Dec 022016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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What can go wrong?

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy?

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.”

On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • “the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • “stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • “The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • “Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • “Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • “Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • “a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

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

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

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

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

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

 

Oct 032016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

Cold War, today, tomorrow, every day till the end of the world.

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“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.”

That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?

But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy of condemnation by decent people everywhere – They want to stand in the way of American world domination. The nerve!

The first Cold War performed a lobotomy on Americans, replacing brain matter with anti-communist viral matter, producing more than 70 years of functional national stupidity.

For all of you who missed this fun event there’s good news: Cold War Two is here, as big and as stupid as ever. Russia and Vladimir Putin are repeatedly, and automatically, blamed for all manner of bad things. The story which follows the above Washington Post headline does not even bother to make up something that could pass for evidence of the claim. The newspaper just makes the claim, at the same time pointing out that “the intelligence community is not saying it has ‘definitive proof’ of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so.” But the page-one headline has already served its purpose.

Hillary Clinton in her debate with Donald Trump likewise accused Russia of all kinds of computer hacking. Even Trump, not usually a stickler for accuracy, challenged her to offer something along the lines of evidence. She had nothing to offer.

In any event, this is all a diversion. It’s not hacking per se that bothers the establishment; it’s the revelations of their lies that drives them up the wall. The hack of the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention disclosed a number of embarrassing internal emails, forcing the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

On September 12 we could read in the Post that a well-known physician had called for Clinton to be checked for possible poisons afer her collapse in New York. Said the good doctor: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. With those two all things are possible.”

Numerous other examples could be given here of the Post’s near-juvenile anti-Russian bias. One of the most common subjects has been Crimea. Moscow’s “invasion” of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in February 2014 is repeatedly cited as proof of Moscow’s belligerent and expansionist foreign policy and the need for Washington to once again feed the defense-budget monster. But we’re never reminded that Russia was reacting to a US-supported coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine on Russia’s border and replaced it with a regime in which neo-Nazis, complete with swastikas, feel very much at home. Russia “invaded” to assist Eastern Ukrainians in their resistance to this government, and did not even cross the border inasmuch as Russia already had a military base in Ukraine.

NATO (= USA) has been surrounding Russia for decades. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov captured the exquisite shamelessness of this with his remark of September 27, 2014: “Excuse us for our existence in the middle of your bases.”

By contrast here is US Secretary of State, John Kerry: “NATO is not a threat to anyone. It is a defensive alliance. It is simply meant to provide security. It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.” 1

NATO war games in these areas are frequent, almost constant. The encirclement of Russia is about complete except for Georgia and Ukraine. In June, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, shockingly accused NATO of “war-mongering” against Russia. How would the United States react to a Russian coup in Mexico or Canada followed by Russian military exercises in the same area?

Since the end of Cold War One, NATO has been feverishly searching for a reason to justify its existence. Their problem can be summed up with this question: If NATO had never existed what argument could be given now to create it?

The unmitigated arrogance of US policy in Ukraine was best epitomized by the now-famous remark of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, reacting to possible European Union objection to Washington’s role in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU”, she charmingly declared.

Unlike the United States, Russia does not seek world domination, nor even domination of Ukraine, which Moscow could easily accomplish if it wished. Neither did the Soviet Union set out to dominate Eastern Europe post-World War II. It must be remembered that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever; and that the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway.

The Washington Post’s campaign to depict Russia as the enemy is unrelenting. Again, on the 19th, we could read in the paper the following: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.”

Nothing, however, compares with President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (September 24, 2014) where he classified Russia to be one of the three threats to the world along with the Islamic State and ebola.

A war between nuclear-powered United States and nuclear- powered Russia is “unthinkable”. Except that American military men think about it, like Cold-War US General Thomas Power, speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.” 2

Responses from the Left to my attacks on radical Islam

It’s not my intention here to resume the heated discussion about my recent articles calling for the destruction of ISIS, which led numerous of my readers to criticize me, some 50 of whom asked to be removed from my mailing list, but I hope that many will find the following summary of their stated or implied objections of interest:

  1. They are religious enough to resent what they detect as my less-than-fervent religious bent.
  2. They refuse to acknowledge any Islamic motivation or context for ISIS, labeling ISIS as no more than US/Israeli/Saudi mercenaries – end of discussion. Or Salafi or Wahhabi sects – not really Islamic, they insist. Islam is thus spared from any contamination.
  3. They resent my not making a clear enough distinction between ISIS and Islam in general, being particularly annoyed by my use of the term “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism”. (I pointed out that the West commonly, and correctly, associated Stern/Irgun terrorism with Jews and IRA terrorism with Catholics.)For the record I am condemning those Muslims who engage in suicide bombings, stabbings and other acts of murderous jihad, those who extol and teach the glory and heavenly rewards for such acts, and those who preach that all non-Muslims are infidels and the enemy. In this context it’s no excuse to cite the various acts of horror carried out by the US or the West, particularly when the jihadists’ targets (restaurants, theatres, stores, passersby, etc.) usually have nothing at all to do with Western imperialism.
  4. They are annoyed that I don’t mention the usual list of US atrocities in the Middle East as being responsible for all of radical Islam’s horrors, which are seen as simple retaliation. (See part 3 above.)
  5. They hate US foreign policy even more than I do, a sentiment I hadn’t known was so common, or even possible.
  6. I supported the use of US military force against ISIS and their ilk, a terrible black mark against me inasmuch as such force is regarded by leftists as the original sin and cannot conceivably be used for a good end. But the US “accidental” bombing of Syrian troops September 16, killing and wounding about 160, clearly lends credence to my critics.

The US election

On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.” 3

So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.

The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.

“Qualified” is a word one hears often in this campaign. Hillary, we’re told, is eminently so, Donald is outstandingly un-. But what does the word mean in this context? If a candidate doesn’t share your opinion on most of the crucial issues, who cares if she or he is “qualified”? Conversely, if a candidate shares your opinion on most of the crucial issues, should you be concerned that she or he is “unqualified”?

Reason number 39,457 to give up on capitalism

Macy’s, one of the leading department stores in the United States, has announced it is closing 100 of its stores. Just think of all that was involved in creating each of those stores, from design and building to filling it with staff and goods; all soon to be gone, leaving empty shells of buildings, eyesores for the neighborhoods, thousands of lost jobs … all because a certain net-profit goal was not met.

Such a waste. So many empty stores, and at the same time so many unemployed people.

Not far from so many empty houses, and at the same time so many homeless people.

Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore the nation’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend “capitalism”?

Notes

  1. Washington Post, December 3, 2015
  2. Various online sources, see for example Thomas Power’s wikipedia entry
  3. Democracy Now!, June 9, 2016
Feb 172016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive interview with prominent international lawyer and University of Illinois professor of international law Francis Boyle. Boyle was part of the team of lawyers who charged George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the United States and United Kingdom governments with war crimes and torture in an international court, resulting in their conviction in absentia on these charges.

In this week’s interview, Boyle will discuss the aftermath of this case and conviction, the foreign policy of the United States and NATO and its impacts in the Middle East and elsewhere, the upcoming presidential election in the United States, other issues pertaining to international law and human rights, while Boyle also shares with us his analysis on Greece’s national debt and its memorandum agreements with the so-called troika, and what international law has to say about these issues.

In addition this week, we will air a special feature with music written and performed by Greek and international artists, in solidarity with the refugees fleeing the Middle East and the Greek people in the Aegean islands who have helped the incoming refugees. This music will be accompanied by soundbites from the artists themselves, discussing their inspiration in producing this new music. Plus, we will air our commentary of the week segment.

Tune in for all this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series! @ http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6002

Dec 162015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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What Makes Recep Run? The Making of a Modern Pasha

Erdoğan began his ascent to power as a social reformer in opposition to the power elite; he was a rabble-rouser for popular Islam and social welfare. Once he takes political power he enriches his family and the business elite and purges adversaries and rivals.

With political power and economic connections, he amasses personal wealth through illicit business transactions.

With political power and personal wealth, he seeks prestige and status among the Western elites by serving imperial interests: He shoots down a Russian military jet over Syrian territory and thereby threatens hundreds of Turkish businesses and loses a major source of personal enrichment. When the Russians threaten to cut off energy exports to Turkey, Erdoğan’s opponents suggest he heat his own palace and villas with cow dung this winter.

The Two Faces of Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a long and ignoble history of betraying political associates, trading partners and military allies; of pledging friendship and then bombing his ‘friends’ and murdering citizens; of negotiating ‘in good faith’ and then killing rivals; of playing democrat then behaving like an ordinary demagogic dictator.

Erdoğan appeals to the plebeian and austere values of the Anatolian provincial petty bourgeoisie, while building the largest luxurious presidential palace in the world – fit for a 21st century Pasha. He repeatedly pronounces his fealty to the ‘Turkish Nation’, while he robs the Turkish treasury by repeatedly accepting bribes and pay-offs from building contractors who then double charge for publicly-funded projects.

More recently, Erdoğan claims to oppose terrorism and fight ISIS, while the major Turkish and regional newspapers, journalists and most domestic observers document the massive flow of illegal arms across the Turkish-Syrian border to ISIS terrorists.

Erdoğan’s ‘Carnal Relation’ with ISIS

Erdoğan supports ISIS by bombing the Syrian Kurdish fighters who resist the jihadi mercenaries; by shooting down a Russian military jet defending the Damascus government against the terrorists; by smuggling and selling oil which ISIS had stolen from Iraq and Syria; by providing medical assistance to wounded ISIS fighters; and by training and arming ISIS terrorists in Turkish bases.

There is a reciprocal relationship: Erdoğan uses ISIS operatives to terrorize his own domestic opposition, including terror bombing a gathering of Kurdish ‘socialist youth’ in the town of Suruç on July 20, 2015, which killed 33 and the massive bombing in Ankara on October 10 of a ‘peace and justice’ march, which killed over 100, targeting trade unionists, leaders of professional associations, community activists and members of a democratic Kurdish electoral party and wounded many hundreds.

