Category Archives: Joe Biden

Stalled Out on the Road to Damascus, Syria

The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles

— Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” 1965

A lot of folks, including this writer, were surprised to learn in the Spring of 2018 that the United States had a significant troop presence on Syrian soil.  Of course, America had shot some “Home of the Brave!” cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield only the Arab Spring before (April 7, 2017), marking the first time in the 6-year old conflict that the USA had officially attacked Syria.  The administration of Donald Trumpistan was quite new at the time, and the Corporate Press that was already addicted to Russia-phobing his novel presidency was falling all over themselves with praise for this unhinged action.  Why?  The cruise missile strike was explicitly framed as an “appropriate” response to an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, a claim that has since come under considerable scrutiny; indeed, so much so that employees walking the halls of the OPCW HQ are constantly shifting their eyes, wondering who will blow the whistle next…

Official American involvement, or threat of involvement, really began during the Summer of 2012, when Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize winning predecessor, Barack Obushma, declared that any Syrian use of WMD would constitute a “red line” for direct U.S. intervention.  Suddenly, visions of another “Iraq” were swirling in the foggy, Mesopotomac air.  The nimble Obama, however, quickly pivoted to assure all and sundry that any American response to such a dastardly deed would not involve “boots on the ground.”  Curiously enough, one year later, an alleged chemweaps attack occurred in the Damascus suburb of Gouta, the blame for which was immediately pinned on the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.  Well, we all know what happened next: nada. Obama cited a lack of Congressional support (like he “needed” it) for punitive action against Syria, and thus his bold “red line” vanished like a desert mirage over Syrian sands…

The timelines in the Syrian conflict — or conflicts — tend to be a bit more than blurry, but the Obama administration was clearly playing a double game with the American public over Syria.  While blowing some “red line” smoke across mainstream airwaves, Obama, in late 2012, had secretly authorized a CIA mission — Operation Timber Sycamore — to train, then arm, jihadi-style mercenaries for the violent overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.  Of course, the American people and their elected representatives were kept in the dark about all of this Syrian skullduggery while a compliant Corporate Press spewed whatever anti-al-Assad talking points they were fed that day.  The Syrian regime change operation became — or always had been — a pet project of the Obushma administration and those crazy gun-slingers at the CIA, no doubt emboldened by the “success” of the Libya operation.  Timber Sycamore would eventually be phased out by Trump in 2017, but by then the Pentagon was doing most of the heavy lifting for regime change in Syria because — any guesses? — the U.S. already had a few thousand “boots on the ground” there, doing whatever American “boots on the ground” do in countries where they have been covertly “inserted,” and– definitely not invited

This clandestine, and obviously illegal, American invasion of Syria occurred no later than the end of 2015, but the record is still not clear due to official obfuscation on the subject; indeed, most Americans are still not aware that the Obama administration invaded Syria in the first place, nor that, under the Trump-following administration of Joe “Malarkey,” a large contingent of U.S. troops are still in Syria today, “guarding” 70% of Syria’s oil production against…Well, anyone “We don’t like!”, including the Syrian government.

Incidentally, the phrase “Syrian Civil War” is totally a Western propaganda construct.  There may have been an iota of credence to this description in 2011, due to the defection of some Syrian military members to the “rebellion” then, but it seems pretty clear by now that this conflict has been overwhelmingly driven by foreign actors.  The major players include, in no particular order:  Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France (“Hey, shout out to Sykes-Picot!”), U$A, Russia, Qatar, Israel, and Iran.  Wow, but how truly “International” this war is!  Of course, various al-Qaeda affiliates and whatever’s left of ISIS — that somewhat nebulous Islamomorphic phenomenon — should be listed as well, except that:  If we followed the money, we’d find that their “jihadist business ventures” are entirely traceable to donors who comprise all of the major international sponsors of this catastrophic conflict, catalogued above.  Considering the fact that American, Russian, Turkish, and Iranian troops operate inside of Syria, while the Israelis have been bombing Syrian “targets” with impunity for years, the myth of a “Syrian Civil War” evaporates under the most cursory inspection.

“But, What about all of those Terribly Trump-Abandoned Syrian Kurds I heard so much about on NPR in the Fall of 2019?”

Nevertheless, to return to the issue of American “boots on the ground” in Syria, where they are still, tending to most of Syria’s sacred oil wells, a “humanitarian” mission if ever there was one…It is noteworthy that His Orangeness made a Big Noise about withdrawing all American Forces from Syria in December 2019.  In the event, the Corporate Press was horrified by this “abandonment” of “so Ancient an Ally!” as the Kurds of Syria, and the Pentagon quickly moved to ignore Trump’s blustering on the subject; after all, the Death Star’s in charge these post-9/11 days.  The War Drum Beat goes on, no matter whose Reality Show Starring, or Zombie-ing, in the current case, the Oval Office.

The power of propaganda for the War Machine after 9/11, of course, cannot be exaggerated; this is especially true of the Syrian Regime Change Operation which, hopefully, represents the last of the 9/11-sprung regime change wars in the “Greater Middle East.”  As a real world example of the power of this propaganda, particularly in the Syrian context, I cite a disputative experience I had with two “Blue-Check Liberal” friends at an Open Mic venue in December of 2019 pertaining to the “Trump withdrawal” of violently trespassing American troops in Syria.  Apparently, NPR, along with every other mainstream Corporate Media outlet, had been blaring the message that Trump was “Abandoning the Kurds!” all day.  Of course, this is a “War Cry!” seldom heard in American media, but there it was, in all of its newly minted talking point glory.

Not initiating the conversation, as I had not been subjected to this particular propaganda bombardment in toto, I naively commented that the military Americans in Syria had no right to be there in the first place; therefore, it was quite an easy — thus correct and rational — decision to remove these American crisis facilitators from that foreign country.  Both of my friends, who were almost “violently” disagreeing with me, are absolute peaceniks, at least according to their own understandings of their respective “politics,” as far as I can tell.  The most amazing or bizarre a priori fact of this “conversation” is that any acknowledgement of the illegality of an American troop presence in Syria was completely off-limits, or out-of-bounds.  Quite obviously, American soldiers were not illegally inserted on to Syrian soil for the express purpose of shielding Syrian Kurds from harm; instead, they were “infiltrated” there specifically to boost a longstanding effort to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.  By the way, it almost goes without saying, my two Bluetocratic, anti-Trump peacenik friends had probably never had a single solitary thought about the plight of Syrian Kurds — not to mention any other Kurds! — in the entire consciousness of their lengthy lives.  Such is the power of the post-9/11 propaganda for the War Machine, the Death Star, that is currently stoking a “fake crisis” over Ukraine (more on this in a moment–), with Taiwan waiting in the wings…

Syria, perhaps, provides the most ironic of all possible bookends to the 9/11-inspired regime change War Regime.  As in Afghanistan, ultimately, after two murderously long decades, the Regime Change War Series seems to have finally crapped out.  Bashar al-Assad’s still in power in Damascus, and the Caliban Taliban are once again the force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan (truth be told, to any Pentagonal Prosperos out there listening, the Taliban never went away, despite the best laid plans of General David Patreus and the Obushma “surge”…).  Iran, of course, as always, is seen as the ultimate “prize” in this latest, post-9/11est rendering of the “Great Game.”  That “game” is obviously up, over, kaput, and doneski.  Small question, a bit rhetorical:  Can the “boys in power” finally grow up and take some responsibility for the World they keep blowing up but pretend to rule by “Rule of Law”?

