Category Archives: Corruption

US’ Afghan War: Imperialism’s Limit exposed

US Afghanistan War reveals imperialism’s limit. It’s, as Mao said decades ago, a paper tiger. The war is the evidence.

The just published The Washington Post report – “The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war, At war with the truth”, (by Craig Whitlock, December 9, 2019) – carries the story of this limit. It’s, to some, a story of corruption. To another section, the war is mismanaged, which is inefficiency, wrong planning, etc. But, the root of the failure is in the deep: Imperialism’s characteristic.

The 18 years long war with nearly $1 trillion taxpayers’ money is costlier as the US people lost 2,300 of their citizens – US troops. More than 20,000 US troops were injured in the war. And, since 2001, more than 775,000 US troops have deployed to Afghanistan. Three US presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders tried/are trying to win the Afghan war.

Citing the WaPo report, Slate in its report “The War in Afghanistan was Doomed from the start, The main culprit? Corruption” (by Fred Kaplan on December 9, 2019) said:

The war in Afghanistan has been a muddle from the beginning, steered by vague and wavering strategies, fueled by falsely rosy reports of progress from the battlefield, and almost certainly doomed to failure all along.

This is the inescapable conclusion of a secret U.S. government history of the war — consisting of 2,000 pages, based on interviews with more than 400 participants — obtained and published by The Washington Post on December 9, 2019 after years of legal battles to declassify the documents.

Written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud, the report, titled Lessons Learned, is the most thorough official critique of an ongoing American war since the Vietnam War review commissioned in 1967 by then – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The Afghan War Doc, if it may be dubbed in this way, is a significant document for studying imperialism that exposes its inner working system, its character and a number of its weaknesses. It’s not only an exposure of the national security bureaucracy of the state waging the war; it’s also a revelation of the state – the way the state perceives, thinks, analyzes, calculates, plans, acts. It points its fingers to the politics and political process of the state involved before pointing fingers to the national security bureaucracy; because this bureaucracy can’t move a millimeter in any direction without directives from any faction of the political leadership of the state, and all the factions of the political leadership move along the routes the political process permits.

Citing the WaPo report, the Slate report said: The war has been “built on ignorance, lies, and counterproductive policies.”

No state intentionally or deliberately wages war on ignorance, lies and counterproductive policies. The state machine’s inherent process produces ignorance, lies, etc. It means somewhere in the machine lies are produced, ignorance is manufactured, and the machine perceives lies, etc. are beneficial to it. Where’s this “somewhere”? How it survives and operates with lies, corruption, etc.? The bourgeois politicians, academia, its theoreticians don’t look into this “somewhere”, into this process of manufacturing ignorance, lies, corruption.

Slate said in its report:

Central to the current war effort — and to its failure — was corruption. [….] The United States failed because the billions of dollars we poured into the country only made Afghanistan’s corruption worse.

A state machine, most powerful in today’s world as is widely perceived, fails to check corruption in the machine it has constructed in the land – Afghanistan – it’s waging its longest war! It’s a “riddle” – money poured to win a war, and the money is eating out the war-effort. The state fails to manage either money or war. In spite of this fact of failure, the state dreams to dictate the world!

The WaPo report said:

[S]enior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth […] making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

It was lying to the taxpayers, the citizens employing the officials to carry on duties the citizens entrusted to the officials. And, the state can’t control the lying business. It’s the state’s failure – a few persons employed by the state were misleading the state and the entire body of the taxpayers, and the state is not a lifeless identity as there are hundreds of intelligent persons including veteran politicians. And, the state machine is not separate from these persons – officials and political leaders in charge of the affairs. Alternatively, there’s something else behind this deliberate job of “deviating” from truth, if it’s deviation, if not usual practice, which is not. Any of the two is serious failure, fatal ultimately, if this – deviation from truth – is the case.

The documents, according to the WaPo, were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in US history. The US government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The WaPo won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle. It took three years and two federal lawsuits for the WaPo to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records. US officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it. It shows bourgeois state is not inherently and always transparent. State machine serving a class can never be always transparent. Moreover, who decides what to release publicly or not? Isn’t it a group of officials? Marxist political scientists already discussed this issue – role of executive – many times. Thus, they – the officials – stand above taxpayers, citizens.

The documents show:

  1. Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.
  2. Despite vows the US wouldn’t get mired in “nation-building” in Afghanistan, it has wasted billions doing just that. The US has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II. An unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015: “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”
  3. The US flooded the country with money — then ignored the graft it fueled.
  4. Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption.
  5. The US war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn.
  6. The US government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war, but the costs are staggering.
  7. US officials acknowledged that their war strategies were fatally flawed.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of US military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

So, it’s found:

  1. Lack of knowledge! [Unbelievable in the case of the state widely perceived as the most powerful in the world.]
  2. No comprehensive war plan! [Also unbelievable.]
  3. No accounting! [How much money the taxpayers spent behind inspectors to check with spending? A lot.]
  4. The US people were not aware of the real picture. What’s the level of transparency, accountability, and the media claiming to be free? [The WaPo’s legal struggle to get the documents is evidence of “free” flow of info, and the decisive role of the executive branch.]
  5. A breakdown within the system of Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department – a system with elected politicians and employed persons.

Then, what does this signify? Is it a powerful, vibrant, working system? Only fools keep trust on this machine, which appears, with a shortsighted view, very powerful, but very weak to its core in the long-term.

Since 2001, the US Defense Department, State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. These figures do not include money spent by other agencies including the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The documents, the WaPo report said, also contradict a long chorus of public statements from US presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured the US taxpayers year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

The report said:

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the US government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case. [Emphasis added.]

‘Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,’ Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. ‘Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.’ [Emphasis added.]

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show ‘the American people have constantly been lied to. [Emphasis added.]

Diplomats and envoys from this state constantly advise Third and Fourth World countries to be factual regarding all aspects of life in these countries. Do they have any moral ground for delivering this sort of sermon? Neither the mainstream politics nor the MSM in these countries raise this question when these diplomats shower sermons; even a group of the organizations and persons claiming to be anti-imperialist feel shy to raise the question.

The interviews are the byproduct of a project led by Sopko’s agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the agency the US Congress created in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. Reports SIGAR produced, said WaPo, were “written in dense bureaucratic prose and focused on an alphabet soup of government initiatives, left out the harshest and most frank criticisms from the interviews.”

The reports omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the people interviewed. While a few officials agreed to speak on the record to SIGAR, the agency said it promised anonymity to everyone else it interviewed to avoid controversy over politically sensitive matters.

James Dobbins, a former senior US diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers: “[W]e clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

The WaPo obtained hundreds of pages of previously classified memos about the Afghan war that were dictated by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld between 2001 and 2006. Dubbed “snowflakes” by Rumsfeld and his staff, according to the WaPo, “the memos are brief instructions or comments that the Pentagon boss dictated to his underlings, often several times a day. Most of his snowflake collection — an estimated 59,000 pages — remained secret.”

Bourgeois state business is mostly secretive until it gets pressure to act in another way although its propaganda machine relentlessly sings the opposite song.

The report said:

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to [….] to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

No confusion in finding a great game – an imperialist strategy.

The interviews reveal US military commanders’ struggle to identify their enemy and the logic behind their war:

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll?

According to the documents, the US government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a September 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

It seems the machine is blind. And, it’s not the war machine that appears blind, but the state running the war machine. And, in ultimate analysis, the state machine and the war machine are not separate identities. In actual sense, the machine isn’t blind; it has no alternative other than acting blindly. And, humans direct the machine. So, the flaw is not of the machine. It’s the human identities that have to act in that way.

During the peak of the fighting from 2009 to 2012, the report said, “US lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.”

One unnamed executive with the USAID guessed that 90 percent of the money they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

Many aid workers blamed the US Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a US county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’”

The huge aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, US officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But they admitted the US government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers – allies of Washington – plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three US generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 – and that US officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

Kolenda added, “Foreign aid is part of how” the Afghan kleptocrats “get rents to pay for the positions they purchased.”

Kolenda told government interviewers: “Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

By allowing corruption to fester, US officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption,” Crocker, who served as the top US diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again from 2011 to 2012, told government interviewers.

In China, the US had almost the same experience with Chiang while they – Chiang and the US – were fighting the Chinese people under the leadership of Mao.

Year after year, US generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy: to train an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country without foreign help.

In the interviews, however, US military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by US taxpayers — for tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.”

More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that US commanders have called unsustainable, said the report.

A US military officer estimated that one-third of police recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.” Yet another called them “stealing fools” who looted so much fuel from US bases that they perpetually smelled of gasoline.

With this force, imperialism can’t win its war.

The report said:

Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of opium. The US has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired. Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013, said: “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade – this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

Bravo, enterprise with drug trade! And, they instruct and accuse many countries about drug dealings.

The report finds:

US never figured out ways to incorporate a war on drugs into its war against al-Qaeda. By 2006, US officials feared that narco-traffickers had become stronger than the Afghan government and that money from the drug trade was powering the insurgency.

Their drug-war is an amazing story: At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British state to destroy their crops, which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the US government eradicated poppy fields without compensation, which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

An intelligent brain they have!

US military officials, according to the report, have resorted to an old tactic from Vietnam – manipulating public opinion. In news conferences and other public appearances, those in charge of the war have followed the same talking points for 18 years. No matter how the war is going, they emphasized that they were making progress.

Rumsfeld had received a string of unusually dire warnings from the war zone in 2006. After returning from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general, reported the Taliban had made an impressive comeback: “[W]e will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months.” “The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan […] and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006. Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report stuffed with worse news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a US ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

In October 2006, Rumsfeld’s speechwriters delivered a paper – “Afghanistan: Five Years Later.” Overflowing with optimism, it highlighted more than 50 promising facts and figures, from the number of Afghan women trained in “improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to the “average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

“Five years on, there is a multitude of good news,” it read. “While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.”

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

“This paper,” he wrote in a memo, “is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get it to a lot of people.”

His staffers made sure it did. They circulated a version to reporters and posted it on Pentagon websites. Generals followed their boss: Present picture of “progress” in the war front.

Thus, they market “facts”, and groups of politicians in countries rely on them.

During US’ Vietnam War, it was the same story. The report recollected:

US military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted ‘body counts,’ or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. […] [T]he government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan. This includes Afghan civilians and security forces, humanitarian aid workers, Taliban fighters and other insurgents, US military contractors, journalists and media workers, US military personnel, NATO and coalition troops.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary, said the report.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in US troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Bob Crowley, the retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers “truth was rarely welcome” at military headquarters in Kabul.

“Bad news was often stifled,” he said. “There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small – we’re running over kids with our MRAPs [armored vehicles] – because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

John Garofano, a Naval War College strategist who advised Marines in Helmand province in 2011, said military officials in the field devoted an inordinate amount of resources to churning out color-coded charts that heralded positive results.

But, Garofano said, nobody dared to question whether the charts and numbers were credible or meaningful.

“There was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal?” he said. “How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?”

Other senior officials said they placed great importance on one statistic in particular, albeit one the US government rarely likes to discuss in public.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” James Dobbins, the former US diplomat, told a Senate panel in 2009. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

What are these: War-facts? Is this the way public is informed? Is this the way public are informed in a “free” society that claims fostering of free flow of information? Why facts are manipulated? It’s the fear of public, and public opinion. Imperialism fears public and public opinion, at home and abroad.

Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, told the investigators in a 2016 interview, “You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption.” He added that the same thing happened in Iraq, where corruption is “pandemic and deeply rooted” and where “it’s hard to see how a better political order can ever be established.”

A big problem, Crocker said, was a perennial “American urge,” when intervening in a foreign conflict, to “start fixing everything as fast as we can.” Pouring in billions of dollars, and that flows in the pockets of the powerful. The report estimates that 40 percent of US aid to Afghanistan was pocketed by officials, gangsters, or the insurgents.

Sarah Chayes, who served as an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who lived in Afghanistan for several years, told the investigators in 2015 that the problem was rooted in Washington. A major obstacle here, she said, was the “culture” in the State Department and the Pentagon, which focused on building relationships with their counterparts abroad. Since Afghan officials at all levels were corrupt, officials feared that going after corruption would endanger those relationships.

