Category Archives: Militarism

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

The fact is, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East since 9/11–especially the illegal, immoral war on Iraq based on lies—has, as regional leaders predicted it would, generally “destabilized” the area, and nearby regions.

The ruination of the Baathist Iraqi state has by this point produced a Sadrist-led regime that must maintain a degree of friendship with the U.S. that ushered in its ascent to power but is closer to Iran and will, defying the U.S., maintain that relationship based in part on religious commonality. This is an awkward situation, in that a regime produced by U.S. imperialist aggression chooses to ally itself with a regime that the U.S. (by bipartisan consensus) wants to topple.

U.S. military aggression in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya has flooded Europe with refugees, provoking multiple political crises and producing gains for the anti-immigrant right. Europeans properly blame the refugee problem on the U.S. and its arrogant imperialist adventures.

Each invasion has produced spinoffs. Al-Zarqawi, driven from Afghanistan, relocated in Iraq, forming a new Al-Qaeda franchise (that became ISIL). The occupation of Iraq led directly to ISIL’s spread into Syria (and the U.S. military’s pursuit). One thing leads to another. The destruction of Libya spread chaos into Niger and Mali and gains for local al-Qaeda and ISIL forces now chased by French and U.S. special forces.

Meanwhile U.S. pressure on Middle East allies to embrace (at least show-window) “democracy”—really a neocon afterthought to lend some bogus moral content to the effort to control the region, to justify the war-based-on-lies—led to electoral victories by Hamas in Palestine (2006), Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (2012), and Hizbollah in Lebanon (2018). These were followed by U.S. efforts to topple the (annoyingly victorious) parties in those democratic exercises (and of course further instability).

U.S. (rhetorical) allegiance to democratic principles may have encouraged the mass rebellions of the “Arab Spring” (2011), during which the Obama administration gave erstwhile allies (like Ali Saleh in Yemen and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt) their marching orders, and (with NATO) destroyed the Libyan state facilitating the grotesque murder of (recent friend) Muammar Gaddafi. And U.S. support for Saudi Arabia—possibly the world’s very worst violator of human rights, although the U.S. corporate press treats it with kid gloves—allowed for the crushing of the Bahraini Shiite mass protests by Saudi-led Sunni forces, and the ongoing Saudi destruction of Yemen.

The U.S. has done absolutely no good in the so-called “Greater Middle East” since its imbecilic leadership in 2001 proclaimed a vague “War on Terror” aimed mainly at Islamist forces seen as terrorists—but open-ended enough to include North Korea (in the stupidly conceptualized “Axis of Evil”), Filipino Maoists, or units of the Iranian military. (By the way, note that the author of that stupid term, Bush speechwriter—now a respected CNN “political news analyst”—David Frum, is a Canadian interfering in the U.S. political process. But nobody cares. Imagine if he were Russian.)

Repeat: absolutely no good. No more good than the Nazis did when they launched their comparable immoral, unjustifiable imperialist invasions. (We should never thank the purveyors of mass murder for their “service” as is the norm, indeed required etiquette on corporate cable news.) All the war on terror and its spin-offs has produced is human misery.

The “War on Terror” label was dropped under Obama, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest pronouncements in Cairo indicate that the U.S. retains its drive to destroy “radical Islamism” in the Middle East. He even warned the Lebanese people about voting for Hizbollah, which has many members in parliament and holds posts in the Lebanese cabinet, lest they raise the U.S.’s wrath. Quite likely his crude efforts to meddle in foreign elections will backfire.

And of course in Pompeo’s list of terrorists to destroy is the Iranian leadership, and the Islamic Republic as currently structured. This puts the U.S. in conflict with Europe and the world in general, which wants to have normal relations with Iran and mutually beneficial trade.

Turkey, a close U.S. ally and NATO member—indeed the NATO member with the second largest army within the alliance—is one of these countries wanting normal relations with Iran. The two countries have differences, including in Syria, but are working (with Russia) to reduce those differences through the “Astana Process.” And now Turkey’s differences with its old ally Washington are strained as never before.

The problem is the Kurds and the prospect of an independent Kurdish nation. This was the Turkish concern (that is, the concern of the Turkish ruling class) all along. The current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supported the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 (while the Turkish parliament failed to support it)—but only if it allowed for the deployment of Turkish forces in northern Iraq to suppress any prospect of Kurdish independence (that might encourage Turkish Kurds in their drive to acquire independence). He feared that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would, if not coupled with the suppression of any Kurdish independence hopes, threaten Turkey.

The U.S. State Department, to say nothing of the political class in general, was clueless about the distinction between Kurds and Arabs, as it was of the distinction between Shiites and Sunnis, or Turks and Iranians. Now the inevitable has happened. The U.S. in an effort to “destroy” ISIL (Obama’s language) made common cause with the only people in Syria willing to join with its (discredited, hated, exposed, imperialist) self: the Kurdish Peshmergas. It has used them to whittle down the ISIL forces, whose existence is a painful embarrassment to the U.S. since its actions obviously produced it in the first place. But it has wanted to use them ultimately to bring down the Assad government and replace it with a pro-U.S., Israel-friendly puppet regime.

Trump (for whatever reasons, which will probably involve no moral reflection) seems to have given up on the latter ambition. He sounds content to accept an independent Syria enjoying cordial ties to Russia, Iran, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, China, etc. (The U.S. always depicts states targeted for regime change as “isolated” from what they call “the international community” which somehow routinely excludes major countries not subject to U.S. hegemony.)

Still, there’s that problem of the 2000 Special Forces there in Syria, operating alongside Kurds that Turkey sees as “terrorists.” And since Trump wants to withdraw them, Erdogan wants to move in to eradicate what he sees as a national security threat. Which is to say: the U.S. imperialist orgy in the Greater Middle East has finally reached the crisis-point in which its interests conflict with those of a close ally, and there may be war between its NATO pal and its Syrian Kurdish clients.

This is very, very embarrassing. And since the president is an unstable, unpredictable fool—alternately stubborn and malleable—his national security advisor John Bolton (the very worst man imaginable in the current situation—a lying, amoral, opportunistic, crazed thug) has to go off to Israel to promise Benjamin Netanyahu that Trump, having announced a Syrian withdrawal, won’t in fact withdraw troops unless Turkey and Israel agree on the specifics.

Meanwhile the Kurds themselves, with long experience of U.S. betrayal, have reached out to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which is willing to negotiate with the Peshmerga for an autonomous Rojava region. It is possible that the horrific Syrian tragedy will end with the re-consolidation of the secular state, including that plan for autonomy, with security assurances to Turkey and support from Russia and Iran, leaving the U.S. aside (as an unhelpful, indeed toxic, partner).

It’s also possible that the Turkish leader, who has had an on-again, off-again friendship with the mad president and who pointedly snubbed Bolton during his visit the other day, will break with Washington, realign with Russia (from whom he has already agreed to purchase billions in armaments, to the consternation of NATO leaders) and make it finally clear to the world that the criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq produces some very heavy karma.

In attempting to reconfigure and dominate the Middle East, the neocon-led George W. Bush administration triggered a process that now leads—perhaps inevitably—to division within the U.S.’s own camp. The obvious, embarrassing division between idiot Bolton’s iterations in Cairo and Tel Aviv, and his boss’s idle blabbering about pulling out of Syria, results from the illogic of the whole U.S. enterprise in the first place.

You cannot simply announce that you—as the world’s “exceptional” nation—are entitled to impose your (myth of) “democracy” (= smiling submission to capitalist-imperialist domination) on all other nations, in which effort your nurtured allies since the 1940s are supposed to collude.

But no, dumb-ass! You cannot reconcile the differences between Turkey and the Kurds, or any of the other fundamental conflicts in the Middle East, on the basis of your warped consciousness of “national interests” and contemptuous ignorance of history. You cannot prevent the vicious assault of the Bush-Cheney regime on the Middle East—continued by the cowardly continuance of Bush-Cheney policy by Barack Obama and his bloodthirsty secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, throughout the region culminating in the absolute wreckage of North Africa’s most advanced, affluent state—from leading the chickens home to roost.

You cannot prevent your unforgivable, savage interventions in the Middle East from shattering your own long-cherished alliances with client states whose interests actually now oppose your own. Welcome to imperial decline, you dumb-ass Bolton, you moronic sociopath Donald Trump. Chickens are jumping up and down in the chicken-coop, agitated, reorienting. The sky is falling, this time, really.

