Category Archives: Imperialism

The Jakarta Method Never Ended

Prepare to read Vincent Bevins’s The Jakarta Method in one sitting because it’s impossible to put down. The book is a summation of the US government assisting the Indonesian military in killing approximately one million civilians from October 1965 through March 1966.

While the Vietnam War got most of the headlines, in Indonesia the world’s third largest communist party was winning hearts, minds and elections — much to the alarm of the United States. After years of cultivating and training the Indonesian military the US decided it was time for the Indonesian working class to put away childish things like land reform and resource nationalization. The two-million strong (but fatefully unarmed) Indonesian communist party, the PKI, had to be exterminated “down to the roots.”

The mass murder starts on October 7 on Sumatra with a fanatical anticommunist commander named Ishak Djuarsa who trained at Fort Leavenworth. The police and military arrest leftists and their sympathizers en masse. Trusting peasants and factory workers turn themselves in for what they think is routine questioning and are never heard from again. For mass murder to spread so quickly it’s necessary for ethnic and religious fault lines to be exploited and “ordinary” citizens to directly participate in the killings, often under the threat of being killed themselves.

Most of the killings were summary executions done with knives, swords, machetes, sickles and spears. The flow of small rivers and streams was disrupted by too many dead bodies. Rape, torture, gendered violence, castration and dismembering alive swept across the 17,000 island archipelago from Banda Aceh to Papua. The US provided arms, training, communication equipment and lists of thousands of real and alleged leftists to be killed. US-owned plantations furnished lists of “troublesome” employees. US officials repeatedly sent cables to the leader of the butchery, General Suharto, to kill the leftists faster.

The Indonesian military “pioneers” “disappearing” people and, before 1966 ends, this will be a tactic of state terror in Guatemala. Soon right-wingers are scrawling “Jakarta is coming!” on walls throughout Latin America. 1968 brings the Phoenix Program (50,000 killed) in Vietnam and in the 1970s Chile adds the new twist of extra-territorial assassination in Operation Condor. The 1980s bring the Nicaraguan contras (50,000 killed) and Salvadorian death squads (75,000 killed.)

The “Salvador option” migrates to Iraq in 2004 with the US creation of the Wolf Brigade death squad, overseen by some of the same villains in the Central American bloodshed: James Steele, John Negroponte and Elliott Abrams. The Obama-backed 2009 Honduran coup catapults that nation into the number spot in the world for the killing of labor leaders, land reformers and journalists. As I write this the police and paramilitaries of US client narco-state Colombia are gunning down unarmed protesters in the streets of Cali.

It was one big capitalist party as US media and nearly all politicians cheered on the deaths of “communists” (union organizers, teachers, journalists, students, land reformers) and, after the peace of the dead was established, US oil companies flocked into Indonesia. “Communism” (i.e., the working class majority helping itself) had been “turned back” in the fourth most populous nation on earth. Capitalism’s bloodthirsty media soldiers, like “liberal” New York Times columnist James Reston, called the slaughter “A Gleam of Light in Asia.”

Besides the million Indonesians murdered, another million were sent without charge or trial to prison camps for decades. Unlike truth and reconciliation commissions established in other countries following government atrocities, every Indonesian government since 1965 has been proud of the slaughter. Westerners party today on Bali beaches where 56 years ago massacres of 80,000 Balinese took place and bones and skulls still wash up. To give a flavor for the madness of the Indonesian ruling class since 1965 — which included killing 300,000 people in East Timor between 1975 and 1999 — it’s best to just quote Bevins:

Much worse things happened than this to the families of communists and accused communists. In Indonesia, being communist marks you for life as evil, and in many cases, this is seen as something that passes down to your offspring, as if it were a genetic deformity. Children of accused communists were tortured and killed. Some women were prosecuted simply for setting up an orphanage for the children of communist victims.

In January 1966 Robert F. Kennedy became the only prominent US politician to speak out against Suharto’s carnage. With the Kennedys, though, we always get a dose of historical whiplash as, earlier in the book, RFK and JFK debate sending in marines to overthrow the government of the Dominican Republic. They veto this as too obvious but Bobby helpfully suggests blowing up the US consulate themselves as a pretext to invade. (According to Ron Ridenour’s Russian Peace Threat, Robert Falseflag Kennedy also suggested a similar “Remember the Maine” incident to justify directly attacking Cuba during the missile crisis.)

Early in the book there are a couple revealing anecdotes about Chinese leaders trying to talk sense into Indonesia’s charismatic but overconfident President Sukarno.

Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai tells Sukarno that he should have his own armed working class militia apart from the military: “The militarized masses are invincible.” Che told Guatemalan leftists the same thing in 1954 but neither Sukarno nor Arbenz did this and their working classes paid dearly. (Decades later Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez creates the armed Bolivarian Militia of 3.3 million men and women, probably staving off a direct US invasion.)

Chairman Mao also warns Sukarno that he’s too complacent about the Indonesian military. Mao remains the only leader in history to overthrow his own government and Bevins posits that the bloodbath in Indonesia was a partial impetus for the 1966 Cultural Revolution to purge any bourgeois elements.

In another early chapter, Richard Nixon admits in private that communists and socialists improve people’s lives and will win elections — if the US lets elections be held. Nixon said this in 1955 about Indonesia and again in 1970 about Allende’s Chile. Over and over, it’s the “good example” of different economic systems that the insecure US ruling class fanatically seeks to crush. The US system has never been able to “compete” without bombs, bribery, brainwashing, blackmail and bullets.

And you know what? It all worked — just like the FBI exterminating the black left “worked” in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, everywhere, whether Indonesia or the United States, we see the triumph of capitalism: staggering wealth inequality, environmental devastation, endless wars, police impunity, masses ground down to subsistence, homeless people under every bridge, tens of millions afraid that an illness or injury will bankrupt them, indebted, pauperized, surveilled and censored.

In Youtube interviews Bevins, currently a reporter for the Washington Post, wonders if we’ll look back on the present and see other ignored atrocities. Considering that the Washington Post supported the US destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria, the decades-long and ongoing hammering of Cuba, Iran and Palestine, and the scrupulous ignoring of six million people killed in the Congo by US-ally Rwanda — I’d say we don’t have to wonder.

What I’m wondering is when Bevins is going to write a story in the Washington Post about the illegal unconstitutional dirty war the US is currently waging on Syria, the illegal occupation of one third of Syria, the US theft of Syria’s oil and wheat, the US sanctions which only punish the Syrian working class, the US/UK domination and corruption of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the US military’s care and feeding of takfiri fanatics and US Congressional complicity in war crimes. Maybe 50 years from now it will be “safe” to tell Syria truths.

The post The Jakarta Method Never Ended first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Star Trek: A Viewpoint beyond Liking It

See Part 1.

What is the point of Star Trek? When examined under apposite practical context, the conclusion may validate the argument that Star Trek filmography cannot be separated from the business enterprise that created it. Consequently, it is no-brainer to deduce that special interests control the content, direction, and purpose of such films.

Star Trek (ST) sagas are fascinating—even addictive. One explanation could be that the modifier Star makes us feel good about a Trek that would take us far from problems afflicting our planet. Another may suggest that imagination, storylines, characters, costumes, etc. are put together in such a way that earned them enduring allure and a place in the cultural landscape. Those among us who, as if under “cultic” influence, enjoy watching the various Enterprise ships roaming between the stars may justify the “addiction” in terms of relaxation without guilt. Is that the whole story? No. Beyond the assumed relaxation, progressives would want to see their ST experience as a means to uncover possible new metrics denoting freedom, progress, and effective humanistic principles.

Yet, are we so delusional that we embrace fictional tales of dubious value despite our realization that the hyped trek is not only crudely fictitious but also a mirror for Hollywood greed, its false worlds of extraterrestrial civilizations where most are bad, and only the Federation is good? On a serious note: is it conceivable that all these treks among the stars are, in fact, subtle ways to spread and justify U.S. policies, ideology, militarism, and interventionism?

To be sure, delusion has nothing to do with our affection toward Star Trek. We well know that fictional space adventures cannot possibly ascend to any appreciable value except that of entertainment. We also know that what we watch is only a rendering of fictional tales made in accordance with the cultural and business values of producers and writers. Of course, then, as we do not take this faking seriously, we still enjoy the twists to a story, seeing special effects and futuristic technologies in action, cinematography, and the visions for advanced societies.

Could Star Trek offer clues or means to examine social, cultural, and political situations? Highly improbable— such tasks are manifestly antithetical to the objectives of films that want to dazzle and entertain. Conversely, distancing from (or escaping into) filmic fiction while maintaining connections to it by other means is not vacillation of choice between two contrasting sets of behavior: adolescence coupled with nonchalant innocence and maturity tempered by discernment. There is no competition between these two sets. Proving this point, viewing a fictional story in space (in whatever set of behavior) could be much more gratifying than watching a documentary on, for example, the behavior of desert insects.

Ultimately, fiction will always remain fiction, and material reality will always remain material reality. Besides, neither fiction nor non-fiction has ever changed anything in the mentality and actions of modern states and societies where misinformation, disinformation, blatant political demagogy, gossip as culture, pervasive triviality, pomposity, and inconsequentiality dominate unchallenged—with no end in sight—every crevice of today’s culture.

Did a great movie such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest change anything in the behavior and ethics of hospitals, caregivers, and people toward mental instability? Did the U.S. prison system change after the movie Brubaker? In the book world, did Tolstoy’s War & Peace novel (1869) on the horrors of Napoleonic wars in Russia hinder the path to WWI? Did U.S. violence against countless nations of the planet cease after James William Gibson published his exceptional book: The Perfect War: Techno War in Vietnam? Did Ramsey Clark’s book, The Fire This Time (1992), stop the United States from invading Iraq in 2003?

Along the same lines, did ST stories influence anything important in the real world? The answer is no. Did they, at least, elicit intellectual response to certain topics relevant to empowerment and emancipation? The short answer is still no. Although some ST episodes or films could eventually stimulate some to engage in articulate debates, they are not the proper forums for intellectual tension and analytical drive (to be fair, a few productions do present topics deserving of reflection and respect). Meaning, they seldom contribute to achieving higher levels of consciousness in any concrete way. Does curiosity have a role? The answer is another no. Curiosity for how a plot would end is by no means equivalent to exploratory curiosity of the mysteries enveloping our outer space or the vast universe. Are there morality paradigms, ethical values, or philosophies we could learn from Star Trek? Once again, the answer is no.

To take on ST in a critical context, maybe it is a good idea to relate its significance vis-à-vis similar filmic and writing experiences. For starters, attributing to ST a science-fiction quality is deceptive. This cannot be otherwise. Star Trek is all fiction and just a very little science. Encyclopedia Britannica gives a terse definition for the concept of science. It states, “Science, any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.”

Accordingly, while Star Trek fits all formats of fiction, it does not conform to the definition of science. However, dubbing the science of ST and similar stock as pseudoscience is acceptable. Regardless, ST remains a fictional menagerie of good and bad—even contentious— scripts. To evaluate ST, it is relevant to point out the basic feature epitomizing the film industry. Together with the vast entertainment, music, and sport industries, the film industry is the highest expression of vulture capitalism where astronomical-paying jobs and moneymaking machines are the norm (in 2018, the global film industry was worth $136 billion).

Within such an environment, the ST franchise (like all similar widescreen and TV movies) is out there to sell a product and make good profits. Concerns for productions conducive to cultural or political debates rarely figure in the calculation of producers. Simply, the gluttonous underpinnings of such industry where business decisions start and end with eyes fixated on advertisers and box office cannot possibly be a voice for social progress through fictional dialog. Even independent filmmakers cannot escape this fate. At the end of the day, they need money for production, for living, and for lifestyle.

