Category Archives: US military bases

Leftist Anti-Anti-Imperialism: Supporting Imperialism but with Caveats

Academic Gilbert Achcar, in an article originally in New Politics and  picked up by The Nation, proves by his own example that what he calls “progressive democratic anti-imperialists” are not progressive. Rather, they (1) serve to legitimize reaction and (2) obscure the singular role of US imperialism, while (3) attacking progressive voices. Such anti-anti-imperialism provides left cover for the foreign policy of the US as well as the UK, where Achcar is based.

Legitimizing imperialism

Achcar, by his own admission, supported the US/NATO imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, which quickly and predictably morphed into a full war of Western imperial conquest against one of the then most prosperous African nations. Today Libya is a failed state, where black African slaves are openly traded and military factions contend for state power.

Achcar’s alibi is that he warned “there are not enough safeguards in the wording of the [no-fly] resolution to bar its use for imperialist purposes,” adding that he favored the imperialist action as a measure for the “protection of civilians and not ‘regime change.’” This is an example of leftist anti-anti-imperialism; i.e., supporting imperialism but with caveats.

Achcar wished for a democratic people’s uprising in Libya rather than Western imposed regime-change. So, while he echoed the main imperialist talking points about the “brutal dictator” and his “regime,” he hoped for a nice imperialism which would achieve regime change by “democratic” means. He admits to no responsibility for his propagandizing which – whether it was his intention or not – foreshadowed the ensuing disaster.

Behind Achcar’s leftish rhetoric is a flawed belief that somehow the imperialist actions of the US and its allies may be truly humanitarian. In short, the US purportedly has a “responsibility to protect (R2P).” Achcar championed R2P in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria, where his article lauds how the US bombing “rescued” people on the ground, even though in every instance the outcomes were neither democratic nor humanitarian.

That such noble intentions regarding “responsibility to protect” inexorably devolve is because R2P is nothing more than an ideological defense of the imperial project. The true anti-imperialist stance, contra Achcar, is no intervention – humanitarian or otherwise. The fundamental lesson should be evident that, after the multitude of US-backed post-WWII “military actions,” neither the motivation to participate nor the outcomes were democratic or humanitarian.

How many wars has the US been involved in lately? Timothy McGrath, in an article in The World, documents anywhere from 0 to 134 depending on your definition, since the last officially declared US war was WWII. McGrath concludes that the right answer to how many is “too many,” which is an appropriate anti-imperialist view.

Obscuring the singular role of US imperialism

Achcar says: “To illustrate the complexity of the questions that progressive anti-imperialism faces today – a complexity that is unfathomable to the simplistic logic of” the peace activists he criticizes. “Complexity” is indeed the crux of his argument and what is wrong with it. Achcar’s political universe does not recognize a single, imperialist superpower but a “complexity” of imperialisms. His plea for opposing all imperialisms renders the role of the US imperialism equivalent to all other nations.

But how can this be given the facts? The US has over 800 foreign military bases, not including secret “black” sites, active-duty combat bases, and foreign installations nominally under the name of the host nation but garrisoning US troops. And that does not include what are literally armies of US private military contractors abroad. US military spending eclipses the next ten nations in the world. US arms sales makes it the greatest war profiteering nation. US has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons of mass destruction and a “first strike” nuclear posture. No other nation or combination of nations have such imperial reach.

Achcar’s formulation in effect obscures the hegemonic role of US imperialism. In his view, the US has “kept a low profile in the Syrian war” compared to the “incomparably more important intervention of Russian imperialism.” Not mentioned is that Syria in near Russia’s border, while it is a half a globe away from the US. Moreover, Russia is in Syria at the invitation of a sovereign nation in accordance with international law, whereas the US is committing the supreme crime of waging war.

Although Achcar says all imperialisms should be equally opposed, that has not been his practice. Achar teaches at the London School of Oriental and African Studies where an anti-imperialist student group revealed that he taught a training class to members of a counter-insurgency branch of the UK military. In his defense, Achcar responded: “Should we prefer that the military and security personnel of this country be solely exposed to right-wing education?”

Attacking progressive voices

Achcar’s central thesis is: “Meanwhile, Cold War ‘campism’ was reemerging under a new guise: No longer defined by alignment behind the USSR but by direct or indirect support for any regime or force that is the object of Washington’s hostility.” “Campism,” according to perennial Cold Warrior Achcar, is the political deviation of not being sufficiently hostile to the USSR or Russia or communism.

Achcar laments what he considers errant voices of leftist “fools,” but not the larger issue of the decline of the anti-war movement. In fact, the very elements that he attacks – the US Peace Council, UNAC, and the Stop the War Coalition– are among the leading anti-war organizations in the US (USPC and UNAC) and the UK (StWC).

Achcar’s “plague on all houses” is a recipe for inactivism by the peace movement. If all state actors are imperialist, then there is nothing left to do but empty moralizing. For example, by conflating US imperialism with the Syrian defense, no solution is possible for ending that benighted struggle. The only option left for progressive politics under the Achcar paradigm is to wish for a magical perfect socialism to arise triumphal out of the ashes of the bombs.

Surely the fundamental demand of the genuine peace movement, “out now,” is anathema to Professor Achcar, who espouses the imperialist prerogative of the “right to protect.” Those who promote such non-intervention are attacked as “fools.” Achcar, incidentally, dismisses political understandings to the left of him as “lunatic” and “not intelligent.”

Achcar begins his article with the observation that “the last three decades have witnessed increasing political confusion about the meaning of anti-imperialism” and proceeds to prove that thesis by his apologetics for US imperialism and his disdain for those who object to Washington’s hostility to nations that assert their independent sovereignty.

The article concludes with Achcar elevating to a “guiding principle” the responsibility to support “intervention by an imperialist power [when it] benefits an emancipatory popular movement…[with] the restriction of its involvement to forms that limit its ability to impose its domination.” In other words, he supports imperialism but with caveats.

The post Leftist Anti-Anti-Imperialism: Supporting Imperialism but with Caveats first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Emperor’s New Rules

Credit:  pinterest.com

The world is reeling in horror at the latest Israeli massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in Gaza. Much of the world is also shocked by the role of the United States in this crisis, as it keeps providing Israel with weapons to kill Palestinian civilians, in violation of U.S. and international law, and has repeatedly blocked action by the UN Security Council to impose a ceasefire or hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.

In contrast to U.S. actions, in nearly every speech or interview, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken keeps promising to uphold and defend the “rules-based order.” But he has never clarified whether he means the universal rules of the United Nations Charter and international law, or some other set of rules he has yet to define. What rules could possibly legitimize the kind of destruction we just witnessed in Gaza, and who would want to live in a world ruled by them?

We have both spent many years protesting the violence and chaos the United States and its allies inflict on millions of people around the world by violating the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force, and we have always insisted that the U.S. government should comply with the rules-based order of international law.

But even as the United States’ illegal wars and support for allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia have reduced cities to rubble and left country after country mired in intractable violence and chaos, U.S. leaders have refused to even acknowledge that aggressive and destructive U.S. and allied military operations violate the rules-based order of the United Nations Charter and international law.

President Trump was clear that he was not interested in following any “global rules,” only supporting U.S. national interests. His National Security Advisor John Bolton explicitly prohibited National Security Council staff attending the 2018 G20 Summit in Argentina from even uttering the words “rules-based order.”

So you might expect us to welcome Blinken’s stated commitment to the “rules-based order” as a long-overdue reversal in U.S. policy. But when it comes to a vital principle like this, it is actions that count, and the Biden administration has yet to take any decisive action to bring U.S. foreign policy into compliance with the UN Charter or international law.

For Secretary Blinken, the concept of a “rules-based order” seems to serve mainly as a cudgel with which to attack China and Russia. At a May 7 UN Security Council meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that instead of accepting the already existing rules of international law, the United States and its allies are trying to come up with “other rules developed in closed, non-inclusive formats, and then imposed on everyone else.”

The UN Charter and the rules of international law were developed in the 20th century precisely to codify the unwritten and endlessly contested rules of customary international law with explicit, written rules that would be binding on all nations.

The United States played a leading role in this legalist movement in international relations, from the Hague Peace Conferences at the turn of the 20th century to the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945 and the revised Geneva Conventions in 1949, including the new Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians, like the countless numbers killed by American weapons in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza.

As President Franklin Roosevelt described the plan for the United Nations to a joint session of Congress on his return from Yalta in 1945:

It ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries – and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these a universal organization in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a chance to join. I am confident that the Congress and the American people will accept the results of this conference as the beginning of a permanent structure of peace.

But America’s post-Cold War triumphalism eroded U.S. leaders’ already half-hearted commitment to those rules. The neocons argued that they were no longer relevant and that the United States must be ready to impose order on the world by the unilateral threat and use of military force, exactly what the UN Charter prohibits. Madeleine Albright and other Democratic leaders embraced new doctrines of “humanitarian intervention” and a “responsibility to protect” to try to carve out politically persuasive exceptions to the explicit rules of the UN Charter.

America’s “endless wars,” its revived Cold War on Russia and China, its blank check for the Israeli occupation and the political obstacles to crafting a more peaceful and sustainable future are some of the fruits of these bipartisan efforts to challenge and weaken the rules-based order.

Today, far from being a leader of the international rules-based system, the United States is an outlier. It has failed to sign or ratify about fifty important and widely accepted multilateral treaties on everything from children’s rights to arms control. Its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and other countries are themselves violations of international law, and the new Biden administration has shamefully failed to lift these illegal sanctions, ignoring UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ request to suspend such unilateral coercive measures during the pandemic.

