Apr 162015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Harvard professor Joseph Nye, a former senior Pentagon functionary, is one of the longest serving and most influential advisers to US empire building officials. Nye has recently re-affirmed the primacy of the US as a world power in his latest book, Is the American Century Over? And his article, ‘The American Century will survive the Rise of China’ (Financial Times, 3/26/15, p. 7). These publications are in line with his earlier book, Bound to Lead, and his longstanding view that the US is not a declining world power, that it retains ‘supremacy’ even in the face of China’s rise to global power.

Nye’s views of US world supremacy have served to encourage Washington to wage multiple wars; his sanguine view of US economic power has allowed policy-makers to ignore fundamental weaknesses in the US economy and to overestimate US power, based on what he dubs, ‘soft’ and ‘military’ power.

In tackling Professor Nye’s work, we are not dealing with a ‘detached academic in the ivory tower’ – we are taking on a high level political influential, a hardline military hawk, whose views are reflected in the forging of strategic decisions and whose arguments serve to justify major government policies.

First, we will proceed through a critical analysis of his theoretical assumptions, historical arguments and conceptual framework. In the second part of this essay, we will consider the political consequences, which have flowed from his analysis and prescriptions. In the conclusion, we shall propose an alternative, more realistic, analysis of US global power, one more attuned to the real international position of the US in the world today.

Nye is Ossified in His Distorted Time Warp

Nye’s segmentation of power into three spheres – economic, military (hard), and diplomatic/cultural (soft), overlooks the inter-relation between them. What he dubs as ‘soft power’ usually relies on ‘hard power’, either before, during or after the application of ‘soft power’. Moreover, the capacity to influence by ‘soft power’ depends on economic promise or military coercion to enforce ‘persuasion’. Where economic resources or military threats are not present, soft power is ineffective.

Nye’s argument that military power is co-equal with economic power is a very dubious proposition. Over the medium run, economic power buys, expands and increases military power. In other words, economic resources are convertible into military as well as ‘soft power’. It can influence politicians, parties and regimes via trade, investments and credit in many ways which military power cannot. Over time, economic power translates into military power. Nye’s claims of persistent US military superiority in the face of its admitted economic decline is ephemeral or time bound.

Nye’s argument about the continued ascendancy of US global power ‘for the next few decades’ is a dubious, static view – ignoring a long-term, large-scale, historical trajectory. Lifelong shibboleths never die! By all empirical indicators - economic, political and even militarily, the US is a declining power. Moreover, what is important is not where the US is at any given moment but the where it is moving. Its declining shares of Latin American, African and Asian markets clearly points to a downward trajectory.

Power is a relationship. By definition it means a country’s capacity to make other countries or political entities do what they otherwise would not do. To consider the US as the dominant world power, we cannot, as Nye proposes, look at its ‘reputation’ as a world power or cite its ‘military capacity’ or willingness to project military force. We need to look at military and political outcomes in multiple key issue areas in which US policymakers have sought to establish regional or local dominance.

Nye’s discussion fails to look at the negative cumulative effects of US policy failures in multiple regions over time to determine whether the US retains its global supremacy or is a declining power.

To simply preach that ‘the American century is not over’, because some critics in the past mistakenly thought that the USSR in the 1970s or Japan in the 1980’s would displace the US as the global power, is to overlook the foundational weakness and repeated failures of US policymakers to impose or persuade other nations to accept US supremacy over the past decade and a half.

If, as Nye grudgingly concedes, China has replaced the US as the leading economic power in Asia, he does not understand the dynamic components of Chinese economic power, especially its long term, large-scale accumulation of foreign reserves and rapidly growing technical knowhow. Even worse, Nye ignores how the military dimension of world power has actively undermined US economic supremacy.

It is precisely Nye’s belief, along with other Pentagon advisers, that US military supremacy make it a ‘world power’, which has led to catastrophic, prolonged and costly wars. These wars have degraded and undermined US pretensions of ‘world leadership’ or more accurately - imperial supremacy.

While the US has spent trillions of dollars of public money on prolonged and losing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, as well as ongoing military interventions in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, China and other emerging powers have engaged in large long-term economic expansion, increasing market shares, acquiring productive enterprises and expanding their sources of capital accumulation in dynamic regions.

US repeated projections of military power have not created new sources of wealth. The US capacity and willingness to engage in multiple disastrous wars has led to a greater loss of military influence.

Consequences of High Military Capacity and Declining Economic Performance

The consequence of utilizing its great storehouse of military capacity so disastrously has degraded and weakened the US military as well as its imperial economic reach. Repeated US military defeats, its inability to secure its goals or impose its dominance in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has severely weakened the domestic political foundations of global military power, to the point where the US public is adverse to sending large scale US ground troops into combat.

Nye’s inventory of military resources, stockpile of up-to-date bombers, nuclear weapons, fighter planes, military bases, special forces operations, and its vast spy (“intelligence”) apparatus, in other words the US’s supreme military ‘capacity’, has not resulted in the establishment of a prosperous, stable and submissive empire (the goal that Nye euphemistically dubs ‘world supremacy’). US military engagements, both high and low intensity wars, have resulted in costly defeats and retreats as adversaries advance into the vacuum. Superior material capacity has not translated into US dominance because nationalist, anti-imperialist consciousness and movements based on mass armed resistance, have demonstrated superiority in countering foreign (US) invasions, occupations and satellite building.

Nye ignores a decisive ‘military resource’, which the US does not have and its adversaries have in abundance – nationalist consciousness. Here, Nye’s notion of US supremacy in ‘soft power’ has been terribly wrong-headed. According to Nye, the US superiority in the use and control of mass media, films, news and cultural organizations and educational institutions continues and has allowed the US to retain its global supremacy.

No doubt the US global propaganda apparatus and networks are formidable but they have not been successful, not least, as a bulwark of US global supremacy. Once again Nye’s inventory of soft power assets relies exclusively on quantitative,contemporary, material structures and ignores the enormous counter-influence of historical legacies, nationalist, cultural, religious, ethnic, class, race and gender consciousness, which rejects US dominance in all of its forms. US ‘soft power’ has not conquered or gained the allegiance of the people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Yemen. Nor has it convinced the billions of Chinese, Latin American or Islamic peoples to embrace American ‘leadership’.

No doubt ‘soft power’ has worked to a limited extent, especially among sectors of the educated classes and the local political elite, converting them into imperial collaborators. No doubt elements of the educated elite have been co-opted by US funded ‘non-governmental organizations’ that engage in grass roots counter-insurgency as the counterpart to the drone attacks from above. But, once again, Nye relies on quantitative, rather than qualitative, measures of influence. Despite an army of NGOs and the budgeting of billions of dollars, US imperial conquests, coups, occupations, rigged elections, and puppet regimes are highly unpopular. As a result, US troops need to diminish their presence, and its overseas and visiting diplomats require a squadron of security officials and operate out of armed fortresses.

Professor Nye’s treatment of what he calls ‘soft power’ is reduced to an inventory of propaganda resources, developed and/or cultivated by the imperial state (the US) to induce submission to and acceptance of the global supremacy of the US. However vast the spending and however broad the scope of ‘soft power, Nye fails to recognize the ineffectiveness of the US ‘soft power apparatus’ in the face of systemic crimes against humanity, which have profoundly alienated and decisively turned world opinion and specific national publics against the US. Specifically, Washington’s practice of torture (Abu Ghraib), kidnapping (rendition), and prolonged jailing without trial (Guantanamo); its global spy network monitoring hundreds of millions of citizens in the US and among allies and its use of drones killing more non-combatant (innocent) citizens than armed adversaries, have severely weakened, if not undermined, the appeal of US ‘soft powers’. Nye is oblivious to the ways in which US projections of military power have led to the precipitous long-term decline of ‘soft power’, and the way in which that decline has resulted in the greater reliance on military power . . . in a vicious circle.

Nye ignores the changing composition of the strategic decision makers who decide where and when military power will be exercised. He blandly assumes that policy is directed by and for enhancing US ‘global supremacy’. But as Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, (The Israel Lobby) and Petras, (The Power of Israel in the United States), have demonstrated, powerful, organized lobbies, like AIPAC, and Israel First officials in the Executive branch have taken military decisions to focus on the Middle East at the behest of Israel in order to enhance its power. These decisions have had an enormous cost in terms of loss of human and financial resources and have contributed to the decline of US global supremacy. Nye fails to recognize how the ascendancy of his militarist colleagues in the Pentagon and the Zionists in the Congress and Executive have drastically changed the way in which hard power (military) is exercised

And how it has weakened the composition and use of soft power and provoked greater imbalances between economic and military power.

Nye’s argument is further weakened by his incapacity to ‘problematize’ the changing content of military power, its shift from a tool of economic expansion, directed by US empire-builders, to an end in itself exploiting economic resources to enhance Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. This weakness is exacerbated by his failure to recognize the changing nature of economic power – the shift from manufacturing to finance capital and the negative consequences, which result for the projection of US economic power and dominance.

Finally, Nye totally ignores the moral dimension of the US drive for world dominance. At worst, he blithely assumes that destructive US wars are, by their nature, virtuous. Nye’s political commitment to the ‘American Century’ and total belief in its benignancy blind him to the killing and displacement of millions of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, Somalis, Libyans and now Ukrainians – among others. Nye’s assumption of the beneficial effects of the US-NATO-EU expansion into the former Warsaw Pact countries, and especially Russia, ignores the vast impoverishment of 70% of the Ukrainian population, the outward flight of 20 million skilled professionals and workers, and the subsequent militarization of Eastern Europe and East Germany via its incorporation in NATO. According to Nye’s moral calculus, any policy that enhances US global power is virtuous, no matter how it impacts the recipient population. These are not only Nye’s views, they provide the ideological underpinning of the official ‘soft power’ propaganda accompanying past, present and near future wars of mass destruction.

Nye is not your typical garden variety Ivy League-ideologue-for-US-and-Israeli-dominance (and there are many in US academia). Nye has been an important theoretical architect and strategic planner responsible for US global wars and the accompanying crimes against humanity. His global fantasies of US ascendancy have led to the parlous state of the US domestic economy, multiple unwinnable wars overseas and the eclipse of any strategic thinking about reversing the economic decline of the US in the world economy. Applying a cost-benefit analysis to Prof. Nye’s policies, if he were employed as a CEO in the private sector, he would have long ago been fired and dispatched to a prestigious business school to teach ‘ethics’. Since he is already tenured at Harvard and employed by the Pentagon he can continue to churn out his irresponsible ‘manifestos’ of US global leadership and not be held to account for the disasters.

In Joseph Nye, we have our own American version of Colonel Blimp surveying his colonial projects: He has exchanged his pith helmet, short britches and walking stick, for a combat helmet and boots, and has limited his ‘reviews’ of the Empire to secure zones, surrounded by an entourage of combat ready Leathernecks or mercenaries, circling helicopter warships and super-vetted local military toadies.

Historical Fallacies

Even at its zenith of ‘global power’ during the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, US military performance was the least effective component of world power. Two major wars, Korea and Indo-China, speak against Nye’s formula. The US military failed to defeat the North Korean and Chinese armies; Washington had to settle for a ‘compromise’. And the US was militarily defeated and forced to withdraw from Indo-China. Success in securing influence came afterwards, via economic investments and trade, accompanied by political and cultural influences.

Today, Nye’s reliance on the superior military resources of the US to project the continuance of the ‘American Century’ rests on very shakey historical foundations.

Nye’s Military Metaphysics as Crackpot Realism

The US has declined as a world power because of its ‘military pivot’ – following Nye’s military metaphysics and ‘soft power’ psychobabble. In every practical situation, where the US attempted to secure its dominance by relying on its superior ‘military capacity’ against its competitors’ reliance on economic and political resources, Washington has lost.

China has set in motion the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – with an initial offering of $50 billion dollars. The US is staunchly opposed to the AIIB because it clearly represents an alternative to the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Despite Washington’s pressure to reject membership, its ‘allies’, led by the UK and followed by all major powers (except Japan for now), have applied for membership. Even Israel has joined!

Washington sought to convince leading ‘emerging economies’ to accept US-centered economic integration; but instead, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS) founded the BRICS’ bank.

The US engineered the overthrow of the elected government in the Ukraine, and set up a puppet regime to incorporate it as a NATO client and military platform on Russia’s border. Instead, the Ukraine turned into an economic basket case, run by kleptocratic oligarchs, defended by openly neo-Nazi brigades and incapable of defeating federal autonomist rebels in the industrialized east.

The US and the EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia and federal autonomist rebels of the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine. This has become another example of projecting political power to enlarge the scope of military operations at the cost of devastating losses in trade and investment, between Moscow and the European Union, not to speak of the Ukraine – whose economy was dependent on trade with Russia.

The decline of US world power is, in part, a result of the dynamism and economic growth of emerging powers such as China and the relative decline of US market shares and inferior rates of growth.

Nye, in one of his more egregiously foolish efforts to puff up US economic superiority and to downgrade China’s economic rise, argues that China’s growth rate is ‘likely to slow in the future’. Dear Joe… don’t you know that a Chinese ‘slow down’ from double digit growth to 7 percent is still triple the rate of growth of the US today and for the foreseeable future?

Moreover China’s balanced economy, between production and finance, is less crisis-prone than the lopsided growth of the corrupt US financial sector. Nye’s economic calculus ignores the qualitative, as well as quantitative, dimensions of economic power.

Conclusion

The dubious intellectual value of Joseph Nye’s writings would not merit serious consideration except for the fact that they have a deep and abiding influence on US foreign policy. Nye is an ardent advocate of empire building and his arguments and prescriptions carry weight in the White House and Pentagon. His normative bias and his love of empire building blinds him to objective realties. The fact that he is a failed policy advisor, who refuses to acknowledge defeats, decline and destruction resulting from his world view, has not lessened the dangerous nature of his current views.

Nye’s attempt to justify his vision of continuing US world supremacy has led him to blame his critics. In his latest book, he rants that predictions of US decline are ‘dangerous’ because they could encourage countries such as China to pursue more aggressive policies. In other words, Nye having failed, through logic and facts, to sustain his assertions against his better-informed critics, questions their loyalty – evoking a McCarthyite specter of intellectuals critical of US global power…stabbing the country in the back.

Nye tries to deflect attention from the fragile material foundations of US power to disembodied ‘perceptions’.  According to Nye, it’s all perceptions’ (or illusions!): if the world leaders and public believe that ‘the American century is set to continue for many decades’, that faith will, in itself, help to sustain America’s superiority! Nye’s fit of irrationality, his reliance on Harry Houdini style of political analysis (‘Now you see US global power, now you don’t!) is unlikely to convince any serious analyst beyond the halls of the Pentagon and Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School.

What matters is that the US, while it is a declining world power, is still militarily powerful, dangerous and destructive, even as its empire building is weakening and its forces are in retreat. As Mahatma Gandhi once stated about the declining British Empire, ‘It’s the aging tiger that becomes the man eater’.

As an alternative, we can follow two lines of inquiry: One is to question the entire imperial enterprise and to focus on our return to republican values and domestic social and democratic reconstruction. That is a necessary, but prolonged struggle, under present circumstances. In the meantime, we can pursue policies that emphasize the importance of shifting from destructive military expansionism toward constructive economic engagements, flexible cooperation with emerging competitors, and diplomatic agreements with adversaries. Contrary to Nye’s assertions, militarism and economic expansion are not compatible. Wars destroy markets and occupations provoke resistance, which frighten investors. ‘Soft power’ and NGO’s that rely on manipulation, lies and demonization of critics gain few adherents and multiple adversaries.

The US should increase its ties and co-operation with BRICS and China’s AIIB. It should reach out to sign trade deals with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It should cut off aid to Israel, because of it bellicose posture toward the Arab East and its brutal colonization of Palestine. Washington should end its support of violent coups and engage with Venezuela. It should lift sanctions against Russia and East Ukraine and propose joint economic ventures. By ending colonial wars, we can increase economic growth and open markets. We should pursue economic accommodation not military occupation. The former leads to prosperity, the latter to destruction.

Apr 042015
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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Cold War 2.0, part I

In last month’s Anti-Empire Report I brought you the latest adventure of US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki trying to defend the indefensible. She said then: “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” which prompted me to inform my readers: “If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War.”

On March 13 her regular attack on all things Russian included this exchange with Associated Press writer Matthew Lee:

Lee: On this issue, did you get any more about this request to the Vietnamese on Cam Ranh Bay and not allowing the Russians to – and not wanting them to allow – you not wanting them to refuel Russian planes there?

Psaki: Well, just to be clear – and maybe I wasn’t as clear yesterday, so let me try to do this again – it’s – our concern is about activities they might conduct in the region, and the question is: Why are they in the region? It’s not about specifically refueling or telling the Vietnamese not to allow them to refuel. [emphasis added]

Lee: So there hasn’t been a request to stop refueling them, or there has?

Psaki: It’s more about concerns. It’s not as much about Vietnam as much as it – as it is about concerns about what activities they would be in the region for.

Lee: Okay. Well, you – I mean, there are U.S. planes flying over there all the time.

Psaki: Sure, there are.

Lee: So you don’t want Russian planes flying there, but it’s okay for U.S. planes to fly there? I mean, I just – it gets to the point where you – the suggestion is that everything the Russians are doing all the time everywhere is somehow nefarious and designed to provoke. But you can’t – but you don’t seem to be able to understand or accept that American planes flying all over the place, including in that area, is annoying to the Chinese, for one, but also for the Russians. But the suggestion is always that the American flights are good and beneficial and don’t cause tension, and that other people’s flights do cause tension. So can you explain what the basis is for your concern that the Russian flights there in the Southeast Asia area are – raise tensions?

Psaki: There just aren’t more details I can go into.

Cold War 2.0, part II

On Saturday, the Obama administration released a series of satellite images that it said showed the Russian army had joined the rebels in a full-scale assault to surround troops in the area around the city. Russia has denied that it is a party to the conflict, and it was impossible to verify the three grainy black-and-white satellite images posted to Twitter by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

According to the United States, the images, commissioned from the private Digital Globe satellite company, showed artillery systems and multiple-rocket launchers Thursday in the area near Debaltseve.

“We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems,” Pyatt tweeted. (Washington Post, February 15, 2015) 1

When the time comes to list the ways in which the United States gradually sunk into the quicksand, slowly metamorphosing into a Third-World state, Washington’s campaign of 2014-15 to convince the world that Russia had repeatedly invaded Ukraine will deserve to be near the top of the list. Numerous examples like the above can be given. If I were still the jingoistic nationalist I was raised to be I think I would feel somewhat embarrassed now by the blatant obviousness of it all.

