Category Archives: US Terrorism

From Central America to Syria: The Conspiracy against Refugees

Watching the ongoing debate between US liberal and right-wing pundits on US mainstream media, one rarely gets the impression that Washington is responsible for the unfolding crisis in Central America.

In fact, no other country is as accountable as the United States for the Central American bedlam and resulting refugee crisis.

So why, despite the seemingly substantial ideological and political differences between right-wing Fox News and liberal CNN, both media outlets are working hard to safeguard their country’s dirty little secret?

In recent years, state and gang violence – coupled with extreme poverty – have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, among other countries, in Central and South America.

US mainstream media, however, is rarely interested in the root cause of that reality.

Fox News is tirelessly peddling the offensive language used by President Donald Trump, which perceives the refugees as criminals and terrorists, who pose a threat to US national security.

At a press conference last October, Trump urged a reporter to take his camera into ”the middle” of a caravan of migrants on the treacherous journey through Mexico, to locate ”Middle Eastern” people that have infiltrated the crowd. In Trump’s thinking, ‘Middle Eastern people’ is synonymous with terrorists.

CNN has, on the other hand, labored to counter the growing anti-immigrant official and media sentiments that have plagued the US, a discourse that is constantly prodded and manipulated by Trump and his supporters.

However, few in the liberal media have the courage to probe the story beyond convenient political rivalry, persisting in their hypocritical and insincere humanitarianism that is divorced from any meaningful political context.

The fact is the Central American refugee crisis is similar to the plethora of Middle East and Central Asian refugee crises of recent years. Mass migration is almost always the direct outcome of political meddling and military interventions.

From Afghanistan, to Iraq, Libya, Syria, millions of refugees were forced, by circumstances beyond their control, to seek safety in some other country.

Millions of Iraqis and Syrians found themselves in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, while a far smaller number trickled to Europe, all seeking safety from the grinding wars.

Political opportunists in Europe are no different from their American counterparts. While the former has seized on the tragedy of the refugees to sow seeds of fear and hate-mongering, Americans, too, have blamed the refugees for their own misery.

Blaming the victim is nothing new.

Iraqis were once blamed for failing to appreciate Western democracy, Libyans for their failed state, Syrians for taking the wrong side of a protracted war, and so on.

Yet, the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria are all, in varied degrees, outcomes of military interventions, a truth that does not seem to register in the self-absorbed minds of both right-wing and liberal intellectuals.

The irony is that the hapless refugees, whether those escaping to Europe or to the United States, are perceived to be the aggressors, the invaders, as opposed to the US and allies that had, in fact, invaded these once stable and sovereign homelands.

Trump has often referred to the Central American migrants’ caravan as an ‘invasion’.  Fox News parroted that claim, and injected the possibility of having the refugees shot upon arrival.

If Fox News lacked the decency to treat refugees as human beings deserving of sympathy and respect, CNN lacked the courage to expand the discussion beyond Trump’s horrid language and inhumane policies.

To expand the parameters of the conversation would expose a policy that was not introduced by Trump, but by Bill Clinton and applied in earnest by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Media grandstanding aside, both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the current refugee crisis.

In 1996, Democratic President Clinton unleashed a war on refugees when he passed two consecutive legislations: the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Millions of people – who had escaped US-instigated wars and military coups – were deported back to Central and South America. While 2 million people were deported during the Bush terms, 2.5 million were deported under Obama.

A terrible situation was exacerbated. Violence and want flared even more.

To rally his angry and radicalized constituency, Trump waved the migrant card once more, threatening to build a “great wall” and to close “loopholes” in the US immigration law.

Like his predecessors, he offered little by way of redressing an unjust reality that is constantly fomented by destructive US foreign policy, stretching decades.

But the refugees kept on coming, mostly from Central America’s Northern Triangle region. Without proper political context, they, too, were duly blamed for their hardship.

Considering Fox News and CNN’s lack of quality coverage, this is not surprising. Few Americans know of the sordid history of their country in that region, starting with the CIA-engineered coup d’état in Guatemala in 1954, or the US support of the coup against the democratically-elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in 2009, or of everything else that happened in between these dates.

The unhealthy relationship between the US and its southern neighbors goes back as early as 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt declared the ‘right’ of his country to hold “international police power” in Latin America. Since then, the entire region has been Washington’s business.

The free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) signed between Central American countries and the US has done its own share of damage. It “restructured the region’s economy and guaranteed economic dependence on the United States through massive trade imbalances and the influx of American agricultural and industrial goods that weakened domestic industries,” wrote Mark Tseng-Putterman in Medium.

Acknowledging all of this is threatening. If US mainstream pundits accept their country’s destructive role in Central and South America, they will be forced to abandon the role of the victim (embraced by the right) or the savior (embraced by the left), which has served them well.

The same stifling political and intellectual routine is witnessed in Europe, too.

But this denial of moral responsibility will only contribute to the problem, not to its resolution. No amount of racism on the part of the right, or crocodile tears of the liberals, will ever rectify this skewed paradigm.

This is as true in Central America as it is in the Middle East.

Why is the West Keeping Silent About the Chemical Attack in Syria?

Once again, prohibited chemical weapons have been used in Syria — specifically shells filled with chlorine gas. Despite the significant number of casualties, however, the attack was not met with the usual outcry. World leaders remained tight-lighted with only Macron deciding to break the silence. This is easily explained since the West has good reason to keep schtum.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, residential areas of Aleppo were bombarded with 120 mm mortar shells filled with chlorine gas, resulting in more than 100 people seeking medical treatment. Women and children were among those hospitalised and everyone complained of breathing difficulties.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and one of the oldest in the world. It was divided in half during the civil conflict and the military operation to liberate the half occupied by militants was one of the most important carried out by government forces and became a major turning point in the war as a whole. At that time, the city was under the international spotlight for several months and the West regularly accused Damascus of allegedly committing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in order to gain time for the so-called moderate opposition. The areas under its control were next to those held by outright terrorists.

By December 2016, it was all over. Reports on “Assad’s atrocities” turned out to be false, while some of the militants leaving Aleppo were transferred to Idlib province by agreement with the government. A large number of diverse groups have settled there over the many years of conflict, each of which is now getting on with life.

If there had been reports of a chemical attack back then, when militants still held part of Aleppo, there would have been a huge outcry. The Assad regime would have been blamed immediately and it probably would have been a casus belli – yet another reason for the Western military coalition to attack Syrian forces.

The chemical attack happened now, however, when Aleppo has been under government control for two years. The shells came from the direction of the Idlib “sanctuary”, where the front line is. Nobody is going to believe that government forces are firing chemical weapons at their own rear units, so the Western community, including many human rights organisations, have met the attack on Aleppo with a deathly silence.

The first Western leader to make a statement on the subject was French President Emmanuel Macron. “France condemns any use of chemical weapons,” stated Macron the day after the incident, including in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He added that he would be discussing the situation with his international partners.

Incidentally, Paris was once one of the driving forces behind the West’s intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of the armed opposition. Another of these driving forces during the battle for Aleppo was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who accused Assad of carrying out “a genocide against his own people”. Ankara pursued its own interests during the conflict, but after the situation on the front lines was reversed in favour of Damascus, Turkey tempered its appetite and was forced to agree with Russia’s plan for a Syrian settlement.

The so-called “de-escalation zone” in Idlib where the chlorine-filled shells came from is one of Turkey’s areas of responsibility. The most difficult questions regarding the attack should therefore be addressed to Ankara, in other words.

Those behind the chemical attack have already been established. According to Aleppo police chief Essam al-Shali, the attack was carried out by terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra, a local branch of al-Qaeda. This refers to the militant group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, one of the many rebrandings of al-Nusra.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry is blaming the attack on the West. “This terrorist act comes as [a] result of facilitations provided by some countries to deliver chemicals to armed terrorist groups to use them against Syrian people and to accuse [the] Syrian Government,” stated the foreign ministry’s press office.

Previously, the White Helmets were actively involved in events related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. This organisation, which diligently disguises itself as a human rights organisation but actually acts in the interests of terrorists, has, for many years, been portrayed as one of the biggest heroes of the Syrian war. Its activities have even been the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary film. Interest in the White Helmets began to wane with the advance of Syrian forces, however, especially after they were caught red-handed falsifying a chemical attack.

Whether all this means that the White Helmets, who are now cornered in Idlib, have moved from staging chemical attacks to organising real ones is an open question. It has been known for a while that Jabhat al-Nusra has its own chemical weapons and so does not need this kind of help from the White Helmets.

If their involvement in the attack on Aleppo is proved, however, and especially if the Syrian Foreign Ministry’s claim regarding the origin of the militants’ chemical arsenal turns out to be true, then the notion of the White Helmets will be completely turned on its head, as will the role of the American-led coalition in the Syrian conflict.

The laws of the information war surrounding Syria are proving to be even more cynical than the laws of the actual war going on in Idlib. In an information war, whoever shouts the loudest wins, but this shout may be far removed from the actual state of affairs on the ground. The successes of the Syrian army have gone some way towards altering the perception of the Syrian conflict, but exposing the “massacre on the streets of Aleppo” as fake and uncovering the sham nature of the White Helmets’ activities has changed absolutely nothing. America’s refusal to finance the latter was nothing to do with the reputational risk associated with such fake activities, but was one of Donald Trump’s direct campaign promises to spend less on supporting the Syrian opposition and prevent members of the Syrian opposition from relocating to the US (immigration to the West was one of the White Helmets’ biggest motivations, many of whom are now in Britain).

It would be far too optimistic to expect that the attack on Aleppo will make Washington and Brussels look at the Syrian war differently. The use of chemical weapons and the description of other war crimes by one side or another are nothing more than a backdrop to international negotiations, the focus of which has nothing to do with humanitarian beliefs, but rather each country’s own narrow interests that even outright thugs with chlorine-filled bombs may serve to advance.

While some kind of benefit can be squeezed out of them, neither chlorine gas, nor genocide, nor mass executions will discredit them. But they can still be destroyed physically.

International Conference Against US/NATO Bases Addresses Militarism

For the first time in the history of humanity, the technical means are at hand to eliminate poverty if resources were not diverted to making war. World hunger could be abolished with only a small diversion from military budgets. The only luxuries that so-called middle-class Americans would have to forego would be the Blue Angels air show and drone-bombing wedding parties in the Middle East. Yet, military spending is expanding, and with it global poverty.

On November 16-18, some 300 peace activists representing over 35 countries gathered in Dublin, Ireland for the first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to address this tragic paradox of the technical ability to serve humanity and the political proclivity by the ruling circles in the West to do the opposite. Roger Cole of the Irish peace organization PANA identified the twin threats to humankind of global warming and global war, both driven by accelerating militarization.

Ajamu Baraka of the US-based Black Alliance for Peace highlighted the reactionary role of the US and its allies, which have by far the largest military expenditures in the world. The material basis for the absence of peace and the accelerating proliferation of military bases, in his words, is US imperialism.

Guantánamo was the first of the world network of US foreign military bases, according to keynote speaker Dr. Aleida Guevara from Cuba, daughter of Che. Cuba opposes this violation of national sovereignty. Today the US possesses some 1000 foreign military bases with troops stationed in over 170 countries.

Australian Annette Brownlie of IPAN warned of a new Cold War. The recent US National Security Strategy document, focusing on “great power confrontation,” signals open preparations for direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

David Webb of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK explained that the US is the only nation with nuclear weapons based outside its soil. US policy is to develop “usable” nuclear weapons in an enhanced first-strike capacity. Missile defense, he reproved, is the shield for the sword of nuclear weapons. The purpose of missile defense is to protect the aggressor against the inevitable retaliation after a first nuclear strike.

Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance reported that the recent US midterm elections brought in more Congressional representatives with military or security state backgrounds. The duopoly of the two US “war parties” is united in supporting an accelerated arms race. Well over half of the US government’s discretionary budget now goes to the military.

Unlike so much liberal and progressive political discourse in the US, which is obsessed with the personality of President Trump, the international perspective of this conference penetrated that distracting fog and concentrated on the continuity of US militarism regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

The session on the environmental and health impacts featured testimony on the toxic effects of military bases in Okinawa, Czech Republic, and Turkey. The US Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter.

National Coordinator of the Irish Trade Union Federation and Secretary of the People’s Movement, Frank Keoghan, described the transformation of the European Union (EU) into a war project with the recent rush to create a single EU army. Ilda Figueiredo from the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation and another activist from France warned that the drive for an EU army would transform all national military bases into NATO bases and would in effect allow “nuclear bomb sharing.”

Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report chaired the Africa session. South African Chris Matlhako and Kenyan Ann Atambo discussed the dependency of African states on foreign aid, which is used as a tool to facilitate the occupation of Africa by foreign militaries.

Paul Pumphrey of Friends of the Congo described the development of US strategy in Africa, which has used African proxies to allow domination and extraction of valuable resources such as coltan from the Congo. Now the strategy also includes direct occupation by the US military. George W. Bush established AFRICOM in 2008 with just a single acknowledged US military base on the continent, followed by an explosion to some 50 bases and a military presence in practically every African nation under Obama.

The session on Latin America and the Caribbean outlined the immediate threat of military intervention in Venezuela, caught in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Veteran Cuban peace activist Silvio Platero of MOVPAZ condemned the continuing US blockade of Cuba and the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Speakers from Colombia (now a NATO partner), Argentina, and Brazil reported that their right-wing governments are cooperating militarily with the US.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire from Ireland made an impassioned plea for all-out support of WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange, “our hero of truth,” lest he die in a US prison.

The conference concluded on a high note of unity among the international peace forces. Conference coordinator Bahman Azad of the World Peace Council closed with a call to first educate and then mobilize.

Actions are being planned in Washington, D.C., around the 70th anniversary of NATO on April 4th. Coincidentally that is the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King and of his famous speech a year before when he presciently admonished, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”

The World Order that’s Now Emerging

The Post-World-War-II world order was dominated by the one WW II major combatant that had only 0.32% of its population (the lowest percentage) killed by the war: the United States. The Soviet Union’s comparable number killed by the war was the highest — it was 13.7% — 42 .8.times higher than America’s. The U.S. was the main force that defeated Japan and so won WW II in Asia. The U.S.S.R., however, was the main force that defeated Germany and so won WW II in Europe. The U.S.S.R. suffered vastly more than did the U.S. to achieve its victory. In addition to suffering 42.8 times the number of war-deaths than did U.S., the U.S.S.R.’s financial expenditures invested in the conflict, as calculated by Jan Ludvik, were 4.8 times higher than were America’s financial expenditures on the war.

Thus, at the war’s end, the Soviet Union was exhausted and in a much weaker condition than it had been before the war. By contrast, the U.S., having had none of the war’s battles occurring on its territory, was (by comparison) barely even scratched by the war, and it was thus clearly and overwhelmingly the new and dominant world-power emerging from the war.

That was the actual situation in 1945.

The U.S. Government did not sit on its haunches with its enormous post-war advantage, but invested wisely in order to expand it. One of the first investments the U.S. made after the war was the Marshall Plan to rebuild the European countries that had now become the U.S. aristocracy’s vassal-states. The heavily damaged U.S.S.R. possessed no such extra cash to invest in (rebuilding) its vassals. Furthermore, the U.S.S.R.’s communist regime was additionally hobbled by Karl Marx’s labor theory of value, which produced prices that contained no useful information about demand and thus no constructive information for planners. (Planning is essential regardless whether an enterprise is private or public.) Thus, the U.S.S.R. was doomed to lose in its economic competition with The West, so that the Cold War was actually a losing proposition for them, from the very start of the post-war era. America’s post-WW-II dominance, combined with Marx’s crippling economic theory, produced the exodus of East Europeans to The West.

