All posts by Kim Petersen

Justice and Politics: When Words are Betrayed by Deeds

Michael Kovrig-Meng Wanzhou-Michael Spavor. Photograph: (Agencies)

For neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone.

— John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book III

Simply put, hypocrisy is when words and actions don’t agree. It is revealing when one applies this straightforward definition to the cases involving two Canadian detainees in China, business consultant Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, and the Chinese detainee in Canada, Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou.

The United States is seeking the extradition of Meng for fraud-related charges. The two Michaels were apprehended soon after in China and charged with spying on national secrets and providing state secrets to foreign entities.

On Wednesday 11 August, Spavor was sentenced by a Chinese court to 11 years in prison.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau was dismissive of the verdict. “Today’s verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.”

There are many parts of this statement by Trudeau that require deeper consideration.

First, Trudeau notes the duration of the detention, more than two and a half years. It is commonly held that justice delayed is justice denied. When the wheels of justice grind too slowly, there is a danger of a gross injustice being committed. When detainees are found to be not guilty, a nonrecoverable portion of their lives has been squandered. If Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are innocent, then a gross injustice has occurred. However, this applies equally in the case of Meng Wanzhou who has been under house arrest for over two and a half years.

Does Trudeau’s concern for long-term detention only apply to Canadians? Has Trudeau ever uttered one word regarding the over a decade-long detention and torture of Julian Assange for revealing US war crimes, a detention for which Canada may well be complicit?

Second, Trudeau claims the detentions are arbitrary. However, if the verdict reached was just, then the fact that Spavor was found guilty would indicate that his detention was not arbitrary.

The Global Times argued:

The Dandong Intermediate People’s Court handled the case of Spavor in strict accordance with the law, fully protected Spavor’s litigation rights, respected and honored the Canadian side’s consular rights such as visiting and receiving notification, and arranged for the Canadian side to attend the trial. However, Canada, disregarding the political nature of the Meng Wanzhou incident and acting as an accomplice of the US, has detained Meng, an innocent Chinese citizen who didn’t violate any Canadian law, for nearly 1,000 days. This is arbitrary detention in every sense of the term, the embassy in Canada said.

The Chinese Embassy in the US also said Meng has never violated any Canadian law but has been detained by Canada until today. Canada chooses to be an accomplice to the US and this is a textbook example of arbitrary detention by “exercising leverage over a foreign government.”

And as the film The Secret Trial 5 makes clear, arbitrariness is part of Canada’s so-called justice system; people can be locked away for many years in Canada without ever being charged.

Third, Trudeau has not denied or refuted the charges against the two Michaels. His words are directed against the process.

Fourth, as for the process, rightly or wrongly, a lack of transparency is the norm when the cases involve state secrets. The same lack of transparency holds true in Canada.1 A lack of transparency is antithetical to protecting the rights of the accused and for seeking justice. Nonetheless, to cast stones at the actions of another while carrying out the self-same actions speaks to hypocrisy.

Trudeau’s statement continues: “For Mr. Spavor, as well as for Michael Kovrig who has also been arbitrarily detained, our top priority remains securing their immediate release. We will continue working around the clock to bring them home as soon as possible.” In this regard, the Canadian authorities’ sentiments and actions for the Michaels are shared by Chinese authorities for Meng.

Canadian foreign affairs minister Marc Garneau said the verdict against Kovrig is “not acceptable in terms of international rules-based law.” Such a statement falls flat in light of the recent charge that Canada is violating international law by selling arms to Saudi Arabia, arms that can be used to continue its aggression against Yemen. One needs to dig much deeper into what the rule of law means for Canada. There is no escaping the fact that the country is a colonial-settler state imposed through genocide against the Original Peoples of the landmass designated Canada by navigator Jacques Cartier. Still today, one headline makes clear that “Canada Is Waging an All-Front Legal War Against Indigenous People.” This points to the quintessence of Canada and its political class. Despite having seized political control through genocide, having committed to reconciliation, and having pledged (as Trudeau did) to a “renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples … [as] a sacred obligation,” the words have exposed betrayal. Instead capitalist exploitation continues unabated while the Canadian state stonewalls reconciliation and legal redress for the Original Peoples.

Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, rejected accusations that Spavor’s trial was unfair and not open. “I would like to say that the minimum standard is for other countries to respect our judicial sovereignty. So here I would like to stress that actually it’s the Canadian side which did not meet the minimum standard of the international norm.”

What is the American Gambit?

Foreign affairs minister Garneau seems to have faith in American president Joe Biden being able to secure the release of the Michaels by “treating them as if they were American citizens detained by China.” This is following previous president Donald Trump politicizing Meng’s proceedings: “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

It points to a double standard for extradition as a means for achieving justice. Consider the case of Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat who the US refuses to send to Britain to stand trial for her hit-and-run accident that killed teenager Harry Dunn in 2019. Some Americans, it seems, are beyond the reach of the law.

China is well aware of what is transpiring. China’s Huawei is the world leader in cutting-edge 5G technology. The US fears being left behind and is seeking to dissuade other states from using that technology. Thus, China’s government views Meng’s arrest as part of US efforts to hamper its technology development. Neither are the allies of the US exempt from America’s extraterritorial reach as a weapon to stymie competition. The French company Alstom experienced this as its former senior executive Frederic Pierucci was arrested and imprisoned for over 2 years in New York. Alstrom eventually had to pay a huge fine of US$772 million. Said Pierucci, “That [fine] facilitated the buyout of 70 per cent of Alstom by its main American competitor General Electric, blocking a potential merger between Alstom and Shanghai Electric Company.”

Canada is harming its relationship with the rapidly developing economic colossus of China to appease the United States. However, it ought to bear in mind how the US swooped in to replace Australian exports to China. This was after Australia aligned itself with a belligerent US policy toward China causing China to curtail imports from Australia.

A Possible Deal?

Yesterday (14 August), Canada’s National Observer published an ad hominem piece calling for an exchange of detainees. It begins, “The ugly messy truth about the two Michaels is that we must get past our indignation, however justified, over China’s gross violations of all international norms.” What is the justification? What if Chinese indignation is justified? What adduces the hyperbolic “China’s gross violations of all international norms.” All?

The National Observer grants, “Meng is charged purely for geo-political gamesmanship.” What the newsletter does not discuss is that Meng previously turned down an offer for her release in return for admitting wrongdoing.

Doubts can be gleaned from the notes of the associate chief justice Heather Holmes who is presiding over the extradition case,

Isn’t it unusual that one would see a fraud case with no actual harm, many years later, and one in which the alleged victim — a large institution — appears to have numerous people within the institution who had all the facts that are now said to have been misrepresented?

The National Observer insults China by calling its government a “regime.” The Chinese “regime” is one that lifted its entire population out of absolute poverty. Elsewhere on Canadian streets, one will see too many homeless people, people whose dignity is disparaged by having to rely on food banks, begging, or dumpster diving to quell hunger.

So which “regime” is interested in looking after the people — all its people?

Meanwhile, Kovrig, who stood trial in March, continues to await word on a verdict. And Meng awaits a decision on the extradition outcome.

  1. Read “Kafka’s Canada at 15: The secret trials of Mohamed Harkat” and “Canada’s Supreme Court authorizes secret trials and arbitrary, indefinite detention.”
The post Justice and Politics: When Words are Betrayed by Deeds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.

— Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state on how the United States conducts its business

One of the filters in the Propaganda Model propounded by professors Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky is stoking a fear of communism.1 The establishment’s anti-communism has never abated in the United States. The elitists require a populace fearful of communism to protect their own misbegotten wealth accumulation. Thus,the bugaboo of communism must be opposed wherever it arises. At its worst, the US would wage war against communist countries such as North Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia. When not militarily attacked, communist governments will be demonized by a relentless campaign of disinformation designed to bring about the fall of the government and its replacement by a government amenable to the US establishment, as happened in the Soviet Union. That is the nature of imperialism and predatory capitalism.

The establishment’s anti-communism is alive and kicking in The Diplomat, a current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region. This one can readily glean from its article titled “How China Helps the Cuban Regime Stay Afloat and Shut Down Protests.”2

The in-one’s-face bias of the article’s heading and the subheading (“Chinese companies have played a key part in building Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure, a system the regime uses to control its people, just as the CCP does within its own borders.”) immediately gives pause to the discerning reader. First, regime is a tendentious term meant to delegitimize a government. Second, the subheading asserts Chinese governmental control. While it points at the means, it does not provide any evidence that the assertion holds true.

The leaning of the writers is apparent from their bios: Leland Lazarus is a speechwriter to US Southern Command’s admiral Craig Faller, and Dr Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American Studies at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. They write, “July 11, thousands of people across Cuba took to the streets, fed up with the lack of food, basic products, medicine, and vaccines to combat COVID-19.”

This flash-in-the-pan, minor protest was allegedly orchestrated by the NED and US AID. Furthermore, the monopoly media narrative has been undermined by its use of fake and doctored images.3

The writers complain, “Protesters used social media to broadcast to the world what was happening, but the communist regime shut off the internet and telephone services, pulling the plug on their connection outside the island.”

A question: If your government is targeted by a barrage of disinformation from outside actors, would you allow for the disinformation to continue? Disinformation is hailed by many to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. And the disinformation campaigns of the US are myriad. Among them are the phantom missile attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the Viagra-fueled rapes in Libya, the Syrian government chemical-weapon attacks, and the current allegation of a genocide in Xinjiang, China. Millions of people died as a result of such disinformation.

It is clear that Lazarus and Ellis would like to knock down two communist governments that US capitalism finds antithetical, with one article. What is the crime of Cuba? The State Department Policy Planning Staff pointed to the “primary danger” the US faces, “The simple fact is that [former Cuban leader Fidel] Castro represents a successful defiance of the US…,”4 a slap in the face to the imperialist Monroe doctrine.

The writers turned to the old-school Cuba policy advocacy of US senator Marco Rubio who tweeted: “Expect the regime in #Cuba to block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world… By the way, they use a system made, sold & installed by #China to control and block access to the internet in #Cuba.’”

