Category Archives: Imperialism

Canadian imperialism in Africa

Canadian imperialism in Africa has had a rare social media moment.

On Twitter K. Diallo recently posted a map of the continent with the sum of Canadian mining investment in each African country under the words “75% of mining companies globally are now Canadian. Canada is a great source of corporate neocolonialism expansion.” The tweet received 25,000 likes and 8,500 retweets.

But the map is dated. It said there was $31.6 billion worth of Canadian mining investment in Africa yet Natural Resources Canada put the number at $37.8 billion in 2019. The scope of Canadian resource extraction on the continent is remarkable. Many companies based and traded here have taken African names (African Queen Mines, Asante Gold Corporation, Tanzanian Royalty Exploration, Lake Victoria Mining Company, Société d’Exploitation Minière d’Afrique de l’Ouest, East Africa Metals, International African Mining Gold (IAMGOLD), African Gold Group, etc.).

Canadian resource companies operating in Africa receive significant government support. Amongst a slew of pro-mining measures, Justin Trudeau’s government has put up more than $100 million in assistance for mining related projects in Africa, signed Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and backed Barrick Gold during a high-profile conflict with the Tanzanian government.

A similar Facebook meme on Ghana has also circulated widely in recent days. Appearing to originate from a statement posted by Kgoshi Mmaphuti Uhuru Mokwele, it notes:

Ghana is the biggest gold producing country in Africa & 8th in the world, but 93.3% of Ghana’s gold is owned by foreign corporations, mainly America and Canada. Ghana owns less than 2% of all the Gold in their land. Ghana has to borrow money from the IMF & World Bank to buy their own Gold, which is on their land, mined by Ghanaian workers, using Ghana’s resources. The price of the Gold is set in New York & can only be purchased with American dollar.

Canada has certainly contributed to the Ghanaian (and African) impoverishment Mokwele alludes to. Alongside their counterparts from the US and Britain, Canadian officials participated in the 1944 Bretton Woods negotiations that established the IMF and World Bank and Ottawa continues to have outsized influence within those institutions. Tens of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has supported IMF structural adjustment policies of privatization, liberalization and social spending cuts in Ghana, which benefited Canada’s rapacious mining industry.

After a high profile Canadian-financed structural adjustment program in the late 1980s NGO worker Ian Gary explained its impact:

Ghana’s traditional sources of income — gold, cocoa, and timber — have benefited from the program, but this has only exacerbated the colonial legacy of dependence. Nearly all of the $1.5 billion worth of private foreign investment has been in mining, with most of the profits being repatriated overseas. ‘User fees’ for health care services and education have been introduced. Disincentives to food producers, and the damage caused to local rice producers by cheap rice imports, led to increased malnutrition and lower food security. Rapid and indiscriminate liberalization of the trade regime hurt local industry, while cutbacks in the public sector shed 15 per cent of the waged work force.

But Canadian support for colonial exploitation goes back much further.

Ottawa began dispersing aid to African countries as a way to dissuade newly independent states from following wholly independent paths or falling under the influence of the Communist bloc. A big part of Canada’s early assistance went to train militaries, including the Ghanaian military that overthrew pan-Africanist independence leader Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. After Nkrumah’s removal Canadian High Commissioner C.E. McGaughey wrote External Affairs in Ottawa that “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” McGaughey boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program noting that “all the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.” (Canadian major Bob Edwards, who was a training advisor to the commander of a Ghanaian infantry brigade, discovered preparations for the coup the day before its execution, but said nothing.)

During the colonial period Ottawa offered various forms of support to European rule in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent. Beginning in the early 1900s Canadian officials worked to develop commercial relations with the British colony and in 1938 Canada’s assistant trade commissioner in London, H. Leslie Brown, spent three weeks in the Gold Coast. In 1947 Alcan commenced operations there through its purchase of West African Aluminum Limited.

Numerous Canadians played a role in the British colonial service in Ghana. In 1921 former Canadian Lieutenant E.F.L. Penno was appointed assistant commander of the Gold Coast police and was later made overall commander. At the start of the 1900s Galt, Ontario, born Frederick Gordon Guggisberg helped mark over 300 mining and timber concessions in Ashanti and the Gold Coast, which aided Britain’s Ashanti Gold Corporation extract six million ounces of gold from the colony. After two decades moving up in the colonial service Guggisberg was governor of Ghana from 1919 to 1927 (a Canadian governed Kenya and Northern Nigeria as well).

Canadian missionaries and soldiers also played a role in subjugating Ghana at the turn of the 19th century. According to Global Affairs, “In 1906, Québec missionaries established a church in Navrongo in northern Ghana, thus marking the arrival of a Canadian presence in the country.” Oscar Morin and Leonide Barsalou set up the first White Fathers post in the Gold Coast where Canadians would dominate the church for half a century.

Numerous Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) trained individuals fought the Ashanti in turn-of-the-19th-century wars. RMC graduate Captain Duncan Sayre MacInnes helped construct an important fort at the Ashanti capital of Kumasi and the son of a Canadian senator participated in a number of subsequent expeditions to occupy the hinterland of modern Ghana. For more than half a century a selected fourth year RMC cadet has been awarded the Duncan Sayre MacInnes Memorial Scholarship.

Scratch the surface of African history and you’ll find Canadian involvement in colonial rule. This country’s role in the impoverishment of Ghana and Africa in general deserves far greater attention.

The post Canadian imperialism in Africa first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare?

Looking back on it now, the 1990s were an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a “peace dividend.” There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports (how many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?). The government could not tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion – compared with over $28 trillion today.

We have been told that the criminal attacks of September 11, 2001 “changed everything.” But what really changed everything was the U.S. government’s disastrous response to them.

That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.

Most Americans believe in democracy and many regard the United States as a democratic country. But the U.S. response to 9/11 laid bare the extent to which American leaders are willing to manipulate the public into accepting illegal wars, torture, the Guantanamo gulag and sweeping civil rights abuses — activities that undermine the very meaning of democracy.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz said in a speech in 2011 that “a democracy can only work if its people are being told the truth.” But America’s leaders exploited the public’s fears in the wake of 9/11 to justify wars that have killed and maimed millions of people who had nothing to do with those crimes. Ferencz compared this to the actions of the German leaders he prosecuted at Nuremberg, who also justified their invasions of other countries as “preemptive first strikes.”

“You cannot run a country as Hitler did, feeding them a pack of lies to frighten them that they’re being threatened, so it’s justified to kill people you don’t even know,” Ferencz continued. “It’s not logical, it’s not decent, it’s not moral, and it’s not helpful. When an unmanned bomber from a secret American airfield fires rockets into a little Pakistani or Afghan village and thereby kills or maims unknown numbers of innocent people, what is the effect of that? Every victim will hate America forever and will be willing to die killing as many Americans as possible. Where there is no court of justice, wild vengeance is the alternative.”

Even the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, talked about “insurgent math,” conjecturing that, for every innocent person killed, the U.S. created 10 new enemies. And thus the so-called Global War on Terror fueled a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance that will not end unless and until the United States ends the state terrorism that provokes and fuels it.

By opportunistically exploiting 9/11 to attack countries that had nothing to do with it, like Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the United States vastly expanded the destructive strategy it used in the 1980s to destabilize Afghanistan, which spawned the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the first place.

In Libya and Syria, only ten years after 9/11, U.S. leaders betrayed every American who lost a loved one on September 11th by recruiting and arming Al Qaeda-led militants to overthrow two of the most secular governments in the Middle East, plunging both countries into years of intractable violence and fueling radicalization throughout the region.