Good!

Why Are the Media So Eager to Declare Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Dead?

Virtually from the moment Donald Trump announced that he would be removing U.S. troops from Syria, corporate media have converged around a narrative that the president has been forced to walk back his decision. But while a withdrawal will undoubtedly prove more challenging than the president originally anticipated, this verdict simply does not reflect the facts on the ground.

When John Bolton spoke in Jerusalem earlier this month, leading news outlets reported that Trump’s national security adviser had declared that withdrawal would not be completed unless and until specific conditions had been met or objectives achieved. The New York Times announced that “Bolton Puts Conditions on Syria Withdrawal, Suggesting a Delay of Months or Years,” claiming that he “told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States.”

The Associated Press story, which was picked up by the Washington Post, proved similarly categorical. “U.S. troops will not leave northeastern Syria until Islamic State militants are defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected,” a top White House aide is quoted as saying. The article also notes that Bolton was “signaling a pause to a withdrawal abruptly announced last month and initially expected to be completed within weeks.”

Those stories were written on the assumption that Bolton was enunciating yet another policy on Syria withdrawal. There is now good reason to believe that no such new policy decision has been made. The Wall Street Journal has quoted a defense official as saying, “Nothing has changed. We don’t take orders from Bolton.”

The Times and AP failed to provide the actual text of Bolton’s statement, much less any analysis of it in context of his statements.

Bolton’s statement was extraordinarily indirect and didn’t necessarily mean what it appeared to mean at first glance. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, one of the few places where the text could be found, Bolton said, “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. It’s not the establishment of an arbitrary point for the withdrawal to take place as President Obama did in the Afghan situation … the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

On closer examination, it seems more likely that Bolton was attempting to differentiate Trump’s withdrawal policy from that of President Obama in Iraq. Such an interpretation is reinforced by a statement from an unidentified “senior official” traveling with Bolton, who has indicated that the administration believes that the remaining pockets of ISIS control can be neutralized within a matter of weeks.

This, in turn, suggests that the Trump administration is planning to define the defeat of ISIS in conventional military terms—not as the elimination either of its presence in Syria or the possibility of its future revival in the region, both of which Secretary of Defense James Mattis had sought unsuccessfully.

The Pompeo Interview the Media Ignored

That leaves the question of how Trump’s plan will deal with other policy objectives, including the protection of our Kurdish allies and the United States’ demands for the withdrawal of Iranian and Iran-backed forces from Syria. But there is evidence the administration plans to pursue these objectives both during and after the withdrawal.

“Our troops are coming out,” Secretary of State Pompeo told Newsmax more than a week ago. “The President also made it clear that we need to continue the counter-ISIS campaign, and we needed to continue to create stability throughout the Middle East. The counter-Iran campaign continues. We’ll do all these things.”

Pompeo also indicated the president’s recommendation on Syria includes “not only the withdrawal but all the other elements that the President laid out: the importance of ensuring the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds; the protection of religious minorities in Syria. All those things are still part of the American mission set.”

Pompeo thus gave away the premise that Bolton managed to obscure: “We will simply do it at a time when the American forces have departed Syria.” Had the secretary of state intended to describe a “conditions-based withdrawal” policy—a term used consistently by the U.S. military and employed by Obama in both Iraq and Afghanistan—he could very easily have made that clear. Instead, he said the actions required to advance the administration’s policy objectives would be taken “when the American forces have departed Syria.” In other words, they would have to continue well beyond the withdrawal.

The Danger of a Bolton-Israeli Scheme

Even though there is reason to believe that Trump still plans to remove all troops from Syria in a matter of months rather than years, there are certainly potential pitfalls ahead. One of them is Bolton’s greater involvement in the withdrawal process. After all, it was Bolton who declared last September that the Trump administration policy was to keep troops in Syria until all Iranian troops had gone home.

What authority Bolton had obtained to make such a pronouncement remains unclear, but Trump rejected that position decisively in December.

Because the president has a well-known aversion to detailed policy papers, and because Bolton has successfully limited Trump’s exposure to them, the national security adviser has gained unusual latitude in representing administration policy. And Bolton is well known to be a master at bureaucratic maneuvering to advance an agenda that doesn’t necessarily reflect that of the president he’s serving. To date, however, there is no indication that Bolton aims to undercut Trump’s plan to withdraw the 2,000 or more U.S. troops working in conjunction with Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

But the base at Al-Tanf in the south near the Syrian border with both Jordan and Iraq is another story. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like the U.S. to keep its few hundred Special Forces at Al-Tanf, and Bolton may be hoping to exempt it from the withdrawal. That base, which sits astride the main highway between Baghdad and Damascus, has long been touted by those seeking to justify U.S. and Israeli military intervention in the region as a key to blocking successful transport from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.

Israel has argued that it needs to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining modern, highly accurate weaponry via that route, but Hezbollah had already secured such weapons long before the U.S. established its base in 2016. The Israelis ultimately recognize that those several hundred U.S. troops serve no real tactical purpose. Instead, they believe their presence could be used to justify further intervention in the future.

So during Bolton’s visit to Jerusalem, “a senior administration official” in his party told reporters that Bolton planned to discuss with Israeli officials possible continued stationing of some U.S. forces at Al-Tanf for an indeterminate period. The same official said the U.S. would decide how important the base is and whether it would have to stay in its current location after talks with the Israelis and Jordanians.

The official in question, who was almost certainly Bolton himself, may have been merely stating a theoretical possibility for the sake of completing the necessary consultations with Israel and Turkey in connection with the withdrawal. But Bolton is also capable of scheming with the Israelis to create a new excuse for keeping U.S. troops at that location.

The Trump administration is still committed to the aim of getting all Iranian personnel out of Syria, and it should not be forgotten that during the George W. Bush administration Bolton worked closely with the Israelis on creating the political preconditions for the U.S. use of force against Iran. By comparison, a scheme hatched jointly with the Israelis for reducing Trump’s freedom of action on that issue would be relatively easy for Bolton.

  • First published at Truthdig.
  • Multifaceted Attack Against Venezuela on Eve of Maduro Inauguration

    Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro’s inauguration for his second term on January 10 is targeted by the US, the allied Lima Group, and the hardline Venezuelan opposition.  They have demanded that Maduro refuse inauguration. A multifaceted attack aimed at regime change is underway using sanctions, military threats, and a campaign of delegitimization to replace the democratically elected president.

    Since President Hugo Chávez began his first term as president in 1999, the Bolivarian Republic has promoted regional integration and independence, resisted neoliberalism, opposed “free trade” agreements that would compromise national autonomy, and supported the emergence of a multipolar world. On account of these policies, Chávez (1999-2013) and now Maduro, have faced relentless attacks by the colossus to the north. Today the Maduro administration faces the challenges of defending national sovereignty from imperial domination and overcoming crippling US sanctions that have exacerbated a severe economic crisis.

    The US has brazenly announced its consideration of a “military option” against Caracas and has assembled a coalition of the willing in Colombia and Brazil to prepare for an eventual “humanitarian” intervention. Most alarming is that the US seems indifferent to the consequences of such an invasion, which could easily become a regional and global conflagration involving Colombia, Brazil, and even Russia and China.

    What the US finds particularly infuriating is that Maduro had the temerity to run for re-election in May 2018 after the US demanded he resign. The US State Department had issued warnings four months prior to the election that the process “will be illegitimate” and the results “will not be recognized.” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley insisted that Maduro abdicate and presidential elections be postponed.

    The Venezuelan National Electoral Commission rejected this diktat from Washington. On May 20, 2018, the Venezuelan electorate had the audacity to re-elect Maduro by a 67.84% majority with a participation rate of 46.07% (representing 9,389,056 voters). Two opposition candidates ran for office, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, despite a boycott orchestrated by opposition hardliners and the US.

    New Phase in the Campaign Against Venezuela

    The campaign to bring about regime change enters a new phase with the inauguration of President Maduro for a second term. With no legal standing or representation inside Venezuela, the Lima Group has now become a major protagonist of  a soft coup in Venezuela.

    Just five days before the inauguration, at a meeting held in the capital of Peru, 13 out of 14 members of the Lima Group issued a declaration urging Maduro “not to assume the presidency on January 10… and to temporarily transfer the executive power to the National Assembly until a new, democratic presidential poll is held.”

