All posts by Nicolas J.S. Davies

A People’s Vaccine Against a Mutating Virus and Neoliberal Rule

Photo credit: UNICEF Teachers and students were able to return to school in Lao Cai, Viet Nam, in May 2020

A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that worries about the COVID pandemic in the United States are at their lowest level since it began. Only half of Americans are either “very worried” (15%) or “somewhat worried” (35%) about the virus, while the other half are “not very worried” (30%) or “not worried at all” (20%).

But the news from around the world makes it clear that this pandemic is far from over, and a story from Vietnam highlights the nature of the danger.

Vietnam is a COVID success story, with one of the lowest rates of infection and death in the world. Vietnam’s excellent community-based public health system prevented the virus from spreading beyond isolated cases and localized outbreaks, without a nationwide lockdown. With a population of 98 million people, Vietnam has had only 8,883 cases and 53 deaths.

However, more than half of Vietnam’s cases and deaths have come in the last two months, and three-quarters of the new cases have been infected with a new “hybrid” variant that combines the two mutations detected separately in the Alpha (U.K.) and Delta (India) variants.

Vietnam is a canary in the pandemic coal-mine. The way this new variant has spread so quickly in a country that has defeated every previous form of the virus suggests that this one is much more infectious.

This variant must surely also be spreading in other countries, where it will be harder to detect among thousands of daily cases, and will therefore be widespread by the time public health officials and governments respond to it. There may also be other highly infectious new variants spreading undetected among the millions of cases in Latin America and other parts of the world.

A new study in The Lancet medical journal has found that the Alpha (U.K.), Beta (South Africa) and Delta (India) variants are all more resistant to existing vaccines than the original COVID virus, and the Delta variant is still spreading in countries with aggressive vaccination programs, including the U.K.

The Delta variant accounts for a two-month high in new cases in the U.K. and a new wave of infections in Portugal, just as developed countries ease restrictions before the summer vacation season, almost certainly opening the door to the next wave. The U.K., which has a slightly higher vaccination rate than the United States, had planned a further relaxation of restrictions on June 21st, but that is now in question.

China, Vietnam, New Zealand and other countries defeated the pandemic in its early stages by prioritizing public health over business interests. The United States and Western Europe instead tried to strike a balance between public health and their neoliberal economic systems, breeding a monster that has now killed millions of people. The World Health Organization believes that six to eight million people have died, about twice as many as have been counted in official figures.

Now the WHO is recommending that wealthier countries who have good supplies of vaccines postpone vaccinating healthy young people, and instead prioritize sending vaccines to poorer countries where the virus is running wild.

President Biden has announced that the United States is releasing 25 million doses from its stockpiles, most of which will be distributed through the WHO’s Covax program, with another 55 million to follow by the end of June. But this is a tiny fraction of what is needed.

Biden has also agreed to waive patent rights on vaccines under the WTO’s TRIPS rules (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), but that has so far been held up at the WTO by Canada and right-wing governments in the U.K., Germany, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Colombia. People have taken to the streets in many countries to insist that a WTO TRIPS Council meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 8-9, must agree to waive patent monopolies.

Since all the countries blocking the TRIPS waiver are U.S. allies, this will be a critical test of the Biden administration’s promised international leadership and diplomacy, which has so far taken a back seat to dangerous saber-rattling against China and Russia, foot-dragging on the JCPOA with Iran and war-crime-fueling weapons-peddling to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Ending international vaccine apartheid is not just a matter of altruism, or even justice. It is a question of whether we will end this pandemic before vaccine-resistant, super-spreading and deadlier variants fuel even more toxic new waves. The only way humanity can win this struggle is to act collectively in our common interest. 

Public Citizen has researched what it would take to vaccinate the world, and concluded that it would cost only $25 billion – 3% of the annual U.S. budget for weapons and war – to set up manufacturing plants and distribution hubs across the world and vaccinate all of humanity within a year. Forty-two Progressives in Congress have signed a letter to President Biden to urge him to fund such a plan.

If the world can agree to make and distribute a People’s Vaccine, it could be the silver lining in this dark cloud, because this ability to act globally and collectively in the public interest is precisely what we need to solve so many of the most serious problems facing humanity.

For example, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) is warning that we are in the midst of a triple crisis of climate change, mass extinction and pollution. Our neoliberal political and economic system has not just failed to solve these problems. It actively works to undermine efforts to do so, granting people, corporations and countries who profit from destroying the natural world the freedom to do so without constraint.

That is the very meaning of laissez-faire, to let the wealthy and powerful do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences for the rest of us, or even for life on Earth. As the economist John Maynard Keynes reputedly said in the 1930s, “Laissez-faire capitalism is the absurd idea that the worst people, for the worst reasons, will do what is best for us all.”

Neoliberalism is the reimposition of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, with all its injustices, inequality and oppression, on the people of the 21st century, prioritizing markets, profits and wealth over the common welfare of humanity and the natural world our lives depend on.

Berkeley and Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin called the U.S. political system, which facilitates this neoliberal economic order, “inverted totalitarianism.” Like classical totalitarianism, it concentrates ever more wealth and power in the hands of a small ruling class, but instead of abolishing parliaments, elections and the superficial trappings of representative government as classical totalitarianism did, it simply co-opts them as tools of plutocracy, which has proved to be a more marketable and sustainable strategy.

But now that neoliberalism has wreaked its chaos for a generation, popular movements are rising up across the world to demand systemic change and to build new systems of politics and economics that can actually solve the huge problems that neoliberalism has produced.

In response to the 2019 uprising in Chile, its rulers were forced to agree to an election for a constitutional assembly, to draft a constitution to replace the one written during the Pinochet dictatorship, one of the vanguards of neoliberalism. That election has now taken place, and the ruling party of President Pinera and other traditional parties won less than a third of the seats. So the constitution will instead be written by a super-majority of citizens committed to radical reform and social, economic and political justice.

In Iraq, which was also swept by a popular uprising in 2019, a new government seated in 2020 has launched an investigation to recover $150 billion in Iraqi oil revenues stolen and smuggled out of the country by the corrupt officials of previous governments.