For a short visual history of the decline and fall of the American Empire, see the video “Imperial Decay” by Class War Films (8:50 minutes):

During Cold War 1.0 the American media loved to poke fun at the Soviet media for failing to match the glorious standards of the Western press. One of the most common putdowns was about the two main Russian newspapers – Pravda (meaning “truth” in Russian) and Izvestia (meaning “news”). We were told, endlessly, that there was “no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.”

As cynical as I’ve been for years about the American mainstream media’s treatment of ODE (Officially Designated Enemies), current news coverage of Russia exceeds my worst expectations. I’m astonished every day at the obvious disregard of any kind of objectivity or fairness concerning Russia. Perhaps the most important example of this bias is the failure to remind their audience that the US and NATO have surrounded Russia – with Washington’s coup in Ukraine as the latest example – and that Moscow, for some odd reason, feels threatened by this. (Look for the map online of NATO bases and Russia, with a caption like: “Why did you place your country in the middle of our bases?”)

Cold War 2.0, part III

Following the murder of Russian opposition leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on February 27, the West had a field day. Ranging from strong innuendo to outright accusation of murder, the Western media and politicians did not miss an opportunity to treat Vladimir Putin as a football practice dummy.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging an international investigation into Nemtsov’s death and suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Council, and the United Nations could play a role in the probe. 2

US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the Nemtsov murder. The Resolution also called on President Obama and the international community to pursue an independent investigation into the murder and redouble efforts to advance free speech, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia. In addition, it urged Obama to continue to sanction human rights violators in the Russian Federation and to increase US support to human rights activists in Russia. 3

So it went … all over the West.

Meanwhile, in the same time period in Ukraine, outside of the pro-Russian area in the southeast, the following was reported:

  • January 29: Former Chairman of the local government of the Kharkov region, Alexey Kolesnik, hanged himself.
  • February 24: Stanislav Melnik, a member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), shot himself.
  • February 25: The Mayor of Melitopol, Sergey Valter, hanged himself a few hours before his trial.
  • February 26: Alexander Bordiuga, deputy director of the Melitopol police, was found dead in his garage.
  • February 26: Alexander Peklushenko, former member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former mayor of Zaporizhi, was found shot to death.
  • February 28: Mikhail Chechetov, former member of parliament, member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), “fell” from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev.
  • March 14: The 32-year-old prosecutor in Odessa, Sergey Melnichuk, “fell” to his death from the 9th floor.

The Partia Regionov directly accused the Ukrainian government in the deaths of their party members and appealed to the West to react to these events. “We appeal to the European Union, PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], and European and international human rights organizations to immediately react to the situation in Ukraine, and give a legal assessment of the criminal actions of the Ukrainian government, which cynically murders its political opponents.”

We cannot conclude from the above that the Ukrainian government was responsible for all, or even any, of these deaths. But neither can we conclude that the Russian government was responsible for the death of Boris Nemtsov, the American media and politicians notwithstanding. A search of the mammoth Nexus news database found no mention of any of the Ukrainian deceased except for the last one above, Sergey Melnichuk, but this clearly is not the same person. It thus appears that none of the deaths on the above list was ascribed to the Western-allied Ukrainian government. 4

Where are the demands for international investigations of any of the deaths? In the United States or in Europe? Where is Senator McCain?

Torture via sanctions

Discussions on constraining Iran’s nuclear program have been going on for well over a year between Iran and the P5+1 (the five nuclear powers of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), led by the United States. Throughout this period a significant stumbling block to reaching an agreement has been the pronouncements of Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, and its inspections are considered a key safeguard against countries using civilian nuclear energy technology to produce weapons. Amano has consistently accused Iran of failing to reply fully and substantially to queries about “possible military dimensions” of present and past nuclear activities, or failing to provide sufficient access to nuclear facilities.

Failure by Iran to comply fully with IAEA demands undermine Tehran’s efforts to win the lifting of crippling UN, US and other sanctions, which currently prohibit foreign companies from doing business with Iran and deny access to the global financial system. Media coverage of the negotiations regularly emphasize Amano’s claims of Iran’s insufficient responses to IAEA’s demands. It is thus worth inquiring just who is this man Amano.

In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the head of the IAEA. What the Western media routinely fail to remind its audience is that a US embassy cable of October 2009 (released by Wikileaks in 2010) said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Even if Iran makes a superior effort to satisfy IAEA and Washington’s demands on all issues, it would remain questionable to what extent and how rapidly the sanctions would be removed, particularly under a Republican-controlled Congress. Iran specialist and author Gareth Porter recently wrote that “the United States and its allies have made no effort to hide the fact that they intend to maintain the ‘sanctions architecture’ in place for many years after the implementation of the agreement has begun. Last November, administration officials explained that US sanctions would only be removed after the International Atomic Energy Agency had verified that ‘Tehran is abiding by the terms of a deal over an extended period of time’ in order to ‘maintain leverage on Iran to honor the accord’.” 5

To appreciate the extraordinary degree of pressure and extortion the United States can impose upon another country we should consider the case of Libya in the decade-plus following the destruction of PanAm Flight 103 in 1988 over Scotland. To force Libya to “accept responsibility” for the crime, Washington imposed heavy sanctions on the Gaddafi regime, including a ban on international flights to Libya and payment of billions of dollars to the families of the victims. Libya eventually did “accept responsibility” for the crime, although it was innocent. As difficult as this may be to believe, it’s true.  Read my account of it here.

Even after Libya accepted responsibility it still took years for the US to wipe out the sanctions, and it’s not clear that at the time of Gaddafi’s death in 2011 all of them had been removed. Once a nation becomes an Officially Designated Enemy of the empire the methods of torture can be exquisite and endless. Cuba is presently negotiating the end of US sanctions against Havana. They will need to be extremely careful.

“Like others of his ilk – such as David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens – he learned too much in college and too little since.” Sam Smith

I’ve never been too impressed by what college a person went to, or even if they attended college at all. Gore Vidal did not attend any college; neither did H. L. Mencken; nor did Edward Snowden, who has demonstrated a highly articulate and educated mind. Among the many other notables who skipped a college education are George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Then we have graduates from Ivy League colleges like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Tom Cotton. I don’t have to present the case for Bush’s less-than educated mind; we’re all only too familiar with its beauty. But Obama has matched Georgie Boy for stupidity and inanity time and time again. My favorite, which he’s used on at least five occasions, is his reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted Bush, Cheney, et al for torture and other war crimes: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards”. Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistle blowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Is there anyone left who still thinks that Barack Obama is some kind of improvement intellectually over George W. Bush? Probably two types still think so: (1) Those to whom color matters a lot; (2) Those who are very impressed by the ability to put together grammatically correct sentences.

And now we have Mr. Cotton, Senator from Arkansas and graduate of Harvard undergraduate and law schools. He’ll be entertaining us for years to come with gems like his remark on “Face the Nation” (March 15): “Moreover, we have to stand up to Iran’s attempts to drive for regional dominance. They already control Tehran and, increasingly, they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad. And now, Sana’a as well.”

Heavens, Iran controls Tehran! Who knew? Next thing we’ll hear is that Russia controls Moscow! Sarah Palin, move over. Our boy Cotton is ready for Saturday Night Live.

Notes

  1. Washington Post, February 15, 2015, “Amid doubts, truce in Ukraine appears to take hold
  2. RT, March 12, 2015, “EU lawmakers demand international investigation into Nemtsov’s death
  3. John McCain website, Press Release, “Senators John Mccain And Lindsey Graham Introduce Resolution Condemning Murder Of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov
  4. Research for this section was done by a person who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in the United States.
  5. Middle East Eye, March 27, 2015, “Sanctions and the fate of the nuclear talks
Mar 222015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past year, what appeared as hopeful signs, that Left governments were emerging as powerful alternatives to right-wing pro-US regimes, is turning into a historic rout, which will relegate them to the dustbin of history for many years to come. The rise and rapid decay of left-wing governments in France, Greece and Brazil is not the result of a military coup, nor is it due to the machinations of the CIA. The debacle of left governments is a result of deliberate political decisions, which break decisively with the progressive programs, promises and commitments that political leaders had made to the great mass of working and middle class voters who elected them.

Increasingly, the electorate views the leftist rulers as traitors, who betrayed their supporters at the beck and call of their most egregious class enemies: the bankers, the capitalists and the neo-liberal ideologues.

Left Governments Commit Suicide

The self-destruction of the Left is an unanticipated victory for the most retrograde neo-liberal political forces. These forces have sought to destroy the welfare system, impose their rule via non-elected officials, widen and deepen inequalities, undermine labor rights and privatize and denationalize the most lucrative sectors of the economy.

Three cases of Left regime betrayal serve to highlight this process: The French Socialist regime of President Francois Hollande governing in the second leading power in Europe (2012-2015); Syriza, the left regime in Greece elected on January 25, 2015, portrayed as a sterling proponent of an alternative policy to ‘fiscal austerity’; and The Workers Party of Brazil, governing in the biggest Latin American country (2003-2015) and a leading member of the BRICS.

French ‘Socialism’: The Great Leap Backward

In his Presidential campaign, Francois Hollande promised to raise taxes on the rich up to 75%; lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 years; launch a massive public investment program to reduce unemployment; vastly increase public spending on education (hiring 60,000 new teachers), health and social housing; and withdraw French troops from Afghanistan as a first step toward reducing Paris’ role as an imperialist collaborator.

From 2012, when he was elected, to the present (March 2015), Francois Hollande has betrayed each and every political commitment: Public investments did not materialize and unemployment increased to over 3 million. His newly appointed Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron, a former partner of Rothschild Bank, sharply reduced business taxes by 50 billion euros. His newly appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a neo-liberal zealot, implemented major cuts in social programs, weakened government regulation of business and banking and eroded job security. Hollande appointed Laurence Boone from Bank of America as his top economic adviser.

The French ‘Socialist President’ sent troops to Mali, bombers to Libya, military advisers to the Ukraine junta and aided the so-called Syrian ‘rebels’ (mostly Jihadist mercenaries). He signed off on billion-euro military sales to the Saudi Arabian monarcho-dictatorship and reneged on a contracted sale of warships to Russia.

Hollande joined with Germany in demanding that the Greek government comply with full and prompt debt payments to private bankers and maintain its brutal ‘austerity program’.

As a result of defrauding French voters, betraying labor and embracing bankers, big business and militarists, less than 19% of the electorate has a positive view of the ‘socialist’ government, placing it in third place among the major parties. Hollande’s pro-Israel policies and his hardline on US- Iranian peace negotiations, Minister Vall’s Islamophobic raids in French Muslim suburbs and the support of military interventions against Islamic movements, have increasingly polarized French society and heightened ethno-religious violence in the country.

Greece:  Syriza’s Instant Transformation

From the moment in which Syriza won the Greek elections on January 25, 2015, to the middle of March, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister and Yanis Varoufakis, his appointed Finance Minister, reneged in rapid order on every major and minor electoral program. They embraced the most retrograde measures, procedures and relations with the ‘Troika’, (the IMF, and European Commission at the European Central Bank), which Syriza had denounced in its Thessaloniki program a short time earlier.

Tsipras and Varoufakis repudiated the promise to reject the dictates of the ‘Troika’. In other words, they have accepted colonial rule and continued vassalage.

Typical of their demagogy and deceit, they sought to cover up their submission to the universally hated ‘Troika’ by dubbing it ‘the Institution’ – fooling nobody but themselves– and becoming the butt of cynical cackles from their EU overseers.

During the campaign, Syriza had promised to write off all or most of the Greek debt. In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis immediately assured the Troika that they recognized and promised to meet all of their debt obligations.

Syriza had promised to prioritize humanitarian spending over austerity – raising the minimum wage, rehiring public employees in health and education and raising pension payments. After two weeks of servile groveling, the ‘re-formed’ Tsipras and Varoufakis prioritized austerity – making debt payments and ‘postponing’ even the most meagre anti-poverty spending. When the Troika lent the Syriza regime $2 billion to feed hungry Greeks, Tsipras lauded his overseers and promised to submit a multi-billion euro list of regressive ‘reforms’.

Syriza had promised to re-examine the previous rightwing regime’s dubious privatization of lucrative public enterprises and to stop on-going and future privatizations. In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis quickly disavowed that promise. They approved past, present and future privatizations. In fact, they made overtures to procure new privatization ‘partners’, offering lucrative tax concessions in selling-out more public firms.

Syriza promised to tackle the depression level unemployment (26% national, 55% youth) via public spending and reduced debt payments. Tsipras and Varoufakis dutifully met debt payments and did not allocate any funds to create jobs!

Not only did Syriza continue the policies of its rightwing predecessors, but also it did so in a ludicrous style and substance: adopting ridiculous public postures and demagogic inconsequential gestures:

One day Tsipras would lay a wreath at the gravesite of 200 Greek partisans murdered by the Nazis during WW II. The next day he would grovel before the German bankers and concede to their demands for budget austerity, withholding public funds from 2 million unemployed Greeks.

One afternoon, Finance Minister Varoufakis would pose for a photo spread for Paris Match depicting him, cocktail in hand, on his penthouse terrace overlooking the Acropolis; and several hours later he would claim to speak for the impoverished masses!

Betrayal, deceit and demagogy all during the first two months in office, Syriza has established a record in its conversion from a leftist anti-austerity party to a conformist, servile vassal of the European Union.

Tsipras’ call for Germany to pay reparations for damages to Greece during WW II –a long overdue and righteous demand– is another phony demagogic ploy designed to distract the impoverished Greeks from Tsipras and Varoufakis sellout to German contemporary austerity demands. A cynical European Union official tells the Financial Times (12/3/15, p. 6), “He’s (Tsipras) giving them (Syriza militants) a bone to lick on”.

No one expects German leaders to alter their hardline because of past injustices, least of all because they come from interlocutors on bended knees. No one in the EU takes Tsipras demand at face value. They see it as more empty ‘radical’ rhetoric for domestic consumption.

Talking up 70-year German reparations avoids taking practical action today repudiating or reducing payments on illegitimate debt to German banks and repudiating Merckel’s dictates. The transparent betrayal of their most basic commitments to the impoverished Greek people has already divided Syriza. Over 40% of the central committee, including the President of the Parliament, repudiated the Tsipras –Varoufakis agreements with the Troika.

The vast majority of Greeks, who voted for Syriza, expected some immediate relief and reforms. They are increasingly disenchanted. They did not expect Tsipras to appoint Yanis Varoufakis, a former economic adviser to the corrupt neo-liberal PASOK leader George Papandreou, as Finance Minister. Nor did many voters abandon PASOK, en masse, over the past five years, only to find the same kleptocrats and unscrupulous opportunists occupying top positions in Syriza, thanks to Alexis Tsipras index finger.

Nor could the electorate expect any fight, resistance and willingness to break with the Troika from Tsipras’ appointments of ex-pat Anglo-Greek professors. These armchair leftists (‘Marxist seminarians’) neither engaged in mass struggles nor suffered the consequences of the prolonged depression.

Syriza is a party led by affluent upwardly mobile professionals, academics and intellectuals. They rule over (but in the name of) the impoverished working and salaried lower middle class, but in the interests of the Greek, and especially, German bankers.

They prioritize membership in the EU over an independent national economic policy. They abide by NATO, by backing the Kiev junta in the Ukraine, EU sanctions on Russia, NATO intervention in Syria/Iraq and maintain a loud silence on US military threats to Venezuela!

Brazil: Budget Cuts, Corruption and the Revolt of the Masses

Brazil’s self-styled Workers Party government in power an unlucky 13 years, has been one of the most corruption-ridden regimes in Latin America. Backed by one of the major labor confederations, and several landless rural workers’ organizations, and sharing power with center-left and center-right parties, it was able to attract tens of billions of dollars of foreign extractive, finance and agro-business capital. Thanks to a decade-long commodity boom in agro-mineral commodities, easy credit and low interest rates, it raised income, consumption and the minimum wage while multiplying profits for the economic elite.

Subsequent to the financial crises of 2009, and the decline of commodity prices, the economy stagnated, just as the new President Dilma Rousseff was elected. The Rousseff government, like her predecessor, Lula Da Silva, favored agro-business over the rural landless workers’ demands for land reform. Her regime promoted the timber barons and soya growers encroaching on the Indian communities and the Amazon rain forest.

Elected to a second term, Rousseff faced a major political and economic crises: a deepening economic recession, a fiscal deficit, and the arrest and prosecution of scores of corrupt Workers’ Party and allied congressional deputies and Petrobras oil executives.

Workers’ Party leaders and the Party’s campaign treasury received millions of dollars in kickbacks from construction companies securing contracts with the giant semi-public petroleum company. President Rousseff promised “to continue to support popular social programs”, and “to root out corruption”, during her election campaign. However, immediately after her election she embraced orthodox neo-liberal policies and appointed a cabinet of hard-right neo-liberals including Bradesco banker Joaquin Levy as Finance Minister. Levy proposed to reduce unemployment payments, pensions and public salaries. He argued for greater de-regulation of banks. He proposed to weaken job protection laws to attract capital. He sought to achieve a budget surplus and attract foreign investment at the expense of labor.

Rousseff, consistent with her embrace of neo-liberal orthodoxy, appointed Katia Abreu, a rightwing senator, a life-long leader of agro-business interests and sworn enemy of land reform, as the new Agricultural Minister. Crowned “Miss Deforestation” by Greenpeace, Senator Abreu was vehemently opposed by the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) and the labor confederation to no avail. With Rousseff’s total backing Abreu set out on a course of ending even the minimal land redistribution carried out in Rousseff’s first term in office (establishing land settlements benefiting less than 10% of the landless squatters). Abreu endorsed regulations facilitating the expansion of genetically modified crops, and promises to forcefully evict Amazonian Indians occupying productive land in favor of large-scale agro-business corporations. Moreover, she promises to vigorously defend landlords from land occupations by landless rural workers.

Rousseff’s incapacity and/or unwillingness to fire and prosecute the Workers Party Treasurer, involved in a decade long billion-dollar kickback and bribery scandal, deepened and widened mass opposition.

On March 15, 2015 over a million Brazilians filled the streets across the country, led by rightist parties, but drawing support from the popular classes demanding immediate anti-corruption trials and stern sentences, and the revocation of Levy’s cuts in social expenditures.

The counter demonstration in support of Rousseff by the CUT labor confederation and the MST drew one-tenth that number – about 100,000 participants.

Rousseff responded by calling for ‘dialogue’ and claimed to be ‘open to proposals’ on the issue of corruption but explicitly rejected any changes in her regressive fiscal policies, neo-liberal cabinet appointmentsand her embrace of their agro-mineral agenda.

In less than two months, the Workers Party and its President has indelibly stained its leaders, policies and backers with the brush of corruption and socially regressive policies.

