President Donald Trump is against the big, multilateral “free trade” deals (which have little to do with trade) supported by so-called “liberal elites” (who are not really liberal), like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Such deals include the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which appears to be dead in the water, due in large part to popular opposition. The more moderate wing of the Democratic Party (represented by the likes of Bernie Sanders) also opposes the big, multilateral deals, but for opposite reasons. Unions, working people and small businesses see the TPP and TTIP as a way of undermining their rights. Trump, on the other hand, sees them as not going far enough to maximize US corporate profits. Trump prefers bilateral (or one-to-one) deals because, in a bilateral deal, the US is the biggest partner, whereas in an association, the US position is weakened.
But in terms of the basics—privatizing public resources, cutting back on workers’ rights, opening the environment to exploitation—there’s little difference between bi- and multilateralism when it comes to “free trade.” In poor countries, “free trade” is underpinned by the iron fist of militarism. Consider the case of Congo in the 1960s: the US, Britain and Belgium overthrew the government, backed a dictatorship and laid the foundations for an exploitative Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that enabled US corporations to sue to the government of the impoverished people.
The US State Department’s website lists three broad aims of BITs: “protect investment abroad…[;] encourage the adoption of market-oriented domestic policies that treat private investment in an open, transparent, and non-discriminatory way; and support the development of international law standards consistent with these objectives.” BITs are only “nationalistic” in the sense that they benefit national corporations. They undermine domestic workers and investors by allowing country x to open businesses or acquire businesses in country y. “Nationalism” in this context really means US corporate dominance.
In the 1980s, the Reagan administration signed BITs with several countries, most of them extremely poor. Early test-subjects included: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, 1984), the Republic of Congo (1990), Bangladesh (1986), Cameroon (1986), Egypt (1986), Grenada (1986), Haiti (1983), Senegal (1983) and Turkey (1985). Let’s look at the DRC, also known for a time as Zaire.
In June 1960, the Belgian Congo became independent of its European master. Patrice Lumumba came to power on a popular vote and made clear his intentions to use Congo’s resources in the interests of the Congolese: “The exploitation of the mineral riches of the Congo should be primarily for the profit of our own people and other Africans,” he told New York businesspeople. In September 1960, President Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba, who had been Prime Minister for less than three months before the British, Belgian and US intelligence services conspired to murder him.
In Britain, MI6 officer and later peer, Daphne Park, was asked if MI6 was involved in Lumumba’s assassination. “I organized it,” said Park. The BBC acknowledges: “Lumumba made a fateful step − he turned to the Soviet Union for help [economic and military]. This set off panic in London and Washington.” Lumumba and his supporters, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okita, were tortured and executed by forces from Belgium and Congo’s Katanga region, before being dissolved in acid.
From the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission we learn that British intelligence plotted Operation Celeste, the murder of UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a plane crash. Hammarskjöld refused to withdraw UN troops from Congo, fearing further massacres between the warring factions. Britain’s MI5 and the Special Operations Executive were involved in the plot, which was hatched in apartheid South Africa via the South African Institute for Maritime Research. The CIA was also involved. Letters exchanged between agencies state: “Dag is becoming troublesome… and should be removed… I want his removal to be handled more efficiently than was Patrice.” The plan was to explode Hammarskjöld’s plane with a bomb allegedly supplied by Union Minière, a Belgian mining company with private interests in the copper-rich Katanga region. In 1965, Lumumba’s pro-US Chief of Staff for the Congolese National Army, Mobutu Sese Seko, came to power. Mobuto quickly garnered an international reputation for brutality, banning political parties and crushing secessionist movements.
By 1984, when the US signed its first-ever BIT with the country, Congo was importing 60 per cent of its food, despite having plenty of arable land; half of all Congolese children died before the age of five; and wages were 10 per cent of what they had been prior to independence. The New York Times reported at the time: “Zaire has one of Africa’s largest markets and a liberal investment code.” The BIT stated that the objective was “to provide US investors with significant investment guarantees and assurances as a way of inducing additional foreign investment.” Another aim was “to encourage, and facilitate participation by private enterprise to the maximum extent practicable.” It also noted: “Each of these models was developed after lengthy and extensive consultations within the US Government and with the private sector.”
As well as the generic misery and mass deaths that come with propping up a dictator, one of the other anti-democratic facets of the BIT is the fact that American companies could now sue the Congolese government for alleged inhibitions of profit. In 1993, the firm American Manufacturing Trading sued Zaire in a case “based on the provisions of a [BIT].” The law suit chides Mobutu’s failure to prevent looting of foreign-owned corporations. It says that this is the fault of the Congolese people (“the government”), who must compensate companies like American Manufacturing Trading.
This model of using the iron fist of militarism to impose the “velvet glove” of so-called free trade is an in old one that generalizes around the world.
In what is arguably one of the most craven opportunistic moves by a business/media group to increase its circulation/profitability, on 10 April the New York Times (NYT) embarked on what it describes as its Privacy Project. A day later on 11 April, no doubt with the NYT’s foreknowledge of what was to come thanks to an unofficial US government tip, Ecuador revoked Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks founder) asylum in its UK Embassy and fed him to the British Police dogs eagerly awaiting to arrest him and dump him in jail.
In May 2017 I wrote that Assange was doomed from the get-go to be arrested and handed over to the US Government and that it would only be a matter of time before Edward Snowden befell a similar fate.
Chelsea Manning’s leaked information made WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, a household name. It also made them permanent enemies of the US State. In 2010, Assange released a video that he called Collateral Murder. The video shows an airstrike in which Iraqi journalists are killed. Other releases based on Manning’s leak were known as the Afghan Diary and Iraq War Logs. The diplomatic cables exposed some of the silly machinations of the US State Department and the over classification of documents.
Meanwhile, mainstream media (MSM) outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post feasted on the leaks and gave them prominent coverage daily, even as they excoriated Assange and his merry band of leakers. The MSM believes that WikiLeaks is not “real” journalism even as they used the classified material Assange provided to bolster their subscription numbers. Aren’t they accessories to Assange’s crime? Apparently they are not.
Assange has been living for the past five years under diplomatic protection in the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom. He has been accused of rape in Sweden and, if he leaves the embassy, would be arrested by UK authorities and, ultimately, end up in the USA. To make matters worse, now he is a target of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director.
Pompeo once praised WikiLeaks. Whatever data he has seen that made him go ballistic can’t be good for Assange, obviously. [Former] Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions over at the Justice Department has hinted that an arrest warrant is in the works.
He will never get a get out of jail card and is trapped in Ecuador’s Embassy in London. The trip from the UK to Sweden to the USA would be swift if he capitulates. ‘It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,’ [then] CIA director Mike Pompeo said at a May event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. ‘Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value and he relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous: He’s a fraud.’
Assange continues to dig a hole for himself with the CIA Vault leaks even as he enlightens us all, apparently, about the machinations of governments around the world.
The New York Times Privacy Project’s mission statement is essentially a rehash of a privacy and encryption issue that began on 16 April 1993 over the National Security Agency’s proposal to embed a Clipper Chip in the nation’s communications networks and nascent Internet/World Wide Web (WWW). The chip would have allowed NSA and US Law Enforcement Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation to easily access foreign and domestic public communications. The proposal was the brainchild of President Bill Clinton’s administration but a wide awake American public and anti-Clipper Chip groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposed the technology and by 1996 the US government gave up on the technology.
There is grave doubt whether the American public or pro-Assange interest groups have the voice and staying power of those like the EFF that a couple of decades ago opposed the Clipper Chip.
According to the New York Times project mission statement:
The boundaries of privacy are in dispute, and its future is in doubt. Citizens, politicians and business leaders are asking if societies are making the wisest tradeoffs. The Times is embarking on this months long project to explore the technology and where it’s taking us, and to convene debate about how it can best help realize human potential.
Privacy in Dispute? Convene a debate? You’re Kidding!
Only those in cryogenic freeze or in solitary confinement for the past couple of decades would not know that privacy is already dead, a quaint relic from a time long since past. In today’s world, the price of participating in society is the sacrifice of privacy and self. It is not so much that technology is the culprit, it’s that a networked world, whether through stories told around a campfire that are passed on in an oral tradition, or instantly via Facebook/Twitter, appears to be a necessary human craving. Wanting to belong to something or some group, to be able to identify with an ideology or fad is apparently irresistible.
What do you really have to trade with your fellow human beings other than your deepest secrets, knowledge and individuality?
Humans are merrily merging with machines or rather the software and interfaces that allow textual and vision immersion, and the light speed acquisition of knowledge that the networked world provides. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution be damned. Who needs it? The government or marketplace will always find a workaround to that relic of a bygone era.
All of this seems preordained by some Universal Machine God. We bow our heads whilst on the mobile device. The Internet/WWW is a sort of public confessional where there is no mediating priest to talk to God for you. It is straight talk with the Public God who dispenses likes or dislikes like the number of prayers a priest tells you to recite to regain a clean soul. And the Internet/WWW is a vengeful God with a long memory. Past sins from youth, or once though well hidden, find their way onto the network with punishment meted out by a hash tag with a name linked to it.
Sickness of the Future
The NYT Privacy Project, or even my musings here, are not necessary to understand future diseases at work right now in 2019. For a better description of that we can turn to a short story written by Chinese Sci-Fi writer Chen Qiufan titled “A History of Future Illnesses.” The story is located in the book Broken Stars, Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation (Ken Liu translator).
Technology allows ritual to become an indivisible part of everyday life. Its implanted into you and becomes part of your genetic heritage to be passed on to your children and they children multiplying and mutating, more vigorous that its host. You cannot control the impulse to refresh the page. Information explosion brings anxiety but can fill your husk of a soul. Every fifteen seconds you move the mouse, open your social networking profile, browse the comments, retweet and reblog, close the page, and do it all over again fifteen seconds later. You cant stop.
You no longer talk to people in real life. Air has lost its role as the medium for transmitting voice. You sit in a ring, your eyes glued to the latest mobile device in your hand as though worshiping the talisman of some ancient god. Your thoughts now flow into virtual platforms at the tips of your fingers. You are auguring, laughing flustering joking. But reality around you is a silent desert.
You cannot free yourself from the control of artificial environments. Ritual is omnipresent. It is no longer restricted to sacrifice, sermon, mass, concert, or game performed on a central stage where the classical unities hold. Ritual itself is evolving, turning into distributed cloud computing, evenly spread out to every nook and cranny of your daily life. Sensors know everything and regulate the temperature, humidity, air currents and light around you; adjust your heart rate, hormonal balance, sexual arousal, mood. Artificial intelligence is a god: your think it is there for your welfare bringing you new opportunities, but you’ve become the egg in the incubator, the marionette attached to wires. Every second of every minute of every day, you are the sacrifice that completes the unending grand ritual. You are the ritual.
Radical thinkers obsess wove how to withdraw from all this. The power of ritual comes from repetition, not its content. Day after day, the repetition of poses and movements gradually seeps into the depth of consciousness like a hard drive’s read-write-head repeatedly tracing the patterns of an idea, until the idea becomes indistinguishable from free will itself…Romantic love is ritual’s most loyal consumer along with patriotism. The radicals try to imitate the Luddites of old [but]…the only thing that can be done is nothing.
‘We’re all puppets,’ the suspect [Sirhan Sirhan] replied, with more truth than he could have understood at that moment.
— Lisa Pease, quoting from the LAPD questioning of Sirhan
When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, the American public fell into a hypnotic trance in which they have remained ever since. The overwhelming majority accepted what was presented by government authorities as an open and shut case that a young Palestinian American, Sirhan Sirhan, had murdered RFK because of his support for Israel, a false accusation whose ramifications echo down the years. That this was patently untrue and was contradicted by overwhelming evidence made no difference.
Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy, yet he remains in jail to this very day. Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was 14 years old at the time of his father’s death, has visited Sirhan in prison, claims he is innocent, and believes there was another gunman. Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator and the first person shot that night, also says Sirhan didn’t do it. Both have plenty of evidence. And they are not alone.
There is a vast body of documented evidence to prove this, an indisputably logical case marshalled by serious writers and researchers. Lisa Pease is the latest. It is a reason why a group of 60 prominent Americans has recently called for a reopening of, not just this case, but those of JFK, MLK, and Malcom X. The blood of these men cries out for the revelation of the truth that the United States national security state and its media accomplices have fought so mightily to keep hidden for so many years.
That they have worked so hard at this reveals how dangerous the truth about these assassinations still is to this secret government that wages propaganda war against the American people and real wars around the world. It is a government of Democrats, Republicans, and their intelligence allies working together today to confuse the American people and provoke Russia in a most dangerous game that could lead to nuclear war, a possibility that so frightened JFK and RFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they devoted themselves to ending the Cold War, reconciling with the Soviet Union, abolishing nuclear weapons, reining in of the power of the CIA, and withdrawing from Vietnam. That is why they were killed.
The web of deceit surrounding the now officially debunked Democratic led Russia-gate propaganda operation that has strengthened Trump to double-down on his anti-Russia operations (a Democratic goal) is an example of the perfidious and sophisticated mutuality of this game of mass mind-control.
The killing of the Kennedys and today’s new Cold War and war against terror are two ends of a linked intelligence operation.
Moreover, more than any other assassination of the 1960s, it is the killing of Bobby Kennedy that has remained shrouded in the most ignorance.
It is one of the greatest propaganda success stories of American history.