Further Note: a Correction

This piece was originally written back in January 2022, when talk or chatter about a Russian move into Ukraine was just that.  At that time I saw this Media circus — or typical hysterical hype — through a “wag the dog” lens, thus the above phrase “fake crisis over Ukraine.”  After all, one year into the current American regime, it was abundantly obvious that the administration of Joe “Bidenopolous” is a clear and present failure, a political fact that even some of the sleepiest walkers among us are waking up to…

Well, lo and we were Western Intel Agency told, Mr Putin actually launched his “Special Military Operation” into Ukraine on February 24.  Many an analyst missed the boat on this “special launch,” and for all sorts of reasons, like the possibility of Nuclear War, depending on NATO’s counter-move, or the threat of Russian economy-crippling sanctions, among others.  However, in retrospect, I think it’s worth noting that the initial “wag the dog” optical returns were spectacular for the “Collective West” and Mr Biden, absent-mindedly skippering our economic Titanic.  Suddenly, all of the TransAtlanticans’ self-inflicted problems were “Mad Vlad’s” fault.  Inflation going Weimar-style sideways bonkers?  Hey, no worries, because it’s just “Putin’s Price Hike!”  Yet, this distraction airy spin has worn quite thin by now, it seems.  Far from crushing the Russian economy, an avalanche of Western sanctions has badly boomeranged, leaving Western leaders scrambling amidst the shambling of their own economies, while the Russian military gobbles up more of Ukraine every day, one morsel at a time.  Until further notice, Mr Putin is calling the shots, not Brussels, London, nor the DC regime change crew.

The other “Thing” to note here, perhaps, is the collapse of the Covid Regime and the attempt to splice its sorry remains into a “Putin’s the Virus!” kind of narrative, with Taiwan still “waiting in the wings.”  Many commentators have emphasized this baton pass, from Covid to Putin, of official Western ideology; CJ Hopkins and Fabio Vighi immediately spring to mind in this context.

But to return to Syria:  With some degree of geopolitical justice it can be said that the current conflict in Ukraine can be described as “Syria 2.0”.  Many of the same players are in play, including the Oscar-winning “White Helmets” (according to reports) in this Ukrainian showdown although, quite notably, not Israel.  So, what’s up with America’s BFF in the Middle Easternlands?  Well, many a Saul has been blinded “on the road to Damascus,” but the crazy Israelis know a thing or two, and they apparently value their “condominium” with Russia over Syria above their “special relationship” with the United $tates in regard to Ukraine.  Saudi Arabia, too, as well as China, India, and the list goes on and on.  Wasn’t the whole idea to “isolate” Russia?  It would appear that the West is “isolating” itself, instead.

“Something’s happening here,” as the late 1960s band Buffalo Springfield once sang (“For What It’s Worth”), and it certainly looks like a “paradigm shift” of geo-tectonic proportions is presently playing out upon this Planet.  Who’s to say who “wins,” but maybe, just maybe, “winning” the “Great White Western Way” isn’t the only Game in Town these days?

The post Stalled Out on the Road to Damascus, Syria first appeared on Dissident Voice.

June 23 Oakland Protest Against Barbara Lee’s Vote for $40 billion to fund War in Ukraine.  Join Us.

On Thursday June 23 people will gather outside Rep Barbara Lee’s office in Oakland at 11:30 am to protest her recent vote for $40 billion for the war in Ukraine. The demonstration is called in conjunction with the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.  There will be a companion demonstration on the same day in at the Northampton, MA, office of Rep. Jimmy McGovern who also voted for the murderous $40 billion, and accompanied Pelosi in her recent visit to Ukraine.

This massive funding package represents a clear escalation of the war in Ukraine by the government of the United States using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a proxy war with Russia.  The funding pours fuel on the flames of that war.  It will prolong the war, resulting in thousands more Ukrainian and Russian deaths, at the very least.

And this funding is one more step in escalating and widening the scope of the war – up to and including nuclear war.

WHAT: Protest of Barbara Lee’s vote for $40 Billion for the War in Ukraine. This protest is in conjunction with a global day of action against the war, preceding the NATO summit in Madrid, called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.

WHERE: 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, California. (Barbara Lee’s Oakland Office)

WHEN: Thursday, June 23rd at 11:30 am.

WHO: Community and AntiWar activists and organizations including Code Pink, Democratic Socialists of American (DSA), East Bay Vets for Peace, Peace in Ukraine Coalition, United Against War & Militarism.

Despite promising just two months ago to “work relentlessly toward de-escalation” of the war in Ukraine, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee voted in lockstep with every Democrat in Congress behind President Biden’s war policy.  This includes not only Barbara Lee but all the other self-styled progressives in Congress, including Bernie Sanders, AOC and the rest of the “Squad.”

Barbara Lee because of her lone vote in opposing the two decade war in Afghanistan, is held up as an icon proving that there are progressive Democratic politicians who will vote for peace.  The promise held out by Lee and her Democratic colleagues that they could be a force for peace now lies in ruins.

Why U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine must be opposed.

One can look at the war in several ways.

If it is a war between Russia and Ukraine, then it is no business of the United States.

If one believes that it is a war by an idealistic to US to defend sovereignty and national borders, ask the people of Iraq if the US respects sovereignty – or the people of Afghanistan or Libya or Vietnam or Venezuela … the list goes on and on.

If one believes that this is a war to defend democracy, then ask the Palestinians suffering under Apartheid imposed by Israel which is supported by the US government or the people of Saudi Arabia or the many other dictatorships around the world that the US has supported.

No, this is a proxy war of the US against Russia being waged to the last Ukrainian.  If that has not been evident since the role of the US in backing the violent coup in 2014 against a duly elected Ukrainian President, then it is beyond doubt now with the declaration of Defense Secretary Austin that the goal of the US is to “weaken” Russia, the declaration of Joe Biden that Putin must not be allowed to govern and the declaration of Nancy Pelosi that the US must have total “victory” over Russia.  The Biden administration has chosen to confront another major nuclear weapons power, Russia – and that confrontation constitutes an existential threat to all of humanity.

Ukraine now wages war only to improve its bargaining power at the inevitable negotiations which will end the conflict admitted David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and is one of Volodymyr Zelensky’s closest advisers. 200-500 Ukrainian soldiers dying each day with a total of 1000 dead or wounded daily, the latest numbers given by Ukraine, simply to improve a negotiating position is a highly immoral exercise.  Ukraine has now become essentially a puppet state at the mercy of the US for arms and aid.  It is naïve beyond belief to believe that Ukraine proceeds in this immoral fashion without approval of the US – or even perhaps coercion by the US to fight on so as to save face for its patron Biden.

The Biden administration can stop the proxy war.  And we have the power to influence the Biden administration and the pols who support it.  It is our right and responsibility to exercise that power and stop this war.

Who benefits from the war and who is damaged?

