Category Archives: Migration/Migrants

Requiem for a People-Centered World Dream

My dream is to invite a reader into a room and pour a nice cup of tea . . . and then nail the door shut.

— author Charles Bowden, 2010 NPR interview

There is so much daily that expresses so much about the slippery slopes we are in globally because of predatory-penury-parasitic-pugilistic capitalism.

In the USA, on this continent, north, and south of those colonial and Manifest Destiny “borders,” the amount of both absurdity and abomination is magnified in a world of protracted panic.

It’s there, truly, the panic. Young people are offing themselves with Narcan and with opiates. There are more dreams not only deferred, but dreams turned into nightmares by a thousand cuts.

We have a world where getting into uniform, with a rifle, with a joystick for murder incorporated, is the new abnormal. Hitch up in the killing machine US Army for $50K.

If this isn’t blasphemy, then, you know we have lathered ourselves on that slippery slope of the multi-pronged Faustian Bargain.

Then, more mercenaries recruited for big bonuses: Make that the disgusting US Army,

You know how messed up the USA is, from A to Z, and the news continues to illustrate the dying empire. Paying punks to enlist in the killing machine!

FORT CAMPBELL, KY — The U.S. Army is offering its largest bonus ever for new recruits with up to $50,000 available to qualified individuals who sign on for a six-year active-duty enlistment.

The total incentive package for a new recruit is based on a combination of incentives offered for the selected career field, individual qualifications, length of the enlistment contract, and the ship date for training.

In the past, enlistment incentives for full-time soldiers could not exceed $40,000.

The Army is competing for the same talent as the other services as well as the private sector and must have the ability to generate interest in the current employment environment, according to Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who leads U.S. Army Recruiting Command in its mission to fill full-time and part-time vacancies in about 150 career fields in the regular Army and the Army Reserve.

“This is an opportunity to entice folks to consider the Army,” said Brig. Gen. John Cushing, who serves as the deputy commanding general for operations under Vereen at USAREC. “We’ve taken a look at the critical (military occupational specialties) we need to fill in order to maintain the training bases, and that is where we place a lot of our emphasis.”

Now run that up against The Man who coined the term Military Industrial Complex, and a new book written by, well, shall we call that person part of the elite, part of the chosen people from Ivy League and East Coast silver spoon roots. And, in the magazine that for many is a sell-out, for sure, Jacobin: Here, the article reviewing the man and the book.

Crisscrossing the country, Butler denounced US warmaking abroad and ruling-class violence at home as two sides of the same bloody coin, telling audiences from Racine to Roanoke that America was divided into “two classes”:

On one side, a class of citizens who were raised to believe that the whole of this country was created for their sole benefit, and on the other side, the other 99 percent of us, the soldier class, the class from which all of you soldiers came.

Butler published a short book, War Is a Racket, collecting the key themes of his orations in 1935. Later, in an essay in the socialist magazine Common Sense, Butler confessed to having been a “racketeer for capitalism,” elaborating that, as “a member of our country’s most agile military force,” he had served as “a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers.” In 1936, Marine Corps informants sent to spy on the ex-general observed him speaking on a panel alongside self-identified Communists and reported that “the General appeared to us to be either insane or an out and out traitor.”

[Major General John A. Lejeune, head of the Marine Corps, calls on General Smedley Butler in camp at Frederick, Maryland in 1922. (Bettmann / Getty Images)]

And, as an aside, but a big ASIDE, we are in a time of collective cholera of the conscious, in this remote work, remote being, remote news world. Just watching the fake left, Amy Goodman, daily (M-F) with an absolute stiff arm to authority, as the Democracy Now newsroom in New York is with Goodman, solo, while her correspondents, including Juan Gonzalez, are stuck in their homes with their laptops and tiny cameras and mic delivering their fear porn.

Young Lords logo.png

Imagine this happening today, 2022 — Verboten, again, in the Zoom Doom of Dead Consciousness. Mask up, sit on your toilet, tune into Zoom, if you are lucky:

[Students at the University of California at Berkeley filing in to listen to Smedley Butler’s Peace Day address in 1939. (Library of Congress)]

I analyzed Juan’s book, News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, a while back. Remember, Juan was once in the radical group, the Young Lords.

Luís Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway, said “…in Murder City Charles Bowden plunges in head-first, without a parachute. There are moments when the book threatens to burst into flames and burn your hands.”

We are in a time of cholera of the consciousness, of infantalized masses following the dictates of a few chosen people, men and women of those classes, those groupings, the vetted and vaunted few, the ones who have been knighted by the lords of finance insurance real estate, and, more than FIRE, but the complex: Butler, War is a Racket.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Read the short book, then scale it up to today! Trillions stolen from US taxpayers, and all the apps, all the services of the private money hecklers who have gotten sweetheart contracts with every branch of the government you and I supposedly fought for. All those trillions in bribes and bailouts. Imagine that, a Trump LLC and then a CitiBank Biden BBB. And before these two scoundrels? Do the history, look at the administrations, and figure it out. Here, just one short diatribe featuring one hell of a Satan, Kissinger. Beware of the verbiage I deploy to singe this fellow and those presidents who have utilized this war criminal. I have already gotten emails threatening me for the Blog Post. And notice all those cozy photos of Henry Kissinger with all the tribes of descrutive capitalism, a la war. War on us, war on societies, war on nations, war on children, war on ecology, war on thought, war on agency, war on the human body, war on thought.  “Tribalism Rules.”

So here we are, now, the kernel of this diatribe today — our faces. Oh, how we give up more and more each day, until the chip is in the back of the neck, and those bots are gathered in our organs with graphene building blocks to our souls.

Again, I harp on this one blasphemey, IRS demanding facial recognition — and that agency is for us, right? A truly representative form of democracy demands we the people have a huge say in what happens to us, and that’s not just idiotic voting, but again, “War is a Racket” is now “Banking-AI-Pharma-Med-Entertainment-Science-Education-Prisons-Law-Congress-Energy-Transportation-Chemicals-Engineering-Space-Data” ARE the Racket.” This is yet another single story that comes to us via the Net which is yet another chink in the armor of humanity plucked from our souls:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the US will require people to submit a facial scan through a third party provider to make payments or file taxes online. The system raises obvious privacy concerns.

Currently, users only require a username and password to log into their IRS accounts. But starting the summer of 2022, users will need to verify their identity through a third-party identity verification company called ID.me. The change was first noticed by Krebs on Security.

So you dig a bit, and find out who these millionaires and hedge funders and social impact investors are behind this “third party” (gouging, sick profiteers) outfit, ID Me!

Nader’s good, but he can only go so far. Yesterrday, 1/20, on Democracy Now, a rare media visit for Ralph Nader, who has been locked out of board rooms, out of newsrooms, locked out of so much for decades, when his memory, his insight, his analyses are vital to institutional memory and his own sort of harping against the profiteers.

He has to beat those dead horses, multiple times, year after year . . . dead horses tied to the fact there are no real journalists in the legacy media, and that there are no cops working the FTC or DoJ or EPA or FDA. He is spot on, but he never gets on NPR or PBS or Fox or CBS. Nader is spot on about Republicans being fascistic and messianic. They are, of course, worse:

And the reporters didn’t take him to task there. The reporters, either they’re not doing their homework or they’re full of taboos. I mean, they never raise the corporate supremacy over our country. There isn’t a single agency in the federal government that isn’t influenced maximally by corporate lobbies. And Congress is swarmed by corporate lobbies. You have 500 drug company lobbyists full-time assigned to Congress, and there are 535 members of Congress. And these corporations are strategically commercializing every aspect of our society, commercializing childhood, strategically planning the tax system, the food system, the health system, fighting global warming remedies, the fossil fuel industry, ExxonMobil. They’re planning our genetic inheritance. Commercializing childhood should be a left-right issue, conservative issue. The press never asks about it. The self-censorship of the press is overwhelming. That’s why we have to have a more independent media.

We have to have — I mean, look at the coverage of Ukraine. As Katrina pointed out, if our country was invaded in a span of 40 years from the north, with 50 million casualties, what do you think we would do? Do you think we would just station troops on the northern border? We would have taken over the northern country and annexed it. And that’s why dictator Putin can get away with what he’s doing now, in terms of public opinion of the impoverished Russian people, is because they remember. They have their casualties in their families from the western frontiers, started with Napoleon.

And here we are, expanding a military alliance for arms sales for the military-industrial complex, because, as was pointed out, a condition of joining NATO is to buy the F-16 and other weapons in Eastern European countries. NATO is a military alliance organized against the Soviet Union. And now they’re expanding it in Eastern Europe and putting troops there. It’s, here we go again, a completely preventable conflict. What Putin really wants is Ukraine never to join NATO, no strategic offensive weapons in the Ukraine. He’s asking for ending strategic weapons in Europe — that is not going to happen.

But the press asks war-inciting questions. NPR asked it. David Sanger asked it. They asked war-inciting questions. It’s like Vietnam all over again. It’s like Iraq all over again. They don’t ask peace-inciting questions about diplomacy. And this is a dangerous situation, and the press just isn’t doing its job. It isn’t just Biden.

He can’t communicate how the GOP is opposed to everything that’s defined as human. You don’t make moral appeals to the GOP, like Senator Warnock just did. You show that they are opposed to sending $250 and $300 monthly checks to 65 million children, which has stopped now, and the GOP will not expand it. I mean, that’s a good political item to communicate to the American people. Those 65 million children come from conservative and liberal families who are both deprived. He doesn’t know how to communicate. The GOP knows what it wants. It’s messianic. It’s fascistic. It’s driven. And the communication from the Democrats, from the DNC to the White House, is weak. It’s anemic. And the public senses that. (source)

See the source image

Finally, a story NOT covered in legacy media or left wing media. Ralph doesn’t get it yet. He still believes in his book title, how billionaires will save the world.

See the source image

 

He’s dead wrong about the above statement/title of one of his books. And, here it is, again, social impact investing, and the soul of humanity, especially youth, being sucked up by the ultra rich and investment teams for their data and their compliance — The Internet of Bodies and Human Capital Futures Bets In Brazil

In the coming years, global financiers, will attempt to meld dynamic pricing and mobile payments with biometric digital identity, Internet of Body sensors, and blockchain smart contracts and then weave it all into an expansive spatial web meant to control our social and economic relations in both the material world and, through digital assets, rights and privileges, in the Metaverse, as well. Click here to listen to an interview I did with Bonnie Faulkner of Guns and Butter that goes into more detail about how impact investing connects to digital twins, and mixed reality.

Surely it is twisted to view communities as resource deposits of untapped data, but that is the logic of end-stage capitalism. The infrastructure needed to scale human capital finance profit are ICT (Individual Communication Technology) devices including phones, tablets, and inexpensive computers like chrome books; wearable technologies and biosensors; and 5-6G used in combination with data-dashboards that verify impact data against predictions and success metrics laid out in the terms of the deals. These are all things one finds in recreation centers in the United States now, and given inroads made by the Aspen Institute, Stanford, Harvard and the like, they will very likely become standard issue in the favelas, too. Not because any of it is good for children, but because the children’s data has value, and their compliance has value.

