Category Archives: North Korea

Anti-Communism is a Fundamentalist Religion now followed by Millions

150 years ago, on April 21, 1870, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, alias Lenin, was born. According to many, he was the greatest revolutionary of all times, a man who gave birth to both internationalism and anti-imperialism.

It is time to “revisit Communism”. It is also time to ask some basic, essential questions:

How is it possible that a system so logical, progressive, and so superior to what is, up till now, governing the world, failed to permanently overthrow the nihilism and brutality of capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism?

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Without any doubt, you have been told many horrifying things about Communism, especially if you have been living in the West, or in one of the countries that are fully under the control of the centres of anti-Communism: Washington, London or Paris.

You have been forced to read, again and again, about “Stalinism”, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Khmer Rouge genocide. You have, again and again, been served an elaborate cocktail of half-truths, outright fabrications, as well as twisted interpretations of the world history.

The chances are you have never been to Russia, China or Cambodia; you haven’t done any serious research there.

You have been told that Cambodia is the best example of savage Communism. You never realized that Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge extremists were fully supported by the United States, and not by the Soviet Union and never foolheartedly by China; that they were never actually really “Communist” (I did a detailed in-country research, and even Pol Pot’s personal guards told me that they had no idea about Communism, and only reacted to the monstrous U.S. carpet bombing of the Cambodian countryside, and to the capital’s collaboration with the West). In that period, most people died as a result of precisely that carpet-bombing by the USAF B-52’s, and as a result of a famine. And the famine came after millions of peasants were displaced by the savagery of the bombing, and by the unexploded substances left in the fields, all over the countryside.

It never occurred to you, that one survey after another, conducted in Russia, still shows that the majority of the people there would like to have the Communist Soviet Union back. And even in the former Soviet Muslim-majority states, including Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan, a tremendous majority of the people I encountered there remembered the Soviet Union era as some golden age.

And the so-called Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? I have worked, filmed and reported there, on three occasions, relatively recently. Outraged by the on-going Western occupation of their country, countless Afghan people told me stories, illustrating the contrast between their tolerant, progressive and optimistic socialist era, and the present-day horror, during which their country has sunk to the lowest level in Asia, according to both UNDP and the WHO. I worked in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, Bagram; the same stories, and the same nostalgia for the Soviet teachers, nurses, engineers.

Showered by the relentless Western propaganda, one never really realized how popular the Communist Party of China is in its own country, and how the Communist ideology is supported in Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.

If one goes to their friendly local bookstore in North America, Europe or even in Hong Kong, not to speak of Australia, the chances are is that all one will find there would be tomes written by anti-Communist Chinese or Russian ‘dissidents’, people that have been living off Western grants, receiving countless awards so they can spend all their energy on smearing Communism, and glorifying anti-revolution. Writers such as Svetlana Alexievich, who received the Nobel Prize for literature, for spitting on the graves of the Soviet soldiers who died defending Afghan socialism.

Films one would be allowed to watch, on commercial film channels, would not be any different than the books one had been encouraged to read.

Anti-Communism in the West and in its colonies, is a tremendous industry. It is easily the greatest and on-going propaganda campaign in the history of the world. Its metastasis has been spreading even into the core of the Communist and socialist countries themselves.

All of that is because the Western imperialist countries know perfectly well that their empire can only survive if Communism collapses.

It is because the very essence of Communism is the perpetual struggle against imperialism.

False but very effective slogans, like bugs, that are being implanted into one’s brains. They are repeated constantly, sometimes hundreds of times a day, without one even noticing: “Communism is dead!” you have been told. “It is outdated, boring.” “China is not Communist, anymore.” “Communism is grey. Life under communism is controlled, and it is monotonous”.  “People under Communism have no freedom, and no liberties.”

The opposite is the truth. Building, selfishly and enthusiastically, a new and better society for the people, is definitely more satisfactory (and “more fun”), than rotting in the constant agony of fear: worrying about mortgages, student loans, and medical emergencies. Competing with others, stepping on others, and even ruining other human beings. Living empty, sad, selfish lives.

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Absurdly, paradoxically, Western propaganda constantly accuses Communism of violence. But Communism is the biggest adversary of the most violent system on Earth, which is Western colonialism/ imperialism. Hundreds of millions of human beings have already vanished as a result of it, throughout the centuries. Hundreds of advanced cultures have been ruined. Entire continents have been plundered.

Before Soviet Communism, before the USSR itself, there was no true and powerful opposition to Western imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism were taken for granted; they were “the world order”.

The Soviet Union and China helped to de-colonize the world. Cuba and North Korea, two Communist countries, fought bravely and successfully, and brought independence to Africa (something that the West has never forgotten nor forgiven).

But fighting for freedom and for the end of colonialism is not violence; it is defence, resistance and a struggle for independence.

As a rule, Communism does not attack. It defends itself, and it defends countries that are being brutalised. In my future work, I will address two “exceptions”; and explain two cases which are constantly misinterpreted by right-wing propaganda: Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

But back to the so-called “Communist violence”.

My friend and comrade, the legendary Russian intellectual and professor, Aleksandr Buzgalin, wrote in his recent work, “Lenin: Theory as Practice, Practice as Creativity (to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of V.I. Ulyanov-Lenin):

There is a principle at work here: it is not the socialist revolution that provokes mass violence, but the bourgeois counter-revolution, that begins when capital realises that it is losing its property and power. In response to the generally peaceful and in many cases legitimate victory of the left, capital unleashes savage, barbaric violence. The left is then faced with the question of whether to answer this violence or not. If you go to war, then from that point the laws of war apply, and hundreds of thousands are sent to their deaths, planned in advance, so that millions might be victorious. That is the logic of war.

The revolution was carried through. It was victorious. In the broader perspective, the victors were not so much the Bolsheviks as the Soviets, in which the majority supported the Bolsheviks’ position. The revolution was substantially peaceful, prevailing almost without bloodshed. The fiercest fighting occurred in Moscow, where those killed on both sides numbered a few thousand. Beyond that, the picture was of a “triumphal procession of Soviet power” (this heading in Soviet textbooks was no accident). In the winter of 1917-1918 the relationship of forces saw half a million members of the workers’ militia, the Red Guard, pitted against a few tens of thousand White Guard members in the south of Russia. Everything was quiet until the counter-revolution received vast sums of money from the Triple Alliance (primarily from Germany) as well as from the Entente, and all these imperialist countries launched aggression against the young Soviet power.

This is a brilliant take by Aleksandr Buzgalin. I have addressed this topic on many occasions but never so coherently. And this applies to countless examples all over the world where the West first provoked and brutally antagonized socialist or communist countries, then accused them of cruelty, and finally “liberated” them in the name of freedom and democracy, literally raping the will of their people. All this just so European and North American imperialism would survive and thrive.

