Category Archives: President Emmanuel Macron

Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology  

The visit by newly-elected Tunisian President Kais Saied to France on June 22 was intended to discuss bilateral relations, trade, etc. But it was also a missed opportunity, where Tunisia could have formally demanded an apology from France for the decades of French colonialism, which has shattered the social and political fabric of this North African Arab nation since the late 19th century.

A heated debate at the Tunisian parliament, prior to Saied’s trip highlighted the significance of the issue to Tunisians, who are still reeling under the process of socio-economic and political transitions following the popular uprising in 2011.

Sadly, the Tunisian parliament rejected a motion forwarded by the centrist Karama coalition calling for a French apology, despite a fifteen hours’ long debate.

“We are not animated by any bitterness or hatred, but such apologies will heal the wounds of the past,” Seifeddine Makhlouf, head of Al-Karama, said during the debate. Makhlouf is under no moral obligation to explain his motives. A French apology to Tunisia, and many other African countries that have endured French colonialism for hundreds of years, is long overdue.

Ravaged by a relentless economic crisis, and still largely dependent on France as a foremost trade partner, Tunisia fears the consequences of such a just demand, which, if officially made, will also include a call for compensation as a result of nearly 75 years of exploitation and the subsequent collective trauma suffered by several generations.

A particular statement made by Osama Khelifi of the Qalb Tounes party delineates the unfortunate reality that continues to govern the thinking of Tunisia’s political elites. “We are not going to feed Tunisians with such notions,” he said.

Inconsequential to Khelifi, and others among the parties that rejected the motion, is that coming to terms with the past is a prerequisite for any nation that wishes to start anew. What would be the point of revolutions and revolutionary discourses if Tunisian politicians insist on merely trying to get along with a status quo that is imposed on them by outside forces?

While Saied was paying his diplomatic dues to Paris, statues were tumbling down across the Western world; some of former slave owners, others of racist ideologues and pioneers of colonialism.

On June 7, the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, was taken down in the English town of Bristol. This was only one of many other monuments that were destroyed or defaced throughout the United States and Europe.

However, across the English Channel, the French government remained obstinate in its refusal to take down any similar statues, as if insisting on its refusal to revisit – let alone take responsibility – for its sinister past, especially the bloody and tragic events that shattered the African continent.

Statues are built to honor individuals for their great contributions in any society. They are also erected as a reminder to future generations that they must emulate these presumably great individuals. France, however, remains the exception.

Unsurprisingly, French government officials are engaging in nonsensical arguments as to why such statues, as that of Jean-Baptiste Colbert — a white aristocrat who, during the 17th century reign of King Louis XIV, established the horrific ‘Black Code’, the rules according to which black slaves were to be treated in the colonies – should remain intact.

Macron himself has made it clear that “the Republic  … won’t remove any statues.”

The collective rethink underway in various Western societies, which have greatly benefited from the exploitation of Africa, was ignited by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of American police officers in Minneapolis.

Spontaneous popular movements, led mostly by the youth, connected the dots between racism, slavery, and colonialism, taking to the streets in their millions to demand a complete overhaul of the status quo.

Yet, France’s political elites continue to embrace French exceptionalism, arguing that, unlike the American experience with race and slavery, French law was never, at any point in the past, purposely racist.

In truth, past arrogance — ‘mission civilisatrice’ — continues to define France’s attitudes towards the present. This is why the French colonial experience was particularly keen on composing a clever discourse to account for its exploitation of Africa and other regions in the world.

In this skewed rationale, France’s invasion of Algeria in 1830 was dubbed as something else entirely. Algeria was now an integral part of France, they argued. Other countries, like Tunisia and Morocco, were made protectorates, ruled indirectly through corrupt local authorities. The rest of France’s African colonies were ravaged mercilessly by greedy French administrators.

Unlike other European experiences, the French colonial connection to Africa did not disintegrate in recent decades. Instead, it took on different forms, known by the now disparaging term ‘Françafrique’.

The expression ‘Françafrique’ was introduced in 1955 to describe the ‘special relations’ between France and the newly-independent African countries, now bound with what France called ‘cooperation agreements’. It was rightly understood that France was entering a new phase of colonialism in Africa: neo-colonialism.

Despite former French president, François Hollande, pledging to eradicate the term ‘Françafrique’ and its practical meaning, little has changed between France and its former African colonies.

Indeed, France can be found in every aspect of life, whether political, military, economic or even cultural, in many African countries. In the cases of Mali and Libya, the French intervention takes on an even more crude manifestation: domineering and violent.

To appreciate French neo-colonialism in Africa, consider this: fourteen African countries are still economically bound to France through the use of special currency, the CFA franc, designed specifically by France to manage the trade and economies of its former colonies. This jarring example of French neo-colonialism in Africa is consistent with France’s colonial and racist past.

