Category Archives: Iraq

Assange and the Cowardice of Power

Donald Trump has never heard of WikiLeaks, the publishing organization whose work he repeatedly and unequivocally touted during the 2016 election campaign. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters after Julian Assange was illegally arrested, after being illegally detained for seven years, in London. “It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange.”

Moving past the Trumpian paradox (he knows both “nothing” and “something” about WikiLeaks”), here’s a question for our dear leader: is your own Justice Department “your thing”? Because it was your Justice Department that filed the charges against a man who risked his liberty, and his life, to tell the truth about the most powerful criminal syndicate in the world—the American empire.

Is Trump’s cabinet “his thing”? Was he out golfing when his erstwhile attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, told the press that arresting Assange was “a priority”? How about when his secretary of state called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”? Trump’s regime appears to have a remarkable level of interest in an organization about which he knows nothing.

“The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking.” That was Edward Snowden’s reaction to the Justice Department’s indictment against Assange. He adds that one of the government’s principal allegations—that Assange attempted to help Manning crack a password in the interest of protecting her identity—has been public knowledge for nearly ten years. Also that Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers, refused to act on it, citing dangers to press freedom.

For those who haven’t read the indictment, please do. It won’t take ten minutes, and it will give you an idea of how far the US government is willing to go to punish those brave enough to expose its sins.

The case against Assange (for now) boils down to this: he allegedly took measures to protect the identity of his source and allegedly encouraged his source to find and pass along more information about American criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, as various journalists have pointed out, is standard journalistic practice. Would Nixon have been nailed by Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t repeatedly gone back to their source for further evidence of the president’s malfeasance?

Speaking of Woodward, Snowden reminds us that he (Woodward) “stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.” If only Assange had done that—maybe the indictment would carry a little more drama. But all he allegedly did was say, in response to Manning’s claim that she didn’t have any more documents to share, that “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” The horror!

The allegation that Assange conspired with Manning to gain unauthorized access to a government computer is equally underwhelming and misleading. Manning had authorized access to the secret documents she leaked: what Assange did was try to help her access them from a different username. If successful (it apparently wasn’t), this effort would not have given Manning access to any additional files—it merely would have ensured, or at least enhanced, her anonymity.

FYI: Manning has been locked up in Alexandria, Virginia for more than a month now, spending most of that time in solitary confinement, for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange in front of a secret grand jury.

Chiming in from her ivory tower, Hillary Clinton joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers in gloating about Assange’s unlawful arrest: “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.”

We know what he’s been charged with; now let’s recall what he has actually done. Using time-honored journalistic methods, he shone a hard light on crimes routinely committed by the American empire in the name of the American people—crimes that would otherwise have remained concealed behind an iron curtain of government deception and media complicity.

“On the morning of July 12, 2007, two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded. Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed. The US military initially claimed that all the dead were ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ or ‘insurgents.’”

That’s the preface to Collateral Murder, the notorious video published by WikiLeaks showing American troops firing on a group of people standing around in the street. Two of them were Reuters journalists; both of them were killed. “Ha ha ha, I hit ‘em,” one soldier chuckles after the first round of fire. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” another says, to which another responds, “Nice. Good shootin’.”

The video, more disturbing to your average person than a sterile civilian casualties report, illustrates why the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg named “military aggression,” not genocide, as the “supreme international crime”: because it establishes a context in which murder becomes not only commonplace, but banal. At the end of that road lies Auschwitz.

Crimes like the one depicted in Collateral Murder are facilitated and rendered acceptable by crimes of a much greater magnitude, like Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Julian Assange did—what Hillary Clinton says “he has to answer for”—is show people the consequences of their governments’ actions, so that maybe one day individuals like Hillary Clinton will be stripped of their impunity and made to answer for what they have done. That is the quintessence of journalism and, according to the United States, an intolerable crime. Behold the cowardice of power.

As for the UK’s role in this charade, while it has long been clear that London is a faithful servant of the American empire, extraditing Assange to the US—whereupon new and more serious charges will almost certainly be leveled against him—would mark a new depth of national disgrace.

At the time of his arrest Assange was reportedly clutching in his hand a book by Gore Vidal. In a 2009 interview with The Independent, an octogenarian Vidal was asked for his thoughts on modern England. “This isn’t a country,” he said, “it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Indeed.

Terrorist Designations: Trump and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

It’s designed to give the US more leg room in the sanction stakes but may end up having its own hemming consequences.  The designation by the Trump administration of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation was meant to expand options for the US while shutting others out.  While Trump attempts to defrost matters with North Korea, Iran has played the convenient bug bear.

As President Donald Trump outlined in a statement, “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

The policy had an inevitable resonance in Israel, where it cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the Tuesday national poll.  Designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guards “as a terrorist organization” kept “the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism”.  Such a consequence may well be wishful thinking.  Jacob Heilbrun opines rather pessimistically that such a policy shift is bound to be disruptive; the president “has allowed himself to be captured by a neocon contingent, housed at the Foundation of Defense for Democracies, that is thirsting for a new crusade to vanquish the mullahs in Tehran.”

The IRGC has certainly made its effective, often bloody mark on Middle Eastern affairs.  As US-led forces blundered in Iraq, leaving a security vacuum rich with opportunity, Iran saw a golden chance to increase its influence and harass the invaders.  The role played by IRGC’s Quds Force in supplying Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to militants in Iraq was cited in 2015 as a key reason for US policy makers to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.  “I understand,” claimed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) in a July 29, 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, “that the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency has a classified list of roughly 500 American soldiers who were murdered by Iranian IEDs.”  US Central Command revealed a different figure: between November 2005 and December 2011, the number of US combatant deaths arising from EFP “events” stood at 196.

Dissecting such figures forensically is less significant for the anti-Iran hawks than reining in the broader effect of Tehran’s influence.  Training to its proxies has been forthcoming and consistent; the Syrian civil war has further opened the gates, leaving Israel jittery.  Washington’s ally, Saudi Arabia, has similarly balked, and seeks to plug the Shia breach in Yemen with bloody resolve.  Operating behind the scenes is the IRGC.

The issue is complicated from another perspective.  In so designating such an arm of the Iranian government a terrorist outfit, it stymies trading done with any Iranian entity from powers in the international scene untidy.  (The IRGC’s economic tentacles are not only thick, but lengthy.)  This is bound to have a localising effect.  In immediate proximity of Iran and Iran’s influence, Lebanese and Iraqi authorities risk being barred from dealing with the IRGC and its surrogate arms.  Asian and European companies, who do not have the same qualms in dealing with the theocracy, also risk facing the ire of Washington.  In Trump’s own words, “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

The concept is strikingly simplistic, ignoring the myriad of entanglements that follows from IRGC involvement in the Iranian economy proper.  It also side steps the possibility that the Trump Organization, in signing contracts in 2012 with developers behind the Trump Tower Baku project, had indirect dealings with Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company controlled by the IRGC.  (Azarpassillo was awarded contracts in 2008 by then Azerbaijani transport minister Ziya Mammadov, who had been the key contact for Trump’s company.)

Till this point, the approach to the IRGC has been one of economic encirclement featuring attempts to get to the organisation via other entities.  The move to target the IGRC was already underway in other branches of the US government.  The Treasury designated the Quds Force in 2007 a supporter of terrorism, sanctioning entities connected with it.  It has assumed pride of place on the US Specially designated Global Terrorist List.  The IGRC itself, as former Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is on record as saying, “is already fully sanctioned”, making the issue one of superfluous classification and needlessly provocative.

Then comes the issue of Iran’s direct response.  What is good for the goose is invariably good for the unfortunate gander.  Various Trump officials, to that end, were none too keen by the decision, claiming that retaliation would follow against US intelligence officers and troops.  Former State Department official Jason Blazakis, who spent his time in the terrorist labelling business, suggested that the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, could well call upon his Shi’ite militias “to take actions against US assets in places like Baghdad’s Green Zone.” In consistently upending fashion, Trump also gave his emissaries in the Middle East very little time to ponder matters, leaving no guidelines as to how to enforce the designation.  On such points, White House national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold courtly sway.

Rhetorical retaliation was not long in coming and seemed almost casual.  The US was branded as a “state sponsor of terrorism” with its military elements in the Middle East duly designated as “terrorist groups”.  The move, suggested Iranian state TV, had as much to do with US dislike of Tehran’s influence in the region as it did with its success in “fighting Islamic State”.  Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, in calling the move on Trump’s part “a major strategic mistake”, insisted that the new designation by Tehran would include “US military bases and their military forces in the region” and “confronted accordingly”.  Araghchi, like Trump, was merely stating the obvious, and dangerous turn in relations.

