Category Archives: Sanctions

The 2019 UN Vote Against the US Blockade of Cuba


The United States government does not have the least moral authority to criticize Cuba or anyone else in the area of ​​human rights. We reject the repeated manipulation of this issue for political purposes and the double standards that characterize its use.

— Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, November 7, 2019 at United Nations General Assembly

On November 7, 2019, for the 28th year in a row, the entire United Nations General Assembly, gathered in one room, voted overwhelmingly against “the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo Imposed on Cuba by the United States.” The final tally was 187 in favor, 3 opposed (Brazil, Israel, US), 2 abstentions (Colombia, Ukraine), 1 not voting (Moldova).

Several points should be noted about these holdouts to the overwhelming consensus of the world’s constituted governments that the ultra-powerful nation-state of the United States (population over 300 million) of America should cease and desist its decades-long shameful, arrogant bullying of socialist Cuba (population less than 12 million). Speaker after speaker, to this observer, barely repressed their contempt for Washington’s  slanders of Cuba. All fully understand that Cuba is a classic and model example, among many in this Hemisphere since the end of the 19th Century, of being on the receiving end of unrelenting Yankee imperialist aggression, under a crass cover of flowery bullshit demagogy about “human rights” and “freedom.” As speaker after speaker declaimed from the General Assembly rostrum, “28 years is Enough!”

First, let us note that while the crisis-ridden Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro may have added the NO vote of Brazil to those of the United States and Israel, Bolsonaro is not Brazil. There is not the slightest doubt that the public opinion of the Brazilian working class, youth, and population as a whole (likely including the “professional” diplomatic staff in New York and in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry), solidly rejects as an abomination the vote dictated by Bolsonaro and solidarizes with Cuba.

Israel – and the right-wing coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu just-hanging-on to power – is, of course, politically and militarily dependent on the United States and votes accordingly. (Netanyahu’s government abstained when the US government under Barack Obama also did so in 2016.) Interestingly, however, Israel and Cuba, which have not restored diplomatic relations cut after the 1973 Middle East War, have for many years now, carried out, by all accounts, normal and even friendly bilateral trade with each other, as well as extensive people-to-people travel exchanges with no restrictions.

Finally, while fully 50 separate speakers addressed the 2-day General Assembly meeting from the rostrum or from their seats – representing their member states directly or speaking for major constituted blocs recognized by the UN – Israel, Brazil, Colombia, Ukraine, and the elusive Moldova chose not to speak at all and defend their “point of view” whatever that might be other than jerking their knee towards the United States government and the Trump Administration.

Even regimes installed directly or indirectly by US military force such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, could not stomach being identified with Trump’s Washington against Cuba. Again, as for well over a decade, Washington’s EU and NATO allies voted for the Resolution presented by Cuba.  As did both North and South Korea and even Iran and US close ally Saudi Arabia.

Why the UN Vote Matters

The annual Resolution does not have any enforcement authority or mechanisms, is generally ignored or relegated to a back-pages note in the US capitalist media, and can be even characterized as politically toothless. Still, from Cuba’s vantage point, the annual Resolution is an important material and political factor in the defense of Cuba’s socialist revolution, and registers an objective marker in the relationship of political forces in the world and is a material factor in the political limitations on direct US aggression and the permanent world pressure to crush the blockade in all its forms once and for all in world public opinion. It can fairly be said that the US blockade of Cuba is universally hated around the world, including by many millions in the United States who increasingly know some or much of the truth about Cuba, including many tens of thousands from licensed and unlicensed travel to the beautiful island.

Above all, every year it is revolutionary, socialist Cuba that holds the moral high ground in world politics, worth all the nuclear weapons in Washington’s arsenal, on this world stage. The revolutionary diplomats at Cuba’s Mission to the United Nations give great importance to this annual vote. And every year dozens of Cuba solidarity activists, mostly from the New York-New Jersey area, take seats in the 4th Floor Visitors Gallery to respectfully observe the annual event.

2018 Ruse Not Repeated

Last year in 2018 the United States carried out an elaborate diversionary ruse to dilute the political impact of the Resolution in the form of a series of amendments attacking Cuba over this or that “human rights” nonsense. These fell completely flat as the EU and every other force voting for the Cuban-sponsored Resolution, refused to take the bait and Washington’s political isolation and humiliation was only deepened, as they appeared unprepared and blindsided.

There was some mystery as to whether Trump’s UN flunkies would put themselves through the same wringer again in 2019, but at the end of the day the US representative, recruited by Donald Trump from giving commentary on a conservative cable TV news oligopoly, simply took the floor in turn after the previous 40 speakers had blasted US anti-Cuba policy, gave a subdued, lame 3-minute litany (“I promise not to speak too long.”), and promptly sat down. Perhaps the highlight of her time was a snarky reference to Cuba’s solidarity with the “former Maduro regime” in Venezuela. A few moments later she was followed on the rostrum by the present Maduro regime’s Foreign Minister.

The US approach was simply let’s just get it over with! This points to the genuine political consternation and isolation that is the political reality faced by the Trump Administration that is accelerating since the debacle of its Venezuela “regime-change” policy which culminated in the failure of the April 30, 2019 US-directed right-wing military coup. I will return to this decisive point in assessing the significance of the 2019 UN Cuba vote.

Too Much Pressure

On Day 1, November 6, there were 31 separate presentations. The first seven from recognized UN blocs: the accredited delegate from Palestine speaking for “the Group of 77 plus China;” the delegate from Tunisia for the “African Group;” Azerbaijan’s representative spoke for the “Non-Aligned Movement,” Grenada’s representative for the “Caribbean Community;” Singapore’s for the Association of South East Asian Nations;” and Uganda for the “Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”

Trump’s envoys were reportedly pressuring nation-states in Latin America and the Caribbean to side with them against Cuba but, observing the several hours of discussion, it was clear to me that Hemispheric states and governments were, if anything, going out of the way to register in clear and direct language their sharp opposition to US anti-Cuba policy. Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay rushed to get their statement of support for the Resolution on the record.

Nearly every individual member of the “Caribbean Community” also took the rostrum – Grenada; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Belize; Guyana; St. Kitts and Nevis; Jamaica; Trinidad and Tobago; Antigua and Barbuda and spoke eloquently and with some passion and sharpness about their solidarity with Cuba, all citing Cuba’s internationalist medical, educational, and sports solidarity misiones. It is very clear that the US blockade of Cuba, in addition to the moral and political outrage it engenders, has a deleterious economic impact on Caribbean-wide economic integration and agricultural and industrial development and exchange for the entire Caribbean.

Sharp Tone, Growing Exasperation

Having attended these discussions and votes, and written about them several times, I can say that my impression this year was that the diplomatic language was a little less diplomatic, that the tone was more than a little sharper from many African and Caribbean states, and more exasperated from others. Many noted the “regression” from their hopes and illusions after Barack Obama in his second term led a retreat of US policy: freed the remaining Cuban Five political prisoners and heroes; restored Washington-Havana diplomatic relations; loosened travel restrictions and air travel; and OK’d Cruise Ship stops.

The tone this year – and I think it was V.I. Lenin who said, “Tone equals politics” – ranged from “deep concern” to “unconscionable” and “appalling” as all lined up to “categorically condemn” the “illegal character” of US policy which should be “consigned to the trash heap.” There was less mincing of mealy-mothed words among the diplomatic gentlemen and gentleladies. Vietnam’s representative spoke “as a country that suffered 19 years of US sanctions…we are in solidarity with the brotherly people of Cuba…we demand the policy be reversed!” The representative from St. Vincent and the Grenadines spoke of her country’s “unwavering support and solidarity with the revolutionary Cuban government; we decry this affront to the indomitable Cuban people.” The Chinese representative like many speakers listed the recent, escalating measures implemented by Trump and said, in the end, “bullying will only hurt the bully.” Gabon spoke sharply of the “nefarious” blockade. Speakers vied over who could use the most condemning or disdainful phrase to register their solidarity with Cuba. (And let us not forget this is communist Cuba led by conscious revolutionary Marxists and Leninists, the political children of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and a generation of revolutionary women and men who were combatants and fighters for socialist revolution in the Americas.)

The speaker from Belize spoke of the “unbreakable friendship” with Cuba and Cuba’s “magnanimous” support in the fields of health and education “where we have needs and Cuba has strengths.” North Korea called the blockade a “crime against humanity”. South Africa’s representative demanded “End this Injustice! We demand that all of it be scrapped!” The Namibian delegate gave a heartfelt presentation citing Cuba’s “significant contribution to African liberation and the defeat of apartheid and “winning the independence of my country.” Speaker after speaker spoke in praise of Cuban and world revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. (This included a couple of places where if you praised Fidel or tried to promote his politics you’d likely end up in the slammer.)

As is the case each year militant statements of solidarity came from Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Shifts in Hemispheric Politics and the Blockade

While this represents a remarkable continuity and consensus in the so-called international community, it also registers significant new developments in the long struggle to, once and for all, eradicate the US economic and political war against Cuba. The anti-blockade and anti-US government tone, rhetoric, exasperation, and contempt for the ongoing US aggression was more pronounced, more bitter, and perhaps more conducive to action and deeds from past statements for the record. Events in Latin America and the Caribbean, from Haiti to Chile, are accelerating and intensifying every burning political issue and the “Cuba Question” and the US economic and political war and sanctions has been central and volcanic for decades.

Since the last vote in 2018, and in particular over the last six months in Latin America and the Caribbean, momentous historic political developments have shifted the relationship of class and political forces in the Hemisphere to the detriment of the Donald Trump White House and the US bourgeoisie it serves (in its own peculiar style that worries more than a few in the US ruling class) and in favor of the Cuban revolutionary government and the Hemispheric working class, including inside the United States, where the class struggle is notably heating up. (It is said that the number of strikes in the US today is higher than at any time since the 1980s.)

New Political Dynamics as 2019 Closes

Washington began 2019 with blood in its mouth, full of itself, and living in its bubble of lies to the point where it believed its own bullshit. Trump and his minions were apparently convinced that quick work could and would be made of the sovereign, elected government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela in the midst of the devastating capitalist economic contraction in that country, greatly multiplied by the collapse in oil commodity prices, mounting US sanctions; and the concurrent economic sabotage in cahoots with the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, which still controls wholesale and retail distribution networks, and much else in the Venezuelan “mixed economy.”

