The West is becoming Irrelevant: The World is Laughing

I was recently told by an Asian friend of mine who is working in Paris:

Lately I stopped following almost all that is happening politically in the United States, in the UK and even here in France. It all feels suddenly so irrelevant, a waste of time.

Statements like this would be unimaginable only one decade ago. In the past, what came from Washington and (to a smaller extent) from London was monitored with great attentiveness and fear all over the world.

But all of a sudden, things have begun to change, rapidly. Despite the extremely violent nature of the Western-designed-and-manufactured global regime, which has been over-imposed on so many parts of the world for decades and centuries, increasing amounts of people in Asia, Latin America and Africa stopped worrying and went leisurely to the ‘barricades’, beginning to rebel against the perverseness of the ‘world order’.

Did it all really happen ‘all of a sudden’?

Or were there various catalysts at work for already quite a substantial period of time?

It is a well-known fact that any deep-seated, chronic anxiety cannot disappear in just a short moment. People who are enslaved, humiliated, scared into obedience, people who are forced to feel uncertain and constantly frightened, cannot reverse their state of mind without some important external factor or set of factors.

It became obvious to me, as I have been working continuously on all continents and in almost all conflict zones of our Planet, that the renewed pride and courage which is now inspiring millions of oppressed human beings, actually came from the decisive and determined stand of just several brave and determined nations, big and small.

The myth about the omnipotence of the Empire has received a few significant blows.

The fable of invincibility has not completely disappeared yet, but at least it has got fractured and gravely injured.

The gate of the terrible prison began cracking. It has not collapsed, but the fractures were wide enough for at least some sunlight to enter the dark and dreadful cavities inhabited by billions of unfortunate and shattered beings.

Some victims stood up immediately; not many but at least some did. Others raised their heads in feeble hope, still lying down on the dirty ground, still chained, and still shaking. That weak light alone entering the dungeon was actually much brighter than what most people ever experienced in their entire life. It has been strong enough to provoke wonderful, brilliant sparks of hope.

*****

Except for some temporary setbacks (like in Brazil and Argentina), the anti-imperialist coalition is now steadier than ever; it is determined and constantly expanding.

And it is clearly winning!

It is truly a ‘rainbow coalition’ of countries, big and small, ‘red’ and ‘pink’, even ‘green’.

The only unifying factor is the shared determination not to be controlled by Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.

For decades, Cuba stood against the Empire, even after the Soviet block was broken to bits, even when all mutual agreements ceased to be honored by the criminal Yeltsin administration. The Cuban people never surrendered. It is because most of them always believed, from the bottom of their hearts, in socialism and internationalism. And also because they have been convinced that the Western Empire is a morally corrupt and illegitimate entity and therefore has to be resisted.

A small and relatively poor country – Cuba – demonstrated to the entire world that while the Empire is mighty, sadistic and brutal, it is not omnipotent, and it is possible to defy it. There is no reason why one should not dare, or one should not dream about a much better world, why one shouldn’t fight for true freedom, attempting to win.

Cuba inspired the world. Its daring Revolution took place just a few miles from the shores of the United States. Soon after, its teachers and doctors went to all parts of the earth, spreading optimism, solidarity and kindness. Its heroic revolutionaries went to fight against the most dreadful forms of colonialism, which were torturing people in such places as Congo, Angola and Namibia.

After Obama’s attempts to water down the determination of the Cuban citizens, many enemies began to predict, cynically: “Now Cuba will compromise and sell its Revolution.”

It never did! I traveled to the Island last year, driving through the countryside, and speaking to people in Havana, Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba. Almost no one was ready to compromise. A greatly educated nation, Cuba saw through the Empire’s tricks and deceptions.

Now almost nobody speaks about the “Cuban compromise”, anymore, simply because there isn’t any on the table.

China, one of the oldest and greatest civilizations on Earth, went through the terrible period of ‘humiliation’. Divided, occupied and plundered by the West, it has never forgotten nor forgiven.

Now the Chinese Communist state and its mixed economy are helping countries in virtually all parts of the world, from Oceania and Latin America, to the Middle East and especially Africa, to survive and to finally stand on their own feet. Despite all the vitriolic propaganda regurgitated by the West (those people in Europe or North America who know close to zero about Africa or China, habitually passing ‘confident’ and highly cynical ‘judgments’ about China’s involvement in the poor world; judgments based exclusively on the lies and fabrications produced by the Western media), China has been gaining great respect and trust in virtually all corners of the globe.

The Chinese people and their government are now standing firmly against Western imperialism. They will not allow any recurrence of the disgraceful and dreary past.

The West is provoking this mighty and optimistic nation, pushing it into a terrible confrontation. China doesn’t want any military conflict. It is the most peaceful, the most non-confrontational large nation on Earth. But it is becoming clear that if pushed against the wall, this time it will not compromise: it will fight.

In the last years I have spoken to many Chinese people, as I traveled to all corners of the country, and I’m convinced that by now the nation is ready to meet strength with strength.

Such determination gives hope to many other countries on our Planet. The message is clear: the West cannot do whatever it wants, anymore. If it tries, it will be stopped. By reason or by force!

Russia is ready again, too. It is standing next to China, enormous and indignant.

Go to Novosibirsk or Tomsk, to Khabarovsk, Vladivostok or Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. Talk to Russian people and you will soon understand: almost nobody there believes or respects the West anymore. Throughout history, Russia was attacked and ransacked from the West. Millions, tens of millions of its people were murdered, literally exterminated. And now, the nation is facing what some consider to be yet another imminent attack.

Like the Chinese people, Russians are unwilling to compromise anymore. The old Russian forecast is once again alive, that very one professed by Alexander Nevsky:

Go tell all in foreign lands that Russia lives! Those who come to us in peace will be welcome as a guest. But those who come to us sword in hand will die by the sword! On that Russia stands and forever will we stand!

In Russia, as in China, and as in so many other nations that were devastated by the Western plunderers, nothing is forgotten and no one is forgotten. It only appeared for a while that the memory had fainted. It never does. You cannot burn down an entire land, ruin the cities, burn the fields, and still pose as one with the moral mandate. Or as we say in Chile: “Justice takes time, but it always comes!”

And the world is watching. It is suddenly clearly registering this determined and brave epic stand of morally strong nations. Many of those who are watching are deeply impressed with what they are seeing. Perhaps not in London or in Paris, but go and ask those in Johannesburg or Beirut, or even in Calcutta, Cairo or Buenos Aires. Perhaps you suspect what answers you’d receive there!

Throughout modern history, not once has Iran invaded a foreign country. Yet its secular, progressive and democratic government (under the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddegh) was overthrown in 1953, in a CIA-backed coup. What followed was the monstrosity of the ‘pro-Western Shah’, and then a horrendous war, an invasion by Iraq, which was also fully backed by the West and which took hundreds of thousands of human lives. Since then, Iran has been suffering from targeted killings of its scientists (by the West and Israel), as well as terrorist attacks also backed from abroad.

Instead of falling on its knees and begging for mercy, Iran defied the West. On several occasions and when provoked, it sent its battleships to the neutral waters near the US coast, and it pledged to defend its land, in case it was to be attacked.

Iran also showed great solidarity towards Latin America, working closely with virtually all of the revolutionary governments there. It stood firmly by Venezuela in a time of great crises, building social housing in Caracas and supporting the Process by all other means.

In Latin America, no one will ever forget how former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Caracas to attend the funeral of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, his dear friend. During the memorial, the aged mother of Chavez suddenly approached Ahmadinejad, in tears. Breaking all religious protocol of a Shi’a country that he was representing, the Iranian President embraced her, and held her against his heart, until she calmed down.