Saddamizing al-Assad

Donald Trump’s first action upon assuming the Presidential throne of the United States involved the re-location of a bust of Winston Churchill back into the Oval Office. Originally given to President Bush the Second in July, 2001, Churchill’s bust was removed by Barack Obama (January, 2009) in favor of a bust of Martin Luther King. If the symbolism in all of this changing of the bust business were a pinball machine, then lights and buzzers would be flashing and dinging like crazy!

Churchill, of course, like Dr. King, was well known for his rhetorical flourishes. Given recent events, I offer this extended Churchillian gem, a War Office Minute recorded on May 12, 1919, when Churchill was both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, for your consideration.

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference (Versailles) of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragments of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet have no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Yes, that’s vintage Versailles-era Churchill promoting the “moral effect” of chemical weapons, with an eye to quelling the contentious “tribes” of soon-to-be British Mandate Iraq. Fast forward one century later, and the use of “poisoned gas” is back in the news, in connection with the Syrian conflict. In particular, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who does not possess a Churchill bust as far as we know, once again stands accused of using weaponized gas to attack his own citizens. A chorus of Western leaders chants “Gas! Gas! Gas!” at al-Assad, because Winston Churchill did not get his wish, since gas warfare has been considered illegal for almost a century, despite the former British Prime Minister’s obviously logical argument for it. Might as well ban War altogether! Except that, War is still entirely legal—only certain modes of warfare are not, such as chemical weapons.

In the meantime, Syrian President al-Assad flatly denies these allegations, blaming instead the rebel factions that are trying—at the moment unsuccessfully—to topple his regime. These rebel groups, whom Assad labels “terrorists,” include ISIS and al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliated militia or mercenary formation. In fact, despite President Trump’s inaugural cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, no one knows who perpetrated the sarin gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikoun in April, 2017.

We do know, however, that 30 years ago the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds to death in a town called Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq. That was March 16,1988, part of an anti-Kurdish campaign known as al-Anfal. In the face of universal condemnation, the Reagan Administration stood behind Saddam, shielding his regime from sanctions. There were even some fuzzy reports at the time that pinned the chemical blame on Iran, against whom Saddam had been waging a Kuwaiti, Saudi, and American assisted war since September of 1980. Indeed, those reports were ‘fuzzy’ because Saddam’s forces had been attacking the Iranians with chemical weapons since 1983, a fact entirely known to the Reagan Administration

Interestingly enough, when Saddam went rogue and invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the first Bush Administration absolutely Hitlerized Saddam for his use of “poisoned gas” during the previous decade. Talk about policy pivots! Thus it came to pass that the useful genocidal tool Saddam became the useful genocidal villain Saddam. Ultimately, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons became a major pretext for launching the Second Crusade against Iraq in 2003.

And now, we have “gas” in Syria, which has been floated as a “red line” since the Obama Administration. The United States, it should be noted, has no direct interest, or stake, in Syria. Nevertheless, we have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Syria since August of 2014, despite having no policy to accessorize our bombing campaign in that war-torn, Middle Eastern nation.

So far, Bashar al-Assad has not quite fit the neatly tailored line of villains used to sell undeclared wars to American taxpayers the last 30 years. This line includes: Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and, most recently, Moammar Qaddafi.

As of this reporting, the “Saddamizing” of Syria’s al-Assad remains incomplete; the portrait of Assad as another neo-Hitler, unfinished. Until then, we may not have a Syrian Policy beyond “Bombs Away!”, but at least we can rest assured that Winston Churchill’s bust is back in the Oval Office, symbolizing the continuing spread of a “lively terror” throughout the Middle East.

Addendum:  Nota bene. Currently, yet another American Regime is playing the demonization game, this time with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as the “Devil with the Red Dress on.” It is worth noting, in this connection, that the MLK bust in Obama’s Oval Office did not engender a foreign policy even remotely reflective of Dr. King’s worldview, as Obama Administration regime change operations in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), and the stalled-out Syrian intervention, certainly attest. Indeed, it was Obama’s 2015 characterization of Venezuela as a “national security threat” that set the stage for the Trumpistanis’ would-be Bushwhacking of Venezuelan democracy, just as President Clinton laid the groundwork for the unusually disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 by declaring “regime change” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998 (in other words, Clinton let Al-Qaeda and the Neo-Cons — a very bad jazz band — in.). The American Regime names change, yet they keep playing the same tune, which perhaps only proves the old adage that absolute power is absolutely tone deaf.

However that may be, it should be emphasized that the Regime Changelings’ coup has not succeeded in Venezuela. Maduro, the former bus driver, has refused to be thrown under the bus by the unlawful firm of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Rubio; their hand-picked usurper, Juan Guaido (“I’m a puppy, not a puppet!”), has failed to win Venezuelan hearts and minds. In Venezuela, it could very well be that we are witnessing a decisive break in the Regime Change tide.

The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media

In 2010, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled ‘Collateral Murder‘. It showed the indiscriminate slaying of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12 July, 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.

The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:

Let’s shoot.
Light ’em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot. [keep shooting]
keep shoot.
keep shoot.
[…]
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
Nice.

While in prison, Manning twice attempted to commit suicide and also spent time in solitary confinement. She was released in 2017, after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, two days before he left office.

On 8 March – International Women’s Day – Manning was once again jailed after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, before a grand jury in Virginia. A grand jury means that the public is not allowed entry: the hearings are held in secret. She said in a statement:

I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.

Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.

Binoy Kampmark, who lectures at RMIT University in Melbourne, remarked:

The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable… There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistleblower.

Kampmark added:

Manning’s original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution.

Sending Manning back to jail shows:

the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars.

The famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 detailing US war crimes in Vietnam and US government lies to the public, told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It’s been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist—and apparently they do exist—against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first—the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.

Ellsberg continued:

Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn’t have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me—in this case, against a journalist—it would clearly be found unconstitutional.’

He then pointed to the significance of this latest development:

And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury—namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks—they’re resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That’s what it’s for. That’s what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn’t pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to a series of Guardian and Washington Post articles based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concurred that the real target is WikiLeaks:

The Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn’t do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.

Greenwald rightly called this attempt to go after WikiLeaks ‘a grave threat to press freedom’. However:

Most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they’re happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration.

The reference to the 2016 election is the allegation that WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic Party and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman, brought about Trump’s victory. Assange had even supposedly conspired with Trump, and with Trump’s alleged Russian allies, to fatally damage Clinton’s 2016 campaign: charges that are without any solid basis.

The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the ‘Assange Precedent’; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration’s attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:

All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration’s prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange’s extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.

In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed that the WikiLeaks founder, whose health is deteriorating, has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. George Galloway rightly points out that:

It’s a kind of modern day torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to.

In November 2018, Assange’s mother made an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son…is in immediate and critical danger.

On 18 March, Christine Assange renewed her appeal to journalists, in particular, to stand up for her son. Their record to date has been, in the main, shameful. We have previously detailed numerous examples of journalistic abuse, scorn and ridicule thrown at Assange, and WikiLeaks, notably by Guardian journalists. For instance, Hannah Parkinson, who writes for the Guardian and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, tweeted this about Assange last year:

This little shit has lived rent free in Knightsbridge for 5 years, probably saved about £200k.

The tweet was ‘liked’ by John Simpson, the ‘impartial’ grandly-titled BBC World Affairs Editor who exudes gravitas, if little insight, on world affairs.

And in response to the news last October that Assange was to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms, Parkinson had tweeted:

A teenager whose parents turn the wifi off

This is par for the course at the Guardian whose journalists are regularly shamed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange doing the real job of exposing power to public scrutiny. In 2015, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had even mocked Chelsea Manning when she was put in solitary confinement:

And the world’s tiniest violin plays a sad song

That, however, did earn a mild rebuke in a tweet from Guardian editor Matt Wells. The tweets were subsequently deleted, but not before screenshots had been saved.

The disdain, sometimes outright hostility, towards WikiLeaks and Assange is also reflected in the minimal coverage, and distinct lack of support, for Chelsea Manning’s renewed incarceration. The Guardian merely published a brief article titled, ‘Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case’. As WikiLeaks journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson pointed out:

Of the MSM [‘mainstream’ media] the @guardian benefitted most from material Chelsea Manning was sentenced for in 2013. You might expect a huge story on the yda [yesterday] jailing of @xychelsea [Chelsea Manning] to extort her to testify against Assange/@wikileaks. But nothing except a small AP [Associated Press] based story that quickly lost front.