Popular support has plummeted. The right wing is growing. Even the authoritarian, pro-military coup activists were present in the mass demonstrations, carrying signs calling for ‘impeachment’ and a return of military rule.

As in most of Latin America, the authoritarian right in Brazil is a growing force, positioning itself to take power as the center-left adopts a neo-liberal agenda throughout the region. Parties dubbed ‘center-left’, like the Broad Front in Uruguay, the pro-government Party for Victory in Argentina, are deepening their ties with agro-mineral corporate capitalism.

Uninformed claims by leftist US writers like Noam Chomsky that, “Latin America is the vanguard against neo-liberalism” is at best a decade late, and certainly misleading. They are deceived by populist policy pronouncements and refuse to acknowledge the decay of the center –left regimes and thus fail to recognize how their neoliberal political actions are fostering mass popular discontent. Regimes, which adopt regressive socio-economic policies, do not constitute a vanguard for social emancipation.

Conclusion

What accounts for these abrupt reversals and swiftly broken promises by recently elected supposedly ‘left parties’ in Europe and Latin America?

One has come to expect this kind of behavior in North America from the Obama Democrats or the New Democratic Party in Canada . . . But we were led to believe that in France, with its red republican traditions, a Socialist regime backed (‘critically’) by anti-capitalists leftists; would at least implement progressive social reforms. We were told by an army of progressive bloggers that Syriza, with its charismatic leader, and radical rhetoric, would at least fulfill its most elementary promises by lifting the yoke of Troika domination and begin to end destitution and provide electricity to 300,000 candle-lit households. ‘Progressives’ had repeatedly told us that the Workers Party lifted 30 million out of poverty. They claimed that a former ‘honest auto worker’ (Lula Da Silva) would never allow the Workers Party to revert back to neo-liberal budget cuts and embrace its supposed ‘class enemies’. US leftist professors refused to give credence to the crass billion-dollar robbery of the Brazilian National Treasury under two Workers’ Party Presidents.

Several explanations for these political betrayals come to mind. First, despite their popular or ‘workerist’ claims, these parties were run by middle class lawyers, professionals and trade union bureaucrats, who were organically disconnected from their mass base. During election campaigns, seeking votes, they briefly embraced workers and the poor, and then spent the rest of their time in pricey restaurants working out “deals” with bankers, business bribe granters and overseas investors to finance their next election, their children’s private school and their mistresses luxury apartments.

For a time, when the economy was booming, big corporate profits, payoffs and bribes went hand in hand with wage increases and poverty programs. But when the crisis broke, the ‘popular’ leaders doffed their Party hats and pronounced ‘fiscal austerity was inevitable while going with their begging cups before their international financial overlords.

In all these countries faced with difficult times, the middle class leaders of the Left feared the problem (capitalist crisis) and feared the real solution (radical transformation). Instead they turned to the ‘only solution’: they approached capitalist leaders and sought to convince business associations and, above all their financial overlords, that they were ‘serious and responsible politicians’, willing to forsake social agendas and embrace fiscal discipline. For domestic consumption, they cursed and threatened the elites, providing a little theater to entertain their plebeian followers, before they capitulated!

None of the academics-turned-left-leaders have any deep and abiding links to the mass struggles. Their ‘activism’ involves reading papers at ‘social forums’, and giving papers at conferences on ‘emancipation and equality’. Political sellouts and fiscal austerity will not jeopardize their economic positions. If their Left parties are ousted by angry constituents and radical social movements, the left leaders pack their bags and return to comfortable tenured jobs or rejoin their law office. They do not have to worry about mass firings or reduced subsistence pensions. At their leisure they will find time to sit back and write another paper on the how the  ‘crisis of capitalism’ undermined their well-intentioned social agenda or how they experienced the ‘crisis of the Left’.

Because of their disconnect from the suffering of the impoverished, unemployed voters, the middle class leftists in office are blind to the need to make a break with the system. In reality, they share the worldview of their supposedly conservative adversaries: they too believe that ‘it’s capitalism or chaos’. This borrowed cliché is passed off as a deep insight into the dilemmas of democratic socialists. The middle class leftist officials and advisers always use the alibi of ‘institutional constraints’. They ‘theorize’ their political impotence – they never recognize the power of organized class movements.

Their political cowardice is structural and leads to easy moral betrayals: they plead, ‘Crisis is not a time to tinker with the system’.

For the middle class, ‘time’ becomes a political excuse. Middle class leaders of popular movements, without audacity or programs of struggle, always talk of change . . .  in the future.

Instead of mass struggle, they run to and fro, between the centers of financial power and their Central Committees, confusing ‘dialogues’ that end in submission, with consequential resistance.

In the end the people will re-pay them turning their backs and rejecting their pleas to re-elect them ‘for another chance’.

There will not be another chance. This ‘Left’ will be discredited in the eyes of those whose trust they betrayed.

The tragedy is that the entire left will be tarnished. Who can believe the fine words of ‘liberation’, ‘the will to hope’ and the ‘return of sovereignty’ after experiencing years of the opposite?

Left politics will be lost for an entire generation, at least in Brazil, France and Greece.

The Right will ridicule the open zipper of Hollande; the false humility of Rousseff; the hollow gestures of Tsipras and the clowning of Varoufakis.

The people will curse their memory and their betrayal of a noble cause.

Mar 172015
 

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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Turkey’s parliament has been rocked by the infamous national security bill over the past few weeks. The government has tried all methods to pass the bills, disregarding the constitution and international agreements Turkey is a signatory to. The new bill has been especially criticized for the legal impunity it supplies to the police and its declaring any citizen to be a potential criminal. A second bill has now been brought to the parliament floor, regarding prison guards.

The new prison bill’s 19 articles have already been passed without much debate or anyone really noticing. Since most members of the parliament are busy preparing for the election period, very few members take the time to study and evaluate the new bill. According to the new prison guards bill, guards will be allowed to use trained dogs, teargas (though it is prohibited from indoor use), pressurized water, and firearms against prisoners “if need be.”

The new bill is considered a declaration of war against prisoners and lawyers have expressed their concerns, recalling the massive deaths in prisons due to security operations that targeted prisons prior to AKP’s rule. The draconian bill on the parliament floor has implications that disregard the right to life and many other rights, especially combined with the isolation system in individual cells used in Turkish prisons, the scope of the bill can be considered very worrisome.

The official reason on the draft page states that the bill was written to “improve individuals who have shown social inadaptability.” The bill foresees the use of firearms, teargas, pressurized water, and trained dogs to assault prisoners in cases of revolt, resistance, escape, attempted escape or disturbances. One article in the bill also contains a special clause which will enable guards to use maximum measures in case of passive resistance from prisoners, and a warning message is not necessary for application of these measures.

When to use weapons in prisons?

Guards and “other security personnel” will be allowed to shoot prisoners if there is a tendency not to submit items which might be of use in case of resistance. Security forces will be allowed to use serial-shooting if there is attempt at assault on security forces. According to the bill, security forces may shoot a prisoner if he were to resist strip search or torture, or if the prisoner starts a hunger strike. One other clause concerns the surveillance cameras installed in prison cells. Prisoners break the cameras, which leave no “dark” spots, since they violate prisoners’ privacy. According to the new bill, guards will be allowed to use firearms if a prisoner breaks the camera in his cell.

Other measures in the bill vary from pressurized water, trained dogs to assault prisoners, and “powders” which remind one of chemical weapons. Not only does this bill allow security personnel to use several types of arms against unarmed prisoners, but also contains measures to guarantee impunity. The identities of armed-forces personnel who participate in such “interventions” against prisoners will be kept secret under the bill.

Remembering “Operation Return to Life” from 2000

The bill reminds one of an infamous operation in Turkish prisons in the year 2000, when 20 prisons were raided by armed forces, dozens were killed instantly, dozens of others were raped, and hundreds were left mortally wounded by chemical weapons. One victim of chemical powders described the feeling she experienced during the operation, saying “there was no fire, but we felt the flames under our skin.” Lawyers now refer to this as one of the darkest pages in the history of Turkish prisons and warn of the dangers and risks of having a bill that will allow even harsher treatment of prisoners.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Mar 152015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Why did Obama declare a ‘national emergency’, claim that Venezuela represents a threat to US national security and foreign policy, assume executive prerogatives and decree sanctions against top Venezuelan officials in charge of national security, at this time?

Venezuela’s Support of Latin America Integration is Obama’s Great Fear

To answer this question it is essential to begin by addressing Obama’s specious and unsubstantiated charges of a Venezuelan ‘threat to national security and foreign policy’.

First, the White House presents no evidence … because there is nothing to present! There are no Venezuelan missiles, fighter planes, warships, Special Forces, secret agents or military bases poised to attack US domestic facilities or its overseas installations.

In contrast, the US has warships in the Caribbean, seven military bases just across the border in Colombia manned by over two thousand US Special Forces, and Air Force bases in Central America. Washington has financed proxy political and military operations intervening in Venezuela with intent of overthrowing the legally constituted and elected government.

Obama’s claims resemble a ploy that totalitarian and imperialist rulers frequently use: Accusing their imminent victims of the crimes they are preparing to perpetrate against them. No country or leader, friend or foe, has supported Obama’s accusations against Venezuela.

Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a ‘threat’ to US foreign policy requires clarification: First, which elements of US foreign policy are threatened? Venezuela has successfully proposed and supported several regional integration organizations, which are voluntarily supported by their fellow Latin American and Caribbean members. These regional organizations, in large part, replace US-dominated structures, which served Washington’s imperial interests. In other words, Venezuela supports alternative diplomatic and economic organizations, which its members believe will better serve their economic and political interests, than those promoted by the Obama regime. Petrocaribe, a Central American and Caribbean association of countries supported by Venezuela, addresses the development needs of their members better than US-dominated organizations like the Organization of American States or the so-called ‘Caribbean Initiative’. The same is true of Venezuela’s support of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). These are Latin American organizations which exclude the dominating presence of the US and Canada and are designed to promote greater regional independence.

Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a threat to US foreign policy is an accusation directed at all governments who have freely chosen to abandon US-centered organizations and who reject US hegemony.

In other words, what arouses Obama’s ire and motivates his aggressive threats toward Venezuela is Caracas’s political leadership in challenging US imperialist foreign policy.

Venezuela does not have military bases in the rest of Latin America nor has it invaded, occupied or sponsored military coups in other Latin American countries – as Obama and his predecessors have done.

Venezuela condemned the US invasion of Haiti, the US-supported military coups in Honduras (2009), Venezuela (2002, 2014, 2015), Bolivia (2008) and Ecuador (2010).

Clearly, Obama’s ‘emergency’ decree and sanctions against Venezuela are directed at maintaining unchallenged US imperial supremacy in Latin America and degrading Venezuela’s independent, democratic foreign policy.

To properly understand Obama’s policy toward Venezuela, we have to analyze why he has chosen overt, unilateral bellicose threats atthis time?

Obama’s War Threat Results from Political Failure

The principal reasons why Obama has directly intervened in Venezuelan politics is that his other policy options designed to oust the Maduro government have failed.

In 2013, Obama’s relied on US financing of an opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, to oust the incumbent Chavista government. President Maduro defeated Obama’s choice and derailed Washington’s ‘via electoral’ to regime change.

Subsequently, Obama attempted to boycott and discredit the Venezuelan voting process via an international smear campaign. The White House boycott lasted 6 months and received no support in Latin America, or from the European Union, since scores of international election observers, ranging from former President James Carter to representatives of the Organization of American States certified the outcome.

In 2014, the Obama regime backed violent large-scale riots, which left 43 persons dead and scores wounded, (most victims were pro-government civilians and law enforcement officers) and millions of dollars in damages to public and private property, including power plants and clinics. Scores of vandals and rightwing terrorists were arrested, including Harvard-educated terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. However, the Maduro government released most of the saboteurs in a gesture of reconciliation.

Obama, on his part, escalated the terror campaign of internal violence. He recycled his operatives and, in February 2015, backed a new coup. Several US embassy personnel (the US had at least 100 stationed in their embassy), turned out to be intelligence operatives using diplomatic cover to infiltrate and recruit a dozen Venezuelan military officials to plot the overthrow of the elected government and assassinate President Maduro by bombing the presidential palace.

President Maduro and his national security team discovered the coup plot and arrested both the military and political leaders, including the Mayor of Caracas.

Obama, now furious for having lost major internal assets and proxies, turned to his last resort: the threat of a direct US military intervention.

The Multiple Purposes of Obama’s ‘National Emergency’

Obama’s declaration of a national security emergency has psychological, political and military objectives. His bellicose posture was designed to bolster the spirit of his jailed and demoralized operatives and let them know that they still have US support. To that end, Obama demanded that President Maduro free the terrorist leaders. Washington’s sanctions were primarily directed against the Venezuelan security officials who upheld the constitution and arrested Obama’s hired thugs. The terrorists in their prison cells can console themselves with the thought that, while they serve ‘hard time’ for being US shock troops and puppets, their prosecutors will be denied visas by President Obama and can no longer visit Disney Land or shop in Miami …  Such are the consequences of the current US ‘sanctions’ in the eyes of a highly critical Latin America.

The second goal of Obama’s threat is to test the response of the Venezuelan and Latin American governments. The Pentagon and CIA seek to gauge how Venezuela’s military, intelligence and civilian leaders will deal with this new challenge in order to identify the weak links in the chain of command, i.e. those officials who will run for cover, cower or seek to conciliate, by giving in to Obama’s demands.

It should be remembered that during the US-backed April 2002 coup, many self-styled ‘Chavista revolutionaries’ went into hiding, some holing up in embassies. In addition, several military officials defected and a dozen politicians curried favor with the coup leaders, until the tide turned and over a million ordinary Venezuelans, including slum dwellers, marched to surround the Presidential Palace and, with the backing of loyalist paratroopers, ousted the golpistas (coup-makers) and freed their President Chavez. Only then did the fair-weather Chavistas come out from under their beds to celebrate the restoration of Hugo Chavez and the return of democracy.

In other words, Obama’s bellicose posture is part of a ‘war of nerves’, to test the resistance, determination and loyalty of the government officials, when their positions are threatened, US bank accounts are frozen, their visas denied and access to ‘Disney Land’ cut.

Obama is putting the Venezuelan government on notice: a warning this time, an invasion next time.

The White House’s openly thuggish rhetoric is also intended to test the degree of opposition in Latin America – and the kind of support Washington can expect in Latin America and elsewhere.

And Cuba responded forcefully with unconditional support for Venezuela. Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina repudiated Obama’s imperial threats. The European Union did not adopt the US sanctions although the European Parliament did echo Obama’s demand to free the jailed terrorists. Initially Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico neither backed the US nor the Venezuelan government. The Uruguayan Vice President Raul Sendic was the only official in Latin America to deny US intervention. However, on March 16 at an emergency meeting of UNASUR in Quito Ecuador, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela unanimously denounced US sanctions and military intervention

President Maduro Stands Firm:  They Shall Not Pass

Most important, President Maduro stood firm.  He declared a national emergency and asked for special powers. He called for 2 weeks of nationwide military exercises involving 100,000 soldiers beginning March 14. He made it clear to the Pentagon and the White House that a US invasion would meet resistance. That confronting  millions of Venezuelan freedom fighters would not be a ‘cake walk’ – that there would be US casualties, body bags and new US widows and orphans to mourn Obama’s imperial schemes.

Conclusion

Obama is neither preparing an immediate invasion nor giving upon ‘regime change’ because his coup operatives failed in two consecutive years. His militarist posture is designed to polarize Latin America: to divide and weaken the regional organizations; to separate the so-called ‘moderates’ in Mercosur (Brazil/Uruguay/Paraguay) from Venezuela and Argentina. Despite his failures thus far, Obama will press ahead to activate opposition to Venezuelan security policies among the Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican, and Colombian neo-liberal regimes.

Washington is building pressure externally and preparing for a new round of violent unrest internally to provoke a robust government response.

In other words – Obama’s military invasion will follow the well-rehearsed scenario of ‘humanitarian intervention’ orchestrated in Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria – with such disastrous consequences on the people of those countries. Obama, at this time, lacks international political support from Europe and Latin America that would provide the fig leaf of a multilateral coalition and has lost his key internal operatives. He cannot risk a bloody unilateral US invasion and prolonged war in the immediate future.

However, he is inexorably moving in that direction. Obama has seized executive prerogatives to attack Venezuela. He has alerted and mobilized US combat forces in the region. He understands that his current teams of operatives in Venezuela have demonstrated that they are incapable of winning elections or seizing power without major US military backing. Obama is now engaged in a psychological as well as physical war of nerves: to run down the Venezuelan economy, to intimidate the faint-hearted, and exhaust and weaken the militants through constant threats and widening sanctions over time.

The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has accepted the challenge. He is mobilizing the people and the armed forces: his democratically elected regime will not surrender. The national resistance will be fighting in their own country for their own future. They will be fighting an invading imperial power. They represent millions, and they have a ‘world to lose’ if the ‘squalidos’ (the domestic fifth column) should ever take power: if not their lives, their livelihoods, their dignity and their legacy as a free and independent people.

Epilogue

President Maduro has sought and secured Russian military support and solidarity in the form of arms, advisors and an agreement to engage in joint military maneuvers to meet the challenges of Obama’s war of attrition … President Putin has addressed a public letter of support to the Venezuelan  government in response to Obama’s threats.

Obama is engaged in a two-pronged economic and military strategy, which will converge with a US military invasion.

The overt military threats issued in early March 2015 are designed to force the Maduro government to divert large-scale financial resources away from meeting the economic crisis to building emergency military defense. Through escalating military and economic threats, the White House hopes to diminish government subsidies for the import of basic foodstuffs and other essential commodities during an internal campaign of hoarding and artificial shortages committed by economic saboteurs. Obama is counting on his Venezuelan proxies and the local and international mass media to blame the government for the economic deterioration and to mobilize the big protests of irate consumers. White House strategists hope a massive crowd will serve as a cover for terrorists and snipers to engage in violent acts against public authorities, provoking the police and armed forces to respond in a re-play of the ‘coup’ in Kiev. At that point, Washington will seek to secure some form of support from Europe or Latin America (via the OAS) to intervene with troops in what the State Department will dub as ‘peace mediators in a humanitarian crisis’.

