Category Archives: Germany

Why Germany Leads in Renewables: It Has Its Own Green Bank

The Green New Deal endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more than 40 other US Representatives has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding will come primarily from certain public agencies, including the Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.”

Funding through the Federal Reserve may be controversial, but establishing a national public infrastructure and development bank should be a no-brainer. The real question is why we don’t already have one, like China, Germany, and other countries that are running circles around us in infrastructure development. Many European, Asian and Latin American countries have their own national development banks, as well as belonging to bilateral or multinational development institutions that are jointly owned by multiple governments. Unlike the US Federal Reserve, which considers itself “independent” of government, national development banks are wholly owned by their governments and carry out public development policies.

China not only has its own China Infrastructure Bank but has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which counts many Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its membership, including Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion-dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative. China is so far ahead of the United States in building infrastructure that Dan Slane, a former advisor on President Trump’s transition team, has warned, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.”

The leader in renewable energy, however, is Germany, called “the world’s first major renewable energy economy.” Germany has a public sector development bank called KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau or “Reconstruction Credit Institute”), which is even larger than the World Bank. Along with Germany’s non-profit Sparkassen banks, KfW has largely funded the country’s green energy revolution.

Unlike private commercial banks, KfW does not have to focus on maximizing short-term profits for its shareholders while turning a blind eye to external costs, including those imposed on the environment. The bank has been free to support the energy revolution by funding major investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Its fossil fuel investments are close to zero. One of the   key features of KFW, as with other development banks, is that much of its lending is driven in a strategic direction determined by the national government. Its key role in the green energy revolution has been played within a public policy framework under Germany’s renewable energy legislation, including policy measures that have made investment in renewables commercially attractive.

KfW is one of the world’s largest development banks, with assets as of December 2017 of $566.5 billion. Ironically, the initial funding for its capitalization came from the United States, through the Marshall Plan in 1948. Why didn’t we fund a similar bank for ourselves? Apparently because powerful Wall Street interests did not want the competition from a government-owned bank that could make below-market loans for infrastructure and development. Major US investors today prefer funding infrastructure through public-private partnerships, in which private partners can reap the profits while losses are imposed on local governments.

KfW and Germany’s Energy Revolution

Renewable energy in Germany is mainly based on wind, solar and biomass. Renewables generated 41% of the country’s electricity in 2017, up from just 6% in 2000; and public banks provided over 72% of the financing for this transition. In 2007-09, KfW funded all of Germany’s investment in Solar Photovoltaic. After that, Solar PV was introduced nationwide on a major scale. This is the sort of catalytic role that development banks can play, kickstarting a major structural transformation by funding and showcasing new technologies and sectors.

KfW is not only one of the biggest but has been ranked one of the two safest banks in the world. (The other is also a publicly-owned bank, the Zurich Cantonal Bank in Switzerland.) KfW sports triple-A ratings from all three major rating agencies, Fitch, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s. The bank benefits from these top ratings and from the statutory guarantee of the German government, which allow it to issue bonds on very favorable terms and therefore to lend on favorable terms, backing its loans with the bonds.

KfW does not work through public-private partnerships, and it does not trade in derivatives and other complex financial products. It relies on traditional lending and grants. The borrower is responsible for loan repayment. Private investors can participate, but not as shareholders or public-private partners. Rather, they can invest in “Green Bonds,” which are as safe and liquid as other government bonds and are prized for their green earmarking. The first “Green Bond – Made by KfW” was issued in 2014 with a volume of $1.7 billion and a maturity of five years. It was the largest Green Bond ever at the time of issuance and generated so much interest that the order book rapidly grew to $3.02 billion, although the bonds paid an annual coupon of only 0.375%. By 2017, the issue volume of KfW Green Bonds was $4.21 billion.

Investors benefit from the high credit and sustainability ratings of KfW, the liquidity of its bonds, and the opportunity to support climate and environmental protection. For large institutional investors with funds that exceed the government deposit insurance limit, Green Bonds are the equivalent of savings accounts, a safe place to park their money that provides a modest interest. Green Bonds also appeal to “socially responsible” investors, who have the assurance with these simple and transparent bonds that their money is going where they want it to. The bonds are financed by KfW from the proceeds of its loans, which are also in high demand due to their low interest rates; and the bank can offer these low rates because its triple-A ratings allow it to cheaply mobilize funds from capital markets, and because its public policy-oriented loans qualify it for targeted subsidies.

Roosevelt’s Development Bank: The Reconstruction Finance Corporation

KfW’s role in implementing government policy parallels that of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in funding the New Deal in the 1930s. At that time US banks were bankrupt and incapable of financing the country’s recovery. Roosevelt attempted to set up a system of 12 public “industrial banks” through the Federal Reserve, but the measure failed; so he made an end run around his opponents by using the RFC that had been set up earlier by President Hoover, expanding it to address the nation’s financing needs.

The RFC Act of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). With those resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. As with KfW’s loans, its funding source was the sale of bonds, mostly to the Treasury itself. Proceeds from the loans repaid the bonds, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more; and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

The RFC was so successful that it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest banking organization. Its success may have been its nemesis. Without the emergencies of depression and war, it was a too-powerful competitor of the private banking establishment; and in 1957, it was disbanded under President Eisenhower. The United States was left without a development bank, while Germany and other countries were hitting the ground running with theirs.

Today some US states have infrastructure and development banks, including California; but their reach is very small. One way they could be expanded to meet state infrastructure needs would be to turn them into depositories for state and municipal revenues. Rather than lending their capital directly in a revolving fund, this would allow them to leverage their capital into 10 times that sum in loans, as all depository banks are able to do. (See my earlier article here.)

The most profitable and efficient way for national and local governments to finance public infrastructure and development is with their own banks, as the impressive track records of KfW and other national development banks have shown. The RFC showed what could be done even by a country that was technically bankrupt, simply by mobilizing its own resources through a publicly-owned financial institution. We need to resurrect that public funding engine today, not only to address the national and global crises we are facing now but for the ongoing development the country needs in order to manifest its true potential.

This article was first published on Truthdig.com.

A Liberal Elite Still Luring Us Towards the Abyss

A group of 30 respected intellectuals, writers and historians has published a manifesto bewailing the imminent collapse of Europe and its supposed Enlightenment values of liberalism and rationalism. The idea of Europe, they warn, “is falling apart before our eyes”, as Britain prepares for Brexit and “populist and nationalist” parties look poised to make sweeping gains in elections across the continent.

The short manifesto has been published in the liberal elite’s European house journals, newspapers such as the Guardian. “We must now fight for the idea of Europe or see it perish beneath the waves of populism,” their document reads. Failure means “resentment, hatred and their cortege of sad passions will surround and submerge us.”

Unless the tide can be turned, elections across the European Union will be “the most calamitous that we have ever known: victory for the wreckers; disgrace for those who still believe in the legacy of Erasmus, Dante, Goethe, and Comenius; disdain for intelligence and culture; explosions of xenophobia and antisemitism; disaster”.

The manifesto was penned by Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher and devotee of Alexis de Tocqueville, a theorist of classical liberalism. Its signatories include novelists Ian McEwan, Milan Kundera and Salman Rushdie, the historian Simon Shama, and Nobel prize laureates Svetlana Alexievitch, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk and Elfriede Jelinek.

Though unnamed, their European political heroes appear to be Emmanuel Macron of France, currently trying to crush the popular, anti-austerity protests of the Yellow Vests, and German chancellor Angela Merkel, manning the barricades for the liberal elite against a resurgence of the nationalist right in Germany.

Let us set aside, on this occasion, the strange irony that several of the manifesto’s signatories – not least Henri-Levy himself – have a well-known passion for Israel, a state that has always rejected the universal principles ostensibly embodied in liberal ideology and that instead openly espouses the kind of ethnic nationalism that nearly tore Europe apart in two world wars last century.

Instead let us focus on their claim that “populism and nationalism” are on the verge of slaying Europe’s liberal democratic tradition and the values held dearest by this distinguished group. Their hope presumably is that their manifesto will serve as a wake-up call before things take an irreversible turn for the worse.

Liberalism’s collapse

In one sense, their diagnosis is correct: Europe and the liberal tradition are coming apart at the seams. But not because, as they strongly imply, European politicians are pandering to the basest instincts of a mindless rabble – the ordinary people they have so little faith in. Rather, it is because a long experiment in liberalism has finally run its course. Liberalism has patently failed — and failed catastrophically.

These intellectuals are standing, like the rest of us, on a precipice from which we are about to jump or topple. But the abyss has not opened up, as they suppose, because liberalism is being rejected. Rather, the abyss is the inevitable outcome of this shrinking elite’s continuing promotion – against all rational evidence – of liberalism as a solution to our current predicament. It is the continuing transformation of a deeply flawed ideology into a religion. It is idol worship of a value system hellbent on destroying us.

Liberalism, like most ideologies, has an upside. Its respect for the individual and his freedoms, its interest in nurturing human creativity, and its promotion of universal values and human rights over tribal attachment have had some positive consequences.

But liberal ideology has been very effective at hiding its dark side – or more accurately, at persuading us that this dark side is the consequence of liberalism’s abandonment rather than inherent to the liberal’s political project.

The loss of traditional social bonds – tribal, sectarian, geographic – has left people today more lonely, more isolated than was true of any previous human society. We may pay lip service to universal values, but in our atomised communities, we feel adrift, abandoned and angry.

Humanitarian resource grabs

The liberal’s professed concern for others’ welfare and their rights has, in reality, provided cynical cover for a series of ever-more transparent resource grabs. The parading of liberalism’s humanitarian credentials has entitled our elites to leave a trail of carnage and wreckage in their wake in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and soon, it seems, in Venezuela. We have killed with our kindness and then stolen our victims’ inheritance.

Unfettered individual creativity may have fostered some great – if fetishised – art, as well as rapid mechanical and technological developments. But it has also encouraged unbridled competition in every sphere of life, whether beneficial to humankind or not, and however wasteful of resources.

At its worst, it has unleashed quite literally an arms race, one that – because of a mix of our unconstrained creativity, our godlessness and the economic logic of the military-industrial complex – culminated in the development of nuclear weapons. We have now devised the most complete and horrific ways imaginable to kill each other. We can commit genocide on a global scale.

Meanwhile, the absolute prioritising of the individual has sanctioned a pathological self-absorption, a selfishness that has provided fertile ground not only for capitalism, materialism and consumerism but for the fusing of all of them into a turbo-charged neoliberalism. That has entitled a tiny elite to amass and squirrel away most of the planet’s wealth out of reach of the rest of humankind.

Worst of all, our rampant creativity, our self-regard and our competitiveness have blinded us to all things bigger and smaller than ourselves. We lack an emotional and spiritual connection to our planet, to other animals, to future generations, to the chaotic harmony of our universe. What we cannot understand or control, we ignore or mock.

And so the liberal impulse has driven us to the brink of extinguishing our species and possibly all life on our planet. Our drive to asset-strip, to hoard resources for personal gain, to plunder nature’s riches without respect to the consequences is so overwhelming, so compulsive that the planet will have to find a way to rebalance itself. And if we carry on, that new balance – what we limply term “climate change” – will necessitate that we are stripped from the planet.

Nadir of a dangerous arrogance

One can plausibly argue that humans have been on this suicidal path for some time. Competition, creativity, selfishness predate liberalism, after all. But liberalism removed the last restraints, it crushed any opposing sentiment as irrational, as uncivilised, as primitive.

Liberalism isn’t the cause of our predicament. It is the nadir of a dangerous arrogance we as a species have been indulging for too long, where the individual’s good trumps any collective good, defined in the widest possible sense.

The liberal reveres his small, partial field of knowledge and expertise, eclipsing ancient and future wisdoms, those rooted in natural cycles, the seasons and a wonder at the ineffable and unknowable. The liberal’s relentless and exclusive focus is on “progress”, growth, accumulation.

What is needed to save us is radical change. Not tinkering, not reform, but an entirely new vision that removes the individual and his personal gratification from the centre of our social organisation.

This is impossible to contemplate for the elites who think more liberalism, not less, is the solution. Anyone departing from their prescriptions, anyone who aspires to be more than a technocrat correcting minor defects in the status quo, is presented as a menace. Despite the modesty of their proposals, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US have been reviled by a media, political and intellectual elite heavily invested in blindly pursuing the path to self-destruction.

Status-quo cheerleaders

As a result, we now have three clear political trends.

The first is the status-quo cheerleaders like the European writers of liberalism’s latest – last? – manifesto. With every utterance they prove how irrelevant they have become, how incapable they are of supplying answers to the question of where we must head next. They adamantly refuse both to look inwards to see where liberalism went wrong and to look outwards to consider how we might extricate ourselves.

