Category Archives: US lies

US Democrats cultivated the Barbarism of Isis

There is something profoundly deceitful in the Democratic Party and corporate media’s framing of Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.

One does not need to like Trump or ignore the dangers posed to the Kurds, at least in the short term, by the sudden departure of US forces from northern Syria to understand that the coverage is being crafted in such a way as to entirely overlook the bigger picture.

The problem is neatly illustrated in this line from a report by the Guardian newspaper of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s meeting this week with Trump, who is described as having had a “meltdown”. Explaining why she and other senior Democrats stormed out, the paper writes that “it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East”.

Hang on a minute! Let’s pull back a little, and not pretend – as the media and Democratic party leadership wish us to do – that the last 20 years did not actually happen. Many of us lived through those events. Our memories are not so short.

Islamic State, or Isis, didn’t emerge out of nowhere. It was entirely a creation of two decades of US interference in the Middle East. And I’m not even referring to the mountains of evidence that US officials backed their Saudi allies in directly funding and arming Isis – just as their predecessors in Washington, in their enthusiasm to oust the Soviets from the region, assisted the jihadists who went on to become al-Qaeda.

No, I’m talking about the fact that in destroying three key Arab states – Iraq, Libya and Syria – that refused to submit to the joint regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s local client states, the US created a giant void of governance at the heart of the Middle East. They knew that that void would be filled soon enough by religious extremists like Islamic State – and they didn’t care.

Overthrow, not regime change

You don’t have to be a Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar Assad apologist to accept this point. You don’t even have to be concerned that these so-called “humanitarian” wars violated each state’s integrity and sovereignty, and are therefore defined in international law as “the supreme war crime”.

The bigger picture – the one no one appears to want us thinking about – is that the US intentionally sought to destroy these states with no obvious plan for the day after. As I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations, these haven’t so much been regime-change wars as nation-state dismantling operations – what I have termed overthrow wars.

The logic was a horrifying hybrid of two schools of thought that meshed neatly in the psychopathic foreign policy goals embodied in the ideology of neoconservatism – the so-called “Washington consensus” since 9/11.

The first was Israel’s long-standing approach to the Palestinians. By constantly devastating any emerging Palestinian institution or social structures, Israel produced a divide-and-rule model on steriods, creating a leaderless, ravaged, enfeebled society that sucked out all the local population’s energy. That strategy proved very appealing to the neoconservatives, who saw it as one they could export to non-compliant states in the region.

The second was the Chicago school’s Shock Doctrine, as explained in Naomi Klein’s book of that name. The chaotic campaign of destruction, the psychological trauma and the sense of dislocation created by these overthrow wars were supposed to engender a far more malleable population that would be ripe for a US-controlled “colour revolution”.

The recalcitrant states would be made an example of, broken apart, asset-stripped of their resources and eventually remade as new dependent markets for US goods. That was what George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Halliburton really meant when they talked about building a New Middle East and exporting democracy.

Even judged by the vile aims of its proponents, the Shock Doctrine has been a half-century story of dismal economic failure everywhere it has been attempted – from Pinochet’s Chile to Yeltsin’s Russia. But let us not credit the architects of this policy with any kind of acumen for learning from past errors. As Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove explained to a journalist whom he rebuked for being part of the “reality-based community”: “We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality.”

The birth of Islamic State

The barely veiled aim of the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria was to destroy the institutions and structures that held these societies together, however imperfectly. Though no one likes to mention it nowadays, these states – deeply authoritarian though they were – were also secular, and had well-developed welfare states that ensured high rates of literacy and some of the region’s finest public health services.

One can argue about the initial causes of the uprising against Assad that erupted in Syria in 2011. Did it start as a popular struggle for liberation from the Assad government’s authoritarianism? Or was it a sectarian insurgency by those who wished to replace Shia minority rule with Sunni majority rule? Or was it driven by something else: as a largely economic protest by an under-class suffering from food shortages as climate change led to repeated crop failures? Or are all these factors relevant to some degree?

Given how closed a society Syria was and is, and how difficult it therefore is to weigh the evidence in ways that are likely to prove convincing to those not already persuaded, let us set that issue aside. Anyway, it is irrelevant to the bigger picture I want to address.

The indisputable fact is that Washington and its Gulf allies wished to exploit this initial unrest as an opportunity to create a void in Syria – just as they had earlier done in Iraq, where there were no uprisings, nor even the WMDs the US promised would be found and that served as the pretext for Bush’s campaign of Shock and Awe.

The limited uprisings in Syria quickly turned into a much larger and far more vicious war because the Gulf states, with US backing, flooded the country with proxy fighters and arms in an effort to overthrow Assad and thereby weaken Iranian and Shia influence in the region. The events in Syria and earlier in Iraq gradually transformed the Sunni religious extremists of al-Qaeda into the even more barbaric, more nihilistic extremists of Islamic State.

A dark US vanity project

As Rove and Cheney played around with reality, nature got on with honouring the maxim that it always abhors a vacuum. Islamic State filled the vacuum Washington’s policy had engineered.

The clue, after all, was in the name. With the US and Gulf states using oil money to wage a proxy war against Assad, Isis saw its chance to establish a state inspired by a variety of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist dogma. Isis needed territory for their planned state, and the Saudis and US obliged by destroying Syria.

This barbarian army, one that murdered other religious groups as infidels and killed fellow Sunnis who refused to bow before their absolute rule, became the west’s chief allies in Syria. Directly and covertly, we gave them money and weapons to begin building their state on parts of Syria.

Again, let us ignore the fact that the US, in helping to destroy a sovereign nation, committed the supreme war crime, one that in a rightly ordered world would ensure every senior Washington official faces their own Nuremberg Trial. Let us ignore too for the moment that the US, consciously through its actions, brought to life a monster that sowed death and destruction everywhere it went.

The fact is that at the moment Assad called in Russia to help him survive, the battle the US and the Gulf states were waging through Islamic State and other proxies was lost. It was only a matter of time before Assad would reassert his rule.

From that point onwards, every single person who was killed and every single Syrian made homeless – and there were hundreds of thousands of them – suffered their terrible fate for no possible gain in US policy goals. A vastly destructive overthrow war became instead something darker still: a neoconservative vanity project that ravaged countless Syrian lives.

A giant red herring

Trump is now ending part of that policy. He may be doing so for the wrong reasons. But very belatedly – and possibly only temporarily – he is closing a small chapter in a horrifying story of western-sponsored barbarism in the Middle East, one intimately tied to Islamic State.

What of the supposed concerns of Pelosi and the Democratic Party under whose watch the barbarism in Syria took place? They should have no credibility on the matter to begin with.

But their claims that Trump has “no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East” is a giant red herring they are viciously slapping us in the face with in the hope the spray of seawater blinds us.

First, Washington sowed the seeds of Islamic State by engineering a vacuum in Syria that Isis – or something very like it – was inevitably going to fill. Then, it allowed those seeds to flourish by assisting its Gulf allies in showering fighters in Syria with money and arms that came with only one string attached – a commitment to Sunni jihadist ideology inspired by Saudi Wahhabism.

Isis was made in Washington as much as it was in Riyadh. For that reason, the only certain strategy for preventing the revival of Islamic State is preventing the US and the Gulf states from interfering in Syria again.

With the Syrian army in charge of Syrian territory, there will be no vacuum for Isis to fill. Its state-building rationale is now unrealisable, at least in Syria. It will continue to wither, as it would have done years before if the US and its Gulf allies had not fuelled it in a proxy war they knew could not be won.

Doomed Great Game

The same lesson can be drawn by looking at the experience of the Syrian Kurds. The Rojava fiefdom they managed to carve out in northern Syria during the war survived till now only because of continuing US military support. With the US departure, and the Kurds too weak to maintain their improvised statelet, a vacuum was again created that this time risks sucking in the Turkish army, which fears a base for Kurdish nationalism on its doorstep.

The Syrian Kurds’ predicament is simple: face a takeover by Turkey or seek Assad’s protection to foil Turkish ambition. The best hope for the Kurds looks to be the Syrian army’s return, filling the vacuum and regaining a chance of long-term stability.

That could have been the case for all of Syria many tens of thousands of deaths ago. Whatever the corporate media suggest, those deaths were lost not in a failed heroic battle for freedom, which, even if it was an early aspiration for some fighters, quickly became a goal that was impossible for them to realise. No, those deaths were entirely pointless. They were sacrificed by a western military-industrial complex in a US-Saudi Great Game that dragged on for many years after everyone knew it was doomed.

Nancy Pelosi’s purported worries about Isis reviving because of Trump’s Syria withdrawal are simply crocodile fears. If she is really so worried about Islamic State, then why did she and other senior Democrats stand silently by as the US under Barack Obama spent years spawning, cultivating and financing Isis to destroy Syria, a state that was best placed to serve as a bulwark against the head-chopping extremists?

Pelosi and the Democratic leadership’s bad faith – and that of the corporate media – are revealed in their ongoing efforts to silence and smear Tulsi Gabbard, the party’s only candidate for the presidential nomination who has pointed out the harsh political realities in Syria, and tried to expose their years of lies.

Pelosi and most of the Democratic leadership don’t care about Syria, or its population’s welfare. They don’t care about Assad, or Isis. They care only about the maintenance and expansion of American power – and the personal wealth and influence it continues to bestow on them.

Nuclear War: Just Another Day

Catastrophic events that send the world into turmoil happen on ‘just another day’. The atom bomb that exploded over Hiroshima took place while thousands of ordinary folk were just going about their everyday business on ‘just another day’. A missile attack on a neighbourhood in Gaza or a drone attack on unsuspecting civilians in Afghanistan: death and destruction come like a bolt from the blue as people shop at the local market or take their kids to school on ‘just another day’.

Will it be ‘just another day’ when the next nuclear bomb is exploded in anger, an ordinary day when people are just going about their daily business? By then it might be too late to do anything, too late to act to try to prevent an unfolding global catastrophe on a scale never before witnessed by humans.

Yet so many appear too apathetic and wrapped up in a world of gadgets, technology, shopping malls, millionaire sports players and big-time sports events to think that such a thing could be imminent.

Are they so preoccupied with the machinations of their own lives in cotton-wool cocooned societies to think that what is happening in Syria or Iraq is just too boring to follow or that it doesn’t really concern them or it is ‘not my problem’? Do they think they are untouchable, that only death, war and violence happens in faraway places?

Could any of us even contemplate that on some not-too-distant day a series of European cities could be laid waste within a matter of minutes? It isn’t worth thinking about. Or is it?

The US (and the West’s) foreign policy is being driven on the basis of fake morality and duplicity. Millions lie dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya as a result of US-led imperialism and nuclear-armed Russia is constantly demonised simply because it will not acquiesce to Washington and serve as a vassal state.

And now, as the US continues to stir up tensions with Iran and as China warns neighbouring countries about allowing US nuclear missiles aimed at it on their territories, much of the Western public and media remain oblivious to the dangers of conflict escalation and the biggest immediate threat to all life on Earth: nuclear war.

The threat of mass murder

Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand.

The above extract comes from an account by a Hiroshima survivor talking about the fate of her schoolmates. In 2016, it was read out in the British parliament by Scottish National Party MP Chris Law during a debate about Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

In response to a question from MP George Kereven, the then British PM Theresa May said without hesitation that, if necessary, she would authorise the use of a nuclear weapon that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. May also implied that those wishing to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons are siding with the nation’s enemies.