The success of sending in the US Marines into Venezuela on a peace mission will depend on how effective Special Forces and Pentagon operatives in the US Embassy have been in securing reliable collaborators among the Venezuelan military and political forces ready to betray their country. Once the collaborators seize a piece of territory, Obama can mount the charade that US Marines are there by invitation … of the democratic forces …

Under conditions of explicit military threat, Maduro must change ‘the rules of the game’. Under emergency conditions hoarding is no longer just a misdemeanor: it becomes a capital crime. Politicians meeting and consulting with representatives of the invading country should lose their immunity and be summarily jailed. Above all, the government must take total control over the distribution of basic goods; establishing rationing to ensure popular access; nursing scarce financial resources by limiting or imposing a moratorium on debt payments; diminishing or selling assets in the US (CITCO) to avoid confiscation or their being made illiquid (“frozen”) by some new Obama decree. On the external front, Venezuela must deepen military and economic ties with its neighbors and independent nations to withstand the US military and economic offensive. If Obama escalates the military measures against Venezuela, the parliamentary elections scheduled for September should be temporarily suspended until normality is re-established.

Mar 142015
 

By J Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Thursday, March 12, 2015. Photo by Iddhis Bing.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Thursday, March 12, 2015. Photo by Iddhis Bing.

 

Alex Tsipras and ministers of his government – among them, the Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations, Euclid Tsakalotos, and a certain Minister of Finance, name of Varoufakis – were in Paris on Thursday for a wide- ranging series of talks with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). After the discussions Tsipras gave a short press conference followed by a speech to OECD member nations and the press. The OECD announced a number of joint initiatives with the Greek government in areas such as job creation, public finance and spending, taxation and, intriguingly, “disrupting oligarchies and cartels.” The organization’s Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, was careful to note that “The OECD is not replacing any other institution that the government works with. We are involved because we were asked by one of our founding member countries to offer help and advice on their reform program.”

Regular readers here will pardon the pro-forma above. I snuck in the OECD’s side door and took notes. I looked pretty good, considering that my hands were covered with bloody scratches courtesy of a cat I met the day before. Events at places like the OECD in the opulent 16th are interesting theatre, at least the first time around. They are rigorously controlled affairs, so you have to lean in if you want to glimpse the human beast.

The Greeks need friends in Europe. They’re looking everywhere, and the trip to Paris can be seen as part of the continuing charm offensive. They need public statements of support and not quiet murmurs of assent such as François Hollande dispenses. (Not too loud, Angela might hear.) They have confidence in what looks like a lonely fight but they seem to be still hoping that the tide will turn, that Europe will join them in replacing the Austerity Drones. That’s one explanation for their presence. But it leaves a lot out.

… The plush little theatre where the press conference takes place is crammed with journalists. In the first two rows, a swirling crowd that speaks only Greek and is constantly hopping in and out of their seats, as if they were making policy decisions at the last second. The camera men are set up with their ridiculous foot-long lenses, the facilitators line the aisle, we’re all waiting. Do my co-workers expect anything new to be said? There’s no bar down here in the basement of the OECD – I haven’t found one anyway. Just fruit juice. It’s nice to be healthy but a drink helps when you have to listen to politicians for a few hours, and without a bar there’s no fraternity. Journalists these days are a quiet lot and far too many of them are staring at the portables on their laps like zombies getting the feed.

And then – swoosh. The doors open and one buzz replaces another as Tsipras and cohorts glide in. The photographers order anyone in their way to sit down. What jerks.

Tsipras and Gurria take the platform. Gurria grips the lecturn like he’s maybe going to pull it out of the floor and hurl it at us, or maybe a bit like a sea captain staring off into the mist on a stormy night. Tsipras’s body language is patient, deferential, waiting his cue. He’s willing to play the game. I wonder if he can understand a word Gurria is saying.

He’s a fast talker this Gurria. Six languages or so the official bio claims. Brooklyn is full of guys like him, always on the up and up, everything positive, always shaking people’s hands, aways trying to sell you something – an idea maybe. (People in Brooklyn have ideas.) They come at you fast on the sidewalk and it’s always too late to avoid them. They’re not so bad, it’s just that they’re always brimming. Well, Gurria has the right, he’s head of the OECD, unofficially known as the “world’s club for the richy-rich.” Readers with memories of old columns will recall that Luxembourg is a member too and that they simply choose to “exercise the privilege” of not signing the organization’s tax avoidance mandates, which they had every right to do. It’s called taking care of business properly.

So Gurria is finishing up, he says again and again that “Syriza has only been in power a few weeks,” and underlines that the OECD is not replacing any other organization at least twice. Who could that be refering to, I wonder? Greece will take help anywhere it can. As the poet Roque Dalton observed, “The drowning man doesn’t ask which way the boat is headed.”

Tspiras is not so nice. The Troika is his voodoo doll: if you bring it on stage, you have to stab it – at least twice. And he obliges. Syriza remains committed to its social program in all its aspects, he says, as well as the Memorandum of reform they signed in mid-February. But he stresses that it is reform their way and not what the Central Bank and the IMF think change looks like. Watch a few videos of the Euro group President Jeroen Tijsselbloem, read his body language as he says, “We are still waiting to see evidence of reform by the Greeks.” (My paraphrase.) The two parties are speaking different languages. In a video after Syriza’s election he talks about how much his organization helped Greece with interest delays and other bookkeeping sleights of hand (heroic acts). Tijsselbloem is a human in functionary drag, passenger on a boat going the wrong way. He is the kind of man who says “water” before he lifts the glass to his lips. It’s a policy statement.

Gurria smacks down a journalist who dares to ask a pointed question about Spain and deficits, and the journalist takes it. It’s a regular love-fest in here, Gurria seems to be saying. Let’s not let reality interrupt.

This “only been in power a few weeks” gets on my nerves. Who’s he saying it to? He sounds like he’s trying to convince a judge in some small Texas town that his client shouldn’t hang – right away anyway. He repeats it, staring over our heads into Nowhereland. Is he addressing it to Christine Lagarde at the IMF? Did they have a spat? “Look, Angel, hang with the Greek boys on Thursday. But don’t even dream about pal-ing around over the weekend. What if you give me the disease?”

If I were a professor of institutional semantics, I’d roll it out like this: the OECD is a parallel international organization that wields power behind the scenes. Corporations are always knocking on their door demanding special privileges and they (the OECD) hold sway within the different national bureaucracies, within the mindset. Greece needs breathing room and if the OECD isn’t offering cash, it’s access, which may be more valuable. Of course they’re “enterprise-oriented.” National salvation isn’t in their tool kit. It will be up to Syriza to resist. In any case, the OECD isn’t issuing diktats.

More interesting to speculate on Gurria’s motives. Why has he so forcefully interposed the OECD between Greece and the Troika? Clearly not “replacing any other organization,” but it’s as if that Brooklyn glad-hander stepped between the bully and his victim and yelled, “Hands Off!” Whose side is he on? Impossible to say. His face is a mask, he speaks in soundbites. (Is there a school for that?) Greece in any case will be able to say to Tijsselbloem et Co., “We’re playing by OECD rules. Good enough for you?” when that all-but-inevitable departure from the Euro threatens again. Greece is playing for time. Syriza has to both implement reforms and see some positive results. In four months. Pasok had ten years to shoot their wad and blow the treasury. I don’t remember the European fright wigs complaining then.

But what! – Hey!- What’s that noise! – breaking glass – in this soft little amphitheatre. Here? It can’t be. But it is. Reality is not so nice. Reality is the Syriza snarl. Here they are showing the OECD what attentive fellows they can be – but just a day before – a bit of mayhem before they arrived in Paris. They went before the world and accused Germany of the systemic pillage of their country.

In December 2014 the Greek finance ministry published a report which calculated that Germany “owed” Greece €9.2bn for the first world war, €322bn for the second and €10bn for money Greece was forced to lend the Nazi regime in 1942.

On Wednesday Alex Tsipras weighed in before the Greek Parliament. “After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be resolved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay.”

Now we get to the good part of the drama, when the upstart Southerners confront the Northern behemouth. They prick them where it hurts. The worst part of it, for the Germans, is that the Greeks are trying to steal their role, that of the Great Reproover, the Clean Liver, the Prosperous. You’re thieves, the Greeks bellow. And the Greeks were being nice about it. They didn’t even mention the gold bricks the Germans took with them at the end of the Second World War, a theft that William Pfaff, the dean of American foreign policy writing, calls “a legitimate issue.”

To their immense credit there are numerous Germans, individuals and political groups, who have stood up and publicly backed the Greeks in raising the issue.

No one can seriously believe that the Syriza-led government is naïve about what the OECD represents. At the same time the fly on the conference room wall knows more than we do about the OECD’s real strategy for Greece. OECD assistance may help to cauterize the wound; looked at another way it brings Greece closer to the business establishment.

There was more to the afternoon. Tspiras had yet to give his speech. His English is nearly incomprehensible and it got worse as the speech went on. He was saying something, it was the kind of speech the OECD likes to hear, full of initiatives and targets. He did say, “We don’t want to reform Greece, we want to transform it.” For that dream, he will meet obstacles on all sides, international and domestic, not least that part of the Greek left who have already decided he’s a sellout.

In the corridors close to the centers of power, where Power takes the shape of human figures gliding down a passageway surrounded by body guards, Sub-Ministers for various offices, journo-hangers-on desperate for a quote, everything is rumor, opinion, hand-held devices pumping out new info, distraction – buzz. Very little is really known and what is known can change instantly into its opposite. That’s what Syriza is banking on.

What’s the probability that the sea of hemmed-in, shoulder to shoulder journalists, administrators and facilitators would somehow part to allow an awkward young German reporter, tall and a little stiff like he was new on the beat, to step forward and block Varoufakis’s path? Not likely in that crowd – but it happened. He had a question. Not about reparations. “Is it true, Mr. Minister, that Greece will run out of money in seven days?” A short freeze in the crowd surge. Varoufakis gives him a quick look up and down. It’s provocation with a German accent. “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Varoufakis replies softly. “Good song. Do you know it?” The crowd moves on, out of the room.

The journalist looks verklempt, augestorben - overcome, lost. Varoufakis played him. That’s game theory: change the terms of the debate. The reporter hobbles back to his computer. He didn’t get his quote, or so he thinks. Humiliated, he looks around for help.

The OECD is an interesting faction of the elite to have on your side. They can’t say you don’t play by the rules, even if you have to bend them. Everybody does, just look at Luxembourg. But I think we are nearly at the end of the epoch when Greece can be regarded as a pariah. What happened there happened with the full knowledge of the EU, the ECB and the IMF, and therefore, one could argue, with their consent. The OECD plans, I suspect, to play the role of mediator, with or without the blessing of the Troika. So far Syriza has shown that it’s one step ahead of the functionaries of Reality As Such.

Mar 082015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

venezuela-us43

Introduction

US policy toward Venezuela is a microcosm of its larger strategy toward Latin America.  The intent is to reverse the region’s independent foreign policy and to restore US dominance; to curtail the diversification of trading and investment partners and re-center economic relations to the US; to replace regional integration pacts with US centered economic integration schemes; and to privatize firms partly or wholly nationalized.

The resort to military coups in Venezuela is a strategy designed to impose a client regime.  This is a replay of US strategy during the 1964-1983 period.  In those two decades US strategists successfully collaborated with business-military elites to overthrow nationalist and socialist governments, privatize public enterprises and reverse, social, labor and welfare policies.  The client regimes implemented neo-liberal policies and supported US centered “integration”.  The entire spectrum of representative institutions, political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations were banned and replaced by imperial funded NGO’s, state controlled parties and trade unions.  With this perspective in mind the US has returned to all out “regime change” in Venezuela as the first step to acontinent-wide transformation to reassert political, economic and socialdominance.

Washington’s resort to political violence, all out media warfare, economic sabotage and military coups in Venezuela  is an attempt to discover the effectiveness of these tactics under favorable conditions,including a deepening  economic recession, double digit inflation, declining living standards and weakening political support, as a dress rehearsal for other countries in the region

Washington’s earlier resort to a “regime change” strategy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador failed because objective circumstances were unfavorable.  Between 2003 to 2012 the national-populist or center-left regimes were increasing political support, their economies were growing, incomes and consumption were improving and pro-US regimes and clients had earlier collapsed under the weight of a systemic crises.  Moreover, the negative consequences of military coups were fresh in peoples’ minds.  Today Washington’s strategists believe that Venezuela is the easiest and most important target because of its structural vulnerabilities and because Caracas is the linchpin to Latin American integration and welfare populism.

According to Washington’s domino theory, Cuba will be more susceptible to pressure if it is cut-off from Venezuela’s subsidized oil-for-medical services agreement.  Ecuador and Bolivia will be vulnerable.  Regional integration will be diluted or replaced by US directed trade agreements.  Argentina’s drift to the right will be accelerated.  The US military presence will be enlarged beyond Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Central America.  Radical anti-imperialist ideology will be replaced by a revised form of “pan-Americanism”, a euphemism for imperial primacy.

The concentrated and prolonged US war against Venezuela and the resort to extremist tactics and groups can only be accounted for by what US strategists perceive as the large scale (continent-wide) long-term interests at stake.

We will proceed by discussing and analyzing the US fifteen year war (2000-2015) against Venezuela, now reaching a climax.  We will then turn to examining the past and current strengths and weakness of Venezuela’s democratic, anti-imperialist government.

Prolonged Political Warfare:  Multiple Forms of Attack in Changing Political Conjunctures

The US war against Venezuela started shortly after President Chavez’s election in 1999.  His convoking of a constitutional assembly and referendum and the subsequent inclusion of a strong component of popular participatory and nationalist clauses “rang bells” in Washington.  The presence of a large contingent of former guerrillas, Marxists and Leftists in the Chavez electoral campaign and regime, was the signal for Washington to develop a strategy of regrouping traditional business and political clients to pressure and limit changes.

Subsequent to 9/11/01, Washington launched its global military offensive, projecting power via the so-called “war on terror”.  Washington’s quest to reassert dominance in the Americas included demands that Venezuela fall into line and back Washington’s global military offensive.  President Chavez refused and set an example of independent politics for the nationalist-populist movements and emerging center-left regimes in Latin America.  President Chavez told President Bush “you don’t fight terror with terror”.

In response, by November 2001 Washington strategists shifted from a policy of pressure to contain change to a strategy of all-out warfare to overthrow the Chavez regime via a business-military coup in (April 2002).

The US backed coup was defeated in less than 72 hours.  Chavez was restored to power by an alliance of loyalist military forces backed by a spontaneous million person march.  Washington lost important assets among the military and business elite, who fled into exile or were jailed.

From December 2002 to February 2003, The White House backed an executive lockout in the strategic oil industry, supported by corrupt trade union officials aligned with Washington and the AFL-CIO.  After three months the lockout was defeated through an alliance of loyalist trade unionists, mass organizations and overseas petrol producing countries.  The US lost strategic assets in the oil industry as over 15,000 executives, managers and workers were fired and replaced by nationalist loyalists.  The oil industry was renationalized – its earnings were put at the service of social welfare.

Having lost assets essential to violent warfare, Washington promoted a strategy of electoral politics – organizing a referendum in 2004 which was won by Chavez and a boycott of the 2005 congressional elections, which failed and led to an overwhelming majority for the pro Chavez forces.

Having failed to secure regime change via internal violent and electoral warfare, Washington, having suffered a serious loss of internal assets, turned outside by organizing para-military death squads and the Colombian military to engage in cross border conflicts in alliance with the far right regime of Alvaro Uribe.  Colombia’s military incursions led Venezuela to break economic ties, costing influential Colombian agro-business exporters ad manufacturers’ losses exceeding $8 billion dollars . . .  Uribe backed off and signed a non-aggression accord with Chavez, undermining the US “proxy war” strategy.

Washington revised its tactics, returning to electoral and street fighting tactics.  Between 2008-2011/12 Washington channeled millions of dollars to finance electoral party politicians, NGO’s, mass media outlets (newspapers, television and radio) and direct action saboteurs of public energy, electricity and power stations.

The US “internal” political offensive had limited success – a coalition of warring rightwing political groups elected a minority of officials thus regaining an institutional presence.  A Chavez backed overtly socialist referendum was defeated (by less than 1%).  NGO’s gained influence in the universities and in some popular neighborhoods exploiting the corruption and ineptness of local Chavez elected officials.

But the US strategy failed to dislodge or weaken the Chavez led regime for several reasons.  Venezuela’s economy was riding the prolonged commodity boom. Oil prices were soaring above $100 a barrel, financing free health, education, housing, fuel and food subsidy programs, undercutting the so-called “grass-roots” agitation of US funded NGO’s

Government subsidies of imports and lax regulation of dollar reserves secured support even among the capitalists and loosened their support for the violent opposition.  Sectors of the middle class voted for Chavez as a ticket to the consumer society.

Secondly, President Chavez’s charismatic appeal, promotion and support of popular neighborhood groups counter-acted the ill-effects of corrupt and inept local “Chavista” officials who otherwise played into the hands of US backed opposition.

Thirdly, US intervention in Venezuela alienated not only the center-left but the entire political spectrum in Latin America, isolating Washington.  This was especially evident by the universal condemnation of the US backed military coup in Honduras in 2009.

Fourthly, the US could not counter Venezuela’s subsidized oil sales to Caribbean and Central American regimes.  Petrocaribe strengthened Venezuela and weakened US dominance in Washington’s historical “backyard”.

The entire electoral strategy of the US depended on fomenting aneconomic crises – and given the favorable world prices for oil on the world market (it failed).  As a result Washington depended on non-market strategies to disrupt the socio-economic links between mass consumers and the Chavez government.

Washington encouraged sabotage of the power and electrical grid.  It encouraged hoarding and price gouging by commercial capitalists (supermarket owners).  It encouraged smugglers to purchase thousands of tons of subsidized consumer goods and sell them across the border in Colombia.

In other words, the US combined its electoral strategy with violent sabotage and illegal economic disruption.

This strategy was intensified with the onset of the economic crises following the financial crash of 2009, the decline of commodity prices and the death of President Hugo Chavez.

The US and its mass media megaphones went all-out to defendthe protagonists and practioners of illegal violent actions – branding arrested saboteurs, assassins, street fighters, assailants of public institutions as “political prisoners”. Washington and its media branded the government, as “authoritarian” for protecting the constitution.  It accused the independent judiciary as biased. The police and military were labelled as “repressive” for arresting fire bombers of schools, transport and clinics.

No violent crime or criminal behavior by opposition politicos was exempt from Washington’s scrofulous screeds about defending “human rights”.

The crises and collapse of oil prices greatly enhanced the opportunities for the US and its Venezuelan collaborator’s campaign to weaken the government. Venezuela’s dependence on President Chavez, as the singular transformative figure, suffered a serious blow with his death. Personalistic leadership weakened organic mass organization.