Cui bono? Billions in funding for the war serves the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, who pocket untold profits from the war in Ukraine.  Some of these dollars go to funding the endless proliferation of hawkish think tanks whose well paid employees show up as talking heads or op-ed writers in the mainstream media doing all in their power to convince us that “the other” is evil and that war is the answer.  These are media manikins and are ideologues driven by a desire for US world domination and therefore very dangerous

At the same time funding cannot be found for the many problems we face in the US – homelessness, inadequately funded schools, crumbling infrastructure, failure to deal adequately with climate change and now even shortages of baby formula!  Inflation in the U.S. was already running at over 7% before the conflict began due to the tragically inadequate response to Covid-19 and out of control “quantitative easing”; i.e., printing money with abandon.  But the war and sanctions have worsened the inflation which is now running at over 8%.  The average American sees this daily at the gas station and supermarket where soaring prices are now the rule.

Beyond that we must look to the entire world and especially the Global South both of which are suffering beyond belief from inflation and food shortages due to the US sanctions and the continuation of the war.  Led by India, China and nations representing the overwhelming majority of humanity, the world has refused to respect the illegal sanctions.  That leaves only the US and its European allies, former colonial powers, in supporting the US proxy war.  It is not Russia but the US that is isolated.

  • No weapons for war in Ukraine
  • No Proxy War with Russia
  • No to Nuclear War
The post June 23 Oakland Protest Against Barbara Lee’s Vote for $40 billion to fund War in Ukraine.  Join Us. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Empire’s Fleeting Leadership in its Yard

The just concluded Summit of the Americas is nothing but a show of the Empire’s fleeting leadership in a region that the Empire considers as its backyard.

Mr. Biden, the US President, expressed his hopes as he said: “I think I find no reason why the Western Hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere over the next 10 years, does not develop into the most democratic hemisphere in the world, most democratic region in the entire world.”

He identified important factors in the region: “We have everything. We have the people, we have the resources and we have more democracies in this hemisphere than any other hemisphere.”

So, the US leader expressed hope: “This is a lot we can do, but a lot of it matters in the private enterprise side equation.”

He mentioned “enormous ideas and opportunities” in the region.

But a few stark facts went absent: imperialist exploitation, intervention, dictation, bulldozing of peoples’ aspirations, endeavors and dignity. None can expect democracy while democracy is defined by external bosses, not by people. Imperialist interest and democracy are in perpetual conflict where democracy gets killed by imperialist interest as the interest denies people their rights and spaces in economy and politics. The region in discussion goes through this reality. The summit itself is the evidence: countries were arbitrarily excluded from the summit. With this practice, dictation, how can one dream of democracy or patronizing of democracy? Whatever patronization will go there in the name of democracy is patronization of the forces that serve the patron: imperialist interest.

Now, the problems the Empire is facing in the region are two: (1) Peoples’ increasing struggle for democracy and dignified life, and (2) China – the emerging economic power’s increasing assistance in the area of economy in countries. The Empire finds China as its powerful contender there in the region, as it finds China in the Indo-Pacific and in Africa. Probably, it’ll find China in some parts of Europe and the Middle East also. Amazing! It seems China is haunting the Empire everywhere and all the time!! Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member, this week warned that China poses a real threat of dominance in Central America, which he called “our own backyard”. (Fox News, “Biden touts Western Hemisphere ‘opportunities,’ democracies at summit that excluded Latin American dictators”, June 9, 2022)

But the Empire has already begun losing its strong position in the region. Carrie Filipetti, executive director of the Vandenberg Coalition and a former deputy special representative for Venezuela at the U.S. Department of State told Fox News Digital: “The fact that many leading nations in the hemisphere refuse to participate in the Summit of the Americas — and that the United States has refused to allow the participation of the legitimate government of Venezuela — shows how weak our relationships have become.” (ibid.) A reality is emerging.

A Reuters report (“Biden unveils new Latin America economic plan at reboot summit dogged by dissent”, June 9, 2022) describes something about the summit:

“[A] regional summit marred by discord and snubs over the guest list.”

“[N]agging concerns that Washington, at times, is still trying to dictate to its poorer southern neighbors.”

“The line-up of visiting heads of state and government in attendance was thinned down to 21 […]”

Mr. Biden’s “agenda has been undermined by the partial boycott by leaders […]”

Mr. Biden “found himself welcoming a larger-than-normal contingent of foreign ministers sitting in for their national leaders […]”

This is not all. A Los Angeles, June 10 datelined AP report (“Salvadoran leader rebuffs Blinken effort to bolster summit”) tells another story:

“It was the sort of diplomatic rebuff a small country like El Salvador generally can rarely afford to make.”

“[S]enior U.S. officials frantically worked the phones seeking to boost attendance […]”

“Among those efforts, the State Department sent a message that Secretary of State Antony Blinken wanted to speak with President Nayib Bukele last weekend, a rare show of comity from a Biden administration that for months had been blasting the Central American leader as a power-hungry populist.”

“‘Participating in the Summit is a very good opportunity for President Bukele to explain his perspective to the Salvadoran community in LA and Joe Biden,’ Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols wrote in a message to Bukele’s ambassador in Washington.”

“In the end, Bukele didn’t take the bait and the call never happened […]”

“Another request to set up a call with Blinken, made through the US Embassy in San Salvador, was similarly rebuffed, according to the two people, one of whom showed The Associated Press a copy of the messages.”

“The concerted effort by Blinken to reach out to one of the Biden administration’s frequent targets in Latin America underscores the lengths to which U.S. officials went to avoid an embarrassing flop at the summit.”

Bukele was one of 11 Western Hemisphere leaders who have stayed away from the summit.

“Bukele’s lack of a response to Blinken’s request for a phone call”, the report said, “convinced US officials there wasn’t much they could do to improve relations and the US eventually dropped the diplomatic outreach […]”

More of the story is there in Time, the famous weekly.

Time writes (“The Summit of the Americas Was Meant To Counter China’s Influence. Instead, It Showed How Weak the U.S. Is”, June 10, 2022):

“A gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders in Los Angeles […] gave President Joe Biden a rare and vital opportunity to mend burned bridges and counter growing Chinese influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Instead, analysts say, the Summit of the Americas has achieved neither.

“Much has changed in the Americas in the nearly three decades since the U.S. last hosted the triennial summit. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton met with all but one of Western Hemisphere leaders […] At the time, leaders were clamoring for a seat at the table with Washington.


“The event — which Biden said would showcase ‘bold ideas and ambitious actions’ — was soured by snubs and diplomatic tensions before it even began. [….]

“The hotly-anticipated first ever meeting between Biden and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also almost didn’t happen, with reports that Bolsonaro was also planning to skip the summit.

“For these reasons, Biden was worried that ‘no one would come to the party,’ says Thomas Traumann, a political consultant and head of communications under former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Washington had in turn dispatched an adviser to convince the far-right leader to attend. Bolsonaro later insisted that Biden had agreed not to raise longstanding points of contention between the two men — including growing deforestation in the Amazon — a claim that Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, denied to US reporters.

“Just two days before Thursday’s meeting, Bolsonaro […] once again spread false claims around the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 election win. Biden didn’t publicly acknowledge the comments, as he was ‘desperate’ to salvage the summit in the wake of Mexico’s snub, Traumann says.