Let’s recall just a few examples: the USSR, 1965 Indonesia, 1973 Chile, 2019 Bolivia. The biggest attempt to date: to divert, destabilize and overthrow the enormously successful Chinese system. But there are, of course, countless other examples, in all corners of the globe.

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Ron Unz, the publisher of The Unz Review, wrote in his report “American Pravda: Our Coronavirus Catastrophe as Bio-warfare Blowback?”, recalling his thoughts, in 1999, when China protested about the NATO bombing of its Embassy in Belgrade:

But when I considered that the Chinese government was still stubbornly denying the reality of its massacre of the protesting students in Tiananmen Square a decade earlier, I concluded that unreasonable behavior by PRC officials was only to be expected….

Such at least were my thoughts on that matter more than two decades ago. But in the years that followed, my understanding of the world and of many pivotal events of modern history underwent the sweeping transformations that I have described in my American Pravda series. And some of my 1990s assumptions were among them.

Consider, for example, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which every June 4th still evokes an annual wave of harsh condemnations in the news and opinion pages of our leading national newspapers. I had never originally doubted those facts, but a year or two ago I happened to come across a short article by journalist Jay Matthews entitled “The Myth of Tiananmen” that completely upended that apparent reality.

According to Matthews the infamous massacre had likely never happened, but was merely a media artifact produced by confused Western reporters and dishonest propaganda, a mistaken belief that had quickly become embedded in our standard media storyline, endlessly repeated by so many ignorant journalists that they all eventually believed it to be true. Instead, as near as could be determined, the protesting students had all left Tiananmen Square peacefully, just as the Chinese government had always maintained. Indeed, leading newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post had occasionally acknowledged these facts over the years, but usually buried those scanty admissions so deep in their stories that few ever noticed. Meanwhile, the bulk of the mainstream media had fallen for an apparent hoax.

Matthews himself had been the Beijing Bureau Chief of the Washington Post, personally covering the protests at the time, and his article appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, our most prestigious venue for media criticism.

On top of it, what Western mainstream media was describing as a group of “freedom fighters” and “pro-democracy movement”, had a substantial number of radicals in its ranks, even outright racists, that were protesting against the presence of black Africans on Chinese university campuses. They demanded a ban on their relationships with the Chinese women. And they were fully supported and at least partially funded by the West, simply because of their savage, aggressive, fundamentalist anti-Communism.

The Chinese government does not even want to touch this subject, anymore. They feel that, faced with massive Western propaganda, they cannot get through with their take on the story; in brief, that they have lost the narrative.

Now fast-forward to 2019 and 2020. Hong Kong. Again, what we are witnessing there is outrageous and extremist anti-Communism. Fascist protesters that are marching, destroying public property, and attacking the Police, all under U.S, U.K and German banners, are hailed by the Western mass media as “pro-democracy activists”. They are physically attacking the supporters of Beijing. They are paid, they are glorified. I have talked to them on many occasions. They are fully, thoroughly brainwashed. They know nothing about facts. They deny the crimes committed by the British and the U.S. colonialists. They admire everything Western, and they despise their own country.

The West has been told to view them as “revolutionaries”. And it promotes them as revolutionaries, all over the world!

Another group unleashed against the Communist China, are the Uyghurs. Many of these people have joined terrorist organizations in Idlib, Syria, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. Or more precisely, they were injected there. The reason? To harden them on the battlefields, so that they could one day return to China, and try to break Communism, as well as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), the most internationalist mammoth project on Earth. I have covered their activities in Syria, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere. I have written extensively about the atrocities they have been committing. But the anti-Communist propaganda is often too massive and too “professional”. It manufactures a “bullet-proof narrative”. It portrays the Uyghurs as the victims!

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Ask the common men and women of the streets of London, Paris or New York, what they know about Stalin’s era, or the famines in the early years of the USSR, or in Communist China?

99.99% know nothing. Where these famines took place, or why. But they are absolutely certain that they took place. No doubts, whatsoever. No doubts that they happened “because of Communism”. Westerners are intellectually obedient, like sheep. Most of them do not question the propaganda unleashed by their regime. Are they really “free”?

The famine in the Soviet Union actually took place because the young revolutionary country was totally devastated by the Western and Japanese invasions, which tried to break and plunder the country. British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, German, Japanese invasions, to name just a few.

But ask, for instance, the Czechs, how much they know about their Legions that controlled the Trans-Siberian railroad on their way from Europe to Vladivostok. Plundering, rape, and mass killing. I tried. I asked in Prague and Pilsen. They thought I was a lunatic. The Legions are portrayed as heroic in their history books. A bullet-proof narrative. No doubts there.

And “Stalinism”? This author is planning to write much more on this subject. But here, just in brief: What kind of country did Stalin really inherit? It was a country thoroughly plundered by foreign invaders, a country devastated by civil war. A country where the anti-revolutionary forces have been, until recently, financed by the U.K., France, U.S. and others. As a result of this brutal civil war unleashed from abroad, criminal gangs roamed all over the vast lands, and inside cities.

From the beginning, the Russian Communists wanted peace, the brotherhood of nations, and peaceful development for its people. I wrote in 2017, in my book Great October Socialist Revolution. Impact on the World and Birth of Internationalism:

The revolutionaries wanted to end all wars immediately. Russian soldiers left their trenches, and embraced their enemies. “We are all brothers!” they shouted. “We were forced to fight each other by ruthless monarchs, priests and businessmen. We should battle real enemies, not each other! Proletariat of the world, Unite!” But the Western officers and commanders were determined: they forced their men back to the trenches, accusing them of treason, pushing them to the battlefields.

Most significantly, the countless foreign invasions were overwhelming of both several major Russian cities and the countryside. As always throughout the previous centuries, the Europeans never thought twice before putting their military boots on Russian soil. In a way, Russia was treated and perceived as a ‘barbaric’ nation that could be attacked, colonized and plundered at will and without much justification, not unlike all those countless unfortunate nations all over the world: located in South America and Central Asia, in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Many Russians looked like whites, like Europeans, but to the Westerners, they were never “white enough”, never really part of the culture of the conquerors and plunderers. Russia always had its own soul, its way of thinking and feeling, its distinct manner of acting and reacting.

In my book, I revisited the subversion tactics of Western imperialism and militant anti-Communism:

The essence and strategy of Western imperialist subversion is essentially very simple: identify all strong and weak points of the country that you are attempting to murder, and try to comprehend its ideology. Study and learn all about its progressive leadership: its plans, and all that the revolution is trying to do for the people: like giving them freedom, equal rights, improved life expectancy, high standards of education, medical care, housing, infrastructure, arts and overall a decent quality of life. Then, attack where it hurts the most: use direct interventions, sabotage, terrorist assaults, or sponsor extremist and even religious fundamentalist groups, in order to spread fear and insecurity to slow down the process of social change and economic growth. Hit so hard that at some point, the democratic revolutionary system will have to react, simply in order to protect its people, their achievements, and even their bare lives. Wherever the West tries to destroy a socialist country, be it Nicaragua or Afghanistan in the 80’s, it first targets hospitals and schools, in order to demolish the great social achievements of the government, and to spread hopelessness among the population. Then it hits even harder, to trigger a strong government reaction, and then immediately declare: “You see, this is the real face of socialism or communism! You want a revolution? Fine: what you get in the package will be this: oppression, political trials, gulags, a lack of freedom, and even some brutal executions!” Use widely, weapons like disinformation and negative propaganda, so the revolution in a progressive but cruelly terrorized country would never have a chance to really influence the rest of the world, and even at home it will begin to suffer after being put under too much pressure…

… Such hideous tactics of the West, deeply injured the Soviet Union before WWII, but it failed to destroy the country.