The U.S. response to 9/11 was corrupted by a toxic soup of revenge, imperialist ambitions, war profiteering, systematic brainwashing and sheer stupidity. The only Republican Senator who voted against the war on Iraq, Lincoln Chafee, later wrote, “Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”

But it wasn’t. Very few of the 263 Republicans or the 110 Democrats who voted for the Iraq war in 2002 paid any political price for their complicity in international aggression, which the judges at Nuremberg explicitly called “the supreme international crime.” One of them now sits at the apex of power in the White House.

Trump and Biden’s withdrawal and implicit acceptance of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan could serve as an important step toward ending the violence and chaos their predecessors unleashed after the September 11th attack. But the current debate over next year’s military budget makes it clear that our deluded leaders are still dodging the obvious lessons of 20 years of war.

Barbara Lee, the only Member of Congress with the wisdom and courage to vote against Congress’s war resolution in 2001, has introduced a bill to cut U.S. military spending by almost half:  $350 billion per year. With the miserable failure in Afghanistan, a war that will end up costing every U.S. citizen $20,000, one would think that Rep. Lee’s proposal would be eliciting tremendous support. But the White House, the Pentagon and the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate are instead falling over each other to shovel even more money into the bottomless pit of the military budget.

Politicians’ votes on questions of war, peace and military spending are the most reliable test of their commitment to progressive values and the well-being of their constituents. You cannot call yourself a progressive or a champion of working people if you vote to appropriate more money for weapons and war than for healthcare, education, green jobs and fighting poverty.

These 20 years of war have revealed to Americans and the world that modern weapons and formidable military forces can only accomplish two things: kill and maim people; and destroy homes, infrastructure and entire cities. American promises to rebuild bombed-out cities and “remake” countries it has destroyed have proven worthless, as Biden has acknowledged.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan are turning primarily to China for the help they need to start rebuilding and developing economically from the ruin and devastation left by America and its allies. America destroys, China builds. The contrast could not be more stark or self-evident. No amount of Western propaganda can hide what the whole world can see.

But the different paths chosen by U.S. and Chinese leaders are not predestined, and despite the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the U.S. corporate media, the American public has always been wiser and more committed to cooperative diplomacy than America’s political and executive class. It has been well-documented that many of the endless crises in U.S. foreign policy could have been avoided if America’s leaders had just listened to the public.

The perennial handicap that has dogged America’s diplomacy since World War II is precisely our investment in weapons and military forces, including nuclear weapons that threaten our very existence. It is trite but true to say that, ”when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Other countries don’t have the option of deploying overwhelming military force to confront international problems, so they have had to be smarter and more nimble in their diplomacy, and more prudent and selective in their more limited uses of military force.

The rote declarations of U.S. leaders that “all options are on the table” are a euphemism for precisely the “threat or use of force” that the UN Charter explicitly prohibits, and they stymie the U.S. development of expertise in nonviolent forms of conflict resolution. The bumbling and bombast of America’s leaders in international arenas stand in sharp contrast to the skillful diplomacy and clear language we often hear from top Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats, even when they are speaking in English, their second or third language.

By contrast, U.S. leaders rely on threats, coups, sanctions and war to project power around the world. They promise Americans that these coercive methods will maintain American “leadership” or dominance indefinitely into the future, as if that is America’s rightful place in the world: sitting atop the globe like a cowboy on a bucking bronco.

A “New American Century” and “Pax Americana” are Orwellian versions of Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” but are no more realistic. No empire has lasted forever, and there is historical evidence that even the most successful empires have a lifespan of no more than 250 years, by which time their rulers have enjoyed so much wealth and power that decadence and decline inevitably set in. This describes the United States today.

America’s economic dominance is waning. Its once productive economy has been gutted and financialized, and most countries in the world now do more trade with China and/or the European Union than with the United States. Where America’s military once kicked open doors for American capital to “follow the flag” and open up new markets, today’s U.S. war machine is just a bull in the global china shop, wielding purely destructive power.

But we are not condemned to passively follow the suicidal path of militarism and hostility. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be a down payment on a transition to a more peaceful post-imperial economy — if the American public starts to actively demand peace, diplomacy and disarmament and find ways to make our voices heard.

— We must get serious about demanding cuts in the Pentagon budget. None of our other problems will be solved as long as we keep allowing our leaders to flush the majority of federal discretionary spending down the same military toilet as the $2.26 trillion they wasted on the war in Afghanistan. We must oppose politicians who refuse to cut the Pentagon budget, regardless of which party they belong to and where they stand on other issues. CODEPINK is part of a new coalition to “Cut the Pentagon for the people, planet, peace and a future” — please join us!

— We must not let ourselves or our family members be recruited into the U.S. war machine. Instead, we must challenge our leaders’ absurd claims that the imperial forces deployed across the world to threaten other countries are somehow, by some convoluted logic, defending America. As a translator paraphrased Voltaire, “Whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

— We must expose the ugly, destructive reality behind our country’s myths of “defending U.S. vital interests,” “humanitarian intervention,” “the war on terror” and the latest absurdity, the ill-defined “rules-based order” whose rules only apply to others — never to the United States.

— And we must oppose the corrupt power of the arms industry, including U.S. weapons sales to the world’s most repressive regimes and an unwinnable arms race that risks a potentially world-ending conflict with China and Russia.

Our only hope for the future is to abandon the futile quest for hegemony and instead commit to peace, cooperative diplomacy, international law and disarmament. After 20 years of war and militarism that has only left the world a more dangerous place and accelerated America’s decline, we must choose the path of peace.

The post How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden Exits Afghanistan, Heads in the Wrong Direction

On August 31, Joe Biden accepted the inevitable and announced the final departure of all open military personnel from Afghanistan.

Perhaps, the most important part of the speech had to do with the future, and here Biden was unequivocal:

And here is the critical thing to understand: The world is changing. We’re engaged in a serious competition with China. We’re dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. ….We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet these new challenges and the competition for the 21st century.

A major motivation for getting out of Afghanistan is to give the US a freer hand to bring down China and Russia. And this is not to be a peaceful “Pivot.” The US has surrounded both countries with military bases, and the Pivot to Asia, pioneered by Obama/Hillary/Biden, sees 60% of America’s naval forces ending up in China’s neighborhood.

The Final Quagmire. In the aftermath of the Afghan retreat the resolutely clueless mainstream punditocracy is asking: Has the US learned from this latest fiasco about the limits of its power? Did they not read Biden’s speech? Clearly, they have not.

If the US has not been able to defeat a minor power like Afghanistan (or Vietnam), what are the odds of doing so with major powers like Russia and China? And given the nuclear weapons capacity of these powers, where might that lead? How many Cuban Missile Crises, or worse, shall we have to go through in this New Cold War before one incident leads not simply to endless war but to a world ending war?

Let us be clear. Biden did the right thing in terminating the war and he should do the same in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. He has, however, not only done the right thing for the wrong reason, but for a very malign reason which will lead to greater problems and graver dangers.

Unfortunately, the pols, the pundits and think tankers pay no heed to the danger here. Equally sad, too many liberals are silent about this New Cold War or cheer it as a new crusade for “democracy and human rights.” But some opposition is coming from a quarter that must deal with reality, not ideology or electioneering demagoguery.