U.S.-backed former exiles flew into Iraq on the heels of the U.S. invasion in 2003 “with empty pockets to fill,” as a Baghdad taxi driver told a Western reporter at the time. While U.S. forces and U.S.-trained Iraqi death squads destroyed their country, they hunkered down in the Green Zone in Baghdad and controlled and looted Iraq’s oil revenues for the next seventeen years. Now maybe Iraq can recover the stolen money its people so desperately need, and start using its oil wealth to rebuild that shattered country.

In Bolivia, also in 2019, a U.S.-backed coup overthrew its popular indigenous president, Evo Morales. But the people of Bolivia rose up in a general strike to demand a new election, Morales’ MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) Party was restored to power, and Luis Arce, Morales’ former Economy Minister, is now Bolivia’s President.

Around the world, we are witnessing what can happen when people rise up and act collectively for the common good. That is how we will solve the serious problems we face, from the COVID pandemic to the climate crisis to the terminal danger of nuclear war. Humanity’s survival into the twenty-second century and all our hopes for a bright future depend on building new political and economic systems that will simply and genuinely “do what is best for all of us.”

The post A People’s Vaccine Against a Mutating Virus and Neoliberal Rule first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World

Photo credit: indybay.org

Denis Halliday is an exceptional figure in the world of diplomacy. In 1998, after a 34-year career with the United Nations—including as an Assistant Secretary-General and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq—he resigned when the UN Security Council refused to lift sanctions against Iraq.

Halliday saw at first hand the devastating impact of this policy that had led to the deaths of over 500,000 children under the age of five and hundreds of thousands more older children and adults, and he called the sanctions a genocide against the people of Iraq.

Since 1998, Denis has been a powerful voice for peace and for human rights around the world. He sailed in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010, when 10 of his companions on a Turkish ship were shot and killed in an attack by the Israeli armed forces.

I interviewed Denis Halliday from his home in Ireland.

Nicolas Davies:   So, Denis, twenty years after you resigned from the UN over the sanctions on Iraq, the United States is now imposing similar “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, denying their people access to food and medicines in the midst of a pandemic. What would you like to say to Americans about the real-world impact of these policies?

Denis Halliday:   I’d like to begin with explaining that the sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq, led very much by the United States and Britain, were unique in the sense that they were comprehensive. They were open-ended, meaning that they required a Security Council decision to end them, which, of course, never actually happened – and they followed immediately upon the Gulf War.

The Gulf War, led primarily by the United States but supported by Britain and some others, undertook the bombing of Iraq and targeted civilian infrastructure, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and they took out all electric power networks in the country.

This completely undermined the water treatment and distribution system of Iraq, which depended upon electricity to drive it, and drove people to use contaminated water from the Tigris and the Euphrates. That was the beginning of the death-knell for young children, because mothers were not breast-feeding, they were feeding their children with child formula, but mixing it with foul water from the Tigris and the Euphrates.

That bombing of infrastructure, including communications systems and electric power, wiped out the production of food, horticulture, and all of the other basic necessities of life. They also closed down exports and imports, and they made sure that Iraq was unable to export its oil, which was the main source of its revenue at the time.

In addition to that, they introduced a new weapon called depleted uranium, which was used by the U.S. forces driving the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. That was used again in southern Iraq in the Basra area, and led to a massive accumulation of nuclear debris which led to leukemia in children, and that took three, four or five years to become evident.

So when I got to Iraq in 1998, the hospitals in Baghdad, and also, of course, in Basra and other cities, were full of children suffering from leukemia. Meantime adults had gotten their own cancer, mainly not a blood cancer diagnosis. Those children, we reckon perhaps 200,000 children, died of leukemia. At the same time, Washington and London withheld some of the treatment components that leukemia requires, again, it seemed, in a genocidal manner, denying Iraqi children the right to remain alive.

And as you quoted 500,000, that was a statement made by Madeleine Albright, the then American Ambassador to the United Nations who, live on CBS, was asked the question about the loss of 500,000 children, and she said that the loss of 500,000 children was “worth it,” in terms of bringing down Saddam Hussein, which did not happen until the military invasion of 2003.

So the point is that the Iraqi sanctions were uniquely punitive and cruel and prolonged and comprehensive. They remained in place no
matter how people like myself or others, and not just me alone, but UNICEF and the agencies of the UN system – many states including France, China and Russia – complained bitterly about the consequences on human life and the lives of Iraqi children and adults.

My desire in resigning was to go public, which I did. Within one month, I was in Washington doing my first Congressional briefing on the consequences of these sanctions, driven by Washington and London.

So I think the United States and its populus, who vote these governments in, need to understand that the children and the people of Iraq are just like the children of the United States and England and their people. They have the same dreams, same ambitions of education and employment and housing and vacations and all the things that good people care about. We’re all the same people and we cannot sit back and think somehow, “We don’t know who they are, they’re Afghans, they’re Iranians, they’re Iraqis. So what? They’re dying. Well, we don’t know, it’s not our problem, this happens in war.” I mean, all that sort of rationale as to why this is unimportant.

And I think that aspect of life in the sanctions world continues, whether it’s Venezuela, whether it’s Cuba, which has been ongoing now for 60 years. People are not aware or don’t think in terms of the lives of other human beings identical to ourselves here in Europe or in the United States.

It’s a frightening problem, and I don’t know how it can be resolved. We now have sanctions on Iran and North Korea. So the difficulty is to bring alive that we kill people with sanctions. They’re not a substitute for war – they are a form of warfare.

ND: Thank you, Denis. I think that brings us to another question, because whereas the sanctions on Iraq were approved by the UN Security Council, what we’re looking at today in the world is, for the most part, the U.S. using the power of its financial system to impose unilateral sieges on these countries, even as the U.S. is also still waging war in at least half a dozen countries, mostly in the Greater Middle East. Medea Benjamin and I recently documented that the U.S. and its allies have dropped 326,000 bombs and missiles on other countries in all these wars, just since 2001 – that’s not counting the First Gulf War.

