Category Archives: EU

French Finance Minister Issues Declaration of Independence from the U.S.

“Clear Differences Remain Between France and the U.S, French Minister Says,” is the headline to a remarkable  piece appearing in the New York Times today.  The Minister, Bruno Le Maire, is brutally frank on the nature of the differences as the quotations below Illustrate.  (Emphases in the quotations are writer’s.) In fact, they amount to a Declaration of Independence of France and EU from the U.S.

It is not surprising that the differences relate to China after the brouhaha over the sale of U.S. nuclear submarines to Australia and the surprising (to the French) cancellation of contracts with France for submarines.  Mr. LeMaire, sounding very much like a reproving parent, characterized this as “misbehavior from the U.S. administration.”

Mr. LeMaire made it crystal clear that the disagreement over submarines is symptomatic of deeper differences in world view that have emerged not only in France but in the EU as a consequence of China’s rise.  The article states:

The United States wants to confront China. The European Union wants to engage China,’ Mr. Le Maire, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron of France, said in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the (IMF) meetings. This was natural, he added, because the United States is the world’s leading power and does not ‘want China to become in a few years or in a few decades the first superpower in the world.

Europe’s strategic priority, by contrast, is independence,  ‘which means to be able to build more capacities on defense, to defend its own view on the fight against climate change, to defend its own economic interest, to have access to key technologies and not be too dependent on American technologies,’ he said.

The article continued, quoting the Finance Minister:

The key question now for the European Union, he said, is to become ‘independent from the United States, able to defend its own interests, whether economic or strategic interests.’

LeMaire might have pre-ambled that statement with: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Still, seasoned diplomat that Mr. LeMaire is, he provided some cold comfort to the naughty U.S. administration, saying, the United States remains “our closest partner” in terms of values, economic model, respect for the rule of law, and embrace of freedom.  But with China, he said, “we do not share the same values or economic model.”

The article continued:

Asked if differences over China meant inevitable divergence between the United States and Europe, Mr. Le Maire said, ‘It could be if we are not cautious.’ But every effort should be made to avoid this, which means ‘recognizing Europe as one of the three superpowers in the world for the 21st century,’ alongside the United States and China.

The piece concluded:

One of the biggest lingering points of contention is over metal tariffs that former President Donald J. Trump imposed globally in 2018. Officials face difficult negotiations in coming weeks. Europeans plan to impose retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. products as of December 1, unless Mr. Biden pulls back a 25 percent duty on European steel and a 10 percent tax on aluminum.

‘If we want to improve the bilateral economic relationship between the continents, the first step must be for the United States to lift the sanctions in the steel and aluminum case,’ Mr. Le Maire said. ‘We are fed up with the trade wars,’ he added.

Shared values are nice, but shared profits are clearly better.

The post French Finance Minister Issues Declaration of Independence from the U.S. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Address the Global Public Health Crisis: Ban Glyphosate Now! (Part 2)

Environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason recently wrote an open letter to the head of the Pesticides Unit at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Jose Tarazona.

(Since this article was written, Jose Tarazona has stepped down from his position and the letter has been forwarded to his successors, Manuela Tiramani and Benedicte Vagenede.)

Mason wrote to Tarazona  because the licence for glyphosate is up for renewal in the EU in 2022 and the Rapporteur Member States (France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden), tasked with risk assessing glyphosate and appointed by the European Commission in 2019, said in June 2021 that there was no problem with glyphosate-based herbicides, the world’s most widely used weedkillers in agriculture.

Mason informs Tarazona that the European Commission has colluded with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow Bayer to keep glyphosate on the market. A substance that is toxic to both human health and the environment.

To set out her case, Mason enclosed a 5,900-word report informing Tarazona of the malfeasance and corruption that have resulted in environmental devastation and a severe, ongoing public health crisis. Her report brings together key research and analyses into the toxicity of glyphosate and industry dominance over regulatory processes.

What appears below is the second part of an article based on Mason’s report. Part one can be read here. This second part questions why a proven toxic substance like glyphosate is still sanctioned for use in the EU.

Industry PR and reality

Although the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Committee for Risk Assessment agreed that glyphosate causes serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, in December 2017 the then European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker still reauthorised glyphosate use in the EU for five more years.

The European Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG) has lobbied hard to ensure that the licence for glyphosate will again be renewed in 2022. The GRG is a collection of companies that have prepared a dossier with scientific studies and information on the supposed safety of glyphosate. This dossier was submitted to the evaluating member states and the EFSA as part of the EU regulatory procedure to evaluate whether glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products should be kept on the market in the EU.

Current members of the GRG are Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture bvba, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG, Sinon Corporation and Syngenta Crop Protection AG.

Cristina Alonso is the chair of the GRG and is also the head of Regulatory Affairs Crop Protection at Bayer AG. On the GRG website, Alonso writes:

As GRG Chairman, I am personally committed to ensuring the decisions made during the regulatory process are based on sound science and supported with transparent, honest and cooperative dialogue among all stakeholders, while also respecting different viewpoints.

Based on what is set out in this article, it could be concluded that Alonso’s notion of “sound science” has little to do with the regulatory process that she refers to.

Bayer CropScience was also part of the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF) which lobbied for the reauthorisation of glyphosate in the EU back in 2017. Mason argues that the GTF conveniently overlooked many critical papers from South America in its submission as part of the EU glyphosate reapproval process. She fears that what we are currently seeing is a repeat of the previous process which led to the reauthorisation of glyphosate.

It raises the question, do sound science, honesty and transparency really govern how Bayer et al act in general and, more specifically, where the glyphosate regulatory process is concerned?

A pertinent question given the situation described by the Declaration of the 3rd National Congress of Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns of Argentina in late 2015:

In the last 25 years, the consumption of pesticides increased by 983%, while the cultivated area increased by 50%. A production system based on the systematic application of agricultural poisons means, inevitably, that nature responds by adapting, forcing farmers to apply greater quantities of pesticides in the field to achieve the same objectives. Over the years, a system has been created by and for sellers of pesticides, who every year increase their net sales (in 2015, the increase was 9%) while our patients, too, year after year are being exposed to this pesticide pollution more and more.

The doctors stated that the massive and growing exposure to pesticides has changed the disease profile of Argentine rural populations and that cancer is now the leading cause of death. They noted that exposure to glyphosate or agricultural poisons in general leads to increases in spontaneous abortions and birth defects as well as increased endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, neurological disorders or cognitive development problems and soaring of cancer rates to a tripling of incidence, prevalence and mortality.

The physicians warned about the toxic nature of modern agriculture which results from the immense influence of large multinational pesticide companies.

As explained in part one of this article, this public health crisis is not limited to South America. People elsewhere, not least in the US and UK, are experiencing the devastating health impacts because of the huge increase in glyphosate-based herbicides being sprayed on food crops in recent decades.

The agrochemical conglomerates are more concerned with increasing their sales regardless of the damage to the environment and public health. No number of sound-bites about sound science or transparency can disguise their genuine motives and the impacts of their actions.

Glyphosate is a multi-billion-dollar cash cow for these companies and protecting that revenue stream is their priority. In 2015, for example, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from herbicide products, mostly Roundup.

Sound science?

A new scientific analysis confirms the dominance of industry in driving policy and its reliance on selective science and dubious studies when lobbying to keep glyphosate on the market.

‘Evaluation of the scientific quality of studies concerning genotoxic properties of glyphosate’, by Armen Nersesyan and Siegfried Knasmueller of the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna, concludes that the claim of glyphosate not being genotoxic cannot be justified on the basis of manufacturers’ studies. (Genotoxic substances induce damage to the genetic material in cells through interactions with the DNA sequence and structure.)

Of the 53 industry-funded studies used for the EU’s current authorisation of glyphosate in 2017, the evaluation concluded that some 34 were identified as “not reliable”, with another 17 as “partly reliable” and only two studies as “reliable” from a methodological point of view.

In response to this new research, Angeliki Lyssimachou, environmental scientist at the Health and Environment Alliance, says:

This new scientific analysis shows yet again that the European Union’s claim to having the most rigorous pesticide authorisation procedure in the world has to be taken with a heavy grain of salt. The authorisation procedure in place is evidently not rigorous enough to detect errors in the execution of the regulatory studies that are blindly considered the gold standard. Yet these were at the heart of the 2017 EU market approval of glyphosate, and they have now been submitted again in an effort to water down scientific evidence that glyphosate may cause cancer and is a danger to human health.

Helmut Burtscher, biochemist at GLOBAL 2000, argues that if you subtract from the 53 genotoxicity studies those studies that are not reliable and those studies that are of minor importance for the assessment of genotoxicity in humans, then nothing remains. He asks on what basis are the EU authorities claiming that glyphosate is ‘not genotoxic’?

