Category Archives: President Emmanuel Macron

Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations Forgot

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead have little time for peace, even as they supposedly celebrate it. For them, peace is the enemy as much as armed opposing combatants, if not more so. Dr Brendan Nelson of the Australian War Memorial is every bit the propagandist in this regard, encased in armour of permanent reminder: Do not forget the sacrifice; do not forget the slaughter.  The issue is how war, not peace, is commemorated.

That theme was repeated, for the most part, in Paris on November 11.  US President Donald Trump spoke of “our sacred obligation to memorialise our fallen heroes.”  French President Emmanuel Macron marked the 100th anniversary of the Great War by having a dig at nationalism, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” (is there a difference?).  The nationalists, he warned, were getting busy, these “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death”.  The intellectuals (and here, he alluded to Julien Benda’s 1927 classic, La trahison des clercs) were at risk of capitulating.

But Macron, rather slyly, was hoping that the French obsession with universal values would somehow render his message less parochial: to be French was to be an internationalist, not a tunnel-visioned, rabid nationalist.  The soldiers who perished in the Great War did so in the defence of France’s “universal values” in order to repudiate the “selfishness of nationals only looking after their own interests.”  Much room for disagreement on that score, and Marine Le Pen would have been a suitable corrective.

The peace activities of the Great War, asphyxiated, smothered and derided in texts and official narratives, are rarely discussed in the mass marketed solemnity of commemorations.  The writings of those prophets who warned that any adventurism such as what transpired in 1914 would be met with immeasurable suffering are also conspicuously absent.  Jean de Bloc, whose magisterial multi-volume The Future of War appeared in 1898 in Russian, found it “impossible” that Europe’s leaders would embark on a conflict against each other; to do so would “cause humanity a great moral evil… civil order will be threatened by new theories of social revolution”. The end would be catastrophic.  “How many flourishing countries will be turned into wilderness and rich cities into ruins! How many tears will be shed, how many will be left in beggary!”

These sceptics were the enlightened ones, scorned for not having the sense of fun that comes with joining battle and being butchered in the name of some vague patriotic sentiment.  If human beings are animals at play, then play to the death, if need be – the rational ones were sidelined, persecuted and hounded.  They are the party poopers.

Prior to the first shots of the guns of August in 1914, Europe had witnessed a slew of meetings and activities associated with the theme of peace.  From 1889, pacifists were busy with Universal Peace Congresses, while the Inter-parliamentary Union made a stab at efforts and ideas to reduce national tensions.  The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, with one scheduled to take place in 1915, suggested a certain sensibility, even as the military machinery of Europe was getting ominously more lethal.  At the very least, the political classes were playing at peace.

The 1,200 women who gathered at The Hague in 1915 as part of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom feature as sane if forgotten voices before the murderous machine truly got going.  Their work involved attendees from 12 countries and the passing of 20 resolutions on war. They worked to convince those engaged in the murderous machine about the folly and were dismissed accordingly as cranks and nuisances.

The peace movement was sundered by the patriotic diseases that engulfed the continent, and such organisations as the International Peace Bureau failed to reach a consensus on how best to quell warring aggressions.  In January 1915, its Berne meeting was characterised by division, best exemplified by a resolution denouncing Germany and Australia for egregious breaches of international law.  The vote was divided evenly, and unity was destroyed.

While monuments to the war makers and fallen soldiers dot the town squares of the combatant nations, lingering like morbid call cards for failed militarism, there are virtually none in the service of peace.  The tenaciously wise and farsighted Austrian noblewoman Bertha von Suttner, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 and suspect the motives of governments behind the Hague Peace conferences, hardly figures in commemorative statuary.  Nor does Rosa Luxemburg, who began a twelve-month sentence in Berlin’s Barnimstrasse Womens’ Prison on February 18, 1915 for “inciting public disobedience”.

Her crime, committed during the words of her famous Fechenheim address, was to call upon German workers to refuse shooting their French counterparts should war break out.  “Victory or defeat?” she would sadly reflect in her anti-war tract, The Junius Pamphlet (1915) written whilst in confinement.  “Thus sounds the slogan of the ruling militarism in all the warring countries, and, like an echo, the Social Democratic leaders have taken it up.”

As Adam Hochschild sourly noted in 2014, those who refuse to fight or barrack for war are ignored by the commemorative classes.  “America’s politicians still praise Iraq War veterans to the skies, but what senator has a kind word to say about the hundreds of thousands who marched and demonstrated before the invasion was even launched to try to stop our soldiers from risking their lives in the first place?”

Events conspicuously against the spirit of killing and maiming opponents, such as that which took place during the short lived Christmas Truce of 1914, have only been remembered – and tolerated – because of their public relations quality.  These events sell chocolates and cakes; they draw people to sites and commodities.  The truce signalled no revolution; it did not challenge the war planners.  “It’s safe to celebrate,” commented Hochschild, “because it threatened nothing.”  The sovereignty of war, the institution of state-sanctioned killing, remained, as it still does, though selling peace can be lucrative when the shells have stopped falling.

The obscenity here is that conflict, most notably that of the First World War, was meant to be cathartic, a brief bit of masculine cleansing that would end by the arbitrarily designated time of Christmas.  It was advertised as a picnic, a brief testosterone outing which would see men return intact.  Foolishly, such figures as HG Wells saw it as “the war to end war”, so get it over and done with, minimal fuss and all. (To be fair to Wells, he found disgust and despair subsequently, reflecting upon this in The Bulpington of Blup in 1932.)

This was, truly, as the title of Margaret MacMillan’s work goes, the war that ended peace, and we should not forget the political and military classes, instrumental in dashing off soldiers to their death, who engineered it with coldness and ignorance.  Foolishness and demagoguery tend to hold hands all too often, distant from that most moving sentiment expressed by the jailed US socialist activist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.  “I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; and I am a citizen of the world.”

The Saudi Arabian Model: Blueprints for Murder and Purchasing Arms

It reads like a swaying narrative of retreat.  A man’s body is subjected to a gruesome anatomical fate, his parts separated by a specially appointed saw doctor – an expert in the rapid autopsy – overseen by a distinctly large number of individuals.  Surveillance cameras had improbably failed that day.  We are not sure where, along the line, the torturers began their devilish task: the diligent beating punctuated by questions, followed by the severing of fingers, or perhaps a skipping of any formalities.  One Turkish investigator sniffing around the Saudi consulate in Istanbul saw such handiwork “like a Tarantino film.”

The result was clear enough: the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy on October 2 and never came out alive.  (Even an attempt of the gathered crew of death to procure a Khashoggi double was noted.)

For aspiring authoritarians, the Saudi state is a model instructor.  First came blanket denial to the disappearance: the Saudi authorities had no idea where the journalist had gone after October 2.  On October 18, Riyadh officially acknowledged Khashoggi’s death.  By October 21, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had come to the conclusion that this had, in fact, been murder, and a mistake. “This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had”.

Then, an improbable story of a fist fight developed through the media channels. (When one has to kill, it is best to regard the enemy as inappropriately behaved when they dare fight back.)  In the presence of 15 Saudi operatives, this was all richly incredulous – but the Kingdom does specialise in baffling and improbable cruelties.

It was clear that distancing was fundamental, hence the cultivation of the “rogue” theory, with Saudi operatives taking a merry trip off the beaten path.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was happy to pour water on the suggestion. “We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation.”  It had been executed “in a ferocious manner”.