About fact-based films, Konstantinos Gavras’ great American film Missing (starring Jack Lemmon) went into fast oblivion despite all awards it garnered. Observation: Generally, American moviegoers are not interested in serious topics such as the abduction and killing of an American journalist in Chile (in the aftermath of the fascist military coup of Augusto Pinochet, 1973) that Henry Kissinger abetted and helped organize. By understated indoctrination, most Americans disproportionately look for entertainment over content.

Another great fact-based film that remained obscure is Z—also by Gavras. U.S. moviegoers and critics have no inclination to see political dramas in foreign lands—Greece in this case. Then there is Gillo Pontecorvo’s outstanding fiction-based film: Queimada (Burn!) that encapsulated the core and modus operandi of British colonialism. It went unnoticed despite an outstanding script and superlative performances by Evaristo Marquez and Marlon Brando.

It is an empirical fact that made-for-high-profit U.S. film industry is resistant to produce quality films in terms of progressive humanistic, artistic, political, or social values. Factors such as the type/size of prospected audience and expected revenues play fundamental roles in the decisions to make films. Consider Finding Forrester. This greatly distinguished film had no success at market level. Despite an impressive thematic value, the system will falsely claim that such movies are not what the moviegoers want.

Because so-called science fiction films have no inclination for intellectual subjects of any sort, filmmakers of this genre compensate by wrapping their productions with attractive illusions of technology with the intent to slide over all other deficiencies including poor dialogs. In addition, because producers follow pre-established financial-ideological guidelines, one specific consequence is notable: their pervasive tendency to treat the audience like kids. That is, to count on viewers’ intellectual passivity versus the meaning and purpose of films. The quid pro quo is apparent: visual and narrative “excitement” in exchange for intellectual indifference to the value of films.

What is preponderant in this context, therefore, is the viewing experience as an end. Mind you, the audience does not accept everything—people are not stupid. What appears to be working, though, is this: as we close our eyes to stupidities, we open them wide in the attempt to enjoy and understand the story. The keyword, therefore, is “enjoyment”. We enjoy, so to speak, seeing Leonard Nimoy pretending to be a logical person from Vulcan while knowing that nearly none of his “logical” remarks relate to the rhetorical craft of logic; and we like to see William Shatner exude “toughness” in the execution of his agenda as Captain Kirk, and so on.

In the same vein, Picard, Janeway, Sisko, Archer, McCoy, Ryker, Data, Worf, Crusher, La Forge, young Kirk (Chris Pine), etc. all had their big share of people’s affection for no other reason than being fictional characters with certain appeal. With the exception of Picard (Patrick Stewart, a fine Shakespearian actor, contributed to make the character excel in the delivery of the act), most other ST characters offered no serious intellectual provocations meant to challenge the mind.

If pertinence matters, Star Trek tales are not liberating experiences either. Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original series, put his ship in orbit and loaded it with topics borrowed from mentality, cultural, political, and military matters typical of his time. Unlike other fictional writers of the caliber of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and others, and despite his visionary approach to the future of humanity, Roddenberry, being a TV producer, appeared to have been inclined to tell commercially appealing adventurous stories. In practice, he sacrificed substance for commercial success.

What is relevant to the analysis of ST is that unlike Wells, for example, whose impassioned anti-imperialist impulses are known, Roddenberry chose the safe ground of the self-centered American culture. He imbued Star Trek with many problematic plots that, when interpreted rigorously, appear to be glorifying American colonialism, imperialism, militarism, racism, unilateralism, and gratuitous violence. Despite all that, Roddenberry redeemed himself in several valid episodes in the original series and in The Next Generation.

There is no doubt that other Star Trek series after Roddenberry such as Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Discovery and all spin-off series could have merits under certain circumstances. My focus is ST: The Original Series, and ST: The Next Generation. These two series represent the foundations upon which all other series were fashioned, not so much in terms of characters but rather in terms of the ideas that propel the ships and their crews into the infinity of space. Compare Star Trek to George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. Lucas remained a prisoner of superficial characters and story-lines à la Edgar Rice Burroughs. In contrast, Star Trek evolved far beyond the intent of Roddenberry.

Are there critical issues to debate about Star Trek: the Original Series (ST: TOS) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST: TNG)?

First things first, the history of post-WWII science fiction filmography is disappointing. From the moment in which Hollywood took firm control of the genre with its impressive, high-tech production capabilities and computer-generated imagery, filmic artistic values literally went down the notorious drain. There was one superlative exception: Kubrick’s film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (novel by Arthur C. Clark). From its release in 1968 until present, no film has ever matched it—not even close. (Of less artistic/intellectual value but with significant science fiction appeal are Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg and Gravity by Alfonso Cuarón)

As for Odyssey, who could ever forget the spectacular scene when one among the fighting man-apes threw a large bone (weapon) up into the sky, which then transmuted into a future artificial satellite? With that scene, a glimpse into the marvelous evolution and accomplishments of the human species was depicted to a lofty pinnacle of expression. Kubrick’s cinematography of 2001: A Space Odyssey elevated the film into a unique standard by which all science fiction films are measured. The appendix to this thought cannot be more direct: when the force propelling a film defines its trajectory by embracing the evolving purpose of humanity, the outcome would be another chapter celebrating life and the riches it offers. Do socio-humanistic and progressive cultural values propel so-called science fiction movies (e.g., Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Armageddon, Aliens, etc.)? That is, do they fit the evolving purpose of humanity? Does our “revered” Star Trek fit the purpose of humanity?

The answer to the first question is a resounding no. Films such as these are essentially void of intrinsic values that could promote equality, peace, and social progress. When films concentrate on special effects as substitutes for the story itself, on glorifying wars in space, on creating conflicts with imaginary space nations, on extreme violence, and on simplistic story-lines, they cannot possibly be ascribed to having any valuable purpose except unspecified excitement. To answer the question whether Star Trek fits that same purpose, we need to examine the situation with unbiased feelings and approach. This is understandable: despite our unapologetic, strong affection, the answer is no.

Earlier, I stated that Roddenberry imbued Star Trek: The Original Series with problematic plots that one may interpret as glorifying American colonialism, imperialism, militarism, and even violence as a means to resolve problems. Is there any truth to this assertion? Were these plots a conscious effort to tell a story as a means to re-write history, justify events, or maybe to perpetuate certain ideologies and social philosophies? Could it be that plots’ development was no more than “innocent” expedients meant only to excite, hence people should accept them at face value? Either way, we should never stand for unclear agendas—doing otherwise means that our intent to examine Star Trek has failed.

Was Star Trek: The Next Generation any different from The Original Series? Yes. Keep in mind that 19 years separate the two, which is a long period where daring technical innovations had taken place. Second, with an excellent team of producers, executive producers, directors and writers such as Rick Berman (who later became the head of the franchise), Michael Piller, Brannon Braga, and Ronald D. Moore, the franchise flew to a higher level of quality. (Roddenberry was also a consultant to the new series for some time). Most important, ST: TNG was superior vis-à-vis the original in a very specific way. It induced the demanding viewers not only to interact with the plot, think about variables, and investigate contradictions, but also to react on plot development and conclusion. The following are a few observations with focus on certain episodes from both series.

“Where no man has gone before,” announces captain Kirk. Is that an indirect tribute to so-called American exceptionalism? You bet. With the exception of Spock, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura, most other recognizable crew members appear to be and are Americans. The mission is American; the Starfleet command is in San Francisco, the computer and medical sciences aboard the ship are American, and many of the stories are replicas of American stories. To stress the American-ness of ST, when a strange magnetic storm catapults the ship back to the 20th century (episode: “Tomorrow is Yesterday”), it does not end up flying over China, Senegal, or Argentina. It flew over an American base on U.S. soil. In short, “To boldly go where no man has gone before”, was supposedly a “modest” American way to declare the “prowess” of Americans who “dare” to challenge the odds of galactic travel.

Again, “Space, the final frontier,” the solemn voice of Captain James T. Kirk intones. But what was the first frontier? Is there a correlation between the first and the final—why frontier in the first place? Could a word such as destination (or any other appropriate synonym) have been more expressive of the intent?

There is a distinct possibility that Roddenberry did not consider that he was juxtaposing the so-called American frontier, which is the conquest of what is now the United States, with the proposed final conquest of the space and its planets by the same colonialist power. Did he overlook a basic fact about the first American frontier expansions—the near extermination of the Original Peoples? If so, why did he not care to set the record straight? On the subject of recorded history, it is of no use that someone would try to minimize or void the juxtaposition, because in both cases the intent and its linguistic expression (final frontier) denotes a planned conquest of the outer space in emulation of the old conquest of Turtle Island—North American continent.

Generally, in the histories of British colonialism and its successors American, Canadian, New Zealander, and Australian colonialisms, for example, the notion of frontier was synonymous with never-ending geographical exploration—all of which are euphemisms for bloody conquests. In the so-called American experience, Manifest Destiny was the embodiment of a frontier always in motion to accumulate one conquest after another.

They wanted to discover new worlds. So they say. It is verifiable history that once European explorers landed their ships on the shores of these new worlds, they started to destroy them, remove and exterminate their indigenous populations, put their own populations in control, and create rules and laws to dominate and govern. Second, what is the purpose of discovering a new life and new civilizations only to destroy them? This happened in many science fictions movies—including Star Trek.

In “The Man Trap” episode, Kirk and crew did find such a life, a shapeshifter who needs salt to survive. Soon enough, they ended by vaporizing its molecules because the shapeshifter was effectively killing some crewmembers to get their body salt. Strange thing is, Professor Robert Crater and his wife (the creature in a shape-shifting mode as a former flame of McCoy), did ask for salt tablets without explaining the reason. Had the creators of ST envisioned a different course of action for the shapeshifter—and for humanity as an altruistic model—, an ideal ending could have been the following.

Instead of killing the new life, for which the crew traveled from planet Earth to find, Kirk could have provided the needed salt (ship replicators can replicate any food item) and deliver tons of it to the surface? Are we missing something? Yes. What lurks behind the concept of killing as entertainment?

Why is it important to discuss the fictional killing of a space life form? First, the concept moving the fictional killing is dialectically tied to the justification for real killing under similar but often invented premises. Second, this raises the question whether killing, as a solution for a problem, could be unilaterally justified by the killer. The answer is no. Killing is an objective-centered action. It is a rationalized act taught by humans to other humans throughout the ages—modern war colleges are an example. Alternatively, could it be that killing is intrinsic to the human genetic code? The answer is still no. Killing is a complex act that involves countless supporting factors including conditioning, thinking, prevailing societal patterns of violence, and ideological motivations. In addition, humans have evolved and eventually learnt to co-exist without murdering each other—ancient villages and cities, and modern urban living could attest to that.

Let us consider the issue of the shapeshifter under this light: do we kill sharks because sharks attack humans? Essentially, sharks attack humans only in water—it is their natural habitat and they need to eat to live. Humans, who cannot live in water, kill sharks either for flesh and fins, for “medicinal” cartilage, or, hypocritically, to fend off potential danger to humans. However, the empress of all universal truths is that killing to feed exemplifies the food chain in nature. With that, it is a common sense to state that the shapeshifter was exercising her or his right to live—does anyone blame the lions for hunting zebras?

Surprisingly, the murder of the shapeshifter on board of the Enterprise was not the end. In the episode “The Squire of Gothos,” the salt-sucking life form appears again but this time as a mummified body placed in a wall niche for exhibition by the villain of turn, the alien Trelane. There are two possible explanations as to why the producers decided for the “macabre” exhibition. The first: may be due to poor budget or poor taste in trying to fill the castle hall with trophies for the childish Trelane. The second is more complex. It is reasonable to speculate that the exhibition had an ulterior motive. It conveys the impression that not only Earth people could kill the “obnoxious creature” but also other space species such as Trelane’s people. To wade into a wider interpretation, it is as if ST producers are saying that killing is normal if the killer “declares it justified”. (U.S. imperialists call it collateral damage.)

