Category Archives: NATO

Letter to the Young People of Hong Kong

Now that your city has been in flames for more than six months, your families divided, and no end to the violence is in sight, I have decided to write this short essay, in the form of an open letter, to the young people of Hong Kong.

First of all, I want to ask: Why?

Why all this smoke and fire, wrath and violence? Were your lives, before the so-called “protests”, or “riots”, really so dismal?

You have been living in one of the richest cities on earth. Even according to Western evaluations, Hong Kong has one of the highest “freedom indexes”, higher than that of most of Western countries.

Water that comes from your taps is clean, the Internet is extremely fast, public transportation is cheap and one of the best in the world. You can enjoy an exciting cultural life, as well as great public spaces constructed along your impressive coasts.

Naturally, Hong Kong is not a perfect place, as there are no perfect places on this planet.

Your housing is some of the most expensive in the world. Job opportunities for college graduates are not really excellent. Some cities on Mainland China are now more exciting places to live, to create and to dream, than ‘good old’ Hong Kong. But still, it is a fascinating, solid city, with its own culture, mindset and complex history. And in many ways, it is a beautiful city; beautiful and unique.

So, why? What happened? Why suddenly such anger, and such frustration?

Should we talk? Please let’s.

*****

I have worked in around 160 countries and territories on all continents. I have written about and I have filmed many wars and conflicts. I have been covering revolutions and rebellions, but also terrible riots ignited by Western countries. You probably have heard about the so-called “Color Revolutions”, or the “Arab Spring”.

I have witnessed, first hand, the fate of countries that have been occupied and then thoroughly destroyed by the United States and NATO: Afghanistan and Syria, Iraq and Colombia, to name just a few. I have seen millions of ruined lives in nations where the West overthrew left-wing governments, and then injected fascism: places like Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973). Now there is nothing left of Indonesia; its nature is thoroughly ruined and the great majority lives in misery. In Chile, people have stood up, and are proudly fighting and dying for socialism which was stolen from them by Western governments and corporations.

I have lived and worked all over the African continent, the most devastated part of the world, colonized and terrorized first by Europe, and later by the United States, for many centuries.

lat-love for the US

In Hong Kong, I see you waving flags of the United States. You want that country to “save you from China” (from your own nation, in essence). I have read a translation of your school curriculum. It smears China, and it glorifies the West. Were you told, ever, that in the name of that flag, consisting of the stars and stripes, tens of millions of people, worldwide, were murdered, democracies were raped, and freedom of expression horrendously oppressed? Or are you only reading what is brought to you by Reuters and other Western press agencies?

When waving the U.K. flags, nostalgically recalling your British masters and their rule over Hong Kong, do you even think about some of the most monstrous crimes committed in the history of humankind? On all continents of the world, the British Empire murdered, humiliated, violated and plundered; hundreds of millions of people. Human beings were reduced to slaves. Their lives, identities, were reduced to nothing.

Were you told this? Do you realize it? When you wave these flags, when your leaders are taking bribes from the U.S. and the E.U. establishment, do you ever think what kind of money you are touching? Do you ever consider that this money is soaked in blood?

I saw several of you demanding “independence from China”. I even witnessed some of you calling China a “terrorist” state.

Have you ever, seriously, compared the Chinese political system to that, so-called, “democracy” of the West?

Let me give you a simple quiz: In the last decades, how many countries have been attacked by China, and how many by the West? Just do a simple calculation, please. It is so simple; so clear. How many countries have been bombed to the ground, and thoroughly ruined by China, and how many by the West?

And democracy? In China, the government listens to its people. In reality, democracy means nothing more than the direct translation from Greek – rule of the people. In PRC, the government is working to improve the lives of its citizens, while building a global infrastructure for all (BRC). Now, look at the West: most of the citizens in North America and Europe hate their system, but cannot get rid of it. Some of you regularly travel to the West: don’t you hear what the people are saying there?

In the last two decades, China has lifted up hundreds of millions out of poverty. In the West, the governments have buried billions of people in misery in all their colonies. Despite of the terrible plunder of the world, tens of millions are destitute at home, in both North America and Europe.

Despite of the not too high GDP per capita, China has almost no misery, while tens of millions of the U.S. citizens are living in poverty. There are many more prisoners (per capita) in the U.S. prisons, than in the Chinese ones.

Many U.S. prisons are now privatized: it is a big business. The more that are held behind bars, the bigger the profit!

Is this a system in which you’d want to live? Is it, really?

I know the West very well. And I know China. These days, in Hong Kong, some of you are waving Western flags, while insulting Beijing.

The West has the most powerful propaganda on earth. It has the ability to twist everything; to call black – white, and vice versa.

But frankly, it is Beijing, which has the ability and desire to help solve the problems of Hong Kong.

Do you really think that Washington, London or Berlin are genuinely interested in helping your city? I am convinced that they only want to break China, and to continue ruling over the world.

To conclude this letter, let me say what has to be said: After speaking to people that are now angrily waving black banners, as well as U.S. and U.K. flags, I realized that they know very little about the state of the world. And, they do not want to listen to different points of view. When confronted intellectually, they become violent.

That is not a democratic approach; not at all.

I suggest we talk. Publicly. Let us debate the very definitions of democracy. Let us discuss who has done more harm to the world: China or the West? I am ready, anytime.

If the leaders of Hong Kong riots, or “protests” are confident that they are correct, let us face each other, in front of microphones and cameras.

I love your city. I love Hong Kong. I love China. And I strongly believe that China and Hong Kong are one beautiful, inseparable entity.

I am ready to give my best, proving that point.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

* First published by China Daily/Hong Kong

US’ Afghan War: Imperialism’s Limit exposed

US Afghanistan War reveals imperialism’s limit. It’s, as Mao said decades ago, a paper tiger. The war is the evidence.

The just published The Washington Post report – “The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war, At war with the truth”, (by Craig Whitlock, December 9, 2019) – carries the story of this limit. It’s, to some, a story of corruption. To another section, the war is mismanaged, which is inefficiency, wrong planning, etc. But, the root of the failure is in the deep: Imperialism’s characteristic.

The 18 years long war with nearly $1 trillion taxpayers’ money is costlier as the US people lost 2,300 of their citizens – US troops. More than 20,000 US troops were injured in the war. And, since 2001, more than 775,000 US troops have deployed to Afghanistan. Three US presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders tried/are trying to win the Afghan war.

Citing the WaPo report, Slate in its report “The War in Afghanistan was Doomed from the start, The main culprit? Corruption” (by Fred Kaplan on December 9, 2019) said:

The war in Afghanistan has been a muddle from the beginning, steered by vague and wavering strategies, fueled by falsely rosy reports of progress from the battlefield, and almost certainly doomed to failure all along.

This is the inescapable conclusion of a secret U.S. government history of the war — consisting of 2,000 pages, based on interviews with more than 400 participants — obtained and published by The Washington Post on December 9, 2019 after years of legal battles to declassify the documents.

Written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud, the report, titled Lessons Learned, is the most thorough official critique of an ongoing American war since the Vietnam War review commissioned in 1967 by then – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The Afghan War Doc, if it may be dubbed in this way, is a significant document for studying imperialism that exposes its inner working system, its character and a number of its weaknesses. It’s not only an exposure of the national security bureaucracy of the state waging the war; it’s also a revelation of the state – the way the state perceives, thinks, analyzes, calculates, plans, acts. It points its fingers to the politics and political process of the state involved before pointing fingers to the national security bureaucracy; because this bureaucracy can’t move a millimeter in any direction without directives from any faction of the political leadership of the state, and all the factions of the political leadership move along the routes the political process permits.

Citing the WaPo report, the Slate report said: The war has been “built on ignorance, lies, and counterproductive policies.”

No state intentionally or deliberately wages war on ignorance, lies and counterproductive policies. The state machine’s inherent process produces ignorance, lies, etc. It means somewhere in the machine lies are produced, ignorance is manufactured, and the machine perceives lies, etc. are beneficial to it. Where’s this “somewhere”? How it survives and operates with lies, corruption, etc.? The bourgeois politicians, academia, its theoreticians don’t look into this “somewhere”, into this process of manufacturing ignorance, lies, corruption.

Slate said in its report:

Central to the current war effort — and to its failure — was corruption. [….] The United States failed because the billions of dollars we poured into the country only made Afghanistan’s corruption worse.

A state machine, most powerful in today’s world as is widely perceived, fails to check corruption in the machine it has constructed in the land – Afghanistan – it’s waging its longest war! It’s a “riddle” – money poured to win a war, and the money is eating out the war-effort. The state fails to manage either money or war. In spite of this fact of failure, the state dreams to dictate the world!

The WaPo report said:

[S]enior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth […] making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

It was lying to the taxpayers, the citizens employing the officials to carry on duties the citizens entrusted to the officials. And, the state can’t control the lying business. It’s the state’s failure – a few persons employed by the state were misleading the state and the entire body of the taxpayers, and the state is not a lifeless identity as there are hundreds of intelligent persons including veteran politicians. And, the state machine is not separate from these persons – officials and political leaders in charge of the affairs. Alternatively, there’s something else behind this deliberate job of “deviating” from truth, if it’s deviation, if not usual practice, which is not. Any of the two is serious failure, fatal ultimately, if this – deviation from truth – is the case.

The documents, according to the WaPo, were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in US history. The US government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The WaPo won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle. It took three years and two federal lawsuits for the WaPo to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records. US officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it. It shows bourgeois state is not inherently and always transparent. State machine serving a class can never be always transparent. Moreover, who decides what to release publicly or not? Isn’t it a group of officials? Marxist political scientists already discussed this issue – role of executive – many times. Thus, they – the officials – stand above taxpayers, citizens.

The documents show:

  1. Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.
  2. Despite vows the US wouldn’t get mired in “nation-building” in Afghanistan, it has wasted billions doing just that. The US has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II. An unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015: “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”
  3. The US flooded the country with money — then ignored the graft it fueled.
  4. Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption.
  5. The US war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn.
  6. The US government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war, but the costs are staggering.
  7. US officials acknowledged that their war strategies were fatally flawed.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of US military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

So, it’s found:

  1. Lack of knowledge! [Unbelievable in the case of the state widely perceived as the most powerful in the world.]
  2. No comprehensive war plan! [Also unbelievable.]
  3. No accounting! [How much money the taxpayers spent behind inspectors to check with spending? A lot.]
  4. The US people were not aware of the real picture. What’s the level of transparency, accountability, and the media claiming to be free? [The WaPo’s legal struggle to get the documents is evidence of “free” flow of info, and the decisive role of the executive branch.]
  5. A breakdown within the system of Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department – a system with elected politicians and employed persons.

Then, what does this signify? Is it a powerful, vibrant, working system? Only fools keep trust on this machine, which appears, with a shortsighted view, very powerful, but very weak to its core in the long-term.

Since 2001, the US Defense Department, State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. These figures do not include money spent by other agencies including the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The documents, the WaPo report said, also contradict a long chorus of public statements from US presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured the US taxpayers year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

The report said:

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the US government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case. [Emphasis added.]

‘Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,’ Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. ‘Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.’ [Emphasis added.]

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show ‘the American people have constantly been lied to. [Emphasis added.]