During the legislative election of 2015 ISIS terrorists and thugs from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) attacked the offices, meetings and candidates of the opposition parties, especially of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), to ensure that Erdoğan secured a super-majority.

In other words, Erdoğan has three uses for ISIS serving his external and internal interests:

(1)  To attack and destroy secular Kurdish forces resisting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, thus preventing the formation of an independent Kurdish state on the Turkish border.

(2)  To attack and destroy Syria’s independent Baathist government under Bashar  Al-Assad, dismantle the multicultural secular state apparatus and install a Sunni Islamist client in Damascus subordinate to Erdoğan’s AKP.

(3)  To attack and terrorize the Turkish domestic opposition, including the broad-based Kurdish HDP, and the leftist trade union confederation (DISK).

Erdoğan has a decade-long strategic alliance with the militant Wahhabi terrorists who now make up ISIS. He intends to ‘remake’ the map of the Middle East to serve his own expansionist ambitions. In part this explains why Erdoğan has provided large-scale arms and material to the terrorists, trained thousands of mercenaries and provided medical aid to wounded ISIS fighters. It also explains why Erdoğan took the unprecedented and extremely provocative step of shooting down a Russian military jet over Syrian territory, which had been bombing Erdoğan’s ISIS allies. Russian and Syrian Army successes against ISIS have threatened his ambitions.

Erdoğan’s transformation from ‘Muslim democrat’ to bloody authoritarian Islamist ruler with pretensions of becoming the dominant Middle Eastern Pasha has to be seen in light of his rise to power over the past 40 years.

What Makes Recep Run?

Erdoğan, early on, showed his affinity for extremist Islamist politics. In the 1970’s he was head of the youth branch of the Islamist Salvation Party (MSP), a virulent anti-communist, anti-secular party committed to converting Turkey, a huge multi-ethnic secular state, into a theocratic regime (along the lines of contemporary ISIS).

After the military coup of 1980 the MSP was dissolved and reappeared as the Welfare Party. Erdoğan became a leader of the new (re-named) Islamist party.

Erdoğan and the Welfare Party exploited Turkish mass discontent with the corrupt and authoritarian military. The Welfare Party embraced a populist social welfare program with Islamist religious undertones in order to build a formidable grassroots organization in the working class neighborhoods in Istanbul. Erdoğan was elected mayor of Turkey’s largest city in 1994.

As Mayor, Erdoğan over-reached his power by preaching militant Islamism and was convicted in 1998 of sedition against the secular state. He served 4 months of a 10-month sentence.

Henceforth he changed tactics: His Islamist fanaticism was disguised. He changed the party name from Welfare to the modern sounding Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdoğan then launched a series of political maneuvers, in which he cleverly manipulated adversaries to gain power and then … stabbed each of them in the back.

Erdoğan: Embrace and Back-Stab 

Despite his earlier conviction for sedition against the secular state, the ‘reformed’ Erdoğan allied with the Kemalist, secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP) to overturn the military’s ban on his participation in politics in 2002. He was elected Prime Minister in 2003. After the AKP won the general election it cut its ties with the CHP. Erdoğan was re-elected Prime Minister in 2007 and 2011.

Erdoğan allied with the pro-US Islamist leader Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmetor Cemaat Movement, which was influential within the judicial system, police and army. Together they launched a purge against secular military and judicial officials, journalists and media critics.

The Erdoğan – Gülenist state apparatus arrested and jailed 300 secular military officers, judges and journalists and replaced them with Erdođan and Gülen loyalists – all Islamists.

Dubbed “Operation Sledgehammer” the entire purge was based on fabricated charges of treason and conspiracy. Yet it was described by the Western media in terms that flattered Erdoğan’s democratic credentials, calling it an ‘effort to consolidate democracy’ against the military.

It had nothing to do with democracy: The purge consolidated Erdoğan’s personal power and allowed him to pursue policies that were more overtly neoliberal and Islamist. The purge of the judiciary further allowed Erdoğan to enrich crony capitalists and family members.

Erdoğan: The Birth of a Neoliberal Pasha

Erdoğan then embraced an IMF-designed ‘stabilization and recovery’ program, which reduced wages, salaries and pensions while privatizing public sector enterprises and activities. This attracted a large inflow of capital as foreign investors and cronies snapped up the goodies at bargain prices. Most emblematic of this ‘free-for-all cronies’ approach to the economy was the Soma coal mine disaster in May 2014 when over 300 miners were killed in a previously state-owned mine, which had suffered a breakdown of worker safety conditions after it had been privatized to an Erdoğan-crony. Despite local and international outrage, Recep ignored the scandal and unleashed police on the demonstrating miners.

Erdoğan’s combination of Islam with brutal neoliberalism attracted support from Brussels, Wall Street and the City of London. Large inflows of speculative foreign capital temporarily inflated Turkey’s GNP and Erdoğan’s wealth and ego!

In the beginning of his rule Erdoğan’s concessions, tax incentives, government contracts to big capital were broadly distributed to most sectors, but especially to his crony capitalists within the construction and real estate sectors.

As the capitalist boom continued and his power increased, Erdoğan became more obsessed with his role as the savior of Turkey. By 2010, a serious difference developed between Erdoğan and his Gülenist partners over the division of power. Erdoğan moved rapidly and brutally. He launched another massive purge of suspected ‘Gülenist officials’. He arrested, fired, jailed and relocated Gülen sympathizers among judges, police and civil servants despite the fact that these were officials who had served him well during the earlier purge of the secular military.

Erdoğan is not willing to share power with any other party, movement or group. Pasha Recep wanted to monopolize power. He has attacked critical newspapers, businesses and conglomerates claiming these were ‘Gülen controlled’. Erdoğan ensured that only capitalists completely loyal to him would receive regime patronage. In other words, he strengthened the size, strength and importance of crony capitalists: especially in the real estate and construction sector.

Pasha Recep’s Assault on Civil Society

Turkey, under Erdoğan’s absolute power, has seen a geometric increase in corruption and mindless ‘development projects’, leading to the degradation and usurpation of public spaces. His arbitrary and destructive policies have provoked sustained civil society protests, especially in the center of Istanbul – during the Gezi Park demonstrations, which began in May 2013.

In response to civil society demonstrations, Erdoğan shed all pretensions, ripping off his ‘modern democratic’ mask and brutally repressing the peaceful protestors in the heart of Istanbul– resulting in 22 deaths, hundreds wounded and more arrested and sentenced to long jail term. Erdoğan subsequently targeted liberal critics and business leaders, who had criticized his brutal use of force.

2013, the year of the Gezi Park Movement, was a turning point – Erdoğan and family members were implicated in a $100 million-dollar corruption scandal while liberal critics of the regime were purged.

Facing opposition from sectors of the elite as well as popular classes, Erdoğan became more rabidly ‘Islamist’, chauvinistic and megalomaniacal – ‘Neo-Ottoman’.

In short order, he re-launched his attack on the Turkish Kurds and increased his support to the Islamist terrorists in Syria, including what would become ISIS. These policies were designed to complement his ongoing war against the secular Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

Erdoğan: Backstabbing Secular Syria and “Best Friend” Russia

From the beginning of his rule, Erdoğan cultivated the ‘best of relations’ with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He signed dozens of trade agreements with Damascus and Moscow. Putin was welcomed to Ankara and Erdoğan to Moscow where they signed billion-dollar energy deals and mutual co-operative agreements.

Up to 3 million Russian tourists visited Turkish resorts each year, a bonanza for one of Turkey’s major industries.

Erdoğan’s regime was ebullient, effusive, embracing Moscow and Damascus while systematically preparing the ground for more backstabbing!

By 2011, Erdoğan had been deeply involved in preparing the ground for what would become the bloody Islamist uprising in Syria. Early on, hundreds of armed foreign Islamist terrorists crossed the Turkish border into Syria. Their presence overwhelmed local Syrian dissidents. Armed Islamists seized villages and towns brutally purging them of Christians, Kurds, Alewives and secular Syrians. They took over the oil fields. From one day to the next, Erdoğan was transformed from loving friend to deadly foe of neighboring Syria demanding ‘regime change’ through terrorist sectarian violence.

Erdoğan embraced the most extreme, sectarian Wahhabi Islamist groups because they were committed to undermining the nationalist aspirations of the Syrian Kurds as well as overthrowing the secular Al-Assad government. Erdoğan’s covert alliance with ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups was motivated by several strategic considerations, which are outlined below:

1)      The alliance serves to prevent the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish enclave on the Syrian-Turkish border in the event of a Damascus defeat, which Erdoğan fears would then link armed Syrian Kurds with the huge disaffected Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey and lead to the formation of an autonomous secular Kurdish state.

2)     Erdoğan’s alliance with jihadis in Syria has served Ankara’s ambition to impose a puppet Sunni-Islamist regime in Damascus.

3)     The ISIS regime controlling the Syrian and Iraqi oil fields provides Turkey with a source of cheap fuel and lucrative profits for the regime. Recep’s son, Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan owns and operates the BMZ Group which buys the contraband Syrian and Iraqi oil in Turkey and sells it overseas (especially to Israel) earning nearly a billion dollars a year for ‘the family’.

It is not surprise that the Erdoğan family directly financed ISIS, which uses the cash from contraband oil, pillaged antiquities and ‘tribute’ taxes, to purchase heavy and light arms, military and transport vehicles and communications equipment in Turkey and elsewhere to support its terror campaign in Syria and Iraq. Well-informed Turkish observers believe that Erdoğan’s intelligence officials are directly involved in recruiting ISIS terrorists to operate within Turkey and attack Erdoğan’s internal opposition, especially the Kurdish electoral party HDP and the broad-based Turkish left and trade union movements. Observers claim Turkish intelligence operations had a direct role in the ‘ISIS’ bomb attacks in Suruç and Ankara this year, which killed and maimed hundreds of Erdoğan opponents and civil society activists.