A correlated topic: what is the nature of the five-year mission to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations”? Was the USS Enterprise travelling through space as a warship or as a peace ship? Rodenberry did not specify. Let us assume that the Enterprise was on a peaceful mission. If that were so, how could one explain the frightening weapons it carries? To be clear, there is no such thing as offensive or defensive weapons—only intent can determine their use. So where does the starship stand on this issue?

For those who are unfamiliar with the making and naming of the various American military divisions, suffice it to say that the starship has a military hierarchy. The top is captain (also used in civilian ships), but admirals and commanders are everywhere in space—they give orders, expect obedience, and can, at will, remove captains from the chair of command. In this case, what gives away the military nature of this ship is the presence of cadets. A cadet is a junior trainee in an army. For those who are familiar with the naming processes of the American Navy, they know that the prefix USS and number in the name of the Enterprise stands for United States Ship followed by the numerical sequence of its deployment. (In real context, the U.S. navy has had many maritime ships named USS before the creators of Star Trek introduced a ship sailing through space and named it United Space Ship (USS) Enterprise, NCC-1701.)

To make a comparison, unlike American warships that navigate through our oceans to intimidate nations they deem adversaries, Federation/American fictional starships roam the outer space ostensibly to explore “new worlds”. In more than just one situation though, USS Enterprise ships do use their “shock and awe” weapons to intimidate “stubborn” newly encountered space nations and individuals. In the episode “A Piece of the Action,” a tough Kirk forced two gangster groups (by demonstrating, through Scotty, what the ship can do) to stop fighting among themselves. In effect, he imposed Pax Americana in space on behalf of Federation.  A question: what is the positive in making peace between criminals? Did the city-planet benefit? Who knows—we only saw squabbling gangsters.

What kind of weapons do Starfleet ships have, anyway? Memory Alpha (MA) at Fandom dot com gives “serious technical details” on these weapons. Starships, as told by MA, have an impressive array of offensive weapons from phasers that vaporize people, all the way to the formidable photon torpedoes that vaporize ships, asteroids, and small planets. Now, why arm ships with such weapons if the intentions are peaceful? Why take all these imaginary weapons to the stars unless the Federation wants to use them as “torpedo” diplomacy against space species not yet discovered? Was that because this enemy has no interests in establishing diplomatic relations with the Federation?

More intriguing, how do we interpret the stubborn ideological tendency of ST writers to characterize the various space nations as being inherently hostile to the Federation? To push further, did Kirk or other captains of the Federation ever try to invent adversaries and enemies? Star Trek procedures never stated that directly in any episode. It often happens, though, that those the Enterprise encounters are often portrayed as unfriendly, bellicose, treacherous, and, more than often, imagined as having human or human-like bodies but with strange-looking heads and weird facial anatomy.

If observed closely, the message that ST tries to convey about the species populating the universe invariably dances to the Earthly tunes of racism, chauvinism, and imperialism: only the Federation and its implied boss, the United States, are good. In this guise, most space nations, be they Romulans, Cardassians, or Ferengi, etc., are naturally bad, while those who joined the Federation (does NATO ring a bell?) are good. Among these, you find Vulcans, Bajorans, and Klingons. (The latter incessantly dub the Romulans as having no honor. However, are the Klingons themselves honorable people according to the makers of ST? In the episode, Sins of the Father (ST: TNG), producers implicitly conveyed the judgement that the Klingon ruling establishment is conniving, traitorous, and without honor—they colluded to punish Worf to cover up for the misdeeds of a warlord.

Countless viewers and the media celebrated when Kirk kissed Uhura in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Eventually, that kiss entered the racial history of the United States. The uproar was possibly due to the perception that racial segregation and miscegenation in American society, at least in Hollywood, was on its way out. Those who jubilated placed the kiss in the context of changing U.S. race relations.

One moment please: but the episode was supposedly taking place in the 23rd century where race problems were supposed to have been resolved at least two centuries earlier! Then why celebrate a fictional kiss in the future (in outer space, nevertheless), but, in the process, convert it into real progress on Earth? One more thing: Kirk and Uhura kissed under duress by means of the kinetic power exerted on them by the “stepchildren”. Consequently, that kiss was not genuine, not valid, and was not a product of passion or love. By force of this argument, it is outlandish to claim it has any value in the exercise of willpower in normal human and race relations just because actors of different skin colors kissed on the set in the performance of their work.

Kim Petersen and I have discussed this matter. He writes, “I strongly disagree with much of the logic you employ here. For viewers, the fact that it is depicted as happening in the 23rd century and that it was telekinetically coerced is irrelevant. For 1960s racists, the mere acting of this was blasphemy and it broke a filmic barrier…”

My counter-argument: the notion that “The mere acting of this was blasphemy, and it broke a filmic barrier”, is of limited practical consequences. Yes, it might have broken a filmic barrier; but that barrier is situated in a world of moneymaking milieus where the games are played by the rules of the film industry and market response to them. In such milieus, actors can make it or break it based on numerous factors that are inconsequential when applied to those disadvantaged sectors of society where the paradigms for conducting a normal life without discrimination and prejudice cease to work.

Incidentally, before the airing of this episode in 1968, Stanley Kramer’s film The Defiant Ones (1958; story by Nedrick Young) tested the grounds on race relations by chaining two prison escapees; one is white and a bigot (played by Tony Curtis); the other is black (played by Sidney Poitier). Despite winning many accolades, the film did not generate uproar, as did the kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols. Why is that, especially knowing that the critical content of The Defiant Ones far exceeds the superficial plot of “Plato’s Stepchildren”? Possible explanation: while the tease generated by the scene of a kiss between a white man and a black woman might have raised the anger (or consent) of some, it only broke, if that is what really happened, the taboo in a specific workplace but not in society. Consequently, in a complex societal structure, the” PARTICULAR has no chance in transforming into GENERAL.

One episode (ST: TOS), “A Taste of Armageddon,” stands out for its peculiar script, for its ideological themes, and for the actions taken by Kirk. The story-line speaks of two planets at war. As for the plot, the episode unequivocally displays a type of decision-making favoring mass violence while apparently promoting a determined intention for unsolicited intervention. There are two points to argue:

First, the co-authors (Gene L. Coon and Robert Hamner) have politicized the script in terms favorable to the American idea of supremacist beliefs. Here is how I read the script: as typical of an overconfident Kirk (or the United States ideologically looming behind him), he decided unilaterally to transform that war from a war-by-computer but with real victims into a real war with real weapons and real victims as well—with the computer numbers resulting in people being disintegrated as per the numbers. In concrete terms, Kirk’s decision was a prescription for protracted violence. No need to say that Coon and Hamner made Kirk win his gambit and the story ended without further deaths. Was there any insinuation working behind the scenes? Of course, the United States, through Kirk’s action and despite it, was “successful” at “stopping” bloodshed from continuing. It seems that a rationale comes into being: Kirk-U.S. intervention “paid off”. Implication: “American interventions are good”. Mike Pompeo expressed the doctrine for intervention in naked terms. He dubbed American wars in the Middle Eat as follows, “The United States is a force for good …”

Second, they injected a biblical term into the script with apparent intent to reinforce and spread the ideology of the “born again Christian”. A question: what was hiding behind the decision to recycle into the future of humanity the mythology of Armageddon (the end of time battle)? Was that a veiled attempt to make the meaning of the term stick in the minds of viewers as a “prophesy” that should happen in the future?

The episode has another angle. It promotes the idea that the United States (the ever-belligerent former cop of the world on planet Earth before space travel) has evolved to become, again, the top cop of the outer space in the 23rd century. (Read how the imperialist media frame the issue of U.S. policing the world: 1) Should the United States be the World’s Policeman? 2) Should the U.S. use its military and financial power to act as the world’s policeman?)

Vilification of lifeforms in space appears in the episode: “A Devil in the Dark”. What is the reason for which ST producers call a life-form, living in its own natural environment on planet Janus IV: devil (which is an evil force according to religious mythologies on Earth)? Was that life-form evil because of its physical attributes? Some may argue that film titles are no more than rhetorical gizmos. That may be true; but experience taught us that derogatory name-calling is the ideological first step to dehumanize people in order to attack them—in the American ideology of wars and discrimination words such gooks, coons, ragheads, brown peoples, etc., are omnipresent.

It seems that many writers of Star Trek series (and other fictional stories in space) do not want—by design or by ideological attitudes—to imagine a future world without wars. You can see that clearly when some writers place an oversized emphasis on wars and mortal antagonisms between imagined extra-terrestrial civilizations. Is there any message here? Are they trying to convince us that wars are normal occurrences typical of all thinking species? Are we dealing with innate predilection for wars? There is no such thing as innate predilection for war. What exists, though, is a rooted ideological construct that sees wars as a glamourous showcase for empire, dominance, and control? The imperialist New York Times explained this horrific construct as follows: “The Pitfalls of Peace: The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth“.

In the first episode of ST: TNG, “Encounter at Farpoint,” an omnipotent space “alien” (Q) transports Picard to a quixotic, strange court and puts him on trial for the crimes of humanity.

The premise is fine. But ST writer Dorothy Catherine Fontana was eloquently leading the script to an impressive indictment of Picard representing the Federation and, by allegorical extension, its boss: the United States. Speculation: Q, being a god-like omnipotent, could have brought to trial not only a captain of an American starship, but also all other leaders of the planet. Given that Fontana chose only the U.S. rep, she might have wanted to put only the United States on trial. Or could it be that Q’s (Fontana’s) indictment of Picard because the crimes of humanity pale by comparison with that of the United States?

Picard gave his most memorable performance as a captain in the episode “The Measure of a Man.” (What made Picard shine was an exceptional script written by Melinda M. Snodgrass who was a lawyer and a novelist.) The script goes like this: when a federation scientist wanted to disassemble Data to study him, Picard prevented his transfer by arguing against slavery, and that Data, albeit being an android, has the right to decide for himself if he wanted to be disassembled and studied.

Before everything, expecting that fiction could resolve real problems is non sequitur. That is, winning a solid argument in fiction is not synonymous with winning the same in reality. At one point during the hearings, Picard declares, not in so many words, that slavery ended a long time ago. To beautify an imaginative future, Picard overlooked an important aspect of slavery. While open physical slavery with shackles has disappeared, slavery by other means has continued. In our world, racism, discrimination, poverty, violence motivated by ideology, raging wars by aggressive states (U.S., NATO states, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel) on militarily weaker nations are all different forms of slavery whereby the victims often lack effective means of resistance despite putting up strenuous fights.

Since I touched on the issue of slavery by other means, there is one peculiar form of slavery that I call Behavioral Enslavement. In such form, peoples, groups, individuals think, react, and take action in accordance with transmitted, fixated ideas about other peoples, their cultures, and their ways of life. You can see such a form of slavery of the mind in the episode “The Paradise Syndrome” (ST: TOS). The script depicted Kirk and Spock encountering a peaceful oasis inhabited by a tribe of Original Peoples; most westerners still chauvinistically call them American Indians following the name coined by Christopher Columbus.

First, paradise is an idyllic imagination of a place. Consequently, dubbing it as syndrome is odd. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines syndrome as follows: “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition”. A question: which group of signs and symptoms did the producers find abnormal about the place they depicted?

Aside from its absurdity as imagination, what is wrong with such a depiction anyway? Are we not dealing with fiction? This is fiction; so where is the problem? Consider the following sequence of events. A writer from the 20th century imagined a situation in the 23rd century. In it, the writer continues to see the tribe as still living in teepees. Still wearing the same attire of four centuries earlier, still motivated by irrational passions (as seen when a tribesman attacks and wounds Kirk in a fit of jealous rage), and still believing in the supernatural as the sudden appearance of Kirk from a shrine pushed them to think of him as a divine entity. It is reasonable to conclude that the writer was incapable of seeing the Original Peoples in any other way except that one depicted by Hollywood. Very little thought the producers gave to tribe’s other attributes like synchrony with nature, wisdom of the mind, peaceful relations, and much, much more.

