Category Archives: Haiti

Peace is a Cliché: When the West cannot Control the World Unopposed it Means War

The West likes to think of itself as a truly “peace-loving part of the world”. But is it? You hear it everywhere, from Europe to North America, then to Australia, and back to Europe: “Peace, peace, peace!”

It has become a cliché, a catchphrase, a recipe to get funding and sympathy and support. You say peace and you really cannot go wrong. It means that you are a compassionate and reasonable human being.

After addressing East African left wing opposition at Venezuelan embassy

Every year, there are “peace conferences” taking place everywhere where peace is worshipped, and even demanded. I recently attended one, as a keynote speaker, on the west coast of Denmark.

If a heavy-duty war correspondent like myself attends them, he or she gets shocked. What is usually discussed are superficial, feel-good topics.

At best, ‘how bad capitalism is’, and how ‘everything is about oil’. Nothing about the genocidal culture of the West. Nothing about continuous, centuries-long plunders and benefits that virtually all Westerners have been getting from it.

At worst, it is all about how bad the world is – “all people are the same” cliché. And, also, there are increasingly, bizarre, uninformed outbursts against China and Russia which are often labeled by Western neo-cons as “threat” and “rival powers”.

Participants of these gatherings agree “Peace is Good”, and “War is Bad”. This is followed by standing ovations and patting each other on the back. Few heartfelt tears are dropped.

However, reasons behind these displays are rarely questioned. After all, who would be asking for war? Who’d crave for violence, terrible injuries and death? Who’d want to see leveled, charred cities and abandoned, crying infants? It all appears to be very simple, and very logical.

A three year old Iraqi child with cancer, Mohammed, in Kos, Greece

But then, why do we not hear too often that “peace speech” pouring from the devastated and still de facto colonized African or the Middle Eastern countries? Aren’t they suffering the most? Shouldn’t they be dreaming about the peace? Or are all of us, perhaps, missing the main point?

My friend, a great Indian writer and thinker, Arundhati Roy wrote, in 2001, reacting to the Western “War on Terror”:

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” America’s favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: “We’re a peaceful people.” So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.

When it comes from the lips of the Westerners, is ‘peace’ really peace, is ‘war’ really a war?

Are people in that ‘free and democratic West’, still allowed to ask such questions? Or is the war and peace perception just a part of the dogma that is not allowed to be questioned and is ‘protected’ by both the Western culture and its laws?

Afghan kid from slums

I’m not in the West, and I don’t want to be. Therefore, I’m not sure what they are allowed to say or to question there. But we, those lucky people who are ‘outside’ and therefore not fully conditioned, controlled and indoctrinated, will definitely not stop asking these questions anytime soon; or to be precise, never!

*****

Recently, through Whatsapp, I received a simple chain of messages from my East African friends and Comrades – mostly young left-wing, revolutionary opposition leaders, thinkers and activists:

Free Africa is a socialist Africa! We are ready for war! The young Africans are on fire! Death to the imperialist forces! Viva Bolivarian revolution! South-South Cooperation! Today we take the battle to the streets! Africa Must Unite!

Such statements would sound almost ‘violent’ and therefore could be even be classified as ‘illegal’, if pronounced openly in the West. Someone could end up in Guantanamo for this, or in a ‘secret CIA prison’. A few weeks ago, I directly addressed these young people – leaders of the left-wing East African opposition – at the Venezuelan Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Yes, they were boiling, they were outraged, determined and ready.

For those who are not too familiar with the continent, Kenya has been, for years and decades, an outpost of the British, US and even Israeli imperialism in East Africa. It was playing the same role that West Germany used to play during the Cold War – a window shopping paradise, stuffed with luxury goods and services.

In the past, Kenya was supposed to dwarf the socialist experiment of Tanzania under the leadership of Nyerere.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi with over 1 million inhabitants

Today, some 60 percent of Kenyans live in slums; some of the toughest in Africa. Some of these ‘settlements’, like Mathare and Kibera are housing at least one million people, in the most despicable, terrible conditions. Four years ago, when I was making my documentary film, in these slums, for South American network TeleSUR, I wrote:

…Officially, there is peace in Kenya. For decades, Kenya functioned as a client state of the West, implementing a savage market regime, hosting foreign military bases. Billions of dollars were made here. But almost nowhere on earth is the misery more brutal than here.

Two years earlier, while filming my “Tumaini” near Kisumu city and the Uganda border, I saw entire hamlets standing empty like ghosts. The people had vanished, died – from AIDS and hunger. But it was still called peace.

US med experiments in Haiti

Peace it was when the US military medics were operating under the open sky, on desperately poor and sick Haitians, in the notorious slum of Cité Soleil. I saw and photographed a woman, laid on a makeshift table, having her tumor removed using only local anesthetics. I asked the North American doctors, why is it like this? I knew there was a top-notch military facility two minutes away.

“This is as close as we get to real combat situation”, one doctor replied, frankly. “For us, this is great training.”

After the surgery was over, the woman got up, and supported by her frightened husband, walked away towards the bus stop.”

Yes, all this is, officially, peace.

*****

In Beirut, Lebanon, I recently participated in discussion about “Ecology of War”, a scientific and philosophical concept created by several AUB Medical Center doctors from the Middle East. Doctor Ghassan ‘Gus’ Abu-Sitta, the head of the Plastic Surgery Department at the AUB Medical Center in Lebanon, explained:

The misery is war. The destruction of the strong state leads to conflict. A great number of people on our Planet actually live in some conflict or war, without even realizing it: in slums, in thoroughly collapsed states, or in refugee camps.

During my work, in almost all devastated corners of the world, I saw much worse things than what I described above. Perhaps I saw too much – all that ‘peace’ which has been tearing limbs from the victims, all those burning huts and howling women, or children dying from diseases and hunger before they reach their teens.

I wrote about war and peace at length, in my 840-page book Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

When you do what I do, you become like a doctor: you can only stand all those horrors and suffering, because you are here to help, to expose reality, and to shame the world. You have no right to decompose, to collapse, to fall and to cry.

But what you cannot stand is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is ‘bulletproof’. It cannot be illuminated by correct arguments, by logic and by examples. Hypocrisy in the West is often ignorant, but mostly it is just self-serving.

