Category Archives: Imperialism

The Islamic Republic of Iran at 41

Iran’s Islamic Revolution remains as bellwether, even though attempts to emulate it have not yet succeeded.

— Journalist Eric Walberg1

In number theory, 41 is a prime number meaning it is not divisible by any number except itself and one. Similarly, the Islamic Revolution in Iran so far has been unique in its success and indivisible unity of purpose, despite numerous attempts at sabotage by external and internal actors. At this prime age of 41, Iran is fully capable of charting an assertive leadership path to recapture the spirit and reaffirm the original goals of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, among which is the propagation of Islam to bring about social change for the welfare of all humanity.2

It is no minor accomplishment for the Islamic Republic of Iran to have maintained an independent geopolitical course for a period of forty one years in spite of the overwhelming diplomatic, economic and military pressure employed by the United States to force Tehran to cave in to the diktats of the Washington regime. Even before the erstwhile shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, had fled the country on January 17, 1979, U.S. air force general Robert E. “Dutch” Huyser had arrived on January 3 on a mission to test the waters for a rerun of the August 1953 coup, which had originally placed the U.S.-backed dictator in power in the first place.3

With the victory of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini (r) went on to found an Islamic Republic, whose constitution (Article 154) explicitly states that Iran “is concerned with the welfare of humanity as a whole and takes independence, liberty and sovereignty of justice and righteousness as the right of people in the world over.” Imam Khomeini was very clear in his view that “Islam is revealed for mankind,” and, therefore, the revolution must be exported.3 This concept, which raised fears of popular uprisings toppling the U.S.-abetted tyrants in the region and beyond, put the nascent Islamic Republic on a collision course with the Washington regime. Among the despotic leaders shaken by Iran’s Islamic Revolution was the U.S.-supported Iraqi dictator, Saddam, who denounced Imam Khomeini and called upon Iranian Arabs to revolt.4

If external threats to the newly established Islamic Republic weren’t enough, others arose internally. Massoumeh Ebtekar, who witnessed the revolution firsthand and is currently Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, recalled that “we were sure that foreign elements were actively involved in attempts to weaken and undermine the young republic.” To avert the suspected foreign plot to overthrow the Iranian government, a group of students, including now Vice President Ebtekar, decided to act, and on November 4, 1979 occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran and detained the staff.5 U.S. president Jimmy Carter responded ten days later by freezing US $12 billion’s worth of Iran’s assets in the U.S., and later banned all trade with and travel to Iran.6 Also affected were Iranian assets in U.S. banks in Britain, much of which were in Bank of America’s London branch.7 The following year on April 7, the U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Iran, and has never reinstated them.8 If Carter had not allowed the deposed shah entry to the U.S., the embassy takeover most likely would not have occurred.9

Another internal threat, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), was openly unhappy over the constitution, which, according to them, did not address their demands. After a humiliating defeat in the March and May 1980 parliamentary elections (no MeK candidates were elected),10 the MeK became increasingly belligerent over their lack of position in the new government, directing their frustration ever more violently towards members of the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), which had won a decisive victory in the elections. Despite the electoral defeat, the MeK openly backed Iran’s first president, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, however, following his removal from office for incompetency in June 1981, the MeK declared an armed struggle against the standing government. On June 28, 1981 and again on August 30, the MeK carried out terror bombing attacks against the IRP and government leaders. In 1986, the MeK moved its operations to Iraq and aligned itself with Saddam, who backed the terrorist group until being ousted by the U.S. invasion in 2003. To date, the Washington regime views the MeK as a viable means by which to overthrow the legitimate government of Iran.11

Following the student takeover of the U.S. embassy, which was later shown to be a nerve center for CIA espionage in the region,12 U.S. president Carter ordered a desperate mission on April 24, 1980 to invade Iran and free the hostages despite negotiations for their release still being in progress.13 The so-called hostage crisis and the U.S. president’s failed interventionist response provided a perpetual pretext for Washington’s vehemently vindictive view against reestablishing any level of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The 444-day crisis, according to sworn testimony by Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe, was a joint effort by the CIA and Mossad to delay the release of the 52 hostages and thereby ensure an electoral victory for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 U.S. presidential race.14

In the midst of the post-revolutionary struggle to establish a fully functioning Islamic government, Iraqi dictator Saddam, with U.S. blessing, attacked the fledgling Islamic Republic on September 22, 1980, imposing a costly 8-year-long war that consumed some 60 to 70 percent of Iran’s national budget, not to mention the suffering of the Iranian people and their sacrifices in defense of Iran and Islam.15 The economic impact of the war on Iran itself was enormous with estimated direct costs in the range of US $600 billion and total cost of US $1 trillion.16 In the course of this U.S.-supported war, chemical agents were used extensively for the first time since the First World War, resulting in the deaths of some 4,700 Iranians in a single attack. The U.S. also provided Saddam with biological agents such as anthrax and E. coli.17

Howard Teicher, director of political-military affairs for the U.S. National Security Council from 1982 to 1987, in an affidavit stated, “CIA Director [William] Casey personally spearheaded the effort to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war.” Teicher also testified that U.S. president Reagan had sent a secret message to Saddam advising him that “Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran.” Teicher’s sworn testimony provides strong evidence that the U.S. intent was for Saddam to bomb Iranian cities, thereby unavoidably targeting civilians.18

Saddam followed Reagan’s advice to the letter by launching eleven SCUD B missiles at Tehran on February 29, 1988. Over the next two weeks, more than 100 of Saddam’s missiles rained down upon the cities of Tehran, Qom and Isfahan along with bombing raids conducted against a total of 37 Iranian cities. Earlier in October 1987 and again in April 1988, the U.S. as part of its overt but undeclared war against the Islamic Republic, attacked Iranian ships and oil platforms under expanded rules of engagement.19 As a result of Washington’s designation of the Persian Gulf as essentially a free-fire zone for Iranian targets, the commander of the USS Vincennes, William C. Rogers, fired two missiles (after twenty-three failed attempts)20 at what he claimed was a military target but in fact was Iran Air Flight 655 carrying 290 civilian passengers from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. For downing the civilian airliner and killing all on board, Rogers was awarded the Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious service” for this appalling atrocity.21

Yet in spite of the near universal support given by the U.S. and its western minions to Saddam, the people of Iran rose up to defend their newly liberated land in what were termed “human wave attacks” in the western press. Giving their lives selflessly in the cause of defending Islam and Iran, these martyrs, whose numbers reached to half a million,22 struck fear in the black heart of Saddam and presented a conundrum to the materialistic west. Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar explains that martyrdom, while clearly understood in the Islamic world, “is incomprehensible and even pointless in materialist and atheistic cultures.”23

The incomprehensibility to most westerners of the spiritual basis of Iran’s Islamic Revolution leads to some interesting “anti-explanations.” Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina Charles Kurzman wrote, “After the Iranian Revolution, those who had considered the upheaval unthinkable became preoccupied with understanding how they could have been so mistaken.” After pointing out the shortcomings of the various political, economic, cultural and other explanations, Kurzman notes, “The more I learned about the Iranian Revolution, the more theoretical anomalies I discovered.” Yet this author acknowledges that 55 percent of educated, middle-class Iranians and 71 percent of others he interviewed spoke of Islam as being involved in their decision to participate in the revolution.24

Apparently, for secular-leaning western scholars, Islam cannot be accepted as the basis for an explanation of a successful revolution. For example, even Iranian expatriate scholar Ervand Abrahamian blames the Islamic Revolution on “overwhelming pressures” in Iranian society due to the shah, who “was sitting on such a volcano, having alienated almost every sector of society.”25 Downplaying the role of Islam in Iran’s revolution, Iranian expatriate scholar Asef Bayat insists that there was a “strong secular tendency,” which peaked in the 1970s. Bayat incredulously claims, “In Iran, an Islamic movement was in the making when it was interrupted by the Islamic revolution.”26 Other scholars date the origin of the Islamic movement in Iran to the tobacco crisis of 1890-1891, while Farhang Rejaee, a professor at the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam in Ottawa, Canada, points to the assassination of Nasr al-Din Shah in 1896.27

The current Islamic movement in Iran had begun on the 15th of Khordad, 1342 (June 5, 1963), predating the Islamic Revolution by some 15 years. In a June 1979 speech marking the anniversary of the 15th of Khordad uprising, Imam Khomeini specifically referred to the Islamic movement and its creation in the mosque network. “Who are they that wish to divert our Islamic movement from Islam?” asked the Imam. “It was the mosques that created this revolution,” he emphasized, adding. “It was the mosques that brought this [Islamic] movement into being.”28 Likewise refuting the theories of the western and westernized scholars, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar explains, “The secret of success of the Islamic Revolution of Iran also is naught but this: valuing the high ideals of Islam and of the Islamic humanities.” As to the failure of other revolutions, he blames “want of a sufficient depth in its spiritual dimension.” Finally, he affirms, “The revolutionary experience of Iran should indeed become a model for others to emulate.”29

By basing economics and social change on the solid foundation of Islam, Iran has achieved greater progress in many areas, such as reducing poverty, improving health care, eliminating illiteracy, increasing access to education and expanding opportunities for women, than had been the case during the shah’s regime. As a result, despite the unending U.S. hostility against Iran through ruthless imposed wars, covert and overt aggressions, punitive economic sanctions and continuous diplomatic isolation, the Islamic Republic has managed to amass an impressive list of accomplishments. U.S. economic sanctions have had the effect of causing Iran to seek self-sufficiency in a number of areas, including weaponry and other military hardware, food production, steel, paper and paper products, cement, heavy industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications equipment. In particular, the domestic production of armaments has helped to ensure the country’s independence and security, as has the highly developed military strategy of the “fast boat swarm” for naval defense in the Persian Gulf.30

Moreover, in the field of health care, Iran has made laudable strides, increasing life expectancy from 56 years in the 1970s to over 70, and reducing the infant mortality rate from 104 per 1,000 births to 25.31 The Islamic Republic has created, and continuously expanded, a system of hospitals and health clinics, concentrating on areas impacted by economic hardship. The results have been sufficiently impressive for some universities and NGOs in the U.S. state of Mississippi to introduce Iranian-style health care into the impoverished areas of the Mississippi Delta region.32 Rural areas also benefitted from the revolution in other ways besides access to health care. By 2002, rural literacy had risen to 70 percent, each village had an average of two college graduates, and 99 percent of rural households had electricity. In 1976 only ten percent of the rural work force was employed in the industrial, construction and service sectors, whereas 51 percent was employed therein by 1996.33 Land was redistributed among peasants, who formed numerous cooperatives, which assisted in raising prices for agricultural products. Even the poorest of Iranians were able to have at least some level of access to modern consumer goods.31

“The biggest advances in the educational, professional and social standing of women in Iran’s history have come since the revolution,” wrote scholars Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett.34 After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, female literacy rates skyrocketed from 36 percent in 1976 to 74 percent in 1996, with urban women toping 82 percent.33 Women were provided with the same educational opportunities as men, and were employed in both the public and private sectors. Not only were women allowed to drive (unlike other “Islamic” countries), but also participated in political, commercial and civil activities, as well as in the security sector. Health care in the Islamic Republic included women’s clinics, where progressive family planning and other services were available.35

“This united gathering which took place in Iran, and this great change which happened, must be taken as an example to be followed and never forgotten,” said Imam Khomeini (r) on 7th of Esfand 1359 (26 February 1981).36 Despite that to date, no other Muslim-majority nation has yet to emulate successfully the revolutionary path taken by the valiant people of Iran, the paradigm remains as does the potential for Iran’s leadership to bring about a united Islamic Ummah.