Whether France chooses to come to terms with its past is entirely a French affair. It is, however, the responsibility of Tunisia – and the whole of Africa – to confront France and other colonial and neo-colonial regimes, not merely by demanding apologies and compensation, but insisting on a complete change of the present, unequal relations as well.

“In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values,” wrote Frantz Fanon in ‘The Wretched of the Earth’.

The opposite must also be true. Tunisia, and many African countries, must demand a French apology. By doing so, they declare ‘loudly and intelligibly’ that they are finally free from the ‘white man’s (selfish and racist) values,’ and that they truly see themselves as equal. 

COVID-19 Great Depression: Global Ecosocialism Is the Way Out

Sunflower field in Hudson — Photo by Larry Goodwin

Suffering in numbers

The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.

from the archive of Urban Museum

Neoliberal and populist war presidents?

Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.

From the archive of The National Guard

The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.

Photo by David Shankbone

Capitalism’s callous imperatives

Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.

The COVID-19 Great Depression

In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.

The oil war has come home to roost in the US

On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.

During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.

The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.

By Lanpernas

Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?

Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).

by Francisco Anzola

Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.

by Denisbin

Ecosocialism equation: climate crisis + COVID19 = systemic change

So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.

Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.

by Gilbert Mercier

As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.

While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.

by Gilbert Mercier

We think the price is worth it

On 12 May 1996, Lesley Stahl, moderator for the US TV show “60 Minutes” interviewed former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Stahl: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Albright: We think the price is worth it.

The “price” was US sanctions imposed on Iraq under colour of a UN Security Council Resolution, the effect of which was to deny Iraq access to basic medical supplies. Of course, the death toll in Iraq was not confined to the denial of medical supplies. Atomic waste contamination from the first Gulf War and continued military operations later would add to the death toll from cancer and preventable disease, due to the destruction of vital civil infrastructure, like water and sewage systems.

The world should probably be thankful that the corona virus (CORVD-2019) problem was not first submitted to the US-dominated UN Security Council for deliberation.

As of this writing the intra-European borders are being closed and/or subject to control, suspending the provisions of the Schengen Agreement. The current President of the French was 19 years old when Ms Albright gave that interview. Today he declared war, adding that it is a “guerre sanitaire”.1 That is a striking and also fitting contrast to Mr Xi’s declaration that the fight against the corona virus outbreak in China was “a people’s war”. This shows something elemental about the difference between the campaign to control the contagion in China and the campaign in the West.

Mr Xi’s term refers to the war the Chinese, led by the Chinese Communist Party, fought first against Japanese invasion and occupation and then against the Western colonial forces under Chiang—who had purged the KMT of the Communists at the West’s behest. For Mr Xi, the fight against the virus outbreak in Wuhan was a fight by the Chinese masses against a threat to their economic and social development. His term was a summons to defend China against forces he was diplomatic enough not to name.

In contrast, the Western (US-owned or controlled) mass media did not hesitate to give the novel corona virus the historic colour of the “yellow peril”.

  1. Macron’s choice of words shows that he represents the war of the (mainly financial) elite against the People, a state that Mme Le Pen’s supporters had long recognised, even if they found no vehicle adequate to defend themselves. After the outgoing PSF president had successfully neutralised what little socialism or French was left after Mitterrand’s reign, neutering the Partie Socialiste Francaise, M. Macron was exhumed from the cesspool of some chateau of ill repute to fend off the anti-EU front emerging, not only from the Right.
  2. Macron’s “guerre sanitaire” is a poor substitute for the more ideologically charged cordon sanitaire. It has nothing to do with health but with waste disposal and control, with hygiene. Naturally there are those who will insist that this is a reference to washing hands. But whose hands? M. Macron’s declaration of a “guerre sanitaire” conjures visions its opposite, the “guerre sale”, the dirty war, or what Sartre described, les mains sales. Both the French author Albert Camus (The Plague) and the Portuguese author Jose Saramago (Blindness) depicted the insidious and deceptive character of this kind of war by a ruling elite against its citizens. Saramago wrote a sequel, Seeing, however, which together with Blindness ought to instruct us in greater circumspection.

Today my grocer asked me if I could remember the 40s and 50s of the past century. He knows that I am not quite that old but also that as a history teacher I am familiar with records and remembrance of things past. Then he said, point blank, “we are in a state of war.” He was not talking about the efforts to prevent infection, the risk of sickness. He was talking about the unspoken state of hostility against person or persons unknown (or unnamed) that characterises the entire environment in which the West has ostensibly found itself within the past three weeks. Ostensibly the virus is the enemy. But sane people are not so easily deceived.

There are many details one could mention. I have been writing about this now since St Greta started to terrorise us with her apocalyptic spasms.