Irresponsibly, these guardians of the status quo lump together the second and third trends in the futile hope of preserving their grip on power. Both trends are derided indiscriminately as “populism”, as the politics of envy, the politics of the mob. These two fundamentally opposed, alternative trends are treated as indistinguishable.

This will not save liberalism, but it will assist in promoting the much worse of the two alternatives.

Those among the elites who understand that liberalism has had its day are exploiting the old ideology of grab-it-for-yourself capitalism while deflecting attention from their greed and the maintenance of their privilege by sowing discord and insinuating dark threats.

The criticisms of the liberal elite made by the ethnic nationalists sound persuasive because they are rooted in truths about liberalism’s failure. But as critics, they are disingenuous. They have no solutions apart from their own personal advancement in the existing, failed, self-sabotaging system.

The new authoritarians are reverting to old, trusted models of xenophobic nationalism, scapegoating others to shore up their own power. They are ditching the ostentatious, conscience-salving sensitivities of the liberal so that they can continue plundering with heady abandon. If the ship is going down, then they will be gorging on the buffet till the waters reach the dining-hall ceiling.

Where hope can reside

The third trend is the only place where hope can reside. This trend – what I have previously ascribed to a group I call the “dissenters” – understands that radical new thinking is required. But given that this group is being actively crushed by the old liberal elite and the new authoritarians, it has little public and political space to explore its ideas, to experiment, to collaborate, as it urgently needs to.

Social media provides a potentially vital platform to begin critiquing the old, failed system, to raise awareness of what has gone wrong, to contemplate and share radical new ideas, and to mobilise. But the liberals and authoritarians understand this as threat to their own privilege and, under a confected hysteria about “fake news”, are rapidly working to snuff out even this small space.

We have so little time, but still the old guard wants to block any possible path to salvation – even as seas filled with plastic start to rise, as insect populations disappear across the globe, and as the planet prepares to cough us out like a lump of infected mucus.

We must not be hoodwinked by these posturing, manifesto-spouting liberals: the philosophers, historians and writers – the public relations wing – of our suicidal status quo. They did not warn us of the beast lying cradled in our midst. They failed to see the danger looming, and their narcissism blinds them still.

We should have no use for the guardians of the old, those who held our hands, who shone a light along a path that has led to the brink of our own extinction. We need to discard them, to close our ears their siren song.

There are small voices struggling to be heard above the roar of the dying liberal elites and the trumpeting of the new authoritarians. They need to be listened to, to be helped to share and collaborate, to offer us their visions of a different world. One where the individual is no longer king. Where we learn some modesty and humility – and how to love in our infinitely small corner of the universe.

Europe on the Brink of Collapse?

The Empire’s European castle of vassals is crumbling. Right in front of our eyes. But Nobody seems to see it. The European Union (EU), the conglomerate of vassals. Trump calls them irrelevant, and he doesn’t care what they think about him, they deserve to be collapsing. They, the ‘vassalic’ EU, a group of 28 countries, some 500 million people, with a combined economy of a projected 19 trillion US-dollar equivalent, about the same as the US, have submitted themselves to the dictate of Washington in just about every important aspect of life.

The EU has accepted on orders by Washington to sanction Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and a myriad of countries that have never done any harm to any of the 28 EU member states. The EU has accepted the humiliation of military impositions by NATO – threatening Russia and China with ever more and ever more advancing military basis towards Moscow and Beijing, to the point that Brussels’ foreign policy is basically led by NATO.

It was clear from the very get-go that the US sanctions regime imposed on Russia and all the countries refusing to submit to the whims and rules of Washington, directly and via the EU, was hurting the EU economically far more than Russia. This is specifically true for some of the southern European countries, whose economy depended more on trading with Russia and Eurasia than it did for other EU countries.

The ‘sanctions’ disaster really hit the fan, when Trump unilaterally decided to abrogate the “Nuclear Deal” with Iran and reimpose heavy sanctions on Iran and on “everybody who would do business with Iran”. European hydrocarbon giants started losing business. That’s when Brussels, led by Germany, started mumbling that they would not follow the US and – even – that they would back European corporations, mainly hydrocarbon giants, sticking to their contractual arrangements they had with Iran.

Too late. European business had lost all confidence in Brussels EU Administration’s feeble and generally untrustworthy words. Many breached their longstanding and, after the Nuclear Deal, renewed contracts with Iran, out of fear of punishment by Washington and lack of trust in Brussel’s protection. Case in point is the French-British petrol giant, Total, which shifted its supply source from Iran to Russia – no, not to the US, as was, of course, Washington’s intent. The damage is done. The vassals are committing slow suicide.

The people have had it. More than half of the European population wants to get out of the fangs from Brussels. But nobody asks them, nor listens to them, and that in the so-called heartland of ‘democracy’ (sic). That’s why people are now up in arms and protesting everywhere – in one way or another in Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Poland – the list is almost endless. And it can be called generically the ‘Yellow Vests”, after the new French revolution.

The latest in a series of the US attacking Germany and German business – and German integrity, for that matter – are the US Ambassador’s, Richard Grenell, recent threats to German corporations with sanctions if they work on Nord Stream 2, the 1,200 km pipeline bringing Russian gas to Europe, to be completed by the end of 2019. It will virtually double the capacity of Russian gas supply to Europe. Instead, Washington wants Europe to buy US shale gas and oil, and especially keeping Europe economically and financially in the US orbit, avoiding in any way a detachment from Washington and preventing the obvious and logical – an alliance with Russia. This attempt will fail bitterly, as various German Ministers, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, have loudly and with determination protested against such US hegemonic advances. Well, friends, you have bent over backwards to please your Washington Masters for too long. It’s high time to step out of this lock-step of obedience.

In France, this past weekend of 12 / 13 January, the Yellow Vests went into round 9 of protests against dictator Macron, his austerity program and not least his abject arrogance vis-à- vis the working class. A recent public statement of Macron’s is testimony of this below-the-belt arrogance: Trop de francals n’ont pas le sens de l’effort, ce qui explique en partie les ‘troubles’ que connalt le pays”. Translated: “Too many French don’t know the meaning of ‘effort’ which explains at least partially the trouble this country is in.”

The Yellow Vests and a majority of the French population want nothing less than Macron’s resignation. Protesters are consistently and largely under-reported by Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister. This past weekend the official figure was 50,000 demonstrators, countrywide, when in reality the figure was at least three times higher. The official French version would like the public at large, inside and outside of France, to believe that the Yellow Vest’s movement is diminishing. It is not. To the contrary, they are demonstrating all over France, and that despite the Macron regime’s increasing violent repression.

RT reports on Macron’s orders the police are becoming more violent, using military suppression to control protesting French civilians. Thousands have been arrested, and hundreds injured by police brutality. Nevertheless, the movement is gaining massive public support and the ‘Yellow Vests” idea is spreading throughout Europe. This spread is, of course, hardly reported by the mainstream media.

In fact, 80% of the French back the Yellow Vests and their idea of a Citizen Initiated Referendum (RIC for “Référendum d’initiative citoyenne”), under which citizens could propose their own laws that would then be voted on by the general public. The RIC could effectively bypass the French Parliament, and would be enshrined in the French Constitution. A similar law exists since 1848 in Switzerland and is regularly applied by Swiss citizens. It is a way of Direct Democracy that any country calling itself a “democracy” should incorporate in its Constitution.

The UK is in shambles. Thousands are taking to the streets of London, organized by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity”, calling for general elections to replace the failing Tory Government. They are joined by the French Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests), out of solidarity. Many of the UK protesters are also wearing high-visibility yellow vests.

This is in direct correlation with the ever-growing louder debacle over BREXIT – yes, or no and how. At this point nobody knows what Britain’s future is going to be. Propaganda and counter-propaganda is destined to further confuse the people and confused people usually want to stick to the ‘status quo’. There is even a movement of pro “remain” propaganda, organized by some members of the European Parliament. Imagine! Talking about sovereignty, if Brussels cannot even leave the Brits alone to decide whether they want to continue under their dictate or not.

Hélas, the Brits are largely divided, but also past the stage of being swayed by foreign propaganda, especially in this delicate question of leaving the EU – which a majority of Brits clearly decided in June 2016. Prime Minister, Theresa May, has screwed-up the BREXIT process royally, to the point where many Brits feel that what she negotiated is worse than “no deal”. This has likely happened in close connivance with the unelected EU ‘leadership’ which does not want the UK to leave and under strict orders from Washington which needs the UK in its crucial role as a US mole in the European Union.

On 15 January 2019, the UK Parliament voted on whether they accept the negotiated BREXIT conditions, or whether they prefer a ‘no deal’ BREXIT, or will request an extension for further negotiations under Article 50 of the “Treaty of Lisbon” (which was imposed by the heads of state of the 28 members, without any public vote, and is a false stand-in for a EU Constitution). Ms. May’s proposal was largely rejected by the British Parliament, but her Government survived a subsequent vote of “No Confidence”.

Now, the situation for the a divided British population is chaos. So far nobody knows, probably not even Ms. May, what will follow next. There are various options, including ‘snap’ elections, and let the new PM decide, a new “remain or exit” referendum that would not go down well with probably the majority of the population – or simply a vote to in Parliament for a “no deal Brexit”, or to stay in the EU after all.

For weeks, the Yellow Vest movement has spread to Belgium and The Netherlands. For similar reasons – public discontent over austerity, EU dictatorship over Belgian and Dutch sovereignty. Last Friday, one of the Belgian Yellow Vests was overrun by a truck and killed. Authorities reported it as an accident.

Greece — The MS-media report all is ‘donkey-dory’, Greece is recovering, has for the first time in many years a positive growth rate and is able to refinance herself on the open capital market. Greece is no longer dependent on the irate and infamous troika (European Central Bank – ECB, European Commission and IMF). Reality is completely different, as about two thirds of the Greek population are still hovering around or below the survival level – no access to public health care, affordable medication, public schools – umpteen times reduced pensions, most public assets and services privatized for a pittance. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the last years, at least not for the better and for the majority of the people. The troika has allowed the Greek to go to the private capital markets – to boost falsely their, the Greek’s, image among the international public at large, basically telling the brainwashed populace, “It worked, we, the troika, did a good job”.

Nothing worked. People are unhappy; more than unhappy, they are indignant. They demonstrated against Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Athens, and their protests were violently oppressed by police forces. What do you expect? This is what has become of Europe, a highly repressive state of spineless vassals.

On Wednesday, 16 January, the Greek Parliament may hold a Vote of Confidence against or for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The official and make-believe reason is supposedly the controversy over the name of Macedonia, which, in fact, has long been settled. The real reason is the public’s discontent about the continuous and increasing blood-letting by never-ending austerity, sucking the last pennies from the poor. According to Lancet, the renowned British health journal, the Greek suicide rate is soaring. Nobody talks about it. Will Tsipras survive a possible Vote of Confidence? If not, early elections? Who will follow Tsipras? Don’t be fooled by the term ‘democracy’.  The elite from within and without Greece will not allow any policy changes. That’s when people à la Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) may come in. Civil unrest. Enough is enough.

In Italy the coalition of the 5-Star Movement and the small right-wing brother, Lega Norte, is pulled to the far right by Lega’s Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Mr. Salvini is clearly calling the shots, and his alliance is firing strongly against Brussels and with good reason, as Brussels is attempting to impose rules on Italy’s budget, while the same rules do not apply equally to all EU member states. For example, Macron, France’s Rothschild implant, has special privileges, as far as budget overrun margins are concerned. Mr. Salvini’s anti-Brussels, anti-EU stance is no secret, and he has a lot of Italians behind him. An Italian Yellow Vest movement cannot be excluded.

The empire’s vassal castle is crumbling and not even silently.

Then there are the former Soviet satellites, Hungary and Poland, turned right wing – don’t appreciate Brussels meddling with Hungary’s anti-immigration policy and in Poland over a controversial overhaul of the Judiciary system. Never mind whether you agree or not with individual country actions. Both cases are clear interferences in these nations’ sovereignty. Though upon the European Court of Justice’s strong warning, Poland indeed blinked and reinstated the judges fired in the judiciary reform process. Poland’s love for NATO, and Brussels use of the NATO leverage, may have played a role in Poland’s reversal of decision. Nevertheless, discontent in Poland as in Hungary among the public at large remains strong. Migration and the Judiciary are just the visible pretexts. The legendary tip of the iceberg. Reality is on a deeper level, much deeper. These countries are both reminded of what they considered the Soviet Union’s handcuffs. “Freedom” is not being dictated by Brussels.

