Category Archives: Viet Nam

Escape From The Infomatrix

For four long months I’ve been in hiding from The Infomatrix.  Inspired both by a dire need for inner peace and an article titled: “Society is Made of Narrative.  Realizing This Is Awakening From The Matrix” by Caitlin Johnstone, I’ve gone into nearly complete informational and electronic detox.  No television, no radio, no internet (except a short email visit daily), no books, no magazines, no political circus, no celebrity gossip, no sports scores, no incessant and obnoxious advertisements, no mindless chatter, none of Empire’s Official Narrative.  Only music fills the air and beautifies the passage of time in my home.

The result has been many hours of introspection, and a rethinking of how a seventy year old hippie might use his last few fading years on this planet more productively.  Sadly, I came to realize that, even though I’ve long considered myself separate from, and even immune from The Infomatrix, complete escape is nearly impossible  I was sucked into the narrative each time I marched for a cause.  I was sucked into the narrative every time I wrote an article examining or dissecting the narrative.  I’ve long been unknowingly and inadvertantly distracted by the shiny, sparkling objects of Empire, but have now begun writing my own narrative.

My new narrative is an unfinished project.  The Age of Aquarius kicked off to a strong start back about a half century ago, but stopped far short of accomplishing all those elusive hopes and dreams of peace on earth, good will to all people.  We marched defiantly in the streets of Amerika, burning the flags of the criminal Empire which terrorized Southeast Asia for power and profit.  We threw our bodies upon the gears of draft boards which sought our complicity in their crimes.  We broke windows, disrupted traffic, interrupted commerce, and as we burned our draft cards, lit a small flame of Amerikan consciousness, and finally saw an end to The Vietnam War.  Then, with our asses out of harm’s way, we cut our hair and went to work for the system which needed more and more Vietnams to continue business as usual.  But its wars became much more low key  Which of us really knew where Grenada is?  The bloody spectacles of Vietnam would never again be displayed on the nightly news.  War became sanitized, and more of a fireworks show as far as most folks were concerned.  The rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.  There was something oddly patriotic about all the bombing, in a very sick way, and few of us gave pause to consider the dead, dismembered bodies in its wake.

My new narrative is all about finishing the project, and remembering that this was supposed to be The Age of Aquarius, but this so-called land of the free and brave never really set foot outside The Age of Darkness and Death.  You remember The Age of Aquarius, don’t you?  That Never-Neverland where the entire planet unites in common goals.  Where war is relegated to history books, and the worldwide military apparatus is dismantled and abandoned.  Where we, as citizens of Earth, are free to wander the sphere at will. Where food, shelter, medical care, and education are rights, not privileges.  That seemingly unattainable Twilight Zone where peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars.  That next HUGE step in the evolution of homo sapiens, out of the darkness and into the light.

Of course, the major impediment to giving a good kick start to sanity is that the breeding colony of international pirates who conceived of and built The USA upon the dead bodies of the indigenous population, and upon the strong backs of captive Africans, has quite a large monetary stake in this, owns and operates all the politicians, police forces, and military, and won’t likely just hand over the keys to the kingdom.  Some things never change.  The pirates have only become more adept and surreptitious about their ongoing mass-murder at home and abroad, and ability to control the national dialogue via The Infomatrix.  God bless these United States of America, pray for our troops, God bless our snipers, and God bless the best dang democracy money can buy!

So I don’t know how much writing I’ll be doing in the immediate future.  I’ll be out there mingling with a few of the good people of this community, doing my very best to suck a few of them out of The Infomatrix to some degree.  Those of us who seek finally and fully attaining something strongly resembling The Age of Aquarius have a vast number of natural allies in this great Christian Nation. Unfortunately, the majority seem to have fallen victim to the incessant Infomatrix chatter about Our Christian Nation…which, by association, means that OUR bombs were ordained by God, of course.  But, goddamn it, bombs just ain’t what Jesus was about.  If he existed at all, he was a revolutionary, a rebel, an enemy of The Roman Empire.  And, unless I’m mistaken, he was all about LOVE, and those bumper stickers are asking just the right question:  “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

My new narrative is about Revolution.  Of course, armed revolution would be foolish, and the violence would defeat the purpose.  The New Amerikan Revolution must have its basis in love, and love alone.  People in the know will tell you that unarmed revolution is impossible, but I think I hear John Lennon singing “All You Need Is Love”, and he’s right.  Love is all you need.  There is no love in bombs, and it really shouldn’t be that difficult to convince more than a few Christians that they should quit voting people into office who authorize warfare.  If the freaking Age of Aquarius isn’t a mirror image of what Christ was preaching, I’ll be damned.  But I’ve been damned before.  The first thing which those of us who challenge the official narrative must do find a way to defund the War Machine, and unfortunately, as much as I hate the idea…it will have to be done within the existing, ridiculous, rigged, so-called 2-party system.  Either within or without the two established parties.  And yes, boys and girls, some of us rebels living out here on the fringe of society will have to run for public office.  Even if only to make some noise, and call some public attention to the fledgling Peace Movement. This could be exciting stuff.  Street theater.  Recreate yourself!  Take a new narrative to the streets.  Don’t be shy. Share your wisdom…gently.  Wisely and cautiously.  It’s not an easy task to convince someone that they just might have a few important misconceptions

And now my hair grows long.  Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair…but gray, of course.  There will be no more haircuts.  I’m taking kindness lessons from my friend Santo, and learning the A to Z of yoga from Amy and Zoee.  I’ve taken the first and most important step toward world peace by becoming vegan.  I walk forth upon this earth now with renewed enthusiasm and purpose.  At seventy years of age, I find that I am completely fearless.  “What is the purpose of life?” asks Kurt Vonnegut in “Breakfast of Champions”.  “To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.” he answers.  And that about sums it up.  If this Age of Aquarius is going to grow wings and fly, it’s going to take considerable effort from the likes of you and me.

Because here’s the thing…No, let’s let Caitlin Johnstone end this piece:

Because here’s the thing: since it’s all narrative, anything is possible. Those who see this have the ability to plunge toward health and human thriving without any regard for the made-up reasons why such a thing is impossible, and plant seeds of light which sprout in unprecedented directions that never could have been predicted by someone plugged into to establishment how-it-is stories. Together, we can determine how society will be. We can re-write the rules. We are re-writing the rules. It’s begun already.

Why aren’t more young people involved in the anti-war movement?

CODEPINK protesters at the Women’s March on the Pentagon this October. (Photo courtesy of Jodie Evans)

What comes to mind when you hear the words “anti-war protest”? Most Americans will picture the protests against the Vietnam war in the sixties and early seventies, an era famous for its youth and student-led movements. In the decades since the Vietnam war ended, youth involvement in peace movements has dwindled. Many young people were involved in protests against the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, but the organizers were mainly older, and a widespread youth movement against the War on Terror never took off.

As a high-school graduate who has recently become involved with the anti-war movement, I can’t help but notice how few peers I have at most of the explicitly anti-war events I attend–despite my generation having a reputation for being especially politically active. Here are some reasons for this disengagement:

It’s all we’ve ever known. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, meaning any American age 17 or younger has never known a time when their country wasn’t at war. Most young people don’t even remember 9/11. The moment that ignited the years-long “War on Terror” barely weighs on my generation’s collective memory. It’s so easy for Generation Z to ignore war since it has always been a part of our lives.

There are so many problems at home to deal with. Why should we care what’s happening on the other side of the world when the police here at home are shooting unarmed black people, when millions of young people can’t afford a college education or leave college burdened with enormous debts, when millions of Americans can’t afford adequate health care, when immigrants are being deported and locked in cages, when there are mass shootings every few weeks, when the planet is burning? Obviously, we have a lot of other issues on our minds.

We are not at risk. The US hasn’t had a draft since 1973, and there haven’t been war-related deaths on American soil since World War II. It has been decades since Americans were in immediate danger of being killed by war, either as civilians or as draftees. And unless they have a loved one in the military or relatives living in a warring country, the lives of young Americans are not directly impacted by war. And yes, there have been a few terrorist attacks on US soil committed by foreigners since 9/11, but they are few and they are far outnumbered by attacks committed by Americans.

It doesn’t feel worth the effort. Eliminating militarism and ending war is a tedious, long-term endeavor. It would be incredibly difficult to make enough of a change to see direct, tangible results. Many young people might decide it is a better use of their time and energy to direct their efforts toward another cause.

Of course, everyone should care about the brutality of war, even if it has no obvious impact on us or seems daunting. However, few people seem to realize how deeply we all are affected by militarism.The increased militarization of the police is directly related to the rise in police brutality. The military’s incredibly high budget takes away money that could be used for social programs like universal healthcare and free higher education. And war has a tremendous negative impact on the environment. No matter what cause you feel most passionate about, ending America’s culture of militarism would benefit it.

How do we engage young people in anti-war activism? As with nearly every issue, I believe education is the place to start. If more people knew about the effects of militarism and understood the intersections between militarism and other forms of oppression, surely they would be compelled to work toward a peaceful society.

All this is not to say older people shouldn’t be involved in the anti-war movement. On the contrary, I think it is essential for this and all progressive movements to be multi generational. Young activists have so much to learn from those who came before us. Older people provide a unique perspective, can share the wisdom they’ve accumulated over the years, and often have more time to devote to activism than students and young parents. However, if more young people do not get involved with anti-war activism, the movement will die out. Furthermore, young people also bring unique advantages to any movement. We tend to be full of enthusiasm, comfortable with technology, and open to new ideas and methods. Young people have a lot to learn from older people, and vice versa. A productive and robust movement must accommodate and emphasize the talents of all generations.

Unfortunately, the US involvement in war shows no signs of slowing down. As long as war exists, so must an anti-war movement. As we seek new ways to rein in the war machine, let us both embrace the veterans of the movement and encourage young people to join its ranks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Daily reported:

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Beautiful but sentimental touristy Luang Prabang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Lao-China Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

US bombs in Laos

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

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

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

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

Conclusions of Jeremy Kuzmarov are chilling but precise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railway project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railway project

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

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

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

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

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

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

US cluster bombs in Laos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My driver and comrade

• Text first published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• Photos by Andre Vltchek unless otherwise indicated

Even in “Revolutionary Countries” Mass Media is Still in the Hands of the Right

How could a country win her fight against Western imperialism?  How could it become truly independent, if its people are fully conditioned, through the mass media and education, by the North American and European doctrines and world view?

