Category Archives: The "West"

The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate

When the tears dry, it is worth considering why there is so much upset about the fall of Kabul (or reconquest) by the Taliban and the messy withdrawal of US-led forces.  A large shield is employed: women, rights of the subject, education.  Remove the shield, and we are left with a simple equation of power gone wrong in the name of paternalistic warmongering.

The noisiest group of Afghanistan stayers are the neoconservatives resentful because their bit of political real estate is getting away.  In being defeated, they are left with the task of explaining to the soldiery that blood was not expended in vain against a foe they failed to defeat.  “You took out a brutal enemy,” goes a statement from US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, “and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care.”  The couple throw in the contribution of Dr. Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, behind the opening of “schools for girls and women around the nation.”

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Bush’s deputy defence secretary, is less sentimental in his assessment of the Afghanistan fiasco. To Australia’s Radio National, he was unsparing in calling the victors “a terrorist mob that has been hating the United States for the last 20 years.”  They had provided the launching ground for “one of history’s worst attacks on the United States” and were now “going to be running that bit of hostile territory.”

Being in Afghanistan, he asserted, was not costly for the occupiers – at least to the US.  It made good sense in preventing it from “once again becoming a haven for terrorists”.  For the last year and a half, there had not been a single American death.  He chided the simpletons at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs who dared survey Americans with the question, “Would you like to leave [Afghanistan] and get out?”  They would have been far better framing it differently: “Do you support withdrawal if it means the country is going to be overrun by the same people who hated us 20 years ago and from where an attack that killed 3,000 Americans took place”.

To talk about “endless wars” was also something to avoid.  In a reminder that the US imperial footprint remains global, Wolfowitz drew attention to the fact that Washington was hardly going to withdraw from South Korea, where it was still officially at war with the North.  It kept troops in countries it had previously been at war with: Germany and Japan.  Americans, he lamented, had not “been told the facts” by their politicians.

Boiled down to its essentials, such a view has little time for Afghans with a country “more or less ungovernable for long periods of time”.  (What uncooperative savages.)  The Obama administration’s deployment of 100,000 soldiers had been an “overreach” with unclear intention.  It was far better to treat Afghanistan as a state to contain with “a limited commitment” of US forces rather than “extending to the idea that Afghanistan would become a latter-day Switzerland.”  Ringing the real estate, not advancing the people, mattered.

Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, a caricature of US interventionist policies, never had much time for the withdrawal argument, either.  Earlier in August, with the Taliban humming along with speed in capturing a swag of provincial cities, Bolton warned that it was “literally [President Joe] Biden’s last chance to reverse his and Trump’s erroneous withdrawal policy.  When the Taliban wins, it compromises the security of all Americans.”

Another voice from the neoconservative stable advocating the need for a continued boot print of US power was Max Boot, who thought it nonsensical to keep US troops in Iraq while withdrawing them from Afghanistan.  US forces needed, he wrote in the Irish Independent (July 29) “to stay in both countries to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist threat to the US and its allies.”  The “imperative” to prevent both countries from becoming “international terrorist bases” remained, but only one had an adequate military presence to provide insurance.  Decent of Boot to show such candour.

The British, long wedded to the idea of empire as gift and necessity, have also piled onto the wagon of stayers, saying less about the merits of protecting Afghan citizens than keeping trouble boxed and localised.  “We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan, to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere,” feared General Sir Richard Barrons.  “I think this is a very poor strategic outcome.”

British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets, went further by suggesting that plucky Britain best go it alone in the face of foolhardy US withdrawal.  “Just because the US chose to depart does not mean we should slavishly follow suit,” he exhorted. “Would it not make sense to stay close to the Afghan people given the importance of this bit of real estate?”

The one who tops all of this off must be former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, always one given to evangelising wars waged in the name of a sinister, tinfoil humanitarianism.  As executive of an institute bearing his name (modest to a fault), he railed against a withdrawal executed “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘forever wars’”.  Like Wolfowitz, he dismissed the use of such terms and comparisons, noting the diminishing troop deployment on Afghan soil and the fact that “no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”

Despite the withdrawal, Blair suggested that options were available to “the West” which needed some “tangible demonstration” that it was not in “retreat”.  A “list of incentives, sanctions and actions” had to be drawn up against the Taliban.  In doing so, his motivation was simple: that these turbaned fanatics represented a strategic risk, part of “Radical Islam” that had been “almost 100 years in gestation”.

Far from ditching the prospect for future interventions, the high priest of illegal war is all-embracing of the formula.  “Intervention,” he opines, “can take many forms. We need to do it learning the proper lessons of the past 20 years according not to our short-term politics, but our long-term strategic interests.”  Be fearful for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and woe to those lessons.

The post The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies

A month ago, as the US army prepared to end the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and hand over responsibility to local security forces it had armed and trained, maps showed small, relatively isolated pockets of Taliban control.

At the weekend, the Islamist fighters marched unchallenged into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, bringing almost the entire country under their thumb. US intelligence assessments that it would take the Taliban up to three months to capture Afghanistan’s capital proved wildly inaccurate.

It took a few days.

Foreign nationals were left scrambling to Kabul’s airport while American officials were hurriedly evacuated by helicopter, echoing the fall of Saigon in 1975, when US embassy staff were chased out of South Vietnam after years of a similarly failed war.

On Sunday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement that he had fled the country – reportedly in a helicopter stuffed with cash – to “avoid bloodshed“. But all the evidence indicates his corrupt security forces were never in a position to offer serious resistance to a Taliban takeover.

Jumping ship

The speed with which the Taliban have re-established their hold on a country that was supposedly being reconstructed as some kind of western-style liberal democracy is astonishing. Or, at least, it is to those who believed that US and British military commanders, western politicians and the mainstream media were being straight all this time.

The real explanation for the Taliban’s “surprise” success is that western publics were being duped all along. The United States’ longest war was doomed from the start. The corrupt, entirely unrepresentative members of the Kabul elite were always going to jump ship as soon as Washington stopped pumping in troops and treasure.

