Category Archives: Assassinations

UN official Expects More Allegations about Khashoggi-style Murders by Saudis

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings says she expects more allegations to surface about Khashoggi-style murders by Saudi death squads.

Agnes Callamard was reacting to a Washington Post article that detailed a lawsuit filed in the US by Saad al-Jabri, a former Saudi spy. The plaintiff said, a hit squad was sent to Canada where he lives in exile, to kill and dismember him the same way dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Callamard agreed with the conclusion of the article that if the allegations are proven, it will reinforce the notion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman commands death squads and evades accountability for the murders.

Parallels between Minneapolis and Jerusalem are More than Skin Deep

It is hard to ignore the striking parallels between the recent scenes of police brutality in cities across the United States and decades of violence from Israel’s security forces against Palestinians.

A video that went viral late last month of a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, killing a black man, George Floyd, by pressing a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes has triggered a fortnight of mass protests across the US – and beyond.

The footage was the latest disturbing visual evidence of a US police culture that appears to treat Black Americans as an enemy – and a reminder that rogue police officers are all too rarely punished.

Floyd’s lynching by Chauvin as three other officers either looked on, or participated, has echoes of troubling scenes familiar from the occupied territories. Videos of Israeli soldiers, police and armed settlers beating, shooting and abusing Palestinian men, women and children have long been a staple of social media.

The dehumanisation that enabled Floyd’s murder has been regularly on view in the occupied Palestinian territories. In early 2018 Israeli snipers began using Palestinians, including children, nurses, journalists and the disabled, as little more than target practice during weekly protests at a perimeter fence around Gaza imprisoning them.

Widespread impunity

And just as in the US, the use of violence by Israeli police and soldiers against Palestinians rarely leads to prosecutions, let alone convictions.

A few days after Floyd’s killing, an autistic Palestinian man, Iyad Hallaq – who had a mental age of six, according to his family – was shot seven times by police in Jerusalem. None of the officers has been arrested.

Faced with embarrassing international attention in the wake of Floyd’s murder, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare statement on the killing of a Palestinian by the security services. He called Hallaq’s murder “a tragedy” and promised an investigation.

The two killings, days apart, have underscored why the slogans “Black Lives Matter” and “Palestinian Lives Matter” sit naturally alongside each other, whether at protests or in social media posts.

There are differences between the two cases, of course. Nowadays Black Americans have citizenship, most can vote (if they can reach a polling station), laws are no longer explicitly racist, and they have access to the same courts – if not always the same justice – as the white population.

That is not the situation for most Palestinians under Israeli rule. They live under occupation by a foreign army, arbitrary military orders govern their lives, and they have very limited access to any kind of meaningful legal redress.

And there is another obvious difference. Floyd’s murder has shocked many white Americans into joining the protests. Hallaq’s murder, by contrast, has been ignored by the vast majority of Israelis, apparently accepted once again as the price of maintaining the occupation.

Treated like an enemy

Nonetheless, comparisons between the two racist policing cultures are worth highlighting. Both spring from a worldview shaped by settler-colonial societies founded on dispossession, segregation and exploitation.

Israel still largely views Palestinians as an enemy that needs to be either expelled or made to submit. Black Americans, meanwhile, live with the legacy of a racist white culture that until not so long ago justified slavery and apartheid.

Palestinians and Black Americans have long had their dignity looted; their lives too often are considered cheap.

Sadly, most Israeli Jews are in deep denial about the racist ideology that underpins their major institutions, including the security services. Tiny numbers protest in solidarity with Palestinians, and those that do are widely seen by the rest of the Israeli public as traitors.

Many white Americans, on the other hand, have been shocked to see how quickly US police forces – faced with widespread protests – have resorted to aggressive crowd-control methods of the kind only too familiar to Palestinians.

Those methods include the declaration of curfews and closed areas in major cities; the deployment of sniper squads against civilians; the use of riot teams wearing unmarked uniforms or balaclavas; arrests of, and physical assaults on, journalists who are clearly identifiable; and the indiscriminate use of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to wound protesters and terrify them off the streets.

It does not end there.

President Donald Trump has described demonstrators as “terrorists”, echoing Israel’s characterisation of all Palestinian protest, and threatened to send in the US army, which would replicate even more precisely the situation faced by Palestinians.

Like Palestinians, the US black community – and now the protesters – have been recording examples of their abuse on their phones and posting the videos on social media to highlight the deceptions of police statements and media reporting of what has been taking place.

Tested on Palestinians

None of these parallels should surprise us. For years US police forces, along with many others around the world, have been queueing at Israel’s door to learn from its decades of experience in crushing Palestinian resistance.

Israel has capitalised on the need among western states, in a world of depleting resources and the long-term contraction of the global economy, to prepare for future internal uprisings by a growing underclass.

With readymade laboratories in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel has long been able to develop and field-test on captive Palestinians new methods of surveillance and subordination. As the largest underclass in the US, urban black communities were always likely to find themselves on the front line as US police forces adopted a more militarised approach to policing.

These changes finally struck home during the protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after a black man, Michael Brown, was killed by police. Dressed in military-style fatigues and body armour, and backed by armoured personnel carriers, local police looked more like they were entering a war zone than there to “serve and protect”.

Trained in Israel

It was then that human rights groups and others started to highlight the extent to which US police forces were being influenced by Israel’s methods of subjugating Palestinians. Many forces had been trained in Israel or involved in exchange programmes.

Israel’s notorious paramilitary Border Police, in particular, has become a model for other countries. It was the Border Police that shot dead Hallaq in Jerusalem shortly after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

The Border Police carry out the hybrid functions of a police force and an army, operating against Palestinians in the occupied territories and inside Israel, where a large Palestinian minority live with a very degraded citizenship.

The institutional premise of the Border Police is that all Palestinians, including those who are formally Israeli citizens, should be dealt with as an enemy. It is at the heart of a racist Israeli policing culture identified 17 years ago by the Or Report, the country’s only serious review of its police forces.

The Border Police increasingly look like the model US police forces are emulating in cities with large black populations.

Many dozens of Minneapolis police officers were trained by Israeli experts in “counter-terrorism” and “restraint” techniques at a conference in Chicago in 2012.

Derek Chauvin’s chokehold, using his knee to press down on Floyd’s neck, is an “immobilisation” procedure familiar to Palestinians. Troublingly, Chauvin was training two rookie officers at the time he killed Floyd, passing on the department’s institutional knowledge to the next generation of officers.

Monopoly of violence

These similarities should be expected. States inevitably borrow and learn from each other on matters most important to them, such as repressing internal dissent. The job of a state is to ensure it maintains a monopoly of violence inside its territory.

It is the reason why the Israeli scholar Jeff Halper warned several years ago in his book War Against the People that Israel had been pivotal in developing what he called a “global pacification” industry. The hard walls between the military and the police have crumbled, creating what he termed “warrior cops”.

The danger, according to Halper, is that in the long run, as the police become more militarised, we are all likely to find ourselves being treated like Palestinians. Which is why a further comparison between the US strategy towards the black community and Israel’s towards Palestinians needs highlighting.

The two countries are not just sharing tactics and policing methods against protests once they break out. They have also jointly developed longer-term strategies in the hope of dismantling the ability of the black and Palestinian communities they oppress to organise effectively and forge solidarity with other groups.

Loss of historic direction

If one lesson is clear, it is that oppression can best be challenged through organised resistance by a mass movement with clear demands and a coherent vision of a better future.