Wherever I work and struggle in this world, I am always amazed, even shocked, by how powerful the Western tools of indoctrination are, how effective its propaganda is.

Even in such countries like Vietnam, where one would think, Communism won at a tremendous cost of millions of lives, people are now increasingly indoctrinated by the West. They are apathetic and progressively ignorant about the world. Yes, of course, officially the country is in solidarity with so many struggling and oppressed parts of the world, but ask common people on the streets of Hanoi what they know about the horrific things that are being done by multi-nationals in Africa or even in Indonesia; the great majority would say that they know close to nothing. And if you press harder, chances are that you will be told that they do not really care. It is because the Western official narrative has already infiltrated, entered everything here, from social media to NGOs. It also began influencing arts, television and education.

Ideological war is on, and it is real. It is tough, ruthless and often more destructive than a war fought by conventional weapons.

The victims of this war are human brains, human minds, culture, and sometimes entire political systems.

Your country loses an ‘ideological battle’, then another one, and soon you can find yourself living in a system which is totally foreign to you and to your people; to their history, traditions and desires.

*****

I am writing this essay in the city of Puebla, in Mexico. You know, the people of Mexico just recently voted, and overwhelmingly, they elected the left-wing Presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

For three weeks I travelled all around the country. I spoke to hundreds of people. Most of them were hopeful; most of them were instinctively longing for socialism. Usually, they do not call it ‘socialism’, because for decades they were told not to use this word in any positive context, but what they describe when they dream, is clearly a form of socialism, nevertheless.

But how can they define the position of their country in the world, or even their own position inside their country? You turn on the television set, and all you see is CNN in Spanish (‘Mexican edition’), or the extreme right-wing FOX, or some corporate-owned local TV station. Almost all international news in Mexican newspapers is taken from the Western press agencies.

Can socialism be built like this, based on the Western indoctrination, disinformation system?

Telesur is not even available on most of the cable television systems, so how?

*****

Again, this is really nothing new. For instance, since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the mainstream media outlets were firmly in the hands of the right-wing individuals, and big business. Not all, but definitely most of them.

It used to be truly grotesque, and it still is: while most of the journalists supported Chavez, and later Maduro, they were too scared to write anything positive about the government, fearing that they would lose their jobs.

The insults (and lies) they were paid to regurgitate against the revolutionary system, would easily land them in jail in the United States and definitely in the UK – a country with draconic defamation laws. In Venezuela, most of them were allowed to write – to write garbage and outright lies. The more uncensored the hostile outburst were, the more ‘unfree’ the West called the Venezuelan media environment. The usual stuff, the usual logic of the propaganda: black is white, and cats are rats. Repeat it thousand times, and millions will believe it.

Revolutionary Bolivia is facing the same problems, and so was Ecuador during the previous, socialist administration (now, there, it is ‘business as usual’, with the Western media openly operating in the country, almost unopposed).

Brazil is living through the aftermath of something that could be loosely described as a ‘constitutional coup’ perpetrated by the right-wing establishment, against Dilma and her highly successful PT (socialist) government. The coup was only possible, because the mass media of Brazil, fully backed and fueled from abroad, consistently smeared all the great achievements of the left-of-center administration, putting individuals under a microscope, while describing as ‘corruption’ things that would be absolutely acceptable in Europe or the United States, not to speak about the right-wing countries all over the Latin America.

The smear campaign against Cristina in Argentina, is another example of the right-wing madness which pays.

But how would people know all this, if almost all sources of information are coming exclusively from one – right-wing – camp?

They feel something is happening – they feel it intuitively – but they find it extremely difficult to formulate what they feel precisely.

I witness this all-over Latin America, all over Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East.

It is a confusion, an unhealthy confusion, manufactured somewhere else, somewhere far away.

*****

Let’s face it: this is a truly bizarre situation.

The Western public is ‘discovering’ new and powerful media outlets, which are coming from the non-Western countries. Many people in London or New York are now hooked on RT, CGTN, Press TV, or Telesur. Masses are reading magazines like NEO (New Eastern Outlook, edited in Russia), or Countercurrents (India).

But in those countries that are clearly victims of the Western interventions and brutal neo-colonialist policies, almost all information sources available come from the West – from the very centers of the present world order.

*****

What can be done?

Lately there was plenty of ‘poor us’, or ‘they are after all of us’ statements in the alternative press, at least in the West.

Of course, they are!

Well, Comrades, war is war, even an ideological one!

What did you expect? That after we start attacking the system that has been literally raping the planet for several centuries the system would quietly die, or go away? That is not realistic.

The news that is actually lately coming our way is very good:

Many powerful media outlets that are opposed to the official Western narrative are already in place, or emerging.

In the non-Western world, there are above mentioned RT, PressTV, CGTN, Al-Mayadeen, Telesur. There is New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Sputnik, TASS, Countercurrents, and hopefully soon, Prensa Latina will rejuvenate itself.

They are all on air, already running, fully functional and counting on some of the best writers and thinkers on this Planet, as their contributors.

So, what is next?

We have to, and this is absolutely essential, reach people in the non-Western countries.

Some new media, even if it is totally anti-imperialist and in support of the oppressed world, is still using ‘old methods’, like interviewing almost exclusively people with either British or US accents, as if this would be giving them some enhanced credibility.

Also, there is too much accent on covering the West, and too little on covering what is happening in Africa, Latin America, Asia or the Middle East.

The people of Africa have had enough of Europeans and North Americans telling them ‘what they really are’, and what they should do. They have plenty to say about their own lives and their own countries. The same goes for the Asians.

In order to reach Africans, we have to talk to the African thinkers, revolutionaries, and, of course, to their common people; to talk to them “on the record”, not to listen to ourselves preaching to them.

Our media outlets should be different – truly global but above all, ‘internationalist’.

Chinese CGTN has adopted precisely this philosophy, and it works wonders. People are watching – all over Africa and all over Asia. RT did a tremendous job through their Spanish language broadcast. NEO’s greatest strength is in its in-depth coverage of Asia – the biggest continent on Earth.

Above all, we have to reach as many people in the entire occupied and oppressed world. If some big television stations with substantial budgets (like RT or CGTV) can afford to advertise, they should. And if they cannot convince the cable or satellite providers in Latin America, Asia or Africa to carry their broadcasts, they should concentrate on convincing millions of individuals to watch their programs online, through the internet, as I am doing right now, in Mexico.

*****

Things can be turned around, when there is dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism.

Russia, China and Iran are great examples. Soviet media during Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras was totally humiliated and forced into submission. For several dark years, all that the West was saying and writing was expected to be considered as pure gold by millions in both Russia and the former Soviet republics. But the West did not come to Russia with an olive branch. Dependency on the Western narrative was most likely one of the main reasons why the Soviet Union, and then Russia itself, virtually collapsed. Western propaganda was aiming at bringing the Russian people to their knees. It was clearly a vehicle of hostility and destruction.

But Russia soon regrouped. It got back to its feet. And its media has completely and brilliantly reinvented itself. Now, it is strong, brave and intellectually superb.

China also went through a period when ‘everyone educated’ was expected to parrot Western dogmas. Chinese universities and media outlets got infiltrated from abroad. Hostility towards Communism was steadily injected into Chinese students who were graduating from the European and North American universities. The main goal of the West has always been to derail the Chinese socialist system, and to make China subservient to the West. In the end, it did not happen. China quickly identified the subversion, and since then, has been taking appropriate measures. Its media, too, reformed. The once out-of-date CCTV changed into a sleek, attractive, informative one, a clearly left-wing CGTN. Its newspapers have improved as well.

Now Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan and Iranian international (and internationalist) media outlets are on the correct track. They are broadcasting in various languages, offering non-Western, anti-imperialist alternatives. The distribution of the messages is, however, still limping behind the quality of the news bulletins.

I am working all over the world, often in such ‘corners of the planet’ where hardly any journalist goes. And this is my friendly ‘warning’: our interpretation of events, our worldview, our coverage of the world events in not reaching many of the places where such coverage is desperately needed.

Not everywhere, but often: the poorer the country, the more it is at the mercy of Western propaganda.

It is our obligation, our internationalist duty, to reach the people who are suffering the most.

We are slowly but surely winning the ideological war. Now let us reach out to our brothers and sisters in the poorest, most devastated, as well as the most indoctrinated parts of the world. If we don’t, then what are we fighting for? Therefore, we will.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Even in “Revolutionary Countries” Mass Media is Still in the Hands of the Right

How could a country win her fight against Western imperialism?  How could it become truly independent, if its people are fully conditioned, through the mass media and education, by the North American and European doctrines and world view?

Wherever I work and struggle in this world, I am always amazed, even shocked, by how powerful the Western tools of indoctrination are, how effective its propaganda is.

Even in such countries like Vietnam, where one would think, Communism won at a tremendous cost of millions of lives, people are now increasingly indoctrinated by the West. They are apathetic and progressively ignorant about the world. Yes, of course, officially the country is in solidarity with so many struggling and oppressed parts of the world, but ask common people on the streets of Hanoi what they know about the horrific things that are being done by multi-nationals in Africa or even in Indonesia; the great majority would say that they know close to nothing. And if you press harder, chances are that you will be told that they do not really care. It is because the Western official narrative has already infiltrated, entered everything here, from social media to NGOs. It also began influencing arts, television and education.

Ideological war is on, and it is real. It is tough, ruthless and often more destructive than a war fought by conventional weapons.

The victims of this war are human brains, human minds, culture, and sometimes entire political systems.

Your country loses an ‘ideological battle’, then another one, and soon you can find yourself living in a system which is totally foreign to you and to your people; to their history, traditions and desires.

*****

I am writing this essay in the city of Puebla, in Mexico. You know, the people of Mexico just recently voted, and overwhelmingly, they elected the left-wing Presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

For three weeks I travelled all around the country. I spoke to hundreds of people. Most of them were hopeful; most of them were instinctively longing for socialism. Usually, they do not call it ‘socialism’, because for decades they were told not to use this word in any positive context, but what they describe when they dream, is clearly a form of socialism, nevertheless.

But how can they define the position of their country in the world, or even their own position inside their country? You turn on the television set, and all you see is CNN in Spanish (‘Mexican edition’), or the extreme right-wing FOX, or some corporate-owned local TV station. Almost all international news in Mexican newspapers is taken from the Western press agencies.

