Who is Archbishop Atallah Hanna, and why Israel hates him

“They will run and not grow weary,” is a quote from the Bible (Isaiah, 40:41) that adorns the homepage of Kairos Palestine. This important document, which parallels a similar initiative emanating from South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle years, has come to represent the unified voice of the Palestinian Christian community everywhere. One of the main advocates of Kairos Palestine is Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

Hanna has served as the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem since 2005. Since then, he has used his leadership position to advocate for Palestinian unity in all of its manifestations. Expectedly, Hanna has been on Israel’s radar for many years, as this kind of leadership is problematic from the viewpoint of a hegemonic political and military power that requires utter and absolute submission.

So when Archbishop Hanna was hospitalized on December 18 as a result of what was reported to be Israeli “poisoning”, Palestinians were very concerned. A few days later, Hanna was found to be at a Jordanian hospital receiving urgent medical treatment for what was described, by Hanna himself, as “poisoning by chemical substance”. Whatever that substance may have been, it was reportedly discharged from an Israeli army gas canister, lobbed at Hanna’s Church in Jerusalem.

“The Christians of Palestine are one family of Jordanians and Palestinians,” he told journalists from his hospital bed, where he also said that “Israeli occupation may have attempted to assassinate him or keep him sick all his life, indicating that the substance has very serious effects, especially on the nervous system”.

Those familiar with Hanna’s discourse would know precisely what the rebellious Christian leader was aiming at when he spoke about the oneness of Palestinian Christians in Jordan and Palestine: unity which, sadly, has eluded Palestinians for a long time. Indeed, wherever the man may be, standing tall at a rally in Jerusalem in defence of Palestinian rights or from a hospital bed, he advocates unity among Palestinians and for the sake of Palestine.

The Kairos document is itself an act of unity among Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. “This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the document, championed by Hanna and many others, states.

Even before claiming his current leadership position, Hanna was a target of Israel. During the Second Intifada, the uprising of 2005, Hanna emerged on the scene as an advocate, not of Palestinian Christian rights but the rights of all Palestinians. He actively pursued the World Council of Churches to use its credibility and outreach to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for an independent Palestinian state.

In August 2002, Hanna was detained by the Israeli police in front of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City. On the orders of the Israeli Attorney General, he was charged with ‘suspicion of relations with terrorist organizations’, a concocted charge that allowed the Israeli government to confiscate the Palestinian leader’s Israeli and Vatican passports.

Despite the fact that Palestinian Christians undergo the same experience of military occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing as their Muslim brethren, Israel has laboured to propagate an erroneous narrative that presents the “conflict” as one between Israel and Muslim fundamentalists. Hanna is particularly troubling for Israel because his political language demolishes Israeli hasbara at its very foundations.

“We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs,” he declared on October 10, 2001, when he joined Christian and Muslim leaders in their march from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian religious sites.

In an interview with ‘Russia Today’ on January 30, 2015, Hanna refused to even concede the language battle to those who ignorantly – or purposely – ascribe Muslim terminology to terrorism. “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic – is as much Christian as it is a Muslim phrase, he argued.

“We Christians also say Allahu Akbar. This is an expression of our understanding that the Creator is great. We don’t want this phrase to be related to terrorism and crimes,” he said.

“We speak against using this phrase in this context. Those who do, they insult our religion and our religious values,” he added, again, thoughtfully linking all religious values through faith, not politics.

“The city of Jerusalem is the city of the three Abrahamic religions,” Hanna recently said at Istanbul’s “First Global Conference on Israeli Apartheid”. Tirelessly and consistently, the Archbishop announced that “Christian and Muslim Palestinians living in Jerusalem suffer from the occupation, suffer from repression, tyranny, and oppression.”

Although born in Ramah in Palestine’s upper Galilee region, Hanna’s true love was, and remains, Jerusalem. It was there that his spirituality deepened and his political ideas formulated. His advocacy for the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian identity of the city stands at the core of all of his activities.

“Everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by Israeli occupation,” Hanna said last January during a meeting with a Doctors without Borders delegation. “The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalize our Arabic and Palestinian existence,” the Archbishop lamented.

In fact, Israel has been doing exactly that, efforts that have accelerated since Donald Trump’s advent to the White House, and the US’ subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Archbishop Hanna is one of the strongest and most articulate Palestinian Christian voices in Jerusalem. His relentless work and leadership have irked Israeli authorities for many years. Now that Israel is finalizing its takeover of the illegally occupied city, Hanna, and like-minded Christian and Muslim leaders, are becoming more than mere irritants but real hurdles in the face of the Israeli military machine.

I met Abouna – Father – Hanna at a California Conference a few years ago. I heard him speak, his thunderous voice is that of a proud Palestinian Arab. He urged unity, as he always does. I chatted with him later, in the hotel lobby, as he was ready to go out for a walk with his close friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem. He was gentle and polite, and extremely funny.

As I watched them both walk outside, I felt hopeful that unity for the sake of Palestine is very much possible.

Indian Adventures: Policing, Facial Recognition and Targeting Privacy

The chances for those seeking a world of solitude are rapidly run out.  A good case can be made that this has already happened.  Aldous Huxley’s Savage, made famous in Brave New World, is out of options, having lost to the Mustapha Monds of the world.  State and corporate regulation of life, surveillance and monitoring, are reviled only in the breach.  And, like Mond, we are told that it is all for the better.

Facial recognition is one such form, celebrated by the corporate suits and the screws of the prison system alike.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a keen devotee, and it is telling that his company has now reached a level of influence that it can actually write the legislation on its own facial surveillance technology.  Whether Congress or other parliaments pass it is another thing, but political representatives are always up for rent when required.  What matters is selling them the right template of faux protections and safeguards that will enable them to sleep more soundly at night.

The critics come across as Cassandras and killjoys but they are trenchant and convincing.  Artificial intelligence expert Luke Stark argues that, at a technical level, facial recognition systems possess “insurmountable flaws connected to the way they schematize human faces.”  Gender and race categorisations are not only created but re-enforced, a point highlighted by Amazon’s own Rekognition system.  The risks of using such technology, Stark expounds, is “reminiscent of hazardous nuclear technologies.”