In the past that depended on charismatic leaders with a fully developed and well-articulated ideology capable of inspiring and mobilising followers. It also relied on networks of solidarity between oppressed groups around the world sharing their wisdom and experience.

The Palestinians were once led by figures who commanded national support and respect, from Yasser Arafat to George Habash and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The struggle they led was capable of galvanising supporters around the world.

These leaders were not necessarily united. There were debates over whether Israeli settler colonialism would best be undermined through secular struggle or religious fortitude, through finding allies among the oppressor nation or defeating it using its own violent methods.

These debates and disagreements educated the wider Palestinian public, clarified the stakes for them, and provided a sense of a historic direction and purpose. And these leaders became figureheads for international solidarity and revolutionary fervour.

That has all long since disappeared. Israel pursued a relentless policy of jailing and assassinating Palestinian leaders. In Arafat’s case, he was confined by Israeli tanks to a compound in Ramallah before he was poisoned to death in highly suspicious circumstances. Ever since, Palestinian society has found itself orphaned, adrift, divided and disorganised.

International solidarity has been largely sidelined too. The publics of Arab states, already preoccupied with their own struggles, appear increasingly tired of the divided and seemingly hopeless Palestinian cause. And in a sign of our times, western solidarity today is invested chiefly in a boycott movement, which has had to wage its fight on the enemy’s battlefield of consumption and finance.

From confrontation to solace

The black community in the US has undergone parallel processes, even if it is harder to indict quite so directly the US security services for the loss decades ago of a black national leadership. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Black Panther movement were hounded by the US security services. They were jailed or felled by assassins, despite their very different approaches to the civil rights struggle.

Today, none are around to make inspiring speeches and mobilise the wider public – either black or white Americans – to take action on the national stage.

Denied a vigorous national leadership, the organised black community at times appeared to have retreated into the safer but more confining space of the churches – at least until the latest protests. A politics of solace appeared to have replaced the politics of confrontation.

A focus on identity

These changes cannot be attributed solely to the loss of national leaders. In recent decades the global political context has been transformed too. After the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, the US not only became the world’s sole superpower but it crushed the physical and ideological space in which political opposition could flourish.

Class analysis and revolutionary ideologies – a politics of justice – were shunted off the streets and increasingly into the margins of academia.

Instead, western political activists were encouraged to dedicate their energies not to anti-imperialism and class struggle but to a much narrower identity politics. Political activism became a competition between social groups for attention and privilege.

As with Palestinian solidarity activism, identity politics in the US has waged its battles on the terrain of a consumption-obsessed society. Hashtags and virtue-signalling on social media have often appeared to serve as a stand-in for social protest and activism.

A moment of transition

The question posed by the current US protests is whether this timid, individualised, acquisitive kind of politics is starting to seem inadequate. The US protesters are still largely leaderless, their struggle in danger of being atomised, their demands implicit and largely shapeless – it is clearer what the protesters don’t want than what they do.

That reflects a current mood in which the challenges facing us all – from permanent economic crisis and the new threat of pandemics to impending climate catastrophe – appear too big, too momentous to make sense of. We are caught in a moment of transition, it seems, destined for a new era – good or bad – we cannot discern clearly yet.

In August, millions are expected to head to Washington in a march to echo the one led by Martin Luther King in 1963. The heavy burden of this historic moment is expected to be carried on the ageing shoulders of the Rev Al Sharpton.

That symbolism may be fitting. It is more than 50 years since western states were last gripped with revolutionary fervour. But the hunger for change that reached its climax in 1968 – for an end to imperialism, endless war and rampant inequality – was never sated.

Oppressed communities around the globe are still hungry for a fairer world. In Palestine and elsewhere, those who suffer brutality, misery, exploitation and indignity still need a champion. They look to Minneapolis and the struggle it launched for a seed of hope.

• First published in Middle East Eye

How is Washington “Liberating” Free Countries

There are obviously some serious linguistic issues and disagreements between the West and the rest of the world. Essential terms like “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberation”, even “terrorism”, are all mixed up and confused; they mean something absolutely different in New York, London, Berlin, and in the rest of the world.

Before we begin analyzing, let us recall that countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other Western nations, have been spreading colonialist terror to basically all corners of the world. And in the process, they developed effective terminology and propaganda which has been justifying, even glorifying, acts such as looting, torture, rape and genocides. Basically, first Europe, and later North America literally “got away with everything, including mass murder”. The native people of Americas, Africa and Asia have been massacred, their voices silenced. Slaves were imported from Africa. Great Asian nations, such as China, what is now “India” and Indonesia, got occupied, divided and thoroughly plundered.

And all was done in the name of spreading religion, “liberating” people from themselves, as well as “civilizing them”.

Nothing has really changed.

To date, people of great nations with thousands of years of culture, are treated like infants; humiliated, and as if they were still in kindergarten, told how to behave, and how to think.

Sometimes if they “misbehave”, they get slapped. Periodically they get slapped so hard, that it takes them decades, even centuries, to get back to their feet. It took China decades to recover from the period of “humiliation”. India and Indonesia are presently trying to recuperate from the colonial barbarity, and from, in the case of Indonesia, the 1965 U.S.-administered fascist coup.

But if you go back to the archives in London, Brussels or Berlin, all the monstrous acts of colonialism, are justified by lofty terms. Western powers are always “fighting for justice”; they are “enlightening” and “liberating”. No regrets, no shame and no second thoughts. They are always correct!

Like now — precisely as it is these days.

Presently, the West is trying to overthrow governments in several independent countries on different continents. From Bolivia (the country has been already destroyed) to Venezuela, from Iraq to Iran, to China and Russia. The more successful these countries get, the better they serve their people, the more vicious the attacks from abroad are, the tougher the embargos and sanctions imposed on them are. The happier the citizens are, the more grotesque the propaganda disseminated from the West gets.

*****

In Hong Kong, some young people, out of financial interest, or out of ignorance, keep shouting: “President Trump, Please Liberate Us!” Or similar, but equally treasonous slogans. They are waving U.S., U.K. and German flags. They beat up people who try to argue with them, including their own Police Force.

So, let us see, how the United States really “liberates” countries in various pockets of the world.

Let us visit Iran, a country which (you’d never guess it if consuming only Western mass media) is, despite the vicious embargos and sanctions, on the verge of the “highest human development index bracket” (UNDP). How is it possible? Simple. Because Iran is a socialist country (socialism with the Iranian characteristics). It is also an internationalist nation which is fighting against Western imperialism. It helps many occupied and attacked states on our planet, including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia (before), Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just a few.

So, what is the West doing? It is trying to ruin it, by all means; ruin all good will and progress. It is starving Iran through sanctions, it finances and encourages its “opposition”, as it does in China, Russia and Latin America. It is trying to destroy it.

Then, it just bombs their convoy in neighboring Iraq, killing its brave commander, General Soleimani. And, as if it was not horrid enough, it turns the tables around, and starts threatening Teheran with more sanctions, more attacks, and even with the destruction of its cultural sites.

Iran, under attack, confused, shot down, by mistake, a Ukrainian passenger jet. It immediately apologized, in horror, offering compensation. The U.S. straightway began digging into the wound. It started to provoke (like in Hong Kong) young people. The British ambassador, too, got involved!

As if Iran and the rest of the world should suddenly forget that during its attack on Iraq, more than 3 decades ago, Washington actually shot down an Iranian wide-body passenger plane (Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus-300), on a routine flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. In an “accident”, 290 people, among them 66 children, lost their lives. That was considered “war collateral”.

