy” will replace one watt from use of fossil fuels. Perhaps the only virtue that fossil fuels have is that they are more efficient than solar/wind power because they are relatively easy to store for use. It is not nearly so easy with solar and wind power because they are intermittent, which means they can be collected only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Thus, solar/wind energy must be stored and retrieved by complex processes, all of which result in substantial loss of energy. Additionally, the wiring characteristics of solar panels means that tiny fragments such as dust or leaves can block the surface.

Therefore, their efficiency will be much less under actual operating conditions than they are under ideal lab conditions. A test described by Ozzie Zehner found that solar arrays rated at 1000 watts actually produced 200-400 watts in the field. Similarly, Pat Murphy notes that while a coal plant operates at 80-90% of capacity, wind turbines do so at 20-30% of capacity. Since they perform much lower than expected, both solar and wind energy require considerably more land than misleading forecasts predict. This, in turn, increases all of the problems with habitat loss, toxic emissions, human health and land conflicts.

Myth 11. “Clean energy” is as efficient as fossil fuels in resource use. Processes needed for storing and retrieving energy from intermittent sources renders them extremely complex. Solar/wind energy can be stored for night use by using it to pump water uphill and, when energy is needed, letting it flow downhill to turn turbines for electricity. Or, it can be stored in expensive, large and heavy batteries. Wind turbines “can pressurize air into hermetically sealed underground caverns to be tapped later for power, but the conversion is inefficient and suitable geological sites are rare.” Daniel Tanuro estimates that “Renewable energies are enough to satisfy human needs, but the technologies needed for their conversion are more resource-intensive than fossil technologies: it takes at least ten times more metal to make a machine capable of producing a renewable kWh than to manufacture a machine able to produce a fossil kWh.”

Myth 12. Improved efficiency can resolve problems of “clean energy.” This is perhaps the most often-stated illusion of green energy. Energy efficiency (EE) is the same as putting energy on sale. Shoppers do not buy less of something on sale – they buy more. Stan Cox describes research showing that at the same time air conditioners became 28% more efficient, they accounted for 37% more energy use. Findings such as this are due both to users keeping their houses cooler and more people buying air conditioners. Similarly, at the same time as automobiles showed more EE, energy use for transportation went up. This is because more drivers switched from sedans to SUVs or small trucks and there were many more drivers and cars on the road.

EE parallels increased use of energy not just because of increased use of one specific commodity, but also because it allows people to buy other commodities which are also energy-intensive. It spurs corporations to produce more energy-guzzling objects to dump on the market. Those people who do not want this additional stuff are likely to put more money in the bank and the bank loans out that money to multiple borrowers, many of whom are businesses which increase their production.

Myth 13. Recycling “clean energy” machine components can resolve its problems. This myth vastly overestimates the proportion of materials that can actually be recycled and understates the massive amount of “clean” energy being advocated. Kris De Decker point out that “… a 5 MW wind turbine produces more than 50 tonnes of plastic composite waste from the blades alone.” If a solar/wind infrastructure could actually be constructed to replace all energy from fossil fuel, it would be the most enormous build-up in human history. Many components could be recycled, but it is not possible to recycle more than 100% of components and the build-up would require an industrial growth rate of 200%, 300% or maybe much more.

Myth 14. Whatever problems there are with “clean energy” will work themselves out. Exactly the opposite is true. Problems of “clean” energy will become worse as resources are used up, the best land for harvesting solar and wind power is taken, and the rate of industrial expansion increases. Obtaining power will become more vastly difficult as there are diminishing returns on new locations for mining and placing solar collectors and wind mills.

Myth 15. There Is No Alternative. This repeats Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing perspective which is reflected in the claim that “We have to do something because moving a little bit in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all.” The problem is that expanding energy production is a step in the wrong direction, not the right direction.

The alternative path to overgrowing “clean” energy is remembering what was outlined before. The concept of conserving energy is an age-old philosophy embodied in use of the word “reduce.” Those who only see the horrible potential of climate change have an unfortunate tendency to mimic the behavior of climate change deniers as they themselves deny the dangers of alternative energy.

Kris De Decker traces the roots of toxic wind power not to wind power itself but to hubristic faith in unlimited energy growth: “For more than two thousand years, windmills were built from recyclable or reusable materials: wood, stone, brick, canvas, metal. If we would reduce energy demand, smaller and less efficient wind turbines would not be a problem.”

Every form of energy production has difficulties. “Clean, renewable energy” is neither clean nor renewable. There can be good lives for all people if we abandon the goal of infinite energy growth. Our guiding principle needs to be that the only form of truly clean energy is less energy.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump

Fri, 2019-09-13 09:50

For avalanche-level lying, deceiving, and misleading, mega-mimic Donald Trump need look no further than the history of the corporate advertising industry and the firms that pay them.

Dissembling is so deeply ingrained in commercial culture that the Federal Trade Commission and the courts don’t challenge exaggerated general claims that they call “puffery.”

Serious corporate deception is a common sales technique. At times it cost consumers more than dollars. It has led to major illness and loss of life.

Take the tobacco industry which used to sell its products in the context of health and facilitating mental concentration. Healthy movie stars and athletes were featured in print and on TV until 1970.

Despite studies showing that sugary soft drinks can damage health, increase obesity, and reduce life expectancy, the industry’s ads still feature healthy, fit families in joyous situations guzzling pop. Fortunately, drinking water has regained its first place position as the most consumed liquid in the U.S.

Whether it is the auto industry’s false inflation of fuel efficiency or the e-cigarette companies deceiving youngsters about vaping, or the food industry selling sugary junk cereals as nutrition for children, or the credit banking companies misleading on interest rates, truth in advertising is oxymoronic.

To counter these “fake ads,” the consumer movement pushed for mandatory labeling on food and other products. The Federal Trade Commission is a chief enforcer against deception in advertising, but it has waxed and waned over the decades. The FTC describes its duties to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices as follows:

In advertising and marketing, the law requires that objective claims be truthful and substantiated. The FTC does not pursue subjective claims or puffery — claims like “this is the best hairspray in the world.” But if there is an objective component to the claim — such as “more consumers prefer our hairspray to any other” or “our hairspray lasts longer than the most popular brands” — then you need to be sure that the claim is not deceptive and that you have adequate substantiation before you make the claim.

A few times, companies, caught engaging in false advertising, were compelled by the FTC to announce the correction in their forthcoming ads and apologize. Those days are long gone.