This moment was expressing one simple and powerful reality: all of us, the internationalists and anti-imperialists, are fighting for the survival of humanity and this planet. There is more that unites us than what is tearing us apart. Once we win, and we will win, the world will be able to find a common language. The West wants to divide us, by spreading hostilities and distrust, all through ‘false news’ and fabrications. But we understand its game. We will not break our ranks anymore.

The West is clearly losing. It knows it. It is in panic.

Its nihilism, its propaganda and indoctrination tactics will soon be defeated.

I wrote a lot about the DPRK and how it joined the list of the ‘most hated nations on Earth’. It is a well known fact that North Korea was, for years and decades, much richer and more democratic than South Korea (ROK). But it embarked on one tremendous humanist ‘project’, and together with Cuba, the Soviet Union and to some extent China, it liberated almost the entire African continent, at great cost and sacrifice. And not only that: it sent its top educators and doctors to all corners of the most devastated continent on Earth. Its pilots also flew Egyptian MIGs against Israel, during the 1967 war. These facts have been silenced by Western propaganda, but they clearly explain why the DPRK has been ostracized, pushed to the corner, hit by senseless embargos, and forced to react the way it has been reacting for at least the last two decades.

North Korea has never surrendered either, and it never will.

Neither has Venezuela, for many years the great sentinel and engine of the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as of Latin Internationalism and solidarity. Surviving coups, embargos, plots and propaganda campaigns, surviving attacks, even terror, of the foreign-backed ‘opposition’, Venezuela has been injured but it is alive. Just a few days ago I spoke to an Italian Parliamentary delegation, consisting of  the“5-Star-Movement” MPs, which recently returned from Caracas. Their conclusion was simple: “The worst is over”.

The world knows it! Venezuela, DPRK, Cuba – they never fell. No matter how many knives penetrated their bodies, despite so much pain caused by the sanctions, coup attempts and direct acts of terrorism administered by the West and its monstrous Empire.

It is becoming clear and obvious: the West is helpless against determination, true courage and patriotic love. It is powerless when confronted with humanist ideologies, and with true loyalty!

And the world keeps watching, drawing its conclusions.

I wrote about Syria, comparing Aleppo to the 20th Century Stalingrad. This is where racism, terrorism, and the lowest forms of Western imperialism (and shameful acts of the regional lackeys) were decisively stopped. The price was terrible, but the message to the world extremely clear: The people who love their country with their entire hearts can fight and win against all odds, especially if by their side stand truly great and reliable friends and comrades!

One day the world will thank the Syrian people, profusely and properly. One day, everything will be understood. One day, perhaps soon.

*****

This is one of the greatest moments in human history, perhaps the greatest.

It has arrived without big salvos announcing monumental revolutions.

Everything is happening fast, in an organized and determined manner.

The greatest minds of Russia, China, Latin America and the rest of the world, are feverishly, day and night, trying to determine what really brought our world, our civilization, to this ludicrous downfall.

The simplified and stripped-down answer is this: Western imperialism (military, economic and ‘intellectual’/ ’cultural’), colonialism and neo-colonialism, as well as that dreadful by-product of all the above combined – a set of unchecked and savage form of capitalism.

Simultaneously, new forms of government, of economy and social systems are being, once again, planned.

The military strategists of the countries that are refusing to kneel in front of the barbaric terror of the West, responsible for hundreds of millions of murders and billions of ruined lives, are planning how to defend their countries and the world.

Once again, the world is at work! It is building trenches, educating people, preparing them for the final showdown with the culture that has been tormenting our Planet for centuries.

It is the moment of great hope and renewed enthusiasm.

Of course, if seen from Western capitals, everything is bleak and depressing. There is no ‘hope’ at all.

I agree fully: there is no hope ‘for them’.

The logic, the ‘philosophy’ with which the Europeans and the North Americans have become accustomed to analyze the world, has arrived at a dead end.

Yes, it is ‘the end of philosophy’, or as they say, ‘the end of history’. I fully agree: it is the end of their philosophy and of their history.

That’s why, reading about their elections or statements produced by their politicians, is nothing less than a waste of time. The world realizes it, more and more.

Their ‘new tricks’ are actually very old. Their entire system is outdated. It should have been retired at least one hundred years ago. It survived only because of its savagery and cruelty. It will go soon, anyway.

These days, encountering people inhabiting the West is like encountering those zombies who were living in Nazi Germany during WWII. After the war was over, they were street walking for years, at least many of them, repeating the same refrains: “We didn’t know!” “We never realized”. The Nazi propaganda and the one, which has been used in the West and in the colonies (as Noam Chomsky and I defined in our book “On Western Terrorism”), are based on precisely the same roots, foundations and methods. Both are extremely effective when it comes to the total brainwashing of the population.

To follow up the last chapter of the imperialist and turbo capitalist morass of the West is embarrassing and useless.

Both Europe and the United States are suffering from a series of devastating mental illnesses, as was defined by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, right after WWII.

Getting too much involved in pathological behavior, constantly studying and analyzing it, could only break and deeply depress any healthy person’s mind.

There is nothing more to understand. Hundreds of millions of victims in all parts of the world are speaking for themselves.

The only rational issue here is this: how to stop this horror as soon as possible? How to allow humanity to return to its natural development and evolution patterns?

I don’t believe in ‘punishments’ and ‘trials’ and other vehicles of intimidation and of spreading fear. I don’t care whether the West will ‘pay’ for all that it has done to the world. I only want it to be stopped, once and for all.

I work very hard for it to be stopped.

So are others.

And the world is watching, and all of a sudden enjoying what it sees.

Suddenly more and more people are daring to laugh at the global regime. Of course not in Paris, London or New York (here they are scared and obedient, even more than before). But outside, yes!

People on all continents want to see and hear about what ‘others do’, what ‘we do’, not what the Empire and its mental conditions are producing.

They are laughing and waiting impatiently for what a new day, a new year will bring. They are waiting for the true new beginning to arrive.

“Decolonizing the Mind”: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam

When Terry Holdbrooks Jr., converted to Islam in 2003, he was inundated with death threats and labeled a ‘race traitor.’

If a religious conversion ever deserves to be admired, Holdbrooks’ conversion does, and not because Islam has ‘won’ yet another convert, but because the new convert was assigned the very rule of subjugating his Muslim prisoners.

Yes, Terry Holdbrooks was a US army employee entrusted with guarding Guantanamo detainees.

The Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo, held for years and tortured without due process and in violation of the most basic tenants of human rights and international law, mostly subsisted on faith.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the freed prisoners in 2013 during a brief stay in Qatar. Torture had partially impaired his mental faculty, yet when he led a group of men in prayer, he recited verses from the Quran in impeccable language and melodic harmony.

The faith of these prisoners had awakened something in Holdbrooks, who has toured the country dressed in traditional Muslim garb, conveying to audiences the ‘truth about Gitmo.’

Of course, this is not about Islam as a religion, but the power of faith to cross fences, prison bars and unite people around ideas that are vastly more complex and meaningful than that of military domination.

Despite its profundity, the story of Holdbrooks’ conversion to the religion of his prisoners only received scant mention in the media and in Arabic media, in particular.

Lindsay Lohan’s interest in Islam, however, has been an obligatory media staple for months.

The actress of The Mean Girls, Freaky Friday and a host of not-so-family-friendly movies is hailed by Arab and Muslim media and numerous social media users as if some kind of a cultural and religion savior.