According to Forbes magazine, as much as $2 trillion was poured into Afghanistan over the past 20 years – or $300m a day. The truth is that western politicians and the media intentionally colluded in a fiction, selling yet another imperial “war” in a far-off land as a humanitarian intervention welcomed by the local population.

As Daniel Davis, a former US army lieutenant colonel and critic of the war, observed at the weekend: “Since early 2002, the war in Afghanistan never had a chance of succeeding.”

Nonetheless, many politicians and commentators are still sounding the same, tired tune, castigating the Biden administration for ‘betraying‘ Afghanistan, as if the US had any right to be there in the first place – or as if more years of US meddling could turn things around.

Colonial chessboard

No one should have been shocked by the almost-instant collapse of an Afghan government and its security services that had been foisted on the country by the US. But it seems some are still credulous enough – even after the catastrophic lies that justified “interventions” in Iraq, Libya and Syria – to believe western foreign policy is driven by the desire to assist poor countries rather than use them as pawns on a global, colonial chessboard.

Afghans are no different from the rest of us. They don’t like outsiders ruling over them. They don’t like having political priorities imposed on them. And they don’t like dying in someone else’s power game.

If the fall of Kabul proves anything, it is that the US never had any allies in Afghanistan outside of a tiny elite that saw the chance to enrich itself, protected by US and British firepower and given an alibi by western liberals who assumed their own simplistic discourse about identity politics was ripe for export.

Yes, the Taliban will be bad news for Afghan women and girls – as well as men – who are concerned chiefly with maintaining personal freedom. But a tough conclusion western audiences may have to draw is that there are competing priorities for many Afghans who have suffered under decades of invasions and colonial interference.

Just as in Iraq, large segments of the population appear to be ready to forgo freedom in return for a guarantee of communal stability and personal safety. That was something a US client regime, looking to divert aid into its own pockets, was never going to guarantee. While the US was in charge, many tens of thousands of Afghans were killed. We will never know the true figure because their lives were considered cheap. Millions more Afghans were forced into exile.

Spoils of war

Nothing about western intervention in Afghanistan has been as it was portrayed. Those deceptions long predate the invasion by the US and UK in 2001, supposedly to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Seen now, the attack on Afghanistan looks more like scene-setting, and a rationalisation, for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq that soon followed. Both served the neoconservative agenda of increasing the US footprint in the Middle East and upping the pressure on Iran.

The West has long pursued geostrategic interests in Afghanistan – given the country’s value as a trade route and its role as a buffer against enemies gaining access to the Arabian Gulf. In the 19th century, the British and Russian empires used Afghanistan as the central arena for their manoeuvring in the so-called  “Great Game“.

Similar intrigues drove US-led efforts to expel the Soviet army after it invaded and occupied Afghanistan through the 1980s. Washington and Britain helped to finance, arm and train Islamist fighters, the mujahideen, that forced out the Red Army in 1989. The mujahideen went on to oust the country’s secular, communist government.

After their victory against the Soviet army, the mujahideen leadership split, with some becoming little more than regional warlords. The country was plunged into a bloody civil war in which the mujahideen and warlords looted their way through the areas they conquered, often treating women and girls as the spoils of war.

Despite Washington officials’ constant trumpeting of their concern at Taliban violations of women’s rights – in what became an additional pretext for continuing the occupation – the US had shown no desire to tackle such abuses when they were committed by its own mujahideen allies.

Rule of the warlords

The Taliban emerged in the 1990s from religious schools in neighbouring Pakistan as civil war raged in Afghanistan. They vowed to end the corruption and insecurity felt by Afghans under the rule of the warlords and mujahideen, and unify the country under Islamic law.

They found support, especially in poor, rural areas that had suffered most from the bloodletting.

The subsequent “liberation” of Afghanistan by US and British forces returned the country, outside a fortified Kabul, to an even more complex havoc. Afghans were variously exposed to violence from warlords, the Taliban, the US military and its local proxies.

To much of the population, Hamid Karzai, a former mujahideen leader who became the first Afghan president installed by the US occupation regime, was just another plundering warlord – the strongest only because he was backed by US guns and warplanes.

It was telling that five weeks ago, asked about the prospects of the Taliban returning to power, Biden stated that “the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.” Not only was he wrong, but his remarks suggested that Washington ultimately preferred to keep Afghanistan weak and divided between feuding strongmen.

That was precisely the reason most Afghans wanted the US gone.

Washington poured at least $88bn into training and arming a 300,000-strong Afghan army and police force that evaporated in Kabul – the government’s supposed stronghold – at the first sight of the Taliban. American taxpayers will be right to ask why such phenomenal sums were wasted on pointless military theatre rather than invested back home.

The US military, private security contractors, and arms manufacturers fed at what became a bottomless trough – and in the process were ever more deeply invested in maintaining the fiction of a winnable war. An endless, futile occupation with no clear objective swelled their budgets and ensured the military-industrial complex grew ever richer and more powerful.

Every indication is that the same war-industry juggernaut will simply change course now, playing up threats from China, Iran and Russia, to justify the continuation of budget increases that would otherwise be under threat.

Missing in action

The motive for US officials and corporations to conspire in the grand deception is clear. But what about the mainstream media, the self-declared “fourth estate” and the public’s supposed watchdog on abuses of state power? Why were they missing in action all this time?

It is not as though they did not have the information needed to expose the Pentagon’s lies in Afghanistan, had they cared to. The clues were there, and even reported occasionally. But the media failed to sustain attention.

As far back as 2009, as the US was preparing a pointless surge of troops to tackle the Taliban, Karl Eikenberry, then ambassador to Afghanistan, sent a cable to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that was leaked to the New York Times. He wrote that additional US forces would only “delay the day when Afghans will take over”. A decade later, the Washington Post published secret documents it called the Afghan Papers that highlighted the Pentagon’s systematic deceptions and lying. The subtitle was “At war with the truth”.

Bob Crowley, an army colonel who had advised US military commanders in Afghanistan, observed: “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible.” The Post concluded that the US government had made every effort to “deliberately mislead the public”.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction appointed by Congress in 2012, had long detailed the waste and corruption in Afghanistan and the dismal state of the Afghan forces. But these reports were ignored or quickly disappeared without trace, leaving the Pentagon free to peddle yet more lies.

Cheerleading, not scrutinising

In the summer, as he issued yet another report, Sopko made scathing comments about claims that lessons would be learnt: “Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals or the ambassadors or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam … Lo and behold, we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again.”

A good part of the reason the Pentagon can keep recycling its lies is because neither Congress or the media is holding it to account.

The US media have performed no better. In fact, they have had their own incentives to cheerlead rather than scrutinise recent wars. Not least, they benefit from the drama of war, as more viewers tune in, allowing them to hike their advertising rates.

The handful of companies that run the biggest TV channels, newspapers and websites in the US are also part of a network of transnational corporations whose relentless economic growth has been spurred on by the “war on terror” and the channelling of trillions of dollars from the public purse into corporate hands.

The cosy ties between the US media and the military are evident too in the endless parade of former Pentagon officials and retired generals who sit in TV studios commenting as “independent experts” and analysts on US wars. Their failures in Iraq, Libya and Syria have not apparently dented their credibility.

That rotten system was proudly on display again this week as the media uncritically shared the assessments of David Petraeus, the former US commander in Afghanistan. Although Petraeus shares an outsize chunk of responsibility for the past two decades of military failure and Pentagon deception, he called for the “might of the US military” to be restored for a final push against the Taliban.

Were it still possible to hold US officials to account, the Taliban’s surge over the past few days would have silenced Petraeus and brought Washington’s huge war scam crashing down.

Instead, the war industry will not even need to take a pause and regroup. They will carry on regardless, growing and prospering as though their defeat at the hands of the Taliban signifies nothing at all.

• First published at Middle East Eye

The post How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Learn From the East:  A Major Lesson of the Pandemic.

The world is now in the throes of another wave of Covid-19, with another surge in infections, sickness and deaths, this time due to the more infectious and apparently more lethal Delta variant.

Are there lessons to be learned from the previous waves of Covid-19 that might help us now?

There are, and they were evident long ago, but in the West, they have been largely ignored.  Up to now, for example, the US has suffered over 617,000 deaths; China in contrast has suffered fewer than 5,000 deaths in a population four times as large as the US.  Could there not be some lessons that might serve us in the West now and in the future?

In the US and throughout the West, the response to China’s success has all too often been to ignore or deny it.  As an especially egregious early example, in April 2020 Donald Trump and his assistant Dr. Deborah Birx called into question China’s mortality data with a none too clever lie of  omission; they were caught in this embarrassing ploy by Asia Times.  The denial of these fatality figures persists in much of the media.  Certainly, there are many reports from those in China, foreigner and native alike, on the largely Covid-19 free environment there.  But the many who regard China as a vast, impenetrable Potemkin Village are refractory to such accounts.

China tells the truth about Covid-19 Deaths

Is there any way in which the truth can be established about China’s death tally?  One method is to examine excess deaths, that is, deaths during the pandemic compared to the same period in the previous five years, a measure used in many countries.  Fortunately, a study of excess deaths in China has now been published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal (BMJ) by a team of scientists and physicians at Oxford in the UK and at China’s CDC.

The study was massive.  EurekAlert!, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recognizing the importance of the study, captured its magnitude as follows: “The researchers used official records from China CDC’s nationally-representative Disease Surveillance Point (DSP) system. It covered more than 300 million people from 605 urban districts and rural counties, representing more than 20% of the entire population in China.”  The DSP gathers deaths that are reported by local doctors, hospitals, funeral directors, police and others. The study covered the period from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020, a period when most all reported deaths occurred.  The lockdown in Wuhan, the most stringent, was begun on January 23 and lifted on April 8, 2020, a total of 74 days.

The two main findings of the BMJ study are simple and straightforward.

First, the number of deaths due to Covid-19 pneumonia in Wuhan was very much the same as the Chinese government reported.  The BMJ study states:

In Wuhan city, the most recent official figures released on 17 April 2020 suggested that 3869 deaths were directly attributable to covid-19, including 3653 deaths from covid-19 related pneumonia and 920 excess deaths from other types of pneumonia, primarily unspecified viral pneumonia.

The tally based on the study of excess deaths that can be attributed with confidence to Covid-19 was 3653, somewhat lower than the 3869 given by the official count at the time.   The demographics of the excess deaths attributable to Covid-19 matched deaths elsewhere from Covid-19 (more male than female, more old than young).  And the time course of the official and excess death fatalities matched.

What about the 920 deaths from pneumonia of uncertain etiology due to absence of Covid-19 tests during the early days?  If we include them in the total to get a worst-case number there is only a 20% difference in the estimates given by excess mortality and those given by the official count at the time.  Later China included these unconfirmed cases in its official tally, making the two tallies almost exactly equal.  No matter how one slices it, the round number of less than 5000 is correct.  It turns out China’s official account is remarkably accurate.

Second, the number of excess deaths in the rest of China decreased!  As a result, overall deaths in China during the pandemic compared to the previous five years actually declined.  In the words of the report:

Except in Wuhan, no increase in overall mortality was found during the three months of the Covid-19 outbreak in other parts of China. The lower death rates from certain non-Covid-19 related diseases might be attributable to the associated behaviour changes during lockdown.

They suggest that the reduced number of deaths outside Wuhan was due to behavior changes like masking and social distancing which would reduce other respiratory diseases like the common flu and to less road traffic.

The Lessons From China’s Handling of the Pandemic.

The authors of the BJM study state the immediate lessons succinctly:

Furthermore, the findings highlight the need for rapid and coordinated actions during major outbreaks of infectious diseases to contain, suppress, and eradicate transmission and minimize detrimental effects on human health and societal and economic activities.

Such actions in China have included rapid and massive testing followed by tracing to find contacts of those who test positive and then quarantining when necessary, whenever even a small outbreak was detected.  An example is the response in October, 2020, in Qingdao a coastal city in Shandong Province. As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine three cases of Covid-19 were detected and this triggered testing of almost 11 million people in less than a week with appropriate quarantining when necessary.  Nine additional cases were quickly found and the limited lockdowns were quickly terminated.   China has responded in the same way to every outbreak, in the process learning how to restrict lockdowns to subpopulations of one area, such as a single neighborhood, and for a shorter time.

When the lockdown began in Wuhan on January 23, 2020, there was only one death due to Covid-19 in the U.S.  The second U.S. death occurred on February 28. By April 8 when the lockdown in all Chinese cities ended there were 19,000 deaths in the US, still a small fraction of the more than 617,000 we have today.  It was apparent that China’s actions were a success by April 8, 2020, and yet the U.S. took no similar action.  The U.S. had a warning from China on January 1, 2020, and on January 11 Chinese scientists published the viral genome sequence which made immediate testing possible worldwide.

At the time of this writing China is coping with the new scourge of the delta variant of SARS-Cov-2, that began in July.  There are now as many as 100 cases reported in a day, still miniscule by Western standards (The U.S. reported over 100,000 new cases recently, August 8, 2021.) but a genuine surge by China’s.  Today, we learn that Wuhan has completed citywide Covid-19 testing in six days and found 37 cases plus 41 asymptomatic carriers among 12 million residents.  A rapid vaccination campaign had already begun months earlier, added on to the containment measures.  By August 4, over 1.7 billion jabs have been administered, 127 doses per 100 population; for comparison the US has 105 per 100 population.  And the total death toll for the pandemic as of August 9 remains at 4629, the same as February 1, 2021 before the recent July surge.  In the event of the need for a booster, China stands ready with capacity to produce more of various sorts, including the BioNTech mRNA vaccine, which Fosun Pharma has contracted to produce in China up to 1 billion doses a year.  Clearly China is willing to learn from the West.  China’s measures seem to be holding the line at the moment, still a success story.   What happens next is anyone’s guess, but for the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic China’s measures were exemplary.

One lesson for us here in the U.S. is to put in place public health containment measures for the next wave of Covid-19 and for the next pandemic.  These are certainly necessary before a vaccine arrives and the population can be vaccinated.  We might also do well to generalize this lesson.  Proceeding from reason, not blindness, exceptionalism, arrogance or condescension, might serve us well in all areas of US-China relations.  If not, far more than 600,000 deaths may be the price to pay.

The post Learn From the East:  A Major Lesson of the Pandemic. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

China’s Post-Pandemic Growth:  Reaching Out and Developing Internal Markets and Well-being

“Post-Pandemic” for many countries, especially western countries, is a dream. The west will have to wake up fast, if it doesn’t want to fall prey to a destructive plan of chaos, unemployment, bankruptcies, and, yes, famine – shifting of capital from the bottom and the middle to the top – and leaving misery at the bottom.

Not so for China.  For China, the post-pandemic era is well under way.

When SARS-CoV-2, later renamed by WHO to Covid-19, hit Wuhan in January 2020, China was prepared. Chinese authorities proceeded with warp-speed to prevent the spread of this new corona disease, by a radical lockdown of Wuhan and extending it to Hubei Province. Later, other areas of risk were locked down, including about 80% of China’s production and manufacturing apparatus. The result was astounding. Within a few months, by about mid-2020, China was in control of Covid, and gradually started opening up crucial areas, including the production process, all the while maintaining strict protection measures.

By the end of 2020 China’s economy was practically working at full speed and achieving, according to IMF’s very conservative account, a 2.6% growth for the year. China’s own, and perhaps more realistic projections, were closer to 3.5%. IMF growth projections for China in 2021 stand at 8.4%. China’s economic expansion in 2022 is projected at 5.6%. This is way above any other country in the world.

Compare this with 2020 economic declines way into the red for the US and Europe, of 25% to 35%, and 10% to 15%, respectively. These are real figures. Not necessarily the published ones.

Future expansion in China takes into account that much of the projected growth over the coming years will be internal “horizontal” growth,  helping China’s interior and western provinces catching up with infrastructure, research and development, as well as education facilities – increasing the overall level of well-being to reduce the gap with the highly-developed eastern areas.

China’s economic recovery and her industrial apparatus working at full speed is good for China and good for the world, because China had become in the past four decades or so the western principal supply chain, mainly the US and Europe. We are talking crucial supplies, such as medical equipment, medication and ingredients for medication.  About 80% – 90% used in the west comes from China.

China’s rapid economic growth may be mostly attributed to two main factors: large-scale investments – financed by predominantly domestic savings and foreign capital and rapid productivity growth. These two features appear to have gone hand in hand.

China remains attractive for investors. In addition to medical equipment, China supplies the west and the world with electronic equipment and is meant to become one of the key developers and exporter of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accelerate and facilitate research and manufacturing processes, while minimizing negative environmental impacts.

China’s outlook for the future is bright. However, a number of anormal factors have to be considered, for instance:

(i) The unresolved covid issues in the west, which may be reducing demand naturally or by force – possibly import restrictions for goods from China as a way of constant pressure on China;

(ii) Continuation of a direct and indirect trade and currency war on China. To the detriment of the US-dollar, China’s currency, the yuan  and soon the digital yuan as international payment currency, independent from western controlled monetary transfer modes, is gaining rapidly in status as an international reserve money. According to some estimates, in five years the yuan may account for up to 30% of all world reserves. As a parenthesis, the US-dollar in the early 1990s amounted to more than 90% of worldwide reserve denominations; today that proportion has shrunk to less than 60%; and,

(iii) The west, led by Washington, is intent to harm China in whatever way they can. It will not succeed. Washington knows it. But it is a typical characteristic of a dying beast to lash around itself to destroy as much as possible in its surroundings before it collapses.

Just as an example which the world at large is probably unaware of, China is presently surrounded by about 1,400 US military bases, or bases of other countries which host US military equipment and personnel. About 60% of the US navy fleet is currently stationed in the South China Sea.

Just imagine what would happen, if China or any other super-power, would be surrounding the US with military basis and an aggressive Navy fleet!

China is constantly harassed, sanctioned and slandered with outright lies. One of the prevalent examples of defamations, is her alleged inhuman treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. Total population of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwestern China is about 26 million, of which some 12 million are Uyghurs, mostly of Muslim belief.

Uyghur Muslims are regularly recruited by US secret services from across the border with Afghanistan, sent to fight the Jihad in the Middle East, and when some of them return, China makes an effort to re-school and re-integrate them into society.

Could the real reason for this western aggression be that Xinjiang province, the largest and western-most province of China, is also a principal hub for the two or more main routes of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – trans-Asia Routes, by rail through Pakistan to the Gwadar Port in the Persian Gulf, and possibly by road through the newly to become autonomous Afghanistan, connecting China with Iran?

China is perceived as a threat to western hegemonic thinking – to western-style globalization, which is the concept of a One World Order over a borderless western corporate and banking-controlled world – and because China is well positioned to become the world’s number one economy in absolute terms within a few years.

These are challenges to be kept in mind in planning China’s future economic development.

In fact, already today China is number one in PPP-terms (purchasing power parity), which is the only indicator that counts, namely how much of goods and services may be acquired with a unit of currency.

Taking these challenges into account, and following her non-aggressive and non-expansive moving-forward style, China may be embarking on a three-pronged development approach. Overarching this tactic may include China’s 2025 Plan and 2035/2050 vision: A strong emphasis on economic and defense autonomy.

(i) Outreach and connecting with the rest of the world through President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, also called One Belt One Road (OBOR) which is patterned according to the ancient Silk Road more than 2,100 years ago, a peaceful trade route connecting Eastern China through Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

On a global scale, OBOR embraces currently more than 130 countries and over 30 international organizations, including 18 countries of the European Union. OBOR offers their partners participation – no coercion. The attraction and philosophy behind OBOR is shared benefits – the concept of win-win. OBOR may be the road to socioeconomic recovery from covid consequences and cross-border cooperation for participating countries.

OBOR is also aiming at a multi-polar world where partner countries would equally benefit through infrastructure, industrial joint ventures, cultural exchange, exploration of new renewable sources of energy, research and education projects working towards a joint future with prosperity for all.

Here is the distinction between the western and Chinese meaning of “globalization”. In the west, it means a unipolar world controlled by one hegemon, the US of A, with one army called NATO which forcibly holds the west, mainly Europe, together. NATO, with its 2.5 billion-dollars official budget – unofficially a multiple of this amount reaching into the trillions – spreads already with its tentacles into South America, Colombia.

Together the west, or Global North, is a conglomerate of NATO-vassal-countries with little autonomy as compared to Chinese globalization – meaning a multi-polar connection of countries, all the while OBOR-linked countries maintain their sovereignty. This is “globalization” with Chinese characteristics.

(ii) In a precautionary detachment from western dependence, China is focusing trade development and cooperation with her ASEAN partners. In November 2020, after 8 years of negotiations, China signed a free trade agreement with the ten ASEAN nations, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, altogether 15 countries, including China.

The so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, covers some 2.2 billion people, commanding about 30% of the world’s GDP. This is a never before reached agreement in size, value and tenor.

China and Russia have a longstanding strategic partnership, containing bilateral agreements that also enter into this new trade fold. The countries of the Central Asia Economic Union (CAEU), consisting mostly of former Soviet Republics, as well as members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), are likewise integrated into the eastern trade block.

The RCEP’s trade deals will be carried out in local currencies and in yuan – no US dollars. The RCEP is, therefore, also an instrument for dedollarizing, primarily in the Asia-Pacific Region, and gradually moving across the globe; and,

(iii) China will focus much of her future development on her internal and western regions – increase the standard of well-being of populations, infrastructure, research and development – industrial development, joint ventures, including with foreign capital. To achieve a better equilibrium between eastern and western China is crucial for socioeconomic sustainability.

This dual development approach, on the one hand, external trade with close ASEAN associates, as well as with OBOR partners; and on the other, achieving internal equilibrium and well-being, is a circular development, feeding on each other, minimizing risks and impacts of western adversary aggressions.

China’s achievements in her 71 years of revolution speak for themselves. They are unmatched by any nation in recent history. From a country largely ruined by western-influenced colonization and conflicts, China rose from the ashes, by not only lifting 800 million people out of poverty, but also by becoming food, health and education self-sufficient.

Coinciding with the 4 March 2021, opening of the Chinese People’s political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Robert F. Kennedy Jr., late President John F. Kennedy’s nephew, asked the pertinent question, “Can We Forge a New Era of Humanity Before It’s Too Late?” – His answer is simple but lucid: “Unless we move from a civilization based on wealth accumulation to a life-affirming, ecological civilization, we will continue accelerating towards global catastrophe.”

This understanding is also at the forefront of China’s vision for the next 15 to 20 years – and beyond. A China-internal objective is an equitable development to well-being for all; and on a world-scale, a community with shared benefits for all.

The post China’s Post-Pandemic Growth:  Reaching Out and Developing Internal Markets and Well-being first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“New Form” of Ice Cream “Terrorism”: How Ben & Jerry’s has Exposed Israel’s anti-BDS Strategy

Ben & Jerry’s decision to suspend its operations in the occupied Palestinian West Bank is an event that is proving critical to Palestinian efforts, which ultimately aim at holding Israel accountable for its military occupation, apartheid and war crimes.

By responding to the Palestinian call for boycotting apartheid Israel, the ice cream giant has delivered a blow to Israel’s attempts at criminalizing and, ultimately, ending the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

What differentiates Ben & Jerry’s decision to abandon the ever-growing market of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank from previous decisions by other international corporations is the fact that the ice cream company has made it clear that its move was morally motivated. Indeed, Ben & Jerry’s did not attempt to mask or delude their decision in any way. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a statement by the Vermont, US-based company read on July 19.

Expectedly, the Israeli government was infuriated by the decision, especially as it comes after years of a well-funded, state-sponsored, global campaign to discredit, demonize and altogether outlaw the BDS movement and any similar initiatives that aimed at boycotting Israel.

For years, the Israeli government has viewed the boycott movement as a real, tangible threat. Some Israeli officials went as far as perceiving the ‘delegitimization’ resulting from the boycott campaign as the primary threat faced by Israel at the present time. Well attended conferences were held in Las Vegas, Brussels, Jerusalem and elsewhere, hundreds of millions of dollars raised, fiery speeches delivered, while politicians and ‘philanthropists’ lined up at many occasions, vowing their undying allegiance to Israel and accusing anyone who dare criticize the ‘Jewish State’ as ‘antisemitic’.

However, Israel’s biggest challenge was, and remains, its near complete reliance on the support of self-serving politicians. True, those ‘friends of Israel’ can be quite helpful in formulating laws that, for example, falsely equate between criticizing Israel and antisemitism, or render the act of boycott illegal, and so on. In fact, many US states and European parliaments have bowed down to Israeli pressure to criminalize the BDS movement and its supporters, whether in the realm of business or even at the level of civil society and individuals. All of this is amounting to very little.

Additionally, Israel doubled down on its attempts to control the narrative in mainstream media, in academia and wherever the anti-Israeli occupation debate proved to be consequential. Through a Kafkaesque, and often bizarre logic, Israel and its supporters deliberately misinterpreted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, applying it at every platform where criticism of Israel or its Zionist ideology is found. The reckless Israeli dialectics was, sadly – albeit predictably – embraced by many of Israel’s Western benefactors, including US, Canada and Italy, among others.

Yet, none of this has ended or even slowed down the momentum of the Palestinian boycott movement. This fact should hardly come as a surprise, for boycott movements are fundamentally designed to circumvent governmental control and to place pressure on politicians, state and corporate apparatuses, so that they may heed the calls of civil society. Thus, the more Israel attempts to use its allies to illegalize, delegitimize and suppress dissent, the more it actually fuels it.

The above is the secret of the BDS success and Israel’s very Achilles’ heel. By ignoring the boycott campaign, the movement grows exponentially; and by fighting it, using traditional means and predictable language, it grows even faster.

In order to appreciate Tel Aviv’s unsolvable quandary, just marvel at this odd response, which was offered by top Israeli officials in response to Ben & Jerry’s decision. Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, warned the British company that acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, of “severe consequences”, threatening that Israel will take “strong action”, most likely referring to legal action.

But what was truly strange was the language used by Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, who accused Ben & Jerry’s of participating in “a new form of terrorism”, namely, “economic terrorism”. On July 21, Herzog vowed to fight “this boycott and terrorism in any form”.

Note how the Israeli response to the continued success of the Palestinian boycott movement remains confined in terms of options and language. Yet on the legal front, most attempts at indicting BDS activists have repeatedly failed, as the recent court rulings in Washington demonstrate. On the other hand, the act of accusing an ice cream company of ‘terrorism’ deserves some serious examination.

Historically, Israel has situated its anti-Palestinian propaganda war within a handful of redundant terminology, predicated on the claim that Israel is a Jewish and democratic State, the security and very existence of which is constantly being threatened by terrorists and undermined by anti-Semites.

The above mantra may have succeeded in shielding Israel from criticism and tarnishing Israel’s victims, the Palestinians. However, it is no longer a guarantor of international sympathy and solidarity. Not only is the Palestinian struggle for freedom gaining global traction, but the pro-Israeli discourse is finally discovering its limitations. By calling an ice cream company ‘terrorist’ for simply adhering to international law, Herzog has revealed the growing lack of credibility and absurdity of the official Israeli language.

But this is not the end of Israel’s problems. Regardless of whether they are branded successful or unsuccessful, all BDS campaigns are equally beneficial in the sense that each campaign kickstarts a conversation that often goes global, as we have seen repeatedly in the past. Airbnb, G4S, and SodaStream, are but a few of many such examples. Any global debate on Israel’s military occupation and apartheid is a BDS success story.

That said, there is one strategy that will surely end the BDS campaign, and that is ending the Israeli occupation, dismantling the racial system of apartheid and giving Palestinians their freedom as enshrined and protected by international law. Alas, this is the only strategy that Israeli officials are yet to consider.

The post “New Form” of Ice Cream “Terrorism”: How Ben & Jerry’s has Exposed Israel’s anti-BDS Strategy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The United States-Led Propaganda Attack on China Will Prove to Have a Limited Shelf Life

A story much favoured in western media has been about China’s alleged genocide of its Uyghur population. The origins of the story are unclear, although it has often been attributed to the work of the Newton Institute for Strategic Policy and to a German propagandist who works for a markedly anti-Chinese organisation based in the United States.

The Uyghurs are based in the Xinjiang autonomous region, a large and strategically located region of China’s Northwest. The statistics provide absolutely no support for the propaganda. The Uyghurs constitute approximately 90% of the region’s population.

The report claimed that President Xi has launched a campaign against the Muslim Uyghurs. Apart from allegations that the men were to be rounded up, the women were alleged to be forcibly sterilised. The intent of the alleged policy was to eliminate the viability of the Muslim Uyghur population.

The official statistics, however, provide absolutely no support for the lurid claims. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, was quoted as saying that over the past 40 years the population of the Uyghurs had increased from 5,500,000 to 12,800,000 and the average life expectancy had increased from 30 to 72 years.

In the period from 2010-2018, the Uyghur population of Xinjiang increased from 10,170,000 to 12,720,000, which is an increase of 25.04%. This was the highest growth rate of any region of China. The Han population, which represents China’s dominant Group, rose by only 2% over the same period.

Neither is the area disadvantaged. From 2014 to 2019 average economic growth rose at a rate of 7.2% per annum. The Chinese government has invested approximately 2.35 trillion yuan into Xinjiang over the past 70 years since the Communist government came to power. Primary school enrollment stands at 99.91% which makes it equal to the highest anywhere else in the world and in particular on a par with the most highly developed western nations.

Recently, a group of 40 western nations lead by Canada (whose own history is less than admirable as recent revelations indicate) issued a statement condemning China’s alleged ill-treatment of its Uyghur population. This fact was widely publicised in the western media. Given almost no coverage was the fact that 90 nations released a statement in response to the Canadian missive, supporting China, in condemning both the fabrication of statistics of alleged genocide and the western attempts to blatantly interfere in China’s internal affairs.

This is a pattern repeated time after time, with adverse comments about China given wide coverage and almost no coverage at all to reporting the facts.

The question to be asked is: why the adverse concentration on Xinjiang? The answer to that question lies in Xinjiang’s extraordinary wealth and natural resources. Oil, natural gas and non-ferrous metals, including copper and gold, are the most important resources. Oil is estimated to exceed 30 billion tons, and those of natural gas exceed 10,000 billion cubic metres.

The rapaciousness of western conglomerates is well known and they would dearly love to get their hands on these resources. That is unlikely to ever happen.

The second major reason for western interest in the region is geography. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is therefore uniquely well placed to be in a position to influence precisely those countries which the Americans have long sought an influence.

The United States is currently in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 long years of attempting to change that country to more accurately reflect United States interests. In that they have failed miserably. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that they have lost interest in Afghanistan or the region. The great unasked question, for example, is what will happen to the enormously lucrative heroin crop, With Afghanistan representing more than 80% of the world’s supply, as well as providing billions of dollars in additional revenue for the CIA, the chief organiser and distributor of the heroin on the world market.

It is a topic which most western commentators have been assiduous in avoiding. Attempting to safeguard that crop will be one of the main tasks of the approximately 10,000 United States mercenaries whose withdrawal from Afghanistan has been conspicuously absent from discussions to date.

Of Xinjiang’s other neighbours, India has been a particular interest for the Americans. It has recently resurrected the four-nation grouping involving itself, India, Japan and Australia to form part of its confronting China policy. The Indians are frankly ambivalent, with a long- established relationship to Russia competing with their distrust of China for their attention.

The Australians for their part seem determined to pursue policies designed to maximise conflict with China, their largest trading partner by a significant margin. For the Australians, it seems that maintaining their slavish adherence to the Americans overwhelms what by most objective standards is their own self-interest in the Asian region.

The United States propaganda war against China, and especially over Xinjiang will not die soon. The support shown by China’s non-western friends indicates yet again that the American ability to carry the rest of the world in its anti-China crusade has a limited shelf- life. China and Russia will continue the relationship building through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and similar vehicles, proving yet again that the United States’ days as a vehicle of influence are progressively waining.

The post The United States-Led Propaganda Attack on China Will Prove to Have a Limited Shelf Life first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Defend the Cuba Revolution and Struggle for More Socialism, Not Less!

Hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, an economic crisis, broken supply chains, killer cops, mass incarceration, government surveillance, nuclear weapons, irrational anti-social mass shootings, normalized racism, homelessness, crumbling schools, depression, fear, suicides, and obscene disparities in incomes and wealth—all the features of a moribund, brutal, anti-human global colonial-capitalist system in the United States—and we are supposed to be defensive about socialism! Give me a break.

Yet, the propagandists of death never sleep. Even as their system is being exposed as the generator of global warming (climate change), nuclear madness, cultural degeneration, and strange, violent societies and people, the ideological dirty workers are busy diverting attention away from the failures of their system to the internal contradictions found within the few examples of societies struggling to remake themselves in ways that center the needs and aspirations of the people.

If the social and economic conditions in Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela are supposed to be the result of the inherent flaws of socialism, why the sanctions, subversions, and outright attacks on those projects? If socialism is such an inherently unproductive and unnatural system, just let them implode based on their own supposed internal contradictions.

But this is where the joke comes in. The propagandists will say these societies would indeed implode if it was not for some dictator or repressive system that keeps the population in check. This is where the trope of the brutal dictator and the suffering fearful people is deployed ready for liberal—and even radical—white saviorism. The social gains under an emerging socialist project like the reduction of poverty, literacy, and inequality, as well as the provision of free healthcare, education, and free or affordable housing are not mentioned or are dismissed as irrelevant because these policies supposedly come at the cost of freedom!

But people in the United States who are still able to think for themselves and have experienced the structural violence of capitalism have gained a new clarity. Sharpened by the revelations of the COVID-19 pandemic—which ripped away the carefully cultivated veneer of social mobility and civilization that hid the ugly inner workings of capitalism—they have discovered their individual experiences of exploitation and fear are shared by millions of people confined by capitalism to a life of toil, stunted humanity, and early death. That is why so many today have turned away from the illusions and corruption of capitalism toward the possibility of organizing a society informed by the values of cooperation, equality, community, peace, and life.

And that is the fear of the denizens of death. Joe Biden can caution Cuba not to “crack down” on protesters with a straight face. The same Joe Biden whose failure to defend democracy in Haiti created the crisis in that country. The same Joe Biden who claimed it was permissible for the Israelis to lob artillery shells into residential neighborhoods in Gaza because the Israeli colonialists had a right to defend themselves against the colonized Palestinians they were oppressing. And the same Joe Biden who has been silent on the over 70 deaths during the recent national strike at the hands of Colombian security forces, who have been armed and trained by the United States.

The Cuban revolution has survived 62 years of consistent subversion and outright attacks from the United States and its white-supremacist colonial allies. The revolution has nothing to be ashamed of. It has been a beacon of hope and a model for millions around the world. That Cuba needs to defend itself against capitalism and against the billions of people around the world living in abject poverty is absurd.

It is capitalism that degrades and destroys Mother Earth. It is capitalism that transforms water into a commodity, food into a luxury, education into an impossibility and basic healthcare into a distant dream. The colonial-capitalist system is responsible for millions dying in genocidal wars. It created race and perpetuates white supremacy. It is U.S. and European state policies in the form of sanctions that deny peoples and nations medicines in the midst of a pandemic. It is the rapacious greed of capitalists and the warmongering states they control that have imposed inhumane conditions on poor states, which has made it impossible to pay back the odious loans they often had been forced to assume. This situation creates devastating consequences for their people. Resources cannot be devoted to providing healthcare, education, housing, a clean environment, food, and a means to a living because the people’s resources must be used to pay bankers in the West.

This is not theoretical, but a fact. This is the reality of a capitalist world.

But across this capitalist world, the people are fighting back. They are taking their histories into their own hands. That is the threat of nations like Venezuela and Cuba. That is why Western capitalist nations slander China and attempt to mobilize their populations for the possibility of war. China has exposed what can be accomplished with central planning and a rational allocation of the people’s resources to address human needs.

