Category Archives: United States

Palestine,Israel, the US: How the South Pacific Countries are Selling their Votes

Here it goes again! Several countries of Oceania (also known as South Pacific Nations), or however you want to call that vast, beautiful but thoroughly devastated part of the world, have voted “for Israel”, “for the United States’ proposed resolution at the United Nations”, and therefore, “against Palestine”.

As reported on December 22, 2017 by Al Jazeera:

The United Nations General Assembly has voted by a huge majority to declare a unilateral US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.

At an emergency session of the General Assembly on Thursday, 128 countries voted in favour of a resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision on December 6.

Nine countries voted against, while 35 abstained.

Trump had earlier threatened to cut aid to UN members who would vote against his decision.

Did scarcely inhabited island-nations that are lost in the middle of a tremendous body of water, go crazy?

Before Crossing in Kiribati

After all those horrific nuclear experiments committed there, against their people, by the United States, France and the UK; could local people sincerely believe that the truth as seen from Washington is the only legitimate truth on Earth?

After the naked modern-day colonialism, which is being implemented by Australia, New Zealand, and France, and, of course, by the United States, have the people of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia become blind?

After total dependency, after decades of humiliation and virtual slavery, do the inhabitants of Oceania believe that their fellow victims in Palestine do not have the right to live in their own state, without barbed wire; that they shouldn’t have their own historical capital?

The answer to all these question is, actually: “No”.

They do what they are doing simply and only because they have no choice.

*****

When working on my book, Oceania, travelling all over the South Pacific, I visited a Jesuit priest and the region’s prominent intellectual, Francis X. Hezel. Our encounter took place in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – Pohnpei.

Father Hezel has been amassing important materials and documents in his private archive, proving beyond any doubts that the US occupation of Micronesia after WWII led to a dramatic decrease of life expectancy and the standard of living of the islanders. He explained:

Life here became shorter, and much worse than under the Japanese imperial rule. And this was not some ‘Communist propaganda’. It is written right here, in the report produced during that period by the US Department of State.

But back to ‘voting’, or what is often called “vote selling”. Father Hezel offered a very explicit story to illustrate the reality:

One day I had an entire television crew from Israel parked at my office. I had no idea what they were doing here. Why would they travel so far, to such a small and insignificant country? Finally I understood: the Israeli public was fascinated with this place; they wanted to know who are those people who keep voting in the U.N. against most of Security Council resolutions, in this way supporting Israel and the United States against the entire world…

In my book Oceania, I later wrote:

Pacific Island votes at the UN are openly for sale, especially when peace in the Middle East is at stake. To illustrate the absurdity of the game: at a time when several countries in the region are becoming uninhabitable as a result of global warming, both Nauru and Kiribati, itself one of the sinking nations and therefore a victim, voted against the Kyoto Protocol.

But it is not only profit that propels tiny nations in Oceania to sell their votes; it is also the fear of retribution.

“In the late 90’s our government voted at the UN against the US on the issue of landmines, recalled the then Foreign Minister of Marshall Islands (RMI), Tony deBrum. “As a result, our party lost the elections.”

In December 2017, out of the nine countries that voted against the UN resolution, one was the United States itself, while the other eight were: Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, FSM, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Two were de facto US semi-colonies in Latin America, ruled by brutal pro-Washington cliques, one a tiny and dependent African nation, while four were the Micronesian and Polynesian nations and, of course, Israel.

*****

The Pacific Island nations are selling their votes, for profit or out of fear.

US Star Wars base on Kwajalein, Marshall Islands

The West is also using them in an attempt to isolate China.

Presently, six countries of Oceania have fully established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, after being, as was described to me by the former Foreign Minister of RMI, Tony deBrum, “encouraged” by the West.

Stumps of palm trees – Kiribati

These countries are: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

At least three of them – Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Kiribati – are at the frontline of the climate change disaster: they are becoming uninhabitable due to the global warming and consequent rising of sea level.

China is the only country that has been willing to, altruistically, help the countries of Oceania: by building anti-tsunami walls, by planting mangroves, by elevating schools, hospitals and government buildings, or by building sports facilities in places where around 90% of adults is suffering from diabetes, often due to dumping there some of the most unhealthy food from the US, Australia and elsewhere.

The more successful China got in helping South Pacific nations, the more ‘encouragement’ Taiwan received from the West; an ‘encouragement’ to come, to corrupt local ‘elites’, and to push China away. Any country that recognizes Taiwan as an independent nation gets diplomatic relations with China (PRC) broken immediately. Everyone knows it. And there is not one Western country that would take such an insane step.

After China leaves, the countries of Oceania can only rely on the pathetic, cynical and hypocritical “foreign aid” offered by the West, while their corrupt leaders negotiate with New Zealand and Australia the final ‘evacuation project’. Entire countries like Tuvalu may soon be forced to move abroad.

*****

The selling of votes by South Pacific Island nations appears to be shameful, but, in fact, it is nothing else than an act of total desperation.

The Empire has reached great mastery in implementing the “divide and rule” strategy.

The victims, often defenseless and robbed of everything, are forced to vote against those who are suffering similar fate at the opposite side of the world.

Palestinians are involuntarily living in a cage.

People of Oceania, who used to be the greatest seamen, are surrounded by the vastest expanse of water on Earth, but in the same time they are confined to tiny specks of land, often scarred by Western military bases. Trash and decay are everywhere. Hopelessness rules.

Palestinian kids in Gaza

Oceania knows almost nothing about ‘modern Palestine’. Palestinians know almost nothing about Oceania.

Empire looks dumb but it is not. It is ‘only’ evil. It knows everything about both parts of the world. And it is torturing them relentlessly and with perverse sadistic delight.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• Originally published in New Eastern Outlook

North Korea: an Agent of Peace?

The false alarm on a ballistic missile attack on Hawaii last Saturday from North Korea did not help the Peace Talks which were essentially initiated by DPRK’s President, Kim Jong-un. They spread enormous fear of a nuclear annihilation of Honolulu, pulverization of homes and people – of Armageddon for the Hawaiian population. Was this a Trump attempt to boycott the talks? Or was it the war-mongering faction of the deep state wanting more threats of war, scaring the Hawaiian population into believing that this might become reality; pushing them with a false alarm into wanting the devastation once and for all the Korean Peninsula – because an attack on the North would not spare the South? Is the war industry desperate for more wars, more profit? They may be wheezing from exhaustion as the world is turning towards peace.

Another sign that the empire, the rogue controllers of the universe, are running on empty, that they are in sheer fear of losing their grip on the world, is that Canada and the US have decided to hold an international meeting in Vancouver, Canada, on North Korea on 15 and 16 January 2018. The Conference is hosted by Canada, sponsored by the US. In addition to Canada and the US, there are 18 countries in the “Vancouver Group”, including Denmark, Greece, Norway, New Zealand and others – but not Russia, nor China — and most ridiculously of all – North Korea itself is absent. Russia and China will be briefed at the end of the meetings, in the evening of 16 January; that was the proposal. Have these wannabe hegemons along with their breath also lost their marbles?

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the obvious: This is not acceptable. Adding with his always positive humor, “With all due respect towards those who came up with such an initiative, I don’t expect anything productive. Hopefully, nothing counterproductive will happen. It’ll be a great result already, while it’s hardly believable.”

The Peace talks were initiated under the pretext of the North wanting to participate in the South’s winter Olympics in PyeongChang in February this year. A clever move. It reminds of the Ping-Pong diplomacy between Nixon’s America and China of the early 1970’s. Interestingly this was the thawing of relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which was being ‘sanctioned’ – alas! sanctions are not new! – because of Beijing’s ‘interference’ in the totally illegal, unjustified, criminal and devastating US-led Korean war which from 1950 – 1953 totally destroyed North Korea, with a death toll of at least 4 million people, almost half of the then North Korean population. The US bombs left not a brick untouched in the now DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The goal of this inhuman atrocity was then, as are Washington’s 60 years-plus aggressions towards Pyongyang today, an attempt of further encroaching on China with the final goal of full domination.

The US table tennis team was in Nagoya, Japan, in 1971 for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship, when in April 1971 the team received an invitation to visit Beijing. Hence started a diplomatic journey which later opened the (flood) gates for an immense, intense and at times controversial trade relationship between Washington and Beijing. For the PRC sports played an important diplomatic role, reflected in the slogan “Friendship First, Competition Second”.