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The Chinese famine took place partially because during the Japanese occupation, the Imperial Army disrupted the food chain supplies, as well as the system of farming, which had been formed and developed throughout thousands of years. Japan was interested in only one thing: how to feed its troops that were occupying a massive part of Asia.

In both cases, Western propaganda made people believe that the real cause for the loss of lives in Russia and China was Communism! The brainwashing has been so successful that even in Russia and China, millions of people have been fully indoctrinated by these countlessly repeated lies coming out of the West.

But ask in London whether people know anything about the fact that under the British occupation of India, tens of millions of people died from starvation; victims of the famines triggered by London, for many reasons, one of them being an attempt to lower the population. Over 50 million Indian people, cumulatively, died in these famines, between 1769 to 1943, in British administered India.

Should we, as a result, ban the British political system? I am convinced that we should! But that is usually not what the people of the world, including the victims of the British colonialist barbarity, are demanding.

So, back to the British or French public. What do they know about their past, and even about their neo-colonialist present? They only know what they have been ordered to believe. In brief: they know nothing. Zero. Only fairytales. But they are convinced that they are well informed. And that they have the right to lecture the world.

They know absolutely nothing about the USSR and about China. They have no clue about why North Korea and Cuba are being continuously demonized (as mentioned above, they both, hand in hand, liberated Africa from Western colonialism).

I have lived and worked all over Africa for years, made films, and written countless essays. The Cuban and North Korean involvement, enormously positive, internationalist and undoubtedly Communist, from Namibia and Angola, from Egypt to Mauritius, has been very well documented. But say it in a Parisian café or a London pub and jaws will drop. Blank stares, emptiness.

Even that “Anti-Communist left” consisting of anarcho-syndicalists and Trotskyists (really mostly British and U.S. brands of pseudo revolutionaries), knows nothing, or wants to know nothing, about true revolutionary Communism.

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On 23 April, 2020, Brasil de Fato quoted the Venezuelan Vice-Minister Carlos Ron:

It is very interesting in North American culture, to believe in “manifest destiny”, to think that they have a messianic mission. They believe that their mission is to end communism in Latin America, so they will overthrow Venezuela, Cuba and everything that is red, because all that is red is communist.

In Indonesia, an entire failed, miserable and depressing religious state is based on anti-Communist dogma. Nobody clearly understands there why they are anti-communist, but the more they are ignorant about the subject, the more aggressively they act; banning all Communist concepts and lexicon, building anti-Communist ‘museums’, and producing anti-Communist films. After killing millions of Communists on behalf of the West, anti-Communism has become the essence of their existence. In the past they even used to ban the Chinese and Russian languages. All just to silence the past, when President Sukarno and the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia), before the US-backed 1965 coup, were building a great, progressive, socialist and non-aligned nation.

In fact, in much of Southeast Asia, perhaps the most grotesquely turbo-capitalist part of the world, Communism has been banned, or at least demonized. The result: confused, consumerist, religious and dismal nations. Communist Vietnam is the shining star, but it is never portrayed as such, definitely not abroad.

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Let us celebrate the 150th birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin!

Let us celebrate it by revisiting history, and the present.

The most brutal political system is Western imperialism, colonialism. It has already murdered hundreds of millions of people all over the world. This fact should be repeated again and again.

The goal of Western propaganda has always been to equate Communism and Fascism, the two most antagonistic systems in history in the world. It was the Soviet Communist system, which smashed Nazism to pieces, saving the world, at an enormous cost of approximately 25 million human lives.

Only Western imperialism can be compared to German Nazism. The two are made of the same stuff.

To me, to many of us, Communism means the perpetual struggle against Western interventionism, colonialism.

In this terrible moment in human history, it is important to clearly understand this reality.

If Communism were to be defeated, it would be the end of the struggle for freedom. Only the powerful, centralized, ideologically-sound Communist system can fight and liberate the human race from colonialist shackles, from savage capitalism, and an nihilist empty existence.

Propagandists tell you insane lies, that Communism is outdated and boring. Don’t believe them: it is the most upbeat, still young, and optimistic arrangement of the world. And unlike imperialism and capitalism, Communism is constantly evolving. Not in Europe or North America, but in the rest of the world.

Just look at the West and its colonies. Look at the misery and deprivation brought on humanity by the Western oppressive dictatorial regime.

Happy birthday, Comrade Lenin!

The struggle continues!

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

The World Must End The US’ Illegal Economic War

The United States is relying more heavily on illegal unilateral coercive measures (also known as economic sanctions) in place of war or as part of its build-up to war. In fact, economic sanctions are an act of war that kills tens of thousands of people each year through financial strangulation. An economic blockade places a country under siege.

A recent example is the increase in economic measures being imposed against Iran, which many viewed as more acceptable than a military attack. In response to Iran retaliating for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and seven other people, Iran used ballistic missiles to strike two bases in Iraq that house US troops. President Trump responded by saying he would impose more sanctions on Iran. Then he ended his comments by urging peace negotiations with Iran. The United States needs to understand there will be no negotiations with Iran until the US lifts sanctions that seek to destroy the Iranian economy and turn the people against their government.

The sanctions on Iran have been in place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which made that country independent of the United States. Iran is not the only country being sanctioned by the United States. Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 nations on October 26, 2019, denounced the imposition of sanctions by the US, as “economic terrorism which affects a third of humanity with more than 8,000 measures in 39 countries.”

It is time to end US economic warfare and repeal these unilateral coercive measures, which violate international law.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic WarMarch 13 – 15, 2020

 

Sanctions are war (From havaar.org.)

Sanctions Are A Weapon of War

The United States uses sanctions against countries that resist the US’ agenda. US sanctions are designed to kill by destroying an economy through denial of access to finance, causing hyperinflation and shortages and blocking basic necessities such as food and medicine. For example, sanctions are expected to cause the death of tens of thousands of Iranians by creating a severe shortage of critical medicines and medical equipment everywhere in Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi writes that in a “letter published by The Lancet, the prestigious medical journal, three doctors working in Tehran’s MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment and Research Center warned that, ‘Re-establishment of sanctions, scarcity of drugs due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to deal with Iran, and a tremendous increase in oncology drug prices [due to the plummeting value of the Iranian rial by 50–70%], will inevitably lead to a decrease in survival of children with cancer.’”

Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and asthma affect over ten million Iranians who will find essential medicines impossible to get or available only at high prices. The US claims that food and medicines are excluded from sanctions but in practice, they are not because pharmaceutical companies fear sanctions being applied to them over some technical violation and Iran cannot pay for essentials when banks can’t do business with it. European nations failed to persuade the Trump administration to ensure that essential medicine and food were available to Iranians.

In Venezuela, due to the sanctions, 180,000 medical operations have been canceled and 823,000 chronically ill patients are awaiting medicines. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found sanctions have deprived Venezuela of “billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports,” contributing to 40,000 total deaths in 2017 and 2018. More than 300,000 Venezuelans are at risk due to a lack of access to medicine or treatment. Economists warn US sanctions could cause famine in Venezuela. Sanctions also cause shortages of parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, and transportation as well as preventing participation in the global financial market. Sanctions, which are illegal under the UN, OAS and US law, have caused mass protests in Venezuela against the US.

Sanctions against Iran and Venezuela could be a prelude to military attack; i.e., the US weakening a nation economically before attacking it. This is what happened in Iraq. Under pressure from the United States, on August 2, 1990, the UN Security Council passed sanctions that required countries to stop trading or carrying out financial transactions with Iraq. President George H.W. Bush said the UN sanctions would not be lifted “as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” The US continued to pressure the increasingly skeptical Security Council members into compliance even though hundreds of thousands of children were dying. In 1996, then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked about the death of as many as 500,000 children due to lack of medicine and malnutrition exacerbated by the sanctions, and she brutally replied, “[The] price is worth it.” Sanctions were also used against Libya and Syria before the US attacked them.

This is consistent with the US ‘way of war’ described by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” which describes frontier counterinsurgency premised on annihilation including the destruction of food, housing, and resources as well as ruthless militarism. The US has waged a long-term economic war against Cuba (sanctions in place since 1960), North Korea (first sanctions in the 1950s, tightened in the 1980s), Zimbabwe (2003) and Iran (1979)

Sanctions hurt civilians, especially the most vulnerable – babies, children, the elderly and chronically ill – not governments. Their intent is to shrink the economy and cause chronic shortages and hyperinflation while ensuring a lack of access to finance to pay for essentials. The US then blames the targeted government claiming that corruption or socialism is the problem in an effort to turn the people against their government. This often backfires as people instead rally around the government, quiet their calls for democracy and work to develop a resistance economy.

Stop Sanctions destroying lives from BrightonAndHoveNews.org.

The Movement to End Sanctions

In recent years, a movement has been building to end the use of illegal economic coercive measures. The movement includes governments coming together in forums like the Non-Aligned Movement, made up of countries that represent 55 percent of the global population, as well as UN member-states calling for international law and the UN Charter to be upheld and social movements organizing to educate about the impact of sanctions and demand an end to their use. This June, the Non-Aligned Movement called for the end of sanctions against Venezuela.

Popular Resistance is working with groups around the world on the Global Appeal for Peace, an initiative to create a worldwide network of people and organizations that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly. A high priority is opposing the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures that violate the charter of the United Nations. The UN and its International Court of Justice have been ineffective in holding the US accountable for its actions. No one country or one movement has the power alone to hold the United States accountable, but together we can make a difference. Join this campaign here.

With 39 countries targeted with sanctions, and other countries impacted because they cannot trade with those countries, nations are challenging the US’ dollar domination. Countries are seeking to conduct trade without the dollar and are no longer treating the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency while also avoiding Wall Street. The de-dollarization of the global economy is a boomerang effect that is hastening due to the abuse of sanctions and will seriously weaken the US economy.

Foreign Minister Zarif, who describes sanctions as “economic terrorism,” warned that “the excessive use of economic power by the United States, and the excessive use of the dollar as a weapon in US economic terrorism against other countries, will backfire.”  As the blowback continues to grow, the negative impact on the US economy may force the US to stop using sanctions. The end of dollar domination will add to the demise of the failing US empire.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic War
March 13 – 15, 2020

End the Deadly Sanctions banner on the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. (From the Embassy Defense Collective.)

Time to End the Use of Illegal Economic Sanctions

The combination of countries acting against US sanctions, and people’s movements pressuring the US government has the potential to end the abuse of sanctions. The EU has moved to blunt the impact of the sanctions against Iran by creating an alternative to the US-controlled SWIFT system for trade. This is spurring the end of the dollar as the reserve currency. Some officials in the EU have called for retaliatory sanctions against the US.

Trump left a small opening for potential diplomacy with Iran that could lead to the end of sanctions against that country. Trump bragged about the US being the number one oil and gas producer, taking credit for an Obama climate crime, and therefore no longer needing to spend hundreds of millions a year to have troops in the Middle East. He concluded with a message to the “people and leaders of Iran” that the US was “ready to have peace with all those who seek it.” He said the US wanted Iran to have a “great and prosperous future with other countries of the world.”

That future is only possible if the US moves to end the sanctions against Iran. Iranians have learned the US cannot be trusted. Iran lived up to the requirements of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but Trump did not when he withdrew from it and re-instated draconian sanctions lifted by Obama. Trump added even move sanctions. This also angered European allies who had negotiated the agreement and were put in the position of being subservient to the US or going against it. To regain Iran’s trust, the US needs to make a good-faith gesture of ending punitive economic measures.

North Korea, which has been sanctioned by the US longer than any other country, had a similar experience after they reached an agreement with the United States in 1994 under the Clinton administration.  The George W. Bush administration wanted to put in place a national missile defense system but the agreement with North Korea blocked that. John Bolton and Dick Cheney falsely accused North Korea of violating the agreement, increased sanctions against it and claimed it was part of the Axis of Evil, along with Iran, and Iraq. North Korea, like Iran, learned they cannot trust the United States. Sanctions are causing thousands of deaths in North Korea. Now, China and Russia are allied with North Korea and are urging relief from the US sanctions. Russia and China have also ignored US sanctions against Venezuela and continue to do business with it.

On December 17, the Senate passed a Sanctions Bill that put in place sanctions against corporations working with Russia to develop gas pipelines to Europe. The action is naked US imperialism seeking to prevent Russia from being the main natural gas exporter to the EU market and to replace it with more expensive US-produced gas, a move to save the financially-underwater US fracking industry. Russia, Germany, and others have defiantly told Washington its weaponizing of economic sanctions will not halt the gas pipeline construction.

The indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions is an act of war. Unless they are authorized by the United Nations, unilateral coercive measures are illegal. A critical objective of the peace and justice movement in the United States, working with allies around the world, must be to end this terrorist economic warfare. The US economy currently depends on financial hegemony and war. The slow, steady collapse of the dollarized economy means the 2020s will be the decade US domination comes to an end. The US must learn to be a cooperative member of the global community or risk this isolation and retaliation.

