Category Archives: US Sanctions

Free Alex Saab Delegation at the African Bar Association

An international Free Alex Saab delegation attended the October 3-7 annual meeting of the African Bar Association in Niamey, Niger. Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab has been under arrest in Cabo Verde since June 2020 by orders of the US and is fighting extradition to Miami. His “crime” is organizing humanitarian missions to procure food and medicine for Venezuela in violation of the illegal US blockade.

The Free Alex Saab delegation was composed of Canadian John Philpot, a lawyer specializing in international law, who represented the American Association of Jurists and regularly attends AFBAR conferences; Cabo Verdean-American Bishop Filipe Teixeira, who traveled to Cabo Verde in June in support of Mr. Saab; Venezuelan Laila Taj El Dine, a diplomat to the United Nations, lawyer, university professor, and international analyst; and Venezuelan Pedro Carvajalino, media specialist.

African Bar Association welcomes the international Free Alex Saab delegation

The Free Alex Saab delegation was well received by the conference, attended by many honored African leaders, including President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum along with the former presidents of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Some conferees were already familiar with the egregious US judicial over-reach, which resulted in Mr. Saab being seized from his airplane, when it made a fuel stop in Cabo Verde on its way from Caracas to Tehran.

The fifty-year-old African Bar Association (AFBAR) is as a professional body uniting individual lawyers and national legal associations in Africa. The association brings together the five African sub-regional associations spread over the continent. AFBAR seeks to foster policies to better the continent’s socio-economic and political development.

AFBAR President Hannibal Uwaifo delivered the opening address on respecting the Rule of Law in strong opposition to military coups. A theme running through the conference was the importance of resolving African problems in Africa free from western interference. For example, AFBAR will not support cooperation with the International Criminal Court investigation of the Nigerian military and Boko Haram unless the investigation includes how Boko Haram is financed.

One participant, a young lawyer, explained that independence requires full national economic and military control. In his opinion, with French and especially US military presence in many countries, politicians may take their orders from the outside powers.

Some African countries are independent such as Algeria, which rigorously controls its own borders and its economy without neo-colonial control. Evidently Cabo Verde, one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world, finds it difficult to resist US pressure regarding Mr. Saab.

Conference upholds ECOWAS Court decision to free Alex Saab

The regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Court had ordered Cabo Verde to not only release but pay $200,000 in damages to Mr. Saab. That was on March 15, 2021, and Cabo Verde has still not complied with the court order. Nevertheless, Cabo Verde had signed and ratified the treaty creating the court, attended the hearings, is a full member of ECOWAS, and has at least one judge on the court.

As the AFBAR conference reaffirmed, it is the duty of the bar associations to advocate for the ECOWAS Court. The conference session on the ECOWAS Court explained clearly that it was not an appeal court, but an international court of primary jurisdiction created by treaty. The Saab delegation was afforded full status at the session, where delegates Felipe Teixeira and Laila El Dine spoke with AFBAR President Uwaifo in attendance.

Free Alex Saab press conference and Sanctions Kill report

The international Free Alex Saab Delegation held a press conference, presenting the case to local media for freeing the Venezuelan diplomat.

John Philpot presented and distributed copies of the “We don’t deserve this – the impact and consequences of US Sanctions” report, which addresses more broadly the unilateral coercive measures imposed on some three dozen countries – 15 of which are in Africa – comprising a third of humanity. Philpot, along with Rick Sterling and David Paul, authored the comprehensive report for the Sanctions Kill Coalition. A free PDF of the report is available online.

At a session on contemporary legal problems and the Rule of Law, Laila El Dine and John Philpot presented the Alex Saab case, raising issues which go to the substance of his illegal detention. AFBAR President Uwaifo once again spoke of the need to take positive action to ensure respect for March 15 ECOWAS Court decision.

John Philpot stressed that these critical cases can be won, citing the recent campaign release of Meng Wanzhou. She had been illegally detained by Canada for more than 1000 days on an attempt to extradite her concerning a transaction between a Chinese bank and Iran, allegedly in violation of US sanctions against Iran. US judicial overreach can threaten diplomats and businesspersons worldwide if this tendency is not terminated.