Again, monopoly media undermines itself and senator Rubio: “… Fox News, however, included a small detail that went largely unnoticed. As he [Rubio] was speaking about ‘brutal oppression’ by the Cuban government and hailing the protesters, the footage shown by the cable station depicted a rally by Cuban government supporters. Fox News apparently knew exactly what it was airing, since it was careful to blur the slogans that some of the activists were carrying.”

Lazarus and Ellis see a sinister hand: “China’s role in helping the regime cut off communications during the protests has exposed one of the many ways Beijing helps keep the Cuban communist regime afloat.”

Meanwhile the capitalist5 government in the US is trying its damnedest to sink the communist government in Cuba. The US has long had an adversarial relationship with Cuba, starting with launching the Spanish-American War based on a lie concocted by US media. After the successful Cuban Revolution, the US has kept in place an economic blockade of the island. And seldom discussed is the fact that the US continues to occupy Guantánamo Bay, which Cuba has often demanded be returned to its sovereignty.

Since the article never mentions otherwise, it is assumed to be predicated upon the US and its Occidental allies not engaging in monitoring telecommunications and digital surveillance, which Edward Snowden has revealed to be patently false. This is not whataboutism because there is no evidence of a Chinese backdoor to Huawei and the company has pledged to not insert spying devices in its products; to do otherwise would be a bad business decision.

China’s Interests in Cuba

Lazarus and Ellis envision nefarious Chinese stratagems underlying their trade with Cuba:

China recognizes Cuba’s geostrategic importance. Due to its position in the Caribbean, Cuba can exert influence over the southeastern maritime approach to the United States, which contains vital sea lanes leading to ports in Miami, New Orleans, and Houston. Author George Friedman has argued that, with an increased presence in Cuba, China could potentially “block American ports without actually blocking them,” just like U.S. naval bases and installations pose a similar challenge to China around the first island chain and Straits of Malacca. Cuba’s influence in the Caribbean also makes it a useful proxy through which Beijing can pressure the four countries in the region (out of the 15 total globally) that recognize Taiwan to switch recognition.

The entire article is speculative. It is littered with words like “possible,” “can,” and “could.” The writers do not elaborate on how China might pressure the Caribbean countries. Usually countries switch allegiance to China from Taiwan based on financial inducements and not from hegemonic pressure.

Economic Support versus Economic Sanctions

The Diplomat writers argue that “China helps sustain the [Cuban] regime through economic engagement.”

What exactly do the writers intend to imply by economic engagement sustaining a regime? The logical corollary is that economic sanctions are aimed at “regime change.” Stemming from this logic, the US uses economic measures to sustain the theocratic criminality and corruption in Saudi Arabia and economic sanctions to try and change socialistic governments in, among others, Venezuela, Cuba, and China. Nonetheless, trade is what countries do to build their economies.

Regarding the US favored method of applying pressure, American academics John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote: “economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

The academics further noted,

It is interesting that this loss of human life has failed to make a great impression in the United States….

Some of the inattention may derive from a lack of concern about foreign lives. Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they – like others – often seem quite insensitive to casualties suffered by those on the opposing side, whether military or civilian.

The world views economic sanctions in a different light from the US. This was illuminated by the UN General Assembly vote demanding an end to the US economic blockade on Cuba for the 29th year in a row. Aside from two negative votes cast by the US and its Israeli ally, 184 countries voted in favor of the resolution.

Perplexingly, the writers pointed out that “China has not, however, sold Cuba any significant weapons systems, as it has done with other states in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.”

To the extent that selling armaments is a legitimate business, then why shouldn’t China sell armaments? Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia are not warring with other countries. Regarding the morality of selling weapons, consider that the US sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country committing genocide against Yemen and to Israel, a country that serially aggresses and economically strangulates Palestine. Are the writers not aware that the US pokes China in the eye by selling armaments to its renegade province, Taiwan, in contravention of the One-China policy to which the US shook hands?

“Digital Authoritarianism”

The writers complain about “China exporting ‘digital authoritarianism’ to illiberal regimes across the region. In Venezuela, Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE helped the Maduro regime establish the ‘fatherland ID card’ system, which it used to control not only voting, but the distribution of scarce food packages.”

As for the ID cards, the link provided by the writers notes that the “system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government.” Besides, which country does not require ID in order to cast a vote?

Why are the food packages scarce? What would one expect when the US has sanctions against Venezuela? It is quite disingenuous to criticize a government for food packages being scarce when that scarcity is caused by the writers’ own government. Moreover, the writers continue to use the word control pejoratively. Are the voting systems and economic distribution networks not a function of government implementation everywhere? If the writers want to insist that voting and the results are manipulated, then provide the evidence. Contrariwise, US observers endorsed the legitimacy of Venezuela’s May 2020 election; also, international observers were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly.” The link supplied by the writers is now dead, but the title reads: “For poor Venezuelans, a box of food may sway vote for Maduro.” While in Venezuela, a group of us visited the mercals — where food was being made affordable for the masses — where we were informed: “The Chavez administration does not want Venezuela’s food needs to be dependent on outside sources, so a concerted effort has been made to produce all foods locally.” Obviously that food independence is still a work in progress. Such progress is not made easier by being targeted by economic sanctions.

The writers make clear their anti-leftist and their anti-democracy views:

Leftist authoritarian regimes are consolidating control in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The populist left has returned to power in Bolivia in the form of the MAS party, in Argentina with the Peronists, and in Mexico with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Morena movement. In Peru, the recent election of Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca with a radical left agenda, similarly raises alarm bells. Upcoming elections in the region raise the prospects for an even broader spread of the populist left, including the prospect of victory by Xiomara Castro in November 2021 elections in Honduras, a President Petro emerging from Colombia’s 2022 elections, or the return of Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party in Brazil’s October 2022 elections.

Yikes! Democracy can be such a pain in the butt. As the anarchist professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm.”6 For American elitists, “the United States supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives.”7 That the US did and would seek “regime change” in Latin America is borne out by its Operation Condor.

Lazarus and Ellis attempt to justify the US’ machinations against Cuba and China:

China’s continued efforts to prop up the Cuban regime matters to U.S. national security. For both good and bad, Cuba is connected to the United States through geographic proximity, historical connections, and family ties. The U.S. government has long focused on violations of the freedoms and human rights of the Cuban people.

The language of Lazarus and Ellis is oleaginous. Having a focus on human rights violations is qualitatively different from opposing human rights violations and quantitatively different from supporting human rights violations, as the US did when it supported the Fulgencio Batista “regime” (to use the parlance of Lazarus and Ellis) in Cuba, which served American corporate and military interests while massacring his own people. How does the occupation of Guantánamo Bay, where prisoners of war languish in what Amnesty International called the “gulag of our time”; the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Operation Northwoods; and economic sanctions speak for American fidelity to human rights?

The writers with ties to the US military accuse China of a “malign intent against the U.S. in cyberspace.” They reason that “Cuba could also be an area from which China could gather intelligence and conduct cyberattacks against the United States.”

The writers speculate about a malign Chinese intent. Malign intent is evidenced by the Stuxnet virus that the USA and Israel inserted into the Iranian nuclear program. The authors write as if the US is not guilty of the malignity they assert that China is guilty of.

How the United States Can Respond

Lazarus and Ellis argue that the US “should concentrate on helping partners in the region to engage with China in the most healthy, productive ways. For example, an emphasis on transparency inhibits the ability to engage in corrupt backroom deals with the Chinese that benefit the elites signing the deals rather than the country as a whole.”

Helping partners and advocating for transparency is great. Is this what the US does? It would be foolish to deny that the US does not engage with corrupt rulers, rulers who siphon off the loans meant for the people of the country who are then held responsible for the odious debt to the financial lenders?8

Lazarus and Ellis write, “With respect to cybersecurity, the United States should similarly look to increase support to partners in protecting their citizens’ privacy and security from malign actors like China.”

Let’s leave aside the unsupported allegation that China might be a malign actor. Instead, let’s ask what kind of actor is the US? Is it a benevolent actor? This is the actor that just recently ended a two-decade war in impoverished Afghanistan — a country where the US engaged in a cycle of war crimes. Ask yourself: is it a benevolent actor who engages in disinformation campaigns against countries like China that have eradicated absolute poverty (while in the US a 2019 measure of poverty showed a rate of 10.5%) and accuse it of the scurrilous and easily debunked allegation of committing genocide in Xinjiang? Is it an upstanding country that pursues the locking away of Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere?

The writers suggest part of the solution for escaping Chinese spying is cybersecurity training by the US.

Is that a good idea — trusting Uncle Sam? If you get trained by the US and use US technology, then you might end up being surveilled by the US. Ask German chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders.

Lazarus and Ellis persist:

While recent events in Cuba show China’s growing influence in the region, the CCP’s emphatic support of the Cuban regime’s repressive acts also highlights that it is on the wrong side of history. The U.S. must deepen partnerships with Latin American countries and Caribbean friends.

Was the US on the right side of history in Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, historical Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Chile, Grenada, etc? How should countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and the other Latin American countries targeted by Operation Condor feel about a deepened partnership? And how would the peoples of Caribbean countries — e.g., Haiti, Grenada, Puerto Rico, etc — feel about a deepened partnership with the US?

Lazarus and Ellis proffer the haggard imperialist platitudes of partnership based on shared values, security, prosperity, and freedom. Which populations would they like to tempt with such an offer? To the people who experienced US-supported coups in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, or the masses in Venezuela subjected to unceasing American-government intrigues against their country? There is a reason why Latin Americans and Caribbean countries are leftists or turning leftward.

  1. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, 2002 edition).
  2. Throughout the article all emphases within quotations have been added by this writer.
  3. See here, here, and here.
  4. Cited in Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? Metropolitan Books, 2014: 100.
  5. Since the writers deem it important to identify the governments in China and Cuba as communist, it would seem appropriate and balanced to identify other governments by their ideology.
  6. Chomsky, 45.
  7. Chomsky, 74.
  8. See Noam Chomsky, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999). Chomsky describes how neoliberalism and financial institutions like the IMF and its structural adjustments have plunged the masses in developing countries into despair.
The post Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.

— Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state on how the United States conducts its business

One of the filters in the Propaganda Model propounded by professors Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky is stoking a fear of communism.1 The establishment’s anti-communism has never abated in the United States. The elitists require a populace fearful of communism to protect their own misbegotten wealth accumulation. Thus,the bugaboo of communism must be opposed wherever it arises. At its worst, the US would wage war against communist countries such as North Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia. When not militarily attacked, communist governments will be demonized by a relentless campaign of disinformation designed to bring about the fall of the government and its replacement by a government amenable to the US establishment, as happened in the Soviet Union. That is the nature of imperialism and predatory capitalism.

The establishment’s anti-communism is alive and kicking in The Diplomat, a current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region. This one can readily glean from its article titled “How China Helps the Cuban Regime Stay Afloat and Shut Down Protests.”2

The in-one’s-face bias of the article’s heading and the subheading (“Chinese companies have played a key part in building Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure, a system the regime uses to control its people, just as the CCP does within its own borders.”) immediately gives pause to the discerning reader. First, regime is a tendentious term meant to delegitimize a government. Second, the subheading asserts Chinese governmental control. While it points at the means, it does not provide any evidence that the assertion holds true.

The leaning of the writers is apparent from their bios: Leland Lazarus is a speechwriter to US Southern Command’s admiral Craig Faller, and Dr Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American Studies at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. They write, “July 11, thousands of people across Cuba took to the streets, fed up with the lack of food, basic products, medicine, and vaccines to combat COVID-19.”

This flash-in-the-pan, minor protest was allegedly orchestrated by the NED and US AID. Furthermore, the monopoly media narrative has been undermined by its use of fake and doctored images.3

The writers complain, “Protesters used social media to broadcast to the world what was happening, but the communist regime shut off the internet and telephone services, pulling the plug on their connection outside the island.”

A question: If your government is targeted by a barrage of disinformation from outside actors, would you allow for the disinformation to continue? Disinformation is hailed by many to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. And the disinformation campaigns of the US are myriad. Among them are the phantom missile attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the Viagra-fueled rapes in Libya, the Syrian government chemical-weapon attacks, and the current allegation of a genocide in Xinjiang, China. Millions of people died as a result of such disinformation.

It is clear that Lazarus and Ellis would like to knock down two communist governments that US capitalism finds antithetical, with one article. What is the crime of Cuba? The State Department Policy Planning Staff pointed to the “primary danger” the US faces, “The simple fact is that [former Cuban leader Fidel] Castro represents a successful defiance of the US…,”4 a slap in the face to the imperialist Monroe doctrine.

The writers turned to the old-school Cuba policy advocacy of US senator Marco Rubio who tweeted: “Expect the regime in #Cuba to block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world… By the way, they use a system made, sold & installed by #China to control and block access to the internet in #Cuba.’”

Again, monopoly media undermines itself and senator Rubio: “… Fox News, however, included a small detail that went largely unnoticed. As he [Rubio] was speaking about ‘brutal oppression’ by the Cuban government and hailing the protesters, the footage shown by the cable station depicted a rally by Cuban government supporters. Fox News apparently knew exactly what it was airing, since it was careful to blur the slogans that some of the activists were carrying.”

Lazarus and Ellis see a sinister hand: “China’s role in helping the regime cut off communications during the protests has exposed one of the many ways Beijing helps keep the Cuban communist regime afloat.”

Meanwhile the capitalist5 government in the US is trying its damnedest to sink the communist government in Cuba. The US has long had an adversarial relationship with Cuba, starting with launching the Spanish-American War based on a lie concocted by US media. After the successful Cuban Revolution, the US has kept in place an economic blockade of the island. And seldom discussed is the fact that the US continues to occupy Guantánamo Bay, which Cuba has often demanded be returned to its sovereignty.

Since the article never mentions otherwise, it is assumed to be predicated upon the US and its Occidental allies not engaging in monitoring telecommunications and digital surveillance, which Edward Snowden has revealed to be patently false. This is not whataboutism because there is no evidence of a Chinese backdoor to Huawei and the company has pledged to not insert spying devices in its products; to do otherwise would be a bad business decision.

China’s Interests in Cuba

Lazarus and Ellis envision nefarious Chinese stratagems underlying their trade with Cuba:

China recognizes Cuba’s geostrategic importance. Due to its position in the Caribbean, Cuba can exert influence over the southeastern maritime approach to the United States, which contains vital sea lanes leading to ports in Miami, New Orleans, and Houston. Author George Friedman has argued that, with an increased presence in Cuba, China could potentially “block American ports without actually blocking them,” just like U.S. naval bases and installations pose a similar challenge to China around the first island chain and Straits of Malacca. Cuba’s influence in the Caribbean also makes it a useful proxy through which Beijing can pressure the four countries in the region (out of the 15 total globally) that recognize Taiwan to switch recognition.

The entire article is speculative. It is littered with words like “possible,” “can,” and “could.” The writers do not elaborate on how China might pressure the Caribbean countries. Usually countries switch allegiance to China from Taiwan based on financial inducements and not from hegemonic pressure.

Economic Support versus Economic Sanctions

The Diplomat writers argue that “China helps sustain the [Cuban] regime through economic engagement.”

What exactly do the writers intend to imply by economic engagement sustaining a regime? The logical corollary is that economic sanctions are aimed at “regime change.” Stemming from this logic, the US uses economic measures to sustain the theocratic criminality and corruption in Saudi Arabia and economic sanctions to try and change socialistic governments in, among others, Venezuela, Cuba, and China. Nonetheless, trade is what countries do to build their economies.

Regarding the US favored method of applying pressure, American academics John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote: “economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

The academics further noted,

It is interesting that this loss of human life has failed to make a great impression in the United States….

Some of the inattention may derive from a lack of concern about foreign lives. Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they – like others – often seem quite insensitive to casualties suffered by those on the opposing side, whether military or civilian.

The world views economic sanctions in a different light from the US. This was illuminated by the UN General Assembly vote demanding an end to the US economic blockade on Cuba for the 29th year in a row. Aside from two negative votes cast by the US and its Israeli ally, 184 countries voted in favor of the resolution.

Perplexingly, the writers pointed out that “China has not, however, sold Cuba any significant weapons systems, as it has done with other states in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.”

To the extent that selling armaments is a legitimate business, then why shouldn’t China sell armaments? Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia are not warring with other countries. Regarding the morality of selling weapons, consider that the US sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country committing genocide against Yemen and to Israel, a country that serially aggresses and economically strangulates Palestine. Are the writers not aware that the US pokes China in the eye by selling armaments to its renegade province, Taiwan, in contravention of the One-China policy to which the US shook hands?

“Digital Authoritarianism”

The writers complain about “China exporting ‘digital authoritarianism’ to illiberal regimes across the region. In Venezuela, Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE helped the Maduro regime establish the ‘fatherland ID card’ system, which it used to control not only voting, but the distribution of scarce food packages.”

As for the ID cards, the link provided by the writers notes that the “system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government.” Besides, which country does not require ID in order to cast a vote?

Why are the food packages scarce? What would one expect when the US has sanctions against Venezuela? It is quite disingenuous to criticize a government for food packages being scarce when that scarcity is caused by the writers’ own government. Moreover, the writers continue to use the word control pejoratively. Are the voting systems and economic distribution networks not a function of government implementation everywhere? If the writers want to insist that voting and the results are manipulated, then provide the evidence. Contrariwise, US observers endorsed the legitimacy of Venezuela’s May 2020 election; also, international observers were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly.” The link supplied by the writers is now dead, but the title reads: “For poor Venezuelans, a box of food may sway vote for Maduro.” While in Venezuela, a group of us visited the mercals — where food was being made affordable for the masses — where we were informed: “The Chavez administration does not want Venezuela’s food needs to be dependent on outside sources, so a concerted effort has been made to produce all foods locally.” Obviously that food independence is still a work in progress. Such progress is not made easier by being targeted by economic sanctions.

The writers make clear their anti-leftist and their anti-democracy views:

Leftist authoritarian regimes are consolidating control in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The populist left has returned to power in Bolivia in the form of the MAS party, in Argentina with the Peronists, and in Mexico with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Morena movement. In Peru, the recent election of Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca with a radical left agenda, similarly raises alarm bells. Upcoming elections in the region raise the prospects for an even broader spread of the populist left, including the prospect of victory by Xiomara Castro in November 2021 elections in Honduras, a President Petro emerging from Colombia’s 2022 elections, or the return of Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party in Brazil’s October 2022 elections.

Yikes! Democracy can be such a pain in the butt. As the anarchist professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm.”6 For American elitists, “the United States supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives.”7 That the US did and would seek “regime change” in Latin America is borne out by its Operation Condor.

Lazarus and Ellis attempt to justify the US’ machinations against Cuba and China:

China’s continued efforts to prop up the Cuban regime matters to U.S. national security. For both good and bad, Cuba is connected to the United States through geographic proximity, historical connections, and family ties. The U.S. government has long focused on violations of the freedoms and human rights of the Cuban people.

The language of Lazarus and Ellis is oleaginous. Having a focus on human rights violations is qualitatively different from opposing human rights violations and quantitatively different from supporting human rights violations, as the US did when it supported the Fulgencio Batista “regime” (to use the parlance of Lazarus and Ellis) in Cuba, which served American corporate and military interests while massacring his own people. How does the occupation of Guantánamo Bay, where prisoners of war languish in what Amnesty International called the “gulag of our time”; the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Operation Northwoods; and economic sanctions speak for American fidelity to human rights?

The writers with ties to the US military accuse China of a “malign intent against the U.S. in cyberspace.” They reason that “Cuba could also be an area from which China could gather intelligence and conduct cyberattacks against the United States.”