Was Pyongyang inspired by this example of sports paving the way for a new and improved relationship between brothers? Possibly. Yet. It is not clear, who really took the initiative, and who persuaded the Donald to be quiet and let it happen.  Will he indeed be quiet and let these historic peace talks take place undisturbed? What is happening behind the curtains in Trump’s camp – other than the Vancouver Group gathering – is anybody’s guess. That these Peace Talks are taking place is what the world should concentrate on – a step forward in a peace movement that cannot be undone. It is a masterpiece of two sovereign nations to cement their relationship which unites them, plus portions of China and today’s Russian Federation with a 5000-year history.

It is important to understand Korea’s history to comprehend that everything that comes out of the lie-infected mouthpieces of Washington is incoherent and does not fit reality, the thousands of years of a peaceful Korea, whose beliefs are still today largely influenced by Confucius. The history and image of thousands of years of peaceful Korea is a revelation. See box – below.

Returning to today’s reality – only a few weeks ago, all fifteen members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have condemned the DPRK as an aggressor that has to be punished, piling insult after lies and more insults on President Kim Jon-un and on his nothing-else-but-defense strategy. Today, the same UNSC should get together again and unanimously praise DPRK for this tremendous feat of, against all odds, engaging in peace talks with its natural brother for millennia. Why will such praise for a peace-loving nation not happen? Because the Donalds and Nikki Haleys of this world, the master aggressors of the universe, and all the President’s Men and Vassals, would have to bite their tongue.

However, we know this is not the end of it. Washington still has more than 28,000 servicemen and women stationed in South Korea and a deadly arsenal of warships, fighter planes and nuclear bombs to strike pre-emptively, if the hegemon deems it necessary. Never mind that 80% of South Koreans want this murderous occupation to end. Similar with Japan’s Okinawa US base with more than 40,000 US servicemen and women – the vast majority of Japanese, and especially Island inhabitants, want them out. They bring crime, drugs, prostitution and even murder to the island. Rapes are on the rise.

Okinawa Demonstration

May these Korean talks set in motion something bigger than just peace talks between two brothers. Could this first serious encounter in over sixty years (delegations of the two countries have met in 2014 for an exchange of family visits) become an eye-opener for the 15 UNSC members who thoughtlessly dished out murder sanctions to North Korea just a few weeks ago?

Could this be an eye-opener for the world, showing how fake the entire UN-operation has become, how subservient to the paymaster they have become? Could this be a signal for China and Russia that their non-veto, their submission to the bully, for whatever strategic reason they may have had was a mistake?  Or would they simply claim credit for what is happening – that threats and sactions do work? Any thinking person who knows the history and Mission of Peace of Great and Ancient Korea, the Gojoseon Kingdom – and surely China and Russia ought to know it – will see either how ignorant the world is, or else, how blood and greed thirsty humanity has become under the Kingdom of Capitalism.

The two Koreans may have seized the opportunity to fulfill their highest goal, to become one again, bringing their families together in a lasting way; initiating a movement of joy and harmony; a new era of unification that cannot be broken. This is fully in line with the Buddhist preachings of love, still deeply enshrined in the two Koreas.

President Kim Jong-un has always and repeatedly said that he is not seeking war, is not threatening anybody, but that the nuclear arms are a defensive weapon aiming only at the aggressors – the one and only aggressor, the United States, which for over 60 years has not let go, not allowed converting a shaky armistice agreement into a peace agreement. The people of the DPRK want nothing more than peace.

Wars over the last century and especially during the last 17 years, with the onset of the eternal “war on terror”, the one business terminology that drives the profit of the military-security industrial complex, has become so ingrained in people’s minds, that a world of peace, harmony and love is almost unimaginable.

Under what type of regime would a united North-South Korea function? A hard-core socialism, DPRK style, a Seoul type capitalism, with a soft Moon Jae-in touch, or a Chinese type socialism with a capitalist coating, yet controlled by a centralized socialist party?  Difficult to predict at this point, but given Korea’s historic link to Manchuria, to both today’s China and Russia, it would likely be a political model of social sensitivity.

The regional pressure led by China to withdraw the US military base from the Korean Peninsula would grow – and in parallel the Japanese people would find an additional argument for expulsing the US occupiers from the beautiful island of Okinawa. Would the US supported puppet leaders – leaders, not people – Japan, Guam, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia – cave in to peoples’ pressure and kick the war hounds out of their sovereign territories, as they should, if they want to deserve even a shred of the meaning of democracy?

Let me dream for a moment: If this tremendous endeavor – peace and unification – were to succeed, it might set an agenda in motion, the world at large has not thought of yet. China and Russia would come out stronger with their objective of a multi-polar world.

Mr. Putin, who supports the Moon-Kim Plan knows very well what political role the Olympics play and how sports act in politics. He and Russia are living “sports as politics” almost on a daily basis. Russian athletes being banned from Olympics, and other sports events; Russian athletes consistantly being singled out for doping, when the number of US athletes caught doping is much larger. US sports people found doping fill pages on internet, but nobody cares to look and dares speaking up against injustice. The Olympic committee is a puppet of the same league as are the United Nations, the European Union and all the international courts. For what reasons?  I can only think of cowardice. That’s what globalized neoliberalism has made us – afraid of sanctions, afraid to stand up for justice and instead subservient to bullies. That’s greed above integrity.

President Putin, along with the Presidents Moon and Kim, cleverly turns sport around as a peace initiative – who could oppose DPRK athletes from participating in South Korea’s Olympics – and behind the scene is an actual peace initiative being mounted that could literally turn the world’s techtonic power plates around. Dynamics of such developments, coupled with a rapid shift towards more economic equilibrium, already taking place in the form of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) growing strength, and with increased monetary independence from the west – such dynamics are unpredictable. But they could rapidly move our civilization from darkness into light.

Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March

There is one thing missing from the upcoming Women’s March publicity and philosophy: the urgent need for Peace not War!

The March will speak out against hate, discrimination and exploitation. That’s good.

The March will also speak out strongly in favor of equality, women’s reproductive choice and respect for all people regardless to disability, gender, orientation, etc.. That’s also good.

But the subject of US military aggression and war is essential. We hope that many marchers will include this in their signage and discussions.  Despite many antiwar groups and individuals actively advocating for “peace” to be in the platform/demands of the March, this is the second year peace is being minimized or ignored by the organizers.

For the past century the US has intervened aggressively against governments the Washington establishment does not like. A partial list includes Philippines, Korea, Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, Chile, Vietnam, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Honduras, Libya and Syria!

These acts of “regime change” have killed millions of people including many thousands of our own youth, both women and men. They have resulted in hundreds of thousands returning home injured physically or psychologically. Mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, and other family and friends have been profoundly, permanently, and unnecessarily handed a lifetime of pain and sorrow because of the US war machine.

Shouldn’t it be a priority to change the policies and acts of economic aggression and military intervention that result in violence, war and destruction?

Shouldn’t we address the causes of the refugee crisis as well as the symptom? After all, most refugees never wanted to leave their homelands.

We are sure that most of the women and allies who will be attending the Women’s March agree with us on the need for action and protest against our ongoing wars.

The escalating military budget is driving our country further and further into debt. Meanwhile infrastructure is decaying, health care and housing is diminishing and education is underfunded. College students now graduate with astronomical student debt. Meanwhile there is growing police oppression.

We must include PEACE in our march because unless we can stop the trend, a nuclear war is going to destroy civilization.  There is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war. Resisting the war machine and dismantling ALL nukes should be essential elements in our activism. The continuity of human life on our planet is at stake. These are Womens’ issues.

As we demand a change in tone and behaviour in the White House, we must also demand a change in US international foreign policy away from militarism and aggression.

The demand for peace not war should be integral to the Women’s March.

No Foreign Bases: Challenging the Footprint of US Empire

The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of US empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The US undermines governments (including democracies), kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.

A new coalition, The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases, held its inaugural event January 12-14, 2018 at the University of Baltimore in Maryland. The meeting was framed by a Unity Statement that brought together numerous peace and justice organizations. The basis for unity was:

U.S. foreign military bases are the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation, and that the closure of U.S. foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

You can endorse the statement here.

US foreign military bases as of 2015. Source: BaseNation.us

Responsibility to End Global Empire of Bases

Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace and the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2016 opened the conference, describing the responsibility of the people of the United States (USians) to protect the world from US aggression. He argued:

The only logical, principled and strategic response to this question is citizens of the empire must reject their imperial privileges and join in opposing ruling elites exploiting labor and plundering the Earth. To do that, however, requires breaking with the intoxicating allure of cross-class, bi-partisan ‘white identity politics.’

This reality conflicts with one of the excuses the US uses to engage in war – so-called ‘humanitarian wars’, which are based on the dubious legal claim that the US has a “responsibility to protect.” The United States is viewed as the “greatest threat to peace in the world today” by people around the world.  Thus, USians need to organize to protect the world from the United States.