Exit John Bolton, But Will That Mean An End To His Failed Foreign Policy?

Leon Neal, Getty Images

Many who oppose the aggressive foreign policy of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has resulted in record numbers of bombs dropped, regime change operations against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and Hong Kong, the abusive use of unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) and record military budgets, cheered when uber-hawk, John Bolton was removed as the National Security Advisor.

Bolton undermined Trump numerous times such as when Trump wanted to get out of Syria and sought negotiations with North Korea and Iran. Bolton led Trump into regime-change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both of which backfired.

The firing of Bolton is an opportunity for Trump to make a major course correction on foreign policy as the 2020 election heats up. The escalation of military aggression and regime-change actions that have occurred in the Trump era have been inconsistent with his previous campaign statements, which indicated he opposed never-ending wars, nation-building, and interventions abroad and wanted to focus on fixing problems at home in the United States.

Trump has long expressed skepticism about US foreign intervention in activities that he has labeled as “nation-building.” During the presidential election campaign, Trump criticized the war in Iraq, claiming he opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq War at the time and accused Bush of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In October 2015, he criticized US interventions saying, “We’re nation-building. We can’t do it. We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.”

In December 2016, before his inauguration, Trump said that the policy of “intervention and chaos” must come to an end. He pledged to “build up our military not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention. In short, we seek peace through strength.”

Trump has opportunities to take another course, one that is more consistent with his rhetoric. Chairman Kim of North Korea said he was open to another meeting with President Trump on September 10, the next day, Bolton was fired. Shortly after the firing of Bolton, Secretary of State Pompeo gave the green light for Trump to meet with the President of Iran without preconditions at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in a few weeks. The firing of Bolton may not be enough, Iranian officials have refused any meeting until sanctions are lifted. After Bolton’s firing, President Hassan Rouhani said Trump “should distance itself from ‘warmongers’” after the dismissal of Bolton.

When it comes to Latin America, Trump has been silent, especially about his failed coup in Venezuela. Trump’s previous National Security Advisor, H. R. McMaster, strongly recommended to President Trump not to pursue a military option in Venezuela when Trump suggested it in 2017. He explained that Latin American governments were against foreign intervention in the region. John Bolton gave contrary advice when he dubbed Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the “Troika of Tyranny” and gave Trump bad advice by urging a strategy of escalating intervention in Venezuela, recognition of a failed coup government and military threats.

When Bolton was fired, the New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump also grew disenchanted with Mr. Bolton over the failed effort to push out President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Rather than the easy victory he was led to anticipate, the president has found himself bogged down in a conflict over which he has less influence than he had assumed. The political opposition backed by the White House could not turn Venezuela’s military against Mr. Maduro and has been stuck in a stalemate for months.

President Maduro has consistently expressed his willingness to meet with President Trump, despite the brutal economic war, military threats and recognition of the fraudulent Juan Guaido. Trump knows that Maduro is solidly in place as the president of Venezuela. US efforts to undermine his re-election in May of 2018 failed, the multiple coup efforts with Juan Guaido have failed, Venezuela exposed a series of terrorist plots the US was backing and there is little support for military intervention. In addition, because of Trump’s threats, Venezuela has strengthened its relationships with China and Russia, bringing them into Latin America in ways they have never happened before and squeezing out US interests.

John Bolton has put Trump in a trap in Venezuela. Trump has two choices: continued his failed strategy of regime change which has become a quagmire or stop interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela. Once Trump recognizes that Venezuela is an independent nation he can have a diplomatic relationship with the country as exits between most nations. It is time to give up on the embarrassing failed Bolton strategy and pursue a new approach of non-interference and diplomacy.

For most of its history, the US and Venezuela have been allies. It has only been during the eras of Clinton through Obama and the Bolton-era during the Trump administration that the US has been in conflict with Venezuela. Trump can now reverse those mistaken policies and put the United States back on a constructive track.

Suddenly West is Failing to Overthrow “Regimes”

It used to be done regularly and it worked: The West identified a country as its enemy, unleashed its professional propaganda against it, then administered a series of sanctions, starving and murdering children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. If the country did not collapse within months or just couple of years, the bombing would begin. And the nation, totally shaken, in pain, and in disarray, would collapse like a house of cards, once the first NATO boots hit its ground.

Such scenarios were re-enacted, again and again, from Yugoslavia to Iraq.

But suddenly, something significant has happened. This horrific lawlessness, this chaos stopped; was deterred.

The West keeps using the same tactics, it tries to terrorize independent-minded countries, to frighten people into submission, to overthrow what it defines as ‘regimes’, but its power, its monstrously destructive power, has all of a sudden become ineffective.

It hits, and the attacked nation shakes, screams, sheds blood, but keeps standing, keeps proudly erect.

*****

What we are experiencing is a great moment in human history. Imperialism has not yet been defeated, but it is losing its global grip on power.

Now we have to clearly understand ‘Why?’, so we can continue our struggle, with even greater determination, with even greater effectiveness.

First of all, by now we know that the West cannot fight. It can spend trillions on ‘defense’, it can build nuclear bombs, ‘smart missiles’ and strategic warplanes. But it is too cowardly, too spoiled to risk the lives of its soldiers. It either kills remotely, or by using regional mercenaries. Whenever it becomes clear that the presence of its troops would be required, it backs up.

Secondly, it, the West, is totally horrified of the fact that there are now two super-powerful countries – China and Russia – which are unwilling to abandon their allies. Washington and London do all they can to smear Russia and to intimidate China. Russia is being provoked continuously: by propaganda, by military bases, sanctions and by new and newer bizarre mass media inventions that depict it as the villain in all imaginable circumstances. China has been provoked practically and insanely, ‘on all fronts’ – from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and the so-called ‘Uyghur Issue’, to trade.

Any strategy that could weaken these two countries, is applied. Yet, Russia and China do not crumble. They do not surrender. And they do not abandon their friends. Instead, they are building great railroads in Africa and Asia, they educate people from almost all poor and desperate countries, and stand by those who are being terrorized by both North America and Europe.

Thirdly, all the countries in the world are now clearly aware of what would happen to them, if they give up and get ‘liberated’ by the Western empire. Iraq, Honduras, Indonesia, Libya and Afghanistan, are the ‘best’ examples. Submitting themselves to the West, countries can only expect misery, absolute collapse and the ruthless extraction of their resources. The poorest country in Asia – Afghanistan – has totally collapsed under NATO occupation.

The suffering and pain of the Afghan and Iraqi people is very well known to the citizens of Iran and Venezuela. They are not giving up, because no matter how tough their life is under sanctions and the West-administered terror, they are well-aware of the fact that things could get worse, much worse, if their countries were to be occupied and governed by the Washington and London-injected maniacs.