Evan Greer continues in the same vein, looking at a world of saturation surveillance with some despair.  “The use of computer algorithms to analyse massive databases of footage and photographs could render human privacy extinct.”  Greer has no need for the qualifier there.

Such concerns keep falling on the stubbornly deaf ears of those in power.  Those like Bezos have software and systems to sell, coated in save-the-world gloss; authorities are seeking products to purchase that are affordable and supposedly effective.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, uses Rekognition on some level.  On January 15, 2019, a sternly worded letter from a coalition of 85 different groups and organisations took issue with this tendency, rebuking Bezos and the buccaneering tendencies in the facial recognition market.  “By continuing to sell your face surveillance product to government entities, Amazon is gravely threatening the safety of community members, ignoring the protests of its own workers, and undermining public trust in its business.”

This tendency became all too real this year, with an announcement by the Indian government that plans to install a national facial recognition system were being implemented.  The inspiration behind such a measure is characteristic.  Authorities find themselves stretched.  There are few hands to achieve their objectives.  In this case, law enforcement authorities claim to be starved of resources, funding and foot soldiers.  Technological options which stress speed, data compilation and comparisons are being sought as a remedy.

The country’s National Crime Records Bureau, operating within the purview of the Home Ministry, expressed interest in tenders for what would be the world’s first central facial recognition surveillance system.  The NCRB is matter fact and businesslike in describing the intentions of the program.  “This is an effort in the direction of modernising the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and dissemination among various police forces and units across the country.”

There is no shortage of contenders for such a system, though indigenous variants were a bit slow in coming.  Indian homeland security, like other markets, is thriving.  Atul Rai, who features in a BuzzFeed contribution, is one such exponent. He is CEO of Staqu Technologies, which specialises in data analysis and facial recognition.  His company have been happy to work with the police to digitize musty, filed records lost in papered chaos.  But his approach is sinister in its confidence.  “America had Palantir. China had SenseTime.  India didn’t have a single brand like that in this space.  So we wanted to be that.”  To be that involved training “our model on the Indian facial ecosystem.”

Problematically, the NCRB never saw fit to raise the issue with policy makers, a point deemed more significant for the finding by the Indian Supreme Court in 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.  (The jurisprudence prior to this decision had been divided on this point.)  The case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India dealt with a petition concerning the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, an Indian biometric identity scheme.  The nine judges found that, “The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.”

As Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at the open-internet advocacy group Access Now warns, “It is deeply concerning that [the NCRB] have done this without any policy consultation and there’s not even a policy document.  There’s no clarity on what problems they are trying to solve”.  Vidushi Marda, lawyer and researcher at Article 19 and Carnegie India, has been wise to the language being used in selling the program; “safety”, “security” and “crime prevention” pepper the platform with arresting confidence.  But according to Marda, it is even more threatening than Aadhaar. “Unless we get plastic surgery at the same time, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Even then, the confident types in government are convinced that plastic surgery modifications can be defeated with the assistance of sketches, pictures published in newspapers, CCTV camera footage, and images from public and private video feeds.

The Indian context is particularly important, given the nationalist ambitions of Narenda Modi’s government, and those of his Bharatiya Janata Party.  Social and military control is central to their politics, with minorities high up the list of targets.  The quasi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir has been rescinded; detention camps are being built with the intention of keeping 2 million people in the north-eastern state of Assam under watchful eye.

While the options for solitude may be thinning at a goggling rate, pockets of resistance against biometric technologies can be found.  There are those within the mother ship that is Amazon who fear abuse.  There are legislatures and local councils in the United States digging in against the adoption of such technologies.  The European Parliament has been showing concern; Sweden found itself falling foul of the Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation in using facial recognition in schools.  But the Indian move suggests that facial recognition continues to hold cash strapped bureaucrats and corporate technologists in thrall.

Ron, Daniel & Chris: Reflecting On The Past & Anticipating The Future

Ron Paul, Daniel McAdams & Chris Rossini discuss their thoughts on what 2020 may have in store for us. The election, the economy, the military empire...today's Liberty Report covers it all!



LAST DAY! Please don't forget to make a year-end, tax-deductible donation to the Ron Paul Institute before midnight on December 31st and keep the Ron Paul Liberty Report alive and growing! Go to: Ron Paul Institute.

Libya’s War Escalates as the Stakes Get Higher

undefined

Libya's Government of National Accord has little time to sort out the mess it is in, with the Libyan National Army making some progress in Tripoli's suburbs. LNA warlord Haftar's strike on the Zawiya Oil installation near al Harsha in west Tripolitania on the 27th of December resulted in drastic damage to the facility causing Libya’s National Oil Company to warn about potential evacuation of offices nearby.*

The LNA's decision to target the az Zawiya Oil installation may be seen as a proxy blow to Turkey's interests in Libya, because Turkey purchases oil for as low as $10 per barrel from such terminals. Warlord Haftar does not suffer, because Cyrenaica oil is largely produced and processed in eastern Libya.

The Libyan National Army’s fortunes have improved recently with a new influx of weaponry and funds supplied by the United Arab Emirates. After setbacks in Gharayan the LNA has recovered due to weaponry, supplies, and mercenary air attacks on Misrata (mostly supported by the UAE) where Misrata provides most resistance to the LNA outside of Tripoli.** From December 21st, 2019, Haftar has mounted a particularly effective offensive around Tarhunah, driving the GNA back (nearly) to the suburbs of Tripoli itself.

The position of the United States is somewhat opaque regarding support for the Libya National Army, but indications are that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Egypt were successful in convincing the US to allow Saudi and Egypt a free hand to back and arm Haftar. The Libyan National Army declared a no-fly zone over Tripoli in late November, which has proved effective, in support of LNA air strikes on the capital by mercenary pilots. Together, these events caused Haftar to once again demand that the GNA surrender, on December 30th, 2019.