The Turkish president has, however, danced around the issue of ultimate state sanctioned responsibility.  Neither King Salman, nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been publicly outed in any statements as either showing awareness of the killing or ordering it.  Prince MBS and his father are happy to keep it that way, severing their links with the killing as assuredly as the killers had severed the journalist’s fingers.  This is evidenced by the Crown Prince’s own labelling of the act as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor has also decided to move the case from one of accidental killing (fist fights will do that sort of thing) to one of planned murder.  A bit of cosmetic housecleaning has been taking place (another authoritarian lesson: look busy, seem engaged with heavy concern): 18 people have been arrested and two advisers sacked by the Saudi state.  The Crown Prince, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, has chaired the first meeting of a committee established to reform the country’s intelligence services.

This authoritarian blueprint also implies a staying power in the face of other states who see Saudi Arabia as cash cow and security partner.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a rich appetite for foreign arms, a point not missed on the weapons makers of the globe.  Some attrition is bound to take place: certain countries, keen to keep their human rights credentials bright and in place, will temporarily suspend arms sales.  Others will simply claim disapproval but continue leaving signatures on the relevant contracts of sale.

Some ceremonial condemnations have been registered.  Members of the European Parliament voted upon a non-binding resolution on Thursday to “impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.”  Germany, temporarily concerned, has suspended arms sales to the House of Saud, with Chancellor Angela Merkel deeming the Khashoggi killing “monstrous”. Canada’s Justin Trudeau briefly pondered what to do with a lucrative defence contract with Riyadh worth $12 billion, only to then step back.

The Canadian prime minister did acknowledge that the killing of Khashoggi “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” but has not made good any threats.  His predecessor has become the ideal alibi.  “The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract.”  Cancellation would lead to penalties which, in turn, would affect the Canadian tax payer.  How fortunate for Trudeau.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States remain the three biggest suppliers of military hardware to the kingdom, a triumvirate of competitors that complicates any effective embargo.  Which state, after all, wants to surrender market share?  It’s a matter of prestige, if nothing else.  President Donald Trump’s reaction is already clear: a suitably adjusted lid will be deployed to keep things in check till matters blow over; in the meantime, nothing will jeopardise a $110 billion arms deal.  Business with a theocracy can be patriotic.

The French angle has been reserved and coldly non-committal.  “Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context,” claimed foreign ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin, meaning that his country’s arms control policy was made on a case-by-case basis.  For France, keeping Riyadh in stiff opposition to Tehran’s regional ambitions has been a matter of importance in its Middle Eastern policy for decades, a point reiterated by President Emmanuel Macron in April.  And the Kingdom pays French arms exporters well: between 2008 and 2017, Saudi Arabia proved the second biggest purchaser of French arms (some 11 billion euros), with 2017 being a bumper year with licenses coming to 14.7 billion euros.  Riyadh can expect little change there.

Britain’s Theresa May, in the tradition of elastic British diplomacy (condemnation meets inertia), has insisted that her government already has the appropriately stringent rules on arms exports, another way of shunning any European resolution that might perch on human rights.  Such strictness evidently does not preclude the eager oil sheiks of Riyadh, though Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt did suggest the Khashoggi killing, should it “turn out to be true” would be “fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.”  Such actions are bound to be symbolic – much money has been received by the British arms industry, with earnings of £4.6 billion coming from sales to the Kingdom since the Saudi-led war on Yemen began in 2015.  Sowing death, even if through the good agency of a theocratic power, is lucrative.

The fate of Khashoggi, cruel and ghastly, seems a piddle of insignificance in that light.  “Brexit,” urged Philippe Lamberts, MEP and leader of the Group of the Greens, “must not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities.” That abdication, on the part of Britain and its arms competitors, took place sometime ago.

Open Letter to the Hon. Emmanuel Macron, President of France

The Hon. Emmanuel Macron
President of France

Palais de l’Élysée
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris
France

Mr. President,

It was to our great astonishment, consternation, and shock that we perceived the Japanese Self Defense Forces display the Rising Sun Flag in front of the gathered crowds during the military parade on Bastille Day, 2018.

Japanese GSDF (Ground Self Defense Forces) parading down the Champs Elysees, July 14th, 2018.

Not since the Nazis paraded the Swastika on June 14th, 1940 has there been such a sight on the Champs Elysées.

As you know, the Rising Sun banner is the war flag of the Japanese Imperial Military and the global symbol of Japanese Imperial Terror from 1894-1945. This is the emblem of the military empire that murdered, tortured, enslaved, raped and terrorized their way through Asia and the Pacific, brutally invading and subjugating entire countries and peoples, while perpetrating innumerable crimes of aggression, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The leaders of the Japanese Military High Command, representing command responsibility for the Japanese military, were ultimately found guilty and hanged for these crimes.

Article R 645-1 of the French Criminal Code, rightly prohibits “the public exhibition or wearing of such insignia, symbols/emblems, uniforms that recall those used by…organizations…or persons found guilty of one or multiple crimes against humanity by…a [competent] international tribunal”.

We also remind you of the ineffaceable, irrevocable, inviolable right to redress (“imprescriptibilité“) regarding crimes against humanity, codified in French Law (Law No 64-1326, December 26th, 1964).

We further draw your attention to the fact that these leaders were found guilty of multiple Crimes Against Humanity in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, convened on April 29th, 1946.

Japanese GSDF marching down the Champs Elysees, July 14th, 2018

We therefore assert that the members of the Japanese contingent parading the Rising Sun were in clear violation of R 645-1.

We request that they be charged and prosecuted according to the law.

Technically, on their own soil, the Japanese SDF are allowed to fly the Rising Sun, due to a 1955 accommodation arising from the US SCAP designs of cold war geopolitics.  However, it staggers the imagination and shocks the conscience that Republican France—to whom we ascribe higher ethical standards and a demonstrated history of banning symbols and actions like this–would, within the heart of the French Metropole, on the very occasion of its commemoration of opposition to Absolutism and celebration of Universal Human Rights, permit the display and flaunting of a flag that represents the worst excesses of Imperialist Absolutism, unmitigated human rights atrocities, and genocidal and femicidal violations of international law.

We refuse to believe that French standards of governmentality, morality, decency, and common sense allow the public flaunting of the Rising Sun.

We refuse to believe that France allows the symbolic legitimation and normalization of Japanese Imperial Militarism with its long, unimaginable train of irrefragable, but unacknowledged, unatoned-for atrocities.

We refuse to believe that a public holiday also constitutes a moral holiday, where the historical oppressor is dispensed legal exemption to parade violent, traumatic, racist symbology at the cost, shock, and mortification of all its survivors and victims.

We live currently in chaotic, troubled, and morally unsettling times.  Symbols have power: the power to incite or to calm, to divide or bring reconciliation, to heal or to harm.  The inflammatory public display of the Rising Sun is a symbol of everything that is harmful, divisive, violent, and destructive of human decency, morality, society, and peace.

We urge you to consider our concerns and request prompt and rapid action and redress.

With Deepest Respect,

CWJC (Comfort Women Justice Coalition)

Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen

A recent European Council summit in Brussels was meant to articulate a united policy on the burgeoning refugees and migrant crisis. Instead, it served to highlight the bitter divisions among various European countries. Considering the gravity of the matter, Europe’s self-serving policies are set to worsen an already tragic situation.

True, several European leaders, including Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, went home to speak triumphantly of a ‘great victory’, achieved through a supposedly united European position.

Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, used more derogatory terms in explaining his country’s new policy on refugees and migrants.  “They will only see Italy on a postcard”, he said, referring to refugees who have been arriving in Italy with the help of humanitarian rescue boats.

The first of these boats, carrying over 600 refugees and economic migrants, the Aquarius, was sent back on June 11, followed by another, carrying over 200 refugees. When Italy carried out what then seemed like excessive action, the decision erupted into a massive political controversy between Italy, France, Spain, Malta and others.

However, the pandemonium has subsided since then, as Italy’s Conte declared that, following the Brussels summit, his country ‘is no longer alone.’

What Conte, who presides over a populist, right-wing government, meant is that his country’s unwelcoming attitude towards refugees is now gathering greater European consensus.

The debate over refugees and migrants has reached the point that it has become a source of political instability in countries like Germany. The latter is not considered a ‘frontline state’, as in countries that are likely to be the first destination for refugees escaping war or poverty at home.

Austria and other countries are also caught up in the crisis, each with its own angry constituency to appease.

On paper, representatives of European countries did, in fact, reach an agreement. The real problem ensued as soon as delegations returned to their respective countries.

Despite opposition from Poland and Hungary, and Italian threats to ‘veto’ any text that is not consistent with Italian priorities, the Council agreed on four main points:

First, the establishment of disembarkation centers outside European territories, to be stationed mostly in North Africa. At that early stage, economic migrants would be separated from political asylum seekers.

This first stipulation is made hollow simply because, as the Guardian reports, “no North African country has agreed to host migrant centers to process refugee claims,” in the first place.

Second, Europeans agreed to strengthen borders control through the Frontex system.

Aside from the questionable tactics of this pan-European border police, this system has been in use for years and it is difficult to imagine how ‘strengthening’ it will translate into a more efficient or humane border control system.

Third, the Council called for the creation of ‘controlled’ refugee and migrant processing centers within Europe itself, like the North African non-existing centers, to quickly separate between refugees fleeing strife and economic migrants.

This clause was offered as a ‘voluntary’ step to be exercised by any state as it sees fit, which, again, will hardly contribute to a united European policy on the issue. Yet, despite the voluntary nature of this provision, it still stirred a political controversy in Germany.

Soon after the Council issued its final statement, Horst Lorenz Seehofer, Germany’s Interior Minister, threatened to quit Angela Merkel’s coalition government.

The German Chancellor is now under dual pressure, from within her fractious coalition, but also from without, a massive political campaign championed by the far-right party, the ‘Alternative for Germany’. In fact, the latter group’s popularity is largely attributed to its anti-immigrant sentiment.

A compromise was reached, calling for the establishment of migrant ‘transit centers’ at the German-Austrian border. However, instead of resolving a problem, the decision created another one, propelling a new controversy in Austria itself.

Austria, which also has its own populist, anti-immigrant constituency to placate, fears that the proximity of the German ‘transit centers’ would force it to receive Germany’s unwanted refugees.

“If Berlin introduced national measures, which would have a chain reaction, it could mean that Austria would have to react,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz commented in a press conference. The magnitude of this ‘reaction’ is, of course, to be determined later, depending on the nature of counter-pressure emanating from Austria itself.

Austria has, in fact, already threatened to shut down the Brenner Pass, connecting Italy and Austria.

The fourth, and last, decision by the European Council called for the boosting of North African economies and offering training for Libya’s coastguard.

As altruistic as the last stipulation may sound, it is, indeed, the most ridiculous, especially since it was placed on the agenda with French enthusiasm. Even if one is to ignore France’s colonial history in Africa – grounded in the notion of usurping African resources under military threat – one can hardly ignore the current role that Emmanuel Macron is playing in the current Libyan conflict.

Various media reports suggest that Macron’s government is carrying on with the legacy of intervention, initiated by the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, most notably in the military intervention of March 2011.

Libya, a failed state par excellence, is now fighting proxy wars in which France and Italy are the main players.

Bearing that in mind, it would be absurd to suggest that Macron is keen on respecting the sovereignty and supporting the economies of Libya and other North African nations.

Considering Europe’s past failures and foot dragging on the issue of refugees, it is hard to imagine that one of Europe’s greatest challenges is to be resolved as a result of the Brussels summit and its lackluster ‘agreement’.

Europe continues to view the refugee crisis in terms of security, populist pressures and national identity, as opposed to it being a global humanitarian crisis invited by wars, political strife and economic inequality, of which Europe is hardly innocent.

As long as Europe continues to operate with a skewed definition of the crisis, the crisis will continue to grow, leading to far dire consequences for all of those involved.

• Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, contributed to this article

Mediterranean Sea: The Largest Graveyard in Modern History

In June 2018 alone, more than 500 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Their boats were refused access to land in either Malta or Italy. They were force-driven back by gun-boats to the North African shores they came from, mostly Libya, but many boats capsized and countless refugees didn’t make it.

These are de facto murders, high crimes against humanity, committed by the very European Union. The same “leaders” (criminals, rather), whose forebears are known to have raped, exploited, tortured, ravaged peoples and their lands of Asia, Africa, Latin America over the past 1000 years of abject colonization. Europeans have it in their genes to be inhuman. This can possibly be extended to the ‘superior’ greedy white race in general. At least to those who make it to political or corporate high office in the formidable EU or exceptional US, or to those who appoint themselves into the European Commission. We should call them “The Heartless Bunch”.

This is the so-called West, now led by the United States of America, basically the British empire transplanted across the Atlantic, where they felt safer between two shining seas, than as a rickety island in the Atlantic, just in front of the enormous, contiguous land mass called Eurasia. The Old Continent, alias Europe, was given by the new trans-Atlantic empire, the new masters of the universe, a subservient role. And that was in the making for at least the last 100 years, when the new empire started weakening Europe, with two World Wars.

Today’s European (EU) leaders are puppets put in place by the Atlantist elites, to make sure that the rather educated Europeans do not go on the barricades, that they are debilitated regularly by free market corporatism creating unemployment, taking their hard worked-for social safety nets away, saturating them with fake news, gradually oppressing them with growing police states, with a massive militarization, and finally using the articulately planned flood of refugees from the very US-EU-NATO destroyed countries – destroyed economically and by wars as a further destabilizing weapon. Greece should serve as a vivid example of what’s really going on and is planned, starting with “inferior” southern EU states, those bordering on the strategic and economically important sea way, the Mediterranean Sea.

You think I’m crazy? Start thinking again and connect the dots.

The refugee death toll in the Med-Sea in 2017 was about 3,200, 40% down from 2016, and more than 600 up to end of April 2018, and another more than 500 in June. This figure is bound to increase drastically, given the European closed-border policy, and more. The EU is contracting among others, the Libyan Coast Guard with gun boats to chase refugee vessels back to the Libyan shores, many sink, and saving those thrown into the sea is ‘forbidden’. They are simply left to die. That’s the rule. Malta, a little island-appendix to Brussels, but important as a refugee transit, has issued strict bans on private fishing boats and NGOs trying to rescue refugees.

As a consequence, the by now well-known German NGO “Lifeline” boat with 234 rescued refugees and migrants on board from Africa and the Middle East, miserably poor, sick, desperate people struggling for sheer survival, many with small kids, who wanted nothing more than their children to have a better life was rejected by Malta, turned back into the sea under guidance of NATO and EU hired military-type private contractor gun-boats. Eventually Portugal offered her safe shores for the refugees. Malta has a Partnership for Peace (PfP) Agreement with NATO; i.e. obeys NATO orders. NATO, a killer organization, has, of course, not a shred of humanity in its structure, nor in the blood of the people at its helm anywhere in the world.