And everyone knows the fate of the people living in Palestine or Golan Heights, places which have been overrun by the closest ally of the West in the Middle East, Israel.

*****

Of course, there are other reasons why the West cannot get any of its adversaries to kneel.

One is – that the toughest ones are left. Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea (DPRK), Iran, Syria and Venezuela are not going to run away from the battlefield. These are the most determined nations on earth. These are the countries that have already lost thousands, millions, even tens of millions of their people, in the fight against Western imperialism and colonialism.

If one is following the latest attacks of the West carefully, the scenario is pathetic, almost grotesque: Washington and often the EU, too, are trying hard; they are hitting, they are spending billions of dollars, using the local mercenaries (or call it ‘local opposition’), and then they quickly withdraw after wretched but anticipated defeat. So far, Venezuela has survived. Syria survived. Iran survived. China is fighting horrible Western-backed subversions, but it is proudly surviving. Russia is standing tall.

This is a tremendous moment in human history. For the first time, Western imperialism is being not only defeated, but fully unveiled and humiliated. Many are now laughing at it, openly.

But we should not celebrate, yet. We should understand what and why this is happening, and then continue fighting. There are many, many battles ahead of us. But we are on the right track.

Let them try. We know how to fight. We know how to prevail. We have already fought fascism in many of its forms. We know what freedom is. Their ‘freedom’ is not our freedom. Their ‘liberty’ is not our liberty. What they call ‘democracy’ is not how we want our people to rule and to be ruled. Let them go away; we, our people, do not want them!

• First published in NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Japan-Korea Semiconductor Flap

South Korean companies (Samsung and SK Hynix) produce about 17% of the world’s semiconductors. To manufacture these, they’re dependent on imports of Japanese hydrogen fluoride gas, fluorinated polyimide, and photoresists. Japanese firms control 90% of the polyimide market needed for screen applications, so the relationship between these neighboring prosperous northeast Asian countries is crucial to the operation of global communications.

Japan has begun restricting exports of these products to South Korea, in response to a South Korean Supreme Court decision in 2018 requiring Japanese firms to compensate involuntary Korean labor during the colonial period (1910-45). President Moon Jae-in is not responsible for the court decision but his nationalist Democratic Party supports it.

This is a big story, largely eclipsed by Trump-related stories in the U.S. media. It involves the 3rd and 11th largest economies in the world, and the countries which host the first and third largest number of U.S. troops abroad (56,000 in Japan, 25,000 in Korea; compare 35,000 Germany). The United States, Japan and South Korea are linked by a military alliance directed against North Korea, China, and Russia. They hold joint military operations regularly. These operations are threatened by this flap.

Tokyo points out that the 1965 treaty between the two countries settled any Korean outstanding claims for reparations—about $800 million at the time. Tokyo refuses to pay more, lest a precedent be set, and China also be prompted to make demands not already resolved in 1972. Tokyo has called for international arbitration in the wake of the court decision, but Seoul has refused. In response to the court ruling, which particularly targets Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Tokyo has removed South Korea from its “white list” of 27 countries that receive expedited treatment in trade transactions. (There is no direct causal relationship, but it’s understood Japan wants to punish Seoul for the annoying court decision.)

This means that there will be months-long delays involving paperwork, and deliveries of the above-mentioned commodities from Japan to South Korea will not be guaranteed. Stock values in alternative microchip providers in the U.S.(Intel)  and Taiwan (Taiwan Semiconductor) has soared. Largely ignored by the western press, this is a serious trade conflict occurring while Korean nationalism on both sides of the DMZ is at an all-time high, along with sympathy for reunification.

Meanwhile Japanese public opinion is disturbingly anti-Korean. 56% of those polled say the economic retaliation to the court decision was appropriate. The Koreans are depicted as unreasonable, unable to accept multiple sincere, even abject apologies from Japanese prime ministers and emperors for the legacy of Japanese colonialism, insistent on focusing on the past, insatiable in their demands for Japanese compensation. They are just anti-Japanese. Shigataganai. It can’t be helped. (Such sentiments reflect the widespread ignorance, hence insensitivity, in Japan, regarding the painful impact of Japanese colonialism on Korea between 1910 and 1945.)

Trump’s threat to annihilate North Korea (and hence the entire peninsula) caused the two Korean leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in to meet and sign a series of agreements lowering tensions on the peninsula. South Koreans were the intermediaries in preparing the Trump-Kim summits. The best way for the Koreans to obtain the “spiritual victory” over Japan they have proclaimed over the current standoff, is to reunify, withdraw from the tripartite military pact with the U.S. and Japan, and expel the 30,000 U.S. troops.

The threat to the South Korean economy posed by Japanese actions could impede Moon’s Korean reconciliation policy; if Moon falls, the plans for railway links and renewed trade ties could suffer. Or Japanese hostility could encourage Korean unity. Seoul and Pyongyang will always unite in condemning Japan.

One missing element in the evolving crisis is U.S. involvement. The State Department is understaffed, Trump ignorant and indifferent. John Bolton was dispatched to Seoul, not to discuss the Japan-Korea crisis, but to demand that South Korea pay more to support U.S. forces. Washington seems inclined to leave the quarrel alone, which means to encourage Abe Shinzo—the strongest, most durable prime minister ever—in his nationalist militarism, and Moon in his nationalist opportunism rooted in domestic politics.

Trump’s staff claims Moon Jae-in has requested Trump to mediate the dispute. But (aside from being an ignorant buffoon) Trump is not the sort to sympathize with the victims in any historical relationship, or show any sympathies for the subjects of colonialism. After his first meeting with Xi Jinping he declared that he’d learned Korea had once been part of China, a profoundly inaccurate and offensive statement.

Moon is likely to suffer some humiliation as Japan sticks to its guns and Seoul receives little support for its legal claims. Seoul will have to back down to maintain Samsung’s profitability. And if lack of any U.S. support inclines the South Koreans to distance themselves from their patrons, the better to cozy up with the north, well and good!

The point is not more Japanese reparations but the repair of the divided peninsula. There’s no way Mitsubishi’s going to compensate any survivors of wartime slave labor. There’s no point in Korean nationalists demanding endless apologies and concessions from the former colonial power. Japan is not the power preventing Korean reunification. Only the U.S. can do that.

Kim Jung-un’s acquisition of nuclear weapons has forced the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea, and facilitated a series of positive exchanges with the south. A Confederation of Goryeo (on the model of one country, two systems) realistically beckons. There is a Silicon Valley waiting somewhere in the lap of Mt. Paekchong.

Demanding more Japanese reparations at this time is to change the subject, distracting attention from the prospect at hand: Korean  reunification and the expulsion of the occupiers.

The New Politics of Starvation

President Donald Trump’s use of the most vicious aspects of economic warfare prompt another examination of the politics of starvation.