So is Blinken’s “rules-based order” a recommitment to President Roosevelt’s “permanent structure of peace,” or is it, in fact, a renunciation of the United Nations Charter and its purpose, which is peace and security for all of humanity?

In the light of Biden’s first few months in power, it appears to be the latter. Instead of designing a foreign policy based on the principles and rules of the UN Charter and the goal of a peaceful world, Biden’s policy seems to start from the premises of a $753 billion U.S. military budget, 800 overseas military bases, endless U.S. and allied wars and massacres, and massive weapons sales to repressive regimes. Then it works backward to formulate a policy framework to somehow justify all that.

Once a “war on terror” that only fuels terrorism, violence and chaos was no longer politically viable, hawkish U.S. leaders—both Republicans and Democrats—seem to have concluded that a return to the Cold War was the only plausible way to perpetuate America’s militarist foreign policy and multi-trillion-dollar war machine.

But that raised a new set of contradictions. For 40 years, the Cold War was justified by the ideological struggle between the capitalist and communist economic systems. But the U.S.S.R. disintegrated and Russia is now a capitalist country. China is still governed by its Communist Party, but has a managed, mixed economy similar to that of Western Europe in the years after the Second World War – an efficient and dynamic economic system that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in both cases.

So how can these U.S. leaders justify their renewed Cold War? They have floated the notion of a struggle between “democracy and authoritarianism.” But the United States supports too many horrific dictatorships around the world, especially in the Middle East, to make that a convincing pretext for a Cold War against Russia and China.

A U.S. “global war on authoritarianism” would require confronting repressive U.S. allies like Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, not arming them to the teeth and shielding them from international accountability as the United States is doing.

So, just as American and British leaders settled on non-existent “WMD”s as the pretext they could all agree on to justify their war on Iraq, the U.S. and its allies have settled on defending a vague, undefined “rules-based order” as the justification for their revived Cold War on Russia and China.

But like the emperor’s new clothes in the fable and the WMDs in Iraq, the United States’ new rules don’t really exist. They are just its latest smokescreen for a foreign policy based on illegal threats and uses of force and a doctrine of “might makes right.”

We challenge President Biden and Secretary Blinken to prove us wrong by actually joining the rules-based order of the UN Charter and international law. That would require a genuine commitment to a very different and more peaceful future, with appropriate contrition and accountability for the United States’ and its allies’ systematic violations of the UN Charter and international law, and the countless violent deaths, ruined societies, and widespread chaos they have caused.

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Recognizing Lies about Latin America: Seven Tips

Headlines from two major Venezuelan newspapers (Photo Credit:  Laura Wells)

Even when we’re being lied to by almost every available source across the media and political spectrum, we can still become better lie detectors.

A focus on lies about Latin America is important because we do care about how the US treats other people, and we also need hope that things can improve in the US, in healthcare, housing, education, justice, the arts, and in the whole system of democracy. Some Latin American countries are lied about a lot, not because of oil, but because they represent to the powers-that-be what Noam Chomsky calls the “threat of a good example.” To the rest of us, they can represent the “hope of a good example.” Life can actually improve when governments are on the side of regular people.

Here are seven tips for recognizing when you’re probably being lied to. We need basic guidelines because we can never do enough research, or check enough sources, or click enough links.

(1) Words like dictator, authoritarian, regime, strong-man, and tyrant are used to describe the non-US-aligned governments, whereas for US allies the words are straightforward: president, leader, administration.

On the last day of a trip to Venezuela, I remembered to take a photo of two major newspapers. The headlines demonstrate the lie that Hugo Chavez supposedly suppressed “freedom of press.” Would a dictator allow major newspapers to shout out DICTADOR in all-caps on the front page? Character assassination is a mainstay of media and government lies, whether the story is about non-aligned Latin American presidents, or whistleblowers, or other truth-tellers and activists.

(2) Sanctions have been imposed on the country. Media and politicians do not mention sanctions, however, when the nation is described as a “failed state” or a “broken socialist state.” The UN charter prohibits these “unilateral coercive measures.” Of the more than 30 nations suffering under some form of sanctions by the US, the ones south of the border are Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti, in other words, Trump’s “Troika of Tyranny” plus Haiti. Significantly, in 1804 Haiti became the only state in history ever established by a successful slave revolt.

If a nation is on this sanctions list, (which is not totally up-to-date), there is good reason to doubt the truth of any stories heard from media and the US government. Sanctions have a huge effect on a nation’s ability to maintain their infrastructure, benefit from tourism, and even to feed their people and obtain medicines. These coercive measures have been especially criminal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

End US sanctions and other foreign interference, and then talk about how well sovereign nations address their own problems.

(3) Fraud is alleged when presidents are — or might be — elected who are not the first choice of the US. And “US” in this case means the military-industrial-financial-congressional-prison-pharmaceutical-media-complex, not regular folks in the US. Who lives in fear of Venezuela? Is Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security of the US, as declared by Obama in 2015 and ramped up by Trump afterward?

“Fraud” in elections is easily alleged, often in advance of the elections, and then widely repeated, which allows future reports to say “widely perceived as fraudulent.” No evidence is used to back up the claims, and, in fact, evidence countering the allegations of fraud is ignored.

(4) The country is accused of human rights abuses, while other countries with much worse records are not targeted. Modern day “soft coups” are replacing the disfavored military coups, are very complex to unravel, and are very effective. Because reports of human rights abuses are often from credible sources, it’s hard to disbelieve them — unless one happens to be a Latin American organizer or journalist in a targeted country. They can see clearly it is not just the CIA, DEA, NED, IMF or OAS; there are a slew of other acronyms and organizations that are causing them problems. The best tip is to “consider the source” — consider if the organizations are based in and funded by the US and Europe, the imperialist and colonial powers of recent centuries.

“Soft coups” work much like character assassination. The accusations aim for the soft spots in our hearts, such as the treatment of women, indigenous, and the environment, and the good old standby of anti-corruption. Even insignificant and unsubstantiated accusations work. An old-fashioned coup d’etat was about sending in the Marines and training the Contras. The new soft coups send in “student protesters”, the judiciary, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The hypocrisy is extreme. Can anyone believe US policy is the gold standard on the environment, workers rights, elections and democracy (two recent US presidents have taken office after they lost the popular vote), human rights, gender equality and indigenous rights?

(5) The country has no US military bases. This tip is tricky, because it is difficult to get a definitive list of US military bases around the world. The more sources you check the more confused you become. The “Troika of Tyranny” nations Venezuela and Nicaragua do not have US bases, although the neighboring countries certainly do. And Guantanamo in Cuba has still not been shut down. This source, describes a “temporary” base, which means it doesn’t count as a base, in Honduras since 1982.

(6) Officials and supporters of the non-aligned governments are rarely quoted. The opposition and their privately-owned media are treated as the only sources needed.

(7) Media outlets and politicians cannot afford to tell the whole truth. This is the saddest tip. If politicians and media are too far “out in left field,” they will lose their funding, especially if they rely on corporate donations or advertising, but even if they are corporate-free. In addition to funding, politicians and media risk losing their credibility and their more moderate supporters if they go too far with uncomfortable truths. Their survival is safer if they only aim to be “better than” the others. PBS, for example, is considered to be “very liberal” and yet citizens of Venezuela and Nicaragua can easily see the PBS bias against them. After reading stories about Venezuela, here is a valuable English language website that gives a fuller context, and it even includes internal critiques.

There are many examples. Journalists Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald worked for the “liberal” newspapers New York Times and Britain’s Guardian, respectively, until their investigative journalism became impossible within mainstream media. The US is now pulling out all the stops, including character assassination, to punish Julian Assange for publishing documents that laid bare truths we were not supposed to know. Sadly, the major newspapers that have used Wikileaks material are not defending Assange’s right to journalistic freedom.

As an example involving Nicaragua, journalist Gary Webb ran into trouble when he investigated the CIA’s role in the 1980s in getting crack cocaine to the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles to get money and weapons to the Contras to fight against the Sandinistas. And so it goes.

*****

The countries and their leaders are not perfect. They are, however, sovereign nations, and the people of those nations will be much better off when the US honors the UN charter, and stops the economic, military, and information wars against them. As to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the people and their leaders are aiming toward benefits for regular folks, rather than benefits for the oligarchs of their country and the world. The better we are at telling when we’re being lied to, the easier it will be to achieve success in that huge challenge. We can be inspired by the “power of a good example.” Rather than continue having our expectations for ourselves and our children be diminished, we can find reasons to allow our expectations to rise.

The post Recognizing Lies about Latin America: Seven Tips first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19

A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power.
― Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, October 1962

For good or bad, COVID-19 has changed the way we navigate the world.

It is also redrawing the boundaries of our world (and our freedoms) and altering the playing field faster than we can keep up.

Owing in large part to the U.S. government’s deep-seated and, in many cases, top-secret alliances with foreign nations and global corporations, it has become increasingly obvious that we have entered into a new world order—a global world order—made up of international government agencies and corporations.

This powerful international cabal, let’s call it the Global Deep State, is just as real as the corporatized, militarized, industrialized American Deep State, and it poses just as great a threat to our rights as individuals under the U.S. Constitution, if not greater.

We’ve been inching closer to this global world order for the past several decades, but COVID-19, which has seen governmental and corporate interests become even more closely intertwined, has shifted this transformation into high gear.

Fascism has become a global menace.

It remains unclear whether the American Deep State (“a national-security apparatus that holds sway even over the elected leaders notionally in charge of it”) answers to the Global Deep State, or whether the Global Deep State merely empowers the American Deep State. However, there is no denying the extent to which they are intricately and symbiotically enmeshed and interlocked.

