Category Archives: North Korea

The Trump and Kim Summit in Hanoi: Was Trump forced to Walk?

Yes, Mr. Trump had to walk. As he didn’t get his way, he had the audacity to get up and walk out of a meeting with Kim Jong-un, the President of the DPRK, of North Korea. As arrogant as it behooves the king of a failing and crumbling empire. But did he walk by his own will? Or was he, the most “powerful man in the world”, coerced by his handlers, represented by former CIA boss, Mike Pompeo, to abandon the denuclearization negotiations; i.e., no concessions on killer sanctions, or as Kim Jong-un said, “we would like to see the five sanctions (out of eleven) lifted, those that most harm our people and their economic well-being.”

Therefore, Pyongyang was ready to permanently shut down the Yongbyon nuclear complex, an important nuclear research center for DPRK. Kim Jong-un was also ready to invite international observers to witness the dismantling process, and he was ready to stop medium range missile testing – all for giving his people, the North Koreans a ‘breather’ – a better life.

He requested some of the most harming sanctions to be lifted. A reasonable request. And at the outset it looked like Trump was happy with this arrangement. He had already basically agreed to stopping the aggressive annual military maneuvers with South Korea on the borders of the DPRK.

In any case, Trump was in no hurry. This was the second of a series of one-to-one summits with Kim. Trump’s ego seems to enjoy this publicity. Why not make it last a bit longer? Give a little bit, but not too much, so the talks continue – and he would still call the shots. But Trump didn’t even give a little bit. He gave nothing, zilch, zero. So, something happened. Pompeo was constantly by Trump’s side, except for the 45 minutes Trump and Kim had a truly one-to-one talk – of which so far nothing has penetrated into the public, other than that it was cordial.

The turn-around was sudden. Trump demanded full denuclearization before he would even talk about lifting sanctions. The give-nothing and demand-everything approach obviously didn’t fly with Mr. Kim. Trump apparently didn’t even want to talk about a long overdue peace agreement – technically DPRK and the US have been at war for the last 70 years. Stalemate. Trump walked. No written statement. Nothing.

“We will meet again. I actually enjoy our meetings” – or something to that effect he told the press, as he ‘walked’. All the focus on Mr. Trump. The narcissist. The big master who can command world leaders around the globe to meet with him, the one-man show, the self-styled brilliant negotiator, is raising expectations – but never delivers. And even if there are mutually signed statements or legally binding agreements, Trump breaks them.

One of the latest flagrant breaches of an international agreement, is the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1, and the European Union. Instead of lifting sanctions as was the deal, Trump imposed more sanctions and threatened the other signatories with more sanctions, if they didn’t follow Washington’s lead. That’s where we are in this world of deceit and more deception and lies. How could Mr. Kim trust any word President Trump utters in his wonderfully colorful language that he uses for the common people to understand what he means!

But it seems all of this still does not explain everything that’s going on, be it with North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan – and who knows – whatever other victim is in the crosshairs of the United States for regime change, for exploitation, economic and humanitarian strangulation.

Is Pompeo the answer? Did he boycott the Hanoi meeting? He is indeed the murderer-in-chief, as former CIA director, who doesn’t shy away from suggesting that if Mr. Kim Jong-un shows up dead one day, well, don’t ask me or the CIA. Pompeo has watched over a long list of political assassinations – he insinuated a similar fate for Mr. Maduro. He is dishing out death threats left and right. And the world is not even stunned anymore, it’s common practice of the US of A – murdering ’inconvenient’ people. The CIA is the chief instrument for these killings; they have hundred years of practice – with an insane intensification after WWII.

Is Pompeo representing the “Deep Government”? Which in desperation needs to show muscle; must demonstrate to the world that US hegemony is still reigning the globe. Alas, it’s a mere propaganda scheme, upheld by a bought corrupt western media system. It’s Goebbels lie-propaganda by a factor of hundred. “Let me control the media and I will turn any Nation into a herd of Pigs” (Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister). Western society may already be converted into a ‘herd of pigs’.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, than what the western Anglo-Zion media propagates day-in-day out. It is beating the war drums. It becomes “common values” and is believed and found natural by masses of people. “War is Peace” as the current opinion goes, openly propagated by such illustrious newspapers as the WashPost. Death and destruction are very, very profitable, for a few weapon industry oligarchs. Thus, the steaming Washington swamp – and add to it Hollywood – is still a brilliant example for the world and therefore, still intimidatingly relevant.

Ever-so-often, we, the public at large should be reminded of UN Resolution 1947: Propaganda for war is a war crime. This was echoed in the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of November 3, 1947 that denounced war propaganda: “The General Assembly condemns all forms of propaganda, in whatsoever country conducted, which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”

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Back to DPRK and Donald Trump: On February 27 and 28, the two leaders of North Korea and the United States met to talk ‘de-nuclearizing’ of the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, and, of course, the lifting of the killer sanctions – and I must repeat time and again – totally illegal sanctions. All interference by one country in another sovereign nation, especially economic and military meddling, as the US is doing, is by all international standards, including the UN Charter, and by the rules of Human Rights – ILLEGAL. The world should remember – and light up, instead of falling asleep and nodding, when Washington’s arrogance hit another ‘un-aligned’ un-submissive country with economic sanctions. Wake up, vassals, it may happen to you while you are watching idiotic Hollywood soap.

Yes, Mr. Trump, you should “walk”, not just out of summit meetings with leaders of other countries but walk as far as to disappear for good in a distant cloud – and take Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams along. The world would be a better place. Not good, but better. It might wake up and think about sovereignty, about solidarity, about friendship and about friendly trading again. What if a New Order of Peace, Harmony and of a Multipolar world would be born? Instead of the One World Order of aggression, exploitation and indiscriminate killing, currently driven by Washington and its crony vassal states.

What, then, would “Deep Government” do? Those who won’t relent until achieving full world hegemony, or as the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century) calls it – Full Spectrum Dominance. Might it pull the ultimate trigger and eradicate civilization as we know it, humanity that we are supposed to be into the abyss of extermination? Would it invent a new clan of Trumpnicks to finish the job?

Mr. Kim traveled in good fate by train from Pyongyang to Hanoi, to the second meeting with the Donald, hoping to get some sanctions relief as was agreed when they met the first time, last June in Singapore. North Korea destroyed nuclear testing tunnels and a missile test stand. The US counterpart obligation was to begin denuclearization of South Korea and start peace talks. It didn’t happen. This time, Kim was ready to give up even more. According to Trump, “they were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that, so we’ll continue to work and we’ll see. But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.”

This propaganda stint should show the world who is still the master. Kim wanted a better life for the people of the DPRK, a life without sanctions, a life of wellbeing that may develop with the strength and will of North Korea’s sovereign people. Trump just wanted his ego boosted – again and again. He is a sick man. In that sense he is ideal for the “Deep State”, for those who pull the strings from their invisible darkness. Imagine, the western world is run by a psychopath. To accept such leadership (sic), the vassalic west must be psychotic too. Are we, western un-civilization – for lack of a more accurate word – committing unwittingly suicide? There is no sanity left. We seem to have gone way beyond the point of no return.

Yes, Mr. Trump, it looks like you let your apparent noble thoughts for the summit be sabotaged by the bloody hands of Mike Pompeo, and maybe with a little help from John Bolton. Yes, you should be walking away; you should be walking away from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and also Iran, all of which you attempt to suffocate with sanctions and more sanctions. In Iran it doesn’t work anymore. Iran has chosen the east – is moving towards the east, adapting to and soon will be integrating into eastern monetary systems, as well as political and military alliances, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Is it possible that in the larger scheme of things empire’s last straw strategy is intimidating the world that there will be no concessions, no lifting of sanctions, no abandoning of the path of destruction for those nations who refuse to bend to Washington’s master and its European and South American puppets?

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Walkout in Hanoi: The Second Trump-Kim Summit

“Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times.”  That was US President Donald Trump’s remark about something he has been doing a lot of lately: walking away from agreements or understandings in the hope of reaching the ultimate deal.  North Korea’s Kim Jong-un had been pressing his advantage in Hanoi with an attempt to convince Trump that sanctions needed to be eased. He ended up seeing the back of Trump after the appropriate handshakes.

The loose drama at such events is often hard to detach from the firmly rooted substance.  Trump’s relationship with the accurate is tenuous and free flowing, so we have little to go on.  Ahead of the meeting, the White House was busy sending various signals designed to baffle and confuse friend and foe alike.  The president was keen to praise the “special relationship” with Kim, the sort of term reserved for gatherings such as those between the UK and US.