The Metaverse will be populated by compliant avatars. Beyond social impact, the conditioning of the young to cyborg life is going full throttle. Meanwhile for portfolio managers, children’s futures are just tranches of investment – data commodities. It’s only business. — Alison McDowell, Wrench in the Gears (dot) com!

Most people I talk with do not have the bandwidth or wherewithal to understand this next stage, end stage, capitalism into our very souls, which is fascism, inverted totalitarianism, all bunched up in a world of chaos, all drawn and quartered on the backs of us, vis-a-vis all these scams of Build Back Better variety, or UN’s sustainability goals and Universal Basic Income propaganda, and the 4IR and WEF — the fourth industrial revolution is part and parcel of the Great Reset.

This sort of stuff Alison writes about does get under many of our skins, but for the most part, I know so many people who have given up, who think that we all are data mined anyways, that we have all our info in the banking-IRS-DMV-insurance-medical-education superhighway of giving up all agency, anyway, so what’s the big deal we are being tracked, and what’s the big deal that our kids are being watched and what’s wrong with our ovaries and prostates and such being monitored by the Internet of Bodies and Nano-Things when we just have to lean back and enjoy this new world?

And I have harped for 17 years here at Dissident Voice, and decades before, in newsrooms, in classrooms, in homeless shelters, in programs for the disenfranchised, on stage, at conferences for sustainability, on my radio show, elsewhere. I have harped and harped about the false flags, about the overlords drilling into our very being, about more and more of our agency stripped from us daily, not as part of a huge democratically controlled system of community building, power to the people organizing, or we are the 80 Percent movements, but to mine our souls so we are ghosts in their machines.

The agency we have given up was with that passport, all those sick people who pressed my ass at various border control passings. Strip searched and body cavity groped twice. Then, all the shot records needed to go here and go there. All the proof of life in school (Iowa IQ tests), the SAT, the LSAT, all the tests (run by the chose people, millionaires) and all the records of accomplishment, of criminal involvement, all the credit scores and all the car blunders, all of that kept for THEM, the Complext, the Insurance, Real Estate, Finance, FIRE, millionaires who get legislation in THEIR favor passed through the tricks of pimping and prostituting and arm twisting and outright bribery.

Imagine, protests and cops rounding us up, and then court cases, appearances, the hassles, the humiliations. Try it out for size.

How many arguments have I had with MD’s who know squat about nutrition and each time challenged me and my vegetarianism? Me, running 6 miles a day, biking 30 and scrambling underwater and up hills?

How man dirty arguments about “that” history, versus a new and improved revisionist history vital to a population from which to rise up and take on the paymasters, the body snatchers, the mind thieves?

Until we are here, 2022, in a chamber of stupidity, all the dumb and worthless stuff out there, all the racists and white-priviledged perspectives out there pounding it in the heads of unsuspecting youth, K12, TikTok, YouTube, all of the Net and WWW. All the Ivy League and Oxford-trained scum who determine not only our futures, but write our histories, and what they write is almost always semi-dead wrong. Because without the voices of the oppressed, those on the streets, in homeless camps, those suffering poverty and the inflammatory disease of capitalism; i.e., fines-tolls-fees-surcharges-service fees-handling charges-tickets-code violations-late fees-taxes-triple taxations-levies-processing fees-mortgages-ball on payments-PayDay loan rigged systems — without their voices at the forefront, and in the newsrooms, inside schools, and in the publishing houses and the actual process of writing their own stories, then we have the tin ear writers and prognosticators and anthropologists and psychologists, the elite, the highly connected, the bias of the white man and white woman writing about us.

They get it wrong 90 percent of the time!

Now, if this graphic doesn’t run chills up and down your spine, then, you are not following the overlords’ script. Catch up please!

UNSIF 17 UNSDGs

Dig down and listen, watch, read: And it’s not pretty, and it’s not slick, and it’s not all east coast, Ivy League, London Bridges Falling Down stuff.

Finally, I was reading about Charles Bowden last night. Found a piece in Literary Hub, and then went backwards to see one of his talks. Rough guy, but an amazing chronicler of people.”Eulogy for a Visionary: On the Grim Narrative Introspection of Charles Bowden — Leath Tonino Considers His Brief Correspondence with the Author of Murder City”

The piece was written and published December 2021, even though Chuck died in 2014.

Here, a gravel-voiced Chuck talking to the California Commonwealth Club. Mostly about the lies around the war on drugs.  I talked with Chuck years ago, in the 199os, in Juarez and El Paso. I was working on things for the two newspapers, and he was working the narcotraficante stories. That’s a whole other story, of my life maybe some autofiction is due, but for now, here, from the young writer who wanted to interview Chuck in Tucson, but never got the chance since Chuck died at 69 in his sleep. His piece is from the heart, and good.

My first thought: Murder City, solid title.

It was 2011 and I was scraping by in San Francisco, spending hours at the public library, tinkering with writing projects, browsing the stacks during breaks. The name on the book’s spine—Charles Bowden—was familiar yet unfamiliar; essayist Rebecca Solnit, a neighbor with whom I’d recently taken a long walk, had referenced Bowden, telling me that “he could make your skin crawl by describing a Q-tips factory.” Uncertain what that meant, but eager to learn, I slipped Murder City from the shelf, intending to start it when I got home, sip some vodka, have myself a relaxed Friday evening.

Little did I know that Bowden, a veteran investigative reporter from the South-west, author of twenty-five-plus books about polluted rivers, crooks in silk suits, flies swarming over pooled blood, collapsing communities, contract killers, rattlesnakes, and desire, had a slightly different plan. In a 2010 NPR interview, he summarized his approach to crafting stories on the page: “My dream is to invite a reader into a room and pour a nice cup of tea . . . and then nail the door shut.”

So, I end with a dead man, his words not dead, the voice alive on YouTube, and what an interesting conversation it would be with him now, as it would be with Andre Vltchek, with Kevin Zeese,  with David Graeber. So many others, long gone, or just gone. Even Gonzo Thompson.

I have been coming to this city [Ciudad Juárez] for thirteen years, and naturally, I have, like everyone here, an investment in the dead. And the living. Here is a story, and like all stories here, like Miss Sinaloa, it tantalizes and floats in the air, and then vanishes. — From Murder City

More from Bowden, at the Lannan Foundation.

Charles Bowden (1945-2014) was the author of scores of books including A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug WarriorDown By the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and FamilyJuárez: The Laboratory of our Future; and Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America.  In Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, he presented a devastating chronicle of a city in collapse where not just the police and drug cartel members die as violence infects every level of society. Luís Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway, said “…in Murder City Bowden plunges in head-first, without a parachute. There are moments when the book threatens to burst into flames and burn your hands.” Bowden was a contributing editor for GQ and Mother Jones, and also wrote for Harper’sThe New York Times Book Review, and Aperture. Winner of a 1996 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction, he lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Post Script — One story is worth a thousand points of stabbing (not lights). Two here to end this missive. If you haven’t figured out how ugly the overlords and then the Eichmann’s are, then, gain, read, live, walk the streets:

The queen and her minimum wage payout, oh those billionaires! The pay for the 20-hour-per-week job is £9.50, or the equivalent of $12.96 an hour. That reflects the U.K.’s new minimum wage, which will rise from £8.91 an hour now to £9.50 an hour in April.

Queen Elizabeth II tours Queen Mother Square on October 27, 2016, in Poundbury, England.

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“I apologize to the person who appeared before me and to our entire community for having failed to meet the high standards that we expect of our judicial officers, and that I expect of myself,” Alexis Krot said in a statement posted on the court’s website.

The statement was dated Tuesday, days after she ordered Burhan Chowdhury to pay $100 for failing to get rid of weeds and other vegetation at the rear of his property. The judge’s apology followed a TV report about the case and criticism about how she treated the man.

“Shameful! The neighbors should not have to look at that. You should be ashamed of yourself,” Krot said during the online hearing. “If I could give you jail time on this, I would.”

Chowdhury, a native of Bangladesh, explained that he was weak with cancer. A son, Shibbir Chowdhury, said he helps his father with the yard but was out of the country at the time last year.

The post Requiem for a People-Centered World Dream first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Britain helped create the refugees it now wants to keep out

The deaths of at least 27 people who drowned as they tried to cross the Channel in an inflatable dinghy in search of asylum have quickly been overshadowed by a diplomatic row engulfing Britain and France.

As European states struggle to shut their borders to refugees, the two countries are in a war of words over who is responsible for stopping the growing number of small boats trying to reach British shores. Britain has demanded the right to patrol French waters and station border police on French territory, suggesting that France is not up to the job. The French government, meanwhile, has blamed the UK for serving as a magnet for illegal workers by failing to regulate its labour market.

European leaders are desperate for quick answers. French President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency meeting of regional leaders a week ago to address the “migration” crisis, though Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, was disinvited.

Britain’s post-Brexit government is readier to act unilaterally. It has been intensifying its “hostile environment” policy towards asylum seekers. That includes plans to drive back small boats crossing the Channel, in violation of maritime and international law, and to “offshore” refugees in remote detention camps in places such as Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic. UK legislation is also being drafted to help deport refugees and prosecute those who aid them, in breach of its commitments under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Not surprisingly, anti-immigration parties are on the rise across Europe, as governments question the legitimacy of most of those arriving in the region, calling them variously “illegal immigrants”, “invaders” and “economic migrants”.

The terminology is not only meant to dehumanise those seeking refuge. It is also designed to obscure the West’s responsibility for creating the very conditions that have driven these people from their homes and on to a perilous journey towards a new life.

Power projection

In recent years, more than 20,000 refugees are estimated to have died crossing the Mediterranean in small boats to reach Europe, including at least 1,300 so far this year. Only a few of these deaths have been given a face – most notably Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on the Turkish coast in 2015 after he and others in his family drowned on a small boat trying to get to Europe.

The numbers trying to reach the UK across the Channel, though smaller, are rising too – as are the deaths. The 27 people who drowned two weeks ago were the single largest loss of life from a Channel crossing since agencies began keeping records seven years ago. Barely noted by the media was the fact that the only two survivors separately said British and French coastguards ignored their phone calls for help as their boat began to sink.

But no European leader appears ready to address the deeper reasons for the waves of refugees arriving on Europe’s shores – or the West’s role in causing the “migration crisis”.

The 17 men, seven women, including one who was pregnant, and three children who died were reportedly mostly from Iraq. Others trying to reach Europe are predominantly from Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and parts of North Africa.

That is not accidental. There is probably nowhere the legacy of western meddling – directly and indirectly – has been felt more acutely than the resource-rich Middle East.

The roots of this can be traced back more than a century, when Britain, France and other European powers carved up, ruled and plundered the region as part of a colonial project to enrich themselves, especially through the control of oil.

They pursued strategies of divide and rule to accentuate ethnic tensions and delay local pressure for nation-building and independence. The colonisers also intentionally starved Middle Eastern states of the institutions needed to govern after independence.