With Maduro disposed of, to the likes of John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Marco Rubio, the path would then be clear: Forward to the extermination of socialist Cuba!

Alas for Trump and his gang by the time of the humiliating fiasco of the failed coup that was definitively registered on April 30, 2019, it was obvious that the Maduro-PSUV government was actually being considerable strengthened. This is among the many unintended consequences of the flop of Trump’s anti-Venezuela crusade. These consequences are now continuing to unfold. As the virulently anti-Cuba and anti-Venezuela Miami Herald put it in a deliciously demoralized headline “South America’s wretched month has been great for one man: Venezuela’s Maduro.” The article goes on to quote a Venezuelan “businessman and political pundit,” who laments, “I think people [that is, the Venezuelan capitalists and their allies] here are resigned. They feel like Maduro has survived. And now the world is distracted with the protests in Chile, Ecuador, Haiti – so many other countries.”

From 1992 to 2019: History of the Vote

In 1992, Cuba was reeling from the economic cataclysm of the “Special Period,” when its economy contracted virtually overnight by 35% following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allied so-called “socialist camp.” Its revolutionary diplomats in New York City at the United Nations took advantage of an inadvertent lapse in the attentiveness of US UN personnel – who, in any case were cooling the champagne in anticipation of socialist Cuba’s imminent implosion and evaporation under deepening US sanctions and stepped-up US-based terrorist attacks – to slip onto the General Assembly agenda the first Resolution “Opposing the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States Against Cuba.” Precedent established, and unable to be blocked by US veto. Every year since then for now 28 years now, Washington has been utterly isolated in this annual vote in the General Assembly.

In the November 2016 UN Vote, the US delegation (with Israel in tow – actually abstained in the vote against itself, making the vote formally unanimous. That was in the week before Donald Trump’s narrow electoral triumph over the hapless Hillary Clinton.

That had capped a process which had unfolded from December 2014 when the Barack Obama Administration, in the second half of its second term, began a retreat that partially overturned the bipartisan ruling-class consensus against Cuba. That consensus had lasted from the end of the Dwight Eisenhower Administration in 1959-60 through December 2014. In a dizzying few months Obama, with the public support of Hillary Clinton (who had been battered on Cuba at successive Organization of American States “Summits” from 2008-2012) Secretary of State John Kerry, and Vice-President Joe Biden, released the remaining Cuban Five heroes, engineered Cuba’s removal from the State Department’s notorious list of “nations supporting terrorism,” established formal diplomatic relations with Embassies in Washington, DC and Havana, and loosened existing travel restrictions without abolishing them. The overall “embargo” mandated since the 1996 Helms-Burton Law signed by then-president W. Clinton remained in place.

Trump has steadily reversed, incrementally and with accumulation, much of the limited Obama measures without abrogating formal diplomatic relations or ending all loopholes or even direct flights from US airports to Cuban cities.(Commercial flights to cities other than Havana have been canceled but Charter Flights remain possible.) Trump used the pretext of perturbing reports of “sonic attacks” or some other mysterious ailments supposedly afflicting US and Canadian diplomats at the beginning of his term to cut back drastically the significant people-to-people exchanges that were proving very popular with US and Cuban citizens, separated families, trade unionists, creative artists, doctors and scientists, and so on.

Virtual Coup in Venezuela

The situation changed when the disastrous economic crisis in Venezuela by the end of 2018 led Trump and his team to think the time had come to choreograph a right-wing military coup in Venezuela with the hapless Juan Guaido installed as President. This team of Pence-Pompeo-Bolton and the dusted-off war criminal Elliot Abrams displayed an uncommon skill combining unsavoriness with incompetence with Senator Marco Rubio on the ground with “humanitarian” trucks on the Venezuelan-Colombian border!

For the first 2 months of 2019 they organized a virtual coup that turned out to be 50% bullshit and 50% fantasy. This was fully backed by the Democratic Party Capitol Hill leadership and their lackeys in the capitalist media who went into full Yankee imperialist mode! All their obsession with and contempt for Donald Trump was cast aside to join him in the love fest for – let’s hear the drum roll!!! – Juan Guaido and our bipartisan love for Venezuelan and Latin American democracy and human rights! Hear, Hear!

Mass May Day 2019 mobilizations in Caracas defending national sovereignty against the US-led virtual coup.

Following the late-February 2019 debacle on the Venezuelan-Colombian and Venezuelan-Brazilian borders, Trump and his gang doubled down and organized a virtual coup that was supposed to culminate on May Day with Maduro hopping on the last flight to Jose Marti International Airport in Havana and Juan Guaido installed in Miraflores. Instead the mobilized Venezuelan working class dominated the streets on May Day, Nicolas Maduro’s political position was greatly strengthened in the working class, in the population, and in the Venezuelan Army with his stalwart defense of national sovereignty. The army officer corps was deeply insulted by Trump and Pompeo who though they could throw around some dirty US money to buy off Venezuelan patriots who Washington had previously slandered as drug dealers and worse! For Trump – and you can be sure he was enraged at his minions for the humiliation — the virtual coup became a humiliating reality check. What to do?

Trump and Pompeo quickly pivoted to blaming revolutionary Cuba for their own debacle. (Bolton was also soon sent packing.) Cuba was accused of having 20,000 soldiers and spooks in the country and that was why Maduro was still in office and not living the life in a Cuban ocean resort! Cuba actually has 20,000 medical personnel and educators, and sports trainers in Venezuela.

This, among other things is an egregious insult to the Venezuelan Army and neighborhood-based organized militias that mobilized continuously to defend national sovereignty culminating in the defeat of the virtual coup.

Cuban Doctors in Venezuela

The anti-Cuba measures since then have been coming fast and steady, US- and world public opinion be damned! Cuban-Major League Baseball Deal – annulled. Cruse Ship stops in Cuba (very popular with US citizens, and Cuban small business owners, and a growing source of foreign exchange for Cuban health care and education) — cancelled. “People-to-People” Exchange – eliminated. Then there was the new Trump first that even the solidly anti-Cuban Administrations of William Clinton and George W. Bush wouldn’t do. That is, ending the waiver of Title III of the blockading Helms-Burton Act signed into law by Clinton in 1996. The way is now open for frivolous lawsuits in US courts over property legally nationalized by the revolutionary Cuban government between 1959-1961. At the time, that is over 60 years ago, Washington – which utterly dominated the socially oppressive and brutally unequal Cuban economy – rejected offers of fair compensation to affected companies. Companies based in other countries settled without much difficulty.

Instead the John F. Kennedy Administration was committed to a CIA-directed mercenary invasion of Cuba in April 1961 and, when that failed panned a direct US invasion that was only averted with the settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

We are now seeing the accelerating consequences of Trump and company’s Venezuelan fiasco in the rapid shift in – to use bloated academic jargon – the political paradigm in Latin America and the Caribbean from the uprisings in Haiti and Chile to the return of the Peronist party in Argentina and even the freeing of Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva on November 8 in Brazil. It seems certain that the so-called Lima Group stitched together to prop up Juan Guaido cannot have too many more days on this planet. This shift takes place amidst ongoing assaults on the working class under the whip of the International Monetary Fund and the concentrated summits of world capital.

This then was the background for this year’s vote.

2020 approaches with Donald Trump’s Washington on its heels in Latin America.

Camp Bucca, Abu Ghraib and the Rise of Extremism in Iraq

Yesterday morning, President Trump announced the death of Abu Bakr Al- Baghdadi and three of his children.

President Trump said Al-Baghdadi, the founder of ISIS, was fleeing U.S. military forces, in a tunnel, and then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest he wore.

In 2004, Al-Baghdadi had been captured by U.S. forces and, for ten months, imprisoned in both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca.

I visited Camp Bucca in January, 2004 when, still under construction, the Camp was a network of tents, south of Basra, in an isolated, miserable area of Iraq.

Before our three-person Voices delegation entered Iraq, that month, we waited for  visas in Amman, Jordan. While there, two young Palestinian men visited us and described their experiences during six months of imprisonment in Camp Bucca. Recalling the horrible experience, they remembered how fearful they felt, sleeping in sand infested with desert scorpions; they were paraded naked, for showers, in front of U.S. military women and told to bark like a dog or say “I love George Bush”  before their empty bowls would be filled with food. Unable to communicate with anyone outside the prison, they could only hope for release when their turn finally came to appear before a three-person Tribunal.

Five of their friends were still in the prison. They begged us to visit these friends and plead for their release. All of them were Palestinians studying for professional degrees in Baghdad. Reluctant to lose their chances of eventually graduating, they took a risk and remained in Baghdad throughout the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing. U.S. marines arrived at their dormitory on Baghdad’s Haifa Street and systematically rounded up students with foreign IDs. They were tagged as TCNs, “Third Country Nationals,” and herded off to various prisons.

In Baghdad, our friends in the Christian Peacemaker Teams had already developed a data base of names and prison numbers to help Iraqis discover the whereabouts of missing relatives. They found the prison numbers for two of the young men we were asked to visit and advised us to ask for Major Garrity, a U.S. military officer who was in charge of Camp Bucca.

We traveled to the southernmost town in Iraq, Umm Qasr, and sat on a weathered picnic table outside of Camp Bucca, awaiting Major Garrity’s decision. Prospects were bleak since we learned, upon arrival, that we’d come after visiting hours and the next day to visit was three days later. There was no shade, the sand was coated with black grease, and we constantly spat small black flies out of our mouths. Camp Bucca was one of the most hellish spots I’ve ever encountered. Yet we felt quite grateful when word arrived that Major Garrity had approved our visit.

A military pick-up truck drove us across an expanse of sand, and soon we were witnessing a tearful, tender embrace between one of the prisoners and his brother, a dentist from Baghdad, who had accompanied us. With no prompting, the prisoners, all in their twenties, corroborated the grievances their previously released friends expressed. They spoke of loneliness, monotony, humiliation and the fearful uncertainty prisoners face when held without charge by a hostile power with no evident plans to release them. They were, however, relieved to know we could tell their relatives we had met with them. Later, Major Garrity said the outlook for them being released wasn’t very positive. “Be glad they’re here with us and not in Baghdad,” she said, giving us a knowing look. “We give them food, clothes and shelter here. Be glad that they’re not in Baghdad.” Later, in May of 2004, CNN released pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison. We began to understand what she meant.