Hrafnsson added:

Every day Chelsea Manning @xychelsea spends in jail for refusing to testify against Assange/@wikileaks adds shame to those journalists who remain silent about this disgrace. This applies especially to those who benefited most from her brave acts in the past. @guardian @nytimes

The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald’s work based on Manning’s releases via WikiLeaks; as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks’ work. In 2012, veteran journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government’s pursuit of Julian Assange was ‘an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism’. He described the corporate media’s treatment of Assange as ‘a vituperative personal campaign’:

Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

A ProQuest newspaper database search on 19 March revealed that there were but four newspaper articles about the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning in the whole of the national print press: The Times, the Daily Mail, The Herald and the Daily Record (the latter two newspapers are based in Scotland). The Guardian article mentioned above, based on an Associated Press release, was published online; but not in the print version. There was also an online Telegraph piece which was also just a press release (by Agence France-Presse). As far as we could tell, there was not a single editorial or column in a major national newspaper defending Chelsea Manning, nor pointing to the grave danger to press freedom that her new incarceration posed. That is a disgraceful indictment of our so-called ‘free press’.

In an interview last week with Dennis Bernstein on Radio KPFA, John Pilger described the significance, and injustice, of the recent jailing of Chelsea Manning. The irony of her being imprisoned on International Women’s Day was first noted, then Pilger pointed to the shameful silence from the women’s movement, and other human rights activists:

Where are they [human rights activists] on Chelsea Manning? Why were there only ten people outside the Court House? Where is Amnesty International? Where are the women’s groups? Where are the LGBT groups? Where are the Pride people? Why aren’t they massing in support of Chelsea Manning? Instead I see Chelsea Manning’s story relegated in a sort of, “Oh well, that’s almost inevitable this is going to happen.” But this […] is the most significant act of principle; an inspiration to all decent people; to democrats, to people who believe in justice. So where are the groups who have been very loud in their condemnation – rightly – of Donald Trump? Where are they? Why are we not hearing from them?

Discussion then turned to the crushing reality that the corporate media is an extension of an oppressive establishment order:

Dennis Bernstein: Iit seems to me that journalists believe Chelsea Manning should be in jail. And that Julian Assange isn’t a publisher, and that he should be tried for treason because, after all, these journalists are patriots. They’re no reporters.

John Pilger: Well, I think I’ll stand back a little from that question a little, Dennis. I think we can go on and beat our heads on the media brick wall, and asking these questions on the media. The media is part of an oppressive system in various forms […]. It is an extension of the established order and these days it is without something it used to have, and that is spaces – limited spaces – but spaces for free and fair comment. Right across the corporate media these spaces have evaporated. So they are part of a system. They have shown this in a most grotesque way by the persecution of Julian Assange – the slandering of him, the distortion of the facts about his case.

Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:

It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.

Pilger added that ‘people who preserve human decency’ – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:

The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It’s not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.

The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label ‘mainstream’. The corporate media including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it’s too late.

Can China and Russia Survive in this Unharmonious World?

Does it pay ‘to be good’? Is it still possible to play by the rules in this mad world, governed by brigands?

What if the rules are defined and ratified by all countries of the world, but a small group of the strongest (militarily) nations totally ignores them, while using its professional propagandists to reinterpret them in the most bizarre ways?

Describing the world, I often feel that I am back in my primary school.

When I was a child, I had the misfortune of growing up in a racist Czechoslovakia. Being born in the Soviet Union, and having an half Russian and half Asian mother, I was brutally beaten up between classes, from the age of seven. I was systematically attacked by a gang of boys, and humiliated and hit for having ‘Asian ears’, for having an ‘Asian mother’, for being Russian. During winters, my shoes were taken out into the bitter cold and pissed into. The urine turned into ice. The only consolation was that ‘at least’ I was Russian and Chinese. If I was a Gypsy (Roma) boy, I would most likely not have made it, at least without losing an eye, or without having my hands broken.

I tried to be polite. I did my best to ‘play by the rules’. I fought back, first only half-heartedly.

Until one day, when a kid who lived next door, fired his air gun and barely missed my eye. Just like that, simply because I was Russian… and Asian, just because he had nothing better to do, at that particular moment. And because he felt so proud to be Czech and European. Also, because I refused to eat their shit, to accept their ‘superiority’, and humiliate myself in front of them. Both mother and I were miserable in Czechoslovakia, both of us dreamt about our Leningrad. But she made a personal mistake and we were stuck in a hostile, provincial and bombastic society which wanted to “go back to Europe”, and once again be part of the bloc of countries, which has been ruling and oppressing the world, for centuries.

The air gun and almost losing my eye turned out to be the last straw. I teamed up with my friend, Karel, whose only ‘guilt’ was that at 10, he weighed almost 100 kilograms. It was not his fault, it was a genetic issue, but the kids also ridiculed him, eventually turning him into a punching bag. He was a gentle, good-natured kid who loved music and science-fiction novels. We were friends. We used to plan our space travels towards the distant galaxies, together. But at that point, we said ‘enough’! We hit back, terribly. After two or three years of suffering, we began fighting the gang, with the same force and brutality that they had applied towards us and, in fact, towards all those around us who were ‘different’, or at least weak and defenseless.

And we won. Not by reason, but by courage and strength. I wish we did not have to fight, but we had no choice. We soon discovered how strong we were. And once we began, the only way to survive was to win the battle. And we did win. The kids, who used to torment us, were actually cowards. Once we won and secured some respect, we also began sheltering and protecting the ‘others’, mainly weak boys and girls from our school, who were also suffering attacks from the gang of those ‘normal’, white, and mainstream Czechs.

*****

There are self-proclaimed rulers of the world: Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. And there are two other groups: the nations which are fully cooperating with the West (such as Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Korea, Colombia or Uganda), and those that are decisively refusing to accept Western dictates, such as Russia, China, DPRK, Syria, Eritrea, Iran, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia.

The first group does almost nothing to change the world. It goes with the flow. It accepts the rule of the bullies. It collaborates, and while it is at it, tries to at least gain some privileges, most of the time unsuccessfully.

The second group is well aware of the dismal state of the world. It maneuvers, resists, and sometimes fights for its survival, or for the survival of others. It tries to stick to its principles, or to what used to be called ‘universal values’.

But can it really survive without confrontation?

The West does not tolerate any dissent. Its culture has been, for centuries, exceedingly aggressive, bellicose, and extremist: “You are with us, that is ‘under us’, or you are against us. If against us, you will be crushed and shackled, robbed, raped, beaten and in the end, forced to do what we order, anyway.”

Russia is perhaps the only nation which has survived, unconquered and for centuries, but at the unimaginable price of tens of millions of its people. It has been invaded, again and again, by the Scandinavians, French, Brits, Germans, and even Czechs. The attacks occurred regularly, justified by bizarre rhetoric: ‘Russia was strong’, or ‘it was weak’. It was attacked ‘because of its Great October Socialist Revolution’, or simply because it was Communist. Any grotesque ‘justification’ was just fine, as far as the West was concerned. Russia had to be invaded, plundered and terribly injured just because it was resisting, because it stood on its feet, and free.

Even the great China could not withstand Western assaults. It was broken, divided, humiliated; its capital city ransacked by the French and Brits.

Nothing and no one could survive the Western assaults: in the end, not even the proud and determined Afghanistan.

*****

A Chinese scholar Li Gang wrote in his “The Way We Think: Chinese View of Life Philosophy”:

“Harmony” is an important category of thought in traditional Chinese culture. Although the concept initially comes from philosophy, it stands for a stable and integrated social life. It directly influences Chinese people’s way of thinking and dealing with the world… In the ancient classic works of China, “harmony” can, in essence, be understood as being harmonious. Ancient people stressed the harmony of the universe and the natural environment, the harmony between humans and nature, and what is more, the harmony between people…  Traditional Chinese people take the principle as a way of life and they try their best to have friendly and harmonious relations. In order to reach “harmony”, people treat each other with sincerity, tolerance and love, and do not interfere in other people’s business. As the saying goes, “Well water does not intrude into river water.

Could anything be further from the philosophy of Western culture, which is based on the constant need to interfere, conquer and control?

Can countries like China, or Iran, or Russia, really survive in a world that is being controlled by aggressive European and North American dogmas?

Or more precisely: could they survive peacefully, without being dragged into bloodstained confrontations?

*****

The onset of the 21st Century is clearly indicating that ‘peaceful resistance’ to brutal Western attacks is counter-productive.

Begging for peace, at forums such as the United Nations, has been leading absolutely nowhere. One country after another has collapsed, and had no chance to be treated justly and to be protected by international law: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya.

The West and its allies like Saudi Arabia or Israel are always above the law. Or more precisely, they are the law. They twist and modify the law however it suits them; their political or business interests.