At the end of January, Stephen Biegun, designated special representative for North Korea in the US State Department, suggested that Pyongyang had made a commitment in pre-summit talks to eliminate uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities for a price.  His mood seemed to jar with the more bellicose stance taken by national security adviser and pro-bombing enthusiast John R. Bolton and fellow belligerent companion and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In carefully chosen words, the representative noted how, “Chairman Kim qualified next steps on North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities upon the United States taking corresponding measures.”  Biegun was optimistic at the time, drawing upon themes of flexibility and novelty. “Neither leader is constrained by traditional expectations that might doom their teams to try the exact same approach as in the past, with no expectation of anything but the same failed outcome.”

The president’s preliminary chats over dinner with Kim prior to the formal summit did not give much away.  “Great meetings and dinner tonight in Vietnam with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” he tweeted.  “Very good dialogue. Resuming tomorrow!”  Those aching for detail were left disappointed.  By breakfast the next day, things had cooled.  Cancellations of a working lunch followed.

The smoke has yet to clear, and may be hovering for some time yet.  But Trump was impressed by Kim’s offer to dismantle the enrichment facility at Yongbyon in its entirety (though it is clear that the totality of the DPRK’s capacity goes beyond it).  The discussion and proposed transaction list seemed somewhat threadbare; a total lift of sanctions for Yongbyon’s dismantling?  According to Trump, “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”

The response was not long in coming.  Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, suggested another version, somewhat more nuanced, less absolute: that only some sanctions be lifted in exchange for the permanent and complete dismantling of the main facility, verified by US experts. “Given the current level of trust between North Korea and the United States, this was the maximum step for denuclearization we could offer.”

Prior to the summit, there was a transfixed terror that Trump was going to give all earthly concessions, and a good number of goods on gold platter, to the North Korean leader.  A bemused Trump simply deemed it “false reporting” on his “intentions with respect to North Korea.”  Both parties would “try very hard to work something out on Denuclearization & then making North Korea an Economic Powerhouse.”

This was far from the case.  As Joel S. Wit and Jenny Town note with some accuracy,  “It’s ironic that while most pundits and the media kept up a steady drumbeat that he was going to give away the store, he did just the opposite, holding out for a better deal.”

The issues at stake here on the Korean Peninsula seem monumental, but when seen together, constitute the pieces of a jigsaw.  Any comprehensive talks will have to address these, and this summit was evidently not going to do that.  To only see one or two pieces in isolation (abductees, for instance, or the issue of exclusive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation) is to ignore the number of steps in the entire affair.

Trust needs to be restored, a peace treaty neutering the war status of the Peninsula signed, undertakings against the use of force and hostile intent made with heft, and ultimately, an understanding that the parties at the negotiating table aren’t going to bump you off.  Pyongyang is being asked to relinquish its highest grade insurance in the face of a superpower which has shown more than an unhealthy tendency to inflict regime changes with catastrophic consequences.  Brinkmanship and theories of managed lunacy in the diplomatic realm will only get you to a point.

With Trump being advised by the likes of the gun slinging Bolton (known in North Korean circles as the paternal inspiration for Pyongyang’s nuclear program) and Kim ever mindful about the vulnerabilities of his regime, more walkouts are bound to happen.  As Jeffrey Lewis rightly noted, the old guard (Bolton and company) represent “the cold wind” and “pretty much the rest of the government bureaucracy.”  The warmth of reform in securing peace on the Korean Peninsula, spurred on by the fanning of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and the likes of Biegun, act as counters.  This walkout, at least, means that each can live to talk another day, though it will keep their respective public relations teams busy.

As matters stand, there will be no resumption of North Korean ballistic and nuclear testing, and a promise for more negotiations.  The chatter will continue, and channels will remain open.  As for Trump himself, “This wasn’t a walkaway like you get up and walk out.  No, this was very friendly. We shook hands.”

The “Unpeople” of South Korea

A term ‘unperson’, from George Orwell’s newspeak, refers to an individual or a member of a group who is systematically stripped of social and political rights, including basic human rights. Who are the ‘unpeople’ of South Korea?  They are an overwhelming majority of illegal migrants in the country who lack basic rights and security and believed to deserve it according to the laws and principles under which Korean society operates.

As of September 23, 2018, there are 330,005 foreigners, mostly from South East Asia and post-Soviet countries, who are residing in South Korea illegally. Those who accepted illegal status in Korea with a goal of supporting their families and improving their economic conditions often have to suffer not only racism, verbal abuses, precariousness, substandard working and living conditions, but also a constant threat of deportation.

Immigration raids periodically conducted by the Korean government not only deprive migrant workers of their means of survival but also leave in them a long-term psychological damage.

August 3, 2017 [Chungju, South Korea]

“He is not answering my phone calls,” said a woman in her late 30s, in a trembling voice. “I sent him a message asking him to lock the door, but he still did not reply”. She feared that her husband, with whom she was illegally residing in Korea, might have been caught by the immigration police.

August 4, 2017 [Chungju, South Korea]

The dead body of her husband was found in a nearby canal, where he was trying to hide from the immigration police. Shocked I was. Others were not. After all, it is not the first time they have come across such an incident.

How come any person can be complicit with the law that resulted in the death of a human being? Should not the law serve the opposite purpose? How come a person who works long hours at a sweatshop to put food on a table is labeled as a criminal, who needs to be chased by the police?

September 5, 2018 [Yangsan, South Korea]

It is 12:46 pm. 14 minutes left until the end of my break, and I should go back to the production line. A factory worker, yells at me and other two migrant workers, ordering us to get to the top floor of the factory building. Then, we are ordered to enter a tiny storage room. A secretary girl explains to me with a broken English that the immigration police came to the factory to catch us. She tells us not to make any noise, turns off the light and locks the door from the outside. It was a long wait; over an hour — an hour of humiliation.

It is 14:24 pm. The door opens. We are told to run towards the car waiting for us outside the factory. We are transferred to safety.

As I was sitting in a tiny room trying not to make a noise, I felt like a prey, a small rabbit hiding in a hole, waiting to be hunted by a predator. I did not understand what was going on. I did understand that the power of an immigration officer to forcefully remove me from that physical space was illegitimate and had nothing to do with me as an individual. Yet irrespective of how hard I tried, a voice inside me kept repeating: “You are nobody. You do not deserve to be treated respectfully”.

What kind of a system is it!? How come otherwise decent people are okay with it? What an absurdity!? What a shame!?

Why illegal migrants have a moral high ground

In my first year in Korea, I have heard a few stories about illegal migrant workers running up to the mountains from immigration police. “It is bad that they have to endure it, but they only have themselves to blame. After all, they have broken the law”, I was told by a friend of mine. But is that really so?

When the law itself is unjust, the only way to act justly is to break that law. According to the North Korean law, North Korean soldiers are not allowed to cross the border between North and South Korea. However, when a North Korean soldier crossed the border to defect to the South (November 2017), he was applauded by almost everyone in South Korea and beyond as a hero fighting for his freedom. By crossing the border, he was breaking the law, but it is common sense that a law that stops a person from moving to a better and safer environment is unjust.

It logically follows that illegal migrant workers are perfectly justified to break immigration laws of South Korea that stop them from escaping their troubled economic, social and political conditions. Their breaking an unjust law should be supported and they should also be applauded as heroes fighting for the betterment of their conditions.

South Korean media outlets love demonizing North Korean regime, yet refuse to look at the injustices of their own. Every time a North Korean defector makes an escape, it is used to fuel state propaganda about how evil tyranny North Korea is and what a wonderful human rights heaven South Korea is. How convenient it is to sit in a comfortable office and to brag about the wrongdoings of another state!? Why not take a moment and take a look at your own tyranny!? Speaking of hypocrisy, it is hard to go beyond that!

Immigration is just an idea. A violent one!

“Oppose the Refugee Act, passed without citizens’ consent,” read signs held by Koreans protesting against the arrival of a few desperate Yemeni refugees on Jeju Island (June 2018). It is not surprising at all, considering the existence of a deep-rooted racism and xenophobia in a Korean society, which very few deny. However, an interesting observation is what they claim as a basis for the legitimacy of their demands – democratic rights. In a democratic society, people collectively make decisions and actively participate in formulating laws and regulations in the government. Yet, history also teaches that when fundamental freedoms and human rights are ignored, society descends into savagery. The same way it was primitive to kill gladiators to please the Colosseum, it is primitive to limit freedom of movement of a human being.

We should look at immigration not as a movement of people across borders, but as an anti-human idea imposed on us through violent means. Just like racism, sexism, and nationalism which put a certain group of people on a superior position over others, immigration is an idea that citizens of a country are superior over so-called immigrants. In a sexist society, it is normal for a husband, who is seen as naturally superior, to make decisions on behalf of his wife. Similarly, in a modern nation-state, it is normal for citizens to make decisions on behalf of immigrants. Those decisions are then imposed on migrants through socio-political institutions of violence. Because, I cannot just say: “Okay, it sounds ridiculous. I do not agree with this idea” and move on freely, my movement is limited by borders, passports, visas, and police.

