On Saturday September 7, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap which has brought hope of improved relations between the two countries and an end to the 5-year long conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
A peace accord is being planned for later this month in Normandy involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
Ukraine’s newly elected comedian president Volodymyr Zelensky called the prisoner exchange a “first step” in ending the war in Eastern Ukraine, which has killed an estimated 13,000 civilians.
The Ukraine War remains largely unknown to the American public even though the United States has had a great stake in it.
The war started after a coup d’états in Ukraine in February 2014, which overthrew the democratically elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
In a subsequent referendum, 89% in Donetsk and 96% in Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine voted for independence, which the new government of Petro Poroshenko government did not accept.
The United States was a heavy backer of the coup and dirty war that unfolded in the East.
Victoria Nuland, the head of the State Department’s European desk, traveled to Ukraine three times during the protests that triggered the coup, handing out cookies to demonstrators.
She told U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a telephone conversation that was tapped and later leaked that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, neoliberal head of the “Fatherland” Party, should be Prime Minister as he was thought to have the “economic” and “governing experience.”
Nuland further revealed that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in “democracy promotion” in Ukraine since 1991 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was carrying on the kind of work previously undertaken by the CIA during the Cold War.
Ukraine has long been considered an important bridge between Eastern and Western Europe and holds lucrative oil and gas deposits.
NED president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step towards toppling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
To help achieve this end, the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to the post-coup government in Ukraine, which Putin considered as the “ideological heirs of [Stephen] Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice in World War II.”
Swayed by a slick lobbying campaign backed by supporters of the Afghan mujahidin in the 1980s looking for a new cause and by the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, the Obama administration further provided nearly $600 million in security assistance to the Ukrainian military.
It was supplied with counter-artillery radars, anti-tank systems, armored vehicles and drones in a policy expanded upon by Trump.
Before and after the Ukrainian military’s campaign began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev, followed by a flow of senior Pentagon officials.
A back-door arms pipeline was set up through the United Arab Emirates and Blackwater mercenaries were allegedly deployed.
American military advisers embedded in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry provided rocket propelled grenades, carried out training exercises and planned military operations including with members of the fascist Azov battalion, which had Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel patches emblazoned on their sleeves.
Obama’s National Security adviser, Samantha Power, claimed that the [Ukrainian] governments “response [to alleged provocations by eastern rebels] [was] reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any of our countries would have done.”
The Ukrainian military and allied warlord and neo-Nazi militias were not acting reasonably or proportionally, however, when they carried out artillery and air attacks on cities and struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, hospitals and orphanages in Eastern Ukraine, and tortured and executed POWs in what amounted to clear war crimes.
NYU Professor Stephen Cohen notes that even the New York Times, which mainly deleted atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk living “as if in the Middle Ages.”
That the American public knows nothing of these events is a sad reflection of the superficiality of our media and decline in the quality of international news coverage.
It is also a testament to the failing of the political left, which has embraced the cause of immigrant and Palestinian rights and fighting climate change, legitimately, but has neglected the plight of the Eastern Ukrainian people.
Through the summer the world has watched as protests shook Hong Kong. As early as April they began as peaceful demonstrations which peaked in early June, with hundreds of thousands, in protest of an extradition bill. That bill would have allowed Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, to return criminals to Taiwan, mainland China or Macau for crimes committed there – after approval by multiple layers of the Hong Kong judiciary. In the wake of those enormous nonviolent demonstrations, Carrie Lam, CEO of Hong Kong, “suspended” consideration of the extradition bill, a face-saving ploy. To make sure she was understood, she declared it “dead.” The large rallies, an undeniable expression of the peaceful will of a large segment of the Hong Kong population had won an impressive victory. The unpopular extradition bill was slain.
But that was not the end of the story. A smaller segment continued the protests. (The Hong Kong police at one point estimated 4,000 hard core protesters.) pressed on with other demands, beginning with a demand that the bill be “withdrawn,” not simply “suspended.” To this writer death by “suspension” is every bit as terminal as death by “withdrawal.” As this piece is sent to press, news comes that Corrie Lam has now formally withdrawn the bill.
As the summer passed, two iconic photos presented us with two human faces that captured two crucial features of the ongoing protests; they were not shown widely in the West.
First, Fu Guohao, a reporter for the Chinese mainland newspaper, Global Times, was attacked, bound and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital. The photos and videos of this ugly sequence were seen by netizens across the globe even though given scant attention in Western media. Where were the stalwart defenders of the press in the US as this happened? As one example, DemocracyNow! (DN!) was completely silent as was the rest of the U.S. corporate media.
Fu’s beating came after many weeks when the protesters threw up barriers to stop traffic; blocked closure of subway doors, in defiance of commuters and police, to shut down mass transit; sacked and vandalized the HK legislature building; assaulted bystanders who disagreed with them; attacked the police with Molotov cocktails; and stormed and defaced police stations. Fu’s ordeal and all these actions shown in photos on Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, a paper leaning to the side of protesters, gave the lie to the image of these “democracy activists” as young Ghandis of East Asia. (The South China Morning Post is based in Hong Kong and its readership is concentrated there so it has to have some reasonable fidelity in reporting events; otherwise it loses credibility – and circulation. Similarly, much as the New York Times abhorred Occupy Wall Street, it could not fail to report on it.)
Which brings us to the second photo, much more important to U.S. citizens, that of a “Political Counselor” at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong who in August was pictured meeting with, Joshua Long and Nathan Law, at a hotel there. The official was formerly a State Dept functionary in the Middle East – in Jerusalem, Riyadh, Beirut, Baghdad and Doha, certainly not an area lacking in imperial intrigues and regime change ops. That photo graphically contradicted the contention that there is no US “black hand,” as China calls it, in the Hong Kong riots. In fact, here the “black hand” was caught red-handed, leading Chen Weihua, a very perceptive China Daily columnist, to tweet the picture with the comment: “This is very very embarrassing. … a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if a Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters.”
And that photo with the protest leaders is just a snap shot of the ample evidence of the hand of the U.S. government and its subsidiaries in the Hong Kong events. Perhaps the best documentation of the U.S. “black hand” is to be found in Dan Cohen’s superb article of August 17 in The Greyzone entitled, “Behind a made-for-TV Hong Kong protest narrative, Washington is backing nativism and mob violence.” The article by Cohen deserves careful reading; it leaves little doubt that there is a very deep involvement of the US in the Hong Kong riots. Of special interest is the detailed role and funding, amounting to over $1.3 million, in Hong Kong alone in recent years, of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED), ever on the prowl for new regime change opportunities. Perhaps most important, the leaders of the “leaderless” protests have met with major US political figures such as John Bolton, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Senator Marco Rubio, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, Nancy Pelosi and others, all of whom have heartily endorsed their efforts. This is not to deny that the protests were home grown at the outset in response to what was widely perceived as a legitimate grievance. But it would be equally absurd to deny that the U.S. is fishing in troubled Hong Kong waters to advance its anti-China crusade and regime change ambitions.
That said, where is the U.S. peace movement on the question of Hong Kong?
Let us be clear. One can sympathize with the demand of many citizens of Hong Kong to end the extradition bill or even the other four demands: an inquiry into police handling of their protests; the retraction of a government characterization of the demonstrations as riots; an amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage. (The first three all grow out of violence of the protests, be it noted.) But that is the business of the citizens of Hong Kong and all the rest of China. It is not the business of the U.S. government. Peace activists in the US should be hard at work documenting and denouncing the US government’s meddling in Hong Kong, which could set us on the road to war with China, potentially a nuclear war. And that is a mission for which we in the U.S. are uniquely suited since, at least in theory, we have some control over our government.