The Business Realists Push Back. On the day after Biden’s speech, the New York Times ran a story on the front page of the business section entitled, “Businesses Push Biden to Develop China Trade Policy: … companies want the White House to drop tariffs on Chinese goods and provide clarity about a critical trade relationship.” Said the article:

Business impatience with the administration’s approach is mounting. Corporate leaders say they need clarity about whether American companies will be able to do business with China, which is one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets. Business groups say their members are being put at a competitive disadvantage by the tariffs, which have raised costs for American importers.

Patrick Gelsinger, the chief executive of Intel, said in an interview last week…’To me, just saying, ‘Let’s be tough on China,’ that’s not a policy, that’s a campaign slogan. It’s time to get to the real work of having a real policy of trade relationships and engagement around business exports and technology with China.’

In early August, a group of influential U.S. business groups sent a letter to Ms. Yellen and Ms. Tai (recently appointed U.S. Trade Representative) urging the administration to restart trade talks with China and cut tariffs on imported Chinese goods.

The silent cruelty of Biden’s speech. Biden was right to grieve for the 2,461 Americans killed in Afghanistan. But he failed to mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed as a direct result of the war, hundreds of thousands more as a result of disease and malnutrition and the millions displaced internally and millions more as external refugees. Instead of apologies from Biden and an offer of reparations, there came news that the US was freezing over $9 billion dollars in Afghan foreign assets needed by this starving nation lying in ruins.

The United States has apparently learned nothing either in terms of the limits of its power or the morality of its foreign policy if we are to take Biden’s speech and actions as any indication. To say the least, it will not be easy to change this, but we have no choice. A calamity beyond imagination awaits us if we fail.

The post Biden Exits Afghanistan, Heads in the Wrong Direction first appeared on Dissident Voice.

America’s Original Sin in Post-9/11 Afghanistan

The collapse of Kabul was certainly inevitable but not because U.S.-trained Afghan forces woke up on the morning of August 15 and were suddenly struck with an overwhelming desire to surrender. In fact, a direct line can be drawn from the present moment back to the United States’ decision two decades ago to prevent the Afghans from deciding their own destiny after the Taliban were ousted.

The tragedy begins at the now infamous 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga in Kabul where three-fourths of delegates voted in favor of bringing King Zahir Shah back from exile to serve as Afghanistan’s interim head of state. The strategy to unify the fractured country around this symbolic figurehead made sense given Afghanistan saw 40 consecutive years of relative peace and stability during the king’s reign before a coup exiled him to Rome in 1973.

The vote that emanated from the jirga, a council of elders then still deemed a sacred vehicle for expressing the will of the Afghan people, astonishingly cut across the country’s deep ethnosectarian and tribal lines. Moreover, the plan reportedly was supported by some senior Pakistani military leaders and even key figures within the just-ousted Taliban movement.

So, hopes were high that the king – supposedly still seen as a beloved figure by most Afghans – could temporarily keep the country together until a legitimate and inclusive political solution was formed.

However, this window of opportunity to unite the country for the first time since the 1970s was slammed shut in a painful twist of historical irony. Back at the jirga meeting in 2002, the very same U.S. envoy who helped negotiate the Doha deal with the Taliban in 2020, strong-armed the king into withdrawing so Washington could install Hamid Karzai as president. In addition, the U.S. handed out ministry posts to warlords for their role in helping to overthrow the Taliban.

Former EU political adviser Lucy Morgan Edwards said she witnessed the incident firsthand and how the United States gave the warlords political legitimacy.

“The US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, sidelined the popular former king and made a Faustian bargain with the warlords to allow them into the meeting,” Edwards wrote in a 2013 piece for The Guardian. “This paved the way for them to hijack the state-building process.”

The move instantaneously transformed Karzai into a Western puppet in the eyes of most Afghans. The Karzai government turned out to be rampantly corrupt and incompetent – and to such an extent that the Taliban soon began to look like an appealing alternative. The Ghani administration, of course, would continue this pattern and, as many predicted, the dysfunction and unabashed graft culminated in the Taliban lightning seizure of power.

U.S. Army War College professor M. Chris Mason, who served as a political officer on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, told this author that the jirga was a stage play rigged by the CIA to “put our man Karzai in office.”

In a piece for The Military Review, the U.S. army’s think tank, he and co-author Professor Thomas Johnson argued that “even a ceremonial monarchy would have provided the critically needed source of traditional legitimacy necessary to stabilize the new government and constitution.”

Instead, the opportunity to save Afghanistan was lost.

“The elimination of the monarchy under the new Afghan constitution was very likely the single greatest mistake made by the United States and the United Nations after 2001 – admittedly a high bar in a full field of contestants,” Mason and Johnson wrote in 2009. “As an unrecoverable strategic error, it is the Afghan equivalent of the CIA-inspired coup against Diem in Vietnam in November 1963.”

One could argue that the U.S. decision to install Karzai against the will of the Afghan people, in addition to empowering warlords, planted the seeds that guaranteed a Taliban comeback.

In fact, in a new report – issued two days after the collapse of Kabul – the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) blasted the United States for “legitimizing” Afghan warlords with political and financial support and underscored the damage rendered by this strategy.

“The United States helped to lay a foundation for continued impunity of malign actors, weak rule of law, and the growth of corruption,” the report, published on August 17, said.

Although Afghanistan’s fate may have been sealed by America’s original sin, the United States in the ensuing two decades only exacerbated the situation.  Washington continued to fuel corruption with excessive spending, lack of oversight, and unrealistic timelines, according to SIGAR.

SIGAR chief John Sopko has for years warned that such endemic corruption posed the greatest “existential threat” to the Afghan government – an admonition that now seems quite prescient. And one cannot emphasize enough that the roots of this threat can be directly traced and found in the tragic decisions and actions the United States took in June of 2002, which seem to have been long forgotten by anyone in Washington.

Meanwhile, despite all of this, U.S. President Joe Biden – rather than acknowledging any role the United States might have played in the entire fiasco – has so far chosen to point the finger at the Afghan army’s lack of willingness to fight.

In other words, the United States is blaming Afghan troops for refusing to risk their lives defending a predatory regime the United States helped create in the first place.

The post America’s Original Sin in Post-9/11 Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Afghanistan:  Longest US War Continues to a New Stage

The longest of the United States’ “forever wars” in Afghanistan was supposed to end August 31 after President Biden extended his predecessor’s withdrawal date from May of this year. But what will be ending is not clear; certainly not the imperial mission of the world’s superpower. If the US determines that it cannot impose its hegemony on that corner of the world through a compliant client state, it will opt for chaos instead.

Puppeteer departs – puppet forces collapse

In recent weeks, the Taliban military rapidly advanced, taking provincial capitals in Afghanistan and then the capital city of Kabul on August 15. The US-backed former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in a helicopter packed with cash, the US embassy took down the stars-and-stripes, and Western governments evacuated personnel.

In the leadup to the debacle, the US bombed a country, which has minimal air defenses, in a war that has cost at least 171,000 to 174,000 lives. Along with Qatar-based long-range B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers and AC-130 Spectre gunships, MQ-9 Reaper drones were deployed.

While claiming it would end the war, the US had intended to continue to bomb Afghanistan at will and to keep private military contractors (i.e., mercenaries) there, along with some uniformed US and allied NATO troops such as those from Turkey. The New York Times conceded that: “Instead of declared troops in Afghanistan, the United States will most likely rely on a shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives to find and attack the most dangerous Qaeda or Islamic State threats, current and former American officials said.” All those plans are now being reevaluated.