  1. Eric Walberg, Islamic Resistance to Imperialism (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2015), 277.
  2. Farhang Rajaee, “Iranian Ideology and Worldview: The Cultural Export of Revolution,” in The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, ed. John L. Esposito (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1990), 66-67.
  3. Amin Saikal, Iran Rising: The Survival and Future of the Islamic Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 59-61.
  4. John Esposito, “The Iranian Revolution: A Ten-Year Perspective,” in The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, ed. John L. Esposito (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1990), 31, 33.
  5. Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 166-168.
  6. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran and the United States (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 36, 65.
  7. Michael Axworthy, ibid., 176.
  8. Gary Sick, All Fall Down: America’s Tragic Encounter with Iran (New York: Random House, 1985), 288-289.
  9. Dan Kovalik, The Plot to Attack Iran (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2018), 101.
  10. Michael Axworthy, ibid., 181.
  11. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, ibid., 78, 81-82.
  12. Eric Walberg, ibid., 62.
  13. Amin Saikal, ibid., 80.
  14. Dan Kovalik, ibid., 80.
  15. Amin Saikal, ibid., 82-84.
  16. Tawfiq Alsaif, Islamic Democracy and its Limits: The Iranian Experience Since 1979 (London: Saqi, 2007), 74.
  17. Dan Kovalik, ibid., 127.
  18. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, ibid., 100.
  19. Gary Sick, “Trial and Error: Reflections on the Iran-Iraq War,” in Iran’s Revolution: The Search for Consensus, ed. R.K. Ramazani (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1990), 116-118.
  20. Michael Axworthy, ibid., 276.
  21. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, ibid., 101-102.
  22. Michael Axworthy, ibid., 293.
  23. Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, Spiritual Dimensions of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, trans. Blake Archer Williams (Lion of Najaf Publishers, 2017), 84.
  24. Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 4-8, 184.
  25. Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 155.
  26. Asef Bayat, Making Islam Democratic (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 31-32.
  27. Farhang Rejaee, Islam and Modernism: The Changing Discourse in Iran (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 19-20.
  28. Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 137.
  29. Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, ibid., 98.
  30. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going to Tehran (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013), 42, 80, 188-189.
  31. Eric Walberg, ibid., 237.
  32. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, ibid., 191.
  33. Asef Bayat, ibid., 103.
  34. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, ibid., 193.
  35. Amin Saikal, ibid., 89-90.
  36. Imam Khomeini, Fundamentals of the Islamic Revolution, trans. M.J. Khalili and S. Manafi Anari (Tehran: Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, 2009), 168.

The Imminent Threat of Trump and the Value of Progressive Third Parties

As predictable as death and taxes is the quadrennial injunction from liberals for progressive third parties to cease and desist. Equally predictable is the admonition that this will be the most decisive presidential election in US history. Given the prospect of four more years of Trump, do they have a valid thesis or are they once again just sheep-dogging those of little faith back into the true church of the Democratic Party?

Prominent left-liberals Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters and Michael Albert issued an Open Letter entreating third parties to “remove themselves as a factor” in the 2020 presidential election to “benefit all humanity and a good part of the biosphere.” They were addressing Howie Hawkins’ The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem. Hawkins is running for the Green Party’s presidential nomination.

Chomsky et al. “agree with much” that Hawkins argues except for the matter of whether third parties should engage in electoral politics. To be more precise, they think that it is perfectly copacetic for third parties to run in safe states where they don’t have a chance of affecting electoral outcomes, but not in swing states. Third parties should feel free to do what the Open Letter condescendingly describes as their “feel-good activity” if they are guaranteed to be ineffectual, but not otherwise. In short, these left-liberals are adverse to an independent left outside of the Democratic Party.

Shamelessly, the Open Letter proclaims: “we too are furious at Democrats joining Republicans in so many violations of justice and peace.” These left-liberals agree the Democrats have indeed become ever more odious and indistinguishable from the Republicans. They understand that the degeneration of the Democratic Party has progressed so far that sugar-coating it doesn’t pass the red face test.

The left-liberal mantra is support the Dems despite their politics, not because of their politics, to avoid an even greater evil. Their solution, however, is to reward bad behavior by pledging – even before the primaries – to vote for whomever the Democrats dredge up.

Hawkins advises the Dems to stop obsessing about third parties and concentrate on mobilizing their base because they have more registered voters than the Republicans. In the long run, replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote. Republicans Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 lost the popular vote.

Further, the best way for the Democrats to avoid losing votes to a progressive third party is to preempt their issues for combatting global warming, reducing income inequality, dismantling the national security state, and ending militarism. A left alternative in the electoral arena challenges the Democrats to be progressive. Otherwise they have little incentive to raise these crucial issues and instead can content themselves by continuing to whip the dead horse of Russiagate. Removing a third-party challenge from the left is tantamount to encouraging the Democrats to shift to the right with the assurance that their progressive-leaning captured constituencies such as ethnic minorities and labor have nowhere else to go.

When Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000 as a Green, he offered to drop out of the race if Democratic candidate Al Gore would adopt a minimal progressive platform. Gore refused. If progressive third parties don’t contest and raise the important issues of the day, those issues will die in the “graveyard of social movements,” also known as the Democratic Party.

The Open Letter, it should be noted, calls for progressive third parties to capitulate even before the Democratic presidential candidate has been chosen and the platform drafted. This is the opposite of moving the Democrats in a progressive direction.

To use a popular term, there is no quid quo pro. Progressives are entreated to drop out but get no assurances in return. What is virtually assured by the Open Letter strategy is that Democrats will run on a de facto single-issue platform: we are not Trump. Wall Street backers of the Democratic Party will be delighted.

The fact that the Open Letter demands that third parties abstain from effectively raising issues is symptomatic of the crisis of liberalism within the Democratic Party and the larger polity. As Chomsky himself perceptively observed, Republican Richard Nixon was “the last liberal president.” Nixon created the EPA and OSHA, recognized the People’s Republic of China, supported the equal rights amendment, expanded food stamps and welfare assistance, substantially cut military spending, and signed a suite of environmental and affirmative action acts. Since Tricky Dick, virtually no major progressive legislation has passed.

Liberalism, which made progressive contributions in the past, is dead but not down. As exemplified by the Open Letter, liberalism today has been relegated to (1) attacking and suppressing the independent left while (2) legitimizing the purveyors of neoliberalism and imperialism. The authors of the Open Letter have made immense contributions to progressive causes in the past. Yet leaning on their well-earned laurels does not obviate the bankruptcy of their current position.

Yet does the imminent threat of Trump render all other concerns moot? From a left perspective, the Open Letter is right on target in cautioning that the reelection of Trump would be “global catastrophe.” But would election of a Democrat avoid such an outcome or is the problem deeper?

The Democratic Party is now the full-throated proponent of neoliberal austerity at home, aggressive militarism abroad, and the ubiquitous national security state. Democrats gave landslide approvals to a record high war budget and renewal of the Patriot Act, while Pelosi’s “pay-go” act doomed prospects for future progressive legislation. The last Democratic president’s deportations, drone strikes, wars in seven countries, multi-trillion-dollar upgrading of the US’s nuclear war fighting capacity, multi-trillion-dollar quantitative easing gift to finance capitalists, extension of the tax cut for the rich, and so forth also rise – giving credit where credit is due – to the level of catastrophe.

But what about the environment? Here, giving credit where credit is due, the Dems may be better but not better enough, if avoiding environmental disaster is our metric. The biosphere, to use the terminology of the Open Letter, has the choice of climate change deniers and those who recognize global warming and do nothing about it.

Actually, that is giving the Dems more credit than they deserve. To quote no lesser an authority than Mr. Obama: “Suddenly America is the largest oil producer, that was me, people … say thank you.”  When oilman Bush the younger was president, US oil production declined; under Obama, it nearly doubled.

What is needed is a break from rapacious capitalism, and this will not happen with either of the two parties of capital. Voting for the lesser evil of your choice does not break the calamitous rightward trajectory of worse and worse presidential prospects but perpetuates it. So, yes, Trump is arguably worse than Dubya (now viewed favorably by a majority of the Dems) or Romney or McCain.

The downward political spiral precipitated by lesser evil voting is reflected in Time magazine’s observation in 2011: “Now Obama is fashioning his own presidency to follow the Gipper’s [Ronald Reagan] playbook.” If the vicious cycle of voting for the lesser evil is not broken, future generations of progressives may look back nostalgically to the Trump years.

Left-liberals toil to influence the Democratic Party from within – what could be characterized as their feel-good activity – which gave us hawkish Hillary Clinton in 2016. (To be evenhanded, the outcomes to date seem to suggest that working within the Democratic Party and working outside have had similarly quixotic results.)

The progressive third-party strategy is to pull the political spectrum to the left from the outside, which has a greater potential than unconditionally joining the lesser evil party. To paraphrase Hawkins, third parties don’t spoil elections; they improve them.

Indeed, left third parties must contest the Democratic Party’s presumptive electoral hegemony with its ruinous directions in both warmongering and environmental turpitude, often outdoing the Republicans in the former and peddling a go-slow, soft-denialist approach to the latter.  The Open Letter is correct that the situation is dire. Their solution is to make it more so.

Trump is the hook; the Dems are the bait. Don’t swallow it and get reeled in by the two-party duopoly. A better world is possible.

Now Three Years into the Reign of Trump, What’s Left?

On January 20, Donald G. Trump completed his third year in office. My one blog that received five-digit Facebook shares predicted Trump would lose in 2016. I was spectacularly wrong but not alone. Even the Las Vegas bookies thought Clinton was a shoo-in with her unbeatable two-punch knockout of (1) I’m not Trump and (2) World War III with the Russians would be peachy at least until the bombs start falling. What could possibly have gone wrong?

More to the point, the unexpected victory of Trump was the historical reaction to the bankruptcy of Clinton-Bush-Obama neoliberalism. Now after three years of Mr. Trump, what’s left?

During the George W. Bush years – he’s now viewed favorably by a majority of Democrats – Democrats could wring their tied hands to the accolades of their base. My own Democrat Representative Lynn Woolsey stood up daily in the House and denounced Bush’s Iraq war. For a while there was a resurgent peace movement against US military adventures in the Middle East, which was even backed by some left-leaning liberals.

But the moment that Obama ascended to the Oval Office, the Iraq War became Obama’s war, Bush’s secretary of war Gates was carried over to administer it, and Woolsey forgot she was for peace. No matter, Obama, the peace candidate, would fix it. Just give him a chance. For eight years, Obama was given a chance and the peace movement went quiescent.

Trump takes office

Surely a Republican president, I thought, would harken a rebirth of the peace movement given the ever-inflated war budget and the proliferation of US wars. The US is officially at war with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. To the official list are any number of other states subject to drone attacks such as Iran, Pakistan, and Mali. And then there are some 30 countries targeted with illegal unilateral coercive measures as form of economic warfare. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the demonstration.

With Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House, my expectation was that Democrats would safely take a giant step to the right in accordance with their Wall Street funders, while safely keeping a baby step to the left of the Republicans appeasing their liberal-leaning base. To certain extent, this is what happened with Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy. The Democrats could and did claim that their hands were once again tied…wink, wink to their Wall Street handlers.