Can socialism be built like this, based on the Western indoctrination, disinformation system?

Telesur is not even available on most of the cable television systems, so how?

*****

Again, this is really nothing new. For instance, since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the mainstream media outlets were firmly in the hands of the right-wing individuals, and big business. Not all, but definitely most of them.

It used to be truly grotesque, and it still is: while most of the journalists supported Chavez, and later Maduro, they were too scared to write anything positive about the government, fearing that they would lose their jobs.

The insults (and lies) they were paid to regurgitate against the revolutionary system, would easily land them in jail in the United States and definitely in the UK – a country with draconic defamation laws. In Venezuela, most of them were allowed to write – to write garbage and outright lies. The more uncensored the hostile outburst were, the more ‘unfree’ the West called the Venezuelan media environment. The usual stuff, the usual logic of the propaganda: black is white, and cats are rats. Repeat it thousand times, and millions will believe it.

Revolutionary Bolivia is facing the same problems, and so was Ecuador during the previous, socialist administration (now, there, it is ‘business as usual’, with the Western media openly operating in the country, almost unopposed).

Brazil is living through the aftermath of something that could be loosely described as a ‘constitutional coup’ perpetrated by the right-wing establishment, against Dilma and her highly successful PT (socialist) government. The coup was only possible, because the mass media of Brazil, fully backed and fueled from abroad, consistently smeared all the great achievements of the left-of-center administration, putting individuals under a microscope, while describing as ‘corruption’ things that would be absolutely acceptable in Europe or the United States, not to speak about the right-wing countries all over the Latin America.

The smear campaign against Cristina in Argentina, is another example of the right-wing madness which pays.

But how would people know all this, if almost all sources of information are coming exclusively from one – right-wing – camp?

They feel something is happening – they feel it intuitively – but they find it extremely difficult to formulate what they feel precisely.

I witness this all-over Latin America, all over Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East.

It is a confusion, an unhealthy confusion, manufactured somewhere else, somewhere far away.

*****

Let’s face it: this is a truly bizarre situation.

The Western public is ‘discovering’ new and powerful media outlets, which are coming from the non-Western countries. Many people in London or New York are now hooked on RT, CGTN, Press TV, or Telesur. Masses are reading magazines like NEO (New Eastern Outlook, edited in Russia), or Countercurrents (India).

But in those countries that are clearly victims of the Western interventions and brutal neo-colonialist policies, almost all information sources available come from the West – from the very centers of the present world order.

*****

What can be done?

Lately there was plenty of ‘poor us’, or ‘they are after all of us’ statements in the alternative press, at least in the West.

Of course, they are!

Well, Comrades, war is war, even an ideological one!

What did you expect? That after we start attacking the system that has been literally raping the planet for several centuries the system would quietly die, or go away? That is not realistic.

The news that is actually lately coming our way is very good:

Many powerful media outlets that are opposed to the official Western narrative are already in place, or emerging.

In the non-Western world, there are above mentioned RT, PressTV, CGTN, Al-Mayadeen, Telesur. There is New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Sputnik, TASS, Countercurrents, and hopefully soon, Prensa Latina will rejuvenate itself.

They are all on air, already running, fully functional and counting on some of the best writers and thinkers on this Planet, as their contributors.

So, what is next?

We have to, and this is absolutely essential, reach people in the non-Western countries.

Some new media, even if it is totally anti-imperialist and in support of the oppressed world, is still using ‘old methods’, like interviewing almost exclusively people with either British or US accents, as if this would be giving them some enhanced credibility.

Also, there is too much accent on covering the West, and too little on covering what is happening in Africa, Latin America, Asia or the Middle East.

The people of Africa have had enough of Europeans and North Americans telling them ‘what they really are’, and what they should do. They have plenty to say about their own lives and their own countries. The same goes for the Asians.

In order to reach Africans, we have to talk to the African thinkers, revolutionaries, and, of course, to their common people; to talk to them “on the record”, not to listen to ourselves preaching to them.

Our media outlets should be different – truly global but above all, ‘internationalist’.

Chinese CGTN has adopted precisely this philosophy, and it works wonders. People are watching – all over Africa and all over Asia. RT did a tremendous job through their Spanish language broadcast. NEO’s greatest strength is in its in-depth coverage of Asia – the biggest continent on Earth.

Above all, we have to reach as many people in the entire occupied and oppressed world. If some big television stations with substantial budgets (like RT or CGTV) can afford to advertise, they should. And if they cannot convince the cable or satellite providers in Latin America, Asia or Africa to carry their broadcasts, they should concentrate on convincing millions of individuals to watch their programs online, through the internet, as I am doing right now, in Mexico.

*****

Things can be turned around, when there is dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism.

Russia, China and Iran are great examples. Soviet media during Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras was totally humiliated and forced into submission. For several dark years, all that the West was saying and writing was expected to be considered as pure gold by millions in both Russia and the former Soviet republics. But the West did not come to Russia with an olive branch. Dependency on the Western narrative was most likely one of the main reasons why the Soviet Union, and then Russia itself, virtually collapsed. Western propaganda was aiming at bringing the Russian people to their knees. It was clearly a vehicle of hostility and destruction.

But Russia soon regrouped. It got back to its feet. And its media has completely and brilliantly reinvented itself. Now, it is strong, brave and intellectually superb.

China also went through a period when ‘everyone educated’ was expected to parrot Western dogmas. Chinese universities and media outlets got infiltrated from abroad. Hostility towards Communism was steadily injected into Chinese students who were graduating from the European and North American universities. The main goal of the West has always been to derail the Chinese socialist system, and to make China subservient to the West. In the end, it did not happen. China quickly identified the subversion, and since then, has been taking appropriate measures. Its media, too, reformed. The once out-of-date CCTV changed into a sleek, attractive, informative one, a clearly left-wing CGTN. Its newspapers have improved as well.

Now Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan and Iranian international (and internationalist) media outlets are on the correct track. They are broadcasting in various languages, offering non-Western, anti-imperialist alternatives. The distribution of the messages is, however, still limping behind the quality of the news bulletins.

I am working all over the world, often in such ‘corners of the planet’ where hardly any journalist goes. And this is my friendly ‘warning’: our interpretation of events, our worldview, our coverage of the world events in not reaching many of the places where such coverage is desperately needed.

Not everywhere, but often: the poorer the country, the more it is at the mercy of Western propaganda.

It is our obligation, our internationalist duty, to reach the people who are suffering the most.

We are slowly but surely winning the ideological war. Now let us reach out to our brothers and sisters in the poorest, most devastated, as well as the most indoctrinated parts of the world. If we don’t, then what are we fighting for? Therefore, we will.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Unthinkable Operations

In the preface to his remarkable three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky, writing in 1930 about earth-shaking events in which he was a key actor, explains his view of writing history. He cites reactionary French historian Louis Madelin, who wrote that “…the historian ought to stand upon the wall of a threatened city, and behold at the same time the besiegers and the besieged” in order to achieve a “conciliatory justice.” Trotsky then scoffs that if Madelin himself  “climbs out on the wall dividing the two camps, it is only in the character of a reconnoiterer for the reaction.” In contrast Trotsky, vowing to draw on historic documents, “not fallible personal memory or anecdote,” promises to write with a “scientific conscientiousness, which for its sympathies and antipathies — open and undisguised — seeks support in an honest study of the facts, a determination of their real connections, an exposure of the causal laws of their movements.”

Ron Ridenour, a veteran journalist and author, former member of the US Communist Party, dedicated anti-war activist and a self-described revolutionary socialist, like Trotsky (though no Troskyite himself) writes from a perspective of outside the city wall. In his latest book, Pentagon on Alert: The Russian Peace Threat (Punto Press, New York, 2018).  He does an admirable of job of it too,  providing an abundance of readily accessible citations (hot-linked in the book’s online version), instead of some coldly “objective” history. The Russian Peace Threat offers the perspective of someone passionately involved in combating American imperialism and  this country’s century-long hostility towards Russia and its revolution against capitalism. He documents how from the outset of the Russian revolution of 1917, when 13,000 US troops joined other European forces in seeking to overthrow the new socialist state by force, down to the present, whichever party was dominant in Washington has sought to hem in and undermine first the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. The ultimate aim, he demonstrates, has been to create a client regime in Russia through “regime change,” or to destroy the country with a nuclear first strike.

As someone who studied modern Russian history, I found myself nonetheless being continually surprised as I read The Russian Peace Threat, by shocking new facts about this enduring US hostility that I had clearly not been fully aware of. For example, at the end of Chapter 10, writing about the launching of the Cold War by then Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Harry Truman as World War II was ending, Ridenour describes how Churchill proposed a plan to the US called “Operation Unthinkable.” This criminal nightmare vision had the combined forces of the US, Britain and Canada, along with some 100,000 rearmed Nazi troops, attacking the presumably exhausted and over-extended Soviet Red Army then still battling remnants of the Wehrmacht in eastern Germany. Operation Unthinkable, which Ridenour tells us was kept secret until 1998, also envisioned, as early as mid-1945 before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, using the new atomic bombs being developed by the US and Britain in the Manhattan Project, against Soviet troops and even on the Soviet capital of Moscow.

He goes on in the next chapter about the launching of the Cold War (which he notes was begun not by Stalin, but by Churchill and Truman), to describe how, over the period from 1946-1949, Truman had his Pentagon generals feverishly developing a series of nine equally monstrous plans, more detailed than the thankfully never launched Operation Unthinkable. All nine of these  various plans centered on the use of America’s growing nuclear arsenal to completely annihilate the USSR’s industrial base, and its population along with it.

With names like Operation Pincher and Operation Dropshot, these plans continued to be developed until 1949, when Russia, thanks in part to the assistance provided by sympathetic Manhattan Project scientists and workers who feared — rightly it turns out! — a hegemonic US with a monopoly on atomic weapons after the war. Even though fanatic Pentagon planners estimated that dropping some 300 nuclear weapons on Soviet military bases and industrial centers could kill half the that war-battered country’s remaining population, it was the only the recognition, in 1949, that the Soviets could finally strike back that halted that active planning (and it was only the lack of a sufficient number of bombs and delivery systems to finish the job that had kept them from launching a “pre-emptive” genocidal war earlier than that).