Diplomats and envoys from this state constantly advise Third and Fourth World countries to be factual regarding all aspects of life in these countries. Do they have any moral ground for delivering this sort of sermon? Neither the mainstream politics nor the MSM in these countries raise this question when these diplomats shower sermons; even a group of the organizations and persons claiming to be anti-imperialist feel shy to raise the question.

The interviews are the byproduct of a project led by Sopko’s agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the agency the US Congress created in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. Reports SIGAR produced, said WaPo, were “written in dense bureaucratic prose and focused on an alphabet soup of government initiatives, left out the harshest and most frank criticisms from the interviews.”

The reports omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the people interviewed. While a few officials agreed to speak on the record to SIGAR, the agency said it promised anonymity to everyone else it interviewed to avoid controversy over politically sensitive matters.

James Dobbins, a former senior US diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers: “[W]e clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

The WaPo obtained hundreds of pages of previously classified memos about the Afghan war that were dictated by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld between 2001 and 2006. Dubbed “snowflakes” by Rumsfeld and his staff, according to the WaPo, “the memos are brief instructions or comments that the Pentagon boss dictated to his underlings, often several times a day. Most of his snowflake collection — an estimated 59,000 pages — remained secret.”

Bourgeois state business is mostly secretive until it gets pressure to act in another way although its propaganda machine relentlessly sings the opposite song.

The report said:

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to [….] to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

No confusion in finding a great game – an imperialist strategy.

The interviews reveal US military commanders’ struggle to identify their enemy and the logic behind their war:

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll?

According to the documents, the US government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a September 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

It seems the machine is blind. And, it’s not the war machine that appears blind, but the state running the war machine. And, in ultimate analysis, the state machine and the war machine are not separate identities. In actual sense, the machine isn’t blind; it has no alternative other than acting blindly. And, humans direct the machine. So, the flaw is not of the machine. It’s the human identities that have to act in that way.

During the peak of the fighting from 2009 to 2012, the report said, “US lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.”

One unnamed executive with the USAID guessed that 90 percent of the money they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

Many aid workers blamed the US Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a US county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’”

The huge aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, US officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But they admitted the US government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers – allies of Washington – plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three US generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 – and that US officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

Kolenda added, “Foreign aid is part of how” the Afghan kleptocrats “get rents to pay for the positions they purchased.”

Kolenda told government interviewers: “Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

By allowing corruption to fester, US officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption,” Crocker, who served as the top US diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again from 2011 to 2012, told government interviewers.

In China, the US had almost the same experience with Chiang while they – Chiang and the US – were fighting the Chinese people under the leadership of Mao.

Year after year, US generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy: to train an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country without foreign help.

In the interviews, however, US military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by US taxpayers — for tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.”

More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that US commanders have called unsustainable, said the report.

A US military officer estimated that one-third of police recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.” Yet another called them “stealing fools” who looted so much fuel from US bases that they perpetually smelled of gasoline.

With this force, imperialism can’t win its war.

The report said:

Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of opium. The US has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired. Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013, said: “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade – this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

Bravo, enterprise with drug trade! And, they instruct and accuse many countries about drug dealings.

The report finds:

US never figured out ways to incorporate a war on drugs into its war against al-Qaeda. By 2006, US officials feared that narco-traffickers had become stronger than the Afghan government and that money from the drug trade was powering the insurgency.

Their drug-war is an amazing story: At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British state to destroy their crops, which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the US government eradicated poppy fields without compensation, which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

An intelligent brain they have!

US military officials, according to the report, have resorted to an old tactic from Vietnam – manipulating public opinion. In news conferences and other public appearances, those in charge of the war have followed the same talking points for 18 years. No matter how the war is going, they emphasized that they were making progress.

Rumsfeld had received a string of unusually dire warnings from the war zone in 2006. After returning from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general, reported the Taliban had made an impressive comeback: “[W]e will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months.” “The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan […] and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006. Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report stuffed with worse news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a US ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

In October 2006, Rumsfeld’s speechwriters delivered a paper – “Afghanistan: Five Years Later.” Overflowing with optimism, it highlighted more than 50 promising facts and figures, from the number of Afghan women trained in “improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to the “average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

“Five years on, there is a multitude of good news,” it read. “While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.”

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

“This paper,” he wrote in a memo, “is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get it to a lot of people.”

His staffers made sure it did. They circulated a version to reporters and posted it on Pentagon websites. Generals followed their boss: Present picture of “progress” in the war front.

Thus, they market “facts”, and groups of politicians in countries rely on them.

During US’ Vietnam War, it was the same story. The report recollected:

US military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted ‘body counts,’ or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. […] [T]he government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan. This includes Afghan civilians and security forces, humanitarian aid workers, Taliban fighters and other insurgents, US military contractors, journalists and media workers, US military personnel, NATO and coalition troops.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary, said the report.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in US troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Bob Crowley, the retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers “truth was rarely welcome” at military headquarters in Kabul.

“Bad news was often stifled,” he said. “There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small – we’re running over kids with our MRAPs [armored vehicles] – because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

John Garofano, a Naval War College strategist who advised Marines in Helmand province in 2011, said military officials in the field devoted an inordinate amount of resources to churning out color-coded charts that heralded positive results.

But, Garofano said, nobody dared to question whether the charts and numbers were credible or meaningful.

“There was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal?” he said. “How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?”

Other senior officials said they placed great importance on one statistic in particular, albeit one the US government rarely likes to discuss in public.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” James Dobbins, the former US diplomat, told a Senate panel in 2009. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

What are these: War-facts? Is this the way public is informed? Is this the way public are informed in a “free” society that claims fostering of free flow of information? Why facts are manipulated? It’s the fear of public, and public opinion. Imperialism fears public and public opinion, at home and abroad.

Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, told the investigators in a 2016 interview, “You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption.” He added that the same thing happened in Iraq, where corruption is “pandemic and deeply rooted” and where “it’s hard to see how a better political order can ever be established.”

A big problem, Crocker said, was a perennial “American urge,” when intervening in a foreign conflict, to “start fixing everything as fast as we can.” Pouring in billions of dollars, and that flows in the pockets of the powerful. The report estimates that 40 percent of US aid to Afghanistan was pocketed by officials, gangsters, or the insurgents.

Sarah Chayes, who served as an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who lived in Afghanistan for several years, told the investigators in 2015 that the problem was rooted in Washington. A major obstacle here, she said, was the “culture” in the State Department and the Pentagon, which focused on building relationships with their counterparts abroad. Since Afghan officials at all levels were corrupt, officials feared that going after corruption would endanger those relationships.

Chayes also said it was a big mistake to be “obsessed with chasing” the Taliban, to the point of neglecting the country’s political dynamics. We didn’t realize that many Afghans were “thrilled with the Taliban” for kicking corrupt warlords out of power. Instead, we aligned ourselves with the warlords, on the adage that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend”—and, as a result, further alienated the Afghan people and further enriched the corrupt powers, which in turn further inflamed the anti-government terrorists.

It’s a question that why a political leadership was moving in the way while a number of officials were identifying the problem realistically: Neglecting the political dynamics?

In September 2009, as the Obama administration was debating a new policy toward the Afghanistan war, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a Senate hearing that the main problem “is clearly the lack of legitimacy of the government” in Kabul.

Senator Lindsey Graham pushed the issue. “We could send a million troops, and that wouldn’t restore legitimacy in the government?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Mullen replied. The threat of corruption, he added, “is every bit as significant as the Taliban.”

Around this same time, during the closed-door National Security Council sessions, Mullen was urging then-president Obama to create a counterinsurgency strategy based on helping the Afghan government win the hearts and minds of its people – not addressing how to do this, if the government lacked legitimacy.

Almost all of Obama’s advisers sided with Mullen, a notable exception being then-vice president Joe Biden, who thought counterinsurgency wouldn’t work.

It’s impossible for imperialism to win hearts and minds of a people against whom it wages war while it depends on corrupt allies.

When General David Petraeus became commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2010, he appointed an anti-corruption task force. Sarah Chayes was one of its members. The task force concluded that corruption, from Kabul on down, was impeding the war effort and that the U.S. should cut off aid to the entire network of corruption. Petraeus sympathized with the findings, but he needed then-Afghan president Karzai’s cooperation to fight the war at all, and so he rejected the recommendation.

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However, the Pentagon released a statement saying there has been “no intent” by the department to mislead Congress or the public.

On October 11, 2001, a few days after the US started bombing the Taliban, a reporter asked Bush: “Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?”

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam,” Bush replied confidently. “People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’ This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.”

“All together now – quagmire!” Rumsfeld joked at a news conference on November 27, 2001.

“The days of providing a blank check are over. . . . It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan,” said then-president Barack Obama, in a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way,” said Army Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, in a news briefing from Afghanistan.

But, what does the reality say today?

  1. Afghanistan is a quagmire for the US.
  2. Lessons from Vietnam have not been learned by the US.
  3. US hirelings in Afghanistan are failing to take responsibility of their security.
  4. US is not winning its Afghan War.

The questions are

  1. Why imperialism is failing to learn the Vietnam-lesson?
  2. Why imperialism is bogged down in its Afghan-quagmire?
  3. Why imperialism’s hirelings are failing to take charge of its security?
  4. Why imperialism is embedded with its Afghan-corruption?
  5. Why such manipulation of facts while presenting Afghan-picture to its public?

The brief answer to the questions is: These are part of imperialism’s working mechanism, which its economic interests define.

It can’t move away despite rationality tells differently. Imperialism has its own rationality, which is fundamentally different from rationality of other economic interests. It has to depend on its hirelings. It can’t depend on others. That’s because of economic interests. Moreover, the way taxpayers see reality is completely different from the way imperialism sees. Imperialism’s way of looking at incidents and processes are determined by its interests; and it’s impossible for imperialism to ignore its interests, which makes it impossible to act differently. And, this doesn’t depend on personal choice/preference or characteristics of this or that political leader.

Imperialism’s Afghan War is not a war conducted by the US only. There’s involvement of other NATO powers. Keeping this – the NATO’s Afghan War – in mind helps perceive the imperialist system’s involvement and failure in the country. It’s not the US’ war only. It’s imperialism’s war against a people; and a war, which is part of imperialism’s world strategy.

The failures, the lies, the manipulation with facts, the “non”-understanding with political dynamics are not of a few persons/generals/bureaucrats/politicians, or of a single imperialist country. It’s part of a political process that connects a particular type of economic interest ingrained among armaments industry, military contractors, suppliers of military hardware, lobbying firms, political interests bent on dominating others for self-interests, and thus making a system with complex connections, a system based on particular characteristics of an economy.

Only a people politically organized and mobilized can change this course of imperialism if imperialism is correctly identified with all its characteristics. And, in today’s world, it’s difficult to perceive any people’s struggle without taking into consideration imperialism’s anti-people role.

Zombie NATO Is Obsolete; Militarists Try To Revive It Through Expanded Targets

NATO leaders’ meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, north of London, on December 4, 2019 (Al Drago for The New York Times)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held an abbreviated two-day meeting this week in London on its 70th anniversary. On display was a zombie alliance that is bitterly divided on multiple issues and has lost its purpose for existing. Rather than recognizing it is time to end this obsolete military alliance, they decided to expand their activities, search for a purpose and conduct a study to determine their strategy.

