Apr 292016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

President Obama is racing forward to establish his imperial legacy throughout Russia, Asia and Latin America.

In the last two years he has accelerated the buildup of his military nuclear arsenal on the frontiers of Russia. The Pentagon has designed a high tech anti-missile system to undermine Russian defenses.

In Latin America, Obama has shed his shallow pretense of tolerating the center-left electoral regimes. Instead he is has joined with rabid authoritarian net-liberals in Argentina; met with the judges and politicians engineering the overthrow of the current Brazilian government; and encouraged the emerging far-rightwing regimes in Peru under Keiko Fujimori and Colombia under President Santos.

In Asia, Obama has clearly escalated a military build-up threatening China’s principle waterways in the South China Sea. Obama encouraged aggressive and violent separatist groupings in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. Obama invites Beijing billionaires to relocate a trillion dollars in assets to the ‘laundry machines’ of North America, Europe and Asia. Meanwhile he has actively blocked China’s long-planned commercial ‘silk route’ across Myanmar and west Asia.

In the Middle East, President Obama joined with Saudi Arabia as Riyadh escalated its brutal war and blockade in Yemen. He directed Kenya and other African predator states to attack Somalia. He has continued to back mercenary armies invading Syria while collaborating with the Turkish dictator, Erdogan, as Turkish troops bomb Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi fighters who are engaged on the front lines against Islamist terrorism.

President Obama and his minions have consistently groveled before the Jewish State and its US Fifth Column, massively increasing US ‘tribute’ to Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Israel continues to seize thousands of acres of Palestinian land murdering and arresting thousands of Palestinians, from young children to aged grandparents.

The Obama regime is desperate to overcome the consequences of his political, military and economic failures of the past six years and establish the US as the uncontested global economic and military power.

At this stage, Obama’s supreme goal is to leave an enduring legacy, where he will have (1) surrounded and weakened Russia and China; (2) re-converted Latin America into an authoritarian free-trade backyard for US plunder; (3) turned the Middle East and North Africa into a bloody playpen for Arab and Jewish dictators bent on brutalizing whole nations and turning millions into refugees to flood Europe and elsewhere.

Once this ‘legacy’ is established, our ‘Historic Black President’ can boast that he has dragged our ‘great nation’ into more wars for longer periods of time, costing more diverse human lives and creating more desperate refugees than any previous US President, all the while polarizing and impoverishing the great mass of working Americans. He will, indeed, set a ‘high bar’ for his incumbent replacement, Madame Hilary Clinton to leap over and even expand.

To examine the promise of an Obama legacy and avoid premature judgements, it is best to briefly recall the failures of his first 6 years and reflect on his current inspired quest for a ‘place in history’.

Fear, Loathing and Retreat

Obama’s shameless bailout of Wall Street contrasted sharply with the desires and sentiments of the vast majority of Americans who had elected him. This was a historic moment of great fear and loathing where scores of millions of Americans demanded the federal government reign in the financial criminals, stop the downward spiral of household bankruptcies and home foreclosures and recovery America’s working economy. After a brief honeymoon following his ‘historic election’, the ‘historic’ President Obama turned his back on the wishes of the people and transferred trillions of public money to ‘bailout’ the banks and financial centers on Wall Street.

Not satisfied with betraying the American workers and the beleaguered middle class, Obama reneged on his campaign promises to end the war(s) in the Middle East by increasing the US troop presence and expanding his drone-assassination warfare against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Syria.

US troops re-invaded Afghanistan, fought and retreated in defeat. The Taliban advanced. The US expanded its training of the puppet Iraqi army, which collapsed on its first encounters with the Islamic State. Washington retreated again. Regime change in Libya, Egypt and Somalia created predator-mercenary states without any semblance of US control and dominance.

Obama had become both a master of military defeats and financial swindles.

In the Western Hemisphere, a continent of independent Latin American governments had emerged to challenge US supremacy. The ‘Historic President’ Obama was dismissed as a clueless hack of the US Empire who lacked any rapport with governments south of the Panama Canal. While trade and investment flourished between Latin America and Asia; Washington fell behind. Regional political and economic agreements expanded, but Obama was left without allies.

Obama’s clumsy attempts at US-backed ‘regime change’ were defeated in Venezuela and elsewhere. Only the small, corrupt narco-state of Honduras fell into Obama’s orbit with the Hillary Clinton-engineered overthrow of its elected populist-nationalist president.

China and Russia expanded and flourished as commodities boomed, wealth expanded and demand for Chinese manufacturers exploded.

By 2013 Obama had no legacy.

The Recovery:  Obama’s Lost Legacy

Obama began the road to establishing his ‘legacy’ with the US-financed coup in Ukraine, spearheaded by the first bona fide Nazi militia since WWII. After celebrating the violent ‘regime change’ against Ukraine’s elected government, Obama’s new oligarch-puppet regime and its ethno-nationalist army have been a disaster, losing control of the industrialized Donbas region to ethnic Russian rebels and completely losing the strategic Crimea when the population overwhelmingly voted to re-join Russia after 50 years. Meanwhile, the oligarch-‘president’ Poroshenko and his fellow puppets have pilfered several billion dollars in ‘aid’ from the EU . . . all in pursuit of the Obama legacy’.

Obama then slapped devastating economic sanctions against Russia for its role in the Crimean referendum and its support for the millions of Russian speakers in Donbas, and in the process forced the European Union to make major trade sacrifices. For their role in creating a real “American legacy” for Mr. Obama, the Germans, French and the other twenty-eight countries have sacrificed billions of Euros in trade and investments – alienating large sectors of their own agricultural and manufacturing economy.

The Obama regime placed nuclear weapons on the Polish border with Russia, pointed at the Russian heartland. Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians joined Obama’s military exercises stationing US ships and attack aircraft in the Baltic Sea threatening Russia’s security.

Obama’s Legacy in Latin America

The Obama regime intensified its efforts to re-establish supremacy with the demise of the Center-Left regimes following elections in late 2013 to the present.

Obama’s ‘legacy in Latin America is based on the return to power of neoliberal elites in the region. Their successful elections were the result of several factors, including: (1) the rise of rightwing economic power in Latin America; (2) the decay and corruption of political power within the Left; 3) incapacity of the Left to develop its own independent mass media to challenge the media monopoly of the Right; and (4) the failure of Center-Left regimes to diversify their economy and develop growth outside the boundaries defined by the dominant capitalist sectors.

The Obama regime worked closely with the political-business elite, organizing the political campaigns and controlling key economic policies even during the Center-Left governments. The Left regimes had financed, subsidized and rewarded right-wing business interests in agro-mineral industries, banking, and the media as well as in manufacturing and imports.

As long as worldwide demand for primary materials was strong, the Center-Left governments had plenty of room to adjust their social spending for workers while accommodating business interests. When demand and prices fell, budget deficits forced the Center-Left to cut back on social spending for the masses as well as subsidies for the business elite. In response, the business sector organized a full-scale attack on the government – in defense of elite power. The Center-Left failed to counter the growing power and position of their business elite adversaries.

The business elite launched a full-scale propaganda war via its captive mass media – focusing on real or imagined corruption scandals discrediting Center-Left politicians.  The Left lacked its own effective mass media to answer the Right’s accusations, having failed to democratize the corporate media monopolies.

The Center-Left parties adopted the elite’s technique of financing political campaigns – namely, through bribes, contract concessions, patronage other deal making with billionaire private and state contractors. The Center-Left imagined it could compete with the free-market rightwing in financing campaigns and candidates via swindlers – and not through class struggle. This was a game they could never master.

The Right, however, mobilized their allies within police, judicial and public institutions to prosecute and disqualify the Center-Left for committing the same crimes the Right had evaded.

The Center-Left did not mobilize the workers and employees to establish even minimal controls over the elite and assume some managerial power. They thought they could compete with the Right on its own terms, through shady business and chicanery.

The Center-Left relied on financing its administration and policies through the commodity boom in demand for its natural resources – overlooking the fundamental instability and volatility of the global commodity market. While the Right openly condemned the ‘weakness of the Center-Left’ – in private, it pursued policies even more dependent on overseas speculators and narrow elites.

In Argentina, as the economy declined, the leadership of the rightwing, led by Mauricio Marci, launched a successful presidential campaign involving the mass media, banks, middle class voters and agro-mining elites. Immediately upon taking power, the Macri regime cut social services for workers and the lower middle class, slashing their living standards and lay off thousands of government employees. Obama saw Macri as his kind of legacy savior and viewed Argentina as the new center of US power in Latin America – with plans for more regime change in Brazil, Venezuela and throughout the region.

In Brazil, the Center-Left Workers’ Party (PT) faced a massive attack on its power base by the extreme rightwing parties. Corruption scandals rocked the entire spectrum of the political class, but the PT was most heavily implicated by massive fraud in Brazil’s huge national oil company, Petrobras. The PT regime’s troubles intensified as the country entered a recession with the drop in demand for its agro-mining exports. Growing fiscal deficits compounded the regime’s problems. The Brazilian hard Right mobilized its entire apparatus of elite power – the courts, judges, police and intelligence agencies – in a bid to overthrow the PT government and impose an authoritarian neo-liberal regime seizing all financial, business and productive assets

The Center-Left had never been very left, if at all. Under Presidents Lula and Rousseff  (2003-2016), the powerful mining and agricultural elites flourished; banking, investment and multi-national enterprises prospered. The Center-Left made some paternalistic concessions to the lowest income classes, and increased wages for labor and farm workers. But the PT relegated labor to the background while it signed business agreements and granted tax concessions to capital. It failed to engage Brazilian workers in class struggle.

The Right was never engaged in any struggle with a genuine leftist government pressing business for structural changes. Nevertheless, the Right sought to eliminates even the most superficial reforms. It would accept nothing short of total control, including: the privatization of the major national oil company, the reduction of wages, pensions and transport subsidies and a slashing of social programs. The Brazilian Rightwing coup – a fake impeachment organized by indicted crooks – is designed to vastly re-concentrate wealth, and re-establish the power of business, while plunging millions into poverty and repressing the principal organized mass movements. In Brazil, the elite-controlled media, courts and politicians act as judge, jury and jailers – against a Center-Left regime which had never taken control over the major institutions of elite power.

Obama and the Axis of his Legacy

Political rightists join police to control the multitudes and seize power, re-establishing deep ties among Brazil, Washington and Argentina. They will then move toward the neoliberal re-conquest of all Latin America. Against this new wave, it must be understood that Obama’s Latin American legacy is too recent, too hasty and too disjointed – the new Right exhibits the same or even worse features of the recently deceased Left.

Argentina’s Marci borrows $15 billion at 8% interest, when the economy is fracturing, employment is collapsing, exports and worldwide demand is declining. At the same time, President Mauricio Marci’s cabinet is plagued by major financial scandals ‘a la Panama Papers’. The entire political party-trade union-employed working class is profoundly disenchanted with Marci’s minority rule.

Argentina may not turn out to be Obama’s enduring Latin Legacy: While Macri may open the door for a brief Washington take-over, the results will be catastrophic and the future, given Argentina’s recent history of popular street uprisings, is uncertain.

Likewise in Brazil, the impeachment/coup will result in new and more numerous investigations with trials of post-impeachment politicians and a deepening economic crisis. Brazil’s Vice-President, who turned against Rouseff, now faces corruption charges, as do his supporters. The prolonged confrontation precludes any basic continuity. The rightwing regime’s policy of slashing wages, pensions and poverty ‘baskets’ will detonate large-scale confrontations with the polarized population. Obama’s ‘legacy’ will be a brief episode – celebrating the ouster of the Workers’ Party President followed by a long period of instability and disorder.

Rightist regimes in Venezuela, Colombia and Peru will be part of Obama’s ‘legacy’ but to what lasting end?

The Venezuelan rightwing congress – dubbed the MUD – seeks to overthrow the elected president. It demands the release of several right-wing assassins from prison, the privatization of the oil industry, and a deep cut in social programs (health and education). They would reduce employees’ wages and eliminate food subsidies. The MUD has no competent plan or capacity to grow the oil economy and overcome chronic food shortages. The MUD would merely replace the Left’s subsidized economy with massive price increases for basic commodities — reducing domestic consumption to a fraction of its current level. In other words, the right-wing offensive may defeat the Chavista left but it will not stabilize Venezuela or develop a viable neoliberal alternative. Any new rightwing regime will deteriorate rapidly and the chronic problem of criminal violence will exceed the current levels. The alliance between Washington and Venezuela’s far right will hardly support Obama’s claim to a historic legacy. More likely, it will serve as another example of a failed right wing state unable to replace a weakening left regime.

Similar circumstances can be found among other ‘emerging’ rightist regimes.

In Colombia, the current rightwing President Santos talks to the FARC guerrillas, but also accommodates the paramilitary death squads. His talks of peace settlements and social reform are linked to the genocidal right, led by the former President Uribe. Meanwhile, the economy stagnates with oil and metal prices collapsing on the world market. Colombian living standards have declined and the promise of a rightwing revival grows dim. The US-Colombian alliance may undercut the FARC but the rightwing does not offer any prospect for modernizing the economy or stabilizing the society.

Similarly in Peru, the rightwing wins votes and embraces free markets, but growth declines, investments and profits dry up and mass disenchantment grows among the poor, promising street conflicts.

The Obama ‘legacy’ in Latin America has followed a series of brutal victories, which have no capacity to re-impose a stable ‘new order’ of free markets and free elections. The initial wave of favorable investments and lucrative concessions will fail to revive and recalibrate a new growth dynamics.

More ominously, Obama relied on mass murder to replace an elected leftist-nationalist president in Honduras and imposed a regime of terror against the poor and indigenous population. Meanwhile, illicit offshore handouts reward speculators in Argentina.

Obama’s legacy in Latin America reflects an entire spectrum from illicit-rightwing coups to oust the elected governments in Brazil and Venezuela, to elected authoritarian presidents in Peru and Colombia with historic links to death squads and multi-million dollar overseas accounts.

Obama’s contemporary ‘Latin American legacy’ reeks of gross electoral manipulation preparing the ground for bloody class wars.

Obama’s Legacy in the Ukraine, Yemen and Syria

The Obama regime thought it could manage widespread conflicts, uprisings and wars to advance its global supremacy.

To that end, Obama spent billions of dollars in weapons and propaganda arming Neo-Nazi para-military troops to seize power in Ukraine. A grotesque, brutal gang of oligarchs (and disgraced, foreign fugitives – like the ousted Georgian leader, Mikhail Saakachvili) served Washington in the puppet Kiev regime. Critics, journalists, jurists and citizens are being assassinated. The economy has collapsed; prices skyrocket; incomes declined by half; unemployment tripled and millions have sought refuge abroad. Wars raged between Russian ethnic citizen armies in the Donbas and the puppet Kiev regime. The people of Crimea voted to rejoin Russia. Meanwhile, economic sanctions against trade with Russia have exacerbated shortages for the people of Ukraine.

Under Obama’s stewardship the Ukraine became a world-class . . . basket case: so much for his European legacy. He can rightly claim credit for imposing a thoroughly retrograde regime of Klepto-capitalism with no redeeming feature.

Obama embraced Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen – destroying the life and cities of the poorest nation in the Middle East. Obama’s ‘legacy’ in Yemen stands for the systematic obliteration of a sovereign people: Obama performs his tricks for billionaire Saudi despots while savaging the innocent. To the Israelis in Palestine and the Saudis in Yemen, Obama pays homage to the criminals responsible for millions of shattered lives.

What of the Obama ‘legacy’ in Syria and Libya? How many million Africans and Arabs have been murdered or fled on rotten boats in destitution. Only the rankest gang of corrupt media pundits in the US media can pretend this gangster President should evade a war crimes tribunal.

Conclusion

The Obama regime has pursued wars of unremitting destruction. It has forged partnerships with terrorists and death squads as it seeks short-term imperial victories, which end in dismal failures.

The imperial legacy of this ‘historic’ president is a mirage of pillage, squalor and destruction. The effect of his political lies has even begun register here among the American public: Who trusts the US Congress and the President? And in Europe, who trusts Obama’s European partners as they eagerly pushed for wars in the Middle East and North Africa and now fear and loathe the millions of their victims—refugees fleeing to the cities of Europe, with the drowned corpses of uprooted communities spoiling their beaches?