So, what is real peace for the people in Europe and North America? The answer is simple: It is a state of things in which as few Western people as possible are killed or injured. A state of things in which the flow of resources from the poor, plundered and colonized countries is pouring, uninterrupted, predominantly to Europe and North America.

The price for such peace? How many African, Latin American or Asian people die as a result of such arrangement of the world, is thoroughly irrelevant.

Peru – Lima:  Is it really peace?

Peace is when the business interests of the West are not endangered, even if tens of millions of non-white human beings would vanish in the process.

Peace is when the West can, unopposed, control the world, politically, economically, ideologically and ‘culturally’.

“War” is when there is rebellion. War is when the people of plundered countries say “No!”. War is when they suddenly refuse to be raped, robbed, indoctrinated and murdered.

When such a scenario takes place the West’s immediate reaction ‘to restore peace’ is to overthrow the government in the country which is trying to take care of its people. To bomb schools and hospitals, to destroy supply of fresh water and electricity and to throw millions into total misery and agony.

As the West may soon do to North Korea (DPRK), to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran – some of the countries that are being, for now, ‘only’ tormented by sanctions and, foreign -sponsored, deadly “opposition”. In the Western lexicon, “peace” is synonymous to “submission”. To a total, unconditional submission. Anything else is war or could potentially lead to war.

For the oppressed, devastated countries, including those in Africa, to call for resistance, would be, at least in the Western lexicon, synonymous with the “call for violence”, therefore illegal. As ‘illegal’ as the calls were for resistance in the countries occupied by German Nazi forces during the WWII. It would be, therefore, logical to call the Western approach and state of mind, “fundamentalist”, and thoroughly aggressive.

{Originally, in a slightly shorter version, published by RT ]

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Peace is a Cliché: When the West cannot Control the World Unopposed it Means War

The West likes to think of itself as a truly “peace-loving part of the world”. But is it? You hear it everywhere, from Europe to North America, then to Australia, and back to Europe: “Peace, peace, peace!”

It has become a cliché, a catchphrase, a recipe to get funding and sympathy and support. You say peace and you really cannot go wrong. It means that you are a compassionate and reasonable human being.

After addressing East African left wing opposition at Venezuelan embassy

Every year, there are “peace conferences” taking place everywhere where peace is worshipped, and even demanded. I recently attended one, as a keynote speaker, on the west coast of Denmark.

If a heavy-duty war correspondent like myself attends them, he or she gets shocked. What is usually discussed are superficial, feel-good topics.

At best, ‘how bad capitalism is’, and how ‘everything is about oil’. Nothing about the genocidal culture of the West. Nothing about continuous, centuries-long plunders and benefits that virtually all Westerners have been getting from it.

At worst, it is all about how bad the world is – “all people are the same” cliché. And, also, there are increasingly, bizarre, uninformed outbursts against China and Russia which are often labeled by Western neo-cons as “threat” and “rival powers”.

Participants of these gatherings agree “Peace is Good”, and “War is Bad”. This is followed by standing ovations and patting each other on the back. Few heartfelt tears are dropped.

However, reasons behind these displays are rarely questioned. After all, who would be asking for war? Who’d crave for violence, terrible injuries and death? Who’d want to see leveled, charred cities and abandoned, crying infants? It all appears to be very simple, and very logical.

A three year old Iraqi child with cancer, Mohammed, in Kos, Greece

But then, why do we not hear too often that “peace speech” pouring from the devastated and still de facto colonized African or the Middle Eastern countries? Aren’t they suffering the most? Shouldn’t they be dreaming about the peace? Or are all of us, perhaps, missing the main point?

My friend, a great Indian writer and thinker, Arundhati Roy wrote, in 2001, reacting to the Western “War on Terror”:

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” America’s favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: “We’re a peaceful people.” So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.

When it comes from the lips of the Westerners, is ‘peace’ really peace, is ‘war’ really a war?

Are people in that ‘free and democratic West’, still allowed to ask such questions? Or is the war and peace perception just a part of the dogma that is not allowed to be questioned and is ‘protected’ by both the Western culture and its laws?

Afghan kid from slums

I’m not in the West, and I don’t want to be. Therefore, I’m not sure what they are allowed to say or to question there. But we, those lucky people who are ‘outside’ and therefore not fully conditioned, controlled and indoctrinated, will definitely not stop asking these questions anytime soon; or to be precise, never!

*****

Recently, through Whatsapp, I received a simple chain of messages from my East African friends and Comrades – mostly young left-wing, revolutionary opposition leaders, thinkers and activists:

Free Africa is a socialist Africa! We are ready for war! The young Africans are on fire! Death to the imperialist forces! Viva Bolivarian revolution! South-South Cooperation! Today we take the battle to the streets! Africa Must Unite!

Such statements would sound almost ‘violent’ and therefore could be even be classified as ‘illegal’, if pronounced openly in the West. Someone could end up in Guantanamo for this, or in a ‘secret CIA prison’. A few weeks ago, I directly addressed these young people – leaders of the left-wing East African opposition – at the Venezuelan Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Yes, they were boiling, they were outraged, determined and ready.

For those who are not too familiar with the continent, Kenya has been, for years and decades, an outpost of the British, US and even Israeli imperialism in East Africa. It was playing the same role that West Germany used to play during the Cold War – a window shopping paradise, stuffed with luxury goods and services.

In the past, Kenya was supposed to dwarf the socialist experiment of Tanzania under the leadership of Nyerere.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi with over 1 million inhabitants

Today, some 60 percent of Kenyans live in slums; some of the toughest in Africa. Some of these ‘settlements’, like Mathare and Kibera are housing at least one million people, in the most despicable, terrible conditions. Four years ago, when I was making my documentary film, in these slums, for South American network TeleSUR, I wrote:

…Officially, there is peace in Kenya. For decades, Kenya functioned as a client state of the West, implementing a savage market regime, hosting foreign military bases. Billions of dollars were made here. But almost nowhere on earth is the misery more brutal than here.

Two years earlier, while filming my “Tumaini” near Kisumu city and the Uganda border, I saw entire hamlets standing empty like ghosts. The people had vanished, died – from AIDS and hunger. But it was still called peace.