American hyper-imperialism is distinguished for playing the pretext maker, the accuser, the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the executioner in international relations and wars. The undergirding for such a self-arrogated “extraordinary” role is sheer unaccountability—primarily due to its military power, aggressive impulses, and institutionalized gangsterism.

In one episode of ST: TNG, Commander Ryker reprised the role played by the United States on Earth but gave it the allure of a space backdrop in the 24th century. In that episode, “The Vengeance Factor,” a space woman was seeking vengeance against another group with who her people were at war (what else populates the mind of Star Trek writers except war?) Well, when the woman was lunging toward her designated target to kill him, Ryker pleaded with her not do it, which was a fine act of chivalry. To make her desist, Ryker—with a stony expression on his face and a phaser in his hand—kept stunning her. When she made her final lunge, the First Officer vaporized her with a phaser no longer set to stun.

Let us debate the killing. Because Ryker, his captain, and the crew freely express the principles of the Federation—so-called Prime Directive—, why did he not use all other sophisticated means of the Enterprise to subdue and then expel her from the ship without resorting to total annihilation? Had he done that, the viewer could surmise that the humanity of the future had come a long way from the path of violence by implementing carefully crafted humanistic mentalities…. Yes; it is impossible to read the mind of writers; but it is quite possible to read between the lines of thought. So, what to make of a pretentious script that dispenses with elementary ethical concerns for the sake of slipshod story writing that varnishes senseless violence? Alternatively, was the script a subliminal attempt to slip in an ideological architecture whose undeclared end is providing acquiescence for U.S. imperialistic violence in its self-granted role as the world’s cop?

This leads to the foremost issues whereby fictional space stories replicate, reinforce, and rationalize acts of the system’s violence on Earth. The implication is straightforward: the impulse for rationalized killing seems deeply seated on the minds of those who think of themselves as the guardians of state powers and directives. In a word, one may conclude that in travelling from our century to the 24th, the trekkers of the Enterprise have paved no new paths toward peaceful co-existence or prevention of wars. On the contrary, they were enmeshed in terror and discord wherever they went.

Before closing, I must address how Star Trek producers and writers, from the Original Series to NuTrek, composed certain stories. William Shatner once tweeted, “What is NuTrek? Is that like simonizing?” Shatner’s sarcasm is incisive—he hit the nail on the head. Star Trek filmography cannot escape the “curse” of cheap commercialism, contentious writing, poor writing, ideological writing, and writings that cannot (or do not want) to deal with fictionalized space stories on humanistic platforms.

For instance, at the end of the film Star Trek: Into Darkness, a young Kirk gave a speech to a large audience gathered at Starfleet Command. He said, “There are always people who want to harm us …” Where did that come from? Of course, it came from post-9/11 atmosphere where the phrase, “Why do they hate us…” became an everyday ideological construct in the hands of American interventionists. In the same movie, Admiral Marcus, who was plotting a war with the Klingons, angrily asked Kirk, “When war comes, who’s going to lead us: you!” His words indicate one thing: he expected that his pretext would lead to a fighting war and that he would be the one directing it. In this context, it appears that fiction writers are often keen to start wars in space. Why is that?

Star Trek: The Original Series is replete with odd scripts. Among these is the episode “Patterns of Force.” Not only is this episode highly ideological, but also very poor from the viewpoint of fiction writing. Why on earth (after all the Hollywood movies about the Third Reich), does one have to watch a space fiction story set in the 23rd century only to find Kirk and Spock fighting Nazi-like species and humans on a planet called Ekos? In political terms, “Patterns of Force” was a propaganda tool by the producers to keep the talk about Germany and Nazism going. To make the point, did anyone see a Star Trek movie having the landing party come to a planet where Americans have devastated places like Bear River, Wounded Knee, Dresden, Berlin, Korea, Vietnam, or Hiroshima, for example?

Kirk and Spock did it again in the episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” In it, Spock points out that the death of Edith Keeler is necessary to end her pacifist campaign from stopping WWII (otherwise, Germany would have a nuclear bomb). Consequently, Kirk did not try to save her by letting her die under the wheels of a passing car. What is the deal with such episodes: fixation or indoctrination? (Remark: yet, it was okay, from the viewpoint of ST writers, for the U.S. to build a nuclear device and use it on Japan. Why is that?)

To close, Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and all successive spinoffs are interesting to watch. On other grounds, my opinion is that the franchise in its current forms and structures has no intellectual soul. From the viewpoints of reason and hope, it is not promising to see U.S. fictional starships drift in space only to engage in wars somewhere in the galaxy. It is one thing that the United States is ruining our world with real wars; it is another when it is ruining the outer space with fictional wars.

Then there is the nowadays reality: this summer is the scheduled official standing up of the United States Space Force, the U.S. army in space. Stand by!

The post Star Trek: A Viewpoint beyond Liking It first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Government Report Documents US Responsibility for Venezuela’s Humanitarian Dilemma

Venezuela was once one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. The popular classes enjoyed major advances from the Bolivarian Revolution initiated by Hugo Chávez. Today Venezuela is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis with severe humanitarian consequences.

The US government blames the crisis on the mismanagement and corruption of the Venezuelan government headed by Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan government faults the US and its allies for imposing sanctions, unilateral coercive measures illegal under international law.

An official US Congressional Research Service report issued April 28, “Venezuela: Background and US Relations,” suggests the Venezuelan government has valid arguments that it is being strangulated by US sanctions. According to the report:

It is difficult to attribute precisely the extent of Venezuela’s economic collapse that is due to US sanctions versus broad economic mismanagement. A February 2021 Government Accountability Office report asserted that “sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy.” The Maduro government has defaulted on all its bonds, and US sanctions prohibit debt restructuring with creditors.

US regime-change activities

The Congressional Research Service report provides a brief revision of history to fit an imperialist narrative to justify the hybrid war to achieve regime change in Venezuela. Hence the US-backed coup in 2002, when the US government welcomed a “return to democracy,” is euphemistically referred to as President Chávez’s “brief ouster from power.” The subsequent employers’ lockout in 2002-2003, designed to economically cripple the government and cause its fall, is called an “oil workers’ strike.” The lethally violent guarimbas calculated to overthrow the elected Maduro government are called “student-led” protests.

While in all the above instances, the US role in events is rendered invisible, the report describes how “Congress has provided funding to support democratic civil society in Venezuela,” which is Washington’s duplicitous shorthand for regime change programs.

The report continues: “For more almost [sic] two decades, the US has provided democracy-related assistance to Venezuelan civil society through the US Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy,” the former through its appropriately named Office of Transition Initiatives. “For FY2021, the Administration requested…$200 million to support transition in Venezuela.”

In January 2019 the US and its allies ceased to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president after then National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, who had never run for national office, “announced he was willing to serve as interim president.” Guaidó’s coup attempts are euphemistically described as “high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to encourage security forces to abandon Maduro.”

Even the US allies that have recognized Guaidó, “oppose military intervention in Venezuela and have expressed concerns about the humanitarian effects of broad sanctions,” according to the report.

The report laments that: “The Venezuelan government has made it difficult for Venezuelans to obtain a valid passport and therefore legal status outside the country.” The difficulty, conveniently omitted from the report, is that when a foreign state expels the legitimate Maduro representatives and installs Guaidó’s, Caracas has no means of conducting normal embassy activities.

Economic crisis

Key in the US hybrid war to achieve regime change in Venezuela are the economic sanctions. The report forthrightly describes:

[the] multiyear economic crisis, one of the worst economic crises in the world since World War II: Its economy has contracted by more than 75% since 2014, estimated as the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years and more than twice the magnitude of the Great Depression in the US. Imports—which Venezuela relies on for most consumer goods—have fallen by almost 95% since 2013. The country faces shortages of critical food and medicine.

Contrary to the official US narrative that Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is root cause of all problems, the report admits: “The trigger for Venezuela’s economic crisis was the crash in world oil prices in 2014.”

The report explains how US sanctions confounded the Venezuelan government’s efforts to address this crisis:

Piecemeal efforts to address the crisis, including price controls and the creation of a new digital currency, the petro, were ineffective [because they were blocked by the US government]. Some initiatives, such as restructuring debt or bringing the government budget into balance, were pledged and then abandoned [again prevented by the US government sanctions].

Subsequent rounds of US sanctions targeting the government, central bank, and gold sectors, as well as limiting Venezuela’s access to the US financial system, likely exacerbated economic pressures in Venezuela. With private creditors unwilling and unable (due to sanctions) to purchase new Venezuelan debt, the Maduro government routinely turned to its main international financial backers—China, Russia, and more recently, Iran—but China and Russia are increasingly reluctant to extend further assistance [due to secondary sanctions].

The sanctions are not just against Venezuela but affect other countries amounting to a blockade:

The sanctions framework also prohibited non-US entities from transacting with PdVSA [Venezuelan state-owned oil company] in US dollars and made non-US entities subject to having their US property blocked, should it be determined that they materially assisted PdVSA….

Under the sanctions framework, Treasury also has sanctioned numerous individuals, vessels, and companies involved in trading and shipping Venezuelan oil. This progressive application of sanctions—designed to prevent export and sale of oil produced in Venezuela—has made it more difficult, though not impossible, for PdVSA to complete petroleum sales and export transactions.

Venezuela’s dilemma: patria o muerte

The US government imposes the choice on Venezuela – in the words of the Latin American revolutionary slogan – of patria o muerte (homeland or death). In the period 2017-2018 alone, some 40,000 deaths were attributed to the sanctions. And that was pre-COVID and before the most devastating sanctions fully took effect.

In a weaponization of the pandemic, the US took advantage of the health vulnerability to make conditions even worse, according to the report:

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the economic challenges facing the Venezuelan government…. Fuel shortages, exacerbated by the end of US-licensed oil for diesel swaps in the fall of 2020, reportedly have made food distribution and humanitarian aid delivery more challenging.

Noting that “it is unclear how Venezuela’s economy can rebuild in the absence of a significant reorientation of economic policies,” the report calls for the abandonment of the Bolivarian social project and adoption of an IMF structural adjustment program, which would remove price controls on vital necessities, privatize banks, and fully open the economy to the dictates of international finance.

“The economic crisis, now exacerbated by the pandemic,” the report coldly explains, “has been devastating for its citizens, with no clear or quick resolution on the horizon in the absence of a resolution to the concurrent political crisis.” The “political crisis” is the US regime change program designed to subjugate Venezuela.

“Although sanctions do not seem to be physical warfare weapons,” the Lancet (3/18/20 as quoted by FAIR) noted, “they are just as deadly, if not more so. Jeopardizing the health of populations for political ends is not only illegal but also barbaric.”

Conclusion

The findings in the congressional report are a recommended counterpoint to those of the corporate media such as CNN that anguish over the dire conditions in Venezuela but obscure the major perpetrator. Ditto for leftish analysts such as Chris Gilbert who writes: “The silent event that shook Venezuela in 2015-16 involved an abrupt return to capitalist normality. At about that time Maduro’s government decided to step back from interventions in the economy.” Left out of his picture is the fact that US sanctions were imposed on Venezuela at precisely that time.

If the US government’s propaganda is correct that the current crisis is due to Maduro’s mismanagement and corruption, then illegal and inhumane sanctions would not be needed to dislodge the “regime.” Conversely, given that the sanctions and accompanying blockade are so overwhelming, the impacts of mismanagement and corruption would be difficult to parse out. In fact, the report says, “data suggest that production declines accelerated following sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil sector.”

The one conclusion for sure is that the US is punishing the Venezuelans for the good things (such as poverty reduction, documented in the report) and not the bad. Otherwise, demonstrable narco-states like Colombia and Honduras that are guilty of manifest human rights violations would be treated like Venezuela, and Venezuela would be the largest recipient of US aid.