Erdoğan and ISIS developed a co-dependent relation, one of mutual manipulation. Each has publicly declared their tactical enmity to the other, while busily pursuing joint strategic aims.

Ankara uses the pretext of fighting ISIS in order to bomb the Kurds in Syria who are resisting the jihadis. ISIS uses the pretext of opposing the NATO member Turkey in order to cover its massive oil and weapons trade deals with Erdoğan’s family and crony business enterprises.

The Pasha Stabs the Bear and the Bear Bites Back – One Stab Too Many 

Russia’s highly effective aerial bombing campaign against the jihadi and ISIS terrorist networks in Syria was in response to a formal request for military intervention by the legitimate government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Russia has long-standing ties to the Baathist regime in Damascus. The intervention has threatened to undermine Erdoğan’s regional power ambitions and illicit business operations in Syria. First and foremost, it ended Erdoğan’s plan to annex a large swathe of Northern Syria and call it a ‘no fly zone’. The Turkish-controlled ‘no fly zone’ in Syria would  expand Turkish military training bases for ISIS and other jihadi terrorists and secure the transport routes for ISIS oil shipments smuggled out of Iraq and Syria.

Unlike the US, which had rarely bombed the strategic Erdoğan-ISIS oil smuggling operations, the Russians destroyed over a thousand oil trucks and numerous ISIS oil depots and logistical centers in the first month of its air campaign. By reducing the flow of smuggled oil, Russia cut off the main source of massive profit for Bilal Erdoğan’s BMZ Company as well as for Turkish arms dealers.

Like gangsters, Erdoğan, his family and cronies have been immersed in massive corrupt business activities at home and abroad; he can no longer operate within the context of the larger interests of the Turkish capitalist class with its $40 billion dollar annual trade and investment relations with Russia. Erdoğan’s decision to shoot down a Russian jet in Syrian territory, on November 24, 2015, was largely motivated by his fury at Russia’s successful interruption of the ISIS  oil convoys. By protecting his own family interests, Erdoğan stabbed more allies in the back: The Russians, as well as large sections of the Turkish capitalist class!

Up until Erdoğan’s act of war against Russia, he had publicly embraced Putin as an ally, friend and partner. The two leaders had cordial relations for over a decade. The Turkish military was fully informed about Russian military operations in Syria, including its flight paths. Then suddenly in November 2015 he risked a total rupture in relations and invited retaliation against Turkey from Russia by shooting down a Russian jet.

Russia immediately responded by upgrading its most advanced weapons systems to defend its operations and bases in Northern Syria and intensified its bombing of the ISIS – Turkish oil operations.

Russia retaliated by imposing visa restrictions and economic sanctions on Turkey, adversely affecting the multi-billion dollar tourist business. Strategic energy deals were terminated. Large-scale Turkish construction contracts were ended. Turkish agricultural exports to Russian markets virtually stopped.

The Pasha Bites His own Tail

Erdoğan’s unilateral actions were clearly against the broad interests of Turkey’s large export sector. From Gezi to Gülen, from one purge to another, Erdoğan, the former ‘poster boy’ of neoliberal Turkish capital, has become a self-centered despot, acting on behalf of a narrowing circle of corrupt family and crony capitalists. Erdoğan set himself up as a modern day pasha more in the image of the self-indulgent Ibrahim I (the Madman) than the far-seeing Suleyman I (the Wise).

Once Erdoğan realized the damage that his fit of egomaniac fury against the Russians had provoked abroad and his growing isolation within Turkey, he rushed to NATO on bended knee to beg for support. True to his authoritarian personality, Recep Erdoğan crawls on his knees before his ‘superiors’ (NATO-US) while grabbing the throats of his ‘inferiors’ (the Turkish people)!

Conclusion

Erdoğan’s road to absolutist power is strewn with indiscriminate purges, terror and deceit; violence against environmental and liberal protestors in Gezi Park and moderate Gülen Islamists; jail sentences and firing of journalists and publishers, military officials and judges; repression of workers and capitalists; terror bombing against activists and democrats; and war against Kurds and Syrians.

Erdoğan’s paranoid and greed-driven vision of politics precludes any trust and stable relations. He thinks he is very clever with his combination of charm and broken promises, but he fools nobody. He reignites the war against the Kurds in Turkey and Syria but they retaliate!

He attacks Russia and provokes a very costly retaliation so far limited to the Turkish economy.

He increases his personal power, but undermines the interests of the Turkish nation and its people. Erdoğan believes he is the rising regional hegemony, indispensable to the West. He blackmails the EU for billions of Euros to control the flood of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq with his promises to warehouse desperate refugees in Turkish concentration camps. But Europeans must know that their money can never buy trust and loyalty from the Pasha.

His oil deals with ISIS are in tatters. Russian bombs ensure that Erdoğan will have to find other sources of illicit profit. Worst of all, Erdoğan’s furious actions have lost markets, allies and domestic support. He faces enemies from all sides – liberal professors, students, big business owners and organized workers in Istanbul; small business people in the tourist trade; construction and oil companies in Ankara; farmers in Anatolia, and, above all, the coal miners in Soma Manis.

Who knows under what circumstances Pasha Recep (the ‘Megalomaniac’) will be replaced?

Jan 212015
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

EvilYanks

After Paris, condemnation of religious fanaticism is at its height. I’d guess that even many progressives fantasize about wringing the necks of jihadists, bashing into their heads some thoughts about the intellect, about satire, humor, freedom of speech. We’re talking here, after all, about young men raised in France, not Saudi Arabia.

Where has all this Islamic fundamentalism come from in this modern age? Most of it comes – trained, armed, financed, indoctrinated – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. During various periods from the 1970s to the present, these four countries had been the most secular, modern, educated, welfare states in the Middle East region. And what had happened to these secular, modern, educated, welfare states?

In the 1980s, the United States overthrew the Afghan government that was progressive, with full rights for women, believe it or not 1, leading to the creation of the Taliban and their taking power.

In the 2000s, the United States overthrew the Iraqi government, destroying not only the secular state, but the civilized state as well, leaving a failed state.

In 2011, the United States and its NATO military machine overthrew the secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a lawless state and unleashing many hundreds of jihadists and tons of weaponry across the Middle East.

And for the past few years the United States has been engaged in overthrowing the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. This, along with the US occupation of Iraq having triggered widespread Sunni-Shia warfare, led to the creation of The Islamic State with all its beheadings and other charming practices.

However, despite it all, the world was made safe for capitalism, imperialism, anti-communism, oil, Israel, and jihadists. God is Great!

Starting with the Cold War, and with the above interventions building upon that, we have 70 years of American foreign policy, without which – as Russian/American writer Andre Vltchek has observed – “almost all Muslim countries, including Iran, Egypt and Indonesia, would now most likely be socialist, under a group of very moderate and mostly secular leaders”. 2 Even the ultra-oppressive Saudi Arabia – without Washington’s protection – would probably be a very different place.

On January 11, Paris was the site of a March of National Unity in honor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose journalists had been assassinated by terrorists. The march was rather touching, but it was also an orgy of Western hypocrisy, with the French TV broadcasters and the assembled crowd extolling without end the NATO world’s reverence for journalists and freedom of speech; an ocean of signs declaring Je suis Charlie … Nous Sommes Tous Charlie; and flaunting giant pencils, as if pencils – not bombs, invasions, overthrows, torture, and drone attacks – have been the West’s weapons of choice in the Middle East during the past century.

No reference was made to the fact that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades in the Middle East and elsewhere, had been responsible for the deliberate deaths of dozens of journalists. In Iraq, among other incidents, see Wikileaks’ 2007 video of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 US air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign cameramen.

Moreover, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.” 3

And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-day bombing of a country which posed no threat at all to the United States or any other country, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage. 4

I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:

“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?

“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”

Dumb and Dumber

Remember Arseniy Yatsenuk? The Ukrainian whom US State Department officials adopted as one of their own in early 2014 and guided into the position of Prime Minister so he could lead the Ukrainian Forces of Good against Russia in the new Cold War?

In an interview on German television on January 7, 2015 Yatsenuk allowed the following words to cross his lips: “We all remember well the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. We will not allow that, and nobody has the right to rewrite the results of World War Two”.  5

The Ukrainian Forces of Good, it should be kept in mind, also include several neo-Nazis in high government positions and many more partaking in the fight against Ukrainian pro-Russians in the south-east of the country. Last June, Yatsenuk referred to these pro-Russians as “sub-humans” 6, directly equivalent to the Nazi term “untermenschen”.

So the next time you shake your head at some stupid remark made by a member of the US government, try to find some consolation in the thought that high American officials are not necessarily the dumbest, except of course in their choice of who is worthy of being one of the empire’s partners.

The type of rally held in Paris this month to condemn an act of terror by jihadists could as well have been held for the victims of Odessa in Ukraine last May. The same neo-Nazi types referred to above took time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Russians, Communists and Jews, and burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded … Try and find a single American mainstream media entity that has made even a slightly serious attempt to capture the horror. You would have to go to the Russian station in Washington, DC, RT.com, search “Odessa fire” for many stories, images and videos. Also see the Wikipedia entry on the 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes.

If the American people were forced to watch, listen, and read all the stories of neo-Nazi behavior in Ukraine the past few years, I think they – yes, even the American people and their less-than-intellectual Congressional representatives – would start to wonder why their government was so closely allied with such people. The United States may even go to war with Russia on the side of such people.

L’Occident n’est pas Charlie pour Odessa. Il n’y a pas de défilé à Paris pour Odessa.

Some thoughts about this thing called ideology

Norman Finkelstein, the fiery American critic of Israel, was interviewed recently by Paul Jay on The Real News Network. Finkelstein related how he had been a Maoist in his youth and had been devastated by the exposure and downfall of the Gang of Four in 1976 in China. “It came out there was just an awful lot of corruption. The people who we thought were absolutely selfless were very self-absorbed. And it was clear. The overthrow of the Gang of Four had huge popular support.”

