Category Archives: Militarism

How to find a Tiger in Africa

Agostinho Neto declaring independence of Angola 11 November 1975

What I want to do here is something very simple. I want to explain how I began to search for Agostinho Neto. I also want to explain the perspective that shapes this search.1

When I was told about the plans for a colloquium I was asked if I would give a paper.2 I almost always say yes to such requests because for me a paper is the product of learning something new. So I went to the local bookstores to buy a biography of Dr Neto. The only thing I found available was a two-volume book by a man named Carlos Pacheco called Agostinho Neto O Perfil de um Ditador, published in 2016. The subtitle of the book is “A história do MPLA em Carne Viva”. When I went to the university library I found another book, a collection of essays by Mr Pacheco and a book by Mr Cosme, no longer in print.3

Obviously the sheer size of Mr Pacheco’s book suggested that this was a serious study. Since these two ominous tomes were the only biography I could find in print in a serious bookstore, it seemed to me that the weight of the books was also designed as part of Mr Pacheco’s argument. The two volumes, in fact, comprise digests of PIDE4 reports and Mr Pacheco’s philosophical musings about politics, culture, psychology etc. There is barely anything of substance about the poet, physician, liberation leader and first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, in nearly 1,500 pages.

As I said, I knew little about Dr Neto, but I knew something about Angola and the US regime’s war against the MPLA.5 I was also very familiar with the scholarship and research about US regime activities in Africa since 1945—both overt and covert. I also knew that dictators were not rare in Africa. However, in the title of Mr Pacheco’s book was the first time I had ever heard Dr Neto called a dictator. What struck me was that Dr Neto was president of Angola from the time of independence until his death in 1979—a total of four years. In contrast his successor remained president for almost 40 years. So my intuition told me if Agostinho Neto was a dictator he could not have been a very significant one. However, I wanted to know what the basis of this charge was. Certainly he was not a dictator on the scale of his neighbour, Joseph Mobutu.6 I reasoned that Agostinho Neto was called a dictator for the same reason all heads of state are called “dictators” in the West—because he held office by virtue of processes not approved in London, Paris or Washington. In the jargon of the “West”—a euphemism for the post-WWII US Empire—anyone called a communist who becomes a head of state must be a dictator, since no one in their right mind could elect a communist and no communist would submit to an election.

However, there was apparently more to this accusation than the allegation that Dr Neto must be a communist and therefore a dictator. Agostinho Neto had good relations with the Cuban “dictator” Fidel Castro and he enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union. When there still was a Soviet Union, anyone enjoying its support, no matter how minimal or ambivalent, could be considered at least a “potential dictator”. Then I read about a brief but serious incident in 1977, an attempted military coup against the Neto government on 27 May, led by Nito Alves and José Van Dunen. The coup was defeated and all sources agree there was a purge of the MPLA and many were arrested and killed. Writers like Mr Pacheco argue that Dr Neto directed a blood bath in which as many as 20-30,000 people died over the course of two years. There appears to be agreement that many people were arrested and killed but the exact figures vary.7

However, I still wondered whether this incident and its apparent consequences were enough to justify calling Dr Agostinho Neto, dictator of Angola.

While researching for this paper, while searching for Agostinho Neto, I found many people who had an opinion about him but very few who actually knew anything about Neto, and often they knew very little about Angola.

First I would like to deal with the coup attempt and the aftermath because that is the most immediate justification for this epithet. I am unable to introduce any data that might decide the questions I feel must be raised, but that does not make them less relevant to an accurate appraisal of Dr Neto’s four years in office.

  1. How, in the midst of a civil war, and military operations to defend the country, including the capital from a foreign invader—the Republic of South Africa—are the casualties and deaths to be distinguished between police actions and military actions? What reasonably objective apparatus existed to produce the statistics upon which the count could be based?
  2. What was the specific chain of command and operational structure in place to direct the purge on the scale alleged by Dr Neto’s detractors? What was the composition of the forces operating under government direction during this period? What was the composition of the command at local level?

Without claiming to answer these questions—they would have to be answered by research in Angola—there are some points that make the bald assertions of those like Mr Pacheco, who claim Dr Neto is responsible for the violent aftermath, for the thousands of victims, far from proven.

Casualty reporting during war is highly unreliable even in sophisticated military bureaucracies like those of the US or Britain. There were rarely bodies to count after saturation bombing or days of artillery barrage. To add a sense of proportion Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force at the Somme during World War I, ordered the slaughter of nearly 20,000 British soldiers in one day with total casualties of some 50,000—the excuse for this was war.8 One’s own casualties are usually a source of embarrassment. But in Angola, like in other African countries, the presence of a stable and professional bureaucracy capable of generating any kind of statistics was certainly sparse. Whether those statistics can be deemed objective is another issue.

The absence of written orders or minutes is not by itself proof that no orders were given. In fact, as has been established in the research on the whole sphere of covert action, written orders can be issued “for the file” while operational orders are transmitted—deniably—by word of mouth.9 Then the question has to be answered in reverse: how did the actual enforcement officers receive their instructions and from whom? Here it is particularly important to note that the MPLA could not have replaced all police and other security force rank and file with personnel whose loyalty to the new Angolan government was certain. This means that many police or other security personnel had been performing under orders of the New State officers until independence and were still on duty.10 The actual relationships these personnel had to the people in the districts where they were deployed would have been known, if not notorious. It is not unreasonable to infer that a general purge would give opportunities to people at all levels to solve “problems” arising from the fall of the Portuguese regime.

Then there is one other factor—a question raised by the fact that Mr Pacheco’s book relies almost entirely on PIDE reports about the MPLA. One can, in fact, read in several accounts of the independence struggle that the MPLA was thoroughly infiltrated by PIDE operatives. So do we know if the orders which rank and file personnel took were issued by bona fide MPLA cadre acting on instructions from the president or issued by PIDE operatives within the MPLA command structure? In fact, it is a highly practiced routine of covert operations, also by the PIDE during the independence war, to appear and act as if they were the MPLA while committing acts intended to discredit it.11 While it is true that the Salazar/ Caetano regime had collapsed the people who had maintained the regime—especially in covert operations—did not simply disappear. Moreover, the world’s premier covert action agency, the CIA, was an active supporter of all MPLA opposition and certainly of factions within the MPLA itself. We know about IA Feature because of the revelations of its operational manager, John Stockwell.12 We also know that the PIDE and the CIA worked together and we know that the US ambassador to Portugal during the period (1975 to 1979) was a senior CIA officer.13 We also know many details about the various ways in which covert operations were run then.14 What we do not know is the extent to which it may have been involved in the coup against Dr Neto. But there is room for educated guessing.

I do not believe it is possible to reconstruct the events of the purge with evidence that can provide reasonable assurance of what responsibility Agostinho Neto bears for the deaths and casualties attributed to that period—beyond the vague responsibility which any head of state may have for actions of the government apparatus over which he presides. There, are however, grounds for a reasonable doubt—for a verdict at least of “not proven”.

Which brings me to my second argument: from what perspective should the brief term of Agostinho Neto as president of the Angola be examined.

First of all we must recognise that Angola prior to 1975 was a criminal enterprise.

It began with the Atlantic slave trade, which really only ended in the 1880s (although slavery did not end). Then, like in all other colonies created by Europeans, a kind of licensed banditry was practiced, euphemistically called “trade”. By the end of the 19th century most of this organised crime was controlled by cartels organised in Europe and North America.15

Why do I call this organised crime and not commerce? First of all if one uses force to compel a transaction; e.g., a gun to make someone give you something, this is generally considered a crime and in Europe and North America usually subject to punishment as such. To travel to a foreign land with a gun and compel transactions, or induce them using drugs or other fraudulent means, does not change the criminal character—only the punitive consequences.

Angola’s economy was based on stolen land, forced labour, unequal/ fraudulent trading conditions, and armed force, the colour of law not withstanding. Neither Portuguese law (nor that of any other European state) would have permitted inhabitants of Angola to come to Portugal, kidnap its youth or force its inhabitants to accept the same conditions to which all African colonies and “protectorates” were submitted.

In other words, Agostinho Neto was the first president of an Angolan state. He, together with his supporters in the MPLA, created a republic out of what was essentially a gangster economy protected by the Portuguese dictatorship in Lisbon. Does this mean that all European inhabitants of Angola were gangsters? Certainly it does not. However, it can be argued that many Europeans or children of Europeans who were born in Angola recognised this when they began to demand independence, too. Some demanded independence to run their own gangs free of interference from abroad and some certainly wanted an end to gangsterism and the establishment of a government for the benefit of the inhabitants.

The performance of Dr Neto as president of Angola has to be measured by the challenges of creating a beneficial government from a system of organised crime and defending this effort against foreign and domestic armies supported by foreigners, specifically the agents of the gangsters who had been running the country until then.

But stepping back from the conditions of Angola and its plunder by cartels under protection of the New State, it is necessary to see Dr Neto’s struggle and the struggle for independence in Angola within the greater context of African independence. Like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Toure, Nasser, Qaddafi, Kenyatta, Nyerere and Cabral, what I would call the African liberation generation, Neto was convinced that Angola could not be independent without the independence of all Africa.16  In other words, he was aware that the independence from Portugal was necessarily only partial independence. Like the others of this generation Neto rejected race as a basis for African independence.

The position of African liberation leaders who rigorously rejected racialised politics has often been criticised, even mocked as naïve. It has often been pointed out—accurately—that the African states were created by Europeans and hence the ethnic conflicts that have laid waste to African development are proof that these liberation leaders were wrong: that either Africa could not transcend “tribalism” or that the states created could not manage the inherited territories in a modern way.