Harmony?  No, they are absolutely not interested in things like harmony. And even if a huge country like China is, then it is seen as weak, and immediately taken advantage of.

Can the world survive if a group of countries plays totally against all the rules, while most of the planet tries to stick, meticulously, to international laws and regulations?

It can, but it would create a totally twisted, totally perverse world, as ours actually already is. It would be a world of impunity on one end, and of fear, slavery and servility at the other.

And it is not going to be a ‘peaceful world’, anyway, because the oppressor will always want more and more; it will not be satisfied until it is in total, absolute control of the planet.

Accepting tyranny is not an option.

So then, what is? Are we too scared to pronounce it?

If a country is attacked, it should defend itself, and fight

As Russia did on so many occasions. As Syria is doing, at great sacrifice, but proudly. As Venezuela will and should do, if assaulted.

China and Russia are two great cultures, which were to some extent influenced by the West. When I say ‘influenced’, I mean forcefully ‘penetrated’, broken into, brutally violated. During that violent interaction, some positive elements of Western culture assimilated in the brains of its victims: music, food, even city planning. But the overall impact was extremely negative, and both China and Russia suffered, and have been suffering, greatly.

For decades, the West has been unleashing its propaganda and destructive forces, to ‘contain’ and devastate both countries at their core. The Soviet Union was tricked into Afghanistan and into a financially unsustainable arms race, and literally broken into pieces. For several dark years, Russia was facing confusion, intellectual, moral and social chaos, as well as humiliation. China got penetrated with extreme ‘market forces’, its academic institutions were infiltrated by armies of anti-Communist ‘intellectual’ warriors from Europe and North America.

The results were devastating. Both countries – China and Russia – were practically under attack, and forced to fight for their survival.

Both countries managed to identify the treat. They fought back, regrouped, and endured. Their cultures and their identities survived.

China is now a confident and powerful nation, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Present-day Russia under the presidency of Vladimir Putin is one of the mightiest nations on earth, not only militarily, but also morally, intellectually and scientifically.

This is precisely what the West cannot ‘forgive’. With each new brilliant electric vehicle China produces, with each village embracing the so-called “Ecological Civilization”, the West panics, smears China, portrays it as an evil state. The more internationalist Russia becomes, the more it protects nations ruined by the West – be it Syria or Venezuela – more relentless are West’s attacks against its President, and its people.

Both China and Russia are using diplomacy for as long as it is constructive, but this time, when confronted with force, they indicate their willingness to use strength to defend themselves.

They are well aware of the fact that this is the only way to survive.

For China, harmony is essential. Russia also has developed its own concept of global harmony based on internationalist principles. There is hardly any doubt that under the leadership of China and Russia, our world would be able to tackle the most profound problems that it has been facing.

But harmony can only be implemented when there is global concept of goodwill, or at least a decisive dedication to save the world.

If a group of powerful nations is only obsessed with profits, control and plunder, and if it behaves like a thug for several long centuries, one has to act, and to defend the world; if there is no alternative, by force!

Only after victory, can true harmony be aimed at.

At the beginning of this essay, I told a story from my childhood, which I find symbolic.

One can compromise, one can be diplomatic, but never if one’s dignity and freedom was at risk. One can never negotiate indefinitely with those who are starving and enslaving billions of human beings, all over the world.

Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and so many countries are now bleeding. Soon, Iran could be confronted. And Nicaragua. And DPRK. And perhaps China and Russia themselves could face yet another Western invasion.

A ‘harmonious world’ may have to be built later; definitely one day, but a little bit later.

First, we have to make sure that our humanity survives and that Western fascism cannot consume further millions of innocent human lives.

Like me and my big childhood friend Karel at an elementary school in former Czechoslovakia; Russia and China may have to once again stand up and confront ‘unharmonious barbarity’; they may have to fight, in order to prevent an even greater disaster.

They do not want to; they will do everything possible to prevent war. But the war is already raging. Western colonialism is back. The brutal gang of North American and European countries is blocking the road, clenching fists, shooting at everyone who dares to look up, and to meet their gaze: “Would you dare?” their eyes are saying.

“Yes, we would!” is the only correct answer.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Fake News Nazi: Corbyn, Williamson And The Anti-Semitism Scandal

One of us had a discussion with an elderly relative:

He can’t be allowed to become Prime Minister.

Why not?

It’s so awful…

What is?

The way he hates the Jews.

The last comment was spoken with real anguish, the result of continuous exposure to just two main news sources: the Daily Mail and the BBC.

What is astonishing is that, just four years ago, essentially no-one held this view of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983. He stood for the Labour leadership 32 years later, in May 2015. We searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

Jeremy Corbyn and anti-semitism before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

Jeremy Corbyn and anti-semitism after 1 May 2015 = 11,251 hits

None of the 18 hits accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. For his first 32 years as an MP, it just wasn’t a theme associated with him.

We also searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

Labour Party and anti-semitism before 1 May 2015 = 5,347 hits

Labour Party and anti-semitism after 1 May 2015 = 13,921 hits

The archive begins in 1980, which means that more than twice as many articles have included these terms in the last four years than in the 35 years from 1980 until May 2015 when Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. A standard response to these findings runs along these lines:

Irrelevant backbencher gets less Press attention than Leader of The Opposition SHOCKER. What’s your next scoop, Water Wet, Sky Blue?

But, in fact, Corbyn was not an irrelevant backbencher. We found 3,662 hits for articles mentioning Corbyn before May 2015. Many of these are mentions in passing, but he had also long been a high-profile anti-war MP at a time of numerous wars. And he was frequently smeared, only not about his supposed anti-semitism. Consider, for example, an article that appeared in The Sun in 1999, under a typically cruel title:

Why did it take you so long to dump him, Mrs Corbyn?1

The story:

EXTREME Left MP Jeremy Corbyn has been dumped by his missus after an amazing bust-up over their son’s education.

The key issue, according to The Sun:

Now the question on everyone’s lips is: Why did it take her so long to leave the loathsome Lefty, and more importantly, why is she only moaning about his choice of schools?

Because there was, apparently, plenty to moan about. The Sun described Corbyn as ‘class crusader Jeremy – a rabid IRA sympathiser’ who ‘not only looks and dresses like a third-rate Open University lecturer, he thinks like one too. In 1984 the Provo stooge invited twice-convicted terrorist and bomber Linda Quigley to the House of Commons just 13 days after the IRA’s murderous attack on Tories staying at the Grand Hotel in Brighton’.

This was pretty brutal stuff. The Sun added of Corbyn’s ex-wife:

Claudia’s saviour of the masses also suffers incredible delusions of grandeur. Communist states may be falling like dominoes, but raving Red Jeremy still believes his outdated views are relevant to modern-day Britain.

And:

Not only is Jeremy a political coward who backs terrorists, he is also a self-confessed big girl’s blouse.

And:

Jeremy’s mis-shapen suits, lumpy jumpers and nylon shirts are not exactly what the well-dressed radical is wearing in 1999… Claudia should be aware her ex is irredeemably, unforgivably, annoyingly stupid.

Given the no-holds-barred nature of the smear, it is amazing that The Sun made no mention at all of Corbyn’s vile anti-semitism, viewed as his most obvious and dangerous defect now.

The reason is that, as this shows, not even his worst enemies viewed him as an anti-semite. The extreme Tory press aside, the accepted view of Corbyn pre-2015 is indicated by a long, admiring piece in which Jewish journalist Deborah Ross, whose family members were murdered in Polish pogroms even before the Nazi Holocaust was unleashed, interviewed him for the Independent in 2005. Ross commented:

He is also, it is generally agreed, an exemplary constituency MP. Even my friend Rebecca, who recently sought his help on a local issue, and never usually has a nice word to say about anybody, which is why I like her, describes him as a “totally genuine mensch”.

Ross added:

As The Sun would have it, Mr Corbyn is a “beardy Bolshevik” and “loathsome lefty” but he does not come across as either. He has strong opinions but does not demand you listen to them, if you don’t want to.

He is scandal free, unless you count the hoo-ha a few years back when it was revealed that Jeremy’s oldest son would be attending a grammar school outside the borough.

Joseph Finlay is a former Deputy Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who co-founded a range of grassroots Jewish organisations such as Moishe House London, Wandering Jews, Jewdas and The Open Talmud Project. On 2 March 2018, Finlay wrote in his blog under the title, ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist, not an anti-Semite’:

Firstly we need to restore some perspective. The Labour party has thousands of Jewish members, many Jewish councillors, a number of prominent Jewish MPs and several Jewish members of its ruling council. Many people at the heart of the Corbyn team, such as Jon Lansman, James Schneider and Rhea Wolfson are also Jewish. Ed Miliband, the previous party leader, was Jewish (and suffered antisemitism at the hands of the press and the Conservatives). I have been a member for five years and, as a Jew, have had only positive experiences.