Many other Maoists were torn apart by the event. “Everything was overthrown overnight, the whole Maoist system, which we thought [were] new socialist men, they all believed in putting self second, fighting self. And then overnight the whole thing was reversed.”

“You know, many people think it was McCarthy that destroyed the Communist Party,” Finkelstein continued. “That’s absolutely not true. You know, when you were a communist back then, you had the inner strength to withstand McCarthyism, because it was the cause. What destroyed the Communist Party was Khrushchev’s speech,” a reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 exposure of the crimes of Joseph Stalin and his dictatorial rule.

Although I was old enough, and interested enough, to be influenced by the Chinese and Russian revolutions, I was not. I remained an admirer of capitalism and a good loyal anti-communist. It was the war in Vietnam that was my Gang of Four and my Nikita Khrushchev. Day after day during 1964 and early 1965 I followed the news carefully, catching up on the day’s statistics of American firepower, bombing sorties, and body counts. I was filled with patriotic pride at our massive power to shape history. Words like those of Winston Churchill, upon America’s entry into the Second World War, came easily to mind again – “England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations would live.” Then, one day – a day like any other day – it suddenly and inexplicably hit me. In those villages with the strange names there were people under those falling bombs, people running in total desperation from that god-awful machine-gun strafing.

This pattern took hold. The news reports would stir in me a self-righteous satisfaction that we were teaching those damn commies that they couldn’t get away with whatever it was they were trying to get away with. The very next moment I would be struck by a wave of repulsion at the horror of it all. Eventually, the repulsion won out over the patriotic pride, never to go back to where I had been; but dooming me to experience the despair of American foreign policy again and again, decade after decade. 7

The human brain is an amazing organ. It keeps working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year, from before you leave the womb, right up until the day you find nationalism. And that day can come very early. Here’s a recent headline from the Washington Post: “In the United States the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”

Oh, my mistake. It actually said “In N. Korea the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.” 8

Let Cuba Live! The Devil’s List of what the United States has done to Cuba

On May 31, 1999, a lawsuit for $181 billion in wrongful death, personal injury, and economic damages was filed in a Havana court against the government of the United States. It was subsequently filed with the United Nations. Since that time its fate is somewhat of a mystery.

The lawsuit covered the 40 years since the country’s 1959 revolution and described, in considerable detail taken from personal testimony of victims, US acts of aggression against Cuba; specifying, often by name, date, and particular circumstances, each person known to have been killed or seriously wounded. In all, 3,478 people were killed and an additional 2,099 seriously injured. (These figures do not include the many indirect victims of Washington’s economic pressures and blockade, which caused difficulties in obtaining medicine and food, in addition to creating other hardships.)

The case was, in legal terms, very narrowly drawn. It was for the wrongful death of individuals, on behalf of their survivors, and for personal injuries to those who survived serious wounds, on their own behalf. No unsuccessful American attacks were deemed relevant, and consequently there was no testimony regarding the many hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts against Cuban President Fidel Castro and other high officials, or even of bombings in which no one was killed or injured. Damages to crops, livestock, or the Cuban economy in general were also excluded, so there was no testimony about the introduction into the island of swine fever or tobacco mold.

However, those aspects of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare waged against Cuba that involved human victims were described in detail, most significantly the creation of an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in 1981, during which some 340,000 people were infected and 116,000 hospitalized; this in a country which had never before experienced a single case of the disease. In the end, 158 people, including 101 children, died. 9 That only 158 people died, out of some 116,000 who were hospitalized, was an eloquent testimony to the remarkable Cuban public health sector.

The complaint describes the campaign of air and naval attacks against Cuba that commenced in October 1959, when US president Dwight Eisenhower approved a program that included bombings of sugar mills, the burning of sugar fields, machine-gun attacks on Havana, even on passenger trains.

Another section of the complaint described the armed terrorist groups, los banditos, who ravaged the island for five years, from 1960 to 1965, when the last group was located and defeated. These bands terrorized small farmers, torturing and killing those considered (often erroneously) active supporters of the Revolution; men, women, and children. Several young volunteer literacy-campaign teachers were among the victims of the bandits.

There was also of course the notorious Bay of Pigs invasion, in April 1961. Although the entire incident lasted less than 72 hours, 176 Cubans were killed and 300 more wounded, 50 of them permanently disabled.

The complaint also described the unending campaign of major acts of sabotage and terrorism that included the bombing of ships and planes as well as stores and offices. The most horrific example of sabotage was of course the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner off Barbados in which all 73 people on board were killed. There were as well as the murder of Cuban diplomats and officials around the world, including one such murder on the streets of New York City in 1980. This campaign continued to the 1990s, with the murders of Cuban policemen, soldiers, and sailors in 1992 and 1994, and the 1997 hotel bombing campaign, which took the life of a foreigner; the bombing campaign was aimed at discouraging tourism and led to the sending of Cuban intelligence officers to the US in an attempt to put an end to the bombings; from their ranks rose the Cuban Five.

To the above can be added the many acts of financial extortion, violence and sabotage carried out by the United States and its agents in the 16 years since the lawsuit was filed. In sum total, the deep-seated injury and trauma inflicted upon on the Cuban people can be regarded as the island’s own 9-11. 10

Notes

  1. US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232
  2. Counterpunch, January 10, 2015
  3. Index on Censorship, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001
  4. The Independent (London), April 24, 1999
  5. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking to Pinar Atalay”, Tagesschau (Germany), January 7, 2015 (in Ukrainian with German voice-over)
  6. CNN, June 15, 2014
  7. See William Blum, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, chapter 3
  8. Washington Post, January 17, 2015, page A6
  9. William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 30, for a capsule summary of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare against Havana.
  10. For further information, see William Schaap, Covert Action Quarterly magazine (Washington, DC), Fall/Winter 1999, pp.26-29
Sep 132014
 

Posted by James Petras, 99GetSmart

kiev-trojan44

Introduction

The NATO proxy war in the Ukraine started with the violent US-EU-sponsored overthrow of the elected government via a mob putsch in February 2014.  This was well financed at $5 billion, according to President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.

The result was a junta, composed of neo-liberal puppets, rightist nationalists and fascists, which immediately proceeded to purge the Ukrainian legislature of any politicians opposed to the coup and Kiev’s submission to the European Union and NATO.  The NATO-sponsored client regime then moved swiftly to extend its control by centralizing power and overturning the official policy of bilingualism (Russian and Ukrainian) in the southeastern regions.   It was preparing to break its long-standing agreement over the huge Russian naval base in Crimea and renege on its massive debts to Russia for gas and oil imports.

These extremist measures by a violent coup regime amounted to a radical break with existing economic, cultural and political institutions and, naturally, provoked a robust response from large sectors of the population.  The overwhelmingly Russian speaking majority in Crimea convoked a referendum with 90% voter participation:  89% voted to secede and rejoin Russia.  The ethnic Russian and bilingual, industrialized southeast regions of Ukraine organized their own referenda, formed popular militias and prepared for an armed response from what they viewed as an illegal junta in Kiev. Threatened by the new measures against their language and traditional and economic ties with Russia, the resistance drew its fighters from the vast reservoir of skilled industrial workers, miners and local business people who understood that they would lose thousands of jobs and access to the Russian markets as well as cultural and family links under the boot of the EU-NATO puppet in Kiev.

For critical sections of Ukraine, the Kiev junta was illegitimate, so the NATO overseers, cooked up an election with a pre-selected candidate, Petro Poroshenko, a millionaire oligarch, willing to serve as a ‘reliable’ proxy, despite his history of dubious ‘business’ deals, who would implement the Euro-US agenda.  Despite large sectors boycotting the sham elections, the ‘victorious President’ Poroshenko immediately joined the EU, shredding the heavily subsidized and generous gas and oil agreements with Russia as well as cutting Ukraine off from its main export markets.  He proposed to join NATO and convert Ukraine into a launching pad aimed at Russia.  He eagerly signed an IMF agreement ending critical subsidies for low income Ukrainians, privatizing public enterprises and raising the cost of basic public services and food.  He launched an all-out military campaign against the Donbass region, using missiles, air strikes, artillery and ground forces while assuring his masters in Washington and Brussels that he could easily smash all resistance to his dictatorial fiats and impose their radical retrograde agenda.

The scope and depth of the changes and the unilateral manner in which they were formulated and implemented provoked a widespread popular uprising in the southeast that cut across the entire social spectrum.  The popular democratic nature of the opposition in the east attracted support throughout the region, reaching beyond the borders of Ukraine.  The resistance easily captured Ukrainian military outposts while conscripted soldiers, ex-soldiers and local police units joined the resistance, bringing their arms with them.

The Kiev regime and its increasingly fascist shock troops responded with terror tactics, bombing civilian infrastructure and neighborhoods. In the ethnically-mixed city of Odessa, with its substantial Russian-speaking population, Kiev-based fascists torched the city’s main trade union building where civilian protesters had sought refuge, burning alive or later slaughtering over 40 trapped citizen demonstrators.

The terrorist tactics of the Kiev government spurred thousands more to join the resistance. Horrified and demoralized Ukrainian conscripts, who had been told they were fighting ‘Russian invaders’ defected or surrendered in large numbers.  The spectacle of surrender and demoralization among its armed forces and police undermined this phase of Kiev’s offensive and led to a ‘legitimacy’ crisis.

The US-EU propaganda campaign intensified denying civilian resistance in the southeast any authenticity as an independent, democratic, national force by labeling them as ‘Russian separatists’ and ‘invaders’.  Together with their puppet-‘President’ Petro Poroshenko, the US-EU tried to discredit the popular resistance via a major provocation:  Ukrainian government air controllers in Kiev re-directed a civilian air liner, Malaysian Airlines Flt. 17, to fly directly over the war zone, shot it down killing almost 300 passengers and crew.  The puppet in Kiev and their masters in Brussels and Washington then blamed the resistance, as well as Russia, for the crime!