The truth is, however, that Europe never really left the region, and was soon joined by the United States, the new global superpower, to keep rivals such as the Soviet Union and China at bay. They propped up corrupt dictators and intervened to make sure favoured allies stayed put. Oil was too rich a prize to be abandoned to local control.

Brutal policies

After the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago, the Middle East was once again torn apart by western interference – this time masquerading as “humanitarianism”.

The US has led sanctions regimes, “shock and awe” air strikes, invasions and occupations that devastated states independent of western control, such as Iraq, Libya and Syria. They may have been held together by dictators, but these states – until they were broken apart – provided some of the best education, healthcare and welfare services in the region.

The brutality of western policies, even before the region’s strongmen were toppled, was trumpeted by figures such as Madeleine Albright, former US President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state. In 1996, when asked about economic sanctions that by then were estimated to have killed half a million Iraqi children in a failed bid to remove Saddam Hussein, she responded: “We think the price is worth it.”

Groups such as al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State quickly moved in to fill the void that was left after the West laid waste to the economic and social infrastructure associated with these authoritarian governments. They brought their own kind of occupation, fragmenting, oppressing and weakening these societies, and providing additional pretexts for meddling, either directly by the West or through local clients, such as Saudi Arabia.

States in the region that so far have managed to withstand this western “slash and burn” policy, or have ousted their occupiers – such as Iran and Afghanistan – continue to suffer from crippling, punitive sanctions imposed by the US and Europe. Notably, Afghanistan has emerged from its two-decade, US-led occupation in even poorer shape than when it was invaded.

Elsewhere, Britain and others have aided Saudi Arabia in its prolonged, near-genocidal bombing campaigns and blockade against Yemen. Recent reports have suggested that as many as 300 Yemeni children are dying each day as a result. And yet, after decades of waging economic warfare on these Middle Eastern countries, western states have the gall to decry those fleeing the collapse of their societies as “economic migrants”.

Climate crisis

The fallout from western interference has turned millions across the region into refugees, forced from their homes by escalating ethnic discord, continued fighting, the loss of vital infrastructure, and lands contaminated with ordnance. Today, most are languishing in tent encampments in the region, subsisting on food handouts and little else. The West’s goal is local reintegration: settling these refugees back into a life close to where they formerly lived.

But the destabilisation caused by western actions throughout the Middle East is being compounded by a second blow, for which the West must also take the lion’s share of the blame.

Societies destroyed and divided by western-fuelled wars and economic sanctions have been in no position to withstand rising temperatures and ever-longer droughts, which are afflicting the Middle East as the climate crisis takes hold. Chronic water shortages and repeated crop failures – compounded by weak governments unable to assist – are driving people off their lands, in search of better lives elsewhere.

In recent years, some 1.2 million Afghans were reportedly forced from their homes by a mix of droughts and floods. In August, aid groups warned that more than 12 million Syrians and Iraqis had lost access to water, food and electricity. “The total collapse of water and food production for millions of Syrians and Iraqis is imminent,” said Carsten Hansen, the regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

According to recent research, “Iran is experiencing unprecedented climate-related problems such as drying of lakes and rivers, dust storms, record-breaking temperatures, droughts, and floods.” In October, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies noted that climate change was wreaking havoc in Yemen too, with extreme flooding and an increased risk of waterborne diseases.

Western states cannot evade their responsibility for this. Those same countries that asset-stripped the Middle East over the past century also exploited the resulting fossil-fuel bonanza to intensify the industrialisation and modernisation of their own economies. The US and Australia had the highest rates of fossil fuel consumption per capita in 2019, followed by Germany and the UK. China also ranks high, but much of its oil consumption is expended on producing cheap goods for western markets.

The planet is heating up because of oil-hungry western lifestyles. And now, the early victims of the climate crisis – those in the Middle East whose lands provided that oil – are being denied access to Europe by the very same states that caused their lands to become increasingly uninhabitable.

Impregnable borders

Europe is preparing to make its borders impregnable to the victims of its colonial interference, its wars and the climate crisis that its consumption-driven economies have generated. Countries such as Britain are not just worried about the tens of thousands of applications they receive each year for asylum from those who have risked everything for a new life.

They are looking to the future. Refugee camps are already under severe strain across the Middle East, testing the capacities of their host countries – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – to cope.

Western states know the effects of climate change are only going to worsen, even as they pay lip service to tackling the crisis with a Green New Deal. Millions, rather than the current thousands, will be hammering on Europe’s doors in decades to come.

Rather than aiding those seeking asylum in the West, the 1951 Refugee Convention may prove to be one of the biggest obstacles they face. It excludes those displaced by climate change, and western states are in no hurry to broaden its provisions. It serves instead as their insurance policy.

Last month, immediately after the 27 refugees drowned in the Channel, Patel told fellow legislators that it was time “to send a clear message that crossing the Channel in this lethal way, in a small boat, is not the way to come to our country.”

But the truth is that, if the British government and other European states get their way, there will be no legitimate route to enter for those from the Middle East whose lives and homelands have been destroyed by the West.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Britain helped create the refugees it now wants to keep out first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Christmas Tale: The Downing Street Party, Laughter And Bigger State Crimes

Huge media coverage has been devoted to allegations, and now serious evidence, that a Christmas party was held at 10 Downing Street on 18 December 2020. London was then in a strict lockdown with social events banned, including parties.

In leaked footage obtained by ITV News, senior Downing Street staff are shown four days later, laughing and joking about the party being a ‘business meeting’ with ‘cheese and wine’. Allegra Stratton, then Boris Johnson’s press secretary, was leading a mock televised press briefing and, through laughter, said there had been ‘definitely no social distancing.’

The original story was broken on 30 November by Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror political editor.  When pressed at Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson refused to deny three times that a ‘boozy party’ had taken place at 10 Downing Street when such events were banned.

One source who was aware of the party in Downing Street told ITV News:

‘We all know someone who died from Covid and after seeing this all in the papers I couldn’t not say anything. I’m so angry about it all, the way it is being denied.’

Understandably, there is much public anger, though perhaps little surprise, that the Tory government under Johnson has once again been found to have broken rules and then attempted to deceive the public about it. That anger is felt most keenly by those who suffered the unimaginable pain and grief of not being allowed to be with loved ones who were dying of Covid.

Even BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who has spent much of her latter career shielding Johnson, began her BBC News website piece on the latest revelations with condemnations from Tory MPs: ‘Indefensible’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘astonishing’.

She added:

‘Expect to hear plenty of the charge of “one rule for us, one rule for them” in the next few days.

‘On the back of Downing Street’s attempt to change the rules on MPs’ behaviour after former minister Owen Paterson broke them, even some senior Conservatives are making that claim tonight.’

It is possible that this is yet another nail in the coffin for Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party. There will surely come a time, if it has not already, when the Conservatives will assess that he has become an electoral liability and that he must be replaced to ‘steady the ship’ in order to continue promoting elite interests. After all, financial capital and the establishment require a ‘respectable’ figure at the helm.

While public anger is justified and entirely understandable, with the ‘mainstream’ media judging that the scandal deserves laser-like focus and intensity, the bigger picture is that the government has committed much greater crimes that have not received the same level of scrutiny.

A Surreptitious Parade Of Parliamentary Bills

Just one example is the Health and Care Bill that was being passed while the furore over the Downing Street Christmas party was erupting. As John Pilger observed:

‘The US assault on the National Health Service, legislated by the Johnson govt, is now relentless – but always by “stealth”, as Thatcher planned.’

Pilger, whose 2019 documentary, The Dirty War on the NHS, is a must-watch, urged everyone to read ‘a rare explanatory piece’ on this assault, largely ignored by corporate media including the BBC. The article, by policy analyst Stewart Player and GP Bob Gill, warned that the ‘Health and Care Bill making its way through official channels simply reinforces’ the ‘penetration of the healthcare system’ by private interests; in particular, the giant U.S. insurer UnitedHealth.

Player and Gill explained that the bill’s centrepiece is a national scheme of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) across all 42 health regions of England. This network of ICSs ‘is being effectively designed and fast-tracked by the private UnitedHealth’.

They continued:

‘The Health and Care Bill will essentially provide legislative lock-in for the changes already embedded throughout the NHS. Patients will be denied care to generate profits for the ICS, over which their family physician or hospital specialist will have no influence, while the growing unmet patient need will have to be serviced either through out-of-pocket payments, top-up private insurance, or not at all.’

Player and Gill warned:

‘The NHS will, in the immediate future, resemble “Medicare Advantage” or “Medicaid Managed Care”, a basic, publicly funded, privately controlled and delivered corporate cash cow repurposed to make profit, though in time the full range of the organizational options found in the U.S. will follow.

‘All this will increase the total cost of healthcare, deliver less, harm thousands, enrich foreign corporations and destroy what was once Britain’s national pride.’

Where is the in-depth scrutiny and across-the-board coverage of this scandal?

Likewise, where is the large-scale, non-stop ‘mainstream’ media outrage over the Tory government’s Nationality and Border Bill to be voted on this week? Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bill would tackle ‘illegal’ immigration and the ‘underlying pull factors into the UK’s asylum system’.

However, as Labour activist Mish Rahman noted via Twitter:

‘While ppl are focused on the video of the govt laughing at us a year ago and a Downing Street Party – the government, with the minimum of media coverage are getting the Nationality & Borders bill passed which will allow them to strip ppl like me of my citizenship without notice’

A report by the New Statesman found that almost six million people from ethnic minority backgrounds in England and Wales could have their British citizenship in jeopardy. Al Jazeera noted that:

‘The bill also aims to rule as inadmissible asylum claims made by undocumented people as well as criminalise them and anyone taking part in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.’

But, as Jonathan Cook, pointed out: ‘Britain helped create the refugees it now wants to keep out’, adding:

‘Those making perilous journeys for asylum in Europe have been displaced by wars and droughts, for which the West is largely to blame.’

The bill is being pushed through shortly after the appalling tragedy of 27 people losing their lives at sea while attempting a Channel crossing from France to England. Compounding the tragedy:

‘Barely noted by the media was the fact that the only two survivors separately said British and French coastguards ignored their phone calls for help as their boat began to sink.’

Cook summarised his analysis:

‘Europe is preparing to make its borders impregnable to the victims of its colonial interference, its wars and the climate crisis that its consumption-driven economies have generated.’

Meanwhile, yet another bill endangering life and liberty is being pushed by the government. Patel has just added an extra 18-page amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. George Monbiot warned:

‘It looks like a deliberate ploy to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny. Yet in most of the media there’s a resounding silence.’

The bill seeks to add to the existing plethora of legislation, together with sinister undercover police and surveillance operations, that obstruct and criminalise protest and dissent. Monbiot noted that, if the bill passes, it will become:

‘a criminal offence to obstruct in any way major transport works from being carried out, again with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks. This looks like an attempt to end meaningful protest against road-building and airport expansion. Other amendments would greatly expand police stop and search powers.’