Consider the extent to which our lives and liberties are impacted by this international convergence of governmental and profit-driven corporate interests in the surveillance state, the military industrial complex, the private prison industry, the intelligence sector, the security sector, the technology sector, the telecommunications sector, the transportation sector, the pharmaceutical industry and, most recently, by the pharmaceutical-health sector.

All of these sectors are dominated by mega-corporations operating on a global scale and working through government channels to increase their profit margins. The profit-driven policies of these global corporate giants influence everything from legislative policies to economics to environmental issues to medical care.

Global Disease

The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled us into a whole new global frontier. Those hoping to navigate this interconnected and highly technological world of contact tracing, vaccine passports and digital passes will find themselves grappling with issues that touch on deep-seated moral, political, religious and personal questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers.

We are about to find our ability to access, engage and move about in the world dependent on which camp we fall into: those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have not.

“It is the latest status symbol. Flash it at the people, and you can get access to concerts, sports arenas or long-forbidden restaurant tables. Some day, it may even help you cross a border without having to quarantine,” writes Heather Murphy for the New York Times. “The new platinum card of the Covid age is the vaccine certificate.”

This is what M.I.T. professor Ramesh Raskar refers to as the new “currency for health,” an apt moniker given the potentially lucrative role that Big Business (Big Pharma and Big Tech, especially) will play in establishing this pay-to-play marketplace. The airline industry has been working on a Travel Pass. IBM is developing a Digital Health Pass. And the U.S. government has been all-too-happy to allow the corporate sector to take the lead.

Global Surveillance

Spearheaded by the National Security Agency (NSA), which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, the surveillance state has come to dominate our government and our lives.

Yet the government does not operate alone. It cannot. It requires an accomplice.

Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of our massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental bureaucracy.

Take AT&T, for instance. Through its vast telecommunications network that crisscrosses the globe, AT&T provides the U.S. government with the complex infrastructure it needs for its mass surveillance programs. According to The Intercept:

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s ‘extreme willingness to help.’ It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it ‘has access to information that transits the nation,’ but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

Now magnify what the U.S. government is doing through AT&T on a global scale, and you have the “14 Eyes Program,” also referred to as the “SIGINT Seniors.” This global spy agency is made up of members from around the world (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and all British Overseas Territories).

Surveillance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these global alliances, however.

Global War Profiteering

War has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire and its incestuous relationship with a host of international defense contractors, is one of its biggest buyers and sellers.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth. For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.8 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (that’s $8.3 million per hour). That doesn’t include wars and military exercises waged around the globe, which are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

The illicit merger of the global armaments industry and the Pentagon that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today. America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe.

Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure,  spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors. Price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire.

It’s not just the American economy that is being gouged, unfortunately.

Driven by a greedy defense sector, the American homeland has been transformed into a battlefield with militarized police and weapons better suited to a war zone. President Biden, marching in lockstep with his predecessors, has continued to expand America’s military empire abroad and domestically in a clear bid to pander to the powerful money interests (military, corporate and security) that run the Deep State and hold the government in its clutches.

Global Policing

Glance at pictures of international police forces and you will have a hard time distinguishing between American police and those belonging to other nations. There’s a reason they all look alike, garbed in the militarized, weaponized uniform of a standing army.

There’s a reason why they act alike, too, and speak a common language of force: they belong to a global police force.

For example, Israel—one of America’s closest international allies and one of the primary yearly recipients of more than $3 billion in U.S. foreign military aid—has been at the forefront of a little-publicized exchange program aimed at training American police to act as occupying forces in their communities. As The Intercept sums it up, American police are “essentially taking lessons from agencies that enforce military rule rather than civil law.”

This idea of global policing is reinforced by the Strong Cities Network program, which trains local police agencies across America in how to identify, fight and prevent extremism, as well as address intolerance within their communities, using all of the resources at their disposal. The cities included in the global network include New York City, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Paris, London, Montreal, Beirut and Oslo.

The objective is to prevent violent extremism by targeting its source: racism, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, etc. In other words, police—acting as extensions of the United Nations—will identify, monitor and deter individuals who exhibit, express or engage in anything that could be construed as extremist.

Of course, the concern with the government’s anti-extremism program is that it will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the private sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

Are you starting to get the picture now?

On almost every front, whether it’s the war on drugs, or the sale of weapons, or regulating immigration, or establishing prisons, or advancing technology, or fighting a pandemic, if there is a profit to be made and power to be amassed, you can bet that the government and its global partners have already struck a deal that puts the American people on the losing end of the bargain.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has perished.

In its place is a shadow government—a corporatized, militarized, entrenched global bureaucracy—that is fully operational and running the country.

Given the trajectory and dramatic expansion, globalization and merger of governmental and corporate powers, we’re not going to recognize this country 20 years from now.

It’s taken less than a generation for our freedoms to be eroded and the Global Deep State’s structure to be erected, expanded and entrenched.

Mark my words: the U.S. government will not save us from the chains of the Global Deep State.

Now there are those who will tell you that any mention of a New World Order government—a power elite conspiring to rule the world—is the stuff of conspiracy theories.

I am not one of those skeptics.

I wholeheartedly believe that one should always mistrust those in power, take alarm at the first encroachment on one’s liberties, and establish powerful constitutional checks against government mischief and abuse.

I can also attest to the fact that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I have studied enough of this country’s history—and world history—to know that governments (the U.S. government being no exception) are at times indistinguishable from the evil they claim to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

And I have lived long enough to see many so-called conspiracy theories turn into cold, hard fact.

Remember, people used to scoff at the notion of a Deep State (a.k.a. Shadow Government). They used to doubt that fascism could ever take hold in America, and sneer at any suggestion that the United States was starting to resemble Nazi Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

As I detail in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re beginning to know better, aren’t we?

The post The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New Green Deal + Old War Deal = Same Rotten Deal

While a new American administration presides over what many believe is a return to normal after the more openly blatant worship of wealth and Israel of the Trump regime, what’s missed is that what passes for normal is what needs radical change. As long as market normalcy in the USA means hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, millions more live in poverty and millions more than that are so much deeper in personal debt than ever before in our history that the World Bank warns of the possibility of social collapse, what passes for normal is not just highly judgmental but criminally immoral. Especially when a mincing step forward domestically is accompanied by a crippled giant stride backward in foreign policy.

This while more than half a million Americans have died in a pandemic that has already wreaked economic havoc among almost all the general population while some millionaires have become multi millionaires, some multi millionaires have become billionaires and some billionaires approach becoming trillionaires. As this market “normality “awaits the hopeful arrival of a Green New Deal, named after the world war two version which created a middle class by spending billions of public dollars to aid survival of the richest while allowing enough of their money to trickle down to pass for a welfare state form of capitalism, it now actually threatens to bring on even more dreadfulness to an even greater population.

A couple of trillion in government spending is proposed now when tens of trillions are needed but will never be found under the market forces of private profit normalcy. The goal must be a radical restructuring of the political economic value system that treats earth, air, water and human beings as commodities to be bought, sold and rented in pursuit of enormous private profit for an ever shrinking number as hundreds of millions diversely sink lower in class status under the burden of bearing the staggering public loss of dollars, humanity and nature itself.

While this seemingly hopeful program of another new deal for domestic progress is proposed in order to save capitalism once again by muffling if not smothering calls for more radical change, the old deal of the murderous warfare state is even more dangerous than ever, with the amateurs of the Trump regime replaced by more experienced creators of policies of mass murder to preserve the alleged chosen people status of American capital and its servant class of more diverse than ever professionals who arrange minority rule and convince people it‘s democracy.

The old cold war against communism and socialism in Russia and China is more fervently being waged against those now capitalist nations offering a greater menace to what is called “western civilization”. This is defined as peace, democracy and humanism to disguise its base on colonialism, slavery and the mass murders of world wars one, two and the great slaughters that followed in Asia and the rest of the world not worthy enough to be rated as civilization by creatures who would make savage predatory beasts seem humanitarians, poets and lovers by comparison.

Naturally, this new Chinese and Russian capitalism is treated as massive terror and desperately in need of trillions spent on the military, which adequately protects the American troops ringing the Russian border and American ships sailing the South China Sea but is helpless to protect Americans being murdered in America by neighbors, workmates, the police and other patriots.  Nor are they/we protected by having tens of thousands of military personnel at hundreds of military bases thousands of miles from America’s shores. This is sold to a mentally imprisoned population as a defense of America and rationalized by a brilliant leadership that might have trouble understanding that it should put its socks on before not after its shoes while spending trillions on warfare and offering no help at all to tens of millions of Americans without health care or shelter.

Despite the unrelenting intellectual and moral sewage being forced into the mental diet of innocent participants in what is called our sacred democracy, newer generations contain more critical numbers than ever speaking out, organizing and showing signs of no more tolerance for this weaponized mass murdering drivel. Even while under assault reducing the common needs of all to alleged minorities by our ruler imposed doctrines of identity to reduce a majority to squabbling over which group has suffered more with least suffering getting the most, far more are resisting that divide and conquer program to save the system by divisive race, ethnic and sexual bigotry.