    The following day, Andres Pastrana, former president of Colombia, a member nation of the Lima Group, tweeted that the new president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, should “now assume the presidency of the government of transition as established in the constitution beginning the 10th of January and as requested by the Lima Group.”

    In a speech delivered before the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 5, Guaidó stopped short of claiming executive power, but declared that starting January 10, Maduro ought to be considered an “usurper” and “dictator.” Guaidó also urged convening a transitional government that would hold new elections and “authorize” intervention from abroad.

    Although the US is not a formal member of the Lima Group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, participated in the meeting by teleconference. Pompeo had returned earlier in the week from a visit to Brazil and Colombia, during which, according to a senior State Department official, Maduro’s inauguration was on the agenda:

    There’s a very important date that is coming up, which is the 10th of January, where Maduro will hand over power to himself based on an election that many governments in the region and globally have condemned, including the United States, . . . as illegitimate. So we will be discussing, I’m sure, our joint efforts with Colombia and with the region to address this new era beginning on the 10th of January in Venezuela.

    The US Imperial Project

    US policy towards Venezuela has three strategic objectives: privileged access to Venezuela’s natural resources (e.g., the world’s largest petroleum reserves and second largest gold deposits), restoration of a neoliberal regime obedient to Washington, and limitation of any movement towards regional independence.

    These US objectives are conditioned by a continuing adherence to the Monroe Doctrine for Latin America and the Caribbean, the so-called “backyard” of the US empire. The contemporary mutation of the 1823 imperial doctrine entails a new Cold War against Russia and China and hostility to any regional integration independent of US hegemony.

    Back in the 1980s-90s during Venezuela’s Fourth Republic, local elites afforded Washington preferential access to Venezuela’s rich natural resources and dutifully imposed a neoliberal economic model on the country. Currently, US policy appears aimed at re-establishing such a client state.

    However, to bring about such a return, the US imperial project would have to change not only the Venezuelan leadership but dismantle the institutions and even the symbols of the Bolivarian revolution. The devastating US economic sanctions are designed to increase economic hardship in order to ultimately break the will of the chavista base and fracture the Venezuelan military as well as the civic-military alliance. This breakdown would presumably pave the way for installation of a provisional government.

    It is time once again to give peace a chance. But Washington has opted for the collision course set by the Lima Group as well as the Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) over efforts of the Vatican and former prime minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, to broker dialogue between the government and the opposition. The imperial project is abetted by the conservative restoration in Brazil and Argentina and the electoral victory of uribistas in Colombia.

    Multifaceted War Against Venezuela and the Bolivarian Response

    Washington is engaging in a multifaceted war against Venezuela by deploying economic sanctions, backing a campaign to install a transitional government, and preparing proxy military and paramilitary forces for an eventual intervention.

    On August 4, 2018, a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro did not draw condemnation from either Washington or the Lima Group. On November 4, according to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, three Bolivarian National Guard were killed and ten wounded in an attack by Colombian paramilitary forces in the frontier region of Amazonas. On December 5, the Brazilian vice president-elect Hamilton Mourão declared: “there will be a coup in Venezuela . . . And the United Nations will have to intervene through a peace force . . . and there is Brazil’s role: to lead this peace force.”

    On December 12, 2018, President Maduro reported that “734 members of a paramilitary  group called G8 was training [in the city of Tona, Colombia] for attacks against military units in the frontier states of Zulia, Tachira, Apure and Amazonas.” This report ought to be taken seriously given the presence of eight US military bases in Colombia,  the recent association of Bogotá with NATO, Colombia’s rejection of direct communication with Venezuelan authorities, and its participation in US-led military exercises over the past two years. Last week, US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Colombia and Brazil to shore up joint efforts to “restore of democracy” in Venezuela.

    In response, Venezuela has been fortifying the civic-military alliance built up over the past two decades. The National Guard, military, and militias (now over 1,600,000 strong) have been able so far to fend off several terrorist attacks against public institutions and government leaders as well as an assassination attempt against President Maduro in August.

    Caracas has also been developing close military cooperation with Russia and consolidating ties with China. With the recent visit of a pair of its TU 160 heavy bombers to Venezuela, Russia has demonstrated its ability to transport armaments more than 10,000 kilometers at supersonic speeds should the Caribbean nation come under attack by a foreign power.  China has entered into agreements for massive economic cooperation with Venezuela, partially offsetting the punishing US sanctions. Also, the visit of a Chinese navy hospital ship in September subtly signaled Chinese military support of Venezuela.

    Shifting Geopolitical Environment

    Although the Lima Group now backs a soft coup in Venezuela, with the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as President of Mexico in December, the group has lost the support of one of its key members. Mexico declined to sign on to the latest Lima Group declaration and warned against “measures that obstruct a dialogue to face the crisis in Venezuela.” Maximiliano Reyes, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, said: “We call for reflection in the Lima Group about the consequences for Venezuelans of measures that seek to interfere in [their] internal affairs.”

    The extreme partisanship of Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro against Venezuela has undermined his standing. In September 2018, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez declared that Uruguay would not support Almagro for a second term as Secretary General of the OAS.  Almagro was finally expelled from his own political party in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, in December 2018, largely for his statements in Colombia about the need to retain a military option against Venezuela.

    In December 2018, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America  (ALBA-TCP) held its 16th meeting in Cuba, declaring its “concern for the aggression and actions against regional peace and security, especially the threats of the use of force against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba and is now comprised of ten nations.

    No Other Choice but Resistance

    The Venezuelan people have a long history of resistance to foreign domination and are not likely to view a US-backed “humanitarian intervention” as a liberating force. Nor are the popular sectors likely to support an unelected “transitional government” with a self-appointed Supreme Court in exile which is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia. And if the coalition of the willing includes Colombian paramilitary forces who are notorious for their role in the murder of community activists inside Colombia, their deployment in the event of a “humanitarian” mission would be abhorrent inside Venezuela.

    The 1973 US-backed coup in Chile, followed by a lethal cleansing of that nation of leftists, is a cautionary lesson. Add to this the historic memory of the political repression during Venezuela’s discredited Fourth Republic and the Caracazo of 1989, in which the most marginalized and poor were the main victims, and it would be no surprise should the popular sectors have only one thing to offer a provisional government bent on inviting imperial intervention: resistance.

    • Note: All translations from the Spanish to English are unofficial.

    Multifaceted Attack Against Venezuela on Eve of Maduro Inauguration

    Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro’s inauguration for his second term on January 10 is targeted by the US, the allied Lima Group, and the hardline Venezuelan opposition.  They have demanded that Maduro refuse inauguration. A multifaceted attack aimed at regime change is underway using sanctions, military threats, and a campaign of delegitimization to replace the democratically elected president.

    Since President Hugo Chávez began his first term as president in 1999, the Bolivarian Republic has promoted regional integration and independence, resisted neoliberalism, opposed “free trade” agreements that would compromise national autonomy, and supported the emergence of a multipolar world. On account of these policies, Chávez (1999-2013) and now Maduro, have faced relentless attacks by the colossus to the north. Today the Maduro administration faces the challenges of defending national sovereignty from imperial domination and overcoming crippling US sanctions that have exacerbated a severe economic crisis.

    The US has brazenly announced its consideration of a “military option” against Caracas and has assembled a coalition of the willing in Colombia and Brazil to prepare for an eventual “humanitarian” intervention. Most alarming is that the US seems indifferent to the consequences of such an invasion, which could easily become a regional and global conflagration involving Colombia, Brazil, and even Russia and China.

    What the US finds particularly infuriating is that Maduro had the temerity to run for re-election in May 2018 after the US demanded he resign. The US State Department had issued warnings four months prior to the election that the process “will be illegitimate” and the results “will not be recognized.” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley insisted that Maduro abdicate and presidential elections be postponed.

    The Venezuelan National Electoral Commission rejected this diktat from Washington. On May 20, 2018, the Venezuelan electorate had the audacity to re-elect Maduro by a 67.84% majority with a participation rate of 46.07% (representing 9,389,056 voters). Two opposition candidates ran for office, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, despite a boycott orchestrated by opposition hardliners and the US.

    New Phase in the Campaign Against Venezuela

    The campaign to bring about regime change enters a new phase with the inauguration of President Maduro for a second term. With no legal standing or representation inside Venezuela, the Lima Group has now become a major protagonist of  a soft coup in Venezuela.