However, it might bear consideration. M. Macron no longer has yellow vests. Madrid can dispense with its Catalonian annoyance. Italy is prevented from active participation in the Belt and Road project. Germany, well, the Sphinx of Berlin will never admit what her government’s real objectives are. (We should recall that every high official who dared to openly mention German military activity in Central Asia was forced to resign.) The war against China has not ended — maybe it is only just starting. And then there is the war against us. I am sure that if asked today not only Ms Albright would reply, “We think the price is worth it.”

  1. Le Monde, “Nous sommes en guerre“: Ie verbatim du discours d’Emmanuel Macron

Operation Condor 2.0 Expanded

According to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the US will help “legitimate governments” in Latin America, in order to prevent protests from “morphing into riots”.

From what we are seeing this “legitimization” may be expanded to rest of the world. Because Washington-instigated destabilizing unrest goes on throughout the world. We may as well call it “Operation Condor 2.0 – Expanded”. It promises to become devastating, oppressive and murderous on all Continents. A transformation from whatever ‘freedom’ may have existed to neoliberal dictatorships bending towards neofascism.

The original “Operation Condor” was a campaign by the United States to bring ‘order’ into her backyard; i.e., Latin America. In other words, it was a repressive move that started in 1968 and concluded around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We are talking about more than 20 years of right-wing repression especially, but not exclusively directed, on the Southern Cone of South America.

It included such military dictators like Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina. He came to power in 1976 by a US supported military coup, deposing Isabel Martinez de Perón. Comandante Videla stayed in power during five years until 1981, a period in which he brutally oppressed Argentinians, especially the opposition. It is reported that during this period more than 30,000 people ‘disappeared’ – never to return. They were tortured and killed. Some of the dissidents were dropped from helicopters into the Rio de Plata.

Another, better known dictator was Augusto Pinochet, who was directly helped by the CIA and then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger – to overturn the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in a bloody coup on 11 September 1973. Pinochet introduced as a first in Latin America neoliberal economics through a group of economists from the Economic School of Chicago, the so-called “Chicago Boys”. The resulting austerity brought extreme poverty and famine to Chileans. The ensuing 17 years were a horror, with over 40,000 people ‘disappeared’ or outright murdered.

Other countries that went through one or several “Operation Condor” cleansings, included Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and possibly others. It was a despicable and deadly period for Latin America. In all, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed and some 400,00 taken as political prisoners.

Secretary Pompeo’s words could not be clearer. He added that protests in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador reflect the “character of legitimate democratic governments and democratic expression. We’ll work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people.”

Not to forget any invented villains, he added, the US will “continue to support countries trying to prevent Cuba and Venezuela from hijacking those protests.” He went on and accused Russia of “malign” influence in Latin America and of “propping up” the democratically elected Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

Such remarks come after the US-led November 10 military coup in Bolivia. Amazing that nobody dares stand up and answer him. Are all afraid?

And this especially in the light of having in Bolivia now an opposition dictator, the self-declared interim President (much like Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó),Jeanine Añez, who acts with impunity following fascists and racist orders from Washington – indiscriminately killing her own country-women and men – who happen to be indigenous people. Although she promised new elections, Añez has not set a date, but rather is undoing almost everything Evo Morales has achieved for the people of Bolivia, by privatizing public assets and services, as well as abolishing social safety nets by decree.

Pompeo concluded by saying there remains an “awful lot of work to do” in the region, meaning Latin America as the US’s “back yard.” He also warned against “predatory Chinese activities” in the region, which he claimed can lead countries to make deals that “seem attractive” but are “bad” for citizens.

The new repression that we see in Latin America is not homogenous. In Chile at the surface it looks like the protests started over a metro-fare hike of the equivalent of 4 cents (US-dollar cents) – and then expanded violently to oppose political and economic injustice in Chile, directed against Chile’s neoliberal President, Sebastian Piñera. In Bolivia protests are against an US-induced military coup; in Ecuador they are directed against an austerity-inflicting IMF loan, in Colombia, they appeared suddenly against the corruption and injustice of the Iván Duque presidency; and in Brazil, against the neofascist austerity reforms by Jair Bolsonaro. Copy cats? What’s good for our neighbors, is good for us? – I don’t think so.

It looks much more like a concerted effort by the US to enhance and bolster protests from whatever side they come, to be able to install fully repressive governments, of course, with the help of the US and her secret services – funded by the usual NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and other NGOs that would help install within the respective governments strong 5th Columns, so as to detect early warning signals and crackdown in time on any opposition.

“Operation Condor 2.0 Expanded” – Expanded refers to similar violent protests going on in other parts of the world – practically simultaneously. Take Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and now France.  No matter from which side they come repression and state of siege, if necessary, are of the order – total repression, that is. All with the help of the US – and, not to forget NATO. This is certainly a key justification to keep NATO alive — to avoid opposition to spread and to risk abolishing the faltering US hegemony.