According to Peter Clausing, toxicologist at Pesticide Action Network Germany, in 2017, EU authorities violated their own rules to ensure an outcome that pleased the chemical industry.

A point reiterated by Nina Holland, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, who argues that national regulators and EU authorities alike do not seem to pay close scrutiny when looking at the quality of industry’s own studies.

Holland states that regulators exist to protect people’s health and the environment, not serve the interests of the pesticide industry.

Eoin Dubsky, Campaigner at SumOfUs, goes a step further by saying that people are sick of glyphosate and of being lied to.

Dubsky asks:

How could EFSA give glyphosate a thumbs-up based on such shoddy scientific studies when IARC warned that it is genotoxic and probably cancer-causing too?

The IARC is the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Unsound studies aside, there is sound scientific research that should be driving the risk assessment but which seems to have been overlooked. A point not lost on Dr Mason.

She asks why key scientific studies have been side-lined, especially those from Latin America where  Monsanto has grown GMO Roundup Ready crops since 1996 (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedicide).

She also asks why was a 2010 groundbreaking study showing that Roundup causes adverse impacts on embryonic development and produces birth defects side-lined? Why have scientific studies that show that glyphosate is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that causes infertility been overlooked? Why have papers that show that glyphosate causes cancer been missed? And why have the effects of exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides on the brain not been properly considered?

Some key studies documenting the adverse effects of glyphosate are listed at the end of this article.

Ban Glyphosate Now!

In April 2017 (before Bayer purchased Monsanto), Bart Elmore, assistant professor of environmental history at Ohio State University, wrote a telling piece for Dissent Magazine that pointed out some of the real costs of producing glyphosate. These included radioactive waste piles, groundwater pollution, mercury emissions and poisoned livestock.

Glyphosate is derived from elemental phosphorous extracted from phosphate rock buried below ground. Monsanto got its phosphate from mines in Southeast Idaho near Soda Springs, a small town. The company has been operating there since the 1950s.

Elmore visited the site and watched as trucks dumped molten red heaps of radioactive refuse over the edge of a mountain of waste. The dumping happened about every 15 minutes. Horses grazed in a field just a few dozen yards away and rows of barley waved in the distance.

When phosphate ore is refined into elemental phosphorous, Elmore explains, it leaves a radioactive by-product known as slag. Monsanto’s elemental phosphorous facility, situated just a few miles from its phosphate mines, produces prodigious quantities of slag that contains elevated concentrations of radioactive material.

In the 1980s, the EPA conducted a radiological survey of the community and warned that citizens might be at risk from elevated gamma ray exposure and thus cancer.

Of course, the cancerous effects of glyphosate are not restricted to the community of Soda Springs. Due to its prevalence in agriculture and its use by municipal authorities, glyphosate is in our food and in our bodies. Marius Stelzmann of the Coordination gegen BAYER-Gefahren (CBG), refers to the ongoing court cases in the US regarding glyphosate use and cancer.

Marius says:

… despite more than a year and a half of negotiations for a settlement in the glyphosate affair, the global player (Bayer) still cannot present a solution. It still has not reached agreements for compensation with all of the 125,000 US plaintiffs who accuse the herbicide of being responsible for their cancers. As a response to these actions, the CBG has launched the campaign ‘Carcinogen. Climate killer. Environmental toxin. Ban glyphosate now!

In a recent press release, the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) demanded an immediate ban on glyphosate. It also called for more investments in the promotion of alternatives to the use of glyphosate and other harmful pesticides and urges a clear governance in charge of a smooth transition with the involvement of trade unions.

The EFSA, ECHA and the European Commission should carry out their current assessment of glyphosate in a transparent and reliable way. Instead, it seems that, as in 2017, the agrochemical industry is still manipulating and driving the process.

The EFFAT says that alternatives to the use of glyphosate and other harmful chemicals already exist and must be further promoted, not least appropriate agronomic practices, mechanical and biological weed control, animal grazing and natural herbicides.

Readers can access Rosemary Mason’s new report, with all relevant references, here.  All of Dr Mason’s previous reports can be accessed here.

Selected key studies documenting serious adverse health impacts of glyphosate: 1

  1. Avila-Vazquez, M. et al (2017). Association between Cancer and Environmental Exposure to Glyphosate. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8, 73-85; Carlos Javier Baier, C.J. et al. (2017). Behavioral impairments following repeated intranasal glyphosate-based herbicide administration in mice, Neurotoxicology and Teratology 64:63–72; Cattani, D. et al. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity, Toxicology 320:34–45; Nardi, J. et al. (2017). Prepubertal subchronic exposure to soy milk and glyphosate leads to endocrine disruption, Food and Chemical Toxicology 100:247262; Lesseur, C. et al (2022). Urinary glyphosate concentration in pregnant women in relation to length of gestation. Environmental Research 203, January 2022, 111811. Martínez, M. A. et al. (2018), Neurotransmitter changes in rat brain regions following glyphosate exposure, Environmental Research, 161:212–219. Mesnage, R. et al (2021), In-depth comparative toxicogenomics of glyphosate and Roundup herbicides: histopathology, transcriptome and epigenome signatures, and DNA damage, bioRxiv; Paganelli, A. et al (2010). Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9.
The post Address the Global Public Health Crisis: Ban Glyphosate Now! (Part 2) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline?

It is almost taken for granted, if not an article of faith, in the progressive milieu (e.g., here) that the US empire is declining. Does this hold up, or is it comfort food for the frustrated hoping for the revolution?

First, it is essential not to confuse the ongoing decline of the living conditions of US working people with a decline in the power of the US corporate empire. The decline of one often means the strengthening of the other.

In the aftermath of World War II, the US was the world manufacturing center, with the middle class rapidly expanding, and this era did end in the 1970s. It is also true the heyday of uncontested US world and corporate neoliberal supremacy is over, its zenith being the decade of the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies. Now, looming on the horizon is China, with the US empire and its subordinate imperial allies (Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Italy) unable to thwart its rise this century, even more than when China stood up in 1949.

Yet the US imperial system still maintains decisive economic and political dominance, cultural and ideological hegemony, backed by tremendous military muscle. If US ruling class power were in decline, why have there been no socialist revolutions ­­­− the overturning of capitalist rule ­­­− in almost half a century? What would the world look like if the US lacked the muscle to be world cop?

Imperialism continually faces crises; this is inherent to their system. The question is: which class takes advantage of these crises to advance their interests, the corporate capitalist class or the working class and its allies at home and abroad. In the recent decades, capitalist crises have resulted in setbacks for our class, and a steady worsening of our conditions of life.

Previous proponents of US empire decline have predicted its demise with an expanding Communist bloc, then Germany and Japan with their supposedly more efficient capitalist production methods, then the European Union encompassing most of Western Europe into a supra-national entity, then the Asian Tigers, and then BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). All challenges turned out to be wishful thinking. Now the proponents of decline expect China itself will soon supplant US dominion.  We explore a number of the economic, political, and military difficulties the US empire confronts in its role as world cop.

Imperial Decline or Adjustments in Methods of Rule?

A common misconception among believers of US ruling class demise holds that imperial failure to succeed in some particular aim signifies imperial weakening. Examples of setbacks include Afghanistan, the failure to block North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, catastrophic mishandling of the COVID pandemic, and seeming inability to reign in the mammoth US national debt. However, throughout history, successful maintenance of imperial hegemony has never precluded absence of terrible setbacks and defeats. Most importantly, the fundamental question arising from a setback is which class learns to advance its interests more effectively, the imperial overlords or the oppressed.

The US rulers, as with other imperial nations, have proven adept at engineering more effective methods of control from crises, as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine illustrates. For instance, in the mid-20th century the imperial powers were forced to relinquish direct political governance of their colonial empires, often due to costly wars. Until after World War II, the Western nations owned outright most of Africa and much of Asia. Yet this new Third World political independence did not herald the end of imperial rule over their former colonies. The imperialists simply readjusted their domination through a neocolonial setup and continued to loot these countries, such as siphoning off over $1 trillion  every year since 2005 just through tax havens.

Likewise, for seven decades the imperial ruling classes endured repeated defeats attempting to overturn the seemingly invincible Russian revolution. But they only needed to succeed one time, using a new strategy, to emerge victorious.

A third example, the growing US national deficit due to the cost of the war on Vietnam forced Nixon to no longer peg the value of the dollar to gold at $35 an ounce. After World War II, the US had imposed the dollar as the international reserve currency, fixed at this exchange rate.  Today gold is $1806 an ounce, yet the dollar continues as the world reserve currency. The US rulers resolved their crisis by readjusting the manner their dollar reigned in international markets.