Imagine in this context, an EU summit took place at the end of June 2018 to “arrange” and agree on how to handle the refugee crisis in the future, in other swords, how to keep them out of Europe. None of the countries, other than Germany, were even considering accepting some of these poor souls out of sheer humanitarian reasons, to give them shelter, food and medication. The discussion even considered where to build a wall – yes, fences were discussed to keep them out – Europe a xenophobic free-port for the rich, acting in questions of migration as a carbon copy of Trump. They deserve each other, Trump and Brussels, trade wars not withstanding – let them shred each other to pieces.

Well, this almost happened during, before and after the now-called “mini-summit”, with Madame Merkel almost losing her Chancellor’s job, as she, against all odds, represented the most humanitarian view of all the 28 neolibs. This did not go down well with her partner party, the ultra-conservative Bavarian CSU. Calls for her resignation abounded. The German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, was about to resign over Merkel’s alleged refugee ‘generosity’, in which case the highly fragile right-left coalition would have collapsed, and who knows how Germany may have continued to govern. Perhaps new elections would have had to be called, and then only god knows what might have happened. The empire could not allow this uncertainty to prevail, because Washington needs Germany as the chief-slave driver to lead Europe into total disarray and serfdom. It worked. Germany is alive and saved – and ticking.

Instead, the European refugee/migrant policy is in shambles. The EU are literally out to kill refugees, as a means of dissuasion? Mass-murder as a means of discouraging the desperate to seek shelter in those very countries that were instrumental in destroying their livelihoods, their families, their towns, their infrastructure, their education and health facilities, their youth? Generations of young Middle Eastern and African people are gone, destroyed.

Did these high-ranking EU officials in Brussels mention their own huge responsibility for the refugee floods with one single word? – No, of course not. Not with one breath. Has the conscience in one single head of these fake, neolibs-neonazis, as it were, self-serving EU heads of state been awakened by this very fact of guilt for what they are to confront? Has it caused sleepless nights? I doubt it. They are far from this level of human compassion; they are monsters.

Then, there was and is Italy, with her strange new coalition, a coalition of convenience. The leftish 5-Star Movement in alliance with the right-wing Lega Norte, selling their human conscience to be able to reign, giving away their responsibility for migration to the xenophobic, narcissistic, and yes, close to fascist Lega Norte which is adamant not to receive migrants. They would boycott any result that would force Italy to take in refugees, or even build border transit camps. In the end, they reached a toothless agreement; a non-agreement, rather; an accord that obliged none of the parties to do anything. Everything is voluntary. Period. And Macron said that this was the best refugee summit the EU ever had. So much for dismal brainlessness.

All was voluntary. The only agreement they could book for themselves is to build refugee camps in North African countries for the shipped-back survivors. Fortunately, every North African country, from Egypt to Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco said no. Having seen what happened in such literal slave camps in Libya, they had at least the compassion for these desperate human beings to prevent this from reoccurring. Compassion, a term, a feeling or sensation, the Europeans are devoid of.

However, no Israeli- Trump- Brussels-type wall or barbed-wire fence will keep the desperate in their economically, or by war, or western terrorism destroyed countries. The west, and only the west, is responsible for the endless destructive chaos, torture and lawlessness in these nations that the west wants to dominate, for myriad reasons – to steal their energy, minerals; for their strategic location, and finally on the way to total full spectrum world hegemony. This, the west will not achieve. That’s for sure. Evil will not prevail in the long run. Darkness will eventually cede to light. That’s the way nature works. But on its way to collapse, Evil will maim and kill millions of lives. Countless children will have no future, no parents, no education, no health services, no drinking water. They will be made to slaves as a means for their survival, to be raped and exploited or eventually killed. The European crime is of infinite dimension and nobody sees it, let alone stops it.

Keeping Your Refugees: Macron, Francafrique and Euro-African Relations

Ties between Europe and Africa have never been rosy.  A relationship based on predatory conquest and the exploitation of resources (slave flesh, minerals, and such assortments) is only ever going to lend itself to farce and display rather than sincerity.  The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose death must be placed squarely at the feet of the Franco-Anglo-American intervention in the Libyan conflict of 2011, typified the cruelly distorted relationship, a man who morphed from erratic, third way statesman of revolution to terrorist inspired “Mad Dog”; then to a modern, if cartoonish figure capable of rehabilitating a state from pariah to flattered guest.

A neat expression of Euro-African ties was captured in the 2007 Dakar address by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Like the current French President Emmanuel Macron, Sarkozy wanted to make an impression on those in what had been formerly characterised as the Dark Continent.  The leaders of the Maghreb and West Africa had been led to believe that promise was wafting in the air, that France would have a grand update on its relationship with former colonies on the continent.  The system of Francafrique, larded with neo-colonial connotation, would be scrapped.  Sweet sensible equality would come to be.

An impression he did make, albeit in spectacularly negative, sizzling fashion.  “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.”

Sarkozy’s speech seemed a cribbed version of texts produced at a time when European officials were falling over each in other in acquiring and renting portions of the continent.  But in 2007, a French leader could still be found speculating about the limited world view of African agrarianism, its peasantry cocooned from enlightenment.  “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.”  This, for the French President, was a “realm of fancy – there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”

The impact of the speech was such as to prompt Senegal’s foremost scribe Boubacar Boris Diop to suggest a cognitive confusion of some scale.  “Maybe he does not realise to what extent we felt insulted.”  Defences were offered in France, one coming from Jean-Marie Bockel.  The speech, he concluded, had one thread through it: “the future of Africa belongs firstly to the Africans.”

And so now, in 2018, where history has again become an issue, throwing up its human cargo of suffering from conflict, poverty and strong shades of neo-colonialism, France, fashioned as a European leader, again finds itself considering how to respond to relations with the southern continent.

For various African states, the signs are not good.  Historical condescension and the sneer seemingly persists.  Macron, in an effort to steady the refugee control effort in the European Union, has gone into full school teacher mode.  The EU, he has iterated, cannot take decisions on behalf of African states, though he does suggest that, “Helping Africa to succeed is good for Europe and France.”

African states also suffered from a distinct problem of fecundity: unplanned population growth threatened further northward migration.  Immigrant processing centres in North Africa designed to halt the flow into Europe’s south, he suggests, “can fly, just if some African governments decide to organise it”.

This is something Macron has been onto for a time, and it replicates a broader formula adopted by wealthier states to more impoverished ones.  No doubt eyeing such ghoulish experiments as Australia’s Pacific Solution, which shifts the burden of processing and assessing refugee claims to small, low-income Nauru and unstable Papua New Guinea, Macron suggested in 2017 that states such as Libya carry the can, a suggestion as absurd as it is venal.

In August that year, he ventured, with agreement from German, Spanish and Italian counterparts, to focus on the setting up of migrant processing centres in Libya, Chad and Niger.  These would involve European resources to help create and sustain them.  The gaping flaw of this suggestion, one carried over into the EU negotiations last week, ignores the shattered status of Libya, a state in all but name.

Such plans, in the assessment of Left MEP Malin Björk, were “tainted by structural racism towards the African population”. In the opinion of the Swedish MEP, “Europe has not right to criminalise mobility of movement especially not in third countries.”  Such views are coming across as marginally quaint in the hard nosed and distinctly inhumane line of EU politics.