Politicians like May read from a script devised by elite interests. This transnational capitalist class dictates global economic policies and decides on who lives and who dies and which wars are fought and inflicted on which people.

The mainstream narrative tends to depict individuals who belong to this class as ‘wealth creators’. In reality, however, these ‘high flyers’ have stolen ordinary people’s wealth, stashed it away in tax havens, bankrupted economies and have imposed a form of globalisation that results in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent or structurally adjusted violence via privatisation and economic neoliberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.

While ordinary folk across the world have been subjected to policies that have resulted in oppression, poverty and conflict, this is all passed off by politicians and the mainstream media as the way things must be.

The agritech sector poisons our food and agriculture. Madelaine Albright says it was worth it to have killed half a million kids in Iraq to secure energy resources for rich corporations and extend the wider geopolitical goals of ‘corporate America’. The welfare state is dismantled and austerity is imposed on millions. The rich increase their already enormous wealth. Powerful corporations corrupt government machinery and colonise every aspect of life for profit. Environmental destruction and ecological devastation continue apace.

And nuclear weapons hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles.

The public is supposed to back this status quo in support of what? Austerity, powerlessness, imperialism, propping up the US dollar and a moribund system. For whom? Occidental Petroleum, Soros, Murdoch, Rothschild, BP, JP Morgan, Boeing and the rest of the elite and their corporations whose policies are devised in think tanks and handed to politicians to sell to a largely ignorant public: those who swallow the lie about some ‘war on terror’ or Washington as the world’s policeman, protecting life and liberty.

Rejecting hegemonic thought

Many believe nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and fall into line with hegemonic thinking about humanity being inherently conflictual, competitive and war-like. Such tendencies do, of course, exist, but they do not exist in a vacuum. They are fuelled by capitalism and imperialism and played upon by politicians, the media and elite interests who seek to scare the population into accepting a ‘necessary’ status quo.

Co-operation and equality are as much a part of any arbitrary aspect of ‘human nature’ as any other defined characteristic. These values are, however, sidelined by a system of capitalism that is inherently conflict-ridden and expansionist.

Much of humanity has been convinced to accept the potential for instant nuclear Armageddon hanging over its collective head as a given, as a ‘deterrent’. However, the reality is that these weapons exist to protect elite, imperialist interests or to pressure others to cave into their demands. If the 20th century has shown us anything, it is these interests are adept at gathering the masses under notions of flag, god and country to justify their slaughter.

To prevent us all shuddering with the fear of the threat of instant nuclear destruction on a daily basis, it’s a case of don’t worry, be happy, forget about it and watch TV. It was the late academic Rick Roderick who highlighted that modern society trivialises issues that are of ultimate importance: they eventually become banal or ‘matter of fact’ to the population.

People are spun the notion that nuclear-backed militarism and neoliberalism and its structural violence are necessary for securing peace, defeating terror, creating prosperity or promoting ‘growth’. The ultimate banality is to accept this pack of lies and to believe there is no alternative, to acquiesce or just switch off to it all.

Instead of acquiescing and accepting it as ‘normal’, we should listen to writer and campaigner Robert J Burrowes:

Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take.

Burrowes concludes by saying that ultimately, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem. The evasion of responsibility, acquiescence and acceptance are, of course, part of the conditioning process.

The ‘problem’ encompasses not only ongoing militarism, but the structural violence of neoliberal capitalism, aided and abetted by the World Bank, IMF and the WTO. It’s a type of violence that is steady, lingering and a daily fact of life under globalised capitalism.

Of course, oppression and conflict have been a feature throughout history and have taken place under various economic and political systems. Indeed, in his various articles, Burrowes goes deep into the psychology and causes of violence.

But there is potentially a different path for humanity. In 1990, the late British MP Tony Benn gave a speech in parliament that indicated the kind of values that such a route might look like.

Benn spoke about having been on a crowded train, where people had been tapping away on calculators and not interacting or making eye contact with one another. It represented what Britain had apparently become under Thatcherism: excessively individualistic, materialistic, narcissistic and atomised.

The train broke down. As time went by, people began to talk with one another, offer snacks and share stories. Benn said it wasn’t too long before that train had been turned into a socialist train of self-help, communality and comradeship. Despite the damaging policies and ideology of Thatcherism, these features had survived her tenure, were deeply embedded and never too far from the surface.

For Tony Benn, what had been witnessed aboard that train was an aspect of ‘human nature’ that is too often suppressed, devalued and, when used as a basis for political change, regarded as a threat to ruling interests. It is an aspect that draws on notions of unity, solidarity, common purpose, self-help and finds its ultimate expression in the vibrancy of community, the collective ownership of productive resources and co-operation. The type of values far removed from the destructive, divisive ones of imperialism and capitalism which key politicians and the corporate media protect and promote.

The Orwellian Apex: Dissecting Trump’s UN Speech

There are liars in the world and then there’s Donald Trump. A first rate unapologetic gaslighting manipulator of language who takes deception to the heights of hypocrisy. Bending and looping definitions at will where words themselves start to lack all meaning. It’s not surprising that the world is in its present state when a bucket of highly condensed lies is splashed onto the public by every sycophantic corporate media outlet and the rebuttals, like this one you’re reading now, are given little if any coverage. It’s a mouse squeak responding to a thunderous roar of media channel distribution.

Everyone knows politicians openly lie and wildly misrepresent what few half truths they reference, yet somehow a captured populace who has become deathly ill with Stockholm Syndrome has not lost faith in the system itself. Despite election after election of the same behaviors, the same patterns of power seeking from elites, the same wars for resources being fought, the same handouts for the rich and rampant inequality; despite all this the populace still somehow has faith that capitalism works and the US is force for good in the world.

The average American believes their government isn’t completely corrupt and that their politician of the moment is better than the other guy and will change everything if they are patient just a little longer. They at least believe their candidate will hopefully lie less than Trump, and on that point they’re probably right to some degree, but these politicians are all stooges for banking cartels, neoliberal corporations, and display a jingoistic allegiance for nation-states and are open liars who can be easily debunked if the people could just briefly not succumb to conforming around the given status quo argumentation. Politicians don’t debate ideas, rather they commonly simply take up the Pee Wee Herman debate tactic espousing an “I know you are but what am I” stratagem. Public debate for all politicians within this deeply broken system has nothing to do with truth, but rather attempting to frame and contextualize arguments so they sound moderately better than their opponents as they speak to the known indoctrinated beliefs already installed in the public dialogue.

Trump isn’t so different from every other politician.  He just lies with more ferocity and an open disdain for truth. He couches his arguments of ideological conformity in being a good patriot, and a good patriot is loyal to their country and stands by it no matter what kind of horrors they unleash upon the world. Within the notion of blind patriotism is the same tactic taken up by dogmatic organized religions for centuries who claim to be mouthpieces for god and to speak against their word is to blaspheme god herself. Likewise, Trump, like nearly every other US leader continually attempts to associate America with liberty, democracy, and bold individualism, and thus to be a patriot means to support these underlying beliefs, so if one should speak against the actions of America equates to be against these poorly defined values that sound really good, but have come to mean nothing to the point they hit the ear like shallow platitudes.

Trump’s UN speech delivered on September 24th, 2019 is such an affront to truth that hearing the mangling of the definition of words nearly drives one to madness. The rhetoric is an assault on the English language and what words actually mean, and when politicians are able to steal language from us they have stolen the ability for the public to speak to one another where real dialogue can be had and actual truth can be found.

And while we are all quite aware there are always lies baked into this kind of propaganda, I thought it still worthwhile to rend this Orwellian nightmare of drivel down and unpack some of these lies, though truly a lengthy book could be written breaking down the volume of lies contained within this single speech. Such is the power of a lie that dispelling them requires far more effort and time than telling one. So without further ado, let’s strip this emperor of his semantic clothes and expose this dingus brained twitter twat for what he really is, a naked liar.

I thought I’d start here:

DT: “Like those who met us before, our time is one of great contests, high stakes, and clear choices. The essential divide that runs all around the world and throughout history is once again thrown into stark relief.  It is the divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others and those people and nations who want only to rule themselves.” 

The “divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others” – This is an “Are you friggin’ serious?” line spoken as if the US hasn’t been at the center of this kind of activity since its very inception. I suppose Manifest Destiny was really just a genocide to spread the word of god and not a power grab for resources and land? I suppose all the countries the US has attacked without provocation, the forced regime changes enacted by our intelligence agencies, or the feigned false flags and manufactured reasons for military intervention so that we may occupy places we have no right to be for decades was not the US believing it was “destined to rule over others” but instead just the US protecting the world in acts of bomb dropping benevolence. Sure.

DT: “I have the immense privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence, and self-government above all.

The immense privilege of an elected leader who didn’t receive the majority of votes in a faux democracy.

And a country that prizes liberty so much by having the world’s largest prison population which is actually understated, and where people who might try to be independently choosing what they put into their own bodies and having control over their own consciousness are arrested and thrown in prison en masse, and especially so if your skin color is something other than creamy white. A place where you are free to tirelessly work for your employer and the only consequence for not doing so is that you go without a roof over your head, and you and your family will be unable to get healthcare without being in a lifetime of debt, and your access to food potentially threatened if you don’t complete those TPS reports with the proper cover sheet. But remember your country prizes liberty above all else! God Bless the USA!

I must admit I have a morbid curiosity to know what Trump’s working definition of liberty is. I’d love to know even more what the hell the slave owning genocidal scribes of the founding documents of America meant by it, because it sure does seem like their definition of liberty is freedom for the elite class and subservient never ending work for everyone else. It’s the classic standard setup in western civilization since the get go, but now the difference is we say the word liberty instead of openly stating slave, serf, or indentured servant. Progress in modernity is measured by the positivity of the words chosen by those in power.

DT: “The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. Hopefully, it will never have to use this power.

Yeah, let’s all hope our military won’t ever have to use that military power to say drop bombs with drones. Like, it would be a real shame if they used them to kill farmers in Afghanistan a couple weeks ago instead of ostensible ISIS targets, which usually amounts to armed people who don’t want US occupation in their country. Because you know, no one would ever join an extremist group after having a foreign military kill their friends and family who were doing nothing but farming. That surely doesn’t drive people to take up whatever arms they can find against an occupying force. Good thing all our divinely blessed weapons are there unused to make sure none of that happens. And good thing if such an event were to occur it would just be an isolated incident in a single country and not something that happens across the entire middle east in an ongoing immoral war that’s over 17 years old now.

And thank god we used two and half trillion dollars to strengthen our god fearing military, who is in no way or form an oppressive force in the world or the world’s largest polluter while the planet is in an ecological emergency. But, yes, well spent taxpayer dollars to bring supposed peace to our world.

DT: “Americans know that in a world where others seek conquest and domination, our nation must be strong in wealth, in might, and in spirit. That is why the United States vigorously defends the traditions and customs that have made us who we are.”

Yes, it’s just those others that seek conquest and domination, not the kind-hearted Mr Trump and the US empire with 800 military bases, which is just for safety and security for good folk like he, Mr Trump, who would describe himself and the US just like a good natured Dickensian character would – “Soft-hearted me! Hard-working me! Clean-living, thrifty and kind as can be!” How pure of heart we are, what noble intent, it’s a shame the corrupting domination seeking world around us forces our hand so much into warfare.