Obama pushed for wars and the Europeans receive the victims – with fear and disgust.

Obama’s victories are temporary, blighted and reversed.

Obama bombed Afghanistan yesterday and now flees renewed resistance.

Obama’s allies are again plundering Latin America but face imminent ouster via popular uprisings.

Obama terrorized and fragmented Syria yesterday but lost elections the day after.

Obama threatens China’s economy while eagerly buying China’s products.

The Obama legacy began as a failed military and economic offensive accompanying a profound social crisis. During his final year in office, Obama tries to forge alliances with the dregs of the hard right to save his legacy. His brief advance into this sordid world of neo-liberals, neo-Nazis and Saudi despots is a prelude to more retreat and chaos.

Obama’s public celebration of the right turn in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East applauds the most retrograde alignment of forces in modern times: Saudis and Israelis; Egyptian generals and Libyan jihadis; neo-ottoman Turks with Ukrainian gangster-oligarchs. Regime changes in Argentina and Brazil encourage Obama to claim vindication of his imperial legacy.

His ‘moment’ of imperial truth is brief, all too brief. Everywhere, we witness the rapid rise of imperial success followed by a series of debacles.

Throughout Latin America capitalist profiteers plunge into wild financial adventures, theft and chaos. In the Middle East, the US stands on the crumbling palaces of a moribund Saudi regime. The much-proclaimed imperial advances are based on grand theft everywhere, from Egypt and Turkey to the Ukraine.

Simply stated: the US formula for a successful legacy is failing at the precise moment that it claims success! Obama and the Right have created a world of chaos and disintegration. Obama and his legions, the US and Europe have no future in peace or war, election or defeats.

There is no imperial legacy for the ‘historic’ President Obama!

Mar 102016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Pluto-Zionism is the three-way marriage of plutocracy, rightwing Zionism and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a serial war criminal, racist and servant of Wall Street. How did this deadly ménage-a-trots cone about? The answer is that a stratospherically wealthy donor group, dedicated to promoting Israel’s dominance in the Middle East and deepening US military intervention in the region, has secured Clinton’s unconditional support for Tel Aviv’s ambitions and, in exchange, Hilary receives scores of millions to finance her Democratic Party foot soldiers and voters for her campaign.

Pluto-Zionism and Clinton

Pluto-Zionists comprise the leading financial backers of Clinton. Her million-dollar backers, among the most powerful financiers and media moguls in America, include: George Soros ($6 million), Marc Benioff, Roger Altman, Steven Spielberg, Haim and Cheryl Saban ($3 million and counting), Jeffrey Katzenberg, Donald Sussman, Herb Sandler, Jay and Mark Pritzker, S. Daniel Abraham ($1 million), Bernard Schwartz, Marc Lasry, Paul Singer, David Geffen, Fred Eychaner, Norman Braman and Bernie Marcus. Waiting in the wings are the  Republican billionaire ‘king-makers’, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Koch brothers as well as the ‘liberal’ multi-billionaire, Michael Bloomberg who had contributed $11 million in 2012 elections. These erstwhile Republican funders are increasing frightened by the anti-‘free trade and anti-intervention’ rhetoric of their party’s front-runner, Donald Trump, and are approaching the solidly pro-Israel, pro-war and pro-Wall Street candidate, Madame Clinton.

Israeli-First Ideologues and Clinton

In addition to the powerful Pluto-Zionists, a vast army of ‘Israel-First’ ideologues is behind Clinton, including ‘veteran’ arm-chair war mongers like Victoria Nuland Kagan, Donald and Robert Kagan, Robert Zoellick, Michael Chertoff, Dov Zakheim among so many other promoters of Washington’s continuous wars on many fronts. Ms Nuland-Kagan, as US Undersecretary of State for East European Affairs, openly bragged about using hundreds of millions of dollars of US taxpayer money to finance the right-wing Ukrainian coup. Michael Chertoff, as head of Homeland Security after 9/11, jailed thousands of innocent Muslims while freeing five Israeli-Mossad agents arrested by the FBI for suspected involvement or pre-knowledge of the attacks in New York after they were seen filming the collapse of the towers and celebrating the event from a warehouse rooftop in New Jersey!).

Pluto-Zionists and the Israel-First ideologues support Ms Clinton as a reward for her extraordinary military and economic activities on behalf of Tel Aviv’s quest for regional dominance. Her accomplishments for the Jewish State include the promotion of full-scale wars, which have destroyed Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan; economic sanctions and blockade against Iran (she threatened to ‘obliterate Iran’ in 2007; and her own repeatedly stated unconditional support for Israel’s devastation against the people imprisoned in Gaza, which has cost thousands of civilian lives and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. (In a letter to her ‘banker’, Haim Saban, Hillary stated: “Israel didn’t teach Hamas (the people of Gaza) a harsh enough lesson last year”).

Clinton versus Trump: ‘Moderation’ is in the Eyes of the Deceiver

The Pluto-Zionists, Israel-First ideologues, the US mass media and their acolytes on Wall Street and the Republican and Democratic Party elite are all on a rampage against the wildly popular Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, labeling him as ‘a danger to everything America stands for. (sic)’ Apart from savaging his persona, the anti-Trump chorus contrast his ‘extremism’ with warmonger Clinton’s ‘pragmatism’.

A careful examination of the facts reveals who is the ultra-extremist and who deals with reality:

Women

Madame Clinton’s much touted wars against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of women and children and uprooted millions of households. This bloody and undeniable record of mayhem was cited by Donald Trump when he argued that his policies would be much better for women than the Feminist Clinton’s had been.

So far, Trump’s worst offenses against women are his crude rhetorical misogynist quips, which pale before Hillary’s bloody record of devastation.

African-Americans

Clinton is backed by the leading black politicians who have long fed out of the Democratic Party patronage trough while selling the Clintons to the black electorate as ardent protectors of civil rights. In fact, as Steve Lensman has written, Hillary had referred to marginalized black youth as “super predators (with) no conscience, no empathy”. During her husband Bill’s presidency, she was on record supporting his draconian ‘three strikes’ crime laws, leading to the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of young blacks; and she backed his ‘welfare reform’ program, which shredded the social safety net for the poor and forced millions of impoverished mothers to work for sub-poverty wages, further eroding the stability of black female-headed households. On the African front, ‘Sister’ Secretary of State Hillary’s war on Libya led to the displacement, rape and murder of tens of thousands of black women of sub-Saharan origin at the hands of her jihadi war-lord allies. Millions of black sub-Saharan migrants had lived and worked in Gaddafi’s Libya for years, tens of thousands becoming Libyan citizens. They endured the horror of rampant ethnic cleansing in Clinton’s ‘liberated’ Libya.

Trump, at worst, has done nothing of direct harm to African Americans and remains an enigma on black issues. He opposes Clinton’s war on Libya and has vividly blamed her policies as responsible for the chaos and human misery in post-NATO bombing Libya.

Latinos

Under the Obama-Clinton administration almost 2 million Latino immigrants have been seized from their homes and workplaces, separated from their families and summarily expelled. As Madame Secretary of State, Clinton backed the Honduran military coup that overthrew the elected government of President Zelaya and led directly to assassination of over three hundred activists, including feminist, indigenous, human rights and environmental leaders, like Berta Careers. Clinton actively backed unsuccessful coups against the democratically elected Bolivian and Venezuelan governments.

Trump has verbally threaten to extend and deepen the Obama-Clinton expulsion of whatever remains of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrant Latino workers after Obama’s expulsion of the 2 million and the hundreds of thousands who have voluntarily gone home. His ‘extremist’ vision is completely in line with that of his allegedly ‘pragmatic’ opponent whose State Department promoted the destruction of so many Latino families in the US.

Foreign Policy

Clinton has launched or promoted more simultaneous wars than any Secretary of State in US history. She was the leading force behind the US bombing of Libya and the brutal ‘regime change’ that has fractured that nation. She promoted the military escalation in Iraq, backed the violent seizure of power in Ukraine, ‘engineered’ the military build-up (pivot to Asia) against China and negotiated the continued presence of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan.

Clinton has repeatedly pledged to her supporter Haim Saban and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she will give Israel with “all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to vanquish Hamas” regardless of the many thousands of Palestinian civilian casualties. The ‘pragmatic feminist’ Hillary is a fervent supporter of the Saudi despotism and its genocide war against the popular forces in Yemen. Hillary tried to pressure President Obama to send US ground troops into Syria. She promotes the continuation of harsh trade sanctions against Russia.

Trump opposes any further direct US intervention in the Middle East. During his debate in South Carolina, he repeatedly denounced President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq – as based on ‘deliberate lies to the American people’, to the shock and horror of the Republican Party elite. He has rejected Pluto-Zionist financing, arguing that only as an independent ‘honest broker’,  who doesn’t take the side of Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, can he be effective in brokering a ‘deal’. He opposes sending ground troops overseas to Europe or Asia, which imposes a huge financial burden on the US taxpayers. He has gone on to suggest that European and Asian powers can and should pay for their own defense. Trump argues that the US could work with Putin against radical Islamist terrorism and he regards Russia as a potential trading partner. His anti-interventionism has been labeled as ‘isolationist’ by the Pluto-Zionist ideologues and militarist warlords holed up in their Washington think tanks, but Trump’s ‘America First’ resonates profoundly with the war-weary and economically devastated US electorate.

Israel

Clinton has totally and unconditionally pledged to widen and deepen US subordination to Israel’s war aims in the Middle East and to defend Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and within apartheid Israel. As a result, Clinton has built a coalition made-up of unsavory mafia-linked, gambling, media and speculator billionaires, whose first loyalty is not to America but Israel. She denounces all critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites’.

Trump has never been a critic of Israel but he has called for greater ‘evenhandedness’, which is anathema within Zionist circles. For that reason he has not secured a single Pluto-Zionist supporter. So far, he has not been labelled an anti-Semite … perhaps because his own daughter converted to Judaism following her marriage, but his lack of effusive philo-Zionism has him marked as ‘unreliable’ to the Jewish State. As a subterfuge for his lack of servility to Tel Aviv, Democratic Party Zionist hacks emphasize his ‘racism’ and ‘fascist’ tendencies…

The Democratic Elections: The Real Muck 

Clinton currently leads Sanders for the Democratic nomination mostly on the basis of non-elected delegates, the so-called ‘super delegates’, who are party loyalists appointed by the bosses and elite politicians. Sanders’ call for a “political revolution in America” has no traction unless there is first a political revolution within the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party is like the Augean Stable – a clean up requiring a Herculean effort and a loud pugnacious leader with a big broom. Senator Sanders is no Hercules.

As a positive beginning, Sanders has mobilized grass roots support, raised progressive health, education and tax policies that adversely affect Clinton’s billionaire Wall Street backers (Big financier Jaime Diamond called Sanders ‘the most dangerous man in America’), and secured millions of contributions from small donors. But he has failed to target and demand the exit of the Pluto-Zionists, the Wall Street bankers and speculators and venal black politicians controlling the Democratic Party. They run the elections of US presidents and will make sure Hillary Clinton secures the nomination by hook or (more likely) crook.

Clinton is backed by this formidable authoritarian (profoundly anti-democratic) electoral machine. She is totally embedded in the process. Clinton has a track record of enthusiastic support for the barbarism of torture – laughing at and cheering on the torture-death of the wounded Libyan President Gaddafi. In the pursuit of wars and war crimes, Hillary Clinton knows no limit and has borne no accountability. What makes Hillary so terrifyingly dangerous is that she could be ‘Commander in Chief’ of a great military power. While Clinton may be no Hitler, the US is vastly more engaged in world politics than Weimer Germany ever was. Her dictate would bring on global destruction.

If the Democratic primaries are as profoundly undemocratic as they have been in the past, the Republicans and their plutocrat partners are openly planning and plotting to ‘Dump the Donald’ and prevent Trump from obtaining an electoral victory. They have been discussing ways to use convention procedures to undermine a majority vote, and set up a ‘brokered convention’, where the ‘big-wigs’ jigger the delegates, rules and voting procedures behind closed doors robbing the populist front-runner of his party candidacy.

Conclusion

The US presidential primaries reveal in all their facets the decay and corruption of democracy in an era of imperial decline. The ascendancy of a financial oligarchy in the Democratic Party, backing a psychopathic militarist, like Hillary, cannot disguise her track record by labeling their candidate a ‘pragmatist’; the majority of Sanders supporters have no illusions about Madame Clinton. Panic and hysteria among an unsavory elite in the Republican Party and its efforts to block a sui-generis conservative Republican isolationist speaks to the fragility of imperial rule.

If the psychopathic war-monger Clinton is crowned the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, there is no way she can be considered the pragmatic ‘lesser evil’ to Donald Trump or any Republican – their bosses decide to spew out. At best, she might be the ‘equal evil’. In this case, more than 50% of the electorate will not vote. If, after being robbed of his growing movement for the Democratic Party candidacy, ‘Bernie’ Sanders does not break out with an independent bid for the White House, I will join the minuscule 1% who vote for Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.

Mar 082016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Mapping the emerging global economic, political and military configurations requires that we examine regions and countries along several dynamic policy axis:

  1. Capitalist versus anti-capitalist
  2. Neoliberal versus anti-neoliberal
  3. Austerity versus anti-austerity
  4. War command centers and war zones
  5. Political change and socio-economic continuity
  6. New Order and political decay

Though many of these dimensions overlap, they also highlight the complexity and influence of local and national versus global power relations.

We will first identify and classify the regimes and emerging movements, which fall into each of these categories, and then proceed to generalize about current ‘global’ trends and future perspectives based on approximations of the real correlation of forces.

Capitalism versus Anti-Capitalism

Capitalism is the only economic system throughout the world. However, it has and continues to experience periods of severe crisis, stagnation and breakdown. Several regimes continue to declare themselves ‘socialist’ (like Cuba, Venezuela and China) even as they pursue large scale foreign investments, establish free trade zones and provide incentives to stimulate expansion of the private sector.

Anti-capitalist parties, movements and trade unions have emerged and some still engage in large-scale class-struggles. But others have capitulated, like Syriza in Greece, and Refundacion Comunista in Italy, which renounced any anti-capitalist pretense and embraced neo-liberal variants of capitalism.

Anti-capitalist tendencies are at best implicit in the mass working class strikes occurring in China, India and South Africa and explicitly by minor parties in Europe, Asia, South America and elsewhere. Much more significant are the conflicts and struggles between variants of capitalism: neoliberal and anti-neoliberal regimes and movements; and between austerity and anti-austerity regimes and movements.

In military terms, conflicts can best be understood by differentiating between ‘war (command) centers’ in the imperial countries and ‘war zones’.

Neoliberal and Anti-Neoliberal Correlations of Power

The balance of power has shifted toward pro-neoliberal regimes over the past two years. Even where political regime changes have occurred, they have not been accompanied by any significant shifts toward anti-neoliberal policies.

Latin America has witnessed the biggest shift toward hard-right neoliberal regimes and policies. Rightwing extremists won presidential elections in Argentina and legislative elections in Venezuela. In Brazil the so-called ‘Workers Party’ regime has embraced a neoliberal austerity program. In Bolivia, the social democratic Movement to Socialism lost the recent referendum allowing a 3rd term re-election for President Evo Morales. The organized forces that defeated the referendum were predominantly hardline neo-liberals.

Elsewhere, in Latin America political changes, from hardline neoliberal presidents to ostensible social democrats (Chile and El Salvador) and nationalists (Peru), simply led to the continuation of free market economic policies. Even socialist regimes, like Cuba, have introduced market incentives and free trade zones for foreign multi-nationals.

In the Middle East and North Africa, popular revolts against incumbent neoliberal despots were violently suppressed. Recycled neoliberal military autocrats and politicians returned to power in Egypt, Tunisia, Israel, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran, under the recently elected ‘reformist’ Rohani regime, has opened the oil and gas fields to foreign capital and captured about 40% of the legislative deputies in the February 2016 election.