The value of Macron’s schooling is also compounded by manifold problems on what Europe actually intends to do.  The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan that came into force on March 20, 2016 was meant to be a holy of holies, stemming the flow of refugees into frontline Greece.  It came with the natural consequence of shifting the routes of movement towards the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.  Like aqueous matter, human flows will find a way.

Macron is only speaking for Europe in one respect: regaining control of borders and putting the refugee genie as far as possible back into the bottle.  Disagreement reigns over the method.  During negotiations in Brussels, EU leaders agreed, for instance, that “regional embarkation platforms” established outside the zone would be implemented to target the people-smuggling process.  In principle, it was also agreed that there would be secure migrant processing centres set up in EU countries.

On this point, member states remain deafeningly silent, though Macron has insisted on the traditional formula that states who first receive the migrants should have those centres. The current Italian government hardly sees the point of why; other EU states are more than fit to also conduct such processes.

As such squabbling to the richer North takes place, the impecunious South will simply continue to be a massive conduit of dangerous, often deadly travel.  This, along with Francafrique notions and various lacings of European suspicion towards African states, will continue with headstrong stubbornness.

Will Europe stand up to American Pressure?

Europe has decided to assert its independence: it will not revise its agreement with Iran and will not comply with US sanctions. When Washington tore up the Iran deal, that was the last straw for the European Union. In reality the EU had nowhere left to retreat — any further capitulation to the Atlanticists’ dictates would render the entire pan-European project meaningless. Will May 2018 prove to be the turning point, the moment when the West’s unity began to fracture?

On May 17, 2018, the leaders of the countries of Europe, together with senior officials from the European Union, gathered in Sofia, officially to discuss their relations with the Balkan countries that are candidates for EU membership. But how could there be any talk of expanding the EU if it is unable to manage its primary mission — protecting the interests of Europeans? Thus it is unlikely that the conversation at that informal dinner in the Bulgarian capital was about anything other than their relations with the US, because Europe is on the verge of not just a trade war, but a geopolitical conflict with its … Well … with its what, exactly?

Its senior partner? Ally? Suzerain? Competitor? In geopolitical terms, the US is without question the boss over the Old World — under the auspices of a unified West and NATO. It is the American Atlanticists who hold the higher rank. After WWII, the US used various means of control to seize the reins in Germany, Italy, France, and other countries in Western and later in Eastern Europe. Great Britain partnered with them to help keep Europe under control, and since then — despite any differences that may have arisen between the two shores of the Atlantic — Europe, even in the form of the European Union, has generally remained their vassal.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk during the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

As the project to integrate Europe gained momentum, continental Europeans felt a growing desire to become more independent, but Washington and London always kept that situation well in hand.

Germany’s genuine autonomy and especially its rapprochement with Russia has clearly been at odds with the interests of the Atlanticists — and a few years ago, under the pretext of a “Russian threat,” Europe knuckled under to the anti-Russian sanctions.

The majority of Europe’s political class understood that it was beneficial for the EU to have close ties with Russia, and they have always been looking for a chance to end the confrontation with Moscow. In order to perpetuate the atmosphere of Russophobia, the Anglo-Saxons even resorted to staging the provocation with the Skripals, so as to somehow preserve the tension between Russia and Europe.

It seemed that Europe would remain under their thumb for the immediate future. Europe’s leaders will wait to see how the power struggle in the US ends and will try to simultaneously accommodate themselves to both Trump as well as to the Atlanticist elite that opposes him. However, recent actions by Washington seem to have prompted some major changes.

Trump needed the dissolution of the Iran deal largely for domestic political reasons, but he was prepared to lean particularly heavily on the Europeans. In accordance with his plans, the Europeans needed to agree with the US to compel Iran to draw up a new accord that could be presented as a major victory to the American public. Trump did not take into account the individual positions of Russia or China, which would in any case be against a revision of the deal. Apparently inspired by the imaginary success of his Korean offensive (in which Beijing and Pyongyang created the illusion of a breakthrough for him), the US president decided that everything would work out fine in this matter as well. To encourage the Europeans to be more amenable, they were threatened with sanctions. But the Old World balked outright and decided to preserve both the deal as well as its relationship with Iran.

And the aftermath of the US pressure on Europe over the Iran deal will now extend far beyond just a run-of-the-mill misunderstanding between allies.

Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump. Because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions,” stated the chairman of the European Council, or in other words, the president of united Europe, Donald Tusk on May 17, 2018.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, US President Donald Trump and President of the European Council Donald Tusk

And the head of the government of this united Europe, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated a week earlier that the European Union needed to take on the role of global leader, because Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran deal meant that the US “no longer wants to cooperate” with other parts of the world and was turning away from friendly relations “with a ferocity that can only surprise us.” In addition, European countries should do more than simply salvage the agreement with Iran: “We have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”

So as it turns out, Europe is not only ready to shoulder the responsibility for its own future — something which even Angela Merkel has been speaking about for the past year, which includes providing for its own security — but is also ready to replace the US as a world leader! Did we actually hear this correctly?

Yes, that’s right. In fact, they started talking about this in Europe immediately after Donald Trump won the election more than a year and a half ago. Even then, Trump was declaring that America should focus on itself and not on the construction of a unified Atlanticist world, and that for the sake of filling America’s coffers he would shake down all its partners, enemies, and allies. Europeans, who have grown used to wielding only limited sovereignty in matters of war and peace, were suddenly being told that they needed to pay for being protected by the US, because Trump’s America saw that umbrella as something expendable.

The West’s unity began to fracture. And although the Atlanticist elite on both sides of the ocean hope that Trump turns out to be nothing more than a bad dream and that everything will go back to normal in 2020, the reality is that there is no way the West can regain that indivisibility. America will rewrite its foreign policy with the goal of “making itself great again,” regardless of whether or not Trump is in power, because the hegemon has cracked and America’s more nationalistic elites are seizing power from the ones who have been playing at being the world’s policeman.

What is left for the Atlanticists? Should they make their peace with this or attempt to shift the Western world’s center of gravity toward Europe? But are there any political figures in Europe who are capable of taking the lead? They tried to audition Merkel, but she refused to bite. Tusk or Junker? Macron? They’re all wrong. There is no solution — and in this environment, relationships among the Western nations are evolving the way Trump wanted: into a battle between national states.

Trump sees the EU as a competitor and he wants to weaken it. When it comes to the Iran deal, what’s important isn’t even that it’s about Iran, around which Germany and France have constructed big economic plans, but rather that Europe is simply being ordered to abandon the idea of protecting its own interests. And also that this is being done under an utterly contrived pretext. Unlike the introduction of the anti-Russian sanctions, there are no reasons whatsoever for tearing up that deal, not even nominal ones.

Europe cannot agree to this. It would be suicide for the very European Union itself. As Renaud Girard, a columnist for Le Figaro writes: “Now that such an unheard-of dictate from the US is upon us, will the Europeans be able to regain their independence? This is a test of truth for the political dimension of the EU. If the European Union caves to Trump, this will negate any reason for its existence.”

And the ones talking this way aren’t just those who have spent the last few years reminding Europe that it is harming itself by bowing to Washington’s pressure and keeping the anti-Russian sanctions intact. Now this is the argument being made even by the hardliners on Moscow — the reliable Atlanticists.