US empire is not only a threat to world peace and stability but also a threat to the United States. Chalmers Johnson, who wrote a series of books on empire, warned in his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, that there were four “sorrows” the United States would suffer. In the 14 years since they have all come true:

If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an “executive branch” of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchange the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.

The footprint of US empire are what Chalmers Johnson called an “empire of bases.” David Vine, the author of Base Nation, put US empire in context by describing 800 US bases in 80 countries and US military personnel in more than 170 countries. Bases range from so-called Lily Pad Bases of hundreds of troops to town-sized bases of tens of thousands of troops and their families. He noted many bases have schools and they do not need to worry about heating or air conditioning, unlike schools in Baltimore where parents bought space heaters to keep children warm and where schools were closed due to lack of heat.

The contrast between Baltimore schools and military base schools is one example of many of the heavy price USians pay for the military. Vine reported that $150 billion is spent annually to keep US troops on bases abroad and that even a Lily Pad base could cost $1 billion. More is spent on foreign military bases than on any agency of the federal government, other than the Pentagon and Veterans Administration.

The Pentagon is not transparent about the number of US foreign bases it manages or their cost. They usually publish a Base Structure Report but have not done so in several years. The Pentagon only reports 701 bases, but researchers have found many, even significant bases, not included in their list of bases.

According to the No Foreign Bases Coalition:

95% of all foreign military bases in the world are US bases. In addition, [there are] 19 Naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each as part of a Carrier Strike Group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft — each of which can be considered a floating military base.

The military footprint of the United States shows it is the largest empire in world history. In our interview with historian Alfred McCoy, author of In The Shadows of the American Century, he describes how some of the key characteristics of US empire are secrecy and covert actions. This are some of the reasons why it is rare to ever hear US empire discussed in the corporate media or by politicians. McCoy told us this was true for some other empires too, and that it is often not until the empire begins to falter that their existence becomes part of the political dialogue.

Strategies for Closing US Foreign Military Bases

David Vine described an unprecedented opportunity to close bases abroad, to do so we need to build a bigger movement. We also need to elevate the national dialogue about US Empire and develop a national consensus to end it.

Vine pointed to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric about pulling back from US involvement abroad and focusing on the necessities at home as indicative of the mood of the country. In fact, a recent survey found that “78 percent of Democrats, 64.5 percent of Republicans, and 68.8 percent of independents supported restraining military action overseas.”

McCoy argued that after the globalization of President Barack Obama, which included the Asian Pivot and  efforts to pass major trade agreements, in particular the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), created a backlash desire to focus on “America First.” Both trade agreements, the TPP and TTIP, failed as a result of a political shift in the country, in part created by grassroots movements.

McCoy describes Obama as one of three “Grandmasters of the Great Game” (the other two being Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser, and Elihu Root, former Secretary of War and Secretary of State at the beginning of the 20th Century) who excelled in being strategic on behalf of US empire. In addition to trade agreements and the Asian Pivot, Obama built on the intelligence apparatus of the George W. Bush era. Even though Obama was a “grandmaster,” he did not slow the weakening of US empire. McCoy sees the inability to account for the unpredictable complexities of US and global political developments as a common weakness of empire strategists.

The conference was divided into regions of the world (with the exception of one session on the impact of  military bases on the environment and health). There will be reports and videos published on each section of the conference on the No Foreign Bases webpage. One common denominator around the world is opposition to US military bases. According to the Unity Statement of the coalition:

Many individual national coalitions — for example, Okinawa, Italy, Jeju Island Korea, Diego Garcia, Cyprus, Greece, and Germany — are demanding closure of bases on their territory. The base that the U.S. has illegally occupied the longest, for over a century, is Guantánamo Bay, whose existence constitutes an imposition of the empire and a violation of International Law. Since 1959 the government and people of Cuba have demanded that the government of the U.S. return the Guantánamo territory to Cuba.

One important strategy for success is for US activists to work in cooperation with people around the world who want US military bases to be closed and for the US military to leave their country. Attendees at the conference had traveled to South Korea, Okinawa and other places to protest in solidarity with US activists.

Another strategy that many in the conference urged was the need for education about US imperialism and to tie US militarism abroad with militarized police at home. Similarly, the reality of the US military focusing on black and brown countries abroad highlights a white supremacy philosophy that  infects foreign policy and domestic policy. Members of the No US Foreign Bases coalition also engage in domestic efforts for racial and environmental justice.

Further, the No Bases Coalition highlights the environmental and health damage caused by foreign and domestic military bases. As the Unity Statement notes, “military bases are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.” Pat Elder and David Swanson described the degradation in and around the Potomac River, writing:

The Pentagon’s impact on the river on whose bank it sits is not simply the diffuse impact of global warming and rising oceans contributed to by the U.S. military’s massive oil consumption. The U.S. military also directly poisons the Potomac River in more ways than almost anyone would imagine.

People can find information about the environmental damage being done by the military in their community on the Bombs in Your Backward web page.  World Beyond War held a conference on War and the Environment in 2017. You can view video and summaries from the conference on their site.

Next Steps

The conference attendees decided on some next steps. A national day of action against foreign military bases is being planned for February 23, the anniversary of the US seizing Guantanamo Bay, Cuba through a “perpetual lease” that began in 1903. Activists are encouraged to plan local actions. If you plan an event, contact gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll post it on the events page. The demands will include closing the base and prison in Guantanamo, returning the land to Cuba and ending the US blockade.

The conference also decided to hold a conference outside of the United States in one of the countries where the US has a foreign military base within the next year. People from some countries were not allowed to attend the inaugural conference this weekend.

And, the coordinating committee will reach out to other peace and justice groups to select a date and place for a national mass action against US wars. This will be organized as quickly as possible because the threat of more wars is high.

This is a key moment for the antiwar movement in the US to make itself more visible and to demand the closure of US foreign bases. In this report on living in a post-primacy world, even the Pentagon recognizes what many commentators are seeing – the US empire is fading. One great risk as the empire ends is more wars as the US tries to hang on to global hegemony. We must oppose war and work for the least damaging end of empire.

Indeed, if the US becomes a cooperative member of the global community, rather than being a dominator, it would be a positive transition. Imagine how much better it would be for everyone in the world if the US collaborated on addressing the climate crisis in a serious way, obeyed international law and invested in positive programs to solve the many crises we face at home and abroad.

During the Baltimore conference, World Beyond War sponsored a billboard nearby that read, “3% of US military spending could end starvation on earth.” Imagine what a peace budget could look like. The US could invest in domestic necessities including rebuilding infrastructure, a cleaner and safer public transportation system, education, housing and health care. The US could provide aid to other countries to repair the damage it has caused. Members of the US military could transition into a civilian jobs program that applies their expertise to programs of social uplift.

It is imperative that as the US Empire falls, we organize for a smooth transition to a world that is better for everyone. The work of the new coalition to end US foreign military bases is a strong start.

Homeless encampment in the foreground of a Baltimore, MD billboard that read, “3% of US military spending could end starvation on earth.” Source World Beyond War.

North Korea and Double Standards: Vancouver Conference a Missed Opportunity

Perhaps few double standards in international relations could be so sharply exposed as the US-Canada hosted Conference in Vancouver on 16th January, focused on the traded threats between the United States and North Korea.

The US possesses an estimated 9,600 nuclear missiles, enough to eliminate life on earth multiple times – were it not vapourised in a mere “few” nuclear strikes.

Donald Trump has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury”, suggesting that it may be necessary to “totally destroy” the small nation. It has been widely reported that the US has a “decapitation programme” to eliminate the North Korean Leader and government – and presumably with it the capitol city and more. Further, Trump apparently thinks the possible eradication of a nation and possibly near geographical neighbours can be encapsulated in his infantile taunt:

…I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!.1

There are huge uncertainties as to the ability of North Korea to deliver a nuclear payload to the US or even a US-appropriated island such as Guam. However, there is no uncertainty that since the Trump Presidency the chilling threats of annihilation from Washington have spurred North Korea to accelerate what they regard as a defensive weapons system.

The Vancouver Conference could have been a perfect place, in a beautiful city, to invite a delegation from North Korea for dialogue, communication and walking in the shoes of others. “Hermit nation” sneers the West. No, ostracized, cut out, diplomatically dismissed and threatened with annihilation.

But North Korea, its largest trading partner, China, and Russia who know more than a bit were not invited. As ever the victim is excluded. No lessons learned or seemingly even cared about, from the horrors inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and indeed the former Yugoslavia previously, to name just a few other slaughter-fests led by the unappointed “Leader of the Free World.”

The way to stop North Korea “threatening” is to stop near sixty years of genocidal threatening by the US and include the country in all discussions, instead of accusing it of being “isolated” because the West is isolating it.