“‘The need to get Bolsonaro there made the United States look weak,’ says Christopher Sabatini, senior Latin American research fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House. But at a time of waning US influence in Latin America, Sabatini says Biden had few options.”

These reports and observations from the mainstream narrate a certain reality: The Empire’s leadership is fleeting in the region considered by imperialists as their courtyard. But, a lot has changed there in the so-called backyard. Like Trade Winds, a Change Wind is blowing throughout the continent. Statements a number of leaders from the hemisphere made in the summit in presence of the US President are unimaginable. The leaders are from geographically, and in terms of economy, small countries. How does that force of bold utterances originate, and what does that signify? A Change Wind is blowing, and it’ll blow with setbacks, but it’ll continue blowing, and enrich and embolden the region, and the Empire will find its leadership is gradually fleeting away.

Despite this trend of time, there’re a few utterances that sound arrogant. The above mentioned Reuters report said: “Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the choice by some leaders not to attend reflected their own ‘idiosyncratic decisions’ […]” It may happen that that was “idiosyncratic”, or it may happen that those decisions were symptoms of a political trend, and the political trend has grown out of a few economic-political questions that are related to the Empire, at one end, the peoples in the region, at the other, as imperialism has bled Latin America, the people in Latin America, a lot and since long. A cessation of the practice is the requirement in the region.

The post Empire’s Fleeting Leadership in its Yard first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Summit of the Americas: Isn’t it a dud?

The Empire went to assert its position in the Latin America. But it has flopped. CNN headlined: “Snubs, from key leaders at Summit of the Americas reveal Biden’s struggle to assert US leadership in its neighborhood”. It’s a setback for the Empire!

Today, it’s not an unimaginable development in the region.

The IX Summit of the Americas has kicked off in Los Angeles on June 6, 2022; and US President Mr. Biden has formally inaugurated the summit on June 9, 2022.

“Yet”, CNN said, “the absences of the presidents of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are still notable since the United States has worked to cultivate those leaders as partners on immigration, an issue that looms as a political liability for Biden.”

The summit, since its planning, was under the shadow of failure.

The Empire planned to organize the summit of what it calls the Americas.

But, it began by excluding many, significant parts of the Americas.

Who were excluded? The Empire excluded its old foe – Cuba. And, new foes of the Empire emerged in the continent: Venezuela, Nicaragua.

The Empire didn’t imagine that there would be such a reaction to its exclusion-plan.

The theme of the summit is “Building a sustainable, resilient and equitable future”.

But, with exclusion, with imposition of self-formulated will on others, how far a sustainable, equitable and resilient future can be built? Anything sustainable requires participation of all concerned. Anything equitable requires space for participation of all related parties. Without sustainable and equitable approach nothing can be resilient.

How can a continent or two continents move with an equitable approach if countries are excluded, and dictated? And, in Latin America, having such an approach without participation of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua is beyond imagination.

With dictation, with treating countries as subjects in Latin America, should one today imagine that an all inclusive sustainable path or model be accepted? Lackeys can accept it. But, today’s Latin America is different than half-a-century ago, although many dream to have a Latin America cowed down. But, the reality today is not that.

The summit had to brace its failure: Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denied to be lackey of the Empire. He declined to join the summit. López Obrador said:

I am not going to the summit because not all the countries of America are invited and I believe in the need to change the policy that has been imposed for centuries, exclusion, wanting to dominate for no reason.

What is López Obrador’s position? All countries must have opportunity to join the summit on an equal footing. Is it possible to consider the argument useless, irrational? The Empire’s position turned out as irrational, baseless.

The Mexican President pointed out:

[T]here cannot be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the American continent do not participate.

He said there can be a summit excluding many, but that would be “to continue with the old policy of interventionism, of lack of respect for nations and their peoples”.

The Empire’s choice was the second one.

Thus it was none but the Empire that has undercut the initiative.

The summit plans to have an approach on health care. But, the document is full with neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism doesn’t serve people.

In the area of health care, Cuba is exemplary. Does it sound rational that someone plans to have an approach for people’s health, and peoples’ health across Latin America, but excludes Cuba?

Cuba’s public health care system stands as an example. It’s far, far advanced, well-organized, well-managed and people-oriented than many, many countries, many advanced, resourceful countries. Denying this fact today is nothing but making oneself a fool.

The Empire can compare the ways it, the Empire, and Cuba, handled the pandemic. If someone keeps in mind the resource-gap between these two countries, Cuba and the Empire, the failure of the Empire and the success of Cuba will stand as unbelievable fact.

If someone keeps in mind the fact that Cuba was obstructed in procuring syringes and raw materials for Covid-fighting-vaccine, and Cuba has succeeded in facing the pandemic, then, the Cuba-fact may sound mythical. But, the undeniable reality is: Fidel’s Cuba has done it.

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canal said:

[I]n no case will I attend. [F]rom the beginning, the United States government conceived that the Summit of the Americas will not be inclusive.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said:

[W]e have a clear path: unity, inclusion, diversity, democracy, and the right to build our own destiny. We reject the claims of excluding and discriminating against peoples at the Summit of the Americas.

Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, said:

We are not interested in being at that summit.

Luis Arce, President of Bolivia, said:

[A] Summit of the Americas that excludes American countries will not be a full Summit of the Americas.” He reaffirmed: “[I]f the exclusion of sister nations persists, I will not participate in it.

Xiomara Castro, President of Honduras, said:

I will attend the Summit only if all the countries of the Americas are invited without exception.

The ruptured effort also faced opposition from The Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Peoples Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac).

The summit is, thus, standing as a sign of the Empire’s ruptured leadership in the region. It shows that those days are gone, when the Empire was the sole authority. Now, questions are being raised, defiance is being voiced. Countries, not only a single country, Cuba, in Latin America now dare to distance themselves from the Empire. It’s a challenge to the Empire.

It’s not utterances by a number of state-persons. It’s a different dynamics that has grown in the region. Years of peoples’ political struggles in countries in the region are a basic factor behind this dynamic; and peoples in those countries have learned from their experiences: exploitation by the Empire, brutality, assassinations and mass murders, backing rightist groups and coup-masters, interventions, imposition of undemocratic/authoritarian regimes. These experiences were long, and for many decades. Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent is enough to narrate the Empire’s story in Latin America. The rupture thus went on. It went on in the societies and politics in Latin America. Peoples’ politics are getting manifested in a number of state machines there in the continent.

This rupture, a rupture in the Empire’s leadership in the region, is a show of the Empire’s declining influence. This trend, decline in influence, will gather strength, which means people’s struggles will gain strength, and that will hopefully get reflected in states.

The Los Angeles summit will have fora, and documents/declarations, such as Civil Society Forum and Young Americas Forum, and Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas, and Los Angeles Declaration on Migration.

But with neo-liberalism, which is unbridled capitalism, with imperialist interest dominating entire activities and programs, the “civil” society, the “young” group, the “partnership” can bring nothing but expansion of imperialist interest and control. Not dignity, but dictation will prevail; not prosperity but exploitation will expand.

Cuba, the country standing with dignity, has already said: It’s part of effort to apply the Monroe Doctrine.