US med experiments in Haiti

Peace it was when the US military medics were operating under the open sky, on desperately poor and sick Haitians, in the notorious slum of Cité Soleil. I saw and photographed a woman, laid on a makeshift table, having her tumor removed using only local anesthetics. I asked the North American doctors, why is it like this? I knew there was a top-notch military facility two minutes away.

“This is as close as we get to real combat situation”, one doctor replied, frankly. “For us, this is great training.”

After the surgery was over, the woman got up, and supported by her frightened husband, walked away towards the bus stop.”

Yes, all this is, officially, peace.

*****

In Beirut, Lebanon, I recently participated in discussion about “Ecology of War”, a scientific and philosophical concept created by several AUB Medical Center doctors from the Middle East. Doctor Ghassan ‘Gus’ Abu-Sitta, the head of the Plastic Surgery Department at the AUB Medical Center in Lebanon, explained:

The misery is war. The destruction of the strong state leads to conflict. A great number of people on our Planet actually live in some conflict or war, without even realizing it: in slums, in thoroughly collapsed states, or in refugee camps.

During my work, in almost all devastated corners of the world, I saw much worse things than what I described above. Perhaps I saw too much – all that ‘peace’ which has been tearing limbs from the victims, all those burning huts and howling women, or children dying from diseases and hunger before they reach their teens.

I wrote about war and peace at length, in my 840-page book Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

When you do what I do, you become like a doctor: you can only stand all those horrors and suffering, because you are here to help, to expose reality, and to shame the world. You have no right to decompose, to collapse, to fall and to cry.

But what you cannot stand is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is ‘bulletproof’. It cannot be illuminated by correct arguments, by logic and by examples. Hypocrisy in the West is often ignorant, but mostly it is just self-serving.

So, what is real peace for the people in Europe and North America? The answer is simple: It is a state of things in which as few Western people as possible are killed or injured. A state of things in which the flow of resources from the poor, plundered and colonized countries is pouring, uninterrupted, predominantly to Europe and North America.

The price for such peace? How many African, Latin American or Asian people die as a result of such arrangement of the world, is thoroughly irrelevant.

Peru – Lima:  Is it really peace?

Peace is when the business interests of the West are not endangered, even if tens of millions of non-white human beings would vanish in the process.

Peace is when the West can, unopposed, control the world, politically, economically, ideologically and ‘culturally’.

“War” is when there is rebellion. War is when the people of plundered countries say “No!”. War is when they suddenly refuse to be raped, robbed, indoctrinated and murdered.

When such a scenario takes place the West’s immediate reaction ‘to restore peace’ is to overthrow the government in the country which is trying to take care of its people. To bomb schools and hospitals, to destroy supply of fresh water and electricity and to throw millions into total misery and agony.

As the West may soon do to North Korea (DPRK), to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran – some of the countries that are being, for now, ‘only’ tormented by sanctions and, foreign -sponsored, deadly “opposition”. In the Western lexicon, “peace” is synonymous to “submission”. To a total, unconditional submission. Anything else is war or could potentially lead to war.

For the oppressed, devastated countries, including those in Africa, to call for resistance, would be, at least in the Western lexicon, synonymous with the “call for violence”, therefore illegal. As ‘illegal’ as the calls were for resistance in the countries occupied by German Nazi forces during the WWII. It would be, therefore, logical to call the Western approach and state of mind, “fundamentalist”, and thoroughly aggressive.

{Originally, in a slightly shorter version, published by RT ]

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Canada’s NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Political Violence

We should be concerned about Jagmeet Singh’s support for political violence. But not the stuff that’s making news. While the media makes much of the new NDP head’s ties/indifference to Sikh violence, they’ve ignored Singh’s leadership of a party/community that has repeatedly backed Canadian aggression.

In a Rabble story on the controversy, Karl Nerenberg described Singh as the “leader of a party that has throughout its history favoured peaceful and non-violent solutions.” As such, Nerenberg called on the NDP leader to “make a stronger statement against any use of violence in furtherance of Sikh goals.”

While not downplaying the terrible human loss in the 1985 Air India bombing or disagreeable aspects of the Khalistan movement, it’s more salient to know Singh’s position on Canadian violence. Contrary to Nerenberg’s claim, the NDP has repeatedly supported Canadian aggression.

Seven years ago the NDP wholeheartedly endorsed bombing Libya, a quarter century ago it applauded the bombing of Serbia and in 1950 it cheerlead Canadian participation in the Korean War. At the beginning of the century important elements of the party backed Canada’s deployment to Afghanistan and the NDP was ambivalent towards Canadian-assisted violence in Haiti.

After the Communists took control of China in 1949 the US tried to encircle the country. They supported Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, built military bases in Japan, backed a right-wing dictator in Thailand and tried to establish a pro-Western state in Vietnam. The success of China’s nationalist revolution also spurred the 1950-1953 Korean War in which eight Canadian warships and 27,000 Canadian troops participated. The war left as many as four million dead.

The NDP’s predecessor, the CCF, endorsed the US-led (though UN sanctioned) war in Korea. Deputy leader and party spokesperson Stanley Knowles immediately endorsed the deployment of Canadian naval units to the Western Pacific, which the government sent in case they “might be of assistance to the United Nations and Korea.” Before Ottawa committed ground troops the CCF Executive Council called for them. The CCF started to shift its position on the Korean War when Washington had the UN condemn Chinese “aggression” six months into the fighting.

The NDP backed Canada’s significant contribution to NATO’s 1999 bombing of the former Yugoslavia. Contravening international law, the 78-day bombing campaign killed hundreds and spurred the ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars NATO officials claimed to be curbing. The party only turned critical over a month after the bombing began.

Important elements within the NDP initially supported Canada’s October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Two days after the George W. Bush administration declared war, NDP leader Alexa McDonough and defence critic Peter Stoffer issued a “joint statement”, saying they “completely back the men and women in the Canadian military assigned to the U.S. coalition.”

The NDP was wishy-washy on the February 29, 2004, US/France/Canada coup in Haiti and violence that followed. In the days after the US/France/Canada military invasion NDP foreign critic Svend Robinson called for an investigation into Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s removal and asked if “regime change in Haiti” was discussed at the January 2003 Ottawa Initiative on Haiti, where high level US, Canadian and French officials deliberated on overthrowing the elected President. But, subsequent foreign critic Alexa McDonough largely stayed mum as Canada offered military, policing, diplomatic and financial support to a dictatorship and UN force that killed thousands violently suppressing Port au Prince’s poor (pro-Aristide) neighborhoods.