A fourth example is the world historic defeat dealt the empire at the hands of the Vietnamese. Yet Vietnam today poses no challenge to US supremacy, in sharp contrast to 50 years ago.

The US ruling class is well versed in the lessons gained from centuries of Western imperial supremacy. They have repeatedly demonstrated that the no longer effective methods of world control can be updated.  Bankruptcy in methods of rule may not signify a decline, but only the need for a reset, allowing the domination to continue.

Part 1:  US Economic and Financial Strength

Decline in US Share of World Production

A central element of the waning US empire argument comes from the unparalleled economic rise of China. As a productive powerhouse, the US has been losing ground. As of 2019, before the COVID year reduced it further, the US share of world manufacturing amounted to 16.8%, while China was number one, at 28.7%.

Similarly, the US Gross Domestic Product itself (GDP) slipped from 40% of the world economy in 1960 to 24% in 2019. GDP is the total market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country.

When GDP is measured by the world reserve currency, the dollar, the US ranks first, at $21 trillion, with China number two at $14.7 trillion. Using the Purchasing Power Parity measure of GDP,  which measures economic output in terms of a nation’s own prices, China’s GDP surpasses the US at $24.16 trillion. By either measure, a steady US erosion over time is evident, particularly in relation to China, and a major concern for the US bosses.

Worsening US balance of trade reflects this decline. In 1971 the US had a negative balance of trade (the value of imports greater than the value of exports) for the first time in 78 years. Since then, the value of exports has exceeded that of imports only two times, in 1973 and 1975. From 2003 on, the US has been running an annual trade deficit of $500 billion or more. To date the US rulers “pay” for this by creating dollars out of thin air.

Ballooning US National Debt

The ballooning US national debt is considered another indicator of US imperial demise. The US debt clock puts the national debt at $28.5 trillion, up from $5.7 trillion in 2000. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) numbers, the US debt is 118% of the GDP, near a historic high point, up from 79.2% at the end of 2019.

The international reserves of the imperialist nations do not even cover 2% of their foreign debt. In contrast, China tops the list with the largest international reserves, which covers 153% of its foreign debt.

However, today US debt as a percent of GDP is lower than in World War II, at the height of US economic supremacy. Germany’s debt to GDP ratio is 72%. Japan’s is 264%, making its debt over two and a half times the size of the country’s GDP. China’s is 66%.

Yet a key concern with the ballooning national debt − inflation caused by creating money backed with no corresponding increase in production − hasn’t been a problem in any of these countries, not even Japan. The immediate issue with debt is not its size in trillions of dollars, but the degree annual economic growth exceeds the annual interest payment on the debt.

In the US, this payout costs almost $400 billion a year, 1.9% of GDP. Federal Reserve Board president Powell stated: “Given the low level of interest rates, there’s no issue about the United States being able to service its debt at this time or in the foreseeable future.” Former IMF chief economist and president of the American Economic Association, Olivier Blanchard likewise declared: “Put bluntly, public debt may have no fiscal cost” given that “the current US situation in which safe interest rates are expected to remain below growth rates for a long time, is more the historical norm than the exception.” According to these ruling class economists, the huge size of the US national debt presents no economic difficulty for their bosses.

Technological Patents

Patents are an indicator of a country’s technological progress because they reflect the creation and dissemination of knowledge in productive activities. Today China is on the technological cutting edge in wind power, solar power, online payments, digital currencies, artificial intelligence (such as facial recognition), quantum computing, satellites and space exploration, 5G and 6G, drones, and ultra-high voltage power transmission. In 2019, China ended the US reign as the leading filer of international patents, a position previously held by the US every year since the UN World Intellectual Property Organization’s Patent Cooperation Treaty System began in 1978.

The failure of the US rulers to thwart China’s scientific and technological advances threatens the preeminence the US holds on technological innovation. Rents from the US corner on intellectual property is a major contributor to the US economy. The drastic measures the US has taken against Huawei exemplify the anxiety of the empire’s rulers.

US technological superiority is now being challenged. Yet, as John Ross points out, “Even using PPP measures, the US possesses overall technological superiority compared to China…. the level of productivity of the US economy is more than three times that of China.”1

The US Still Controls the Global Financial Network

While the world share of US manufacturing and exports has shrunk, the US overlords still reign over the world financial order. A pillar of their world primacy lies in the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency,” an innocuous term referring to US sway over the global financial and trade structure, including international banking networks, such as the World Bank and the IMF.

Following the 1971 end of the dollar’s $35 an ounce peg to gold, Nixon engineered deals with the Middle East oil exporting regimes, guaranteeing them military support on condition they sell their oil exclusively in dollars. This gave a compelling new reason for foreign governments and banks to hold dollars. The US could now flood international markets with dollars regardless of the amount of gold it held. Today, most of the world’s currencies remain pegged directly or indirectly to the dollar.

To facilitate growing international trade, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) was created in 1973. SWIFT is a payment and transaction network used by international banks to monitor and process purchases and payments by individuals, companies, banks, and governments. Dominated by the US, it grants the country even greater mastery over world trade and financial markets. Here, China poses no challenge to US supremacy.

After the euro became established, the percent of world reserves held in US dollars diminished from the 71% share it held in 2001. Since 2003, the dollar has kept the principal share, fluctuating in the 60-65% range. Today, the percent of world nations’ currency reserves held in US dollars amounts to $7 trillion, 59.5% of international currency reserves.

In 2021 the dollar’s share of total foreign currency reserves is actually greater than in the 1980s and 1990s.

Because only a few reserve currencies are accepted in international trade, countries are not free to trade their goods in their own money. Rather, over 90% of nations’ imports and exports requires use of the dollar, the euro, or the currencies of other imperial states. The Chinese RMB, in contrast, constitutes merely 2.4% of international reserves, ranking China on the level of Canada. The US continues as the superpower in world currency reserves, while China is a marginal player.

The US Dollar as the World Reserve Currency

The US maintains preeminence because banks, governments and working peoples around the world regards US dollar as the safest, most reliable, and accepted currency to hold their savings.

A capitalist economic crisis, even when caused by the US itself, as in 2008, actually increases demand for the dollar, since the dollar is still viewed as the safe haven. People expect the dollar to be the currency most likely to retain its value in periods of uncertainty. Ironically, an economic crisis precipitated by the US results in money flooding into dollar assets, keeping world demand for dollars high. The 2008-09 crisis enabled the ruling class to advance their domination over working people, fleecing us of hundreds of billions of dollars.

SWIFT data show that China’s RMB plays a minor role in world trade transactions.  While China has become the world exporter, its currency was used in merely 1.9% of  international payments, versus 38% for the US dollar, with 77% of transactions in the dollar or euro. This means almost all China’s own imports and exports are not traded in Chinese currency, but in that of the US and its subordinates.

Being the leading force in SWIFT gives the US a powerful weapon. The US rulers can target countries it seeks to overthrow (such as Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Iran) with sanctions declared illegal by the United Nations. SWIFT enables the US rulers to prevent those countries’ access to their overseas bank accounts, blocks their access to international trade as well as loans from the World Bank, the IMF and most international banks. The US uses its authority in the World Trade Organization to prevent countries like Venezuela from demanding the WTO punish the US for disrupting Venezuela’s legitimate trade by means of these sanctions.

Arguments that China and Russia are abandoning the dollar point out that, while in 2015 approximately 90% of trade between the two countries was conducted in dollars, by spring 2020 the figure had dropped to 46%, with 24% of the trade in their own currencies. This shows some increasing independence, yet almost twice as much China-Russia trade still takes place in the dollar rather than in their own money. Further, their moves from the dollar have been in reaction to US imposed sanctions and tariffs, forcing them off the dollar, not from their own choice to cast aside the dollar as the international currency.

If China and Russia had the means to create a new world economic order they could withdraw their over $1.1 trillion and $123 billion invested in US Treasury bonds and use the funds to start their own international financial structure.

That China pegs the RMB to the dollar, rather than the dollar pegged to the RMB, also indicates the economic power relations between China and the US. China has expressed unease about the US potential to cut China off from the SWIFT network. Zhou Li, a spokesperson for China’s Communist Party, urged his party’s leaders to prepare for decoupling from the dollar, because the US dollar “has us by the throat… By taking advantage of the dollar’s global monopoly position in the financial sector, the US will pose an increasingly severe threat to China’s further development.”

While China has displaced the US as the primary productive workhouse of the world, it remains far from displacing the US as the world financial center. The size of China’s economy has not translated into a matching economic power.