In Asia, neoliberals, who took power in recent elections in India and Indonesia, are moving to de-regulate and promote foreign multi-national capital penetration. China and Russia have moved to facilitate financial capital flows – resulting in  multi-billion-dollar capital flight and the relocation of new billionaire families to Canada, England, the US and other Western countries.

In Europe, Scandinavian and Low Countries, Social Democrats have embraced and deepened neoliberal policies even as they lose support to rightwing anti-immigrant parties.

In the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania hardline neoliberals have imposed harsh austerity programs provoking protests of no great political consequences, as the opposition has promoted the same policies.

Russia, under Putin, has succeeded in the reconstruction of the state and economy after the destructive policies of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. But apart from ending the flagrant pillage of the economy by a gangster-ridden oligarchy, Russia is still an oil-dependent state in which billionaires invest and disinvest with facility.

Greece, which became a bankrupt vassal state under the rule of corrupt rightwing parties, experienced an electoral revolt in January of 2015, electing a supposedly leftist “anti-neoliberal” party. Syriza, under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, embraced a brutal European Union – IMF austerity program plunging Greece deeper into debt, stagnation, poverty and vassalage.

In Portugal, an anti-austerity alliance between the Socialist (social democrats) and the Communist and Left Bloc parties formed a new government. However, under pressure from the EU, it capitulated, surrendering its tepid anti-austerity proposals.

In Canada, the opposition Liberal Party defeated the Conservatives, offering cosmetic changes and promptly reneged on its promises to end austerity.

In sum, the neoliberal- austerity onslaught provoked mass electoral opposition that led to political changes, bringing to power parties and leaders who embraced almost identical policies! In some cases, the changes deepened neoliberal policies by extending austerity measures; in other cases, they modified some of the restrictions on salaries and social expenditures.

The February (2016) elections in Ireland are a case in point: The neoliberal austerity enthusiasts in the governing coalition (Fine Gael and the Labor Party) were defeated and the Fianna Fáil re-emerged as a leading party, even though it had brought about the economic crisis and breakdown! The only exception to this revolving door politics was an increase in the vote for the national-populist Sinn Fein Party and a scattering of anti-neoliberal and left parties. In the end, the two neoliberal parties are likely to form a coalition regime.

In Europe, the main anti-neoliberal, anti-austerity parties are rightwing-conservatives who have won election in Poland and Hungary and opposition parties like the National Front in France.

The major exception is in Spain where a leftist party, Podemos, has embraced an anti-austerity program, even as it offered to form a coalition government with the neoliberal Socialist Party. The coalition regime never came about.

The return, continuation and triumph of neoliberal and austerity parties and policies occur despite a deepening economic crisis and growing popular hostility.

In the Middle East, North Africa, the Baltic and Eastern European states, Egypt, Tunisia, Lithuania and Poland, repressionhas undercut leftist opposition.

Secondly, nationalist parties and conservative regimes have pre-empted attacks on austerity as is the case in France and Hungary and have marginalized the Left.

Thirdly, international tensions, wars, coups and military build-ups in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Turkey and Southeast Asia have temporarily undercut popular opposition to neoliberal and austerity programs.

In the Ukraine, the US-backed neoliberal regime has virtually collapsed and is widely discredited. The problem is that the most aggressive opposition comes from the neo-Nazi Right!

In the short-run, international conflicts have temporarily distracted popular opposition to neoliberalism. However, over time, the wars, coups and military destruction are exacerbating the domestic crisis, as refuges flood and threaten to disintegrate the European Union.

EU sanctions toward Russia over the Ukraine exacerbated the economic crisis.

The Saudi-Turkey-US-EU-sponsored terror war against Syria and its allies heightens tensions and dampens investment in the region.

In other words, neoliberal/austerity regimes are threatened less by internal opposition than they are by the expansion of ‘war zones’, emanating from ‘imperial war centers’.

War Centers and War Zones

The economic and political configurations and divisions, which we have described, emphasize the varieties of capitalist regimes, the advance of neoliberalism and the emergence of variations among capitalists (austerity versus anti-austerity). US and EU militarism has deepened cleavages between emergent (China) and re-emergent (Russia) capitalist powers.

The political-economic map and the correlation of forces are deeply affected by military conflicts.

Wars, coups and insurgencies profoundly impact the scope, depth and character of socio-economic systems, above and beyond the dichotomies stated above.

Essentially the global military divisions can be understood through identifying war (imperial command) centers and war zones.

War centers are countries and regimes, which plan, organize, fund and execute military action against other countries. The war centers usually are run by imperialist regimes, which span the globe with military bases in order to defend and promote financial and multi-national corporation domination in other countries.

The war centers, form alliances, but also compete among themselves; they have follower regimes providing bases, mercenary soldiers and political support, even to the point of sacrificing their own economic goals in order to serve the dominant war centers. Follower regimes participate only at the periphery of decision-making.

War centers have global interests (US, EU), regional interests (Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Middle East) and local interests (Ukraine – Crimea).

The war centers with global interests have clearly defined adversaries: They target emerging military and economic competitors, like Russia and China; nationalist regimes, like Venezuela, Syria and Iran; popular anti-imperialist movements (Hezbollah in Lebanon) and Islamist anti-Western movements (Taliban in Afghanistan). The war centers, at the same time, correlate with neoliberal regimes and destroy or undermine lucrative markets and prosperous sites for investments by expanding the war zones.

War zones, defined by the US and the EU, have included Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Ukraine and earlier Yugoslavia. The ensuing wars succeeded in ousting incumbent regimes and splintering target countries, but failed to consolidate political control and, above all, destroyed hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, trade, financial and resource extraction opportunities.

The war centers have engaged in three levels of military engagement: (1) High intensity, signifying long-term large-scale warfare involving massive expenditures and commitments of troops such as Iraq and Afghanistan; (2) Middle level intensity, involving US-EU air wars and the use of proxy mercenaries as in Syria, Ukraine and Libya; and (3) Low intensity wars providing military support to regional allies, e.g. Israel’s onslaughts against the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen and Turkey’s war against the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Kurdish regions of Turkey.

The war centers in the EU and US have differences over China. The EU favors market expansion, while the US seeks to intensify the military encirclement of China.

Likewise, Europe and the US have differences over sanctions against Russia: the economic elite in the European Union, with billions of Euros invested in Russia is divided. Meanwhile the US mobilizes its clients in Poland and the Baltic countries to escalate military operations on Russia’s borders.

The growth of military tensions reflects both economic competition (US-EU versus China) and military expansion (US-EU coups in Ukraine).

Conclusion

The growth and advance of neoliberal and austerity regimes are largely the outcome of domestic or internal class conflicts. These, in turn, are the result of political-electoral contests where the imperial powers play an indirect role (mostly financial/propaganda).

In other words, the advance of neoliberal capitalism is not a result of imperial wars. It conquers because of its electoral advances and because of the defeats, retreats and capitulations of the trade unions and leftist political parties.

The limits of neoliberalism have been clearly set by destructive wars from the imperial military centers; the sanctions imposed on independent capitalist countries; and the alliances with destructive, aspiring regional hegemony (Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia).

The prolonged war economy and the neoliberal policies of the imperial centers have concentrated wealth, undermined economic growth, provoked downward social mobility and led to massive population displacement in war zones.

Widespread malaise among voters subject to the destabilization and disintegration of the European Union and the brutal concentration of wealth, power and privilege within the US has led to the emergence of social democratic and rightwing nationalist mass electoral movements.

High intensity warfare and prolonged austerity and social polarization have created a chaotic political universe and a multitude of diverse conflicts within the capitalist system.

If the anti-capitalist left is nowhere near overthrowing the system, the system may self-destruct, in a war of all against all: the great sow devouring her own progeny.

Oct 232015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Democratic critics of military seizures of power commonly refer to them as military coups. They adopt a very narrow and misleading conception of what is taking place.

Likewise, human rights activists and progressive analysts who conceptualize the reign of violence which follows, a ‘coup’ as state terror fail to take account of the systemic forces – the capitalist social order and class relations – which determine the classes which wield state power. They ignore the specific classes and groups which are targeted and which classes direct and benefit from terror.

Concepts like ‘state terror’ and ‘military coup’ obscure as much as enlighten. Moreover, the narrow focus on the military limits the political changes in the class structure required to avoid the repetition of the violent overthrow of democratic governments.

In this essay we will focus on the case of Argentina, where the Central Bank has opened its archives to judicial investigators looking into the relationship between the military dictatorship (1976-83) and major capitalist enterprises.

We will also cite the empirical research of Professor Juan Carlos “Lito” Marin, one of Argentina’s leading scholars on the violent overthrow of the elected government. His specialty was on the social relations and class context of the killing of 30,000 Argentines during the military dictatorship.

We will especially draw on his statistical analysis of the victims found in his book (“Lucha de calles, lucha de clase’ –  Street struggles, class struggle).

Capitalist and Military Rule

According to the documentary evidence presented by the Argentine Central Bank, immediately after the military seized power, the leading manufacturers presented the military with a comprehensive list of all the trade union leaders, delegates and activists to be eliminated. In other words the capitalist class give the military their ‘marching orders’. They dictated who was to be arrested, tortured, killed and/or disappeared. The military executed the orders of the capitalist class – of the 30,000 Argentines who were murdered, the vast majority were unarmed industrial workers involved in workplace industrial action.

The Central Bank documents confirm the earlier detailed study of Professor Marin. He found that over eighty percent of the ‘disappeared’, the victims of the military regime, were trade unionists, urban neighborhood activists and rural organizers. Less than twenty percent were in any way affiliated with the urban or rural guerrillas.

In other words it was not state terror in the abstract – but violent class struggle organized according to the priorities and demands of the capitalist class which accounted for the vast majority of killings. And the massacre set the stage for the second priority of the capitalist class, the introduction of the neo-liberal economy. The mass slaughter allowed the military to hand-over lucrative public enterprises to the capitalist class who proceeded to fire large number of employees without the problem of worker opposition.

The intellectual authors and beneficiaries of the mass murder were not a band of power hungry military officials; but highly respectable leaders and upholders of the capitalist social order.

In the run-up to the coup the capitalist class, for the better part of a decade, was engaged in a bitter class struggle with militant trade unions, which organized several successful general strikes in Cordoba (the ‘Cordobazo’, el ‘Viborazo’), Rosario, and greater Buenos Aires.

Between 1970-71, some 5 years before the military takeover, I conducted interviews with leaders of Argentina’s principle industrial association (Argentine Industrial Union). Without exception they looked at the “Brazilian example” as a model for Argentina. Brazil was ruled by a business-military regime resulting from the overthrow of a democratic government in1964. In other words, the strategic decision to seize power was taken by the capitalist class; the military made the tactical decision of when and how, in consultation with US military attaches at the Embassy

The capitalist class set several tasks for the military, according to the Central Bankdocuments.

First and foremost, the capitalist class demanded a comprehensive and violent purge of all levels of leaders of the working class, at work and in the neighborhoods. But the largest percentage of killings affected militant grass roots leaders, especially shop floor delegates.

Secondly, the capitalists demanded the expropriation and dispossession of enterprises and farms owned by sectors of the nationalist, “Keynesian”, bourgeoisie and their handover to the neo-liberal business elite. This led to the concentration and centralization of ownership and capital. Among the beneficiaries was a powerful media conglomerate (the Clarin group) which served as a propaganda megaphone in favor of the dismantling of labor and social legislation and the privatization of public enterprises.

Thirdly, the capitalist class demanded and secured the military purge of the judiciary, police and civil service of independent voices and the appointment of  hard right officials.

In other words the capitalist social order supported and directed the military seizure of government; dictated the transformation of state institutions and targeted the social class representatives to be eliminated.

The Capitalist Coup ad the Transition to Democracy

Subsequent to the so-called “transition to democracy”, when the military ceded governance to civilian electoral parties and politicians, the entire judicial, police and administrative structure organized to promote neoliberalism and defend the power, privileges and prerogatives of the capitalist class, remained intact.

Even more important, up until the present, the capitalist class which actively participated in the identification, purge and murder of the vast majority of workers killed by the military, was never brought to trial. In some cases, the military executioners were tried for crimes against humanity, and in Argentina (but not elsewhere), some were jailed.

The social order, the capitalist system, which presided over  mass murder was never called into question. The whole issue of class violence was reduced to an issue of “human rights” violations committed by the military elite.

The larger context of class conflict and class struggle, which precipitated the violent seizure of power which culminated in mass murder was obfuscated.

The key to understanding why the capitalist class prospered during the dictatorship and escaped any punishment and prosecution afterwards is found in the fact that the vast majority of worker and community leaders who would have led the majority in the quest for justice were murdered.

In other words the capitalist class’s violent political power grab and mass murder ensured the growth of profits and the consolidation of growth during the military regime, and the obfuscation of their role in the mass killings secured their illicit property grab and wealth with the restoration of electoral politics.

Conclusion

Labeling the violent seizure of power as a military coup is to adopt a one-dimensional view. Instead, if we examine the coup as an integral element of the internal dynamics of the class struggle, which allowed the capitalist class to deepen and extend its power, we have a fuller understanding of its deeper meaning. The continuation of capitalist power within the electoral political system allowed the bourgeoisie to continue organizing and promoting profoundly anti-democratic, anti-working class activity.

Not all military coups or reigns of state terror are linked to class struggle between capitalists and workers. Even in Argentina, the coup served to resolve intra-capitalist conflicts between neo-liberal and nationalist-protectionist business elites.

In Africa, Asia and in nineteenth and early twentieth century Latin America, military coups were largely elite shifts in power. However, with the growth and emergence of capitalist class relations and class conflict, the military’s role as an autonomous force diminished, as it became integrated and subordinated to the emerging capitalist order.

By the middle of the twentieth century onward, especially as class conflict intensified and class polarization deepened, the military coup became a strategic weapon of the capitalist class to advance its class interests. This was especially the case where they could no longer retain their profits and prerogatives in a democratic electoral framework.

In other words as capitalism expands and defines the nature of the social order, the military coup is redefined as capitalist coup; and state violence deepens and expands to encompass larger sectors of the working population.

In each and every capitalist coup and in each example of organized state terror, the US imperial state is directly involved at the behest and on behalf of the capitalist class – be they multi-national corporations or banks. The US imperial state coordinates with their multinational corporations and the Latin American capitalist class the objects and targets of the capitalist coup as well as the composition of the post-coup regime. The US military influenced the political timing of the Argentine coup – as a former US military official operating out of the Argentine embassy once told me. The US CIA compiled lists of working class and social activist to be targeted (murdered) in Chile after the 1973 coup, especially of those employed by US multi-nationals, as was revealed by US Senator Church’s Congressional investigation between 1974-76.

In other words, the capitalist coup and terror state has a strategic international character. It is also an integral part of imperialist conquest and anti-imperialist struggles. The class struggle and the anti-imperialist struggles are two sides of the same process.

Sep 112014
 

Posted by James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

To the growing army of critics of US military intervention, who also reject the mendacious claims by American officials and their apologists of ‘world leadership’, Washington is engaged in ‘empire-building”.

But the notion that the US is building an empire, by engaging in wars to exploit and plunder countries’ markets, resources and labor, defies the realities of the past two decades.  US wars, including invasions, bombings, occupations, sanctions, coups and clandestine operations have not resulted in the expansion of markets, greater control and exploitation of resources or the ability to exploit cheap labor.  Instead US wars have destroyed enterprises, reduced access to raw materials, killed, wounded or displaced productive workers around the world, and limited access to lucrative investment sites and markets via sanctions.

In other words, US global military interventions and wars have done the exact opposite of what all previous empires have pursued:  Washington has exploited (and depleted) the domestic economy to expand militarily abroad instead of enriching it.

Why and how the US global wars differ from those of previous empires requires us to examine (1) the forces driving overseas expansion; (2) the political conceptions accompanying the conquest, the displacement of incumbent rulers and the seizure of power and; (3) the reorganization of the conquered states and the accompanying economic and social structures to sustain long-term neo-colonial relations.

Empire Building: The Past

Europe built durable, profitable and extensive empires, which enriched the ‘mother country’, stimulated local industry, reduced unemployment and ‘trickled down’ wealth in the form of better wages to privileged sectors of the working class.  Imperial military expeditions were preceded by the entry of major trade enterprises (British East India Company) and followed by large-scale manufacturing, banking and commercial firms.  Military invasions and political takeovers were driven by competition with economic rivals in Europe, and later, by the US and Japan.