Lohan’s interest and possible conversion to Islam has branched into all sorts of areas of discussion. Like Holdbrooks, she is also branded as if a ‘race traitor’, and has been, according to her own depiction, ‘racially profiled‘ during a recent trip to the United States.

Conflating between race and religion is quite common in western, especially American, society. Let alone that one cannot change his race however hard he or she tries, Christianity itself was born in the Middle East region. But it seems that cultural appropriation has, at least in the minds of some, foolishly designated certain religions to be western and other religions to be ‘ethnic’, ‘colored’ and ‘foreign.’

While Lohan is still making up her mind about whether to join the Muslim faith or not, she recently announced that she will be launching a new fashion line.

The announcement on Instagram was accompanied by a photo in which the actress was covering her head and part of her face with a crystals-embellished scarf. Many, including some in the media, are deducing that the fashion line is that of the modest, Muslim variety.

Concurrently, a most recent death toll estimate of war-torn Syria has reached a new high (and a new moral low). According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 321,000 people are confirmed dead as a result of the war, while a further 145,000 are still missing.

While outside powers are responsible for many of these deaths, much of the carnage has been meted out by Muslims against their fellow Muslims.

The sense of false pride generated by the probable conversion of a Hollywood actress is, perhaps, an escape from the grand shame of a bloodbath being perpetuated by Muslims against their own brethren.

But it is more complex than this.

The issue is far more telling than that of Lohan’s faith and is a repeat of previous such collective jubilation similar to the sense of euphoria and unmistakable sense of validation wrought by the marriage of Arab-British lawyer, Amal Alamuddin to one Hollywood celebrity, George Clooney.

Although Amal Clooney refused to investigate Israeli war crimes in Gaza – likely so as not to create an uncomfortable situation for her husband considering his strong Hollywood ties – Arabs continued to celebrate her as if her marriage to the famous actor is a badge of honor and a validation for a whole culture.

Sadly, the opposite is true. Such hype over inane occurrences is an indication of a greater ailment, the continuing western cultural hegemony over Muslim nations.

The issue is not that of religion. Far from being a vanishing religion, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, the only religion growing faster than the world’s population, and one which is slated to be the largest in the world by 2070.

These are some of the outcomes of a thorough demographic analysis conducted recently by the US-based Pew Research Center.

So, the enthusiasm over Lohan’s possible conversion – like the intrigue created by Angelina Jolie wearing a Muslim headscarf (hijab) during a visit to a refugee camp – should be entirely removed from the religious component of the discussion.

Thousands of such conversions are reported in Africa, South America and Asia annually; numbers that receive little cultural and media attention in Arab and Muslim countries.

Neither is it an issue of celebrity Muslims, per se, for there are many famous black entertainers who are also Muslims, some even devout Muslims. They rarely register on Arab and Muslim media radars as earth-shattering events.

While racism might play a role, it is not the dominant factor.

The possible conversion of a western, Hollywood celebrity, white actress is a whole different story. For these aspects – cultural, status and race – are the most manifest representation of western, cultural hegemony. A conversion of this caliber is celebrated as if a symbolic defeat of the very system that has demonized Arab and Muslim culture for generations.

In other words, the conversion of Lindsay Lohan would be measured against the resentment Muslims hold against western tools of military subjugation, political domination and cultural hegemony.

Yet in the process of conjuring up this false sense of cultural triumph, Muslims, in fact, further feed into their own unfortunate sense of inferiority, one that is rooted in hundreds of years of slavery, colonization, neocolonialism and military occupation intervention.

If Lohan, or anyone else, truly wants to appreciate the Islamic faith, a religion that has appealed to the poor, the slaves and disenfranchised throughout history, and has withstood hundreds of years of colonization and oppression, she ought to study the relationship between faith and resistance in Gaza, between faith and hope among Syrian refugees, and between faith and liberation in Algeria.

Finding a common ground between true Islam and Hollywood is certainly doomed to fail, for they both represent values that stand at the extreme opposites of one another.

As for Muslims who are feeling validated by mere celebrity interest of their religion, they ought to ‘decolonize their minds’, first by refusing to define themselves and relationships to the world through the west and its ever-sinister tools of cultural hegemony.

China’s Great Leap Forward: Western Frogs Croak Dismay

Introduction

From their dismal swamps, US academic and financial journal editorialists, the mass media and contemporary ‘Asia experts’, Western progressive and conservative politicians croak in unison about China’s environmental and impending collapse.

They have variably proclaimed (1) China’s economy is in decline; (2) the debt is overwhelming; a Chinese real estate bubble is ready to burst; (3) the country is rife with corruption and poisoned with pollution; and (4) Chinese workers are staging paralyzing strikes and protests amid growing repression – the result of exploitation and sharp class inequality. The financial frogs croak about China as an imminent military threat to the security of the US and its Asian partners. Other frogs leap for that fly in the sky – arguing that the Chinese now threatens the entire universe!

The ‘China doomsters’ with ‘logs in their own eyes’ have systematically distorted reality, fabricated whimsical tales and paint vision, which, in truth, reflect their own societies.

As each false claim is refuted, the frogs alter their tunes: When predictions of imminent collapse fail to materialize, they add a year or even a decade to their crystal ball. When their warnings of negative national social, economic and structural trends instead move in a positive direction, their nimble fingers re-calibrate the scope and depth of the crisis, citing anecdotal ‘revelations’ from some village or town or taxi driver conversation.

As long-predicted failures fail to materialize, the experts re-hash the data by questioning the reliability of China’s official statistics.

Worst of all, Western ‘Asia’ experts and scholars try ‘role reversal’: While US bases and ships increasingly encircle China, the Chinese become the aggressors and the bellicose US imperialists whine about their victim-hood.

Cutting through the swamp of these fabrications, this essay aims to outline an alternative and more objective account of China’s current socio-economic and political realty.

China: Fiction and Fact

We repeatedly read about China’s ‘cheap wage’ economy and the brutal exploitation of its slaving workers by billionaire oligarchs and corrupt political officials. In fact, the average wage in China’s manufacturing sector has tripled during this decade. China’s labor force receives wages which exceed those of Latin America countries, with one dubious exception. Chinese manufacturing wages now approach those of the downwardly mobile countries in the EU. Meanwhile, the neo-liberal regimes, under EU and US pressure, have halved wages in Greece, and significantly reduced incomes in Brazil, Mexico and Portugal. In China, workers wages now surpass Argentina, Colombia and Thailand. While not high by US-EU standards, China’s 2015 wages stood at $3.60 per hour – improving the living standards of 1.4 billion workers. During the time that China tripled its workers ‘wages, the wages of Indian workers stagnate at $0.70 per hour and South African wages fell from $4.30 to $3.60 per hour.

This spectacular increase in Chinese worker’s wages is largely attributed to skyrocketing productivity, resulting from steady improvements in worker health, education and technical training, as well as sustained organized worker pressure and class struggle. President Xi Jinping’s successful campaign for the removal and arrest of hundreds of thousands of corrupt and exploitative officials and factory bosses has boosted worker power. Chinese workers are closing the gap with the US minimum wage. At the current rate of growth, the gap, which had narrowed from one tenth to one half the US wage in ten years, will disappear in the near future.

China is no longer merely a low-wage, unskilled, labor intensive, assembly plant and export-oriented economy. Today twenty thousand technical schools graduate millions of skilled workers. High tech factories are incorporating robotics on a massive scale to replace unskilled workers. The service sector is increasing to meet the domestic consumer market. Faced with growing US political and military hostility, China has diversified its export market, turning from the US to Russia, the EU, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Despite these impressive objective advances, the chorus of ‘crooked croakers’ continue to churn out annual predictions of China’s economic decline and decay. Their analyses are not altered by China’s 6.7% GNP growth in 2016; they jump on the 2017 forecast of ‘decline’ to 6.6% as proof of its looming collapse! Not be dissuaded by reality, the chorus of ‘Wall Street croakers’ wildly celebrate when the US announces a GNP increase from 1% to 1.5%!