The Congressional Research Service report concludes:

The failure to dislodge Maduro from power demonstrated the limits of US and other international efforts to prompt political change in Venezuela. Unilateral US policies, such as oil sanctions, arguably worsened the humanitarian crisis in the country and caused divisions within the international coalition that once backed Guaidó.

In other words, despite inhumane sanctions by the US and its allies, the Bolivarian Revolution has endured because of its popular support.

The post Government Report Documents US Responsibility for Venezuela’s Humanitarian Dilemma first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19

A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power.
― Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, October 1962

For good or bad, COVID-19 has changed the way we navigate the world.

It is also redrawing the boundaries of our world (and our freedoms) and altering the playing field faster than we can keep up.

Owing in large part to the U.S. government’s deep-seated and, in many cases, top-secret alliances with foreign nations and global corporations, it has become increasingly obvious that we have entered into a new world order—a global world order—made up of international government agencies and corporations.

This powerful international cabal, let’s call it the Global Deep State, is just as real as the corporatized, militarized, industrialized American Deep State, and it poses just as great a threat to our rights as individuals under the U.S. Constitution, if not greater.

We’ve been inching closer to this global world order for the past several decades, but COVID-19, which has seen governmental and corporate interests become even more closely intertwined, has shifted this transformation into high gear.

Fascism has become a global menace.

It remains unclear whether the American Deep State (“a national-security apparatus that holds sway even over the elected leaders notionally in charge of it”) answers to the Global Deep State, or whether the Global Deep State merely empowers the American Deep State. However, there is no denying the extent to which they are intricately and symbiotically enmeshed and interlocked.

Consider the extent to which our lives and liberties are impacted by this international convergence of governmental and profit-driven corporate interests in the surveillance state, the military industrial complex, the private prison industry, the intelligence sector, the security sector, the technology sector, the telecommunications sector, the transportation sector, the pharmaceutical industry and, most recently, by the pharmaceutical-health sector.

All of these sectors are dominated by mega-corporations operating on a global scale and working through government channels to increase their profit margins. The profit-driven policies of these global corporate giants influence everything from legislative policies to economics to environmental issues to medical care.

Global Disease

The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled us into a whole new global frontier. Those hoping to navigate this interconnected and highly technological world of contact tracing, vaccine passports and digital passes will find themselves grappling with issues that touch on deep-seated moral, political, religious and personal questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers.

We are about to find our ability to access, engage and move about in the world dependent on which camp we fall into: those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have not.

“It is the latest status symbol. Flash it at the people, and you can get access to concerts, sports arenas or long-forbidden restaurant tables. Some day, it may even help you cross a border without having to quarantine,” writes Heather Murphy for the New York Times. “The new platinum card of the Covid age is the vaccine certificate.”

This is what M.I.T. professor Ramesh Raskar refers to as the new “currency for health,” an apt moniker given the potentially lucrative role that Big Business (Big Pharma and Big Tech, especially) will play in establishing this pay-to-play marketplace. The airline industry has been working on a Travel Pass. IBM is developing a Digital Health Pass. And the U.S. government has been all-too-happy to allow the corporate sector to take the lead.

Global Surveillance

Spearheaded by the National Security Agency (NSA), which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, the surveillance state has come to dominate our government and our lives.

Yet the government does not operate alone. It cannot. It requires an accomplice.

Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of our massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental bureaucracy.

Take AT&T, for instance. Through its vast telecommunications network that crisscrosses the globe, AT&T provides the U.S. government with the complex infrastructure it needs for its mass surveillance programs. According to The Intercept:

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s ‘extreme willingness to help.’ It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it ‘has access to information that transits the nation,’ but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

Now magnify what the U.S. government is doing through AT&T on a global scale, and you have the “14 Eyes Program,” also referred to as the “SIGINT Seniors.” This global spy agency is made up of members from around the world (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and all British Overseas Territories).

Surveillance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these global alliances, however.

Global War Profiteering

War has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire and its incestuous relationship with a host of international defense contractors, is one of its biggest buyers and sellers.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth. For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.8 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (that’s $8.3 million per hour). That doesn’t include wars and military exercises waged around the globe, which are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

The illicit merger of the global armaments industry and the Pentagon that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today. America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe.

Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure,  spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors. Price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire.

It’s not just the American economy that is being gouged, unfortunately.

Driven by a greedy defense sector, the American homeland has been transformed into a battlefield with militarized police and weapons better suited to a war zone. President Biden, marching in lockstep with his predecessors, has continued to expand America’s military empire abroad and domestically in a clear bid to pander to the powerful money interests (military, corporate and security) that run the Deep State and hold the government in its clutches.

Global Policing

Glance at pictures of international police forces and you will have a hard time distinguishing between American police and those belonging to other nations. There’s a reason they all look alike, garbed in the militarized, weaponized uniform of a standing army.

There’s a reason why they act alike, too, and speak a common language of force: they belong to a global police force.

For example, Israel—one of America’s closest international allies and one of the primary yearly recipients of more than $3 billion in U.S. foreign military aid—has been at the forefront of a little-publicized exchange program aimed at training American police to act as occupying forces in their communities. As The Intercept sums it up, American police are “essentially taking lessons from agencies that enforce military rule rather than civil law.”

This idea of global policing is reinforced by the Strong Cities Network program, which trains local police agencies across America in how to identify, fight and prevent extremism, as well as address intolerance within their communities, using all of the resources at their disposal. The cities included in the global network include New York City, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Paris, London, Montreal, Beirut and Oslo.

The objective is to prevent violent extremism by targeting its source: racism, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, etc. In other words, police—acting as extensions of the United Nations—will identify, monitor and deter individuals who exhibit, express or engage in anything that could be construed as extremist.

Of course, the concern with the government’s anti-extremism program is that it will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the private sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

Are you starting to get the picture now?

On almost every front, whether it’s the war on drugs, or the sale of weapons, or regulating immigration, or establishing prisons, or advancing technology, or fighting a pandemic, if there is a profit to be made and power to be amassed, you can bet that the government and its global partners have already struck a deal that puts the American people on the losing end of the bargain.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has perished.

In its place is a shadow government—a corporatized, militarized, entrenched global bureaucracy—that is fully operational and running the country.

Given the trajectory and dramatic expansion, globalization and merger of governmental and corporate powers, we’re not going to recognize this country 20 years from now.

It’s taken less than a generation for our freedoms to be eroded and the Global Deep State’s structure to be erected, expanded and entrenched.

Mark my words: the U.S. government will not save us from the chains of the Global Deep State.

Now there are those who will tell you that any mention of a New World Order government—a power elite conspiring to rule the world—is the stuff of conspiracy theories.

I am not one of those skeptics.

I wholeheartedly believe that one should always mistrust those in power, take alarm at the first encroachment on one’s liberties, and establish powerful constitutional checks against government mischief and abuse.

I can also attest to the fact that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I have studied enough of this country’s history—and world history—to know that governments (the U.S. government being no exception) are at times indistinguishable from the evil they claim to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

And I have lived long enough to see many so-called conspiracy theories turn into cold, hard fact.

Remember, people used to scoff at the notion of a Deep State (a.k.a. Shadow Government). They used to doubt that fascism could ever take hold in America, and sneer at any suggestion that the United States was starting to resemble Nazi Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

As I detail in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re beginning to know better, aren’t we?

The post The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Continuing the War in Syria

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing on April 15, 2021, on “10 Years of War: Examining the Ongoing Conflict in Syria.” As is customary of American exceptionalism, the feasibility of regime change in Damascus was not left undiscussed.

Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who is the top Republican on the subcommittee, explicitly called for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. “The Assad regime is illegitimate and should be replaced,” said Wilson. Omar Alshogre, Director for Detainee Affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force, also remained uncompromising in his insistence on the overthrow of the government, saying the 2011 uprising in Syria was inspired by USA’s “democratic” tradition.

Fantasies of Regime Change

Continued talk about regime change in Syria is unmoored from reality. Those begging the US to overthrow the Assad regime with guns and bombs fail to see how the involvement of external powers has led to sheer devastation. Far from being “democratic”, USA has been fuelling a viciously sectarian war in Syria.

While initial periods of the 2011 uprising expressed the discontent of the Syrian people against Assad’s neoliberal authoritarianism, Euro-American interventionism soon gave a sectarian character to the rebellion. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood — a Sunni Islamist organization — played a lead role in the revolt from the very first moment, dominating the Syrian National Council (SNC), formed in early October 2011, which the US and its Western allies immediately apotheo­sized as “the leading interlocutor of the opposition with the international community.” The SNC, pro­claimed the West, would be “a legitimate representative of all Syrians” — a potential government-in-exile.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was the SNC’s military wing. “What we are aiming for is a revolution with a political wing, repre­sented by the SNC, and a military wing, represented by the FSA,” Col. Aref Hammoud, a Turkey-based commander with the FSA, told the Wall Street Journal. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood was funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar — this money being used, as then SNC President Burhan Ghalioun said, “to help equip the Free Syrian Army.”

Molham al-Drobi, a senior council member and a representative of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood on the council, stated that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were funding the council to the tune of $40 million per month. Weren’t all of these states presided over by princes, emirs, and kings, who preferred to govern by decree, eschewing any form of democratic participation? While the Gulf Arab monarchies funded the rebels of Syria to overthrow Assad’s dictatorship, Washington muttered not a word of criticism against them.

Then President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar, Kuwait and UAE are autocracies and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of these states inherit power from their families — just as Bashar has done — and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahhabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we were made to believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

The FSA — touted as “moderate rebels” by the West — was inevitably going to be sectarian insofar it was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood and funded by Sunni monarchies. It had virtually no representation among the roughly 30% of Syria’s population that wasn’t Sunni. Most FSA brigades used religious rhetoric and were named after heroic figures or events in Sunni Islamic history. Many of the par­ticipating groups had strong Islamist agendas, and some groups had similar ideologies as other jihadi groups, following the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam.

Among the FSA’s Islamist members was the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which existed “on the ground” working “under the FSA umbrella.” One of the Brotherhood-affiliated guerilla groups was the Tawheed Division, which led the fight against the Syrian government in Aleppo. One FSA com­mander told recruits: “Those whose intentions are not for God, they had better stay home, whereas if your intention is for God, then you go for jihad and you gain an afterlife and heaven.” This was hardly the exhortation of a secularist.

As western powers provided arms to the supposedly moderate opposition, a striking development occurred. The opposition to Assad became a fragmented movement dominated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al-Qa’ida franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic Front, consisting of six or seven large rebel military formations numbering an estimated 50,000 fighters whose uniting factor was Saudi money and an extreme Sunni ideology similar to Saudi Arabia’s version of Islam. The Saudis saw the Islamic Front as capable of fighting pro-Assad forces as well as ISIS, but Riyadh’s objections to the latter appeared to be based on its independence of Saudi control rather than revulsion at its record of slaughtering Shia, Alawi, Christians, Armenians, Kurds, or any dissenting Sunni.

The “moderate” rebels were completely marginalized. Their plan since 2011 had been to force a full-scale Western military intervention as in Libya in 2011 and, when this did not happen, they lacked an alternative strategy. The US, Britain and France did not have many options left except to try to control the jihadi Frankenstein’s monster that they helped create in Syria. At other times, they repackaged some rebel warlords, thinking they would be considered “moderates” simply because they were backed by the West and its regional allies.

Reviving Jihadis

In February 2021, the US government media organization Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) conducted an interview with Abu Mohammad-al-Jolani, the head of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the latest among the name-changing jihadis the mainstream press still refers to as Syria’s “moderate opposition.” Martin Smith’s exchange with Jolani is a piece of a documentary on Jolani that PBS’ Frontline program plans to air in the future.