Yet on many more fundamental issues, the Democrats did not take advantage of paying lip service to their base’s economic priorities by attacking the Republicans on their weak left flank. No, the Democrats mounted an assault on the Republicans from the right with what The Hill called Pelosi’s “fiscally hawkish pay-as-you-go rules,” increasing the war budget, and launching Russiagate. Instead of appealing to working people on bread and butter issues, the Democrats gave us turbo-charged identity politics.

Bernie Sanders had raised genuine issues regarding runaway income inequality and plutocratic politics. However, Sanders was suppressed by a hostile corporate press and an antagonistic Democratic Party establishment, which arguably preferred to risk a Republican victory in 2016 than support anyone who questioned neoliberal orthodoxy.

Sanders’ issues got asphyxiated in the juggernaut of Russiagate. His legacy – so far – has been to help contain a progressive insurgency within the Democratic Party, the perennial graveyard of social movements. Had Mr. Sanders not come along, the Democrats – now the full-throated party of neoliberal austerity at home and imperial war abroad – would have needed to invent a leftish Pied Piper to keep their base in the fold.

So, after three years of Trump, the more than ever needed mass movement against militarism has yet to resurrect in force, notwithstanding promising demonstrations in immediate response to Trump’s assassination of Iran’s Major General Soleimani on January 3 with more demonstrations to come.

Imperialism and neoliberalism

Dubya proved his imperialist mettle with the second Iraq war; Obama with the destruction of Libya. But Trump has yet to start a war of his own. Though, in the case of Iran, it was not from lack of trying. The last US president with a similar imperialist failing was the one-term Carter. But Trump has 12 and possibly 60 more months to go.

In his short time in office, Trump has packed his administration with former war industry executives, increased troops in Afghanistan, approved selling arms to the coup government of Ukraine, made the largest arms sale in US history to Saudi Arabia, supported the Saudi’s war against Yemen, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and killed more civilians in drone strikes than “Obomber.” In the empire’s “backyard,” Trump tightened the blockade on Cuba, intensified Obama’s sanctions on Venezuela to a blockade, oversaw the devastation of Puerto Rico, and backed the right wing coup in Bolivia. The Venezuelan Embassy Protectors are fighting the US government for a fair trial, while Julian Assange faces extradition to the US.

Now that Trump has declared the defeat of ISIS, the US National Defense Strategy is “interstate strategic competition” with Russia and China. This official guiding document of the US imperial state explicitly calls for “build[ing] a more lethal force” for world domination. Giving credit where it is due, back in 2011, Hillary Clinton and Obama had presciently decreed a “pivot to Asia,” targeting China.

Closer to home Trump has been busy deregulating environmental protections, dismantling the National Park system, weaponizing social media, and undoing net neutrality, while withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on global warming. What’s not to despise?

Russiagate and impeachment

Russiagate – in case you have a real life and are not totally absorbed in mass media – is about a conspiracy that the Russians and not the US Electoral College are responsible for Hillary Clinton not getting her rightful turn to be President of the United States.

For the better part of the last three years under the shadow of Trump in the White House, a spook emerged from the netherworld of the deep state and has toiled mightily to expose wrongdoers. This man, former head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, we are told is only one miracle short of being canonized in blue state heaven. Yet even he failed to indict a single American for colluding with Russia, though he was able to hand out indictments to Americans for other wrongdoings not related to Russia.

Undeterred by this investigation to nowhere, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiated impeachment proceedings against the sitting president in the Democrat’s first successful step to promote Mike Pence as the next POTUS.

When an unelected and unaccountable CIA operative in secret collusion with opposition politicians (e.g., Adam Schiff) and with backing from his agency seeks to take down a constitutionally elected president, that is cause for concern. Operating under the cloak of anonymity and with privileged access to information, national security operatives skilled in the craft of espionage have the undemocratic means to manipulate and even depose elected officials.

What has arisen is an emboldened national security state. The CIA, lest we forget, is the clandestine agency whose mission is to use any means necessary to affect “regime change” in countries that dare to buck the empire. Latin American leftists used to quip that the US has never suffered a coup because there is no US embassy in Washington. There may not be a US embassy there, but the CIA and the rest of the US security establishment are more than ever present and pose a danger to democracy.

Now Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence and serial perjurer James Clapper holds the conflicted role of pundit on CNN while still retaining his top security clearance. Likewise, Obama’s former CIA director, torture apologist, and fellow perjurer John Brennan holds forth on NBC News and MSNBC with his security clearance intact.

Class trumps partisan differences

The Democrats and Republicans mortally combat on the superficial, while remaining united in their bedrock class loyalty to the rule of capital and US world hegemony. The first article of the Democrat-backed impeachment is the president’s “abuse of power.” Yet, amidst the heat of the House impeachment hearings, the Democrats, by an overwhelming majority, helped renew the Patriot Act, which gives the president war time authority to shred the constitution.

Contrary to the utterances of the Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail about limiting US military spending, the latest $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is $22 billion over the last. The Democratic Progressive Caucus didn’t even bother to whip members to oppose the bill. On December 11, in an orgy of bi-partisan love, the NDAA bill passed by a landslide vote of 377-48.

President Trump tweeted “Wow!” Democratic Party leader and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith called the bill “the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.”

This bill gifts twelve more Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets than Trump had requested and green-lights funding of Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Stripped from the bipartisan NDAA “compromise” bill were provisions to prohibit Trump from launching a war on Iran without Congressional authorization. Similarly dropped were limits to US participation in the genocidal war in Yemen.

A new Space Force is authorized to militarize the heavens. Meanwhile the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the doomsday clock at 2 minutes before midnight. Unfortunately, the Democrat’s concern about Trump’s abuse of power does not extend to such existential matters as nuclear war.

Trump’s renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (i.e., USMCA), an acknowledged disaster, was renewed with bipartisan support. On the domestic front, Trump cut food stamps, Medicaid, and reproductive health services over the barely audible demurs of the supine Democrats.

Revolt of the dispossessed

Behind the façade of the impeachment spectacle – Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz are now on Trump’s legal team – is a ruling class consensus that trumps partisan differences. As political economist Rob Urie perceptively observed:

The American obsession with electoral politics is odd in that ‘the people’ have so little say in electoral outcomes and that the outcomes only dance around the edges of most people’s lives. It isn’t so much that the actions of elected leaders are inconsequential as that other factors— economic, historical, structural and institutional, do more to determine ‘politics.’

In the highly contested 2016 presidential contest, nearly half the eligible US voters opted out, not finding enough difference among the contenders to leave home. 2020 may be an opportunity; an opening for an alternative to neoliberal austerity at home and imperial wars abroad lurching to an increasingly oppressive national security state. The campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbord and before them Occupy point to a popular insurgency. Mass protests of the dispossessed are rocking France, India, Colombia, Chile, and perhaps here soon.

The Coup in Bolivia: Lessons for our Movement

The US engineered another coup, this time Bolivia, and again our movement could not effectively counter pro-coup propaganda the US was selling to the public, let alone taking any action to stop it.

There is an imperative need for much greater long-term cooperative work to combat US interventions. Needed is a qualitatively higher level of unity of action among our networks to combat imperialism. Lenin, one of the most effective leaders of the struggles against the ruling classes, emphasized that “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.

The divisiveness among ourselves and our alliances is a secondary issue. We often pursue political work while poorly trained in the lessons our predecessors learned from their experiences in combating the corporate elite’s repressive actions at home and abroad. The movement against ruling class brutality has accumulated over the centuries a valuable heritage of struggle and an invaluable body of experience about effective and ineffective strategies and tactics under the given conditions. No school or clearing house collects and teaches this heritage, so we have to relearn these lessons almost from scratch each generation. We also usually must recreate a national network to implement our collective anti-imperialist struggle each generation.

Here, the ruling class and their government have significant advantages over us. They have their own legacy of experience in maintaining their rule, and they maintain a series of institutions devoted to gathering and passing down their methods of regime change (coups, color revolutions, wars), political disruption, and media disinformation campaigns. These ruling class institutions include universities, think tanks, and government agencies like the CIA, DIA, and FBI. The ruling class has the capacity to manufacture and implement a coup or a domestic wave of political repression almost off-the-shelf. On this score, they are light years ahead of us, while we are often reduced to the level of having to learn how to control and use fire each generation.

Another reason for our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our lack of confidence that a serious challenge to US imperial power is even possible, which certainly seems understandable given the above. Nevertheless, we must also recognize that their system of corporate imperial rule is not stable, as the major economic crises and climate catastrophe in the coming years will show us. The rulers’ “solution” to these issues will only antagonize the majority of humanity and make them fight corporate domination of human life.

Role of US Government Disruption

Another cause of our weakness is the government disruption of our movements, something we gloss over. Defending Rights and Dissent just reported on FBI spying over the last ten years in >Still Spying on Dissent, showing how the FBI goes far beyond just spying to include break-ins, disruptions, political frame-ups, stings, murder, blackmail, and drug-dealing.

These operations have escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted restrictions on the CIA and other organs of the national security state feeding fake news to the US population. The NDAA established “an executive branch interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments… through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts.”

Senator Portman, one of the chief authors of the law, stated its intent is to “improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.” NGOs and civil society can receive grants to paint voices of the anti-war movement as spreading Russian “disinformation.” This may shed light on the origin of the story that those opposed to the regime change operation on Syria are “Putinists” and “Assadists.”

Lack of Popular Participation in Social Movements

Our movement’s weakness must be seen as a result of the people’s insufficient participation in the fight against US wars and the military budget, even though both rob us of the wealth we need to counter our worsening quality of life. This lack of participation, lack of sustained mobilization, is hardly unique to the anti-war struggle. At present this characterizes the spectrum of social movements: the women’s movement, immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, and so on. And even while the movement against climate change recently could rally four million, with 600,000 in the US, Greta Thornberg acknowledged the movement has not stopped carbon emissions from continuing to increase.

Almost everyone is aware of the looming climate catastrophe around the corner, but people are generally expecting someone else to do something about it. They do not understand that the ruling class plans to do nothing, that nothing will be accomplished until we mobilize in the many millions.

Partly a result of seeming a more viable alternative to movement building and partly a result of political naivete, people still look for solutions by investing their time and money in Democratic and Republican campaigns. For now, the movements that bring large numbers out into the streets are those contained by these two parties. This undermines our building forces independent of these two corporate parties, who serve to snuff out the movements that represent the interests of the 99%.

The present non-existence of massive anti-intervention protests is partly a response to the failure of our major mobilizations of hundreds of thousands in 2002-2003 demanding a halt to the planned war on Iraq.  In 2011 the Occupy movement spread like wildfire, only to be snuffed out by government repression, and  again, very little changed. People do not struggle and fight for a goal if we feel our time and effort won’t pay off and make it worthwhile.  This combined with the disillusion from the unfulfilled hopes of the Obama era has left many today feeling ripped off, powerless and demoralized.

When people feel this way, they shrink their lives into a small safe zone and pursue their private lives in a little bubble where they find some measure of comfort. The coming economic crisis and climate disaster will pop many a bubble and people will be pushed into active political opposition to the 1%. Once some important victories for us have been won, many thousands and then millions will be inspired to again awaken and fight for our demands.