Another way consumers fought back is the spectacular success of Dr. Sidney Wolfe and his associates at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. They researched hundreds of prescription drugs and over the counter medicines and found they were not effective for the purpose for which they are advertised. Relentless publicity on such dynamic mass media as the Phil Donahue Show led to the withdrawal of many of these products, likely saving consumers billions of dollars and protecting them from harmful side-effects (see Pills that Don’t Work).

When large companies are fighting regulation their lies become “clear and present dangers” to innocent people. I recall at a technical conference in the early nineteen sixties, a General Motors engineer warned that seatbelts in cars would tear away the inner organs of motorists from their moorings in sudden decelerations as in collisions. For the longest time, lead, asbestos, and a whole host of chemicals were featured as safe, not just necessary. All false.

Someone should write a book about all the prevarications by leading spokespersons of industry and commerce justifying the slavery of the “inferior races,” arguing against the abolition of child labor in dungeon factories, and predicting that legislating social security would bring on communism.

Interestingly, corporations can lie vigorously and not lose credibility. Artificial corporate personhood comes with immunity from social sanctions that apply to real human beings.

In 1972, The People’s Lobby in California, led by the impressive Ed and Joyce Koupal, qualified an initiative called “The Clean Environment Act.” Corporations threw millions of dollars and made false claims to defeat the Act. Their public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter, put out a fact sheet reaching millions of voters. The oil companies declared that “lowering the lead content of gasoline would cause automobile engines to fail, resulting in massive congestion and transit breakdowns.” They also claimed that “reducing sulfur oxide emissions from diesel fuel would cause the state’s transportation industry to grind to a haul,” with huge joblessness and “economic chaos.”

Other companies said a “moratorium on nuclear power plant construction” would lead to “widespread unemployment and darkened city streets.” Banning DDT in California would “confront the farmer with economic ruin and produce critical shortages of fruits and vegetables” and more lurid hypotheticals.

The lies worked. Voters turned down the initiative by nearly two to one. All these reforms have since been advanced nationwide with no such disasters.

The media did not distinguish itself by separating the lies from the truth. Later in 1988, the media, led by the Los Angeles Times, did not let the auto insurance industry get away with lies about Prop 103, pushed by a $70 million television/radio buy. Prop 103 won and has saved California motorists over $100 billion according to leading actuary and consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter (see here).

Corporate fibbing pays monetary rewards. Informed consumers, their champions and regulatory agencies at the national, state, and local level must continue to make these companies pay a price, especially over social media. Madison Avenue calls the effect of such pushback “reputational risk.”

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

A False Accusation of Antisemitism from Where You Would Least Expect It

Thu, 2019-09-12 20:49

I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.

— Benjamin Netayahu, 2001, quoted in Ha’aretz, July 15, 2010

It is not uncommon, of course, to be labeled “anti-Semitic” for calling attention to the inordinate power of the Israel Lobby over our political processes or suggesting that the Iraq War was launched on Israel’s behalf. The last place that I would expect to find such an allegation, however, was on the CounterPunch website to which I have contributed a number of articles on the subject over the years.

On August 2nd in an opinion piece by Ron Jacobs, headlined, “Israel—The Largest US Aircraft Carrier in the World,” those, like myself, who have described, in detail, on CounterPunch and elsewhere, the manner in which the Israel Lobby controls both Congress and the White House on issues relating to Israel, were accused of propagating “what is an essentially anti-Semitic argument concerning the nature of the Washington-Tel Aviv alliance.”

That Jacobs, a veteran of the Sixties as long of tooth as myself, a prolific writer and frequent contributor to Left publications, would make such an allegation, after what we have learned about the role of pro-Israel Jewish neocons in fomenting the Iraq War and following that, implementing crippling sanctions on Iran while agitating against the nuclear agreement with Tehran, is as mind boggling as it is insulting.

Jacobs did this under the cover of what purports to be a review of a new book by historian Stephen Gowans, Israel: A Beachhead in the Middle East, which Jacobs contends is “a necessary and forceful rebuke of those on the left and right who insist that Washington is Israeli-occupied territory.”

First, a book review it is not. One cannot do justice to any serious book in just 764 words which is the length of Jacobs’ piece, although whether Gowans’ book which amplifies the charge of antisemitism can be taken seriously is open to question.

If not a book review then, what is it? Let’s start with the title, a quote from the late general and Secretary of State Alexander Haig whose very sanity came into question following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan when Vice-President George HW Bush was away from the capital. At that point, as the New York Times described it, Haig “raced upstairs [to the press room] and went directly to the lectern before a television audience of millions. His knuckles whitening, his arms shaking, Mr. Haig declared to the world, ‘I am in control here, in the White House.’ He did not give that appearance.”

In any case, Gowans use of Haig’s quote in his book turned out to be hearsay from a dubious source.

From Jacobs’ opening sentence, it seems clear that his intention was to provide “damage control” for the plethora of predominantly Jewish organizations whose primary raison d’etre is pushing the agenda of the Netanyahu government on Capitol Hill whose activities, not to mention, existence, have been largely ignored or dismissed by others on the “Left” who share Jacobs’ aversion to blaming even a segment of American Jews for anything. (Think Noam Chomsky, Phyllis Bennis, Stephen Zunes).

“The Israeli government does not control the foreign policy of the United States.,” is how Jacobs began his article. True, but none of those he is criticizing argue that it is and Jacobs must surely know this. They affirm, with considerable evidence to back it up, that supporters of the Israeli government are largely responsible for shaping US policies in the Middle East and nowhere else. In other words, Jacobs has created a straw man.

If we restrict ourselves to this millennium, one only has to look at the appointees from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) that George W Bush brought into his administration, and particularly to the Pentagon and who became activated, like sleeper cells, after the events of September 11.

From PNAC, came a troop of 20, foremost among them, Dick Cheney, Dubya’s Vice-President, Donald Rumsfeld, (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz, (Deputy Secretary of Defense), Richard Perle, (Defense Advisory Board), Doug Feith, (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy), Lewis (Scooter) Libby (Cheney’s Chief of Staff), and John Bolton who received a recess appointment as UN ambassador when it was clear he wouldn’t get Senate approval. (Bolton would later be hailed by Israel’s UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, as “the sixth man in our office” and last year, after replacing H.R. McMaster as Trump’s National Security Adviser, he received the “Defender of Israel” award from the Zionist Organization of America).

