Category Archives: Poland

Joe Biden’s Democracy Gaffe

It does not pay to be too moralistic in politics.  Self-elevation can lead to tripping up.  Sermonising even as your stable needs cleaning can enfeeble the argument. But Bidenism, this gaffe-prone ideology currently doing the rounds in a barely breathing administration, has identified the simplest of binaries to work with.

In his State of the Union address, US President Joe Biden took the slicer to the world of politics and placed them into two tidy camps in a tradition that would have impressed the Bolshevik ideologue, Andrei Zhdanov.  “In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security.”

In this supposed morality tale and cartoon strip, the wicked Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin does battle with the heroic democracy that is Ukraine, all simplified into roles where virtue combats satanic vice.  There is no room for debate, for contrast, for history.  Awkward realities are never allowed to intrude.

Putin, Biden insisted, “sought to shake the foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways.”  The President, in contrast, had been busily building “a coalition of freedom-loving nations” across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa to oppose that man in the Kremlin.  Like a student proffering a glowing report card, Biden spoke of spending “countless hours unifying our European allies.”

This child-in-cradle view of the world was not going to go down well with other powers.  Leaving aside Putin as the feted gargoyle of tyranny, such talk about autocracy and democracy jars in a good number of countries.  A few see themselves as US allies.  It would have made the eyes of Egypt’s strongman President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, roll.  It would have caused members of the House of Saud more than a bit of irritation, even if Biden has failed to make good an election promise to reassess Washington’s relationship with the bone saw butchers in Riyadh.

In Warsaw, on March 26, the US President was at it again, adding a few more streaky remarks about this “dictator bent on rebuilding an empire”.  This time, he went just that bit further.  “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”  When stated in a country increasingly gagging to get at Russia in whatever way it can short of total war, this was imprudent.  Biden may well have said one thing, but he was also telling Poland, a NATO ally, that it could not ship MiG-29 jets to the Ukrainians.

A sweat might have also broken across the brows of those in the Pentagon.  The US military is confident that Putin, if placed in a situation of being directly threatened, might resort to the nuclear option.  It did not impress French President Emmanuel Macron, who stated in response that, “We want to stop the war that Russia launched in Ukraine, without waging war and without escalation.”  Biden’s coalition of freedom lovers suddenly seemed rocky.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was left with the task of qualifying and unscrambling.  No, the United States did not, he claimed in a press conference on March 27, “have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.  In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country of question.  It’s up to the Russian people.”

This astonishing analysis, so separated from the truth of US foreign policy over the years, glossed over the invasion of Afghanistan to oust the now returned Taliban (that regime change went so well); the open endorsement of Juan Guaidó’s leadership credentials in Venezuela against the established government; military assistance to rebel factions in Libya and, as a consequence, the public mauling and murder of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi and his country’s de facto partition; and that real treat of an effort: the invasion of Iraq and the eventual capture and execution of Saddam Hussein.

Blinken’s summation is particularly rich given Washington’s own meddling in Ukrainian-Russian affairs.  Such conduct seemed animated by a notion held by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: democracy is only good for a country so long as it returns the right candidate.  Falling short, Washington should provide a correcting hand.

One happy to offer that helping hand was Victoria Nuland, famed for her “Fuck the EU” call with US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, in February 2014.  It is telling that she is currently Biden’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs.  As Assistant Secretary of State, Nuland shamelessly contemplated Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Washington’s replacement for the elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.  Three weeks later, the pro-Russian Yanukovych was ousted.

Umbrage was also taken with the European Union’s partiality towards former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko as prime ministerial material.  “I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government,” a snootily dismissive Nuland told Pyatt. “I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

With such machinations exposed, US officials can be safely saddled with responsibility for overthrowing an elected government (democracy, but just the wrong sort) and aiding to precipitate a civil war that saw the deaths of 13,000 people, impoverished a country, and laid the seeds of sorrow that are now returning a terrible harvest.

Troublingly, Biden’s amnesiac coverage of the issues has found an audience.  The reaction to his Warsaw gaffe in some quarters was far from negative.  It took only a few days for the New York Times to feature a letter from one Tomasz Kitlinski of Lublin in Poland, who was delighted at the suggestion of ridding the world of Putin.  The President “was absolutely correct and doesn’t need diplomatic sophistries to defend his discourse.”

Another letter in the same column showed the danger of such rhetoric, the put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is school of thinking.  “President Biden states that Vladimir Putin ‘cannot remain in power’,” writes Richard Kooris of Austin, Texas, “and yet he refuses to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or allow Poland to make MiG-29 fighter jets available to Ukraine, ostensibly out of fear of igniting a wider (or nuclear) conflict.”

The general tone of the readership, at least those pruned from the email stash sent to the Gray Lady, suggested that Biden was merely uttering the truth, gaffe or otherwise.  Edward Luce, in the Financial Times, suggested that the Warsaw stumble was revealing, in so far as it was “hard to picture the circumstances in which the US would reincorporate Russia into the global economy while Putin is still there.”  The only question remains how far Washington will go to make matters worse, scuttling the prospects of a durable, realistic peace between Kyiv and Moscow.

The post Joe Biden’s Democracy Gaffe first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Polish Brinkmanship: De Facto Leader Settling Score with Putin

In a highly symbolic move expressing solidarity with Ukraine, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia traveled together to the embattled Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 15.

The three leaders took hours-long train trip on their journey from the west Ukrainian city of Lviv to the capital Kyiv, allegedly “endangering their lives” due to security risks involved in traveling within a war zone, though there was no risk to their lives as such because they had requested prior permission for the official visit from the Kremlin, which was graciously granted keeping in view diplomatic conventions.

Accompanying the trio of premiers was a “special guest” of the Ukraine government, Jaroslaw Kaczynski—the deputy prime minister of Poland, the head of Law and Justice (PiS) Party to which the president and prime minister of Poland belong and the infamous “puppet master” who hires and fires government executives and ministers on a whim.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash at Smolensk, Russia, in 2010 along with 95 other Poles, among them political and military leaders, as they traveled to commemorate the Katyn massacre that occurred during the Second World War.

Subsequent Polish and international investigations led by independent observers conclusively determined that the crash-landing was an accident caused by fog and pilot error. Still, Kaczynski, 72, has long suspected that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a role in provoking the accident, and is harboring a personal grudge against the Russian president.

Speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Kyiv, Kaczynski said: “I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission—NATO, possibly some wider international structure—but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory.”

Kaczynski’s escalatory rhetoric isn’t merely a verbal threat, as a secret plan for a “peacekeeping mission” involving 10,000 NATO troops from the member states surreptitiously occupying Lviv and the rest of towns in western Ukraine and imposing a limited no-fly zone is allegedly being prepared by the Polish government that could potentially trigger an all-out war between Russia and the transatlantic military alliance.

The plan is seemingly on hiatus due to a disagreement between figurehead Polish President Andrzej Duda and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as Duda wanted Washington’s approval before going ahead, whereas Kaczynski appeared keen to obtain political mileage from the Ukraine crisis and was also desperate for settling personal score with Putin, even if his impulsive and capricious attitude risked triggering a catastrophic Third World War.

In another diplomatic fiasco involving Kaczynski’s shady hand in the Polish policymaking, Secretary of State Tony Blinken suggested early this month that Poland could hand over its entire fleet of 28 Soviet-era MiG-29s to Ukraine, and in return, the United States government would “backfill” the Polish Air Force with American F-16s.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine, and looking at how we might be able to backfill it should Poland decide to supply those planes,” Blinken told a briefing in Chisinau on March 6.

The transfer might have been possible if the deal was kept under wraps, but that became impossible after Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, declared unequivocally to reporters on Feb. 27 that the bloc would provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

The Ukraine government heard the proposal and ran with it, producing infographics claiming they were about to receive 70 used Russian fighter jets from Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria. A Ukrainian government official told Politico that Ukrainian pilots had even traveled to Poland to wrap up the deal and bring the planes back over the border.

Upon getting wind of the illicit deal, Russian defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov issued a stark warning that any attempt by an outside power to facilitate a no-fly zone over Ukraine, including providing aircraft to Kyiv, would be considered a belligerent in the war and treated accordingly.

Hours after the Russian warning, the Polish Foreign Ministry issued an emphatic denial, saying providing aircraft to Ukraine was out of question as the MiG-29 fleet constituted the backbone of the Polish Air Force.

The deal was categorically scuttled on March 3 by Polish President Andrzej Duda: “We are not sending any jets to Ukraine because that would open military inference in the Ukrainian conflict. We are not joining that conflict. NATO is not party to that conflict,” Duda said.

In a bizarre turn of events overriding its own president’s categorical statement, the Polish government announced on March 8 that it was ready to transfer the aircraft to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany at the disposal of the United States which could then hand them over to Ukraine.

Clearly, there was a disagreement between Poland’s figurehead President Duda and de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski over the aircraft transfer deal, too. Ultimately, Kaczynski prevailed and the Polish government announced it was ready to transfer the aircraft to Ukraine via an intermediary.