While China has acknowledged its serious environmental problems, it is a leader in committing billions of dollars (2% of GNP) to reduce greenhouse gases – closing factories and mines. Their efforts far exceed those of the US and EU.

China, like the rest of Asia, as well as the US, needs to vastly increase investments in rebuilding its decaying or non-existent infrastructure. The Chinese government is alone among nations in keeping up with and even exceeding its growing transportation needs – spending $800 billion a year on high speed railroads, rail lines, seaports, airports subways and bridges.

While the US has rejected multi-national trade and investment treaties with eleven Pacific countries, China has promoted and financed global trade and investment treaties with more than fifty Asia-Pacific (minus Japan and the US), as well as African and European states.

China’s leadership under President Xi Jinping has launched an effective large-scale anti-corruption campaign leading to the arrest or ouster of over 200,000 business and public officials, including billionaires, and top politburo and Central Committee members. As a result of this national campaign, purchases of luxury items have significantly declined. The practice of using public funds for elaborate 12 course dinners and the ritual of gift giving and taking are on the wane.

Meanwhile, despite the political campaigns to ‘drain the swamp’ and successful populist referenda, nothing remotely resembling China’s anti-corruption campaign have taken root in the US and the UK despite daily reports of swindles and fraud involving the hundred leading investment banks in the Anglo-American world. China’s anti-corruption campaign may have succeeded in reducing inequalities. It clearly has earned the overwhelming support of the Chinese workers and farmers.

Journalists and academics, who like to parrot the Anglo-American and NATO Generals, warn that China’s military program poses a direct threat to the security of the US, Asia and indeed the rest of world.

Historical amnesia infects these most deep diving frogs. Forgotten is how the post WW2 US invaded and destroyed Korea and Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) killing over nine million inhabitants, both civilian and defenders. The US invaded, colonized and neo-colonized the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, killing up to one million inhabitants. It continues to build and expand its network of military bases encircling China, It recently moved powerful, nuclear armed THADD missiles to the North Korean border, capable of attacking Chinese and even Russian cities. The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, surpassing the collective production and sale of the next five leading merchants of death.

In contrast, China has not unilaterally attacked, invaded or occupied anyone in hundreds of years. It does not place nuclear missiles on the US coast or borders. In fact, it does not have a single overseas military base. Its own military bases, in the South China Sea, are established to protect its vital maritime routes from pirates and the increasingly provocative US naval armada. China’s military budget, scheduled to increase by 7% in 2017, is still less than one-fourth of the US budget.

For its part, the US promotes aggressive military alliances, points radar and satellite guided missiles at China, Iran and Russia, and threatens to obliterate North Korea. China’s military program has been and continues to be defensive. Its increase is based on its response to US provocation. China’s foreign imperial thrust is based on a global market strategy while Washington continues to pursue a militarist imperial strategy, designed to impose global domination by force.

Conclusion

The frogs of the Western intelligentsia have crocked loud and long. They strut and pose as the world’s leading fly catchers – but producing nothing credible in terms of objective analyses.

China has serious social, economic and structural problems, but they are systematically confronting them. The Chinese are committed to improving their society, economy and political system on their own terms. They seek to solve immensely challenging problems, while refusing to sacrifice their national sovereignty and the welfare of their people.

In confronting China as a world capitalist competitor, the US official policy is to surround China with military bases and threaten to disrupt its economy. As part of this strategy, Western media and so-called ‘experts’ magnify China’s problems and minimize their own.

Unlike China, the US is wallowing at less than 2% annual growth. Wages stagnate for decades; real wages and living standards decline. The costs of education and health care skyrocket, while the quality of these vital services decline dramatically. Costs are growing, unemployment is growing and worker suicide and mortality is growing. It is absolutely vital that the West acknowledge China’s impressive advances in order to learn, borrow and foster a similar pattern of positive growth and equity. Co-operation between China and the US is essential for promoting peace and justice in Asia.

Unfortunately, the previous US President Obama and the current President Trump have chosen the path of military confrontation and aggression. The two terms of Obama’s administration present a record of failing wars, financial crises, burgeoning prisons and declining domestic living standards. But for all their noise, these frogs, croaking in unison, will not change the real world.

Is Tillerson Skipping NATO for Russia a Crisis? (No.)

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Is Tillerson committing treason skipping a NATO meeting for Russia? A diplomatic crisis? The end of the alliance? A favor to Putin? No. It’s just a scheduling decision.

Senior government leaders are often called on to be in more than one place at a time. They make choices. Not everyone agrees with those choices. Sometimes deputies go instead. This happens to every country; the more global a nation’s interests, the more it happens. None of this is new.

Yet a decision to have Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a meeting between President Trump (Tillerson’s boss) and Chinese President Xi rather than a NATO ministers gathering (i.e., Tillerson’s peers) in early April has been blown up into yet another end-of-the-world scenario. The fact that Tillerson will attend an event in Russiaweeks later was somehow thrown into the mix and the resulting cake was pronounced proof that the U.S.-NATO relationship is in tatters.

It is fully reasonable to debate which event, meeting with Xi or NATO, is the best use of Tillerson. It’s just not a hard debate to resolve.

“Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security,” two former U.S. officials said.

Bigger stuff over smaller stuff, who could imagine?

Despite much rhetoric, NATO has been a stable, predictable relationship for the United States over decades. Tillerson, and the U.S., will be represented at the April event by the familiar (he’s worked for State since 1984) and competent Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Shannon. Tillerson may be skipping the event; the United States is not. And FYI, Colin Powell skipped the same meeting once as Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, Trump is set to attend a NATO summit in Brussels in May. Tillerson met his NATO counterparts at an anti-ISIS conference on March 22. State is proposing other dates for NATO’s foreign ministers to gather. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner stated in the midst of all this “the United States remains 100 percent committed” to the alliance.

NATO is covered.

China meanwhile is dead center on action. China will play a significant role in anything to do with North Korea. China and U.S. allies Japan and South Korea face continued friction in the South China Sea, with the U.S. involved as well. China is one of America’s most significant trading partners, and holds considerable U.S. Treasury debt. Weigh all that against sending a signal to NATO about a problem in the alliance that sort of doesn’t even exist outside the self-created media spectacle.

And the same people criticizing Tillerson for attending the meeting between Trump and Xi have only recently criticized Tillerson for not attending meetings between Trump and other world leaders.

Problems with Tillerson’s plan to go to Russia weeks after the missed NATO meeting are just conflation. Tillerson will be doing all sorts of things following the NATO meeting and simply throwing Russia into this NATO story is pure sensationalism, a desperate attempt to get the news hook of the moment, Putin, into the headlines and imply more diplomatic naughtiness on the part of Trump.

Much of the can’t-win-either-way positions taken on Tillerson flow from two interlocking issues.

The first is the trope that basically anything the Trump administration does is wrong, dangerous, and reckless. Politico comes out with it, saying “Two months and a string of eyebrow-raising decisions later, people in and outside the State Department wonder if there’s any tradition Tillerson thinks is worth keeping.” Suggest negotiations and you’re too soft. Rattle the saber and you’re tempting Armageddon.