After George W. Bush’s administration, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump lessened Bush’s aggressive war policies and leaned to economic warfare. Sounds harmless when compared to exploding bombs, but it is not — economic warfare can crush an adversary without firing a shot. Gone to its extreme, economic warfare has the force of a neutron bomb; it disables the nation’s infrastructure and debilitates its population. Isolation from the international financial system, material embargos, and other sanctions reduce living standards and bring populations close to starvation The most serious aspects of economic warfare are major crimes and a form of terrorism.

Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq endured the most punishing sanctions from the United States. Results of sanctions against these countries, models for the effects of sanctions, show that sanctions have rarely accomplished their stated purposes and their intentions may be for other reasons — stalling economic progress, weakening challenges to antagonistic actions, advancing dominance, and promoting regime change.

Iran

Disturbed with the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and infuriated by the hostage taking of 52 of U.S. embassy personnel by extreme Islamic students and militants, President Jimmy Carter froze several billions of dollars in Iranian bank deposits, gold and other properties, and followed with a 1980 embargo on trade with and travel to Iran. These punitive actions accomplished nothing for the United States, strengthened the Ayatollah’s Authority and hardened the student demands for releasing the captured embassy officials.

President Reagan, who partially owed his climb into the executive office to the hostage crisis, showed contempt for Iran’s resolution of the problem. Driven by the unproven assertion that Iran was involved in the 1983 bombing of a marine barracks in Beirut, and favoring Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. president imposed additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic. and, in 1987, banned all imports from Iran.

Duriing the Clinton administration, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) penalized all foreign companies that provided investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources.

Iran’s entrance into the atomic age provoked a series of new sanctions. Economic warfare soon reached full scale by subduing Iran’s earnings from its most precious resource and export – oil. The U.S. Congress passed unilateral sanctions that targeted Iran’s energy and banking sectors. Sanctions did not halt Iran’s nuclear activities, or prevent it from signing contracts with foreign firms to develop its energy resources. Exports slowly grew to an estimated $82 billion in 2012, with liberated Iraq and independent China filling the gap as trading partners.

Nevertheless, economic warfare affected Iran’s industries and welfare. In October 2012, Iran’s currency, the rial, fell to a record low against the US dollar, losing about 80 per cent of its value in one year. Lack of spare parts and inability to replace planes affected aviation safety. Real growth rate in GDP, at a steady six per cent a year during the first decade of the twenty first century, fell to two per cent in 2011-2012. One report, citing officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, concluded that gasoline imports in the Shah’s former kingdom declined from 130,000 barrels a day in 2009 to 50,000 barrels a day in 2011. Machinery wears, and the  costs and time for repairs rapidly increased. A nation of educated professionals, who depended upon access to foreign technology and scientific cooperation, had their access to knowledge severely curtailed.

In a October 5, 2012 report to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summarized effects of sanctions on Iran’s population.

The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,

The embargoes have also hampered humanitarian operations, as the imposed restrictions on Iran’s banking system have halted the imports of medicines needed for treating diseases like cancer and heart and respiratory conditions.

The Obama administration eventually eased restrictions on the sale of medicines to Iran, and, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran halted and downsized its uranium enrichment, the UN lifted sanctions. In a following year, Iran GDP increased 15 percent.

On May 8, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. and U.S. sanctions came into effect again in November 2018. President Trump articulated his plan for renewed sanctions as, “to bring Iran’s oil exports to ‘zero’ and remove a main source of revenue for the regime.” Trump imposed the ultimate harm afforded by economic warfare — starve the people and have them revolt against the regime.

That has not happened nor is predicted to occur. World Bank statistics indicate a severe slowing of the economy and steady rise of inflation.

As shown in the charts, oil production, and GDP growth dropped monotonically and severely. Currency value suffered an initial shock and had some recovery. Inflation was up 40%, especially in food (up 60%) — a suffering economy, a suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

Cuba

Immediately after the 1960 Cuban revolution, the United States imposed an embargo against Cuba. Fifty plus years of sanctions have not succeeded in accomplishing the purposes for which the United States proposed the sanctions — compensation to U.S. firms nationalized by Cuba and the overthrow of the Castro regime. The only result of the embargo has been deprivation of the Cuban people.

Although the United Nations General Assembly on November 2, 1995, voted 117 to 3 to recommend an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba, President Clinton, on March 12, 1996, signed into law the misnamed Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. This Act imposed penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, permitted U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who make use of American-owned property seized by the Cuban government, and denied foreign investors in Cuba’s industry to enter the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) complimented pre-90’s Cuba for its public health system, which had been credited with eliminating hunger and malnutrition and wiping out infectious diseases. A tightened embargo reinforced Cuba’s suffering after Russia withdrew subsidies. and, soon, Cuba of the mid-90’s portrayed another image. The American Association for World Health and the American Public Health Association ascertained that the embargo caused significant deterioration in Cuba’s food production and health care:

  • Cuba was banned from purchasing nearly 1/2 of new drugs on the market.
  • Physicians had access to only 890 medications, down from 1,300 in 1989.
  • Deterioration of water supply increased water borne diseases.
  • Daily caloric intake dropped by 33% between 1989 and 1993.

In 2000, the Clinton administration finally allowed Cuba to have some relief from an aggressive economic warfare. The administration allowed the sale of agriculture and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian purposes. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba reached $380 million in 2004. However, after hitting a peak of $710 million in 2008, U.S. food sales to Cuba declined over 50 percent by the year 2011. Reasons for the decline were largely economic – lack of foreign currency and better financial terms being offered by other countries.

Representatives of a dozen leading U.S. business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter in December urging Barack Obama to scrap the embargo. The letter pegs the cost to the U.S. economy at $1.2 billion per year. The CPF’s estimates are much higher: up to $4.84 billion annually in lost sales and exports. The Cuban government estimates the loss to Cuba at about $685 million annually. Thus the blockade costs the United States up to $4.155 billion more a year than it costs Cuba.1

After a period of harsh policy toward Cuba under President George W. Bush, President Obama announced in late 2014 that Washington and Havana would begin normalizing relations. To that end, the Obama administration achieved three pillars of normalization: 1) the removal of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which allowed Cuba to access international finance; 2) the reestablishment of diplomatic relations; and 3) relaxed restrictions on travel and trade through executive action. The embargo remained in place.

In 2017, the Trump administration reversed some of the changes made under President Obama, but the vast majority remained U.S. policy. Despite some tighter trade sanctions and limitations on authorized travel, there are still legal pathways for Americans to export and travel to Cuba. On the list of  new sanctions is allowing Americans to sue foreign companies in Cuba that are profiting from or using properties that were seized during the Cuban revolution.

Havana — The Cuban government announced Friday it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velazquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods.