You worked for the UN and UNDP for 34 years, and the UN was conceived of as a forum and an institution for peace and to confront violations of peace by any countries around the world. But how can the UN address the problem of a powerful, aggressive country like the United States that systematically violates international law and then abuses its veto and diplomatic power to avoid accountability?

DH:  Yes, when I talk to students, I try to explain that there are two United Nations: there’s a United Nations of the Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and staffed by people like myself and 20,000 or 30,000 more worldwide, through UNDP and the agencies. We operate in every country, and most of it is developmental or humanitarian. It’s good work, it has real impact, whether it’s feeding Palestinians or it’s UNICEF work in Ethiopia. This continues.

Where the UN collapses is in the Security Council, in my view, and that is because, in Yalta in 1945, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, having noted the failure of the League of Nations, decided to set up a United Nations that would have a controlling entity, which they then called the Security Council. And to make sure that worked, in their interests I would say, they established this five-power veto group, and they added France and they added China. And that five is still in place.

That’s 1945 and this is 2021, and they’re still in power and they’re still manipulating the United Nations. And as long as they stay there and they manipulate, I think the UN is doomed. The tragedy is that the five veto powers are the very member states that violate the Charter, violate human rights conventions, and will not allow the application of the ICC to their war crimes and other abuses.

On top of that, they are the countries that manufacture and sell weapons, and we know that weapons of war are possibly the most profitable product you can produce. So their vested interest is control, is the military capacity, is interference. It’s a neocolonial endeavor, an empire in reality, to control the world as the way they want to see it. Until that is changed and those five member states agree to dilute their power and play an honest role, I think we’re doomed. The UN has no capacity to stop the difficulties we’re faced with around the world.

ND:   That’s a pretty damning prognosis. In this century, we’re facing such incredible problems, between climate change and the threat of nuclear war still hanging over all of us, possibly more dangerous than ever before, because of the lack of treaties and the lack of cooperation between the nuclear powers, notably the U.S. and Russia. This is really an existential crisis for humanity.

Now there is also, of course, the UN General Assembly, and they did step up on nuclear weapons with the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has now officially entered into force. And every year when it meets, the General Assembly regularly and almost unanimously condemns the U.S. sanctions regime against Cuba.

When I wrote my book about the war in Iraq, my final recommendations were that the senior American and British war criminals responsible for the war should be held criminally accountable, and that the U.S. and the U.K. should pay reparations to Iraq for the war. Could the General Assembly possibly be a venue to build support for Iraq to claim reparations from the U.S. and the U.K., or is there another venue where that would be more appropriate?

DH:   I think you’re right on target. The tragedy is that the decisions of the Security Council are binding decisions. Every member state has got to apply and respect those decisions. So, if you violate a sanctions regime imposed by the Council as a member state, you’re in trouble. The General Assembly resolutions are not binding.

You’ve just referred to a very important decision, which is the decision about nuclear weapons. We’ve had a lot of decisions on banning various types of weapons over the years. Here in Ireland we were involved in anti-personnel mines and other things of that sort, and it was by a large number of member states, but not the guilty parties, not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Chinese, not the British. The ones who control the veto power game are the ones who do not comply. Just like Clinton was one of the proposers, I think, of the ICC [International Criminal Court], but when it came to the end of the day, the United States doesn’t accept it has a role vis-a-vis themselves and their war crimes The same is true of other large states that are the guilty parties in those cases.

So I would go back to your suggestion about the General Assembly. It could be enhanced, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be changed, but it requires tremendous courage on the part of member states. It also requires acceptance by the five veto powers that their day has come to an end, because, in reality, the UN carries very little cachet nowadays to send a UN mission into a country like Myanmar or Afghanistan.

I think we have no power left, we have no influence left, because they know who runs the organization, they know who makes the decisions. It’s not the Secretary-General. It’s not people like me. We are dictated to by the Security Council. I resigned, effectively, from the Security Council. They were my bosses during that particular period of my career.

I have a lecture I do on reforming the Security Council, making it a North-South representative body, which would find Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in situ, and you’d get very different decisions. You’d get the sort of decisions we get in the General Assembly: much more balanced, much more aware of the world and its North and South and all those other variations. But, of course, again, we can’t reform the Council until the five veto powers agree to that. That is the huge problem.

ND:   Yes, in fact, when that structure was announced in 1945 with the Security Council, the five Permanent Members and the veto, Albert Camus, who was the editor of the French Resistance newspaper Combat, wrote a front-page editorial saying this was the end of any idea of international democracy.

So, as with so many other issues, we live in these nominally democratic countries, but the people of a country like the United States are only really told what our leaders want us to know about how the world works. So reform of the Security Council is clearly needed, but it’s a massive process of education and democratic reform in countries around the world to actually build enough of a popular movement to demand that kind of change. In the meantime, the problems we’re facing are enormous.

Another thing that is very under-reported in the U.S. is that, out of desperation after twenty years of war in Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken has finally asked the UN to lead a peace process for a ceasefire between the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban and a political transition. That could move the conflict into the political realm and end the civil war that resulted from the U.S. invasion and occupation and endless bombing campaign.

So what do you think of that initiative? There is supposed to be a meeting in a couple of weeks in Istanbul, led by an experienced UN negotiator, Jean Arnault, who helped to bring peace to Guatemala at the end of its civil war, and then between Colombia and the FARC. The U.S. specifically asked China, Russia and Iran to be part of this process as well. Both sides in Afghanistan have agreed to come to Istanbul and at least see what they can agree on. So is that a constructive role that the UN can play? Does that offer a chance of peace for the people of Afghanistan?

DH:   If I were a member of the Taliban and I was asked to negotiate with a government that is only in power because it’s supported by the United States, I would question whether it’s an even keel. Are we equally powerful, can we talk to each other one-to-one? The answer, I think, is no.

The UN chap, whoever he is, poor man, is going to have the same difficulty. He is representing the United Nations, a Security Council dominated by the United States and others, as the Afghans are perfectly well aware. The Taliban have been fighting for a helluva long time, and making no progress because of the interference of the U.S. troops, which are still on the ground. I just don’t think it’s an even playing-field.

