Category Archives: Taiwan

Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Biden in Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed

It was a climate of unquestioned moral righteousness. The enemy was Fascism. The brutalities of Fascism were undisguised by pretense:  the concentration camps, the murder of opponents, the tortures by secret police, the burning of books, the total control of information, the roving gangs of thugs in the streets, the designation of “inferior” races deserving extermination, the infallible leader, the mass hysteria, the glorification of war, the invasion of other countries, the bombing of civilians. No literary work of imagination could create a more monstrous evil… But it is precisely that situation—where the enemy is undebatably evil—that produces a righteousness dangerous not only to the enemy but to ourselves, to countless innocent bystanders, and to future generations.

— Howard Zinn, The Bomb (City Lights, 2010), p. 29.

Nuclear War:  The Unimaginable and Real Threat

Aware that Ukraine could well become the next Afghanistan, and that we face the chance of a nuclear war and subsequent “nuclear winter” in which 2 billion people are at risk of starvation, voices of peace around the world continue to protest the militarism of irresponsible leaders of the governments of the NATO states, Russia, Japan, and other countries. There is even criticism of U.S. and Canadian support for Nazis in Ukraine. Now, when they should be focused on repairing relations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as between Russia and the NATO states, and thereby increasing the chances of humanity’s decent survival, instead these leaders are focused on “winning” their petty macho fest in Ukraine. For example, on the 6th of March, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine have gotten “the green light” from the U.S. Luckily for our species, Biden did not listen to Blinken, and instead listened to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III, a four-star general.

“Could the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalate to nuclear war? It’s unlikely but not impossible. That should terrify us,” writes foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer. “Unlikely but not impossible.” This is a common view today among serious international affairs analysts.

Many U.S. generals have never really been keen on the notion of nuclear war, in fact. “In 1945 the United States had eight five-star admirals and generals. Of the eight, seven are on the record saying the atomic bomb [dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both.”

Although “GHQ” (the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers) imposed strict censorship on discussions and photographs of the atomic bombs and its victims, the news did eventually spread via word of mouth, underground publications, etc., and people found out about the results of this U.S. experiment on the bodies of Japanese and Koreans. And over the course of the last three-quarters of a century, historians in Japan, the U.S., and other countries, such as Peter Kuznick, have done painstaking research to uncover the fact that one can say, in retrospect, that these two bombings were stupid and barbaric.

Most of us who are aware of the history of the bombings and who campaign for peace would agree with Stephen Bryen that “beyond all the rhetoric, and the sanctions [over the violence in Ukraine], Washington had better clear its head and start to think straight. That’s not happening right now but it is essential for our future security and well-being.”

By this time, our leaders should have learned from humanity’s past mistakes. Theodore A. Postol, a nuclear weapons technology expert and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has asserted that “over the course of several U.S. administrations failing to take into account Russia’s core security concerns… ‘there’s no reflection at all’.” (Author’s italics). We are being led by ignorant, violent, reckless, macho-men.

Our Leaders Are Leading Us toward the Precipice of Global Dystopia

Here in Japan we are told that, for no reason, China could invade Taiwan at any moment, just as Russia invaded Ukraine, and that the best way to create security for ourselves would be for the U.S. and Japan to continue to build military bases on Ryukyu Islands. These are bases that are equipped with all kinds of lethal weapons, soldiers, and Osprey aircraft (for transporting such weapons and troops to places like China). They are building a new base in Henoko (on the main island of Uchinaa/Okinawa), on Miyako Island, and other Ryukyu Islands, all close to Taiwan. These two states are continually militarizing the islands of this region and putting our lives in jeopardy. One can, in fact, see the high mountains of Taiwan from Yonaguni Island (at the southernmost island of the Ryukyu Island chain, where a new base now sits) on a clear day, as the island is only 111 kilometers from Taiwan. In other words, they want us to believe that holding China by the throat with one hand, and a knife in the other, will improve our security.

In the U.S. and other countries, people are told that only Big Brother knows best, that only he can keep us, the ignorant masses, safe from overseas villains. Unfortunately, for those who tell this tall tale, the U.S. has been threatening Russians, ever since the end of the Second World War, at a point in time right after the Soviet Union had lost millions of people fighting against Nazis. There was a time when “Official U.S. war plans, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Dwight Eisenhower, stated that, if so much as a single Soviet tank division crossed into allied territory, the United States would respond with nukes.” Such was our government’s posture then toward our former ally the Soviet Union. And our message to Russians even now is essentially that they “better watch out.” After years of steady success with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), NATO’s official nuclear policy is “flexible response,” which allows the alliance to be “the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.”

It surely has not been lost on Russians that former president Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, set aside $1 trillion of our tax dollars for nukes, to be spent over a span of 30 years, nor has it been lost on many Japanese that he did not apologize on our behalf when he visited Hiroshima. Some have even noticed that he actually clapped while watching footage of a mushroom cloud during that trip.

Biden has gone “full steam ahead” with increasing our reliance on nuclear weapons, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Trump and Obama. Yet, back in early December, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, perhaps feeling that Biden was not spooking Russians enough, made things extra clear with his words, “Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the black sea and we rain destruction on Russia capability, it could mean that,” and added, “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action, we don’t think it will happen but there are certain things in negotiations, if you are going to be tough, that you don’t take off the table.” It is this toxic masculinity, this being “tough,” that could get us all killed.