We are, indeed, in the midst of a new “Operation Condor”; or “Operation Condor 2.0 – Expanded”. Full repression worldwide. In preparation of the next planned global recession, planned by the US-led western banking and financial sector, a recession that will likely outdo whatever we have known in the recent past, and make the 2008 /09 downfall look like a walk in the park. The repression now, it is hoped, will prevent people from going on the barricades when they suffer the next cut in salaries, pensions and other social services, already at an unlivable level.  Authoritarianism and tyranny must be efficient and total with a para-military police, enhanced by the armed forces, if necessary. It’s going to be another transfer of assets and social capital from the bottom to the top.

This has been sensed perhaps intuitively by the French – who have been protesting in the form of Yellow Vests against Macron’s regime for more than a year – and now in the form of a CGT- syndicate organized open-ended general strike. Repression is massive – an estimated 1.5 million people in the streets of the major French cities, all public transportation disrupted. There have even been rumors that the police forces may also join the strike, because they realize they are part of the oppressed and abused by Macron’s neoliberal austerity policies. This is reflected by the four times higher suicide rates among police officers, as compared to the average French.

China and Russia beware. The rogue nation and bulldozer won’t stop necessarily in front of your borders. To the contrary, they may seek any entry they can get – as they are already doing in China with Hong Kong, not letting go despite the various concessions already made by HK’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, supported by Beijing; and also in the autonomous Region of Xinjiang, with the mostly Muslim Uyghur people, many of whom are being recruited  by the CIA across the border from Afghanistan, trained and funded to cause destabilizing unrest.

In view of all of this, President Putin’s recent overture to Israel, especially to PM Netanyahu, is worrisome. Netanyahu is by all accounts part of the repressive wave engulfing our Mother Earth, and, in addition, with his cruel policies against Palestine, he may be considered a mass-murderer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATO protest in Washington, DC, April 2019

NATO’s Search For A Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATO protest in Italy

70 Years Of Destruction Is Enough, Time To End NATO

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

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

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

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

G7: The Cost of Uselessness

The G7 Summit is an obsolete, useless talking shop, as Finnian Cunningham so adroitly says. RT calls it The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and the United States constitute the G7 gang. It should strike any logical thinker as extremely odd that the world’s largest economy (by purchasing parity-based GDP), China, is not part of the club. Why is that?  It’s clear.  The club is for western turbo-capitalist ideologues only; the self-proclaimed world hegemons.

Yes, the G7 are, no doubt, a useless talking shop – and much worse. These seven self-nominated leaders of the world are also among the greatest war criminals of the globe. They are involved in, and initiate, conflicts and wars that have in the last 20 years, roughly since 9/11 gave them a ‘free pass’ to raise in the name of fighting endless terrorism havoc around the globe, killed an estimated 15 to 20 million people, either directly or by proxy and mercenary armies.

That is, of course, much worse than uselessness.

Does anyone ever talk about the value and cost, of these ‘summits’?  The value; i.e., the output, is at best zero and in most cases negative. These conferences highlight conflicts, create new ones and add to the fire that was just smoldering. And I am not talking about the Brazilian Amazon fires. This was the case of the G7 in Biarritz. The high-ranking delegates were insulting each other, plus, as this was not enough, barbs were thrown back and forth across the Atlantic between Macron and Bolsonaro. That just shows about what level of human consciousness we are talking.

Trump was confusing the lot, or those who paid any attention to the outbursts of the creator of pure chaos, more tariffs on Chinese goods, then not, then again, levying tariffs for French wines, new sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, threats of new aggressions and even war with Iran; and surprise-surprise “Kim Jon-un, North Korea’s President, is a friend”. Peace talks were not even on the back-burner. So, it would be fair to say, the benefits or values of this summit were less than zilch, they were negative. It was a laughable propaganda stint, but an expensive one at that.

Defining the costs of the event is a rather complex algorithm. However, any cost for an event that produces a sum of negative values, is money thrown into a bottomless pit. The costs, of course, do not just amount to travel, lodging, good food and drink. They include for starters also the entire entourage of the megalo-politicians, police and military security. Biarritz alone was protected by about 20,000 police and military troops combined. They shielded the worldly leaders (sic) from anti-G7 / anti-establishment demonstrators.

Protests are widely justified against this clan of smiling tyrants and despots, with the audacity to appoint themselves to the world’s rulers. No UN or other international body has selected or ratified them. Their arrogance with impunity is meant to irradiate power around the globe. The smoke of grandeur emanating from their heads can most likely be seen from space. The sad story is that the vast majority of this world, especially the western world, takes them seriously. They bow to the G7 nonsense; they accept their often-criminal decisions for wars, conflicts and killer-sanctions, as God-given. The G7 decide over the fate of sovereign nations, like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Afghanistan – and who is next? If it wasn’t for Russia and China the damage they cause would indeed be unbearable.