    Just five days before the inauguration, at a meeting held in the capital of Peru, 13 out of 14 members of the Lima Group issued a declaration urging Maduro “not to assume the presidency on January 10… and to temporarily transfer the executive power to the National Assembly until a new, democratic presidential poll is held.”

    The following day, Andres Pastrana, former president of Colombia, a member nation of the Lima Group, tweeted that the new president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, should “now assume the presidency of the government of transition as established in the constitution beginning the 10th of January and as requested by the Lima Group.”

    In a speech delivered before the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 5, Guaidó stopped short of claiming executive power, but declared that starting January 10, Maduro ought to be considered an “usurper” and “dictator.” Guaidó also urged convening a transitional government that would hold new elections and “authorize” intervention from abroad.

    Although the US is not a formal member of the Lima Group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, participated in the meeting by teleconference. Pompeo had returned earlier in the week from a visit to Brazil and Colombia, during which, according to a senior State Department official, Maduro’s inauguration was on the agenda:

    There’s a very important date that is coming up, which is the 10th of January, where Maduro will hand over power to himself based on an election that many governments in the region and globally have condemned, including the United States, . . . as illegitimate. So we will be discussing, I’m sure, our joint efforts with Colombia and with the region to address this new era beginning on the 10th of January in Venezuela.

    The US Imperial Project

    US policy towards Venezuela has three strategic objectives: privileged access to Venezuela’s natural resources (e.g., the world’s largest petroleum reserves and second largest gold deposits), restoration of a neoliberal regime obedient to Washington, and limitation of any movement towards regional independence.

    These US objectives are conditioned by a continuing adherence to the Monroe Doctrine for Latin America and the Caribbean, the so-called “backyard” of the US empire. The contemporary mutation of the 1823 imperial doctrine entails a new Cold War against Russia and China and hostility to any regional integration independent of US hegemony.

    Back in the 1980s-90s during Venezuela’s Fourth Republic, local elites afforded Washington preferential access to Venezuela’s rich natural resources and dutifully imposed a neoliberal economic model on the country. Currently, US policy appears aimed at re-establishing such a client state.

    However, to bring about such a return, the US imperial project would have to change not only the Venezuelan leadership but dismantle the institutions and even the symbols of the Bolivarian revolution. The devastating US economic sanctions are designed to increase economic hardship in order to ultimately break the will of the chavista base and fracture the Venezuelan military as well as the civic-military alliance. This breakdown would presumably pave the way for installation of a provisional government.

    It is time once again to give peace a chance. But Washington has opted for the collision course set by the Lima Group as well as the Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) over efforts of the Vatican and former prime minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, to broker dialogue between the government and the opposition. The imperial project is abetted by the conservative restoration in Brazil and Argentina and the electoral victory of uribistas in Colombia.

    Multifaceted War Against Venezuela and the Bolivarian Response

    Washington is engaging in a multifaceted war against Venezuela by deploying economic sanctions, backing a campaign to install a transitional government, and preparing proxy military and paramilitary forces for an eventual intervention.

    On August 4, 2018, a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro did not draw condemnation from either Washington or the Lima Group. On November 4, according to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, three Bolivarian National Guard were killed and ten wounded in an attack by Colombian paramilitary forces in the frontier region of Amazonas. On December 5, the Brazilian vice president-elect Hamilton Mourão declared: “there will be a coup in Venezuela . . . And the United Nations will have to intervene through a peace force . . . and there is Brazil’s role: to lead this peace force.”

    On December 12, 2018, President Maduro reported that “734 members of a paramilitary  group called G8 was training [in the city of Tona, Colombia] for attacks against military units in the frontier states of Zulia, Tachira, Apure and Amazonas.” This report ought to be taken seriously given the presence of eight US military bases in Colombia,  the recent association of Bogotá with NATO, Colombia’s rejection of direct communication with Venezuelan authorities, and its participation in US-led military exercises over the past two years. Last week, US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Colombia and Brazil to shore up joint efforts to “restore of democracy” in Venezuela.

    In response, Venezuela has been fortifying the civic-military alliance built up over the past two decades. The National Guard, military, and militias (now over 1,600,000 strong) have been able so far to fend off several terrorist attacks against public institutions and government leaders as well as an assassination attempt against President Maduro in August.

    Caracas has also been developing close military cooperation with Russia and consolidating ties with China. With the recent visit of a pair of its TU 160 heavy bombers to Venezuela, Russia has demonstrated its ability to transport armaments more than 10,000 kilometers at supersonic speeds should the Caribbean nation come under attack by a foreign power.  China has entered into agreements for massive economic cooperation with Venezuela, partially offsetting the punishing US sanctions. Also, the visit of a Chinese navy hospital ship in September subtly signaled Chinese military support of Venezuela.

    Shifting Geopolitical Environment

    Although the Lima Group now backs a soft coup in Venezuela, with the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as President of Mexico in December, the group has lost the support of one of its key members. Mexico declined to sign on to the latest Lima Group declaration and warned against “measures that obstruct a dialogue to face the crisis in Venezuela.” Maximiliano Reyes, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, said: “We call for reflection in the Lima Group about the consequences for Venezuelans of measures that seek to interfere in [their] internal affairs.”

    The extreme partisanship of Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro against Venezuela has undermined his standing. In September 2018, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez declared that Uruguay would not support Almagro for a second term as Secretary General of the OAS.  Almagro was finally expelled from his own political party in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, in December 2018, largely for his statements in Colombia about the need to retain a military option against Venezuela.

    In December 2018, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America  (ALBA-TCP) held its 16th meeting in Cuba, declaring its “concern for the aggression and actions against regional peace and security, especially the threats of the use of force against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba and is now comprised of ten nations.

    No Other Choice but Resistance

    The Venezuelan people have a long history of resistance to foreign domination and are not likely to view a US-backed “humanitarian intervention” as a liberating force. Nor are the popular sectors likely to support an unelected “transitional government” with a self-appointed Supreme Court in exile which is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia. And if the coalition of the willing includes Colombian paramilitary forces who are notorious for their role in the murder of community activists inside Colombia, their deployment in the event of a “humanitarian” mission would be abhorrent inside Venezuela.

    The 1973 US-backed coup in Chile, followed by a lethal cleansing of that nation of leftists, is a cautionary lesson. Add to this the historic memory of the political repression during Venezuela’s discredited Fourth Republic and the Caracazo of 1989, in which the most marginalized and poor were the main victims, and it would be no surprise should the popular sectors have only one thing to offer a provisional government bent on inviting imperial intervention: resistance.

    • Note: All translations from the Spanish to English are unofficial.

    Seven Gates of Damascus and Concrete Walls of Kabul

    Syria and Afghanistan.

    Two terrible wars, two mighty destructions, but two absolutely opposite outcomes.

    In Syria, it may be autumn now, but almost the entire country is blossoming again, literally rising from ashes. Two thousand miles east from there, Afghanistan is smashed against its ancient rocks, bleeding and broken. There, it does not really matter what season it is; life is simply dreadful and hope appears to be in permanent exile.

    Historic Damascus

    Damascus, the ancient and splendid capital of Syria, now the Syrian Arab Republic, is back to life again. People go out until late at night, there are events; there is music and vibrant social life. Not all, but many, are smiling again. Checkpoints are diminishing, and now one does not even have to go through metal detectors in order to enter museums, cafes and some of the international hotels.

    Just eating out at night in Damascus

    The people of Damascus are optimistic, some of them are ecstatic. They fought hard, they lost hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, but they won! They finally won, against all odds, supported by their true friends and comrades. They are proud of what they have achieved, and rightly so!

    Humiliated on so many occasions, for so long, the Arab people suddenly rose and demonstrated to the world and to themselves that they can defeat invaders, no matter how powerful they are; no matter how canny and revolting their tactics are. As I wrote on several previous occasions, Aleppo is the ‘Stalingrad of the Middle East’. It is a mighty symbol. There, fascism and imperialism were stopped. Unsurprisingly, because of its stamina, courage and aptitude, the center of Pan-Arabism – Syria – has become, once again, the most important country for the freedom-loving people of the region.

    Syria has many friends, among them China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. But the most determined of them, the most reliable, remains Russia.

    The Russians stood by its historical ally, even when things looked bad, almost hopeless; even when the terrorists trained and implanted into Syria by the West, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, were flattening entire ancient cities, and millions of refugees flowing out of the country, through all seven gates of Damascus, and from all major cities, as well as towns and villages.