The writers speculate about a malign Chinese intent. Malign intent is evidenced by the Stuxnet virus that the USA and Israel inserted into the Iranian nuclear program. The authors write as if the US is not guilty of the malignity they assert that China is guilty of.

How the United States Can Respond

Lazarus and Ellis argue that the US “should concentrate on helping partners in the region to engage with China in the most healthy, productive ways. For example, an emphasis on transparency inhibits the ability to engage in corrupt backroom deals with the Chinese that benefit the elites signing the deals rather than the country as a whole.”

Helping partners and advocating for transparency is great. Is this what the US does? It would be foolish to deny that the US does not engage with corrupt rulers, rulers who siphon off the loans meant for the people of the country who are then held responsible for the odious debt to the financial lenders?8

Lazarus and Ellis write, “With respect to cybersecurity, the United States should similarly look to increase support to partners in protecting their citizens’ privacy and security from malign actors like China.”

Let’s leave aside the unsupported allegation that China might be a malign actor. Instead, let’s ask what kind of actor is the US? Is it a benevolent actor? This is the actor that just recently ended a two-decade war in impoverished Afghanistan — a country where the US engaged in a cycle of war crimes. Ask yourself: is it a benevolent actor who engages in disinformation campaigns against countries like China that have eradicated absolute poverty (while in the US a 2019 measure of poverty showed a rate of 10.5%) and accuse it of the scurrilous and easily debunked allegation of committing genocide in Xinjiang? Is it an upstanding country that pursues the locking away of Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere?

The writers suggest part of the solution for escaping Chinese spying is cybersecurity training by the US.

Is that a good idea — trusting Uncle Sam? If you get trained by the US and use US technology, then you might end up being surveilled by the US. Ask German chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders.

Lazarus and Ellis persist:

While recent events in Cuba show China’s growing influence in the region, the CCP’s emphatic support of the Cuban regime’s repressive acts also highlights that it is on the wrong side of history. The U.S. must deepen partnerships with Latin American countries and Caribbean friends.

Was the US on the right side of history in Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, historical Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Chile, Grenada, etc? How should countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and the other Latin American countries targeted by Operation Condor feel about a deepened partnership? And how would the peoples of Caribbean countries — e.g., Haiti, Grenada, Puerto Rico, etc — feel about a deepened partnership with the US?

Lazarus and Ellis proffer the haggard imperialist platitudes of partnership based on shared values, security, prosperity, and freedom. Which populations would they like to tempt with such an offer? To the people who experienced US-supported coups in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, or the masses in Venezuela subjected to unceasing American-government intrigues against their country? There is a reason why Latin Americans and Caribbean countries are leftists or turning leftward.

  1. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, 2002 edition).
  2. Throughout the article all emphases within quotations have been added by this writer.
  3. See here, here, and here.
  4. Cited in Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? Metropolitan Books, 2014: 100.
  5. Since the writers deem it important to identify the governments in China and Cuba as communist, it would seem appropriate and balanced to identify other governments by their ideology.
  6. Chomsky, 45.
  7. Chomsky, 74.
  8. See Noam Chomsky, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999). Chomsky describes how neoliberalism and financial institutions like the IMF and its structural adjustments have plunged the masses in developing countries into despair.
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Trudeau Speaks to a Lack of Judgment

The Montreal Canadiens hockey team drafted a player fined for a sex-related offence. The 17-year-old player, Logan Mailloux, surreptitiously took photos of a consensual sex act and showed them to his teammates — this without the consent of the other person.

The draft selection was a major PR gaffe on the part of the team, especially since the player, now 18-years old, asked not to be drafted so that he could work on bettering himself as a person. The opprobrium became so heated that, finally, the owner of the team, Geoff Molson, felt compelled to write a letter that disavowed Mailloux’s actions and avowed that such actions do not reflect the team’s values.

Even Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau decided to voice his displeasure with the team’s draft selection:

As a lifelong Habs fan, I have to say I am deeply disappointed by the decision. I think it was a lack of judgment by the Canadiens organization. I think they have a lot of explaining to do, to Montrealers and to fans from right across the country.

There are few among us who are perfect and have not shown, at one time or another, a lack of judgement. Trudeau, the son of a former long-time prime minister in Canada, has a record that speaks to his own struggles with “a lack of judgment.”

  • In his younger days Trudeau would occasionally appear in blackface/brownface. Youthful indiscretion?
  • Maclean’s magazine carried a piece on Trudeau’s “bad judgment.” When Trudeau accepted the billionaire Aga Khan’s hospitality on his private island, this raised many red flags. It was an obvious conflict-of-interest, and Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled that Trudeau was guilty of a breach of ethics. Hopefully, the PM would learn from this “bad judgement.”
  • Aga Khan was strike one. Then came strike two. The ethics commissioner Marcel Dion ruled that Trudeau had again violated ethics when he interposed himself into criminal proceedings against the disgraced company SNC-Lavalin, this to the chagrin of his justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould who felt the pressure of the party machinery being applied to her. Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister, would find herself forced out of the Liberal Party, along with a supportive party colleague, Jane Philpott. In the next election, the electorate pronounced judgement by returning Wilson-Raybould to parliament — this time as an independent. Trudeau and the Liberal Party fell from a majority to a minority government.
  • Back on 8 December 2015, Trudeau made a pledge to First Nation leaders “that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are … a sacred obligation.” So what was Trudeau thinking when he sent in the RCMP, ill-famed for such moral transgressions as carrying out the abduction of Indigenous children from their families, to deal with First Nations? When the RCMP invaded the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en they came with helicopters, snipers, police dogs, and tactical teams even though the Wet’suwet’en made it clear that they were unarmed and peaceful. How sacred was that?
  • But Canada is about the rule of law, isn’t it? At least, so claims Trudeau. Based upon this stipulation and acting on an extradition request from the United States, Canada intercepted and apprehended Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, while in transit at Vancouver International airport. Meng is alleged to have misled HSBC bank about Huawei’s relationship with another company, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran. Recently, Meng’s legal team had documents released from HSBC through a court agreement in Hong Kong that indicate no misleading had occurred. However, the BC Supreme Court judge rejected the documents as insufficient. Meng has been awaiting a judicial determination since 1 December 2018. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained in China, have been awaiting a judicial determination since 10 December 2018.

Canada has long been pressured to follow US foreign policy with little leeway. Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, likened Canada’s situation to a mouse sleeping next to an elephant. For instance, Canada’s international trade is so highly dominated by ties to the US that Canada can be strong-armed to even stir up confrontation with its second largest trading partner, China.

  • And, as was revealed the other day, Trudeau’s government has approved the sale of $74 million of explosives to Saudi Arabia. This is the Saudi government whose agents assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi and chopped up his body to dispose of it. This is the same government which carries out public beheadings, public floggings, and is committing genocide in Yemen.

What is Lacking?

A teenager, lacking judgement and rectitude, committed a despicable act and was punished for it. It is hoped that he can fully atone for the transgression and grow past it.

Trudeau, however, is an adult who is the leader of a country. Unfortunately, his lack of judgment appears almost inconsequential to the lack of morality.

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What is the Difference between Swastikas and Crosses?

Cartier Erecting a Cross at Gaspé
Charles W. Jefferys
Canada’s Past in Pictures, 1934, p.12

On 24 July 1534, French navigator Jacques Cartier voyaged to the Gulf of Kaniatarowanenneh (River of the Mohawks, St Lawrence) and planted a cross on the shore of Gaspé. It signified claiming possession of the territory on behalf of the king of France, Francis I. Donnacona, chief of Stadacona (Québec city), was unhappy at this effrontery. Surmising this, Cartier lied and downplayed the significance of the 9-meter (30-ft) cross.

A Thought Experiment

Imagine that your childhood experience was being forcibly separated from your family and placed in church-run schools. Imagine hearing that you were a savage; being forbidden to speak in your savage tongue; being forced to dress in your oppressor’s sartorial; being made to pray to the oppressor’s god; being fed strange, insalubrious, unpalatable meals; being used as slave labor; being subject to beatings; and, even worse, being sodomized or raped. If you survived this cruel assimilation project, how would your feelings be toward the government, its gendarmerie, and the church? And what of your feelings toward the cross, that ubiquitous symbol of your stolen childhood and your people’s dispossession?1

The Blowback to Colonialism

Red dresses replace captain Cook statue. iheartradio

On Canada Day, 1 July, a statue of the British navigator James Cook was torn from its pedestal and tossed into the murky waters of the Inner Harbor of Camosack (Victoria). Afterwards, several wooden red dresses, commemorating missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, were arranged in the bronze Cook’s sted. Half a block away, a statue of queen Victoria situated on the lawn in front of the Parliament Buildings somehow eluded the anti-imperialist fervor of the day. However, the Victoria statue in front of Winnipeg’s Manitoba Legislature did not escape its fate. It was decapitated and toppled, as was the statue of the current monarch, Elizabeth. Victoria’s head was thrown in the Assiniboine River.2

Then, sometime between 16 July and 17 July, a steel cross atop Mt Ts’uwxilum (known to most by its anglicized spelling of Mt Tzouhalem), in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, was cut down. People are drawing a link between the removal of the cross with the revelation of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools in Canada. The taking down of the Mt Ts’uwxilum cross came on the heels of a confirmed 160 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kuper Island Residential School on Penelakut Island (the restored First Nation designation for Kupfer Island).

View across Cowichan Valley from 788-m Swuq’us (Mt Prevost) toward 536-m Ts’uwxilum (Mt Tzouhalem, arrow). Photo credit Dan Petersen

Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle spoke to Penelakut member Steve Sxwithul’txw, an acclaimed filmmaker and a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School, who started a GoFundMe with his partner Michele Mundy and Tom LaFortune for Vancouver Island First Nations to search former residential school sites on their territory. Is fundraising something First Nations should have to do?

“I think it’s important that the government fund this. In no way shape or form that First Nations should be funding this. In no way shape or form should a residential school survivor be fundraising to find bodies,” said Sxwithul’txw.

Sxwithul’txw demands accountability of the government and churches.