Future generations will look at immigration with disgust, the same way we now look at slavery. And perhaps, they would be laughing at us for supporting and being complicit with ideas as absurd as an immigration. After all, the debate about immigration is not about how migrants benefit the country economically or how much threat they pose to local residents’ security. The debate boils down to where a society stands in a spectrum of civility. It is about reaching a degree of intellect and humility to be able to ask a simple question: “Who am I to decide the fate of another human being!?”

A dream far away

One thing I learned from my time with illegal migrants is that a migrant worker, toiling all day under verbal abuses, is not interested in innovative research methods, papers, presentations, and debates about his struggles. They do not care if someone comes up with original ideas about how the capitalist system functions and how badly screwed up they are. What is the point of learning about your exploitation from a different angle!? The point is to stop it!

The ‘unpeople’ of South Korea do understand the realities they face on a daily basis. They might not know the terminology and specific facts, but they do recognize who the system works for and against. However, one cannot expect activism from people in dire conditions. Due to their legal status, no realistic chances are available for illegal migrants to make their voices heard for a larger audience in Korea. The hope of improvement through government is not even an option, for obvious reasons. Since even the intend of humane treatment of illegal migrants is missing among Korea’s privileged, structural change looks like a dream far away.

Korea: Unification, but does not have to be “German Style”

It is strange that when you come from the south, near to the DMZ (De-militarized zone, which divides Korea into two parts), you will see many flags and sentimental ‘peace’ slogans, but nothing that would represent the points of view of the North Korean people. All the flags are those of ROC (Republic of Korea, otherwise known as South Korea).

Many people near the division line have turned this entire area into a tourist trap, with observation towers ‘to get a glimpse of North Korea’, with stores selling ROK and US military ‘souvenirs’, even old military gear. As if North Koreans were some rare animals living in a cage, fascinating to study and to observe, but dangerous to touch.

Near DMZ between ROK and DPRK

Yes, all flags here are those of the ROK. Even if the two flags are crossed, in what should be a fraternal symbolic unison, they are always two identical ones – those of South Korea. This looks truly bizarre, but that’s how it is.

Something always seems to be desperately missing in this South Korean ‘strive for peace’ and for the re-united Korea. And what is missing is somehow totally basic: it is at least some essential symbolism from the north – the DPRK!

I know both parts of Korea – DPRK and ROK. And what worries me is that it looks as if the South thinks it can pull this entire ‘businesses of unification’, alone, without considering the needs and desires of the other side.

And the West takes it for granted that the North will be, eventually, simply swallowed by the South. Because it is used to get what it wants. Because in its fundamentalist zeal, it is not even capable of considering the sensitivities and goals of other political, philosophical and social systems.

The plan of both the West and South Korea is simple, although it is mostly never clearly defined, for ‘strategic reasons’: ‘Once the moment of potential unification arrives, the DPRK would simply cease to exist, as East Germany ceased to exist three decades ago. Right after that, the entire Korea would be run on capitalist principles, under the ‘patronage’ and diktat of the West.’

And both the people and the leadership of North Korea will just fall on their knees and surrender, after the masses break down the border fences with their bare hands. Ordinary people will happily renounce their system, as well as the several decades of determined struggle and sacrifice. Everything will be thrown to the altar of mighty South Korean corporations and the pro-Western regime.

Correct? Keep dreaming!

Korea is not Germany. And the second decade of the 21st century is very different from those bizarre, confused years when Gorbachev brilliantly demonstrated to the world how much damage one naïve and useful idiot could cause to his own country and the entire planet.

The truth is – North Korea will never disintegrate the way East Germany did for many reasons, one of them being that, German history is very different: Germany was divided between 4 victorious powers after WWII. The Western part did not necessarily want to be capitalist and pro-Western (US and UK forged the post-war elections), and the East did not necessarily want to be in the Soviet orbit, either. Let’s be honest: the entire country was, just a bit earlier, running amok, shouting bizarre slogans and salivating under swastikas, maniacally admiring a murderous psychopath.

No, North Korea was not and is not East Germany! It was not ‘designated’ to any bloc. It fought a tremendous battle for its own system; it lost millions of its people during the brutal war, or call it genocide, committed by the West. And in the end, after receiving fraternal help from China, it finally won.

Since the beginning, the DPRK was an internationalist country, very much like Cuba. Not yet fully recovered from horrific devastation, it helped to liberate great parts of Africa.

It always knew what it wanted, it fought for it and in the end, it achieved many of its goals!

It never crumbled under sanctions and the combined propaganda of the ROK and its Western backers.

Even after the Soviet Bloc collapsed, it did not change its course.

It is an amazing country, no matter what some people think about its political system. And North Koreans are amazing people (I was privileged to film there, for my ‘poetic’ 25-minute film “Faces of North Korea”). They will not sell their ideals for bigger cars and a pair of designer jeans. Just like for Cuba, the North Korean motherland is not some commodity.

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Then also imagine China and Russia, how ‘ecstatic’ both countries (increasingly under threat from the West) would be, if the entire Korea were to fall into North American hands. Imagine those military bases intimidating Herbin, Dalian, Beijing, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok!

South Korea suspects that the North will not yield.

War Museum in Seoul

They have tried everything: erecting enormous propaganda palaces like that infamous “War Museum” in Seoul.

Wedding chapel inside war museum in Seoul

They broadcasted their propaganda sermons via radio stations, even huge loudspeakers, placing them right near the division line. They joined efforts with the West, trying to isolate, even starve, their own sister in the north. Nothing helped.

Propaganda %22 art%22 in Seoul

ROK used to censor the press, disappear and murder its own dissidents, torture and rape political prisoners. All that, just in order to break any sympathy left for Communist ideals in the South. The South Korean campaign of terror was horrible, only comparable to those in South America under the right-wing dictatorships, and, of course, to that in post-1965 Indonesia.

Seoul never really apologized to the victims. Unlike in Taiwan, no monuments or museums were erected to the fatalities of the right-wing terror.

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Trying to ‘soften’ the DPRK by sanctions, arms race, and intimidation, has not brought any fruits. And it never will. Just the opposite: North Korea managed to harden itself; to mobilize and learn to produce basically everything: from automobiles to rockets, from computers to cutting edge medical equipment and medicine.

The only way for the two parts of Korea to find a common language is to show to each other deep respect. The German scenario would not, and, never should work here.

Both flags have to fly next to each other. Both political and economic systems have to be respected. When talking about unification, both ‘ways’ should be considered.

If South Korea were to ‘devour’ the North, nothing good would come from it: only more tension, discontent and possible confrontation. The North is a proud land. It has achieved plenty, alone. It has survived, against all the odds. It has helped oppressed parts of the world, honestly and generously. It has much to be proud of. Therefore, it will never surrender.

Yet, Korea is one nation and it is longing for unity. It will get it, but first: the ‘two sisters’, both beautiful, both brilliant, both very different, have to sit together and talk honestly and sincerely. They have done it before, and they will do it again. Both, together, are forming a family. But they cannot live together in one room. Not yet. In one house, yes, but in two different apartments.

And when they talk and try to build their home, again, there should be no interference from outside. They don’t need anybody to tell them what to do. They know, they will find a common language if left alone. It is all possible, and hopefully, soon, it will happen. But not the ‘German way’; it will either happen the ‘Korean way’, or not at all.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Canada: Preferring Military Might over Peaceful Discussion in Korea

Who prefers military might over peaceful discussion to settle a long festering international dispute? Canada, it seems.

It may surprise some that a Canadian general is undercutting inter-Korean rapprochement while Global Affairs Canada seeks to maintain its 70-year old war footing, but that is what the Liberal government is doing.

At the start of the month Canadian Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre told a Washington audience that the North Koreans were “experts at separating allies” and that a bid for a formal end to the Korean war represented a “slippery slope” for the 28,500 US troops there. “So what could an end-of-war declaration mean? Even if there is no legal basis for it, emotionally people would start to question the presence and the continued existence of the United Nations Command,” said Eyre at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace. “And it’s a slippery slope then to question the presence of U.S. forces on the peninsula.”

The first non-US general to hold the post since the command was created to fight the Korean War in 1950, Eyre became deputy commander of the UNC at the end of July. He joined 14 other Canadian officers with UNC.

Responsible for overseeing the 1953 armistice agreement, UNC has undercut Korean rapprochement. At the start of the month the Financial Times reported, “the US-spearheaded United Nations Command has in recent weeks sparked controversy in host nation South Korea with a series of moves that have highlighted the chasm between Seoul’s pro-engagement attitude to Pyongyang and Washington’s hard line.”  In August, for instance, the UN force blocked a train carrying South Korean officials from crossing the Demilitarized Zone as part of an initiative to improve relations by modernizing cross-border railways.