So, we should expect to hear the cry, “US Government, Hands Off Hong Kong”? Sadly, with a few principled exceptions it is nowhere to be heard on either the left or right.
Let’s take DemocracyNow! (DN!) as one example, a prominent one on the “progressive” end of the spectrum. From April through August 28, there have been 25 brief accounts (“headlines” as DN! calls them, each amounting to a few paragraphs) of the events in Hong Kong and 4 features, longer supposedly analytic pieces, on the same topic. Transcripts of the four features are here, here, here and here. There is not a single mention of possible US involvement or the meetings of the various leaders of the protest movement with Pompeo, Bolton, Pence, or the “Political Counselor” of the US Hong Kong consulate.
And this silence on US meddling is true not only of most progressive commentators but also most conservatives.
On the Left when someone cries “Democracy,” many forget all their pro-peace sentiment. And similarly on the Right when someone cries “Communism,” anti-interventionism too often goes down the tubes. Forgotten is John Quincy Adams’s 1823 dictum, endlessly quoted but little honored, “We do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Where does this lapse on the part of activists come from? Is it a deep-seated loyalty to Empire, the result of endless indoctrination? Is it U.S. Exceptionalism, ingrained to the point of unconsciousness? Or is it at bottom a question of who the paymasters are?
On both sides anti-interventionism takes an especially hard hit when it comes to major competitors of the US, powers that could actually stand in the way of US global hegemony, like Russia or China. In fact on its August 12 program, DN! managed a story taking a swipe at Russia right next to the one on Hong Kong – and DN! was in the forefront of advancing the now debunked and disgraced Russiagate Conspiracy Theory. In contrast, the anti-interventionist movement is front and center when it comes to weaker nations, for example Venezuela – and quite properly so. But when one puts this advocacy for weaker nations together with the New Cold War stance on China and Russia, one must ask what is going on here. Does it betoken a sort of imperial paternalism on the part of DN and like-minded outlets? It certainly gains DN!, and others like it, considerable credibility among anti-interventionists which can help win them to a position in favor of DN!’s New Cold War stance. And the masters of Empire certainly understand how valuable such credibility can be at crucial moments when support for their adventures is needed from every quarter.
We would all do well to follow the example of these organizations in rejecting a New Cold War mentality which is extremely dangerous, perhaps fatally so. A good beginning for us in the U.S. is to demand of our government, “Hands Off Hong Kong.”
Misinformed “progressive” western “activists” and pundits are putting down their remote controls and organic smoothies just long enough to tweet out that Hong Kong protesters need to be supported as paragons of virtue and justice. Some have even blogged and bloviated about the importance of these protests as a struggle for freedom against “dictatorship.”
Most of these individuals never question why, out of the thousands of daily protests, or the 200-plus ongoing global independence movements, or the 50-plus ongoing violent conflicts, why this particular struggle has been curated to penetrate the thick fog of their ignorance and their flashbulb-short attention span.
Most of these individuals wouldn’t be able to distinguish Hong Kong from Hokkaido, and couldn’t tell Putonghua from Toisanhua from Cantonese. Most have never seen or spent a day in China. In fact, you know it’s not a real color revolution until the stupid section of the western “progressive” blogosphere gets to cheerleading.
3. It’s not a progressive popular uprising if the key leaders are racist, anti-immigrant, secessionists that court and consort with powerful rightwing extremists and regime change ideologues in the US (John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Marco Rubio, Eliot Engel, Larry Diamond, etc). John Bolton, for God’s sake?
4. You know it’s not a progressive popular uprising when foreign powers (US Congress, State Dept) proclaim their ardent support for the protestors, write bills, make threats, and threaten consequences if the protests are not allowed by the government. When was the last time the US government actually supported a real populist movement?
5. You know it’s not a popular progressive uprising—or one with a shred of sense—when the protesters make appeals for US intervention or want to go back to being a colony: a shamelessly white supremacist, colonial Apartheid state without a hint of democracy or representation.
7. Popular progressive movements for democracy and free speech don’t try to shut down free speech and terrorize all who disagree with them.
Let’s say you missed all of these. Here are some other things to note:
1.Protest-in-a-box, for free: There has been incredible preparation, logistics, organization, and funding. Apologies to dear Rosa Luxembourg, revolutions in this era don’t just happen by themselves, and they certainly don’t fund themselves. Tens of thousands of protestors, prepared with a flush kit of hardhats, gas masks, filters, goggles, zip ties, staves, lasers, gloves, and body armor don’t just appear spontaneously. They don’t just improvisationally start creating complex logistics lines using predetermined hand signals while brandishing slick, corporate-designed banners, logos, animation, and soundbite-catchphrases in English. That requires incredible organization, training, andfunding. See 1 & 2 above.
2. The Sudden Color of Violence: Note the Blitzkrieg-fast turn to violence. The Modus Operandi for color revolutions is to first instigate mass protests over a minor pretext (here, a carefully craftedextradition bill, already suspended), followed by a very quick, prepared escalation to violence: US supported color revolutions need to escalate to violence quickly, the better to crowd out critical reflection, drown the mediascape with emotional images and riot porn, the better to “catapult the propaganda,” the better to create chaos and confusion, the better to bring down, paralyze, render impotent the government by shock; or to trigger a crackdown, thereby bringing down global censure. Above all, they need and rely on disruptive terror to intimidate and paralyze: to create confusion for ongoing sabotage–to throw sand in the gears–and to create structural friction in the conditions of living that render ordinary existence intolerable and unbearable.
In other words, this is not about making demands for creating change: this is shock therapy designed to create a legitimation crisis for a state: render the state impotent or ungovernable, or morally untouchable.
These are well-honed NED/CIA regime change tactics, practiced and documented all over the world, designed to inflame discontent, outrage, and protests. These tactics of geometric escalation, designed to instigate an overreaction by the authorities, the better to use in propaganda and to trigger more agitation are happening as we speak. (The NY Times’ disingenuous “Marginal Violence theory” is a red herring to distract you as the violence assaults the core, moves asymptotically towards unrestrained urban warfare).
Here are some of the specific tactics, right out of the color revolution template:
Mass Violence: including attacking police, cars, and bystanders with Molotovs, blinding lasers, air guns, grenade launchers, sling shots, bricks, steel pipes, sharpened steel bars, baseball bats, sledge hammers, knives, and caustic lye, etc. Bombs, automatic weapons, and axes have also been found and confiscated.
Infrastructure Attacks: attacks on buildings (police stations, legislative chambers, government buildings, dorms), mass disruption of traffic, transportation, and logistics (airports, subway and subway infrastructure, tollbooths, violent roadblocks, setting fires to barricade in police, massive street fires, coordinated sabotage of traffic lights (to create accidents), cameras, and streetlights.
If a tiny fraction of these types of actions had been unleashed in New York, DC, or London, “democratic” western authorities would have seen fit to let loose with lethal force 13 weeks ago. In fact, as a point of reference, in France, police have killed protestors, blinded 24, and injured 2200 in the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vest protests.
3. Fetishistic Demands: These are demands that don’t address the actual conditions that have created the legitimate discontent—rampant inequality and the festering structural violence of a financialized neoliberal state–but rather uncritical, rhetorical, virtue-signaling ad-campaign slogans that can’t or won’t be met, all the better to justify continued chaos, outrage, and violence.