The work is going to continue for the next number of years — the unearthing of our lost children. We can keep unearthing them, but at the same time, what is going to happen? Who is going to be accountable? Is the Government of Canada going to take responsibility? They’re culpable. Same with the churches. So what’s going to be the process? I’m asking non-Indigenous Canadians to apply for answers. Write to your MP to get answers and move forward with investigations.

The government and churches are culpable, but so is the RCMP.

North Cowichan mayor Al Siebring knows of the devastation caused to many lives by the residential schools, but he nonetheless bemoans the removal of a cross first placed on Mt Ts’uwxilum in 1976: “That is not how we as a society should be dealing with our past. We need to respect each other and get along.”3

In other words, Siebring says the symbols of colonialism — the symbols of the institutions that brought about the dispossession of First peoples and sought their disappearance through assimilation — should remain on display or should not be summarily removed. This sentiment is expressed for a symbol now merged with genocide that was erected on the mountain named after chief Ts’uwxilum on the territory of the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) people.

Would Siebring argue similarly for mutual respect regarding swastikas displayed as symbols in Europe?4

As for how to deal with the symbols and symbolism, of course, First Nations should be consulted and lead the way. However, there is also an argument to be made that the current generation of non-Indigenous Canadians, who are ashamed of the heinous crimes of previous generations and wish to repudiate these crimes by removing the symbols of oppression, have a right to repurpose the spaces to better reflect sincerity for reconciliation.

The Cross and Original Peoples

Meanwhile, although reconciliation is the buzzword, many actions speak to the continuation of colonial-settler dispossession. For instance, the Mi’kmaq still struggle against government ennui and white racism for their right to harvest lobster as they have done centuries before the White Man arrived. The Wet’suwet’en First Nation are still resisting the construction of a pipeline through their unceded territory, abetted by the RCMP. Mi’kmaw groups are opposed to the construction of a LNG export facility in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) and have an understandable fear of “man camps” that would house the construction workers. And the RCMP are still killing Indigenous people.

Yet, the moral solution is clear. If you steal something, then elementary morality demands that you return what you have stolen — in the same condition and with additional compensation as required. Land back:

Land Back is really about the decision-making power. It’s about self-determination for our Peoples here that should include some access to the territories and resources in a more equitable fashion, and for us to have control over how that actually looks. — Jesse Wente, a dad, husband, and Ojibwe man

Dolefully, it seems that colonialism in both its historical and present-day forms remains a cross Indigenous peoples are forced to bear.

  1. I am not indigenous to Turtle Island, and do not pretend to know what it feels like to have experienced what the Indigenous people of Turtle Island have experienced. I can only attempt to imagine it.
  2. Queen Victoria’s legacy is tarnished by her reigning over the racist dispossession of peoples throughout the British empire.
  3. Quoted by Kevin Rothbauer, “Cross that overlooked Cowichan Valley from Mount Tzouhalem cut down,” Cowichan Valley Citizen, 22 July 2021, A1 and A35.
  4. It is acknowledged that Nazis purloined the swastika from the East where it was a common symbol with a positive connotation and a long history for Hindus and Buddhists.
The post What is the Difference between Swastikas and Crosses? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Mask Wearing: Compelled and Unquestioning Obedience to the Chair

Mask-wearing mandates are now easing in many jurisdictions. Seeing the plethora of unmasked visages speaks to the preference for unrestricted access to air.

Yet, writer Max Fawcett asks, “Why were so many people so opposed to wearing face masks?”

There are plenty of reasons. How about that masks interfere with normal breathing; that speech is muffled, making conversation difficult; that the masks are uncomfortable; that the masks might even be harmful to the wearer? Saliently: other than causing a stir among the fearful people who don masks in public, why should one wear a mask if there is no hard scientific evidence that they are preventative against contracting respiratory viral infections?

A more important question the writer ought to have broached is: given the absence of rigorous scientific data in support, why were so many people compelled to wear masks and why was it that so few people uttered a peep against it? They merely complied. This is true throughout society. In education circles, teachers masked up. Granted, if they wanted to work and get along, they had little choice. A stated goal of education is developing critical-thinking skills. Health care workers masked up. Medicine is a field, like education, supposedly driven by evidence-based results, upon which one can apply critical thinking skills.

There is a crucial omission in the opinion piece by Fawcett. Was there any evidence presented in the article as to the effectiveness of mask-wearing prophylaxis? Indeed, Fawcett even admitted, “There’s also the impact that masking had on last year’s flu season, which was about as non-existent as it’s ever been.” Thus, he purports that mask wearing had a negligible effect on preventing infection with COVID-19. Fawcett deserves credit for pointing this out, especially since few had ostensibly noticed that despite all the mask wearing and social distancing enforced, COVID-19 cases continued seemingly unabated. So did mask wearing and social distancing work? Did these measures diminish the proliferation of COVID-19?

Despite acknowledging the non-existent impact of mask wearing, Fawcett takes aim at people resistant to mask wearing:

For those who fetishize freedom and worship at the altar of liberty, the removal of mask restrictions is probably worth celebrating. But for the rest of us, it marks the beginning of an uncomfortable experiment — one that will test the resilience of a dangerous and deadly pandemic and our willingness to put the well-being of others above our own temporary discomfort.

There are plenty of take-aways from this statement. Fawcett calls this the “beginning of an uncomfortable experiment.” If this is an experiment, then members of the public are the unwitting subjects (others might say “guinea pigs”) in the experiment, subjects who have not knowingly consented to partake in this experiment — usually considered a flagrant breach of ethics. And, since this is a beginning experiment, obviously the evidence is not all in.

Moreover, the writer disparages those opposed to mask wearing as fetishizers of freedom and lumps them into one homogeneous class: pro-freedom, anti-mask. Fawcett apparently did not contemplate that there are people who have researched the science and came to oppose mask wearing based on the conclusion that the masks don’t work. These people looked at the evidence and critically appraised the mandates/recommendations put forward by governments. Had they found evidence that supported mask wearing, they would have willingly worn masks.

Randomized control trials are the gold standard of science. Yet, no RCT indicates a statistically significant difference between the mask-wearing and the control groups; this refutes the hypothesis that protection is conferred by mask wearing — including cloth masks, surgical masks, even N95 respirators.

How about common sense? Is the mesh density of the masks tiny enough to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virion from entering? No. Even if the mesh were dense enough to prevent entry through the mask, is the mask sealed around the face of the wearer? No. In other words the virions can enter the respiratory orifices of a mask wearer.

Next, the writer criticizes the people opposed to mask wearing — the fetishizers of freedom — of being selfish and insouciant to their fellow citizens. He opines,

But it’s that second test — the one that will reveal just how much we actually care about our fellow citizens — that should worry us most here. Wearing a face mask into a mall, grocery store or other shared public space isn’t exactly a hardship — and our relatives who had to deal with actual hardships in the past would probably laugh at us for making so much of it.

For people with claustrophobia or compromised health circumstances, mask wearing can be exactly that: a hardship. Even worse, it can pose a health risk. Again, Fawcett has not considered that there might be a dissenting group, people who otherwise would agree with and support mask wearing given hard scientific evidence for protecting against viral infection.

Finally, Fawcett concludes,

Canada is the country of “peace, order and good government,” and we don’t see acts of caring for each other, whether through our publicly funded health-care system or any number of other supports and services, as the kind of creeping socialism many Americans seem to fear. We’d all do well to remember that the next time we think about whether or not we want to put on a mask in public — and what it really says about us.

First, who are “we”? Are Canadians a monolith as alluded to by Fawcett’s “we”? Second, what does it mean to assert that Canada is a country of “peace, order and good government,” especially so soon after a thousand bodies of Indigenous children in unmarked graves have, so far, been revealed by ground-penetrating radar? It is an undeniable fact of public record that Canadian history is blighted by the abduction of Indigenous children from their families through the connivance of government, churches, and the RCMP. Nevertheless, of course, there are “acts of caring for each other” that happen in Canada. But past and current history reveals Indigenous peoples to be the Other, the Other less or uncared for by much of settler society. This is clearly evidenced by, among others, the numerous unsolved cases of disappeared and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, the disproportionate incarceration of First peoples relative to settler Canadians, the higher rates of poverty and the long-term lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, and the lack of respect for First people’s input about how to steward the environment. Third, what does Fawcett mean by “creeping socialism”? Is socialism to be likened to an icky insect? Fourth, do Americans still “fear” socialism? Favorable views toward socialism seem to be ascendant in the United States, with capitalism on the decline. Fifth, the majority of Americans in recent years have indicated support for medicare for all. Ergo, Fawcett’s conclusion appears to be fallacious.

To conclude, whether one wants to wear a mask or not is inconsequential. People’s attitudes toward wearing a mask ought to be analyzed beyond superficial prejudices. Opposition to mask wearing may well indicate critical thinkers who are conversant with the scientific evidence. One might better ask what unquestioning obedience to mask-wearing dictates from authorities, in the absence of proffered evidence, really says about such people. The dangers of unquestioning obedience are real. Perhaps the most horrific examples are the willingness of soldiers to follow orders and commit atrocities against fellow humans.

Mandates for mask wearing and orders to kill are exceedingly different animals. Nonetheless, epistemology demands that people free themselves from uncritically bending to directives from authority figures. Every thinking person should consider the morality and the evidence that underlie directives.

Image credit: Chip Bok’s Editorial Cartoons

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The Canadian Greenhouse and Genocide

In February I wrote,

As a rule, basic decency would require that one clean up one’s own yard (except in Canada’s case, the yard was stolen from its Indigenous peoples) before criticizing someone else’s yard.

This was in response to a plurality of members of parliament in Canada condemning China for committing genocide in the country’s Xinjiang province. It was flabbergasting, given that Canada is a state erected on the territory through a dispossession of its Original Peoples by European colonial-settlers. The dispossession was — and is — genocidal.

Canada’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, issued a statement:

The Government of Canada takes any allegations of genocide extremely seriously. We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any such allegations are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts.

This investigation must be conducted by an international and independent body so that impartial experts can observe and report on the situation first-hand.