Launched in 1997 by neocons Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, (son of Irving Kristol, the neocon movement’s co-founder), PNAC drew attention on Capitol Hill the following year when it sent a letter to then President Bill Clinton, calling on him to overthrow Saddam. Among its signatories were Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. Legislation was passed, the Iraq Liberation Act, in 1998, which stated that it was US policy to oust Saddam but no action was taken or contemplated.

What makes the Israeli connection indisputable was that PNAC was preceded a year earlier by a policy paper prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, entitled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” Its authors were a study group led by Perle which included Feith, David Wurmser and his Israeli wife Meyrav Wurmser and called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, highlighting Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction.” Wurmser would go on to become a Middle East Advisor for Vice President Cheney and with Feith, help set up the Office of Special Plans to produce evidence of Iraq’s WMDs when the CIA failed to come up with it.

What those who insist that the 2003 war on Iraq was just a continuation of traditional US imperialist policies refuse to acknowledge is that the invasion of Iraq marked a 180 degree break with what US Middle Eastern policy had been up to that point, namely, to maintain stability in that oil rich region.

That is why former president George HW Bush, his Secretary of State, James Baker and his National Security Advisor, former general, Brent Scowcroft, publicly opposed the war and why Bush Sr resisted demands from the neocons and Israel’s allies in the media, to have US troops march to Baghdad and remove Saddam from power after ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait a decade earlier.

When this fact was pointed out to George W Bush by Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press, Dubya responded, “I answer to a higher father.”

Before the war went south, Perle and Wolfowitz were competing in the media for credit for the great victory over Saddam. Both men, along with Cheney, Feith, and Bolton, were also members of JINSA’s Advisory Board, an influential but little known neocon operation that came into existence in 1976, apparently in response to President Gerald Ford having suspended a shipment of US jet fighters to Israel for six months upon Israel’s refusal to give up land in the Egyptian Sinai that it had captured in the October 1973 war.

Moreover, Ford sent a private letter to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warning him about a likely re-evaluation of US-Israel relations, hinting that he might call for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders. Rabin made the letter public which alerted AIPAC to respond. It struck back against Ford by getting 76 senators, three-quarters of that body, to sign a letter to the president, warning him that the US-Israeli bond was sacrosanct and should not be meddled with. Ford quickly backed off and over the years, many more such letters, drafted by AIPAC, would reach the desk of our presidents.

JINSA saw its goal as making sure that the US and Israeli militaries would become so entwined that no future president would ever contemplate or be able to disentangle the armed forces of both countries. To ensure that, it created a large advisory board composed of former generals and admirals and a few police chiefs while arranging programs to take newly retiring generals and admirals on all expense paid trips to Israel. There are currently 57 former generals and admirals on the JINSA advisory board. The first and last article about JINSA in a national publication appeared in The Nation in 2002 and like PNAC, its existence has been ignored by those engaged in damage control on Israel’s behalf.

Even Colin Powell’s attribution of the war to Donald Rumsfeld’s embrace by “the JINSA crowd,” in Karen DeYoung’s biography of Powell, Soldier, did not stir any of the latter to reconsider their positions.

Going back to the first US war on Iraq, all of the sanctions put in place against governments viewed by Israel as its enemies, have largely been the work of AIPAC and its sister organizations such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. WINEP or TWI (its current acronym) was spawned by AIPAC in 1985 in order to make the step from lobbying for Israel to actually making policy itself. It has become arguably the most influential of the Beltway think tanks whose “experts” routinely appear before Congressional committees and whose op-ed pieces invariably find their way into the opinion sections of our leading newspapers and the inboxes of members of Congress.

To enforce the sanctions, after 9/11, President Bush set up a special department in the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence which, beginning with the appointment of pro-Israel zealot, Stuart Levey, became the exclusive provenance of pro-Israel Jews, the latest of whom, Sigal Mandelker, is actually an Israeli. It is this department, in essence, an arm of the Israeli government, that determines what countries and companies are adhering to or breaking sanctions on Iran and Syria and which organizations should be placed on the terrorist watch list.

When Obama took office, the Israeli press reported that Levey had made a special trip to Israel to assure Netanyahu that under the new president, nothing would change.

Were there not sanctions on Iraq and on Iran, the major US oil companies would have been more than happy to do business with both countries. The last company that tried, Conoco, was obliged to cancel a deal it had made with Tehran in March, 1995.

The only way the Obama Administration was able to sign the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with Iran and the other members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was to declare it to be an agreement, not a treaty, thus avoiding having a vote on it by the Senate where it would surely have been defeated. Not to be denied, Israel’s friends in Washington had the Senate pass a bill requiring Obama and succeeding presidents to ratify US participation in the agreement every 90 days. This was the equivalent of a poison pill and a perfect set-up for Donald Trump.

There is far too much evidence of Israel’s control of Washington to include in this short article but two more items should seal the debate.

The first begins in 2015 in Las Vegas when Jewish multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson held two auditions for prospective Republican presidential candidates at his Venetian Hotel to determine which one would be the best for Israel. Adelson was at the time and still is the owner of the most widely read newspaper in Israel, Israel Hayom, which is provided free and has been seen, until recently, as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu. On the day he opened his newspaper, he apologized to his Israeli audience for having “worn the uniform of the US army and not the Israeli Defense Forces,” a clip of which can still be seen on You Tube.

Adelson’s choices after the auditions were first Ted Cruz and then Marco Rubio. When both failed to attract the voters, Adelson switched to Trump, pumping tens of millions of dollars into his campaign and, judging from Trump’s gifts to Israel, not the least of which was moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, it is safe to say that Adelson bought himself a president.

Cut now to last December, in Florida, at the annual convention of the relatively new Israeli American Council, the major funder of which happens to be Adelson. On the stage as the host was Israeli-American Haim Saban, one of the Democratic Party’s major funders who once boasted to a New Yorker writer that he was a “one issue man and that issue is Israel.”

It was shortly after the November mid-term elections and Saban was interviewing the returning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer, the Senate’s top ranking Democrat. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) described it on Dec. 2:

Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who likely will be speaker of the new US House of Representatives, listed pro-Israel lawmakers she plans to name to key committee positions and said her party remained fundamentally pro-Israel.

’We have people very well placed to share our values,’ Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in addressing the final event Sunday of the annual Israeli-American Council conference, after listing planned assignments.

Pelosi said she would name Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, to chair the Appropriations Committee; Eliot Engel, D-New York, to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee; Ted Deutch, D-Florida, to chair the Middle East subcommittee; Adam Schiff, D-California, to chair the Intelligence Committee; Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, to chair the human rights-monitoring Helsinki Committee; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, to a key Appropriations Committee position; and Lois Frankel, D-Florida, to a key Foreign Affairs Committee position.