So I’d be very surprised if that works. I absolutely hope it might. I would think, in my view, if you want a lasting relationship within a country, it’s got to be negotiated within the country, without military or other interference or fear of further bombing or attacks or all the rest of it. I don’t think we have any credibility, as a UN, under those circumstances. It’ll be a very tough slog.

ND:  Right. The irony is that the United States set aside the UN Charter when it attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 to carve out what is now the semi-recognized country of Kosovo, and then to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN Charter, right at the beginning, at its heart, prohibits the threat or use of force by one country against another. But that is what the U.S. set aside.

DH:   And then, you have to remember, the U.S. is attacking a fellow member state of the United Nations, without hesitation, with no respect for the Charter. Perhaps people forget that Eleanor Roosevelt drove, and succeeded in establishing, the Declaration of Human Rights, an extraordinary achievement, which is still valid. It’s a biblical instrument for many of us who work in the UN.

So the neglect of the Charter and the spirit of the Charter and the wording of the Charter, by the five veto members, perhaps in Afghanistan it was Russia, now it’s the United States, the Afghanis have had foreign intervention up to their necks and beyond, and the British have been involved there since the 18th century almost. So they have my deepest sympathy, but I hope this thing can work, let’s hope it can.

ND:  I brought that up because the U.S., with its dominant military power after the end of the Cold War, made a very conscious choice that instead of living according to the UN Charter, it would live by the sword, by the law of the jungle: “might makes right.”

It took those actions because it could, because no other military force was there to stand up against it. At the time of the First Gulf War, a Pentagon consultant told the New York Times that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could finally conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about starting World War III. So they took the demise of the Soviet Union as a green light for these systematic, widespread actions that violate the UN Charter.

But now, what is happening in Afghanistan is that the Taliban once again control half the country. We’re approaching the spring and the summer when the fighting traditionally gets worse, and so the U.S. is calling in the UN out of desperation because, frankly, without a ceasefire, their government in Kabul is just going to lose more territory. So the U.S. has chosen to live by the sword, and in this situation it’s now confronting dying by the sword.

DH:   What’s tragic, Nicolas, is that, in our lifetime, the Afghanis ran their own country. They had a monarchy, they had a parliament – I met and interviewed women ministers from Afghanistan in New York – and they managed it. It was when the Russians interfered, and then the Americans interfered, and then Bin Laden set up his camp there, and that was justification for destroying what was left of Afghanistan.

And then Bush, Cheney and a few of the boys decided, although there was no justification whatsoever, to bomb and destroy Iraq, because they wanted to think that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda, which, of course, was nonsense. They wanted to think he had weapons of mass destruction, which also was nonsense. The UN inspectors said that again and again, but nobody would believe them.

It’s deliberate neglect of the one last hope. The League of Nations failed, and the UN was the next best hope and we have deliberately turned our backs upon it, neglected it and distrusted it. When we get a good Secretary General like Hammarskjold, we murder him. He was definitely killed, because he was interfering in the dreams of the British in particular, and perhaps the Belgians, in Katanga. It’s a very sad story, and I don’t know where we go from here.

ND:   Right, well, where we seem to be going from here is to a loss of American power around the world, because the U.S. has so badly abused its power. In the U.S., we keep hearing that this is a Cold War between the U.S. and China, or maybe the U.S., China and Russia, but I think we all hopefully can work for a more multipolar world.

As you say, the UN Security Council needs reform, and hopefully the American people are understanding that we cannot unilaterally rule the world, that the ambition for a U.S. global empire is an incredibly dangerous pipe-dream that has really led us to an impasse.

DH:   Perhaps the only good thing coming out of Covid-19 is the slow realization that, if everybody doesn’t get a vaccine, we fail, because we, the rich and the powerful with the money and the vaccines, will not be safe until we make sure the rest of the world is safe, from Covid and the next one that’s coming along the track undoubtedly.

And this implies that if we don’t do trade with China or other countries we have reservations about, because we don’t like their government, we don’t like communism, we don’t like socialism, whatever it is, we just have to live with that, because without each other we can’t survive. With the climate crisis and all the other issues related to that, we need each other more than ever perhaps, and we need collaboration. It’s just basic common sense that we work and live together.

The U.S. has something like 800 military bases around the world, of various sizes. China is certainly surrounded and this is a very dangerous situation, totally unnecessary. And now the rearming with fancy new nuclear weapons when we already have nuclear weapons that are twenty times bigger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. Why on Earth? It’s just irrational nonsense to continue these programs, and it just doesn’t work for humanity.

I would hope the U.S. would start perhaps retreating and sorting out its own domestic problems, which are quite substantial. I’m reminded every day when I look at CNN here in my home about the difficulties of race and all the other things that you’re well aware of that need to be addressed. Being policeman to the world was a bad decision.

ND:   Absolutely. So the political, economic and military system we live under is not only genocidal at this point, but also suicidal. Thank you, Denis, for being a voice of reason in this insane world.

The post Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Eisenhower’s Ghost Haunts Biden’s Foreign Policy Team

In his first words as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony  Blinken said, “we have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence.” Many around the world will welcome this promise of humility from the new administration, and Americans should too.

Biden’s foreign policy team will also need a special kind of confidence to confront the most serious challenge they face. That will not be a threat from a hostile foreign country, but the controlling and corrupting power of the Military-Industrial Complex, which President Eisenhower warned our grandparents about 60 years ago, but whose “unwarranted influence” has only grown ever since, as Eisenhower warned, and in spite of his warning.

The Covid pandemic is a tragic demonstration of why America’s new leaders should listen humbly to our neighbors around the world instead of trying to reassert American “leadership.” While the United States compromised with a deadly virus to protect corporate financial interests, abandoning Americans to both the pandemic and its economic effects, other countries put their people’s health first and contained, controlled or even eliminated the virus.

Many of those people have since returned to living normal, healthy lives. Biden and Blinken should listen humbly to their leaders and learn from them, instead of continuing to promote the U.S. neoliberal model that is failing us so badly.

As efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines begin to bear fruit, America is doubling down on its mistakes, relying on Big Pharma to produce expensive, profitable vaccines on an America First basis, even as China, Russia, the WHO’s Covax program and others are already starting to provide low-cost vaccines wherever they are needed around the world.