The November 3, 2005 issue of the New York Review of Books quoted three officers, two of them non-commissioned, stationed with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury in Iraq.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003-2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief… Detainees in Iraq were consistently referred to as PUCs. The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief, where soldiers would go to the PUC tent on their off-hours to “f**k a PUC” or “smoke a PUC.” “F**king a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

“Smoking” was not limited to stress relief but was central to the interrogation system employed by the 82nd Airborne Division at FOB Mercury. Officers and NCOs from the Military Intelligence unit would direct guards to “smoke” the detainees prior to an interrogation, and would direct that certain detainees were not to receive sleep, water, or food beyond crackers. Directed “smoking” would last for the twelve to twenty-four hours prior to an interrogation. As one soldier put it: “[The military intelligence officer] said he wanted the PUCs so fatigued, so smoked, so demoralized that they want to cooperate.

A sergeant told Human Rights Watch: “If he’s a good guy, you know, now he’s a bad guy because of the way we treated him.”

The violence that brought the Islamic State into being has a long history.

In numerous trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, our Voices delegation members grew to understand the unbearable weariness and suffering of Iraqi families eking out an uncertain existence under punishing economic sanctions. Between the wars, the death toll in children’s lives alone, from externally imposed economic collapse and from the blockade of food, medicine, water purification supplies and other essentials of survival, was estimated by the U.N. at 5,000 children a month, an estimate accepted without question by U.S. officials.

U.S. assaults, from Desert Storm (1991) to Shock and Awe (2003) — achieved through aerial bombings, children’s forced starvation, use of depleted uranium and white phosphorous, through bullet fire, night raids, blockaded medicines, emptied reservoirs and downed power lines, through abandoned state industries and cities left to dissolve in paroxysms of ethnic cleansing — have all been one continuous war. Along with the abuses of prisoners in places like Camp Bucca, FOB Mercury, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, U.S. warfare predictably led to the buildup of ISIS and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s commitment to “an eye for an eye.”

Asked, in 2016, to talk about his favorite passage in the Bible, President Trump said “eye for an eye.” He didn’t seem to realize that Jesus rejected this teaching.

“But I say unto you,” Jesus said, “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”

Rather than urge retaliation, Jesus spoke of dignified non-resistance through winning over the opponent.

We need not choose blindness, or the hatred that lets us be herded in fear. We can instead seek to pay reparations for suffering caused through our wars. We can work to abolish war, mourn the deaths of Al-Baghdadi’s children and question how conditions inside U.S. military camps in Iraq led to the extremism of Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS followers.

Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America

(Photo from Dissent Magazine)

Once again, the left is rising in Latin America as people revolt against authoritarian regimes, many of whom were put in place by US-supported coups. These regimes have taken International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and are under the thumb of international finance, which is against the interests of people.After the embattled President of Ecuador claimed that President Nicolas Maduro was the cause of the massive protests against him, Maduro made clear what was occurring in Latin America, saying:

We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront.

Maduro’s clear understanding of the conflict is why it has been so important for the US to remove him. His success in defeating ongoing US coup attempts is a model guiding Latin America to a future independent of US domination.

Ecuadorians celebrate the repeal of Decree 883 (From Twitter)

Ecuador in Rebellion Against IMF and the US Puppet Moreno

On October 4, Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. He also announced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees and initiated plans to privatize pensions. He removed workplace and job security safeguards. Decree 883, known as ‘The Package’, was a series of neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF in return for a $4.2 billion dollar loan. It was preceded by policies for the wealthy including reducing their taxes.

The IMF loan was part of Moreno serving as a puppet and bowing to multiple US demands. Ecuador promised to settle a long dispute with Chevron whose oil drilling and pipelines have polluted the country. Tens of billions of dollars in restitution from Chevron are at stake but Moreno said he is willing to give them up. In fact, the IMF loan is strange in that it was dependent on Ecuador paying external debt obligations; i.e., it was not new funds for Ecuador but new debt to subsidize paying back Wall Street.

In making the announcement, Moreno called the people “Zánganos,” or Drone Bees leading to the uprising of the Drone Bees. The mass protests were called by the Popular Front, a group of unions, and the Unified Workers Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Students and social movements joined protests throughout the nation in Loja, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, and Riobamba, among other cites as well as Quito, the capital. Moreno claimed without any evidence that the uprising was financed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Correa.

Protests in Ecuador were relentless with no end in sight. They grew when 20,000 indigenous people marched into Quito. Police responded with violence, tear gas, and mass arrests. An October 4 video circulated on social media showed nonviolent protesters killed in the street by the police as well as other police violence. On October 5, Moreno declared a 60-day state of Emergency. Sometimes police had to retreat in the face of mass protests. On October 7, Moreno fled the capital to hide in the Navy base 260 miles away in the conservative stronghold of Guayaquil.

As we wrote this newsletter, unrest in Ecuador was escalating. On Saturday, the nation was put on military lockdown. Law enforcement attacked protesters with pellets and tear gas in the immediate vicinity of the  National Assembly. By Sunday, Moreno decreed a 3:00 pm curfew, which people defied. Then, facing an emergency session in the National Assembly, Moreno backed down. Protesters celebrated when Moreno’s government announced that Decree 883 had been repealed after eleven days of popular mobilizations.

Peter Koenig describes a root cause of the problems:

Since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

The US and IMF used the economic crises of the 1990s to dollarize Ecuador’s economy and gain full control over the nation’s riches as Ecuador is the second-largest oil economy in South America. This led to unaffordable goods for Ecuadorians, social unrest and a series of unstable governments until President Correa, who served from 2007 to 17, was elected.

A Center for Economic and Policy Research 2017 report found under Correa Ecuador did well with an average annual GDP growth of 1.5%  compared to 0.6% average for the previous 26 years; a decline of 38% in poverty with extreme poverty reduced by 47%; and a decline in inequality with the Gini coefficient falling substantially. Correa doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripling education spending from 0.7% to 2.1%; and, increasing public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

Correa served two terms. A third term would have required a constitutional amendment. Rather than running, Correa endorsed Lenin Moreno who had served as his vice president from 2007-13. He was expected to continue Correa’s policies but instead reversed them.

Moreno was unpopular before announcing ‘The Package’ due to structural poverty increasing from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019 with projections of 30 percent by the end of the year. Injustices like the imprisonment of the popular former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges and his continuous political witch hunt against Rafael Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution Party added to his unpopularity. In addition, he has been engulfed in a personal corruption crisis involving an offshore Shell corporation INA, which cast Moreno’s presidency in doubt.

Moreno’s forcible and illegal ejection of Julian Assange from the London embassy in return for payoffs from the US and UK resulted in a national strike in Ecuador in July. This, along with the arrest of Ola Bini, who is being prosecuted falsely as a conspirator with Wikileaks, was unpopular with Ecuadorians.

Will repeal of ‘The Package’ end the protests and the threat to Moreno’s presidency? As we write, the answer to these questions are unclear. The people won a major victory, but the Moreno/IMF infection remains.

Rally in Argentina (By Enfoque Rojo)

Latin Americans Rising Against the Right and US Domination

Latin American countries are rejecting neoliberalism and US domination using multiple strategies to achieve change.

This month the deepening anti-capitalist movement in Bolivia is set to strengthen with the probable re-election of Evo Morales on October 20. Argentina is expected to remove right-wing President Mauricio Macri on October 27 and replace him with Alberto Fernandez. And, Mexico put in place its first progressive, left-of-center government with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on July 1, 2018. Elections are also upcoming in Uruguay on October 27 and in Peru in January. Venezuela may have National Assembly elections in January as well.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales has a 13-point lead in polls as his governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) looks to re-election for a third Morales term that will last until 2025. Morales has 38.8 percent, just 1.2 percent short of the 40 percent required for a first-round victory in the upcoming elections. The survey also indicated majority support for the nationalization of gas and strategic industries, 51 percent say that public ownership is positive for the economy. On social programs, 61.7 percent say they are essential for providing dignity to those of low incomes.

Morales has launched a large reforestation plan and put in place a model healthcare program. He is under attack from the United States and segments of Bolivia. Morales leads an independent, sovereign Bolivia that has rejected US dominance, decolonized and displaced neoliberalism. A recent color revolution attempt by the wealthy, with the support of the US and western powers, failed.

Argentina’s first round of voting on August 11 resulted in Fernandez, running with former president Cristina Kirchner, finishing 15 percent ahead of Macri. The surprising landslide brought into question Macri’s ability to govern between now and the election. As a result, the IMF put a $5.4 billion dollar loan on hold part of the $56.3 billion stand-by agreement signed in mid-2018. Fernandez opposed the loan, which required sharp budget cuts affecting public services at a time of increasing poverty.

Under Macri, the economy has gone into crisis with poverty increasing to a record 36.4 percent, a recession accompanied by a 47 percent inflation rate in 2018 and an inflation rate of 25.1 percent during the first seven months of this year. Argentina’s unemployment is at the highest level in 14 years. Poverty was at 19.7 percent when Kirchner left office in 2015. Fernandez has put forward an anti-hunger plan, not dependent on the IMF. Three weeks before the election, thousands of people rallied in Buenos Aires as the Workers Left Front sent a message of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity to the two major political parties.

In Mexico, AMLO won a landslide 53 percent of the vote on July 31 ending decades of right-wing rule. People were fed up with the corruption, impunity, and violence — decades of loss of rights, pillaging and destruction of the nation’s wealth and public enterprises. At his inauguration, AMLO decried 36 years of neoliberalism and public and private corruption, promised a “peaceful and radical” transition with “indigenous people as its priority,” in a government “for the good of all, first the poor.” His fight against neoliberalism is challenged by NAFTA II (or the USMCA), as AMLO is careful not to confront Trump on this. On border policy, AMLO offered migrants home in Mexico and urged investment in Central America.