Current mind mashing daily bulletins about Putin’s being a murderer and Chinese preforming genocide on Islamic people are part of  the daily diet of intellectual sewage that passes for reporting in the news marketplace, more minds are being destroyed while more wealth is created by the media servants of capital. Daily bulletins inform (?) us that China is brutalizing Islamic Chinese and committing “genocide”, the popular term to use when anybody dies anywhere but where the term and the idea were born, while we lecture them on how to destroy the Islamic world for Israel and capital, commit mass murder and slaughter tens of thousands, destroy nations and reduce millions to poverty. If there were a judgmental, righteous and vindictive deity such as the one created by the more sadistic episodes of Old Testament mythology that had one destroy the planet because of false worship or a bad migraine, there might be a cataclysmic explosion, earthquake, holocaust and plague every fifteen minutes until our nation was obliterated. Luckily, we only have to deal with the largest population of earth dwellers growing fed up with a material reality forced on them by allegedly higher forms of humans practicing a form of political economics that might create a Department of Rape and call it a Ministry of Love

Rather than having to deal with a strengthened coalition of nuclear armed nations sick and tired of suffering abuse from an international bully and able to respond to any attack with their own powers of mass murder, we can only hope that Eastern Capitalist media may soon retaliate by offering lessons in humanity to the western civilization (?) by describing how it is possible to end poverty by investing in people rather than murdering them.

In China, a nation of nearly one and a half billion people, nearly 90% of them own their own homes. In Russia, another brutal capitalist horde assaulting our mythological democracy, which has never elected a president by majority of the electorate, 80% of the people own their homes. Worst of all, the savage state of communist Cuba has 90% of its people in homes they own, and this accomplished under years of brutal economic assault by an alleged  “great power” 90 miles away. Isn’t that terrifying?

A part of Islamic teaching claims there is no god but god, which is a belief system that can work for good or bad because it’s a faith-based belief. Material reality says that there is no race but human and that is a material fact, a scientific reality and not simply a belief. The sooner we rise above good or evil teachings about cultural truths  (?) and face material reality which is just that, we who identify as human beings can create democracy, the best deal for humanity.

In the words of an anonymous Vegas dealer, we don’t need a new deal: we need an entirely new deck. To bring that about, the people will have to take ownership of not just the gambling casino but every aspect of material reality that affects the public good. That sounds strange because it represents democracy, a deal we’ve never had as a people but only a charade of our rulers and their professional – and more “diverse” than ever – servant class. We need to give meaning to the word, and very soon, which means we need a political party that represents the public good, and an economy that does the same. Give that whatever label makes you feel best, but do it soon or we might not have much of a later.

The post New Green Deal + Old War Deal = Same Rotten Deal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World

Photo credit: indybay.org

Denis Halliday is an exceptional figure in the world of diplomacy. In 1998, after a 34-year career with the United Nations—including as an Assistant Secretary-General and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq—he resigned when the UN Security Council refused to lift sanctions against Iraq.

Halliday saw at first hand the devastating impact of this policy that had led to the deaths of over 500,000 children under the age of five and hundreds of thousands more older children and adults, and he called the sanctions a genocide against the people of Iraq.

Since 1998, Denis has been a powerful voice for peace and for human rights around the world. He sailed in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010, when 10 of his companions on a Turkish ship were shot and killed in an attack by the Israeli armed forces.

I interviewed Denis Halliday from his home in Ireland.

Nicolas Davies:   So, Denis, twenty years after you resigned from the UN over the sanctions on Iraq, the United States is now imposing similar “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, denying their people access to food and medicines in the midst of a pandemic. What would you like to say to Americans about the real-world impact of these policies?

Denis Halliday:   I’d like to begin with explaining that the sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq, led very much by the United States and Britain, were unique in the sense that they were comprehensive. They were open-ended, meaning that they required a Security Council decision to end them, which, of course, never actually happened – and they followed immediately upon the Gulf War.

The Gulf War, led primarily by the United States but supported by Britain and some others, undertook the bombing of Iraq and targeted civilian infrastructure, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and they took out all electric power networks in the country.

This completely undermined the water treatment and distribution system of Iraq, which depended upon electricity to drive it, and drove people to use contaminated water from the Tigris and the Euphrates. That was the beginning of the death-knell for young children, because mothers were not breast-feeding, they were feeding their children with child formula, but mixing it with foul water from the Tigris and the Euphrates.

That bombing of infrastructure, including communications systems and electric power, wiped out the production of food, horticulture, and all of the other basic necessities of life. They also closed down exports and imports, and they made sure that Iraq was unable to export its oil, which was the main source of its revenue at the time.

In addition to that, they introduced a new weapon called depleted uranium, which was used by the U.S. forces driving the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. That was used again in southern Iraq in the Basra area, and led to a massive accumulation of nuclear debris which led to leukemia in children, and that took three, four or five years to become evident.

So when I got to Iraq in 1998, the hospitals in Baghdad, and also, of course, in Basra and other cities, were full of children suffering from leukemia. Meantime adults had gotten their own cancer, mainly not a blood cancer diagnosis. Those children, we reckon perhaps 200,000 children, died of leukemia. At the same time, Washington and London withheld some of the treatment components that leukemia requires, again, it seemed, in a genocidal manner, denying Iraqi children the right to remain alive.

And as you quoted 500,000, that was a statement made by Madeleine Albright, the then American Ambassador to the United Nations who, live on CBS, was asked the question about the loss of 500,000 children, and she said that the loss of 500,000 children was “worth it,” in terms of bringing down Saddam Hussein, which did not happen until the military invasion of 2003.

So the point is that the Iraqi sanctions were uniquely punitive and cruel and prolonged and comprehensive. They remained in place no
matter how people like myself or others, and not just me alone, but UNICEF and the agencies of the UN system – many states including France, China and Russia – complained bitterly about the consequences on human life and the lives of Iraqi children and adults.

My desire in resigning was to go public, which I did. Within one month, I was in Washington doing my first Congressional briefing on the consequences of these sanctions, driven by Washington and London.

So I think the United States and its populus, who vote these governments in, need to understand that the children and the people of Iraq are just like the children of the United States and England and their people. They have the same dreams, same ambitions of education and employment and housing and vacations and all the things that good people care about. We’re all the same people and we cannot sit back and think somehow, “We don’t know who they are, they’re Afghans, they’re Iranians, they’re Iraqis. So what? They’re dying. Well, we don’t know, it’s not our problem, this happens in war.” I mean, all that sort of rationale as to why this is unimportant.

And I think that aspect of life in the sanctions world continues, whether it’s Venezuela, whether it’s Cuba, which has been ongoing now for 60 years. People are not aware or don’t think in terms of the lives of other human beings identical to ourselves here in Europe or in the United States.

It’s a frightening problem, and I don’t know how it can be resolved. We now have sanctions on Iran and North Korea. So the difficulty is to bring alive that we kill people with sanctions. They’re not a substitute for war – they are a form of warfare.

ND: Thank you, Denis. I think that brings us to another question, because whereas the sanctions on Iraq were approved by the UN Security Council, what we’re looking at today in the world is, for the most part, the U.S. using the power of its financial system to impose unilateral sieges on these countries, even as the U.S. is also still waging war in at least half a dozen countries, mostly in the Greater Middle East. Medea Benjamin and I recently documented that the U.S. and its allies have dropped 326,000 bombs and missiles on other countries in all these wars, just since 2001 – that’s not counting the First Gulf War.

You worked for the UN and UNDP for 34 years, and the UN was conceived of as a forum and an institution for peace and to confront violations of peace by any countries around the world. But how can the UN address the problem of a powerful, aggressive country like the United States that systematically violates international law and then abuses its veto and diplomatic power to avoid accountability?

DH:  Yes, when I talk to students, I try to explain that there are two United Nations: there’s a United Nations of the Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and staffed by people like myself and 20,000 or 30,000 more worldwide, through UNDP and the agencies. We operate in every country, and most of it is developmental or humanitarian. It’s good work, it has real impact, whether it’s feeding Palestinians or it’s UNICEF work in Ethiopia. This continues.

Where the UN collapses is in the Security Council, in my view, and that is because, in Yalta in 1945, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, having noted the failure of the League of Nations, decided to set up a United Nations that would have a controlling entity, which they then called the Security Council. And to make sure that worked, in their interests I would say, they established this five-power veto group, and they added France and they added China. And that five is still in place.

That’s 1945 and this is 2021, and they’re still in power and they’re still manipulating the United Nations. And as long as they stay there and they manipulate, I think the UN is doomed. The tragedy is that the five veto powers are the very member states that violate the Charter, violate human rights conventions, and will not allow the application of the ICC to their war crimes and other abuses.

On top of that, they are the countries that manufacture and sell weapons, and we know that weapons of war are possibly the most profitable product you can produce. So their vested interest is control, is the military capacity, is interference. It’s a neocolonial endeavor, an empire in reality, to control the world as the way they want to see it. Until that is changed and those five member states agree to dilute their power and play an honest role, I think we’re doomed. The UN has no capacity to stop the difficulties we’re faced with around the world.

ND:   That’s a pretty damning prognosis. In this century, we’re facing such incredible problems, between climate change and the threat of nuclear war still hanging over all of us, possibly more dangerous than ever before, because of the lack of treaties and the lack of cooperation between the nuclear powers, notably the U.S. and Russia. This is really an existential crisis for humanity.

Now there is also, of course, the UN General Assembly, and they did step up on nuclear weapons with the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has now officially entered into force. And every year when it meets, the General Assembly regularly and almost unanimously condemns the U.S. sanctions regime against Cuba.

When I wrote my book about the war in Iraq, my final recommendations were that the senior American and British war criminals responsible for the war should be held criminally accountable, and that the U.S. and the U.K. should pay reparations to Iraq for the war. Could the General Assembly possibly be a venue to build support for Iraq to claim reparations from the U.S. and the U.K., or is there another venue where that would be more appropriate?

DH:   I think you’re right on target. The tragedy is that the decisions of the Security Council are binding decisions. Every member state has got to apply and respect those decisions. So, if you violate a sanctions regime imposed by the Council as a member state, you’re in trouble. The General Assembly resolutions are not binding.