He added:

‘Protest is an essential corrective to the mistakes of government. Had it not been for the tactics Patel now seeks to ban, the pointless and destructive road-building programme the government began in the early 1990s would have continued: eventually John Major’s government conceded it was a mistake, and dropped it. Now governments are making the greatest mistake in human history – driving us towards systemic environmental collapse – and Boris Johnson’s administration is seeking to ensure that there is nothing we can do to stop it.’

Unscrutinised UK Foreign Policy

While corporate news coverage continues to delve into the 2020 Downing Street Christmas party, the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, fuelled in significant part by UK foreign policy, barely gets a mention. Cook rightly observed:

‘Britain and others have aided Saudi Arabia in its prolonged, near-genocidal bombing campaigns and blockade against Yemen. Recent reports have suggested that as many as 300 Yemeni children are dying each day as a result. And yet, after decades of waging economic warfare on these Middle Eastern countries, western states have the gall to decry those fleeing the collapse of their societies as “economic migrants”.’

We wrote in a recent media alert that Matt Kennard and Phil Miller of Declassified UK had investigated the largely-hidden role of a factory owned by arms exporter BAE Systems in the Lancashire village of Warton. The factory supplies military equipment to the Saudi Arabian regime, enabling it to continue its devastating attacks on Yemen.

Kennard and Miller reported that:

‘Boris Johnson recently visited Warton and claimed the BAE site was part of his “levelling up agenda”. No journalist covering the visit seems to have reported the factory’s role in a war.’

In fact, you could take just about any article published on the exemplary Declassified UK website and compare its quality journalism with the omission-ridden, power-friendly output of ‘respectable’ media. Here is a recent sample:

  • Anne Cadwallader on the UK government’s attempt to rewrite the history of British policy in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the UK government is actually ‘censoring numerous files showing British army complicity in the deaths of civilians, depriving bereaved families of access to the truth.’ See also Michael Oswald’s documentary film, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, about Colin Wallace, an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland who became a whistleblower and was framed for murder, likely by UK intelligence. Declassified UK published a review of this important film, describing it as ‘essential viewing for anyone who seeks to hold power to account, who seeks to understand the dark links between state intelligence and the media apparatus.’
  • An article by Richard Norton-Taylor, the former Guardian security editor, titled, ‘Manchester bombing: What are the security agencies hiding?’. He wrote: ‘We need to know why MI5 and MI6 appear to have placed their involvement in power struggles in Libya, and Britain’s commercial interests there, above those of the safety of its own citizens.’
  • Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported that Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the judge that will soon decide Julian Assange’s fate, is a close personal friend of Sir Alan Duncan who once described Assange in Parliament as a ‘miserable little worm’. When Duncan was the UK foreign minister, he arranged Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy.
  • Israeli historian Ilan Pappé wrote that ‘Britain is ensuring the death of a Palestinian state’. His piece explained that: ‘The UK claims to support a “two-state” solution in Israel-Palestine but the body of a Palestinian state has long been in the morgue, although nobody dares to have a funeral. As long as Britain and other states continue to superficially endorse a two-state solution, Israel will become entrenched as a full-blown apartheid state with international blessing.’

Any one of these topics, and many more on the Declassified UK website, would be a major item on ‘mainstream’ news if there was a functioning ‘Fourth Estate’ to scrutinise power and hold it to account. In particular, Israel is continually given a free pass by the ‘free press’.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy – a rare example of a journalist who regularly reports and comments on Israel’s serious crimes – published a recent piece, ‘A Brief History of Killing Children’. He wrote:

‘Soldiers and pilots have killed 2,171 children and teenagers, and not one of these cases shocked anyone here, or sparked a real investigation or led to a trial. More than 2,000 children in 20 years – 100 children, three classrooms a year. And all of them, down to the last, were found guilty of their own death.’

Needless to say, these facts are hidden, or at best glossed over, by ‘responsible’ news outlets. As we pointed out last month on Twitter after Israel had dropped bombs on Syria’s capital Damascus – the fourth Israeli attack on Syria in three weeks:

‘Hello @BBCNews

‘Seen this? Of course you have. But most likely you’ll ignore Israel’s latest breaking of international law. Or, at best, you’ll mention it briefly at 3am on  @bbcworldservice

‘You are indeed the world’s most refined propaganda service, as @johnpilger says.’

The ‘mainstream’ media has almost entirely ignored major reports by two human rights groups – B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch – classing Israel as an apartheid state. Cook observed that, despite this, ‘the Labour and Tory parties are now competing to be its best friend’. Commenting on a ‘shameful speech’ by Labour leader Keir Starmer that uncritically supported Israel, Cook added:

‘Israel’s apartheid character, its vigorous lobby and support for a boycott are all off the table. But worse, Labour, like the Conservative party, is once again reluctant even to criticise the occupation.’

Near-silence also greeted human rights groups’ condemnation of the UK government’s announcement of a new 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel. The Morning Star was virtually alone in giving ample space to critical voices, such as Katie Fallon of Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

‘The evidence that Israeli spyware has been used against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in the UK continues to pile up. This agreement signals that the government prioritises trade deals to the degree that they are willing to jeopardise the security of people in the UK who are most at risk of illegal surveillance — totally at odds with their stated foreign policy priority to protect and support human rights defenders.’

War on War’s senior campaigner for militarism and security, Chi-Chi Shi said:

‘If the UK government observed its duty to uphold human rights and international law, it would end the UK-Israel arms trade.

‘Instead, it is actively enabling grave human rights abuses and Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.’

But full, accurate and critical coverage of anything to do with Israel is essentially out of bounds for ‘mainstream’ news media.

So, too, is anything that truly exposes the role of corporate and financial power in driving humanity to the point of extinction: a vital point which we have repeatedly emphasised since Media Lens began in 2001.

Following the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the esteemed climate scientist James Hansen summarised that ‘COP meetings are actually Conferences of the Pretenders’ 1.

He continued:

‘Political leaders make statements that they know – or should know – are blatant nonsense. COPs can produce numerous minor accomplishments, which is sufficient reason to continue with the meetings.’

In typically blunt fashion, Hansen stated:

‘Why is nobody telling young people the truth? “We preserved the chance at COP26 to keep global warming below 1.5°C.” What bullshit! “Solar panels are now cheaper than fossil fuels, so all we are missing is political will.” What horse manure! “If we would just agree to consume less, the climate problem could be solved.” More nonsense!’

‘Young people, I am sorry to say that – although the path to a bright future exists and is straightforward – it will not happen without your understanding and involvement in the political process.’

Noam Chomsky, who recently turned 93, concurs. Asked what is the greatest obstacle to solving the climate crisis, he responded:

‘There are two major obstacles. One is, of course, the fossil fuel companies. Second is the governments of the world, including Europe and the United States.’

Ending the climate crisis, says Chomsky, ‘has to come from mass popular action’, not politicians.

While corporate news media are content to expose the galling, but comparatively minor crime of holding a Christmas party at 10 Downing Street during lockdown, they remain essentially silent about much bigger state crimes.

  1. ‘A Realistic Path to a Bright Future’, newsletter [pdf], 3 December 2021
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Manufactured Cruelties: Belarus, Poland and the Refugee Crisis

Refugee crises are often manufactured by governments.  They can be done at the source: war, famine, rapacious institutions.  They can also be manufactured by the refusal of governments to accept those seeking asylum, sanctuary and refuge.

The latter is very much in evidence in Europe: governments of the European Union are staring down desperate humans keen to travel into the EU; Belarus, engaging in its own form of mega-trafficking, has become a conduit for the movement of asylum seekers and migrants fleeing from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Despite being granted Belarussian visas at considerable cost, many being initially housed in government hotels, their stay is only intended as temporary.  After brief respite, they are pushed towards the country’s border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.  How they get there is not entirely clear.  Some migrants are escorted by uniformed men; others pay additional fees to be transported.  It has also been reported that Belarusian security forces have furnished instructions and tools – axes and wire cutters – to aid the crossing of the border.  Attempts by Belarussian personnel to destroy border fences near Czeremcha, and disorientate Polish soldiers with stroboscopes and lasers, have also been noted.

Once at the border, the migrants are not allowed to approach any checkpoints to seek asylum. Nor are they allowed to return to Minsk, threatened by Belarusian border guards who insist on keeping them there.

Trapped in purgatorial fashion along the border, the migrants find themselves sleeping in rude conditions and left at the mercy of the elements.  They have inadequate supplies, lack warm clothing and are starving.  One estimate has put the death toll at nine.

All political sides are making hay from this suffering.  Lukashenko can be accused of being an opportunistic trafficker of desperate folk and keen on jailing opponents in a desperate bit to stay in power, but Poland’s Law and Justice Party has happily stirred xenophobic hysteria.  Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Adrzej Duda are part of an administration that does not shy away from demonising arrivals they associate with terrorists with kinky characteristics.  Doing so supplies an appropriate distraction from accusations of corruption, galloping inflation and a troubling rise in COVID-19 numbers.

In September, the Minister of the Interior, Mariusz Kamiński, and the National Defence Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, appeared at a press conference to show a picture of a man copulating with a cow.  The content had been allegedly found on a phone belonging to an Afghan migrant lurking in the woods.  Spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Stanisław Żaryn, suggested that this was an act “associated with sexual disorders”, signalling a government campaign to link refugees with zoophilia and paedophilia.

In a gesture of such refined generosity, TVP Info, the main propaganda outlet of the ruling party, ran a video with a suitably prurient title: “He raped a cow and wanted to enter Poland?”  There were two problems with the footage: the material, recorded on a VHS videotape, was drawn from bestiality porn from the 1970s; and the animal in question was a mare, not a cow.

Earlier this month, Duda signed a bill into law to construct what was described as “a high-tech barrier on the border with Belarus to guard against an influx of irregular migrants.”  The barrier, valued at some €350 million, was “needed due to increased migratory pressure from Belarus”.  The right to asylum had all but entirely vanished.

Liz Throssell, spokesperson from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is adamant that, “The human rights of migrants and refugees have to come first.”  Unfortunately, she was far from informative on what solutions might be pursued on the Belarus-EU border.  “It is really important they must be respected under international human rights refugee law, but as for the political dimension to this, I would leave that to others to address”.

Along the Belarus-Polish border, refugees and migrants have been instrumentalised, their rights assiduously ignored.  Lukashenko has been accused of using a form of “hybrid” warfare by throwing migrants at the border like willing assailants of rabid intent.  The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, makes the point.  “It is a hybrid attack, a brutal attack, a violent attack and a shameful attack.”  Such nasty terminology has turned those wishing to make their way to the EU into foot soldiers in a political cause they wish to play no part in.  Wedged in between this vicious play of power, these unfortunates trapped on the border find themselves divested of their humanity, their desires, their wishes.

The EU is also playing its own vile game, falling back upon frontier states who have held themselves up to be saviours of European civilisation.  “It is important that Lukashenko understands that [the regime’s] behaviour comes with a price,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned after talks with US President Joe Biden.  Sanctions are being considered against the airlines that have been accused of facilitating human trafficking.