DT: “Looking around and all over this large, magnificent planet, the truth is plain to see: If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.”

A “magnificent planet” Trump glibly speaks about while encouraging US corporations who can’t seem to destroy it fast enough so long as there are profit incentives for them to do so, which the government won’t lift a finger to impede since more important things like the almighty GDP and forever inflating the financial markets, which primarily benefit the rich, are continually prioritized over protecting this magnificence.

He also equates jingoism with peace, since there seems to be a pretty good history in place that backs up the premise that peace and “loving your nation” go hand in hand. For instance, NAZIs loved their leaders and nation above all, and they were well known for their peaceful attitudes.

And I’m also glad Trump has a handle on what a “wise leader does” and he defines as one who puts the interests of the people first. Yup, billionaires are commonly known for doing just that.

DT: “Last month, African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment reached their lowest rates ever recorded. We are marshaling our nation’s vast energy abundance, and the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. Wages are rising, incomes are soaring, and 2.5 million Americans have been lifted out of poverty in less than three years.”

Being the number one producer of oil should not be a thing any compassionate citizen of Earth should take pride in while carbon emissions directly contribute to a rapidly warming planet. And boasting about the economy while rising healthcare and housing costs do more than enough to negate the pathetic rises to income the working class has seen. There aren’t enough living wage jobs available to support the population and the debt is at levels where it can never be paid back. But sure, Donnie, boast about how wonderful the economy is. And to assert that you lifted people out of poverty when the threshold for being in poverty is $12,500 for a single person makes this talking point no great accomplishment. Further there is no way to accurately assess how many have been thrown into poverty in that time either.

But the rich are richer than ever and hoarding at rates not seen since just before the market crash of 1929. The rising tide does not lift all boats, rather it tends to drown those who cannot afford boats.

DT:  paraphrasing “…A bunch of horse-shit on how China is ripping us off”.

Never detailing how American companies have been benefiting from abusing Chinese labor for decades. Trump’s crusade is never to condemn US companies for profiteering off unsavory labor conditions which corporations go to great pains to arrange so they don’t have to pay labor here, and even if factories are brought back to America they’ll see to it they automate or shift production to another country they can exploit before paying good salaries to American workers. The impetus here seems to put a ceiling on growing Chinese economic power rather than to help Americans as he claims. This is a common tactic in all actions of ruling power, which is to couch their arguments in ideas of security, helping the common American, or building up the nation-state when what they are really doing is what Trump makes claims others are doing, giving ever more power to elites just like him through unscrupulous methods.

DT: “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation. We desire peace, cooperation, and mutual gain with all. But I will never fail to defend America’s interests.

The non-Orwellian translation – If the rest of the world doesn’t economically surrender their resources in the manner the US wants, you’ll talk to our bombs instead of our predatory capitalists in expensive suits.

DT: “With that goal in mind, my administration is also pursuing the hope of a brighter future in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban has chosen to continue their savage attacks. And we will continue to work with our coalition of Afghan partners to stamp out terrorism, and we will never stop working to make peace a reality.

Fighting “terrorism” while actively giving people good reason to be violent against you because of immoral US occupation in their country and killing innocent people in droves is a never ending fight and a spiral of pain. This strategy is reminiscent of the CIA’s strategy in Vietnam called the Phoenix Program where the basic idea is to cause chaos where the people can never organize or have control of their own government. US foreign policy is pure bullshit and the war on terrorism is 100% a ruse to rule over the middle east with military might and done under the guise of peace while their true intent is, and always has been, control of oil resources in the region.

DT: “One of the most serious challenges our countries face is the specter of socialism.  It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies….In the last century, socialism and communism killed 100 million people.

There is perhaps no lie bigger than the continual blathering around the spurious dangers of socialism/communism and the supposed 100 million deaths attributed to these economic system alone. No one seems to think about it, they just hear red baiting repeatedly and over time have developed a negative association with the words, and now when people like Trump just mention the words it causes a visceral reaction that flies right past the thinking mind, which is exactly what was intended.

It should be noted, first of all, that capitalists hate socialism/communism because it reduces capitalists’ ability to commodify everything they see and takes power away from the almighty dollar which is the source of all power for the US and other nation states. Money buys the means of production, it funds weapons companies, it buys media, it buys lobbyists, super pacs, essentially a political voice, it controls everything. Money commands leverage over all and controls human behavior in extremely authoritarian ways.

Yet capitalism is supposedly responsible for no deaths, as if Hitler, Stalin, and Mao weren’t all using currency and being financed in some capacity by capitalist currency.  Some of that money came from American investors even. As if all the wars and military apparatus America has manufactured and sold to others weren’t done under capitalism. As if all the dangerous working conditions billions of people have been exposed to weren’t done under capitalism, all the black lung disease, exposure to chemicals, and cheaply made products that killed people so that the producer could save a buck in production costs weren’t somehow done under capitalism. As if the entire eroding planetary ecology which threatens every last person on the planet wasn’t done in the name of capitalist dollars. And does capitalism not always allow for primitive accumulation of resources and always inevitably end in authoritarianism time and time again? So then, if we are blindly going to assign a death count to an ‘ism then there is no more dangerous ‘ism than capitalism.

Further, Stalin and Hitler were communist and socialist like America is a democracy. It’s something they say while doing something that is very different. America has elements of a democracy but is not one, as again Trump himself didn’t come to power through democracy. He came to power through the leverage of financial resources and an electoral college where he didn’t have to accrue the most votes. In no way, shape or form is that a democracy. And the same can be said for NAZI Germany and Stalinist Russia with their claims of socialism and communism.  They had some elements of those things they claimed were so, but what they delivered was something quite different from what they promised their people and used all kinds of capitalist practices while doling out their ostensible communism and socialism. What all these things have in common is they are run like top down hierarchies who made use of centralized systems of power.

And what socialism and communism really amount to is sharing things instead of everyone buying something through a capitalist entity. People share things all the time peacefully, and aboriginal cultures lived in relative peace for thousands of years without a common currency at all. In our society people within their own families, inside their churches, their work places etc. commonly share things without problems. When people go to work their is a communal printer, a communal computer server, a common kitchen space and so on. Sharing public spaces and human cooperation without the use of “free” markets and money does not directly equate to dictators and warfare.

Problems arise when leverage over others is used to force them into activities. The threat of losing your home or the threat of violence from the state are things capitalist America does consistently to force behavior just like every other major power throughout the history of western civilization. This is the essence of authoritarianism.

Trump has a knack of saying everyone else is the problem without ever considering that he is no better than the worst of what he speaks to. All the lies Trump tells there is a continual dismissal of nuance, while a reductionist and simplistic narrative of choice is adhered right over top of the truth.

DT: “Events in Venezuela remind us all that socialism and communism are not about justice, they are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about the good of the nation.  Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class.”

Today, I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country.

Sadly, as we see in Venezuela, the death toll continues in this country. These totalitarian ideologies, combined with modern technology, have the power to excise [exercise] new and disturbing forms of suppression and domination.

This comment is rife with epic amounts of misrepresentation and outright lying by a billionaire who has done nothing but seek out more power for the ruling class. Money is power and massive accumulations of it to use as leverage over others is the very definition of power seeking. And Trump points to Venezuela and Cuba as examples of power seeking? What power do they command exactly? What massive armies do they control? Who are they allowed to place sanctions on?

It seems to me that US sanctions and the power the US has on the global stage to enforce such sanctions is what is making Venezuela struggle economically. Venezuela attempting to do what was best for their country and use their oil resources without the financial hegemony of the petrodollar is what led to these sanctions.

And Trump’s comment that America will never be a socialist country shows his dictatorial fervor, even if the people in America overwhelmingly want some socialist policies so that hospitals and insurance companies can’t price gouge them to live and have medical treatment. The dear leader refuses to accept the will of the people because it would impede capitalist profiteering. This demagogue refuses the will of the people despite evidence that socialist policies can work in the system like they do in Canada, the UK, Norway, and Sweden. Oh, the horrors of those countries! And they aren’t perfect places. They are just generally a lot better in some critical ways than ra ra capitalist America.

DT: “As we defend American values, we affirm the right of all people to live in dignity. For this reason, my administration is working with other nations to stop criminalizing of homosexuality, and we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail, or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation…Guided by these principles, my administration launched the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiatives.….Yesterday, I was also pleased to host leaders for a discussion about an ironclad American commitment: protecting religious leaders and also protecting religious freedom..

Trump seems to care so much about the rights of LGBTQ people, religious freedom, and women’s rights as he continues to be best buddies with Saudi Arabia who is one of the worst offenders of criminalizing homosexuality, denying religious freedoms and women’s rights. There is nothing this man says that doesn’t have a direct contradiction built in, which is a pretty good clue that he’s a say-anything charlatan and a pathological liar.

DT: “My fellow leaders, the path to peace and progress, and freedom and justice, and a better world for all humanity, begins at home.

I couldn’t agree more. And being that this system will never get any better than it is now is why we need to overthrow the likes of moneyed totalitarians such as Trump and the powers that be and replace them with a coalition of independent communities where the local people of each area work together cooperatively employing  anarcho-communism while exercising a dialectical participatory democracy through each small community so that the rule of the centralized power and maniacal oligarchs finally comes to an end.

What was provided here was but a small amount of the bullshit packed into his speech. The lies are layered and injected with tacit antecedent lies leading to conclusions that are lies. What’s special about Trump is that the lies have become so bold and brash in orientation that he doesn’t seem to mind how egregious the fibs have become. His speech is laden with empty platitudes and populist rhetoric people want to hear while leading down a trail to all the nefarious acts he speaks negatively of, pointing a finger at everyone else and projecting the horrors of the hegemonic US empire onto the very people and governments the US exploits and abuses, while fostering a nation-state that is fundamentally worse than the most power seeking governments ever to exist. It’s not just that bad, it’s worse than what I’m even stating here, which is why many Americans remain incredulous. They can’t believe someone in power could lie to this degree, but those in power can, and they do, and they will continue to until the people wise up.

“Ukrainegate” Teaches Us More About Ourselves Than Trump Or Biden

Anti-Imperialism protest in the Phillippines. Photo: Carlo Manalansan by Bulatlat

‘Ukrainegate’ has opened the floodgates of impeachment in Washington, DC. President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky provided such an opportunity that Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who resisted pressure for impeachment, is now on board along with a majority of the party. Democrats are moving quickly to make Trump the third president ever to be impeached.

Conviction is up to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required, so that is very unlikely. Trump will probably be the Republican nominee even though he has never broken 50 percent support in the polls. Chris Hedges writes that a partisan impeachment will anger the people in Trump’s base who view him as challenging the establishment and could backfire for the Democrats.

The political impact of impeachment depends on how the Democrats build their case and whether it becomes bi-partisan. Richard Nixon grew more unpopular and public support for his impeachment grew during the process. Bill Clinton consistently had more than 60 percent support during his presidency, ending with 66 percent popularity while support for impeachment decreased as it progressed. Trump starts with a historically low level of popularity, whether an angered base and failed impeachment in the Senate will help Trump is too soon to say.

Impeachment by the House seems inevitable even though less than a majority of voters currently support it. The Democrats need to be careful because shining a light on Ukraine, where Obama-Biden conducted the most open coup in US history (until the recent Trump failed coup in Venezuela,) could undermine Joe Biden, their highest polling candidate. It will also expose the ugly realities of US foreign policy, the corporate control of both parties and the need for fundamental change in US politics.