In her exhaustive new examination of the case, A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease puts it succinctly at the conclusion of her unravelling of the official lies that have mesmerized the public:
The assassination of the top four leaders of the political left in the five year period – President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 – represented nothing less than a slow-motion coup on the political scene.
If anyone wishes to understand what has happened to the United States since this coup, and thus to its countless victims at home and throughout the world, one must understand these assassinations and how the alleged assassins were manipulated by the coup organizers and how the public was hoodwinked in a mind-control operation on a vast scale. It is not ancient history, for the forces that killed these leaders rule the U.S. today, and their ruthlessness has subsequently informed the actions of almost all political leaders in the years since. A bullet to the head when you seriously talk about peace and justice is a not so gentle reminder to toe the line or else.
“But the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time,” writes Pease, “and too few recognize this. We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.” Nothing could be truer.
Lisa Pease has long recognized the problem, and for the past twenty-five years, she has devoted herself to shedding light on the CIA’s culpability, particularly in the Robert Kennedy case. Few people possess the grit and grace to spend so much of their lives walking this path of truth. The extent of her research is dazzling, so dazzling in its voluminous detail that a reviewer can only touch on it here and there. She has written a book that is daunting in its comprehensiveness. It demands focused attention and perseverance, for it runs to over 500 pages with more than 800 footnotes. This book will remain a touchstone for future research on the RFK assassination, whether one agrees or disagrees with all of her detailed findings and speculations. For this book is so vast and meticulous in its examination of all aspects of the case that one can surely find areas that one might question or disagree with.
Nevertheless, Pease fundamentally proves that Sirhan did not shoot RFK and that there was a conspiracy organized and carried out by shadowy intelligence forces that did so. These same forces worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, federal, state, and judicial elements to make sure Sirhan was quickly accused of being the lone assassin and dispatched to prison after a show trial. And the mass media carried out its assigned role of affirming the government’s case to shield the real killers and to make sure the cover-up was successful.
No doubt others will investigate this case further. Yet I think no more research is really needed, for as with these other assassinations, additional analyses will only result in pseudo-debates about minutiae. Such debates will only serve to prolong the hallucinatory grip the perpetrators of these crimes have on a day of reckoning, suggesting as they would that we do not really know what happened. This is an old tactic meant to delay forevermore such a day of reckoning.
The facts are clear for all to see if they have the will to truth. All that is now needed is a public tribunal, which is planned for later this year, in which the fundamental, clear-cut facts of these cases are presented to the American public. In the case of Robert Kennedy’s assassination as with the others, a little knowledge goes a long way, and only those who are closed to basic logic and evidence will refuse to see that government forces conspired to kill these men and did so because all were seeking peace and justice that was then, and is now, a threat to the war-making forces of wealth and power that control the American government.
Anyone who has looked closely and honestly at the evidence has realized that more than one person was involved in Robert Kennedy’s death. So why can’t reporters see this? Why can’t the media explain this? Because the media and the government are two sides of the same coin, and those who challenge the government’s version of history, as numerous reporters have found out, all too often lose status and sometimes whole careers. Kristina Borjesson published an anthology of such stories in her book Into the Buzzsaw, in which journalists describe how they lost their careers when of them expressed a truth that the government did not want exposed.
Lisa Pease discloses such truths. I am reporting on her work. Therefore, the mainstream media, except for an extraordinary reporter or two, such as Tom Jackman of The WashingtonPost, will likely ignore both of us, but the publication where you are reading this is on the side of truth, and in the disclosure of truth lies our hope.
Since more than one person was involved in the killing of RFK, there was – ipso facto – a conspiracy. This is not theory but fact. The fact of a conspiracy. For more than fifty years, mainstream reporters have been cowed by this word “conspiracy,” thanks to the CIA. Many others have been intelligence assets posing as journalists, regurgitating the lies. This is a fact.
The official story is that after giving his victory speech for winning the 1968 Democratic California Primary, Kennedy, as he was walking through a crowded hotel pantry, was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing to his left between 3-6 feet away. Sirhan’s revolver held eight bullets, and as he was shooting, he was tackled by a group of large men who subdued him. All witnesses place Sirhan in front of Kennedy and all claim he was firing a gun.
Fact: As the autopsy definitively showed, RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range, three bullets entering his body, with the fatal head shot coming upward at a 45-degree angle from 1-3 inches behind his right ear. Not one bullet from Sirhan’s gun hit the Senator. In addition, an audio recording shows that many more bullets than the eight in Sirhan’s gun were fired in the hotel pantry that night. It was impossible for Sirhan to have killed RFK.
Let me repeat: More than one gunman, contrary to the government’s claims, equals a conspiracy. So why lie about that?
What is amazing is that the obvious conclusion to such simple syllogistic logic (Sirhan in front, bullets in the back, therefore…) that a child could understand has been dismissed by the authorities for fifty-one years. The fact that the government authorities – the LAPD, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney, federal and state government officials, the FBI, the CIA – have from the start so assiduously done all in their power to pin the blame on “a lone assassin,” Sirhan, proves they are part of a coordinated cover-up, which in turn suggests their involvement in the crime.
The fact that Robert Kennedy was shot from the back and not the front where Sirhan was standing immediately brings to mind the Zapruder film that shows that JFK was killed from the front right and not from the 6th floor rear where Oswald was allegedly shooting from. That unexpected film evidence was hidden from the public for many years, but when it was finally seen, the case for a government conspiracy was solidified.
While no such video evidence has surfaced in the RFK case, the LAPD made sure that no photographic evidence contradicting the official lies would be seen. As Lisa Pease writes:
Less than two months after the assassination, the LAPD took the extraordinary step of burning some 2,400 photos from the case in Los Angeles County General’s medical waste incinerator. Why destroy thousands of photos in an incinerator if there was nothing to hide? The LAPD kept hundreds of innocuous crowd scene photos that showed no girl in a polka dot dress or no suspicious activities or individuals. Why were those photos preserved? Perhaps because those photos had nothing in them that warranted their destruction.
While “perhaps” is a mild word, the cover-up of “the girl in the polka dot dress” needs no perhaps. Dozens of people reported seeing a suspicious, curvaceous girl in a white dress with black polka dots with Sirhan in the pantry and other places. She was seen with various other men as well. The evidence for her involvement in the assassination is overwhelming, and yet the LAPD did all in its power to deny this by browbeating witnesses and by allowing her to escape.
Sandra Serrano, a Kennedy campaign worker and a courageous witness, was bullied by the CIA-connected police interrogator Sergeant Enrique “Hank” Hernandez. She had been sitting outside on a metal fire escape getting some air when the polka dot dress girl, accompanied by a man, ran out and down the stairs, shouting, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him.” When Serrano asked whom did they shoot, the girl replied, “We’ve shot Senator Kennedy.” Then she and her companion, both of whom Serrano had earlier seen ascending the stairs with Sirhan, disappeared into the night. A little over an hour after the shooting Serrano was interviewed on live television by NBC’s Sander Vanocur where she recounted this. And there were others who saw and heard this girl say the same thing as she and her companion fled the crime scene. Nevertheless, the LAPD, led by Lieutenant Manuel Pena, also CIA affiliated, who was brought out of retirement to run the investigation dubbed “Special Unit Senator,” worked with Hernandez and others to dismiss the girl as of no consequence.
Lisa Pease covers all this and much more. She shows how Sirhan was obviously hypnotized, how the trial was a farce, how the police destroyed evidence from the door frames in the pantry that proved more than the eight bullets in Sirhan’s gun were fired, how Officer DeWayne Wolfer manipulated the ballistic evidence, etc. Through years of digging into court records, archives, transcripts, the public library, and doing countless interviews, she proves without a doubt that Sirhan did not kill Kennedy and that the assassination and the cover-up were part of a very sophisticated intelligence operation involving many parts and players. She shows how no matter what route Kennedy took in the hotel that night, the killers had all exits covered and that he would not be allowed to leave alive.
While some of her more speculative points – e.g. that Robert Maheu (Howard Hughes/CIA) was “the most credible high-level suspect for the planner of Robert Kennedy’s assassination,” that Kennedy was shot twice in the head from behind, etc. are open to debate, they do not detract from her fundamentally powerful case that RFK, like his brother John, was assassinated by a CIA-run operation intended to silence their voices of courageous resistance to an expanding secret government dedicated to war, murder, and human exploitation. The U.S. government of today.
When Bobby Kennedy was entering the kitchen pantry, he was escorted by a security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar, a man long suspected of being the assassin. Cesar was carrying a gun that he drew but denied firing, despite witnesses’ claims to the contrary. Conveniently, the police never examined the gun. He has long been suspected of being CIA affiliated, and now Pease says she has found evidence to confirm that. She writes, “It’s hard to overstate the significance of finding a current or future CIA contract agent holding Kennedy’s right arm at the moment of the shooting.”
Yes, it is. As she rightly claims, the CIA takeover of America in the 1960s is the story of our time. And our time is now. None of this is ancient history. That is so crucial to grasp. For those who think that learning the truth about the 1960s assassinations is an exercise in futility reserved for those who are living in the past, they need to think again. Our descent into endless war and massive media propaganda to support it is part of a long-term project that began with the elimination of JFK, Malcom X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy. They were killed for reasons, and those reasons still exist, even if they don’t physically, but only in spirit. Their killers roam the land because they have become far more deeply part of the institutional structure of government and the media.
It was horrible that Robert Kennedy was taken from us far too soon. It is horrible that one man has borne the guilt for an operation he neither planned nor willingly participated in. It’s horrible the conspiracy was so obvious that bullets had to be lost and switched to hide it. And it’s horrible that the mainstream media has never dared to tell the people of this country that the government lied to us about what they really found when they looked into this case. Until the media can deal with the truth of the Robert Kennedy assassination, and until the people can be made aware of the CIA’s role in slanting the truth on topics of great importance, America’s very survival is in jeopardy….We’ve come perilously close to losing democracy itself because of fake, CIA-sponsored stories about our history. Should America ever become a dictatorship, the epitaph of our democracy must include the role the mainstream media, by bowing to the National Security state, played in killing it.
By writing A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease has done her valiant part in refuting the lie that is now failing. Now it is up to all of us to spread the word of truth by focusing on the fundamental facts so we can finally take back our country from the CIA.
Then we can say with RFK and his favorite poet Aeschylus:
And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
The Canadian government under Justin Trudeau is undermining not just Canada’s (ok, undeserved) reputation as an honest, fair mediator, but he has chosen 2019 to make Canada the enabler of the worst of US imperial policies.
Yes, the Huawei debacle is an embarrassment that will be remembered more as a joke, though possibly as the Suez Crisis of the US empire.1 Whatever. Canada to the rescue! And of course, Canada reviles Islamic Iran, while shedding crocodile tears for the 50 Muslims murdered last week in New Zealand.
But the far more despicable, downright ‘war-crime’ territory is Canada’s role in undermining the Venezuelan socialist government. The US war on Venezuela has been ongoing ever since Hugo Chavez miraculously survived a US-backed coup in 2002. Canada has been a minor irritant to the socialists, but not the villain. Until now.
The scenario is a variation on Eisenhower in Iran 1953 and from Reagan on, JFK in Cuba 1961, Nixon in Chile 1973 … Same use of an angry old elitist fury that the common people were finally getting some justice. The current attempt at overthrowing the socialists is in full swing: total boycott, a lying media shrilly howling for President Maduro’s resignation, sabotage.
Canadian computer villains
Cyber warfare is use of computers, which can be hacked and infected with viruses. US-Israel developed the Stuxnet virus as a cyber weapon to sabotage Iran’s nuclear power program in 2010. Iran miraculously survived this — and 40 years of nonstop subversion, but it is exhausting. Iran is no longer so vulnerable, alhamdulillah.
What was meant to be the crowning achievement of imperial subterfuge in Venezuela was to use a similar computer breakdown of the electrical system of virtually the entire country. (Bad move to put all your electricity in one basket.)
In a Telesur interview (sorry, it’s banned under Canadian democracy), Professor Adriansa dealt with possible causes of the blackout at the Guri Dam Hydroelectric Project, which provides 70% of Venezuela’s electricity.
The dam was built in 1963 and expanded in 1976. Since 2000, there is an ongoing refurbishment project to extend the operation of Guri Power Plant by 30 years.
The Guri computer system which broke down was bought from ABB Canada, a subsidiary of ABB Switzerland and Sweden, in 2005, to interface with an existing centralized control system that was installed by SNC Lavalin. (yes, the SNC Lavalin)
Adriansa concluded the Guri computer system may already have had a backdoor built into it that would allow it to be hacked. Software or viruses could have been added gradually over a period of months. This would have required internal or ABB Canada complicity. As with the Stuxnet virus, software can be designed so that something would happen on a particular date.
The purpose — to paralyze Venezuela at the perfect moment, to create the psychological conditions the US has been seeking, where they wouldn’t have to bomb Venezuela. The Venezuelan people would give up their socialist project, the scenario goes, President Maduro would be driven from power, and the Venezuelan constitution would be repealed. Happy (imperial) ending.
Right on cue, as the hysterical demonstrations and containers of toothpaste and pasta were being burned on the Colombian border, with US troops on alert nearby, egged on by Quisling Juan Guaido, the entire electrical network of Venezuela was destroyed. For 12 days now, Venezuelans have been living on life support. So far, the people are not buying into the US plan to overthrow Maduro.