The denouement of the comedy of errors, however, came a day later on March 9, after the United States, while occupying a high moral ground, unequivocally rejected the “preposterous” Polish offer, initially made on Warsaw’s behalf by none other than the EU’s foreign affairs head and the US secretary of state.

The prospect of flying combat aircraft from NATO territory into the war zone “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” the Pentagon sanctimoniously revealed on March 9. “It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby dignifiedly added.

The only conclusion that could be drawn from the reluctant Polish offer of transferring its entire fleet of MiG-29s to Ramstein at the disposal of the United States is that it was simply a humbug designed to provide face-saving to its NATO patron while it was already decided behind the scenes that Washington would spurn Poland’s nominal offer.

Nonetheless, CNN reported March 6 Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley visited a week before an undisclosed airfield near the Ukraine border that has become a hub for shipping weapons. The airport’s location remains a secret to protect the shipments of weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles, into Ukraine. Although the report didn’t name the location, the airfield was likely in Poland along Ukraine’s border.

“US European Command (EUCOM) is at the heart of the massive shipment operation, using its liaison network with allies and partners to coordinate ‘in real time’ to send materials into Ukraine, a Defense official said. EUCOM is also coordinating with other countries, including the United Kingdom, in terms of the delivery process ‘to ensure that we are using our resources to maximum efficiency to support the Ukrainians in an organized way,’ the official added.”

Besides deploying 15,000 additional troops in Eastern Europe last month, total number of US troops in Europe is now expected to reach 100,000. “We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and thousands of additional troops in the region,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN.

A spokesman for US European Command told CNN the United States was sending two Patriot missile batteries to Poland, and was also considering deploying THAAD air defense system, a more advanced system equivalent in capabilities to Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Famous for hosting CIA’s black sites where alleged al-Qaeda operatives were water-boarded and tortured before being sent to Guantanamo Bay in the early years of the war on terror, in Poland alone the US military footprint now exceeds 10,000 troops as the majority of 15,000 troops sent to Europe last month went to Poland to join the 4,000 US troops already stationed there.

The airfields and training camps in the border regions of Poland have a become a hub for transporting lethal weapons and heavily armed militants to Lviv in west Ukraine, who then travel to the battlefields in Kyiv and east Ukraine.

President Biden arrived in Poland Friday and spoke to American troops bolstering NATO’s eastern flank. Biden shared a meal with soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division stationed in southeastern Polish city Rzeszow, which has been acting as a staging area for NATO’s military assistance to Ukraine while also serving as a waypoint for refugees fleeing the violence.

Ahead of the NATO summit attended by President Biden Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the transatlantic military alliance would double the number of battlegroups it had deployed in Eastern Europe.

“The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland,” Stoltenberg said. “This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”

NATO issued a statement after Thursday’s emergency summit attended by Joe Biden and European leaders: “In response to Russia’s actions, we have activated NATO’s defense plans, deployed elements of the NATO Response Force, and placed 40,000 troops on our eastern flank, along with significant air and naval assets, under direct NATO command supported by Allies’ national deployments. We are also establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.”

In an interview with CBC News on March 8, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that a Russian attack on the supply lines of allied nations supporting Ukraine with arms and munitions would be a dangerous escalation of the war raging in Eastern Europe. “Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine is defending itself. If there is any attack against any NATO country, NATO territory, that will trigger Article 5.”

Reminiscent of the Three Musketeers’ motto “all for one and one for all,” Article 5 is the self-defense clause in NATO’s founding treaty which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all 30 member nations. “I’m absolutely convinced President Putin knows this and we are removing any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding about our commitment to defend every inch of NATO territory,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO chief said there’s a clear distinction between supply lines within Ukraine and those operating outside its borders. “There is a war going on in Ukraine and, of course, supply lines inside Ukraine can be attacked,” he said. “An attack on NATO territory, on NATO forces, NATO capabilities, that would be an attack on NATO.”

On March 13, Russian forces launched a missile attack at Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the western part of the country. The military facility, less than 25 km from the Polish border, is one of Ukraine’s biggest and the largest in the western part of the country. Since 2015, US Green Berets and National Guard troops had been training Ukrainian forces at the Yavoriv center before they were evacuated alongside diplomatic staff in mid-February.

The training center was hit by a barrage of 30 cruise missiles launched from Russian strategic bombers, killing at least 35 people, though Russia’s defense ministry claimed up to 180 foreign mercenaries and large caches of weapons were destroyed at the training center.

International diplomacy is predicated on the principle of quid pro quo. Russia evidently has no intention of mounting an incursion into NATO territory. But if the duplicitous Polish leadership is hatching treacherous plots to clandestinely occupy western Ukraine and impose no-fly zone over it, then Russia obviously reserves the right to give a befitting response to perfidious henchmen and their international backers, irrespective of the “sacrosanct and inviolable red lines” etched in the institutional memory of servile lickspittles of the transatlantic military alliance.

The post Polish Brinkmanship: De Facto Leader Settling Score with Putin first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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.

The post Manufactured Cruelties: Belarus, Poland and the Refugee Crisis 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.

Democrats impeach Trump for Withholding Arms to Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

On December 18th, Donald Trump became the third U.S. president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The second to be indicted before completing a first term, the 45th commander-in-chief must now survive a Senate trial before seeking reelection later this year. As many nonpartisan analysts predicted, the charges appear to have only improved his chances with the electorate as his approval rating saw an uptick after the articles were approved on grounds of “obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.” After dragging the country through three years of Russiagate which never panned out, the Democrats appear to be scoring yet another own goal. Even a near brush with war against Iran does not seem to have impacted Trump’s favorability, which could have been seen as a reversal of his campaign pledges to end America’s forever wars that were arguably a significant factor in his unlikely victory.

It was Trump’s rhetoric as a peace candidate suggesting rapprochement with Russia which made him a target of the political establishment and intelligence community, who subsequently blamed his shocking win on still unproven allegations of election interference by the Kremlin. Since he took office, Trump has done nearly everything short of declaring war on Moscow to appease the bipartisan anti-Russia consensus in Washington but to no avail. One such step was the decision to provide military aid to Ukraine amid its ongoing war in the eastern Donbass region against Russian-speaking separatists, a move the Obama administration decided against because of Kiev’s rampant corruption. Trump’s predecessor tapped his Vice President, Joe Biden, to head up an anti-corruption drive in Ukraine who instead used the opportunity to personally enrich his family by landing his son, Hunter, a job on the executive board of the country’s largest private gas company, Burisma Holdings.

Biden led the U.S. role in the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine which overthrew the democratically-elected government of Viktor Yanukovych after he turned down a European Union Association Agreement for an economic bail-out from Russia that was the flashpoint for the subsequent Donbass war. Contrary to the Trump-Russia ‘collusion’ narrative, one figure who tried to lobby Yanukovych into signing the pro-austerity treaty was none other than Paul Manafort, the future Trump campaign manager indicted during the Russia probe for failing to register as a foreign agent while consulting for the deposed Ukrainian president. Manafort’s influence went against Russian interests in favor of the EU and was years before Trump was ever a candidate, but this did not stop the Democrats from later misconstruing it as evidence he was a back channel to the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Biden’s hand in the junta was revealed in an infamous leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland, Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

Nuland, who is the wife of leading neoconservative figure Robert Kagan, also spilled the beans that the U.S. invested as much as $5 billion dollars on regime change in Kiev when we were led to believe the Maidan was a spontaneous, popular revolt. Shortly after the putsch, Hunter Biden joined the board of directors at Burisma despite having no experience in Ukraine or the energy sector. The embattled fracking company was founded by a notorious oligarch and corrupt minister from the Yanukovych era, Mykola Zlochevsky, yet who unlike the former did not have to flee to Russia and curiously escaped prosecution in a money laundering case under the new Western-friendly regime — did he obtain immunity with Hunter Biden’s appointment? When the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, reportedly began to investigate the energy firm, the elder Biden did not just blackmail the post-Maidan government of Petro Poroshenko into sacking him by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees but openly bragged about it on camera.

As a reward, Poroshenko — nicknamed the “Chocolate King” for his background as a business tycoon in the confectionary industry — was touted as a reformer by the Obama administration despite multiple Wikileaks diplomatic cables featuring U.S. officials describing him as a “disgraced oligarch” “tainted by credible corruption allegations” and “a deeply unpopular politician that has widespread support among party leaders due to his past financial/organizational roles.” Incredibly, Poroshenko would replace Shokin with a former Minister of Internal Affairs, Yuriy Lutsenko, who had previously been imprisoned for embezzlement and corruption himself. It is still a matter of debate whether the top prosecutor was even actually looking into the activities of Burisma, but what is not in dispute — except to corporate media — is the criminal nature of Biden’s conduct who clearly allowed his family to profiteer off U.S. meddling in the country. After he became a 2020 presidential candidate and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, the subject of Biden’s past wrongdoing was broached by Trump last July during a phone call with current Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The controversial exchange occurred just a day after former FBI director Robert Mueller delivered his anticlimactic testimony before congress where the lead investigator in the Russia investigation did not appear familiar with the details of his own inquiry. The call transcript shows that Trump asked the newly elected Zelensky if he would assist U.S. Attorney General William Barr in determining whether there was truth to the rumors that the infamous Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server given by the FBI to CrowdStrike Holdings was located in Ukraine. CrowdStrike was one of the cybersecurity firms hired by the DNC which questionably determined it was Russian intelligence which perpetrated alleged cyber attacks during the 2016 election. In other words, Trump wanted to find out if it was actually Kiev which “meddled” and framed the Kremlin. While he did not offer Zelensky compensation, it is true Trump asked for the favor shortly after mentioning the javelin missiles being provided to Ukraine in the military assistance. However, Biden’s extortion and the firing of Shokin is only raised later in the conversation and whether or not either matter was contingent upon the military aid is dubious and implicit at best. At the time of the correspondence, Zelensky and his government were unaware that the nearly $400 million in aid had been withheld and did not learn of its freezing until a month later, making any alleged quid pro quo doubtful.