That action would come back to bite Garneau and the MPs.

Forensic Evidence of Genocide

To those who listen to First Peoples and study how settlers came to rule over the First Peoples, the news announced on 27 May of 215 individual graves of children from the Kamloops Indian Residential School, while jarring was not surprising. The school, which operated from 1890 to 1969, had its hidden past revealed by ground-penetrating radar used by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in BC.

“To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said. In a press release she said:

We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.

Many thought the discovered bodies to be the tip of the ice berg. That was in late May.

Less than a month later, the Cowessess First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, using the same ground-penetrating radar, announced with certainty 600, but possibly 751, unmarked graves in its community cemetery.

The graves belong to children from the Marieval Indian Residential School said Chief Cadmus Delorme. The school operated from 1899 to 1997.

Both schools were run by the Catholic Church. The Pope has yet to apologize.

Chinese officials who have welcomed everyone to come to Xinjiang were quick to notice the forked tongue of Canadian officials. China spokesperson Hua Chunying recognizes what genocide looks like.

Meanwhile Xinjiang has seen a noticeable bump in visitors to the autonomous region.

*****

I emailed Kevin Annett who early on, as a United Church minister, spoke to atrocities in the logging town of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Annett, it must be stated, is a very controversial figure. But just because someone is off base or wrong on certain topics (and who is always correct?) does not mean that everything a person says should be dismissed. In a 2008 Tyee article he was ridiculed by a detractor: “Annett is busy with another one of his crusades against church and state, with new claims about a network of mass graves across Canada containing the remains of perhaps thousands of aboriginal children, murdered by priests and nuns.” The detractor, Terry Glavin, even went so far as to write that “the story of secret residential-school mass graves is an urban legend.” Ouch!

In Annett’s documentary Unrepentant, First Peoples spoke to abuse, trauma, torture, and deaths in residential schools. The number that specifically stood out was a woman holding a sign that read 50,000 killed. I asked Annett if he expected ground-penetrating radar to adduce the deaths at the residential school in Port Alberni?

Annett replied: “The general problem is that the serial killer is in charge and the truth works around the edges of the ‘mainstream’. GPR surveys have already been done at the Alberni death camp and the records are public info, also held in our ITCCS archives. They indicate sinkholes and massive soil dislocation.”

What about the churches — Catholic, Anglican, and United — how can they atone for the crime of genocide?

Annett: “The churches can only atone by being shut down and having their property and assets seized as criminal organizations – a requirement under international law; and having their officers arrested and jailed under standing warrants from our 2013 court action.”

Annett spoke to the role of the governments of Canada and its RCMP in the entrenchment of colonialism on First Nation land.

Annett: “But as long as they’re protected by ‘crown’ jurisdiction that won’t happen, hence the need for a new political arrangement – the Republic of Kanata (www.republicofkanata.ca).”

Idle No More, the Indigenous rights movement, stated:

We will not celebrate stolen Indigenous land and stolen Indigenous lives. #​CancelCanadaDay. Instead we will gather to honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian State – Indigenous lives, Black Lives, Migrant lives, Women and Trans and 2Spirit lives – all of the relatives that we have lost.

Victoria (Camosack in Lekwungen language) city council voted unanimously to cancel Canada Day celebrations. Several jurisdictions in Canada have followed suit canceling celebrations slated for the first day in July.

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Dissolving the State Won’t be Easy

The State is anti-societal; some would say sociopathic. It is elitist; it is riven by affiliation with a “Core Identity Group” contraposed to the Other; in most countries, the State provides and secures the basis for capitalism to flourish, separating the population into a few haves and multitudes of have-nots. While capital flows more-or-less freely across borders, workers are at a disadvantage since they do not enjoy the same freedom of movement. Eric Laursen, in his book The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State, discusses the aforementioned and other intricacies of the State and why anarchists find the State abhorrent.

The Operating System identifies the starting point for understanding the State being its legal, administrative, and decision-making structure — the government. (p 60) The State is the government; its writes the laws; its police, festishized by mass media, enforce the laws while shielded from accountability for their actions by qualified immunity. Prejudice forms the underbelly to the State and, hence, its “vested interest in maintaining if not promoting sexism, gender inequity, homophobia, and transphobia.” (p 177)

That the State is regressivist, that it promotes elitism and eschews diversity, that it is anti-democratic is made clear: “Today, the State is well on its way to creating, for the first time in human history, a worldwide monoculture tied to a uniform economic model and a single pattern of governance by a self-selecting global elite.” (p 26) But the masses are inculcated to believe the State is a necessity. (p 27)

In chapter 4, Laursen points to the European origin and cultural domination of the State. (p 84) It is a big monoculture that is hegemonic. (p 111-112) Yet, it was acknowledged in chapter 3 that not all States are the same; there are different “Versions of the Operating System.”

The State is an out-of-control abomination. Laursen quotes political theorist Chandran Kukuthas who points out that while the State is a human creation, it has evolved into something ungovernable by humans. (p 11) Among the crimes of the State are warring, genocide, racism, elitism (the State is organized hierarchically, although not necessarily by meritocracy1 ), and setting up barriers to certain humans: the Others.

For example: “The State does not contain Indigenous peoples who’ve never accepted the rule of a state and never adopted a functional role within it.” (p 23)

Nineteenth century European anarchists were staunchly opposed to any type of authoritarianism, especially the State, and held the conviction that capitalism couldn’t be abolished without the simultaneous abolishment of the State. (p 15) This probably holds true for most anarchists today.

Opposition to authoritarianism forms the backdrop for Laursen to inordinately beam his criticism at the State on China. The “authoritarian, one-party China” even gets lumped together with the “absolute monarchy” in Saudi Arabia and with the theocratic Islamic State (ISIS). (p 150) The error here is that one is led to presume that all forms of authoritarianism are the same and that all are equally anathema. Moreover, authoritarianism seems to be applied, more or less, specifically to non-western States. However, which State is not by definition authoritarian?

Is The Operating System Sinophobic?

Especially in recent years, China has been under unceasing criticism by the West and western mass media. The Operating System is also relentless throughout for its criticism of China. No State should be above criticism, but such criticism must be factually accurate and substantiated by whoever generates the criticism. I find that The Operating System fails miserably to substantiate its claims against China. When it does provide endnotes or footnotes for its claims, The Operating System diminishes its verisimilitude by citing western corporate media sources for such claims.

In the second chapter, “The State and COVID-19,” Sinophobia2 becomes palpable. Laursen states, “… the virus emerged in China…” (p 31 — no substantiation) Usually, when I find myself in doubt about proffered information, I look for substantiation to support a contention. Did SARS-CoV-2 originate in China? China state media, CGTN, has challenged that depiction presenting evidence that it arose simultaneously in France and before that in the United States: “A legitimate Question: when did COVID-19 first appear in the U.S.?” The Chinese state media’s evidence can be challenged, but at least CGTN provided evidence which Laursen did not.

Viruses can arise from various locales on the planet. The Spanish flu arose in the US; the Ebola virus arose in Africa; the H1N1 swine flu pandemic arose in Mexico. Pinpointing the source of a pandemic may seem uncritical, but Laursen followed up the sourcing of COVID-19 to China by writing that “China has developed possibly the most thorough and minutely controlling state system in the world.” (p 31) Criticism of China continues in the next paragraph: “Arguably, China was slow to address the underlying conditions that allowed the virus to spread, increasing the odds of a breakout epidemic…” The peer-review medical journal The Lancet did not find China to be slow. It found, “While the world is struggling to control COVID-19, China has managed to control the pandemic rapidly and effectively.” [italics added] The words that I italicized point to uncertainty by Laursen. Laursen provides no evidence or rationale to support his contention.

Nonetheless, Laursen is equally scathing of the US response to the pandemic; the $500 billion for the newly jobless, a pittance compared to that offered to businesses.

While Washington often complains that it has no money for social spending; safety-net programs or old-age pensions, in reality this is nonsense: its power to spend and to support the economic units it values is unlimited. The difference is who the State deems worthy of support. (p 54)

Laursen tars most large countries with the same brush of a “disastrous government response” to COVID-19 (China, the US, Russia, Brazil, etc). (p 41 ) Contrariwise, the peer-review journal Science noted early on that “China’s aggressive measures have slowed the coronavirus.” The New England Journal of Medicine reported a “Rapid Response to an Outbreak in Qingdao, China.” Canadian Dimension headlined: “The difference between the US and China’s response to COVID-19 is staggering.”

The Operating System gloms on to the western bugbear accusing China of persecuting ethnicities in its autonomous provinces: “Tibetans and Uighurs suffer [empire building] as Beijing encourages Han Chinese to establish themselves in Tibet and Xinjiang…” (p 79 — no substantiation) First, Xinjiang and Tibet are regions in China where the US and its CIA have long sought to stir up ethnic revolt against Communism.3 Second, a longtime student of China, Godfree Roberts, wrote that Tibetan fear of Han Chinese vanished when they noticed that the Han were just trying to eke out a living. Most Han Chinese did not thrive and left within a few years.4 Third, China liberated Tibet from serfdom under the lamas. Some Tibetans still regard Mao Zedong as their emancipator; they say their life is better now than under the Dalai Lama; and Tibetans remain free to practice their religion.5 Fourth, the Chinese government has sent tens of thousands of anti-poverty workers to Xinjiang who identified opportunities for the people of Xinjiang, improved infrastructure for access to markets, had major corporations relocate to Xinjiang, and Beijing moved whole universities to Xinjiang.6 Is this empire building? It was building up the Xinjiang economy. Yet Laursen charges that Beijing was underwriting the “ethnic Chinese colonization of Xinjiang.” (p 106) Laursen does not substantiate this claim, but offers an explanation: “[E]conomic rationalizations, are mostly rationalizations.” (p 106) This explanation is far from compelling. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has put the people first throughout the country. It stems from the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Mandate of Heaven — something hard to dismiss as just a rationalization.

