Category Archives: US Terrorism

Solidarity in a Time of Pandemic, while the US capitalizes on Disaster

Like most everyone else, I don’t get out much lately due to shelter-in-place. But when I walk around my community, I am heartened by neighbors asking if there is anything we might need. I suspect this scenario is taking place everywhere.

Around the world amidst the pandemic, people step out at a mutually designated evening hour to make noise in a collective show of gratitude for heroic frontline healthcare workers. In New York City and Rome, they bang pots and pans. They’re cheering from rooftops in London and Vancouver. Elsewhere they sing in harmony. Here in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, we emerge at dusk to howl like coyotes.

What we are seeing is not social distancing but people coming together…while maintaining the prescribed 6-foot physical distancing. Our enforced physical isolation has paradoxically awakened a deeper appreciation of our commonality and mutual dependence, echoed by the response of nations other than the US.

International solidarity

Cuba has sent over 700 health professionals all over the world to fight COVID-19. The antiviral recombinant Interferon alfa-2b, developed in Cuba, has been successfully used in China to treat the virus in its early stages and is being exported widely. The Cuban approach is: “we don’t just give what we have left over but share what we have.” In a word, solidarity.

The Venezuelan air force mobilized to carry Cuban medical brigades to Caribbean counties fighting COVID-19. Venezuelan soldiers mustered not to their guns but to sewing machines to stitch surgical masks for civilians to protect them from the virus. This is being done in the context of ever-tightening sanctions on Venezuela by the US, blockading Venezuela at a cost of over 100,000 lives.

China, having contained its own outbreak in an effort the World Health Organization (WHO) praised as unprecedented, sent critically needed respirators and other medical equipment to 35 other countries and regions. Responding to shortages in the US, China flew in tons of medical equipment to New York,  Illinois, Ohio, and other US states. Russia airlifted 60 tons of needed ventilators, masks, and respirators to the US and has aided other countries in the global effort to contain the pandemic.

In the same spirit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire: “There should be only one fight in our world today, our shared battle against COVID-19…[to] end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.” Over 70 nations have endorsed the ceasefire, as did Pope Francis and religious leaders of diverse faiths, but not the US.

“The war on this virus can only be successful if all nations can win this war together, and no affected nation is left behind,” wrote Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an open letter to the American people. “This is the other side of the globalization coin; a signal that happiness and calamity are both globalized.”

Washington has seen the pandemic as an opportunity

The virus does not discriminate, attacking oppressed and oppressor alike. Unfortunately, the US government does more than discriminate. Washington has seen the pandemic as an opportunity.

The US government is exploiting the pandemic as an opportunity to increase misery in Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Syria and other countries the world’s hegemon doesn’t care for. And these besieged states are not alone. One-third of humanity is under ever increasing US sanctions. These unilateral coercive measures, illegal under international and domestic law, are explicitly designed to cause the targeted people to suffer so much they will reject their leaders for those chosen for them by the US.

Filmmaker Oliver Stone and human rights law professor Dan Kovalik describe the US conduct as “weaponizing the virus” against targeted countries. As the US Peace Council reports, the countries targeted by the US “are finding it prohibitively difficult to protect and save the lives of their citizens in the face of the ongoing global emergency. These sanctions constitute crimes against humanity.” In short, sanctions kill.

The US has blocked medical aid to targeted countries. A shipment of test kits, masks, and respirators donated by the Chinese Alibaba group to Cuba had to be aborted, when the US transport company refused to deliver, fearing breaking the US blockade. Correspondingly the US has waged a campaign to force recipient countries to refuse Cuban medical assistance.

Venezuela, with COVID-19 already threatening, applied for an emergency $5 billion loan to combat the virus from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Under US pressure, the IMF denied the request.

Trump threatened to suspend the US contribution to the WHO, the main international body fighting the pandemic. WHO had appealed to the US to lift its sanctions preventing Iran from purchasing drugs and medical equipment. But the US had already rejected the binding but unenforceable ruling of the International Court of Justice (aka World Court) to lift sanctions on medical and humanitarian aid to Iran.

Likewise, the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for the US to suspend sanctions amidst the pandemic, because the “impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” fell on deaf ears.

The punitive policies of the US government are having the effect of spreading the coronavirus. In response, even close US allies such as the UK, France, and Germany have used the alternative trading tool, INSTEX, to circumvent the US sanctions and deliver humanitarian medical supplies.

At a time when resources are supposedly inadequate to respond to the health crisis in the US, the US Navy is being sent off the Venezuelan coast in the largest regional US military deployment in 30 years. Washington’s bogus claim, that Venezuela is conspiring to “flood the United States with cocaine,” is contradicted by the government’s own statistics that prove that the illicit drugs are coming overwhelmingly out of US client state Colombia, which has received over $10 billion of US aid.

The positioning of the US armada of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, among the world’s most expensive, is overkill for drug interdiction. But the warships, each armed with 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles, land-attack missiles, and anti-ship missiles, along with the deployment of ground Special Forces would be appropriate for threatening an invasion of Venezuela.

US officials claim that this spare-no-expense military exercise is necessary to “send a message” to Venezuelan President Maduro. But given Trump’s undeniable skills in the area, wouldn’t it be far more parsimonious to tweet him? Apparently not, because the US is also using the pandemic as a morbid backdrop for offensive actions in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Yemen, to name a few of the more prominent flashpoints engaging the US military. Besides tweeting might not work so well. Twitter, in service of the empire, has suspended the accounts of the minister of health and other top Venezuelan officials.

Gone viral is now a description of the human condition

The critical difference between an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and a ventilator used to treat COVID-19 is that there is no shortage of warships. This will remain the case so long as our bi-partisan foreign policy persists. Working people will be neglected, come pandemics, economic collapse, or both.

The larger question for our times, when “gone viral” is more than a figure of speech but is a description of the human condition, is posed by the New York Times: “Everything is awful. So why is the stock market booming?” The wealthiest member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and its chair, Jerome Powell, is similarly bullish: “There is nothing fundamentally wrong.”

Heidi Shierholz with the Economic Policy Institute looked at precisely the same indicators as did Powell, but from the perspective of the other 99% of humanity, and exclaimed: “I don’t usually look at data releases and just start shaking…This is a portrait of disaster…It represents just incredible amounts of grief and suffering.”

The answer to the Times’ query is that the US empire, as leader of the capitalist world, finds ways to exploit disasters while failing to meet human needs.

Phantoms of “The Operation”

Tis the times’ plague, when madmen lead the blind.

— Shakespeare, King Lear

Many thousands of New Yorkers have temporarily moved into the small Massachusetts town (permanent population approximately 7,000) where I live because of fear and panic created by fraudulent disease and death data gathered and disseminated under the umbrella term Covid-19.  Such deceitful, fear-inducing news concerning diseases is old hat, but this time it’s part of perhaps the biggest propaganda campaign in modern history, resulting in an unprecedented government crackdown on people’s freedom, a massive transfer of trillions of public dollars to the banks and corporations, and crumbs for average Americans.

In my little town, second vacation homes, Airbnbs, room rentals are packed. It is a flight to “safety” reminiscent of the months following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax attacks that originated from a U.S. government bioweapons laboratory.  In the years immediately following those attacks, McMansions were built throughout these hills and local houses were bought up like penny candy as New Yorkers flooded the area.  Now as then, the wealthy refugees absconding on the road of flight accept official explanations and arrange their lives accordingly. Little is learned as repetition compulsion rules and the latest terror alert has them cowering in fear, playing their parts in a theatrical production conceived by master dramatists.

Let’s call it “The Operation.”

During the day, you can see small numbers of them out walking, yards apart, on the country roads. The downtown streets are deserted day and night. This in a town that over the past twenty years has become an upscale movie set catering to tourists and second-home owners who have brought great wealth with them, making it very difficult for regular people to afford the town and survive on jobs in the service economy. Now that the country has been brought to a halt by the government shutdown, the regular people are screwed big-time. Many small businesses will never again open. The town’s largest employer, Jane Iredale cosmetics, the perfect employer for life the movie, has just laid off forty-seven employees. Make-up for the psycho-social drama might run short now, even though the theater has temporarily gone indoors. I don’t know if Iredale’s mascara (Italian, maschera, mask) is still available.

In normal times, the town would be filled with people frequenting the restaurants, cafes, and boutiques, parading down the streets dressed like movie stars in SoHo. Black clad actors.  Now it is a ghost town without many ghosts.  The few you do see wear cloth or paper masks.

The word mask comes from Latin, larva, a ghost, specter, a disembodied spirit – a maskLarvatus, masked, a personality, or person, an actor, one who wears a mask. Person, Persona, a mask, a false face – personare – to sound through the hole in the mask.

Shakespeare was right.  To grasp the social play, one must be a theater critic.  There is a reason ghosts play such important parts in his plays.  If life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, then what are we the cast?  Are we but seldom masters of our fate but usually only underlings, dancing to the tunes our masters play for us?  It seems tis so.

For the paper and cloth masks people are wearing are just a second layer of masking, the first being what sociologists – diminutive descendants of Shakespeare – call status/roles and regular people just call roles, even when they don’t know they are playing them, which is most of the time. Most people associate playing a role with being phony, while failing to notice that social life is comprised of such play-acting, “as if” the play were natural.  To admit that it is fictitious and that one is performing in a play written and directed by someone else is to open a trapdoor beneath one’s feet.

The sociological term status refers to the very many positions one occupies in a lifetime such as occupational titles, family positions, even racial statuses that society imposes on people.  So a person could, for example, be categorized as a medical doctor who is a father and an uncle.  Each status – doctor, father, uncle – would have socially imposed expectations attached to it that are called roles that one is expected to play or else one is considered an oddball at best.  To treat them as playful simulations in a life of experimentation, and to treat social titles and statuses as comical, results in one not being considered a team player or actor in the social play.  Only children and crazy people do that.

Imagine you are an impostor and dress in the uniform of an airline pilot.  To pass for a pilot you must know how to perform the role.  In other words, to be a good actor in the role and pass yourself as the “genuine” thing.  This is what Shakespeare meant by all the world’s a stage, with the wooden stage where Hamlet and Othello are performed just being another artificial form of the “naturally” occurring fabricated life of society.  So social life is phony in that sense, which raises the basic question of what then does it mean to be genuine, to be real.

The philosopher René Descartes once said:

As an actor, to conceal his blush of embarrassment, enters the stage masked, so I step forth onto the stage of the world, masked.

But to be masked is to be hidden, to be a ghost that no one can see, a cipher. So Descartes and Shakespeare were asking us that fundamental question: Who are we?  Are we?

Nietzsche asked it this way:

Are you genuine?  Or merely an actor?  A representative?  Or that which is represented?  In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor.

Most people, as good underlings do, have now obeyed the director’s instructions and retreated into their Plato’s caves where they huddle fearfully around the flickering screens that have become their well-nigh reality, and which will become even more so in the future as the powers-that-be push their digital agenda.  It’s still showtime but of a different sort with the performers receiving the director’s cues all electronically. That the cast didn’t write the play and doesn’t know who did doesn’t seem to bother many.  They see it as the only show in town and they’re playing it, and while the anonymity of the digital life adds to the comedy of errors, it may be what many desire.

We live in the culture of the copy in every sense of the term.  There is rarely one of anything, even people.  Long ago Walter Benjamin wrote a famous article called “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  In it he says that the mechanical reproduction of a work of art eliminates its “aura.”  “By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence,” he wrote.  In the age of film and digital screen existence, this is very true for people as well. Uniqueness is fading. The more people live in and by screen images and the propaganda such technology affords to the powerful, the more they can be reproduced.  This, of course, has happened.  Once the masses had to be gathered into a herd in one place and induced to act in unison. Today place has been replaced with cyberspace and the masquerade ball can be directed without movement.

Welcome.  “The Operation” is just beginning.

The Decade of Transformation: Remaking International Relations

The coronavirus pandemic is magnifying the cruelty of US foreign policy. The economic collapse is showing the failure of neoliberalism and how the empire-economy is not working for the people of the world, including the United States.

The US is losing its global dominance as it demonstrates its own incompetence in response to the pandemic and its viciousness in the midst of this crisis. Other countries are showing leadership and solidarity while the US is escalating its attacks.

This is an opportunity to change direction. What seemed impossible in the recent past is now possible. We must seize the opportunity to create change that ensures the necessities of the people are met and the planet is protected. COVID-19 is one immediate crisis, but the climate crisis, nuclear war and economic insecurity all require solidarity between the people of the world.

End Venezuela Sanctions sign on the Venezuela Embassy, from Venezuela Embassy Protectors Collective.