The second is Tillerson’s disdain for the media. The media as a rule is nothing but self-righteous and jealous, ready to wave the flag, wrap themselves in it, then throw themselves writhing to the ground claiming they alone stand between The People (who no longer trust them) and the abyss. Tillerson didn’t take a press pool with him to Asia, and this set off the latest round. Left out of course is that the press could and did travel commercially to Asia longside Tillerson and missed out only on the possibility of some back-of-the-official-plane leaking.

This will become a self-licking ice cream cone, as 24/7 press criticism of Tillerson makes him even less likely to engage with a press that will seize on his comments to criticize him further.

It is also deeply amusing to watch the press decry the lack of official State Department briefings that they for years criticized as being content free and little more than propaganda. It reminds of an old joke — Q: How was the food on your vacation? A: Terrible! And such small portions!

Reprinted with permission from WeMeantWell.com.

Comey Lied? Trump Vindicated? Nobody’s Safe From PATRIOT Act

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) dropped a bombshell yesterday when he revealed that members of the Trump campaign staff -- possibly including Trump himself -- had their communications intercepted by US intelligence. The surveillance was likely undertaken under expanded spying permission granted by section 702 of the post-9/11 FISA amendments. This provision enables the NSA to listen in to and keep information from phone calls of US citizens as long as the person on the other end is believed to be a non-US citizen overseas. The possibilities for abusing this expanded authority for political or other gain are endless and this may be what is behind the latest revelations. Politicians don't mind when we are spied on by the government, but they scream loudest when they are the victims. What's the solution? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

Peter Tosh’s Resistance against Racism, Apartheid and Settler-Colonialism

March 21 was the 57th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre that was carried out by the South African apartheid regime against protesting Africans in 1960. This protest was organized by the liberation organization, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). It targeted the pass law of the settler-colonial regime that regulated the movement and residential pattern of the indigenous Africans. International opinion was so outraged by the murderous behaviour of the apartheid system that the United Nations’ General Assembly was inspired to declare March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD).

Whenever we commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre and the IDERD, we are politically obligated to highlight the valiant effort of the late reggae singer, Pan-Africanist, Rastaman, revolutionary, and human rights champion Peter Tosh in creating greater public awareness of the crimes of South Africa’s apartheid system. Tosh was one of the original Wailers’ trio alongside Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. He was a reggae superstar at the time of his assassination by lumpen elements in Jamaica on 11 September 1987. Tosh was known as a militant cultural worker and organic intellectual who did not mince words in condemning the powers-that-be like the Old Testament prophets.

According to Tosh’s former manager Herbie Miller in the book Remembering Peter Tosh, Tosh loved to read about international affairs and politics in general, biographies of noted Pan-Africanists as well as “literature about the origins of the apartheid system.” Tosh’s 1977 album Equal Rights was an anthem against racial and economic oppression and Miller said that “it was this era of legal segregation and political unrest that inspired Peter’s recording of the album.”

On this album Tosh demonstrates his function as an organic intellectual of the international African labouring classes with the anti-apartheid song Apartheid that exposed the economic motivation and action of the apartheid regimes in South Africa and Namibia. The first four lines in the song bear witness to the natural resources extraction activities of the white supremacist, capitalist, settler-colonial regime in Southern Africa:

Inna me land, quite illegal
You inna me land, dig out me gold, yes
Inna me land, diggin’ out me pearl
Inna me land, dig out me diamond

Tosh is not distracted by the ideological structure of white supremacy that was used in a vain attempt to mask the economic and financial imperatives behind the system of apartheid. It is not accidental and is quite instructive that this Rastafari prophetic voice went straight at the foundation of the system of apartheid in this song – the theft and occupation of Africans’ land and exploitation of the natural resources.

This militant reggae icon exposes and indicts before the court of international public opinion the vicious and murderous apartheid system for its neglect of the social needs of the oppressed. Since the apartheid regime lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the people, it was forced to invest heavily in the coercive arm of the state (the police, army, courts and prisons) in order to keep in check the people’s struggle for freedom:

You inna me land, you no build no schools for black children
You inna me land, no hospital for black people
You inna me land, you built your prison
You inna me land, you built your camp

Peter was quite aware of the threat of the apartheid regime in South Africa and Namibia to international peace and regional stability in southern Africa. The settler-colonial apartheid regime did not confine its vile and brutal actions inside the territories under its control. It went after the liberation movements from Namibia and South Africa. South African apartheid brought death and destruction to the people of the frontline states that gave shelter to the freedom fighters and anti-colonial forces:

You cross the border, you shoot off the children
Cross the border, shoot down women
Cross the border, you take your might
Cross the border to beat the right

Tosh told the apartheid regime that it must expect a fight from the victimized Africans. He knows that the language of force is the one in which the forces of white supremacy and Babylon were most fluent. The downpressed had no option but to fight:

Now we have to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid
Black man got to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid

Come on and you fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid
We got to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid

If the call to arms against the forces of exploitation and the disastrous consequences for them are not clear enough, Tosh outlines the desperate situation in which the downpressors will find themselves in the decisive and final moments of the triumph of the downpressed. In the song Downpressor Man from the Equal Rights album, he informs the exploiter of his fate:

Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
All along that day

You gonna run to the sea
But the sea will be boiling
When you run to the sea
The sea will be boiling
The sea will be boiling
All along that day

You gonna run to the rocks
The rocks will be melting
When you run to the rocks
The rocks will be melting
The rocks will be melting
All that day

Long before activists coined and popularized the slogan “No Justice, No Peace,” Tosh captures that sentiment of the people and immortalized it in the song Equal Rights. This Rastafari cultural worker knew that the foundation of peace is justice and equity. The absence of peace and equal rights would ensure the continuation of predatory warfare by the downpressor and the necessity of revolutionary violence or armed self-defense by the downpressed:

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice

I don’t want no peace
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
Got to get it, equal rights and justice

Tosh was an internationalist and he links the fight of Africans against racism, settler-colonialism and apartheid in Southern Africa with the struggle of the Palestinians against Zionism and Israeli apartheid. In the song Equal Rights, he proclaims that “Palestinians are fighting for equal rights and justice.” This reggae and Rastafari revolutionary took the opportunity at the 1977 No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden, New York, to demonstrate his solidarity with Palestinians and other Arabs against Israeli colonial and military aggression.

Herbie Miller says that Tosh purchased and performed in the traditional clothing and headgear of the Gulf State Arab men. According to Miller, “He intentionally did this at the No Nukes concert because he knew that there were certain countries with nuclear armaments and the concert date also fell close to one of the Jewish holidays. He made this political statement fully aware of the ongoing conflicts between the Arab and Jewish states in the Middle East.”

Tosh expression of internationalist solidarity with the cause of Palestinians and others in the Middle East might have caused the withdrawal of his invitation to address the relevant United Nations’ committee on apartheid. He would have been the first reggae cultural worker to do so.

We should share Tosh’s legacy of principled resistance and solidarity against apartheid, racism and economic exploitation with young people. Tosh used his art to turn the people on to the struggle for justice, equal rights and world peace.

Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush

Photo by Bureau of Land Management | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Bureau of Land Management | CC BY 2.0

Standing on the south lawn of the White House just days after 9/11, Bush told the nation—and the world—that “[t]his crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take awhile.”

Bush, evoking history’s most infamous religious war, perhaps out of clumsy oblivion to the connotation of his own words, perhaps as a dog whistle to the most reactionary elements of his base, laid out his vision for a global war, a war that had no boundaries, not even the borders of the United States. In the early post-9/11 period, Bush, who had been the first President since 1888 to fail to win a plurality of the popular vote, frequently resorted to particularly grandiose terms. Thus, it was, in some respects, oddly fitting for the man who spoke of “enemies of freedom” and the “axis of evil”, to refer to his global war on terrorism as a “crusade” against a “new kind of evil.”