America’s aristocracy thus increasingly rose on top internationally. Like any aristocracy, the American aristocracy’s main concerns were foreign trade, and so U.S. international corporations increasingly expanded even at the expense of the corporations owned by its competing, now-vassal, aristocracies, and the U.S. aristocracy’s corporations and brands thus came to dominate the entire capitalist sphere. The growth-bug, if it becomes an addiction, is itself a disease. Out of control, it is a cancer, which can destroy the organism. This is what happened in America. Conquering also the communist sphere was the U.S. aristocracy’s long-term goal, so that they would ultimately dominate every nation, the entire world. By the time of 1980, the U.S. aristocracy’s top goal (world domination) became also the U.S. Government’s top goal. The cancer had spread to the culture’s brain. Growth, backed by “Greed is good” economics, became practically the American religion, viewed as patriotic, and not merely as the nation’s economic model (which was bad enough, with its increasingly imperialistic thrust — such as 2003 Iraq, 2011 Libya, 2012- Syria, 2014 Ukraine, 2016- Yemen, and maybe now Iran).

America’s unchallengeable dominance lasted from then till now, but clearly has now reached near its end. The United States is trying to restore its post-Soviet (post-1991) global supremacy, by intensifying the U.S. regime’s secret war against Russia and its allies, which started on the night of 24 February 1990 and which could reach a crescendo soon in WW III unless something will be done by America’s allies to force the by-now wildly flailing U.S. aristocracy to accept peacefully the end of the American aristocracy’s hegemony — the termination of their, until recently, unchallengeable control over the world. By now, with the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact mirror of America’s NATO military alliance gone since 1991 and yet no peace-dividend but only ever-increasing wealth-concentration into the tiny number of billionaires who benefit from war weaponry-sales and conquests, America needs to abandon its addiction to growth, or else it will proceed forward on its current path, to WW III. That’s its current path.

According to Josh Rogin in the Washington Post on November 14th, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had just said, as Rogin phrased it, that “the United States has no intention of ceding influence or control over the [Pacific] region to Beijing” and that if China won’t do everything that the U.S. demands, then the U.S. is fully prepared to force China to obey. The same newspaper had earlier presented Robert D. Kaplan, on October 9th, saying, “The United States must face up to an important fact: the western Pacific is no longer a unipolar American naval lake, as it was for decades after World War II. The return of China to the status of great power ensures a more complicated multipolar situation. The United States must make at least some room for Chinese air and naval power in the Indo-Pacific region.” But the U.S. regime is now making clear that it won’t do that.

The U.S. regime appears to be determined to coerce both Russia and China to comply with all American demands. With both of those countries, as with Iran, the U.S. regime is now threatening hot war. Trump, as the “deal-maker,” is offering no concessions, but only demands, which must be complied with, or else. The United States is threatening WW III. But what nations will be America’s allies, this time around? If many European nations abandon the U.S., then what?

Key for the U.S. regime is keeping the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Rockefeller Capital Management, Global Foresight, Third Quarter 2018  presents Jimmy Chang, Chief Investment Strategist, headlining “Nothing Trumps the Dollar, Yet“. He writes:  The reserve currency status gives the U.S. a significant advantage in handling its finances. American economist Barry Eichengreen observed that it cost only a few cents for the U.S. to print a $100 bill, but other countries would need to produce $100 of actual goods or services to obtain that $100 bill. The world’s need for the greenback allows the U.S. to issue debt in its own currency at very low interest rates. French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who later became the president, coined [in 1965] the term ‘exorbitant privilege’ to describe America’s advantage” of the U.S. dollar over any other nation’s currency. That “exorbitant advantage” never went away. Chang concludes: “As for the King Dollar, its short-term outlook appears robust.”

However, few other observers now share that view. Increasing numbers of countries are pricing goods in other currencies, and China’s yuan and the EU’s euro are especially significant contenders to end dollar-dominance and to end the advantages that U.S.-based international corporations enjoy from dollar-dominance.

Other than dollar-dominance, the key barrier to world peace is NATO, the military alliance of the northern aggressor-nations. Proposals have been put forth for the EU to have its own army, which initially would be allied with NATO (i.e., with the U.S. regime). On November 17th, Russian Television bannered “EU army: Will it be easy for Europe to get rid of American political diktat?” and pointed to the U.S. vassal-nations that would be especially likely to stay in NATO: UK, Poland, Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Perhaps the other EU nations and Russia could form their own military alliance, which will formally be committed to the independence of those U.S. vassal-nations, and which will welcome individual peace-treaties with each of them, so as to indicate that aggression is only the U.S. regime’s way, and thus to lay the groundwork for peace instead of war, going forward. Clearly, the people who control the U.S. are addicted to invasions and coups (“regime-change”s), instead of to respecting the sovereignty of each nation and the right of self-determination of people everywhere. America’s conquest-addiction threatens, actually, every other nation.

Perhaps a reformed and truly independent EU can provide the new reserve currency, and also in other ways the foundation for global peace between nations. NATO will be irrevocably opposed to this, but it could happen. And if and when it does, it might tame the aristocratic beast that rides the American warfare state, but this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. A step forward toward it is the courageous statement by “The Saker” at the American news-commentary site, Unz dot com, on November 15th, “Thanking Vets for Their ‘Service’ – Why?” He boldly notes that after World War II, all U.S. invasions have been criminal, and that it’s a remarkably long string of evil — and this doesn’t even include the many coups, which have likewise destroyed some nations.

Nationalism is just as evil in today’s America as it was in Hitler’s Germany. It is hostile to people in any other nation. It demands conquest. And wherever nationalism rules, patriotism dies and is replaced by nationalism.

Only by restoring patriotism and eliminating nationalism can WW III be avoided. Ending dollar-dominance is part of the path toward an internationally peaceful world that focuses more on serving the public’s needs and less on serving the aristocrats’ cravings. But ending NATO is also necessary.

Either these things will be done, or there will be WW III.

• First published at strategic-culture.org

Cornered: Trump Gets Thumped on Cuba at the UN

On November 1, 2018, for the twenty-seventh straight year, the full United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted by a near-unanimous 189-2 for “the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” The Israeli government, as usual, voted automatically with the US without saying a word on the floor. There were no abstentions, but Moldova and the Ukraine chose not to vote at all.1

“Clever” Tactic Fizzles Fast

The final vote had been delayed a day as the Donald Trump White House wheeled out what they apparently thought was a very clever tactic aimed at diverting attention away from Washington’s annual political isolation and defeat. The tactic was to propose a series of no less than eight “amendments” to the anti-blockade Resolution with bogus attacks against Cuba over “human rights” and political freedoms inside Cuba.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, in her last hurrah before resigning the post by year’s end, presented the “amendments” as being formulated by directly using the past words from Washington’s NATO allies in the European Union and Canada. This year, as usual, the EU and Canadian representatives made perfunctory statements after the vote with implicit criticisms of Cuba along the lines of restrictions on democratic rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and so on, which are sometimes put in the context of the US blockade.2

Both EU and Canadian diplomatic spokespeople quickly disabused Haley of any hope that Washington’s maneuvers would gain traction this year and bottle up the works. An Austrian diplomat speaking for the EU and the Canadian representative both made forceful statements rejecting all the “amendments.” They reiterated that the “amendments” had “no place in the current Resolution” and that the question of the “extraterritorial” US economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba should not be “mixed up” with the issues raised through the “amendments.”

The General Assembly was required to vote on each Amendment separately. Haley and her boss Trump were isolated and cornered with no political way out. Each “amendment” went down in flames with 3 votes in favor (the US, Israel, and the Ukraine, which managed this time to press a button, 114 against, with 66 abstentions.

The common denominator in the near-unanimous votes, year after year in the UNGA, is the question of “extraterritoriality,” whereby the United States government gives itself the right to impose its economic, political, and travel blockading of Cuba on other countries and commercial entities who have normal or friendly relations with the Cuban workers’ state. It is this US posture, long before Trump’s regime came into power, that determined the votes of the European Union – a major capitalist trading and economic bloc with its own great political pretensions – with Cuba against US policy. Trump and Haley’s amendments ploy fizzled fast and was labeled correctly by EU and Canadian representatives as a “diversion” from the real issue, for them, of “extraterritoriality.”

The General Secretary’s Report

Most speakers from the floor referred positively to the report issued by UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese President and former President of the Socialist International, on the UNGA Resolution against the US blockade. It is a 168-page long comprehensive document.  Virtually every member-state plainly gives their opposition to the US blockade in their own words, as well as statements from 36 “organs and agencies of the United Nations system” from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization to the United Nations Children’s Fund to the World Trade Organization, all attacking from their own angle and perspective the US blockade and solidarizing to some degree, mostly strongly, with Cuba.

From Obama to Trump

The Trump Administration has re-tightened aspects of the US economic and travel sanctions that had been marginally loosened during the last two years of the second Barack Obama White House. Full diplomatic relations were restored between Washington and Havana in July 2015 and Trump has stopped short of moving to abrogate them. He has, however, virtually frozen US embassy functions in Havana, making it very difficult for Cuban citizens to travel to the United States. This includes family members, trade unionists, doctors and scientists, and artists and musicians. “People-to-people” licensed travel to Cuba by US citizens is still possible and Cuban-American citizens remain able to travel back and forth to the island with no special requirements.

Trump has consciously ratcheted up bellicose and provocative anti-Cuba rhetoric. This plays badly with the “public opinion” of the peoples and governments of the world, including inside the United States and among Cuban-Americans. The fusillades of hostile demagogy against the Cuban government by Trump, Nikki Haley, and National Security Advisor John Bolton only produces disdain and contempt across the political and ideological fissures in world politics. This is because the Cuban state and government practice of international solidarity – including Cuba’s vanguard role in medical internationalism and worldwide emergency disaster relief efforts – and its political principles is universally admired. It is universally recognized that Cuba’s quick action and dispatch of medical personnel was the decisive factor in containing and conquering the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa on the ground. Also very clear factually are the example of Cuba’s great human indices for the health and education of the Cuban population as a whole despite the terrible impact of decades of US economic and political aggression, and recurrent military and terrorist threats. These are all settled questions around the world. And all the huffing and puffing of Trump and his lackeys cannot change that.

For many years before Trump, the UNGA annual vote around Cuba has registered an accumulating political problem for Washington in the world, particularly across the Americas. This was the case under both Republican and Democratic White Houses and Congresses. Considerable political damage was absorbed by the US government. Well into his second term, President Barack Obama, backed by his former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the bulk of the Democratic Party, and some Republicans, decided that a political retreat was necessary.3

Months and years of serious diplomatic talks preceded the December 2014 “breakthrough” announcements by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro. The political retreat and shift by Obama required him to order the release of the Cuban Five and for the US State Department to formally remove Cuba – an historic recipient of US-sponsored terrorism in the actual world – from its “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. But the US economic, financial, and commercial embargo – which openly aims to use US power to universally blockade Cuba – remained in place and was barely tinkered with by Obama even in areas he could have. 4

John Bolton Whips it Up

John Bolton, who replaced the harried Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor in April 2018, has a history of ranting and railing hard against Cuba. In 2002 he ran up the propaganda flagpole the idea that Cuba was involved in production of chemical and biological weapons. Inside the George W. Bush Administration, Bolton pushed for international inspectors to monitor Cuba’s biological facilities. This clear attempt to frame Cuba was not, and could not, gain any political traction, insofar as it was: 1) made up out of whole cloth; and 2) then-President Fidel Castro responded quickly, forcefully, and with full political impact. Bolton crawled back in his hole.5

On November 1, 2018 in Miami, at a campaign rally in support of Florida Republican candidates in Miami, Bolton conjured up a “troika of tyranny” with Venezuela and Nicaragua as US-anointed members and Cuba the communist mastermind. The crowd of hundreds was populated with veteran Cuban counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries from Washington’s wars and terrorism against the Cuban Revolution since the 1960s.

The Last Ordeal of Nikki Haley at the UN

If I were a talented cartoonist, I would portray Nikki Haley up there at the UNGA podium, and John Bolton among the defeated, aging counterrevolutionaries, as caricatures with steam coming out of their ears. The cornered Haley could only strike the pose of relishing in her government’s isolation and pathetically trying to make a virtue out of political humiliation. Haley pouted: We. Are. Alone. We are proud of it! We are defiant!! (And we are screwed.)

The most revealing statement of all from Haley was her labeling of the proceedings as a “a total waste of time.” To begin with, the annual vote and previous votes represents a particularly powerful marker that acts as a restraint on US aggression. It is part of the world political atmosphere that creates space for the international political defiance of US policy and solidarity with Cuba. It is this solidarity that has eroded the blockade politically and economically, objectively helping revolutionary, socialist Cuba survive the economic cataclysm of the 1990s following the near-overnight collapse of its then-extensive economy ties with the former Soviet Union and the so-called “socialist camp in Eastern Europe.”

The reality is that the accumulation of political defeat for Washington year-after-year, in forum after forum, has become a material factor in world politics. Haley’s arrogance barely veils the accumulated political damage that Washington continues to endure on the “Cuba Question” in Latin American and world politics.

Haley engaged, on the stage of world politics, in what in psychology is called “minimization,” that is “a type of deception coupled with rationalization in situations where complete denial is implausible,” as defined in Wikipedia. Practitioners such as Haley are engaged in “downplaying their misdemeanors when confronted with irrefutable facts.” Haley’s bleating went so far as to portray the world body gathering as ganging up and bullying poor old Uncle Sam. Here we have Goliath turned into David. Here the schoolyard bully finds the entire school united against him and the bully cries foul. But with no allies and collaborators, the bully’s aura and the fear he counts on evaporates.

Haley and Bolton’s Bombast is Not Politically Sustainable

All the bluster in the world cannot hide the political weakness in the Trump Administration’s policy. After the latest thumping for US policy at the UN can Trump move to implement new anti-Cuba actions beyond what he has already done? Will legal travel between the US and Cuba, including for Cuban-Americans, be closed even more, or altogether? Will diplomatic relations be unilaterally abrogated by Trump? Are subversive US “regime change” programs being reactivated and stepped up? 

US embarrassment and political isolation at the UN would likely become a political disaster and crisis for Washington at home as well as worldwide if US anti-Cuba moves sharply to escalate with interventionist threats and deeds. Such moves would be far more likely to increase demands to defy Washington and back up the UNGA Resolutions with concrete deeds, despite the US veto in the UN Security Council (UNSC). Bullying in full view is rarely a winning tactic in the long run, especially when the bully is up against a politically savvy opponent full of principle and dignity such as the Cuban revolutionaries.

In any case, Trump and his team are nowhere near creating the political conditions for a US-backed military coup in Venezuela, let alone direct US military aggression.