Chayes also said it was a big mistake to be “obsessed with chasing” the Taliban, to the point of neglecting the country’s political dynamics. We didn’t realize that many Afghans were “thrilled with the Taliban” for kicking corrupt warlords out of power. Instead, we aligned ourselves with the warlords, on the adage that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend”—and, as a result, further alienated the Afghan people and further enriched the corrupt powers, which in turn further inflamed the anti-government terrorists.

It’s a question that why a political leadership was moving in the way while a number of officials were identifying the problem realistically: Neglecting the political dynamics?

In September 2009, as the Obama administration was debating a new policy toward the Afghanistan war, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a Senate hearing that the main problem “is clearly the lack of legitimacy of the government” in Kabul.

Senator Lindsey Graham pushed the issue. “We could send a million troops, and that wouldn’t restore legitimacy in the government?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Mullen replied. The threat of corruption, he added, “is every bit as significant as the Taliban.”

Around this same time, during the closed-door National Security Council sessions, Mullen was urging then-president Obama to create a counterinsurgency strategy based on helping the Afghan government win the hearts and minds of its people – not addressing how to do this, if the government lacked legitimacy.

Almost all of Obama’s advisers sided with Mullen, a notable exception being then-vice president Joe Biden, who thought counterinsurgency wouldn’t work.

It’s impossible for imperialism to win hearts and minds of a people against whom it wages war while it depends on corrupt allies.

When General David Petraeus became commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2010, he appointed an anti-corruption task force. Sarah Chayes was one of its members. The task force concluded that corruption, from Kabul on down, was impeding the war effort and that the U.S. should cut off aid to the entire network of corruption. Petraeus sympathized with the findings, but he needed then-Afghan president Karzai’s cooperation to fight the war at all, and so he rejected the recommendation.

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However, the Pentagon released a statement saying there has been “no intent” by the department to mislead Congress or the public.

On October 11, 2001, a few days after the US started bombing the Taliban, a reporter asked Bush: “Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?”

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam,” Bush replied confidently. “People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’ This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.”

“All together now – quagmire!” Rumsfeld joked at a news conference on November 27, 2001.

“The days of providing a blank check are over. . . . It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan,” said then-president Barack Obama, in a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way,” said Army Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, in a news briefing from Afghanistan.

But, what does the reality say today?

  1. Afghanistan is a quagmire for the US.
  2. Lessons from Vietnam have not been learned by the US.
  3. US hirelings in Afghanistan are failing to take responsibility of their security.
  4. US is not winning its Afghan War.

The questions are

  1. Why imperialism is failing to learn the Vietnam-lesson?
  2. Why imperialism is bogged down in its Afghan-quagmire?
  3. Why imperialism’s hirelings are failing to take charge of its security?
  4. Why imperialism is embedded with its Afghan-corruption?
  5. Why such manipulation of facts while presenting Afghan-picture to its public?

The brief answer to the questions is: These are part of imperialism’s working mechanism, which its economic interests define.

It can’t move away despite rationality tells differently. Imperialism has its own rationality, which is fundamentally different from rationality of other economic interests. It has to depend on its hirelings. It can’t depend on others. That’s because of economic interests. Moreover, the way taxpayers see reality is completely different from the way imperialism sees. Imperialism’s way of looking at incidents and processes are determined by its interests; and it’s impossible for imperialism to ignore its interests, which makes it impossible to act differently. And, this doesn’t depend on personal choice/preference or characteristics of this or that political leader.

Imperialism’s Afghan War is not a war conducted by the US only. There’s involvement of other NATO powers. Keeping this – the NATO’s Afghan War – in mind helps perceive the imperialist system’s involvement and failure in the country. It’s not the US’ war only. It’s imperialism’s war against a people; and a war, which is part of imperialism’s world strategy.

The failures, the lies, the manipulation with facts, the “non”-understanding with political dynamics are not of a few persons/generals/bureaucrats/politicians, or of a single imperialist country. It’s part of a political process that connects a particular type of economic interest ingrained among armaments industry, military contractors, suppliers of military hardware, lobbying firms, political interests bent on dominating others for self-interests, and thus making a system with complex connections, a system based on particular characteristics of an economy.

Only a people politically organized and mobilized can change this course of imperialism if imperialism is correctly identified with all its characteristics. And, in today’s world, it’s difficult to perceive any people’s struggle without taking into consideration imperialism’s anti-people role.

2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed

A year ago, John Bolton, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, invoked the 1823 Monroe Doctrine making explicit what has long been painfully implicit: the dominions south of the Rio Grande are the empire’s “backyard.” Yet 2019 was a year best characterized as the revolt of the dispossessed for a better world against the barbarism of neoliberalism. As Rafael Correa points out, Latin America today is in dispute. What follows is a briefing on this crossroads.

Andean Nations

Venezuela, the leader for regional integration and 21st century socialism, continued to be ground zero in the clash between the empire and those nations pursuing post-neoliberal alternatives and a multipolar world.

On the evening of January 22, trained US security asset and head of the suspended Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó received a call from US Vice President Pence, giving Guaidó the green light to declare himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó proclaimed his presidency on a Caracas street corner. Within minutes Trump recognized the self-appointment, later followed by some fifty US allies. Still most nations in the world did not recognize Guaidó, and the United Nations continues to recognize Maduro as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Guaidó called for harsher US sanctions on his own people and even the US “military option.”  Gone was the pretext that sanctions targeted only the government. The former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield  boasted that these measures “would have an impact on everyone… to accelerate the collapse.” From President Barack Obama’s sanctions in 2015, Trump progressively ratcheted up the pain to the current blockade. This illegal collective punishment had already caused over 40,000 deaths by the beginning of the year according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in a war by economic means, denying the Venezuelan people vital food and medicine.

Yet Guaidó failed to come to power. His publicity stunt on February 23 to bring “humanitarian aid” from Colombia fizzled. To make things worse, envoys of Guaidó in Colombia were caught embezzling some of the very funds slated for humanitarian assistance. Soon after this debacle, a staged coup on April 30 by Guaidó and a few military officers on an overpass in eastern Caracas aborted. In November, Guaidó made an even more pathetic coup attempt. His ability to garner support atrophied, drawing the ire even of some hardline opposition who formerly backed him, while the Maduro government continued to rally substantial popular demonstrations and signed a peaceful coexistence agreement with some moderate opposition parties in September.

Despite attempts by Washington to incite ruptures within the Venezuelan security forces, the “civic-military union” built by Chavez and continued under Maduro held firm, and the ranks of the militias continue to grow. And despite heavy lobbying by the Trump administration, Venezuela was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council on October 27.

In a bid to compensate for the diminished stature of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group,  on December 3, Colombia convened a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, to ratchet up sanctions even further and keep the military option on the table. By the end of 2019, even the Wall Street Journal conceded, “Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, once thought ripe for ouster, looks firmly in place.”

In Washington, North American solidarity activists defended the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaidó collaborators (April – May 2019). With the permission of the Venezuelan government and pursuant to international law, the Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until expelled by the Secret Service. The four last defenders – Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine, David Paul – will go to trial, facing possible stiff penalties. On October 25, journalist Max Blumenthal was also arrested and charged (subsequently dropped), as the US government cracks down on dissent both at home and abroad.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model leads the world in extra-judicial killings of journalists, union leaders, and environmentalists. Meanwhile, Colombia continues to be the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine.

A 2016 peace agreement saw the guerrilla FARC lay down their arms, but the government has honored the agreement mainly in the breach. Death squad activity continued in 2019, targeting former FARC militants. A faction of the FARC returned to the guerrilla path.

In a sign of growing disaffection with the hardline right-wing influence of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current President Iván Duque, the far right suffered significant losses in the October regional and municipal elections. Left-leaning Claudia López became the first woman and first lesbian to be mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. By year-end, Colombia experienced massive general strikes opposed to government austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bolivia. Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of this largely indigenous country. Under the 14 years of his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the highest economic growth rate and the greatest poverty reduction in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivia became a world champion for indigenous and poor people, aligning with the progressive governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Morales was fairly re-elected president on October 20. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US called his election “fraudulent.” A compliant Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to “resign” by the military.

Thirteen US members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter condemning the “Administration’s support for [the] military-backed regime and silence on violent repression [which] contributes to spiraling crisis.” This letter stands in stark contrast to the close association of key figures behind the coup with allies in Washington, the OAS Secretary General’s embrace of coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and the endorsement of the coup by the right-wing neighbors. President Trump “applauded” the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic  violations of human rights.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez smeared indigenous communities as “satanic” in tweets, later deleted. Morales is now in exile, and the indigenous and other poor continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression.  At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular sectors have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.

Ecuador. Speaking of reversals, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno took the prize. Moreno had served as vice president in a previous leftist government headed by Rafael Correa, who had campaigned for Moreno. Upon assuming the presidency in 2017, Moreno inexplicably and unexpectedly betrayed the platform, the voters, and the party that put him in office. He jailed his vice president and later other leaders of his former party and put out an arrest warrant for Correa, who is now in exile. On April 11, Moreno handed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to the British police.

Moreno withdrew Ecuador from ALBA, the leftist regional organization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean nations. Last January, he recognized the US puppet Guaidó as president of Venezuela. By mid-year, Moreno gave the US an airbase on the Galápagos.

Moreno forgave some $4.5 billion in fines and debt by major corporations and oligarchs and then papered it over by an IMF loan. With the loan came austerity measures, el paquetazo, including removing fuel subsidies. The mass protest of the dispossessed, led by the indigenous CONAIE organization, was so overwhelming that Moreno was temporarily forced to flee the capital city of Quito and rescind some elements of the paquetazo. Moreno continues to push IMF stipulated austerity measures, while repressing his former party’s elected representatives.

Peru is in crisis, wracked with corruption scandals. In April 2019, former President Alan García shot himself as the police were preparing to arrest him for corruption, while fellow former President Alberto Fujimori is in jail on corruption accusations and human rights violations.  Former President Alejandro Toledo also faces corruption accusations and is fighting against extradition from the US. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was the last directly elected president of Peru. Formerly a US citizen and an IMF and World Bank official, he was forced to resign for corruption in March 2018 shortly before he was slated to host a meeting of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group to expose Venezuela for corruption.

Ever since, the presidency of Peru has been disputed. The current moderate-right President Martín Vízcarra dissolved the congress; the congress controlled by the far-right Keiko Fujimori (free after a year in detention for corruption) impeached the executive, although Vízcarra recovered the presidency. In the context of this dog fight among the elites have been massive anti-corruption mobilizations from below.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. New Year 2019 marked the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. The election of hard-right Bolsonaro – called the “Trump of Brazil” by friends and foes alike – was a major reversal from the previous left-leaning Workers Party governments.

Brazil has by far the biggest economy in Latin America and the eighth in the world and is part of the BRICS bloc including Russia, India, China, and South Africa. With a sycophant of Trump heading Brazil, both hemispheric and world geopolitics suffer the loss of a countervailing element to US hegemony. Brazil voted with the US and Israel for continuing the US blockade on Cuba and against 187 other UN members.

Former left-leaning President Lula da Silva would have easily beaten Bolsonaro, if the polls were any indication, but corrupt judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to prison on evidenceless charges. The judge was rewarded by ironically being made minister of justice in the new Bolsonaro government. Similarly, Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula’s left-leaning successor as president of Brazil, had been deposed on a technicality by the right-leaning congress in what amounted to a parliamentary coup in 2016.

An international campaign to free Lula finally succeeded in November, but far too late for him to run against Bolsonaro. Lula is free and fighting now, but could be incarcerated again.

Bolsonaro went about dismantling social welfare measures, firing government workers, and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned. Predictably the popular sectors arose leading to an uncertain political situation in Brazil.

Chile. The Chilean people launched a general strike against austerity with slogans such as “neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die here.” Reacting to the “privatization of everything,” the uprising this fall has been truly from the grassroots with the established political parties sprinting to catch up with the popular revolt of the dispossessed.

Over a million protestors have taken to the streets in a country with a population of only 19 million. Many have remained there for weeks despite severe repression by the state, leaving numerous killed by live ammunition and rubber bullets. According to official state data, more than 8,000  have been jailed, almost 3,000 injured, and over 200 suffered ocular damage. Hundreds of  lawsuits for police brutality have been filed, including sexual abuses. The right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera suspended some constitutional rights, declaring a “state of emergency” in a country still under the constitution created by the dictator Pinochet.