Mistakes of our Bolivian allies and Lessons for us

  1. The State as Armed Bodies of Men

Lenin wrote in State and Revolution that the state consists of special bodies of armed men, and those who controlled these special bodies controlled the state. With the coup in Bolivia we were given a reminder. Luis Alfonso Mena S. wrote, entirely correctly, “The most important lesson from what happened on Sunday, November 10, 2019 in Bolivia is that a revolution is vulnerable when it relies on armed forces from bourgeois institutions. That is why Hugo Chavez transformed his country’s armed forces, gave them a popular and class character, turned them into defenders of the Venezuelan revolution and its people, and today they constitute one of the fundamental supports of the Bolivarian process, since they have never yielded to offers, blackmail or threats from U.S. imperialism and its lackeys on the continent.”

Moreover, as Nino Pagliccia pointed out, “Venezuela has developed a strong civic-military union supported my thousands of voluntary militias that has been the bastion against which the Hybrid War has failed despite the numerous attempts to break that union.”

A people’s militia in Bolivia could have maintained order in most of the country after the police forces declared they would not interfere against anti-Evo violence and before the military chiefs told Evo to resign. Fidel Castro said right after the coup against Allende in Chile, “If every worker, if every laborer, had had a rifle in his hands, the fascist coup in Chile would not have happened.” However, the MAS government never built a popular militia, and did not fill the military command structure with loyal defenders of the constitution.

Marxists often state that as long as a socialist government does not destroy the old capitalist state and create a new system of governing, including a new military and police force to replace that inherited from previous regimes, the price for this error will be a counter-revolutionary coup by the old military hierarchy. This is often true but oversimplified.

Nicaragua’s military high command is not loyal to the capitalist class because it was reconstituted after the 1979 Sandinista revolution. With the return to power of the capitalist class with Violetta Chamarro in 1990, the Nicaraguan military remained under the Sandinista high command of Humberto Ortega. Change in the military leadership continued to remain largely under its own control: to replace a current military chief, the military limits the president’s options to three names it submits to the president to choose among. The military today is committed to the constitution and to not repressing the people. In Nicaragua’s 2018 protests and violence, the military stayed in their barracks.

Venezuela is another case of a pro-socialist government presiding over a capitalist economic system, with the military loyal to the Chavez-era Bolivarian constitution. Venezuela’s military was somewhat restructured by nationalistic officers back in the early 1970s, and later received a much more progressive education. Venezuela had no military caste as in Argentina or Chile, with many senior officers coming from poor urban and peasant families.

One of Chavez’ first decisions after assuming the presidency was the creation of Plan Bolivar, sending the troops to the barrios to help clean up, paint buildings, distribute food, provide medical care, and attend to the people. The failed coup attempts since 2002 enabled the government to remove right-wingers from the military. Chavez opened the Military Academy to low income Venezuelans so they could rise up in the officer corps.  He also created an efficient intelligence service, which enabled the government to unmask coup-plotters. Today the Venezuelan military defends the revolutionary nationalist process.

  1. Importance of mobilizing and educating the people

Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, hit upon another mistake of Evo when he spoke right after the right-wing coup in Bolivia. The main antidote against fascism is popular mobilization. Under Evo Morales long presidency this lesson was neglected. MAS also did not lead a nationwide effort to protest the coup as it was unfolding, rather it compromised and sought “peace.”  Cabello added, “we [in Venezuela] are going to the streets to reject the violence of imperialism…We are not surprised by the actions of the right, here in Venezuela they tried the same thing, we already know them.” Venezuela is well-prepared and experienced in mobilizing the people to combat attempted coups.

Over the years, MAS had become an electoral party, ill-equipped to respond to the right-wing’s abrupt switch from electoral politics to street violence.  Evo and his circle did not place sufficient emphasis on political education of the masses, nor on their self-organization, nor on building a national network of political activists committed to mobilizing people in defense of The Process of Change. In contrast, Fidel’s Cuba understood these measures were needed to survive under the relentless US imperial pressure, and Cuba made itself impenetrable to regime change.

The Bolivian military coup against an elected progressive head of state provides lessons for Bernie Sanders campaign supporters. In the US, the two-party system has developed many tools to make sure figures like Bernie never becomes the candidate, such as rigging the primaries and engaging in corporate media smear campaigns. Nor is electing such a seeming progressive leader, like we saw in 2008, close to the end of the battle. The leader’s initiatives could be blocked by Congress, by in the courts, by in the federal bureaucracy.  A genuinely progressive president could be removed from office on unwarranted charges, as with Dilma and Lula in Brazil, or here, as the Democrats seek to do with the isolationist Donald Trump.

The national security state has a vast array of tools developed from its extensive experience in wars, coups, and disruptions that it can employ at home to terminate a progressive president’s tenure or neutralize any progressive movement. Unfortunately, most people still suffer from the naive delusion that we live in a uniquely free and democratic country, that we are exempt from coups and similar methods the US routinely uses abroad.

Evo Morales made other errors during the coup process, such as calling for the OAS to verify the votes, even though he had repeatedly denounced the OAS as a tool of the US. For instance, in 2017 he said “I offer to free brother [OAS General Secretary] Luis Almagro from submission to the North American empire. All for the dignity and sovereignty of our peoples.”  Yet he invited in this US tool, which then found the election had “irregularities.”

Corporate Media Disinformation and Building a People’s Alternative

Another agent, the corporate media, as Alfredo Serrano Mancilla noted, “are never absent in each coup. They are keys to building the frame of reference before, during and after…This medium was always the maximum exponent of the fraud scenario, before and after, defending the lack of knowledge of the results from the beginning and quickly emerging to endorse the undemocratic transition.”

Corporate control of the media complements control of the armed forces in creating regime change. The media can monopolize access to information, are able to effectively present disinformation as news, seen so well in the 2002 coup against Chavez, in Nicaragua in 2018, Libya in 2011, and Syria for years. Creating a popular mass media widely read both locally and internationally that is a mouthpiece for the 99% is necessary yet difficult task, something even Chavista Venezuela still has not accomplished successfully.

Our Responsibility in the Imperial Core

A serious analysis of what is happening in a Third World country, progressive or not, must start with the role Western imperialism has played, including the role of Western NGOs. Otherwise, analysis does not put in perspective the problems the country faces, and indirectly gives cover to imperialism’s role. 

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani, writing on the US war against Venezuela, sum up well our responsibilities:

At the root of all conflicts and battles of imperialist countries against independent countries, including colonial and semi-colonial countries, is the drive to deny them their sovereignty and self-rule. Everything else is secondary…. The best way to contribute to the struggle of Venezuelan people against the reactionary pro-imperialist right-wing opposition inside Venezuela and against the constant attack, sanctions, and interventions of imperialism, is to build a strong antiwar, anti-imperialist movement that also focuses on building a Venezuela solidarity movement in defense of self-determination for the Venezuelan people.

This must include combating regime change disinformation, which aims to delegitimize governments not submitting to imperial dictates, justifying coups, murderous economic sanctions, proxy wars and “humanitarian” invasions. The corporate media can be a more sophisticated tool for regime change than the military, permitting Washington to take advantage of the story that anything short of outright US troop invasion is not intervention nor regime change.

Many liberal and  faux “left” websites and groups have become transmission belts for this regime change propaganda into the progressive movement, sometimes even taking NED funding. This has been countered from an anti-imperialist stance by our “tribunes of the people”. Examples include Alan Macleod on Venezuela, AFGJ on Nicaragua, The Grayzone on China, Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley on Syria, Dissident Voice and Popular Resistance on Hong Kong, Consortium News and Stephen Cohen on Russiagate, 21stcenturywire.com on Libya, Dan Kovalik, Phil Wilayto on Iran.

Besides working to build a more united mass anti-imperialist movement, necessary tasks for us today include continuing to educate the public about, one, widespread corporate media disinformation, two, the need to respect the sovereignty of other nations, and three, unmasking the faux left which behaves like amateur soft agents of the US intelligence services.

The Real Lesson of Afghanistan Is That Regime Change Does Not Work

The trove of U.S. “Lessons Learned” documents on Afghanistan published by the Washington Post portrays, in excruciating detail, the anatomy of a failed policy, scandalously hidden from the public for 18 years. The “Lessons Learned” papers, however, are based on the premise that the U.S. and its allies will keep intervening militarily in other countries, and that they must therefore learn the lessons of Afghanistan to avoid making the same mistakes in future military occupations.

This premise misses the obvious lesson that Washington insiders refuse to learn: the underlying fault is not in how the U.S. tries and fails to reconstruct societies destroyed by its “regime changes,” but in the fundamental illegitimacy of regime change itself. As former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR just eight days after 9/11, “It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened.”

The “Lessons Learned” documents reveal the persistent efforts of three administrations to hide their colossal failures behind a wall of propaganda in order to avoid admitting defeat and to keep “muddling along,” as General McChrystal has described it. In Afghanistan, “muddling along” has meant dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles, nearly all on people who had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11th, exactly as Ben Ferencz predicted.

How many people have been killed in Afghanistan is contested and essentially unknown. The UN has published minimum confirmed numbers of civilians killed since 2007, but as Fiona Frazer, the UN human rights chief in Kabul, admitted to the BBC in August 2019, “more civilians are killed or injured in Afghanistan due to armed conflict than anywhere else on Earth…(but) due to rigorous methods of verification, the published figures almost certainly do not reflect the true scale of harm.” The UN only counts civilian deaths in incidents where it has completed human rights investigations, and it has little or no access to the remote Taliban-held areas where most U.S. air strikes and “kill or capture” raids take place. So, as Fiona Frazer suggested, the UN’s published figures can be only a fraction of the true numbers of people killed.

It shouldn’t take 18 years for U.S. officials to publicly admit that there is no military solution to a murderous and unwinnable war for which the U.S. is politically and legally responsible. But the debacle in Afghanistan is only one case in a fundamentally flawed U.S. policy with worldwide consequences. New quasi-governments installed by U.S. “regime changes” in country after country have proven more corrupt, less legitimate and less able to control their nation’s territory than the ones the U.S. has destroyed, leaving their people mired in endless violence and chaos that no form of continued U.S. occupation can repair.

Regime change” is a process of coercion designed to impose the political will of the U.S. government on countries around the world, violating their sovereignty and self-determination with an arsenal of military, economic and political weapons:

1.      Delegitimization. The first step in targeting a country for regime change is to delegitimize its existing government in the eyes of U.S. and allied publics, with targeted propaganda or  “information warfare” to demonize its president or prime minister. Painting foreign leaders as villains in a personalized Manichean drama psychologically prepares the American public for U.S. coercion to remove them from power. One lesson for those of us opposed to regime change operations is that we must challenge these campaigns at this first stage if we want to prevent their escalation. For example, Russia and China today both have strong defenses, including nuclear weapons, making a U.S. war with either of them predictably catastrophic, or even suicidal. So why is the U.S. stoking a new Cold War against them? Is the military-industrial complex threatening us with extinction only to justify record military budgets? Why is serious diplomacy to negotiate peaceful coexistence and disarmament “off the table,” when it should be an existential priority?

2.      Sanctions. Using economic sanctions as a tool to force political change in other countries is deadly and illegal. Sanctions kill people by denying them food, medicine and other basic necessities. UN sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the 1990s. Today, unilateral U.S. sanctions are killing tens of thousands in Iran and Venezuela. This is illegal under international law, and has been vigorously condemned by UN special rapporteurs. Professor Robert Pape’s research shows that economic sanctions have only achieved political change in 4% of cases. So their main purpose in U.S. is to fuel deadly economic and humanitarian crises that can then serve as pretexts for other forms of U.S. intervention.