Nearly a decade and a half later, the former crusader-in-chief, now fashions himself a painter. And he has found an odd and surprising new fan club amongst liberals. Liberals have sought to revive his image in order to turn him into an anti-Trump. We are told that Bush is everything Trump is not. Unlike Trump, he never embraced Islamophobia, respected the media and liberal constitutional norms and tolerated dissent. You see Trump will somehow melt away if only liberals can point to respectable representatives of the status quo, and say, “Look, Trump is not like them!”

But those looking to tout the good Bush as the opposite of the bad Trump seem to have forgotten—or are conveniently overlooking—the very real causalities of the former zealot of the death chamber and the black site.

Bush’s, while speaking of a new kind of evil, did incalculable amounts of damage.

Abroad, his crusade led him to launch two invasions, whose massive bombings of impoverished countries paralleled Guernica in their brutality, whose policies of occupation brought the neoliberal order full circle to the old blunt violence of colonial pillage.

At home, his crusade meant domestic dissent was tantamount to disloyalty; and that civil society could either be conscripted into the cause or treated as an enemy.

And somewhere in the space blended together, Bush’s crusade erected a regime of torture, detention, and disappearance.

To praise Bush now is to erase these victims, and all in the name of an impotent strategy. Trump’s success depends on his ability to convince his supporters that he isn’t like the George Bushes of the world. And by legitimizing Bush, we legitimize in part some of the worst potential policies of a Trump administration.  To put it simply, it is difficult to lament Trump’s desire to bring back torture while praising as his foil the man who implemented the very regime of torture Trump wishes to resurrect.

Rise to Power

Even before Bush was president, he had an almost super villain quality to him. As governor, Bush signed 131 death warrants, at the time a record. While Rick Perry would latter go onto outdo Bush’s ghastly record in total number of executions, Bush executed individuals at a faster rate. Analysis of these executions showed that most of those sent to death by Bush had “seriously flawed trials.” Bush denied the clemency petition of an individual with intellectual disabilities and even opposed legislation barring such a practice. The Supreme Court would later rule executing individuals with intellectual disabilities is cruel and unusual punishment.

 

After presiding over Texas’s machinery of death, Bush set his sites on the White House. Like Trump, he failed to gain a plurality of popular. Unlike Trump, unfounded claims of Russian hacking not withstanding, there are serious allegations of fraud and outright theft of the election. An intervention by the Supreme Court ended recount efforts in Florida.

Needless to say, not everyone was pleased by the failure to properly count the votes in Florida. When he arrived in Washington, DC for his inauguration, he was greeted by a mass of protesters who hold “Hail to the Thief” signs and pelted his motorcade with eggs.

War On the World

In a Saturday Night Live sketch following the election, a fictional Bush tells the defeated Al Gore “maybe, I’ll start a war. Wars are like executions supersized.” This would prove to be uncannily foreboding of what was to come.

While any US President (or any leader in the capitalist world) would have exploited a tragedy like 9/11 for a consolidation of power, Bush’s actions in its aftermath go far beyond the pale of what anyone could imagine. Bush subsequently invaded Afghanistan, but sought and received a Congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that never mentioned the country by name. This is because instead of arguing for military force against a single national, Bush proclaimed a global war, a war in which every corner, of every country is a battlefield.

The ramifications of this are profound. To date, between both Bush and Obama the authorization for military force in question, which is still in effect, has been cited 37 times to justify military actions in 14 countries. The AUMF was used by the Bush administration to argue that it could detain José Padilla, a US citizen arrested on US soil, indefinitely without trial as an enemy combatant—after all the whole world, including the US, was a battlefield. The US government charged Padilla to avoid a Supreme Court ruling on whether the AUMF granted such powers.  Bush would make similar claims after the US detained another US citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi, who unlike Podailla was captured in Afghanistan. Hamdi was initially held at Guantanamo Bay, but moved to the US mainland when it was discovered he was a US citizen. In spite of this, Bush continued to assert Hamdi was an enemy combatant that could be held indefinitely without ever challenging his detention. Eight of the Supreme Court’s nine Supreme Court justices rejected this argument, though a plurality affirmed the Bush Administration’s claims that the AUMF granted him powers to detain combatants.

Guantanamo Bay became the symbol of Bush’s assertion that he could detain people without any form of review. It also created a continuous legal back and forth, in which the highest courts constantly rebuffed the government, with the government just beginning the process anew. Throughout this process Bush made shocking departures from liberal norms, at one point attempting to argue the Geneva Conventions, which governs the treatment of prisoners of war, did not apply to “unlawful enemy combatants.” Bush also attempted to argue, that neither Congress nor the courts could check the President’s decision to detain “enemy combatants.”

Bush’s policies of detention are closely intertwined with his policies of torture. While the US has almost certainly been complicit in torture throughout its history, Bush’s watch included not just  Abu Graib, but a CIA program in which people were disappeared into black sites and subjected to heinous acts like waterboarding or rectal feeding.

Under Bush, the US engaged in the types of human rights abuses most commonly associated with rightwing military dictatorships. Images of individuals, disappeared, wearing orange jumpsuits, with black hoods that both obscure their identity and obstruct their vision, remain, even in the context of the US’s very dark history, haunting.

Afghanistan & Iraq: Neoliberalism & Colonialism

While Bush may have been at war with the world, his administration invaded two separate countries—Afghanistan and Iraq.  The longstanding narrative has been that Afghanistan was the good war justified by 9/11, and supported by the global public opinion. Bush’s cardinal sin was that by invading Iraq he got distracted from the noble crusade in Afghanistan and squandered the good will of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth, within less than the first month of the war global public opinion was overwhelmingly negative.

If the world opposed Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, it reviled his invasion of Iraq. Even before the war officially began, millions of people participated in record breaking global demonstrations against Bush’s plan to invade Iraq.

The stated reasoning for war—Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and the patently absurd claims that the country played a role in 9/11—all turned out to be false.

The Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation was particularly brutal and barbarous. The opening act of official invasion was a particularly sickening act of imperial aggression, dubbed “shock and awe,” which consisted of a massive and continuous bombardment of urban areas like Baghdad meant to subdue the nation into submission by “shocking” it and thus allowing the US to achieve “rapid dominance.” Images of bombs falling over Baghdad were broadcast live for the entire world to see. That the intended purposes of this campaign, to use massive violence to terrorize, fit the definition of terrorism, the very thing Bush claimed he was seeking to eradicate, was not lost on much of the world.

Shock and Awe was not the only moment in the Iraq War to live on infamy. Fallujah, a densely populated city of 300,000, was put under siege by occupation forces, as exits and entrances were blocked and the city was subjected to aerial bombardments by coalitions forces, provoking repeated comparisons to the bombing of Guernica.

In 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War staged an event called “Winter Soldier,” molded after a similar event held in the 1970s by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, during which veterans testified to the realities of the Iraq and Afghanistan. For three days, veteran after veteran told firsthand stories of how the military used of racism to dehumanize an enemy resulting in a disregard for Iraqi civilian.

The image of a foreign soldier standing, heavily armed at a checkpoint stopping an Iraqi, on pain of death, in their own country is an image of colonial domination. And like all colonial enterprises, the occupation of Iraq rested on a deliberate dehumanization that reduces the lives of the occupied to meaninglessness when the will of the occupier is concerned. Hence, the large numbers of Iraqis killed at checkpoints or by convoys. The blame for this rests squarely with Bush, whose actions set these events into motions, not with individual soldiers, who join the military for a myriad of complex reasons, and are put into a situation where they must struggle to survive. Bush had a choice. And he chose to invade and occupy Iraq.