Over and over Ridenour exposes how it has been the US, not Russia or the USSR, that has created the wars and tensions with the Soviet Union. Take Vietnam, which Ridenour, an Air Force recruit himself for a few years before that war really escalated, claims was central to his political evolution as a revolutionary activist. He recounts how the US military in Vietnam was practically in open revolt after the 1968 Tet Offensive. He says following Tet, the smoking of marijuana by US soldiers became widespread as did LSD use, but adds that heroin became the drug of choice. Here he cites the Pentagon as saying that by the early 1970s 15% of Army troops were on smack. He also talks about fragging, again quoting Pentagon sources as documenting more than 900 cases of soldiers using their fragmentation grenades to kill commanding officers they felt were incompetent, aggressive or a threat to their survival . (Note: this number is actually on the low end of estimates of the frequency of this particularly dramatic and deadly act of resistance.)   He concludes that these developments, combined with an expanding and increasingly militant anti-war movement and a politically driven end to conscription back in the US, contributed to the US finally losing the war.

Not afraid (as are most mainstream academic historians) to wade into the politically contentious present, Ridenour gives a solid account of the current era in which both the Obama and Trump administrations have deliberately increased tensions with Russia, from the coup in Ukraine orchestrated and funded by the US under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which led to a fascist, anti-Russian government in Kiev, to the current illegal US military role in Syria backing jihadi terrorist groups against the Syrian government, which is being aided by Russia.

Ridenour provides a well documented history of the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He explains in detail how the US first helped install the corrupt and alcoholic Boris Yeltsin — a man who allowed US business interests to rob his country blind — in a second term as president and how Putin, at the time a little-known Yeltsin subordinate, at first supported by the US, followed. That support ended when Putin surprised his critics and turned the country around, halted the privatization free-for-all and ending Russia’s  headlong plunge into economic and social decline. At that point, Ridenour explains, the US turned on him.

Putin’s “crime,” Ridenour argues, is that after the Ukraine coup, he finally took action to halt the US-led undermining of Russia. He explains in detail how Russia’s only warm-water naval base in the south in Crimea was threatened by the US-orchestrated change in government in Kiev. Then, quoting Harvard political scientist John Mearsheimer, he writes: “Putin saw that the time to act against Ukraine and the West had arrived.”

There was no “invasion” of Crimea, Ridenour explains. Russia already had 25,000 troops legally based in Crimea under a base-leasing agreement with Ukraine. They were there to defend the Russian naval base at Sebastopol, which was leased from Ukraine under an treaty signed when Ukraine became independent as part of the break-up of the USSR. Crimea, historically a part of Russia, and only annexed to Ukraine in 1954 as a “gift” ordered by Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian, was 68% ethnically Russian and only 16% Ukrainian. When the people of Ukraine expressed a desire to have their territory returned to Russia because of threats against ethnic Russians from the new Kiev government, a plebiscite was held. The result: 83% of eligible voters cast ballots, and 97% of them favored reintegration with Russia. Putin agreed.

That was the “invasion” that the US and other Western media continue to refer to ad nauseam.

Ridenour, quoting Western sources, says the “invasion” in truth only involved Russia sending over to Crimea six helicopters and two small boats with 500 so-called “little green men” — actually Russian Special Forces acting as “polite police.” The Ukrainian garrison in Crimea was given the option of leaving or fighting, and in the event many, including senior officers, defected to Russia, while the rest of the garrison left for Ukraine peacefully.

There were six killings during the transfer of Crimea to Russia, he reports:  two were Crimean ethnic Russian civilians, one a Crimean ethnic Ukrainian civilian, one Russian soldier, one Ukrainian soldier and one Crimean self-defense soldier. He adds that the Russian soldier was killed by a Ukrainian Right Sector militant who fled to Ukraine and that none of the other deaths was reportedly caused by a Russian soldier. While Hillary Clinton was comparing the Crimean re-annexation by Russia to Hitler’s march into Sudetenland, Ridenour quotes Forbes magazine as writing: “The US and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are. One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there — be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tatars, are mostly all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.”

While Trotsky may have disparaged the use of anecdotes in his History, Ridenour, who spent eight years living in Cuba (he famously burned his passport and renounced his US citizenship after the US launched the Gulf War against Iraq, throwing the ashes at the US Interest Section compound in Havana, eventually moving to Denmark where he now lives), provides many anecdotes, some critical, about his life in Castro’s Cuba. He also recounts his experience as a US Airman stationed in Japan, and about his experience as an activist in the US. These accounts enrich the book and allow the reader to understand where the author is coming from.

Example: In his chapter the US War on Vietnam, he describes how on May 1, 1975, he took out a promotional recording he had been given years earlier that had been intended to be performed at early anti-war marches and rallies. Called “War is Over,” he says he felt it was too optimistic for the times so for years he’d never played it. “After 15 years of anti-war activism, Vietnam won so now I could play it,” he writes, “and I did repeatedly, crying on and off for hours.” He writes in his book that even just reading those sentences back out loud as he writes them, “I break out in tears and heartache.”

That’s the Ron I remember from the days back in 1976 when he and several other Los Angeles journalists, myself included, founded a feisty if short-lived worker-owned-and-run alternative left news weekly, the Los Angeles Vanguard. A committed socialist revolutionary, Ron has always been radical journalist, an excellent writer and a passionate believer in the pure evil of war and in the need for a re-ordering of global society on the basis of real socialism, not capitalism or welfare-statism.

His book The Russian Peace Threat is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what is driving the insane US effort to gin up a new cold war with both Russia and China at a time when the real threat facing humanity is of either nuclear annihilation or the destruction of the very planetary ecosystem that allowed the human species to evolve and thrive. As Ridenour meticulously documents, mostly drawing on western news sources, from the end of World War II the US has been the driving force for increasing enmity between itself and first the Soviet Union and today Russia (and increasingly towards China too). It is also the US, not Russia, he writes, that has been responsible for tens of millions of mostly Third World deaths since the end of that last horrific global conflict.

The United States of America: The Real Reason Why They Are Never Winning Their Wars

This essay is inspired by Professor James Petras’ article, describing that the US never wins wars despite trillions of investments in her war budget and obvious military superiority.  Professor Petras is, of course, right, the United States is currently engaged in seven bloody wars around the globe (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya) and has not been winning one, including WWII. The question is: Why is that?

To these wars, you may want to add the totally destructive and human rights adverse war that literally slaughters unarmed civilians, including thousands of children, in an open-air prison, Gaza, the US proxy war on Palestine, carried out by Israel; plus, warmongering on Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. Let alone the new style wars — the trade wars with China, Europe, and to some extent, Mexico and Canada — as well as the war of sanctions, starting with Russia and reaching around the world, the fiefdom of economic wars also illegal by any book of international economics.

Other wars and conflicts, that were never intended to be won, include the dismantlement of Yugoslavia by the Clinton / NATO wars of the 1990s, the so-called Balkanization of Yugoslavia, ‘Balkanization’, a term now used for other empire-led partitions in the world, à la “divide to conquer”. Many of the former Yugoslav Republics are still not at peace internally and among each other. President Tito, a Maoist socialist leader was able to keep the country peacefully together and make out of Yugoslavia one of the most prosperous countries in Europe in the seventies and 1980s. How could this be allowed, socio-economic well-being in a socialist country?  Never. It had to be destroyed. At the same time NATO forces advanced their bases closer to Moscow. But no war was won. Conflicts are still ongoing, “justifying” the presence of NATO, for European and US “national security”.

Then, let’s not forget the various Central American conflicts — Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala — the 8-year Iraq-Iran war, and many more, have created havoc and disorder, and foremost killed millions of people and weakened the countries affected. They put the population into misery and constant fear, and they keep requiring weapons to maintain internal hostilities, warfare and terror to this day.

All of these wars are totally unlawful and prohibited by any international standards of law. But the special and exceptional nation doesn’t observe them. President Trump’s bully National Security Advisor, John Bolton, recently threatened the ICC and its judges with ‘sanctions’ in case they dare start prosecution of Israeli and American war criminals. And the world doesn’t seem to care, and, instead, accepts the bully’s rule, afraid of the constant saber-rattling and threats being thrown out at the resisters of this world. Even the United Nations, including the 15-member Security Council, is afraid to stand up to the bully – 191 countries against 2 (US and Israel) is a no go?

None of these wars, hot wars or cold wars, has ever been won. Nor were they intended to be won. And there are no signs that future US-led wars will ever be won; irrespective of the trillions of dollars spent on them, and irrespective of the trillions to come in the future to maintain these wars and to start new ones. If we, the 191 UN member nations allow these wars to continue, that is. Again, why is that?

The answer is simple. It is not in the interest of the United States to win any wars. The reasons are several. A won war theoretically brings peace, meaning no more weapons, no more fighting, no more destruction, no more terror and fear, no more insane profits for the war industry, but foremost, a country at peace is more difficult to manipulate and starve into submission than a country maintained at a level of constant conflict, conflict that not even a regime change will end, as we are seeing in so many cases around the world. Case in point, one of the latest ones being the Ukraine, after the US-NATO-EU instigated February 2014 Maidan coup, prepared with a long hand, in Victoria Nuland’s word, then Assistant Secretary of State, we spent more than 5 years and 5 billion dollars to bring about a regime change and democracy to the Ukraine.

Today, there is a “civil war” waging in eastern Ukraine, the Russian leaning Donbass area (about 90% Russian speaking and 75% Russian nationals), fueled by the ‘new’ Washington installed Poroshenko Nazi government. Thousands were killed, literally in cold blood by the US military-advised and assisted Kiev army, and an estimated more than 2 million fled to Russia. The total Ukraine population is about 44 million (2018 est.), with a landmass of about 604,000 km2, of which the Donbass area (Donetsk Province) is the most densely populated, counting for about 10% of population and about 27,000 km2.

Could this Kiev war of aggression end? Yes, if the West would let go of the Donbass area which in any case will never submit to the Kiev regime and which has already requested to be incorporated into Russia. It would instantly stop the killing, the misery and destruction by western powers driven Nazi Kiev. But that’s not in the interest of the west, NATO, EU and especially not Washington – chaos and despair make for easy manipulation of people, for exploitation of this immensely rich country, both in agricultural potential – Ukraine used to be called the bread basket of Russia – and in natural resources in the ground; and for steadily advancing closer to the doorsteps of Moscow. That’s the intention.