3.      Coups and proxy wars. Coups and proxy wars have long been the weapons of choice when U.S. officials want to overthrow foreign governments. Recent U.S.-backed coups in Honduras, Ukraine and now Bolivia have removed elected governments and installed right-wing U.S.-backed regimes. The U.S. has relied more heavily on coups and proxy wars in the wake of its military disasters in Korea, Vietnam, and now Afghanistan and Iraq, to attempt regime change without the political liability of heavy U.S. military casualties. Under Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war, the U.S. worked with Qatari ground forces in Libya, Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and military leaders in Honduras. But outsourcing regime change to local coup leaders and proxy forces adds even more uncertainty to the outcome, making proxy wars like the one in Syria predictably bloody, chaotic and intractable.

4.      Bombing campaigns. U.S. bombing campaigns minimize U.S. casualties but wreak untold and uncounted death and destruction on both enemies and innocents. Like “regime change”,  “precision weapons” is a euphemism designed to obscure the horror of war. Rob Hewson, the editor of the arms trade journal Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, told the AP during the “Shock and Awe” bombing of Iraq in 2003 that the accuracy of U.S. precision weapons was only 75-80%, meaning that thousands of bombs and missiles predictably missed their targets and killed random civilians. As Rob Hewson said. “… you can’t drop bombs and not kill people. There’s a real dichotomy in all of this.” After Mosul and Raqqa were destroyed in the U.S.-led anti-IS campaign that has dropped over 100,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria since 2014, journalist Patrick Cockburn described Raqqa as “bombed to oblivion,” and revealed that Iraqi Kurdish intelligence reports had counted at least 40,000 civilians killed in Mosul.

5.      Invasion and hostile military occupation. The infamous “last resort” of full-scale war is predicated on the idea that, if nothing else works, the U.S.’s trillion-dollar military can surely get the job done. This dangerous presumption led the U.S. into military quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan despite its previous “lessons learned” in Vietnam, underlining the central unlearned lesson that war itself is a catastrophe. In Iraq, journalist Nir Rosen described the U.S. occupation force as “lost in Iraq…unable to wield any power except on the immediate street corner where it’s located.” Today, about 6,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, confined to their bases, under frequent missile attack, while a new generation of Iraqis rises up to reclaim their country from the corrupt former exiles the U.S. flew in with its invasion forces 17 years ago.

Any responsible government Americans elect in 2020 must learn from the well-documented failure and catastrophic human cost of U.S. regime change efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Venezuela, Iran and now Bolivia.

These “lessons learned” should lead to U.S. withdrawal from the countries we have wrecked, opening the way for the UN and other legitimate mediators to come in and help their people to form sovereign, independent governments and to resolve the intractable secondary conflicts that U.S. wars and covert operations have unleashed.

Secondly, the U.S. must conduct global diplomatic outreach to make peace with our enemies, end our illegal sanctions and threats, and reassure the people of the world that they need no longer fear and arm themselves against the threat of U.S. aggression. The most potent signals that we have really turned over a new leaf would be serious cuts in the U.S. military budget — we currently outspend the next seven or eight militaries combined, despite our endless military failures; a reduction in U.S. conventional forces and weapons to the level needed to meet our country’s legitimate defense needs; and the closure of most of the hundreds of U.S. military bases on the territories of other nations, which amount to a global military occupation.

Maybe most vitally, the U.S. should reduce the threat of the most catastrophic of all wars, nuclear war, by finally complying with its obligations under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the U.S. and other nuclear-armed countries to move towards “full and complete nuclear disarmament.”

In 2019, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists kept the hands of its Doomsday clock at two minutes to midnight, symbolizing that we are as close to self-destruction as we have ever been. Its 2019 statement cited the double danger of climate change and nuclear war: “Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention.” So it is a matter of survival for the U.S. to cooperate with the rest of the world to achieve major breakthroughs on both these fronts.

If this seems far-fetched or overly ambitious, that is a measure of how far we have strayed from the sanity, humanity and peaceful cooperation we will need to survive this century. A world in which war is normal and peace is out of reach is no more survivable or sustainable than a world where the atmosphere gets hotter every year. Permanently ending this entire U.S. policy of coercive regime change is therefore a political, moral and existential imperative.

Connecting the Dots

Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.
— Vladimir Lenin1

Many on the left seem to have forgotten that capitalism is actually bad. That the reason the planet sinks under the weight of pollution and militarism is because of capitalism. Nothing that works within the capitalist system is going to save anyone and will only reinforce the existing problems and further the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised.

Now allow to me first start with a few observations on writers published by leftist sites, in this case Counterpunch, actually. Louis Proyect titles his piece as a question, “If Time Magazine Celebrates Greta Thunberg, Why Should We?” The answer is if TIME celebrates something, if corporate media celebrate someone or thing, the response should logically be INVESTIGATE and be suspicious. Which is what Cory Morningstar has done. But Proyect spends the entirety of his pointless article attacking Morningstar — go figure. He also lies. Morningstar does not attack Greta, she investigates the forces behind Greta. For a guy who wears his Marxism-like placard around his neck, you would think Proyect might grasp the distinction. Cory Morningstar is almost certainly the most important living journalist in the world (next to Assange perhaps).

And just by way of cursory correction, when Proyect writes, “Just two months ago, (Jamie) Margolin joined other young people in suing Democratic Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington over greenhouse-gas emissions. Inslee depicts himself as a liberal, environmentalist governor. If Margolin is a Trojan Horse like Thunberg, her choice of a target hardly sounds like she is trying to make it in corporate, Democratic Party, environmentalist circles,” what he fails to recognize is that Margolin is already in the Democratic Party inner circles and served as an intern for Hillary Clinton.

But the bigger problem is that Proyect seems on board with all the activities of Thunberg and her cohorts. Proyect quotes Morningstar:

Today’s climate emergency mobilization must be recognized for what it is: a strategically orchestrated campaign financed and managed by the world’s most powerful institutions – for the preservation of capitalism and global economic growth. This is the launch of a new growth industry in the Global South coupled with the creation of new and untapped markets.

And then writes:

Yeah, who cares about icebergs melting and the Great Coral Reef disappearing? The real problem is capitalism—as if the two phenomena were not related.

The entire point of Morninstar’s work is to bring attention to the fact that Capitalism IS related, not just related but the primary cause of planetary destruction. How does massive PR and billions of marketing stop the death of coral reefs? But again, class analysis is the issue (and perhaps an inability to read carefully). Thunberg has enlisted corporate billionaire backers (well, they enlisted her). That was the goal. If Proyect thinks the capitalists behind Thunberg are about to bring radical change and challenge the status quo, he is for a rude awakening. But then Proyect calls Off Guardian a conspiracy-minded site. Such provincial disdain is all too representative. But more on conspiracy theory below.

Allow me to link to Morningstar’s investigation of We Mean Business, a project that gets the Proyect stamp of approval (We Mean Business, not Morningstar).

I ask the reader to consider the facts. (hint: class analysis, the rich are not there to help anyone but themselves).

Then we have Kirkpatrick Sale and an article (“Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold”) that might well have been written by the state department. In this hideously distorted piece Mr Sale also lies. The biggest of his falsehoods is that Venezuela is a failed state. Uh… maybe he has a different definition. But what Sale is really doing is excusing and providing cover for the Imperialist west. Yemen is listed as failed but the reasons for its failures are not really made clear. Global Warming? The correct answer is a vicious, several year long attack by the Saudi monarchy and the US and UK militaries. A genocidal assault that has resulted in mass death and pestilence (180,000 NEW cases of cholera were just reported by WHO). But Mr Sale never mentions that. Not a peep about western militarism. Not a single word. Nor about the orchestrated illegal covert CIA assault against Venezuela, and more recently and successfully, against Bolivia. Imperialism is not touched upon, even once.

Mr Sale writes:

At the moment, there are no less than 65 countries are now fighting wars—there are only 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, so that’s a third of the world. These are wars with modern weapons, organized troops, and serious casualties—five of them, like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, with 10,000 or more deaths a year, another 15 with more than 1,000 a year—all of them causing disruptions and disintegrations of all normal political and economic systems, leaving no attacked nation in a condition to protect and provide for its citizens.

But he never explains the role of the US in any of this. Who made the weapons used in these wars? Well, the answer is largely the US, but also Russia, China, Israel and Brazil. But the vast majority are from the US. Also Syria was targeted by the US for a coup (referred to in polite company as regime change, a term created by the marketing arm of the Pentagon). Assad has openly been a target of the US. Who created and funded ISIS, in fact? Answer is the US and Saudi Arabia. Not a word about that fact either.

Here is another quote from Sale:

These include seven completely failed states—Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Venezuela—and another seven that are on the edge—Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Chad, and the Sudan—plus 19 that are in an “alert” category, meaning that some but not all government functions have failed, 15 in Africa and 4 in Asia.

What do these nations have in common? They were targets of the Imperialist West (directly in the cases of Syria, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, and Iraq — not to mention the non failed Venezuela, or indirectly in the neo-colonial plunder of Congo, AFR, Guinea, and Haiti). And, as I pointed out, Venezuela is not failed, nor even close to failed. It’s a perfectly functioning country under sanctions by the US. Another fact Sale omits.

Why is Libya not on that list? You know, Libya, where the US destroyed the African nation with the highest standard of living on the continent and reduced it to a slave market run by traffickers.

All in all Sale is either about room temperature IQ or just a liar or politically aligned with the State Department and Pentagon. I have no idea which but I do wonder why his tripe is appearing in a leftist site like Counterpunch. Proyect I understand, because he wears that placard announcing he is a leftist, and because he sort of is an editor at CP. Sale doesn’t and isn’t, so I really do wonder at why this reactionary non article is published by anyone this side of the CATO Institute?

But that brings me to the next point, which is the narcotic like effect that the entire Greta story has had on mostly middle aged white men. If you cannot but see the obvious stage-managed aspect of the Greta story, the marketing and image control involved, then you are blind or possibly caught up in the cult like thinking of much new green activism yourself. For one example, just look at the photo TIME used for its cover. Greta in an oversized sweater, sans make-up —how old does she look? 13, or 14 I’d say. Well, she is, in fact, 17. Her sister is 15 and looks much older and certainly clearly into puberty or even past it. Greta is being presented as the virgin symbol of purity. Now this will be called an attack on Greta — by Proyect anyway. But I am sure many others. It’s not. She is simply the actor in all this (though actors are responsible for their choices, too). For her troubles she gets yacht rides and great dining with world leaders. Why wouldn’t she sign on. But the rest of the phenomenon is, in fact, global capital usurping the green movements and activists globally. And the coup in Bolivia is against the indigenous peoples of that nation, many of whom are environmental activists as was President Morales. Which is why the smear campaign (by the same people who help manage Greta) was designed to undermine his environmental work. The biggest thing environmentally that Morales did was to throw out the US military.

But the white men of the West are channeling their disappointments (because capitalism disappoints, at the very least, nearly everyone but the top 3%) into something that resembles a fairy tale narrative of a guardian flock protector (the white guy narrator) defending the honour of blond pre-pubescent teenager (in volkisch pigtails and large sweater). Greta is the virgin queen of the environment. What happens when she gets a boyfriend? I’ll be curious to see. Will the white middle-aged flock protectors feel betrayed? Seems possible. As my friend Hiroyuki Hamada noted, the white male defense of Greta is a reflection of patriarchy and that disappointments today are felt more acutely because they are more flagrant and there are fewer mitigating salves than in the past.