The Zapatistas have conflicted with AMLO over the exploitation of resources and the use of the military in policing, demanding its autonomy based on indigenous principles but he has sought diplomacy with them. AMLO has also faced massive strikes of tens of thousands of autoworkers, workers at US companies in Mexico and wildcat strikes at the border. AMLO has been a counterweight to US aggression in Latin America standing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

Peru is in the midst of a crisis. President Martin Vizcarra who came into office after a corruption scandal removed his predecessor, dissolved the Congress, a move supported by the left, because it is controlled by far-right politician Keiko Fujimori and was preventing Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign. Congress ignored the president’s order and voted to remove him from office instead. The vice president resigned rather than take over and Vizcarra remains in office with the support of the military. He has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26. Vizcarra is a conservative battling the oligarchic right. The left, which has been divided, is coalescing around the Popular National Assembly and allying with social movements. The movements want an end to neoliberal policies, a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution and to break with Washington’s domination.

In Central America, Honduras has been in revolt against the coup government of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), which for ten years has put in place neoliberalism, repression, and violence. Protests have been ongoing since his coup and fraudulent re-election. This summer, protests intensified with a national strike over austerity and privatization measures required by an IMF loan, leading to a 66-day uprising.  The US has trained Honduran police to use repressive measures in an attempt to stop the protests, but their actions feed more protests.

Many have fled Honduras in caravans to escape the corruption and violence. Now, a coalition of civil groups is urging the president’s departure over a scandal ignited by accusations of large-scale drug trafficking to the United States being litigated against the president’s brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the trial, several witnesses have declared JOH’s campaign was financed with drug money, and that he took millions in bribes from various Mexican drug lords, including the infamous Joaquin “El-Chapo” Guzman. The Liberal Party joined in calling for his resignation and protests have intensified. The trial may be the end of this cocaine-fueled presidency.

Brazil’s election of Bolsonaro has been marred by scandal now that the corruption of Operation Car Wash has been exposed. Private conversations between the prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Super Minister of Justice, show that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the “victim of a conspiracy” to prevent him from running against Bolsonaro.  In the secret exchanges, Moro admitted that the corruption case was designed to frame him. Lula has said the US is behind the conspiracy.

Calls to free Lula are increasing and the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case. Lula is demanding his record be cleared and refused a panicked offer from prosecutors that he be freed from jail and put under house arrest. Bolsonaro is also under attack for the Amazon fires, for an increase in police killings, for genocide against the Indigenous and for attacks on public education. Former President Michel Temer acknowledged that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the Worker’s Party leader, was a coup d’etat.

Nicaragua survived a 2018 US coup attempt and the revolution continues to thrive after 40 years of independence from US domination after US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza fled. People were very confused about what happened in the 2018 coup attempt as media misinformation was prevalent. A group of us joined and produced a reader to help people understand the reality of Nicaragua. Peace is coming back to Nicaragua, even though continued pressure from the US is expected in the form of new illegal sanctions.

Venezuela, which we have reported on intensively for years, has also survived ongoing coup attempts that continue to escalate in the post-John Bolton era of the Trump administration most recently with a threat of war through the Organization of American States (OAS). They are prepared for a military attack and have created new alliances to overcome the US economic war. This week, Russia announced it was investing $16.5 billion in Venezuela by the end of 2019.

Russia has provided anti-missile defense systems, is keeping Navy ships in Venezuela to deter a US blockade and has helped gather intelligence on US actions. With their help, Venezuela has uncovered terrorist plots coming from Colombia and involving US-puppet Juan Guiado’s team. Guaido has faltered and failed time and again, and now is being investigated for ties to Colombian drug traffickers and corruption.

The non-aligned movement of 120 nations met in Caracas this summer and expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty.  Venezuela has been a lynchpin for left movements in Latin America. When oil prices were high, it shared its wealth not only with poorest Venezuelans but with other countries seeking to challenge US and oligarch domination. Even in the midst of an escalating economic war with the United States, they continue to provide housing, food, and essentials to their people.

Protesters in Haiti (Twitter)

Caribbean Resistance

In the Caribbean, Cuba is challenged by the US economic war but continues its revolution. Mass protests in Haiti threaten the survival of the government and Puerto Rico’s revolt removed a governor.

Cuba, despite the increasing US economic war, continues to be a bulwark against US imperialism, standing with governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua when they are under attack. Cuba completed a successful transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and voted on a new constitution developed using a participatory process involving 9 million people through 133,000 citizen meetings. The constitution includes “universal and free health, education, sports and recreation, culture and respect for human dignity.” Cuba is currently facing major economic challenges as the US is blocking their access to oil. Russia and Venezuela are helping Cuba overcome this oil blockade.

Haiti has been in protest since April calling for an end to neoliberal US domination and the resignation of Jovenel Moise. The president has not spoken in public since the beginning of this latest round of protests and this week he named a commission of seven politicians to lead discussions for a solution to end the crisis.

In Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, massive protests led to Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló resigning on July 22, 2019. People also want the corrupt legislature cleaned out, the Fiscal Control Board, created by Obama, ended and the debt to be audited. Former political prisoner, Luis Rosa, said three things are needed: “decolonization, an end to our colonial status through a constitutional assembly; health care, free for all Puerto Rican citizens; and free public education up through the university level.”

Stephen Sefton wrote a country-by-country review of Latin America and the Caribbean in June describing the decline of the United States in the region and how changes were coming to many nations. He predicted that we are seeing “the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region’s impoverished majority.”

Rafael Correa said: “Neoliberalism is what failed, not socialism of the 21st century, on the contrary, socialism of the 21st century is what has us firmly on our feet, withstanding all of these difficulties.” This hemisphere is a key battleground in the conflict between neoliberalism v Socialism and US dominance v. independence. People are demanding democracy from the bottom up and a fair economy that meets their needs.

At UN Session, US Empire In Decline And Global Solidarity On The Rise

As the United Nations General Assembly conducts its fall session, Popular Resistance is in New York City for the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet. Themes of the mobilization are connecting militarism and climate change and raising awareness that the United States regularly violates international laws, including the United Nations Charter. These laws are designed to facilitate peaceful relationships between countries and prevent abuses of human rights. It is time that the US be held accountable.

The People’s Mobilization arose out of the Embassy Protection Collective after the US government raided the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last May in blatant violation of the Vienna Convention to install a failed coup and arrested Embassy Protectors even though they were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. This was an escalation of US regime change efforts – the coup failed in Venezuela but the US recognized the coup leader and started turning Venezuela’s assets over to him anyway. Members of the Collective sought to bring the message that it is dangerous for the world and a threat to the future of all of us if the US continues on its lawless path.

Join the Embassy Protection Defense Committee to organize around the federal prosecution of the final four Embassy Protectors and donate to their legal defense. Take action here.

We participated in the Climate Strike on Friday where our messages about the impact of US militarism on climate were well-received. On Sunday, we held a rally in Herald Square and on Monday, we held a public event: “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” We need to build an international people’s movement that complements work the Non-Aligned Movement and others are doing to bring countries together that are dedicated to upholding international law and take action together to address global crises.

In front of the United Nations after the rally and march with our message (By Yuka Azuma).

The US Military is a Great Threat to our Future

We wrote about the connections between militarism and the climate crisis in our newsletter a few weeks ago so we won’t go too deeply into those details here. The US military is the largest single user of fossil fuels and creator of greenhouse gases on the planet.

It also leaves behind toxic pollution from burn pits and weapons such as depleted uranium (DU). The use of DU violates international law, including the Biological Weapons Convention. As described in David Swanson’s article about a new study, which documents the horrific impact of DU on newborns in Iraq, “…every round of DU ammunition leaves a residue of DU dust on everything it hits, contaminating the surrounding area with toxic waste that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the age of our solar system, and turns every battlefield and firing range into a toxic waste site that poisons everyone in such areas.”

The US military poisons the air, land, and water at home too. Pat Elder, also with World Beyond War, has been writing, speaking and organizing to raise awareness of the use of Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) by the military across the US and the deadly effects it has. Elder states that the military claims to have “sovereign immunity” from environmental laws. In other words, the US military can poison whomever and wherever it chooses without risk of legal consequences.

As scary as the climate crisis and a toxic environment are, another existential threat is a nuclear war. The US military is upgrading its nuclear weapons so it can use them. The US National Security Strategy is “Great Power Conflict” and the new National Security Adviser to Trump, taking John Bolton’s place, Robert C. O’Brien, advocates for more military spending, a larger military and holding on to US global domination. These are dangerous signs. How far is the US military willing to go as US empire clings to its declining influence in the world?

In “Iran, Hong Kong and the Desperation of a Declining US Empire,” Rainer Shea writes, “There’s a term that historians use for this reactive phase that empires go through during their final years: micro-militarism.” Alfred McCoy defines micro-militarism as “ill-advised military misadventures… [that] involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically.”

Micro-militarism is on display in Venezuela, where the US has been trying for two decades to overthrow the Bolivarian Process without success. It is on display in US antagonism of Iran, a country that has never attacked the US and that upheld its end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. When the US called for countries to join its escalation of military presence in the Straits of Hormuz, there was little enthusiasm from European allies. And when the US tried to blame the attack on Saudi oil refineries on Iran, even Japan refused to go along. Now, Iran is participating in INSTEX, a mechanism for trade that bypasses institutions controlled by the US.

Micro-militarism is manifested in the US’ failed attempts to antagonize China. With KJ Noh, we wrote an Open Letter to Congress, explaining why the Hong Kong Human Rights Act must be stopped as it will further entangle the US with Hong Kong and Mainland China, providing a foundation for US regime change campaign there. As China celebrates 70 years as the Peoples Republic of China, which ended over a century of exploitation by imperialists, it is in a very strong position and indicates it has no interest in caving in to US pressure. Instead, China is building its military and global relationships to rival US hegemony.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at the People’s Mobe Rally (Photo by Ellen Davidson).

Holding the US Accountable

Micro-militarism is a symptom of the ailing US empire. We are in a period where the US military and government behave in irrational ways, consuming US resources for wars and conflicts that cannot be won instead of using them to meet basic needs of people and protection of the planet. The US is blatantly violating international laws that make regime change, unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and military aggression illegal.

The US is conducting economic terrorism against scores of nations through illegal unilateral coercive measures (sanctions).  In the case of Cuba, the economic blockade goes back nearly six decades since the nation overthrew a US-backed regime there. The US blockade cost Cuba $4.3 billion in 2019, and close to $1 trillion over the past six decades, taking into account depreciation of the dollar. In Iran, sanctions have existed since their independence from the Shah of Iran’s US dictatorship in 1979 and in Zimbabwe, sanctions go back to land reform that occurred at the beginning of this century. The United States is conducting ongoing regime change campaigns in multiple nations among them Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and now Bolivia.