On the contrary, the African liberation generation was well aware of the problems inherited from European gangster regimes. Moreover they understood quite well that race was created by Europeans to control them, that there was no “white man” in Africa before the European coloniser created him. The “white man” was an invention of the late 17th century. First it was a legal construct—the granting of privileges to Europeans in the colonies to distinguish and separate them from African slave labourers. Then it was elaborated into an ideology, an Enlightenment ideology—white supremacy. By uniting the colonisers, who in their respective homelands had spent the previous thirty odd years slaughtering each other for reasons of religion, ethnicity, language, and greed, the Enlightenment ideals of ethnic and religious tolerance or even liberty bound Europeans together against slave majorities. By endowing these European servants with the pedigree of “whiteness” the owners of the plantation islands could prevent them from siding with other servants—the Africans—and overthrowing the gangsters and their Caribbean drug industry. The white “identity” was fabricated to prevent class alliances against the new capitalists.17

It is not clear if the African liberation generation understood the impact of African slavery in North America. Many post-war liberation leaders have admired the US and seen in it a model for independence from colonialism. Perhaps this is because in the preparations for entering WWI, the US regime undertook a massive propaganda campaign of unparalleled success in which the history of the US was virtually re-written—or better said invented. There are numerous stories about photographs being changed in the Soviet Union under Stalin to remove people who had fallen from favour or been executed. There is relatively little attention devoted to the impact of the Creel Committee, a group of US advertising executives commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson to write the history people now know as “the American Dream” and to sell it throughout the world.18 This story turns a planter-mercantile slaveholder state into an “imperfect democracy” based on fine Enlightenment principles of human liberty. In fact, the contemporaries of the American UDI saw the actions in Philadelphia and the insurgency that followed in the same terms that people in the 1970s saw Ian Smith and his Rhodesian National Front. It is very clear from the record that the US regime established by the richest colonials in North America was initiated to avert Britain’s abolition of slavery in its colonies. It was not an accident that African slaves and Native Americans were omitted from the protections of the new charter. On the contrary the new charter was intended to preserve their exclusion.

Which brings me to my concluding argument. I believe there are two widely misused terms in the history of the post-WWII era, especially in the histories of the national liberation struggles and so-called Third World: “Cold War” and “anti-communism”. Since the end of the Soviet Union it is even very rare that these terms are explained. The reintroduction of the term “Cold War” to designate US regime policies toward Russia is anachronistic and misleading.

To understand this we have to return to 1945. In San Francisco, California, shortly before the end of formal hostilities representatives of the Allies met and adopted what would be called the Charter of the United Nations. Among the provisions of this charter were some ideas retained from the League of Nations Covenant (which the US never ratified) and some new ideas about the future of what were called non-self-governing territories (i.e. colonies, protectorates etc.) The principle of self-determination, a legacy of the League used to carve up Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, was to be extended to all empires. After the propaganda war by which colonial troops (natives) were deployed in masses against Germany, Italy and Japan, to defend freedom and independence, it became clear that the exhausted and even more heavily indebted European colonial powers could not return to the status quo ante. Britain was incapable of controlling India and with the independence of India it would become increasingly difficult to justify or sustain rule of the rest of the empire. The Commonwealth idea basically kept the “white” dominions loyal.19 But how were the “non-whites” to be kept in line? The US regime made it clear that there would be no support for European empires of the pre-war type. So the stated policy of the Charter was that independence was inevitable—meaning that all those who wanted it had a license to get it.

At the same time, however, an unstated policy was being formulated—penned largely by George Kennan—that would form the basis for the expansion of the US Empire in the wake of European surrender. That unstated policy, summarised in the US National Security Council document0 – NSC 68 – was based on some fundamental conclusions by the regime’s policy elite that reveal the essential problem with which all liberation movements and new independent states would be faced but could not debate. NSC 68 was promulgated in 1947 but remained secret until about 1978.

Kennan who had worked in the US mission to the Soviet Union reported confidentially that the Soviet Union, although it had won the war against Germany, was totally exhausted and would be incapable of doing anything besides rebuilding domestically, at least for another 20 years! In another assessment he pointed out that the US economy had only recovered by virtue of the enormous tax expenditure for weapons and waging WWII. It would be devastating to the US economy—in short, a massive depression would return—if the war industry did not continue to receive the same level of funding (and profit rates) it received during the war.

Furthermore, it was very clear that the US economy consumed about 60 per cent of the world’s resources for only 20 per cent of the population. Kennan argued the obvious, that this condition could not continue without the use of force by the US regime.

Although the US appears as (and certainly is) a violent society in love with its military, in fact, foreign wars have never enjoyed great popularity. It has always been necessary for the US regime to apply extreme measures—marketing—to generate support for wars abroad. The war in Korea was initially just a continuation of US Asia-Pacific expansion (aka Manifest Destiny).20 When US forces were virtually kicked off the Korean peninsula, the machinery that had sold WWI to the masses was put in motion and the elite’s hatred of the Soviet Union was relit in what became known as the McCarthy purges. The McCarthy purges were necessary to turn the Soviet Union—an ally against Hitler—into an enemy even worse than Hitler (who, in fact, never was an enemy of the US elite, some of whom counted the Führer as a personal friend.21  It was at this point that anti-communism became part of the arsenal for the unstated policy of the US regime. Anti-communism was enhanced as a term applicable to any kind of disloyalty—meaning failure to support the US regime in Korea or elsewhere. It also became the justification for what appeared to be contradictions between US stated anti-colonial policy and its unstated neo-colonialism.

The term “Cold War” has been attributed to US banker and diplomat Bernard Baruch and propagandist Walter Lippman. It has become accepted as the historical framework for the period from 1945 until 1989.  However, this is history as propaganda. The facts are that as George Kennan and other high officials knew in 1947, the Soviet Union posed absolutely no threat to the US. On the contrary the secret (unstated) policy of the US—declassified in the 1990s—was to manufacture enough atomic weaponry to attack the Soviet Union twice. Generals like MacArthur and Le May were not extremists. They simply discussed US strategy openly.22 The point of the “Cold War” was to create a vision, which would explain the non-existent Soviet threat as a cover for the unstated policy of US imperial expansion—against national liberation movements—while officially supporting national liberation.

Together with anti-communism, the Cold War was a propaganda/ marketing strategy for undermining what every member of the African liberation generation knew intuitively, that the liberation of Africa depends not only on the liberation of every African country on the continent but on the liberation of the African diaspora. Anti-communism and the Cold War myth successfully isolated African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans from the international struggles for liberation and human dignity and an end to racist regimes.23 In that sense anti-communism is a direct descendant of white supremacy and served the same purpose. It is particularly telling that Malcolm X, who had matured in a sectarian version of black consciousness- the Nation of Islam—was assassinated after he returned from Mecca and an extensive tour of Africa and began to argue not only that African-Americans must demand civil rights, but that they must demand human rights and that these are ultimately achieved when humans everywhere are liberated.24 Malcolm was murdered not just for opposing white supremacy but also for being an internationalist.

If we look at the fate of the African liberation generation we will find that those who were committed internationalists and non-racialists were also socialists and not did not confuse possessive individualism with human liberty. We will also find that all the leaders of newly independent African states who were most vilified, deposed or murdered were those who did not surrender those ideals or the practices needed to attain them. They were not Enlightenment leaders building on European hypocrisy. They were Romantic revolutionaries who knew that there was no salvation—only honest struggle for liberation.25 I believe that Agostinho Neto was one of those Romantic revolutionaries. And the honest struggle is not over.

Neto’s Funeral in September 1979

• Photos courtesy of Fundação Antonio Agostinho Neto

  1. Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (1983) includes an episode set in South Africa as a parody of the film Zulu (1964). The upshot is that an army medical officer suggests that a tiger could have bitten off the leg of a fellow officer in the night. To which all respond, “a tiger in Africa?!”. Of course, tigers are indigenous to Asia but not Africa. Salazar was also to have attributed the indigenous opposition to Portuguese rule in Africa as “coming from Asia”. See also Felipe Ribeiro de Meneses, Salazar A Political Biography (2016).
  2. Presented at the colloquium “Agostinho Neto and the African Camões Prize Laureates” at the University of Porto, Portugal, on the 40th anniversary of Agostinho Neto’s death.
  3. Leonel Cosme, Agostinho Neto e o sua tempo (2004).
  4. PIDE, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, Salazar secret political police, also trained in part by the Nazi regime’s Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo).
  5. MPLA, Movimento popular de libertação de Angola: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
  6. (Joseph) Mobutu Sese Seko, (1930 – 1997) dictator of Republic of the Congo (Zaire), today Democratic Republic of the Congo, aka Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the French Congo/ Congo Brazzaville, previously Congo Free State and Belgian Congo. Mobutu seized power in the wake of the overthrow and murder of Patrice Lumumba and ruled from 1965 until 1997. See Georges Zongola-Talaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002).
  7. Alberto Oliveira Pinto, História de Angola (2015); Adrien Fontaellaz, War of Intervention in Angola (2019),
  8. Jacques R. Pauwels, The Great Class War 1914-1918 (2018).
  9. Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (2001) originally De Moord op Lumumba (1999). The Belgian foreign minister during the “Congo Crisis” wrote several memoranda in which the government’s position was that no harm should come to Patrice Lumumba while the Belgian secret services were actively plotting his kidnapping and assassination. Historical research generally privileges documents and they survive eyewitnesses.
  10. Estado Novo, the term used to designate the Portuguese regime under the dictatorial president of the council of ministers (prime minister) Antonio Salazar Oliveira from 1932 until 1968 and then under Marcelo Caetano until April 1974.
  11. This is also discussed in Fernando Cavaleiro Ângelo, Os Flêchas: A Tropa Secreta da PIDE/DGS na Guerra de Angola 1969 – 1974 (2016) history of the PIDE’s Angolan counter-insurgency force. Since the concept and organisation of the Flêchas bears considerable resemblance to the PRU formed by the CIA in Vietnam under the Phoenix Program, it would not be surprising ifCIA cooperation with the PIDE extended to “Phoenix” advice (see Valentine, 1990 p. 159 et seq.).
  12. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (1978) Stockwell had left the agency before the extensive covert support for UNITA was enhanced under Ronald Reagan, despite the Clark Amendment. However, Stockwell noted that when he had returned from Vietnam duty and before getting the paramilitary assignment for IA Feature, he noticed that the busiest desk at headquarters was the Portugal desk.
  13. Frank Carlucci (1930 – 2018), US ambassador to Portugal (1975 – 1978), Deputy Director of the CIA (1978 – 1981).
  14. Philip Agee, CIA Diary (1975), and Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990) and The CIA as Organized Crime (2017) Douglas Valentine uses the terms “stated policy” and “unstated policy” to show the importance of overt and covert language in the conduct of political and psychological warfare.
  15. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944) and Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1982).
  16. Ghana, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea-Conakry, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea Bissau, Mozambique: Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup and forced into exile. Lumumba was deposed and murdered by a Belgian managed corporate conspiracy with US/ UN support. Cabral was assassinated. Both Mondlane and Machel were murdered. Years later Qaddafi would be overthrown after massive armed attacks, tortured and murdered by US agents. The general attitude rejecting “race” and “racialism” can be found in the speeches and writings of these leaders, esp. those delivered on the occasion of independence. See also CLR James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977) and A History of Negro Revolt (1985) See also Jean-Paul Sartre Kolonialismus und Neokolonialismus (1968) in particular “Der Kolonialismus ist ein System” and “Das politische Denken Patrice Lumumbas” originally published in Situations V Colonialisme et Neocolonialisme.
  17. For a thorough elaboration of this see Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776 (2014) and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism (2018).
  18. George Creel, How We Advertised America (1920) also discussed in Stuart Ewen, PR: A Social History of Spin (1996).
  19. “Dominion” status was granted under the Statute of Westminster 1931 to the “white colonies”: Canada, Irish Free State, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This gave these colonies so-called responsible government based on local franchise, largely eliminating the jurisdiction of the British parliament in London.
  20. US war against Korea, combined with a Korean civil war, began in June 1950. A ceasefire was agreed on 27 July 1953. However, the war has not officially ended and the US regime maintains at least 23,000 personnel in the country—not counting other force projection (e.g. regular manoeuvres, atomic weapons and naval power, etc.).
  21. Prescott Bush, father/grandfather of two US Presidents Bush, was nearly prosecuted for “trading with the enemy” due to his dealings with the Nazi regime. Henry Ford had even been awarded a decoration by the regime. These were the most notorious cases in the US. There were many other forms of less visible support to the Hitler regime from US corporations before, during and after the war. The fact is that the US did not declare war against Hitler’s Germany. Hitler declared war on the US in the vain hope of bringing Japan into the war against the Soviet Union. See Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (2002) The US war against Japan was a continuation of its standing objectives for expansion into China—see also Cummings (2009).
  22. This argument has been made and documented in the work of Bruce Cummings, The Origins of the Korean War (1981, 1990) and Dominion from Sea to Sea (2009).
  23. Gerald Horne, White Supremacy Confronted (2019).
  24. Also formulated very clearly in his Oxford Union speech, 3 December 1964. Malcolm X was assassinated on 21 February 1965.
  25. For an elaboration of the term “Romantic revolutionaries” see the work of Morse Peckham, especially a collection of essays, Romantic Revolutionaries (1970).