As addressed in Erdogan Stirs the Pot Again the Libyan conflict’s alliances are as follows:

Government of National Accord's (UN recognized government) major support:
Turkey
Qatar
Libyan National Army (not UN recognized) major support:
Saudi Arabia
Egypt
United Arab Emirates
France
Neutral:
Tunisia
Algeria
Morocco (political support for GNA)
According to the Turkish leadership, the Government of National Accord has asked for its help to stabilize Tripolitania and resist the LNA offensive. The Turkish parliament is set to vote on military intervention on January 2nd. But even if the measure passes, there may not be enough time to stop Haftar's advance.

According to the Libya Review Egypt has called for an emergency session of the Arab League to discuss Libya, however the details have not been verified (and occurrence of this session cannot be independently confirmed). Egypt has taken an interest in Cyrenaica and the conflict even before the LNA approached Egypt for help with developing the Sirte basin oil and gas fields, where most of Libya’s oil originates.

Warlord Haftar’s attempts to sell Sirte oil on the open market were resisted by UN sanction, so Haftar eventually backed down. If the LNA can shut down the National Oil Company of Libya, Haftar may gain enough leverage to force the issue because that’s a lot of oil and revenue for the GNA to lose every day. And such a closure would leave Turkey hanging in the wind, and possibly force the country back to Iran’s oil, in spite of US sanctions. The foregoing is surely what Egypt must hope for, too.

Reports of the Wagner Group operating on behalf of the LNA are murky, but probably correct. The Wagner Group is a mercenary force, for sale to any suitable bidder. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are certainly capable of doing that bidding. For now it appears that the Wagner Group is involved in LNA training and logistics -- and to strike fear in the heart of the GNA. Although touted by the Neoliberal press as Russia taking part in fighting around Tripoli, there is no evidence in the form of Russian casualties or any other evidence that the Kremlin is involved with such a tragic opportunity leveraged by an essentially private mercenary group.

Regardless of the above political considerations, the shifting alliance around the 2011 US/NATO-created Libyan disaster is of most consequence. Speculation abounds about a potential alliance between Turkey, Tunisia, and Algeria, versus the LNA in Libya. Fathi Bashagha, the GNA’s interior minister, announced just such an alliance last Thursday, but his proposal was quickly debunked.

Yesterday Turkey and Algeria announced a joint naval effort to celebrate the historic Oruç Reis Hayreddin Barbarossa anniversary, with exercises to take place in January, 2020. This celebratory joint naval affair has led to much speculation regarding Turkey’s proposal for an alliance with Algeria, for intervention in Libya. Although there is historic friendship and cooperation between Algeria and Turkey, Algeria’s history and current political composition is such that an actual military alliance between Algeria and Turkey is exceedingly unlikely at this time. There are several reasons.

Besides the inherent risk of throwing military weight behind a potentially losing GNA regime, Algeria’s history of internecine conflict -- especially with regard to implicit support of radical Islamist factions that the GNA has not fully denounced -- would be 100% abhorrent to the Algerian military and to its people. As for Tunisia, Tunisia of course does as Algeria dictates. ***

Complicating the picture is Morocco. Morocco -- an ally of Saudi Arabia -- is typically at odds with Algeria which does not align with Saudi Arabia. Morocco’s closeness to Saudi Arabia is complicated by Saudi’s support for the LNA, where Morocco has expressed its support for the Government of National Accord on numerous occasions. The Skhirat Agreement was Morocco’s attempt to find a political solution to the violence in Libya, but the LNA’s April offensive ended those hopes. Since then Morocco has pursued a largely neutral position beyond public statements in favor of the GNA.

Another great unknown is how Washington will react when NATO ally Turkey deploys its military to Libya. That deployment could result in a military confrontation with France, another NATO ally, or Greece, also a NATO ally. And Washington’s unipolar moment is not just fading fast, it has ended. Washington quixotically lashes out to re-assert its global dominance versus imaginary adversaries and is only capable of creating new ones – and failed states. How Washington’s hubris might play out in a Syria-like war in Libya (where Washington caused the conflict in the first place as it did in Syria) is unclear.

Next, consider the Libyan National Army which is not in as good shape as the media tends to portray. There is dissension among the officer ranks. Haftar has suffered a shortage of skilled workers and soldiers. The LNA has suffered setbacks before, for example in Gharayan. And the Warlord is mainly reliant on aerial bombing and superior air power to defeat the GNA. Haftar has only a few days remaining before Turkey may deploy troops to Tripolitania, and if Turkey does so, the tide of this war will turn quickly.

Finally, United Nations talks on Libya might take place in January… or they might not. Because the precise date has not been verified. Whether those UN talks take place or not, hope for Libya’s relief seems forlorn with more aggression, death, and human flight being a certainty, and typical of the failed states US-State creates. It seems that the peace prospect for Libya is bleak, with the people of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica tearing themselves apart while the people of the south, the Fezzan, suffer even more.

  *Somewhat surprisingly Libya's NOC provides oil revenue funds to both sides in the conflict ie the Government of National Accord and to the Libyan National Army; for the NOC to cease operations would be a blow to both factions.

** Some Misrata rebel factions support the LNA, and a number of factions with various affiliations exist there and in Tripoli.

*** The subject of Alegria is an interesting one and will be addressed in a comprehensive upcoming article.

Why I Don’t Criticize Russia, China, Or Other Unabsorbed Governments

undefined

Depending on whose political echo chamber I happen to be arguing with on a given day, one common criticism I run into a fair bit which many of my readers have surely also encountered is that I put all my energy into criticizing the foreign policy of the United States and its allies.

“You’re not anti-war, you’re only anti-AMERICAN wars!” they say, as though they’re delivering some kind of devastating slam-dunk point. “If you’re so antiwar, why don’t you criticize Assad’s war in Syria? If you’re such an anti-imperialist, show me where you’ve ever once criticized Russian imperialism, or Chinese imperialism?”

The argument being that someone who opposes US-led warmongering isn’t really motivated by a desire for peace and an opposition to war unless they’re also voicing opposition to all other violent governments in the world. If you’re only criticizing US imperialism and not the imperialism of other nations, you must be motivated by something far more sinister, perhaps a hatred for the United States of America.