Since our nukes were equipped in recent years with new super fuses that can destroy a large portion of Russia’s nukes even in their silos, Russia has been put into a situation where they must “use ‘em or lose ‘em” in the event that they are threatened with an imminent nuclear attack from the U.S. Unlike in the past, U.S. nuclear warheads now have “hard target kill capability.” This means it is possible to destroy “Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles and command posts in hardened silos or mountain sanctuaries, or to obliterate hardened military command and storage bunkers in North Korea, also considered a potential US nuclear target.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a lone voice of sanity in the U.S. Congress, said she was moved by the Ukrainians, as well as by the Russians who are standing up for peace and said, “We must avoid the knee-jerk calls to make this conflict worse.”

Unlike established politicians in many other countries, very few in the U.S. have the foresight of Rep. Omar. U.S. politicians lack understanding of what happens in wars, and especially of the suffering produced by wars. Their sons are not foot soldiers, they are ignorant of U.S.-Russia relations, they do not know U.S. history, and they have the attitude of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” with respect to what Americans long ago did to the Japanese and Koreans in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thus we cannot rest easy, trusting that our lives are in good hands. They are not going to go out of their way to avoid unnecessary killing in Ukraine, whether of Ukrainians or Russians. As Bob Dylan’s song goes, “I’ve learned to hate Russians, all through my whole life. If another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide. You never ask questions, when God’s on your side.” (Starts at 4:00 in “With God on Our Side.” Such is our mentality in the U.S. after a half century of Cold War indoctrination, years of Roman Empire-like exaggeration of national security threats, two decades of the “war on terror,” and Russiagate.

Now, turning to their leaders, on the “enemy” side:  “Asked if Putin would use nuclear weapons, Mr [Leonid] Volkov [the former chief of staff for jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny] replied: “As he is crazy enough, we can expect unfortunately everything’.”

A Putin ally has specifically warned us of nuclear dystopia:  “Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council who also previously served as the country’s president and prime minister, wrote in a post on Russian social networking site VK.com that Russia has been ‘the target of the same mediocre and primitive game’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘This means that Russia must be humiliated, limited, shaken, divided and destroyed’… if Americans succeed in that objective, ‘here is the result: the largest nuclear power with an unstable political regime, weak leadership, a collapsed economy and the maximum number of nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the US and Europe’.” Hearing such words, some macho Americans will say as they always do that it is “time to get tough.” This is what happens when our foreign policies are decided by tough men like Biden and Putin.

It is not really reassuring to know that a “small number of [nuclear] bombs are reportedly kept under U.S. Air Force guard at six airbases in five European countries, ready to be delivered by respective national fighter planes,” and that we have nuclear missiles on submarines prowling the sea near Russia. It is not necessarily comforting that within striking range of Russia, there are missiles that could kill millions of people over there within days of the start of a nuclear war. The “nuclear weapons should have been removed from Turkey long ago. Now, whether they’re taken out or kept in, they are going to play some kind of role in the escalating tensions.” Those words were written in 2019. Could it be possible that the presence of nukes in several European countries did worry many Russians and actually increased the chances of war in Ukraine? Could it be true that “there are any number of scenarios in which Russian military doctrine foresees the use of nuclear weapons as a rational move, wars on its border being only one such example”?

The state of U.S. political culture and education is shameful. “60 percent of Americans would approve of killing 2 million Iranian civilians [with our nukes] to prevent an invasion of Iran that might kill 20,000 U.S. soldiers.” One single man, respected and selected by a small number of Democratic Party elites, a man named Joe Biden, has the authority to initiate nuclear strikes at any time on Russia.

Political scientist John Mearsheimer has argued for years that “the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine.”

“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” This quote has been ascribed to Adolf Hitler. A similar sentiment was expressed by Bob Marley as you “think you’re in heaven, but you’re living in hell.”

Help Needed:  War Resisters

Unlike the government leaders in the rich and powerful countries, and unlike the millions whose eyes are glued to TV and computer screens, some people are fully awake and aware, and are doing what they can to stop the war in Ukraine and build world peace. The activism and writings of Howard Zinn taught us there are always such people who stand up for social justice even in the darkest of times. The anti-nuclear weapons movement of the postwar period, extending from people like Peggy Duff and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) all the way to the anti-nuke protests of the 1980s, when tens of millions of Japanese signed antinuclear petitions, achieved significant victories, especially in terms of preventing the spread, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. The existence of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including new techniques of mass killing such as AI-controlled and cyber weapons, and new weapons made possible by nanotechnology, is making it more and more obvious that our choice is between ending the institution of war, or ending ourselves. In Japan, the elderly who know all about war, like the hibakusha, as well as the young, who know very little beyond what they learned from the mass media and their school textbooks, are beginning to take a stand. It is a beginning, and we have a long way to go to re-build the movement. All hands on deck!

Of course, we have to pressure our government officials to end this war. And if they do not start listening to our demands very soon, then we will have to kick them out of office, and replace them with leaders who do listen, and do respond. Every day of inaction brings us closer to the brink of global destruction, closer to the edge of the cliff towards which they have been pushing us all. Here are three of the tasks that our movement must take on:

(1) We have to raise public awareness of the dire need for peace.

(2) We need lots of people out on the streets and other visible places who are committed to tenaciously working on the project of increasing the costs of state violence. Right now, it is easy to start wars, while starting peace is difficult; we need to turn that around. The anti-nuke and peace movements of the past “brought about political pressure to end nuclear testing and stop the spread of the Bomb by mobilizing protesters—ranging from tens of thousands to even millions at its peak—that took to the streets in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.” (Naturally, Japan also once had a large anti-nuclear weapons movement, as documented by Lawrence Wittner).

(3) CodePink brought us speeches from Abby Martin, Lee Camp, and Chris Hedges the other day that emphasized the importance of protecting freedom of expression, thereby joining other dissidents who warned earlier about censorship, such as Dissident Voice writer Rick Sterling. Not only advocates of global death and destruction have the right to speak but also advocates of life, the “greatest gift of all.” “We are the world, we are the children,” who have the right to not be nuked. Some elite extremists in government will soon start spouting lies, claiming that peace advocates are dangerous, that we are aiding and abetting our nations’ enemies in Russia, etc. The very word “peace” could become taboo. They want to silence and censor, and prevent our rational, humanitarian voices from being heard.

With millions of people now craving vengeance against Russia, and even against disempowered and disadvantaged Russians, let us build a global movement, people who refuse to take up weapons, who actively make it difficult for others to take up weapons, and who know that war is never the answer.

The post Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

President Joe Biden seeks to Destroy Russia and Punish the Russian People

Who, really, is the War Criminal?

So what does President Joe Biden want the sanctions imposed on Russia to do? Think back to the 1990s and what the US-NATO imposed no-fly zone and sanctions did to the people of Iraq?  The results were almost 1 million Iraqis dead, according to the website GlobalIssues.org.

Over at truthout.org, Jake Batinga reported that President Joe Biden strongly supported those sanctions as a US Senator and recently has turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan:

Senator Biden strongly supported the sanctions and advocated for even more aggressive policies toward Iraq. Biden was not then, and is not now, known for his humanitarian impulses or dovish foreign policy stances.

Batinga also notes that:

More Afghans are poised to die from US sanctions over the next few months alone than have died at the hands of the Taliban and US military forces over the last 20 years combined — by a significant margin. Yet, as journalist Murtaza Hussain recently wrote, US establishment politicians and intellectuals who decried the humanitarian crisis during the fall of Kabul are seemingly unbothered by imminent mass starvation, imposed by us.

The Biden administration — which routinely laments human rights violations perpetrated by China, Iran, Russia, and other adversaries — is ignoring desperate pleas from humanitarian organizations and UN human rights bodies, choosing instead to maintain policies virtually guaranteed to cause mass starvation and death of civilians, especially children. Yet it is important to note, and remember, that as a matter of policy, this is not particularly new; the US has often imposed harsh economic sanctions, causing mass civilian death. A previous imposition of sanctions resulted in one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes, one largely forgotten in mainstream historical memory.

In 1990, the US imposed sanctions on Iraq through the UN following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. These sanctions continued for more than a decade after Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, and had horrific humanitarian consequences eerily similar to the imminent mass starvation of Afghan civilians. The sanctions regime against Iraq — which began under President George H.W. Bush but was primarily administered by President Bill Clinton’s administration — froze Iraq’s foreign assets, virtually banned trade, and sharply limited imports. These sanctions crashed the Iraqi economy and blocked the import of humanitarian supplies, medicine, food, and other basic necessities, killing scores of civilians.

BRIC’s Made of Straw

The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China have been in the news lately and for good reason. There is talk, and talk is cheap, of course, of China and Russia creating an alternative payment system to the US dollar dominated international payments system SWIFT.

Already Russia has joined China’s Cross Border Interbank Payment System as an alternative to SWIFT, along with joining China’s UnionPay credit card system which serves as an alternative to Visa and Master Card who, along with dozens of other Western country businesses (Europe, USA plus Japan and South Korea), bolted Russia’s marketplace after its military operation got started in Ukraine in late February.

India apparently is trading with Russia in a rupee, ruble swap but that seems ad hoc, at best. And there is news of Saudi Arabia cutting a deal with China to use the yuan as an exchange currency. Brazil has enough internal problems to deal with: crime, disease, Amazon deforestation.

Chinese leaders must realize that if Russia falters in Ukraine which means it is unable to liberate the Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, gain international recognition of Crimea—and maintain territorial gains made on the coast of the Black and Azov Seas—and/or President Putin is removed from office and Russia destabilizes, the United States will chop up Russia into separate republics, steal its resources and cancel the billions in deals signed with China for oil, gas, and grains

The United States will bring the NATO military alliance to China’s doorstep and likely put on show trials in the International Criminal Court arguing that Putin and his general staff are war criminals, which would be utter nonsense given US policies and actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

China is trying to placate the US because it still fears US economic and military power. Its party officials probably figure that they can keep building up the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic nuclear capability and when there is enough firepower, will be able to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. But how?

The PLA forces have no modern combat experience to speak of and their plan seems to be; well, no plan at all. They are faced with the combined forces of the USA that are building new aircraft carriers, submarines and long distance B-21 bombers, along with upgrading all three legs of its nuclear TRIAD.

Which brings us back to Russia and the economic support it needs so that Biden’s sanctions don’t end up killing a million Russians. Because that is what Biden intends and his track record on supporting sanctions is disturbingly clear. When China looks at what the USA-NATO have done to the Russian economy, they are looking at their own future.

Hypocrisy

Joe Scalice at the World Socialist Website notes the hypocrisy of the USA-NATO and the compliant MSM Western media:

The wars of aggression of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump contained the accumulated evil of the torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the drone bombing of children at play, villages leveled by precision missiles and refugees drowned in the Mediterranean. Baghdad crumbled beneath the shock and awe of unstinting US bombing; Fallujah burned with white phosphorus.

The American mass media is complicit in these crimes. They never challenged the government’s assertions, but trumpeted its pretexts. They whipped up a war-frenzy in the public. Pundits who now denounce Putin were ferocious in demanding that the United States bomb civilians.

Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times in 1999 of the bombing of Serbia under Clinton, “It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted… [W]e will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.” [Biden supported bombing Belgrade]

Biden labels Putin a war criminal in the midst of a new media hysteria. Never referring to the actions of the United States, never pausing for breath, the media pumps out the fuel for an ever-expanding war. Hubris and hypocrisy stamp every statement from Washington with an audacity perhaps unique in world history. Its hands bathed in blood up to the elbows, US empire gestures at its enemies and cries war crimes.

Tactics

Indeed, the media has capitulated to the war propaganda narrative of the Biden Administration. The US MSM relies almost exclusively on Ukrainian sources for its error filled reporting. If you are reading the New York Times or the Washington Post, you aren’t getting the full story. Pro-Russia sites like Southfront, Newsfront, War Gonzo and others tell a different story. For example, the Retroville Mall destruction on March 21 was reported in the West as a wanton and random attack on a shopping place. In fact, the below-building parking lot was home to Ukrainian military vehicles clearly shown by a set of photos that appeared on Newsfront. Residential buildings are clearly being used by the Ukrainian forces to hide their weapons or launch anti-tank attacks from apartment building roofs or top floor apartments. That’s a tactic that makes sense. The Russians know that.

You’ve got to look at all the news sources, even the ones you don’t want to view, in order to be informed about this conflict.

The post President Joe Biden seeks to Destroy Russia and Punish the Russian People first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US to Use Ukraine as Stepping Stone toward Taiwan Provocation

The US is planning to provoke conflict with China through Taiwan just as it has done to Russia through Ukraine. A similar process of replacing both governments in 2014 and then preparing both territories for war has been underway since.

US policy papers have called for the encirclement and containment of both Russia and China for decades and ultimately, stopping China requires first isolating it from its largest, most powerful ally, Russia.

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President Zelensky Phones Taiwan’s Leader Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai: Hello Volodya. I hope you do not mind my calling you that.

Zelensky: (Sobs, wordless.)

Tsai: What is it Volodya? Calm down.

Zelensky: (Sobbing continues.) We have been left alone to defend our state. Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid.*

Tsai: But the Americans have given you weapons, rifles. The Germans even gave you helmets — right away — and now they are promising more. And they also sent military advisors “little green men”– I think that is what they call them when they are Russian.

Zelensky: We are facing tanks and missiles. I am afraid what we have is pretty small potatoes. As the American politician Ron Paul said, it seems the Americans are ready to fight Russia – down to the last Ukrainian (more sobbing).

Tsai: But Volodya, you got to address the U.S. Congress and plea for help – certainly that shows support.

Zelensky: Support? The script that the Americans handed me centered on a No Fly Zone, in other words, a call for WWIII, nuclear war. I looked like a madman! (More sobbing.)

Tsai: I did not think that made you look like a madman. I admire someone who is willing to risk nuclear war for our beliefs. That shows real spine, real guts. And those Congress people applauded you. If you looked mad, would that not make them all insane too. Surely you cannot believe that.

But I know how you feel about those scripts. The Americans stuff one in my face every now and then with the “advice” that it would be good to read it. I feel I am getting an offer I cannot refuse as they say in the American movies.

But you do not have to accept the script – you are safe in hiding in Ukraine.

Zelensky: I cannot comment on where I am – if you understand what I mean.

And I do not know what kind of company you are keeping, Tsai, but most people are appalled and frightened by the prospect of nuclear war. My stance allowed Biden to look sane by turning thumbs down. I was the fall guy.

Tsai: Look Volodya. You have to get hold of yourself. The U.S. has managed to get the whole world behind you. Just like the US has got the whole world behind me. Not to worry.

Zelensky: Are you serious, Tsai? You know that not only China but also India has refused to join US sanctions on Russia – that is 35% of the world’s population right there. China is the number one economy in the world by PPP-GDP and India number three as you surely know. So two of the big three are not backing sanctions. Also refusing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico. That is over half the world’s population! And there are many more refusenik nations including the 40 countries not in that list on which the US has sanctions – I have lost count.

And NATO is showing cracks. Macron and others are talking to Putin all the time. Sweden has refused to join NATO, saying that would be “destabilizing.”

The world is changing, Tsai.

Exactly how many countries are behind you, Tsai? You better check — carefully. I wish I had. (More sobbing.)

Tsai: (Now looks very worried) Good point, Volodya.

Zelensky: And now Germany is rearming under the influence of the crazy German Greens, the most hawkish of the Parties in the governing coalition. That of course is a dream come true for the neocons – having Germany fight Russia. Two principal competitors of the U.S. fighting one another. It will destroy Ukraine and the rest of Europe. As I have said in the past, this war will engulf Europe.

Tsai: (Now a bit shaken.) But why did you not stop all this as soon as you were elected. You ran as a peace candidate.

Zelensky: (Even more upset). I could not. The Americans would not permit it, and Russia is well aware of this as Lavrov has made clear. And America’s Neo-Nazi friends like the Azov Battalion fiercely oppose it – and together they have enough clout to stop an elected President – or even depose him as we saw back in 2014. I am keenly aware of that as is any President until the U.S. grip on this country is broken and it is “de-nazified,” if I may borrow a term.

So here I am presiding over the unnecessary destruction of my beloved country, unable to agree to the simple terms of peace that the Minsk accords established.

My place in history is not going to be a glorious one.

Tsai: But at least you have the Ukrainian people united behind you. Here on Taiwan there is considerable pro-Mainland sentiment.

Zelensky: United? I have had to ban a dozen political parties, including the main opposition one. I have had to bring all TV under control of one platform. And I have had to declare martial law. Do you think everyone here is happy that instead of implementing the Minsk accords we have brought ourselves to this point?

My advice to you, Tsai, is do not allow Taiwan to become the Ukraine of East Asia, because right now that is the plan the Americans have for you.

I have to go now. I am being called. I am not even supposed to make calls like this.

(Nervously) Keep this call between us. Good-bye.

Tsai: (Shaken) Good bye Volodya.

(Hangs up, summons her assistant.) I need to place another call. Please get President Xi on the line. He has wanted to talk. Tell him I want to discuss the One Country, Two Systems Policy.

And tell him it is the Governor of Taiwan Province calling.

* These are the exact words that Zelensky used in a midnight speech to Ukraine on February 25.

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USA Sees Russia’s Operation in Ukraine as Blessing in Disguise

The United States is now in a state of war with Russia.

Every country in the NATO military alliance is providing billions in anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the Ukrainians (of course, every country in the NATO alliance is owned by the United States which has recently coughed up $850 million for the cause). Along with those weapons the alliance has nodded its approval to the world’s mercenaries to descend on Ukraine getting free passage into Western Ukraine and transit through countries who directly border Ukraine. Privatemilitary.org lists all the private military contractors who are likely exploring their options in Ukraine.

It is also great news for the West’s defense contractors who manufacture anti-tank/aircraft, small arms, landmines, grenades, artillery, radios; in short, billions in profits will be earned off the war in eastern Ukraine: there never seems to be a downside to their businesses.

With Russia, the world’s 11th largest economy, essentially cut off from the globalized world, the pain level for Russian citizens is sure to rise over time. But if there is any one people whose tolerance to pain is high, it’s the Russians. Their history shows as much. Still, one puzzling aspect of Russia’s peacekeeping operation — that would prolong a war, is its devoting so much effort to taking the two most populous cities in Ukraine: Kiev and Kharkov. It is those two places where mercenaries will alight inevitably prolonging Russia’s effort and its citizen’s economic difficulties. As I mentioned in a piece published at Counterpunch on February 4, Scenario for a War in Eastern Ukraine, the Grozny experience in Chechnya still must linger in the veterans of that epic siege and defense.

What’s Up with China?

So, what is China thinking? Their political-military leadership must surely be looking on the scene in Ukraine with great interest. A good guess would be that principals in the Peoples Liberation Army-Navy-Air Force are discussing military operations against Taiwan, which Beijing has always claimed as part of greater China.

Could there be a better time for a Chinese move on Taiwan? With the USA/NATO totally focused on Russia and Ukraine, they would be hard pressed to mount much resistance to Chinese military forces moving towards Taiwan. If the Chinese did this, how would the USA-NATO and Asian allies respond?

Taiwan is already afloat in high tech US weaponry: air defenses, aircraft, artillery. The USA has trained its military. Resupplying the island nation during conflict would be difficult by sea or air. US naval forces and those of Taiwan would likely be severely damaged by land based ballistic missiles.

Cutting China off from SWIFT and barring all USA-Western companies from doing business in China would be a disaster for the citizens of the USA-Europe who have no tolerance for economic pain. Corporations like Walmart and Boeing are so entrenched in the Chinese economy that they could not possibly extract themselves without massive US government financial support. Any and all companies doing business in China would sprint to the US government for cash to support exiting the country.

The USA would find itself in a two-front economic and military conflict with China and Russia for which it is unprepared. Tactical nuclear weapons would likely come into play.

It seems that it is time for the world’s elite and their citizens to watch and listen intently to The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara by Erol Morris. McNamara quotes Nikita Khrushchev speaking with John F. Kennedy’s administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His insight is ignored at the world’s peril:

We and you ought not to pull on the ends of a rope which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you. I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction. For such is the logic of war. If people do not display wisdom, they will clash like blind moles and then mutual annihilation will commence.

Media

Military information support operations (MISO) are in full swing all over the mainstream media and the World Wide Web. Who to believe? It is getting tougher as alternate news sites like Sputnik News and RT News are being censored by the West. Any support aired by anyone on the West for the Russian position gets mauled and derided by pro-West pundits. For example, the US sponsored coup in Ukraine that overthrew an elected government there in 2014 no longer exists or does not matter.  Nor does the long litany of US wars of aggression against — well, pick a nation: Guatemala, Iraq, Vietnam, etc., etc., etc.

One thing is for sure: self-censorship by Western media will only get more wicked.

The only way to form an opinion is to view as much from Russian and Western sources as is humanly possible. As examples, on one side is Newsfront, Southfront, Tass, Pravda.ru, Interfax News, Al Jazeera, and, on the other is the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, CBS, Center for Strategic and International Analysis. Apps like Telegram and Twitter sometimes contain commentary and footage from Ukrainian combat zones.

Relying on one source is not intelligent.

Dismal Horizon of the Future

Therefore, I ask myself, can the apocalypse be averted or mastered? As the concept of the Anthropocene implies, it is already too late. “They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind,” the Bible says. The trends of environmental devastation, military destruction and social wreckage have now taken on an irreversible and self-feeding character; they tend to expand their effects and the tend to eliminate possible countermeasures. Brutality is more and more dominating social relations, and the economic machine of production is ruled more and more by inescapable automatisms. The Automaton and the Brute are the two separated forms of existence in our time: neuro-totalitarianisms and global civil war are the forms of life looming on the horizon of the future.

— Franco Berardi, Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, semiotext (e), MIT Press. 2018

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WWII Redux: The Endpoint of U.S. Policy from Ukraine to Taiwan

“This is not going to be a war of Ukraine and Russia. This is going to be a European war, a full-fledged war.” So spoke Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky just days after berating the U.S. for beating the drums of war.

It is not hard to imagine how Zelensky’s words must have fallen on those European ears that were attentive.  His warning surely conjured up images of World War II when tens of millions of Europeans and Russians perished.

Zelensky’s words echoed those of Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte on the other side of the world at the Eastern edge of the great Eurasian land mass: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat.”  We can be sure that Duterte, like Zelensky, had in mind WWII which also consumed tens of millions of lives in East Asia.

The United States is stoking tensions in both Europe and East Asia, with Ukraine and Taiwan as the current flashpoints on the doorsteps of Russia and China which are the targeted nations.  Let us be clear at the outset.  As we shall see, the endpoint of this process is not for the U.S. to do battle with Russia or China but to watch China and Russia fight it out with the neighbors to the ruin of both sides.  The US is to “lead from behind’ – as safely and remotely as can be arranged.

To make sense of this and react properly, we must be very clear-eyed about the goal of the U.S.  Neither Russia nor China has attacked or even threatened the U.S.  Nor are they in a position to do so – unless one believes that either is ready to embark on a suicidal nuclear war.

Why should the U.S. Elite and its media pour out a steady stream of anti-China and anti-Russia invective?  Why the steady eastward march of NATO since the end of the first Cold War?  The goal of the U.S. is crystal clear – it regards itself as the Exceptional Nation and entitled to be the number one power on the planet, eclipsing all others.

This goal is most explicitly stated in the well-known Wolfowitz Doctrine drawn shortly after the end of the first Cold War in 1992.  It proclaimed that the U.S.’s  “first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet union or elsewhere….”  It stated that no regional power must be allowed to emerge with the power and resources “sufficient to generate global power.”  It stated frankly “we must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power.” (Emphasis, jw)

The Wolfowitz Doctrine is but the latest in a series of such proclamations that have proclaimed global domination as the goal of U.S. foreign policy since 1941 the year before the U.S. entered WWII.  This lineage is documented clearly in the book by the Quicny Institute’s Stephen Wertheim “Tomorrow, The World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy.

Let us consider China first and then Russia, the foremost target of the U.S., first.  China’s economy is number one in terms of PPP-GDP according to the IMF and has been since November, 2014.  It is growing faster than the U.S. economy and shows no signs of slowing down.  In a sense China has already won by this metric since economic power is the ultimate basis of all power.

But what about a military defeat of China?  Can the U.S. with its present vastly superior armed forces bring that about?  The historian, Alfred McCoy, answers that question in the way most do these days, with a clear “no”:

The most volatile flashpoint in Beijing’s grand strategy for breaking Washington’s geopolitical grip over Eurasia lies in the contested waters between China’s coast and the Pacific littoral, which the Chinese call “the first island chain.

But China’s clear advantage in any struggle over that first Pacific island chain is simply distance. …The tyranny of distance, in other words, means that the U.S. loss of that first island chain, along with its axial anchor on Eurasia’s Pacific littoral, should only be a matter of time.

Certainly the U.S. Elite recognizes this problem.  Do they have a solution?

Moreover, that is not the end of the “problem” for the U.S.  There are other powerful countries, like Japan, or rapidly rising economies in East Asia, easily the most dynamic economic region in the world.  These too will become peer competitors, and in the case of Japan, it already has been a competitor both before WWII and during the 1980s.

If we hop over to the Western edge of Eurasia, we see that the U.S. has a similar “problem” when it comes to Russia.  Here too the U.S. cannot defeat Russia in a conventional conflict nor have U.S. sanctions been able to bring it down.  How can the U.S. surmount this obstacle? And as in the case of East Asia the U.S. faces another economic competitor, Germany, or more accurately, the EU, with Germany at its core. How is the U.S. to deal with this dual threat?

One clue comes in the response of Joe Biden to both the tension over Taiwan and that over Ukraine.  Biden has said repeatedly that he will not send U.S. combat troops to fight Russia over Ukraine or to fight China over Taiwan.  But it will send materiel and weapons and also “advisors.”  And here too the U.S. has other peer competitors most notably Germany which has been the target of U.S. tariffs. The economist Michael Hudson puts it succinctly in a penetrating essay, “America’s real adversaries are its European and other allies: The U.S. aim is to keep them from trading with China and Russia.”

Such “difficulties for the U.S. were solved once before – in WWII.  One way of looking at WWII is that it was a combination of two great regional wars, one in East Asia and one in Europe.  In Europe the U.S. was minimally involved as Russia, the core of the USSR, battled it out with Germany, sustaining great damage to life and economy.  Both Germany and Russia were economic basket cases when the war was over, two countries lying in ruins.

The US provided weapons and materiel to Russia but was minimally involved militarily, only entering late in the game.  The same happened in East Asia with Japan in the role of Germany and China in the role of Russia.  Both Japan and China were devastated in the same way as were Russia and Europe.  This was not an unconscious strategy on the part of the United States.  As Harry Truman, then a Senator, declared in 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.. . ”

At the end of it all the U.S. emerged as the most powerful economic and military power on the planet.  McCoy spells it out:

Like all past imperial hegemons, U.S. global power has similarly rested on geopolitical dominance over Eurasia, now home to 70% of the world’s population and productivity. After the Axis alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan failed to conquer that vast land mass, the Allied victory in World War II allowed Washington, as historian John Darwin put it, to build its “colossal imperium… on an unprecedented scale,” becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia.

As a critical first step, the U.S. formed the NATO alliance in 1949, establishing major military installations in Germany and naval bases in Italy to ensure control of the western side of Eurasia. After its defeat of Japan, as the new overlord of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific, Washington dictated the terms of four key mutual-defense pacts in the region with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia and so acquired a vast range of military bases along the Pacific littoral that would secure the eastern end of Eurasia. To tie the two axial ends of that vast land mass into a strategic perimeter, Washington ringed the continent’s southern rim with successive chains of steel, including three navy fleets, hundreds of combat aircraft, and most recently, a string of 60 drone bases stretching from Sicily to the Pacific island of Guam.