The triad of systematic and willful destabilization and destruction of what we know as the Greater Middle East and western world is what we have to be aware of. The east, mostly Russia and China, is a challenge being tackled simultaneously, impressively for the brainwashed westerner, but rather meekly for those who are informed about Russia’s and China’s military might and intelligence capacity.

This drive of destabilization cum destruction comes in three phases. It started with the Middle East which for the most part has become a hopeless hell-hole, a source of indiscriminate killing by the western allies, say, the emperor’s puppets and mercenaries, resulting in millions killed and in an endless flood of refugees destabilizing Europe – which is the second phase of the triad. It’s in full swing. It happens right in front of our eyes, but we don’t see it.

It’s the Yellow Vests, austerity, increasing inequality, unemployment, social sector’s being milked to zilch by the financial system, popular uprisings’ oppression by police and military forces; it’s reflected by the dismal powerlessness of the people that leads to “enough is enough” in the streets. That’s the way it’s all wanted. The more chaos the better. People in chaos are easily controlled.

Now comes phase three of the triad – Latin America. It has already started three or four years back. Countries that have struggled for decades to eventually break loose with some form of ‘democracy’ from the fangs of empire, are gradually being subdued with fake elections and ‘internal’ parliamentary coups, back into the emperor’s backyard. The Southern Cone – Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay – is ‘gone’, except for Bolivia. Peru, Colombia, Ecuador all the way to Guyana are governed by neoliberal, even neo-nazi-shaded Lords of Washington. But there is still Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and now also Mexico that have not caved in and will not cave in.

In an extraordinary analysis, Thierry Meyssan describes in “The Terrible Forthcoming Destruction of the Caribbean Basin” –  how the Pentagon is still pursuing the implementation of the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski plan, this time aiming at the destruction of the “Caribbean Basin” States. There is no consideration for friends or political enemies, Thierry Meyssan observes. He goes on predicting that after the period of economic destabilization and that of military preparation, the actual operation should begin in the years to come by an attack on Venezuela by Brazil (supported by Israel), Colombia (an ally of the United States) and Guyana (in other words, the United Kingdom). It will be followed by others, beginning with Cuba and Nicaragua, the ‘troika of tyranny’, as per John Bolton.

Only the future will say to what extent this plan will be implemented. At the outset, its ambitions exceed the crumbling empire’s actual capacity.

When it comes all down to one single denominator, it’s the current western financial system that must go. It is private banking gone berserk. We are living in a financial system that has gone wild and running havoc, uncontrolled – a train of endless greed that is loosely speeding ahead and doesn’t know when it will hit an unyielding steel-enforced brick wall – but hit it will. It is a mere question of time. People are sick and tired of being milked no end by a fraudulent pyramid system constructed by the US and her dollar hegemony and maintained by globalized private banking.

We are living in a private banking system that has nothing to do with economic development, but everything with a greed-driven domination of us, consumers, sold on debt and on money that we don’t control, despite the fact that we earned it with our hard labor; despite the fact that it is our added value to what we call the economy. No!  This system is totally disrespectful of the individual.  It is even ready to steal our money, if it needs to survive – our banking system. It takes the liberty of “administering” it and basically appropriating it. Once our money is in a private bank, we have lost control over it. And mind you and get it into your brains, private banks do not work for you and me, but for their shareholders. But through hundreds of years of indoctrination, we have become so used to it, that being charged interest for borrowing our own money, through an intermediary who does nothing, absolutely nothing but wait for profit to fall into its lap, has become the ‘normality’.

It isn’t. This system has to be abolished, the faster the better. Private banking needs to be eradicated and replaced by local public banking that works with local currencies, based on local economic output, way removed from globalized concepts that help steal resources, empty local social safety nets – all under the guise of austerity for progress. We should know better by now. There is no austerity for progress, has never been. This fraudulent IMF-World Bank concept has never worked, anywhere.

We have to de-dollarize our money, de-digitize our money and pool it through a public banking system for the purpose of people’s growth, hence a society’s or nation’s growth. There is currently one good example, the Bank of North Dakota. The BND has helped the US State of North Dakota through the 2008 and following years crisis, with economic growth instead of economic decline, with almost full employment, versus skyrocketing unemployment in the rest of the US and the western world. We need to build our common wealth with sovereign money, backed by our sovereign economies.

As the empire and its vassals are crumbling badly, they are shaking in their foundations, it is time to rethink what we have been taking for granted and for ‘normal’ – a fraudulent and deceptive monetary system, backed by nothing, no economy, not even gold – we are living on sheer fiat money, made by private banking by a mouse-click – and by letting us be enslaved by debt.

Enough is enough. The Yellow Vests have understood. They want to get rid of their “Macron” who keeps propagating the fraud. It is time to rethink and restart, as the crumbling is getting louder and louder. Empire’s European vassal state is falling apart and will pull Washington and its hegemonic war and money machine along into the abyss.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Fanciful Notions: European Armies, Trump and NATO

The idea of a standing European army, one dedicated to the specific needs of Europe as opposed to being an annex of another power is far from new.  In gestation alongside notions of European federalism and its defence have come the idea of a force filled with respective nation states that might have aims and ambitions different from those of Washington or Moscow.  Critics of the idea are never far away.

The companion concepts of European integration and defence have not had a smooth ride in transatlantic relations.  The twitchiness shown by various European leaders to the Trump administration’s approach to European defence has become obvious.  Trump’s tactic here has been to pile scorn upon the European army idea while insisting that NATO members pay their dues. He is also counting on the Euro-sceptics who fear that such an army would see Brussels dictating the tune of conscription to member-states.

The Armistice Day commemorations supplied another political opportunity to talk about armies – as if we did not have enough of them already.  Even if war should be avoided, the political leader will often find it irresistible to speak of preparedness for the next one.  The catastrophic freight of the Great War of 1914-1918 is still weighing down nations, but talk of being armed and ready for the next conflict refuses to go away.

France’s Emmanuel Macron, who finds himself in the doldrums of unpopularity at home, has embraced the idea of a continental army.  To Europe 1 radio, he explained that the object of European security had been compromised by decisions made by the Trump White House. “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim?”

The question could have remained rhetorical, but Macron did not want to leave his audience in any nagging doubt: “Europe and its security.”  The stakes had changed, and the United States had become more unsettling problem than solid protector.  “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”  The comments were less directed at actual physical harm occasioned by traditional military combat than the skirmishes of the Internet waged on the digital frontier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is of like mind.  To a meeting of the European Parliament, she outlined how a “real, true European army” had to be created “so that we can tackle issues immediately on the ground.”  Other powers could not be relied upon to achieve this task.  “Only a stronger Europe is going to be able to defend its values and interest worldwide, and the times when when we can rely on others are past.”

These comments might have been ill-advised but entirely logical: the notion of immutable, friendly alliances remains a stretched one, and the interests of states can diverge with violent suddenness.  Where there are problematic lies in the shift being insisted upon by Merkel and Macron: the idea that European “values” and its “identity” needs to be manifested in a standing army that might be both a guarantee of security and a promoter of Europe.

Given that much of Europe is in fractious dispute over the nature of such values, and what imperils them, this project is already stuttering before it finds form, an inchoate aspiration rather than a genuine prospect.  The wisdom of the sometimes sound and often diabolical Austrian diplomat of the Napoleonic era, Klemens von Metternich, comes to mind: coalitions and “all fraternizations” need a “strictly determinate aim” to unite them less they disintegrate.

Trump’s response was predictably adolescent in its fuming quality.  Macron “has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia.  Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”

The view of shoring up Europe’s own defence in the absence of the United States is viewed as inconceivable for generations of politicians on the continent.  To do so in the absence of the excuse of keeping a US presence in Europe – NATO- is also seen as so improbable as to be unnatural.  Both Merkel and Macron insist that such an armed force would be a “supplement” to NATO, not its replacement nor its counter.

There are also operational matters.  Arguably, only Britain and France have deployable forces in actual instances of conflict, but they are, in the main, annexes of US-led operations.  In a manner heavy with condescension, strategists enthused by a continued role of a large hegemon in European affairs simply insist that Europe cannot go it alone, needing the gusts of wind from across the Atlantic to keep matters flying.  One such member of this fraternity of thought is Michael Shurkin of the RAND Corporation.  “By and large, all of them [the European powers] have militaries designed to work as a coalition run by the US.”

Dependency is, however, a condition that sits uneasily.  It seems an echo of charity; those who receive it are bound to, at some point, seek an alternative.  Even before Trump’s coming to power, thought was being given to the future of European defence.  A collection published in 2016 by the European Union Institute for Security Studies as part of its Chaillot Paper series is one such example.  The authors acknowledge the issues of a common external security policy (CSDP), which sees far more convergence between European states than a common defence policy.  CSDP, in any case, “suffers from a lack of commitment and a lack of resources, within its scope shifting increasingly towards border monitoring and training purposes.” What Merkel and Macron are suggesting is moving Europe towards a previously shunned idea of territorial defence.

Analysts such as James R. Holmes of the Naval War College see a European army as making good sense.  He does so from two perspectives: a suspicion of Russia, to which he attributes jaw dropping powers of embargo in any future conflict with Europe; and the declining influence of the United States.  Numbers of US personnel based in Europe are small relative to the Cold War deployment: some 62,000 or so.  The American merchant fleet has been depleted in terms of numbers.

The structural matters of such an army are so vague as to be considered untenable.  “The EU is not a country, it is not a state” remarks François Heisbourg, an adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.  No army, he claims, can exist without an executive branch.  The former British Prime Minister David Cameron has also previously argued that “suggestions of an EU army are fanciful: national security is a national competence”.

But armed forces filled with the nationals of other states have been typical of the Blue helmets of the United Nations, though their deployments a sketchy record.  Given the chaos of a Europe gazing over a yawning chasm, a single army is the last thing on the lips of Europe’s citizenry.  Trump might have to do more to push European leaders towards a more coherent security front.

Forgive them their debts as they forgive those…

It is “budget time” again!

That is the season when the persons displayed on television screens as representatives of those who have no representation engage in the theatrical display of subordination to those who actually own things, like the countries we happen to inhabit. Although there have been a few publicised investigations and even some occasional criminal charges against (usually septuagenarians) some conspicuous miscreants, there has been no action which could restore some health or sanity to what most of us consider the daily economy. In some countries, like where I live, people go on strike. There is little indication that the fundamental message of the strikers gets heard. Perhaps that is also why the television seems obsessed with the marketing of hearing aids. There is a hearing aid for every occasion, except sessions of the national assembly, where such technology might really help.

One way of dealing with the hearing impaired is repetition. In scientific terms this means increasing the rate of signal in proportion to noise in the hope that the essential message is received. Although I wrote a version of this paper in 2014, four years later I cannot help feeling some repetition would do no harm. If every budget season one has to listen to the same set of distortions, then it is only fair to reproduce the corrections.

Like the absurd climate debate, which never includes the “carbon footprint” of the largest military machines, the budget debates (essentially interchangeable) never discuss the cost of subsidising international banks and corporations to facilitate their extraction of wealth from the national economy. There is no intelligent, let alone honest, discussion of what is meant by “public debt”—or why the taxpayers must bear losses to guarantee tax-exempt profits for investors.

I always ask myself when someone says or writes “loss”, where did the money go? Even when a ship is lost at sea there is generally wreckage. Of course, the ocean is bigger than the economy and it is possible that a ship’s remains disappear beyond recovery. The price of abandoning the very modest social gains of the New Deal in the US and social democracy in Europe with the ascendancy of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan has been enormous, not only for US and European working people but, for the rest of the world. In fact, the meter is still running with no indication of when it will stop.

The crisis no one cares to talk about any more comprises trillions in losses. If these losses are real, then that means the value has been forfeited in favour of someone else. E.g. after the Great War France and Britain were essentially bankrupt: they owed nearly everything to US banks. Without economic manipulation, war and terror, India would probably have occupied the same status vis a vis Great Britain in 1945 that Brazil gained vis a vis Portugal after the Napoleonic Wars. The claims against the productive capacity and assets of Old Europe were held by identifiable third parties, representing, then as now, a tiny band of bankers. Of course, those claims were so great that no normal income streams from taxation could satisfy them. Control of Britain was effectively ceded to the US, while India was wracked by civil war rather than collecting the wartime debt Britain owed to her.

The other meaning of loss is the inability to sustain a certain valuation of an asset or income stream. The nature of the initial valuation is then the problem. The continuous attempts in the IFRS (international accounting standards) to skirt around the issue of essentially fraudulent valuation illustrates that even the private sector’s notion of “value”, whether book value or fair value, is the product of casuistry.