The NATO-backed proxy regime’s tactic of terror boomeranged and caused even more outrage!  More Ukrainian troops refused to fire on the own compatriots .The puppet regime in Kiev had to rely on the special fascist battalions eager to kill ‘Russians’.  Many ordinary soldiers deserted rather than obey orders to fire heavy artillery shells into densely populated urban neighborhoods full of trapped civilians.  Other troops crossed over into the safety of neighboring Russia where they surrendered and turned their arms over to the resistance.

The incredible strength of the southeast regional resistance came from several sources: First and foremost, they were defending home turf:  their families, relatives, friends, neighbors, homes, workplaces, transport systems, hospitals and schools and they increasingly saw themselves as a nation confronting the ravages of a foreign-imposed dictatorship arbitrarily selling their principle economic enterprises and means of livelihood while submitting to the dictates of the US-EU controlled International Monetary Fund.  This popular resistance was bolstered morally and materially by pro-democracy activists and militants from Euro-Asia, who understood that a NATO victory in Ukraine would lead to more coups in sovereign countries, more civil wars and brutal conquests throughout the region – a formula for economic and social disaster affecting tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people.

NATO’s heavy-handed presence behind the putsch in Kiev spurred a national liberation struggle in Ukraine and the growth of anti-NATO internationalism regionally.  The battle was joined.  The Kiev blitzkrieg halted in confusion.  The battles for Donetsk and Lugansk turned the tide.  The Resistance went on the offensive.  Over 800 Kiev soldiers were killed.  Thousands more were wounded, captured or deserted.

The Resistance was advancing westward and to the south threatening to create a land bridge to the Crimea and encircle an entire regiment.  The puppet regime in Kiev panicked and pleaded for its EU and US patrons to intervene directly.  Divisions within the junta deepened: the fascists demanded an all-out war against the Russian-speaking population and total mobilization.  The neo-liberals, for their part, begged for direct NATO intervention.

Meanwhile, the EU and US imposed wide economic sanctions against Russia, unwilling to believe that the citizens in the Donbass region of southeast Ukraine would successfully resist their puppet in Kiev.  They drank their own propaganda swill and blamed ‘Putin’, the Russian President, for the debacle.   The increasing economic sanctions against Russia had no effect on the popular resistance in Ukraine as it took on the character of a national liberation struggle.  However, the sanctions did provoke painful counter-measures from Russia, which slapped major embargos on EU and US agricultural products, deepening Europe’s economic recession.  And there was a build up of NATO troops and joint military exercises on Russia’s borders in Poland, the Baltic States and over the Black Sea.

Finally the NATO powers realized that their puppet’s military conquest of the East was not going to be another ‘cake walk’, indeed it was turning into a brutal farce.  From top to bottom, the junta’s armed forces were in shambles.  The continued advance of the popular resistance and the onset of winter without Russian oil and gas could topple the regime in Kiev and force new elections free from NATO, the CIA and the machinations of US Assistant Secretary ‘F… the EU’ Victoria Nuland, Obama’s key strategist for Eastern Europe.

With NATO’s and Washington’s fears in mind, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a ‘compromise’ for Poroshenko, an immediate ceasefire and negotiations leading to a political settlement between Kiev and the rebels.  In the face of a military debacle in the East and growing internal fissures, the puppet in Kiev agreed to the ceasefire.

Prospects for Peace with Justice

Poroshenko and his NATO overseers eagerly grabbed onto Putin’s peace plan to stave off the advance of the popular resistance and gain time to re-group, rebuild and re-supply Kiev’s armed forces.  NATO leaders are counting on a ‘political’ settlement where they trade easily-broken political promises in exchange for the resistance demobilizing and disarming under Kiev’s authority. There is no indication that the NATO-Kiev axis intends to abandon their strategic goal of turning Ukraine into a NATO base and vassal state of the EU.

As the cease fire comes into effect, the NATO powers have organized two sets of military exercises within Ukraine and on its immediate border – clearly undermining Russia’s strategic interests. The ongoing military build-up is a sign that NATO intends to participate directly in crushing the popular resistance in the next round.  It is just a matter of time for NATO and Kiev to trot out some pretext to end the ceasefire.   Meanwhile, NATO is increasing the flow of arms, advisers and contract mercenaries to Kiev.  The oligarch in Kiev, Poroshenko is attempting to bolster his ground forces by imposing a highly unpopular universal conscription.  Even the citizens in the west of Ukraine can see the war is going badly with the return of wounded soldiers and caskets holding their sons and brothers.

Tactically Poroshenko/NATO may offer paper concessions, greater ‘autonomy’ . . . under the rule of the Kiev junta, and the acceptance of bilingualism, but political, administrative, legal and fiscal powers will not devolve to the democrats in Donesk and Lugansk to design and implement their own policies and protect their rights.  The regime will demand the re-entry of ‘its army’ on the pretext of guarding borders against Russia.  There will be no reparations for the massive loss of life and infrastructure in the region.  Kiev will seek to surround and fragment the Resistance and eliminate the key cross-border sanctuary with Russia.  The ultimate goal would be to squeeze and oust resistance-led regional self-government.

The prolongation of negotiations will be used to build-up Kiev’s military capabilities.  Meanwhile more US-imposed EU economic sanctions against Russia give Washington greater power to expand its influence in Europe and deepen political and trade polarization between the EU and Moscow.  The Ukraine crisis is only one part of the Obama regime’s strategy of global military escalation, which includes re-entry into Iraq, direct bombing of Syria (including Damascus) and increased sanctions against companies and banks trading with Iran and Cuba, as well as the encirclement and provocation of China.

An independent Russia is the real target and the annexation of the Ukraine is a mere stepping stone on the way to Moscow.  Under this strategic (and insane) vision, the US and EU will never accept a neutral (NATO-free), independent, democratic Ukraine.  The popular resistance in the country’s southeast must clearly understand this strategic vision and continue the fight.  They must recognize that the only means to establish democracy and self-rule, free from NATO and  IMF dominance, and free from the marauding gangs of  Kiev-led Nazi thugs – the terrorist Azov, Aidar and Donbass battalions – is via a plebiscite for total national independence.

The current cease fire is a Trojan horse:  within the bowels of these negotiations, Kiev warlords are busily preparing to unleash more of their military excrement – fascist hordes and the oligarchs’ private armies, the monstrous spawn of the NATO-armed Azov battalion under Nazi banners, sporting swastika tattoos and hate-filled insignias.  The choice is clear.

May 302014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region.  The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’).  The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity. The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life.  Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties.  There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization.  Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed.  Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics.  Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure.  The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’.  The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results.  The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis.  The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier.  Both lack electoral allies.  As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions.  In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment:  globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism:  Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class.  The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions.  As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support.  They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left.  While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’.  For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control.  Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed.  Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive – legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels.  The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries.  The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation.  The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment.  The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right:  Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle.  Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions.  The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes.  The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU.  No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsch Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’.  Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run.  The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’.  Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power?  Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right.  The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards.  Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict.  It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify.  The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right.  A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right.  The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities.  The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer.  Does the Left have the solution?  Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations:

In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes.  In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods.  This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’.  In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets.  There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs.  Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

Apr 222014
 

El análisis de James Petras, 99GetSmart

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“El acuerdo sobre Ucrania no tiene sentido. Porque las condiciones para firmar el acuerdo ya fueron violadas y sin pedir disculpas. Es decir, los países occidentales van a continuar violando los acuerdos, no tienen ninguna intención de respetar acuerdos”, dijo el sociólogo norteamericano James Petras en su columna de análisis de la coyuntura internacional por CX36, Radio Centenario. Además, Petras destacó el llamado a elecciones realizado por el gobierno sirio y repudió las acciones terroristas en ese país, incluso recordó que contra lo que dicen los grandes medios pro imperialistas, “el mensaje del Papa (del día de Pascuas) está directamente atacando a las fuerzas apoyadas por la OTAN” y añadió que “todas las autoridades morales han tomado partido en favor de las elecciones de junio y  contra el terrorismo de quienes tiran bombas en la ciudad frente al Parlamento”. Ante la muerte de Gabriel García Márquez, Petras cuestionó que ningún documental sobre su vida, destaque “al hombre político, al luchador profundamente antimperialista”. Transcribimos a continuación el análisis de James Petras que Usted puede volver a escuchar aquí: http://www.ivoox.com/james-petras-21-abril-audios-mp3_rf_3042330_1.html

Efraín Chury Iribarne: Le estamos dando la bienvenida en Radio Centenario a James Petras. Buen día, Petras, ¿cómo estás?

James Petras: Excelente. Después de haber pasado un buen fin de semana que incluyó un asado de cordero por la Pascua, acompañados de amigos y vecinos, estamos con un día soleado de Primavera. Y prontos para comenzar este encuentro semanal.

EChI: Mucho me alegra Petras, comencemos.

Para empezar debo insistir con la situación en Ucrania. ¿Qué está pasando allí? ¿Cuál es el papel de la Unión Europea,  la OTAN y los Estados Unidos en todo eso?

JP: Bien. Es una situación bastante clara y definitiva, que los países occidentales -principalmente Canadá, Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea- buscan demonizar a Rusia y facilitar la toma de toda la Ucrania a partir de las agresiones de los paramilitares vinculados con el gobierno títere en Kiev.

Sabemos que este fin de semana en Ginebra, firmaron un acuerdo con Rusia supuestamente como una forma de buscar un acuerdo que podría dar los derechos a los ciudadanos del Este de Ucrania, derechos lingüísticos y de mayor autonomía.

Pero en vez de eso, en momentos en que se esta formando el acuerdo, el gobierno fascista de Kiev manda un grupo de asesinos neofascista, que atacaron los pueblos del Este, matando al menos a tres personas. Esto hace que pueda surgir algún grupo de autodefensa apara aplastarlos.

Pero de todos modos, esto indica en primer lugar que los países occidentales no tienen ningún interés ni capacidad para controlar a los neofascistas, ya que les permitieron utilizar las rutas, las armas y los respaldos políticos, para tratar de desarmar y aplastar a los pueblos del Este.