Even before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, tens of thousands of Afghan refugees were slated to come to the US with Washington already releasing $300 million in the effort. Under the US Refugee Admissions Program, the former collaborators with the US occupation of their country will likely form a bastion of rightwing sentiment similar to the role that anti-Cuban Revolution refugees play in the US.

The US had spent $2.3 trillion on the war and over twenty years building the Afghan Armed Forces. In a matter of days that army capitulated. Indications are that the clearly repressive religious extremist Taliban was not so much welcomed by most Afghans as much as the US and its NATO allies were rejected.

Only a month ago, Biden confidently proclaimed a rout of the Afghan Armed Forces by the Taliban was impossible: “Because you have the Afghan troops that’s 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.” Yet the Taliban with far fewer fighters, backed by no foreign power, and severely inferior in terms of equipment – never a commanding military force – prevailed because their adversary was so profoundly repugnant. They were natives, not occupiers.

US as the midwife to the birth of the Taliban

The antecedents of the Taliban date to the CIA-backed insurgency against the socialist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which was instituting modernization, emancipation of women, literacy, and land reform programs starting in 1978. The US war in Afghanistan is longer than just two decades. An extension of the old Cold War, the Afghanistan phase started with Ronald Reagan’s support of the mujahadeen “freedom fighters” back in the 1980s in a US jihad against the Soviet Union. And “the longest war” is continuing today with Joe Biden’s New Cold War.

Back then, the Soviet Union was allied with the socialist government in Afghanistan. Soon Moscow was caught in a lose-lose situation of either allowing a nearby country to be subverted by the West or dispatching troops there to defend against a foreign-instigated insurgency. US President Carter’s National Security Advisor Brzezinski saw Afghanistan as a trap to get the US’s adversary into a Vietnam-like quagmire “to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible.” The cost of having Soviet troops on the ground in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 is believed to have contributed to the dissolution of the USSR.

Various mujahideen elements backed by foreign powers, particularly the US coordinating with Pakistan, were used to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992. In the following Afghan Civil War period, the Taliban arose in 1994 out of the contending mujahideen armies. By 1996, it had emerged triumphant against five rival mujahideen factions.

From being a US ally and asset, the Taliban became the enemy in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan was somewhat speciously justified with allegations that under Taliban rule the country had harbored terrorists and had links to al-Qaida. More to the point, the long occupation of Afghanistan was a projection of US military capacity into central Asia. Especially after the Islamic Revolution in Iran overthrew the US client regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the US needed military and surveillance bases close to the belly of Russia and China.

Restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the prospects of chaos

With the seizure of Kabul by the Taliban just days ago, the prospect of a nation ruled under strict Sharia law with brutal penalties for noncompliance is chilling. Interference in Afghanistan by the US was never motivated by its abhorrence to fundamentalist theocracies or the Taliban’s repulsive record on women’s rights, as evidenced by Washington’s fawning treatment of the Saudi dictatorship.

The Taliban is primarily drawn from the Pushtun ethnic group, which comprises nearly half of the Afghan population. However, the Taliban does not have consolidated support among other ethnic groups, especially in the north, or even within the Pushtun population. One of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest birth rates, Afghanistan faces rampant COVID, drug addiction, and food shortages. Further, the Taliban lacks the experience for national rule and is not popular outside their rural bases, making for an extremely volatile situation.

It is not clear what the US role will be now regarding Afghanistan. The precipitous US retreat may not mean a complete defeat; timing should not be confused with the substance. The US could still reach a new accommodation with the Taliban to further US strategic and economic interests, while exploiting the Taliban’s brand of Sunni zealotry to destabilize nearby Shi’ite Iran, Russia with its Chechnya insurgency, and China with its Uyghur insurgency.

Both China and Russia have officially met with the Taliban in the last month precisely to try to forestall the exportation of extremist Islamic insurgency within their borders. Also in July, representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government were hosted in Tehran, and Iran remains “cautiously open” to the new government in Kabul with whom they share a 572-mile border.

Chaos in Afghanistan with the prospect of disorder spilling over regionally, while perhaps not the preferred option for the US, could have the advantage for the US imperial project of derailing development initiatives in Russia and especially China with its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative extending into Afghanistan. In a not unsimilar situation after the US was forced to withdraw from Vietnam, Brzezinski claimed he encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot and the Thai to help the Khmer Rouge.

Afghanistan is now in far worse a condition than before the US invasion. Afghanistan is the world’s leading source of illicit drugs, followed by the US client state of Colombia. Under US occupation, Afghanistan became the “world’s first true nacro-state.”

While the current military advances of the Taliban look like defeats for the US imperial project, this is not the same as a victory for the WAfghans whose progressive secular government, the socialist Democratic Republic, was quashed three decades ago. Once again, the US empire offers the world a binary choice between submission to its “rules-based order,” where the US makes the rules and disregards international law, or chaos.

Meanwhile inside the beltway and beyond, recriminations about US policy failures in Afghanistan are being hurled in all directions. US President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 obituary on the US people’s objection to endless imperial war – “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” – may yet prove to be premature.

The post Afghanistan:  Longest US War Continues to a New Stage first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Wounded Paternalism: Biden and the US Imperial Complex

Civilisation has tended to be seen like a gift by those claiming to grant it.  It is done, in the sense Rudyard Kipling intended it, with solemn duty.  It is a task discharged as a burden borne heavily.  In its modern form, notably in the hands of the US, it comes with fast food, roads, schools and blue chip stocks.  Civilisation, in this context, is also unsolicited, imposed upon a country, whether they would wish it to be.  Autonomy comes into it superficially: the custodianship of a puppet regime, often rapacious.

The results of such unsolicited gifts are there to be seen by the proclaimed civilisers who eventually leave, of which Afghanistan is simply another example.  They create classes and groups of citizens who risk being compromised by the forces that seize power. They cause discord and disruption to local conditions.

When the paternalism of civilisation’s builders goes wrong, the only ones blamed are those who either did not understand it, or ignored its beneficent properties.  This was the implication in the August 16 speech by President Joseph Biden.  To be fair, Biden had never believed in a “counterinsurgency or nation building” mission to begin with.  Being in Afghanistan had, in his mind, only one purpose: counterterrorism.  And the threat had changed, “metastasized” to include a global consortium of challenges: al-Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, the efforts of ISIS.

While the speed of the Taliban’s advance had surprised the president, he noted those Afghan “political leaders” who “gave up and fled the country.”  The US-armed Afghan military had “collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.”  All of this provided firm reassurance to him “that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”  US troops “cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”

An acknowledgment was also made about the money, training and material provided – those attributes of imperial supply – to local soldiers who simply would not pull their weight.  “We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong – incredibly well equipped – a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.”  Such a picture of ingratitude!

The paternalists, stricken by a misplaced sense of duty of care, insist that more must be done to save personnel who worked for Coalition forces and Afghans who served their projects.  Washington’s allies have been scolding, accusing Biden of not carrying the standard of Western values high enough, let alone long enough.  Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, assessed the withdrawal as fundamentally damaging “to the political and moral credibility of the West.”  These were “bitter events” for the believers “in democracy and freedom, especially for women”.

German politicians had gone so far as to see the mission in Afghanistan in moral terms.  It was meant to be an invasion without those historically militarist overtones that had characterised previous uses of German military strength.  “The security of the Federal Republic of Germany,” declared former Defence Minister Peter Struck in justifying the troop presence, “is also being defended in the Hindu Kush.”