This is not to say that the working classes of Hong Kong don’t have legitimate grievances to protest. One of the most unequal states in the world–a paradise for billionaires–Hong Kong is a case study in the nihilistic despair of a neoliberal Capitalist state dominated by corporations, high finance and real estate. Due to its history as a capitalist tax haven, with no capital gains, dividend, estate, or value-added taxes, the government derives much of its revenue from selling land to real estate barons, colluding to render housing beyond the reach of most Hong Kong residents and relegating the vast majority of dwellers to claustrophobic subdivided apartments that are the residential equivalent of a subway car at rush hour. The Chinese government, if they are to be blamed, should be blamed for not immediately shutting down this parasitic legacy system of the colonial era—and demonstrating that another way is possible as they have all over the mainland. This legitimate anger at structural Capitalist violence is the outrage and despair that has been diverted and harnessed into anti-immigrant, pro-colonial, anti-Chinese sentiment, serving the color revolution agenda of the West.
4. Intense, Hyper-coordinated Information Warfare: coordinated, directed, saturated messaging and censorship in the western press and media:
One-sided blasting of protest porn or decontextualized police violence, with non-stop pro-protestor commentary and editing;
Endless, mindless, China-bashing echo-chambering in the media;
Coordinated, mass white-washing, justification, and erasure of the protestors’ over-the-top violence;
Censorship and mass erasure of almost all voices critical of the protests on the MSM, YouTube, FB, and Twitter: over 200,000 twitter accounts pre-emptively and instantaneously suspended on grounds of supposed “coordination” and undermining “legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground”. This coordinated, mass censorship happened the exact moment some glimmers of truth started to come out and started to discredit the protests (as the gruesome airport torture images started to circulate). Note that grassroots protest movements don’t have direct access to the Silicon Valley kill switch if unfavorable information comes out. If there was any doubt as to whether US social media companies function as the subcontracted perception management arm and gatekeepers of the globalized US security-surveillance state, you have here your proof.
Compare this saturated, single-message, biased coverage also with the minimalcoverage of the current or recent situations in:
Kashmir, which Indian troops are currently blockading and violently occupying (where the special autonomous status of the region has been already revoked),
France’s Gilets Jaunes, an ongoing popular protest, where 24 people have been blinded, 2200 injured, and 11 have died,
West Papua & Papua, Indonesia, where Indonesian troops are currently on a murderous rampage,
Catalonia, where an independence movement successful at the ballots was violently put down,
South Korea’s Candlelight revolution, a massive populist uprising in South Korea, almost completely ignored until the government was brought down,
Almost any other popular protest around the world.
To ask sincerely why Hong Kong is receiving saturation coverage, “moral” support, and an unprecedented media platform–out of all the other movements and struggles—gives you a framework for understanding the scale, scope, and stakes of what this is about. This is a geostrategic, geopolitical information warfare, no longer—if ever–grassroots popular agitation.
Full Spectrum Resistance
In the post-Soviet era, the Pentagon and its allies came up with the doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance.” This is a war doctrine that aims for total domination in all spheres and battle spaces: dominance, not just in kinetic military conflict, but also in the domains of civil disturbance, information warfare, and social perception, in particular network-centric “operational narrative dominance.” This is what’s going on here.
Progressives–if you actually are that–you need to keep your eyes open, your minds alert, and think sharply, critically, objectively as you wander into this battlespace.
Color revolutions and regime change operations simply can’t happen without you: they need you to become the blind chorus, the vapid echo chamber, the ditzy cheerleaders, and the jaundiced, prejudiced, ignorant umpires in this dirty game of information warfare. If you don’t want to become a vector of propaganda and a host of disinformation in this ugly viral warfare, you need to think critically, reflexively, dialectically when you tweet, blog, agitate, or speak out. Lives and nations rest in the balance.
In chats about Hong Kong and the mainland, we always reached a consensus: if you want to develop you can go to the United States or back to the mainland, but there is no future in Hong Kong. In recent years, the decline has happened with shocking speed. At handover in 1997, per capita GDP was twice Macao’s. Hong Kong’s GDP was 18 percent of China’s then; in 2013 it was three percent. Now, Macau’s is three times Hong Kong’s. In 1997, neither Beijing, Shanghai nor Guangzhou had GDPs approaching Hong Kong’s; now all are higher, as are Shenzhen’s and Tianjin’s.1
Demonstrators breaking into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Chambers
The Good Old Days
Under British rule, Hong Kong’s public had no say in political appointment and the Governor, who was Commander in Chief of military forces, could do anything short of sentencing people to death. Wiretaps didn’t require warrants; when police denied demonstration permits the courts could only review their paperwork; the legislature was a rubber stamp and there was no political opposition. Under Communist “oppression”, the courts review police decisions for reasonableness, citizens elect their legislators, the government has a political opposition, and the Chief Executive can neither declare martial law nor call out the military. Some things haven’t changed, however: it is still illegal in Hong Kong to join the Communist Party of China.
Some aspects of contemporary Hong Kong missing from our media’s coverage:
As long as it controlled access to China’s gigantic market, Hong Kong flourished. Capitalism, Democracy, and British Justice had nothing to do with it.
Had Hong Kong joined the mainland in 1997 its prosperity would have been assured.
Before the handover the UK introduced electoral democracy, the poisoned chalice that ended the Colony’s hopes for development.
When the Asian Financial Crisis crashed real estate markets Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa created the ‘85,000 Housing Development Project’ to build affordable homes and diversify the economy by building the Hong Kong Science Park and increasing investment in commerce, education, industry and tourism.
Once the affordable housing units came onto the market the bourgeoisie opposed them because they affected real estate prices, the legislation voted with the bourgeoisie and the youth demonstrated in their support. Tung was vilified and thrown out.
After they killed 224 people in the post-Tiananmen riots in 1989 French Intelligence, Britain’s MI6 and the CIA smuggled 600 agents out through Hong Kong to Western countries. The PRC arrested three Hong Kong-based activists but released them after intervention by the Hong Kong government.
When China joined the WTO in 2001, trade bypassed Hong Kong, stagnation set in and the city’s best and brightest joined Taiwanese seeking a better life on the mainland.
Hong Kong’s profile now resembles Britain’s: 23% of its children live in poverty– compared to the mainland’s 1%.
Home ownership–a marriage prerequisite–fell from 53% in 2010 to 49% in 2018– compared to 78% on the mainland.
Hong Kong trails only London and New York for the largest concentration of individuals worth more than $30 million.
Hong Kong’s ten richest citizens account for 35% of its GDP.
Hong Kong’s household GINI is 0.539, Singapore’s is 0.458 in 2016, America’s is 0.394 and the UK’s is 0.358. (0=equality).
Rent for an HK ‘coffin apartment’ is HK$2,000/mo.
Hong Kong’s woes illustrate capitalism’s familiar shortcomings: wealth accumulation has far outstripped the development of productive forces and the vast majority of citizens have no way to share its benefits. A large rentier class owns most of the city’s social resources, the same contradiction–between capital accumulation and society’s desire to live a dignified life–we confront in the US.
What do Hongkongers really need? Economic growth, employment opportunities and better housing, tasks the mainland has already accomplished. If they want a bright future Hong Kongers need to work together harder and bring their education standards up to the mainland’s. Their youth must develop a clear understanding of their true friends and real enemies.
The Protest Puzzle
The protests are interesting for several reasons:
They’re directed at Beijing, which does even have an extradition treaty with HK and has never requested one.
They’re timed (probably by the NED) to coincide with the anniversary of the handover.
They ignore the financial institutions and capitalists blocking legislative change.
Western media cover them sympathetically, almost hysterically, while ignoring real protests in Gaza, Honduras, Sudan, Yemen, and Brazil.
British media–which have persecuted, tortured, and incarcerated Julian Assange for non-political crimes–now urge his extradition, while trembling lest the PRC use ‘non-political crimes to prosecute critics.’
The UK Government has refused to sell crowd control gear to Hong Kong police.
Imagine how the NYPD would respond if one of their officers were assaulted like this:
Or if demonstrators behaved like this: https://youtu.be/qFgE2Ardv64
Hong Kong police reported firing 150 tear gas canisters, several rounds of rubber bullets and 20 beanbags during the one day of serious violence, causing 72 injuries, none of which required hospitalization, and making 30 arrests.