En segundo lugar, la prensa burguesa -por ejemplo el New York Times hoy y la BBC todo el fin de semana- no comentaban sobre la agresión, simplemente hablaban de un conflicto, sin poner en  contexto que el conflicto en el Este producto de un invasión de fuerzas armadas desde occidente, que están presentes en el gabinete. No son un grupo suelto de paramilitares, son partidarios de representantes que están en el gobierno.

En otras palabras, ya el acuerdo no tiene sentido. Porque las condiciones para firmar el acuerdo ya fueron violadas y sin pedir disculpas. Es decir, los países occidentales van a continuar violando los acuerdos, no tienen ninguna intención de respetar acuerdos.

Es más, cuando Rusia firma el acuerdo, ellos imponen condiciones que no son aceptables para los ucranianos del Este, incluso los ruso parlantes, que no tienen nada que ver con los golpistas de Kiev, no tienen ningún interés de desarmar a los neofascistas que vienen atacando y más aún, ya tienen el respaldo de las tropas que están presentes allá. Tienen en otras palabras, una mayoría, tienen presencia en el gobierno, tienen su propio gobierno, y están dispuestos a negociar un acuerdo que de todas las libertades que piden. Y Rusia no tiene derecho a desarmarlos o pedir que se desarmen frente a esta agresión. Yo creo que Rusia puede estar bien intencionada, pero ellos confiaban demasiado en firmar acuerdos con (Barack) Obama, (Francois) Hollande y los golpistas. Y no tienen ninguna razón para confiar en estos porque Obama tiene toda una historia de violar acuerdo en cualquier parte del mundo.

Los pueblos del oriente de Ucrania tienen todo el derecho a separarse y formar su propio país, formar su propio gobierno, convocar a sus propias elecciones y referéndum. Y Rusia no debe intervenir en eso con acuerdos de cúpulas, porque los acuerdos que Rusia firmó este fin de semana ya están violados y los países occidentales no tienen ninguna intención de rectificar ni auto criticar su conducta.

EChI: ¿Podríamos suponer que Rusia se siente débil por eso se sienta a negociar? ¿Cuál es la correlación de fuerzas?

JP: Obviamente las sanciones, las amenazas de nuevas sanciones, podrían influir en Rusia. Pero también la presencia de bases militares es un cerco contra Rusia,. Ucrania dentro de la OTAN es peor que sufrir algunas sanciones y algunas presiones desde Occidente. Porque uno, es una presión coyuntural y Rusia tiene posibilidades de romper eso, porque grandes empresas occidentales como las petroleras Shell y British Petroleum, o Siemens de Alemania; todas tienen enormes intereses en Rusia y no tienen ninguna razón para romper relaciones.

En segundo lugar, existe la posibilidad real y efectiva de efectuar grandes acuerdos en Asia, con China y otros países, para compensar cualquier pérdida en el Oeste. El  único gobierno que esta empujando mayores sanciones es el menos afectado, que es Estados Unidos, porque tiene menos comercio, menos inversiones y menos dependencia del petróleo y del gas ruso. Por eso para ellos no cuesta nada perder eso.

Pero en todo caso, creo que Rusia si puede sentirlo, a partir de los oligarcas. Es decir, los mas afectados por las sanciones son los oligarcas y mejor que se vayan, que se bajen.

EChI: Si nos remitimos a los antecedentes recientes, la democracia o los gobiernos democráticamente electos están en peligro -lo pudimos ver en Libia, en Afganistán , Siria, etc. y hasta en Venezuela o Ucrania- ¿podría pasar en Rusia?

JP: Si, tienen una quinta columna que se llaman los liberales y la prensa occidental siempre está destacando su importancia Cualquier comentario, cualquier manifestación por minoritaria que sea, cualquier declaración de un experto o un autodenominado experto, que sirva para demonizar a (Vladimir) Putin. Es cierto que existe esta quinta columna también en Rusia, autodenominados demócratas liberales, pero no tienen capacidad electoral, no controlan el ejército, no tienen capacidad de movilizarse a nivel nacional.Están debilitados electoralmente, divididos entre sí. Yo no creo que estén en este momento, en situación de lanzarse. Pero la política occidental es  apretar a partir de golpes de Estado como en Ucrania: con ejercicios militares en todas las regiones fronterizas -Polonia, Letonia, hacia el sur- ..Es una política de desgastar Rusia y fortalecer la quinta columna rusa, a los demócratas liberales, creando condiciones más favorables para que ellos puedan avanzar en una coyuntura más adelante. En la actualidad, Putin es mucho mas fuerte.Las encuestas muestran un gran salto en su popularidad frente a la agresión occidental y la quinta columna está bastante decaída en este momento porque si se ponen en contra, aparecen como lo que son, como traidores de su país y simples agentes de occidente.

En este sentido, esta confrontación con Occidente ha fortalecido el sentido patriótico y anti agresor de Rusia.

EChI: ¿Qué te ha parecido la convocatoria a elecciones en Siria para junio?

JP: Bueno, ahí hay dos cosas a considerar.

El mismo día, este domingo, cuando el gobierno de Bashar Al Assad anunció elecciones presidenciales para el 3 de junio, los terroristas pro occidentales respaldados por los Estados Unidos pusieron una bomba y mataron a cinco personas frente al Parlamento sirio. Dos tipos de  respuestas completamente divergentes: uno, la iniciativa democrática del Presidente de Siria y dos, las bombas terroristas por parte de la oposición.

Y uno debe anotar una cosa que la prensa occidental trata de esconder: Cuando el Papa desde El Vaticano pide paz y el fin de la violencia, está dirigido contra la oposición; la prensa occidental trata de decir que está contra la “violencia de todos”, pero “todos” no incluye a los que están defendiendo el derecho a la libre creencia incluso protegiendo a los cristianos de los terroristas islámicos que están invadiendo el país. En este sentido, el mensaje del Papa está directamente atacando a las fuerzas apoyadas por la OTAN.

Lo mismo pasa con otra figura religiosa, como el patriarca de la Iglesia Cristiana Ortodoxa, que ha condenado a la oposición tanto por la violación de los derechos religiosos y la violación de todos los lugares sagrados. Incluso hay sectores musulmanes, no solamente los chiíes, sino los suníes que supuestamente están en contra de Bashar Al Assad, han atacado a los terroristas porque no respetan nada de los lugares religiosos

Entonces, el día de Pascua coincidió con la denuncia casi unánime de las grandes religiones en el mundo occidental, menos los rabinos judíos en Israel que siguen apoyando a los terroristas islámicos como aliados de Israel. Pero más allá de eso, debemos decir que todas las autoridades morales han tomado partido en favor de las elecciones de junio y  contra el terrorismo de quienes tiran bombas en la ciudad frente al Parlamento.

EChI: Bien, Petras, como siempre el último tramo es para que abordes los temas de tu interés.

JP: Bueno, quiero verter dos cosas más que nada, porque ya tocamos temas que tenia algunos apuntes.

El primer tema tiene que ver con la hipocresía occidental. Tres periodistas secuestrados por los terroristas en Siria, vuelven a casa en Francia. Fueron encarcelados y torturados por los terroristas apoyados por el gobierno francés. Y este hipócrita de Hollande fue a abrazar y apoyar a los periodistas. Es decir, por una parte apoya, financia y arma a los terroristas que secuestraron a los periodistas y cuando vuelven los secuestrados él va a recibirlos y saludarlos. Esto indica la hipocresía que domina la política occidental, por un lado están fomentando el terrorismo y por otro lado, supuestamente, están apoyando a los liberados.

El segundo punto que quiero exponer, es sobre la muerte de Gabriel García Márquez. En muchos reportajes, testimonios, hablan de la gran figura literaria, de la gran persona, de sus amistades incluso con Fidel Castro; pero no hablan del Gabriel García Márquez como político, como luchador, como partidario activo por los derechos humanos. Yo trabajé diez años con Gabriel García Márquez, entre 1973 y 1982, nos conocimos porque trabajamos casi mano a mano en el Tribunal (Bertrand) Russell contra la represión en América Latina.

Gabriel García Márquez era muy activo en las deliberaciones, lo recuerdo junto a Julio Cortázar pasando la noche entera preparando un Manifiesto en Defensa de los procesos revolucionarios en América Latina, fomentando un llamado a los intelectuales. Recuerdo las conversaciones con Gabo sobre como podíamos promover el Tribunal para recibir más publicidad, y García Márquez propuso invitar al ex agente de la CIA, Philip Agee, a una Sesión. Y le pagó el pasaje, Philip Agee estaba en Inglaterra y nosotros en Bruselas, Gabo lo llamó y en la misma tarde Agee llegó y dio su testimonio a Aula llena.

Es decir, Gabriel García Márquez tenia una imaginación política de cómo levantar la atención del público frente a lo que estaba pasando en el mundo, porque la violación de los derechos humanos no era producto simplemente de los dictadores en América Latina porque atrás de ellos estaba la actividad de la CIA.

Gabriel García Márquez era profundamente antiimperialista y eso no aparece en las memorias.

La hipocresía de los gobernadores en América Latina principalmente en Colombia, donde Gabriel García Márquez me contaba las amenazas que recibía del terrorismo. Incluso en una sesión del Tribunal , Gabriel García Márquez invitó a representantes de la comunidad indígena a dar su testimonio sobre cómo los grandes ganaderos colombianos, respaldados por el gobierno, no pensaban que matar indígenas era un crimen; para ellos era como matar a un lobo, una amenaza a la ganadería. Fue muy chocante oír cuando un indígena contó como un campesino entró a la comunidad a los balazos y cuando lo pararon dijo que su patrón le aseguraba que no era un crimen matar indígenas.

Este tipo de intervención de Gabriel García Márquez, muestra varias cosas. Primero, un profundo compromiso con el pueblo colombiano y no con los gobernadores que amenazaban con matarlo por esos testimonios.

Segundo, era un político de gran imaginación, capaz de promover actividades que llamaran la atención de los medios, incluso los medios burgueses.