The U.S. was able to become the dominant power on the planet because all peer competitors were left in ruins by the two great regional wars in Europe and East Asia, wars which are grouped under the heading of WWII.

If Europe is plunged into a war of Russia against the EU powers with the U.S. “leading from behind,” with material and weapons, who will benefit?  And if East Asia is plunged into a war of China against Japan and whatever allies it can drum up, with the U.S. “leading from behind,” who will benefit?

It is pretty clear that such a replay of WWII will benefit the U.S.  In WWII while Eurasia suffered tens of millions of deaths, the US suffered about 400,000 – a terrible toll certainly but nothing like that seen in Eurasia.  And with the economies and territories of Eurasia, East and West, in ruins, the U.S. will emerge on top, in the catbird seat, and able to dictate terms to the world.  WWII redux.

But what about the danger of nuclear war growing out of such conflicts?  The U.S. has a history of nuclear “brinksmanship,” going back to the earliest post-WWII days.  It is a country that has shown itself willing to risk nuclear holocaust.

Are there U.S. policy makers criminal enough to see this policy of provocation through to the end?  I will leave that to the reader to answer.

The Peoples of East and West Eurasia are the ones who will suffer most in this scenario.  And they are the ones who can stop the madness by living peacefully with Russia and China rather than serving as cannon fodder for the U.S.  There are clear signs of dissent from the European “allies” of the U.S., especially Germany but the influence of the U.S. remains powerful.  Germany and many other countries are after all occupied by tens of thousands of U.S. troops, their media heavily influenced by the U.S. and with the organization that commands European troops, NATO, under U.S. command.  Which way will it go?

In East Asia the situation is the same.  Japan is the key but the hatred of China among the Elite is intense.  Will the Japanese people and the other peoples of East Asia be able to put the brakes on the drive to war?

Some say that a two-front conflict like this is U.S. overreach.  But certainly, if war is raging on or near the territories of both Russia and China, there is little likelihood that one can aid the other.

Given the power of modern weaponry, this impending world war will be much more damaging than WWII by far.  The criminality that is on the way to unleashing it is almost beyond comprehension.

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Why Washington’s Focus on “Credibility” is a Recipe for War

The most pressing threat to global security right now isn’t so-called “provocations” by either Russia or China. It is the United States’ misplaced obsession with its own “credibility”.

This rallying cry by Washington officials – echoed by the media and allies in London and elsewhere – is code for allowing the US to act like a global gangster while claiming to be the world’s policeman. US “credibility” was apparently thrown into question last summer – and only when President Joe Biden held firm to a pledge to pull US troops out of Afghanistan.

Prominent critics, including in the Pentagon, objected that any troop withdrawal would both suggest the US was backing off from a commitment to maintain the so-called “international order” and further embolden the West’s “enemies” – from the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) group to Russia and China.

In a postmortem in September, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, echoed a view common in Washington: “I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world, and with adversaries, is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go – and I think that damage is one word that could be used.”

At the same time, a former defence official in the George W Bush administration judged US credibility after the Afghanistan withdrawal at “rock bottom“.

The only way this understanding of US “credibility” makes sense is if one disregards the disastrous previous two decades of Washington’s role in Afghanistan. Those were the years in which the US army propped up a bunch of wildly unpopular kleptocrats in Kabul who ransacked the public coffers as the US launched an arms’ length drone war that ended up killing large numbers of Afghan civilians.

To bolster its apparently diminished “credibility” after the troop withdrawal, the US has imposed crushing sanctions on Afghanistan, deepening its current famine. There have also been reports of CIA efforts to run covert operations against the Taliban by aiding its opponents.

Cold War relic

Washington’s “credibility” was also seemingly in peril when US and Russian officials met in Geneva this week for negotiations in the midst of a diplomatic, and potential military, standoff over Ukraine.

The background are demands from Moscow that Washington stops encircling Russia with military bases and that Nato end its relentless advancement towards Russia’s borders. Nato should be a relic of a Cold War-era that officially ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Moscow dissolved its own version of Nato, the Warsaw Pact, more than three decades ago.

Russia had been given verbal assurances in 1990 by George HW Bush’s administration that Nato would not expand militarily beyond the borders of what was then West Germany. Seven years later, President Bill Clinton signed the Nato-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, which committed Russia and Nato not to treat each other “as adversaries”, while Nato reiterated that there would be no “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” in former Eastern bloc states.

Every subsequent US administration has flagrantly broken both of these pledges, with Nato troops now stationed across eastern Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Moscow feels as menaced by Nato’s aggressive posturing, which serves to revive its Cold War fears, as Washington would if Russia placed military bases in Cuba and Mexico.

No one should forget that the US was prepared to bring the world to the brink of armageddon in a nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union in 1962 to prevent Moscow from stationing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Historic alliance

Despite the current clamour about the need for the US to maintain its “credibility”, Washington was in fact only being asked at the Geneva talks to start honouring, 30 years late, commitments it made long ago and has repeatedly violated.

The latest flashpoint is Ukraine, Russia’s neighbour, which has been roiling since a coup in 2014 overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow. The deeply divided country is split between those who want to prioritise their historic ties with Russia and those who want to be embraced by the European Union.

Moscow – and a proportion of Ukrainians – believe Washington and Europe are exploiting the push for an economic pact to engineer Ukraine’s subordination to Nato security policies, directed against Russia. Such fears are not misplaced. Each of what were formerly Soviet states that became an EU member has also been recruited to Nato. In fact, since 2009 it has been an official requirement, through the Treaty of Lisbon, that EU member states align their security policies with Nato.