As it prepares to concede operational control over its forces to Seoul in coming years, Washington is pushing to “revitalize” UNC, which is led by a US General who simultaneously commands US troops in Korea. According to the Financial Times, the UN force “serves to bolster and enhance the US’s position in north-east Asia at a time when China is rising.” To “revitalize” UNC the US is pressing the 16 countries that deployed soldiers during the Korean War to increase their military contribution going forward, a position argued at a Vancouver gathering in January on promoting sanctions against the North.

In other words, Ottawa and Washington would prefer the existing state of affairs in Korea because it offers an excuse for keeping tens of thousands of troops near China.

As part of reducing tensions, ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons and possibly reunifying their country, the two Korean governments have sought a formal end to the Korean War. It’s an initial step in an agreement the Korean leaders signed in April and last month they asked the UN to circulate a peace declaration calling for an official end to hostilities. But, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has responded gingerly to these efforts. In response to Seoul and Pyongyang’s joint announcement to seek a formal end to the Korean War in April Freeland said, “we all need to be careful and not assume anything.”

Two Global Affairs Canada statements released last month on the “North Korea nuclear crisis” studiously ignored the Koreas’ push for an official end to hostilities. Instead they called for “sanctions that exert pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs completely, verifiably and irreversibly.” The second statement said UN Security Council sanctions “must … remain in place until Pyongyang takes concrete actions in respect of its international obligations.”

Global Affairs’ position flies in the face of South Korea, Russia, China and other nations that have brought up easing UN sanctions on North Korea. Washington, on the other hand, is seeking to tighten sanctions.

Partly to bolster the campaign to isolate North Korea a Vancouver Island based submarine was sent across the big pond at the start of the year. In April Ottawa also sent a CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft and 40 military personnel to a US base in Japan from which British, Australian and US forces monitor the North’s efforts to evade UN sanctions. A September Global Affairs Canada statement titled “Canada renews deployment in support of multinational initiative to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea” noted: “A Canadian Armed Forces maritime patrol aircraft will return to the region to help counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling, in particular its use of ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products. In addition, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary, on operations in the area as part of Canada’s continued presence in the region, was named to contribute to this effort.”

Rather than undermine Korean rapprochement, Ottawa should call for an official end to the 70-year old war and direct the Canadians in UNC to support said position. Canada should welcome peace in Korea even if it may trouble those seeking to maintain 30,000 US troops to “contain” China.

Canada: Preferring Military Might over Peaceful Discussion in Korea

Who prefers military might over peaceful discussion to settle a long festering international dispute? Canada, it seems.

It may surprise some that a Canadian general is undercutting inter-Korean rapprochement while Global Affairs Canada seeks to maintain its 70-year old war footing, but that is what the Liberal government is doing.

At the start of the month Canadian Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre told a Washington audience that the North Koreans were “experts at separating allies” and that a bid for a formal end to the Korean war represented a “slippery slope” for the 28,500 US troops there. “So what could an end-of-war declaration mean? Even if there is no legal basis for it, emotionally people would start to question the presence and the continued existence of the United Nations Command,” said Eyre at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace. “And it’s a slippery slope then to question the presence of U.S. forces on the peninsula.”

The first non-US general to hold the post since the command was created to fight the Korean War in 1950, Eyre became deputy commander of the UNC at the end of July. He joined 14 other Canadian officers with UNC.

Responsible for overseeing the 1953 armistice agreement, UNC has undercut Korean rapprochement. At the start of the month the Financial Times reported, “the US-spearheaded United Nations Command has in recent weeks sparked controversy in host nation South Korea with a series of moves that have highlighted the chasm between Seoul’s pro-engagement attitude to Pyongyang and Washington’s hard line.”  In August, for instance, the UN force blocked a train carrying South Korean officials from crossing the Demilitarized Zone as part of an initiative to improve relations by modernizing cross-border railways.

As it prepares to concede operational control over its forces to Seoul in coming years, Washington is pushing to “revitalize” UNC, which is led by a US General who simultaneously commands US troops in Korea. According to the Financial Times, the UN force “serves to bolster and enhance the US’s position in north-east Asia at a time when China is rising.” To “revitalize” UNC the US is pressing the 16 countries that deployed soldiers during the Korean War to increase their military contribution going forward, a position argued at a Vancouver gathering in January on promoting sanctions against the North.

In other words, Ottawa and Washington would prefer the existing state of affairs in Korea because it offers an excuse for keeping tens of thousands of troops near China.

As part of reducing tensions, ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons and possibly reunifying their country, the two Korean governments have sought a formal end to the Korean War. It’s an initial step in an agreement the Korean leaders signed in April and last month they asked the UN to circulate a peace declaration calling for an official end to hostilities. But, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has responded gingerly to these efforts. In response to Seoul and Pyongyang’s joint announcement to seek a formal end to the Korean War in April Freeland said, “we all need to be careful and not assume anything.”

Two Global Affairs Canada statements released last month on the “North Korea nuclear crisis” studiously ignored the Koreas’ push for an official end to hostilities. Instead they called for “sanctions that exert pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs completely, verifiably and irreversibly.” The second statement said UN Security Council sanctions “must … remain in place until Pyongyang takes concrete actions in respect of its international obligations.”

Global Affairs’ position flies in the face of South Korea, Russia, China and other nations that have brought up easing UN sanctions on North Korea. Washington, on the other hand, is seeking to tighten sanctions.

Partly to bolster the campaign to isolate North Korea a Vancouver Island based submarine was sent across the big pond at the start of the year. In April Ottawa also sent a CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft and 40 military personnel to a US base in Japan from which British, Australian and US forces monitor the North’s efforts to evade UN sanctions. A September Global Affairs Canada statement titled “Canada renews deployment in support of multinational initiative to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea” noted: “A Canadian Armed Forces maritime patrol aircraft will return to the region to help counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling, in particular its use of ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products. In addition, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary, on operations in the area as part of Canada’s continued presence in the region, was named to contribute to this effort.”

Rather than undermine Korean rapprochement, Ottawa should call for an official end to the 70-year old war and direct the Canadians in UNC to support said position. Canada should welcome peace in Korea even if it may trouble those seeking to maintain 30,000 US troops to “contain” China.

All Wars Are Illegal, So What Do We Do About It?

Photo by Getty Images

Every war being fought today is illegal. Every action taken to carry out these wars is a war crime.

In 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact or Pact of Paris was signed and ratified by the United States and other major nations that renounced war as a way to resolve conflicts, calling instead for peaceful ways of handling disputes.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact was the basis for the Nuremberg Tribunal, in which 24 leaders of the Third Reich were tried and convicted for war crimes, and for the Tokyo Tribunal, in which 28 leaders of the Japanese Empire were tried and convicted for war crimes, following World War II.

Such prosecutions should have prevented further wars, but they have not. David Swanson of World Beyond War argues that a fundamental task of the antiwar movement is to enforce the rule of law. What good are new treaties, he asks, if we can’t uphold the ones that already exist?

Photo by Ellen Davidson

The United States is violating international law, and escalating its aggression

All wars and acts of aggression by the United States since 1928 have violated the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter since it was signed in 1945. The UN Charter states, in Article 2:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Yet, the United States has a long history of threatening aggression and using military force to remove governments it opposed and install friendly ones. Illegal attacks by the US since World War II have resulted in 20 million people being killed in 37 nations. For example, as we outline in “North Korea and the United States: Will the Real Aggressor Please Stand Down,” the United States used violence to install Syngman Rhee in power in the 1940’s and subsequently killed millions of Koreans, in both the South and the North, in the Korean War, which has not ended. Under international law, the “war games” practicing to attack North Korea with conventional and nuclear weapons are illegal threats of military action.

The list of interventions by the United States is too long to list here. Basically, the US has been interfering in and attacking other countries almost continuously since its inception. Currently the US is involved directly in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The US is threatening Iran and Venezuela with attack.

The United States has 883 military bases in 183 countries and has hundreds of outposts scattered throughout the world. Lynn Petrovich recently examined the new defense budget. With regard to the Pentagon’s 2019 budget report, she writes:

If the planet is our community, America is the bully in the neighborhood.  Reference to the word ‘lethal’ is sprinkled no less than 3 dozen times throughout The Report (‘more lethal force’ p. 2-6, ‘technology innovation for increased lethality’ p.1-1, ‘increasing the lethality of new and existing weapons systems’ p. 3-2).

and

Were it not for The Report’s dire (yet, fully funded) predictions for world domination, one would think this budget request was satire by The Onion.