In 2011 the party supported two House of Commons votes endorsing the bombing of Libya. “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said party leader Jack Layton. But, the NATO bombing campaign was justified based on exaggerations and outright lies about the Gaddafi regime’s human rights violations as I discuss in detail in The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Additionally, NATO forces explicitly contravened the UN resolutions sanctioning a no-fly zone by dispatching troops and expanding the bombing far beyond protecting civilians.

Canada also defied UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 by selling drones to the rebels. After Gaddafi was savagely killed, NDP leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Beyond this history, there are good reasons to fear Singh will support Canadian aggression. During the leadership race he allied himself with pro-US Empire MP Hélène Laverdière and subsequently reappointed the former Canadian diplomat as NDP foreign critic. At last month’s party convention he mobilized supporters to suppress debate on the widely endorsed Palestine Resolution. Singh has also said little (or nothing) about Canada’s new defence policy, which includes a substantial boost to military spending and offensive capabilities.

In the interests of a first do no harm Canadian foreign policy, it’s time for a comprehensive discussion of Singh’s views on political violence.

Shakespeare said it best

Much ado about nothing.

That’s the “Russian interference” in the 2016 American election.

A group of Russians operating from a building in St. Petersburg, we are told in a February 16 US government indictment, sent out tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings, etc. to gain support for Trump and hurt Clinton even though most of these messages did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

The Russian-interference indictment is predicated, apparently, on the idea that the United States is a backward, Third-World, Banana Republic, easily manipulated.

If the Democrats think it’s so easy and so effective to sway voters in the United States why didn’t the party do better?

At times the indictment tells us that the online advertising campaign, led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency of Russia, was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election. The Russians supposedly wished to cause “divisiveness” in the American people, particularly around controversial issues such as immigration, politics, energy policy, climate change, and race. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry. “We must not allow them to succeed.”1

Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

After the election of Trump as president in November 2016, the defendants “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment also states that defendants in New York organized a demonstration designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, defendants and their co-conspirators, organized another rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President”.

Much of the indictment and the news reports of the past year are replete with such contradictions, lending credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.2

The Russian operation began four years ago, well before Trump entered the presidential race, a fact that he quickly seized on in his defense. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Point 95 of the Indictment summarizes the “click-bait” scheme as follows:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

Although there’s no doubt that the Kremlin favored Trump over Clinton, the whole “Russian influence” storm may be based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in US social networks.

Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns

[Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]

Philippines, 1950s:

Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.

Italy, 1948-1970s:

Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.

Lebanon, 1950s:

The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.

Indonesia, 1955:

A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.

Vietnam, 1955:

The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.

British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:

For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.

Japan, 1958-1970s:

The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.

Nepal, 1959:

By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.

Laos, 1960:

CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.

Brazil, 1962:

The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.

Dominican Republic, 1962:

In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”

As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.

Guatemala, 1963:

The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.

Bolivia, 1966:

The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.

Chile, 1964-70:

Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.

Portugal, 1974-5:

In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.

Australia, 1974-75:

Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.

Jamaica, 1976:

A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.

Panama, 1984, 1989:

In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.

Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:

In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.

Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.

Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.

Haiti, 1987-1988:

After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.

Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:

With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.

Russia, 1996:

For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.

Mongolia, 1996:

The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.

Bosnia, 1998:

Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardian of London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”

Nicaragua, 2001

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”

At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”

In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.

Bolivia, 2002

The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.

Slovakia, 2002

To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.

El Salvador, 2004

Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.

Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.

After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.

Afghanistan, 2004

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”

“Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.

None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.

The Cold War Forever

On March 7 British police said that a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, a city southwest of London. The police said that Skripal had been “targeted specifically” with a nerve agent. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain. He was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Because nerve agents are complex to make, they are typically not made by individuals, but rather by states. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the Skripal case had “echoes” of what happened to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB Operative who British officials believe was poisoned in London by Russian agents in 2006, becoming the first victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Before he died, he spoke about the misdeeds of the Russian secret service and delivered public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady.

Because of this the Skripal poisoning looks like an open-and-shut case.

But hold on. Skripal was sent to Britain by the Russian government eight years ago in an exchange of spies. Why would they want to kill him now, and with Putin’s election coming up? And with the quadrennial football (soccer) World Cup coming up soon to be played in Russia. Moscow is very proud of this, publicizing it every day on their international television stations (RT in the US). A murder like this could surely put a serious damper on the Moscow festivities. Boris Johnson has already dropped a threat: “Thinking ahead to the World Cup this July, this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way and we would certainly have to consider that.”3 It was totally predictable.

Because political opposition is weak, and no obvious threat to the ruling United Russia Party, what would the government gain by an assassination of an opposition figure?

So if Russia is not responsible for Skripal’s poisoning, who is? Well, I have an idea. I can’t give you the full name of the guilty party, but its initials are CIA. US-Russian Cold Wars produce unmitigated animosity. As but one example, the United States boycotted the Olympics that were held in the Soviet Union in 1980, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union then boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ideology and Evolution

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet recently declared: “I think we are pro-capitalism. The New York Times is in favor of capitalism because it has been the greatest engine of, it’s been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we’ve seen.”4 The man is correct as far as he goes. But there are two historical factors that enter into this discussion that he fails to consider:

    1. Socialism may well have surpassed capitalism as an anti-poverty program and engine of progress if the United States and other capitalist powers had not subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening capital imperialists.
    2. Evolution: Social and economic systems have evolved along with human beings. Humankind has roughly gone from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. There’s no reason to assume that this evolution has come to a grinding halt, particularly given the deep-seated needs of the world in the face of one overwhelming problem after another, most caused by putting profit before people.
  1. New York Times, February 16, 2018.
  2. Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme,” Moon of Alabama, February 17, 2018.
  3. The Independent (London), March 6, 2018.
  4. Huffington Post, February 27, 2018.