Can the Venezuelans hold firm through this latest colour revolution? Will they surrender to US diktat? I know if I were there, I would only be more committed to defeat the gringos and their lackeys.
CIA gift to Siberia
This cyber warfare really is old hat. It began as soon as computers became integral to industry back in the 1980s. The most spectacular example of this was the CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union, which resulted in “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space”.
The CIA covertly transferred computer technology — again via a Canadian company — containing malfunctions, including software, that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline in mid-1982, former air force secretary Thomas Reed revealed in his memoirs At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War (2004).
The US was trying to stop western Europe from importing Soviet natural gas. (Hey, isn’t that what the US is still trying to do, even after it destroyed the Soviet Union?) A KGB insider gained access to Russian purchase orders and the CIA slipped in the flawed software.
I hope the Bolivarians have backbone. They have to crack down on the traitors. It’s Cuba post-Bay-of-Pigs time. The white elite vs the brown socialists. Fighting the empire is not for the weak at heart. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
The decline of the British empire reached its end in the 1950s with the Suez crisis, Eisenhower stopped cold a UK-led invasion of Egypt by threatening to dump Washington’s huge holdings of pound-sterling bonds and cripple the British financial system. At the same time, Britain’s remaining colonies were achieving independence. The attempt by the U.S. to undo China’s Huawei communications giant in 2018 has been compared to this period in British decline. China could sell its hoard of US Treasurys, creating a dollar crisis.
This essay was in part, inspired by—and written in memory of—William Blum (1932-2018). Blum was a comrade-in-arms, and himself one of the great keyboard warriors of his time. We all had much to learn from this man about courage, integrity, tenacity, and resilience in the service of truth. His trenchant opposition to the ruthless and relentless exploitation of other countries and their people by his own country, the United States of America—at what was clearly at considerable personal cost—is possibly best exemplified by his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, the Truth About US Foreign Policy, and Everything Else.
Brief: Advocacy of regime change—the wrecking ball in the foreign policy tool shed—continues to permeate the political and media discourse in Washington, with Venezuela holding pole position on the D.C.-based Democracy Busters ‘dance-card’. It seems, though, that with every successive effort by the U.S. and its proxies to destabilize countries and dethrone their elected leaders, they pay less attention to disguising their real motives and covering their tracks, and more attention to ignoring their failures and downplaying their disasters. That this reality should awaken more folks to the hollowness and hubris of America’s much-touted repute as a “beacon of freedom” is a given for those of us with a more clear-eyed view of how much chaos, destruction, and geopolitical instability this policy prescription engenders. I invite one and all to re-arrange the furniture in their geopolitical ‘living room’, and consider the following: nothing is going to change in the execution of U.S foreign policy, until pretty much everything else does.
The Low-life Lion King of the Congo
His Imperious Majesty Leopold II of Belgium: One of History’s Greatest Unsung Mass Murderers and role model for Dictators and Despots to come.
A bit like Neil Young does from time to time, I’ve recently been delving into the archives. And as it turns out, I have a lot of unpublished material. Some of this I’m pleased to report is as relevant, if not even more so, today. Now one of the trending issues is regime change, America’s default, bi-partisan foreign policy gambit that’s been in play since at least 1945. Not unsurprisingly, it is a recurring theme in my archival musings on empire. Which is to say: the shadow and portent of “regime change” is rarely far removed from the foreign policy public discourse in Washington, at least for those with an ear for these things. What with the events taking place in Venezuela then*, along with plans afoot by the Regime Renovatorsdu jourElliot Abrams, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton and their ilk to take down Iran’s government, it seemed an opportune time to strap on the parachute and jump down the memory hole in order to get a handle on what all the fuss is about. (*See the blog WashingtonBabylon for Ken Silverstein’s current front-line reportage on Venezuela. From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to beat.)
For the record, the core of this ‘dissertation’ was penned back around 2014, now with some key updates and editorial revisions. It was intended then—as now—to provide another perspective on Uncle Sam’s incurable addiction to meddling in the affairs of other nations, and the blowback from doing so. I should add the following: Another factor prompting this was my recent discovery of a powerful Netflix drama series called Black Earth Rising. The backdrop to this narrative is the events which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (aka Zaire), a modern-day catastrophe which had its genesis back as far as the early fifties, but whose dark history of colonial and imperial exploitation goes back several centuries.
Before proceeding, though, it is important to retain at the ready America’s own more recent role in keeping the home fires burning in same, wherever they require ‘lighting’ and ‘fuelling’. Such as in Venezuela now, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2012, and in 2014 in Ukraine, to name just a few infamous, more contemporary examples. The stories of US involvement in the political affairs of foreign countries are as legion as they are, of course, familiar. At least they are for those of us with few illusions about America’s status as “a force for good in the world”, and places such as Cuba, Guatemala, and Iran are prime examples. Yet throughout the years the Cuban revolution was taking place on America’s doorstep, there were plenty of others brewing on every continent on the Big Blue/Green Ball. One of the most significant of these was on Joseph Conrad’s turf—the geographical heart of deepest, darkest Africa, specifically the Belgian Congo (later the DRC/Zaire).
In 1960 a BC independence movement started gaining momentum, and between then and 1965 the CIA was intimately involved in an ongoing effort to influence the outcome of events in order to advance freedom, democracy, and self-determination in this ‘tin-pot’, ‘third-world ‘backwater’, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. As we’ll see to some degree at least, said “outcome” was very ugly indeed. Like Guatemala, Cuba and Iran et al, the blowback had a very long shelf-life and a very deep impact. The BC was a colonial outpost of Belgium from the latter part of the 19th century, initially under the barbarous, infamously despotic, truly genocidal King Leopold II, who pillaged, raped, purged, looted, pilfered, rampaged, plundered and burned his way through the African country throughout his reign until 1908. A particularly nasty, vile piece of work was His Royal Highness, ‘Low-life’ Leo’. If Belgium dragged the chain in succumbing to its own imperial and colonialist ambitions, like so many of her European cohorts had already done, it is in the Congo where she tried to make up the ground. For Leopold’s part, it is generally accepted he presided over the deaths of upwards of 10 million Congolese people. Arguably he was one of the worst advertisements for colonialism, imperialism, monarchism, exploitation, and despotism (by any measure a big call).
If ever there was a more infamous manifestation of a monarch exercising the divine right of kings (DRK) in the last one hundred and fifty years, I cannot think of one off hand. For that matter, whilst the historical concept of the DRK itself might’ve been considered passe by Leopold’s era, he simply ignored it, or didn’t get the memo. In the mass murder ‘popularity stakes’, this dude was up there with the biggest and the best of them: Hitler; Stalin; The Great ‘Helmsman’ Mao et al though he makes the more recent genocidal maniac Cambodia’s Pol Pot look like an underachiever by way of comparison. But unlike the aforementioned, Leo does not enjoy household name status in the history books, or in popular culture.
Interestingly, the BC, a major exporter of uranium during the Second World War, supplied the ‘juice’ that the Americans used in the A-bombs dropped in Japan. This was not, of course, the last time a uranium-producing African nation would figure large in a world-changing foreign policy decision taken by the Americans. Yet significantly it also held vast amounts of still relatively untapped high-value mineral and resource wealth (e.g. gold, copper, cobalt). This attracted the attention of the US (natch!), especially at the height of the Cold War, when said war was possibly much more about laissez-faire economics, energy, and other high value and/or strategic resources than it was about political ideology.
During the 1950s, in the post-World War Two, post-colonial period, there was widespread nationalist fervour fomenting in the country. There were years of unrest, political bickering, and nit-picking between ethnic and tribal groups and other political forces, over who the main muchachos would be in any new independent government. Most importantly, though, it was over who would get the main spoils, and/or, of course, who would get to keep them and profit from them. This scenario is a familiar one to be sure, and one that would be repeated monotonously with varying degrees of tragedy in most emerging, independent African nations throughout subsequent years. To say little of other places on the imperial itinerary.
In 1960 the country eventually achieved its full independence from Belgium, and Patrice Lumumba became the popularly elected Prime Minister. For his part Lumumba complained about how his country and his people had been ruthlessly exploited over the year. Nothing new here in this sentiment: It was a constant refrain from most developing countries in the post-colonialist, nationalist era. Lumumba appeared to be leaning towards Moscow with the possibility that the country could be taken over by godless, liberty challenged communists, or fall into their Geopolitical Orbit. “Appeared” is the operative word here, as like it so often is/was; such fear mongering was an expedient gambit with ulterior motives, much like terrorism has been more recently.
History now tells us that with many former colonies, it was not so much ideology that drove the nationalist ambitions of the former colonies of empire; it was attaining true political independence, sovereignty, and authentic control over their internal affairs. In almost all cases their former colonial masters and their new ‘besties’, the Americans, had decidedly different ideas. This was especially the case with countries like the DRC, which, as noted, was sitting on mountains of much sought after resources and minerals. Either way, any nod towards Moscow would just not do, and this information understandably set a cat amongst the hawks in Langley and Washington.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed later on some members of the then Eisenhower administration had ‘interests’ in the mineral and resource wealth of the country, a frequently recurring motif underpinning America’s unrelenting efforts to assert that “right to protect” and from there export that aforementioned “democracy” etc. so they could eventually extort and then import these resources to America and the West at bargain basement prices. It also scared the bejesus out of the local anti-communist, right-wing elements in the country including in the Army, especially the top military brass who were highly tuned to the geopolitical and economic imperatives in relation to guaranteeing their future, and who would clearly benefit from a takeover of government. Oh, and did I say they were pro-American?
This was, of course, music to the CIA’s ears. PLUs–not Peace, Love and Understanding here mind you–they doubtless were thinking “People Like Us!” And the CIA was only too eager to assist. If the purportedly communist elements took over, there was no doubt this would threaten the political fortunes and personal and financial interests of those making foreign policy in the US (shades of things to come) and presumably their fellow travelers in US and Congolese mining and resource sectors and other vested local and international interests. The go-to guys at the CIA got to work…as they invariably do. Lumumba was eventually ousted and later assassinated. And former Army chieftain Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (later reinventing himself as Mobutu Sese Soko) assumed control.
And speaking of being and “ousted” and “assassinated’—albeit in his case, in one fell swoop—it is important to note here that the president at the time of Lumumba’s killing was none other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy (aka JFK), who’d only just begun to get comfortable in his new digs on Pennsylvania Ave. As noted earlier, the assassination of Lumumba was a train already in motion when Kennedy arrived at the White House. For his part, JFK was famously anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist to his boot-straps, and ostensibly supported the DRC’s independence. We’ll explore this more later on.
Dark Days in the Dark Continent (Regime Renovators Redux)
Not unlike his former colonial masters in their own colonialist ambitions, Mobutu initially dragged the chain on demonstrating his despotic disposition. But when he did get going he was unstoppable and quickly made up for any lost ground. To grease the wheels of power and keep them spinning in his favor, he bribed many of his potential challengers and rivals thereby giving new meaning to the old Sun Tzu adage of ‘keep(ing) [your] friends close, and [your] enemies closer’. This was a dictum apparently finding favor with many other dictators of the era. Probably still does. It’s in the job description. Especially if one seeks security of tenure. And who better to provide that security than old Uncle Sam.
The former president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko. Tried to show Low-Leo a clean pair of heels in mass murder.
For those political opponents who were less compliant or corruptible, Mobutu reportedly presided over their public executions in front of Coliseum-sized crowds, or in simple, crude, tried and true tyrant style had them and their families tortured and/or murdered then disposed of ‘on the QT’. And then he really dug in his heels. By the end of the decade, he was unchallenged master of the Congo universe, and yet slowly but inexorably turned his country into an economic, social, environmental, political, and human rights basket case, another black hole in the post-imperial African continental universe! This was a man who successive US presidents called “America’s beacon of hope” in the region or similar sentiments. Go figure!
Over time Mobutu’s regime morphed into a ‘klepto-bruto-kakocracy’ of the first order. He maintained a personal fleet of Mercedes limos, and went on frequent shopping trips to Paris, London, and Milan on the Concorde (he even had a special airfield built for the plane) with his large entourage of wives/concubines and scores of cloying hacks, flacks, lackeys and subservient minions sticking to his belligerent black-ass like baby-shit to a blanket. He had dozens of mansions and palaces, and amassed an estimated $5bn dollars stashed in his own personal Swiss bank accounts all of which one can only presume he was keeping for a rainy day in case the road ahead got a little too bumpy. That he went on to become one of Africa’s most enduring if not endearing despots, is a matter of public record, even if said “public” is largely oblivious to this grossly tragic and criminal exercise in regime redemption and how it all played out over three decades and three countries. And it was all achieved with the blessing of the consecutive powers that be in Washington, regardless of whether they were Democratic or Republican. Deja vu, all over again!
Although the ride did eventually get quite bumpy for Mobutu, any karma due him took its time in arriving. In the interim, he caused a lot of people a lot of grief over a very long period of time and an equally broad expanse of geography.
The post-colonial world was never going to be a pretty sight anywhere it could be found on the planet (even without the meddling of the major powers), and this is one country where that observation really hits home, in a continent full of similar basket cases and less than pretty sights. For over the three decades whilst Mobutu ruled the country (renamed Zaire in the meantime), the living conditions of most of his people deteriorated rapidly and dramatically, and they were the lucky ones that survived the seemingly eternal, deathly inferno he brought to life with merciless gusto. Though he never came close, Mobutu was prepped to show King Leo a clean pair of heels in the mass murder and brutality stakes. No-one really knows how many of his countrymen he butchered himself; but if one is wondering from where Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Idi Amin (Uganda) and their despotic Dark Continental ilk got their delusions of bloody grandeur back in their heyday, then Mobutu is your go-to man!