The point here is that why would any socialist or communist sign on to anything supported by the Royal Families of Europe, by global billionaires, and why can’t they see that photo ops with Obama and the Pope are not just accidental. Nobody ever granted Berta Caraces a photo shoot in Vogue. A genuine activist today is at risk of death by the rising tide (rising fast) of fascism. Look at the heroic defense of Bolivia by the indigenous peoples of that nation. So many of whom have fought off western mining interests. And the same in Brazil where today there is a wholesale war on the indigenous. Or the vast western mining interests in Africa, and the forced displacement of entire villages to accommodate those interests — enforced by western security forces.

Much of the climate consensus seems aligned with the ruling class in a fear of a black and Asian planet, and one that is fuelled by the spectre of eugenics (making the world safe for white people). And lest you think that at all hyperbole, just spend some time investigating the activities of the Gates Foundation. It’s curious to me why so many liberals froth in admiration of Gates.

Jimmy Wu writes:

Yet capitalism’s reach extends much further than its economic effects; it also shapes our ideology and how we perceive our place in the world. Modern-day capitalism, with its unshakable faith in deregulated markets, privatization of the public sphere, and austerity budgets, has of course contributed to our financial misery, leading to mass hopelessness and anxiety. But far from being confined to economic policy, contemporary capitalism (often called “neoliberalism”) also embodies a philosophical belief that self-interest and competition, not cooperation, should pervade every aspect of our lives. In short, our world is shaped in the image of the market. For those in distress, Margaret Thatcher’s oft-cited mantra, “There is no such thing as society,” sends the most disturbing possible message: You’re on your own.2

This is the psychology of advanced capitalism. And Hollywood and mass media drive home in obsessively repetitious fashion that message of individualism. Of a ruthless individualism. In the recent V Wars (vampire wars) on Netflix, a doctor struggles valiantly throughout the first season looking for a cure. He fails. His only son abducted. In the last scene we see him, presumably months later, doing chin ups, his rock hard abs and bulging biceps glistening with sweat. He turns to face the camera and slings an AK 47 over his shoulder. He stares at camera; he is ready for season two. And the message is, don’t be a panty waist doctor, they get nothing done. Be a violent sociopathic vigilante.

Richard Slotkin in Gunfighter Nation wrote: “1890, the moment when the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’, the moment when ‘frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical location.”

That remains the principle shaper of consciousness in the US today.

Now one might ask why so many on the left view the Climate discourse without any class analysis. Do you not think that if Prince Charles is supporting a cause that one might be suspicious? I mean would he betray HIS class? Not fucking likely. Would Pierre Omidyar? Would Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates?? The answer is no, of course not, and yet I see people lining up to sign on board projects that are endorsed by millionaires and royals. Why? Well, because, partly, of what Jimmy Wu wrote. And I will add another quote from Wu’s piece:

The psychological toll of this market-extremist thinking is ubiquitous and measurable. A long line of social science research has shown that unemployed people are much more likely to become depressed; after all, under the reigning ideology, our self-worth is measured by our economic output. Moreover, since the market is (we are told) a level playing field, with no single actor appearing as the obvious coordinator, those who happen to be losers in this global scramble ostensibly have no one to blame but themselves.2

The same logic applies to those throwing Maduro or Morales under the bus. Or for that matter Assad. Look, if you are a leader targeted by the US there must be a reason. And that reason is independence from the global neoliberal system — and independence is not allowed. Ask the people of Iran or the DPRK or Cuba. Ask Gaddafi. The US does not do things for moral reasons. They are not motivated by ethics or morality.

The rise of fascism is also a reflection of the same conditions that spawned the ‘Greta Defender’ symptomatology.

Fascism is attractive to those who fear being identified as losers. Fascism provides a sense of belonging, of unity and purpose. American democracy does not. The ideological frontier that Slotkin noted is what defines the consciousness of most Americans, certainly white Americans. That rugged individualism that Hollywood continues to spew forth in cop shows and spy shows and lawyer shows and even doctor shows is one that is not real. There is no space, materially or psychologically, for Daniel Boone today. Most of the empty spaces of western America are owned by the federal government.

Most land overall is owned by billionaires. Sixty-one percent of the surface land of America is privately owned. And most of that is empty. The government owns around thirty percent. The working class owns nothing, essentially.

Blacks (13% of the population) own under 1% as of 2016.

But over the past decade, the nation’s wealthiest private landowners have been laying claim to ever-larger tracts of the countryside, according to data compiled by the Land Report, a magazine about land ownership in America. In 2007, according to the Land Report, the nation’s 100 largest private landowners owned a combined 27 million acres of land — equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined.
A decade later, the 100 largest landowners have holdings of 40.2 million acres, an increase of nearly 50 percent. Their holdings are equivalent in area to the entirety of New England, minus Vermont.3

80% of the people live on 3% of the land.

Ted Turner owns over 2 million acres. John Malone over 2 million. Stan Kroenke owns over a million-and-a-half acres. The Hadley family, the Galt family, the Lee family…these are the owners of America’s land. Or Anne Marion who owns the 260,000 acre Four Sixes ranch in Texas. Or the Collier family, or the Barta family in Nebraska. All own close to a million acres of land. There are essentially 75 families, maybe a few more, that own the vast majority of land in the U.S. Jeff Bezos owns half a million acres in Texas. The Irving family owns a huge percentage of Maine, or the Reeds, who own vast swaths of northern California and Oregon.

You and I own shit. We are the new serfs in the feudalism of advanced capital. So why defend those who represent the ruling class?

The racial disparity in rural land ownership has deep historical roots based not just in chattel slavery, but in the post-slavery period as well. After emancipation, black farmers tended to be tenants of wealthy white landowners working for sub-poverty wages and doing mostly subsistence farming. Average land ownership for black farmers peaked in 1910, according to the Agriculture Census, with about 16 to 19 acres. In contrast, black farmers owned just 1.5 million acres of arable land in 1997.

In many cases, the land African Americans lost over the 20th century was expropriated in one form or another and not sold freely. In the 2007 documentary, Banished, filmmaker Marco Williams describes numerous examples of white mobs forcing out African-American farmers and taking their land. This outright stealing, intimidation, and violence had a devastating impact on black wealth ownership.4

Just as white America feared black ownership of, well, anything, the white ruling class capitalists today fear the potential for a black planet. America has military bases in all the countries of Africa save one. France and Germany and the US continue to recolonize Africa. And now, the US is directing renewed attention to Latin America where they fear indigenous power and socialist movements.

The international financial institutions, all of them situated in Europe or the US, are the contemporary expression of colonialism, essentially. They discipline and punish the dark skinned peoples of Africa, South and Central America, and many Pacific Islands. And in many cases, too, those countries which were formally part of the Soviet Union.

If you want to grasp the work of Cory Morningstar, this is not a bad place to start for now.

One cannot separate climate change from imperialism. You cannot separate climate change from militarism. If change is going to try to correct global warming, or limit its impact (which honestly nobody knows) then one must learn to read how marketing works. One must question anything applauded by the Royal families of Europe, or by billionaires in general. Those billionaires will not betray their class, rest assured. The billionaires and corporate interests behind Greta Thunberg are not looking to help the poor and working class; they are looking for massive land grabs and further raids on pensions, social security, and what’s left of working class and socialist movements. Maybe Proyect can connect the dots between the coup in Bolivia, the opposition in Venezuela (that failed state per Sale) and the big money orchestrating the Thunberg phenomenon. The ruling class stick together.

Conspiracy theory used to be reserved for invisible helicopters and such, now it’s simply any class analysis. Anytime someone points out who is funding a project there are cries of conspiracy theory.

Why would any rational person look at the Greta phenomenon and not grasp that it is manufactured? There is a lot of money behind this girl. But the non-profit industrial complex, the UN, the World Bank and IMF — they don’t do things altruistically. Capitalism is investment, not virtue. Capitalism created the crisis, it won’t solve it. Greta also retweeted the now sort of infamous Minh Ngo tweet that was part of the smear campaign against Morales. She is linked and backed, additionally, by Purpose and Avaaz — both of whom are connected to US foreign policy in South America. But Morningstar has the details here.

She also endorses and tweets support for Hong Kong colour revolution leader Joshua Wong (yet another US asset). She is, as Club de Cordeliers put it (on twitter), ‘the ruling class poster girl’. And this is not even to get into her comments about holding disobedient leaders up against the wall. The infantilism of the western public is well prepared for child leaders. This is a canny gambit by the marketing apparatus and by all indications (and articles like Proyect’s) it is working to perfection.

Greta is not anti-capitalist. She may say a few things that suggest, vaguely, an anti-capitalist sensibility, but the reality (which is what Morningstar provides) is that she works for big money, corporations and FOR capitalism.

You know when Greta gave her last speech in the US — at the UN, in fact — (where she flubbed her lines, saying creative PR and clever accounting. It was meant to be creative accounting and clever PR, but learning lines is tough) she sailed back to Europe. The captain had been flown in to sail the yacht on its return voyage. The whole thing is so ludicrous and idiotic that one really does wonder if the West is not in some trance state. The inability to read marketing as marketing is at this point inexcusable in someone self identifying as a leftist. The system sails along, like a billionaire’s yacht, increasing profit at the expense of the everyone not of the top 2 or 3%. Greta is a manufactured distraction, and all those protests that her campaign managed to generate are not to help stop war and exploitation. They are pretty much as meaningless as choosing to drive a Prius.

I will end with a quote from Cory Morningstar (from social media):

You are about to get slammed by 2 globally orchestrated campaigns 1. #GlobalGreenNewDeal 2. #NewDealForNature & People
And when I say slammed – I mean slammed. Like a hammer over your head. Another campaign to assist both is #SuperYear2020.
Goal: obtaining the social license required to re-boot / save the failing global capitalist economy. To usher in a new unprecedented era of growth. The monetization of nature, global in scale (new/ emerging markets)(see past posts). That is, the corporate capture of nature. Those with money – will literally buy nature.

The pitch: The ruling class, corporations, capital finance – all those that have happily destroyed the planet in pursuit of relentless profit have learned their lesson.They have magically changed. Those that destroyed the biosphere will now save it. And save you. All they need is your consent. Forget that capitalism devours everything in its path. They can work around this inconvenient truth. But it’s going to take everyone. There are no class divisions, we are all in this “together”. Yesterday’s capitalists are today’s activists. Accept. Join hands.

  1. “Letters from Afar,”  March/April 1917.
  2. Jimmy Wu, “Capitalism is Dangerous for your Mental Health”, Medium, 2019.
  3. Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, 2017.
  4. Antonio Moore,  Inequality org.

US’ Afghan War: Imperialism’s Limit exposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slate said in its report:

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

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

The WaPo report said:

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

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

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

The documents show:

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

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

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

So, it’s found:

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

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

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

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

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

The report said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report said:

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

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

The report finds:

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

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

An intelligent brain they have!

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

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

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

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

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

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, what does the reality say today?

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

The questions are

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperialism is Like a Multilevel Marketing Company, with its Own Military

You can call it the way the world works, capitalism abroad, or simply the system. But whatever you call it, it is interesting how much the international economic structure operates like multilevel marketing.

In a typical MLM company — Amway remains the best known example, but there are many others — products are sold, but so is an ideology. This ideology is the key to generating profit for the capitalists who started the corporation and a few lucky early insiders. While Amway does sell health, homecare and beauty merchandise, its most important product is the idea that anyone who joins the company can become rich. Selling that notion is what keeps every successful MLM company going. It’s what attracts new recruits, who soon learn that the best way to make money is by enticing more new recruits and on and on. A percentage of the revenue generated by every recruit goes to the person who recruited her and on and on back up the pyramid to the founders of the company.