Both Israel and Hezbollah Imagined a Horrid Black Hole and Stopped

There are rare moments in history, when even the most determined enemies can suddenly recognize the futility of battle. Sometimes, just for a moment or two. Sometimes, for longer. Such moments of sanity may save thousands, even millions human lives. And, such moments are not expressions of weakness or cowardice; on the contrary; they are embodiments of courage.

I want to believe that what happened at the Lebanese – Israeli border in August 2019, was precisely one of those such rare moments of sanity.

It changes nothing in terms of the big, geopolitical picture: Israel is a Western outpost in the Middle East. It is tormenting the Palestinian people, illegally occupying the Golan Heights, bombing Syria, and antagonizing Iran.

But an important point was established: there are limits! Israel will not go ‘all the way’, risking self-annihilation, and the annihilation of the entire region. This fact alone gives a fragile but at least some hope for a better future of this long-suffering territory.

*****

What prompts me to write the above?

At the end of August, it appeared that Israel had lost its mind. It attacked, without warning, four countries simultaneously, within just 24 hours: Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. It used drones full of explosives, as well as fighter jets.

Palestine and Syria have been attacked, regularly, for years and decades. Iraq, still de facto under US occupation, was quite a different story. There, a group of outraged lawmakers, ‘exploded’, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the US, and calling the Israeli attack a ‘declaration of war’.

Lebanon, too, did not remain silent. Israeli drones damaged the media center of Hezbollah in Beirut. They also attacked a communist Palestinian faction in the Beqaa Valley. For years, the Israeli air force has been violating Lebanese airspace, during the bombing raids of Syria. But this time it was different. This was an attack against a neighboring, sovereign state.

Even the Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, an enemy of Hezbollah, and a man who holds double citizenship (Saudi and Lebanese), protested, asking the United States and France for protection. The President of Lebanon called it out rightly, a declaration of war.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, went live on television, and in a chilling statement promised a ‘measured response’.

At that point, it became clear that the entire region could soon be consumed by flames.

During coverage of the event, on both Press TV and RT, I warned against the enormous danger: Israel was attacking every armed Shi’a group in the region, and was only stopping short of attacking Iran itself. A few more assaults like these, and the entire region could explode, dragging into the conflict countries like Saudi Arabia, on the side of Israel, and Iran, on the side of Syria, Palestine and Hezbollah. Realistically, that could lead to the annihilation of entire areas and nations.

*****

In that period of time, I drove to, and managed to enter the border region. I first arrived at the city of Naqoura on the Mediterranean coast, and then drove all the way to the Lebanese border with the occupied Golan Heights, following the so-called Blue Line, controlled by UNIFIL.

At several places on my right, the huge Israeli border wall was now clearly visible. UNIFIL patrols consisted of armored vehicles, manned mainly by indifferent looking Indonesian soldiers. Some were taking selfies, with Israel behind them. For the United Nations, there seemed to be no urgency in the region. In fact, right after the Israeli attacks, the UN began discussing the possibility of cutting the number of UNIFIL soldiers, as well as the UNIFIL budget.

As always when visiting this border, what appeared striking to me was the proximity of Israeli and Lebanese villages; tens of meters only, in some areas.

*****

What followed, was a chilling, tense silence.

Then, about one week after the Israeli attacks, Hezbollah retaliated.

I was called by a TV station, asked to analyze events. As I spoke, journalists were getting the latest news from the border.

Hezbollah fired anti-tank rockets at an Israeli vehicle patrolling near the Blue Line. It hit an Israeli tank (other reports said ‘armored vehicle’). According to Hezbollah, all Israeli soldiers inside the vehicle either died or were injured. Allegedly, among the casualties, was an Israeli top-ranking commander – described as ‘a General’.

Those who are familiar with Israeli tactics for Palestine and the Golan Heights know that Israeli ‘retaliations’ in such scenarios, include the bombing of civilian targets, and the destruction of houses or entire blocks of houses.

Entire Lebanon held its breath.

This time it became clear that Hezbollah was not going to back down. And Lebanon in general obviously has reached the point when it was ready to confront Israel, if that was what it would take to maintain its dignity.

I spoke to many Lebanese people. They were frightened, concerned, particularly if they had family and children. But they were also surprisingly calm. “If this is what fate brings, then so be it!”

Then, quickly, events became bizarre and confusing:

Israeli newspapers, including the Jerusalem Post, began quoting the Israeli Defense Forces, who were claiming that ‘Yes, an attack against Israel took place, but there were no Israeli casualties.’

Almost simultaneously, Israeli-leaked videos began appearing on YouTube and elsewhere, showing Israeli soldiers carrying injured buddies to helicopters. Later, these very clips were blocked by YouTube itself, for “violating terms and conditions”.

A few days later, the entire discussion generally stopped, at both ends.

Israel ‘retaliated’ promptly. In the most peculiar way, too: it fired around one hundred rockets into Lebanon. But all the rockets landed in fields. No target was hit. Meaning: it was decided not to aim at any targets, considering the Israeli capacity to hit with great precision. More exactly: it was decided to make sure that no target would be hit. In the end, nobody was killed, and no one injured.

As I wrote above, villages, several towns and settlements are constructed right near the border line. Both Israel and Hezbollah have enormous firepower. If they wanted to, they could inflict tremendous damage and losses of lives on each other.

For some reason, they decided not to.

*****

I think this is what happened:

By attacking four countries simultaneously, Israel miscalculated. Iraq and Lebanon were not ready to accept the humiliation and barefaced attacks against their territories.

There were clear signals sent in Tel Aviv’s direction. And Netanyahu understood.

For days after the Israeli attacks, Hezbollah and Israel faced each other, in chilling defiance, separated only by a concrete wall, and by the inept UNIFIL troops. Both sides were aiming at each other great arsenals of missiles and other weaponry.

One wrong move, and the entire region could go up in flames. One tiny, erroneous move, and who knows how many lives of innocent people would be lost.

I believe, or perhaps I want to believe, that both sides suddenly imagined a huge ‘black hole’ – what this part of the world could become. They envisioned smoke, destruction and death; inevitable if they would not decide to immediately back down.

At the last moment, they did. They backed down. I don’t know how, who made the decision first. Were they communicating, even coordinating the de-escalation?

It was what, in Asia, we call ‘saving face’.

Shots were fired. Most likely, no one died. Halas!

Was an Israeli ‘general’ killed? I don’t know. Actually, I do not want to know. I am absolutely fine with the outcome: no full war in the Middle East. For now, this is the best we can get.

Of course, this should be just the beginning. The insanity has to end. I am not convinced that it will. But what happened at the end of August 2019 clearly indicates that it could.

Unfortunately, we are living in a world when only strength guarantees survival. If
Hezbollah was not as strong as it is now, Israel would most likely not have thought twice; it would have overrun the entire Lebanon, in order to destroy its Shi’a adversary inside it.

But Hezbollah is strong.

And also, we have just learnt that there are at least some ‘boundaries’ which Israel is not willing to cross. In brief: Netanyahu is brutal, but he is not suicidal. For now, Lebanon, Israel and the rest of the Middle East, have survived. For now.

• First published by NEO – a journal of Russian Academy of Sciences

The United States: A Nation on Suicide Watch

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major shifts in national resources from civilian to military purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit and public debt. Through FY 2018, the direct costs of the wars will have totaled more than $1.9 trillion, according to US Government figures. Pollution is a serious issue. The United States (US)  is a “large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; deals with water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; has limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country that require careful management. Deforestation; mining; desertification; species conservation; and invasive species (the Hawaiian Islands are particularly vulnerable) are widespread. Long-term problems for the US include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits.

The onrush of technology has been a driving factor in the gradual development of a “two-tier” labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage producers such as China, has put additional downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income…In December 2017, Congress passed and President Donald TRUMP signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which, among its various provisions, reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; lowers the individual tax rate for those with the highest incomes from 39.6% to 37%, and by lesser percentages for those at lower income levels…The new taxes took effect on 1 January 2018; the tax cut for corporations are permanent, but those for individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) under the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will reduce tax revenues and increase the federal deficit by about $1.45 trillion over the 2018-2027 period.