Joe Biden with Petro Poroshenko, who was an informant for the US government for six years before becoming president. Photo: Sergey Dolzhenko for EPA.

The US Coup in Ukraine

The openness of the US coup in Ukraine is something to behold. In December 2013, Victoria Nuland, the Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, bragged to a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and “five years worth of work and preparation” to bring Ukraine into the US orbit. In November 2013, President Yanuyovch rejected an EU Agreement in favor of joining Russia’s Common Union with the other Commonwealth Independent States.

The timeline of events around the coup shows pressure and bribery were being used including the promise of a $1.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and $850 million from the World Bank. Nuland described three trips to Ukraine where she made it “absolutely clear” to Yanukovych that the US required “immediate steps” …to “get back into conversation with Europe and the IMF.” Threats and payoffs were the modes of US operation.

Nuland was also meeting with the Ukrainian opposition including the neo-Nazi Svoboda party. Less than one month before the coup removed Yanuyovch on January 30, 2014, the State Department announced Nuland would be meeting “with government officials, opposition leaders, civil society and business leaders to encourage agreement on a new government and plan of action.” On February 4, Nuland was caught speaking on a taped open telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, discussing the next government saying,  “I think Yats is the guy,” referring to Holocaust-denier, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became the post-coup prime minister. In the call, she also urged that Yats should work with neo-Nazis.

Shortly after Yats became Prime Minister, Joe Biden called him. Biden was the White House point-person on Ukraine. At a press conference, Obama touted Biden’s role while stumbling over Yats’ name, saying: “Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister [pause] – the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts.”

In addition to Yats, the post-coup president of Ukraine was known by US authorities as “Our Ukraine Insider” or “OU.” A series of Wikileaks documents showed OU had been working as an informant for the United States for six years. A Wikileaks cable made clear the US considered Petro Poroshenko to be corrupt but his “price had to be paid.” In a cable involving Secretary of State Clinton, OU explained the value of the US being in Crimea — Russia’s only seaport and long-time naval base.

OU added another US agent, Natalia Jaresko, a long-time State Department official, who went to Ukraine after the U.S.-sponsored Orange Revolution. Jaresko was made a Ukrainian citizen by OU on the same day he appointed her finance minister. Between the Orange Revolution and the 2014 coup, William Boardman reports, Jaresko ran a hedge fund in Ukraine used to manage “a CIA fund that supported ‘pro-democracy movements’ and laundered much of the $5 billion the US spent supporting the Maidan protests that led to the Kiev coup.” Jaresko received $1.77 million in bonuses from the tax-payer funded investment project in addition to her $150,000 annual salary. She is now head of the “La Junta” in Puerto Rico.

In addition to controlling the top government posts in Ukraine, the US moved to control key economic sectors. Regarding agriculture, Monsanto was given the ability to buy property (which had been previously forbidden) and an $8.7 billion IMF loan required Ukraine to allow biotech farming and the sale of Monsanto’s poison crops and chemicals thereby destroying farmland that was one of the most pristine in Europe.

Regarding energy, the largest private gas company in Ukraine, Bursima Holdings, appointed Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter Biden, and a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry, and Devon Archer, the college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, to the board. Archer also served as an adviser to Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, co-chaired his National Finance Committee and serves as a trustee of the Heinz Family Office, which manages the family business. Hunter Biden and Archer, along with Christopher Heinz, co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners.

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Saul Loeb for Getty Images

Trump’s Phone Call with Zelensky Urging Investigation of Biden

Donald Trump is concerned about Biden as a political opponent in the 2020 election. Although he is fading in current polls, Biden still leads among Democrats seeking the nomination and defeats Trump in all head-to-head polls, as do other leading Democratic candidates.

The impeachment spike occurred because of a July 25 telephone call between Trump and President Zelensky where Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Biden. A CIA official filed a whistleblower complaint about it and the Inspector General sent a letter to Jerry Maguire, Director of National Intelligence, who initially withheld both from Congress. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, found the complaint to be “credible” and “of urgent concern” and alerted Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, about it. The administration has taken steps to restrict access to records of the call, the transcript of which has still not been provided to Congress.

Since December 2018, Rudy Guiliani had been pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and Hunter Biden’s involvement with Bursima. The April 21 election of Zelensky and July 21 Parliamentary elections, which brought in a new government, undid much of Guiliani’s lobbying. Trump’s call after the legislative elections, ostensibly to congratulate Zelensky, included multiple mentions of the need to investigate Biden. The Washington Post reports, “Days after the two presidents spoke…Giuliani met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden’s son Hunter on his board. Another was an allegation that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.”

Manafort was one of the few convictions from the Mueller investigation. Manafort was indicted on twelve counts, including committing conspiracy against the United States by failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine. Manafort pleaded guilty to that charge in September 2018.

Democrats calling for impeachment describe Trump’s actions as coercing a foreign nation into the 2020 elections by pressuring them to investigate a chief rival, Joe Biden. Trump withheld military funding for Ukraine and scheduling a meeting with Zelensky at the White House as coercive instruments. US policy in Ukraine has emphasized militarism against Russia since the coup. The New Yorker reports, “McCain was calling for the U.S. to arm Ukraine for defense against a ‘Russian invasion’ that he sees as part of Putin’s plan to ‘re-establish the old Russian empire.’ McCain also called for the U.S. to send military ‘advisors.’”

Trump says he is waiting to see if Zelensky will “play ball” with the US. Trump is using threats and payoffs in Ukraine, just as Joe Biden did.

Joe Biden points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2009. Photo: Carlos Barria For Reuters.

The Risk to Biden Grows

While Trump is deservedly at serious risk for impeachment, the risk to Biden is also growing. Politico reports that Joe Biden is waging war on the Hunter Biden-Ukraine reporting. The risk to Biden is existential, he needs Democrats to remain silent and for the impeachment inquiry not to examine what Trump was investigating in Ukraine.

In January 2018, Biden bragged on video in his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations how he pressured Ukraine to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin saying he would not approve a $1 billion dollar IMF loan if Shokin was not fired before Biden left Ukraine during a six-hour visit.  On April 1, The Hill published an article that reports: “The prosecutor [Biden] got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.” They report Rosemont Seneca Partners received “regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015,” confirmed by US banking records. Shokin’s file shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer, and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of the money.

The article further reports that Shokin wrote before he was fired that he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.” This is consistent with a sworn affidavit of Shokin (see shokin-ukraine-prosecutor-sworn-statement) where he said, “Poroshenko asked me to resign due to pressure from…Joe Biden…who was threatening to withhold USD $1 billion in subsidies to Ukraine until I was removed.” There were no complaints against Shokin at the time. He explains, “The truth is I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe of Bursima Holdings.” Shokin describes how Poroshenko had asked him to end the probe multiple times and he had refused.

The Hill reports that “interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day.” Obama named Biden the administration’s point man on Ukraine in February 2014, after the coup and as Crimea was voting to return to Russia.

The New Yorker not only details Hunter’s personal and professional problems but also reports that Guiliani said “in the fall of 2018, he spoke to Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former Prosecutor General. Shokin told him that Vice-President Biden had him fired in 2016 because he was investigating Burisma and the company’s payments to Hunter and Archer. Giuliani said that, in January 2019, he met with Yurii Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, in New York, and Lutsenko confirmed Shokin’s version of events.” Biden and his supporters are working to change the narrative, perhaps the impeachment inquiry will get the facts out.

This weekend, Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s former prime minister from 2010-2014, said in an interview that Ukraine must investigate whether Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma complied with the country’s laws; i.e., investigate what Biden had done for Burisma to justify his remuneration. Further, he said allegations that Joe Biden had gotten Ukraine’s prosecutor general fired to protect his son must also be investigated. On Friday, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was investigating activity at Burisma between 2010-2012, but it was not looking into changes to its board in 2014 when Hunter Biden joined.

Protesters opposing a coup against Nicolás Maduro outside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2019. Photo: Jose Luis Magana for AP.

The Quagmire Of US Imperialism

The Ukraine crisis exposes the bipartisan corruption inherent in the US imperialist foreign policy. An investigation into Ukraine may expose what are actually common practices by both Democratic and Republican administrations in regime change efforts. As John Kiriakou explained when he gave a talk at the Venezuelan Embassy during the Embassy Protection Collective action, the CIA has a secret regime change office that provides plans to overthrow any government the US chooses to target. These plans involve similar tactics – the investment of large amounts of money into NGOs (often ‘human rights groups’), support for a violent opposition, installing US-trained and controlled leaders and payoffs for those involved.

In the past, these practices occurred behind closed doors, but now it seems the ruling class has become so brazen, it doesn’t try very hard to hide what it’s doing. This provides an opportunity for the public to discuss whether or not the current foreign policy is serving our interests or the world. If we agree that it doesn’t, then it is up to us to organize to change it.

Regime change efforts have had disastrous consequences. Certainly, no country is better off than it was before US interference.  Look at Iraq and Libya, thriving countries that were thrown into chaos, for recent examples. Ukraine has elected a new government, but its GDP is 24 percent smaller now than it was in 1993, and corruption has continued. And the echoes of US regime change from 1953 in removing Mohammad Mosaddegh, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, continue to reverberate and poison relations between the US and Iran.

Other countries have resisted regime change but have paid a heavy price. Syria is trying to rebuild after more than eight years of war instigated and supported by the US. Venezuela is resisting ongoing coup attempts and brutal unilateral coercive measures imposed by the US. This week at the United Nations, Venezuela successfully prevented the US from removing its diplomats but the US doubled down on its regime change tactics. Even leading Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are making false claims about Venezuela.

As residents in a corrupt, corporate-controlled, imperialist country, we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to take action to stop the US disastrous foreign policy. The world is changing. The US will no longer be the hegemon. Will we allow the US to continue wreaking havoc as it goes down, or are we ready to change course and become a cooperative member of the global community? Last weekend, we held the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine. On October 11, we’ll participate in the Rage Against the War Machine actions at the White House. We are committed to organizing to end US imperialism because it is fundamental in creating the future world we need.

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:

No, Srebrenica did not “inspire” Christchurch

Earlier this month, popular ‘progressive’ news website The Intercept published an article entitled “From El Paso to Sarajevo: How White Nationalists Are Inspired by the Bosnia Genocide”, written by journalist and staff writer Murtaza Hussain. The piece argued that many of the perpetrators behind mass shootings and domestic terrorism in the West — from the convicted far right extremist behind the 2011 Norway attacks to the suspect charged in the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand — were influenced by ethnic cleansing committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hussain uses a one-sided and Western-centric account of the inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans to assess the Islamophobia burgeoning in Europe and the United States today. His analogy employs the same misreading used by NATO to facilitate the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and justify its illegal military intervention and war crimes against Serbia. It is an irresponsible variety of yellow journalism that should be ruthlessly critiqued whenever it appears, especially at a news organization which purports to be “fearless, adversarial journalism that holds the powerful accountable.” It also does nothing to help address the growing foundations of fascism by diverting attention away from its real origins.