Chinese vaccines are already in use in Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE, and China is making loans to poorer countries that can’t afford to pay for them up front. At the recent G20 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned her Western colleagues that they are being eclipsed by China’s vaccine diplomacy.

Russia has orders from 50 countries for 1.2 billion doses of its Sputnik V vaccine. President Putin told the G20 that vaccines should be “common public assets,” universally available to rich and poor countries alike, and that Russia will provide them wherever they are needed.

The U.K. and Sweden’s Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine is another non-profit venture that will cost about $3 per dose, a small fraction of the U.S.’s Pfizer and Moderna products.

From the beginning of the pandemic, it was predictable that U.S. failures and other countries’ successes would reshape global leadership. When the world finally recovers from this pandemic, people around the world will thank China, Russia, Cuba and other countries for saving their lives and helping them in their hour of need.

The Biden administration must also help our neighbors to defeat the pandemic, and it must do better than Trump and his corporate mafia in that respect, but it is already too late to speak of American leadership in this context.

The neoliberal roots of U.S. bad behavior

Decades of U.S. bad behavior in other areas have already led to a broader decline in American global leadership. The U.S. refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol or any binding agreement on climate change has led to an otherwise avoidable existential crisis for the entire human race, even as the United States is still producing record amounts of oil and natural gas. Biden’s climate czar John Kerry now says that the agreement he negotiated in Paris as Secretary of State “is not enough,” but he has only himself and Obama to blame for that.

Obama’s policy was to boost fracked natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for U.S. power plants, and to quash any possibility of a binding climate treaty in Copenhagen or Paris. U.S. climate policy, like the U.S. response to Covid, is a corrupt compromise between science and self-serving corporate interests that has predictably proved to be no solution at all. If Biden and Kerry bring more of that kind of American leadership to the Glasgow climate conference in 2021, humanity must reject it as a matter of survival.

America’s post-9/11 “Global War on Terror,” more accurately a “global war of terror,” has fueled war, chaos and terrorism across the world. The absurd notion that widespread U.S military violence could somehow put an end to terrorism quickly devolved into a cynical pretext for “regime change” wars against any country that resisted the imperial dictates of the wannabe “superpower.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell privately dubbed his colleagues the “fucking crazies,” even as he lied to the UN Security Council and the world to advance their plans for illegal aggression against Iraq. Joe Biden’s critical role as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to orchestrate hearings that promoted their lies and excluded dissident voices who would have challenged them.

The resulting spiral of violence has killed millions of people, from 7,037 American troop deaths to five assassinations of Iranian scientists (under Obama and now Trump). Most of the victims have been either innocent civilians or people just trying to defend themselves, their families or their countries from foreign invaders, U.S.-trained death squads or actual CIA-backed terrorists.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR only a week after the crimes of September 11th, “It can never be legitimate to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others.” Neither Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Palestine, Libya, Syria or Yemen was responsible for the crimes of September 11th, and yet U.S. and allied armed forces have filled miles upon miles of graveyards with the bodies of their innocent people.

Like the Covid pandemic and the climate crisis, the unimaginable horror of the “war on terror” is another calamitous case of corrupt U.S. policy-making leading to massive loss of life. The vested interests that dictate and pervert U.S. policy, in particular the supremely powerful Military-Industrial Complex, marginalized the inconvenient truths that none of these countries had attacked or even threatened to attack the United States, and that U.S. and allied attacks on them violated the most fundamental principles of international law.

If Biden and his team genuinely aspire for the United States to play a leading and constructive role in the world, they must find a way to turn the page on this ugly episode in the already bloody history of American foreign policy. Matt Duss, an advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, has called for a formal commission to investigate how U.S. policymakers so deliberately and systematically violated and undermined the “rules-based international order” that their grandparents so carefully and wisely built after two world wars that killed a hundred million people.

Others have observed that the remedy provided for by that rules-based order would be to prosecute senior U.S. officials. That would probably include Biden and some of his team. Ben Ferencz has noted that the U.S. case for “preemptive” war is the same argument that the German defendants used to justify their crimes of aggression at Nuremberg.

“That argument was considered by three American judges at Nuremberg,” Ferencz explained, “and they sentenced Ohlendorf and twelve others to death by hanging. So it’s very disappointing to find that my government today is prepared to do something for which we hanged Germans as war criminals.”

Time to Break the Cross of Iron

Another critical problem facing the Biden team is the deterioration of U.S. relations with China and Russia. Both countries’ military forces are primarily defensive, and therefore cost a small fraction of what the U.S. spends on its global war machine – 9% in the case of Russia, and 36% for China. Russia, of all countries, has sound historical reasons to maintain strong defenses, and does so very cost-effectively.

As former President Carter reminded Trump, China has not been at war since a brief border war with Vietnam in 1979, and has instead focused on economic development and lifted 800 million people out of poverty, while the U.S. has been squandering its wealth on its lost wars. Is it any wonder that China’s economy is now healthier and more dynamic than ours?

For the United States to blame Russia and China for America’s unprecedented military spending and global militarism is a cynical reversal of cause and effect – as much of a nonsense and an injustice as using the crimes of September 11th as a pretext to attack countries and kill people who had nothing to do with the crimes committed.

So here too, Biden’s team face a stark choice between a policy based on objective reality and a deceptive one driven by the capture of U.S. policy by corrupt interests, in this case the most powerful of them all, Eisenhower’s infamous Military-Industrial Complex. Biden’s officials have spent their careers in a hall of mirrors and revolving doors that conflates and confuses defense with corrupt, self-serving militarism, but our future now depends on rescuing our country from that deal with the devil.

As the saying goes, the only tool the U.S. has invested in is a hammer, so every problem looks like a nail. The U.S. response to every dispute with another country is an expensive new weapons system, another U.S. military intervention, a coup, a covert operation, a proxy war, tighter sanctions or some other form of coercion, all based on the supposed power of the U.S. to impose its will on other countries, but all increasingly ineffective, destructive and impossible to undo once unleashed.

This has led to war without end in Afghanistan and Iraq; it has left Haiti, Honduras and Ukraine destabilized and mired in poverty as the result of U.S.-backed coups; it has destroyed Libya, Syria and Yemen with covert and proxy wars and resulting humanitarian crises; and to U.S. sanctions that affect a third of humanity.

So the first question for the first meeting of Biden’s foreign policy team should be whether they can sever their loyalties to the arms manufacturers, corporate-funded think tanks, lobbying and consultant firms, government contractors and corporations they have worked for or partnered with during their careers.

These conflicts of interest amount to a sickness at the roots of the most serious problems facing America and the world, and they will not be resolved without a clean break. Any member of Biden’s team who cannot make that commitment and mean it should resign now, before they do any more damage.

Long before his farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower made another speech, responding to the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. He said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

In his first year in office, Eisenhower ended the Korean War and cut military spending by 39% from its wartime peak. Then he resisted pressures to raise it again, despite his failure to end the Cold War.

Today, the Military-Industrial Complex is counting on a reversion to the Cold War against Russia and China as the key to its future power and profits, to keep us hanging from this rusty old cross of iron, squandering America’s wealth on trillion-dollar weapons programs as people go hungry, millions of Americans have no healthcare and our climate becomes unlivable.

Are Joe Biden, Tony Blinken and Jake Sullivan the kind of leaders to just say “No” to the Military-Industrial Complex and consign this cross of iron to the junkyard of history, where it belongs? We will find out very soon.

The post Eisenhower's Ghost Haunts Biden's Foreign Policy Team first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How can Americans support Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Americans are dealing with an upcoming general election, a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 of us, and corporate news media whose business model has degenerated to selling different versions of “The Trump Show” to their advertisers. So who has time to pay attention to a new war half way round the world? But with so much of the world afflicted by 20 years of U.S.-led wars and the resulting political, humanitarian and refugee crises, we can’t afford not to pay attention to the dangerous new outbreak of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war over Nagorno-Karabakh from 1988 to 1994, by the end of which at least 30,000 people had been killed and a million or more had fled or been driven out of their homes. By 1994, Armenian forces had occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, all internationally recognized as parts of Azerbaijan. But now the war has flared up again, hundreds of people have been killed, and both sides are shelling civilian targets and terrorizing each other’s civilian populations.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been an ethnically Armenian region for centuries. After the Persian Empire ceded this part of the Caucasus to Russia in the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, the first census ten years later identified Nagorno-Karabakh’s population as 91% Armenian. The USSR’s decision to assign Nagorno-Karabakh to the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923, like its decision to assign Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, was an administrative decision whose dangerous consequences only became clear when the U.S.S.R. began to disintegrate in the late 1980s.

In 1988, responding to mass protests, the local parliament in Nagorno-Karabakh voted by 110-17 to request its transfer from the Azerbaijan SSR to the Armenian SSR, but the Soviet government rejected the request and inter-ethnic violence escalated. In 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh and the neighboring Armenian-majority Shahumian region, held an independence referendum and declared independence from Azerbaijan as the Republic of Artsakh, its historic Armenian name. When the war ended in 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh and most of the territory around it were in Armenian hands, and hundreds of thousands of refugees had fled in both directions.

There have been clashes since 1994, but the present conflict is the most dangerous and deadly. Since 1992, diplomatic negotiations to resolve the conflict have been led by the “Minsk Group,” formed by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) and led by the United States, Russia and France. In 2007, the Minsk Group met with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials in Madrid and proposed a framework for a political solution, known as the Madrid Principles.

The Madrid Principles would return five of the twelve districts of Shahumyan province to Azerbaijan, while the five districts of Naborno-Karabakh and two districts between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia would vote in a referendum to decide their future, which both parties would commit to accept the results of. All refugees would have the right to return to their old homes.

Ironically, one of the most vocal opponents of the Madrid Principles is the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a lobby group for the Armenian diaspora in the United States. It supports Armenian claims to the entire disputed territory and does not trust Azerbaijan to respect the results of a referendum. It also wants the de facto government of the Republic of Artsakh to be allowed to join international negotiations on its future, which is probably a good idea.

On the other side, the Azerbaijani government of President Ilham Aliyev now has the full backing of Turkey for its demand that all Armenian forces must disarm or withdraw from the disputed region, which is still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Turkey is reportedly paying jihadi mercenaries from Turkish-occupied northern Syria to go and fight for Azerbaijan, raising the specter of Sunni extremists exacerbating a conflict between Christian Armenians and mostly Shiite Muslim Azeris.

On the face of it, despite these hard-line positions, this brutal raging conflict should be possible to resolve by dividing the disputed territories between the two sides, as the Madrid Principles attempted to do. Meetings in Geneva and now Moscow seem to be making progress toward a ceasefire and a renewal of diplomacy. On Friday, October 9th, the two opposing foreign ministers met for the first time in Moscow, in a meeting mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and on Saturday they agreed to a temporary truce to recover bodies and exchange prisoners.

The greatest danger is that either Turkey, Russia, the U.S. or Iran should see some geopolitical advantage in escalating or becoming more involved in this conflict. Azerbaijan launched its current offensive with the full backing of Turkey’s President Erdogan, who appears to be using it to demonstrate Turkey’s renewed power in the region and strengthen its position in conflicts and disputes over Syria, Libya, Cyprus, oil exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the region in general. If that is the case, how long must this go on before Erdogan has made his point, and can Turkey control the violence it is unleashing, as it has so tragically failed to do in Syria?

Russia and Iran have nothing to gain and everything to lose from an escalating war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and are both calling for peace. Armenia’s popular Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power after Armenia’s 2018 “Velvet Revolution” and has followed a policy of non-alignment between Russia and the West, even though Armenia is part of Russia’s CSTO military alliance. Russia is committed to defend Armenia if it is attacked by Azerbaijan or Turkey, but has made it clear that that commitment does not extend to Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran is also more closely aligned with Armenia than Azerbaijan, but now its own large Azeri population has taken to the streets to support Azerbaijan and protest their government’s bias toward Armenia.