The World Is Turning Against Washington For Undermining Solidarity During The Crisis

No country can fully recover from COVID-19 or the economic collapse unless these crises are resolved for the whole world. Both the economy and pandemic are global and interconnected as are the looming crises of climate chaos and nuclear war. Rather than showing solidarity with other nations in the midst of the crises, the US is escalating economic sanctions and threatening war while undermining a global response to climate and increasing the risks of nuclear war.

Black Alliance for Peace points out: “The brutality and criminality of the colonial/capitalist system of state violence is reflected most graphically by the illegal and immoral policy of sanctions imposed on 39 nations by the U.S. and its Western allies.” Venezuela, Iran and other nations are being denied the ability to import medicines and medical equipment to protect their populations from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, the UN General Secretary António Guterres called for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” saying nations should “focus together on the true fight of our lives – the #COVID19 pandemic.” Fifty-three countries immediately agreed. Instead of heeding this call, the US has threatened Iran and Venezuela with military attacks and continued the war with Yemen while eliminating the majority of humanitarian assistance to Yemen. These actions were wrong before the pandemic, but in the midst of the pandemic, they are obscene.

China is sending medical supplies and assistance to 89 countries so far as part of its Health Silk Road. It is ignoring US sanctions by sending drugs, test kits, and supplies to Iran and Venezuela. Hard-hit Italy noted that the other EU nations ignored their desperate plea for medical equipment while China responded. China is building positive relationships by providing essential equipment and expertise while the US is trying and failing to get other nations to sign on to a statement blaming COVID-19 on China.

Cuba has sent brigades of doctors and nurses to Italy, as well as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada. Russia has also sent medical supplies to hard-hit countries like Italy. Even Venezuela, suffering from a US economic blockade and threats of a military attack, is sending aid to its neighbors, including Ecuador and Colombia– even though Colombia has joined the US in threatening Venezuela. The US blocked a shipment of coronavirus aid for Cuba from China’s richest man, Jack Ma, including 100,000 face masks and 10 COVID-19 diagnostic kits, along with other supplies.

Europe is starting to break with the United States. The EU finally sent aid to Iran ignoring US sanctions. France, Germany, and Britain have sent medical goods to Iran through INSTEX — a workaround to export goods to Iran that bypasses US sanctions. This development could have major implications for the ability of the US to unilaterally sanction nations as it provides a way for countries to trade without the US’ financial system. Europe, led by Germany, also backed out of war games against Russia, which would have included a practice nuclear attack, due to the COVID-19 virus.

President Rouhani of Iran sent an open letter to the people of the United States saying, “the war on this virus can only be successful if all nations can win this war together, and no affected nation is left behind.” He urged us to change the direction of the US government, writing, “Future generations will judge the American people based on the actions of their government.”

The zig-zagging incompetence of US policy is evident. During the three months when the Trump administration did not take the virus seriously, the Intercept reports the United States allowed exports of medical supplies and equipment. After examining vessel manifests, the Intercept found “medical equipment needed to treat the coronavirus [was] being shipped abroad as recently as March 17.” This has led to a “persistent lack of medical supplies” in the US.

Now, the US has angered allies by diverting medical supplies to the US. The Washington Post reports that “Berlin expressed outrage over what they said was the diversion to the United States of 200,000 masks that were en route from China, while officials in Brazil and France complained that the United States was outbidding them in the global marketplace for critical medical supplies.” They report the US is also stopping the export of masks to Canada and Latin America.

Even worse, Trump took time from his daily press conference on COVID-19 to escalate threats against Venezuela by sending US naval vessels near Venezuela’s borders. AP reports “The deployment is one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama … It involves assets like Navy warships, AWACS surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces seldom seen before in the region.”

This followed a phony indictment of President Maduro and other Venezuelan leaders for alleged narcotrafficking that included a $15 million bounty on Maduro.  President Maduro wrote an open letter to the people of the world that decried the indictment as illegal and part of a US coup attempt writing, “the U.S. government, instead of focusing on policies of global cooperation in health and prevention, has increased unilateral coercive measures, has rejected requests from the international community to lift or make flexible the illegal sanctions that prevent Venezuela from accessing medicines, medical equipment, and food.” The indictment was announced after Venezuela prevented weapons financed by the US from being sent into Venezuela from Colombia for another coup attempt.

Venezuelans in the US who want to fly back to Venezuela to escape the economic and health crises here are not being allowed to charter flights from Florida. The escalation against Venezuela also included the US-controlled IMF blocking a COVID-19 emergency loan to Venezuela. Venezuela has taken aggressive actions to stop the spread of the virus and has been more effective than the US.

The US also shows disregard for its own people, including those in the military, by firing a US Navy Capt. Brett Crozier after he sought help for sailors on the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier. Crozier wrote his superiors about hundreds of COVID-19 cases and when the letter was leaked, he was fired. As he left the ship, the crew cheered him for standing up for their health and risking his career.  The first government official fired over the virus was one trying to protect people from illness. The US has also directed that reports on COVID-19 in the military be kept secret.

The actions of the US are leading to the reshaping of global leadership.” Patrick Coburn describes COVID-19 as a “Chernobyl moment” and concludes “nobody is today looking to Washington for a solution to the crisis.”

National Security Redefined

The people of the United States have been sold a false definition of national security. The pandemic shows that mass military spending on bombs, weapons, bases, and troops does not provide security. The coronavirus is expected to kill between 100,000 to 240,000 people in the United States if our response goes well and could be more than one million if it is inadequate.  Deaths have already passed 9/11 and Pearl Harbor and could exceed the Vietnam War and World War 1.

We need to redefine national security. David Swanson calls for a real Department of Defense that would prioritize “the twin dangers of nuclear and climate apocalypse, and the accompanying spin-offs like coronavirus.” He points out it would be less expensive to provide financial security and top medical care to everyone on the globe than to fight wars.

Gareth Porter writes, “For decades, the military-industrial-congressional complex has force-fed the American public a warped conception of US national security-focused entirely around perpetuating warfare. The cynical conflation of national security with waging war on designated enemies around the globe effectively stifled public awareness of the clear and present danger posed to its survival by the global pandemic. As a result, Congress was simply not called upon to fund the vitally important equipment that doctors and nurses needed for the Covid-19 crisis.”

The Pentagon was well aware of the threat of a pandemic and anticipated the lack of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan. Intelligence agencies warned about the threat from influenza viruses for two decades at least and warned about coronaviruses for at least five years. Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council in May 2018 warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s number one health security threat and that the US was unprepared.

In January 2017, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is “no doubt” Donald Trump will be confronted with a surprise infectious disease outbreak during his presidency. In 2019, HHS organized a month-long simulation involving multiple federal offices that demonstrated the US was seriously unprepared to cope with a pandemic. Despite all of this, the president claimed the virus “surprised the whole world,” and “nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion.”

The White House created a National Security Council office on pandemics, but in 2018 that was disbanded by Trump. The Trump administration also ignored a pandemic playbook that would have ensured a more effective response. The Strategic National Stockpile has not been maintained for years, as it competes with the military budget, which shoveled $15 trillion into wars. The unreplenished stockpile is one reason the US does not have sufficient ventilators and other necessary equipment. The US is also weakened by the shortcomings of the for-profit health system including the closing of hospitals.

What would actually protect US national security?

First and foremost, the US must cease its drive to be the dominant power in the world and recognize we are part of a community of nations that must cooperate to take on the many crises that will define the 2020s. This means ending military aggression and regime change efforts by respecting the sovereignty and integrity of other countries, large and small. It means ending our occupation of other nations in the form of hundreds of military bases and outposts and ending our support for other occupiers such as Israel until it stops its colonization of Palestine. Instead of international war “games”, we could hold international exercises on disaster responses to save lives. And it means respecting and obeying international law and joining the International Criminal Court. The US must stop behaving with impunity.

Second, the US must scale down the military to what is required for protection, an actual defensive approach rather than being offensive. This means cutting the military budget by at least 50% and converting all production of military equipment, supplies, and weapons into public entities to remove the profit motive that drives conflict around the world. These resources can be used for social uplift instead of causing death in a peace economy.

Third, the US must move quickly to eliminate threats to human extinction. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to “midnight,” putting the world closer to destruction than at any point since the clock was created in 1947. As Alice Slater writes, we have a virus of nuclear proliferation as nuclear arms control agreements collapse. The US is spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons while placing ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons on submarines.

It’s not only superpowers that are engaged in a nuclear arms race, countries like North Korea, which is threatened by the US, and allies like Germany and Saudi Arabia believe they need their own nuclear weapons. The US must commit to the rapid disarmament of all nuclear weapons in cooperation with other nuclear nations and disband the Space Force, which violates the treaty that makes space a global commons.

While COVID-19 is almost certainly a zoonotic disease, David Swanson points out at least some diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Anthrax, have been spread by military labs. Germ warfare is a criminal enterprise and so labs disguised as being for our defense but that create bioweapons need to be closed.

Foreign policy includes trade, which has been designed for corporate profit since NAFTA. The coronavirus collapse shows corporate trade creates weak supply lines. It also hollowed out US manufacturing for cheap labor in Mexico, China, and other nations, creating economic insecurity and leaving us ill-prepared for a crisis. Trade must be remade into fair trade that serves the people and planet, supports industry at home, ends factory farming and creates a balance with nature that will help prevent future animal-based viruses.

A new foreign policy must also confront the climate crisis. This is a global challenge and nations of the world must work together to confront it. The US has been playing a counterproductive role by building fossil fuel infrastructure, becoming a leading oil and gas producer, and holding back global climate treaties. Next week, in our series on “The Decade of Transformation,” we will focus on the environment.

The Time Is Now to Remake US Foreign Policy

The global economic collapse and COVID-19 pandemic are causing widespread suffering and death but will result in change. What that change looks like, positive or negative, is up to us. We must create the new normal that provides for the necessities of the people and protection of the planet. The world must unite in solidarity to confront not only COVID-19 but other crises too.

We applaud countries that are beginning to stand up to US sanctions and work around the US financial system to help countries like Iran and Venezuela. These are positive steps to end US hegemony. We agree with President Rouhani of Iran, it is our responsibility to remake the government so it reflects the best of us.

An immediate step is to end US sanctions. Join us in the Sanctions Kill campaign where the coalition will be organizing webinars and other events to end illegal unilateral coercive measures. There will be an international week of action against imperialism and sanctions from May 25 to 31. We will need to be especially creative to build an effective campaign with tactics that work in this time of physical distancing.

We must also take action now to stop the war on Venezuela. Join the webinar with Carlos Ron, vice foreign minister of Venezuela on Monday night at 6:00 pm Eastern.  Click here for information. Sign onto this demand that the US drop its charges against President Maduro and other Venezuelan officials who have been falsely charged with narco-trafficking. We must be ready to mobilize quickly if the US moves to attack Venezuela, or Iran or any country for that matter while the government believes we are distracted by the pandemic.

We are living in a time of crisis and that can be unnerving. But we have the power to get through this if we mobilize together with a clear vision of the world we wish to create and show our solidarity with each other through our actions. We are one human community  and we need each other to get through the rough times ahead.

Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela with Nacro-Terrorism

According to the parable, the ungrateful son takes out a life insurance policy on his parents, murders them to collect, and is caught and found guilty. At his sentencing, the judge asks if he has anything to say on his behalf. The son replies: “Have mercy upon me because I am an orphan.” That’s chutzpah.

US Attorney General Barr’s indictments on March 26 against the government of Venezuela for narco-terrorism go beyond chutzpah. For starters, William P. Barr was chief counsel for the CIA airline Southern Air Transport implicated in the 1980s for running illicit drugs and related narco-terrorism during Iran-Contra.

The US charges of drug trafficking against Venezuela are the height of hypocrisy. The world’s leading source of heroin is US-occupied Afghanistan; the US is the world’s largest cocaine market.

The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), is the latest in a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup there. JOH was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in October by a US federal court for smuggling multi-million dollars’ worth of cocaine into the US.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model is the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine. And that’s only scratching the surface of the US’s history of complicity in international narcotrafficking.

The false criminal charges by the US government against fourteen high-ranking Venezuelan officials are for alleged involvement in international drug trafficking. The US government has, in effect, put a $15 million bounty on Venezuelan President Maduro and bounties of $10 million each for the head of the National Constituent Assembly and other leading officials and former officials.

Thirty years ago, the US posted a $1 million reward on the head of Manuel Noriega, then president of Panama, on charges of narcotrafficking. Noriega had long been a US security asset assisting in the US’s dirty Contra war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Noriega had also used his US patronage to consolidate his rule in Panama as well as his ties with Colombian drug cartels. However, toward the end of his tenure, Noriega did not demonstrate a sufficient level of servility to his US handlers and was deposed in the US invasion of Panama in 1989, taking the lives of many uncounted civilians.