In the early 1990s, though, it all started to go decidedly pear-shaped for the by now similarly pear-shaped dictator, with even the Americans turning against him. It all began to go the same way for a lot of other people as well. Tribal connections in Africa are deep and very complex and are rarely respective of national borders or sovereign boundaries, most of which have been redrawn dramatically, arbitrarily, and frequently in the past 100-150 odd years. This has mainly been since the rent-seeking white man showed up to collect said rent. Since, for example, the 1972 genocides and even further back than that, there have always been ethnic tensions—‘diplo-speak’ for different tribes slaughtering each other en masse—within and across the three countries. That these were either exploited deliberately or incidentally fuelled by the interference of major western powers is a given, especially the U.S.
A full account of the events that took place in this region around this time is beyond the scope of this essay. For a deeper elucidation, and one which is almost at complete odds with the current official “genocide” narrative, go here and here.
Christopher C Black, a Toronto based international criminal lawyer, is one of the go-to sources herein, with the scars to prove it by his own account. The James Corbett podcast interview below is a must-listen in this respect. Black spent 14 years successfully defending former Rwandan Gendarmerie General Augustin Ndindiliyimana at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In that time, Black uncovered copious evidence about what really happened in the so-called “100 Days” of 1994 and the four-year civil war that led up to it. Black shares that information in this podcast and deconstructs the lies that continue to be propagated about the Rwandan genocide.
That the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) originally chalked up the coup in Zaire/DRC as a victory then, and saw the rise of Mobutu as beneficial to the region was clear. A “victory” for what and “beneficial” to whom, though, are questions that many are still asking even to this day.
It’s uncertain, though, whether the current crop of Langley Gangsters is asking the same questions after all these years. Chances are that today’s CIA spooks would not be even able to pinpoint Zaire/DRC on a map, let alone have any collective recollection of the role their predecessors had in the recent history of the ravaged, impoverished, at once bled dry and blood-soaked country. Or in the region. Or on the whole continent. Or of any of the others mentioned in the The Great American Regime Redemption narrative. That’s why we’re here down in the memory hole!
Our Son of a Bitch (Not Theirs)
Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan – All Thumbs up for Dictators, Tyrants, and Despots (“Our Sons of Bitches”).
To underscore just how much the US courts and panders to their roster of client dictators past and present, it is perhaps at Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan’s tenure we might have a ‘gander’. Like most US presidents, Reagan turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the despots on their diplomatic dance-card. One of the most infamous of these was Mobutu. This was the man that The Gipper–who three times hosted him at official White House gatherings, and ignored criticisms of his human rights record–called a “voice of good sense and goodwill”. Small wonder they called him–i.e. Reagan–the Great Communicator. If people believed this shit (and it seemed most did at the time), they’d believe anything. Either that or Ronnie had once again begun to show the effects of Alzheimer’s, and he really had swallowed the whole jar of jelly beans as it were in one fell swoop.
Now some less than kind souls have even suggested the Gipper rode into the White House with at least Alzheimer’s early onset. Or he’d simply forgotten the details of the briefing he received from the good folks on the Zaire/DRC desk down at Foggy Bottom. Or maybe Reagan actually was engaging in some FDR-type realpolitik, that being: ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Hard to know for sure! More likely, though, in true neo-con tradition, he chose to ignore it, or didn’t consider the deprivation of human rights on a national scale or persecution, denial of human rights, murder, exploitation, mass incarceration, and of its citizens all that much of a big deal. In fact, The Gipper’s Ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick (aka the ‘Fairy’ Godmother of Neo-cons and an Amazonian Cold Warrior of the first order), was once quoted as saying that: ‘…America could be justified in its defense of totalitarian regimes if it served the defense of liberty and the national interest’. This was a refrain we have come to hear many times since.
The concept of the “national interest” for the US has always been one that’s a moving feast at the best and worst of times, and the above statement would’ve had the Grandmaster Minter of political double-speak George Orwell spinning in his eternally designated bolthole. We don’t know if Kirkpatrick was referring to people like Mobutu and his ilk in particular when she framed this pearl of foreign policy wisdom, but he clearly would not have been completely out of the frame. It’s also just as uncertain how Mobutu might have served the “liberty” and/or the “national interest” of either the US or Zaire however it might have been defined, or for that matter the other countries in the regions that suffered blowback from his poisonous, sclerotic, genocidal and cataclysmic reign, most notably Rwanda and Burundi.
It’s also not known if Mobutu had the same understanding of “liberty” and “national interest” as those that he detained, assassinated, murdered, terrorized, raped, tortured, mutilated, plundered, imprisoned, pillaged and just plain neglected throughout his time in office.
The lucky ones–if they can in any logically considered sense be defined as such–are presumably the ones he did neglect. He might not have destroyed as many lives as King Leo, but he gave it his best shot. With his death in disgraced exile in Morocco of prostate cancer in 1997, Mobutu’s belligerent, brutal ‘blackass’ was no more, and the moment of his passing presumably came not a nanosecond too soon for those who did survive him, with what remained of their lives and their families and tribes and their communities. It’s still further unknown what these folk and their descendants think now about the leaders, institutions, and nations without whose support the long-since deceased, yet still reviled Mobutu relied upon to keep him in power would have had a considerably shorter shelf-life than he did if not for them interfering in their affairs.
America, this is your foreign policy dollar working for you, then and now.
Now if King Leopold in the Belgian Congo was the poster boy/template for the ugly, vicious, ruthless, colonialist/imperialist period of centuries-old European empire, then Mobutu in Zaire went on to assume the role of his future political doppelganger in the equally ugly, vicious, ruthless, post-colonial, post-imperial, nationalist, and independence periods, a period that the U.S. (you know, the world’s “beacon of freedom”?) called the shots on. The CIA adopted him, nurtured him, and egged him on all the way. After all, he believed in Freedom, and Democracy, and Liberty, and all that other All-American (Bull)Shit too didn’t he? What’s not to like?
For his part—and we might say, his final part—The Gipper played the role of an Alzheimer’s victim who eventually ‘buys the ranch’ for real in 2004, riding off into the sunset for the very last time. No doubt like most presidents before and after him, he did so oblivious to, or unconcerned about, the blowback that unfolded as a result of his country’s policies under his own ‘regime’. Mobutu was, of course, only one in a veritable conga-line of client dictatorships whose unerring, unquestioning support by America of them and the respective ruling elites and their cadres of the many and various regimes helped unleash mayhem, destruction, exploitation, torture, murder, misery, deep-seated ethnic, religious and racial division, and genocide upon their people and societal disorder, political dysfunction and economic catastrophe upon their nations.
As for Reagan, true to form the Old Ham just wouldn’t get off the stage, being of the ripe old age of 93 when they eventually hauled his ass off to Boot Hill. Still a bit of a ‘B’ movie exit by many measures, certainly for many who might consider his presidency a bit, well, ‘B’ movie. Not all it’s cracked up to be then? But try telling that to the Raging, Rabid, Raving, Righteous ideologues of Neo Americon (sic) Century, and you will get ‘short-shrifted’ PDQ. You know who I’m talking about here folks: the aforementioned Pompeos, the Boltons, the Abrams and all the rest of their hacks, flacks, and lackeys, on either side of the Potomac and beyond.
He was their savior back in the day…for which we should all be forever grateful (not). The most depressing thing, though, is that the current cabal almost makes The Gipper look and sound like a bleeding heart liberal democrat and anti-imperialist…maybe even a man of the people? I did say “almost” didn’t I?…..
The photo above was taken on 13 February 1961, when U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson called president Kennedy to belatedly report Patrice Lumumba’s assassination. The photo was taken at the very moment JFK received the news.
To bring our narrative up to speed with current events and take it full circle—especially those that have to do with regime change and America’s interferences in the affairs of other countries for reasons generally unrelated to concerns on the part of the U.S. about freedom, democracy, liberty, and the much ballyhooed rule of law—we have to once again parachute back down the memory hole. This time, though, we look at JFK and his connection to the Lumumba story. The whole mess in the DRC was as earlier indicated all about the filthy lucre (or in au courant parlance, “it’s all about the ‘Benjamins’”).
The DRC was/is one of the most resource-rich nations certainly on the Dark Continent if not in the world. As Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela is currently finding out, few national entities can hold their own against the combined powers of the large multi-national corporations and the governments of countries like Britain, France, and America, when you have something they want. After all, the corporations own them all lock, stock, and barrel. All things considered, Lumumba never stood a chance of surviving as PM of the newly independent nation. The former had a very different definition of what it meant to be independent than the latter and his supporters. His assassination was preordained by the previous Eisenhower administration, and by most accounts, Kennedy was totally unaware of this.
It is also notable that JFK himself was infamously offed by the regime changers of his own era, those who felt threatened by his stance on any number of issues. One of the motives for his dispatch could well have been the president’s supportive position on post-colonial nationalism and the increasing—and to their former imperial overlords, annoying—assertiveness of their former colonies, along with their desire for independence with all the fruit that came with it. By supporting these stances, this by definition meant that Kennedy was perceived to be no friend of empire.
But notwithstanding his campaign rhetoric, it’s no surprise that current POTUS Donald Trump has fully embraced the regime changers agenda. As I have observed elsewhere on occasion, Trump is after all the consummate ‘chancer’; even a drop-dead ‘drongo’ like him knows which side on which to butter his bagel. Which brings to mind the late, great comedian Bill Hicks’ pitch-black routine about a hypothetical induction session given by the powers that be behind the throne to all new occupants of the White House.
In Hicks’ fanciful—yet at the same time still frighteningly plausible—scenario, the new POTUS (let’s imagine it’s The Donald) is ushered into the Situation Room to watch a video presentation. And, spoiler alert, they didn’t go there to hold hands, sing “Kumbaya”, and watch re-runs of the West Wing. As the first few frames come up, it becomes immediately obvious even to Trump this is an actual cinematic rendering of the events in Dallas, TX., on November 22, 1963, circa lunchtime. Unlike previous footage of this memorable event, this ‘version’ has never been made public, and presents a scenario that is completely at odds with the official narrative. The new president slowly but surely braces himself, fuelled by ever increasing shock as he watches the unfolding images reveal a mise-en-scène very different to the more familiar Zapruder footage.
In this version, though, he sees several shooters in a deadly crossfire—none of whom are located anywhere near the Texas School Book Depository Building, and one of whom mos def is situated behind the white picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll and looks nothing like Lee Harvey Oswald—all of which confirms for him unequivocally that every conspiracy theorist who’s ever attached their name to the JFK assassination after rejecting the Warren Commission report was indeed right. As the presentation comes to the end, there is a prolonged silence in the room; after he’s recovered a measure of composure, one of the presenters asks the freshly minted POTUS if he has any questions. He replies: “Nah I’m good; let’s go bomb Damascus!”
We all get the picture, even if my recollection loses something in the translation.
Pissing in the Information Pool (aka Imperial Public Relations)
Insofar as the situation in Venezuela goes, placing to one side the reality that hell has no fury like an empire scorned, it is perhaps instructive to consider other reasons as to why Uncle Sam has such a ‘hard on’ for the country and its current, ‘recalcitrant’ leader Maduro.
Again, a little backstory is key here. As most folks know, every military operation comes with its own unique identifier, a brand if one likes, to use marketing terminology. It’s uncertain if the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex—which knows a thing or three about marketing to be sure, possibly much more than they do about actually winning wars—has contrived a specific nomenclature for any possible offensive operation in Venezuela in order to effect its regime change strategy. But it’s unlikely to compete with the one some bright spark in the George W Bush administration conjured up—in what can only be described as an inspired flash of lateral thinking—when they decided to invade Iraq in 2003 and ‘renovate’ Saddam Hussein’s regime from the inside out.
In its hegemonic zeal, Bush and Co. neglected (amongst many other things it should be noted), to pay close attention to the optics of its brand, and the message said brand might unintentionally convey to the public if one does not get one’s ducks flying in the same direction and at the same speed on such important details. This is especially important if one is looking to disguise the real objectives underpinning one’s not so benevolent intentions. As anyone who works in marketing or public relations will tell you, it’s all about the “optics”: Perception is nine-tenths of reality! Or put another way: it is to a marketer what location is to a realtor.
All of which is to say, the planned, ultimately disastrous, monumentally expensive in blood and treasure invasion and occupation of Iraq was originally designated—wait for it—as Operation Iraqi Liberation, or for the ‘acronymically’ inclined, “OIL”. (No, folks, I am not making this shit up…As the inimitable and irrepressible Walter Brennan might have opined back in the day, “that’s no brag, that’s fact!”) It was apparently some time before the penny dropped and it was hastily rebranded Operation Iraqi Freedom (or “OIF”), lest people get the wrong idea. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when to comes to acronyms, I much prefer “OIL” to “OIF”; it rolls off the tongue a lot easier for one thing. And it’s almost always gratifying when we catch our politicians and public figures in embarrassing moments, not that many easily succumb to such sentiments anyway.
President of Venezuela Nicholas Maduro – The Empire’s bete noir du jour. It’s all about the oil….again!