Vancouver is another devastatingly missed opportunity where those threatening the entire planet have posh, multi-course dinners and fine wines pat themselves on the back, whilst others live daily with the searing terror a thankfully false nuclear alarm in the US State of Hawaii suffered two days ago.

Let us hope that this assessment is wrong and that there are those who can embrace the chance to turn things around and persuade the war hawks that theirs is the path to insanity and even the – literally – world’s end.

As Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote:

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

  1. Twitter, 4.49 pm, 2nd January 2018.

Erdogan’s Turkey: When Knives Cut Both Ways

A Leader should be like a father… he helps the country grow, teaches it, provides for its future. Erdogan? He is no father to Turkey.

— Turkish citizen on the streets of Istanbul

Author’s Note: This is Part One of an on-scene investigative series direct from the streets of Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.

On the streets, cafes, and carpet shops of Istanbul a very different story than the one presented by western media is developing about the true allegiance of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While he continues to play a dangerous international game between Russia and the NATO/Israeli/US alliance his biggest future enemy walks the streets of his realm… the Turkish people. And he knows it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

While walking the ancient hilly streets here in Istanbul, where the ill-fated Occupy/Turkey movement and the purported “coup” once reared its populist head in the huge Taksim Square, police presence  is massive, intentional and obvious.

Since the coup of July 15, 2016, most street corners now have patrol cars sitting idly, their flashing lights always on, two cops per car, sitting inside doing little but smoking fat non-filtered Turkish cigarettes and staring at the passers-by. Six different police uniforms can be observed along with those of three different branches of military garb. The uniform seen most is a simple, very new looking royal blue and black jacket with “Polis” emblazoned on the back in white six inch letters. While some carry automatic weapons and/or pistols, these jackets are also worn by women whose only weapon seems to be a purse, young Turks in jeans who stand in groups observing the crowd, and rough looking characters in jeans and track shoes who walk about, fingers on the triggers of Kalashnikovs. In the tourist centers, such as Galata Bridge, police indiscriminately accost Arab looking passers-by; demanding their passports. They leave the many Asian and very few Caucasian tourists alone.

One of the many MRAP style vehicles

Nowhere in Istanbul is this police presence not obvious. The grim faces of these gendarmeries have already had the desired effect on the people. Istanbul is unusually unfriendly. From the airport staff to bus drivers, and subway attendants they too showcase the same dark, narrowed eyes of suspicion exemplified by the police presence. These are the faces of the new Turkey.  Erdogan’s Turkey.

Considering that President Erdogan has publicly stated that his preferred example of successful governance is Nazi Germany, it thus comes as no surprise that this long ago defeated example of authoritarian power is now his direction for his quest for unlimited, everlasting power.

This fact is not lost on the Turks who believe the coup of 2016 to be manufactured, similar to Hitler’s Reichstag Fire, thereby providing him the reason to put tens-of-thousands of Turkish citizens — judges, doctors, journalists, and teachers — in prison while next arranging his Supreme Court to his fancy, which allowed for a new national constitution which gave him virtually unchecked power over every aspect of Turkish life. Considered at that time by the western power triumvirate to be well within their sphere of influence, western media has given all of this a pass by failing to report it or fabricating false truths of support that are as distorted as the 2016 coup itself.

Consider the false western narrative that 1) There was an externally influenced coup to unseat Erdogan and 2) it was authorized by Fethullah Gulen from his hiding place in America. To the Turks, these mistruths fail to reveal that Gulen and Erdogan shared power and business interests for more than 15 years as the latter continued to grow in power and that they have always been and continue to be very close friends. Here on the streets, they add to this illumination that Erdogan came out unscathed in this coup while conveniently out of the country and avoiding arrest while the coup was actually a paltry effort at best being little more than the closing of the Galata Bridge by a few tanks that restricted the exit of the people from Istanbul’s “modern city” and Taksim Square where the Turks had gathered en masse. The result of this convenient theatre was that Erdogan immediately culled from them the intelligentsia of Turkey, without any evidence of their participation, off to prison. Per 1936 Germany, this was step one… and carried out to perfection.

This rouse continued this past week as Erdogan again continued to demand the return of his supposed arch-enemy and past best friend Fethullah Gulen. “If you’re not giving [Gulen] to us, then excuse us, but from now on whenever you ask us for another terrorist, as long as I am in office, you will not get them,” stated the Turkish president. Rather than arrest him, should he be handed over to the Turks it is more likely that the two would, in reality, sit down for a nice chat and a tulip glass of strong, delicious Turkish tea.

Although predominately missing in the Western press, none of this is any secret to the Turks who are also well aware of Erdogan’s propagation of ISIS by being the financial pipeline of Syria’s stolen oil to Turkish ports, his use of Kirkuk air base to bring new ISIS fighters to the Syrian border and shipments of US weapons into Syrian opposition hands… long before the western media finally acknowledged this obvious truth.

Incorrect news reporting would have one believe that the Kurdish vs. Erdogan issue resides exclusively outside the Turkish borders in Northern Syria in proposed Kurdistan and that Gulen is its sponsor while tucked safely away in the US. Missing here is the fact that Gulen is not Kurdish and that of the 80 million Turkish citizens, more than 25 million are Kurdish and all lived in Turkey in harmony for centuries. Most of Turkey still do. But Erdogan demonized the Kurds by falsely blaming them as well as “religious cleric” Gulen in his growing effort to divide the country along religious lines. This is merely convenient propaganda since the Kurds like the rest of Turkey love their country and would prefer continued peace. Many believe that Erdogan’s goal is a civil war; a war that he believes will make him all-powerful as one side of the country fights the other and then reaches out to him for salvation. This appears to be accurate.

President Erdogan’s penchant for creating chaos was clearly shown this week when, as reported by the Libya Herald, Greek authorities confirmed they had boarded and seized a ship carrying potential explosive making materials from Turkey to Misrata, Libya intended for US-backed leader Haftar. The Hellenic Coast Guard Headquarters confirmed this. Further, this is one of the ports previously used to export Syrian oil stolen by ISIS. Further, at this point, nothing moves within Turkey without Erdogan’s approval.

With this, Erdogan is an example of US foreign policy. He does not mind internal chaos, in fact, many Turks believe this to be his actual goal for their country: Civil war. Many Turks report their distaste for their president’s recent theatre appearance in supposedly supporting the Palestinians in lieu of the US President Trump’s decision to rob them of a Jerusalem capital and note the unreported news that in the aftermath of the tragic, peaceful Mavi Marmara attempt to bring needed supplies to Gaza —  during which nine people were slaughtered by Israeli IDF soldiers — that before Israel would agree to pay cash provided as reparations to families of the dead Turks, Erdogan did then agree already to allow Israel to take Jerusalem for their capital. Although unproven, it is fixed in the opposition voices and does share the ring of truth considering that in the wake of the series of US hurricanes this past year, FEMA required aid recipients to sign an oath to Israel… not America.

There is now a caution in the people’s voices when one travels in Turkey; a hush that invades every political discussion or prognostications of what will befall this pluralistic society. The coup and its results are in the minds of all, as is the massive purge of innocent Turks. Here, Erdogan ignores history and human nature, preferring to believe in the current examples being shown by El-Sisi in Egypt, MBS in Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu in Israel, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and worldwide US hegemony: that his new military might makes him right no matter what and that force will override the fundamental desire of the Turks for peace and freedom. This, of course, ignores the historical results and demise of Hitler, Mussolini, and Pol Pot. When one speaks with Turks, there is anger in their eyes despite the hushed tones of hopeful resistance. One Turkish Kurd distilled this reality:

The history of Turkey, back to the time of Ataturk [who gained Turkish independence from the World War One Allied powers] … even before… is that of the knife. When war comes- if it does- Erdogan will meet the Turkish again. Then, he too will meet the blade of the knife!

General Ataturk Leads the Turks to Independence

After a beautiful six mile walk through the streets and along the massive rock lined harbour that passed through this military gauntlet and now finally arriving at Taksim Square, a similar police presence comes into view surrounding the square. A huge white, military vehicle- seemingly an exact copy of the US made MRAP, with machine gun turret, sits parked, a fence ringing it while its black uniformed operators play cards, smoke and drink coffee just behind. They too are not friendly. These, like the many other multi-uniformed police here in Istanbul, are Erdogan’s troops. Like their master, they are not loyal to the Turks….they are loyal to power for power in a failing Turkish economy is job security: theirs.

