Sep 302016
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

deborah1-300x281The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with Déborah Berman-Santana, retired professor of geography and ethnic studies at Mills College in Oakland, California. This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of September 15-21, 2016. Find the podcast of this interview here.

MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is Déborah Berman-Santana, recently retired professor of Geography and Ethnic Studies at Mills College in Oakland, California. Deborah will speak to us about the latest economic and political developments in Puerto Rico, which is facing an economic crisis similar to that in Greece, and she will discuss the similarities that she has seen between Puerto Rico and Greece, after spending some time in Greece recently. Deborah, welcome to our program today.

DBS: Thank you!

MN: Getting us started, describe for us the history of the economic exploitation of Puerto Rico. What has the impact of colonialism been on Puerto Rico’s economic viability?

DBS: Colonies exist so that the colonizer will benefit economically and politically. Since the U.S. invaded and occupied Puerto Rico in 1898, it has extracted profit in numerous ways: First, through converting it into a sugar colony. After World War II Puerto Rico was transformed through “Operation Bootstrap” into a special economic zone to benefit U.S. corporations under the guise of “development via export-led industrialization.” As a captive market, Puerto Rico also became the home to the most WalMarts per square meter in the world. Finally, Puerto Rico’s colonial “neither U.S. state nor independent state” political status allowed the U.S. bond market to give special exemptions to investors, which has brought Puerto Rico to its current debt “crisis.”

During the 1930s, the anti-imperialist congressman Vito Marcantonio sponsored a study which revealed that since 1898, U.S. corporations had extracted as much as $400 billion in profits from Puerto Rico. Recently, independent researchers in Puerto Rico have estimated that since the 1950s, more than half a trillion dollars has been extracted from Puerto Rico. Both estimates encompass the free usage of Puerto Rican resources and the restriction, via U.S. cabotage laws, requiring all imports and exports to use U.S. merchant marine ships and U.S. crews. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the U.S. has taken more than a trillion dollars away from its colony, which certainly dwarfs Puerto Rico’s $73 billion public debt.

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, how did this ongoing exploitation contribute to the present-day “debt crisis” in Puerto Rico, and what has been the role of Washington, Wall Street, and the so-called “vulture funds” in perpetuating this crisis?

DBS: With the eventual elimination of industrial tax incentives beginning in the 1990s, Puerto Rico’s governments increasingly looked to loans to balance its budget and continue practices of rewarding political cronies with contracts for large infrastructure projects. Subsequently, President Clinton’s elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act allowed for investment bankers to increasingly engage in bond market speculation. Puerto Rico received “triple exemption” because of its colonial status, which meant that every pension fund and every municipal and state government, among others, bought Puerto Rico bonds, ignoring the fact that its economy began shrinking once the special industrial exemptions were completely eliminated in 2006.

Election of a protege of the Koch Brothers, Luis Fortuño, as Puerto Rico’s governor in 2008 resulted in a “bitter medicine” law that eliminated tens of thousands of public jobs, which accelerated the descent of an economic recession into a depression. By 2011 the major credit agencies began degrading Puerto Rico’s ratings, with the result that it increasingly resorted to short-term, high interest loans similar to “payday loans.” Bondholders increasingly unloaded their Puerto Rico bonds in the secondary bond market, which were then swooped up by vulture funders such as Paul Singer and John Paulson – often at 10 to 20 percent of the bond’s value. Today, these vulture funders possess up to 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s public debt, and are the creditors who are least willing to renegotiate the terms of the loans. They have been the major lobbyists for the Congressional law known as “PROMESA” that recently became law.

MN: “PROMESA” been touted by some as a “bailout” for Puerto Rico. What does this bill actually mean for Puerto Rico, in your view, and what is the significance of the acronym that was used, “PROMESA”?

DBS: The new law, which President Obama signed on June 30, is entitled the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act” (PROMESA). In Puerto Rican popular parlance, a “promesa” is a pledge that someone makes when dealing with a family crisis. The person promises to do something for the community if the crisis is resolved. Often this is an annual fiesta, including traditional music, food and drink, and may last for decades. That the U.S. Congress would give this name to a law that strips away any pretense of self-governance, [it] has caused a tremendous amount of resentment in Puerto Rico.

This law allows President Obama to appoint a seven-member board — paid for by the Puerto Rican people — which will take control of the budget, eliminate environmental laws, dismiss public employees, abolish public agencies, cut the minimum wage by half for young workers, close schools and hospitals, increase utility bills, and cut pensions. These measures are justified by the priority of making payments on the public debt. There is no provision for economic development or restructuring of the public debt, let alone canceling it. There is no acknowledgment that such measures are likely to greatly increase emigration of working age Puerto Ricans while severely deteriorating quality of life for those who remain. Any “bailout” that might occur as a result seems directed only at the Wall Street vultures who now control most of the debt.
On August 31 President Obama announced the names of the members of the junta. Four were born in Puerto Rico. Two of those were in the government of former Puerto Rico governor Fortuño. One of them, Carlos “Caco” García (his nickname, used in Puerto Rico to refer to criminals) was directly involved in the “bitter medicine” law in 2009 that began massive layoffs of public employees, and was also responsible for billions of dollars of short maturity bonds that have now virtually bankrupted the government development bank. Were it not for such actions it’s possible that the “promesa law” would not have been exacted. Was he named to cover up the tracks of his patrons? Certainly, he was not chosen for fiscal responsibility. Among the other three junta members is Andrew Biggs, who is known for crusading in favor of privatizing Social Security and other public pension funds It is not difficult to imagine what role he will likely play in Puerto Rico.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, There’s a lot that has been written about the economic crisis in Puerto Rico recently, including a report by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), which has also written about the Greek debt in the past as well. What do you make of these reports, and were any Puerto Rican economists given the opportunity to provide their own input into these reports?

DBS: CADTM’s article was odd in that there did not appear to be any effort to read up or try to understand Puerto Rico, but simply to use information from Europe and change names where needed. For example, it referred to Puerto Rico as a member of the “Commonwealth of the United States,” an entity that does not exist (unlike, for example, the British Commonwealth). Puerto Rico is defined by the U.S. as a “territory belonging to, but not part of, the United States”, with not a single iota of sovereignty. A White House report on Puerto Rico in 2006 claimed that the U.S. could give Puerto Rico away to another country should it choose to do so. The term “commonwealth” is used for Puerto Rico to give the illusion that Puerto Rico achieved some form of self-governance in 1952, which resulted in the United Nations removing it from their list of colonies. There has been a movement to get Puerto Rico reinstated to that list for decades.

Another weakness of CADTM’s analysis was its use of secondary sources of statistics about Puerto Rico, such as the Pew Foundation, instead of Puerto Rico’s own government, or any of several Puerto Rican independent research institutes. Perhaps most egregious of all is that it does not mention the fact that, as a colony with no sovereignty, all of Puerto Rico’s public debt may be considered illegal. One might presume that an international organization dedicated to cancellation of debt would know that it was the successful insistence by the U.S. in 1898 that Cuba did not need to pay any of its debts because they were contracted by Spain, that helped shaped the concept of odious debt. I am not sure of the purpose of CADTM’s article — I hesitate to call it a “report” — other than to jump on the Puerto Rico misinformation bandwagon.

MN: In what ways has the colonial administration of Puerto Rico made the island economically dependent on the United States, and how does this dependency impact the national psyche of Puerto Ricans?

DBS: There used to be a geography book, written by a North American named Muller, which was the first textbook studied in all Puerto Rican schools. The first sentence read: “Puerto Rico is a small, overpopulated, poor island, lacking in natural resources, which cannot survive without the United States.” Puerto Rico has served as a laboratory for generations of U.S. academics, most of whom were awarded government and foundation grants to prove that Puerto Rico and its people were geologically, biologically, and socially inferior. Their claims were often absurd, such as that Puerto Ricans were afraid of the sea and that there [are] hardly any fish in the surrounding Caribbean — both of which could easily be disproved — or that somehow Puerto Rico’s rich soils could not feed the population, which was not the case until most arable land was diverted to sugar cane and later covered in cement for the industrialization strategy.

Puerto Ricans were constantly told to look to the U.S. for all sources of innovation and progress, and warned that independence would be economically and socially disastrous. A favorite slogan was, “Where would we be without her?” alongside the U.S, flag. Never mind that all of the disastrous economic and social consequences about which we were warned, have occurred precisely because of our colonial relationship to the U.S. You simply cannot extract the amount of profits from a country that the U.S. has taken from Puerto Rico, plus restrict our ability to protect our own resources or capital, and expect to have a positive economic result.

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, describe for us the political system of Puerto Rico, the major political parties, and to what extent the island enjoys any degree of “self-governance.”

DBS: For the first 50 years after the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico, the president named a governor and most directors of government agencies. Since the establishment of the “Associated Free State” (commonwealth) in 1952, Puerto Rico has elected its own governor and legislature, as well as a non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress. Elections are held every four years. The two majority parties are the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which favors the current status with greater autonomy. The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), once the second-largest party, has been relegated by decades of political repression and extreme factionalism among pro-independence and left organizations to the status of a small party that barely manages to elect some representatives at municipal and island-wide levels. There is also a Puerto Rican court system, using only Spanish and based on Roman law, as is true of Latin American countries, which, however, is subordinate to the English-only U.S. federal court, located in the U.S. federal building in San Juan, a concrete reinforced stronghold that is the official seat of U.S. colonial rule.

The Puerto Rican government has not had the power to truly protect local businesses against product dumping from U.S. companies, nor to make economic treaties with other countries without U.S. approval. However, it has had control over its budget and taxes, which both majority parties have used to curry political favor with contractors and corporate sponsors. This has encouraged a culture of corruption, which would appear to confirm the dominant narrative, that Puerto Ricans lack the capacity to properly govern themselves. But at no time since 1898 has any Puerto Rican government been able to exercise sovereign decision-making against the wishes of Washington. That the so-called “commonwealth” did not change its status was confirmed by two rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in June, one of which dealt with Puerto Rico’s exemption from use of Chapter 9 bankruptcy while at the same time nixing its government’s attempt to write its own bankruptcy law. Briefly, the Supreme Court affirmed that Puerto Rico lacked even the limited sovereignty that a U.S. Indian tribe might possess, and that Puerto Rico’s constitution had about as much validity as the Puerto Rican peso had after the U.S. takeover. In addition, President Obama said that “there is no alternative” to the PROMESA bill and the imposition of a junta, which of course means that Puerto Rico’s elected government, laws, and constitution mean nothing.

MN: What do you make of the summertime visit of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Puerto Rico and what came out of this visit?

DBS: Sanders’ primary campaign strategy was to attract independents to vote for him in the primaries. Even though Puerto Ricans and other residents of U.S. colonies do not vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress, they do have delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions and so usually hold primaries. By far the largest of the colonies in terms of population is Puerto Rico, and so Sanders’ strategy was to encourage independentistas — supporters of independence who do not vote in U.S. primaries — to vote for him. In his congressional career Sanders had never appeared to be aware of Puerto Rico’s existence, yet suddenly he was promoted as a “savior” who would decolonize Puerto Rico, all based upon his criticism of Wall Street and a supposed reputation as a “radical leftist.” Sanders never could bring himself to mention the “c” word — colony — when speaking about his country’s relationship with Puerto Rico. More than once he referred to Puerto Rico as a “protectorate,” and his harshest words accused Washington of using the PROMESA bill to “treat Puerto Rico as a colony” — without, of course, admitting that Puerto Rico already is a colony! Unfortunately, colonies foster colonized mentalities, so Sanders did manage to divide independentistas yet again, when what is most needed at this time is unity.

Sanders introduced an alternative bill to PROMESA in the Senate after PROMESA had already been approved by the House of Representatives and endorsed by Obama, so his bill did not even get a hearing. The proposed bill itself was a hodgepodge of measures that may have been marginally better in economic terms, but it also included a section on holding yet another referendum on political status — though at least five have already been held. It provided detailed instructions on how to fast-track statehood, should that option win, but nothing about U.S. responsibility for ensuring free determination and indemnification for eventual independence. I should also add that many U.S. politicians, from George Bush and Ted Kennedy to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have made extravagant promises while campaigning for Puerto Rican delegates to their parties’ conventions. In sum, Sanders used Puerto Rico exactly as have other U.S. politicians before him.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, how is the issue of independence viewed in Puerto Rico today, and how has Washington typically responded to the independence movement?

