Category Archives: Joe Biden

The Economy of Tolerable Massacres: The Uvalde Shootings

Societies generate their own economies of tolerable cruelties and injustices.  Poverty, for instance, will be allowed, as long a sufficient number of individuals are profiting.  To an extent, crime and violence can be allowed to thrive.  In the United States, the economy of tolerable massacres, executed by military grade weapons, is considerable and seemingly resilient.  Its participants all partake in administering it, playing their bleak roles under the sacred banner of constitutional freedom and psychobabble.

Just as prison reform tends to keep pace with the expansion of the bloated system, the gun argument in the US keeps pace, barely, with each massacre.  With each round of killings, a script is activated: initial horror, hot tears of indignation of never again, and then, the stalemate on reform till the next round of killings can be duly accommodated. “It isn’t enough to reiterate the plain truth that the assault weapons used in mass shootings must be banned and confiscated,” observes Benjamin Kunkel.  “Instead, every fresh atrocity must be recruited into everyone’s preferred single-factor sociological narrative.”

In Uvalde, Texas, a teenage gunman (they do get younger) made his way into an elementary school and delivered an unforgettable May 24 lesson.  When he had finished at Robb Elementary School, 19 children and 2 adults had perished.  But even this effort, in the premier league ranking of school killings, failed to top the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.  On that occasion, 26 lost their lives.

The horror and indignant tears were duly cued.  President of the United States, Joe Biden: “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?  Why do we keep letting this happen?” he rhetorically intoned at a press conference.  “For every parent, for every citizen in this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: it’s time to act.”  This would involve the passing of “common sense gun laws” and combating the gun lobby.

The next day, Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the formula.  “We must work together to create an America where everyone feels safe in their community, where children feel safe in their schools.”

The politicians are duly accompanied by the talking heads, such as Ron Avi Astor, described by NPR as “a mass shooting expert”.  With this unsavoury appellation, we are told that this UCLA professor is puzzled as to why negligible changes to gun laws have taken place since Sandy Hook.  In coping with such puzzlement, he suggests an old academic trick: reframe the problem to lessen its gravity.

With some gusto, Astor proceeds to say that schools in the US have been doing fabulously well in coping with violence – as long as you take the long view. “If you look over the last 20 years, really since Columbine, there’s been a massive, massive, massive … decrease in victimization and violence in schools.”  Diving into the silver lining in his own massive way, he finds “reductions” in violence in the order of 50 to 70 percent.

It never takes long for the economy of tolerable massacres to generate the next round of scrappy arguments, with the corpses barely cold.  The common one is that of shooting frequency.  Was this a good year relative to the last?  This year, the United States has suffered 27.

Since 2018, Education Week, showing how school deaths should very much feature in planning curricula, has taken a grim interest in the whole matter.  Reading its compiled figures – “heartbreaking, but important work”, the journal claims – is much like dipping into stock market returns with the requisite amount of sensitivity.  In 2021, there were 34 school shootings, a real bumper year.  In 2020, it was poor on that front: a modest 10.  Both 2019 and 2018 saw higher returns: 24 each.

If you wish to be entertained by the ghoulish nature of it all, Education Week also gives us some infotainment with a graphic on “Where the Shootings Happened.”  Dots feature on a map of the country.  “The size of the dots correlates to the number of people killed or injured.  Click on each dot for more information.”  Where would we be but for such valuable services?

To give credence to the seemingly immutable nature of this economy on shootings, platoons of commentators, equipped with various skills, argue about responses, most showing that common sense, in this field, is a noble dream.  The conservative National Review takes the view that “tougher background checks” would hardly have worked for the Uvalde shooter.  There was no paper trail flagging him as a threat, nothing to suggest that he should have been prevented as a “legal adult from purchasing a firearm.”  The implicit suggestion here: only nutters kill.

The business of guns is the business of a particular American sensibility.  With the school shooting still fresh, various members of the GOP and Donald Trump affirmed their interest in appearing at a Memorial Day weekend event hosted by the National Rifle Association.  In a statement on the shootings, the NRA expressed its “deepest sympathies” for the families and victims of “this horrific and evil crime” but preferred to describe the killings as the responsibility “of a lone, deranged criminal.”  Leave gun regulation alone; focus on school security instead.

With that brief formality discharged, the NRA expressed its delight at its forthcoming Annual Meetings and Exhibits event to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston between May 27 and May 29.  “The Exhibit Hall is open all three days and will showcase over 14 acres of the latest guns and gear from the most popular companies in the Industry.”  It promises to be fun for the whole family.

Then comes the thorny matter of definitions, a sure way to kill off any sensible action.  From boffin to reactionary, no one can quite accept what a “school shooting” is.  Non-profit outfits such as the New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety include any discharge of a firearm at school as part of the definition.  “In 2022,” the organisation claims, “there were at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries nationally.”

Everytown for Gun Safety is keen to paint a picture of annual murderous rampage: 3,500 children and teens being shot and killed; 15,000 shot and injured.  Some 3 million children in the US are exposed to shootings each year.

The tone underlying such a message is much at odds with the rest easy approach taken by Astor – what Australians would call the “she’ll be right, mate” caste of mind.  It is certainly Panglossian in nature, aligning with the views of cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, optimist extraordinaire on the human condition.  Taken holistically, he keeps insisting, we live in far better, less violent times than our forebears.  Such massacres as those at Sandy Hook should not be taken to mean that schools have become less safe.  “People always think that violence has increased because they reason from memorable examples rather than global data.”  For Pinker, the 2013 joint survey by the Departments of Justice and Education on such statistics as rates of victimisation since 1992 to non-fatal victimisations was sufficient rebuke against the pessimists and moaners.

The Uvalde massacre will, in time, be absorbed by this economy of tolerable violence.  The anger will dissipate; collective amnesia, if not simple indifference, will exert its dulling sleep.  The dead, except for the personally affected, will go the way of others, buried in the confetti and scrapings of statistics.

The post The Economy of Tolerable Massacres: The Uvalde Shootings first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity

Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened?  A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons.  Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”  The answer: “Yes.  That’s a commitment we made.”

Biden was again flatly committing the US to a conflict over Taiwan should China deploy its forces.  He has done so on two previous occasions, showing either a degree of ignorance, or a willingness to throw caution to the wind.  The first took place during an interview with ABC News in August, when he equated Taiwan’s status to those of other allies such as South Korea.  The second, in a CNN town hall, took place in October, when he stated that the US had “a commitment to do that”.

In doing so a third time, he was helping no one in particular, and taking the hammer to the strategic ambiguity that has marked US-Taiwan policy for decades.  The only thing that could have been taken away from it is a reminder to Beijing that they are not facing a cautious superpower steered by a sage, but a government not unwilling to shed blood over Taiwan.

Biden has expressed this view before, and grates against a policy Washington has had for 43 years.  It is a policy characterised by two key understandings.  The first is the One China policy, which the Biden administration affirmed in Tokyo.  Beijing, accordingly, remains the sole legitimate authority representing China.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 is the other pillar that guides US policy towards Taiwan.  The Act declares it the policy of the United States “to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan, as well as the people of the China mainland and all other people in the Western Pacific area.”

The Act facilitates the provision of arms to Taiwan “of a defensive character” and maintains “the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”  It does not impose an obligation on the US to intervene militarily in the event of an attack, or to compel the use of forces in defence of the island.