The HTS was formed in 2017 out of the remaining jihadi groups that had gathered in Idlib in 2015. The main pillar of the HTS is the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and before that the Jabhat al-Nusra. The other groups that joined the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to create the HTS include the four main omnibus jihadi groups: the Jabhat Ansar al-Din, the Jaysh al-Sunna, the Liwa al-Haq and the Haraka Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These are hardened groups of fighters, many of them coming in and out of each other’s platforms and even fighting each other viciously.

For the past several years, the HTS has tried to rebrand itself as “moderate”. In 2015, after it became the dominant force in Idlib, the outfit took on its new name and withdrew its pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda. It claimed to be a Syrian nationalist force with an Islamic ideology. But this is merely a superficial change. It continues to propagate the view that the Syrian state must be based on Sharia law and the general orientation of the 100,000 to 200,000 “radical” fighters inside Idlib is towards al-Qaeda. This is something that is accepted even by the US government, which has otherwise used these fighters in its geopolitical games against the government in Damascus.

Jolani was once an Islamic State commander who went on to found Jabhat al-Nusra. The State Department declared Jolani a “specially designated global terrorist” in 2013. This designation still stands. Jolani now runs what he calls a “salvation government” in Idlib, the remaining retreat of Islamist extremists in northwestern Syria. He remains an Islamist theocrat determined to impose Sharia law on secular Syria, but he is committed to fighting Assad and so shares “common interests with the United States and the West,” as PBS puts it.

PBS’s attempt to legitimate Jolani was not a one-off. This was made clear on April 7, 2021, with the publication by the New York Times of an article by its Middle East correspondent Ben Hubbard based on an HTS-sponsored visit last month to Idlib. Comparing Jolani’s Islamist front favorably to the Islamic ISIS, Hubbard writes: “H.T.S. is not pushing for the immediate creation of an Islamic state and does not field morality police officers to enforce strict social codes.” He failed to mention the numerous cases of torture, violence, sexual abuse, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and the rest of the inexcusable stuff these groups get up to.

Efforts to portray the Jolani and the HTS as the new representative of “moderate rebels” in Syria are another PR ploy on the part of USA to continue its war in Syria. In an interview on March 8, 2021, James Jeffrey, who served as US ambassador under both Republican and Democrat administrations and most recently as special representative for Syria during the presidency of Donald Trump, has been quoted as saying that HTS has been an “an asset” to America’s strategy in Idlib. To quote Jeffery, “They [HTS] are the least bad option of the various options on Idlib, and Idlib is one of the most important places in Syria, which is one of the most important places right now in the Middle East.” USA will continue to revive jihadis as long as the Assad government remains in power.

The post Continuing the War in Syria first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Imperialist Origins of Saudi Arabia

Why is Saudi Arabia, a Sunni absolute monarchy, enthusiastically supported by the West, considered a global promoter of “democracy”? This question is rarely asked. The apparent mismatch between liberal democracy and religious fundamentalism is hastily airbrushed when the matter is about oil trade and arms deals. This attitude is not an expression of mere hypocrisy on the part of the West; it is deeply rooted in a historical process whereby Saudi Arabia was propped up by major powers as an outpost of imperialist interests and a bulwark against revolutionary ideologies.

Creating the Kingdom

Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, was an 18th century peasant who left date palm cultivation and cattle grazing to preach locally, calling for a return to the pure beliefs of the seventh century. He denounced the worship of holy places and stressed the “unity of one God”. He insisted singularly on beatings, leading to inhumane practices: thieves should be amputated and criminals executed in public. Religious leaders in the region objected when he began to perform what he preached and the local chief in Uyayna asked him to leave. Wahhab fled to Deraiya in 1744, where he made a pact with Mohammed Ibn Saud, the leader of the Najd tribes and the founder of the dynasty that rules Saudi Arabia today. Wahhab’s daughter became one of Ibn Saud’s wives. Ibn Saud utilized Wahhab’s spiritual fervor to ideologically discipline the tribes before hurling them into a battle against the Ottoman Empire. Wahhab considered the Sultan in Istanbul as undeserving of any right to be the Caliph of Islam and preached the virtues of a permanent jihad against Islamic modernizers and infidels. Lamenting the demise of the former greatness of Islamic civilization, he wished to remove all bidah (innovations), which he regarded as heretical to the original meaning of Islam. Basing himself on the Sunnah (customary practices of the Prophet Muhammad) and the Hadiths (accounts, collections of reports, sayings and deeds of the Prophet), he wished to purge the Islamic world of what he viewed as the degenerative practices introduced into the Islamic world by the Ottoman Turks and their associates.

In 1801, Ibn Saud’s army attacked the Shia holy city of Karbala, massacring thousands and destroying revered Shiite shrines. They also razed shrines in Mecca and Medina, erasing centuries of Islamic architecture because of the Wahhabist belief that these treasures represented idol worship. The Ottomans retaliated, occupied Hijaz and took charge of Mecca and Medina. The Ibn Saud-Wahhab alliance remained in the interior until the Ottomans collapsed after World War I. By 1926, the al-Saud clan – led by their new patriarch Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud – and their fanatical Wahhabi allies – the Ikhwan, or “Brotherhood” – once again seized control of the holiest cities in Islam, as well as important trading ports on the western coast of the peninsula.  Like the initial advances of the 1700s, it was a campaign defined by bloodshed, forced conversions, enslavement, and the enforcement of the strict and eccentric laws of Wahhabism. It was also a campaign that was grounded in an alliance between Abdul Aziz and the British Empire; a 1915 treaty turned the lands under Abdul Aziz’s control into a British protectorate, ensuring military support against rival warlords and uniting the two against the Ottomans. The intimate relationship between British imperialists and Abdul Aziz continued even after the dismantlement of the Ottoman empire, reflected in their close cooperation in the war against Sharif Hussein of Mecca, the Guardian of the Holy Cities, the chief of the clan of Hashem and directly descended from the Prophet.

Hussein had contributed the most to the Ottoman Empire’s defeat by switching allegiances and leading the “Arab Revolt” in June 1916 which removed the Turkish presence from Arabia. He was convinced to alter his position after Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, made him believe that a unified Arab country from Gaza to the Persian Gulf would be established with the defeat of the Turks. The letters exchanged between Hussain and McMahon are known as the McMahon-Hussain Correspondence. As soon as the war ended, Hussein wanted the British to fulfill their war-time promises. The latter, however, wanted Sharif to accept the division of the Arab world between the British and the French (Sykes-Picot agreement) and the implementation of the Balfour Declaration, which guaranteed “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine through a process of colonization done by European Jews. These demands were laid out in the Anglo-Hijaz Treaty – written by the British – which Hussein refused to sign. In 1924, the British unleashed Ibn Saud against Hussein. Lord Curzon hailed this as the “final kick” against Hussein.

Meanwhile, the Ikhwan grew increasingly angry about Abdul Aziz’s accommodation with the imperial powers that financed him. They disliked his lavish lifestyle, his family’s relations with the West, the relative lenience toward Shia (while they were being savagely repressed, they weren’t being forcibly converted, deported, or executed at a desired rate), and the introduction of new technologies (the telegraph, for example, was viewed as being of satanic origin). Consequently, the Ikhwan began to openly rebel in 1927, shortly after Abdul Aziz signed another treaty with the British which recognized his “complete and absolute” rule of the twin kingdoms of Hijaz and of Najd and their dependencies. The Ikhwani insurgents, after conquering the various regions of Arabia, began to attack the British and French protectorates of Transjordan, Syria and Iraq in order to subject them to Wahhabi doctrines. They came into direct conflict with imperialist interests in the Middle East. After some three years of fighting, Abdul Aziz – with military assistance from the British Empire – defeated the rebellion and executed the leaders.  Then, in 1932, he confirmed his conquests by crowning himself as king of a new state, named after himself and his family: Saudi Arabia. The suppression of the Ikhwan revolt did not in any way signify the weakening of Wahhabi fundamentalism. Threatened by Islamic radicalism, the royal family co-opted the Ikhwan movement by incorporating its local leaders into the Saudi state apparatuses. This laid the foundations for the backward ideology of the state: unity of religion and loyalty to one family, making Saudi Arabia the only state in the world that was titled as the property of a single dynasty.

Cozying Up to USA

In 1933, Abdul Aziz had to face a severe financial crisis because his main source of income, taxation of the hajj (Muslim pilgrimage), had been undermined by the world slump; for £50,000 in gold he gave an oil concession to Standard Oil of California (SOCAL). The deal between Abdul Aziz and SOCAL provided crucial funds for the fledging king to consolidate his precarious rule; indeed, at the time, his rule was so tenuous that Britain had more control over the House of Saud than the House of Saud had over their own recently conquered dependencies.  SOCAL gave Abdul Aziz a $28 million dollar loan, and paid an annual payment of $2.8 million in exchange for oil exploration rights throughout the 1930s. SOCAL later merged with three other US firms (Esso, Texaco, Mobil) to form the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO). This began exploration in eastern Arabia and in 1938 production of Saudi Arabian oil commenced. The developing political economy of Saudi Arabia quickly became linked to ARAMCO and its American backers, as the company built labor camps, corporate towns, roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure necessary for the production and export of oil. These infrastructural projects tapped into subsidies from the US government that ran into the tens of millions of dollars.

During the Second World War, the role of Saudi Arabia as a reliable partner of a nascent American empire was strengthened. In 1943, Washington decided that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States” and lend-lease aid was provided: a US military mission arrived to train Abdul Aziz’s army and the United States Air Force (USAF) began construction of an airfield at Dhahran, near the oil wells, which was to give the US a position independent of the British bases at Cairo and Abadan; this base became the largest US air position between Germany and Japan, and the one nearest Soviet industrial plants. Washington managed to retain the base only until 1962, when anti-imperialist resistance forced the Saudi monarchy to ask the Americans to leave. Not until three decades later, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, were the Americans provided with an opportunity to reoccupy the base.

The relationship between the US and Saudi Kingdom was famously sealed in a 1945 meeting on the Suez Canal between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abdul-Aziz. The two leaders agreed that the kingdom would supply the US with oil, and the US government would provide the kingdom with security and military assistance. Over the years, US presidents reiterated their commitments to Saudi Arabia’s security. The 1947 Truman Doctrine, which stated that the United States would send military aid to countries threatened by Soviet communism, was used to strengthen US – Saudi military ties. In 1950, President Harry S. Truman told Abdul-Aziz, “No threat to your Kingdom could occur which would not be a matter of immediate concern to the United States”. This assurance was repeated in the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine. The 1969 Nixon Doctrine included aid to three strategic American allies in the region – Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. After the US-supported ruler in Iran was overthrown and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter issued his Doctrine as a direct threat to the Soviets, essentially asserting USA’s monopoly over Middle East’s oil. Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, extended this policy in October 1981 with the “Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine”, which proclaimed that the USA would intervene to protect the Saudi rulers. While the Carter Doctrine focused on threats posted by external forces, the Reagan Corollary promised to secure the kingdom’s internal stability.