Laursen cites the Wall Street Journal to build a case for “cultural erasure” against Uyghurs by “demolishing some eighty-five hundred mosques” in Xinjiang. (p 106, 154) This erasure, contends Laursen, has been the intent since the days of chairman Mao Zedong. (p 125 — no substantiation) A comparison of respect for the sanctity of mosques in China with western states such as France and the US refutes the disinformation that The Operating System proffers. In the case of mosque and building demolitions in Xinjiang, it is about improving living and safety standards, a process into which Uyghurs have input and choices.7

Laursen charges that China uses government surveillance to manage and control population (p 148 — no substantiation). No one denies the prevalence of CCTV cameras, but what is not delineated is what is meant by “manage” and “control” of the population.

Laursen warns that China’s social-credit program collects data on individuals which can lead to blacklisting for ‘untrustworthy’ persons. (p 102) This plays into the western mass media demonization of data collection in China while ignoring that the West, as revealed by Edward Snowden (p 147), does the same. (p 138-140) That is what the CIA, NSA, Facebook, and social media do.

From first-hand experience, my impression is that most Chinese people like the social-credit program. Imagine that! Being rewarded for paying bills on time, being able to book rail tickets, tickets to attractions easily online. For those people who refuse to pay bills, child support, fines, or engage in other untrustworthy activities, the question is: should or shouldn’t they be revealed and compelled to make amends? Most Chinese seem of the opinion that they should be compelled.8

Laursen complains about the blurring of lines between State and capital in providing “nominally private” security for the Belt and Road Initiative while noting the staff are veterans of the People’s Liberation Army. (p 108) Laursen sources the discredited right-wing Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal.

The author writes of protests against Beijing’s increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. (p 110) Encroachment? Hong Kong is not sovereign; it is part of China. One country-two systems remains in place. Moreover, Beijing allowed Hong Kong to deal with the protestors/rioters:

What about the protests/riots that have resumed in Hong Kong? What triggered those protests? Some citizens were opposed to extradition of alleged criminals? How has China responded to rioting, sabotage, terrorism, separatism, and even murders by the so-called protestors? Hong Kong is a territory having been a under British colonial administration from 1841 to 1997 when it reverted to mainland China as a special autonomous region; it must be noted that once the original demands [of the protestors] for rescinding the extradition bill were met, the goal posts of the NED-supported protestors transformed into a purported democracy movement.

Has China responded with military force? No. With arrests of law-abiding journalists? No. With police brutality? Most observers will acknowledge that police have been incredibly restrained, some would say too restrained in the face of protestor violence.

The protestors, largely disaffected youth, as is apparent in all or most video footage, by and large employ random violence as a tactic, which they do not condemn. This was made clear by Hong Kong protest leader Joey Siu, during an interview with Deutsche Welle, who said she “will not do any kind of public condemnation” for the use of unjustified violence by protesters against residents who do not share their political views.

The anarchist author also compares the one-party China to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy stating that China is elitist. (p 121) It is true that the CPC effectively rules China, but it is inaccurate to say China is a one-party State, as there are many political parties in China. One could rightfully argue that the US and Canada are effectively one-party States since two business parties with little to distinguish them apart alternate to form the government. The Chinese political system is different in that unlike the bickering among business parties in Canada and the US, the CPC and other parties in China pull together for the good of the country and its citizens. Laursen, however, argues that two-party democracies are preferable to a one-party system because this provides a venue for “citizens to channel their preferences into effective vehicles for competition and governance.” (p 160) Laursen does acknowledge that the “real purpose” of the two-party system is “to block anti-capitalist and anti-State movements.” (p 162)

The root of the criticism of being a one-party State is seemingly directed at the State not being democratic. Australian journalist and author Wei Ling Chua challenges the western narrative on what constitutes democracy and finds the West is sorely behind in serving the needs of its people compared to China.9 Roberts writes compellingly on what constitutes genuine democracy:

While there is an obvious tension between the ideals of democracy and the realities of power, it is fair to say that governments that consistently produce the outcomes that their citizens desire are democratic, while those that consistently fail to produce the outcomes their citizens desire … are not. By that definition, China is clearly democratic and the United States is clearly not.10

Chinese citizens clearly seem pleased with their form of government. A recent York University-led survey of 19,816 Chinese citizens post-pandemic revealed trust in the national government at 98 percent.

Mega-projects are intertwined with being a State. Interesting to Laursen is that these projects were carried out by “representative democracies”11 as well as by “authoritarian states.” Interestingly, he points to the “subjugation and settlement of the American West” and the spreading neoliberalism worldwide as not being carried out by an authoritarian State. (p 155)

Laursen charges, “In Hong Kong in 2019, the Chinese government threw unprecedented force at large but peaceful prodemocracy demonstrations…” (p 169) First, the Chinese government “threw” no force at the demonstrations. Mainland Chinese security forces did not police the Hong Kong riots. Second, calling the demonstrations “peaceful” is risible disinformation.12 Third, the demonstrations were not about “prodemocracy.” The goal of the demonstrations morphed following attainment of the initial goal to prevent coming into law an extradition bill with mainland China, something Hong Kong has with the US and UK. Fourth, the funding of the protestors/rioters in Hong Kong traces back to the US and its notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Surely Laursen is aware of the Propaganda Model propounded by anarchist professor Noam Chomsky and lead author Edward Herman in their much praised Manufacturing Consent. So why does he cite an oft discredited corporate media publication, the Guardian, to accuse China of sterilizing Uyghur women? (p 224) This is patently false given the burgeoning Uyghur population.

There are a litany of criticisms sprinkled throughout The Operating System about China. It causes one to wonder why this preponderence given that China is a State that has lifted all its population out of extreme poverty: no homelessness, no dumpster diving, no begging!

Overcoming the State

The modern State is an instrument of violence, war, conquest, repression, and counterinsurgency. The State can repress rebellion because it is above the law, and it uses the military to drive the economy. To gain rights, benefits, and respect for human rights, the population has had to rise up or revolt against the State. (p 88-89)

Yet Laursen finds that anarchists seemingly “shy away from directly addressing the State…” (p 16) Capitalism is an adjunct to the main target, as Laursen writes, “… the fundamental problem isn’t capital or the wage system, it’s the State.” (p 20)

By emphasizing direct action, anarchism reflects a growing disillusionment with the Sate and democratic government as engines of progressive change. (p 13)

The State is an onerous construct that serves the 1%-ers. So, of course, 99% of the people who care about such matters, should want to overthrow the Westphalian system of states. To accomplish this overthrow, Laursen calls for a revolution. To start, a revolution of the mind. People need to liberate themselves from business as usual. In this context, The Operating System considers the Green New Deal, degrowth, deglobalization, food sovereignty, maintaining safety nets, and a community of mutual aid. In other words, becoming more self-sufficient.

Laursen knows that no modern state has ever been overthrown by a revolution — yet. For such a successful revolution to transpire, he says the State must have discredited itself in a large segment of the population. (p 18) According to the anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos, this already is the case.13 Indeed, this may be occurring now with the poor handling of the pandemic, an underwhelming response to climate change, and the persistence of systemic racism (look no further than the self-identifying Jewish State’s war crimes against Palestinians, supported by the US and Canada governments). Laursen notes that the State will not willingly disappear; it will have to be compelled to go away.

How? The revolution can be realized by the masses through a general strike, mutiny within armed forces, and the seizure of government facilities and key businesses. It won’t be easy. There are difficulties in bringing this about: among them are overcoming the inculcation of the “education” system (raising the question of whether critical thinking is genuinely encouraged in schools), the inability to disengage from fake news on corporate/state media and social media, and that consumers continue to shop at Walmart and big box stores.

Conclusion

Should a revolution succeed, the big question is how to defend an anarchy both domestically and from external attack. A tiny minority benefits extraordinarily to the detriment of the masses, and these morally bankrupt people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the State and the capitalist system which places them at the top of the power hierarchy.

The Operating System is useful in understanding the anti-humanism of the State, why the State should be abolished, and steps toward seeking the abolishment of the State. However, I found that The Operating System derailed itself mightily when it went off track to repeatedly excoriate China, apparently without knowledge of the history of China at the hands of the West or considering the Chinese side’s rebuttals to allegations against it.

I agree with the central thesis of the State being harmful to the wider humanity, but I demur from the supposed lumping together of all big states in the basket of the bad. There are large, militarily powerful states that seek to expand their influence, exploit the wealth and resources of smaller, less militarily developed states. China is anti-imperialist. It eschews hegemony. Of course, the actions of China must be held to account with its words. Moreover, an understanding of why China does what it does is crucial. China is ringed by US military bases. The US and its allies work to destabilize China. China seeks a peaceful reunification with Taiwan that was dismembered from it by Japan, with the support of the US. In the meantime, China is caring for all its citizens, promoting the Chinese Dream, a dream that will benefit other countries. China pledges peaceful development and cooperation.14 Importantly, China promises to honor its commitments.

Mao Zedong was, arguably, an anarchist in sentiment:

Now to have states, families, and selves is to allow each individual to maintain a sphere of selfishness. This utterly violates the Universal Principle and impedes progress. Therefore, not only should states be abolished — so that there would be no more struggle between the strong and the weak — but families should also be done away with, too, to allow equality of love and affection among men.15

Current chairman Xi Jinping calls for the upholding of Mao’s thought. To this end, Xi delineates the mass line of the CPC:

Adhering to the mass line means following the fundamental tenet of serving the people wholeheartedly.16

  1. If meritocracy even exists
  2. As expressed toward the Chinese State and not toward Chinese individuals.
  3. Read Thomas Laird, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa (Grove Press, 2003).
  4. Godfree Roberts, Why China Leads the World: Democracy at the Top, Data in the Middle, Talent at the Top (Oriel Media, 2020): 233.
  5. Roberts, 232.
  6. Roberts, 305.
  7. Roberts, 179.
  8. Roberts, 107.
  9. Wei Ling Chua, Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China (2013). Review.
  10. Roberts, 155.
  11. The representatives in so-called representative democracies, by and large, do not represent their constituents and, hence these are not democratic.
  12. View “Another Hong Kong: Chaos in the streets.”
  13. Diagnostic of the Future: Between the Crisis of Democracy and the Crisis of Capitalism: A Forecast 2018, 2018. “… the fact that an important state [the US], followed by a growing body of others, is breaking apart an old and hallowed synthesis — turning the nation-state against universal equality — is incontrovertible evidence that the world system that has governed us up to now is falling apart.” location 131.
  14. Xi Jinping, The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014).
  15. Mao quoting from memory Confucius’ Liyun by Kang Youwei. From Roberts, 305.
  16. Xi, “Carrying on the Enduring Spirit of Mao Zedong Thought” in The Governance of China.
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BBC, Free Media, and Julian Assange

A video in which Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev is interviewed by Orla Guerin has resurfaced; the interview took place in November 2020. (The BBC version.)