Iranian leaders then did not demand “regime change” in Washington. They were not paying for riots in New York or Chicago.

As China is not doing anything of that nature, now.

The “Liberation” of Iraq (in fact, brutal sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation) took more than a million Iraqi lives, most of them, those of women and children. Presently, Iraq has been plundered, broken into pieces, and on its knees.

Is this the kind of “liberation” that some of the Hong Kong youngsters really want?

No? But if not, is there any other performed by the West, in modern history?

*****

Washington is getting more and more aggressive in all parts of the world.

It also pays more and more for collaboration.

And it is not shy to inject terrorist tactics into allied troops, organizations and non-governmental organizations. Hong Kong is no exception.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, but also many other countries, should be carefully watching and analyzing each and every move made by the United States. The West is perfecting tactics on how to liquidate all opposition to its dictates.

It is not called a “war”, yet. But it is. People are dying. The lives of millions are being ruined.

• First published by China Daily – Hong Kong

Anatomy of a Washington Post Editorial

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has morphed into an annual reminder of the truth in Vladimir Lenin’s observation that great revolutionaries, while alive, are hounded by the powerful, and later, after they’ve been terminated, are lauded by their oppressors and transformed into harmless icons to placate the masses. Among the MLK-related articles to appear recently is a reposting of Edward Curtin’s 2017 review of Willam Pepper’s book The Plot to Kill King. Pepper, King’s friend and attorney for the King Family, spent 40 years researching the assassination, and Curtin’s review is a superb encapsulation of that history. King was murdered by elements of the U.S. government, a fact unsurprising for people who read history, because political assassinations have been stock power plays since antiquity. From the point of view of the psychosis that drives empires, King had to go.

There are certain facts governments and their journalistic mercenaries go to any length to suppress, because to reveal them necessarily leads to related facts that expose governmental crime. A key fact can be like a keystone species in a biological ecosystem: snuff it, and things begin to unravel. For example, that World Trade Center Building 7 was most certainly professionally prepared for demolition well before 9/11 cannot be allowed to be publicly discussed. Open acceptance of that would, as if a spring loaded canister had been opened, force the litany of related lies into the light. King’s murder is like that. Accept U.S. government-as-assassin as the truth, and one is forced to deal with associated issues: American soldiers posted to kill King if the first shooter fails; the probability that trusted colleagues were involved; Government hand-in-hand with organized crime.

The 1999 Trial in Memphis, The King Family vs Loyd Jowers et al.  was arguably the most important trial of the 20th Century, involving as it did the foremost civil rights figure of that century and the U.S. government. But “The Media” were nowhere to be seen there. For the American journalistic world it was a nonevent, and although the jury was unanimous in finding that King had been murdered by way of governmental conspiracy, the media, to this day, reinforce the fiction of a lone gunman. Many taped interviews of Pepper after the release of his most recent book have disappeared, but this one, still available on BitChute, is an hour well spent. It is shocking in details. A transcript of the trial is available at the King Center’s Website.

But there was sufficient awareness of the trial that an official comment had to come from a reliable source, such as a “newspaper of record”, and nothing fills that bill more dependably than the Washington Post, what some (e.g., me) consider to be an official mouthpiece for the CIA, such that much of it seems as if written at headquarters in Langley, VA. Following the trial, the Washington Post published an editorial on Sunday, December 12, 1999, “The King Verdict,” that could serve as a classic study of techniques of persuasion for a class on rhetoric. I can no longer find the editorial online, but the paper itself still exists, of course, and one can always get the public library to send for a xerox copy. Here, the full 418-word text of the editorial:

THE KING VERDICT

Normally, a jury verdict — even one that seems uncomfortably at variance with the public record — is due a considerable amount of deference. The decision last week by a jury in Memphis, however, that the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the result of a vast governmental conspiracy should alter no one’s view of the assassination. It’s not that the jury misbehaved; based on the evidence presented in court, it was an open-and-shut case. Rather, the problem is that nothing approximating the real history of the assassination was ever presented to the jury.

The King family, having publicly embraced the claim of innocence of the real killer, the late James Earl Ray, was represented in the litigation by Mr. Ray’s lawyer, a conspiracy theorist named William Pepper. The supposed defendant, Loyd Jowers, was the peddler of a long since discredited tale about being a part of a conspiracy to kill Dr. King. His defense was not based on historical truth — that there was no government conspiracy — merely that his own involvement in this alleged conspiracy was limited.

In other words, the King family sued for $ 100 in damages a man who did not even contest their false thesis. The litigation in Memphis, therefore, involved no party that would go to bat for history. Meanwhile, the judge admitted a pile of hearsay evidence, even some “testimony” that had been given in a mock trial staged a few years back by HBO. Both judge and jury are reported to have nodded off during the proceedings. The inevitable result of such a sham trial is a jury verdict that — to those who have not studied the peculiar circumstances that gave rise to it — may give to a wild conspiracy theory the imprimatur of a legal finding. It should not be allowed to do so.

The deceit of history, whether it occurs in the context of Holocaust denial or in an effort to rewrite the story of Dr. King’s death, is a dangerous impulse for which those committed to reasoned debate and truth cannot sit still. That it has, in this case, been perpetrated by Dr. King’s nearest family in a court of law makes it, in addition, a mystifying act of self-deception and an abuse of the legal system. That the King family has a movie deal with filmmaker Oliver Stone gives the whole affair, to add insult to injury, a commercial feel. The case, in short, had nothing to do with law, and it had nothing to do with truth. The more quickly and completely this jury’s discredited verdict is forgotten, the better.

Even a quick scan of the editorial reveals liberal use of what communications experts call ‘loaded language’ (i.e., words or phrases employed to invoke a desired assumption or emotional reaction), as with “supposed defendant,” “the peddler of,”  “a pile of heresay,” “a sham trial,” “wild conspiracy theory,” “dangerous impulse,” “abuse of the legal system.” They appeal to emotion rather than to the intellect, always a danger sign for the critical thinker. In addition, the use of quotation marks on an otherwise neutral word, as with “testimony” in the editorial, is a common technique for mocking or trivializing or casting doubt on reliability.

The reader is set up in the first sentence to understand that the subject of the editorial is “uncomfortably at variance with the public record,” which advises the reader that acceptance of the verdict would be to counter the prevailing opinion of society. That the King Family’s attorney, William Pepper, is described as a “conspiracy theorist” reveals much about the editors, as that epithet was a creation of the CIA in the years following the Kennedy assassination as an attempt to delegitimize the groundswell of doubt surrounding the official governmental account of that killing. As was the intent, “conspiracy theorist” soon became — and has remained —  a form of insult and a means of shutting down discourse regarding many controversial issues, particularly those concerning governmental narratives.

The first sentence of the third paragraph begins with “In other words …”, indicating a summation of information from the previous paragraph. But the sentence, although presented forcefully, does not follow logically from preceding material. What the editors claim the King Family’s “thesis” to be (that James Earl Ray was innocent) is not “even” contested by Jowers, for the reason that Jowers knows that Ray is indeed innocent. The odd sentence, which a careful reader could interpret as undermining the larger editorial position, is indicative of writers struggling to make a spurious case knowing they have precious little to work with and depending on assertive style to carry them through.