You’ve just referred to a very important decision, which is the decision about nuclear weapons. We’ve had a lot of decisions on banning various types of weapons over the years. Here in Ireland we were involved in anti-personnel mines and other things of that sort, and it was by a large number of member states, but not the guilty parties, not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Chinese, not the British. The ones who control the veto power game are the ones who do not comply. Just like Clinton was one of the proposers, I think, of the ICC [International Criminal Court], but when it came to the end of the day, the United States doesn’t accept it has a role vis-a-vis themselves and their war crimes The same is true of other large states that are the guilty parties in those cases.

So I would go back to your suggestion about the General Assembly. It could be enhanced, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be changed, but it requires tremendous courage on the part of member states. It also requires acceptance by the five veto powers that their day has come to an end, because, in reality, the UN carries very little cachet nowadays to send a UN mission into a country like Myanmar or Afghanistan.

I think we have no power left, we have no influence left, because they know who runs the organization, they know who makes the decisions. It’s not the Secretary-General. It’s not people like me. We are dictated to by the Security Council. I resigned, effectively, from the Security Council. They were my bosses during that particular period of my career.

I have a lecture I do on reforming the Security Council, making it a North-South representative body, which would find Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in situ, and you’d get very different decisions. You’d get the sort of decisions we get in the General Assembly: much more balanced, much more aware of the world and its North and South and all those other variations. But, of course, again, we can’t reform the Council until the five veto powers agree to that. That is the huge problem.

ND:   Yes, in fact, when that structure was announced in 1945 with the Security Council, the five Permanent Members and the veto, Albert Camus, who was the editor of the French Resistance newspaper Combat, wrote a front-page editorial saying this was the end of any idea of international democracy.

So, as with so many other issues, we live in these nominally democratic countries, but the people of a country like the United States are only really told what our leaders want us to know about how the world works. So reform of the Security Council is clearly needed, but it’s a massive process of education and democratic reform in countries around the world to actually build enough of a popular movement to demand that kind of change. In the meantime, the problems we’re facing are enormous.

Another thing that is very under-reported in the U.S. is that, out of desperation after twenty years of war in Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken has finally asked the UN to lead a peace process for a ceasefire between the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban and a political transition. That could move the conflict into the political realm and end the civil war that resulted from the U.S. invasion and occupation and endless bombing campaign.

So what do you think of that initiative? There is supposed to be a meeting in a couple of weeks in Istanbul, led by an experienced UN negotiator, Jean Arnault, who helped to bring peace to Guatemala at the end of its civil war, and then between Colombia and the FARC. The U.S. specifically asked China, Russia and Iran to be part of this process as well. Both sides in Afghanistan have agreed to come to Istanbul and at least see what they can agree on. So is that a constructive role that the UN can play? Does that offer a chance of peace for the people of Afghanistan?

DH:   If I were a member of the Taliban and I was asked to negotiate with a government that is only in power because it’s supported by the United States, I would question whether it’s an even keel. Are we equally powerful, can we talk to each other one-to-one? The answer, I think, is no.

The UN chap, whoever he is, poor man, is going to have the same difficulty. He is representing the United Nations, a Security Council dominated by the United States and others, as the Afghans are perfectly well aware. The Taliban have been fighting for a helluva long time, and making no progress because of the interference of the U.S. troops, which are still on the ground. I just don’t think it’s an even playing-field.

So I’d be very surprised if that works. I absolutely hope it might. I would think, in my view, if you want a lasting relationship within a country, it’s got to be negotiated within the country, without military or other interference or fear of further bombing or attacks or all the rest of it. I don’t think we have any credibility, as a UN, under those circumstances. It’ll be a very tough slog.

ND:  Right. The irony is that the United States set aside the UN Charter when it attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 to carve out what is now the semi-recognized country of Kosovo, and then to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN Charter, right at the beginning, at its heart, prohibits the threat or use of force by one country against another. But that is what the U.S. set aside.

DH:   And then, you have to remember, the U.S. is attacking a fellow member state of the United Nations, without hesitation, with no respect for the Charter. Perhaps people forget that Eleanor Roosevelt drove, and succeeded in establishing, the Declaration of Human Rights, an extraordinary achievement, which is still valid. It’s a biblical instrument for many of us who work in the UN.

So the neglect of the Charter and the spirit of the Charter and the wording of the Charter, by the five veto members, perhaps in Afghanistan it was Russia, now it’s the United States, the Afghanis have had foreign intervention up to their necks and beyond, and the British have been involved there since the 18th century almost. So they have my deepest sympathy, but I hope this thing can work, let’s hope it can.

ND:  I brought that up because the U.S., with its dominant military power after the end of the Cold War, made a very conscious choice that instead of living according to the UN Charter, it would live by the sword, by the law of the jungle: “might makes right.”

It took those actions because it could, because no other military force was there to stand up against it. At the time of the First Gulf War, a Pentagon consultant told the New York Times that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could finally conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about starting World War III. So they took the demise of the Soviet Union as a green light for these systematic, widespread actions that violate the UN Charter.

But now, what is happening in Afghanistan is that the Taliban once again control half the country. We’re approaching the spring and the summer when the fighting traditionally gets worse, and so the U.S. is calling in the UN out of desperation because, frankly, without a ceasefire, their government in Kabul is just going to lose more territory. So the U.S. has chosen to live by the sword, and in this situation it’s now confronting dying by the sword.

DH:   What’s tragic, Nicolas, is that, in our lifetime, the Afghanis ran their own country. They had a monarchy, they had a parliament – I met and interviewed women ministers from Afghanistan in New York – and they managed it. It was when the Russians interfered, and then the Americans interfered, and then Bin Laden set up his camp there, and that was justification for destroying what was left of Afghanistan.

And then Bush, Cheney and a few of the boys decided, although there was no justification whatsoever, to bomb and destroy Iraq, because they wanted to think that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda, which, of course, was nonsense. They wanted to think he had weapons of mass destruction, which also was nonsense. The UN inspectors said that again and again, but nobody would believe them.

It’s deliberate neglect of the one last hope. The League of Nations failed, and the UN was the next best hope and we have deliberately turned our backs upon it, neglected it and distrusted it. When we get a good Secretary General like Hammarskjold, we murder him. He was definitely killed, because he was interfering in the dreams of the British in particular, and perhaps the Belgians, in Katanga. It’s a very sad story, and I don’t know where we go from here.

ND:   Right, well, where we seem to be going from here is to a loss of American power around the world, because the U.S. has so badly abused its power. In the U.S., we keep hearing that this is a Cold War between the U.S. and China, or maybe the U.S., China and Russia, but I think we all hopefully can work for a more multipolar world.

As you say, the UN Security Council needs reform, and hopefully the American people are understanding that we cannot unilaterally rule the world, that the ambition for a U.S. global empire is an incredibly dangerous pipe-dream that has really led us to an impasse.

DH:   Perhaps the only good thing coming out of Covid-19 is the slow realization that, if everybody doesn’t get a vaccine, we fail, because we, the rich and the powerful with the money and the vaccines, will not be safe until we make sure the rest of the world is safe, from Covid and the next one that’s coming along the track undoubtedly.

And this implies that if we don’t do trade with China or other countries we have reservations about, because we don’t like their government, we don’t like communism, we don’t like socialism, whatever it is, we just have to live with that, because without each other we can’t survive. With the climate crisis and all the other issues related to that, we need each other more than ever perhaps, and we need collaboration. It’s just basic common sense that we work and live together.

The U.S. has something like 800 military bases around the world, of various sizes. China is certainly surrounded and this is a very dangerous situation, totally unnecessary. And now the rearming with fancy new nuclear weapons when we already have nuclear weapons that are twenty times bigger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. Why on Earth? It’s just irrational nonsense to continue these programs, and it just doesn’t work for humanity.

I would hope the U.S. would start perhaps retreating and sorting out its own domestic problems, which are quite substantial. I’m reminded every day when I look at CNN here in my home about the difficulties of race and all the other things that you’re well aware of that need to be addressed. Being policeman to the world was a bad decision.

ND:   Absolutely. So the political, economic and military system we live under is not only genocidal at this point, but also suicidal. Thank you, Denis, for being a voice of reason in this insane world.

The post Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Australia Struggles to Find an Independent Voice

Australia has always struggled to present an independent foreign policy to the world. For example, during its early days as a British colony its soldiers fought in the Crimean war in the mid 19th century, although it would be impossible to identify any Australian interest in that conflict. World War One saw a similar eagerness to die on behalf of the British Empire. To this day the most solemn day in the Australian calendar is 25th April, ANZAC Day, when Australian and New Zealand troops were sacrificed by their incompetent British officers to a hopeless campaign in Turkey during World War One.

The same saga was repeated during World War II when Australian troops were rushed to North Africa to fight Rommel’s desert army. They were only withdrawn from that theatre following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when defending home territory from the Japanese superseded defending Britain in its European war.

The fall of Singapore to the Japanese had a profound effect on Australian military thinking. Foremost was the realisation that they could no longer rely on Britain for their safety.  Rather than formulating a plan for having a uniquely Australian tinge to their defence, Australia simply switched its allegiance from the British to the Americans. That allegiance has continued to the present day and is essentially a bipartisan affair, with both the major political parties swearing undying allegiance to the Americans.

What did not change from the days of allegiance to a participation in Britain’s wars, was an affinity simply transferred to the Americans to join their wars, regardless of the merits, military or otherwise, of doing so.