    In front of the National Museum in Damascus

    The Russians worked hard, often ‘behind the scenes’; on the diplomatic front, but also on the frontlines, providing essential air support, de-mining entire neighborhoods, helping with food supplies, logistics, strategy. Russians died in Syria, we do not know the precise numbers, but there definitely were casualties; some even say, ‘substantial’. However, Russia never waved its flag, never beat its chest in self-congratulatory gestures. What had to be done, was done, as an internationalist duty; quietly, proudly and with great courage and determination.

    The Syrian people know all this; they understand, and they are grateful. For both nations, words are not necessary; at least not now. Their deep fraternal alliance is sealed. They fought together against darkness, terror and neo-colonialism, and they won.

    When Russian military convoys pass through Syrian roads, there is no security. They stop at local eateries to refresh themselves, they talk to locals. When Russian people walk through Syrian cities, they feel no fear. They are not seen or treated as a ‘foreign military force’. They are now part of Syria. They are part of the family. Syrians make them feel at home.

    *****

    In Kabul, I always face walls. Walls are all around me; concrete walls, as well as barbed wire.

    Roads cut by military in Kabul

    Some walls are as tall as 4-5 storey buildings, with watchtowers on every corner, outfitted with bulletproof glass.

    Local people, pedestrians, look like sleep-walkers. They are resigned. They are used to those hollow barrels of guns pointed at their heads, chests, feet, even at their children.

    Almost everyone here is outraged by the occupation, but no one knows what to do; how to resist. The NATO invasion force is both brutal and overwhelming; its commanders and soldiers are cold, calculating, and merciless, obsessed with protecting themselves and only themselves.

    Heavily armored British and US military convoys are ready to shoot at ‘anything that moves’ even in a vaguely hostile fashion.

    Afghan people get killed, almost all of them ‘surgically’ or ‘remotely’. Western lives are ‘too precious’ for engaging in honest man-to-man combat. Slaughtering is done by drones, by ‘smart bombs’, or by shooting from those monstrous vehicles that crisscross Afghan cities and the countryside.

    During this outrageous occupation, it matters nil how many Afghan civilians get killed, as long as the US or European lives get spared. Most of the Western soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are professionals. They are not defending their country. They are paid to do ‘their job’, efficiently, at any price. And, of course, “Safety First”. Safety for themselves.

    After the West occupied Afghanistan in 2001, between 100,000 and 170,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Millions were forced to leave their country as refugees. Afghanistan now ranks second from the bottom (after Yemen) in Asia, on the HDI list (Human Development Index, compiled by UNDP). Its life expectancy is the lowest in Asia (WHO).

    *****

    I work in both Syria and Afghanistan, and consider it my duty to point at the differences between two countries, and these two wars.

    Both Syria and Afghanistan were attacked by the West. One resisted and won, the other one was occupied by mainly North American and European forces, and consequently destroyed.

    After working in some 160 countries on this planet, and after covering and witnessing countless wars and conflicts (most of them ignited or provoked by the West and its allies), I can clearly see the pattern: almost all the countries that fell into the ‘Western sphere of influence’ are now ruined, plundered and destroyed; they are experiencing great disparities between the tiny number of ‘elites’ (individuals who collaborate with the West) and the great majority of those who live in poverty. Most of the countries with close ties to Russia or China (or both), are prospering and developing, enjoying self-governance and respect for their cultures, political systems, and economic structures.

    It is only because of the corporate mass media and biased education system, as well as the almost fully pro-Western orientation of the ‘social media’, that these shocking contrasts between two blocs (yes, we have two major blocs of countries, again) are not constantly highlighted and discussed.

    *****

    During my recent visit to Syria, I spoke to many people living in Damascus, Homs, and Ein Tarma.

    What I witnessed could be often described as “joy through tears”. The price of victory has been steep. But joy it is, nevertheless. The unity of the Syrian people and their government is obvious and remarkable.

    Anger towards the ‘rebels’ and towards the West is ubiquitous. I will soon describe the situation in my upcoming reports. But this time, I only wanted to compare the situation in two cities, two countries and two wars.

    In Damascus, I feel like writing poetry, again. In Kabul, I am only inspired to write a long and depressing obituary.

    I love both of these ancient cities, but, of course, I love them differently.

    Frankly speaking, in the 18 years of Western occupation, Kabul has been converted into a militarized, fragmented and colonized hell on earth. Everybody knows it: the poor know it, and even the government is aware of it.

    Drug addicts and pushers in Kabul

    In Kabul, entire neighborhoods already ‘gave up’. They are inhabited by individuals who are forced to live in gutters, or under bridges. Many of those people are stoned, hooked on locally made narcotics, the production of which is supported by the Western occupation armies. I saw and photographed a US military base openly surrounded by poppy plantations. I heard testimonies of local people, about the British military engaging in negotiations, and cooperating with the local narco-mafias.

    Afghanistan – Bagram Air Force Base of NATO – Poppies fields

    Now the Western embassies, NGO’s and ‘international organizations’ operating in Afghanistan, have managed to intellectually and morally corrupt and indoctrinate a substantial group of local people, who are receiving scholarship, getting ‘trained’ in Europe, and are tugging the official line of the occupiers.

    They are working day and night to legitimize the nightmare into which their country has been tossed.

    But older people who still remember both the Soviet era and socialist Afghanistan, are predominantly ‘pro-Russian’, mourning in frustration those days of Afghan liberation, progress, and determined building of the nation. ‘Soviet’ bread factories, water channels, pipelines, electric high-voltage towers, and schools are still used to this day, all over the country. While, gender equality, secularism, and the anti-feudalist struggle of those days are now, during the Western occupation, de facto illegal.

    Afghans are known to be proud and determined people. But now their pride has been broken, while determination has been drowned in the sea of pessimism and depression. The Western occupation did not bring peace, it did not bring prosperity, independence of democracy (if democracy is understood as the ‘rule of the people’).

    These days, the biggest dream of a young man or woman in Kabul is to serve the occupiers – to get ‘educated’ in a Western-style school, and to get a job at a US embassy or at one of the UN agencies.

    *****

    In Damascus, everyone is now talking about the rebuilding of the nation.

    ‘How and when will the damaged neighborhoods be rebuilt? Is the pre-war construction of the metro going to resume anytime soon? Is life going to be better than before?’

    People cannot wait. I witnessed families, communities, restoring their own buildings, houses and streets.

    Yes, in Damascus I saw true revolutionary optimism in action, optimism which I described in my recent book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism. Because the Syrian state itself is now, once again, increasingly revolutionary. The so-called ‘opposition’ has been mostly nothing else other than a Western-sponsored subversion; an attempt to take Syria back to the dark days of colonialism.

    Damascus and the Syrian government do not need tremendous walls, enormous spy blimps levitating in the sky; they do not need armored vehicles at every corner and the omnipresent SUV’s with deadly machine guns.

    On the other hand, the occupiers of Kabul need all those deadly symbols of power in order to maintain control. Still they cannot scare people into supporting or loving them.

    In Damascus, I simply walked into the office of my fellow novelist, who happened to be the Syrian Minister of Education. In Kabul, I often have to pass through metal detectors even when I just want to visit a toilet.

    Young people of Damascus – confident, optimistic and kind

    In Damascus, there is hope, and life, at every corner. Cafes are packed, people talk, argue, laugh together, and smoke waterpipes. Museums and libraries are full of people too. The Opera House is performing; the zoo is flourishing, all despite the war, despite all the difficulties.

    Destroyed drug addicts in Kabul

    In Kabul, life stopped. Except for the traffic, and for traditional markets. Even the National Museum is now a fortress, and as a result, almost no one can be found inside.

    People in Damascus are not too familiar with what goes on in Kabul. But they know plenty about Baghdad, Tripoli and Gaza. And they would rather die than allow themselves to be occupied by the West or its implants.

    Two wars, two fates, two totally distinct cities.

    The seven gates of Damascus are wide open. Refugees are returning from all directions, from all corners of the world. It is time for reconciliation, for rebuilding the nation, for making Syria even greater than it was before the conflict.

    Kabul, often rocked by explosions, is fragmented by horrid walls. Engines of helicopters are roaring above. Blimps with their deadly eyes monitoring everything on the ground. Drones, tanks, huge armored vehicles. Beggars, homeless people, slums. Huge Afghan flag flying above Kabul. A ‘modified flag’, not the same as in the socialist past.