The linking of the trial to an event as emotive as the Holocaust is in itself surprising, but the linking, expressed in the form of denial of the Holocaust, becomes an attempt to establish a false correspondence in the mind of the reader, as much as to say that “… the denial of the Holocaust is a deceit of history, hence any departure from the official description of King’s death is likewise a deceit of history.” It is ironic that the authors, within the same sentence, claim to associate themselves with “… those committed to reasoned debate” because elements of reason are altogether lacking in the editorial. Indeed, the use of “should,” as in “should alter no one’s view” and “should not be allowed,” rather than employment of reason is simply appeal to the editorial authority of an influential newspaper.

The 3-hour long, 1993 televised mock trial so disparagingly cited by the editors (a copy still available here) was organized for the sole reason that, due to media blackout, it finally became the only way that censored information supporting Ray’s innocence could reach the public. The editors had to have known this. Their claim that Jower’s account was “a long since discredited tale” is absolutely vacuous. Since Jowers made his first claim on an ABC news program (not to be shown again) and repeated it in the 1999 trial, at no time was it ever discredited. The editors apparently relied solely on the reputation of the Washington Post (at that time) for acceptance by readers of their claim. Had the editors been forced to provide solid, defensible evidence countering Jowers, they would have come up empty.

But they never sink lower in the editorial than when they suggest that the King family was motivated not by a search for truth but by the money to be made from a movie deal. By any decent standard, that was offensive and uncalled for. Few families have had to suffer their level of tragedy in full view of the public, and for history. They have always presented themselves as models of decorum in the most difficult of circumstances.

The editors fret that, “to those who have not studied the peculiar circumstances that gave rise to it”, the verdict of the trial may be justifiable. They are claiming that they have studied those circumstances in sufficient detail. They most assuredly have not, while William Pepper obviously has. In fact, the editors are functioning exactly as expected by protecting criminal elements of government through their attempts to cast doubt on the verdict in a civil trial that exposed those criminal elements. That they end their editorial with a terse declaration that the unanimous verdict of an American jury simply be forgotten says more about the Washington Post than many within its ranks would want to admit.

It’s difficult to overlook the facts that the CIA has long involved itself in political assassinations and, at the same time, that the newspaper so strongly linked to the CIA quickly (two days following the trial) attempted to forestall embarrassing questions about the trial with so shameful (shameless?) an editorial. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from it all.

Pompeo’s Gulf Of Tonkin Incident

Like the crucial steps toward public acceptance preceding the U.S. invasions of Vietnam and Iraq, the assassination of Qassem Soleimani was aimed at building popular support for war on Iran. Not only the justification, but the assassination itself were part of a broader strategy to grease the skids into war.

The Soleimani ploy has apparently failed, however, thanks to the carefully prepared Iranian response, which did not provoke Donald Trump to raise the stakes further. At least not yet.

The fingerprints of Pompeo are all over this provocation to war. In a striking parallel to the deception that accompanied the Gulf of Tonkin crisis in 1964—in which the American public was told about an attack on a U.S. ship that never happened, precipitating the Vietnam War—Pompeo and his allies carried out a complex deception in regard to the Soleimani hit. They claimed they had to kill the second most popular leader of Iran with no advance notice to Congress because the Iranian general was planning a massive attack that put the country in “imminent” danger. Trump officials have so far not provided any evidence publicly to back up this version of events. In fact, when briefed by DoD officials Wednesday, Democrats complained about the lack of hard evidence presented, leaving them unconvinced there was an imminent threat. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY., said the briefing was “less than satisfying.”

The deception accompanying Soleimani’s killing was just the latest in a much longer string of efforts by Pompeo that began in September  2018.  That’s when Pompeo and then-National Security Advisor John Bolton established the basic propaganda line that was used to sell the Soleimani assassination. They claimed that a few mortar rounds in the vicinity of the U.S. embassy and a consulate in Basra were evidence of an effort by Tehran to kill or injure U.S. diplomats. Bolton then demanded the Pentagon come up with retaliatory options if any Americans were harmed by any action of an Iranian “proxy,” Pompeo issued a public threat to attack Iran over the incidents.

But in fact those rockets landed a kilometer away from the U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone where all foreign embassies are located, and that the one that fell near the Basra airport’s outer perimeter was nowhere near the U.S. consulate. And they were fired the same night that anti-Iran rioters were setting fire to the Iranian consulate in Basra and shutting down the country’s only seaport, and at the same time Sadrist protesters were rallying against the Iraqi government at the entrance to the Green Zone in sympathy with the anti-Iran protests.

In May 2019, Bolton claimed new “escalatory indications and warnings” of a threat to U.S. personnel in the Middle East and vowed, “[A]ny attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”  He and Pompeo leaked to major news outlets that there was intelligence about Iran ordering militia allies in the region to “target” Americans. But other officials who had seen the intelligence told the Wall Street Journal that Tehran sent its allies a directive telling them to prepare for possible attack by the United States.

The Bolton-Pompeo effort to lure Trump into a war with Iran faltered when the president twice refused their advice to retaliate militarily over the shoot-down of a U.S. drone and the drone attack on a key Saudi oil facility.  Bolton got fired in September, but Pompeo continued what they had begun. On December 13, he condemned two attacks on a Iraqi military base located near the Baghdad Airport on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9, in which two Iraqi anti-terrorist troops were injured, and then added, “We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

But the circumstances surrounding those rocket attacks made it unclear who might have fired the two to four mortars or rockets at the Iraqi Security Forces headquarters near Baghdad Airport, wounding two Iraqi counter-terrorism personnel. Opponents of the government had just launched new protests against repression of demonstrations by lethal forces by Iraqi security forces, including anti-riot police, and Moqtada al Sadr, who had been supporting the Iraqi government, but had just started to support the demonstrators. It is entirely possible that Sadrist militiamen or other opponents of the government had fired the rockets at the base in protest.

Two weeks later, on December 27, a rocket attack on the K1 Iraqi base near Kirkuk killed an American contractor, as “Operation Inherent Resolve” command confirmed.  The Trump administration immediately went into crisis mode, discussing both killing Soleimani and retaliatory strikes against Kataib Hezbollah. But the provenance of the event that triggered the fateful decisions that followed is shrouded in ambiguity. As The New York Times reported on Dec. 27, “It wasn’t clear who was responsible for the attack,” adding that the base had been threatened previously by both Iranian-backed militias and Islamic State forces.

The IS forces in the area of Kirkuk where the K1 base was located had become increasingly active in 2018 and 2019, with a rapidly growing pace of attacks, operating freely out of the rugged mountainous north and south of the city. In fact there had been more attacks by IS on government targets in Kirkuk in 2018 than anywhere else in Iraq, and it had the highest rate of growth as well.

To confirm the origins of the rockets might have taken some time, but Pompeo wasn’t interested in waiting. Instead of taking on the responsibility of investigating the incident thoroughly, the Pentagon and the command of Operation Inherent Resolve turned that responsibility over to the Iraqi Security Forces. If there was indeed an investigation that turned up information indicating that Kataib Hezbollah was responsible, it would certainly have been released publicly, but no further information on the incident has been forthcoming from either Iraqi or U.S. commands. The only specific information available has been a Reuters report from “security sources that Iraqi security forces had found a ‘launchpad’ for Katyusha rockets in ‘an abandoned vehicle near the base,’” which further deepened the mystery.