Argentina. After right-wing President Mauricio Macri imposed textbook perfect neoliberal economic reforms, the Argentine economy spectacularly and predictably failed with rampant inflation, food shortages, currency free-fall, and capital flight. Even the middle class protested in the streets in enormous uprisings of the dispossessed.

On October 27, the center-left ticket of Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández as VP won and announced Argentina will leave the regional anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They will also have to deal with Macri’s record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan, saddling the people with austerity measures in a country that is broke and again at the edge of default.

Uruguay. The ruling left-center Frente Amplio’s candidate, Daniel Martínez, won in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential elections on October 27, but by a too narrow margin to avoid a runoff election. He faced a united right-wing in the November 24 runoff against Luis Lacalle Pou, which ended his party’s 15-year rule.

The Caribbean

Cuba. The US embargo of Cuba, initiated  by US President Kennedy and now a blockade (el bloqueo), along with covert regime-change operations and occupation of Guantánamo have continued in an unbroken policy of aggression through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Most recently Trump resurrected Title III of the Clinton-era Helms-Burton Act to intensify the blockade. The Cuban people show no sign of capitulating.

Cubans welcomed a new president, as Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. On April 10, they ratified a new constitution, after an extensive consultative process, engaging some 9 million people, 780,000 suggestions, 9,600 proposals, and 133,000 citizen meetings.

Puerto Rico and Cuba were the spoils of the first imperialist war, the 1898 Spanish-American War. Unlike free Cuba, Puerto Rico is still a neglected colonial possession of the US. And that political fact has never been clearer with Puerto Rico still not fully recovered from Hurricane María and still not governing itself to solve its own problems.

Puerto Rico experienced mass protests and a general strike in 2019. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló was forced to resign on July 22. Puerto Rican liberation hero Oscar López Rivera observed: “Even before the governor announced his resignation, the fact is that he was not governing Puerto Rico.”

Haiti. After the harsh 29-year US-backed Duvalier dictatorships and the subsequent “military transition,” a brief flourishing of democracy ended in Haiti when the US brazenly kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile in 2004. Since then, a series of dubiously elected presidents – some literally installed and all propped up by the US – have produced human rights and social welfare conditions worse than under the dictatorships.

Billions in relief after the 2010 earthquake and in Petrocaribe funds from Venezuela have largely “disappeared” into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In response, the ever-restive Haitian populace has yet intensified the uprising of the dispossessed throughout the country. The newly formed Patriotic Forum united 62 social movements, who call not only for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, but a complete dismantling of the “system of exclusion” and for a new republic of justice, transparency, and participation. They demanded chavire chodyè a (overturn the cauldron).

Central America and Mexico

Honduras. The designation of Honduras as a narco-state is supported by the October 18  conviction in US federal court of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s (JOH) brother Tony for cocaine smuggling.  JOH, the latest of a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup, is identified as co-conspirator by the prosecutors. Testimony in the US court revealed that the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo gave JOH $1 million to help him rig the presidential election in 2013.

The US continued to prop up the tottering JOH regime staggering in the face of huge waves of popular protests including a prolonged national strike this summer. And those not opposing the government in the streets headed for asylum in the US, fleeing from gang violence and government malfeasance.

Guatemala. Right-wing comedian Jimmy Morales became president of Guatemala in August. In response to the revolt of dispossessed against his neoliberal rule, he declared a state of siege in five departments. Tens of thousands marched on Guatemala City, including the indigenous Xinkas, while many more Guatemalans fled the violence and everyday oppression seeking asylum at the US border.

The wounds of the US-backed genocidal dirty war of the 1980s against the largely indigenous population, taking some 200,000 lives, have not been healed but continue to be reinforced by harsh neoliberal measures and a regime of impunity fueling the exodus to the north. While lamenting the plight of these migrants, the corporate press in the US failed to recognize the made-in-America causes of their evacuation.

El Salvador. Likewise, El Salvador, another former victim of the US-backed dirty wars, added to the stream of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants seeking asylum in the US from the conditions created in large part by the country of their intended refuge.

Businessman Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party and now turned right, was elected under the banner of the right-wing GANA party. He assumed the presidency on June 1, replacing Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the FMLN. Bukele has fallen in line with Washington’s drive to curtail emigration from the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and has reversed his nation’s foreign policy to accord with the Lima Group’s drive for regime change in Venezuela.

Nicaragua. 2019 was a year of hopeful recovery in Nicaragua, healing from successfully repulsing a US-backed coup the previous year. The domestic perpetrators were granted amnesty by leftist President Daniel Ortega, and social welfare indices were again on the ascent. Although the poorest country in Central America, Nicaraguans were for the most part not fleeing for the US but were rebuilding their homeland.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin American and the eleventh in the world. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed the presidency last December and his new MORENA party swept local and regional offices with the expectation that corruption, inequality, and other long festering economic injustices would be addressed. AMLO dissented from the anti-Venezuelan Lima Group and instituted a series of progressive domestic reforms.

Trump forced AMLO to contain the Central American immigrants massing on the US southern border or face tariff increases and other measures that would wreck the Mexican economy. As nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

A New Year’s message

2019 has not been an entirely bullish year for US imperialism, notwithstanding the hard turns to the right in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  Powerful winds against neoliberalism are gusting in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and even in the US “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico. Regime-change operations failed in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. US-preferred candidates suffered losses in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia (later reversed by a coup). And the hegemon is challenged in its own “backyard” by the increased influence of Russia and especially China, now the second largest trading partner with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recently Cuban President Díaz-Canel addressed the 120-state Non-aligned Movement (a third of which are sanctioned by Washington) with this perceptive thought for a multi-polar world: “There are more of us. Let us do more.”

West Point Professor Builds a Case Against the U.S. Army

West Point Professor Tim Bakken’s new book The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military traces a path of corruption, barbarism, violence, and unaccountability that makes its way from the United States’ military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs) to the top ranks of the U.S. military and U.S. governmental policy, and from there into a broader U.S. culture that, in turn, supports the subculture of the military and its leaders.

The U.S. Congress and presidents have ceded tremendous power to generals. The State Department and even the U.S. Institute of Peace are subservient to the military. The corporate media and the public help maintain this arrangement with their eagerness to denounce anyone who opposes the generals. Even opposing giving free weapons to Ukraine is now quasi-treasonous.

Within the military, virtually everyone has ceded power to those of higher rank. Disagreeing with them is likely to end your career, a fact that helps explain why so many military officials say what they really think about the current wars just after retiring.

But why does the public go along with out of control militarism? Why are so few speaking out and raising hell against wars that only 16% of the public tell pollsters they support? Well, the Pentagon spent $4.7 billion in 2009, and likely more in each year since, on propaganda and public relations. Sports leagues are paid with public dollars to stage “rituals that are akin to worship,” as Bakken appropriately describes the fly-overs, weapons shows, troop honorings, and war hymn screechings that precede professional athletics events. The peace movement has far superior materials but comes up a little short of $4.7 billion each year for advertising.

Speaking out against war can get you attacked as unpatriotic or “a Russian asset,” which helps explain why environmentalists don’t mention one of the worst polluters, refugee aid groups don’t mention the primary cause of the problem, activists trying to end mass-shootings never mention that the shooters are disproportionately veterans, anti-racist groups avoid noticing the way militarism spreads racism, plans for green new deals or free college or healthcare usually manage not to mention the place where most of the money is now, etc. Overcoming this hurdle is the work being taken on by World BEYOND War.

Bakken describes a culture and a system of rules at West Point that encourage lying, that turn lying into a requirement of loyalty, and make loyalty the highest value. Major General Samuel Koster, to take just one of many examples in this book, lied about his troops slaughtering 500 innocent civilians, and was then rewarded with being made superintendent at West Point. Lying moves a career upward, something Colin Powell, for example, knew and practiced for many years prior to his Destroy-Iraq Farce at the United Nations.

Bakken profiles numerous high-profile military liars — enough to establish them as the norm. Chelsea Manning did not have unique access to information. Thousands of other people simply kept obediently quiet. Keeping quiet, lying when necessary, cronyism, and lawlessness seem to be the principles of U.S. militarism. By lawlessness I mean both that you lose your rights when you join the military (the 1974 Supreme Court case Parker v. Levy effectively placed the military outside the Constitution) and that no institution outside the military can hold the military accountable to any law.

The military is separate from and understands itself to be superior to the civilian world and its laws. High-ranking officials are not just immune from prosecution, they’re immune from criticism. Generals who are never questioned by anyone make speeches at West Point telling young men and women that just by being there as students they are superior and infallible.

Yet, they are quite fallible in reality. West Point pretends to be an exclusive school with high academic standards, but in fact works hard to find students, guarantees spots for and pays for another year of high school for potential athletes, accepts students nominated by Congress Members because their parents “donated” to the Congress Members’ campaigns, and offers a community college-level education only with more hazing, violence, and tamping down of curiosity. West Point takes soldiers and declares them to be professors, which works roughly as well as declaring them to be relief workers or nation builders or peace keepers. The school parks ambulances nearby in preparation for violent rituals. Boxing is a required subject. Women are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted at the three military academies than at other U.S. universities.

“Imagine,” writes Bakken, “any small college in any small town in America where sexual assault is pervasive and the students are running virtual drug cartels while law enforcement agencies are employing methods used to curb the Mafia to try to catch them. There isn’t any such college or large university, but there are three military academies that fit the bill.”

West Point students, who have no Constitutional rights, can have their rooms searched by armed troops and guards at any time, no warrant required. Faculty, staff, and cadets are told to spot missteps by others and “correct” them. The Uniform Code of Military Justice bans speaking “disrespectfully” to superior officers, which creates an appearance of respect that one would anticipate fueling just what Bakken shows it fueling: narcissism, thin skin, and general prima donna or police-like behavior in those relying on it.

Of West Point graduates, 74 percent report being politically “conservative” as compared to 45 percent of all college graduates; and 95 percent say “America is the best country in the world” compared to 77 percent over all. Bakken highlights West Point Professor Pete Kilner as an example of someone who shares and promotes such views. I’ve done public debates with Kilner and found him far from sincere, much less persuasive. He gives the impression of not having spent much time outside of the military bubble, and of expecting praise for that fact.

“One of the reasons for the common dishonesty in the military,” Bakken writes, “is an institutionalized disdain for the public, including civilian command.” Sexual assault is rising, not receding, in the U.S. military. “When Air Force cadets chant,” writes Bakken, “while marching, that they will use a ‘chain saw’ to cut a woman ‘in two’ and keep ‘the bottom half and give the top to you,’ they are expressing their world view.”

“A survey of the top echelon of military leadership indicates widespread criminality,” Bakken writes, before running through such a survey. The military’s approach to sexual crimes by top officers is, as recounted by Bakken, quite fittingly compared by him to the behavior of the Catholic Church.

The sense of immunity and entitlement is not limited to a few individuals, but is institutionalized. A gentleman now in San Diego and known as Fat Leonard hosted dozens of sex parties in Asia for U.S. Navy officers in exchange for supposedly valuable secret information on the Navy’s plans.

If what happens in the military stayed in the military, the problem would be far smaller than it is. In truth, West Point alumni have wreaked havoc on the world. They dominate the top ranks of the U.S. military and have for many, many years. Douglas MacArthur, according to a historian Bakken quotes, “surrounded himself ” with men who “would not disturb the dreamworld of self-worship in which he chose to live.” MacArthur, of course, brought China into the Korean war, tried to turn the war nuclear, was in great part responsible for millions of deaths, and was — in a very rare event — fired.

William Westmoreland, according to a biographer quoted by Bakken, had a “perspective so widely off the mark that it raises fundamental questions of [his] awareness of the context in which the war was being fought.” Westmoreland, of course, committed genocidal slaughter in Vietnam and, like MacArthur, attempted to make the war nuclear.

“Recognizing the staggering depth of MacArthur’s and Westmoreland’s obtuseness,” writes Bakken, “leads to a clearer understanding of the deficiencies in the military and how America can lose wars.”

Bakken describes retired admiral Dennis Blair as bringing a military ethos of speech restriction and retaliation into civilian government in 2009 and generating the new approach of prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, prosecuting publishers like Julian Assange, and asking judges to imprison reporters until they reveal their sources. Blair himself has described this as applying the military’s ways to government.