Are those the words of some left wing liberal publication or fake news from the mainstream media or conspiracy tinfoil hats? No, they are excerpts from the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) 2019 World Factbook, an unflinching look at all the planet’s nations and their political systems, military expenditures, resources and internal and transnational troubles.

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Yes, indeed, the US has real problems, not imagined, as Republicans, Democrats and those with “Star Spangled Eyes” like to claim otherwise. “The US is the greatest country in history with the world’s most powerful military. God Bless America!” they shout out or proclaim after every speech.

Perhaps at one point in history’s past the nation had a shot to be the greatest of all time, at least in this solar system. Maybe that could have come after WW II, or the end of the Vietnam War, or even the largely successful Civil Rights movement. But now the country and its people are delusional in thinking that “everything’s groovy”.

What’s to worry about? Gas prices are low, the National Football League season is underway and the Major League Baseball playoffs are just around the corner. What fun to watch these sporting events as military aircraft fly overhead and 20-something millionaires run around the baseball diamond or up and down the football field in stadiums, by the way,  largely financed by the public. Who cares about lead infused water in Newark, New Jersey; Flint and Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

And what can be said about the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria? Where’s the victory to put in the US “Win” column? The American public has largely forgotten these tragic conflicts save those whose families have made a sacrifice. But sacrifice for what? Testing out new equipment, technology and war fighting doctrine? The War on Terror has siphoned off cash badly needed for US infrastructure repairs and has taken the lives of thousands of Americans.

Yes, it is correct that there has been no repeat of the 911 attacks, but the US is dealing with its own home grown terrorist problem: active shooters. Is the US military going to start hunting them down here like they do Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East and Africa?

Hell on Earth

At any rate, the only maniacs who want US personnel to remain in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, three hell-holes created, in part, by the US, are zealous military leaders, defense contractors/suppliers, corrupt officials the US has propped up in the three countries, and black market operators eager to steal American weapons and sell them to the Taliban or groups like the Islamic State.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the Baron Harkonenn of the US government) and his boss President Donald Trump who are eager for war with Iran (which borders Iraq and Afghanistan, among other nations). That push has already started with the US exiting from the nuclear accord with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in May 2018. The Trump administration has since unleashed punishing economic sanctions, and has adopted a blind-support policy for Israel and the bloodthirsty Saudis who would like nothing better than to have the US go to war with Iran. Yes, lets “do Iran” if not by direct military action then through subterfuge and dicey intelligence likely to be used to justify an ill-advised invasion.

The attack-Iran crowd has been singing the same old tune for at least 40 years now and it should have long ago been dust-binned. But here we are, again, moving toward the precipice of conflict.

According to the National Iranian American Council:

The past 40 years in U.S.-Iran relations have been riddled with missed opportunities. While the Iranians and Clinton administration failed to initiate serious dialogue after Mohammad Khatami’s election, the George W. Bush administration pocketed Tehran’s assistance after the U.S.invasion of Afghanistan, put the country in its “axis of evil,” and ignored its offer for a grand bargain. Under the Trump administration, however, we are likely witnessing the greatest missed opportunity in four decades: a failure to capitalize on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

War planners in the US have already sorted through all the airstrike contingencies and have plans, classified, of course, for air/missile strikes. But you need not wait for the day when the aircraft and missiles take to the skies over Iran and the talking heads from left, right and center media rant and rave about a brand new war, or retired generals show up to blather about this and that weapon system. Prepare yourself now. Be an educated armchair warrior by reviewing Anthony Cordesman’sOptions in Dealing with Irans Nuclear Program. It addresses the use of conventional and nuclear weapons by the US and Israel.

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

It is commonplace for Americans to lionize US military leaders and look to them as calming voices, counterweights to warmongering government officials and their advisors. Ironic, isn’t it? Can we look to our divine US military leaders to change the current thinking of the war hawks in the administration, congress and the think tanks that dot the Washington, DC Metro region?

Nope.

Consider this review by William Bacevich, a decorated combat veteran, of the newest US Central Command boss, Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie. McKenzie’s area of responsibility (AOR) includes Iran.

General Kenneth McKenzie became the twenty-fourth commander of CENTCOM (more formally known as United States Central Command).  On May 8, at an event sponsored by the Institute for the Perpetuation of War and the Promotion of Regime Change, more formally known as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he outlined his plans for building on the legacy of his 23 predecessors.  None of those predecessors, it should be acknowledged, succeeded in accomplishing his assigned mission. Nor, I’m willing to bet, will he.

The essence of that mission, according to General McKenzie himself, is to promote stability. “A stable Middle East underpins a stable world,” he announced, and “our steady commitment to our allies and partners provides a force for stability.” As to how the region became unstable in the first place, he offers no opinion, leaving listeners with the impression that previous exertions by CENTCOM forces in invading, occupying, bombing, and otherwise spilling blood throughout his Area of Responsibility (AOR) had nothing to do with the absence of stability existing there today…This much seems clear: To listen to McKenzie, Iran is the ultimate source of all evil. To cite just one example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the general charges that “at least 600 US personnel deaths in Iraq were the result of Iran-backed militants.” This was indeed nefarious, and one is hard-pressed to think of a comparable episode in recent military history, although US support for Saddam Hussein pursuant to his war of aggression against Iran might fill the bill.”

Don’t Bogart that Joint, My Friend

How are we faring in that other Long War, the War on Drugs?

The Office of National Drug Control and Policy’s (ONDCP) 2019 National Drug Control Strategy document describes the massive US local, state, and federal machinery set up to defeat drug trafficking organizations from getting their products to US streets and into the bodies of American citizens.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program provides assistance to law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. HIDTAs provide an umbrella to coordinate Federal, state, local, and tribal drug law enforcement agencies’ investigations, and act as neutral centers to manage, de-conflict, analyze, provide intelligence, and execute drug enforcement activities in their respective regions. With the recent inclusion of Alaska, the first new HIDTA in 17 years, the 29 regional HIDTAs now include designated areas in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The regional HIDTAs bring together more than 21,000 Federal, state, local, and tribal personnel from 500 agencies through 800 enforcement, intelligence, and training initiatives, all designed to disrupt illicit drug trafficking and dismantle criminal and drug trafficking organizations.

The US military, of course, plays a key role in the US War on Drugs, supporting HIDTA’s among other activities. Take, for example, US Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) role in the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South). A 2005 briefing by former US Coast Rear Admiral Jeffrey Hathaway shows that no less than 14 agencies worked, and likely still do, chasing down illicit drugs in the SOUTHCOM AOR. These include the National Security Agency; the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines; the US Coast Guard,  and the National Reconnaissance Office, among others. According to one of Hathaway’s slides, every step involved in JIATF-South operations from interdiction to prosecution leads to intelligence. That is an interesting point. So 14 years later and all the intelligence collected has led to what, exactly?

Let’s revisit the CIA’s 2019 World Factbook for a read on how the War on Drugs effort is going. The US is the “world’s largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; a major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; a minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; an illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine. It is also a money-laundering center.”

Great!

This piece could go on and on citing data from a myriad of sources showing, among other things, the 500% growth rate of the US prison population, income inequality according to the Gini Coefficient which sees the US (41.5) right near Iran (40), or that one in six children in the US live in hunger. But, hey! The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and the dollar menu at McDonald’s is fabulous.

The forever wars on Drugs and Terror, or the trumped up wars to come; income equality; homelessness; hunger, infrastructure collapse and the fracturing of US society into tribes is clearly a nationwide social, political and cultural sickness: perhaps mental illness. Even the Internet/World Wide Web, once viewed as a global unifying/liberating force for change/good has become what is termed the Splinternet, reflecting large in-group fanaticism, censorship and a polarization of political beliefs. It is now polluted with advertisements just as radio and television are.

But there’s still time left on the clock to change the direction of the country. Who or what will do that and when it will happen I’m not sure. But I take heart in Robert F. Kennedy’s insight below that there are many who long to make “life worthwhile” for everyone in America, once again.

For Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product…if we should judge the United States of America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

The War Ahead: Netanyahu’s Elections Gamble Will be Costly for Israel 

On September 1, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevitable response to a series of Israeli strikes that targeted four different Arab countries in the matter of two days.

The Lebanese response, accompanied by jubilation throughout Lebanon, shows that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have overplayed his cards. However, for Netanyahu it was a worthy gamble, as the Israeli leader is desperate for any new political capital that could shield him against increasingly emboldened contenders in the country’s September 17 general elections.

A fundamental question that could influence any analysis of the decision to strike Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza is whether the strategy originated from the Israeli government or the limited personal calculations of Netanyahu himself. I contend that the latter is true.

Israel has already violated the sovereignty of all of these regions, bombing some of them hundreds of times in the past, but striking all at once is unprecedented. Since neither Israel, nor its US allies offered any convincing military logic behind the campaign, there can be no other conclusion that the objectives were entirely political.

One obvious sign that the attacks were meant to benefit Netanyahu, and Netanyahu only, is the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister violated an old Israeli protocol of staying mum following this type of cross-border violence. It is also uncommon for top Israeli officials to brag about their country’s intelligence outreach and military capabilities. Israel, for example, has bombed Syria hundreds of times in recent years, yet rarely taken responsibility for any of these attacks.

Compare this with Netanyahu’s remarks following the two-day strikes of August 24-25. Only minutes after the Israeli strikes, Netanyahu hailed the army’s “major operational effort”, declaring that “Iran has no immunity anywhere.”

Regarding the attack on the southeast region of Aqraba in Syria, Netanyahu went into detail, describing the nature of the target and the identities of the enemy as well.

Two of the Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria were identified by the Israeli army, which distributed their photographs while allegedly travelling on the Iranian airline, Mahan “which Israel and the United States have identified as a major transporter of weaponry and materiel to Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in Syria and Lebanon,” according to the Times of Israel.

Why would Israel go to this extent, which will surely help the targeted countries in uncovering some of Israel’s intelligence sources?

The Economist revealed that “some … in Israel’s security and political establishments are uncomfortable” with Netanyahu’s tireless extolling of “Israel’s intelligence-gathering and operational successes in surprising detail.”

The explanation lies in one single phrase: the September 17 elections.

In recent months, Netanyahu has finally managed to wrestle the title: the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister, a designation that the Israeli leader has earned, despite his checkered legacy dotted with abuse of power, self-serving agenda and several major corruption cases that rope in Netanyahu directly, along with his wife and closest aides.