Spreading Counter-revolution

The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of Saudi petro-nationalism, based upon the rapidly expanding oil industry and the growth of transnational energy corporations. The petrol bonanza – driven by the western economies’ steady consumption of oil – not only filled the coffers of the Saudi state, but also provided the Saudi state the ability to spread Wahhabi ideology not as a minor creed of militant jihad, but as a cultural export to influence the direction of Islam. Oil wealth enabled the Saudi royal family to counter the rival interpretations and denominations of the Islamic world, and spread its influence over the Ummah (the community of the faithful). In other words, the Saudi ruling elite attempted to project itself as the ultimate definer and protector of the Ummah. The export of Wahhabism to other countries was a part of the post-World War II US-Saudi strategy, wherein the two countries were allies in their opposition to Soviet “godless communism,” with USA focused on communism while the Saudis were more concerned about the “godless” side of the equation. Wahhabism also served as a counter-revolutionary instrument against Nasserism, Ba’athism, and the Shia radicalism of the Iranian revolution. Saudi Arabia started an organisation called the World Muslim League in 1962 to “combat the serious plots by which the enemies of Islam are trying to draw Muslims away from their religion and to destroy their unity and brotherhood.” The main targets were republicanism (Nasserite influence) and communism. The objective was to push the idea that these anti-monarchical ideologies were shu’ubi (anti-Arab). Saudi Arabia was also a central member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), created in 1969 as a counter-balance to the socialist-oriented Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Apart from this geo-political function, OIC was used by Saudi Arabia to undermine its regional adversary, namely Nasserite Egypt.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought shudders into the palaces of the Saudi royal family, and into the US higher establishment. The overthrow of the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi announced the creation of an Islamic form of republicanism. Iranian Islamic leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that Islam and hereditary monarchies were incompatible and he characterized Saudi Arabia as a US agent in the Persian Gulf. Saudi rulers felt threatened. They denounced Iran’s revolution as an upheaval of heretical Shiites, but to no avail as Islamic republicanism swept the region, from Pakistan to Morocco. Ultimately, the Saudis and the West egged on Saddam Hussein to send in the Iraqi army against Iran in 1980; that war went on till 1988, with both Iran and Iraq bled for the sake of Riyadh and Washington. Iraq, weakened by the lengthy war, turned against its Gulf Arab benefactors for insufficient support and invaded Kuwait in 1990, threatening Saudi Arabia as well. The US entered the picture with its full spectrum warfare – bombing Iraq to smithereens and providing Saudi Arabia with the confirmation that the US military would protect it till the end of time.

Once the history of Saudi Arabia is understood, it can be easily concluded that the monarchs of the kingdom willingly entered into a relationship of geo-political servitude to the West. The kingdom would have had marginal or limited importance in the world if it was not supported wholeheartedly by the British and American empires. Thanks to the significant backing it received by them, Saudi Arabia became an international political player. With the help of their enormous oil wealth, the decadent kings and princes of Saudi Arabia have been perpetrating massacres and wars in various countries, such as the bombing of Yemen, the indirect attacks in Syria and Libya. All this has been allowed to happen by the West, which provides both tacit and explicit support to the House of Saud in its myriad crimes. As Che Guevara said, “The bestiality of imperialism…knows no limits…has no national boundaries”.

The post The Imperialist Origins of Saudi Arabia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden’s Appeasement of Hawks and Neocons is Crippling His Diplomacy

Biden with NATO’s Stoltenberg (Photo credit: haramjedder.blogspot.com)

President Biden took office promising a new era of American international leadership and diplomacy. But with a few exceptions, he has so far allowed self-serving foreign allies, hawkish U.S. interest groups and his own imperial delusions to undermine diplomacy and stoke the fires of war.

Biden’s failure to quickly recommit to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, as Senator Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, provided a critical delay that has been used by opponents to undermine the difficult shuttle diplomacy taking place in Vienna to restore the agreement.

The attempts to derail talks range from the introduction of the Maximum Pressure Act on April 21 to codify the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran to Israel’s cyberattack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Biden’s procrastination has only strengthened the influence of the hawkish Washington foreign policy “blob,” Republicans and Democratic hawks in Congress and foreign allies like Netanyahu in Israel.

In Afghanistan, Biden has won praise for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops by September 11, but his refusal to abide by the May 1 deadline for withdrawal as negotiated under the Trump administration has led the Taliban to back out of the planned UN-led peace conference in Istanbul. A member of the Taliban military commission told the Daily Beast that “the U.S. has shattered the Taliban’s trust.”

Now active and retired Pentagon officials are regaling the New York Times with accounts of how they plan to prolong the U.S. war without “boots on the ground” after September, undoubtedly further infuriating the Taliban and making a ceasefire and peace talks all the more difficult.

In Ukraine, the government has launched a new offensive in its civil war against the ethnically Russian provinces in the eastern Donbass region, which declared unilateral independence after the U.S.-backed coup in 2014. On April 1, Ukraine’s military chief of staff said publicly that “the participation of NATO allies is envisaged” in the government offensive, prompting warnings from Moscow that Russia could intervene to protect Russians in Donbass.

Sticking to their usual tired script, U.S. and NATO officials are pretending that Russia is the aggressor for conducting military exercises and troop movements within its own borders in response to Kiev’s escalation. But even the BBC is challenging this false narrative, explaining that Russia is acting competently and effectively to deter an escalation of the Ukrainian offensive and U.S. and NATO threats. The U.S has turned around two U.S. guided-missile destroyers that were steaming toward the Black Sea, where they would only have been sitting ducks for Russia’s advanced missile defenses.

Tensions have escalated with China, as the U.S. Navy and Marines stalk Chinese ships in the South China Sea, well inside the island chains China uses for self defense. The Pentagon is hoping to drag NATO allies into participating in these operations, and the U.S. Air Force plans to shift more bombers to new bases in Asia and the Pacific, supported by existing larger bases in Guam, Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Meanwhile, despite a promising initial pause and policy review, Biden has decided to keep selling tens of billion dollars worth of weapons to authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Persian Gulf sheikdoms, even as they keep bombing and blockading famine-stricken Yemen. Biden’s unconditional support for the most brutal authoritarian dictators on Earth lays bare the bankruptcy of the Democrats’ attempts to frame America’s regurgitated Cold War on Russia and China as a struggle between “democracy” and “authoritarianism.”

In all these international crises (along with Cuba, Haiti, Iraq, North Korea, Palestine, Syria and Venezuela, which are bedevilled by the same U.S. unilateralism), President Biden and the hawks egging him on are pursuing unilateral policies that ignore solemn commitments in international agreements and treaties, riding roughshod over the good faith of America’s allies and negotiating partners.

As the Russian foreign ministry bluntly put it when it announced its countermeasures to the latest round of U.S. sanctions, “Washington is unwilling to accept that there is no room for unilateral dictates in the new geopolitical reality.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping echoed the same multipolar perspective on April 20th at the annual Boao Asian international business forum. “The destiny and future of the world should be decided by all nations, and rules set up just by one or several countries should not be imposed on others,” Xi said. “The whole world should not be led by unilateralism of individual countries.”

The near-universal failure of Biden’s diplomacy in his first months in office reflects how badly he and those who have his ear are failing to accurately read the limits of American power and predict the consequences of his unilateral decisions.

Unilateral, irresponsible decision-making has been endemic in U.S. foreign policy for decades, but America’s economic and military dominance created an international environment that was extraordinarily forgiving of American “mistakes,” even as they ruined the lives of millions of people in the countries directly affected. Now America no longer dominates the world, and it is critical for U.S. officials to more accurately assess the relative power and positions of the United States and the countries and people it is confronting or negotiating with.

Under Trump, Defense Secretary Mattis launched negotiations to persuade Vietnam to host U.S. missiles aimed at China. The negotiations went on for three years, but they were based entirely on wishful thinking and misreadings of Vietnam’s responses by U.S. officials and Rand Corp contractors. Experts agree that Vietnam would never violate a formal, declared policy of neutrality it has held and repeatedly reiterated since 1998.

As Gareth Porter summarized this silly saga:

The story of the Pentagon’s pursuit of Vietnam as a potential military partner against China reveals an extraordinary degree of self-deception surrounding the entire endeavor. And it adds further detail to the already well-established picture of a muddled and desperate bureaucracy seizing on any vehicle possible to enable it to claim that U.S. power in the Pacific can still prevail in a war with China.

Unlike Trump, Biden has been at the heart of American politics and foreign policy since the 1970s. So the degree to which he too is out of touch with today’s international reality is a measure of how much and how quickly that reality has changed and continues to change. But the habits of empire die hard. The tragic irony of Biden’s ascent to power in 2020 is that his lifetime of service to a triumphalist American empire has left him ill-equipped to craft a more constructive and cooperative brand of American diplomacy for today’s multipolar world

Amid the American triumphalism that followed the end of the Cold War, the neocons developed a simplistic ideology to persuade America’s leaders that they need no longer be constrained in their use of military power by domestic opposition, peer competitors or international law. They claimed that America had virtually unlimited military freedom of action and a responsibility to use it aggressively, because, as Biden parroted them recently, “the world doesn’t organize itself.”

The international violence and chaos Biden has inherited in 2021 is a measure of the failure of the neocons’ ambitions. But there is one place that they conquered, occupied and still rule to this day, and that is Washington D.C.

The dangerous disconnect at the heart of Biden’s foreign policy is the result of this dichotomy between the neocons’ conquest of Washington and their abject failure to conquer the rest of the world.

For most of Biden’s career, the politically safe path on foreign policy for corporate Democrats has been to talk a good game about human rights and diplomacy, but not to deviate too far from hawkish, neoconservative policies on war, military spending, and support for often repressive and corrupt allies throughout America’s neocolonial empire.

The tragedy of such compromises by Democratic Party leaders is that they perpetuate the suffering of millions of people affected by the real-world problems they fail to fix. But the Democrats’ subservience to simplistic neoconservative ideas also fails to satisfy the hawks they are trying to appease, who only smell more political blood in the water at every display of moral weakness by the Democrats.

In his first three months in office, Biden’s weakness in resisting the bullying of hawks and neocons has led him to betray the most significant diplomatic achievements of each of his predecessors, Obama and Trump, in the JCPOA with Iran and the May 1 withdrawal agreement with the Taliban respectively, while perpetuating the violence and chaos the neocons unleashed on the world.

For a president who promised a new era of American diplomacy, this has been a dreadful start. We hope he and his advisers are not too blinded by anachronistic imperial thinking or too intimidated by the neocons to make a fresh start and engage with the world as it actually exists in 2021.

The post Biden’s Appeasement of Hawks and Neocons is Crippling His Diplomacy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In Defense of the Revolution: Cuba’s Historic Victory over Imperialism at Playa Girón

“For progressives and anti-imperialists all over the world, the mention of the Bay of Pigs—known in the Spanish-speaking world as Playa Girón—evokes joy and celebration,” wrote Carmelo Ruiz. “The United States, an empire accustomed to imposing itself even in the farthest corners of the world, could not prevail and enforce its will on an island country 90 miles away from its shores. The empire could be defeated after all.”1

In mid-April, 1961, the island nation of Cuba repelled a US military invasion at Playa Girón and captured over 1,200 invaders. Cuba’s victory, in self-defense, was a direct result of the people’s popular support for the Revolution, which was not anticipated by the invading army. In fact, the US planners hoped or imagined that the attack would trigger the people to rise up against the Cuban Revolution. Instead, the opposite happened.

The people’s militia

Following the 1959 Revolution, Cuba had armed and trained its people to form a civic-military alliance to defend their land. Cuba faced US attacks from day one of the Revolution — in addition to the all-out military assault at the Bay of Pigs, there were hundreds of documented terrorist attacks, bombings, and assassination attempts from 1959 onwards.2

On April 15, 1961, three Cuban airports were bombed by planes flying false Cuban decals that took off from CIA landing strips in Somoza’s Nicaragua, killing eight Cubans. Under the United Nations Geneva Convention, flying a false national flag constitutes the war crime of perfidy.3  The next day Fidel Castro told the people of Cuba to prepare for a full scale invasion, and declared the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution.

On April 17, 1961, about 1,500 troops armed, funded, and trained by the CIA, on a mission approved by first Eisenhower and then JFK, invaded the island of Cuba. The ground troops were supported by tanks, artillery, and army jeeps that disembarked from fourteen US army transport planes and five cargo ships, accompanied by a squadron of B-26 bombers.