Hussain begins by accurately noting that the Australian-born suspect behind the massacre at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant, during his live-stream video prior to the carnage, played the song “Remove Kabab” (Serbia Strong”), an upbeat patriotic tune that pays tribute to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. Removed from the context of the Yugoslav Wars, the Serbian folk song and its accompanying wartime propaganda video were rediscovered by Western right-wing fanatics like Tarrant when it became a popular internet meme among the online fringe as an anthem for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in reaction to the influx of refugees from the European migrant crisis. The infamous convicted terrorist behind the July 2011 mass shooting and car bombing in Norway, Anders Breivik, also expressed affinity for the Serbs in his epic manifesto and was cited as an influence by Tarrant. However, despite the article title the author provides no evidence whatsoever to support the implication that the El Paso shooter, 21-year old Patrick Crusius, was in any way motivated by the Balkan conflict.

Brenton Tarrant also wrote the names of several historical Serbian military figures who fought against the Ottoman Empire in previous centuries in Cyrillic on his semi-automatic rifle used to carry out the slaughter. Curiously, he also wrote ‘Skanderbeg’, a legendary national hero of Albania who as a medieval military commander, defected from the Ottoman Turks and prevented their expansion toward western Europe in the 15th century. Despite his historical legacy of rescuing ‘Christendom’ from an Islamic empire to which Tarrant was likely referring, Skanderbeg holds varying significance to different peoples and for the predominantly Muslim Albanians he is viewed as a source of national pride and identity.

During WWII when Albania was under the Axis Powers sphere of influence, it was Muslim volunteers who formed the nucleus of the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), whose foremost victims were Christian Orthodox Serbs, in addition to Jews and Roma. In the Yugoslav Wars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), de-listed terrorist group backed by NATO which fought against Serbia, sought to establish the modern equivalent of the ethnically pure ‘Greater Albania’ as envisioned by Benito Mussolini during WWII in the Kosovo protectorate. So if the Australian-born gunman was incited by Balkan history, it is because he was as confused and unknowledgeable about the complex subject as Hussain, given that he also wrote the number 14 on his firearm in reference to “the 14 words” from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Before falsifying the history of the Yugoslav Wars, Hussain does correctly observe that:

The Balkans are often condescendingly stereotyped as a backward region stuck in the grip of old prejudices. In reality, Serbs, Croats, and Muslims had lived together as compatriots in the former Yugoslavia for a long time before violent demagogues came to power; it took years of effort during the late 1980s and early 1990s for ultranationalist leaders to drum up the level of fear and hatred necessary for war to start.

Unfortunately, the author does not bother to investigate why they had successfully lived together in harmony as southern slavs for decades (under socialism), nor how such leaders took power and incited the different ethnicities into warring with each other as the country disintegrated, as if everything occurred in a vacuum. Following WWII, partisan leader Josip Broz Tito had indeed united the various Yugoslav peoples in congruity under a popular motto that the country consisted of ‘six republics, five nationalities, four languages, three religions, two alphabets — but one Yugoslav.’ Even the most fervent critics of socialism admit the republic was a relative success as it enjoyed freedom from being undermined by economic embargo as a neutral ‘non-aligned’ country during the Cold War after relations soured between Stalin and Tito and it became a strategic buffer between the West and the Soviets.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, a series of austerity programs sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were put into effect and much like a recent study concluded regarding Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the gutting of the welfare system and the social fabric led to a resurgence of right-wing nationalism in the Balkans. Yugoslavia went through the same neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ as Chile the decade prior when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sent the CIA to “make the economy scream” to prevent Salvador Allende from taking power, as well as post-Soviet Russia which the author’s The Intercept colleague Naomi Klein described so thoroughly in The Shock Doctrine. Yet for Hussain, the driving force in Yugoslavia’s downfall was bigotry itself, somehow isolated from the disaster capitalism forced upon it.

As only an empire denialist could overlook, Hussain makes no mention of the “encouragement of racism” on the part of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the coercive diplomacy of the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act which instigated the separatist movements by providing aid exclusively to the republics that seceded and declared independence at the exclusion of the Yugoslav government. After the bill was passed by congress at the behest of the George H.W. Bush administration, only the federation of Serbia and Montenegro remained under the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to a declassified memorandum, the CIA had already been anticipating this collapse for several years.

Suddenly, much of the population consisting of the many different ethnic communities of the Balkans found themselves trapped within various newly formed ethno-nation states overnight that were not their own. They then began establishing proto-states within these new republics, spurring violent conflicts and territorial disputes resulting in ethnic cleansing (on all sides) across the country. Yugoslavia did not implode simply because of its own internal contradictions, but was the subject of exploitation by a more powerful outside actor seeking to economically and militarily dominate the Caspian Sea region in order to gain access to its crude oil and natural gas resources.

Serbian nationalism only saw a resurgence within Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina once Serbs became hostages under new hostile regimes, when we were told by the NATO acolytes in corporate media that it was Belgrade who were the real nationalists even though most Serbians still identified as Yugoslavs and generally wished to preserve the federation being partitioned. In fact, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague posthumously concluded that the late Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, who died mysteriously while in custody on trial in the Netherlands, was not responsible for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. When Radovan Karadžić was convicted by the ICTY, it was determined the Bosnian Serbs acted on their own accord and were frequently at variance with Belgrade on the execution of the war:

Based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular, Milošević’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan.

Serbs certainly committed their share of war crimes, but why do Western journalists dare not speak of the thousands of Serbs ethnically cleansed in Croatia from the self-proclaimed quasi-state of Krajina? Or the mass deportations of Serbs from Kosovo in the years since? The innocent heroes and stigmatized villains were pre-selected and to do so would be actual “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Many of the war crimes committed by Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the Yugoslav Wars were by foreign mujahideen volunteers whose ranks even consisted of two of the future 9/11 hijackers — the Saudi nationals Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — who allegedly seized American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into The Pentagon. Their barbaric acts included beheadings of Serb victims that were likely inspired by the Ustaše who did the same in WWII.

Hussain repeatedly refers to what took place in Bosnia as a “genocide”, citing the dubious Srebrenica massacre in July 1995. While it is certain that a horrific war crime took place in the town, to use such a politicized term is a slanted parroting of the NATO interventionist narrative. Virtually all of the victims were Bosniak Muslim men and boys as the Bosnian Serbs had specifically evacuated women and children from the enclave and the disputed, highly inflated quantity of Bosniak victims were mostly likely a combination of fatalities from the battle for the town and retaliatory summary executions by Bosnian Serbs once they besieged the territory. Prior to the incident, Srebrenica had been under the protection of the UN peacekeeping forces which Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Orić had used to shield his militias following their routine attacks on neighboring Serb villages whose losses also numbered in the thousands. UN General Phillipe Morillon testified that the Srebrenica massacre was motivated by retribution for the war crimes committed by Orić:

JUDGE ROBINSON: Are you saying, then, General, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Orić did to the Serbs two years before?

THE WITNESS: Yes. Yes, Your Honour. I am convinced of that. This doesn’t mean to pardon or diminish the responsibility of the people who committed that crime, but I am convinced of that, yes.

If there were deliberate killings of large groups based on their ethnonationality on all sides, then what occurred was part of a civil war, not “genocide.” Noam Chomsky observed that while NATO based its intervention on the g-word, one of its member states in Turkey was carrying out far worse atrocities against Kurds and that to use the term was an insult to the victims of the Nazis in the region’s past. Who were the principal victims of the Ustaše and the Nazi puppet regime of the Independent State of Croatia during WWII? Serbs. It is also incredible that for a journalist so fixated on neo-fascism, Hussain did not find it significant that Bosnia and Herzegovina President Alija Izetbegović had been a literal member of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS “Handschar” (1st Croatian) in his youth during WWII when Bosnia was under the Ustaše and did three years in prison under Tito for his offense.

Why did the UN peacekeepers fail to protect Srebrenica? It is an important question considering it brought the real turning point in the war. Not long after, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force against Ratko Mladić’s forces resulting in the Bosnian Serbs capitulating to a return to negotiations in the Dayton Accord later that year. The former mayor of Srebrenica, Hakija Meholjić, claimed the town was deliberately sacrificed as part of a ‘red line’ agreement between Izetbegović and U.S. President Bill Clinton in a ‘false flag’ to prompt the NATO intervention, as shown in a 2008 Wikileaks Cable:

Meholjic suggested that Bosniak leaders “sold” Srebrenica to the RS (and abetted genocide) when “key members of the international community started saying publicly that enclaves cannot survive.” (Note: Oric, who left Srebrenica in 1993, was not asked to defend it in 1995; ever since there have been accusations that the then Bosnian leadership deliberately allowed the enclave to fall.

Hussain truly loses any remaining “progressive” credibility when he goes on to praise the Otpor! political organization which organized protests that led to the ouster of “dictator” Milošević (actually thrice democratically-elected) in 2000 following the three month NATO bombing campaign the previous year which left Serbia with the highest cancer rate in Europe from the use of depleted uranium ammunition, “justified” by the same lopsided argument made in the article. Otpor! was portrayed as a bona fide, grassroots movement while behind the scenes it was the recipient of millions of dollars from the US government through “soft power” NGOs and CIA-fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, financed by the non-profit industrial complex or what author Arundhati Roy has called the “NGO-ization of resistance.” The success of Otpor! became the formula for Western regime change operations via indistinguishable “pro-democracy” Color Revolutions throughout Eastern Europe in the ensuing decade. Documentary filmmaker Boris Maligurski’s The Weight of Chains series is an excellent overview of the history of Yugoslavia and its first two installments are highly recommended, while the trailer for the forthcoming third film was just released.

Perhaps the reason Hussain unquestioningly heaps praise upon Otpor! is the enormous undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of The Intercept’s ownership in billionaire entrepreneur and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who established the site’s parent organization First Look Media. In The CIA as Organized Crime, journalist and author Douglas Valentine explains how Omidyar’s “philanthropic” investment firm co-financed with the U.S. State Department many of the NGOs in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution such as Center UA which flipped the 2004 Ukrainian election results to a pro-Western candidate. It went on to do the same funding the Euromaidan protests and subsequent coup in 2014 and both so-called Color Revolutions were modeled on the Otpor! movement.  Then, again, the entire premise behind First Look Media is suspect considering it made its name covering the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden while Omidyar’s eBay simultaneously owns Paypal, one of the biggest backers of NSA surveillance. What better way to commandeer dissent then to throw money at journalists?

Hussain also eagerly mentions that “Russian volunteers” participated in the killings at Srebrenica, omitting the equal number of Greek militiamen. This is another instance of thinly veiled Russophobia and the assignment of guilt towards Moscow for the rise of the far right in the West. Its intention is to include Russia within The Clash of Civilizations narrative which is itself a hypothesis for ‘remaking the world order’ through a division and conquering of Eurasia. Hussain does so by isolating the Yugoslav Wars from its context and weaponizing the region‘s history so as to deflect fault for the Islamophobia in the Anglosphere. However, Samuel P. Huntington excluded the Christian Orthodox nations of Russia and Serbia from his “core civilizations” and rather considered them ‘torn countries’ among the major civilizations. In Brenton Tarrant’s mind he may have been elevating the Yugoslav Wars through his act of terrorism, when all he accomplished was provide ammunition for the Western yellow press to further slander the Serbian victims of U.S. imperialism and drag their name through the mud for something they had nothing to do with.