US State Department no Longer wants Elections in Venezuela

Anti-imperialist mural in Caracas (Photo: Venezuelanalysis)

With presidential elections announced in Venezuela, the US State Department moved quickly to declare that the contest was illegitimate and that its results would not be recognised. But less than a year ago the tune was quite different, as a cursory look through State Department briefings and press releases will show. We also examine how political developments from the past year have led to the current scenario, and how US demands for “free and fair” elections are not only arrogant and hypocritical but also misleading.

*****

We begin by taking a look at what the US State Department was constantly saying less than a year ago. We could equally document the statements of the OAS and its secretary Luis Almagro, the Venezuelan opposition, US-allied regional governments, or the mainstream media. But it is easier to just go to the source. Sadly, when it comes to Venezuela, none of the mainstream actors and media will deviate from the State Department.

As violent opposition protests raged on in the Spring of 2017, there were repeated calls for immediate elections:

“President Maduro […] should hold elections as soon as possible.” (March 29)

“We call for the government of Venezuela to […] hold elections as soon as possible” (March 30)

“We […] echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections” (April 10)

“We call again upon the Government of Venezuela to […] hold prompt elections” (April 18)

“It’s the Venezuelan people who should decide Venezuela’s future, which is why we once again call on the Venezuelan authorities to promptly hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” (May 2)

“…what people are asking for today, which is for national presidential elections to restore legitimacy to whomever might rule Venezuela moving forward.” (May 30)

“The United States has joined with a growing number of courageous 1 democracies in our region to urge the Venezuelan Government to hold free elections” (June 20)          

US officials were adamant that elections were the only legitimate way forward.

“How is legitimacy defined in a democracy? Through elections.” (May 30)

“At the end of the day, it’s all about consensus. It’s about finding a way forward for Venezuelans to depolarize their situation, and the best way to do that is through elections.” (May 30)

“Venezuela needs consensus. It needs a genuine consensus or at least a legitimate path forward. That’s what elections provide.” (June 19)

So what happened since then to make the US no longer believe that elections should be held tomorrow? Maduro made a bold gambit of calling elections for a Constituent Assembly to solve the country’s problems. The Venezuelan opposition decided not to participate and vowed to stop those elections from taking place. They miserably failed, and on July 30 over 8 million people voted in what was a remarkable show of strength by chavismo.

From that point both the opposition and the US were trapped, unable to move on from their blunder. And soon cracks started to open. After months of violent protests claiming that the “dictatorship” was about to be overthrown, the opposition then turned to its supporters and asked them to go and vote in regional elections. The result was a disaster, with chavismo winning 18 out of 23 states. The opposition could not muster more than the usual vacuous claims of fraud, and then (mostly) boycotted the December municipal elections, which resulted in a chavista sweep of over 90% of the municipalities.

With the political momentum on its side, the government decided to schedule presidential elections for April 22. According to Jorge Rodríguez, head of the government’s delegation in the Dominican Republic dialogue, this date was agreed with the opposition MUD representatives. But with opposition figures more discredited than ever the US decided to pre-emptively unrecognise the vote, simply because an opposition victory is far from guaranteed.Henri Falcón registering his candidacy with the electoral authorities (Photo: Correo del Orinoco)

In the end the main opposition parties followed suit in boycotting the election, but former Lara governor Henri Falcón broke ranks and registered as a candidate. The MUD promptly expelled him, and the US allegedly threatened him with sanctions to stop him from running. Ironically, as a former chavista, Falcón might be the ideal “moderate” opposition candidate to attract the votes of disaffected chavistas. But the imperial masters are past hedging their bets, they are all-in for regime change.

After talks with Falcón and the forces backing him, the vote was postponed to May 20. The MUD doubled down on their position that “there are no opposition candidates” in this election, and up to now there has been no reaction from the State Department. At the same time it is hard to read this as anything but a move to further sideline the MUD after they backed out of the dialogue to stick to the hardline coming from Washington.

“Free and fair” elections

We should also take a moment to refute the US assertions about elections not being “free and fair” and the presence of international observers. The “free and fair” demand means to discredit all previous electoral processes, whose results did not please the US. Nevertheless, as many people outside the mainstream media have explained, the Venezuelan voting system is as hard to fool as it gets. In all the elections where the opposition decided to take part they got to place their observers in every voting centre. Tens of thousands of audits took place to match the electronic and paper tallies, witnessed and approved by these opposition observers, and there has not been a single allegation of tampering with the vote count.2

We could argue that the government makes use of state resources in its political campaigns. While this would hardly be exclusive to Venezuela, we should contend that the opposition has also made use of government resources, they just happened to come from the US government through its array of NED and USAID “democracy promoting”, “civil society building” programs, and that is just the overt part of it. Complaints about media coverage are also absurd when private media has the largest share of viewership and circulation and is overwhelmingly against the government, to say nothing about international media.

The demand for international monitoring is, at best, very dishonest from the State Department. First of all, despite the opposition walking away at the 11th hour, Maduro vowed to implement what had been agreed in the Dominican Republic dialogue, which included an open invitation for international observers to come to Venezuela for the upcoming election.

But that is not to say that previous elections did not have international observers. Organisations such as the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) have been present and endorsed the procedures, as well as other observers from multiple countries, Latin American and otherwise. The problem is that they do not dance to the tune of the US State Department.

Opposition leader Julio Borges and OAS secretary General Luis Almagro (Photo: Primero Justicia)

It is absurd to claim that the presence of the OAS is a boost for fairness and transparency. We do not even have to look very far, just take the recent elections in Honduras. Massive, documented fraud allowed Juan Orlando Hernández to revert what was an irreversible trend in favour of his opponent. Having the US empire on your side will allow you to overrule statistics. This was so blatant that even the OAS and EU missions had to raise questions. But in the end Hernández was declared the winner, the State Department gave its approval and all these champions of democracy fell in line.

An even more shameful event took place in the Haiti presidential election of 2011. After the first round, the US (through the OAS), simply ordered the Haitian authorities to advance Michel Martelly to the second round, despite him not being one of the two most voted in the first round. They threatened to cut off all aid if this did not happen. So when these officials talk about the OAS as some guarantor of decency, not even they believe it themselves.