The first pertinent question was whether an actual change had been heralded in Tokyo.  The National Review certainly thought so.  “Biden’s remarks signal a big shift in US foreign policy regarding Taiwan.”  The New York Times also suggested that, unlike his previous, seemingly incautious remarks on the subject, this could not be treated as a simple gaffe.  Sebastian Smith, White House correspondent for Agence France-Presse, thought that Biden’s response “really raised the adrenaline levels in that palace briefing room”.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was overjoyed, expressing “sincere welcome and gratitude to President Biden of the United States for reiterating its rock solid commitment to Taiwan.”

For his part, Biden was having a bit each way, suggesting that strategic ambiguity was still being retained in some modest form.  “We agree with the One China policy and all the attendant agreements we made.  But the idea that it can be taken by force, would just not be appropriate.”  His Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin was even more adamant that there had been no change to speak of on the part of the president.  “As the president said, our One China policy has not changed,” he stated at the Pentagon.  “He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself.  So, again, our policy has not changed.”

On being asked by a journalist what potential risks would rise as part of a US military defence of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was unwilling to elucidate.  A “variety of contingency plans” were held by the military applicable to the Pacific, Europe “and elsewhere”, all classified.  “And it would be very inappropriate for me on a microphone to discuss the risk associated with those plans relative to anything with respect to Taiwan or anywhere else in the Pacific.”  Reassuring.

As often tends to come to pass, when the potential for war lurks in cupboards and around corners, there are those less than unwilling to repel it.  The chance to exercise muscle, especially indulged vicariously, brings out the inner war monger.  Bret Stephens uses the New York Times to promote the popular view held by many in the US and amongst its allies that Biden was quite right not to stick to “diplomatic formulas of a now-dead status quo”.  President Xi Jinping, that sly devil, had “changed the rules of the game” by crushing protests in Hong Kong, repudiating the “one country, two systems” formula and blithely ignored the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Chinese claims on the South China Sea.

Stephens sees opportunity in this statement from Biden, a thankful slaying of ambiguity.  For one, the US can sell more arms to Taiwan while incorporating Taipei into its broader strategic approach.  The administration should also convince Taipei to increase its “scandalously low” military budget.  Washington, for its part, can increase the small component of US Special Operations and Marine personnel already deployed to train local forces.  Biden’s stumble, in short, was a shift; and the shift moves one step closer to inciting war.

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Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in Washington?

Staging a vice-presidential candidates debate in the run-up to Colombia’s May 29th national elections was entirely appropriate.  Nevertheless, the location of the event in Washington and its promotion by US-state functionaries requires some explanation. Because of its venue and sponsors, the affair had elements of an audition or a vetting process overseen by the US government.

Along with the Washington consensus crowd, members of the Colombian diaspora attended the May 13th event, especially supporters of popular vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez. Afro-descendent environmentalist Márquez is running with presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Their frontrunning ticket could be the first administration on the left in Colombian history.

Vice-presidential debate hosts

The debate was hosted by the US Institute of Peace, a federal agency entirely funded by the US Congress. The board of the institute must by law include the US secretaries of defense and state along with the head of the Pentagon’s National Defense University. Activities include spreading “peace” in such oases of made-in-the-USA tranquility as Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Libya.

If these officials pass for peacemakers in Washington’s inside-the-beltway world, who, one might ask, would be left to lead a military academy? Answer: the very same people, which is entirely the point of a US government “peace” agency.

Co-hosts of the event were the Atlantic Council and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The former is known as “NATO’s think tank.” Its board of honorary directors is composed of four former secretaries of defense, three former secretaries of state, a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Homeland Security official.

The Woodrow Wilson Center is a semi-governmental entity, whose current head, Mark Andrew Green, was executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and before that head of the CIA front organization USAID. Rounding out their board are Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, and Antony Blinken, Biden’s current secretary of state.

Colombia – US client state

Colombia is the leading client state of the US in the Americas. The South American nation was touted by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in their US presidential campaigns as a model for the rest of Latin America. This so-called model nation was partially paralyzed for four days starting on May 5 when the private paramilitary group Clan del Golfo imposed a national armed strike in retaliation for the extradition to the US of its leader on drug trafficking charges.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for example, boasted in 2013 in reference to Colombia’s regional role as a US client state: “If somebody called my country the Israel of Latin America, I would be very proud. I admire the Israelis, and I would consider that as a compliment.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political staging area. Plan Colombia and Plan Patriota constructed one of the most sophisticated armies in the world even though Colombia has no external wars.

As the US’s leading regional proxy, Colombia is appropriately a land of superlatives. It is the leading recipient of US military and foreign aid in the hemisphere. According to Colombian academic Rena Vegas, the US has approximately 50 military units along with US agencies, headed by the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which “operate daily and freely to intervene in the country.”

Also, not inconsequently, Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a union activist. North American corporations there (e.g., Chiquita, Coca Cola, Drummond) have employed paramilitaries to do their dirty work.

Colombia likewise gets the largest allocation of DEA funds. Also, not inconsequently, it is the world’s largest source of illicit cocaine, according to the CIA. The US war on drugs in Colombia has served as a smokescreen for massive repression against popular movements by the country’s military and allied paramilitary organizations.

In 2017, Colombia became one of NATO’s Global Partners and its first in Latin American. In February, Colombia conducted a provocative joint naval drill with NATO near Venezuela, which included a nuclear submarine. Then on March 10, Colombia became a “Major Non-NATO Ally” of the US, giving the narco-state special access to military programs. Biden explained: “This is a recognition of the unique and close relationship between our countries.”

Summit of the Americas

In short, Colombia is the poster child for the US Monroe Doctrine, an assertion of US hegemony over the hemisphere dating back to 1823. Biden recently made a cosmetic change to the Monroe Doctrine risibly proclaiming that our southern neighbors are no longer in our “backyard” but rather in our “front yard.”

However, many Latin American and Caribbean nations believe that they are sovereign countries. So Biden’s recent call for a Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10, which would exclude Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, faces significant pushback. Mexican President Lopez Obrador said he’ll shun the meeting along with the heads of state of over a dozen Caribbean countries, Bolivia, Guatemala, and possibly Brazil.

Over half of the chief execs in the Americas have tentatively spurned the imperial summons. Unless Biden makes amends or more likely twists some arms, he’ll find Los Angeles a lonely place.

Meanwhile counter-summits have been organized by social movements in Los Angeles on June 8-10 and followed by another in Tijuana on June 10-12, which may be attended by nationals barred from entering the US.

Colombia’s relations with Venezuela

Colombia has served as the main staging ground for US destabilization efforts against Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused Colombian President Iván Duque of plotting to sow unrest through the targeted killing of Venezuelan security forces along their shared border. A year ago, US-backed mercenaries trained in Colombia were caught in Venezuela before they could follow through on their plan to assassinate the Venezuelan president.

Despite tremendous pressure from the US, the leading Colombian presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, has stated that he intends to restore relations with neighboring Venezuela. Nevertheless, Petro has regularly made critical remarks about Venezuela, a country slated for regime change by Washington. While not mentioning Petro by name, Venezuelan President Maduro has called those who capitulate to US pressures “the cowardly regional left.”