NATO is a cold war relic, an anti-Soviet tool continuing to exist 40 years after the Soviet Union ended. NATO was created one month after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in September 1945, with 12 members. This was ten years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact, which was founded on May 14, 1955.  NATO was not formed to combat the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact, although that was the previous excuse used for its existence.

When President Trump campaigned for office he correctly declared NATO was obsolete, but then he reversed course in April 2017. As president, he has pressured the 29 member-countries to increase their military spending. Between 2016 and 2020, NATO’s budget increased by $130 billion – twice as much as Russia’s total annual military spending. NATO members are expected to contribute two percent of their gross domestic product to the military.  NATO’s total budget is 20 times that of Russia and five times that of China.

It is time for the US to withdraw from NATO and for the alliance to disband. It serves no useful purpose and is a cause of global conflicts and militarism.

NATO meeting, President Donald Trump, right, and President Emmanuel Macron on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Al Drago for The New York Times)

Internal Conflicts: An Alliance That Cannot Agree On The Definition Of Terrorism

NATO shortened its summit because internal divisions threatened to blow up the meeting.

On December 3, before the meeting, Trump and French President Emanuel Macron held a testy joint press conference. Macron told The Economist last month that NATO was suffering “brain death” because of the poor US leadership under Trump. Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” and “very, very nasty.” Macron and Trump are also at odds over Trump’s handling of the military conflict between Turkey and Syria, what to do with captured foreign Islamic State fighters and a trade dispute.

A late Tuesday video showed world leaders ridiculing Trump at the summit. Trump abandoned plans for a Wednesday news conference and branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “two-faced.” He cut short his attendance at the summit avoiding the final press conference.

While combating terrorism is one of NATO’s supposed tasks, Macron said: “I’m sorry to say that we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table.” Macron warned that “not all clarifications were obtained and not all ambiguities were resolved”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to hold up efforts to protect the Baltics against Russia unless the alliance branded the Kurdish militias as “terrorists.” He later backed off and allowed NATO to go forward with increasing battalions on Russia’s borders to “protect Poland and the Baltic region” against fanciful threats from Russia.

NATO is facing four crisis areas. First, a deep political crisis including quarrels among the leading military members, accusations, and substantial differences of strategy and purpose. There is also a legal crisis as it consistently operates outside – indeed in violation of – its own goals and purposes and in violation of the United Nations Charter. Third, a moral crisis resulting from its wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…all catastrophes that caused unspeakable suffering, death, and destruction to millions. And, finally, an intellectual crisis, as an echo chamber alliance that sings only one tune: There are new threats, we must arm more, we need new and better weapons and we must increase military expenditures.

NATO protest in Washington, DC, April 2019

NATO’s Search For A Purpose

Rather than facing the fact that they are no longer serving a useful purpose, and despite their internal conflicts, NATO leaders did manage to pull together a final declaration.

Their declaration pointed the way to NATO expanding its military forces on a global scale that will result in creating instability and military conflicts to justify their existence. NATO has a history of brutal military attacks, including the brutal bombing and destruction of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in the late 1990s, regime-change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where it still has troops. And, the destruction of Libya that has left the country in chaos. NATO also worked with the United States in the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO is playing its role as a military force that supports the US national security agenda. It continues to target Russia as “a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” In reality, NATO creates that conflict by expanding eastward and putting weapons, bases, and troops along the Russian border. This violated a promise made by Secretary of State James Baker to the final Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In a February 1990 meeting, Baker said three times that NATO would not expand, “not one inch eastward.”  NATO’s expansion has been a major provocation in generating the New Cold War with Russia.

NATO is planning Defender 2020 the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War ended. Some 37,000 troops from 15 NATO nations will be involved including some 20,000 US troops who will be flown from their bases in the United States. Scott Ritter points out the costs associated with these exercises against Russia are considerable, along with the cost of raising, training, equipping and maintaining forces in the high state of readiness needed for short-notice response to an imagined attack by Russia. This is part of increasing confrontations along Russia’s borders, where a total of 102 NATO exercises were held in 2019.

Earlier this month, NATO said they’d formally rejected a Russian request to prohibit installing missiles previously banned under the now-defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Europe. The Russian request was made directly by President Putin, who fears “a new arms race” following both Moscow and Washington pulling out of the landmark 1988 INF treaty. Despite the facts, NATO blames Russia for the demise of the INF treaty. The French president brought out the reality: “Today would everyone around the table define Russia as an enemy? I do not think so.”

At this year’s summit, the NATO leaders “for the first time” discussed China as a collective security challenge. Prior to the meeting, CNN reported that NATO was falling in line with the anti-China strategy of the United States as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to start taking into account that China is coming closer to us.’” He pointed to China “‘in the Arctic, … Africa, … investing heavily in European infrastructure and of course investing in cyberspace.”

Despite Stollenberg’s push to make China a target of NATO, their members could only agree on a  declaration that said: “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges.” NATO members know that China is a benefit to the economy of their nations and that the Belt and Road Initiative connecting China to Europe through the Middle East and Africa is likely to be the defining source of economic growth this century.

NATO has also joined President Trump’s call for the militarization of space, declaring “space an operational domain for NATO” in their declaration.  Related to this, they also pledged to increase their “tools to respond to cyber attacks.”

In April we reported that NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

NATO is also bringing nuclear weapons to the Russian border. The Washington Post reported, “A recently released — and subsequently deleted — document published by a NATO-affiliated body has sparked headlines in Europe with an apparent confirmation of a long-held open secret: some 150 US nuclear weapons are being stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.” Raising questions: Under whose control are these weapons held? Are host countries permitted access to US nuclear weapons? Are the host nations informed? Do NATO’s practice deployments involve nuclear bombs and missiles? The Brussels Times reported this summer that  “In the context of NATO, the United States [has deployed] around 150 nuclear weapons in Europe.”

NATO’s search for a purpose has led to a fundamental strategic review of the alliance’s purpose. Members know their mission is unclear and their purpose is questionable.

NATO protest in Italy

70 Years Of Destruction Is Enough, Time To End NATO

The 70th anniversary of NATO is an opportunity to honestly examine the history of NATO destabilization, wasteful military spending, and destructive military attacks. It is also an opportunity for people to urge the end of NATO. On April 4, 2019, NATO foreign ministers met in Washington, DC to celebrate its 70th anniversary, peace and justice activists held a week of actions in protest, disrupting meetings, shutting down an entrance to the State Department and taking the streets. This past week there was a large anti-NATO protest in London.

Scott Ritter believes NATO is as good as dead writing “NATO is on life-support, and Europe is being asked to foot the bill to keep breathing life into an increasingly moribund alliance whose brain death is readily recognized, but rarely acknowledged.”

Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace declares: “Today [NATO] is the militarized arm of the declining but still dangerous Pan- European Colonial/capitalist project, a project that has concluded that the stabilization of the world capitalist system and continued dominance of U.S. and Western capital can only be realized through the use of force.”

It is time to demand an end to this destructive alliance as a step toward ending white supremacy, colonization, the destructive military-industrial complex, and the exploitative capitalist economy.

A Troubled Family: NATO turns 70

Summit anniversaries are not usually this abysmally interesting.  While those paying visits to Watford, England on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are supposedly signatories to the same agreement, a casual glance would have suggested otherwise.  This was a show of some bickering.

France, never the most comfortable member, suggested that NATO was “experiencing… brain death”.  While this observation by French President Emmanuel Macron last month would have carried little weight in another age, it struck a chord, not least because it signalled a role reversal of sorts.  The US, he warned, was retreating in its international role.  A vacuum had been created, and it was desperately in need of filling.  Such language, and affront, is usually the preserve of the current US president, Donald Trump.  In 2018, he suggested that the organisation was nothing less than “obsolete”, a relic.  Now it was left to France to assume the role of chief heckler.

NATO has been a body in search of a role for some time.  In the triumphant aftermath of the Cold War, it became the most visible reminder of US power and overstretch, a blunt instrument of deployment in such theatres as Afghanistan.  But the traditional sense that it remains a grouping marshalled against Russia and now, an emerging China, was not something Macron was having much truck with.  Beijing should not “be the object of our collective defence… in strictly military terms”.

In company with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron told assembled members of the press that identifying enemies was not within the purview of the alliance. “Is our enemy today Russia?  Or China?  Is it the goal of NATO to designate them enemies?  I don’t believe so.”  The more standard, if stale problem, was that of “terrorism, which has hit each of our countries.”

This has been seen as a form of ratting.  Trump, during the course of a 52-minute meeting on Tuesday morning with Stoltenberg, found the remarks “very insulting” and a “very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries.”  He instead pushed for drumming up the China threat.  Be careful, warned the US president, about the technology giant Huawei. “I spoke to Italy and they look like they are not going to go forward with [Huawei].” But just to make matters interesting, Britain has refused to play along, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson not wanting Britain “to be unnecessarily hostile to investment from overseas”.

Another NATO member was also proving problematic, having not played by the rules of the club.  Turkey is only a half-hearted subscriber to the Russian demonology, preferring to ink agreements for the purchase of such Moscow sponsored hardware as the antiaircraft missile system, the S-400.  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was keen to leave his mark at this anniversary meeting, threatening a veto of NATO’s efforts to boost defences within the Baltic States and Poland should members not designate Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists.

For Macron, Turkey’s stance was a sore in the relationship, a point assisted by Trump’s withdrawal of troops from northern Syria.  The gesture was sufficient to encourage the movement of Turkish units into territory once won by Kurdish-led forces in their fight against the zealots of Islamic State.  “When I look at Turkey, they are fighting against those who fight with us,” lamented Macron. “Who is the enemy today?”  Regarding the issue of designating Kurdish fighters terrorists, there could be no “possible consensus”.

Trump was less troubled. “The border and the safe zone is working out very well… and I gave a lot of credit to Turkey for that.  The ceasefire is holding very much so, and I think people are surprised, and maybe some day they’ll give me credit, but probably not.”

The US president kept to his usual 2 percent formula, namely, that member states needed to spend the equivalent of two percent of gross domestic product on defence to pass muster.  Germany remains stubbornly low in expenditure, though Canada has promised a spike.  But sandpit politics was just around the corner, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau proved the target of Trump’s barbs at a news conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  “I find him to be a very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out over the fact that he’s not paying 2 percent and I can see he’s not very happy about it.”

The comments were sparked by a recorded conversation between Trudeau, Johnson, Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Anne.  Not that there was much to go by.  Some of the dignitaries had been running late.  Johnson duly inquired. “It was like a 40-minute press conference,” answered the Canadian leader.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah!  Forty minutes.”  Inaudible chatter followed.  “I just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” come Trudeau’s words.  And so did the prime minister earned the ire of Freedom’s Land’s commander-in-chief.  “He’s two-faced,” stated Trump, almost pouting in indignation.