The ambiguity of the conversation has not prevented Democrats from surmising that the security aid was suspended on the condition that Zelensky cooperate with Trump’s requests. While the exploits were arguably unethical, for the content of the exchange to be considered sufficient grounds for impeachment would set a very low bar and virtually ensure any future president can be indicted on a technicality for politicized reasons. In the meantime, the focus has shifted to Trump’s firing of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because if threatening to withhold foreign aid alone qualifies, Biden is not only guilty of the same crime but more explicitly. Forget that from a procedural standpoint, without the required constitutional majority in the GOP-controlled Senate, the chances of removing Trump are dead in the water anyway. This can only mean the trial is really meant to be a smokescreen for Biden’s own palm-greasing in Ukraine while legally requiring his biggest primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, to spend time away from the campaign trail in attendance.

Not only has the legitimate question of whether the former Vice President and his son should also be probed been dismissed by mainstream media as a “conspiracy theory,” but completely lost in the political theater of the proceedings is if Washington ought to be providing defense assistance and fueling a proxy war with Russia to begin with. The Russiagate hoax successfully transformed the entirety of the Democratic Party into new cold warriors and its Ukrainegate sequel has only continued that hawkish trajectory. To make matters worse, Western media coverage of the scandal has omitted that many of the militias fighting with the Ukrainian army in Donbass are far right, neo-Nazi groups previously instrumental in transforming the 2014 Maidan protests into violence. One of the three main political parties which formed the opposition to Yanukovych was the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, personally met with Biden in 2014 despite having been barred from entering the U.S. for his anti-semitism just a year prior.

Svoboda and its militant offshoots like the Azov regiment fighting in Donbass are the self-proclaimed ideological progeny of the fascist collaborators led by the Ukrainian nationalist, Stepan Bandera, who sided with Nazi Germany during its invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. In the Cold War, the CIA provided covert assistance to the post-war remnants of Bandera’s faction as it waged a failed insurgency in the 1950s. In post-Soviet Ukraine, a disturbing campaign of historical revisionism has rewritten Bandera‘s fifth column as nationalist heroes who fought solely for Ukrainian independence. This is not reflected in the historical record which shows they not only participated in the Third Reich’s war crimes but shared their racist ideology, as admitted in the CIA’s own declassified documents:

Altogether, during the 5 weeks of its existence the Bandera “state” destroyed over 5,000 Ukrainians, 15,000 Jews, and several thousand Poles. The “Ukrainian State” of Stepan Bandera ended its short but ignominious existence in August 1941, when it was announced in Lvov that Western Ukraine had been incorporated as the “District of Galicia” in the “General Governorship” (occupied Poland). And then a “new order,” Hitler style began to be introduced in the Ukraine. This in short, the story of Bandera’s “one-day holiday,” which his followers, relying on people’s forgetfulness, now try to present as a glorious and heroic page in the history of the Ukrainian liberation movement. In reality, it would be best, especially for the supporters of a free Ukraine, to erase from the history of their .. movement this infamous Hitlerite, fascist episode, which brought nothing. but shame and sorrow to the Ukraine.

Despite provisions in the aid barring weapons from going to the Azov detachment, the U.S. military has continued to provide them with arms and training. We are already witnessing blowback for this decision in the case of Jarrett William Smith, an ex-Army soldier arrested by the FBI for planning to assassinate former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and plotting terrorist attacks against major news networks. Smith had made plans to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Azov battalion and had previously volunteered in the Donbass war in 2017 with another Ukrainian neo-fascist paramilitary, the Right Sector.  Smith reportedly sought help in making contact with Azov from another AWOL soldier, Craig Lang, currently under house arrest in Ukraine and wanted for extradition to the U.S. for killing a Florida couple. Lang, who is considered a hero in the country for serving as a private mercenary with Right Sector, also spent time with Georgian Legion, a unit formed by ethnic Georgians conscripted on the Ukrainian side in the War in Donbass whose members are believed to have perpetrated the ‘false flag’ sniper attacks on the Maidan that was blamed on the government of Yanukovych.

Coincidentally, just as Americans are following the impeachment, trending on the internet streaming service Netflix is a new documentary by a pair of Israeli filmmakers that touches upon U.S. harboring of a Ukrainian Nazi called The Devil Next Door. The series recaps the fascinating case of John Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker and Ukrainian-born immigrant living in Cleveland, Ohio, who is suddenly accused of being a notoriously sadistic Nazi guard at Treblinka concentration camp in eastern Poland during World War II known as “Ivan the Terrible” and is extradited to Israel in 1986 to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. After impassioned but inconsistent eyewitness testimony by camp survivors, he was mistakenly found guilty of being the mysterious guard by an Israeli court and sentenced to death until his conviction was overturned under appeal in 1993. Years later, Demjanjuk is identified as a different prison guard at another camp in Sobibor and re-convicted, this time more convincingly by a German court. He maintained until his death in 2012 that he was again a victim of mistaken identity and during the war was a POW himself after serving in the Red Army until his capture by the Germans who then “forced” him to work as a guard at Trawniki, but never Sobibor. However, newly discovered photos of Demjanjuk at the death camp were just released which contradict his denials and increase the likelihood he was a willing defector.

The documentary sheds light on how Demjanjuk was able to gain safe harbor in the U.S. because of amendments to the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which restricted immigration of those persecuted by the Nazis while giving preferential treatment to Polish and Ukrainian nationals who hid under new aliases in refugee camps while fleeing the Soviets. U.S. immigration services were only able to detect the entry of formal members of the Nazi regime while their local collaborators like Demjanjuk often snuck through unnoticed. The show also speaks briefly of the U.S. embrace of many “former” Nazis such as Wernher von Braun and the thousands of other German scientists recruited in Operation Paperclip who were employed by the U.S. government during the Cold War in order to gain an advantage over Moscow in the space race. However, the series neglects to mention the CIA’s support for Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), much less their descendants in Kiev today who are renaming city streets after SS veterans and tearing down Soviet statues to replace them with effigies of fascist quislings. Unfortunately, it is unlikely viewers will make any connection between the show and the current political scandal gripping Washington.

Netflix did receive objections over The Devil Next Door from the Polish government and its right-wing populist Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, who accused the streaming giant of “rewriting history” in its production by using a map of the country’s post-1945 borders while implying that Poland shared culpability for Nazi war crimes that occurred in its territory. Much of western Ukraine became eastern Poland overnight with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the German occupation, one of the reasons why a native of northwestern Ukraine like Demjanjuk ended up in the neighboring country. Like the Banderites doctoring history in Kiev, Polish nationalists are seeking to revise the historical record of the many Poles who collaborated with the Germans in the slaughter of their fellow compatriots as well. This historical negationism continued in Poland’s recent row with Russia over the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in which Morawiecki despicably made a false equivalency between the USSR and Nazi Germany with a disturbing reinterpretation encouraged by the U.S. who seek to take credit for the Soviet accomplishment of freeing the concentration camp in 1945. Nothing is sacred to the Atlanticists who are willing to politicize anything in the name of their geostrategy of encircling Moscow and ultimate goal of conquering Eurasia.

That the Democrats are not impeaching Trump for an actual unconstitutional offense like the diverting of military funds to his border wall without congressional approval is revealing of its true motivations. Trump only crossed a line when he went after another member of the political establishment and fleetingly halted the U.S. war machine in its aggression toward Moscow. It is reminiscent of what some have argued were the real reasons for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that resulted from the Watergate scandal. Similarly, Nixon was forced to resign in 1974 after he targeted other members of the elite in the wire-tapping and break-in of the DNC headquarters, not his use of the CIA to violate its own charter for domestic espionage on American citizens active in the anti-war movement. Like Trump’s rhetoric toward Moscow, Nixon had also broken with foreign policy orthodoxies both in his unprecedented restoration of diplomacy with China and détente with the Soviet Union negotiating arms control.

The dangerous consequences of the campaign against Trump for deviating from the anti-Russia foreign policy dogma can be seen in the unparalleled recent NATO war games and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists pushing the hand of the Doomsday Clock forward to just 100 seconds to midnight, its closest ever approach which even exceeds that of the beginning of the Cold War in the early 1950s. Trump would never have armed Ukraine to begin with if not for the constant pressure of the Russia investigation and the need to not appear soft on Moscow. It is clear that the impeachment is nothing more than an inter-war between different factions of the elite and not only has it reduced the American people to onlookers, it may get us all killed in a nuclear holocaust in the process. For an excellent in-depth investigation of the roots of the crisis, Revealing Ukraine, the anticipated follow-up to the 2016 documentary Ukraine on Fire directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone, is highly recommended.