The US is also abusing its power as the host country of the United Nations by ordering diplomats out of the country for spurious reasons and curtailing the travel of diplomats of countries the US is targeting. This week, the US ordered two Cuban diplomats to leave the United States. The reason was vague; i.e., their “attempts to conduct influence operations against the US.” This undefined phrase could mean almost anything and puts all diplomats at risk if they speak in the US outside of the UN. We expect this is one reason diplomatic representatives from some of the countries that planned to participate in the Monday night event stayed away.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza was the first Foreign Minister to be sanctioned while he was in the United States on official business.  Arreaza was sanctioned on April 25, just after he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly as a representative of the Non-Aligned Movement denouncing the US’ attempts to remove representatives of the sovereign nation of Venezuela from the UN.

On July 30, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif saying he was targeted because he is a ‘key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies.’  Does that mean the Foreign Minister was punished for representing Iran? When Zarif came to the UN for official business this July 14, the US took the unusual step of severely restricting his travel, limiting him to travel between the United Nations, the Iranian UN mission, the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Traditionally, diplomatic officials were allowed a 25-mile radius around Columbus Circle. The US said Zarif “is a mouthpiece of an autocracy that suppresses free speech” and suppressed his freedom of speech in response.

As the United States becomes more brazen and ridiculous in its attempts to stay in control, it is driving other countries to turn away from the US and organize around it. There are growing calls for the United Nations to consider leaving the US and reestablish itself in a location where the US cannot sanction people for its own political purposes. Perhaps there is a need for a new international institution that does not enable US domination.

Civil society panel at the Path to International Peace event (by Ellen Davidson).

People are Uniting For Peace, Security and Sustainable Development 

The US’ actions point to the need for peace and justice activists to build an international network to demand the upholding the rule of law. Popular Resistance and its allies are contributing to the formation of that transnational solidarity structure through the new Global Appeal for Peace.

This July, delegations from 120 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) united to oppose US policy against Venezuela and demand an end to sanctions as part of The Caracas Declaration.  NAM was founded in 1961 and the UN General Secretary described the importance of the movement highlighting that “two-thirds of the United Nations members and 55% of the world’s population” are represented by it, making it the second-largest multinational body in the world after the UN.

From August 29 through September 6, 38 countries and hundreds of foreign and local companies participated in Syria’s 61st Damascus International Fair despite the threat of US economic sanctions against corporations and countries that participated. The Damascus International Fair is considered the Syrian economy’s window to the world, re-started in 2017 after a 5-year hiatus due to the war against Syria. Despite a NATO bombing of the Fair in 2017, people kept coming and the Fair has continued.

Countries are also working to find ways around US economic warfare by not using the US dollar or the US financial industry to conduct trade. China is challenging the US by investing $400 billion in Iran’s oil and gas industry over 25 years and has added $3 billion investment in Venezuelan oil in 2019. Russia has also allied with Venezuela providing military equipment, and porting Navy ships in Venezuela as well as providing personnel. France has called on the EU to reset its relationship with Russia, and Germany and Russia are beginning to work together to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Global Appeal for Peace is uniting people to demand of our governments in their interactions with all nations – for the sake of world peace, international security and peaceful co-existence  – to respect the principles of the United Nations Charter and to follow and defend international law. The Global Appeal urges people to immediately join this initiative and help redirect the world toward an era of global stability and cooperation.

Sign on to the Global  Appeal for Peace: Take action to tell your government to respect and uphold the United Nations Charter as a tool for maintaining peace, guaranteeing human rights and protecting the sovereignty of nations.

We seek to build a transnational movement that is multi-layered. People and organizations from civil society representing different sectors, e.g. laborers, academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers, as well as representatives of governments impacted by violations of international law by the United States, need to join together. The seeds of such a network have been planted and are sprouting. If this transnational network develops and the rule of law is strengthened internationally, we will be able to achieve the goals of peace, economic sustainability, and human rights and mitigate the impacts of a dying empire gone rogue.

Watch part of the People’s Mobe Rally here:

 Watch the People’s Mobe March here:

Watch the “Path to International Peace” here:

Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil Fields:  a False Flag?

On Saturday morning, September 14, 2019, a few drones – were they drones or long-range missiles? – hit the Saudis most important two oil fields, set them ablaze, apparently knocking out half of the Saudi crude production but measured in terms of world production it is a mere 5%. Could be made up in no time by other Gulf oil producers – or indeed, as the Saudis said, by the end of September 2019 their production is back to ‘normal’ – to pre-attack levels.

The financial reaction was immediate. Saudi stocks fell, the oil prices rose, then settled and later fell again. It was an immediate reaction of major banks’ algorithmic speculation with about 10,000 operational hits a second. A trial for larger things to come?

The Yemeni Shiites, the Houthis, immediately claimed credit for the attack, saying they sent some ten “suicide drones” to the major Saudi oilfields and processing center. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, immediately and without a shred of evidence, blamed Iran for the ‘terror attack’.  Immediately more economic sanctions were imposed on Iran (Trump proudly said, the most severe ever put on a country), for an occurrence they had nothing to do with. The Saudis, as if confused, held off on accusations. And as of this day, they refrain from accusing Iran. And this despite the fact that there is no love left between SA and Iran which would make blaming Iran an easy feat.

Also immediately following the attack, a high Iraqi Government official assured that the attack was launched from Iraqi soil, not from Yemen. But shortly thereafter Iraqi officials vehemently denied that they had anything to do with this attack. Yet, the launch location Iraq was “confirmed” by the leading Iraqi analyst based in the US, Entifadh Qanbar, President and Founder of the Future Foundation. The Asia Times says, he follows closely developments in his home country, and he has many associates feeding him with information that has proved more than once to be accurate. [Apparently], his information about the attack coming from Iraq is backed by prior history and by Pompeo’s clear declaration.

Here is the thing: Pompeo was never clear from where the attack was launched. He just blamed Iran. He then later, following Qanbar’s statement, joined the chorus, also saying the attack was launched from Iraq, that it was not originating from Yemen. Later the location was further defined as close to the Iranian border, from a “territory held by Iran sympathizing rebels”. No matter what, Iran remains the villain.

The Asia Times further reports, [It] is growing more certain that the attacks on the Khurais oil fields and the Abqaig oil processing center in Saudi Arabia were launched from southern Iraq and not from Yemen by the Houthis. This was made clear by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who said: “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

If it all sounds like a big fabricated confusion, it’s because it is a big fabricated confusion. Iran is singled out; fingers pointing to Iran (except, miraculously those of Saudi Arabia), like a sledgehammer hitting Iran, again and again. The mainstream media loves it. Today, a week after the attack, most nobody remembers the Houthis claiming responsibility. It was Iran. Period. The media blitz won.

But let’s look at this more carefully. The Saudis have about a 70-billion-dollar annual military budget, an armada of US missile defense systems – quite a sizable budget for a country that is studded with US military bases, receives permanent US military and logistics support, technical advice and on the ground defense systems, plus bombs and missiles delivered from the US, UK and France. How come the US-UK-France backed Saudi defense was unable to detect this, albeit, sophisticated drone (missile?) attack? Some say, too sophisticated for the Houthis? Doesn’t that raise some questions?

Who wins? Yes, the table is turning and the Houthis are now on the winning side. And they clearly have taken strength. Yemen has lost tens of thousands of people, including thousands and thousands of children through bombs, famine and diarrheal diseases, including a massive cholera epidemic, in an unjust and unprovoked war that started in early 2015, carried out by Saudis as a proxy for the Washington and Pentagon handlers.

Many of the debris of weapons you find on the ground in Yemen say ‘Made in USA’ – which would lead you to conclude that America is at war with Yemen, not the Saudis. Yemen occupies a strategic geographic and geopolitical location and must not be ruled by a people-friendly government, let alone by a socialist leaning government, as the Houthis are. Besides, Yemen may have huge deep off-shore oil reserves.

Isn’t it logical that the Houthis hit back to defend themselves to eventually reach an end to the war and its indescribable atrocities? Isn’t it weird that the misery and tens of thousands of Yemeni deaths in an unjust and purely criminal aggression instigated by the US, carried out by Riyadh and lasting already for more than 4 years, that this monstrous aggression pales in the mainstream media, as compared to two blazing Saudi oil fields?  Doesn’t that say a lot about our programed-to-the-core western brains, our sense of humanity, what’s left of it?

The biggest winner may be Washington. They have a new devastating blame on Iran – more sanctions, more justification to launch a direct confrontation against Iran, possibly through Israel, or the NATO forces; the “neutral” international killing machine, an amalgam of spineless Europeans and Canada, who love to dance to the tunes of Washington, hoping to get some crumbs of the loot at the end of the day, before the empires falls.

But there is more. Almost unrelated, but if you look closer the dots click and connect. And that’s where the ‘false flag’ comes in. It is indeed very possible that the attack, by drones or missiles was launched out of Iraq – either directly by US forces, or by US-trained terrorist groups. The US has countless military bases in Iraq. A false flag; i.e., an attack at one of the major energy resources the world still uses to economically survive – hydrocarbons – will definitely enhance the planned ‘new’ economic crisis that is ‘over-due’ and has begun trickling down the melting pillars of western social infrastructure – unemployment on the rise (the real figures), to hit the western world in full swing in 2020 and counting, a financial crisis sustained by astronomical energy prices.  What better scenario to shuffle more wealth from down to up, from the poor to the rich? This attack on the Saudi oil fields may be just the beginning of more to come. Wall Street is trained in capitalizing on “crisis oil”.

In parallel with this Houthi or non-Houthi attack, according to many economists’ assessments, a crisis worse than 2008 / 2009, has indeed already been launched, as worldwide GDP growth is already slowing way beyond expectations. The year 2020 and the following years, may perhaps go down in history as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It may also be the last one under the current western fiat money system.