In fact, Washington and its western EU vassal allies are relentlessly accusing Russia for meddling in the Ukraine, in not adhering to the Minsk accords. They are ‘sanctioning’ Russia for not respecting the Minsk Protocol (Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany agreed on 11 February 2015 to a package of measures to alleviate the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine), when, in fact, the complete opposite is true. The west disregards the key points of the accord – no interference. But western propaganda and deceit-media brainwash western populations into believing in the Russian evil. The only ones meddling and supplying Kiev’s Nazi Regime with weapons and “military advisors” is the west.

The ongoing strategy is lie-propaganda, so the western public, totally embalmed with western falsehoods, believes it is always Russia. Russians, led by President Putin, are the bad guys. The media war is part of the west’s war on Russia. The idea is, never let go of an ongoing conflict – no matter the cost in lives and in money. It’s so easy. Why isn’t that addressed in many analyses that still pretend the US is losing wars instead of winning them? It’s 101 of western geopolitics.

For those who don’t know, the US State Department has clearly exposed its plans to guarantee world primacy to the Senate’s Foreign Relations Commission. Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, has declared that the United States is punishing Russia, because Moscow is impeding Washington from establishing supremacy over the world. It gets as blunt as that. The US openly recognizes the reason for their fight against Russia, and that Washington would not accept anything less than a full capitulation. See French version in ZE Journal.

The full supremacy over the world is not possible without controlling the entire landmass of Eurasia, which for now they, the US, does not dominate. Mitchell added, contrary to optimistic hypothesis of earlier administrations, Russia and China are the most serious contenders to impede materially and ideologically the supremacy of the United States in the 21st Century, in a reference to the PNAC, Plan for a New American Century.

Then Mitchell launched a bomb: “It is always of primordial interest for the United States’ national security to impede the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers.”  This clearly means that the United States will shy away from nothing in the pursuit of this goal – meaning an outright war, nuclear or other, massive killing and total destruction to reach that goal. This explains the myriad false accusations, ranging from outright insults at the UN by a lunatic Nikki Haley, the never-ending saga of the Skripal poisoning, to Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections and whatever else suits the political circumstances to bash Russia. And these fabricated lies come mostly from Washington and London, and the rest of the western vassals just follows.

War is hugely profitable. It creates so much money because it’s so easy to spend money very fast. There are huge fortunes to be made. So, there is always an encouragement to promote war and keep it going, to make sure that we identify people who are ‘others’ whom we can legitimately make war upon.

— Roger Waters, Co-founder of the rock band Pink Floyd

Russia today is attacked by economic and trade “sanctions”, by travel bans, by confiscated assets they have in the west. The Cold War which propagated the Soviet Union as an invasive threat to the world, was a flagrant and absolute lie from A to Z. It forced the Soviet Union, thrown into abject poverty by saving the west from Hitler during WWII – yes, it was the Soviet Union, not the US of A and her western ‘allies’ that defeated Hitler’s army – losing between 25 and 30 million people!  Imagine! By saving Europe, the Soviet Union became unimaginably devastated and poor.

The US propaganda created the concept of the Iron Curtain which basically forbade the west to see behind this imaginary shield to find out what the USSR really was after WWII – made destitute to the bones by the second World War. Yet this Cold War and Iron Curtain propaganda managed to make the western world believe that it is under a vital threat of a USSR invasion day-in-day-out, and that Europe with NATO must be ready to fend off any imaginary attack from the Soviet Union. It forced the Soviet Union to using all her workers’ accumulated capital to arm themselves, to be able to defend themselves from any possible western aggression, instead of using these economic resources to rebuild their country, their economy, their social systems. That’s the west – the lying, utterly and constantly deceiving west. Wake up, people!!!

Here you have it, confirmed by Wess Mitchell. The US would rather pull the rest of the world with it into a bottomless and an apocalyptic abyss with its sheer military power, than to lose and not reach her goal. That’s the unforgiving ruling of the deep state, those that have been pulling the strings behind every US president for the last 200 years. Unless the new alliances of the East; i.e., the SCO, BRICS, Eurasian Economic Union, half the world’s population and a third of the globe’s economic output, are able to subdue the United States economically, we may as well be doomed.

As the seven present ongoing wars speak for themselves, chaos — no end in sight and intended — allow me to go back to a few other wars that were not won, on purpose, of course. Let’s look again at WWII and its sister wars, economic wars and conflicts. Planning of WWII started soon after the Great Depression of 1928 to 1933 and beyond. Hitler was a ‘convenient’ stooge. War is not only hugely profitable, but it boosts and sustains the economy of just about every sector. And the major objective for the US then was eliminating the Bolshevik communist threat, the Soviet Union. Today it’s demonizing President Putin and, if possible, bringing about regime change in Russia. That’s on top of Washington’s wish list.

In the midst of the Great Depression, in 1931, the US created the Bank for International Settlement in Basel, Switzerland, conveniently located at the border to Germany. The BIS, totally privately owned and controlled by the Rothchild clan, was officially intended for settling war compensation payments by Germany. Though, unknown to most people, Germany has paid almost no compensation for either WWI and WWII. Most of the debt was simply forgiven. Germany was an important player in Washington’s attempt to eliminating the “communist curse” of the USSR. The BIS was used by the FED via Wall Street banks to finance Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union.

As usual, the US was dancing on two weddings: Pretending to fight Hitler’s Germany, but really supporting Hitler against Moscow. Sounds familiar? Pretending to fight ISIS and other terrorists in the Middle East and around the world, but in reality, having been instrumental in creating, training, funding and arming the terror jihadists. When WWII was won by the Soviet army at a huge human sacrifice, the US, her allies and NATO marched in shouting victory. And to this day these are the lessons taught in western schools, by western history books, largely ignoring the tremendous credit attributable to the Soviet Union, to the Russian people.

And since the USSR was not defeated, the Cold War had to be invented – and eventually with the help of Washington stooges, Michael Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the west brought down the Soviet Union – preparing the way for a unipolar world. This grandiose goal of the exceptional nation was, however, and very fortunately, stopped in its slippery tracks by the ascent of Russian President Putin.

But that’s not all. For dominating Russia, Europe had to be ‘colonized’ – made into a “European Union” (EU) that was never meant to be a real union, as in the United States of America. The idea of a European Union was first planted shortly after WWII by the CIA, then taken over by the Club of Rome – and promoted through numerous conventions all the way to the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. The next logical step was to give the EU a Constitution, to make the EU into a consolidated Federation of European States, with common economic, defense and foreign relations strategies. But this was never to be.

The former French President, Giscard d’Estaing (1974 – 1981), was given the task to lead the drafting of an EU Constitution. He had strict instructions, though unknown to most, to prepare a document that would not be ratified by member states, as it would have bluntly transferred most of the EU nations sovereignty to Brussels. And so, the constitution was rejected, starting by France. Most countries didn’t even vote on the Constitution. And so, a federation of a United Europe didn’t happen. That would have been an unbeatable competition to the US, economically and militarily. NATO was eventually to take the role of unifying Europe under the control of Washington. Today, the EU is ever more integrated into NATO.

What happened in parallel to the construct of a (non) European Union was the European financial and economic colonization or enslavement through the Bretton Woods Agreements in 1944. They created the World Bank to manage the Marshall Plan, the US-sponsored European reconstruction fund, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to monitor and regulate the gold standard (US$ 35 / Troy Ounce), vis-à-vis the so-called convertible mostly European currencies. In fact, the Marshall Plan, denominated in US-dollars, was the first step towards a common European currency, prompted by the Nixon Administration’s exiting the gold standard in 1971, eventually leading to the Euro, a fiat currency created according to the image of the US dollar. The Euro, the little brother of the US fiat dollar thus became a currency with which the European economic, financial and monetary policies are being manipulated by outside forces; i.e., the FED and Wall Street. The current President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, is a former Goldman Sachs executive.

These are wars, albeit the latter ones, economic wars, being constantly waged, but not won. They create chaos, illusions, believes in lies, manipulating and mobilizing people into the direction the masters of and behind Washington want them to move. These are the same masters that have been in control of the west for the last 200 years; and unknown to the vast majority of the western population, these masters are a small group of banking and financial clans that control the western monetary system, as we know it today. It was brought into existence in 1913, by the Federal Reserve Act. These masters control the FED, Wall Street and the BIS – also called the central banks of central banks, as it – the BIS – controls all but a handful of the world’s central banks.

This fiat financial system is debt-funding wars, conflicts and proxy hostilities around the world. Debt that is largely carried in the form of US treasury bills as other countries’ reserves. The continuation of wars is crucial for the system’s survival. It’s hugely profitable. If a war was won, peace would break out – no war industry profit there, no debt-rent for banks from peace. Wars must go on and the exceptional nation may prevail, with the world’s largest military-security budget, the deadliest weapons and a national debt, called ‘unmet obligations’ by the US General Accounting Office (GAO) of about 150 trillion dollars, about seven and a half times the US GDP. We are living in the west in a pyramid monetary fraud that only wars can sustain, until, yes, until a different, honest system, based on real economic and peaceful output, will gradually replace the dollar’s hegemony and its role as a world reserve currency. It’s happening as these lines go to print. Eastern economies, like the Chinese, with China’s gold-convertible Yuan, and a national debt of only about 40% of GDP, is gradually taking over the international reserve role of the US dollar.

The US of A, therefore, will do whatever she can to continue demonizing Russia and China, provoke them into a hot war, because dominating, and outright ‘owning’ the Eurasian landmass is the ultimate objective of the killer Empire.

Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for “objectivity”. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC’s airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.

A BBC News clip headlined, ‘Begging for food in Venezuela’, emphasised:

Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country’s economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country’s currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro’s door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government’s actions – and inactions – have made the crisis ‘far worse’. But crucially:

The government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.

The Morning Star’s Tim Young pointed out that:

Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela’s health programme, with the country’s vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls “regime change.”

Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

The agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.

As Buncombe observed:

The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America’s affairs.

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, ‘Empire Files‘, is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word ‘regime’ to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a ‘regime’ is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a “regime”: It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there’s no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a “regime.”

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what’s going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated ‘Editorial Values‘:

Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through ‘facts and information’ to present ‘the truth’ to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, makes clear.

‘A Human Landmark; an American Hero’

Consider coverage of the recent death of US politician John McCain. McCain was the Republican nominee in the 2008 US presidential election which he lost to Barack Obama. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, he was shot down while on a bombing mission over Hanoi and was seriously injured. Captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured during his incarceration, before being released in 1973. In later years, the media would call him a ‘war hero’ and depict him as a political ‘maverick’ in not always supporting Republican Party policy on certain issues.