While Iraq was claimed to be a war for democracy, the early occupation came complete with an arrogant colonial viceroy—Paul Bremer. Bremer, who was guarded by his own private mercenary force, was able to enact laws for Iraq with the stroke of a pen. As Naomi Klein describes, during his reign Bremer was

ensconced in Saddam’s turquoise- domed Republican Palace, receiving trade and investment laws by e-mail from the Department of Defense, printing them out, signing them and im­posing them by fiat on the Iraqi people.

Upon his assumption of power, he overturned many of the laws of the Baathist era, but kept the ban on public sector trade unions. Bremer did enact laws though eliminating taxes and tariffs, and selling off key state industries

Even after Bremer left and the Iraqi people got chose their government, Bush continued to impose economic dictates on the country. Bush’s benchmarks for success for the new government included the “Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law,” i.e. privatization of Iraqi oil.

Such actions could be viewed as an attempt to implement neoliberal economics by armed invasion. While Bush’s economic agenda for Iraq had a distinctively neoliberal character, it also in many respects a classic form of colonialism, in which a regime of alien domination is imposed on a people by force and loots their nation. In order to maintain the high levels of violence necessary to maintain such a regime, racism as an ideology must be deployed to dehumanize its victims or even to paint them as the aggressor. Thus, in Iraq Bush helped to bring the old colonial barbarism into the 21st century.

Bush’s Crusade

A particular point of distinction between good conservative Bush and bad conservative Trump, has been that former gallantly responded to one of the worst terror attacks while shunning Islamophobia, while the later has resorted to exploiting the menace of terrorism in order to exploit cheap racist demagoguery. Bush did refuse to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” words deemed precious by Trump, but descriptively meaningless as anything other than a dog whistle.  However, Bush did reach into his vocabulary to find another troubling word, describing his war against the world as a “crusade.” The religious connotations of this term troubled many at the time.

As his war was without borders, Bush’s crusade not only meant combatting evil abroad, but purging it at home. On his list of those to be targeted at home was Muslim civil society. When campaigning for President, Bush had condemned Bill Clinton’s own Islamophobia, criticizing his use of secret evidence in immigration proceeding and accusing him of racial profiling. As a result, he won support amongst American Muslims and even the endorsement of prominent Muslim civil rights activists Sami Al-Arian. Yet, after 9/11 the Palestinian-American activist who had once received a personal audience with Bush found himself on the wrong side of his crusade. Al-Arian became the subject of one the longest mounting US terrorism prosecutions, a prosecution that was essentially a political witch-hunt in which political books owned by Al-Arian were introduced as evidence. An initial five-month trial saw Al-Arian acquitted on 8 of the 17 charges against him, with the jury deadlocked on the remaining charges. He later would agree to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As part of this plea, he was to be deported to Turkey. Yet, instead of allowing him to leave, the government charged him anew with both civil and criminal attempt. The federal government did not drop their campaign against Al-Arian until 2015.

Another key moment in Bush’s war against Muslim civil society was the labeling of the Holy Land Foundation, than the largest Islamic charity, a terrorist organization. Just months after 9/11, the charity had its assets seized and in 2004 five of its leaders indicted on terrorism related offenses. Much like Al-Arian, these supposed enemies in the War on Terror had no alleged nexus to 9/11, but were instead accused of aiding Palestinian groups. In fact, they were not even accused of links to violence, but instead the government argued that the charitable aid they raised for Palestinians was distributed by Hamas controlled charity committees. Nearly six years after the original designation, a mistrial was declared when a jury failed to reach a verdict. Nonetheless, Bush’s justice department brought a retrial. This time, with the help of testimony from an Israeli intelligence agent who was permitted to testify anonymously, all five were convicted. The impact of this was widely felt amongst Muslim civil society. During the Holy Land Five trial, the government labeled the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an “unindicted co-conspirator,” which is used to this day to attempt to delegitimize the US’s largest Muslim civil rights organization.

It was not just Muslim civil society that was targeted by the repressive apparatuses of the state. The Bush years saw a number of domestic spying scandals involving opponents of Bush’s wars, environmental, and animal rights groups. When Bush’s press secretary was asked about comments made by comedian Bill Maher about it being wrong to label the 9/11 hijackers cowards, he responded with “Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do.”

There is, of course, Bush’s newfound love of the media. As, Zaid Milani pointed out part of this stems from the role the media played in allowing Bush to sell his invasion of Iraq. Even when the media did clash with Bush, such as when the New York Times published a story about the NSA’s illegal surveillance of Americans, they showed their trademark deference to the administration—The New York Times sat on the story for a year as the administration tried persuade them not to publish it.

Journalist who refused to defer to Bush administration often did so at great risk. According to the Daily Telegraph, a memo exists documenting that George W. Bush seriously proposed bombing Al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar, but was talked out of it by Tony Blair. The British government responded by invoking the Official States Secret Act, meaning that any newspaper that published parts of it would have faced criminal prosecution.  Al-Jazeera had been a verbal target for the Bush Administration, with Rumsfeld calling their reporting from Iraq “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” and a US military spokesperson labeled any reports documenting the US intentionally killing civilians “not legitimate news sources,” “propaganda,” and “lies.” In short, anything that contradicted the official narrative was fake news.

Al-Jazeera was not only verbally assailed by the Bush administration, its office in Afghanistan was bombed, though no one was killed, and a reporter was killed when the US bombed its electricity generator in Iraq.

During the invasion, of Iraq a US tank shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing two of the journalists who were staying there. Separate investigations by Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, did not conclude journalists were killed intentionally, but they did find that Pentagon higher ups at the very least knew the hotel housed journalists and in the words of latter organization were “criminally negligent.”

Yet, much as the later revelations about the Al-Jazeera bombing memo raised unsettling questions about US bombings of Al-Jazeera, later revelations would raise disturbing questions about the Palestine Hotel. In 2008 Adrienne Kinne, a former army sergeant involved with military intelligence, claims that the hotel appeared on a list of military targets. Kinne also purports to have listened to the phonecalls of both journalists and NGOs. While official obfuscation means the full truth about this incidents remains unknown, the Bush Administration’s decision to view critical reporters as enemies shows an attitude towards reporters who refused to be conscripted into Bush’s crusade that is deeply at odds with his recent professed love for the free press

Thanks, Obama!

How did we get to a point in time when such a revisionist view of Bush can triumph? Bush can thank, in part, Obama for his rehabilitation.  Obama as president embraced and expanded the worst aspects of Bush’s global war. Although he had earlier stated the AUMF should be repealed, Obama would cite it 19 times, compared to Bush’s 18, to justify foreign military action. He would also seek statutory codifications of the President’s right to detain individuals indefinitely. And while Bush claimed the right to detain without trial, Obama claimed the right to kill without trial, including US citizens, as evidenced by his global program of extrajudicial executions via drones.  And media revelations from the Bush era about NSA spying paled in comparison to the Snowden revelations. In short, Obama helped to normalize some of the worst aspects of the Bush Administration, which is why it is now easy to paint Bush as reasonable or respectable.

Painting Bush as respectable or reasonable means painting torture as respectable or reasonable. It means accepting a decision that resulted in hundred of thousands, if not a million, deaths as a just another policy choice. It requires us to accept detaining and disappearing individuals as policy option about which reasonable people can agree to disagree.