In any event, this linguistic ‘wardrobe malfunction’ as it were achieved the distinction as one of the great exemplars of the Freudian slip to be found anywhere in anyone’s political history, recent or not so. And in Venezuela, like in Iraq, make no mistake: it’s also all about the OIL (Even back in World War One, it was one of the big drivers of the outbreak of war, and not an insignificant determinant of its outcome. See Robert Newman’s History of Oil.) The lucky (or depending on your POV, unlucky) Venezuelans have more of the ‘Texas Tea’ than Saudi Arabia!…
That they also have much more “democracy” and “freedom” too than the Saudis is a given (with even the occasional fair and free election, and insofar as one might gather, far fewer public beheadings), though admittedly this might not be considered a huge achievement by some folks for any country regardless of the measure of their authoritarian persuasion to which they might or might not be inclined. Not that that metric either way has ever really counted for much either way in Washington, now or then. Like Superman does with his underpants then, these days the regime renovators wear their ‘Freudian slips‘ on the outside; indeed, they all but seem to do so with pride, like a wannabe Hollywood starlet sashaying down the red carpet on Oscar night in some famous couturier’s new frock. One only has to listen to John Bolton; if he mentions the word “Iran”, and though the thought may be unsettling to some, one can be reasonably sure his Y-fronts will be clearly visible.
When it comes to understanding the mindset of these folks, it appears they’ve resurrected then contrived their own bespoke version of the aforementioned Divine Right of Kings. Either that or like Superman, they really believe they are fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, all three of which are literally by definition a moving feast at the best of times in U.S. political discourse. And they see it is their God-given right—nay responsibility—to protect and save the rest of the planet’s denizens from themselves.
Such then is how they view their exceptional, indispensable place within the geopolitical firmament. The French in their imperial heyday called it their “mission civilisatrice“. The scribe cum poet laureate of imperial excess Rudyard Kipling referred to something akin to it as the “White Man’s Burden”, one which he suggested none too subtly America would have to pick up after the British Empire ran out of puff. Which would suggest the Americans mos def did get the memo this time round. More accurately, we might simply describe it as pillaging, raping, plundering, rampaging, burning, looting, exploitation, and rampant desecration and wholesale destruction of communities, regions, and nations and their natural and human resources in order to enrich themselves and their fellow elites in their own countries simply because they can.
Sounds like a pretty good day’s work if/when you can both get it, and get away with it, eh? As the inimitable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once opined: ‘When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray”. We closed our eyes…. [and] When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.’ Sounds about right to me.
We should round out this diatribe with an admonishment from the late, great Chalmers Johnson, who along with being a True American Patriot was, like William Blum, no fan of his country’s relentless, ruthless empire building, and also one who knew a thing or three about “blowback”. ‘Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price—individually and collectively—for their nation’s continued efforts to dominate the global scene.’
One only needs to be able to read, have some basic research skills, and a willingness to have the scales pulled from their eyes to understand where he was coming from. Still, though, it does echo similar sentiments to Johnson’s, the very last word must go to Blum (to whom said “diatribe” is dedicated): ‘No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what your government is doing is actually worse than you can imagine’.
We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.
Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.
Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.
Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid
The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.
People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.
Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.
Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.
The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.
We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.
Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.
The US Embassy is Forced to Close
On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.
Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.
When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.
The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.
When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.
Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.
Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)
Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution
We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.
Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.
While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.
One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect
become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.
None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”
The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.
Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)
Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential
The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.
We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.
The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.
We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.
It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.
In recent years, the importance of military drones has become increasingly obvious and the use of drones is increasingly controversial.1 Periodic overviews and attempts to clarify and understand drones can be very useful for people concerned with this new technology and should be directed towards a re-imagining of what drones are and are used for.
The American military has in recent years increasingly suffered from a “Jupiter Complex”, or a commitment to a vision of one single global battlefield, where the most modern sciences and technologies are believed to be best applied to constant and continuous global surveillance, reconnaissance, and information networking, including a weaponized attack and emergency response system which is envisioned, designed, and intended to establish a constant American military presence over the entire surface of the planet Earth. Among other things, this Jupiter Complex has advocated and encouraged a program for armed drone patrols, drone surveillance, and drone-based missile strikes on a planetary scale. Following 9/11, the US Congress approved an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force”, which the Bush administration interpreted as an authorization to expand the use of armed drones, which had at that time become for some people an exciting new military technology. The American Department of Defense (DoD) operates drones under the AUMF, which is an openly overt authorization, and the DoD reports to Congressional armed services committees in public hearings where drone funding is public and known. The DoD has arrangements established through diplomatic channels and other forums and an established and known chain of command with recognized accountability standards regarding the use of military drones.
There had been at least a seven-fold total increase in drone attacks between the Bush and Obama administrations. During Bush’s presidency, there were less than 50 strikes launched between 2004 and 2009, mostly during the last year of the second term and mostly inside Pakistan. This trend would have almost certainly continued in the years following Bush’s second term, since drones are considered a Revolution in Military Affairs (RIMA), which inevitably generates repercussions in politics and government. Over the two years between 2009 and 2010, President Obama authorized more than four times as many strikes than during Bush’s entire term, at one point averaging one strike every four days compared with one strike every forty days during Bush’s term. In Obama’s first four months, there were as many strikes as during Bush’s entire term. Again, these deployments would have occurred regardless of election results. Drones had by that time become a priority amongst influential military, industry, and government leaders and an issue of intense contention.
There were at least 420 American launched drone strikes (and perhaps many more) between 2004 and 2013. As many as 5,000 people might have been killed, but perhaps many more. By 2011, nearly 2,300 people had been killed by American drones. In 2013, the number could have reached 4,700 or more with at least 3,600 verified. Most strikes and deaths have occurred inside Pakistan, where there were at least 9 strikes in 2007, 36 in 2008, 53 in 2009, 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011, 48 in 2012, and at least 27 in 2013. There have been a growing number of strikes in Yemen, where nearly 100 have happened since 2002, with nearly 500 people killed. In 2009, there were as many as 80 strikes in Yemen. In 2012, there were at least 42 strikes, with at least 200 people killed. US drones have also attacked a “handful” of targets in Somalia since 2006, including the first in two years during late 2013.
Budgets, Procurement, and Costs
The budgets of various managing authorities responsible for drone programs, including the American Defense Department, and the global expansion of drone basing are examples of how this Jupiter Complex is manifested.
Between 1988 and 2000, the United States spent about $4 billion on military “drones”. In 2000, $284 million. In 2001, at least $667 million, by 2005, there was at least an 18% spending increase, reaching $1 billion annually. Since 2001, a 23% annual spending increase. Between 2001 and 2013, there was a forty-fold increase in spending, and costs grew from less than $1 billion to an estimated $26 billion cumulative by 2013. By 2010, drones were costing America up to $5 billion annually, with at least $6 billion spent in 2011, $5.8 billion in 2012, $6 billion in 2013, $6.3 billion in 2014, and a projected $6.5 billion in 2015. Some estimates see $30.8 billion in acquisition and research spending between 2011 and 2015. Other estimates expect between $30 and $40 billion in spending by 2021 (for about 730 drones).
“Drones” collectively consume between 10% and 20% of Pentagon spending on military aircraft and at least 1% of the entire Pentagon budget, rising to an unknown total after factoring in classified spending, which could be billions of dollars. In 2010, of an estimated $58 billion Pentagon “black budget” on spending for classified programs and operations, which includes drones, investments in drones consumed an unknown but respective share of $19 billion for research and development, $17 billion for procurement, and $15 billion for operations and maintenance. In early 2014, the US Congress had $530 billion in classified spending, an unknown amount of which was (is) for drones.
By 2011, the US already accounted for at least one-third of all spending on all drones by all countries. By 2022, US spending may account for between 62% and 77% of global research and development and between 55% and 69% of procurement. Of a projected $94 billion total spending globally by 2022, the US may account for as much as $85 billion, much of which is spending for military drones, including thousands of armed and/or weaponized drones.
In 2000, the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stated that drones should comprise one-third of the Pentagon’s air fleet by 2015. Drones today (2014) represent roughly one-third of the entire Pentagon air fleet, numbering up to 11,000, with nearly 500 weaponized. There were fewer than 200 American military drones in 2001, and fewer than 10 were armed or weaponized. By 2009, there were at least 5,500 total US military drones, and there were at least 8,000 by 2012. Procurement declined slightly after an unprecedented spike peaking during the US “surge” in Iraq, the Pentagon is expected to (or was at one time expected to) double the number of its drone fleet by 2020 to as many as 15,000, including thousands of armed drones. In 2012, one of the Pentagon’s drone programs purchased at least 1,211 drones. The number of purchases for this program dropped slightly below 300 in 2013, and expected purchases in 2014 were below 60. In a separate program managed under a separate authority within the Pentagon, investment increased by $600 million for as many as 150 drones annually through 2018, with a possible two to three-fold increase in coming years. For another growing drone program at the Pentagon, directed by another separate managing authority, the US military will likely purchase at least 730 drones through 2022, which is a 35% inventory increase at a cost of roughly $37 billion over ten years.
Another example of growing procurement is the Pentagon’s “Unmanned Multi-role Surveillance and Strike” program, which had 72 drones in 2010, and could grow by 600% to nearly 500 drones by 2020, with a 700% spending increase from $1 billion to at least $7 billion. By 2022, “multi-role” drones may total nearly 550, which is a four-fold increase from 2012. Even if procurement steadies or declines, costs are still expected to rise as drone models become more sophisticated and expensive, as manufacturing monopolies on materials and technologies solidify, and as manufacturing orders are revised by the Pentagon and financial forecasts are modified. In 2005, for instance, the Pentagon was billed for an 18% increase in costs because it was buying so many drones, but in 2011, when an order for 22 drones was reduced to 11, the Pentagon absorbed an additional 11% spike in costs. Depending on the type and model, a single drone can cost anywhere between $5 million and $150 million, and in rare cases for test models and prototypes, costs can rise as high as $635 million. The most popular model right now (2014) costs about $150 million each. But costs rise in other ways not included in budgets.
In addition to research and development, and purchases, expenses increase with costs to operate “ground cockpit” systems and other support infrastructure needed to run the program on a global scale. These costs are one example of how to see where the drone program’s costs are expanded beyond procurement. As of 2014, the US had at least sixteen stateside drone training and operating bases, and more than a dozen other known drone-oriented airbases around the world, including in Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and at least six bases in Africa. Since 2013, the US has been running drones from at least four locations inside Tunisia to monitor people and events in Algeria and Libya. US drones have also been launched into Mali from a US base inside Niger, where at least 100 Americans are stationed (as of 2014, anyway). In Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, at Camp Lemmonier the US spent at least $38 million annually to lease 500 acres for an airbase that housed more than 3,000 American service members and support personnel, including as many as 1,100 Special Operations personnel ( this was a three-fold increase since 2011). Drones accounted for 30% of all US military flights from the Djibouti base and at least 16 patrols were launched daily into Yemen and other countries in the region until 2013, when crashes and mishaps forced the US to relocate. The US has spent at least $68 million on runway renovations in Djibouti, at least $7 million training local air traffic controllers to help with drone flight coordination, and a total of at least $1.4 billion building Camp Lemmonier into an airbase designed specifically to accommodate American drones. The American Congress authorized at least $13 million to relocate the base following the persistent complications encountered there.
In addition to drone basing and procurement, and classified spending and research and development, costs also rise as the US buys fewer piloted aircraft and trains fewer “flight ready” pilots. Piloted aircraft accounted for 95% of US aircraft in 2005, but fell to 69% by 2012, with a projected 10% additional decline by 2020. The most advanced piloted American aircraft cost about $100 million more than the latest drone aircraft, and costs are growing as fewer airplanes are produced and procured. A collective decrease in airplanes and pilots is expected to coincide with an increase in costs, which have been projected to rise from about $17 billion to $19 billion annually. The cost of training drone specialists is only one-tenth the cost for training flight-ready pilots, and the number of flight-ready pilots being trained has fallen to about 250 annually (as of 2014). A byproduct or consequence of the US drone program is that the cost of training fighter and bomber pilots is expected to increase while the US is producing fewer pilots ready to fly fewer, but much more expensive and sophisticated, aircraft.
Another cost in using drones comes through losses from accidents and mishaps. Despite improving technology, drones still have high failure rates, and mishaps in hostile and non-hostile environments are common and are considered inevitable. A noteworthy accident happened in 2011, when a US drone crashed into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In late 2013, a US drone crashed into the side of a US Navy vessel near San Diego, California. At least five armed American drones have crashed out of Djibouti since 2011, at least 3 have been lost inside Iran (as of 2014). The US had recurring problems at Camp Lemmonier because of crashes related to launch problems and drones congesting civilian, non-military, airspace. An unknown number of US drones have been lost inside Pakistan, and other crashes have been documented. Crashes often occur during landings or due to weather conditions, and there are high failure rates while trying to land on naval vessels. Crashes happen through systems and communications malfunctions, unintentional “engine kills”, and human error. Crashes have become the focus of studies on counter-drone technologies, including scrambling and jamming GPS signals.