Y tercero, Gabriel García Márquez, a pesar de ser un Premio Nobel, siempre mantuvo vínculos con las luchas populares, en todas las dimensiones no solamente humanitarias, sino activamente político contra las oligarquías en América Latina y contra la política imperialista.

Hasta ahora, los documentales que se vieron ahora no muestran estas dimensiones. Yo se que por lo menos por diez años García Márquez trabajó de forma muy consciente en el Tribunal Russell, después en la Organización por los Derechos de los Pueblos y en la fundación de Argelia en 1976.

EChI: Muy bien Petras, muchas gracias por esta aclaración.

Nos reencontramos el lunes.

JP: Así es, un abrazo.

Apr 082014
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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Indoctrinating a new generation

Is there anyone out there who still believes that Barack Obama, when he’s speaking about American foreign policy, is capable of being anything like an honest man? In a March 26 talk in Belgium to “European youth”, the president fed his audience one falsehood, half-truth, blatant omission, or hypocrisy after another. If George W. Bush had made some of these statements, Obama supporters would not hesitate to shake their head, roll their eyes, or smirk. Here’s a sample:

“In defending its actions, Russian leaders have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent – an example they say of the West interfering in the affairs of a smaller country, just as they’re doing now. But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.”

Most people who follow such things are convinced that the 1999 US/NATO bombing of the Serbian province of Kosovo took place only after the Serbian-forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this “ethnic cleansing”. In actuality, the systematic deportations of large numbers of people did not begin until a few days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it, born of Serbia’s extreme anger and powerlessness over the bombing. This is easily verified by looking at a daily newspaper for the few days before the bombing began the night of March 23/24, 1999, and the few days following. Or simply look at the New York Times of March 26, page 1, which reads:

… with the NATO bombing already begun, a deepening sense of fear took hold in Pristina [the main city of Kosovo] that the Serbs would now vent their rage against ethnic Albanian civilians in retaliation. [emphasis added]

On March 27, we find the first reference to a “forced march” or anything of that nature.

But the propaganda version is already set in marble.

“And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized, not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”

None of that even came close to happening in Kosovo either. The story is false. The referendum the president speaks of never happened. Did the mainstream media pick up on this or on the previous example? If any reader comes across such I’d appreciate being informed.

Crimea, by the way, did have a referendum. A real one.

“Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan … As the Iron Curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies … “

The president might have mentioned that the main beneficiary of the Marshall Plan was US corporations 1, that the United States played an indispensable role in Mandela being caught and imprisoned, and that virtually all the Latin American dictatorships owed their very existence to Washington. Instead, the European youth were fed the same party line that their parents were fed, as were all Americans.

“Yes, we believe in democracy – with elections that are free and fair.”

In this talk, the main purpose of which was to lambaste the Russians for their actions concerning Ukraine, there was no mention that the government overthrown in that country with the clear support of the United States had been democratically elected.

“Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. … But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”

The US did not get UN Security Council approval for its invasion, the only approval that could legitimize the action. It occupied Iraq from one end of the country to the other for 8 years, forcing the government to privatize the oil industry and accept multinational – largely U.S.-based, oil companies’ – ownership. This endeavor was less than successful because of the violence unleashed by the invasion. The US military finally was forced to leave because the Iraqi government refused to give immunity to American soldiers for their many crimes.

Here is a brief summary of what Barack Obama is attempting to present as America’s moral superiority to the Russians:

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state … the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again. … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post. (May 5, 2007)

How can all these mistakes, such arrogance, hypocrisy and absurdity find their way into a single international speech by the president of the United States? Is the White House budget not sufficient to hire a decent fact checker? Someone with an intellect and a social conscience? Or does the desire to score propaganda points trump everything else? Is this another symptom of the Banana-Republicization of America?

Long live the Cold War

In 1933 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union after some 15 years of severed relations following the Bolshevik Revolution. On a day in December of that year, a train was passing through Poland carrying the first American diplomats dispatched to Moscow. Amongst their number was a 29 year-old Foreign Service Officer, later to become famous as a diplomat and scholar, George Kennan. Though he was already deemed a government expert on Russia, the train provided Kennan’s first actual exposure to the Soviet Union. As he listened to his group’s escort, Russian Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village the train was passing close by, and his dreams of becoming a librarian, the Princeton-educated Kennan was astonished: “We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves, that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.” 2

It hasn’t happened yet.

One would think that the absence in Russia of communism, of socialism, of the basic threat or challenge to the capitalist system, would be sufficient to write finis to the 70-year Cold War mentality. But the United States is virtually as hostile to 21st-century Russia as it was to 20th-century Soviet Union, surrounding Moscow with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members. Why should that be? Ideology is no longer a factor. But power remains one, specifically America’s perpetual lust for world hegemony. Russia is the only nation that (a) is a military powerhouse, and (b) doesn’t believe that the United States has a god-given-American-exceptionalism right to rule the world, and says so. By these criteria, China might qualify as a poor second. But there are no others.

Washington pretends that it doesn’t understand why Moscow should be upset by Western military encroachment, but it has no such problem when roles are reversed. Secretary of State John Kerry recently stated that Russian troops poised near eastern Ukraine are “creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine” and raising questions about Russia’s next moves and its commitment to diplomacy. 3

NATO – ever in need of finding a raison d’être – has now issued a declaration of [cold] war, which reads in part:

“NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday [April 1, 2014] reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the Alliance’s collective defence, agreed to further support Ukraine and to suspend NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia. ‘NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and our people. And make no mistake, this is what we will do,’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. … Ministers directed Allied military authorities to develop additional measures to strengthen collective defence and deterrence against any threat of aggression against the Alliance, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. ‘We will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments,’ he said. NATO has already reinforced its presence on the eastern border of the Alliance, including surveillance patrols over Poland and Romania and increased numbers of fighter aircraft allocated to the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic States. … NATO Foreign Ministers also agreed to suspend all of NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia.” 4

Does anyone recall what NATO said in 2003 when the United States bombed and invaded Iraq with “shock and awe”, compared to the Russians now not firing a single known shot at anyone? And neither Russia nor Ukraine is even a member of NATO. Does NATO have a word to say about the right-wing coup in Ukraine, openly supported by the United States, overthrowing the elected government? Did the hypocrisy get any worse during the Cold War? Imagine that NATO had not been created in 1949. Imagine that it has never existed. What reason could one give today for its creation? Other than to provide a multi-national cover for Washington’s interventions.

One of the main differences between now and the Cold War period is that Americans at home are (not yet) persecuted or prosecuted for supporting Russia or things Russian.

But don’t worry, folks, there won’t be a big US-Russian war. For the same reason there wasn’t one during the Cold War. The United States doesn’t pick on any country which can defend itself.

Cuba … Again … Still … Forever

Is there actually a limit? Will the United States ever stop trying to overthrow the Cuban government? Entire books have been written documenting the unrelenting ways Washington has tried to get rid of tiny Cuba’s horrid socialism – from military invasion to repeated assassination attempts to an embargo that President Clinton’s National Security Advisor called “the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind” 5. But nothing has ever come even close to succeeding. The horrid socialism keeps on inspiring people all over the world. It’s the darnedest thing. Can providing people free or remarkably affordable health care, education, housing, food and culture be all that important?

And now it’s “Cuban Twitter” – an elaborately complex system set up by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to disguise its American origins and financing, aiming to bring about a “Cuban Spring” uprising. USAID sought to first “build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then the plan was to push them toward dissent”, hoping the messaging network “would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize ‘smart mobs’ – mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice – that might trigger political demonstrations or ‘renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society’.” 6 It’s too bad it’s now been exposed, because we all know how wonderful the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan, and other “Arab Springs” have turned out.

Here’s USAID speaking after their scheme was revealed on April 3: “Cubans were able to talk among themselves, and we are proud of that.”  7 We are thus asked to believe that normally the poor downtrodden Cubans have no good or safe way to communicate with each other. Is the US National Security Agency working for the Cuban government now?

The Associated Press, which broke the story, asks us further to believe that the “truth” about most things important in the world is being kept from the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that the “Cuban Twitter” would have opened people’s eyes. But what information might a Cuban citizen discover online that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami and other southern cities; both CNN and Telesur (Venezuela, covering Latin America) are seen regularly on Cuban television”; international conferences on all manner of political, economic and social issues are held regularly in Cuba. I’ve spoken at more than one myself. What – it must be asked – does USAID, as well as the American media, think are the great dark secrets being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?

Those who push this line sometimes point to the serious difficulty of using the Internet in Cuba. The problem is that it’s extremely slow, making certain desired usages often impractical. From an American friend living in Havana: “It’s not a question of getting or not getting internet. I get internet here. The problem is downloading something or connecting to a link takes too long on the very slow connection that exists here, so usually I/we get ‘timed out’.” But the USAID’s “Cuban Twitter”, after all, could not have functioned at all without the Internet.

Places like universities, upscale hotels, and Internet cafés get better connections, at least some of the time; however, it’s rather expensive to use at the hotels and cafés.

In any event, this isn’t a government plot to hide dangerous information. It’s a matter of technical availability and prohibitive cost, both things at least partly in the hands of the United States and American corporations. Microsoft, for example, at one point, if not at present, barred Cuba from using its Messenger instant messaging service. 8

Cuba and Venezuela have jointly built a fiber optic underwater cable connection that they hope will make them less reliant on the gringos; the outcome of this has not yet been reported in much detail.

The grandly named Agency for International Development does not have an honorable history; this can perhaps be captured by a couple of examples: In 1981, the agency’s director, John Gilligan, stated: “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.” 9

On June 21, 2012, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a resolution calling for the immediate expulsion of USAID from their nine member countries, “due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”

USAID, the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy (and the latter’s subsidiaries), together or singly, continue to be present at regime changes, or attempts at same, favorable to Washington, from “color revolutions” to “spring” uprisings, producing a large measure of chaos and suffering for our tired old world.