Since European “banking” was reorganised on the US Federal Reserve model by creation of the European Central Bank, it is instructive to consider how grand theft in the state-banking sector of the US functions. In other words, the “losses” hidden on the books of the USG banks, “Fannie” and “Freddie”, are either notional or they reflect claims that were satisfied in favour of third parties beyond the capacity of those institutions to generate income. Again we know who those third parties are. The “losses” are essentially sacrificed sovereignty.

Government institutions pledge to private persons (corporations and foreign exchange pirates) the State’s capacity to pay, derived from the ability to tax the working population, beyond any realistic possibility to extract that income. This was called “tax farming” in the bad old days of “colonialism”. Frequently punitive military force was sent into any country that was not delivering enough booty (aka interest on foreign debt). In fact, as retired general of US Marines infamously confessed that was his main job in the Corps—protecting corporate plunder.

This is essentially the same principle imposed through the ECB—except that some nominal account has to be taken of national political systems. Since in Europe the State was far more frequently the owner of capital infrastructure, absorbing the cost of its operation and regulating labour as civil servants, considerable ideological work had to be performed to cultivate the generation, which privatised most of the national capital assets held by European states. The fact that since 1945 the US has controlled the international payments system has reduced the need for military intervention. Decisions taken in New York, London, Frankfurt or Brussels can deprive a country of any affordable means to engage in the most basic financial transactions. The entities involved are privately owned and therefore cannot be coerced except by measures that would “threaten private property”.

Just as the railroads and banks obtained control over most of the continental US by defrauding the US government in the 19th century, the surviving banks have defrauded most of the American population of its home equity today. Although it was established that a conspiracy of UK-based clearing banks illegally fixed the LIBOR/ EURIBOR rates, this had no serious consequences. If one considers very carefully that nearly all mortgage and commercial financing agreements base their interest computations on one of these benchmarks, the true scope of the fraud becomes apparent. Everyone who made an interest rate agreement assuming the “free market” condition of the underlying rate was cheated. It could be argued that the interest rate clauses of innumerable contracts were void due to fraud. A perusal of public debt instruments would no doubt reveal even more catastrophic deception.

The endless wars, funded by plundering the public treasury and the wealth of other countries, are part of that income extraction, too. Now the US government and those of its vassals are little more than one large mercenary enterprise, together as NATO, the most heavily armed collection agency on behalf of third party creditors on the planet. It does not matter who occupies the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Of course, there is plausible denial for any of the beneficiaries of this plunder since populations weaned on soap operas and “crime drama” are incapable of examining, let alone comprehending, the most obvious operations of US corporations and their agents– who almost never appear as criminals on television. The “crime drama” narrative dominates almost every bandwidth on the critical spectrum and as a much younger US director, Michael Moore demonstrated in Bowling for Columbine, corporate crime does not make acceptable television. The most elemental sociological truths, plain to anyone who has ever belonged to a club or worked in middle management of a company, namely that “democratic” and “meritocratic” decisions are regularly subverted by scheming among the ambitious at the expense of the docile– become discredited when the insight is applied to the polity as a whole. People who do not think twice about making a phone call to a “friend” to influence a decision in their social club or place of employment, become incredulous at the suggestion that the chairman of a major investment bank would dictate policy to the head of state whose election he had financed.

In short, the debate about the current global economic “crisis” is obscenely counterintuitive and illogical to the point of incoherence. Who is willing to “follow the money”? This dictum, popularised in the Woodward and Bernstein fairy tale of US President Richard Nixon’s demise– All the President’s Men— appears utterly forgotten, despite recurring astronomic fraud perpetrated by US corporations since the so-called “S&L scandal”– crimes for which no more than a handful of people were indicted, let alone tried or sentenced. Only one corporation was deprived of its right to do business, Arthur Andersen, and this was patently done to spare all the politicians from the reigning US president, most of the US Congress, and untold state and local officials who had been bribed or otherwise influenced by Enron.

If the stories reported by Pete Brewton in 1992, the documented history of the OSS “China insurer” AIG, and the implications of the 2002 Powers Report on the Enron collapse are taken seriously, then Houston lies on a financial fault line more devastating than the San Andreas. That fault line runs from Texas through Virginia to the bedrock of Manhattan. The economic earthquakes that have persisted since 1980 are both literally and figuratively the result of deployment of the US atomic arsenal and the policies that gave rise to it. The US dollar’s continued, if fluctuating, strength as a reserve currency is based on drugs, weapons, and oil– all traded in US dollars. However, this material reality is also based on an ideological or dogmatic constitution. The seismic activity induced by US corporations created gaping holes in the global economy– holes which could only be breached by the financial instruments developed in the weapons laboratories of Wall Street based on the same conceptual models as the neutron bomb and today’s nano-munitions developed at Lawrence Livermore. Indeed, the theory has been almost universally accepted that people are always to blame for the problems of government and Business is the sole and universal solution to all problems. Hence tax monies will only be spent on weapons, war, and subsidies for corporations—the things Business needs.

A considerable obstacle to any change in the US, short of its destruction, is the fact that as Michael Hudson and former assistant Treasury secretary under Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, write repeatedly, the US government has absolutely lost whatever legitimate function it may ever have had as an instrument of popular will. In other words, the efforts of working people, whether immigrant or ex-slave to remake the plutocratic regime of the 19th century into a State responsive to their needs were frustrated by the massive assaults on labour, combined with the ideological warfare of the “Progressive” movement. The latter, funded heavily by the newly created super-philanthropies, including those of Rockefeller, Sage, Peabody, and Carnegie, predated CIA-style front organizations and infiltration. They helped turn popular sovereignty movements into the kind of technocratic organisations which prevail today– dependent on corporate donations and led by the graduates of cadre schools like the Ivy League colleges, Oxford and the LSE. With few exceptions the only remnants of the “popular will” in the US are those that drive lynch mobs, reincarnated in “talk radio” today.

The main work of the USG and the corporations for which it stands has been to undermine any notion that the State is rightfully an expression of the popular will for the realisation of popular welfare. The State has been reduced to a protection racket. By the time Ronald Reagan, imitating Margaret Thatcher, pledged to “get government off the back of the people”, the only “people” who counted were corporations and those in thrall to them.

It is easy to forget that the US was actually founded on the basis of a kind of white (in that sense “enlightened”), oligarchic absolutism– the British parliamentary dictatorship minus hereditary monarch. Its moral vision predated the Thirty Years War and, until John Kennedy was elected president, its hypocrisy was that of Cromwellian fanatics. In revolutionary France and countries that were inspired by France, as opposed to the American independence war, struggle continued on the premises that the State is not the King (in whatever incarnation) but created by the citizens (not the possessive individual) for the maintenance of the common weal– including the nutrition, health, housing, education of its people. The opposition to destruction of the public sector or public services and the debate that continues in Greece, France, Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany, defies comprehension in North America and Great Britain because of some unfortunate residues of that revolutionary vision of the State so violently opposed by Britain and the US ever since 1789– except when the resulting instability provided business opportunities. (Thatcher did not restore the spirit of Churchill to power—but that of Wellington.)

Moreover as Coolidge once said, “the business of America is business”. If a policy or action of government cannot be expressed in terms of someone’s maximum private profit then it is indefensible in the US. The conditions of the Maastricht Treaty establishing the euro and the ECB are an attempt to impose those same ideological and political constraints on the European Union enforced by adoption of the Federal Reserve Act in the US. The Federal Reserve is essentially a technology for naturalising usury and endowing it with supernatural legitimacy. But just as it has been argued in some quarters that the US Federal Reserve triggered the Great Depression– for the benefit of the tiny bank of banking trusts– the European Central Bank, urged by the right-wing government in Berlin, is being pressured to follow the same rapine policies as the FED is pursuing today. Of course, there are other countries ruled by financial terrorism or where banking gangs have turned their entire arsenal against sovereign peoples.

The “Crisis” is not really about the “debt” or the heinous losses. It is a crisis of sovereignty. The failure of popular sovereignty means that a microscopic bacterial colony of the immeasurably rich can make war on the rest of the world, destroying the common weal and commerce at home and everything else abroad. Germany’s citizens have been bludgeoned since 1945 by Anglo-American propaganda and the occupation forces to persuade them that they– not the great banking and industrial cartels on both sides of the Atlantic– were responsible for Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. When in 1968, student leaders like Rudi Dutschke tried to remind Germans that their democracy was destroyed before Hitler’s putsch and that they had the right and opportunity to demand a democratic Germany after the war, those young people were harassed and even killed. (Dutschke was shot in the head by an unemployed labourer. That “lone” killer later died in prison with a plastic bag over his head.) Attempts to create a truly popular democratic government in Germany have been frustrated by foreign intervention since the French Revolution. Nevertheless people in Germany still believe that the State is there to provide services to the people– and not to fight wars to further foreign trade as suggested by Horst Köhler before he was relieved of his duties (ostensibly resigning) as German federal president.

There is no doubt in Germany that former Chancellor Schroeder’s refusal to follow the US into Iraq—whatever motivated it—enjoyed the widest support, even among those who tend to believe anything the US government says. The resignation of former IMF director and Federal President Köhler expressed the sensitivity of the situation then. On one occasion he referred to the great banking interests as “monsters” and then broke the silence on the German war efforts in Central Asia by explicitly articulating what had been Chancellor Merkel’s, silent but deadly policy of supporting US counter-terror in Afghanistan. Köhler was not opposed to the future escalation of German belligerence, but by his calling a spade a spade on national radio, the right-wing government in Berlin almost had to defend its unconstitutional deployment of German soldiers in public. Already that April Angela Merkel had been forced to sacrifice an army general and a cabinet minister when it became known that German combat aircraft were also bombing civilians like their US counterparts—and trying to keep the fact a secret.

In the midst of the financial crisis, that is the plunder and pillage of the accumulated reserves of Europe’s working population after those of the US are exhausted, it is impossible to ignore the restoration of Asian political and economic prominence. This process started in the 1960s when Britain and the US launched their wars to secure footholds and control of the vast resources of Indonesia and Indochina. Although only partly successful, the destruction of national independence movements throughout South Asia created the conditions for de-industrialising Europe and North America. Mistakenly much of the North American and European Left judged the losses in Korea and Vietnam as defeats for US power. Such judgments have been based on assessments of the official war aims and not on any analysis of the underlying corporate and financial policy objectives. The long-term results of those wars included creation of the massive debt system that is at the root of financial collapse for the majority of US Americans. Of course, China remains the great unconquerable threat to continuation of US hegemony. The balance of power in Asia may be very delicate indeed.

Continental Europe remained somewhat insulated from those seismic forces until 1989. The “velvet” invasion of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union led by US capital, aided as usual by the combined secret services and economic “consultants” of Shock Therapy, began the destruction of the economic base for European social democracy and “real socialism”. The debt machine created to exploit Eastern Europe was applied in Germany first– destroying the GDR and financing that destruction with EU-generated debt, culminating in the euro. Introduction of the euro effectively destroyed half of the purchasing power of working people in the Euro Zone overnight, creating the conditions for consumer borrowing which had prevailed in the US since the late 60s and eroding wages and benefits drastically.

The final loss of control over archaic legislative instruments (whether in the US or Europe) is not only assured by the system of bribery that turns those in office into indentured servants of corporations. Full investigation of the Enron scandal would have proven once and for all that there is almost no one in the US Congress not owned by some corporation. Similar conditions have come to prevail in European legislatures where for decades US academic and policy exchange programmes have trained the political class to work first and foremost for Business.

The loss is also assured by the now entrenched belief that the only legitimate human goal is individual personal profit. As Hudson has suggested, this is the “theology of the Chicago School”. Since Margaret Thatcher was appointed to convert Britain to that dogma, nearly the entire political, academic and “civil” culture has been saturated with people who cannot think in any other terms– even when they assert that they are still social democrats or democratic socialists. The latter insist that “social policy” is merely a palliative to prevent the poor and destitute from becoming unsightly spectres in urban entertainment centres. They all have become positivists– reifying the prevailing economic relations and worshipping quantitative methods– subordinating human agency to pseudo-science and thinly disguised opportunism. The only kindness this ethical standpoint can express is “charity”. Charity, however, has nothing to do with the common weal or the State as an embodiment of the popular will. In fact, it is just as parasitic as the belief from which it springs. If those whom John Pilger called “the new rulers of the world” consent to relieve us– that is to allow us anything resembling our dignity and subsistence wages– then it will scarcely exceed the infamous “dimes” with which John D. Rockefeller cloaked his cynicism in piety and charity. Nowhere is the cynicism more profound than in the expression “giving back”. Of course, the pennies “given back” are microscopic compared with the billions “taken” in the first place. But those shiny pennies and dimes are enough to keep embedded intellectuals loyal to Bill Gates or George Soros. For a few dollars more they will even protect the likes of Blankfein or Buffett.