Finlay added:

Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983 – a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Given that he has regularly polled over 60% of the vote (73% in 2017) it seems likely that a sizeable number of Jewish constituents voted for him. As a constituency MP he regularly visited synagogues and has appeared at many Jewish religious and cultural events. He is close friends with the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Group, from whom he has gained a rich knowledge of the history of the Jewish Labour Bund, and he has named the defeat of Mosley’s Fascists at the Battle of Cable as a key historical moment for him. His 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day statement talked about Shmuel Zygielboym, the Polish Bund leader exiled to London who committed suicide in an attempt to awaken the world to the Nazi genocide. How many British politicians have that level of knowledge of modern Jewish history?

Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook notes that a recent Labour Party report ‘decisively undercut’ the claims of Corbyn’s critics ‘not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all’. Cook summarised:

Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly “endemic” or “institutional”, it seems.

He added:

That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was “no reliable, empirical evidence” that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.

In ‘Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel’ by the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, L. Daniel Staetsky found:

Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the “slightly left-of-centre,” the “fairly left-wing” and the “very left-wing” – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.

The report notes that ‘the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre’.

Noam Chomsky has commented:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.2

Suspending Chris Williamson

On February 27, a propaganda blitz was launched against anti-war Labour MP Chris Williamson who had been filmed saying that Labour Party responses to claims of anti-semitism had exacerbated the crisis:

I’ve got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible… Because, in my opinion, we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.

Williamson added:

We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-semitism than any political party.

It is clear that Williamson was strongly endorsing the fight against anti-semitism and was proud of the Labour Party’s record. Actual anti-semites talk of ‘the scourge of Judaism’, Williamson talked of ‘the scourge of anti-semitism’. He was suggesting that the party had been too apologetic in responding to a cynical smear campaign attempting to destroy Corbyn by exploiting the issue of anti-semitism.

Others chose to see it differently. Guardian columnist Owen Jones responded to Williamson’s comments:

This is utterly out of order. When does the left ever say we’ve been “too apologetic” about fighting racism or bigotry? Why is he, a non-Jew, right and Jon Lansman – a Jewish socialist who founded Momentum and ran Corbyn’s second leadership campaign – wrong about anti-Semitism?

We replied:

When does the left ever say we’ve been “too apologetic” about fighting racism or bigotry?

He’s *endorsing* the fight against racism and bigotry. He’s saying Labour has been too apologetic in responding to a cynical smear campaign to destroy Corbyn in the name of anti-racism.

Ash Sharkar of Novara Media tweeted:

Chris Williamson has been had the Labour whip suspended pending investigation, which I think is the right decision. But much more work must be done to proactively confront and dismantle conspiratorial and antisemitic thinking on the left, and it goes much further than expulsions.

Aaron Bastani, also of Novara Media, wrote:

I think media coverage of the “Labour anti-semitism crisis” is completely disproportionate – primarily because it underplays problem more broadly across society.

Equally, hearing & reading the things I have in recent days I wouldn’t feel welcome in the party as a Jewish person.

In our latest book, Propaganda Blitz, we noted a key factor driving home these smear blitzes:

While a demonising propaganda blitz may arise from rightist politics and media, the propaganda coup de grace ending public doubt often comes from the “left-liberal” journalists at the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC and Channel 4; and also from non-corporate journalists who crave acceptance by these media. Again, the logic is clear: if even celebrity progressive journalists – people famous for their principled stands, and colourful socks and ties – join the denunciations, then there must be something to the claims. At this point, it actually becomes difficult to doubt it.3

Foreign Wars – Racism versus Speciesism

The truth of the corporate media’s ‘ethical concern’ becomes clearer when we consider Corbyn’s record on foreign wars. While the UK affects to care deeply about racism, Chomsky has noted that the West’s endless ‘interventions’ – all reflexively supported by the same media damning Corbyn now – are manifestations of a prejudice, beyond even racism, that is a kind of speciesism:

Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.4

Even if Corbyn was an anti-semite, a racist, he would still be a far safer ethical choice than Tory and Blairite speciesists who value human beings on the level of ants. After all, we find that Jeremy Corbyn:

Consistently voted against use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Consistently voted against the Iraq war.

… voted to say that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established’.

… voted against a motion stating the Government should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Support for the motion by the majority of MPs led to the UK joining the US invasion of Iraq two days later.

Generally voted for investigations into the Iraq war.

… acted as teller for a vote on UK Air Strikes Against ISIL in Iraq.

… voted against the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya.

… voted against the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan.

… voted to decline to authorise UK military action in Syria.

… voted against UK airstrikes against ISIL in Syria.

Generally voted against replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system.

Consider, by contrast, the record of the Labour MPs who have left the Labour Party, supposedly in protest at the rise of anti-semitism, to form The Independent Group:

Chuka Umunna: Almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Angela Smith: Almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Mike Gapes: Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Chris Leslie: Almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Luciana Berger: Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Joan Ryan: Consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas,  Consistently voted for the Iraq war, Consistently voted against investigations into the Iraq war.

Ann Coffey: Almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Gavin Shuker: Voted a mixture of for and against use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.

Not even his most extreme critics are suggesting that Corbyn is offering the kind of threat to Jewish people consistently offered by Tory and Blairite MPs to millions of people in countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Iran and Yemen. Even if Corbyn had erred in failing to perceive the ugliness of a mural declared antisemitic by the press; even if had been lax in taking action against party racists, and so on, how do these failings compare to the destruction of whole countries in lie-based wars of aggression?

Why do corporate media never make this moral comparison? Because they are incapable of perceiving US-UK crimes against humanity as crimes; a wilful moral blindness that renders them completely unfit to pass judgment on Corbyn. Especially as they are themselves, of course, complicit in these same war crimes.

Conclusion

The claim that Corbyn is an anti-semite presiding over a surge in Labour Party anti-semitism is fake news; it is a scam of the utmost cynicism and brutality. It should be viewed as the latest in a long line of attempts to destroy Corbyn by all necessary means. He has been smeared for not bowing low enough, for not singing loudly enough, for hating women, for disrespecting gay people, for consorting with terrorists, for refusing to unleash a nuclear holocaust, for being a shambolic leader, for being a shambolic dresser, for leading Labour towards certain electoral disaster, for being a Putinite stooge, for aping Trump, and so on. Now, finally, someone widely admired for thirty years as a decent, socialist MP, has been transformed into an anti-semite; or as game show assistant and political commentator Rachel Riley implies, a ‘Nazi’.

Anti-semitism does exist in the Labour Party, as it exists throughout UK society, and, of course, these delusions should be resisted and exposed. But the smear campaign against Corbyn is not rooted in concern for the welfare of Jewish people; it is not even about blocking a political leader who cares about Palestinian rights. It is about preventing Corbyn from undoing Tony Blair’s great achievement of transforming the Labour Party into a second Tory Party, thus ensuring voters have no option challenging corporate domination, including the ‘humanitarian interventions’ for oil and other resources. The goal is to stop Corbyn letting democracy out of its box.

Stephen Law of Heythrop College, University of London, warns that cavalier accusations made ‘on the basis of obviously flimsy or nonexistent evidence’ are ‘disrespecting the memory of the millions who were slaughtered by real antisemitism during the Holocaust’. But, in fact, it is worse than that. State propagandists and their corporate media allies are exploiting the suffering of these millions as part of an attack on British democracy. This is obscene. But it is not particularly shocking after the campaigns of deceit which, as discussed, knowingly risked and then shattered the lives of millions of innocent human beings in US-UK wars of aggression.

One thing is certain, if Corbyn and his style of socialism can be made to disappear, we’ll hear no more about anti-semitism in the Labour Party, just as we heard no more about Iraqi democracy after Saddam Hussein, or human rights in Libya after Gaddafi; just as we will hear no more about press freedom in Venezuela, if Maduro is overthrown.

As this alert was being written, news emerged that Corbyn had been subjected to a physical assault in London, to muted concern from almost all corporate media and journalists (compare ‘mainstream’ reaction to news that Conservative MP Anna Soubry had been called a ‘Nazi’). Journalists claimed Corbyn had merely had an egg thrown at him. Labour MP Diane Abbott tweeted:

I was there. He punched Jeremy very hard. He happened to have an egg in his palm. But it could have been a knife. Horrible

Perhaps journalists couldn’t bear to express concern for a person they have so completely reviled for almost four years. Or perhaps they knew their smears of a thoroughly decent, well-intentioned man would be thrown back at them. More likely, they just didn’t care. And that, finally, is the truth of their ‘ethical concern’ – they don’t care.