But it can be argued that Pompeo was eager for the United States to provoke a military confrontation with Iran, just as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was eager to begin airstrikes against North Vietnamese targets in August 1964. Even though he knew there were serious doubts on the part of the U.S. commander in the Gulf of Tonkin that an American ship had been attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats on Aug. 4, McNamara did not inform President Lyndon Johnson, and went ahead with the order for retaliatory strikes that night, as I have documented in detail. Similarly, Pompeo apparently led Trump to believe that there was no doubt that pro-Iranian militia forces had killed an American in Kirkuk, despite the genuine uncertainty about the provenance of the attack.

In the initial meeting with Trump to discuss retaliation for the Dec. 27 attack, Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley presented the option of assassinating Gen. Soleimani along with strikes against Kataib Hezbollah, which they were blaming for the attack. According to The New York Times, the principals suggested the “improbable” assassination option only to make the retaliatory airstrikes more palatable. But considering Pompeo’s record of pushing for a military confrontation with Iran, and everything he has said publicly since, “taking Soleimani out” was probably Pompeo’s ultimate objective.

The U.S. retaliatory strikes against the militia’s weapons storage sites and other targets on Dec. 29 were nowhere near Kirkuk. One of the strikes was against al Qaim on the Syrian border 400 kilometers away from Kirkuk and two others were in Syria. It was obvious those retaliatory strikes would provoke a response by pro-Iranian militias in Baghdad that could be used to justify the assassination of Soleimani. And the response was not long in coming: thousands of angry pro-Iranian Shiite militants, many in militia uniforms, broke into the Embassy compound and set fire to three trailers near the outer wall a reception area before being ordered by militia leaders to disperse, because they had delivered the desired “message.”

That was enough to persuade Trump to support the Soleimani assassination option. Pompeo had achieved his objective of U.S. military aggression, while publicly making the obviously specious argument that it was aimed at “deterring” Iran from further military actions. No one in the national security elite, which was universally convinced that Iran would have to retaliate against the assassination, took Pompeo’s argument seriously.

Iran is too clever, however, to allow Pompeo to so easily maneuver it into a confrontation that would serve the interests of American hawks and Israel. Iran has its own much more complex political-military strategy for managing the problem of the Trump administration’s policy of economic and military warfare. It now appears from the results of Iran’s military retaliation Tuesday night that it has foregone any mass casualty strike in revenge for the U.S. assassination of its second most prominent official. And Trump, as yet, will not retaliate in response. Now Pompeo will have to come up with a new deception to try to provoke U.S.-Iran war.

  • First published the American Conservative.
  • What Passes for Reality Is Not Worth Respecting

    In October of last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its flagship World Economic Outlook. In that report, the IMF said that the global growth rate would stumble at 3% in 2019. A month ago, the IMF’s main economists returned to this theme; ‘Global growth’, they wrote, ‘recorded its weakest pace since the global financial crisis a decade ago’. The analysis of why there was such a low growth rate rested on the trade war between the United States and China and on ‘associated weaknesses’. (The IMF promises a fuller discussion about the crisis in its World Economic Outlook Update, which it will release on 20 January).

    Strikingly, the IMF economists note that as a result of global turbulence, ‘firms turned cautious on long-range spending and global purchases of machinery and equipment declined’. What this means is that firms are not investing in their expansion or in new technologies. Instead, firms are beginning to rely more and more on outsourced production, precarious employment, and a permanent regime of low-wage work. In other words, firms are cannibalising society – putting immense pressure on fragile networks of family and community, deepening the conservative impulses in society, and decreasing society’s health and well-being.

    Denis Mubiru, Tukoola Bagaya?! (My Work Goes Unnoticed), 2015.

    To prevent a major collapse, central banks around the world have lowered interest rates permanently and have provided cheap money to the business world. These firms – which have not invested in the productive sector – are borrowing trillions of dollars which they then put into the world of what Karl Marx called ‘fictitious capital’. The value of global stock markets is now nearly $90 trillion (according to Deutsche Bank), putting it ahead of global GDP (if you add in the total value of global financial stock – including bank deposits, government and private debt securities, and equities – the figure in 2004 was $118 trillion; it was over $200 trillion in 2010 – over 200% of global GDP). This expansion of fictitious capital has come more and more within borders, and not through global cross-border capital flows. These flows – which include foreign direct investment – has shrunk by 65% since 2007, from $12.4 trillion to $4.3 trillion.

    For almost five decades, these two processes have confronted human society: a slowdown in productive investment from capitalist firms and an increase in the volume and importance of financial capital. Profit rates have declined overall, and debt rates have increased. No real attempt has been made to solve this problem, largely because there is no easy solution from within the confines of the capitalist system. Three main avenues opened up to lessen the severity of the crisis on the capitalist system, but not to solve the cascading crisis:

    1) The policy slate of neoliberalism not only freed the capitalist class from the chains of taxation; it also deregulated finance and foreign direct investment, privatised state services, and commodified social wealth. The entire drive of neoliberalism weakened the capacity of States to formulate national economic policies; since formulating economy policy did not strengthen a democratic order, States delivered the advantage to multinational firms (including international banks).

    2) The collapse of the Third World Project and the weakening of the socialist bloc delivered hundreds of millions of workers into the global working class and thereby allowed firms to bid down wages through subcontracting at the same time as State regulations collapsed through ‘labour market reforms’ pushed by the IMF.

    3) A massive expansion of debt through lowered interest rates and easy access to credit. The Institute of International Finance shows that global debt is now at $250 trillion and counting; it is now 230% of the global GDP. Government debt accounts for nearly $70 trillion; half of the global debt is in the hands of the non-financial private sector. A new report from the World Bank called Global Waves of Debt shows that debt in emerging and developing countries alone continues to break its own records, rising to over $55 trillion in 2018, ‘marking an eight-year surge that has been the largest, fastest, and most broad-based in nearly five decades’. This debt in the emerging and developing countries is now 170% of the global GDP. But it is this debt that has fuelled what growth can be measured, and it is this mountain of debt that perches perilously over the fate of the world.

    We, at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, have been closely following these developments and offering our analysis of what appears to be a long-term structural crisis for capitalism. In our dossier no. 24 (January 2020), we offer a thumbnail assessment of this long-term crisis and of the continued policy of austerity, then we pivot to an analysis of the emergence of the rivalry between the United States and China. We are of the view that the ‘trade war’ between the United States and China is not an irrational phenomenon, but that it is precisely the outgrowth of both the long-term economic crisis and of the policies of austerity. This assessment allows us to provide a brief analysis of the approach towards these matters that is being developed by the Institute for International Relations at Tsinghua University (Beijing).

    The key finding of the Tsinghua approach is that we are entering a ‘bipolar world order’ in which there will – eventually – be two major powers in the world, the United States and China. Either these two powers will come to some understanding over the international organisations – such as the IMF and the World Bank – or more regional organisations will appear with different standards and a more heterogenous understanding of trade and development. Whether these fissiparous tendencies will make an impact on the world financial system is not part of any of these discussions, which seems to indicate that it will remain intact. For countries in the Global South, the implication of continuities of financial power means that no major change at a global level will be possible in this bipolar dispensation. What alternatives there will be for austerity regimes are unclear.

    The slow attrition of US power and the emergence of the bipolar order can be glimpsed in the ongoing crises in West Asia. The US assassination of an Iranian general – who was carrying a diplomatic passport and was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq – and the widening of the gates of hell as missiles fly across the Iran and Iraq border; growing pressure from China and Russia with regard to this crucial part of Eurasia and the attempt by the US to encircle Eurasia – all of this suggest just these shifts. Anti-austerity protests intersect with protests against social toxicity. A general strike in India on 8 January combined the demands of the working class and the peasantry with a social compact that does not disadvantage minorities. Much the same kind of dynamic is visible in Latin America, where popular fronts have emerged against regimes of authoritarian austerity. Beneath the storm and stress of the shifts in the balance of power lie myriad struggles; this is why our dossier is called The World Oscillates Between Crises and Protests.