As for the mass shooting in El Paso, the author should try directing the blame closer to home. One can’t help but be reminded of the brilliant observation made by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (before he became a shill for the Democratic Party) who made a connection between the Columbine High School shooting and its occurrence in the midst of the unilateral “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia on the day the U.S. dropped the most amount of bombs in the Kosovo campaign which he further examined in his film Bowling For Columbine. President Clinton had to give two press conferences the morning of April 20th, 1999 — one addressing the Columbine massacre and another giving an explanation for the NATO killing of civilians in Serbia.

American society is suffering from a severely disconnected collective psyche when it fails to make a connection between mass shootings domestically and its endless wars abroad, the real catalyst for the Islamophobic reaction to the refugee crisis. U.S. gun culture is a product of the Cold War which conditioned a mass psychology of fear and liberals shedding crocodile tears who think gun control legislation is somehow a solution to the problem when it would only put a small band-aid on a much deeper wound are unwilling to explore the real roots of the issue. It’s true the U.S. is the only country that suffers from routine mass shootings like in El Paso and Dayton, but the U.S. is also the only country with 800+ military bases in more than 80 countries around the world while currently bombing 7 different nations. America is an insecure, terrified country that resolves everything with violence, at home and abroad, and until this connection is recognized, mass shootings like El Paso will likely continue just like our wars.

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.

Open Letter to Congress: Why the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 Must Be Opposed

Note: Congress is currently considering the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.  If this bill becomes law it will increase conflict between the US and China and increase US meddling in Hong Kong. It will become an excuse for unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) against China and Hong Kong. In the Open Letter below we explain in detail why this letter should be opposed. We urge you to share it with your representatives in Washington and urge them to oppose the Act.

You can download the letter as a pdf here.
hong-kong-bill-critique-noh-zeese-flowers

Thanks for taking action. KZ

HR 3289, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, was referred to the committee on Foreign affairs on June 13th, 2019. The bill “directs various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong’s unique [i.e. preferential economic and trade] treatment under U.S. law and to determine whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Currently, 16 senators and 25 House members from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill also directs the government to impose sanctions to those who suppress “freedom” in the territory.

Currently, the leaders of the “leaderless movement” of the Hong Kong protests are touring the capital, urging the US congress to pass this bill.  Despite claims of extreme obstruction and human rights oppression, it’s clear that they are traveling freely out of Hong Kong, speaking their minds freely while urging a foreign power to assess and impose sanctions on their own state.  These contradictions indicate that all their claims should be critically analyzed.  Some of these will be directly addressed below.

The bill itself should be opposed on the following grounds:

This bill would not serve the purposes for which it is written, namely, to reaffirm the objectives and principles set forth in the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

Nor would it affirm, support, or further Human Rights in Hong Kong.

The bill accomplishes little except to draw attention to US influence on the Hong Kong protests and highlights US officiousness in Hong Kong politics.  This is within a toxic atmosphere of violence, chaos, and intrigue — engendered and engineered by the protestors — where the US is already credibly accused of fomenting, supporting, and encouraging this violence: by lending it moral support, meeting with its leaders, having high-level political and diplomatic meetings, threatening consequences if suppressed, and funding the lead organizations through the NED.

This bill is an act of moral hazard, and implicates the US congress in violence, destruction, mayhem, injury, potential loss of life, and the degradation of civic processes.  It will validate the current perception of the violent protests as US gray zone aggression in search of a pretext for further sanctions and aggression.

Furthermore, it will also degrade currently antagonistic China-US relations even further, pushing relations towards overt hostility and direct conflict, and setting the preconditions for war.

*****

The key arguments against this bill are as follows:

The PRC has upheld its commitments to Hong Kong in the Basic Agreement and Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

As the British returned the colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, they negotiated the conditions of return and political statehood in the Basic Agreement, and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.  The PRC has upheld all its commitments to Hong Kong SAR elucidated in the Basic Agreement and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992:  the fundamental letter and the law of the Joint agreement and the Basic Law have all been upheld, as listed below:

  • The chief executive has been appointed by the Central People’s Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations held locally.

Although the British never allowed elections of the Hong Kong governor, as they left, they instituted provisions for the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage.  However, there is no clause committing Hong Kong to direct democracy, nor is there a specified timeline for this suffrage to be achieved.

Specifically: The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

  • Chinese and foreign nationals previously working in the public and police services in the government departments of Hong Kong remain in employment.British and other foreign nationals are employed in public posts in government departments.

High ranking members of the Hong Kong police force are British. The current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam,was a British citizen (who renounced her citizenship). Key members of the Legislative council are or have been British citizens

Currently there is a large roster of British and Commonwealth judges in the Judicial system: two thirds  (16 out of 22 judges) on the Court of Final Appeals (Hong Kong’s Supreme Court) are British Nationals or Commonwealth members.  Eight of these are Peers (Lords and Ladies of the British nobility).

  • The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong have remained unchanged.

The Basic Law committed Hong Kong to a free-market capitalism, and prevented the institution of socialist measures. Hong Kong is still a free-market capitalist state, and it can be strongly argued the underlying cause of these protests is its unregulated, laissez-faire, corporate, finance and real estate-driven capitalism.

  • Economic Law and practices have been maintained as originally agreed upon.

These laws have not been abrogated or changed, even though these economic policies have created tremendous hardship to the working classes, in particular in regards to unaffordable housing and poor prospects for work, and run counter to the PRC’s widely acknowledged practices of lifting up society as a whole and eradicating poverty.

  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has retained the status of an international financial center

Its markets for foreign exchange, gold, securities and futures have continued, along with free flow of capital, and the independent Hong Kong dollar continues to circulate and remain freely convertible.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has maintained independent finances.

The Central People’s Government does not levy taxes on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has established mutually beneficial economic and cultural relations with other countries; and establishes independent agreements with states, regions and relevant international organisations.

This includes its own extradition agreements with the US, UK, and 18 other countries.

  • The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issues its own travel documents for entry into and exit from Hong Kong.

Last but not least:

  • Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association…of movement, of strike, of academic research and of religious belief have all been ensured by law.

Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment all have been protected by law. All of these enumerated rights have been protected and defended by Hong Kong law. In particular, during 15 weeks of some of the most violent protests that the region has seen in recent years, the Hong Kong authorities have treated these with extreme attention to Human Rights and due process. No law abrogating the right to protest was passed, nor were there any restrictive measures passed: no curfews, no general bans on assembly or protest, no bans on masks, bans on signs, or any such law.  No measures were passed abrogating freedom of expression.  Nor has there been any arbitrary arrest or detention. Although 1200 protestors have been arrested, almost all of them have been released.

To date, a single violent protestor has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service.  (A single individual has an eye injury, but is recovering, and there is no proof that the police were responsible, and contrary to all logic, the individual in question is using all possible legal means to prevent investigation and the gathering of evidence).

No other violent civil protest in recent memory—not in France (Yellow Vests), not in Spain (Catalan Independence), not in India (Kashmir), in Indonesia (Papua and West Papua), in the US (Standing Rock, Ferguson, Baltimore)– has there been such extended restraint demonstrated by the forces of order against such extreme rioting and violence. Over a period of 15 weeks of violent rioting, infrastructure attacks, road blockades and attacks, subway arson and sabotage, airport occupation, mass beatings of civilian bystanders, no protestors have been killed or suffered serious injury. However, bystanders and people criticizing the protestors have been violently attacked and seriously injured: they have been mobbed, assaulted, and beaten unconscious with pipes, baseball bats, sticks; attacked with caustic lye (drain cleaner), or in the case of police, burned with Molotov cocktails, and stabbed. Police stations, Legislative Chambers, Political offices have been surrounded and attacked and set fire to, and even graves have been desecrated. Contrary to the claims of protestors, it is inconceivable the US or any other country would have tolerated such massive violence and insurrection.

To summarize:  Hong Kong and China have been, and are clearly following, the accords signed and agreed to.

  • There has been no interference with elections, electoral outcomes, domestic politics, or domestic legislation.
  • Hong Kong has an independent judiciary — considered one of the most independent in the world.
  • Hong Kong has a vibrantly independent media, unions, corporations, and electoral bodies.
  • Hong Kong exercises independent executive, legislative, and judicial power, including that of final adjudication.

Global analysis bears this out: the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index evaluates the countries of the world across 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom including:  Rule of Law, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Freedom of Expression, Legal System and Property Rights.  It’s understood that it is “a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint”.

On this basis, the Human Freedom Index currently ranks Hong Kong as the third freest country in the world (2018), with only New Zealand and Switzerland ahead of it.  Hong Kong currently ranks 14 rankings above the United States in Freedom (17th), and 114 rankings ahead of Ukraine, where the US recently intervened with support for “democracy and human rights”.  For over a decade — under so-called “Chinese encroachment” — it has ranked consistently in the top 3 countries of the HFI, making it one of the freest states in the world, according to conservative analysis.

This renders allegations of “loss of freedom” or “human rights” to be without substance or evidence.

The leaders of the protests, now touring the United States urging sanctions against Hong Kong on these grounds, are themselves the purest refutation of their own claims.

*****

Misinformation on Hong Kong

There is, however, a constant drum beat of misinformation. These includes allegations that:

Beijing was behind the extradition bill:

This is untrue.  The extradition bill was drafted, after extensive public consultation, in response to a heinous murder of a pregnant woman that was not extraditable under the current regime.  A long overdue bill for case-by-case extradition was written to plug this loophole, while explicitly excluding extradition for political crimes.  The bill fits all the requirements of a well-crafted extradition bill, and has multiple safeguards and checks to protect human rights and political abuse.  It is a well-crafted piece of legislation that would pass muster in any democratic, sovereign state. Furthermore, it includes 8 layers of review, including 2 stages of administrative review, and 6 layers of judicial review by Hong Kong’s fiercely independent judiciary (see above).

The bill was designed to render people to mainland China:

This was a general bill with guidelines and processes for extradition to any country. The framing of “extradition to China” was by the Anti-China protestors, and bears no relation to the actual bill or its intent.

Almost all sovereign countries have extradition agreements.  Hong Kong is part of China, and the very notion that Hong Kong is some sort of extraterritorial criminal sanctuary outside the reach of Chinese law is a concept without legal merit.

Note also that the bill itself has been completely withdrawn.

Note also, that one of the most vociferous opponents of the bill, Martin Lee — one of the unspoken leaders and lobbyists for the protests — himself urged for a comparable extradition bill, giving the lie to the assertion that the extradition process is problematic.

This is part of Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy:

The object facts show that this has not been the case, as enumerated and elaborated above (see “key arguments”) , and below. Hong Kong has a fiercely independent judiciary, and it’s inconceivable that it would extradite someone on Beijing’s political whim.  Furthermore, the notion that having an extradition treaty with another country renders an autonomous state less free or sovereign is ridiculous on its face: extradition treaties do not constitute an infringement on sovereignty.

But Beijing has been resisting a demand for universal suffrage since the British left and still does. Hong Kong citizens became accustomed to freedom under the British, and rightfully claim it against Chinese encroachment.

It’s important to emphasize that the British never gave universal suffrage to the Hong Kong people.  It ran a brutal, demeaning, colonial apartheid state, where Chinese were second class people, where segregated Jim Crow policies were the norm, and during Anti-British protests, Hong Kong citizens were often shot dead in the streets or disappeared. The British colonial administration put suffrage on the bill after never having allowed a meaningful vote during its control of Hong Kong, as a final act of challenge to the Chinese for reclaiming its own territory.  Nevertheless, the Chinese, accepted this because they wanted a peaceful return of Hong Kong to China, and they did not want to derail the process or encourage capital flight.