More recently Petro falsely characterized political prisoner Alex Saab of being allied with the far right. Venezuelan diplomat Saab is currently imprisoned in the US even though he should be afforded diplomatic immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention. The Venezuelan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning Saab’s treatment as what its president, Jorge Rodríguez, called an “act of immeasurable hypocrisy” by the US.

Petro/Márquez campaign survives assignation attempts

Given the domination of Colombia by its US-backed military, Petro is concerned not only about winning the election but surviving afterward. Both Petro and his running mate Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail.

Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

Petro, a former leftist guerilla and onetime mayor of Bogotá, has since shifted toward the center politically. But in comparison to the far-right rule of former President Álvaro Uribe and his successors in Colombia, Petro and Márquez appear relatively left and their election would be a sea change for the better.

Colombia has had leftist candidates assassinated – that is the genesis of the guerilla opposition – but none have survived to assume the presidential office. The win would be a necessary step in the left’s long struggle to free their troubled country from its erstwhile subjugation to the colossus to the north. Then, perhaps, their political candidates won’t feel compelled to audition in Washington.

The post Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in Washington? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

For Biden’s Summit of the Americas, Obama’s Handshake With Raúl Castro Shows the Way

On May 16, the Biden administration announced new measures to “increase support for the Cuban people.” They included easing travel restrictions and helping Cuban-Americans support and connect with their families. They mark a step forward but a baby step, given that most U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain in place. Also in place is a ridiculous Biden administration policy of trying to isolate Cuba, as well as Nicaragua and Venezuela, from the rest of the hemisphere by excluding them from the upcoming Summit of the Americas that will take place in June in Los Angeles.

This is the first time since its inaugural gathering in 1994 that the event, which is held every three years, will take place on U.S. soil. But rather than bringing the Western Hemisphere together, the Biden administration seems intent on pulling it apart by threatening to exclude three nations that are certainly part of the Americas.

For months, the Biden administration has been hinting that these governments would be excluded. So far, they have not been invited to any of the preparatory meetings and the Summit itself is now less than a month away. While former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and State Department spokesman Ned Price have repeated that “no decisions” have been made, Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said in an interview on Colombian TV that countries that “do not respect democracy are not going to receive invitations.”

Biden’s plan to pick and choose which countries can attend the Summit has set off regional fireworks. Unlike in the past, when the U.S. had an easier time imposing its will on Latin America, nowadays there is a fierce sense of independence, especially with a resurgence of progressive governments. Another factor is China. While the U.S. still has a major economic presence, China has surpassed the U.S. as the number one trading partner, giving Latin American countries more freedom to defy the United States or at least stake out a middle ground between the two superpowers.

The hemispheric reaction to the exclusion of three regional states is a reflection of that independence, even among small Caribbean nations. In fact, the first words of defiance came from members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, or Caricom, which threatened to boycott the Summit. Then came regional heavyweight, Mexican President Manuel López Obrador, who stunned and delighted people around the continent when he announced that, if all countries were not invited, he would not attend. The presidents of Bolivia and Honduras soon followed with similar statements.

The Biden administration has put itself in a bind. Either it backs down and issues the invitations, tossing red meat to right-wing U.S. politicians like Senator Marco Rubio for being “soft on communism,” or it stands firm and risks sinking the Summit and U.S. influence in the region.

Biden’s failure at regional diplomacy is all the more inexplicable given the lesson he should have learned as vice president when Barack Obama faced a similar dilemma.

That was 2015, when, after two decades of excluding Cuba from these Summits, the countries of the region put down their collective feet and demanded that Cuba be invited. Obama had to decide whether to skip the meeting and lose influence in Latin America, or go and contend with the domestic fallout. He decided to go.

I remember that Summit vividly because I was among the bevy of journalists jostling to get a front seat when President Barack Obama would be forced to greet Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, who came into power after his brother Fidel Castro stepped down. The momentous handshake, the first contact between leaders of the two countries in decades, was the high point of the summit.

Obama was not only obligated to shake Castro’s hand, he also had to listen to a long history lesson. Raúl Castro’s speech was a no-holds-barred recounting of past U.S. attacks on Cuba—including the 1901 Platt Amendment that made Cuba a virtual U.S. protectorate, U.S. support for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the scandalous U.S. prison in Guantanamo. But Castro was also gracious to President Obama, saying he was not to blame for this legacy and calling him an “honest man” of humble origins.

The meeting marked a new era between the U.S. and Cuba, as the two nations began to normalize relations. It was a win-win, with more trade, more cultural exchanges, more resources for the Cuban people, and fewer Cubans migrating to the United States. The handshake led to an actual visit by Obama to Havana, a trip so memorable that it still brings big smiles to the faces of Cubans on the island.

Then came Donald Trump, who skipped the next Summit of the Americas and imposed draconian new sanctions that left the Cuban economy in tatters, especially once COVID hit and dried up the tourist industry.

Until recently, Biden has been following Trump’s slash-and-burn policies that have led to tremendous shortages and a new migration crisis, instead of reverting to Obama’s win-win policy of engagement. The May 16 measures to expand flights to Cuba and resume family reunifications are helpful, but not enough to mark a real change in policy—especially if Biden insists on making the Summit a “limited-invite only.”

Biden needs to move quickly. He should invite all the nations of the Americas to the Summit. He should shake the hands of every head of state and, more importantly, engage in serious discussions on burning hemispheric issues such as the brutal economic recession caused by the pandemic, climate change that is affecting food supplies, and the terrifying gun violence–all of which are fueling the migration crisis. Otherwise, Biden’s #RoadtotheSummit, which is the Summit’s twitter handle, will only lead to a dead end.

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The AmericaNATOstani Sacrifice of Ukraine; or, Alternatively “Saving Private Ukraine”

Don’t Poke the Bear!

— ancient Chinese or Indian or Iranian or Tralfamadorean proverb

To begin, a small observation:  Instead of bailing out cash-strapped Weapons Dealers with sudden arms sales to Ukraine, perhaps we should send a team of our best Comedy Writers to its embattled President, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose “No-Fly Zone” jokes are not only not landing, but quite literally bombing upon the runways they are taxiing, and totally in vain?  In other words, and contrary to Zelensky’s scripted joke early on, the Ukrainian comedian-president does need a “lift”– never mind the “ammunition.”

For the sake of clarity, the “AmericaNATOstani” in the title of this piece is an adaptation of Pepe Escobar’s conceptually fun coinage “NATOstan,” which describes quite accurately that antiquated Cold War monster in the form it deserves.  However:  What of the sense of humor of Zelensky’s apparent nemesis, Russian president Vladimir Putin, in this “Tale of Two Vlads”?

Well, Mr Putin made a wry reference to the U$A’s 2003 Iraq-Attack-Two campaign when he asserted that “De-Nazification” was a primary goal of his predictably unlikely — or unpredictably likely — invasion of neighboring Ukraine.  “De-Ba’athification” in Iraq, of course, was a major Tony-Bush 2 talking point during that particular illegal invasion of a sovereign nation.  In another slightly comical rhetorical move, Putin called his invasion of Ukraine a “Special Military Operation,” weirdly echoing the AmericaNATOstanis who euphemism’d their 2011 Regime Change operation in Libya as a “Humanitarian Intervention.”  So, if his current gig doesn’t work out, maybe Putin’s got a back-up career in Stand-Up?