French police, by contrast, fired 19,000 rubber bullets last year and 5,400 shock grenades, caused 850 serious injuries and 30 mutilations, dozens of facial and skull fractures. Twelve French demonstrators lost one eye. Including those injured by tear gas, water cannon and truncheons, the number would approach six figures, a level of repression not seen since the German Occupation.
French police arrested 9,000 on March 24 alone, half of whom received prison sentences–and that was before orders were issued to arrest protesters even faster.
The almost total Western media silence about French figures has been matched with relentless propaganda presenting their demonstrators as destructive hooligans.
The NED: Doing God’s Work
Beijing’s completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hong Kong-Mainland high-speed railway, along with the relentless decline of voter support for ‘democracy’ parties at every Hong Kong election are speeding the West’s ungraceful retreat from an Asia that never invited them. The extradition law will further erode Western influence and accelerate the political and economic integration of Hong Kong. Here are some elements of dis-integration:
There are 37,000 NGOs registered in Hong Kong (compared to 13,000 in Shanghai, which is four times larger), many of which receive funding from the US and Europe.
In March 1997 the NED sent their first survey mission to Hong Kong to assess the political environment and identify possibilities for NED programming in the territory.
Fourteen NED survey missions had visited Hong Kong by 2012 to assess the political environment and identify possibilities for NED programming.
In 2004, the NED found little interest among university students in activism,2 “Many critics still lament the low level of interest and activism by university students in Hong Kong”.
Between 1995 – 2013, HKHRM received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED.
Through its NDI and SC branches, NED has had close relations with other groups in Hong Kong. SC has given $540,000 to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions in the past seven years.
The current protest’s messaging and its associated groups raise questions about how organic the movement is:
Some of the groups receive significant, direct funding from the NED.
The Canadian and British foreign ministries have publicly thrown their weight behind the protests.
The protesters appeal to Western audiences, using signs in English and the hashtag “AntiExtraditionLaw”.
The group below is waving colonial Hong Kong flags while accusing China of colonialism.
Keeping Hong Kong from China has been an American priority for decades. One former CIA agent even admitted, “Hong Kong was our listening post.”
Seventy international NGOs have endorsed an open letter urging the bill to be killed, but signed only by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM)–all US fronts.
In 2018, NED granted $155,000 to SC and $200,000 to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to HKHRM, which is not itself a branch of NED but a partner in Hong Kong.
The coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, lists as organizers of the demonstrations the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.
Since Beijing made a big deal of NED’s influence in the 2014 Occupy protests, it is inconceivable that the current protest organizers are unaware of NED’s ties to its members. One NED official, Louisa Greve, told the Voice of America that “activists know the risks of working with NED partners” in Hong Kong.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress has “no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous’ under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”
The State Department says the extradition bill could “could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values.”
Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, a member organization of the Civil Human Rights Front, met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who expressed support for the protests
Why are the protests supported by a foreign power currently carrying out a coup in Venezuela, threatening the DPRK and trying to start a war with Iran?
The Actual Amendment
The amendment would “allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions that do not have long-term rendition agreements with the city,” among them mainland China and Taiwan. It was introduced when authorities found that a Hong Kong man wanted for murdering his pregnant girlfriend could not be returned to Taiwan to stand trial. Under current law, criminals from other parts of China can escape charges by fleeing to Hong Kong (imagine if Louisiana, under its Napoleonic code, refused to extradite fugitives from Texas or California for crimes committed in those states). Under the amendment the following crimes will be extraditable:
Aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring suicide.
Maliciously wounding; maiming; inflicting grievous or actual bodily harm; assault occasioning actual bodily harm; threats to kill; intentional or reckless endangering of life whether by means of a weapon, a dangerous substance or otherwise; offences relating to unlawful wounding or injuring.
Offences of a sexual nature including rape; sexual assault; indecent assault; unlawful sexual acts on children; statutory sexual offences.
Gross indecency with a child, a mental defective or an unconscious person.
Kidnapping; abduction; false imprisonment; unlawful confinement; dealing or trafficking in slaves or other persons; taking a hostage.
Offences against the law relating to dangerous drugs including narcotics, psychotropic substances, precursors and essential chemicals used in the illegal manufacture of narcotics and psychotropic substances; offences relating to the proceeds of drug trafficking.
Obtaining property or pecuniary advantage by deception; theft; robbery; burglary (including breaking and entering); embezzlement; blackmail; extortion; unlawful handling or receiving of property; false accounting; any other offence in respect of property or fiscal matters involving fraud; any offence against the law relating to unlawful deprivation of property.
Offences against bankruptcy law or insolvency law.
Offences against the law relating to companies including offences committed by officers, directors and promoters.
Offences relating to securities and futures trading.
Offences relating to counterfeiting; offences against the law relating to forgery or uttering what is forged.
Offences against the law relating to protection of intellectual property, copyrights, patents or trademarks.
Offences relating to bribery, corruption, secret commissions and breach of trust.
Perjury and subornation of perjury.
Offences relating to the perversion or obstruction of the course of justice.
Arson; criminal damage or mischief including mischief in relation to computer data.
Offences against the law relating to firearms.
Offences against the law relating to explosives.
Offences relating to environmental pollution or protection of public health.
Mutiny or any mutinous act committed on board a vessel at sea.
Piracy involving ships or aircraft.
Unlawful seizure or exercise of control of an aircraft or other means of transportation.
Genocide or direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
Facilitating or permitting the escape of a person from custody.
Offences against the law relating to the control of exportation or importation of goods of any type, or the international transfer of funds.
Smuggling; import and export of prohibited items, including historical and archaeological items.
Immigration offences including fraudulent acquisition or use of a passport or visa.
Arranging or facilitating for financial gain, the illegal entry of persons into a jurisdiction.
Offences relating to gambling or lotteries.
Offences relating to the unlawful termination of pregnancy.
Stealing, abandoning, exposing or unlawfully detaining a child; any other offences involving the exploitation of children.
Offences relating to prostitution and premises kept for the purposes of prostitution.
Offences involving the unlawful use of computers.
Offences relating to fiscal matters, taxes or duties.
Offences relating to unlawful escape from custody; mutiny in prison.
Offences relating to women and girls.
Offences against the law relating to false or misleading trade descriptions.
Offences relating to the possession or laundering of proceeds obtained from the commission of any offence described in this Schedule.
Impeding the arrest or prosecution of a person who has or is believed to have committed an offence described in this Schedule.
Offences for which persons may be surrendered under multilateral international conventions; offences created as a result of decisions of international organizations.
Conspiracy to commit fraud or to defraud.
Conspiracy to commit, or any type of association to commit, any offence described in this Schedule.
Aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring the commission of, inciting, being an accessory before or after the fact to, or attempting to commit an offence described in, this Schedule.
The current spate of US-initiated wars, threats of wars, embargoes, threats of embargoes, coups, threats of coups, heavy censorship and massive propaganda, while impressive in its breadth, seems to lack strategic coherence, tactical effectiveness, credibility or effectiveness.
ABOVE: A picture circulated by CNN confirms the out of control violence of the protesters. Even CNN seems a bit confused about the Hong Kong process. The caption reads: A policeman looks at the damage and debris after protesters stormed the legislature hours before in Hong Kong early on July 2, 2019. This image was part of a subtly tendentious dispatch filed by James Griffiths on 2 July 2019.
Examine it, if you can, and see if you can spot the biases now that you read our remedial report.