DBS: There have been independence movements in Puerto Rico ever since the 19th century, when Spain was still the colonial power. Since the 1898 invasion, Washington has combined violent repression of independence groups with selective co-option of broad sectors of Puerto Rican society, using church officials and entrepreneurs, politicians and civil society leaders to divide Puerto Ricans against each other while promoting Uncle Sam as benefactor. Neighbors were paid to spy and report on every aspect of the lives of independence supporters, while many lost their jobs or were expelled from universities. Leaders were often arrested on a variety of charges, and many served long prison sentences. Not even leaving Puerto Rico for the diaspora exempted them from persecution. For example, Oscar López Rivera is currently imprisoned, having served 35 years of a 55-year sentence for “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and its territories” — in other words, for struggling for Puerto Rican independence. Oscar grew up in Chicago, and has not been accused nor convicted of any violent act, yet his refusal to defend himself in a U.S. criminal court, and demand that he be tried as a political prisoner in an international tribunal helped lead to such a disproportionately long sentence. There is currently an international campaign to pressure President Obama to release Oscar from prison before the president leaves office. Many countries – including Greece – have held events in support, and important figures such as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Uruguay President Pepe Mujica have advocated directly for his release. In Puerto Rico support is massive and includes all political and social sectors.

Puerto Ricans as a whole do not support independence, at least not openly, because they have been taught that Puerto Rico has no choice but to be associated with the U.S., either as a state or in some kind of autonomous association. Yet every single environmental, social, political and cultural struggle and campaign has had independence supporters as key members. Puerto Rican pride and self-identification with a Puerto Rican nationality is much broader than open support for independence. It is obvious in sports, in music, in cultural celebrations, even in jokes and everyday life. Even many statehood supporters will often refer to Puerto Rico as their nation, as contradictory as that may sound to outsiders. Especially given the recent actions of the U.S. government — and the realization by many Puerto Ricans that Uncle Sam does not have their best interests in mind, it would be interesting to see if support for independence would increase, should a serious proposal include some indemnification by the U.S. for over a century of colonial rule.

MN: The “PROMESA” bill has triggered a wave of demonstrations in Puerto Rico all throughout the summer months, which are continuing up until now. How have these protests taken shape?

DBS: As soon as Obama signed the bill, a number of organizations set up a “civil disobedience encampment” in front of the main entrance to the federal building in San Juan. This is a very common feature of activism in Puerto Rico, as it serves as a semi-permanent focus for education, organizing, and resistance, and has been used to block environmentally dangerous projects as well as the U.S. Navy’s former bombing range on Vieques Island. The encampment has been continuously occupied since the end of June, and is a focus for seminars, cultural events, picketing, and “community building.” For now, the Puerto Rican police have said they do not plan to remove the protesters, although federal agents often conduct provocative actions, such as blasting diesel generators near the tents and walking bomb-sniffing dogs through the encampment.

On August 31 there were massive protests which successfully blocked a planned conference by the colonial Chamber of Commerce to promote business opportunities under “promesa.” It was very inspring to see union members, students, women’s groups, and others join together to resist the attempts of opportunists to profit from a dictatorial imposition. The most dramatic monent came when hundreds of riot police tried to force the protesters out of the street, but were pushed back by people of all ages despite batons, pepper spray, and brute force. Several days later protesters forced the largest Walmart in Puerto Rico to close early. This took place on “Labor Day” which was renamed “Unemployment Day” since Walmart has destroyed thousands of local businesses. (There are more Walmarts per square meter in Puerto Rico than anywhere else in the world; it receives incentives and went to federal court to validate its refusal to pay a reasonable amount of taxes in Puerto Rico.)

Other protests include a massive and broad-based movement against a plan by the U.S. government to use military planes to fumigate all of Puerto Rico with dangerous pesticides, supposedly to kill mosquitos carrying the Zika virus. To this are added a large number of ongoing protests and campaigns, all of which now refer to the coming junta de control as possibly complicating even more the scenario. Activists in the large Puerto Rican diaspora also hold seminars and stage protests, many times in coordination with the groups in Puerto Rico. Of course, most Puerto Ricans are not protesters, and [they] try to go about their daily lives while listening with alarm, resignation, or both to the news. Puerto Rican activist organizations face many challenges as they try to work through decades-long factionalism and develop more effective ways to educate the public. Most of all, the challenge is to not burn out, and convince others that there is hope!

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, describe the difficulties in forming alliances in Puerto Rico today, within this fractured and divided political landscape that you have described.

DBS: Pro-independence organizations in Puerto Rico have always suffered from severe repression, including efforts by the colonizers — both Spain and the U.S. — to infiltrate and divide them. Some of the earliest campaigns by the FBI upon its establishment in 1908 included the criminalization and repression of independence activism in Puerto Rico, and such activities continue today. Recent examples include grabbing well-known activists in the street and forcing them to give DNA samples for supposed “ongoing terrorism investigations.” This operation included activists who had previously been imprisoned, and for whom the U.S. government would already have had DNA samples. This is just one example of a century-long campaign of repression that has included murders, disappearances, long incarceration, blacklisting, and spying. The Puerto Rican government has also been complicit in the criminalization of independence, including creating discord among activists and organizations.

However, we cannot simply blame outside forces for the divided state of independence and left activism. Besides the personal antagonisms — many of which are due to the same societal ills that afflict leftist organizations, such as sexism — there are also ideological disputes, such as the roles of nationalism and socialism in colonial struggles. One new political party, for example, declines to take a position on Puerto Rican political status even though most of its leaders have been identified as independentistas. They expect that by doing so they can attract pro-statehood workers to vote for them. I would argue that it would repel more statehood supporters, because they would be seen as dishonest. Of course, this divides the votes of those who no longer want to vote for the two majority parties. The Puerto Rican Independence Party is running a full slate of candidates and is trying to position itself as the alternative. But they have in the past been quite sectarian and have alienated many independentistas. Despite such divisions, we have seen many activities that include representatives of both parties, as well as other independence and left organizations. This indicates that many understand that somehow we need to overcome our divisions, if not our disagreements.

MN: Puerto Rico has often been described as the “Greece of the Caribbean.” You have had the opportunity to visit Greece twice in the past year, including this past summer. How similar are the crises in the two nations in your view?

DBS: I would say they are strikingly similar, and in fact that the same playbook is being used in both countries, despite the differences between them. For example, the acronym TINA, “There Is No Alternative” to continued policies of austerity, privatization, and increased taxes in order to pay off an unsustainable public debt, is constantly repeated, as is the myth that “There is no Plan B,” and that political independence for both (in Greece’s case, leaving the European Union and the eurozone) would be disastrous — as if U.S. and EU colonial rule is not already a disaster! In Greece there is a proposal for an eight-member junta de control fiscal named by the EU which must approve — and often even write — laws that the Greek government must implement, such as automatic budget cuts and further privatizations. While as a classic colony Puerto Rico cannot officially deal with the IMF, in practice the PROMESA bill follows the IMF playbook, as was prescribed by “former” IMF officials who were hired by the Puerto Rican government — as ordered by their masters in Washington — to produce a report with recommendations for dealing with the debt crisis. In addition, you see “vulture capitalists” such as Paul Singer and John Paulson swooping into both Greece and Puerto Rico to buy up assets such as banks and land, plus debt — at a discount. The fact that Puerto Rico is a classic colony actually makes the problems of lack of sovereignty much clearer. Greece is still officially an independent country, so for some people its de facto colonial status may not be quite as clear. Also, the problem of equating national sovereignty with fascism is particularly acute in Greece as a European country. In Puerto Rico we have some of that confusion, but it is not as strong since in general Latin Americans, including Puerto Ricans, understand the necessity for national sovereignty as part of anti-colonial struggles.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, in your estimation, what is the best solution for Puerto Rico and its people, economically and politically?

DBS: The international community recognizes the right of all peoples to self-determination, including freely and unilaterally choosing their political status. There are three recognized statuses: first, union with another independent state under conditions of equality; second, association with another state, with the right to unilaterally change its status; and independence. The U.S. has historically added new states whose native populations have been reduced to a small and powerless minority. The three Associated Republics of Micronesia complain of a lack of sovereignty and the unwillingness of the U.S. to renegotiate their compacts. There is zero interest in the U.S. to add a new state comprised of Spanish-speaking people with a distinctly different culture, and which additionally has a per capita income less than half of Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union. I believe that political independence represents the only possibility for Puerto Rico to exercise its sovereignty, and it should be accomplished — with international pressure — as part of a negotiation that includes indemnification for more than a century of colonial exploitation. Certainly, Puerto Rico’s colonial debt belongs to the colonizer. Far from seeing independence as “separation,” I would argue that it would actually open up Puerto Rico to the rest of the world, instead of being chained behind the iron curtain of U.S. rule. There is a saying in Latin America that its independence will not be complete without Puerto Rico, and I believe that time is now.

MN: Before wrapping up, do you have any message that you would like to share with our listeners and with the Greek people?

DBS: I would say that I appreciate the solidarity of the people in Greece, much solidarity and much understanding that they showed towards Puerto Rico that they showed during my visits there. I would encourage the people in Greece to not give up hope, and to not accept the notion that there is no alternative to the ongoing loss of sovereignty and the ongoing economic deterioration that you are facing. There’s always hope, but also, love of country is not necessarily fascist. I have to say that here in Puerto Rico as well, and basically, free people in free countries, individual freedom and freedom of people go together. I don’t think you can separate one from the other. I have much love for the people in Greece and for people in solidarity everywhere. Viva Puerto Rico libre!

MN: Well Déborah, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and for sharing with us your experiences from both Puerto Rico and Greece.

DBS: Thank you very much.

Sep 292016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

bombardement-400x224

Introduction

Bombs, domestic and foreign, are defining the nature of politics in the United States, the European Union and among radical Islamist groups and individuals. The scale and scope of bomb-politics varies with the practitioner. ‘Wholesale bombers’ are state actors, who engage in large-scale, long-term bombing designed to destroy adversary governments or movements. ‘Retail bombers’ are groups or individuals engaging in small-scale, sporadic bombings, designed to provoked fear and secure symbolic outcomes.

Apart from planned bombings, there are improvised bombings committed by deranged individuals who engage in suicide attacks without any political backing or coherent purpose.

In this paper we will focus on the nature of ‘wholesale’ and ‘retail’bombings, their frequency, political consequences and long-term impact on global political power.

Bombing as Everyday Events

The US and EU are the world’s foremost practitioners of ‘wholesale bombing’. They engage in serial attacks against multiple countries without declaring war or introducing their own citizen ground troops. They specialize in indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations – unarmed women, children, elders and non-combatant males. In other words, for the ‘wholesale bombers’, unleashing terror on societies is an everyday event.

The US and EU practice ‘total war’ from the skies, not sparing a single sphere of everyday, civilian life. They bomb neighborhoods, markets, vital infrastructure, factories, schools and health facilities. The result of their daily, ‘ordinary’ bombing is the total erasure of the very structures necessary for civilized existence, leading to mass dispossession and the forced migration of millions in search of safety.

It is not surprising that the refugees seek safety in the countries that have destroyed their means of normal existence. The wholesale bombers of the US-EU do not bomb their own cities and citizens – and so millions of the dispossessed are desperate to get in.

Wholesale bomb policies have emerged because prolonged ground wars in the targeted countries evoke strong domestic opposition from their citizens unwilling to accept casualties among US and EU soldiers. Wholesale bombing draws less domestic opposition because the bombers suffer few losses.

At the same time, while mass aerial bombing reduces the political risks of casualties at home, it expands and deepens violent hostility abroad. The mass flight of refugees to US-EU population centers allows the entry of violent combatants who will bring their own version of the total war strategies to the homes of their invaders.

Secular resistance has generally targeted enemy soldiers, whether they are imperial invaders or jihadi mercenaries. Their targets are more focused on the military. But faced with the politics of long-distance, wholesale bombing, the secular opposition becomes ineffective. When the ‘secular opposition’ diminishes, ethno-religious combatants troops emerge.

The Islamists have taken command of the resistance, adopting their tactics to the imperial policy of total serial wars.

Retail Bomb-Warfare

Lacking an air force, Islamist terrorists engage in ground wars to counter imperial air wars. Their response to drone warfare, is hand-made improvised bombs, killing hundreds of civilians. Their victims may be decapitated with hand-held swords, rather than computer-controlled missiles. They capture hostile population, committing pillage, torture and rapine, rather than bomb from a distance, to dispossess and drive into exile.

Retail bomb’ terrorists are generally decentralized and may be recruited overseas. Their bombs are crude and indiscriminate. But like the wholesale bombers, they target population centers and seek to provoke panic and despair among the civilian population.

Islamist ‘retail bombers’ seek to expand their range by attacking the home countries of ‘wholesale bombers’ – the US and Europe. These attacks are exclusively for propaganda and do not constitute any threat to strategic imperial military targets. They expose the vulnerability of their enemies’ civilian population.