Included in the new budget are funds to recruit 26,000 more of our youth into the military, purchase ten more “combat ships,” build more F-35s, even though they don’t work, and “modernize” our nuclear weapons. At a time when the United States is losing power in the world and falling behind in wealth, the government voted nearly unanimously to provide $74 billion more than last year to be more aggressive. Imagine what that money could do if it were applied instead to improving public education, transitioning to a clean energy economy and a public works program to restore our failing infrastructure.

The United States empire is falling and blindly taking all of us down with it as it tries to assert its power.

Photo by Margaret Flowers

What to do about it

The peace movement in the United States is being revived and building alliances with peace activists in many countries, and it can’t happen fast enough. There are many opportunities for action this fall, the “Antiwar Autumn.”

The World Beyond War conference, #NoWar2018, just concluded in Toronto. The focus of the conference was legalizing peace. Among the topics discussed was how to use courts to prevent wars, stop the escalation of militarism and investigate war crimes. Professor Daniel Turp of the University of Montreal and his students have sued the Canadian government over participating in extraditing prisoners to Guantanamo, potential intervention in Iraq and providing weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Turp recommends that activists who are considering legal action first look to domestic courts for a remedy. If none exists or domestic action is unsuccessful, then it is possible to turn to international bodies such as the International Criminal Court or the United Nations. Any people or organizations can file a report or complaint with these bodies. Before doing so, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible, first hand accounts are strong but even hearsay can be grounds to trigger an investigation.

Currently, Popular Resistance is supporting an effort to ask the International Criminal Court to launch a full investigation of Israel for its war crimes. People and organizations are invited to sign on to the letter, which will be delivered by a delegation, including us, to the Hague in November.

Click here to read and sign onto the letter (please share it).

Click here to donate towards the delegation to the ICC

William Curtis Edstrom of Nicaragua wrote a letter to the United Nations in advance of Trump’s visit to serve as the chair of the Security Council meeting. He is requesting “hearings, debate and vote on an effective plan of action against various crimes that have been committed by people working for the government of the US that are of significance to the global community.”

This week, Medea Benjamin confronted a Trump administration official, the head of the new “Iran Action Group,” at the Hudson Institute. President Trump is planning to advocate for more aggression against Iran at the United Nations. When the US tried this in the past, it has received push back from other nations. Now it is clear it is the US, not Iran, that has violated the nuclear agreement and is conducting an economic war against Iran while threatening military action. The world is likely to stand up to Trump and US threats.

Recent progress towards peace by North and South Korea show that activism is effective. Sarah Freeman-Woolpert reports on efforts by activists in South Korea and the United States to build coalitions and organize strategic actions that create the political space for peace.

Leaders of both countries met this week to discuss improving relations and finding a compromise between North Korea and the United States. President Moon will meet with President Trump at the United Nations this month. Korean activists say that their greatest concern is that Koreans finally having “the ability to shape the future of [their] country.”

When we understand that war is illegal, our task becomes clear. We need to make sure that all nations, especially the United States, obey the law. We can replace war with mediation, conflict resolution and adjudication. We can legalize peace.

From Pinterest

Here are more actions this Antiwar Autumn:

September 30-October 6 – Shut Down Creech – week of actions to protest the use of drones. More information and register here.

October 6-13 – Keep Space for Peace Week. Many actions planned in the US and UK. Click here for details.

October 20-21 – Women’s March on the Pentagon. More information here.

November 3 – Black is Back Coalition march to the White House for peace in Africa. More information here.

November 10 – Peace Congress to End U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad. This will be a full day conference to define next steps for collaboration by activists and organizations in the US. More information and registration here.

November 11 – March to Reclaim Armistice Day. This will be a solemn march led by veterans and military families on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I, to call for celebrating Armistice Day instead of Veterans Day in the US. Click here for more information.

November 16-18 – School of Americas Watch Border Encuentro. This will include workshops and actions at the border between the US and Mexico. More information here.

November 16-18 – No US NATO Bases International Conference in Dublin, Ireland. This is the first international conference of the new coalition to close US foreign military bases. Click here for more details.

Credit Suisse Freezes $5 billion of Russian Money due to U.S. Sanctions

A few days ago, Reuter reported that Switzerland’s second largest bank, Crédit Suisse, has ‘frozen‘ about 5 billion Swiss francs of Russian money, or about the same in US-dollars, for fear of falling out of favors with Washington – and being ‘sanctioned’ in one way or another. Crédit Suisse, like her bigger sister, UBS, have been amply punished already by Washington for facilitating in the US as well as in Switzerland tax evasion for US oligarchs. They want to be good boys now with Washington.

Switzerland’s banking watchdog, FINMA, does not require Swiss banks to enforce foreign sanctions, but has said they have a responsibility to minimize legal and reputational risks. Crédit Suisse is cautious. In 2009, it reached a $500 million settlement with U.S. authorities over dealings with sanctions-hit Iran. And most every major bank remembers the 2014 settlement of France’s BNP Paribas for a record $8.9 billion fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

When asked, two other Swiss banks, UBS and Julius Baer, who are known to deal with Russian clients, declined a straight forward answer whether they too will resort to sanctioning their Russian customers. An UBS spokesman said evasively, they were “implementing worldwide at least the sanctions currently imposed by Switzerland, the U.N., the EU and the U.S.”

What doesn’t stop amazing me is how the western world just accepts such horrendous US fraud, or better called, outright theft of other countries resources, be it monetary or natural resources. And all that is possible only because the entire western world and all those African and lately again, Latin American countries – many of them developing countries, including some of the major oil producers – are still tied to the US dollar. All international money transactions, regardless whether they concern the United States, or simply two completely independent countries, have to transit through a US bank either in London or New York. This is what makes it possible for the US to implement financial and economic sanctions in the first place.

A few days ago, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, dared proposing that the EU detach itself from the international, totally privately run, Belgium registered SWIFT transfer system, as it is fully controlled by the US banking oligarchy, is operating in more than 200 countries and territories. He suggested that the EU create an independent transfer system, much like Russia and China have done, to free themselves from the financial slavehood to Washington. The reaction of one of his right wing German countryman and parliamentarian was swift – it was not the right time to even think of de-coupling the EU from Washington, now where Russia is in dire straits and Germany and the rest of Europe needs the US more than ever.  Can you imagine!

In this pathetic, gutless Europe, it is highly questionable whether Mr. Mass’s excellent idea will survive and actually gain support. Hardly at this stage.

Irrespective of the spineless behavior of the EU and the Swiss Government, the latter unable even to stand up to its own neutrality – let them rot in their submissiveness to empire and its EU vassals – gutlessness, which by the way they, the Swiss Government, has also demonstrated vis-à-vis Venezuela – more important, much more important is, what does this all mean for Russia?

To begin with, the Crédit Suisse ‘frozen’ 5 billion dollars, you may as well call it what it is in reality: Totally illegally “confiscated” Russian assets. It is rare, if ever, that the US government returns so called ‘frozen’ assets of any sanctioned country. And under the current scenario, Trump and his masters and the pressure of the corrupt Hillary swamp, will not let go of demonizing and ‘sanctioning’ Russia, regardless of the real impact of these sanctions, and regardless of the total lawlessness of these actions, regardless of the manufactured and lie-based reason for these sanctions, regardless of the fact that everybody with a half-brain knows about the manipulated and false pretexts for sanctions, and regardless of another fact, namely, that these actions are contributing to an ever accelerating suicide of the empire and its corrupt system that eventually will drown in its own Washington swamp. Good riddens!  The sooner the better.

And the impact of these sanctions is hardly what they pretend to be. They are foremost a call on the Atlantists – or call them Fifth Columnists, of which there are still too many embedded in the Russian financial sector – to counteract the internal measures Russia is taking to escape the dollar slavehood. They will not succeed. The vessel is turning and turning ever faster; turning from west to east.

Despite the constant demonization of the ruble, how it lost 50% of its value because of the sanctions, the Russian currency is worth way more than all the western fiat currencies together. The western dollar-dependent moneys are based on hot air, or not even – on zilch, nada, zero; they are literally produced by private banks like casino money. The ruble is doubly-backed by gold and by Russia’s well-recovered economy and so is the Chinese Yuan.

So, what does a 50% loss of the ruble mean? Loss against what? Loss against the US dollar and the currencies of Washington’s vassal allies? With a de-linked Russian economy from the western economy, the western concept of ‘devaluation’ is totally meaningless. The ruble doesn’t need to compare itself anymore to the western dollar-enslaved currencies.