In February 2003, protest organizers estimated that nearly 2 million people took to the streets of London in opposition to going to war against Iraq. United States president George W. Bush came across as dismissive of the protestors, likening them to a “focus group.”1 The number of protestors did not deter Bush and United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair from their path.
The aftermath was that the US, UK, and other allies initiated a lopsided war based on “intelligence and facts [that] were being fixed around the policy” of military action.2 Iraq did not possess weapons-of-mass destruction; it was as United Nations weapons inspector had warned beforehand that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed.” What transpired was an act of aggression — which the Nuremberg Tribunal described thusly:
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
Furthermore, the US-led debacle against a sanctions-weakened Iraq is compellingly argued, by lawyers Abdul Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani, as an act of genocide by the US, UK, allies, and the UN Security Council.3
Two Million Demonstrators Take to the Streets of Hong Kong
On 27 June, the Hong Kong Free Pressreported about 200 people protesting outside secretary for justice Teresa Cheng’s office. On the following day, a counter demonstration of around 200 people made the rounds of 19 foreign consulates demanding that foreign countries not interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong
Just days earlier, crowds estimated at one and two million people took to the streets to protest in Hong Kong. Protest against what?
Fingers point to a gruesome incident that occurred between a Hong Kong couple while on vacation in Taiwan. A young, pregnant woman was murdered, allegedly by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was jailed for the theft of her money and personal effects, but a trial for the killing outside of Hong Kong’s jurisdiction is prevented. And there is no extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The possibility of a release as early as October of 2019 has been provided as a reason for the expedited passing of an extradition bill.
What was unexpected was that so many Hong Kongers would oppose it.
The protests have been effective in first having amendments made to the bill, and subsequently sidelining the bill, but it may be resurrected for a vote at a later date. The Hong Kong government amended the extradition law to serious criminal offenses only, those carrying a minimum sentence of 7 years’ jail time, for those who committed a crime elsewhere and returned to Hong Kong. A person who commits an offense in Hong Kong would not be extradited to mainland China.
The Boogeyman of Fear
Why the hullabaloo over an extradition bill when Hong Kong already has extradition agreements with 20 countries, including the UK and US?
Why should an extradition agreement with other countries cause such a ruckus? If one peruses the corporate-state media, a clear answer emerges: fear; it is a perceived fear of what China may do to a person extradited to the mainland. Is this a rational or justifiable fear?
The South China Morning Poststates, “[C]ritics fear Beijing may abuse the new arrangement to target political activists.”
Germany’s DW cites critics who say China “has a poor legal and human rights record.”
“Protests have been raging in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill, which, if approved, would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.”
Al Jazeerawrites that people in Hong Kong fear China’s encroachment on their rights.
The Guardianhighlights a Hong Konger who was “waving a large Union Jack flag, a tribute to the British colonial era before the city was handed back to China’s rule, and implicit attack on Beijing.”
The Guardian article claims, “The alarm over the bill underscores many Hong Kong residents’ rising anxiety and frustration over the erosion of civil liberties that have set the city apart from the rest of China.”
The New York Timesdownplayed Chinese sovereignty over the semi-autonomous Hong Kong by pointing to a large, white banner which read, “This is Hong Kong, not China.”
The Financial Timeswrites, “Critics fear the law would allow Beijing to seize anyone it likes who sets foot in the territory — from a normal resident to the chief executive of a multinational in transit — and whisk them off to mainland China on trumped up charges.”
What about Edward Snowden?
Back in 2013, ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden left the US for Hong Kong with a thumb-drive stash of secret NSA documents, which he turned over to some hand-picked journalists. Snowden was not beyond the reach of the US in Hong Kong, and the American government sought his extradition. Snowden, however, was allowed to depart Hong Kong for Moscow. Apparently, the Americans “had mucked up the legal paperwork.”
Hong Kong had no choice but to let the 30-year-old leave for “a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”
Those refugees in Hong Kong who helped Snowden elude apprehension have not fared as well as Snowden. Human-rights lawyer Robert Tibbo described the situation bluntly: “Refugees are marginalized to such an extent, that they are Hong Kong’s own version of Untouchables.”
Yet, despite what is transpiring in their own backyard, Hong Kongers are in the streets saying they fear what might happen to those who might be extradited to mainland China.
What about Julian Assange?
Hong Kongers and the state-corporate media are expressing fear about what China may do. But what about two countries that Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with — the US and the UK? One only need point to the current egregious abuses meted out to Julian Assange to dispel any notion of justice. And why is Assange’s extradition being sought? For exposing US war crimes!
Relations with Mainland China
China’s chairman Xi Jinping is unremitting in his battle against corruption, but also his political platform includes “promot[ing] social fairness and justice as core values.”4 Is this something to fear?
There is the case of the disappearance of Hong Kong booksellers. There is also concern about the arrest of human rights lawyers in China. I am not about to state that the application of the law in China is perfect. But where is justice perfect? China does practice censorship, but freedom to speak has limits. One instance of when censorship is justified: to prevent the dissemination and spread of disinformation. Consider the image at left, while the actual size of the demonstrations were massive, the image was “heavily edited — cropped and mirrored — to multiply the size of the crowd.” It has gone viral with subsequent republications failing to mention the editing and cropping.
Then there is the omission of information, such as the purported funding of the protests in Hong Kong by the US government and a notorious CIA-affiliated NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy. This is backed by various western governments expressing sympathy for the Hong Kong protestors.
The often bandied-about criticisms concerning China are of authoritarianism, lack of democracy, and lack of freedom.
Is China authoritarian? China, through the Communist Party of China, defines itself as a state practicing socialism with Chinese characteristics. It promotes as its core values: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendliness. China practices utilitarianism aiming its policies at what best benefits the majority of its citizens. China promotes peace and harmony; it emphasizes diplomacy and avoidance of war.
To allays fears, Xi said in a speech in Berlin:
As China continues to grow, some people start to worry. Some take a dark view of China and assume that it will inevitably become a threat as it develops further. They even portray China as being the terrifying Mephisto who will someday suck the soul of the world. Such absurdity couldn’t be more ridiculous, yet some people, regrettably, never tire of preaching it. This shows prejudice is indeed hard to overcome….
The pursuit of peace, amity and harmony is an integral part of the Chinese character which runs deep in the blood of the Chinese people. This can be evidenced by axioms from ancient China such as: “A warlike state, however big it may be, will eventually perish.”5
Democracy? Wei Ling Chua in his book, Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China, sought to compare and contrast the effectiveness of western and Chinese political systems scientifically. The assumption is that the well-being of the citizenry is the raison d’être of a government. To determine this, Chua gauged government responsiveness to the needs of the people during a disaster. The response of the Australian and American governments compared unfavorably with the Chinese government’s response to disasters. Chua writes this is because “… the culture and beliefs of the Communist Party in China is more people-oriented than those of the capitalist elites in the West.”6 Besides, what democracy did Hong Kong enjoy under British until the time of a handover approached? Is not the imposition of colonial status through war to facilitate opium exports a total abnegation of democracy and freedom?7
I have lived in China for a number of years, and I feel just as free here as anywhere. Of course, I wouldn’t stand on a soapbox with a megaphone and shout anti-China slogans, but I wouldn’t do that anywhere about that country’s government. The right to peaceful protest, however, should be respected. The Chinese people around me do not complain of feeling unfree. As already stated, there is censorship. Very few people here are aware of the protests taking place in Hong Kong. But freedom is not just about speech. What about freedom from poverty? One in five Hong Kongers live in poverty, a number that is on the increase in Hong Kong. Contrariwise, the year 2020 is targeted as the year that poverty is eliminated in China.