    In Syria, finally the united nation has managed to defeat imperialism, fanaticism and sectarianism.

    In Afghanistan, the nation got divided, then humiliated, then stripped of its former glory.

    Damascus belongs to its people. In Kabul, people are dwarfed by concrete walls and military bases erected by foreign invaders.

    In Damascus, people were fighting, even dying for their country and their city.

    In Kabul, people are scared to even speak about fighting for freedom.

    Damascus won. It is free again.

    Kabul will win, too. Perhaps not today, not this year, but it will. I believe it will.

    I love both cities. But one is now celebrating, while the other one is still suffering, in unimaginable pain.

    • Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

    • Photos by Andre Vltchek

    The Stomach-Churning Violence of the Agrochemical Oligopoly

    As humans, we have evolved with the natural environment over millennia. We have learned what to eat and what not to eat, what to grow and how to grow it and our diets have developed accordingly. We have hunted, gathered, planted and harvested. Our overall survival as a species has been based on gradual, emerging relationships with the seasons, insects, soil, animals, trees and seeds. And out of these relationships, we have seen the development of communities whose rituals and bonds have a deep connection with food production and the natural environment.

    However, over the last couple generations, agriculture and food production has changed more than it had done over previous millennia. These changes have involved massive social upheaval as communities and traditions have been uprooted and have entailed modifying what we eat, how we grow our food and what we apply to it. All of this has been driven by geopolitical concerns and powerful commercial interests with their proprietary chemicals and patented seeds. The process of neoliberal globalisation is accelerating the process as farmers are encouraged to produce for global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness.

    Certain crops are now genetically engineered, the range of crops we grow has become less diverse, synthetic biocides have been poured on crops and soil and our bodies have been subjected to a chemical bombardment. We have arrived at a point where we have lost touch with our deep-rooted microbiological and social connection with nature and have developed an arrogance that has placed ‘man’ above the environment and all other species. One of the consequences is that we have paid an enormous price in terms of the consequent social, environmental and health-related devastation.

    Despite the promise and potential of science, it has too often in modern society become a tool of vested interests, an ideology wrapped in the vestiges of authority and the ‘superstition’ that its corporate-appointed priesthood should not be challenged nor questioned. Instead of liberating humankind, it has now too often become a tool of deception in the hands of agribusiness conglomerates which make up the oligopoly that controls what is an increasingly globalised system of modern food and agriculture.

    These corporations have successfully instituted the notion that the mass application of biocides, monocropping and industrial agriculture are necessary and desirable. They are not. However, these companies have used their science and propaganda to project certainty in order to hide the fact that they have no real idea what their products and practices are doing to human health or the environment (and in cases when they do know, they do their best to cover it up or hide behind the notion of ‘commercial confidentiality‘).

    Based on their limited, tainted studies and co-opted version of science, they say with certainty that, for example, genetically engineered food and glyphosate are ‘safe’. And when inconvenient truths do emerge, they will mobilise their massive lobbying resources to evade regulations, they will seek to hide the dangers of their products or they will set out to destroy scientists whose findings challenge their commercial bottom line.

    Soil microbiologists are still trying to fully comprehend soil microbes and how they function as anintegrated network in relation to plants. The agrochemical sector has little idea of how their biocides have affected soils. It merely churns out public relations spin that their inputs are harmless for soil, plants and human health. Such claims are not based on proper, in-depth, long-term studies. They are based on a don’t look, don’t find approach or a manipulation of standards and procedures that ensure their products make it on to the commercial market and stay there.

    And what are these biocides doing to us as humans? Numerous studies have linked the increase in pesticide use with spiralling rates of ill health. Kat Carrol of the National Health Federation is concerned about the impacts on human gut bacteria that play a big role in how organs function and our neurological health. The gut microbiome can contain up to six pounds of bacteria and is what Carroll calls ‘human soil’. She says that with their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the sanctity of the human body.

    And her concerns seem valid. Many important neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. Feed gut bacteria a cocktail of biocides and is it any surprise that many diseases are increasing?

    For instance, findings published in the journal ‘Translational Psychiatry’ provide strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression, and Parkinson’s Disease.

    Environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has written extensively on the impacts of agrochemicals (especially glyphosate) on humans, not least during child and adolescent development. In her numerous documents and papers, she cites a plethora of data and studies that link the use of agrochemicals with various diseases and ailments. She has also noted the impact of these chemicals on the human gut microbiome.

    The science writer Mo Costandi discusses the importance of gut bacteria and their balance. In adolescence the brain undergoes a protracted period of heightened neural plasticity, during which large numbers of synapses are eliminated in the prefrontal cortex and a wave of ‘myelination’ sweeps across this part of the brain. These processes refine the circuitry in the prefrontal cortex and increase its connectivity to other brain regions. Myelination is also critical for normal, everyday functioning of the brain. Myelin increases a nerve fiber’s conduction velocity by up to a hundred times, and so when it breaks down, the consequences can be devastating.

    Other recent work shows that gut microbes control the maturation and function of microglia, the immune cells that eliminate unwanted synapses in the brain; age-related changes to gut microbe composition might regulate myelination and synaptic pruning in adolescence and could, therefore, contribute to cognitive development. Upset those changes, and, As Mason argues, there are going to be serious implications for children and adolescents. Mason places glyphosate at the core of the ailments and disorders currently affecting young people in Wales and the UK in general.

    Yet we are still being subjected to an unregulated cocktail of agrochemicals which end up interacting with each other in the gut. Regulatory agencies and governments appear to work hand in glove with the agrochemical sector.

    Carol Van Strum has released documents indicating collusion between the manufacturers of dangerous chemicals and regulatory bodies. Evaggelos Vallianatos has highlighted the massive fraud surrounding the regulation of biocides and the wide scale corruption at laboratories that were supposed to test these chemicals for safety. Many of these substances were not subjected to what was deemed proper testing in the first place yet they remain on the market. The late Shiv Chopra also highlighted how various dangerous products were allowed on the commercial market and into the food chain due to collusion between these companies and public officials.

    Powerful transnational corporations are using humanity as their collective guinea pig. But those who question them, or their corporate science, are automatically labelled anti-science and accused of committing crimes against humanity because they are preventing their products from being commercialised ‘to help the poor or hungry’. Such attacks on critics by company mouthpieces who masquerade as public officials, independent scientists or independent journalists are mere spin. They are, moreover, based on the sheer hypocrisy that these companies (owned and controlled by elite interests) have humanity’s and the environment’s best interests at heart.

    Many of these companies have historically profited from violence. Unfortunately, that character of persists. They directly profit on the back of militarism, whether as a result of the US-backed ‘regime change’ in Ukraine or the US invasion of Iraq. They also believe they can cajole (poison) nature by means of chemicals and bully governments and attack critics, while rolling out propaganda campaigns for public consumption.

    Whether it involves neocolonialism and the destruction of indigenous practices and cultures under the guise of ‘development’, the impoverishment of farmers in India, the twisting and writing of national and international laws, the destruction of rural communities, the globalisation of bad food and illness, the deleterious impacts on health and soil, the hollowing out of public institutions and the range of human rights abuses we saw documented during The Monsanto Tribunal, what we are witnessing is structural violence in many forms.

    Pesticides are in fact “a global human rights concern” and are in no way vital to ensuring food security. Ultimately, what we see is ignorance, arrogance and corruption masquerading as certainty and science.

    … when we wound the planet grievously by excavating its treasures – the gold, mineral and oil, destroy its ability to breathe by converting forests into urban wastelands, poison its waters with toxic wastes and exterminate other living organisms – we are in fact doing all this to our own bodies… all other species are to be enslaved or driven to extinction if need be in the interests of human ‘progress’… we are part of the same web of life –where every difference we construct artificially between ‘them’ and ‘us’ adds only one more brick to the tombstone of humankind itself.

    — ‘Micobes of the World Unite!’, Satya Sager

    The Plight of Children in a Neoliberal World

    The New York Times wrote Christmas Day that an 8-year old Guatemalan boy died in US Border Control custody. The circumstances are not clear, or are simply not reported. A month earlier, a 7-year old girl, also from Guatemala, died also in US Border Control custody. Here too, the circumstances are not revealed. How many more children, not mentioned by any media, or any statistics have already perished, trying to make their way to a better future?  A better future, because their real and beloved future in their own countries has been miserably destroyed by the US empire’s imposed corporate abuse and fascist-like dictatorships. But who cares? They are just children of illegal immigrants; children separated from their parents to dissuade parents to migrate to the US of A.  Welcome to paradise of hell!