All have longstanding pro-Israel records and all but Hastings are Jewish.”1

Pelosi’s exchange with Saban can still be viewed on You Tube but don’t look for any report on that conference outside of the Jewish press. The corporate media, like Congress, is under the thumb of the Israel Lobby.

  1. Wasserman-Schultz had been the chair of the DNC who was forced to resign after the release by WikiLeaks of the DNC’s emails exposed the DNC’s efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. Obviously, that did not hurt her in Pelosi’s eyes.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Chakras, Subtle Bodies and the Aura

Thu, 2019-09-12 19:10

It’s a modest apartment in Newport where I sit with Susan Swift to go over “quite the life” as any listener might say about this feisty, spiritual and articulate, world-traveling woman.

The hitching post Susan and I tie our respective philosophical steeds on is “philosophy” and “fate,” although we could have brought in a whole team of other steeds to pull the conversation toward all spiritual directions.

“I know what is mine to do,” the 73-year-old Swift states early on in our talk. Since her life here on the coast — Five Rivers first — not only started in 1972 as a search for environmental justice, she also fell into a what would be a life-long walkabout as a student of karma, Dharma and the meaning of interconnected “souls.”

Before the Central Coast mountains, Waldport, Seal Rock and Newport, Susan was living the Southern California lifestyle in Compton.

The Alsea basin seems worlds away from her birthplace of Inglewood. Quickly, though, she and her husband and a whole slew of residents became embroiled in cloak and dagger drama, rising to the level of the US Forest Service spraying chemicals on their land, Dow Chemical and their lawyers attempting to wear down citizens’ groups, bugged telephones, and various sundry nefarious things unfolding in a seemingly isolated rural community.

One of Susan’s cohorts has already been featured in my column Deep Dive — Carol Van Strum. For more information on those battles with toxics, bad science and broken promises by officials breaking the rule of protecting public health, safety and welfare, read Oregon Coast TODAY, “A Real-Life Toxic Avenger.”

Sometimes a young life lived produces an amazingly detailed and complex life, for sure. However, in the end, when a journalist runs into a person like Swift, with seven-plus decades under her belt, a series of floodgates open up.

Toxins, Dirty Water, Building Family

Sure, Citizens Against Toxic Sprays is a big part of her foundation, 45 years ago when she was living in the woods, in a teepee and a small shack with Calvin Parker, husband number two (one of three, but who’s counting), and her son Joe Lund from a previous marriage.

C.A.T.S. was created with the organizing skills of Susan and others in the rural community, propelled by fear — the debilitating, permanent and deadly harm being perpetrated by officials and for-profit companies upon adults, children, pets, penned animals, wildlife and drinking water through herbicide spraying.

There’s plenty of newspaper copy and radio clips on Susan’s life out here, her singing, putting on events for the legal battle against the chemical companies and their spraying ways; her work on the Lincoln County Planning Commission and other issues tied to public health. She’s been featured in a November 23, 1980 article in Salem’s Statesman Journal.

What anchors much of what I see while talking with Susan (and in reporting on the people of this area) is best captured in one short passage from that article about Susan written by Kristine Rosemary with the Statesman Journal:

Now, to make any sense of the art of diplomacy as practiced in the hidden rural valleys and insulated towns of the Oregon Coast Range, you must consider this: It is a place of overlapping generations of emigrants, each with its own notions of how to live with the land. Rain and shards of Chinese-looking mists blow into those hollows in a thrashing wind. And writhing vines of domestic blackberry gone feral make a slow triumph of thorns. The children of homesteaders who came to farm these fertile valleys were joined 50 years after, by a second wave of urban exiles.

An emblematic quote and a microcosm of what this Oregon Coast now faces with population influxes, lack of affordable housing, more pollution to contend with, climate change and shifting economic, cultural and generational baselines. What is left out even in this Statesman Journal’s prescient description is what’s not included so many times in countless articles — who was here first.

The Siuslaw and Kuitsh people began settling the coast more than 9,000 years ago. They have probably lived in the same locations for hundreds of generations.

Who knows if that paper mill, hotel or housing development was built on an ancient significant site? Or on top of sacred burial grounds, or over summer root-picking fields or a shaman’s spiritual place?

Coast as Healing Center

Susan Swift, RN, formerly known as Mrs. Parker, Swedish massage therapist, is keenly aware of Native American history as her daughter, Autumn Rayne, is part Cheyenne. What has been germinated from those early days in Five Rivers, then in Waldport, and then to the Valley and even Portland, is a determined septuagenarian who has lived on a wildlife refuge in India, ended up in Egypt on a spiritual journey and has met the Dali Lama.

There are stories layered onto life lessons, like shoots on an old fig tree. Her past, Susan says, is her journey forward. She’s helped Mo and her husband (of the Oregon Coast’s famed seafood and chowder restaurants, Mo’s) get through the last days of their lives as their in-home certified care taker. She’s played guitar and sang with husband number three — musician and instrument maker, and she’s chased elephants out of her garden of succulents.

Iterations of her life include head of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, nursing school, working at a mental health unit in Portland, and now writing, which she’s recently pursued in a memoir workshop at the senior center.

The coast is the healing breath she takes with her wherever she ventures. Susan believes she has past lives (that we all do) to account for and to make amends with, as well as to understand in order to carry forth on a pathway to enlightenment. Ironically, Susan Swift says her gift of energy empathy and nursing came at a young age: “I first learned my hands could take away pain when I was 10 years old.”

Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.

— Thích Nh?t H?nh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Do what you love because the universe will support you. Speak and say what you want.

Be specific. Then get out of the way and let the universe take care of the details.

— Susan Swift, July 8, 2019

She laughs because her prayers for a partner were answered, but she wasn’t specific enough — “I didn’t mention that partner should be on the same continent.” That spiritual partner was living in India.

She went to India for a workshop with 45 people from 15 countries. That’s where she met this tall, dark handsome Reiki master. “He was raised Muslim, and I was raised Christian, and we came to the same spiritual place, looking for the same spiritual answers.” That was in 2005. She returned to the USA and had a spiritual awakening with him over the years — sharing emails, letters, phone calls.

“In 2010, I retired, closed up the Vancouver house, put everything I owned into my son’s house in Covington, Washington.” She spent a total of four years in India, on a wildlife refuge: Mudamalli Wildlife Refuge in Tamil Nadu. Her partner was Nijamudeen. Susan was “totally embraced by this huge Muslim family.”