The US relaunched a multi-pronged offensive to undermine and overthrow the newly elected Nicolas Maduro regime.  Washington, at first, promoted the ‘via electoral’ as the route to regime change, funding opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

After Capriles’ electoral defeat, Washington resorted to an intense post-electoral propaganda campaign to de-legitimize the voting outcome.  It promoted street violence and sabotage of the electrical grid.  For over a year the Obama regime refused to recognize the electoral outcome, accepted and recognized throughout Latin America and the world.  In the subsequent Congressional, gubernatorial and municipal elections the US backed candidates suffered resounding defeats. President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela won three quarters of the governorships and retained a solid two-thirds majority in Congress.

Beginning in 2013 the US escalated its “extra-parliamentary” offensive – massive hoarding of consumer goods by wholesale distributors and retail supermarkets led to acute shortages, long lines, long waits and empty shelves.

Hoarding, black market speculation of the currency, wholesale smuggling of shipments of consumer goods across the border to Colombia (facilitated by opposition officials governing in border-states and corrupt National Guard commanders) exacerbated shortages.

US strategists sought to drive a political wedge between the consumer driven middle and lower classes and the Maduro government.  Over time they succeeded in fomenting discontent among the lower middle class and directing it against the government and not at the big business elite and US financed opposition politicians, NGO’s and parties.

In February 2014 emboldened by growing discontent the US moved rapidly toward a decisive confrontation… Washington backed the most violent extra parliamentary opposition.  Led by Leopoldo Lopez, it openly called for a coup and launched a nationwide assault on public buildings, authorities and pro-democracy activists.  As a result 43 people were killed and 870 injured – mostly government supporters and military and police officials – and hundreds of millions of dollars of damage was inflicted on schools, hospitals and state supermarkets.

After two months, the uprising was finally put down and the street barricades were dismantled— as even rightwing businesspeople suffered losses as their revenues diminished and there was no chance for victory.

Washington proclaimed the jailed terrorists leaders as “political prisoners”– a line parroted by al the mass media and the bogus Human Rights Watch.  The Obama regime sought to secure the release of itsarmed thugs to prepare for the next round of violent confrontation.

Washington accelerated the pace of planning, organizing and executing the next coup throughout 2014.  Taking advantage of the Maduro regime’s lax or non-existent enforcement of laws forbidding ‘foreign funding of political organizations, the US via NED and its “front groups” poured tens of millions, into NGOs, political parties , leaders and active and retired military officials willing and able to pursue  “regime change” via a coup.

Exactly one year following the violet uprising of 2014, on February 14, 2015, the US backed a civilian-military coup. The coup was thwarted by military intelligence and denunciations by lower level loyalist soldiers.

Two power grabs in a year is a clear indication that Washington is accelerating its move to establish a client regime.

What makes these policies especially dangerous, is not simply their proximity, but the context in which they occur and the recruits who Washington is targeting.

Unlike the coup of 2002, which occurred at a time of animproving economy, the most recent one takes place in the context of declining economic indicators.  Earlier the masses turned out to support the new constitution, declining inflation, the introduction of new social legislation and improving income.  The most recent coup takes place with incomes declining, a devaluation which reduces purchasing power, rising inflation (62%) and plummeting oil prices.

Moreover, the US has once again gained converts in the military as was the case in the 2002 coup but absent in the 2014.  Three generals, three colonels, 9 lieutenants and a captain signed on to the coup and it can be surmised that they were in contact with others.  The deteriorating loyalties in the military are not simply a product of US bribery. It is also a reflection of the socio-economic decline of sectors of the middle class to which middle level officers belong by family ties and social identification.

Subsequent to the earlier coup (of 2002) then President Chavez called for the formation of popular militias, National Reserve and a rural defense force to ‘complement’ the armed forces.  Some 300,000 militia volunteers were registered.  But like many radical ideas, little came of it.

As the US moves to activate its ‘military option’, Venezuela must consider activating and linking these militias to mass popular community based organizations, trade unions and peasant movements.

The US has developed a strategic concept for seizing power by proxy.  A war of attrition built upon exploiting the social consequences of the fall of oil revenues, shortages of basic commodities and the growing fissures in the military and state institutions.

In 2015 Washington has embraced the strategy of 2002, combining multiple forms of attack including economic destabilization, electoral politics, sabotage and military penetration..All are directed toward a military – civilian coalition seizing power.

Facing the US Offensive:  The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Maduro Government

The basic strength of the Chavista government of President Maduro is the legacy of nearly 15 years of progressive legislation, including rising incomes, grass roots community based democracy, the affirmation of racial, class and national dignity and independence.  Despite the real hardships of the past 3 years, forty percent of the electorate, mostly the urban and rural poor, remains as a solid core of support of the democratic process, the President and his efforts to reverse the decline and return the country to prosperity.

Up to now the Maduro government has successfully rebuffed and defeated the offensive by US proxies.  President Maduro won electorally, and more recently has pacified the coupsters by adopting firmer security measures and more technically efficient intelligence. Equally important he has demanded that the US reduce its embassy operatives from 100 to 17, equal to Venezuela’s staff in Washington. Many embassy personnel were engaged in meetings with Venezuelan organizers of violent activity and in efforts to subvert military officials..

Yet these security measures and administrative improvements, as important and necessary as they are, reflect short-range solutions.  The deeper and more fundamental issues relate to the structural weakness of the Venezuelan economy and state.

First and foremost, Venezuela cannot continue running on a petrol based ‘rentier economy’ especially one that still depends on the US market.

Venezuela’s ‘consumer socialism’ totally depends on oil revenues and high oil prices to finance the importation of foodstuffs and other essential commodities.

A strategy of ‘national defense’ against the imperial offensive requires a far higher level of ‘self-sufficiency’, a greater degree of local production and decentralized control.

Secondly, next to US intervention and destabilization, the greatest threat to the democratic regime is the government’s executive, managerial and elected officials who have misallocated billions in investment funds, failed to effectively carry out programs and who largely improviseaccording to day to day considerations, It is essential that Maduro advances  the strategic priorities ensuring basic popular interests.

The Chavez and the Maduro governments outlined generalguidelines that were passed off as a strategic plan.  But neither financial resources, nor state personnel were systematically ordered to implement them.  Instead the government responded or better still reacted,defensively, to the immediate threats of the opposition induced shortages and oil revenue shortfalls.  They chose the easy route of securing loans from China by mortgaging future oil exports.  They also took out commercial loans – borrowed at the highest rates in the world (18%)!

The post commodity boom requires a decisive break with the petrol economy . . . continuing costly debt financing staves off the day of reckoning, which is fast approaching.

US military coups and political warfare are with us and will not fade away even as Washington loses battles.  The jailing of individual plotters is not enough.  They are expendable …Washington can buy others.

The Maduro government faces a national emergency which requires a society-wide mobilization to launch a war-economy capable of producing and delivering class specific commodities to meet popular needs.

The February 12, 2015, coup dubbed, Plan Jericho, was funded by the US NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy and its subsidiaries, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.  The coup organizers led by former Venezuelan Congresswomen Corina Machado, (a White House invitee) was designated to head up the post-coup dictatorship.

As a matter of survival the Maduro government must clamp down and prosecute all self-styled ‘NGO’ which are recipients of overseas funding and serve as conduits for US backed coups and destabilization activity.

No doubt the Obama regime will seek to protect its proxy financing and howl about ‘growing authoritarianism’.  That is predictable.  But the Venezuelan governments’ duty is to protect the constitutional order, and defend the security of its citizens.  It must move decisively to prosecute not only the recipients of US funds but the entire US political network, organizations and collaborators as terrorists.

Venezuela can take a page out of the US legal code which provides for 5 year prison sentences for “nationals” who receive overseas funds and fail to register as foreign agents.  More to the point, the Obama regime has prosecuted organized groups suspected of conspiring to commit violent acts to lifetime prison sentences.  He has justified extra judicial assassinations (via drones) of US “terrorist suspects”.

President Maduro need not go to the extremes of the Obama regime.  But he should recognize that the policy of “denunciation, arrest and release” is totally out of line with international norms regarding the fight against terrorism in Venezuela.

What the US has in mind is not merely a ‘palace coup’ in which the democratic incumbents are ousted and replaced by US clients.  Washington wants to go far beyond a change in personnel, beyond a friendly regime amenable to providing unconditional backing to the US foreign policy agenda…

A coup and post-coup regime is only the first step toward asystematic and comprehensive reversal of the socio-economic and political transformations of the past 16 years!

Heading the list will be the crushing of the mass popular community organizations which will oppose the coup.  This will be accompanied by a mass purge, of all representative institutions, the constitutionalist armed forces, police and nationalist officials in charge of the oil industry and other public enterprises.

All the major public welfare programs in education, health, housing and low cost retail food outlets, will be dismantled or suffer major budget cuts.

The oil industry and dozens of other publically owned enterprises and banks will be privatized and denationalized.  US MNC will be the main beneficiaries.  The agrarian land reform will be reversed:  recipients will be evicted and the land returned to the landed oligarchs.

Given how many of the Venezuelan working class and rural poor will be adversely affected and given the combatative spirit which permeates popular culture, the implementation of the US backed neo-liberal agenda will require prolonged ,large-scale repression.  This means, tens of thousands of killings, arrests and incarceration.

The US coup- masters and their Venezuelan proxies will unleash all their pent-up hostility against what they will deem the blood purge necessary to punish, in Henry Kissinger’s infamous phrase, “an irresponsible people” who dared to affirm their dignity and independence.

The US backing of violence in the run-up to the February 2015 coup will be escalated in the run-up to the inevitable next coup.

Contemporary US imperial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya and past US backed bloody  military coups installing neo-liberal regimes in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay a few decades past, demonstrate that Washington places no limits on how many tens of thousands of lives are destroyed, how many millions are uprooted, if it is ‘necessary’ to secure imperial dominance.

There is no doubt that the Venezuelan economy is on shaky foundations; that officials have yet to devise and implement a coherent strategy to exit the crises.  But it is of decisive importance to remember that even in these times of intensifying imperial warfare, basic freedoms and social justice inform the framework of government and popular representation.  Now is the time, and time is running short, for the Maduro government to mobilize all the mass organizations, popular militias and loyal military officials to administer a decisive politicaldefeat to the US proxies and then to proceed forward to socializing theeconomy.  It must take the opportunity of turning the US orchestrated offensives into a historic defeat.  It must convert the drive to restore neo-liberal privilege into the graveyard of rentier capitalism.

Epilogue

Unlike past political confrontations between US imperial regimes and leftwing Latin American governments, in the case of Venezuela the US has suffered numerous major defeats with  regard to domestic and foreign policy, over the past 15 years.

US-Venezuelan Conflicts:  Internal Policies and their Results

In 2001 the US demanded Venezuela support its “war on terrorism, its global quest for domination via war.  President Chavez refused to back it, arguing successfully that “you cannot fight terror with terror”, and winning support worldwide

In April 12, 2002, the US organized and backed a military-business coup which was defeated by a mass uprising backed by constitutionalist armed forces.  US lost key assets in the military, trade union bureaucracy and business sector.

In December 2002 – February 2003, the US backed a CEO directed lockout designed to shut-down the oil industry and overthrow the Chavez government that was defeated, as workers and engineers took charge and overseas oil partners supplied petroleum.  The US lost assets in the oil industry.

In 2004, a referendum to oust Chavez, funded by the US and organized by NED funded NGOs was defeated.  US electoral assets were demoralized.

In 2006 a US backed boycott of Congressional elections was defeated.  The electorate turned out in force.  US congressional assets lost their institutional power base and influence.

In 2006 Chavez is re-elected for a second time.  The US-backed candidate is badly beaten.

In 2007 a US backed coalition squeak out a 1% margin of victory, defeating constitutional amendments, socializing the economy.

In 2009 President Chavez wins a referendum on constitutional amendments including the abolition of term limits.

In 2012 Chavez wins re-election for the fourth time defeating a US financed opposition candidate.

In 2013 Chavez’s selected candidate Maduro wins the Presidency defeating Obama’s anointed candidate.

Pro-Chavez parties win resounding Congressional majorities in all elections between 1999 – 2010.

Repeated electoral defeats convinced Washington’s political strategists to rely on violent, unconstitutional roads to power.

The anti-capitalist domestic social reforms and ideology were one of two key motivating factors in Washington’s prolonged political war against Venezuela.  Equally important was Chavez and Maduro’s foreign policy which included Venezuela’s leading role in opposing US centered regional integration organizations like ALCA, regional political organizations like the OAS and its military missions.

Venezuela promoted Latin American centered integration organizations which excluded the US.  They included Petro-Caribe, a Venezuelan sponsored trade and investment organization that benefited Caribbean and Central America countries.

UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) a regional political organization which displaced the US dominated OAS and included 33 Latin American and Caribbean states.

Venezuela joined MERCOSUR, a “free trade” organization, which included Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Venezuela’s leading role in promoting five organizations promoting Latin American and Caribbean integration – excluding the US and Canada – was seen as a mortal threat to Washington’s political dominance of Latin American politics and markets.

Venezuela’s large scale, long-term political and economic ties with Cub undermined the US economic blockade and reinforced Cuba’s links with and support by the rest of Latin America.

Venezuela opposed the US backed coup against Haiti’s reformist President Bertram Aristide.

Its opposition to the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and (later) Libya and its increased investment and trade ties with Iran in opposition to US sanctions, set US plans of a global empire on a collision course with Venezuela’s embrace of a global anti-imperialist  policy.

US failure to secure passage of a US centered Latin American Free Trade Treaty and incapacity to secure across the board support in Latin America for its Middle East wars and Iran sanctions was largely the result of Venezuelan foreign policy.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Venezuela’s foreign policy successes in countering US imperialist policies, especially with regard to Latin American integration, is the main reason that Washington has persisted in its long-term, large scale effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The US escalation of its global military interventions under Obama and its increasing belligerency toward the multiplication of independent Latin American regional organizations, coincides with the intensification of its violent destabilization campaign in Venezuela.

Faced with the growth of Latin American trade and investment ties with China – with $250 billion in the pipeline over the next ten years – pioneered by Venezuela, Washington fears the loss of the 600 million Latin American consumer market.

The current US political offensive against Venezuela is a reaction to over 15 years of political defeats including failed coups, resounding electoral defeats, the loss of strategic political assets and above all decisive set-backs in its attempts to impose US centered integration schemes.

More than ever, US imperial strategists today are going all-out to subvert Venezuela’s anti-imperialist government, because they sense with the decline of oil revenue and export earnings, double digit inflation and consumer shortages, they can divide and subvert sectors of the armed forces, mobilize violent street mobs via their mercenary street fighters, secure the backing of elected opposition officials and seize power.  What is at stake in the US –Venezuelan conflict is the future of Latin American independence and the US Empire.

Mar 022015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past 50 years the US and European powers have engaged in countless imperial wars throughout the world. The drive for world supremacy has been clothed in the rhetoric of “world leadership”, the consequences have been devastating for the peoples targeted.  The biggest, longest and most numerous wars have been carried out by the United States.  Presidents from both parties direct and preside over this quest for world power.  The ideology which informs imperialism varies from “anti-communism”in the past to “anti-terrorism”today.

Washington’s drive for world domination has used and combined many forms of warfare, including military invasions and occupations; proxy mercenary armies and military coups; financing political parties, NGO’s and street mobs to overthrow  duly constituted governments. Thedriving forces in the imperial state , behind the  quest for world power,vary with the geographic location and social economic composition of the targeted countries.

What is clear from an analysis of US empire building over the last half century is the relative decline of economic interests, and the rise of politico-military considerations.  In part this is because of the demise of the collectivist regimes (the USSR and Eastern Europe) and the conversion of China and the leftist  Asian, African and Latin American regimes to capitalism.  The decline of economic forces as the driving force of imperialism is a result of the advent of global neoliberalism.  Most US and EU multi-nationals are not threatened by nationalizations or expropriations, which might trigger imperial state  political intervention.  In fact, MNC are invited to invest,trade and exploit natural resources even by post-neoliberal regimes .  Economic interests come into play in formulating imperial state policies, if and when nationalist regimes emerge and challenge US MNC as is the case in Venezuela under President Chavez.

The key to US empire building over the past half-century is found in the politicalmilitary and ideological power configurations which have come to control the levers of the imperial state.  The recent history of US imperial wars has demonstrated that strategic military priorities – military bases, budgets and bureaucracy – have expanded far beyond any localized economic interests of MNC.  Moreover, the vast expendituresand long term and expensive military interventions of the US imperial state in the Middle East has been at the behest of Israel.  The take-over of strategic political positions in the Executive branch and Congress by the powerful Zionist power configuration within the US has reinforced the centrality of military over economic interests

The ‘privatization’ of imperial wars – the vast growth and use ofmercenaries contracted by the Pentagon- has led to the vast pillage of tens of billions of dollars from the US Treasury.  Large scale corporations which supply mercenary military combatants have become a very ‘influential’ force shaping the nature and consequences of US empire building.

Military strategists, defenders of Israeli colonial interests in the Middle East, mercenary military and intelligence corporations are central actors in the imperial state and it is their decision-making influence which explains why US imperial wars do not result in a politically stable, economic prosperous empire.  Instead their policies have resulted in unstable, ravaged economies, in perpetual rebellion..

We will proceed by identifying the changing areas and regions of US empire building from the mid 1970’s to the present.  We then examine the methods, driving forces and outcomes of imperial expansion.  We will then turn to describe the current ‘geo-political map of empire buildingand the varied nature of the anti-imperialist resistance.  We will conclude by examining the why and how of empire building and more particularly, the consequences, and results of a half century of US imperial expansion.

Imperialism in the post Vietnam Period:  Proxy Wars in Central America, Afghanistan and Southern Africa

The US imperialist defeat in Indo-China marks the end of one phase of empire building and the beginning of another:  a shift fromterritorial invasions to proxy wars.  Hostile domestic opinion precluded large scale ground wars.  Beginning during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and James Carter, the US imperialist state increasingly relied onproxy clients.  It recruited, financed and armed proxy military forces to destroy a variety of nationalist and social revolutionary regimes and movements in three continents.  Washington financed and armed extremist Islamic forces world-wide to invade and destroy the secular, modernizing, Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan, with logistical support from the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies, and financial backing from Saudi Arabia.

The second proxy intervention was in Southern Africa, where the US imperial state financed and armed proxy forces against anti-imperialist regimes in Angola and Mozambique, in alliance with South Africa.

The third proxy intervention took place in Central America, where the US financed, armed and trained murderous death squad regimes in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to decimate popular movements and armed insurgencies resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths.

The US imperial state’s ‘proxy strategy’ extended to South America:  CIA and Pentagon backed military coups took place in Uruguay (General Alvarez), Chile (General Pinochet) Argentina (General Videla), Bolivia (General Banzer) and Peru (General Morales).  Empire building by proxy, was largely at the behest of US MNC which were the principal actors in setting priorities in the imperial state throughout this period.