All jokes aside, the current “undeclared” War in Ukraine is bizarre and surreal as it is obviously brutal, no matter which Propaganda Media outlets you favor.  People are dying, and being grievously wounded, while “cutting-edge” Weapons Systems are being tested.  To the extent that Ukraine is a de facto NATO state, Russia is at war with NATO, which also means the United States.

From a Western media propaganda perspective, one fact sticks out:  only Russian soldiers, including their Generals, and Ukrainian civilians are getting killed.  The Ukrainian military, often derided despite being NATO-trained, have suffered, apparently, next to “zero” actual casualties during this egregious Russian assault.  How can this be?  Are the Ukrainians even fighting?  Or, put another way:  Who is fighting for the Ukrainians?

One answer to this conundrum can be gleaned from the March 13 attack upon a forward-operating NATO base outside of Lviv, in western Ukraine, quite close to the Polish border.  Western sources immediately reported that the base had been flattened by a barrage of Russian cruise missiles, with uncharacteristically instant casualty counts.  What to make of that?

Much has been made of the neo-Nazi elements in the current Ukrainian regime, although the Corporate Western Press has been at great pains to downplay it, despite FaceBook now proudly promoting neo-Nazi merch over their Internet waves, like “Swastikas are cool if it’s pro-Ukraine, dude!”  So:  What is Ukraine?

Once upon a time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (no qualifications for the job, by the way) declared that the United States does not recognize “spheres of influence,” which in practical-speak meant that the Entire World was the United States “sphere of influence,” so you local “deploreables” just gotta abide. Clinton, if I recall somewhat correctly, was referring specifically to the neighborhood of Russia, and letting Putin know that the Almighty United States of America would not recognize Russia as any kind of equivalent sovereign power.  As we know now, Hillary was only speaking for the Banks, not a country like the United States, which has become primarily a “Front Company” for certain stakeholders.

The last paragraph here gets quite a bit ahead of the argument, of course, even though the “stakes” in this Game have clearly been plotted-out well before. Well, the “best laid plans” oft come to nought.  Putin’s thrown a bit of a wrench into the Monkey Works with his invasion of Ukraine, and the geo-political fact that the U$A’s most staunch Middle Eastern allies, or Saudi’Israeli’a, are so far quite indifferent, indicates that Mr Putin’s improbable punch is landing, so to speak.  President Joe Malarkey’s mumble-sense about “Democrashy” — not so much.

From what I have gathered, the consensus is this:  Ivy League nitwits in charge of US Policy need to go, get real jobs somewhere that have zero influence on American policy, foreign or Other.  These privileged idiots have destroyed the “American Brand,” and the Brand Prayed On, Tra-la-la, to the demonstrable detriment of a better situation for the rest of us.  In other words, “Saving Private Ukraine” won’t save us from the collapse of the U$ Dollar, and that’s the real “Chernobyl!” in play behind Putin’s wantonly selective destruction of neighboring Ukraine.  Putin kind of knows it, I think.  Hopefully, Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time is not far from his bedstead; some Irony, meaning Levity, is needed to lead us all out of this potentially Thermo-Nuclear nonsense. Biden’s doddering, obviously, so a figure like Putin needs to stand up, whatever we all think he’s horribly doing in Ukraine (by the way, it’s the AmericaNATOstanis who set the trap in Ukraine, like a ritual sacrifice, as if the sacrifice of Ukrainian People would save or exculpate them from their own corruption, etc…).  In case you don’t know it by now, “Don’t Look Up!”, because it’s your old Dr Strangelove…

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From “Drill, Baby, Drill” to “Mine, Baby, Mine”

In 2015, former President Barack Obama said “If we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.” Despite this, Obama’s energy policy was called “All of the Above,” and his administration supported and subsidized drilling for oil, fracking for gas, coal mining, damming rivers, building nuclear power plants, erecting wind turbines on mountaintops, capping hot springs for geothermal energy, and covering sunny regions with solar panels.

President Trump followed a similar policy; despite publicly joking about wind and solar, his administration fast-tracked infrastructure permits for energy projects of all kinds as well as for mining to extract materials for electric vehicles (such as the Thacker Pass lithium mine).

Clearly, politicians lie.

President Biden is following in their footsteps. Even before the war in Ukraine broke out and Biden began taking action to increase domestic oil drilling, the U.S. was on track to break an all-time record for oil production in 2023.

On March 31st, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA)—a cold-war era bill giving broad powers the Executive Branch—and directed the Department of Defense to provide up to $750 million in subsidies to the mining industry for five “critical materials”: lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, and manganese. The Administration’s stated goal is to develop the domestic supply chain for critical minerals used by the military, in industry, and in the energy system, including batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage.

The DPA allows the military to do pretty much whatever it feels is necessary, without much oversight from the people of the United States, to extract resources for domestic supplies of these “critical” materials, in the name of national security and national defense.

This subsidy will mean more mining, more land bulldozed, more mountains blown up, more water polluted. It will mean more biodiverse, sacred places like Thacker Pass on the chopping block. It will further mute the voices of people and communities already drowned out by the howling of corporate power, lobbyists, and campaign contributions. And we believe it is very unlikely to substantially reduce carbon emissions.

Since the founding of the United States, political parties have battled over slavery, poverty, and military intervention. But the need to destroy wild lands to “develop natural resources” has never really been up for debate. And now this problem is global, since the U.S. way of life has been pushed on the world via economic and military colonization, structural adjustment policies, “free” trade, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation for the better part of 100 years.

This is the “good-cop bad-cop” routine that the Democrats and Republicans play with our society, and our planet. While the partisan gridlock continues and political battles shift one way, then another, we find ourselves in an environmental crisis, with 200 species being driven extinct every day, dead zones in the ocean, toxic chemicals inside every person’s body, 40% of all deaths being attributable to pollution, the erosion of soil fertility, and with climate destabilization promising a future of mass refugee crises, resource wars, and social chaos.

There is irony in President Biden invoking the “Defense Production Act” and putting funds to subsidize the mining industry in the hands of the U.S. Military. Here in Nevada, where we have been fighting to protect Thacker Pass from a proposed lithium mine permitted by the Trump administration and touted by the Biden administration, there is a history of linkages between mining and warfare.

In 1865, U.S. Cavalry soldiers slaughtered a group of Paiute men, women, and children camped at Thacker Pass. The soldiers attacked at dawn, riding down from the east on the unsuspecting Paiutes, who fled west into what could soon become an open-pit mine. One contemporary, Sarah Winnemucca, writes of the Snake War that “the only way the cattlemen and farmers get to make money is to start an Indian war, so that the troops may come and buy their beef, cattle, horses, and grain.” In the slaughter, between 31 and 70 Paiutes were killed, or as a newspaper article stated, made “permanently friendly,” and “a troubled peace” settled over “ranches, mines, and prospect camps” in Northern Nevada.

Within empires, there is a symbiotic relationship between military and economic spheres. War is good for business, and business is good for war. If war is a continuation of politics by other means, as the Prussian strategist Clausewitz said, then economics is the engine that powers both peacetime and wartime politics. Armies have always marched on their stomachs, but in the last century they have also been whisked along on jet fuel and diesel. Biden’s strategy is clear: the five minerals he has subsidized will not only be used directly in military hardware including nuclear weapons, their mining and consumption will also provide the tax base to fuel increasing military spending, and their domestic production will defuse economic weapons that could be leveraged by China and Russia.