Díaz blamed the hardening of the U.S. trade embargo by the Trump administration. Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidized fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.2

Another suffering economy, suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

North Korea

The proud and impoverished nation of North Korea has been continually subjected to sanctions, threats of economic sanctions, and hastily withdrawn sanctions. The media is peppered with the words: “U.S. Lifts sanctions,” “U.S. recommends sanctions,” “South Korea wary of sanctions.” It’s difficult to know if North Korea is being sanctioned or being forced into being sanctioned. After its 2006 claim of conducting a nuclear test, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic Korea) leaders responded to intended sanctions by labeling them as “a declaration of war.”

The DPRK has,suffered from economic warfare, which includes restrictions on trade and financial transactions. Export of sensitive dual-use items (items that have both military and non-military uses) have, at times, been prohibited.  During March 2012, the politics of starvation entered the situation; angered by an intended North Korea missile test, the U.S. suspended food aid to the “hermit kingdom.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday.

Under President Obama, sanctions increased as a policy of “strategic patience;” the US waited for North Korea to change its bad behavior before engaging with the state. As a result, trade between North Korea and China increased and sanctions did not encourage Kim Jong-An to discuss de-nuclearization.

On September 21, 2017, President Donald Trump, as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, allowed severing from its financial system and/or freezing assets of companies, businesses, organizations, and individuals who traded in goods, services, or technology with North Korea.

U.S. negotiations with North Korea have a built-in error; they request de-nuclearization in exchange for improved relations and reduction in sanctions. Not considered is that North Korea’s development of a nuclear arsenal was a response to its regard of U.S. actions in the Korean peninsula as a direct threat to its regime and the developments had no relation to sanctions. Therefore, the DPRK will not trade de-nuclearization for relief of sanctions, and that approach is a non-starter.

Sanctions, intended to collapse the North Korea regime, have not halted its development of nuclear weapons and guided missile delivery systems. They have collapsed the economy and harmed the North Korean people; starvation during droughts have occurred. Although some international assistance has been provided to North Korea, the intensive economic warfare waged against the “hermit kingdom” has exacerbated its problems, without any apparent benefit to its principal antagonist, the United States.

Iraq

If Iraq were Pompeii, then the US would be Mt. Vesuvius.

The sanctions against Iraq began August 6, 1990, four days after Hussein invaded Kuwait, and featured a near-total financial and trade embargo. Resultant suffering has been outlined in a UN Report on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, submitted to the Security Council, March 1999.  Due to the length of the report, only significant features are mentioned.

Before the Iraq War

  • before 1991 Iraq’s social and economic indicators were generally above the regional and developing country averages.
  • Up to 1990, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) cited Iraq as having one of the highest per capita food availability indicators in the region.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prior to 1991, health care reached approximately 97% of the urban population and 78% of rural residents. A major reduction of young child mortality took place from 1960 to 1990; with the infant mortality rate at 65 per 1,000 live births in 1989 (1991 Human Development Report average for developing countries was 76 per 1,000 live births). UNICEF indicates that a national welfare system assisted orphans and children with disabilities and supported the poorest families.
  • Before 1991, southern and central Iraq had well developed water and sanitation systems, composed with two hundred water treatment plants (“wtp’s”) for urban areas and 1200 compact wtp’s to serve rural areas, as well as an extensive distribution network. WHO estimates that 90% of the population had access to an abundant quantity of safe drinking water.

From Sanctions After the Gulf War

  • Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that Iraqi GDP may have fallen by nearly 67% in 1991, and the nation had “experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty” and had infant mortality rates that were “among the highest in the world.”
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the maternal mortality rate increased from 50/100,000 live births in 1989 to 117/100,000 in 1997. The under-five child mortality rate increased from 30.2/1000 live births to 97.2/1000 during the same period. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) calculates that the infant mortality rate rose from 64/1000 births in 1990 to 129/1000 in 1995 (the Human Development Report set the average infant mortality rate for Least Developed Countries at 109/1000). Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition.
  • Calorie intake fell from a pre-war 3120 to 1093 calories per capita/per day in 1994-95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%). Acute malnutrition in Center/South rose from 3% to 11% for the same age bracket.
  • The World Food Program (WFP) estimated that access to potable water decreased to 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and 33% in rural areas.
  • School enrollment for all ages (6-23) declined to 53%. According to a field survey conducted in 1993, as quoted by UNESCO, in Central and Southern governorates, 83% of school buildings needed rehabilitation, with 8613 out of 10,334 schools having suffered serious damages. The same source indicated that some schools with a planned capacity of 700 pupils actually have 4500 enrolled in them. Substantive progress in reducing adult and female illiteracy ceased and regressed to mid-1980 levels. More families are forced to rely on children to secure household incomes. Figures provided by UNESCO indicate that drop-outs in elementary schools increased from 95,692 in 1990 to 131,658 in 1999.

Sanctions, and its toll on the Iraqi people, continued until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Excerpts from Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, Joy Gordon. Harvard University Press, 2010, describe the extent of irrational economic warfare conducted by the United states against a defenseless Iraq.

While the United States consistently justified its policies in terms of preventing Iraq from developing weapons or threatening its neighbors, the U.S. policy went well beyond any rational concern with security. There was an elaborate architecture of policies that found a dozen other ways to simply do gratuitous harm that had not the least relation to the threat Iraq might have posed to its neighbors or to anyone else.

For thirteen years the United States unilaterally prevented Iraq from importing nearly everything related to electricity, telecommunications, and transportation, blocked much of what was needed for agriculture and housing construction, and even prohibited some equipment and materials necessary for health care and food preparation.

As the criticism grew, there is no sign that anyone in the U.S. administration, and only a tiny handful within Congress, actually took it to heart– actually questioned the sanity and legality of reducing an entire civilization to a preindustrial state, of bankrupting an entire nation for the purpose of containing one tyrannical man.

On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes. Commentator Lesley Stahl asked, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?” Madeleine Albright replied, “we think the price is worth it.”  Is that an expected response from a normal human being?

The U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq accomplished what sanctions failed to accomplish —  push Iraq to total ruin. A question, “Why war, if had sanctions, or why sanctions if need to go to war?”

Conclusion

As shown, sanctions never accomplished their stated purposes and gravely harmed populations. The economic warfare had equivalents to military war. The country that took the offensive became the aggressor, as in any war, and the destruction to the defending state was equally brutal. In the one-sided engagement, the civilian population of the defending nation suffered greatly and the aggressor country suffered few losses. The economic wars never achieved the results that the offended party desired, and no peace treaties were signed. The struggles remained an open issue.

A limited form of economic warfare may, at times, have a legitimate purpose. A complete economic war, that invades all aspects of a country’s life and continues until it debilitates the population, cannot be accepted. In a military campaign, atrocities and human rights violations are often committed. Although no shots are fired and battlefields are not identifiable, economic warfare cannot camouflage its atrocities and disguise its human rights violations.

  1. Dollars and Sense, 2009, The Costs of the Embargo, by Margot Pepper
  2. From CBS News, May 11, 2019.

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.”

*****

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.

*****

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.

*****

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