Rising Politics of Intolerance and the Need for Unity

Over the last 20 years extreme right-wing groups have been on the rise throughout the world. They share a belief in white supremacism and conspiracy theories that allege there is a global plot to replace white Christian populations with Muslims and people of color.

As socio-economic inequality has grown and immigration increased the reactionary ideology of tribal nationalism has become more popular and bled into mainstream politics. Far right groups have garnered support and won political power in a number of countries, including Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy, the US and India.

Rising far-right terror

Within the spectrum of the far right there are varying degrees of bigotry and Neo-Fascist ideals; at the darkest extreme there are the Neo-Nazi’s, a small percentage that holds the most violent views; next are the pro-white, anti-Semitic social conservatives, they form the majority and want a separation of the races; then there is the more moderate wing or Alt Lite, staunchly anti-feminist, anti-political correctness, pro-western chauvinism. All are abhorrent, all are dangerous; a hint of prejudice no matter where it comes from adds to the collective atmosphere of intolerance, fans the flames of division and can incite violence.

While overall terrorism throughout the world is declining, The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) states that, “there has been a real and significant increase in far-right terrorist activity.”

Since 2014, the number of attacks from right-wing extremists has been greater than attacks from Jihadists, and, the Anti-Defamation League reports that during 2018 “right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 murders in the United States [up 35% on 2017].” Globally, between 2013 and 2017 there were 113 attacks “by far-right groups and individuals…. of those 47 attacks took place in 2017.

On 15th March, 50 Muslims were murdered in Christchurch, New Zealand: the indiscriminate attack on two mosques during Friday prayers was carried out by Brenton Tarrent, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist. Prior to the attack Tarrent published a 78-page document entailed The Great Replacement, online. In it he states that the aim of the Christchurch murders was “to take revenge on the [Muslim] invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history…and the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands.” The manifesto title and many of the ideas promoted in it come from Le Grand Remplacement by 71-year-old Jean Camus and published in 2012.

Camus claims that the white Christian European population is being ousted by immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. His views have become highly influential on right-wing groups, nationalist and identitarian movements across Europe, the US and elsewhere. Although Camus is particularly concerned with France and preserving French culture, he believes that all Western countries are faced with what he calls, “ethnic and civilizational substitution”, in which over the course of a single generation a civilization is transformed by immigration.

As a result of wars in the Middle East and economic insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa large numbers of migrants have indeed fled to Europe and elsewhere seeking safety and a new life. The influx of migrants/refugees into western countries presents societal challenges and change, but is not a threat or an act of ‘replacement’. The vast majority of migrants do not want to leave their homeland and travel to a country they do not know; people migrate to escape conflict, persecution and economic hardship, much of it caused by the foreign policies of western powers over decades, the exploitation of poor countries over centuries and the concentration of global economic wealth.

Cries of hate; modes of tolerance

Far-right terrorism is a transnational issue; extremists from different countries are more connected than ever and work together. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies relates the example of how in early 2018 members of the Rise Above Movement  (RAM, a white supremacist group based in California) “traveled to Germany, Ukraine, and Italy to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and to meet with members of European white supremacist groups.” They posted photographs on Instagram with the RAM logo and words like “RAPEFUGEES ARE NOT WELCOME HERE”.

In Ukraine RAM members are reported to have met with Azov Battalion, a paramilitary unit of the Ukrainian National Guard believed to be training and radicalizing white supremacist organizations based in the United States.

The internet plays a crucial role in the work of such groups: social media platforms are employed by both Islamist and right-wing extremists to spread propaganda, organize training, make travel arrangements for events/protests, raise funds and recruit members. Extreme right-wing Internet channels spread lies, exaggerate and mislead; when challenged the sacred cow of freedom of speech is invoked to justify the use of inflammatory language. Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, but when it leads to murderous violence it violates the most basic human right, the right to life; freedom of speech needs to be conditioned by a sense of social responsibility, respect and understanding of others.

Acts of hate and intolerance of all kinds have been increasing exponentially across the western world in recent years. The 2016 election of Donald Trump in the US, the highly divisive EU referendum in Britain the same year and the influx of refugees fleeing wars and economic hardship triggered a wave of crimes against immigrants, particularly Muslims, as well as other minority groups. Liberal politicians, especially women, have also been targeted, many receiving hate mail and violent threats from right-wing extremists.

The current hatred of Muslims was aroused by the 9/11 attacks and inflamed by the ‘War on Terror’ announced by President George W. Bush in 2007; prejudice normalized, the far right flourished. A 2010 poll conducted by Gallup found that almost half of Muslim Americans experienced racial or religious discrimination, which is on par with “Hispanic Americans (48%) and African Americans (45%),” and, according to research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency a third of Muslims in Europe say they face discrimination effecting employment, access to public services and housing.

Mainstream politicians stir up discrimination and incite hate; President Trump openly expresses hostility to foreign nationals and consistently makes and retweets Islamophobic comments, he has banned people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, talks of the US being invaded and is building a ‘wall’ on the Mexican/US border. He is not alone in pandering to prejudice, many right and far right leaning politicians in western democracies have been guilty of fanning the fires. A striking example was the recent action by UK Home Secretary, Sajid David when he stripped Shamima Begum of her British citizenship. The 19 year old, who was in the final days of pregnancy when the announcement was made, had made the mistake of going to Syria in 2016 to support ISIS and marry an ISIS fighter. Her baby was born inside a refugee camp in Syria and, due to lack of proper medical care, died three weeks later.

Not only is the action to make her stateless illegal, it panders to the rhetoric of right wing populism and, instead of fostering forgiveness and compassion, adds to the creation of an environment in which judgment, intolerance and retribution flourish.

Unity not division

Protectionist ideals flourish in an atmosphere of fear, of economic instability and an unstable political environment; such insecure conditions strengthen inward-looking insular attitudes allowing the divisive ‘us versus them’ ideology to become the norm. Divisions of all kinds feed the idea of separation, create distrust, suspicion and fear; and fear leads to conflict and hate.

A cornerstone of the economic system and many aspects of contemporary life is competition; competition encourages division. Competition and aggression go together: the sense that we must compete or fight to survive, that others – especially others that are dissimilar – are regarded as opponents, rivals, competitors wanting what we have, which we must defend at all costs. Trust is nowhere in such an unjust world, society fractures along flag waving lines, violence erupts.

One of the consequences of this combative socio-economic system is inequality – of wealth, income, opportunity, influence, access to culture etc., etc. This social poison fuels a range of ills including mistrust, particularly of ‘the other’, someone who looks, talks and prays differently. Societies with the highest levels of inequality have the lowest levels of trust.

Competition, socio-economic inequality and poverty are not the cause of right-wing extremism, neither is the spread of misinformation or the use of inflammatory language, but collectively they form a powerful force in the creation of circumstances in which negative human tendencies like fear and aggression, are inflamed.

Division in any form, including nationalism, and competition go against human nature; if we are to free the world of all forms of extremism and hate they need to be driven out of society and from the systems under which we live. Unity is the keynote of the times, unity with the greatest level of diversity; modes of living that encourage tolerance and unite people must be actively inculcated. This means rejecting competition and embracing cooperation; it means sharing resources, information and wealth equitably; it means building trust and right relationships. Only then will there be peace within our communities and the wider world.

Trust Nothing

Utilizing the power of celebrity (an unprecedented phenomenon for the expansion of capital in the west), today’s global influencers such as Thunberg, are fully utilized to create a sense of urgency in regard to the climate crisis. The unspoken reality is, they are the very marketing strategy to save capitalism. This is a very “inconvenient truth”.

Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer

And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens, but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength, and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world.

— Albert T. Beveridge (Speech in the Senate. “Congressional Record”, Senate, 56th Congress, 1st session,1900)

The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard…

Luther Standing Bear

I want to try to tie together several societal and cultural trends that have been developing beneath the surface (or at least beneath the surface most of the time) for several years. One thing that the Trump presidency seems undeniably to embody is a kind of seismic shift into open fascism — a shift that is global in nature. This is not to suggest that Trump is anything other than a continuation of what came before, but that the very forces that brought the Donald to the Presidency have also made visible the tendencies toward fascism globally.

This is the age of marketing. Only that age began forty years ago, more or less, so this is now the age of hyper marketing or ultra marketing. And that all topics and concerns, literally everything, from education to policing to surveillance to nuclear disarmament, to green or ecological concerns, to politics (sic) to gender and race are all in service to further a total indoctrination of the populace (meaning mostly, but not exclusively the West) and a way to protect capital and solidify the power of the ruling elite. And perhaps it’s not exactly to protect Capital so much as to set the stage for a post capitalist new feudalism.