To critique U.S. economic and military hegemony is to make yourself a pariah, especially when one utters such blasphemy during a “just war”—or, as is happening in Ukraine now, a proxy war. In superpower conflicts, economic dominance and military power are twin raised fists. The neoliberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, in one of his more lucid moments, that “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

Unlike Mr. Friedman, we do not see this as positive. Our world is crumbling under the incessant assaults of McDonalds, McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing), and Silicon Valley. These companies and industries are ecoterrorists and are raping our planet. Their shareholder wealth grows proportion to the number of bombs dropped, the gallons of jet fuel burned, the pounds of toxic waste emitted from factories around the world, and the number of animals cruelly sacrificed in industrial slaughterhouses. Their products are made of shattered mountains and shattered soils. They are Faustian devils, providing short-lived benefits to a few, while damming us and our grandchildren to a hellish future.

But perhaps we are being unfair. The benefits packages must be nice. Perhaps destroying the natural world, driving entire species to extinction, dooming future generations to starvation and war, trampling local communities opposition, and burying native sacred sites is less important than seeing your stock portfolio rise.

Here in Nevada, Governor Sisolak is already using the White House announcement to promote Nevada as a key source of these critical materials, to make sure his state gets some of the funding that will be handed out by the Biden administration to extract even more resources and develop more industry. Nevada is consistently the state with the highest release of toxic pollution in the country each year, thanks to the mining and military activities in the state. It’s also a state being devastated right now with thousands of acres of desert ecosystems being razed for new industrial solar farms and the grids that accompany them. Nevada has a long history of extraction and destruction for mining and the military, at the expense of the fragile arid high desert ecosystems which make up the state, and the communities of people and wild beings who live there. Governor Sisolak’s plans to cash in on the federal government’s plans to develop domestic mining and industry for “national defense” will ensure that this doesn’t change.

In times of war, and in times of peace, the poor, women and children, elderly people, and the living planet all pay the price.

The post From “Drill, Baby, Drill” to “Mine, Baby, Mine” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed

It was a climate of unquestioned moral righteousness. The enemy was Fascism. The brutalities of Fascism were undisguised by pretense:  the concentration camps, the murder of opponents, the tortures by secret police, the burning of books, the total control of information, the roving gangs of thugs in the streets, the designation of “inferior” races deserving extermination, the infallible leader, the mass hysteria, the glorification of war, the invasion of other countries, the bombing of civilians. No literary work of imagination could create a more monstrous evil… But it is precisely that situation—where the enemy is undebatably evil—that produces a righteousness dangerous not only to the enemy but to ourselves, to countless innocent bystanders, and to future generations.

— Howard Zinn, The Bomb (City Lights, 2010), p. 29.

Nuclear War:  The Unimaginable and Real Threat

Aware that Ukraine could well become the next Afghanistan, and that we face the chance of a nuclear war and subsequent “nuclear winter” in which 2 billion people are at risk of starvation, voices of peace around the world continue to protest the militarism of irresponsible leaders of the governments of the NATO states, Russia, Japan, and other countries. There is even criticism of U.S. and Canadian support for Nazis in Ukraine. Now, when they should be focused on repairing relations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as between Russia and the NATO states, and thereby increasing the chances of humanity’s decent survival, instead these leaders are focused on “winning” their petty macho fest in Ukraine. For example, on the 6th of March, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine have gotten “the green light” from the U.S. Luckily for our species, Biden did not listen to Blinken, and instead listened to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III, a four-star general.

“Could the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalate to nuclear war? It’s unlikely but not impossible. That should terrify us,” writes foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer. “Unlikely but not impossible.” This is a common view today among serious international affairs analysts.

Many U.S. generals have never really been keen on the notion of nuclear war, in fact. “In 1945 the United States had eight five-star admirals and generals. Of the eight, seven are on the record saying the atomic bomb [dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both.”

Although “GHQ” (the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers) imposed strict censorship on discussions and photographs of the atomic bombs and its victims, the news did eventually spread via word of mouth, underground publications, etc., and people found out about the results of this U.S. experiment on the bodies of Japanese and Koreans. And over the course of the last three-quarters of a century, historians in Japan, the U.S., and other countries, such as Peter Kuznick, have done painstaking research to uncover the fact that one can say, in retrospect, that these two bombings were stupid and barbaric.

Most of us who are aware of the history of the bombings and who campaign for peace would agree with Stephen Bryen that “beyond all the rhetoric, and the sanctions [over the violence in Ukraine], Washington had better clear its head and start to think straight. That’s not happening right now but it is essential for our future security and well-being.”

By this time, our leaders should have learned from humanity’s past mistakes. Theodore A. Postol, a nuclear weapons technology expert and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has asserted that “over the course of several U.S. administrations failing to take into account Russia’s core security concerns… ‘there’s no reflection at all’.” (Author’s italics). We are being led by ignorant, violent, reckless, macho-men.

Our Leaders Are Leading Us toward the Precipice of Global Dystopia

Here in Japan we are told that, for no reason, China could invade Taiwan at any moment, just as Russia invaded Ukraine, and that the best way to create security for ourselves would be for the U.S. and Japan to continue to build military bases on Ryukyu Islands. These are bases that are equipped with all kinds of lethal weapons, soldiers, and Osprey aircraft (for transporting such weapons and troops to places like China). They are building a new base in Henoko (on the main island of Uchinaa/Okinawa), on Miyako Island, and other Ryukyu Islands, all close to Taiwan. These two states are continually militarizing the islands of this region and putting our lives in jeopardy. One can, in fact, see the high mountains of Taiwan from Yonaguni Island (at the southernmost island of the Ryukyu Island chain, where a new base now sits) on a clear day, as the island is only 111 kilometers from Taiwan. In other words, they want us to believe that holding China by the throat with one hand, and a knife in the other, will improve our security.

In the U.S. and other countries, people are told that only Big Brother knows best, that only he can keep us, the ignorant masses, safe from overseas villains. Unfortunately, for those who tell this tall tale, the U.S. has been threatening Russians, ever since the end of the Second World War, at a point in time right after the Soviet Union had lost millions of people fighting against Nazis. There was a time when “Official U.S. war plans, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Dwight Eisenhower, stated that, if so much as a single Soviet tank division crossed into allied territory, the United States would respond with nukes.” Such was our government’s posture then toward our former ally the Soviet Union. And our message to Russians even now is essentially that they “better watch out.” After years of steady success with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), NATO’s official nuclear policy is “flexible response,” which allows the alliance to be “the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.”

It surely has not been lost on Russians that former president Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, set aside $1 trillion of our tax dollars for nukes, to be spent over a span of 30 years, nor has it been lost on many Japanese that he did not apologize on our behalf when he visited Hiroshima. Some have even noticed that he actually clapped while watching footage of a mushroom cloud during that trip.

Biden has gone “full steam ahead” with increasing our reliance on nuclear weapons, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Trump and Obama. Yet, back in early December, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, perhaps feeling that Biden was not spooking Russians enough, made things extra clear with his words, “Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the black sea and we rain destruction on Russia capability, it could mean that,” and added, “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action, we don’t think it will happen but there are certain things in negotiations, if you are going to be tough, that you don’t take off the table.” It is this toxic masculinity, this being “tough,” that could get us all killed.