“Charity” is the gratification a person finds when scratching a mosquito bite. One feels better while scratching– although this provides no relief. The cause of the itch is the substance injected by the mosquito while sucking the blood from its victim. Of course, some mosquitoes offer only token charity and the itch disappears. But there are mosquitoes that carry other parasites– the effects of their charity can last forever, or at least until the victim dies.

Angela Merkel’s Last Days

Cultural compilations such as James Frazer’s The Golden Bough are rich with these accounts: the high priest or leader of a tribe, whose lengthy tenure is wearing thin, is set for the sacrifice, either through ritual or being overthrown by another member.  The crops have failed; a drought is taking place.  The period of rule has ended; the time for transition and new blood replacements have come.  Since 2005, Angela Merkel’s Chancellorship has been one of the most stable and puzzling, a political stayer ruthless in durability and calculating in survival.

Swords and daggers are being readied.  The Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), bound by a tense partnership, have been getting a battering in Germany’s state elections.  Poor showings in Bavaria and Hesse are proving omens of oracular force.  The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) now finds itself with a presence in all 16 regional parliaments.  The Greens have been polling strongly, while the Left Party and Free Democrats have doggedly maintained their presence.  The day after the poor showing in Hesse, Merkel announced that she would not be seeking re-election as leader of the Christian Democrats in December.  Nor would she be running again as Chancellor in 2021.

Other European states will view her with the sort of respect that is afforded the German national football team: dislike and fear in a jumble with respect and admiration.  At times, she let various cabinet members get ahead of themselves – Herr Schwarze Null, the darkly obsessive figure of balanced budgets and punitive financial measures, Wolfgang Schäuble, for too long coloured the age of austerity.

For such figures, including Merkel, thrift became dogma and mission, a goal of its own separate from social goals and cute notions of sovereignty. The vile god of monetary union needed to be propitiated; Greece needed to be sacrificed, its autonomy outsourced to external financial institutions.  Making states seek bailouts while repaying crushing debts, many of them the result of unwise lending practices to begin with, seemed much like requiring the chronic asthmatic to do a hundred metre dash without a loss of breath.  As a result of such policies, the European Union has edged ever closer to the precipice.

Throughout her chancellorship, abrupt changes featured.  Having convinced the Bundestag that phasing out nuclear energy born from the Red-Green coalition of 2001 was bad (an extension of operating times by eight to fourteen years was proposed), Merkel proceeded to, in the aftermath of Fukushima, order the closure of eight of the country’s seventeen nuclear plants with a despot’s urgency.  This became the prelude to the policy of Energiewende, the energy transition envisaging the phasing out of all nuclear power plants by 2022 and a sharp shift to decarbonise the economy.

For sociologist Wolfgang Streeck, she is “a postmodern politician with a premodern, Machiavellian contempt for both causes and people.”  Educated in the old East Germany (DDR), she mastered the art, claimed biographer and Der Spiegel deputy editor-in-chief Dirk Kurbjuweit, of governing by silence, being cautious, and at times insufferably vague, with her words.  “She waits and sees where the train is going and then she jumps on the train.”

In 2003, she pushed her party into the choppy waters of deregulation and neo-liberal economics, a move that almost lost her the election to Gerhard Schröder, that other market “reformer” who arguably fertilised the ground she then thrived in.  After becoming chancellor, she proceeded to, with the assistance of the Grand Coalition comprising the remains of the Social Democratic Party, clean the party stables of neoliberals and become a new social democrat.

Merkel, the shifter and shape changer, was again on show during the crisis which is being seen as the last, albeit lengthy straw of the camel’s back. With refugees pouring into Europe, Merkel initially showed enthusiasm in 2015, ignoring both German and EU law mandating registration in the first country of entry into the EU before seeking resettlement within the zone.  Refugees gathered in Budapest were invited into Germany as part of “showing a friendly face in an emergency”; it was a move that might also serve useful moral and humanitarian purposes, not to mention leverage against other, seemingly less compassionate European states.

A riot characterised by rampant sexual assault at Cologne Central Station on New Year’s Eve in 2015, a good deal of it captured on smartphones, served to harden her approach to the new arrivals.  She promised more deportations and reining in family reunification rules. Wir schaffen das – we can do it – has since become something of a hefty millstone.  “The German government did a good job reacting to the refugee crisis,” observed Karl-Georg Wellmann of the Christian Democrats. “But repeating ‘we can do it’ over and over again sends out the wrong message.” The far-right AfD duly pounced, reaping electoral rewards.

Her enemies have amassed, though the line between groomed successor and opportunistic Brutus is not always clear.  Critics long cured by a vengeful smoke – the likes of Friedrich Merz, who once led Merkel’s parliamentary caucus only to be edged out, and Roland Koch, formerly minister president of Hesse – have been directing salvos of accusation.  Within hours of Merkel’s announcement of eventual political retirement, Merz, who never had much time for grand coalition antics, returned fire with a promise to bid for the party leadership.

The caravan of potential replacements features the likes of “mini-Merkel” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, currently the Christian Democrats party secretary-general and the calculatingly anti-Merkel and youthful Jens Spahn, health minister who has bruised his way to prominence attacking the 2015 refugee policy.  Occupying the middle ground, and risking falling between two stools, is the more conciliatory Armin Laschet.

The current grand coalition is neither looking grand nor much of a coalition, and the party operatives from the CDU and SPD are attempting to wriggle out, though neither Merkel nor SPD counterpart Andrea Nahles wishes to dissolve the union yet.

Like Merkel’s mentor, Helmut Kohl, staying power is never eternal.  Kohl tasted eight years of power as chancellor of West Germany before leading a united Germany for another eight.  “Fatty’s got to go” was the prevailing sentiment in the dying days of his rule, and it transpired that, in time, power had done its bit to corrupt the hulking politician in his twilight days.  A million marks in donations had found their way into a reward scheme for cronies and friends instead of going to his party. Kohl attempted to keep mum on the whole matter.

It is worth recalling who it was who laid the final, cleansing blow to this holy of holies: a certain Angela Merkel’s December 1999 contribution to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for her former patron’s resignation and necessary banishment. “I bought my killer,” reflected a rueful Kohl.  “I put the snake on my arm.”

Khashoggi versus 50,000 Slaughtered Yemeni Children

The European Parliament has asked on 25 October 2018 for an immediate embargo on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, hence sanctioning the Kingdom of rogue Saudi Arabia which is joining the United States and Israel as the main purveyor of crime throughout the Middle East and the world. France still said they will apply sanctions only if it is proven that Riyadh was indeed involved in the killing of the controversial Saudi journalist. Madame Merkel at least days ago said that Germany would no longer supply the Saudis with arms as a result of the heinous crime committed on Jamal Khashoggi.

No doubt, it was a horrible murder that took place in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, with Jamal Khashoggi’s body possibly sawed to pieces, and according to latest accounts, buried in the Consulate’s backyard. And all that now admitted, executed by order of Riyadh. To soften the blow, for business purposes, some European countries would like to argue that it may not have been a premeditated assassination, but possibly a mortal “accident”, which would, of course, change the premises and lessen the punishment – and weapon sales could continue. It’s all business anyway.

Europe has no morals, no ethics, no nothing. Europe, represented by Brussels, and in Brussels by the non-elected European Commission (EC), for all practical purposes is a mere nest of worms, or translated into humans, a nest of white-collar criminals, politicians, business people and largely a brainwashed populace of nearly 500 million. There are some exceptions within the population and fortunately their pool of ‘awakened’ is gently growing.

Even Switzerland, a neutral country according to her Constitution, not a member of the EU, but a staunch adherent to the (non-) European Union through more than 110 bi-and multilateral contracts, it was revealed yesterday, is assisting in Saudi Arabia converting the Swiss built (civilian) Pilatus helicopter into a ferocious war machine. Pilatus has always had that reputation of its controversial convertibility and was particularly known within Switzerland for that reason – but now, they surpass the limit of the tolerable, by helping the criminal and warmonger Saudis to mount a flying war machine in their, the Saudi’s, country – totally against Swiss law and against the Swiss Constitution, but fully tolerated by the Swiss Government.

Back to the real issue: It took the horrendous murder of a famous Saudi-critical and Saudi-national journalist, for the Europeans to react – and that, mind you, grudgingly. They’d rather follow Donald Trump’s line, why lose 110 billion dollars-worth of arms sales to the Saudis, for the murder of a journalist. After all, business is business. Everything else is a farce.

For three and half years, the Saudi’s have waged a horrendous war on Yemen. They have slaughtered tens of thousands of Yemenis – according to the UN Human Rights Commission more than 50,000 children died by Saudi air raids with UK supplied bombs, and US supplied war planes – through lack of sanitation and drinking water induced diseases, like cholera – and an even worse crime, through extreme famine, the worst famine in recent history – as per UNICEF/WHO – imposed by force, as the Saudi’s with the consent of the European allies closed down all ports of entry, including the most important Red Sea Port of Hodeidah.

The European Union, along with the US, have been more than complicit in this crime against humanity – in these horrendous war crimes. Imagine one day a Nuremberg-type Court against war crimes committed in the last 70 years, not one of the western leaders, still alive, would be spared. That’s what we in the west have become. A nest of war criminals, war criminals for sheer greed. They invented a neoliberal, everything goes market doctrine system, where no rules, no ethics, no morals count – just money, profit and more profit. Any method of maximizing profit – war and war industry – is good and accepted. And the  west with its fiat money made of hot air, is imposing this nefarious, destructive system everywhere, by force and regime change if voluntary acceptance is not in the cards.

And we, the people, have become complicit in it, as we are living in luxury and comfort, and couldn’t care less what our leaders (sic-sic) are doing to the rest of the world, to the so-called lesser humans, who live in squalor as refugees, their homes and towns destroyed, bombed to ashes, no schools, no hospitals, and to a large extent no food – yes about 70 million-plus refugees are every day on the move, most of them from the west-destroyed Middle-East. Why should we worry? We live well. To the contrary, these refugees they could steal our jobs. Let them not invade our luxury havens. Rather keep bombing their countries into rubble.

Yemen, strategically highly sought-for, should, of course, not be governed by the Houthis, a socialist-leaning group of revolutionary Muslims which is part of the Shia Zaidi, a branch of the Shia Imamiya of Iran. They finally became sick and tired of the decades-long Washington manipulation of their government. And who better than the stooges of Saudi Arabia to do the dirty job for Washington? And, yes, they don’t have to do it alone. Weapon supplies come from all over Europe, mainly the UK, and France, also Spain, and for a while also from Germany – and well, neutral Switzerland.

No matter that tens of thousands of children are killed, that according to the Human Rights Commission, up to 22 million Yemenis (out of about 30 million population), are in danger of severe famine, and that includes at least 8 million children – children who have for the most part no more access to schools, health services and food – an entire generation or more without education, a well-planned and premeditated gap in society, as is the case in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. By killing and depriving children of basic needs, the west is creating a widening gap of educated people, of people that can and would otherwise fight for their countries, for their societies. But – they are gone. That makes it so much easier for the west just to take over – their strategic position, their natural resources and suck empty the social safety funds accumulated by their labor force.

Isn’t that a thought for the illustrious populace who live in western luxury, to lean back in their fauteuils and think about? What if, one day the tables are reversed and we, the west would face justice? Is anybody in the west bold and realistic enough to see such a picture? And as we see these days, history is advancing in giant steps. It’s the 21st Century.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) has more than made inroads in our society. And what if – if those that we consider inferior and our enemies, are, in fact, a few steps ahead of us in AI science and could reverse the picture rather rapidly?

And while we wonder why Saudi-slaughtered Yemenis does not raise a fuss in the western media, but the Saudi killing of a journalist does, all-the-while our linear IMF provided projections increase western GDP by fantastic numbers by 2030, irrespective of the 20% unemployment thanks to AI, that some predict, all these contradictory figures are unimportant, while we can make a killing from killing Yemeni children. But it takes the Khashoggi killing that might stop – if only temporarily, and if only we are lucky – the Saudi war machine. The population of Yemen is unimportant. Why?