Part 2: Military and Ideological Forms of Domination

The US regards as its Manifest Destiny to rule the world. The US bosses equate their national security interests with global security interests; no place or issue is insignificant. The US sees its role as defending the world capitalist order even if narrow US interests are not immediately and practically involved.

The Question of a US Military Decline

The second central element of the waning US empire argument is based on the US armed forces failures in the Middle East wars. However, they overlook that the US rulers suffered more stinging defeats in Korea 70 years ago and Vietnam 50 years ago, when the US was considered at the height of its supremacy. While over 7000 US soldiers and 8000 “contractors,” a code word for mercenaries, have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is much smaller than the 41,300 troops killed in Korea, or the 58,000 in Vietnam. Although in wars against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, the US ruling class could not achieve its aims, these peoples’ anti-imperial struggles were derailed, a US key objective. To the extent the peoples of these countries “won,” they inherited a country in ruins.

Likewise, the rising British empire suffered defeats at the hands of the US in 1783 and 1814, but this had little impact on 19th century British global ascendancy.

Save Iraq in 1991, the US has not won a war since World War II. Yet even in its heyday, the US military did not take on and defeat another major power without considerable outside aid. Spain was mostly defeated in Cuba and the Philippines before the US attacked. The US entered World War I after the other fighting forces were reaching exhaustion. In World War II, the Soviet Red Army broke the back of the German Wehrmacht, not the US. Only against Japan did the US military play a key role in crushing an imperial rival, though even here, the bulk of Japanese troops were tied down fighting the Chinese.

While today, the US military is reluctant about engaging in a full-scale land war, this has been mostly the case for the whole 20th century before any alleged imperial deterioration. Previously, the US rulers proved adept at not entering a war until it could emerge on top once the wars ended.

The “Vietnam syndrome,” code word for the US people’s opposition to fighting wars to defend the corporate world order, continues to haunt and impede the US rulers when they consider new military aggressions. This “syndrome,” which Bush Sr boasted had been overcome, has only deepened as result of the Afghanistan and Iraq debacles. Yet the corporate class took advantage of these wars to loot trillions from public funds, with working people to pay the bill.

The US is spending over a trillion dollars to “upgrade” a nuclear capacity which could wipe out life on the planet.  Even if US military capacity were diminishing in some areas, this is immaterial so long as the US still can, with a push of the button, annihilate all it considers opponents, even if this means a likely mutually assured destruction. The US also possesses similarly dangerous arsenals of biological and chemical weapons. It is not rational to think the US rulers spend mind-boggling sums of money on this weaponry but will not use them again when considered necessary to preserve their supremacy.

The US empire’s military dominion remains firmly in place around the world. Peoples’ struggles to close US military bases have met with little success. US ruling class de facto military occupations overseas continue through its over 800 bases in over 160 countries. These constitute 95% of the world’s total foreign military bases.

To date, if there has been any lessening of US military destructive capacity, no new armed forces or uprisings have dared to take advantage of this. If some national force considered it possible to break out of the US world jailhouse, we would be seeing that.

Hybrid Warfare: US Regime-Change Tools Besides Military Intervention

Military victory is not necessary for the US rulers to keep “insubordinate” countries in line. It suffices for the US to leave in ruins their attempts to build political and economic systems that prioritize national sovereignty over US dictates.

When incapable of overturning a potential “threat of a good example” through military invasion, the US may engineer palace coups. Since 2000, it has succeeded in engineering coups in Honduras, Bolivia, Georgia, and Haiti, to name a few.

Alternatives to fomenting a military coup include the US conducting lawfare to overturn governments, as seen in Paraguay and Brazil. The US ruling class also skillfully co-opts “color revolutions,” as seen in the Arab Spring and in the implosion of the Soviet bloc. Worldwide, the US regularly violates the sovereignty of nations through its regime-change agencies such as the CIA, USAID, and NED.

Besides invasions, coups, lawfare, election interference, and color revolutions, the US relies on its command over the global financial system and the subservience of other imperialist nations. This enables the US overlords to impose crippling sanctions and blockades on countries that assert their national sovereignty. The blockades on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria constitute a boot on their neck, which have only become more severe the more these peoples valiantly defend their independence.

Condemnation of these blockades by working people and nations worldwide has yet to have material effect in constraining this imperial cruelty against whole peoples. Rather than a decline of the US empire’s ability to thwart another country’s right to determine their own future, there have been changes in method, from overtly militaristic to more covert hybrid warfare. Both are brutal and effective means of regime change.

US-First World Ideological Hegemony

The corporate leaders of the West wield world dominion over the international media, including news services, social media, and advertising. Their Coke and Disney characters, for instance, have penetrated even the remotest corners of the world. Today most of the world’s viewers of the news are fed a version of the news through media stage-managed by the US and its subordinate allies. In addition, there are almost 4 billion social media users in the world, with six social media companies having more than one billion users. China owns just one of these. Only the US and its subordinates have world reach in their control of news and social media, while China does not.

Ramon Labanino, one of the Cuban 5, illustrated how the US rulers use their media to foment the July 12 regime change operation in Cuba:

We are in the presence of an international media dictatorship, the big media are in the hands of imperialism and now the social networks and the alternative media also use them in a masterful way. They have the capacity, through data engineering, bots, to replicate a tweet millions of times, which is what they have done against Cuba. A ruthless attack on social networks and in the media to show a Cuba that is not real. On the other hand, we have an invasion in our networks to disarticulate our computer systems so that even we cannot respond to the lies. The interesting thing is the double purpose, not only that they attack us, but then we cannot defend ourselves because the media belong to them… Within the CIA, for example, they have a special operations group that is in charge of cyber attacks of this type and there is a group called the Political Action Group that organizes, structures and directs this type of attack.

Worldwide use of media disinformation and news spin plays a central role in preserving US primacy and acceptance of its propaganda. As Covert Action Magazine reported:

United States warmakers have become so skilled at propaganda that not only can they wage a war of aggression without arousing protest; they can also compel liberals to denounce peace activists using language reminiscent of the McCarthy era. Take the case of Syria. The people and groups one would normally count on to oppose wars have been the ones largely defending it. They have also often been the ones to label war opponents as “Assad apologists” or “genocide deniers”—causing them to be blacklisted.

The ruling class media’s effective massaging of what is called “news” has penetrated and disoriented many anti-war forces. This illustrates the appalling collapse of a world anti-war opposition that almost 20 years ago had been called “the new superpower,” not some decline of the US as world cop. Corporate media operations play a role comparable to military might in perpetuating US global control.

Part 3: The Threat US Rulers Perceive in China

Secretary of State Blinken spelled it out:

China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system, all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to Washington’s view that the international system operates primarily to advance US corporate interests:

The ‘rules-based order’ claimed by the US…refers to rules set by the US alone, then it cannot be called international rules, but rather ‘hegemonic rules,’ which will only be rejected by the whole world.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently said:

The United States has declared limiting the advance of technology in Russia and China as its goal…They are promoting their ideology-driven agenda aimed at preserving their dominance by holding back progress in other countries.

The Challenge China Presents to US Rulers Differs from that of the Soviet Union

China’s development poses a threat to imperialist hegemony different from the former Soviet bloc. China competes in the world markets run by the Western nations, slowly supplanting their control. China’s economic performance, 70 years after its revolution, has been unprecedented in world history, even compared to the First World countries. In contrast, the Soviet economy after 70 years was faltering.

China does not provide the economic and military protection for nations striving to build a new society the way the Soviet Union had. The importance of the Communist bloc as a force constraining the US was immense and is underappreciated. The Communist bloc generally allied itself with anti-imperialist forces, encouraging Third World national liberation struggles as well as the Non-Aligned Movement. The Communist bloc’s exemplary social programs also prompted the rise of social-democratic welfare state regimes (e.g., Sweden) in the capitalist West to circumvent possible socialist revolution.

Now, with no Soviet Union and its allies to extend international solidarity assistance to oppressed peoples and nations, countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea are much more on their own to defend themselves against US military maneuvers and blockades.

As John Ross points out, China is capable of slowly supplanting US-First World power over a long period of time, but in no position to replace these imperial states as world hegemon, nor does it desire to do so. US products are being driven out by China’s cheaper high-quality products and China’s more equitable “win-win” business arrangements with other countries, offering the opportunity for Third World countries to develop. However, China cannot displace the US in the world financial system, where the US and its allies retain overwhelming control.

The US has proven incapable of impeding China from becoming an independent world force. No matter the tariffs and sanctions placed on China, they have had little impact. Yet, the US has caused China to digress from its socialist planned economy, through US corporations and consumerist values penetrating the Chinese system.