I have three responses to this feeble line of argumentation, which I’ll list here for the benefit of anyone else who’d like to make use of them:

1. People making this argument never apply its own logic to themselves.

Nobody criticizes all misdeeds by all governments everywhere in the world. If you run into someone making this “you have to criticize all bad governments or your criticisms are invalid” argument on Twitter, just do an advanced search for their Twitter handle plus “Duterte” or “Sisi” or one of the other US-allied tyrants who the mainstream media haven’t spent years demonizing, and you’ll find that they’ve never made a single mention of those leaders the entire time they’ve had that account.

What this proves, of course, is that they don’t actually practice the belief that all misdeeds by all governments are equally worthy of condemnation. What they actually practice is the belief that one ought to criticize the governments they hear their television criticizing: Russia, China, Syria, Iran, etc. The governments the US State Department and the CIA don’t like. The disobedient governments. The governments which have resisted absorption into the blob of the US-centralized empire.

They don’t put the logic of their own argument into practice because it is impossible to put into practice. Everyone’s only got so much time in the day, so you have to choose where to put your focus. I personally choose to put my focus on the single most egregious offender in warmongering and imperialism. Which takes us to:

2. The US empire is by far the worst warmongering imperialist force on the planet.

US-led regime change interventionism is literally always disastrous and literally never helpful. This is an indisputable fact. Imperialists get very frustrated when I take my stand there in arguments online, because it is an unassailable position. That’s usually when the ad hominems start flying.

All things are not equal. This isn’t something you should have to explain to grown adults, but such is the nature of propaganda. It is true that other governments do evil things; as far as I can tell this becomes pretty much a given as soon as a government is allowed to have a military force and keep important secrets from its citizenry. Obviously Russia, China and other unabsorbed governments are no exception to this rule. But the US is worse, by orders of magnitude.

No other nation comes anywhere remotely close. No other nation is circling the planet with hundreds of military bases and engaged in dozens of undeclared military operations. No other nation has cultivated a giant globe-sprawling empire in the form of tightly knit alliances with powerful murderous governments like the UK, Israel and Saudi Arabia. No other nation is constantly laboring to sabotage and undermine any government which refuses to be absorbed into military and economic alliance with it using sanctions, staged coups, covert CIA operations, color revolutions, economic manipulations, propaganda, the arming of dissident militias, and launching full-scale military invasions. Only the US and the nations that its cancerous empire has metastasized into are doing anything like that on anywhere near the scale.

So since I, like everyone else, only have enough time in the day to oppose so many different evils in the world, I choose to pour my energy into opposing the single most egregious offender. An offender which doesn’t get nearly enough opposition, in my opinion.

3. I have a special responsibility for the evils of the empire in which I live.

When asked in an interview why he spends the bulk of his time criticizing his own government, Noam Chomsky replied:
My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that: namely, I can do something about it. So even if the US was responsible for 2% of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2% I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.
When people here in Australia ask about what I do for a living, I sometimes jokingly tell them I write about Australian foreign policy, which means that I write about US foreign policy. I’ve written many times about how Australia functions as Washington’s basement gimp, an impotent vassal which functions as little more than a US military/intelligence asset in terms of meaningful international affairs.

So all I really am doing here is applying Chomsky’s philosophy to the reality of an empire in which sovereign nations do not exist to any meaningful extent; as a member of a state within that empire I focus on US government malfeasance in the same way I would if I were living in Alaska or Hawaii.

All I’m doing is pointing my personal skill set at what I see as the biggest problem in the world: a murderous empire in which I happen to reside and therefore bear special responsibility for opposing. Which is simply the only sane stand for anyone to take, in my opinion.

Reprinted with permission from CaitlinJohnstone.com.

Support Ms. Johnstone's work on Patreon or Paypal.

Police in Hong Kong Brutalized by Rioters While Attacked by the Western Press

It is much more than what you are allowed to see. The Hong Kong police force are heroically fighting both the rioters and a complex and extremely dangerous international network which is aiming at destabilizing the People’s Republic of China.

Uighur, Taiwan, USA, EU – united against socialism and China

I never saw such cynicism before; such a vulgar media set up as in Hong Kong. I am talking in general, but also about what took place particularly on Sunday December 22, 2019. Rioters, waving blue Uyghur, Taiwanese, British and U.S. flags were shouting “independence” and “China is terrorist” slogans, in the middle of the city, just two blocks away from the International Financial Center while the police stood by, peacefully, in their full protective gear.

Journalists, real and fake, foreign and local, were there, in full force, clearly setting the stage for the ugly confrontations ahead. I observed “media outlets” working, and I ended up photographing and filming their involvement.

The truth is, they were nor reporting; not at all. They were participating, arranging things, provoking and manipulating actions.

All camera lenses, and all lenses of mobile phones, were pointed directly at the police, never at the rioters. Meanwhile, the rioters were shouting at the police, brutally insulting the men and women in uniform. This part was, of course, edited out; never shown in New York, Paris, Berlin and London. Often not even shown in Taipei or Hong Kong itself.

“Media” people were clearly advising the rioters what action to take and when, from which angle to throw things, from where to attack; how to make things “effective”.

At one point, rioters started charging, throwing bottles and other objects at the police.

Hong Kong police in spotlight-provoked

Eventually, the police would have little choice but to react; they would begin moving against the rioters. And that is when all cameras would begin to roll. That was the moment to start “reporting”.

As a professional, I could clearly imagine how the results of such twisted “coverage” would look like on television screens and on the front pages of Western newspapers: “An unprovoked, brutal police force charging at poor, peaceful, freedom and democracy-loving protesters”.

The insanity, madness of all this had no boundaries. Next to me, just two meters away, several members of the “press corps” were “helping each other from teargas poisoning”. They were frantically washing their faces with water, kneeling in the middle of the street, pretending that they were sick. I felt no teargas effects at first, and only after few minutes, I detected something very, very mild in the air. I photographed journalists, and then I photographed my own face, to show that my eyes were not affected.