Democracy and elections

A small digression: we do not mean to equate democracy with elections like US officials constantly do in the above statements. The Venezuelan leaders have on occasion also fallen for this reductionism. Whether they believe it or not, it is the most obvious way to expose the western hypocrisy on the matter.

This reduction of democracy to voting has been one of the biggest triumphs of capitalist hegemony. People are effectively convinced that their entire political participation should be the single act of marking a cross on a ballot every 4 or 5 years. Politics is thus detached from the rest of society and “commodified” like everything else in capitalism, with campaigns becoming mere advertising shows and the wealthiest literally buying their influence.

The Bolivarian Revolution is revolutionary precisely because it challenged the inevitability of representative politics and opened new spaces for protagonist, participatory democratic experiments. From the communes to workers councils, even to the constituent processes, and despite the natural contradictions that have emerged, we have seen an expansion of democracy in its literal sense – popular power.

President Maduro registered his candidacy surrounded by thousands of supporters (Photo: Venezuelan Ministry for Communications and Information)

Hands Off Venezuela!

In the end it seems like the ideal scenario for the US would be something like the Yemeni model: a single, US-backed candidate on the ballot. With elections coming up this year in key US allied countries (Brazil, Colombia and Mexico), all of which have the potential to bring to power someone less friendly to US interests, the US cannot afford a defeat in Venezuela.

These arrogant, imperial demands that the Venezuelan elections should satisfy are just meant to provide cover for the growing threats and aggression against Venezuela, and the uncritical echo chamber that the media has become on this matter is a crucial asset. With suggestions of an upcoming oil embargo against Venezuela, at this point the goal is clearly to impose as much suffering as possible on the Venezuelans in order to topple the government.

For all its lofty rhetoric, the State Department is not looking out for the well-being of the Venezuelan people. Neither are its Venezuelan and regional puppets, nor the mainstream media, whose positions are simply State Department communiques with make-up. Standing up to these shameless imperialist attacks is essential if we wish to stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan poor and working-class, allowing them to freely choose their path, both in the upcoming elections and beyond.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. “Courageous” is not the first adjective that comes to mind regarding lapdogs.
  2. A possible exception is the gubernatorial race in the state of Bolívar last October, where some electoral acts were circulated on social media showing a mismatch with regard to the electronic totals in the CNE website. But, perhaps because it would undermine the other constant claims of fraud, the opposition did not press the case.

Toronto Maple Leafs go Full Military

Hey, Maple Leafs, be careful what traditions you honour.

On Saturday the Leafs are playing an outdoor game against the Washington Capitals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. To mark the occasion the team created a jersey with the Royal Canadian Navy’s “Ready, Aye, Ready” motto on it. The website unveiling the sweaters includes a brief history of the RCN, and Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said the jerseys were designed to honour “the traditions of the Royal Canadian Navy” whose sailors “stand always ready to defend Canada and proudly safeguard its interests and values whether at home or abroad.”

Sounds all maple syrupy, but there are a couple of nagging questions: Whose “interests and values” are we talking about? Should we honour all their traditions?

For example, in 1917 the Royal Bank loaned $200,000 to unpopular Costa Rican dictator Federico Tinoco just as he was about to flee the country. A new government refused to repay, saying the Canadian bank knew Tinoco was likely to steal it. “In 1921,” reports Royal Military College historian Sean Maloney in Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy, “Aurora, Patriot and Patrician helped the Royal Bank of Canada satisfactorily settle an outstanding claim with the government of that country.”

In 1932 RCN destroyers Skeena and Vancouver assisted a month-old military coup government that brutally suppressed a peasant and indigenous rebellion in El Salvador. London had informed Ottawa that a “communist” uprising was underway and there was a “possibility of danger to British Banks, railways and other British lives and property” as well as a Canadian-owned utility. Bolstered by the RCN’s presence, the military regime would commit “one of the worst massacres of civilians in the history of the Americas.”

In 1963 two Canadian naval vessels joined US, British and French warships, reports Maloney, that “conducted landing exercises up to the [Haiti’s] territorial limit several times with the express purpose of intimidating the Duvalier government.” That mission was largely aimed at guaranteeing that Haiti did not make any moves towards Cuba and that a Cuban-inspired guerrilla movement did not seize power.

Two years later thousands of US troops invaded the Dominican Republic to stop a left-wing government from taking office. Alongside the US invasion, a Canadian warship was sent to Santo Domingo in April 1965, in the words of Defence Minister Paul Hellyer, “to stand by in case it is required.”

After dispatching three vessels during the First Iraq war in 1991 Canadian warships were part of US carrier battle groups enforcing brutal sanctions. In 1998 HMCS Toronto was deployed to support US airstrikes on Iraq. In the months just before and after the second US-led invasion of Iraq at least ten Canadian naval vessels conducted maritime interdictions, force-support and force-projection operations in the Arabian Sea. Canadian frigates often accompanied US warships used as platforms for bombing raids in Iraq. A month before the commencement of the US invasion, Canada sent a command and control destroyer to the Persian Gulf to take charge of Taskforce 151 — the joint allied naval command. Opinion sought by the Liberal government concluded that taking command of Taskforce 151 could make Canada legally at war with Iraq.

In 2011 HMCS Charlottetown and Vancouver were dispatched to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya. But, they allowed weapons, including from Canadian companies, to flow to anti-Gaddafi rebels. They also helped destroy Libyan government naval vessels.

Last summer HMCS Ottawa and Winnipeg participated in “freedom of navigation” operations alongside US, Japanese, Australian and other countries’ warships in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Chinese vessels responded by “shadowing” the Canadian vessels for 36 hours.

The honest truth is that the RCN is employed mostly to advance corporate and Western geostrategic interests, something many of us would prefer not to honour.

Prostituting Charity: The Oxfam Debate

Oxfam has outdone itself.  In the murky, squalid business where charity seems to chase, then embed itself in disaster zones like a dedicated virus, Oxfam ranks highly.  In terms of a tally, the number of reported abuses in the charity sector is galloping ahead, with one of Britain’s most noted charities in the lead.

The revelations this month that the charity’s staff sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a point subsequently concealed, have triggered a storm of British discontent.  The revelations included a very active country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who revelled in sex parties as he went about his humanitarian work.  Allegations of sexual abuse in Oxfam shops have also made their searing mark.