Charles Chow (pseudonym for an American who lives on and off in Hong Kong) gave his perspective:
The big issue isn’t the [extradition] bill at all or even the relative lack of democracy in Hong Kong…. It’s two fundamental issues that have existed since the colonial era, but worsened since the handover: a growing wealth gap and the lack of affordable housing. The government hasn’t done much to resolve them and neither has China. Their failure to tackle these problems has made Hong Kongers less trustful of them and more irritable overall. Therefore, even small controversies will point back to these bigger issues.
I agree with Chow’s identification of two fundamental issues. However, I fail to see why in a one country, two systems situation that Beijing should be held responsible for the resolution of problems associated with the Hong Kong system of governance. Moreover, the yawning chasm in the percentage of those living in poverty under the system in Hong Kong versus the system in mainland China (under 1%, for a much larger territory with a huge population, therefore, posing greater challenges for effective governance) suggests the Hong Kong system is majorly flawed in at least one important aspect.
Now it’s 22 years after the handover–an entire generation has passed. The legacy of colonialism will linger for a while, but the current government has had two decades to resolve any problem the British left behind. Hong Kong’s economy is still robust, but its gains have been unequally distributed.8
Its housing prices are just obscene–especially given the size and build quality of the properties they represent. Neither problem shows any sign of abating and both are, in fact, getting worse. Thus, even some Hong Kongers who are pro-Beijing have expressed concern over both problems because they know neither discriminates by political affiliation. Where they differ from the pro-democracy crowd is how to resolve them.
The pro-democracy folks believe giving more people a say in how Hong Kong operates (in other words, more democracy) is the solution. The pro-Beijing folks think the current government, along with China, should be able to do something. But this government, beholden as it is to the tycoons and China (such an odd couple), isn’t going to tackle these problems. Because it won’t, it has created a growing body of restless Hong Kongers, many of whom were once apolitical and probably even opposed Occupy in 2014.
It didn’t have to be this way. In a fairer world, Hong Kong would have a manageable wealth gap and be able to provide affordable housing for most of its people. In such a scenario, even most people who aren’t crazy about China would accept its sovereignty and foreign attempts to get them to protest Chinese rule would go nowhere.
Even if an extradition bill were proposed, there’d be fewer people showing a concern over it.
Imagine if a country were to invade and occupy Hawai’i for the next century9, after which Hawai’i would be semi-liberated from occupation. Would Hawaiians wish to rejoin the US? Might not new systems, cultures, and languages have been injected during the occupation/colonization have affected the mindset of the later generations?
The roots of the opposition that many Hong Kongers feel toward the extradition bill arguably lies further back in history. Clear-minded logic leads to the realization that if Britain had not started the Opium Wars (a crime of aggression) and occupied Hong Kong, thus severing Hong Kong from Beijing’s rule, there never would have been a need for the difficulties that arise from the one country, two systems currently in place. A de facto city-state would never have been able to become a haven for fugitives from the central government. Hong Kong would have remained a part of China. The same logic holds true in the case of Taiwan. If Japan had not occupied Taiwan, and if the US had not intervened to protect the Guomindang remnants that fled across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan would likeliest have remained a part of China to this day.
The source of the current tensions in Hong Kong did not originate in Beijing (unless one blames Beijing for being too militarily weak to protect its territorial integrity and prevent its citizens from being transformed into drug addicts).
This is missing from much of the western corporate-state media news. While China seeks to safeguard sovereignty over its landmass, Britain holds fast to its enclave in Northern Ireland. It ignores justice and maintains an ethnic cleansing that it and the US imposed on the people of the Chagos archipelago. The US itself is a nation erected through the denationalization of Indigenous nations.10
How is it then that western nations and their western media have a moral leg to stand on when criticizing other nations, such as China, for fear of criminality that pale in comparison to those crimes that the western nations have committed?
Can two million marchers be wrong? They are not wrong about the right to march or the right to protest. Are they wrong to oppose the extradition of persons for serious offenses to China? Are they wrong to fear China? Do they genuinely fear China? This fear of mainland China is seemingly so negligible that 6.9 million of the 7.4 million Hong Kongers hold a Homeland Return Permit to ease travel to and from China. Is it sensible for people to travel to a jurisdiction that they fear?
The comparison is stark.
Compare protesting the launching of a war wherein upwards of 600,000 people were killed11 (now being killed that is something that most people fear) to protesting the upholding of law to ensure murderers should face justice. If, indeed, China is governed by a scofflaw government, then there is a justification for having fear. But before casting final judgement, western countries ought to look deeply into the mirror, the mirror that reflects the not-so-long-ago devastations of Palestine, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and other lands. China’s last battles were with India and Viet Nam many decades ago. The Communist Party of China (CPC) states an abhorrence of wars and promotes peaceful resolution of differences.5
The CPC acknowledges that it is dependent on the support of the people; without it the party will fall. The CPC’s raison d’être is the well-being of the people, what is called the Chinese Dream.
It would be foolish and contradictory for Beijing to upset Hong Kongers. Harmony is, after all, a core value of socialism. The one country, two systems is due to expire in 2047. Likewise, Hong Kong has nothing to gain from irritating Beijing. However, should Hong Kong integrate into the economic system of China, it stands to see the elimination of poverty in the former British colony.
Said Bush, “First of all, you know, size of protests–it’s like deciding, `Well, I’m going to decide policy based upon a focus group.’ The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon, in this case, the security of the people.”
As revealed in the Downing Street Memo. The website, however, no longer is accessible. The page reads: This Account has been suspended. The memo is available at this pdf.
See Abdul Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani, Genocide in Iraq: The Case Against the UN Security Council and Member States. Review.
“We should address the people’s proper and lawful demands on matters affecting their interests, and improve the institutions that are important for safeguarding their vital interests.” Xi Jinping, The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014): 35%.
Xi Jinping, “China’s Commitment to Peaceful Development” in The Governance of China: 35%.
Wei Ling Chua, Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China (2013): location 1214. Review.
Before the violence that started mid-April, Nicaragua had been the most peaceful, safest, and by far the most progressive country in Central America. Now that a semblance of peace has been restored in Nicaragua, the US government continues its campaign for regime change joined by some who formerly supported Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista party.
While much has been written for and against Ortega, what might replace him were he to leave is less well fleshed out. Latin Americanist academics Dan La Botz and Benjamin Waddell, both with extensive experience in and knowledge of Nicaragua, give us some insights into what might be expected were the opposition to take over.
US Regime Change Activities in Nicaragua
Although La Botz and Waddell are firmly in the “Ortega must go” camp, they are not naïve about US government interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua. They are not among those that claim, incorrectly, that the uprising was simply a spontaneous phenomenon.
“International press has depicted the rapid escalation of civil unrest in Nicaragua as a spontaneous explosion of collective discontent.” But Waddell contends “it’s becoming more and more clear that the US support has helped play a role in nurturing the current uprisings.”
La Botz provides the background: “US organizations such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and no doubt the CIA had for decades, of course, worked in Nicaragua as they do everywhere in the world.”
La Botz is not indifferent to US interference in Nicaragua. He was in fact critical of Washington’s early tepid reaction. US Vice President Pence, La Botz complained, “only demanded that the Ortega government protect its citizens and their rights,” but did not make a “general condemnation of the Ortega government, only a call for reform.”
La Botz concludes his article with the demand “the US must keep out.” But his evidence suggests that he should be demanding that the “US get out” of Nicaragua.
Waddell is more favorable to the efficacy of the US’s efforts in Nicaragua, reporting:
“Since 2014, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was established in 1983 to promote democratic ideals in developing countries, has spent $4.1 million on projects in Nicaragua.”
Waddell describes, “US Congress created the NED—as a non-profit, private NGO—in 1983 at the height of the Cold War.” From “1984 to 1990, the US NED spent roughly $15.8 million dollars to fund civil society groups and to political parties, most of them opposed to the Sandinista government.” Waddell explains how this led to success for the US:
“In 1990, against all odds, Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega, and ushered in three consecutive terms of conservative leadership.”