“What our region demands”, said Cuban Foreign Ministry, “is cooperation, not exclusion; solidarity, not meanness; respect, not arrogance; sovereignty and self-determination, not subordination.”

That’s the problem with imperialist interest – meanness, arrogance, subordination. Imperialism doesn’t allow cooperation, solidarity, respect, dignity, sovereignty, self-determination.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t have planned the summit arbitrarily as if it’s the sole holder of the meterstick of democracy and autocracy. It appears the Empire is the sole master for defining democracy, electoral process, legitimacy. But reality, a much different reality, will emerge tomorrow, as peoples in countries are learning from their experiences, as info on imperialism financed “democracy” programs are getting exposed at an increasing rate, as peoples in countries are increasingly opposing imperialist designs.

For the Empire, this ruptured summit will stand as a symbol of its decreasing power of leadership in the region.

It’s already facing competition from China in the region. It wouldn’t be easy to press out China now. Neither is it a quick task nor a few billion dollars’ job. The summit with assurances of a few billions of dollars, thus, will stand as a symbol of the Empire’s decline in a region which it considers as its backyard.

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For the Peoples of our Region, the Failure of Biden’s Summit of the Americas Would be a Welcome Event

The Summit of the Americas is not the property of the host nation. The U.S. has no right to exclude, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but has done so in disregard of their sovereignty. The U.S. is not fit to judge others or to be responsible for bringing nations together. Every leader in the hemisphere should boycott what has become a farcical event.

I applaud the decision by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to attend this week’s so-called Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles and hope that by Wednesday a majority of the nations in our region would have joined him. However, I am hoping that unlike President Lopez Obrador who is still sending the Mexican foreign minister, other nations demonstrate that their dignity cannot be coerced and stay away completely. Why do I take this position?

If the threat by the Biden Administration as host of the Summit not to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, all sovereign nations in the Americas’ region, was not outrageous enough, the announced rationale that the administration did not invite these nations because of their human rights record and authoritarian governance is an absurd indignity that cannot be ignored.

I firmly believe that the U.S. should not be allowed to subvert, degrade, and humiliate nations and the peoples of our region with impunity!  A line of demarcation must be drawn between the nations and peoples who represent democracy and life and the parasitic hegemon to the North which can only offer dependence and death. The U.S. has made its choice that is reflected in its public documents. “Full spectrum dominance,” is its stated goal. In other words – waging war against the peoples of our regions and, indeed, the world to maintain global hegemony. It has chosen war, we must choose resistance – on that, there can be no compromise!

The peoples of our region understand that. It is historically imperative that the representatives of the states in our region come to terms with that and commit to resistance and solidarity with the states that are experiencing the most intense pressure from empire. The rhetorical commitment to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela is not enough. The people want actions that go beyond mere denunciations of imperialism. The people are ready to fight.

And part of this fight includes the ideological war of position. We cannot allow the U.S. to obscure its murderous history by dressing that history up in pretty language about human rights.

The idea that the U.S., or any Western nation for that matter, involved in the ongoing imperialist project, could seriously see itself as a protector of human rights is bizarre and dangerous, and must be countered. The fact that the U.S. will still attempt to advance this fiction reflects either the height of arrogance or a society and administration caught in the grip of a collective national psychosis. I am convinced it is both, but more on that later.

A cognitive rupture from objective reality, the inability to locate oneself in relationship to other human beings individually and collectively in the material world are all symptoms of severe mental derangement. Yet, it appears that this is the condition that structures the psychic make-up of all of the leaders of the U.S. and the collective West.

It is what I have referred to as the psychopathology of white supremacy:

A racialized narcissistic cognitive disorder that centers so-called white people’s and European civilization and renders the afflicted with an inability to perceive objective reality in the same way as others. This affliction is not reducible to the race of so-called whites but can affect all those who have come in contact with the ideological and cultural mechanisms of the Pan-European colonial project.

How else can you explain the self-perceptions of the U.S. and West, responsible for the most horrific crimes against humanity in the annuals of human history from genocide, slavery, world wars, the European, African and Indigenous holocausts, wars and subversion since 1945 that have resulted in over 30 million lives lost – but then assert their innocence, moral superiority and right to define the content and range of human rights?

Aileen Teague of the Quincy Institute points out that the U.S. position on disinviting nations to the Summit of the Americas because of their alleged “authoritarian governance,” is “hypocritical” and “inconsistent,” noting the U.S. historical support for Latin American dictators when convenient for US policy.

Yet is it really hypothetical or inconsistent? I think not. U.S. policymakers are operating from an ethical and philosophical framework that informed Western colonial practice in which racialized humanity became divided between those who were placed into the category of “humans” which was constitutive of the historically expanded category of “white” in relationship to everyone else who was “not white,” and therefore, not fully human.

The “others” during the colonial conquest literally did not have any rights that Europeans were bound to recognize and respect from land rights to their very lives. Consequently, for European colonialists they did not perceive any ethical contradictions in their treatment of the “others” and did not judge themselves as deviating from their principles and values. This is what so many non-Europeans do not understand. When Europeans speak to their “traditional values,” it must be understood that those values mean we – the colonized and exploited non-Europeans are not recognized in our full humanity.

Is there any other way to explain the impressive solidarity among “white peoples” on Ukraine in contrast to the tragedies of Yemen, the six million dead in the Congo, Iraq – the list goes on.

That is why it was so correct for the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) to call for a boycott of the Summit of the Americas by all of the states in our region. BAP argued that the U.S. had no moral or political standing to host this gathering because it has consistently demonstrated that it did not respect the principles of self-determination and national sovereignty in the region. But even more importantly, it did not respect the lives of the people of this region.

A boycott is only the minimum that should be done. However, we understand it will be difficult because we know the vindictiveness of the gringo hegemon and the lengths it will go to assert its vicious domination. In the arrogance that is typical of the colonial white supremacist mindset, the Biden White House asserts that the “summit will be successful no matter who attends.”

Yet, if Biden is sitting there by himself, no manner of will or the power to define, will avoid the obvious conclusion that the world had changed, and with that change, the balance of power away from the U.S.

And the people say – let it be done!

The post For the Peoples of our Region, the Failure of Biden’s Summit of the Americas Would be a Welcome Event first appeared on Dissident Voice.

America, Meet Your New Dictator-in-Chief

America, meet your new dictator-in-chief.

As the New York Times reports, “Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios—like the aftermath of a nuclear attack—when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.”< The problem, of course, is that we have become a nation in a permanent state of emergency. Power-hungry and lawless, the government has weaponized one national crisis after another in order to expand its powers and justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security. The seeds of this present madness were sown almost two decades ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives (National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20) provide a skeletal outline of the actions the president will take in the event of a “national emergency.”

Just what sort of actions the president will take once he declares a national emergency can barely be discerned from the barebones directives. However, one thing is clear: in the event of a national emergency, the COG directives give unchecked executive, legislative and judicial power to the president.

The country would then be subjected to martial law by default, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be suspended.

Essentially, the president would become a dictator for life.

It has happened already.

As we have witnessed in recent years, that national emergency can take any form, can be manipulated for any purpose and can be used to justify any end goal—all on the say so of the president.