If you get in early enough it is possible to get rich, but the further one gets from the top of the pyramid the more difficult it becomes to make any money at all and it may even cost people thousands of dollars to learn this reality. In fact, Canada’s “national newspaper” recently ran a story by journalist Ellie Flynn with the headline “Multilevel marketing sells a dream. Don’t buy it” that reveals this and more.

Flynn writes about the number of people involved: “In my home country, Britain, there are more than 400,000 people signed up to MLMs. In Canada, this number rises to 1.3 million, while in the United States, there are more than 18 million distributors. Worldwide, there are an astonishing 116 million people involved.”

Interestingly, in my over 50 years of reading and working for newspapers I don’t recall ever seeing an equivalent story about the world economic system (WES) even though it works in much the same fashion as MLMs and over 7.5 billion people are involved.

Multilevel marketing includes all sorts of ways for the originator of the scheme to make money off new recruits including: seminars, classes, conferences, books, videos, huge mark-ups on products, a percentage of all sales, etc. Capital flows back to originators (primarily North America and Europe) of the world economic system from franchise agreements, patents, copyrights, loans, currency fluctuations, driving down wages, service agreements, profit repatriation (often to a tax haven) and many more means, legal and illegal.

(The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] offers countries advice on how to deal with at least 10 ways mining companies cook their books and that’s just one industry.)

Just like the vast majority of people who try to get rich through multilevel marketing fail, so too will countries who play by the rules of the world economic system (WES).

Why do poor and “less developed” countries accept all this? Why don’t they set off on an independent path of national self-development that in fact has been the means by which almost every successful capitalist country (including newcomers like China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan) built its economy to the point it could actually compete and win in the world economy.

A big part of the reason is that just like Amway the world economic system sells an ideology to go along with its products. The basic notion is exactly the same as Amway’s. “You too can become rich if you just follow our system.” And of course a few people in every poor country do well enough from promoting the world economic system that the idea of becoming rich can be believable enough, at least for some time. Equally important is the principle, embedded in the ideology of Amway and the WES , that if you fail it is your fault. It is never the system’s fault. “You just didn’t work hard enough or follow the rules closely enough. You need to try harder.” That message is everywhere.

While Albert Einstein’s quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” [except Einstein never said that — DV ed] may seem to apply, there is another reason people choose to blame themselves rather than the system.

While the carrot of getting rich is awfully enticing, there is something else. The system gives countries a choice: Eat the carrot, even if it’s not your favourite veggie, or face the stick. Like Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, or Bolivia.

Imagine that Amway also had the largest military force in the world. What would it do? Pretty much exactly what the USA and its WES “allies” do. Protect its profits and way of doing business. Threaten any “unfair” competitors. Destroy enemies often enough that any potential competitors or places that just wanted to do things a different way would be leery of crossing you. Or course enticing people by the promise of getting rich would always be the preferred method of staying on top, but when that doesn’t work …

The reality is Amway does have the largest military force in the world. And so does GM, GE, Amazon, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Unilever, Royal Bank of Canada, Mitsubishi, Apple and many other huge corporations. It is the USA/NATO armed forces. And along with that comes the world’s most powerful cyberwarfare capabilities, “intelligence” services, and propaganda machine. If you blame the system instead of yourself, you may face all that.

Neoliberal imperialism is multilevel marketing, exploitation, the rich getting richer and militarism.

And it is real fake news when the media tries to tell us otherwise.

Capitalism’s Suicidal Trajectory can’t be ignored

If we make it out of the climate emergency, we may come to view the few decades usually described simply as the Cold War that followed the Second World War as halcyon days – at least relative to what we are facing now.

The Cold War was a power struggle between two economic empires for global domination – between the United States and its vassal states, including Europe, on one side, and Russia and its vassal states lumped together into the Soviet Union, on the other. The fight was between a US-led capitalism and what was styled as a Soviet-led “communism”.

That struggle led to an all-consuming arms race, the rapid accumulation of vast nuclear arsenals, the permanent threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD), military bases in every corner of the planet, and the demonisation by each side of the other.

Not much has changed on any of those counts, despite the official ending of the Cold War three decades ago. The world is still on the brink of nuclear annihilation. The arms race is still at full throttle, though it is now dominated by private corporations making profits from “humanitarian interventions” based on “Shock and Awe” bombing campaigns. And the globe is still awash with military bases, though now the vast majority belong to the Americans, not the Russians.

‘End of history’

After the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, we moved from a bipolar world to a unipolar one – where the US had no serious military rival, and where there was no longer any balance of forces, even of the MAD variety.

That was why US empire intellectuals such as Francis Fukuyama could declare boldly and, with so much relief, the “end of history”. The US had won, capitalism had emerged victorious, the west’s ideology had prevailed. Having defeated its rival, the US empire – supposed upholder of democratic values – would now rule the globe unchallenged and benevolently. The dialectics of history had come to an end.

In a sense, Fukuyama was right. History – if it meant competing narratives, diverging myths, conflictual claims – had come to an end. And little good has resulted.

It is easy to forget that the start of the Cold War coincided with a time of intense international institution-building, flowering into the United Nations and its various agencies. Nation-states recognised, at least in theory, the universal nature of rights – the principle that all humans have the same basic rights that must be protected. And the rules governing warfare and the protection of civilians, such as the Geneva Conventions, were strengthened.

In fact, the construction of a new international order at that end of the Second World War was no coincidence. It was built to prevent a third and, in the nuclear age, potentially apocalyptic world war. The two new superpowers had little choice but to recognise that the other side’s power meant neither could have it all. They agreed to constraints, loose and malleable but strong enough to put some limits on their own destructive capabilities.

Carrot and stick

But if these two empires were locked in an external, physical struggle with each other, they equally feared an internal, ideological battle. The danger was that the other side might make a more persuasive case for its system with the opposing empire’s citizens.

In the US, this threat was met with both carrot and stick.

The stick was provided by intermittent witch hunts. The most notorious, led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, searched for and demonised those who were considered “un-American”. It was no surprise that this reign of terror, exposing “Communists”, focused on the ultimate US myth-making machine, Hollywood, as well as the wider media. Through purges, the creative class were effectively recruited as foot soldiers for US capitalism, spreading the message both at home and abroad that it was the superior political and economic system.

But given the stakes, a carrot was needed too. And that was why corporate capitalism was tamed for a few decades by Keynesian economics. The “trickle-down” effect wasn’t simply a talking-point, as it is now. It was a way of expanding the circle of wealth just enough to make sure a middle class would stop any boat-rocking that might threaten the wealth-elite running the US empire.

War of attrition

The Cold War was a war of attrition the Soviet Union lost. It started to break apart ideologically and economically through the 1980s – initially with the emergence of a trade union-led Solidarity movement in Poland.

As the Soviet empire weakened and finally collapsed, capitalism’s internal constraints could be lifted, allowing Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to unleash unregulated neoliberal economics at home. That process intensified over the years, as global capitalism grew ever more confident. Unfettered, capitalism anticipated its ultimate fate in 2008, when the global financial system was brought to its knees. The same will happen again soon enough.

Nonetheless, Soviet collapse is often cited as proof of two things: not only that capitalism was a better system than the Soviet one, but that it has shown itself to be the best political and economic system human beings are capable of devising.

In truth, capitalism looks impressive only comparatively – because the Soviet system was appallingly inefficient and brutal. Its authoritarian leaders repressed political dissent. Its rigid bureaucracies stifled wider society. Its paranoid security services surveilled the entire population. And the Soviet command-style economy was inflexible, lacked innovation and regularly led to shortages.

The weaknesses and atrocities of capitalism have been much less obvious to us only because the culture in which we are so steeped has told us for so long, and so relentlessly, that capitalism is a perfect, peerless system based on our supposedly competitive, acquisitive natures.

Installing dictators

History, remember, is written by the victor. And capitalism won. We who live in the capitalist west only hear one side of the story – the one about vanquishing Communism.

We know almost nothing of our own Cold War history: how the US empire cared not a whit about democracy abroad, only about extracting other people’s resources and creating dependent markets for its goods. It did so by cultivating and installing dictators around the globe, usually on the pretext that they were necessary to stop evil “Communists” – often popular democratic socialists committed to redistributing wealth – from taking over.

Think of General Augusto Pinochet, who headed a brutal dictatorship in Chile through the 1970s and 1980s. The US helped him launch a military coup against the democratically elected left wing leader, Salvador Allende, in 1973. He created a society of fear, executing and torturing tens of thousands of political opponents, so he could introduce a “Shock Doctrine” free-market system developed by US economists that plunged the country’s economy into free-fall. Wealth in Chile, as elsewhere, was siphoned off to a US elite and its local allies.

This catastrophic social and economic meddling was replicated across Latin America and far beyond. In the post-war years, Washington was not just responsible for the terrible suffering its war machine inflicted directly to stop the “Communists” in Latin America and south-east Asia. It was equally responsible for the enormous number of casualties inflicted by its clients, whether in Latin America, Africa, Iran or Israel.

Military-industrial complex

Perhaps the US empire’s greatest innovation was outsourcing its atrocities to private corporations – the emergence of a military-industrial complex Dwight D Eisenhower, the former US army general, warned about in his farewell address of 1961, as he stood down as president.

The global corporations at the heart of the US empire – the arms industries, oil companies and tech firms – won the war of attrition not because capitalism was better, fairer, more democratic or more humane. The corporations won because they were more creative, more efficient, less risk-averse, more psychopathic in their hunger for wealth and power than Soviet bureaucracies.

All those qualities are now unimpeded by the constraints once imposed by a bipolar world, one shared between two superpowers. Global corporations now have absolutely unfettered power to drain the planet of every last resource to fuel a profit-driven, consumption-obsessed system of capitalism.

The truth of that statement was mostly unspeakable 16 years ago when one was ridiculed as a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist for pointing out that the US had invented two pretexts – Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and its equally imaginary ties to al-Qaeda – to grab control of that country’s oil.

Now Donald Trump, the foolish, brash president of the United States, doesn’t even bother to conceal the fact that his troops are in Syria to control its oilfields.

Toothless watchdogs

The unipolar world that resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union has not only removed the last constraints on the US empire’s war-making abilities, the external battle. It has also had terrible repercussions for the internal, ideological battlefront.

Control of the media has grown ever more concentrated. In the US the flow of information is controlled by a handful of global corporations, often with connections to the very same arms, oil and tech industries so keen to ensure the political climate allows them to continue pillaging the planet unhindered.

For some time I have been documenting examples of the corporate media’s falsehoods in these columns, as you can read here.

But US elites have come to dominate too the post-war international institutions that were created to hold the superpowers to account, to serve as watchdogs on global power.

Now isolated and largely dependent on funding, and their legitimacy, from the US and its European allies, international monitoring agencies have become pale shadows of their former selves, leaving no one to challenge official narratives.

The combined effect of the capture of international institutions and the concentration of media ownership has been to ensure we live in the ultimate echo chamber. Our media uncritically report self-serving narratives from western officials that are then backed up by international agencies that have simply become loudhailers for the US empire’s goals.

A coup becomes ‘resignation’

Anyone who doubts that assessment needs only to examine the reporting of last week’s military coup in Bolivia, which overthrew the democratically elected leader Evo Morales. Corporate media universally described Morales’ ousting and escape to Mexico in terms of him “resigning”. The media were able to use this preposterous framing by citing claims by the highly compromised, US-funded Organisation of American States (OAS) that Morales’ rule was illegitimate.