Stoltenberg was left to do the secretarial work and hammer out a position of sorts.  He suggested that China offered “both opportunities but also challenges.”  Being vague was the order of the day, and when asked about the squabbles, assumed the role of stern diplomat.   The Economist was troubled enough to suggest that there were reasons to celebrate.  In Trump’s company, Stoltenberg called NATO “the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to change when the world is changing.”  This was Macron’s point, though not necessarily one that has found a soft landing.  In Beijing and Moscow, it has probably caused pause for amusement.

NATO’s Crises

NATO’s 4th crises: The 2 per cent goal as defence illiteracy

Political

NATO’s London Summit on December 3 and 4, 2019 displays the deep political crisis of the 70-year-old alliance: Only a dinner and a short meeting, no statement to be issued, quarrels among the leading military members, accusations, substantial differences on Syria and many other issues, the deepest-ever Transatlantic conflict and the usual issues of burden-sharing.

Legal

But the political dimension of NATO’s crisis is only one. There is also a legal crisis. You’ll recognize it if you care to read the NATO Treaty text – something academic and media people don’t generally seem to have done. They would then have noticed that the Alliance of 2019 consistently operates outside – indeed in violation of – its own goals, purposes and values. For instance, the UN Charter which should be NATO’s guideline has been violated on a permanent basis for decades – such as in its out-of-area bombings of Yugoslavia with no UN mandate.

The contempt shown for international law in general and the UN Charter in particular is an integral part of NATO’s existential crisis.

Moral

And, third, there is a moral dimension to NATO’s crisis. Of course, no one talks about it.

It’s the simple fact that no war that individual NATO members states or NATO as NATO have engaged in can be termed anything but predictable fiascos when judged by the alliance’s own stated goals and criteria – just think of Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria… all crystal clear moral catastrophes causing unspeakable suffering, death and destruction to millions upon millions while achieving none of the stated goals that were set to explain and legitimize these wars such as creating democracy, respecting human rights, liberating women or stopping alleged genocides.

By now, the world should have been told enough lies about NATO’s benevolent motives, policies and actions for taxpaying citizens to mobilize resistance to it.

These three crises can all be related to the response of the Western world to the demise of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact 30 years ago – i.e. to the choice to expand NATO and exploiting the weakness of Russia.

Intellectual

The last and perhaps most-hidden-of-all crisis is NATO’s intellectual crisis.

It’s now an alliance that operates in a kind of echo chamber with little, or no, sense of the realities of the world. It’s there for its own sake. When you listen to its Secretary-General – not only Stoltenberg but Fogh Rasmussen and earlier ones – you sense a level of creativity and intellectualism that reminds you of leaders who also happened to be Secretaries-General such as, say, Leonid Breznev.

Irrespective of some little objective analysis of the situation, NATO sings only one tune: There are new threats all the time, we must arm more, we need new and better weapons and we must, therefore, increase military expenditures.

And how is it legitimized?

By uttering mantras. No matter what NATO and its members choose to do, it is simply stated without a trace of argument or documentation that more money will increase four things: Defence, security, stability and peace. And be good for basic Western values such as freedom, democracy and peace.

How come – the small boy watching the Emperor would ask – that no matter what NATO has done the last 70 years, it is still maintaining that it needs more to create that defence, security, stability and peace?

What’s wrong with a system that keeps applying the same medicine decade after decade and gets further and further from achieving the stipulated goal?

Military expenditures in general – no balance and no reality check

NATO’s main enemy is supposed to be Russia. It doesn’t matter that Russia’s military expenditures are about 6-7% of NATO’s total expenditures (29 countries). It doesn’t matter that NATO’s technical quality is superior. It doesn’t matter that Russia’s military expenditures are falling year-by-year – decreased to US $ 64 billion in 2018 from US $ 66 billion in 2017. It doesn’t matter that Russia’s military expenditures averaged only US $ 45 billion from 1992 until 2018.

Only? Yes, NATO’s total budget is US $ 1036 billion of which the US stands for 649.

And it doesn’t matter that the old Warsaw Pact budget were some 65-75% of NATO’s during the first Cold War and we were told back then that some kind of balance was good for stability and peace. Today we are told that the more superiority NATO has, the better it is for world peace.

In short, reality doesn’t matter anymore to NATO.

The 2 per cent goal

And this is where the 2 per cent of BNP comes into play and reveals just how deep NATO’s crisis is. But have you seen anybody questioning this 2 per cent goal as the philosophical nonsense – or forgery – it is?

It resembles the Theatre of the Absurd to tie military expenditures to the economic performance of a country. Imagine a person sets off 10 % of her/his income to buy food. Sudden he or she wins in a lottery or is catapulted into a job that yields a 5 times higher income. Should that person then also begin to eat 5 times more?

The 2 per cent goal is an absurdity, an indicator of defence illiteracy. People who take it serious – in politics, media and academia – obviously have never read a basic book about theories and concepts in the field of defence and security. Or about how one makes a professional analysis of what threatens a country.

If military expenditures are meant to secure a country’s future, do the threats that this country faces also vary according to its own GNP? Of course not! It is a bizarre assumption.

Decent knowledge-based defence policies should be decided on the basis of a comprehensive analysis of threats and contain dimensions such as:

What threatens our nation, our society now and along various time horizons? Which threats that we can imagine are so big that we can do nothing to meet them? Which are such that it is meaningful to set off this or that sum to feel reasonably safe? What threats seem so small or unlikely that we can ignore them?

What threats are most likely to go from latent to manifest? How do we prioritize among scarce resources when we have other needs and goals than feeling secure such as developing our economy, education, health, culture, etc.?

And, most importantly, two more consideration: What threats can be met with predominantly military means and which require basically civilian means? And how do we act today to prevent the perceived threats from becoming a reality that we have to face – how do we, within our means, prevent violence and reduce risks as much as possible.

All these questions should be possible to answer with the new mantra: Just always give the military 2 per cent of the GNP and everything will be fine?

The MIMAC

MIMAC is the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – the vested interests of small elites in symbiosis with governments which run on and benefit from bizarre standards like the 2 per cent goal.

One purpose of that goal is to make serious, empirical and relevant threat analysis irrelevant. It’s a perpetuum mobile – a way of securing that MIMAC always gets what it needs, no matter what the consequences are for thosee who pay it all, the citizens and their tax money.

Imagine that Russia disappeared from the earth tomorrow. And NATO would quickly find some other “enemy” by which to legitimate that it anyhow needs also 2 per cent of your BNP in the future. At least!

NATO Titanic

It’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg two days ago announced this mind-boggling news, swallowed by media as the most natural thing of the world in need of no questions – read it on NATO’s homepage:

Ahead of the meeting of NATO Leaders in London to mark the Alliance’s 70th anniversary, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday (29 November 2019) gave details of large increases in Allied defence spending. Mr. Stoltenberg announced that in 2019 defence spending across European Allies and Canada increased in real terms by 4.6 %, making this the fifth consecutive year of growth. He also revealed that by the end of 2020, those Allies will have invested $130 billion more since 2016. Based on the latest estimates, the accumulated increase in defence spending by the end of 2024 will be $400 billion. Mr. Stoltenberg said: ‘This is unprecedented progress and it is making NATO stronger.’

Read it carefully: NATO’s military expenditure increase 2016-2020 is US $130 billion – that is twice as much as Russia’s total annual budget!

There is only two words for it: Madness and irrationality. Madness in and of itself and madness when seen in the perspective of all the other problems humanity must urgently find funds to solve.

The total regular UN budget for the year 2016-17 was US $5.6 billion. That is, NATO countries spend 185 times more on the military than all the world does on the UN.

Do you find that sane and in accordance with the problems humanity need to solve? This author does not. I stand by the word madness. There exists no rational academic, empirical analysis and no theory that can explain NATO’s military expenditures as rational or in service of the common good of humankind.

*****

The world’s strongest, nuclear alliance is a castle built on intellectual sinking sand. It’s a political, moral, legal and intellectual Titanic.

The only armament NATO needs is legal, moral and intellectual. And unless it now moves in this direction, it deserves to be dissolved.

The inverse proportion between its destructive power and its moral-intellectual power is – beyond any doubt – the largest single threat to humanity’s future.

This challenge is at least as serious and as urgent as is climate change.

Perhaps it is time to stop keeping NATO alive by taxpayers’ money and start a tax boycott in all NATO countries until it is dissolved or at least comes down to – say – one-tenth of its present wasteful military level? Not to speak of its bootprint destruction of the environment…

Trump Was Right: NATO Should Be Obsolete

The three smartest words that Donald Trump uttered during his presidential campaign are “NATO is obsolete.” His adversary, Hillary Clinton, retorted that NATO was “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world.” Now that Trump has been in power, the White House parrots the same worn line that NATO is “the most successful Alliance in history, guaranteeing the security, prosperity, and freedom of its members.” But Trump was right the first time around: Rather than being a strong alliance with a clear purpose, this 70-year-old organization that is meeting in London on December 4 is a stale military holdover from the Cold War days that should have gracefully retired many years ago.

NATO was originally founded by the United States and 11 other Western nations as an attempt to curb the rise of communism in 1949. Six years later, Communist nations founded the Warsaw Pact and through these two multilateral institutions, the entire globe became a Cold War battleground. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, the Warsaw Pact disbanded but NATO expanded, growing from its original 12 members to 29 member countries. North Macedonia, set to join next year, will bring the number to 30. NATO has also expanded well beyond the North Atlantic, adding a partnership with Colombia in 2017. Donald Trump recently suggested that Brazil could one day become a full member.

NATO’s post-Cold War expansion toward Russia’s borders, despite earlier promises not to move eastward, has led to rising tensions between Western powers and Russia, including multiple close calls between military forces. It has also contributed to a new arms race, including upgrades in nuclear arsenals, and the largest NATO “war games” since the Cold War.

While claiming to “preserve peace,” NATO has a history of bombing civilians and committing war crimes. In 1999, NATO engaged in military operations without UN approval in Yugoslavia. Its illegal airstrikes during the Kosovo War left hundreds of civilians dead. And far from the “North Atlantic,” NATO joined the United States in invading Afghanistan in 2001, where it is still bogged down two decades later. In 2011, NATO forces illegally invaded Libya, creating a failed state that caused masses of people to flee. Rather than take responsibility for these refugees, NATO countries have turned back desperate migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, letting thousands die.

In London, NATO wants to show it is ready to fight new wars. It will showcase its readiness initiative – the ability to deploy 30 battalions by land, 30 air squadrons and 30 naval vessels in just 30 days, and to confront future threats from China and Russia, including with hypersonic missiles and cyberwarfare. But far from being a lean, mean war machine, NATO is actually riddled with divisions and contradictions. Here are some of them:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron questions the U.S. commitment to fight for Europe, has called NATO “brain dead” and has proposed a European Army under the nuclear umbrella of France.

  • Turkey has enraged NATO members with its incursion into Syria to attack the Kurds, who have been Western allies in the fight against ISIS. And Turkey has threatened to veto a Baltic defense plan until allies support its controversial incursion into Syria. Turkey has also infuriated NATO members, especially Trump, by purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile system.

  • Trump wants NATO to push back against China’s growing influence, including the use of Chinese companies for the construction of 5G mobile networks–something many NATO countries are unwilling to do.