Notes

  1. William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, p.22-5
  2. Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), p.158
  3. Washington Post, March 31, 2014
  4. NATO takes measures to reinforce collective defence, agrees on support for Ukraine”, NATO website, April 1, 2014
  5. Sandy Berger, White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
  6. Associated Press, April 3 & 4, 2014
  7. Washington Post, April 4, 2014
  8. Associated Press, June 2, 2009
  9. George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century(Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321
Mar 192014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

FARC members in Columbia

FARC members in Columbia

Introduction

The two paths to 21st century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war lord, Alvaro Uribe.  We will  describe the ‘mechanics’ of US intervention in the domestic politics of these two countries and their profound external effects – that is how they enhance imperial power on a continent-wide basis.

Political Intervention and Proxy Regimes:  Ukraine

The conversion of the Ukraine into a US-EU vassal state has been a prolonged process which involved large scale, long term financing, indoctrination and recruitment of cadres, organization and training of politicos and street fighters and, above all, a capacity to combine direct action with electoral politics.

Seizing power is a high stakes game for empire:  (1) Ukraine, in the hands of clients, provides a NATO with a military springboard into the heart of the Russian Federation; (2) Ukraine’s industrial and agricultural resources provide a source of enormous wealth for Western investors and (3) Ukraine is a strategic region for penetrating the Caucuses and beyond.

Washington invested over $5 billion dollars in client-building, mostly in ‘Western Ukraine’, especially in and around Kiev, focusing on ‘civil society groups’ and malleable political parties and leaders.  By 2004, the initial US political ‘investment’ in regime change culminated in the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ which installed a short-lived pro-US-EU regime.  This, however, quickly degenerated amidst major corruption scandals, mismanagement and oligarchical pillage of the national treasury and public resources leading to the conviction of the former-Vice President and the demise of the regime.  New elections produced a new regime, which attempted to secure ties with both the EU and Russia via economic agreements, while retaining many of the odious features (gross endemic corruption) of the previous regime.  The US and EU, having lost thru democratic elections, relaunched their ‘direct action organizations’ with a new radical agenda.  Neo-fascists seized power and established a dictatorial junta through violent demonstrations, vandalism, armed assaults and mob action.  The composition of the new post-coup junta reflected two sides of the US-backed political organizations: (1) neo-liberal politicos for managing economic policy and forging closer ties with NATO, (2) and neo-fascists/violent nationalists to impose order by force and fist, and crush pro-Russian Crimean ‘autonomists’ and ethnic Russians and other minorities, especially in the industrialized south and east.

Whatever else may ensue, the coup and the resultant junta is fully subordinated to and dependent on the will of Washington:  claims of Ukrainian ‘independence’ notwithstanding.  The junta proceeded to purge the elected and appointed government officials affiliated with the political parties of the previous democratic regime and to persecute its supporters.  Their purpose is to ensure that subsequent managed elections will provide a pretense of legitimacy, and elections will be limited to two sets of imperial clients:  the neo-liberals, (self-styled “moderates”) and the neo-fascists dubbed as “nationalists”.

Ukraine’s road to imperialist power via a collaborator regime illustrates the various instruments of empire building: (1) the use of imperial state funds, channeled through NGOs, to political front groups and the build-up of a ‘mass base’ in civil society;  (2) the financing of mass direct action leading to a coup (‘regime change’); (3) the imposition of neo-liberal policies by the client regime; (4) imperial financing of the re-organization and regroupment of mass direct action groups after the demise of the first client regime; (5) the transition from protest to violent direct action as the major backdrop to the extremist sectors (neo-fascists) organizing the seizure of power and purge of the opposition; (6)  organizing an ‘international media campaign’ to prop up the new junta while demonizing domestic  and international opposition (Russia) and (7)  political power centralized in the hands of the junta, convoking “managed elections” limited to the victory of one or the other pro-imperial pro-junta candidates.

In summary, empire-builders operate on several/levels: violent and electoral; social and political; and with selected incumbents and rivals committed to one strategic aim:  the seizure of state power and the conversion of the ruling elite into willing vassals of empire.

Columbia’s Deathsquad Democracy: Centerpiece of the Imperial Advance in Latin America

In the face of a continent-wide decline of US influence in Latin America, Colombia stands out as a constant bulwark of US imperial interests:  (1) Colombia signed a free trade agreement with the US; (2) provided seven military bases and invited thousands of US counter-insurgency operatives; and (3) collaborated in building large-scale paramilitary death squads prepared for cross border raids against Washington’s arch enemy Venezuela.

Colombia’s ruling oligarchy and military have been able to resist the wave of massive democratic, national and popular social upheavals and electoral victories that gave rise to the post-neo-liberal states in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

While Latin America has moved toward ‘regional organizations’  excluding the US, Colombia strengthened its ties to the US through bilateral agreements.  While Latin America reduced its dependence on US markets, Colombia expanded its commercial ties.  While Latin America reduced their military ties to the Pentagon, Colombia tightened them.  While Latin America moved toward greater social inclusion by increasing taxes on foreign multinational corporations, Colombia lowered corporate taxes.  While Latin America expanded land settlements for its landless rural populations, Colombia displaced over 4 million peasants as part of the US-designed ‘scorched earth’ counter-insurgency policy.

Colombia’s “exceptional” unwavering submission to US imperial interests is rooted in several large-scale, long-term programs developed in Washington.  In 2000, President ‘Bill’ Clinton committed the US to a $6 billion dollar counter-insurgency program (Plan Colombia) which greatly increased the brutal repressive capacity of the Colombian elite to confront the popular grass roots movements of peasants and workers.  Along with arms and training, US Special Forces and ideologues entered Colombia to develop military and paramilitary terror operations – aimed primarily at penetrating and decimating political opposition and civil society social movements and assassinating activists and leaders.  The US-backed Alvaro Uribe, notorious narco-trafficker and the very personification of a ruthless imperial vassal, became president over a ‘Death-Squad Democracy’.

President Uribe further militarized Colombian society, savaged civil society movements and crushed any possibility of a popular democratic revival, such as were occurring throughout the rest of Latin America.  Thousands of activists, trade unionists, human rights workers and peasants were murdered, tortured and jailed.

The ‘Colombian System’ combined the systematic use of para-militarism (death squads) to smash local and regional trade union and peasant opposition and the technification and massification of the military (over 300,000 soldiers) in fighting the popular insurgency and ‘emptying the countryside’ of rebel sympathizers.  Large-scale multi-billion dollar drug trafficking and money laundering formed the ‘financial glue’ to cement a tight relationship among oligarchs, politicos, bankers and US counter-insurgency advisers – creating a terrifying high-tech police state bordering Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil – countries with substantial popular mass movements.

The same state terror machinery, which decimated the pro-democracy social movements, has protected, promoted and participated in ‘stage-managed elections’, the hallmark of Colombia as a “death squad democracy”.

Elections are held under a vast overlapping network of military bases, where death squads and drug traffickers occupied towns and villages intimidating, terrorizing and ‘corrupting’ the electorate.  The only ‘safe’ protest in this repressive atmosphere has been voter abstention. Electoral outcomes are pre-ordained: oligarchs never lose in deathsquad democracies, they are the empire’s most trusted vassals.

The cumulative effects of the decade and a half-long bloody purge of Colombian civil society by Presidents Uribe and his successor, Santos, have been to eliminate any consequential electoral opposition.  Washington has achieved its ideal:  a stable vassal state; a large-scale and obedient military; an oligarchy tied to US corporate elites; and a tightly-controlled ‘electoral’ system that never permits the election of a genuine opponent.

The March 2014 Colombian elections brilliantly illustrate the success of US strategic intervention in collaboration with the oligarchy:  The vast majority of the electorate, over two-thirds, abstained, demonstrating the absence of any real legitimacy among the eligible voters.  Among those who ‘voted’, ten percent submitted ‘spoiled’ or blank ballots.  Voter abstention and ballot-spoilage was especially high in the rural regions and working class areas which had been subject to state terror.

Given the intense state repression, the mass of voters decided that no authentic pro-democracy party would have any chance and so refused to legitimize the process.  The 30% who actually voted were largely urban middle and upper class Colombians and residents in some rural areas completely controlled by narco-terrorists and the military  where ‘voting’ may have been ‘compulsory’.  Of a total of 32 million eligible voters in Colombia, 18 million abstained and another 2.3 million submitted spoiled ballots.  The two dominant oligarchical coalitions led by President Santos and ex-President Uribe received only 2.2 million and 2.05 million  votes respectively, a fraction of the number who abstained  (14 million).  In this widely scorned electoral farce, the center-left and left parties made a miserable showing.  Colombia’s electoral system puts a propaganda veneer on dangerous, highly-militarized vassal state primed to play a strategic role in US plans to “reconquer” Latin America.

Two decades of systematic terror, financed by a six-billion dollar militarization program, has guaranteed that Washington will not encounter any substantial opposition in the legislature or presidential palace in Bogota.  This is the ‘acrid, gunpowder-tinged smell of success’ for US policymakers:  violence is the midwife of the vassal state.  Colombia has been turned into the springboard for developing an US-centered trade bloc and a military alliance to undermine Venezuela’s Bolivarian regional alliances, such as ALBA and Petro Caribe as well as Venezuela’s national security.  Bogota will try to influence neighboring right and center-left regimes pushing them to embrace of the US Empire against Venezuela.

Conclusion

Large-scale, long-term subversion and organization in Ukraine and Colombia, as well as the funding of paramilitary and civil society organizations (NGO) has enabled Washington to: (1) construct strategic allies, (2) build ties to oligarchs, malleable politicians and paramilitary thugs and (3) apply political terrorism for their seizure of state power.  The imperial planners have thus created “model states” – devoid of consequential opponents and ‘open’ to sham elections among rival vassal politicians.

Coups and juntas, orchestrated by longstanding political proxies, and highly militarized states run by ‘Death Squad Executives’ are all legitimized by electoral systems designed to expand and strengthen imperial power.

By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments, Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable.