All posts by Stansfield Smith

Why the US Can Keep Increasing its Debt and not Suffer Inflation (Part 2)

The US Still Dominates the World Economy

The US ruling class has dominated the planet since the end of World War II. Key elements of this control include its military superiority in nuclear and conventional weapons, and the stationing of over 900 military bases around the world. In addition, the US presides over the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. It upholds the US dollar as the global currency, and it controls much of the world’s resources, particularly oil.

These factors provide the background to why the US can print, or create, billions and trillions of dollars, running up its national debt, now $25 trillion, yet endure little inflation. The reason for this capacity is only tangentially explained by Modern Monetary Theory. It results from the US position as the imperial superpower, which enables it to export inflation.

Back in 1948 George Kennan wrote:

We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.

In spite of losing its status as the workshop of the world, the US still enforces this “pattern of relationships” throughout the world. The role of the dollar provides an essential tool.  As pointed out in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the Power of the US Dollar in the World Economy, the dollar is the international reserve currency.  Between 50-70% of trade transactions between nations are calculated in dollar terms even though the US accounts for only 11.5% of world trade.  Most goods, particularly key ones such as oil and food staples are priced in dollars on the world market. It is the chief currency countries use for their central bank reserves, constituting 61% of the holdings.  Of the international debt of the nations of the world, 63% of it must be paid in dollars.  Close to all foreign exchange trading 88%, involves some currency’s exchange with just one, the dollar. About 70% of nations either directly peg their currency to the dollar, use the dollar as their own currency, or keep their currency in tight trading range relative to the dollar.  Contrary to widely held belief, the US grip on the world economy has more adapted than weakened.

Since foreign countries price their imports and exports in dollars and have debts in dollars, they are dependent on the dollar and the value of the dollar. They remain vulnerable to rises in the exchange value of the dollar, as that interferes with their trade and causes the value of their debt burden to grow.

The trillions of US dollars that nations hold make these dollars a captive market for US Treasury bonds. As of April 2020, over 30% of US debt is owed to foreign governmentsThis percent has slowly trended upwards over time.  Since essential commodities are priced in dollars, countries have to accumulate the currency to pay for their imports.  The New York Times reported in 2019, “The dollar has in recent years amassed greater stature as the favored repository for global savings, the paramount refuge in times of crisis and the key form of exchange for commodities like oil.” This allows the US to run giant deficits and borrow on a vast scale with little constraint.

Why the Dollar is the World Currency

The supreme imperial power, the US, imposed the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement on the world, elevating the dollar as the world reserve currency. The US made other states peg their own currencies to the dollar, itself pegged to gold at $35 an ounce. At that time, the US held three-fourths of world gold reserves. The US was the only nation that could print the globally accepted currency. The agreement also created the World Bank and IMF, US-backed organizations that helped oversee the new imperial set-up.

Unsurprisingly, the US did not keep its promise to peg $35 to one ounce of gold, and instead printed more dollars than it had gold to back. The US used these dollars to fund social programs and war spending during the 1950s and 1960s. By 1971, gold was valued at a rate closer to $200 an ounce, causing Nixon to take the dollar off the gold standard.

Ironically, since then, the global role of the dollar has only increased. US has used its power – diplomacy, threats, blackmail, favorable deals, sanctions, tariffs, coups, and military invasion to enforce the dollar role as the international currency.

The Role of the Petrodollar

After Nixon ended the convertibility of dollars into gold, the US needed a compelling new reason for foreign banks and governments to hold dollars. Given the importance of oil to any economy, Nixon replaced “dollars for gold” with “dollars for oil,” black gold, through the petrodollar system. An oil-exporting nation’s rulers get military backing from the US, and in return must price their oil not in their own money, but exclusively in dollars. They must buy US Treasury bonds with profits of their oil sales.

In 1971 the US told Saudi Arabia that it could charge what it wanted for its oil but had to recycle dollars from oil earnings back to the US. It would be considered an act of war if they didn’t comply.  The remaining OPEC countries soon followed suit.

Russia began switching to selling their oil in euros only last year. Venezuela and Iran have already moved off the dollar, but now the US uses cruel sanctions to block their oil’s access to the market. Qaddafi’s Libya and Saddam’s Iraq met a worse fate when they moved to stop selling their oil for dollars.

The US Market Remains the World’s Main Export Market

The US remains the biggest consumer market in the world, more than a quarter of world household consumption, amounting to $14 trillion in goods and services in 2018 (the equivalent of the European Union and China combined).  Much of the Third World counts on the US market to drive their economic growth. These countries rely on cheap exports in order to keep their economy moving, so they cannot let their own currency rise in value relative to the dollar.

How the US Uses the Dollar’s Role as International Currency to Export Inflation

When the Fed opens up its spigot of US dollars, over $10 trillion in the last 10 years, the US can engage in a global spending spree. Dollars travel abroad as foreign loans and investments, and to pay for more imported goods. Since world trade is largely conducted in US currency, the US can easily export the new dollars not backed by any increase in domestic production. This lowers the value of every dollar held around the world. It leads to rising prices abroad while  bringing a net inflow of goods to the US benefiting the US consumer, but at the long-term expense of the countries exporting to the US.

When the dollar drops in real purchasing power, the nominal dollar price of commodities on the world market would go up, hurting vulnerable import dependent poor countries.  The value of foreign currencies rises relative to the declining value of the dollar. The exports of Third World nations, generally valued in US currency, become more expensive, reducing their ability to sell their exports. A 2018 Harvard report points out the weight of the dollar in international trade: “A 1% U.S. dollar appreciation against all other currencies in the world predicts a 0.6% decline within a year in the volume of total trade between countries in the rest of the world.”

Countries on the receiving end of this Fed money-creating policy have two options. They can let the value of their currency rise relative to the new dollars entering their economy.  However, a rising value of their own currency hurts their export industries, on which many Third World countries survive. The alternative involves their central banks printing more of their own currency to buy up the new dollars circulating in their economies. US dollars created out of thin air end up in foreign central banks after these countries print more local currency to buy them up. This pushes up their rate of inflation and increases the local cost of imports, particularly hurting the people’s standard of living in nations that import food stables and other basic necessities.

When countries must print more of their currency, this lowers the dollar price of their goods exported to the US. This helps to limit price increases in the US caused by the Fed creating dollars. Thus, when the Fed conjures up dollars on a large scale, other countries are subject to rising prices, yet help to curtail it in the US market.

China loosely pegs the RMB to the dollar and is now the second largest foreign holder of US debt. This serves to keep its currency cheap relative to the dollar and the prices of its exports competitive. China uses the dollars from its trade surplus to the US  to purchase US Treasury bonds. This way, China has been rapidly developing and exporting by helping strengthen the dollar and lower the RMB’s value.

Secondary imperial powers like Canada or Japan, major exporters to the US, have more of an option of letting the dollar fall and allowing their own currencies to rise. This controls domestic prices, although it hurts exports, and would slow their economic growth. However, since they are already developed countries, they are more able to cope. Third World countries, relying on cheap exports to the massive US consumer market, cannot long tolerate such a hit. It would cause severe social and political difficulties, so they often must devalue their own currencies to stay competitive.

In sum, the US, the imperial superpower, has its hands on Aladdin’s lamp, and can rub it to create hundreds of billions, now trillions of dollars. The US gains by importing at reduced real cost, benefiting the US consumer, and in return sends its inflation abroad. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal noted this in The Latest American Export: Inflation. “What do the years 1971, 2003 and 2010 have in common? In each year, low U.S. interest rates and the expectation of dollar depreciation led to massive ‘hot’ money outflows from the U.S. and world-wide inflation. And in all three cases, foreign central banks intervened heavily to buy dollars to prevent their currencies from appreciating.”  As the Head Economist of Commercial Banking of JPMorgan Chase wrote in 2019, “When foreign central banks stockpiled dollars, they effectively pushed up the purchasing power of American consumers.”

US Economic Control over Third World Economies

Third World countries generally do not possess the requisites of sovereignty: basic food self-sufficiency, energy independence or technological and industrial development. They must import these goods, not with their own currency, but with “hard currency,” a code word for the currency of imperialist countries. Nor can they borrow in their own currencies on the similarly misnamed “international” market and have to rely on “international” capital for their development projects. Consequently, they are reduced to borrowing “hard currency,” usually dollars, and must earn dollars to pay back these debts. They become stuck in a debt trap, subjugated to the US and the lesser imperial countries. The imperialist system is constructed to protect this neo-colonial operation.

The role of World Bank and IMF in enforcing Third World subservience to the US illustrate this.

Michael Hudson, who calls himself a MMT economist, pointed out:

The World Bank has one primary aim, and that’s to make other countries dependent on American agriculture. Its idea is to make Third World countries export plantation crops, especially plantations that are US or foreign owned.” The World Bank encourages exports of foods not grown in the US, and have them import US staples, such as grains. “The US demands foreign dependency on its grain, technology and finance. The purpose of the World Bank is to make other countries’ economies distorted and warped to a degree that they are dependent on the United States for their trade patterns.Essentially, the Bank financed long- investments in the foreign trade sector, in a way that was a natural continuation of European colonialism.

The IMF was in charge of short-term foreign currency loans.…The function of the IMF and World Bank was essentially to make other countries borrow in dollars, not in their own currencies, and to make sure that if they could not pay their dollar-denominated debts, they had to impose austerity on the domestic economy – while subsidizing their import and export sectors and protecting foreign investors, creditors and client oligarchies from loss.

The IMF “uses debt leverage as a way to control the monetary lifeline of financially defeated debtor countries. So if they do something that U.S. diplomats don’t approve of, it can pull the plug financially, encouraging a run on their currency if they act independently of the United States instead of falling in line. This control by the U.S. financial system and its diplomacy has been built into the world system by the IMF and the World Bank…”

Nations relying on staple food imports, such as US grain, are hurt when the US conjures up new quantities of dollars.  When these lands must follow suit, working class purchasing power drops. Workers produce more for less, while those holding dollars receive more for less money.

Forbes pointed out in Fed Exports Inflation, Stokes Revolutions, in reference to what was called the Arab Spring, “The unrest in the Middle East has a lot to do with food and commodity prices, and Fed QE policies [printing trillions of dollars] may have a lot to do with those prices.” Most of these Middle Eastern states had become increasingly reliant on imports for food supply over the past half century. Rami Zurayk noted the high prices for basic food staples like grain led to social unrest across many Middle Eastern states in 2010-2011. “’Bread riots’ have been occurring regularly since the mid-1980s, following policies brought to us by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

Third World countries are driven to subsidize their export industries to gain the dollars or euros they need for their imports and for their international debts. This sabotages their economic modernization and national independence. Even an oil-producing state like Venezuela never had energy sovereignty, as it produces crude oil, but lacks the technological capacity to refine it, so depended on imports. Third World countries generally export raw materials and cheap low value-added content, and import high value-added content, advanced technology and capital goods. They constantly lose in the transaction. The system keeps them mired in a debt and dependency trap where they must prioritize export industries. MMT economist Fadhel Kaboub says over the last few decades, this has resulted in outflows of $600 billion every year from the Third World to the First.

The US Exports Inflation and in return the World Pays for the US Debt    

When foreign central banks collect new dollars by printing their own money these dollars are not just used to pay off foreign debts. Countries are pressured into loaning their dollar savings to the US, buying Treasury bonds. The US debt continues to this day as the safest haven for countries to store their foreign exchange reserves, especially at times of international economic and political stress. In practice, this means they are driven to make loans to the US so that the US can keep buying their goods. The US government can run up debt by conjuring dollars out of thin air, to be spent on cheapened imports that prop up US consumer society. The foreign central banks recycle dollars back to the US Treasury to maintain their own currencies’ exchange rate with the dollar. This set-up keeps other nations lending the new dollars they gained back to help pay for the ballooning US debt. As Treasury bonds, these dollars are taken out of circulation, so create little inflation at home, although they previously did when the US circulated them overseas.

Through this scheme, foreign countries hold savings as dollar reserves and loans to the US, loans now beyond the ability of the US to repay. The US supports itself by sending paper IOUs abroad to buy other countries’ goods with these unpayable IOUs. Meanwhile, the US keeps its gold reserves intact and prices stable. Already half a century ago, European finance ministers had complained about this export of US inflation, to which Nixon’s Treasury Secretary John Connally responded the “dollar is our currency, but your problem.”

Michael Hudson explains in simple terms the dollar’s role as the international currency:

Let’s suppose that you go to the grocery store and you buy food and then sign an IOU for everything that you buy. You go to a liquor store, IOU. You buy a car, IOU. You get everything you want just for an IOU. But when people try to collect the IOUs, you say, ‘That IOU isn’t for collecting from me. Trade it among yourselves. Think of it as your savings, and trade it among yourselves. Treat it as an asset, just as you treat a dollar bill saved in a cookie jar and not spent.’ Well you’d get a free ride. You’d be allowed to go and write IOUs for everything, and nobody could ever collect. That’s what the United States position is, and that’s what it wants to keep.

Hudson adds, again simplifying it, “That’s what makes the United States the ‘exceptional country.’ The value of our currency is based on other countries’ savings. The money they save has to be held in the form of dollars or securities that we’re never going to repay, even if we could.” The US has established an international system requiring other countries to use the dollar, obliging them to stockpile them in the trillions, and coercing them to make loans to finance a US debt that will never be paid.

The US, protecting the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, is not subject to the same rules other countries are: it can spend more than it produces, maintaining its consumerist lifestyle, by simply printing more dollars. It can use this extra money to gain control of goods and resources, giving them inflation and debt in exchange. Since these exported dollars often return home through now uncollectible loans as Treasury Bonds, they do not remain within the US economy to cause rising prices.

This scheme the preserves what George Kennan delicately labelled the “pattern of relationships” that upholds the “disparity” of the imperial economic system. To enforce this scam, the US has built military bases throughout the world — much of this dollar cost returned to the US through the same operation — ready to act against nations seeking to get off the dollar standard.

The post Why the US Can Keep Increasing its Debt and not Suffer Inflation (Part 2) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the Power of the US Dollar in the World Economy (Part 1)

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has become popularized by some of the liberal-left because it offers an explanation how to achieve full employment, national health insurance, free college education, and the Green New Deal without raising taxes. Political leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have espoused MMT. Economist Stephanie Kelton, a leading spokesperson of the theory, served as chief economic adviser to Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign.

We summarize the basics of MMT on the significance of a “sovereign” currency and consider which currencies meet the conditions of being sovereign in the existing structure of the world economic system.  This requires a review of the role the US dollar plays in world trade and how the dollar dominates the world trade system. For MMT, the existence of a sovereign currency explains the US capacity to keep pumping dollars into the economy and not experience inflation. In a subsequent article we address the validity of this last claim.

The Essentials of Modern Monetary Theory

The central idea of MMT states that a country that issues its own currency, a “sovereign” currency, can never run out of money or go bankrupt the way households or businesses can. Any government spending can be paid for by the creation of more money. Therefore, national government spending should not be determined by balancing the budget or limiting deficit levels, but only by whether spending is keeping the economy at full employment and at a reasonable level of inflation.

The US government, being a currency issuer, has its own sovereign currency, the dollar, just as Japan has the yen, and Britain the pound. The US, as the exclusive producer of the US dollar, can create more money whenever it needs. That is not the same for countries without their own currency, such as the eurozone nations which are shared users of the euro. In a similar manner, state and local governments in the US do not possess their own currency, and have to keep balanced budgets.

MMT states national government spending does not have to be paid for with taxes. It can print money and not experience inflation. The purpose of taxes, according to MMT, serves to limit inflation, by taking consumers’ money out of the money supply. This goes against the conventional idea that taxes provide the government with money to spend on the military, build infrastructure, fund social welfare programs, etc.

According to MMT, the only limit the government faces when pumping out money is the availability of real resources: raw materials, workers, construction supplies, etc. It is only when an economy hits physical or natural constraints on its productivity, when these resources have been fully put to use, will inflation result if the government continues introducing more money into the economy. Unemployment itself is the result of a government spending too little.

While the theory is controversial, much of what MMT says about US government creation of dollars and inflation is true. MMTers are not the only economists who say it. Former chair of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan remarked: “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.”

Another former Fed chair, Ben Bernanke, likewise commented that the federal government’s $1 trillion bailout of the banks due to the 2008 financial crisis caused by their fraud did not come from raising taxes:

It’s not tax money. The banks have accounts with the Fed, much the same way that you have an account in a commercial bank. So, to lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account that they have with the Fed. It’s much more akin to printing money than it is to borrowing.  And we need to do that, because our economy is very weak and inflation is very low.

Former IMF chief economist and president of the American Economic Association, Olivier Blanchard declared: “Put bluntly, public debt may have no fiscal cost” given that “The current US situation in which safe interest rates are expected to remain below growth rates for a long time, is more the historical norm than the exception.”

Moreover, the US has run up its national debt, has not reached full employment, nor put in play all economic resources, and has not endured inflation, just as MMT predicted. The US government this spring created $6 trillion out of thin air to fund corporations, banks and to a lesser degree, working people, during the stock market crash and COVID pandemic. Yet the rate of inflation rate is less than 1%, lower than in 2019. The Quantitative Easing program (their term for creating money out of thin air) likewise conjured up $4.5 trillion from 2009-2014, and this also caused little inflation here.

Nations Possessing a Sovereign Currency

The key question for MMT is which nations besides the US have a “sovereign currency.” While definitions of monetary sovereignty provided by MMT authors vary, there are central elements. One, the government issues the national currency and imposes tax liabilities in that currency. Therefore, countries that do not print their own currency, such as those using the euro, do not have a sovereign currency. Two, the currency is fully floating, meaning it has a flexible exchange rate system determined by market forces of demand and supply of foreign and domestic currency, and where government intervention is non-existent. According to the IMF, 31 countries have “free floating currencies;” however, 19 of them use the euro.1  The remaining  12 are Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the UK, Somalia2, and the US. Three, the nation has no debt denominated in foreign currency. It receives foreign loans and repays them in its own currency. A country with an MMT sovereign currency is able to conduct trade with other states in its own currency.

Third World nations, a central MMT economist Randall Wray explains, “are not international reserve currency issuing countries.” If countries peg their currency to the dollar or the euro and if they receive loans payable in foreign currency:

They usually will adopt austerity as a means to obtaining US dollars, and that means that they have slow growth, they’ve failed to develop, and they are dependent on the US, the IMF, and the World Bank. So we recommend moving off the peg and stop issuing government debt in foreign currencies. Now, we know that’s a difficult condition, and it’s only the first step. They’ve got to move toward food independence and energy independence, because those are usually two of the things that they import. And they’ve got many other problems to deal with, political problems, corruption, and possibly foreign intervention.

Fadhel Kaboub, the leading MMT economist on Third World economies, agrees. He points out that Third World nations count on staple food and energy imports and on imported advanced technology. They therefore, accumulate foreign debts, mostly in dollars and euros. When asked if there were any Third World nations follow the conditions MMT recommends to develop,  Kaboub replied, “Unfortunately, not that I know of.” The closest, he said, were South Korea under the military dictatorship, and Singapore at some period in the past.

Given the MMT conditions for a sovereign currency, only 12 nations met the first two conditions. Meeting the further conditions, possessing no debt payable in a foreign currency and conducting its trade with other states in its own currency, requires a study of the role of the dollar in the world economy.

The Role of the US Dollar in World Trade

  1. Most International Trade Takes Place in the Dollar

Most traded commodities in the world, including basic commodities such as oil and food grains, are priced in dollars on the global market. Generally, trade contracts between countries take place in the US currency, followed by the euro and the Japanese yen.

Therefore, foreign nations require dollars to conduct international trade.  Exchange of goods and services among countries amounted to 39.7 trillion in dollar terms, in 2018, 46% of the global economy. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) reports the majority of global trade takes place in dollars. (SWIFT is a key instrument the US uses to enforce its unilateral coercive measures – US imposed sanctions – to disrupt the international trading of a wide variety of countries.) In 2014, SWIFT determined the dollar makes up a 52% share of the value of international currency usage, a share that has been growing. The euro, used in trade in the eurozone region, is second, with a 30.5% share of total value. The British pound is third, with a 5.4% share. Concerning trade between regions of the world, the dollar’s role as payment currency rose to 79.5%.

Claudio Grass, a Swiss banker, gives a higher figure, with around 70% of world trade conducted in US dollars, and excluding trade among European states based on the euro, the percentage goes up to 90%. Forbes noted:

Almost all international transactions are done in US dollars.  Nearly all of the world’s commodities are priced in U.S dollars. So, an auto manufacturer in Korea importing steel from Japan must first convert Korean won into US dollars, pay for the transaction in dollars, and the Japanese exporter, once receiving the payment, must convert the dollars into Japanese yen.  So, the Dollar is key to much of the world’s trade.

Clearly, even the secondary imperial (“developed”) powers rely on the dollar for their economic operations.

A July 2020 IMF study looked at the pricing of worldwide exports and imports in dollars, euros, and other currencies since 1990. The dollar remains the prime currency used to price goods in global trade, even increasingly used for invoicing (as was also the euro) in spite of the decline in US and eurozone international trade, mostly due to the ever-increasing trade of China.

Studies of the Role of the Dollar in Country Imports and Exports

A 2018 Harvard economics report corroborates this: “the vast majority of invoicing is neither in the local currency or in the producer’s currency but instead in a ‘dominant currency’, which is most often the U.S. dollar.” Even other imperial (“developed”) countries’ trade takes place not in their own currencies, but mostly in dollars.  Another Harvard study noted that while only 13% of Japan’s imports come from the US, 71% of Japanese imports are priced in dollars, while only 33% of its exports are actually in Japanese yen. For the eurozone in 2018, 56% of the goods imported and 34% of good exported were calculated in dollars.

The Chinese renminbi (RMB), despite China being the world’s number one trader with 12.4% of world trade in 2018, was used in a mere 2% of international payments. 3   The US, by contrast, is second largest with 11.5%, yet the dollar reigns as the world currency.

For Latin America, 97% of exports and 90% of imports are still made in dollars4  even while China’s trade with Latin America has grown to half the size of US trade with the region.

The United States stands in sharp contrast to other nations, again showing the world power of the dollar. In 2015 93% of US imports were invoiced in the dollar, while 97% of its exports were.

  1. Most Foreign Central Bank Holdings Are in the Dollar

Central banks worldwide hold a considerable portion of their reserves in dollars, using it as their primary reserve currency. As of 2019, foreign government central banks held $6.8 trillion in US dollar reserves, about 61% of combined central bank foreign exchange reserves of $11 trillion. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s currency reserves are held in dollars, more than the combined holdings of all other currencies. The next closest reserve currency is the euro, which makes up 20% of known foreign central bank currency reserves. Japanese yen accounts for 5.7%, British pound 4.4%. Central banks held only 2% of their reserves in Chinese RMB, amounting to $221 billion worth of RMB.

The dollar’s portion of these foreign reserves has remained relatively the same since 2009. The New York Times noted in 2019, “The dollar has in recent years amassed greater stature as the favored repository for global savings, the paramount refuge in times of crisis and the key form of exchange for commodities like oil.”

  1. Almost Two-Thirds of International Debt Held Outside the US Must be Paid in Dollars

In 2018, 63% of international debt was denominated in dollars (to be paid in dollars), a percent that has been slowly rising since 2005. The second most common currency owed for international debt is the euro, at about 23%.5

There is $28 trillion worth of debt, to be paid in dollars, held by governments and private business outside the US. This is said to increase $1.6 trillion to $2 trillion a year. Foreign countries actually issued $11 trillion of this $28 trillion debt in the US currency rather than their own.

Third World government debt was the equivalent of 15 trillion in dollar terms. About 70% of this Third World debt is actually issued and owed in US dollars. This debt in dollars held abroad further serves to entrench the dollar as the world sovereign currency.

  1. Foreign Exchange Trading Dominated by the Dollar

Foreign exchange is the process of changing one currency into another for a variety of reasons, usually for commerce, trading, or tourism. The Foreign Exchange market has an estimated turnover of $6.6 trillion a day. In 2019, 88% of the world’s foreign exchange trading involves exchanging some currency with one in particular, the US dollar.  The euro ranked second with 32%, Japanese yen third at 17%. Chinese RMB ranked eighth at 4%. The dollar’s hold in this measure of the world’s most dependable currency remains the same as in 2004, while the euro, yen and British pound have tended to decline.6

  1. Most Foreign Currencies Rotate around the Dollar

While the US dollar ceased to be pegged to the price of gold, it continued as the monetary standard for other currencies, which revolve around the value of the dollar. At least 155 countries either directly peg their currency to the dollar, use the dollar as their own currency, or keep their currency in a tight trading range relative to the dollar.7 That constitutes just under 80% of the nations of the world. This means the quantity of dollars the US puts into circulation shapes to varying degrees the monetary policy of most other states. To maintain this relation to the dollar other states must keep a sufficient supply of them, undermining any sovereignty their currency may possess.  Nations that peg their currencies to the dollar typically rely on exports to the US. Their companies receive payment in dollars from the US market, which they then normally exchange with their own governments for their national currency.

The US Dollar Dominates the World Trade System

In spite of the US losing the status it held after World War II as workshop of the world, the dollar still exercises control over the world economy. It is the primary currency used in world trade; it is the main currency held in national central bank reserves; it is the currency used for just under two-thirds of all international debt; close to all exchange of world currencies involves one currency’s exchange for the dollar; most currencies’ exchange value is heavily influenced by the value of the dollar. Because foreign nations conduct trade in dollars and have debts in dollars, they are dependent on the dollar and the value of the dollar. This seriously compromises any sovereign power they possess.

Consequently, only in the dollar can we find a currency that meets the MMT conditions for being sovereign. All other countries must rely on the dollar to function, particularly for trade, although the degree of this dependency varies, with the subordinate First World powers exercising more independence than Third World nations. The present set-up of the world economy insures that another currency will not become sovereign like the US dollar. Therefore, the key importance MMT attaches to sovereign currency as a tool for national development loses value given these economic realities.

A gross omission made by MMT — the elephant in the room — is US corporate capital’s rule at home and abroad, which allows it to impose itself and its currency on the world. MMT compounds this weakness by presenting the obstacles nations face in establishing a sovereign currency largely as matters of political will, of choice. Ironically, this may explain MMT’s popularity at home in the liberal-left milieu. Implementing full employment, national health insurance, free college education, and the Green New Deal are presented as choices politicians have not yet made because of their mistaken beliefs concerning the national debt. Just clarify that we do not need to raise taxes and need not worry about inflation and bingo! We have what we want.

The question remains, however, why the US debt has grown over $10 trillion in 10 years with almost no inflation. Is the MMT explanation accurate, that the sovereign nature of the US dollar gives it that power? No. Printing or creating dollars out of thin air, backed by nothing, does create inflation. In Why the US Can Keep Increasing its Debt and not Suffer Inflation we show how the US has been able to export much of it and take many of the new dollars of out circulation. This does result from the US position as sovereign, but not in the sense MMT uses.

  1. Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions 2018, p. 18-19.
  2. The report notes in 2018 “the Central Bank of Somalia does not have a monetary policy framework”
  3. European Central Bank: The International Role of the Euro (June 2019), Box 1 Chart A.
  4. Ibid., Chart 26.
  5. Ibid., Chart 2 and p.19ff.
  6. Bank for International Settlements: Foreign Exchange Turnover in April 2019, p. 10.
  7. Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions 2018

The post Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the Power of the US Dollar in the World Economy (Part 1) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

WOLA’s David Smilde Advocates a more Efficient Regime Change Strategy against Venezuela

Common Dreams, a liberal-left website, reposted an article by David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA): “Joe Biden Should Not Try to Out-Hawk Trump on Venezuela.” It starts off well with the subtitle: “The first task for a Biden administration would be to take military intervention off the table.” The US has no business invading Venezuela. But Smilde’s approach is that the military option is ill-advised because there are more efficient ways of removing the Maduro government.

Smilde criticizes the US unilateral sanctions as “doing more harm than good,” something of an understatement, and later says “sanctions pinch the Maduro government, they bludgeon the Venezuelan people.” This rings of hypocrisy, as WOLA has str­­ongly defended these sanctions. In fact, Common Dreams has twice published open letters (here and here) criticizing Smilde and WOLA for not opposing Washington’s regime change effort in Venezuela.

The purpose of Smilde’s article is to advise Biden that Trump’s strategy against Venezuela is counterproductive, that the US needs a better regime change policy. Smilde seems to forget this economic warfare against Venezuela originated when Biden was Vice President, and that Biden now attacks Trump for being soft on Venezuela.

To fact check Smilde’s three major criticisms of the Venezuelan government:

  1. “The Maduro government has presided over a governance disaster that has forced over 5 million Venezuelans to leave.”  Smilde does not connect the increased “bludgeoning” of the Venezuelan people with increased emigration due to the economic hardship. The 2018 UN Report by Alfred de Zayas stated, “While the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is undergoing a severe economic crisis, the Government is not standing idle; it is seeking international assistance to overcome the challenges, diversifying the economy and seeking debt restructuring. Sanctions only aggravate the situation by hindering the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production. Sanctions have also led to emigration.”

Rather than point out the economic warfare of US sanctions helped cause emigration, Smilde ambiguously states Maduro presided over a governance disaster that has forced them to leave. Maduro forced no one to leave. In fact, the government welcomes those who return, as they are now, due to the even worse conditions they faced in the countries they emigrated to.

  1. “Maduro has not only undermined democratic institutions, he has repressed protestors, and jailed, tortured and disappeared opponents in what could qualify as ‘crimes against humanity.’ As such, Venezuela might seem ripe for an intervention justified in terms of the ‘responsibility to protect.’”

The link in Smilde’s article takes us to the New York Times, which refers to a report by the NGO Foro Penal. Its executive director, Gabriel Gallo, claims “Venezuela has the greatest quantity of political prisoners in the Americas. Including more than Cuba.”  We may question the criteria used to determine Venezuela has more political prisoners than Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, Bolivia or Mexico.

Who is Gabriel Gallo and Foro Penal? Gallo was a leader of the right wing Venezuelan political party Voluntad Popular (VP), the most violent and anti-democratic party in the anti-Chavista bloc. The most prominent leaders of VP include Leopoldo Lopez, Juan Guaido, the person the US appointed head of Venezuela, Freddy Guevara, and Carlos Vecchio.  Leopoldo López launched the attempted coup against President Maduro in 2014. VP activists formed the shock troops of that year’s “guarimbas” protests that left 43 Venezuelans dead, 800 hurt and millions of dollars in property damage. Dozens more were murdered in a new wave of VP-backed violence in 2017. Leopoldo Lopez and Juan Guaido were leaders of the April 2019 failed military coup attempt and contracted this year’s mercenary hit squad invasion.

In May 2014 Diosdado Cabello, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, revealed that Foro Penal, along with others, had received funds from the United States and Panama to instigate violent actions in the country. He accused 14 people, including the director of Foro Penal, Alfredo Romero, of participating in a destabilization plan against the Venezuelan government.

In 2017 Human Rights Watch organized a letter to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemning Venezuela. But as Venezuelanalysis noted, “Among the signatories are several usual suspects such as Provea or Foro Penal, whose president Alfredo Romero was a recent speaker in a [Freedom House organized] ‘US Democracy Support’ forum….Human Rights Watch  has a long and documented history of bias and outright lies in their reports on Venezuela, which is no surprise given their blatant revolving door with the US government.”

Both Freedom House and Human Rights Watch are “human rights” NGOs closely allied to US government foreign policy objectives.

Venezuelanalysis reported in 2019, “Guaidó’s representative in the Czech Republic is also the international coordinator for human rights NGO Foro Penal (Penal Forum), which the US State Department has decorated with numerous awards for its work in Venezuela. According to WikiLeaks cables from 2006, Foro Penal has been bankrolled by Freedom House and the Pan-American Development Foundation (PADF) through a USAID-supported project.”

Thus, WOLA and the New York Times rely for information on Venezuelan human rights from agents of Venezuela’s most violent right wing political party, allied with US government NGOs, all committed to overthrowing the Venezuelan government.

Human rights abuses have been committed by state agents, but a fair minded assessment would include the fact that the Maduro government has taken considerable corrective action. On June 15, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab reported on human rights abuse charges against its security force members. A total of 540 had been charged since August 5, 2017, with 426 actually imprisoned. Charges against them include homicide, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and illegitimate deprivation of liberty. Saab called for improved training of police in protection of human rights.

This report by Saab came out ten days before Smilde’s Common Dreams article, yet Smilde made no mention of it.

  1. “Venezuelans would love to solve this crisis on their own at the voting booth; but they can’t because their country’s electoral institutions have been undermined by the Maduro government.”

In reality, the primary threat to Venezuelan democracy comes from US-backed coup attempts, going on for 18 years, and which began back in 2002. The US has even threatened sanctions against opposition leaders for simply choosing to run in presidential elections against Nicolas Maduro, rather than boycotting elections and advocating actions to overthrow the elected government. The US went further when it gave the green light to Juan Guaido to appoint himself president of Venezuela in January 2019, which the US and its European Union allies then validated.

The US was the only country in the world not to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s 2013 election. This reflected Obama’s strategy of regime change, which could not be achieved by democratic electoral means. Instead, the US sought to bring down the new government by supporting violent protests.

Stories of Venezuelan electoral fraud became more widespread, even among defenders of Venezuela, with their disputes over the July 30, 2017 vote for members of the National Constituent Assembly. The Venezuelan opposition has always charged fraud over any election result, unless they won.

The US then escalated its campaign of accusing Venezuela of electoral fraud during its  presidential elections of May 20, 2018. However, the international Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA) observed both the 2017 and 2018 elections. It issued a report on the 2017 vote, not questioning that over 8 million did vote.

Concerning the 2018 election CEELA concluded:

CEELA Mission is of the opinion that the process was successfully carried out and that the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected. The electoral process for the Presidential and State Legislative Council Elections 2018 complied with all international standards….The CEELA Electoral Accompaniment Mission upholds that the electoral process has consolidated and reaffirmed strengthening of the electoral institutionalism that supports the democratic system.

Indeed, it is remarkable that the Venezuelan government has maintained its democratic institutions as well as it has under this constant US-European Union campaign to overthrow it. 

WOLA provides liberal cover for regime change

As Alexander Rubenstein writes, “WOLA provides information and analysis for the White House and Congress and receives wide circulation in the media as an authority on Latin America, characteristics more indicative of a foreign policy think tank than a human rights NGO.”  Its largest funders include Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

The Open Letter to WOLA that Noam Chomsky and others signed notes that WOLA opposed the Vatican’s, and then Mexico and Uruguay’s proposals for mediation between the Maduro government and the opposition.

Lucas Koerner recently wrote WOLA: Media’s ‘Left’ Source for Pro-Coup Propaganda in Venezuela. In spite of what Smilde writes in Common Dreams against sanctions, Koerner notes that WOLA has defended Trump’s sanctions. WOLA even found four “virtues” in the August 2017 sanctions responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths over the following year.

In short, Smilde’s beef with both Biden and Trump is that they could do a better job of regime change in Venezuela. WOLA is not a human rights organization, but serves to rationalize, not criticize, US regime change attempts. Why Common Dreams provides a sounding board for this is a good question.

The Wasp Network Highlights Our Lack of Freedom to Tell the Truth on the Cuban Five Case

The film Wasp Network, based on the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, The Story of the Cuban Five by Fernando Morais, is a co-production between France, Spain, Belgium and Brazil. It was shown in Cuba last December, soon after it came out. You can now watch it on Netflix.

It is not a film on the Cuban Five, and not a Cuban film. It is a story about three of the Cubans who infiltrated the Miami network of terrorist groups dedicated to destroying the Cuban socialist system. The story focuses on Rene Gonzalez, with Geraldo Hernandez receiving less attention. The other three of the Cuban Five heroes, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González, are barely mentioned. Nor is their trial, nor their years in US prisons. One other Wasp Network member presents an unsavory character in the movie, Juan Pablo Roque.

Rene Gonzalez said, “The film, as many people have said, is not exactly the story of the Five, it is the story of part of the Five, but it also goes beyond that to the story of the confrontation between Cuba and the United States. It seems important to me that from the point of view of a European, who has no direct relationship with this conflict of so many years, a film has been made on a subject that, during the time in which this story unfolded, was a subject censored by the media of the world. That is the fundamental value of the film.”

While the movie certainly contains some standard anti-communist propaganda, required for “credibility,” it mostly portrays the Wasp Network’s thwarting of the operations of Miami terrorist groups. The Miami Cuban right-wing groups, the Cuban American National Foundation being the most significant, were involved in drug running, hotel bombings and armed attacks in Cuba, and attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro.

Once the right-wing Miami mafia heard news about this content from the movie’s showing at the Venice Film Festival, they threatened to burn local cinemas that showed it.

A review in Granma, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, points out “The Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas, 2019) makes it clear, from historical objectivity, that the Cubans who infiltrated counterrevolutionary organizations in Miami exile had the right to ensure the security of their country, and thus stop the wave of terrorist attacks in the 1990s under the protection of the United States.”

Yet it is not a film that will educate people on the Cuban Five case, or on the long history of US terrorism against Cuba. In fact, no mention is even made of the Cuban Five, let alone who they were.

Not until the movie is half finished do we learn the real reasons for Rene Gonzalez and others “defection” from Cuba. What should have been at most the first fifteen minutes of introduction, drags over the first hour, making the film leave out a great deal about the Wasp Network and the Cuban Five.

You will not know of the frame-up trial they were subjected to in US courts. As Rene Gonzalez adds, “This case filled the judicial system, the judge, the jury, the prosecutors with shame, that’s why it’s a story that they can’t tell and that they’re afraid of, and that for so long they hid and tried to let nobody know. They are afraid that the history of U.S. aggression against Cuba, for so many years, will be known.”

You won’t learn that the FBI didn’t use the Wasp Network’s information provided to them by the Cuban government to crack down on Miami terrorist group bombings of Cuban tourist hotels, assassination attempts and so on. Instead the FBI used this information to help uncover and arrest the Wasp Network agents who were informing Cuba. You will not know the Cuban Five never actually engaged in spying. When we meet Posada Carrlles in the film, you will not learn of his involvement in the blowing up of a Cuban civilian airline flight, killing all 73 on board, nor that he was on the CIA payroll. You will not know the Cuban Five were confined to the “hole” during some of their 13-16 years in prison. You will not learn of the abuses they had to endure in prison and how they coped. You will not know why the Five are considered national heroes in Cuba. You will not know of the world campaign to demand their freedom. You will not know the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ Working Group declared they did not receive a fair trial. You will not know that 110 British Members of Parliament wrote an open letter in support of the Cuban Five. You will not know eight Nobel Prize recipients and former President Jimmy Carter called for their freedom.

You will have to look elsewhere for this information. Start with Freethefive.org, Stephen Kimber’s book What Lies Across the Water (reviewed here) or Saul Landau’s Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up.

The film does make clear the US is the aggressor, that Cuba used the Wasp Network to defend itself. It does quote Fidel Castro pointing out “how amazing it was the biggest spy in the world would accuse the most spied upon country in the world of espionage.” Yet the film portrays the Cuban people as victimized not just by the US blockade and Miami based terrorism, but by a Communist dictatorship. At one point the film claims, in response to a “democracy” movement: “The [Cuban government] reprisal was brutal. The Castro regime attacked Concilio Cubano with all its strength. They went all out. They ransacked homes, they attacked people, they imprisoned human rights activists. People who didn’t have weapons. People who only aspired to gather peacefully in La Habana.” No mention is made of this group’s connection to US government’s regime change operations.

If anything, Wasp Network highlights the limits on freedom of speech in the US when we want to make a truthful film about a government the US rulers are trying to overthrow. Oliver Stone faced the same issue seventeen years ago, when he worked with HBO to produce a documentary on Fidel Castro. HBO would not show the result, Comandante, because it was not negative enough. (Canada did show it). The following year, Stone made Looking for Fidel, still available, which met “credibility” standards by including a fair amount of footage with Cuban “dissidents.” Geraldo Hernandez, the leader of the Cuban Five, likewise recognized this de facto censorship when he said, “What I liked most about the film was the boldness of placing the subject of terrorism in Hollywood.” The sixty year US crime against the Cuban people still remains mostly covered up, here in “the Land of the Free.”

China’s International Solidarity Aid to the World During the Corona Pandemic

China’s worldwide assistance and medical aid to other countries to combat the coronavirus is barely covered in the corporate press. Instead, the US has ramped up its anti-China campaign to cover up its own incompetence in combating the virus. As John Pilger shows in his Obama era film The Coming War on China, this is no new campaign.

The US empire realizes that China is slowly putting the US out of business around the world. If the point comes where the US can no longer impose the dollar as the medium of international exchange – still a long way away — it would rapidly go the way of the old British empire. The rise of China also signifies the setting of the white man’s bloody 500-year world hegemony.

China displayed before the world its effective strategy in shutting down the coronavirus. In contrast, every day Washington shows the world it is incapable of effective response and cannot control of the situation. Back on March 13, when US coronavirus deaths were just 40, Trump declared a national health emergency. Now, after eight weeks of “emergency” measures, the official US death count surpasses 82,000.

Over 50 years ago the United States would have been leading the international battle to fight the pandemic, as it had done with polio. Today, there is a vacuum that China, and even Cuba, are filling.

“This Administration’s retreat from multilateralism has been a boon for Chinese soft power,” Virginia Senator Mark Warner (D) told Newsweek. The US has “historically been a leader in responding to global emergencies, but with President Donald Trump’s retreat from the world stage, we’re seeing the Chinese government, and its proxies, fill the void,” he added.

Even CNBC reports:

This is the first international crisis where China is actively taking a global leadership role and it stands in particular contrast to the US, which has disdained international cooperation and invested more political capital in criticizing China for its role in allowing the outbreak to spread,’ said analysts from the Eurasia Group in a report this week. On social and state media, China continues to promote its shipments of medical supplies to hard hit countries in Europe and Africa.

China’s leader Xi Jinping has sought to rally the world, declaring the two most powerful weapons against the disease were solidarity and cooperation, that the virus can only be defeated when the international community fights in unity. “It is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response,” Xi said at the G20 summit on March 26. “We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease.” He proposed a four point program including a G20 joint action plan to lead the struggle to combat the virus and revive the world economy.

China has been supplying the world with medical supplies through donations and sales. The US, in contrast, has continued its bombings in Iraq, regime change attempts, and has blocked medical aid by the IMF and by other countries to Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. The US also capitalized on the pandemic to round up immigrants for deportation, ignoring advice from public health officials.

China Daily published an article “COVID-19 shows the demise of so-called American leadership,” which observed, “China has taken the lead to support the world during the crisis.” This was evident even in Europe as US-allied countries found themselves turning to China rather than Washington, and saw the Trump administration pirating supplies meant for other crisis-stricken countries, including Germany, Canada, Italy and France.

Cuba has also been a model of medical solidarity in face of the virus pandemic. By the end of March more than 850 Cuban health professionals have traveled abroad to help fight COVID-19. Washington has responded by retaliating, obstructing Cuba’s ability to combat the virus at home by blocking the sale of  Swiss respirators, blocking Cuba’s ability to import pharmaceutical raw materials, and even blocking a major coronavirus donation by Jack Ma from China. This led to over 25 U.S. lawmakers signing a letter to President Trump to allow Cuba access to medical supplies to fight the virus.

By early April over 100 Chinese public health experts, using their experience in Wuhan, had traveled to other countries to help in their efforts. At that time, 14 medical teams were working in 12 countries, which now include Iran, Iraq, Italy, Spain, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Philippines, Nigeria and Algeria.  By mid-April, China had already sent medical donations to 140 countries. Moreover, as the US cut its funding to the World Health Organization, China compensated by donating an extra $30 million on top of a previous $20 million.

This information is rarely reported in the US corporate press, which then typically faults China for underhanded ulterior motives, for exporting substandard masks (and then for holding up exports to meet other nations’ standards), for covering up and lying to the world about their efforts to control the virus, and so on.

Here are examples of China’s international solidarity and other countries’ gratitude:

Chinese Donations to Canada and the US

Soon after Trump blocked 3M from shipping N95 masks to Canada, to prioritize US domestic needs, Huawei flew large quantities of medical supplies to Canadian provinces. Canada received over a million masks, 50,000 gloves and 30,000 goggles, with five million more masks to follow. Newsweek noted, “their generosity has been accepted and appreciated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

CNN reported that Joe and Clara Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, donated from China  2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2,000 ventilators. Joe Tsai founded Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company, along with Jack Ma, and is its Executive Vice President. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked them, “The Chinese government helped facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will arrive in JFK today. I thank the Chinese government, Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, the Jack Ma Foundation, the Tsai Foundation and [China’s New York] Consul General Huang.”

China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai in a New York Times op-ed, China and the U.S. Must Cooperate Against Coronavirus, wrote that “Huawei donated tens of thousands of personal protective items, including masks, gloves and goggles, to New York and Washington, D.C. In total, Chinese companies have donated 1.5 million masks, 200,000 test kits, 180,000 gloves and many other medical supplies to the United States.”

China also aided Oregon, sight of the initial US outbreak.  Oregon Governor Kate Brown thanked China for “The very generous donation of 50,000 much-needed masks for Oregonians,” on top of an earlier 12,000 masks.

Terry Branstad, the US Ambassador to China, also acknowledged Chinese assistance:

A few months later, we find our roles are reversed – China is now providing PPE for the US medical system, including donations from private Chinese entities. The United States has greatly appreciated the many contributions of PPE and medical supplies by Chinese companies and other organizations. These contributions have been both commercial exports and donations, both large and small, both immediate and long-term. But the American people are tremendously grateful for the support from the Chinese people, and our Mission has been touched by the many heartfelt offers to assist us in our time of need.

China’s Aid and Donations to Europe

China sent ten medical personnel to Russia in early April and a total of 150 million masks.  It sent medical aid to numerous European Union countries, including Poland, Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Greece, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Estonia, and Spain.

Chinese doctors arrived in Italy March 9 shortly after European Union nations turned down Italy’s requests for help with medical supplies. Maurizio Massari, Italy’s EU ambassador to the European Union, said “not a single EU country responded to the Commission’s call….Only China responded bilaterally. Certainly, this is not a good sign of European solidarity.” Besides doctors, China supplied Italy with desperately needed medical equipment, including contracts for 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks and 20,000 protective suits.

Not just Italy experienced the EU cold shoulder and China’s generosity. Czech President Zeman noted, “I would therefore like to thank the People’s Republic of China, which was the only country that has helped us” when they appealed for aid. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded similarly: “We agreed with China and we are grateful to them, especially grateful to Jack Ma as he helped us by financing the $80 million.”

China’s offers of donations to the EU as a whole and to individual member states is “highly appreciated“, declared an EU spokesperson.  Both China and the EU regarded China’s help as reciprocating the aid Europe sent to China during its coronavirus crisis.

To Africa

In March, the  Chinese government and Chinese businessman Jack Ma donated 500 ventilators, 800,000 personal protective equipment, 6 million masks, and 1.1 million test kits to Ethiopia for distribution among African countries.  Each of the 54 African states would receive at least 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits.

“There is a desperate need for the medical protective equipment and gear to support public health workers in Africa and China’s donations fill a part of that need at a time when not many other people have been stepping up to help”, says Eric Olander, managing editor of The China Africa Project.

A 13-member Chinese medical team arrived in Algeria late March with $450,000 of respirators and other medical equipment, while a 15-member team came to Nigeria.

To Asia

Chinese medical personnel have served in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. Chinese experts have visited Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines, arriving with medical donations. Medical aid from both the Chinese government and businesses have  reached Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Japan, South Korea, among other nations. Teams of experts have traveled to Asian countries for two or three weeks, visiting hospitals and laboratories, holding discussions with health professionals on measures that the host countries are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Twelve Chinese medical experts arrived in Manila on April 5 to help their Philippine counterparts manage the outbreak. The team again came with government donations of personal protective equipment, surgical masks, medical protective face shields and 30 ventilators.

The Palestinian Authority received an assistance package of 50,000 coronavirus testing kits. The Palestinian Health Minister, Mai Al-Kaila, told local reporters that aid was provided in cooperation with Jack Ma, e-commerce giant Alibaba’s co-founder.

To Latin America

From the Southern Cone to Central America, governments have received a wide range of donations, from testing kits to ventilators. Venezuela was one of the first to receive Chinese medical supplies, which came shortly after the International Monetary Fund rejected President Maduro’s request for a $5 billion loan to strengthen his country’s fight against the virus. “We want to thank President Xi Jinping, his government and his people from the bottom of our Bolivarian heart,” said Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez.

Reuters reported, “China has won praise among Latin American governments that have accepted its help. The Chinese government said it has supplied test kits, protective suits and other forms of medical aid to more than 80 countries and international organizations.”

“Thank you China for cooperation and solidarity with Ecuador!” the hard hit country’s Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner wrote.

Not only did Cuba receive aid from the Chinese government and Jack Ma (which was reshipped through Chinese channels to avoid the US blockade), but Chinese students also delivered humanitarian aid. More than 280 Chinese students, who had previously studied in Cuba under a scholarship provided by the island authorities, collected about 140,000 yuan ($19,823). This money was used to purchase 420 sets of protective medical equipment as well as 38,750 medical masks.

President Xi Jinping stressed how, since the beginning of the epidemic, Cuban authorities have expressed their support for China, an attitude that demonstrates “the deep traditional friendship shared by the two countries.”

Conclusion

China has responded to the present US anti-China disinformation campaign by presenting a timeline of what they knew and how they responded. (here, here, here) As US coronavirus deaths continued to mount, almost one third of the world total, and as the US economy nose-dived, Trump tried to deflect blame for the disastrous handling of the coronavirus on to China. Before this, Trump had praised China’s effort.

The US has long been underfunding the community health centers and programs which could have played a valuable role in combating the spread of the virus. State public health departments have lost more than 55,000 staff since 2008. That our trust in the US government to protect our welfare is at historic lows also contributes to the ineffectual US “shelter in place” programs, which hardly compare with those in China, touched on in this short video.

From the responses to the coronavirus pandemic, the world has seen the model of public health efficiency China presented in controlling the problem at home. It has seen China’s world leadership in offering international aid and care. It has seen the abdication of leadership by the US and even its obstruction in working to find solutions. Now the US still cannot control the virus, and remains mired in economic crisis, while China is rebounding. In sum, the pandemic has made the world look at both China and the US in a new light. And it has dealt a serious blow to the US rulers’ two decade long effort to counter the rise of China.

Open Letter to Condemn Trump Administration’s Hypocritical Indictment on Drug Charges of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and High-Ranking Venezuelan Officials

We, the undersigned organizations and prominent individuals, condemn the false claims of criminal charges by the US government against the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and other high-ranking officials with the pretext of their alleged involvement in international drug trafficking.

The US government is offering a $15 million bounty for information that would lead to the arrest of Venezuelan President Maduro. Bounties of $10 million are offered for the National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, retired generals Hugo Carvajal and Clive Alcala, Minister for Industry and National Production Tareck El Aissami, and other Venezuelans. The US government indictments accuse the Venezuelan officials of participating in a “narco-terrorism conspiracy” with the Colombian guerrilla group FARC to “flood the United States with cocaine.”

The US has refused to recognize the democratically elected Venezuelan President Maduro and has been seeking to install one to its liking, currently Juan Guaido. What the US is doing is ordering the arrest of world leaders it does not approve of, putting a bounty on their heads.

This decision of the US constitutes a further escalation in coercive measures against a sovereign country, which has included sanctions so extreme as to create a blockade, costing Venezuela 40,000 lives in a period of just over a year and $116 billion in lost revenue.

It is well-documented that two close and long-time US allies in Latin America, the governments of Colombia and Honduras, have been heavily involved in narco trafficking. The last Latin American leader the US charged with drug trafficking was Panama’s Manuel Noriega (who was running drugs with the CIA). The US then invaded his country and later imprisoned him in Miami.

Actual evidence of Venezuela involvement in drug trafficking

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which is unfriendly to the Venezuelan government, finds: “CCDB [US interagency Consolidated Counterdrug Database] data does not justify many of the claims made by those who advance the ‘narcostate’ narrative to describe organized crime in Venezuela today and to argue against efforts to achieve a negotiated path to democratic governance in Venezuela. As noted, US authorities estimate that 93 percent of US-bound cocaine is trafficked through Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific routes, not through Venezuela’s Eastern Caribbean coast.”

The WOLA study found that the US government data suggests that, despite these challenges, Venezuela is not a primary transit country for US-bound cocaine. The State Department reports that over six times as much cocaine passed through Guatemala in 2018 than through Venezuela. Around 90 percent of all US-bound cocaine is trafficked through western Caribbean and eastern Pacific routes⁠, not through Venezuela’s eastern Caribbean seas.

The US Department of Justice has not presented evidence to substantiate their narco-trafficking indictment. Washington’s case looks politically motivated. In the wake of over six years of US sanctions and over a year of failed attempted coups, the majority support of the Venezuelan people for their democratically elected government has not been shaken.

We, the undersigned, demand that the US government:

  • Drop the groundless indictments against President Maduro and others.
  • Lift the sanctions so that Venezuela can purchase life-giving medicines and medical equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening the entire world.
  • Restore normal relations with Venezuela based on peace and respect for national sovereignty.

Sincerely,

Susan Sarandon
John Pilger
Noam Chomsky (and 3000 other organizations and individuals)

• A project of Code Pink and Alliance for Global Justice

A Case Study of Corporate Media Disinformation

Some alternative media have exposed the US government and its corporate media fake news reporting on Russian “election interference,” on Venezuela, the war on Syria, China’s Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Palestine, among others. One of the longest running media disinformation campaigns has been directed at Cuba, well covered in Keith Bolender’s Manufacturing the Enemy: The Media War Against Cuba.1 This thoroughly documented work is a good antidote to the constant anti-Cuba disinformation we are subjected to, which inevitably influences all of us. According to well-known Goebbels quote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” —  true, but actually a lie that Goebbels ever said this.

Over the 60 years of the Cuban revolution, the corporate media has implanted in us a negative image of Cuba through their distortions of the country’s political and economic system, their discounting the revolution’s achievements, and their denial of the impact the blockade and US terrorism have had on the country. The media has been especially effective in not addressing the endless complex problems a developing nation faces once it has decided to establish its genuine sovereignty while trying to survive the relentless hostility of the world’s superpower.

In early 1960 Robert Kennedy spelled out the US’ Cuba project: the overthrow of Castro “is the top priority of the US government, all else is secondary, no time, money, effort or manpower is to be spared.” (p. 76) Washington clearly understood the revolution opened a future that didn’t exist before, still doesn’t today in most countries, and consequently imposed a blockade similar to a full military blockade in war. The US sought to undermine the Cuban Revolution by making people suffer, with the hope that they would blame and overturn their government.

The US government engineers the “regime change” attempts, while the “media’s role is not to examine Cuba’s society fairly: it is to validate regime change”2 The media’s function is to win public support for overthrowing another country’s government, not question Washington’s right to interfere in the internal affairs of that nation. It re-packages counterrevolution as saving the freedoms and human rights of the targeted nation’s people. With its control over information available to the US population, the corporate media has been able to convince most US people that Cuba is not a model to follow. The media consistently holds Cuba up to a higher standard that few other nations, including the United States itself, are subjected to.

The corporate media remains the gatekeeper of information, with five corporations controlling 90% of the media business. They have effectively promoted that its news can be confidently trusted. Bolender notes that while overall trust in the media has decreased, he points out, using the examples of Fox News and CNN, “it is mostly based on the consumer not believing in the media that presents opposing information to his own opinions in a specific issue” (p. 34). On Cuba, however, the corporate media present no opposing information, and are free to feed us fake news.

Fake News on Cuba

Bolender’s book can be called a short version history of fake news about Cuba. We present a sampling here:

The media claimed that Castro and his allies executed hundreds of Batista regime enemies in kangaroo courts after taking power. In fact, Batista’s repressive forces and police had killed 20,000 and some of them were captured and brought to justice for their crimes.

The media has presented the Cuban government’s nationalization of US properties as illegal and without any compensation. In fact, Cuba offered reparation payments based on 20 year bonds at 4.5% interest rates based on October 1958 property assessments. This offer, accepted by other countries, was refused by the US. That compensation and that negotiations were offered and repeatedly refused by the US was rarely reported by corporate media.

The media has claimed the US blockade was a response to Cuban seizure of  US properties without compensation, yet Washington’s eliminating the Cuban sugar quota occurred more than a year before the US refused negotiations.

New York Times fake news campaigning did not begin with its Russiagate anti-Trump story. On January 3, 1961, four months before the Bay of Pigs invasion, it claimed “It is incredible to us that the Cubans can believe we are about to invade their island…It is difficult for Americans to understand that others can honestly believe things about us that we know to be false”. (p. 87)

Bolender reviews some media coverage during the invasion: the Wall Street Journal, for instance, reported claims that the invaders had cut the country in two, had taken Santiago de Cuba and captured Raul Castro.

The corporate media painted Cuba’s installing nuclear missiles in 1962 as an act of war, even though their purpose was to forestall a new US invasion in the works. In fact, Cuba had as much right to point missiles at the US as the US had to point them at Cuba. Nevertheless, that the US almost went to world nuclear war and destruction of the planet with a naval blockade of Cuba is blamed on Cuba, not on Washington.

Bolender points out the same corporate media bias against Cuba is held against Palestine: “The notion that the Palestinians or Cubans have the right to defend themselves is outside the realm of normal discourse”. (p. 182)

The New York Times and Washington Post both presented fake news in the 1980s that Fidel sent 500 Cuban troops to El Salvador.

The media historically describes Cubans as emigrating due to the revolutionary government’s economic incompetence and political repression. In fact, people all over the world emigrate from poorer countries to richer ones.

The corporate media used the rescue of Elian Gonzalez to continuously attack the alleged poverty stricken and repressive life in Cuba his mother had fled. Actual US immigration policy at the time was rarely reported: that unaccompanied immigrant children are returned to their parents unless the parents are unfit.

Washington Post, among others, gave credence to John Bolton’s 2002 claim that Cuba was developing biological weapons, later convincingly disproven by Jimmy Carter.

The corporate media went on an anti-Cuba propaganda campaign over the Cuban “dissidents,” including “independent journalists” and “librarians” arrested in 2003 during the time of another US attempted attack on the country. It was not pointed out that they were arrested because of their prior and planned disruptions and bombings, or that they were on the US payroll.

The Cuban government allegedly diverts food from the population to the tourist industry. As with many such stories, no actual evidence is provided.

More than once were some of the 930 Cuban medical professionals working in Haiti after the earthquake identified as “Spanish.”

The New York Times propaganda still asserted Cuba is a mismanaged anachronism, that the average Cuban has no say-so, that the government does not permit public dialogue on its policies. This is arrogant nonsense to anyone knowledgeable about Cuba. Unlike the US, Cuba has a number of mass organizations that involve the people in running the government and society as a whole: Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), Federation of University Students (FEU), Federation of Pre-University Students (FEEM), and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).  Clearly this system is vastly more open and democratic than in the US.

In 2011 Cuba had a national discussion in thousands of assemblies in workplaces and schools around the country to establish new laws and guidelines for economic reforms. The US did no such thing when confronted by the 2008 economic crisis.

In 2018 Cuba had a similar national discussion on a new constitution. The process was discussed in over 100,000 workplaces and community meetings.  After the debates and modifications of the draft, the National Assembly approved it, which was then voted on in a national referendum. In contrast, the US has never organized national discussions or assemblies throughout the country when changes to the constitution have been made. The US does not even give the citizens the right to vote on changes to the constitution, nor gives us the right to elect the president by popular vote.

The media has claimed Cuba is involved in drug smuggling, again without evidence. In contrast, when Gary Webb exposed actual CIA crack cocaine smuggling into the US the corporate media undertook a major smear campaign against him for reporting it, destroying his life.

The corporate media consistently covered up the hundreds of acts of US terrorism against Cuba, including bombing Havana hotels and blowing up a civilian airliner, killing all 73 on board. The media has covered up biological warfare against Cuba, and does not report that over 3500 Cuban civilians have been killed in US terrorist attacks. Cuba has documented 636 US attempts to kill their head of state.  Bolender comments “The lack of authentic coverage of this covert war against Cuban civilians remains a great stain against the media in its treatment of the island nation.” (p. 100)

When Posada Carriles, who orchestrated the Cubana airline bombing, was arrested for illegal entry into the US, the New York Times did not describe him as a CIA agent or terrorist but as a Cuban “militant” seeking to overthrow Fidel Castro.

When Cuba shot down the Miami Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996, the media helped cover up that these planes were in Cuban airspace, that they had penetrated Cuban airspace twelve times before, that Cuba had repeatedly complained to the FAA,  and  that the group was planning on dropping bombs on Havana in future flights. Instead, the shoot-down was presented as a callous and unprovoked Cuban attack on a humanitarian group over international waters.

Corporate media concealed that the Cuban Five were fighting terrorism directed at their country from the US. They were framed up as “spies” and imprisoned while the media colluded to black out reporting of the trial and their sentencing. The Miami press covered the case, but their reporters were working to aid the prosecution in the case. Some prominent journalists became paid US government agents, writing articles to misinform the public and even fabricate stories to help ensure the judicial frame-up of the five. They concocted stories that the Cubans were part of a spy network to smuggle weapons, even bombs, into the US to murder Castro opponents in Florida. The government spent millions dollars in illegal payments to journalists to write a thousand articles over a six-year period aimed to ensure a conviction. 

The  media misrepresented USAID agent Alan Gross, arrested and imprisoned in Cuba, as simply bringing in cell phones and laptops to the Jewish communities in Cuba. Honest reporting would have noted that he brought in and helped set up an untrackable, untraceable military grade communications network using devices illegal in Cuba.

Prior to Obama’s “opening” to Cuba, the media regularly told us that Cuba blocked US people from traveling to the country, while, in fact, the US disallowed it.

President Obama is credited with “normalizing” relations with Cuba, even though relations are not normalized when one continues a blockade and economic war on the other.

In 2015, Fox News and Daily Beast claimed hundreds of Cuban military personnel were aiding Syria’s Assad.

The media claims Trump ended individual travel to Cuba, which was allowed under two different licenses. In fact, he ended the People to People license, but the Support for Cuban People license remains in effect. This is typically not reported, discouraging travel to Cuba.

In 2017 Cuba allegedly engaged in sonic attacks on US diplomats in Havana, causing serious health problems for the officials, and provided the excuse for Trump to slash US and Cuban Embassy staff. Barely reported was that after four trips to Cuba, the FBI found no evidence to support this assertion of attacks.

The corporate media claims Cuba restricts internet access to its citizens. In reality, by late 2018, anyone with a 3G phone can get online. It is actually the US that restricts internet access by denying access to the fiber optic cables that run near Cuban shores.

Bolender notes that “A favorite ploy of the media is to offer expert opinions on how to fix the serious economic problems Cuba faces, while consistently ignoring America’s debilitating economic embargo.” (p. 3) The New York Times claims Cuba is “an economically distressed country that is perennially in crisis” with the blockade never referenced. If the blockade is mentioned, its draconian nature remains hidden, thereby maintaining the fiction that US action has no impact on Cuba.

The media has consistently used “democracy” and “human rights” to malign Cuba. Obama himself declared Cuba “has not yet observed human rights…The fact of the matter is Cuba… has not yet moved to democracy. Has not yet observed basic human rights.” The self-appointed US big brother presumes it can “help” the Cubans gain freedom and operate their economy in an efficient manner. The calls for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba has nothing to do with representative government nor human rights. The terms are used as a propaganda tool, elevating the accuser to a superior moral status, justifying Washington’s illegal interference.

The media claims Cuba has no free elections, no democratic process. In reality, Arnold August’s Cuba and its Neighbours, Democracy in Motion explains that Cuba has an electoral system surprisingly more democratic than the US version. The Cuban people both propose and vote on who will be their own representatives, unlike the case here. People in every constituency propose and then vote on who will be their delegates for the municipal government. Once the municipal government is formed, they propose from among their elected members and vote on who will be their delegates to the provincial government. The provincial government does the same in turn for the national parliament. The national parliament elects the president, ministers, and Council of State members from among its own members. This means, from the president to every single member of government, everyone has to be nominated in the first place in the community where he or she lives.

Social media opens many new doors for disinformation operations. Twitter, a neo-con corporation, received USAID funding to build a social media network in Cuba called Zunzuneo. It sought to create a mass youth following in Cuba and later use this network to stimulate demonstrations and cause internal unrest.

When fake news was deemed insufficient the media resorted to a schizophrenic McCarthyism: Cuba was a “point of infection by the Communist virus for the whole hemisphere”.3

As if to assert its thinking has not evolved, when Fidel Castro died the New York Times blamed him for ‘bringing the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere” and for “pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war.” In fact, the US had brought the Cold War here at least by 1954 with its coup against Guatemala’s Arbenz. The historical record shows that Cuba turned increasingly towards the Communist world only after the US drastically curtailed political and economic relations with Cuba. As mentioned above, the world was pushed to the brink of nuclear war by the aggressive actions by John Kennedy, not by Khrushchev or Castro.

The New York Times also referred to Cuba as “a dynastic police state”. (p. 151)

The Washington Post on Fidel Castro’s death called him “one of the most brutal dictators in modern history,” an irrational statement that presumably places him in league with Hitler.

Like any foreign leader the US wants to eliminate, Fidel Castro was portrayed as a child, as mentally unbalanced. This helped to both justify US regime change and to avoid informing the US public on the reasons for Cuban anger at the US conduct towards Cuba since 1898. When journalists accurately reported on the Cuban experience, as did Herbert Matthews, he was “ostracized by his media colleagues as being a dupe of Castro and a communist sympathizer”. (p. 79)  More respected were the likes of Tad Szulc who said Fidel was “an overgrown boy”. (p. 80)

Bolender repeatedly points out “that whenever there’s something positive about Cuba, the media must follow its credo of injecting negative misinformation, no matter how preposterous the claim….It was intended to ensure the consumer maintains a negative opinion about Cuba, despite reading of its accomplishments”. (pp.  171-172)  One example: a criticism of the new Cuban president by the New York Times, “Mr. Diaz-Canel, who became Cuba’s new president on Thursday, the day before his 58th birthday, has spent his entire life in the service of a revolution he did not fight”. (p. 180)

Corporate media reporting of anything negative about Cuba is an acceptable default position, with the underlying assumption being, before and after Obama’s opening, that the Cuban system must change, guided by US benevolence.

US Disinformation on Cuba before 1959

Media propaganda against Cuba began long before the 1959 revolutionary victory. Bolender takes us back to the justifications for the 1898 US invasion and occupation. Cubans were portrayed as unkempt children unable to manage by themselves, needing Anglo-Saxon Uncle Sam to save Cubans from Spain and then from themselves by ruling their affairs for them.

The so-called Spanish-American War saw fake news stories that would be recycled later.

The two chief media outlets of the day competed with wild stories to whip up US support for war and occupation. It was “doubtful…that the war would have developed without the agency of the most vicious and cynical behavior of a part of the American press that our nation had yet seen”. (p. 53)  This same media conduct was repeated a hundred years later to garner support for the war on Iraq.

Spain was blamed without any evidence for the US Navy ship Maine explosion. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt  then repeated the unsubstantiated claim the next day, providing the excuse to launch an invasion. Similarly, this story-line was later repackaged with the fabricated North Vietnamese attack on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The corporate press erased the whole 1895-98 independence struggle of the Cuban people against Spain by claiming the US invasion won the war and freed Cuba from Spain.

Even the US name for the war, the Spanish-American War, was a propaganda ploy, removing the agency of Cubans, concealing it being a US war on the Cuban independence struggle. Similarly, the corporate media sold us the US War on Korea as the “Korean War” and the US War on Vietnam as the “Vietnam War.”

Cubans were painted as irresponsible, lazy, ignorant, unfit for self-government — racist stereotypes the corporate media repeatedly applied to many other Third World peoples and countries, including native Americans and Blacks. “The Cuban is lacking chiefly in the qualities that are conspicuous in American men — virility, initiative, will power, tenacity, reverences for women and conscience.” They are helpless, idle, of defective morals and unfitted by nature and experience for discharging the obligations of citizenship in a great and free republic. Their lack of manly force and self-respect…” and so on with this precursor of Nazi-style propaganda.

“To clothe such men with the responsibilities of directing self-government would be to summon them to the performance of functions for which they have not the smallest capacity“ (quoted on pp. 55-56). The New York Times at the time declared, “We are guardians, self-appointed, to the Cuban people” (p. 61) and warned of “an irresponsible government of half-breeds”. (p. 62)

That Third World peoples still need the American white man’s firm hand and parenting remains a central element of US foreign policy propaganda, not only against Cuba, but the world.

Brazen Yankee arrogance displays itself in one clause of the quintessential neo-colonial Platt Amendment the US imposed on Cuba: Cuba was prohibited from negotiating treaties with any country other than the US “which will impair… the independence of Cuba” or “permit any foreign power or powers to obtain…or control over any portion” of Cuba. All precisely US conduct with the Platt Amendment.

The occupation completed, the US then made available prime Cuban lands to US citizens, following historic US policy with conquered native American peoples’ lands.

When Cubans protested this Platt Amendment, the Chicago Tribune editorialized “The United States reserved the right to intervene…to preserve public order…We are the parent, Cuba is the child, and the child is about due for a good spanking” (p. 67). Cuban “independence,” as written into their constitution, meant Cubans did not have the right to protest without risking foreign intervention. For the corporate media, Cuba was to be eternally grateful to the US for its freedom and independence, and to consider US domination as benign and progressive.

Bolender quotes Walter Cronkite on the US attitude towards Cuba before the revolution: “Cuba was a resort land for Americans…it was just a part of America, we kind of considered it part of the United States….The country was a little colony”.  (p. 74)

Then came 1959 and Fidel Castro responded to racist imperial patronizing with the simple truth: “I believe that this country has the same rights of other countries to govern itself”. (p. 68)  By the end of 1960 media coverage of Cuba was telling us Fidel Castro was crazy. In the world of corporate media fake news, all leaders who oppose or criticize US dictates and bullying are called madmen. The media transformed Cuba from a welcoming tourist playground into an armed camp, a repressive Communist state, a colony of the Soviet Union. The media “went on a rampage of misinformation and outright falsehoods about the Cuban Revolution that persists to this day”. (p. 75)

That Cuba must conform to US imperial standards, nothing less, has been an unchanged US policy from 1898 to the present.

Our Susceptibility to US Disinformation Campaigns

We should never underestimate the shrewdness of US disinformation, which has affected Bolender to a degree. For example, Bolender describes USAID’s Zunzuneo project as analogous to Russian social media operations in 2016.  (p. 188) In reality, this entire Russiagate story itself was a disinformation campaign. Bolender again falls for corporate media disinformation by calling the US-NATO war on Syria a “civil war”. (p. 6) We can be quite knowledgeable about some disinformation campaigns, but even the most astute among us can be taken in by others.

Bolender mentions “The decision by the Castro government to embrace Soviet orthodoxy” occurred after the Bay of Pigs invasion. He does not explain what is signified by this “Soviet orthodoxy.”  Nevertheless, Cuba did not become closely aligned with the Soviet Union almost ten years after the 1961 invasion. During the 1960s, a fair amount of discord punctuated the relations between the two countries: Khrushchev unilaterally removing missiles, the split in the Communist bloc, sharp disagreements over guerilla warfare, the Warsaw Pact 1968 intervention in Czechoslovakia, the defense of Vietnam, the 1967 crackdown of the pro-Soviet Anibal Escalante faction in the Cuban CP.

Bolender sees “a softening, even a balance of coverage when examining specific incidents, such as Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban Five and even the Alan Gross affair.” (p. 176) I do not agree. The public regarded Elian’s case as a father unfairly being kept from his son, and as the US government not defending family and parental rights. People could not be sold on the attempt to view it through a “Communist Cuba vs. US freedom” lens. Having worked on the Cuban Five case for twelve years, I observed no opening of coverage on the case. Outside of Miami the corporate media maintained a black out. We even had to raise funds to pay the New York Times to publish a factual account on the Cuban Five.

Corporate Media as Informational Enabler of US “Regime Change”

Bolender’s book gives us an excellent understanding of the actual role the so-called free press plays. “Cuba remains a prime example of media manipulation in support of foreign policy perspectives”. (p. 180) “While politicians express policy, the press was tasked to manufacture acceptable public opinion in support of regime change”. (p.76)  “America’s corporate media is the informational enabler of Washington’s regime change strategy”. (p. 183)

Media covers other countries in a hostile or favorable light, reflecting the US government and corporate America’s relations with those governments. Countries targeted for counterrevolution by Washington are routinely claimed to have serious economic problems and human rights abuses. Brutal regimes like Colombia, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that are allied with the US have their abuses painted over.

“Destabilization, subversion and economic warfare have been the tools of regime change policy used by the US government; the media has willingly helped forge them.” (p. 2) Many studies have substantiated this, such as Carl Bernstein’s on the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, revealing that the CIA actually had 400 corporate media executives and journalists reporting “news” according to CIA objectives. F. William Engdahl has written extensively on US media and NGO roles in recent regime change operations in Russia, China, Yugoslavia, the Arab Spring and the Middle East today. Beenish Ahmed wrote on a simple media coverup in her article, Here Are All The Things The Media Calls Torture Instead Of ‘Torture’.

Corporate media disinformation seeks to poison our attitude towards countries standing up for their national sovereignty, but also towards actual journalists who expose the media’s fake news. They seek to destroy Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning as they did Gary Webb. Corporate America’s disinformation relies on politicians, media and NGOs to implant their messaging. It remains a long ongoing battle to combat it among the people, and an essential part of that requires us to question our own views, as none of us are entirely immune to disinformation techniques, which have, in effect, become an advanced science.

  1. Manufacturing the Enemy: The Media War Against Cuba. He has also written Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, and Cuba under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People.
  2. The term “regime change” is itself not accurate: the appropriate term is “counterrevolution,” as Washington’s actual goal is not overturning a ‘regime” so much as the social, economic and political gains of the people of the country. p. 137
  3. New York Times, April 23, 1961 — a date right after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Chomsky and other Liberal Intellectuals ask us to Join them in Throwing in the Towel  

Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters, and Michael Albert wrote an Open Letter to the Green Party, asking them to support the 2020 Democratic candidate regardless who wins the nomination. It was in response to an article well worth reading by Howie Hawkins, “The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem“.

It has become too common over the last 15 years to see used-to-be anti-imperialists, or at least harsh critics of the US government’s brutal policies at home and abroad, fold under corporate America’s unrelenting onslaught on humanity and the planet. It is reminiscent of how the mass Marxist Social Democratic parties capitulated to the impending imperialist massacre of World War I, or how the Western nations caved in to Hitler from 1937 on until they saw their bigger enemy, the Soviet Union, take the full fury of Nazi forces and began beating them back.

Digging under the case Chomsky et al. present, we uncover a mother lode of cowardly unwillingness to organize, to mobilize, and do what is necessary to fight back. For instance, we have seen them capitulate on opposition to US invasion of Syria, with Chomsky even calling for US troops to continue the occupation. We have seen them acquiesce to the US-NATO war to overthrow Qaddafi, where the “Libyan revolution” has brought slave markets in the country.

But let us look at what they say. The Greens should not run in states that take votes away from the Democrat nominee able to beat Trump. This argument is founded on a considerable amount of traditional Yankee arrogance, an assumption that Greens are nothing more than disenchanted liberal Democrats who should come back home in a time of need. There is little evidence that Green voters would have voted for Hillary against Trump if there were no Green candidate. Some may have, just as some may have voted for Trump, and probably a great number would not have bothered to vote.

They also have a good dose of that liberal middle class arrogance that Hillary was the lesser evil to Trump and his deplorables.  Of course, we can never know what Hillary or any other loser would have done as president because they never won. It does seem pretty clear, though, that the national security state would have been happy with her functioning as their obedient champion in the White House. But now we have Trump, who openly attacks national security state war-mongering and their corporate media fake news. It also seems likely Clinton would have involved us in a new war, which Trump periodically makes noises about but so far has avoided.

Hillary would also have been the lesser evil for the liberal elite by making the US empire more “respected” at home and abroad – that is, making the brutal operations of the empire more palatable for them. She would have made liberals prouder about what America supposedly stands for in the world, just as they were proud of the America of President Obama, as “the shining city on the hill.”  Thinking the US empire represents a force for good in the world is a heartfelt need for American liberals.

For anti-imperialists the opposite is the case: what tears off the mask US imperialism wears, what shows the empire’s selfish greed and inhumanity to the world are important steps forward for people’s political education. In that, Trump, not having gone through the standard politicians’ dog-training school to learn how to cover up one’s greed, lies, and crudeness, has done a worthy job in showing to the world the true nature of the empire.

So long as liberals can think US imperialism is slowly improving, slowly reforming its excessive abuses, so long as they can rationalize some of its abuses, and so long as they can live comfortably inside the system, that for them is good enough.

But reality tells us US world hegemony is coming to an end. China is slowly putting it out of business, and shocking to liberals, is providing a vastly superior example of how to deal cooperatively with other countries, how to eliminate poverty, how to combat climate change.  We are into the period where, as an empire declining in productive wealth, the US must become more nakedly a bully to maintain its control. It must rely more and more on endless war, on economic warfare, on corporate media disinformation, having less wealth available to buy acquiescence.