  • Is Russia really NATO’s adversary? France’s Macron has reached out to Russia, inviting Putin to discuss ways in which the European Union can put the Crimean invasion behind it. Donald Trump has publicly attacked Germany over its Nord Stream 2 project to pipe in Russian gas, but a recent German poll saw 66 percent wanting closer ties with Russia.

  • The UK has bigger problems. Britain has been convulsed over the Brexit conflict and is holding contentious national election on December 12. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, knowing that Trump is wildly unpopular, is reluctant to be seen as close to him. Also, Johnson’s major contender, Jeremy Corbyn, is a reluctant supporter of NATO. While his Labour Party is committed to NATO, over his career as an anti-war champion, Corbyn has called NATO “a danger to world peace and a danger to world security.” The last time Britain hosted NATO leaders in 2014, Corbyn told an anti-NATO rally that the end of the Cold War “should have been the time for NATO to shut up shop, give up, go home and go away.”

  • A further complication is Scotland, which is home to a very unpopular Trident nuclear submarine base as part of NATO’s nuclear deterrent. A new Labour government would need the support of the Scottish National Party. But its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, insists that a precondition for her party’s support is a commitment to close the base.

  • Europeans can’t stand Trump (a recent poll found he is trusted by only 4 percent of Europeans!) and their leaders can’t rely on him. Allied leaders learn of presidential decisions that affect their interests via Twitter. The lack of coordination was clear in October, when Trump ignored NATO allies when he ordered U.S. special forces out of northern Syria, where they had been operating alongside French and British commandos against Islamic State militants.

  • The US unreliability has led the European Commission to draw up plans for a European “defense union” that will coordinate military spending and procurement. The next step may be to coordinate military actions separate from NATO. The Pentagon has complained about EU countries purchasing military equipment from each other instead of from the United States, and has called this defense union “a dramatic reversal of the last three decades of increased integration of the transatlantic defence sector.”

  • Do Americans really want to go to war for Estonia? Article 5 of the Treaty states that an attack against one member “shall be considered an attack against them all,” meaning that the treaty obligates the US to go to war on behalf of 28 nations–something most likely opposed by war-weary Americans who want a less aggressive foreign policy that focuses on peace, diplomacy, and economic engagement instead of military force.

An additional major bone of contention is who will pay for NATO. The last time NATO leaders met, President Trump derailed the agenda by berating NATO countries for not paying their fair share and at the London meeting, Trump is expected to announce symbolic US cuts to NATO’s operations budget.

Trump’s main concern is that member states step up to the NATO target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024, a goal that is unpopular among Europeans, who prefer that their taxdollars to go for nonmilitary items. Nevertheless, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will brag that Europe and Canada have added $100 billion to their military budgets since 2016–something Donald Trump will take credit for–and that more NATO officials are meeting the 2 percent goal, even though a 2019 NATO report shows only seven members have done so: the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the UK, Romania, Poland and Latvia.

In an age where people around the world want to avoid war and to focus instead on the climate chaos that threatens future life on earth, NATO is an anachronism. It now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing around the globe. Instead of preventing war, it promotes militarism, exacerbates global tensions and makes war more likely. This Cold War relic shouldn’t be reconfigured to maintain U.S. domination in Europe, or to mobilize against Russia or China, or to launch new wars in space. It should not be expanded, but disbanded. Seventy years of militarism is more than enough.

The Empire, Trump and Intra-Ruling Class Conflict

Over the past few months President Trump has unilaterally by Tweet and telephone begun to dismantle the U.S. military’s involvement in the Middle East. The irony is amazing, because in a general overarching narrative sense, this is what the marginalized antiwar movement has been trying to do for decades.1

Prof. Harry Targ, in his important piece “United States foreign policy: yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” (MR online, October 23, 2919), reminds us of the factional dispute among U.S. foreign policy elites over how to maintain the U.S. empire. On the one hand are the neoliberal global capitalists who favor military intervention, covert operations, regime change, strengthening NATO, thrusting China into the enemy vacuum and re-igniting the Cold War with Russia. All of this is concealed behind lofty rhetoric about humanitarianism, protecting human rights, promoting democracy, fighting terrorism and American exceptionalism. Their mantra is Madeleine Albright’s description of the United States as the world’s “one indispensable nation.”

On the other hand, as Targ explains, are the Trumpian, “America First” nationalist capitalists. This faction of the ruling class, while also supporting global dominance and a permanent war economy (military-related spending will consume 48 percent of the 2020 federal budget) favors trade restrictions, economic nationalism, building walls and anti-immigrant policies. Although Trump is inconsistent, bumbling and sometimes contradictory, he’s departed from the neocon’s agenda by making overtures to North Korea and Russia, voicing doubts about NATO as an expensive relic from the past that is being dangerously misused outside of Europe, not being afraid to speak bluntly to EU allies, frequently mentioning ending our “endless, ridiculous and costly wars,” asserting that the U.S. is badly overextended and saying “The job of our military is not to police the world.” I would add that Trump is also an “American exceptionalist” but ascribes a very different provincial meaning to the term, something closer to a crabbed provincialism, an insular “Shining City on a Hill,” surrounded by a moat.

This is a high stakes intra-ruling class struggle and neither side cares a fig about what’s best  for the American people or those beyond our borders. At this point it’s impossible to know how it will play out but grasping the underlying dynamics explains much about current U.S. domestic and foreign policy. This understanding may, in turn, point toward how opponents of America’s oligarchic elites can most expeditiously use their time and energy.

Foremost is the fact that Trump’s intra-elite enemies despise him not for being a neo-fascistic demagogue, a despicable human being devoid of a conscience, or for the brouhaha over Ukraine. Their animus is rooted in the conviction that Trump has been a foot dragging imperialist, an equivocal caretaker of empire, unreliable pull-the-trigger Commander-in-chief (e.g.Iran) and transparent truth-teller about the real motives behind U.S. foreign policy. These are his unforgivable sins and if he’s impeached or denied the Oval Office by some other means, they will be real reasons.

One of Trump’s most traitorous acts is that he’s been consistent, at least rhetorically, in being opposed to U.S. troops being killed in “endless wars.” One need not agree with his reasons to find merit in this worthy objective. His motives probably include Nativism, racism, foreign investment stability, the wars causing more refugees to come here, his massive ego, appeals to his voting base, or simply because he believes both he and the “real America” would be better off. For him, the latter two are synonymous.

For this treachery, those arrayed against Trump include at least, the Pentagon-CIA-armaments lobby, MSM editors like those at CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, NSA, Zionist neocons, the DNC, establishment Democrats, some hawkish Republican senators, many lifestyle liberals still harboring a  sentimental faith in American goodness and even EU and NATO elites who’ve benefited from being faithful lackeys to Washington’s global imperialism.

In a recent interview, Major Danny Sjursen, retired army officer and West Point instructor with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, notes that “The last bipartisan issue in American politics today is warfare, forever warfare.” In terms of the military, that means “…even the hint of getting out of the establishment interventionist status quo is terrifying to these generals, terrifying to these former intelligence officers from the Obama administration who seem to live on MSNBC now.” Sjursen adds that many of these generals (like Mattis) have already found lucrative work with the military industrial complex.2

In response to Trump’s announcement about removing some U.S. troops from the region, we find an op-ed in The New York Times by Admiral William McRaven where he states that Trump “should be out of office sooner than later. It’s time for a new person in the Oval Office, Republican, Democrat or Independent. The fate of the nation depends on it.”  The unmistakeable whiff of support for a soft coup is chilling.  If Trump can’t be contained, he must be deposed one way or another.

And this is all entirely consistent with the fact that the national security state  was totally caught off guard by Trump’s victory in 2016. For them, Trump was a loose cannon, erratic and  ultra-confrontational, someone they couldn’t control. Their favored candidate was the ever reliable, Wall Street-friendly, war-mongering Hillary Clinton or even Jeb Bush.  Today, barring a totally chastised Trump, the favorites include a fading Biden, Pence, a reprise of Clinton or someone in her mold but without the baggage.

For Trump’s establishment enemies, another closely related failing is his habit of blurting out inconvenient truths. I’m not the first person to say that Trump is the most honest president in my lifetime. Yes, he lies most of the time but as left analyst Paul Street puts it, “Trump is too clumsily and childishly brazen in laying bare the moral nothingness and selfishness of the real material-historical bourgeois society that lives beneath the veils of ‘Western civilization’ and ‘American democracy.’”3

All his predecessors took pains or were coached to conceal their imperialist actions behind declarations of humanitarian interventionism but Trump has pulled the curtains back to reveal the ugly truths about U.S. foreign policy.  As such, the carefully calibrated propaganda fed to the public in endless reiterations over a lifetime is jeopardized whenever Trump utters a transparent truth. This is intolerable.

Here are a few examples culled from speeches, interviews and press reports:

+ At a May 10, 2017 Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislayak, Trump said he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election because “We do the same thing in elections in other countries.” [White House officials were so alarmed they tried to limit access to the transcript].

+ When asked about whether Putin is a killer, Trump sarcastically asked whether “our country was so innocent?” and added, “Our country does plenty of killing.”

+ His reaction to Saudi Arabia’s murder of Khashoggi was that “they really messed up.”  [Translation: He/our government didn’t care about what happened except that the Saudis bungled the job. Uttering this inconvenient truth removed the usual fig leaf claim of moral outrage and checked off another box on the Trump-Must-Go list maintained by the globalists].

+ “The Kurds are no angels.” [This dried up all the crocodile tears being shed by both Dems and Republicans].

+  On Libya: Asked about a role for the U.S. in Libya, Trump responded “I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has, right now, enough roles. We’re in a role everywhere.” He did say “I would just go in and take the oil,” and repeated this intention regarding Syria. [Once again Trump sabotaged  any pretense of righteous motives behind Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East. To wit: It’s always been about blood for oil].

+ When firing John Bolton, his former national security advisor, Trump remarked “He made some very big mistakes. When he talked about the Libya model for Kim Jong Un, that was not a good statement to make. You just look at what happened with Gaddafi.”  [Here, Trump’s truth telling undermined the standard U.S. position by saying it makes perfect sense for other countries to obtain nukes if they wish to avoid being destroyed by us.]

+ “We’re in many, many countries. I do know the exact number of countries we have troops in but I’m embarrassed to say it because it’s so foolish. We’re in countries that don’t even like us… some people, whether it’s – – you call it the military-industrial complex or beyond that, they’d like me to stay…the want me to fight forever…That’s what they want to do, fight. A lot of companies want to to fight because they make their weapons based on fighting, not based on peace. And they take up a lot of people. I want to bring our soldiers back home.”

+ During a private military briefing, Trump stunned officials by scowling, “Seriously, who gives a shit about Afghanistan?”  And he continued, “So far we’ve in for $7 trillion, fellas. $7 trillion including Iraq. Worst decision ever…”

+  On Ukraine: “The people of Crimea…would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

+  On Syria, “Let someone else fight over this long blood stained sand.” And more broadly, he said “The same people that I watched and read—give me and the United States advice — were the people I’ve been watching and reading for many years. They are the ones who got us into the Middle East mess but never have the vision or courage to get us out. They just talk.”

+ Responding to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham’s criticism:  “The people of South Carolina don’t want us to get into another war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria. Let them fight their own wars.”