Yet, it remains unclear whether Netanyahu can hang on for much longer. Following the April 9 elections, the embattled Israeli leader tried to form a government of like-minded right-wing politicians, but failed. It was this setback that pushed for the dissolution of the Israeli Knesset on May 29 and the call for a new election. While Israeli politics is typically turbulent, holding two general elections within such a short period of time is very rare, and, among other things, it demonstrates Netanyahu’s faltering grip on power.

Equally important is that, for the first time in years, Netanyahu and his Likud party are facing real competition. These rivals, led by Benjamin Gantz of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) centrist party are keen on denying Netanyahu’s every possible constituency, including his own pro-illegal settlements and pro-war supporters.

Statements made by Gantz in recent months are hardly consistent with the presumed ideological discourse of the political center, anywhere. The former Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army is a strong supporter of illegal Jewish settlements and an avid promoter of war on Gaza. Last June, Gantz went as far as accusing Netanyahu of “diminishing Israel’s deterrence” policy in Gaza, which “is being interpreted by Iran as a sign of weakness.”

In fact, the terms “weak” or “weakness” have been ascribed repeatedly to Netanyahu by his political rivals, including top officials within his own right-wing camp. The man who has staked his reputation on tough personal or unhindered violence in the name of Israeli security is now struggling to protect his image.

This analysis does not in any way discount the regional and international objectives of Netanyahu’s calculations, leading amongst them his desire to stifle any political dialogue between Tehran and Washington, an idea that began taking shape at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. But even that is insufficient to offer a rounded understanding of Netanyahu’s motives, especially because the Israeli leader is wholly focused on his own survival, as opposed to future regional scenarios.

However, the “Mr. Security” credentials that Netanyahu aimed to achieve by bombing multiple targets in four countries might not yield the desired dividends. Israeli media is conveying a sense of panic among Israelis, especially those living in the northern parts of the country and in illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Golan Heights.

This is hardly the strong and mighty image that Netanyahu was hoping to convey through his military gamble. None of the thousands of Israelis who are currently being trained on surviving Lebanese retaliations are particularity reassured regarding the power of their country.

Netanyahu is, of course, not the first Israeli leader to use the military to achieve domestic political ends. Late Israeli leader, Shimon Peres, has done so in 1996 but failed miserably, but only after killing over 100 Lebanese and United Nations peacekeepers in the Southern Lebanese village of Qana.

The consequences of Netanyahu’s gamble might come at a worse price for him than simply losing the elections. Opening a multi-front war is a conflict that Israel cannot win, at least, not any more.

Undeclared US Airstrike on Syria’s Idlib Leaves Multiple Casualties

Sending no warning to Russia or Turkey, the US bombed an array of targets within Idlib, Syria, killing numerous civilians and threatening the hard-earned truce across the province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The air raid led to “multiple casualties and destruction” around two villages in the Idlib province, where a fragile ceasefire between government forces and militants is still in place, the Russian Reconciliation Center said on Sunday. The airstrike, carried out on Saturday, “endangered the truce” and “violated all previous arrangements.”

Earlier, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said it targeted leaders of a group it calls al-Qaeda in Syria. The strike “will further degrade their ability to conduct future attacks and destabilize the region,” it claimed.

But it hit shortly after Syrian government forces began a unilateral truce in the rebel-held province, Russia’s Defense Ministry noted. The Syrian Army is still sticking to the ceasefire despite militant attacks provoked by the US bombing.

Simultaneously, all combat sorties inside Syria were brought to a halt, the ministry said, rebuking US accusations about Russian “indiscriminate airstrikes” in Idlib.

Forces loyal to the government launched a major offensive on Idlib back in April and made significant advances last month. After days of fierce battles, they managed to liberate strategic locations, including Khan Sheikhoun, a town which had remained a rebel stronghold for years.

Still, a part of the province remains in the hands of a host of jihadist groups that continue to fight against the Damascus government. Hostilities between the Syrian army and the militants were mitigated through a joint diplomatic effort by Russia, Turkey and Iran to create a lasting peace in north-eastern Syria.

In September last year, the three nations agreed to create a 30km buffer zone dividing opposing forces, as part of an extended ceasefire.

Several Reasons why West Papua should get its Freedom: Immediately!

More than ten years ago, in Nadi, Fiji, during a UN conference, I was approached by the Minister of Education of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

He was deeply shaken, troubled, his eyes full of tears: “Please help our children,” he kept repeating:

Indonesian army, TNI, is kidnapping our little girls in the villages, raping them, and then… in the most sadistic way cutting off their nipples and clitorises. And if they speak, entire villages get burned down in retribution. Many already have been. Some children managed to escape; to cross the border, from West Papua to PNG. Now they are staying in our refugee camps, but our country is poor; we are hardly coping. Please come to Papua, and we will take you to the border region… please tell the story to the world…

What followed, I described in detail in my book, Oceania. In brief, I managed to scramble some money for my trip from Samoa back to PNG, I found the Minister of Education, but he refused to take me to the camps. I contacted his subordinates as well as local journalists, and was told the same thing:

Nothing has changed; nothing improved; but the Minister was bribed and intimidated by the omnipresent Indonesian embassy.

*****

Now even the mainstream media in Java, including the generally pro-regime English-language daily The Jakarta Post, has had to react to the terrible events which are taking place on the occupied territory of West Papua. On August 19, 2019, Evi Mariani, wrote:

Papuans are said to have endured racial discrimination from the majority Javanese. A political activist from Papua, Filep Karma, wrote in 2014 in his book, Seakan Kitorang Setengah Binatang: Rasialisme Indonesia di Tanah Papua (As If We Are Half Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land), that he experienced racism when he studied in a state university in Surakarta, Central Java. He often heard his friends calling Papuans “monkeys”, he said in the book.

The book speaks volumes of the crimes against humanity facing Papuans on their own land.

But what really is happening in West Papua? Of course, foreign journalists are banned from entering and reporting freely from there. Only official Indonesian journalists, basically lackeys of the regime, are regularly flown to the most devastated and oppressed areas. Their lies and twisted ‘reporting’ are the only things that the world is ‘allowed to see’.

Working for years in South Pacific (Oceania), I visited on several occasions, both Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Vanuatu, where the West Papuan resistance has been regrouping. I also have some 25 years of experience, of working in Indonesia itself. And I used to cooperate with a late professor from Sydney University, Peter King, a man who basically dedicated his life to the plight of West Papua. I spoke at Sydney University, side by side with him, recalling my experience from East Timor; from the Indonesian occupation, where 30-40% of the population lost their life, and where I, myself, was savagely tortured in 1996, for trying to expose the systematic gang rapes committed by the Indonesian military, TNI.

While living in Oceania, I spent days discussing the occupation with the West Papuan refugees, who resided outside Port Moresby, the capital of PNG.

I managed to enter West Papua only once, illegally, in 1999, as a ‘side-trip’ while covering the horrific sectarian conflict in Ambon.

From the information and testimonies that I amassed so far, I can clearly see that the occupation of West Papua is, together with the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is being plundered by both Rwanda and Uganda on behalf of Western corporations and governments and where approximately 8 million people already lost their lives, perhaps the most horrendous genocide taking place on our planet.

But in the region of the Great Lakes of Africa I managed to make my big documentary film, Rwanda Gambit. While in West Papua, I would never be allowed to film, photograph or even openly talk to people. I would never be allowed to enter those monstrous mines controlled by Freeport and other corporations; mines that are being ‘protected’ by the corrupt and murderous Indonesian military.

Prof. Peter King and Prof. John Wing wrote in the Executive Summary to their report “Genocide in West Papua?” (Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney, 2005):

The report details a series of concerns which, if not acted upon, may pose serious threats to the survival of the indigenous people of the Indonesian province of Papua. It covers the threats posed by the Indonesian military to the province’s stability, the recent increase in large scale military campaigns which are decimating highland tribal communities, the HIV/AIDS explosion and persistent Papuan underdevelopment in the face of a rapid and threatening demographic transition in which the Papuans face becoming a minority in their own land.

A “culture of impunity” exists in Indonesia which sees its highest manifestation currently in Papua and Aceh. Military operations have led to thousands of deaths in Papua and continue to costs lives, yet the Republic’s armed forces act as a law unto themselves with no real accountability for crimes against the Papuan population. The report discusses a number of areas of Indonesian security forces involvement, including: illegal logging and corrupt infrastructure and construction work; destabilization and manipulation of local politics, and orchestration of attacks blamed on pro-Papuan independence groups; the introduction of illegal arms and militia training and recruitment; and prostitution and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The report concludes with a number of urgent recommendations to the Indonesian and Australian governments, the United Nations and other involved parties.

Since 2005, not much has improved. Actually, things have deteriorated even further.

Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson reported on August 31, 2017 in their essay “West Papua’s Silent Genocide“:

The occupation of West Papua receives little attention in the UK. This is, in no small part, due to Indonesia’s ban on foreign journalists and its outlawing of West Papuan social movements who try to speak out internationally. However, West Papua has not been forgotten by international corporations, including companies from the UK. For them, Indonesia’s brutal occupation of West Papua provides lucrative opportunities for profit. 

Mining companies exploit the country’s vast wealth of minerals, with security for their operations provided by the Indonesian military. International arms companies profit from selling Indonesia the weapons it needs to maintain the occupation. The UK government, which gives financial support and training to Indonesian police forces, is also complicit in the repression in West Papua.

West Papuans have called on people in the UK to help stop what they describe as the silent genocide in West Papua.

The Free West Papua Campaign states:

Over 500,000 civilians have been killed in a genocide against the indigenous population. Thousands more have been raped, tortured, imprisoned or ‘disappeared’ after being detained. Basic human rights such as freedom of speech are denied and Papuans live in a constant state of fear and intimidation.

In a series of the official reports, fingers were being pointed at Indonesia and its genocidal behavior in the occupied West Papua. From the United Nations to human rights organizations, a gruesome picture has been emerging.

As mentioned by the “Free West Papua Campaign”:

Sexual assault and rape have been repeatedly used as a weapon by the Indonesian military and police.

In a public report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1999, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concluded that the Indonesian security forces used rape “as an instrument of torture and intimidation” in West Papua, and “torture of women detained by the Indonesian security forces was widespread”.