There is one final perversion in all this.  In essentially condemning human trafficking, the EU and its counterparts are condemning the right to asylum, which such trafficking aids.  With that sentiment, von der Leyen would regard Oskar Schindler and his more recent equivalent, Iraq’s Ali Al Jenabi, as traffickers worthy of punishment.

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Nicaragua’s Elections: The Reality

The Nicaraguan elections are on November 7, 2021. The US government, the media that does its bidding, and even some self-described “leftists,” present a Nicaragua in “turmoil” and “crisis” – and the elections as a farce. These attacks against the Sandinista government also emanate from academics, intellectuals, and journalists with ties to the members of the now-defunct MRS, an organization with no political relevance or popular support whose members pretend to be leftist to an international audience but support the Nicaraguan right-wing and do the bidding of the US – betraying both Sandinismo and Nicaragua. The people and organizations vomiting these anti-Sandinista reports have taken it upon themselves to speak on behalf of Nicaraguans, whom they claim live in some sort of authoritarian nightmare that only U.S. intervention and the “international community” can fix.

Inside Nicaragua something else is afoot. The country is peaceful, getting ready for year-end activities that begin in November. People are going about their everyday business with interest but not obsession with the elections, as usually occurs in the U.S., where every inane and self-serving photo-op and publicist-generated skirmish is reported ad nauseum. No doubt there are plenty of news reported about the elections. For example, poll after poll, in various regions of the country, show majority support (about 2/3) for the FSLN’s ticket, with Daniel Ortega at the helm; in the North of the country, the support is even higher. About 180 international electoral “companions” will observe the elections. Some 245,000 Nicaraguans will be involved in working the elections as poll watchers, polling station board members, electoral police, and voting center coordinators. All parties registered their poll representatives by October 14. In conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) issued a range of health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which include the avoidance of massive in-person events while prioritizing virtual platforms. In-person events must be carried out in open areas with no more than 200 people. No caravans are allowed. With regards to voting, in late July, Nicaraguan citizens had the opportunity to update and check their address to verify their polling station; citizens can also check online. The CSE also notes that one cannot vote with witnesses or with a photocopy of one’s ID – although expired IDs can be used to vote, a measure taken to increase participation of the electorate. On Nov. 1 electoral material was sent to the 153 municipalities of the country. In sum, CSE, the Nicaraguan government, and the citizenry are very well organized and ready for the elections.

The issues that will determine election outcomes are straightforward. Nicaraguans are concerned, among other things, about their economic well-being. The Nicaraguan economy’s strong and enviable financial performance came to a screeching halt due to the US-backed coup d’état in 2018. As a consequence, thousands of people have left the country in search of work and economic stability – something that continues to be cynically reported in Western media as massive emigration due to government crackdowns, which is demonstrably false. Since the failed US-backed coup, the Sandinista government has gone into hyperdrive to recover the economic trajectory it was on prior to the US-funded attack. All economic indicators, particularly this year, suggest that Nicaragua is, in fact, recovering at neck-breaking speed, including an expected 6-8% GDP growth in 2021, to the chagrin of their aggressors. Nevertheless, some families have had more difficulty than others, leading some to consider – and some of them to depart for – the United States.

US Aggression and Subsequent Migration

During the electoral campaign, the Biden team promised a more humane, just, and rule-bound immigration regime in contrast to Trump’s. They communicated to Central Americans that they would be treated more fairly and even welcomed at the US border. The advertisement campaign worked. People in the US and all over the world – including in Nicaragua – believed what they said. Thousands embarked on their journey to the United States, believing they would be allowed in. In addition, in the US, immigrant workers seem necessary due to increasing layoffs following vaccine mandates among blue-collar workers and US citizen worker resistance to ever devolving labor conditions, including low pay, non-existent benefits, COVID fears, and increasing demand. Despite the Biden team backtracking once in office, with Kamala Harris telling Central American immigrants “do not come,” border agents whipping migrants on horseback increased roadblocks to asylum claims, and a continuation of many of Trump’s policies to varying degrees, people decided to depart for the US…in droves. Due to US imposition of unfettered imperial neoliberal policies in Northern Triangle countries, Central American migrants who appear at the US-border (if not caught and diverted by Mexico) largely come from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Nevertheless, US intervention has also reached the shores of Nicaragua, not just with the US-backed coup d’état in 2018, but with subsequent meddling and sanctioning that has made it more difficult for the Sandinista government to look after its people. Hurricanes Eta and Iota made things worse. Consequently, some Nicaraguans have left for the US, in search of what they are prevented from achieving in Nicaragua due to US intervention and attacks. Moreover, due to US political aggression against Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba, migrants from these countries seem to be treated more favorably than others at the US border. Consequently, and predictably, since 2018, Nicaraguan migration to the United States has increased after historic lows in the years prior due to economic growth and enviable social governance of the socialist-oriented Sandinista government. Even in this context, the number of migrants from Nicaragua to the United States is small compared to overall immigration and from Northern Triangle migrants, in particular. Western media outlets admit that the apprehensions this year – that are part of longer emigration patterns since the 2018 US-backed coup d’état – are at a historic high “since at least a decade.” In fact, since the Sandinistas returned to power in 2007, border patrol “encounters” at the US border “hovered” around only 1,000. Nicaraguans, in short, were not emigrating to the US prior to the 2018 US-backed coup and their numbers at the US-Mexico border now are very low compared to those of their Northern neighbors. Paradoxically, the good governance of the Sandinista government meant low migration to the United States, precisely what the US government claims it wants.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? US Aggression Uproots a Few (Young) People

I’ve had informal conversations with some young adults in my town, on the outskirts of the city of Estelí, about emigration. Leading up to and including the summer 2021 (winter in Nicaragua), in the town where I live, some young people questioned: Should I stay or should I go? In the surrounding communities, including my own, some young people did leave – about 20 in total, I am told. They constitute a very, very small percentage of the young people in my and surrounding towns. Whatever the exact (small) number, enough people have left for individuals here to know someone who left or heard about someone who left for the US. The increase in apprehensions into the summer 2021 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection is consistent with these anecdotal accounts. When I asked about the reasons emigrants decided to leave, these young adults tell me that emigrants left due to economic aspirations and difficulties. NO ONE mentioned government repression, authoritarianism, fear due to their political leanings, or any other political reason, regardless of their political inclination. All of them tell me that the people who left did so because of economic pursuits and the belief that the US president was letting everyone in. It is important to point out that the people leaving tend to have enough money to pay for the trip, including the fees for a coyote. Some of the people who crossed successfully and are working in the US usually have someone helping them settle.

Some of the people whom I spoke with also mentioned that they were considering or had considered leaving for the US. Again, they told me that they could probably make more money in the United States and it was unclear that they were going to make the money they desired in Nicaragua. The reasons for deciding not to take the trip include: (1) not having money to take the trip; (2) family members do not want them to take the trip; (3) they thought about leaving because their friends had left and were doing well, but that, upon consideration, it was better not to do it – too risky or because they were doing just fine in Nicaragua. Even among those who considered but did not actually leave for the US, “political repression” did not figure in their decision. The reports of difficulties on the way to the US, including deaths, also had a sobering effect on wanting to go North.

COVID-19 in Nicaragua Amidst Western Aggression

COVID-19 has exacerbated economic difficulties that stem from the 2018 US-backed coup. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua has engaged in a herculean effort to secure vaccines for its people. Western aggression – coupled with Western greed – has limited vaccines for Nicaragua. This summer was a tough one for families whose members came down with COVID-19, making people more worried. Economic desires/needs and COVID worries converged to pushed some to consider – and some to head for – the United States. In my town, after a wave of vaccinations reached Estelí, the talk of heading to the US, however, waned. This is supported by data that shows a decrease in migration apprehensions at the US-Mexico border later in the summer 2021. The latest wave of vaccinations in Estelí on Oct. 7th, as with the rest of the country, showed high demand for vaccinations. The Ministry of Health organized four points for vaccinations. In all of them, people started making lines the day before to assure a poke. Experienced with the massive demand for vaccinations against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health started working and organizing the lines the day before vaccinations were to occur, handing out numbers so that people knew early whether they would be able to get vaccinated. They started vaccinating people at midnight the day of the announced vaccination, so as to not keep people waiting any longer. In a nearby municipality, San Nicolas, the wait times were much shorter.

Just a couple of weeks later, the arrival of the Cuban (Abdala and Soberana 02) and Russian vaccines (Sputnik Light) designated to vaccinate children between 2 -17 and those over 18 – 29, respectively, further allayed people’s concerns. Later, more Sputnik V and Pfizer vaccines also arrived. Unlike the United States, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua is not pursuing vaccine mandates. Vaccination is 100% voluntary. Even without mandates, the demand for vaccines is high, which reflects the amount of trust that the population has for the government. Given the way the oligarchs and empire have used the pandemic to score economic and political points, including a marketing and media campaign against non-Western vaccines, among some more well-to-do people, there is a desire for “American” vaccines. No doubt some in the Nicaraguan population have been manipulated with the ruse that “American” vaccines are “better.” Consequently, recently, some Nicaraguans went over to Honduras to get the Pfizer vaccine, having bought the propaganda. Western media outlets cynically and falsely reported that Nicaraguans deciding to get vaccinated in Honduras were doing so because of vaccine shortages in Nicaragua. Nothing could be further from the truth. The arrival of the 1,200,00 Cuban vaccines in Nicaragua has increased access. One no longer sees the lines for vaccines we were accustomed to. Recently, the government announced the arrival of an additional 3,200,000 Sputnik Light vaccines. Importantly, the percentage of Nicaraguans who have gone abroad to get vaccinated, whether in Honduras, the US, or anywhere else, is negligible. On Nov. 4, the Sandinista government announced that about 49% of the entire population (over 3 million people) have been vaccinated. Among the Nicaraguan working-class (most of the country), trust in the Cuban and Russian vaccines is equal to that of “American” vaccines. In fact, a few people whom I know that received Sputnik Light are even happier because it requires only one jab. Some of these working-class people speak about the “ignorance” of those who only want the “American” vaccines.

I personally know one case of an individual who decided to go to Honduras to vaccinate his 14-year-old child within days of having the option of vaccinating him with the Cuban vaccine. This individual’s mother – the child’s grandmother – died the day he went. He was unable to see her alive again. There was another terrible case in which a couple of people were injured in a car accident on the way back to Nicaragua from Honduras after getting the vaccine. Recently, the Nicaraguan government returned about 100,000 Pfizer doses to Honduras, which had lent these to the Nicaraguan government in early October so that it could vaccinate pregnant women and lactating mothers. Vaccination initiatives are part of the very successful policies that the Sandinista government has implemented due to COVID-19. Despite criticism and the lies on which it was based, the Nicaraguan government never implemented lockdowns, knowing that most of the population must work daily to provide for their necessities. In Latin American, people whose countries have enforced lockdowns have suffered dire consequences.