As for the destructive and destabilizing role the United States habitually plays in the greater Middle East, Americans should beware of any U.S. effort to exploit this conflict for self-serving U.S. ends. That could include fueling the conflict to undermine Armenia’s confidence in its alliance with Russia, to draw Armenia into a more Western, pro-NATO alignment. Or the U.S. could exacerbate and exploit unrest in Iran’s Azeri community as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

At any suggestion that the U.S. is exploiting or planning to exploit this conflict for its own ends, Americans should remember the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan whose lives are being lost or destroyed every day that this war rages on, and should condemn and oppose any effort to prolong or worsen their pain and suffering for U.S. geopolitical advantage.

Instead the U.S. should fully cooperate with its partners in the OSCE’s Minsk Group to support a ceasefire and a lasting and stable negotiated peace that respects the human rights and self-determination of all the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The post How can Americans support Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme

When President Clinton dropped 23,000 bombs on what was left of Yugoslavia in 1999 and NATO invaded and occupied the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, U.S. officials presented the war to the American public as a “humanitarian intervention” to protect Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population from genocide at the hands of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. That narrative has been unraveling piece by piece ever since.

In 2008 an international prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, accused U.S.-backed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo of using the U.S. bombing campaign as cover to murder hundreds of people to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market. Del Ponte’s charges seemed almost too ghoulish to be true. But on June 24th, Thaci, now President of Kosovo, and nine other former leaders of the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA,) were finally indicted for these 20-year-old crimes by a special war crimes court at The Hague.

From 1996 on, the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies covertly worked with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to instigate and fuel violence and chaos in Kosovo. The CIA spurned mainstream Kosovar nationalist leaders in favor of gangsters and heroin smugglers like Thaci and his cronies, recruiting them as terrorists and death squads to assassinate Yugoslav police and anyone who opposed them, ethnic Serbs and Albanians alike.

As it has done in country after country since the 1950s, the CIA unleashed a dirty civil war that Western politicians and media dutifully blamed on Yugoslav authorities. But by early 1998, even U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard called the KLA a “terrorist group” and the UN Security Council condemned “acts of terrorism” by the KLA and “all external support for terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms and training.” Once the war was over and Kosovo was successfully occupied by U.S. and NATO forces, CIA sources openly touted the agency’s role in manufacturing the civil war to set the stage for NATO intervention.

By September 1998, the UN reported that 230,000 civilians had fled the civil war, mostly across the border to Albania, and the UN Security Council passed resolution 1199, calling for a ceasefire, an international monitoring mission, the return of refugees and a political resolution. A new U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, convinced Yugoslav President Milosevic to agree to a unilateral ceasefire and the introduction of a 2,000 member “verification” mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). But the U.S. and NATO immediately started drawing up plans for a bombing campaign to “enforce” the UN resolution and Yugoslavia’s unilateral ceasefire.

Holbrooke persuaded the chair of the OSCE, Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, to appoint William Walker, the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador during its civil war, to lead the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). The U.S. quickly hired 150 Dyncorp mercenaries to form the nucleus of Walker’s team, whose 1,380 members used GPS equipment to map Yugoslav military and civilian infrastructure for the planned NATO bombing campaign. Walker’s deputy, Gabriel Keller, France’s former Ambassador to Yugoslavia, accused Walker of sabotaging the KVM, and CIA sources later admitted that the KVM was a “CIA front” to coordinate with the KLA and spy on Yugoslavia.

The climactic incident of CIA-provoked violence that set the political stage for the NATO bombing and invasion was a firefight at a village called Racak, which the KLA had fortified as a base from which to ambush police patrols and dispatch death squads to kill local “collaborators.” In January 1999, Yugoslav police attacked the KLA base in Racak, leaving 43 men, a woman and a teenage boy dead.

After the firefight, Yugoslav police withdrew from the village, and the KLA reoccupied it and staged the scene to make the firefight look like a massacre of civilians. When William Walker and a KVM team visited Racak the next day, they accepted the KLA’s massacre story and broadcast it to the world, and it became a standard part of the narrative to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia and military occupation of Kosovo.

Autopsies by an international team of medical examiners found traces of gunpowder on the hands of nearly all the bodies, showing that they had fired weapons. They were nearly all killed by multiple gunshots as in a firefight, not by precise shots as in a summary execution, and only one victim was shot at close range. But the full autopsy results were only published much later, and the Finnish chief medical examiner accused Walker of pressuring her to alter them.

Two experienced French journalists and an AP camera crew at the scene challenged the KLA and Walker’s version of what happened in Racak. Christophe Chatelet’s article in Le Monde was headlined, “Were the dead in Racak really massacred in cold blood?” and veteran Yugoslavia correspondent Renaud Girard concluded his story in Le Figaro with another critical question, “Did the KLA seek to transform a military defeat into a political victory?”

NATO immediately threatened to bomb Yugoslavia, and France agreed to host high-level talks. But instead of inviting Kosovo’s mainstream nationalist leaders to the talks in Rambouillet, Secretary Albright flew in a delegation led by KLA commander Hashim Thaci, until then known to Yugoslav authorities only as a gangster and a terrorist.

Albright presented both sides with a draft agreement in two parts, civilian and military. The civilian part granted Kosovo unprecedented autonomy from Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav delegation accepted that. But the military agreement would have forced Yugoslavia to accept a NATO military occupation, not just of Kosovo but with no geographical limits, in effect placing all of Yugoslavia under NATO occupation.

When Milosevich refused Albright’s terms for unconditional surrender, the U.S. and NATO claimed he had rejected peace, and war was the only answer, the “last resort“.  They did not return to the UN Security Council to try to legitimize their plan, knowing full well that Russia, China and other countries would reject it. When UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Albright the British government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over NATO’s plan for an illegal war of aggression against Yugoslavia, she told him to “get new lawyers“.

In March 1999, the KVM teams were withdrawn and the bombing began. Pascal Neuffer, a Swiss KVM observer reported, “The situation on the ground on the eve of the bombing did not justify a military intervention. We could certainly have continued our work. And the explanations given in the press, saying the mission was compromised by Serb threats, did not correspond to what I saw. Let’s say rather that we were evacuated because NATO had decided to bomb.”