The interventions from the General Assembly floor began with the “geopolitical” and other groupings that claim to speak as one, from time to time, on issue by issue. On the Cuba-sponsored Resolution, top diplomats from one country lined up to denounce US policy for the bloc or group: Ethiopia for the African Group, Egypt for the Group of 77 Plus China; Venezuela for the Non-Aligned Movement; El Salvador for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); Singapore for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); the Bahamas for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Bangladesh for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Solidarity with Cuba was most pronounced by the representatives of countries that have benefited directly from Cuba’s socialist internationalism. The representative from the Bahamas, who spoke for the Caribbean Community gave a heartfelt tribute to Cuban medical assistance, including the free medical training of Bahamian and Caribbean doctors. These were echoed by strong language from the representatives of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica. Jamaica’s representative called the US blockade “an affront to the world.” He was echoed by many speakers when he expressed “profound disappointment that we are still meeting on this question, that this is still happening” following the steps taken under Obama’s last years which raised hopes (and illusions) worldwide and in the United States.

Part of the campus of the Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM).

(Since 2005 ELAM. has graduated tens of thousands of physicians from oppressed and exploited populations in Africa, Asia and the Americas, including working-class and impoverished communities in the US, with full scholarships offered by Cuba. These new young doctors make a commitment to work in underserved areas upon graduation.)

South African and Namibian representatives spoke with sharp emotion of Cuba’s decisive part in the defeat of the apartheid South African state and the “democratic dispensation” in South Africa, and the winning of the independence of Namibia.

The Bolivian representative gave a militant defense of the Cuban Revolution – “the enormous island of dignity.” He called US aggression against Cuba “one of the most important issues facing the UN system…One of the most powerful countries – the host country – refuses to comply with General Assembly resolutions year after year…Cuba is an example for all humankind [with its] selfless assistance to the rest of the world. Cuba was there in Africa! Cuba was there!” He ended his rousing remarks by quoting the legendary Ernesto Che Guevara, who said “the people of Cuba are stirred when any injustice occurs in the world.”

Cuba Speaks for Itself

Before the final vote on November 1, 2019, after Haley’s amendments were defeated, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez took the floor in a powerful presentation.

Rodriguez spoke in the tradition of Cuban revolutionary diplomacy around the world and at the UN going back to the work of the legendary Cuban UN Ambassador Raul Roa and the speeches of Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara before the General Assembly. In those early decades of the Revolution, when the US blockade was at its tightest, and when the military threats and interventions of Washington and the militarized counterrevolutionary exiles was at its height, Cuba boldly made its case and defended itself politically from the platform of the UN.6

 Fidel Castro and Raul Roa at the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 1960 (UN Photo)

Rodriguez spoke not only as Cuba’s top diplomat in making a comprehensive presentation of the human impact of the US blockade, including in Cuba’s exclusion from US-based life-saving or life-enhancing medical products, medications, technologies, and devices. Much of Rodriguez’s presentation took this up in moving detail. But he also spoke as a representative of the Cuban socialist revolution, which holds up the banner of international solidarity with the oppressed and exploited overwhelming majority of humanity in opposition to the world of capitalist exploitation and imperialist war.

Rodriguez began his speech with an expression of solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where a Jew-hater inspired by Nazi ideology and anti-immigrant hatred gunned down eleven Jewish people in their Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27.  The Temple congregation was prominent in aiding war and other refugees migrating to the US. This evidently sparked the carnage. Rodriguez also expressed solidarity with the victims of floods and landslides in Indonesia which killed dozens.

Most powerfully the Cuban Foreign Minister was not about to listen to any lectures from Donald Trump, Nikki Haley or the United States government on Human Rights:

The US government does not have the least moral authority for criticizing Cuba or anyone else with regards to human rights.  We reject the repeated manipulation of human rights with political purposes as well as the double standards that characterize it… The US government is the author of human rights violations against its own citizens, particularly Afro-Americans and Hispanics, minorities, refugees and migrants. In the midst of the opulence of that country, 40 million of its citizens live in conditions of poverty and 52 million live in impoverished communities.  More than half a million sleep in the streets. Twelve per cent lack medical insurance and millions of low-income persons will be left without it. Quality education is not accessible to the majority. Equal opportunities are a pipedream. It is a government of millionaires imposing savage policies…There is a different racial pattern with regards to the inmate population, the length of imprisonment terms, the application of the death penalty -which is also applicable to minors and the mentally disabled; and the number of persons being shot dead by the police. The US government builds walls and separate children -even young children- from their migrant parents and put them in cages. The United States is party to only 30 per cent of human rights instruments and does not recognize the right to life, peace, development, security, food or the human rights of boys and girls.

Rodriguez’s speech included a strong socialist critique of the “democratic” pretensions and highfalutin words of Washington’s mouthpieces vs. the realities of capitalist politics in the United States:

The ‘special interests,’ that is, the corporate interests, have kidnapped the US political system, which is corrupt by definition…Words and political statements do matter. While demonizing and turning political opponents, institutions, social groups and nations into enemies through the use of propaganda, division, violence, hatred, [then] crimes and wars thrive and take root…Dirty politics, indecency, amorality, lies, the redesigning of electoral districts out of political convenience and the manipulation of voters are all exacerbated. Six million low-income US voters are prevented from voting.  In Florida, 21 per cent of Afro-American voters are not entitled to cast their vote. [There is] [f]ake information [and] the monopoly over communication…The US government unscrupulously interferes in the electoral processes and internal affairs of most States in this planet.7

A Post-World War II, Post-Cold War World is Emerging

This year the UN vote highlighting the US economic war against Cuba converges with Washington’s – which is now Trump’s Washington – tendentiousness and political isolation on other burning issues and existing and looming crises worldwide:  Trump’s unilateral pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was reached between Iran and the United States, the UK, Russia, France, China, Germany and the EU in July 2015 and confrontations he is pushing with the EU and other powers over US “extraterritorial” pressures to tow the US line; unfolding political developments on the Korean Peninsula; Saudi Arabia’s US and UK-backed murderous war on Yemen and the mounting political crisis in the Saudi bastion of reaction in the entire Middle East region; the political aftershocks of the brutal Syrian war; prospects for a two-state settlement in Israel-Palestine; and Trump’s pulling out of the (already weak) UN “Framework Convention on Climate Change” after 2020, an issue where Washington is even more isolated than on Cuba.

Trump, in his crude branded way, blurts out US imperial arrogance in a world today that is marked by an emerging post-World War II, post-Cold War era where the full-spectrum economic, financial, and political dominance of the American Colossus is receding more and more from sight in history’s rear-view mirror. Recently, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in floated the idea of lifting some of his country’s sanctions against the North, Trump said, “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.” (Both “South” and “North” Korea voted with Cuba at the UN.)

The relative decline of US capitalist power in the world of today means that the still-overwhelming military dominance Washington holds – in terms of nuclear arsenal and other unmatched firepower capability; the worldwide reach and projection of US naval and air power, with hundreds of military bases in operation worldwide – still finds great pressures and limits on the political ability to use it, particularly since the unintended consequences of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. I think this is particularly true across the Americas, even with the recent electoral advances of conservative and reactionary forces on the South American continent.

Brazil’s Election and Potential New Alignments

With the election on October 28, 2018 of Jair Bolsonaro, a rightist demagogue, Trump and Bolton quickly saw a potential weighty ally in Latin America for the perspective of putting together a political bloc against Cuba and to breach the wall of continental solidarity with it against the US blockade. Bolton welcomed Bolsonaro’s election saying:

The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance… today, in this hemisphere, we are also confronted once again with the destructive forces of oppression, socialism and totalitarianism…Under this administration, we will no longer appease dictators and despots near our shores in this hemisphere. We will not reward firing squads, torturers, and murderers … The troika of tyranny in this hemisphere – Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – has finally met its match.

Bolton shameless demagogy, as with Haley, correlates to another classic scientific category called “psychological projection.” This is, in Wikipedia’s definition, “a theory in psychology in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.” Insofar as the United States government has a crystal-clear history and legacy of supporting, sustaining, or directly installing virtually every blood-soaked military or rightist family or oligarchical dictatorship in Central America, Latin America, and the Caribbean in modern times, this is “projection” of the highest order.8

And let us underline that Bolton is praising a political and military figure, Bolsonaro, who came out of and defends wholeheartedly the right-wing military regime in Brazil from 1964-1986, with its documented history of death-squads, murder, and torture on a mass-scale. Bolsonaro has publicly said that the military dictatorship did not murder and torture those who resisted and fought it enough.9

Bolsonaro was elected with a ten-point margin, culminating, for now, a deepening political crisis in Brazil that was set in motion by the sharpest economic retraction and recession in modern Brazilian history that kicked in starting in 2014. This drawn-out political earthquake saw the 2016 impeachment and removal from office of Workers Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff on dubious charges of manipulating budget statistics followed by the 2018 imprisonment and barring from running for President of PT leader and former president Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva on the relatively petty charges of receiving access to an apartment on the beach. Denied strongly by da Silva, the charges rose to the level of the absurd given the massive corruption that marks capitalist politicking in Brazil with its rampant wheeler-dealerism, kickbacks, and bribe-taking. This was the case before, during, and after Lula da Silva and the PT won the Presidency in January 2003, starting with the political forces that moved against Rousseff and Lula da Silva.

Among the aftershocks over time from the 2007-08 world economic crisis and depression was the collapse in raw materials, energy, and other commodity prices in world capitalist markets. This expedited the economic crisis in Brazil, the eighth largest capitalist economy in the world. Brazil has built up giant export platforms for oil and other raw materials to markets in advanced capitalist countries such as the US and the EU, as well as to China, over many decades. Huge capitalist farms in Brazil export products such as soy beans, sugar, and meat that brought in large sums in foreign exchange. It is an example of how even the most developed (semi-industrialized) capitalist economies in “Third World” nation-states like Brazil are dependent on the advanced capitalist economies of the United States, western Europe, and Japan and the international institutions they control like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for markets and credits (that is, debt).

In that cyclical period of expansion driven by high commodity-raw material prices, the successive PT governments funded social-welfare programs that created real – but tenuous and ephemeral as it turned out – alleviation of extreme poverty, of which there is a tremendous amount in Brazil. These policies marginally advanced working-class access to education and health care and fueled Lula’s high levels of political support and popularity. This popularity was apparently the decisive factor in banning him from being on the ballot in the Presidential election, where most surveys had placed him in the lead.

Politically, the PT policies delivered relative class and political stability, without any disruption of the financial, economic, and social dominance of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and landowning ruling classes. The Workers Party in the October 2018 elections paid the political price for the sharp economic recession that unfolded from 2014-16, with a stagnant “recovery” today. Bolsonaro was able to exploit other issues such as the miserable living conditions in the favelas, controlled by criminal gangs running organized drug rackets that are tangled up with corrupt and murderous police forces. The Brazilian ruling classes and media oligopolies swung behind Bolsonaro decisively in the elections, burying previous derisions of him when he was “on the fringe” of bourgeois politics in Brazil.

It remains to be seen if Bolsonaro is prepared to – or is politically able to – unite with Trump in an anti-Cuba, anti-Venezuela crusade. In a November 7, 2018 Financial Times article titled “Brazil version of Trump to play hardball with Bolivian autocrat,” writer Gideon Long relishes a coming confrontation between Bolsanaro and Bolivian President Evo Morales (“one of the last survivors of the leftist ‘pink tide’”) over a natural gas deal that is up for renewal. Long further asserts the ascendancy of “a new regional order” in a Latin America that he says has “shifted rightward.”

Bolsonaro Forces Out Cuban Doctors

On November 14, 2018, the press office of the Cuban UN Mission in New York issued a Declaration from the Ministry of Public Health announcing the withdrawal of Cuban doctors from Brazil following Bolsonaro’s attacks and threats on them and the Program More Doctors organization the Cuban volunteers work through. The Declaration states:

Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect of Brazil, who has made direct, contemptuous, and threatening comments against the presence of our doctors, has declared and reiterated that he will modify the terms and conditions of the Program More Doctors…he has questioned the qualification of our doctors and has conditioned their permanence in the program to a process of validation of their titles and established that contracts will only be signed on an individual basis…These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the Program…The decision to bring into question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban cooperation workers who, with the support of their families, are currently offering their services in 67 countries is unacceptable. During the last 55 years, a total of 600,000 internationalist missions have been accomplished in 164 nations, with the participation of 400,000 health workers who, in quite a few cases, have fulfilled this honorable task more than once. Their feats in the struggle against the Ebola virus in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean and cholera in Haiti as well as the participation of 26 brigades of the International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Great Epidemics “Henry Reeve” in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among other countries, are worthy of praise…Likewise, 35,613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained in Cuba at absolutely no cost as an expression of our solidarity and internationalist vocation. The peoples from Our America and from all over the world know that they will always be able to count on the solidarity and humanistic vocation of our professionals.

Cuban Doctors in Brazil

“Pinochetism” Without Pinochet?

Bolsonaro is gearing up to carry out a “neoliberal” austerity program of attacks on industrial workers, agricultural workers, landless peasants, and small and medium farmers. He looks to the “model” of the policies carried out with extreme violence by the US-backed military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which overthrew the elected, constitutional President Salvador Allende in a 1973 US-backed military coup.

At each step of the consolidation of his brutal dictatorship Pinochet consulted with and was advised by various US government and academic figures. These included, famously, a group of University of Chicago (UC) conservative and reactionary economists, spawns of Milton Friedman and Frederick von Hayek. These “Chicago Boys” found themselves dominating the Economics Department at UC and were available for the cause of crushing the workers and peasants of Chile into the dirt.

Survivors and would-be revivers of that “Chicago School” are very enthusiastic backers of Bolsonaro, starting with incoming Finance Minister Paulo Guedes. In an interview with the November 2, 2018 Financial Times Guedes said Bolsonaro’s election presents a “Pinochet” moment for Brazil. “The Chicago boys saved Chile, fixed Chile. Fixed the mess.”

Of course, when class and political polarization reaches the intensity of the last years of the Allende government, the room for “parliamentary democratic” resolution diminishes. Washington and the Chilean bourgeoisie and oligarchy, including in the officer corps of the Chilean armed forces, were baying for blood and carried out economic sabotage, covert subversion, and terrorism against Allende’s Popular Unity (UP) coalition, whose mass and electoral support was increasing at the time of the coup. Nevertheless, the UP government and Chilean revolutionists were unable to counterattack effectively and derail the more-and-more open coup plotting, US covert action, and right-wing mobilizations.10

It would have been impossible to carry out “the fix” Guedes crows about for Chile without the destruction of democratic rights and political space and murdering thousands of trade unionists and revolutionary-minded working-class and student youth, and anyone who stood in their way. Gruesome torture was institutionalized by the “fixers” on a mass, industrial scale after the initial bloodbath. This was a pre-condition for smashing trade union legality and driving the workers movement underground. Suppressing wages and worker’s rights laid the basis for renewed “confidence” and profitability for Chilean and foreign capital. Cyclical economic expansion primarily benefited a super-affluent minority.

The workers and mass struggles that pried open political space and trade-union legality in the 1980s, leading to Pinochet’s demise, used that space to fight to raise their living standards.

Can there be an updated Pinochetism against Brazil’s highly organized working-class movement, including mass trade unions and landless peasant organizations that Bolsonaro has made a career of making harsh attacks on? Bolsonaro spoke openly during and after the election of going after “delinquent Reds,” and organizations of landless peasants and homeless people, in addition to going after pension systems for organized workers, a centerpiece of Pinochet’s “reforms” in Chile.

While many on the Brazilian “left,” including PT activists, are no doubt shaken by the election of Bolsonaro, who obviously won the votes of many disillusioned and desperate working people, it should be said that the Brazilian workers and peasant class organizations and the mass, social movements, including for Afro-Brazilian rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights, have not been defeated in struggle and combat, as was the case in Chile. Bolsonaro’s “electoral mandate” will be tested in the actual class and political struggles ahead.