They selected themselves as rulers of the universe. Unheard of, only half a century ago, that something so aberrant like the G7, the G20, the WEF (World Economic Forum that meets every January in lush Davos, Switzerland), are able to assemble many of the same rulers to hold the scepter of power over the planet. How come the peoples of this world allow their supremacy with impunity? One can but shake one’s head about this lunacy.  What has humanity become?

The Trump delegation usually travels with a flock of aids, journalists, advisors, let alone his bodyguards, and the blinding cars he brings from Washington by special air carriers. And all the others? Maybe slightly less, as they are, as vassals of the Great US Emperor, bound to be a bit more modest. Nevertheless, the total cost must be in the hundreds of millions – all counted, including shadow costs, environmental damage, CO2 emissions, and ‘externalities’ – which includes everything that establishment economists don’t want you to know, say, a total cost of 200 to 300 million dollars?

Maybe that’s an underestimate. The published figure on what Biarritz alone spent on this illustrious event is around US$ 41 million equivalent,15,000 police and about 5,000 troops, but not counting for the damage caused by the authorities fighting peaceful protesters. Add to this the cost of all the other attendants. Never mind the exact cost. The sheer fact that a grotesque amount of money in the range of 200 to 300 million dollars, is spent for nothing, zilch, for the bolstering of egos of some megalos, is an absurdity of our western civilization.

Hundreds of millions of dollars – a fiat currency produced at will and whim by the Federal reserve (The FED, the entirely privately owned US Central Bank) – nevertheless a currency that still drives much of the world, is used to pay for basics, like food, housing, clothing, health care and what’s left of education  – meaning what the world rulers are still allowing young people to be educated with.

Just think about it. Who pays for all these hundreds of millions of dollars, euros, yen, or whatever other fiat currency? You, the tax payer. So, you, the tax payer, have something to say about how your money is spent, don’t you think?

Therefore, we the people have to stop this arrogant nonsense that leads to less than zero, or worse, but costs hundreds of millions that could be spent on education and health services and other public services, including taking care of refugees in the G7 countries, or alternatively in countries to be rebuilt after the destruction by wars for greed and hegemony by the very G7.

So far – and every time more – the money spent on G7 and similar events, is like negative interest — destructive. You, the citizen and tax-payer, spend money for something that has a negative return. It is as nefarious as if you deposit your savings in a bank and the bank, instead of giving you an interest on your savings, charges you interest for keeping your money, then lends it to, say, a corporation, but the corporation has to pay back less than it borrowed. In other words, you the ‘small saver’ subsidize the big corporation, or anybody who can afford and is considered ‘eligible’ and solvent enough by the bank to borrow money.  It’s a new form of transferring resources from the bottom to the top.

The money spent on the G7 – or other comparable events – is similar. The event rulers take your money (taxes) and transfer it upstairs, where you will never see it again. Not only do you get nothing for it, but it costs you more, as the G7 foment wars and conflicts which kill millions, annihilate entire countries’ infrastructure, housing, schools, health facilities and generate an influx of refugees, for all of which you pay again.

Let’s see.  A year of primary education, say in Africa, costs about US$ 400 / per student, and about US$ 650 for high school education (2017). Providing decent health care, preventive and curative, per person in Bangladesh amounts to about US$ 650 per year. Assuming the money spent on the G7 Biarritz summit was about 250 to 300 million, you could provide education for a year to about 550,00 students in, say, Kenya, or provide a year of decent health care to about 430,000 Bangladeshi. Or the G7 funds could build drinking water and sanitation facilities for about 2.5 million people in developing countries. These figures may have a margin of error of plus or minus 20%. But you get the picture.

Or closer to home, how many refugees could xenophobic Europe, especially France and Italy,  take care of – refugees driven from their countries, precisely for wars started and sustained by the G7s, to line their weapons industries with huge profits, to dominate the world’s natural resources and eventually put all the people under one hegemonic, globalized roof — one culture, one currency, and only one kind of thinking and ideology allowed — their final goal.

Well, these refugees streaming to Europe, children without parents, divided families, sick people, people dying in the ditches, on the sides of roads in self-built camps, camps exposed to the climate elements, camps that are eventually erased by bulldozers – these human beings put into misery by the very G7 – why not use the money spent on such nefarious fora to impress the lot of the well-off populations on either side of the Atlantic, instead on a little humanitarian act, act of consciousness — what’s left of it — taking care of the trans-Mediterranean refugees?