The global landscape now features in Brazil (5th most populous country on earth) a new openly fascist president in Jair Bolsonaro. This is a man who openly admires Hitler, and suggests he’d kill a son if he found out he was gay. Not to mention his adoration of Israel and bromance with Bibi Netanyahu. (contradiction you say?.. on the surface yes, but perhaps not if one examines all this more closely). Bolsonaro wants to sell off the rain forest, and has all but issued a mass death warrant to indigenous tribes and activists protesting the denuding of the Amazon basin. In India, the second most populous nation on earth, Modi has defined himself and his party the BJP as a nativist neo fascist authoritarianism.

…while we don’t have a fascist nationalism which was in Germany, what we are witnessing is semi-fascist nationalism along religious sentiments.

— Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, The Hindu, June 2017

In Hungary there is Victor Orban, and across Europe are a host of nativist ultra reactionary racist politicans; Geert Wilders in Holland, Matteo Salvini in Italy, or AfD political leader Alexander Gauland in Germany who dismissed Nazi era rule as mere “bird poo” in an otherwise spotless history of German triumph. Or Jimmy Akesson of the Swedish Democrats, or Jussi Hallo Aho of the Finns Party in Finland, or the crack pot religious fanatics of the Law and Justice party in Poland (close with Orban’s party) or, in some ways, the most pernicious of the new reactionary neo fascists is Kristian Thulesen Dahl, head of the Danish People’s Party, a svelte well tailored and hip new fascism growing in legitimacy in the formally tolerant Scandinavian country. Dahl, a Knight of the Danneborog, likes to call his party “an anti Muslim party”. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, from the ostensively center right Venstre Party (it’s not, it’s full on reactionary) is almost equal to Dahl in his xenophobia. The previous Prime Minister (Anders Fogh Rasmussen) left the post in 2009 to head up NATO. (!) A position that then was taken by former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg (Labor Party). So here we have these supposedly liberal politicians eagerly rolling over and piddling themselves, on command, from the US joint chiefs.

Running beneath all of these “anti immigration” parties is a revanchist colonial mentality. And that’s the point. The corporate media provides cover by stressing that immigration is a ‘real’ concern. The very framing of this question is just another tactic in the rehabilitation of fascism. Never is any mention made of *why* there is an immigration *problem*. And if an aside is voiced it never targets US.and NATO Imperialist wars but rather suggests this is a clash of civilizations thing, echoing the seemingly forever durable Samuel Huntington meme. The fact that all that post 9/11 anti Islamic mythology has been debunked matters not at all. It doesn’t matter because people in the West WANTED to believe it — it reinforced a fantasy that they had clutched to their psychic bosoms long ago. The infidel, the barbarian hordes, and the uncivilizable tribes that threaten that bastion of civilization, white Europe. None of the anti immigration parties now on the ascendent in Europe has voiced opposition to US and NATO military affairs. Victor Orban (Fidesz Party) is rapidly coming to seem Europe’s answer to Donald Trump, or perhaps the new Berlusconi.

90% of all newspapers and media in Hungary is owned by Fidesz party loyalists. And Orban has drastically rewritten the constitution to allow himself enlarged powers. Not for no reason has Steve Bannon called Orban the most exciting politician in Europe. Also note, the Fidesz Party began as an anti-Communist youth group.

But the point is that those lurid drawings of the caves in Tora Bora or videos of dogs being gassed…as practice….or the yellow cake in Niger…were lapped up like milk in the U.S. The photos of Abu Ghraib came and went.

In the U.S. there is now a shifting away from the acute individualism of the ‘snowflake’ privileged and a reforming in the guise of a nostalgia laden colonialist or slave owner. And if you think that an exaggeration then just remember Bill Maher’s tirade last week where he referred very approvingly to the Monroe Doctrine and mentioned Venezuela as part of “our back yard”. I mean, it is stunning, it really is. The new colonial is replicated in another guise by the Israeli military. As I have noted before the IDF no longer bothers much with the ‘most moral army in the world’ argument and just cuts straight to hyper efficient killing machine and overlords of their region. They are applauded as such, too.

In my anecdotal experience the last few weeks I have had countless social media interactions in which my interlocatur was young(ish) white and reasonably well off financially. And two things have emerged as through lines: one was an indelible and core racism. Especially anti black racism, and a clear tendency toward antisemitism. And second, a refusal to surrender privilege. The white privilege is more protected than ever, psychologically. And with that comes an outright refusal to criticize US policy — unless it is viewed as Trump’s policy. And often these two things are buried. They are deeply entrenched, though. I would wager that a vast majority of white America is unmoved by the achievements of the Innocence Project. Freeing black men is simply not something white people can get behind. But it is also the return of the mid 20th century hagiographic adoration of cowboys, the frontier, and rugged individualism. And with hunting. Now there is also a growing anger. I mean, people are losing their lives. Families live under freeway overpasses. There are no jobs. And a new desperation is gripping the nation.

So intersecting then, are this new material desperation and a nostalgic self definition that includes Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp, as well as an open embrace of teen symbolism and a kitsch nostalgia for the past as created by Hollywood — 70s styles, or 80s styles, etc. Anything but the present. For there is no style to the present. There is only escape from it. And the ruling elite are not unaware of all this either. Both major parties have the same identical goals. Both protect their privilege and both strategise ways or campaigns to capitalize on the discontent they see around them. (Enter Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. And not to beat this drum again, but the woman is a cretin. The examples are countless. But she remains telegenic and so desperate are people, liberals, to find a new standard bearer, that her gaffes are simply ignored.). The marketing of new candidates meant to suggest “change” is less effective than it was for Obama in his initial run. But it still works. But something else is behind all this. And that is touched on most acutely and brilliantly by Cory Moorningstar in her exhaustive 4 part series The Wrong Kind of Green.

And this is really, for me, something that has been nagging at me during those insomnia hours before dawn. Nagged at me while taking long walks ….and that is how the Ecological and Environmental Crisis is being marketed. And from that, how to process or trust the various conflicting alarms that are a constant now. And for many on the left to even say this much is dangerous. When I wrote that piece on Green Shaming I had started to touch on the outer husk of this, but Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer did simply extraordinary work in researching the mechanisms of exploitation involved in the construction of a new grammar and style for this false Green awareness. The environmental crisis, all too real, is viewed as just another business opportunity. Only it’s more than that, too.

Now when I say it’s an age of hyper marketing, it is useful to really remember that almost everyone who is visible in media is being handled. Or “handled”. Everyone. EVERYONE. And nothing is ever what it seems, if it is visible to the mass public. It is an age in which the very idea of trust has been so eroded as to be almost anachronistic.

Fifty years ago Adorno warned of empty activism. And today that warning has migrated to green actions. It is worth bringing in Venezuela here, as another kind of example. Max Blumenthal wrote in an exhaustive piece on Juan Guaido, that…

While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.

—Max Blumenthal, Grayzone, January 29, 2019)

He was manufactured, much as Goldman Sachs and the IMF and other establishment banking entities manufactured Macron. In fact, it’s the way, on a larger denser and more complex level, Barak Obama was manufactured. It’s the same structural composite that results in the marketing of Pussy Riot or pick any of a half dozen (at least) child victims of US/NATO wars. In fact much of the persuasion of public opinion comes out of invented narratives that either are starkly revisionist or simply never happened. Jessica Lynch was a branch of how that works. But the US and UK (in fact, this is something of a UK specialty) produce just oodles of eye witnesses or “real” Syrians, or Libyans or Haitians or Iraqis or Venezuelans. Much as at one time the manufacturing of eye witnesses to Milosevic’s cruelty were all over the place. And the fact that nearly always these fake “authentic” voices cannot keep their stories or facts straight doesn’t matter –for exactly the same reason it didn’t matter OBL wasn’t in those Tora Bora caves, the ones that didn’t exist.

This brings me back to the Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer in-depth article. The link is here:

But one of the key targets for Western green business has been the global south, and in particular Africa. Not surprising that the US military also “pivoted” to Africa (sic) under Obama.

Gore, with a net worth of approx. 350 million dollars, pays much lip service to subjects of inequality, wealth disparity and poverty. Thus, it is useful to actually take a look at what the much hyped green energy revolution actually looks like, when played out in real life and exactly who is being served by the so-called “green revolution”. M-Kopa Solar – “Power for Everyone” is a pay-per-use solar power provider (in the form of solar kits) created for impoverished African countries by white uber rich capitalists. The countries thus far include rural Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. M-Kopa is the brainchild of Jesse Moore (CEO), Chad Larson and Nick Hughes —who helped develop M-Pesa, which has more than 19 million users in Kenya. Included on the M-Kopa board of advisors is Colin Le Duc, a founding partner of Generation Investment Management and the Co-CIO of Generation’s growth equity Climate Solutions Funds. Other investors/lenders/partners include Shell Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At this juncture, before we continue, it is vital to note that in 2015, M-Kopa estimated that eighty percent of its customers lived on less than $2 (USD) per day. By 2015, M-Kopa had reached over $40 million of revenue.