Recruiters lie. Military spokespeople lie. The case made to the public for each war (often made as much by civilian politicians as by the military) is so routinely dishonest that someone wrote a book called War Is A Lie. As Bakken tells it, Watergate and Iran-Contra are examples of corruption driven by military culture. And, of course, in the lists of serious and trivial lies and outrages to be found in military corruption there’s this: those assigned to guard nuclear weapons lie, cheat, get drunk, and fall down — and do so for decades unchecked, thereby risking all life on earth.

Earlier this year, the Secretary of the Navy lied to Congress that over 1,100 U.S. schools were barring military recruiters. A friend and I offered a reward if anyone could identify just one of those schools. Of course, nobody could. So, a Pentagon spokesperson told some new lies to cover up the old one. Not that anybody cared — least of all Congress. None of the Congress Members directly lied to could be brought to the point of saying one word about it; rather, they made sure to keep people who cared about the issue out of hearings at which the Secretary of the Navy was testifying. The Secretary was fired months later, just a couple of weeks ago, for allegedly making a deal with President Trump behind the back of the Secretary of Defense, as the three of them had varying ideas on how to acknowledge or excuse or glorify some particular war crimes.

One way in which violence spreads from the military to U.S. society is through the violence of veterans, who disproportionately make up the list of mass shooters. Just this week, there have been two shootings on U.S. Navy bases in the U.S., both of them by men trained by the U.S. military, one of them a Saudi man training in Florida to fly airplanes (as well as training to prop up the most brutal dictatorship on earth) — all of which seems to highlight the zombie-like repetitive and counterproductive nature of militarism. Bakken cites a study that in 2018 found that Dallas police officers who were veterans were much more likely to fire their guns while on duty, and that nearly a third of all officers involved in a shooting were veterans. In 2017 a West Point student apparently prepared for a mass shooting at West Point that was prevented.

Many have urged us to recognize the evidence and not accept the media presentations of atrocities like My Lai or Abu Ghraib as isolated incidents. Bakken asks us to recognize not just the pervasive pattern but its origins in a culture that models and encourages senseless violence.

Despite working for the U.S. military as a professor at West Point, Bakken outlines the general failure of that military, including the past 75 years of lost wars. Bakken is unusually honest and accurate about casualty counts and about the destructive and counterproductive nature of the senseless one-sided slaughters the U.S. military perpetrates on the world.

Pre-U.S. colonists viewed militaries much as people living near U.S. military bases in foreign countries often view them today: as “nurseries of vice.” By any sensible measure, the same view ought to be common in the United States right now. The U.S. military is probably the least successful institution on its own terms (as well as others’ terms) in U.S. society, certainly the least democratic, one of the most criminal and corrupt, yet consistently and dramatically the most respected in opinion polls. Bakken recounts how this unquestioning adulation creates hubris in the military. It also maintains cowardice in the public when it comes to opposing militarism.

Military “leaders” today are treated as princes. “Four-star generals and admirals today,” Bakken writes, “are flown on jets not just for work but also to ski, vacation, and golf resorts (234 military golf courses) operated by the U.S. military around the world, accompanied by a dozen aides, drivers, security guards, gourmet chefs, and valets to carry their bags.” Bakken wants this ended and believes it works against the ability of the U.S. military to properly do whatever it is he thinks it should do. And Bakken courageously writes these things as a civilian professor at West Point who has won a court case against the military over its retaliation for his whistleblowing.

But Bakken, like most whistleblowers, maintains one foot inside that which he is exposing. Like virtually every U.S. citizen, he suffers from World War II mythologizing, which creates the vague and unargued assumption that war can be done right and properly and victoriously.

Happy Pearl Harbor Day, everybody!

Like a huge number of MSNBC and CNN viewers, Bakken suffers from Russiagatism. Check out this remarkable statement from his book: “A few Russian cyber agents did more to destabilize the 2016 presidential election and American democracy than all the weapons of the Cold War put together, and the U.S. military was helpless to stop them. It was stuck in a different mode of thinking, one that worked seventy-five years ago.”

Of course, the wild claims of Russiagate about Trump supposedly collaborating with Russia to try to influence the 2016 election do not even include the claim that such activity actually influenced or “destabilized” the election. But, of course, every Russiagate utterance does push that ridiculous idea implicitly or — as here — explicitly. Meanwhile Cold War militarism determined the outcome of numerous U.S. elections. Then there’s the problem of proposing that the U.S. military come up with schemes to counter Facebook ads. Really? Whom should they bomb? How much? In what way? Bakken is constantly lamenting the lack of intelligence in the officer corps, but what sort of intelligence would concoct the proper forms of mass murder to stop Facebook ads?

Bakken regrets the U.S. military’s failures to take over the world, and the successes of its supposed rivals. But he never gives us an argument for the desirability of global domination. He claims to believe that the intention of U.S. wars is to spread democracy, and then denounces those wars as failures on those terms. He pushes the war propaganda that holds North Korea and Iran to be threats to the United States, and points to their having become such threats as evidence of the U.S. military’s failure. I would have said that getting even its critics to think that way is evidence of the U.S. military’s success — at least in the realm of propaganda.

According to Bakken, wars are badly managed, wars are lost, and incompetent generals devise “no-win” strategies. But never in the course of his book (apart from his World War II problem) does Bakken offer a single example of a war well-managed or won by the United States or anyone else. That the problem is ignorant and unintelligent generals is an easy argument to make, and Bakken offers ample evidence. But he never hints at what it is that intelligent generals would do — unless it is this: quit the war business.

“The officers leading the military today appear not to have the ability to win modern wars,” Bakken writes. But he never describes or defines what a win would look like, what it would consist of. Everybody dead? A colony established? An independent peaceful state left behind to open criminal prosecutions against the United States? A deferential proxy state with democratic pretensions left behind except for the requisite handful of U.S. bases now under construction there?

At one point, Bakken criticizes the choice to wage large military operations in Vietnam “rather than counterinsurgency.” But he does not add even a single sentence explaining what benefits “counterinsurgency” could have brought to Vietnam.

The failures that Bakken recounts as driven by officers’ hubris, dishonesty, and corruption are all wars or escalations of wars. They are all failures in the same direction: too much senseless slaughtering of human beings. Nowhere does he cite even a single catastrophe as having been created by restraint or deference to diplomacy or by excessive use of the rule of law or cooperation or generosity. Nowhere does he point out that a war was too small. Nowhere does he even pull a Rwanda, claiming that a war that didn’t happen should have.

Bakken wants a radical alternative to the past several decades of military conduct but never explains why that alternative should have to include mass murder. What rules out nonviolent alternatives? What rules out scaling back the military until it’s gone? What other institution can fail utterly for generations and have its toughest critics propose reforming it, rather than abolishing it?

Bakken laments the separation and isolation of the military from everyone else, and the supposedly small size of the military. He’s right about the separation problem, and even partly right — I think — about the solution, in that he wants to make the military more like the civilian world, not just make the civilian world more like the military. But he certainly leaves the impression of wanting the latter too: women in the draft, a military that makes up more than just 1 percent of the population. These disastrous ideas are not argued for, and cannot be effectively argued for.

At one point, Bakken seems to understand just how archaic war is, writing, “In ancient times and in agrarian America, where communities were isolated, any outside threat posed a significant danger to an entire group. But today, given its nuclear weapons and vast armaments, as well as an extensive internal policing apparatus, America faces no threat of invasion. Under all indices, war should be far less likely than in the past; in fact, it has become less likely for countries throughout the world, with one exception: the United States.”

I recently spoke to a class of eighth-graders, and I told them that one country possessed the vast majority of foreign military bases on earth. I asked them to name that country. And of course they named the list of countries still lacking a U.S. military base: Iran, North Korea, etc. It took quite a while and some prodding before anyone guessed “the United States.” The United States tells itself it isn’t an empire, even while assuming its imperial stature to be beyond question. Bakken has proposals for what to do, but they do not include shrinking military spending or closing foreign bases or halting weapons sales.

He proposes, first, that wars be fought “only in self-defense.” This, he informs us, would have prevented a number of wars but allowed the war on Afghanistan for “a year or two.” He doesn’t explain that. He doesn’t mention the problem of that war’s illegality. He provides no guide to let us know which attacks on impoverished nations halfway around the globe should count as “self-defense” in the future, nor for how many years they should bear that label, nor of course what the “win” was in Afghanistan after “a year or two.”

Bakken proposes giving much less authority for generals outside of actual combat. Why that exception?

He proposes subjecting the military to the same civilian legal system as everyone else, and abolishing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Good idea. A crime committed in Pennsylvania would be prosecuted by Pennsylvania. But for crimes committed outside the United States, Bakken has a different attitude. Those places should not prosecute crimes committed in them. The United States should establish courts to handle that. The International Criminal Court is also missing from Bakken’s proposals, despite his account of U.S. sabotage of that court earlier in the book.

Bakken proposes to turn the U.S. military academies into civilian universities. I’d agree if they were focused on peace studies and not controlled by the militarized government of the United States.

Finally, Bakken proposes criminalizing retaliating against free speech in military. For as long as the military exists, I think that’s a good idea — and one that might shorten that length of time (that the military exists) were it not for the probability that it will reduce the risk of nuclear apocalypse (allowing everything in existence to last a bit longer).

But what about civilian control? What about requiring that the Congress or the public vote before wars? What about ending secret agencies and secret wars? What about halting the arming of future enemies for profit? What about imposing the rule of law on the U.S. government, not just on cadets? What about converting from military to peaceful industries?

Well, Bakken’s analysis of what’s wrong with the U.S. military is helpful in getting us toward various proposals whether or not he supports them.

Israel’s Unfinished “Coup”

This time, nothing seems to work. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has tried every trick in the book to save his political career and to avoid possible prison time. But for Israel’s longest-serving leader, the honeymoon is certainly almost over.

It is an “attempted coup”, is how Netanyahu described his indictment on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust by Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, on November 21. Netanyahu’s loyalists agree. On November 26, a few thousand Likud party supporters gathered in Tel Aviv, under the title “Stop the coup”, to express their anger at what they see as a massive conspiracy involving Mandelblit, the media, various state institutions, and “disloyal” Likud party members.

Netanyahu’s main Likud party rival, Gideon Sa’ar, received much of the verbal abuse. Sa’ar, who almost faded into oblivion after leaving the Knesset in 2014, emerged once more on Israel’s political scene following the April 2019 elections. Netanyahu’s failure to form a government then was compounded by a similar failure to cobble up a government coalition after the second general elections, held within a few months in September.

Since 2014, no one dared challenge Netanyahu’s reign over the Likud. “There was no need to do so,” wrote Yossi Verter in Haaretz on November 29. Netanyahu “brought them to power, time after time. But few things happened since then.”

It is because of these “few things” that Sa’ar dared to challenge Netanyahu once more. What is significant about Sa’ar’s leadership challenge is not the possibility of him unseating Netanyahu, but the fact that the “king of Israel” no longer commands the type of fear and respect that he has painstakingly espoused over a decade of nearly uncontested rule.

As soon as Sa’ar called for new Likud primaries, Netanyahu’s political minions, such as Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, and other heavyweight politicians — Nir Barkat, Miri Regev, among others — pounced on Sa’ar, describing him as “disloyal”. The Tel Aviv protesters had far more demeaning words for the rebel Likud member. However, despite the deafening screams and the name-calling, Netanyahu conceded, promising on November 23, that he would set up and face a party leadership challenge within weeks.

Embattled Netanyahu has no other options. Although he may still come out in the lead should the primaries be held on time, he cannot afford deepening existing doubts within his party. If he fails to ensure his legitimacy within his own Likud party, he could hardly make the case of being able to lead all of Israel following a possible third general election in March.

However, Sa’ar is not Netanyahu’s biggest problem.

The picture for Netanyahu — in fact, for all of Israel — is getting more complicated by the day. The Israeli leader has successfully managed to coalesce his own political and family interests within the collective interests of all Israelis. “I’m doing everything required to ensure the government’s and cabinet’s work is getting done in all the ways required to ensure the safety of Israel’s citizens,” he told a reporter on November 23, insisting that he is still carrying out his duties as a Prime Minister “in the best possible way, out of supreme devotion to Israel’s security.”