Regarding the actual state of affairs within Hong Kong, Beijing does not decide what Hong Kong does internally but allows a “high degree of autonomy”. This is the essence of “two systems”, which the Chinese have upheld (see “key arguments” above).  Hong Kong legislates, implements, and arbitrates its own laws, and they are following the guidelines for “orderly development” of universal suffrage that were outlined in the Basic Law.  Although constituencies currently elect the Chief Executive and Legislators, these can be legitimately acknowledged as accepted political practices in part of an evolving democratic process.  They certainly do not constitute proof of Beijing’s control.

But aren’t the “functional constituencies” that elect legislative members under the influence of Beijing?

These constituencies are diverse and reflect many groups, including business, labor, trade and professional groups.  They, themselves, represent a large number of individual members who represent a wide range of views.  A constituency is not a single platform party.  Many have members who are anti-Beijing, as shown in the diversity of election results and party seats, many of whom are opposed to Beijing, or are outright nativist/secessionist.

But didn’t Beijing interfere in the elections by disqualifying the election of six members elected to the Legislative Council in July of 2017?

Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law, Yiu Chung-yim and Lau Sil-lai were elected to the Legislative Council on 14 July 2017.  According to Article 104 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, elected members of the Legislative Council must swear an oath to uphold the law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.  This is basic legal practice in all political bodies, and an oath incorrectly delivered can be cause for disqualification. An oath deliberately abused, incorrectly spoken, insincerely delivered, or with obscenities added, or otherwise edited or lengthened would result in invalidation across most legal bodies.

The secretary general of the Hong Kong Legislative Council invalidated their oaths because phrases were added, protests statements made, and obscenities deliberately spoken: “the People’s Republic of China” was referred to as the “People’s re-f*cking of Chee-na” (a derogatory term comparable to the N-word).  Multiple independent judicial reviews by the Hong Kong Judiciary upheld these decisions. This is an action that would have happened in any reasonable legislative or political body.

The working and middle classes are demanding democracy, not the business class, which is doing fine colluding with mainland Chinese state and private capitalists.  They deserve democracy.

The working classes want — and deserve — better representation, and better conditions of living or working, which the current political system cannot deliver (and which Beijing cannot change until 2047).  This is not a fault with Beijing, but is a fault written into the Hong Kong basic law, as scripted, designed, and negotiated by the British, which allocated disproportionate power to business interests in order to conserve Hong Kong’s freewheeling capitalist system, diminish popular will, and maintain its status as a haven for wealthy capitalists.  This basic law absolutely bans the implementation of socialism or socialist practices; and guarantees capitalism until 2047.

In particular, Real Estate interests and the Anti-China Pan Democrats (currently prominent in the protests) in the legislature were instrumental in opposing the large scale creation of social/public housing as China has done on the mainland. As a result, currently there are only about 150,000 units of public housing–a pittance relative to the actual demand and need.  These groups have created the extreme housing pressures they claim to deplore and seek to blame China for.

But there were large rallies.  This is an undeniable expression of the Hong Kong people opposing the Chinese.

Large rallies have been noted, but police counts claim about 1/10 of what is claimed.  Major western news agencies, using facial recognition technology, state that only a fraction of the claimed numbers can be verified. As noted elsewhere, it’s also important to note that there were large rallies against the protestors, and in support of the administrations, although these were largely erased from the western press and have been de-ranked on google.

Note also that the large rallies have tapered off.  As of the current moment protests seem to number only the hundreds, occasionally, thousands. This is a small percentage of a metropolis of 7.4 Million.

Note also that these protests have turned incredibly violent and ugly. For example, a reporter for a Chinese mainland newspaper was attacked, bound, tortured and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital, and beat the unconscious individual with a US Flag. Since then, countless Hong Kong citizens have also been mobbed, and attacked and beaten — sometimes to the point of unconsciousness — for simply opposing the views of protestors.  They have also been doxed, threatened, and had their businesses or homes vandalized or firebombed.  The ugliness, violence, and terrorism of these protestors is a far cry from what any civilized society could tolerate as reasonable expression of dissent, nor do these protests adhere to any of the touted values of free speech for those who disagree with them.

The pro-democracy movement is a threat to Beijing’s control of Hong Kong’s government and its corrupt protection of the business elite’s banking, real estate, corporate cartels. Big finance capitalism and Chinese state capitalism work hand in hand.

Large sectors of the pro-“democracy” movement are actually bankrolled by certain wealthy anti-China business leaders, media barons, corporations, and receive extensive support — moral, political, financial — from the US and the NED.  This gives the lie to the assertion that this is a “David and Goliath” fight.

This is also why the movement does not have a single articulated demand relative to business, business practices, real estate, or even capitalism, state, or financial, or otherwise.  Instead it focuses on opaque demands that are both abstract, unattainable, or demand extra-institutional measures that go against the separation of powers, for example, that demand the Chief executive dismiss all charges against protestors.   The single actionable demand — the retraction of the bill — has already happened.

Unplanned capitalist economies trend towards a bloated corporate finance sector, and this leads to the dysfunction of an extractive rentier economy.  No amount of American or British flag waving or appeal to a deluded colonial nostalgia will paper over this fundamental contradiction.

What are the problems in Hong Kong then, if not Beijing?

Economic factors: Unrestrained FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) destabilizes society.

Hong Kong is one of the most unequal places on the planet — a dystopian neoliberal state and tax haven that boasts of 93 Billionaires, 14% poverty (over 20% child poverty) and the most unaffordable real estate in the world.  Up to 200,000 people live in literal cages — some as small as 16 square feet — and the majority of working class families live in tiny partitioned apartments that are smaller than a parking space. This inequality, extreme inequality of income, shortage of housing fit for human habitation, and lack of hope is the basic tinderbox.  This has to do with the failure of the Hong Kong’s model of political economy: a laissez-faire capitalist economy lacking basic taxation, captured by FIRE.

Institutional factors: Unresolved Issues of Colonization.

Anti-Chinese secessionists, nativists, and independence activists in Hong Kong have monopoly of several powerful key institutions which bolster their power and aggravate the conflict: in particular, an extreme right-wing media empire, an educational system strongly influenced by colonial values and nostalgia, and which reproduces its values among the young, and certain sectors of the  business/managerial classes allied with Western colonial values.

Cultural factors: Internalized Colonization.

Hong Kong residents also have cultural antagonisms dating from the colonial period.

At the time of the handover, Hong Kong was 30% of China’s GDP, and Hong Kong citizens were entrained to believe they were semi-British — being the recipients of British culture and administration — and disdained the mainland Chinese. Many groups in Hong Kong were also refugees from Communism. Having copied and taken on, for decades, British class mannerisms and colonial values, as a sort of cultural surplus value, and being valorized as the financial hub of Asia, Hong Kong citizens now find themselves at a lower rung of the global hierarchy: Hong Kong, itself, is now less than 3% of GDP.  When it served as a gateway to China, Hong Kong was essential — everything passed through Hong Kong: trade, ports, financing/investment, logistics, etc. It is now on a downward trajectory, a city-state whose prime has passed. At the same time, it is also dependent on China for basic survival: it gets its water, electricity, and most of its food from China.  It also relies on trade and tourism from China.  This fundamental contradiction: that Hong Kong cannot survive without China, but it disdains and rejects it based on implanted colonial values is a large part of the antagonism. (An analogy would be a foster child raised in a privileged family that has been reunited with its “lower-status” biological parent).

These are fundamental issues and contradictions around culture, values, and identity, that must be resolved over the long term, but will not yield to shibboleths around “freedom”, nor will they be transformed through violent shock therapy or foreign intervention.

Geopolitical Factors:

Hong Kong and its protests are being used to attack, harass, and delegitimate China, as the US has designated China a “revisionist power” (i.e. national enemy) of the 21st Century in its National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.

China’s key threat is the threat of a viable, non-western, non-imperialist, model of development.

Hong Kong is one of a series of attempts by Anti-China Hawks in Washington to maintain a “global unipolar US hegemony” by interfering and manipulating the geostrategic chessboard, in particular by stoking violent dissent and separatism within China.

These extreme factions of the body politic, including key current and former members of the current administration, are openly, vociferously anti-China, blaming China for all the ills of the US, and openly agitating for direct confrontation with China.

The US people and congress should avoid involving itself in this ugly partisan battle, making common cause with US hawks, Neocons, White Supremacists, and Hong Kong nativists and colonialists.  It should avoid ineffectual grandstanding, that can have no good outcomes for the Hong Kong people, US-China relations, the US, or the World.

The US Congress should base its legislative decisions on facts and discernment, not emotions or directed media campaigns

And above all, it must oppose this legislation, as do the vast majority of peaceful and freedom loving people in Hong Kong, the US, and the world.

Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism

The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?

— Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Ant-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1972

There is a fairly typical and recurrent notion among many Americans that Donald Trump and his administration is some sort of aberration. As if his brutal, venal, racist, and bullying nature is something new, or different from previous leaders. For those not inclined to look at the historical record; one only has to look beyond our borders to view the authoritarian personality type that Trump represents in power all over the world: Modi, Orban, Erdogan, Jinping, Duterte, and Bolsonaro being the most obvious comparisons.

Our president is not an exception but the logical culmination of a nation built on genocide, slavery, empire, and capitalism. His virulent nationalism, his racist and sexist attitudes, and unbelievably fragile ego are all undisputable proof that millions of people enjoy, tolerate, or acquiesce to his behavior. Liberal pieties and paeans towards restoring normalcy don’t move the needle for most center-left voters either, as it is at least tacitly/subconsciously understood that after Trump and Brexit there is no going back towards “liberal democratic” rule. A threshold has been crossed.

Trump and his billionaire cronies are simply doing what capitalists do best: doling out more death and destruction, which many US citizens are all too comfortable eliding; except for the understandable shock and anger over the most outrageous travesties, such as the burning of the Amazon or children in concentration camps on our southern border. Even then, there is no programmatic analysis of what caused the problem (capitalism and empire) and very little visionary leadership with any social power or pop-cultural relevancy to propose realistic solutions.

It’s crucial to look outside the borders of the US to see how capital really operates. Western multinationals pay foreign governments to murder, ethnically cleanse, pillage, rape, and despoil entire nations and natural habitats. US transnational corporations as well as federal funding for various authoritarian regimes (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) pay for their militaries, private security forces, death squads, proxy terrorists and spies, as well as corporate espionage.

For these reasons and many more it cannot be considered hyperbole to call the USA a fascist state. For those unconvinced, I suggest reading Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay  “Ur-Fascism” to understand why. Henry Giroux uses the term “neoliberal fascism” and his recent book American Nightmare, which I reviewed for New York Journal of Books, spells out in detail the deepening spirals of violence and ignorance American society is succumbing to.

The near total focus on purely domestic policies in mainstream media and by our politicians is excruciating, maddening, and cringe-inducing. The constant domestic policy myopia contradicts any statements that liberals and conservatives actually understand, or have genuine interest or empathy for foreign causes or solidarity with those in need around the globe.

One only has to find old news programs, for example, from the fifties through the eighties to remember that news media for all its flaws then was much more informed and nuanced about international relations compared to today. Dissidents, counterculture figures, communists, and radicals appeared regularly on TV talk shows and were generally encouraged or at least tolerated by liberal establishment journalists, whereas today there is a huge zero. Foreign wars and overseas events were covered more extensively.