This may be convenient, as it allows us to let Obama off the hook for continuing some of Bush’s worst policies and not ask serious question about the way Bill Clinton paved the way for them. When you are deeply committed to the functioning of the system for something to be undesirable it must be a deviance from it, not because of it. Thus, for Trump to truly be bad he must represent a break from his predecessors.

Trump very well may turn out to be worse than Bush. The brashness of his blatant hatred for Muslims and his affiliations with unreconstructed white supremacist go far beyond Bush. Resisting him is an urgent for priority for the left and a situation of basic survival for those communities under siege. But none of this erases the fact that Bush viewed his critics as enemies of freedom, attempted to criminalize swaths of Muslim civil society, launched, brutal, protracted wars, and oversaw authoritarian policies of surveillance, torture, and dissent. With these tools alone Trump could do immense damage. Equally important, Trump can’t be resisted with also resisting the system that produced him. That means a break with Bush’s abhorrent crusade.

Chip Gibbons is writer whose work can be found in Counterpunch, Jacobin, and Truthout. He is a contributor to the Henry Kissinger Files, forthcoming from Verso.

Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine

Photo by Scott Schiller | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Scott Schiller | CC BY 2.0

The cyber security firm outsourced by the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike, reportedly misread data, falsely attributing a hacking in Ukraine to the Russians in December 2016. Voice of America, a US Government funded media outlet, reported, “the CrowdStrike report, released in December, asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists. But the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told VOA that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has claimed combat losses and hacking never happened.” The maker of the military app allegedly hacked called CrowdStrike’s report “delusional,” and told VOA that CrowdStrike never contacted him either before or after they completed their report. VOA News noted Ukraine’s rebuttal to CrowdStrike received little media attention as CrowdStrike’s report was widely cited in media outlets throughout the United States as further evidence of Russia hacking the United States. Alperovitch, who gave several interviews on CrowdStrike’s initial report to the Washington Post and other media outlets, refused to comment on VOA News’ report.

The report sheds further skepticism on CrowdStrike’s findings and objectivity in their conclusions, which several cyber security experts and former CIA and NSA officials have cast doubt on, especially given that several media outlets reported in early January 2017 that the DNC never allowed the FBI to examine their servers themselves, rather the FBI relied on forensic data gathered by CrowdStrike.

The investigation methods used to come to the conclusion that the Russian Government led the hacks of the DNCClinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, and the DCCC were further called into question by a recent BuzzFeed report by Jason Leopold, who has developed a notable reputation from leading several non-partisan Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for investigative journalism purposes. On March 15 that the Department of Homeland Security released just two heavily redacted pages of unclassified information in response to an FOIA request for definitive evidence of Russian election interference allegations. Leopold wrote, “what the agency turned over to us and Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at MIT and a research affiliate at Harvard University, is truly bizarre: a two-page intelligence assessment of the incident, dated Aug. 22, 2016, that contains information DHS culled from the internet. It’s all unclassified — yet DHS covered nearly everything in wide swaths of black ink. Why? Not because it would threaten national security, but because it would reveal the methods DHS uses to gather intelligence, methods that may amount to little more than using Google.”

In lieu of substantive evidence provided to the public that the alleged hacks which led to Wikileaks releases of DNC and Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta’s emails were orchestrated by the Russian Government, CrowdStrike’s bias has been cited as undependable in its own assessment, in addition to its skeptical methods and conclusions. The firm’s CTO and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2013, the Atlantic Council awarded Hillary Clinton it’s Distinguished International Leadership Award. In 2014, the Atlantic Council hosted one of several events with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who took over after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in early 2014, who now lives in exile in Russia.

In August, Politico reported that Donald Trump’s favorable rhetoric to Russia was concerning Ukraine, who have been recovering from Russian interference in their own country’s revolution.  The article cited, “Russia wants Trump for U.S. president; Ukraine is terrified by Trump and prefers Hillary Clinton.” Trump recently appointed Atlantic Council Chairman Jon Huntsman as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, which Vox called a “baffling” choice, and Democrats and anti-Russian hysterics haven’t bothered to attempt to criticize, scrutinize or insinuate ties between Huntsman and Russia.

Cyber security expert Jeffrey Carr called the FBI/Department of Homeland Security Report, the only alleged evidence released by intelligence officials, released in late December 2016 a “fatally flawed effort” that provided no evidence to substantiate the claims that the Russian government conducted the hacks, though that’s what it was purported to do.

“If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified,” he wrote in a Medium post on December 30, 2016, while Obama was still in office. “If it’s classified, an independent commission should review it because this entire assignment of blame against the Russian government is looking more and more like a domestic political operation run by the White House that relied heavily on questionable intelligence generated by a for-profit cybersecurity firm with a vested interest in selling ‘attribution-as-a-service.'”

Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Are you or a loved one having trouble staying afloat? You’re truly not alone.

While the media reports low unemployment and a rising stock market, the reality is that almost 20 percent of the country lives in “Underwater Nation,” with zero or even negative net worth. And more still have almost no cash reverses to get them through hard times.

This is a source of enormous stress for many low and middle-income families.

Savings and wealth are vital life preservers for people faced with job loss, illness, divorce, or even car trouble. Yet an estimated 15 to 20 percent of families have no savings at all, or owe more than they own.

They’re disproportionately rural, female, renters, and people without a college degree. But the underwater ranks also include a large number of people who appear to be in the stable middle class. Health challenges are a major cause of savings depletion for these people, both in medical bills and lost wages.

Plenty more Americans could be vulnerable.

A financial planner will advise you to put aside three months of living expenses in financial reserves, just in case. So if your living expenses are $2,000 a month, you should try to have $6,000 in “liquidity” — money you can easily get to in an emergency.

But 44 percent of households don’t have enough funds to tide themselves over for three months, even if they lived at the poverty level, according to the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard.

Even having a positive net worth doesn’t mean you can always tap these funds, especially if wealth takes the form of home equity or owning a car.

A Bankrate survey found that 63 percent of U.S. households lack the cash or savings to meet a $1,000 emergency expense. They’d have to borrow from a friend or family, or put costs on a credit card.

Seven percent of U.S. homeowners are underwater homeowners, with mortgage debt higher than the value of their homes. And more and more people have taken on credit card debt to pay the bills. Meanwhile, student debt is rising rapidly and is projected to become one of the biggest factors in negative wealth.

Conservative scolds will blame individuals for “living beyond their means” and being financially irresponsible. And individual behavior is important. But the financial stresses facing millions of families are more likely the result of four decades of stagnant incomes.

Half the workers in this country haven’t shared in the economic gains that have mostly gone to the rich. Their real wages have stayed flat while health care, housing, and other expenses continue to rise.

So not everyone is on the edge at this time of dizzying inequality, after all. The 400 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. have as much wealth together as the bottom 62 percent of the population.

This is only possible because of the expanding ranks of drowning Americans.

Some politicians will scapegoat immigrants or other vulnerable people for this suffering. When this happens, hold on tight to your purse or wallet. They’re trying to distract you from the rich and powerful elites who are rigging the rules to get more wealth and power.

They want to deflect your attention away from the reality that your economic pain is the result of deliberate government rules that give more tax cuts to the super-rich and global corporations, keep wages down, push up tuition costs, and let corporations nickel and dime you for all you’re worth.

Congress and the Trump administration are proposing to cut health care, pass more tax cuts for the rich, and give global corporations even more power over you. They promise benefits will “trickle down.”

Unless we speak up, the only trickle will be the expansion of Underwater Nation.

Distributed by OtherWords.