Tom Tugendhat, Conservative chair of the UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee, put a touch of Britannic gloss on the episode, using all the themes that come with benevolent, and eventually departing, empire.  “Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez.  We need to think again about how we handle friends, who matters and how we defend our interests.”

In the US itself, the worried paternalists on the Hill are many.  Democratic Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have women’s rights on their mind.  In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the signed parties “strongly” urged the creation of “a humanitarian parole category especially for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, judges parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces and to streamline the paperwork process to facilitate referrals to allow for fast, humane, and efficient relocation to the United States.”

For these worried souls, the demonic Taliban is responsible for war crimes, summary executions, public beatings and flogging of women, sexual violence and forced marriage, as well as a press “clampdown”.  There is no mention of a restoration of order, the reining in of banditry, and the protection of property.  Their version of the Afghan conflict is one resolutely cockeyed.

Shaheen of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees issued a plea to Biden for “swift, decisive action” lest Afghan civilians “suffer or die at the hands of the Taliban.”  Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton chastised the leaders from both parties who refused to go on with the occupation.  They had “failed to hold the votes for re-authorizing this conflict for the last two decades since we invaded to find Osama bin Laden.  For that, all of us in Congress should be ashamed.”

The subtext to all of this: we should be telling the Afghans what to do, how to sort out squabbles and how to march to the beat of our nation-building tune.  Like fans of the deceptively named “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, it is left to powerful states to determine the conditions under which such responsibility is determined, and when the gift of civilisation shall be provided.  The line between the duty to protect and the idea of might is right is not only crossed but rubbed out altogether.

Amidst the warnings, pleas and bleeding heart urgings, the apologists ignore that the mission civilisatrice in Afghanistan came with its own barbarisms: atrocities, torture, the use of drones and an assortment of devilishly lethal weapons.  But these were seen as a necessary toll.  The events unfolding over the last few days should be offering US lawmakers and Washington’s allies firm lessons.  These promise to be ignored.

The post Wounded Paternalism: Biden and the US Imperial Complex first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Not Boycott US Products Until It Ends Its Embargo of Cuba and Leaves Guantanamo?

On 23 June, 184 nations at United Nations voted for an end to the half-century long USA embargo against tiny Cuba. Only the USA and Israel voted against the resolution.

A Reuters article reprinted in the New York Times wrote:

Cuba said earlier this month the decades-old U.S. trade embargo cost it a record total of more than $9 billion over the last financial year, hurting its ability to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the General Assembly that sanctions had made it harder for Cuba to acquire medical equipment needed to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines and for other uses as well as equipment for food production. “Like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, it must stop,” Rodriguez told the General Assembly.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark once wrote of America’s penchant for violence:

The consistent underlying psychology of the United States, … should be understandable to anyone who has ever known a violent neighborhood bully. The government of Americans means to have its way through the use and threatened to use of superior force. It will lie. It will deceive. It will kill. It will escalate the threat and use of force to the highest level it dares. It will bluff, dangerous as that can be. It will do whatever is must to dominate.1

In the case of Cuba, US President Kennedy, approved bombing, an invasion that took the lives of 900+ Cubans, brought even the threat of nuclear war to bear, and thereafter had his Attorney General Robert Kennedy run what was called Operation Mongoose, which included deadly sabotage and attempts to assassinate Cuba’s Prime Minister Fidel Castro.

All, while at the same time, USA’s greatest trading partner was, and is more than ever, Communist Party run China.

USA Does Not Embargo Communist China 

The USA has not invaded China big time since the US looted imperialist Peking in 1900.

But it tried to stop the Chinese revolution and in 1950 used its 7th Fleet to protect Chiang Kai-shek who with his Nationalist (Capitalist) Army invaded Taiwan and installed a draconian dictatorship.2

However, China has the gumption to call for the US to end its embargo of Cuba. Newsweek reported, “China has called on the United States to promptly lift its decades-long trade restrictions on Cuba.”3

Might Cuba Herself Request Help with Such a Boycott?

If no other agency sees fit to call for an international boycott of American products in sympathy with the US caused suffering of the Cuban people, may heaven see the Cuban government itself call for such a boycott of US products. 

We have seen for some years now, Russia, China, and Iran avoiding the use of the US dollar currency.

In any obviously unequal fight, the tendency is for onlookers to side with the little guy, for the underdog and against the bully. This could auger success for such a boycott to catch on.

A lot of salt-of-the-Earth hard-working, ordinary citizens and their families might enjoy joining in to help fight the injustice of the superpower nation of 331 million in a land of 3.797 million square miles relentlessly attacking a nation of 11 million on an island of 42,426 square miles.

Millions of shoppers passing up buying “Made in USA” or an American brand name made in Vietnam, Thailand, or Indonesia, when a non-American-made item from, for example, Japan or China is just as acceptable, might just be a little unsettling with all the other troubles America seems to be having these days.

What the Hell! When all is said and done and everything settles down, ending the embargo might be the best thing for all sides in both countries.

  1. Cubans in Cuba could lead more enjoyable and normal lives with the latest modernities.
  1. The Communist Party of Cuba could focus on what is most important for the welfare of Cubans, rather than be focused and concerned about finances and providing food.
  1. Americans aware of the genocidal crimes of their government against Cuba and most other Latin American peoples (and Asian, Middle Eastern and African nations), could applaud at least one improvement in US genocidal foreign policy and feel hopeful for more.
  1. The evil minds of the criminal Deep-State-Military-Industrial-Complex-Wall Street investors in war, for the flood of US tourists and visitors and money and consumer culture and indulgence into Cuba, could have a good chance of witnessing the demise of the intensity of Cuban revolutionary spirit for overthrowing (perhaps too precipitously), the neocolonial capitalist domination of society at home in the USA as well as abroad in the poor and still financially plundered captive Third World. After all ‘they,’ the bad guys of Wall Street, are still number one, though probably not for all that much longer. Imperialist White folks are losing their edge in weaponry, and though there are so so very many of those people of differing hues of skin color, they haven’t yet gotten riled up enough to realize that they really don’t have to put up with just a few White US billionaires owning more wealth than half of humanity collectively.)4

In any case, with all the changes now happening in the USA about “Whose Lives Matter,” maybe this murderously long, unfair Yankee embargo of Cuba and military occupation of Guantanamo will just logically peter out.

Your author won’t prejudice such an expected felicitous outcome, by crowding it with the mention of more recent crimes against humanity by the United States of America in and on Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti. However, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti’s turn at rectification, if not remuneration, should follow on the heels of the end of the crimes against Cuba, whether or not hastened by the international boycott suggested in this brief article.

  1. US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, in his forward to nuclear physicist Micho Kaku’s To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans.
  2. The Great Debate: Chiang Kai-shek’s Role in 21st Century Taiwan,” The Diplomat.
  3. “China Says U.S. Should ‘Immediately’ Lift Cuba Embargo and Stop Interfering,” Newsweek, 7/19/21.
  4. These 6 Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population,” Common Dreams.
    Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world,” Oxfam.
    World’s Richest 1 Percent Own Twice as Much as Bottom 90 Percent,” PND.
The post Why Not Boycott US Products Until It Ends Its Embargo of Cuba and Leaves Guantanamo? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots

Jonah Goldberg and Michael Ledeen have much in common. They are both writers and also cheerleaders for military interventions and, often, for frivolous wars. Writing in the conservative rag, The National Review, months before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Goldberg paraphrased a statement which he attributed to Ledeen with reference to the interventionist US foreign policy.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” Goldberg wrote, quoting Ledeen.