Similarly, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter has shown convincingly how the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body monitoring states’ nuclear activities, has come under the US imperial thumb.

Its inspectors produced gravely misleading information to help the US make a bogus case justifying Israel’s bombing in 2007 of what was claimed to be a secret nuclear reactor built in Syria.

The deceptions, it later emerged, included the IAEA violating its own protocols by concealing the results of the samples taken from the site that showed there was no radioactive contamination. Instead the IAEA highlighted one anomalous finding in a changing-room that was almost certainly caused by cross-contamination from an inspector.

Head-choppers humanised

Another stark illustration of how international agencies have been captured is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It has played a central role in bolstering an unproven US narrative, echoed by the western corporate media, that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has been responsible for a spate of chemical weapons attacks on his own people.

That narrative has been vital to western efforts at justifying regime change in a key Middle Eastern state resistant to US-Israeli-Saudi hegemony in the region. The narrative has also been useful in “humanising” the head-chopping extremists of Islamic State and al-Qaeda – which were in control of the areas where these alleged attacks took place – making it easier for the west to support them in a proxy war to oust Assad, a battle that has created untold misery for Syrians.

But the OPCW is no longer the independent, respected expert body it once was. Long ago it fell under effective US control – back in 2003 when its first director-general, Jose Bustani, was forced out by Washington in the run-up to the attack of Iraq. That was when the US needed to manufacture a false pretext for invasion by suggesting that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction. US official John Bolton even threatened Bustani’s children, so desperate was George W Bush’s administration to cow the agency.

In Syria, the post-Bustani OPCW has been the lynchpin of the US narrative spin against Assad. Basic investigative protocols have been discarded by the OPCW, such as the requirement of a “chain of custody” to ensure any samples handed to it can be properly attributed. Instead the OPCW has implicated the Syrian government in the alleged chemical attacks based on samples collected by Islamist extremists desperate to justify more western meddling against Assad to bolster their own rule in Syria.

The first real test of the chemical weapons narrative came last year in Douma, where the Islamists argued that they had again been attacked. That claim led to the US, Britain and France launching missile strikes on Syrian positions in violation of international law.

Days later the Islamists lost control of the city to Assad’s forces and for the first time OPCW inspectors were able to visit the scene of an alleged attack themselves and collect their own samples.

Douma findings distorted

The official report into Douma, published earlier this year, appeared to confirm the US narrative. It hinted strongly that the Syrian air force had dropped two bombs located by the OPCW and that those sites had tested positive for the chemical chlorine.

But thanks to two separate whistleblowers from the OPCW, one of whom was an investigator in Douma, we now know that the official report was not the one submitted by the investigators and did not reflect the evidence they unearthed or their scientific analyses of the evidence. It was rewritten by the OPCW officials in the Hague to suit Washington’s agenda.

The official report was, in fact, a complete distortion of the evidence. Investigators found that levels of chlorine at the supposed bomb sites were no higher than background levels, and less than found in drinking water – nowhere near enough to have killed Douma’s victims shown in photos produced by the Islamist groups.

The investigators’ findings suggested an entirely different narrative: that the Islamists in Douma had placed the bombs at the two sites to make it look like a chemical attack had taken place and thereby provide a pretext for even deeper western interference.

It was not difficult to understand why officials in the OPCW’s head office had decided to conceal their expert inspectors’ findings and submit to US intimidation.

The real findings would have:

  • undermined the official narrative unquestioningly attributing the earlier chemical weapons attacks to the Syrian government, in turn making a mockery of western claims to humanitarian concern in aiding and funding years of a devastating proxy war in Syria;
  • revealed the politicisation of the OPCW, and the corporate media’s supine treatment of the Islamists’ claims;
  • intimated at the collusion between western governments and Islamist groups that have been slaughtering non-Sunni populations in the Middle East and launching terror attacks in the west;
  • highlighted that the US-British-French military attack on Syria in response – a violation of Syria’s sovereignty – was not simply a war crime but the “supreme war crime”;
  • and bolstered the case for the Syrian government to be allowed to regain control of its territory.

Down the memory hole

The leaks from the OPCW whistleblowers paint a very troubling picture, where our most trusted international institutions can no longer be relied on to seek out the truth. They are there to serve the world’s sole super-power as it seeks to manipulate us in ways that accrete ever more power to it.

It is quite extraordinary that the mounting evidence that OPCW officials conspired in the falsifying of evidence to help the US empire overthrow another government is not considered news, let alone front-page news. There has been a complete media blackout on these revelations.

In an unguarded moment back in May when she heard about the first whistleblower, the BBC’s much-admired chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet responded to a Twitter follower that it was “an important story” and that she would “make sure programmes know about it”.

Six months and another whistleblower later, neither Doucet nor the BBC have uttered so much as a squeak about the discrediting of the OPCW report. This “important story” has been collectively plunged down the memory hole by the corporate media.

In this confected unipolar reality, we, the public, have been left compass-less, exposed to fake news not only from wayward social media sites or self-interested governments but from the large media “watchdogs” and the very global institutions supposedly set up to act as dispassionate arbiters of truth and justice. We have been returned to a world where might alone makes right.

Environmental destruction

Things are bad enough already, but all the evidence suggests they are going to get a lot worse. Capitalism’s problems go beyond its inherent need for violence and war to acquire yet more territory and open up new markets. Its economic logic is premised on endless growth, based on unremitting resource extraction from a finite planet.

That causes two major problems.

One is that as the west runs out of resources – most obviously oil – to fuel its endless consumption, resource extraction will become ever more difficult and less profitable. Markets are shrinking and the ramifications can now be felt at home too. Youngsters in the west have no hope of being as successful or wealthy as their parents, or even grandparents.

In a world of diminishing resources and no serious ideological or economic rival, Keynesian economics – the basis on which western elites won over their publics by enlarging the middle class – has been discarded as an unnecessary indulgence. We are in an era of permanent austerity for the many to subsidise the further enrichment of the already fabulously wealthy few.

But second, and much worse, capitalism is being exposed as a suicidal ideology. In its compulsion to monetise everything, it is polluting the oceans with plastic and choking the air with particulates. It is rapidly extinguishing insect life, the main barometer of the planet’s health. It is destroying habitats necessary for larger animals and for biodiversity. And it is creating a climate that humans will soon not be able to survive.

Capitalism isn’t unique in degrading the environment. Soviet economies were quite capable of it too. But as with everything else it touches, capitalism has proved to be uniquely efficient at destroying the planet.

Sinking boat

It is no longer just poor people out of sight in far-off lands who are being made victims of capitalism, though for the time being they are still the worst hit.

They are fleeing the lands we helped to degrade with our weapons, and the crop failures that resulted from the climate change our industries fuelled, and the poverty we increased through our resource grabs and addiction to consumption. But in our continuing arrogance we block their escape with tougher immigration policies and “hostile environment” strategies. We trivialise the plight of those we have displaced through our globe-spanning system of greed as “economic migrants”.

It is gradually becoming clearer – with the environmental emergency – that we are all ultimately in the same boat. It is only the supremely efficient propaganda machine created by the capitalist elite that still persuades too many of us that there is no way to get off the boat. Or that if we try, we will drown.

But the stark reality is that we are in a sinking boat – the sinking boat of capitalism. The hole is growing and water rushing in faster by the day. Inaction means certain death. It is time to be brave, open our eyes and search for dry land.

When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia Today, Look for a US Role

President Evo Morales, deposed leader of Bolivia

When it comes to politics in Latin America, what initially seems clear is usually anything but.

And when that some complicated political event happens and is reported about in the US, the last place to look for clarity is the US media, which almost universally parrots the Washington line — an imperialist one that takes as it’s premise the so-called Monroe Doctrine that all of Latin America is “the US backyard.”

For well over a century or more, the US has played a corrupting hand throughout Latin America, often well hidden, sometimes in a hard-fisted manner. The military juntas in Brazil, in Argentina, in Chile and in Nicaragua, the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Honduras, in Nicaragua, in Guatemala, in Haiti, in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the failed invasion attempt in Cuba shortly after the successful Cuban Revolution, the brutal civil war in El Salvador and the Contra War against the Sandinista revolutionary government in Nicaragua, the hunt and eventual murder of Che Guevara in Peru, Operation Condor, which tracked and murdered thousands of revolutionaries as the CIA coordinated the reactionary forces of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay…

It’s an almost endless list, behind which one always finds the US Counter Intelligence Agency, US AID, the State Department and of course, the US military and its School of the Americas—still a training ground for South American fascist military leaders ready to do the bidding of the region’s fascist tyrants, or to help overthrow democratically elected leaders unwilling to kowtow to US empire.

So it has been of late as the failed US attempted to crudely overturn the last re-election of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, even to the absurd extent of Washington’s ludicrous promotion of Juan Guaidó, a young nobody groomed at Georgetown University, as the “real” president of the country.

And so it surely is in the latest coup by the military and police of Bolivia who have succeeded in driving out of office and into Mexican exile the hugely popular President Evo Morales of Bolivia, after he had just won re-election to a fourth term.

The US media are quick to call Morales a corrupt tyrant, but the former labor leader and first native American to win a presidency in Latin America is far more of an honest politician than at least 90 percent of the politicians in our own national capital, who rarely get called out for their reliance on the legal bribes they get from the wealthy and corporations looking for access and favorable legislation.

Morales has for 15 years been a breath of fresh air in a continent where the poor have generally been held down and forced to live on starvation incomes while their leaders vacation in Miami or New York City — a leader who pushed away the corporate interests, who spoke forcefully for real action on climate change, and who made huge strides to improve the lives of his long-suffering people.

It was Morales who, last year at a September session of the UN Security Council, on which Bolivia at the time held a temporary seat, blasted President Trump, who had come there in person to push for stiffer sanctions on Iran, claiming it was “promoting terrorism.”

“Bolivia categorically condemns the unilateral actions imposed by the government of the United States of America against Iran,” Morales said. The Bolivian president went on tr say of Trump that under his administration the US “could not care less about human rights of justice. If this were the case, it would have signed the international conventions and treaties that have protected human rights. It would not have threatened the investigation mechanism of the International Criminal Court, more would it promote the use of torture, now would it have walked away from the Human Rights Council. And nor would it have separated migrant children from their families nor put them in cages.”

All true, and something we don’t hear from our own news media, which is content to echo official Washington in calling Morales a tyrant or dictator, even though there is no evidence of this and in portraying the US as a paragon of democratic virtue and as a champion of human rights. Morales in fact just won an at least 40 percent plurality of the vote in a multi-party election for a fourth term, he hasn’t been arresting opponents and jailing them, and he has significantly improved the lives of Bolivia’s poorest people during his 15 years in office. (Maybe that last bit is his problem?)

Those words he spoke at the UN just over a year ago are fighting words for Trump as they have been for other US leaders who in the past have been denounced by democratic leaders in Latin America like Hugo Chavez and Salvador Allende and then faced US-orchestrated coups.

History shows us that US antipathy towards independent progressive leaders generally results in US-sponsored subversion and military coups.

I don’t pretend to know at this point what happened in Bolivia this past week or so, but I have no trouble predicting that as the days go by, we will gradually learn, though not from our complicit, imperialist national media organization, that the black hand of the CIA was behind the Bolivian military’s decision to drive Morales from power.

It has always been thus. It’s why the US Congress so lavishly funds the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA, the School of the Americas, USAID and other such subversive outfits.

Viva Evo! Bolivia Libre!