The organisation has lost over 7,000 donors since the revelations, and MPs on the international development committee overseeing aid have been unimpressed. The Charity Commission may well have been misled by former executives Dame Barbara Stocking and Penny Lawrence.

Oxfam’s CEO, Mark Goldring, is all apologies, notably after remarking in an interview with The Guardian that the charity was being attacked as if “we murdered babies in their cots.  Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feel out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it.”

The official line from the organisation was more humbling, though prefaced by an insistence that measures of reform had been implemented. “It is clear we still have not done enough to change our own culture and to create the strongest possible policies to protect people we work with globally. We are doing that right now.  But we must do much more and act with greater urgency.”

On the other side of the moral saviour is the self-helping abuser.  Such figures have needs and callings.  The squalid reality soon manifests.  Vulnerability is less there to be alleviated than cultivated, teased into an ongoing relationship between the victim and the touted rescuer.  Historically, however, the mission of rescue can be broadly seen as part of the stock idea of the civilising project.  The modern humanitarian project is a colonialism of the emotions, pornogrified guilt that finds refuge in despair.

It is precisely such a civilising mission that was said to cause debility and emotional decay. The obligated civilisers, in engaging their burdensome task, would encounter harsh environments, uncompromising geography and problematic natives.

It was precisely such background that provided the alibi and apologia for the white civilizer’s bad behaviour read against noble necessity. Geographer Ellsworth Huntington suggested in Civilization and Climate (1915) that temperate zones engendered mental stimulation while tropical climates induced “tropical inertia”.

The focus of such geographers and the odd enthused quack was an insistence on justifiable degeneracy as an occupational hazard.  “Tropical neurasthenia” was one term coined by Charles Woodruff in his 1905 work The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, emphasising the preponderance of insanity amongst certain US soldiers based in the Philippines. (Those based in cooler regions evinced fewer problems.)

“According to the man’s complexion and general resistance to this exhaustion from increased metabolism and effects of the light may be so slight as to show mere enervation, or nervous weakness being more marked in older men.”  Such studies served to bolster the views of Benjamin Kidd, a British sociologist who insisted that peoples from temperate zones could never adjust to tropical climes.

Taking such factors into account, and the modern, heart bleeding charity worker becomes a colonial builder.  Such a figure is part of the modern industry of rescue, dressed up as a charitable exercise.  According to Afua Hirsch, theories such as tropical neurasthenia may well have fallen out after the Second World War, “but to this day our understanding of countries that receive humanitarian assistance is still deeply grounded in the same colonial thinking.”

Even those considered voraciously read and enlightened on the problems of empire find room, even if small, to defend such missions.  Poverty and disaster invite assumptions.  “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone,” pondered Cambridge classicist Mary Beard.  That statement, it should be added, followed on from, “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti or elsewhere.”

The Beard episode induced outrage.  Language police duly considered her use of inverted commas of civilisation as unwarranted and misguided.  Others chose to avoid seeing them.  Torrential abuse followed.

Fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal finessed a particularly brutal response, reflecting on her own place of employment.  Cambridge, that abode “where there is little direct abuse but plenty of genteel and patrician casual racism passing as frank and well-meaning observations.” Beard had done nothing to show contrition, indeed persisted in refusing “to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong” with such claims, supplemented by “bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers.”

Beard felt, a point she subsequently made in a blog for the Times Literary Supplement, she had been “guilty of a shorthand which misled.”  She duly concluded that it was “too easy to imagine that we are better than those who do the work we would be too scared to do.”  The implication of such a sentiment, framed as an obligatory task of the nobly decent, is clear: even those involved in rescue and inadvertent civilising are humans too.  Patrician morality is alive and kicking.

Prostituting Charity: The Oxfam Debate

Oxfam has outdone itself.  In the murky, squalid business where charity seems to chase, then embed itself in disaster zones like a dedicated virus, Oxfam ranks highly.  In terms of a tally, the number of reported abuses in the charity sector is galloping ahead, with one of Britain’s most noted charities in the lead.

The revelations this month that the charity’s staff sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a point subsequently concealed, have triggered a storm of British discontent.  The revelations included a very active country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who revelled in sex parties as he went about his humanitarian work.  Allegations of sexual abuse in Oxfam shops have also made their searing mark.

The organisation has lost over 7,000 donors since the revelations, and MPs on the international development committee overseeing aid have been unimpressed. The Charity Commission may well have been misled by former executives Dame Barbara Stocking and Penny Lawrence.

Oxfam’s CEO, Mark Goldring, is all apologies, notably after remarking in an interview with The Guardian that the charity was being attacked as if “we murdered babies in their cots.  Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feel out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it.”

The official line from the organisation was more humbling, though prefaced by an insistence that measures of reform had been implemented. “It is clear we still have not done enough to change our own culture and to create the strongest possible policies to protect people we work with globally. We are doing that right now.  But we must do much more and act with greater urgency.”

On the other side of the moral saviour is the self-helping abuser.  Such figures have needs and callings.  The squalid reality soon manifests.  Vulnerability is less there to be alleviated than cultivated, teased into an ongoing relationship between the victim and the touted rescuer.  Historically, however, the mission of rescue can be broadly seen as part of the stock idea of the civilising project.  The modern humanitarian project is a colonialism of the emotions, pornogrified guilt that finds refuge in despair.

It is precisely such a civilising mission that was said to cause debility and emotional decay. The obligated civilisers, in engaging their burdensome task, would encounter harsh environments, uncompromising geography and problematic natives.

It was precisely such background that provided the alibi and apologia for the white civilizer’s bad behaviour read against noble necessity. Geographer Ellsworth Huntington suggested in Civilization and Climate (1915) that temperate zones engendered mental stimulation while tropical climates induced “tropical inertia”.

The focus of such geographers and the odd enthused quack was an insistence on justifiable degeneracy as an occupational hazard.  “Tropical neurasthenia” was one term coined by Charles Woodruff in his 1905 work The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, emphasising the preponderance of insanity amongst certain US soldiers based in the Philippines. (Those based in cooler regions evinced fewer problems.)

“According to the man’s complexion and general resistance to this exhaustion from increased metabolism and effects of the light may be so slight as to show mere enervation, or nervous weakness being more marked in older men.”  Such studies served to bolster the views of Benjamin Kidd, a British sociologist who insisted that peoples from temperate zones could never adjust to tropical climes.