While imperial bombers and Islamists bombers have been at war against each other, they have also served as allies of convenience. Several recent examples come to mind.

US-EU ‘wholesale bombing’ campaigns against Libya, Syria and Yemen worked in tandem with Islamist mercenary ground fighters. ‘Wholesale bombers’ devastated the infrastructure and military installations of the governments of Syria and Libya in support of advancing Islamist ground troops. In other words, ‘wholesale bombings’ are not sufficient to achieve targeted ‘regime change’, thus the resort to terrorist ‘retail bombers’ and jihadi ‘head choppers’ to advance on regional and local targets.

The most blatant recent example of the convergence of imperial wholesale bombers in support of Islamist retail bombers and terrorists was the September 17, 2016 US-EU attack on a Syrian military installation, killing and wounding almost two hundred Syrian soldiers who had been engaged in combat against ISIS terrorists. While Washington claimed that the hours-long aerial bombardment of Syrian government soldiers was a ‘mistake’, it allowed the jihadi ‘retail bombers’ to take the offensive and overrun the base. Acting as air-support for ISIS, the US Pentagon effective shut down any possibility for peace negotiations and sabotaged a fragile ceasefire. This was a major victory for Washington’s politics of permanent wholesale bombing and ‘regime change’.

Just as the US launched its propaganda and wholesale bombing attack against the Syrian government, an improvised ‘retail bombing campaign’ was launched in the US – in Manhattan and New Jersey! The latest series of retail bombing attacks in the US led to three dozen, mostly minor, injuries, while the brutal US wholesale bombing of Syrian troops killed over 62 government soldiers and wounded many more. The political impact and consequences of wholesale and retail terror bombings in both regions was highly significant. The US had no more right to launch an air attack on Syrian government troops engaged in defending their country, than the US-based retail terrorist (an Afghan-American) had in planting improvised bombs in US cities. Both actions are illegal.

Political Consequences of Bombing Warfare

The US-ISIS coordinated bombing of Syrian soldiers has set the stage for all-out warfare. Peace talks were violently sabotaged by the Obama Administration. Syria and Russia now face the combined forces of ISIS, Turkey and the US with no hope for a negotiated solution. The battle for control of Aleppo will intensify. Russian negotiators have failed to check their cynical American ‘allies’ in their much-ballyhooed ‘war on terror’. They have no choice but to continue to supply air cover for their Syrian government allies.

The US has embraced the Turkish invasion of Syria, betraying both their Kurdish allies and some element among their ISIS partners. Bombing continues to be Washington’s main option in the Middle East.

The recent retail terror bombing in the US has the predicted consequence – a mass media whipped into a frenzy of fear mongering. New York City is further militarized. The face of the ‘enemy’ (a young Afghan-American, whose own father had tried to turn over to the FBI for his jihadi connections) is on a hundred million TV screens continuously. The electoral campaign salivates in anticipation of a terror war for whoever wins the presidency. Blind fear rather than concrete economic demands take the place of political debate.

Immigrants, Muslims and terrorists replace Wall Street tax evaders, profiteers and speculators as the villains in a country mired in economic and social crises. Economic policies, which have created mass insecurity and misery, are obscured by the militarist rhetoric.

Militarism, war and wholesale bombing replace the incremental advances in improving peaceful productive relations with Cuba and Iran.

The politics of bombing, as a strategy and way-of-life affects domestic and foreign policy . . . even as the vast majority of American voters look for alternatives, for jobs, housing, and education and seek to live without fear and threats.

Wholesale wars lead to retail wars. Overseas bombs lead to bombs at home. Invasions and occupations provoke outrage and retaliation. The answer is not to do unto others what you don’t want done on yourself.

Sep 202016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

monsanto-dupont-roundup-war

The concentration and centralization of the agro-business multi-nationals advances with gigantic strides: Potash Corp and Agrium have combined into a $30 billion monopoly over the world fertilizer market. Dow Chemical and DuPont combine in a $130 billion dollar deal in the seed and agricultural chemicals sector.ChemChina prepares to takeover Syngenta in a $44 billion acquisition. Bayer is preparing to buy out Monsanto for $56 billion and further concentrate control over worldwide seed and chemical markets. A quarter of a trillion dollars worth of mergers and acquisitions is poised to concentrate control of global agriculture prices, profits and markets in four directorates. Parallel to the corporate capitalist drive for world domination, the White House has embarked on a full-scale trade and maritime war against China.

This essay presents the political and social implications of the agro-business counter-revolution and the concomitant US drive to encircle and enclose China’s market.

Agro-Business Monopolies and Social Revolution

This process of agri-business monopolization will have a major impact on farmers, consumers and environmentalists worldwide. Seed and fertilizer prices will rise, devastating farmers’ income and resulting in ever more bankruptcies. Nitrogen and potash, the two biggest fertilizer inputs for farmers, will be controlled by a monopoly cartel. Farmers will have no choice – either market response or political struggle. In other words, they can try to raise food prices or organize a revolt against the cartels.

In the imperial countries, national populist movements have emerged, especially in the countryside, small towns and cities: farmers, ecologists and consumers take to the streets while urban mass opposition, responding to rising food costs, are gaining momentum.

Throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, the agro-business control of chemical and seed inputs raises the debt burden on peasants and farmers while contaminating food with pesticides and provoking food riots and land occupation movements.

The impact of food insecurity, including debt and malnutrition, undermines community and family cohesion. This is the context in which armed insurgents have emerged, including the Islamist movements in the Middle East, North Africa and West Asia, gaining credibility and followers among the millions of dispossessed.

In response, the agribusiness multinational corporations have reduced the question of popular resistance to one of  ‘political stability’, pushing for repressive state terror to suppress revolts. The Western mass media never discusses the linkage between the monopolization of agriculture and mass exploitation with armed popular resistance. Agro –business leaders claim that mass rebellion is merely a product of  ‘ideology’ promoted by deranged extremists on the left or violent jihadis.

The roots of revolt and upheaval are not analyzed or even described in the narrative of respectable financial newspapers in their “Companies and Markets” section.

Global monopolization of agriculture depends on state de-regulation, privatization, and the systematic policies of blaming any political opposition on ‘outside’ hostile forces. If the opponents are not ‘Islamists’ or communists, they are unfair competitors, who do not ‘play by market rules’ and rely on state subsidies.

Trade Wars for Monopoly Agriculture

The Obama regime has launched a full-scale agricultural war against China, imposing tariffs, promoting WTO boycotts and intensifying its ideological war. Obama’s Department of Agriculture, (which provides massive direct and indirect subsidies to the enormous US agro-industry), denounces China for subsidizing it basic food producers.

Obama attacks China for ‘unfair competition’ even as US MNCs earned $20 billion in agro exports to Beijing in 2015 alone!

While leading US corporate executives look to China’s dynamic growth as a source of investments for US elites, Obama warns of Chinese ‘security threats’. While former Treasury Secretary Paulson editorializes in favor of greater commercial linkages with Beijing as a vehicle for continued US business growth, Obama works to provoke military hostilities against China among second and third tier Asian countries.

In 2015 China invests nearly $20 billion in the US, generating several hundred thousand jobs, while Obama promotes a $38 billion military giveaway program for Israel. According to Obama’s perverse calculus, Israel, the plunderer, is our dearest ally and China the donor and job-creator, is an existential threat to the US!

While China attracts Philippine President Duterte with offers of billion dollar economic aid and investment, Obama encourages its clients among the Philippine military and Manila-based oligarchs to destabilize the government.

The US overt militarist policies toward China are integral to Obama’s political effort to divert the US electorate from the effects of monopoly mergers in raising the cost of living and deepening inequalities in America.

Obama’s war agenda in Asia may have the effect of intimidating US business, especially on the Pacific Coast, which would otherwise have ‘natural trade and investment ties’ with China, not to mention cultural ties.

Conclusion

US multi-national agro-business mergers have upped the ante in provoking social upheavals, North and South. While the agro-business elite expands overseas and increases domestic profits, it does so by heightening class and national conflicts, which, in turn, provoke brutal state repression.

The alliance between agro-business and militarism is a major factor driving the global ascent of populism and nationalism, as well as Islamist radicalism.

The ‘war versus trade’ contradiction dividing the US business elite has created a disjointed political class spinning in both directions without coherence.

The electorate reacts with double negatives: hostile to their own leaders and hostile to any alternatives. The response may well be greater abstention and withdrawal by the voters.

The US and EU multi-nationals, pivoting toward greater concentration of wealth and mega-monopolies, have yet to undermine the nature of Chinese state power – the ultimate arbiter of agriculture in Asia. As Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines and Myanmar develop closer trade and diplomatic ties with China, the MNCs have to deal with new competition and challenges from non-multi-national adversaries.

Besides Japan, and possibly South Korea, the US trade war against China has few regional allies. Obama’s militarist ‘pivot’ resonates with few outside of the US presidential election rhetoric.

In the European Union, nationalist populist movements and governments are questioning Obama’s proposed ‘Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ (TTIP), particularly in regard to its impact on European agriculture. As the costs of food production and consumer prices increase the US-sponsored TTIP loses its supporters, because Washington’s conservative allies in Europe need the vote of small-scale farmers and middle class consumers in France, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere.

In India, the huge multinational agribusiness mergers are playing havoc with the political leaders in the BJP as they face scores of millions of devastated peasant producers.

In other words,  mega-agro powers form a two-edged sword in world capitalism: They strengthen the economies of the imperial powers while undermining their own electoral mass base. The feeble efforts to regulate these mergers have failed, as expected. When the ‘free market’ pulverizes small producers and local suppliers, it creates the conditions for class wars on many fronts, in the West and in the East, in the US and the EU, in China and in India.

Sep 132016
 

By , 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

Rather than casting off the shackles of the EU, eurozone and IMF, the Syriza-led Greek government favors the ‘oligarchs’ it once vowed to tear down and doubles down on austerity measures, leaving Greek people to suffer through a modern colonial nightmare.

A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras' decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest. An ensuing election in September saw Tsipras re-elected. His government has to meet a series of strict targets set by European creditors in order to get funds from the bailout, which are needed to prevent the country's bankruptcy and potential exit from the euro, Europe's single currency. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, File)

A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

ATHENS — (Analysis) Stories of human suffering continue to multiply in present-day Greece, which is loosely governed by the “first time left” government of Syriza and more directly by the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund.

In the city of Patra, an elderly woman whose only source of income is her severely battered pension, from which she supports her two grandchildren, had her electricity service cut in the presence of a police SWAT team, despite her reliance on an oxygen concentrator to live. Her son was arrested for protesting the action and brought before a prosecutor.

Police in the city of Katerini, implementing the government’s crusade against purported “tax evaders” to the letter, arrested a father of three, whose spouse is unemployed, for selling pastries on the street without a license, fining him €5,000 ($5,627) for the infraction. The man is well-known in his community for donating his unsold pastries to local children and a local home for seniors at the end of each day.

I’ve also heard the story of an impoverished cancer patient in Thessaloniki, who, according to the eyes of the law, was another one of those lazy, corrupt Greeks guilty of dipping their hands too deeply into the public trough. Her meal card which allowed her to eat at a local soup kitchen was revoked, simply because she was concurrently receiving state aid for being a cancer patient.

On the island of Samos, a short distance from the Turkish coast, uniformed German police freely patrol the streets of the main town, Vathi, purportedly on the lookout for refugees, while German coast guard boats sit docked in the harbor. A few kilometers away, in the mountain village of Manolates, residents and shopkeepers listen to Turkish music on the radio—as no reception of Greek broadcasters was possible.

Finally, in my own neighborhood in Athens, 17 out of 22 storefronts lie vacant in a three-block stretch, “for rent” signs fading slowly from view. A once-beautiful park and playground lies vacant, entrances chained shut, while overgrown weeds cover this former piece of urban green space.

None of these stories are likely to make it into Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ forthcoming state of the union speech at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair. The prime minister is much more likely to tell us that unemployment has purportedly decreased, that Greece has emerged from recession (just as it supposedly did in 2014), that industrial production has dramatically increased, that the country is returning to economic growth, and that it is pursuing closer defense and military ties with the United States and NATO.

Syriza-led Greek state strips itself of sovereignty

Reality, however, is much more grim. In May, without parliamentary debate, the Syriza-led government passed a 7,500 page omnibus bill that transferred control over Greece’s public assets to a fund controlled by the European Stability Mechanism for the next 99 years.

These assets include airports, harbors, public beaches and coastline, and natural resources.