It was all a great setup, perfectly polished, designed to manipulate public opinion in the West and in Hong Kong itself.

Media gaga in Hong Kong

Of recent I felt real combat tear gas in places like France, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia. That stuff breaks you in half; makes you fall to your knees, shout, fight for your life. In Hong Kong, the police force has been using the mildest gas I have ever detected anywhere in the world. But police actions here have been described as “outrageous” by individuals such as Benedict Rogers, a so-called human rights activist and chairman of the UK-based non-governmental organization “Hong Kong Watch”.

As in the past, Mr. Rogers has been calling Hong Kong police force actions, which are aimed at defending the city against the multi-national hostile coalition, as “police brutality”. Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, fired back, declaring that “Christmas in Hong Kong was ruined by protesters”. The Hong Kong government said that there had been arson and police had been attacked with petrol bombs.

*****

During my recent work in Hong Kong I realized that the situation has been dramatically deteriorating, and the police force is now facing much greater challenges than it did in September and October, 2019. While the number of rioters is decreasing, those who remain on the streets (and in the underground cells) are much better organized, and better funded, particularly from abroad. Both the funding channels and propaganda support for the rioters are functioning professionally, and they are amazingly well coordinated. The funding from the West is massive.

For Hong Kong and its police force, the situation is increasingly dangerous.

Fake staged gas alert

The external forces operating on the Hong Kong territory are diverse and often very brutal. They include Taiwanese right-wing organizations, Japanese religious sects, Western-backed Uyghurs, fascist Ukrainian militant groupings, as well as European and North American propagandists, posing as press corps. There are several Western anti-PRC NGOs stirring hatred towards Beijing, all around Hong Kong and the region.

The rioters themselves are more and more radicalized, now often resembling extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East. They are thoroughly brainwashed, they use comfort women, and they are consuming narcotics, including “ice”, amphetamines and certain so-called “combat drugs”, which have been already injected into places such as Syria and Yemen, by the West and its Saudi allies.

As a war correspondent who regularly works in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (all these countries have been damaged and later destroyed by Western assaults or occupations), I am shocked to see the West using the same destabilizing strategies in Hong Kong; strategies which have been used in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is obvious that the desire of Washington, London and others to harm China is too great, and will not stop, no matter what the price.

The hidden truth is that the Hong Kong police force is now facing a tremendous and extremely dangerous group of adversaries. It is not just a bunch of hooligans with black scarves covering their faces that are threatening the safety of the city and the entire People’s Republic of China. Those are only a vanguard – what you are allowed to see. Behind them, there are complex and diverse international right-wing forces: political, religious and yes, terrorist.

At this moment, the heroic Hong Kong police force is the only thin blue line which separates the city from anarchy, and possibly from imminent collapse.

* First published by China Daily, Hong Kong

• All photos taken by Andre Vltchek

Exterminating Angels

Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film The Exterminating Angel is many things to many people. The eye of the bewildered beholder, beholden to his or her personal perspective, conditions the response. The plot is straightforward: a small coterie of wealthy Mexicans convene for a dinner party, only to find that they cannot leave the party — literally. There is no apparent physical impediment. Nothing visual blocks their exodus. Rather it is a kind of psychic inanition that collapses their will to leave. As each guest variously attempts to cross the threshold, a thought pops into his or her head rationalizing a reason to stay. A coffee, breakfast, an argument, a love tryst. It makes no difference. No one leaves. These haut monde citizens are quite conscious of their predicament, but consciousness of the problem is no solution. It is an ingenious plot; sinfully simple, bafflingly motiveless.

Some say the film variously mocks the cinema experience itself, others that it slyly savages religion. Still others say it means nothing, in good surrealist fashion. But perhaps the Marxist lens is especially apposite. The cast are drawn from mid-Fifties Mexican melodramas, having built their careers dramatizing the efete dilemmas of bourgeois life. What today we call first-world problems. They convincingly portray a cast of elites who cannot fix the simplest of problems. In this sense, the movie prefigures our own bourgeoisie, and the professional class cum liberal intelligentsia more broadly. The same sterility of action haunts our liberal corridors. Problems of human health, for which we abound with solutions, cannot be solved. Needless bloodshed, for which we burn blood and treasure, cannot be meaningfully addressed. Rampaging institutional racism and chronic fascism, at home and abroad, are never countenanced but with the thinnest bromides. Buñuel’s gentility cannot exit their dinner party; our liberal class cannot exit neoliberalism.

The liberal class is beholden to lesser evil voting, a reductionist ethic that refuses to consider the long-term consequences of employing it. They turn a blind eye to the rightward drift of a bipartisan political class with no leftward pressure, an actuality created by strident party allegiance.

Stopping Short

Part of the reason liberalism is weak is because it cannot follow the path of its sentiments to their obvious conclusion. It stops short of the logical endpoint of its rhetorical nods to solidarity–which is socialism.

Unwilling to exit the duopoly, incapable of system-level critique, fearful of revolution, liberals narrow their animus to their alter-ego in the duopoly. What is wrong is the fault of Republicans, who stonewall well-intentioned Democrats at every turn. In this sense, problems are off-ramped into diversionary side shows, like the present impeachment hysteria. As the carnival roars ahead, Democrats sign on to vast war budgets, the militarization of space, and the swift rubber-stamping of a raft of Trump judicial nominees. These gross capitulations are elbowed out of view with piecemeal reform, which indicates the true goal of modern liberals: effecting meaningful change without changing their lives in any meaningful way.

This perpetual off-ramping ensures the problem is never seen as systemic. A system critique would, in the end, identify the liberal class itself as a mechanism of the status quo, a release valve for endemic popular frustration rather than a tool of revolutionary transformation. Like Exterminating Angels, liberals (neoliberals in practice) work to exterminate the threat of truly progressive, government-led reform; i.e., socialist policy.

No Stopping Power

This is why liberals are weak against capitalist fascism. They cannot claim a valid ideology to fight it with. Tempering neoliberalism is all they’ve got. Socialism is the ideology that can and has worked but liberals have been convinced that communism leads to mass murder. Hence they are left to weakly decry the excesses of capitalism and limply argue for modest reforms.