  1. Ally Ross, The Sun, 13 May 1999.
  2. Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018.
  3. David Edwards and David Cromwell, Propaganda Blitz, Pluto Press, 2018, pp.8-9.
  4. Chomsky ZNet blog, ‘Samantha Power, Bush & Terrorism,’ 31 July 2007.

The US Must Grow Up And Respect Iranian Independence

US Peace Delegation to Iran February 2019 outside of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. From CODE PINK.

One of the lessons from our recent visit to Iran as a Peace Delegation is that Iran is a mature country. It is 2,500 years old, ten times as old as the United States and one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations with settlements dating back to 7,000 BC. It was an empire that controlled almost half the Earth for over 1,000 years. It is hard not to see the US-Iran relationship as one between an adolescent bully and a mature nation.

The root cause of the problems between the United States and Iran is not because Iran has oil, an Islamic government, nuclear weapons or Iran’s role in the Middle East — it is because in 1979, Iran ended 26 years of US domination. Foreign Minister Zarif explained to our Peace Delegation:

…the U.S. difficulty with Iran is not because of the region, not because of human rights, not because of weapons, not because of the nuclear issue – it’s just because we decided to be independent – that’s it – that’s our biggest crime.

Since the 1979 Revolution, the US has sought to dominate Iran using sanctions and threats of military aggression. Iran has responded by seeking negotiation with the US. The Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), which took over ten years to finalize, was viewed by Dr. Zarif as a first step toward more agreements.

Although Iran fulfilled its side of the nuclear agreement, the US did not relieve the sanctions, as promised, and under the Trump administration, increased the sanctions and left the agreement. On our trip, we learned first hand about the impacts of these actions.

Facing The Ugly Realities Of US History With Iran

Correcting the relationship between the US and Iran begins with an honest review of US policy since 1953. It is a record for which the US should be ashamed and shows the need for a new approach.

Iran Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq

The 1953 Coup

The August 19, 1953 coup was one the US denied for decades but has now been proven by documents released by the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. The British government also released documents showing its involvement. Information has been made public over the decades, but even after 65 years, many documents about ‘Operation Ajax’ remain classified.

The coup was led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt and cousin of President Franklin Roosevelt. The coup not only impacted Iran but the Middle East and was a model for US coups around the world, which continue to this day. As we write, we are on our way to Venezuela where a US-led coup just failed.

The 1953 coup was preceded by economic sanctions to destabilize the Mossadegh government and a Guaido-like fake Prime Minister. The coup initially failed on August 16 when the Shah fled to Baghdad and then to Rome. Before fleeing, he appointed former Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi as Prime Minister to replace the elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. Zahedi continued the coup with the military arresting Mossadegh at his home on April 19. When Operation Ajax succeeded, Zahedi became Prime Minister and the Shah returned to rule as a brutal dictator until 1979. Mossadegh was imprisoned until his death in 1967.

 

US Den of Espionage by Barbara Briggs-Letson

Installation Of The Brutal Shah

The Shah became the enforcer for the United States in the Middle East. His rule coincided with the US war in Vietnam when the US focused its military in Southeast Asia. When President Nixon came to office in 1969, Iran was the single-largest arms purchaser from the US. Nixon encouraged a spending spree and by 1972, the Shah purchased over $3 billion of US arms, a twenty fold increase over 1971’s record.

US weapons buying continued throughout the decade dwarfing all US allies including Israel. The weapons being sold required thousands of US military support troops in Iran. In 1977, President Carter sold more arms to Iran than any previous years. Carter toasted the Shah as “a rock of stability” during a visit to Tehran at the end of 1977.

The stability was not as rock solid as Carter imagined. Domestically, a conglomerate of western oil companies ran the oil industry taking fifty percent of the profits but not allowing Iran to audit the accounts or have members on the board of directors. The Shah recognized Israel and put in place modernization policies that alienated religious groups. In 1963, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was arrested for making a speech against the Shah after several days of protests. The Shah’s brutal secret police, the SAVAK, made mass arrests and tortured and killed political prisoners. The Islamic clergy, still headed by Khomeini living in exile since 1964, became more vociferous in its criticisms.

Mass protests and strikes struck Iran in 1978. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the US Embassy and held fifty-two hostages for 444 days until January 1981. Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979. In December, a new Constitution creating the Islamic Republic was approved by referendum and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader.

Graves of martyr’s from the Iraq-Iran War at the central cemetery of Iran’s capital Tehran by Philipp Breu

US Supports Iraq’s War Against Iran

The Iraq war would not have been possible without US encouragement and support in the form of money, naval assistance and weapons. The US also provided Iraq with the ingredients for the chemical weapons as well as intelligence on where to use them. More than one million people were killed and more than 80,000 injured by chemical weapons in the Iraq war.

The US Shoots Down A Civilian Airliner

The US also killed 289 Iranians when a US missile shot down a commercial Iranian airliner in July 1988. The US has never apologized for this mass killing of civilians. When we were in Iran, we visited the Tehran Peace Museum and our delegation did what our country should do, apologized.

Forty Years Of US Economic Sanctions

The US has imposed economic sanctions since the Islamic Revolution began. In 1980, the US broke diplomatic relations with Iran and Carter put in place sanctions including freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets and banning imports of Iranian oil. Every president since Carter has escalated sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran has developed a “resistance economy” where it has become more self-sufficient and built relationships with other countries.

Announcement of the Iran Nuclear Agreement between six world powers and Iran in the Swiss town of Lausanne (Photo from CBS News)

US Withdrawal From Nuclear Agreement And Increased Sanctions

The most recent atrocity is the failure to live up to the carefully negotiated nuclear agreement. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif painstakingly negotiated the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal between China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, the US, and the European Union for more than a decade. Iran complied with all the requirements of the agreement, but the US did not lift sanctions, as promised, and exited the deal under President Trump, leading to protests against the US throughout Iran.

The people of Iran were joyous when the JCPOA was finalized as it promised relief; i.e., the release of $29 billion in Iranian funds held abroad, allowing US exports of Iranian oil, allowing foreign firms to invest in Iran and allowing trade with the rest of the world through the global banking system.

Instead of abiding by the agreement, the US escalated sanctions against Iran. Trump’s escalation has been harsh as the US seeks “to isolate Iran politically and economically, by blocking its oil sales, access to hard currencies and foreign investments, along with more harsh sanctions and overall financial hardships on the country.” Sanctions include secondary sanctions on non-US corporations and nations doing business with Iran, which the International Criminal Court found to be illegal.

These sanctions are having a significant human impact. They are causing a rapid devaluation of Iranian currency resulting in increasing costs of basic goods, including a tripling of the cost of imported goods such as cars. When we were in Iran, we heard firsthand about the impact sanctions have on people’s lives; e.g., the inability to get life-saving medicines, make financial transactions, use apps or translate books from the US into Farsi. In a restaurant, the menu warned prices may not be as listed because of rapid inflation. We interviewed Dr. Foad Izadi of the University of Tehran on Clearing the FOG about the impact of the sanctions and how US policies are alienating youth.

We spent time at the University of Tehran with students and faculty in the American Studies department. They were excited to speak with people from the United States, as few people from the US are able to get visas, and they lamented not being allowed to travel to the US. We found that we have much in common and believe we would benefit from more exchanges with Iranians.

Ongoing US Destabilization Iran And Threats Of War

Sanctions are designed to destabilize the government but are instead uniting people against the United States. If anything, US actions will put in place a more anti-US government in upcoming elections. The US has a flawed understanding of Iranian politics and global politics around US unilateral sanctions. The Iran sanctions are likely to speed up the de-dollarization of the global economy and end US dollar hegemony and are illegal.

The US is also fomenting rebellion. The Trump administration has been seeking regime change through various actions including violence. It created a Mission Center in the CIA focused on regime change in Iran and spends millions of dollars to encourage opposition in Iran, working to manipulate protests to support a US agenda. The threat of war continues and becomes ever more likely in an administration dominated by Iran hawks, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

US military bases around Iran

Creating A Peaceful, Positive Relationship Between The US And Iran

The history of US behavior toward Iran cannot be ethically defended. The US needs to appraise this history and recognize it has a lot for which to apologize, then it must correct its policies.

A group of prominent Iranian-Americans recently sent an open letter to Secretary Pompeo, writing:

If you truly wish to help the people of Iran, lift the travel ban [although no Iranian has ever been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Iran is included in Trump’s Muslim ban], adhere to the Iran nuclear deal and provide the people of Iran the economic relief they were promised and have eagerly awaited for three years.