The invading force was immediately spotted by Cuban fishermen, who alerted the local militia. The people’s militia of Cuba, the National Revolutionary Militia, sprung into action. 200,000 Cuban civilians, armed and trained by the Revolution, rose to defend their homeland, and Fidel came to the front lines to direct the operations of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Within three days the fighting was over, the invading army had been subdued, and over 1,200 invaders had been captured. The invading forces consisted of CIA agents and officers, CIA-trained mercenaries, soldiers, and generals from the defeated army of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and the sons of rich Cubans who had left the island when their plantations were expropriated by the Revolution.

The lies of imperialism

US State Department records reveal that they planned the attack “in such a manner to avoid any appearance of US intervention,” a tactic that should be recalled when we learn about contemporary military operations—often through the prism of the US media — whether in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Venezuela.4 US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson actually denied US involvement in the attack when it was first reported. It was planned to appear as a case of bitter in-fighting between Cubans. Like the Romans, the US imperialists always try to create a justification for their murderous wars, so that they never appear to be the aggressor—whether it’s framed as a humanitarian intervention, a defense of democracy or, perhaps the most farcical, as a pre-emptive strike.

Instead of killing all the invaders, or keeping them for years in illegal prisons and torturing them, as the US does at Guantánamo Naval Base, Cuba traded the survivors back to the US for $50 million worth of food, tractors, and medical supplies.

“There can be no discipline without conscience,” Fidel Castro commented. “We sentenced them to pay compensation of $100,000 per prisoner, or alternatively a prison sentence. What we wanted was payment of compensation, not because of any need for money but rather as a recognition by the United States government of the Revolution’s victory—it was almost a kind of moral punishment.” The CIA tried to assassinate Castro during the negotiations.5

“Cuban workers and peasants decided more than 60 years ago they would no longer be servants for US imperialism or capitalism,” wrote Zach Farber for Liberation News. “They have been collectively punished for it ever since.”6

“The US attempt to invade Cuba at Playa Girón took place at a time when the US imperialists had already caused many tragedies through coups, military interventions and other interference in Latin America and the Caribbean,” wrote Canada’s Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. “Thus, the decisive victory of Cuba over the enemy forces at the Bay of Pigs, regarded as the first defeat of US imperialism in Latin America, had significance not only for Cuba but for all the peoples of the Americas.”7

The resistance

“Current and future generations of Cubans will continue on, no matter how great the difficulties may be,” said Fidel Castro during an interview with Ignacio Ramonet. “With ever greater energy, we will face up to our own shortcomings and errors. We will continue to fight. We will continue to resist. We will continue to defeat every imperialist aggression, every lie in their propaganda, every cunning political and diplomatic maneuver.

“We will continue to resist the consequences of the blockade, which will someday be defeated by the dignity of the Cuban people, the solidarity of other nations, and the almost universal opposition of the governments of the world, and also by the growing rejection on the part of the American people of that absurd policy which flagrantly violates their own constitutional rights.

“Just as the imperialists and their pawns suffered the consequences of a Playa Girón multiplied many times over in Angola, the nation that comes to this land to wage war will find itself facing thousands of Quifangondos, Cabindas, Morros de Medundas, Cangambas, Sumbes, Ruacanas, Tchipas, Calueques, and Cuito Cuanavales, and defeats such as those dealt to colonialism and apartheid in heroic nations such as Angola, Namibia and South Africa—defeats they’d never imagined would be linked to the history of this small Caribbean nation.”5

  1. Carmelo Ruiz, “Bay of Pigs, the CIA’s Biggest Fiasco, 55 Years Later,” Telesur English, 16 April 2015.
  2. Chomsky, Noam, “Cuba in the Cross-Hairs: A Near Half-Century of Terror,” Hegemony or Survival, Holt, 2003.
  3. United Nations “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977.”
  4. US Department of State, Office of the Historian,  “A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime,”  March 16, 1960.
  5. Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, My Life, Scribner, 2009.
  6. Zach Farber,  “60th anniversary of Cuban defeat of U.S. invasion at Playa Girón,” Liberation News, April 14, 2021.
  7. “60th Anniversary of U.S. Defeat at the Bay of Pigs, April 19, 1961: Cuba’s Historic Victory at Playa Girón,” Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), April 8, 2021.
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China and Iran: A Natural Anti-imperialist Alliance

On 15 July 2015 — the day after the United States agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; also called the Iran nuclear deal) along with China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, plus Germany — then US president Barack Obama said in an interview that Iran was “a great civilization.” Without listing any of the great attributes of Iran, Obama then proceeded to criticize Iran, saying, “but, it also has an authoritarian theocracy in charge that is anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, sponsors terrorism, and there are a whole host of real profound differences…”

That is American exceptionalism. The US is a country whose sense of diplomacy deems it appropriate to openly criticize other nations. And because of this self-bestowed exceptionalism, it need not substantiate any criticisms it makes, and, of course, no such accusations could be leveled against the US.

However, soon after Donald Trump won the electoral college vote to become the US president, the days of the US abiding by the JCPOA were numbered. The US State Department said that the JCPOA “is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.”

Apparently, US and international definitions on what constitutes a treaty differ. Since the JCPOA had not received the consent of the US Senate, as per domestic US law, it was not considered a treaty. Another instance of US exceptionalism — how the US legally separates itself from the international sphere.

On 8 May 2018, the US pulled out from the Iran nuclear deal.

Even though the US had withdrawn, Iran made it known that it would continue to comply with its commitments to the JCPOA if Europe also complied with its commitments. One important condition was that Europe must maintain business relations with Iranian banks and purchase Iranian oil despite US sanctions. Europe, however, failed to uphold its commitments.

China stood steadfast with the JCPOA. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, called upon the US to quickly and unconditionally return to the Iran nuclear deal. Wang also called on the US to remove sanctions on Iran and third-parties.

Wang also urged Iran to restore full compliance with the JCPOA. China, though, has made it clear that the US “holds the key to breaking the deadlock” by returning to the JCPOA and lifting sanctions on Iran.

*****

When the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Iran, a devastating result was expected.

The effects of sanctions are lethal. Americans professors John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote in their Foreign Affairs article:

economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.

The lethality has been borne out. A large-scale human suffering was part of the plan to topple the government in Iran, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo admitted to. Not even the serious outbreak of COVID-19 would stir mercy in the hearts of American politicians. Included in the sanctions were medicines and food.

*****

When targeted by a hegemonic military superpower, the importance of powerful friends cannot be underestimated. China seems like a natural ally for Iran.

Like Iran, China has historically been targeted by brutish American imperialism. China, like Iran finds itself ringed by American militarism. China also has US sanctions levied against it. Western governments and their mass media bombard readers and viewers with disinformation to demonize China. US warships ply the South China Sea as they ply the waters of the Persian Gulf. Both China and Iran deal with domestic terrorism (undoubtedly abetted by western foes).

Thus, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), designated as a terrorist group by the US in 1997, would be dropped from the US terrorist list in 2012. Later, the “cult-like” MEK would be embraced by right-wing Americans such as Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo, in hopes of furthering US aims of “regime change.” In a similar move, the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Xinjiang, China was removed from the US terrorist list.

US machinations have only served to hasten closer relations between China and Iran.

On March 27, Iran and China signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a $400 billion 25-year agreement that includes oil and mining, promoting industrial activity in Iran, and collaborating in transportation and agriculture.

It’s a win-win. Iran gets a market for its commodities and investment. China gets access to needed resources and a partner for its Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme to encompass Eurasia and abroad.

Iran also has economic and technology agreements with another US-sanctioned country that is a close ally of China, Russia. In February 2021, there was the important symbolism of the Iran-China-Russia collaboration on naval maneuvers in the Indian Ocean.

Iran does not have nukes, but it has powerful friends.

  • First published at Press TV.
  • The post China and Iran: A Natural Anti-imperialist Alliance first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Nuclear Weapons Blazing: Britain Enters the US-China Fray

    Boris Johnson’s March 16 speech before the British Parliament was reminiscent, at least in tone, to that of Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2019, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China.

    The comparison is quite apt if we remember the long-anticipated shift in Britain’s foreign policy and Johnson’s conservative government’s pressing need to chart a new global course in search for new allies – and new enemies.

    Xi’s words in 2019 signaled a new era in Chinese foreign policy, where Beijing hoped to send a message to its allies and enemies that the rules of the game were finally changing in its favor, and that China’s economic miracle – launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping in 1992 – would no longer be confined to the realm of wealth accumulation, but would exceed this to politics and military strength, as well.

    In China’s case, Xi’s declarations were not a shift per se, but rather a rational progression. However, in the case of Britain, the process, though ultimately rational, is hardly straightforward. After officially leaving the European Union in January 2020, Britain was expected to articulate a new national agenda. This articulation, however, was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the multiple crises it generated.

    Several scenarios, regarding the nature of Britain’s new agenda, were plausible:

    One, that Britain maintains a degree of political proximity to the EU, thus avoiding more negative repercussions of Brexit;

    Two, for Britain to return to its former alliance with the US, begun in earnest in the post-World War II era and the formation of NATO and reaching its zenith in the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003;

    Finally, for Britain to play the role of the mediator, standing at an equal distance among all parties, so that it may reap the benefits of its unique position as a strong country with a massive global network.

    A government’s report, “Global Britain in a Competitive Age”, released on March 16, and Johnson’s  subsequent speech, indicate that Britain has chosen the second option.

    The report clearly prioritizes the British-American alliance above all others, stating that “The United States will remain the UK’s most important strategic ally and partner”, and underscoring Britain’s need to place greater focus on the ‘Indo-Pacific’ region, calling it “the centre of intensifying geopolitical competition”.

    Therefore, unsurprisingly, Britain is now set to dispatch a military carrier to the South China Sea, and is preparing to expand its nuclear arsenal from 180 to 260 warheads, in obvious violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The latter move can be directly attributed to Britain’s new political realignment which roughly follows the maxim of ‘the enemy of my friend is my enemy’.

    The government’s report places particular emphasis on China, warning against its increased “international assertiveness” and “growing importance in the Indo-Pacific”. Furthermore, it calls for greater investment in enhancing “China-facing capabilities” and responding to “the systematic challenge” that China “poses to our security”.

    How additional nuclear warheads will allow Britain to achieve its above objectives remains uncertain. Compared with Russia and the US, Britain’s nuclear arsenal, although duly destructive, is negligible in terms of its overall size. However, as history has taught us, nuclear weapons are rarely manufactured to be used in war – with the single exception of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The number of nuclear warheads and the precise position of their operational deployment are usually meant to send a message, not merely that of strength or resolve, but also to delineate where a specific country stands in terms of its alliances.

    The US-Soviet Cold War, for example, was expressed largely through a relentless arms race, with nuclear weapons playing a central role in that polarizing conflict, which divided the world into two major ideological-political camps.

    Now that China is likely to claim the superpower status enjoyed by the Soviets until the early 1990s, a new Great Game and Cold War can be felt, not only in the Asia Pacific region, but as far away as Africa and South America. While Europe continues to hedge its bets in this new global conflict – reassured by the size of its members’ collective economies – Britain, thanks to Brexit, no longer has that leverage. No longer an EU member, Britain is now keen to protect its global interests through a direct commitment to US interests. Now that China has been designated as America’s new enemy, Britain must play along.

    While much media coverage has been dedicated to the expansion of Britain’s nuclear arsenal, little attention has been paid to the fact that the British move is a mere step in a larger political scheme, which ultimately aims at executing a British tilt to Asia, similar to the US ‘pivot to Asia’, declared by the Barack Obama Administration nearly a decade ago.

    The British foreign policy shift is an unprecedented gamble for London, as the nature of the new Cold War is fundamentally different from the previous one; this time around, the ‘West’ is divided, torn by politics and crises, while NATO is no longer the superpower it once was.

    Now that Britain has made its position clear, the ball is in the Chinese court, and the new Great Game is, indeed, afoot.

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