Part 4:  The World if the US were in Decline

Revolutions on the International Stage

A weakened US imperialism would encourage peoples and nations to “seize the time” and score significant gains against this overlord’s hold on their countries. Yet since shortly after 1975, with the victories in Vietnam and Laos, a drought in socialist revolutions has persisted for almost half a century. If the US empire were in decline, we would find it handicapped in countering victorious socialist revolutions. However, the opposite has been the case, with the US rulers consolidating their hegemony over the world.

This contrasts with the 40-year period between 1917 and 1959, when socialist revolutions occurred in Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, eleven countries across eastern Europe, and Cuba. These took place in the era of US rise, not decline. During this period, the US empire had to confront even greater challenges to its dictates than presented by today’s China and Russia in the form of the world Communist bloc, associated parties in capitalist countries, and the national liberation movements.

During the period of alleged US imperial demise, it has been socialist revolution that experienced catastrophic defeats. In the last 30 years, the struggle for socialist revolution has gone sharply in reverse, with the US and its subordinates not only blocking successful revolutions but overturning socialism in most of the former Communist sphere. The last three decades has witnessed greater consolidation of imperial supremacy over the world, not a deterioration.

The socialist revolutions that continue − North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba − have all had to backtrack and reintroduce private enterprise and capitalist relations of production.  North Korea has allowed the growth of private markets; Cuba relies heavily on the Western tourist market. They have this forced upon them to survive more effectively in the present world neoliberal climate.

A victorious socialist revolution, even a much more limited anti-neoliberal revolution2 , requires a nation to stand up to the imperial vengeance that enforces neo-colonial subjugation. Small countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela, have established political and some economic independence, but they have been unable to significantly advance against crushing blockades and US-backed coups in order to create developed economies. Historically, the only countries that have effectively broken with dependency and developed independently based on their own resources have been the Soviet Union and China.

Raul Castro made clear this world primacy of the US neoliberal empire:

In many cases, governments [including the subsidiary imperial ones] do not even have the capacity to enforce their sovereign prerogatives over the actions of national entities based in their own territories, as these are often docilely subordinated to Washington, as if we were living in a world subjugated by the unipolar power of the United States. This is a phenomenon that is expressed with particular impact in the financial sector, with national banks of several countries giving a US administration’s stipulations priority over the political decisions of their own governments.

A test of the US overlords’ decline can be measured in the struggle against US economic warfare in the form of sanctions. To date, the US can arm twist most countries besides China and Russia into abiding by its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and Iran. The US rulers still possess the power and self-assurance to ignore United Nations resolutions against economic warfare, including the UN General Assembly’s annual condemnation of the US blockade on Cuba. The peoples and nations of the world cannot make the US rulers pay a price for this warfare.

Domestic Struggles by the Working Class and its Allies that Shake the System

If the US empire were weakened, our working class could be winning strikes and union organizing drives against a capitalist class on the defensive. But the working class remains either quiescent, its struggles derailed, or most strikes settled by limiting the degree of boss takebacks. The 1997 UPS and 2016 Verizon strike were two that heralded important gains for workers. So far, however, the weakening class at home is not the corporate bosses, but the working class and its allies.

The workers movement has not even succeeded in gaining a national $15 minimum wage. The US rulers can spend over $900 billion a year on its war machine even during a pandemic that has killed almost 700,000, amid deteriorating standard of living  − no national health care, no quality free education, no raising of the minimum wage − without angry mass protests. This money could be spent on actual national security at home: housing for the homeless, eliminating poverty, countering global warming, jobs programs, and effectively handling the pandemic as China has (with only two deaths since May 2020). Instead, just in the Pentagon budget, nearly a trillion dollars a year of our money is a welfare handout to corporations to maintain their rule over the world. This overwhelming imperial reign over our workers’ movement signifies a degeneration in our working class organizations, not in the corporate overlords.

A weakened empire would provide opportunities for working class victories, re-allocating national wealth in their favor. Instead, we live in a new Gilded Age, with growing impoverishment of our class as the corporate heads keep grabbing greater shares of our national wealth. Americans for Tax Fairness points out:

America’s 719 billionaires held over four times more wealth ($4.56 trillion) than all the roughly 165 million Americans in society’s bottom half ($1.01 trillion), according to Federal Reserve Board data. In 1990, the situation was reversed — billionaires were worth $240 billion and the bottom 50% had $380 billion in collective wealth.

US billionaire wealth increased 19-fold over the last 31 years, with the combined wealth of 713 billionaires surging by $1.8 trillion during the pandemic, one-third of their wealth gains since 1990.

This scandalous appropriation of working people’s wealth by less than one thousand bosses at the top without causing mass indignation and working class fightback, encapsules the present power relations between the two contending classes.

With a weakened empire, we would expect a rise of a militant mass current in the trade unions and the working class committed to the struggle to reverse this trend. Instead, trade unions support corporate governance and their political candidates for office, not even making noise about a labor party.

With a weakened empire, we would expect the US working people to be turning away from the two corporate parties and building our own labor party as an alternative. In 2016 the US electorate backed two “outsiders,” Bernie Sanders and Trump, in the primaries against the traditional Democratic and Republican candidates, but this movement was co-opted with little difficulty. That the two corporate-owned parties still wield the power to co-opt, if not extinguish, our working class movements, as with the mass anti-Iraq war movement, the Occupy movement, the Madison trade union protests, the pro-Bernie groundswells in 2016 and 2020, shows the empire’s continued vitality, not deterioration.

In 2020 most all liberals and lefts capitulated to the Democrats’ anti-Trumpism, under the guise of “fighting fascism.” The “resistance” became the “assistance.” The promising Black Lives Matter movement of summer 2020 became largely absorbed into the Biden campaign a few months later. If the corporate empire were declining, progressive forces and leftist groups would not have bowed to neoliberal politicians and the national security state by climbing on the elect-Biden bandwagon. The 2020 election brought out the highest percent of voters in over a century to vote for one or the other of two neoliberal politicians. This stunning victory for the US ruling class resulted from a stunning surrender by progressive forces. To speak of declining corporate US supremacy in this context is nonsense.

Likely Indicators of a Demise of US Supremacy

For all our political lives we have been reading reports of the impending decline of US global supremacy. If just a fraction of these reports were accurate, then surely the presidential executive orders that Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, and Cuba are “unusual and extraordinary threats to the national security of the United States” would have some basis in reality.

If US corporate dominion were declining, we might see:

  • The long called for democratization of the United Nations and other international bodies with one nation, one vote
  • Social democratic welfare governments would again be supplanting neoliberal regimes
  • Replacement of World Bank, WTO, and IMF with international financial institutions independent of US control
  • Curtailing NATO and other imperialist military alliances
  • End of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency
  • Dismantling of US overseas military bases
  • Emergence of regional blocs independent of the US, replacing the current vassal organizations (e.g., European Union, OAS, Arab League, Organization of African Unity)
  • Nuclear disarmament rather than nuclear escalation
  • Working peoples of the world enforcing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • A decline of the allure of US controlled world media culture (e.g., Disney, Hollywood)

Part 5: Conclusion:  US Decline looks like a Mirage

Proponents of US decline point to two key indicators: its diminished role in global production and ineffectiveness of the US ruler’s military as world cop. Yet, the US rulers, with the aid of those in the European Union and Japan, maintain world financial control and continue to keep both our country and the world under lock and key.

The US overlords represent the spokesperson and enforcer of the First World imperial system of looting, while compelling subservience from the other imperial nations. None dare pose as potential imperial rivals to the US, nor challenge it in any substantial manner.

It is misleading to compare China’s rise to the US alone, since the US represents a bloc of imperial states. To supplant US economic preeminence, China would have to supplant the economic power of this entire bloc. These countries still generate most world production with little prospect this will change. A China-Russia alliance scarcely equals this US controlled First World club.

To date, each capitalist crisis has only reinforced the US rulers’ dominion as the world financial hub. Just the first half of this year, world investors have poured $900 billion into the safe haven US assets, more than they put into funds in the rest of the world combined. So long as the US capitalists can export their economic downturns to other countries and onto the backs of its own working people, so long as the world turns to the US dollar as the safe haven, decline of US ruling class preeminence is not on the table.

The last period of imperial weakening occurred from the time of US defeat in Vietnam up to the reimposition of imperial diktat under Reagan and his sidekick, Margaret Thatcher. During this time, working peoples’ victories were achieved across the international stage: Afghanistan, Iran, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Grenada; Cuban military solidarity in Angola, Vietnam’s equivalent in Cambodia; revolution in Portugal and in its African colonies, in Zimbabwe, and seeming imminent victories in El Salvador and Guatemala. At home, a rising class struggle current arose in the working class, as in the Sadlowski Steelworkers Fight Back movement and the militant 110-day coal miners strike, which forced President Carter to back down. This worldwide upsurge against corporate rule ended about 40 years ago, as yet unmatched by new ones.