Taking such factors into account, and the modern, heart bleeding charity worker becomes a colonial builder.  Such a figure is part of the modern industry of rescue, dressed up as a charitable exercise.  According to Afua Hirsch, theories such as tropical neurasthenia may well have fallen out after the Second World War, “but to this day our understanding of countries that receive humanitarian assistance is still deeply grounded in the same colonial thinking.”

Even those considered voraciously read and enlightened on the problems of empire find room, even if small, to defend such missions.  Poverty and disaster invite assumptions.  “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone,” pondered Cambridge classicist Mary Beard.  That statement, it should be added, followed on from, “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti or elsewhere.”

The Beard episode induced outrage.  Language police duly considered her use of inverted commas of civilisation as unwarranted and misguided.  Others chose to avoid seeing them.  Torrential abuse followed.

Fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal finessed a particularly brutal response, reflecting on her own place of employment.  Cambridge, that abode “where there is little direct abuse but plenty of genteel and patrician casual racism passing as frank and well-meaning observations.” Beard had done nothing to show contrition, indeed persisted in refusing “to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong” with such claims, supplemented by “bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers.”

Beard felt, a point she subsequently made in a blog for the Times Literary Supplement, she had been “guilty of a shorthand which misled.”  She duly concluded that it was “too easy to imagine that we are better than those who do the work we would be too scared to do.”  The implication of such a sentiment, framed as an obligatory task of the nobly decent, is clear: even those involved in rescue and inadvertent civilising are humans too.  Patrician morality is alive and kicking.

Oxfam Sex Scandal and NGO Imperialism

Imagine living in a country where the entire social services sector is privatized, run by “charities” that are based in other countries and staffed by foreigners who get to decide whether or not you qualify for assistance.

Welcome to Haiti, the “Republic of NGOs.”

As salacious details about Oxfam officials hiring Haitian girls for sex make headlines, the media has downplayed NGOs’ lack of accountability to those they purportedly serve. Even less attention has been devoted to the role so-called non-governmental organizations have played in undermining the Haitian state and advancing wealthy countries’ interests.

According to a series of news reports, Oxfam UK’s Haiti director hired prostitutes and organized orgies at a charity run villa set up after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Some of the girls may have been as young as 14 and Oxfam representatives traded aid for sex. Oxfam UK leaders tried to keep the issue quiet when it emerged in 2011, which enabled a number of the perpetrators to join other NGOs operating internationally.

Since the earthquake there have been innumerable stories of NGOs abusing their power or pillaging funds raised for Haitians. In an extreme case, the US Red Cross built only six houses with the $500 million they raised for Haiti after the earthquake.

While impoverished Haitians get short shrift, NGOs respond to the interests of their benefactors. After the UN occupation force brought cholera to Haiti in October 2010, Oxfam and other NGOs defended the Washington-France–Canada instigated MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti). In response to Haitians protesting the UN’s role in the cholera outbreak, Oxfam spokeswoman Julie Schindall, told the Guardian “if the country explodes in violence, then we will not be able to reach the people we need to.” At the same time Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in Port-au-Prince, Stefano Zannini, told Montreal daily La Presse,our position is pragmatic: to have learnt the source at the beginning of the epidemic would not have saved more lives. To know today would have no impact either.”

Of course, that was nonsense. Confirming the source of the cholera was medically necessary. At the time of these statements UN forces were still disposing their sewage in a way that put Haitian life at risk. Protesting UN actions was a way to pressure MINUSTAH to stop their reckless sewage disposal and generate the resources needed to deal with a cholera outbreak that left 10,000 dead and one million ill.

Worse than deflecting criticism of the UN’s responsibility for the cholera outbreak, NGOs put a progressive face on the invasion/coup that initiated MINUSTAH. Incredibly, many NGOs justified US Marines taking an elected President from his home in the middle of the night and dumping him 10,000 km away in the Central African Republic.

On March 25, 2004 Oxfam Québec and a half dozen other Canadian government-funded NGOs defended Canada’s (military, diplomatic and financial) role in the ouster of thousands of elected officials, including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Marthe Lapierre of Development and Peace stated:

We’re not talking about a situation where a rebel group suddenly orchestrated Aristide’s departure. We’re talking about a situation where the Aristide government, since 2000, had gradually lost all legitimacy because of involvement in activities such as serious human rights violations and drug trafficking, but also because it was a profoundly undemocratic government.

Oxfam Québec regional director Carlos Arancibia concurred:

I fully agree with the analysis presented by others. It’s important to understand that things went off the rails starting in the year 2000, with the election.

(After they lost the May 2000 legislative elections the opposition claimed that the electoral Council should have used a different voting method, which would have forced eight Senate seats to a runoff. Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party would likely have won the runoff votes, but the US/Canada backed- opposition used the issue to justify boycotting the November 2000 presidential election, which they had zero chance of winning. For its part, Washington used the election dispute to justify blocking aid to the country. Even without the disputed senators, Fanmi Lavalas still had a majority in the senate and even when seven of the eight Lavalas senators resigned the aid embargo and effort to discredit the elections continued.)

At the time of the coup most of Haiti’s social services were run by NGOs. A Canadian International Development Agency report stated that by 2004, “non-governmental actors (for-profit and not-for-profit) provided almost 80 percent of [Haiti’s] basic services.” Amongst other donor countries, the Canadian government channelled its “development assistance” through NGOs to shape the country’s politics. According to CIDA, “supporting non-governmental actors contributed to the creation of parallel systems of service delivery. … In Haiti’s case, these actors [NGOs] were used as a way to circumvent the frustration of working with the government … this contributed to the establishment of parallel systems of service delivery, eroding legitimacy, capacity and will of the state to deliver key services.” As intended, funding NGOs weakened the Aristide/René Préval/Aristide governments and strengthened the US/France/Canada’s hand.

Highly dependent on western government funding and political support, NGOs broadly advanced their interests.

The Oxfam “sex scandal” should shine a light on the immense, largely unaccountable, power NGOs continue to wield over Haitian affairs. In a decent world it would also be a lesson in how not to use “aid” to undermine democracy.