Desperate to hang on to power for as long as possible, Netanyahu still employs the same political discourse that helped him unify many sectors of Israeli society for over ten years. But that ploy is no longer reaping the intended result. For one, Netanyahu’s main rival in the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) Party, Benny Gantz, has neutralized the Prime Minister’s success in manipulating the term “security”, for he, too, is an advocate of war, whenever and wherever war is possible.

Netanyahu’s last war on Gaza on November 12, where the Israeli army killed 34 Palestinians, including women and children, is a case in point. During the short-lived destructive war, Gantz was busy trying to form a government, as Netanyahu had already failed that task. Resorting to war, Netanyahu tried to send three messages, all intended for Israeli audiences: one to Mandelblit, to postpone the indictment; the second to Gantz, to reconsider his decision to block him from taking part in a future government, and the final one to the Israeli public, to remind them of his own supposed ability to reign in “terror”.

But all has failed: Gantz announced his inability to form a government on November 20, preferring failure over extending a lifeline to Netanyahu, whose indictment was imminent. Indeed, the Attorney General’s decision arrived on November 21, making it the first time in the history of the country that a Prime Minister is indicted while in office. Worse, Blue and White widened its lead significantly over the Likud, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by Israel’s Channel 12 television, which was published on November 26.

But what other languages, aside from that of war — in the name of security — and haphazard accusations of political conspiracies, can Netanyahu possibly employ during this period? Such tactics often worked in the past. In fact, they worked so well that the entire Netanyahu political doctrine was designed around them. Now, the Israeli leader has run out of ideas, and is quickly running out of allies as well, not only from without, such as his former ally and the head of Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, but from within his own party as well.

The reason that Netanyahu is still in power after all the setbacks and outright failures is the fact that his rivals are yet to mobilize the necessary votes and public support to oust him for good. It will certainly take more than Gantz alone to dislodge stubborn Netanyahu from office, for the latter has consolidated and entrenched his rule through an intricate system of political patronage that runs deep through many facets of Israeli society.

With this in mind, it seems that the end of the Netanyahu era is finally upon us, but it is likely to be longer and uglier than expected. While it remains true that a fundamental change in Israel’s political system will neither deliver peace and justice to Palestinians — or stability to the region — it could potentially constitute the equivalent of a political earthquake within Israel itself, the consequences of which are yet to be seen.

Iraqis Rise Up Against 16 Years of ‘Made in the USA’ Corruption

As Americans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Iraqis were mourning 40 protesters killed by police and soldiers on Thursday in Baghdad, Najaf and Nasiriyah. Nearly 400 protesters have been killed since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets at the beginning of October. Human rights groups have described the crisis in Iraq as a “bloodbath,” Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.

According to Al Jazeera, “Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.” Only 36% of the adult population of Iraq have jobs, and despite the gutting of the public sector under U.S. occupation, its tattered remnants still employ more people than the private sector, which fared even worse under the violence and chaos of the U.S.’s militarized shock doctrine.

Western reporting conveniently casts Iran as the dominant foreign player in Iraq today. But while Iran has gained enormous influence and is one of the targets of the protests, most of the people ruling Iraq today are still the former exiles that the U.S. flew in with its occupation forces in 2003, “coming to Iraq with empty pockets to fill” as a taxi-driver in Baghdad told a Western reporter at the time. The real causes of Iraq’s unending political and economic crisis are these former exiles’ betrayal of their country, their endemic corruption and the U.S.’s illegitimate role in destroying Iraq’s government, handing it over to them and maintaining them in power for 16 years.

The corruption of both U.S. and Iraqi officials during the U.S. occupation is well documented. UN Security Council resolution 1483 established a $20 billion Development Fund for Iraq using previously seized Iraqi assets, money left in the UN’s “oil for food” program and new Iraqi oil revenues. An audit by KPMG and a special inspector general found that a huge proportion of that money was stolen or embezzled by U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Lebanese customs officials found $13 million in cash aboard Iraqi-American interim Interior Minister Falah Naqib’s plane. Occupation crime boss Paul Bremer maintained a $600 million slush fund with no paperwork. An Iraqi government ministry with 602 employees collected salaries for 8,206. A U.S. Army officer doubled the price on a contract to rebuild a hospital, and told the hospital’s director the extra cash was his “retirement package.” A U.S. contractor billed $60 million on a $20 million contract to rebuild a cement factory, and told Iraqi officials they should just be grateful the U.S. had saved them from Saddam Hussein. A U.S. pipeline contractor charged $3.4 million for non-existent workers and “other improper charges.” Out of 198 contracts reviewed by the inspector general, only 44 had documentation to confirm the work was done.

U.S. “paying agents” distributing money for projects around Iraq pocketed millions of dollars in cash.The inspector general only investigated one area, around Hillah, but found $96.6 million dollars unaccounted for in that area alone.  One American agent could not account for $25 million, while another could only account for $6.3 million out of $23 million. The “Coalition Provisional Authority” used agents like these all over Iraq and simply “cleared” their accounts when they left the country. One agent who was challenged came back the next day with $1.9 million in missing cash.

The U.S. Congress also budgeted $18.4 billion for reconstruction in Iraq in 2003, but apart from $3.4 billion diverted to “security,” less than $1 billion of it was ever disbursed. Many Americans believe U.S. oil companies have made out like bandits in Iraq, but that’s not true either. The plans that Western oil companies drew up with Vice President Cheney in 2001 had that intent, but a law to grant Western oil companies lucrative “production sharing agreements” (PSAs) worth tens of billions per year was exposed as a smash and grab raid and the Iraqi National Assembly refused to pass it.

Finally, in 2009, Iraq’s leaders and their U.S. puppet-masters gave up on PSAs (for the time being…) and invited foreign oil companies to bid on “technical service agreements” (TSAs) worth $1 to $6 per barrel for increases in production from Iraqi oilfields. Ten years later, production has only increased to 4.6 million barrels per day, of which 3.8 million are exported. From Iraqi oil exports of about $80 billion per year, foreign firms with TSAs earn only $1.4 billion, and the largest contracts are not held by U.S. firms. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is earning about $430 million in 2019; BP earns $235 million; Malaysia’s Petronas $120 million; Russia’s Lukoil $105 million; and Italy’s ENI $100 million. The bulk of Iraq’s oil revenues still flow through the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) to the corrupt U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.

Another legacy of the U.S. occupation is Iraq’s convoluted election system and the undemocratic horse-trading by which the executive branch of the Iraqi government is selected. The 2018 election was contested by 143 parties grouped into 27 coalitions or “lists,” plus 61 other independent parties. Ironically, this is similar to the contrived, multi-layered political system the British created to control Iraq and exclude Shiites from power after the Iraqi revolt of 1920.

Today, this corrupt system keeps dominant power in the hands of a cabal of corrupt Shiite and Kurdish politicians who spent many years in exile in the West, working with Ahmed Chalabi’s U.S.-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), Ayad Allawi’s U.K.-based Iraqi National Accord (INA) and various factions of the Shiite Islamist Dawa Party. Voter turnout has dwindled from 70% in 2005 to 44.5% in 2018.

Ayad Allawi and the INA were the instrument for the CIA’s hopelessly bungled military coup in Iraq in 1996. The Iraqi government followed every detail of the plot on a closed-circuit radio handed over by one of the conspirators and arrested all the CIA’s agents inside Iraq on the eve of the coup. It executed thirty military officers and jailed a hundred more, leaving the CIA with no human intelligence from inside Iraq.

Ahmed Chalabi and the INC filled that vacuum with a web of lies that warmongering U.S. officials fed into the echo chamber of the U.S. corporate media to justify the invasion of Iraq. On June 26th 2002, the INC sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee to lobby for more U.S. funding. It identified its “Information Collection Program” as the primary source for 108 stories about Iraq’s fictitious “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and links to Al-Qaeda in U.S. and international newspapers and magazines.

After the invasion, Allawi and Chalabi became leading members of the U.S. occupation’s Iraqi Governing Council. Allawi was appointed Prime Minister of Iraq’s interim government in 2004, and Chalabi was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Oil Minister in the transitional government in 2005. Chalabi failed to win a seat in the 2005 National Assembly election, but was later elected to the assembly and remained a powerful figure until his death in 2015. Allawi and the INA are still involved in the horse-trading for senior positions after every election, despite never getting more than 8% of the votes – and only 6% in 2018.

These are the senior ministers of the new Iraqi government formed after the 2018 election, with some details of their Western backgrounds:

Adil Abdul-Mahdi – Prime Minister (France). Born in Baghdad in 1942. Father was a government minister under the British-backed monarchy. Lived in France from 1969-2003, earning a Ph.D in politics at Poitiers. In France, he became a follower of Ayatollah Khomeini and a founding member of the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) in 1982. Was SCIRI’s representative in Iraqi Kurdistan for a period in the 1990s. After the invasion, he became Finance Minister in Allawi’s interim government in 2004; Vice President from 2005-11; Oil Minister from 2014-16.

Barham Salih – President (U.K. and U.S.). Born in Sulaymaniyah in 1960. Ph.D. in Engineering (Liverpool – 1987). Joined Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1976. Jailed for 6 weeks in in 1979 and left Iraq for the U.K.  PUK representative in London from 1979-91; head of PUK office in Washington from 1991-2001. President of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) from 2001-4; Deputy PM in interim Iraqi government in 2004; Planning Minister in transitional government in 2005; Deputy PM from 2006-9; Prime Minister of KRG from 2009-12.

Mohamed Ali Alhakim – Foreign Minister (U.K. and U.S.). Born in Najaf in 1952. M.Sc. (Birmingham), Ph.D. in Telecom Engineering (Southern California), Professor at Northeastern University in Boston 1995-2003. After the invasion, he became Deputy Secretary-General and Planning Coordinator in the Iraqi Governing Council; Communications Minister in interim government in 2004; Planning Director at Foreign Ministry, and Economic Adviser to VP Abdul-Mahdi from 2005-10; and UN Ambassador from 2010-18.

Fuad Hussein – Finance Minister and Deputy PM (Netherlands and France). Born in Khanaqin (majority Kurdish town in Diyala province) in 1946. Joined Kurdish Student Union and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) as a student in Baghdad. Lived in Netherlands from 1975-87; incomplete Ph.D. in International Relations; married to Dutch Christian woman. Appointed deputy head of Kurdish Institute in Paris in 1987. Attended Iraqi exile political conferences in Beirut (1991), New York (1999) and London (2002). After the invasion, he became an adviser at the Education Ministry from 2003-5; and Chief of Staff to Masoud Barzani, President of the KRG, from 2005-17.

Thamir Ghadhban – Oil Minister and Deputy PM (U.K.). Born in Karbala in 1945. B.Sc. (UCL) and M.Sc. in Petroleum Engineering (Imperial College, London). Joined Basra Petroleum Co. in 1973. Director General of Engineering and then Planning at Iraqi Oil Ministry from 1989-92. Imprisoned for 3 months and demoted in 1992, but did not leave Iraq, and was reappointed Director General of Planning in 2001. After the invasion, he was promoted to CEO of Oil Ministry; Oil Minister in the interim government in 2004; elected to National Assembly in 2005 and served on 3-man committee that drafted the failed oil law; chaired Prime Minister’s Advisors’ Committee from 2006-16.

Major General (Retd) Najah Al-Shammari – Defense Minister (Sweden). Born in Baghdad in 1967. The only Sunni Arab among senior ministers. Military officer since 1987. Has lived in Sweden and may have been member of Allawi’s INA before 2003. Senior officer in U.S.-backed Iraqi special forces recruited from INC, INA and Kurdish Peshmerga from 2003-7. Deputy commander of “counterterrorism” forces 2007-9. Residency in Sweden 2009-15. Swedish citizen since 2015. Reportedly under investigation for benefits fraud in Sweden, and now for crimes against humanity in killing of over 300 protesters in October-November 2019.

In 2003, the U.S. and its allies unleashed unspeakable, systematic violence against the people of Iraq. Public health experts reliably estimated that the first three years of war and hostile military occupation cost about 650,000 Iraqi lives. But the U.S. did succeed in installing a puppet government of formerly Western-based Shiite and Kurdish politicians in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, with control over Iraq’s oil revenues. As we can see, many of the ministers in the U.S.-appointed interim government in 2004 are still ruling Iraq today.