Her travails get complicated as Susan courses back and forth through her own chronological history and these many points of enlightenment in her 73 years. She has a thousand stories floating around her cranium. I fill pages and pages of notes.

How she got to India, with her healing touch on a dog that had been attacked by a black panther, covers all levels of spiritual and geographical ground. She went to Egypt in 2003 on a prayer for peace journey with 250 people from 25 nations. She talks excitedly about going down the Nile and to a resort on the Red Sea. She talks about the guides and hotel charges playing the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, wherever they went since the tour’s theme was taken from the songwriter’s famous piece.

The trip was part of a far-reaching international push to get George W. Bush and his administration to hold off on a violent attack on Iraq, to instead follow international players’ plans to get Saddam Hussein to agree to step down with loads of money.

“I told an Egyptian woman that this was my first use of a passport as an American, and I was ashamed and told her I couldn’t handle it. She held me and told me calmly: ‘America is the world’s great hope for democracy and freedoms. We understand that your president was appointed by the court and wasn’t elected by the people of your country.’”

The Enlightened Being is Really Inside Our “self”

Now rewind to 1982, and Susan Parker is headed for Seaside, to catch a talk by the Dali Llama concerning China’s latest offer to return Tibet to China. “It was quite an entourage. I was at the greeting line. Oh my gosh, there I was telling the Dali Llama I was so honored and most joyful about his visit, with my sandalwood mala in my hand. He leaned in and bonked third eyes with me.”

A life is not always marked out with milestones set forth in an organized and clear path, but for the sake of brevity, it might be wise to follow our Central Coast resident using a timeline to get through some of her dynamic, compelling life chapters.

She grew up in a working-class family in Compton, and as stated earlier, she knew she had healing hands as a youngster placing them on her mom’s two ruptured spinal discs. The young Susan wanted to be outside playing baseball, “but my hands seemed to know what to do with the muscle spasms the size of my fists.”

Those healing hands more than five decades later would take care of a large tumor on Nami (Namaste), the Basenji dog in India she adopted, and used her healing words to help Gemmee, who has his shoulder gashed after it had outrun a black panther. “Nami never barked, just commented about everything in this yodeling song.”

Back to the Land on the Lam

Back to how she ended up in Five Rivers — she was with Calvin Parker, a Northern Montana Cheyenne she met in Pasadena. He was a sergeant in the US Army, about to be sent to Vietnam. He ended up AWOL, and the couple moved to Five Rivers where his sister was living in an old school house.

They lived in a 15-by-30, cold-water shack heated by a wood-burning-stove. “During this time, I was dreaming of a dark-haired, light-eyed girl.” (which eventually was their daughter, Autumn Rayne)

Susan ended up taking minutes for the local school committee. She found an old mimeograph machine and put together the Five Rivers Run-off Community Newsletter, stuffing flyers into mailboxes. That’s when she took notice of the herbicides issue popping up in editorials inside the Newport News Times.

“I hadn’t gone to school at that point, but I created a health form survey, passing it out door to door, all the way from Highway 34 to the mill. So many miscarriages, tumors and cancers were reported.” That was 1974, and Susan Swift shakes her head as she tells me that a scientist from OSU still advocates there is nothing wrong with 2,4,5-T.

This community of mostly women fighting the forest service and prevailing conservative strains of science worked together to build their adopted family on many levels. Susan laughs again recalling she was living in a teepee with two kids before getting her first place in Waldport. She was a single mom with a three- and 11-year-old. “They were exposed to musicians and artists coming and going all the time.” Joseph Lund graduated from Waldport High in 1985, and did the first video yearbook for the school.

She became an EMT-in-training for the Waldport Ambulance, graduating as the first woman to drive the ambulance. She ended working at a spa in Yachats. In 1978 she was lecturing at Lane Community College teaching different classes on the health effects of herbicide exposure, chemical releases in forestry and the dioxin molecule, diagramming it on the board, showing students how it worked.

She moved into her first house in Seal Rock, and put out her first shingle, “Susan Parker, LMT,” above a Waldport barbershop. The place became a center for healing. Transpersonal healing, encounters with lives, and more would begin to charge her life and encompass her interests.

“No matter what you believe, doing things out of compassion for others is as healing as we can get.”

She moved to Newport in the 1980s, at this point managing the Ocean Food Co-op. She was one of the spearheads to create an Oceana board of directors, hire a paid bookkeeper and charge a $10 yearly fee.

She met Husband Number Three at an open mic session at a local bar and eatery in Waldport. He was a guitarist and “amazingly gifted instrument maker.”

“I bought a guitar for twenty-five dollars cash and twenty-five in food stamps. I taught myself guitar and sang the songs I wanted to sing . . . positive ones. That’s when he said, ‘I like your voice.’” The marriage lasted one and a half years, but they are still friends.

With a belief in past lives, Susan takes many things both in stride and contextualized through transpersonal psychology, but she also has both feet in the waters of transglobal spirituality and multiple contexts for enlightenment and “godliness.”

Healing & Being in the Right Place Spiritually

Fate, she calls it, or her life’s proscribed journey points. She even ended up getting the finances for nursing school after working hard to take care of Mo (Mohava Niemi) who she was with until Mo died in 1992, as well as taking care of Mo’s spouse, Dutch Niemi, until he too passed on.

Dutch (he was a Finnish fisherman) had always wanted to send a child in need to college, but instead after Susan’s healing ways and hearing all the people taking care of his medical needs tell Susan she was a born natural for RN school, Dutch came through. “Dutch said he wanted to help me. That $9,000 helped me pay off bills and made it possible to go to nursing school.”

She worked for Dutch on weekends while she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. That healing and spiritual medical caretaking continued after nursing school graduation. She worked for a Portland neurosurgeon for three years, and she worked with the Oregon State Mental Hospital Portland campus as the lead nurse for six.

Her first nursing job was at Corvallis Manor, but she also took her caring hands and gifted spirit of empathy to a group home for developmentally disabled adults, Portland’s Eliot House.

“I treated every patient as a precious soul.”

While there was a 20-year absence from Lincoln County between 1994 and 2014, the draw to this area has been strong. She has joined up with Lincoln County Community Rights which just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its successful effort to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County.