The goal of military interventions was to monopolize control over the most lucrative economic resources and markets in the colonized regions. Imperial repression was directed at creating a docile low wage labor force and buttressing subordinate local collaborators or client-rulers who facilitated the flow of profits, debt payments, taxes and export revenues back to the empire.

Imperial wars were the beginning, not the end, of ‘empire building’.  What followed these wars of conquest was the incorporation of pre-existing elites into subordinate positions in the administration of the empire.  The ‘sharing of revenues’, between the imperial economic enterprises and pre-existing elites, was a crucial part of ‘empire building’.  The imperial powers sought to ‘instrumentalize’ existing religious, political, and economic elites’ and harness them to the new imperial-centered division of labor.  Pre-existing economic activity, including local manufacturers and agricultural producers, which competed with imperial industrial exporters, were destroyed and replaced by malleable local traders and importers (compradors).  In summary, the military dimensions of empire building were informed by economic interests in the mother country.  The occupation was pre-eminently concerned with preserving local collaborative powers and, above all, restoring and expanding the intensive and extensive exploitation of local resources and labor, as well as the capture and saturation of local markets with goods from the imperial center.

“Empire-building” Today

The results of contemporary US military interventions and invasions stand in stark contrast with those of past imperial powers.  The targets of military aggression are selected on the basis of ideological and political criteria.  Military action does not follow the lead of ‘pioneer’ economic entrepreneurs – like the British East India Company.  Military action is not accompanied by large-scale, long-term capitalist enterprises.  Multi-national construction companies of the empire, which build great military bases  are a drain on the imperial treasury.

Contemporary US intervention does not seek to secure and take over the existing military and civilian state apparatus; instead the invaders fragment the conquered state, decimate its cadres, professionals and experts at all levels, thus providing an entry for the most retrograde ethno-religious, regional, tribal and clan leaders to engage in intra-ethnic, sectarian wars against each other, in other words – chaos.  Even the Nazis, in their expansion phase, chose to rule through local collaborator elites and maintained established administrative structures at all levels.

With US invasions, entire existing socio-economic structures are undermined, not ‘taken over’:  all productive activity is subject to the military priorities of leaders bent on permanently crippling the conquered state and its advanced economic, administrative, educational, cultural and social sectors.  While this is militarily successful in the short-run, the medium and long-term results are non-functioning states, not a sustained inflow of plunder and expanding market for an empire. Instead what we have is a chain of US military bases surrounded by a sea of hostile, largely unemployed populations and warring ethno-religious groups in decimated economies.

The US claims to ‘world leadership’ is based exclusively on failed-state empire building.  Nevertheless, the dynamic for continuing to expand into new regions, to militarily and politically intervene and establish new client entities continues.  And, most importantly, this expansionist dynamic further undermines domestic economic interests, which, theoretically and historically, form the basis for empire.  We, therefore, have imperialism without empire, a vampire state preying on the vulnerable and devouring its own in the process.

Empire or Vampire: The Results of US Global Warfare

Empires, throughout history, have violently seized political power and exploited the riches and resources (both material and human) of the targeted regions.  Over time, they would consolidate a ‘working relation’, insuring the ever-increasing flow of wealth into the mother country and the expanding presence of imperial enterprises in the colony.  Contemporary US military interventions have had the opposite effect after every recent major military conquest and occupation.

Iraq: Vampires Pillage

Under Saddam Hussein, the Republic of Iraq was a major oil producer and profitable partner for major US oil companies, as well as a lucrative market for US exports.  It was a stable, unified secular state.  The first Gulf War in the 1990’s led to the first phase of its fragmentation with the de facto establishment of a Kurdish mini-state in the north under US protection.  The US withdrew its military forces but imposed brutal economic sanctions limiting economic reconstruction from the devastation of the first Gulf War.  The second US-led invasion and full-scale occupation in 2003 devastated the economy and  dismantled the state dismissing tens of thousands of experienced civil servants, teachers and police. This led to utter social collapse and fomented ethno-religious warfare leading to the killing, wounding or displacement of millions of Iraqis.  The result of GW Bush’s conquest of Baghdad was a ‘failed state’.  US oil and energy companies lost billions of dollars in trade and investment and the US economy was pushed into recession.

Afghanistan: Endless Wars, Endless Losses

The US war against Afghanistan began with the arming, financing and political support of Islamist jihadi-fundamentalists in 1979. They succeeded in destroying and dismantling a secular, national government.  With the decision to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 the US became an occupier in Southwest Asia.  For the next thirteen years, the US-puppet regime of Hamad Karzai and the ‘NATO coalition’ occupation forces proved incapable of defeating the Taliban guerrilla army.  Billions of dollars were spent devastating the economy and impoverishing the vast majority of Afghans.  Only the opium trade flourished.  The effort to create an army loyal to the puppet regime failed.  The forced retreat of US armed forces beginning in 2014 signals the bitter demise of US ‘empire building’ in Southwest Asia.

Libya: From Lucrative Trading Partner to Failed State

Libya, under President Gadhafi, was evolving into a major US and European trading partner and influential power in Africa.  The regime signed large-scale, long-term contracts with major international oil companies which were backed by a stable secular government.  The relationship with the US and EU was profitable.  The US opted to impose a ‘regime change’ through massive US-EU missile and bombing strikes and the arming of a motley collection of Islamist terrorists, ex-pat neo-liberals and tribal militias.  While these attacks succeeded in killing President Gadhafi and most of his family (including many of his grandchildren) and dismantling the secular Libyan government and administrative infrastructure, the country was ripped apart by tribal war-lord conflicts, political disintegration and the utter destruction of the economy.  Oil investors fled.  Over one million Libyans and immigrant workers were displaced.  The US and EU ‘partners-in-regime-change’ have even fled their own embassies in Tripoli – while the Libyan ‘parliament’ operates off-shore from a casino boat.  None of this devastation would have been possible under President Gadhafi.  The US vampire bled its new prize, Libya, but certainly could not incorporate it into a profitable ‘empire’.  Not only were its oil resources denied to the empire, but even oil exports disappeared.  Not even an imperial military base has been secured in North Africa!

Syria: Wars on Behalf of Terrorists not Empire

Washington and its EU allies backed an armed uprising in Syria hoping to install a puppet regime and bring Damascus into their “empire”.  The mercenary assaults have caused the deaths of nearly 200,000 Syrians, the displacement of over 30% of the population and the seizure of the Syrian oil fields by the Sunni extremist army, ISIS.  ISIS has decimated the pro-US mercenary army, recruiting and arming thousands of terrorists from around the world It invaded  neighboring Iraq conquering the northern third of that country.  This was the ultimate result of the deliberate US dismantling of the Iraqi state in 2003.

The US strategy, once again, is to arm Islamist extremists to overthrow the secular Bashar Assad regime in Damascus and then to discard them for a more pliable client.   The strategy ‘boomeranged’ on Washington.  ISIS devastated the ineffective Iraqi armed forces of the Maliki regime in Baghdad and America’s much over-rated Peshmerga proxy ‘fighters’ in Iraqi ‘Kurdistan’.  Washington’s mercenary war in Syria didn’t expand the ‘empire’; indeed it undermined existing imperial outposts.

The Ukrainian Power Grab, Russian Sanctions and Empire Building

In the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, the US and EU incorporated the Baltic, Eastern European and Balkan ex-communist countries into their orbit.  This clearly violated    major agreements with Russia, by incorporating most of the neo-liberal regimes into NATO and bringing NATO forces to the very border of Russia. During the corrupt regime of Boris Yeltsin, the ‘West’ absolutely looted the Russian economy in co-operation with local gangster – oligarchs, who took up EU or Israeli citizenship to recycle their pillaged wealth.  The demise of the vassal Yeltsin regime and the ascent and recovery of Russia under Vladimir Putin led the US and EU to formulate a strategy to deepen and extend its ‘empire’ by seizing power in the Caucuses and the Ukraine.  A power and land grab by the puppet regime in Georgia attacking Russian forces in Ossetia in 2012 was decisively beaten back.  This was a mere dress rehearsal for the coup in Kiev.  In late 2013-early 2014, the US financed a violent rightwing putsch ousting the elected government and imposing a hand-picked  pro-NATO client to assume power in Kiev.

The new pro-US regime moved quickly to purge all independent, democratic, federalist, bilingual and anti-NATO voices especially among the bi-lingual citizens concentrated in the South-Eastern Ukraine.  The coup and the subsequent purge provoked a major armed uprising in the southeast, which successfully resisted the invading NATO-backed neo-fascist armed forces and private armies of the oligarchs.  The failure of the Kiev regime to subdue the resistence fighters of the Donbass region resulted in a multi-pronged US-EU intervention designed to isolate, weaken and undermine the resistance.  First and foremost they attempted to pressure Russia to close its borders on the eastern front where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians eventually fled the bombardment.  Secondly, the US and EU applied economic sanctions on Russia to abandon its political support for the southeast region’s democratic and federalist demands.  Thirdly, it sought to use the Ukraine conflict as a pretext for a major military build-up on Russia’s borders, expanding NATO missile sites and organizing an elite rapid interventionist military force capable of bolstering a faltering puppet regime or backing a future NATO sponsored putsch against any adversary.

The Kiev regime is economically bankrupt.  Its war against its own civilians in the southeast has devastated Ukraine’s economy.  Hundreds of thousands of skilled professionals, workers and their families have fled to Russia. Kiev’s embrace of the EU has resulted in the breakdown of vital gas and oil agreements with Russia, undermining the Ukraine’s principle source of energy and heating with winter only months away. Kiev cannot pay its debts and faces default.  The rivalries between neo-fascists and neo-liberals in Kiev will further erode the regime.  In sum, the US-EU power grab in the Ukraine has not led to the effective ‘expansion of empire’; rather it has ushered in the total destruction of an emerging economy and precipitated a sharp reversal of financial, trade and investment relations with Russia and Ukraine.  The economic sanctions against Russia exacerbate the EU current economic crisis.  The belligerent posture of military confrontation toward Russia will result in an increase in military spending among the EU states and further divert scarce economic resources form job creation and social programs.  The loss by significant sectors of the EU of agricultural export markets, as well as the loss of several billion-dollar military-industrial contracts with Russia, certainly weakens, rather than expands, the ‘empire’ as an economic force

Iran: 100 Billion Dollar Punitive Sanctions Don’t Build Empires

The US-EU sanctions on Iran carry a very high political, economic and political price tag.  They do not strengthen empire, if we understand ‘empire’ to mean the expansion of multi-national corporations, and increasing access to oil and gas resources to ensure stable, cheap energy for strategic economic sectors within the imperial center.

The economic war on Iran has been at the behest of US allies, including the Gulf Monarchies and especially Israel.  These are dubious ‘allies’ for US ‘empire’ . . . widely reviled potentates and a racist regime which manage to exact tribute from the imperial center!

In Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, Iran has demonstrated its willingness to co-operate in power sharing agreements with US global interest.  However, Iran is a regional power, which will not submit to becoming a vassal state of the US.  The sanctions policy has not provoked an uprising among the Iranian masses nor has it led to regime change.  Sanctions have not weakened Iran to the extent of making it an easy military target.  While sanctions have weakened Iran’s economy, they has also worked against any kind of long-range empire building strategy, because Iran has strengthened its economic and diplomatic ties with the US’ rivals, Russia and China.

Conclusion

As this brief survey indicates, US-EU wars have not been instruments of empire-building in the conventional or historical sense. At most they have destroyed some adversaries of empire.  But these have been pyrrhic victories.  Along with the overthrow of a target regime, the systematic break-up of the state has unleashed powerful chaotic forces, which have doomed any possibility of creating stable neo-colonial regimes capable of controlling their societies and securing opportunities for imperialist enrichment via economic exploitation.

At most the US overseas wars have secured military outposts, foreign islands in seas of desperate and hostile populations.  Imperial wars have provoked continuous underground resistance movements, ethnic civil wars and violent terrorist organizations which threaten ‘blowback’ on the imperial center.

The US and EU’s easy annexations of the ex-communist countries, usually via the stage-managed ballot-box or ‘color revolutions’, led to the take-over of great national wealth and skilled labor.  However, Euro-American empires bloody campaigns to invade and conquer the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa and the Caucuses have created nightmarish ‘failed states’ – continuously draining imperial coffers and leading to a state of permanent occupation and warfare.

The bloodless takeover of the Eastern European satellites with their accommodating, corrupt elites has ended. The 21st century reliance on militarist strategies contrasts sharply with the successful multi-pronged colonial expansions of the 19th – 20th century, where economic penetration and large scale economic development accompanied military intervention and political change.  Today’s imperial wars cause economic decay and misery within the domestic economy, as well as perpetual wars abroad, an unsustainable drain.

The current US/EU military expansion into Ukraine, the encirclement of Russia, NATO missiles aimed at the very heart of a major nuclear power and the economic sanctions may lead to a global nuclear war, which may indeed put an end to militarist empire-building… and the rest of humanity.

May 132014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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I stopped. A funeral was going by. A pauper’s burial. Only a woman and a child followed. I asked an old man looking on who it was.

“A neighbor who sold fruit and vegetables and couldn’t pay the rent”.

He looked up puzzled. “How could they afford a coffin, a burial site and a stone if he couldn’t put food on the table when he was alive?”

            My grandfathers, stone cutters would find plenty of work: people of all ages are dying every day. The authorities call them “unnatural deaths”. But how many grave sites have tomb stones?

            I gaze up at the Acropolis and the marble columns of the Parthenon shimmer under a brilliant blue sky . . . and I trip over a ragged body stretched across the sidewalk, a blackened hand grasping a crust of bread.

            I walk past the dead. I walk over the dying. And I hurry away from a wild-eyed, white bearded raving madman screaming in a high-pitched hoarse voice. “The crises is over! The banks are rich! We are saved!”

       I enter the Byzantine museum, a refuge from the turmoil, an inexpensive escape into the past . . . or is it? The ticket sellers, guards and guides are nowhere to be seen … Are they on strike? Or have they been fired? Or both? I walk alone, unmolested, through a thousand years: the rise and fall of Constantinople.

            Is there a museum of modern Greece? Two hundred years of revolutions and imported monarchs. Of Great Ideas that bred Catastrophes. Of unsavory dictators and collaborators. Of heroic resistance fighters and concentration camps. Of juntas and student martyrs. Of alternating Conservative and Socialist kleptocrats.

            A museum depicting the collapse of illusions of wealth and streets paved with euros. A European city converted into the home for one hundred thousand beggars and two million unemployed.

            The bagmen are coming – its election time. The scrawny hands of impoverished pensioners reach out . . . A grizzly bald Socratic look-alike lines up at a soup kitchen. He questions the Athenians: “Do you believe the democratic authorities will add meat to the watery soup?”.

            Kimon, a recent graduate of Athens University, a classical scholar, sells counterfeit ancient coins on a street corner. He tells me an authentic fifth century Arethusa dekadrachm signed by Kimon or Euainetos or Eumenos would feed a thousand unemployed Greeks for a year, maybe two, if they are vegetarians.

            I stood behind a small crowd in front of a kiosk reading the headlines of the newspapers (who buys them these days?). An excited woman pushed her way out of the semi-circle and screeched to the silent on-lookers. “The Nazis called the Jews, Communists … the gas chambers,  showers. The Americans call the fascists who burned alive three dozen workers in Odessa, Ukrainian Nationalists”. She turned abruptly and walked quickly down the street. The others mumbled incoherently and drifted away. A nattily dressed businessman smiled at me and nodded his head as if to say “Only a crazy woman screams in the street like her”.

 

Reflections on Odessa

James Petras

            Some things do not change, despite world-historic catastrophes.  Back in the late 19thcentury, Isaac Babel witnessed and described mobs, self-described as “Black Hundreds”, rampaging the streets of Odessa, dragging red-bearded Jews through the streets, sacking and burning their stores. Dozens of Jews were murdered and hundreds fled to sanctuaries. Terrible times, indeed!