Since our nukes were equipped in recent years with new super fuses that can destroy a large portion of Russia’s nukes even in their silos, Russia has been put into a situation where they must “use ‘em or lose ‘em” in the event that they are threatened with an imminent nuclear attack from the U.S. Unlike in the past, U.S. nuclear warheads now have “hard target kill capability.” This means it is possible to destroy “Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles and command posts in hardened silos or mountain sanctuaries, or to obliterate hardened military command and storage bunkers in North Korea, also considered a potential US nuclear target.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a lone voice of sanity in the U.S. Congress, said she was moved by the Ukrainians, as well as by the Russians who are standing up for peace and said, “We must avoid the knee-jerk calls to make this conflict worse.”

Unlike established politicians in many other countries, very few in the U.S. have the foresight of Rep. Omar. U.S. politicians lack understanding of what happens in wars, and especially of the suffering produced by wars. Their sons are not foot soldiers, they are ignorant of U.S.-Russia relations, they do not know U.S. history, and they have the attitude of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” with respect to what Americans long ago did to the Japanese and Koreans in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thus we cannot rest easy, trusting that our lives are in good hands. They are not going to go out of their way to avoid unnecessary killing in Ukraine, whether of Ukrainians or Russians. As Bob Dylan’s song goes, “I’ve learned to hate Russians, all through my whole life. If another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide. You never ask questions, when God’s on your side.” (Starts at 4:00 in “With God on Our Side.” Such is our mentality in the U.S. after a half century of Cold War indoctrination, years of Roman Empire-like exaggeration of national security threats, two decades of the “war on terror,” and Russiagate.

Now, turning to their leaders, on the “enemy” side:  “Asked if Putin would use nuclear weapons, Mr [Leonid] Volkov [the former chief of staff for jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny] replied: “As he is crazy enough, we can expect unfortunately everything’.”

A Putin ally has specifically warned us of nuclear dystopia:  “Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council who also previously served as the country’s president and prime minister, wrote in a post on Russian social networking site VK.com that Russia has been ‘the target of the same mediocre and primitive game’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘This means that Russia must be humiliated, limited, shaken, divided and destroyed’… if Americans succeed in that objective, ‘here is the result: the largest nuclear power with an unstable political regime, weak leadership, a collapsed economy and the maximum number of nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the US and Europe’.” Hearing such words, some macho Americans will say as they always do that it is “time to get tough.” This is what happens when our foreign policies are decided by tough men like Biden and Putin.

It is not really reassuring to know that a “small number of [nuclear] bombs are reportedly kept under U.S. Air Force guard at six airbases in five European countries, ready to be delivered by respective national fighter planes,” and that we have nuclear missiles on submarines prowling the sea near Russia. It is not necessarily comforting that within striking range of Russia, there are missiles that could kill millions of people over there within days of the start of a nuclear war. The “nuclear weapons should have been removed from Turkey long ago. Now, whether they’re taken out or kept in, they are going to play some kind of role in the escalating tensions.” Those words were written in 2019. Could it be possible that the presence of nukes in several European countries did worry many Russians and actually increased the chances of war in Ukraine? Could it be true that “there are any number of scenarios in which Russian military doctrine foresees the use of nuclear weapons as a rational move, wars on its border being only one such example”?

The state of U.S. political culture and education is shameful. “60 percent of Americans would approve of killing 2 million Iranian civilians [with our nukes] to prevent an invasion of Iran that might kill 20,000 U.S. soldiers.” One single man, respected and selected by a small number of Democratic Party elites, a man named Joe Biden, has the authority to initiate nuclear strikes at any time on Russia.

Political scientist John Mearsheimer has argued for years that “the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine.”

“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” This quote has been ascribed to Adolf Hitler. A similar sentiment was expressed by Bob Marley as you “think you’re in heaven, but you’re living in hell.”

Help Needed:  War Resisters

Unlike the government leaders in the rich and powerful countries, and unlike the millions whose eyes are glued to TV and computer screens, some people are fully awake and aware, and are doing what they can to stop the war in Ukraine and build world peace. The activism and writings of Howard Zinn taught us there are always such people who stand up for social justice even in the darkest of times. The anti-nuclear weapons movement of the postwar period, extending from people like Peggy Duff and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) all the way to the anti-nuke protests of the 1980s, when tens of millions of Japanese signed antinuclear petitions, achieved significant victories, especially in terms of preventing the spread, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. The existence of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including new techniques of mass killing such as AI-controlled and cyber weapons, and new weapons made possible by nanotechnology, is making it more and more obvious that our choice is between ending the institution of war, or ending ourselves. In Japan, the elderly who know all about war, like the hibakusha, as well as the young, who know very little beyond what they learned from the mass media and their school textbooks, are beginning to take a stand. It is a beginning, and we have a long way to go to re-build the movement. All hands on deck!

Of course, we have to pressure our government officials to end this war. And if they do not start listening to our demands very soon, then we will have to kick them out of office, and replace them with leaders who do listen, and do respond. Every day of inaction brings us closer to the brink of global destruction, closer to the edge of the cliff towards which they have been pushing us all. Here are three of the tasks that our movement must take on:

(1) We have to raise public awareness of the dire need for peace.

(2) We need lots of people out on the streets and other visible places who are committed to tenaciously working on the project of increasing the costs of state violence. Right now, it is easy to start wars, while starting peace is difficult; we need to turn that around. The anti-nuke and peace movements of the past “brought about political pressure to end nuclear testing and stop the spread of the Bomb by mobilizing protesters—ranging from tens of thousands to even millions at its peak—that took to the streets in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.” (Naturally, Japan also once had a large anti-nuclear weapons movement, as documented by Lawrence Wittner).

(3) CodePink brought us speeches from Abby Martin, Lee Camp, and Chris Hedges the other day that emphasized the importance of protecting freedom of expression, thereby joining other dissidents who warned earlier about censorship, such as Dissident Voice writer Rick Sterling. Not only advocates of global death and destruction have the right to speak but also advocates of life, the “greatest gift of all.” “We are the world, we are the children,” who have the right to not be nuked. Some elite extremists in government will soon start spouting lies, claiming that peace advocates are dangerous, that we are aiding and abetting our nations’ enemies in Russia, etc. The very word “peace” could become taboo. They want to silence and censor, and prevent our rational, humanitarian voices from being heard.

With millions of people now craving vengeance against Russia, and even against disempowered and disadvantaged Russians, let us build a global movement, people who refuse to take up weapons, who actively make it difficult for others to take up weapons, and who know that war is never the answer.

The post Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Head to Your Local Gas Station or Supermarket to End the US Proxy War in Ukraine

“Harris Tells Americans They Will Have to Pay More for Gas To Punish Russia,” proclaimed the New York Times headline recently.   So spoke no less an authority on economics than the Vice President of the United States. Harris was on a visit to Poland to reassure a nervous NATO member and to egg on the war in Ukraine at the cost of ever more Ukrainian and Russian lives and higher inflation in the US and the world.

Inflation, Already Bad, Will be Worsened by the War in Ukraine.

The Times’s report on Harris’s declaration, however, concluded with this sobering reminder:

The sanctions could also complicate the political situation back in the U.S., where Americans have for months grappled with growing inflation, which has driven down the approval ratings of the Biden presidency.

The Consumer Price Index rose by 7.9 percent through February, the fastest pace of inflation in 40 years. The average price for a gallon of gas was $4.32 on Thursday, according to AAA. Economists say because of those record gas prices, inflation is expected to climb even more.