Theresa May declared:

John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK.

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence editor and chief foreign affairs columnist, echoed the mantra that McCain was a ‘war hero’.

In similar vein, ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ Nick Bryant, the BBC’s New York correspondent, intoned loftily on BBC News at Ten on August 27:

Washington without John McCain is a lesser place. He was a human landmark; an American hero whose broken body personified the Land of the Brave.

Senior reporters from Channel 4 News and ITV News added their own eulogies to warmonger McCain, dubbed ‘McNasty’ by people who had observed his ‘inexplicable angry outbursts’. C4 News political correspondent Michael Crick said via Twitter:

I’ll always be grateful to John McCain. When I was #C4News Washington Correspondent in the late ’80s, he was one of the few senators happy to do interviews with us, and always very friendly & accommodating.

Robert Moore, ITV News Washington Correspondent responded:

Agreed. And that continued almost until the end – for the foreign press, McCain was the single most accessible political figure in Washington. He always had time for an interview, and a joke – including teasing me for my choice of ties.

Other Twitter users put things in stark perspective:

My thoughts are entirely with his victims and their families.

And:

How hard did you grill him about the decisions he made that killed innocent civilians in hundreds of thousands?

It would be hard to find an exchange on Twitter that better exemplifies the divide between sycophantic journalists fawning before power, and members of the public refusing to whitewash a politician’s ugly record.

Patrick Martin, writing for the World Socialist Website, makes a vital point:

The overriding feature of McCain’s career […] was his reflexive hawkishness on foreign policy. He supported war after war, intervention after intervention, always promoting the use of force as the primary feature of American foreign policy, and always advocating the maximum allocation of resources to fuel the Pentagon.

Peace activist Medea Benjamin told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

We had constantly been lobbying John McCain to not support all these wars. Amy, I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam. I just spent the last weekend with Veterans for Peace, people who are atoning for their sins in Vietnam by trying to stop new wars. John McCain hasn’t done that. With his life, what he did was support wars from not only Iraq, but also Libya.

Benjamin founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, a grassroots peace and justice movement that McCain once disparaged as “low-life scum“.

She continued:

He called John Kerry delusional for trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran, and threw his lot in with the MEK, the extremist group in Iran. He also was a good friend of Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudis. There was a gala for the Saudis in May when the crown prince was visiting, and they had a special award for John McCain. He supported the Saudi bombing in Yemen that has been so catastrophic. And I think we have to think that those who have participated in war are really heroes if they spend the rest of their lives trying to stop war, not like John McCain, who spent the rest of his life supporting war.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, made clear his empathy for McCain for having suffered through brain cancer. But he castigated the corporate media phenomenon of ‘obit omit—obituaries that are flagrantly in conflict with the real historical record.’

He told Goodman:

We really have to fault the mass media of the United States, not just for the last few days, but the last decades, pretending that somehow, by implication, almost that John McCain was doing the people of North Vietnam a favor as he flew over them and dropped bombs. You would think, in the hagiography that we’ve been getting about his role in a squadron flying over North Vietnam, that he was dropping, you know, flowers or marshmallows or something. He was shot down during his 23rd mission dropping bombs on massive numbers of human beings, in a totally illegal and immoral war.

As Branko Marcetic noted in an accurate assessment of McCain’s political legacy:

John McCain’s greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party’s agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk.

In a recent article, Joe Emersberger, an insightful writer on foreign affairs, notes that corporate media coverage of both Venezuela and John McCain illustrates two main features:

  1. The uniformity of empire-friendly reporting across the corporate media.
  2. The complicity of major human rights groups in this empire-friendly ‘journalism’.

As an example:

Amnesty International has refused to oppose US economic sanctions on Venezuela, and has also refused to denounce flagrant efforts by US officials to incite a military coup.

Emersberger also points to a statement on John McCain’s death from Human Rights Watch:

Senator McCain was for decades a compassionate voice for US foreign and national security policy.

For anyone able to think critically and speak openly, such statements are risible. Brutal imperialism will continue for as long as empire-friendly journalism and tame public opposition exist.

WTF? Why Adulate This Warmonger?

For days we have been informed—indeed, relentlessly reminded, instructed, lectured, preached to, told matter-of-factly (as though the whole universe knows it), bestowed with the transcendent wisdom—that the late Sen. John McCain was a true American hero.

Wow! What a man! Suddenly, we learn that he was one of the Greatest Americans of All Time. “How to hold him in reverence?” asks an African-American Democratic congressman on CNN. It is (at least on cable news) an unchallenged truth. On CNN Sunday morning “America pays tribute to a hero”—-as his old friends Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman do so.

McCain served his country, we are taught. He was shot down over North Vietnam—just one of those sad things that happens to some people sometimes. So sad he had to parachute into a lake where the people he’d been bombing rescued him. Of course, he was imprisoned, as any bomber captured over any country would be imprisoned.

We are told (by his huge unpaid unthinking posthumous groupie corporate media staff) that this person (McCain), was tortured but never broke (except that one time he signed a statement about bombing civilians).

And he refused early release out of loyalty to his fellow POWs. Heroic!

He (for some reason less noticeable in other people) loved his family (although he divorced his long-suffering first wife, who’d been injured in an accident during his captivity, to marry a wealthy heiress). That is impressive.

Of course (we are told) he loved God, and even served as unit chaplain in Hanoi. He was an unquestioned paragon of virtue, we’re told, even as his quirks and temper tantrums are mentioned—in passing—as endearing minor flaws. He’s described as “hawkish” and often, as a responsible advocate for a powerful military and defender of U.S. “national interests” (versus Russia and Iran in particular).

The Establishment consensus on McCain is truly impressive. Everyone has queued up for the gangbang on humanity, intelligence and morality.

The public funeral featuring eulogies by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was designed to reflect the bipartisan celebration of a legacy—which, unconscionably—the “Democratic Socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Chavez tweets “represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.”

WTF, Alexandria?

Bernie Sanders adds to the adulation. “John McCain,” he tells his supporters, “was an American hero, a man of decency and honor and a friend of mine. He will be missed not just in the US Senate but by all Americans who respect integrity and independence.” WTF, Bernie?

Joe Lieberman, teary-eyed, calls him a “national treasure.”  The CNN anchor has to add, “Well said!” as though we all surely agree on this, right?

The McCain funeral, like Caesar’s, became a political statement against the new political leadership. Mark Anthony praised the dead, while targeting the living Brutus. Meghan McCain praised her father, while targeting President Trump. “America has always been great” is her—and much of the whole system’s—response to Trump’s hollow pledge to “make America great again.”

Questioning the timeless greatness of America is heretical—as heretical as questioning the heroism of John McCain.

Among Trump’s more “controversial” remarks are his statement, “I like people who weren’t captured” and his declaration, “He’s not a war hero. He was a hero because he was captured.” Of all the comments Trump has made—racist, stupid, bigoted comments about women, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—these on McCain constitute his greatest sin. At least, it has been seized on as such by his vast range of political enemies who want him down.

The dying McCain carefully planned his final rites. (Or those around him did. My father died of the same glioblastoma brain cancer that killed Edward Kennedy and John McCain; I know how rapidly it progresses and how little the human mind functions in the final few months. I find it hard to believe the senator composed some of the statements attributed to him towards the end.) The point was to shame Trump, so that the media coverage would focus on the contrast between the two men, one recklessly straying off course, the other a rock of integrity.

However moving this spectacle is, it is fundamentally sick. That this particular man, with his particular history, gets suddenly thrust into the public face and promoted as national icon even by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Chavez is a virtual declaration of national moral bankruptcy.

John McCain, son of an admiral, was a poor student at the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to bomb Vietnam during that war in the 1960s and 70s that—some of us recall—was a horrific, vicious ongoing atrocity that killed two million people.

I ask my amazing son, born 23 years after the end of the Vietnam War, if he understands how horrible that war was. (He knows the military family history, my dad’s involvement in Southeast Asia, my opposition from my teens). He does. Both my son and my daughter a few years older know this history and, of course, naturally revile this person.

McCain was shot down over Hanoi for the same reason you or me might shoot someone down: again, he was bombing people in their country for no good reason and with utterly no concern for “gook” lives. (This human actually stated in 2000, “I hate the gooks” responding to criticism by repeating the slur.) A Spanish psychiatrist, Fernando Barral, who met him in Hanoi in 1970, reported:

He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.

That’s your hero, CNN. That’s your hero, MSNBC. And Fox. All of you following your talking points assigned by your news editors.

The fact that Vietnam (specifically, bombing North Vietnam over 23 times, for over 10 hours) is never an issue—that it is indeed a positive, an instance of heroic “service” in which the future politician showed moral strength—should shock people. The fact that volunteering to bomb Vietnamese in an illegal, immoral war is being praised—-while Trump’s draft deferments  are mocked as reflecting lack of courage or patriotism—-should disturb conscious humans. (Shall we not honor the Luftwaffe pilots shot down on the Eastern Front in World War II? All they were doing was bombing Soviets, to conquer Russia, while serving their country, their German Fatherland, their Homeland. Patriots, right?)

McCain never saw a war he didn’t like. He regretted not winning the war in Vietnam—like some Nazi pilots no doubt regretted their failure to destroy Stalingrad in their 30,000 (heroic?) sorties over the city in 1942. He advocated U.S. intervention in any number of conflicts as a matter of imperialist entitlement; he shameless articulated American Exceptionalism—but then so did Obama and all this unified cohort rallying to glorify this thug.

After the U.S. engineered regime change in Georgia (in 2003) and sought to bring Georgia into NATO a few years later, emboldening the pathetic puppet president to provoke Russia by attaching South Ossetia, Russia briefly invaded Georgia. McCain was prepared to go to war with Russia over that. When neofascists plotted a coup in Ukraine in 2014, he had his photo taken with them. He advocated the bombing of Iran. (Remember how he with his famed sense of humor so charmingly recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” altering the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb Iran”? Such a sense of humor! So delightful. So charming.)

This person supported and enthused about the bombings of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Libya…and advocated it elsewhere (Nigeria?). Remember, this person’s early career after his proudly lackluster academic career was in doing what he was trained for: bombing!