But how much worse today when the progeny of the Black Hundreds and the proud descendants of Nazi collaborators, who now call themselves the ‘Right Forum’, roam the streets of Odessa with impunity and license, beating whomever they encounter.

Women, adolescents and pensioners fled, seeking refuge in a Trade Union Center. The contemporary Nazi’s firebombed the Center, incinerating forty and forcing others to jump from windows to their death. And those injured from their fall … beaten to a bloody pulp.

The Right Forum flaunts the worst of the Black Hundreds and Nazi legacy of mayhem and massacres.

The pogroms of the Black Hundreds of the pre-revolution were nothing compared to the genocide of the Ukrainian Waffen Galician Nichtengall and Roland Division. Eighty thousand Ukrainian fascists led by Stepan Bandera  served as Hitler’s willing executioners. They murdered millions of Poles and Jews and Ukrainians. Even their Nazi overseers were appalled by the buzz-saw assassinations.

The children of the Bandera genocidists, in recognition of their Nazi roots, first called themselves the “Social-National Party of the Ukraine”. They changed to “Right Sector” and “Svoboda”, so as not to offend the sensibilities of their new Western paymasters. Still, in remembrance of times past, the Right Sector, in the tradition of Bandera, knows best how to burn alive those “fake Ukrainians” who speak Russian or support socialists or protest the American designated junta that they, the Right Sector, brought to power.

Ukrainian fascists have been  given license to kill: in the past at the service of the Tsar, later with Hitler, today for the United States. The Ukraine is the center of the resurgence of European fascism taking state power: armed and willing to exterminate any enemy of the puppet junta.

Yes, Odessa has ‘changed’ since the time of Babel. It was liberated by Revolution, ravaged by civil war, starved by Stalin, genocided by Germans and Ukrainian Nazis . . .  who juxtaposed the swastika to a background of national colors.

Yes, the Nazis were defeated . . . but not forever!

Yes, the pogroms of the Jews ended . . . because there were so few.

Yes, half the population speaks Russian . . . but for how long?

Yes, there are new industries . . .  but they are closing.

Yes, the “black earth” was the granary of Russia . . . but now it is owned by foreign billionaires.

Yes, the Ukraine was independent . . . but elections, uprisings and coups were bought and sold in, by and for… the free market.

The Ukraine is ruled by a US appointed junta that seized power through a US financed coup. A junta which rules through pogroms and military massacres. They terrorize the towns and countryside; they roam the city streets and occupy the squares. They hate to death the workers self-governing councils and popular militias which have sprang up spontaneously, free of Russian tutelage and junta appointed oppressors.

In Babel’s time, Jewish workers, under fascist siege, joined the Red Army and wealthy merchants offered their daughters in marriage to Bolshevik commanders.

Today the architect of the  pogroms, the ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers, is a leading American policymaker, a Jew, who calls herself Victoria Nuland (nee Nudelman).

In Odessa and throughout the Ukraine , under the heel of  the Kiev junta, the legacy of the Black Hundreds and the Nazi collaborators lives on, despite a century of world shattering events.  Only the sponsors, organizers and paymasters have changed.

But let’s not forget the other legacy of the Ukraine: the four million heroic Ukrainians who fought in the victorious Red Army that defeated Nazi Germany and decimated its Ukrainian collaborators. That legacy lives on, in today’s self-governing workers councils and popular militias.

 

Conversations:  Scholars and Farm Workers

James Petras

            Conversations with farm workers, migrants and other subjects of academic publications.

The basic question, never asked by established and up and coming academics is: What do the subjects who answers my questions get out of it? The academic will write an article in a professional journal or a book for a scholarly press. Publication leads to an appointment, a promotion, and life time employment, a substantial salary with health insurance, a pension, travel funds and time paid to conduct studies.

A Mexican farm worker who was asked for an interview, walked away. The scholar followed him explaining the importance of the study and its relevance “to improving the life of the community through greater understanding”.

The worker stopped and looked his pursuer in the eyes “How much will you pay me for my time?”

The scholar was taken aback hesitated and asked; “Why do you expect to be paid?”

And the peasant answered; “Why not?  You are paid to write books . . . my interview will help you write your books. You pay me for my time and answers.”

The scholar argued in vain: “My publications take the side of the farm workers, peasants, the immigrants, my writing exposes the exploitation by landlords and supports peasant resistance.”

The peasant answered; “But those exploiters, at least pay me. I am resisting your attempt to secure my labor without remuneration”.

The scholar moved on to interview another peasant and explained that “the study would improve the life of the community by making the world aware of the plight of the immigrant Indians”.

The Indian asked “What ‘world’ reads about Indians in the fields. Only others like you. They read your writings in order to interview other Indians in order to publish books. And, all of you live in a different world. Will your books or articles raise my wages, secure me credit, build a road to market”?

Some demanded equality of wages: one hour interviews at the pay rates of the scholars.

Others, the wisest, demanded pre-payment of village improvements. Because they quickly learned that the wily, scholars did not fulfill their promises; the interviews were completed, with handshakes and promises. But the streets were never paved.

According to peasants, it turned out that the worst exploiters were not the landowners who paid a miserable wage, but the scholars who insisted on work without pay. And worst, deprived the peasants of family time, of free time among friends and companions.

The peasants have yet to write their book about scholars who profit from unpaid labor and academics who refuse to answer the peasants’ basic question “What do we get out of it?”

May 092014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Not since the US and EU took over Eastern Europe, including the Baltic countries, East Germany, Poland and the Balkans and converted them into military outposts of NATO and economic vassals, have the Western powers moved so aggressively to seize a strategic country, such as the Ukraine, posing an existential threat to Russia.

Up until 2013 the Ukraine was a ‘buffer state’, basically a non-aligned country, with economic ties to both the EU and Russia.  Ruled by a regime closely tied to local, European, Israeli and Russian based oligarchs, the political elite was a product of a political upheaval in 2004, (the so-called “Orange Revolution”) funded by the US.  Subsequently, for the better part of a decade the Ukraine underwent a failed experiment in Western backed ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies.  After nearly two decades of political penetration, the US and EU were deeply entrenched in the political system via long-standing funding of so-called non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), political parties and paramilitary groups.

The strategy of the US and EU was to install a pliant regime which would bring Ukraine into the European Common Market and NATO as a subordinate client state.  Negotiations between the EU and the Ukraine government proceeded slowly.  They eventually faltered because of the onerous conditions demanded by the EU and the more favorable economic concessions and subsidies offered by Russia. Having failed to negotiate the annexation of the Ukraine to the EU, and not willing to await scheduled constitutional elections, the NATO powers activated their well-financed and organized NGOs, client political leaders and armed paramilitary groups to violently overthrow the elected government.  The violent putsch succeeded and a US-appointed civilian-military junta took power.

The junta was composed of pliant neo-liberal and chauvinist neo-fascist ‘ministers’.  The former were hand-picked by the US, to administer and enforce a new political and economic order, including privatization of public firms and resources, breaking trade and investment ties with Russia, eliminating a treaty allowing the Russian naval base in Crimea and ending  military-industrial exports to Russia.  The neo-fascists and sectors of the military and police were appointed to ministerial positions in order to violently repress any pro-democracy opposition in the West and East.  They oversaw the repression of bilingual speakers (Russian-Ukrainian), institutions and practices – turning the opposition to the US-NATO imposed coup regime into an ethnic opposition.  They purged all elected opposition office holders in the West and East and appointed local governors by fiat – essentially creating a martial law regime.

The Strategic Targets of the NATO-Junta

NATOs violent, high-risk seizure of the Ukraine was driven by several strategic military objectives.  These included:

1.)    The ousting of Russia from its military bases in Crimea – turning them into NATO bases facing Russia.

2.)    The conversion of the Ukraine into a springboard for penetrating Southern Russia and the Caucasus; a forward position to politically manage and support liberal pro-NATO parties and NGOs within Russia.

3.)    The disruption of key sectors of the Russian military defense industry, linked to the Ukrainian factories, by ending the export of critical engines and parts to Russia.

The Ukraine had long been an important part of the Soviet Union’s military industrial complex.  NATO planners behind the putsch were keenly aware that one-third of the Soviet defense industry had remained in the Ukraine after the break-up of the USSR and that forty percent of the Ukraine’s exports to Russia, until recently, consisted of armaments and related machinery.  More specifically, the Motor-Sikh plant in Eastern Ukraine manufactured most of the engines for Russian military helicopters including a current contract to supply engines for one thousand attack helicopters.  NATO strategists immediately directed their political stooges in Kiev to suspend all military deliveries to Russia, including medium-range air-to air-missiles, inter-continental ballistic missiles, transport planes and space rockets (Financial Times, 4/21/14, p3).   US and EU military strategists viewed the Kiev putsch as a way to undermine Russian air, sea and border defenses.  President Putin has acknowledged the blow but insists that Russia will be able to substitute domestic production for the critical parts within two years.  This means the loss of thousands of skilled factory jobs in Eastern Ukraine.

4.   The military encirclement of Russia with forward NATO bases in the Ukraine matching those from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Turkey to the Caucasus and then onward from Georgia into the autonomous Russian Federation.

The US-EU encirclement of Russia is designed to end Russian access to the North Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.  By encircling and confining Russia to an isolated landmass without ‘outlets to the sea’, US-EU empire builders seek to limit Russia’s role as a rival power center and possible counter-weight to its imperial ambitions in the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest Asia and the North Atlantic.

Ukraine Putsch:  Integral to Imperial Expansion

The US and EU are intent on destroying independent, nationalist and non-aligned governments throughout the world and converting them into imperial satellites by whatever means are effective.  For example, the current NATO-armed mercenary invasion of Syria is directed at overthrowing the nationalist, secular Assad government and establishing a pro-NATO vassal state, regardless of the bloody consequences to the diverse Syrian people.  The attack on Syria serves multiple purposes: Eliminating a Russian ally and its Mediterranean naval base; undermining a supporter of Palestine and adversary of Israel; encircling the Islamic Republic of Iran and the powerful militant Hezbollah Party in Lebanon and establishing new military bases on Syrian soil.

The NATO seizure of the Ukraine has a multiplier effect that reaches ‘upward’ toward Russia and ‘downward’ toward the Middle East and consolidates control over its vast oil wealth.

The recent NATO wars against Russian allies or trading partners confirm this prognosis.  In Libya, the independent, non-aligned policies of the Gadhafi regime stood out in stark contrast to the servile Western satellites like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia.  Gadhafi was overthrown and Libya destroyed via a massive NATO air assault.  Egypt’s mass popular anti-Mubarak rebellion and emerging democracy were subverted by a military coup and eventually returned the country to the US-Israeli-NATO orbit – under a brutal dictator. Armed incursions by NATO proxy, Israel, against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the US-EU sanctions against Iran are all directed against potential allies or trading partners of Russia.

The US has moved forcefully from encircling Russia via ‘elections and free markets’ in Eastern Europe to relying on military force, death squads, terror and economic sanctions in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Asia.

Regime Change in Russia:  from Global Power to Vassal State

Washington’s strategic objective is to isolate Russia from without, undermine its military capability and erode its economy, in order to strengthen NATO’s political and economic collaborators inside Russia – leading to its further fragmentation and return to the semi-vassal status.

The imperial strategic goal is to place neo-liberal political proxies in power in Moscow, just like the ones who oversaw the pillage and destruction of Russia during the infamous Yeltsin decade.  The US-EU power grab in the Ukraine is a big step in that direction.

Evaluating the Encirclement and Conquest Strategy

So far NATO’s seizure of the Ukraine has not moved forward as planned.  First of all, the violent seizure of power by overtly pro-NATO elites openly reneging on military treaty agreements with Russia over bases in Crimea, had forced Russia to intervene in support of the local, overwhelmingly ethnic Russian population.  Following a free and open referendum, Russia annexed the region and secured its strategic military presence.

While Russia retained its naval presence on the Black Sea … the NATO junta in Kiev unleashed a large-scale military offensive against the pro-democracy, anti-coup Russian-speaking majority in the eastern half of the Ukraine who have been demanding a federal form of government reflecting Ukraine’s cultural diversity.  The US-EU promoted a “military response” to mass popular dissent and encouraged the coup-regime to eliminate the civil rights of the Russian speaking majority through neo-Nazi terror and to force the population to accept junta-appointed regional rulers in place of their elected leaders.  In response to this repression, popular self-defense committees and local militias quickly sprang up and the Ukrainian army was initially forced back with thousands of soldiers refusing to shoot their own compatriots on behalf of the Western –installed regime in Kiev.   For a while, the NATO-backed neo-liberal-neo-fascist coalition junta had to contend with the disintegration of its ‘power base’.  At the same time, ‘aid’ from the EU, IMF and the US failed to compensate for the cut-off of Russian trade and energy subsidies. Under the advise of visiting US CIA Director, Brenner, the Kiev Junta then dispatched its elite “special forces” trained by the CIA and FBI to carry out massacres against pro-democracy civilians and popular militias. They bussed in armed thugs to the diverse city of Odessa who staged an ‘exemplary’ massacre:  Burning the city’s major trade union headquarters and slaughtering 41, mostly unarmed civilians who were trapped in the building with its exits blocked by neo-Nazis.  The dead included many women and teenagers who had sought shelter from the rampaging neo-Nazis.  The survivors were brutally beaten and imprisoned by the ‘police’ who had passively watched while the building burned.

The Coming Collapse of the Putsch-Junta

Obama’s Ukraine power grab and his efforts to isolate Russia have provoked some opposition in the EU.  Clearly US sanctions prejudice major European multi-nationals with deep ties in Russia.  The US military build-up in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Black Sea raises tensions and threatens a large-scale military conflagration, disrupting major economic contracts.  US-EU threats on Russia’s border have increased popular support for President Putin and strengthened the Russian leadership.  The strategic power grab in the Ukraine has radicalized and deepened the polarization of Ukrainian politics-between neo-fascist and pro-democracy forces.

While the imperial strategists are extending and escalating their military build-up in Estonia and Poland and pouring arms into the Ukraine, the entire power grab rests on very precarious political and economic foundations- which could collapse within the year – amidst a bloody civil war/ inter-ethnic slaughter.

The Ukraine junta has already lost political control of over a third of the country to pro-democracy, anti-coup movements and self-defense militias.  By cutting off strategic exports to Russia to serve US military interests, the Ukraine lost one of its most important markets, which cannot be replaced. Under NATO control, Ukraine will have to buy NATO-specified military hardware leading to the closure of its factories geared to the Russian market.   The loss of Russian trade is already leading to mass unemployment, especially among skilled industrial workers in the East who may be forced to immigrate to Russia.  Ballooning trade deficits and the erosion of state revenues will bring a total economic collapse.  Thirdly, as a result of the Kiev junta’s submission to NATO, the Ukraine has lost billions of dollars in subsidized energy from Russia. High energy costs make Ukrainian industries non-competitive in global markets.  Fourthly, in order to secure loans from the IMF and the EU, the junta has agreed to eliminate food and energy price subsidies, severely depressing household incomes and plunging pensioners into destitution.  Bankruptcies are on the rise, as imports from the EU and elsewhere displace formerly protected local industries.

No new investments are flowing in because of the violence, instability and conflicts between neo-fascists and neo-liberals within he junta.  Just to stabilize the day-to-day operations of government, the junta needs a no-interest $30 billion dollar handout – from its NATO patrons, an amount, which is not forthcoming now or in the immediate future.

It is clear that NATO ‘strategists’ who planned the putsch were only thinking about weakening Russia militarily and gave no thought to the political, economic and social costs of sustaining a puppet regime in Kiev when Ukraine had been so dependent on Russian markets, loans and subsidized energy.  Moreover, they appear to have overlooked the political, industrial and agricultural dynamics of the predictably hostile Eastern regions of the country.  Alternately, Washington strategists may have based their calculations on instigating a Yugoslavia-style break-up accompanied by massive ethnic cleansing amidst population transfers and slaughter.  Undeterred by the millions of civilian casualties, Washington considers its policy of dismantling Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya to have been great political-military successes.