Waddell provides documentation on the US funding through NED to groups active in today’s opposition to the elected government of Nicaragua, including over half a million USD to Hagamos Democracia. Waddell commends these soft coup efforts by the US:
“Regardless of whether Mr. Ortega is removed from power, the NED’s involvement in Nicaragua reveals the potential for transnational funding to contribute to the cultivation of the type of skill sets, networking, and strategies necessary for civil society to successfully challenge authoritative (sic) governments.”
Composition of the Opposition to Ortega
“The Nicaraguan popular rebellion of this spring and early summer,” La Botz describes, “developed as a broad multi-class movement.” However, this movement “lacked a common political program.” “The strongest organization with the clearest political ideas,” is not even remotely progressive, but has “fundamentally conservative, pro-capitalist ideas.” That leading organization “is COSEP (Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada en Nicaragua), the leading business organization.”
The opposition leadership was joined by the “powerful” Catholic Church with its “conservative hierarchy,” according to La Botz. Other elements within the Catholic Church included “a theology of liberation current led by some university professors and parish priests, and the mass of pious believers.”
The third major group in the opposition are a diverse amalgam of students. In his brief overview, La Botz does not explain that prominent among the students are those from conservative private universities. Nevertheless, La Botz holds on to the wish that “a student ‘left’ could be emerging.”
Developments to date give little credence to the hope for a student opposition that is leftist. For instance, a delegation of opposition students went to Washington financed by the rightwing Freedom House to lobby for US sanctions against their own people. According to NACLA, these students “shared pictures on social media posing with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who represent most conservative, right-wing and hawkish sectors of the Republican Party.” More recently the Nicaraguan opposition student voice was heard on a regime change panel at the Koch brothers-funded, rightwing Hudson Institute. These are not leftists.
What’s Left in Nicaragua
“Two left opposition groups with social democratic politics do exist,” La Botz reports, “the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and the Movement to Rescue Sandinismo (MPRS).”
The MPRS or Rescate, an on-and-off left split from the MRS, is a minor actor. It is composed mainly of Mónica Baltodano and Henry Ruiz, who are active on the web and doing interviews.
The more prominent MRS broke from the main Sandinista party in the 1990s. The MRS, heavily composed of intellectuals, never developed a popular base among the Nicaraguan people. Starting off as a left opposition to the Ortega wing of the Sandinistas, the MRS has since shifted to the right. MRS leaders are partly supported by their connections to the US-funded NGO world and are in alliance “with parties with a neo-liberal agenda.” MRS national president Ana Margarita Vijil and Managua president Suyén Barahona hobnob with rightwing US politicians.
Calling the MRS left is like the Tea Party’s claim that Obama is a socialist; it’s a matter of perspective.
La Botz laments the absence of opposition left social movements: “they remain small and marginal to the society as a whole.” In a curious convolution of logic, La Botz blames Ortega for the failure of an anti-Ortega left opposition to emerge: “Ortega’s FSLN has discredited the idea of socialism and repressed rival democratic socialist currents.” This has not, however, prevented the emergence of a right opposition. The left-leaning, well-organized labor and agrarian unions in Nicaragua, according to La Botz, have largely avoided the opposition.
In a revolution, there are only two sides. Despite the highly polarized situation in Nicaragua, La Botz conjurers a third way: “There is, however, the possibility that the democratic struggle could open up a social struggle that would create a new left.” In sum, the picture presented by La Botz is that presently the opposition to Ortega is not democratic or left, but that he hopes it could be, despite troubling ties to US intelligence agencies and NGOs.
NACLA reports reactionaries, not progressives, are emerging from the opposition:
“In fact, many in the (opposition) movement and the civic alliance are fervent anti-Sandinistas. These are people who do not just oppose Ortega and Murillo in the current context but also pro-capitalists who have attacked the Sandinistas since their emergence. This group includes Somocistas (those who defend the legacy of the Somoza dictatorship), Liberals, Conservatives, and former Contras. There is growing evidence that from the ranks of anti-Sandinistas such groups are arming themselves and gaining momentum.”
The Lesson of Libya
The trajectory of the anti-Ortega opposition is to a rightist putsch. Were it to succeed, handing direction of the pension plan over to the IMF would not be socialism. Leaving the enforcement of Nicaragua’s anti-abortion laws to the tender mercies of the Catholic bishops would not be feminism. And this would not be the solution that long-time solidarity activists such as Dan La Botz seek. If we are to learn from history, the overthrow of the Libyan government did not result in the utopian emergence of a socialist third way. Nor would such an outcome transpire with regime change in Nicaragua.
La Botz criticizes what he calls the “neo-Stalinist left” who oppose US intervention in Nicaragua. These same people that La Botz criticizes were also opposed to US intervention in Libya, which left that formerly thriving country a disastrously failed state where slavery is now practiced. There is a lesson to be learned about consistent anti-imperialism, and it is not supporting US-backed regime change.
Nicaragua has been tragically destabilized, threatening to reverse the major social gains achieved by the Ortega government. The North American left should unite around “US out of Nicaragua.” Let the Nicaraguan people choose their own government through elections as they have in 2006, 2011, and 2016 when they returned Ortega to the presidency with ever increasing voting margins.
Beyond the US-backed interests and their NGO-activists are undoubtedly genuine social elements in opposition to Ortega. Likewise any political party, especially one that has been in power as long as the Sandinistas, could benefit from rectification. But these are agenda items to be addressed by the Nicaraguan people without outside interference. The ossification of polarized positions in a climate of opposition-provoked violence guarantees nothing gets rectified and everyone loses.
The US is the world’s hegemon, imposing global neoliberalism. The Ortega government in Nicaragua has been targeted by the hegemon precisely because it has not served as an unquestioning client state. The fall of the Ortega government would close one more space for any alternative to the empire to survive.
The mind of the mass media: Email exchange between myself and a leading Washington Post foreign policy reporter:
July 18, 2018
Dear Mr. Birnbaum,
You write Trump “made no mention of Russia’s adventures in Ukraine”. Well, neither he nor Putin nor you made any mention of America’s adventures in the Ukraine, which resulted in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014, which led to the justified Russian adventure. Therefore …?
If Russia overthrew the Mexican government would you blame the US for taking some action in Mexico?
Dear Mr. Blum,
Thanks for your note. “America’s adventures in the Ukraine”: what are you talking about? Last time I checked, it was Ukrainians in the streets of Kiev who caused Yanukovych to turn tail and run. Whether or not that was a good thing, we can leave aside, but it wasn’t the Americans who did it.
It is, however, Russian special forces who fanned out across Crimea in February and March 2014, according to Putin, and Russians who came down from Moscow who stoked conflict in eastern Ukraine in the months after, according to their own accounts.
Best, Michael Birnbaum
I can scarcely believe your reply. Do you read nothing but the Post? Do you not know of high State Dept official Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador in Ukraine in Maidan Square to encourage the protesters? She spoke of 5 billion (sic) dollars given to aid the protesters who were soon to overthrow the govt. She and the US Amb. spoke openly of who to choose as the next president. And he’s the one who became president. This is all on tape. I guess you never watch Russia Today (RT). God forbid! I read the Post every day. You should watch RT once in a while.
I was the Moscow bureau chief of the newspaper; I reported extensively in Ukraine in the months and years following the protests. My observations are not based on reading. RT is not a credible news outlet, but I certainly do read far beyond our own pages, and of course I talk to the actual actors on the ground myself – that’s my job.