As RT warns: “The US indictment of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his subordinates on narcotrafficking charges echoes the rationale used to invade Panama and kidnap its leader.” Unlike the Noriega case, where the Panamanian president was convicted of massive drug trafficking with the knowledge and full protection of the CIA and other US security agencies, the US lacks evidence against the Venezuelans.

The US claims that Venezuelan officials are conspiring to “flood the United States with cocaine” are thoroughly groundless. Even the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a Washington-based think tank that supports regime change for Venezuela, found in a recent detailed report using the US government’s own data that the facts do not support such bogus claims.

The authoritative US interagency Consolidated Counterdrug Database reports, in fact, that 93% of US-bound cocaine is trafficked through western Caribbean and eastern Pacific routes, not through Venezuela’s eastern Caribbean coast. Over six times as much cocaine flowed through the US-allied Guatemala than Venezuela in 2018.

Yes, some illicit drugs flow through Venezuela – a minor amount compared to those emanating from US client states – but the culprits are criminal gangs that the very indicted officials are fighting. The coca is grown and manufactured into cocaine in neighboring Colombia, not Venezuela. While supporting US government actions to undermine Venezuelan state institutions, WOLA recognizes: “Venezuela’s state institutions have deteriorated…In this environment, armed groups and organized criminal structures, including drug trafficking groups, have thrived.”

Yet WOLA’s conclusion is: “US government data suggests that, despite these challenges, Venezuela is not a primary transit country for US-bound cocaine. US policy toward Venezuela should be predicated on a realistic understanding of the transnational drug trade.”

The US indictments against the government of Venezuela are a ramping up of a policy of regime change. Ever since Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and launched the Bolivarian Revolution, the hostile US government has floated consistently unsubstantiated accusations of narcotrafficking.

More recently the Trump administration has sought to replace the democratically elected president of Venezuela with a US-chosen and groomed security asset. Juan Guaidó, the man anointed by Trump to be president of Venezuela, had never run for the presidency nor served as president and was unknown to 81% of the Venezuelan population at the time of his self-declaration as president. Besides these dubious qualifications, Guaidó collaborated with the right-wing Colombian drug cartel and paramilitary group known as Los Rastrojos and even posed for pictures with some of their operatives, which were posted on Twitter. 

The ever-tightening unilateral coercive measures on Venezuela by the US have created a blockade, costing Venezuela over 100,000 lives. Sanctions are not an alternative to war but an economic form of warfare and just as deadly. As such, unilateral economic sanctions are an explicit violation of international law under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States and even under US law.

Unfortunately, Venezuela is not alone. The rogue empire’s sanctions now blight a third of the world’s population in 39 countries.

This latest escalation of the US hybrid war against Venezuela takes place within the context of the global coronavirus pandemic, which the US empire sees as an opportunity to further attack the Venezuelan people made more vulnerable by the health crisis. Indeed, the US State Department has declared “Maximum-pressure March” against Venezuela. In service of the empire, Twitter has closed the accounts of the Venezuelan ministries of health, science, education, and housing.

Meanwhile, Cuba, Russia, and China are all materially supporting the Maduro government’s successful efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela. In contrast to this internationalist solidarity, the US is in the midst to the largest war games in 25 years, Defend Europe 20, in contravention of World Health Organization quarantine protocols.

Words cannot sufficiently describe the inhumane perfidy of the US empire’s response to the pandemic. This should be a time for the US government to:

  • Drop the unsupported indictments against President Maduro and other Venezuelan officials.
  • Lift the inhumane and illegal sanctions on Venezuela so that Venezuela can purchase medicines and equipment to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Restore normal relations with Venezuela based on respect for national sovereignty.

The Coronavirus Is Not the Plague: The Plague Is US

Two categories of propaganda must be distinguished.  The first strives to create a permanent disposition in its objects and constantly needs to be reinforced.  Its goal is to make the masses ‘available,’ by working spells upon them and exercising a kind of fascination.  The second category involves the creation of a sort of temporary impulsiveness in its objects.  It operates by simple pressure and is often contradictory (since contradictory mass movements are sometimes necessary).

– Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, October 12, 1967

The French-Algerian writer Albert Camus’ great 1947 novel, The Plague, is a warning to us today, but a warning in disguise.  When he died sixty years ago at the young age of forty-six, he had already written The Stranger, The Fall, and The Plague, and had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The outward story of The Plague revolves around a malignant disease that breaks out in a town that is quarantined when the authorities issue a state of emergency.  After first denying that they have a problem, the people gradually panic and feel painfully isolated.  Death fear runs rampant, much like today with the coronavirus. The authorities declare martial law as they warn that the situation is dire, people must be careful of associating, especially in groups, and they better obey orders or very many will die.  So the town is cordoned off.

Before this happens and the first signs that something is amiss emerge, the citizens of the town of Oran, Algeria remain oblivious, for they “work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich.”  Bored by their habits, heavily drugging themselves with drink, and watching many movies to distract themselves, they failed to grasp the significance of “the squelchy roundness of a still-warm body” of the plague-bearing rats that emerge from their underworld to die in their streets.  “It was as if the earth on which our houses stood were being purged of their secret humors; thrusting up to the surface the abscesses and pus-clots that had been forming in its entrails.”  To them the plague is “unthinkable,” an abstraction, until all their denials are swept aside as the truth emerges from the sewers and their neighbors and families die from the disease.

“Stupidity has a way of getting its way;” the narrator, Dr. Rieux tells us, “as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves …. plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”

The American people are wrapped up in themselves.  Nor do they recognize the true rats.  They are easily surprised; fooled would be a better word.

Camus uses a physical plague to disguise his real subject, which is the way people react when they are physically trapped by human rats who demand they obey orders and stay physically and mentally compliant as their freedom is taken from them.

The Plague is an allegorical depiction of the German occupation of France during World War II.  Camus had lived through that experience as a member of the French Resistance.  He was a writer and editor of the underground Resistance newspaper Combat, and with his artist’s touch he later made The Plague a revelatory read for today, especially for citizens of the United States, the greatest purveyor of the plague of violence in the world.

We are all infected with the soul-destroying evil that our leaders have loosed upon the world, a plague of killing that is now hidden behind the coronavirus fear that is being used to institute tight government controls that many will come to rue in the months ahead, just as happened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Coronavirus is a perfect cover-story for the occupation of the public’s mind by a propaganda apparatus that has grown even more devious over the past 19 years.

Ask yourself: Where is the news about U.S. military operations in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, etc.?  There is none in the corporate mainstream media, and little in the alternative media as well.  Have those operations ceased?  Of course not.  It’s just that the news about them, little that it was, has disappeared.

Now it is all about us and the coronavirus panic.  It is about how many of us might die. It is about stocking toilet paper.  For the rich, it is about getting to their second or third houses where they can isolate themselves in splendor. As I write, 150 or so Americans are said to have died of Covid-19, and by the time you will read this the number will have climbed, but the number will be minuscule compared to the number of people in the U.S.A. and those numbers will be full of contradictions that few comprehend unless, rather than reacting in fear, they did some comprehensive research.

But arguments are quite useless in a time of panic when people are consumed with fear and just react.

For we live in plague time, and the plague lives in us. But to most Americans, Covid-19 is the plague, because the government and media have said it is.  Like the inhabitants of Oran, the United States is “peopled with sleep walkers,” pseudo-innocents, who are “chiefly aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of their lives or affected their interests.”  That their own government, no matter what political party is in power (both working for “deep-state,” elite interests led by the organized criminals of the CIA), is the disseminator of a world-wide plague of virulent violence, must be denied and divorced from consensus reality.

That these same forces would use the fear of disease to cow the population should be no surprise for those who have come to realize the truth of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the anthrax attacks that followed, both of which were used to justify the endless “wars on terror” that have killed so many around the world. It is a shock for so many people who can’t countenance the thought that their own government could possibly be implicated in the death of thousands of U.S. citizens and the release of the deadly anthrax, which we know came from a U.S. lab and was carried out by a group of inside government perpetrators.

When it comes to the plague-stricken deaths visited on millions around the world for decades by the American government, this must be denied by diverting attention to partisan presidential politics, and now the coronavirus that engenders fear, loathing, and a child-like tendency to believe Big Brother.  The true plague, the bedrock of a nation continually waging wars through various means – i.e. bombs and economic and medical sanctions, etc. – against the world, disappears from consciousness.  As U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albrecht said to 60 Minutes Lesley Stahl in 1996 when Stahl asked her if the U.S. sanctions on Iraq that had resulted in the death of 500,000 Iraqi children were worth it: “We think the price is worth it.”

For “decent folks must be allowed to sleep at night,” says the character Tarrou sarcastically; he is a man who has lost his ability to “sleep well” since he witnessed a man’s execution where the “bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist.”  He awakens to the realization that he “had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people.”  He loses any peace he had and vows to resist the plague in every way he can.  “For many years I’ve been ashamed,” he says, “mortally ashamed, of having been, even with the best intentions, even at many removes, a murderer in my turn.”

The rats are dying in the streets. They are our rats, diseased by us. They have emerged from the underworld of a nation plagued by its denial.  Unconscious evil bubbles up.  We are an infected people. Worry and irritation – “these are not feelings with which to confront plague.” But we don’t seem ashamed of our complicity in our government’s crimes around the world.  For decades we have elected leaders who have killed millions, while business went on as usual. The killing didn’t touch us. As Camus said, “We fornicated and read the papers.”  He knew better. He warned us:

It’s a wearying business being plague-stricken.  But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. That’s why everybody in the world looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness.

Yet the fight against the plague must go on.  Tarrou puts it thus:

All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, as far possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can’t judge if it’s simple, but I know it’s true. You see, I’d heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people’s heads enough to make them approve of murder; and I’d come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clear-cut language.  So I resolved always to speak – and to act – quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track.

These days, I keep thinking of an incident that occurred when I was a young investigator of sexually transmitted diseases, working for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare through the Public Health Service as an epidemiologist.  My job was to track down sexually transmitted diseases by finding links of sexual contacts. One day I went to interview and take a blood sample from a poor woman who had been named as a sexual contact.  I knocked on her door on the third or fourth floor of a walkup apartment building.  She looked through the peep hole and asked who it was and I told her my name and what government agency I represented. I could tell she was very wary, but she opened the door. She stood there naked, a very heavy woman of perhaps 300 pounds. She nonchalantly welcomed me in and I followed her as she padded down the hall where she took a housecoat off a hook and put it on.

There is, as you know, an old tale by Hans Christian Anderson called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Although the emperor parades around naked, the adults make believe he is clothed.  Only a child sees the obvious. I was a 23-years-old naïve young man at the time of this unforgettable incident, but it echoes in my mind as a reminder to myself that perhaps that woman was unconsciously teaching me a lesson in disguise.  The year was 1967, and when I went out to get into my government car with federal license plates, a white man in a white shirt in a white car in a poor black neighborhood, a hail of bricks rained down toward me and the car from the roof opposite.  I quickly jumped in and fled as the ghettos were exploding. Soon the National Guard would be called out to occupy them.

Intuition tells me that although the emperor has no clothes and a vast PSYOPS occupation is now underway, too many are too grown-up to see it.

It’s an old story continually updated.  Like The Plague.

12 Ways the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Lives On In Infamy

While the world is consumed with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, on March 19 the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by ramping up the conflict there. After an Iran-aligned militia allegedly struck a U.S. base near Baghdad on March 11, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory strikes against five of the militia’s weapons factories and announced it is sending two more aircraft carriers to the region, as well as new Patriot missile systems and hundreds more troops to operate them. This contradicts the January vote of the Iraqi Parliament that called for U.S. troops to leave the country. It also goes against the sentiment of most Americans, who think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, and against the campaign promise of Donald Trump to end the endless wars.

Seventeen years ago, the U.S. armed forces attacked and invaded Iraq with a force of over 460,000 troops from all its armed services, supported by 46,000 UK troops, 2,000 from Australia and a few hundred from Poland, Spain, Portugal and Denmark. The “shock and awe” aerial bombardment unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles on Iraq in the first five weeks of the war.

The U.S. invasion was a crime of aggression under international law, and was actively opposed by people and countries all over the world, including 30 million people who took to the streets in 60 countries on February 15, 2003, to express their horror that this could really be happening at the dawn of the 21st century. American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was a speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, compared the U.S. invasion of Iraq to Japan’s preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and wrote, “Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

Seventeen years later, the consequences of the invasion have lived up to the fears of all who opposed it. Wars and hostilities rage across the region, and divisions over war and peace in the U.S. and Western countries challenge our highly selective view of ourselves as advanced, civilized societies. Here is a look at 12 of the most serious consequences of the U.S. war in Iraq.