Ukraine most certainly will enter a prolonged and deep depression, including a precipitous decline in its exports, employment and output.  Possibly, economic collapse will lead to nationwide protests and social unrest:  spreading from East to West, from South to North.  Social upheavals and mass misery may further undermine the morale of the Ukrainian armed forces. Even now, Kiev can barely afford to feed its soldiers and has to rely on neo-Fascist volunteer militias who may be hard to control.  The US-EU are not likely to intervene directly with an Libya-style bombing campaign since they would face a prolonged war on Russia’s border at a time when public opinion in the US is suffering from imperial war exhaustion, and European business interests with links to Russian resource companies are resisting consequential sanctions.

The US-EU putsch has produced a failing regime and a society riven by violent conflicts – spinning into open ethnic violence.  What, in fact, has ensued is a system of dual power with contenders cutting across regional boundaries.  The Kiev junta lacks the coherence and stability to serve as a reliable NATO military link in the encirclement of Russia.  On the contrary, US-EU sanctions, military threats and bellicose rhetoric are forcing Russians to quickly rethink their ‘openness’ to the West.  The strategic threats to its national security are leading Russia to review its ties to Western banks and corporations.  Russia may have to resort to a policy of expanded industrialization via public investments and import substitution. Russian oligarchs, having lost their overseas holdings, may become less central to Russian economic policy.

What is clear is that the power grab in Kiev will not result in a ‘knife pointed at the heartland of Russia’.  The ultimate defeat and overthrow of the Kiev junta can lead to a radicalized self-governing Ukraine, based on the burgeoning democratic movements and rising working class consciousness.  This will have to emerge from their struggle against IMF austerity programs and Western asset stripping of Ukraine’s resources and enterprises. The industrial workers of Ukraine who succeed in throwing off the yoke of the western vassals in Kiev have no intention of submitting themselves to the yoke of the Russian oligarchs.  Their struggle is for a democratic state, capable of developing an independent economic policy, free of imperial military alliances.

Epilogue:

May Day 2014:  Dual Popular Power in the East, Fascism Rising in the West

The predictable falling out between the neo-fascists and neo-liberal partners in the Kiev junta was evidenced by large-scale riots, between rival street gangs and police on May Day.  The US-EU strategy envisioned using the neo-fascists as ‘shock troops’ and street fighters in overthrowing the elected regime of Yankovich and later discarding them.  As exemplified by the notorious taped conversation between Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Kiev, the EU-US strategists promote their own handpicked neoliberal proxies to represent foreign capital, impose austerity policies and sign treaties for foreign military bases.  In contrast, the neo-fascist militias and parties would favor nationalist economic policies, retaining state enterprises and are likely to be hostile to oligarchs, especially those with ‘dual Israeli-Ukraine’ citizenship.

The Kiev junta’s inability to develop an economic strategy, its violent seizure of power and repression of pro-democracy dissidents in the East has led to a situation of ‘dual power’.  In many cases, troops sent to repress the pro-democracy movements have abandoned their weapons, abandoned the Kiev junta and joined the self-governing movements in the East.

Apart from its outside backers-the White House, Brussels and IMF – the Kiev junta has been abandoned by its rightwing allies in  Kiev for being too subservient to NATO and resisted by the pro-democracy movement in the East for being authoritarian and centralist.  The Kiev junta has fallen between two chairs:  it lacks legitimacy among most Ukrainians and has lost control of all but a small patch of land occupied by government offices in Kiev and even those are under siege by the neo-fascist rightand increasingly from its own disenchanted former supporters.

Let us be absolutely clear, the struggle in the Ukraine is not between the US and Russia, it is between a NATO-imposed junta composed of neo-liberal oligarchs and fascists on one side and the industrial workers and their local militias and democratic councils on the other.  The former defends and obeys the IMF and Washington; the latter relies on the productive capacity of local industry and rules by responding to the majority.

James Petras is a retired Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York and adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who has published prolifically on Latin American and Middle Eastern political issues.

Apr 282014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

American living standards are plunging and it’s not simply because they are paid less, work longer (or shorter hours) under highly stressful workplace conditions and pay a higher percentage of their income for health and pension coverage.  The ‘workplace’ is only one of several locations where American working people are experiencing a sharp decline in living standards.  The new oligarchical Kleptocrats and political elites have elaborated new ways to fleece Americans.  These include:

(1)   Increased costs and declining quality of internet, cable and other communication systems.

(2)   Intensive pervasive and perpetual surveillance by punitive espionage agencies eroding personal freedoms and violating the confidentiality of personal, political and business decisions affecting everyday life.

(3)   Large scale, repeated financial swindles by the most active and influential private and publicly trading investment companies resulting in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in pensions and savings for tens of millions of middle and working class investors.

(4)   Increases in taxes and charges, including sales taxes, social security deductions, medical co-payments and reductions in social services …  This is a result of the government’s commitment to finance US corporate investments and bail-outs.  Big business hoards their cash holdings abroad to avoid taxes on overseas profits.  To pay dividends they borrow.  The growth of corporate debt, concentrated in a few large corporations, holds the US taxpayer liable for any present or future collapse of the financial markets.  This corporate-induced ‘hoarding of capital’ compromises present and future living standards.  It plays a major role in the deterioration of employment, wages, social services and public infrastructure.

(5)   The astronomical growth of state spending on wars of conquest, financial giveaways propping up right-wing dictatorships and building a vast network of global military bases, proxy wars and other empire building measures reduce living standards of Americans.  By militarizing everyday life, citizens are subject to mindless repetitive propaganda designed to lower their mental capacity.  State terror-mongering propagandists in the mass media distract citizens from their declining living standards.  Political elites bully citizens to continue ‘sacrificing’ basic living standards.  Video games reproduce the worlds of war and terror, reflecting the real world policies of the ruling class.

Video games allow Americans who know they no longer have influence on political decisions and whose living standards are in decline, to vicariously exercise power and realize favorable outcomes on their mobiles.  Purchasing mobiles, video games and other gadgets enrich billionaires’— so-called “high tech” capitalists – and convert citizens into impoverished consumers.  They inhabit a bubble of illusions and passivity in the face of growing economic inequalities and political-cultural impoverishment.

The Political Bases of Declining Living Standards

The case of Comcast, the communication monopoly’s seizure of internet, is illustrative of how politics and plunder converge.  Comcast TWC, the largest communications company, presently will control 40% of the US broadband and one-third of the US cable television market.  By controlling the internet, Comcast will monopolize the principal means of communication of most Americans.  The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), which is supposed to regulate the industry and prevent price gouging monopolies, is “dominated by senior former industry officials” (Financial Times, (FT) 4/14/, pg. 9).  Almost every elected national politician from Obama down has received substantial campaign funds from Comcast.  During Senate hearings on Comcast’s bid to monopolize the internet through the take-over of Time Warner Cable, Comcast CEO David Cohen smirked and brushed off the Senators puff-questions.  FCC complicity, Senatorial whitewashing of the private monopoly, is only part of the story.  The internet was developed largely by public funds as was Google’s search engine:  the public sector took  the risk and the private monopolists , in this case Comcast, harvest the profits.

Comcast charges Americans several times greater then what it costs to use the internet in Sweden, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere.  Yet, US average internet speed is as little as a tenth as fast as that in Japan.  In other words the hundreds of millions of US citizens who rely on the internet spend more money for less internet quality in their work day and everyday life.  Their work life is intensified, their free time is reduced and their living standards are diminished.  With greater concentration of ownership, come greater inequalities in power and income, and a greater disparity of living standards.  All of which is obscured by the main beneficiaries – the communication barons and their political cronies.

Declining Living Standards in the Era of the Police State

‘Living’ in the deepest and most intimate sense of the term, means the ability to share ideas, feelings and experiences with individuals, families, friends and citizens  without the intrusive and pervasive presence of a punitive state apparatus.  When a state spy apparatus intercepts, collects, files, analyzes and makes a police evaluation of citizen’s communications, scientists refer to it as a police-state.  The gigantic growth of a police state and its permeation of civil society has dramatically changed for the worse the fundamental bases of inter-personal life and communications.  Police state rule, has sharply deteriorated cultural, social, political and economic living conditions.  The ‘standards’ for living have been harshly reduced.  The ‘legal’, but arbitrary, executive prerogatives of the state have been enhanced.  The parameters of the basic rights of citizens have shrunk.  As police state expenditures grow and the subjects of surveillance increase, so do budgets and taxes.

Kleptocracy:  The Highest Stage of Capitalism

Marx and Marxists for the greater part of the 20th century, focused on capital’s exploitation of labor and the resources of overseas colonies and neo-colonies.  In the 21st century a new more dynamic and totally parasitic form of economy has emerged based in the dominant financial sector.  Kleptocrats engaged in large-scale, perpetual financial swindles and the pillage of the public treasury greatly impoverish  small  investors, and the pension funds of  employees and workers.

For the better part of two decades, major financial institutions have been engaged in systematic large scale swindles, involving the sale of fraudulent financial packets (dubbed ironically “securities”), profiteering based on insider trading and other illicit activity which is prejudicial to productive activity, investors, tax payers, salary, and wage workers.

Every major investment banks in the US and Europe has been repeatedly investigated, fined and rarely prosecuted.  They pay a relatively light fine and return to criminal activity.  Looking only at the mega-swindles, involving hundreds of billions of dollars, we would include Enron, the Information Tech “bubble” of the 1990’s to 2000, the Home Mortgage fraud, the Barron, Lehman and Bear Sterns scam. In the run-up to the 2008-9 financial crash , Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America were part of the “pump and dump” of low grade home mortgage bonds and equities.  The swindlers are recidivists and are so because of the complicity of top Government officials at every moment.  State officials design the rules promoting Kleptocracy (deregulation), suspend safeguards, provide tax incentives, and eliminate risk via trillion dollar bailouts of the biggest investment kleptocrats when the swindlers cannibalize their assets and run out of new victims to swindle.

Under kleptocratic capitalism the apex of the system is occupied by the top fifty investment banks, hedge funds and speculators who ‘make markets’.  They determine what ‘stocks or investment objects are targeted, to be pumped or dumped, at what rate and for what period of time.  The entire activity of the kleptocratic elite has nothing to do with financing the ‘real economy’.  Kleptocrats creates paper ‘values’ – paper assets at paper prices, for real victims and huge profits.  The kleptocratic system operates like a chain.  Kleptocratic speculators extract the savings and investments of a second tier of financial houses. They draw on real resources:  savings, trust and pension funds.  The second tier speculators are the ‘bag men’ for the dominant kleptocrats and they receive a minor share of the booty in exchange for conning the savings of producers.  They write the prospectus to entice investment funds; they formulate the promise of lucrative returns. They send progress reports to clients in exchange for ‘commissions. They also ‘take the rap”, when the crises hits and bankruptcies, foreclosures and scams unfold.

The pension funds, the individual trusts and savings of workers and employees, resulting from decades of creating value in the real economy, forms the base of the pyramid.  They have no influence on the political officials who promote, protect and bailout the kleptocrats.  Under the kleptocratic elite ideology of “too big to fail”, the state eliminates all the risk for the klepto’s and imposes the losses on the second tier, who pass the losses on to the wage and salaried workers as taxpayers, via trillion dollar transfers from Treasury. Investors suffer  via the loss of equity;  workers via the loss of jobs, homes, income and social services.  Given the vast chasm between the perpetual fraudulent transactions in the mega paper economy and the daily work routines at the bottom, there is great uncertainty, volatility, and insecurity in the work-life of the wage and salaried classes.  The uncertainty and capriciousness of the ‘normal’ capitalist economic cycle, is vastly exacerbated by the turbulence caused by the mega-swindles, endless frauds and crooked trades, endemic to the kleptocratic stage of capital.

Kleptocrats and Militarists Together:  They Shall Overcome

Just as kleptocrats rule the paper economy, political confidence men and women engage in imperial wars prejudicing the real economy.  Imperial militarists extract wealth from the Treasury (the taxpayer) via perpetual political swindles.  Imperial invasions and interventions of sovereign countries are ‘sold’ to the taxpayers as “wars on terror”; non-nuclear Iran is sold as a nuclear threat; the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government by a pro Washington junta is sold as a “democratic transition”.  Just as the kleptocracy’s “driving force” is repeated, large scale swindles, so the governing militarist elite’s “driving force” is the perpetual need to engage in warfare.

The ‘bridge’ between the kleptocrats and the militarists is the respectable financial press (Financial Times (FT), the Wall Street Journal(WSJ).  They publicize and praise high level paper transactions (buy outs and mergers) and encourage imperial warfare everywhere and all the time.  They editorialize in favor of wars which destroys lucrative trade and investment markets in the real economy because they are aligned with the kleptocrats   linked to the paper economy.  The Financial Times should change its name to the Military Times.  The editors and columnists have supported wars destroying the Libyan, Iraq, Syrian and Ukrainian economies and back sanctions prejudicing trade with Iran.  The financial press no longer promotes market relations of the real economy; it is embedded in the paper economy of the kleptos.

Kleptocratic activities have become ‘routinized’ and based on advanced technology and have created highly respected billionaires.  Even as I write today (4/14/14) the FT reports that ‘insiders at some of the hottest private and publically traded web companies sold big personal stakes before the slump in stock companies’ (my emphasis) taking advantage of a bubble of their own creation (“pump”) to reap billions at the expense of small investors.  Tell it to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, who sold at the pre-slump peak, prior to the tech bubble bursting

Domestic Corporate Debt and Overseas Corporate Tax Havens

According to Standards and Poor (S and P), the rating agency, “the biggest US companies have added significantly to their debts during the past three years, at the same time as corporate cash piles have increased” (FT 4/14/14).  The total cash holding of the 1,100 companies rated by S and P rose by $204 billion to 1.23 trillion between 2010-13.  However, during the same time span their gross debts grew fivefold, rising from $748 billion to $4 trillion.  Their net debt (gross debt minus cash holdings) rose 24 percent to $2.78 trillion.  By holding cash overseas, US corporations avoid domestic taxes – increasing fiscal pressures, the tax burden on domestic producers and workers, heightening the regressive nature of the tax system  Secondly, by loading up on domestic debt, the corporate elite crowds out local borrowers.  Piling up debt increases corporate vulnerability to bankruptcy if and when interest rates rise.  The corporate elite evading taxes via overseas cash piles include Apple, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Chevron, and Merck among others.  All told the top 25 multi nationals account for 43 percent of the total debt (FT 4/14/14).

Hoarding profits overseas avoids taxes.  High domestic indebtedness results from the need to pay dividends and inflate returns to big shareholders.  In other words, corporate elites escape taxes and increase economic insecurity for domestic job holders, both of which contribute to a decline in the material and psychological dimensions of ‘living standards’.

Kleptocracy and Militarism:  Declining Living Standards

The rise of a powerful kleptocratic economic elite which ‘interpenetrates’ and shares power with a militarist political elite have joined forces to pillage the productive economy and the US Treasury.  Their powerful links are the main reason for heightening class inequalities, political and social insecurities.  They have driven American society into a permanent state of crises and wars. Over the past quarter century, Americans have lived through two major economic crashes, prolonged periods of stagnation and declining income, three major wars and a multitude of overt and covert military operations – all of which have eroded living standards.

Military propaganda saturates the mass media and permeates all mass spectacles. Stock reports, dominate the economic news.  Investment speculators and swindlers are presented as cultural heroes.  The gap between elite opinion and interests and those of the majority of citizens widens.

This leads politicians to greater dependence on billionaire campaign funders.  The electoral process is unabashedly and totally controlled by the economic oligarchy. The vast majority of Americans recognizes and publically admit their total lack of political influence on all public issues of interest including those privileging the kleptocrats and the warlords.

The deeply felt and pervasive malaise resulting from social impotence in vital spheres of life is the clearest expression of the decline of political living standards.  The shrinking of public involvement, the narrow focus of isolated individuals manipulating computerized gadgets , the replacement of face to face public engagement by impersonal electronic communications, are an expression of the decline of social living standards.  The rise of ethno-religious chauvinism among klepto-elites is matched by the political warlords’ reliance on systematic deception and espionage of American citizens. Warlords and kleptocrats are enclosed in privileged living enclaves, including the private appropriation of former public spaces, but their  intrusion into private communications define the diminished world of everyday life for the most Americans.  Life expectancy may have increased but human life has decreased, drastically, over the past quarter of a century.