Economic elites have the option of taking a plane and going to the United States to get vaccinated, which is a widespread phenomenon throughout Latin America. The working classes do not have that luxury, so media campaigns against Russian and Cuban vaccines only hurt the most disadvantaged when they are swayed by the highly destructive Western rhetoric against non-Western vaccines, because they will be left without an option should they want to get vaccinated. The United States knows that if it subjects Nicaraguans to material suffering through economic attacks such as the NICA Act and the RENACER Act (approved by the House of Representatives on Nov. 3), some people will undoubtedly blame the Sandinista government for their individual economic suffering. Already, some Nicaraguans do blame the government for their stagnated economic well-being, either unaware of the attacks the US is launching or propagandized to minimize their importance.

Elections, Western Aggression, and Migration: An Old Story with a New Virus

Despite economic suffering generated by the US-backed coup d’état in 2018, which was subsequently exacerbated with COVID-19 and Eta and Iota hurricanes, emigration to the United States is not as widespread as reported, certainly much lower compared to emigration from the Northern Triangle. Nicaragua accounts for only 3% of the total apprehensions at the US-Mexico border this year thus far. The emigration of the Nicaraguans that do leave stem from mostly economic causes, which can be directly traced to the 2018 US-backed coup – difficulties that the worldwide pandemic and natural disasters has exacerbated. Uncertainty associated with US threats of economic unilateral coercive measures if the FSLN wins the presidential elections is no doubt another “push” factor for those who remember the economic blockade the US imposed on Nicaragua in the 1980s and its disastrous consequences. Therefore, migration to the US, in the Nicaraguan case such as it is now, can be largely traced to imperial intervention and subsequent imperial neglect and abuse. It’s not, as Western media repeatedly regurgitate, a consequence of political repression, a claim that is not supported but nevertheless used to manufacture consent against the Sandinista government so as to justify – and demobilize opposition to – imperial aggression. Importantly, all of these challenges in Nicaragua have not considerably dampened support for the Sandinista government. The latest poll, released on Nov. 3, 2021, just days before the elections, articulates, once again, massive support for the FSLN with Daniel Ortega’s leadership and predicts an easy win for the FSLN coalition.

The only “crisis” in Nicaragua is the one the US and its imperial lackeys want to inflict upon the country. Without a single vote cast, the US, the European Union and Western media – and some US- and Western-controlled international organizations – have already dismissed the upcoming election as a “fraud,” despite there being five opposition candidates on the ballot running against Daniel Ortega. By the looks of it and their announced plans, the United States and their allies will work hard to delegitimize the Nicaraguan elections and subsequent FSLN win at the ballot box. They have spared no regime change effort against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. For example, just days before the election, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter suspended the accounts of pro-Sandinista journalists and activists with the lie that the accounts were generated by “a troll farm run by the government of Nicaragua and the [FSLN].” The people who were censored have spoken out against this attack, which they suffered simply for being Sandinistas or supporting Sandinistas. US agents have misrepresented and exploited land disputes in Nicaragua’s autonomous Indigenous territories to the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a bizarre turn of events, judging by apocalyptic Western media reports and US (and some European) politician rhetoric, the Nicaraguan election seems to be much more of an alarming and consequential event for Western elites than for Nicaraguans who, for the most part, want to continue leaving in peace, building their lives on the rights and privileges they have grown accustomed to since Sandinista returned to power.

A US citizen would be astounded at the amount of support that the Sandinista government provides to its people, especially because in the United States, policies enacted by the government represent, to an exceeding degree, the interest of its elites. Among its initiatives, the Nicaraguan Sandinista government has launched Vivienda Digna, Hambre Cero, Usura Cero as well as others that reduced poverty. For the next few years, the FLSN has articulated a bold plan to further reduce poverty and increase the well-being of all Nicaraguans, which extends what they have been working on since returning to power. Their efforts have, thus far, garnered international recognition. The achievements of the Sandinista government over the past 14 years have yet to be fully catalogued and recognized. The achievements with regards to public health have been truly astonishing, and great strides have been made in other domains, including public education, electricity and clean water access, housing for the poor, support for small and medium businesses, treatment of its indigenous communities, food sovereignty, and many, many more.

Of course, these achievements are never reported in Western media because they contradict the “dictator” narrative against Daniel Ortega that the United States and its allies use as part of their multi-pronged effort to destroy the socialist-oriented, highly successful FSLN government. The US and their lackeys are trying to tapar el sol con un dedo – block the sun with one finger! But the achievements of the socialist-oriented Sandinista government, while fuzzy for a Western audience, are crystal clear for Nicaraguans, especially its working class (most of the population).

The expected, resounding victory of Daniel Ortega from the FSLN coalition is not a function of authoritarianism, but a consequence of the work the Sandinista government has done for the Nicaraguan population and the trust they’ve garnered as a result. One project at a time.

The post Nicaragua’s Elections: The Reality first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Heroes or Parasites: Europe’s Self-serving Politics on Refugees

Language is politics and politics is power. This is why the misuse of language is particularly disturbing, especially when the innocent and vulnerable pay the price.

The wars in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries in recent years have resulted in one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes, arguably unseen since World War II. Instead of developing a unified global strategy that places the welfare of the refugees of these conflicts as a top priority, many countries ignored them altogether, blamed them for their own misery and, at times, treated them as if they were criminals and outlaws.

But this is not always the case. At the start of the Syrian war, support for Syrian refugees was considered a moral calling, championed by countries across the world, from the Middle East to Europe and even beyond. Though often rhetoric was not matched by action, helping the refugees was seen, theoretically, as a political stance against the Syrian government.

Back then, Afghans did not factor in the Western political discourse on refugees. In fact, they were rarely seen as refugees. Why? Because, until August 15 – when the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul – most of those fleeing Afghanistan were seen according to a different classification: migrants, illegal immigrants, illegal aliens, and so on. Worse, at times they were depicted as parasites taking advantage of international sympathy for refugees, in general, and Syrians, in particular.

The lesson here is that Afghans fleeing their war-torn and US-occupied country were of little political use to their potential host countries. As soon as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, and the US, along with its NATO allies, were forced to leave the country, the language immediately shifted, because then, the refugees served a political purpose.

For example, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese was one of the first to advocate the need for European support for Afghan refugees. She told a ‘European Union forum on the protection of Afghans’, on October 8, that Italy will work with its allies to ensure fleeing Afghans can reach Italy via third countries.

The hypocrisy here is palpable. Italy, like other European countries, has done its utmost to block refugees from arriving at its shores. Its policies have included the prevention of refugee boats stranded in the Mediterranean Sea from reaching Italian territorial waters; the funding and the establishment of refugee camps in Libya – often depicted as ‘concentration camps’ – to host refugees who are ‘caught’ trying to escape to Europe; and, finally, the prosecution of Italian humanitarian workers and even elected officials who dared lend a hand to refugees.

The latest victim of the Italian authorities’ campaign to crack down on refugees and asylum-seekers was Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace in the Southern Italian region of Calabria, who was sentenced by the Italian Court of Locri to over 13 years in prison for “irregularities in managing asylum seekers”. The verdict also included a fine of €500,000 to pay back funds received from the EU and the Italian government.

What are these “irregularities”?

“Many migrants in Riace have obtained municipal jobs while Lucano was Mayor. Abandoned buildings in the area had been restored with European funds to provide housing for immigrants,” Euronews reported.

The decision was particularly pleasing to the far-right Lega Party. Lega’s head, Matteo Salvini, was the Interior Minister of Italy from 2018-19. During his time in office, many had conveniently blamed him for Italy’s outrageous anti-immigrants’ policy. Naturally, the news of Lucano’s sentencing was welcomed by Lega and Salvini.

However, only rhetoric has changed since Italy’s new Interior Minister, Lamorgese, has taken office. True, the anti-refugee language was far less populist and certainly less racist – especially if compared to Salvini’s offensive language of the past. The unfriendly policies towards the refugees remained in effect.

It matters little to desperate refugees crossing to Europe in their thousands whether Italy’s policies are shaped by Lamorgese or Salvini. What matters to them is their ability to reach safer shores. Sadly, many of them do not.

A disturbing report issued by the European Commission, on September 30, showed the staggering impact of Europe’s political hostility towards refugees. More than 20,000 migrants have died by drowning while attempting to cross the Mediterranean on their way to Europe.

“Since the beginning of 2021, a total of 1,369 migrants have died in the Mediterranean”, the report also indicated. In fact, many of those died during the West-championed international frenzy to ‘save’ the Afghans from the Taliban.

Since Afghan refugees represent a sizable portion of worldwide refugees, especially those attempting to cross to Europe, it is safe to assume that many of those who have perished in the Mediterranean were also Afghans. But why is Europe welcoming some Afghans while allowing others to die?

Political language is not coined at random. There is a reason why we call those fleeing in search for safety ‘refugees’, or ‘illegal immigrants’, ‘illegal aliens’, ‘undocumented’, ‘dissidents’, and so on. In fact, the last term, ‘dissidents’, is the most political of all. In the US, for example, Cubans fleeing their country are almost always political ‘dissidents’, as the phrase itself represents a direct indictment of the Cuban Communist government. Haitians, on the other hand, are not political ‘dissidents’. They are hardly ‘refugees’, as they are often portrayed as ‘illegal aliens’.

This kind of language is used in the media and by politicians as a matter of course. The same fleeing refugee could change status more than once over the duration of his escape. Syrians were once welcomed in their thousands. Now, they are perceived to be political burdens to their host countries. Afghans are valued or devalued, depending on who is in charge of the country. Those fleeing or escaping the US occupation were rarely welcomed; those escaping the Taliban rule are perceived as heroes, needing solidarity.

However, while we are busy manipulating language, there are thousands who are stranded at sea and hundreds of thousands languishing in refugee camps worldwide. They are only welcomed if they serve as political capital. Otherwise, they remain a ‘problem’ to be dealt with – violently, if necessary.

The post Heroes or Parasites: Europe’s Self-serving Politics on Refugees first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Trumpism with a Biden Face: US Haitian Policy

With that orange haired brute of a president supposedly ushered out of the White House with moralising delight, the Biden administration was all keen to turn over a new leaf.  There would be more diplomacy, and still more diplomacy.  There would be a more humanitarian approach to refugees and asylum seekers – forget, he claimed, the Border Wall.  Kindness would come over border officials and guards of the imperium.

Instead, we have had secret diplomacy culminating in the trilateral security pact of AUKUS, one reached unbeknownst to allies in Europe, Asia and the Indo-Pacific.  And we have had a particularly ugly spectacle concerning Haitian refugees, with many being bundled into planes to be sent back to their country, having been taken from the burgeoning border camp around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Having been blooded in the mass evacuation exercise from Afghanistan, the Biden administration was now doing the reverse in an exercise of expulsion, promising the deportation of 14,000 Haitians over a period of three weeks.  The jarring contrast was not lost on Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans.  “When you contrast the welcome mat that was rolled out for many Afghan refugees who are deserving – of course – of our support and resettlement, with the deplorable treatment of Black migrants on our home soil, it is just an unfathomable contrast.”