Thus Australia was an eager participant in the first post-World War II exercise in American imperialism when it joined the war in Korea. Australian troops later joined in the invasion of North Korea, contrary to the terms of the United Nations resolution authorising the conflict. After the Chinese joined the war when the western forces reached the North Korea – China border, they were quickly expelled back to the southern portion of the Korean peninsula.

As is well known, the Americans used their aerial domination to bomb the North until the armistice was finally signed in 1953. During that air war every city in the North suffered severe damage. More than 600,000 civilians died, which was greater than the military losses of around 400,000. To this day the war remains technically alive as no peace treaty has been signed. Of the 17,000 Australian troops that served in Korea, there were 340 fatalities and more than 1400 injured, a comparatively small number for a war that lasted three years.

In 1962 Australian troops arrived in South Vietnam and remained there until January 1973 when they were withdrawn by the Whitlam Labor government. It was Australia’s longest war up until that time. The withdrawal of Australian troops by the Whitlam government incensed the Americans, on whose behalf they were there. The withdrawal drew the enmity of the Americans and was a major factor in the American role in the overthrow of the Whitlam government in November 1975. It is a fact barely acknowledged in Australian writing on the demise of the Whitlam government. It did, however, have a profound effect on Australian political and military thinking. Since November 1975 there has been no recognisable Australian difference from United States belligerence throughout the world.

The next miscalculation was Australia joining the United States led war in Afghanistan. That is now Australia’s longest war, rapidly approaching 20 years of involvement with no sign or political talk about withdrawing. It is a war that has largely passed out of mainstream media discussion. This ignorance was briefly disrupted by revelations in late 2020 that Australian troops had been involved in war crimes in Afghanistan, specifically, the killing of innocent Afghanistan civilians.

The brief publicity given to this revelation rapidly passed and Australia’s involvement in its longest war once more faded from public view. The mainstream media remains totally silent on Australia’s involvement on behalf of the Americans in protecting the poppy crop, source of 90% of the world’s heroin supply and a major source of uncountable illicit income for the CIA.

Australia’s next foreign intervention on behalf of the Americans was in the equally illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. They have simply ignored demands by the Iraqi government in 2020 that all uninvited foreign troops should leave. The involvement of Australian troops in that country, and indeed in adjoining Syria where they have been since at least 2015 is simply ignored by the mainstream media.

Australia also plays a role in the United States war machine through the satellite facility at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. That base is one of a number of United States military facilities in the country, another topic that is deemed by the mainstream media as being unfit for public discussion.

Another unsung role of the Australian Navy is to be part of the United States confrontation with China in the South China Sea where they protect so-called freedom of navigation exercises, despite the complete absence of any evidence of Chinese interference with civilian navigation in those waters. Equally unexplained is the Australian Navy’s presence in the narrow Straits of Malacca, a vital Chinese export waterway.

Last year the Trump administration resurrected the “gang of four” that is, India, Japan, the United States and Australia, a blatantly anti-China grouping designed to put pressure on the Chinese government in the Indo Pacific region. The measure is doomed to fail, not least because both India and Japan have more attractive opportunities as part of the burgeoning cooperation in trade among multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific who see better opportunities arising from a friendly relationship with China than the blatantly antagonistic options offered by the Americans.

Australia seems impervious to these signals. It has already suffered major setbacks to its trade with China, not to mention a diplomatic cold shoulder. The political leadership is silent on this development, perhaps unable to grasp the implications of its changing relationship with China. The inability of the Labor Opposition to grasp the implications of the consequences of Australia clinging to the fading American coattails is of profound concern.

All the signs are that the relationship with its largest trading partner, by a big margin, will continue to deteriorate. Australians seem unable or unwilling to grasp the lesson that its economic problems are intimately linked to its subservient role to the United States.

There is every indication that their fortunes in Asia will sink together.

The post Australia Struggles to Find an Independent Voice first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reimagining US Foreign Policy

Since the end of WWII, especially since the breakup of the Soviet Union, it appears as if US political leaders feel they are trapped in a time warp and are unable to break free. They seem to believe that they must repeat the same disastrous foreign policy of regime change over and over. Since 9/11, the US has attacked or supported attacks against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The attacks, especially the horrendous US-led war crime against Iraq, have destabilized and created havoc in the Middle East, devastated these nations and caused death and appalling suffering for the people.

In addition, the US has troops in about 800 locations worldwide, further threatening international stability. In particular, US forces surround much of Russia, China and Iran, needlessly heightening the risk of war. Moreover, illegal US sanctions, an economic form of warfare, continue to cause immense suffering for, among others, the people of Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Iran.

Now US political leaders are greatly concerned about China challenging US primacy or hegemony in East Asia. Wait a darned minute – why must the US be the hegemonic power in East Asia? Or in Europe, Africa or anywhere else? Why isn’t it sufficient for the US to become a member in good standing in the community of nations instead of trying to control the world?

US leaders and its corporate media proclaim that the US is the exceptional nation and that this exceptionalism conveys upon it a special responsibility to prevent chaos from happening. Talk about your chutzpah! Are these leaders blind to the chaos the US has already caused throughout the world?

Besides its two horrific original sins – the sin of genocide against the American Indians and the sin of slavery, I would agree that the US is exceptional in at least two ways. The first is that it denies its residents many of the human rights spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; e.g., the right of health care, that many other economically advanced nations provide. The US is also exceptional in that it has been at war throughout most of its existence. Shamefully, most often, these were wars of aggression, stealing the land and/or resources of other peoples to benefit US businesses.

US Marine Corps legend Major General Smedley Butler captured it very well when he wrote:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. …

Although President Biden has announced that the US is back and ready to lead, does the world want a self-righteous US to lead? Certainly US history as well as its record of causing, not preventing, chaos undercut any idea of US moral authority. Moreover, the numerous US violations of international laws, its failure to ratify treaties that, among other things, ban land mines and cluster bombs and safeguard the rights of women and of children, and its failure to join the International Criminal Court, hardly recommend it for a position of leadership.

Instead of attempting to lead, the US should join with Russia, China and other nations in working through the United Nations to bring about world peace and to lessen the impact of other global problems such as the current pandemic, the threat of nuclear war, and climate chaos. Even President Eisenhower, hardly a peacenik, recommended as much when, among other things, he stated that: “No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.”

If the US were to focus on cooperation instead of coercion, that is, focus on defense, US weapons spending could be cut dramatically, yielding three key positive benefits. Firstly, this cut would allow more funding for domestic jobs such as restoring the physical and social infrastructure and combating climate chaos. Many more constructive jobs would thus be gained than lost by cutting the spending on unnecessary weapons. Secondly, this new focus would allow the US military, the world’s largest user of fossil fuels, to reduce this use. This huge reduction would be an important step in the campaign to ameliorate the impact of climate chaos. Thirdly, this cut in weapons funding would greatly reduce the threat of nuclear war.

What are we waiting for?

The post Reimagining US Foreign Policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A New U.S. Foreign Policy

President Biden has inherited a terribly flawed US foreign policy. For the past few decades, the pro-corporate US foreign policy has been a catastrophic failure, especially in the Middle East. Our criminal military interventions there have resulted in the devastation of much of that area, impoverished millions, created millions of refugees, and injured or killed millions more. Moreover, this criminal policy has wasted trillions of US taxpayer dollars, injured or killed thousands of US forces, and has badly damaged US strategic interests.

The illegal US use of aggressive sanctions against nations that don’t follow its dictates has also harmed tens of millions of people worldwide. In addition, US pro-corporate trade policies as well as the US-influenced International Monetary Fund and World Bank have impoverished tens of millions in the Third World. Perhaps of even greater importance, the US-led opposition to enforceable policies that ameliorate the effects of climate chaos threatens billions of people.

Clearly these ruinous policies need to be changed. The Biden administration must seize this opportunity and implement a sane foreign policy. Below are some excellent principles that provide a guideline for such a foreign policy. These principles were laid out in the “ Cross of Iron” speech delivered by President Dwight Eisenhower on April 16, 1953. Two lengthy excerpts from this speech are shown next.

He said:

The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third: Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.
And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

Later in this speech, Eisenhower added:

This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the underdeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitability and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.  The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.  We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United Nations an institution that can effectively g uard the peace and security of all peoples.

Eisenhower also pointed out the implications of spending huge amounts on military weapons in terms of homes, schools, hospitals, etc. that weren’t built.

President Eisenhower plainly recognized that our security and well-being, as well as that of all people on the planet, come from cooperation, not competition. Once we understand this point, the necessary policies become clear. In summary, President Eisenhower, a military icon who knew well the horrors of war, specifically stressed respect for the sovereignty of nations, the need to make the U.N. stronger, spoke against forced changes in regimes or economic systems, called for military disarmament and supported world aid and reconstruction. Even though he wasn’t correct in describing what the US was willing to do or its path, imagine the difference had Eisenhower or any of his successors followed through on his words.

President Biden now has the opportunity to follow Eisenhower’s counsel in a world where US actions have destroyed the myth of its moral authority or of being the exceptional nation. The US must work to rejoin the community of nations by complying with international law instead of running roughshod over it. This means among other things that the US must stop threatening other nations as well as ending its illegal sanctions.