    Currently a large portion of the US Government is shut down, due to a budget dispute between President Trump and the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party breathing down his neck and the Democrats. At stake are US$5 billion for a Border Wall Trump requests as part of the general budget, and the Democrats refuse to sign-off on it. The Border Wall would have countless nefarious and more serious killer effects. More kids in border custody, some dehydrated, some simply exhausted from the long journey, some sick, all separated from their parents, maybe for good, and neglected by US Authorities, and most of them just simply left to their plight which, in many cases, may be death.

    Welcome to the Land of the Free, the land of exemplary democracy!

    Are Trump and his handlers murderers? Yes, they are. There is absolutely no doubt. Not just for the abject, inhuman abuse of migrants and migrant children, but for killing children and adults in the ever-increasing number of wars and conflicts around the globe, waged and initiated by the US, NATO, and the European puppets’ armies. He,Trump, could stop them at once. He may risk his life, but somebody who aspires to such high office must take risks. Besides, his life may be at stake for many more reasons. Enemies abound. A life is just a life, highly precious, though, to be saved by all means, but killing wantonly millions of children – the future of civilization – what is that if not a crime of the very, very highest degree, a crime of unfathomable dimensions, a crime that should be punishable by – well, let’s just call it by a war crimes court à la Nuremberg.

    If someone would tell Trump that he is a murderer, would he grasp it? Would his conscience kick in and make him realize what he
    is doing, he the all-powerful, who could stop it all? Or would he simply call his secret service to arrest you and put you behind bars for insulting him, albeit, telling him the truth?  We may never know. I have asked a similar question about Obama. How can they sleep at night? Do they take a pill that eradicates their conscience, their human brain power?  I truly wonder. It’s been known forever that power intoxicates. But to that extent? No repenting, not even after the four- or eight-year’s tour of duty?  No. Rather collect astronomical talking fees, cash-in on the power of indiscriminate killing.

    Trump’s predecessors for hundred-plus years back belong to the same clan of criminals. Their crimes have become the new normal. The west watches over their killings on TV with media reports that banalize war and war death as normal, because war is war where it belongs to. And it’s so profitable. It’s the industry of killing – killing babies and their mothers, adolescents, starving them to death, destroying their systems of minimal hygiene – Yemen – a case in point; Syria is in the same league, Afghanistan, Iraq — the list is endless. Hundreds of thousands of children were killed and are still being killed in the world’s longest war, seventeen years and counting in Afghanistan. Nobody seems to care. Afghanistan, one of the resource richest countries on earth, has no future; not as long as it is dominated by greedy, murderous western powers, ahead of all – the corporate and military US of A.

    Killing is the name of the game. And mind you, this killing spree is driven by a blood-thirsty elite of bankers, pharma-kings, weapon industrialists, GMO-agri-businesses, hydrocarbon kingpins – a dark deep-state elite that feeds on the idea that the world is over-populated and must be reduced by factors of thousands, so that this small elite may survive much longer on the ever-diminishing resources of Mother Earth.

    This is no joke. Infamous top war criminal, Henry Kissinger, propagated this idea already in the 1960s as a prominent member of the Rockefeller clan, called “Bilderberg Society”. The Bilderbergers’ objective Numero Uno is just that – reducing the world population by any means. War is one of them. And who to target best?  Children, of course. They are the gene-bearers of future generations. If gone, there are no off-springs, nobody to lead the world into a better future, a future of peace – yes, a future of peace, because these children have known war and would most likely opt for a different set of life values.

    And imagine the suffering of these children until they eventually succumb to death?  Many without parents, without shelter, food, health care, let alone minimal education, being exposed to the abuses of humanity – unpaid hard labor, rape, diseases. The west not just watches on, but helps their plight along by supplying weapons, bullets, bombs to those who do the killing.

    The western public takes it as, well, the new normal. We can’t imagine a world without war, a world in peace. That’s the extent to which we have been indoctrinated. And as we live in comfort what is easier to believe than what we are told by the presstitute? No worries, our leaders (sic) do the right thing; we are safe. And just in case there is any doubt, the governments concerned ‘launch’ a ‘false flag’ terror attack, justifying more severe crack-downs on the population to, indeed, keep them safe by militarization of society, all the while continuing killing children with their mothers and relatives, children alone, children on the move as refugees, children as slaves, children uncounted by any statistics.

    Trump, yes, he is a murderer. And the Border Wall is a murder weapon. Assassins are also Trump’s predecessors, not least Obama, who knowingly killed thousands of children through his extra-judiciary drone attacks – and let’s stress this – of which he boasted to personally approve each and every one of these drone killings. Clinton killed Haitians by the thousands, many of them children, through his forced “free” trade agreements, giving US corporations access to child labor, miserably paid child labor, which was and is nothing more than legalized enslavement, often leading to impoverishment, famine, disease and death.

    When will justice be done? Or, are we talking about justice ‘after death’? Are we talking about a collective Karma that will eventually pull our entire civilization down the drain into an inescapable abyss, giving room to a new beginning?

    • First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

    The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

    Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the mid-term elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

    For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the mid-term elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

    The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

    The Leadup to the New Congress

    The good news for US democracy was the largest voter turnout in half a century for the congressional mid-term elections. For the 66% of the US population under 50 years, it was the highest in their lifetime. The more sobering news is that even with this record turnout, the majority of eligible voters didn’t vote. While the pool of eligible voters is diminished by felony disenfranchisement and other laws and practices depending on the state.

    Beyond the microcosm of the corporate two-party system, there is a universe out there and even issues that transcend one’s affection or distaste for Trump. What if we had an electoral system like Cuba, where the vast majority of eligible voters are motivated to participate?

    A glimpse of the smoldering discontent within the US electorate was seen in the vaguely insurgent candidacies in 2016 of Trump, with his faux populist appeal to those dispossessed by an economy that left them behind, and of Sanders with his critique of income inequality in a rigged system. For now, those grassroots potentials for genuine change have been contained and domesticated within the two-party system, dedicated above all to preserve existing power relationships.

    Only 30 of 435 seats (7%) in the House were considered truly contested. Fully 74% of the seats were considered solidly safe for their respective parties; 183 for the Democrats and 137 for the Republicans.

    In my one-party state of California, senator-for-life Diane Feinstein ran against a fellow Democrat. Our peculiar institution of placing only the top two winners of the primaries, regardless of party, on the general election ballot barred voters from voting for, or even writing in, a third-party choice let alone a Republican.

    So, the majority of eligible voters sat out the mid-term spectacle, simply not bothering with politicians awash in ever more obscene tsunamis of corporate cash.

    Nancy Pelosi, representing San Francisco’s congressional district, spent an astronomical $5,111,387 for her virtually uncontested House seat. Her Republican opponent spent a paltry $12,443, barely enough to place a campaign statement on the ballot and pay for the postage to mail it. Had Pelosi sat out the campaign as did her opponent, Pelosi still would have coasted to victory on party and name recognition.

    There is a reason why Pelosi, running in an absolutely safe district, outspent her opponent 410 to 1. Pelosi doled out her millions to other candidates running for the House who will then repay the favor by electing her majority leader of the new Congress. In other words, she served as the bag lady for her corporate donors to gain that position, which is not insignificant. Were Trump to become any more puffed up with ego and explode, taking Pence with him, Pelosi would be the next POTUS paid for by Facebook, Amazon, and the American Hospital Association.

    Elections as currently constituted are auditions by politicians performing for the big money interests who cast those best at conning the electorate.

    Who Are Our Friends – Who Are Our Enemies?

    The present oligarch of the Oval Office is not a friend of working people, even if in his erratic behavior he may on occasion stumble to the left as with his flirtation with détente rather than nuclear war with Russia. Cautionary note: Trump is not about to reverse the US imperial project.

    What was shocking about Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria was not the suddenness of the announcement. In fact, this was a campaign promise made when he was candidate Trump and reiterated since. What shocked and indeed infuriated the establishment was that a politician was actually following through on a campaign promise that would draw down a US military invasion and occupation. For now, at least, Trump has broken with the time-honored US electoral tradition (e.g., Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo) of promising the electorate peace and giving them war.