    The general attitude in these protests is that what passes for reality is not worth respecting; the establishment leaders and their callousness is to be disregarded. US President Donald Trump threatens to destroy Iran’s cultural sites, a threat that is in the nature of a war crime; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison watches his country burn and reacts with muffled unscientific and crude noises; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says nothing when the police and hooligans of his political orientation enter its universities and beat and arrest students. Social media explodes with anger against these men and their inhumanity. Young faces have their chins up, their fists in the air; they are not afraid.

    It is true that these are protests of the youth, but it would be inaccurate to believe that youth can be reduced to age. There are many young people who have surrendered to reality, who cannot see beyond the horizon of the present; there are many older people who are youthful in their desire for full-scale transformation. The point is not age but attitude, the sensibility that the world we have need not be the world for eternity. ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive’, Wordsworth wrote of the time of the French Revolution. ‘But to be young was very heaven’. To be young means to imagine ‘heaven’, another dispensation – the place, Wordsworth sang, ‘where in the end we find happiness, or not at all!’.

    It is with great pleasure that we – at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research – welcome Professor Aijaz Ahmad to our team as a Senior Fellow. Professor Ahmad, a leading Marxist philosopher and cultural theorist, is the author of the classic book In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literature (1992) and of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Imperialism of Our Time (2004).

    10 Ways Trump’s Actions Against Iran Hurt Americans, the Region, and the World

    The U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani has not yet plunged us into a full-scale war with Iran thanks to the Iranian government’s measured response, which demonstrated its capabilities without actually harming U.S. troops or escalating the conflict. But the danger of a full-blown war still exists, and Donald Trump’s actions are already wreaking havoc.

    The tragic crash of the Ukrainian passenger jet that left 176 dead may well be the first example of this, if indeed it was shot down by a jittery Iranian anti-aircraft crew who mistook the airliner for a U.S. warplane.

    Trump’s actions make the region, and the American people, less safe in at least ten important ways.

    1. The first result of Trump’s blunders may be an increase in U.S. war deaths across the greater Middle East. While this was avoided in Iran’s initial retaliation, Iraqi militias and Hezbollah in Lebanon have already vowed to seek revenge for the deaths of Soleimani and the Iraqi militia. US military bases, warships and nearly 80,000 U.S. troops in the region are sitting ducks for retaliation by Iran, its allies and any other group that is angered by U.S. actions or simply decides to exploit this U.S.-manufactured crisis.

    The first U.S. war deaths after the U.S. airstrikes and assassinations in Iraq were three Americans killedin by Al-Shabab in Kenya on January 5th. Further escalation by the U.S. in response to Iranian and other attacks on Americans will only exacerbate this cycle of violence.

    2. U.S. acts of war in Iraq have injected even more volatility and instability into an already war-torn and explosive region. The U.S. close ally, Saudi Arabia, is seeing its efforts to solve its conflicts with Qatar and Kuwait thrown into jeopardy, and it will now be harder to find a diplomatic solution to the catastrophic war in Yemen–where the Saudis and Iranians are on different sides of the conflict.

    Soleimani’s murder is also likely to sabotage the peace process with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Shiite Iran has historically opposed the Sunni Taliban, and Soleimani even worked with the United States in the aftermath of the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Now the terrain has shifted. Just as the United States has been engaging in peace talks with the Taliban, so has Iran. The Iranians are now more apt to ally with the Taliban against the United States. The complicated situation in Afghanistan is likely to draw in Pakistan, another important player in the region with a large Shiite population. Both the Afghan and Pakistani governments have already expressed their fears that the US-Iran conflict could unleash uncontrollable violence on their soil.

    Like other short-sighted and destructive U.S. interventions in the Middle East, Trump’s blunders may have explosive unintended consequences in places most Americans have not yet even heard of, spawning a new string of U.S. foreign policy crises.

    3. Trump’s attacks on Iran may actually embolden a common enemy, the Islamic State, which can take advantage of the chaos created in Iraq. Thanks to the leadership of Iran’s General Soleimani, Iran played a significant role in the fight against ISIS, which was almost entirely crushed in 2018 after a four-year war.

    Soleimani’s murder may be a boon to the ISIS remnants by stoking anger among Iraqis against the group’s nemesis, the Americans, and creating new divisions among the forces–including Iran and the United States–that have been fighting ISIS. In addition, the U.S.-led coalition that has been pursuing ISIS has “paused” its campaign against the Islamic State in order to get prepared for potential Iranian attacks on the Iraqi bases that host coalition troops, giving another strategic opening to the Islamic State.

    4. Iran has announced it is withdrawing from all the restrictions on enriching uranium that were part of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement. Iran has not formally withdrawn from the JCPOA, nor rejected international supervision of its nuclear program, but this is one more step in the unraveling of the nuclear agreement that the world community supported. Trump was determined to undermine the JCPOA by pulling the U.S. out in 2018, and each U.S. escalation of sanctions, threats and uses of force against Iran further weakens the JCPOA and makes its complete collapse more likely.

    5. Trump’s blunders have destroyed what little influence the U.S. had with the Iraqi government. This is clear from the recent Parliamentary vote to expel the U.S. military. While the U.S. military is unlikely to leave without long, drawn-out negotiations, the 170-0 votes (the Sunnis and Kurds didn’t show up), along with the huge crowds that came out for Soleimani’s funeral procession, show how the general’s assassination has rekindled enormous anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

    The assassination has also eclipsed Iraq’s burgeoning democracy movement. Despite savage repression that killed more than 400 protesters, young Iraqis mobilized in 2019 to demand a new government free of corruption and of manipulation by foreign powers. They succeeded in forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, but they want to fully reclaim Iraqi sovereignty from the corrupt U.S. and Iranian puppets who have ruled Iraq since 2003. Now their task is complicated by U.S. actions that have only strengthened pro-Iranian politicians and parties.

    6. Another inevitable consequence of Trump’s failed Iran policy is that it strengthens conservative, hard-line factions in Iran. Like the U.S. and other countries, Iran has its own internal politics, with distinct points of view. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, who negotiated the JCPOA, are from the reform wing of Iranian politics that believes Iran can and should reach out diplomatically to the rest of the world and try to resolve its long-standing differences with the U.S. But there is also a powerful conservative wing that believes the U.S. is committed to destroying Iran and will therefore never fulfill any commitments it makes. Guess which side Trump is validating and strengthening by his brutal policy of assassinations, sanctions and threats?

    Even if the next U.S. president is genuinely committed to peace with Iran, he or she may end up sitting across the table from conservative Iranian leaders who, with good reason, will not trust anything U.S. leaders commit to.

    The killing of Soleimani has also stopped the popular mass demonstrations against the Iranian government that began in November 2019 and were brutally repressed. Instead, people now express their opposition toward the U.S.

    7. Trump’s blunders may be the last straw for U.S. friends and allies who have stuck with the U.S. through 20 years of inflammatory and destructive U.S. foreign policy. European allies have disagreed with Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and have tried, albeit weakly, to save it. When Trump tried to assemble an international naval task force to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz in 2019, only the U.K., Australia and some Persian Gulf states wanted any part of it, and now 10 European and other countries are joining an alternative operation led by France.