Both Clinton and Trump knew that and were on board with it. Clinton used traditional feel good liberal rhetoric. Trump was outspokenly “America first,” and “white people first”. Any lesser evilism Chomsky et al. find in the Democrats exists fundamentally in the domain of rhetoric.

How to explain this ongoing liberal-left capitulation to corporate America’s Democratic Party agenda?  The working classes, the great opposing power to capital, have not fought the corporate rulers and been defeated. They have not yet begun to fight. When they have been aroused and well led, as in the 1930s and 1940s, they took on the biggest corporate giants, General Motors, US Steel, the coal barons, the US government and martial law, and beat them. In the late 1950s and 1960s working people rose up and crushed the entrenched 75-year-old Jim Crow system. However, the US working class today, the only giant powerful enough to combat corporate control, still remains for the most part quiescent, leaderless. It will again emerge from the shadows and make history.

Liberal-left intellectuals do not identify themselves primarily as allies of this one great countervailing power to corporate America.  Probably they don’t even see it. Rather, they see a progressive milieu which can function as a pressure group in the orbit of the Democratic Party against what they see as a right-wing milieu around the Republican Party and Democratic Party bosses.  As a result they operate from a perspective of weakness, and feel the popular force behind them continually diminishing since the last mass social upsurge, in 2002-3 against the war in Iraq.  Consequently they have slowly and steadily shifted rightwards over the years. However, mass movements and mass struggles come in waves followed by periods of quiescence, and inevitably a great new wave will appear.

The Coup in Bolivia: Lessons for our Movement

The US engineered another coup, this time Bolivia, and again our movement could not effectively counter pro-coup propaganda the US was selling to the public, let alone taking any action to stop it.

There is an imperative need for much greater long-term cooperative work to combat US interventions. Needed is a qualitatively higher level of unity of action among our networks to combat imperialism. Lenin, one of the most effective leaders of the struggles against the ruling classes, emphasized that “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.

The divisiveness among ourselves and our alliances is a secondary issue. We often pursue political work while poorly trained in the lessons our predecessors learned from their experiences in combating the corporate elite’s repressive actions at home and abroad. The movement against ruling class brutality has accumulated over the centuries a valuable heritage of struggle and an invaluable body of experience about effective and ineffective strategies and tactics under the given conditions. No school or clearing house collects and teaches this heritage, so we have to relearn these lessons almost from scratch each generation. We also usually must recreate a national network to implement our collective anti-imperialist struggle each generation.

Here, the ruling class and their government have significant advantages over us. They have their own legacy of experience in maintaining their rule, and they maintain a series of institutions devoted to gathering and passing down their methods of regime change (coups, color revolutions, wars), political disruption, and media disinformation campaigns. These ruling class institutions include universities, think tanks, and government agencies like the CIA, DIA, and FBI. The ruling class has the capacity to manufacture and implement a coup or a domestic wave of political repression almost off-the-shelf. On this score, they are light years ahead of us, while we are often reduced to the level of having to learn how to control and use fire each generation.

Another reason for our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our lack of confidence that a serious challenge to US imperial power is even possible, which certainly seems understandable given the above. Nevertheless, we must also recognize that their system of corporate imperial rule is not stable, as the major economic crises and climate catastrophe in the coming years will show us. The rulers’ “solution” to these issues will only antagonize the majority of humanity and make them fight corporate domination of human life.

Role of US Government Disruption

Another cause of our weakness is the government disruption of our movements, something we gloss over. Defending Rights and Dissent just reported on FBI spying over the last ten years in >Still Spying on Dissent, showing how the FBI goes far beyond just spying to include break-ins, disruptions, political frame-ups, stings, murder, blackmail, and drug-dealing.

These operations have escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted restrictions on the CIA and other organs of the national security state feeding fake news to the US population. The NDAA established “an executive branch interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments… through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts.”

Senator Portman, one of the chief authors of the law, stated its intent is to “improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.” NGOs and civil society can receive grants to paint voices of the anti-war movement as spreading Russian “disinformation.” This may shed light on the origin of the story that those opposed to the regime change operation on Syria are “Putinists” and “Assadists.”

Lack of Popular Participation in Social Movements

Our movement’s weakness must be seen as a result of the people’s insufficient participation in the fight against US wars and the military budget, even though both rob us of the wealth we need to counter our worsening quality of life. This lack of participation, lack of sustained mobilization, is hardly unique to the anti-war struggle. At present this characterizes the spectrum of social movements: the women’s movement, immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, and so on. And even while the movement against climate change recently could rally four million, with 600,000 in the US, Greta Thornberg acknowledged the movement has not stopped carbon emissions from continuing to increase.

Almost everyone is aware of the looming climate catastrophe around the corner, but people are generally expecting someone else to do something about it. They do not understand that the ruling class plans to do nothing, that nothing will be accomplished until we mobilize in the many millions.

Partly a result of seeming a more viable alternative to movement building and partly a result of political naivete, people still look for solutions by investing their time and money in Democratic and Republican campaigns. For now, the movements that bring large numbers out into the streets are those contained by these two parties. This undermines our building forces independent of these two corporate parties, who serve to snuff out the movements that represent the interests of the 99%.

The present non-existence of massive anti-intervention protests is partly a response to the failure of our major mobilizations of hundreds of thousands in 2002-2003 demanding a halt to the planned war on Iraq.  In 2011 the Occupy movement spread like wildfire, only to be snuffed out by government repression, and  again, very little changed. People do not struggle and fight for a goal if we feel our time and effort won’t pay off and make it worthwhile.  This combined with the disillusion from the unfulfilled hopes of the Obama era has left many today feeling ripped off, powerless and demoralized.

When people feel this way, they shrink their lives into a small safe zone and pursue their private lives in a little bubble where they find some measure of comfort. The coming economic crisis and climate disaster will pop many a bubble and people will be pushed into active political opposition to the 1%. Once some important victories for us have been won, many thousands and then millions will be inspired to again awaken and fight for our demands.

Mistakes of our Bolivian allies and Lessons for us

  1. The State as Armed Bodies of Men

Lenin wrote in State and Revolution that the state consists of special bodies of armed men, and those who controlled these special bodies controlled the state. With the coup in Bolivia we were given a reminder. Luis Alfonso Mena S. wrote, entirely correctly, “The most important lesson from what happened on Sunday, November 10, 2019 in Bolivia is that a revolution is vulnerable when it relies on armed forces from bourgeois institutions. That is why Hugo Chavez transformed his country’s armed forces, gave them a popular and class character, turned them into defenders of the Venezuelan revolution and its people, and today they constitute one of the fundamental supports of the Bolivarian process, since they have never yielded to offers, blackmail or threats from U.S. imperialism and its lackeys on the continent.”

Moreover, as Nino Pagliccia pointed out, “Venezuela has developed a strong civic-military union supported my thousands of voluntary militias that has been the bastion against which the Hybrid War has failed despite the numerous attempts to break that union.”

A people’s militia in Bolivia could have maintained order in most of the country after the police forces declared they would not interfere against anti-Evo violence and before the military chiefs told Evo to resign. Fidel Castro said right after the coup against Allende in Chile, “If every worker, if every laborer, had had a rifle in his hands, the fascist coup in Chile would not have happened.” However, the MAS government never built a popular militia, and did not fill the military command structure with loyal defenders of the constitution.

Marxists often state that as long as a socialist government does not destroy the old capitalist state and create a new system of governing, including a new military and police force to replace that inherited from previous regimes, the price for this error will be a counter-revolutionary coup by the old military hierarchy. This is often true but oversimplified.

Nicaragua’s military high command is not loyal to the capitalist class because it was reconstituted after the 1979 Sandinista revolution. With the return to power of the capitalist class with Violetta Chamarro in 1990, the Nicaraguan military remained under the Sandinista high command of Humberto Ortega. Change in the military leadership continued to remain largely under its own control: to replace a current military chief, the military limits the president’s options to three names it submits to the president to choose among. The military today is committed to the constitution and to not repressing the people. In Nicaragua’s 2018 protests and violence, the military stayed in their barracks.

Venezuela is another case of a pro-socialist government presiding over a capitalist economic system, with the military loyal to the Chavez-era Bolivarian constitution. Venezuela’s military was somewhat restructured by nationalistic officers back in the early 1970s, and later received a much more progressive education. Venezuela had no military caste as in Argentina or Chile, with many senior officers coming from poor urban and peasant families.

One of Chavez’ first decisions after assuming the presidency was the creation of Plan Bolivar, sending the troops to the barrios to help clean up, paint buildings, distribute food, provide medical care, and attend to the people. The failed coup attempts since 2002 enabled the government to remove right-wingers from the military. Chavez opened the Military Academy to low income Venezuelans so they could rise up in the officer corps.  He also created an efficient intelligence service, which enabled the government to unmask coup-plotters. Today the Venezuelan military defends the revolutionary nationalist process.

  1. Importance of mobilizing and educating the people

Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, hit upon another mistake of Evo when he spoke right after the right-wing coup in Bolivia. The main antidote against fascism is popular mobilization. Under Evo Morales long presidency this lesson was neglected. MAS also did not lead a nationwide effort to protest the coup as it was unfolding, rather it compromised and sought “peace.”  Cabello added, “we [in Venezuela] are going to the streets to reject the violence of imperialism…We are not surprised by the actions of the right, here in Venezuela they tried the same thing, we already know them.” Venezuela is well-prepared and experienced in mobilizing the people to combat attempted coups.

Over the years, MAS had become an electoral party, ill-equipped to respond to the right-wing’s abrupt switch from electoral politics to street violence.  Evo and his circle did not place sufficient emphasis on political education of the masses, nor on their self-organization, nor on building a national network of political activists committed to mobilizing people in defense of The Process of Change. In contrast, Fidel’s Cuba understood these measures were needed to survive under the relentless US imperial pressure, and Cuba made itself impenetrable to regime change.

The Bolivian military coup against an elected progressive head of state provides lessons for Bernie Sanders campaign supporters. In the US, the two-party system has developed many tools to make sure figures like Bernie never becomes the candidate, such as rigging the primaries and engaging in corporate media smear campaigns. Nor is electing such a seeming progressive leader, like we saw in 2008, close to the end of the battle. The leader’s initiatives could be blocked by Congress, by in the courts, by in the federal bureaucracy.  A genuinely progressive president could be removed from office on unwarranted charges, as with Dilma and Lula in Brazil, or here, as the Democrats seek to do with the isolationist Donald Trump.

The national security state has a vast array of tools developed from its extensive experience in wars, coups, and disruptions that it can employ at home to terminate a progressive president’s tenure or neutralize any progressive movement. Unfortunately, most people still suffer from the naive delusion that we live in a uniquely free and democratic country, that we are exempt from coups and similar methods the US routinely uses abroad.

Evo Morales made other errors during the coup process, such as calling for the OAS to verify the votes, even though he had repeatedly denounced the OAS as a tool of the US. For instance, in 2017 he said “I offer to free brother [OAS General Secretary] Luis Almagro from submission to the North American empire. All for the dignity and sovereignty of our peoples.”  Yet he invited in this US tool, which then found the election had “irregularities.”

Corporate Media Disinformation and Building a People’s Alternative

Another agent, the corporate media, as Alfredo Serrano Mancilla noted, “are never absent in each coup. They are keys to building the frame of reference before, during and after…This medium was always the maximum exponent of the fraud scenario, before and after, defending the lack of knowledge of the results from the beginning and quickly emerging to endorse the undemocratic transition.”

Corporate control of the media complements control of the armed forces in creating regime change. The media can monopolize access to information, are able to effectively present disinformation as news, seen so well in the 2002 coup against Chavez, in Nicaragua in 2018, Libya in 2011, and Syria for years. Creating a popular mass media widely read both locally and internationally that is a mouthpiece for the 99% is necessary yet difficult task, something even Chavista Venezuela still has not accomplished successfully.

Our Responsibility in the Imperial Core

A serious analysis of what is happening in a Third World country, progressive or not, must start with the role Western imperialism has played, including the role of Western NGOs. Otherwise, analysis does not put in perspective the problems the country faces, and indirectly gives cover to imperialism’s role. 

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani, writing on the US war against Venezuela, sum up well our responsibilities:

At the root of all conflicts and battles of imperialist countries against independent countries, including colonial and semi-colonial countries, is the drive to deny them their sovereignty and self-rule. Everything else is secondary…. The best way to contribute to the struggle of Venezuelan people against the reactionary pro-imperialist right-wing opposition inside Venezuela and against the constant attack, sanctions, and interventions of imperialism, is to build a strong antiwar, anti-imperialist movement that also focuses on building a Venezuela solidarity movement in defense of self-determination for the Venezuelan people.

This must include combating regime change disinformation, which aims to delegitimize governments not submitting to imperial dictates, justifying coups, murderous economic sanctions, proxy wars and “humanitarian” invasions. The corporate media can be a more sophisticated tool for regime change than the military, permitting Washington to take advantage of the story that anything short of outright US troop invasion is not intervention nor regime change.