“This is nothing less than a massive assault on the sovereignty of European states and the European Union. They are deprived of their right to decide on their policies and actions by brutal dictates from a foreign — and allegedly friendly — country. This is utterly unacceptable from a European point of view, as well as a violation of the preaching of Trump himself. It relegates Europe to just abiding by and implementing policies with which it profoundly disagrees,” writes former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt in the Washington Post.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, May 2018

Europe cannot cave in to US pressure, but it cannot realistically break ties with Washington when rejecting it, much less lay a claim to the mantle of global leadership. Europe simply wants more independence, which is already asking a lot, given the current state of world affairs. To achieve this, Europe needs to develop a more favorable balance of forces and interests, and when seeking out the building blocks for this, it naturally turns its gaze toward Moscow.

It just so happens that within a week the heads of half of the world’s most powerful countries — Germany, France, Japan, and India — have visits to Russia. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were initially planning to talk to Vladimir Putin about a variety of topics: Syria, trade, Ukraine … But now everything will revolve around the word “Iran,” which signifies much more than just a country or a deal. It is rather the choice that Europe is making as we all watch.

The Europe That Can Say No?

EU president and Polish politician Donald Tusk says the U.S. acts with “capricious assertiveness.” With friends like this who needs enemies?” he asked the other day, adding, “If you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.”

EU vice-president Federica Mogherini met with European and Iranian representatives after the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement. She committed Europe to the following:

  • Maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran;
  • The continued sale of Iran’s oil and gas condensate petroleum products and petrochemicals and related transfers;
  • Effective banking transactions with Iran;
  • Continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Iran;
  • The further provision of export credit and development of special purpose vehicles in financial banking, insurance and trade areas, with the aim of facilitating economic and financial cooperation, including by offering practical support for trade and investment;
  • The further development and implementation of Memoranda of Understanding and contracts between European companies and Iranian counterparts;
  • Further investments in Iran;
  • The protection of European Union economic operators and ensuring legal certainty:
  • And last but not least, the further development of a transparent, rules-based business environment in Iran.

Meanwhile U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton asks rhetorically on ABC: “Why would any business, why would the shareholders of any business, want to do business with the world’s central banker of international terrorism?” He threatens secondary sanctions on nations that, adhering to the agreement, expand trade with Iran.

Some including RT commentators predict Europe will buckle to U.S. pressure and cancel contracts. But maybe not this time. Maybe Europe will become the Europe That Can Say No.

“We are working on finding a practical solution … in a short delay of time,” Mogherini says. “We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive. We have a quite clear list of issues to address. We are operating in a very difficult context … I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side.”

Immediate work to diminish the damage done to world peace and stability by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

According to EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulus, the EU is preparing legislation to block U.S. sanctions targeting Iran. Its members know that if Iran reaps no sanctions relief from the agreement it will also withdraw, charging betrayal. France’s Total S.A. and Germany’s Siemens have indicated they may back out of contracts with Iran due to fears of U.S. secondary sanctions. The U.S. strives to use access to its marketplace to shape others’ investment options, in this case options that can lead to war. No matter that this violates the sacred bourgeois principle of Free Trade.

There are all kinds of good reasons for Iran and the rest of the world to expand trade ties. (French cooks would like access to Iranian pistachios—the world’s best—and saffron.) And there’s no reason for other governments to embrace Bolton’s view that the Iranian government is the central banker of international terrorism. (Surely that is Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading supporter of Salafist Sunni Islamism, which supports the Syrian Liberation Front, the Army of Conquest, and Ahrar al-Sham. The Saudi monarchy, presiding over a society far more oppressive than Iranian or Syrian society—but spared media outrage—pursues its unholy alliance with Israel to bring down the regime in Tehran, preparing for the coming confrontation by invading Bahrain, isolating Qatar, pulverizing Yemen and bombing Syria at U.S. behest and kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister in order to influence Lebanese politics and diminish the role of Hizbollah.)

And there are all kinds of reasons for Europe to stand up to the U.S. and say, “Your sanctions are not our sanctions.” And maybe add: Your intentions for further regime change in the Middle East are not popular in Europe, which fears more waves of refugees. And also add: The sanctions you’ve demanded we impose on Russia following the February 2014 coup in Ukraine and consequent Russian reassertion of sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula are hurting Europe and should be lifted.

There should be a multilateral world. It already exists, actually, but the U.S. ruling class, wedded as it is to “full-spectrum dominance” and notions of U.S. “exceptionalism” resists acknowledging it. Bolton’s remarks are telling.

“I think the Europeans will see that’s in their interest ultimately to go along with this,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend. Asked if the U.S. would apply sanctions to European firms, he said vaguely, “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.” He notes legal devices available to the U.S. such as the denial of licenses. He threatens to pull out all the stops to impede the world’s effort to conciliate Iran. He wants to coordinate Saudi, Israeli, U.S. and MEK efforts to effect regime change in Tehran; as he told an MEK audience in July 2017, he expects this by 2019!

This is the U.S. National Security Advisor, serving an unusually unbalanced, ignorant U.S. president. (The British demanded his withdrawal from the Libya talks in 2004 because he was overbearing, indeed acting like a madman.) He is saying, confidently, Europe will go along “when they see it’s in their interest.” Maybe he and Trump miscalculate. The EU even without Britain rivals the U.S. in population and GDP. If it once needed to obey, it might not need to (or want to) now. The U.S. these days does not smell of freedom, democracy, liberal values, calm reason, tolerated dissent. It reeks of white nationalism, racist exclusion, institutional police violence and murder, and seemingly irrevocable tendency towards the concentration of wealth in the .01%. It is a fundamentally unfair, unjust, unadmirable society that tortures its youth by offering them low-paying jobs and endless student debt if they were lucky enough to go to college. It denies its people the normal standard of public health care and charges them twice the Canadian fees.

It is a basically a fucked-up country. That it, after its (ongoing) disasters in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon and elsewhere, it has no moral leg to stand on in lecturing Europe to maintain sanctions on Iran. After siding 100% with Israel, on everything imaginable, it has lost any credibility as an honest broker in international relations.

The EU comprises various imperialist countries who, of course, exploit workers throughout the world, competing in the process with the U.S. They are not morally different from the U.S. But their governments increasingly chafe under U.S. hegemony, and this particular nut-case hegemon, Donald Trump.

Angela Merkel said last week that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it. “It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us,” she declared, “but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That’s the task of the future,” she said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, who said European nations should not allow “other major powers, including allies” to “put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy [and] security for us.” Trump was all over this guy in his last visit but the bromance ends here. You do not order proud France to cease trade ties with Iran just because you’re looking for another war. Europeans are tired of that. Tired of being taken for granted as slavish allies when the U.S. decides to attack somebody. The Truman Doctrine is dead, the Cold War over, Europe despite Brexit increasingly united in its ability to collectively respond to U.S. pressure.

Let there be an intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions! Let Germany say, yes, brothers and sisters, let us manufacture Mercedez-Benz sedans in Tehran! Let us sell you Airbus passenger airliners! Let us buy your walnuts and pomegranates and carpets. And let us tell the Americans the “American century” is not gonna happen. Because it shouldn’t happen.

Has Europe Rebelled?

Washington’s current foreign-policy practice is a bit reminiscent of the golden era of the Ottoman Sublime Porte, in the sense that any visit by a leader of a vassal state is seen as nothing more than an opportunity for a public demonstration of his willingness to serve the great sultan or, in the modern context, to do the bidding of the master of the White House.