1. Millions of Iraqis Killed and Wounded

Estimates on the number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely, but even the most conservative estimates based on fragmentary reporting of minimum confirmed deaths are in the hundreds of thousands. Serious scientific studies estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in the first three years of war, and about a million by September 2007. The violence of the U.S. escalation or “surge” continued into 2008, and sporadic conflict continued from 2009 until 2014. Then in its new campaign against Islamic State, the U.S. and its allies bombarded major cities in Iraq and Syria with more than 118,000 bombs and the heaviest artillery bombardments since the Vietnam War. They reduced much of Mosul and other Iraqi cities to rubble, and a preliminary Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report found that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in Mosul alone. There are no comprehensive mortality studies for this latest deadly phase of the war. In addition to all the lives lost, even more people have been wounded. The Iraqi government’s Central Statistical Organization says that 2 million Iraqis have been left disabled.

2. Millions More Iraqis Displaced

By 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that nearly 2 million Iraqis had fled the violence and chaos of occupied Iraq, mostly to Jordan and Syria, while another 1.7 million were displaced within the country. The U.S. war on the Islamic State relied even more on bombing and artillery bombardment, destroying even more homes and displacing an astounding 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017. According to the UNHCR, 4.35 million people have returned to their homes as the war on IS has wound down, but many face “destroyed properties, damaged or non-existent infrastructure and the lack of livelihood opportunities and financial resources, which at times [has] led to secondary displacement.” Iraq’s internally displaced children represent “a generation traumatized by violence, deprived of education and opportunities,” according to UN Special Rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary.

3. Thousands of American, British and Other Foreign Troops Killed and Wounded

While the U.S. military downplays Iraqi casualties, it precisely tracks and publishes its own. As of February 2020, 4,576 U.S. troops and 181 British troops have been killed in Iraq, as well as 142 other foreign occupation troops. Over 93 percent of the foreign occupation troops killed in Iraq have been Americans. In Afghanistan, where the U.S. has had more support from NATO and other allies, only 68 percent of occupation troops killed have been Americans. The greater share of U.S. casualties in Iraq is one of the prices Americans have paid for the unilateral, illegal nature of the U.S. invasion. By the time U.S. forces temporarily withdrew from Iraq in 2011, 32,200 U.S. troops had been wounded. As the U.S. tried to outsource and privatize its occupation, at least 917 civilian contractors and mercenaries were also killed and 10,569 wounded in Iraq, but not all of them were U.S. nationals.

4. Even More Veterans Have Committed Suicide

More than 20 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day—that’s more deaths each year than the total U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Those with the highest rates of suicide are young veterans with combat exposure, who commit suicide at rates “4-10 times higher than their civilian peers.” Why? As Matthew Hoh of Veterans for Peace explains, many veterans “struggle to reintegrate into society,” are ashamed to ask for help, are burdened by what they saw and did in the military, are trained in shooting and own guns, and carry mental and physical wounds that make their lives difficult.

5. Trillions of Dollars Wasted

On March 16, 2003, just days before the U.S. invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney projected that the war would cost the U.S. about $100 billion and that the U.S. involvement would last for two years. Seventeen years on, the costs are still mounting. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated a cost of $2.4 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of the Iraq war at more than $3 trillion, “based on conservative assumptions,” in 2008. The UK government spent at least 9 billion pounds in direct costs through 2010. What the U.S. did not spend money on, contrary to what many Americans believe, was to rebuild Iraq, the country our war destroyed.

6. Dysfunctional and Corrupt Iraqi Government

Most of the men (no women!) running Iraq today are still former exiles who flew into Baghdad in 2003 on the heels of the U.S. and British invasion forces. Iraq is finally once again exporting 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and earning $80 billion a year in oil exports, but little of this money trickles down to rebuild destroyed and damaged homes or provide jobs, health care or education for Iraqis, only 36 percent of whom even have jobs. Iraq’s young people have taken to the streets to demand an end to the corrupt post-2003 Iraqi political regime and U.S. and Iranian influence over Iraqi politics. More than 600 protesters were killed by government forces, but the protests forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign. Another former Western-based exile, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the cousin of former U.S.-appointed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, was chosen to replace him, but he resigned within weeks after the National Assembly failed to approve his cabinet choices. The popular protest movement celebrated Allawi’s resignation, and Abdul Mahdi agreed to remain as prime minister, but only as a “caretaker” to carry out essential functions until new elections can be held. He has called for new elections in December. Until then, Iraq remains in political limbo, still occupied by about 5,000 U.S. troops.

7. Illegal War on Iraq Has Undermined the Rule of International Law

When the U.S. invaded Iraq without the approval of the UN Security Council, the first victim was the United Nations Charter, the foundation of peace and international law since World War II, which prohibits the threat or use of force by any country against another. International law only permits military action as a necessary and proportionate defense against an attack or imminent threat. The illegal 2002 Bush doctrine of preemption was universally rejected because it went beyond this narrow principle and claimed an exceptional U.S. right to use unilateral military force “to preempt emerging threats,” undermining the authority of the UN Security Council to decide whether a specific threat requires a military response or not. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general at the time, said the invasion was illegal and would lead to a breakdown in international order, and that is exactly what has happened. When the U.S. trampled the UN Charter, others were bound to follow. Today we are watching Turkey and Israel follow in the U.S.’s footsteps, attacking and invading Syria at will as if it were not even a sovereign country, using the people of Syria as pawns in their political games.

8. Iraq War Lies Corrupted U.S. Democracy

The second victim of the invasion was American democracy. Congress voted for war based on a so-called “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was nothing of the kind. The Washington Post reported that only six out of 100 senators and a few House members read the actual NIE. The 25-page “summary” that other members of Congress based their votes on was a document produced months earlier “to make the public case for war,” as one of its authors, the CIA’s Paul Pillar, later confessed to PBS Frontline. It contained astounding claims that were nowhere to be found in the real NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 sites where Iraq was storing chemical and biological weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated many of these lies in his shameful performance at the UN Security Council in February 2003, while Bush and Cheney used them in major speeches, including Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. How is democracy—the rule of the people—even possible if the people we elect to represent us in Congress can be manipulated into voting for a catastrophic war by such a web of lies?

9. Impunity for Systematic War Crimes

Another victim of the invasion of Iraq was the presumption that U.S. presidents and policy are subject to the rule of law.  Seventeen years later, most Americans assume that the president can conduct war and assassinate foreign leaders and terrorism suspects as he pleases, with no accountability whatsoever—like a dictator. When President Obama said he wanted to look forward instead of backward, and held no one from the Bush administration accountable for their crimes, it was as if they ceased to be crimes and became normalized as U.S. policy. That includes crimes of aggression against other countries; the mass killing of civilians in U.S. airstrikes and drone strikes; and the unrestricted surveillance of every American’s phone calls, emails, browsing history and opinions. But these are crimes and violations of the U.S. Constitution, and refusing to hold accountable those who committed these crimes has made it easier for them to be repeated.

10. Destruction of the Environment

During the first Gulf War, the U.S. fired 340 tons of warheads and explosives made with depleted uranium, which poisoned the soil and water and led to skyrocketing levels of cancer. In the following decades of “ecocide,” Iraq has been plagued by the burning of dozens of oil wells; the pollution of water sources from the dumping of oil, sewage and chemicals; millions of tons of rubble from destroyed cities and towns; and the burning of huge volumes of military waste in open air “burn pits” during the war. The pollution caused by war is linked to the high levels of congenital birth defects, premature births, miscarriages and cancer (including leukemia) in Iraq. The pollution has also affected U.S. soldiers. “More than 85,000 U.S. Iraq war veterans… have been diagnosed with respiratory and breathing problems, cancers, neurological diseases, depression and emphysema since returning from Iraq,” as the Guardian reports. And parts of Iraq may never recover from the environmental devastation.

11. The U.S.’s Sectarian “Divide and Rule” Policy in Iraq Spawned Havoc Across the Region

In secular 20th-century Iraq, the Sunni minority was more powerful than the Shia majority, but for the most part, the different ethnic groups lived side-by-side in mixed neighborhoods and even intermarried. Friends with mixed Shia/Sunni parents tell us that before the U.S. invasion, they didn’t even know which parent was Shia and which was Sunni. After the invasion, the U.S. empowered a new Shiite ruling class led by former exiles allied with the U.S. and Iran, as well as the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region in the north. The upending of the balance of power and deliberate U.S. “divide and rule” policies led to waves of horrific sectarian violence, including the ethnic cleansing of communities by Interior Ministry death squads under U.S. command. The sectarian divisions the U.S. unleashed in Iraq led to the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the emergence of ISIS, which have wreaked havoc throughout the entire region.

12. The New Cold War Between the U.S. and the Emerging Multilateral World

When President Bush declared his “doctrine of preemption” in 2002, Senator Edward Kennedy called it “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” But the world has so far failed to either persuade the U.S. to change course or to unite in diplomatic opposition to its militarism and imperialism. France and Germany bravely stood with Russia and most of the Global South to oppose the invasion of Iraq in the UN Security Council in 2003. But Western governments embraced Obama’s superficial charm offensive as cover for reinforcing their traditional ties with the U.S. China was busy expanding its peaceful economic development and its role as the economic hub of Asia, while Russia was still rebuilding its economy from the neoliberal chaos and poverty of the 1990s. Neither was ready to actively challenge U.S. aggression until the U.S., NATO and their Arab monarchist allies launched proxy wars against Libya and Syria in 2011. After the fall of Libya, Russia appears to have decided it must either stand up to U.S. regime change operations or eventually fall victim itself.

The economic tides have shifted, a multipolar world is emerging, and the world is hoping against hope that the American people and new American leaders will act to rein in this 21st-century American imperialism before it leads to an even more catastrophic U.S. war with Iran, Russia or China. As Americans, we must hope that the world’s faith in the possibility that we can democratically bring sanity and peace to U.S. policy is not misplaced. A good place to start would be to join the call by the Iraqi Parliament for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

• This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

West attacks the World:  The World levitates towards Russia and China  

Frankly and in summary: recently The United States of America has crossed several lines, committing atrocities, in many parts of the world. In the past, no country could get away with this; such situations would inevitably lead to war.

Presently, war is “avoided” only because the world is too frightened of Washington and its mafia-style deeds. Countries on all continents are accepting the lawlessness and thuggery of Washington and the allies; bitterly, but accepting. If ordered, many of them have been falling on their knees, begging for mercy. If hit hard, they have lost the courage and strength to hit back.

There are no sanctions, no embargos imposed on the US, which is the biggest violator of international law. There are no retaliatory actions taken against its bullying, attacks, covert and overt operations. The U.N. has become a laughing stock, toothless and irrelevant, synonymous with Western interests.

The fact is – the world is scared. It is petrified. Just as a little creature is petrified and immobilized, when faced by a cobra.

It has gotten to this level. To a primitive, never before witnessed level. In the past, colonies fought back, aiming at independence. Indochina fought against the Western Empire, losing millions, but fought.

Now, Washington and its allies commit crimes, and they laugh straight in the faces of victims: “Now what? What are you going to do? Hit me back? Just try; I will burn your family members alive, break all your bones.”

You think I am exaggerating? Oh no, I am not; not at all! This is the level the West really has sank to. And almost no one dares to talk about it! Except… Well, of course, except Russia, China, Iran and few other brave nations.

*****

But look at what has happened to Iran. It is just an example of how thuggish, how insane Washington’s foreign policy is (if one could really call it a foreign policy):

Iran has done nothing bad to anyone; at least not in recent modern history. In 1953, the West arranged and implemented a horrific coup against the democratic, left-leaning Prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Washington and London put on the throne a real monster – Shah Reza Pahlavi. Millions of lives were ruined. People were tortured, raped, and murdered. Then, in 1980, Iraq was armed and unleashed against Iran, again by the West. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of people died.

But, no, that was not enough! Modern, socialist and internationalist Iran helped to defend the entire Middle East against terrorism which has been released by the West and its allies in the Gulf. Teheran also joined forces with several left-wing countries in Latin America, including Venezuela, helping them, among other things, to build social housing, media outlets, and the oil industry.

Therefore, Iran became the target of the U.S. and Israel. President Trump cancelled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a win-win agreement. For absolutely no reason, sanctions against Iran were re-introduced. Iran’s allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere, were attacked by Israeli drones and by war planes, and by relentless Saudi bombing.

Then, the United States murdered the most revered Iranian military figure, General Qasem Soleimani, and they did it on Iraqi soil. This was a double act of war, against Iran and Iraq, which had officially invited General Soleimani in order to negotiate the peace process with the Saudis.

Then, the real banditry of Washington got exposed:

Iran, outraged and in mourning, has declared that it will retaliate; avenge the murder of its heroic commander, as well as the others who were killed by the U.S. attack near Baghdad airport. Trump and his entourage replied immediately, threatening Iran, declaring that if it dares to retaliate, it would face terrible re-retaliation.

Basically, the U.S. claims that it can kill your people anywhere it wants, and if you fight back, it reserves right to obliterate you.