There’s little doubt about the benefits that socialist command economies deliver to their populations. The metrics are clear, from the economic figures from the Soviet Union to the decades of stunning growth in China since the Chinese Communist Revolution, the remarkable turnarounds led by Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, not to mention Lula Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil. But all of these achievements have been either scrubbed from modern history or attributed to capitalism through widespread, multi-decade disinformation campaigns.

Liberals, indeed all of us, tend to overlook the evidence of socialist uplift in our own country (aside from the New Deal). As Michael Parenti has astutely noted, how many private industries owe their existence to government-funded research and development? From public transportation infrastructure to satellite communications, the Internet, nuclear power, and aeronautics, the role of federal funding is immense. Then there’s the state university system, another widely effective project of social uplift the federal role of which is widely ignored. In an Orwellian sense, the non plus ultra of socialist success is the defense industry, a system that consumes half of federal discretionary spending to fuel the Pentagon system and the weapons farms that supply it.

This is partly why Bernie Sanders will likely lose in 2020. (Aside from the institutional barriers, erected partly by liberals themselves, and relentlessly negative corporate media coverage.) Sanders has rallied considerable support for New Deal liberalism but has stopped there. He never mentions the socio-economic achievements of the USSR and China because he has made a political calculation that embracing such examples outside the spectrum of acceptable thought would be political suicide. Yet not going all the way will guarantee the ultimate failure of his project. Only embracing a dictatorship of workers would generate enough support for a revolution regardless of capitalist class schemes to undermine his campaign. Not only would his policies never be enacted short of mass socialist revolt, he never speaks of the inevitable rollback that is the immediate consequence of progressive policy in a capitalist society. In this respect, Sanders represents the limitations of liberalism and demonstrates why it is incapable of challenging capitalist imperialism. At best it can achieve limited reforms subject to swift repeal by the fascist right.

Forgotten Legacies

If the liberal camp has forsaken the historic success of various socialist projects, it has likewise glossed over the failures of its own tepid reformism. For liberals already sliding into the Warren camp, a predictable outcome given their historical behavior, here is what we got with our last so-called liberal president. We should note that some 200 former Obama employees are now stumping for Warren, who represents the same milquetoast “centrism” as our erstwhile leader. As author Chris Hedges has repeatedly noted, Obama should be remembered for his:

  • Refusal to prosecute any members of the Bush administration for their war crimes. It is the simplest of adages: if crime isn’t punished, then crime pays. (Note how war crimes are not impeachment-worthy, but a little foreign aid quid pro quo is if might score political points.)
  • The assault on civil liberties was worse under Obama than Bush (including an unprecedented assault on whistleblowers and due process related to ‘enemy combatants’ and detained American citizens).
  • The dramatic expansion of drone warfare was executed under Obama (at the behest of fanatical consigliere John Brennan).
  • The 2002 AUMF was reinterpreted by the Obama Department of Justice to sanction the killing of American citizens.
  • The deliberate use of al-Qaeda and related franchises to destabilize Syria with a proxy war (leading to some 500,000 dead and 13 million displaced, 5 million exiled from the country.)
  • The deliberate use of a no-fly zone to conduct a brutal regime change in Libya (where NATO acted as al-Qaeda’s de facto air force.)
  • Obama’s recovery delivered 95 percent of the economic rebound into the calf-skinned wallets of obscene wealth.
  • A decade after the 2008 meltdown, the average net worth of the average middle class family was $40,000 lower than it had been before the crash. The net worth of black families is down 40 percent and Latino households down 46 percent. Nobody expects recovery.
  • The lavish multi-trillion dollar bailout of corrupt Wall Street banks, which caused the 2007-2008 financial crisis (all while handing crumbs to homeowners defaulting in record numbers).
  • The enactment of the Affordable Care Act, an Orwellian health insurance scheme invented by Republicans, written by the insurance lobby, and forcibly imposed on the American public, leading to a dramatic inflation of healthcare costs, ongoing individual bankruptcies due to medical debt, reimbursement shortfalls, and the utterly cynical separation of ‘healthcare access’ from ‘healthcare’ itself. While providing some appreciable relief at the bottom end of the consumer pyramid, it was, in retrospect, a means of forestalling Medicare for All and of unburdening businesses of their role looking after the health of their employees.
  • The open declaration that Venezuela was a national security threat, entraining lethal sanctions that have only been ratcheted up by the Trump administration (quite predictably). Some 40,000 have died as a result.
  • The facilitation and support of regime change in Ukraine, generating border tensions with Russia, a civil war inside Ukraine, and a new Cold War internationally. The Obama administration’s uptick in hostility toward Russia created the ideological context in which Russiagate was sure to flourish.
  • It was Obama’s NDAA that allowed troops to conduct missions on American soil.
  • It was Obama’s NDAA that legalized domestic propaganda.
  • It was the CIA under Obama that illegally spied on Congress.
  • It was the FBI and CIA under Obama that ginned up the false pretexts to spy on a presidential campaign.
  • The falsification of the need to spy on the Trump presidential campaign led directly to the chimerical Russiagate scandal that has rocked the presidency and critically helped the military-intelligence-industrial complex constrain Trump’s foreign policy instincts (on which he campaigned).
  • It was the Obama administration that delivered a record-setting military aid package to the apartheid state of Israel (including refusal to sanction Israel for its brutal attack on Palestinian people in 2014).

All these realities must be brushed aside so as not to obscure our view of the incremental prosperity that Democrats claim to deliver. But even this promise, that the Democrats will deliver progress in the long run, is false. Both parties preside over decline, not progress. It is the nature of decline that is at stake each quadrennial: death by a thousand cuts or a bullet to the body politic. Simply look at the barometers of prosperity since the implementation of neoliberalism in the early 1970s. During the Long Boom from the post-war era to the early Seventies, productivity was hitched to wages, thanks to labor unions and other forms of class struggle. Since 1973, when neoliberal economics were being implemented with increasing fervor, American productivity has gone up 77 percent, wages by 12 percent. This gap accounts in part for the increasing percentage of the nation’s wealth hoarded by elites.