So, the urgent call by the nature of things for Russia to delink from the western economy, from the western fraudulent dollar-based monetary system, is being heeded by Russia.  I cannot but repeat and repeat again that the dollar economy and the enslaving monetary system it produced is an absolute fraud. It is a crime that would be punishable by any international court that deserves the name of a court of law, that is not bought and whose judges are not threatened if they don’t fold to the dictate of Washington. But upholding the laws of ethics and moral, the laws that our more honest and humble forefathers not too long ago crafted, is a thing of the past. The corruption in everything accompanied by intimidations and coercions, have been accepted by just about everybody as the new normal. This, in itself, is not normal. It creates a pressure cooker that eventually will simply explode.

To move away from this ever-increasing stench of cultural decay, a de-dollarization is a must, is a recipe for survival. And survive, Russia will. Russia is buying massively gold, shedding US treasury bonds from its reserves, replacing them with gold and Chinese Yuan, an IMF-accepted official reserve currency. In July 2018 Russia purchased a record 26 tons of gold, leading up to gold reserves of close to a total of 2000 tons, quadrupling her gold inventory since 2008. This makes Russia the world’s fifth largest gold holder.

As Mr. Putin said already a few years ago, the sanctions are the best thing that happened to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It forced us to rehabilitate and boost our agricultural production for food self-sufficiency and to rebuild and modernize our industrial park. Today Russia has a cutting-edge industrial arsenal and is no longer dependent on “sanctioned” imports. Russia is not only food-autonomous but has become the world’s largest wheat exporter. And take this – according to Mr. Putin, Russia will supply the world with only organic food, no GMOs, no toxic fertilizers and pesticides.

Russia has clearly and unstoppably embarked on an “Economy of Resistance”: Local production for local markets with local money based on and for the development of the local economy; trading with friendly nations who share similar cultural and moral values.  It’s called regaining economic sovereignty. That’s key. That’s what most countries in the west under the yoke of the US empire and its puppets, enforced by NATO, have lost in the steadily increasing stranglehold of globalization. Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan, soon Mexico, and others are breaking loose from the fangs of the Washington Consensus that brought the world almost three decades of pure misery, exploitation and monetary enslavement.

Russia is strengthening her ties with China, with whom she has already for years a ruble-yuan swap agreement between the respective central banks, indicating a strong economic and trading relation. Both are members of the SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And Russia is also an integral part and link in President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative – BRI – a multi-trillion-yuan economic development scheme for the next at least hundred years, that will span the world with several transport routes, including shipping lines, ports and industrial expansion, as well as cultural exchange, education and research centers on the way. Members of the SCO encompass half the world’s population and account today already for about a third of the globe’s GDP and growing fast, both in members as well as economic output.

Russia as part of this block of sovereign nations doesn’t need the west anymore, doesn’t need the Crédit Suisse confiscated 5 billion dollars anymore. Freedom is priceless. Sanctions are like the fiat currency they are based on; not more than rotten smelling hot air, and dissipating fast into oblivion.

The Anti-President

Raids by U.S. commandos in Afghanistan. (I could be talking about 2001 or 2018.)

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen. (I could be talking about 2002 or 2018.)

Missions by Green Berets in Iraq. (I could be talking about 2003 or 2018.)
— Nick Turse, Chronicles Magazine, July 2018

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

The U.S. is now a endless machine for war profiteering and endless war itself. Simultaneously a hyper Imperialist machine directed toward global hegemony. Domestically it is a McCarthyesque empire of propaganda and censorship and mass incarceration. On both fronts it is a machine for channelling money directly to the ruling class.

The U.S. has 900 military bases around the world. Everything is contracted out. Where once soldiers and marines built their own barracks and peeled their own potatoes, the new military is one in which construction, maintenance, and operations are handed over to private companies, many of whom have as their sole reason for existence, to service the US war machine.

…U.S. bases overseas have become a major mechanism of U.S. global power in the post-Second World War era. Alongside postwar economic and political tools like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations, the collection of extraterritorial bases—like colonies for the European empires before it—became a major mechanism for “maintaining [U.S.] political and economic hegemony,” advancing corporate economic and political interests, protecting trade routes, and allowing control and influence over territory vastly disproportionate to the land bases actually occupy. Without a collection of colonies, the United States has used its bases, as well as periodic displays of military might, to keep wayward nations within the rules of an economic and political system favorable to itself.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

Many of these bases are as large as small cities. Camp Liberty in Iraq has concrete sidewalks, traffic signals, spas and cinemas as well as coffee shops and Burger Kings. Generals and Admirals employ private jets, and siphon off taxpayer money for vacations at luxury resorts and shopping trips for their wives and family. The bookeeping has been described as functionally fictive. The vast amounts of monies misplaced or unaccounted for is in the trillion of dollars. Everything….from shower heads to gym equipment, to electrical cable is from private firms that usually have spent small fortunes lobbying Pentagon officials or even state department higher ups to *win* these contracts. So ponder that a moment: TRILLIONS of dollars. When anyone asks why *we* are still in Afghanistan after 17 years, this is but one of the answers.

As the FOB2012 conference neared its end, I asked another conference attendee (who asked that I not use his name) if during his wartime deployments in Iraq he had seen the problem Major Elliott had described of a base with private security guards protecting privately contracted cooks, who were cooking for the same private security guards, who were protecting the privately contracted cooks. “A lot,” he replied. It’s the “self-licking ice cream cone”—by which he meant a self-perpetuating system with no purpose or function except to keep itself going.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

The U.S. has accepted that they are now fighting generational wars. There are children born in just the special-op fronts, the hot spots that Special Operations forces fight in, who are now of fighting age. Teenagers who have never not known American occupation. From Iraq to Afghanistan, to Somalia, to Libya, to Yemen, to Philippines and Niger and Syria there are conflicts that the U.S. seems intent on keeping active. The idea of solution is now forgotten.

And watching Donald Trump and his traveling insult party it struck me that only such clearly intentional behavior and statements could make a ghoulish war criminal like John Brennan attractive to the American public. And then something began to nag at me.

While Trump is seeking to develop a framework for authoritarian rule—including the cultivation of far-right and fascistic forces based on anti-immigrant chauvinism—there is not an ounce of democratic content in the campaign of his critics within the state and political establishment. In the name of opposing Trump—and the supposed Russian plot that sustains him—they are developing their own arguments for dictatorship.
— Joseph Kishore, WSWS, August 18, 2018

Brennan has, besides suggesting intensifying foreign theatres of operation, now openly outlined a plan for Orwellian thought control at home, and wholesale censorship of dissent.

More from Joseph Kishore…

This is the significance of Brennan’s column, “President Trump’s claims of no collusion are hogwash,” published in the print edition of the New York Times on Friday. The pages of the Times were turned over to Brennan by James Bennet, the newspaper’s highly-connected editorial page editor, brother of right-wing Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and son of Douglas Bennet, a former top State Department official with CIA connections. { } More than Russia, the targets of Brennan’s attack are domestic organizations and individuals. He writes: “Electoral politics in Western democracies present an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives.” Who are these “politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers?” The answer is: Anyone who does not accept uncritically the narrative of the intelligence agencies and the military, including the lies used to justify war in Syria and aggression against Russia.

The liberal class in the U.S. is now embracing with laudatory accolades the most malign sadistic authoritarians possible. Men like Brennan, James Comey, Robert Mueller, and nary a peep from them about the confirmation of serial torturer and all around liar Gina Haspel. With Vietnam there were massive protests against the war. Today there are none. Nobody cares in the U.S. They do not care it is year 17 in the occupation of Afghanistan, or that in Yemen there is such human suffering that statistics are an insult to even mention. Shoot a school bus in Yemen? Unfortunate but hardly headline news. Google and Facebook are now in the process of widespread censoring of dissenting voices. How dare anyone criticize the ogre John McCain. That is *hate speech*. Hollywood continues to avoid ANY criticism EVER of the U.S. military or domestic police forces. In fact, they continue to produce one jingoistic narrative after another in which service in the armed forces is uniformly expressed as a noble choice, a honorable patriotic sacrifice. Hollywood is, in fact, creating (and has done for two decades at least) a indelible mythology of fascistic martial love.

But that is really the core of what is nagging at me.

The curious exaggerated response in the U.S. to the Trump presidency is understood, partly, by the failure of previous conflicts and even by 9/11, to produce a sense of national regeneration in the usually willing masses. No amount of revisionist history about Vietnam or Korea produced a real national sense of military purpose. Grenada and Somalia just didn’t, frankly, kill enough people. This is a Puritan nation that has never left its roots in blood atonement. Organized corporate owned sports provides only a limited refuge from the crushing economic reality. Not many are fortunate enough to feel pride in what they do. And deep down nobody really believes the lies. They may work overtime and very hard to do so, but I don’t believe they do. But hating Trump has now become, at least in part, a new mythology for America. For the educated classes anyway, Trump is now the anti-president.

…one of the syndromes that people working with Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD was something called John Wayne Syndrome where the young men had internalized the John Wayne model of heroism and one of their problems was they felt they had failed somehow to live up to that model.