Those like Ledeen, the neoconservative intellectual henchman type, often get away with this kind of provocative rhetoric for various reasons. American intelligentsias, especially those who are close to the center of power in Washington DC, perceive war and military intervention as the foundation and baseline of their foreign policy analysis. The utterances of such statements are usually conveyed within friendly media and intellectual platforms, where equally hawkish, belligerent audiences cheer and laugh at the war-mongering muses. In the case of Ledeen, the receptive audience was the hardline, neoconservative, pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Predictably, AEI was one of the loudest voices urging for a war and invasion of Iraq prior to that calamitous decision by the George W. Bush Administration, which was enacted in March 2003.

Neoconservatism, unlike what the etymology of the name may suggest, was not necessarily confined to conservative political circles. Think tanks, newspapers and media networks that purport – or are perceived – to express liberal and even progressive thought today, like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, have dedicated much time and space to promoting an American invasion of Iraq as the first step of a complete US geostrategic military hegemony in the Middle East.

Like the National Review, these media networks also provided unhindered space to so-called neoconservative intellectuals who molded American foreign policy based on some strange mix between their twisted take on ethics and morality and the need for the US to ensure its global dominance throughout the 21st century. Of course, the neocons’ love affair with Israel has served as the common denominator among all individuals affiliated with this intellectual cult.

The main – and inconsequential – difference between Ledeen, for example, and those like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, is that the former is brazen and blunt, while the latter is delusional and manipulative. For his part, Friedman also supported the Iraq war, but only to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East and to fight ‘terrorism’. The pretense ‘war on terror’, though misleading if not outright fabricated, was the overriding American motto in its invasion of Iraq and, earlier, Afghanistan. This mantra was readily utilized whenever Washington needed to ‘pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall’.

Even those who genuinely supported the war based on concocted intelligence – that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction, or the equally fallacious notion that Saddam and Al-Qaeda cooperated in any way – must, by now, realize that the entire American discourse prior to the war had no basis in reality. Unfortunately, war enthusiasts are not a rational bunch. Therefore, neither they, nor their ‘intellectuals’, should be expected to possess the moral integrity in shouldering the responsibility for the Iraq invasion and its horrific consequences.

If, indeed, the US wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were meant to fight and uproot terror, how is it possible that, in June 2014, an erstwhile unknown group calling itself the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), managed to flourish, occupy and usurp massive swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories and resource under the watchful eye of the US military? If the other war objective was bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East, why did many years of US ‘state-building’ efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, leave behind nothing but weak, shattered armies and festering corruption?

Two important events have summoned up these thoughts: US President Joe Biden’s ‘historic’ trip to Cornwall, UK, in June, to attend the 47th G7 summit and, two weeks later, the death of Donald Rumsfeld, who is widely depicted as “the architect of the Iraq war”. The tone struck by Biden throughout his G7 meetings is that ‘America is back’, another American coinage similar to the earlier phrase, the ‘great reset’ – meaning that Washington is ready to reclaim its global role that had been betrayed by the chaotic policies of former President Donald Trump.

The newest phrase – ‘America is back’ – appears to suggest that the decision to restore the US’ uncontested global leadership is, more or less, an exclusively American decision. Moreover, the term is not entirely new. In his first speech to a global audience at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, Biden repeated the phrase several times with obvious emphasis.

“America is back. I speak today as President of the United States, at the very start of my administration and I am sending a clear message to the world: America is back,” Biden said, adding that “the transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking backward, we are looking forward together.”

Platitudes and wishful thinking aside, the US cannot possibly return to a previous geopolitical standing, simply because Biden has made an executive decision to ‘reset’ his country’s traditional relationships with Europe – or anywhere else, either.  Biden’s actual mission is to merely whitewash and restore his country’s tarnished reputation, marred not only by Trump, but also by years of fruitless wars, a crisis of democracy at home and abroad and an impending financial crisis resulting from the US’ mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately for Washington, while it hopes to ‘look forward’ to the future, other countries have already staked claims to parts of the world where the US has been forced to retreat, following two decades of a rudderless strategy that is fueled by the belief that firepower alone is sufficient to keep America aloft forever.

Though Biden was received warmly by his European hosts, Europe is likely to proceed cautiously. The continent’s geostrategic interests do not fall entirely in the American camp, as was once the case. Other new factors and power players have emerged in recent years. China is now the European bloc’s largest trade partner and Biden’s scare tactics warning of Chinese global dominance have not, seemingly, impressed the Europeans as the Americans had hoped. Following Britain’s unceremonious exit from the EU bloc, the latter urgently needs to keep its share of the global economy as large as possible. The limping US economy will hardly make the substantial deficit felt in Europe. Namely, the China-EU relationship is here to stay – and grow.

There is something else that makes the Europeans wary of whatever murky political doctrine Biden is promoting: dangerous American military adventurism.

The US and Europe are the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which, since its inception in 1949, was almost exclusively used by the US to assert its global dominance, first in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, then everywhere else.

Following the September 11 attacks, Washington used its hegemony over NATO to invoke Article 5 of its Charter, that of collective defense. The consequences were dire, as NATO members, along with the US, were embroiled in their longest wars ever, military conflicts that had no consistent strategy, let alone measurable goals. Now, as the US licks its wounds as it leaves Afghanistan, NATO members, too, are leaving the devastated country without a single achievement worth celebrating. Similar scenarios are transpiring in Iraq and Syria, too.

Rumsfeld’s death on June 29, at the age of 88, should serve as a wake-up call to American allies if they truly wish to avoid the pitfalls and recklessness of the past. While much of the US corporate media commemorated the death of a brutish war criminal with amiable non-committal language, some blamed him almost entirely for the Iraq fiasco. It is as if a single man had bent the will of the West-dominated international community to invade, pillage, torture and destroy entire countries. If so, then Rumsfeld’s death should usher in an exciting new dawn of collective peace, prosperity and security. This is not the case.

Rationalizing his decision to leave Afghanistan in a speech to the nation in April 2021, Biden did not accept, on behalf of his country, responsibility over that horrific war. Instead, he spoke of the need to fight the ‘terror threat’ in ‘many places’, instead of keeping ‘thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country’.

Indeed, a close reading of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan – a process which began under Trump – suggests that the difference between US foreign policy under Biden is only tactically different from the policies of George W. Bush when he launched his ‘preemptive wars’ under the command of Rumsfeld. Namely, though the geopolitical map may have shifted, the US appetite for war remains insatiable.

Shackled with a legacy of unnecessary, fruitless and immoral wars, yet with no actual ‘forward’ strategy, the US, arguably for the first time since the inception of NATO in the aftermath of World War II, has no decipherable foreign policy doctrine. Even if such a doctrine exists, it can only be materialized through alliances whose relationships are constructed on trust and confidence. Despite the EU’s courteous reception of Biden in Cornwall, trust in Washington is at an all-time low.

Even if it is accepted, without any argument, that America is, indeed, back, considering the vastly changing geopolitical spheres in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Biden’s assertion should, ultimately, make no difference.

The post US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots first appeared on Dissident Voice.

To The One Who Ruined My Life

(Copyright Free Image)

Dearest Uncle,

Hope you are doing well because I am not! All thanks to you.

For years, you have controlled me. Abused me. Held me back from the future I deserved.