At the Rio Grande River, US border agents, crowned by cowboy hats and sporting a thuggish élan, left a remarkable impression of ugliness by their free use of reins in pushing migrants back across the river.  Many members of their quarry had made the journey to obtain food.  “I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki expressed with the sort of wonder that is becoming her hallmark style.  “But I don’t have additional details and certainly I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”

Political atmosphere and atmospherics is everything, and while Psaki might be puzzled, her colleagues in the Biden administration are happy to maintain a firm line against mischievous incursions.  The US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has been firm.  “If you come to the United States illegally,” he declared on September 20, “you will be returned.  Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

Such conduct did not sit well with the May announcement by Secretary Mayorkas that Haiti had been designated for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for 18 months.  “Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayorkas stated at the time.

Despite that official characterisation, the administration has taken comfort in using Title 42 of the United States code Section 265, a public health statute freely employed by the Trump administration, to prohibit “the introduction of persons or property, in whole or in part, from Mexico and Canada” into the US for fears of pandemic spread.  The liberal use of the statue has received judicial excoriation, with US District Judge Emmet Sullivan claiming it “collectively deprived” asylum seekers and refugees facing “real threats of violence and persecution” of “certain statutory procedures”.

Public health officials have also been disconcerted.  As Dr Ronald Waldman of the human rights group Doctors of the World remarks, “The prohibition for crossing the border has been applied selectively to asylum seekers”.  It certainly has not been applied to students and those doing business.

In a sober assessment of Biden’s report card so far, Natasha Lennard of The Intercept points out that the Trump administration’s use of the law saw half a million people removed. During the short tenure of the Biden administration, the current number stands at 700,000.  Over the course of January, 62,530 migrants were expelled according to the figures of Customs and Border Protection. For the month of April, it was 110,846.

In a resounding judgment of Biden’s policy towards Haitians and Haiti in general, Washington’s envoy to the country, Daniel Foote, has resigned.  His September 22 letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was an effort of extrication from “the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life.”

Foote also took a stab at a long standing practice of US foreign policy: that habitual meddling in the affairs of a country that had “consistently produced catastrophic results”.  The de facto, unelected prime minister Ariel Henry had received yet “another public statement of support as interim leader of Haiti” from the US embassy, among others. They had continued touting “his ‘political agreement’ over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society.”  The now resigned envoy, sniping at this policy of backing “winners”, stated the essential heresy of the imperium: What Haitians needed was “the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favoured candidates, but with genuine support for the cause.”

In response to the resignation, US State Department spokesman Ned Price was a picture of regret and hollow advice. “It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterised the circumstances.”

Psaki was icily dismissive.  “Special Envoy Foote had ample opportunity to raise concerns about immigration during his tenure.  He never once did so.” Such bitchiness is a nice summation of the Biden administration so far: policies that continue to furnish us the acceptable face of Trumpism.

The post Trumpism with a Biden Face: US Haitian Policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Weaponised Refugees and Hybrid Attacks

Refugees and asylum seekers provide rich pickings for demagogues and political opportunists.  The Australian approach politicises their plight by arguing that they are illegitimate depending on the way they arrive, namely, by boat.  The twentieth anniversary of the MV Tampa’s attempt to dock at Christmas Island with over 400 such individuals inaugurated a particularly vicious regime.  Intercepted by Australia’s SAS forces in August 2001, it presented the Howard government with a stupendously cruel chance to garner votes.  And my, did that government garner them with gusto!

Various European countries have also adopted an approach akin to this: naval arrivals from the Middle East and Africa are to be contained, detained, and preferably processed in third countries through a range of agreements.  The common theme to all: firm border controls and deterrence.

Belarus has added another option to the armoury of refugee use and abuse.  The country, under Alexander Lukashenko, has hit upon a shoddy plan to harry countries sympathetic to his opponents and responsible for imposing sanctions upon his regime: swamp them.  First: entice refugees and migrants from a number of countries – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Cameroon – to arrive on tourist visas.  Mobilise said people to move across the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian borders.

Descriptions have been offered for the strategy.  Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis considered the acts on the part of Belarus as a “hybrid war operation” that threatened, he claimed with dramatic effect, “the entire European Union”.  In July, he told Deutsche Welle that the refugees concerned were being used as “human shields” and a type of “hybrid weapon”.   Lithuanian Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavičius resented his country’s border guards “acting as a kind of hotel reception for the migrants for a long time. That had to stop.”

Member states have been sharing experiences on how best to deal with the surge in these Lukashenko arrivals.  In a meeting between Landsbergis and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in June, much solidarity was felt in discussing how to combat a common threat.  Human rights proved to be less important than territorial integrity and European defence.  As the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry stated, both ministers “underscored the importance of European solidarity and the need to pay attention to the processes in the EU neighbourhood, as well as to be ready to respond to dangerous threats emerging from the EU’s neighbourhood.”

Guards along the Lithuanian border had, up till August, intercepted approximately 4,100 refugees and asylum seekers this year alone.  Last year, that number was a mere 81.  The numbers prompted the Baltic state to declare a state of emergency in July.  The resources of Frontex, that less than transparent body otherwise known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, deployed personnel with haste that same month to aid policing the border with Lithuania and Latvia.

According to Frontex, the initial support would involve “border surveillance and other border management functions.  The operation will start with the deployment of 10 officers with patrol cars, and their numbers will be gradually increased.”

The agency’s executive director Fabrice Leggeri was brimming with praise for the organisation’s military-styled prowess, suggesting aid in the face of threatening barbarians at the frontier of Europe.  “The quick deployment in support of Lithuania and Latvia highlights the value of the Frontex standing troops, which allows the Agency to quickly react to unexpected challenges, bringing European solidarity to support Member States at the external borders.”

Humanitarianism is the last thing on Leggeri’s mind as he speaks about the role of “additional border guards and patrol guards by Frontex” as they “work side-by-side with their Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues” to “protect our external borders” in common cause.

Earlier this month Poland joined Lithuania with alarmist fervour, declaring a state of emergency.  It served the purpose of needlessly militarising the situation even as it appealed to the inner jingo.  Tellingly, it is the first such order since the country’s communist era, proscribing mass gatherings and limiting people’s movements within a 3 km strip of land along the frontier for 30 days.  Marta Anna Kurzyniec, resident of the Polish border town of Krynki, described an atmosphere that was “generally violent”.  There were “uniformed, armed servicemen everywhere … it reminds me of war.”

To the use of troops can be added such inhospitable barriers as the construction of a 508 km razor-wire fence by the Lithuanian authorities.  Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte considered it an essential part of her country’s strategy of repelling unwanted arrivals. “The physical barrier is vital to repel this hybrid attack, which the Belarus regime is undertaking against Lithuania.”

Political figures such as Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuania’s Landsbergis have also encouraged disseminating stern messages of disapproval to those trying to enter their countries.  “We need to inform the people that they are being lied to,” huffed Landsbergis.  “They are being promised an easy passage to Europe, a very free life in Europe.  This is not going to happen.”  Morawiecki, despite claiming some sympathy for “the migrants who have been in an extremely difficult situation” felt that “it should be clearly stated that they are a political instrument.”

The situation has also seen the European Court of Human Rights make a much needed appearance in its request that both Poland and Latvia “provide all the applicants with food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and, if possible, temporary shelter.”  The Court, however, wanted it known “that this measure should not be understood as requiring that Poland or Latvia let the applicants enter their territories.”

The Polish government, for its part, insists that their hearts have not hardened, dabbling in its own bit of dissembling for the press.  As a spokeswoman for the interior ministry claimed, “These people are on the Belarusian side of the border.”

The manipulation of such human traffic created its fair share of bestial realities ignoring the fundamentals of the UN Refugee Convention and an assortment of international instruments, including the Geneva Convention.  This is particularly so regarding a number of Afghan refugees who find themselves stuck at Usnarz Gorny, 55 km east of Bialystok.  “They’re the victims of the political game between countries,” came the accurate assessment from Amnesty International Poland’s Aleksandra Fertlinska.  “But what is the most important is that it doesn’t matter what is the source of this political game.  They are refugees, and they are protected by [the] Geneva Convention what we need to do is accept them.”

One Iraqi refugee by the name of Slemen, finding himself in the drenched environs of Rūdninki, some 38 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, offers his own relevant observation.  “Just because we came through Belarus doesn’t make us bad people,” he explained to Der Spiegel. But bad he, and his fellow travellers, are being made out to be by states who overlook the compassion of processing claims in favour of an instinctive politics stressing deluge and threat rather than salvation and hope.

The post Weaponised Refugees and Hybrid Attacks first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Progress or War: On Islamophobia and Europe’s Demographic Shifts

Europe’s identity crisis is not confined to the ceaseless squabbles by Europeans over the EU, Brexit or football. It goes much deeper, reaching sensitive and dangerous territory, including that of culture and religion. Once more, Muslims stand at the heart of the continent’s identity debate.

Of course, anti-Muslim sentiments are rarely framed to appear anti-Muslim. While Europe’s right-wing parties remain committed to the ridiculous notion that Muslims, immigrants and refugees pose a threat to Europe’s overall security and unique secular identities, the left is not entirely immune from such chauvinistic notions.

The right’s political discourse is familiar and is often condemned for its repugnantly ultra-nationalistic, if not outright racist, tone and rhetoric. The left, on the other hand, is a different story. The European left, notably in countries like France and Belgium, frame their ‘problem’ with Islam as fundamental to their supposed dedication to the secular values of the State.

“A problem arises when, in the name of religion, some want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws,” Macron said during a speech in October 2020.

Leftist politicians and intellectuals were just as eager as the right to prevent Ihsane Haouach, a Belgian government representative, from serving as a commissioner at the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEFH). Again, both sides joined forces, although without an official declaration of unity, to ensure Haouach had no place in the country’s democratic process.

It was a repeat of a similar scenario in France last May when Sara Zemmahi was removed from the ruling party’s candidates list for seemingly violating France’s valeurs de la République – the values of the Republic.

These are but mere examples, and are hardly restricted to French-speaking countries. There are many such disquieting events pointing to a deep-seated problem that remains unresolved. In Britain, Rakhia Ismail, who was celebrated as the country’s first hijab-wearing mayor in May 2019, resigned from her post less than a year and a half later, citing racism and marginalization.

While the Belgian, French, and British media elaborated on these stories as if unique to each specific country, in truth, they are all related. Indeed, they are all the outcome of an overriding phenomenon of anti-Muslim prejudice, coupled with a wave of racism that has plagued Europe for many years, especially in the last decade.

Though Europe’s official institutions, mainstream media, sports clubs and so on, continue to pay lip service to the need for diversity and inclusion, the reality on the ground is entirely different. A recent example was the horrific outcome of England’s defeat in the EURO2020 final against Italy. Gangs of white English, mostly males, attacked people of color, especially black people, whether on the street or online. The extent of cyber-bullying, in particular, targeting dark-skinned athletes is almost unprecedented in the country’s recent history.

Various British officials, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, condemned the widespread racism. Interestingly, many of these officials have said or done very little to combat anti-Muslim hate and violence in the past, which often targeted Muslim women for their head or face covering.