Taksim Square

The Turkish economy is in dire straits and many Turks believe this is yet another tool that Erdogan intends to use to divide their country via discontent. Istanbul is an amazing city full of examples of splendour, its ancient mosques reaching skyward across the hills that overlook the harbour of commerce that has been here for millennia. This city is worth any traveler’s money, but tourism is a fraction of its former pre-coup days despite the Lira crashing in value. Although this is January and the slowest tourism month of the year, shop owners and cafe operators report that the tourist income in substantially down since the coup. On a normally busy Friday night restaurants are virtually empty, their many tables and chairs sitting vacant. The hawkers for each sing out their friendly solicitations, but there is a tone of desperation and futility as they try to attract travellers.

While a declining economy may be the beginning of Erdogan’s fall from grace, many believe this is part of his ultimate plot. This opinion is not only bolstered by the many Turks, but by the foreign economic western press. A February 6, 2016 article by The Economist stated clearly what many Turks already suspect:

… sustained growth will require a change of attitude, beginning at the top. A sophisticated market economy cannot be run by offering favours for loyalty… Similarly, companies that own media outlets have been cut out of business in other fields if they fail to toe the line. Firms with the right contacts, say critics of the government, have done well, winning not just direct state contracts but privileged access to deals. “They [Erdogan’s Gov’t] used to be giving, sacrificing for the public good,” says an Istanbul news editor. “Now they are taking, using all the redistributive power of the state.

These comments are much more important given the facts that Turkey was debt free in June of 2013 after having completely paid off all IMF loans but that now, since the coup Erdogan has already driven Turkey back into more than a US$500 billion debt or over 50% of GDP…in less than five years!

On the long walk back from Taksim Square and now approaching the famous Blue Mosque and another huge square, the Hippodrome, which sits in front of the mosque with Istanbul University at one end, even on this day something strange is happening. Police presence is suddenly even more dramatic and surrounds a series of all-black US style SUVs and all-black stretch limousines. Anyone attempting to get near is frisked and searched. The cops are very unfriendly. A helicopter circles over head. Once inside this fenced cordon, I ask if anyone speaks English and a nice man offers his help. “It’s the president,” he whispers since there are six police with automatic weapons within earshot. “It’s Erdogan!” 

As we pull back from the metal barricade to chat more, I wonder how many professors here are still missing from their students and classrooms. This stranger tells me that he is Syrian from Palmyra having moved his family to Turkey after his hotel was destroyed due to an American bombing. He would like to leave Turkey, but is jovial, good-natured, despite his loss, offering to show his hospitality at his home later that day. Preparing to depart, with a hearty handshake he concludes our conversation.

“All people should be able to be free,” he says smiling. “They should have chances…to have a future for their families… to have peace… to have…” and he stops searching for the right word.

Happiness?” offered this reporter.

Inshallah [if Allah [God] wills],” he agreed.

Here lies the problem. For in Turkey God has little influence on the values of the new king.

• Photos by Brett Redmayne-Titley

Why “Coercive Diplomacy” is a Dangerous Farce

A North Korean soldier looks in through the window of the T2 building as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tour the Demilitarized Zone in Korea on July 21, 2010.(U.S. Department of Defense photo.)

With his recent “my (nuclear) button is bigger than yours” taunt, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has fully descended into school yard braggadocio, with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as a convenient foil. But his administration’s overwhelming reliance on military and economic pressure rather than on negotiations to influence North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBM programs is hardly new. It is merely a continuation of a well-established tradition of carrying out what the national security elite call “coercive diplomacy”.

As Alexander George, the academic specialist on international relations who popularized the concept, wrote:

The general idea of coercive diplomacy is to back one’s demand on an adversary with a threat of punishment for noncompliance that he will consider credible and potent enough to persuade him to comply with the demand.

The converse of that fixation on coercion, of course, is rejection of genuine diplomatic negotiations, which would have required the United States to agree to changes in its own military and diplomatic policies.

It is no accident that the doctrine of coercive diplomacy acquired much of its appeal on the basis of a false narrative surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962—that John F. Kennedy’s readiness to go to war was what forced Khrushchev’s retreat from Cuba. In fact, a crucial factor in ending the crisis was JFK’s back-channel offer to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, which were useful only as first strike weapons and which Khrushchev had been demanding. As George later observed, enthusiasts of coercive diplomacy had ignored the fact that success in resolving a crisis may “require genuine concessions to the opponent as part of a quid pro quo that secures one’s essential demands.”

The missile crisis occurred, of course, at a time when the United States had overwhelming strategic dominance over the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War period has presented an entirely different setting for its practice, in which both Iran and North Korea have acquired conventional weapons systems that could deter a U.S. air attack on either one.

Why Clinton and Bush Failed on North Korea

The great irony of the U.S. coercive diplomacy applied to Iran and North Korea is that it was all completely unnecessary. Both states were ready to negotiate agreements with the United States that would have provided assurances against nuclear weapons in return for U.S. concession to their own most vital security interests. North Korea began exploiting its nuclear program in the early 1990s in order to reach a broader security agreement with Washington. Iran, which was well aware of the North Korean negotiating strategy, began in private conversations in 2003 to cite the stockpile of enriched uranium it expected to acquire as bargaining chips to be used in negotiations with the United States and/or its European allies.

But those diplomatic strategies were frustrated by the long-standing attraction of the national security elite to the coercive diplomacy but also the bureaucratic interests of the Pentagon and CIA, newly bereft of the Soviet adversary that had kept their budgets afloat during the Cold War.  In Disarming Strangers, the most authoritative account of Clinton administration policy, author and former State Department official Leon Sigal observes: “The North Korean threat was essential to the armed services’ rationale for holding the line on the budget,” which revolved around “a demanding and dubious requirement to meet two major contingencies, one shortly after the other, in the Persian Gulf and Korea.”

The Clinton administration briefly tried coercive diplomacy in mid-1994.  Secretary of Defense William Perry prepared a plan for a U.S. air attack on the DPRK Plutonium reactor after North Korea had shut it down and removed the fuel rods, but would not agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to determine how many bombs- worth of Plutonium, if any, had been removed in the past. But before the strategy could be put into operation, former President Jimmy Carter informed the White House that Kim Il-sung had agreed to give up his plutonium program as part of a larger deal.

The Carter-Kim initiative, based on traditional diplomacy, led within a few months to the “Agreed Framework”, which could have transformed the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. But that agreement was much less than it may have seemed. In order to succeed in denuclearizing North Korea, the Clinton administration would have been required to deal seriously with North Korean demands for a fundamental change in bilateral relations between the two countries, ending the state of overt U.S. enmity toward Pyongyang.

U.S. diplomats knew, however, that the Pentagon was not willing to entertain any such fundamental change. They were expecting to be able to spin out the process of implementation for years, anticipating the Kim regime before it would collapse from mass starvation before the U.S. would be called upon to alter its policy toward North Korea.

The Bush administration, too, was unable to carry out a strategy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran and North Korea over their nuclear and missile programs because its priority was the occupation of Iraq, which bogged down the U.S. military and ruled out further adventures. Its only coercive effort was a huge March 2007 Persian Gulf naval exercise that involved two naval task forces, a dozen warships, and 100 aircraft. But it was aimed not at coercing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, but at gaining “leverage” over Iran in regard to Iran’s role in the Iraq War itself.

On nuclear and missile programs, the administration had to content itself with the highly subjective assumption that the regimes in both Iran and North Korea would both be overthrown within a relatively few years. Meanwhile, however, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose primary interest was funding and deploying a very expensive national missile defense system, killed the unfinished Clinton agreement with North Korea. And after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got Bush’s approval to negotiate a new agreement with Pyongyang, Cheney sabotaged that one as well. Significantly no one in the Bush administration made any effort to negotiate with North Korea on its missile program.

Obama Whiffs on Iran and North Korea

Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration pursued a carefully planned strategy of coercive diplomacy strategy toward Iran. Although Obama sent a message to Supreme Leader Khamenei of Iran offering talks “without preconditions,” he had earlier approved far-reaching new economic sanctions against Iran. And in his first days in office he had ordered history’s first state-sponsored cyber-attack targeting Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz.

Although Obama did not make any serious efforts to threaten Iran’s nuclear targets directly in a military attack, he did exploit the Netanyahu government’s threat to attack those facilities. That was the real objective of Obama’s adoption of a new “nuclear posture” that included the option of a first use of nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to use conventional force against an ally. In the clearest expression of Obama’s coercive strategy, in early 2012 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that the Iranians could convince the U.S. that its nuclear program was for civilian purposes or face the threat of an Israeli attack or an escalation of covert U.S. actions against the Iranian nuclear program.