And: yes, of course Nuland was in the Maidan – but encouraging the protests, as she clearly did, is not the same as sparking them or directing them, nor is playing favorites with potential successors, as she clearly did, the same as being directly responsible for overthrowing the government. I’m not saying the United States wasn’t involved in trying to shape events. So were Russia and the European Union. But Ukrainians were in the driver’s seat the whole way through. I know the guy who posted the first Facebook call to protest Yanukovych in November 2013; he’s not an American agent. RT, meanwhile, reports fabrications and terrible falsehoods all the time. By all means consume a healthy and varied media diet – don’t stop at the US mainstream media. But ask yourself how often RT reports critically on the Russian government, and consider how that lacuna shapes the rest of their reporting. You will find plenty of reporting in the Washington Post that is critical of the US government and US foreign policy in general, and decisions in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government in specific. Our aim is to be fair, without picking sides.
Best, Michael Birnbaum
========= end of exchange =========
Right, the United States doesn’t play indispensable roles in changes of foreign governments; never has, never will; even when they offer billions of dollars; even when they pick the new president, which, apparently, is not the same as picking sides. It should be noticed that Mr Birnbaum offers not a single example to back up his extremist claim that RT “reports fabrications and terrible falsehoods all the time.” “All the time”, no less! That should make it easy to give some examples.
For the record, I think RT is much less biased than the Post on international affairs. And, yes, it’s bias, not “fake news” that’s the main problem – Cold-War/anti-Communist/anti-Russian bias that Americans have been raised with for a full century. RT defends Russia against the countless mindless attacks from the West. Who else is there to do that? Should not the Western media be held accountable for what they broadcast? Americans are so unaccustomed to hearing the Russian side defended, or hearing it at all, that when they do it can seem rather weird.
To the casual observer, THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA indictments on July 14 of Russian intelligence agents (GRU) reinforced the argument that the Russian government interfered in the US 2016 presidential election. Regard these indictments in proper perspective and we find that election interference is only listed as a supposed objective, with charges actually being for unlawful cyber operations, identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money by American individuals unconnected to the Russian government. So … we’re still waiting for some evidence of actual Russian interference in the election aimed at determining the winner.
The Russians did it (cont.)
Each day I spend about three hours reading the Washington Post. Amongst other things I’m looking for evidence – real, legal, courtroom-quality evidence, or at least something logical and rational – to pin down those awful Russkis for their many recent crimes, from influencing the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election to use of a nerve agent in the UK. But I do not find such evidence.
Each day brings headlines like these:
“U.S. to add economic sanctions on Russia: Attack with nerve agent on former spy in England forces White House to act”
“Is Russia exploiting new Facebook goal?”
“Experts: Trump team lacks urgency on Russian threat”
These are all from the same day, August 9, which led me to thinking of doing this article, but similar stories can be found any day in the Post and in major newspapers anywhere in America. None of the articles begins to explain how Russia did these things, or even WHY. Motivation appears to have become a lost pursuit in the American mass media. The one thing sometimes mentioned, which I think may have some credibility, is Russia’s preference of Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this doesn’t begin to explain how Russia could pull off any of the electoral magic it’s accused of, which would be feasible only if the United States were a backward, Third World, Banana Republic.
There’s the Facebook ads, as well as all the other ads … The people who are influenced by this story – have they read many of the actual ads? Many are pro-Clinton or anti-Trump; many are both; many are neither. It’s one big mess, the only rational explanation of this which I’ve read is that they come from money-making websites, “click-bait” sites as they’re known, which earn money simply by attracting visitors.
As to the nerve agents, it makes more sense if the UK or the CIA did it to make the Russians look bad, because the anti-Russian scandal which followed was totally predictable. Why would Russia choose the time of the World Cup in Moscow – of which all of Russia was immensely proud – to bring such notoriety down upon their head? But that would have been an ideal time for their enemies to want to embarrass them.
However, I have no doubt that the great majority of Americans who follow the news each day believe the official stories about the Russians. They’re particularly impressed with the fact that every US intelligence agency supports the official stories. They would not be impressed at all if told that a dozen Russian intelligence agencies all disputed the charges. Group-think is alive and well all over the world. As is Cold War II.
But we’re the Good Guys, ain’t we?
For a defender of US foreign policy there’s very little that causes extreme heartburn more than someone implying a “moral equivalence” between American behavior and that of Russia. That was the case during Cold War I and it’s the same now in Cold War II. It just drives them up the wall.
After the United States passed a law last year requiring TV station RT (Russia Today) to register as a “foreign agent”, the Russians passed their own law allowing authorities to require foreign media to register as a “foreign agent”. Senator John McCain denounced the new Russian law, saying there is “no equivalence” between RT and networks such as Voice of America, CNN and the BBC, whose journalists “seek the truth, debunk lies, and hold governments accountable.” By contrast, he said, “RT’s propagandists debunk the truth, spread lies, and seek to undermine democratic governments in order to further Vladimir Putin’s agenda.”1
And here is Tom Malinowski, former Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor (2014-2017): last year he reported that Putin had “charged that the U.S. government had interfered ‘aggressively’ in Russia’s 2012 presidential vote,” claiming that Washington had “gathered opposition forces and financed them.” Putin, wrote Malinowski, “apparently got President Trump to agree to a mutual commitment that neither country would interfere in the other’s elections.”
“Is this moral equivalence fair?” Malinowski asked and answered: “In short, no. Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 election could not have been more different from what the United States does to promote democracy in other countries.”2
How do you satirize such officials and such high-school beliefs?
We also have the case of the US government agency, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has interfered in more elections than the CIA or God. Indeed, the man who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, Allen Weinstein, declared in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”3 On April 12, 2018 the presidents of two of NED’s wings wrote: “A specious narrative has come back into circulation: that Moscow’s campaign of political warfare is no different from U.S.-supported democracy assistance.”
“Democracy assistance”, you see, is what they call NED’s election-interferences and government-overthrows.4 The authors continue: “This narrative is churned out by propaganda outlets such as RT and Sputnik [radio station]. … it is deployed by isolationists who propound a U.S. retreat from global leadership.”5
“Isolationists” is what conservatives call critics of US foreign policy whose arguments they can’t easily dismiss, so they imply that such people just don’t want the US to be involved in anything abroad.
And “global leadership” is what they call being first in election-interferences and government-overthrows.
What God giveth, Trump taketh away?
The White House sends out a newsletter, “1600 daily”, each day to subscribers about what’s new in the marvelous world inhabited by Donald J. Trump. On July 25 it reported about the president’s talk before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Missouri: “We don’t apologize for America anymore. We stand up for America. And we stand up for our National Anthem,” the President said to “a thundering ovation”.
At the same time, the newsletter informed us that the State Department is bringing together religious leaders and others for the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. “The goal is simple,” we are told, “to promote the God-given human right to believe what you choose.”
Aha! I see. But what about those who believe that standing for the National Anthem implies support for America’s racism or police brutality? Is it not a God-given human right to believe such a thing and “take a knee” in protest?
Or is it the devil that puts such evil ideas into our heads?
The weather all over is not just extreme … It’s downright freakish.
The argument I like to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are largely man-made is this:
Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:
We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact a significant cause of the widespread extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).
We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the leading cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.
So, are you a gambler?
Irony of ironies … Misfortune of misfortunes … We have a leader who has zero interest in such things; indeed, the man is unequivocally contemptuous of the very idea of the need to modify individual or social behavior for the sake of the environment. And one after another he’s appointed his soulmates to head government agencies concerned with the environment.
What is it that motivates such people? I think it’s mainly that they realize that blame for much of environmental damage can be traced, directly or indirectly, to corporate profit-seeking behavior, an ideology to which they are firmly committed.
Washington Post, November 16, 2017.
Washington Post, July 23, 2017.
Washington Post, September 22, 1991.
William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 19 on NED.