Strikingly, Johnson, purportedly now leading the anti-racist charge, was one of the most disparaging officials who spoke demeaningly of Muslim women in the past. “Muslim women wearing burka look like letter boxes,” he said, according to the BBC.

Of course, Islamophobia must be seen within the larger context of the toxic anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiments, now defining factors in shaping modern European politics. It is this hate and racism that served as the fuel for rising political parties like Le Front National in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, The Freedom Party in Austria and the Lega in Italy. In fact, there is a whole intellectual discourse, complete with brand new theories that are used to channel yet more hate, violence and racism against immigrants.

And where is the left in all of this? With a few exceptions, much of the left is still trapped in its own intellectual hubris, adding yet more fuel to the fire while veiling their criticism of Islam as if genuine concern for secularism.

Oddly, in Europe, as in much of the West, crosses and Stars of David as necklaces, or the Catholic nuns’ head covering, velo delle suore, let alone the kippahs, the religious tattoos and many other such symbols are all part of Europe’s everyday culture. Why do we never hear of such controversy of a Jewish man being tossed out of a public building because of his kippah or a white French woman being expelled from university for wearing a cross? The matter has less to do with religious symbols, in general, than of the religious symbols of races and peoples who are simply unwanted in Europe.

Also, limiting the discussion to refugees and immigrants may give the impression that the debate is mostly concerned with the non-European ‘others’ who are ‘invading’ Europe’s shores, determined to ‘replace’ Europe’s original, white, Christian inhabitants. This is hardly the case, since a sizable percentage of Belgians and French, for example, are themselves Muslims, estimated at 6 percent and 5% respectively. Namely, these Muslims are European citizens.

Haouach, Zemmahi and Ismail actually wanted to be a part of – not break apart from – these societies by honoring their country’s most cherished political traditions, yet without erasing their own cultural heritage and religious identities in the process. Alas, they were all vehemently rejected, as if Europe has made a collective decision to ensure that Muslims subsist in the margins forever. And when Muslim communities try to fight back, using Europe’s own judicial systems as their supposed saviors, they are, once again, rejected. The latest of such spurns was in June, when Belgium’s constitutional court resolved that prohibiting the wearing of hijab does not constitute a violation of freedom of religion or the right to education.

It is time for European countries to understand that their demographics are fundamentally changing, and that such change can, in fact, be beneficial to the health of these nations. Without true diversity and meaningful inclusion, there can be no real progress in any society, anywhere.

But while demographic shifts can offer an opportunity for growth, it can also inspire fear, racism and, predictably, violence as well.

Europe, which has fought two horrendous wars in the last century, should know better.

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Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers


On February 2, a group of delivery drivers took a brave step. They waged the first strike in Australia’s history by gig workers. The workers opposed cuts to their pay rates by the company that they toil for, British-based Hungry Panda. Hungry Panda, while having no operations in China itself, specialises in providing food delivery to expatriate Chinese communities. It is largely owned by Western investment firms like Swedish corporation Kinnevik and Britain’s Felix Capital. Hungry Panda responded to the daring strike by removing two strike leaders, Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li, from the platform dispensing gigs to drivers. But the workers stood firm. They organised with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and held rallies and stopworks. And six weeks later, they made history again. They achieved the first ever victory by gig economy workers in Australia. The two sacked workers won their jobs back and Hungry Panda reversed the pay cuts, increased pay in certain areas and agreed to provide accident insurance to drivers.

In terms of improvement in conditions, the victory is modest. Like other gig workers, Hungry Panda workers continue to be terribly exploited. Many have to work long hours to make ends meet. For delivery riders, the resulting exhaustion can literally kill them. Last year, five such riders were killed on the job in Australia. However, the victory at Hungry Panda has enormous significance. It shows that even gig workers – who by definition have no job security because their income depends not on set hours but on being granted individual gigs by their bosses – can win gains through collective action. Let’s seize on this trailblazing struggle to organise other gig workers into our unions and fight for a drastic improvement in their pay and conditions. Let’s not only wage struggles against individual business owners but combine that with a fight for laws to improve the conditions of all gig and casual workers. To do this we need to bring the power of stronger sections of the union movement behind the fight for the rights of these most vulnerable workers. Let’s demand:

  • The granting of a decent, guaranteed minimum weekly wage to all currently gig and casual workers even if they are granted less hours in any week than that which would enable them to currently receive such wages.
  • The immediate granting of permanency to all gig and casual workers – including the granting of all the rights of permanency like sick pay, annual leave and accident insurance.

Migrant Workers from the Chinese Workers State Spearhead Struggle

The backbone of the Hungry Panda struggle was made up of drivers from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) who had come here as visa workers or students. This includes the two strike leaders who were initially sacked. This is not the first time that migrant workers from the PRC have energised the workers movement in the countries that they have worked in. In November 2012, 180 bus drivers from China waged Singapore’s first strike in 27 years! Their strike not only flouted Singapore’s harsh anti- strike laws but was done in defiance of Singapore’s union leaders who treacherously condemned the strike. Five of the Chinese strike leaders ended up being jailed by the Singapore regime and 29 other strikers were deported. The struggle did, however, win some improvements to the housing conditions of the drivers. In repressive, capitalist Singapore, the daring strike by the Chinese guest workers had the effect of a political earthquake.

So why do migrant workers from China, even when toiling under precarious employment arrangements, often have a great propensity to wage struggles? The reason is that in 1949, China had a massive revolution that brought workers to power. To be sure, the workers state created by that revolution is bureaucratically deformed and is today being white anted from within by a capitalist class that China’s compromising leaders allowed to emerge over the last four decades. However, unlike in Australia, India or the U.S., where it is the tycoons that governments answer to, in China billionaires are often cut down to size. Indeed, China’s tycoons are terrified when rich lists are released because that can result in a popular upsurge against them on social media that can culminate in the PRC state imprisoning them. Just two weeks ago, the PRC forced one of the two main companies controlled by China’s most well-known capitalist, Jack Ma, to restructure in a way that will cripple its profitability. Indeed, ever since the PRC squashed a lucrative share sale of that company last November, the normally high-profile Ma, fearing arrest, has gone into seclusion. Could you imagine that happening to Gina Rinehart or one of the Murdoch dynasty here!

As a result of these anti-capitalist crackdowns in China, while wages are lower, in keeping with the country still pulling herself out of her pre-revolution poverty, working conditions are better than in Australia. This is especially true in the PRC’s socialistic public sector that dominates the key parts of her economy. As a huge sprawling country, there are some private companies, especially those owned by Western or Taiwanese capitalists, which can quietly get away with abusing workers rights. However, ever since the PRC instituted a pro-worker law in 2008, workers rights have considerably improved. Article 4 of that law gives unions effective veto power over any modification to wages or conditions at a workplace. More significantly, when Chinese workers strike, PRC authorities often – though not always – support the workers not only in their court rulings but by tacitly allowing workers to picket and, sometimes, even take the bosses hostage with impunity. The result of all this is that Chinese workers have a sense of entitlement – a sense that comes from being a member of China’s ruling class. So, when they go as temporary workers abroad, they bring that workers don’t have to put up with crap spirit with them. The Australian workers movement, which has been on the back foot for decades, sure does need this kind of “communist Chinese interference”! Moreover, as the contribution by Chinese workers at Hungry Panda has shown, the existence of a workers state in China is good for the workers movement here. On the other hand, if the capitalist powers succeed in their campaign to destroy the PRC workers state and, thus, turn China into a massive sweatshop for capitalist exploitation this would drive down the conditions of workers the world over. Thus, we must stand with socialistic China against the capitalist powers’ Cold War drive. Rebuff the lying, anti-communist propaganda campaign over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the pandemic! Oppose the U.S. and Australian capitalist regimes’ military build up against socialistic China!

Demand the Rights of Citizenship for All Workers Residing Here

As well as being from China, Hungry Panda workers are often also temporary residents from South Asian countries. Their powerful struggle has blown to pieces the nationalist notion that visa workers are simply people who “take Australian jobs” rather than a valued part of a potentially fighting workers movement. Nevertheless, that guest workers and international students can be deported so easily and have no access to social security is a huge deterrent to these workers engaging in struggle. Even as pro- ALP union leaders and their ALP parliamentary mates have been quick to use the Hungry Panda workers victory to strengthen their own reputations with workers, much of the pro-ALP union leadership isolates visa workers still further by calling to “keep out guest workers”. Fortunately, a small number of unions are now rejecting this divisive approach that weakens the ability of workers to unite and fight. We say that the workers movement must fight for the granting of all the rights of citizenship to every worker, refugee and student who is here. Let’s unleash the full fighting potential of migrant workers seen so powerfully in the Hungry Panda struggle.

There is something else holding back struggle by migrant workers and that is the incessant racism that they are copping. Such attacks intimidate these workers and make them feel that they don’t belong here and, thus, would be demonised further should they rock the boat. The entire workers movement must come to their defence. We cannot stop individual attacks as they take place at random and are committed by a large number of disparate racists. However, when organised white supremacist groups hold a public provocation, the workers movement should unite with Aboriginal people, all people of colour and all anti-racists to sweep the racist scum off our streets. By dealing severe blows to the most organised racists we can scare the more numerous, garden-variety rednecks into pulling their heads in. Right now, people of Asian background are especially being hit with racist attacks which are getting worse by the day. To stop this we need to oppose the main factor currently encouraging anti-Asian hate attacks – the Cold War drive against socialistic China. Yet, the current ALP leadership of the workers movement is at one with the right-wing Morrison government in its Cold War – and increasing push towards hot war – drive against socialistic China. The ALP does so for the same reason that they promote divisive slogans against guest workers. The ALP accepts the overall domination of the capitalist class and is only seeking to improve workers position within that framework. That necessarily means that instead of fighting to strongly challenge capitalist interests they are left with trying to improve the position of local workers at the expense of their migrant and international worker counterparts. We need to decisively turn the workers movement away from this divisive and failed “strategy.” We need a workers movement that understands that we cannot defend workers interests if we try to gain the acceptance of the big end of town – a movement that understands that workers interests only come by uniting workers of all races and nationalities in militant struggle against their common enemy, the capitalist exploiters.

Let’s Use the Inspirational Struggle by Hungry Panda Workers to Build a Working Class Fightback

The struggle by Hungry Panda workers is not only crucial for gig and casual workers. By showing that even the most vulnerable workers can win through collective action, they provide inspiration to all sections of the union movement. And right now our workers movement sure is in need of inspiration! The bosses have used the pandemic to attack working conditions, retrench workers and make those still working toil yet harder for the same pay. Let’s unleash powerful industrial action to smash attacks on workers’ wages and conditions! Fight for a minimum weekly wage and permanency for all currently gig and casual workers! Win secure jobs for all by forcing capitalists to increase hiring at the expense of their profits! Build the unity we need to wage a class struggle fightback – smash racist attacks and demand the rights of citizenship for everyone who is here! Defend the PRC workers state that gave the Hungry Panda guest workers their “sense of entitlement” that enabled Australia’s first ever successful industrial struggle by gig workers!

  • Image credit: The Australian
  • The post Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers first appeared on Dissident Voice.