The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights prepared a full report on “Rape and Other Human Rights Abuses by the Indonesian Military in Irian Jaya (West Papua), Indonesia”.

Even the otherwise ‘timid’ Amnesty International (timid when it comes to the West’s allies), admits that torture, killings and other grave human rights abuses, are regularly taking place in the Indonesia-controlled territory, in its reports on West Papua.

Information about sexual assaults and rapes highlighted in the above-mentioned U.N. report, is consistent with the behavior of the Indonesian military during and after the 1965-66 military coup, and later, during the occupation and genocide committed in East Timor.

It is important to point out that the Indonesian military and police are enjoying unprecedented impunity. After presiding over the murder of approximately 2 million Communists, intellectuals, teachers and members of the Chinese minority in 1965-66, no culprit has ever been sent to prison. Acts of killing are still being celebrated, publicly. Generals and officers who openly participated in the East Timor genocide, as well as in the on-going genocide in West Papua, have been holding high positions in the Indonesian governments, including the present one.

The monstrous brutality is well documented (even some mainstream media outlets like Al-Jazeera are regularly releasing footage of torture committed by the Indonesian troops), but Indonesia is never dragged through the international courts of justice. It is because Jakarta is a well-tested and greatly reliable ally of Western companies and governments. For instance, it allows many local and Western mining companies to plunder West Papua. The Indonesian President, “Jokowi”, actually flies around the world, asking for “more investment”, promising tax holidays, ‘reforms’ of already pathetic labor laws, and other pro-big-business concessions.

All this is brilliantly exposed in an Australian short (2:39 minute) satire film “Honest Government Ad/Visit West Papua”.

But the world prefers to stay idle. As least for now. No mass-protest movements, like those in support of the Palestinian cause, or even the Kurdish cause.

Why is all this happening?

My close friend, the renown Australian historian, Geoffrey Gunn, Professor Emeritus at Nagasaki University, wrote for this essay:

The crimes committed by the Indonesian military in Papua today appear very similar to East Timor under Indonesian military occupation between 1975-1999 and with some of the same Indonesian officials involved. That would include General Wiranto the butcher of East Timor in 1999 who, far from being brought before an international tribunal Rwanda-style, enjoys cabinet-level appointment in the Jokowi government. But even when Suharto-era crimes could no longer be covered up in East Timor thanks to the courage of crusading journalists and others, so incredulously does the avowedly democratic regime in Jakarta today disallow the entry of humanitarian workers much less foreign media into Papua. If the Western-backed cover up of crimes committed in East Timor was itself a crime of complicity then Western – especially Australian – silence over the agony of the Papuan people over an even longer time frame is a crime of a special order, and with mining company, oil company interests in the fore as if this was the heart of Africa under Leopold II of Belgium.

We saw the same chilling indifference, when 30% to 40% of East Timorese were slaughtered by Indonesia. Again, and again, I was managing to illegally penetrate that then Indonesian colony, which was screaming in pain, shedding thousands and thousands of people every month. And again, and again, my stories were being rejected; no interest whatsoever shown by the mass media outlets.

Then and now. East Timor and West Papua.

And in Indonesia itself, chilling, horrifying defiance. Silence. Almost no activism, and hardly any awareness. The country lives in total denial. Like in the case of 1965-66, like in the case of East Timor; total rejection of the truth. There is near zero chance that the barbarity will stop because of the pressure ‘from within’. Indonesia has proven, again and again, that after being conditioned by decades of extreme fascist ideology, fundamentalist religions, and grotesque individualism, it has no mercy, and no sympathy for its own victims. After mass killings and consistent conditioning, it is now in a serious mental, pathological state.

The government of President Jokowi is nowhere near being deep in thought, considering a referendum on independence for West Papuans. To the contrary: it is ‘investing in infrastructure’ in order to bring even more ‘investment’ from abroad, and to extract even more natural resources.

According to investigation conducted by Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson:

The Indonesian occupation of West Papua is directly related to corporate interests. US company Freeport-McMoRan operates the Grasberg mine in Papua – the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world. Freeport’s third largest shareholder, Carl Icahn, happens to be a Special Advisor to Donald Trump.

According to the Free West Papua Campaign:

‘Freeport is Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, making billions of dollars for the Indonesian government every year. Freeport reportedly pays the Indonesian military around US $3 million every year in ‘protection money’, ensuring that local West Papuans are kept out of the area.”

TIME states that “In 2015 alone, Freeport mined some $3.1 billion worth of gold and copper here. In addition, Papua boasts timber resources worth an estimated $78 billion.”

Amos explained the history behind Freeport’s mining in West Papua: “A contract was signed for Freeport to operate in West Papua before we were even part of Indonesia.” With the help of Henry Kissinger, Freeport was awarded the rights to pillage West Papua. Kissinger later became a Freeport board member.

Australian-British corporation Rio Tinto holds an interest in Freeport’s Grasberg mine, which entitles it to 40% of production, over specified levels until 2021, and 40% of all production after 2021. 

Meanwhile, British company BP continues to profit from the occupation through its massive liquified natural gas fields in Tangguh. Kugi told us: “BP’s biggest operation in Southeast Asia is in West Papua, and Papuan communities are also being pushed from their land for palm oil.” According to CorpWatch, an indigenous community in West Papua filed a complaint against Sri Lankan company Goodhope Asia for taking over their land to create a palm plantation.”

In the meantime, the government of Indonesia has been turning the pristine waters of Papuan Raja Ampat into a luxury diving destination, charging horrendous airfares and lodging prices, and making the mainly Western tourist live in a bubble.

And Westerners are now coming, indifferent to the fact that they are actually funding genocide, legitimizing occupation. A boycotting Raja Ampat campaign is unheard of.

Now the Papuan people are rising. Their Morning Star flag, the symbol of resistance, is waving again, all over the island.

The world should support the Papuan people. They have been suffering for decades. Their nation lost hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Torture, rape and humiliation have been widespread ever since the beginning of the occupation. Religion has been brutally forced down the throats of the robbed people, in many areas of West Papua: ‘You either embrace Islam, or you will starve to death, after we have looted you of all that you used to possess’.

Here, Java and its Western handlers have managed to re-define colonialism, bringing it to a monstrous extreme.

It is a “Freedom or Death” situation, now. Either freedom, or, the total destruction of the nation. The Indonesian President Jokowi is on a selling spree. He is flying all over the world, offering what is left of both Indonesia, and its ‘dependencies’, to the multi-national corporations, for an extremely low price and often, tax free. Papua is not his, and he is well aware of the fact that it may soon find a way to break free from the torture chamber and the horror of Indonesian occupation. That is why he is accelerating his business activities: trying to trade as quickly as possible with what is not his to touch.

* First Published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

No Country for Old Protest Marchers

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
— from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The first time I got involved in demonstrations was back in 1967, and concerned what I considered to be a crime against mankind, over in a little country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam.  Along about the same time, providence led me to drop out of Arizona State University, and enroll at the Phoenix campus extension of The Kesey College of Psychedelics.  There, I devoured the curriculum, and graduated summa cum laude with a solid “A” on the final acid test within a single semester.

Unfortunately the local draft board didn’t recognize my chosen educational institution, so there I was, a mere lad of 19 and about to lose the coveted student deferment.  Now old acidheads like me, who’ve managed to survive this far into the next century, well understand that the massive protests against The Vietnam War would likely not have happened at all, or at least not have been as widespread and successful in helping end that abominable slaughter, had it not been for two factors:  one was the only non-toxic gift given to mankind by the C.I.A….that being the empathetic power of L.S.D., and two being the instinct of self-preservation within millions of young U.S. male citizens, who were prime cannon fodder for the C.I.A./U.S. Military.  Make love not war, Dude.

The counterculture anti-war protests of that time were arguably the last successful, legitimate demonstrations to take place on U.S. soil, and likely worldwide.  But I didn’t understand that until recently.

So over the years I picked up my protest signs with vigor and enthusiasm, marching several times against Arizona’s blatantly racist legislation, known as S.B. 1070.  Thousands flooded into the streets of downtown Phoenix.  Speeches were made.  Mass chants were shouted to the heavens.  A small band of heavily-armed skinheads showed up in counter-protest.  Police presence was everywhere.  “The people united will never be defeated!” we cried.  But in the end Arizona, not surprisingly, passed the bill which mandates racial profiling from all law enforcement agencies in the state.  The people united didn’t have a chance.

Then, of course, there was the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, and maybe it’s just me but I haven’t seen any apparent change as a result.  The 99% of us remain the feudal serfs of the 1%, fighting their wars, paying their taxes to fund those wars (now fought in so many ingenious and creative new ways), guarding their national borders, overflowing prisons, banks, and gated communities, mowing their lawns, mopping their floors, swallowing their incessant media swill, and wiping their asses.

On Maui, where Monsanto Biotechnology Corporation routinely poisoned both The Valley Isle and its population with impunity, we carried out several tepid, police-directed demonstrations.  “Stay on the sidewalk!  Cross intersections only on green lights!  Keep moving because if you stop, you’re loitering and subject to arrest!”  All with Monsanto goons watching and recording from their signature nondescript beige Chevy trucks.  They were festive, fun, weekend events, complete with dogs and children, and guess how much good they did!  At any given moment in the U.S. of A., we are all being exposed to untold millions of gallons of Monsanto’s Roundup Weed and Sentient Being Killer.  Glyphosate:  The gift that keeps on giving.  You can’t walk into a Lowe’s or Home Depot without stumbling over a few thousand plastic jugs of the malignant carcinogenic fluid labeled “Roundup”.

It occurs to me now that all those protests were just good physical exercise, and little more.  Even less successful if you were among those who got arrested, gassed, or had their heads busted in the process.  The thing is…fixing one small piece of a system that’s already hopelessly broken is an act of futility.  Women’s rights?  Forget it.  Gay rights, minority rights, immigrant rights, gun control, equal internet access…all just lounge chairs on the deck of the Titanic, and no matter how you arrange them…you know the rest.

Somehow, the C.I.A. must have been too involved with moving drugs and weapons in Southeast Asia, back in my youth, to pay attention to how well Wall Street’s media circus was covering the protests on U.S. soil.  Thanks to nonstop, uncut film footage, the anti-war movement grew from the overt actions of a small minority into something popular with a majority of citizens.  The scale was tipped after Kent State, and the Vietnam War ended with a whimper.  The 1% learned the lesson well, and subsequent civil disobedience in the streets has been marginalized or ignored, as per official government directives to all mainstream “news” sources.  During the Vietnam days we’d chant “The whole world is watching.”  Today most U.S. citizens don’t have a clue what their government does in their names, and their reality consists of so-called reality television shows.