Why does it take the assassination of a journalist – granted, a horrendous and grisly murder by his own country’s government – no matter how controversial Jamal Khashoggi was, he has been writing for our western MSM, for the truth tellers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. That may have helped making him more important than 50,000 slaughtered and maimed Yemeni children – more important in the sense that only through his abject murder, the Europeans – maybe – will react and ‘sanction’ the Saudis.

But even that is not sure – as the Transatlantic Master Trump, has many trumps up his sleeve, that he may offer or coerce the EU puppets into following his heinous example and spare Riyadh from any punishment, especially as far as weapons are concerned. After all it’s business. Dead children are just that, dead Yemenis, a generation less to worry about.

The Anti-War Autumn Is Here

Last weekend, we participated in the Women’s March on the Pentagon, a successful action designed to build on the women-led movement against militarism and imperialism. Cindy Sheehan, who called for the march, stated explicitly that this was not a get out the vote event, as the last Women’s March was, and condemned both major parties for their support of war and militarism. She explained that war is a women’s issue because of the rape, violence, displacement and murder of women in countries that are occupied by military forces.

We have been referring to this fall as the Antiwar Autumn as there have been and will be many activities opposing war. This is a critical time to rebuild the peace movement because US foreign policy is headed in a dangerous direction by antagonizing the great powers, Russia and China, as well as continuing military and economic war in the Middle East and Latin America and increased military presence in Africa and Asia. At some point the US and its allies may cross the line and incite a nuclear or world war. We must work to prevent that and guide the US toward a foreign policy grounded in respect for international law and the self-determination of peoples and nations.

Largest NATO Military Exercise Since End of Cold War Begins

As relations between the United States and Russia further deteriorate, the US and allies from 28 other countries begin a month-long military exercise near the Russian border, “Trident Juncture.” Billed as a test of NATO countries’ ability to respond rapidly, this exercise includes troops from Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members. It is the largest mobilization of NATO troops since the end of the Cold War.

The location of the exercise is designed to send a message to both Russia and China. NATO Naval ships will enter the Baltic Sea, where Russian military planes fly, and be placed off the coast of Norway where they could cut off the transportation of goods between Russia and China and the European Union though the Arctic, called the Northern Passage.

Further antagonism of Russia exists in the push to expand NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia, which are both on the Russian border. The US is already conducting joint military exercises with the Ukrainian military and has stated support for adding Ukraine and Georgia to NATO despite concerns raised by NATO members France and Germany that this would be too provocative and might trigger a response from Russia. The US expanded NATO to Colombia, which borders Venezuela.

The new book, “The Russians are Coming Again,” chronicles the long history of US antagonism toward Russia. In his review of the book, Ron Ridenour points out that Russia has more to fear from the US than the US does from Russia and that historical amnesia results in successful demonization of Russia in the media. The authors write:

Russia helps to reaffirm US national identity and visions of exceptionalism and righteousness at a time of escalating domestic crises, and helps rationalize the expansion of NATO and maintenance of huge military budgets. The result is that we are again threatened with the outbreak of a Third World War, with the United States again bearing considerable responsibility.

Sarah Lazare points out the dangerous “Russiagate” rhetoric of the Democrats that is being used to justify their support for massive increases in military spending. Funds are included in the new budget to bolster militarization in countries along the Russian border and for more nuclear weapons. Trump’s support for withdrawal from the intermediate-range nuclear treaty with Russia could spark a new nuclear arms race.

Anniversary of AFRICOM and the Murder of Gaddafi

October marks the tenth anniversary of AFRICOM (the US Africa Command) and the seventh anniversary of the murder of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. These are both manifestations of US imperialism. African countries are rich in resources that the United States seeks to control and to prevent China from having access to them.

Netfa Freeman, of Black Alliance for Peace, calls AFRICOM the modern colonization of Africa. Countries that sign military agreements with the US give up sovereignty over their land where the bases are located. Freeman also explains that AFRICOM exists to prevent the existence of “any independent African influence or force,” which is why Gaddafi was killed and why the US supported coups in Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years.

Black Alliance for Peace has a petition calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to investigate AFRICOM and for the closure of US bases in Africa. CLICK HERE TO SIGN IT.

We interviewed Ajamu Baraka, the national organizer for Black Alliance for Peace, about AFRICOM and why it is critical to understand and oppose US imperialism if we are to achieve peace on the Clearing the FOG podcast this week.

Protest the War Machine

There were multiple protests against militarism this week. In addition to the Women’s March on the Pentagon, seven people were arrested protesting the drone program at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The Stop Banking the Bomb campaign had actions outside PNC banks in three cities to call attention to the hundreds of millions of dollars they provide in loans for corporations that make weapons. And, hundreds of students protested Henry Kissinger’s speaking event at New York University.

There are upcoming opportunities to protest and to build the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement.

November 3 – Black is Back is holding a march to the White House to protest wars in Africa.

November 9 – 11Full weekend of events in Washington, DC and Philadelphia. The coalition that opposed the military parade is organizing a full weekend of events including veterans occupying the VA, concerts in McPherson Square, a Peace Congress to End US Wars at Home and Abroad, a veteran and military family-led march to reclaim Armistice Day and a vigil in Philadelphia where Joe Biden will give former president Bush an award.

November 16 to 18SOA Watch Border Encuentro in Nogales, Arizona/Sonora.

November 16 to 18No US NATO Bases conference in Dublin, Ireland.

November 17 – “Two Minutes to Midnight” – Conference to prevent nuclear war in Maryland.

We will participate in the No US NATO Bases conference in Ireland. Popular Resistance is a member of the No US Foreign Military Bases coalition. After that, we will head to the Netherlands to deliver a letter to the International Criminal Court calling for a full investigation of Israeli war crimes. Please sign the letter as an individual or organization. CLICK HERE TO SIGN.

On April 4, 2019, NATO will hold its 70th anniversary meeting in Washington, DC. Organizations are starting now to call for and plan actions. Here are calls to protest NATO by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and World Beyond War, which Popular Resistance has endorsed. We will keep you updated as plans unfold.

The anti-war movement is growing at a critical time. We can reverse this path towards war and build a peace economy and a peace culture. To do that, we must recognize the many connections between militarization at home and abroad and myriad aspects of our lives from oppression of Indigenous Peoples to police violence to militarization of children to climate change and ecological destruction to capitalism, colonization and austerity. We are committed to building a movement of movements to create transformative change.

The Saudi Arabian Model: Blueprints for Murder and Purchasing Arms

It reads like a swaying narrative of retreat.  A man’s body is subjected to a gruesome anatomical fate, his parts separated by a specially appointed saw doctor – an expert in the rapid autopsy – overseen by a distinctly large number of individuals.  Surveillance cameras had improbably failed that day.  We are not sure where, along the line, the torturers began their devilish task: the diligent beating punctuated by questions, followed by the severing of fingers, or perhaps a skipping of any formalities.  One Turkish investigator sniffing around the Saudi consulate in Istanbul saw such handiwork “like a Tarantino film.”

The result was clear enough: the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy on October 2 and never came out alive.  (Even an attempt of the gathered crew of death to procure a Khashoggi double was noted.)

For aspiring authoritarians, the Saudi state is a model instructor.  First came blanket denial to the disappearance: the Saudi authorities had no idea where the journalist had gone after October 2.  On October 18, Riyadh officially acknowledged Khashoggi’s death.  By October 21, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had come to the conclusion that this had, in fact, been murder, and a mistake. “This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had”.

Then, an improbable story of a fist fight developed through the media channels. (When one has to kill, it is best to regard the enemy as inappropriately behaved when they dare fight back.)  In the presence of 15 Saudi operatives, this was all richly incredulous – but the Kingdom does specialise in baffling and improbable cruelties.

It was clear that distancing was fundamental, hence the cultivation of the “rogue” theory, with Saudi operatives taking a merry trip off the beaten path.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was happy to pour water on the suggestion. “We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation.”  It had been executed “in a ferocious manner”.

The Turkish president has, however, danced around the issue of ultimate state sanctioned responsibility.  Neither King Salman, nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been publicly outed in any statements as either showing awareness of the killing or ordering it.  Prince MBS and his father are happy to keep it that way, severing their links with the killing as assuredly as the killers had severed the journalist’s fingers.  This is evidenced by the Crown Prince’s own labelling of the act as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor has also decided to move the case from one of accidental killing (fist fights will do that sort of thing) to one of planned murder.  A bit of cosmetic housecleaning has been taking place (another authoritarian lesson: look busy, seem engaged with heavy concern): 18 people have been arrested and two advisers sacked by the Saudi state.  The Crown Prince, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, has chaired the first meeting of a committee established to reform the country’s intelligence services.

This authoritarian blueprint also implies a staying power in the face of other states who see Saudi Arabia as cash cow and security partner.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a rich appetite for foreign arms, a point not missed on the weapons makers of the globe.  Some attrition is bound to take place: certain countries, keen to keep their human rights credentials bright and in place, will temporarily suspend arms sales.  Others will simply claim disapproval but continue leaving signatures on the relevant contracts of sale.

Some ceremonial condemnations have been registered.  Members of the European Parliament voted upon a non-binding resolution on Thursday to “impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.”  Germany, temporarily concerned, has suspended arms sales to the House of Saud, with Chancellor Angela Merkel deeming the Khashoggi killing “monstrous”. Canada’s Justin Trudeau briefly pondered what to do with a lucrative defence contract with Riyadh worth $12 billion, only to then step back.

The Canadian prime minister did acknowledge that the killing of Khashoggi “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” but has not made good any threats.  His predecessor has become the ideal alibi.  “The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract.”  Cancellation would lead to penalties which, in turn, would affect the Canadian tax payer.  How fortunate for Trudeau.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States remain the three biggest suppliers of military hardware to the kingdom, a triumvirate of competitors that complicates any effective embargo.  Which state, after all, wants to surrender market share?  It’s a matter of prestige, if nothing else.  President Donald Trump’s reaction is already clear: a suitably adjusted lid will be deployed to keep things in check till matters blow over; in the meantime, nothing will jeopardise a $110 billion arms deal.  Business with a theocracy can be patriotic.

The French angle has been reserved and coldly non-committal.  “Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context,” claimed foreign ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin, meaning that his country’s arms control policy was made on a case-by-case basis.  For France, keeping Riyadh in stiff opposition to Tehran’s regional ambitions has been a matter of importance in its Middle Eastern policy for decades, a point reiterated by President Emmanuel Macron in April.  And the Kingdom pays French arms exporters well: between 2008 and 2017, Saudi Arabia proved the second biggest purchaser of French arms (some 11 billion euros), with 2017 being a bumper year with licenses coming to 14.7 billion euros.  Riyadh can expect little change there.

Britain’s Theresa May, in the tradition of elastic British diplomacy (condemnation meets inertia), has insisted that her government already has the appropriately stringent rules on arms exports, another way of shunning any European resolution that might perch on human rights.  Such strictness evidently does not preclude the eager oil sheiks of Riyadh, though Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt did suggest the Khashoggi killing, should it “turn out to be true” would be “fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.”  Such actions are bound to be symbolic – much money has been received by the British arms industry, with earnings of £4.6 billion coming from sales to the Kingdom since the Saudi-led war on Yemen began in 2015.  Sowing death, even if through the good agency of a theocratic power, is lucrative.

The fate of Khashoggi, cruel and ghastly, seems a piddle of insignificance in that light.  “Brexit,” urged Philippe Lamberts, MEP and leader of the Group of the Greens, “must not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities.” That abdication, on the part of Britain and its arms competitors, took place sometime ago.

500 years is long enough! Human Depravity in the Congo

I would like to tell you something about human depravity and illustrate just how widespread it is among those we often regard as ‘responsible’. I am going to use the Democratic Republic of the Congo as my example.

As I illustrate and explain what has happened to the Congo and its people during the past 500 years, I invite you to consider my essential point: Human depravity has no limit unless people like you (hopefully) and me take some responsibility for ending it. Depravity, barbarity and violent exploitation will not end otherwise because major international organizations (such as the UN), national governments and corporations all benefit from it and are almost invariably led by individuals too cowardly to act on the truth.

The Congo

Prior to 1482, the area of central Africa now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was part of the Kingdom of the Kongo. It was populated by some of the greatest civilizations in human history.

Slavery

However, in that fateful year of 1482, the mouth of the Congo River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, became known to Europeans when the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao claimed he ‘discovered’ it. By the 1530s, more than five thousand slaves a year (many from inland regions of the Kongo) were being transported to distant lands, mostly in the Americas. Hence, as documented by Adam Hochschild in King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, the Congo was first exploited by Europeans during the Atlantic slave trade.