The adulation of this mass-murdering unrepentant dead man is voiced by those who, just as they contrast the hero to the villain, ask whether the Vietnam War was a “noble cause” (as McCain believes)—or a “mistake” (as friend John Kerry believes)? Those are the only two options that can be publicly discussed. To say it was a colossal crime would be unpatriotically honest and doom any political campaign. But it’s easy to gather together those who agree to forgive and forget (due to a “mistake”). Gosh we all make mistakes…

But the whole point of the cult of St. John of Arizona (whom could I suppose be beatified if two miracles can be proved) is to say: He is the man, the responsible adult, the anti-Putin stalwart, the unapologetic warrior, the guy who has the balls to tell his colleagues “Give Netanyahu everything he wants.”

This is to counter-pose him to the unmanly, childlike, Putin-dupe, wimp (who also happens to give Netanyahu everything he wants, because that is standard practice for the U.S. polity—although his allegiance to Israel in itself does not insure his continued presidency).

The contradictions within the polity are obviously mounting; the mourning rituals for this praised monster show the division. The question posed is: Which do you prefer? McCain’s beautiful patriotic blood-smeared legacy? Or Trump’s continued status as the un-impeached U.S. president surrounded by semi-autonomous generals itching to bomb Iran?

My 32-year-old daughter, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Socialist Party and conditional Bernie supporter, responded to Ocasio-Chavez’s tribute to the happy bomber with an emphatic “Ugh.” May all her comrades confront Alexandria on this issue!

An idiot on CNN just now concludes his program: “As John McCain always reminded us, freedom is worth fighting for.” The day remains devoted at McCain, and his wonderful legacy, and to a new (tendentiously presented) poll showing Trump’s support declining. No mention of the heroic reconquest of more and more Syrian territory by the Syrian national forces, or apparent U.S. plans to support a false-flag operation in Idlib province involving chemical weapons that might justify another U.S. strike.

A strike that should not be supported by anybody in this country with any moral sense and critical reasoning capacity. But one that would be supported by Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb St. John, surely. Where, as a people—-if , in fact, we are a people—heading?

The Beatification of John McCain

John Sidney McCain III (PHOTO: John Hume Kennerly/GETTY IMAGES)

The eulogies for the recently deceased John McCain, a US Senator for Arizona, have been plentiful, and so far as the American mainstream media is concerned, they have verged on the hagiographic. He has been variously described as a “patriot”, a “war hero” and a “defender of freedom”. Most perplexingly, McCain was lauded as a “warrior for peace”. But while praise for McCain has been dutifully administered in reverential terms by both liberal and conservative figures, the truth is that there is widespread dissent about McCain’s legacy as a man, as a military officer, as well as a politician. Perhaps, most worrisome is the construction of McCain’s legacy as one of the resolutely principled maverick and insatiable peace seeker. On the contrary, McCain operated at the highest echelons of the American Establishment, a closeted world of vested interests comprising a network geared towards the enrichment of the American elite. He was a captive of the defence industry and an unceasingly aggressive spokesperson for the post-Cold War era militarism that has compromised the United States and brought it down low in the eyes of the global community of nations.

So why the almost uncritical eulogising of a controversial life beset by allegations of incompetence, corruption and disloyalty?

Perhaps it is the tradition of the people of the United States to venerate their warriors. From the highest serving general to the lowest level foot soldier, Americans have a penchant for what might be termed ‘soldier worship’. There is also a tendency for disparate groups of people to pull together behind someone when confronted by an idea or by a person to whom they feel repugnance. It is certainly the case that the transition from life to death brings out the sentimental in people whether such death is sudden or prolonged. And, of course, as with most cultures, Americans are cautious about speaking ill of the dead.

Each of these has doubtlessly played a part in the positive reviews of the life of John McCain since his passing. John Sidney McCain III was born into a family of naval servicemen, two of who reached the rank of admiral. He served as a naval aviator during the Vietnam War and later retired as a captain. McCain also engaged in a well-publicised, long-running feud with Donald Trump who as a polarising figure has succeeded in arraigning different strands of his countrymen against his presidency. His demise, caused by the effects of a malignant brain tumour, was a cruel one. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of cancer.

But there is much to question about McCain.

McCain joined the US Navy following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Each man had reached the pinnacle of service and became the first father and son pair to achieve the rank of four-star admiral. When he retired in 1981, McCain had been the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He had also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his “exceptional courage, superb airmanship, and total devotion to duty” during a bombing raid over Hanoi in 1967, and had been awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” award “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from October 1967 to March 1973.”

But the competence of the future senator as an aviator has been consistently questioned. For instance, in 1960 while on a training exercise, he crashed his plane into Corpus Christi Bay, in the process shearing the skin off its wings. The following year, while serving with an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean theatre, he flew through electrical wires in southern Spain causing a power failure in the surrounding area. And in 1965, while en route to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy football game, he crashed a T-2 trainer jet in Virginia.

These incidents, caused by a carefree attitude described as “cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits”, led to rebukes by the naval authorities. They also explain a great deal about the allegations surrounding his responsibility for two more serious incidents.

Sarcastically dubbed ‘Ace McCain’ by his commanders, McCain’s career as an aviator was, nonetheless, allowed to continue. Although the official inquiry into the catastrophic fire onboard the USS Forrestal in July 1967 was officially blamed on the accidental firing of a rocket caused by an electrical power surge during preparations for a strike against a target in North Vietnam, the claim that the disaster, which killed 134 sailors while injuring another 161, was caused by McCain ‘wet-starting’ his jet has refused to die. ‘Wet-starting’ refers to where pilots flood the combustion chamber of their craft with extra fuel before ignition in order to create either a loud bang or a plume of flame.

McCain is claimed by some to have done this and that the ensuing concatenation of maladies are traceable to his reckless act. That he avoided the consequences of his actions is said to be due to the seniority and influence of his high-ranking father who some, including Admiral Thomas Moorer, a former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allege was at the time cooperating with the cover-up pertaining to the deliberate attack on the USS Liberty by the armed forces of the state of Israel, which had occurred the previous month. Three months later, McCain was shot down while conducting a bombing sortie over North Vietnam.

No official blame has ever been attached to McCain for his shooting down. But as his aircraft was lost behind enemy lines, its remains were not subjected to the same sort of forensic analysis as had occurred after the earlier mishaps while in control of the cockpit. In all three incidents, McCain’s skill and judgment had been called into question.

Aviators like McCain had been trained to stay at altitudes of 4,000 to 10,000 feet in environments where there were heavy deployments of surface-to-air missile launchers. They had equipment which warned the pilot that they were being tracked and also when a missile locked on them. These missiles were relatively easy to out-manoeuvre up to a point. This changed when there were multiple launches of between 6 and 12 missiles. McCain claimed in his autobiography that 22 missiles were fired at his squadron that day and that one blew off his right wing. He had been flying at an altitude of 3,000 feet above Hanoi.

It is McCain’s conduct as a prisoner of war which has brought him the most public scrutiny. Officially, he is a hero for withstanding torture: beatings, the withholding of medical treatment and a lengthy spell in solitary confinement, although he wilted and made at least one propaganda broadcast for North Vietnamese radio in which he pronounced himself guilty of “crimes against the Vietnamese country and people.”

The United States military Code of Conduct prohibits prisoners of war from accepting parole or other favours from the enemy, although during the Vietnam War, latitude was generally given to those who were seriously ill or injured.

McCain, who sustained two broken arms and a broken leg when ejecting from his plane, has been accused by some fellow veterans who were held at the same camps as he, as one who sold out his fellow prisoners and other servicemen by cooperating with his captors in order to be the beneficiary of a cushy captivity. His detractors accuse him of making broadcasts designed to infringe upon the morale of his fellow servicemen and of giving up military secrets such as that related to his flight, rescue ships and the order of attacks.

And while they allow that McCain refused an offer of early repatriation unless all prisoners were released, some allege that he was given special treatment with two other ‘defectors’ for cooperating. In fact, they argue that McCain’s refusal was an easy one given that he knew that his future prospects in the military and any public office would have been ruined. Many veterans claimed that those who were granted early release in three sets of releases in 1968 were collaborators who they dubbed ‘the slipperies’, ‘the slimies’ and ‘the sleazies’, and that McCain had acknowledged this.

To be sure, several of McCain’s co-prisoners have spoken on his behalf over the years. Men like George Day and Orson Swindle confirm that torture was regularly administered and that they were forced to talk, although they attempted to mislead their captors by telling untruths. In McCain’s case, he claims his response to questions asking him about future bombing runs was simply to give those that had already taken place. He also claims to have given the names of the offensive line up of the Green Bay Packers football team as members of his squadron.

Render Crayton, McCain’s co-prisoner for one year (1971-1972) at the camp referred to as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, has often spoken up on behalf of McCain and claims that McCain “gave hell to his captors”. An example of this was deciding one morning to loudly sing the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. The penalty for this insubordination was to be removed from a “big room” to “smaller cell rooms”.

This does not impress those veterans against McCain who assert that no one witnessed the series of tortures he claimed to have endured. In his autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, McCain admitted that he felt guilty throughout his captivity because he knew that he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs owing to the fact that he was the son of the commander-in-chief of all US forces in the Pacific region, including Vietnam. His captors referred to him as the ‘Crown Prince’.

They also point to the tremendous lengths McCain went towards blocking the release of classified documents during the 1991-1993 Senate Committee hearings on Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action as evidence of his having a personal interest in suppressing information which would discredit him. Through McCain’s efforts, documents such as related to all the Pentagon debriefings of returned prisoners were classified by legislation. A ‘Truth Bill’, which had been twice introduced to ensure transparency over missing men was bitterly opposed by McCain who then sponsored a new bill which sought to create a bureaucratic maze ensuring that only a few non-descript documents could be released. It was passed into law.

His rationale that the sealing of these files was for reasons of privacy and preventing the reviving of painful memories were not accepted by those who point to the fact that debriefings from returning Korean War prisoners of war are available to the public, and, as was the case with Korea, could have provided useful leads in so far as the fate of those who were missing in action in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Those who opposed McCain were often subjected to vitriolic abuse by a man who developed a renowned temper. He referred to individuals and groups campaigning for information on MIAs as “hoaxers”, “charlatans” and “conspiracy theorists”. They retorted by dubbing him the ‘Manchurian Candidate’. In fact, many of them, along with the veterans against McCain, often refer to his conduct while in captivity as having been nothing less than treachery.