Above all else, the media’s job is to keep the 99% from suspecting that there are some basic flaws in the so-called democracy we’re instructed to worship like a god and love more than life.  Voting?  A completely ineffectual act.  There is only one party to vote into office, and whether red or blue, the result will always be the same.  Trump is Obama.  The media trick is to keep the circus running seamlessly in all three rings.  Keep the military lions and tigers leaping through fiery hoops, squeeze two dozen republican clowns into a tiny car, and leave the audience breathless with death defying feats of D.N.C. trapeze artists.  Punctuate all this with a few beers and hotdogs, a heartfelt, teary-eyed rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, a few disabled veterans (preferably with missing limbs), and an earth-shaking flyover by The Blue Angels, and you’ve got the perfect combination for keeping the masses forever clueless with an overdose of bread and circuses.

Those of us who refuse to attend the circus have a thankless task ahead of us if we attempt to spoil the illusions for the vast majority.  We Americans have been assured that we are God’s (the Christian god’s) chosen ones.  We live in the land of the free and home of the brave.  We are Obama’s exceptional people, and superior to any and all of the lesser folks in inferior countries.  Our government reserves the right of Wall Street to worldwide resources, regardless of where they might be located.  Our warfare now includes mass-starvation and death through sanctions and embargos, bought and staged foreign government crushing demonstrations, assassinations, and whatever it takes to maintain power and control over our underlings and their valuables.

Protesting for causes is a completely worthless act, unless you just need to blow off some steam and shout in the streets without being locked up for insanity or for disturbing the peace.  The only possible way to end racial profiling is to open the borders of all nations to every earthling.  Ending S.B. 1070 would be the equivalent of pissing on a forest fire.  Occupying Wall Street might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the only way to end hunger, homelessness, poverty, obscene wealth, and voracious greed would be to take control of government out of Wall Street’s hands, placing it firmly into the embrace of all citizens.  Even poor ones.  Monsanto’s crimes against humanity are only one tiny facet of the injustice perpetuated by thousands of predatory corporations which claim both personhood and immunity from responsibility for their crimes.  And if you still believe that marching in the streets for social issues will do any good, perhaps you should be locked up for insanity.  Your voice goes unheard, and makes no noise at all, falling upon absent ears like a tree in a remote, unoccupied forest.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death, claimed the Bard of Avon.  People who agree with my assessments of the foolishness of mankind have been warning about nuclear holocaust and the end of the world for my entire life.  Now it appears that the arms race with a reluctant but goaded Russia is kicking back into high gear, and that the end time may indeed be at hand.  I don’t usually like being wrong, but in this case I don’t want to be right.  And buying a portfolio of stock in corporations specializing in the manufacture of W.M.D.’s would be no silver lining in that dark cloud.  I hear that rich folks bleed just like you and me.  Let’s do everything we can to avoid finding out.  Hasta la victoria siempre!

Lies of the Victors

Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, reads as a meditation on the reliability of memory. Or even as a bill of indictments against the self-serving selectivity of memory. The book beautifully, if kaleidoscopically, reveals how an older man misremembers events of his youth, how his memories cast him in the warmth of the sun rather than cool shadow, as it were, until the actual character of his early behavior, and its consequences, is revealed by a figure from his past. The revelations force the narrator to reevaluate the narrative of his life, not always with kind effect.

So often what we experience at the individual level is reflected on a collective plane. What Barnes imagined at a micro-level in his searching novel, the political left has mined at a macro-level, calling attention to an increasingly obvious, “plutocratic propaganda system” disseminated round the clock through mainstream media. Noam Chomsky calls it our, “doctrinal system.” Louis Althusser wrote about it as an, “ideological state apparatus.” Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers argues these elite-crafted forms of consensus are often, “false historical narratives.” Robert Creel headed a commission for Woodrow Wilson that successfully used systemic mass messaging to shape the opinions of ordinary Americans — from pacifist to warlike. The McCarthy Era, once an unimaginable epoch of almost farcical credulity, generated media-driven fright that had millions cowering before the threat of communism. Russiagate has renewed the emotional traumas of McCarthyism for a new generation.

After researching evolutionary selection pressures for lying, the biologist Trivers discovered that one of the advantages of self-deceit is that it makes one’s lies more convincing. It’s hard to be a persuasive liar if you are intensely conscious of your own fakery; but if you believe what you’re saying, watch out. The tics of the amateur con vanish into the ether. True conviction emerges. In politics, the field where undetectable falsification is a desired skill set, this may indicate that the purveyors of false historical narratives genuinely believe their own forgeries and fabrications. Donald Trump believes, in his race-obsessed mind, that immigrants are an existential threat to the nation (of privileged whites). He doesn’t see it as race baiting. Barack Obama believed that a compromising incrementalism was the best path forward and that the military-industrial-intelligence community should largely be left to its own devices. He didn’t regard it as devastating capitulation. Nor did he appear particularly unsettled by the human cost of unrestrained militarism. Ronald Reagan doubtless feared the communist hordes as he sent a river of arms into Central America. Yet he didn’t recognize his own fearsome paranoia.

In The Sense of an Ending, the narrator has reshaped his personal history in self-flattering fashion, stripping away the pernicious elements of his actions, leaving a clean tale intact. His complicity in a suicide and birth of an unwanted child elude his memory. In the same way, a president’s internal narrative may allow him to sleep comfortably at night, despite the crimson stains on his record. In Sense, this allows the central character to effectively evade any reckoning he’d have had to make with his self-image as a decent human being. This rings true to life. How many people do you know that believe they are genuinely good people? Who conveniently erase facts that complicate the narrative? Likewise, how many nations do you know that believe they are on the right side of history?

A few examples snatched from the headlines should suffice to indicate the general level of popular deceit at work in the national narrative:

According to FAIR, the state propaganda radio network NPR has smeared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the government no less than 26 times since December with such choice epithets “authoritarian” and “regime,” while elections are cleverly discredited when baseless terms like “fraud” are regularly peppered into the script. All this despite Maduro’s greater claim to electoral legitimacy than Donald Trump. Naturally, NPR has spent little time depicting the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy. A massive food shipment was recently detained in the Panama Canal. Tens of thousands are said to have died thanks to Washington’s bitter, fear-driven siege against the socialist Bolivarians. And still millions of American liberals take their morning tea with this soothing NPR drivel, swallowing its deceits with the ease of their daily medications, both ensuring a robotic response to the day’s news.

Independent reports on YouTube reveal that the Google-owned video platform is suppressing millions of viewers from seeing independent news and analysis. No surprise, since Google itself has already been outed as a thoroughly biased search engine throwing its algorithmic magic behind Democrats and all manner of corporate media propaganda. A recent search for Jeffery Epstein news returned dozens of mainstream videos but not a single alternative newscast. How comical that this search monopoly once premised its existence on the credo, “Don’t Be Evil.” In any case, all the views that used to find their way to independent content have apparently now been redirected to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX channels. You have to hand it to the ruling class; they understand class solidarity.

In Brazil, the entire professional class appears to loathe the worker’s party, Partido de Trabalhadores, or PT, as somehow worse than the disastrously corrupt neoliberal governments that preceded it. This largely thanks to media that framed the PT in such a manner. But Glen Greenwald’s reportage at The Intercept has now demonstrated what many on the left thought all along, that the entire Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva crime scandal was a judicial farce, much like the Dilma Rousseff impeachment. The latter was a constitutional coup that removed a sitting president while the former was an illegal frame-up designed to bar Lula from running for president again. Now a fascist thug rules with a volatile confection of racist tropes, laissez faire concessions, and military jingoism. Perfect.

Yet we wonder why Americans are so out of step with world opinion, so comprehensively ignorant of world affairs, not least the notorious actions of their own government abroad. Reuters buried a story on deaths caused by U.S. sanctions in Venezuela. A pittance of reportage was done on the fairly huge story of some 120 countries backing the Venezuelan government. That meeting of the nonaligned movement certainly garnered less coverage than the Obama administration alone dismissing Venezuelan elections in 2013 and Trump preemptively rejecting them last year. Did anyone see news on the large recent anti-imperialist protests in Venezuela as well? Where is the ongoing coverage of the Gilets Jaunes in France, who continue to protest for the 40th consecutive week? No, only when the state forces of a target nation swing into action, and the spectre of repression materializes, are cameras hoisted on shoulders and microphones lifted to babbling lips. That means a story is at hand. If there’s state violence afoot, the automaton journalists can unpack their favorite tropes about Latin caudillos and shaky democratic institutions.

Unlike the hush that has fallen over French discontent, the hyperventilating coverage of the Hong Kong protests have blanketed the mainstream press. By design. The target is China, the aim to discredit the Communist government and reduce the mainland’s control over Hong Kong. The tactics employed by the protestors derive from Gene Sharp’s blueprint to provoke harsh reprisals from sitting governments. The protestors are lavishly funded by the West, namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Orwellian soft power apparatus created by the Reagan administration to effect internal rebellions in target nations. Of course, as is always the case, roiled protestors have some real grievances. Housing costs are some 70 percent of the median income.

Not only that, but we are balefully purblind about our own form of government. Thanks to Russiagate, millions of Americans believe “our democracy” (a nonexistent phantom in its own right) has been attacked by some devilish collection of rogue Slavs headed by Vladimir Putin. This rejuvenated cliché of the externalized other is misdirection. Rather than focus on the systemic flaws of our government, we direct our fears and scorn at Moscow and at the vicious oaf in the White House. Both are easy targets.

We often digest these false story lines because they coincide with an underlying strata of deeper historical untruth that forms the bedrock of the national narrative. Given the human proclivity to dodge cognitive dissonance, our acceptance of this afternoon’s fake news is predicated on the fake news of fifty years ago. The triumphalism of the post-World War Two era has continued through today. The stories line up. We fought for freedom from totalitarian regimes during the Cold War. We war for our democratic freedoms today.