The emergency powers that we know about which presidents might claim during such states of emergency are vast, ranging from imposing martial law and suspending habeas corpus to shutting down all forms of communications, including implementing an internet kill switch, and restricting travel.

Yet according to documents recently obtained by the Brennan Center, there may be many more secret powers that presidents may institute in times of so-called crisis without oversight from Congress, the courts, or the public.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be—civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters”—as long as it allows the government to justify all manner of government tyranny in the name of so-called national security.

In such a climate, the American president becomes dictator with permanent powers: imperial, unaccountable and unconstitutional.

Then again, the police state with the president at its helm has been riding roughshod over the rule of law for years now without any pretense of being reined in or restricted in its power grabs by Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

Although the Constitution invests the President with very specific, limited powers, in recent years, American presidents have claimed the power to completely and almost unilaterally alter the landscape of this country for good or for ill.

The powers amassed by each successive president through the negligence of Congress and the courts—powers which add up to a toolbox of terror for an imperial ruler—empower whoever occupies the Oval Office to act as a dictator, above the law and beyond any real accountability.

As law professor William P. Marshall explains, “every extraordinary use of power by one President expands the availability of executive branch power for use by future Presidents.”

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump and passed along to Joe Biden.

These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

This is what you might call a stealthy, creeping, silent, slow-motion coup d’état.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

Unfortunately, the process of unseating a dictator and limiting the powers of the presidency is far from simple but at a minimum, it must start with “we the people.”

For starters, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we must recalibrate the balance of power.

Start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

What we desperately need is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

In other words, we’ve got to start making both the president and the police state play by the rules of the Constitution.

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The Economy of Tolerable Massacres: The Uvalde Shootings

Societies generate their own economies of tolerable cruelties and injustices.  Poverty, for instance, will be allowed, as long a sufficient number of individuals are profiting.  To an extent, crime and violence can be allowed to thrive.  In the United States, the economy of tolerable massacres, executed by military grade weapons, is considerable and seemingly resilient.  Its participants all partake in administering it, playing their bleak roles under the sacred banner of constitutional freedom and psychobabble.

Just as prison reform tends to keep pace with the expansion of the bloated system, the gun argument in the US keeps pace, barely, with each massacre.  With each round of killings, a script is activated: initial horror, hot tears of indignation of never again, and then, the stalemate on reform till the next round of killings can be duly accommodated. “It isn’t enough to reiterate the plain truth that the assault weapons used in mass shootings must be banned and confiscated,” observes Benjamin Kunkel.  “Instead, every fresh atrocity must be recruited into everyone’s preferred single-factor sociological narrative.”

In Uvalde, Texas, a teenage gunman (they do get younger) made his way into an elementary school and delivered an unforgettable May 24 lesson.  When he had finished at Robb Elementary School, 19 children and 2 adults had perished.  But even this effort, in the premier league ranking of school killings, failed to top the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.  On that occasion, 26 lost their lives.

The horror and indignant tears were duly cued.  President of the United States, Joe Biden: “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?  Why do we keep letting this happen?” he rhetorically intoned at a press conference.  “For every parent, for every citizen in this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: it’s time to act.”  This would involve the passing of “common sense gun laws” and combating the gun lobby.

The next day, Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the formula.  “We must work together to create an America where everyone feels safe in their community, where children feel safe in their schools.”

The politicians are duly accompanied by the talking heads, such as Ron Avi Astor, described by NPR as “a mass shooting expert”.  With this unsavoury appellation, we are told that this UCLA professor is puzzled as to why negligible changes to gun laws have taken place since Sandy Hook.  In coping with such puzzlement, he suggests an old academic trick: reframe the problem to lessen its gravity.

With some gusto, Astor proceeds to say that schools in the US have been doing fabulously well in coping with violence – as long as you take the long view. “If you look over the last 20 years, really since Columbine, there’s been a massive, massive, massive … decrease in victimization and violence in schools.”  Diving into the silver lining in his own massive way, he finds “reductions” in violence in the order of 50 to 70 percent.

It never takes long for the economy of tolerable massacres to generate the next round of scrappy arguments, with the corpses barely cold.  The common one is that of shooting frequency.  Was this a good year relative to the last?  This year, the United States has suffered 27.

Since 2018, Education Week, showing how school deaths should very much feature in planning curricula, has taken a grim interest in the whole matter.  Reading its compiled figures – “heartbreaking, but important work”, the journal claims – is much like dipping into stock market returns with the requisite amount of sensitivity.  In 2021, there were 34 school shootings, a real bumper year.  In 2020, it was poor on that front: a modest 10.  Both 2019 and 2018 saw higher returns: 24 each.

If you wish to be entertained by the ghoulish nature of it all, Education Week also gives us some infotainment with a graphic on “Where the Shootings Happened.”  Dots feature on a map of the country.  “The size of the dots correlates to the number of people killed or injured.  Click on each dot for more information.”  Where would we be but for such valuable services?

To give credence to the seemingly immutable nature of this economy on shootings, platoons of commentators, equipped with various skills, argue about responses, most showing that common sense, in this field, is a noble dream.  The conservative National Review takes the view that “tougher background checks” would hardly have worked for the Uvalde shooter.  There was no paper trail flagging him as a threat, nothing to suggest that he should have been prevented as a “legal adult from purchasing a firearm.”  The implicit suggestion here: only nutters kill.

The business of guns is the business of a particular American sensibility.  With the school shooting still fresh, various members of the GOP and Donald Trump affirmed their interest in appearing at a Memorial Day weekend event hosted by the National Rifle Association.  In a statement on the shootings, the NRA expressed its “deepest sympathies” for the families and victims of “this horrific and evil crime” but preferred to describe the killings as the responsibility “of a lone, deranged criminal.”  Leave gun regulation alone; focus on school security instead.

With that brief formality discharged, the NRA expressed its delight at its forthcoming Annual Meetings and Exhibits event to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston between May 27 and May 29.  “The Exhibit Hall is open all three days and will showcase over 14 acres of the latest guns and gear from the most popular companies in the Industry.”  It promises to be fun for the whole family.

Then comes the thorny matter of definitions, a sure way to kill off any sensible action.  From boffin to reactionary, no one can quite accept what a “school shooting” is.  Non-profit outfits such as the New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety include any discharge of a firearm at school as part of the definition.  “In 2022,” the organisation claims, “there were at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries nationally.”

Everytown for Gun Safety is keen to paint a picture of annual murderous rampage: 3,500 children and teens being shot and killed; 15,000 shot and injured.  Some 3 million children in the US are exposed to shootings each year.

The tone underlying such a message is much at odds with the rest easy approach taken by Astor – what Australians would call the “she’ll be right, mate” caste of mind.  It is certainly Panglossian in nature, aligning with the views of cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, optimist extraordinaire on the human condition.  Taken holistically, he keeps insisting, we live in far better, less violent times than our forebears.  Such massacres as those at Sandy Hook should not be taken to mean that schools have become less safe.  “People always think that violence has increased because they reason from memorable examples rather than global data.”  For Pinker, the 2013 joint survey by the Departments of Justice and Education on such statistics as rates of victimisation since 1992 to non-fatal victimisations was sufficient rebuke against the pessimists and moaners.