Until the US is ready to accept responsibility for its abhorrent actions, Iran will continue to build a resistance economy and relations with other countries. There is talk of US-sanctioned countries joining together as a countervailing force. Such countries include Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Somalia, Belarus, Iraq, a number of African countries and more, as well as China with US trade tariffs. Building relationships through civil society, academia, professional societies, and government are needed to create a unified opposition to challenge US sanctions.

Our tasks in the US are to create opportunities for greater knowledge about and exchanges with Iran. Students at the University of Tehran are interested in dialogue with students and professors in the US. Members of the peace delegation live in areas across the US and can speak to groups about Iran. Contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni if you are interested in any of the above. We must educate our members of Congress about Iran and insist that the sanctions be lifted and that the US rejoin the JCPOA, and we must stop the threats of war against Iran.

Judging U.S. War Crimes

Chelsea Manning, who bravely exposed atrocities committed by the U.S. military, is again imprisoned in a U.S. jail. On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, she was incarcerated in the Alexandria, VA federal detention center for refusing to testify in front of a secretive Grand Jury. Her imprisonment can extend through the term of the Grand Jury, possibly 18 months, and the U.S. courts could allow formation of future Grand Juries, potentially jailing her again.

Chelsea Manning has already paid an extraordinarily high price for educating the U.S. public about atrocities committed in the wars of choice the U.S. waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea Manning was a U.S. Army soldier and former U.S. intelligence analyst. She already testified, in court, how she downloaded and disseminated government documents revealing classified information she believed represented possible war crimes. In 2013, she was convicted by court martial and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted her sentence. In May of 2017, she was released from military prison having served seven years.

“Where you stand determines what you see.” Chelsea Manning, by virtue of her past work as an analyst with the U.S. military, carefully studied footage of what could only be described as atrocities against human beings. She saw civilians killed, on her screen, and conscience didn’t allow her to ignore what she witnessed, to more or less change the channel. One scene of carnage occurred on July 12, 2007, in Iraq. Chelsea Manning made available to the world the black and white grainy footage and audio content which depicted a U.S. helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians. Twelve people were killed, including two Reuters journalists.

What follows is part of the dialogue from the classified US military video footage from July 12th:

US SOLDIER 1: Alright, firing.

US SOLDIER 4: Let me know when you’ve got them.

US SOLDIER 2: Let’s shoot. Light ’em all up.

US SOLDIER 1: Come on, fire!

US SOLDIER 2: Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’.

US SOLDIER 2: Alright, we just engaged all eight individuals.
Amy Goodman described the next portion of the video:

AMY GOODMAN: Minutes later, the video shows US forces watching as a van pulls up to evacuate the wounded. They again open fire, killing several more people, wounding two children inside the van.

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse. We have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly picking up bodies and weapons.

US SOLDIER 1: Let me engage. Can I shoot?

US SOLDIER 2: Roger. Break. Crazy Horse one-eight, request permission to engage.

US SOLDIER 3: Picking up the wounded?

US SOLDIER 1: Yeah, we’re trying to get permission to engage. Come on, let us shoot!

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

US SOLDIER 1: They’re taking him.

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

US SOLDIER 4: This is Bushmaster seven, go ahead.

US SOLDIER 2: Roger. We have a black SUV —- or Bongo truck picking up the bodies. Request permission to engage.

US SOLDIER 4: Bushmaster seven, roger. This is Bushmaster seven, roger. Engage.

US SOLDIER 2: One-eight, engage. Clear.

US SOLDIER 1: Come on!

US SOLDIER 2: Clear. Clear.

US SOLDIER 1: We’re engaging.

US SOLDIER 3: I got ’em.

US SOLDIER 2: Should have a van in the middle of the road with about twelve to fifteen bodies.

US SOLDIER 1: Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha!

Democracy Now, in the same segment, asked former U.S. whistleblower Dan Ellsberg for comments about releasing the video.

“What were the criteria,” Ellsberg asked, “that led to denying this to the public? And how do they stand up when we actually see the results? Is anybody going to be held accountable for wrongly withholding evidence of war crimes in this case…?”

Chelsea Manning’s disclosures also led to public awareness of the Granai massacre in Afghanistan. On May 4, 2009, Taliban forces attacked U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan’s Farah province. The U.S. military called for U.S. airstrikes on buildings in the village of Granai. A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber was used to drop 2,000 lb. and 500 lb. bombs, killing an estimated 86 to 147 women and children. The U.S. Air Force has videotape of the Granai massacre. Ellsberg called for President Obama to post the videotape rather than wait to see if Wikileaks would release it. To this day, the video hasn’t been released. Apparently, a disgruntled Wikileaks employee destroyed the footage.

Were it not for Chelsea Manning’s courageous disclosures, certain U.S. military atrocities might have been kept secret. Her revelations were also key to exposing U.S. approval of the 2009 coup against the elected government in Honduras and U.S. dealings with dictators and oligarchs across the Middle East, which helped spark the Arab Spring rebellions.

Prior to her arrest in 2010, Chelsea Manning wrote: “I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are. Because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Chelsea Manning’s principled and courageous actions provide guidance for us to control our fears. We must seek an end to war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas where the U.S. terrifies and kills civilians.

Can We Divest from Weapons Dealers?

Impoverished people living in numerous countries today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products.

Family Visit in Kabul (Photo by Dr. Hakim)

About three decades ago, I taught writing at one of Chicago’s alternative high schools. It’s easy to recall some of their stories—fast-paced, dramatic, sometimes tender. I would beg my students to three-hole-punch each essay or poem and leave it in a binder on our classroom shelf, anxious not to lose the documentation of their talents and ideas.

Some of the youngsters I taught told me they were members of gangs. Looking down from the window of my second-floor classroom, I sometimes wondered if I was watching them selling drugs in broad daylight as they embraced one another on the street below.

Tragically, in the two years that I taught at Prologue High School, three students were killed. Colleagues told me that they generally buried three students per year. They died, primarily, from gunshot wounds. I think they could have survived their teenage years if weapons and ammunition hadn’t been available.

Similarly, I believe impoverished populations of numerous countries at war today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products. It would also help if the people living in countries that export deadly weapons were well-informed about the consequences these businesses bring.

Consider this: The 2018 U.S. Census Report tallies U.S. exports of bullets to other countries. Topping the list is $123 million-worth of bullets to Afghanistan—an eight-fold rise over the number of bullets sold in 2017 and far more than the number of bullets sold to any other country.

During a recent visit to Afghanistan, I heard many people voice intense fear of what would happen if civil war breaks out. It seems to me that those who manufacture bullets are doing all they can to hasten the likelihood and deadly outcome of an armed struggle.

But rather than help people here in the United States understand conditions in countries where the U.S. conducts airstrikes, President Donald Trump is hiding the facts.

On March 6, 2019, Trump revoked portions of a 2016 executive order imposed by President Barack Obama requiring annual reports on the number of strikes taken and an assessment of combatant and civilian deaths. Trump has removed the section of the mandate specifically covering civilian casualties caused by CIA airstrikes, and whether they were caused by drones or “manned” warplanes.

A U.S. State Department email message said the reporting requirements are “superfluous” because the Department of Defense already must file a full report of all civilian casualties caused by military strikes. However, the report required from the Pentagon doesn’t cover airstrikes conducted by the CIA.

And last year, the White House simply ignored the reporting requirement.

Democracy is based on information. You can’t have democracy if people have no information about crucial issues. Uninformed about military practices and foreign policy, U.S. citizens become disinterested.

I lived alongside civilians in Iraq during the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad. In the hospital emergency rooms I heard survivors asking, through screams and tears, why they were being attacked. Since that time, in multiple visits to Kabul, I have heard the same agonized question.

The majority of Afghanistan’s population consists of women and children. When civilians in that country die because of U.S. attacks—whether within or beyond “areas of active hostilities”; whether conducted by the CIA or the Department of Defense; whether using manned or unmanned warplanes—the attack is almost certain to cause overwhelming grief. Often the survivors feel rage and may want revenge. But many feel despair and find their only option is to flee.

Imagine a home in your neighborhood suddenly demolished by a secret attack; you have no idea why this family was targeted, or why women and children in this family were killed. If another such attack happened, wouldn’t you consider moving?

Reporting for The New York Times, Mujib Mashal recently interviewed a farmer from Afghanistan’s Helmand province displaced by fighting and now unable to feed his family. “About 13.5 million people are surviving on one meal or less a day,” Mashal writes, “and 54 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a $1 a day.”

Last week, an international crisis sharply escalated in a “dogfight” between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed states. The crisis has been somewhat defused. Media reports quickly focused on the relative military strength of both countries—observing, for example, that the dilapidated state of India’s jet fighters could be a “win” for U.S. weapons manufacturers.