The world has done nothing. It is doing nothing. The United Nations is taking zero concrete actions to stop the biggest bully.

On 4th January, 2020, Donald Trump Tweeted in 3 separate messages, something that vaguely resembled the language of the German occupation forces during WWII:

Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

Outrageous lies, manipulations of a primitive businessman, elected by the American people to lead their country and the world. A man of no culture (one of the things that, perhaps, made him so popular among so many people in his country).

What he is really saying is this: “We overthrew your government, we unleash a war against you, we impose sanctions, prevent you from selling your own oil, and then we murder the second most important man in your country. That is all fine. But, if you defend yourself, if you dare retaliate, we will basically bomb your country back to the stone age, as we have bombed so many other countries to the stone age, including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.”  All this is because the United Sates and West in general believe that they mainly consist of chosen people. That they are different. That they are by definition correct.

And that is, my friends and comrades, the same ‘philosophy’ used by ISIS, and by al Qaida. It is deep, extremist, religious fanaticism. As the United States uses market fundamentalism in its trade wars, it also applies primitive fanaticism in the way it deals with the rest of the world.

In a way, the world order is now resembling order imposed in Mosul under the ISIS occupation.

*****

After the killing of General Soleimani, the planet has exploded in outrage, including some of Washington’s allies. Even Israel has refused to back the U.S. in this particular case.

UNESCO (which the United States left after it recognized Palestine and after it refused to follow Washington’s diktat), issued a statement, reported by RT:

Meanwhile, UNESCO also told the US to stay away from Iran’s cultural heritage, reminding Washington that it is party to treaties which explicitly prohibit the targeting of cultural sites during armed conflict.

But that is not all. It has not ended with Iran only.

Iraq, outraged that the murder of Iranian allies took place on its soil, and that some of its people were also killed in the attack, demanded the full withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

The reply from Trump:

If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it on a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.

Now just think what has been happening: Iraq was starved and bombed, and hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the depleted uranium that was used in U.S. warheads. Then came the U.S. invasion of 2003. The country was thoroughly ruined. Once proud Iraq, with a very high human development index (UNDP) virtually collapsed, became a beggar. On top of that, terrorist groups were injected into its territory, as they were, into Syria.

And now the President of the occupying country is demanding that the victim, Iraq, actually pays for the military bases constructed on its territory?

This is, of course, thoroughly sick, grotesque, but nobody is laughing, just as no one is publicly throwing up.

And these mafia tactics have been paying off, until now. Iraq, which finally dared to stand up, shouting enough is enough, down with the occupation, began backing down. Abdul Mahdi’s office issued a communique:

The prime minister stressed the importance of mutual cooperation on implementing the withdrawal of foreign troops, in line with the Iraqi parliament’s resolution, and to set relations with the United States on a proper foundation.

Of course, U.S. threats and U.S. armor on the Iraq’s territory, have been frightening too many people in Baghdad.

United States occupation forces have never brought anything good to their victims.

The best example is Afghanistan, the once proud socialist country, where women and men enjoyed equal rights. Around two decades after the US/NATO occupation, the country is the poorest, and with the shortest life expectancy, on the Asian continent.

I worked there on several occasions and was shocked by the bestiality of the U.S. rule. Burqa-clad women begging with their infants, sitting on speed-bumps near U.S. military bases. These bases are surrounded by poppy seeds, used for the cultivation and production of drugs, under U.S. and U.K. sponsorship. And foreign contractors, as well as NATO soldiers, shared with me horrific stories of spite: how unused food is burned by the Americans, while people are starving. How, when some old base is abandoned, it is dynamited and bulldozed down. The logic is simple: “There was nothing when we came, and there will be nothing after we leave!”

But paying for occupation bases is something new; a new concept by the empire.

Syria. “We want oil” declared Trump, recently. No niceties, no hide-and-seek. The U.S. military is staying. Turkish military, which has been supporting terrorists for years, is staying. The U.S.– backed Uyghur terrorists are staying in Idlib area. While, as recently as on February 24, Israelis have been bombing the outskirts of Damascus.

And, all this is allowed to happen. In broad daylight. Committed by people who openly support, even promote, torture. Imperialists whom the BBC recently described as ‘noninterventionists!” In brief: U.S. regime.

*****

In just the few latest months, Washington created and financed riots in Hong Kong, intimidating China, trying to trick the most populous nation into a crackdown against the treasonous cadres that are demanding the return of British colonialist rule, as well as a U.S. invasion.

China is also facing brutal Western propaganda attacks, related to coronavirus.

Washington overthrew the socialist, democratic multi-ethnic government in Bolivia, and it is starving millions of people, while backing an illegitimate self-proclaimed right-wing puppet political figure in Venezuela.

*****

The things the West does to China and Russia would lead to a war, if they were happening some 30 years ago.

The more diplomacy is used by Russia and China, the more aggressive the United States becomes, the more reassured of its own exceptionalism it gets.

It is time to re-think the entire concept of engagement with the United States.

It is because the United States and its allies have already crossed all lines and are now holding the entire world hostage.

Perhaps what we are all experiencing now is not a war, at least not in the classic sense of the word, but it is an occupation – brutal and shameless. Almost the entire planet used to be occupied by Europe, some 100 years ago. Now it is occupied, directly and indirectly, by Europe’s offspring – the United States. It is not always a military occupation, but occupation it is. World is held hostage. It is petrified. It doesn’t dare to speak, to dream, often even to think.

This is the most undemocratic global arrangement imaginable.

The world has fallen on its knees. It has surrendered itself, as if in some extremist religious ritual.

It gets hit but does not hit back. It gets looted, but doesn’t dare to protect itself and its people.

All this makes no sense: countries that got occupied, or where governments have been overthrown, are now living in absolute misery, even in agony: Iraq and Libya, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Honduras, Brazil, to name just a few.

For how long will the entire world lick the boots of a country with only around 300 million inhabitants, which produces hardly anything, and governs over the world through brutality and fear? It only prints money. It only insults human logic. It vulgarizes everything on earth; everything that used to be sacred to humanity.

I have to remind those who prefer not to notice: millions are dying, annually, all over the world, because of this “arrangement of the world”. Surrender and submission do not save lives. The empire never stops; it never has enough.

And one more old wisdom: kneeling in front of terror never brought liberation, or progress!

In more and more countries that I am visiting, all over the world, people are admiring “Russian way”, and “Chinese way”. You would never read this in Western mass media outlets, but precisely this is taking place: injured, brutalized and humiliated countries are beginning to levitate towards those great countries which are proudly standing and refusing to surrender to Western terror.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

A Case Study of Corporate Media Disinformation

Some alternative media have exposed the US government and its corporate media fake news reporting on Russian “election interference,” on Venezuela, the war on Syria, China’s Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Palestine, among others. One of the longest running media disinformation campaigns has been directed at Cuba, well covered in Keith Bolender’s Manufacturing the Enemy: The Media War Against Cuba.1 This thoroughly documented work is a good antidote to the constant anti-Cuba disinformation we are subjected to, which inevitably influences all of us. According to well-known Goebbels quote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” —  true, but actually a lie that Goebbels ever said this.

Over the 60 years of the Cuban revolution, the corporate media has implanted in us a negative image of Cuba through their distortions of the country’s political and economic system, their discounting the revolution’s achievements, and their denial of the impact the blockade and US terrorism have had on the country. The media has been especially effective in not addressing the endless complex problems a developing nation faces once it has decided to establish its genuine sovereignty while trying to survive the relentless hostility of the world’s superpower.

In early 1960 Robert Kennedy spelled out the US’ Cuba project: the overthrow of Castro “is the top priority of the US government, all else is secondary, no time, money, effort or manpower is to be spared.” (p. 76) Washington clearly understood the revolution opened a future that didn’t exist before, still doesn’t today in most countries, and consequently imposed a blockade similar to a full military blockade in war. The US sought to undermine the Cuban Revolution by making people suffer, with the hope that they would blame and overturn their government.

The US government engineers the “regime change” attempts, while the “media’s role is not to examine Cuba’s society fairly: it is to validate regime change”2 The media’s function is to win public support for overthrowing another country’s government, not question Washington’s right to interfere in the internal affairs of that nation. It re-packages counterrevolution as saving the freedoms and human rights of the targeted nation’s people. With its control over information available to the US population, the corporate media has been able to convince most US people that Cuba is not a model to follow. The media consistently holds Cuba up to a higher standard that few other nations, including the United States itself, are subjected to.

The corporate media remains the gatekeeper of information, with five corporations controlling 90% of the media business. They have effectively promoted that its news can be confidently trusted. Bolender notes that while overall trust in the media has decreased, he points out, using the examples of Fox News and CNN, “it is mostly based on the consumer not believing in the media that presents opposing information to his own opinions in a specific issue” (p. 34). On Cuba, however, the corporate media present no opposing information, and are free to feed us fake news.

Fake News on Cuba

Bolender’s book can be called a short version history of fake news about Cuba. We present a sampling here:

The media claimed that Castro and his allies executed hundreds of Batista regime enemies in kangaroo courts after taking power. In fact, Batista’s repressive forces and police had killed 20,000 and some of them were captured and brought to justice for their crimes.

The media has presented the Cuban government’s nationalization of US properties as illegal and without any compensation. In fact, Cuba offered reparation payments based on 20 year bonds at 4.5% interest rates based on October 1958 property assessments. This offer, accepted by other countries, was refused by the US. That compensation and that negotiations were offered and repeatedly refused by the US was rarely reported by corporate media.

The media has claimed the US blockade was a response to Cuban seizure of  US properties without compensation, yet Washington’s eliminating the Cuban sugar quota occurred more than a year before the US refused negotiations.

New York Times fake news campaigning did not begin with its Russiagate anti-Trump story. On January 3, 1961, four months before the Bay of Pigs invasion, it claimed “It is incredible to us that the Cubans can believe we are about to invade their island…It is difficult for Americans to understand that others can honestly believe things about us that we know to be false”. (p. 87)

Bolender reviews some media coverage during the invasion: the Wall Street Journal, for instance, reported claims that the invaders had cut the country in two, had taken Santiago de Cuba and captured Raul Castro.

The corporate media painted Cuba’s installing nuclear missiles in 1962 as an act of war, even though their purpose was to forestall a new US invasion in the works. In fact, Cuba had as much right to point missiles at the US as the US had to point them at Cuba. Nevertheless, that the US almost went to world nuclear war and destruction of the planet with a naval blockade of Cuba is blamed on Cuba, not on Washington.

Bolender points out the same corporate media bias against Cuba is held against Palestine: “The notion that the Palestinians or Cubans have the right to defend themselves is outside the realm of normal discourse”. (p. 182)

The New York Times and Washington Post both presented fake news in the 1980s that Fidel sent 500 Cuban troops to El Salvador.

The media historically describes Cubans as emigrating due to the revolutionary government’s economic incompetence and political repression. In fact, people all over the world emigrate from poorer countries to richer ones.

The corporate media used the rescue of Elian Gonzalez to continuously attack the alleged poverty stricken and repressive life in Cuba his mother had fled. Actual US immigration policy at the time was rarely reported: that unaccompanied immigrant children are returned to their parents unless the parents are unfit.

Washington Post, among others, gave credence to John Bolton’s 2002 claim that Cuba was developing biological weapons, later convincingly disproven by Jimmy Carter.

The corporate media went on an anti-Cuba propaganda campaign over the Cuban “dissidents,” including “independent journalists” and “librarians” arrested in 2003 during the time of another US attempted attack on the country. It was not pointed out that they were arrested because of their prior and planned disruptions and bombings, or that they were on the US payroll.

The Cuban government allegedly diverts food from the population to the tourist industry. As with many such stories, no actual evidence is provided.

More than once were some of the 930 Cuban medical professionals working in Haiti after the earthquake identified as “Spanish.”

The New York Times propaganda still asserted Cuba is a mismanaged anachronism, that the average Cuban has no say-so, that the government does not permit public dialogue on its policies. This is arrogant nonsense to anyone knowledgeable about Cuba. Unlike the US, Cuba has a number of mass organizations that involve the people in running the government and society as a whole: Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), Federation of University Students (FEU), Federation of Pre-University Students (FEEM), and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).  Clearly this system is vastly more open and democratic than in the US.

In 2011 Cuba had a national discussion in thousands of assemblies in workplaces and schools around the country to establish new laws and guidelines for economic reforms. The US did no such thing when confronted by the 2008 economic crisis.

In 2018 Cuba had a similar national discussion on a new constitution. The process was discussed in over 100,000 workplaces and community meetings.  After the debates and modifications of the draft, the National Assembly approved it, which was then voted on in a national referendum. In contrast, the US has never organized national discussions or assemblies throughout the country when changes to the constitution have been made. The US does not even give the citizens the right to vote on changes to the constitution, nor gives us the right to elect the president by popular vote.