A reliable idea of failure rates is difficult to gather because the number of units and locations of total drones lost is unknown, but at least 200 and possibly many more, have crashed since 2004 in several different countries. Mishaps were frequent during the Bush administration, but are less common as the US gains experience and refines capabilities using drones. Some estimates suggest a failure rate of at least 9 drones lost per 100,000 flying hours, with a higher number lost during the first 50,000 flying hours. In 2004, mishaps were very high, but flight hours were at only about 50,000. By 2011, mishaps decreased as flight hours rose to about 650,000. In 2005, five different drone models crashed between 20 and 285 different times under different circumstances. By 2009, some estimates calculated 7.5 crashes per 100,000 hours. At least 70 of 195 launched between 2008 and 2009 crashed “catastrophically” or at “crippling rates”. In 2010, there had been at least 79 verified accidents at the cost of about $1 million each, though the cost of losses has been declining. In 2012, at least 50 drones were verified as entirely lost.
These numbers show only a very general idea of totals, since a reliable absolute bare minimum total is unknown. It is also unclear how many drones have been lost in hostile incidents, which can include drones being shot down or being targeted by electronics interference, jamming, and scrambling. In addition to the financial losses of a destroyed drone, these incidents collectively lead to the unregulated proliferation of lethal technology that has no solidified legal foundations and has been the subject of intense and ongoing controversy amidst an intensifying global drone arms race which many observers suppose will turn the world into one between countries with, and countries without, military drones.
In addition to the expenses and costs detailed above, drone spending also rises during the regular operations of drones. A typical price-tag for an hour of drone airtime is between $3,500 and $5,000, not including costs for munitions during combat missions, which can run from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2005, there has been at least a 1,200% increase in US drone patrols globally, with a 600% increase between 2003 and 2009. In 2007, there were at least 21 patrols at any given time during a 24-hour period. In 2010, there were at least 500,000 flight hours logged. In 2011, there were at least 350,000 hours logged with 54 patrols. In 2012, there were at least 330,000 hours logged, and by 2013, there were more than 2 million total flight hours logged, creating such an overabundance and backlog of drone video and film to review and to edit, that outside agencies and corporations were consulted and contracted by the Pentagon, including the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency and the sports entertainment media network ESPN. At any given time, at least 65 different US drone patrols could be happening around the world. Combat patrols are made up of at least four aircraft, including one in-flight, one in-maintenance, one in-transit, and one re-fueling. For a given 24-hour patrol there are at least seven and as many as ten crews of at least twenty people each operating and monitoring drones. One-hundred is a typical number of people for lethal strike drone missions. In rare cases, up to 300 people could be involved, including remote control pilots, sensor operators, systems coordinators, information analysts, communications and video crew, field personnel, intelligence operatives, military lawyers, senior civilian officials, private companies’ representatives, and drone mechanics and other staff.
Drone Expansion and Criticisms
As the military drone program establishes itself, the US military is trying to fulfill a growing demand for drone pilots and related personnel. The drone generation in America is seeing a growth beyond military training and into university and graduate degree programs, laboratory funding, and investments in corporate development. By 2009, in the US military, there were about 400 trained drone specialists, some migrating from traditional Air Force training, or with prior “air sense” and flying experience, and some novice and entry-level. By 2009, more drone specialists were being trained than traditional combat pilots. In 2011, the Air Force Academy graduated its first class of 350 drone specialists, compared with 250 conventional pilots that year. At least 350 operators were trained in 2012, adding to the total that year of 950 operators and 1,400 drone pilots. By 2015, the Air Force expected at least 2,000 each of both drone pilots and operators, and a growing number of support staff. The cost of training drone specialists was about one-tenth the cost of training conventional pilots in 2014, and the training process has been streamlined in many cases because of high demand. Many trainees take a course of only 3 or 9 months instead of 10 or 16 months for more thorough specialization. Specialists do not usually live an “active-duty lifestyle” and do not endure the demanding physical testing which “flight ready” pilots require. Some drone specialists are assigned to patrols with as few as 20 flying hours logged, instead of the 200 hours set by higher standards and less demanding deadlines for other drone specialists. For these, and other reasons, drone specialists are considered to be detached from combat mentality except for a desensitized “push button” and “PlayStation” mentality, which is sort of byproduct of modern technologies that has raised concerns about the “dehumanization” of warfare.
Drones tend to generate a perception of war as a simulation or video game, and drone operators are often seen as a “chair force”, or, “cubicle warriors” criticized as second-class soldiers fighting a coward’s war by striking targets from remote distances (perhaps as many as 8,000 miles from a target) with no possibility of retaliation by any actual enemy in any immediately shared battle-space. There are accounts of psychological stress drone pilots endure as a result of monitoring computer screens for extended time periods and sometimes launching missiles that kill innocent people. About 30% of drone operators probably do have some stress related to their assignments, and an estimated 20% are considered clinically distressed. Of 600 operators and drone pilots surveyed by the Air Force in 2011, 42% had moderate to high stress and 20% had “emotional burnout”. In addition to concerns about the type of soldiers drone operators are, there are also criticisms about a perceived lack of honor, or a loss of virtue, in drone warfare. In 2013, for example, the Pentagon encountered a controversy by planning to issue a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” to drone operators who had an “extraordinary direct impact on combat operations”. Production of the medal was discontinued following criticisms from dozens of US senators and from service veterans about the nature of drone warfare and drone specialists’ place in drone warfare.The issue of drone operators is connected to larger issues in the age of weaponized drones.
Drones are controversial because they are an application of a non-military technology to an overtly offensive military aim. The US chose to employ drone technology as a weapon, and has since 2001 become the focus of intense criticism from observers in every academic and scientific field and discipline. The criticisms of US foreign service officers, of veteran military commanders, military operational and administrative officials, and others, suggest a situation that has struggled to reach stability but has been advocated for anyway. Despite convictions that military drones are useless or counterproductive, and amidst ongoing debates and attempts to clarify and solidify a legal framework for drones, drones have continued to be deployed in American military and intelligence operations, which many see as a serious mistake.
In mainstream American politics, for example, open opposition to drones or open criticisms of drone attacks has been noticeable only very rarely. The opposition of the American political left and others has been increasingly focused on the human rights violations, the lack of transparency and accountability, the violations of due process, the misinterpretation of authorizations, and the continued denial of information which has been happening since drones were first introduced. In the sciences and philosophy, drones have raised questions about ethical programming and computer autonomy, where drones as weapons are either considered inherently unethical or else have been put to unethical ends. Questions are also being raised about whether it is or is not ethical to allow drones an increasing amount of autonomy and separation from human control, where the role of monitoring increases and the role of controlling drones decreases. The autonomy debate involves drone operators and the so-called “human loop”, where today there is a human “in the loop”, there will be in the future merely a human “on the loop”. One of the most serious criticisms is that drone warfare makes going to war or deciding to use force less scrutinized or “easier” and that the ease with which the US seems to have been using drones has led to abuses and excesses with very little accountability and almost no transparency. The Central Intelligence Agency, for instance, employs people who answer to no known chain of command. The scrutiny over CIA drone strikes continues to be a serious controversy even though drones are being developed and deployed without any established legal agreements or consensus amongst the various people involved in these operations.
Resistance to and scrutiny of drones has been evident for as long as drones have been relevant as a new military technology. During the early years of the US drone program, the consensus within the US military was that drones were not an honorable way to fight. This sentiment became less influential as the program developed and drones were prioritized by influential factions at the Pentagon and in government and industry. During the Bush administration, CIA Director George Tenet expressed reservations about the CIA’s authority to use drones in conflict scenarios. Military hierarchy has been affected by disagreements about drones. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission expressed concerns about the US drone program being under CIA control and recommended changes that have since been reiterated, if still ignored, by policymakers. Following the 9/11 Commission’s report, the General Accounting Office in 2005 alluded to establishing a single authority for drones, amidst a lack of oversight. In 2011, the US Ambassador to Pakistan left office following repeated disagreements with the CIA and the White House over the negative impact of ongoing US drone strikes inside Pakistan. A Congressional filibuster in 2013 publicized drones, albeit in a sensationalist way, and serves as an example of a latent concern within the American government about drones amidst an increasingly tacit acceptance of drones. By 2014, the US Congress’ “Unmanned Systems Caucus” (the “Drone Caucus”), had at least 60 members in both major parties. Between 2011 and 2012, the Drone Caucus received at least $2.3 million from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a drone lobbying and trade group representing as many as 600 corporations, companies, and businesses, and over 7,000 individuals. The AUVSI gives Congress at least $250,000 annually and doubled its lobbying budget in 2011. This investment shows how, despite some concerns about drones, the defense budget can be recycled by the defense industry back into political lobbying and thereby influence government and policy to support the drone initiatives of industry and some military leaders.
Drones have been criticized by some military veterans as being “strategically dumb” and “tactically smart”, where any benefit is too costly and any mistakes too counterproductive to justify the deployment of drones as weapons. As time passes and drone specialists inevitably gain experience and influence, drone policy will be increasingly directed by a new generation of people unsympathetic to the concerns of many military officers, human rights advocates, and others. When official training for drone operators started in 2010, for instance, policymakers inside the military mostly included veteran combat pilots who were very highly skeptical and sometimes openly unsupportive of military drones. The tendency was to see drones as expensive and wasteful, and any benefit being negligible and any mistakes being very costly. Experience had shown that drones could not survive hostile conditions, but as America’s military power increased, the nature of America’s wars changed, becoming more asymmetrical and low-intensity, which some saw as an opportunity to introduce drone technology.
The conventions of war changed following the Cold War and as the Global War on Terror has changed into an undefined, open-ended, ongoing, “long” war, drones have become integrated and “federated” into the US military, and have become normalized despite the concerns of military leadership and others about the highly controversial nature of drones and drone combat. Drones were, and are, perceived as stifling reform and encouraging abuse, and as being wrongly employed as a strategy while they would have been better employed, very sparingly, if at all, as a tactic. For some, again, any strategic benefit drones might offer is generated at too great a cost and for too small a gain to justify the problems generated when drones cause damage, which is apparently far too often. The “whack-a-mole” criticism noticed by experienced observers says that for any one target the US kills, several other “enemies” will have been created. In this way, drones are known to have generated several types of blowback and to have backfired on far too many occasions and for too wide a variety of reasons.
Drones are criticized as being prone to create and sustain insurgency and to perpetuate endless war, yet they are being used in America’s ongoing military operations globally under the auspices of the Global War on Terror. The GWOT is understood to involve “asymmetrical” warfare, where the proportion of US force is strong enough to create a military imbalance making high-intensity conventional conflict between two or more superpowers increasingly less likely and low-intensity small-scale unconventional hostilities more likely. The US is not at war with other nations and national armies, but instead is at war with non-state actors in a transnational and globalized battlefield. In this situation, drones are believed or portrayed to have some relevance, but these assumptions have not been validated. Moreover, drones have been problematic beyond these military concerns expressed by veteran US commanders.
More than 15 years after America started attacking targets with drones, and after a period of well-documented abuses and ongoing controversies, no consensus exists, no single comprehensive international statement on drones exists, and yet the practice of drone attacks continues to establish a worrisome precedent of unregulated military activity amidst an intensifying and unregulated proliferation of lethal drone technology around the world. Drones have raised objections about and have been associated with problems including extraordinary rendition, CIA black-sites, enhanced interrogation and torture, kill lists, targeted assassinations and signature strikes, collateral damage, and extrajudicial killings. People continue to live in fear of drones, and yet there are no indications that the reality being created by drones will ever be governed by a consensus which reflects the concerns of those with valid observations, considerations, and insights about drones.
US military drones and the use of military drones have affected the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Drones have raised debates among professionals interested in just war theory, international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and law on national sovereignty and self-determination. The US has suffered allegations of war crimes, violations of rights to due process, a lack of transparency and accountability, and criticisms over a refusal to provide or share any basic information on drone warfare or to clarify the basis and justifications for the policies supporting deployment of drones.
The most serious issues about the impact drones are having include collateral damage, casualties to innocent bystanders, the CIA program and its attendant problems, endless spending on what is unpopular with experienced decision makers and many American citizens, the proliferation of lethal technology, endangering American civilians, and questions about the role of the courts either having a role in deciding who to target, or having only a limited role in deciding if US drone attacks are legal. Outside of government, human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations, and most of the rest of the word have expressed concern or disapproval of US drones. These include, but are certainly not limited to, criticisms from Reprieve, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Pakistan Body Count, the New America Foundation, the American Moslem Political Action Committee, CODEPINK, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Questions persist about the approval and vetting process used in CIA strikes, including the respective roles of the presidency, the courts, and the military. The CIA program has a black budget. Operatives do not answer to any known chain of command. The CIA operate as many as 80 drones tracking up to 20 targets at a given time. CIA drones are maintained and armed by private contractors and account for as many as 80% of all American drone strikes. The US Air Force works with the CIA during some strikes and many CIA operatives were formerly in the US Air Force.
Drones have been used under the AUMF, and also under Title 10 of the US Code of Laws, which is considered to be outdated, but which has been avoided as an issue for American politicians because of concerns that political careers may be jeopardized if any kind of public stance on drones is declared. The CIA is, and has been, running covert drone operations, and reporting to Congressional intelligence committees only in closed sessions, while receiving unknown classified funding and authorization. CIA operatives do not have a known chain of command and often work with private companies who have no oversight or accountability, or adherence to any established rules of conflict but only secretive arrangements with unknown terms with host governments.
Most countries around the world strongly disapprove of US drone strikes and popular opinion polls and informal polls within military circles around the world show a strong suspicion and dislike for US drones and drone policy generally. In countries experiencing US drone strikes and hosting drone infrastructure, the unpopularity is unusually intense. Protests are common, and in too many places the US is seen as an occupying and invasive presence, with an attendant arrogance and belligerence, that only complicates an already dismal situation for those concerned with America’s problematic attitudes and ideas about human rights in the 21st century.