Despite the horrific depredations of the militarized slave trade and all of its ancillary activities, including Christian priests spreading ‘Christianity’ while raping their captive slave girls, the Kingdoms of the Kongo were able to defend and maintain themselves to a large degree for another 400 years by virtue of their long-standing systems of effective governance. As noted by Chancellor Williams’ in his epic study The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. the Kingdoms of the Congo prior to 1885 – including Kuba under Shyaam the Great and the Matamba Kingdom under Ngola Kambolo – were a cradle of culture, democracy and exceptional achievement with none more effective than the remarkable Queen (of Ndongo and Matamba), warrior and diplomat Nzinga in the 17th century.

But the ruthless military onslaught of the Europeans never abated. In fact, it continually expanded with ever-greater military firepower applied to the task of conquering Africa. In 1884 European powers met in Germany to finally divide ‘this magnificent African cake’, precipitating what is sometimes called ‘the scramble for Africa’ but is more accurately described as ‘the scramble to finally control and exploit Africa and Africans completely’.

Colonization

One outcome of the Berlin Conference was that the great perpetrator of genocide – King Leopold II of Belgium – with the active and critical support of the United States, seized violent control of a vast swathe of central Africa in the Congo Basin and turned it into a Belgian colony. In Leopold’s rapacious pursuit of rubber, gold, diamonds, mahogany and ivory, 10 million African men, women and children had been slaughtered and many Africans mutilated (by limb amputation, for example) by the time he died in 1909. His brutality and savagery have been documented by Adam Hochschild in the book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa which reveals the magnitude of human suffering that this one man, unopposed in any significant way by his fellow Belgians or anyone else, was responsible for inflicting on Africa.

If you want to spend a few moments in touch with the horror of what some human beings do to other human beings, then I invite you to look at the sample photos of what Leopold did in ‘his’ colony in the Congo. See A Nightmare In Heaven – Why Nobody Is Talking About The Holocaust in Congo.

Now if you were hoping that the situation in the Congo improved with the death of the monster Leopold, your hope is in vain.

The shocking reality is that the unmitigated horror inflicted on the Congolese people has barely improved since Leopold’s time. The Congo remained under Belgian control during World War I during which more than 300,000 Congolese were forced to fight against other Africans from the neighboring German colony of Ruanda-Urundi. During World War II when Nazi Germany captured Belgium, the Congo financed the Belgian government in exile.

Throughout these decades, the Belgian government forced millions of Congolese into mines and fields using a system of ‘mandatory cultivation’ that forced people to grow cash crops for export, even as they starved on their own land.

It was also during the colonial period that the United States acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo without, of course, any benefit to the Congolese people. This included its use of uranium from a Congolese mine (subsequently closed in 1960) to manufacture the first nuclear weapons: those used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Independence then Dictatorship

By 1960, the Congolese people had risen up to overthrow nearly a century of slavery and Belgian rule. Patrice Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of the new nation and he quickly set about breaking the yoke of Belgian influence and allied the Congo with Russia at the height of the Cold War.

But the victory of the Congolese people over their European and US overlords was shortlived: Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in a United States-sponsored coup in 1961 with the US and other western imperial powers (and a compliant United Nations) repeating a long-standing and ongoing historical pattern of preventing an incredibly wealthy country from determining its own future and using its resources for the benefit of its own people.

So, following a well-worn modus operandi, an agent in the form of (Army Chief of Staff, Colonel) Mobutu Sese Seko was used to overthrow Lumumba’s government. Lumumba himself was captured and tortured for three weeks before being assassinated by firing squad. The new dictator Mobutu, compliant to western interests, then waged all-out war in the country, publicly executing members of the pro-Lumumba revolution in spectacles witnessed by tens of thousands of people. By 1970 nearly all potential threats to his authority had been smashed.

Mobutu would rape the Congo (renamed Zaire for some time) with the blessing of the west  – robbing the nation of around $2billion – from 1965 to 1997. During this period, the Congo got more than $1.5 billion in US economic and military aid in return for which US multinational corporations increased their share of the Congo’s abundant minerals.  Washington justified its hold on the Congo with the pretext of anti-Communism but its real interests were strategic and economic.

Invasion

Eventually, however, Mobutu’s increasingly hostile rhetoric toward his white overlords caused the west to seek another proxy. So, ostensibly in retaliation against Hutu rebels from the Rwandan genocide of 1994 – who fled into eastern Congo after Paul Kagame’s (Tutsi) Rwanda Patriotic Army invaded Rwanda from Uganda to end the genocide – in October 1996 Rwanda’s now-dictator Kagame, ‘who was trained in intelligence at Fort Leavenworth in the United States, invaded the Congo with the help of the Clinton Administration and Uganda. By May 1997 the invading forces had removed Mobutu and installed the new (more compliant) choice for dictator, Laurent Kabila.

Relations between Kabila and Kagame quickly soured, however, and Kabila expelled the Rwandans and Ugandans from the Congo in July 1998. However, the Rwandans and Ugandans reinvaded in August establishing an occupation force in eastern Congo. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent their armies to support Kabila and Burundi joined the Rwandans and Ugandans. Thus began ‘Africa’s First World War‘ involving seven armies and lasting until 2003. It eventually killed six million people – most of them civilians – and further devastated a country crushed by more than a century of Western domination, with Rwanda and Uganda establishing themselves as conduits for illegally taking strategic minerals out of the Congo.

During the periods under Mobutu and Kabila, the Congo became the concentration camp capital of the world and the rape capital as well. ‘No woman in the path of the violence was spared. 7 year olds were raped by government troops in public. Pregnant women were disemboweled. Genital mutilation was commonplace, as was forced incest and cannibalism. The crimes were never punished, and never will be.’

Laurent Kabila maintained the status quo until he was killed by his bodyguard in 2001. Since then, his son and the current dictator Joseph Kabila has held power in violation of the Constitution. ‘He has murdered protesters and opposition party members, and has continued to obey the will of the west while his people endure unspeakable hells.’

Corporate and State Exploitation

While countries such as Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland and the UK are heavily involved one way or another (with other countries, such as Australia, somewhat less so), US corporations make a vast range of hitech products including microchips, cell phones and semiconductors using conflict minerals taken from the Congo . This makes companies like Intel, Apple, HP, and IBM culpable for funding the militias that control the mines.

But many companies are benefitting. For example,a 2002 report by the United Nations listed a ‘sample’ of 34 companies based in Europe and Asia that are importing minerals from the Congo via, in this case, Rwanda. The UN Report commented: ‘Illegal exploitation of the mineral and forest resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is taking place at an alarming rate. Two phases can be distinguished: mass-scale looting and the systematic and systemic exploitation of resources’. The mass-scale looting occurred during the initial phase of the invasion of the Congo by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi when stockpiles of minerals, coffee, wood, livestock and money in the conquered territory were either taken to the invading countries or exported to international markets by their military forces or nationals. The subsequent systematic and systemic exploitation required planning and organization involving key military commanders, businessmen and government structures; it was clearly illegal.

For some insight into other issues making exploitation of the Congo possible but which are usually paid less attention – such as the roles of mercenaries, weapons dealers, US military training of particular rebel groups and the secret airline flights among key locations in the smuggling operations of conflict minerals – see the research of Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski.

Has there been any official attempt to rein in this corporate exploitation?

A little. For example, the Obama-era US Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act of 2010 shone a spotlight on supply chains, pressuring companies to determine the origin of minerals used in their products and invest in removing conflict minerals from their supply chain. This resulted in some US corporations, conscious of the public relations implications of being linked to murderous warlords and child labor, complying with the Act. So, a small step in the right direction it seemed.

In 2011, given that legally-binding human rights provisions, if applied, should have offered adequate protections already, the United Nations rather powerlessly formulated the non-bindingGuiding Principles on Business and Human Rights‘.

And in 2015, the European Union also made a half-hearted attempt when it decided that smelters and refiners based in the 28-nation bloc be asked to certify that their imports were conflict-free on a voluntary basis!

However, following the election of Donald Trump as US President, in April 2017 ‘the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission suspended key provisions of its “conflict minerals” rule’. Trump is also seeking to undo the Obama-era financial regulations, once again opening the door to the unimpeded trade in blood minerals by US corporations.

Today

Despite its corrupt exploitation for more than 500 years, the Congo still has vast natural resources (including rainforests) and mineral wealth. Its untapped deposits of minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of $US24 trillion. Yes, that’s right: $US24trillion. With a host of rare strategic minerals – including cobalt, coltan, gold and diamonds – as well as copper, zinc, tin and tungsten critical to the manufacture of hi-tech electronic products ranging from aircraft and vehicles to computers and mobile phones, violent and morally destitute western governments and corporations are not about to let the Congo decide its own future and devote its resources to the people of this African country. This, of course, despite the international community paying lip service to a plethora of ‘human rights’ treaties.

Hence, violent conflict, including ongoing war, over the exploitation of these resources, including the smuggling of ‘conflict minerals’ – such as gold, coltan and cassiterite (the latter two ores of tantalum and tin, respectively), and diamonds – will ensure that the people of the Congo continue to be denied what many of those in western countries take for granted: the right to life benefiting from the exploitation of ‘their’ natural resources.

In essence then, since 1885 European and US governments, together with their corporations and African collaborators, have inflicted phenomenal ongoing atrocities on the peoples of the Congo as they exploit the vast resources of the country for the benefit of non-Congolese people.

But, you might wonder, European colonizers inflicted phenomenal violence on the indigenous peoples in all of their colonies – whether in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean or Oceania – so is their legacy in the Congo any worse?

Well, according to the The Pan-African Alliance, just since colonization in 1885, at least 25 million Congolese men, women and children have been slaughtered by white slave traders, missionaries, colonists, corporations and governments (both the governments of foreign-installed Congolese dictators and imperial powers). ‘Yet barely a mention is made of the holocaust that rages in the heart of Africa.’ Why? Because the economy of the entire world rests on the back of the Congo.

So what is happening now?

In a sentence: The latest manifestation of the violence and exploitation that has been happening since 1482 when that Portuguese explorer ‘discovered’ the mouth of the Congo River. The latest generation of European and American genocidal exploiters, and their latter-day cronies, is busy stealing what they can from the Congo. Of course, as illustrated above, having installed the ruthless dictator of their choosing to ensure that foreign interests are protected, the weapon of choice is the corporation and non-existent legal or other effective controls in the era of ‘free trade’.

The provinces of North and South Kivu in the eastern Congo are filled with mines of cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold. Much mining is done by locals eking out a living using Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM); that is, mining by hand, sometimes with rudimentary tools. Some of these miners sell their product via local agents to Congolese military commanders who smuggle it out of the country, usually via Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi, and use the proceeds to enrich themselves.

Another report on South Kivu by Global Witness in 2016 documented evidence of the corrupt links between government authorities, foreign corporations (in this case, Kun Hou Mining of China) and the military, which results in the gold dredged from the Ulindi River in South Kivu being illegally smuggled out of the country, with much of it ending up with Alfa Gold Corp in Dubai. The unconcealed nature of this corruption and the obvious lack of enforcement of weak Congolese law is a powerful disincentive for corporations to engage in ‘due diligence’ when conducting their own mining operations in the Congo.

In contrast, in the south of the Congo in the former province of Katanga, Amnesty International and Afrewatch researchers tracked sacks of cobalt ore that had been mined by artisanal miners in Kolwezi to the local market where the mineral ore is sold. From this point, the material was smelted by one of the large companies in Kolwezi, such as Congo Dongfang Mining International SARL (CDM), which is a smelter and fully-owned subsidiary of Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company Ltd (Huayou Cobalt) in China, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cobalt products. Once smelted, the material is typically exported from the Congo to China via a port in South Africa.

In its 2009 report ‘“Faced with a gun, what can you do?” War and the Militarisation of Mining in Eastern Congo’ examining the link between foreign corporate activity in the Congo and the military violence, Global Witness raised questions about the involvement of nearly 240 companies spanning the mineral, metal and technology industries. It specifically identified four main European companies as open buyers in this illegal trade: Thailand Smelting and Refining Corp. (owned by British Amalgamated Metal Corp.), British Afrimex, Belgian Trademet and Traxys. It also questioned the role of other companies further down the manufacturing chain, including prominent electronics companies Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, Dell and Motorola (a list to which Microsoft and Samsung should have been added as well). Even though they may be acting ‘legally’, Global Witness criticized their lack of due diligence and transparency standards at every level of their supply chain.