In particular, possible steps the Biden administration could take in collaboration with the international community are:

  • share covid-19 vaccines with all nations at an affordable cost; may require the temporary suspension of patents;
  • create enforceable steps for dealing with climate chaos including a large and increasing carbon tax; and fulfill funding climate change commitments to Third World nations;
  • drastically reduce weapons spending, disband NATO and rely on the UN and diplomacy for settling conflicts; may require the ability to override a veto in the Security Council;
  • strongly support international law and human rights for Palestinians; also support enforcement of the Right of Return for Palestinians;
  • rejoin weapons treaties including the JCPOA (aka, the Iran Nuclear Deal) and ratify the Ban Nuclear Weapons Treaty;
  • pay reparations for their rebuilding to nations the US has devastated;
  • close overseas military bases;
  • end unilateral sanctions, especially those against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea; and,
  • strongly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Disappointingly, it appears as if President Biden will continue to pursue the disastrous US foreign policy. It is up to us, we the people, to convince President Biden and Congress to put the public interest over corporate profits.

The post A New U.S. Foreign Policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Planet Cannot Begin to Heal Until We Rip the Mask off the West’s War Machine

Making political sense of the world can be tricky unless one understands the role of the state in capitalist societies. The state is not primarily there to represent voters or uphold democratic rights and values; it is a vehicle for facilitating and legitimating the concentration of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands.

In a recent post, I wrote about “externalities” – the ability of companies to offset the true costs inherent in the production process. The burden of these costs are covertly shifted on to wider society: that is, on to you and me. Or on to those far from view, in foreign lands. Or on to future generations. Externalising costs means that profits can be maximised for the wealth elite in the here and now.

Our own societies must deal with the externalised costs of industries ranging from tobacco and alcohol to chemicals and vehicles. Societies abroad must deal with the costs of the bombs dropped by our “defence” industries. And future generations will have to deal with the lethal costs incurred by corporations that for decades have been allowed to pump out their waste products into every corner of the globe.

Divine right to rule

In the past, the job of the corporate media was to shield those externalities from public view. More recently, as the costs have become impossible to ignore, especially with the climate crisis looming, the media’s role has changed. Its central task now is to obscure corporate responsibility for these externalities. That is hardly surprising. After all, the corporate media’s profits depend on externalising costs too, as well as hiding the externalised costs of their parent companies, their billionaire owners and their advertisers.

Once, monarchs rewarded the clerical class for persuading, through the doctrine of divine right, their subjects to passively submit to exploitation. Today, “mainstream” media are there to persuade us that capitalism, the profit motive, the accumulation of ever greater wealth by elites, and externalities destroying the planet are the natural order of things, that this is the best economic system imaginable.

Most of us are now so propagandised by the media that we can barely imagine a functioning world without capitalism. Our minds are primed to imagine, in the absence of capitalism, an immediate lurch back to Soviet-style bread queues or an evolutionary reversal to cave-dwelling. Those thoughts paralyse us, making us unable to contemplate what might be wrong or inherently unsustainable about how we live right now, or to imagine the suicidal future we are hurtling towards.

Lifeblood of empire

There is a reason that, as we rush lemming-like towards the cliff-edge, urged on by a capitalism that cannot operate at the level of sustainability or even of sanity, the push towards intensified war grows. Wars are the life blood of the corporate empire headquartered in the United States.

US imperialism is no different from earlier imperialisms in its aims or methods. But in late-stage capitalism, wealth and power are hugely concentrated. Technologies have reached a pinnacle of advancement. Disinformation and propaganda are sophisticated to an unprecedented degree. Surveillance is intrusive and aggressive, if well concealed. Capitalism’s destructive potential is unlimited. But even so, war’s appeal is not diminished.

As ever, wars allow for the capture and control of resources. Fossil fuels promise future growth, even if of the short-term, unsustainable kind.

Wars require the state to invest its money in the horrendously expensive and destructive products of the “defence” industries, from fighter planes to bombs, justifying the transfer of yet more public resources into private hands.

The lobbies associated with these “defence” industries have every incentive to push for aggressive foreign (and domestic) policies to justify more investment, greater expansion of “defensive” capabilities, and the use of weapons on the battlefield so that they need replenishing.

Whether public or covert, wars provide an opportunity to remake poorly defended, resistant societies – such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria – in ways that allow for resources to be seized, markets to be expanded and the reach of the corporate elite to be extended.

War is the ultimate growth industry, limited only by our ability to be persuaded of new enemies and new threats.

Fog of war

For the political class, the benefits of war are not simply economic. In a time of environmental collapse, war offers a temporary “Get out of jail” card. During wars, the public is encouraged to assent to new, ever greater sacrifices that allow public wealth to be transferred to the elite. War is the corporate world’s ultimate Ponzi scheme.

The “fog of war” does not just describe the difficulty of knowing what is happening in the immediate heat of battle. It is also the fear, generated by claims of an existential threat, that sets aside normal thinking, normal caution, normal scepticism. It is the invoking of a phantasmagorical enemy towards which public resentments can be directed, shielding from view the real culprits – the corporations and their political cronies at home.

The “fog of war” engineers the disruption of established systems of control and protocol to cope with the national emergency, shrouding and rationalising the accumulation by corporations of more wealth and power and the further capture of organs of the state. It is the licence provided for “exceptional” changes to the rules that quickly become normalised. It is the disinformation that passes for national responsibility and patriotism.

Permanent austerity

All of which explains why Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, has just pledged an extra £16.5 billion in “defence” spending at a time when the UK is struggling to control a pandemic and when, faced by disease, Brexit and a new round of winter floods, the British economy is facing “systemic crisis”, according to a new Cabinet Office report. Figures released this week show the biggest economic contraction in the UK in three centuries.

If the British public is to stomach yet more cuts, to surrender to permanent austerity as the economy tanks, Johnson, ever the populist, knows he needs a good cover story. And that will involve further embellishment of existing, fearmongering narratives about Russia, Iran and China.

To make those narratives plausible, Johnson has to act as if the threats are real, which means massive spending on “defence”. Such expenditure, wholly counter-productive when the current challenge is sustainability, will line the pockets of the very corporations that help Johnson and his pals stay in power, not least by cheerleading him via their media arms.

New salesman needed

The cynical way this works was underscored in a classified 2010 CIA memorandum, known as “Red Cell”, leaked to Wikileaks, as the journalist Glenn Greenwald reminded us this week. The CIA memo addressed the fear in Washington that European publics were demonstrating little appetite for the US-led “war on terror” that followed 9/11. That, in turn, risked limiting the ability of European allies to support the US as it exercised its divine right to wage war.

The memo notes that European support for US wars after 9/11 had chiefly relied on “public apathy” – the fact that Europeans were kept largely ignorant by their own media of what those wars entailed. But with a rising tide of anti-war sentiment, the concern was that this might change. There was an urgent need to further manipulate public opinion more decisively in favour of war.

The US intelligence agency decided its wars needed a facelift. George W Bush, with his Texan, cowboy swagger, had proved a poor salesman. So the CIA turned to identity politics and faux “humanitarianism”, which they believed would play better with European publics.

Part of the solution was to accentuate the suffering of Afghan women to justify war. But the other part was to use President Barack Obama as the face of a new, “caring” approach to war. He had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – even though he had done nothing for peace, and would go on to expand US wars – very possibly as part of this same effort to reinvent the “war on terror”. Polls showed support for existing wars increased markedly among Europeans when they were reminded that Obama backed these wars.

As Greenwald observes:

Obama’s most important value was in prettifying, marketing and prolonging wars, not ending them. They saw him for what U.S. Presidents really are: instruments to create a brand and image about the U.S. role in the world that can be effectively peddled to both the domestic population in the US and then on the global stage, and specifically to pretend that endless barbaric US wars are really humanitarian projects benevolently designed to help people — the pretext used to justify every war by every country in history.

Obama-style facelift

Once the state is understood as a vehicle for entrenching elite power – and war its most trusted tool for concentrating power – the world becomes far more intelligible. Western economies never stopped being colonial economies, but they were given an Obama-style facelift. War and plunder – even when they masquerade as “defence” or peace – are still the core western mission.

That is why Britons, believing days of empire are long behind them, may have been shocked to learn this week that the UK still operates 145 military bases in 42 countries around the globe, meaning it runs the second largest network of such bases after the US.

Such information is not made available in the UK “mainstream” media, of course. It has to be provided by an “alternative” investigative site, Declassified UK. In that way the vast majority of the British public are left clueless about how their taxes are being used at a time when they are told further belt-tightening is essential.

The UK’s network of bases, many of them in the Middle East, close to the world’s largest oil reserves, are what the much-vaunted “special relationship” with the US amounts to. Those bases are the reason the UK – whoever is prime minister – is never going to say “no” to a demand that Britain join Washington in waging war, as it did in attacking Iraq in 2003, or in aiding attacks on Libya, Syria and Yemen. The UK is not only a satellite of the US empire, it is a lynchpin of the western imperial war economy.

Ideological alchemy

Once that point is appreciated, the need for external enemies – for our own Eurasias and Eastasias – becomes clearer.

Some of those enemies, the minor ones, come and go, as demand dictates. Iraq dominated western attention for two decades. Now it has served its purpose, its killing fields and “terrorist” recruiting grounds have reverted to a mere footnote in the daily news. Likewise, the Libyan bogeyman Muammar Gaddafi was constantly paraded across news pages until he was bayonetted to death. Now the horror story that is today’s chaotic Libya, a corridor for arms-running and people-trafficking, can be safely ignored. For a decade, the entirely unexceptional Arab dictator Bashar Assad, of Syria, has been elevated to the status of a new Hitler, and he will continue to serve in that role for as long as it suits the needs of the western war economy.

Notably, Israel, another lynchpin of the US empire and one that serves as a kind of offshored weapons testing laboratory for the military-industrial complex, has played a vital role in rationalising these wars. Just as saving Afghan women from Middle Eastern patriarchy makes killing Afghans – men, women and children – more palatable to Europeans, so destroying Arab states can be presented as a humanitarian gesture if at the same time it crushes Israel’s enemies, and by extension, through a strange, implied ideological alchemy, the enemies of all Jews.