Proclamations of a waning US empire portray a wishful thinking bordering on empty bravado. Moreover, a crumbling empire will not lead to its final exit without a massive working peoples’ movement at home to overthrow it. Glen Ford observed that capitalism has lost its legitimacy, especially among the young: “But that doesn’t by itself bring down a system. It is simply a sign that people are not happy. Mass unhappiness may bring down an administration. But it doesn’t necessarily change a system one bit.”

Capitalism is wracked by crisis – inherent to the system, Marx explained. Yet, as the catastrophe of World War I and its aftermath showed, as the Great Depression showed, as Europe in chaos after World War II showed, capitalist crises are no harbinger of its collapse. The question is not how severe the crisis, but which class, capitalist or working class, takes advantage of it to advance their own interests.

A ruling class crisis allows us to seize the opportunity if our forces are willing to fight, are organized, and are well-led. As Lenin emphasized, “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.” In regards to organization, we are unprepared. Contributing to our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our profound disbelief that a serious challenge at home to US ruling class control is even possible.

Whatever the indications of US deterioration as world superpower, recall that the Roman empire’s decay began around 177 AD. But it did not collapse in the West until 300 years later, in 476, and the eastern half did not collapse for 1000 years after that. Informing a Roman slave or plebe in 200 AD that the boot on their necks was faltering would fall on deaf ears. We are now in a similar situation. The empire will never collapse by itself, even with the engulfing climate catastrophe. Wishful thinking presents a dysfunctional substitute for actual organizing, for preparing people to seize the time when the opening arises.

  1. John Ross, “China and South-South Cooperation in the present global situation,” in China’s Great Road, p. 203.
  2. There is a continuous class struggle between popular forces demanding increased government resources and programs to serve their needs, against corporate power seeking to privatize in corporate hands all such government spending and authority. This unchecked corporate centralization of wealth and power is euphemistically called “neoliberalism.”  An anti-neoliberal revolution places popular forces in political control while economic power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.
The post Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Anglo Unilateralists Strike

When President Joe Biden won the White House, he promised, with a facility of unceasing boredom, that diplomacy was back.  “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy,” he stated on February 4.  “As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”

The fact that such diplomacy had never gone away seemed to escape him.  In the simpleton’s view of politics, his predecessor had abandoned the jaw jaw approach to international relations for muscular and mindless US unilateralism.  Allies had been belittled, ignored and mocked.  Strongmen had been feted, admired and praised.  It was now incumbent upon the United States, urged Biden, that “American leadership” confront “this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”

It would have been more accurate to say that President Donald Trump’s coarse, business board room model was simply too much of a shock for those familiarly comfortable with guile, deception and dissimulation.  But Biden’s return to acceptable hypocrisy did not mask the “America First” note in his temper.  Since then, that temper has seen a dramatic, ahead-of-schedule exit from Afghanistan, building on Trump’s undertakings to conclude open-ended wars and commitments.  US allies began to wonder whether the Biden model was that different from Trump’s cruder original.

With the announcement on September 15 of the trilateral security pact AUKUS, an agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to deepen military ties in an effort to contain China, the “diplomacy is back” cart was soiled and upended.  The European Union had not been consulted.  A furious France only received a few hours’ notice that the agreement they had made through the Naval Group with Australia to construct the next generation of attack class submarines had been dissolved.  Countries in the Indo-Pacific were also left in the dark.

France, in some ways even more than China, the primary target of AUKUS, is incandescent with rage.  On Franceinfo radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was unsparing in his remarks.  “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.” He confessed to feeling anger and bitterness. “This isn’t done between allies.”

As recently as July, Le Drian had visited Washington, where he pointedly stated that France was “an Indo-Pacific nation with territories that give [it] the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone” with a permanent military presence of 8,500 personnel in the region.  Paris, along with EU member states, was in the process of formulating a clear Indo-Pacific strategy.  Efforts were being made in creating “strategic partnerships” with Japan, Australia and India.  Regional organisations such as ASEAN were being brought into the fold.  Any “transatlantic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific” had to be taken “together”.

At the end of August, Australia and France held their inaugural Foreign and Defence (2+2) Ministerial Consultations. No hint was given that something was brewing.  As the joint statement outlined, “Ministers underscored the importance of the strong and enduring commitment of other partners, including the United States, and Indo-Pacific partners in upholding an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

With notions of sham togetherness shaken, retaliation in the old diplomatic tradition has followed.  President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French ambassadors to the United States and Australia.  Britain was rebuked somewhat differently, being spared the same harsh treatment; being underhanded was the very sort of thing Paris expected from their historical enemy. In Le Drian’s words, its conduct had been “opportunistic”, with London being little more than “the fifth wheel of the wagon”.

In a joint statement, Le Drian and French Minister for the Army Florence Parly emphasised that this new security arrangement had been arrived at to the “exclusion of a European ally and partner … at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”  The move signalled “a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”

Special words were reserved for Australia, a country now wooed by an unconvincing promise of eight nuclear-powered submarines that are only promised to enter service sometime in the 2040s.  The decision was “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust.”  Le Drian, in a separate observation, weighed on the theme of infidelity, calling the decision, “A knife in the back.”

None of this takes away from the fact that the original Franco-Australian contract, reached in 2016, was an ill-thought out undertaking to build 12 conventional Barracuda class submarines in imitation of the nuclear powered Suffren design.  It was vain, costly and promised obsolescence before viable performance. Then again, the French argument goes, the Australians wanted it.

The justifications for this episode of Anglophonic mischief have varied in their insolence and disingenuousness.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was all shine and floss in claiming that France remained “a vital partner” in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific “and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation” in the area.  To a question suggesting that France had been stabbed in the back, Blinken mechanically repeated the vital importance of a “transatlantic” association.

Australia’s simply disposed Defence Minister Peter Dutton preferred fantasy by way of explanation, claiming that his government had been “upfront, open and honest”.  “We can understand of course, the French are upset at the cancellation of a contract but in the end, our job is to act in our national interest.”  Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace was of like mind, promising that, “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back.”  But sneaking there was, and it was the Anglosphere, led by the United States, doing the sneaking.

AUKUS is less a trio than a hefty, bullying chief accompanied by a willing assistant and an enthusiastic supplicant.  It is a declaration of hostile intent in a region of the world that promises to be the Europe of 1914.  It has also encouraged the EU to formulate its own Indo-Pacific policy with haste and independence. “The regrettable decision which has just been announced on the FSP [Future Submarine Program] only reinforces the need to raise the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” observed Le Drian and Parley.  Policy makers in Beijing will be struggling to stifle their amusement.

The post The Anglo Unilateralists Strike first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US?

Suddenly, the idea put forth by French President, Emmanuel Macron, late last year does not seem so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the US-NATO hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan, European countries are now forced to consider the once unthinkable:  a gradual dismantling from US dominance.

When, on September 29, 2020, Macron uttered these words: “We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems”, the context of this statement had little to do with Afghanistan. Instead, Europe was angry at the bullying tactics used by former US President Donald Trump and sought alternatives to US leadership. The latter has treated NATO – actually, all of Europe – with such disdain, that it has forced America’s closest allies to rethink their foreign policy outlook and global military strategy altogether.

Even the advent of US President Joe Biden and his assurances to Europe that “America is back” did little to reassure European countries, which fear, justifiably, that US political instability may exist long after Biden’s term in office expires.

The chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan – without NATO members even being consulted or considered as the US signed and enacted a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban starting in July 2020 – has convinced Europe that, despite the defeat of Trump, Washington has essentially remained the same: a self-centered ‘ally’.

Now that the US and NATO have officially left Afghanistan, a political debate in Europe is raging on many political platforms. The strongest indicators that Europe is ready to proceed with an independent foreign policy agenda and European-centered military strategy became evident in the EU Defense Ministers’ meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

In a position that is increasingly representing a wider EU stance, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, articulated the Bloc’s prevailing sentiment: “The experience from Afghanistan has shown that our inability to respond comes at a price. The EU must therefore strengthen its strategic autonomy by creating the first entry force capable of ensuring stability in the EU’s neighborhood.”

Despite assurances that this ‘first entry force’ will not represent an alternative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but rather ‘complement’ its role, chances are this new army will serve as a stepping stone for Europe’s coveted independence from the US foreign policy agenda.

Just marvel at these statements by top European, including British, officials and analysts to appreciate the crisis underway in NATO. Remember that 51 NATO members and partner countries had rushed to aid the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, following the invocation of the common-defense clause, Article 5.