To confuse the populations and mobilize them against their own interests, the capitalists deploy not only their traditional liberal and conservative ideologues. They let loose the social-imperialist intelligentsia—who are fundamentally anti-communist and Bernsteinian social democratic, at best—to provide a left cover to imperialist intrigue. This intrigue is framed as being in opposition to “authoritarianism,” a term and idea that bourgeois propagandists discovered through focus groups can be used to undermine left projects by mobilizing the sensibilities of the soft, materially corrupted and NGOed latte-left in the United States and Western Europe.

However, among millions of people in the global South and among the colonized and exploited working classes in global North countries, Cuba and its project will be defended and the call and struggle for socialism will continue. We see the choice. It has always been between the barbarism of the colonial-capitalist North and human freedom and transformation emerging from the South.

For nationally oppressed and exploited African peoples in the United States, we stand with the people of the South, where revolution is emerging. We will defend Cuba, support Venezuela, demand that North Korea’s sovereignty be respected, struggle against global militarization, and oppose U.S. and Western imperialism without equivocation, apology, or hesitation. We are clear on the enemy because we have seen it up close and personal since 1492.

The post Defend the Cuba Revolution and Struggle for More Socialism, Not Less! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The West Has Trouble Adapting its Behaviour to Cope With China’s Role

One of the more interesting phenomena at the present time is the campaign against China, to try to portray it as some sort of evil force determined to rule the world in its own image. The timing of this phenomenon is interesting. For much of the post-World War II period China was largely ignored. “China” in the eyes of the world was represented by the Nationalist regime that clung to China’s permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

Even after the resumption of China’s seat on the Security Council had occurred, China still had a small role in world affairs. Its rapid growth to economic prominence began in the 1980s, but at that time its economy was still a fraction of that of the United States. It was not perceived as any sort of economic power, much less a threat to the economic dominance of the United States.

It was only when China’s economy began to dominate that the attitudes of the West also began to change. The Chinese themselves publicly downplayed their increasing dominance in the world’s economy. They still persist in referring to themselves as the world’s second largest economy, and in nominal terms that is true. A far more accurate indicator of relative economic position, however, is to measure an economy in terms of its purchasing power. By that measure China is the world’s largest economy and has been so for several years.

The second indicator of China’s growing economic influence was the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, commenced in 2013. Again, the Western nations took little initial notice of its development. It has expanded rapidly and now includes more than 140 countries from all parts of the world.

The United States has publicly refuted any possibility of becoming a member itself, loyally followed as always by its Australian acolyte. An initiative by the Australian State of Victoria to sign an agreement with China was this year publicly quashed by the federal government when it passed laws to give itself the power to kill the deal.

The attitude of the Australian government to the BRI is curious. China is by far Australia’s biggest trading partner taking around 40% of total exports. The antipathy of the Australian government to participation in the BRI can only be interpreted as not wishing to upset the Americans, whose antipathy to the BRI is well known.

At this year’s meeting of the Group of Seven nations in the United Kingdom, they resolved to start their own effort providing an alternative to the BRI. The source of funds for this exercise are unclear, although it seems that it is being left to private investment. It is difficult to take this initiative seriously. Most of the world’s major companies already have strong economic links to China. They are highly unlikely to become parties to a rival scheme and thereby jeopardise their relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

Apart from the worldwide BRI, China is also a party to a host of alternative arrangements. These include the BRICS nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on the one hand, and more particularly its Asian neighbours through the ASEAN grouping of 10 nations with close proximity to China’s borders.

Russia and China recently marked the 20th anniversary of the China – Russia Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation. Trade between these two countries has accelerated in recent years. In 2010 China surpassed Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner, and the relationship has accelerated in recent years. In 2020 the value of trade between the two nations reached $110 billion, which while a substantial sum is still a lot smaller than Russia’s $260 billion of trade with the European Union.

What is particularly noticeable is that as China has steadily increased its economic influence, the more it has attracted political criticism. This has been especially true of its alleged treatment of its Uighur population in northern China. China vigorously denies these accusations. The more lurid accusations include one of genocide against the Uighur people. It is an accusation that is refuted by the census data, that shows that the total Uighur population is, in fact, increasing at a faster rate than in the rest of China.

The persistence of the allegations of ill-treatment of the Uighurs points to a different political agenda being pursued by the Western critics. Not the least of their motives is influenced by the fact that the Xinjiang region is enormously rich in natural resources, including recently discovered massive reserves of oil. An estimated 900 million tons of oil and gas was found in the Terim Basin in northern Xinjiang. This find makes China a source of oil on a par with Russia and the United States.

The find has done nothing to reduce the flow of criticism of China. That criticism has little in the way of an objective foundation. China is unique in modern history in refusing to use its economic power to influence the domestic policies of countries with which it has a trading relationship. This is in marked contrast to the behaviour of the for

mer colonial powers, especially the United Kingdom and France, and the behaviour in more recent years of the United States.

The United States has not hesitated to use its power to try and influence nations that had resources they coveted, or they simply occupied parts of the world in which the United States had a geopolitical interest. This involved active interference in the political decisions of multiple countries, economic warfare, economic coercion through the role of the United States dollar as a major world currency, and when all else failed resorting to military intervention.

As the Cuba experience graphically illustrates, getting rid of an unwanted occupying power has proven an impossible task. The dismay of the Cubans at the unwanted American occupation is made worse by the fact that the Guantánamo Bay facility is a major vehicle for the holding of United States’ perceived enemies. For all its pretentions to democracy and the rule of law, the endless detention of its perceived opponents without trial or other resolution of their status makes a mockery of the United States’ claims to be a Government of law and justice.

No such charges can be advanced with any conviction against China. It is unique in modern history in resisting the temptation to match economic power with any sort of political coercion. This has not stopped Western criticism of China’s alleged faults which perhaps tell one more about the conscience of its accusers than it does about legitimate complaints of China’s actions.

The world has changed radically in the past 20 years. The sooner the West understands that fact and adjusts its behaviour the safer we are all likely to be.

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