End Game

The liberal class practices a kind of deliberate cognitive dissonance despite having informed opinion at their fingertips. They do not connect the Democrats to human destruction, though Obama generated untold suffering across eight wars. They do not connect sanctions to economic destruction, though Obama declared Venezuela a national security threat and implemented sanctions that, ratcheted up by the Trump regime, have turned a once robust Venezuelan economy into a derelict engine of instability. They do not connect NGOs to civic destruction, though Democratic use of NGO front organizations in Venezuela and Ukraine and Libya have produced everything from commodity hoarding to street violence and slave labor. They do not connect corporate media to reputation destruction, though they literally watched Bernie Sanders destroyed by lies and negligence from the media proxies of the very party he embraced. They connect none of these events to a bipartisan neoliberal capitalism, the unhinged engine of supra-national exploitation that is the core cause of declining life prospects inside the empire, and extinguished life prospects outside it.

So we are left with an effete professional class of lip-sync liberals who repeat the platitudes of friendly fascism before retiring back to their bunkers of creature comforts. When asked if there was a difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, Hedges replied, “Of course there’s a difference: it is how you want corporate fascism delivered to you. Do you want it delivered by a Princeton-educated, Goldman Sachs criminal, or do you want it delivered by a racist, nativist, Christian fascist?…The fundamental engines of oligarchic global corporate power are advanced by both parties. One tries to present it in a multicultural, inclusive way, the other is embraced by troglodytes….Believing the Democratic Party will save us is a kind of willful blindness.” Like Buñuel’s surrealist depiction, it is the liberal class, echoing the rhetoric of hope and solidarity, that truly exterminate the possibility of either.

Did Pompeo Go Off Reservation in Iraq Attack?

undefined

I have to wonder who Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is actually loyal to. Because, the U.S. strike of Kata’ib Hizbullah forces near the Al Qaim border crossing with Syria in Iraq is a dangerous escalation there.

And it’s completely at odds with Trump’s goals of wanting us out of the Middle East. The Al Qaim border crossing is a particular red line for Israel and their allies in the US State and Defense Departments.

It represents the normalization of commerce between Syria, Iraq and Iran over time. This is the so-called Shia Crescent which is the stuff of nightmares for Benjamin Netanyahu.

And the US has been hopping mad for months since now caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi opened the border because it undermines US presence in Syria.

The entire point of US occupation of the Al-Tanf border crossing into Jordan and the oil fields in Deir Ezzor province is about starving the Syrian government of any reliable energy and revenue.

When Al Qaim/Al Bukamai was opened it was only a matter of time before a major skirmish would occur over it. Israel staged a series of air attacks previously using US assets and air bases to launch them back in September.

Now, we have the convenient excuse for attacking these forces which are part of the Popular Mobiliztion Units, PMU, which Pompeo despises by ‘retaliating’ for a rocket attack on the K1 base near Kirkuk where one US mercenary was killed and a handful of others injured.

The response from the US Air Force was completely out of line with the initial attack and occurred without any attempt by Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to justify it.

They just invoked the phrase, “Iran-backed forces” and then bombed troops over 200 miles away where they wanted to strike anyway.

And what’s important is what both Elijah Magnier and Moon of Alabama pointed out immediately, the US struck member of Shia militias who were made official part of the Iraqi defense forces.

In other words the US just attacked and killed dozens of Iraqi military personnel.
And the US can get away with this because the Iraqi government is in a total state of flux, thanks to a President, Barham Salih, refusing to honor the constitution, obstructing the selection of a new Prime Minister.

His actions remind me of Italy’s Sergio Mattarella who inserts himself into the process of government formation there to suit his EU partners-in-crime.

In Iraq the US has been officially silent on the government turmoil there but the circumstances are pretty clear that the chaos works as a cover for what was an egregious violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Remember, the US forces there are at the invitation of the Iraqi government and with Salih keeping the Shia political forces from uniting to choose a Prime Minister, the likelihood of that invitation being rescinded now is remote.

Color me not shocked that this attack on PMU forces occurred. Pompeo has been itching for an excuse to attack them for months. He tried his version of diplomacy with Prime Minister Mahdi to rescind their official status and was unsuccessful.

Mahdi was livid after Israel’s air attack and made noises about rescinding the US invitation. No shock then that protests against his government spun up quickly after that.

So at some point this attack was going to happen. Netanyahu in serious political trouble facing a third election in a year, unable to form a government.

Pompeo coming to his rescue to keep the dream of warring with Iran should be obvious to all.

The question is whether President Trump is engaged with this policy at all or did Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper go off on their own, pull this trigger and then inform Trump and get him to accept this post hoc?

Everywhere Pompeo goes one week winds up in flames the next anymore. When he visits a trouble spot which Israel and the neoconservatives he represents want destabilized, a miracle occurs the next week.

Before this it was Lebanon and Iraq. This week it’s Ukraine. There is the threat of peace breaking out there with Russia and Ukraine agreeing to terms on both a gas and oil transit contract into Europe which Pompeo is dead set against.

Will we see some attack on Ukrainian forces which break the peace and can be blamed on Russia?

Trump has to know that escalation from here ends with US forces coming home in body bags as PMU forces themselves, go off the reservation during this power vacuum in Baghdad and attack US troops directly.

But I think this is exactly what Bibi and Pompeo want. This attack was a clear provocation to escalate and give Israel and the neocons all the ammunition they need to force Trump into the wider conflict with Iran they’ve been angry about not getting for six months now.

They failed with the Global Hawk incident back in June. That operation got John Bolton fired as National Security Director. Now we have a clearly disproportionate strike designed to inflame passions of Iran-backed Shia forces.

And it looks like it worked.
The entirety of Iraq’s leadership seems to be of the same mind, and even rejected the US plan to strike when they were tipped off immediately before it happened, per NBC:

In a statement, [former PM] Abdul-Mahdi said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had called him about a half-hour before the U.S. strikes Sunday to tell him of U.S. intentions to hit the bases of the militia suspected of being behind Friday’s rocket attack. Abdul-Mahdi said he asked Esper to call off the U.S. plan. 