U.S. forces deployed ever-escalating violence against Iraqis who resisted the invasion and hostile military occupation of their country. In 2004, the U.S. began training a large force of Iraqi police commandos for the Interior Ministry, and uunleashed commando units recruited from SCIRI’s Badr Brigade militia as death squads in Baghdad in April 2005. This U.S.-backed reign of terror peaked in the summer of 2006, with the corpses of as many as 1,800 victims brought to the Baghdad morgue each month. An Iraqi human rights group examined 3,498 bodies of summary execution victims and identified 92% of them as people arrested by Interior Ministry forces.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency tracked “enemy-initiated attacks” throughout the occupation and found that over 90% were against U.S. and allied military targets, not “sectarian” attacks on civilians.  But U.S. officials used a narrative of “sectarian violence” to blame the work of U.S.-trained Interior Ministry death squads on independent Shiite militias like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

The government Iraqis are protesting against today is still led by the same gang of U.S.-backed Iraqi exiles who wove a web of lies to stage manage the invasion of their own country in 2003, and then hid behind the walls of the Green Zone while U.S. forces and death squads slaughtered their people to make the country “safe” for their corrupt government.

More recently they again acted as cheerleaders as American bombsrockets and artillery reduced most of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, to rubble, after twelve years of occupation, corruption and savage repression drove its people into the arms of the Islamic State. Kurdish intelligence reports revealed that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in the U.S.-led destruction of Mosul. On the pretext of fighting the Islamic State, the U.S. has reestablished a huge military base for over 5,000 U.S. troops at Al-Asad airbase in Anbar province.

The cost of rebuilding Mosul, Fallujah and other cities and towns is conservatively estimated at $88 billion. But despite $80 billion per year in oil exports and a federal budget of over $100 billion, the Iraqi government has allocated no money at all for reconstruction. Foreign, mostly wealthy Arab countries, have pledged $30 billion, including just $3 billion from the U.S., but very little of that has been, or may ever be, delivered.

The history of Iraq since 2003 has been a never-ending disaster for its people. Many of this new generation of Iraqis who have grown up amid the ruins and chaos the U.S. occupation left in its wake believe they have nothing to lose but their blood and their lives, as they take to the streets to reclaim their dignity, their future and their country’s sovereignty.

The bloody hand-prints of U.S. officials and their Iraqi puppets all over this crisis should stand as a dire warning to Americans of the predictably catastrophic results of an illegal foreign policy based on sanctions, coups, threats and the use of military force to try to impose the will of deluded U.S. leaders on people all over the world.

Is Netanyahu Ready to Inflame War to Escape his Legal Troubles?

The decision to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on three separate criminal counts pushes the country’s already unprecedented electoral stalemate into the entirely uncharted territory of a constitutional crisis.

There is no legal precedent for a sitting prime minister facing a trial – in Netanyahu’s case, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged with corruption in 2009 but only after he had resigned from office.

Israeli commentators are already warning of the possibility of civil war if, as seems likely, Netanyahu decides to whip up his far-right supporters into a frenzy of outrage. After a decade in power, he has developed an almost cult-like status among sections of the public.

He called for mass protests in Tel Aviv by supporters on Tuesday night under the banner “Stop the coup”.

The honorable thing would be for Netanyahu to step down quickly, given that the two elections he fought this year ended in deadlock. Both were seen primarily as plebiscites on his continuing rule.

He is now the country’s caretaker prime minister, in place until either a new government can be formed or an unprecedented third election is held.

His departure would end months of governmental near-paralysis. The path would then be clear for a successor from his Likud party to negotiate a deal on a right-wing unity government with rival Benny Gantz, a former army general.

Gantz’s Blue and White party has made it a point of principle not to forge an alliance with Netanyahu.

Previous experience, however, suggests that Netanyahu might prefer to tear the house down rather than go quietly. If he is allowed to press ahead with another election in March, he is likely to stoke new levels of incitement against his supposed enemies.

Until now, the main target of his venom has been a predictable one.

During the April and September campaigns, he railed relentlessly against the fifth of Israel’s citizenry who are Palestinian as well as their elected representatives in the Joint List, the third largest faction in the Knesset.

Shortly before last Thursday’s indictment was announced, Netanyahu was at it again, holding an “emergency conference”. He told supporters that a minority government led by Gantz and propped up from outside by the Joint List would be a “historic national attack on Israel”. The Palestinian minority’s MPs, he said, “want to destroy the country”.

Such a government, he added, would be an outcome “they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah and in Gaza, as they do after every terror attack”.

This repeated scaremongering had an obvious goal: rallying the Jewish public to vote for his far-right, now overtly anti-Arab coalition. The hope was that he would win an outright majority and could then force through legislation conferring on him immunity from prosecution.

Now he appears to have run out of time. After three years of investigations and much foot-dragging, the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has finally charged him.

According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu turned down opportunities for a plea bargain that would have seen him resign in return for avoiding jail time.

According to the most serious allegation, he is accused of granting media tycoon Shaul Elovich benefits worth $500 million in exchange for favourable coverage.

Weighed against the crimes he and other Israeli leaders have perpetrated over many decades against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the offences he is indicted for seem relatively minor.

Nonetheless, if found guilty, Netanyahu faces a substantial prison sentence of up to 10 years. That makes the stakes high.

All the signs now are that he will switch his main target from Israel’s Palestinian minority to the legal authorities pursuing him.

His first response to the indictment was to accuse the police and state prosecutors of an “attempted coup”, claiming they had fabricated the evidence to “frame” him. “The time has come to investigate the investigators,” he urged.

As one Blue and White official told the veteran Israeli reporter Ben Caspit: “Netanyahu will not hesitate to sic [unleash] his supporters on those institutions of government that represent the rule of law. He has no inhibitions.”

Technically the law allows a prime minister to continue serving while under indictment and before a trial, which is still many months away. Assuming Netanyahu refuses to resign, the courts will have to rule on whether this privilege extends to a caretaker leader unable to form a new government.

Netanyahu is therefore likely to focus his attention on intimidating the supreme court, already cowed by a decade of tongue-lashing from the Israeli right. Critics unfairly accuse the court of being a bastion of liberalism.

But bigger dangers may lie ahead. Netanyahu needs to keep his own Likud party in line. If its members sense he is finished, there could be a rapid collapse of support and moves towards an attempt to overthrow him.

The first hints of trouble emerged on Saturday when Gideon Saar, Netanyahu’s most likely challenger in Likud, accused him of “creating an atmosphere of chaos” by denigrating the legal authorities. On Tuesday he went further calling on Netanyahu to quit.

After the failure by both Gantz and Netanyahu to put together a coalition, the task was passed last week to parliament. Its members have just over a fortnight left to see whether one of their number can rally a majority of MPs.

This brief window could provide an opportunity for Saar to move against Netanyahu. On Sunday he submitted an official request for the Likud party to hold a snap leadership race.

Observers fear that to allay this danger, Netanyahu might consider not only inflaming his base but also setting the region alight with a conflict to rally the rest of the public to his side and make his removal impossible.

In fact, the Israeli media reported that shortly before September’s election, he had tried to pull precisely such a stunt, preparing a war on Gaza to justify postponing the ballot.

He was stopped at the last minute by Mandelblit, who realised that the cabinet had been misled into approving military action. Netanyahu had reportedly concealed from them the fact that the military command was opposed.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has stoked severe tensions with Gaza by assassinating Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al Atta. Last week he launched airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria.

When Olmert was being investigated for corruption in 2008, Netanyahu sagely warned of the dangerous confusion of interests that might result. “He will make decisions based on his own interests of political survivability rather than the national interest,” he said.

And that is precisely the reason why many in Israel are keen to see the back of Netanyahu – in case his instinct for political survival trumps the interests of stability in the region.

• A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Hollow Promises of a Better Life: Modern Day Slavery

Despite the fact that slavery has long been abolished it continues to blight our world, destroying the lives of tens of millions of people. The Global Slavery Index (GSI) 2018 estimates there to be 40.3 million slaves in the world; however, given the difficulty of collecting data, the areas that are not included – organ trafficking, child soldiers, or child marriage – and the fact that, as GSI says, there are ‘substantial gaps’ from the Arabs States, where 17.5 million migrants workers live, the actual number will no doubt be a great deal higher.

Of the 40.3 million total, 24.9 million people “were in forced labor and 15.4 people were living in a forced marriage.” Men, women and little children living inhuman lives, imprisoned, abused, crushed. Women and girls make up 71% of the total; a staggering one in four (10 million plus) are children.

Treated and regarded by those that exploit them not as human beings, but as chattel property victims of slavery are traded for money and services throughout the world. The Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of enslaved people – 30.4 million, and, according to Anti-Slavery International 9.1 million people are in slavery in Africa. Repressive regimes, such as North Korea, Burundi, Eritrea, have the highest prevalence of slaves. In North Korea it is said to be as high as one in 10. But no country, no matter how wealthy, liberal and well policed, is immune to this abhorrent practice, it is happening everywhere.

As part of the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSGD) member states committed to eradicating modern slavery by 2030. But, unsurprisingly perhaps, progress towards this has been slow and, as GSI puts it, “disgracefully marginal”. Human trafficking is now the second most lucrative criminal activity after drugs and it’s increasing; a large percentage is sex trafficking (of women and girls) and over half of people are trafficked within their own country.

The most common forms of slavery are: domestic servitude – widespread in the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries but also prevalent in western nations; sexual exploitation/forced marriage, and bonded labor (or debt bondage/debt slavery) – when a person works in exchange for a loan or to pay off debt inherited from a family member – particularly common in South-east Asia and the Gulf States.

In India bonded slave labor is widespread, with people, specifically women, from the Dalit (previously labeled the ‘Untouchables’) caste and tribal groups being most affected. Although the caste system is illegal, social classification based on the family of birth dominates, particularly in rural areas. In a detailed report on slavery the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) state that affected Indian “families [can] remain enslaved for generations, working in dangerous conditions without the means to pay for their freedom…the cycle often begins with a loan request made to a landlord or business owner for expenses incurred burying a family member, treating an illness, procuring employment, or staging a wedding.” Once the loan is given threats are made, exploitation begins, often the work done far exceeds the value of the debt. Rice mills, textile factories, farms, brick kilns are some of the prisons of bonded labor.

Lost lives

A large percentage of victims work in the supply chains of multinational corporations in the form of forced or bonded labor, including child labor. They are paid little or nothing, work extended hours often in unsafe conditions and live in appalling accommodation. The more complex the supply chain the greater the risk of slavery, the more difficult to trace. Food and tobacco companies, clothing/textile businesses, mining, construction (migrant workers are particularly at risk of exploitation in this area), seafood and electronics, all are vulnerable to modern day slavery.

While the act of enslavement may occur in the depths of the supply chain, products are imported to developed countries, making these countries and businesses if not wholly complicit, certainly partly responsible; GSI estimate that “G20 countries are collectively importing US$354 billion worth of at-risk products annually.” Hidden in large part from unsuspecting or uninterested consumers; slave labor is cheap, reducing costs, maximizing profits.

Consistent with most, if not all of our social and environmental ills the global socio-economic system of the age, and the attitudes, values and ways of being that it encourages play a significant role in feeding the ground for exploration and abuse. Under the poisonous shadow of Neo-Liberalism everything and everyone is regarded as a potential commodity, something, or someone, to be profited from in some way; it is an inherently unjust system that corrupts action and fuels social divisions.

Competition together with notions of reward and punishment form the foundation of its doctrine. Desire, and with it fear, are relentlessly agitated, contentment and harmony brushed aside in the relentless pursuit of profit.

Within the Ideology of Greed and Selfishness, negative tendencies are emphasized; instead of encouraging expressions of unity human beings are set in opposition to one another, forced to compete to survive. The economically weak and socially vulnerable are manipulated, exploited, enslaved, and when, through ill health, physical deformation, old age, or exhaustion, they can no longer work ceaselessly for a pittance or nothing at all, cast aside. Broken in mind, body and spirit, a life for many is lost.

‘I was looking for a job’

Human traffickers and criminal gangs engage in slavery for one reason: it’s the same reason that drives the business world, large and small, and preoccupies people around the world – to make money. As such, it is, as Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham, says, “an economic crime”. They prey on the poor, the naive and vulnerable, those without work or those working but living in terrible hardship.