The media has claimed Cuba is involved in drug smuggling, again without evidence. In contrast, when Gary Webb exposed actual CIA crack cocaine smuggling into the US the corporate media undertook a major smear campaign against him for reporting it, destroying his life.

The corporate media consistently covered up the hundreds of acts of US terrorism against Cuba, including bombing Havana hotels and blowing up a civilian airliner, killing all 73 on board. The media has covered up biological warfare against Cuba, and does not report that over 3500 Cuban civilians have been killed in US terrorist attacks. Cuba has documented 636 US attempts to kill their head of state.  Bolender comments “The lack of authentic coverage of this covert war against Cuban civilians remains a great stain against the media in its treatment of the island nation.” (p. 100)

When Posada Carriles, who orchestrated the Cubana airline bombing, was arrested for illegal entry into the US, the New York Times did not describe him as a CIA agent or terrorist but as a Cuban “militant” seeking to overthrow Fidel Castro.

When Cuba shot down the Miami Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996, the media helped cover up that these planes were in Cuban airspace, that they had penetrated Cuban airspace twelve times before, that Cuba had repeatedly complained to the FAA,  and  that the group was planning on dropping bombs on Havana in future flights. Instead, the shoot-down was presented as a callous and unprovoked Cuban attack on a humanitarian group over international waters.

Corporate media concealed that the Cuban Five were fighting terrorism directed at their country from the US. They were framed up as “spies” and imprisoned while the media colluded to black out reporting of the trial and their sentencing. The Miami press covered the case, but their reporters were working to aid the prosecution in the case. Some prominent journalists became paid US government agents, writing articles to misinform the public and even fabricate stories to help ensure the judicial frame-up of the five. They concocted stories that the Cubans were part of a spy network to smuggle weapons, even bombs, into the US to murder Castro opponents in Florida. The government spent millions dollars in illegal payments to journalists to write a thousand articles over a six-year period aimed to ensure a conviction. 

The  media misrepresented USAID agent Alan Gross, arrested and imprisoned in Cuba, as simply bringing in cell phones and laptops to the Jewish communities in Cuba. Honest reporting would have noted that he brought in and helped set up an untrackable, untraceable military grade communications network using devices illegal in Cuba.

Prior to Obama’s “opening” to Cuba, the media regularly told us that Cuba blocked US people from traveling to the country, while, in fact, the US disallowed it.

President Obama is credited with “normalizing” relations with Cuba, even though relations are not normalized when one continues a blockade and economic war on the other.

In 2015, Fox News and Daily Beast claimed hundreds of Cuban military personnel were aiding Syria’s Assad.

The media claims Trump ended individual travel to Cuba, which was allowed under two different licenses. In fact, he ended the People to People license, but the Support for Cuban People license remains in effect. This is typically not reported, discouraging travel to Cuba.

In 2017 Cuba allegedly engaged in sonic attacks on US diplomats in Havana, causing serious health problems for the officials, and provided the excuse for Trump to slash US and Cuban Embassy staff. Barely reported was that after four trips to Cuba, the FBI found no evidence to support this assertion of attacks.

The corporate media claims Cuba restricts internet access to its citizens. In reality, by late 2018, anyone with a 3G phone can get online. It is actually the US that restricts internet access by denying access to the fiber optic cables that run near Cuban shores.

Bolender notes that “A favorite ploy of the media is to offer expert opinions on how to fix the serious economic problems Cuba faces, while consistently ignoring America’s debilitating economic embargo.” (p. 3) The New York Times claims Cuba is “an economically distressed country that is perennially in crisis” with the blockade never referenced. If the blockade is mentioned, its draconian nature remains hidden, thereby maintaining the fiction that US action has no impact on Cuba.

The media has consistently used “democracy” and “human rights” to malign Cuba. Obama himself declared Cuba “has not yet observed human rights…The fact of the matter is Cuba… has not yet moved to democracy. Has not yet observed basic human rights.” The self-appointed US big brother presumes it can “help” the Cubans gain freedom and operate their economy in an efficient manner. The calls for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba has nothing to do with representative government nor human rights. The terms are used as a propaganda tool, elevating the accuser to a superior moral status, justifying Washington’s illegal interference.

The media claims Cuba has no free elections, no democratic process. In reality, Arnold August’s Cuba and its Neighbours, Democracy in Motion explains that Cuba has an electoral system surprisingly more democratic than the US version. The Cuban people both propose and vote on who will be their own representatives, unlike the case here. People in every constituency propose and then vote on who will be their delegates for the municipal government. Once the municipal government is formed, they propose from among their elected members and vote on who will be their delegates to the provincial government. The provincial government does the same in turn for the national parliament. The national parliament elects the president, ministers, and Council of State members from among its own members. This means, from the president to every single member of government, everyone has to be nominated in the first place in the community where he or she lives.

Social media opens many new doors for disinformation operations. Twitter, a neo-con corporation, received USAID funding to build a social media network in Cuba called Zunzuneo. It sought to create a mass youth following in Cuba and later use this network to stimulate demonstrations and cause internal unrest.

When fake news was deemed insufficient the media resorted to a schizophrenic McCarthyism: Cuba was a “point of infection by the Communist virus for the whole hemisphere”.3

As if to assert its thinking has not evolved, when Fidel Castro died the New York Times blamed him for ‘bringing the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere” and for “pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war.” In fact, the US had brought the Cold War here at least by 1954 with its coup against Guatemala’s Arbenz. The historical record shows that Cuba turned increasingly towards the Communist world only after the US drastically curtailed political and economic relations with Cuba. As mentioned above, the world was pushed to the brink of nuclear war by the aggressive actions by John Kennedy, not by Khrushchev or Castro.

The New York Times also referred to Cuba as “a dynastic police state”. (p. 151)

The Washington Post on Fidel Castro’s death called him “one of the most brutal dictators in modern history,” an irrational statement that presumably places him in league with Hitler.

Like any foreign leader the US wants to eliminate, Fidel Castro was portrayed as a child, as mentally unbalanced. This helped to both justify US regime change and to avoid informing the US public on the reasons for Cuban anger at the US conduct towards Cuba since 1898. When journalists accurately reported on the Cuban experience, as did Herbert Matthews, he was “ostracized by his media colleagues as being a dupe of Castro and a communist sympathizer”. (p. 79)  More respected were the likes of Tad Szulc who said Fidel was “an overgrown boy”. (p. 80)

Bolender repeatedly points out “that whenever there’s something positive about Cuba, the media must follow its credo of injecting negative misinformation, no matter how preposterous the claim….It was intended to ensure the consumer maintains a negative opinion about Cuba, despite reading of its accomplishments”. (pp.  171-172)  One example: a criticism of the new Cuban president by the New York Times, “Mr. Diaz-Canel, who became Cuba’s new president on Thursday, the day before his 58th birthday, has spent his entire life in the service of a revolution he did not fight”. (p. 180)

Corporate media reporting of anything negative about Cuba is an acceptable default position, with the underlying assumption being, before and after Obama’s opening, that the Cuban system must change, guided by US benevolence.

US Disinformation on Cuba before 1959

Media propaganda against Cuba began long before the 1959 revolutionary victory. Bolender takes us back to the justifications for the 1898 US invasion and occupation. Cubans were portrayed as unkempt children unable to manage by themselves, needing Anglo-Saxon Uncle Sam to save Cubans from Spain and then from themselves by ruling their affairs for them.

The so-called Spanish-American War saw fake news stories that would be recycled later.

The two chief media outlets of the day competed with wild stories to whip up US support for war and occupation. It was “doubtful…that the war would have developed without the agency of the most vicious and cynical behavior of a part of the American press that our nation had yet seen”. (p. 53)  This same media conduct was repeated a hundred years later to garner support for the war on Iraq.

Spain was blamed without any evidence for the US Navy ship Maine explosion. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt  then repeated the unsubstantiated claim the next day, providing the excuse to launch an invasion. Similarly, this story-line was later repackaged with the fabricated North Vietnamese attack on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The corporate press erased the whole 1895-98 independence struggle of the Cuban people against Spain by claiming the US invasion won the war and freed Cuba from Spain.

Even the US name for the war, the Spanish-American War, was a propaganda ploy, removing the agency of Cubans, concealing it being a US war on the Cuban independence struggle. Similarly, the corporate media sold us the US War on Korea as the “Korean War” and the US War on Vietnam as the “Vietnam War.”

Cubans were painted as irresponsible, lazy, ignorant, unfit for self-government — racist stereotypes the corporate media repeatedly applied to many other Third World peoples and countries, including native Americans and Blacks. “The Cuban is lacking chiefly in the qualities that are conspicuous in American men — virility, initiative, will power, tenacity, reverences for women and conscience.” They are helpless, idle, of defective morals and unfitted by nature and experience for discharging the obligations of citizenship in a great and free republic. Their lack of manly force and self-respect…” and so on with this precursor of Nazi-style propaganda.

“To clothe such men with the responsibilities of directing self-government would be to summon them to the performance of functions for which they have not the smallest capacity“ (quoted on pp. 55-56). The New York Times at the time declared, “We are guardians, self-appointed, to the Cuban people” (p. 61) and warned of “an irresponsible government of half-breeds”. (p. 62)

That Third World peoples still need the American white man’s firm hand and parenting remains a central element of US foreign policy propaganda, not only against Cuba, but the world.

Brazen Yankee arrogance displays itself in one clause of the quintessential neo-colonial Platt Amendment the US imposed on Cuba: Cuba was prohibited from negotiating treaties with any country other than the US “which will impair… the independence of Cuba” or “permit any foreign power or powers to obtain…or control over any portion” of Cuba. All precisely US conduct with the Platt Amendment.

The occupation completed, the US then made available prime Cuban lands to US citizens, following historic US policy with conquered native American peoples’ lands.

When Cubans protested this Platt Amendment, the Chicago Tribune editorialized “The United States reserved the right to intervene…to preserve public order…We are the parent, Cuba is the child, and the child is about due for a good spanking” (p. 67). Cuban “independence,” as written into their constitution, meant Cubans did not have the right to protest without risking foreign intervention. For the corporate media, Cuba was to be eternally grateful to the US for its freedom and independence, and to consider US domination as benign and progressive.

Bolender quotes Walter Cronkite on the US attitude towards Cuba before the revolution: “Cuba was a resort land for Americans…it was just a part of America, we kind of considered it part of the United States….The country was a little colony”.  (p. 74)

Then came 1959 and Fidel Castro responded to racist imperial patronizing with the simple truth: “I believe that this country has the same rights of other countries to govern itself”. (p. 68)  By the end of 1960 media coverage of Cuba was telling us Fidel Castro was crazy. In the world of corporate media fake news, all leaders who oppose or criticize US dictates and bullying are called madmen. The media transformed Cuba from a welcoming tourist playground into an armed camp, a repressive Communist state, a colony of the Soviet Union. The media “went on a rampage of misinformation and outright falsehoods about the Cuban Revolution that persists to this day”. (p. 75)

That Cuba must conform to US imperial standards, nothing less, has been an unchanged US policy from 1898 to the present.

Our Susceptibility to US Disinformation Campaigns

We should never underestimate the shrewdness of US disinformation, which has affected Bolender to a degree. For example, Bolender describes USAID’s Zunzuneo project as analogous to Russian social media operations in 2016.  (p. 188) In reality, this entire Russiagate story itself was a disinformation campaign. Bolender again falls for corporate media disinformation by calling the US-NATO war on Syria a “civil war”. (p. 6) We can be quite knowledgeable about some disinformation campaigns, but even the most astute among us can be taken in by others.

Bolender mentions “The decision by the Castro government to embrace Soviet orthodoxy” occurred after the Bay of Pigs invasion. He does not explain what is signified by this “Soviet orthodoxy.”  Nevertheless, Cuba did not become closely aligned with the Soviet Union almost ten years after the 1961 invasion. During the 1960s, a fair amount of discord punctuated the relations between the two countries: Khrushchev unilaterally removing missiles, the split in the Communist bloc, sharp disagreements over guerilla warfare, the Warsaw Pact 1968 intervention in Czechoslovakia, the defense of Vietnam, the 1967 crackdown of the pro-Soviet Anibal Escalante faction in the Cuban CP.

Bolender sees “a softening, even a balance of coverage when examining specific incidents, such as Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban Five and even the Alan Gross affair.” (p. 176) I do not agree. The public regarded Elian’s case as a father unfairly being kept from his son, and as the US government not defending family and parental rights. People could not be sold on the attempt to view it through a “Communist Cuba vs. US freedom” lens. Having worked on the Cuban Five case for twelve years, I observed no opening of coverage on the case. Outside of Miami the corporate media maintained a black out. We even had to raise funds to pay the New York Times to publish a factual account on the Cuban Five.