Earlier this year, 14 profitable regional airports were sold to the German publicly-owned corporation Fraport, while a majority stake in the port of Piraeus, one of the largest ports in Europe, was sold to Chinese-owned Cosco for €365 million—equal to 15 days’ worth of debt repayments—while its facilities alone are valued at more than €5 billion. The national railway, TRAINOSE, including all infrastructure and trains, was sold to Italy’s Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane for a mere €45 million, with the company’s debt was written off as part of the sale. The site of the former international airport of Athens, once slated to become Europe’s largest urban park, was sold to a consortium of investors from Greece, China, and the United Arab Emirates, led by the Latsis family of Greek shipping tycoons, who plan to construct luxury resorts and shopping malls on the site.

In May, Syriza’s cabinet presented plans to sell a 49-percent stake in the water utilities of Athens and Thessaloniki, plus 18 additional privatizations instead of the nine initially agreed to with creditors in the third memorandum. Prior to being elected in January 2015, Syriza promised to put an end to the privatization of public assets, and it vowed not to privatize water in its September 2015 platform.

Nevertheless, the Syriza government has committed to completing the privatization of numerous key assets, including the natural gas utility and the state’s stake in Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos international airport, by November.

Also as part of the omnibus bill, the Greek parliament rendered itself voteless, as the legislation annuls the role of parliament to create a national budget or pass tax legislation. In earlier legislation, the government had agreed to submit all pending bills to the group of lenders known as the “troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the IMF) for approval, reminiscent of the German Reichstag’s willful relinquishment of legislative power to then-Chancellor Adolf Hitler in 1933.

Taxes skyrocket and Greeks are unable to pay

Further illustrating just how much sovereignty has been stripped from the Greek state, the omnibus legislation also foresees the activation of automatic spending cuts, including salaries, without any parliamentary intervention if Greece fails to achieve targets for a primary surplus. In order to attain a primary surplus, spending has already been slashed dramatically, furthering the spiral of austerity Tsiprashad once promised to end with “one law and one article.”

Instead of austerity being abolished with one law and one article, Greek citizens have a new, crippling tax avalanche to look forward to beginning this autumn. On Aug. 29, this year’s unified property tax (ENFIA) was sent out to all property owners, with seven in ten businesses facing an increase this year. This is the same tax which members of the Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition government had denounced prior to being elected, claiming it was unconstitutional, promising to repeal it once in office, and instructing citizenson how to avoid paying it.

Once Syriza and the Independent Greeks came to power, however, payment of the ENFIA was described by the government as a “patriotic duty.”

Meanwhile, the Greek government is preparing to introduce a nationwide “asset registry” for taxation purposes, in which citizens will be obliged to declare not only their incomes and real estate, but everything from jewelry to family heirlooms, and even the amount of cash in their possession. This Orwellian measure will be supplemented by a national transaction registry, where essentially every bank transaction and purchase from each citizen will be tracked. Within five years, owners of homes and commercial buildings will be required to hire civil engineers to submit detailed blueprints and videos of their structures in order obtain a “structural identification” certificate—or risk steep fines or demolition.

These new taxes and measures are set to be enforced despite the growing inability of citizens and businesses to pay. The first half of 2016 saw a €1 billion shortfall in the collection of the value-added tax, while €272 million worth of income taxes for this year—about 25 percent of total expected revenue—remains unpaid. This is not due to a purported culture of “tax evasion,” but due to declining incomes and a general inability to pay.

Evidence of citizens’ inability to pay abounds. Deposits in Greece’s shattered banking system declined by €160 million in July alone. The number of employed people not being paid has reached 1 million, and 500,000 Greeks are paid less than €412 per month for their labor.

Eurostat figures from the fourth quarter of 2015 show that just 4.3 percent of the unemployed in Greece were able to find jobs. Greek families, who once took pride in passing property down from generation to generation, leading to the highest rate of homeownership in Europe, now find themselves rejecting inheritances from deceased relatives in record numbers, due to the tremendous tax burden.

Further fueling the oncoming storm, the Syriza government has committed to sweeping home foreclosures and auctions this autumn, while confiscations of funds from ever-dwindling bank accounts for unpaid debts to the state continue unabated. The government estimates it will collect over €2 billion from these confiscations by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the omnibus bill passed in May lowered the basic pension to a paltry €345-384 per month, while the value-added tax on many basic goods, including necessities like soap, was hiked to 24 percent. Following the initial slashing of basic pensions by up to 48 percent in June, aid for poor families and the disabled has been slashed almost in half beginning with this month’s payments.

Supplementary pensions for 150,000 recipients have been cut further, by as much as 38 percent, with further reductions slated for October. In response to the cuts, Giorgos Katrougalos, the labor minister who participated in the 2011 protests of the anti-austerity “indignants,” stated that the new system will “protect all Greeks from poverty,” adding that had pensions not been reduced, they would not be issued at all. Not convinced, pensioners have already begun to protest outside government ministries.

Meanwhile, the number of households which qualify for subsidized heating oil has been cut in half, the fuel and oil tax has once again been hiked, co-payments on prescription drugs covered by public insurance funds have been raised by 25 percent, while suffering small businesses have been further burdened by an increase in their tax rate from 26 percent to 29 percent. In a recent televised interview, Syriza MP Hara Kafantaristated that “the days where a shop owner was his own boss are over.” This perhaps helps explain why Greece’s burgeoning startup scene is being driven out amid Syriza’s excessive and unpredictable taxation.

Broadcasting licensing process rife with corruption

Syriza’s recent licensing bid for national television broadcasters is emblematic of its reign in office thus far. Diaploki is a Greek word which perfectly sums up the triangle of corruption and interplay between major political and business interests and the state. One of Syriza’s numerous pre-election pledges was to rout the “oligarchs” who control the media and much of the economy and put an end to this diaploki.

On Sept. 1, the Syriza-led government triumphantly claimed to have fulfilled this promise through the completion of the auctioning process for four licenses for national “general-interest” television stations. This announcement was accompanied by claims that “fairness” and “rule of law” had been “restored” after 27 years of “lawlessness” on the Greek airwaves (broadcasters have up until now been operating under a framework of provisional legality).

In Greece, the rabbit hole of diaploki runs deep—and this has not changed in the slightest during Syriza’s reign. The bidding process was both farcical and inhuman: The bidders were said to have been locked in isolated rooms in the headquarters of the Greek Secretariat for Press and Media, without any ability to communicate with each other or with the outside world for 70 hours, purportedly to ensure a “clean” bidding process.

In reality, though, the process was rife with illegalities, contradictions, inconsistencies, and absurdities, and it completely lacked transparency. It has also put six of Greece’s eight largest private television broadcasters in danger of being forced off the airwaves by the year’s end, including the top station in the ratings, Alpha TV.

Most significantly, perhaps, is the fact that the licensing process was conducted by the government itself, instead of by Greece’s independent licensing body for broadcasters, the National Commission for Radio-Television (NCRTV), which has remained defunct for most of the past year. This contradicts both the Greek constitution and European regulations which call for licensing processes to be conducted by independent bodies. The bid was based on the false premise that there were only enough frequencies available to license four national privately-owned broadcasters—two frequencies with two HD outlets each.

This claim is contradicted by the hundreds of digital stations broadcasting in Italian cities and the multiple HD channels per frequency on Britain’s Freeview service.

Further, while the government has repeatedly hinted that licenses for national “thematic” (special-interest stations) will be issued, it has not stated when this will happen, how many licenses will be issued, or through which process.

This immediately contradicts the government’s claim that, aside from technical reasons, the number of national general-interest licenses was limited to four due to the limited size of the Greek advertising market and the purported desire to ensure economically “viable” licensees.

How could bidders gauge their viability and bid accordingly, without knowing what the future marketplace will look like?

Adding to the confusion, upon completion of the licensing process, the government announced that it is pushing back the licensing process for “thematic” stations indefinitely and intends to instead focus next on the licensing of regional broadcasters through a similar process which would put most of Greece’s 100-plus regional stations at risk of being forced off the air. Already having been battered by the economic crisis, these regional stations would be unable to afford the steep cost of participating in the bidding process.

Following this, thematic licenses may be issued on a national basis, while similar licensing procedures for radio have been forewarned.

The licensing process also does not include any criteria whatsoever for the quality of programming, for balanced news presentation, or for public service programming. The only criterion which mattered was money, and with a limited amount of licenses being issued, the cost of each license was artificially driven upward, ensuring only the deepest of deep pockets–oligarchs, in other words–could participate.

It also ensured that should this licensing process be finalized and not legally struck down, Greece might just become the first country where fewer television stations will remain on the air in the digital era, instead of more.

Once out to fight the ‘oligarchs,’ Syriza’s given them TV stations instead

Syriza has repeatedly promised to “clean up” the airwaves and end diaploki. But just who are the oligarchs who successfully bid for licenses? Two of them, Giannis Alafouzos and Theodoros Kyriakou, own incumbent broadcasters Skai TV and Antenna TV, respectively. These two stations led the vociferous “pro-yes” media brigade prior to the July 2015 referendum.

Alafouzos, a shipowner, was found to be in possession of over €50 million in undeclared funds and had his assets frozen last month, pending an investigation for tax evasion. One of Skai’s main commentators, Bambis Papadimitriou, is notorious for having suggested that the previous conservative government of New Democracy could benefit from forming a coalition with a “serious” Golden Dawn, Greece’s far-right party.

Antenna TV, like Skai, is owned by a family of shipping and oil magnates. Antenna Group’s investments span multiple industries and over a dozen countries, while the station’s founder, Minos Kyriakou, has had his share of legal troubles in the past, including a jail sentence for illegal structures constructed in the resort region of Porto Heli (this sentence was later appealed down to a fine). Antenna, like Skai, also vehemently supported the pro-austerity “yes” vote in the 2015 referendum, likening the “yes” versus “no” option to a choice between being like Europe or “becoming Zimbabwe.”

The cases of the other two licensees, neither of whom are currently in possession of a television station, are even more egregious. One of the winning bidders is Vaggelis Marinakis, a shipping mogul and football magnate, who is facing at least five criminal investigations on charges ranging from match-fixing to directing a criminal organization.

Marinakis is also said to have been involved in the case of the “Noor 1,” a ship which Greek authorities found to be transporting 2.1 tons of heroin and which may be linked to Marinakis through close associates of his. Marinakis is a city councilman in Piraeus, while his right-hand man from the Olympiacos football club, Yannis Moralis, is mayor. Together, they exert control over the municipal radio station of Piraeus, Kanali 1. On Tuesday, prosecutors in Greece recommended that Marinakis be jailed pending trial on charges of match-fixing.

But perhaps the most flagrant case of all is that of Christos Kalogritsas, a former publisher-turned-construction magnate, and his son, Ioannis-Vladimiros Kalogritsas. Christos Kalogritsas’ construction firm, Toxotis S.A., is the recipient of numerous state contracts issued by the Syriza-led government for public works projects throughout Greece.

Toxotis S.A. recently purchased Medousa, a competing construction firm. It was formerly known as Tsipras ATE and owned by Pavlos Tsipras, father of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Christos Kalogritsas and his wife are currently facing civil and criminal charges for an alleged €51 million in unpaid taxes, while employees at Toxotis S.A. have previously gone on strike over six months of unpaid wages. The Kalogritsas family also owns significant shares in Attica Bank, one of the banks which has been repeatedly recapitalized by Greek taxpayers.

It is from Attica Bank that Ioannis-Vladimiros Kalogritsas provided a letter of guarantee worth €3 million in order to participate in the television licensing bid. This letter was submitted past the deadline set by the government for participation in the bid, but was nevertheless accepted.

Additionally, Christos Kalogritsas has close ties to current defense minister, Panos Kammenos; the current minister of infrastructure, transport and networks, Christos Spirtzis (whose ministry oversees public works projects and matters pertaining to broadcast frequency allocation); and celebrity television personality Nikos Evaggelatos. Kalogritsas is also said to maintain a “brotherly” friendship with current minister of state, Nikos Pappas, who oversaw the television licensing process. He is also a primary shareholder of polling firm GPO, one of the many Greek polling firms which receives state funding and which has repeatedly produced grossly inaccurate public opinion and exit poll results.

Further adding to the web of corruption, both Marinakis and the Kalogritsas family are represented by the attorney Giannis Mantzouranis. Mantzouranis also happened to represent the Greek state in the recent television licensing process. Clearly, conflicts of interest are not a concern for Syriza. In the late 1980s, Mantzouranis had been jailed as part of the wide-ranging Koskotas money-laundering scandal.

He is also one of the attorneys of investigative journalist-turned-Syriza cheerleader Kostas Vaxevanis, who through his involvement in the HellasNet network of regional television stations, stands to be one of the beneficiaries of any bid for regional TV licenses.