In his second term, Obama abandoned the elaborate multilayered coercive diplomacy strategy, which had proven a complete failure, and made significant U.S. diplomatic concessions to Iran’s interests to secure the final nuclear deal of July 2015. In keeping with coercive diplomacy, however, the conflict over fundamental U.S. and Iranian policies and interests in the Middle East remained outside the realm of bilateral negotiations.

On North Korea, the Obama administration was even more hostile to genuine diplomacy than Bush. In his account of Obama’s Asian policy, Obama’s special assistant, Jeffrey Bader, describes a meeting of the National Security Council in March 2009 at which Obama declared that he wanted to break “the cycle of provocation, extortion and reward” that previous administrations had tolerated over 15 years. That description, which could have come from the lips of Dick Cheney himself, not only misrepresented what little negotiation had taken place with Pyongyang, but implied that any concessions to North Korea in return for its sacrifice of nuclear or missile programs represented abject appeasement.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Obama did nothing at all, to head off a nuclear-armed North Korean ICBM, even though former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last November, “We knew that it was a possibility six or seven years ago.” In fact, he admitted, the administration had not really tried to test North Korean intentions diplomatically, because “we’re not in a frame of mind to give much in the way or rewards.” The former Pentagon chief opined that no diplomatic concession could be made to North Korea’s security interests “as long as they have nuclear weapons.”

The Obama administration was thus demanding unilateral concession by North Korea on matters involving vital interests of the regime that Washington certainly understood by then could not be obtained without significant concessions to North Korea’s security interests. As Carter freely admits, they knew exactly what the consequences of that policy were in terms of North Korea’s likely achievement of an ICBM.

This brief overview of the role of coercive diplomacy in post-Cold War policy suggests that the concept has devolved into convenient political cover for maintaining the same old Cold War policies and military posture regarding Iran and North Korea, despite new and essentially unnecessary costs to U.S. security interests. The United States could have and should have reached new accommodations with its regional adversaries, just as it had with the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. To do so, however, would have put at risk Pentagon and CIA budgetary interests worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars as well as symbolic power and status.

Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?

— Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for participating in the German resistance movement

I’m tired of liars, scoundrels and cheats.

I’m sick of circus politics, sex scandals and partisan hypocrisy.

I’ve reached the limits of my tolerance for individuals who have bartered their morality, consciences, integrity, religious beliefs and liberty for political gain.

Enough already.

This is not a reality show. It is not an experiment in political theories or a contest over who generates the biggest laughs, or the highest ratings, or the best polling numbers.

Enough with the deafening silence in the face of outright corruption, base immorality, denigrating language, demoralizing greed, abject cruelty, derision, cynicism, violence, oppression and tyranny.

The United States of America is run by a cabal of racist, classist, sexist, militaristic, misogynistic, greedy, heartless thugs who are obviously satisfied that their latest CEO—Donald Trump—is doing such a great job of keeping the nation polarized and pole-axed by his reality show antics.

After all, why hire a statesman when you can hire a buffoon who will entertain, enrage and incite a nation to the brink of madness.

They—the powers-that-be, the Deep State, the controllers, the financiers, the war hawks—want us at the brink of madness. They want us in a state of civil unrest. They want the riots and the mob violence and the political discord and the state of panic. They want us to fight each other and be incapable of taking a united stand against tyranny.

They want us silent and subservient.

We have been silent too long. We have been silent for all the wrong reasons.

We have been silent when the universe demanded that we get up, stand up, and speak out.

There comes a time when silence is betrayal, warned Martin Luther King, Jr.

We didn’t listen.

We ignored King’s warning about the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism, and look where it’s gotten us: mounting national debt, impoverished communities, racial unrest, endless wars abroad and a military industrial complex that has turned its greedy sights on America.

We can no longer afford to ignore the warnings about where this is all leading.

The clock is ticking us down to doomsday.

Remember that dystopian Pentagon training video being used to prepare armed forces to solve future domestic political and social problems? It’s only five minutes long, but the military training video says a lot about the government’s mindset, the way it views the citizenry, and the so-called “problems” that the military must be prepared to address in the near future, which include criminal networks, illicit economies, decentralized syndicates of crime, substandard infrastructure, religious and ethnic tensions, impoverishment, economic inequality, protesters, slums, open landfills, over-burdened sewers, and a “growing mass of unemployed.”

The Pentagon is anticipating that all hell will break loose by 2030. That’s only 12 short years away.

We can no longer afford to pretend that we are just playing a game. The stakes are too high. In this particular game, winners take everything, and losers lose their lives.

This is life in the American people state and it is increasingly becoming desperate, dangerous and heart-breaking for everyone who doesn’t belong to the elite class of corporate/government operatives that are really in charge.

We’re all in this together.

It doesn’t matter what your politics are, where you worship, whom you love, where you live, how much money you make, what language you speak, what color your skin is, whether you’re a high school dropout or a college graduate, what kind of car you drive, or any other “differences” that are used to divide us into opposing factions: what unites us is that we’re all traveling this road together.

Right now, we’re so focused on what divides us that we can’t see the danger looming ahead.

While Congress is debating whether the president is racist for referring to African nations as “shithole countries,” no one is talking about the racist government policies that will ensure that “1 of every 4 African American males born this decade can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.”

Take the criminal justice system, for example—one of the most racist institutions around. It is a fact that crime happens. It happens whether you’re white, black, brown or some shade in between. However, while white Americans make up 76% of the population, African Americans and people of color are the ones who are disproportionately being singled out for police stops, searches, use of force during arrests, prison terms for drugs, and longer jail terms.

America is a racist nation, but the racists are on the government payroll.

While the media swarms all over accusations of sexual misconduct against prominent men in Hollywood, few are addressing the devastating scope of sexual misconduct within the nation’s police forces. According to Newsweek, “At the national level, 990 officers had their licenses revoked between 2009 and 2014 because of rape, sodomy or other sexual misconduct, an Associated Press investigation found. Some of the victims had just been victims of a crime. One-third were juveniles.” That doesn’t include the numbers that go unreported because the victims were scared to speak out.

America is a nation of sexual predators, but the predators are pulling government salaries.

While the government continues to wage its misguided war on drugs, helped along by Jeff Sessions and his gang of militarized, battle-ready SWAT teams that shoot first and ask questions later, not enough is being done to root out those government agents who are padding their pockets by trafficking drugs and sex. For instance, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was recently charged with selling drugs and offering the protection of other cops to dealers. The Huffington Post reports on a long list of police officers who have been arrested for pimping young girls.

It turns out that America is also a nation of drug and sex traffickers using their government jobs for cover.

Those are just a few examples of the many injustices being perpetrated against the American people by government agents and agencies who don’t care whether “we the people” live or die, whether babies are born into poverty, whether children are dying at the hands of government officials, whether communities are being ripped apart by violence, or whether citizens of all colors, creeds and religions are spending their lives shackled and broken and powerless to do anything to escape the prison cells into which they’ve been thrown.

Remember this the next time you find yourself drawn into a heated debate over the antics of this president and his inhumane policies and his outlandish reality show.

The next time you hear any government shill talk about the need to keep America safe, remember that the people of the United States continue to be robbed, cheated, tasered, stripped, searched, bullied, threatened, jailed, shot and killed by the very government agents entrusted with protecting their rights. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the U.S. government has become a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

So enough with the lies. Enough with the fast-talking, foul-mouthed, slick politicians. Enough with the silence.

The time has come for truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

As George Orwell noted, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

To Liberate Cambodia

A long-standing French protectorate briefly occupied by Japan during World War II, Cambodia became independent in 1953 as the French finally withdrew from Indochina. Under the leadership of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia remained officially neutral, including during the subsequent US war on Indochina. However, by the mid-1960s, parts of the eastern provinces of Cambodia were bases for North Vietnamese Army and National Liberation Front (NVA/NLF) forces operating against South Vietnam and this resulted in nearly a decade of bombing by the United States from 4 October 1965.

In 1970 Sihanouk was ousted in a US-supported coup led by General Lon Nol. The following few years were characterized by an internal power struggle between Cambodian elites and war involving several foreign countries, but particularly including continuation of the recently commenced ‘carpet bombing’ of Cambodia by the US Air Force.

On 17 April 1975 the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), otherwise known as the Khmer Rouge, took control of Cambodia. Following four years of ruthless rule by the Chinese-supported Khmer Rouge, initially under Pol Pot, they were defeated by the Vietnamese army in 1979 and the Vietnamese occupation authorities established the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), installing Heng Samrin and other pro-Vietnamese Communist politicians as leaders of the new government. Heng was succeeded by Chan Sy as Prime Minister in 1981.

Following the death of Chan Sy, Hun Sen became Prime Minister of Cambodia in 1985 and, despite a facade of democracy, he and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have been in power ever since. This period has notably included using the army to purge a feared rival in a bloody coup conducted in 1997. Hun Sen’s co-Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was ousted and fled to Paris while his supporters were arrested, tortured and some were summarily executed.

The current main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was founded in 2012 by merging the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party. Emblematic of Cambodia’s ‘democratic’ status, more than two dozen opposition members and critics have been locked up in the past year alone and the CNRP leader, Kem Sokha, known for his nonviolent, politically tolerant views, is currently imprisoned at a detention centre in Tboung Khmum Province following his arrest on 3 September 2017 under allegations of treason, espionage and for orchestrating anti-government demonstrations in 2013-2014. These demonstrations were triggered by widespread allegations of electoral fraud during the Cambodian general election of 2013.

On 16 November 2017 the CNRP was dissolved by Cambodia’s highest court and 118 of its members, including Sokha and exiled former leader Sam Rainsy, were banned from politics for five years.

Cambodian Society

Socially, Cambodia is primarily Khmer with ethnic populations of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, Thai and Lao. It has a population of 16 million people. The pre-eminent religion is Buddhism. The adult literacy rate is 75%; few Cambodians speak a European language limiting access to western literature. Most students complete 12 years of (low quality public) school but tertiary enrollment is limited. As in all countries, education (reinforced by state propaganda through the media) serves to intimidate and indoctrinate students into obedience of elites. Discussion of national politics in a school class is taboo and such discussions are rare at tertiary level. This manifests in the narrow range of concerns that mobilize student action: personal outcomes such as employment opportunities. Issues such as those in relation to peace, the environment and refugees do not have a significant profile. In short, the student population generally is neither well informed nor politically engaged.

However, many other issues engage at least some Cambodians, with demonstrations, strikes and street blockades being popular tactics, although the lack of strategy means that outcomes are usually limited and, despite commendable nonviolent discipline in many cases, violent repression is not effectively resisted. Issues of concern to workers, particularly low wages in a country with no minimum wage law, galvanize some response. Garment workers are a significant force because their sector is important to the national economy. Land grabbing and lack of housing mobilize many people but usually fail to attract support beyond those effected. Environmental issues, such as deforestation and natural resource depletion, fail to mobilize the support they need to be effective.

Having noted that, however, Cambodian activists require enormous courage to take nonviolent action as the possibility of violent state repression in response to popular mobilization is a real one, as illustrated above and documented in the Amnesty International report “Taking to the streets: Freedom of peaceful assembly in Cambodia” from 2015.

Perhaps understandably, given their circumstances, international issues, such as events in the Middle East, North Korea and the plight of the Rohingya in neighbouring Myanmar are beyond the concern of most Cambodians.

Economically, Cambodians produce traditional goods for small local households with industrial production remaining low in a country that is still industrializing. Building on agriculture (especially rice), tourism and particularly the garment industry, which provided the basis for the Cambodian export sector in recent decades, the dictatorship has been encouraging light manufacturing, such as of electronics and auto-parts, by establishing “special economic zones” that allow cheap Cambodian labour to be exploited. Most of the manufacturers are Japanese and despite poor infrastructure (such as lack of roads and port facilities), poor production management, poor literacy and numeracy among the workers, corruption and unreliable energy supplies, Cambodian factory production is slowly rising to play a part in Japan’s regional supply chain. In addition, Chinese investment in the construction sector has grown enormously in recent years and Cambodia is experiencing the common problem of development being geared to serve elite commercial interests and tourists rather than the needs (such as affordable housing) of ordinary people or the environment.

Environmentally, Cambodia does little to conserve its natural resources. For example, between 1990 and 2010, Cambodia lost 22% of its forest cover, or nearly 3,000,000 hectares, largely to logging. There is no commitment to gauging environmental impact before construction projects begin and the $US800m Lower Sesan 2 Dam, in the northeast of the country, has been widely accused of being constructed with little thought given to local residents (who will be evicted or lose their livelihood when the dam reservoir fills) or the project’s environmental impact.

Beyond deforestation (through both legal and illegal logging) then, environmental destruction in Cambodia occurs as a result of large scale construction and agricultural projects which destroy important wildlife habitats, but also through massive (legal and illegal) sand mining, poaching of endangered and endemic species, with Cambodian businesses and political authorities, as well as foreign criminal syndicates and many transnational corporations from all over the world implicated in the various aspects of this corruptly-approved and executed destruction.

In the words of Cambodian researcher Tay Sovannarun: “The government just keeps doing business as usual while the rich cliques keep extracting natural resources and externalizing the cost to the rest of society.” Moreover, three members of the NGO Mother Nature – Sun Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Somnang – recently served nearly a year in prison for their efforts to defend the environment and the group was dissolved by the government in September 2017.

Cambodian Politics

Politically, Cambodians are largely naïve with most believing that they live in a ‘democracy’ despite the absence of its most obvious hallmarks such as civil and political rights, the separation of powers including an independent judiciary, free and fair elections, the right of assembly and freedom of the press (with the English-language newspaper The Cambodia Daily recently closed down along with some radio stations). And this is an accurate assessment of most members of the political leadership of the CNRP as well.

Despite a 30-year record of political manipulation by Hun Sen and the CPP, during which “Hun Sen has made it clear that he does not respect the concept of free and fair elections”, which has included obvious corruption of elections through vote-rigging but also an outright coup in 1997 and the imprisonment or exile of opposition leaders since then, most Cambodians and their opposition leaders still participate in the charade that they live in a ‘democracy’ which could result in the defeat of Hun Sen and the CPP at a “free and fair” election. Of course, there are exceptions to this naïveté, as a 2014 article written by Mu Sochua, veteran Cambodian politician and former minister of women’s affairs in a Hun Sen government, demonstrates.

Moreover, as Sovannarun has noted, most Cambodians still think international pressure is effective in keeping the CPP from disrespecting democratic principles which they have violated up until this day. Right now they wait for US and EU sanctions in the hope that the CPP will step back. He asks: “Even assuming it works, when will Cambodians learn to rely on themselves when the ruling party causes the same troubles again? Are they going to ask for external help like this every time and expect their country to be successfully democratized?”

The problem, Sovannarun argues, is that “Cambodians in general do not really understand what democracy is. Their views are very narrow. For them, democracy is just an election. Many news reports refer to people as “voters” but in Khmer, this literally translates as “vote owners” as if people cannot express their rights or power beside voting.”

Fortunately, recent actions by the CPP have led to opposition leaders and some NGOs finally declaring the Hun Sen dictatorship for what it is. But for Sovannarun:

Democratization ended in 1997. The country should be regarded as a dictatorship since then. The party that lost the election in 1993 still controlled the national military, the police and security force, and the public administration, eventually using military force to establish absolute control in 1997. How is Cambodia still a democracy?

However, recent comprehensive research undertaken by Global Witness goes even further. Their report Hostile Takeover “sheds light on a huge network of secret deal-making and corruption that has underpinned Hun Sen’s 30-year dictatorial reign of murder, torture and the imprisonment of his political opponents”.

So what are the prospects of liberating Cambodia from its dictatorship?

To begin, there is little evidence to suggest that leadership for any movement to do so will come from within formal political ranks. Following the court-ordered dissolution of the CNRP on 16 November 2017 at the behest of Hun Sen, “half of their 55 members of parliament fled the country”. And this dissolution was preceded by actions that had effectively neutralized the opposition, with two dozen opposition members (including CNRP leader Kem Sokha) and critics imprisoned in the past year alone, as reported above, and the rapid flight of Opposition Deputy President Mu Sochua on 3 October after allegedly being notified by a senior official that her arrest was imminent. But while Mu Sochua called for a protest gathering after she had fled, understandably, nobody dared to protest: “Who dares to protest if their leader runs for their life?” Sovannarun asks.

Of course, civil society leadership is fraught with danger too. Prominent political commentator and activist Kem Ley, known for his trenchant criticism of the Hun Sen dictatorship, was assassinated on 10 July 2016 in Phnom Penh. Ley was the third notable activist to be killed following the union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 and environmental activist Wutty Chut in 2012. But they are not the only activists to suffer this fate.

In addition, plenty of politicians, journalists and activists have been viciously assaulted by the security forces and members of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit and/or imprisoned by the dictatorship. In fact, Radio Free Asia keeps a record of “Cambodian Opposition Politicians and Activists Behind Bars” for activities that the dictatorship does not like, including defending human rights, land rights and the natural environment.

Moreover, in another recent measure of the blatant brutality of the dictatorship, Hun Sen publicly suggested that opposition politicians Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha “would already be dead” had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the highly disputed 2013 national election result. He also used a government-produced video to link the CNRP with US groups in fomenting a “colour revolution” in Cambodia.