The Uvalde massacre will, in time, be absorbed by this economy of tolerable violence.  The anger will dissipate; collective amnesia, if not simple indifference, will exert its dulling sleep.  The dead, except for the personally affected, will go the way of others, buried in the confetti and scrapings of statistics.

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Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity

Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened?  A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons.  Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”  The answer: “Yes.  That’s a commitment we made.”

Biden was again flatly committing the US to a conflict over Taiwan should China deploy its forces.  He has done so on two previous occasions, showing either a degree of ignorance, or a willingness to throw caution to the wind.  The first took place during an interview with ABC News in August, when he equated Taiwan’s status to those of other allies such as South Korea.  The second, in a CNN town hall, took place in October, when he stated that the US had “a commitment to do that”.

In doing so a third time, he was helping no one in particular, and taking the hammer to the strategic ambiguity that has marked US-Taiwan policy for decades.  The only thing that could have been taken away from it is a reminder to Beijing that they are not facing a cautious superpower steered by a sage, but a government not unwilling to shed blood over Taiwan.

Biden has expressed this view before, and grates against a policy Washington has had for 43 years.  It is a policy characterised by two key understandings.  The first is the One China policy, which the Biden administration affirmed in Tokyo.  Beijing, accordingly, remains the sole legitimate authority representing China.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 is the other pillar that guides US policy towards Taiwan.  The Act declares it the policy of the United States “to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan, as well as the people of the China mainland and all other people in the Western Pacific area.”

The Act facilitates the provision of arms to Taiwan “of a defensive character” and maintains “the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”  It does not impose an obligation on the US to intervene militarily in the event of an attack, or to compel the use of forces in defence of the island.

The first pertinent question was whether an actual change had been heralded in Tokyo.  The National Review certainly thought so.  “Biden’s remarks signal a big shift in US foreign policy regarding Taiwan.”  The New York Times also suggested that, unlike his previous, seemingly incautious remarks on the subject, this could not be treated as a simple gaffe.  Sebastian Smith, White House correspondent for Agence France-Presse, thought that Biden’s response “really raised the adrenaline levels in that palace briefing room”.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was overjoyed, expressing “sincere welcome and gratitude to President Biden of the United States for reiterating its rock solid commitment to Taiwan.”

For his part, Biden was having a bit each way, suggesting that strategic ambiguity was still being retained in some modest form.  “We agree with the One China policy and all the attendant agreements we made.  But the idea that it can be taken by force, would just not be appropriate.”  His Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin was even more adamant that there had been no change to speak of on the part of the president.  “As the president said, our One China policy has not changed,” he stated at the Pentagon.  “He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself.  So, again, our policy has not changed.”

On being asked by a journalist what potential risks would rise as part of a US military defence of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was unwilling to elucidate.  A “variety of contingency plans” were held by the military applicable to the Pacific, Europe “and elsewhere”, all classified.  “And it would be very inappropriate for me on a microphone to discuss the risk associated with those plans relative to anything with respect to Taiwan or anywhere else in the Pacific.”  Reassuring.

As often tends to come to pass, when the potential for war lurks in cupboards and around corners, there are those less than unwilling to repel it.  The chance to exercise muscle, especially indulged vicariously, brings out the inner war monger.  Bret Stephens uses the New York Times to promote the popular view held by many in the US and amongst its allies that Biden was quite right not to stick to “diplomatic formulas of a now-dead status quo”.  President Xi Jinping, that sly devil, had “changed the rules of the game” by crushing protests in Hong Kong, repudiating the “one country, two systems” formula and blithely ignored the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Chinese claims on the South China Sea.

Stephens sees opportunity in this statement from Biden, a thankful slaying of ambiguity.  For one, the US can sell more arms to Taiwan while incorporating Taipei into its broader strategic approach.  The administration should also convince Taipei to increase its “scandalously low” military budget.  Washington, for its part, can increase the small component of US Special Operations and Marine personnel already deployed to train local forces.  Biden’s stumble, in short, was a shift; and the shift moves one step closer to inciting war.

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Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in Washington?

Staging a vice-presidential candidates debate in the run-up to Colombia’s May 29th national elections was entirely appropriate.  Nevertheless, the location of the event in Washington and its promotion by US-state functionaries requires some explanation. Because of its venue and sponsors, the affair had elements of an audition or a vetting process overseen by the US government.

Along with the Washington consensus crowd, members of the Colombian diaspora attended the May 13th event, especially supporters of popular vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez. Afro-descendent environmentalist Márquez is running with presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Their frontrunning ticket could be the first administration on the left in Colombian history.

Vice-presidential debate hosts

The debate was hosted by the US Institute of Peace, a federal agency entirely funded by the US Congress. The board of the institute must by law include the US secretaries of defense and state along with the head of the Pentagon’s National Defense University. Activities include spreading “peace” in such oases of made-in-the-USA tranquility as Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Libya.

If these officials pass for peacemakers in Washington’s inside-the-beltway world, who, one might ask, would be left to lead a military academy? Answer: the very same people, which is entirely the point of a US government “peace” agency.

Co-hosts of the event were the Atlantic Council and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The former is known as “NATO’s think tank.” Its board of honorary directors is composed of four former secretaries of defense, three former secretaries of state, a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Homeland Security official.

The Woodrow Wilson Center is a semi-governmental entity, whose current head, Mark Andrew Green, was executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and before that head of the CIA front organization USAID. Rounding out their board are Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, and Antony Blinken, Biden’s current secretary of state.

Colombia – US client state

Colombia is the leading client state of the US in the Americas. The South American nation was touted by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in their US presidential campaigns as a model for the rest of Latin America. This so-called model nation was partially paralyzed for four days starting on May 5 when the private paramilitary group Clan del Golfo imposed a national armed strike in retaliation for the extradition to the US of its leader on drug trafficking charges.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for example, boasted in 2013 in reference to Colombia’s regional role as a US client state: “If somebody called my country the Israel of Latin America, I would be very proud. I admire the Israelis, and I would consider that as a compliment.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political staging area. Plan Colombia and Plan Patriota constructed one of the most sophisticated armies in the world even though Colombia has no external wars.

As the US’s leading regional proxy, Colombia is appropriately a land of superlatives. It is the leading recipient of US military and foreign aid in the hemisphere. According to Colombian academic Rena Vegas, the US has approximately 50 military units along with US agencies, headed by the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which “operate daily and freely to intervene in the country.”

Also, not inconsequently, Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a union activist. North American corporations there (e.g., Chiquita, Coca Cola, Drummond) have employed paramilitaries to do their dirty work.

Colombia likewise gets the largest allocation of DEA funds. Also, not inconsequently, it is the world’s largest source of illicit cocaine, according to the CIA. The US war on drugs in Colombia has served as a smokescreen for massive repression against popular movements by the country’s military and allied paramilitary organizations.

In 2017, Colombia became one of NATO’s Global Partners and its first in Latin American. In February, Colombia conducted a provocative joint naval drill with NATO near Venezuela, which included a nuclear submarine. Then on March 10, Colombia became a “Major Non-NATO Ally” of the US, giving the narco-state special access to military programs. Biden explained: “This is a recognition of the unique and close relationship between our countries.”