While it is estimated that one billion people in the world live in poverty, a great many more exist in economic hardship and insecurity. People living in destitution, desperate to support themselves and their families, are a soft target for criminal brokers with hollow promises of a better life: A restaurant job in the city for the daughter of tea pickers in Assam, India – and the teenager is swiftly trafficked into prostitution; work as a housekeeper in Dubai for a young Ethiopian girl, who ends up in debt bondage and domestic slavery, often sexually abused. Construction work for a Nepalese man in Qatar, trapped into debt by unscrupulous ‘recruitment agents’ and exploited by greedy employers.

Another major factor allowing slavery to flourish is neglect or the total absence of the rule of law, as in countries that have been torn apart by armed conflict, or where corrupt police and government officials exist. In such places – Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen for example, human traffickers operate with impunity.

Over the last 70 years there has been a global population explosion contributing to a range of issues including slavery. In 1950 there were 2.5 billion people on Earth, now it’s 7.5 billion and there are also an unprecedented number of displaced people in the world – 70.8 million according to UNHCR. Without a home and stability, displaced people, including migrants and refugees, are extremely vulnerable. Uprooted and desperate, they can be easily manipulated by criminals seeking to exploit their dire circumstances. CFR relate that migrants and refugees, as well as ethnic and religious minorities, particularly women and children, are at heightened risk of enslavement.

The existence of modern day slavery is a stain on our collective humanity; this appalling practice must end, and, as GSI make clear, “governments around the world need to redouble efforts to identify victims, arrest perpetrators, and address the drivers.” The causes are complex, interrelated, connected to the current inadequate modes of living. If we lived in a world where social justice was central to economic policymaking, where the underlying causes of conflict were addressed and where values rooted in brotherhood and compassion prevailed, slavery would be banished. In the absence of such common sense and desperately needed radical changes, the steps required and advocated by those working in the field are all we have, and need to be acted upon – with urgency.

Like many of the issues facing humanity, modern day slavery demands a coordinated consistent approach, cooperation and commitment, not just among governments, but between nongovernmental organizations, and multinational corporations. Tougher law enforcement is needed, and greater transparency within global supply chains. Businesses should be forced to investigate their own suppliers, while responsible consumption should also play a part in cleaning up supply chains and helping to drive slavery from our world for good.

Beirut is Burning: Rebellion Against the Elites has Commenced

Tires are burning, smoke is rising towards the sky. It is October, the 18th day of the month, the capital city of Lebanon, in the past known as the “Paris of the East”, is covered in smoke.

For years I was warning that the country governed by corrupt, indifferent elites, could not hold together indefinitely.

For all those five years when I was calling Beirut home, things were going down the drain. Nothing was improving: almost no public transportation, electricity shortages, contaminated and erratic water supply. Periodically, garbage has been piling up along the streets and suburban roads. Once an airplane lands and the doors open, the terrible stench of garbage welcomes us, residents of Beirut, back home.

Almost everyone knew that all this could not continue like this, forever.

The city was suffering from 4th World diseases, while simultaneously being flooded with Land Rover SUVs, Maserati and Porsche sports cars, and Armani suits.

Beirut has almost collapsed to Jakarta levels, although, one has to admit, with extremely smart, highly educated and sophisticated elites, capable of conversing simultaneously in three world languages: French, Arabic and English. Also, with first rate art galleries, art cinemas, posh bars and nightclubs. With lavish marinas and the best bookstores in the entire Middle East.

Some say that Beirut has always been in possession of brain and guts, but something happened to its heart.

Now nothing really works here. But if you have millions of dollars, it does not really matter; you can buy anything here. If you are poor, destitute – abandon all hope. And the majority of the people here are now miserably poor. And no one even knows precisely how many are destitute, as a census is forbidden, in order ‘not to disturb religious balance’ (it was, for years, somehow agreed on, that it is better not to know how many Christians or Muslims are residing in the country).

It is certain that most of people are not rich. And now, outraged by their rulers, corrupt politicians and so-called elites, they are shouting, loudly and clearly: “Enough!”, Halas, down with the regime!”

*****

The government decided to impose a tax on WhatsApp calls. Not a big deal, some would say. But it was; it is, it suddenly became a big deal. “The last drop”, perhaps.

The city exploded. Barricades were erected. Tires were set on fire. Everywhere: in the poorest as well as in the richest neighborhoods.

“Revolution!” people began shouting.

Lebanon has a history of left-wing, even Communist insurgencies. It also has its fair share of religious, right-wing fanaticism. Which one will win? Which one will be decisive during this national rebellion?

The Communist Party is now behind several marches. But Hezbollah, until now the most solid social force in the country, is not yet convinced that the government of Saad al Hariri, should simply resign.

According to Reuters:

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said… that the group was not demanding the government’s resignation amid widespread national protests.

Nasrallah said in a televised speech that he supported the government, but called for a new agenda and “new spirit,” adding that ongoing protests showed the way forward was not new taxes.

Any tax imposed on the poor would push him to call supporters to go take to the streets, Nasrallah added.

So far, the rebellion has left countless people injured, while two Syrian immigrants lost their lives. Some local analysts say that this is the most serious uprising since the one in 2015 (which included the “You Stink!” campaign, reacting to the appalling garbage crises in Beirut and to the worsening social disaster), but others, including this author, are convinced that this is actually the most serious political catastrophe Lebanon has been facing since the 1980’s.

One hears anger, on every corner of the capital, in cafes and local stores:

“Trust is broken!”

Even those who used to be far from any political activities, are now supporting protesters.

Ms. Jehan, a local staff member at a UN office in Beirut, is one of those who found herself on the side of the rebellion:

What is happening to Beirut and all over in Lebanon is good. It is about time we stood up. I will go too. This has nothing to do with religions. It is about our shattered lives.

*****

Reading Western mainstream media, one could begin to believe that Lebanon’s main problems are issues like foreign debt (Lebanon is, on a per capita basis, the third most indebted country on earth. The debt stands at 150% of its GDP), miniscule real reserves (US$ 10 billion), and the way the country interacts with the donors and lenders. IMF and its “advice” are constantly mentioned.

But even news agencies like Reuters have to admit that the entire mess is far from just about structural problems:

As dollars have dried up, banks have effectively stopped lending and can no longer make basic foreign-exchange transactions for clients, one banker said.

“The whole role of banks is to pour money into the central bank to finance the government and protect the currency,” he said. “Nothing is being done on the fiscal deficit because doing something will disrupt the systems of corruption.”

And here is the key word: “Corruption!”

Lebanon’s elites are shamelessly corrupt. Only such countries like Indonesia are able to compete with the Lebanese troglodyte clans when it comes to stripping the entire nation of its riches.

Almost nothing is clean, or pure in Lebanon, and that is also why there aren’t any statistics available.

Money comes from the monstrous and ruthless exploitation of natural resources in West Africa. Everybody knows it, but it is never addressed publicly. I worked in West Africa, and I know what the racist Lebanese ‘business people’ are doing there. But money stolen from the Africans does not enrich Lebanon and its people. It ends up in the Lebanese banks, and spent on lavish yachts, tacky and overpriced European sports cars, and inside bizarre private clubs in and around the capital. While many Lebanese people are near starvation, airplanes flying to Nice, Venice or Greek Islands are constantly packed with la dolce vita seekers.

Lebanon makes billions of dollars from narcotics, particularly those cultivated and refined in the Beqaa Valley. They get exported mainly to Saudi Arabia, for the consumption of the rich, or injected into the battlefields in Yemen and Syria, so-called combat drugs. Again, everyone knows it, but nothing is done to stop it. Hundreds of families, from farmers to politicians, got filthy rich on that trade. This adds a few more super-yachts at the proverbial Beirut marinas.

Then, there is ‘foreign aid’, ‘European investment into infrastructure’, Saudi and Qatari money. Most of it goes, directly, into the pockets of corrupt officials, to the so-called ‘government’, and to its buddies, contractors. Almost nothing is built, but the money is gone. Lebanon has railroad employees who are getting their monthly paychecks, but no railways, anymore. Train station had been converted into vodka bar. Lebanon begs for money so it can host refugees from all over the region, but much of the money ends up in a few deep pockets. Very little goes to the refugees themselves, or to the poor Lebanese people who have to compete for low-paying jobs with the desperate Syrians or Palestinians.

The poor are getting poorer. Yet, Ethiopian, Philippine and Kenyan maids are dragging the groceries of the rich, wiping spit off the faces of babies born into elite families, and cleaning toilets. Some get tortured by their masters, many commit suicide. Lebanon is a tough place, for those who do not look Phoenician or European.

And the slums in the south of Beirut are growing. And some Lebanese cities, like Tripoli in the north, look like tremendous slums, altogether.

Ali, a receptionist at a hotel in downtown Beirut laments:

I work here as a receptionist for 14 hours and earn only 540 USD every month. I need a minimum of 700 USD to survive. I have a sister in US and want to visit her only for a week, but there is no way I can get visa. I am only 24 years old. I see no future in this country, like so many thousand others protesting in the streets of Beirut.

According to various estimates, Lebanon may collapse as early as in February 2020. No more money can be looted. The end game is approaching.

If it does collapse, the rich will have their golden parachutes. They have their families abroad: in Australia, Brazil, France. Some have two passports, others have houses in the most desirable parts of the world.

The poor will be left with absolutely nothing: with a carcass of a country, previously looted by its own elites. There will be rotting, ageing Ferraris, all over, but one cannot eat carcasses of cars. There will be lavish but abandoned swimming pools, right next to polluted and destroyed beaches.

People know it, and they have had enough.

Mohamed, a worker at a Starbucks cafe in Beirut is determined:

This is terrible but it is about time. We can take no more. We need to change the country, drastically. This time things are different. Not about who we worship but about our daily lives.

Lebanon, in comparison to other shamelessly-capitalist countries, is well-educated. People here cannot be fooled.

The rebellion against the elites has just begun. People want to take back their country.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

• Photo by Andre Vltchek

Drug Dealers, Polluters and Sex Traffickers: Welcome to Oligarch Cloud Cuckoo Land

Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water.
Henry VIII (IV.ii.)

The notion that American oligarchs amass great wealth due to their extraordinary intelligence has become a deeply engrained tenet of liberal fundamentalist dogma. For in order for neoliberalism to maintain popular support it is necessary that the media relentlessly extol the virtues of the new robber barons. This myth of the meritocracy is sustained with fawning from the presstitutes, but also from the dubious practice of philanthrocapitalism. And yet cracks have appeared in the meritocratic facade which even the mass media has not been able to conceal.

From Andrew Carnegie to Henry Clay Frick, from John D. Rockefeller to Cornelius Vanderbilt, American capitalists have long embraced philanthropy as a means with which to not only deify themselves, but to also glorify and perpetuate a system anchored in authoritarianism, cruelty, and the impoverishment of millions.

Jeffrey Epstein hails from this blood-soaked lineage, as his rise was inextricably linked with a culture in thrall to the lie that those who are the most virtuous acquire the most wealth. A sex trafficker, who for decades managed to maintain a carefully cultivated image of an urbane and munificent New Yorker, Epstein had become a magnet for careerists, opportunists, and fellow con artists alike.

Helaine Olen writes in The Washington Post:

The major lie of the age of wealth inequality is that the moneyed are somehow better than the rest of us day-to-day working schlubs. The aristocracy of prewar Europe had their bloodlines. Our latter-day meritocratic aristocrats, we are told, possess the modern equivalent, which is extraordinary intelligence. The slothful working class are slaves to short-term pleasure. The rich, on the other hand, are disciplined. They wake up early, and they refuse to live beyond their means.

This is a lie. The Epstein scandal proves it.

Epstein preyed not only on destitute American girls from broken homes, but also on foreign girls, some of whom did not speak English, making them even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Writing in The Miami Herald, Julie K. Brown writes that “after the FBI case was closed in 2008, witnesses and alleged victims testified in civil court that there were hundreds of girls who were brought to Epstein’s homes, including girls from Europe, Latin America and former Soviet Republic countries.”

The suspicious deal worked out a little over a decade ago by Epstein’s high powered legal team allowed their client to get off with incredibly lenient sentencing terms, and served to protect other creatures of dubious repute who may have been involved in a vast criminal network. Brown continues: “The deal, called a federal non-prosecution agreement, was sealed so that no one — not even his victims — could know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.”