Mr. Macron, you are besieged by the Yellow Vests, who will not go away. What do you think canceling the event and instead pledging the funds for humanitarian shelter for refugees, and lobbying with the remaining G6 to do the same would have done to your Presidency, to your ever-sinking popularity? Maybe some uplifting? You could badly need it. But the image – that’s what it is — the image of grandeur, rubbing elbows with the so-called “leaders” of the world, is of all-overarching importance, isn’t it?  Never mind the unbearable suffering of many of the people you claim to democratically represent.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Is a Rouhani-Trump Meeting Imminent?

PressTV Interview Transcript
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qsp1UcXqEo&feature=youtu.be

Peter Koenig
29 August 2019


Background

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a dispute since last year when the US unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear agreement and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. On Monday, President Donald Trump said he is ready to meet his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani within weeks after a G-7 leaders’ summit. The idea was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron who was hosting the summit. But Rouhani said Washington must first lift sanctions imposed since its withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

*****

PressTV: Could you comment on Mr. Rouhani’s conditions for talks with President Trump?

Peter Koenig: Mr. Rouhani is right asking for lifting of sanctions as a principle, because Iran has never bypassed or violated the rules of the Nuclear Deal. The sanctions are a groundless punishment by Washington because Iran wants – and should – remain a sovereign country, not bowing to Washington.

It’s sheer economic terrorism.

However, let’s be realistic. The US, especially Trump who is dancing to the tunes of Netanyahu, will not just lift the sanctions. It would, in my opinion, be more constructive if Mr. Rouhani would ask for lifting of the most hurting sanctions – for example, the ban on importing crucial medication and medical equipment and other vital goods.

We know the US will not change behavior, especially under Trump, as long as they still feel they are the exceptional Nation, the undisturbed Empire. Never mind that the empire is rapidly declining. As long as they have a stranglehold, literally, on the western monetary system, that will not change.

That’s why I keep suggesting that Iran gradually but firmly and ever faster detach from the western economy and financial system, western banks, the use of dollars and euros – and shift to the East, becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as quickly as possible, and trade in Chinese yuan.

Yes, Mr. Macron initiated the talks with Mr. Trump.

But, how shall I say this?  Macron is not trustworthy. He does what he thinks can serve himself, not even the French people, but him, his image as King Macron.

He wants to be the go-between, be friends with Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi, but also be friends with Trump. Whatever serves his megalo-image.

When something doesn’t go his way, doesn’t bolster his image, he will step back.

So better Iran goes her own way in direction East, where the future is.

And again with as little as possible dealing with the west.  As long as the US is in the driver’s seat, and as long as the US controls the western money flow, anybody not liked by the Master is vulnerable for sanctions. We see it all over the world.

Therefore, asking for partial lifting of sanctions, namely for vital goods, those that cause most harm to the Iranian people, like medical imports, may be a good initial strategy. Who knows, perhaps Trump goes along. And if not, Mr. Rouhani has at least tried, and a rejection by Trump would further tarnish his presidency.

Amazonia in Flames

On 28 October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil with 55.1% of the vote and with a gigantic help from Cambridge Analytica.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2019 in Davos Switzerland, Bolsonaro made a sumptuous presentation, “We Are Building a New Brazil”. He outlined a program that put literally Brazil up for sale, and especially the Brazilian part of Amazonia. He was talking particularly about Brazil’s water resources, the world’s largest, and the rain forest – offering a huge potential for agricultural development and mining.

None of the world leaders present at the WEF, precisely those that regularly meet pretending to save the planet, reacted to Bolsonaro’s statement on the Amazon region. They all knew who Bolsonaro was and is. They knew that the man had no scruples and would destroy – literally – the world’s lungs. They did nothing. They stayed silent in words and deeds, applauding the neonazi for his openness to international business and globalization.

Today, on the occasion of another similar world event, the meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France, French President Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying when he talked and pledged environmental consciousness after taking office, about protecting the Amazon area. Macron was joined by Germany in threatening Brazil with canceling the trade agreement with Mercosur, if he would not immediately undertake to stop the “wildfires”. They have most likely nothing to do with ‘wild’ as they, according to all circumstantial evidence, were planted in a concerted effort to rid the rich Amazon territory of the life-sustaining jungle, so as to make the newly gained flame-deforested land accessible for private agri-business and mining.

Mind you, the G7 is another self-appointed totally illegal group of industrialized, rich countries (similar to the G20); illegal, because they have been approved by nobody, not by the UN or any international body. They became rich mostly on the back of poor developing nations that were and are still colonized for hundreds of years. The G7 count today about 10% of the world population and are controlling 40% of the globe’s GDP.

Despite the fact that nobody, other than themselves, ratified their existence and their machinations, they believe they can call the shots of how the world should turn and function. They have no official backing by anybody, especially not the people across the globe, who, with a vast majority are fighting globalization. It’s a useless structure – RT refers to them as “The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7” – but their power lays in the rest of the world’s silence, their silent acceptance of the G7’s arrogant wielding of the scepter of power.