To be clear, the extraordinary 7.9% inflation increase predates the crisis in Ukraine although Joe Biden has attempted to blame it all on the thoroughly demonized Putin. But unless cause can come after effect, Joe has a tough argument to make there. However, it is clear that the war and the sanctions that go with it are accelerating inflation. And it is also clear from every poll that inflation (and the pandemic) are very much on the minds of Americans. Political analysts tell us that the 2022 Congressional elections and probably the 2024 elections will turn in large part on the issue of inflation.

A grassroots approach to stopping the war in Ukraine.

It is clear that the public is very likely to oppose US sanctions on Russia and US involvement in Ukraine IF either proves to drive up gas prices, food prices and other items in an accelerated inflationary spiral.

Our strategy should be to link the inflation with prolonging a war in a far-away land which has little to do with US security and risks a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

We should have rallies opposing ALL US involvement in Ukraine by tying them to gas prices, food prices, rents and other items.

Let us have demonstrations, not at the US Congress and not at military bases, but at gas stations and supermarkets.  Especially highly visible gas stations; there is surely one near you.

Let us hold up placards with a simple message:

Biden’s arms to Ukraine = Longer War.

Longer War = Higher Gas Prices.
Ukraine is not our biz.

Come Home, America.

Ukraine as US proxy war against Russia to be fought to the last Ukrainian.

The war in Ukraine is a US war with Russia, with Ukraine as a US proxy.  So we in the US can stop it by getting one of the parties, the US, to end its involvement.  That is the right and moral responsibility of those in the US.  And it is the action that we as citizens are best positioned to do.  The effective action.

If, in the face of facts, one believes that this is not a US proxy war but a war between the US and Ukraine, then it is none of our business.  But the course of action is the same. We should still call for an end to sending weapons, materiel and “advisors” to Ukraine and its environs. We should stay out it and avoid foreign entanglements in European disputes – the very thing that the Founders warned us about. That course is anti-interventionism as opposed to pursuing imperial or dubious ideological agendas.

The best way to stop escalation of the war is to take the offensive.

The Biden administration is getting a lot of credit for refusing to be part of a no-fly zone and turning thumbs down on US troops on the ground in Ukraine.  But as time goes by, pressure is building for escalation.  At a recent press briefing we saw a number of reporters from the White House press core badgering Jen Psaki and inquiringly petulantly why the President has not done more. And on top of that we have Biden embarrassing himself by making statements contrary to his own policy – either out of confusion or as a way of telling people what the real policy is. Dangerous escalation is waiting just around the corner.

The best way to stop this vehicle from going forward is to apply the brakes, put it in reverse and leave the question of escalation in the rearview mirror. Let us make de-escalation not escalation the question of the day. Let us push escalation off the table altogether.

Let’s go out to our local gas station or supermarket to stop the war in its tracks and not only avoid escalation but save countless lives. As I finish here, I just heard Max Blumenthal on the Jimmy Dore show suggest something along the same lines, signage at gas stations linking the war and inflation. Let’s try it.

No weapons to Ukraine. No sanctions on the world. End the war and stop the inflation.

The post Head to Your Local Gas Station or Supermarket to End the US Proxy War in Ukraine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

Mobilizing a population to vilify and hate a targeted enemy is a tactic that leaders have used since before the dawn of human history, and it is being used to demonize Russia and Vladimir Putin in the current conflict. If we want to join the march to war, we can join the hate fest.  But if we want a more objective and honest assessment of events, we must rely upon facts that our government and its cheer-leading mainstream media are not anxious for us to view.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  all things Russian are being punished. Russian athletes, including paraplegics, are barred from international sports competition. Century old Russian writers and musicians such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky are being removed from book shelves and concerts. Even Russian bred cats are not exempt.

If such actions are justified, why was there no such banning of US athletes, musicians or writers after the US invasion of Iraq?  Moreover, why are so few people outraged by the bombing and killing of 370,000 Yemeni people?  Why are so few people outraged as thousands of Afghans starve because the United States is seizing Afghanistan’s national assets which were in western banks?

Why Ukraine?

There has been massive and widespread publicity about Ukraine. It is a simple Hollywood script:  Ukraine is the angel, Russia is the devil, Zelensky is the hero and all good people will wear blue and yellow ribbons.

Maintaining this image requires propaganda to promote it, and censorship to prevent challengers debunking it.

This has required trashing some long held western traditions. By banning all Russian athletes from international competition, the International Olympic Committee and different athletic federations have violated the Olympic Charter which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Censorship

The West prides itself on free speech yet censorship of alternative viewpoints is now widespread in Europe and North America.  Russia Today and other Russian media outlets are being blocked on the internet as well as cable TV.  Ironically,  numerous programs on RT were hosted by Americans, for example journalist Chris Hedges and comedian Lee Camp.  The US is silencing its own citizens.

Censorship or shadow banning is widespread on social media. On April 6, one of the best informed military analysts, Scott Ritter @realScottRitter, was suspended from Twitter. Why?  Because he  suggested that the victims of Bucha may have been murdered not by Russians, but rather by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and the US and UK may also be culpable.

The 2015 Netflix documentary titled “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” deals with the Maidan (Kiev central square) uprising of 2013-2014.  It ignores the most essential elements of the events: the management provided by the US  and the muscle provided by ultra-nationalists of the Right Sector and Azov Battalion. The attacks and killing of Ukrainian police are whitewashed away.

By contrast, the 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire provides the background and essential elements of the conflict.  It is not available on Netflix and was banned from distribution on YouTube for some time.

Most people in the West are unaware of the US involvement in the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequent US funding and training of ultra-nationalist and Neo Nazi battalions, and the eight year war in eastern Ukraine resulting in fourteen thousand deaths.

Sensational Accusations

Backed by US and UK intelligence agencies, Ukraine knows the importance of the information war. They make sensational accusations that receive uncritical media coverage. When the truth eventually comes out, it is ignored or buried on the back pages. Here are a few examples:

– In 2014,  eleven civilians were killed in eastern Ukraine when an apartment was hit in rebel held territory.  Ukraine tried to blame Russia even though no bombs were coming from Russia and the population is ethnically Russian.

– At the beginning of the current conflict, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that soldiers on Snake Island died heroically rather than surrender. Actually, all the soldiers surrendered.

– Ukraine and western media claim a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed by Russia. Evidence shows the hospital was taken over by Ukrainian military forces on March 7, two days before the bombing on March 9.

– The latest sensational accusations are regarding dead civilians in Bucha,  north of Kiev. Again, there is much contrary evidence. The Russian soldiers left Bucha on March 31, the mayor of Bucha announced the town liberated with no mention of atrocities on March 31, the Azov battalion entered Bucha on April 1,  the Ukrainian Defense Ministry published video of  “Russian” atrocities on April 3.

In most cases, western media does not probe the accusations or use simple logic to ask if they make sense.  However, in the case of Bucha story, the NY Times had to acknowledge they were “unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

Self Censorship

In addition to actual censorship, there is widespread self-censorship. Instead of reading what the Russians are saying, western political “analysts” engage in outlandish amateur psychology and speculation. With no factual basis, they speculate about what Putin wants and his mental state.

This is convenient if one does not want to deal with the real issues and arguments.