Operation Condor II?

With Pinochet’s triumph in 1973 there was increased collaboration and coordination of the Latin American military regimes (joined by Argentina in 1976) under Chilean leadership (and that of the US CIA in the shadows) in the so-called “Operation Condor,” which operated death squads and organized terrorist acts on a continental scale.

The Condor Years: How Pinochet And His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents by John Dinges

Trump’s team, to the degree that they have a coherent political focus on Latin America, certainly see opportunities to advance US policies through alignments with the series of more conservative and reactionary governments that won elections in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Peru in recent years. Economic conditions in all these states compel them, and they all are preparing, to take on the working-class and popular movements and to use the economic crisis to reverse the advances made in the period of the “pink tide” ascent. The Mauricio Macri government in Argentina, in particular, is in a real-time crisis after a disastrous decline in the value of the Argentine peso and consequent huge rise in the country’s dollar-denominated debt, topped off with a humiliating $57 billion “bailout” loan from the hated International Monetary Fund.

It should be noted that the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico will replace a conservative “neoliberal” regime with an Administration and legislature that campaigned as progressive, anti-establishment, anti-corruption, and opposed to US interventionist policies in the Hemisphere.

Venezuela

Trump and the Latin American forces he looks to bloc with certainly would like to pounce on Venezuela, which they portray as descending into ungovernability and endless economic cataclysm, and therefore is viewed as politically vulnerable. They dream and devise plans to sweep in a pro-imperialist government in an orchestrated “regime change.” There has leaked for public consumption US discussions and collaboration with pro-coup forces inside Venezuela’s military and other state institutions. These discussions were over the viability of a US-backed coup or a direct US military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro government. Nikki Haley has spoken openly to street actions calling for Maduro’s overthrow.

The Trump White House has spent over $20 million in “humanitarian refugee assistance” under the pretext of dealing with the some 2-3 million Venezuelan refugees who have been generated from the still-deepening economic crisis, crash in production, and runaway inflation in the country. These refugees have poured mainly into Colombia, with many transiting from there to Ecuador and other Latin American countries.

It is certain that the class struggle across the Americas will intensify and deepen in period at hand and coming. And that the political alignments of today may not be the realignments of tomorrow. The “Cuba Question” is bound to be at the center of all of this. The 2018 UN vote against the US blockade strengthens Cuba’s position in this volatile and explosive period in world and Western Hemispheric politics, and in the international class and national liberation struggles, that are now unfolding.

  1. The Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli government generally jerks its knee behind the US position on the Cuba anti-US blockade votes, abstaining in the last vote in 2016 when Barack Obama was in the White House. Netanyahu’s UN representatives reverted to a No vote this time under Trump. While diplomatic relations between Israel and Cuba have not been restored since being broken in the aftermath of the 1973 Middle Eastern War, which saw major combat between Israeli forces and the armies of Egypt and Syria, Israel and Cuba carry out significant two-way economic trade and commercial relations. There is important Israeli-based capital investment in several Cuban projects and industries including irrigation technology, office towers, and agricultural production. There is also fully legal travel from each country to the other. The many thousands of Israeli travelers to Cuba, and the travel agencies that work with them, have found no anti-Semitism in Cuba and no personal hostility towards Israelis even though the Cuban government is a strong supporter of Palestinian self-determination and has normal or friendly diplomatic relations with all the Arab countries as well as Iran. Cuba promotes a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine based on UN Resolution 242, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
  2. See my Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Geneva, Switzerland, The Case of Cuba: “Human Rights” as a Club.”
  3. Ike Nahem. “Obama and Cuba: End of an Illusion“, Dissident Voice, March 16, 2010.
  4. In the 1990s, Cuba’s economy contracted sharply, and virtually overnight, following the evaporation of the island’s exchange and commercial ties with the former Soviet Union and allied Eastern European governments during the “Cold War.” Long-defeated counter-revolutionary Cuban-American organizations, with histories of violence and terrorism against Cuba, felt wind in their political sails. They illegally organized from US territory, stepping up subversive provocations against Cuba. These groups particularly targeted the rapidly expanding Cuban tourism industry which was generating much-needed foreign exchange. A terrorist bomb killed an Italian tourist. After repeated attempts to get the US government to act against all of this, a team of trained Cuban revolutionaries were dispatched to South Florida to infiltrate and monitor these groups clandestinely. Until they were arrested and convicted in a rigged Miami Courthouse in 1998, the Cuban Five – Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, and Ramon Labanino – preempted a number of planned attacks. A major international campaign organized over many years demanded freedom for the Cuban Five. The last three incarcerated Cuban heroes were released in December 2014, as part of the agreement between Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama to restore US-Cuban diplomatic relations.
  5. At the time Bolton thundered, “The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support [biological weapons] programs in those states. We call on Cuba to cease all [biological weapons]-applicable cooperation with rogue states and to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.”
  6. It was a time when a Cuban diplomat was assassinated in the streets of Queens, New York. It was a time when terrorist bombs were set off at the offices of the 1199 Health Care Workers Union, which courageously opposed the US blockade of Cuba, in the heart of Manhattan, the offices of Casa de las Americas, Cuban-Americans who defended the Revolution, and elsewhere. The Cuban Mission to the United Nations made networks of friends and supporters of revolutionary and socialist Cuba in the 25-mile-radius New York City-area where Washington, as the host country of the UN, could not prevent a Cuban presence or Cuban revolutionary freedom of speech at the UN. These friendships and solidarity have become deeply rooted over many decades. This was recently exemplified when newly elected President of the Cuban Council of State, Miguel Diaz-Canel, came to the United Nations for the Fall 2018 opening of the General Assembly and spoke to some 2300 people from New York, New Jersey and many other cities, who packed into the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan, for a rousing evening of solidarity.
  7. See Isaac Saney’s Submission to the UN Human Rights Council.Cuba, Human Rights and Self-Determination for a clear look at Cuba’s highly participatory electoral procedures.
  8. Check out this US interventionist history here.
  9. It should be noted that the democratically elected government of João Goulart, which attempted to carry out progressive measures in education, voting rights, taxes, and land reform infuriated the Brazilian capitalists and large landowners. It also enraged bipartisan Washington, in this case under the liberal Democratic White Houses of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. This was mainly because Goulart opposed the US blockade of Cuba and refused to break diplomatic relations as demanded by Kennedy and Johnson. Between 1961 and 1964, the CIA performed so-called psyops, or “psychological operations” against Goulart, poured money into opposition groups, and was essentially the architect of the coup.
  10. See Fidel Castro on Chile, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1982 with an introduction by Elizabeth Stone, a comprehensive compilation of speeches, interviews, press conferences, and interactions with Chilean workers and trade unionists, peasants, and students from November 10 to December 4, 1971 when the Cuban revolutionary and President visited the country. In speech after speech, Castro foresees – in a cumulative master class in the Marxist method – the gathering, impossible-to-be-avoided political, social, and class showdown. Castro did everything in his power to prevent a historic defeat and slaughter of working people in Chile similar to what Ernesto Che Guevara had witnessed in 1954 Guatemala. The classic documentary The Battle of Chile, shot during the Allende years and during the coup, smuggled out of Chile, and finished in Cuba, shows how workers and peasants, ready to defend their gains, arms in hand, waited, Godot-style, to be mobilized, armed, trained, and organized as the defense of democratic space and constitutional legality was being abandoned by the Chilean ruling classes and was, in fact, collapsing.

Ending the War in Yemen: Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!

On November 14, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives blocked a resolution that its supporters say would end U.S. participation in the war and famine in Yemen. It is unclear, however, what effect this resolution would have on the ground even if it were passed into law. It imposes no limits on arms sales to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. It does not propose any oversight or limitation of activities CIA or of private contractors from the U.S. in Yemen. The resolution is based on a time table that does not reflect the dire urgency to end the war in Yemen, where almost two months ago the United Nations’ humanitarian chief warned “We may now be approaching a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country.” Further, the resolution provides exemptions for continued hostilities conducted directly by U.S. with drones and Special Forces.

Limited as it is to removing “U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities,” one might even agree with Republican leadership that with the mutual decision that the U.S. stop refueling Saudi war planes, the resolution is moot, even as the war and famine continue. If the resolution were allowed to pass, there would be a 30-day window between the date when the bill might be signed into law and when it would take effect, in which time millions of Yemenis might succumb to famine.

House of Representatives Concurrent Resolution 138, introduced in the House, “Directs the President to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen, except for Armed Forces engaged in operations authorized under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, within 30 days unless and until a declaration of war or specific authorization for such use has been enacted into law.” Senate Joint Resolution 54 is even more explicit and generous in its exception allowing U.S. aggression to continue in Yemen: “This joint resolution directs the President to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen, except those engaged in operations directed at Al Qaeda, within 30 days unless: (1) the President requests and Congress authorizes a later date, or (2) a declaration of war or specific authorization for the use of the Armed Forces has been enacted.”

An AP report produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis, “The hidden toll of American drones in Yemen: Civilian deaths,” was released on November 14. “The AP account gives a glimpse, even if incomplete, into how often civilians are mistakenly hit by drone strikes, at a time when the Trump administration has dramatically ramped up the use of armed drones. It has carried out 176 strikes during its nearly two years in office, compared to the 154 strikes during the entire eight years of the Obama administration, according to a count by the AP and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The AP based its count on interviews with witnesses, families, tribal leaders and activists. Most of those killed, 24, were civilians; at least 6 others were fighters in pro-government forces — meaning ostensibly on the same side as the U.S. — who were hit in strikes away from the front lines while engaged in civilian life.”

Exceptions for “those engaged in operations directed at Al Qaeda,” or in the House version, “Armed Forces engaged in operations authorized under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force,” ensure that U.S. drones strikes in Yemen will continue. The resolution before Congress will also permit U.S. Special Forces attacks on Yemen to continue unchecked, such as the raid on Yakla in January, 2017, in the first days of the Trump administration that killed 25 civilians, including nine children under the age of 13 and one U.S. Navy Seal.

In the current political reality, there is no room in Congress to resist U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen without at the same time endorsing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, a blank check that has allowed for the destruction of whole nations and a manifold increase in the threat of terrorism. The Authorization was a disgraceful obfuscation by Congress when it was passed in 2001 and it has no place in a plea for peace in Yemen in 2018. So long as the 2001 Authorization provides an exception and the profitability of arms trafficking in the region goes unchallenged, there is no congressional resolution for peace in Yemen.

The leaflet prepared by Voices for Creative Nonviolence and distributed at the United Nations, the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and the Saudi Consulate in New York on November 6, 7 and 8, reads:

We call on all parties in this conflict to immediately and permanently end all military and economic assault on Yemen. We urgently demand that the U.S permanently withdraw from warfare half a world away in Yemen, starting now. The U.S. request for a ceasefire to begin in 30 days, in which time many thousands will die, has been met by the Saudis with a surge of violence directed at (the port of) Hodeidah.

It is especially shameful that a resolution as weak as H.Con.Res.138 is having trouble even being brought to the floor for discussion. Getting this resolution passed may be a step along the way, but it cannot be the goal. Support for this legislation needs to be accompanied by a somber recognition of its limitations and with the uncompromising and urgent demand that the U.S. end the war in Yemen now.

The American Dance of Life: A Handful of Unrelated but Connected Notes on the U.S. and War

Diego Rivera’s painting at the beginning of this article is called “Gloriosa victoria” (“Glorious Victory”) and was done by him in 1954 as a protest against the U.S. overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government that same year. At the painting’s center, U.S. Sec. of State John Foster Dulles shakes hands with the new (Washington-approved) president of Guatemala while behind them other U.S. officials hand out money to Guatemalan soldiers.

This past Memorial Day, one vet who wasn’t honored by anyone but me was my Uncle Adam on my dad’s side. He died only a few years ago, my last older relative. A civilian for god knows how many decades, he was still a corporal at heart. And he had the mouth to prove it. If there was a version of Scrabble for only four-letter words, he would’ve never lost a game.

But the important thing is this. If you’re a vet like he was, when you die the government suddenly appears out of nowhere to describe your death as the passing-on of an American hero, all past crimes absolved. The VA may have scorned your claim that your cancer resulted from your tour of duty at Area 9 of the Nevada Atomic Test Site, or it may have turned a blind eye to the symptoms you suffered after your exposure to napalm in Vietnam, or it may have been aggravated by your claim that you returned from Afghanistan with PTSD, but once you’re dead everything’s forgotten and the White House bellows —

This man’s a hero!

You see, that’s how it happens. They bury you as a hero to hide the fact that when alive they treated you like shit.

*****

One event from almost thirty years ago left an indelible impression on me. It illustrated for me how society as a whole, including every institution and product and entertainment that’s part of it, increasingly becomes a mass-delivery device for saturating us with the propaganda necessary for keeping us synced to what’s psychologically required of us in order for the nation’s economic elites to retain power — and grow wealthier. Just think of how often we buy a tee-shirt emblazoned with the name of the company which manufactured it. This shows how the U.S. economic (and cultural) system has conditioned us to do what would have been considered impossible years ago: to fork up our hard-earned cash for the “privilege” of advertising a manufacturer’s product with no cost to the company! We’ve turned ourselves into walking billboards for corporate America’s further enrichment.

But that’s only the small-fry stuff.

On Super Bowl Sunday 1991, while Frank Gifford and his colleagues announced the game on ABC, their play-by-play commentary was spliced with live war-updates from the network’s then-top newscaster, Peter Jennings.  After a while, it was impossible for the viewing audience to tell which was the main attraction: the game or the war. But in reality, the question was irrelevant. The truth was that ABC had created a new kind of event, a hybrid form of activity which switched effortlessly back and forth between the “pastime” of real blood being spilled in a real war and another pastime, the football game’s highly disciplined athletic violence. An amazing simultaneity had been achieved: the crowd’s roar was like a split-personality screaming in 2 voices at once — one voice cheered on Baghdad’s obliteration, the other shouted for running back Otis Anderson as he plunged off-tackle toward MVP immortality.

This display of athletics and patriotism was reinforced by a Disney-influenced halftime show that featured a blond child, surrounded by a chorus of other kids, singing, “You are my hero, you are everything I want to be” in honor of US service people in the Gulf. As the boy’s sweetly warbled song turned the Florida air into an oozing goo of patriotic emotion, upbeat images of US military personnel periodically flashed on the TV. All this activity soon led to a special message, projected on the stadium’s giant screen as well as on televisions across the nation, from President Bush. In his message, the president extolled the virtues of fighting a war in which goodness (i.e., the US) would triumph over evil (i.e., Iraq). As halftime ended and the 2 teams prepared to resume their battle on the field, fans waved flags and a patriotic jolt better than any crack high swept through the stadium crowd and the nation’s millions of TV viewers.  When the kickoff occurred, somewhere in the Middle East an Iraqi target was undoubtedly leveled, detonated by a high-tech US weapon. The crowd cheered.

In the midst of such patriotism-infused cultural events, with people who are ready to kill for their country bonding everywhere in a euphoria of nation-love, it’s difficult to be a nonconformist, which is why the idea of turning the whole of society into a sprawling propaganda machine appeals to the 1 percent.