“Nobody asked us whether it was a good idea to leave that country in such … a way,” Johann Wadephul, a deputy caucus leader for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said, with reference to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the absence of any coordination with Washington’s NATO allies.

Former British Prime Minister, Theresa May, questioned everything, including Europe’s blind allegiance to the US: “Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge on the ground so inadequate? Or did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer it would be all right on the night?”

Katharina Emschermann, the deputy director of the reputable Berlin-based Center for International Security at the Hertie School, seemed to speak for many European analysts when she said: “Part of the discord that we’re seeing now is probably also rooted in the sense of unease about how things are going to go on in the future.”

This ‘unease’ refers to Europe’s traditional foreign policy, which has been hostage to post-WWII Trans-Atlantic European American partnership. However, Europe itself is changing, together with the world around it. Moreover, the Chinese economy has grown tremendously in recent years. As of last year, it was Beijing, not Washington, that served the critical role of being the EU’s largest trade partner.

Not only has Chinese economic – thus, political and military – clout grown exponentially, Europe’s share of the global economy has shrunk significantly, and not only because of the Brexit ordeal. According to NBC news, citing the British accounting firm PwC, “in 1960, the countries that would form the E.U. made up a third of the global economy. By 2050, the bloc is projected to account for just 9 percent”.

The growing realization among European countries that they must engineer an eventual break-up from the US is rooted in legitimate fears that the EU’s interest is hardly a top American priority. Hence, many European countries continue to resist Washington’s ultimatums regarding China.

It was also Macron, while elaborating on the concept of the European army, who rejected the US China agenda. “We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the US and China,” he said.

Macron’s once ‘controversial’ view is now mainstream thinking in Europe, especially as many EU policy-makers feel disowned, if not betrayed, by the US in Afghanistan. If this trajectory of mistrust continues, the first step towards the establishment of a European army could, in the near future, become an actuality.

The post Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

That Old Story: Spying on Friends

One has to be repeatedly reminded that the theatre of international relations knows no friends and only national interests, whatever those might be.  Intelligence services, being an expression of those interests, do not necessarily discriminate in targeting their quarry.  The revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 about warrantless and unwarranted surveillance by the US National Security Agency was revealing on this point, though it merely confirmed centuries of understanding in politics: In our friends and foes, we mistrust.

Having spilled such valuable beans, Snowden readied us for what should have been regarded as banal, even farcical.  As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists summarised, “The rule is that everybody spies on everybody – except when they have an agreement not to.”  And, just in case you were in doubt “they may still do so.”  In terms of the United States, he was not shy: “We are photographing and listening to the entire globe.”

The entire globe naturally includes peeking into the affairs of one’s allies.  “Even among friends,” a serious Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University said in 2013, “a lot of espionage takes place, and some of that espionage is targeted against national security.”  Kupchan sees this as solid bookkeeping. “There is more mundane day-to-day intelligence gathering, which is focusing on intelligence that would be relevant to American statecraft: who is likely to be the next foreign minister, what’s Germany’s position on negotiations with Iran?”

Snowden showed how the NSA exploited its partnership with various intelligence networks to get a leg up into the surveillance of various allies. One of these partnerships involved Denmark.  The relationship with the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste or FE), it transpired, involved conducting surveillance upon senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France and Germany.  This says much about the Danish political experiment, a small establishment in search of a relevant, collaborative purpose.  To that end, the FE-NSA enterprise involved using XKeyscore, an NSA-developed software tool revealed by Snowden, which intercepts calls, texts and chat messages received and sent from the phones of the officials.

The 2013 exposure prompted an internal investigation into the Danish Defence Intelligence Service codenamed “Operation Dunhammer”.  The findings of the Dunhammer report were then aired in selective form across a range of media networks: Danmarks Radio, NRK, SVT Nyheter, NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Monde.

When asked to comment on the issue, Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen reiterated with bone dull tediousness “that this government has the same attitude as the former Prime Minister expressed in 2013 and 2014 – systematic wiretapping of close allies is unacceptable.”

As always with such disclosures, there is much ventilating fury, feigned surprise and naïve implausibility.  This lies in the residue of desperation and misplaced expectation: fidelity undermined and compromised.

On such occasions, the outraged claim they had no idea, even in the face of news that was old news.  Peer Steinbrück’s words of hurt to the German broadcaster ARD were angry but rehearsed for the occasion. It was, claimed the former Social Democratic Party candidate for chancellor, “grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed … spying on top representatives.”  By way of contrast Patrick Sensburg of the commission with oversight over Germany’s intelligence services, barely bats an eyelid.  Denmark, he assumes, had not deliberately intercepted the communications of top politicians.  A sweet suggestion.

France’s Europe Minister, Clément Beaune, stayed to the script in strolling fashion, calling the findings “extremely serious”, though his views should be taken at a pinch.  According to Beaune, “We need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors in their cooperation with American services.”  But this came with a neat, even comic caveat. “Between allies, there must be trust, a minimal cooperation.”  Clearly, the minimal aspect prevailed here.

Towards the northern European states, the Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist could hardly be said to be outraged in an interview with SVT Nyheter.  The behaviour of such figures before scandal is to treat it as an interlude of interest.  He acknowledged the Danish response that such eavesdropping on allies was “unacceptable”, which was mighty fine of him.  He was also adamant that espionage activity from his country was not directed at Danish or Norwegian politicians (the Germans and French do not warrant a mention), suggesting that the Swedes are just that much better in all of this.

Deafening silences have followed in Washington and Copenhagen in the intelligence community.  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NSA, and the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, have declined to comment.  Former chiefs of the FE, Lars Findsen and Thomas Ahrenkiel, are keeping mum about the matter.

As with President Barack Obama before him, Joe Biden will face a few questions on his visit to Europe in a fortnight.  He was, in Snowden’s view, “well-prepared to answer for this when he soon visits Europe since, of course, he was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around.  There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only in Denmark, but their senior partner as well.”

The only thing of interest that may come of these meetings is the cold realisation that espionage reduces all relationships to those of adversaries.  Misnamed friends cannot be trusted in the business of gathering intelligence.

The post That Old Story: Spying on Friends first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Mette Frederiksen, Boris Johnson: Reject Industry PR, Ban Glyphosate, Protect Public Health! 

On 9 April 2021, retired physician and health and environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason wrote to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA). She wanted to draw the agency’s attention to the findings that indicate the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes high levels of mortality following contact exposure in bumble bees (glyphosate-formulated herbicides are the most widely used weedicides in agriculture across the globe).

This, Mason argued, has led to a decline of bumblebees in Denmark. She asked the agency why it had used “fraudulent science” on glyphosate from the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, which in turn take their ‘science’ from Monsanto/Bayer, rather than from the direct observations of The Danish Nature Agency.

Mason’s correspondence focused not only on the destructive environmental impacts of glyphosate but also on the devastating human health aspects.

In relation to sanctioning the continued use of glyphosate in Europe, Mason has previously noted that it was totally unacceptable, possibly negligent or even criminal, for the European Union to have allowed a group of plant scientists on the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) – whose knowledge of human physiology was so lacking that they did not recognise that glyphosate has effects on humans – to make decisions that affect human health.

PAFF’s role was pivotal in the decision to re-licence the use of glyphosate in the EU in 2017.

To date, aside from the DEPA acknowledging receipt of Mason’s letter, there has been no response to the issues raised.

As a follow up, Mason has sent the latest insights to DEPA on the Monsanto-Bayer lawsuits in the US. Three cases brought by Lee Johnson, Edwin Hardeman and Alva and Alberta Pilliod have already gone to trial. In each case, the courts found that Roundup caused their cancers and that Monsanto hid the risks of its product.

Mason also forwarded information to Magnus Hennicke, the health minister, indicating the role glyphosate plays in fuelling cancers and other diseases in Denmark. Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fishery Rasmus Prehn and Special Adviser Casper Steen Petersen also received copies of this information.

Their attention was drawn to the Institute for Responsible Technology claims that cancers caused by Roundup include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bone cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer.

Mason also quoted Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the renowned environmental attorney, who in 2018 talked of:

… cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts. Strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.

Mason concluded her correspondence by saying:

I will leave Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (to whom I have also sent a copy) and other ministers to demand answers from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Are they or their relatives suffering from any of these diseases – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc? Until Roundup is eliminated from food and from drinking water, these conditions will continue to afflict us all. That means that farmers must stop using Roundup.

Rosemary Mason has been writing to officials in the UK and Europe about the effects of Roundup and other agrochemicals for over a decade, documenting the health and environmental impacts as well as the institutional corruption that has led to their continued use. Her many reports are littered with peer reviewed scientific literature to support her claims and can be accessed on the academia.edu website.