Naomi Wolf wrote not too long ago…“When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.” But I think that is actually almost too optimistic. People want to believe mythologies that sanctify their own privilege. And this identity-based thought structure, one dimensional by its very nature, then promotes what amounts to a 21st century kitsch mythos. Or as Margaret Rosler said, “people want the fake”.

I am suggesting, in short form, that history matters. And it matters on several levels. Which is why it is being erased. This was a slave owning country in which 12 presidents owned and worked slaves. It was built by slaves and by indentured Chinese workers and it produced Manifest Destiny, a belief in American territorial expansion regardless of the cost. It was at least partly driven by Christian zealotry, and partly by greed. But also by a violence and cruelty which seems to have been the fusion of a variety of factors both historical and cultural. The public wants to find stories that flatter them and provide some, however fleeting, sense of their own significance and power. No country on earth produces men as insecure as the United States. And today, amid the waste of a destroyed union culture, and dead manufacturing base and loss of steel and auto makers…the U.S. worker is forced further and further into a fantasy laden infantilism. This is the world that goes to celebrate the life of sniper Chris Kyle, an unbalanced borderline sociopath and serial liar, at the Houston Astro Dome. This is much of the culture of the flyover states. It is racist at its core, it is aggressive, driven on by deep lacerating insecurities, and it is despises and distrusts intellect and education. The other large group is the city dwelling white liberal, college educated, and today, confused, alienated, suffering serious fertility failures and increasingly medicated with psychotropic drugs and anti depressants. This is much of the target audience for new green marketers.

One might think that if someone were conscious enough to recognise that global ecology was compromised and that pollutants were destroying fresh water, and the land, and that global warming was quite possibly going to make huge swatches of land non arable — you might think that person would look for solutions in a political frame. After all it was global capital that had brought mankind to this historic precipice. But instead, many if not nearly all the people I speak with, frame things in terms of personal responsibility. Stop driving big diesel SUVs, stop flying to Cabo for vacation, stop eating meat, etc-. But these same people tend to not criticize capitalism. Or, rather, they ask for a small non crony green capitalism. I guess this would mean green exploitation and green wars? For war is the engine of global capitalism today. Cutting across this are the various threads of the overpopulation theme. A convenient ideological adjustment that shifts blame to the poorest inhabitants of the planet. And here you find Bill Gates and other NGOs working to “help” the developing (sic) nations through population control.1

Jacob Levich writes…

The Rockefeller Foundation organized the Population Council in 1953, predicting a “Malthusian crisis” in the developing world and financing extensive experiments in population control. These interventions were enthusiastically embraced by US government policymakers, who agreed that “the demographic problems of the developing countries, especially in areas of non-Western culture, make these nations more vulnerable to Communism.”2

And this raises yet another question. The wrong kind of green, to put it in Morningstar’s term, is one that is all about the protection of capitalism. Green anti communism. There are links here between AVAAZ, and Otpor, and the USAID and National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House et al. The world of NGOs has grown in both size and power.

…the evil empire Buffett, Gates and Rockefeller built in the private sector is mirrored in the evil networks of NGOs they — along with Clinton — have constructed to provide cover for widespread environmental devastation, ethnic cleansing and Indigenous genocide committed by their corporate investments. Using bagmen like Tides Foundation in cahoots with magicians like Bill McKibben at 350 dot org, and sleight-of-hand artists like Tzeporah Berman at Tar Sands Solutions Network, Buffett, Gates, Rockefeller and Clinton have become thick as thieves in producing political theatre to distract us from the parade of refugees in their caravan of doom.”

— Jay Taber, Wrong Kind of Green, October 2013

Hollywood acts as an arm to this media intoxication when it comes to the military. Watch virtually any action, sci-fi or suspense movie these days and notice how militarism is seamlessly laced through most of the plot lines. Military hardware is easily available for these productions. Soldiers are almost always cast as virtuous. And this also demonstrates the strain of pernicious authoritarianism within American culture. FBI and CIA agents, detectives, prosecutors, all of them are portrayed with an air of troubled, perhaps flawed, but intact unassailable nobility.

— Kenn Orphan, Counterpunch, 2019

There has been a rightward shift in nearly every field one can find or think of. Recently in Norway I read this…

A majority in Parliament asked the government in 2015 to replace its appeals court jury system with a combination of professional and lay judges. Now the historic reform has taken shape, reports newspaper Aftenposten. Instead of having a 10-member jury decide on guilt or innocence in Norway’s most serious criminal cases, they’ll now be heard in Norwegian appeals courts by two professional judges and five lay judges chosen from the public. The reform changes the way cases have been decided for 130 years.

— News in English Norway Aftenposten

In other words, this is a shift toward a bias for conviction. Two judges will simply determine the case and manipulate or bully if need be, the citizen jurors. The change was made because juries were increasingly found to be unable to follow the complexity of many cases. Lay another gold star on the destruction of public education in Europe and North America.

The racism of most Americans can be tracked, too, in how they digest mainstream propaganda about Venezuela. Many feel kinship with Maher’s position. This is OUR backyard. How dare that uppity “dead communist dictator”(to use Bernie Sanders description) Chavez deign to GIVE us free heating fuel and gas. The presumption. For many this was like the help talking back. Americans by and large are quite indifferent to the accuracy or not of the demonizing of official US enemies. From Castro to Milosevic to Aristide to Assad and Gadaffi …to the DPRK or Mao or Hugo Chavez. As the national front used to say in England…’the wogs start at Calais’. For white America there is always a residual racism and Puritanism at work in their thinking.

Also, one sees the confusion in anti nuke protests. Dennis Riches has done great work in compiling info and arguing the case. He wrote:

If this recent anti-nuclear drive actually succeeded in getting the nuclear powers to ratify an international treaty declaring nuclear weapons illegal, the world would be left with the United States undeterred with a vastly predominant power in conventional weaponry. Intercontinental ballistic missiles would be refitted with precision conventional bombs capable of putting any nation on earth back in the Stone Age within a matter of weeks. This was already achieved with the attacks in attacks on Serbia (1999), Iraq (1991, 2003~) and Libya (2011). All of these were illegal under international law, which raises the question of how the international community would enforce compliance with a new international law banning nuclear weapons. In addition to the fact that international law is ignored continually during so-called peacetime, Russell and Einstein pointed out in their 1955 manifesto that treaties banning nuclear weapons would be abrogated the minute world war breaks.

— Dennis Riches, Lit by Imagination, a blog of Dennis Riches

In other words, nuclear disarmament is seen through the lens of American exceptionalism. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Secondly, insofar as it breeds in itself tendencies which— and here too we must differ—directly converge with fascism. I name as symptomatic of this the technique of calling for a discussion, only to then make one impossible; the barbaric inhumanity of a mode of behaviour that is regressive and even confuses regression with revolution; the blind primacy of action; the formalism which is indifferent to the content and shape of that against which one revolts, namely our theory. Here in Frankfurt, and certainly in Berlin as well, the word ‘professor’ is used condescendingly to dismiss people, or as they so nicely put it ‘to put them down’, just as the Nazis used the word Jew in their day.

— Adorno, Letter to Marcuse, 1969

Adorno was wrong in much of what he did in that later period (calling in the cops for one). But there is a seed of truth in his complaint, too (the Ocasio Cortez phenomenon is evidence of this, I’d say). Much of today’s green left seems profoundly uncritical of the US state department apparatus for propaganda and its infiltration (or creation) of NGOs and activists groups. Or just the predatory capitalists of Al Gore’s Generation Investment…

At this juncture, seeing as we are being led to believe that “sustainable investments” are the pathway to solving our planetary crisis, it might be wise to ask in what sustainable corporations Generation Investment is investing. Generation Investment has created a focus list of some 125 companies around the world in which it invests not based on how sustainable the business is, but rather, “on the quality of their business and management”.

Generation Investment’s portfolio and investments include multinational corporations with horrendous records of malfeasance, such as Amazon, Nike, Colgate, MasterCard, and the Chipotle restaurant chain, with heavy investments in health and technology. And as all of these corporations are heavily invested and/or dependent on fossil fuels, how an investment firm can justify investing in these companies is anyone’s guess. Generation Investment board members include eco-luminaries such as Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and the founder of nonprofit Mary Robinson Foundation. Robinson serves as president to Richard Branson’s B Team, which is managed by Purpose – the public relations arm of Avaaz.

— Cory Morningstar, The Wrong Kind of Green

The problem with discussions of global warming and the destruction of the planet is that so much of that discussion has been coopted by Capital. And it’s often very difficult to quickly know who to trust. One response I get a lot is, well, YOU have to change. This I take it means doing all kinds of feel good greeny things. And yet none of what I can do is going to matter to Bolsonaro as he burns down the Amazon. For that is political. And he is a fascist. And when Bernie Sanders and Ocasio Cortez, or Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris sign off on the coup in Venezuela, this is not and cannot be separated from the occupation of Afghanistan or the slaughter in Yemen, or mass incarceration and a violent militarized domestic police. The deep colonial Orientalism of American culture is tied to how one must start to talk about the environment. They are not separate issues. Sanders, besides slandering Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution, also trashes the BDS movement. What is one to make of this, exactly? And yet his popularity stays intact.