+ On Middle East wars: “All of those lives lost, the young men and women gravely wounded — so many —the Middle East is less safe, less stable, and less secure than before these conflicts began.”

As noted earlier, the endgame is not in sight. Trump seems without a clear strategy for moving forward and from all reports he can’t depend on his current coterie of White House advisors to produce one. Further, he may lack the necessary political in-fight skills or tenacity to see it through. When some of his Republican “allies” savaged his announcement to withdraw troops from Syria, he backtracked and made some, at least cosmetic concessions. However, the fact that Trump’s  position remains popular with his voter base and especially with veterans of these wars will give pause to Republicans. If some finally join the Democrats in voting for impeachment over Ukraine-gate they may minimize re-election risks by hiding their real motives behind pious claims — as will most Democrats — about “protecting the constitution and the rule of law”.

Now, lest I be misunderstood, nothing I’ve written here should be construed as support for Donald Trump or that I believe he’s antiwar. Trump is aberration only in that his brand of Western imperialism means that the victims remain foreigners while U.S. soldiers remain out of harm’s way.  He knows that boots on the ground can quickly descend into bodies in the ground and unlike his opponents, coffins returning to Dover Air Base are not worth risking his personal ambitions. This is clearly something to build upon. We don’t know if Trump views drones, cyber warfare and proxies as substitutes but his intra-elite opponents remain extremely dubious. In any event, that’s another dimension to expose and challenge.

Finally, we know the ruling class in a capitalist democracy — an oxymoron — expends enormous time and resources to obtain a faux “consent of the governed” through misinformation conveyed via massive, lifelong ideological indoctrination. For them, citizen’s policing themselves is more efficient than coercion and precludes raising questions that might delegitimize the system.  Obviously force and fear are hardly unknown — witness the mass incarceration and police murder of black citizens — but one only has to look around to see how successful this method of control has been.

Nevertheless, as social historian Margaret Jacoby wisely reminds us, “No institution is safe if people simply stop believing the assumptions that justify its existence.”4 Put another way, the system simply can’t accommodate certain “dangerous ideas.”
Today, we see promising political fissures developing, especially within the rising generation, and it’s our responsibility to help deepen and widen these openings through whatever means at our disposal.

  1. John Grant, “Donald Trump and the New, New Order,” This Can’t Be Happening, October 30, 2019.
  2. Interview with Maj. Danny Djursen, “Conflict Between Trump and Military-Diplomatic Establishment Is Full of Hypocrisy,” The Real News Network, October 24, 2019.
  3. Paul Street,”All That is Holy is Profaned: Beyond Ruling Class Impeachment,“ Counterpunch, October 25, 2019.
  4. Margaret Jacoby, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987).

Years Ending in Nine

I was a punctual child. If the birth and marriage registers are accurate I was born exactly nine months to the day after my parents vowed before a duly ordained Roman Catholic Church to death they would part united in matrimony to remain. The untimely demise of my father, under conditions not unlike children who mistakenly play with a cluster bomb, assured, however, that all vows were satisfied. Hence I can say that I was born a child of punctuality and contractual satisfaction. I would prefer to call that sincerity.

Thirty years ago I was the accidental witness of the eruption which this year is hypocritically celebrated as some kind of “freedom” in Germany. On the weekend on or about 9 November 1989 I found myself accidentally in Berlin utterly unaware of the announcements made by the GDR government relaxing and then ending the border restrictions instituted in 1962 to protect the Soviet occupation zone from the subterfuge of the NATO through its German agents in Bonn.

There are certainly compatriots of mine who would prefer to see the events of 1989 and 1990 with what in German is called “blaue Augen” (blue eyes, but not necessarily blond hair). They repeat all the half-truths about the German Democratic Republic and completely ignore the truths about the Federal Republic of Germany. Much energy, money and media work — and not too little criminal activity — was invested in creating this naive view of West Germany and the evil view of the GDR. Hence it is not surprising that many people not only in old FRG but throughout the world have a highly distorted view of the history and hence an even more distorted view of the present.

It would burst the membranes of polite attention to describe the sources of these distortions and their impact. However, I feel obliged to summarise the conditions which actually prevailed and indicate that all of what follows can be derived from public record or the work of those who have investigated and reported on the past seventy years.

The annexation of the German Democratic Republic in 1990, celebrated annually on 3 October, is still presented as some kind of liberatory act. This is simply a lie. The division of Germany after the second world war was forced by the US regime. Every effort was made by the occupying forces of the US to prevent the establishment of a German state including all the occupation zones. The only political parties that somehow survived the war, the Social Democrats (led after the war by Kurt Schumacher who had survived Nazi concentration camps) and the Communists (who had been partially protected by the Soviet Union or other exile) were absolutely unacceptable for the US occupation forces. The pre-war Centrum Party had been dissolved on orders of the Pope. Hence the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and Free Democratic Party (FDP) were established to provide a shell for Nazis and Catholic conservatives — and a bulwark against socialism in the West zones.

Konrad Adenauer was annointed head of the West German vassal state because of his unadulterated anti-communism, his antagonism toward the eastern, historically poorer part of Germany and his imperialistic background. Adenauer was a leading figure in the German colonisation faction under Wilhelm II. Adenauer was also known as a ruthless politician who could also claim not to have collaborated with the Nazi regime.

Adenauer was “popular” to the extent that the message was clearly sent by the US occupying forces — he is “our man”. By complying with US policies, protecting Nazi businessmen and their interests, and helping to scare a population that had participated in a genocidal war against the Soviet Union and all the Slavic peoples east of the Oder, Adenauer was able to stay in power — but just. It took covert action by the occupying forces, German business cartels, and the manipulation of historical events to keep him in power and to preserve the Federal Republic of Germany as a one-party CDU/ CSU state with timid cooperation by junior parties until Willy Brandt — until then the only German chancellor not to have held office or served in some capacity under the Nazi regime — broke the dry ice in which the US had packed Germany since 1945.

No sooner had the “Vaterlandsveräter” Brandt managed to become federal chancellor, then the krypto-Nazi state apparatus began to covertly work to remove him. This was done through a combination of mass media propaganda funded in part by corporations that had profited under the Nazi regime as well as by taxpayers, since the so-called Title 300, the chancellor’s “reptile fund” (secret money available for covert operations) was paid to agents in the German media to help create and maintain opposition to Brandt.

Even before that the CIA had helped Adenauer win an election everyone expected him to lose by helping protests in the Berlin reach such intensity that Russian occupying troops were compelled to use force to suppress them. This event formed the basis of the propagandistic 17 Juni commemoration which until 1989 was the de facto West German national holiday. If one reads carefully between the lines of the explanation given by the CIA station chief at the time, it is clear without the Soviet tanks on 17 Juni, Adenauer would have lost the election to the SDP.

Why did the US regime officially promote a unified Germany after the war and effectively do everything to prevent it?  There are several ways to arrive at an answer to this question. In the interest of consistency and simplicity I propose the following:

First of all the US regime was never anti-Nazi. It was always anti-Soviet, despite the fact that several capitalist advisors promoted the Soviet Union as a solid and desirable business partner. Britain and the US fought the war against Germany for completely different reasons. Britain viewed Germany as an imperialist competitor regardless of who ruled. The US elite was socially obliged to defend its debtors in Britain. The US and Britain were agreed that Japan was an enemy but for different reasons again. Britain was defending its Indian empire and the US wanted to control China and Japan.

When the Soviet Union defeated the Nazi regime militarily despite Standard Oil, DuPont, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Standard Oil and IG Farben (which included other Western chemical cartels), there was major panic in New York and London. The agreements in Yalta and Teheran by which the Soviet Union would be compensated for its war injuries (never mind the 20 – 30 million of its citizens killed by the Nazis) could only be satisfied if the entirety of Germany (including the assets of all those US corporations that supported the Nazi regime and earned windfall profits thereby) were available to the Soviet Union for reparations. The combined corporate power in the US; e.g., that of Standard Oil, had already been used to prevent destruction of concentration camp factories in which US corporations were investors. Now this power was applied to assure that Western Nazi-based profits remained in the West and the Soviet Union would be forced to replenish from wells it had had to dry just to stay alive.

Not content with depriving the Soviet Union of its due share of restitution for horrendous damage, death and destruction since 1940, the US regime, soon to be represented by the weapons cartel NATO, proceeded to use every means to bribe, kidnap, or otherwise divert the few skilled workers left in the Soviet occupied zone. They had already secretly plundered Saxony and Thuringia by removing the plant and equipment that would later establish firms like BMW (originally EMW until Hubert Quant laundered his Varta slave labour profits by turning it into the current luxury car producer) and Zeiss in the West. Just like the monetary manipulation, brain drain, and debt fraud practiced against the colonies upon independence, the Soviet zone was raided in every conceivable way by the West. THAT is what forced the construction of the fortified border in 1962! It was no exaggeration to say that the “Wall” was a defense against the West. The more striking point, however, is that these were halcyon days. None of the former colonies — with the exception of Cuba — were ever able to erect such barriers to Western imperial piracy.

Despite the Wall, however, and despite the weakness of the Soviet Union — something of which the NATO was always aware — the image of the Wall as a barrier to “human freedom” has been one of the most persistent myths of the past century. It is the necessary myth to preserve the even greater fraud known and taught as “The American Dream”.

No, Srebrenica did not “inspire” Christchurch

Earlier this month, popular ‘progressive’ news website The Intercept published an article entitled “From El Paso to Sarajevo: How White Nationalists Are Inspired by the Bosnia Genocide”, written by journalist and staff writer Murtaza Hussain. The piece argued that many of the perpetrators behind mass shootings and domestic terrorism in the West — from the convicted far right extremist behind the 2011 Norway attacks to the suspect charged in the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand — were influenced by ethnic cleansing committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hussain uses a one-sided and Western-centric account of the inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans to assess the Islamophobia burgeoning in Europe and the United States today. His analogy employs the same misreading used by NATO to facilitate the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and justify its illegal military intervention and war crimes against Serbia. It is an irresponsible variety of yellow journalism that should be ruthlessly critiqued whenever it appears, especially at a news organization which purports to be “fearless, adversarial journalism that holds the powerful accountable.” It also does nothing to help address the growing foundations of fascism by diverting attention away from its real origins.

Hussain begins by accurately noting that the Australian-born suspect behind the massacre at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant, during his live-stream video prior to the carnage, played the song “Remove Kabab” (Serbia Strong”), an upbeat patriotic tune that pays tribute to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. Removed from the context of the Yugoslav Wars, the Serbian folk song and its accompanying wartime propaganda video were rediscovered by Western right-wing fanatics like Tarrant when it became a popular internet meme among the online fringe as an anthem for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in reaction to the influx of refugees from the European migrant crisis. The infamous convicted terrorist behind the July 2011 mass shooting and car bombing in Norway, Anders Breivik, also expressed affinity for the Serbs in his epic manifesto and was cited as an influence by Tarrant. However, despite the article title the author provides no evidence whatsoever to support the implication that the El Paso shooter, 21-year old Patrick Crusius, was in any way motivated by the Balkan conflict.