She’s done some driving for Yaquina Cab, shuttling people to and from the hospital. In this interview, Susan and I gravitate back to her story and her natural gifts — her abilities to organize and to start things, and her deep well of beliefs around alternative healing, energy fields on the body, and reincarnation.

These are book-level ideas, sculpted around a life still in the making, but one lived complexly and with mindfulness: with the added hues and tones of adventure, unique healing and death and dying situations painted in. One can hope she will see the light and eventually put down in writing a life well-lived, one where young and old might learn new (or old) meditative and mediation practices.

In our vapid celebrity culture, which is obsessed with putting the limelight on the rich, famous, or infamous, an authentic woman’s gritty and universal story should be compelling, to say the least.

“We have a choice everyday how we think. What you focus on, expands. We can choose how to go through this life. We need to just get out of our own way and begin living.”

•••

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Brexit reveals Corbyn to be the True Moderate

Thu, 2019-09-12 18:46

If there is an upside to Brexit, it is this: it has made it increasingly hard to present Jeremy Corbyn, contrary to everything the corporate media has been telling us for the past four years, as anything but a political moderate. In truth, he is one of the few moderates left in British – or maybe that should be English – politics right now. The fact that still isn’t obvious to many in Britain is a sign of their – not his – extremism.

Brexit has brought into sharp focus, at least for those prepared to look, the fanatacism that dominates almost the entire British political class. Their zealotry has been increasingly on show since the UK staged a referendum in 2016 on leaving Europe that was won by the pro-Brexit camp with a wafer-thin majority.

The subsequent feud has usually been portrayed this way: The UK has split into two camps, polarising popular opinion between those who feel Britain’s place is in Europe (Remainers) and those who prefer that Britain makes its own way in the world (Brexiters). But it has actually divided the British political class into three camps, with the largest two at the political extremes.

On the one side – variously represented by the new prime minister Boris Johnson and many in his Conservative party, as well as Nigel Farage and his supporters – are those who want Britain to break from Europe and rush into the embrace of the United States, stripping away the last constraints on free-market, ecocidal capitalism. They aren’t just Brexiters, they are no-deal Brexiters, who want to turn their back on Europe entirely.

The other side – variously supported by many Labour MPs, including the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson, and the Liberal Democrats – are those who wish to stay in the secure embrace of a European bureacracy that is nearly as committed to suicidal capitalism as the US but, given the social democratic traditions of some of its member states, has mitigated the worst excesses of free-market fundamentalism. These UK politicians aren’t just Remainers, they are Remainists, who not only refuse to contemplate any weakening of the bonds between the UK and Europe but actually want those bonds to tighten.

Suspending parliament

And as the divide has deepened, it has become clear that neither side is prepared to pay more than lip service to democracy.

On the Brexit side, Johnson has suspended parliament, an institution representing the people, that is supposed to be sovereign. Like his predecessor, Theresa May, he has repeatedly found there is no legislative majority for a hard or no-deal Brexit. He has faced an unprecedented and humiliating series of defeats in parliament in the few days he has been prime minister. So now he has swept parliament out of the way in a bid to run down the clock on a no-deal Brexit without legislative interference.

Watson and the Remainists have been trying a counter-move, arguing that the referendum is no longer valid. They believe that new voters, youngsters more likely to support Remain, have come of age in the three years since 2016, and that more information about the true costs of Brexit have lately swung support to their side. They want to ignore the original referendum result and run the ballot again in the hope that this time the tide will turn in their favour.

The reality is that, if Johnson drives through a no-deal Brexit by ignoring parliament, or if Watson gets to quash the first referendum result to engineer a second, it is likely to trigger civil war in the UK.

The first option will drive Scotland out of the union, could very well reignite the sectarian “Troubles” of Northern Ireland, and will have English urban elites in open revolt. The second option will ensure that large sections of the English public who voted for Brexit because they feel marginalised and ignored are up in arms too. Their trust in politics and politicians will sink even further, and there is the danger that they will turn in droves to a crowd-pleasing autocrat like Johnson, Farage or worse.

Zealotry vs compromise

In these circumstances, anyone responsible would be looking to find common ground, to understand that political compromise is absolutely necessary to stop Britain breaking apart. And that is exactly what Corbyn and the largely ignored and maligned third camp have been trying to do.

They want to honour the spirit of the vote by leaving the EU but hope to do so in a way that doesn’t cut the UK adrift from Europe, doesn’t prevent the continuation of relatively free trade and movement, and doesn’t leave the UK exposed and vulnerable to serfdom under a new US master.

For many months Corbyn has been calling for a general election as a way for the majority of the public, having chosen in the referendum what they want to do, to now decide who they want to negotiate how Britain departs from Europe. But even that realistic compromise has not satisfied the fanatics within his own party.

Because the zealots of the right and the immoderate centre dominate the political and media landscape, this approach has barely registered in public debates. Corbyn’s efforts have been misrepresented as evidence of muddled thinking, ambivalence, or his covert opposition to Europe. It is none of those things.

Caught in the spider’s web

The common argument that Corbyn is a Brexit wolf in sheep’s clothing draws on the fact that, like many democratic socialists, such as the late Tony Benn, Corbyn has never been enamoured of the unelected European technocratic class that is misleadingly termed simply “Europe” or the “European Union”.

Rightly, socialists understood long ago that the more Britain was locked into Europe’s embrace, the more it would become caught like a fly in the spider’s web. At some level, most people have started to recognise this, if only because finding a way to leave Europe, even for Brexiters, has proved so inordinately difficult.

Just like banks were too big to fail in 2008 so they had to be bailed out with our public money to save them from their private malfeasance, the publics of Europe have incrementally had their sovereignty transferred to an unelected and centralised bureacracy all in the name of pursuing freedom – of movement and trade, chiefly for global corporations.

We haven’t noticed, it is true, because for decades our own domestic politics has come in one flavour only – support for our little corner of the global neoliberal empire. Till recently the consensus of Britain’s ruling elite, whether of the right or of New Labour centrists, was that being a player in Europe was the best way to protect their – though not necessarily our – interests on that global battlefield. Now, as the neoliberal empire enters a period of terminal decline, this same elite are bitterly divided over whether the US or Europe is the best guarantor of their wealth and influence continuing a little longer.

Iron fist in velvet glove

But Britain and the world’s problems – whether in the shape of impending economic meltdown or environmental collapse – cannot be solved from within the neoliberal paradigm, as becomes clearer by the day. New political structures are desperately needed: at the local level to foster new, more decentralised economic models, free of corporate influence, resource-stripping and unnecessary consumption; and at the global level to ensure that such models reverse rather than perpetuate the ecocidal policies that have dominated under neoliberal capitalism.