Summit of the Americas

In short, Colombia is the poster child for the US Monroe Doctrine, an assertion of US hegemony over the hemisphere dating back to 1823. Biden recently made a cosmetic change to the Monroe Doctrine risibly proclaiming that our southern neighbors are no longer in our “backyard” but rather in our “front yard.”

However, many Latin American and Caribbean nations believe that they are sovereign countries. So Biden’s recent call for a Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10, which would exclude Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, faces significant pushback. Mexican President Lopez Obrador said he’ll shun the meeting along with the heads of state of over a dozen Caribbean countries, Bolivia, Guatemala, and possibly Brazil.

Over half of the chief execs in the Americas have tentatively spurned the imperial summons. Unless Biden makes amends or more likely twists some arms, he’ll find Los Angeles a lonely place.

Meanwhile counter-summits have been organized by social movements in Los Angeles on June 8-10 and followed by another in Tijuana on June 10-12, which may be attended by nationals barred from entering the US.

Colombia’s relations with Venezuela

Colombia has served as the main staging ground for US destabilization efforts against Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused Colombian President Iván Duque of plotting to sow unrest through the targeted killing of Venezuelan security forces along their shared border. A year ago, US-backed mercenaries trained in Colombia were caught in Venezuela before they could follow through on their plan to assassinate the Venezuelan president.

Despite tremendous pressure from the US, the leading Colombian presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, has stated that he intends to restore relations with neighboring Venezuela. Nevertheless, Petro has regularly made critical remarks about Venezuela, a country slated for regime change by Washington. While not mentioning Petro by name, Venezuelan President Maduro has called those who capitulate to US pressures “the cowardly regional left.”

More recently Petro falsely characterized political prisoner Alex Saab of being allied with the far right. Venezuelan diplomat Saab is currently imprisoned in the US even though he should be afforded diplomatic immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention. The Venezuelan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning Saab’s treatment as what its president, Jorge Rodríguez, called an “act of immeasurable hypocrisy” by the US.

Petro/Márquez campaign survives assignation attempts

Given the domination of Colombia by its US-backed military, Petro is concerned not only about winning the election but surviving afterward. Both Petro and his running mate Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail.

Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

Petro, a former leftist guerilla and onetime mayor of Bogotá, has since shifted toward the center politically. But in comparison to the far-right rule of former President Álvaro Uribe and his successors in Colombia, Petro and Márquez appear relatively left and their election would be a sea change for the better.

Colombia has had leftist candidates assassinated – that is the genesis of the guerilla opposition – but none have survived to assume the presidential office. The win would be a necessary step in the left’s long struggle to free their troubled country from its erstwhile subjugation to the colossus to the north. Then, perhaps, their political candidates won’t feel compelled to audition in Washington.

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For Biden’s Summit of the Americas, Obama’s Handshake With Raúl Castro Shows the Way

On May 16, the Biden administration announced new measures to “increase support for the Cuban people.” They included easing travel restrictions and helping Cuban-Americans support and connect with their families. They mark a step forward but a baby step, given that most U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain in place. Also in place is a ridiculous Biden administration policy of trying to isolate Cuba, as well as Nicaragua and Venezuela, from the rest of the hemisphere by excluding them from the upcoming Summit of the Americas that will take place in June in Los Angeles.

This is the first time since its inaugural gathering in 1994 that the event, which is held every three years, will take place on U.S. soil. But rather than bringing the Western Hemisphere together, the Biden administration seems intent on pulling it apart by threatening to exclude three nations that are certainly part of the Americas.

For months, the Biden administration has been hinting that these governments would be excluded. So far, they have not been invited to any of the preparatory meetings and the Summit itself is now less than a month away. While former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and State Department spokesman Ned Price have repeated that “no decisions” have been made, Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said in an interview on Colombian TV that countries that “do not respect democracy are not going to receive invitations.”

Biden’s plan to pick and choose which countries can attend the Summit has set off regional fireworks. Unlike in the past, when the U.S. had an easier time imposing its will on Latin America, nowadays there is a fierce sense of independence, especially with a resurgence of progressive governments. Another factor is China. While the U.S. still has a major economic presence, China has surpassed the U.S. as the number one trading partner, giving Latin American countries more freedom to defy the United States or at least stake out a middle ground between the two superpowers.

The hemispheric reaction to the exclusion of three regional states is a reflection of that independence, even among small Caribbean nations. In fact, the first words of defiance came from members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, or Caricom, which threatened to boycott the Summit. Then came regional heavyweight, Mexican President Manuel López Obrador, who stunned and delighted people around the continent when he announced that, if all countries were not invited, he would not attend. The presidents of Bolivia and Honduras soon followed with similar statements.

The Biden administration has put itself in a bind. Either it backs down and issues the invitations, tossing red meat to right-wing U.S. politicians like Senator Marco Rubio for being “soft on communism,” or it stands firm and risks sinking the Summit and U.S. influence in the region.

Biden’s failure at regional diplomacy is all the more inexplicable given the lesson he should have learned as vice president when Barack Obama faced a similar dilemma.

That was 2015, when, after two decades of excluding Cuba from these Summits, the countries of the region put down their collective feet and demanded that Cuba be invited. Obama had to decide whether to skip the meeting and lose influence in Latin America, or go and contend with the domestic fallout. He decided to go.

I remember that Summit vividly because I was among the bevy of journalists jostling to get a front seat when President Barack Obama would be forced to greet Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, who came into power after his brother Fidel Castro stepped down. The momentous handshake, the first contact between leaders of the two countries in decades, was the high point of the summit.

Obama was not only obligated to shake Castro’s hand, he also had to listen to a long history lesson. Raúl Castro’s speech was a no-holds-barred recounting of past U.S. attacks on Cuba—including the 1901 Platt Amendment that made Cuba a virtual U.S. protectorate, U.S. support for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the scandalous U.S. prison in Guantanamo. But Castro was also gracious to President Obama, saying he was not to blame for this legacy and calling him an “honest man” of humble origins.

The meeting marked a new era between the U.S. and Cuba, as the two nations began to normalize relations. It was a win-win, with more trade, more cultural exchanges, more resources for the Cuban people, and fewer Cubans migrating to the United States. The handshake led to an actual visit by Obama to Havana, a trip so memorable that it still brings big smiles to the faces of Cubans on the island.

Then came Donald Trump, who skipped the next Summit of the Americas and imposed draconian new sanctions that left the Cuban economy in tatters, especially once COVID hit and dried up the tourist industry.

Until recently, Biden has been following Trump’s slash-and-burn policies that have led to tremendous shortages and a new migration crisis, instead of reverting to Obama’s win-win policy of engagement. The May 16 measures to expand flights to Cuba and resume family reunifications are helpful, but not enough to mark a real change in policy—especially if Biden insists on making the Summit a “limited-invite only.”

Biden needs to move quickly. He should invite all the nations of the Americas to the Summit. He should shake the hands of every head of state and, more importantly, engage in serious discussions on burning hemispheric issues such as the brutal economic recession caused by the pandemic, climate change that is affecting food supplies, and the terrifying gun violence–all of which are fueling the migration crisis. Otherwise, Biden’s #RoadtotheSummit, which is the Summit’s twitter handle, will only lead to a dead end.

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