Claims that McCain was on a list of 33 American prisoners of war earmarked to be executed for treason cannot be corroborated. But possible retribution against him by hardline military officers was rendered impossible by the US Defense Department whose officials had adopted a general policy of “honour-and-forgive” for returning prisoners of war. One specific element of this policy was not to prosecute any prisoners of war for making pro-North Vietnamese propaganda statements while in captivity. And to back this up, a move in 1973 by an Air Force colonel charging seven enlisted men of collaborating with the enemy while they were held as prisoners of war by North Vietnam was dismissed by the secretaries of the Army and Navy for lack of evidence and the mitigating circumstances of the “long hardship” they endured while in captivity.

While McCain is perceived by his detractors as having escaped punishment for his ‘disloyalty’ while in uniform, some point to his treatment of his first wife as evidence of his capacity for betrayal. A beautiful divorcee who he had married in 1965, Carol McCain had remained loyal to her husband during the period of his captivity. However, in 1969, she was badly injured in a motor accident and had to undergo numerous operations. She lost several inches in height and gained weight. McCain confessed that he returned home to a wife who appeared to be a different woman. He admitted to philandering and eventually divorced her to marry a woman who was 18 years younger than him.

His critics make the case that McCain lost interest in a spouse who was no longer the ‘trophy wife’ he had married and replaced her with an extremely attractive woman whose family were very wealthy and well-connected in the state of Arizona, where he would begin his political career. His critics cite this as evidence of McCain’s ruthless and calculating streak, which was guided neither by virtue nor by principle.

As a politician, McCain has been lauded as having been guided by a code of “honour, courage, integrity and duty.” His maverick reputation is seen as evidence of his ability to eschew the narrow confines of partisan politics. But his tenure as a senator was beset by allegations of corrupt practices, of being a pork-barrel politico in the thrall of the military industry and Israel lobby, and of being a warmonger who supported America’s recent wars, which has led to the destruction of whole countries and of countless innocent casualties.

As a new senator in the early 1990s, McCain was involved in a corruption scandal after he and four senators from the Democratic Party were accused of trying to intimidate regulators on behalf of a campaign donor who was eventually imprisoned for corrupt management practices. He escaped with a reprimand for having “exercised poor judgement”, but with the accompanying judgement that his actions “were not improper”.

In August 2006, McCain was captured in a photograph going onboard a luxury yacht rented by the Italian con-man Raffaello Follieri in Montenegro. It was here that McCain met the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska for a second time, after an initial meeting in Davos. Both meetings had been arranged by Rick Davis, who like Paul Manafort, has been a long-time conduit between American big shots and the Russian ultra-rich. Nathaniel Rothschild, who has large business interests in Montenegro, a country that granted him citizenship in 2013, also met with McCain.

Events unfolded to reveal that McCain had been part of an elaborate scheme which enabled Western financiers to buy up Montenegro and bribe influential members of the country’s elite who would be pliable to the idea of prising Montenegro away from Serbia. The long-term goal was for Montenegro to declare its independence and pave the way for its accession to membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an objective that came to fruition in 2017.

McCain’s scheming in regard to Montenegro highlights his connections to the wealthy interests who control Western politicians, both of who work hand-in-hand in advancing Western geopolitical interests. The co-opting of Montenegro into the Western financial sphere and its membership of (NATO) were manoeuvres calculated to injure Russia’s commercial and military interests.

First of all, the oil and gas explorations subsequently embarked upon in the outlying Adriatic Sea is designed to create a market which aims to undercut or totally nullify Russian ambitions to supply oil and gas to countries in the region via a South Stream pipeline project. Secondly, transforming its military status from one of neutrality to being part of the Atlantic Alliance is in keeping with NATO’s post-Cold War eastward expansion, a policy which is designed to intimidate Russia, and which is in defiance of the agreement reached at the end of the Cold War between the leaders of the West and the former Soviet Union, that Germany reunification was predicated on the condition that NATO would not expand eastwards.

John McCain, by words and deeds, demonstrated his support for the anti-Russian sentiment that has permeated corridors of power in the United States since the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, a nationalist who brought to an end the mass plunder of Russia’s resources by Western interests during the government led by Boris Yeltsin. Indeed, no politician better embodied the twin doctrines that encapsulate the militarism pursued by the United States in the aftermath of the US-Soviet Cold War than McCain. These are philosophies espoused by Paul Wolfowitz and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The former provided that American policy was to ensure that after the fall of the Soviet Union, no other power should be permitted to rise and compete with the United States for global influence, while the latter was fixated on militarily intimidating Russia and seeking its dismemberment and relegation to a region designed to serve the energy needs of the West.

His dismissal of Russia as a “gas station masquerading as a country” and his forthright comment that Montenegro’s accession to NATO was “vital for regional stability and the joint effort of the Western allies to resist a resurgent Russia”, provided clear evidence of his position.

McCain’s anti-Russian posture ensured an enduring animus between himself and Vladimir Putin. Although McCain claimed that the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 was “a mistake” initiated by Mikheil Saakashvili, then president of Georgia, Putin accused the United States of fomenting the conflict in order to strengthen McCain’s bid for the White House. “The suspicion arises”, Putin claimed, “that someone in the United States especially created this conflict to make the situation tenser and create a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president.”

While Putin’s allegations were pooh-poohed by the White House as “patently false” and by the state department as “ludicrous”, events in Ukraine in 2014 clearly demonstrated McCain’s involvement in the American-sponsored overthrow of the elected government led by Viktor Yanukovytch. This was made possible by utilising the street muscle of ultranationalist groups such as Pravy Sektor. McCain was repeatedly photographed with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the far right Svoboda Party which has been accused of being neo-Nazi in ideology while being vocally Russophobic and anti-Jewish.

McCain, who wielded a great deal of power as a long-term senator, allegedly chaired an important CIA meeting in Cairo that was pivotal in fomenting the so-called Arab Spring. And just as he met with political extremists in Kiev prior to the US-backed coup, in 2011 he was seen walking the streets of Benghazi where he was photographed meeting anti-Gaddafi rebels who embraced the Islamist creed of al-Qaeda, the alleged perpetrators of the September 11th attacks on the United States. He called the rebels “heroic” and lobbied for US military intervention weeks before NATO began its bombardment and training of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Force (LIFG). And given his vocal support for overthrowing the government of Gaddafi and his ‘fact-finding’ tour, he was also likely to have been influential in paving the way for President Barack Obama’s decision to authorise the use of predator drones. McCain would later be pictured with Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal giving an award to Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the now disbanded LIFG.

The Libyan intervention, enabled by the United Nations resolution based on the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, of course, ended in human disaster. Gaddafi was toppled, but a nation which was once Africa’s most prosperous country soon degenerated into a failed state composed of warring militias, Islamist strongholds that have imposed rule by Sharia, and the establishment of slave markets composed of human chattel of Black African origin. The removal of Gaddafi which McCain cheered on has led to a deterioration of security beyond Libya as Islamist terror groups situated in the Maghreb (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and further down in the Lake Chad Basin (Boko Haram) have been strengthened because of the availability of large quantities of arms and munitions previously owned by the fallen Libyan army.

McCain’s dallying with extremists also extended to illegally entering into Syrian territory in 2013 and meeting with anti-government rebels who he described as “brave fighters who are risking their lives for freedom”, but who most neutral observers would classify as terrorists.

McCain’s support respectively for the Iraq War which overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Western-backed insurgencies in Libya and Syria, NATO expansion and confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia clearly mark him out as a supporter of American militarism, a geopolitical policy that has caused tremendous harm to American prestige among the community of nations, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, caused large-scale human displacement and a refugee crisis, and which has persistently kept NATO and Russia at loggerheads. It makes a mockery of Congressman John Lewis’s attempt to eulogise him as a “warrior for peace”. Indeed, it was no surprise that the arms giant Lockheed Martin, which has profited from the wars supported by McCain, issued a tribute after his death.

That he sympathised with the neoconservative ideology and was beholden to the objectives of the Israel lobby is beyond doubt. His support for American interventions in the Arab world targeting secular governments perceived as not towing the line with Israel was apparent in his role in fomenting insurgencies in Libya and Syria, the latter in regard to which he unceasingly promoted a more direct form of US involvement.

It is also confirmed by his long-term attitude of belligerence towards Iran, which he consistently denounced during his presidential campaign in 2008. While on the hustings, he notoriously broke out in song by substituting the lyrics of the Beach Boys hit Barbara Ann with “Bomb Iran”. His statements tended to indicate that he would have been in favour of attacking Iran at the behest of Israel and its US-based lobby groups, an action that was strongly resisted by Barack Obama. McCain, not surprisingly, was dismissive of the Obama administration’s deal with Iran over its nuclear strategy, which he derisively referred to as a “feckless” approach to foreign policy.

McCain was despite his maverick label an establishment man adept at manoeuvring between the public spotlight and the shadowy, largely unseen world of what many now understand to be the ‘Deep State’. He was almost certainly a key player in the machinations of America’s ‘double government’ and its formulation of national security policy which, as Professor Michael Glennon pointed out in a lengthy research paper, has essentially remained unchanged from successive administrations starting with George W. Bush, through to the one headed by Barack Obama, and now that of Donald Trump.

Far from the mainstream narrative that he was a beloved figure, McCain has gone to his grave leaving a great number disgruntled for various reasons. For many veterans, he will forever be ‘Johnny Songbird’ of ‘Hanoi Hilton’ infamy; like his father, a man of the establishment who covered up many unflattering secrets of the state including that pertaining to the sinking of the USS Liberty which he never sought to redress.

To his former Vietnamese foes he remains the celebrity captive, the admiral’s son immortalised as an ‘air pirate’ depicted in a statute bent on his knees next to the lake from where he was retrieved after parachuting from his downed aircraft.

To white nationalists he is a ‘race traitor’ who supported successive amnesties for illegal immigrants and to the anti-war segment of the political left, he does not deserve praise for participating in a colonial war of aggression against the Vietnamese people, while the isolationist segment of the political right decried his persistent support for foreign wars of intervention.

John McCain was not a straightforward hero. Nor was he an exceptional politician. The unbridled facts of his life and career in the military and as a public figure embody much of what is dysfunctional about the American republic. To succumb to the blatant myth-making and obfuscation of his life represents a failure of the nation to properly reflect and critically examine itself.

That cannot bode well for the future.