Any green change starts with the overthrow of capital. And that means that it rejects all military activity by the U.S. and NATO. Global warming drove the apocalyptic California wild fires last summer. But thirty or forty years of urban building, of the wrong shrubbery being planted, and crowded subdivisions intensified the fires. And, the practices of fire prevention.. paradoxically made those fires much worse.
Building in or near fire-prone forests has also led to fire prevention land management practices that paradoxically increase fire risk. For instance, policies for preventing wildfires have in some areas led to an accumulation of the dry vegetation that would ordinarily burn away in smaller natural blazes. “The thing that gets missed in all of this is that fires are a natural part of many of these systems,” said Matthew Hurteau, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico studying climate impacts on forests. “We have suppressed fires for decades actively. That’s caused larger fires.
— Umair Irfan, Vox, December, 2017
The frame is not to protect nature but to protect property, and that leads to problems.
The short equation then is this: if it’s a business opportunity, it’s not going to help anything. And if you find yourself on the same page as the US state department and Pentagon you might have to step back and take a breath. The supreme irony is Democrats in particular, who continue to drive the Russia-gate story, having no problem with getting rid of Maduro and replacing him with — for the moment — Juan Guaido. But the real purpose behind the attack on Venezuela is to get rid of socialism in ‘our back yard’. Getting massive oil reserves is a nice bonus but the priority is to turn back the so called Pink Tide. Much as Yugoslavia had to go, so does Venezuela. With Bolsonaro, and Macri in Argentina, and Ivan Duque in Colombia, the forces of reaction are being put in place. (It is worth noting that while Trump’s cabinet is stocked with Domionists, the Supreme Court has had a heavy influence of Opus Dei members and that in Brazil Opus Dei rules the third largest bank…fascism and religion are always intwined). And for white America, this feels almost nostalgic. Adding Elliot Abrams to the mix only heightens that nostalgic feeling. For this suddenly feels like Reagan’s America again. Cowboys and the frontier — and the shining light on the hill. Only now, it all takes place, this kitsch B western, in the shadow of global ecological crises. Crises caused by Capital. By Wall Street and an elite class of 2% that owns more than the bottom 50% of the planet. By a system of exploitation in which human suffering is a foundational component. It’s just like Reagan’s Norman Rockwell fantasy, except now with an all child cast.
The political spectacle is now narrated by ten year olds. Bana Al-Abed is only the latest in this line of manufactured wag the dog props for the Western spin machine. The White Helmets are another branch of the fake. Absolutely invented, only in their case of a particularly grave robber morbidity. The aforementioned Pussy Riot, and AOC is in a sense another version of this. Young lithe and almost (!) childlike. Certainly not fecund and maternal. For that is a threat. Americans see the world as a Hollywood period film. Bring back the Casinos in Havana, that’s so romantic. Same as the Romanoff balls were romantic. Same as colonial salons from Calcutta to Singapore were romantic. An afternoon tea on the verandah at the Raffles Hotel, now those were the days. Nostalgia is a safe psychic retreat now. Even if it’s all make believe. In fact, there is a strange psychic disposition that desires the fake. That wants the artificial. I think it is perhaps fake is associated with fantasy, with the world as if it is a children’s book.
American’s idea of politics is also shaped in large measure by Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing. This is probably not even a tiny exaggeration. This is the vision and fantasy of the educated liberal class in America. But for all their self described tolerance and progressiveness, they will still vote for those Democrats who want a coup in Venezuela and who signed off on all of Trump’s defense spending increases. For the bourgeoisie always side with fascism. That’s simply a fact. In the end they will side with the authoritarian and far right wing, and protect their small corner of the sandbox. And even if one tries to explain that sandbox may well become a sweatshop — they seem undeterred. In the end the liberal press will embrace Bolsonaro, too. As they now do Bush Jr, and well, Elliott Abrams. Negroponte can’t be far behind. The plan is clearly to rehabilitate fascism. Globally. The School of the Americas is due a feature film, no doubt.
  1. See Depa Provera and other reproductive health services.
  2. Aspects of India’s Economy, No 57, 2014.

Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we can all do together if we really wanted to.

Greta Thunberg at COP24, December 2018

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation.  It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years.  Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved.  The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities.  What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions.  Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges.  China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions.  States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited.  Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby.  Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests.  It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry.  “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether.  Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma.  “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism.  Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.  “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering.  France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.  Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official.  “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter.  “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls.  “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre.  “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change”.  Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager.  “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point.  “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.”  But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species.  Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

Is COP24 One More Big Bust?

Two hundred nations at Katowice COP24 Poland just wrapped up two-weeks of climate meetings. If history is a guide, CO2 emissions will continue to accelerate until COP25 next year in Chile. Still, the delegates did adopt a rule book to put Paris ’15 into action, Ahem!

But, hark! There’s a ray of sunshine peering out from behind the Katowice coal-clouded skyline because big money interests may be altering the landscape for combating global warming.

According to reports out of Katowice1 global investors managing $32T issued a “stark warning” that the world faces financial Armageddon worse than 2008 if carbon emissions are not cut, including a phase-out of coal. Wow!

That sets the stage for proving/disproving the old maxim “money talks.” If it does, there’s a glimmer of hope for Miami’s survival.

Accordingly, some of the world’s deepest pocket investors including pension funds, insurers, and asset fund managers exhibited their most impressive intervention ever by insisting that (1) fossil fuel subsidies must end and (2) substantial taxes must be slapped on carbon.

According to the IMF, current subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $5T per year, which makes fossil fuel subsidies alone equivalent to some of the largest economies in the world. Ipso facto, if $5 trillion/year pivots from fossil fuel subsidies to renewable investments, just imagine the impact. By way of comparison, in 2017 total investment in renewables reached $280B.

Of course, the big money interests would also be feathering their own nests by switching fossil fuel subsidies to renewables as the world economy accelerates with the thrust of a space shuttle blast-off, creating jobs, jobs, and more jobs in the Renewable Global Economy.

Thus, a whole new world opens to massive infrastructure investments, accelerating global wealth creation, and the world turns clean, assuming it’s not too late by the time they get serious, a big assumption, indeed.

In stark contrast to that message from 415 financial institutions, ever since Paris 2015, the US, China, and Japan provided $500B in financing for new coal plants. Oops!

The day after the closing of COP24 Mexico announced plans to spend $3.65B to boost crude oil production 45% by 2025. This is comparable to stabbing COP24 in the eye with a sharp stick. Nothing mentioned about renewable energy.

The following statements by big money interests at Katowice tells an interesting story:

“The long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, of IFM Investors, which manages $80Bn and is one of the 415 groups that signed the Global Investor Statement. ‘This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”2

“Investment firm Schroders said there could be $32Tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: ‘Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.”((Ibid.))

“Thomas DiNapoli, of the $207bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, another signatory, said taking action on global warming not only avoids damage but could boost jobs and growth. ‘The low-carbon economy presents numerous opportunities and investors who ignore the changing world do so at their own peril.”2

Heretofore, the nations of the world have failed miserably for nearly three decades. At COPs there’s always plenty of pomp and ceremony, cocktail parties, caviar, formal dinners, and millions upon millions of dollars spent staying in fancy hotels but nothing positive on CO2 emissions in 26 years, other than increasing public awareness and adding more scientific studies, all of which increasingly point to rapid deterioration of ecosystems around the world, way beyond prior estimates. This trend negatively surprises the scientific community, but it has not moved nation/states to take action.

Thus, the world is at serious risk of collapsing ecosystems, which can happen with remarkable suddenness and without warning. The telltale signals are already present, as lesser species are already going extinct in all-time record numbers, 1,000-10,000 xs the normal background rate. This current rate of extinction makes the dinosaur-era extinction rate 65M yrs ago look like a walk in the park and should be taken very seriously.

In point of fact, climate change/global warming has worsened considerably ever since the Kyoto protocol (1992), aka Conference of the Parties3 or COP3, which was the first agreement to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”). Ever since, GHGs have gone straight up (with one small hiatus), not down.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel usage has remained static at approximately 80% of worldwide energy production for the past 40 years. No change, which is the perfect setup for unmitigated climate disaster.

The most recent readings of CO2 shows Mauna Loa (Hawaii) CO2 @ 408.2 ppm as of November 2018 versus 405.12 ppm in November 2017. According to NASA, in 1992 when Kyoto met, CO2 was 356.42 ppm. Consider: Over the past 40,000 years, up until 200 yrs ago, CO2 was 200-300 ppm, the Holocene Age with its Goldilocks Climate not too hot, not too cold but rapidly coming to an end. Then, what?

The global warming risk indicator: In 1850 human-generated CO2 was 50 million tons/yr. Nowadays, it only takes 12 hours, not a year, to put out that same 50 million tons (USGS analysis). Try that one on for size Mister Global Warming!