Conclusion

Blood and gore does not drip off the Saville suited clever inside trader.  They never see or hear their victims, nor do they have an interest in them, except to fleece them collectively and anonymously.

America is ruled by a division of labor. The financial speculators, corporate tax evaders, investment bankers – the kleptocratic ruling class– pillage the treasury and productive economy.  Their political counterparts manipulate, distract and police their exploited victims – to ensure that they submit or are intimidated if they protest.

When they political elites come up short, there are the new “opiums of the people’ videos, painkillers, terror threats, entertainment and sports spectacles.

But citizens are restless– as living standards continue to decline.  Nobody believes in bailing out speculators because they are ‘too big to fail”.  Nobody trusts the political leaders who lied their way to twelve year wars, adding others along the way.  No one follows media pundit extremists in defense of kleptocrats and warlords.  Passive resistance is widespread because it is clear to most Americans that living standards are in a free fall.  Time awaits a popular backlash. Will it happen in our lifetime?

Dec 092013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Iran_surrounded38

Introduction

The recent interim accord between the six world powers and Iran has been hailed as an “historic breakthrough”, a “significant accomplishment” by most leading politicians, editorialists and columnists (Financial Times, (FT) 11/26/13, p. 2), the exceptions being notably Israeli leaders and the Zionist power brokers in North America and Western Europe (FT 11/26/13, p. 3).

What constitutes this “historic breakthrough”?  Who got what? Did the agreement provide for symmetrical concessions?  Does the interim agreement strengthen or weaken the prospects for peace and prosperity in the Gulf and the Middle East?  To address these and other questions, one also has to include the powerful influence wielded by Israel on US and European policymakers (Stephen Lendman <lendmanstephen@gmail.com  11/26/13; 11/27/13).  Equally important, the current ‘interim’ agreement is just that – it is a first, limited agreement, which does not in any way spell out the strategic objectives of the major imperial powers.  Any realistic appreciation of the significance of the interim agreement requires putting it into historical perspective.

The Historical Record:  Past Precedents

For over a decade the major US intelligence agencies have published detailed accounts of Iran’s nuclear program (see especially the National Intelligence Estimate 2007 (NIE)).  The common consensus has been that Iran did not have any program for developing nuclear weapons (National Intelligence Estimate 2004, 2007).  As a consequence of this ‘absence of evidence’, the entire Western offensive against Iran had to focus on Iran’s “potential capacity” to shift sometime in the future towards a weapons program.  The current agreement is directed toward undermining Iran’s potential ‘capacity’ to have a nuclear weapons program: there are no weapons to destroy, no weapon plans exist, no war plans exist and there are no strategic offensive military operations on the Iranian ‘drawing board’.  We know this, because repeated US intelligence reports have told us that no weapons programs exist!  So the entire current negotiations are really over weakening Iran’s ongoing peaceful, legal nuclear program and undermining any future advance in nuclear technology that might protect Iran from an Israeli or US attack, when they decide to activate their “military option”, as was pulled off in the war to destroy Iraq.

Secondly, Iran’s flexible and accommodating concessions are not new or a reflection of a newly elected President.  As Gareth Porter has pointed out: Nearly ten years ago, on Nov. 15, 2004, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities” (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/26/13).  According to Porter, Iran was ending “all manufacturing, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components”.  Despite these generous concessions, on March 2005, the Europeans and the US refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement that would guarantee against enrichment toward weapons grade.  Iran ended its voluntary suspension of all enrichment activity.  The US, led by Zionists embedded in Treasury, (Stuart Levey) then escalated sanctions.  Europe and the UN Security Council followed in kind.  The practice of the US and Europe first securing major concessions from Iran and then refusing to reciprocate by pursuing a comprehensive settlement is a well established diplomatic practice.  Iran’s flexibility and concessions were apparently interpreted as “signs of weakness” to be exploited in their push toward ‘regime change’ (An Unusual Success for Sanctions Policy, FT 11/27/13, p. 10).  Sanctions are seen as “effective” political-diplomatic weapons designed to further weaken the regime.  Policy-makers continue to believe that sanctions should be maintained as a tool to divide the Iranian elite, disarm and dismantle the country’s defensive capacity and to prepare for “regime change” or a military confrontation without fear of serious resistance from the Iranians.

The entire charade of Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons as a threat’ has been orchestrated by the Israeli regime and its army of ‘Israel Firsters’ embedded in the US Executive, Congress and mass media.  The ‘Big Lie’, promoted by Israel’s propaganda machine and network of agents, has been repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by the sixteen major US Intelligence Estimates or NIE’s, especially in 2004 and 2007.  These consensus documents were based on extensive research, inside sources (spies) and highly sophisticated surveillance.  The NIEs categorically state that Iran suspended all efforts toward a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not made any decision or move to restart that program.  However, Israel has actively spread propaganda, based on fabricated intelligence reports, claiming the contrary in order to trick and push the US into a disastrous military confrontation with Israel’s regional rival.  And the President of the United States ignores his own intelligence sources in order to repeat Israel’s ‘Big Lie’!

Given the fact that Iran is not a ‘nuclear threat’, now or in the past, and given that the US, European and Israeli leaders know this, why do they continue and even increase the sanctions against Iran?  Why do they threaten to destroy Iran with pre-emptive attacks?  Why the current demands for even more concessions from Tehran?  The current negotiations and ‘agreement’ tell us a great deal about the ‘ultimate’ or final strategic aims of the White House and its European allies.

The ‘Interim Agreement’:  A Most Asymmetrical Compromise

Iran’s negotiators conceded to the’ 5 plus 1’ all their major demands while they received the most minimum of concessions, (FT 1/25/13, p. 2).

Iran agreed (1) to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, (2) reduce the existing 20 percent enriched stockpile to zero, (3) convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to a higher level, (4) halt progress on its enrichment capacity, (5) leave inoperable half of its centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of those at Fordow, and (6) freeze all activities at Arak heavy water facility which when built could produce plutonium.  Iran also agreed to end any plans to construct a facility capable of reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel.  The Iranian negotiators agreed to the most pervasive and intensive “inspections” of its most important strategic defense facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been closely allied with the US and its EU counterparts.  These “inspections” and data collection will take place on a daily bases and include access to Natanz and Fordow.  The strategic military value of these inspections is inestimable because it could provide data, heretofore unavailable, for any future missile strike from the US or Israel when they decide to shift from negotiations to the ‘military option’.  In addition, the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to access other strategic facilities, including sites for developing centrifuges, uranium mines and mills.  Future “negotiations” may open highly sensitive military defense sites such as Parchin, where conventional missiles and warheads are stored.

Obviously, there will not be any reciprocal inspections of the US missile sites, warships and military bases in the Persian Gulf, which store weapons of mass destruction aimed at Iran!  Nor will the IAEA inspect Israel’s nuclear weapons—facilities in Dimona – despite Israeli threats to attack Iran.  No comparable diminution of “military capacity” or nuclear weapons, aimed at Iran by some members of the ‘5 plus 1 and Israel’ is included in this “historic breakthrough”.

The ‘5 plus 1’ conceded meager concessions:  Unfreezing of 7% of Iranian-owned assets sequestered in Western banks ($7 billion of $100 billion) and ‘allowing’ Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent –and even that “concession” is conditioned by the proviso that it does not exceed current stockpiles of 5% enriched uranium.  While the Iranian negotiators claim they secured (sic) ‘the right’ to enrich uranium, the US refused to even formally acknowledge it!

In effect, Iran has conceded the maximum concessions regarding its strategic national defenses, nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment in what is supposedly the ‘initial’ round of negotiations, while ‘receiving’ the minimum of reciprocal concessions.  This highly unfavorable, asymmetrical framework, will lead the US to see Iran as ‘ripe for regime change’ and demand even more decisive concessions designed to further weaken Iran’s defensive capacity.  Future concessions will increase Iran’s vulnerability to intelligence gathering and undermine its role as a regional power and strategic ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the current beleaguered governments in Syria and Iraq and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The ‘Final Settlement’:  Decline and Fall of the Islamic Nationalist Republic?

The real goals of the US sanctions policy and the recent decision to enter into negotiations with Iran have to do with several imperial objectives.  The first objective is to facilitate the rise of a neo-liberal regime in Iran, which would be committed to privatizing major oil and gas fields and attracting foreign capital even at the cost of strategic national defense.

President Rohani is seen in Washington as the Islamic version of the former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.  Rohani, like his ‘model’ Gorbachev, ‘gave away the store’ while expecting Iran’s imperial adversaries to reciprocate.

The ‘5 plus 1’, mostly veterans of the ‘imperial shake down’, will take all of Rohani’s concessions and demand even more!  They will “allow” Iran to recover its own frozen assets in slow droplets, which the neo-liberals in Tehran will celebrate as ‘victories’ even while the country stagnates under continued sanctions and the people suffer!  The US Administration will retain sanctions in order to accommodate their Israeli-Zionist patrons and to provoke even deeper fissures in the regime.  Washington’s logic is that the more concessions Teheran surrenders, the more difficult it will be to reverse the process under public pressure from the Iranian people.  This ‘rift’ between the conciliatory government of Rohani and the Iranian people, according to CIA strategists, will lead to greater internal discontent in Iran and will further weaken the regime.  A regime under siege will need to rely  even more on their Western interlocutors.  President Rohani ‘relying on the 5-plus-1’ will be like the condemned leaning into the hangman’s noose.

Rohani and the Neo-Liberal Collaborators

The ascendancy of Rohani to the Presidency brings in its wake an entire new political-economic leadership intent on facilitating large-scale, long-term penetration by Western and Chinese oil and gas companies in the most lucrative sites.  Iran’s new oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has made overtures to all the oil majors, and offers to revise and liberalize the terms for investment and provide concessions designed to greatly enhance multinational profits, in the most lucrative fields (FT, 11/27/13, p. 2).  Zangeneh has kicked out the nationalists and replaced them with a cohort of liberal economists.  He is preparing to eventually lay-off tens of thousands of public sector oil employees as an incentive to attract foreign corporate partners.  He is prepared to lower fuel subsidies for the Iranian people and raise energy prices for domestic consumers. The liberals in power have the backing of millionaires, speculators and political power brokers, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani head of the key Expediency Council, which drafts policy.  Many of Rafsanjani’s followers have been appointed to key positions in President Rohani’s administration (FT, 11/26/13, p.3).

Central to the ‘Troika’s (Rohani-Rafsanjani-Zangeneh) strategy is securing the collaboration of multi-national energy corporations.  However that requires lifting the US-imposed sanctions against Iran in the shortest time possible.  This explains the hasty, unseemly and one-sided Iranian concessions to the ‘5-plus-1’.  In other words, the driving force behind Iran’s giveaways is not the “success of sanctions” but the ascendancy to power of the Iranian comprador class and its neo-liberal ideology which informs their economic strategy.

Several major obstacles confront the ‘Troika’.  The major concessions, initially granted, leave few others to concede, short of dismantling the entire nuclear energy infrastructure and lobotomizing its entire scientific and technical manpower, which would destroy the legitimacy of the regime.  Secondly, having easily secured major concessions without lifting the sanctions the ‘5-plus-1’ are free to escalate their demands for further concessions, which in effect will deepen Iran’s vulnerability to Western espionage, terrorism (as in the assassination of Iranian scientists and engineers) and preemptive attack.  As the negotiations proceed it will become crystal clear that the US intends to force the ‘Troika’ to open the gates to more overtly pro-western elites in order to eventually polarize Iranian society.

The end-game is a weakened, divided, liberalized regime, vulnerable to internal and external threats and willing to cut-off support to nationalist regimes in the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  The US recognized and seized upon the rise of the new neo-liberal Rohani regime and secured major unilateral concessions as a down payment to move step-by-step toward bloody regime change.  Washington’s “end game” is the conversion of Iran to a client petrol-state allied with the Saudi-Israeli axis.

As far-fetched as that appears today, the logic of negotiations is moving in that direction.

The Israeli-US Differences:  A Question of Tactics and Timing

Israeli leaders and their Zionist agents, embedded in the US government, howl, pull out their hair and bluster against the ‘5-plus-1’ transitional agreement with Iran.  They downplay the enormous one-sided concessions.  They rant and rave about “hidden agenda”, “deceit and deception”.  They fabricate conspiracies and repeat lies about secret “nuclear weapons programs” beyond the reach (and imagination) of any non-Zionist inspector.  But the reality is that the “historic breakthrough” includes the dismantling of a major part of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, while retaining sanctions – a huge victory of the Zionists! The ‘5-plus-1’ negotiated a deal which has secured deeper and more extensive changes in Iran while strengthening Western power in the Persian Gulf than all of  Netanyahu’s decade-long campaign of issuing ‘military threats’.

Netanyahu and his brainwashed Zionist-Jewish defenders in the US insist on new, even harsher sanctions because they want immediate war and regime-change (a puppet regime).  Echoing his Israeli boss Netanyahu, New York Senator Chuck “the schmuck” Schumer, commenting on the interim agreement brayed, “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will pass additional sanctions” (Barrons 12/2/13 p14)   This is the same stupid policy that the embedded Zionists in Washington pursued with Iraq.  Under the Bush Presidency, top neo-con Zionists, like Wolfowitz, Ross, Indyk, Feith, Abrams and Libby, implemented Ariel Sharon’s war dictates:  (1) murdered Saddam Hussein (regime change) (2) destroyed the Iraq’s economy, society and modern infrastructure, and (3) provoked ethnic fragmentation and religious war – costing the US over 2 trillion dollars on the war, thousands of US lives (millions of Iraqi lives) and at a cost of hundreds of billions in high oil prices to US consumers – further shattering the US domestic economy.

Among the few moderately intelligent and influential Zionist journalists, Gideon Rachman, who realizes the strategic value of the step-by-step approach of the Obama regime, has called for the White House “to take on the Israel lobby over Iran” (FT, 11/26/13, p. 10).  Rachman knows that if Israel’s howling stooges in the US Congress drag the country into war, the American people will turn against the Israeli lobby, its fellow travelers and, most likely, Israel.  Rachman and a few others with a grain of political sophistication know that the Rohani regime in Tehran has just handed over key levers of power to the US.  They know that the negotiations are moving toward greater integration of Iran into the US orbit. They know, in the final instance, that Obama’s step-by-step diplomatic approach will be less costly and more effective than Netanyahu’s military ‘final solution’.  And they know that, ultimately, Obama’s and Israel’s goal is the same:  a weak neo-liberalized Iran, which cannot challenge Israel’s military dominance, nuclear weapons monopoly, annexation of Palestine and aggression against Lebanon and Syria.

Conclusion

Having secured a “freeze” on Iran’s consequential nuclear research and having on site intelligence on all Iran’s major national defense and security facilities, the US can compile a data base for an offensive military strategy whenever it likes.  Iran, on the other hand, receives no information or reports on US, European or Israeli military movement, weapons facilities or offensive regional capabilities.  This is despite the fact that the ‘5-plus-1’ countries and Israel have recently launched numerous devastating offensive military operations and wars in the region (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria).  Having set the agenda for negotiations as one of further unilateral concessions from Iran, the US can at any point, threaten to end negotiations – and follow up with its ‘military option’.

The next step in the unilateral disarmament of Iran will be the US demand to close the strategic Arak heavy water plant.  The US will demand that Iran produce a basic minimum amount of uranium and retain a stock pile to cover a few days or weeks for energy, research or medical isotopes.  Washington will strip Iran of its capacity to enrich by imposing quantitative and qualitative limits on the centrifuges that Iran can possess and operate.  During the next round of negotiations, the US will preclude Iran from undertaking the reprocessing of uranium at Arak or any other site.  The US will tell ‘the Troika’ that the “right” (sic) to enrich does not extend to the right to reprocess.  The US will demand stringent “transparency” for Iran, while maintaining its own high level secrecy, evasion and ambiguity with regard to its military, diplomatic and economic sanctions policy.