Events like the 1991 Super Bowl raise politics to the level of pure spectacle.  Such events — with their efforts to induce a trance-like national pride, and their emphasis on the wholesomeness of the military mentality and the moral purity of those in power — are not confined solely to the US and are not without precedent in the past. An example of this is Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, the German film that is a classic of Nazi propaganda and which includes many of the same elements that the 1991 Super Bowl/Gulf war extravaganza included. Riefenstahl’s film is alive, not with apparent hatred, but with the apparent power of goodness. Triumph is a feast of the images of such goodness: blond young men smiling and expressing male solidarity, buxom women working hard for the national good, a feel for the middle-European beauty of German cities and countryside, and a night-time political rally at Nuremberg which, with lit torches and an almost churchly atmosphere, seems, not like a mundane political event, but rather like a futuristic mass in honor of everything mysterious and noble in the galaxy. The film’s purpose was to create in the hearts of “good” Germans a sense of grand national destiny, a euphoric awareness of their historic mission to reorganize life on the planet in the name of a higher good that only they, among the world’s peoples, were capable of comprehending. Nazism’s deepest realities — racism, hatred of democracy, its belief in the usefulness of genocide — were hidden in the film behind images of happy nuclear families and individuals devoted to traditional values. In the end, of course, those romanticized traditional values killed 6 million Jews and millions of other people.

Just as Triumph obscured the details of Nazism’s character as a hate philosophy, so the 1991 Superbowl spectacle obscured the details of the US elite’s political/economic ambitions with regard to the middle east.  It also hid some of the war’s dirtier details — for instance, the US government’s willingness to expose its troops (and then to deny it did so) to chemical and biological weapons, and also the Pentagon’s policy of killing Iraqi civilians as a way of trying to force the population into removing Saddam Hussein from power. The burial of such details shouldn’t surprise us. Like Riefenstahl’s film, the purpose of the 1991 Superbowl spectacle was not to provide us with objective war-related information while the game was going on, but rather to manipulate people emotionally. Adopting techniques similar to the ones used in the pro-Nazi documentary, ABC and the White House employed wholesome-looking images for the purpose of instilling in the viewer a grandiose sense of national superiority. All of this is part of the language (words, symbols, images) of our American identity, our (theoretically) undeniable wholesomeness.

*****

None of us can escape it. It may be only a noise in the distance now, but it’s growing louder. As thousands of feet drum the ground, a procession of refugees, most of them from Central America, march toward the U.S.’s southern border.

These are the people who make up Trump’s hated “caravan.”

But it’s wrong to link the caravan issue only to Trump. Doing so not only misses the point, it trivializes the point to the brink of irrelevance.

The point is this: Why are they marching here? Is it simply because they’re jealous of U.S. wealth and want a piece of the pie? Or is it out of pure malice; do they get a sick thrill out of the idea of stealing U.S. citizens’ jobs?

It’s said that those in the know — the insiders with security clearances, the higher-ups, the experts — understand better than we do what’s going on in the world. The common wisdom assures us of that. Theoretically, it’s precisely such better understanding that has led the U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to increasingly resist immigration from the southern Americas. Similarly, it prompted Obama to deport more immigrants from Latin America than any president prior to him. It’s also why Trump, Obama’s successor, now talks in reverent tones about a Glorious Wall, which supposedly will protect us from Latin America’s unwanteds.

What, though, is this trend’s purpose? What do “those in the know” know that has persuaded them this is a good idea? What secret information do they possess that purportedly makes them better able to grasp this issue than we are?

Well, whatever it is, it can’t be so covered up that we can’t locate it. Why not? All that’s required of an efficient knowledge-hunter is a strong stubborn streak, a lot of digging in the dark, a talent for scavenging and a low tolerance for b.s.

From 1980–1992, El Salvador was torn by violence precipitated by its military-led government. Even with all the resources made available to it as the result of U.S. aid, the government couldn’t suppress popular dissent over its broken promises to increase economic equity and political democracy. One reason for the government’s difficulty was that in response to its previous acts of repression, by 1980 the most important left and progressive formations in the country had formed an umbrella organization, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), whose guerillas fought the elites’ armies.

As Washington looked on, the government it propped up resorted to even more violence to restore order. Although some of these incidents — like the rape and murder by El Salvadoran National Guardsmen of four churchwomen1 from the U.S. who were sympathetic to the rural poor and other oppressed sectors of the population  — caused outrage among American citizens, the White House persisted in its support of the regime. As Jeffery M. Paige wrote in an essay on the situation during that period, “It is clear that El Salvador would fall tomorrow without United States military aid.”2

But the U.S. wasn’t merely helping out with aid; it was, in fact, participating. One dimension of Washington’s commitment to assist the El Salvadoran government was to involve our own military in training Salvadoran units in counterinsurgency. The most prized of these units was the Atlacatl Battalion, which soon after its creation became well-known for its relentlessness throughout El Salvador.

Created in 1981, the battalion was a rapid-response unit which specialized in battling leftist guerrillas. Designed to be an exemplary fighting team, its purpose was broader than merely killing FMLN guerillas. It was also meant to be a sort of living advertisement for proving to folks in the U.S. “how American money and training could transform the Salvadoran army into a professional fighting force.”3

What “professional fighting force” meant in this instance was that the unit’s efficiency in the field entailed massacres and other forms of illegal violence (e.g., purposeful killing of noncombatants, etc.). However, since El Salvador’s rulers were willing to crush any left-leaning peasant, worker or student demands which might clash with its U.S. patron’s financial or other regional interests, Washington continued to consider the nation an ally. The U.S. remained unbudging in this relationship throughout the 1980s, regardless of what happened.

And a lot happened.

One of those things, a mass killing perpetrated by the Atlacatl Battalion in the village of El Mozote, was detailed in the 1993 “Report of the UN Truth Commission on El Salvador.” After invading the village, the battalion murdered everyone they found, after dividing them into groups. First, they slew the men, who were mostly agricultural laborers and farmers with meager landholdings, then the women, then the children. Although initial death totals were estimated to be in the 200-plus range, later searches of particular sites in the village — like Santa Catarinain church where eventually more than 135 bodies were found, almost all under age twelve — expanded the verified number too much higher, somewhere in the range of 794-1000.4

The Truth Commission also cited in its 319-page report many other incidents of war-crime-level brutality, including 118 civilians killed close to Lake Suchitlán, an area supposedly under rebel control, and the 1989 slaying of “six Jesuit priests, a cook, and her 16-year old daughter . . . at the Pastoral Centre of José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador.”

Further, the UN reports that in total 75,000 El Salvadorans were killed during the 1980-1992 period, with 85 percent of the civilian deaths caused by “agents of the State, paramilitary groups allied to them, and the death squads,” with the FLMN causing only 5 percent.

As Michael J.  Hennelly’s essay “US Policy in EI Salvador” (1993) at the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) establishes, during this same period “the military and political role played by the US government was one of the most significant aspects of the Salvadoran war.” He reinforces this point by tabulating the dollar amounts spent by the U.S. on military trainers, specialized interrogation classes, military hardware, etc., plus “over $4 billion in assistance to help ensure the survival of the Salvadoran government”. Hennelly calculates that these expenditures amounted to “about one million dollars a day in US assistance” during the period.5

His final judgment is that the operation was well worth the investment.

The proof’s in the pudding, I guess. 75,000 people dead apparently isn’t a debit in his rose-colored-glasses account. Neither was the coincident destruction of much of the economic infrastructure upon which the poorer and working classes depended for survival. It’s all part of the game called Empire.

Now it’s years later. Some of the children born back then, adults now, are approaching us. They’re part of the caravan mentioned earlier, men and women plodding forward, babies crying, a ragged column winding northward. What drives them?

In many cases, as in El Salvador, the refugees are in flight from poverty and violence, residues of the harm done by U.S. policies to their nations. These policies, neocolonial/imperialist in nature, prioritized alliances with dictators while methodically retarding those nations’ independent political and economic development as part of a U.S. strategy for making sure no leftist reformers mobilized sufficient numbers of people to jeopardize U.S. plans for the area.

One more example of this U.S. approach is its operations in Guatemala, particularly in relation to that nation’s thirty-plus year civil war, which stretched from the 1960s into the 1990s.

In 1999 the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification released a report, Memory of Silence, on human rights violations and mass killings during the Guatemalan government’s repression of leftist anti-government forces. In the report’s Introduction, editor Daniel Rothenberg described the period as

a thirty-four year conflict forged by the Cold War, strongly influenced by U.S. foreign policy, and so severe that the commission determined that the state committed genocide against its own indigenous people.6

Regarding the genocide accusation, in 2013 the Guatemalan courts found General Ríos Montt, one of the dictators who led the government during the conflict, guilty of genocide against the Mayans, Guatemala’s indigenous people and the hardest hit of all the population sectors attacked by government forces and death squads. Although sentenced to 80 years in prison, his conviction was later overturned. He died in a helicopter crash before he could be retried.7

The question here is why, as documented by Memory of Silence, did the U.S. under the Reagan administration advise, train and provide international cover for Guatemalan units that killed over 100,000, mostly Mayan, people and disappeared countless others? Although Reagan was advised by the CIA of Guatemalan President Ríos Montt’s approval of such killings at the height of the death squads’ massacre spree in the early 1980s, Reagan nonetheless lauded Montt in a December 4,1982 statement following a meeting with him in Honduras. “I know,” Reagan pronounced, “that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment” whose “country is confronting a brutal challenge from guerrillas.”8

The “brutal challenge” mentioned here by Reagan was a lie. As Memory of Silence points out, 93 percent of all deaths during the Guatemalan government’s war against its own people were perpetrated by Guatemala’s government-supported death squads, not by Reagan’s fantasy of an evil enemy’s brutality. The report also stressed that U.S. involvement in the conflict “had significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation.”

No wonder, given the amount of money we poured into the country. The quickest way to indicate the level of support given by the U.S. to the Guatemalan government in the latter part of the last century is to view a small slice of that assistance. From 1980-1986, U.S. aid to Guatemala grew from $11 million to $104 million9 But U.S. involvement in Guatemalan politics didn’t begin in the 1980s. It began long before.

Yet such is the power of our government’s culture of non-transparency that it is able to excommunicate such information from our nation’s official histories. Which is why historically the U.S. looks with distaste at serious investigative journalists and out-of-the-box analysts in the mold of Angela Davis, I.F. Stone, and Alexander Cockburn.

But even when buried information is unburied in the contemporary world, the media reburies it under so many pundit interpretations of what it supposedly means that the information is once again lost. What’s left afterward is society’s background noise: the ghostly echo of many simultaneous specialist monologues dissolved into a soup of endless chatter, not one detail of which makes sense anymore.

Given this context, it’s no surprise that as a nation we know so little today about Washington’s relationship with Guatemala. A relationship that also includes an issue not mentioned here yet: the CIA overthrow in 1954 of a democratically elected Guatemalan government led by President Jacobo Árbenz, an event believed by many to have precipitated decades of U.S.-provoked  death and ruination in the country.

Philip Rothenberg, Memory of Silence’s editor, described the overthrow and its aftermath this way: “In the mid-1950s, a successful ten-year democratic process that challenged the status quo was overthrown with support from the United States.” He then further states that from the coup onwards the U.S. exerted significant control “through overt and covert means” over Guatemalan politics for decades. This control includes the so-called civil war, which was actually a clash between a succession of U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictatorships and the people of their own country, people fighting to recapture some of the freedom and hope they’d experienced during the Árbenz period of leftist democratic reform. A period which we, the U.S., brought to a violent end.

The story of this violation of international law is one more tale that, if told in the U.S. in combination with the story of our intervention in El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America, would help us to better understand the caravans of refugees which periodically march toward our southern border.

Whether we understand the reason for them coming or not, they keep coming. The reason for their coming is no surprise. It’s not because the caravans consist of rabid mobs foaming at the mouth to steal our livelihoods. It’s not because, as Carson Tucker suggested on Fox TV on July 17, 2018, that there’s a plan afoot for assimilating darker-skinned refugees from Latin America for the purpose of “changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.”

The caravans head here not for these reasons but for others. They migrate in significant part because over the decades U.S. policies have left (and often still leave) disaster in their wake: fractured economies, austerity budgets shaped by the IMF and World Bank, giant gulfs between poor and rich, and drug lords and street gangs filling the gaps left by corrupted political leadership.

Today, fleeing violence and poverty at home, many Central Americans head north to the U.S. This is irony in the form of the darkest black humor. In-flight for their lives, asylum-seekers quit homelands wrecked by U.S. neocolonialism, then migrate toward the U.S. in hope of a better future! Such is the life of the international poor under advanced capitalism. Constantly caught between a rock and a hard place, they must accept help even from those imperial outsiders responsible for much of the hardship they’ve suffered.

*****

I saw an interesting fellow last night in Philadelphia on the corner of Chestnut St. and 2nd Ave., only a block or so from the Indian restaurant where Suman (my wife) and I ate earlier.

He was one of those guys you can find in any city, a bearded character who knows how to attract a crowd with his shenanigans. Dressed cleanly, although, in faded loose-fitting clothes that looked like they’d been in and out of a thousand laundromats on the wrong side of the tracks over the years, he wore a kid’s party hat, the kind shaped like a cone and secured in place by a rubber band under the chin. Playing the buffoon, but nonetheless showing his smarts, he glanced merrily at his growing number of listeners. An artist of the nonstop soliloquy, complete with punchlines and melodramatic facial expressions, his oratory soared like an MC who never saw an audience he didn’t love. I couldn’t keep up with everything he said, but at one point he mentioned a neighborhood called Star-Spangled Estates, then a while later joked, “If you’re gonna pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you best buy a new pair of colorful Nike laces first, so when you get where you’re going they’ll know you’re the man!”

The crowd loved him. A marvel of streetsmart articulacy, he was on a roll. Later, as he brought his spiel to conclusion, he did a sort of bump-and-grind to punctuate his words, then twirled in a circle and suddenly stood still, holding his hands, palms upward, in the air, with a plastic statue of liberty on one palm and a toy automatic weapon on the other —

“Oh yeah, folks, let me teach you the American dance of life! Let me show you how to let it all hang loose!”

The swarm of onlookers, which had grown much larger by then, roared their approval for his performance. It was his appearance that made their hearts go out to him. For them, for all of us, he was the spitting image of an old Uncle Sam down on his luck.

The government must have fired him years ago, then outsourced his job to god knows where.

*****

Rather than expressing a truth, the phrase “The land of the free and home of the brave” impersonates a truth.

The phrase is a lure like the lure on a fishing line. We are meant to bite down on it in a gluttonous spasm of patriotic hunger, only to have a hook rip open the roof of our mouth, then anchor itself unbudgingly in the wound.

This is how we’re caught. How groupthink triumphs.

Revolting against such a reality makes sense. But to revolt doesn’t mean lecturing people about what they should do. It means working alongside people so we can learn together how to transform ourselves into a relentless mass force for a revolutionary reorganization of the nation and a reinvention of values.

The wars are everywhere. Wars at home. Imperial wars overseas. Our struggle may be complex, but our goals aren’t. We must fight injustice and inequity wherever we find them within the U.S., and stop exportation of violence, murder, and oppression to other lands. We don’t need reform, we need revolution.