    At a January 8 press conference, Trump called on NATO to play a greater role in the Middle East, but Trump has been blowing hot and cold on NATO–at times calling it obsolete and threatening to withdraw. After Trump’s assassination of Iran’s top general, NATO allies began withdrawing forces from Iraq, signaling that they do not want to be caught in the crossfire of Trump’s war on Iran.

    With the economic rise of China, and Russia’s renewed international diplomacy, the tides of history are shifting and a multipolar world is emerging. More and more of the world, especially in the global south, sees U.S. militarism as the gambit of a fading great power to try to preserve its dominant position in the world. How many chances does the U.S. have to finally get this right and find a legitimate place for itself in a new world that it has tried and failed to smother at birth?

    8. U.S. actions in Iraq violate international, domestic and Iraqi law, setting the stage for a world of ever greater lawlessness. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) has drafted a statement explaining why the U.S. attacks and assassinations in Iraq do not qualify as acts of self-defense and are in fact crimes of aggression that violate the UN Charter. Trump also tweeted that the U.S. was ready to hit 52 sites in Iran, including cultural targets, which would also violate international law.

    Members of Congress are incensed that Trump’s military attacks violated the U.S. Constitution, since Article I requires congressional approval for such military actions. Congressional leaders were not even made aware of the strike on Soleimani before it occurred, let alone asked to authorize it. Members of Congress are now trying to restrain Trump from going to war with Iran.

    Trump’s actions in Iraq also violated the Iraqi constitution, which the U.S. helped to write and which forbids using the country’s territory to harm its neighbors.

    9. Trump’s aggressive moves strengthen the weapons makers. One U.S. interest group has a bipartisan blank check to raid the U.S. Treasury at will and profits from every U.S. war and military expansion: the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned Americans against in 1960. Far from heeding his warning, we have allowed this behemoth to steadily increase its power and control over U.S. policy.

    The stock prices of U.S. weapons companies have already risen since the U.S. assassinations and airstrikes in Iraq and the CEOs of the weapons companies have already become significantly richer. U.S. corporate media have been trotting out the usual line-up of weapons company lobbyists and board members to beat the war drums and praise Trump’s warmongering – while keeping quiet about how they are personally profiting from it.

    If we let the military-industrial complex get its war on Iran, it will drain billions, maybe trillions, more from the resources we so desperately need for healthcare, education and public services, and only to make the world an even more dangerous place.

    10. Any further escalation between the U.S. and Iran could be catastrophic for the world economy, which is already riding a roller-coaster due to Trump’s trade wars. Asia is especially vulnerable to any disruption in Iraqi oil exports, which it has come to depend on as Iraq’s production has risen. The larger Persian Gulf region is home to the greatest concentration of oil and gas wells, refineries and tankers in the world. One attack already shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production in September, and that was only a small taste of what we should expect if the U.S. keeps escalating its war on Iran.

    Conclusion

    Trump’s blunders have placed us back on the path to a truly catastrophic war, with barricades of lies blocking every off-ramp. The Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost millions of lives, left the U.S.’s international moral authority in the gutter and exposed it as a warlike and dangerous imperial power in the eyes of much of the world. If we fail to haul our deluded leaders back from the brink, an American war on Iran may mark the ignominious end of our country’s imperial moment and seal our country’s place among the ranks of failed aggressors whom the world remembers primarily as the villains of human history.

    Alternatively, we, the American people, can rise up to overcome the power of the military-industrial complex and take charge of our country’s destiny. The anti-war demonstrations that are taking place around the country are a positive manifestation of public sentiment. This is a critical moment for the people of this nation to rise up in a very visible, bold and determined groundswell to stop the madman in the White House and demand, in one loud voice: NO. MORE. WAR.

    Iran’s Hero has Fallen and Now the World is an Even More Dangerous Place

    They say he came from a humble background, and worked himself up the ranks, becoming, as many believe, the second most powerful man in Iran. They say he had the chance to become the next Supreme Leader of the country.

    Whenever I visit Iran, I am told how much he is loved by his people. He became the symbol of resistance against the West; the symbol of the strength and dignity of the nation which was attacked, colonized and starved by several Western capitals.

    And now, Iran’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani is no more. And the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, is proudly claiming responsibility for his demise.

    The statement from the Pentagon came promptly, and it was clear:

    At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani… This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and interests wherever they are around the world.

    Defensive action…

    Almost immediately, RT and others asked me to analyze.

    I could not help but to define what was done at the airport outside Baghdad, Iraq, as a vulgar and brutal extra-judicial killing.

    *****

    For the last two months, I have been flying all over the world, writing about (and filming) all those horrors that the Empire unleashed against the people with different cultures, living in various parts of the world.

    The Middle East, China, Latin America.

    It appears that all boundaries have been crossed. Washington and its NATO allies have lost all restraint, shame and decency. They actually never had much of those, but now they have almost none.

    Everything appears to be primitive, as in a badly directed mafia film. If the rulers of the West do not like some country? In that case they simply attack it, starve and destroy it. As brutal as that. No U.N. Security Council mediations, no arguments, and no pretending that there should be some legal process.

    It has been happening to Hong Kong, to Bolivia, Venezuela and West Papua. It has also been happening to Iran, as well as China and Russia, although those countries have proven to be much tougher to eliminate than Washington’s planners originally thought.

    The same applies to individuals: people get murdered without second thought, some quickly, some very slowly and painfully. Julian Assange is one of them, being slowly tortured to death in front of the entire world, despite legal and medical experts protesting and demanding his release.

    The killing of Qasem Soleimani and others in Baghdad was quick and totally unexpected.

    The facial expressions of U.S. officials were absolutely shocking: as if mafia bosses were caught in a corner of some filthy den by a bunch of amateur journalists. Unapologetically, they grinned at the lenses, suggesting: “So what? What are you going to do now? Challenge us? Us? We’ll break your legs, or something…”

    And nobody, absolutely nobody, really dares to challenge them! Not yet. Not at this moment.

    It is one tested, bulletproof game. You destroy an entire country, or you kill a person, and then you show your piece; your well-maintained revolver, or two. You expose your guns and ugly row of teeth. You say, or you suggest without pronouncing it: “You have a wife, and two daughters back home, don’t you? You don’t want anything to happen to them, right?”

    It is on that level now. It is not any better than that, don’t you see?

    If you defend yourself – you die; your family dies. Or your family members get violated. Or both.

    You like it? You don’t like it? You absolutely detested it? Who cares! The Empire has guns. It is all it has. The ability to kill and to rape. It has become dumb, degenerate. It produces hardly anything of value. But it has millions of weapons, as well as a monstrous propaganda machine.

    *****

    Now, seriously: what can Iran do? What can a nation with thousands of years of culture do?

    Can it defend itself? Honestly, if you think it can, then say it: how?

    If it retaliates, it could be erased from the face of the earth. If it doesn’t do anything, it will lose face, self-respect, as well as the purpose to continue with its struggle for true independence and its unique form of socialism.

    For years and decades, Iran has been a thorn in the eye of the West. Its allies have fought against Western-injected terrorism in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iranian ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has been defending the country against Israeli invasions, while providing social support to poor and needy citizens. Iran has been giving jobs and temporary shelter to many Afghan citizens, particularly those from Herat, people who have absolutely nothing left after the horrendous U.S./NATO occupation of the country. I worked in Afghanistan, and I saw tremendous lines in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat. Iran has even been deeply involved in Latin America, helping, building social housing in Venezuela, Evo’s Bolivia, and elsewhere.