Accompanying proxy wars, were direct military invasions:  the tiny island of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) under Presidents’ Reagan and Bush, Sr.  Easy targets, with few casualties and low cost military expenditures:  dress rehearsals for re-launching major military operations in the near future.

What is striking about the ‘proxy wars’ are the mixed results.The outcomes in Central America, Afghanistan and Africa did not lead to prosperous neo-colonies or prove lucrative to US multi-national corporations. In contrast the proxy coups in South America led to large scale privatization and profits for US MNC.

The Afghan proxy war led to the rise and consolidation of the Taliban “Islamic regime” which opposed both Soviet influence and US imperial expansion.  The rise and consolidation of Islamic nationalism in turn challenged US allies in South Asia and the Gulf region and subsequently led to a US military invasion in 2001 and a prolonged (15 year) war (which has yet to conclude), and most probably to a military retreat and defeat.  The main economic beneficiaries were Afghan political clients, US mercenary military “contractors”, military procurement officers and civilian colonial administrators who pillagedhundreds of billions from the US Treasury in illegal and fraudulent transactions.

Pillage of the US Treasury in no way benefited the non-military MNC’s.  In fact the war and resistance movement undermined  any large scale, long-term entry of US private capital in Afghanistan and adjoining border regions of Pakistan.

The proxy war in Southern Africa devastated the local economies, especially the domestic agricultural economy, uprooted millions of laborers and farmers and curtailed US corporate oil  penetration for over two decades.  The ‘positive’ outcome was the de-radicalization of the former revolutionary nationalist elite.  However, the political conversion of the Southern African “revolutionaries” to neo-liberalism did not benefit the US MNC as much as the rulers turned kleptocratic oligarchs who organized patrimonial regimes in association  with a diversifiedcollection of MNC, especially from Asia and Europe.

The proxy wars in Central America had mixed results.  In Nicaragua the Sandinista revolution defeated the US-Israeli backed Somoza regime but immediately confronted a US financed, armed and trained counter-revolutionary mercenary army (the “Contras”) based in Honduras.  The US war destroyed, many of the progressive economic projects,undemined the economy and eventually led to an electoral victory by the US backed political client  Violeta Chamorro. Two decades later the US proxies were defeated by a de-radicalized Sandinista led political coalition.

In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the US proxy wars led to the consolidation of client regimes presiding over the destruction of the productive economy,and the flight of millions of war refugees to the United States.  US imperial dominance eroded the bases for a productive labor market which spawned the growth of murderous drug gangs.

In summary, the US proxy wars succeeded, in most, cases inpreventing the rise of nationalist-leftist regimes, but also led to thedestructive of the economic and political bases of a stable and prosperous empire of neo-colonies.

US Imperialism in Latin America:  Changing Structure, External and Internal Contingencies, Shifting Priorities and Global Constraints.

To understand the operations,  structure and performance of US imperialism in Latin America, it is necessary to recognize the specificconstellation of competing forces which shaped imperial state policies.  Unlike the Middle East where the militarist-Zionist faction has established hegemony, in Latin America the MNC have played a leading role in directing imperial state policy.  In Latin America, the militarists played a lesser role, constrained by (1)the power of the MNC, (2) the shifts in political power in Latin America from right to center-left (3) the impact of economic crises and the commodity boom.

In contrast to the Middle East, the Zionist power configuration has little influence over imperial state policy, as Israel’s interests are focused on the Middle East and, with the possible exception of Argentina, Latin America is not a priority.

For over a century and a half, the US MNC and banks dominated and dictated US imperial policy toward Latin America.  The US armed forces and CIA were instruments of economic imperialism via direct intervention (invasions), proxy ‘military coups’, or a combination of both.

US imperial economic power in Latin America ‘peaked’ between 1975-1999.  Vassal states and client rulers were imposed via proxy military coups, direct military invasions (Dominican Republic ,Panama and Grenada) and military-civilian controlled elections.

The results were the dismantling of the welfare state and the imposition of neo-liberal policies.  The MNC led imperial state and its international financial appendages (IMF, WB, IDB) privatized lucrative strategic economic sectors, dominated trade and projected a regional integration scheme which would codify US imperial dominance.

Imperial economic expansion in Latin America was not simply a result of the internal dynamics and structures of the MNC but depended on (1) the receptivity of the ‘host’ country or more precisely the internal correlation of class forces in Latin America which in turn revolvedaround (2) the performance of the economy – its growth or susceptibility to crises.

Latin America demonstrates that contingencies such as the demise of client regimes and collaborator classes can have a profound negative impact on the dynamics of imperialism, undermining the power of the imperial state and reversing the economic advance of the MNC.

The advance of US economic imperialism during the 1975-2000 period was manifest in the adoption of neo-liberal policies, the pillage of national resources, the increase of illicit debts and the overseas transfer of billions of dollars However, the concentration of wealth and property, precipitated a deep socio-economic crises throughout the region which eventually led to the overthrow or ouster of the imperial collaborators in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Nicaragua.  Powerful anti-imperialist social movements especially in the countryside emerged in Brazil and the Andean countries.  Urban unemployed workers  movements and public employees unions in Argentina and Uruguay spearheaded electoral changes, bringing to power center-left regimes which‘re-negotiaed’ relations with the US imperial state.

US  MNC influence in Latin America waned.  They could not count on the full battery of military resources of the imperial state tointervene and re-impose neo-liberal clients because of its militarypriorities elsewhere:  the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Unlike the past, the US MNC in Latin America lacked two essential props of power:  the full backing of the US armed forces and powerful civilian-military clients in Latin America.

The US MNC’s plan for US centered integration was  rejected by the center-left regimes.  The imperial state turned to bilateral free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru.  As a result of the economic crises and collapse of most Latin American economies, “neo-liberalism” ,the ideology of imperial economic penetration, was discredited. Neo-liberal  advocates marginalized.

Changes in the world economy had a profound impact on US – Latin America trade and investment relations.  The dynamic growth of China and the subsequent boom in demand and the rising prices of commodities, led to a sharp decline of US dominance of Latin American markets.

Latin American states diversified trade, sought and gained new overseas markets, especially in China.  The increase in export revenues created greater capacity for self-financing.  The IMF, WB and IDB, economic instruments for leveraging US financial impositions (“conditionality”), were sidelined

The US imperial state faced Latin American regimes who embraced diverse  economic options, markets and sources of financing.  With powerful domestic popular support and unified civilian-military command, Latin America moved tentatively out of the US sphere of imperialist domination.

The imperial state and its MNC , deeply influenced by their “success” in the 1990’s, responded to the decline of influence by proceeding by ‘trial and error’, in the face of the negative constraints of the 21st century.  The MNC backed policymakers in the imperial state continued to back the collapsing neo-liberal regimes, losing all credibility in Latin America.  The imperial-state failed to accommodate changes – deepening popular and center-left regime opposition to “free markets” and the deregulation of banks.  No large scale economic aid programs, like Presideny Kennedy’s effort to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution by promoting social reforms via the  ‘Alliance for Progress”, were fashioned to win over the center-left,probably because of budget constraints resulting from costly wars elsewhere.

The demise of neo-liberal regimes, the glue that held the different factions of the imperial state together, led to competing proposals of how to regain dominance.   The ‘militarist faction’ resorted to and revived the military coup formula for restoration:  coups were organized in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras and Paraguay . . .  all were defeated, except the latter two.  The defeat of US proxies led  to the consolidation of the independent, anti-imperialist center-left regimes.Even the “success”of the US coup in Honduras resulted in a major diplomatic defeat,as every Latin American government condemned it and the US role,further isolating Washington in the region.

The defeat of the militarist strategy strengthened the political-diplomatic faction of the imperial state.  With positive overtures toward ostensibly ‘center-left regimes’, this faction gained diplomatic leverage, retained military ties and deepened the expansion of MNC in Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru.  With the latter two countries the economic imperialist faction of the imperial state secured bilateral free trade agreements.

A third MNC – military faction, overlapping with the previous two, combined diplomatic-political accommodations toward Cuba, with an aggressive political destabilization strategy aimed at “regime change” (coup) in Venezuela.

The heterogeneity of imperial state factions and their competing orientations, reflects the complexity of interests engaged in empire building in Latin America and results in seemingly contradictory policies, a phenomenon less evident in the Middle East where the militarist -zionist power configuration dominates imperial policymaking.

For example the promotion of military bases and counter-insurgency operations in Colombia (a priority of the militarist faction) is accompanied by bilateral free market agreements and peace negotiations between the Santos regime and the FARC armed insurgency (a priority of the MNC faction).

Regaining imperial dominance in Argentina involves, (1) promoting the electoral fortunes of the neo-liberal governor of Buenos Aires Macri, (2) backing the pro- imperial media conglomerate , Clarin, facing legislation breaking up its monopoly (3) exploiting the death of prosecutor and CIA-Mossad collaborator, Alberto Nisman to discredit the Kirchner-Fernandez regime(4)backing   NewYork speculaters’ (vulture)investment fund attempting to

extract  exorbitant interest payments and, with the aid of a dubious judicial ruling, blocking Argentina’s access to financial markets

Both the militarist and MNC factions of the imperial state converge in backing a multi-pronged electoral – and coup approach, which seeks to restore a US controlled neo-liberal regimes to power.

The contingencies which forestalled the recovery of imperial power over the past decade are now acting in reverse.  The drop in commodity prices has weakened post neo-liberal regimes in Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador.  The ebbing of anti-imperialist movementsresulting from center-left co-optation tactics has strengthened imperial state backed right-wing movements and street demonstrators.  The decline in Chinese growth has weakened the Latin American market diversification strategies.  The internal balance of class forces has shifted to the Right, toward US backed political clients in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay.

Theoretical Reflections on Empire Building in Latin America

US empire building in Latin America is a cyclical process, reflecting the structural shifts in political power, and the restructuring of the world economy – forces and factors which ‘override’ the  imperial state and capital’s drive to accumulate.Capital accumulation and expansion does not depend merely on the impersonal forces of “the market” – because the social relations under which the “market” functions, operate under the constraints of the class struggle.

The centerpiece of imperial state activities-namely the prolonged territorial wars in the Middle East – are absent in Latin America.  The driving force of US imperial state policy is the pursuit of resources (agro-mining), labor power ( low paid autoworkers), markets (size and purchasing power of 600 million consumers).  The economic interests of the MNC are the motives for imperial expansion.

Even as, from a geo-strategic vantage point, the Caribbean, Central America as well as South America are located most proximate to the US, economic not military objectives predominate.

However, the militarist-Zionist faction in the imperial state, ignore these traditional economic motives and deliberately choose to act on other priorities – control over oil producing regions, destruction of Islamic nations or movements or simply to destroy anti-imperialist adversaries.  The militarists-Zionist faction counted the “benefits” to Israel, its Middle East military supremacy, more important than the  US securing economic supremacy in Latin America.  This is clearly the case if we measure imperial priorities by state resources expended in pursuit of political goals.

Even if we take the goal of “national security”, interpreted in the broadest sense, of securing the safety of the territorial homeland of the empire, the US military assault of Islamic countries driven by accompanying Islamophobic ideology and the resulting mass killings and uprooting a millions of Islamic people, has led to “blowback”: reciprocal terrorism.  US “total wars” against civilians has provoked Islamic assaults against the citizens of the West.

Latin America countries targeted by economic imperialism are less belligerent than Middle Eastern countries targeted by US militarists.  A cost/benefits analysis would demonstrate the totally “irrational” nature of militarist strategy.  However,if we take account   of the specific composition and interests that motivate particularly imperial state policymakers, there is a kind of perverse “rationality”.  The militarists defend the “rationality” of costly and unending wars by citing the advantages of seizing the ‘gateways to oil’ and the Zionists cite their success in enhancing Israel’s regional power.

Whereas Latin America, for over a century was a priority region of imperial economic conquest, by the 21st century it lost  primacy  to the Middle East.

The Demise of the USSR and China’s conversion to Capitalism

The greatest impetus to successful US imperial expansion did not take place via proxy wars or military invasions.  Rather, the US empire achieved its greatest growth and conquest, with the aid of client political leaders, organizations and vassal states throughout the USSR, Eastern Europe, the Baltic States the Balkans and the Caucuses.  Long term, large scale US and EU political penetration and funding succeeded inoverthrowing the hegemonic collectivist regimes in Russia and the USSR, and installing  vassal states. They would soon serve NATO and be incorporated in the European Union.  Bonn annexed East Germany anddominated the markets of Poland,the Czech Republic and other Central European states.  US and London bankers collaborated with Russian-Israeli gangster-oligarchs in joint ventures plundering resources, industries, real estate and pension funds.  The European Union exploited tens of millions of highly trained scientists, technicians and workers – by importing them or stripping them of their welfare benefits and labor rights and exploiting them as cheap labor reserves in their own country.

“Imperialism by invitation” hosted by the  vassal Yeltsin regime, easily appropriated Russian wealth.  The ex-Warsaw Pact military forces were incorporated into a foreign legion for US imperial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  Their military installations were converted into military bases and missile sites encircling Russia.

US imperial conquest of the East, created a “unipolar world” in which Washington decision-makers and strategists believed that, as the world’s supreme power, they could intervene in every region withimpunity.

The scope and depth of the US world empire was enhanced by China’s embrace of capitalism and its ruler’s  invitation to US and EU MNC to enter and exploit cheap Chinese labor.  The global expansion of the US empire, led to a sense of unlimited power, encouraging its rulers’  to exercise power against any adversary or competitor.

Between 1990 and 2000,the US expanded its military bases to the borders of Russia.  US MNC expanded into China and Indo-China.  US backed client regimes throughout Latin America dismantled the nationaleconomies, privatizing and denationalizing over five thousand lucrative strategic firms.  Every sector was affected- natural resources, transport, telecommunications and finance.

The US proceeded throughout the 1990’s to expand via politicalpenetration and military force.  President George H. W. Bush launched a war against Iraq.  Clinton bombed Yugoslavia and Germany and the EU joined the US in dividing Yugoslavia into ‘mini states’

The Pivotel Year 2000:  the Pinnacle and Decline of Empire

The very rapid and extensive imperial expansion, between 1989-1999, the easy conquests and the accompanying plunder, created the conditions for the decline of the US empire.

The pillage and impoverishment of Russia led to the rise of a new leadership under President Putin intent on reconstructing the state and economy and ending vassalage.

The Chinese leadership harnessed its dependence on the West for capital investments and technology, into instruments for creating a powerful export economy and the growth of a dynamic national public-private manufacturing complex.  The imperial centers of finance which flourished under lax regulation crashed.  The domestic foundations of empire were severely strained.  The imperial war machine competed with the financial sector for federal budgetary expenditures and subsidies.

The easy growth of empire, led to its over-extension.  Multiple areas of conflict, reflected world-wide resentment and hostility at the destruction wrought by bombings and invasions.  Collaborative imperial client rulers were weakened.  The world-wide empire exceeded the capacity of the US to successfully police its new vassal states.  The colonial outposts demanded new infusions of troops, arms and funds at a time when countervailing domestic pressures were demanding retrenchment and retreat.

All the recent conquests – outside of Europe – were costly.  The sense of invincibility and impunity led imperial planners to overestimate their capacity to expand, retain, control and contain the inevitable anti-imperialist resistance.

The crises and collapse of the neo-liberal vassal states in Latin America accelerated.  Anti-imperialist uprisings spread from Venezuela (1999), to Argentina (2001), Ecuador (2000-2005) and Bolivia (2003-2005).  Center-left regimes emerged in Brazil, Uruguay and Honduras.  Mass movements, in rural regions,among Indian and mining communities gained momentum. Imperial plans formulated to secure US centered integration were rejected.  Instead multiple regional pacts excluding the US proliferated-ALBA,UNASUR,CELAC.  Latin America’s domestic rebellion coincided with the economic rise of China.  A prolonged commodity boom severely weakened US imperial supremacy.  The US had few local allies in Latin America and over ambitious commitments to control the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Washington lost its automatic majority in Latin America:  its backing of coups in Honduras and Paraguay and its intervention in Venezuela (2002) and blockade of Cuba was repudiated by every regime, even by conservative allies.

Having easily established a global empire, Washington found it was not so easy to defend it.  Imperial strategists in Washington viewed the Middle East wars through the prism of the Israeli military priorities ,ignoring the global economic interests of the MNC.

Imperial military strategists overestimated the military capacity of vassals and clients, ill-prepared by Washington to rule in countries with growing armed national resistance movements.  Wars, invasions and military occupations were launched in multiple sites. Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan were added to Afghanistan and Iraq.  US imperial state expenditures far exceeded any transfer of wealth from the occupied countries.

A vast civilian – military – mercenary bureaucracy pillaged hundreds of billions of dollars from the US Treasury.

The centrality of wars of conquest, destroyed the economic foundations

and institutional infrastructure necessary for MNC entry and profit.

Once entrenched in strategic military conceptions of empire, the military-political leadership of the imperial state  fashioned a global ideology to justify and motivate a policy of permanent and multiple warfare. The doctrine of the ‘war on terror’ justified war everywhere and nowhere.  The doctrine was ‘elastic’ – adapted to every region of conflict and inviting new military engagements:  Afghanistan, Libya, Iran and Lebanon were all designated as war zones.  The ‘terror doctrine’, global in scope, provided a justification for multiple wars and the massive destruction (not exploitation) of societies and economic resources.  Above all the “war on terrorism” justified torture (Aba Gharib) and concentration camps (Guantanamo), and civilian targets (via drones)anywhere. Troops were withdrawn and returned to Afghanistan and Iraq as the nationalist resistence advanced..  Thousands of Special Forces in scores of countries were active, purveying death and mayhem.

Moreover, the violent uprooting, degradation and stigmatization of entire islamic people led to the spread of violence  in the imperial centers of Paris, New York, London, Madrid and Copenhagen. Theglobalization of imperial state terror  led to individual terror.

Imperial terror evoked domestic terror:  the former on a massive, sustained scale encompassing entire civilizations and conducted and justified by elected  political officials and military authorities.  The latter by a cross section  of ‘internationalists’ who directly identified with the victims of imperial state terror.

Contemporary Imperialism:  Present and Future Perspectives

To understand the future of US imperialism it is important to sum up and evaluate the experience and policies of the past quarter of a century.

If we compare, US empire building between 1990 and 2015, it is clearly in decline economically, politically and even militarily in most regions of the world, though the process of decline is not linear and probably not irreversible.