Here’s the crux of the issue that makes it nearly impossible to tackle the global warming crisis w/o US help (P.S.- the US delegation at COP24 promoted fossil fuels – honestly, they did.): “Ten percent (10%) of the global population (hint-hint- mostly the US) are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions and twenty percent (20%) of global population are responsible for 70% of all global emissions… tells us that we need to be tailoring our policies towards that small group rather than trying to squeeze the emissions out of the majority of world population who are hardly emitting anything at all… if the 10% reduced their carbon footprint to the level of the average European citizen, that would be equivalent to a 1/3rd cut in global emissions, even if the other 90% did nothing… for example, the average Rwanda citizen emits 0.10-0.50 tons CO2 versus the average American at 30-35 tons.”3

As it happens, the rate of CO2 growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/yr the highest growth rate in modern times. It is not just a “business as usual” scenario. it is worse than that, as we are moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so far to limit GHGs are woefully inadequate.

Every COP meeting since 1992 has been greeted with higher CO2 emissions than the year before, now accelerating faster than ever in paleoclimate history. That locks-in, guarantees big time troubles down the road, when least expected.

Postscript:

For 25 years, countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions, and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So, I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.

— Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old Swedish speaker at COP24.

  1. e.g., Damian Carrington’s The Guardian article d/d December 9, 2018: “Tackle Climate or Face Financial Crash, Say World’s Biggest Investors.”
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research interview with Democracy Now! at COP24.

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

Photo from the archives of Torbak Hopper

It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent proponents and ill-informed supporters call it populism or nationalism. In the Italy, Germany, or Spain of the 1930s, however, this ideology of exclusion and fear, defined by a hatred of the other, together with a tyrannical executive power, was called by its proper name: fascism. Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain were the bloodthirsty tenors of capitalism’s symphony orchestra, singing the deadly opera quietly conducted by the military-industrial complex. When the fascism-induced collective psychosis was put to an end in 1945 by Russia and the Western allies, between 68 and 80 million people had been slaughtered worldwide.

Banksy

MAGA is America Uber Alles

The disease, expressed by the term Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany above all else), was also contagious. It has been repackaged under the thinly concealed Make America — or Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, or Israel — Great Again. The doctrine of one country above all else is, in reality, the best way to justify the tyranny of the State against its own population. Constant threats, external or internal, mostly fabricated and hugely amplified by subservient media, keep societies on edge and make people tolerate or, even worse, embrace an omnipresent security apparatus, either military or police. Fascist regimes always blur the line between military and police. Why not, indeed, be able to deploy your military against your own citizens if you have brainwashed them with the notion of lurking internal enemies? After all, fear and paranoia are the most powerful vectors of the global Orwellian empire we live in.

The nexus of fascism and capitalism

The neofascists have draped themselves in the flag of populism and nationalism and therefore have disingenuously convinced their supporters that they are the champions of a fight against globalism, elitism, and the corruption of the neoliberal political system. They are, however, fierce proponents of dog-eat-dog capitalism and its abject systematic exploitation of labor. Fascists enthusiastically support the global military-industrial complex as well as capitalism’s senseless exploitation of resources through mining and deforestation. For fascists, just as for capitalists, wealth must be concentrated in fewer hands, and money may circulate across borders without constraint while ordinary people may not.

Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose

There is indeed nothing new under the sun. If industrialists today profit from wars on both sides of conflicts, giant US companies such as Ford and General Motors did the same in the build up to and even during World War II. Historian Bradford Snell wrote, more than 20 years ago, that “the Nazis could not have invaded Poland and Russia without GM.” The cozy relationship of Ford and GM with the Nazi regime went back to the early 1930s. Henry Ford himself was a Nazi supporter, and Hitler was a fan of the automaker. The two companies, Ford and GM, credited themselves with being “the arsenal of democracy” by transforming their production lines for US military purposes, but they were also, openly at least until 1942, the arsenal of fascism.

Banksy

The same apparent schizophrenia is at play today. Just like Ford and GM were complicit with the Nazis, global capitalism, driven by the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex, is profiting from war crimes by, for example, selling a massive amount of weapons to the Islamo-fascist regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently committing crimes against humanity by killing thousands of civilians and starving the entire population of Yemen. These war crimes are committed with weapons made in the USA, the UK and France, in the respective order of the volumes sold to the Saudis. France has a liberal and pseudo human-rights champion as its leader in the person of Macron. Nevertheless the booming French military-industrial  complex sells 7 billion Euros worth of weapons per year. India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the top buyers of death made in France: a criminal industry that employs more than 200,000 people.

Banksy

Fascists have built mental walls of hatred

The likes of Trump, Salvini, Kurz, Orban and Bolsonaro were elected largely on the false premise and racist notion of culture wars and clash of civilizations: the mythical threat that, in an already multi-ethnic world, immigrants, the outsiders often with darker skins or another religion, represent an existential peril for host countries. The neofascists have risen by building mental walls of hatred in fortress Europe and fortress America. The worldwide proliferation of neofascism constitutes a new form of ideological globalization, and global capitalism is banking on it. For example, once it became obvious that Bolsonaro would be elected president of Brazil, the country’s stock market rose by 13 percent in two weeks while all the major international markets fell. During World War II the fascist axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now they are the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, and India to some extent. All of it has the curious blessings of the mighty little State of Israel and the large money bags called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

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Geopolitical conundrum

The global rise of fascism will change a landscape already on shaky ground. Trump’s National Security adviser, John Bolton, has already set the agenda and put in the neofascist crosshair Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which he called the “troika of tyranny.” Naturally, Bolton counts on the new fascist regional helpers of US imperialism, Colombia and Brazil, to enforce a revived full-blown Monroe Doctrine.  In Europe, neofascists have risen to power in Hungary and the coalition governments of Italy and Austria. Their ideological comrades in Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands have not risen to power, but their political clout is quickly growing. This rise of the neofascists, combined with the UK’s Brexit, is jeopardizing the European Union. In these developments, Steve Bannon of the US is playing the part of a fascism ideologue and black-clad eminence grise.

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The Russians, for their part, have developed a dangerously cozy relationship with today’s European fascists, as if the history of World War II has not taught them anything about fascism.  The pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, signed in August 1939, not only allowed Hitler to unleash his killing spree on the West, but also did not prevent the German army from launching an attack two years later on the USSR. Stalin’s strategic mistake resulted eventually in the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens. In the current context, it seems that a potential dismantlement of the EU is one of the only geopolitical goals that Russia and the US can agree on. As an example, the Russians as well as the US’ Bannon like and promote Italy’s powerful Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a rising star of European neofascism and a euro-skeptic whose motto is: “Make Europe Great Again!”

From the archives of Kitchener

Gott Mit Uns (God with us)

“Gott Mit Uns,” in raised letters around an eagle and swastika, was the inscription that adorned the German army’s belt buckles during World War II. If there is a God, his power certainly did not much help the soldiers of the Third Reich! That being said, there is definitely a religious track in the rise of global fascism. In the US and in Brazil, the vote of the evangelical Christians was a primary factor in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. “Born-again” Christian fundamentalists in the US are mainly concentrated in the formerly Confederate Southern states of the Civil War. These evangelical fundamentalist communities largely reject evolution, secularism, and the reality that climate change is man-made. Many in these communities believe that the US should be a Christian state. These Christian fundamentalists are the most reliable voting block for Trump, just as they were for George W. Bush. Well-funded far-Right fundamentalist think tanks like The Heritage Foundation have been pulling the strings in the background since the early 1970s.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Brazil’s Bosonaro was raised a Catholic, but he became, in what could be viewed as a cynical political calculus, a “born-again” evangelical. The evangelical voting block arguably gave him the edge on his opponent during the country’s October 2018 presidential election. Meanwhile, in what they see as fortress Europe, the European fascists have embraced their so-called Christian heritage, and they fuel anti-Islam sentiments, blurring the line between racism and religious intolerance. In Israel, under what can be called PM Netanyahu’s Judeo-fascism, Palestinians are dehumanized and persecuted, as the Jews were in Europe’s pogroms. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamo-fascist Mohamed bin-Salman does the same by painting Iran’s Shiites as heretics and terrorists. In India, PM Modi, who is considered by many Indian Muslims to be a Hindu-fascist, is also using religion to create conflicts and justify massive military spending. In brief, religious fundamentalists of all stripes are today the neofascists’ best assets to manipulate people and turn them, often violently, against each other.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Fascism’s unbearable ecological footprint

In the mold of Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, neofascists are by-and-large climate change deniers, or “skeptics,” as they prefer. After all, the Lord or Allah knows best and holds the key to their destinies. For the rest of us, who do not expect God to have an extra planet Earth in his back pocket, the rise of global fascism offers a grimmer prospect for  humanity’s survival. Under the jackboots of the global fascism stormtroopers, the little that is left of our shattered ecosystem will meet its final solution. Bolsonaro could engineer a tabula rasa in the Amazon, which is considered the lung of the earth, due to its capacity to absorb CO2. The super-rich who control global capitalism will give carte blanche to their fascist surrogates to grow and use a massive military-police apparatus to repress the billions of climate change refugees and victims of ecological collapse. Despite their assumptions and planning, discretely run by the Pentagon based on climate change becoming a national security issue, climate change will be capitalism’s end game. All the gold and diamonds in the world will not stop the storms or shield the atmosphere from the deadly rays of a blazing sun.

• First published at News Junkie Post