    Remember the Democrats’ promise of a “peace dividend” at the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990s? Now they are the war party nipping at Trump’s haunches from the right, goading him into an ever more aggressive new Cold War. Democrats voted 2 to 1 to increase, rather than cut, Trump’s first military budget. Democrats are vehemently against drawing down US troops in the Middle East and positively apoplectic about the threat of peace breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.

    It goes without saying that Trump and the Republicans are not an alternative for progressive social change. Unfortunately, traditional liberalism is also a dead end. There has been no major progressive legislation passed since the mid-1970s. According to Noam Chomsky, the last liberal president was Richard Nixon. Liberals, because they no longer even pretend to have a progressive agenda, are relegated to the role of, on one hand, legitimizing those to the right and, on the other, attacking genuine progressives, especially those representing third parties such as the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party.

    In the Hall of Mirrors Called the Democratic Party, the Lesser Evil Becomes the Other Evil

    With brand Obama, the Democratic Party had peddled hope to the masses. That advertising appeal no longer passes the red face test. The new marketing strategy by leftish apologists for the Democrats is to be sophisticatedly unapologetic about the deep corruption of the electoral party of their choice.

    • Noam Chomsky laments “a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class.”
    • Author Thomas Frank regrets the Democratic Party going from the party of the people to “the party of the rich elites.”
    • Filmmaker Michael Moore bemoans how the Democrats paved the way for Trump.
    • Blogger Paul Street deplores: “Yes, the Democrats are horrible. They make my skin crawl. I’ve documented their record as a pack of ‘lying neoliberal warmongers…’”

    And then they all urge us, in the words of Street, “to hold one’s nose and vote ‘for’ the Dems” once again, and again, and again…and forever. Presumably to reward them for bad behavior.

    The latest addition to the Democratic Party leadership is party caucus leader Hakeem Jefferies, an African American from New York City. Although a member of the Progressive Caucus, he earned his spurs attacking single-payer healthcare and Bernie Sanders from the right, while being a leading champion of charter schools and the security state. It is difficult to tell left from right in the hall of mirrors called the Democratic Party.

    With the realignment of the Democratic Party, it is no longer the “lesser evil” but the “other evil.” Meanwhile, both the economy and the polity have become more concentrated and less democratic with an ever-wealthier elite perched atop of an ever-growing surveillance state, mass incarceration, and censored media on the internet.

    Lacking a substantive progressive agenda, Trump is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats whose main platform is the resurrection of the anti-Trump candidate. Will it be Oprah, Hillary, Biden, Beto, or even Bernie? The Democratic Party leadership preferred Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, showing it chose to risk a Trump presidency rather than a Sanders one, which would have been beyond the comfort zone of their corporate funders.

    That was the dark secret revealed by DNC emails made public by Wikileaks. Which well explains why the Democrats have been obsessed with promoting Russiagate as a distraction and are so vindictive against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

    A Political Party of Another Kind

    With the Democrats and Republicans feeding from the same corporate trough, how different can the two parties be? The following report on a political party of another kind gives an indication.

    Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth held a swank party in the Hamptons for the ruling elite. In keeping with the virulently anti-Trump/pro-Democrat editorial line of the Post, the guest list included Senator Chuck Schumer, former governor/senator Bob Graham, and other Democratic Party politicians along with billionaire funders of the party such as George Soros, Ronald Lauder, and Carl Icahn.

    But, hey, this was a ruling class party. So also attending were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, and fat-cat Republican funder David Koch of the Koch brothers.

    As reporter Maureen Callahan observed:

    Weymouth’s party is the latest reminder that for all the bruising rhetoric, the constant polls showing a deeply divided America and the most polarizing president in history, our battle isn’t red vs. blue, right vs. left: It’s about the 1% vs. the rest of us. They laugh as we take their political theater for real.

    Wake From The Nightmare Or Eternal Sleep For Humanity

    The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living.

    — Karl Marx

    Marx offered a thought for all seasons but one that might especially ring true during what is supposed to be a season of peace, joy and humanity. Contradicted by the ever more insanely harsh reality of marketing mass murder under the guise of creating freedom, much of our race, though still too few to radically transform the totality of our reality, has begun to rise in defense of all against a system that profits only a few. France’s recent experience was part of a hopeful trend in that segments of a public which has been bought, sold and rented into near poverty showed they are tired and demanded social justice over becoming what capital sees as a loss of its private profits. Their awakening from humanity’s nightmare, however brief it may seem, is inspiring as well as overdue. The actions of a predominately working class group of citizens demonstrating with enough fervor to force the French government to at least renege on some issues is in stark contrast to Americans trooping off to the polls to “resist” a personality while their system – the same one the French are up in arms about – disintegrates all around them. If we have anything to be happy about during the annual shopping frenzy of an alleged spiritual time for humanity, in a small way it’s a few changes in our congress, but in a greater way it’s the sign of awakening we see in France which will hopefully spread to more places in the New Year.

    The social democratic salvation capital arranged after the depression of the twenties and thirties has collapsed and become a renewal of the worst forms of fascist capital that preceded and soon followed that brief cosmetic safety for some made possible only by the reduction to disfigured ugliness of others. The rise in status of a new middle class for millions in the western world was only possible with the misery of greater multitudes in what was called the third, or undeveloped world, but also the poverty class in that same west. There were people sleeping on the streets of America before, during, and after the last breakdown of capital given the brand name “the great depression”. This latest collapse that began in 2008 and is very possibly the last one that will wake up more than the French is only different in that it is worse and the numbers in the street have grown so much only the intellectually and morally blind cannot see them.

    The wealth accumulation of the return to market fundamentalist roots was and continues to be shared by a shrinking minority while growing majorities have seen the facade of humanity brought about by social democratic capitalism dissolve in the reality of a take-no-prisoners brand of marketing. This Artificially Intelligent farce not only prides itself on the creation of poverty and warfare but dulls the sense of many of its innocent subjects by filling heads with propaganda that passes for news, entertainment to distract consciousness further, and the combination of the two that marketers call “infotainment”.

    Thus we have a perverse form of capital therapy that herds us into near frenzied lynch mobs of genuinely frustrated and set upon souls directing energy at everything but the cause of most if not all the things that plague us. Rich individuals approaching deity status with economic powers beyond those of past royal despots are relatively invisible while some of their employees in government attract enough attention to be replaced by other of their employees who appeal to one or another interest or identity group affording pleasure to some, pain to most and continued ruling power to the incredibly rich minority at the top of the modern pyramid of capital.

    Preposterous stories blaming Russia, China, Iran and possibly the Tooth Fairy for every sign of failure in what passes for a language perversion called the “free world” confuse and convince enough among the well fed and supposedly educated classes for the moment. When hardship eventually hits them in a material, rather than mental way, they will hopefully leave their identity groups and join the human race in the work necessary to transform global society.

    Until the public good comes before private profit, things will get worse for all of us and any focus that continues separation of humans from potential majorities into smaller identity groups is simply the age old divide and conquer strategies always employed by minority rulers. This helps lead people with individual moral codes that find poverty and injustice intolerable to not only tolerate but to practice the most dreadful social policies imaginable. Privately, we Americans are as good, kind, compassionate, decent, and humane as any people on earth. Socially, however, we spend trillions on war, billions on pets, leave millions to live in poverty and hundreds of thousands to live on the street, and thus collectively become among the most degenerate moral perverts on the planet.

    The skin tone, ethnicity, religion, sex or sexual preference of those serving capital while eating meals and flushing toilets at the white house or in slightly lesser roles in congress makes no difference to their victims reduced to cleaning the debris of death and destruction in the places where they oversee the bombing and looting. After their homes and nations are ruined we welcome some of them as migrants offering us cheap labor and a balm for our souls to maintain holiday spirit until the next slaughter we conduct. Food, clothing and shelter are basic human needs, not separate identity practices. They become so under private profit first economics that assure only some of the public will experience good, and that group is shrinking. The only way to assure a better life for all is for the ruling power to come from people who put the public good first, before any private gain is considered. Everyone has to be assured of food, clothing and shelter before anyone can aspire and work for even more by achieving private profit at the market. There is only one way to achieve that change and end society’s nightmare: the democratic forces of humanity must replace the market forces of capital. Happy New Year.