There’s no doubt many liberals earnestly want Trump gone for his racist border policy and global warming denialism, among other issues. Yet, of course, much of the outrage revolves around the pseudo-moralizing, a way of saying: “He doesn’t represent us, the good-hearted progressive people in the USA.”

A petty, corrupt, racist, chauvinistic, violent grifter is exactly the type of person to represent the United States. It needs to be said, and repeated, over and over.

There are tens of millions of mini-Trumps all over the nation, exploiting, killing, jailing, and materially and mentally impoverishing working people. Here’s something to ponder. How many US citizens would support kicking out all undocumented immigrants in our country? Almost certainly the number is in the millions, if not tens of millions of people.

Where do US citizens think this is all leading towards? Have we not been locked in a death spiral, circling the drain for centuries, and have our leaders not plundered, murdered, enslaved, and ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, nature, and resources at a horrifying and increasing rate? Even further back, isn’t this where Western civilization has been headed towards for 6,000 years: a system based on brutal and authoritarian hierarchies propped up by organized religion, barbaric racism and tribalism, imperial delusions of grandeur, and myths about a world full of limitless resources?

Also, the ruling classes have been getting more ignorant, more venal, less philanthropic, and less empathetic. There are studies that can confirm this: for instance, through measuring emotional intelligence (EQ), it has been found that in corporate firms, positions above middle management show a dramatic drop in EQ. Of course, we know most CEOs and corporate owners are borderline if not full-blown psychopathic or sociopathic. The ownership of our nation are perfectly willing and able to exploit workers, cut benefits, destroy public programs, ignore the poor and minorities, and breed mass alienation at a level unseen since the Gilded Age.

There are about 585 billionaires in the US, about 175,000 people with over 25 million in total (0.05% of the population), 1.4 million individuals with wealth over 5 million (0.42% of the population), and it’s estimated there are about 12 million millionaires in the US (about 3.6% of the population). They are on the other side of a class divide that is widening more every year.

The 2016 election clearly showed white voters turned out in droves for Trump, but what mostly went unmentioned is that for all voters making over 50k a year, the edge also went to Trump, 49% to Clinton’s 47%. So much for the idea that those with wealth are part of a enlightened and tolerant “meritocracy” as our corporate overlords and their media puppets like to constantly remind us: rather, those with just a little bit of money, unconsciously or not, use their vote to crush the lower classes through Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and trade wars, etc.

Umberto Eco also points this out: he correctly demonstrates that one of the features of fascism is an “appeal to the frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”. Erich Fromm also mentions this phenomenon at length in his classic Escape from Freedom.

The insatiable desires of the elites and the economic leverage the “Global North” holds further absolutely dirt-cheap prices for all manners of consumer goods, by externalizing the costs onto faraway nations, the environment, and the poor who inhabit nearby industrial or manufacturing sites, and other “sacrifice zones”.

This accounts for the burgeoning phenomena of the worker as an “independent contractor”, a model touted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists. The new model is to cut as many benefits as possible and use low-wage service work or the threat of falling into this precariat as leverage to squeeze as much work and productivity as possible out of what remains of the middle class.

Small businesses which serviced the rich in previous eras are now forced to compete more fiercely or die, and thus compelled into deflationary business models with price wars, etc.; while the large-sector service corporations effectively have monopolies and can force workers to accept low pay due to the reserve army of labor.

Perhaps soon, the majority of the rich will be forced to acquiesce due to popular demand on issues such as free college or universal health care. Yet, they will never, ever choose voluntarily to surrender their basic model of economic power or to restructure corporate America. Freedom without economic equality is impossible. The majority of us are relegated to a form of serfdom, with no prospects for democracy in the economy and the workplace.

Another point worth mentioning is that reform is never going to happen in time through legislative and judicial means. The amount of hoops to jump through, in our constitution and in the legislature, to structurally change the system will take way too long, sap momentum, and destroy any movement based in electoral politics however good the intent.

Requiring any mass movement to follow every legalistic framework for change is just another form of elitism: forcing the multitude to advance at the glacial pace of the legal system is simply an authoritarian call for law and order to cement unjust property rights. Any form of reformist policies will be denied by appealing to the status quo of existing laws, and their deluded obsession with following corrupt legal procedures and bureaucratic red-tape written by corporations and lobbyists. Rather, citizen assemblies, general strikes, direct action, and public referenda should be used as much as possible to counter the dirty tricks of the elites.

The main strivings of the members of our government, Democrat or Republican, are for power, money, and fame: they are not any substantially or qualitatively different from Trump in this respect. Their warped, huge, and fragile egos have convinced themselves that they really are the right people for the job, regardless of their obvious corrupt nature, lack of knowledge, and moral failings. Rather than being devoted to public service, their actions imply that they view themselves as doing the public a favor by simply existing and choosing to run for office to provide us with an “enlightened” political class, rather than those scary “populists”.

There is an unacknowledged anti-democratic strain in US society which insists every public policy position must be run by an expert, a technocrat, despite all evidence suggesting these professional-managerial class types (personified by Obama, his reign marking the apotheosis, the high-water mark of meritocratic and liberal democratic ideology) are craven, corrupt sycophants beholden to the power elite.

Apparently there are about 5 million people in the US who hold clearance to view classified material. There are about 1.3 million military and about 700,000 police officers. So that’s 7 million right there which constitute the national security state. The 21st century Praetorian Guard, if you will. If you count the defense corporations, fossil fuel multinationals, and various conglomerates which profit off the destruction and exploitation of workers and the environment, and all the sub-contractors which rely on the largesse (trough) of defense, fossil fuel, and other anti-life industries, that’s a few more million easily.

What I’m getting at is dislodging Trump, or any figurehead president, is small potatoes, because there are at least 10-30 million Americans with a shitload of guns and money who do not want to see any — and I mean any — fundamental progressive changes. Without a mass base advocating for socialist and revolutionary democratic policies, there is nothing the ruling classes won’t do to protect their privileges.

Forget an imbecile like Trump. The power elite would rather re-animate the corpse of Genghis Khan than have Bernie Sanders or anyone left of him in charge. Believe that. They would rather use the power of capital flight and take their money to Swiss bank accounts or the Cayman Islands and bankrupt our entire country than see any socialist in power. Bank on it. Forget elections as the exclusive means towards dismantling the power structure. Only mass movements in the streets can fight the barbarism we are confronted with.

Obscured by Mushroom Clouds

Not all atrocities are created equal — except that all are equally atrocious.  Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Memorial Day weekend, 1921, and many other scenes of modern genocide besides, are easily seen as crimes against humanity of the worst magnitude.  Yet, if you add Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the mass murderous mix in the presence of a card-carrying American exceptionalist, you are quite likely to trigger a savage burst of effluvia terribly tied to Pearl Harbor.  I exaggerate, of course — but only mildly.

In this context, a recent Microsoft News poll (July 31 to August 5, 2019), canvassing over 12,000 Americans, found that 61% of respondents believe that the WMD strikes of August, 1945 were the “right” thing to do, whereas only 20% responded that the atomic attacks were “wrong.”  What accounts for the persistence of the atomic bomb drop myth, that the nuclear option was “necessary,” in America today, 75% of a century later?  Did radioactive fallout from those manifestly genocidal nuclear attacks fundamentally damage the collective American mind?

The myth begins, innocently enough, at Pearl Harbor — except that Pearl Harbor was bristling with one of the most modern naval war armadas ever assembled, thousands of miles from the nearest American coastline.  At the time, Hawai’i was an American “territory,” and Pearl Harbor was definitely not the Alamo…

Although the story is generally not told this way, on July 26, 1941, one month after Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Stalin’s Soviet Russia, FDR’s administration dropped some extra-provocative sanctions on Imperial Japan;  “Not one drop of oil for Japan!” (paraphrase), was the autocratic decree from FDR’s regime.  This thinly veiled declaration of war had an effect:  the Japanese regime’s decision to attack a surprisingly sleepy Pearl Harbor, as well as other American, Dutch, and British imperial territories in the near Asian Pacific.  One “Day of Infamy” later, FDR had overcome a reluctant American Public to declare hot war on Japan.

By the Summer of 1945, the end of the American-Japanese War was a foregone conclusion.  The swift tactical success of the Japanese attacks of December, 1941, had been strategically erased by the overwhelming force of a continental empire, the United States.  All that was left was to sign some documents, except that:  in an age of special weapons with genocidal impacts, the sure-to-be victorious U.S. had recently tested an extra-special weapon that its ruling junta (now Truman-led) was all-too-eager to use against a technically belligerent population.  The war was extended to allow for not only one, but two, special weapons applications against unsuspecting and undefended cities in Japan, under the dubious pretext that there was something that looked like a war still going on.

As vast swaths of the American Population were cautiously freaking out over the gratuitous carnage their government had authorized1, the propagandists rushed in to explain that many more lives would have been wasted if “the gadget” had not been used to win a war that had already been won.  “Mass Murder Saves Lives!” remains, perhaps, the most accurate slogan for the mad ad campaign that furiously followed the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To this day, most Americans have been educated not to see this genocide of the story that has anchored the American “Superpower” position since 1945.  We have been trained, in effect, to “love the Bomb” — as if “the Bomb” were as all-American as the apple pie you just “nuked” in your microwave oven.  To shape your own thought is a thought not taught in post-Hiroshima America; after all, there’s an armada of expert-idiots out there on the micro-airwaves to shape your own thoughts for you.  Simply “tune in” to “tune out…”

Nevertheless, there has been a terrible scare in this topical connection–and, quite recently.  In 2016, President Barack “Yes, We Can — Bail out the Banks!” Obama took a tiny giant step in an awareness direction by becoming the first — and, hopefully, not the last — sitting American president to visit Hiroshima.  Many a card-carrying American exceptionalist went ape-shit, as if Obama were about to open an investigation of the first nuclear crime scene.

In the event, the president’s Hiroshima speech fell well short of calling the atomic weapons massacres War Crimes.  Instead, Mr. Obama pointed to the sky that “death fell out of,” while also fingering the “first man” who shaped a flint or wooden tool into a blade or spear, as if he were reviewing an early scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey.

The sky?  A blade or spear?  Perchance to mushroom cloud?  At least Obama’s speech mentioned the “thousands of Koreans” and dozen American POWs who also perished during the Hiroshima atrocity: or, two groups of humans typically stricken from the official record of the world’s first nuclear attack.  Shouldn’t August 6 be an American national holiday in honor of those brave Americans who died at Hiroshima — except that, inconveniently enough, their own government “nuked” them to death.

George Carlin once joked, about World War 2, that the “Nazis lost, but Fascism won.”  Those two mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki not-so-pretty much punctuation mark the punch of Carlin’s joke, which is uncannily breathtaking for its brevity and wit.

Today, we are all strapped with the unasked-for-baggage of the “New and Improved” Pearl Harbor that the 9/11 event rather instantaneously became  As the increasingly militarized vehicle of American civilization rattletraps its hegemonic way down the superhighway of History, every average-to-exceptional American citizen-passenger should pay attention:  those Mushroom Clouds in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.

  1. Boyer, Paul.  By the Bomb’s Early Light, Pantheon Books, 1985.  Boyer’s book shows the amazing level of ambivalence that many Americans felt in the immediate aftermath of the atomic attacks.  The story we’ve been overwhelmingly force-fed since then looked very different at that time.