  1. Haggerty, Richard A., ed. 1990. El Salvador: A Country Study. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division.
  2. Paige, Jeffery M. 1993. “Coffee and Power in El Salvador.” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. 1993.
  3. Wilkinson, Tracy. “Notorious Salvadoran Battalion Is Disbanded: Military: U.S.-trained Atlacatl unit was famed for battle prowess but was also implicated in atrocities”, LA Times, December 9, 1992.
  4. Malkin, Elisabeth. 2016. “Survivors of Massacre.” The New York Times, May 16, 2016; Tawney, Joseph. 2018. “The Long-Game.” International Policy Digest, January 12, 2018.
  5. Hennelly, Michael J. 1993. “US Policy in EI Salvador.” Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC).
  6. Rothenberg, David, ed. 2012. Memory of Silence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  7. Kinzer, Stephen. 2018. “Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemalan Dictator Convicted of Genocide, Dies at 91.” The New York Times, April 1, 2018.
  8. Reagan, Ronald. 1982. “Remarks in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Following a Meeting With President Jose Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala.” UC Santa Barbara: The American Presidency Project.
  9. Grandin, Greg. 2013. “Guatemalan Slaughter Was Part of Reagan’s Hard Line.” The New York Times, May 21, 2013.

Black Sun Over Kiev

The conflict in Ukraine has been a war of seemingly endless violence and brutality. This cataclysmic conflict, which has pitted Ukrainian against Ukrainian, marks a restoration of the fighting that took place between Nazi collaborators and partisans during the Second World War. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the coverage from what Paul Craig Roberts is fond of calling “the presstitutes,” has been a deranged combination of liberal schizophrenia, outright lies, and neo-Nazi propaganda.

As noted in The Washington Times, the decision on the part of the Trump administration to give Kiev an additional 200 million dollars in military aid, brings the total amount of US military aid sent to Kiev since the Maidan coup to a billion dollars. This war has pitted the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and its affiliated paramilitary organizations, against the Armed Forces of Novorossiya which are defending their homes, villages, and cities from a ruthless genocidal onslaught. The former are getting the military assistance. Rest assured, it is for “defensive purposes,” and needed to defend Ukraine from “Russian-backed separatists.”

In an article in The New York Times titled “After Initial Triumph, Ukraine’s Leaders Face Battle For Credibility,” by Steven Erlanger, the author writes of the Maidan coup: “The United States and the European Union have embraced the revolution here as another flowering of democracy, a blow to authoritarianism and kleptocracy in the former Soviet space.” While some of the initial Maidan protests may have been peaceful, the actual change of government – the “flowering of democracy” – was, in fact, a violent coup that brought to power in Kiev the descendants of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military wing, The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, ultra-nationalists that collaborated with the Nazis and carried out genocidal massacres of Jews, Poles, and communists during the Second World War.

The author continues: “As Russian forces appear to be establishing their control of Crimea in the name of a seemingly manufactured local cry for aid, Ukraine today is a good example of how deep, domestic, centrifugal forces can be easily manipulated from the outside to keep a new, inexperienced government shaken and destabilized.” That the new regime is “shaken and destabilized” should come as no surprise, as it took power through a Western-backed coup, and in violation of the country’s constitution. It is also important to remember that Moscow permitted the reunification of Germany on the condition that NATO would not expand, and it has been expanding and expanding ever since – even to the point where Nato troops can now march right through downtown Kiev. NATO is at Russia’s doorstep, and while the insouciant West sleeps, Russians are increasingly alarmed.

While there are undoubtedly some Russian volunteers that have gone to the Donbass to defend their brothers from fascism, the idea that “Russia invaded Ukraine” is unmitigated propaganda. If this were, in fact, the case, the Russian air force would have destroyed the Ukrainian units besieging the Donbass in a matter of days, effectively ending the war. The Novorossians would also not have lost strategically important cities such as Slovyansk and Mariupol which are located within the Donetsk Oblast. Moreover, if the Russian military had truly taken control of the Donbass, it is inconceivable that so many key Novorussiyan leaders would have fallen victim to assassination. And lastly, if Russia had invaded Ukraine, why would hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have sought refuge, not in the West, but in Russia?

In an article in The Guardian titled “On the Frontline of Europe’s Forgotten War in Ukraine,” Julian Coman reiterates the mass media’s obsession with blaming all things wrong with the world on Vladimir Putin: “In February it will be four years since Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, annexed Crimea and helped foment a rebellion in Ukraine’s industrial east. Since then about 10,000 people have died, including 3,000 civilians, and more than 1.7 million have been displaced.” Crimea was integrated into Russia by Catherine the Great in 1783. It was, under legally dubious circumstances, gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev. The idea that Crimea is under a Russian military occupation is patently absurd, as the Russian Black Sea Fleet was already based in the city of Sevastopol. In other words, there were Russian soldiers in Crimea prior to the putsch. Following the Maidan coup, the overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted in a referendum to be reunited with Russia. The use of the word “annexation” is designed to draw parallels with the Nazi annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. Lamentably, this crude propaganda actually works. The Russian invasion of Crimea may have taken place – but only in the deranged fantasyland of the mass media – as Miguel Francis’ humorous reportage in “Crimea for Dummies” offers many examples of.

That Banderites and neo-Nazis seized power in a coup d’état appears to give the author great joy, as he refers to them as “Euromaidan revolutionaries.” And why is this a “forgotten war?” Have the journalists of major Western newspapers such as The Guardian not played a critical role in bringing about this very thing?

The mainstream press regularly attempts to portray civilians as being shelled by “Russian-backed terrorists” and “Russian-backed separatists,” when it is the AFU which indiscriminately shells residential areas in Donetsk and Lugansk. In actuality, we should be talking about the NATO-backed Banderites, as it was the coup that destabilized the country and instigated the civil war. The Stalker Zone article titled “I Would Whack Volker With a Stick For Telling Such a Lie!”, offers a good example of this propaganda. The excellent RT documentaries “Facing The War,” “Ukrainian Refugees,” and “Trauma” also provide countless examples of how ordinary Ukrainians are suffering at the hands of the Banderite junta. The automatons of the mass media seem to think they know a lot about what is going on in the Donbass, but how many foreign correspondents do they have there?

As Stephen Cohen and others have noted, the coup that ousted Viktor Yanukovych was ultimately brought to fruition by sniper fire, which took the lives of police and protesters alike, and it is highly probable that this massacre was carried out by members of the neo-fascist group Right Sector. In an article in RT titled “Kiev Snipers Shooting From Bldg Controlled by Maidan Forces – Ex-Ukraine Security Chief,” the author writes, “Former chief [sic] of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square.” The Odessa massacre on May 2nd, 2014, where anywhere from forty to several hundred anti-Maidan activists lost their lives when they were trapped in Odessa’s House of Trade Unions, which was then pelted with Molotov cocktails by a mob of bloodthirsty Banderites, symbolized the neo-fascist nature of the coup. Pogroms have likewise been carried out against Ukrainians for wearing the ribbon of Saint George, worn to commemorate the victory of the Soviet people over fascism, and more recently, to protest the Banderite regime. Ominously, the Odessa massacre was a harbinger to the brutal military assault on the inhabitants of the Donbass that would follow.

Granted, many in the western part of the country wish to join the EU, while the ethnic Russians in the East prefer to maintain close economic ties to Russia. However, this is also a conflict between Ukrainians that have diametrically opposed views of the Second World War – between a Banderite regime that glorifies and extols the Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis – and the descendants of the Ukrainians that triumphed over Nazism, who regard the new regime as illegitimate and deeply repugnant.

The Banderite junta is also implementing draconian changes to Ukraine’s education system, making education in minority languages such as Russian, Hungarian, Romanian and Polish forbidden beyond primary school, and this is dismantling the entire foundation upon which the modern Ukrainian state is based.

The massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, which began in 1943, and which were perpetrated by the Bandera faction of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, resulted in the deaths of approximately 100,000 people, many of whom were also tortured. Under the Poroshenko government Stepan Bandera has been hailed as a national hero. As statues of Lenin are torn down, and monuments commemorating the Soviet victory over fascism are defaced, monuments of Bandera are erected in their stead as the monster of Ukrainian nationalism eviscerates its own heritage. October 14th, the day the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was founded, is now a national holiday. General Vatutin Avenue in Kiev, named after the Red Army commander that liberated Kiev from the Nazis, has been renamed Roman Shukhevych Avenue, after a commander of the Nachtigall Battalion, which was comprised of Ukrainians that fought under the command of Abwehr special operations during the Second World War. On April 28th, marches are now held in honor of the founding of the SS Galicia Division, which was also comprised of Ukrainians that collaborated with the Third Reich.

Contrast this mass hysteria with a day of mourning held in the Donbass on August 31st, where school bells ring out in honor of the children who lost their lives to the “Anti-Terrorist Operation,” and who won’t be able to join their classmates at the start of the school year. And while Donetsk and Lugansk are engaged in a war where their very survival is at stake, the authorities still manage to provide free medical care – not only to their own citizens – but even to captured soldiers of the AFU.

The OUN chant “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” can be heard once more in areas of the country under the sway of the Banderite junta. The Svoboda Party and other ultra-nationalist groups regularly engage in torchlit rallies that are eerily reminiscent of the torchlit rallies common during Nazi Germany. Indeed, the flag of the Right Sector is almost identical to the flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Fighting with the AFU are various punitive battalions, all of which share a loathing of Russians, and some of which are driven by an unmistakable neo-Nazi ideology. As discussed in Fort Russ News and Global Research, the Azov Battalion has been accused of committing atrocities against those resisting the new regime, such as the rape and torture of prisoners. The insignia of the Azov Battalion includes a black sun and an inverted Wolfsangel. The later was used by a number of Waffen-SS units, notably the Das Reich Division, which participated in the Nazi invasion of the USSR. The black sun remains a cryptic symbol and was likewise popular with the SS. Azov also runs summer camps, where children are taught to embrace militarism, handle weapons, and chant “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!” Vadim Troyan, a deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, went on to become the chief of police for Kiev.

Another punitive battalion, the Aidar Battalion, was accused of war crimes in an Amnesty International report titled “Ukraine: Abuses and war crimes by the Aidar Volunteer Battalion in the north Luhansk region.” In what underscores the fascistic mentality of these battalions, the report quotes an Aidar commander, who told an Amnesty International investigator:

It’s not Europe. It’s a bit different… There is a war here. The law has changed, procedures have been simplified… If I choose to, I can have you arrested right now, put a bag over your head and lock you up in a cellar for 30 days on suspicion of aiding separatists.

Some of these paramilitary formations, such as the Tornado Battalion, resisted efforts to be integrated into the AFU, resulting in the dissolution of the unit and even the arrest of some of their members. When the phones of several Tornado commanders were seized by the authorities, it was revealed that they had raped girls in the Donbass and recorded it on their phones. Punitive battalions that agreed to be integrated into the military chain of command were, like rampaging savages, unleashed on those resisting the regime, and permitted – indeed, even encouraged – to commit atrocities and terrorize the local population at will.

In an article in Fort Russ News titled “Ukraine: Where Rape Is ‘Patriotic’ And Worth 100 Euros,” Svyatoslav Knyazev writes of the new Ukraine:

Ukraine, of course, is Europe. But it is medieval Europe in its worst aspects – executions and incarcerations in dungeons for irreverent criticisms of kings and dukes, the looting and plunder of residential areas by troops, torture for slander, and the right of the “nobility” to kill, maim, and rape “commoners” with impunity.

The insouciance on the part of most Americans regarding this barbarous regime that has murdered thousands of its own people, is tied to our morally bankrupt press and the jettisoning of history from the public schools. Indeed, if the only thing one can say about the Nazis is that they murdered Jews in death camps, it is impossible to understand the current conflict. Nazism is anchored in many repugnant things, anti-Semitism being one of them. A virulent Russophobia, a belief that Slavs are inferior to “Aryans,” a hatred of Gypsies, and a virulent anti-communism are also significant tenets of Nazi ideology.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the Allies began to cultivate relationships with Nazis and Nazi collaborators that could be used against the Soviets in the burgeoning Cold War. Of particular historic significance was Wehrmacht General    Reinhard Gehlen, who was in charge of Foreign Armies East, which oversaw military intelligence operations in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Utilizing his contacts within US Army Intelligence, and later the CIA, Gehlen managed not only to escape prosecution, but went on to found the Gehlen Organization, which would eventually become the precursor to West Germany’s federal intelligence agency, the BND. Gehlen would also go on to become the first president of the BND, where he proceeded to hire many Nazi war criminals that he had formerly worked with. (Today, the BND is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, and like the CIA, is sometimes referred to as “a state within a state.”) Gehlen possessed a wealth of information regarding fascist collaborators in Eastern Europe, including OUN and Ukrainian Insurgent Army members, some of whom went on to work for the CIA.

In an article in The Nation titled “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities,” Stephen Cohen writes, “The entire Maidan episode, it will be recalled, had Washington’s enthusiastic political, and perhaps more tangible, support.” Indeed, the Obama administration’s support for the coup was the culmination of an alliance with the OUN that stretches back to the end of the Second World War. Moreover, the decision on the part of Washington to commence with the training of Ukraine’s National Guard on April 20th, 2015, was not lost on Ukrainians. For as neo-Nazis are well aware, this also happens to be Hitler’s birthday.

Throughout the conflict the AFU has repeatedly and deliberately shelled residential areas in the Donbass, thereby committing war crimes. On Kiev’s assault on Donetsk and Lugansk, Cohen writes:

Kiev has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers that have struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, even orphanages. More and more urban areas, neighboring towns and villages now look and sound like war zones, with telltale rubble, destroyed and pockmarked buildings, mangled vehicles, the dead and wounded in streets [sic], wailing mourners and crying children.

In an article in Foreign Policy titled “Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government,” the author, after taking some obligatory shots at Putin, sheepishly acknowledges that, “The uncomfortable truth is that a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current government — and the protesters who brought it to power — are, indeed, fascists.” Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda Party, and a fanatical Banderite and demagogue, rails not only against Russians, Jews, and communists, but also against Poles, Hungarians and Czechs. Enemies help keep the people frightened and compliant, and so the more the merrier. Svoboda Party deputy Iryna Farion, when asked about the people in the Donbass protesting the regime, said they should be shot. Russians still living in Ukraine following the putsch, said that they should be killed with nuclear weapons. Thankfully, these lunatics don’t have any.

These are some of the people for whom John McCain and Victoria Nuland gave their unequivocal support to during the bloody coup, romanticized ad nauseam by the mass media as a grassroots democratic uprising. Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs under Obama, and a driving force behind the coup, openly boasted that over five billion dollars had been invested in helping to bring about a pro-Western government in Kiev, and was caught in a taped conversation plotting the coup with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine at the time.

Indeed, the Russophobia of Washington and the Russophobia of the Banderites appear to have found common cause. Anne Applebaum, in an article for The New Republic titled “Nationalism Is Exactly What Ukraine Needs,” writes of the ethnic Russians in the Donbass: “For this—Donetsk, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk—is what a land without nationalism actually looks like: corrupt, anarchic, full of rent-a-mobs and mercenaries.” In an article in The Atlantic titled “Russia’s Strength Is Its Weakness,” the author informs us that, “Russia takes advantage of the divisions within the West—and within the United States—by driving wedges between its opponents, using psychological warfare, propaganda, and cyberwar.” Substitute “Russia” with “the Jews,” and this could have been written by Goebbels.