Of course, as you no doubt expect, some of the world’s largest corporate miners are in the Congo. These include Glencore (Switzerland) and Freeport-McMoRan (USA). But there are another 20 or more mining corporations in the Congo too, including Mawson West Limited (Australia), Forrest Group International (Belgium),  Anvil Mining (Canada), Randgold Resources (UK) and AngloGold Ashanti (South Africa).

Needless to say, despite beautifully worded ‘corporate responsibility statements’ by whatever name, the record rarely goes even remotely close to resembling the rhetoric. Take Glencore’s lovely statement on ‘safety’ in the Congo: ‘Ask Glencore: Democratic Republic of the Congo’. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent the 2016 accident at a Congolese mine that one newspaper reported in the following terms: ‘Glencore’s efforts to reduce fatalities among its staff have suffered a setback with the announcement that the death toll from an accident at a Congolese mine has risen to seven.’

Or consider the Belgian Forrest Group International’s wonderful ‘Community Services’  program, supposedly developing projects ‘in the areas of education, health, early childhood care, culture, sport, infrastructure and the environment. The Forrest Group has been investing on the African continent since 1922. Its longevity is the fruit of a vision of the role a company should have, namely the duty to be a positive player in the society in which it operates. The investments of the Group share a common core of values which include, as a priority, objectives of stability and long-term prospects.’

Regrettably, the Forrest Group website and public relations documents make no mention of the company’s illegal demolition, without notice, of hundreds of homes of people who lived in the long-standing village of Kawama, inconveniently close to the Forrest Group’s Luiswishi Mine, on 24 and 25 November 2009. People were left homeless and many lost their livelihoods as a direct consequence. Of course, the demolitions constitute forced evictions, which are illegal under international human rights law.

Fortunately, given the obvious oversight of the Forrest Group in failing to mention it, the demolitions have been thoroughly documented by Amnesty International in its report ‘Bulldozed – How a Mining Company Buried the Truth about Forced Evictions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’  and the satellite photographs acquired by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science have been published as well.

Needless to say, it is difficult for Congolese villagers to feel they have any ‘stability and long-term prospects’, as the Forrest Group’s ‘Community Services’ statement puts it, when their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Are company chairman George A. Forrest and its CEO Malta David Forrest and their family delusional? Or just so familiar with being violently ruthless in their exploitation of the Congo and its people, that it doesn’t even occur to them that there might be less violent ways of resolving any local conflicts?

Tragically, of course, fatal industrial accidents and housing demolition are only two of the many abuses inflicted on mining labourers, including (illegal) child labourers, and families in the Congo where workers are not even provided with the most basic ‘safety equipment’ – work clothes, helmets, gloves, boots and face masks – let alone a safe working environment (including guidance on the safe handling of toxic substances) or a fair wage, reasonable working hours, holidays, sick leave or superannuation.

Even where laws exist, such as the Congo’s Child Protection Code (2009) which provides for ‘free and compulsory primary education for all children’, laws are often simply ignored (without legal consequence). Although, it should also be noted, in the Congo there is no such thing as ‘free education’ despite the law. Consequently, plenty of children do not attend school and work full time, others attend school but work out of school hours. There is no effective system to remove children from child labour (which is well documented). Even for adults, there is no effective labour inspection system. Most artisanal mining takes places in unauthorized mining areas where the government is doing next to nothing to regulate the safety and labour conditions in which the miners work.

In addition, as noted above, given its need for minerals to manufacture the hi-tech products it makes, including those for western corporations, China is deeply engaged in mining strategic minerals in the Congo too.

Based on the Chinese notion of ‘respect’ – which includes the ‘principle’ of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs – the Chinese dictatorship is content to ignore the dictatorship of the Congo and its many corrupt and violent practices, even if its investment often has more beneficial outcomes for ordinary Congolese than does western ‘investment’. Moreover, China is not going to disrupt and destabilize the Congo in the way that the United States and European countries have done for so long.

Having noted the above, however, there is plenty of evidence of corrupt Chinese business practice in the extraction and sale of strategic minerals in the Congo, including that documented in the above-mentioned Global Witness report.

Moreover, Chinese involvement is not limited to its direct engagement in mining such as gold dredging of the Ulindi River. A vital source of the mineral cobalt is that which is mined by artisanal miners. As part of a recent detailed investigation, Amnesty International had researchers follow cobalt mined by artisanal miners from where it was mined to a market at Musompo, where minerals are traded. The report summarised what happens:

Independent traders at Musompo – most of them Chinese – buy the ore, regardless of where it has come from or how it has been mined. In turn, these traders sell the ore on to larger companies in the DRC which process and export it. One of the largest companies at the centre of this trade is Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM). CDM is a 100% owned subsidiary of China-based Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company Ltd (Huayou Cobalt), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cobalt products. Operating in the DRC since 2006, CDM buys cobalt from traders, who buy directly from the miners. CDM then smelts the ore at its plant in the DRC before exporting it to China. There, Huayou Cobalt further smelts and sells the processed cobalt to battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, these companies sell to battery manufacturers, which then sell on to well-known consumer brands.

Using public records, including investor documents and statements published on company websites, researchers identified battery component manufacturers who were listed as sourcing processed ore from Huayou Cobalt. They then went on to trace companies who were listed as customers of the battery component manufacturers, in order to establish how the cobalt ends up in consumer products. In seeking to understand how this international supply chain works, as well as to ask questions about each company’s due diligence policy, Amnesty International wrote to Huayou Cobalt and 25 other companies in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, UK, and the USA. These companies include some of the world’s largest and best known consumer electronics companies, including Apple Inc., Dell, HP Inc. (formerly Hewlett-Packard Company), Huawei, Lenovo (Motorola), LG, Microsoft Corporation, Samsung, Sony and Vodafone, as well as vehicle manufacturers like Daimler AG, Volkswagen and Chinese firm BYD. Their replies are detailed in the report’s Annex.

As backdrop to the problems mentioned above, it is worth pointing out that keeping the country under military siege is useful to many parties, internal and foreign. Over the past 20 years of violent conflict, control of these valuable mineral resources has been a lucrative way for warring parties to finance their violence – that is, buying the products of western weapons corporations – and to promote the chaotic circumstances that make minimal accountability and maximum profit easiest. The Global Witness report ‘Faced with a gun, what can you do?’ cited above followed the supply chain of these minerals from warring parties to middlemen to international buyers: people happy to profit from the sale of ‘blood minerals’ to corporations which, in turn, are happy to buy them cheaply to manufacture their highly profitable hi-tech products.

Moreover, according to the Global Witness report, although the Congolese army and rebel groups – such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel force opposed to the Rwandan government that has taken refuge in the Congo since the 1994 Rwanda genocide – have been warring on opposite sides for years. They are collaborators in the mining effort, at times providing each other with road and airport access and even sharing their spoils. Researchers say they found evidence that the mineral trade is much more extensive and profitable than previously suspected: one Congolese government official reported that at least 90% of all gold exports from the country were undeclared. And the report charges that the failure of foreign governments to crack down on illicit mining and trade has undercut development endeavors supposedly undertaken by the international community in the war-torn region.

Social and Environmental Costs

Of course, against this background of preoccupation with the militarized exploitation of mineral resources for vast profit, ordinary Congolese people suffer extraordinary ongoing violence. Apart from the abuses mentioned above, four women are raped every five minutes in the Congo, according to a study done in May 2011. ‘These nationwide estimates of the incidence of rape are 26 times higher than the 15,000 conflict-related cases confirmed by the United Nations for the DRC in 2010’. Despite the country having the highest number of UN peacekeeping forces in the world – where the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has operated since the turn of the century – the level of sexual violence soldiers have perpetrated against women is staggering. Currently, there is still much violence in the region, as well as an overwhelming amount of highly strategic mass rape.

Unsurprisingly, given the international community’s complete indifference, despite rhetoric to the contrary, to the plight of Congolese people, it is not just Congolese soldiers who are responsible for the rapes. UN ‘peacekeepers’ are perpetrators too.

And the Congo is a violently dangerous place for children as well with, for example, Child Soldiers International reporting that with a variety of national and foreign armed groups and forces operating in the country for over 20 years, the majority of fighting forces have recruited and used children, and most still exploit boys and girls today with girls forced to become girl soldiers but to perform a variety of other sexual and ‘domestic’ roles too. Of course, child labour is completely out of control with many impoverished families utterly dependent on it for survival.

In addition, many Congolese also end up as refugees in neighbouring countries or as internally displaced people in their own country.

As you would expect, it is not just human beings who suffer. With rebel soldiers (such as the Rwanda-backed M23), miners and poachers endlessly plundering inadequately protected national parks and other wild places for their resources, illegal mining is rampant, over-fishing a chronic problem, illegal logging (and other destruction such as charcoal burning for cooking) of rain forests is completely out of control in some places, poaching of hippopotamuses, elephants, chimpanzees and okapi for ivory and bushmeat is unrelenting (often despite laws against hunting with guns), and wildlife trafficking of iconic species (including the increasingly rare mountain gorilla) simply beyond the concern of most people.

The Congolese natural environment – including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, together with their park rangers – and the indigenous peoples such as the Mbuti (‘pygmies’) who live in them, are under siege. In addition to the ongoing mining, smaller corporations that can’t compete with the majors, such as Soco, want to explore and drill for oil. For a taste of the reading on all this, see ‘Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC Ambush‘, ‘The struggle to save the “Congolese unicorn“‘, ‘Meet the First Female Rangers to Guard One of World’s Deadliest Parks‘ and ‘The Battle for Africa’s Oldest National Park‘.

If you would like to watch a video about some of what is happening in the Congo, either of these videos will give you an unpleasant taste: ‘Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth‘ and ‘Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo‘.

Resisting the Violence

So what is happening to resist this violence and exploitation? Despite the horror, as always, some incredible people are working to end it.

Some Congolese activists resist the military dictatorship of Joseph Kabila, despite the enormous risks of doing so.

Some visionary Congolese continue devoting their efforts, in phenomenally difficult circumstances including lack of funding, to building a society where ordinary Congolese people have the chance to create a meaningful life for themselves. Two individuals and organizations who particularly inspire me are based in Goma in eastern Congo where the fighting is worst.

The Association de Jeunes Visionnaires pour le Développement du Congo, headed by Leon Simweragi, is a youth peace group that works to rehabilitate child soldiers as well as offer meaningful opportunities for the sustainable involvement of young people in matters that affect their lives and those of their community.

And Christophe Nyambatsi Mutaka is the key figure at the Groupe Martin Luther King that promotes active nonviolence, human rights and peace. Christophe’s group particularly works on reducing sexual and other violence against women.

There are also solidarity groups, based in the West, that work to draw attention to the nightmare happening in the Congo. These include Friends of the Congo that works to inform people and agitate for change and groups like Child Soldiers International mentioned above.

If you would like to better understand the depravity of those individuals in the Congo (starting with the dictator Joseph Kabila but including all those officials, bureaucrats and soldiers) who enable, participate in or ignore the violence and exploitation; the presidents and prime ministers of western governments who ignore exploitation, by their locally-based corporations, of the Congo; the heads of multinational corporations that exploit the Congo – such as Anthony Hayward (Chair of Glencore), Richard Adkerson (CEO of Freeport-McMoRan), George A. Forrest and Malta David Forrest (Chair and CEO respectively of Forrest Group International), Christopher L Coleman (Chair of Randgold Resources) and Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (CEO of AngloGold Ashanti) – as well as those individuals in international organizations such as the UN (starting with Secretary-General António Guterres) and the EU (headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission), who ignore, provoke, support and/or profit from this violence and exploitation, you will find the document ‘Why Violence?‘ and the website ‘Feelings First‘ instructive.

Whether passively or actively complicit, each of these depraved individuals (along with other individuals within the global elite) does little or nothing to draw attention to, let alone work to profoundly change, the situation in the Congo which denies most Congolese the right to a meaningful life in any enlightened sense of these words.

If you would like to help, you can do so by supporting the efforts of the individual activists and solidarity organizations indicated above or those like them.

You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ which references the Congo among many other examples of violence around the world.

And if you would like to support efforts to remove the dictatorship of Joseph Kabila and/or get corrupt foreign governments, corporations and organizations out of the Congo, you can do so by planning and implementing or supporting a nonviolent strategy that is designed to achieve one or more of these objectives.

If you are still reading this article and you feel the way I do about this ongoing atrocity, then I invite you to participate, one way or another, in ending it.

For more than 500 years, the Congo has been brutalized by the extraordinary violence inflicted by those who have treated the country as a resource – for slaves, rubber, timber, wildlife and minerals – to be exploited.

This will only end when enough of us commit ourselves to acting on the basis that 500 years is long enough. Liberate the Congo!