But how to construct the crisis? The dollar hegemony is faltering rapidly.  Trust in the US economy is in freefall. The smart heads of neoliberal thinking, FED, IMF, ECB, are at a loss of finding the ‘right solution’, but yes, the principle of looting the poor for the benefit of the rich must go on. In the last ten years, enough hard and social capital has been accumulated – social welfare, pensions, health services, public education and infrastructure, social and physical – for the kleptocrats to shuffle some trillions upwards, and let the working class start from scratch again. The example Greece is a demonstration in a crystal ball. The IMF, ECB and European Commission (EC) are to be proud of their achievement.

There is confusion and uncertainty. The FED just lowered the interest rate by 0.25% down to a range of 1.75% – 2%, with Chairman Jerome Powell’s incoherent explanations, clearly under pressure from President Trump, who wants to be reelected next year – hoping to defer a major crisis. At the same token, the lead interest in other western countries are adjusted to reflect the FED’s decision. In Switzerland, where the Swiss Franc is one of the assets of refuge in cases of crisis, the Central Bank just decided to leave interbank rates at minus 0.75%, in line with other western central banks.  Listening to central bankers, there is not going to be any significant change in low or minus interest rates in the foreseeable future. An economic aberration if ever there was one!

People – bank on it! Borrow and invest at no cost like there is no tomorrow. Help building the bubble of debt – when it bursts, you know what happens – and burst it will. It’s just a matter of time.

Yet, there seems to be an indecision – indicating a major dollar crisis is looming, but nobody quite knows how ‘major’ and how it will pan out and where; quite unusual for these heads of wisdom, running the financial globe’s kingdom.

Madame Christine Lagarde, changing ship from the IMF to the ECB (European Central Bank), the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and the former New York Federal Reserve Bank chiefBill Dudley, hinted that the United States might have to give up her dollar dominance, the backbone for her world hegemony – and let it be replaced by a kind of Special Drawing Rights (SDR), in which the dollar might still have a dominant role, but, albeit, it would no longer be seen as an untrustworthy fiat Ponzi scheme.

The decadent dollar would be hidden among the other currencies of the basket, presumably the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan if the pattern of the current IMF SDR basket was to be followed. The hegemonic power of the dollar might be hidden, so that the world’s “worries” vis-à-vis the western dollar dominated economy, could be at least partially and temporarily mitigated (see Will the IMF, Federal Reserve, Negative Interest Rates and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

What does all that have to do with the Yemeni attack on the Saudi oil fields? Everything.

The reduction of the Saudi crude production, cut in half, though amounting only to 5% of world production, would under normal circumstances hardly affect significantly the world petrol price  unless it becomes the subject of speculation, which it obviously will, a justified “high risk” speculation. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and others are experts in the matter, doing the bidding for the FED, IMF, ECB, BIS – the western instruments behind the dollar system – let it milk as much as it can before biting the dust, letting it shuffle as much as it can from the bottom to the top, as is usual for a manufactured economic crisis. Mind you, they ALL are, and have been, manufactured for at least the last 100 years.

While the uncertainty about (western) global interest rates prevails  a major attack on a couple of Saudi oil fields is an ideal reason for letting oil prices skyrocket. It could make for an ideal ‘false flag’; a win-win for Washington: sustaining the manufactured economic crisis with an attack on major oil fields (maybe the first of others to come) and a good new reason to blame ran, another good reason to go to war with Iran. But will the Trump Administration dare?

In today’s world, economic progress is still measured in linear GDP output which, in turn, depends largely on available (and affordable) energy. Once the hydrocarbon damage or shortage is known or predictable in terms of escalating oil prices — pundits claim it could exceed the100 dollar mark — decisions on how to deal with interest rates are much easier. Combine this with ongoing trade wars, real wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, economic strangulations left and right, regime change efforts, refugee issues, and you have the perfect scenario for the next crisis.

To this you may add the Soros-driven massive around-the-globe climate hype, but I mean a ferocious climate propaganda machine, the highly publicized “Greta Crowd”, the “Friday for Future” school strike movement, and more, much more, prompting a special UN Climate Conference – 23 September. As Carla Stea from Global Research pointedly asks: Has the UN become a Wall Street Asset?.

All of this with the specific objective of collecting enormous sums of special ‘climate taxes’, for everything that moves and that our usual climate “scientists” are connecting with global warming, or more politically correct “climate change”. There is talk about the revival of some kind of the infamous “carbon fund”. Most of day-in-day-out manipulated westerners will happily pay the extra “fee” to clear their minds of ‘guilt’ and go on with life. Never mind, that climate change is a natural phenomenon and is primarily nature-driven, as Mother Earth has done for the four billion years of her existence.

This fits well with the attacks on the Saudi oil fields – who knows, others may follow – as the destruction, or disruption of the flow of vital hydrocarbon energy resources serves the Bigger Picture; i.e., bringing about a major worldwide economic depression. And by now we know that every recession-depression brings more misery to the poor and makes the rich richer.

So, cui bono is as usual the western corporate military and financial elite. Therefore, a false flag attack on the Saudi Oil fields — of course, with the Saudis in collusion — is not as far-fetched as one might believe at first glance. Last Saturday’s attack may be just the first one of a series of misdeeds on the Middle Eastern oil industry to drive oil prices up — a solid support to the well-prepared financial crisis.

This is first-rate economic terrorism. The dollar may survive a few years longer, while the children of Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua – you name it – will continue to be exposed to man-made misery no end. Let’s stop this criminal western shenaniganism now!  Let’s disconnect our economies from the west, of those who are aware and awaken, and turn to the East, where the future is.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

On the Road to Damascus

“Welcome to your second country” was the greeting our Syrian hosts gave us when we arrived for the International Trade Union Forum for “solidarity with the workers and people of Syria against the economic blockade, imperialist interventions, and terrorism.”

Throughout my short one-week stay, Syrians, on seeing I was a foreigner, would muster their best English to ask where I was from. Invariably upon hearing that I was from the US, the questioner would shake my hand, touch hand to heart, and say “welcome.” Ironically, these victims of the US-backed war of regime change and economic sanctions went out of their way to extend their hospitality to us, while the jihadists, whom the US has been arming, training, and implicitly backing, are the ones who, at least according to George W. Bush, “hate us.”

After their expansive hospitality, the most striking aspect of the Syrians I encountered was their pride in their country’s culture of diversity and tradition of a secular state. Mosques of various denominations were cheek to jowl with a variety Christian churches.

Although I was not permitted to photograph military personnel, no restrictions limited our activities or where we could go, though we stayed mainly in the vicinity of Damascus. I was free to either travel on my own or to accept the offers of our hosts to show us the sights.

For all the reality of over eight years of vicious war, life appeared normal. Damascus had the appearance of a bustling world capital; in fact, it is the oldest continuously occupied capital in the world. I didn’t encounter US fast food restaurants or see any skyscrapers. Thriving commerce and a remarkable diversity of dress and ethnicities were everywhere. The antiquities of this ancient city were not antiseptically preserved behind museum glass, but part of the living landscape. Houses built into the old city wall were still inhabited.

As a Syrian university student proudly explicated about her homeland: “We are a country where people resist any colonialism; we have 9,000 years of culture.”

Conference addresses illegal sanctions

The two-day conference addressed the illegality under international law of economic sanctions and other coercive measures, as well as the effects of the blockade on the people of Syria. The importance of solidarity was emphasized in confronting imperialist interventions that aim at undermining the security of peoples and the sovereignty of states. The role of trade unions, civil society, and media was recognized in exposing the political hypocrisy of states that claim to fight terrorism while supporting it in reality.

The conference opened with a welcoming address by Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and was attended by other government officials and members of the governing party. If there were any security precautions for these high-level dignitaries, they were invisible to me.

Some 232 delegates representing 52 countries attended. Leading members of the World Federation of Trade Unions, Organization of African Trade Union Unity, (Syrian) General Federation of Trade Unions, International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, Arab Labor Organization, and the 15-million-member Indian confederation (the world’s largest trade union) spoke at the conference.

The North American delegation included trade unionists, peace activists, and journalists.  Ajamu Baraka of the US Peace Council, Black Alliance for Peace, and Black Agenda Report declared: “There can be no working-class justice, no working-class rights in a world where powerful elite social forces are prepared and are using extreme violence.”

Noting that the “US spends more on national defense than China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and India combined,” Baraka explained that the “theft of public resources for the military and militarism domestically and abroad represent a one-sided class war waged on the working class in the US. The six trillion dollars spent on US wars since 2003 are resources that could have been directed to address the increasing desperate plight of workers and poor people in the US.”

The final declaration of the conference called for the closure of US and Turkish bases in Syrian territory, withdrawal of uninvited foreign forces from Syria, the cessation of aggressive US-alliance air raids, and solidarity with similarly US-sanctioned Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

Blowback

The Jerusalem Post on September 9, the second day of the conference, had already trolled social media to discover that reporter Max Blumenthal “claimed (emphasis added) that he was in Damascus at the General Federation of Trade Union conference.” The Israeli newspaper criticized Blumenthal for investigating “regime-held areas” by actually visiting them. Similarly criticized were Lebanese-American journalist Rania Khalek (also at the conference) for a visit to Syria in 2016 and US Representative and Democratic presidential primary candidate Tulsi Gabbard for a visit the following year. Presumably, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, funded by the British Foreign Office and run by a clothing dealer out of his home in Coventry, England, is where they should have gone for information on the Middle East.

The blowback experienced by Donald Lafleur has been far more vehement. He has been threatened with losing his position as executive vice president of the 3.3 million-member Canadian Labour Congress. The Canadian National Post newspaper, whose journalism on the Middle East is not simply a fallback to the Cold War but to the Crusades, attacked Lafleur for attending the conference with “neo-Stalinist ‘anti-war’ zombies.” The veteran postal worker, traveling to Syria on his own dime and time, had the temerity to express solidarity with fellow workers instead of with the bourgeoisie the National Post so loyally champions.

Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, attacked Lafleur for calling for an end of punishing and illegal sanctions on his fellow workers in Syria. Ken Stone of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada responded:

If we believe in democracy, trade unionists can visit another country without accepting our government’s positions on international affairs. In fact, a healthy trade-union movement would offer a different analysis of world issues than Canada’s government, which is subservient to corporations. The solidarity actions of a leading trade unionist serve as an example to us all in removing barriers of distrust and misunderstanding, permitting us to learn from the struggles of the Global South.