To start on that path will require the democratisation of Britain. The fear of Benn and others was that even if a truly socialist government was elected, its ability to make real, profound changes to the political and economic order – by bringing much of the economy back into public or cooperative ownership, for example – would be made impossible within the larger framework of European corporate managerialism.

We have been given glimpses of the iron fist Europe’s technocrats wield beneath the velvet glove in the treatment of Greece over its financial troubles and the Catalan independence movement in Spain.

The attitude of Corbyn and other democratic socialists to Brexit, however, has been wildly misrepresented by the other two camps of zealots.

In Benn’s time, it was still possible to imagine a world in which neoliberalism might be prevented from gaining a tyrannical grip on our political imaginations and on national economies. But things have changed since then. Now the issue is not whether Britain can stop being locked into a European neoliberal order. It is that the UK, like everyone else, is already in the stranglehold of a global neoliberal order.

Not just that, but Britain has willingly submitted to that order. As the zealotry of most of the political class demonstrates, few can imagine or want a life outside the neoliberal cage. The debate is about which corner of that suicidal, ecocidal global order we prefer to be located in. The Brexit row is chiefly about which slavemaster, America or Europe, will be kinder to us.

Inside the leviathan’s dark belly

In this context, there is no real escape. The best that can be done, as the moderates in both the Brexit and Remain camps realise, is loosen our chains enough so that we have room once again to contemplate new political possibilities. We can then breathe deeply, clear our heads and start to imagine how Britain and the the world might operate differently, how we might free ourselves of the tyranny of the corporations and heal our planet of the deep scars we have inflicted on it.

These are big matters that cannot be solved either by binding ourselves more tightly to European technocrats or by cutting loose from Europe only to chain ourselves to the US. The Brexit feud is an endless theatrical distraction from the real questions we need to face. That is one reason why it drags on, one reason why our political class revel in it, John Bercow-style.

Strangely, it is the Remainists of the immoderate centre – typified by commentary in corporate “liberal” media like the Guardian – who so often claim to lament the fact that the left has failed to offer a vision, a political future, that might serve as an alternative to neoliberalism. But how can such a vision emerge from deep inside the leviathan’s dark belly?

Hiding in ideological life-rafts

It goes without saying that the Atlantacists cheerleading Brexit are up to no good when they speak of “taking back control” and “reclaiming our sovereignty”. They demand those powers only so they can immediately surrender them to a US master.

But the much-maligned left wing, soft Brexit – a version that wishes to distance Britain from Europe without pretending that the UK can stand alone on the global neoliberal battlefield – also has use for such language.

This version of taking back control isn’t about spitting in the face of Europe, blocking the entry of immigrants, or reinventing the imagined halycon days of empire. It is about recognising that we, like the rest of humankind, are responsible for the crimes we have been, and still are, committing against the planet, against other species, against fellow human beings.

Chaining ourselves to an unelected, distant European technocratic class that simply follows orders – implementing the requirements of an economic system that must end in the destruction of the planet – is cowardice. We can more easily shelter from that truth when we cede our political and economic powers to those compelled to carry out the (il)logic of neoliberalism.

Standing a little outside Europe is probably the best we can hope to manage in current circumstances. But it might give us the political space – and, more importantly, burden us with the political responsibility – to imagine the deep changes that are urgently needed.

Change has to happen if we as a species are to survive, and it has to happen soon and it has to happen somewhere. We cannot force others to change, but we can recognise our own need to change and offer a vision of change for others to follow. That can begin only when we stop shielding ourselves from the consequences of our decisions, stop hiding in someone else’s ideological life-raft in the forlorn hope that it will weather the coming, real-world storms.

It is time to stop acting like zealots for neoliberalism, squabbling over which brand of turbo-charged capitalism we prefer, and face up to our collective responsibility to change our and our children’s future.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Exit John Bolton, But Will That Mean An End To His Failed Foreign Policy?

Thu, 2019-09-12 18:16

Leon Neal, Getty Images

Many who oppose the aggressive foreign policy of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has resulted in record numbers of bombs dropped, regime change operations against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and Hong Kong, the abusive use of unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) and record military budgets, cheered when uber-hawk, John Bolton was removed as the National Security Advisor.

Bolton undermined Trump numerous times such as when Trump wanted to get out of Syria and sought negotiations with North Korea and Iran. Bolton led Trump into regime-change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both of which backfired.

The firing of Bolton is an opportunity for Trump to make a major course correction on foreign policy as the 2020 election heats up. The escalation of military aggression and regime-change actions that have occurred in the Trump era have been inconsistent with his previous campaign statements, which indicated he opposed never-ending wars, nation-building, and interventions abroad and wanted to focus on fixing problems at home in the United States.

Trump has long expressed skepticism about US foreign intervention in activities that he has labeled as “nation-building.” During the presidential election campaign, Trump criticized the war in Iraq, claiming he opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq War at the time and accused Bush of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In October 2015, he criticized US interventions saying, “We’re nation-building. We can’t do it. We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.”

In December 2016, before his inauguration, Trump said that the policy of “intervention and chaos” must come to an end. He pledged to “build up our military not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention. In short, we seek peace through strength.”

Trump has opportunities to take another course, one that is more consistent with his rhetoric. Chairman Kim of North Korea said he was open to another meeting with President Trump on September 10, the next day, Bolton was fired. Shortly after the firing of Bolton, Secretary of State Pompeo gave the green light for Trump to meet with the President of Iran without preconditions at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in a few weeks. The firing of Bolton may not be enough, Iranian officials have refused any meeting until sanctions are lifted. After Bolton’s firing, President Hassan Rouhani said Trump “should distance itself from ‘warmongers’” after the dismissal of Bolton.

When it comes to Latin America, Trump has been silent, especially about his failed coup in Venezuela. Trump’s previous National Security Advisor, H. R. McMaster, strongly recommended to President Trump not to pursue a military option in Venezuela when Trump suggested it in 2017. He explained that Latin American governments were against foreign intervention in the region. John Bolton gave contrary advice when he dubbed Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the “Troika of Tyranny” and gave Trump bad advice by urging a strategy of escalating intervention in Venezuela, recognition of a failed coup government and military threats.

When Bolton was fired, the New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump also grew disenchanted with Mr. Bolton over the failed effort to push out President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Rather than the easy victory he was led to anticipate, the president has found himself bogged down in a conflict over which he has less influence than he had assumed. The political opposition backed by the White House could not turn Venezuela’s military against Mr. Maduro and has been stuck in a stalemate for months.