During my early years, you saw I needed guidance, and you took advantage of my weakness. You exploited me. Used me. I was nothing but a pawn in your big, ugly game.

At that time, I was too vulnerable to know the toxicity of our relationship, yet too naïve to see through the kindness hiding the ulterior motives you harbored. Motives that served your interests, never mine.

Looking back, I understand the harsh truth. You feigned friendship. Little did I know you were patting my shoulder with one hand while stabbing me in the back with the other. All I received in return were pain and betrayal. I trusted you. You failed me. Miserably.

Remember those crazy times? I can never forget it, regardless of how hard I try. Those memories haunt me like a nightmare.

It wasn’t long before I realized you were a control freak, preying on my innocence. You were jealous, possessive, and narcissistic. You only worried about yourself—so selfish!

Then I began to think for myself and question the stranglehold you held over me. The day I rose was the day you lost power over me. It was also the day I began to clean up the mess you left in my life.

Truth be told, I know nothing infuriates you more than seeing someone stand on their own without your support. Even more so because I was very close at hand.

Ever since I stood on my own feet, you have been throwing stones at me. You’ve been criticizing everything I do, calling me names, and trying your best to bring me down. You’ve hurt me beyond measure.

The moment I stood up for myself and demanded my rightful respect, you saw me as a threat. Did you really think I would live out my days subservient to you?

You threatened to cut off support. A threat you eventually followed through with. When others tried to support me, you stopped them at every opportunity. Do you realize how your decision scarred me beyond repair? You have made life a living hell for my children and me.

What infuriates me most is when you claim to have done all that because you ‘cared’ for me and all for my own good. Really? I don’t think so. If you truly loved me, truly put my needs first, you would have lent me a hand instead of pushing me to the ground.

Not that I was perfect. Nobody is, including you. You have your faults too. And don’t get me started on your wrongdoings. Trust me; it’s an unforgivably long list.

I’m smaller than you. Weaker, not as powerful. You overshadowed me at every turn! That doesn’t excuse your misdeeds, not one bit.

Don’t underestimate me. I am small yet determined. Always remember—even a tiny spark can ignite a colossal fire.

Along the way, you’ve manipulated me, convincing me I was the crazy one. And you somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of others too. You told half-truths, making them believe I was awful and dangerous. You justified the unjustifiable punishments you inflicted upon me.

Me? Dangerous? Look who’s talking. The one who taught me everything I know.

Remember the saying, ‘When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.’ You’re the vile one. You’ve ruined more lives than I can fathom. Talk about hypocrisy!

But thankfully, I had a like-minded friend in my life. Someone who cared about me. He gave me what you couldn’t, or rather, wouldn’t—help, support, and above all, respect. He stood by me when you cast me aside. You despised him because he never got along with you. He challenged your authority over me and defied the limits you tried to put on him.

My friendship flourished, and I slowly got back on my feet. After all the trauma and abuse you inflicted upon me, I was healing year by year.

Everything went smoothly until the dreadful day when my friend left me. As they say—all good things must come to an end. When it happened in my life, it hit me harder than I thought it would have.

Nevertheless, being the resilient rebel I am, I picked myself up and wade through life no matter how hard it got. After all, I resisted you in the past. If I could move on after escaping your grasp, I could do the same after he left me, too.

Fast forward, and now it’s been decades since I broke free of your clutches and started surviving on my own. They say time heals all wounds. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with me.

You convinced others that the blame for my suffering lay at my feet. That’s not true. Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs. I would be lying if I said I am faultless. I accept the responsibility that is mine, but the root cause of my current problematic state is you.

In your eyes, you see yourself as a benevolent big brother—always ‘caring’ for others. But in reality, you are nothing more than a big bully. Always putting pressure on others under the guise of doing good. You took what you wanted from me, even if it meant using force. Like a mighty bald eagle preying on a weaker bird.

You wanted me to be your puppet, with you pulling the strings from behind to control and manipulate me. Fortunately, despite your many attempts, I never fell into the same trap again.

I’m not ashamed of myself, I only regret that I ever trusted you. You are the one who should be apologetic for the way you treated me. I don’t deserve any of this. In fact, nobody does.

At times, I wish you were in my shoes. I want you to feel the agonizing pain and immense struggle you put me through. But I’m not heartless like you. I don’t want others to go through the pain I endured.

Do you know how badly I needed your apology? I wished you’d realize the extent of the damage you’ve done. As expected, you never paid me any attention once I left your control. Classic you!

To this day, you don’t have the courage to own up to the mess you created in my life. You always tell me life’s hard for everyone, and I didn’t have it in me to overcome the hurdles along my way. You think I’m a piece of shit who doesn’t deserve sympathy.

You broke me, emotionally and financially. Yet there’s one thing you will never break—my spirit. That’s what has kept me going, despite my many shortcomings.

Over time, I’d hoped you wouldn’t hurt anyone else the way you hurt me. But, being the megalomaniac you are, you went on to ruin many lives just like mine.

Time and again, I wish I’d never been so close to you. The proximity made me more vulnerable to your predatory advances.

I know you will never bother to give a damn about any of this. In your make-believe world, you’ve done nothing wrong, and I’ve brought this upon myself.

Thinking about the future upsets me. If I have a future, to begin with. I don’t know what tomorrow holds for me or what will become of me. Yet I know what I strive never to become—you. The last thing I want is for me to be like you.

A John Milton poem says, ‘Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.’ I would rather be my own master than be your slave. Regardless of how shitty my life is, I can still live with dignity instead of living under your mercy.

As I am writing this letter, I recognize how pointless it is. You’re not going to mend your ways; your massive ego won’t allow it to happen. I’m not saying you’ll never change. That is always a possibility. Deep inside my heart, there is a sliver of hope that someday, you’ll have a change of heart.

Even now, you’re desperate to control me. I’m sick and tired of your never-ending reprimands and threats. I can’t take the abuse anymore. I refuse to endure any more mistreatment at your hand.
I am utterly frustrated and dismayed. Enough is enough!

Try whatever you wish. I won’t give in to your manipulative tendencies. No longer will I be a pawn in your game, for I am the master of my own destiny.

My life is not yours. It never was and never will be.

It is mine and mine only. I am going to fight to survive, whatever it takes.

So, save yourself the effort and stop playing with my life. I may make mistakes, but they will be MY mistakes. Trusting you was my mistake.

Thank you for fucking up my very existence, Uncle Sam.

Yours regretfully,

Cuba

*****
Since the dawn of the 20th Century, the United States government has tried to control its neighboring island nation of Cuba. During the 1940s, US-backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s pro-American policies caused public dissatisfaction, eventually resulting in political repression and human rights abuses. All this led to the Cuban Revolution, where Cuba allied with the Soviet Union, after which the US imposed an economic embargo on Cuba. For almost sixty years now, the draconian blockade has exacerbated the socioeconomic difficulties experienced by the island’s million citizens. To this day, their struggle continues.

The post To The One Who Ruined My Life first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Progressive Death of Progressivism

Emblematic of our times, the Berniecrat organization Our Revolution – never remotely revolutionary – has rebranded itself as “pragmatic progressive.” This innovation is based on the realization that progressive reforms will never be enacted unless they are fought for.  And, since they are not about to fight President Biden, then it is only programmatic to accept that these reforms won’t happen.

Our Revolution surrenders

Good bye, Medicare-for-All, now that Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Bernie Sanders have abandoned the cause. Never mind that a majority of the electorate still favors the proposal. But to get Medicare-for-All, progressives would have to stand up to the Democratic Party. And that would entail a fight and therefore is not pragmatic.