Diaploki is safe with Syriza in power

While Syriza is making triumphant claims of “restoring rule of law” in the television landscape, its own party-owned radio station, Sto Kokkino, went on the air illegally in 2005 after purchasing the frequency of a radio station that went unlicensed during a 2001 bid (when, again, there were claims that there was “no room” for more stations). The station in question, NRG 105.5 FM, which is under the same ownership as Athens’ Kiss FM, had illegally returned to the airwaves.

In 2006 and 2007, Sto Kokkino was shut down by authorities for broadcasting without a license, but the New Democracy government under Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis later passed a law which legalized party-owned broadcast stations, permitting them to operate without a license. Sto Kokkino was therefore “legalized.”

Meanwhile, Syriza continues to enforce a law passed by the previous conservative government which allows broadcast stations classified as “news” stations to switch classifications to “non-news,” but which does not provide the same privilege to “non-news” stations which wish to switch to news programming, thus creating a closed broadcast news marketplace. Sto Kokkino’s subsidiary stations throughout Greece violate this rule, but rather than changing the law and creating a level playing field, as Syriza is claiming to be doing now with the television licensing process, it keeps this blatantly undemocratic law as is and simply violates it for its own ends.

All of this has taken place while the NCRTV remains defunct, with no frequency table having been publicized for television stations, and with 1,000-2,000 employees in the television sector facing unemployment if their stations are forced to close. This would also create a restricted and highly centralized and controlled television market. Prime Minister Tsipras, in a recent speech celebrating the opening of a new stretch of highway (constructed by Toxotis S.A.), promised to turn over the €246 million in revenue from the licensing bid “to the poor.”

Of course, this assumes that money, which would be paid in three annual installments and only if the stations are profitable, is ever paid. Even so, EU officials have already stated that it will go toward Greece’scommitments to its lenders, not to the impoverished. They’ve also questioned  the licensing process itself.

Tsipras also omitted from his speech the loss of tax receipts and insurance fund contributions from the six stations slated to shut down, and the combined €700 million in debts they owe to Greek banks, which would likely go unpaid if they go off the air and be thrust upon the shoulders of Greek taxpayers instead via yet another recapitalization.

Make no mistake: Syriza’s “efforts” are not just contained to broadcast licensing. Syriza intends to create astate-run body to allocate advertising across media outlets, retaining a 30-percent commission for the state. Earlier in the year, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili announced the government’s intention to “restore order to the internet,” beginning with the creation of a registry of online news outlets and blogs. Registration was mandatory for all outlets which wished to be considered for state advertising expenditures—an easy way for any government to pay its way into the hearts of media owners.

Another way is through patronage, as in the case of Giorgos Christoforidis, publisher of the (once) anti-austerity newspaper To Xoni and former candidate for parliament with the Independent Greeks. Christoforidis was appointed to a post in the government’s press office while continuing to publish To Xoni.

Is it the new left or the old right? Who can tell?

In the meantime, the Syriza-led government continues to operate with stunning arrogance and insensitivity. Proclamations are made for the “record” number of tourists visiting Greece—even while most tourist resort towns lay idle during the tourist season. In Samos, patrolled by German police, there were not many refugees in sight—nor many tourists. The vice president of the Syriza government, Giannis Dragasakis, hasstated that it was a mistake for Syriza to have “demonized” the word “memorandum.”

Syriza MP Makis Balaouras recently claimed that “austerity is not in Syriza’s DNA.” Economist Rania Antonopoulou, who holds the ironic portfolio of “alternate minister for combating unemployment,” recently wrote in the Syriza-owned Avgi newspaper that “the third memorandum has strengthened Greece’s position.” Nikos Xydakis, the foreign minister, recently said that Greece has renounced much of its national sovereignty. In a “let ‘em eat cake” moment, Deputy Minister for Social Solidarity Theano Fotiou remarkedthat “stuffed peppers could feed an entire family.” The start of the football season has been postponed, purportedly to stamp out corruption stemming from the same “oligarchs” who received television licenses.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has proposed the construction of a NATO base in the southern Aegean island of Karpathos, while German-owned Fraport is preparing to install a new €13 per passenger tax at the regional airports it now controls. Over the summer, the government proudly proclaimed the “loosening” of stifling capital controls—as the restriction on bank withdrawals was changed from a €420 weekly limit, to an €840 cap every two weeks. Do the math. Schools go without janitorial staffs, university restrooms without toilet paper.

All of this while there is nary a thought of departing the eurozone or following the example of British votersand waving goodbye to the EU. The signs were there about Syriza, its neoliberal tendencies, and the ensuing betrayal of its pre-election promises. Some warned about Syriza again, and again, and again, but those warnings fell on deaf ears.

Most of the world celebrated Syriza’s victory in January 2015, while “leftist” media outlets and commentators ranging from Democracy Now! to Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and others, have long forgotten about Greece or have excused away Syriza’s betrayal as simply the result of being “bullied” and “blackmailed” by the EU—which Greece must nevertheless remain a part of at “all costs.”

In this modern-day debt colony the “leftist” government has demonstrated an astonishing arrogance in not only violating its pre-election promises and July 2015 referendum result, and agreeing to a third—and the most onerous to date—austerity program, but also continuing to pretend that it is acting in a “leftist” and “progressive” manner.

All the while, it’s keeping Greece firmly shackled to the chains of the EU, eurozone, and IMF, while the Greek people seemingly have lost their pluck, devoid of any fight, resigned to their EU shackles.

 

michael-120x120ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Nevradakis  

Michael Nevradakis is a PhD candidate in media studies at University of Texas, Austin and a US Fulbright Scholar presently based in Athens, Greece.

Sep 112016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

imperialism_usa

US empire building depends on regional regimes’ support, especially in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. These proxy regimes fulfill valuable military roles securing control over neighboring regions, populations and territory.

In recent times, however, we witness the same proxies developing their own tendency toward expansionist policies – in pursuit of their own mini-empires.

Client regimes with local or regional ambitions now present Washington with new points of contention. At a time when the US empire has been forced to retrench or retreat in the face of its prolonged losses, a whole new set of conflicts have emerged. The post-imperial war zones are the new focus. Often, imperial client regimes take the initiative in confronting their regional adversaries. In other cases, competing proxies will brush aside their US ‘mentors’ and advance their own territorial ambitions.

The break-up of the US-dominated empire, far from ending wars and conflicts, will almost certainly lead to many local wars under the pretext of ‘self-determination’, or ‘self-defense’ or protecting one’s ethnic brethren – like Ankara’s sudden concern for the Turkmen in Syria.

We will examine a few of the most obvious case studies.

The Middle East: Turkish-Kurdish-Syrian Conflict

Over the past years, the Turkish regime has been in the forefront in the war to overthrow the secular nationalist Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

The Turks acted as proxies for the US – providing military bases, supplies, training and protection, as well as the point of entry, for overseas Islamist terrorist-mercenaries acting on behalf of Washington’s imperial ambitions.

As the ‘independent’ Islamist threat (ISIS) gained territory, targeting US objectives, Washington increasingly turned to its allied, mostly secular, Kurdish fighters. Washington’s Kurdish proxies took over territory from both the anti-US Islamists as well as the Syrian national government – as part of their own long-standing ethno-nationalist agenda.

Turkey saw Kurdish victories in northern Syria as a rallying point for autonomous Kurdish forces within Turkey. President Erdogan intervened militarily – sending tanks, warplanes and tens of thousands of troops into Syria, launching a war of extermination against the US-proxy Syrian Kurds! The Turkish invasion has advanced, taking Syrian territory, under the phony pretext of combating ‘ISIS’. In fact, Turkey has created a wide, colonial ‘safe zone’ to control the Kurds.

The Obama regime in Washington complained but was totally unwilling to intervene as the Turks drove the Kurds out of their northern Syrian home in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing. Thus, Turkish-Kurdish-Syrian warfare has broken out and the terms, conditions and outcome are well beyond US control.

The US quest for an imperial puppet regime in Syria has flopped: instead, Turkey gobbled up Syrian land, the Kurds resisted the Turks for national-self-determination instead of driving out the Islamist mercenaries and Damascus faces an additional threat to its national sovereignty.

This brutal regional war, started largely by the US and Saudi Arabia, will expose the extent to which the US-Middle East Empire has shrunk.

Asia: Japan, Vietnam, Philippine and China Conflict

The US Empire in Asia has seen the making and unmaking of proxy states. After WWII, the US incorporated Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand as proxy states in an effort to strangle and conquer China, North Korea and Vietnam.

More recently India, Vietnam and Myanmar have joined the US in its new militarist scheme to encircle China.

Central to the Obama-Clinton ‘Pivot to Asia’ is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a singular effort to ‘unify’ Asian nations under US control in order to isolate and diminish China’s role in Asia.

The original, post-WW2 proxies, South Korea, Philippines and Japan provided military bases, troops, material and logistic support. Vietnam, the newest ‘proxy-on-the-block’, welcomes Pentagon weapons aimed at China – despite the millions of Vietnamese deaths during the US war in Indochina.

While most of the Asian proxies continue to pay lip service to Washington’s ‘Sinophobic agenda’, many do so on their own terms: they are reluctant to provoke China’s economic wrath through Washington’s policy of direct confrontation. During the recent ASEAN Conference in Laos (2016), nations resisted Washington’s pressure to denounce China despite the ‘international court’ ruling against Beijing’s South China Sea maritime claims. The US’ ability to influence events through its Europe-based ‘international tribunals’ seems to have waned. The US cannot implement its own transpacific economic ‘blockade’ strategy (TPP) because of both domestic and external resistance. Meanwhile, new proxy relations have emerged.

The proxy-stooges in Tokyo face growing anti-proxy opposition from the Japanese people over their nation’s role as a glorified US airbase. As a result Tokyo carefully pursues its own anti-China strategy by forming deeper economic links to new or minor proxy states in Indo-China, the Philippines and Myanmar. In the course of developing its relations with these weaker proxy regimes, Japan is actually laying the ground for autonomous economic and military policies independent of the US.

Notably, the Philippines under its new President Détente, seeks to accommodate relations with China, even as its neo-colonial proxy military relations with Washington remain in place. The Western media kerfuffle over Duterte’s ‘colorful’ language and ‘human rights’ policies masks Washington’s imperial disapproval with his independent foreign policy toward China.

While India grows closer ties with the US and even offers military co-operation with the Pentagon, it is signing even greater Chinese investment and trade agreements – anxious to enter the enormous China market.

In other words, Washington’s Asian proxies have (1) widened their own reach, (2) defined autonomous spheres of action and (3) have downgraded US efforts to impose trade agreements.

Symptomatic of the decay of US ‘proxy power’ is the ‘disinclination’ among Washington’s clients to express overt hostility to Beijing. In frustration, the Washington-New York financial mouthpieces (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal) provide bully pulpits for the most obscure, marginal characters, including a minor Hong Kong politician, a decrepit exiled Tibetan ‘holy man’ and a gaggle of Uighur terrorists!

Washington’s Ephemeral Proxies in Latin America

One of the most striking aspects of US empire-building is the ease with which it has secured proxies in Latin America … and how quickly they are undermined!

Over the past three decades the US propped up proxy military regimes, which were overthrown and replaced by independent governments in the last decade. These are currently being replaced by a new wave of neo-liberal proxies – a motley collection of corrupt thugs and elite clowns incapable of establishing a sustainable imperial-centered region.

A proxy-based empire is a contradiction in terms. The Latin American proxies are too dependent on outside support, lacking mass internal popularity and roots. Their very neoliberal economic and social policies are unable to stimulate the industrial development required grow the economy. The Latin American proxies are mere predators, devoid of historical entrepreneurial skills of the Japanese and the disciplined nationalist ideology of the Turks.

In that sense, the Latin American proxies more closely resemble the Philippine ruling oligarchy: They preach submission and breed subversion. Proxy instability and policy shifts emerge as powerful forces to challenge the US empire – whether the Chinese in Asia or domestic internal conflicts – like the Trump phenomenon in the US.

Conclusion

Imperial wars continue … but so does an upsurge in domestic instability, mass rejection of imperial policies, regional conflicts and national wars. The decline of the empire threatens to bring on an era of intra-proxy wars – multiple conflicts, which may or may not benefit the US empire. The war of the few against the many is becoming the war of the many against the many. But what are the choices in the face of such historic shifts?

Only the emergence of truly class-conscious organized mass movements can offer a positive response to the coming deluge.

_______________

Please see James Petras latest book: The end of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireClarity Press 2016 ISBN 978-0-9972870-5-9

Sep 092016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Big six: Tax woes

Big six: Tax woes

Introduction

Large-scale political and economic challenges are confronting the US multi-national corporate elite. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Pfizer and scores of other multinational tax evaders are facing the triple threat of multi-billion dollar fines, the redistribution of their wealth and the possible reintroduction of equitable socio-economic programs, which could undermine their power.