Corporate Media as Informational Enabler of US “Regime Change”

Bolender’s book gives us an excellent understanding of the actual role the so-called free press plays. “Cuba remains a prime example of media manipulation in support of foreign policy perspectives”. (p. 180) “While politicians express policy, the press was tasked to manufacture acceptable public opinion in support of regime change”. (p.76)  “America’s corporate media is the informational enabler of Washington’s regime change strategy”. (p. 183)

Media covers other countries in a hostile or favorable light, reflecting the US government and corporate America’s relations with those governments. Countries targeted for counterrevolution by Washington are routinely claimed to have serious economic problems and human rights abuses. Brutal regimes like Colombia, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that are allied with the US have their abuses painted over.

“Destabilization, subversion and economic warfare have been the tools of regime change policy used by the US government; the media has willingly helped forge them.” (p. 2) Many studies have substantiated this, such as Carl Bernstein’s on the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, revealing that the CIA actually had 400 corporate media executives and journalists reporting “news” according to CIA objectives. F. William Engdahl has written extensively on US media and NGO roles in recent regime change operations in Russia, China, Yugoslavia, the Arab Spring and the Middle East today. Beenish Ahmed wrote on a simple media coverup in her article, Here Are All The Things The Media Calls Torture Instead Of ‘Torture’.

Corporate media disinformation seeks to poison our attitude towards countries standing up for their national sovereignty, but also towards actual journalists who expose the media’s fake news. They seek to destroy Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning as they did Gary Webb. Corporate America’s disinformation relies on politicians, media and NGOs to implant their messaging. It remains a long ongoing battle to combat it among the people, and an essential part of that requires us to question our own views, as none of us are entirely immune to disinformation techniques, which have, in effect, become an advanced science.

  1. Manufacturing the Enemy: The Media War Against Cuba. He has also written Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, and Cuba under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People.
  2. The term “regime change” is itself not accurate: the appropriate term is “counterrevolution,” as Washington’s actual goal is not overturning a ‘regime” so much as the social, economic and political gains of the people of the country. p. 137
  3. New York Times, April 23, 1961 — a date right after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “not really our fight”

The world is waiting anxiously to see whether the U.S. and Afghan governments and the Taliban will agree to a one-week truce that could set the stage for a “permanent and comprehensive” ceasefire and the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign occupation forces from Afghanistan. Could the talks be for real this time, or will they turn out to be just another political smokescreen for President Trump’s addiction to mass murder and celebrity whack-a-mole?

If the ceasefire really happens, nobody will be happier than the Afghans fighting and dying on the front lines of a war that one described to a BBC reporter as “not really our fight.” Afghan government troops and police who are suffering the worst casualties on the front lines of this war told the BBC they are not fighting out of hatred for the Taliban or loyalty to the U.S.-backed government, but out of poverty, desperation and self-preservation. In this respect, they are caught in the same excruciating predicament as millions of other people across the greater Middle East wherever the United States has turned people’s homes and communities into American “battlefields.”

In Afghanistan, U.S.-trained special operations forces conduct “hunt and kill” night raids and offensive operations in Taliban-held territory, backed by devastating U.S. airpower that kills largely uncounted numbers of resistance fighters and civilians. The U.S. dropped a post-2001 record 7,423 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan in 2019.

But as BBC reporter Nanamou Steffensen explained (listen here, from 11:40 to 16:50), it is lightly-armed rank-and-file Afghan soldiers and police at checkpoints and small defensive outposts across the country, not the U.S.-backed elite special operations forces, who suffer the most appalling level of casualties. President Ghani revealed in January 2019 that over 45,000 Afghan troops had been killed since he took office in September 2014, and by all accounts 2019 was even deadlier.

Steffensen travelled around Afghanistan talking to Afghan soldiers and police at the checkpoints and small outposts that are the vulnerable front line of the U.S. war against the Taliban. The troops Steffensen spoke to told her they only enlisted in the army or police because they couldn’t find any other work, and that they received only one month’s training in the use of an AK-47 and an RPG before being sent to the front lines. Most are dressed only in t-shirts and slippers or traditional Afghan clothing, although a few sport bits and pieces of body armor. They live in constant fear, “expecting to be overrun at any moment.” One policeman told Steffensen, “They don’t care about us. That’s why so many of us die. It’s up to us to fight or get killed, that’s all.”

In an astonishingly cynical interview, Afghanistan’s national police chief, General Khoshal Sadat, confirmed the troops’ views of the low value placed on their lives by the corrupt U.S.-backed government. General Sadat is a graduate of military colleges in the U.K. and U.S. who was court-martialed under President Karzai in 2014 for illegally detaining people and betraying his country to the U.S. and U.K. President Ghani promoted him to head the national police in 2019. Steffensen asked Sadat about the effect of high casualties on morale and recruitment. “When you look at recruitment,” Sadat told her, “I always think about the Afghan families and how many children they have. The good thing is there is never a shortage of fighting-age males who will be able to join the force.”

In the final interview in Steffensen’s report, a policeman at a checkpoint for vehicles approaching Wardak town from Taliban-held territory questioned the very purpose of the war. He told her, “We Muslims are all brothers. We don’t have a problem with each other.” “Then why are you fighting?” she asked him. He hesitated, laughed nervously and shook his head in a resigned manner. “You know why. I know why. It’s not really our fight,” he said.

So why are we all fighting?

The attitudes of the Afghan troops Steffensen interviewed are shared by people fighting on both sides of America’s wars. Across the “arc of instability” that now stretches five thousand miles from Afghanistan to Mali and beyond, U.S. “regime change” and “counterterrorism” wars have turned millions of people’s homes and communities into American “battlefields.” Like the Afghan recruits Steffensen spoke to, desperate people have joined armed groups on all sides, but for reasons that have little to do with ideology, religion or the sinister motivations assumed by Western politicians and pundits.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discontinued the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism in 2005, after it revealed that the first three years of the U.S’s militarized “War on Terror” had predictably resulted in a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance, the exact opposite of its stated goals. Rice’s response to the report’s revelations was to try to suppress public awareness of the most obvious result of the U.S.’s lawless and destabilizing wars.

Fifteen years later, the U.S. and its ever-proliferating enemies remain trapped in a cycle of violence and chaos in which acts of barbarism by one side only fuel new expansions and escalations of violence by the other side, with no end in sight. Researchers have explored how the chaotic violence and chaos of America’s wars transform formerly neutral civilians in country after country into armed combatants. Consistently across many different war zones, they have found that the main reason people join armed groups is to protect themselves, their family or their community, and that fighters therefore gravitate to the strongest armed groups to gain the most protection, with little regard for ideology.

In 2015, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), interviewed 250 combatants from Bosnia, Palestine (Gaza), Libya and Somalia, and published the results in a report titled The People’s Perspectives: Civilians in Armed Conflict. The researchers found that, “The most common motivation for involvement, described by interviewees in all four case studies, was the protection of self or family.”

In 2017, the UN Development Program (UNDP) conducted a similar survey of 500 people who joined Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and other armed groups in Africa. The UNDP’s report was titled Journey To Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping-Point for Recruitment. Its findings confirmed those of other studies, and the combatants’ responses on the precise “tipping-point” for recruitment were especially enlightening.

“A striking 71%,” the report found, “pointed to ‘government action’, including ‘killing of a family member or friend’ or ‘arrest of a family member or friend’, as the incident that prompted them to join.”  The UNDP concluded, “State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerant of recruitment, rather than the reverse.”

The U.S. government is so corrupted by powerful military-industrial interests that it clearly has no interest in learning from these studies, any more than from its own long experience of illegal and catastrophic war-making. To routinely declare that “all options are on the table,” including the use of military force, is a violation of the UN Charter, which prohibits the threat as well as the use of force against other nations precisely because such vague, open-ended threats so predictably lead to war.

But the more clearly the American public understands the falsehood and the moral, legal and political bankruptcy of the justifications for our country’s disastrous wars, the more clearly we can challenge the absurd claims of warmongering politicians whose policies offer the world only more death, destruction and chaos. Trump’s blundering, murderous Iran policy is only the latest example, and, despite its catastrophic results, U.S. militarism remains tragically bipartisan, with a few honorable exceptions.

When the U.S. stops killing people and bombing their homes, and the world starts helping people to support and protect themselves and their families without joining U.S.-backed armed forces or the armed groups they are fighting, then and only then will the raging conflicts that U.S. militarism has ignited across the world begin to subside.

Afghanistan is not the United States’ longest war. That tragic distinction belongs to the American Indian Wars, which lasted from the founding of the country until the last Apache warriors were captured in 1924. But the U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest of the anachronistic and predictably unwinnable neoimperial wars the U.S. has fought since 1945.

As an Afghan taxi driver in Vancouver told me in 2009, “We defeated the Persian Empire in the 18th century. We defeated the British in the 19th century. We defeated the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Now, with NATO, we are fighting 28 countries, but we will defeat them too.” I never doubted him for a minute. But why would America’s leaders, in their delusions of empire and obsession with budget-busting weapons technology, ever listen to an Afghan taxi driver?

The United States of America’s Doll House: A Vast Tapestry of Lies and Illusions

This is an updated and revised version of the full cover-story that appeared in the important publication, garrison: The Journal of History and Deep Politics, Issue 003.  Issue 004 is due out this week and I urge readers to purchase it.  You will read articles there that you will find no place else, brilliant, eye-opening analyses of issues that the MSM will never touch.

*****

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

— Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 2005

While truth-tellers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning sit inside jail cells and Edward Snowden lives in exile in Russia, the American people hole up in an illusionary dwelling constructed to reduce them to children afraid of the truth.  Or is it the dark?  This is not new; it has been so for a very long time, but it has become a more sophisticated haunted doll’s house, an electronic one with many bells and whistles and images that move faster than the eye can see. We now inhabit a digital technological nightmare controlled by government and corporate forces intent on dominating every aspect of people’s lives. This is true despite the valiant efforts of dissidents to use the technology for human liberation. The old wooden doll houses, where you needed small fingers to rearrange the furniture, now only need thumbs that can click you into your cell’s fantasy world.  So many dwell there in the fabricated reality otherwise known as propaganda.  The result is mass hallucination.

In a 1969 interview, Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to ever bring to trial a case involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said that as a result of the CIA’s murderous coup d’état on behalf of the military-industrial-financial-media-intelligence complex that rules the country to this day, the American people have been subjected to a fabricated reality that has rendered them a nation of passive Eichmanns, who sit in their living rooms, popping pills and watching television as their country’s military machine mows down people by the millions and the announcers tell them all the things they should be afraid of, such as bacteria on cutting boards and Russian spies infiltrating their hair salons.  Garrison said:

The creation of such inanities as acceptable reality and unacceptable reality is necessary for the self-preservation of the super-state against its greatest danger: understanding on the part of the people as to what is really happening.  All factors which contribute to its burgeoning power are exaggerated.  All factors which might reveal its corrosive effect on the nation are concealed.  The result is to place the populace in the position of persons living in a house whose windows no longer reveal the outside but on which murals have been painted.  Some of the murals are frightening and have the effect of reminding the occupants of the outside menaces against which the paternal war machine is protecting them.  Other murals are pleasant to remind them how nice things are inside the house.

But to live like this is to live in a doll’s house.  If life has one lesson to teach us, it is that to live in illusion is ultimately disastrous.

In the doll’s house into which America gradually has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory.1

Fifty years have disappeared behind us since the eloquent and courageous Garrison (read On the Trail of the Assassins) metaphorically voiced the truth, despite the CIA’s persistent efforts to paint him as an unhinged lunatic through its media mouthpieces.  These days they would probably just lock him up or send him fleeing across borders, as with Assange, Manning, and Snowden.

It is stunning to take a cue from his comment regarding the JFK assassination, when he suggested that one reverse the lone assassin scenario and place it in the U.S.S.R.  No American could possibly believe a tale that a former Russian soldier, trained in English and having served at a top Soviet secret military base, who had defected to the U.S. and then returned home with the help of the K.G.B., could kill the Russian Premier with a defective and shoddy rifle and then be shot to death in police headquarters in Moscow by a K.G.B. connected hit man so there would be no trial and the K.G.B. would go scot free.  That would be a howler!  So too, of course, are the Warren Commission’s fictions about Oswald.