Despite talk in Washington of reconfiguring imperial priorities to take account of MNC economic interests, little has been accomplished… Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia” has resulted in new military base agreements with Japan, Australia and the Philippines surrounding China and reflects an inability to fashion free trade agreements that exclude China.  Meantime, the US has militarily re-started the war and reenteredIraq and Afghanistan in addition to launching  new wars in Syria and the Ukraine.  It is clear that the primacy of the militarist faction is still the determinant factor in shaping imperial state policies.

The imperial military drive is most evident in the US intervention in support of the coup in the Ukraine and subsequent financing and arming of the Kiev junta.  The imperial takeover of the Ukraine and plans to incorporate it into the EU and NATO, represents military aggression in its most blatant form: The expansion of US military bases and installations and military maneuvers  on Russia’s borders and the US initiated economic sanctions, have severely damaged EU trade and investment with Russia.. US empire building continues to prioritize military expansion even at the cost of Western imperial economicinterests in Europe.

The US-EU bombing of Libya destroyed the burgeoning trade and investment agreements between imperial oil and gas MNC and the Gadhafi government… NATO air assaults destroyed the economy, society and political order, converting Libya into a territory overrun by warring clans, gangs, terrorists and armed thuggery.

Over the past half century, the political leadership and strategies of the imperial state have changed dramatically.  During the period between 1975 – 1990, MNC played a central role in defining the direction of imperial state policy:  leveraging markets in Asia; negotiating market openings with China; promoting and backing neo-liberal military and civilian regimes in Latin America; installing and financing pro-capitalist regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkan states.  Even in the cases where the imperial state resorted to military intervention, Yugoslavia and Iraq, , the bombings led to favorable economic opportunities for US MNC .The Bush Sr regime promoted US oil interests via an oil   for food agreement with Saddam Hussein Iin Iraq

Clinton promoted free market regimes in the mini-states resulting from the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia .

However, the imperial state’s leadership and policies shifted dramatically during the late 1990’s onward.  President Clinton’s imperial state was composed of  long-standing MNC represntatives , Wall Street bankers and newly ascending militarist Zionist officials.

The result was a hybrid policy in which the imperial state actively promoted MNC opportunities under neo-liberal regimes in the ex-Communist countries of Europe and Latin America,and expanded MNC ties with China and Viet Nam while launching destructive military interventions in Somalia, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

The ‘balance of forces’ within the imperialist state shifted dramatically in favor the militarist-Zionist faction with 9/11:the terrorist attack of dubious origens  and  false flag demolitions in New York and Washington served to entrench the militarists in control of a vastly expanded  imperial state apparatus.  As a consequence of 9/11 the militarist-Zionist faction of the imperial state  subordinated the interests of the MNC to its strategy of total wars.  This in turn led to the invasion, occupation and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan (instead of harnessing it to MNC expansion).  The US colonial regime dismantled the Iraqui state (instead of re-ordering it to serve the MNC).  The assassination and forced out -migration of millions of skilled professionals, administrators, police and military officials crippled any economic recovery (instead of their incorporation as servants of the colonial state and MNC).

The militarist-Zionist ascendancy in the imperial state introduced major changes in policy, orientation , priorities and the modus operandi of US imperialism.  The ideology of the “global war on terror” replaced the MNC doctrine of promoting “economic globalization”.

Perpetual wars (“terrorists” were not confined to place and time) replaced limited wars or interventions directed at opening markets or changing regimes which would implement neo-liberal policies benefiting US MNC.

The locus of imperial state activity shifted from exploiting economic opportunities, in Asia, Latin America and the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe to wars in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa – targeting Moslem countries which opposed Israel’s colonial expansion in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The new militarist – power configuration’s conception of empire building required vast – trillion dollar – expenditureswithout care or thought of returns to private capital.  In contrast, under the hegemony of the MNC, the imperial state, intervened to secure concessions of oil, gas and minerals in Latin America and the Middle East.The costs of military conquest were more than compensated by the returns to the MNC.  The militarist imperial state configuration pillaged the US Treasury to finance its occupations, financing a vast army of corrupt colonial collaborators, private mercenary ‘military contractors’and,soon to be millionaire, US military procurement (sic) officials.

Previously, MNC directed overseas exploitation led to healthy returns to the US Treasury both in terms of direct tax payments and via the revenues generated from trade and the processing of raw materials.

Over the past decade and a half, the biggest and most stable returns to the MNC take place in regions and countries where the militarized imperial state is least involved – China, Latin America and Europe.  The MNC’s have profited least and have lost most in areas ofgreatest imperial state involvement.

The ‘war zones’ that extend from Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan are the regions where imperial MNC have suffered the biggest decline and exodus.

The main “beneficiaries” of the current imperial state policies are the war contractors and the security-military-industrial complex in the US.Oversees the state beneficiaries include Israel and Saudi Arabia…In addition Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqui , Afghani and Pakistani client rulers have squirreled away tens of billions in off-shore private bank accounts.

The “non-state” beneficiaries include mercenary, proxy armies .In Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and the Ukraine , tens of thousands ofcollaborators in self-styled “non-governmental” organizations  have also profited.

The Lost-Benefit Calculus or Empire-Building under the Aegeus of the Militarist-Zionist Imperial State

Sufficient time has passed over the past decade and a half of militarist-Zionist dominance of the imperial state to evaluate their performance.

The US and its Western European allies, especially Germanysuccessfully expanded their empire in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic regions without firing a shot.  These countries were converted into EU vassal states.  Their markets dominated and industries denationalized.  Their armed forces were recruited as NATO mercenaries. West Germany annexed the East.  Cheap educated labor, as immigrants and as a labor reserve, increased profits for EU and US MNC. Russia was temporarily reduced to a vassal state between 1991 – 2001.  Living standards plunged and welfare programs were reduced.  Mortality rates increased.  Class inequalities widened.  Millionaires and billionaires seized public resources and joined with the imperial MNC in plundering the economy.  Socialist and Communist leaders and parties were repressed or co-opted.In contrast imperial military expansion of the 21stcentury, was a costly failure.  The ‘war in Afghanistan’ was costly in lives and expenditures and led to an ignominious retreat.  What remained was a fragile puppet regime and an unreliable mercenary military.  The US-Afghanistan war was the longest war in US history and one of the biggest failures.  In the end the nationalist-Islamist resistance movements – the so-called “Taliban” and allied ethno-religious and nationalist anti-imperialist resistance groups- dominate the countryside, repeatedly penetrate and attack urban centers and prepare to take power.

The Iraq war and the imperial state’s invasion and decade long occupation decimated the economy .  The occupation fomented ethno religious warfare.  The secular Ba’thist officers and military professionals joined with Islamist-nationalists and subsequently formed a powerful resistance movement (ISIS) which defeated the imperial backed Shia mercenary army  during the second decade of the war.  The imperial state was condemned to re-enter and engage directly in a prolonged war.  The cost of war spiraled to over a trillion dollars.  Oil exploitation was hampered and the US Treasury poured tens of billions to sustain a “war without end’.

The US imperial state and the EU, along with  Saudi Arabia and Turkey financed armed Islamic mercenary militias to invade Syria and overthrow the secular, nationalist, anti-Zionist Bashar Assad regime.  The imperial war opened the door for the expansion of the Islamic –Ba’thist forces—ISIS– into Syria .  The Kurds and other armed groups seized territory, fragmenting the country.  After nearly 5 years of warfare and rising military costs the US and EU MNC have been cut off from the Syrian market.

US support for Israeli aggression against Lebanon has led to the growth in power of the anti-imperialist Hezbollah armed resistance.  Lebanon, Syria and Iran now represent a serious alternative to the US,EU, Saudi Arabia, Israeli axis.

The US sanctions policy toward Iran has failed to undermine the nationalist regime and has totally undercut the economic opportunities of all the major US and EU oil and gas MNC as well as US manufacturing exporters.China has replaced them

The US-EU invasion of Libya led to the destruction of the economy and the flight of billions in MNC investments and the disruption of exports.

The US imperial states’ seizure of power via a proxy coup in Kiev, provoked a  powerful anti-imperialist rebellion led by armed militia in the East (Donetsk and Luhansk) and the decimation of the Ukraine economy.

In summary, the military-Zionist takeover of the imperial state has led to prolongedunwinnable costly wars which have undermined markets and investment sites for US MNC.  Imperial militarism has undermined the imperial economic presence and provoked long-term, growing anti-imperialist resistance movements, as well as chaotic, unstable and unviable countries out of imperial control.

Economic imperialism has continued to profit in parts of Europe, Asia , Latin America and Africa despite the imperial wars and economic sanctions pursued by the highly militarized imperial state elsewhere.

However, the US militarists’ seizure of power in the Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have eroded EU’S profitable trade and investments in Russia.  The Ukraine under IMF-EU-US tutelage has become a heavily indebted , broken  economy run by kleptocrats who are  totally dependent on foreign loans and military intervention.

Because the militarized imperial state prioritizes conflict and sanctions with Russia, Iran and Syria, it has failed to deepen and expand  its economic ties with Asia, Latin America and Africa.  The political and economic conquest of East Europe and parts of the USSR has lost significance.  The perpetual, lost wars in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucuses have weakened the imperial state’s capacity for empire building in Asia and Latin America.

The outflow of wealth, the domestic cost of perpetual wars haseroded the electoral foundations of empire building.  Only a fundamental change in the composition of the imperial state and a reorientation of priorities toward centering on economic expansion can alter the current decline of empire.  The danger is that as the militarist Zionist imperialist state pursues losing wars, it may escalate and  raise the ante ,and move toward a major nuclear confrontation:  an empire amidst nuclear ashes!

Feb 242015
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

The Greek Tragedy: Some things not to forget, which the new Greek leaders have not.

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American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

Andreas Papandreou was arrested at the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou later related the following:

I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret asked a critical question: What if the coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup. 1

Another charming chapter in US-Greek relations occurred in 2001, when Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Goliath Lowlife, secretly helped Greece keep billions of dollars of debt off their balance sheet through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also helped create a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis that’s drowning the entire continent. Goldman Sachs, however, using its insider knowledge of its Greek client, protected itself from this debt bubble by betting against Greek bonds, expecting that they would eventually fail. 2

Will the United States, Germany, the rest of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – collectively constituting the International Mafia – allow the new Greek leaders of the Syriza party to dictate the conditions of Greece’s rescue and salvation? The answer at the moment is a decided “No”. The fact that Syriza leaders, for some time, have made no secret of their affinity for Russia is reason enough to seal their fate. They should have known how the Cold War works.

I believe Syriza is sincere, and I’m rooting for them, but they may have overestimated their own strength, while forgetting how the Mafia came to occupy its position; it didn’t derive from a lot of compromise with left-wing upstarts. Greece may have no choice, eventually, but to default on its debts and leave the Eurozone. The hunger and unemployment of the Greek people may leave them no alternative.

The Twilight Zone of the US State Department

“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop … the Twilight Zone.” (American Television series, 1959-1965)

State Department Daily Press Briefing, February 13, 2015. Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, questioned by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press. 3

Lee: President Maduro [of Venezuela] last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

Psaki: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.

Lee: Sorry. The US has – whoa, whoa, whoa – the US has a longstanding practice of not promoting – What did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.

Psaki: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history –

Lee: Not in this case.

Psaki: – is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.

Lee: In this specific case.

Psaki: Correct.

Lee: But if you go back not that long ago, during your lifetime, even – (laughter)

Psaki: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)

Lee: Well done. Touché. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is –

Psaki: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.

Lee: I understand, but you said it’s a longstanding US practice, and I’m not so sure – it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.

Psaki: We will – okay.

Lee: Recently in Kyiv, whatever we say about Ukraine, whatever, the change of government at the beginning of last year was unconstitutional, and you supported it. The constitution was –

Psaki: That is also ludicrous, I would say.

Lee: – not observed.

Psaki: That is not accurate, nor is it with the history of the facts that happened at the time.

Lee: The history of the facts. How was it constitutional?

Psaki: Well, I don’t think I need to go through the history here, but since you gave me the opportunity –- as you know, the former leader of Ukraine left of his own accord.

………………..

Leaving the Twilight Zone … The former Ukrainian leader ran for his life from those who had staged the coup, including a mob of vicious US-supported neo-Nazis.

If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War. None of the attempts were democratic, constitutional, peaceful, or legal; well, a few were non-violent. 4

The ideology of the American media is that it believes that it doesn’t have any ideology

So NBC’s evening news anchor, Brian Williams, has been caught telling untruths about various events in recent years. What could be worse for a reporter? How about not knowing what’s going on in the world? In your own country? At your own employer? As a case in point I give you Williams’ rival, Scott Pelley, evening news anchor at CBS.

In August 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told American newscaster Dan Rather on CBS: “We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.” 5

In December, Aziz stated to Ted Koppel on ABC: “The fact is that we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry.” 6

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein himself told CBS’s Rather in February 2003: “These missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations [as to range] in Iraq. They are no longer there.” 7

Moreover, Gen. Hussein Kamel, former head of Iraq’s secret weapons program, and a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, told the UN in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its banned missiles and chemical and biological weapons soon after the Persian Gulf War of 1991. 8

There are yet other examples of Iraqi officials telling the world, before the 2003 American invasion, that the WMD were non-existent.

Enter Scott Pelley. In January 2008, as a CBS reporter, Pelley interviewed FBI agent George Piro, who had interviewed Saddam Hussein before he was executed:

PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?

PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the ’90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.

PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?

PIRO: Yes.

PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade? 9

For a journalist there might actually be something as bad as not knowing what’s going on in his area of news coverage, even on his own station. After Brian Williams’ fall from grace, his former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, defended Williams by pointing to his favorable coverage of the military, saying: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories, he wouldn’t question if we’re spending too much.” 10

I think it’s safe to say that members of the American mainstream media are not embarrassed by such a “compliment”.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter made the following observation:

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Cuba made simple

“The trade embargo can be fully lifted only through legislation – unless Cuba forms a democracy, in which case the president can lift it.” 11

Aha! So that’s the problem, according to a Washington Post columnist – Cuba is not a democracy! That would explain why the United States does not maintain an embargo against Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt and other distinguished pillars of freedom. The mainstream media routinely refer to Cuba as a dictatorship. Why is it not uncommon even for people on the left to do the same? I think that many of the latter do so in the belief that to say otherwise runs the risk of not being taken seriously, largely a vestige of the Cold War when Communists all over the world were ridiculed for blindly following Moscow’s party line. But what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is, if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. (They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries). Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have the Koch Brothers to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba not a democracy because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement two years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. 12   And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

The Ministry of Propaganda has a new Commissar

Last month Andrew Lack became chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US government-supported international news media such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia. In a New York Times interview, Mr. Lack was moved to allow the following to escape his mouth: “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.” 13

So … this former president of NBC News conflates Russia Today (RT) with the two most despicable groups of “human beings” on the planet. Do mainstream media executives sometimes wonder why so many of their audience has drifted to alternative media, like, for example, RT?

Those of you who have not yet discovered RT, I suggest you go to RT.com to see whether it’s available in your city. And there are no commercials.

It should be noted that the Times interviewer, Ron Nixon, expressed no surprise at Lack’s remark.

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Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, chapters 3 and 35
  2. Greek Debt Crisis: How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt”, Spiegel Online (Germany), February 8, 2010. Google “Goldman Sachs” Greecefor other references.
  3. U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, February 13, 2015
  4. Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List
  5. CBS Evening News, August 20, 2002
  6. ABC Nightline, December 4, 2002
  7. “60 Minutes II”, February 26, 2003
  8. Washington Post, March 1, 2003
  9. “60 Minutes”, January 27, 2008
  10. Democracy Now!, February 12, 2015, Wright statement made February 10
  11. Al Kamen, Washington Post, February 18, 2015
  12. Huffington Post, May 3, 2012
  13. New York Times, January 21, 2015
Feb 212015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Yánis Varoufákis and Aléxis Tsípras

Yánis Varoufákis and Aléxis Tsípras

Introduction

The Greek government is currently locked in a life and death struggle with the elite which dominate the banks and political decision-making centers of the European Union. What are at stake are the livelihoods of 11 million Greek workers, employees and small business people and the viability of the European Union. If the ruling Syriza government capitulates to the demands of the EU bankers and agrees to continue the austerity programs, Greece will be condemned to decades of regression, destitution and colonial rule. If Greece decides to resist, and is forced to exit the EU, it will need to repudiate its 270 billion Euro foreign debts, sending the international financial markets crashing and causing the EU to collapse.

The leadership of the EU is counting on Syriza leaders abandoning their commitments to the Greek electorate, which as of early February 2015, is overwhelmingly (over 70%) in favor of ending austerity and debt payments and moving forward toward state investment in national economic and social development (Financial Times 7-8/2/15, p. 3). The choices are stark; the consequences have world-historical significance. The issues go far beyond local or even regional, time-bound, impacts. The entire global financial system will be affected (FT 10/2/15, p. 2).

The default will ripple to all creditors and debtors, far beyond Europe; investor confidence in the entire western financial empire will be shaken. First and foremost all western banks have direct and indirect ties to the Greek banks (FT 2/6/15, p. 3). When the latter collapse, they will be profoundly affected beyond what their governments can sustain. Massive state intervention will be the order of the day. The Greek government will have no choice but to take over the entire financial system . . . the domino effect will first and foremost effect Southern Europe and spread to the ‘dominant regions’ in the North and then across to England and North America (FT 9/2/15, p. 2).

To understand the origins of this crises and alternatives facing Greece and the EU, it is necessary to briefly survey the political and economic developments of the past three decades. We will proceed by examining Greek and EU relations between 1980 – 2000 and then proceed to the current collapse and EU intervention in the Greek economy. In the final section we will discuss the rise and election  of Syriza, and its growing submissiveness in the context of EU dominance, and intransigence, highlighting the need for a radical break with the past relationship of ‘lord and vassal’.

Ancient History: The Making of the European Empire

In 1980 Greece was admitted to the European Economic Council as a vassal state of the emerging Franco-German Empire. With the election of Andreas Papandreou, leader of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party, with an absolute majority in Parliament, hope arose that radical changes in domestic and foreign policy would ensue. 1 In particular, during the election campaign, Papandreou promised a break with NATO and the EEC, the revoking of the US military base agreement and an economy based on ‘social ownership’ of the means of production. After being elected, Papandreou immediately assured the EEC and Washington that his regime would remain within the EEC and NATO, and renewed the US military base agreement. Studies in the early 1980’s commissioned by the government which documented the medium and long-term adverse results of Greece remaining in the EEU, especially the loss of control of trade, budgets and markets, were ignored by Papandreou who chose to sacrifice political independence and economic autonomy in favor of large scale transfers of funds, loans and credit from the EEC. Papandreou spoke from the balcony to the masses of independence and social justice while retaining ties to the European bankers and Greek shipping and banking oligarchs. The European elite in Brussels and Greek oligarchs in Athens retained a stranglehold on the commanding heights of the Greek political and economic system.