President Maduro has consistently expressed his willingness to meet with President Trump, despite the brutal economic war, military threats and recognition of the fraudulent Juan Guaido. Trump knows that Maduro is solidly in place as the president of Venezuela. US efforts to undermine his re-election in May of 2018 failed, the multiple coup efforts with Juan Guaido have failed, Venezuela exposed a series of terrorist plots the US was backing and there is little support for military intervention. In addition, because of Trump’s threats, Venezuela has strengthened its relationships with China and Russia, bringing them into Latin America in ways they have never happened before and squeezing out US interests.

John Bolton has put Trump in a trap in Venezuela. Trump has two choices: continued his failed strategy of regime change which has become a quagmire or stop interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela. Once Trump recognizes that Venezuela is an independent nation he can have a diplomatic relationship with the country as exits between most nations. It is time to give up on the embarrassing failed Bolton strategy and pursue a new approach of non-interference and diplomacy.

For most of its history, the US and Venezuela have been allies. It has only been during the eras of Clinton through Obama and the Bolton-era during the Trump administration that the US has been in conflict with Venezuela. Trump can now reverse those mistaken policies and put the United States back on a constructive track.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Obscured by Mushroom Clouds

Thu, 2019-09-12 10:04

Not all atrocities are created equal — except that all are equally atrocious.  Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Memorial Day weekend, 1921, and many other scenes of modern genocide besides, are easily seen as crimes against humanity of the worst magnitude.  Yet, if you add Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the mass murderous mix in the presence of a card-carrying American exceptionalist, you are quite likely to trigger a savage burst of effluvia terribly tied to Pearl Harbor.  I exaggerate, of course — but only mildly.

In this context, a recent Microsoft News poll (July 31 to August 5, 2019), canvassing over 12,000 Americans, found that 61% of respondents believe that the WMD strikes of August, 1945 were the “right” thing to do, whereas only 20% responded that the atomic attacks were “wrong.”  What accounts for the persistence of the atomic bomb drop myth, that the nuclear option was “necessary,” in America today, 75% of a century later?  Did radioactive fallout from those manifestly genocidal nuclear attacks fundamentally damage the collective American mind?

The myth begins, innocently enough, at Pearl Harbor — except that Pearl Harbor was bristling with one of the most modern naval war armadas ever assembled, thousands of miles from the nearest American coastline.  At the time, Hawai’i was an American “territory,” and Pearl Harbor was definitely not the Alamo…

Although the story is generally not told this way, on July 26, 1941, one month after Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Stalin’s Soviet Russia, FDR’s administration dropped some extra-provocative sanctions on Imperial Japan;  “Not one drop of oil for Japan!” (paraphrase), was the autocratic decree from FDR’s regime.  This thinly veiled declaration of war had an effect:  the Japanese regime’s decision to attack a surprisingly sleepy Pearl Harbor, as well as other American, Dutch, and British imperial territories in the near Asian Pacific.  One “Day of Infamy” later, FDR had overcome a reluctant American Public to declare hot war on Japan.

By the Summer of 1945, the end of the American-Japanese War was a foregone conclusion.  The swift tactical success of the Japanese attacks of December, 1941, had been strategically erased by the overwhelming force of a continental empire, the United States.  All that was left was to sign some documents, except that:  in an age of special weapons with genocidal impacts, the sure-to-be victorious U.S. had recently tested an extra-special weapon that its ruling junta (now Truman-led) was all-too-eager to use against a technically belligerent population.  The war was extended to allow for not only one, but two, special weapons applications against unsuspecting and undefended cities in Japan, under the dubious pretext that there was something that looked like a war still going on.

As vast swaths of the American Population were cautiously freaking out over the gratuitous carnage their government had authorized1, the propagandists rushed in to explain that many more lives would have been wasted if “the gadget” had not been used to win a war that had already been won.  “Mass Murder Saves Lives!” remains, perhaps, the most accurate slogan for the mad ad campaign that furiously followed the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To this day, most Americans have been educated not to see this genocide of the story that has anchored the American “Superpower” position since 1945.  We have been trained, in effect, to “love the Bomb” — as if “the Bomb” were as all-American as the apple pie you just “nuked” in your microwave oven.  To shape your own thought is a thought not taught in post-Hiroshima America; after all, there’s an armada of expert-idiots out there on the micro-airwaves to shape your own thoughts for you.  Simply “tune in” to “tune out…”

Nevertheless, there has been a terrible scare in this topical connection–and, quite recently.  In 2016, President Barack “Yes, We Can — Bail out the Banks!” Obama took a tiny giant step in an awareness direction by becoming the first — and, hopefully, not the last — sitting American president to visit Hiroshima.  Many a card-carrying American exceptionalist went ape-shit, as if Obama were about to open an investigation of the first nuclear crime scene.

In the event, the president’s Hiroshima speech fell well short of calling the atomic weapons massacres War Crimes.  Instead, Mr. Obama pointed to the sky that “death fell out of,” while also fingering the “first man” who shaped a flint or wooden tool into a blade or spear, as if he were reviewing an early scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey.

The sky?  A blade or spear?  Perchance to mushroom cloud?  At least Obama’s speech mentioned the “thousands of Koreans” and dozen American POWs who also perished during the Hiroshima atrocity: or, two groups of humans typically stricken from the official record of the world’s first nuclear attack.  Shouldn’t August 6 be an American national holiday in honor of those brave Americans who died at Hiroshima — except that, inconveniently enough, their own government “nuked” them to death.

George Carlin once joked, about World War 2, that the “Nazis lost, but Fascism won.”  Those two mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki not-so-pretty much punctuation mark the punch of Carlin’s joke, which is uncannily breathtaking for its brevity and wit.

Today, we are all strapped with the unasked-for-baggage of the “New and Improved” Pearl Harbor that the 9/11 event rather instantaneously became  As the increasingly militarized vehicle of American civilization rattletraps its hegemonic way down the superhighway of History, every average-to-exceptional American citizen-passenger should pay attention:  those Mushroom Clouds in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.

  1. Boyer, Paul.  By the Bomb’s Early Light, Pantheon Books, 1985.  Boyer’s book shows the amazing level of ambivalence that many Americans felt in the immediate aftermath of the atomic attacks.  The story we’ve been overwhelmingly force-fed since then looked very different at that time.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

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