The assassinations of the prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, along with charismatic rebel commanders Givi, Motorola, and socialist Aleksey Mozgovoy failed to break the spirit of those resisting the Banderite regime. Nevertheless, these assassinations did succeed in irrevocably destroying the Minsk Agreements, rendering dialogue and a diplomatic solution impossible for the foreseeable future. The mass media vilifies those resisting the Poroshenko government as separatists and terrorists, but the reality is that these four men are hailed as heroes in the Donbass for protecting the people from fascism and Banderite death squads. You can watch Givi’s funeral here:

Installing a gang of thugs and con artists in Kiev is an echo of the same bloody scenario that has played out with dozens of other countries around the world. Indeed, this has become the time-honored method with which Washington has been able to implement puppet regimes, as neo-Nazis and Banderites could no more win a fair election than ISIS would be able to, just as both would be unable to survive without foreign support.

And while the Western elites have imposed multiculturalism and identity politics at home, they have simultaneously fomented a resurgence of Nazism in Eastern Europe. If these two ideologies are diametrically opposed to one another, how is it that they came to be supported by the exact same people?

Following the initial clashes between the AFU and the self-defense militias, the Ukrainian army was so poorly officered and equipped that the war would have ended in a matter of months, were it not for the military aid provided by Washington and other NATO countries. Should the AFU threaten to overrun Donetsk and Lugansk with its new revamped military, there will be tremendous pressure on Putin to intervene. And as is also the case in Syria, there is a danger that these tensions could spill over into a direct military confrontation between the two nuclear powers.

In a speech given at the Odessa Opera House on October 23rd, 2014, Poroshenko said of the people in the Donbass: “We will have our jobs. They will not. We will have our pensions. They will not…. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens. Theirs will be holed up in basements.” The Ukrainian nationalist dream of an ethnically pure state has, like a resurrected demon, once more set fire to this ancient land, as the black sun of violation spreads its wings over the ravaged earth, enveloping the bestial, the brave and the innocent alike.

Housing Crisis, Mental Health Collective Breakdown, 9 am to 5 am Work!

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.

― D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

— Brazilian poet Martha Medieros

I work at a homeless veterans (and their families, and some have their emotional support animals here) transitional housing facility in Oregon. We get our money from a huge non-profit religious organization and from the federal government in the form of VA per diem payouts.

The job is tough, rewarding, never with a dull moment, and a microcosm of the disaster that capitalism pushes into every fiber of the American fabric of false adoration of a class dividing and racially scaled society.

Mostly after two-and three-year hitches in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, these men and women are broken on many levels, but serve as emblematic examples of the masses of broken people this country’s top 19 or 20 percent make a killing on. The Point Zero Zero One Percent, the One Percenters and the 19 Percenters live off the 80 percent of us who have toiled for these masters of the capitalist universe and these Little Eichmanns and highly paid bureaucrats and middle managers and top brass in every industry possible (two-income earners making money in higher education, medicine, the law, pharmaceuticals, high tech, military industrial complex, judicial and criminal justice, and all the flimflam that is the retail and consumption class).

I have clients who never saw out-of-country battlefields, but these same veterans hands down have applied and sometimes have received service connected disability claims, from tinnitus to shin splits, bad discs in the back to Parkinson’s, from skin diseases to anxiety disorders, from PTSD to depression, and many, many more.

The problems abound, because these folk are virtually broken and spiritually disconnected, brainwashed by some mythological past, flooded with inertia, possibly never able to get their lives back. We can look at them in their section eight apartments, see them at the free meal joints for veterans, and we can listen to their complaints and then respond by throwing all our fury and recrimination onto them, admonishing them to get off their butts and work. Sounds good from a parasitic, penury capitalistic society of me-myself-and-I thinking, but in reality, these younger and older veterans are strafed with anxiety disorders, co-occurring mental health challenges, post-addiction disorders, and brains that have been calcified by many, many aspects of being in the military; then discharged, and then the entire landmine field of epigenetic realities anchored to what many of them call “broken and bloodied” family lives before hitching up.

Some of us know how to solve their homelessness problem, help with intensive healing, assist them in reintegrating into society: inter-generational communities, in micro-homes/tiny homes, with an intentional cooperative community housing set up with things to do . . . . Like growing food, working on construction projects, engaging in peer counseling, and coalescing around community engagement and co-op like business models.

How many plots of land exist in this PT Barnum Land? How many empty buildings are there in this Walmart Land? How many young and old would like to get off the hamster wheel and out of the machine to live a life worthy of spiritual and collective pacifism to grow a truly communitarian spirit.

Here we have this CryptoZionist VP Pence pledging to rebuild an Air Force base in Florida, Tyndall, for $1.5 billion and then spreading more hubris as we witness Pence and the Air Force brass (their felonious DNA locked into our corrupt military industrial complex) ask for more robbing of the tax till, when a hurricane we knew about weeks ahead of time, destroyed more than 17 Stealth aircraft worth (sic) $339 million each! No apologies, no public investigation, nothing!

You won’t hear on Democracy Now a strong case against building these jets in the first place, or a strong case for lopping off the heads of Generals and state senators, on down, for this Keystone Cop disaster. Up to $6 billion for these graft-ridden and spiritually empty examples (Stealth Baby and Old Man-Woman Killers) of America the Empire.

Daily, I struggle to get veterans accommodations for evictions or for property debts, as many have just failed to pay rents or mortgages because of the colluding forces of mental-physical-spiritual dysfunction created by what it is that makes broken people in general, but especially broken veterans who have some undeserved sense of entitlement. Daily, just attempting to get VA hospital treatment, or trying to have experts look at veterans’ amputated limbs and just getting appointments for prosthesis devices?

We are not in “new times” with a CryptoZionist brigade in office, or a filthy example of an individual as the leader of these follies. Nothing new in the New Gilded Age punishment caused by a small cabal of One Percenters who hold dominion over workers. Nothing new about the power of the media and entertainment game to brainwash compliant citizens. Nothing new about War Is a Racket principles (sic) driving our economy. Nothing new about white supremacy ruling Turtle Island. Nothing new about the Manifest Destiny Operating System ripping land, resources, people from indigenous homelands and other countries’ sovereignty. Nothing new in the great white hope tutoring other like-minded fellows in other countries on how to get one or two or a thousand “ups” on the powerless or disenfranchised peoples of their own countries.

Life for Third World (sic) peoples was bad under all the criminals we have voted into POTUS office for the past 250 years! Longer.

The big difference seems to be the passed on and learned helplessness, fear, bulwarking that has been seeded from generation to generation. The fact there are hyper Christians who support the hyper hedonistic, superficial, irreligious, criminally-minded, sexist, racist, loud mouth, intellectually challenged Trump may seem illogical. Oh, so much illogical braying in the world before the Trump seed spilled on this land. Imagine, Jews supporting white supremacists, anti-Semites. Imagine, Native Americans wrapping themselves in the US red-white-blue, and signing up for war-military in higher numbers than any other demographic group. No need to go apoplectic over women supporting Trump as if he is their daddy or Sugar Daddy. How many times in this country’s history have we had Women for Reagan, Women for Bush, Women for Clinton, Women for the Vietnam War?

Susan Sontag said it pretty clearly:

Of course, it’s hard to assess life on this planet from a genuinely world-historical perspective; the effort induces vertigo and seems like an invitation to suicide. But from a world-historical perspective, that local history that some young people are repudiating (with their fondness for dirty words, their peyote, their macrobiotic rice, their Dadaist art, etc.) looks a good deal less pleasing and less self-evidently worthy of perpetuation. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself. What the Mongol hordes threaten is far less frightening than the damage that western ‘Faustian’ man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest, has already done, and further threatens to do.

To be honest, the insanity of the white race is also what I am concerned with in Sontag’s (RIP) polemic. That pejorative “crazy” seems apropos for the white race, if one were to look at the way this country’s leaders and movers and shakers play the game and push their destructiveness on the rest of the world. They are all white!

Crazy watching the Kavanaugh hearings. Crazy reading the World Socialist Web Site hit after hit on any woman fighting the scourge of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape!

This David Walsh gets it all wrong, deploying simplistic “blame the victim” mentality, and then using “witch hunts” accusations to buttress his absurd essay’s thesis. This article is an example of low level white writer crazy:

The ostensible aim of this ongoing movement is to combat sexual harassment and assault, i.e., to bring about some measure of social progress. However, the repressive, regressive means resorted to—including unsubstantiated and often anonymous denunciations and sustained attacks on the presumption of innocence and due process—give the lie to the campaign’s “progressive” claims. Such methods are the hallmark of an anti-democratic, authoritarian movement, and one, moreover, that deliberately seeks to divert attention from social inequality, attacks on the working class, the threat of war and the other great social and political issues of the day.

Instead of bringing about an improvement in conditions, in fact, the #MeToo movement has helped undermine democratic rights, created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear and destroyed the reputations and careers of a significant number of artists and others. It has taken its appropriate place in the Democratic Party strategy of opposing the Trump administration and the Republicans on a right-wing footing.

The sexual hysteria has centered in Hollywood and the media, areas not coincidentally where subjectivism, intense self-absorption and the craving to be in the limelight abound.

Comments back at the author’s “hysteria” analysis are not worthy of recrimination, for sure, but if you scroll down in the WSWS comments section for this piece, have at it: the continued craziness of white thought, white attitudes and white actions. It’s a long essay, and this man’s conclusions are all over the place, indicting anyone who aligns himself or herself with the #MeToo movement. Blames #MeToo (using current polls) for aiding and abetting an upsurge in misogynistic thinking, where these vaunted white man’s polls say more Americans one year later after #MeToo are skeptical in larger numbers about allegations of sexual harassment coming from anyone. Blame #MeToo, so-called socialist David.  Polls, oh those pollsters, oh Mr. Walsh states that #MeToo activists should be involved in other things, like the plight of working class men and women, or stopping the apocalyptic brinkmanship played out by Trump with toy nuclear weapons. Etc., etc.

It makes sense that we have silos in the social justice, criminal injustice, environmental-economic-equity movements. So much easier to tackle one bad bill or vote or crazy politician in your neck of the woods than to grasp the totality of how broken, mean, murderous, monstrous this country’s policies are! And, reality check – the white race is crazy. You see it in Nazi German, in Europe today, in Israel, in the USA, in Canada, in Australia.

Yet the broken systems, the insanity of even considering a series of social nets being frayed, chopped and burned by the One Percent’s minions in political office and finance – how insane is it that social security is on the chopping block, that there is no single payer health plan, that there is no public transportation, that the commons are being razed, raped and contaminated? How insane is it to “let” lead flow in public water system pipes (Flint, Portland, et al); or that pesticides rule the micro-world of future generations, where brain stems are permanently damaged; or how insane is it to allow a good chunk of young people to come into the world with diabetes, or riddled with on-the-spectrum diseases . . . or full of ticks and physical ailments in the name of Big Ag/Big Energy/Big Chem/Big Med/Big Tech ruling the land?

Insanity is a race that hawks chemicals of death, that inculcates punishments and fines and levies and taxes and penalties and surcharges and charges and fees and tolls and taxes and tickets and defaults and foreclosures and balloon rates and eminent domain decisions and impoundments and confiscations and seizures on their own people?

Daily, Portland (three counties, and then just north, Clark County, WA) is an example of this white insanity — unchecked growth, unchecked rent hikes, unchecked cost of living busting more and more people, unchecked home costs rising, unchecked traffic and bureaucratic gridlock, constant punishment for the downtrodden, homeless, poor. How insane is it to have students of nursing programs living in their cars while attending classes (Portland Community College, et al)? How insane is it that the Portland police bureau can charge non-profits thousands of dollars for public records, our own records?

The system is rigged, and it’s a white system of lawsuit after lawsuit! Death by a thousand fines and spiritual-mental-physical cuts!

Until the system is so broken you have millions of social workers like myself attempting to figure out how to save one life at a time, all broken lives products of the insane white culture, their own insane (crazy) leaders, family members, bosses and communities?

Laos: China is Building, West is Destroying and Spreading Nihilism

It is one of those complex stories that are so difficult to tell, and yet they should, they have to be shared.

Imagine the splendid Mekong River, as it flows not far from an ancient capital of Laos, Luang Prabang. The river is powerful, with muddy banks, surrounded by lush mountains. Imagine poor villages and old ferry crossings, as well as broken plastic sandals on the feet of local people.

Then suddenly, near the village of Phonesai, you can spot several tremendous concrete pillars. They are growing out from the water, and from both river banks, literally connecting two mountains.

Soon it will be a bridge for high-speed trains. It is being built by China, a nation with the most advanced high-speed rail technology on earth. And a bit below, there will be another bridge, for cars and pedestrians.

Both mountains are being drilled, carefully and sparingly. This is where two tunnels will be passing through.

It is, of course, much cheaper to blow the mountains down with explosives. But earlier this year, China engraved the “Ecological Civilization” into its Constitution, and what it preaches at home, it also implements abroad.

This is the biggest project in the history of Laos, and it is often described as a mammoth engineering task: with 154 bridges and 76 tunnels, as well as 31 train stations. The Laotian terrain is very complex, its nature still pristine at large, and it is supposed to remain as such. The railroad will be 414 kilometers long, connecting Boten on the Laos-China border and the Laotian capital Vientiane. It is estimated that 20,000 Chinese workers will take part in the construction, as well as further tens of thousands of local laborers.

The railroad is expected to be operational in 2021, linking Laos with both China in the north, and Thailand to the south.

China Daily reported:

The Lao government hopes that the completion of China-Laos railway will bring powerful momentum to social and economic development, while the construction of the railway has already brought great changes in many areas along the route.

At Sinohydro Bureau 3 Co Ltd’s railway construction site between towns of Luang Prabang and Vangvieng, local staffs outnumber Chinese workers. Nearby hilly villages have over 300 people while some 20 of them have been employed to work for Sinohydro 3. Lao staffs are learning the advanced technology and management from their Chinese colleagues.

Chinese construction companies also donated money to local villages for building bridges and roads.

And not only roads, I saw and photographed new workshops, hotels, small factories and hospitals, along the road from Luang Prabang to Phonesai Village.

This is all part of Belt and Road Initiative, an optimistic, internationalist plan of China and its leadership, designed to connect and lift out from poverty, a great number of nations, among them various previously colonized and plundered (by the West) countries in all corners of the globe.

*****

While the Chinese workers are sweating, constructing the future of Laos, several French-speaking tourists on the main street of Luang Prabang are having beer.

Beautiful but sentimental touristy Luang Prabang

In 1995, UNESCO inscribed this ancient capital of Laos onto the world heritage site list. Mass tourism, mainly from the West, followed.

Restored strictly the ‘French-way’ into a sentimental, colonialist nostalgia ‘living museum’, Luang Prabang caters mainly to European tastes. The local people are here predominantly to serve, to ‘just be there’ for decorative purposes; poor and ‘native’, humble, selling craft, sitting on the asphalt and making sure to look appropriately destitute but ‘friendly’.

There are a few posh boutiques and high-end hotels in town. No Laotian person could ever be able to afford a glass of Belgian beer on offer, or a meal in one of identical ‘traditional’ restaurants.

Signs are in English, sometimes in French or Laotian, but very rarely in Chinese.

Official Communist flags of Laos have almost entirely disappeared from the main streets of Luang Prabang.

In a local library, I am told by Mr. Seng Dao, who is the main librarian:

Foreigners, mainly Europeans, used to come to local people and ask, sarcastically, even aggressively: “Why do you show Communist flags here? Or: ‘Why do you have Communist history in your books?