Note: This article was written several years ago and some of the figures can be updated to remain current, but the information is still useful and hopefully offers some general ideas about drones and drone technology as these technologies are being applied to America’s controversial military programs around the world. Thanks to the efforts of human rights organizations and others who have worked to raise awareness and to positively change the problem of military drones today.
Yes, the US is the big interferer in others’ elections, as Kovalik documents. But as counsel of the Union of Steelworkers and lawyer for beleaguered workers in Colombia, Kovalik gave his listeners insight into the little known role the US trade union movement plays — its betrayal of trade unionists abroad. Dozens of Colombia worker-heroes owe their lives to his lawyer smarts and dedication to the working class. As an American, he takes the evil of imperialism seriously and risks his own life to fight it. A real ‘working class hero’.
Kovalik doesn’t pretend to document all the US crimes (read William Blum for that). Rather, in The Plot he takes you on a world tour to Eurasia, Africa and the Americas for key election rigging moments, moments that he connects with viscerally, and brings to life.
He doesn’t get to Venezuela, but it’s really not necessary. Same old, same old. There is a clear template that has been honed over the decades, and that makes the Maduros and Talibans around the world justifiably cynical about US ‘democracy promotion’.
Kovalik contrasts the pathetic claims of Russian interference in US elections with the real, devastating US interference in the key 1996 election there that catapulted an unpopular Yeltsin back into their White House to allow the US to rape and pillage another four years. And as orchestrator of the 2014 coup in Ukraine that brought neo-fascists into power, joining Europe’s new right.
And Vietnam. It never stops giving. Kovalik highlighted the revelation in the mid-2000s of President Johnson’s secret tapes (it seems Nixon wasn’t the only one who dabbled in that) of South Vietnamese officials and his political foes, that reveal how Nixon convinced the South Vietnamese to hold off on peace talks, that if he won, he would get them a better deal. Johnson calls this treason.
But Nixon won, and who’s going to impeach a standing president for treason? (Okay, two million more Vietnamese dead. Who cares?) It was LBJ’s tapes stored in the Watergate complex calling him a traitor that Nixon was after, but all that we heard about was the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Much better to get rid of Nixon using some nice sex scandal (sorry, that’s Clinton).
So there’s a parallel with Clinton’s impeachment, and with Trump’s maybe impeachment. When you’ve decided to go after a president, it better not be political (for their war crimes, bombing and subversion abroad).
“All US presidents since WWII have been war criminals,” says Kovalik. The sheeple need to keep believing in the emperor’s ‘new clothes’. He can do naughty things, but he is basically a good guy. Never a traitor or war criminal.
And another parallel — Reagan’s ‘October surprise’ in the 1980 election — collusion with the enemy to hold onto the hostages at the US embassy until he was elected. The ‘enemy’ would get arms in exchange. It worked and, despite being exposed, Reagan was not impeached for treason.
Willson lost his legs protesting illegal arms shipments to Nicaragua.
But then, as Kovalik told us, it was Reagan who gave the go ahead in 1987 to the train driver to run over Vietnam veteran Brian Willson at the Concord Naval Weapons Station where arms were shipped to the Contras in Reagan’s so-called “secret war” in Nicaragua. Willson survived and is a friend of Kovalik. Another working class hero.
Kovalik recounted how the trade union movement has been working hand-in-glove with the CIA since the launching of the Cold War in the late 1940s. “People joke it’s really the AFL-CIA.”
Instead of supporting the Venezuelan workers in their current US-inflicted crisis, the US trade unions are supporting the attempt to overthrow the workers’ government. One would expect trade unions in the rich West to be sympathetic to their brothers in the imperial periphery, but this ‘workers of the world unite’ philosophy, once the credo of the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) is long gone.
The credo resurfaced during the Great Depression and WWII, when the union movement surged ahead in America. Enter the Cold War, and the unions became government appendages, and the CIA began actively to work through them to quell workers everywhere.
When the CIA had its knuckles rapped by the Church Committee in 1975, there was a brief pause in subversion, but by 1979 they were back in action everywhere, doing the same dirty work through Reagan’s National Endowment for Democracy, again using the trade unions as a cover for subversion.
Everyone knows about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre (bad) [Too few people are aware of monopoly media disinformation (bad) and believe unskeptically what they are told. Read “Massacre? What Massacre?” and decide for yourself the truth of a massacre in Tiananmen Square. — Ed] knows about , but how about the same year, the Caracazo massacre in Venezuela, which resulted in the same thousand + deaths (no one knows for sure), when the neoliberal agenda was suddenly inflicted on the nation (no election endorsing it), doubling prices and privatizing huge swathes of the economy?
No problemo. The IMF blessing is enough ‘democracy’. (Hey, guess where the Bolivarian revolution started?)
China bad, El Salvador good
We are programmed: China, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua bad, Colombia, El Salvador, whoever-obeys-the-US, good. Kovalik shakes his head in exasperation.”The US pushed countries into Soviet hands with threats, and then protested that they were secret communists and must be destroyed openly.”
Cuba, of course, is the wonderful exception to US diktat, lucky enough to have a still powerful Soviet Union willing to stand up to the US bully. Was Castro a commie all along? Well, he certainly was after the Bay of Pigs.
Which brings us to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. Once upon a time, the US could just move into any American country (Canada, the British-controlled exception) and wipe out any pesky caudillo. Nicaragua and Cuba were given especially harsh treatment in the 1930s. After Cuba held on to its revolution, the tide started to shift. But with Trump’s latest threat to invade Venezuela, it seems the empire is hell-bent on more Monroe.
Kovalik marshalls devastating facts:
*Rome at 33 military bases to keep its world empire in tow, Britain 36, the US 1000.
*The Colombian and United States governments worked overtime on mass killings in Colombia between 2002 and 2009. Trade unionist have been killed at the rate of one every three days over the last 23 years, half by the security forces. (Remember: Colombia good, Venezuela bad.)
*The Wayuu natives are experiencing a slow motion genocide, as their main source of livelihood, the tributary of the Río Ranchería, was diverted to service Cerrejón, whose slogan is “responsible mining”. It is Latin America’s biggest open-pit coal mine (690 square kilometers), a joint Swiss-British-Australian-US firm, ‘responsible’ only in the sense of responsible for destroying the nation that lived there in peace with nature for millennia.
*Samantha Power won a Pulitzer Prize for A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2002), which chastises US inaction on genocides in the 20th century. Obama made her UN ambassador, where she was able to advance her noble cause using R2P (responsibility to protect), advocating what? More invasions, Libya being Power’s finest hour.
Peace? Boring :(
Which brings us to peace. How to promote it? It’s so hard to get there. Revolution is exciting, even if naughty (Fidelistas, Sandinistas, Chavistas). But who cares about the drip torture of the empire when you’re trying to build a peaceful society? Bo-oring.
Kovalik recounts how Americans were shocked that he still proudly shows a selfie with the Sandinista Daniel Ortega, another close friend, despite the (fake) news about him murdering, torturing, embezzling. “Building a socialist society, resisting endless slander and subversion, overcoming apathy and the legacy of corruption and hopelessness, that’s hard, exhausting work. Sure you make mistakes, but they’re honest mistakes, and you learn from them. You don’t give up.”
As a lawyer, Kovalik fights to make international law function. “The law should protect the weak against the powerful. But that’s not what’s happening. The US loves to use the International Criminal Court, but refuses to join, as that would mean it could (would) be brought to court. Only Africans have been prosecuted there.” Ditto for the International Court of Justice. R2P is a violation of international law, a gimmick introduced in post-Soviet times to give the imperial system a sheen of respectability.
How to appeal to the youth of today, the hope of the future? “When young people tell me there’s no hope, no future, I find it hard to disagree with them, but if we can show the youth that the only way to end global warming is to dismantle the war industry, there really is hope. It is the key to a future worth living.”
In a fair boxing match, opponents enter the ring with similarly padded gloves and battle under the bright lights for the world to see. There are, of course, cases where one fighter cheats, as in the infamous case in 1983 when Luis Resto wore weakly padded gloves and hand wraps hardened with plaster to make them rock solid. His opponent, Billy Collins, an up-and-coming boxer from Tennessee with a 14-0 record, was permanently and very seriously injured in the fight at Madison Square Garden. His eyes were battered shut and his vision damaged. He never fought again and died depressed the following year at age twenty-two.
In the fight for truth in the public arena, similar subterfuges occur.
To battle honestly in the open forum, to argue to and fro squarely, is often prevented in advance by eliminating an opponent’s voice from the debate. This is the typical method used by the corporate mass media that stack the deck with sycophants and refuse dissidents a place to voice their ideas.
Then there is the masquerade of fighting an opponent who is really a collaborator and benefactor, whose punches one counters in a game of shadow boxing meant to convince the audience that the fight is real and you are on their side. Some alternative media use this technique because they are gatekeepers for the power elite.
Sometimes this ruse is so blatant that the fix becomes transparent because the smart-asses who play this game screw up, yet they still expect their real opponents to shut up and walk away because their fixer’s mantra is “Never apologize, never explain.” It has always been the code of the rich and powerful.
Some are brawlers, however, and fight back against this bullshit.
The well-known leftist website Counterpunch is an example of the “never apologize, never explain” school. A number of writers and journalists who have published many pieces at Counterpunch have been banned from this site in recent years without an explanation, Andre Vltchek and C.J. Hopkins being two who crossed an invisible boundary the Shadow had drawn and were never again published by Counterpunch. Others, smelling an odd odor, have walked away. The numbers are growing.
I’ve recently seen Counterpunch shadowbox and the Shadow won.
On January 29, 2019, I published an article highly critical of the CIA (The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles) that was posted at Global Research. Lew Rockwell picked it up the next day. Dissident Voice also posted it on the 30th. Then The Unz Review published it on January 31, 2019. Four ideologically diverse websites that saw value in a harsh and complicated critique of the spy agency. Other sites would also publish it in the following days, including Off-Guardian. After the piece appeared, I received an email from the editor of Counterpunch, Jeffrey St Clair, telling me that he too was going to publish this article on Friday, February 1, for Counterpunch’s weekend edition. I had written a few dozen pieces that Counterpunch had published and had a very cordial relationship with St Clair. In fact, when I was in Rome in 2018, he had asked me to place a stone for him on Keats’ and Shelley’s graves when I visited the cemetery where they were buried. I did that, and my wife took photos that I sent to him. All was copacetic. Buddies. High fives!
On February 1, 2019, shortly after midnight Eastern time (12:02 AM), Counterpunch published my piece for their weekend edition where articles remain for three days. When I awoke at 4 A.M., I saw it. Then at 8 A. M., when I arrived at the college where I teach, I again saw it. At 11 A.M., when I had finished teaching a few classes, I looked again and it had disappeared. Transitive verb: Counterpunch had disappeared it. Eliminated it. Scratched it. Excised it.
All the other numerous articles remained. Only mine was gone. At first I thought it was a mistake. But as the day wore on I wondered. So I emailed St Clair and asked my buddy what had happened. As compatriots don’t do, he did not reply. But I assumed he was busy, as I am, and gets many emails. So I waited. When I emailed him again, there was no reply. A third very cordial email three days later went unanswered.
Unlike Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, I am no longer waiting. No reply is coming, and St Clair isn’t Godot, or on second thought he may be, a chimerical leftist gatekeeper enticing Counterpunch’s followers to wait forever for a revelation that isn’t coming. Like his mentor and the founder of Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn, who was so fond of excoriating as “idiots” and “conspiracy nuts” anyone questioning the JFK assassination or the attacks of September 11, 2001 – two fundamental issues that only believers in official government conspiracy theories such as Cockburn could dismiss – St Clair seems similarly dismissive of explaining why a writer’s critique of the CIA would deserve to be eliminated after being published. As if only an idiot would want to know.
However, any reasonable person would ask: Why would he not respond? St Clair, the editor-in-chief, published the piece and then disappeared it after 10-11 hours? This is highly unusual, to put it mildly. Unprecedented for the so-called left-wing alternative media. It is the kind of thing when done by the mainstream corporate media would be denounced and exposed as censorship. Not publishing an article is a publication’s prerogative, of course, but what could cause one to eliminate an article highly critical of the CIA after people had ten or so hours to read it, and since the author and editor had a very cordial relationship up to that point and the editor had days to read it carefully?
One doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that someone objected to the piece. But who could that be? If it were St Clair’s managing editor, Joshua Frank, twenty years his junior (the two run the operation), then St Clair could have explained to me why, since we were on good terms. I wouldn’t have liked it and argued my points, but at least we could have cordially agreed to disagree. But the Frank possibility makes no sense, for a managing editor would be intimately involved in the publishing process that was completed the previous day in time for the very early Friday A.M. postings. And in any case, St Clair is in charge.
Clearly an outside reader objected. The question is: Who is that reader who could exert such control over a publication that promotes itself as one that “Tells the Facts, Names the Names”? A publication that is considered radically leftist and in opposition to the ruling elites.
Okay, Counterpunch, would you name the name of the shadowy one who won this fight?
The Nazis had a name for their propaganda and mind-control operations: weltanschauungskrieg – “world view warfare.” As good students, they had learned many tricks of the trade from their American teachers, including Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who had honed his propagandistic skills for the United States during World War I and had subsequently started the public relations industry in New York City, an industry whose raison d’ȇtre from the start was to serve the interests of the elites in manipulating the public mind.