Brenton Tarrant also wrote the names of several historical Serbian military figures who fought against the Ottoman Empire in previous centuries in Cyrillic on his semi-automatic rifle used to carry out the slaughter. Curiously, he also wrote ‘Skanderbeg’, a legendary national hero of Albania who as a medieval military commander, defected from the Ottoman Turks and prevented their expansion toward western Europe in the 15th century. Despite his historical legacy of rescuing ‘Christendom’ from an Islamic empire to which Tarrant was likely referring, Skanderbeg holds varying significance to different peoples and for the predominantly Muslim Albanians he is viewed as a source of national pride and identity.

During WWII when Albania was under the Axis Powers sphere of influence, it was Muslim volunteers who formed the nucleus of the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), whose foremost victims were Christian Orthodox Serbs, in addition to Jews and Roma. In the Yugoslav Wars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), de-listed terrorist group backed by NATO which fought against Serbia, sought to establish the modern equivalent of the ethnically pure ‘Greater Albania’ as envisioned by Benito Mussolini during WWII in the Kosovo protectorate. So if the Australian-born gunman was incited by Balkan history, it is because he was as confused and unknowledgeable about the complex subject as Hussain, given that he also wrote the number 14 on his firearm in reference to “the 14 words” from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Before falsifying the history of the Yugoslav Wars, Hussain does correctly observe that:

The Balkans are often condescendingly stereotyped as a backward region stuck in the grip of old prejudices. In reality, Serbs, Croats, and Muslims had lived together as compatriots in the former Yugoslavia for a long time before violent demagogues came to power; it took years of effort during the late 1980s and early 1990s for ultranationalist leaders to drum up the level of fear and hatred necessary for war to start.

Unfortunately, the author does not bother to investigate why they had successfully lived together in harmony as southern slavs for decades (under socialism), nor how such leaders took power and incited the different ethnicities into warring with each other as the country disintegrated, as if everything occurred in a vacuum. Following WWII, partisan leader Josip Broz Tito had indeed united the various Yugoslav peoples in congruity under a popular motto that the country consisted of ‘six republics, five nationalities, four languages, three religions, two alphabets — but one Yugoslav.’ Even the most fervent critics of socialism admit the republic was a relative success as it enjoyed freedom from being undermined by economic embargo as a neutral ‘non-aligned’ country during the Cold War after relations soured between Stalin and Tito and it became a strategic buffer between the West and the Soviets.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, a series of austerity programs sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were put into effect and much like a recent study concluded regarding Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the gutting of the welfare system and the social fabric led to a resurgence of right-wing nationalism in the Balkans. Yugoslavia went through the same neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ as Chile the decade prior when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sent the CIA to “make the economy scream” to prevent Salvador Allende from taking power, as well as post-Soviet Russia which the author’s The Intercept colleague Naomi Klein described so thoroughly in The Shock Doctrine. Yet for Hussain, the driving force in Yugoslavia’s downfall was bigotry itself, somehow isolated from the disaster capitalism forced upon it.

As only an empire denialist could overlook, Hussain makes no mention of the “encouragement of racism” on the part of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the coercive diplomacy of the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act which instigated the separatist movements by providing aid exclusively to the republics that seceded and declared independence at the exclusion of the Yugoslav government. After the bill was passed by congress at the behest of the George H.W. Bush administration, only the federation of Serbia and Montenegro remained under the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to a declassified memorandum, the CIA had already been anticipating this collapse for several years.

Suddenly, much of the population consisting of the many different ethnic communities of the Balkans found themselves trapped within various newly formed ethno-nation states overnight that were not their own. They then began establishing proto-states within these new republics, spurring violent conflicts and territorial disputes resulting in ethnic cleansing (on all sides) across the country. Yugoslavia did not implode simply because of its own internal contradictions, but was the subject of exploitation by a more powerful outside actor seeking to economically and militarily dominate the Caspian Sea region in order to gain access to its crude oil and natural gas resources.

Serbian nationalism only saw a resurgence within Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina once Serbs became hostages under new hostile regimes, when we were told by the NATO acolytes in corporate media that it was Belgrade who were the real nationalists even though most Serbians still identified as Yugoslavs and generally wished to preserve the federation being partitioned. In fact, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague posthumously concluded that the late Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, who died mysteriously while in custody on trial in the Netherlands, was not responsible for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. When Radovan Karadžić was convicted by the ICTY, it was determined the Bosnian Serbs acted on their own accord and were frequently at variance with Belgrade on the execution of the war:

Based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular, Milošević’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan.

Serbs certainly committed their share of war crimes, but why do Western journalists dare not speak of the thousands of Serbs ethnically cleansed in Croatia from the self-proclaimed quasi-state of Krajina? Or the mass deportations of Serbs from Kosovo in the years since? The innocent heroes and stigmatized villains were pre-selected and to do so would be actual “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Many of the war crimes committed by Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the Yugoslav Wars were by foreign mujahideen volunteers whose ranks even consisted of two of the future 9/11 hijackers — the Saudi nationals Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — who allegedly seized American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into The Pentagon. Their barbaric acts included beheadings of Serb victims that were likely inspired by the Ustaše who did the same in WWII.

Hussain repeatedly refers to what took place in Bosnia as a “genocide”, citing the dubious Srebrenica massacre in July 1995. While it is certain that a horrific war crime took place in the town, to use such a politicized term is a slanted parroting of the NATO interventionist narrative. Virtually all of the victims were Bosniak Muslim men and boys as the Bosnian Serbs had specifically evacuated women and children from the enclave and the disputed, highly inflated quantity of Bosniak victims were mostly likely a combination of fatalities from the battle for the town and retaliatory summary executions by Bosnian Serbs once they besieged the territory. Prior to the incident, Srebrenica had been under the protection of the UN peacekeeping forces which Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Orić had used to shield his militias following their routine attacks on neighboring Serb villages whose losses also numbered in the thousands. UN General Phillipe Morillon testified that the Srebrenica massacre was motivated by retribution for the war crimes committed by Orić:

JUDGE ROBINSON: Are you saying, then, General, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Orić did to the Serbs two years before?

THE WITNESS: Yes. Yes, Your Honour. I am convinced of that. This doesn’t mean to pardon or diminish the responsibility of the people who committed that crime, but I am convinced of that, yes.

If there were deliberate killings of large groups based on their ethnonationality on all sides, then what occurred was part of a civil war, not “genocide.” Noam Chomsky observed that while NATO based its intervention on the g-word, one of its member states in Turkey was carrying out far worse atrocities against Kurds and that to use the term was an insult to the victims of the Nazis in the region’s past. Who were the principal victims of the Ustaše and the Nazi puppet regime of the Independent State of Croatia during WWII? Serbs. It is also incredible that for a journalist so fixated on neo-fascism, Hussain did not find it significant that Bosnia and Herzegovina President Alija Izetbegović had been a literal member of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS “Handschar” (1st Croatian) in his youth during WWII when Bosnia was under the Ustaše and did three years in prison under Tito for his offense.

Why did the UN peacekeepers fail to protect Srebrenica? It is an important question considering it brought the real turning point in the war. Not long after, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force against Ratko Mladić’s forces resulting in the Bosnian Serbs capitulating to a return to negotiations in the Dayton Accord later that year. The former mayor of Srebrenica, Hakija Meholjić, claimed the town was deliberately sacrificed as part of a ‘red line’ agreement between Izetbegović and U.S. President Bill Clinton in a ‘false flag’ to prompt the NATO intervention, as shown in a 2008 Wikileaks Cable:

Meholjic suggested that Bosniak leaders “sold” Srebrenica to the RS (and abetted genocide) when “key members of the international community started saying publicly that enclaves cannot survive.” (Note: Oric, who left Srebrenica in 1993, was not asked to defend it in 1995; ever since there have been accusations that the then Bosnian leadership deliberately allowed the enclave to fall.

Hussain truly loses any remaining “progressive” credibility when he goes on to praise the Otpor! political organization which organized protests that led to the ouster of “dictator” Milošević (actually thrice democratically-elected) in 2000 following the three month NATO bombing campaign the previous year which left Serbia with the highest cancer rate in Europe from the use of depleted uranium ammunition, “justified” by the same lopsided argument made in the article. Otpor! was portrayed as a bona fide, grassroots movement while behind the scenes it was the recipient of millions of dollars from the US government through “soft power” NGOs and CIA-fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, financed by the non-profit industrial complex or what author Arundhati Roy has called the “NGO-ization of resistance.” The success of Otpor! became the formula for Western regime change operations via indistinguishable “pro-democracy” Color Revolutions throughout Eastern Europe in the ensuing decade. Documentary filmmaker Boris Maligurski’s The Weight of Chains series is an excellent overview of the history of Yugoslavia and its first two installments are highly recommended, while the trailer for the forthcoming third film was just released.

Perhaps the reason Hussain unquestioningly heaps praise upon Otpor! is the enormous undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of The Intercept’s ownership in billionaire entrepreneur and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who established the site’s parent organization First Look Media. In The CIA as Organized Crime, journalist and author Douglas Valentine explains how Omidyar’s “philanthropic” investment firm co-financed with the U.S. State Department many of the NGOs in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution such as Center UA which flipped the 2004 Ukrainian election results to a pro-Western candidate. It went on to do the same funding the Euromaidan protests and subsequent coup in 2014 and both so-called Color Revolutions were modeled on the Otpor! movement.  Then, again, the entire premise behind First Look Media is suspect considering it made its name covering the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden while Omidyar’s eBay simultaneously owns Paypal, one of the biggest backers of NSA surveillance. What better way to commandeer dissent then to throw money at journalists?

Hussain also eagerly mentions that “Russian volunteers” participated in the killings at Srebrenica, omitting the equal number of Greek militiamen. This is another instance of thinly veiled Russophobia and the assignment of guilt towards Moscow for the rise of the far right in the West. Its intention is to include Russia within The Clash of Civilizations narrative which is itself a hypothesis for ‘remaking the world order’ through a division and conquering of Eurasia. Hussain does so by isolating the Yugoslav Wars from its context and weaponizing the region‘s history so as to deflect fault for the Islamophobia in the Anglosphere. However, Samuel P. Huntington excluded the Christian Orthodox nations of Russia and Serbia from his “core civilizations” and rather considered them ‘torn countries’ among the major civilizations. In Brenton Tarrant’s mind he may have been elevating the Yugoslav Wars through his act of terrorism, when all he accomplished was provide ammunition for the Western yellow press to further slander the Serbian victims of U.S. imperialism and drag their name through the mud for something they had nothing to do with.

As for the mass shooting in El Paso, the author should try directing the blame closer to home. One can’t help but be reminded of the brilliant observation made by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (before he became a shill for the Democratic Party) who made a connection between the Columbine High School shooting and its occurrence in the midst of the unilateral “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia on the day the U.S. dropped the most amount of bombs in the Kosovo campaign which he further examined in his film Bowling For Columbine. President Clinton had to give two press conferences the morning of April 20th, 1999 — one addressing the Columbine massacre and another giving an explanation for the NATO killing of civilians in Serbia.