Epstein’s “black book” contained personal phone numbers belonging to such “masters of the universe” as Donald Trump, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Senator Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, David Koch, Ehud Barak, John Kerry, David Rockefeller, Michael Bloomfield, Leslie Wexner, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth, Saudi King Salman and Edward de Rothschild. Irregardless of whether these plutocrats were involved in the abuse of minors, the fact that Epstein was permitted to inhabit this peculiar parallel legal system for so many years signifies the degradation of checks and balances which has opened up the floodgates of the West to barbarism.

Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly procured underage girls for Epstein, founded the TerraMar Project in 2012, a nonprofit ostensibly devoted to protecting the world’s oceans. Ghislaine’s father, Robert Maxwell, was a Mossad agent, and some have speculated that she may have introduced her boyfriend to the Israeli intelligence services.

There is a high degree of probability that Epstein was running a blackmail operation in conjunction with an intelligence agency (or agencies), as he had hidden cameras scattered throughout the rooms of his many residences, and appeared to be filming his guests as they were “getting a massage.” Epstein also had an Austrian passport, coveted by spies, due to Austria’s neutrality.

Chicago criminal defense attorney Leonard C. Goodman writes in the Chicago Reader:

A public criminal trial would have made it very hard to cover up Epstein’s relationship to intelligence agencies. These are the agencies that tell our presidents which countries to bomb, what leaders to depose, and which terrorists to assassinate by drone.

Frequently referred to by the presstitutes as a “disgraced financier,” despite the fact that no one has seen a website for the firm which he allegedly operated; and often referred to as “pedophile Jeffrey Epstein,” as if he were a lone villain acting all by himself, Epstein’s life personifies the depravity of contemporary American society. Moreover, this “financial genius” was somehow able to acquire one of the most luxurious residences in Manhattan (21,000-square-feet, and steps from Central Park), a 10,000 acre ranch in New Mexico, an apartment in Paris, a luxury villa in Palm Beach; and two islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Little Saint James and Great Saint James.

Epstein’s charitable donations were clearly a smokescreen designed to disguise extremely nefarious activities. The mega-rich in other countries may be crooks (consider Pablo Escobar, described by Wikipedia as a “narcoterrorist”), but not wealthy Americans, who are simply smarter than everyone else. That Epstein came from a working class family, and that his father, Seymour Epstein, worked for the New York Parks Department as a groundskeeper, only deepens the mystery of where this money really came from.

Ever the debonair cool guy of Manhattan’s in-crowd, Epstein donated to the Independent Filmmaker Project, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Ballet Palm Beach, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Cancer Research Wellness Institute and the Melanoma Research Alliance. In May of 2012, PR Newswire ran an article titled “The Largest Private Funder of Melanoma Research Receives Vital Support From Activist Jeffrey Epstein.”

One of Epstein’s favorite places to donate was Harvard, as this allowed him to hobnob with a variety of influential academics and scientists. As John Patrick writes in The Washington Examiner:

The disgraced finance mogul donated millions to Harvard endeavors from the late 1990s throughout the 2000s, including a $6.5 million donation to Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and a $2 million pledged donation for Harvard’s Jewish organization Hillel. Plus, Epstein contributed more than $100,000 to a Harvard performing arts organization, and gave a gift of more than $100,000 to a non-profit run by Elsa New, wife of former Harvard president and Clinton administration member Larry Summers.

Epstein also donated $2.5 million to Ohio State University and $800,000 to MIT. Taking hypocrisy to new heights, he even donated to the Women Global Cancer Initiative, the Mount Sinai Breast Health Resource Program; and to The Hewitt School, a prep school for girls on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Underscoring the netherworld of imaginary morality that our plutocrats inhabit, Epstein told the New York Post that “I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an ‘offender.’ It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”

Bernie Madoff, another exhilarating New York success story, was managing – at least according to his computer printouts – the astronomical sum of $50 billion, and was equally fond of donating to charitable causes. Yeshiva University, The Ramaz School, Maimonides School, and the Hadassah Women’s Organization were some of the institutions that suffered serious losses when Madoff’s firm revealed itself to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

Cousins of human traffickers, polluters also need to unwind from time to time, and what better way to bask in the grandeurs of perdition than donate to the arts? The New York State Theater, an important performing arts space within Lincoln Center and home to the New York City Ballet, was renamed the David H. Koch Theater in 2008; while the Metropolitan Museum of Art now offers the David H. Koch Plaza, whose namesake paid $65 million to have the new plaza built in his name. The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT is another child born of Koch philanthropy.

The Charles Koch Foundation has donated enormous sums of money to hundreds of universities with the aim of inculcating impressionable young minds with their reactionary ethos, which is anchored in the idea that all attempts at corporate regulation and maintaining a public sector should be jettisoned. The Koch brothers donated over $95 million to George Mason University, which is a public university, and this led to the Charles Koch Foundation being granted a significant amount of leverage with regard to the hiring and firing of faculty.

Steven Pearlstein writes in The Washington Post:

When someone gives $10 million to an engineering school rather than the college of humanities, it changes the university’s priorities. When someone endows a center to study the causes and consequences of climate change, it affects who is hired and what is taught and researched. When someone gives enough to name a school after a public figure, it shapes a school’s ideological profile. It would be great if all donations were unrestricted, but they aren’t. Many donors have agendas. The Kochs are just an extreme example.

The Koch brothers have left behind a toxic legacy from Corpus Christi, Texas; to Chicago and Detroit; to Crossett, Arkansas; to New Delhi, India, and beyond. Greenpeace posits that “Koch Industries is a major polluter, with ongoing incidents and violations of environmental laws.” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone that “Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined.” He goes on to point out that “Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.” Together, Charles and David Koch accumulated around $100 billion.

The Sackler Family, which owns Purdue Pharma and made billions off of the opioid crisis, deceived doctors about the highly addictive nature of OxyContin. This particularly dangerous opioid was promoted in part through dishonest advertising, but also though manipulating physicians into believing the drug was safe. Patrick Radden Keefe writes in The New Yorker that “The marketing of OxyContin relied on an empirical circularity: the company convinced doctors of the drug’s safety with literature that had been produced by doctors who were paid, or funded, by the company.” The Sackler family is now attempting to sell the drug abroad through Mundipharma, a Purdue subsidiary, and is marketing OxyContin in Asia, South America and the Middle East.

It is noteworthy that Arthur Sackler aggressively marketed Librium and Valium in the 1960s, which earned tremendous profits for Hoffmann-La Roche, and also led many Americans down a path towards abuse and addiction. Judith Warner writes in Time:

Valium has long served extremely well as a vehicle for proving the perfidy of psychiatrists and the drug companies behind them. It was indeed dispensed in outrageous-seeming numbers in the 1960s and early 1970s. It did indeed lead to tragic levels of abuse and addiction.

The Sacklers are now one of our richest families. Like Epstein, the Sackler family sought to cultivate a worldly image anchored in their patronage of education and the arts, and some of the most prestigious museums in the Western world have galleries and wings named after them.

At the Guggenheim, there is the Sackler Center for Arts Education; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is the Sackler Wing; and at the American Museum of Natural History, there is the Sackler Educational Laboratory. At Harvard, there is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum; in Washington DC, the Sackler Gallery; and at the Brooklyn Museum, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Moreover, there are Sackler wings and educational institutions at renowned British museums such as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, the British Museum, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and at the Tate Modern. The Sacklers have also donated to the Royal Ballet School, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the Royal Opera. Perhaps the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has a board run largely by war profiteers, could receive the funds accumulated from the many lawsuits arrayed against Purdue and be renamed the Sackler.

Not content with defiling artistic institutions with their blood money, the Sacklers have donated to educational institutions. At Columbia, there is the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology; and at Oxford, the Sackler Library; at Yale, there is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences.

Particularly egregious conflicts of interest are the Sackler Brain and Spine Institute at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical and Physical Sciences at Weill Cornell, and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts. No less disturbing, in the winter of 2010 Thomas J. Lynch Jr., MD, was named Richard Sackler and Jonathan Sackler Professor of Medicine and Director of the Yale Cancer Center. The Sacklers have also donated millions to Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard’s oldest teaching hospital. Andrew Joseph writes in “Purdue Cemented Ties with Universities and Hospitals to Expand Opioid Sales, Documents Contend,” that “At Mass. General, the agreement with Purdue allowed the company to suggest curriculum for pain education.” No less outrageous, in Israel there is the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. Emblazoned in its lobby are the words “Dedicated to Mankind for the Health of All People.”

Some arts institutions have disassociated themselves from the Sacklers, such as the Louvre, which took down the Sackler name from its Wing of Oriental Antiquities. A number of prominent museums, such as the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Tate galleries have refused to accept further donations from the Sacklers, although the name continues to sully their august halls.

Teva Pharmaceuticals has likewise played a role in the opioid crisis, and partners with Mount Sinai, a blatant conflict of interest. Ostensibly, they will treat “multiple chronic conditions” together. Teva has donated to a wide variety of health care organizations and gave $2.5 million to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In an article in The Times of Israel titled “Federal Data Reveals Extent of Teva’s Role in Fueling US Opioid Crisis,” the authors write that between 2006 and 2012 “Teva Pharmaceuticals USA produced 690 million opioid pills.”

When not getting Americans addicted to opioids and psychotropic drugs, Johnson and Johnson delights in donating to Johnson & Johnson Vision and the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP), both of which make endearing videos replete with cute kids and teary-eyed grandparents.

Indeed, this was how some of the most diabolical drug dealers in America, were, at least for a time, able to convey an image of benevolence, munificence and altruism. Keefe writes that “Over time, the origins of a clan’s largesse are largely forgotten, and we recall only the philanthropic legacy, prompted by the name on the building.”

Where are our heroes, America? Our novelists, labor leaders, artists and intellectuals? What would Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, or Mark Twain say about these soulless creatures who sought to use their lucre to envelop themselves in a halo of veneration and hagiography? A society that prostrates itself at the altar of depravity is a society of death.

Let us disenthrall ourselves from the shackles of materialism and careerism. Let us cast the false idol of avarice from the tallest cliffs, and from its ashes embrace a phoenix reborn, a harbinger of compassion, altruism and justice.

WWF Execs Knowingly Funding Rights Abuses in Africa

A new and devastating investigation by Buzzfeed News has revealed that WWF’s director & board had detailed evidence of “widespread” atrocities being committed by rangers it funds and equips, but kept the information secret.

It’s the latest finding from a Buzzfeed investigation that has brought to light a series of secret WWF reports, proving the organization has known for years that the rangers it funds in central Africa commit gross human rights abuses among the local population.

Survival International has been highlighting these abuses, among the Baka and Bayaka people, for more than three decades, but WWF has always claimed ignorance.

It’s now proven that the highest levels of management in WWF have known about the abuses, but continued funding and equipping the rangers, and pushing for the creation of yet more protected areas on Baka and Bayaka land.Congolese officials hand the top official (and WWF employee) of Salonga National Park an assault rifle. Some of the park’s guards have been accused of gang rape, torture and murder.

Congolese officials hand the top official (and WWF employee) of Salonga National Park an assault rifle. Some of the park’s guards have been accused of gang rape, torture and murder.
© Sinziana-Maria Demian / WWF

Buzzfeed has revealed a series of reports:

– April 2015: WWF commissioned an indigenous expert to prepare a report on the charity’s work in Cameroon. He found WWF “shared responsibility” for ranger violence.

– July 2017: WWF sent a consultant to a proposed new park, Messok Dja, in the Rep. of Congo. He found villagers were afraid of “repression from eco-guards.”

– January 2018: WWF asked UK-based human rights lawyer Paul Chiy to follow up on the 2015 Cameroon report. He finds “valid” and “grossly understated” evidence of human rights abuses.

– December 2018: WWF asked Chiy to conduct another assessment into parks it funds in Dem. Rep. of Congo, Rep. of Congo and Central African Republic. Its contents are unknown.

– March 2019: A confidential report commissioned by WWF and the Congolese government finds evidence that WWF-backed rangers raped pregnant women and tortured villagers.

The charity is now being investigated by authorities in the U.S., UK and Germany. Survival is campaigning for the organization to scrap its plans for a new protected area, Messok Dja, in the Congo, which does not have the Baka’s consent.