Many liberal and  faux “left” websites and groups have become transmission belts for this regime change propaganda into the progressive movement, sometimes even taking NED funding. This has been countered from an anti-imperialist stance by our “tribunes of the people”. Examples include Alan Macleod on Venezuela, AFGJ on Nicaragua, The Grayzone on China, Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley on Syria, Dissident Voice and Popular Resistance on Hong Kong, Consortium News and Stephen Cohen on Russiagate, 21stcenturywire.com on Libya, Dan Kovalik, Phil Wilayto on Iran.

Besides working to build a more united mass anti-imperialist movement, necessary tasks for us today include continuing to educate the public about, one, widespread corporate media disinformation, two, the need to respect the sovereignty of other nations, and three, unmasking the faux left which behaves like amateur soft agents of the US intelligence services.

A Tool to Combat Washington’s Middle East Wars

The Plot to Attack Iran gives a readable and well-referenced look at Western — especially US — abuse of Iran. The author and human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik presents a concise overview of US imperial conduct since World War II. The book is a reminder, which we need from time to time, of the outrageous hypocrisy and deceit of the US government and the corporate media. Kovalik also drives home that Washington’s foreign policy operations are not just a threat to other countries, but threaten the basic safety of the US people.

The US strove to crush any Iranian attempts to create their own development path for their country, particularly as oil became an important resource. The US has continuously sought to overthrow the government since the 1979 revolution. The book reviews the US-British coup against Iranian democracy in 1953 which installed the brutal Shah, who established the SAVAK torture network. The double standard of Jimmy “Human Rights” Carter, the struggle against the Shah’s murderous regime, the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, the background to Iran-Contra, the US playing both sides against each other during Iraq’s war on Iran, the US relations with the Taliban, and the US-Saudi war on Yemen are all covered.

One aspect that could be added to the book is a summary of the social gains made by the Iranian people in the Islamic Republic, particularly under President Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), who instituted many anti-neoliberal programs which helped the poor. For instance, poverty had been reduced to one-eighth of what it was under the Shah, while health care is free for those who can’t pay.

Kovalik does note that in 1970 only 25% of Iranian women could read and write. By 2007 it was 80.3%, compared to 88.7% for men, and 90% percent of women are enrolled in school, free for all even through university. While about one-third of university students were women before 1979, now women make up 65 to 70% of the students. Women are legally entitled to ninety days maternity leave at two-thirds pay, have an entitlement to employer-provided child care centers, both gains which are denied women in the US. Iran has an equal pay for equal work requirement, also denied women here.

1953: US Overthrows Iranian Democracy

That Iran has an Islamic government which the United States and Israel abhor, is a direct result of the US coup against Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. The US’ subsequent support of the Shah made popular revolt inevitable, and when it broke out the US directly supported Islamists in Iran over the secular left.

Mossadegh had taken action to nationalize Iranian oil, then mostly under British control. Britain proceeded to sabotage Iran’s oil production and export, wrecking its economy.  Mossadegh actually appealed to President Eisenhower to mediate and resolve the issue in a way Eisenhower saw fit. The US reply came in the form of a coup, which showed many of the tactics we have seen in recent color revolutions and regime change interventions, one of the most current being in Venezuela.

CIA agents bought off secular politicians, religious leaders and key military officers, newspaper editors, hired thugs to run rampant through the street, sometimes pretending to be Mossadegh supporters, sometimes calling for his overthrow, anything to create a chaotic political situation. Thousands of demonstrators, unwittingly under CIA manipulation, surged through the streets, looting shops, destroying pictures of the Shah, and ransacking the offices of royalist groups. The impression was that Iran was sliding towards anarchy.

The Shah then took power and for a quarter century established one of the most barbarous regimes in the world.

US Trains Shah’s Military and SAVAK Torturers

The CIA helped train the Iranian security services in torture techniques—techniques borrowed, as in the case of Pinochet’s Chile, from the experienced experts, the Nazis. Every year 350 SAVAK agents were taken to CIA training facilities in Virginia, where they learned interrogation and torture. Top SAVAK brass were trained through the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Public Safety Program. SAVAK created torture prisons that outdid Dante’s Hell. The CIA filmed techniques it had taught SAVAK to use and made them available to torture centers in other countries.

The most common SAVAK instrument was an electrically heated table called the ‘frying pan,’ on which the victim was tied down by his hands and feet. Many died on these tables. Often, the accused was already raving by the time he entered the torture chamber—few people could bear the screams they heard while they waited, nor the smell of burning flesh.

This “Made in the USA” product makes it clear why Iran calls the US “The Great Satan.”

Amnesty International stated in 1974, 20 years after the US-backed coup and US training of repressive forces, that no country had a worse human rights record than Iran under the Shah. Yet Jimmie Carter maintained weapons supplies to Iran, and the human rights situation got even worse.

In 1978, anti-Shah street protests in Tehran drew more than a million strong. The Shah’s army, trained by the US, killed 4,000 demonstrators in Tehran’s Jaleh Square on September 8 alone. Kovalik notes that if such a thing happened in Venezuela or Cuba, or in Iran in 2018, this would be cause for the United States to invade. There was an explosion of corporate media condemnation against China during the Tiananmen Square protests ten years later, where probably one-tenth the number were killed. But who knows of this Jaleh Square massacre – not the only one – outside of Iran? Yet Washington approved of it, continuing to back the Shah and his methods for another half year.

1980s: US Provides Iraq with Chemical Weapons for their War on Iran

Kovalik notes the flagrant hypocrisy of the West’s noise about chemical weapon attacks in Syria, repeatedly and without evidence blaming the Assad government. Not only did the West arm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with chemical weapons, but it downplayed their massive use against Iranian troops and civilians.  Kovalik reminds us of the US’ widespread and criminal use of chemical weapons in Korea, Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq in Fallujah and Mosul.

The US Department of Commerce and even the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) exported to Iraq items used for chemical weapons and nuclear weapons development. The US government approved 771 different export licenses of dual-use technology to Iraq.  The CDC sent Iraq 14 separate agents “with biological warfare significance.” The CDC was not involved in controlling disease, but in spreading it.

For its part, Iran itself refused to use chemical weapons against Iraq, and also pronounced a fatwa in 2005 against developing nuclear weapons. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency determined in 2003 and 2007 that Iran did not intend to build a nuclear weapon. This was confirmed by sixteen US intelligence agencies.

The US armed Iran the same time it aided Iraq in its war on Iran and used $18 million from the $30 million in weapons sales to illegally fund the Nicaragua contra terrorists after Congress had cut off their aid. This became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. Israel, with US consent, also sold Iran hundreds of millions of dollars of US-manufactured weapons during the Iraqi war on Iran. Later Washington funded the contras by directing them to import crack cocaine into the US, fueling a drug addiction epidemic.

Kovalik notes that “the United States is continuing this cruel policy of playing both sides against each other today by supporting, but also trying to contain, ISIS forces in order to molest and undermine both Syria and Iran.”

Incredibly the US without shame justified its 2003 war on Iraq with the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” in particular, banned chemical weapons, which the West had previously sold him. That was, as is said now, “fake news” because Hussein’s chemical weapons had been destroyed under UN supervision years before.

To heighten the hypocrisy, the US itself used chemical weapons (white phosphorus and depleted uranium) in its war on Iraq in 2003, causing spikes in cancer rates and birth defects in areas like Fallujah.

US Trains Taliban in Afghanistan

During this whole period the US had been increasingly intervening in Afganistan. It was instrumental in ousting the progressive secular government in Afghanistan by supporting Islamic extremist forces, the Mujahideen, which included Osama bin Laden. The US later aided the Taliban taking power, and backed them until 2001. Al Qaeda then turned on the United States and, among other things, carried out the 9/11 attacks against the United States.

Osama bin Laden was himself a Saudi, and, as we now know, Al Qaida has received much support over the years from Saudi Arabia, the United States’ long-time partner in crime in the Middle East and mortal enemy of Iran. Yet, while Iran cooperated with the US in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, and while Saudi Arabia financed the 9/11 attack more than any other country, the US has remained closely allied with Saudi Arabia against Iran.

In early 2001, the US pledged $124 million in aid to the Taliban. But when negotiations between the two worsened over an oil pipeline project, the US threatened to carpet bomb and invade Afghanistan — even prior to the September 11 attacks.  Jane’s Defense Newsletter reported that in March 2001 Washington was planning an invasion.

Kovalik notes that in 2006 the FBI listed bin Laden on its “Most Wanted List,” but it did not include the 9/11 attacks as a basis for this listing. The FBI chief of investigative publicity stated, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

While ruling Afghanistan, the Taliban had basically eradicated opium production (from which heroin is made). Then just four years after the US invaded and allied with the drug lords there, 90% of the world’s heroin came from that country. We now have what Trump admits is a “national health emergency” due to opiate addiction, yet it was US policy that contributed to that epidemic.

This shows how Washington’s foreign policy threatens the US people: contributing to the present opiate epidemic; creating the previous crack epidemic and the ongoing cocaine epidemic (which comes from US ally Colombia); financing and supporting the Taliban allies who attacked the US on 9/11. The US aided the rise of ISIS with arms and funding and is closely allied to Saudi Arabia, the country more than any other responsible for 9/11, ISIS, and Al Qaeda affiliated groups. The US has sought to destroy secular left movements in the Middle East, in Egypt, in Iraq by putting Saddam Hussein in power, in Iran by working with the Shah to murder it off and bringing in Khomeini as the lesser evil, in Afghanistan by using the Mujahideen and Taliban to eliminate the previous progressive government. In sum, the US has helped to empower Islamic extremists.

US War on Iraq

After invading Afghanistan, the US invaded Iraq, though it had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein, like the leadership of Iran, had been a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda. “Iran watched in 2003 as its neighbor Iraq was invaded by the United States and its coalition partners, suffering the worst destruction it ever had since the Mongol invasion of 1258 led by Genghis Khan. And Iranians are painfully aware that the United States is intent on doing the very same to their country.”

When the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, whose base was among Iraqi Sunnis, Iraqi Shiites came to power, who then allied themselves with Shiite Iran. Then Washington sought to weaken Iran, which it had just strengthened through the Iraqi invasion.

Washington turned to aiding the very forces who attacked on 9/11 as a tool to contain Iran. The US aided Sunni extremists in Libya and Syria to try to overthrow Gaddafi and Assad. The US supported the opposition in Syria from the beginning and has spent $12 billion funding it just from 2014-2017. Now Iran is lawfully in Syria (and Iraq) to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda at the invitation of the Syrian government. In contrast, the US intervention in Syria is in violation of international law. Trump has announced the US will stay in Syria, not to fight ISIS, but to counter Iran, which has become a regional power due to US miscalculations in its interventions in the Middle East.

Present Day Threats against Iran

The US under both Obama and Trump has been arming and aiding Saudi Arabia in bombing and blockading Yemen (dependent on imports for 90% of its food), alleging the Houthis are “proxies for Iran,” and creating starvation and slaughter of Yemeni civilians. In Yemen, 22.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, 17.8 million are food insecure, and 8.4 million people are severely food insecure at risk of starvation.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Trump wants to scuttle, did not serve to significantly alleviate the economic problems the Iranian people faced. Sanctions on Iran have cost the country $160 billion since 2012, and Trump has increased these sanctions.

The 2017 protests in Iran were sparked by cuts to social benefits, a consequence of sanctions and US-Saudi engineered fall in oil prices. Washington spent over $1 million trying to convert the protests into a push for regime change, and another $20 million on Voice of America’s Persian Service seeking to turn Iranians against the government.

This brutal anti-democratic US conduct against Iran is similar to what it has also inflicted on Greece, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, etc. – if the US did not resort to massive invasion, killing millions as in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq.

We can see the brutal present world the US has created when we compare what humanitarian Third World leaders it overthrew or sought to, compared to the US-backed leader: Arbenz and the Guatemalan dictators, Sukarno and Suharto, Lumumba and Mobutu, the Sandinistas and Somoza, Goulart and the Brazilian generals, Allende and Pinochet, Mandela and apartheid, Mossadegh and the Shah, Chavez and the Venezuelan putschists, Fidel and Batista, Aristide and the Haitian generals, Juan Bosch and Balaguer, and so on. These are great losses to creating a more humane world.

Now the US blames Iran and Russia for the problems confronting the Middle East, and the US government wants us to believe that regime change in Iran will help fix the problem. This ignores the fact that none of the other regime changes the United States has been involved in have done anything but make matters worse. Millions have been killed, modern countries destroyed, and the US national debt has skyrocketed.

The Plot to Attack Iran gives us a well-referenced summary to the US war against Iranian democracy and the complex situation in the Middle East. The US has been backing groups it is also at times fighting, groups that still engage in terrorist attacks against the US, France, and Britain.

Kovalik’s book is a useful resource for our anti-imperialist movement. We get a taste of what liberal-lefts will say and do as the US advances its regime change strategy in Iran by looking at how they responded to the US attack on Libya and on Syria. The Plot to Attack Iran will aid us when we confront the same expected capitulation by much of this “left” when the US pushes ahead with its war plans on Iran.