“It is hard to sell a front-line fighter to a country that isn’t threatened,” said an analyst with the Lexington Institute. “Boeing and Lockheed Martin both have a better chance of selling now because suddenly India feels threatened.”

A few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited heads of state in Pakistan and India. Photos showed warm embraces and respectful receptions.

The CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson, also embraces the Saudi government. She serves on the boards of trustees of two Saudi technological universities, and presides over a company that has been awarded “a nine-figure down payment on a $15 billion missile-defense system for Saudi Arabia.” The Saudis will acquire new state-of-the-art weapons even as they continue bludgeoning civilians in Yemen during a war orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the Saudis will build military alliances with nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

With both India and Pakistan possessing nuclear weapons, every effort should be made to stop the flow of weapons into the region. But major weapon making companies bluntly assert that the bottom line in the decision is their profit.

Attending funerals for young people in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, at the time one of the poorest in Chicago, I felt deep dismay over the profits that motivated gun runners who sold weapons to students, some of whom would be soon fatally wounded. In the ensuing decades, larger, more ambitious weapon peddlers have engendered and prolonged fighting between warlords, within and beyond the United States.

Boys and girls at Street Kids School, Kabul, March 2019 (Photo by Maya Evans)

How different our world could be if efforts were instead directed toward education, health care, and community welfare.

This article first appeared on the website of The Progressive

From Late Victorian Holocausts to 21st Century Imperialism: Crocodile Tears for Venezuela

On 26 February, Stephen Hickey, UK political coordinator at the United Nations, delivered a statement at the Security Council briefing on Venezuela that put the blame for the situation in that country on its government. He said that years of misrule and corruption have wrecked the Venezuelan economy and that the actions of the “Maduro regime” have led to economic collapse.

He continued by talking about the recent attempts to bring ‘aid’ into the country:

… use of deadly violence against his (Maduro) own people and other concerning acts of aggression to block the supply of desperately needed humanitarian aid are simply repugnant… the Maduro regime’s oppressive policies affect… innocent civilians, including women and children, who lack access to essential medical and other basic supplies…

He then went on to talk about journalist Jorge Ramos being reportedly detained, later to be released and deported:

As with the lack of freedom given to journalists, other essential freedoms – such as democratic ones – are simply not present in Venezuela… We stand with… Juan Guaidó in pursuit of our shared goal to bring peace and stability to Venezuela.

We can but wonder what Hickey thinks about the illegal and arbitrary detention and needless suffering of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the best part of a decade courtesy of his own government.

Hickey argued that the only way to achieve peace and stability is by democratic transition through free and fair presidential elections, as demanded by ‘interim President Guaidó’ and the National Assembly, in line with the Venezuelan Constitution.

He stated:

Until this is achieved, the current humanitarian crisis caused by the Maduro regime’s corrupt policies will continue… nothing short of free and fair presidential elections will do.

In the meantime, Hickey called for additional sanctions against individual members of the Venezuelan government who he said had benefited from corrupt policies.

He concluded that:

The Venezuelan people deserve a better future. They have suffered enough at the hands of the Maduro regime.

Something for Hickey to consider

Here are a few facts for Stephen Hickey. In 2018, Maduro was re-elected president. A section of the opposition boycotted the election but the boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; 16 parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 68 per cent. Renowned journalist John Pilger says that on election day he spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers who told him the process had been entirely fair. There was no fraud and none of the lurid media claims stood up.

So what of the unelected Juan Guaidó whom Hickey calls the “interim president”?

Pilger notes that the Trump administration has presented Guaidó, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the legitimate President of Venezuela. Guaidó was previously unheard of by 81 percent of the Venezuelan people and has been elected by no one.

And what of the people who are behind him (not ordinary Venezuelan people, but his backers in Washington)? Pilger says:

As his “special envoy to Venezuela” (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.

Talking about the Western media biased reporting on Venezuela, Pilger adds that the country’s democratic record, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen:

The greatest literacy program in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

None of this happened in the warped world of Stephen Hickey either. He paints a wholly distorted picture of the situation in Venezuela, one which lays the blame for economic woes and their consequences at the door of Maduro and his ‘corrupt regime’. But this is a tried and tested strategy: bring a country to its knees and apportion blame on the political leaders of that country.

Countries like Venezuela have, to a large extent, been trapped by their colonial legacy and have very often become single commodity producers – in this case oil – and find it difficult to expand other sectors. In effect, they have found themselves extremely vulnerable. The US can squeeze the price of the commodity upon which such countries rely, while applying sanctions and cutting off financial lifelines. It then becomes that much easier to lay the blame for the consequences on a ‘corrupt regime’.

Prof Michael Hudson has outlined how debt and the US-controlled international monetary system has backed Maduro into a corner. He argues that Venezuela has become an oil monoculture, with revenue having been spent largely on importing food and other necessities, which it could have produced itself. In the case of food at least, many countries in the Global South have been adversely affected by the ‘globalisation of agriculture’ and have had their indigenous sectors undermined as a result of WTO policies and directives, debt and US-supported geopolitical lending strategies.

However, this is all an inconvenient truth for the likes of Hickey and the Western media. Talking about the BBC, John Pilger notes that it is “too difficult” for that media outlet to include any of this in its reporting:

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6 billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including $2 billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

None of this is up for debate by the BBC or Hickey. He sits in the UN talking about, freedom, democracy and the rights and suffering of ordinary people, while failing to acknowledge the US or the UK’s own role in the denial of freedom and the perpetuation of suffering across the world.

From Syria to Iraq, the ‘squeezing out of life’

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009. And writing in The Guardian in 2013, Nafeez Ahmed discussed leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

But this is where Britain and the West’s concerns really lie: facilitating the geopolitical machinations of financial institutions, oil companies, arms manufacturers and profiteers. And it is no different this time around with Venezuela. Ordinary people are mere ‘collateral damage’ left dying in or fleeing war zones that the West and its allies created. The West’s brutal oil and gas wars are twisted as ‘humanitarian’ interventions for public consumption.

In 2014, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told a meeting at St Andrews University in Scotland that Libya is now a disaster and 15,000 people were killed when NATO (British and French jets) bombed Sirte. The made-for-public narrative about that ‘intervention’ began with some tale about Gaddafi killing his own people, which turned out to be false. Now we are hearing similar about Maduro.

As far as Iraq is concerned, Murray said that he knew for certain that key British officials were fully aware that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction. He said that invading Iraq wasn’t a mistake, it was a lie.

Over a million people have been killed via the US-led or US-backed attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. But this is the plan: to turn countries into vassal states of the US, or for those that resist to reconstruct (destroy) them into fractured territories.

Any eulogies to morality and humanitarianism must be seen for what they are: part of the ongoing psychological operations being waged on the public to encourage people to regard what is happening in the world as a disconnected array of events in need of Western intervention. These events are not for one minute to be regarded by the public as the planned brutality of empire and militarism.

Tim Anderson (author of The Dirty War on Syria) argues that where Syria was concerned Western culture in general favoured its worst traditions: “the ‘imperial prerogative’ for intervention… reinforced by a ferocious campaign of war propaganda.” We are now seeing it again, this time with Venezuela.

We might well ask who is Donald Trump, John Bolton or for that matter Stephen Hickey to dictate and engineer what the future of Venezuela should be? But this is what the US with the UK in support has been doing across the globe for decades. Control of oil is key to current events in Venezuela. But there is also the subtext of destroying any tendencies towards socialism across Latin America (and elsewhere) as well as the need of Western capital to expand into or create new markets: Washington’s hand-picked puppet Juan Guaido will facilitate the process and usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism’.

In many respects, the US has learned its imperialist playbook from its former colonial master, the UK. In the book ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’, the author Mike Davis writes that millions in India were dying of starvation when Lord Lytton (head of the British government in India) said, “There is to be no interference of any kind on the part of government with the object of reducing the price of food”. He dismissed any idea of feeding the starving as “humanitarian hysterics”. There was plenty of food, but it was held back to preserve prices and serve the market.

Indian writer and politician Shashi Tharoor, notes a speech to the British House of Commons in 1935 by Winston Churchill who said that the slightest fall from the present standard of life in India means slow starvation and the actual squeezing out of life, not only of millions but of scores of millions of people. And that after almost 200 years of British rule. According to Tharoor, this “squeezing out of life” was realized at the hands of Churchill in the six to seven million Indian deaths in the WW2 Bengali Holocaust.

Despite Hickey’s crocodile tears, hundreds of thousands in various countries are still dying today due to the same imperialist mindset. Humanitarian hysterics are for public consumption as the “squeezing out of life” continues regardless.