In 1941, U.S. Intelligence translated weltanschauungskrieg as “psychological warfare,” a phrase that fails to grasp the full dimensions of the growing power and penetration of U.S. propaganda, then and now. Of course, the American propaganda apparatus was just then getting started on an enterprise that has become the epitome of successful world view warfare programs, a colossal beast whose tentacles have spread to every corner of the globe and whose fabrications have nestled deep within the psyches of many hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world. And true to form in this circle game of friends helping friends, this propaganda program was ably assisted after WW II by all the Nazis secreted into the U.S. (“Operation Paperclip”) by Allen Dulles and his henchmen in the OSS and then the CIA to make sure the U.S. had operatives to carry on the Nazi legacy (see David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, The CIA, and The Rise of America’s Secret Government, an extraordinary book that will make your skin crawl with disgust).
This went along quite smoothly until some people started to question the Warren Commission’s JFK assassination story. The CIA then went on the offensive in 1967 and put out the word to all its people in the agency and throughout the media and academia to use the phrase “conspiracy theory” to ridicule these skeptics, which they have done up until the present day. This secret document – CIA Dispatch 1035-960 – was a propaganda success for many decades, marginalizing those researchers and writers who were uncovering the truth about not just President Kennedy’s murder by the national security state, but those of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. Today, the tide is turning on this score, as recently more and more Americans are fed up with the lies and are demanding that the truth be told. Even the Washington Post is noting this, and it is a wave of opposition that will only grow.
The CIA Exposed – Partially
But back in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, some covert propaganda programs run by the CIA were “exposed.” First, the Agency’s sponsorship of the Congress of Cultural Freedom, through which it used magazines, prominent writers, academics, et al. to spread propaganda during the Cold War, was uncovered. This was an era when Americans read serious literary books, writers and intellectuals had a certain cachet, and popular culture had not yet stupefied Americans. The CIA therefore secretly worked to influence American and world opinion through the literary and intellectual elites. Frances Stonor Saunders comprehensively covers this in her 1999 book, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA And The World Of Arts And Letters, and Joel Whitney followed this up in 2016 with Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, with particular emphasis on the complicity of the CIA and the famous literary journal The Paris Review.
Then in 1975 the Church Committee hearings resulted in the exposure of abuses by the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. In 1977 Carl Bernstein wrote a long piece for Esquire – “The CIA and the Media” – naming names of journalists and publications (TheNew York Times, CBS, etc.) that worked with and for the CIA in propagandizing the American people and the rest of the world. (Conveniently, this article can be read on the CIA’s website since presumably the agency has come clean, or, if you are the suspicious type, or maybe a conspiracy theorist, it is covering its deeper tracks with a “limited hangout,” defined by former CIA agent Victor Marchetti, who went rogue, as “spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.”)
Confess and Move On
By the late 1970s, it seemed as if the CIA had been caught in flagrante delicto and disgraced, had confessed its sins, done penance, and resolved to go and sin no more. Seeming, however, is the nature of the CIA’s game. Organized criminals learn to adapt to the changing times, and that is exactly what the intelligence operatives did. Since the major revelations of the late sixties and seventies – MKUltra, engineered coups all around the world, assassinations of foreign leaders, spying on Americans, etc. – no major program of propaganda has been exposed in the mainstream media. Revealing books about certain CIA programs have been written – e.g. Douglas Valentine’s important The Phoenix Program being one – and dissenting writers, journalists, researchers, and whistleblowers (Robert Parry, Gary Webb, Julian Assange, James W. Douglass, David Ray Griffin, Edward Snowden, et al.) have connected the U.S. intelligence services to dirty deeds and specific actions, such as the American engineered coup d’état in Ukraine in 2013-14, electronic spying, and the attacks of September 11, 2001. But the propaganda has for the most part continued unabated at a powerful and esoteric cultural level, while illegal and criminal actions are carried out throughout the world in the most blatant manner imaginable, as if to say fuck you openly while insidiously infecting the general population through the mass electronic screen culture that has relegated intellectual and literary culture to a tiny minority.
Let me explain what I think has been happening.
Organizations like the CIA are obviously fallible and have made many mistakes and failed to anticipate world events. But they are also very powerful, having great financial backing, and do the bidding of their masters in banking, Wall St., finance, etc. They are the action arm of these financial elites, and are, as Douglass Valentine has written, organized criminals. They have their own military, are joined to all the armed forces, and are deeply involved in the drug trade. They control the politicians. They operate their own propaganda network in conjunction with the private mercenaries they hire for their operations. The corporate mass media take their orders, orders that need not be direct, but sometimes are, because these media are structured to do the bidding of the same elites that formed the CIA and own the media. And while their ostensible raison d’ȇtre is to provide intelligence to the nation’s civilian leaders, this is essentially a cover story for their real work that is propaganda, killing, and conducting coups d’états at home and abroad.
Because they have deep pockets, they can afford to buy all sorts of people, people who pimp for the elites. Some of these people do work that is usually done by honest academics and independent intellectuals, a dying breed, once called free-floating intellectuals. These pimps analyze political, economic, technological, and cultural trends. They come from different fields: history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, political science, cultural studies, linguistics, etc. They populate the think tanks and universities. They are often intelligent but live in bad faith, knowing they are working for those who are doing the devil’s work. But they collect their pay and go their way straight to the bank, the devil’s bank. They often belong to the Council of Foreign Relations or the Heritage Foundation. They are esteemed and esteem themselves. But they are pimps.
Ah, the devil! He’s their man. A man of many names, but always an impostor. These pimps know his story and how he works his magic, and this is what their paymasters want from them: ways to use the old bastard’s bag of tricks to conjure confusion, and sow fear and paranoia. And to do this slow and easy in ways no one will recognize until it is too late.
For like culture, propaganda relies on myths, symbols, and stories. Some prefer to say narratives. But nothing is more powerful. Controlling the stories is the key to powerful propaganda. The pimps can spin many a tale.
Tell people endless tales of the good guys and the bad, of how the bad are out to get you and the good to save you. Think of the use of symbols in the telling of these stories. They are crucial. The word symbol comes from a Greek word to throw together. Symbols that represent the in-group or the “good guys” are used to create social solidarity within the in-group. Stories are told to accompany the symbols; stories, narratives, or myths tell of how the good guys are fighting to hold the group together and the bad guys are trying to rip the community apart. The symbolic and its opposite – the diabolic (to throw apart) – the angels against the devils – el diablo. Very simple, very old. The aliens are out to get us. And el diablo is always the ultimate other, the man in red, the reds, the commies, the Russians, the others, immigrants, the blacks who want to move next door, Muslims, gays – take your pick. Satanic rituals. Black magic. Witchcraft.
Methods of Propaganda
Infecting minds with such symbols and stories must be done directly and indirectly, as well as short-term and long-term. Long term propaganda is like a slowly leaking water pipe that you are vaguely aware of but that rots the metal from within until the pipe can no longer resist the pressure. Drip drop, drip drop, drip drop – and the inattentive recipients of the propaganda gradually lose their mettle to resist and don’t know it, and then when an event bursts into the news – e.g. the attacks of September 11, 2001 or Russia-gate – they have been so softened that their assent is automatically given. They know without hesitation who the devil is and that he must be fought.
The purpose of the long-term propaganda is to create certain predispositions and weaknesses that can be exploited when needed. Certain events can be the triggers to induce the victims to react to suggestions. When the time is ripe, all that is needed is a slight suggestion, like a touch on the shoulder, and the hypnotized one acts in a trance. The gun goes off, and the entranced one can’t remember why (see: Sirhan Sirhan). This is the goal of mass hypnotization through long-term propaganda: confusion, memory loss, and automatic reaction to suggestion.
Intelligence Pimps and Liquid Screen Culture
When the CIA’s dirty tricks were made public in the 1970s, it is not hard to imagine that the intellectual pimps who do their long-range thinking were asked to go back to the drawing board and paint a picture of the coming decades and how business as usual could be conducted without further embarrassment. By that time it had become clear that intellectual or high culture was being swallowed by mass culture and the future belonged to electronic screen culture and images, not words. What has come to be called “postmodernity” ensued, or what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity” and Guy Debord “the society of the spectacle.” Such developments, rooted in what Frederic Jameson has termed “the cultural logic of late capitalism,” have resulted in the fragmentation of social and personal life into pointillistic moving pictures whose dots form incoherent images that sow mass confusion and do not cohere. From the mid-1970s until today, this generalized disorientation with its flowing and eternal present of appearing and dissolving images has resulted in what is surely a transformed world, and with it, transformed worldviews. The foundations have collapsed. Meaning and coherence have become difficult to discern. Stable personality has been disassociated, memory downloaded, attention lost, the psyche materialized, sexual identity confused, the electronic mind-body interface established, and the electronic and pharmaceutical drugging of the population accomplished. Really? Yes.
Did not the intelligence agencies foresee all this? Did not they see it and plan accordingly? Did they not notice that about the time their old dirty deeds were being exposed, a movie burst onto the screen that introduced a theme familiar to them and their Nazi friends? I mean the 1973 hit, The Exorcist, wherein Satan struts his stuff, four years after Mick Jagger strut his across the stage at Altamont, singing “Sympathy for the Devil,” while shortly after a killing took place down in front of him and the 1960s were laid to rest. But during the 1970s The Exorcist and its theme of the devil’s hold on people came to life and was taken up with a religious fervor by the entertainment industry and promoted by Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera, and other media luminaries, who went about promoting el diablo’s hold on so many helpless victims. Occult, magic, and satanic themes became pop staples and would remain so up until the present day. I would suggest that readers put aside their reservations at what may seem sensational and watch this video. Then ask yourself: what is going on here?
The CIA as Prophetic
But maybe a better question than did the CIA foresee these developments, would be to ask if it has been involved in the occult and satanic world itself, before and after the social developments of “liquid modernity.” The answer is yes. Indeed, all the characteristics of the social and cultural developments I mentioned previously in reference to postmodernity have been a major part of its work before this new world emerged: “the disassociation of stable personalities, memory erasure and the implanting of false memories, materializing the psyche, confusing sexual identity, establishing the electronic mind-body interface, and electronic, hallucinogenic (the CIA introduced and spread LSD in the 1960s), and pharmaceutical drugging,” to name but a few. In anticipating these developments the CIA was at the very least predictive. Disinformation, acts of terrorism, coup d’états, assassinations flow out of a marriage to the Nazis made in hell – Talbot’s “devil’s chessboard” – but they are linked to much more. Peter Levenda, in Sinister Forces: A Grimoireof American Political Witchcraft, a trilogy on sinister forces in American history, puts it this way:
The CIA, satanic cults, and UFOs, the mythology of the late twentieth century is surprisingly coherent even though the masks change from case to case, from victim to alleged victim. The CIA, of course, does exist; their mind control programs from BLUEBIRD to ARTICHOKE to MK-ULTRA are a matter of public record. Their history of political assassinations and the overthrow of various foreign governments is also a matter of record. Satanic cults – or perhaps we should qualify that and say ‘occult secret societies’ – also exist and are a matter of public record; their attempts to contact alien forces by means of ceremonial magic and arcane ritual (including the use of some of the same drugs and other techniques as the CIA used in its mind control programs) are also well-known and documented. Some of these practitioners were – and are – well-known men and women who have not denied their involvement (such as rocket scientist Jack Parsons in the 1950s and Army Colonel and intelligence officer Michael Aquino in the 1990s). The CIA also aggressively researched American cults and secret societies in an effort to discover the source of paranormal abilities and ancient mind control mechanisms. And while the jury is still out on the question of UFOs, there is no doubt that government agencies have attempted to track, to analyze them, and to explain them away. Again this is a matter of public record, including FBI and CIA documents in addition to military records.
Skeptical readers may find this strange to consider. That would be a mistake. The web of connections is there for anyone who cares to look. For more than fifty years occult themes and rituals have been part of world view warfare. Drugs, shamanism, black magic, and the occult – staples of the CIA then and now. It is well known that Hollywood, television, and the media in general have been working closely with the intelligence agencies for a long time. Especially since 2001, films and television programs have glorified the CIA, our “good” spies, and the military. The mystification of reality has found its best friend in the electronic and internet revolution as strange and “subversive” beliefs are dangled like candy for little children. Good and evil move through the public consciousness like passing sun and shadows. Weird conspiracy theories “pop up” to titillate and obsess, and to drive out the serious findings of dedicated and disciplined writers and researchers who have discovered the truth about real government conspiracies. Sowing confusion is the name of this deadly game, and if you find yourself confused, you are in good company.
But many are catching on and realizing that what seems strange but innocent is part of a much larger effort to hypnotize the public to agree to their own destruction through the ingestion of what can only be called black magic.
The eloquent writer and brave American, Jim Garrison, the former District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to bring a trial in the assassination of President Kennedy, put it this way in On The Trail of The Assassins, the story of his quest to solve the murder of JFK.
I knew by now that when a group of individuals gravitated toward one another for no apparent reason, or a group of individuals inexplicitly headed in the same directions as if drawn by a magnetic field, or coincidence piled upon coincidence too many times, as often as not the shadowy outlines of a covert intelligence operation were somehow becoming visible.
Rub Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, the right way and the CIA emerges into the light. You can see its shadowy outline with your eyes wide shut. As it says on CIA headquarters: “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”