One byproduct of the major US strikes on Sunday is sure to be that more and more of the Iraqi population will view the Americans, and not the Iranians, as the foreign occupiers.

This dramatic escalation by Washington is only likely to push more popular support toward the Shia PMF, and strengthen the movement in parliament to have US forces legally expelled, especially with the demise of the ISIS threat. 
Any strike by the PMU here on US forces will be music to Pompeo’s and Netanyhahu’s ears. And it will put Trump in a real bind with his base during an election year and an impeachment process Speaker Nancy Pelosi is purposefully dragging out to build a stronger case.

What stronger case could there be at this point if Trump were to not declare war or fire back on our troops getting attacked in Iraq or Syria? He’s derelict as Commander-in-Chief. It’s part of their stupid Ukraine narrative that Trump withheld aid weakens our national security.

I speculated in the past that Trump was getting ready to fire Pompeo.
As Secretary of State Pompeo has been nothing short of a disaster, undermining President Trump’s strong instincts to get the U.S. out of the Middle East and solve the myriad of open geopolitical wounds around the world.

Unlike his former-partner-in-neoconservatism, John Bolton, Pompeo is more adept at playing at being loyal to Trump while always seeming to move U.S. diplomacy in a more belligerent direction in the wake of any of Trump’s ‘impulses’ to act on his conscience and/or instincts.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking Iran (Pompeo’s demands of Iran are off-the-charts insane), Lebanon (outright blackmail of the Lebanese government) or North Korea (making demands in negotiations which overstep Trump’s promises to Kim Jong-un) Pompeo is always there doing his thinly-veiled Israeli loyalty dance with the subtlety of a freight-train but somehow always framing it as making it Trump’s policy.
This move by Pompeo looks like a classic pre-emptive move to bind Trump down force him into a war which will be unpopular back home. The only one who wins with this attack is Israel.

U.S. troops are now less safe, effective forces fighting ISIS have been neutered and the Iraqi government is in shambles. Good job Mike.

Mike wants his golden parachute back to the Senate where he can continue doing god’s work for the Israelis, one more voice in a US Senate seemingly without a limit on its thirst for power and the blood of the world.

This won’t end well and Trump better get his Flying Monkeys under control quick or he won’t be President much longer. Because when the body bags start, he’ll be the one who gets blamed.

Reprinted with permission from TomLuongo.me.

Opposing Charter Schools Equals Defending the Common Good

There is no shortage of convoluted and bizarre “arguments” for creating and multiplying privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools.

The rich and their conscious and anti-conscious allies in politics, the media, think tanks, higher education, and many other spheres have spent an astonishing amount of time, energy, and money promoting and imposing privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools on society.

The crux of these top-down antisocial efforts is to advance a capital-centered outlook and agenda by erasing a human-centered outlook and agenda. Charter schools represent the partial victory of narrow private interests over the public interest. In this sense, charter schools are a big step backward for society.

Since their inception several decades ago, privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have functioned effectively as pay-the-rich schemes while self-servingly posing as arrangements that “benefit the kids.” They have funneled billions of public dollars to private interests with impunity. They have also seized public buildings and assets worth billions of dollars. And to this day charter schools nationwide remain segregated, unstable, low-performing, unaccountable, non-transparent, and afflicted with racketeering.

No amount of “well, things are really more complex than that” or “not all charter schools are the same” or “we can’t just make such blanket statements” can hide the core essence and antisocial consequences of charter schools. Form and content are not the same. It is critical to move past the former and go much deeper into the latter, especially in a sector prone to hype, over-promises, and exaggeration.

Once an individual takes up their responsibility to actively and consciously investigate and analyze charter schools, warranted conclusions become clear relatively quickly. It becomes easier to distinguish between appearance and essence and to appreciate the underlying nature of all types of charter schools. One becomes less vulnerable to all the hype and disinformation surrounding charter schools.

Shooting from the hip, talking off the cuff, making drive-by statements, or promoting contradictory arguments and statements without even recognizing how incongruous such arguments and statements are is unhelpful; such methods serve only to increase confusion and undermine the general interests of society.

Above all, capital-centered aims, interests, agendas, and arrangements cannot be reconciled with human-centered aims, interests, agendas, and arrangements. “Capital” and “human” are different categories with different properties. They do not mean the same thing. They actually negate each other. This is precisely why treating capital-centered arrangements such as charter schools and the public interest as the same or as somehow being compatible with each other is disinformation. A clear demarcation must be made between “capital” and “human;” they should not be confounded.

The main aim of owners of capital is to maximize profit as fast as possible, no matter the cost to the natural and social environment. This is at the core of their existence and purpose. It eclipses all other aims and roles. No owner of capital is going to go into business if no profit can be made. To be sure, both non-profit and for-profit charter schools engage in a variety of covert and overt activities to enrich the private interests that own-operate charter schools.

Capital, to be clear, is not a thing or many things, it is an unequal relationship between humans. Capital can only grow by reproducing this unequal relationship every hour of every day, thereby ensuring greater social, political, and economic inequality over time. The growth and development of capital guarantees that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

To put it another way, the more capital prevails, the more everything is commodified (e.g., education, healthcare, municipal services, transportation, etc.), and the more it is damaging to the general interests of society. It cannot be otherwise, which is why the affirmation of human interests necessarily requires the negation of capital.

This is why rejecting and opposing privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools is, in effect, the same as affirming the common good. Wavering, riding the fence, succumbing to ambivalence, or pretending that charter schools serve the public interest even though they serve owners of capital is irrational and harmful.

The task confronting the polity is how to combat the elimination of the public interest and the wrecking of society by the rich and their entourage. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, across the country we see more and more resistance to charter schools. It is clear that people from all walks of life are developing more creative ways to oppose these pay-the-rich schemes and other forms of privatization. This movement is precious and must be nurtured. It has become clear over the years that when people unite to defend their rights, the rich and their allies can be thwarted, and even defeated, and often quite easily. Capital-centered forces are far from invincible.