Also attacked by the National Post for attending the conference were “Kremlin-friendly” journalists Max Blumenthal and Anya Parampil with The Grayzone, anti-war activist Fra Hughes from Belfast, and “Lebanese-Californian” Paul Larudee with the Syria Solidarity Movement. (Larudee was actually born in Iran, but the distinction between Arabic-speaking Lebanon and Farsi-speaking Iran is too subtle for the National Post.)

Meeting with Assad

Security-wise, it was a lot easier to get into the presidential palace to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than it is to take a commuter plane from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The president individually greeted each one of us as we entered. He thanked a German delegate for his country’s acceptance of Syrian refugees. The German, in turn, mock-implored Assad to “take me in.”

After apologizing for keeping us waiting while he shook hands with each one of us, Assad explained that 90% of Syria had been “liberated” and the intention was to regain the entirety of the national territory. Final victory, however, would not come until all Syrians are won over to national unity.

Syria, according to Assad, is socialist where workers are in “partnership with the state” and are the “leading section” of the society. Minimal medical care and education are free in Syria, even during the height of the war.

Assad explained that the gap between capitalists and those who produce the wealth – the working class – has widened internationally since the 1970s and particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Workers paid the price for the world capitalist financial crisis of 2008.

“Conflicts,” Assad noted, “won’t end in the near future” but “Syria is not isolated.” The US, he explained, does not enjoy the monopoly of technology that it held 20 years ago.  Today a new network of relationships is developing among Brazil, China, Russia, India, and the small states of the world. The US, he warned, may end up blockading itself.

The 2-hour meeting, including a robust Q&A, concluded with Assad’s recommendation to “teach reality.”

One view of a complex picture

“In the west, are people stupid or are they just thinking stupidly?” asked a young Syrian woman. We were at Damascus University after the conference. An Australian conference attendee, Tim Anderson, had just spoken to a standing-room-only crowd on his book Axis of Resistance: Towards an Independent Middle East. In response to her question, Anderson explained how the western mass media paints a particular view of the complexity of Syrian reality.  “Imperial cultures have tried to normalize war in the 21st century,” adding “regime change is a soft term for a war of aggression.”

For the Syrians I met, their president, Bashar Al-Assad, was seen as the guarantor of national unity in the face of aggression from abroad. Many were the stories of friendly encounters with the president and his family. It may well be that those who held contrary views did not express them to foreigners, but those who did seemed genuine in their personal affection for the person they regarded as their leader in these times of peril.

My experience on the road to Damascus was also one view of a complex picture, a view not often seen in the West. But whatever view one takes in the Syrian conflict, the US policy of economic sanctions, restricting access to food and medicines, is an illegal and unconscionable collective punishment of the Syrian people.

Empires Are a Secret until They Start Falling

In the past, we have written about the 2020s as a decade when the United States Empire will end. This is based on Alfred McCoy’s predictions (listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG). Sociologist and peace scholar John Galtung believes US Empire will fall much faster, losing world dominance by 2020. Much of what he predicted when he said this in 2016 is happening now. In particular, there is a rise in “reactionary fascism” or a desire to go back to the “good old days,” the cost of maintaining the empire is taking an increasing economic toll and other countries are starting to rebuke the US, both its requests for military assistance and its unfair economic demands.

What this means for people in the United States and around the world depends on whether we can build a mass popular movement with the clarity of vision, skills, and solidarity necessary to navigate what is and will surely be a turbulent period. There are no guarantees as to the outcome. Failure to act could result in a disastrous scenario – at best, that the US will continue to try to hold on to power by waging economic and military warfare abroad, weakening the economy at home, and undermining necessities such as housing, healthcare, education and the transition to a Green economy. At worst, as Galtung describes, there could be “an inevitable and final war” involving nuclear weapons.

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is next weekend. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. You must register in advance for the Monday night solidarity event. RSVP at bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. And sign the Global Appeal for Peace here.

When Empire Is In Decline

Alfred McCoy says that it is only when empires are in decline that people begin to recognize they live in an empire and start to talk about it. While discussion of empire hasn’t broken into the corporate media, it is certainly happening in the independent media. A concerted effort by a popular movement could bring it to the fore, just as Occupy changed the political dialogue about wealth inequality and the power of money. People in the US need to face some stark realities when it comes to declining US global power.

For starters, the United States does not currently have the capacity to wage a “Great Power Conflict” even though that is the goal of the national security strategy. The loss of its manufacturing base and lack of access to minerals necessary for producing weapons and electronics means the US does not have the resources to fight a great war. Much of the US’ manufacturing has been outsourced to other countries, including those targeted by US foreign policy. Resources necessary for weapons and electronics are in China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. It’s no surprise that the US is maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan, has increased its presence in Africa through AFRICOM and is struggling to wrest control of Venezuela.

Despite these attempts, the US is not having success. There is no military solution for the US in Afghanistan. As Moon of Alabama explains, the Taliban has taken control of more territory than it has had since the US started the war and has no reason to negotiate with the US. He advises, “The U.S. should just leave as long as it can. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof.”

Alexander Rubinstein writes the failures in Afghanistan can be attributed to Zalmay Khalilzad, currently the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Khalilzad has led US foreign policy in Afganistan and Iraq since the presidency of George W. Bush, and before that worked with Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who provided crucial support for the Mujahideen to draw the Soviet Union into a quagmire. The writing is on the wall that the US must leave Afghanistan, but that is unlikely to happen as long as people such as Khalilzad and Elliott Abrams, who has a similar ideology, are in charge.

As the US-led coup in Venezuela continues to fail due to a lack of support for it within the country, resilience to the effects of the unilateral coercive economic measures (sanctions) and exposure of attempts to create chaos and terror by paramilitary mercenaries, the US grows increasingly desperate in its tactics. There has already been a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro, a US freight company tied to the CIA has been caught smuggling weapons and the US and its Puppet Guaido have been implicated in a terrorist plot as the failed coup enters a more dangerous phase. This week, the Organization of American States voted to invoke a treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which would allow military intervention. Mexico strongly opposed that possibility. This comes as Venezuela has strengthened troops at the Colombian border after discovering terrorist training camps on the Colombian side. With allies such as Russia and China, an attack on Venezuela would not only hurt the region but could go global.

Despite the Asian Pivot under President Obama during his first administration and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s comment this week that the US is directing a lot of energy toward China, analysts predict the US will fail to achieve dominance in the Asia-Pacific. China is purchasing weapons from Russia that are superior to US systems, is strengthening its military coordination with Russia through drills and is expanding its global ties through the Belt and Road Initiative. Matthew Ehret writes in Strategic Culture, “Those American military officials promoting the obsolete doctrine of Full Spectrum dominance are dancing to the tune of a song that stopped playing some time ago. Both Russia and China have changed the rules of the game on a multitude of levels….”

Protests in Hong Kong, as we described in a recent newsletter, are being used to stoke greater anti-China sentiment in the US. As often occurs, the sophisticated propaganda arm of US-backed color revolutions excites leftist activists, but each day it becomes clearer just how deep the US’ influence is. K. J. Noh provides a helpful guide – a list of seven signs a protest is not a popular progressive uprising. One sign is Hong Kong protesters are supporting a bill in the US Congress, the so-called “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill would allow the United States to sanction Hong Kong officials.

Andre Vltchek attended a recent protest and interviewed some of the participants. He found the democracy protesters have little grasp on the oppression Hong Kongers faced under British colonization, they attack anyone who disagrees with them and they are destroying public infrastructure. One of the protest leaders, Joshua Wong, is openly meeting with figures connected to US regime change efforts, and NED-backed organizations are planning an anti-China protest in Washington, DC on September 29. Their new propaganda symbol is a Chinese flag with a Swastika on it. No surprise that was evident at the protests in Hong Kong this weekend.

The US is already at war with China with battlefronts on trade and the Asian Pacific. The propaganda around Hong Kong showing prejudice against China is part of manufacturing consent for the conflict between the US and China, which will define the 21st Century. US militarism is also escalating to involve space. This week, the US conducted its first space war game and Putin warned of a space arms race.

Our Tasks as Activists

It was good news this past week that President Trump asked John Bolton, a white supremacist neocon who disrupted any attempts at negotiation, to resign from his position as National Security Adviser. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes, “Every sane person on the planet should be glad to see Bolton go.” But, even with Bolton gone, the US War Machine will rage on with bi-partisan support. Whether Trump starts to live up to his campaign rhetoric of non-intervention remains to be seen. The appointment of Michael Kozak as the new US envoy to Latin America is a bad sign.

Almost two centuries of Manifest Destiny that went beyond North America to spread US Empire across the globe will not end overnight. It will take a concerted effort to build a national consensus against the dominant ideologies of white supremacy and US exceptionalism to change the course of US foreign policy. Fundamental tasks of that effort include education, organizing and mobilizing. Below are some examples of each.

Education:

The Palestinian Great March of Return, a weekly nonviolent protest in Gaza demanding the right of return granted by the United Nations, continues and each week Israelis injure and murder unarmed Palestinians. Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of The Empire Files produced an excellent documentary about it, “Gaza Fights For Freedom,” and are touring the country to raise awareness. Listen to our interview with Abby Martin on Clearing the FOG. Find a showing near you or organize one.

The United States uses unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) that are illegal under international law to wage war on other countries. The Treasury Department currently lists 20 countries sanctioned by the US, but the US also uses threats of sanctions to wield power. Sanctions are warfare, even though they are not commonly viewed that way. They result in the suffering and death of mostly civilians. Kevin Cashman and Cavan Kharrazian explain how sanctions work, why they violate international law and how they threaten global stability.

Organizing:

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani encourage activists to avoid the organizing pitfall of getting caught up in debates about the internal politics of countries targeted by US imperialism. Our tasks, as citizens of imperialist countries, are to stop our governments from intervening in the affairs of other countries and demand they respect international law. We also have a task of building solidarity with civilians of other countries. It will require a global mass movement to address major issues such as the climate crisis, wealth inequality, colonization, and violence.

Citizen to citizen diplomacy is critical in building this mass movement and solidarity. Ann Wright, retired from the military and State Department, writes about the challenges of citizen to citizen diplomacy as she tours Russia. Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of Black Alliance for Peace, reminds us that war and militarism are class issues in his address to an international meeting of trade unions held in Syria.