So, would Bolsonaro take them seriously, knowing that he is one of them and they are fully sharing his ideology of profit first, shoving environmental and social values down the muddy waters of the Amazon River? Hardly. He knows they are hypocrites. He knows that they make a bit of noise, because they have to. It makes for good public relation and propaganda – so people don’t go on the barricades. He knows that starting this coming Monday, 26 August, when the G7 summit will be history, that anything the Macrons of this world so impressively said, will fade away. The media will concentrate on other ‘news’ – and the forest fires will burn the life stream of Amazonia away – to make room for corporate profit-making by the elite few.

Never mind the Constitutional protection of indigenous people and their land. Bolsonaro backed by evangelists and his military junta will rapidly dismantle any remaining protection for the ecosystem and native communities. His argument goes that the native people’s land is sitting on huge reserves of natural resources that belong to Brazil and may be concessioned to private corporations for mining, exploitation of agriculture and lumber.

The indigenous folks are people who have for thousands of years made a peaceful living in the Amazon. They are the gatekeepers of Amazonia; they are the people who may carry our genes from the present killer civilization to the next, hopefully less of a killer one, when mankind has finally managed to destroy itself. It will not destroy the planet. Never. The planet will just get rid of the nefarious elements of annihilation – mankind – and renew itself. As has happened many times in the past – a new civilization will eventually be born – and, yes, the world’s indigenous people, the likely only survivors, may carry on our DNA, possibly to the next attempt at humanity.

The fires have so far in about 20 days since they were discovered, consumed at least 74,000 ha of tropical rain forest. The smoke is already trespassing the border to Argentina and affecting the provinces of Formosa, Jujuy, Corrientes, Catamarca, La Rioja, Santa Fe and may have already reached Buenos Aires. NASA reports that about 3.2 million square kilometers of South America are covered by smoke.

The flames are massive and are devastating the jungle at a rapid pace. Amazonia comprises one of the world’s largest rainforests, also known as Mother Earth’s lungs – without which humanity – and fauna and flora might not survive.

According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the fires increased by 83% – almost double – from what they were last year, and, not coincidentally, at least 68% of protected areas have been affected. The Brazilian Space Research spotted 72,000 fires, of which 9,000 last week alone. The Amazon is home to 34 million people, including over 350 indigenous groups.

At the onset of the G7 conference, Mr. Macron twittered:

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

The destruction of the Amazon is indeed a crime of first degree. Accordingly, there are protests around the world against Bolsonaro’s “free for all” mining, lumbering, land and water grabbing policies. The eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion (XR) organize widespread protests, and in front of London’s Brazilian Embassy protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bolsonaro’s got to go!”.

While the Brazil fires catch world attention, there are jungle fires even larger than those in Amazonia burning down other parts of the world’s oxygen-generating lungs. Bloomberg cites NASA data, according to which last Thursday and Friday, 22 and 23 August – in two days alone – more than 6,900 fires were recorded in Angola and about 3,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 5 times as many as in the same two days in the Brazilian Amazon region. The destruction of the jungle in Africa progresses virtually unnoticed and is hardly reported in western media. Bloomberg is an exception. Why is that?

Could it be that the same globalized corporations interested in Brazil’s natural resources underlaying the Amazon forests are also interested in those enormous reserves of minerals and hydrocarbon resources of Central Africa? Have they – DRC, Angola and possibly others been encouraged tacitly or directly by Bolsonaro and his clan to let the jungle burn? There are plenty of Brazilian corporations which have a vivid interest in Angola, another former Portuguese colony.

Despite the G7 apparent concern to protect the world’s lungs in Amazonia, they seem to be oblivious about the Central African rain forest devastation. The massive African fires too advance rapidly and extinguish another part of the world’s lungs. But these fires are not on the G7 radar or agenda for discussion, and nobody is threatened with sanctioning if the respective governments remain hapless onlookers.

In 2008, a so-called Amazon Fund, the first UN REDD+ initiative for the protection, preservation and monitoring of the Amazon region was created (UN REDD+ = reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

Germany and Norway – and others – have accused Brazil for not having properly invested their contribution into the Fund. Norway has recently blocked a payment of US$ 30 million destined for the Fund. Germany had blocked already in early August the equivalent of US$ 39 million for different Amazon protection programs to be financed by the Fund. But Bolsonaro, in a nonchalant manner, dismissed the blocked payments, suggesting that Germany should use the funds for reforestation of Germany.

In the case of Brazil, the threats by the Macron-Merkel duo – and others – seem to have had at least at the outset the effect that Bolsonaro is mobilizing the military to help extinguish the fires. Will he succeed? Does he want to succeed? In any case will the media continue reporting on progress once the G7 have gone home?  Will the world’s outcry be loud enough to force a concerted effort, possibly UN led to fight and extinguish these fires that are menacing not only to destroy a key oxygen generator for life on mother earth, but also a UNESCO protected world heritage?