Washington-backed exporters and financiers, eager to impose free trade agreements on European and Asian business classes, have been faced with stiff resistance and outright rejection.

In Latin America, the Obama administration recently installed neo-liberal regimes in Argentina and Brazil, provoking massive opposition from small and medium sized firms driven into bankruptcy by their harsh policies.

Intense intra-capitalist rivalries are no longer confined to the conference table: Open warfare, involving large-scale transfers of capital, has undermined the foundation of international capitalist class solidarity. While working class movements and mass protests still occur, the fundamental internal capitalist antagonism toward the US Empire has become the driving force of the current upheavals.

We will identify the alignment of forces and the implications of these challenges to the power and wealth of the multi-national corporations. We will then highlight the break-up of the free trade treaties and the demise of US dominance in Europe and Asia. In the final section, we will focus on the rise and decline of the latest US interventions to subordinate Latin America to its domination, starting with the legislative coup in Brazil and the conflicts in Argentina.

The European Commission and Apple ‘s Tax Evasion

The European Commission (EC) imposed an initial $13 billion penalty on the Apple Corporation for tax evasion – with tens of billions of more fines to come. The EC announced that Apple’s ridiculous 0.005% corporate tax rate in Ireland was a form of theft, exposing its phony posture as a defender of human rights and a paragon of corporate social responsibility. Scores of the biggest US multi-nationals have set-up overseas operations, especially in Ireland, specifically to avoid paying taxes. These include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Pfizer and scores of others among the   ‘Fortune five hundred’.

Apple’s multi-billion-dollar tax scams were possible because of support from the US Treasury, Commerce and Trade Departments. Indeed, Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, launched a tirade against the European Commission, threatening retaliation, claiming that these US tax swindles were vital to the security of world trade. Wall Street flunky, Senator Charles Schumer called the EU penalty ‘a cheap money grab’ and threatened to start a trade war with Europe if the Democrats regain power in the upcoming Senatorial and Congressional elections.

The entire US imperial edifice operates through corrupt multi-national corporate tax swindlers who control and direct their politician stooges who, in turn, intimidate, submissiveEuropean regimes (like Ireland). The system is now being challenged by rival European economic powers intent on reducing the US tax advantages to increase their competitiveness. The growing competition over profits, markets and tax receipts has important political implications as the US dominance of Europe depends on the supremacy of its multi-nationals.

US taxpayers subsidize the US multi-nationals even when they relocate jobs abroad to cheap labor markets and move their corporate head offices to low-tax countries. The result is that the US government has to increase the tax burden on wage- salaried workers and small businesspeople to finance social programs and critical infrastructure because the US multinationals have moved their ‘addresses’ to tax havens.

As Europe tightens the squeeze on the US billionaire tax fraudsters, Washington will retaliate by mobilizing its own stable of European flunkies and the ever-compliant US Senators. Capitalist warfare may increase ‘nationalist’ rancor and undermine Atlantic trade treaties.

The End of Atlantic and Pacific Trade Agreements

In demanding an end to negotiations with the US over the trans-Atlantic trade deal, the French minister for foreign trade summed up his country’s position: “There is no political support from France for those negotiations . . . the Americans give nothing or just crumbs”. Throughout Europe politicians of the Left and Right have pointed out that closer ties with the US undermine their business deals with Russia and China, dilute environmental protection and abolish workers’ rights.

Parallel developments are taking place in Asia with regard to the trans-Pacific trade deal: The US has failed to convince Asian countries to sign bilateral and multilateral trade pacts designed to exclude China.

Asia’s increasing use of China’s currency (the renminbi) shows that the Anglo-American bloc has declined as the center of foreign exchange markets and trade. The US no longer dominates Asia: Even its former colony, the Philippines, has made overtures to China. Cambodia has granted China extended use of a deep-water port, strengthening Beijing’s position as the dominant maritime power in Asia. The US ally, Australia increasingly depends on trade with Beijing. China’s mix of public-private capitalism has out-muscled the US in Asian markets while deepening its trade links with Russia, Iran, the Gulf States, Africa and Latin America.

To the extent that international capitalism has ‘recovered’ from the economic crisis of the recent past, it is thanks to Chinese–Asia capitalism. The policy failures of the US Treasury, Commerce and Trade departments have led to calls for protectionism – domestically with the Trump campaign – and growing militarism among both candidates.

Increasingly the struggle for world markets among regional capitalist blocs- Anglo-American, European and Sino-Asian –defines the nature of global instability.

Latin America: The Rebellion of the Middle Class

On the surface, Washington and Wall Street have gained some important political victories: In Argentina, the Mauricio Macri regime has imposed an economic agenda totally in line with Washington’s free trade demands. In Brazil, Washington successfully promoted the legislative coup impeaching the center-left government of President Dilma Rousseff and installing the corrupt Vice President Temer. The proxy regime is dedicated to de-nationalizing and privatizing strategic, lucrative sectors of the economy.

In Venezuela, Washington’s proxies who have gained control of the congress are organizing to oust the left-of-center Maduro government through street protests, sabotage and the hoarding of vital commodities.

Nevertheless the image of middle class and local capitalist support for Washington’s agenda is proving ephemeral. Once installed at the top, the US-backed local proxies are rapidly imposing brutal austerity policies that undermine middle class and, of course, working class support.

After merely nine months in power, Argentine President Macri and his Washington backers face open opposition from the entire range of small and medium size businesses.

Inflation and deflation, utility price increases of 400% to 1000% have bankrupted at least a fourth of small-scale commercial and medium-size business firms in Argentina. Thousands have massed in the streets. On September 2, a broad based multi-class demonstration of several hundred thousand took over the famous Plaza de Mayo in the center of Buenos Aires to denounce Macri’s devastating neo-liberal agenda.

Similar mass actions are erupting in Brazil, as the US-backed Temer regime slashes government budget subsidies, credit and public investments. His public approval rating (never high because of his own corruption) has dropped to a single digit.

In a short time the business class has become deeply divided between the top tier, linked to international capital, and the middle and lower tiers. The initial consensus opposing the left-populist government has rapidly disintegrated while the unity of the capitalist class has collapsed.

Conclusion

In the current phase of global capitalism, the most striking socio-economic dynamics are located in the deepening intra-capitalist conflicts between regions, nations and among segments of the capitalist class. The ideologues of capitalist globalization and  regional integration are finally exposed as false prophets. Attempts by the US to impose a new world order that subordinates Europe and Asia have failed; the US now faces internal dissension, notably in US Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘American First’ campaign, pressing for ‘national solutions’.

The European capitalist elite is now only willing to collaborate with Washington where US-Europe trade agreements can be mutually beneficial – they openly reject being reduced to ‘reaping crumbs.’ National capitalism has emerged as the new reality on both sides of the Atlantic and across the globe in Asia, as China emerges as the dominant economic force in the region. China’s quest to secure global markets and investment sites has set in motion rival nationalist alignments, which threaten US regional power.

Rebellions by capitalist political elites are the ‘new norm’ everywhere. Multi-national rivalries over tax evasion and its consequences are leading to ‘tit-for-tat’ reprisals, which can rupture historical ties.

Latin American capitalist triumphs over the left are short-lived, as the different segments engage in violent divisions and realignments.

The ultra-militarist US is incapable of establishing a stable world capitalist order under its direction. Instead, we now find a multiplicity of capitals and competing state regimes with subordinate and divided segments of the capitalist class. Trans-Atlantic and Pacific unity fractures, and each sub-region seeks its own socio-economic partners. Trade talks cease and acrimony reigns.

Given the US total reliance on military-driven empire building, this post-imperial emergence of national and class rivalries is more likely to lead to war than to a new just social order.

Aug 292016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

#yankeegohome

#YankeeGOHome

Introduction

The Financial Times editorial page carries a logo that proclaims: “Without fear and without favor”. Indeed the editors have shown no fear when it comes to . . .  fabricating lies, promoting imperial wars decimating countries and impoverishing millions, whether in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and now Venezuela. The fearless “Lies of Our Times” have been at the forefront forging pretexts for inciting imperial armies to crush independent governments.

Despite its pretentious scribblers and prestigious claims, the FT is seen by the Anglo-American financial class as a belligerent purveyor of militarist policies designed for the most retrograde sectors of the ruling elite.

What is most striking about the FT fearless fabrications on behalf of imperial militarism is how often their political and economic prognostications have been incompetent and flat out wrong.

For the past ten years, the FT editorial pages have described  China in economic crisis and heading for a fall, while in reality, the Chinese economy has grown at between eight and six percent a year.

For over a decade and a half, the FT editors claimed Russia under President Vladimir Putin presented an international existential threat to ‘the West’. In fact, it was the ‘Western’ armies of NATO, which expanded military operations to the borders of Russia, the US, which financed a neo-fascist coup in Kiev and the US-EU which promoted an Islamist uprising in Syria designed to totally undermine Russia’s influence and relations in the Middle East.

The FT’s economic gurus and its leading columnists prescribed the very catastrophic deregulatory formulas which precipitated the financial crash of 2008-09, after which they played the clownish role of “Mickey the Dunce” – blaming others for the failed policies.

The fearless FT scribes are currently leading a virulent propaganda campaign to promote the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro.

This essay will identify the FT’s latest pack of fearless lies and fabrications and then conclude by analyzing the political consequences for Venezuela and other independent regimes.

The Financial Times and Venezuela: From War in the Suites to Terror in the Streets

In covering the crisis in Venezuela, the FT has systematically ignored the ongoing campaign of assaults and assassinations against elected officials, security officers, military and police who have been murdered by the FT’s favored ‘opposition’.

The FT did not cover the horrific murders of an elected Chavista congresswoman and her two young children, who were executed (shot in the head) in broad daylight by opposition-paid hitmen.

These ongoing opposition terror campaigns against the elected government and the general public are systematically ignored in the FTs ‘reports’ and on its editorial pages, which focus more on the shortages of consumer items.

The FT cover-up of rightwing terror extended to inventing a ‘possible’ army or National Guard plan to open fire on opposition demonstrators. In this case, the FT anticipated rightwing violence by laying the blame on the government in advance.

The FT covers-up the opposition business elite’s campaign of hoarding essential goods to create artificial shortages and panic buying. They deny the ongoing price gouging and pin the blame for shortages and long consumer lines exclusively on ‘regime mismanagement’.

The FT conveniently omits to mention that the decline in world oil prices has affected not only the economy of Venezuela but all countries dependent on commodity exports, including the Financial Times favorite neo-liberal regimes in Brazil and Argentina.

The Financial Times cites bogus ‘opinion’ polls, which wildly exaggerate the government’s declining popularity: In the recent elections Maduro’s supporters secured 40% of the popular vote while the FT claims his support to be 7%!

US client regimes (Mexico, Peru, and Colombia) are the largest producers of illegal drugs and US banks are the largest launderers for narco-money. Yet the FT reports on “Venezuela’s role as a conduit for illegal drugs smuggled north to the US and east into Brazil, Africa and thence to Europe”. Drug enforcement experts all agree that Colombia, home to seven US military bases and with a regime closely linked to paramilitary-narco gangs, is the source of drugs smuggled through Venezuela. That Venezuela has become a victim of the violent Colombian narco-trade is never acknowledged by the elegant City of London pen-prostitutes.

The FT blames the re-emergence of ‘malaria and  other possible diseases’ on the leftist Maduro government. In fact the recent ‘malaria outbreak’ (also cited by the New York Timespropagandists) is based on a single illegal gold miner.

The FT ignores how the US- backed neoliberal regimes in Argentina and Brazil, which rule by presidential decree, have slashed public health programs setting the stage for much greater public health crises.

The Financial Times: Big Lies for Mass Murder

The Financial Times is waging an all-out propaganda war with one goal: To incite the violent seizure of power in Venezuela by US political clients.

In line with the Obama-Clinton ‘regime-change by any means’ policies, the FT paints a deceptive picture of Venezuela facing ‘multiple crises’, representing a ‘destabilizing’ threat to the hemisphere, and on the brink of a global ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Armed with these deadly clichés, the FT editorial pages demand “a new government soon and certainly before the 2018 elections”.

Recently, the FT proposed a phony legal gimmick – a recall referendum. However, since the opposition cannot initiate the vote in time to oust the elected President Maduro, the FT calls for “events which precipitate changes sooner” – a violent coup!

FT’s scenarios aim to precipitate a violent rightwing “march”, eventually provoking civil bloodshed in early September of this year.

The FT expects that “blood in Caracas will require an active Latin America response”(sic). In other words, the FT hopes that a US-backed military invasion from neighboring Colombia would help eliminate the Chavistas and install a rightist regime.