In a word, the US will demand that Iran surrender its sovereignty and subject itself to the colonial oversight of an imperial power, which has yet to make a single move in even reducing economic sanctions.  The loss of sovereignty, the continued sanctions and the drive by the US to curtail Iran’s regional influence will certainly lead to  popular discontent in Iran – and a response from the nationalist and populist military (Revolutionary Guards) and the working poor.  The crisis resulting from the Troika’s adoption of the “Gorbachev Model” will lead to an inevitable confrontation.  Overtime the US will seek out an Islamist strongman, an Iranian version of Yeltsin who can savage the nationalists and popular movements and turn over the keys to the state, treasury and oil fields to a “moderate and responsible” pro-Western client regime.

The entire US strategy of degrading Iran’s military defenses and securing major neo-liberal “reforms” depends on President Rohani remaining in power, which can only result from the Obama regime’s compliance in lifting some of the oil and banking sanctions (FT 12/1/13, p. 6).  Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to achieving Washington’s strategic roll-back goal is Netanyahu’s power to block sanction relief – and impose even, harsher sanctions.  The result of such an Israel Firster victory in the US would be the end of negotiations, the strengthening of Iran’s nuclear program, the demise of the oil privatization program and added support to regional nationalist movements and governments.  President Rohani desperately needs western imperial reassurance of the benefits (sanction relief) of his initial giveaways.  Otherwise his credibility at home would be irreparably damaged.

The imperial prize of a militarily weakened and neo-liberalized Iran, collaborating in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, is enormous but it clashes with the Zionist Power Configuration, which insists on all power to the Jewish state from the Suez to the Persian Gulf!

Nov 252013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Obama-presiding-over-decline-of-america

The world political economy is a mosaic of cross currents:  Domestic decay and elite enrichment, new sources for greater profits and deepening political disenchantment, declining living standards for many and extravagant luxury for a few, military losses in some regions with imperial recovery in others. There are claims of a unipolar, a multi-polar and even a non-polar configuration of world power.  Where, when, to what extent and under what contingencies do these claims have validity?

Bubbles and busts come and go – but let us talk of ‘beneficiaries’:  Those who cause crashes, reap the greatest rewards while their victims have no say.  The swindle economy and the criminal state prosper by promoting the perversion of culture and literacy.  ‘Investigatory journalism’, or peephole reportage, is all the rage.  The world of power spins out of control:  As they decline, the leading powers declare “it’s our rule or everyone’s ruin!”

Global Configurations of Power

Power is a relationship between classes, states and military and ideological institutions.  Any configuration of power is contingent on past and present struggles reflecting shifting correlations of forces.  Structures and physical resources, concentrations of wealth, arms and the media matter greatly; they set the framework in which the principle power wielders are embedded.  But strategies for retaining or gaining power depend on securing alliances, engaging in wars and negotiating peace.  Above all, world power depends on the strength of domestic foundations.  This requires a dynamic productive economy, an independent state free from prejudicial foreign entanglements and a leading class capable of harnessing global resources to ‘buy off’ domestic consent of the majority.

To examine the position of the United States in the global configuration of power it is necessary to analyze its changing economic and political relations on two levels:  by region and by sphere of power.  History does not move in a linear pattern or according to recurring cycles: military and political defeats in some regions may be accompanied by significant victories in others.  Economic decline in some spheres and regions may be compensated by sharp advances in other economic sectors and regions.

In the final analysis, the question is not ‘keeping a scorecard’ or adding wins and subtracting losses, but translating regional and sectorial outcomes into an understanding of the direction and emerging structures of the global power configuration.  We start by examining the legacy of recent wars on the global economic, military and political power of the United States.

Sustaining the US Empire:  Defeats, Retreat, Advances and Victories

The dominant view of most critical analysts is that over the past decade US empire-building has suffered a series of military defeats, experienced economic decline, and now faces severe competition and the prospect of further military losses. The evidence cited is impressive:  The US was forced to withdraw troops from Iraq, after an extremely costly decade-long military occupation, leaving in place a regime more closely allied to Iran, the US’ regional adversary. The Iraq war depleted the economy, deprived American corporations of oil wealth, greatly enlarged Washington’s budget and trade deficits and reduced the living standards of US citizens.  The Afghanistan war had a similar outcome, with high external costs, military retreat, fragile clients, domestic disaffection and no short or medium term transfers of wealth (imperial pillage) to the US Treasury or private corporations.  The Libyan war led to the total destruction of a modern, oil-rich economy in North Africa, the total dissolution of state and civil society and the emergence of armed tribal, fundamentalist militias opposed to US and EU client regimes in North and sub-Sahara Africa and beyond.  Instead of continuing to profit from lucrative oil and gas agreements with the conciliatory Gadhafi regime, Washington decided on ‘regime change’, engaging in a war which ruined Libya and destroyed any viable central state. The current Syrian “proxy war” has strengthened radical Islamist warlords, destroyed Damascus’ economy and added massive refugee pressure to the already uprooted millions from wars in Iraq and Libya. US imperial wars have resulted in economic losses, regional political instability and military gains for Islamist adversaries.

Latin America has overwhelmingly rejected US efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government.  The entire world– minus Israel and Washington- – rejects the blockade of Cuba.  Regional integration organizations, which exclude the US, have proliferated.  US trade shares have declined, as Asia is replacing the US in the Latin American market.

In Asia, China deepens and extends its economic links with all the key countries, while the US ‘pivot’ is mostly an effort at military base encirclement involving Japan, Australia and the Philippines.  In other words, China is more important than the US for Asian economic expansion, while Chinese financing of US trade imbalances props up the US economy.

In Africa, US military command operations mainly promote armed conflicts and lead to greater instability.  Meanwhile Asian capitalists, deeply invested in strategic African countries, are reaping the benefits of its commodity boom, expanding markets and the outflow of profits.

The exposure of the US National Security Agency’s global spy network has seriously undermined global intelligence and clandestine operations.  While it may have helped privileged private corporations, the massive US investment in cyber-imperialism appears to have generated negative diplomatic and operational returns for the imperial state.

In sum, the current global overview paints a picture of severe military and diplomatic setbacks in imperial policies, substantial losses to the US Treasury and the erosion of public support.  Nevertheless this perspective has serious flaws, especially with regard to other regions, relations and spheres of economic activity.  The fundamental structures of empire remain intact.

NATO, the major military alliance headed by the US Pentagon, is expanding its membership and escalating its field of operations.  The Baltic States, especially Estonia, are the site of huge military exercises held just minutes from the principle Russian cities.  Central and Eastern Europe provide missile sites all aimed at Russia. Until very recently, the Ukraine had been moving toward membership in the European Union and a step toward NATO membership.

The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership has expanded membership among the Andean countries, Chile, Peru and Colombia.  It serves as a springboard to weaken regional trading blocs like MERCOSUR and ALBA, which exclude Washington. Meanwhile, the CIA, the State Department and their NGO conduits are engaged in an all-out economic sabotage and political destabilization campaign to weaken Venezuela’s nationalist government.  US-backed bankers and capitalists have worked to sabotage the economy, provoking inflation (50%), shortages of essential items of consumption and rolling power blackouts. Their control over most of Venezuela’s mass media has allowed them to exploit popular discontent by blaming the economic dislocation on ‘government inefficiency’.

Overall, the US offensive in Latin America has focused on a military coup in Honduras, ongoing economic sabotage in Venezuela, electoral and media campaigns in Argentina, and cyber warfare in Brazil, while developing closer ties with recently elected compliant neo-liberal  regimes in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.  While Washington lost influence in Latin America during the first decade of the 21st century, it has since partially recovered its clients and partners.  The relative recovery of US influence illustrates the fact that ‘regime changes’ and a decline in market shares, have not lessened the financial and corporate ties linking even the progressive countries to powerful US interests.  The continued presence of powerful political allies –even those ‘out of government’ – provides a trampoline for regaining US influence.  Nationalist policies and emerging regional integration projects remain vulnerable to US counter-attacks.

While the US has lost influence among some oil producing countries, it lessened its dependence on oil and gas imports as a result of a vast increase in domestic energy production via ‘fracking’ and other intense extractive technologies.  Greater local self-sufficiency means lower energy costs for domestic producers and increases their competitiveness in world markets, raising the possibility that the US could regain market shares for its exports.

The seeming decline of US imperial influence in the Arab world following the popular ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings has halted and even been reversed. The military coup in Egypt and the installation and consolidation of the military dictatorship in Cairo suppressed the mass national-popular mobilizations.  Egypt is back in the US-Israel orbit.  In Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia the old and new rulers are clamping down on any anti-imperial protests.   In Libya, the US-NATO air force destroyed the nationalist-populist Gadhafi regime, eliminating an alternative welfare model to neo-colonial pillage – but has so far failed to consolidate a neo-liberal client regime in Tripoli.  Instead rival armed Islamist gangs, monarchists and ethnic thugs pillage and ravage the country.  Destroying an anti-imperialist regime has not produced a pro-imperialist client.

In the Middle East, Israel continues to dispossess the Palestinians of their land and water.  The US continues to escalate military maneuvers and impose more economic sanctions against Iran – weakening Teheran but also decreasing US wealth and influence due to the loss of the lucrative Iranian market.  Likewise in Syria, the US and its NATO allies have destroyed Syria’s economy and shredded its complex society, but they will not be the main beneficiaries.  Islamist mercenaries have gained bases of operations while Hezbollah has consolidated its position as a significant regional actor.  Current negotiations with Iran open possibilities for the US to cut its losses and reduce the regional threat of a costly new war but these talks are being blocked by an ‘alliance’ of Zionist-militarist Israel, monarchist Saudi Arabia and ‘Socialist’ France.

Washington has lost economic influence in Asia to China but it is mounting a regional counter-offensive, based on its network of military bases in Japan, the Philippines and Australia.  It is promoting a new Pan Pacific economic agreement that excludes China.  This demonstrates the US capacity to intervene and project imperial interests.  However announcing new policies and organizations is not the same as implementing and providing them with dynamic content.  Washington’s military encirclement of China is off-set by the US Treasury’s multi-trillion dollar debt to Beijing.  An aggressive US military encirclement of China could result in a massive Chinese sell-off of US Treasury notes and five hundred leading US multi-nationals finding their investments in jeopardy!

Power-sharing between an emerging and established global power, such as China and the US, cannot be ‘negotiated’ via US military superiority.  Threats, bluster and diplomatic chicanery score mere propaganda victories but only long-term economic advances can create the domestic Trojan Horses need to erode China’s dynamic growth.  Even today, the Chinese elite spend hefty sums to educate their children in “prestigious” US and British universities where free market economic doctrines and imperial-centered narratives are taught.  For the past decade, leading Chinese politicians and the corporate rich have sent tens of billions of dollars in licit and illicit funds to overseas bank accounts, investing in high end real estate in North America and Europe and dispatching billions to money laundering havens.  Today, there is a powerful faction of economists and elite financial advisers in China pushing for greater ‘financial liberalization’, i.e. penetration by the leading Wall Street and City of London speculative houses.  While Chinese industries may be winning the competition for overseas markets, the US has gained and is gaining powerful levers over China’s financial structure.

The US share of Latin American trade may be declining, but the absolute dollar worth of trade has increased several-fold over the past decade.

The US may have lost right-wing regime clients in Latin America, but the new center-left regimes are actively collaborating with most of the major US and Canadian mining and agro-business corporations and commodity trading houses.  The Pentagon has not been able to engineer military coups, with the pathetic exception of Honduras, but it still retains its close working relations with the Latin American military in the form of (1) its regional policing of ‘terrorism’, ‘narcotics’ and ‘migration’, (2) providing technical training and political indoctrination via overseas military ‘educational’ programs and (3) engaging in joint military exercises.

In sum, the structures of the US empire, corporate, financial, military and political-cultural, all remain in place and ready to regain dominance if and when political opportunities arise.  For example, a sharp decline in commodity prices would likely provoke a deep crisis and intensify class conflicts among center-left regimes, which are dependent on agro-mining exports to fund their social programs.  In any ensuing confrontation, the US would work with and through its agents among the economic and military elite to oust the incumbent regime and re-impose pliant neo-liberal clients.    The current phase of post-neo-liberal policies and power configurations are vulnerable.  The relative ‘decline of US influence and power’ can be reversed even if it is not returned to its former configuration. The theoretical point is that while imperialist structures remain in place and while their collaborator counterparts abroad retain strategic positions, the US can re-establish its primacy in the global configuration of power.

Imperial ‘roll-back’ does not require the ‘same old faces’.  New political figures, especially with progressive credentials and faint overtones of a ‘social inclusionary’ ideology are already playing a major role in the new imperial-centered trade networks.  In Chile, newly elected “Socialist” President Michelle Bachelet and the Peruvian ex-nationalist, President Ollanta Humala, are major proponents of Washington’s Tran-Pacific Partnership, a trading bloc which competes with the nationalist MERCOSUR and ALBA, and excludes China.  In Mexico, US client President Enrique Peña Nieto is privatizing the ‘jewel’ of the Mexican economy, PEMEX, the giant public oil company – strengthening the Washington’s hold over regional energy resources and increasing US independence from Mid-East oil.  Colombian President Santos, the ‘peace president’, is actively negotiating an end to guerrilla warfare in order to expand multinational exploitation of mineral and energy resources located in guerrilla-contested regions, a prospect which will primarily benefit US oil companies.  In Argentina, the state oil company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF) has signed a joint venture agreement with the oil giant, Chevron, to exploit an enormous gas and oil field, known as Vaca Muerte (Dead Cow). This will expand the US presence in Argentina in energy production alongside the major inroads made by Monsanto in the powerful agro-business sector.

No doubt Latin America has diversified its trade and the US share has relatively declined.  Latin American rulers no longer eagerly seek ‘certification’ from the US Ambassador before announcing their political candidacy.  The US is totally alone in its boycott of Cuba.  The Organization of American States is no longer a US haven.  But there are counter-tendencies, reflected in new pacts like the TPP.  New sites of economic exploitation, which are not exclusively US controlled, now serve as springboards to greater imperial power.

Conclusion

The US economy is stagnant and has failed to re-gain momentum because of its pursuit of ‘serial’ imperial wars.  But in the Middle East, the US decline, relative to its past, has not been accompanied by the ascent of its old rivals.  Europe is in deeper crisis, with a vast army of unemployed, chronic negative growth and few signs of recovery for the visible future.  Even China, the new emerging global power, is slowing down with its growth falling from over 11% to 7% in the current decade.  Beijing faces growing domestic discontent.  India, as well as China, are liberalizing their financial systems, opening them up to penetration and influence by US finance capital.

The main anti-imperialist forces in Asia and Africa are not composed of progressive, secular, democratic and socialist movements.  Instead, the empire is confronted by religious, ethnic, misogynist and authoritarian movements with irredentist tendencies. The old secular, socialist voices have lost their bearings, and provide perverse ‘justifications’ for the imperialist wars of aggression in Libya, Mali and Syria.  The French Socialists, who had opposed the Iraq war in 2003, now find their President Francoise Hollande parroting the brutal militarism of the Israeli warlord, Netanyahu.

The point is that the thesis of the ‘decline of the US empire’ and its corollary, the ‘crises of the US’ are overstated, time bound and lack specificity.  In reality, there is no alternative imperial or modern anti-imperial tendency on the immediate horizon.  While it is true that Western capitalism is in crisis, the recently ascending Asian capitalism of China and India face a different crisis resulting from their savage class exploitation and murderous caste relations.  If objective conditions are ‘ripe for socialism’, the socialists – at least those retaining any political presence- are comfortably embedded with their respective imperial regimes.  The Marxists and Socialists in Egypt joined with the military to overthrow an elected conservative Islamist regime, leading to the restoration of imperialist clientelism in Cairo.  The French and English ‘Marxists’ have supported NATO’s destruction of Libya and Syria.  Numerous progressives and socialists, in Europe and North America, support Israel’s warlords and/or remain silent in the face of domestic Zionist power in the executive branches and legislatures.

If imperialism is declining, so is anti-imperialism.  If capitalism is in crisis, the existing anti-capitalists are in retreat.  If capitalists look for new faces and ideologues to revive their fortunes, isn’t it time the anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists did likewise?