This is partly why it can be so difficult for us to even consider with any degree of sincerity the arguments of someone like Gerald Horne, prolific Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, who concludes that the American Revolution was largely ignited by a desire among slave owners and slave traders to protect their burgeoning super profits from an UK government that had incentives to abolish the practice of slavery. In fact, a London judge outlawed slavery just five years before the American revolt. British elites also knew that abolition would have devastated the colonial economy, which was becoming a dangerous competitor to the crown. Horne’s monograph is powerful, his contentions incendiary. Yet they undermine the soaring rhetorical odes that flicker through our minds when we hear the national anthem or glimpse the rippling flag. And so we scarcely hear his name.

Perhaps the larger point one can make in this regard is that to understand the deceits that inform our national narrative is to accept the possibility, or rather the likelihood, that the United State is on the wrong side of history. This thesis is nothing precious to African-Americans or other marginalized citizenries. But among libertarian-minded blue-collar patriots or liberal professionals it is seldom voiced, a recidivate notion dismissed as daft or conspiracy laden. But it is precisely this questioning consciousness that will need to spread more powerfully among all elements of the population before radical change can occur. A revolution in consciousness always precedes apostasy. Heresy begins between the ears.

At one point early in the Barnes novel, a character muses that history is a combination of “the lies of the victors” and the “self-delusions of the defeated.” If we want any chance at progressive triumph, we ought first to dispense with the delusions of our self-flattering mythos.

John Pilger: We Are in a WAR SITUATION with China!

On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to legendary journalist and film-maker John Pilger on a round-up of all the latest issues. John describes the current state of global affairs as in a state of world war, warning that the ‘coming war on China’ he warned about…has now arrived, he also discusses the Hong Kong protests and why they have grown, along with US involvement in the unrest. He discusses the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework with the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia, amid a situation where he describes it as Washington’s goal to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He also warns of the increased risk of nuclear war as nuclear superpowers such as Pakistan and India are also entering major tensions between each other. John Pilger also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump, how Brexit has created mass-distraction in the UK from the most pressing of issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad. He slams sanctions on Venezuela and Iran and also updates us on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison.

OMG Trump Cancels Denmark!

This morning the Danes could wake up to a Twitter message from US President Trump that he was anyhow not going to Denmark on September 2-3 – in spite of the fact that it had been confirmed and that, formally at least, he had been invited by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II herself.

Here is his tweet

The background

Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, a few days ago visited Greenland and let it be known that the Arctic region was a very important security issue: “We can already say that to get the Americans even more closely involved in what happens in our part of the Arctic – the Unity of the Realm – is essential. And an even stronger strategic cooperation between our countries is important for both Greenland and Denmark.” (My translation of her statement to the Danish Broadcasting (Danmarks Radio) quoted here).

Danmarks Radio also reported that she finds such a much stronger cooperation with the US “unavoidable” and she herself ends her statement with this: “And there is no doubt that it is the US that is our closest ally, not everybody else. So when it comes to military presence, we have to keep pace with the development.” This means more, not less, US military presence in Greenland.

It was during this visit she also said in a comment to Trump that Greenland was not for sale.

It’s hardly surprising that Danish politicians across the political spectrum (not very broad) express their surprise at Trump’s rather arrogant and anti-diplomatic turnaround. They are all very upset and focus on him and his personality – urge him to show more respect, call him mad, undiplomatic, a fool, an elephant in a porcelain shop, a man with a colonial thinking and one who has created a diplomatic farce. (Much of it being surprisingly – at least to me – undiplomatic and unable to see it as a political rather than psychological issue).

Their frustration is boiling over – perhaps understandably.

Self-pity for the first time feeling harassed

But – really – what’s the fuss?

The fuss of course is that Denmark – one of the most blindly loyal US allies for decades – gets to taste a bit of what it means to be treated by the US Empire.

During the last 20 years, Denmark has been at the forefront fighting wars on US demand: Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan, co-occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007, a main bombing nation at the destruction of Libya, bombing again in Iraq and Syria and politically always – without exception – being uncritically on the side of the US – so too in its suffocating-through-sanctions and war-mongering policies vis-a-vis Iran.

Former Danish prime minister – an un-convicted war criminal by the name of Anders Fogh-Rasmussen – was rewarded for his dragging Denmark into the invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2007 – the country’s biggest foreign policy blunder since 1945 – by being catapulted into the seat of NATO Secretary-General and, in that role, spearheaded the destruction of Libya way outside the UN mandate given.

The Danish political establishment and mainstream media have had no qualms about these policies, not to speak of sympathy for the victims of these US wars – except in the quite limited sense of feeling sorrow for the Danish young men who have fallen in these futile, international law-breaking wars.

It’s been self-pity in inverse proportion to empathy with real victims’ real suffering thanks to the US Danish-supported wars.

It’s not about Trump and his psychology

In the reactions by every leading politician in Denmark seem to be an underlying – idyllic, illusory – assumption that it is all about a man and his personality – an assumption Trump of course would adore.

However, that is misplaced. It’s about a system, a political culture and an Empire of which he is the elected leader.

It’s about a US that is not only a society, or republic, but an empire – and which is not a world leader with a MIMAC – Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – but is a MIMAC.

The expiry date before which the US could have prevented itself from becoming such a complex – that President Eisenhower warned us all against – has passed long ago. Like a drug addict, it lives on violence in general and military means in particular.

It’s about an actor who has repeatedly scolded its allies – however, never Denmark, there was no reason – and on a daily basis bullied the world.

The US Empire in a nutshell

What is Trump’s decision to not visit little Denmark in reality about? Think this way:

In a nutshell, it’s about US global Empire-policy, militarism, bullying and believing in its own fundamental exceptionalism – standing over and above the Rest.

OK, these are words you still cannot use in Denmark without being blacklisted from the so-free called media, I know. But so be it. One day, everybody will use them – that is, when the US Empire has fallen and the US becomes a pleasant and interesting Republic to visit again. Everybody also distanced themselves from the Soviet Union too late – when it had fallen.

The main means of the US Empire (repat not the Republic) are these – and they are in quite another category than a diplomatically arrogant “I don’t bother to visit your little unimportant country and couldn’t care less about Her Majesty, Tivoli and the Little Mermaid” kinda thing:

Intimidation, political threats, sanctions (against close to 30 countries), demonisation, fake and omission, self-promotion through cultural and media penetration, exceptionalism, lies and propaganda, 600 bases in 130 countries, CIA in even more, special forces in God only know how many, threats of war as well as de facto interventions, occupations and wars – almost every day somewhere since 1945; regime change (almost 50 between 1943 and 2003 alone), a systematic violations of international laws and deliberate undermining of the United Nations and its Charter.

It’s the only country which in its 18th year conducts a self-righteous but counterproductive – global war on terror instead of caring about its own complicity in terror – and having through that only created much more terror, including ISIS, a result of its irresponsible, ignorant policies as administrator of Iraq.

And while we are at it: its nuclear megalomania.

The US is the only country in the world that has used nuclear weapons (for no good reason, Japan was finished) and also not having apologised for it. The only country which has a military doctrine that includes the first use of nuclear weapons also against conventional attacks and cyber attacks and, finally, the only country that has official reports about the possible de facto use of nuclear weapons to win a war in the future.

Yes, there are wonderful sides to the US. But these dark sides – all facts, no fake – need to be taken seriously, particularly in all things security.

A lover rejected – more submissiveness

That sort of thing has never upset the Danish foreign policy establishment – and if it has, it’s been kept secret in politics, research and media.

It was necessary to be submissive and loyal to the point of giving up all Danish/Nordic identity – socio-cultural values, international solidarity, empathy and decency – to be close to the US. To really show how much it loved the US (and hated Russia) has been Priority No 1.

And thus, Denmark has become a super active rogue bombing state – however, sadly, while most of the Danes drink latte and couldn’t care less about what their government does in Libya or Syria or what is problematic about the collective punishment of the Iranian people called sanctions.

And now – having done all that – being rejected, humiliated by the object of one’s blind respect/fear and even love?! Yes, it is hard – as can be seen from today’s statement: This is how you treat us in spite of all we’ve done for you!

And that’s why the subconscious thought, or hope, is that this is only an interlude, a parenthesis called Trump. After him, with a more “normal” president, the good old relationship with the beloved good old US will re-emerge.

Sorry, it won’t. Don’t be delusional. There’s been enough self-blindfolding!

This is the real character of your loved one – and you’ve only experienced the mildest version of it. Don’t keep believing there are only good sides because he will beat you up again if you commit the same crime again of saying no to the US!

It is perhaps the first time since 1945 Denmark is exposed to US foreign policy in its confrontational mode. Instead of self-pity, Denmark should take it as a wake-up call. Look around and reduce its total dependence just a little.

In terms of foreign policy, little warrior Denmark has never been anything but a pawn in the Empire’s game and the NATO sub-game. And, thus it is utterly unprepared for a crisis such as this.

Trump’s cancellation is a fine opportunity

See President Trump’s dropping of the visit as a wake-up call, as a wonderful opportunity to begin thinking – Denmark hasn’t been thinking independently before – of new ways to navigate and strategize and find partners with a vision whom you can cooperate with the next 50 years. It is not the US.

Because the future of the world – if there is going to be one – must be about cooperation and civil tools, not confrontation and military tools. It must be about mutual respect and benefits. Not exploitation and exceptionalism by any. A world in which there will be no new empire trying to rule the world – the Chinese are not that stupid, so feel good!

Denmark, it’s time to drop your dependency and self-pity. Instead, try a little new thinking for the first time since you became a member of NATO: Keep your friendship with the US society – the Republic – but distance yourself from the militarist – and declining – US Empire – and build new cooperative relations with the rest of the world.

Walk on two legs.

A wise person doesn’t put all her eggs in one basket. Neither does a small country that wants peace for itself and the world.

Post Script
This afternoon at a press conference, prime minister Mette Frederiksen said repeatedly that the cancellation of the visit will/should have no consequences for the otherwise good relations between the countries. And that the invitation to the US about closer security political cooperation still stands “completely untouched”.

So, one must see this whole story a serious diplomatic crisis in more than one sense. Just imagine that she had accepted an invitation to visit President Trump and cancelled it with a similar excuse – for instance, that she could not buy Trump Tower or Hawaii. Oh no – We’ll obey you forever, no matter how you treat us!

And, so, Donald Trump will put on one of his self-satisfied winner smiles and say to people around him – “there you see, I get away with everything.” And he and his country will do much worse things tomorrow. All Empires do.

Until they fall.