Canada’s PM Trudeau Supports Brazil’s Environmentally Criminal President not the Amazon Rain Forest

By now most environmentally conscious people understand that Jair Bolsonaro is a bad guy. Brazil’s president has scandalously blamed environmentalists for starting fires burning in the Amazon region, after having called for more “development” of the huge forests.

Canadians are lucky we have a prime minister who is not such an embarrassment and understands environmental issues, right?

While Justin Trudeau has called for better protection of the Amazon, his  government and Canadian corporations have contributed to the rise of a proto fascist Brazilian politician who has accelerated the destruction of the ‘planet’s lungs’.

In 2016 Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a “soft coup”. While Canadian officials have made dozens of statements criticizing Venezuela over the past three years, the Trudeau government remained silent on Rousseff’s ouster. The only comment I found was a Global Affairs official telling Sputnik that Canada would maintain relations with Brazil after Rousseff was impeached. In fact, the Trudeau government began negotiating — there have been seven rounds of talks — a free trade agreement with the Brazilian-led MERCOSUR trade block. They also held a Canada Brazil Strategic Dialogue Partnership and Trudeau warmly welcomed Bolsonaro at the G20 in June.

Bolsonaro won the 2018 presidential election largely because the front runner in the polls was in jail. Former Workers Party president Lula da Silva was blocked from running due to politically motivated corruption charges, but the Trudeau government seems to have remained silent on Lula’s imprisonment and other forms of persecution of the Brazilian left.

With over $10 billion invested in Brazil, corporate Canada appears excited by Bolsonaro. After his election CBC reported:

For Canadian business, a Bolsonaro presidency could open new investment opportunities, especially in the resource sector, finance and infrastructure, as he has pledged to slash environmental regulations in the Amazon rainforest and privatize some government-owned companies.

Canada’s support for right-wing, pro-US, forces in the region has also favored Bolsonaro. Since at least 2009 the Canadian government has been openly pushing back against the leftward shift in the region and strengthening ties with the most right-wing governments. That year Ottawa actively backed the Honduran military’s removal of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya. In 2011 Canada helped put far-right Michel Martelly into the president’s office in Haiti and Ottawa passively supported the ‘parliamentary coup’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012. In recent years Canada has been central to building regional support for ousting Venezuela’s government. The destabilization efforts greatly benefited from the ouster of Rousseff and imprisonment of Lula. Brazil is now a member of the Canada/Peru instigated “Lima Group” of countries hostile to the Nicolás Maduro government.

Ottawa has long supported the overthrow of elected, left leaning governments in the hemisphere. Ottawa passively supported the military coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch in 1965 and Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. In Brazil Canada passively supported the military coup against President João Goulart in 1964. Prime Minister Lester Pearson failed to publicly condemn Goulart’s ouster and deepened relations with Brazil amidst a significant uptick in human rights violations. “The Canadian reaction to the military coup of 1964 was careful, polite and allied with American rhetoric,” notes Brazil and Canada in the Americas author Rosana Barbosa.

Along with following Washington’s lead, Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup was driven by Canadian corporate interests. Among the biggest firms in Latin America at the time, Toronto-based Brascan (or Brazilian Traction) was commonly known as “the Canadian octopus” since its tentacles reached into so many areas of Brazil’s economy. Putting a stop to the Goulart government, which made it more difficult for companies to export profits, was good business for a firm that had been operating in the country for half a century. After the 1964 coup the Financial Post noted “the price of Brazilian Traction common shares almost doubled overnight with the change of government from an April 1 low of $1.95 to an April 3 high of $3.06.”

The company was notorious for undermining Brazilian business initiatives, spying on its workers and leftist politicians and assisting the coup. The Dark side of “The light”: Brascan in Brazil notes, “[Brazilian Traction’s vice-president Antonio] Gallotti doesn’t hide his participation in the moves and operations that led to the coup d’état against Goulart in 1964.”

Gallotti, who was a top executive of Brascan’s Brazilian operations for a couple decades, was secretary for international affairs in the Brazilian fascist party, Acao Integralista. Gallotti quit the party in 1938, but began working as a lawyer for Brascan in 1932.

Historically, Canadian companies empowered fascists in Brazil. Today, corporate Canada appears happy to do business with a proto-fascist trampling on Indigenous rights and fuelling climate chaos. Ottawa has also enabled Bolsonaro. At a minimum the Trudeau government should be pressed to follow French President Emmanuel Macron’s call to suspend free-trade negotiations with MERCOSUR until Bolsonaro reverses his wonton destruction of the earth’s ‘lungs’.

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.