The visitor must also wear a big grin and speak passionately about how happy he is to have been given the opportunity to kiss the Sultan’s slippers. Or, to put it in the language of today, to be impressed with the leadership of the US and personally inspired by the energy of the American president. The Washington establishment can’t wrap its head around any other configuration, and therefore in the present era of America’s ebbing hegemony, the ideal visitors to the White House are the presidents of Ukraine or the Baltic countries. The other heads of states that come to Washington, including EU leaders and even some African presidents, act like insolent upstarts, who — from the standpoint of imperial tradition — do not stand to attention, tend to offer their flattery without fervor or exuberance, and, most importantly, do not race off to fulfill the wishes of the leaders of the empire.

Reception ceremony of the Conte de Saint Priest at the Ottoman Porte by Antoine de Favray 1767

The meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump on April 27, 2018 served only to confirm that Washington does not need allies who have their own national interests: all allies must be guided by the concept of the unipolar hegemony of the US. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this is relegated to the circle of those who are seen as unfriendly to the White House. The Washington Post makes it clear that Germany falls into this latter camp: “Angela Merkel is becoming Europe’s weakest link.

That article points out how serious the differences are between the two countries’ ruling factions. Both Germany’s political elite, and as well as the German population as a whole, are characterized very disparagingly: “German passivity is deeply ingrained. Berlin’s political class lacks strategic thinking, hates risk and has little spunk. It hides behind its ignominious past to justify pacifism when it comes to hard questions about defense and security issues.” The general decrepitude of the Bundeswehr and its equipment are criticized and mocked in the discussion of Germany’s refusal to take part in the missile attack on Syria carried out by the US, Britain, and France. And then the article even alleges that Germany’s Syrian policy has actually abetted the wrong side by granting asylum to almost a million refugees fleeing that country, thus supposedly allowing Bashar al-Assad to continue fighting.

In this context it becomes quite obvious that the specific issues that Merkel brought to the table in Washington were merely secondary concerns to her American partner. Germany’s Madam Chancellor had to traverse a distance of 10,000 kilometers to be granted a 20-minute conversation, from which it was clear that Trump had not altered his negative attitude toward questions so vital to the Germans as customs duties on steel and aluminum (set at 25% and 10%), Nord Stream 2, a loosening of the Russian sanctions for major German manufacturers, or the nuclear deal with Iran.

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump

Angela Merkel had a difficult choice to make. Either Berlin declares war on all of Washington’s opponents, or it is dismissed once and for all as the “weakest link,” with all the ensuing consequences. But the first option would be a blow to Germany’s national interests. It is not just its international trade that would take the hit, but also its energy projects and German public opinion. She was given to understand that otherwise Germany would fail to meet the White House’s criteria for the role of America’s main partner in Europe.

Angela Merkel did not seem overly impressed. She sees the constraints that exist for her. The historical memory of the greatest defeat of the twentieth century still lingers. Hence the high level of wariness when it comes to invitations to join NATO’s military escapades. Nor has anyone there forgotten the 1980s, when Germany lived in intense fear of the USSR’s SS-20 missiles that could have incinerated that country in the blink of an eye. Germans have no desire to meekly toe the line of yet another US president, which could end up taking them back to those days.

Apparently this is why the head of the German government seemed to have armored herself with the mantra of “don’t give anything to Trump” during the negotiations in Washington.

If you look at things pragmatically, Trump needed to get a few concessions from Merkel. First of all, he needed the consent of the German chancellor to at least bring back the sanctions and hopefully to even agree to a war against Iran, because for the current Washington administration, a dissolution of the “Iran deal” and a subsequent war with Tehran is the biggest item on its foreign-policy agenda. Second, Trump had to “squeeze” Merkel on the issue of increasing Germany’s financial contributions to NATO’s budget. According to the White House, Germany should be contributing 2% of its annual GDP to the alliance’s budget (or in other words, to the backlog of product orders for the US military-industrial complex). As Trump expressed it so poetically, “NATO is wonderful, but it helps Europe more than it helps us, and why are we paying the vast majority of the costs?” Third, the US needed to ensure that European leaders, and especially Merkel, capitulate in the tariff wars between the US and the EU, and, in a best-case scenario, to also secure the EU’s assistance in the trade war with China that Trump recently kicked off.

Based on the results of the meeting, Washington received a polite refusal on all three points. Five years ago it would have been difficult to imagine this kind of situation, but now this is objectively the real-world state of affairs, and it is something that neither the political analysts in the US nor a significant faction of the European media class (which still views the European Union as a “big Puerto Rico”) can get used to. The significance of Puerto Rico is that it is a place outside the US borders, but that is in effect controlled from Washington, although it has no power to influence American policy. Incidentally, Washington’s official discourse in regard to the European Union has already undergone a radical transformation and, according to Trump himself, it seems that the EU was “formed to take advantage of the United States,” although prior to that the EU was painted in the official Western narrative exclusively in terms of its “ideals of freedom,” “protection of democracy,” and some kind of “pan-European destiny and values.”

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron

The essence of today’s transatlantic relationship can be seen in the contacts between Washington and Paris. Despite the White House’s high hopes for France to prove its loyalty to the alliance, its leaders have been just as firm as Germany’s in standing up for their own interests. This mindset was evident in the stance taken by President Emmanuel Macron, who was quoted by Bloomberg as saying “we won’t talk about anything while there’s a gun pointed at our head.” European leaders insist that any discussions take place with everyone on an equal footing, which Washington cannot indulge as a matter of principle. Even lower-level European officials are using their economic power to threaten the US. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire claimed, “One thing I learned from my week in the U.S. with President Macron: The Americans will only respect a show of strength.” Needless to say, one does not speak to a real global hegemon in such terms.

No matter what the outcome of all the diplomatic and economic conflicts between the two shores of the Atlantic, it is already safe to say that Europe has broken free of Washington’s grip, and future relations between the US and the EU will become increasingly tense. We shall soon see whether Europe will take advantage of its current opportunity to reclaim the economic and political freedom that it lost at some point.

Israel’s Murderous Strikes on Syria (via “Pacified” Lebanon)

On April 9, 2018 at least 14 people were killed during the murderous strike by the Israeli air force on the Syrian T-4 airfield at Homs.

Israeli F-15 fighter jets flew over Lebanese airspace, as they have done on many previous occasions, in total disregard of international law.

Both Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, and the latest action could easily be considered as yet another shameless provocation. Apparently, whatever terror Western allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel decide to spread throughout the region, their actions will always go unpunished.

To add insult to injury, instead of condemning Israel, the Western mass media outlets began their predictable and embarrassing servile howling against the government in Damascus, some ‘correspondents’ even calling President al-Assad an “animal” (The Sun, 9th April, 2018).

This time, Lebanon, which in the past suffered from several brutal Israeli invasions, and where Israel is commonly referred to as ‘Palestine’, decided not to protest too loudly against the violation of its airspace. There were some statements made by individual Lebanese politicians, as well as a statement by the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which objected to the attack against Syria, claiming that Lebanon will file a complaint to the UNSC. Most of the statements, however, appeared only in the Arabic language. There was definitely no robust national response, as one would have expected.

Ms. Zeinab Al-Saffar, an Iraqi educator and television anchor based in Beirut, Lebanon, shared her thoughts on the subject:

It is not the first time that this is happening.  Israeli forces have been violating the airspace of Lebanon, as well as the land and sea belonging to Lebanon. Violation of the territory of Lebanon [by Israel] became something ‘regular’. What happened recently is a flagrant intrusion which should not go unanswered, as they were using Lebanese air space in order to attack the Syrian land. I believe this is the right time for the U.N. to do something more than just to make the reports and write numbers. This is an extremely serious situation; to use the territory of a neighboring country in order to attack a third nation; it is a barefaced crime.