The Financial Times, which actively promoted the NATO-led destruction of the government in Libya, now calls for a US-led invasion of Venezuela. Never ones to re-assess their promotion of  ‘regime change’, the FT now calls for a violent coup in Venezuela, which will exceed that of Libya in terms of the loss of thousands of Venezuelan lives and  the brutal reversal of a decade of significant socio-economic progress.

Without fear and without favor”, the FT  speaks for imperial wars everywhere.

Conclusion

The US presidential elections take place just as the Obama-Clinton regime prepares to intervene in Venezuela. Using bogus ‘humanitarian’ reports of  widespread hunger, disease, violence and instability, the Obama will still need Venezuelan thugs to provoke enough violent street violence to trigger an’ invitation’ for  Washington’s Latin American military partners to ‘intervene’ under the auspices of the UN or OAS.

If  ‘successful’, a rapid overthrow of the elected government in Caracas could be presented as a victory for Hilary Clinton’s campaign, and an example of her policy of ‘humanitarian-military interventions’ around the world.

However, if Obama’s allied invasion does not produce a quick and easy victory, if the Venezuelan people and armed forces mount a prolonged and courageous defense of their government and if US lives are lost in what could turn into a popular war of resistance, then Washington’s intervention could ultimately discredit the Clinton campaign and her ‘muscular’ foreign policy. The American electorate might finally decide against four more years of losing wars and losing lives.  No thanks to the ‘fearless’ Financial Times.

The hashtag #YankeeGoHome has gone viral. – Photo: Twitter

The hashtag #YankeeGoHome has gone viral. – Photo: Twitter

Aug 242016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Luka Robotics - While the US has spent trillions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

Luka Robotics – While the US has spent trillions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

Introduction

China and the United States are moving in polar opposite directions: Beijing is rapidly becoming the center of overseas investments in high tech industries, including robotics, nuclear energy and advanced machinery with collaboration from centers of technological excellence, like Germany.

In contrast, Washington is pursuing a predatory military pivot to the least productive regions with collaboration from its most barbaric allies, like Saudi Arabia.

China is advancing to global economic superiority by borrowing and innovating the most advance methods of production, while the US degrades and debases its past immense productive achievements to promote wars of destruction.

China’s growing prominence is the result of a cumulative process that advanced in a systematic way, combining step-by-step growth of productivity and innovation with sudden jumps up the ladder of cutting edge technology.

China’s Stages of Growth and Success

China has moved from a country, highly dependent on foreign investment in consumer industries for exports, to an economy, based on joint public-private investments in higher value exports.

China’s early growth was based on cheap labor, low taxes and few regulations on multi-national capital. Foreign capital and local billionaires stimulated growth, based on high rates of profit. As the economy grew, China’s economy shifted toward increasing its indigenous technological expertise and demanding greater ‘local content’ for manufactured goods.

By the beginning of the new millennium China was developing high-end industries, based on local patents and engineering skills, channeling a high percentage of investments into civilian infrastructure, transportation and education.

Massive apprenticeship programs created a skilled labor force that raised productive capacity. Massive enrollment in science, math, computer science and engineering universities provided a large influx of high-end innovators, many of whom had gained expertise in the advanced technology of overseas competitors.

China’s strategy has been based on the practice of borrowing, learning, upgrading and competing with the most advanced economics of Europe and the US.

By the end of the last decade of the 20th century, China was in a position to move overseas. The accumulation process provided China with the financial resources to capture dynamic overseas enterprises.

China was no longer confined to investing in overseas minerals and agriculture in Third World countries. China is looking to conquer high-end technological sectors in advanced economics.

By the second decade of the 21st century Chinese investors moved into Germany, Europe’s most advanced industrial giant. During the first 6 months of 2016 Chinese investors acquired 37 German companies, compared with 39 in all of 2015. China’s total investments in Germany for 2016 may double to over $22 billion dollars.

In 2016, China successfully bought out KUKA, Germany’s most innovative engineering company. China’s strategy is to gain superiority in the digital future of industry.

China is rapidly moving to automate its industries, with plans to double the robot density of the US by the year 2020.

Chinese and Austrian scientists successfully launched the first quantum-enabled satellite communication system which is reportedly ‘hack proof’, ensuring China’s communications security.

While China’s global investments proceed to dominate world markets, the US, England and Australia have been trying to impose investment barriers. By relying on phony ‘security threats’, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May blocked a multi-billion dollar Chinese investment-heavy nuclear plant (Hinckley Point C). The pretext was the spurious claim that China would use its stake to “engage in energy blackmail, threatening to turn off the power in the event of international crises”.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment has blocked several multi-billion dollar Chinese investments in high tech industries.

In August 2016 Australia blocked an $8 billion-dollar purchase of a controlling stake in its biggest electricity distribution network on specious claims of ‘national security’.

The Anglo-American and German empires are on the defensive. They increasingly cannot compete economically with China, even in defending their own innovative industries.

In large part this is the result of their failed policies. Western economic elite have increasingly relied on short-term speculation in finance, real estate and insurance, while neglecting their industrial base.

Led by the US, their reliance on military conquests (militaristic empire-building) absorb public resources, while China has directed its domestic resources toward innovative and advanced technology.

To counter China’s economic advance, the Obama regime has implemented a policy of building economic walls at home, trade restrictions abroad and military confrontation in the South China Seas – China’s strategic trade routes.

US officials have ratcheted up their restrictions on Chinese investments in high tech US enterprises including a $3.8 billion investment in Western Digital and Philips attempt to sell its lighting business. The US blocked ‘Chen China’s planned $44 billion takeover of Swiss chemical group ‘Syngenta’.

US officials are doing everything possible to stop innovative billion dollar deals that include China as a strategic partner.

Accompanying its domestic wall, the US has been mobilizing an overseas blockade of China via its Trans-Pacific-Partnership, which proposes to exclude Beijing from participating in the ‘free trade zone’ with a dozen North America, Latin American and Asian members. Nevertheless, not a single member-nation of the TPP has cut back its trade with China. On the contrary, they are increasing ties with China – an eloquent comment on Obama’s skill at ‘pivoting’.

While the ‘domestic economic wall’ has had some negative impacts on particular Chinese investors, Washington has failed to dent China’s exports to US markets. Washington’s failure to block China’s trade has been even more damaging to Washington’s effort to encircle China in Asia and Latin America, Oceana and Asia.

Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Taiwan, Cambodia and South Korea depend on Chinese markets far more than on the US to survive and grow.

While Germany, faced with China’s dynamic growth, has chosen to ‘partner’ and share, up-scale productive investments, Washington has opted to form military alliances to confront China.

The US bellicose military alliance with Japan has not intimidated China. Rather it has downgraded their domestic economies and economic influence in Asia.

Moreover, Washington’s “military pivot” has deepened and expanded China’s strategic links to Russia’s energy sources and military technology.

While the US spends hundreds of billions in military alliances with the backward Baltic client-regimes and the parasitical Middle Eastern states, (Saudi Arabia, Israel), China accumulates strategic expertise from its economic ties with Germany, resources from Russia and market shares among Washington’s ‘partners’ in Asia and Latin America.

There is no question that China, following the technological and productive path of Germany, will win out over the US’s economic isolationist and global militarist strategy.

If the US has failed to learn from the successful economic strategy of China, the same failure can explain the demise of the progressive regimes in Latin America.

China’s Success and the Latin American Retreat

After more than a decade of growth and stability, Latin America’s progressive regimes have retreated and declined. Why has China continued on the path of stability and growth while their Latin American partners retreated and suffered defeats?

Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, for over a decade, served as Latin America’s center-left success story. Their economies grew, social spending increased, poverty and unemployment were reduced and worker incomes expanded.

Subsequently their economies went into crisis, social discontent grew and the center-left regimes fell.

In contrast to China, the Latin American center-left regimes did not diversify their economies: they remained heavily dependent on the commodity boom for growth and stability.

The Latin American elites borrowed and depended on foreign investment, and financial capital, while China engaged in public investments in industry, infrastructure, technology and education.

Latin American progressives joined with foreign capitalist and local speculators in non-productive real estate speculation and consumption, while China invested in innovative industries at home and abroad. While China consolidated political rulership, the Latin American progressives “allied” with strategic domestic and overseas multi-national adversaries to ‘share power’, which were, in fact, eagerly prepared to oust their “left” allies.

When the Latin commodity based economy collapsed, so did the political links with their elite partners. In contrast, China’s industries benefited from the lower global commodity prices, while Latin America’s left suffered. Faced with widespread corruption, China launched a major campaign purging over 200,000 officials. In Latin America, the Left ignored corrupt officials, allowing the opposition to exploit the scandals to oust center-left officials.

While Latin America imported machinery and parts from the West; China bought the entire Western companies producing the machines and their technology – and then implemented Chinese technological improvements.

China successfully outgrew the crisis, defeated its adversaries and proceeded to expand local consumption and stabilized rulership.

Latin America’s center-left suffered political defeats in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, lost elections in Venezuela and Bolivia and retreated in Uruguay.

Conclusion

China’s political economic model has outperformed the imperialist West and leftist Latin America. While the US has spent billions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” has been largely a wasteful military strategy to encircle and intimidate China, Beijing’s “pivot to markets” has successfully enhanced its economic competitiveness. As a result, over the past decade, China’s growth rate is three times that of the US; and in the next decade China will double the US in ‘robotizing’ its productive economy.

The US ‘pivot to Asia’, with its heavy dependence on military threats and intimidation has cost billions of dollars in lost markets and investments. China’s ‘pivot to advanced technology’ demonstrates that the future lies in Asia not the West. China’s experience offers lessons for future Latin American leftist governments.

First and foremost, China emphasizes the necessity of balanced economic growth, over and above short-term benefits resulting from commodity booms and consumerist strategies.

Secondly, China demonstrates the importance of professional and worker technical education for technological innovation, over and above business school and non-productive ‘speculative’ education so heavily emphasized in the US.

Thirdly, China balances its social spending with investment in core productive activity; competitiveness and social services are combined.

China’s enhanced growth and social stability, its commitment to learning and surpassing advanced economies has important limitations, especially in the areas of social equality and popular power. Here China can learn from the experience of Latin America’s Left. The social gains under Venezuela’s President Chavez are worthy of study and emulation; the popular movements in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, which ousted neo-liberals from power, could enhance efforts in China to overcome the business- state nexus of pillage and capital flight.

China, despite its socio-political and economic limitations, has successfully resisted US military pressures and even ‘turned the tables’ by advancing on the West.

In the final analysis, China’s model of growth and stability certainly offers an approach that is far superior to the recent debacle of the Latin American Left and the political chaos resulting from Washington’s quest for global military supremacy.

Aug 182016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

syrian-rebels-2

For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.

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Open letter to William Blum by SnakeArbusto:

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Bill, I’m one of the people who were sure that you couldn’t be the one who wrote your post entitled “Warning! What follows is very politically incorrect.” I’ve read all your books and follow your Web posts and had the pleasure and privilege of hearing you speak and meeting you once. And this just didn’t sound like you. And I’ve just read your follow-up entitled “Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought.” In these posts you accuse us, your readers, of being blinded by something called “political correctness” to the point where we refuse to admit the evil of “radical Islamic terrorism.”

In my own defense and that of my fellow readers and admirers of your work, I have to take exception to your accusation of “political correctness.” What’s called “political correctness,” to define it in a way I think we can agree on, is an attempt to use language to disguise a reality whose existence we’re unwilling to recognize. Or to be more exact, to avoid using the actual word or term that designates that reality, since the use of that word or term would be offensive to certain groups, and instead use other words or terms that are less offensive. Needless to say, what is truly offensive is the reality in question and not the terms used to describe it, even if the use of a certain word can be hurtful in itself.

But what is the reality we, your readers who are guilty of political correctness, are avoiding? According to you, that there is an organized “armed forces of Islam” that is attacking our Western societies and needs to be destroyed using “Western military and economic power.” You say we’re unwilling to admit that those forces exist, or if we do admit it we justify terror attacks like the one in Nice, or atrocities like the beheading of an ailing 11-year-old, as retaliation for the horrors that Western military and economic power has inflicted on the people of the world for so many decades.

Nobody denies that there’s such a thing as radical Islamism. But what your last two posts boil down to is that They are different from us. We’re bad, but we don’t do what they do. Sure, we firebombed Tokyo and dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; since then we’ve continued devastating the world from a distance – dropping napalm and white phosphorus on people, scattering antipersonnel mines and depleted uranium and Agent Orange all over their countries, letting people slowly die from diseases we control the medications for because we’ve decided it’s politically expedient. And sure, recently we’ve allowed the fact that we actually torture people to peep through all the Shinola about how we’re Not Like That.