Revealing is what is not seen in the BBC version. When Aliyev held up the mirror to Guerin’s “accusation” that there was no free media in Azerbaijan, the BBC responded by censoring Aliyev’s reference to Assange.

Tossing rocks from a glasshouse is a dangerous tactic, as BBC’s Guerin discovers first hand when she charges that there is no free media in Azerbaijan. Aliyev denies the “accusation” by Guerin and turns the table:

How do you assess what happened to Mr. Assange? Isn’t it the reflection of free media in your country?

Aliyev knows that the BBC reporter has been put on the defensive. Guerin is either ignorant of media censorship in her home country or hoping that Aliyev would be ignorant of such facts. Aliyev is not ignorant; he takes the UK and BBC to task for its participation in the grotesque violation of Julian Assange.

For the journalistic activity [of Assange], you kept that person hostage actually killing him morally and physically. You did it, not us. And now he is in prison. So you have no moral right to talk about free media when you do these things.

The egregious miscarriage of justice meted out to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by the UK, US, Australian, and Swedish establishments, and the rest of the western establishments that refuse to stand up for human rights and oppose the torture of a publisher (and his source, Chelsea Manning who was also imprisoned and tortured) shouts in the loudest voice imaginable. Human rights, freedom of the media, and the moral right to lecture others are painfully in abeyance.

The video “Collateral Murder” released by WikiLeaks bears watching, rewatching, and making known to others. The criminals in the helicopter who gleefully gun down civilians in the Baghdadi street escaped any punishment, and the country that sent its killers to Iraq has eluded the hand of justice.

Despite the UK court denying the extradition of Assange to the United States, citing concerns over his mental health and risk of suicide, British authorities returned Assange to the maximum security facility of Belmarsh prison. This is rather astounding and logic defying given the court’s professed concern for Assange’s mental health in a US prison.

Despite being found guilty of no crime (except seeking asylum, being in fear of state persecution, amply proven by subsequent events), the man who brought to wider public knowledge the commission of war crimes by their governments has been in some form of incarceration since 2010.

What is abundantly clear from the case of Julian Assange is that to gain credibility and attain legitimacy, western states and their media must come clean on their own perfidy and repent before tossing rocks from the western glasshouse.

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Noam Chomsky: Something Rotten in the State of China?

The New York Times carries a transcript of Ezra Klein interviewing the venerable professor Noam Chomsky. The interview in its entirety is illuminating. However, the anarchist professor’s take on China gives one pause. It seems ill-informed and requires further elucidation.

*****

Ezra Klein: How do you think about China as an economic and geopolitical competitor? Should they be seen as a threat to us? Should we not think about them in that context? How would you like to see our relationship with China look?

Noam Chomsky: I mean, everyone talks about the threat. When everyone says the same thing about some complex topic, what should come to your mind is, wait a minute, nothing can be that simple. Something’s wrong. That’s the immediate light that should go off in your brain when you ever hear unanimity on some complex topic. So let’s ask, what’s the Chinese threat?

EK: I’ll give you the answer I’ve gotten because I have very complicated feelings about this. The answer I’ve gotten is that particularly, over the past decade, China’s moved in a much more authoritarian direction. They’ve become more expansionist, domestically, I’m talking about there. They’ve become more expansionist in the South China Sea really launched a horrifying domestic repression campaign against the Uyghurs. And so to the extent, you want there to be a mega economy that is setting international rules and structures that the direction China is going makes it scary for China or scarier for China to be that rule setter in the future. That is, I think, the argument I’ve been given.

Comment: One wonders where Klein got his answer. Why does Klein have complicated feelings about authoritarianism? Why complicated feelings about “a horrifying domestic repression campaign against the Uyghurs”? Is that what domestic expansionism means?

NC: China is becoming more authoritarian internally. I think that’s pretty bad. Is it a threat to us? No, it’s not a threat to us. Let’s take what’s happening with the Uyghur. Pretty hard to get good evidence, but there’s enough evidence to show that there’s very severe repression going on. Let me ask you a simple question. Is the situation of the Uyghurs, a million people who’ve been through education camps, is that worse than the situation of, say, two million and twice that many people in Gaza? I mean, are the Uyghur having their power plants destroyed, their sewage plants destroyed, subjected to regular bombing? Is it not happening to them? Not to my knowledge.

So yes, it shouldn’t be happening. We should protest it. It has one crucial difference from Gaza. Namely, in the Uyghur case, there’s not a lot that we can do about it, unfortunately. In the Gaza case, we can do everything about it since we were responsible for it, we can stop it tomorrow. That’s the difference. OK? So yes, that’s a very bad thing among other bad things in the world. But to say that it’s a threat to us is a little misleading.

Comment: Comment: First, let’s define authoritarian. From Webster:

1 : of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority

2 : of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people

Authoritarianism sounds pretty bad. But does definition number 1 relate to China? Definitely not. Definition number 2? Is Chomsky saying that chairman Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China do not adhere to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China? Xi Jinping is a student of Chinese history; he knows well that good governance depends on the support of the people. Said Xi, “Maintaining close ties with the people is essential to improving the Party’s conduct. Losing contact with the people would pose the gravest threat to the Party.”1

Chomsky states some skepticism to “good evidence” of repression of Uyghurs, but follows up by saying “there’s enough evidence to show that there’s very severe repression going on.” I wonder what Chomsky’s evidence is? It must be noted that Klein and Chomsky have taken a humongous step back from US, Canada, Australia, and British government claims of a genocide in Xinjiang against Uyghurs. The “severe repression” is identified as reeducation camps. CGTN reporter Wang Guan, who refuted the negative reports of education camps, would ask both Klein and Chomsky where they got their data.

Chomsky exposes here the hypocrisy of western countries criticizing the Chinese government for the fate of Uyghurs. While he might be misinformed about Xinjiang, he knows about Israeli repression, that the US supports, and calls it out.

NC: Well, let’s talk to the one case of expansionism, which is real. The South China Sea, that’s real. China is taking actions in violation of international law. It’s trying to take control of the South China Sea. Or to put it differently, it’s trying to do what we do in all of the oceans of the world, including the Western Pacific. They’re trying to do that in the South China Sea. And they shouldn’t be doing that. That’s for sure. It’s crucially important for their security. That’s where all their commercial traffic goes right through — South China Sea, Straits of Malacca, which are controlled by Chinese enemies or allies. So yeah, they’re doing the wrong thing there. That’s the thing that’s a little bit familiar to us because we do it all over the world, OK? And that’s the kind of threat that should be dealt with by diplomacy and negotiations.

Comment: Again Chomsky points out the hypocrisy of criticizing China for what the US is doing. However, the question remains as to whether China is expansionist in the South China Sea or does it have sovereignty? China is in talks with ASEAN members over the issue.

EK: … But I think that if you boil the conversation down to its core, the threat that the American government feels is that America is going to lose global preeminence. And they would prefer, and I think probably as an American, I would prefer, that America maintains more leadership of the international system than China does. I do think relatively I prefer American values as expressed by our government than Chinese. But I think this is a question I would pose to you, do you think America has a legitimate interest in trying to maintain geopolitical preeminence?

NC: I don’t think we can move that fast. Almost every phrase you us I think requires questions. So what American values do we impose when we run the world? …

So first of all, should any country have domination of the world? I don’t think so. Should it be a country that has a record of destruction, violence, and repression? No, it shouldn’t. Should it be China? No, certainly not. …

So I’m still asking, where’s the threat? I don’t like what happens in China. I think it’s rotten. That’s one of the most repressive governments anywhere. But I’m asking another question, we talk uniformly without exception about the Chinese threat, what are we talking about? In fact, just as a rule of thumb, if anything is discussed as if it’s just obvious, we don’t have to talk about it, everyone agrees, but we know it’s complicated. In any such situation, we should be asking, what’s going on? Nothing complicated can have that degree of uniformity about it. So some scam is underway.

Comment: China has eliminated extreme poverty. Ask Americans who can’t afford to see a doctor, who dumpster dive for food, who beg for spare change, who sleep under bridges or live in tent cities what “the most repressive government” is.

Ask the Chinese people if they feel repressed. Is Chomsky their spokesman?

In his excellent book, Why China Leads the World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom, (2021) Godfree Roberts writes, “With unarmed police, two percent of America’s legal professionals, and one-fourth of its policing budget, the Chinese have the world’s lowest imprisonment and re-offense rates.” (p 198) Does this sound like repression by the state?

Speaking to BRICS, Xi pledged cooperation — a concept contrary to repression — with all countries:

Our development endeavor is a cooperative one, as we will work for common development, carry out economic and technological cooperation with all other countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and promote our own development and the common development of all countries through cooperation.2

*****

Noam Chomsky has provided a valuable moral voice from the Left for many years. The longer he continues to carry a torch for humanity, the better.

But there are no gods. We are all fallible. It is granted that when it comes to studious analysis and synthesis of various fields of information, Chomsky must reign among the least fallible. Nevertheless, people must demand sources, evidence, and data and not rely solely upon the words of a personage. Practice open-minded skepticism and inform yourself. Study, discuss, cogitate, and reach your own conclusions.

  1. Xi Jinping, The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014); location 80%.
  2. Xi, location 72%.
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