*****

Why do Lebanon’s protests not resonate louder?

There are several reasons. One: the country recently ‘secured’ an enormous package of mostly loans from the West, at a ‘Paris conference’, amounting to more than 11 billion dollars.

Two: A great percentage of the ‘elites’ of Lebanon is accustomed to taking orders from the West. The West is where their villas are, where their relatives live, and their permanent residency cards issued.

A much greater war may be nearing; both the U.S. and Europe are now attacking Syria directly. In this decisive time, the Lebanese rulers are opportunistically showing where their allegiances lie: not with the people of the devastated Middle East, but with Paris, London, Riyadh and Washington.

But back to the first point – to money. As reported by Reuters on April 6, 2018:

“The pledges include $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants, France’s ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said on Twitter…”

Donors in turn want to see Lebanon commit to long-stalled reforms. In a nod to those demands, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri pledged to reduce the deficit of the budget as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent in the coming five years.

Macron told Hariri in a news conference the aid aimed to give Lebanon a fresh start, adding that it put “an unprecedented responsibility” on authorities there to carry out reforms and preserve peace in the country.

“It is important to continue reforms in the coming months,” Macron said, adding: “We’ll be by your side.” …

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the conference: “… Lebanon needs major reforms of its economy, structural and sectoral.””

‘Structural reforms’ is a key term. This shameful package of loans which will further tie the hands of Lebanon could insure the complacency of the country: both economic and political obedience at the time when the West is ready to unleash a new wave of its military onslaught in the region.

There is hardly any transparency in Lebanon, and therefore almost no guarantee that the loans will be used to improve the standard of living of the suffering population. Corruption in Lebanon is endemic – it is institutionalized – to the point that it is often not even called ‘corruption’ anymore.

Social services are almost non-existent. Here, the contrasts are truly appalling. Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as well as outrageously expensive sailing boats, co-exist side-by-side with absolute misery and lack of social services, such as, at least periodically, garbage collection.

Hezbollah, a movement which is on the so-called terrorist list of many Western countries, is often the only reliable source of social services in the country.

The West will now demand more and more neo-liberal ‘reforms’. Almost nothing social will be built. Funds will disappear into the deep pockets of the shameless Lebanese ‘elites’ and ‘leaders’. It will be the poor, who will be expected to service the loans, as the rich in Lebanon hardly pay taxes.

In exchange for their booty, many Lebanese politicians will be further obliged to follow the Western line towards the region, including the neo-liberal and increasingly neo-colonialist policy of Washington and France (Lebanon’s former colonial master) towards Syria and the rest of the region.

******

And across the border line, the war is still raging. Washington and London fulfilled their shameful promises to perform ‘punitive actions’; to ‘chastise Syria’ for something that was clearly invented/manufactured just in order to justify an invasion, destabilization and in the end, the destruction, of this small but strong and proud nation.

A Syrian intellectual, who lives in both Beirut and Damascus, offered his analyses for this article. However, he requested not to be identified by his name, afraid of repercussions from both Lebanon and the West:

The Israeli attack comes at a time when the Syrian army is winning its fight against terrorist groups in Damascus suburbs, and it could be read as an indirect answer to these wins. It is also a dangerous move since the T4 airbase is heavily involved in the fight against the remaining of ISIS in Syria. This attack is unacceptable aggression against a sovereign nation and it is a violation of international laws. It also shows that Israel is helping directly and indirectly various terrorists groups operating on the Syrian territory.

*****

However, the commentaries that are being spread by the Western mainstream press are increasingly defying all logic. They are progressively turning out to be racist, supremacist. Well, actually now they are what they have always been earlier, throughout the centuries of European and then North American colonialism.

In Damascus, shelling a park right next to the Four Seasons Hotel, the UN acommodation from East Ghouta

Just read The Guardian article from April 9th, 2018- “Israel has launched countless strikes in Syria. What’s new is Russia’s response”:

Israel has launched many previous strikes into Syria, mainly to protect its borders from a buildup of Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces and armaments on the Golan Heights. Israel, has not, as a rule, attacked al-Qaida or Islamic State positions in Syria.

On all previous occasions, Russia – which has controlled Syrian air space since it sent troops to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2015 – has turned a blind eye. There had been an understanding that Israeli interests in Syria would be preserved by Russia, primarily by limiting the presence of Iranian-backed troops in Syria’s south-west. The Israeli fear is that access to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights allows Hezbollah to launch attacks into Israel.

At least The Guardian does not pretend that it believes in the Western fabrications that President Assad is poisoning his own people…

But the article is clearly trying to justify and find logic behind the Israeli terrorist attacks against the independent nation.

‘Poor Israel – it is worried about ‘Hezbollah forces and armaments on the Golan Heights.’

Spy-surveillance base on the hill overlooking Syria

But the Golan Heights is by international law an inseparable part of Syria. I repeat: by all international norms! Including, the United Nations Security Council UN Resolution 497. Golan Heights had been attacked, occupied and forcefully (and it looks like indefinitely) annexed by Israel, during the so-called ‘Six-Day War’ in 1981.

I visited the Golan Heights. I worked there, for several days, clandestinely, some 5 days ago. What I encountered there was true horror: ancient villages were totally destroyed, most of the original population deported from their land, Israeli-paid spies and provocateurs approaching and scrutinizing random visitors. All around – scattered rich Israeli agricultural enterprises protected by barbed wire and tall concrete walls. It all felt like working in Angola or Namibia, during the South African apartheid, or perhaps even worse; divided communities, stolen land, electric wire, and omnipresent fear and oppression.

Horrid border at Majdal al-Shams

But it is Israel which now has the right to ‘worry’ and to murder people in the name of its ‘security’. That is precisely what the tone of the Western mainstream periodicals clearly suggests.

Israel had stolen more than a thousand kilometers square of the Syrian territory in 1981, and now it is mercilessly bombing its victim; from Lebanese territory, in order to assure its ‘safety and security’. It is doing so from the territory of Lebanon, a country which was invaded by the Israeli military, on several occasions.

And the West is cheering.

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Of course, Israel is acting with total impunity, because it enjoys both the support and encouragement from its allies: The United States, the U.K. and Macron’s France.

Lebanon is panicking. Its’ ‘elites’ are trying to both survive, and not to anger the West.

Syrians have, it often appears, nerves of steel.

They worry but are determined not to give one single inch of their land to the invaders.

My friend in Damascus wrote to me, just a few hours before I submitted this report:

People are worried and they constantly follow up the news. My brother asked us to go to Safita for one month, as it is safer there. I’m not sure if we do it, but we are closely monitoring the situation.

My colleagues and comrades on the ground in Syria are angry, very angry. They can clearly see through the lies, which are being spread by the West.

Israel is repeatedly bombing heroic Syria.

On April 29, 2018, the Israeli attacks killed 26 Syrians and Iranians, just before Midnight, near Hama and Aleppo.

The U.S. and Europe are bombing and threatening to cause even more damage.

But this is 2018, not those dark years when the West could murder and rape without any consequences. If these attacks continue, there will be a counterpunch: fully justified, determined and powerful.

Then even the tiny Lebanon would have to decide where it stands.

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• First published by New Eastern Outlook – NEO

• Photos by Andre Vltchek