But I don’t need to catalogue the evils the Empire has visited and continues to visit on the world, because as you so rightly point out, you literally wrote the book about them. And for generations to come your work will be the foundation for anyone who wants to unlearn, the way you have, the deep-seated metaprogramming all Americans are fed from the cradle on: That we mean well; that we are the champion of freedom and democracy; that we are the big, strong, quiet guy who wants no trouble with anybody but who just can’t stand around and see somebody smaller and weaker than himself get picked on. Let alone get their head sawn off. Sure, you say, We do all that. But We don’t do what They do. Our Boys and Girls don’t saw people’s heads off.

But in fact – and I know you know this, because I learned it from you – it IS Our Boys who are doing it. The US shadow government and the military-financial complex that’s behind it didn’t create the jihadist phenomenon – though it did come into being as a result of Western influence in the Islamic world. But We used it as a Cold War weapon, as you recount in the chapter on Afghanistan in Killing Hope and as others have reported. In your second post you acknowledge the nurturing of radical Islamists, but say that the United States never intended “to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.” Of course We didn’t. We never seem to foresee the consequences of our support for killers and rapists. All we see is the expediency. Let me quote you:

[…] At the beginning there had been some thought given to the morality of the policy. “The question here,” a senior official in the Carter administration said, “was whether it was morally acceptable that, in order to keep the Soviets off balance, which was the reason for the operation, it was permissible to use other lives for our geopolitical interests.”

But such sentiments could not survive. Afghanistan was a cold-warrior’s dream: The CIA and the Pentagon, finally, had one of their proxy armies in direct confrontation with the forces of the Evil Empire. There was no price too high to pay for this Super Nintendo game, neither the hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives, nor the destruction of Afghan society, nor three billion (sic) dollars of American taxpayer money poured into a bottomless hole, much of it going only to make a few Afghans and Pakistanis rich. […]

But aside from the short-term goal of  “giving the Soviets a dose of Vietnam,” Our support for jihadism had a more long-term payoff: creating the specter of Islamic Terrorism to serve as the Enemy we need to justify the existence of the most colossal and expensive military-industrial entity the world has ever seen.

Ever since the first army was formed, the people that army was supposed to be protecting have been propagandized to believe that there was an Enemy just across the border who would come and take their land and rape their women if they didn’t protect themselves against him. He was genetically programmed to dominate, to control. He put the idea of the Homeland above human life itself. He was not even really human. Both sides in every conflict were indoctrinated to believe the exact same things about the other side. In Europe a hundred years ago, the British and French were taught to hate the Hun. And in the USA, the modern advertising industry was born when Edward Bernays was called in to sell Americans the idea of participating in a war “Over There” against that inhuman Hun. Later, after the Second World War, we were told that that Enemy was bent on nothing short of global domination, and that his dedication to his beliefs was absolute, and that he was capable of any act, no matter how heinous, in order to achieve that domination. This time the Enemy was Communism. And we were programmed from the very cradle to believe in the threat. I’m a little younger than you, but I remember the drills in grammar school during the Cold War when we were taught to duck under our little desks in preparation for an attack by the Soviet Communists.

Why? The country was basically on a war economy, and that war economy had saved us from a depression. The military was the backbone of the reconstruction of our industries. What’s more, they were heroes who had saved Europe from Fascism. We elected one of those heroes President. Americans were willing to extend the military an unlimited line of credit. But we needed to “manufacture consent.” We needed an Enemy. And for 30 years or so Communism was that Enemy, and the advertising took on a life of its own. By the ’50s, with help from J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, who had realized the importance of the press and radio, and later television, the media, and the publishing and entertainment industries, and the schools and churches helped further the Great Lie. We were told over and over again that somehow these people were just not like us; they were capable of putting their ideology above all human feeling, above life itself. Once they had been won over by that inhuman ideology, they were unredeemable – they had become The Other. They were like creatures from outer space who had taken over the bodies of humans and were capable of continuing to act normally, but were devoid of all human feeling, ruthlessly bent on conquering Earth and the human race. In fact, many of the popular horror films of the ’50s used an invasion by extraterrestrials as a metaphor for the Communist threat. In one film, My Son John, the doyenne of American actresses, Helen Hayes, played a mother whose son is indoctrinated by Communists and who actually turns him, her own son, in – sends him to prison rather than see him lose his soul. All to help fight a Cold War that could have been avoided had the US been willing to share influence with the USSR. Both powers could have dismantled their military machines and turned their propaganda efforts toward solving the problems that affect the human race as a whole, rather than convincing their populations that the Enemy on the other side was out to destroy them.

But then came détente and the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, there was an uncomfortable void that needed to be filled. For a while, they tried to sell us the idea that our Enemy was “Instability.” But, according to a document called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” , what was needed was “…some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” And on September 11, 2001 we had that new Pearl Harbor. And we had our Enemy. That Enemy was just as ruthless, just as highly organized, just as dedicated to its ideology, just as international as the International Communist Conspiracy ever was. And that Enemy was just as determined to take over the world.

The Enemy is always depicted as ruthless and inhuman. The problem is that no human being or group of human beings, however you define that group and whatever name you put on it – even if it’s a “politically correct” name – is fundamentally evil. Just as no human being or group is fundamentally good. Because no human being or group of human beings is fundamentally different from any other. That is simply, as we used to say in the old days, a truth we hold to be self-evident. There is no force out there that plots to destroy Us because we’re good and they are evil. Does that mean there’s no such thing as evil? Of course not. And not even the most “politically correct” person will deny that the evil exists. But in insisting that there’s an evil out there that We can root out and destroy, and identifying it as ISIS or Radical Islamic Terrorism or the Armed Forces of Islam, you’re perpetuating the myth of that Enemy the Empire is so determined to get us to believe in.

So what is the real evil? There is a highly organized force, international in scope and totally committed to its beliefs to the point where it is capable of the most unimaginable evil, and that is bent on global domination. But that force is not the Hun, or Nazism, or Russian Communism or Radical Islamic Terrorism. Nobody knows better than you what it is: It’s the Empire itself. The shadow government of the United States of America and its allies and the military machine they have created. NATO. A colossal machine for occupying the planet and making it safe for business, while at the same time extracting wealth from citizens and toward a tiny financial elite. It eats up $895 billion of the $1.1 trillion the US government takes in from individual taxpayers every year, according to the Washington Post. It’s literally sucking the life blood out of the economy. Not to mention the harm it’s doing to the planet we live on. And not to mention the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, of innocent people who have died and who never wanted anything but to go about their lives in peace, and whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a place that was of geostrategic interest to the Empire. The same machine for world domination, with its all-pervasive propaganda tentacles, that you say is the antidote to ISIS.

But why are We bent on world domination? Is it because We’re just evil, as we’re told our Enemy is? Is it that greedy, unprincipled people are in control of our governments? No. World domination is simply the way we do business. Wealth as we define it is a blind, faceless force that moves toward concentration under its own power. No one individual makes the decision to do evil. We all do what we feel we need to do to survive, and once in a while we all have to make compromises. And as we move up the scale of success and power, those compromises begin to have more unfortunate consequences. But as long as we believe that our intentions are basically good, we don’t have to take full responsibility. We’re not fundamentally evil, as you suggest the jihadists are. We just don’t know any other way to perpetuate economic growth and concentration of wealth than to dominate – markets, but also land, resources, and populations. The so-called Free Market is only free for the power that dominates. And that domination is the source of the real evil. Your post refers to ISIS’s oil sales and financial transactions. If you look beyond their media portrayal as insane fanatics, you’ll realize that what the jihadists really want is to dominate sources of wealth. In other words, exactly what We do. Business. If they are the Enemy, then so are We.

I can’t argue with your recoiling in horror at people who are capable of acts like the mass slaughter in Nice, even in retaliation for the horrible acts that have been done to them. I won’t say that the firebombing of Tokyo or Hiroshima and Nagasaki or any of the evils the Empire has perpetrated since, or all of them collectively, are worse. But somehow a person committing a heinous act out of anger and hatred is not evil in the same way as a power that kills callously, without feeling, simply as a way of doing business, without any cruelty, with no hard feelings toward the people we’re killing from far away, as if they were characters in a video game. What inspires horror in me is a power that would just as soon kill you as dig a well in your village if it’s good for business.

Is there no alternative to the American Way? I would like to believe there is. So would the leaders of other countries – Russia, China, the BRICS countries – who believe in a multipolar world. But the military-financial complex, and the US economy and the large part of the world economy that depends on it, is bent on keeping a multipolar world from coming into being. And we in the “developed” countries are very attached to the comforts the American Way provides. We’re in this world domination thing too deep. So we’re preparing ourselves to believe that there can be a “kinder, gentler” form of world domination. We’re preparing to elect Hillary Clinton Leader of the Free World. But when Clinton says, in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, that in spite of what “other nations” may say, America intends to “Help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential,” you and I know that what she really means is that We plan to dominate even more populations and control even more territory and exploit even more resources and create and deploy even more weapons, and that the ultimate result of such an attitude will be more evil.

So, Bill, we “politically correct” readers are not shielding our eyes from the real nature of the evil that needs to be combated. We’re just asking you to look behind the media mask for the real face of that evil.

Aug 172016
 

By Banu Adiyaman, 99GetSmart

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

ISTANBUL — Enes Kanter, a center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was recently disowned by his family for following and backing the so-called cleric Fethullah Gülen after a small military junta linked to Gülen launched an attempted coup July 15 in Turkey. Kanter announced he has changed his name to Enes Gülen.

Kanter appears to be a young man simply finding shelter in a father figure in the U.S. The Gülen movement is very good and experienced at attracting and ensuring the loyalty of young people through their schools in Turkey and all over the world. Some say Gülen has given Kanter an incredible honor by comparing him with the Prophet Muhammad’s adopted child Zaid bin Harith, who did not leave Muhammad after his family wanted to take him back.

In reality, it is much easier for Kanter to continue following Gülen after the coup attempt because he does not live in Turkey. Gülen himself lives in Pennsylvania.

Harsh decisions

Since the coup attempt, Turkey has embarked on a massive purge of all elements linked to Gülen from a range of institutions, detaining or sacking tens of thousands of people. The number of people dismissed from governmental services is nearing 70,000 as of the writing of this article.

In light of this climate, people in Turkey are forced to choose their sides between the Gülen movement and the government very harshly nowadays. Simply being a secularist or having always openly denounced military coups and Gülen’s hizmet (“service”) movement — even when mutual affection between AKP and Gülen was at its warmest point — would still leave doubt in the government’s eyes as to your loyalties. Therefore, even if you prefer simply to abstain from the ruling authority’s current protests and demonstrations against the coup and its backers, you can still be stigmatized as a “coup supporter” or even a “traitor.”

This could be part of why Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, a lecturer at Medeniyet University, released a statement saying that his family condemned his son’s actions.

“We think that he was hypnotized and being used by Gülen. We are rejecting Enes and are asking him to change his surname. I apologize to the President [Erdogan] and the Turkish people for having such a child.”

Enes’ father’s position as a lecturer in a country in which almost 1,000 public and private university employees have been fired in a few months leaves little chance for his family to survive in Turkey if they had backed their son. Also, Mehmet’s claim that Enes is being used and deceived by Gülen likely has a base: the 24-year-old has invested in the so-called service movement, which was confirmed by recent hacking revealing Enes’ Twitter messages to a Turkish comedian linked to Gülen.

Gülen: Former political insider deemed ‘terrorist’

Since late October, Gülen has appeared on the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Turkey’s “most wanted terrorists” list, designated in the red category to indicate the highest threat level. Before earning such a dubious distinction, Gülen had close relationships with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and had many followers in the police, army, judiciary and the governmental system. However, Gülen’s increasing demands to share power with President Recep Tayip Erdogan led the way for tension between the two parties to reach a climax.

Given the background between Gülen and Erdogan, Kanter made headlines owing to his strong support for Gülen even after the coup attempt, and he drew widespread criticism for that — access to his Twitter account is still banned in Turkey. (Similarly, Turkish singer Sıla’s concerts have been canceled recently over her remarks about a “democracy” rally Aug. 7 in Istanbul, which she described as a “show” and where Erdogan hinted at the return of the death penalty in Turkey.)

What goes around …

Ideas don’t change overnight, but it is satisfying, to say the least, for one’s sense of justice to see that Gülenists can’t get away with all their bad karma after years of dominance and cronyism in the judiciary, the military, police organizations and ministries, eliminating non-Gülenist elements with unbelievably designed plots regardless of merit, experience and competence.

I hope karma will ensure what goes around comes around for others and allow us to be in the front row to see when they get theirs, too.

 

“IF YOU’RE REALLY A MEAN PERSON YOU’RE GOING TO COME BACK AS A FLY AND EAT POOP.”
― KURT COBAIN