Within few years, in the center of the city, the proud Communist legacy and identity of Laos has almost been entirely replaced with mass-produced low-quality silk, banal toys and other kitsch catering to the Western cultural fundamentalists, mainly from Europe.

But Laos is a Communist country, and flags are still waving in the wind as a rebellion, from various tuk-tuks and from the houses.

*****

At UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) Center in Luang Prabang, I was unceremoniously kicked out, as they were expecting the visit of ‘her royal highness’, Princess Beatrice. A member of the vile British royal family responsible for the horrendous colonialist legacy all over the world (including Southeast Asia), Ms. Beatrice came to Luang Prabang mainly to attend a charity gala at the newly built Pullman hotel (where I happened to be staying), where she addressed 230 guests, most of them Western ‘expats’ – mostly men who have settled in and around Luang Prabang.

Princess Beatrice in Luang Prabang (Photo by “pilou”)

Rumors spoke of the possibility of collecting enough money to build a bigger structure for UXO in the city.

I used to work in Laos, on several occasions, but especially in 2006, when I reported on the activities of the British de-mining agency MAG, in the devastated Plain of Jars.

For many years I have been passionate about this part of the world, trying to understand what really happened during the horrendous ‘side-kick’ wars initiated by the Empire: those in Cambodia and Laos.

In a beastly show of cruelty and indifference, the West took millions of innocent human lives in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We will never know the precise numbers, but combined, the death toll of the civilians most likely reached between 5 to 8 million. The West murdered and maimed people, and it poisoned entire huge areas of what was once known as ‘Indochina’. And it got away with it, as it has done in virtually every corner of the world, where it brought genocide, thorough destruction and indescribable misery.

International Lao-China Hospital

I spoke to dozens of local people in the Plain of Jars, using the services of my patient and deeply compassionate local interpreter, Mr. Luong.

There, in a small village of Ban Khai, Mr. Phommar who was then already 81 years old, revealed to me all the horrors of the so called “Secret War”, unleashed by the West but particularly by the United States, against the scarcely populated Laos:

We used to hide by the side of the road, in the ditch. Bombs kept falling and once our entire family was buried and we had to dig ourselves out. People were dying all around us. They used to bomb us with enormous airplanes which flew so high that we couldn’t see or hear them approaching. And they used to send small planes which were looking for people on the ground; those flew so low that we were able to see faces in the cockpits.

But the carpet bombing was the scariest. There was no warning. Bombs began to explode all around this area and we had no idea where they were coming from. On average, they bombed us five times a day. They bombed us almost every day, for more than ten years. Laos had only two million people then. And we were later told that the U.S. and its allies dropped three million tons of bombs on us.

Eventually, nobody could survive here, anymore. Our houses were destroyed and our fields were full of unexploded substances. People were dying and so were the animals. We had to leave and so we decided to go to Vietnam, to search for refuge. But the journey was tremendously arduous. We were moving at night, carrying few possessions. During the day we were hiding from the enemy planes.

During the war I was very angry at Americans. I couldn’t understand how can somebody be so brutal. How can somebody kill fellow human beings in such cold blood? But now my government tells me that everything is ok, that it is past and we should forget. But how can we forget? I don’t feel angry anymore, but I would like the world to know what happened to us.

US bombs in Laos

John Bacher, a historian and a Metro Toronto archivist once wrote about The Secret War in Laos:

More bombs were dropped on Laos between 1965 and 1973 than the U.S. dropped on Japan and Germany during WWII. More than 350,000 people were killed. The war in Laos was a secret only from the American people and Congress.

Jeremy Kuzmarov described in detail and in full psychological horror, what the West did to Laotian men, women and children:

Military planners and “defense intellectuals” saw Laos as a testing ground for new forms of counterinsurgency and automated warfare the Pentagon had been developing, unencumbered by media or congressional scrutiny. A State Department official said: “This is [the] end of nowhere.  We can do anything we want here because Washington doesn’t seem to know that it exists. While USAID provided rice drops in the effort to win “hearts and minds,” the military pioneered computer-directed bombing along with drone surveillance and dropped over 270 million cluster bombs, 80 million of which did not detonate… These strategies helped to delay the victory of the Pathet Lao revolutionary forces by over a decade, while providing a template for the automated warfare of the 21st century.

Conclusions of Jeremy Kuzmarov are chilling but precise:

If the Nazi activities represented a kind of apex to an age of inhumanity, American atrocities in Laos are clearly of a different order,” Branfman wrote, “Not so much inhuman as a-human. The people of Na Nga and Nong Sa were not the object of anyone’s passion. They simply weren’t considered.  What is most striking about American bombing in Laos is the lack of animosity felt by the killers to their victims. Most of the Americans involved have little if any knowledge of Laos or its people.

To put numbers into perspective, as reported by Santi Suthinithet, at Hyphen:

From 1964 to 1973, as part of the Secret War operation conducted during the Vietnam War, the US military dropped 260 million cluster bombs – about 2.5 million tons of munitions – on Laos over the course of 580,000 bombing missions. This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years – nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos.

My credentials as a writer, film-maker and investigative journalist who was risking his life for Laos (and Cambodia), browsing through the minefields, interviewing victims of the beastly Western campaigns in this part of the world, got me, this time, absolutely nowhere. Or more precisely, they got me just 5 minutes of a visit to the UXO center. After that I got escorted to my car, so the safety of a member of mass-murderous British monarchy could be guaranteed.

Did Laos really need Princess Beatrice? It does not need charity, does it? The UK, together with the US, Australia and few other nations were fully responsible for the death of at least 300,000 Laotian people. The West killed here; it lied, and it has been covering it all up until today.

For experimenting on defenseless and innocent human beings, for ruining their land, poisoning rivers, slaughtering animals from the comfortable distance and height of the B-52 strategic bombers flight-paths, in an ideal, or even just ‘normal world, the West should be standing on its knees throwing ashes on its head, begging for forgiveness. Naturally, it should be paying war reparations amounting to trillions of dollars; to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. All this and much more it should be doing, to offset at least some of the monstrosities it committed, instead of throwing gala charity parties for the royal mafia, in the middle of  5-star establishments surrounded by local rice fields.

*****

But we are not living in an ideal or even ‘normal’ world. The West is unapologetic. Despite everything, it feels morally superior to the rest of the world. It preaches its fundamentalist gospel. And here, in Laos, it is trashing China for pulling this wonderful gentle nation out of decades of horrors, misery and dependency.

Western propaganda against the Chinese projects in Laos, is now in top gear.

Like in Africa, Western-financed NGO’s are in full force in Vientiane and other cities of Laos. Instead of building or improving Laos, they are there just in order to push the Western agenda; to agitate against the Communist government and its projects and cooperation with China.

Bizarre and totally false stories are circulating in many major Western publications, accusing China of virtually everything, from not paying adequate wages, to ruining the Laotian environment.

The reason for all this propaganda is clear: Laos is an extremely strategically-located country, bordering China, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

It is a Communist country. It is still very poor, but with tremendous potential. And now it is clearly aware of the fact that it can soon stand on its own feet.

China is capable and willing to transform this country, literally overnight, from a recipient of meager aid, to a powerful nation of 7 million inhabitants.

Railway project

China is involved in building roads, railroads, hospitals, factories, workshops, as well as dams and hydroelectric power plants on the Mekong River. The latter is solving the notorious electricity shortages of Laos, while turning it into a net exporter of electricity, particularly to neighboring Thailand. It is also pulling hundreds of thousands of Laotian people out of poverty.

An article published on February 1, 2016 by NEO Magazine (“Laos: The new Cold War Battleground You Don’t Know About”) addresses the issue:

Protesters paradoxically claim that the dams will disrupt both the environment and traditional fishing communities along rivers downstream from dams. Traditional fishing communities, however, are generally synonymous with both unsustainable environmental destruction and poverty. Conversely, environmental impacts by dam construction can be mitigated through careful planning, while working to lift surrounding communities and the nation as a whole from poverty through improved infrastructure and cheaper and more accessible energy.

Protesters are not campaigning for careful planning, or better oversight of projects, they are campaigning instead for arrested development for Laos and its people – the sort of campaign only Wall Street and Washington could benefit from.

The West has built nothing substantial in Laos. And it is horrified by the possibility that under the Chinese leadership, Laos will provide an example to the world, proving that even a poor and once destroyed country could stand independent and tall, if it is helped by its mighty, ideologically close neighbor.

While the West is helping to build a few services in the old city, mainly for its own tourists and profits, China has already built the efficient Luang Prabang International airport, replacing the old tiny yellowish building that used to serve as a terminal.

Railroad and highway projects that will be passing through Laos will connect China with several countries of Southeast Asia, and secure for Laos substantial transit fees. It is a win-win situation, but not when observed from the point of view of those who just want the continuation of Western supremacy in the region and the rest of the world.

And what about the people of Laos? Is the West really treating them better than they are treated by the Chinese? This is what I learned from Mr. Seng, a Laotian supervisor working at a luxury international hotel 3 Nagas in Luang Prabang:

I am really glad that the Chinese are here. They are now involved in many projects here in Laos, including power plants and this high-speed train project which will interlink Laos with China, Thailand and hopefully, Cambodia. Chinese are treating us very well. My brother works for them; he is a driver. He earns 900 dollars monthly. This is enormous amount of money here. In fact, Chinese are paying him 1.500 dollars, but the government here takes 600 as an income tax, or something… I work for a French hotel chain ACCOR, which is the biggest hotel company in the world, and I earn 200 dollars, as a supervisor. Local staff earns on average 120 dollars.

I checked with a French ACCOR employee who is based in Luang Prabang, and he confirmed the numbers.

The conclusions are clear: China pays local people the same wages as they pay to the Chinese workers. The French are paying local staff approximately 25-30 times less than what they pay their own people.

But search the net: at least in the English language, and all you will find is an avalanche of fake news about the Chinese involvement in Laos. This is all that the world is allowed to know about this country, and its epic battle for true independence.

As always in the Western media: black is white, boys are girls, war is peace, and flamingos are pigs.

*****

In the meantime, as I wrote earlier, the Communist flags have almost entirely disappeared from the center of Luang Prabang. It is because, I was told, the European tourists don’t like to see them.

Yes, UNESCO supervised the preservation work of the old capital, but what is the result? Sentimental, feel-good ‘colonial charm’; temples, silk shops and cafes with the Western beer and free WIFI. Old Chinese-Lao architecture looks, suspiciously, French. Not a word about the horrors that the country had to go through in recent history; not a word that hundreds of people of Laos are still losing their lives due to the UXO, all over the country. Not a word about the French colonialism, the Western genocide during the so-called “Secret War”, which was unleashed against the defenseless Laos.

And yes, not a word about the heroic Pathet Lao, and its superhuman struggle for a Communist fatherland, against the Western imperialist monsters.

On the outskirts of the city, predominantly European tourists visit the fake ‘bear rescue center’ (it is really nothing more than a depressing zoo for foreigners), overcrowded waterfalls and caves with religious motives. Hardly anyone goes to the real, tough and beautiful caves, where the Laotian patriots hid while they fought against the West.

Now the “National Museum” in the center of the city is basically an implanted (from abroad) glorification of the departed Laotian monarchy. While its shabby theatre shows, exclusively for foreign tourists and at an ‘international price’, several fragments of Ramayana.

And the public library in the city center has, since several years ago, something called “The American Corner”. You can find Allure there, Entrepreneur, Reader’s Digest

Mr. Seng Dao, my friend, a librarian, explains:

There is not much we can do. We can’t just say ‘no’ to their corner, to their books. We cannot yet openly say ‘no’ to them, when it comes to so many things. But Lao people did not lose their memory. We know, we remember very well what was done to us. And our government reminds us; through our radio stations, through our press, our history books…

In the old city, there are hardly any Chinese language signs. Yes, it is paradoxical, as the city is built in a Chinese style, although it now feels ‘colonial’, or call it Europeanized; catering to standardized, mainly ignorant German and French tastes.

Lao people are supposed to look native, cute and poor. They do, here in the city. But only for now.

A few kilometers away from this pseudo-reality, from this over-sugary and to some extent treasonously demeaning tourist bordello, Chinese signs are proudly displayed, next or underneath Laotian writing. Chinese people, who are engaged in building Laos, prefer to live on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, together with local people, eating their food, sleeping in their guesthouses.

The presence of the Chinese engineers and workers is transforming, improving reality. Workshops are growing, eateries flourishing, and the real local economy is growing.

Railway project

Further away from the city, powerful machines are roaring, drilling tunnels, building bridges. Laos is undergoing electrification; it is getting connected to the rest of the world through high-speed railroads and new highways. Schools and hospitals are being built, roads paved. Two Communist countries; two Asian sisters, side-by-side, are hard at work.

Nobody chases me away when I photograph Chinese construction sites. Proud smiles welcome me. Workers wave at me, or bow, and then, immediately, they go back to work. There is nothing to hide. There is no time to waste. This is reality; good, progressive reality!

Nothing is perfect, here or anywhere else in the world, but this is as good as it gets. I believe it is. I watch a giant construction site and people who are building the nation, raising it literally from the ashes, left by imperialism. The lenses of my glasses get foggy. Mekong is flowing below, and intact, pristine green mountains are resting in a tender embrace of white clouds.

I think: “The West dares to talk about ‘environmental damage’ here? Yet they have already ruined, thoroughly poisoned and literally liquidated some of the most pristine parts of the world that I know: Borneo, Papua, the Democratic Republic of Congo! How dare they?” But they do; they dare, and still getting away with it.

The nihilism, smear, filth that pours from the muzzles of the West and its regional servants, but it cannot deter this revolutionary optimism, which is so clearly detectable. It is simply beautiful to watch both Chinese and Laotian people working side by side, for a better world.

What did the countries that are attacking this tremendous effort, ever do for Laos? What has the West done for the people here? It colonized and enslaved Laos. And then, in one prolonged and truly incomprehensible horror show, carpet bombed, for years, the entire nation, murdering hundreds of thousands, without even declaring war against it!

US cluster bombs in Laos

How can the countries that committed genocide against Laos (and the entire world) be allowed to criticize Laos and China, belittling their efforts to improve lives of their people? And how come that Laotian people are still tolerating, even ‘welcoming’ Westerners in places like Luang Prabang, while they show clear disrespect for true essence of the Laotian state, for which so many local people sacrificed their lives? What are Westerners going to teach Laos, what can they teach, really: how to serve, how to be good obedient neo-colonial subjects?

Nobody needs that here, except the few members of the treasonous elites.

How can people like Princess Beatrice, or any of those ‘royal’ freaks be even allowed on the premises of such places as the UXO? The British royal family is the symbol of global colonialist holocaust. In their name, hundreds of millions of ‘un-people’ vanished, all over the world.

In the past, these were only rhetorical questions. Now such questions are being asked, in order to be answered.

What goes on in Laos is what I call the war between revolutionary optimism and Western nihilism (my latest book has the same title: Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism ).

It is the last attempt of the monstrous Western imperialist culture to retain its control over the Planet.

Laos Plain-of-Jars village fence made of American bombs

Laos, in the past one of the most devastated countries on earth, is not going to allow being lectured to by its tormentor – the West – anymore. In the past, it fought, and against all odds, it won. Now it is winning again. But the ‘weapons’ are different than in the days of the so-called “Secret War”: they consist of high-speed railroad tracks, bridges and tunnels, mighty power-plants, hospitals and schools.

My driver and comrade

• Text first published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• Photos by Andre Vltchek unless otherwise indicated