American society is suffering from a severely disconnected collective psyche when it fails to make a connection between mass shootings domestically and its endless wars abroad, the real catalyst for the Islamophobic reaction to the refugee crisis. U.S. gun culture is a product of the Cold War which conditioned a mass psychology of fear and liberals shedding crocodile tears who think gun control legislation is somehow a solution to the problem when it would only put a small band-aid on a much deeper wound are unwilling to explore the real roots of the issue. It’s true the U.S. is the only country that suffers from routine mass shootings like in El Paso and Dayton, but the U.S. is also the only country with 800+ military bases in more than 80 countries around the world while currently bombing 7 different nations. America is an insecure, terrified country that resolves everything with violence, at home and abroad, and until this connection is recognized, mass shootings like El Paso will likely continue just like our wars.

Putin and Russia, the World’s “Heartland”

Russia has always fascinated me–the mystical orthodox faith brought to Kievan Rus in the ninth century, the stern heroes who defended Muscovy against the Golden Horde in the 13–15th centuries,  the vast spaces, the remarkable literature of Pushkin and Tolstoy, the Bolshevik Revolution against imperialism … The West has always been a bit jealous of its proud race of genius.

I fell in love with Russia as a teen when I discovered Sergei Prokofiev and insisted–rebelling against my teacher–on playing his fiendishly difficult Toccata in D minor for my Conservatory diploma. I have no idea how I managed it now, but I did, and the piece and my performance proved to be a fine metaphor for the logical impossibility of 20th century Russia, which lived on war and revolution, dreams and nightmares. Prokofieff returned to Russia in 1933, at the peak of Stalin’s repressions, and produced his greatest works, “Romeo and Juliet,” “Cinderella,” “War and Peace,” his war sonatas (not to mention his Ode to Stalin). That hooked me.

Today’s standoff between the Russian bear and the American eagle is yet another epic struggle in Russia’s history, at the heart of Eurasia–the world’s “heartland”. It had a narrow brush with complete collapse in 1985–98 under Gorbachev/Yeltsin, a weak, indecisive leadership, a metaphorical reenactment of Boris Godunov seizing the throne in the 16th century. 1985–98 was a repetition of Godunov and the legendary Time of Troubles.

1998 saw a reenactment of the rallying of the nation to expel the Polish occupiers and reassert Russian power in 1613, just as Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power ended the western invasion in the form of NATO encirclement and western carpetbaggers. That is most certainly how Russians now assess their crippled society.

Putin is despised in the West as a corrupt chauvinist, and Russia is boycotted (though Europe is happy to continue to buy Russian oil and gas), but the reality is very different. Just as in 1613, the first Romanov Tsar Mikihail was inexperienced (a 17-year-old  pious prince whose counselors were a mixed bag, some relatively honest and capable men like his father; some, corrupted and bigoted), Putin has fashioned an image of an incorruptible Russian patriot, above the fray, but all the time juggling with powerful oligarchs and complex political currents, both at home and abroad.

Western media is a barometer not so much for who is a ‘bad guy’, but who is getting the imperial goat; who needs being brought into line. So in the West, the Nobel peace laureate Gorbachev and Yeltsin were both slavishly praised (both are despised by Russians, rating 1% in popularity) and Putin is relentlessly pilloried. Who’s the ‘bad guy’ and why is he ‘bad’?

The American bully tries to taunt the Russian bear into doing something rash, as it moves NATO up to Russia’s borders, encircling it as it did in Cold War days, wooing and inciting noisy little neighbours from the Baltics to Georgia and further. But the Russian leader stands by his principles and his fellow Slavs, despite the provocations. The Time of Troubles is over. No one is going to destroy the Russian heartland, nor will they succeed in breaking up the ancient slavic federation into a chain of Walmarts.

1991 sea change

Whether Left or Right, all agree that the US was more cautious in foreign policy when the Soviet Union was alive and well. There have been lots of coups instigated or just abetted by Washington, but, other than Korea and Vietnam, very little use of US troops in the process–until 1991.

1991 marked a sea change in world politics. Bush senior, US president at the time, professed the goal to be “a new world order–a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations … an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the UN’s founders.”

The US and the EEC (newly incorporated as the European Union in 1993) would help the ex-socialist bloc, including the ex-Soviet Union and its energy-rich Central Asian republics, rebuild their economies and political structures along western capitalist, democratic lines, fashioning weak, “postmodern states”, independent in name only. This process began in Europe with the creation of the EU after WWII and accelerated in North America with the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, soon to be reinforced by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, creating a monster ‘rimland’ American empire-lite, surrounding the Eurasian heartland.

Such alliances, with NATO under US guidance, are intended as the foundations for a united, peaceful world, a “postmodern imperialism”, devoid of messy competitive wars for colonies, neocolonies or the need for a life-or-death defense of ‘western civilization’. Russia was invited to join in the 1990s, but when it woke from its post-collapse hangover, it discovered that its dream of a nuclear free world had been pushed aside, and realized that the proposed peaceful postmodern imperial order was a sham. Events since have only confirmed this ‘sober’ assessment.

Bush senior hit the ground running, invading Iraq in January, without so much as a ‘by your leave’ to Soviet President Gorbachev (who merely approved, after an offer to mediate was ignored).

1991 was a doubly fateful year for Russians, who gained ‘freedom’, but most of whom lost everything after the August 1991 putsch, a few becoming fabulously wealthy overnight through blatant theft as the Soviet Union came crashing down. Mikhail Khodorkovsky epitomizes the change. A Young Communist League (YCL) functionary in the late 1980s, when no one was still joining, he and his ‘comrades’ opened businesses under the YCL stamp, positioned themselves to transfer them and YCL property to themselves as YCL functionaries, and then bought it for a song before their Soviet legal authority was canceled. At the same time, all state trade ground to a halt and the black market allowed them to add to their riches.

This happened in 1989–91, when Putin was languishing as a minor KGB agent in East Germany. By the time he returned to Leningrad, resigned from the KGB and got his political feet on the ground, the cupboard was bare. Khodorkovsky and his new ‘oligarch’ friends then used their new wealth to privatize the privatization process. By the time Putin was rising as Yeltsin’s protege, Yeltsin was conned into giving the crown jewels (resource industries) to the oligarchs in the infamous “loans-for-shares” deals, sending their wealth into the stratosphere.

Slaying the dragons

Russia is “no longer a superpower”. Its deteriorating economy is ranked “somewhere behind Spain”, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced in October 2015. It doesn’t come near the Soviet Union in power and prestige. This taunt followed US scrambling of Russian military planes which were deemed a tad too close to a US aircraft carrier off the Korea peninsula, and US hysterics over Russian subs seen too near an internet cable in the Atlantic. How dare this second-rate Spain tweak the US nose?

Every day there is some gripe about the Russians. And don’t even mention the P word. Much like Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin is a strong, popular leader (83% approval) who dares defy the West, has been in power for over 15 years now (ok, as prime minister for a few years to requalify), accused of corruption.

To Russians, it seems he can do nothing wrong, despite defying the West on pretty well everything, from gay marriage to bare-faced western infiltration (excuse me, democracy promotion NGOs). Or perhaps it’s because of this. Russians strongly disapprove of US threats, and miss the feeling of being a key international player, which they enjoyed in Soviet times.

Western media loves to gossip about all political leaders, especially colourful ones who defy the empire. That puts Putin at the top of their list. Even a saint like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez got an unending stream of mud. The most damning attacks are on the corruption endemic in Russia after 1991. However, evidence of corruption points at most to Putin’s immediate circle, family and political friends, rather than Putin himself. His son-in-law Kiril Shamalov was already a rising star of Russian business when he married the president’s daughter Katerina in 2013, opening his own investment company and using his family contacts in business and banking (apparently all legit).

Putin’s own background and way of thinking is revealed in a collection of interviews with Putin, his family and friends called First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russian President Vladimir Putin (2000), a snapshot of the Putin family just as they entered the bubble of power and anonymity. His early career witnessed two scandalous, dysfunctional political families–that of his first post-KGB boss, St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and later that of Boris Yeltsin. Putin’s ex-wife and two daughters are kept out of the spotlight.

Putin is one of those rare politicians who arise at moments of crisis, intelligent and committed. He quickly took control of the post-Soviet shambles, brought some order to the chaos and instilled a sense of pride in a defeated people. His own fate and that of his country became one and guided what is still his greatest victory: bringing the Yelstin-era oligarchs into line. This he did carefully, going after media moguls Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Guzinsky in 2000, forcing them to sell their TV stations ORT and NRT, ironically dubbed “shares for freedom” transactions, after which they went into exile. Guzinsky sold his shares to fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich who promptly gave editorial control to the Kremlin.

Who really wants peace?

Fast forward to 2007. Munich. Putin criticized the US monopolistic dominance in global relations, and its “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations.” The result: “No one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.”

2019: Putin is still number one to Russians, but losing ground because the economy is still a wreck and corruption is rife. He inherited a mess and the West has piled sanctions upon sanctions, interfered in Ukraine to keep the two great Slavic nations, Ukraine and Russia, apart, determined to turn all the ex-Soviet countries into postmodern basket cases, begging for scraps from the western banquet table.

But Russians and those of us in the West interested in boring things like peace are as firm as Putin is in supporting Russia’s principled policies around the world. His Munich speech gave ‘Munich’ a new meaning as a historical signpost.

In our age of instant media, this all seems like ancient history, but history often tells us more about today than the latest soundbyte out of the likes of Trump or BoJo. And cultural history even more so, revealing the swamp behind the glitz.

I just watched the first episode of Years and Years, a British television drama series, a joint production by the BBC and HBO. It is primer on not only our moral decline, but it portrays Russia, a possible corrective, is portrayed as even worse.

Businesswoman Vivienne “Viv” Rook (Emma Thompson) causes controversy by saying she “doesn’t give a fuck” about the Israel-Palestine conflict on an evening talk show. Daniel Lyons (Russell Tovey) works on immigration control and marries his ‘husband’ and then, when Trump launches an atom bomb on China, rushes to the refugee holding centre to have sex with a Ukrainian refugee Viktor, who complains that the now Russian-occupied Ukraine has made homosexuality illegal, as in Russia. (It is not!)

That in a nutshell is our monstrous distortion of world politics, with nasty Putin-Russia even more threatening than the Soviet Union was depicted. It is impossible to deconstruct the morass that BBC and its US equivalent has created. It truly frightens me. My only solace is in genuine history, and I thank whoever or whatever that bequeathed me my quirky love of Russia and its noble and tragic history.

Rather than being an active midwife of a new world order opposed to imperialism (Soviet policy), Russia is playing a waiting game — the age-old policy of retreat used against the Mongols, the French and the Nazis. “Americans play Monopoly, Russians chess.” At times, it is wise to sit back and wait for the straw that breaks the ogre’s (excuse me, camel’s) back. A fool’s mate comes about when your opponent is bankrupt, and it certainly looks like this is how the current game is shaping up.

What really clinched my love affair with Russia is the fervent commitment of all Russians that I’ve ever met to peace. They were the arbiters of peace throughout the impossible 20th century, contrary to all the propaganda we were fed in the West. So I will end on a more upbeat note: The US and Russia have many common interests–an end to terrorism, an end to nuclear weapons, environmental rescue, an end to extreme poverty. They all require cooperation. They are not zero-sum games. It’s your move, Uncle Sam.