And that’s the psychology we’re talking about here. You internalize a model of heroic behavior from the media that purvey the myths that shape your society. And there’s a whole spectrum of responses you might have in relation to that internalized model.

You might not do anything yourself. You might simply consent that the government or somebody act on your behalf, you don’t make the war yourself, but you consent that somebody make the war for you, kill the bad guy for you.
— Richard Slotkin, Interview, Truthout 2013

I remember Slotkin (whose trilogy on the American West is essential reading) pointing out that the first significant shift in consciousness for America was …“1890, the moment when the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’, the moment when ‘frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical location.” And that is when Americans began to codify this idea of violence and conquest as acts of purification and nobility. One must cross into *Indian territory*, or for many, just into Mexico — for these symbols and tropes of white supremacism represent a metaphoric shadow world that must be overcome in order to be reborn as a proud white American. The U.S. has fought no wars that could be sold as heroic without inordinate amounts of propaganda and indoctrination in a sort of kitsch patriotism. I think of the Chris Kyle memorial event at the Cowboys Stadium where fifty thousand people showed up. But it is likely that 99% of the wars in human history also needed propaganda. Just, perhaps, not quite at the level we see today.

But such observations must be understood against a backdrop of an eroded education system, a society of screen and anti-depressive addictions. There is no way to grasp the mental illness in play today. For the anti Trump hysteria, and that is what it is, comes out of a kind of backhanded schadenfreude. The disfigured mental state of America has arrived at some kind of critical mass. (As an aside vis a vis Lacan, in his one actual public speaking appearance -Catholic University of Louvain, mid 70s- he opened his lecture by asking the audience “can you bear the life that you have”?

Today, the sense of misery in the U.S. is acute and operative in about three different registers. There is the exponential spike in homelessness and poverty, and that is obvious. But there is another register of psychic torment and depression that blankets life on a day to day basis. And it is a sense of this absolute counterfeit existence — coupled to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and inadequacy that is causing widespread depression and driving more and more desperate narratives of American privilege. And no wonder, I mean look at the most powerful men in the country; Trump, the Koch Brothers, Mike “Domionist” Pompeo, John fucking Bolton…I mean JOHN BOLTON for christ sake, and Brennan, the Clintons and their posse, and Jeff Bezos and Zuck, not to mention Pierre Omidyar, and these are just off the top of my head. Not a single person in that list is not reprehensible. Then the DC think tanks. And there is no way to overestimate the influence of these institutions; The Brookings Institute, CATO, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation, Heritage Foundation, Center for American Progress, Center for Strategic and International Studies – the list goes on. These places advice the State Department and Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, Unified Commands of the Marines and Navy, not to mention congress and the Attorney General, and the Executive Branch. As I glanced at the bios of the leadership at CSIS I came across this in a bio…..”…held the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy”. These people live in an alternate universe. They are Martians. But they are very powerful. That is the reality we live in.

So no wonder misery is endemic. And I guess the question begged here is how did the most powerful nation on earth (though defining powerful is perhaps useful) arrive in the hands of people who think the Brzezinski chair in Global Suffering is something to aspire to?

But this sense of the counterfeit is in no small measure the result of the lost counter culture, and alternative press. Again during Vietnam there were important writers protesting and speaking everywhere. Papers like the East Village Other, the L.A. Free Press. Berkeley Barb, et al had importance. People were rejecting the idea of ruling class privilege. They also understood the ruling class were the real criminals. Today Google would just erase them. Now we get Rachel Maddow, Fox News and Jordan Peterson. Where once Robert Bly and Alan Ginsburg gave readings to protest the war, in trips they paid for themselves across the entire country. Today were have celebrity war pimps like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.

We have a 1950s throwback cracker as AG. If a movie is made of these years it’s too bad Strother Martin has passed on because he was born to play Jeff Sessions. But I digress. (And George Kennedy as Mike Pompeo?). I gotta stop.

I was reading Paul Goodman recently. Whatever place in the annals of American letters that Goodman may finally rest, there is a serious shortage of that kind of wisdom out there today. And Goodman was remarkably prescient as well as wise.

I keep resorting to the metaphor school-monks, the administrators, professors, academic sociologists and licensees with diplomas who have proliferated into an invested intellectual class worse than anything since the time of Henry VIII. Yet I am convinced – as they got their grants and buildings and State laws that give them sole competence — that the monks are sincere in their bland faith in the school. The schools provide the best preparation for everybody for a complicated world, are the logical haven for unemployed youth, can equalize opportunity for the underprivileged, administer research in all fields, and be the indispensable mentor for creativity, business-practice, social work, mental hygiene, genuine literacy — name it, and there are credits for it leading to a degree. The schools offer very little evidence of their unique ability to perform any of these things — there is plenty of evidence to the contrary — but they do not need to offer evidence, since nobody opposes them or proposes alternatives.
— Paul Goodman, Compulsory Miseducation

Over fifty years ago William Burroughs, a contemporary of Goodman, was asked what he thought of contemporary America:

At the official level a nightmare. Difficult to believe that people in positions of power who form the foreign and domestic policies of America could be so stupid and so basically ill-intentioned.

So what we are seeing today is not new. What is new is this phenomenon of the anti-president. All the things that were not really believed in by themselves become valuable, even sacrosanct symbols of an imaginary Good America.

I was told by a teacher recently that her high school students are hugely reluctant to volunteer answers in class. Later she asked one why. The student said everyone was afraid of being made fun of on social media later that night. Best to keep quiet and invisible. This does not portend well for the future of the West. Burroughs added a bit later (in the under-read The Job) about the term nightmare. He said it’s less a nightmare than a non dream. For the ruling class, dreams must be eradicated. The masses cannot be allowed dreams.

Only today, I think, there is — either by accident or design — a manufactured dream. The dream of stopping the anti-president. The obvious contradictions are brushed aside. After all, this is mythology. I remember Robert Bly noting that when a society confuses the mythic with the real, it is a sign of terminal sickness in that society. Witch burning is an example. Of course, there were historical and economic determinants involved in both the wave of European witch hunts in the 16th century (see Sylvia Federici) and those in Salem. But nonetheless the populace believed in witches. They believed the Church propaganda. Today, the hatred of Trump is so exaggerated that only a deep conviction in something bigger than just politics has to be involved. Hating Trump has become a secret handshake among liberals. A part of spiritual self improvement, right alongside Yoga classes and TM.

Of course, Trump is horrid. And somewhere in him, or somewhere in the story of how he got elected, he knows this or at least suspected it. I was put here to be who I am and ergo, I was put here to be hated. He plays to it. He insults the queen for cryin’ out loud. What a cad!

There is another aspect to this, though. One that has to do with how the U.S. government and the ruling elite are expressing their own hysteria. A quick survey here, then.

Mike Pompeo is another example of the foulness that holds power in the U.S. Pompeo has helped form something called the Iran Action Group. What this is, and Pompeo and Mattis openly state this, is an organization devoted to orchestrating a coup d’etat in Iran. They want to overthrow a sovereign government by any means necessary. If this seems a contradiction given the hand wringing and howls of indignation about Russian collusion in OUR elections; well, it is. It’s a breathtaking contradiction. But such is the hubris and arrogance of the U.S. government. What, you might well ask, has Iran done to us? The answer is nothing. Oh rather, it has offended those who stride the corridors of power in the U.S. by not doing what it was told.

Look at the official list of American enemies. Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and the DPRK. What do they have in common? They are independent. They have refused all those World Bank and IMF overtures to drain profit from the country. They don’t accept U.S. bases in their country. And they refuse to allow western Capital to buy up their resources. The horror!!!

So, the US government, and in particular Pompeo’s CIA, will form committees and pay for studies (from the aforementioned think tanks) to figure out how to kill the leaders (like Gaddafi, and Lumumba) of these recalcitrant nations, or exile them or TRY to kill them. But most of all, to get rid of them and replace them with compliant client governments. For the only acceptable form of foreign government is a vassal state. All those leaders who have defied US diktats, have suffered endless persecution. Why were Chavez and Milosevic demonized? What did they do? Why was the former Yugoslavia bombed, broken up, and its president illegally kidnapped and stuck in a prison? And then handed over to an ad hoc tribunal for a show trial meant to demonstrate how good and gracious is the U.S. (and its European clients) but they couldn’t even get that right. So they dropped the trial from their TV line up. And Milosevic died in jail. Chavez and Milosevic and Castro and Gaddafi et al — were not threats to world peace. They were not tyrants.

I have said before, if the US targets you, then you deserve to be defended. Full stop. Only the most privileged of leftists make distinctions about whatever they don’t like and get mealy mouthed and start using racist terms like “thug”. Or call independent states “regimes” just like Mad Dog Mattis does.