Papandreou retained the clientelistic political practices put in place by the previous right-wing regimes – only replacing the rightist functionaries with PASOK party loyalists.

The EEC brushed off Papandreou’ phony radical rhetoric and focused on the the fact they were buying control and subservience of the Greek state by financing a corrupt, clientelistic regime which was deflecting funds for development projects to upgrade Greek economic competitiveness into building a patronage machine based on increased consumption.

The EEC elite ultimately knew that its financial stranglehold over the economy would enable it to dictate Greek policy and keep it within the boundaries of the emerging European empire.

Papandreou’s demagogic “third world” rhetoric notwithstanding, Greece was deeply ensconced in the EU and NATO. Between 1981-85, Papandreou discarded his socialist rhetoric in favor of increased social spending for welfare reforms, raising wages, pensions and health coverage, while refinancing bankrupt economic firms run into the ground by kleptocratic capitalists. As a result while living standards rose, Greece’s economic structure still resembled a vassal state heavily dependent on EEC finance, European tourists and a rentier economy based on real estate, finance and tourism.

Papandreou solidified Greece’s role as a vassal outpost of NATO; a military platform for US military intervention in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean; and market for German and northern European manufactured goods.

From October 1981 to July 1989 Greek consumption rose while productivity stagnated; Papandreou won elections in 1985 using EEC funds. Meanwhile Greek debt to Europe took off . . . EEC leaders chastised the misallocation of funds by Papandreou’s vast army of kleptocrats but not too loudly. Brussels recognized that Papandreou and PASOK were the most effective forces in muzzling the radical Greek electorate and keeping Greece under EEC tutelage and as a loyal vassal of NATO.

Lessons for Syriza: PASOK’s Short-term Reforms and Strategic Vassalage

            Whether in government or out, PASOK followed in the footsteps of its rightwing adversary (New Democracy) by embracing the NATO-EEC strait-jacket. Greece continued to maintain the highest per capita military expenditure of any European NATO member. As a result, it received loans and credits to finance short-term social reforms and large scale, long-term corruption, while enlarging the party-state political apparatus.

With the ascent of the openly neoliberal Prime Minister Costas Simitis in 2002, the PASOK regime “cooked the books”, fabricated government data on its budget deficit, with the aid of Wall Street investment banks, and became a member of the European Monetary Union. By adopting the euro, Simitis furthered deepened Greece’s financial subordination to the non-elected European officials in Brussels, dominated by the German finance ministry and banks.

The oligarchs in Greece made room at the top for a new breed of PASOK kleptocratic elite, which skimmed millions of military purchases, committed bank frauds and engaged in massive tax evasion.

The Brussels elite allowed the Greek middle class to live their illusions of being ‘prosperous Europeans’ because they retained decisive leverage through loans and accumulating debts.

Large scale bank fraud involving three hundred million euros even reached ex-Prime Minister Papandreou’s office.

The clientele relations within Greece were matched by the clientele relations between Brussels and Athens.

Even prior to the crash of 2008 the EU creditors, private bankers and official lenders, set the parameters of Greek politics.  The global crash revealed the fragile foundations of the Greek state – and led directly to the crude, direct interventions of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission – the infamous “Troika”. The latter dictated the ‘austerity’ policies as a condition for the “bail-out” which devastated the economy, provoking a major depression; impoverishing over forty percent of the population, reducing incomes by 25% and resulting in 28% unemployment.

Greece: Captivity by Invitation

Greece as a political and economic captive of the EU had no political party response. Apart from the trade unions which launched thirty general strikes between 2009 – 2014, the two major parties, PASOK and New Democracy, invited the EU takeover. The degeneration of PASOK into an appendage of oligarchs and vassal collaborator of the EU emptied the ‘socialist’ rhetoric of any meaning. The right wing New Democracy Party reinforced and deepened the stranglehold of the EU over the Greek economy. The troika lent the Greek vassal state funds (“bail-out”) which was used to pay back German, French and English financial oligarchs and to buttress private Greek banks. The Greek population was ‘starved’ by ‘austerity’ policies to keep the debt payments flowing - outward and upward.

Europe: Union or Empire?

The European economic crash of 2008/09 resounded worst on its weakest links – Southern Europe and Ireland.  The true nature of the European Union as a hierarchical empire, in which the powerful states – Germany and France – could openly and directly control investment, trade, monetary and financial policy was revealed. The much vaunted EU “bailout” of Greece was in fact the pretext for the imposition of deep structural changes. These included the denationalization and privatization of all strategic economic sectors; perpetual debt payments; foreign dictates of incomes and investment policy. Greece ceased to be an independent state: it was totally and absolutely colonized.

Greece’s Perpetual Crises: The End of the “European Illusion”

The Greek elite and, for at least 5 years, most of the electorate, believed that the regressive (“austerity”) measures adopted – the firings, the budget cuts, the privatizations etc. were short-term harsh medicine, that would soon lead to debt reduction, balanced budgets, new investments, growth and recovery. At least that is what they were told by the economic experts and leaders in Brussels.

In fact the debt increased, the downward economic spiral continuedunemployment multiplied, the depression deepened.  ‘Austerity’ was a class based policy designed by Brussels to enrich overseas bankers and to plunder the Greek public sector.

The key to EU pillage and plunder was the loss of Greek sovereignty. The two major parties, New Democracy and PASOK, were willing accomplices. Despite a 55% youth (16 – 30 years old) unemployment rate, the cut-off of electricity to 300,000 households and large scale out-migration (over 175,000), the EU (as was to be expected) refused to concede that the ‘austerity’ formula was a failure in recovering the Greek economy. The reason the EU dogmatically stuck to a ‘failed policy’ was because the EU benefited from the power, privilege and profits of pillage and imperial primacy.

Moreover, for the Brussels elite to acknowledge failure in Greece would likely result in the demand to recognize failure in the rest of Southern Europe and beyond, including in France, Italy and other key members of the EU (Economist 1/17/15, p. 53). The ruling financial and business elites in Europe and the US prospered through the crises and depression, by imposing cuts in social budgets and wages and salaries. To concede failure in Greece, would reverberate throughout North America and Europe, calling into question their economic policies, ideology and the legitimacy of the ruling powers. The reason that all the EU regimes back the EU insistence that Greece must continue to abide by an obviously perverse and regressive ‘austerity’ policy and impose reactionary “structural reforms” is because these very same rulers have sacrificed the living standards of their own labor force during the economic crises (FT 2/13/15, p. 2).

The economic crises spanning 2008/9 to the present (2015), still requires harsh sacrifices to perpetuate ruling class profits and to finance state subsidies to the private banks. Every major financial institution – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF – toes the line: no dissent or deviation is allowed. Greece must accept EU dictates or face major financial reprisals. “Economic strangulation or perpetual debt peonage” is the lesson which Brussels tends to all member states of the EU. While ostensibly speaking to Greece – it is a message directed to all states, opposition movements and trade unions who call into question the dictates of the Brussels oligarchy and its Berlin overlords.

All the major media and leading economic pundits have served as megaphones for the Brussel oligarchs. The message, which is repeated countless times, by liberals, conservatives and social democrats to the victimized nations and downwardly mobile wage and salaried workers, and small businesspeople, is that they have no choice but to accept regressive measure, slashing living conditions (“reforms”) if they hope for ‘economic recovery’ – which, of course, has not happened after five years!

Greece has become the central target of the economic elites in Europe because, the Greek people have gone from inconsequential protests to political powers. The election of Syriza on a platform of recovering sovereignty, discarding austerity and redefining its relations with creditors to favor national development has set the stage for a possible continent-wide confrontation.

The Rise of Syriza: Dubious Legacies, Mass Struggles and Radical (Broken) Promises

The growth of Syriza from an alliance of small Marxist sects into a mass electoral party is largely because of the incorporation of millions of lower middle class public employees, pensioners and small businesspeople. Many previously supported PASOK. They voted Syriza in order to recover the living conditions and job security of the earlier period of “prosperity” (2000-2007) which they achieved within the EU. Their radical rejection of PASOK and New Democracy came after 5 years of acute suffering which might have provoked a revolution in some other country. Their radicalism began with protests, marches and strikes were attempts to pressure the rightwing regimes to alter the EU’s course, to end the austerity while retaining membership in the EU.

This sector of SYRIZA is ‘radical’ in what it opposes today and conformist with its nostalgia for the past – the time of euro funded vacation trips to London and Paris, easy credit to purchase imported cars and foodstuffs, to ‘feel modern’ and ‘European’ and speak English!

The politics of Syriza reflects, in part, this ambiguous sector of its electorate. In contrast Syriza also secured the vote of the radical unemployed youth and workers who never were part of the consumer society and didn’t identify with “Europe”.  Syriza has emerged as a mass electoral party in the course of less than five years and its supporters and leadership reflects a high degree of heterogeneity.

The most radical sector, ideologically, is drawn mostly from the Marxist groups which originally came together to form the party. The unemployed youth sector joined, following the anti-police riots, which resulted from the police assassination of a young activist during the early years of the crisis. The third wave is largely made up of thousands of public workers, who were fired, and retired employees who suffered big cuts in their pensions by order of the troika in 2012. The fourth wave is ex PASOK members who fled the sinking ship of a bankrupt party.

The Syriza Left is concentrated at the mass base and among local and middle level leaders of local movements.  The top leaders of Syriza in power positions are academics, some from overseas. Many are recent members or are not even party members. Few have been involved in the mass struggles – and many have few ties with the rank and file militants. They are most eager to sign a “deal” selling out the impoverished Greeks

As Syriza moved toward electoral victory in 2015, it began to shed its original program of radical structural changes (socialism) and adopt measures aimed at accommodating Greek business interests. Tsipras talked about “negotiating an agreement” within the framework of the German dominated European Union. Tsipras and his Finance Minister proposed to re-negotiate the debt, the obligation to pay and 70% of the “reforms”! When an agreement was signed they totally capitulated!

For a brief time Syriza maintained a dual position of ‘opposing’ austerity and coming to agreement with its creditors. It’s “realist” policies reflected the positions of the new academic ministers, former PASOK members and downwardly mobile middle class. Syriza’s radical gestures and rhetoric reflected the pressure of the unemployed, the youth and the mass poor who stood to lose, if a deal to pay the creditors was negotiated.

EU – SYRIZA: Concessions before Struggle Led to Surrender and Defeat

The “Greek debt” is really not a debt of the Greek people. The institutional creditors and the Euro-banks knowingly lent money to high risk kleptocrats, oligarchs and bankers who siphoned most of the euros into overseas Swiss accounts, high end real estate in London and Paris, activity devoid of any capacity to generate income to pay back the debt. In other words, the debt, in large part, is illegitimate and was falsely foisted on the Greek people.

Syriza, from the beginning of ‘negotiations’, did not call into question the legitimacy of the debt nor identified the particular classes and enterprise who should pay it.

Secondly, while Syriza challenged “austerity” policies it did not question the Euro organizations and EU institutions who impose it.

From its beginning Syriza has accepted membership in the EU. In the name of “realism” the Syriza government accepted to pay the debt or a portion of it, as the basis of negotiation.

Structurally, Syriza has developed a highly centralized leadership in which all major decisions are taken by Alexis Tsipras. His personalistic leadership limits the influence of the radicalized rank and file. It facilitated “compromises” with the Brussels oligarchy which go contrary to the campaign promises and may lead to the perpetual dependence of Greece on EU centered policymakers and creditors.

Moreover, Tsipras has tightened party discipline in the aftermath of his election, ensuring that any dubious compromises will not lead to any public debate or extra-parliamentary revolt.

The Empire against Greece’s Democratic Outcome

The EU elite have, from the moment in which Syriza received a democratic mandate, followed the typical authoritarian course of all imperial rulers. It has demanded from Syriza (1) unconditional surrender (2) the continuation of the structures, policies and practices of the previous vassal coalition party-regimes (PASOK-New Democracy) (3) that Syriza shelve all social reforms, (raising the minimum wage, increasing pension, health, education and unemployment spending  (4) that SYRIZA follow the strict economic directives and oversight formulated by the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) (5) that SYRIZA retain the current primary budget surplus target of 4.5 percent of economic output in 2015-2017.

To enforce its strategy of strangulating the new government, Brussels threatened to abruptly cut off all present and future credit facilities, call in all debt payments, end access to emergency funds and refuse to back Greek bank bonds – that provide financial loans to local businesses.

Brussels presents Syriza with the fateful “choice”, of committing political suicide by accepting its dictates and alienating its electoral supporters. By betraying its mandate, Syriza will confront angry mass demonstrations. Rejecting Brussels’ dictates and proceeding to mobilize its mass base, Syriza could seek new sources of financing, imposing capital controls and moving toward a radical “emergency economy”.

Brussel has “stone-walled” and turned a deaf ear to the early concessions which Syriza offered. Instead Brussels sees concessions as ‘steps’ toward complete capitulation, instead of as efforts to reach a “compromise”.

Syriza has already dropped calls for large scale debt write-offs, in favor of extending the time frame for paying the debt. Syriza has agreed to continue debt payments, provided they are linked to the rate of economic growth. Syriza accepts European oversight, provided it is not conducted by the hated “troika”, which has poisonous connotations for most Greeks. However, semantic changes do not change the substance of “limited sovereignty”.

Syriza has already agreed to long and middle term structural dependency in order to secure time and leeway in financing its short-term popular impact programs. All that Syriza asks is minimum fiscal flexibility under supervision of the German finance minister-some “radicals”!

Syriza has temporarily suspended on-going privatization of key infrastructure (sea- ports and airport facilities) energy and telecommunication sectors. But is has not terminated them, nor revised the past privatization. But for Brussels “sell-off” of Greek lucrative strategic sectors is an essential part of its “structural reform” agenda.

Syriza’s moderate proposals and its effort to operate within the EU framework established by the previous vassal regimes was rebuffed by Germany and its 27 stooges in the EU.

The EU’s dogmatic affirmation of extremist, ultra neo-liberal policies, including the practice of dismantling Greece’s national economy and transferring the most lucrative sectors into the hands of imperial investors, is echoed in the pages of all the major print media. The Financial TimesWall Street JournalNew York TimesWashington PostLe Monde are propaganda arms of EU extremism. Faced with Brussel’s intransigence and confronting the ‘historic choice’ of capitulation or radicalization, Syriza tried persuasion of key regimes. Syriza  held numerous meetings with EU ministers. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Vardoulakis traveled to Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and Rome seeking a “compromise” agreement. This was to no avail. The Brussels elite repeatedly insisted:

Debts would have to be paid in full and on time.

Greece should restrict spending to accumulate a 4.5% surplus that would ensure payments to creditors, investors, speculators and kleptocrats.

The EU’s lack of any economic flexibility or willingness to accept even a minimum compromise is a political decision: to humble and destroy the credibility of SYRIZA as an anti-austerity government in the eyes of its domestic supporters and potential overseas imitators in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland (Economist1/17/15, p. 53).

Conclusion

The strangulation of Syriza is part and parcel of the decade long process of the EU’s assassination of Greece. A savage response to a heroic attempt by an entire people, hurled into destitution, condemned to be ruled by kleptocratic conservatives and social democrats.

Empires do not surrender their colonies through reasonable arguments or by the bankruptcy of their regressive “reforms”.

Brussel’s attitude toward Greece is guided by the policy of “rule or ruin”. “Bail out” is a euphemism for recycling financing through Greece back to Euro-controlled banks, while Greek workers and employees are saddled with greater debt and continued dominance. Brussel’s “bail out” is an instrument for control by imperial institutions, whether they are called “troika” or something else.

Brussels and Germany do not want dissenting members; they may offer to make some minor concessions so that Finance Minister Vardoulakis may claim a ‘partial victory’ – a sham and hollow euphemism for a belly crawl.

The “bail out” agreement will be described by Tsipras-Vardoulakis as ‘new’ and “different’ from the past or as a ‘temporary’ retreat. The Germans may ‘allow’ Greece to lower its primary budget surplus from 4.5 to 3.5 percent ‘next year’ – but it will still reduce the funds for economic stimulus and “postpone” raises in pensions, minimum wages etc.

Privatization and other regressive reforms will not be terminated, they will be “renegotiated”. The state will retain a minority “share”.

Plutocrats will be asked to pay some added taxes but not the billions of taxes evaded over the past decades.

Nor will the PASOK – New Democracy kleptocratic operatives be prosecuted for pillage and theft.

Syriza’s compromises demonstrate that the looney right’s (the Economist, Financial Times, NY Times, etc.) characterization of Syriza as the “hard left” or the ultra-left have no basis in reality. For the Greek electorate’s “hope for the future” could turn to anger in the present. Only mass pressure from below can reverse Syriza’s capitulation and Finance Minister Vardoulakis unsavory compromises. Since he lacks any mass base in the party, Tsipras can easily dismiss him, for signing off on “compromise” which sacrifices the basic interests of the people.

However, if in fact, EU dogmatism and intransigence forecloses even the most favorable deals, Tsipras and Syriza, (against their desires) may be forced to exit the Euro Empire and face the challenge of carving out a new truly radical policy and economy as a free and independent country.

A successful Greek exit from the German – Brussels empire would likely lead to the break-up of the EU, as other vassal states rebel and follow the Greek example. They may renounce not only austerity but their foreign debts and eternal interest payments. The entire financial empire – the so-called global financial system could be shaken . . . Greece could once again become the ‘cradle of democracy’.

Post-Script:   Thirty years ago, I was an active participant and adviser for three years (1981-84) to Prime Minister Papandreou. He, like Tsipras, began with the promise of radical changes and ended up capitulating to Brussels and NATO and embracing the oligarchs and kleptocrats in the name of “pragmatic compromises”.  Let us hope, that facing a mass revolt, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Syriza will follow a different path. History need not repeat itself as tragedy or farce.

[1] The account of the Andreas Papandreou regime draws on personal experience, interviews and observations and from my co-authored article “Greek Socialism: The Patrimonial State Revisited” in James Kurth and James Petras, Mediterranean Paradoxes:  the Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe (Oxford:  Berg Press 1993/ pp. 160 -224)

James Petras was Director of the Center for Mediterranean Studies in Athens (1981-1984) and adviser to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou (1981-84). He resigned in protest over the PM expulsion of leading trade unionists from PASOK for organizing a general strike against his ‘stabilization program’.

Petras is co-author of Mediterranean ParadoxesThe Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe. His latest books include Extractive Imperialism in the Americas (with Henry Veltmeyer); and The Politics of Empire:  the US, Israel and the Middle East.