New study

It seems that not a month goes by until some new paper or study appears and supports what Mason has been saying for a long time. For example, according to the recent multiple author paper ‘In-depth comparative toxicogenomics and Roundup herbicides’, glyphosate and Roundup changes gene function and causes DNA damage.

The research found that glyphosate and glyphosate-formulated herbicides activate mechanisms involved in cancer development, including DNA damage – and these effects occur at doses assumed by regulators to have no adverse effects. The study found that DNA damage was caused by oxidative stress, a destructive imbalance in the body that can cause a long list of diseases.

Writing on the GMWatch website, Claire Robinson summarises the findings and the policy implications. She states that the findings, according to the EU’s pesticide law, should result in a ban on glyphosate and all its formulations.

The study was led by Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr Robin Mesnage at King’s College London. It builds on the findings of a previous study by the same authors. In that study, the findings showed that glyphosate and Roundup, given at doses that regulators say are safe, result in gut microbiome disturbances and oxidative stress, with indications that the liver is affected and possibly damaged.

In the new follow-up study, the researchers carried out some of the standard tests that regulators require the pesticide industry to conduct to gain market authorisation for their products – namely blood biochemistry and kidney and liver histopathology (microscopic examination of tissue).

They also carried out in-depth tests (molecular profiling) that are not demanded by regulators or typically carried out by the industry. In addition, the researchers undertook tests that can detect direct damage to DNA.

Robinson notes that, worryingly for public health, it was the non-standard molecular profiling tests that are not required by pesticide regulators that were most revealing.

Roundup was found to alter the expression of 96 genes in the liver specifically linked to DNA damage and oxidative stress as well as disruption of circadian rhythms or ‘body clocks’. The findings strongly suggest that the key changes in gene function reflective of oxidative stress and DNA damage was due to glyphosate and not the additional substances (adjuvants) present in the Roundup formulation. Direct DNA damage to the liver was found to increase with glyphosate exposure.

Protect public health

Claire Robinson says that these findings potentially constitute a bombshell that could end the authorisation of glyphosate in the EU because the EU pesticide regulation (1107/2009) has what is known as hazard-based cut-off criteria.

She states:

This means that if a pesticide active ingredient is shown to cause a certain type of harm to health at whatever dose, it must be banned. One of the named types of harm is damage to DNA. The discovery that glyphosate alone damages DNA in a living animal should, if regulators follow the law, result in a ban on glyphosate.

The study indicated that both glyphosate and its commercial formulation Roundup activate mechanisms involved in cancer development, causing gene expression changes reflecting oxidative stress and DNA damage.

The UK is currently pushing for the deregulation of genetically engineered crops and products and the non-regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) derived from newer techniques like gene-editing. This in itself is worrying given the scientific evidence pointing to the health and ecological dangers associated with this technology.

At the same time, however, the government’s proposed strategy would only further serve the bottom line of the agrochemical companies while contributing to the ongoing public health crisis brought about by their products.

For instance, the recent paper ‘Herbicide Resistance: Another Hot Agronomic Trait for Plant Genome Editing’ (in the peer reviewed journal ‘Plants’) says that, in spite of claims from GMO promoters that gene editing will reduce pesticide use, what we can expect is just more of the same – GMO herbicide-tolerant crops and increased herbicide use.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he wants to “liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules”. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a continuation of the chemical bombardment of our food, environment and bodies.

It is time for Johnson to serve the public not the bottom line of the government’s corporate masters.

It is time for the EU to ‘follow the science’ and side-line industry influence.

The post Mette Frederiksen, Boris Johnson: Reject Industry PR, Ban Glyphosate, Protect Public Health!  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Push for COVID Immunity Passports

Sensible, ideal, wonderful – if you happen to be in the European Union. This is the air of confidence surrounding the March 17 proposal for a digital COVID immunity passport, or what is officially being called the Digital Green Certificate.

The Digital Green Certificate is actually a bundle of three: vaccination certificates stating the brand of vaccine used, data and place of inoculation and number of doses administered; negative test certificates (either a rapid antigen test or a NAAT/RT-PCR test); and medical certificates for those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 180 days.

The measure is discrimination made sound, preference made prominent. The essential requirement to obtain such a pass is evidence that you have been vaccinated by a jab with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency. But the European Commission did append a qualification to this requirement. Member states could decide whether to accept vaccines that the EMA had yet to approve. Not in itself reassuring, given the varied approaches European states have taken to the international vaccine market.

Such administrative and bureaucratic impositions are the stuff of nightmares for ethicists and philosophers. For those in economics, business and management, it is an eminently sensible idea that will enable people to move within Europe, preferably in time for summer.

The director of Eagle Travel, David Reculez, put the case for the defence. “For us, the travel agencies, the new certificate is really a good hope because it will definitely help people to travel again.” People wanted to travel in a safe way without being hampered by “hard rules or quarantine.”

Countries with tourist-heavy economies – Greece, Spain and Croatia, for instance – are enthused. On February 23, Greece’s Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis announced the use of vaccination passports. Agreements have been struck with Israel, Cyprus and Serbia to enable a generous flow of vaccinated residents this summer. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has had the ear of the EU President Ursula von der Leyen, pushing for a unified EU position on the matter, despite his country’s separate bilateral efforts.

France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are, to various degrees, opposed and sceptical. France’s minister of state for tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne thought “the idea of restricting movement to only people who are vaccinated” a “premature” debate given that only “4 to 5% of the European populace had been vaccinated.” The country’s minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune found it “shocking, while this vaccination campaign is still underway in Europe, that there would be more rights for some people than for others. This is not our conception of protection and access to vaccines.”

A number of health practitioners and bioethicists hold similar concerns. Sarah Chan of the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics in Edinburgh makes a convincing case for the prosecution. “I think vaccine passports have the potential to be unnecessarily divisive. It’s likely to lead to negative consequences, particularly in being unfair and creating inequalities.”

In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that “there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination” including combating variants of SARS-CoV-2; the duration of protection following vaccination; the timing of booster doses and whether vaccination offered protection against asymptomatic infection.

Prioritising vaccinations for travel “could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.” To introduce “a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.”

We can already see the green pass concept deployed in Israel. The incentive to do so is clear. “With the green pass,” encourages the voiceover of an advertisement promoting the idea, “doors simply open in front of you … We’re returning to life.”

The country has been using an app to show who has been fully inoculated against coronavirus or those who have recovered from infection. For both vaccinated individuals and recovered coronavirus patients, the pass is valid till June 6, 2021. It acts as a form of exclusive access, a mark of approval should you wish to go to concerts, theatres, gyms and hotels. Hoteliers such as Armin Grunewald, whose establishment can be found near the Sea of Galilee, told the Guardian that, “People were looking happy and liberated”.

Cryptographers and students of information security were less merry. The Ramzor app has been blighted by problems since it was launched. In the view of computer scientist Orr Dunkelman, based at Haifa University, it unnecessarily reveals information such as the date a person recovered from COVID-19 or received a vaccine. It also employs an old encryption library susceptible to security breaches. Ran Bar Zik, software columnist for Haaretz, goes so far as to call it “a catastrophe in the making,” suggesting a paper vaccination form instead.

In February, the Knesset approved a law allowing the Health Ministry to provide the name, national identification number, phone number and address of any citizen who can be vaccinated but has not received a jab, to a range of authorities. These include the Education Ministry and the Welfare Ministry. At the time of its passage, Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz party suggested that, “Disclosing such information is a slippery slope, and damage’s people’s privacy.”

An uncomfortable spectre is unfolding. While paperwork certifying good health has been a feature of transport and travel – the WHO’s Yellow card showing certified vaccinations for such infections as cholera, plague and typhoid being a most known example – COVID-19 green certificates are another matter. Epidemiologist Christopher Dye and sociologist Melinda C. Mills, writing in Science, remark that, “The greatest risk is that people for whom vaccination is unacceptable, untested, inaccessible, or impossible are denied access to goods and services.” They consider the various instances where inequity can manifest: ethnic minorities reluctant to take the jab; a lack of data on vaccine efficacy for people at risk (pregnant women for instance); unreachable, undocumented migrants; the digital technological divide; and eligibility requirements.

In a global sense, the unvaccinated in the COVID-19 age risk becoming the great modern unwashed, derided or ignored, socially and politically excluded. The effect is analogous to depriving people of passports, alienating them from citizenship citing biomedical grounds. Dye and Mills are optimists confident that such passports can “be guided by exemplary science, appropriate technologies, and fair use for all.” But as with previous categories of the invisible and the undocumented, verifiable vaccination passes loom as rigid hierarchies of compliance, surveillance and division.

The post The Push for COVID Immunity Passports first appeared on Dissident Voice.