You know that cognitive dissonance must be rampant when the two biggest U.S. allies are Saudi Arabia and Israel. I mean, the Saudis are set, as I write this, to publicly behead a woman’s right activist (and her husband). For….*protesting*. This is our ally. We sell them billions in weapons. We train them. We visit them and they visit us. Or Israel. I mean Israel is an official apartheid state now where politicians openly call Arabs “dogs” and “vermin”.

The Iran Action Group is illegal by all and any international legal conventions. No matter.

I want to add, again, Pompeo is another Christian extremist in this administration and one with a deep hatred of Islam. Back in 2015

…Pompeo, then a Congressman, attacked Barack Obama, who, according to him, took the side of the “Islamic East” in its conflict with the “Christian West”. “Every time there has been a conflict between the Christian West and the Islamic East, the data points all point to a single direction.
— Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 2017

Pompeo’s Islamaphobia is shared by Pence and, really, the entire Trump cabinet. But this is the standard sensibility of the contemporary evangelical community. And why that is so hard for people to recognize is beyond me. But I want to get back to the state of consciousness in the U.S.today. To the new mythology…or pseudo mythology anyway.

A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that at one point last year, 74% of adults in the UK were so stressed that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. One-third were suicidal and 16% had self-injured at some point in their lives. These figures were much higher among young people.

In the United States, death rates are rising steadily, especially for middle-aged white men and women, due to “desperation,” which includes deaths from drug and alcohol addiction as well as suicides and many car accidents. An pidemic of distress seems to be affecting some of the richest nations in the world.
— Manuel E. Yepe, Counterpunch, August 2018

When Richard Nixon switched his Vietnam policy from winning the war to “rescuing” US POWs, he was consciously reclaiming another American myth which was the basis of the Puritans’ earliest literature: the captivity narrative. This pointed the way for the revisionist Rambo histories of Vietnam, whose betrayal scenarios blamed loss on dissenters at home. What was Ronald Reagan, asks Slotkin, if not America’s last attempt to reclaim the beliefs American myths told Americans should bind society together, even when they were known to be untrue.
— Michael Carlson, Irresistible Targets, 2008

These two things, then. Epidemic levels of extreme anxiety and depression, and the system’s doubling down on the mythology of individualism and the frontier; but a doubling down that has meant an ever more distilled nativist zealotry. Those who went to Chris Kyle’s memorial are the NASCAR flyover state true believers, but now liberal America is, as I say, buying in. For them, there seems no alternative. For the liberal, the educated classes in America, the status quo is sacred. And they would rather have any version of Brave New World, than to contemplate actual radical change. You know where the most rabid bulging eye, popping veins, hatred of communism can be found? In white liberal America. And it was Malcolm X. who said “The white liberal is the worst enemy to America, and the worst enemy to the black man.” It is the new fall collection for American Exceptionalism.

The liberal educated white American is now shoehorning some contradictory ideological threads into this new belief system. Trump is a fascist they say (true, but he isn’t the first) and stopping Trump eclipses all other concerns (like Obama’s bloody policies, or Bill Clinton’s, or Bush’s etc, etc). And this sense of purposeful hating of Trump is a bit like the new frontier. One must cross into the land (or underworld…or maybe high rise…I don’t know) of Trump evilness to come out the other side, reborn, redeemed. Trump is a kind of prismatic reincarnation of Reagan, I think. Those who hated Reagan and those who loved Reagan are on the same side regards Trump. And again, it is clear there are elements in the system, the so called deep state if you like, that want Trump gone. Right? That is the common wisdom out there. And there is truth in that perspective I think. I think. But it’s not the whole truth. For Trump serves the interests of even those who seem to want him gone. Why are we to believe this CIA and NSA and Pentagon cabal hate Trump and want him impeached? Why? What is he doing to hurt them? It seems to me he is carrying out policy that serves their interests. The ruling class is always united in the end. His statements are only that. I mean the guy *tweets* for Christ sake. A compulsive tweeter, in fact. He is probably not much in charge of anything, I suspect. He doesn’t know the names of countries, or their histories. He is a typically ignorant American.

But domestically, that is where the real story is unfolding. That’s all Americans care about anyway. They have no idea where Yemen is, or Syria. They have no idea where Vietnam is, for that matter. They DO-NOT-CARE. But Trump’s pandering to white racists and all the Christian evangelicals, and, of course, Jeff Sessions; those things do have a Trump imprint. And it’s ugly. And that ugliness was always there. I mean, literally always there. Since Salem, in fact. Since the first slave ship landed in Virginia. Remember the civil rights fight? Remember there were race riots early in the 20th century in at least a dozen cities. It’s not new. Trump didn’t invent it. But he has allowed it to surface again. And it is in this Manichaean melodrama of the NEW Exceptionalism meets the old racism that the surreal and hallucinatory story of American madness is playing out. The United States is sinking under the weight of its contradictions, ideologically, and it’s also materially crumbling. And it is economically propped up in part by those trillions of dollars associated with the defense industry. With those 900 bases. And with an expanding NATO. I mean if NATO gets much bigger there wont be many places for NATO to attack. And that’s a sobering thought. The homeless encampments around every city in America are the legacy of so called American Century. That is the end of the line for Western capital and rugged individualism. The postscript to Manifest Destiny is a nation of absolute misery, over medicated, and trying hard to NOT see the misery around them. To not see their neighbors have moved….to the nearest homeless encampment. Not see that yet more record days of heat have arrived. Not see that everything is poisoned and wrapped in plastic anyway. Of polluted lakes and scorched earth. A nation of narcissism and despair in equal measures. But at least they can hate Trump together. In that sense the Anti-President is a gift.

Attention, War Criminals: Prizes Still Available

In the long, confounding history of inappropriate or unwarranted awards and prizes, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger being named the joint winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize has to rank at the top of any such list.

Clearly, it ranks higher than Roberto Benigni beating out Ian McKellen for the Best Actor Oscar, in 1998, and way higher than the Chevrolet Vega being named Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 “Car of the Year.”

Kissinger’s fellow co-winner in 1973 was the Vietnamese revolutionary and politician Le Duc Tho.  So the almost saintly Mahatma Gandhi gets nominated for the Peace Prize five times but never wins?  And yet the Teutonic Supercock wins it on his very first try?  Irony doesn’t come in any more bizarre a package.

The Nobel Committee, presumably to prove that, God forbid, they weren’t “taking sides,” chose to honor both men simultaneously.  They honored the man who (along with his accomplice, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) was responsible for deliberately bombing and killing countless civilians, and the man representing the country whose civilians were being bombed and killed.

Although it was never adequately explained, this particular Peace Prize had to be the product of some twisted international calculus—some preposterous tit for tat—where a powerful, highly mechanized country that was committing the murders, and the largely peasant country whose women and children were being murdered, were elevated to equal status.

To his credit, Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award.  He rightly believed that until there was legitimate peace in Vietnam—which included, obviously, a cessation to the killing and foreign occupation—sharing the honor with Kissinger would be a sham.  Meanwhile, Kissinger had no problem accepting his trophy and placing it on his mantle, doubtless regarding it as evidence of his humanitarianism.

All of this reminds us of one of Mort Sahl’s political quips.  He said that if Richard Nixon saw a man drowning in a lake, fifteen feet from shore, he would throw him a ten-foot rope.  And then Henry Kissinger would go on national TV and solemnly announce that “the president had met him more than halfway.”

Which brings us to the present day.  Not that he’s a “war criminal,” but given the Nobel Committee’s obvious capacity for self-delusion and squirrellyness, would it be totally out of the question for them to give the Peace Prize to Donald Trump?  Award it to him in recognition of his having reached out to the heretofore “unreachable” Kim Jong-Un of North Korea?

After all, even though nothing substantive or remarkable was achieved as a result of the meeting (other than Trump appearing even more Mussolini-like, and Kim Jung-Un appearing even weirder and more inscrutable), the Committee could view this as being the all-important “first step” in normalizing relations.

According to Gore Vidal, there is an astounding amount of shameless lobbying, arm-twisting, and self-promotion accompanying the Nobel Prizes.  Chemists do it; physicists do it; novelists do it.  Everybody wants to be considered for a Nobel Prize, and then, after making the short list, everybody wants to win.

Given Trump’s shallow narcissism and his insistence on being praised and made to look “presidential” at every turn, the thought of this man being awarded something as prestigious as the Nobel Prize is almost too gruesome to contemplate.  We think his tweets are insufferably self-serving now, just wait until he becomes a Nobel Laureate.  He could fly to the moon on the gas it would create.

And let’s not kid ourselves.  Because the precedent has already been firmly established, Donald Trump winning the damn thing is not that farfetched.  President Barack (“Have drone, will travel”) Obama won the Peace Prize in 2009.  Anything is possible.