Now US “credibility” apparently depends on its determination to bring Nato to Russia’s front door, via Ukraine.

US perfidy

Reporting on a working dinner with Russian diplomats last Sunday, before the Geneva meeting, Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, recast that perfidy as the US stressing its commitment to “the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is being widely made out to be the aggressor after he posted tens of thousands of troops at the border with Ukraine.

One can argue whether those soldiers are massed for an invasion of Ukraine, as is being widely assumed in the western media, or as a show of force against a US-led Nato that believes it can do whatever it pleases in Russia’s backyard. Either way, a miscalculation by either side could prove disastrous.

According to the New York Times, General Milley has warned the Russians that an invasion force would face a prolonged insurgency backed by US weaponry. There are reports that Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have already been delivered to Ukraine.

Similarly, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has threatened“confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine”.

Drumbeat of war

This reckless way of projecting “credibility” – and thereby making confrontations and war more, not less, likely – is currently on show in relation to another nuclear-armed power, China. For many months, the Biden administration has been playing what looks like a game of chicken with Beijing over China’s continuing assertion of a right to use force against Taiwan, a self-governing island off the coast of China that Beijing claims as its territory.

Few countries formally recognise Taiwan as a state, and nothing in relations between Taipei and China is settled. That includes heated disagreements over the division of airspace, with Taiwan – backed by the US – claiming that a whole chunk of southeast mainland China falls within its “defence zone”. That means the scaremongering headlines about record numbers of Chinese warplanes flying over Taiwan need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The same disputes apply to China and Taiwan’s respective claims to territorial waters, with a similar potential for provocation. The pair’s conflicting views of what constitutes their security and sovereignty are a ready hair-trigger for war – and in circumstances where one party possesses a large nuclear arsenal.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has stomped into this long-simmering feud by feeding the media with alarmist headlines and security analysts with talking points about a possible US war with China over Taiwan. Top Pentagon officials have also stoked concerns of an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China.

Diplomatically, President Biden snubbed his nose at Beijing by inviting Taiwan to attend his so-called “democracy summit” last month. The event further inflamed Chinese indignation by showing Taiwan and China in separate colours on a regional map.

The CIA has announced the establishment of a new espionage centre with an exclusive focus on China. According to CIA director William Burns, it is necessary because the US is faced with “an increasingly adversarial Chinese government”. That “adversary”, however, poses no direct threat to US security – unless Washington chooses provocatively to bring Taiwan under its security umbrella.

Washington’s drumbeat has been so constant that a recent poll showed more than half of Americans supported sending US troops to defend Taiwan.

Nuclear hard line

The picture is the same with Iran. US “credibility” is being cited as the reason why Washington needs to take a hard line against Tehran – goaded, as ever, by Israel – on its presumed ambitions to build a nuclear bomb.

Israel, of course, has had its own large arsenal of nuclear weapons for decades – entirely unmonitored and in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Both the US and Israel fear Iran wants to level the nuclear playing field in the Middle East. Israel is determined to make sure that only it has the power to make nuclear-backed threats, either against others in the region or as leverage in Washington to get its way.

President Barack Obama’s administration signed an agreement with Iran in 2015 placing strict limits on Tehran’s development of nuclear technology. In return, Washington lifted some of the most punishing sanctions on the country. Three years later, however, President Donald Trump reneged on the deal.

Now Iran suffers the worst of both worlds. The US has again intensified the sanctions regime while demanding that Tehran renew the deal on worse terms – and with no promise, according to US Secretary of State Blinken, that the next US administration won’t tear up the agreement anyway.

US “credibility” does not depend, it seems, on Washington being required to keep its word.

In the background, as ever, is the threat of joint military reprisals from Israel and the US. In October, Biden reportedly asked his national security adviser to review Pentagon plans for a military strike if this one-sided “diplomatic process” failed. A month later, Israel approved $1.5bn for precisely such an eventuality.

Drunk on power

Washington’s emphasis on its “credibility” is actually a story the US elite tells itself and western publics to obscure the truth. What is really prized is America’s ability to enforce its economic interests and military superiority unchallenged across the globe.

After the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the US overthrow of the elected government of Iran to reinstall its dictator-monarch, there is barely a corner of the planet where the US has not meddled. In Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and its so-called “backyard”, Latin America, US “credibility” has required interventions and war as an alternative to diplomacy.

In October 2019, as Trump suggested that US troops would be pulled out of Syria – where they had no authorisation from the United Nations to be in the first place – Leon Panetta, a former defence secretary and former head of the CIA, observed that the decision had “weakened the US” and “undercut our credibility in the world”.

He added: “There isn’t an ally that we’ve around the world that doesn’t now distrust us and worry about whether or not we will stand by our word.”

But this kind of credibility is built not on principle, on respecting others’ national sovereignty, or on peace-building, but on the gangsterism of a superpower drunk on its own power and its ability to intimidate and crush rivals.

Washington’s “word” is only selectively kept, as its treatment of Russia and Iran highlight. And enforcement of its “credibility” – from breaking commitments to threatening war – has had a predictable effect: they have driven Washington’s “enemies” into an opposition camp out of necessity.

The US has created a more menacing adversary, as Russia and China, two nuclear powers, have found a common purpose in asserting a countervailing pressure on Washington. Since the late summer, the two have held a series of war games and joint military exercises, each of them a first.

The world is entering what looks like a new, even more complex cold war, in which any misunderstanding, mishap or false move could rapidly escalate into nuclear confrontation. If it happens, the pursuit of US “credibility” will have played a central part in the catastrophe.

First published in Middle East Eye

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