Most western analysts and journalists are afraid or unwilling to read or listen to what the Russian leaders say. That is unfortunate because those speeches are more clear and direct than those from western politicians who rely on public relations, spin and platitudes.

Fabricating quotes

Ignorance of Russian foreign policy is such that Truthout online magazine recently published an article which contains a sensational but completely invented quote from Putin. It says,

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification, reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother Russia.”

Putin said no such thing and any moderately knowledgeable person would recognize this to be fake.

When I emailed the co-author, Carl Davidson, asking where the quotation came from, he admitted inventing it. This is significant because the statement goes to the core of what the conflict is about. Is Russia trying to absorb all of Ukraine? Do they intend to occupy Ukraine?  Anyone who reads the speeches of Putin and Lavrov, such as here, here and here,  knows they do not. Davidson’s fabricated quote suggests he has not read the speeches himself.

Ukraine in the Global Context

The article with the made-up quote contends that “Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movements that seeks to ‘overthrow’ the 20th Century.” This analysis is close to that of the US Democratic Party, which sees the major global division being between “authoritarianism” vs “democracy”.

It is highly US-centered and partisan, with Putin somehow lumped with Trump. It  is also self-serving, with US Democrats as the embodiment of “democracy”.  It is completely contrary to a class analysis.

This faulty analysis has major contradictions. It is well known that Biden is unpopular. Biden’s latest approval rating is under 42%. It is less well known in the West that Putin is popular in Russia. Since the intervention in Ukraine his approval rating has increased to over 80%.

Also largely unknown in the West, most of the world does NOT support the Western analysis of the Ukraine conflict.  Countries representing 59% of the global population abstained or voted against the condemnation of Russia at the UN General Assembly. These countries tend to see US exceptionalism and economic-military domination as a key problem. They do not think it helpful to demonize Russia and they urge negotiations and quick resolution to the Ukraine war.

Cuba said:

History will hold the United States accountable for the consequences of an increasingly offensive military doctrine beyond NATO’s borders which threatens international peace, security and stability…. Russia has the right to defend itself.

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.

The Chinese representative said:

The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality, abandoning the logic of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of others’ security, and abandoning the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military bloc.

Many western anti-war movements are critical of Russia’s invasion. Others, such as the US Peace Council, see the US and NATO as largely responsible. However, they all see the necessity of pressing to stop the war before it gets worse.

In contrast, the western military-industrial-media complex is fueling the war with propaganda, censorship, banning, demonization and more weapons. It appears they do not want a resolution to the conflict. Just as they supported NATO pushing up against Russia, knowing that it risked provoking Russia to the point of retaliation, they seem to be pushing for a protracted bloody conflict in Ukraine, knowing that it risks global conflagration.  Yet they persist, while crying crocodile tears.

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An antidote to the “Split” in the US Peace Movement: Anti-interventionism

Massachusetts Peace Action, a venerable part of the US Peace Movement, has been around since the 1980s and its predecessors date back to the 1950s.  Its voice is heeded and it represents most of the shared opinions of the liberal and progressive US peace movement.

A recent piece by its Assistant Director, Brian Garvey,  provides an astute analysis of the ideological differences in the progressive part of the US peace movement and properly criticizes its inability to unite around a common program.  He asks the two crucial questions:

“What do we do now? and

“How do we make a difference?”

“Making a difference” to end the war is crucial.  We in the US peace effort want to be effective. If what we do makes no difference, then we might as well watch TV, go for a walk in the woods or just stay in bed for the day.  In asking what is to be done, we must ask what is effective.  And below I consider the matter in terms of effectiveness.

To get to an answer to his two questions, Garvey divides the movement into three ideological groups.  His categorization is revealing:

“First, is the group that places all blame on Russia for the war in Ukraine..”

“Second, is a group that refuses to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“The third group is a blend of the first two. It condemns Russia’s invasion… but it admits that NATO expansion set the stage.”

To Be Effective the US Peace Movement Must Focus on the US

Tellingly, it is all about Russia!  Does it make sense for the US peace movement to be so concerned about what Russia does or fails to do?  Remember, as Garvey points out quite correctly – that the goal of the peace movement is to “make a difference.”  Do we imagine that what we say or do will “make a difference” in the inner circles of the Russian administration or Duma (parliament)?  Or have an effect on Russian elections?

On the other hand, the politicians in the US are very, very concerned about what we may think – our words do have an effect, albeit limited one.  That is the reason the US has no draft. So to “make a difference,” we ought to focus on what the United States can do now to end the war.  It seems evident that we should call on Biden to stop sending arms, materiel and “advisors” to Ukraine.  Today, now – first and foremost.  That should be at the top of our list of goals.

Some would say that the Ukraine is a proxy in a fight between the US and Russia, with the US calling on Ukrainians to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.  In my view (full disclosure) that is absolutely correct, the goal being to set Europe against Russia to the benefit of the US.  But it does not matter whether one agrees with that view or not.  If above all else we want to stop the death and destruction of Ukrainians and Russians, if we want to be effective at ending the bloodshed ASAP, then we should work to stop the US from fueling the fire and prolonging the war with arms and advisors.

In short, stop sending US arms, materiel and advisors to Ukraine and its neighbors – NOW.

The same can be said of the US sanctions which fall most heavily on the Global South, threatening not only its energy supply but also food with expected widespread starvation to follow.  Since these sanctions have the greatest impact on the people of color in the world, it is not a stretch to say they are racist.

In short, stop the racist US sanctions -NOW.

Stop the Russia Bashing

Moreover, keeping the focus on Russia takes the focus off the US and allows it to escape whatever responsibility it has for the war – and it is a rare bird in the peace community that feels the US bears no responsibility.  The focus on Russia, including the McCarthyite insistence that everyone denounce Russia, beefs up the narrative that makes the war possible.  This focus is in and of itself a great victory for the propagandists of war!

That leads us to the question of “condemning” Russia for the war.  Wherever one might fall in the debate, what effect does this Russia bashing have?  In terms of “making a difference” and mindful again of the fact that it is only the US not the Russians that hears us, what sort of a difference does the condemnation of Russia have?  Clearly it feeds the pro-war narrative and builds more support for the war.  We do not have to take the Russian side to call for an end to the Russia bashing, and such a call should be acceptable to all those who favor peace.

In short, stop the Russia Bashing – NOW.

Forget about Russia and a basis for unity emerges – anti-interventionism

The calls above are not only calls for effective action.  They are calls everyone who wishes for peace can agree on -including those who fall outside the liberal/progressive camp like the Ron Paul Republicans or the Pat Buchanan traditional conservatives or paleo-conservatives.

 Among these calls there is no call for diplomacy, negotiations or cease fires although I agree with those suggestions.  Everyone agrees on that– with the possible exception of the Biden administration and the hawks in Congress.  The Zelensky government and the Russian government are, in fact, negotiating.

And what those two governments come up with is their business not ours.  For us to make suggestions to those two governments betrays a bit of hubris, even exceptionalism, that those of us living in the heart of the US Empire must watch out for.  It permeates everything here.  We are not gods pulling levers to run the world.

Once upon a time anti-interventionism, especially important for peace advocates living in the heart of the hegemonic US Empire, was a point of principle for all those who consider themselves progressives in the US.  Sadly, that is no longer the case. Let’s hope that the war in Ukraine will arouse a passion for it once again.

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