Quite how opportunistic – and divorced from reality – the western discourse about Israel and the Middle East has become is obvious the moment the relentless concerns about Syria’s Assad are weighed against the casual indifference towards the head-chopping rulers of Saudi Arabia, who for decades have been financing terror groups across the Middle East, including the jihadists in Syria.

During that time, Israel has covertly allied with oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, because all of them are safely ensconced within the US war machine. Now, with the Palestinians completely sidelined diplomatically, and with all international solidarity with Palestinians browbeaten into silence by antisemitism smears, Israel and the Saudis are gradually going public with their alliance, like a pair of shy lovers. That included the convenient leak this week of a secret meeting between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

The west also needs bigger, more menacing and more permanent enemies than Iraq or Syria. Helpfully one kind – nebulous “terrorism” – is the inevitable reaction to western war-making. The more brown people we kill, the more brown people we can justify killing because they carry out, or support, “terrorism” against us. Their hatred for our bombs is an irrationality, a primitivism we must keep stamping out with more bombs.

But concrete, identifiable enemies are needed too. Russia, Iran and China give superficial credence to the war machine’s presentation of itself as a “defence” industry. The UK’s bases around the globe and Boris Johnson’s £16 billion rise in spending on the UK’s war industries only make sense if Britain is under a constant, existential threat. Not just someone with a suspicious backpack on the London Tube, but a sophisticated, fiendish enemy that threatens to invade our lands, to steal resources to which we claim exclusive rights, to destroy our way of life through its masterful manipulation of the internet.

Crushed or tamed

Anyone of significance who questions these narratives that rationalise and perpetuate war is the enemy too. Current political and legal dramas in the US and UK reflect the perceived threat such actors pose to the war machine. They must either be crushed or tamed into subservience.

Trump was initially just such a figure that needed breaking in. The CIA and other intelligence agencies assisted in the organised opposition to Trump – helping to fuel the evidence-free Russiagate “scandal” – not because he was an awful human being or had authoritarian tendencies, but for two more specific reasons.

First, Trump’s political impulses, expressed in the early stages of his presidential campaign, were to withdraw from the very wars the US empire depends on. Despite open disdain for him from most of the media, he was criticised more often for failing to prosecute wars enthusiastically enough rather than for being too hawkish. And second, even as his isolationist impulses were largely subdued after the 2016 election by the permanent bureaucracy and his own officials, Trump proved to be an even more disastrous salesman for war than George W Bush. Trump made war look and sound exactly as it is, rather than packaging it as “intervention” intended to help women and people of colour.

But Trump’s amateurish isolationism paled in comparison to two far bigger threats to the war machine that emerged over the past decade. One was the danger – in our newly interconnected, digital world – of information leaks that risked stripping away the mask of US democracy, of the “shining city on the hill”, to reveal the tawdry reality underneath.

Julian Assange and his Wikileaks project proved just such a danger. The most memorable leak – at least as far as the general public was concerned – occurred in 2010, with publication of a classified video, titled Collateral Murder, showing a US air crew joking and celebrating as they murdered civilians far below in the streets of Baghdad. It gave a small taste of why western “humanitarianism” might prove so unpopular with those to whom we were busy supposedly bringing “democracy”.

The threat posed by Assange’s new transparency project was recognised instantly by US officials.

Exhibiting a carefully honed naivety, the political and media establishments have sought to uncouple the fact that Assange has spent most of the last decade in various forms of detention, and is currently locked up in a London high-security prison awaiting extradition to the US, from his success in exposing the war machine. Nonetheless, to ensure his incarceration till death in one of its super-max jails, the US empire has had to conflate the accepted definitions of “journalism” and “espionage”, and radically overhaul traditional understandings of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment.

Dress rehearsal for a coup

An equally grave threat to the war machine was posed by the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of Britain’s Labour party. Corbyn presented as exceptional a problem as Assange.

Before Corbyn, Labour had never seriously challenged the UK’s dominant military-industrial complex, even if its support for war back in the 1960s and 1970s was often tempered by its then-social democratic politics. It was in this period, at the height of the Cold War, that Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was suspected by British elites of failing to share their anti-Communist and anti-Soviet paranoia, and was therefore viewed as a potential threat to their entrenched privileges.

As a BBC documentary from 2006 notes, Wilson faced the very real prospect of enforced “regime change”, coordinated by the military, the intelligence services and members of the royal family. It culminated in a show of force by the military as they briefly took over Heathrow airport without warning or coordination with Wilson’s government. Marcia Williams, his secretary, called it a “dress rehearsal” for a coup. Wilson resigned unexpectedly soon afterwards, apparently as the pressure started to take its toll.

‘Mutiny’ by the army

Subsequent Labour leaders, most notably Tony Blair, learnt the Wilson lesson: never, ever take on the “defence” establishment. The chief role of the UK is to serve as the US war machine’s attack dog. Defying that allotted role would be political suicide.

By contrast to Wilson, who posed a threat to the British establishment only in its overheated imagination, Corbyn was indeed a real danger to the militaristic status quo.

He was one of the founders of the Stop the War coalition that emerged specifically to challenge the premises of the “war on terror”. He explicitly demanded an end to Israel’s role as a forward base of the imperial war industries. In the face of massive opposition from his own party – and claims he was undermining “national security” – Corbyn urged a public debate about the deterrence claimed by the “defence” establishment for the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine programme, effectively under US control. It was also clear that Corbyn’s socialist agenda, were he ever to reach power, would require redirecting the many billions spent in maintaining the UK’s 145 military bases around the globe back into domestic social programmes.

In an age when the primacy of capitalism goes entirely unquestioned, Corbyn attracted even more immediate hostility from the power establishment than Wilson had. As soon as he was elected Labour leader, Corbyn’s own MPs – still loyal to Blairism – sought to oust him with a failed leadership challenge. If there was any doubt about how the power elite responded to Corbyn becoming head of the opposition, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times newspaper soon offered a platform to an unnamed army general to make clear its concerns.

Weeks after Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the general warned that the army would take “direct action” using “whatever means possible, fair or foul” to prevent Corbyn exercising power. There would be “mutiny”, he said. “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it.”

Such views about Corbyn were, of course, shared on the other side of the Atlantic. In a leaked recording of a conversation with American-Jewish organisations last year, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state and a former CIA director, spoke of how Corbyn had been made to “run the gauntlet” as a way to ensure he would not be elected prime minister. The military metaphor was telling.

In relation to the danger of Corbyn winning the 2019 election, Pompeo added: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

This was from the man who said of his time heading the CIA: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

Smears and Brexit

After a 2017 election that Labour only narrowly lost, the Corbyn threat was decisively neutralised in the follow-up election two years later, after the Labour leader was floored by a mix of antisemitism slurs and a largely jingoistic Brexit campaign to leave Europe.

Claims that this prominent anti-racism campaigner had overseen a surge of antisemitism in Labour were unsupported by evidence, but the smears – amplified in the media – quickly gained a life of their own. The allegations often bled into broader – and more transparently weaponised – suggestions that Corbyn’s socialist platform and criticisms of capitalism were also antisemitic. (See here, here and here.) But the smears were nevertheless dramatically effective in removing the sheen of idealism that had propelled Corbyn on to the national stage.

By happy coincidence for the power establishment, Brexit also posed a deep political challenge to Corbyn. He was naturally antagonistic to keeping the UK trapped inside a neoliberal European project that, as a semi-detached ally of the US empire, would always eschew socialism. But Corbyn never had control over how the Brexit debate was framed. Helped by the corporate media, Dominic Cummings and Johnson centred that debate on simplistic claims that severing ties with Europe would liberate the UK socially, economically and culturally. But their concealed agenda was very different. An exit from Europe was not intended to liberate Britain but to incorporate it more fully into the US imperial war machine.

Which is one reason that Johnson’s cash-strapped Britain is now promising an extra £16bn on “defence”. The Tory government’s  priorities are to prove both its special usefulness to the imperial project and its ability to continue using war – as well as the unique circumstances of the pandemic – to channel billions from public coffers into the pockets of the establishment.

A Biden makeover

After four years of Trump, the war machine once again desperately needs a makeover. The once-confident, youthful Wikileaks is now less able to peek behind the curtain and listen in to the power establishment’s plans for a new administration under Joe Biden.

We can be sure nonetheless that its priorities are no different from those set out in the CIA memo of 2010. Biden’s cabinet, the media has been excitedly trumpeting, is the most “diverse” ever, with women especially prominent in the incoming foreign policy establishment.

There has been a huge investment by Pentagon officials and Congressional war hawks in pushing for Michèle Flournoy to be appointed as the first female defence secretary. Flournoy, like Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, has played a central role in prosecuting every US war dating back to the Bill Clinton administration.

The other main contender for the spot is Jeh Johnson, who would become the first black defence secretary. As Biden dithers, his advisers’ assessment will focus on who will be best positioned to sell yet more war to a war-weary public.

The role of the imperial project is to use violence as a tool to capture and funnel ever greater wealth – whether it be resources seized in foreign lands or the communal wealth of domestic western populations – into the pockets of the power establishment, and to exercise that power covertly enough, or at a great enough distance, that no meaningful resistance is provoked.

A strong dose of identity politics may buy a little more time. But the war economy is as unsustainable as everything else our societies are currently founded on. Sooner or later the war machine is going to run out of fuel.

The post The Planet Cannot Begin to Heal Until We Rip the Mask off the West’s War Machine first appeared on Dissident Voice.