Snowden, Assange, and Manning

If we then update this mental exercise and imagine that Snowden, Assange, and Manning were all Russian, and that they released information about Russian war crimes, political corruption,  and a system of total electronic surveillance of the Russian population, and were then jailed or sent fleeing into exile as a result, who in the U.S., liberal, libertarian or conservative, would possibly believe the Russian government’s accusations that these three were criminals.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama, the transparency president, made sure to treat them as such, all the while parading as a “liberal” concerned for freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  He made sure that Snowden and Manning were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, and that Assange was corralled via false Swedish sex charges so he had to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (a form of jail).  He brought Espionage Act prosecutions against eight people, more than all former presidents combined.   He hypocritically pardoned Manning on his way out the door as if this would polish his deluded liberal legacy after making her suffer terribly through seven years of imprisonment.  He set the stage for Trump to re-jail Manning to try to get this most courageous woman to testify against Assange, which she will not do, and for the collaborationist British government to jail Assange in preparation for his extradition to the United States and a show trial.  As for Snowden, he has been relegated to invisibility, good for news headlines once and for a movie, but now gone and forgotten.

Obama and Trump, arch political “enemies,” have made sure that those who reveal the sordid acts of the American murderous state are cruelly punished and silenced.  This is how the system works, and for most Americans, it is not happening.  It doesn’t matter.  They don’t care, just as they don’t care that Obama backed the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that has resulted in so many deaths at the hands of U.S trained killers, and then Trump ranted about all these “non-white” people fleeing to the U.S. to escape a hell created by the U.S., as it has been doing throughout Latin America for so long.  Who does care about the truth?  Has anyone even noticed how the corporate media has disappeared the “news” of all those desperate people clamoring to enter the U.S.A. from Mexico?  One day they were there and in the headlines; the next day, gone.  It’s called news.

The Sleepwalkers

But even though a majority of Americans have never believed the government’s explanation for JFK’s murder, they nevertheless have insouciantly gone to sleep for half a century in the doll’s house of illusions as the killing and the lies of their own government have increased over the years and any semblance of a democratic and peaceful America has gone extinct. The fates of courageous whistle-blowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden don’t concern them. The fates of Hondurans don’t concern them.  The fates of Syrians don’t concern them. The fates of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Palestinians don’t concern them. The fates of America’s victims all around the world don’t concern them.  Indifference reigns.

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not one of the sleepwalkers and are awake to the parade of endless lies and illusions and do care. But you are in a minority.

That is not the case for most Americans.  When approximately 129 million people cast their votes for Donald Trump and HilIary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, you know idiocy reigns and nothing has been learned. Ditto for the votes for Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al.  You can keep counting back.  It is an ugly fact and sad to say.  Such a repetition compulsion is a sign of a deep sickness, and it will no doubt be repeated in the 2020 election.  The systemic illusion must be preserved at all costs and the warfare state supported in its killing.  It is the American way.

It is true that average Americans have not built the doll’s house; that is the handiwork of the vast interconnected and far-reaching propaganda arms of the U.S. government and their media accomplices.  But that does not render them innocent for accepting decades of fabricated reality for so-called peace of mind by believing that a totally corrupt system works.  The will to believe is very powerful, as is the propaganda.   The lesson that Garrison spoke of has been lost on far too many people, even on those who occasionally leave the doll house for a walk, but who only go slightly down the path for fear of seeing too much reality and connecting too many dots.  There is plain ignorance, then there is culpable ignorance, to which I shall return.

Denying Existential Freedom

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control program, MKULTRA.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was added.  Say those programs have been ended when, in fact, they were continued under other even deeper secret programs, and just have “experts” – social, psychological, and biological “scientists” – repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick and that their distress has nothing to do with the coup d’état that has rendered them “citizens” of a police state.

We have been interminably told that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, in the pattern of the best propaganda, as the French sociologist Jacques Ellul says – “for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates conviction and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition”2 – articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Sartrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past, a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television. One who believes in nutty conspiracy theories.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic repetition, is that we are not free.

Let me repeat: we are not free.  We are not free.

Investigator reporter Jon Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. 3 As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be willingly jerked around.

“He played with me just as I used to play with dolls,” says Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Now who would want to get people to believe they were not free?  The answer is obvious given a minute of thought.  It is not just Nora’s husband Torvald.

Perfect examples of the persistence of the long-term, repetitive, impregnating propaganda appear in news headlines constantly.  Here is an egregious example concerning the little understood case of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.  On Friday, August 30, 2019, Sirhan, who has been in prison for fifty-two years for the murder of RFK that he did not commit, was stabbed by another prisoner.  A quick click through the MSM headlines reporting this showed the same words repeated by all the corporate media as they fulfilled their function as CIA stenographers. One example, from CBS News, will suffice: “Robert Kennedy assassin hospitalized after prison stabbing.” RFK assassin, RFK assassin, RFK assassin … all the media said the same thing, which they have been doing for fifty-two years. Their persistency endures despite all the facts that refute their disinformation and show that Senator Kennedy, who was on his way to becoming president, was murdered, like his brother John, by forces of the national security state.

 Sartre and Bad Faith

Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous.  Being deceived by the media liars is mirrored in people’s personal lives.  People lie and want to be deceived.  They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth.  They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked.  They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They like the doll’s house. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi):  In Existential Psychoanalysis he put it thus:

In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this ‘lie’ to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.

Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.

Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans.  For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information.  It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves.  We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.

The problem is the will to know.  But why?  Why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference?  Stupidity?  Okay, there is that.  Ignorance?  That too.  Willful ignorance, ditto.  Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology?  For certain.  Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.”  Difficult?  No, it’s almost impossible.

But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.  As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues.  They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true.  They close down.  This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia, China, and Iran, among many others, and expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.

As for Assange, Manning, and Snowden, their plight matters not a whit.  In fact, they have been rendered invisible inside the doll’s house, except as the murals on the windows flash back their images as threats to the occupants, Russian monsters out to eat them up.  As the great poet Constantine Cavafy wrote long ago in his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and they never come: “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?  Those people were a kind of solution.”  Then again, for people like U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who knows the Russian barbarians have and will come again, life must be terrifying as he tries so manfully to bar the gates.  The Russians have been the American solution in this fairy tale for so long that it’s hard for many Americans to believe another story.

The Two-Headed Monster

On the one hand, there is the massive propaganda apparatus operated by American intelligence agencies in conjunction with their media partners.

On the other, there is the human predilection for untruth and illusions, the sad need to be comforted and to submit to greater “authority,” gratefully to accept the myths proffered by one’s masters.  This tendency applies not just to the common people, but even more so to the intellectual classes, who act as though they are immune.  Erich Fromm, writing about Germans and Hitler, but by extension people everywhere, termed this the need to “escape from freedom,” since freedom conjures up fears of vertiginous aloneness and the need to decide, which in turn evokes the fear of death.4   There are also many kinds of little deaths that precede the final one: social, career, money, familiar, etc., that are used to keep people in the doll’s house.

Fifty years ago, the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the mainstream media is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, etc., the coups disguised as color revolutions in Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the Iranian “threat,” the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing and the Russia-gate farce, the “criminals” Assange, Manning, Snowden – everything.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fox News, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency reminder to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor and Iraq war cheerleader.  Just a fortuitous coincidence, of course.

Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

Jacques Ellul has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population.  He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal.  The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.”  But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense.  He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events.  He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living.  Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:

The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even readymade opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.  All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.5

Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.”  But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda.  In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith.  Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.

Culpable Ignorance

It is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy.  Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition.  Trump is a liar.  No, Obama is a liar.  And Hillary Clinton.  No, Fox News.  Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC.  And so on and so forth in this theater of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter, while setting the different audiences against each other.  It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.

In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life.  Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.  Dedication to truth is very rare.

But there is another issue with propaganda that complicates the picture further.  People of varying political persuasions can agree that propaganda is widespread.  Many people on the left, and some on the right, would agree with Lisa Pease’s statement in her book on the RFK assassination, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, that “the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time.”6  That is also what Garrison thought when he spoke of the doll’s house.

If that is so, then today’s propaganda is anchored in the events of the 1960s, specifically the infamous government assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, the truth of which the CIA has worked so hard to conceal. In the fifty or so years since, a vast amount of new information has made it explicitly clear that these murders were carried out by elements within the U.S. government, and were done so to silence the voices of four charismatic leaders who were opposed to the American war machine and the continuation of the Cold War. To turn away from this truth and to ignore its implications can only be described as an act of bad faith and culpable ignorance, or worse.  But that is exactly what many prominent leftists have done.  Then to compound the problem, they have done the same with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

One cannot help thinking of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called these people in the 1950s: “the compatible left.”  He felt that effective CIA propaganda, beside the need for fascist-minded types such as Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, depended on “courting” leftists and liberals into its orbit. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but often taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.  They truncate the full story to present a narrative that distorts the truth.

Without drawing a bold line connecting the dots from November 22, 1963 up to the present, a critique of the murderous forces ruling the United States is impossible.

Among the most notable of such failures are Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, men idolized by many liberals and leftists.  And there are many others who have been deeply influenced by Chomsky, Cockburn, and Zinn and follow in their footsteps.  Their motivations remain a mystery, but there is no doubt their refusals have contributed to the increased power of those who control the doll’s house.  To know better and do as they have is surely culpable ignorance.

From Bad to Worse

Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, increased or decreased in the past half century?  Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites?  The answer is obvious. It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter.  The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.  All the while the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful with the growth of electronic media and cell phone usage.

The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population.  This fragmentation of consciousness prevents people from grasping the present from within because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other. The latter, whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, The Guardian, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Trump or the Russians. The former see everything as a liberal conspiracy to take down Trump.  The liberals have embraced a new McCarthyism and allied themselves with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by, including Republicans.  Their embrace of the formerly despised war-monger John Bolton in the impeachment trial of Trump is a laughable case in point, if it weren’t so depraved and slimy.  It surely isn’t the bloodthirsty policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the liberals’ paragons of truth.  It’s enough to make your head spin, which is the point.  Spin left, spin right, spin all around, because we have possessed your mind in this spectacular image game where seeming antinomies are the constancy of the same through difference, all the presidents coined by the same manufacturer who knows that coin flipping serves to entertain the audience eager for hope and change.

This is how the political system works to prevent change.  It is why little has changed for the better over half a century and the American empire has expanded.  While it may be true that there are signs that this American hegemony is coming to an end (I am not convinced), I would not underestimate the power of the U.S. propaganda apparatus to keep people docile and deluded in the doll’s house, despite the valiant efforts of independent truth-tellers.

How, for example, is it possible for so many people to see such a stark difference between the despicable Trump and the pleasant Obama?  They are both puppets dancing to their masters’ tunes – the same masters.  They both front for the empire.

In his excellent book, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov assiduously documents Obama’s crimes, including his CIA background.7 As Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, says in the first sentence of his forward, “Barack Obama may go down in presidential history as the most effective-and deceptive-imperialist of them all.” Read the book if you want all the details.  They form an overwhelming indictment of the con artist and war criminal that is irrefutable.  But will those who worship at the altar of Barack Obama read it?  Of course not.  Just as those deluded ones who voted for the reality television flim-flam man Trump will ignore all the accumulating evidence that they’ve been had and are living under a president who is Obama’s disguised doppelganger, carrying out the orders of his national security state bosses. This, too, is well documented, and no doubt another writer will arise in the years to come to put it between a book’s covers.

Yet even Jeremy Kuzmarov fails to see the link between the JFK assassination and Obama’s shilling for the warfare state.  His few references to Kennedy are all negative, suggesting he either is unaware of what Kennedy was doing in the last year of his life and why he was murdered by the CIA, or something else.  He seems to follow Noam Chomsky, a Kennedy hater, in this regard.  I point out this slight flaw in an excellent book because it is symptomatic of certain people on the left who refuse to complete the circle.  If, as Kuzmarov, argues, Obama was CIA from the start and that explains his extraordinarily close relationship with the CIA’s John Brennan, an architect, among many things, of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and that Obama told CIA Director Panetta that the CIA would “get everything it wanted,” and the CIA killed JFK, well, something’s amiss, an enormous gap in the analysis of our current condition.

The doll’s house is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites that run the show and ably abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners.  It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA has effectively suckered everyone into a game of to-and-fro in which only they win.

Our only hope for change is to try and educate as many people as possible about the linkages between  events that started with the CIA coup d’état in Dallas on November 22, 1963, continued through the killings of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK and on through so much else up to September 11, 2001, and have brought us to the deeply depressing situation we now find ourselves in where truthtellers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden are criminalized, while the real perpetrators of terrible evils roam free.

Yes, we must educate but also agitate for the release of this courageous trio.  Their freedom is ours; their imprisonment is ours, whether we know it or not.  The walls are closing in.

Lisa Pease is so right:

The way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time, and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.

If we don’t follow her advice, we will be toyed with like dolls for a long time to come.  There will be no one else to blame.

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, May 27, 1969.
  2. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 17-18.
  3. Jon Rappoport, CIA mind control morphed into psychiatry?  July 11, 2017.
  4. Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1941.
  5. Ellul, op cit., p. 140.
  6. A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease, Feral House, 2018, pp.500-501.
  7. Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Clarity Press, 2019.