    And now, recently, it began moving closer and closer to two of Washington’s arch enemies: China and Russia.

    Therefore, it has been decided in the annals of Washington and the Pentagon: Iran has to be stopped; destroyed. At any price. Meaning, any price which would have to be paid by the Iranian citizens.

    *****

    I am convinced that this madness has to be stopped.

    For Iran’s sake.

    But also, because, if Iran is ruined, destroyed like Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, someone will be next. First, most likely, Venezuela, and then Cuba. But then, perhaps, most likely, Russia or China, or both.

    The Empire will not stop by itself.

    If not opposed, it will get more and more emboldened.

    It is a tremendous mistake to let it literally ‘get away with a murder’.

    Today, a brave Iranian General has been murdered. Washington is smiling provocatively, cynically.

    It is sending vibes to all corners of the world: “Stay on your couches in front of television sets. Be petrified. Do nothing. Or else!”

    Yes, the world is scared. There are reasons to be scared. But the world simply has to act. These brutal, cowardly acts of degeneracy and fundamentalism/fanaticism committed by the Empire have to be stopped, sooner or later, in the name of our human race. Otherwise, soon, there will be no humanity left!

    First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, under the same title

    Sheep-dogging on Steroids: The New Democratic Party Anti-War Activists

    In the cynical spectacle that is called politics in the United States, the latest insult to the intelligence of the people is the Democrats who are posturing as Anti-war champions in reaction to the Trump Administration’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani and the possibility of further attacks on Iran.

    We are supposed to buy that the Democrats are concerned about war with Iran. The same Democrats who opposed de-escalation with North Korea; who blocked any attempt to remove U.S. occupation forces from South Korea; who continue to champion the NATO white supremacist structure; who were silent on Obama’s war on Yemen; who supported the assault on Libya; who  were unmoved by the over 40,000 people who reportedly have died from U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela; and who gave the Trump Administration another obscene increase in military spending.

    It is common knowledge that there has always been a bipartisan antipathy to Iran, not because of anything that Iran has done to the U.S., but because of the geopolitics of the so-called Middle East in which the U.S. has sought to dominate. The Democrats had some of the loudest voices supporting confrontation with Iran up until the Obama-Rohani nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Trump abrogated. That is what makes the Anti-war posture of the Democrats – even the progressive ones – so incredible.

    Therefore, since it is clear that the Democrats didn’t have any less of an appetite for war and global U.S. dominance than the Republicans, how should we understand this newly discovered “anti-warism”?

    The Opposition is anti-Trump, not Anti-war!

    Nancy Pelosi correctly understood that the politics of impeachment was a dead-end that would only result in satisfying the Democratic base but held out very little prospects for the longer-term strategy of defeating Trump in November 2020. She understood that politically the Democrats had gotten all they could from the Russiagate silliness when they reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives.

    But an essential element of the Democratic party messaging leading up to the mid-term vote in 2018 was the implication that with a Democratic majority in the House the primary item on the party’s agenda would be the impeachment of Donald Trump.  When that majority was achieved, Pelosi and the party establishment found themselves under tremendous pressure to find a way to impeachment. All their eggs for impeachment were in the Mueller report basket that had been held until after the mid-term election.

    Unfortunately for the Democrats, the report, like Mueller himself, was a flop.  The report failed to ignite a groundswell of impeachment fever beyond the increasingly irrational demands from the liberal base of the party.  However, one of the unforeseen results of the 2018 mid-term for Pelosi and centrist Democrats was the emergence of a group of “progressives” who wouldn’t let the impeachment ploy fade away.

    Consequently, Ukraine-gate became the issue for the foregone conclusion that there would be an impeachment. Pelosi and House leadership delivered on impeachment knowing that there would be no removal by the Senate. They could, however, claim that they met their supposed Constitutional duty, but importantly, their political imperative to impeach.  The second act of this diversionary drama was scheduled to begin when the Congress came back into session in January – that is, before the current crisis with the possibility of war with Iran.

    War with Iran: Everyone wins!

    Pelosi wins because she delivered on impeachment and can now switch tactics and allow the progressives to take the lead with the new messaging that Trump’s recklessness and unfitness for office is now threatening the possibility of a new war. The hawks in the U.S. foreign policy community win. Those elements have always wanted a conflict with Iran and believed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity was a mistake.

    Liberals win. Even though the more rational ones knew Trump was not going to be removed by the Senate, the developing crisis with Iran allows them to exploit the issue of a possible war with Iran to drive home the idea that Trump is a threat to global peace and should not be trusted with a second term. Trump wins. Iran shifted the focus from the impeachment trial in the Senate and the possibility, as remote as that might have been, that “new” information might flip the requisite number of republican senators to vote with democrats to remove him.  Moreover, if the situation with Iran doesn’t escalate out of control, he can claim this as another victory for a muscle assertion of U.S. power and strong leadership. The U.S. state wins with the possibility that Iran will be obliterated and with it Chinese interests harmed with the cut-off of oil but also with the disruption of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

    The only elements that don’t win are the working class soldiers of the U.S. military who will be put in harm’s way for yet another war of choice, and the many thousands of innocents in Iran who may have their lives snuffed out by this crazed rogue state. But who cares about either of those elements?

    There is a growing war-weariness that Trump understood and tapped into during his campaign. Trump never claimed to be Anti-war or pro-peace. However, being an anti-globalist, “pro-American,” white nationalist, he understood the sentiments and orientation of his base who had grown tied of sending their sons and, now daughters, off on multiple deployments to fight for what they saw as an elite agenda of never ending wars for the “liberal bankers” (his base understood that coded reference).

    That same war-weariness existed in the working class base of democrat party voters also with some 79% of Democrats supporting a general roll-back in U.S. foreign commitments, but the pro-imperialist elitists in the party could not recognize that position and speak to it from a progressive perspective.

    Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, and even the queen of pandering Elizabeth Warren and a few others on the liberal-left of the Democratic party have started to understand the growing importance of U.S. foreign policy issues and specifically the issue of war for the public, even if the corporate press, party establishment, and most of the candidates running for that party’s nomination haven’t given much attention to those subjects.

    The progressives are not taking comprehensive Anti-war positions and certainly have not embraced anti-imperialist positions.  Their positions have not deviated that far from the party establishment that continues to take the morally dubious and legally unsupportable position that somehow the U.S. has a right to murder the general of a nation that the U.S. was not at war with if only Trump had consulted with Congress and had thought through all of the consequences of a possible war with Iran.

    That is why this party is not the party that is capable of resisting U.S. imperialism.  The rhetoric of the progressives only gives cover to the ongoing criminality of the U.S. state and its commitment to permanent war – with Congressional approval!

    The role of these progressives is to keep the people on the Democratic party plantation.  The only countervailing force to U.S. gangsterism are the independently organized working class, nationally oppressed and all marginalized and exploited and oppressed people. This past weekend we saw the beginning of that resistance with demonstrations in close to 80 cities across the country in opposition to the possibility of war with Iran.

    As the Black Alliance for Peace stated:

    The Trump Administration along with the democrats are united in their objective interests, despite the impeachment charade, to support white power in the form of their imperialist agenda. But they need us – the people – as the cannon fodder and the passive supporters.

    Obama was the ultimate sheep dog that not only kept progressives and even radicals on the democrat party plantation but gave a new respectability to U.S. imperialist criminality.  We will not fall for that again, not from the “squad” Sanders or anyone else.