In one response to Hun Sen’s “would already be dead” statement, British human rights lawyer Richard Rogers, who had filed a complaint asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Cambodian ruling elite for widespread human rights violations in 2014, commented that it was simply more evidence of the government’s willingness to persecute political dissidents. “It shows that he is willing to order the murder of his own people if they challenge his rule”. Moreover: “These are not the words of a modern leader who claims to lead a democracy.” Whether Hun Sen is even sane is a question that no-one asks.

So what can Cambodians do? Fortunately, there is a long history of repressive regimes being overthrown by nonviolent grassroots movements. And nonviolent action has proven powerfully effective in Cambodia as the Buddhist monk Maha Gosananda, and his supporters demonstrated on their 19-day peace walk from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh through war ravaged Khmer Rouge territory in Cambodia in May 1993, defying the expectations of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) coordinators at the time that they would be killed by the Khmer Rouge. However, for the Hun Sen dictatorship to be removed, Cambodians will be well served by a thoughtful and comprehensive strategy that takes particular account of their unique circumstances.

A framework to plan and implement a strategy to remove the dictatorship is explained in Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy with Sovannarun’s Khmer translation of this strategy here.

This strategic framework explains what is necessary to remove the dictatorship and, among consideration of many vital issues, elaborates what is necessary to maintain strategic coordination when leaders are at high risk of assassination, minimize the risk of violent repression while also ensuring that the movement is not hijacked by government or foreign provocateurs whose purpose is to subvert the movement by destroying its nonviolent character as well as deal with foreign governments (such as those of China, the European Union, Japan and the USA) who (categorically or by inaction) support the dictatorship, sometimes by supplying military weapons suitable for use against the domestic population.

Sovannarun is not optimistic about the short-term prospects for his country: Too many mistakes have been repeated too often. But he is committed to the nonviolent struggle to liberate Cambodia from its dictatorship and recognizes that the corrupt electoral process cannot restore democracy or enable Cambodians to meaningfully address the vast range of social, political, economic and environmental challenges they face.

Interview with Andre Vltchek for Farhikhtegan Newspaper in Iran

Mostafa Afzalzadeh: Why do you think the western countries are trying to use people against Iran and not use military force? What is the difference?

Andre Vltchek: It is because Iran is ‘not alone’. If the West were to dare use military force against Iran, directly, there would be an immediate response from many countries on Earth. I believe that Iran’s allies, like Russia, several Latin American countries, but also most likely China, would not sit idle. I am not saying that they would immediately send their armies and begin fighting the U.S. and European forces, but I am certain that Iran would receive some substantial support from them: be it moral, diplomatic and yes, perhaps, even military support.

Even countries like Turkey (which for many years has been an important member of NATO), would strongly protest and most likely even leave the alliance. Turkey would not allow an attack against Iran to originate from its territory.

Iran also has other friendly governments and movements strategically positioned in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I have no doubt that any direct attack against Iran would trigger a much greater military conflict in the Middle East and beyond. The West knows it. It actually enjoys triggering conflicts and wars, all over the world, even keeping them ‘perpetual’, but it also knows that to go to war with Iran could be counter-productive, that it would most likely backfire.

Let us also remember that Iran is not just a crying victim – Iran is strong. Iran’s missile program, for instance, has sent a strong message to the West: “Any assault would be met with decisive response. Attack against Iran would lead to real war with losses at both sides.”

Using civilians, NGO’s, the so-called ‘Civil Society’ and some disgruntled elements, is far much ‘safer’. This way the West can trigger the conflict and then turn everything up-side-down and say: “You see? We told you. Iran is brutal, its rulers are ruthlessly oppressing their own people.” This strategy has worked in many countries, while it has backfired in places like China. Basically, this can work if some nation is extremely divided and confused. It worked in Ukraine, at least to some extent. It worked in Zimbabwe. It almost worked but in the end failed in Venezuela. It worked in Yeltsin’s Russia. But it could never work in China, in Cuba, in 2018 Russia, or in Iran. This monstrous, Machiavellian strategy, dividing and turning people against each other, also failed, and failed miserably, in Syria.

However, using this strategy often costs nothing. The West is trying it everywhere, all over the world, wherever there is a government that is working for the good of its people, not for the good of some Western multi-national companies and for imperialist geopolitical interests. I described it in detail, in my 800-page long book of political non-fiction:Exposing Lies Of The Empire.

MA:  If the US does not succeed in overthrowing Iran by the tactic of using people against the government what other tool they might have?

AV: The US has many tricks up its sleeves. Remember: US ‘foreign policy’ is not some new system that has been invented in Washington D.C. It is all based on the centuries of plunder, colonialism and brutal control of the world, a ‘specialty’ of various European powers. Brits, French, Dutch, Belgians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans and others in the ‘old continent’, ‘invented the wheel’. The US only uses its ugly brutal force, while relying on the ‘know-how’ developed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now the subversion in Iran has been identified, fought against, and defeated. What will come next? What could be coming next?

I think there will now be rejuvenated, growing pressure on Iran, from the West in general and the US in particular. I’m talking about economic, political and ideological pressure, meaning propaganda. The West will be ‘grooming’ opposition movements, or at least many of the particular individuals. Selected men and women will be getting scholarships, funding, even awards for their great ‘achievements’ as opposition ‘activists’, artists and ‘thinkers’. Dissidents will be glorified, while great Iranian thinkers, writers, filmmakers who are supportive of the government, will be ignored, often even ridiculed. The same strategy was applied against many dozens of independent-minded nations of the world, including the Soviet Union before its ill-fated Perestroika. I described ‘the system’ or ‘training opposition’ in my latest, brutal, short political and revolutionary novel “Aurora“.

Western mass media outlets will be, most certainly, demonizing Iran. Stories will be invented or turned hyperbolic. The Farsi services of Western government radio stations like the BBC will get extra funding and will be working day and night to divide Iranian society.

Iran will not be struck directly, but its allies may get attacked. I’m talking particularly about Hezbollah. As a result, Lebanon could fall. The influence (even if it is just moral influence) of Iran in Yemen and Afghanistan may be confronted by the Western and pro-Western forces.

Many things may happen, but I sincerely believe that Iran is not directly in danger. Its people are strong, educated and resilient. Iran is not perfect, as nothing in this world is. But it is a good, progressive, and very solid country with an enormous and ancient culture. Iranian people know it. The entire region knows it. Now it is time to explain it to the world.

Just look around: what happened to the countries around Iran, that fell into the hands of Western ‘democracies’. Iranian citizens are not insane: they would never want to live in anything resembling today’s Afghanistan or Iraq! Let’s get real! I work in Afghanistan. It is now the poorest country in Asia, with the lowest life expectancy. In Herat, there are huge lines in front of the Iranian consulate; people have nothing and they are trying to leave, by all means, to Iran or elsewhere. Or look at Iraq! It is now only a skeleton of a country: depressing, defeated, with no clear future.

Iran is the bright star of the region, and the West hates it. Absurdly, the only way to make peace with the West would be for Iranians to wreck their own country, to become submissive, enslaved and to sacrifice their own people, putting both the economic and political interests of the West above their national interests!

MA: Do you see a relation between the recent unrest and Iran’s victories in the region?

AV: Most definitely!  Were Iran to be a failed state (but one open to Western business and geopolitical interests), like Indonesia or Uganda or other “allies” worldwide, Washington and London would be fully supporting it, and Western propaganda would glorify it: as was the case with Iranian brutal regime during Shah, or Suharto’s genocidal dictatorship in Indonesia, or Kagame’s murderous despotism in Rwanda.

Iran has its own economic, social and political model. It is totally independent. On top of it, this model is very attractive to other places in the region, and Teheran is clearly helping those places that are being battered, literally liquidated by the West and its allies: I’m talking about Syria and Yemen. Even in Afghanistan, Iran is playing an increasingly positive role.

Ask in Beirut, Damascus but also in Cairo or Amman, whether Iran is a ‘dangerous country’, whether someone there feels threatened by Teheran? People will laugh at you. Of course, it is not dangerous; nobody thinks it is. People are scared of the West, or Israel, or of Saudi Arabia; but of Iran?

Logically (and here we are talking about Western imperialist logic), the more positive role Iran plays in the region and in other parts of the world (by, for instance, working closely with several progressive and revolutionary governments in Latin America), the more it gets antagonized, destabilized, even threatened.

The West cares nothing about what is good for others, or even for the entire world. It is only interested in what can serve its own, practical, neo-colonialist agenda.

It is the world in which we are living. And this world has to dramatically change, better sooner rather than later! Iran, together with a handful of other countries, is at the vanguard of this great change that could save our Planet. That is why it should never be allowed to fall!