NATO killed thousands of civilians in Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia, as  it bombed 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 69 schools, 25,000 homes, power stations, a national TV station, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and other diplomatic missions. After it invaded Kosovo, the U.S. military set up the 955-acre Camp Bondsteel, one of its largest bases in Europe, on its newest occupied territory. Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, visited Camp Bondsteel in 2002 and called it “a smaller version of Guantanamo,” exposing it as a secret CIA black site for illegal, unaccountable detention and torture.

But for the people of Kosovo, the ordeal was not over when the bombing stopped. Far more people had fled the bombing than the so-called “ethnic cleansing” the CIA had provoked to set the stage for it. A reported 900,000 refugees, nearly half the population, returned to a shattered, occupied province, now ruled by gangsters and foreign overlords.

Serbs and other minorities became second-class citizens, clinging precariously to homes and communities where many of their families had lived for centuries. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma and other minorities fled, as the NATO occupation and KLA rule replaced the CIA’s manufactured illusion of ethnic cleansing with the real thing. Camp Bondsteel was the province’s largest employer, and U.S. military contractors also sent Kosovars to work in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2019, Kosovo’s per capita GDP was only $4,458, less than any country in Europe except Moldova and war-torn, post-coup Ukraine.

In 2007, a German military intelligence report described Kosovo as a “Mafia society” based on the “capture of the state” by criminals. The report named Hashim Thaci, then the leader of the Democratic Party, as an example of “the closest ties between leading political decision makers and the dominant criminal class.” In 2000, 80% of the heroin trade in Europe was controlled by Kosovar gangs, and the presence of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops fueled an explosion of prostitution and sex trafficking, also controlled by Kosovo’s new criminal ruling class.

In 2008, Thaci was elected Prime Minister, and Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. (The final dissolution of Yugoslavia in 2006 had left Serbia and Montenegro as separate countries.) The U.S. and 14 allies immediately recognized Kosovo’s independence, and ninety-seven countries, about half the countries in the world, have now done so. But neither Serbia nor the UN have recognized it, leaving Kosovo in long-term diplomatic limbo.

When the court in the Hague unveiled the charges against Thaci on June 24th, he was on his way to Washington for a White House meeting with Trump and President Vucic of Serbia to try to resolve Kosovo’s diplomatic impasse. But when the charges were announced, Thaci’s plane made a U-turn over the Atlantic, he returned to Kosovo and the meeting was canceled.

The accusation of murder and organ trafficking against Thaci was first made in 2008 by Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY), in a book she wrote after stepping down from that position. Del Ponte later explained that the ICTFY was prevented from charging Thaci and his co-defendants by the non-cooperation of NATO and the UN Mission in Kosovo. In an interview for the 2014 documentary, The Weight of Chains 2, she explained, “NATO and the KLA, as allies in the war, couldn’t act against each other.”

Human Rights Watch and the BBC followed up on Del Ponte’s allegations, and found evidence that Thaci and his cronies murdered up to 400 mostly Sebian prisoners during the NATO bombing in 1999. Survivors described prison camps in Albania where prisoners were tortured and killed, a yellow house where people’s organs were removed and an unmarked mass grave nearby.

Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty interviewed witnesses, gathered evidence and published a report, which the Council of Europe endorsed in January 2011, but the Kosovo parliament did not approve the plan for a special court in the Hague until 2015. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and independent prosecutor’s office finally began work in 2017. Now the judges have six months to review the prosecutor’s charges and decide whether the trial should proceed.

A central part of the Western narrative on Yugoslavia was the demonization of President Milosevich of Yugoslavia, who resisted his country’s Western-backed dismemberment throughout the 1990s. Western leaders smeared Milosevich as a “New Hitler” and the “Butcher of the Balkans,” but he was still arguing his innocence when he died in a cell at The Hague in 2006.

Ten years later, at the trial of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the judges accepted the prosecution’s evidence that Milosevich strongly opposed Karadzic’s plan to carve out a Serb Republic in Bosnia. They convicted Karadzic of being fully responsible for the resulting civil war, in effect posthumously exonerating Milosevich of responsibility for the actions of the Bosnian Serbs, the most serious of the charges against him.

But the U.S.’s endless campaign to paint all its enemies as “violent dictators” and “New Hitlers” rolls on like a demonization machine on autopilot, against Putin, Xi, Maduro, Khamenei, the late Fidel Castro and any foreign leader who stands up to the imperial dictates of the U.S. government. These smear campaigns serve as pretexts for brutal sanctions and catastrophic wars against our international neighbors, but also as political weapons to attack and diminish any U.S. politician who stands up for peace, diplomacy and disarmament.

As the web of lies spun by Clinton and Albright has unraveled, and the truth behind their lies has spilled out piece by bloody piece, the war on Yugoslavia has emerged as a case study in how U.S. leaders mislead us into war. In many ways, Kosovo established the template that U.S. leaders have used to plunge our country and the world into endless war ever since. What U.S. leaders took away from their “success” in Kosovo was that legality, humanity and truth are no match for CIA-manufactured chaos and lies, and they doubled down on that strategy to plunge the U.S. and the world into endless war.

As it did in Kosovo, the CIA is still running wild, fabricating pretexts for new wars and unlimited military spending, based on sourceless accusations, covert operations and flawed, politicized intelligence. We have allowed American politicians to pat themselves on the back for being tough on “dictators” and “thugs,” letting them settle for the cheap shot instead of tackling the much harder job of reining in the real instigators of war and chaos: the U.S. military and the CIA.

But if the people of Kosovo can hold the CIA-backed gangsters who murdered their people, sold their body parts and hijacked their country accountable for their crimes, is it too much to hope that Americans can do the same and hold our leaders accountable for their far more widespread and systematic war crimes?

Iran recently indicted Donald Trump for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, and asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for him. Trump is probably not losing sleep over that, but the indictment of such a key U.S. ally as Thaci is a sign that the U.S.”accountabilty-free zone” of impunity for war crimes is finally starting to shrink, at least in the protection it provides to U.S. allies. Should Netanyahu, Bin Salman and Tony Blair be starting to look over their shoulders?