A major reason for the Democrat’s obstruction of Medicare-for-All is that the health insurance industry and big pharma bought them off plus the entrenchment of corporate interests more broadly in the party. However, another factor is at work. Access to healthcare free-at-the-point-of-service would make working people more secure. For the exploiting class, it is better to forego a small gain in profits as the tradeoff for keeping workers precarious and thus less demanding. The people who run the Democratic Party know which side of the class barricades they are on; unfortunately, some progressives do not.

Some of the dump-Trump veterans, who are now AWOL in the battle against the current leader of the imperialist camp, proclaim Joe Biden is the political incarnate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lost in the fog of war is the fact that, for over forty years, Biden has been among the architects of the neoliberal project associated with the Democratic Leadership Group to bury FDR’s New Deal.

The New Deal was an experiment in a mild form of social democracy, where the capitalist ruling class allowed a degree of social welfare state functions in return for labor peace. Ever since Carter, gaining steam with Reagan and Clinton, and continuing now with Biden, neoliberal reform has entailed privatization of education, health, and other state enterprises, economic austerity for working people, and deregulation and tax relief for the corporations, while augmenting the coercive apparatus of the state. In short, since the 1970s, neoliberalism has been the form of contemporary capitalism.

This is what democracy looks like

In the run-up to the US 2020 presidential election, some erstwhile progressives told us to hold our noses and get on the Biden bandwagon. Then, as they worked alongside the decadent Democrats, they became desensitized to the redolence of being in proximity to power. And now some counsel us to stand down to the powerful and join in attacking the official enemies of Washington.

However, some Berniecrats have resisted the succor of the Democrat’s big tent and are still fighting the good fight under the banner of the Movement for a People’s Party. They have had the temerity to picket Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to hold her feet to the fire on her campaign promises.

This is what democracy looks like. Politicians can hardly be blamed for gravitating to the rewards of party orthodoxy, if their constituents fail to demand that they follow through on the platform that got them elected. But for demanding that politicians that talk progressive also walk progressive, those who speak truth to power are attacked by those who no longer consistently do so.

So, we often see the following progression. After shirking from criticizing the powerful, the next career move is to find legitimacy by criticizing those who do. For example, the Young Turks show accused anti-imperialist Grayzone reporter Aaron Mate falsely and without evidence of being “paid by the Russians.”

This is symptomatic of elements of progressivism who have become ever more comfortable with the Democrats as the only alternative to what they perceive as the greater evil of the Republicans. Since they now eschew criticizing those actually in power, they are relegated to attacking the genuine left. Rather than “battling Biden” as they promised after “dumping Trump,” some progressives have descended the slippery slope into providing left cover for the Democrats both on domestic and, as argued below, international fronts.

Covering for imperialism

The domestic capitulation of some self-identified progressives also translates into a deafening silence about opposing the imperialism of the Democratic Party. Shortly after the dawn of the new millennium, the US anti-war movement experienced a resurgence against Republican President George W. Bush’s Iraq war. But soon as Democrat Barack Obama took office, with Bush’s Secretary of Defense Gates still in charge, the anti-war movement collapsed and has been since largely quiescent.

More recently, imperialist ventures have been greeted with more than silence. There are now, unfortunately, full-throated echoes of the imperialist’s talking points by former anti-war activists and intellectuals.

Take the arguably once progressive NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) in a recent article specifically calling for “taking off the cloak of silence.” NACLA reports on the “long-standing totalitarian Cuban government.” According to the author, an expert on “social and cultural entrepreneurship” (i.e., promotion of capitalism), the US blockade of Cuba “isn’t responsible for the island’s economic downfall. Instead that is a result of the powerful [Cuban government] elite’s iron grip and stockpiling.” Of course, if that were anywhere near the truth, the US would have no need for the blockade.

This takes place in the context of President Biden doubling down on a regime-change offensive, reversing campaign promises to reverse Trump’s illegal sanctions on Cuba. Washington now believes Cuba is close to falling due to the deprivation caused by the ever-tightening US blockade exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

Further, NACLA tells us that the view of Cuba as a “model for many anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements” is not only wrong but that the Cuban’s attempt at socialism is based on “an economic model that is inherently ineffective.” Unfortunately, that verdict has a perverse element of truth. As long as the US can impose suffocating unilateral coercive measures on Cuba and other small nations striving for an alternative to neoliberalism, the socialist model will not be allowed to succeed.

Socialism is supposed to satisfy people’s needs, while capitalism is inherently a system that creates unlimited perceived needs without the means for their fulfillment. That is, under capitalism, a system driven by individual greed, one cannot ever accumulate too much. The carrot on a stick, perpetually dangled out of reach, is the essence of what the author of the NACLA article proudly calls “entrepreneurship.”

But what happens when – as the NACLA article admonishes – the nation striving for socialism can no longer “cover the basic necessities to make daily life worth living”? Apparently, solidarity with the Cubans against attacks by the world’s superpower is not paramount for some self-identified progressives who issued a recent petition to the Cuban government.

Their Change.org petition, quoting Rosa Luxemburg on freedom from a repressive state, demanded the release of Frank García Hernández arrested by the Cuban government on July 11. However, the Mr. García had already been released the following day, while the petition was still being circulated.

Whatever the intentions of the individual signatories of the petition, its actual impact had nothing to do with freeing someone who was already free and everything to do with providing a left cover for imperialism. Had the signatories been genuinely concerned with what they perceived as an overreaction by the Cubans to a manifestly existential security threat to their revolution, they should have also addressed the petition to the White House and demanded the ending or at least easing of that security threat. Some of these same individuals have also signed petitions against Nicaragua, Syria, and other official enemies of the US.

Struggling on two fronts

Meanwhile, the neoliberal order is becoming more and more exposed, with billionaires increasing their net worth astronomically while working people face a yet to be contained pandemic with inadequate healthcare, unemployment, and austerity. This is fuel for the populist right-wing, which could be the shock troops of a fascist movement. But we are not there yet.

The legitimate concern about fascism, when associated exclusively with Trump and his followers, has been used by some self-identified progressives as an excuse to embrace the Democrats. The struggle against “neofascist” Trumpism has been coopted into a surrender into the main party now in charge of the imperialist state and increasingly distinguishing itself as the leading proponent of war.

The January 6th riot by Trump supporters at the Capital Building was conflated by Democrats into a coup attempt of new kind where the perpetrators, instead of taking state power, took selfies and went home. Some of the villains of January 6th, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, turned out to be friendly with the FBI and possible agents with get-out-of-jail-free passes.

It would be cold comfort for progressives to discover that they have triumphed against the crude fascism of working-class guys with tattoos only to find that the friendly fascism of Saint Robert Mueller’s national security state has prevailed. Progressives, who have their canons aimed at Mar-a-Lago, may be leaving their backs exposed to those who now hold state power in Washington.

The ensuing clamor after January 6 from would-be progressives to expand the already enormous police powers of the state against protesters is an example of the dictum that you should be careful about what you wish for. The state coercive apparatus – police, military, homeland security, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. – has been and will be used against the left.

The genuinely progressive solution is not to support one or the other neoliberal party, which are collectively the perpetrators of the current calamity, but to struggle against the conditions that foster a right-wing insurgency. That is, resist both right-wing populism and the established ruling class, with the main emphasis on those in power.

The post The Progressive Death of Progressivism first appeared on Dissident Voice.