We are strong believers in breaking out of the confines of the narrative presented by corporate media about countries outside the US. Our trips to Iran and Venezuela this year were invaluable learning experiences. We hope to visit more targeted countries. An effort that came out of these trips is the new Global Appeal for Peace, first steps toward creating an international network to complement the more than 120 non-aligned movement countries that are resolved to respect international law and sovereignty and take action to create peace and prevent the catastrophic climate crisis. Sign on to this effort at GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.

Mobilizing:

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet starts next weekend. On Saturday night, Black Alliance for Peace is sponsoring a discussion, “Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the ‘Americas’” in the Bronx. On Sunday we will rally and march to the UN with Embassy Protectors, Roger Waters and many more. On Monday night, we have a special solidarity night at Community Church of New York. Registration is required as there will be high-level representatives of impacted countries speaking about the challenges they face. Click here to register.

Rage Against the US War Machine will take place October 11 and 12 in Washington, DC. This is the second annual event organized by March on the Pentagon. Click here for details.

We also ask you to join the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Sign the petition to drop the Trump administration’s charges against us for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy this spring. We are facing up to a year in prison and exorbitant fines even though it was the US State Department that violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the embassy in May. We will tour Northern California in October and are planning more tours to raise awareness that the struggle to end the US  coup and interventions in Venezuela continues.

John Galtung predicts that the fall of the US Empire could have a devastating impact on domestic cohesion in the United States. As the US loses its position of global supremacy, we have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape what we as a nation represent. We can become cooperative global citizens in a world free of oppression, violence, and poverty if we do the work of joining in international solidarity for these goals.

Iran: A Club of Sanctioned Countries in Solidarity Against US Economic Terrorism

PressTV Interview – transcript

Background links:
https://ifpnews.com/iranian-mps-propose-formation-of-club-of-sanctioned-countries
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-china-iran-fight-sanctions-1458096

Excerpts:

An Iranian parliamentary faction has come up with the idea of establishing a club of sanctioned countries for concerted action against the US economic terrorism.

The chairman of the Parliament’s faction on countering sanctions, Poormokhtar, gave a report on the formation of the faction and its activities, as well as the ongoing efforts to establish the club of sanctioned countries. Iran’s FM, Zaraf, said this would be enhancing the already existing alliance of Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela against US economic terrorism.

PressTV:  Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela are among the nations that have come out against the United States’ use of sanctions to enforce its foreign policy around the world. In what ways can they fight these US sanctions as a group?

Peter Koenig: Brilliant idea!  Solidarity makes stronger and eventually will attract other countries who are sick and tired of the US sanction regime, and since they have the backing of Russia and China, that’s a very strong alliance, especially an economic alliance. The sanction regime can only be broken through economics, meaning decoupling from the western monetary system. I said this before and say it again, at the risk of repeating myself.

After all, China is the world’s largest and strongest economy in Purchasing Power GDP measures which is the only comparison that really counts. I believe this solidarity alliance against US sanctions is certainly worth a trial.

And personally, I think it will be a successful trial, as more countries will join, possibly even non-sanctioned ones, out of solidarity against a common tyrant.

The countries in solidarity against sanctions, in addition to ignoring them — and the more they ignore them, the more other countries will follow-suit — that’s logical as fear disappears and solidarity grows.

For example, Iran and Venezuela, oil exporting countries, could accompany their tankers by war ships. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but think of it as temporary and as a long-term gain. Would “Grace I” have been accompanied by an Iranian war ship the Brits would not have dared confiscating it. That’s for sure.

PressTV: Many of the US sanctions have led to death of civilians in those particular countries. At the same time, sanctions have also led to the improvement of these countries to the point where domestic production in various fields advanced. Don’t sanctions become country-productive to US aims?’

PK:  Of course, the sanctions are counter-productive. They have helped Russia to become food-self-sufficient, for example. That was not Washington’s intention and less so the intention of the EU, who followed Washington’s dictate like puppets.

Sanctions are like a last effort before the fall of the empire, to cause as much human damage as possible, to pull other nations down with the dying beast. It has always been like that  starting with the Romans through the Ottoman’s. They realize their time has come but can’t see a world living in peace. So they must plant as much unrest and misery as possible before they disappear

That’s precisely what’s happening with the US.

Intimidation, building more and more military bases, all with fake money, as we know the dollar is worth nothing – FIAT money – that the world still accepts but less and less so, therefore military bases, deadly sanctions, and trade wars. Trump knows that a trade war against China is a lost cause. Still, he can intimidate other countries by insisting on a trade war with China or that’s what he thinks.

PressTV: The more countries US sanctions, illegally, more people turn against the US: doesn’t that defeat the US so-called fight against terrorism and violence?

PK: Well, US sanction and the entire scheme of US aggression has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, as you know. It’s nothing but expanding US hegemony over the world, and if needed, and more often than not, the US finances terrorism to fight proxy wars against their so-called enemies, meaning anybody not conforming to their wishes and not wanting to submit to their orders and not letting them exploit – or rather steal – their natural resources.

Syria is a case in point. ISIL is funded and armed by the Pentagon, who buys Serbian produced weapon to channel them through the Mid-East allies to Syrian terrorists, the ISIL or similar kinds with different names — just to confuse.

Venezuela too – the opposition consist basically of US trained, financed and armed opposition “leaders” – who do not want to participate in totally democratic elections – order of the US – boycott them. But as we have seen as of this day, the various coup attempts by the US against their legitimate and democratically elected President, Nicolás Maduro, have failed bitterly, and this despite the most severe sanctions regime South American has known, except for Cuba, against whom the US crime has been perpetuated for 60 years.

So, nobody should have the illusion that Washington’s wars are against terrorism. Washington is THE terrorist regime that fights for world hegemony.

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.

NPR Mocks Cancer Survivor in Drumbeat of Syria Propaganda

Asma al-Assad, First Lady of Syria (from released Syrian Presidency Facebook page)

It may be a new low in propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) used the news that Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad had overcome breast cancer to mock her and continue the information war against Syria. They interviewed a Human Rights Watch staffer named Lama Fakih who is an American from Michigan now based in Beirut.

Do you believe Ms. Fakih in Beirut or do you believe people who live in Syria who say we are being lied to?  Lilly Martin is such a person. Although she is American from Fresno California, Lilly has lived in Syria for nearly 25 years. She is married to a Syrian and has two Syrian sons.  Dr. Nabil Antaki is another such person. He is a medical doctor in Aleppo, fluent in English and French as well as his native Arabic.

While NPR snorts about Asma al-Assad “sporting a chic blonde pixie cut”, Lilly Martin points out that she was recently bald while fighting for her life.

While Ms. Fakir in Beirut says that there is “quite a lot of anger” because Asma al-Assad has conquered cancer, Dr. Antaki says that Syrians are happy at the news.  Asma al-Assad is First Lady, mother to three children, and known for her compassion. Lilly Martin says that even while she battled cancer Mrs. al-Assad continued her charitable work.

While Ms. Fakih says that the “Assad government has been systematically targeting medical facilities and medical personnel”,  Dr. Antaki, who has remained in Aleppo throughought the conflict, says this is not true. While there are many western accusations that the Syrian government attacks hospitals, the evidence is remarkably thin.  One of the most highly publicized cases was regarding “Al Quds Hospital” in east Aleppo. In April 2016 there was a media blitz about this hospital having been destroyed by the Syrian Army. Following  the departure of the “rebels”, it was discovered that “Al Quds Hospital” was an unmarked portion of an apartment building, that it had NOT been bombed and was the LEAST damaged building in the area. It was determined that the nearby Nusra (Al Qaeda) headquarters and ammunition depot was the Syrian army target.  Accusations that “Al Quds Hospital” was bombed were false. It was a media stunt.

Ms. Fakih says that “Syrians have not been able to benefit from medical care in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2012”.   Lilly Martin simply says “This is factually untrue. The Syrian system of national hospitals, free services to the public, are in every area of Syria and have run continuously throughout the war.”  Dr. Antaki is an example; he is one of THOUSANDS of doctors working at HUNDREDS of hospitals throughout Syria. But you would never know it from NPR or Ms. Fakih.

It is true that there have been disruption and damage to many hospitals, as demonstrated in this jihadi assault on Al Kindi Hospital.  These are the “rebels” supported by Ms. Fakih and Human Rights Watch. They effectively supported them in east Aleppo until they were expelled from the city. Now Ms. Fakih and HRW are supporting the “rebels” in their last redoubt in Idlib.  There are countless videos demonstrating the cruelty and fanaticism of the “rebels”.  For example, the aftermath of the above assault on Kindi Hospital and the execution of the Syrian soldiers who defended the hospital.  Those who are cheerleading for the “rebels” and trying to prevent the Syrians reclaiming Idlib should look at the execution video to see what they are supporting.

The West has provided weapons and other support to the “rebels”. In parallel, there has been a campaign to whitewash the “rebels” and demonize the Syrian government.  On top of this, the USA has imposed crushing sanctions on Syria which make it difficult or impossible to get critical medicines and replacement parts for western medical equipment. Dr. Antaki says it took him 1.5 years to obtain a replacement part for a Japanese medical instrument.  I had my own experience with the draconian and inhumane sanctions. It took one year and endless hassle to send hearing aid batteries to help a deaf child in Syria.

This is one among hundreds of Syria “regime change” propaganda pieces broadcast on NPR. Behind a facade of authority and objectivity, there is bias and misinformation along with crocodile tears.  As Lilly Martin says, “While the Syrian government medical system has tried to meet all the needs of Syrian civilians during 8 years of armed conflict, still there are numerous cases where the needs were not met and Syrians have suffered, and that blame must be shouldered by every person who held a gun against Syria and their foreign supporters who have succeeded in bringing the Syrian people into the depths of destruction and despair.”

As to Asma al-Assad and her integrity, it is best to listen and judge for yourself.  At about 5:30 of the interview she speaks of the families of 100 thousand Syrian martyrs who died defending their country. “On a personal level, I am humbled by their determination, by their resilience, and by their love of Syria. They are my biggest source of strength and hope for the future.”

The sneers, misinformation, unverified accusations and de facto defense of Nusra/Al Qaeda by NPR and Lama Fakih stand in stark contrast.