The closing session included resolutions followed by two press conferences, where the Free Alex Saab issue was further discussed and supported. The AFBAR press conferences, presided by Mr. Uwaifo, presented the Alex Saab defense issues including respect for the ECOWAS Court decision. International delegates El Dine, Philpot, and Teixeira spoke at the second press conference.

AFBAR has taken the issue of the ECOWAS Court seriously, although the vice president of the court lamented the lack of enforcement mechanisms. Proposals were offered such as imposing sanctions against Cabo Verde officials, which would be legally constructed as a function of the regional ECOWAS community and not illegally as with the unilateral US sanctions. Other measures considered were expelling Cabo Verde from the ECOWAS and special legal procedures. A committee was formed to take this issue on actively, presided by Chief Prosecutor of Liberia Sayma Syrenius Cephis.

The post Free Alex Saab Delegation at the African Bar Association first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua?

Since the Sandinistas returned to power in January 2007, child malnutrition has dropped by 45% for children under five and by 66% for children ages 6-12.

I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you are the parent of a child with asthma, living in Ciudad Sandino, just outside the capital of Nicaragua, in a barrio called Nueva Vida, which was recently founded after your family – along with 1,200 other families – was flooded out of your home along the lakeshore in Managua during Hurricane Mitch. The year is 2001, and although your family now has a concrete house and the bus runs regularly down your street in the daytime, nights are filled with rival gangs throwing rocks and bottles, and regular work has been nearly impossible to find. These days, you travel into the market in Managua before dawn to wash potatoes for a vegetable seller; with what you earn, you can usually bring home a little food for your family’s lunch.

Although you have five children, it’s your middle child, the seven year-old, who worries you the most. She suffers from asthma, and you haven’t been able to save up to buy the expensive inhalers she needs to stop her persistent wheezing. Tonight, while your family is trying to sleep, smoke from burning trash in the nearby dump is heavy in your home, and your daughter can’t breathe. In the half-light you can see her eyes wide, struggling with an asthma attack. All you can think is that you have to help her. You don’t have a motorcycle, let alone a car, and the buses don’t run at this hour. You load your daughter onto the crossbar of your bicycle and ride through darkened streets – going around the long way to avoid the gangs – until you arrive at the Hospitalito. Although it’s called the little hospital, it’s really just a clinic. The doctor on duty is distressed when you arrive, he listens to your daughter’s lungs and sadly tells you that he has no medicine, no inhaler, no nebulizer, no tools to help you. Your daughter must go to a larger hospital in Managua, but there is no ambulance to take her. So you set her, weak and wheezing, on the curb, and begin to beg passersby for bus fare as light dawns over the useless hospital.

Life under the neoliberal governments in Nicaragua – 1990-2006 – was exceptionally hard. In those years, the poor got poorer and the rich got richer and Nicaragua became one of the most unequal countries in the world. Lack of access to basic health care was one of the ways in which everyday people suffered.

Health Care 1999

Under the Somoza dictatorship in 1978, there were a total of 209 health units in the country – that is hospitals, health centers and health posts combined. After the Triumph of the Revolution in 1979, the new Sandinista government made health care free, and even in the midst of an economic embargo and fighting the Contra War during the 1980s, they managed to increase health units five-fold; by 1990 there were 1,056 units. But during 16 years, the neoliberal governments only managed to build 35 more health units, the majority of which were in rural areas and sat empty due to lack of personnel and materials.

One of these units was our “Hospitalito,” in Ciudad Sandino. At that time, the public budget for medicines and materials was minimal: when the doctors who were working at our clinic during the day took the night shift at the Hospitalito, they had to turn sick people away because they didn’t even have gloves to examine patients or basic medicines. Even when patients managed to be seen by a doctor, they were given prescriptions for medicines they couldn’t afford. Imports of drugs were in the hands of foreign companies and production of generic drugs was restricted. Patients unfortunate enough to need surgery had to bring their own alcohol, gauze, sutures and sheets – oh, and also family members who could donate the blood they would need. Laboratory tests, specialized treatments, and surgeries were so expensive that poor families effectively could not access the service. During these years, patients literally died on the street outside hospitals for lack of basic medical care.

Since the return of the Sandinista government in 2007, the difference in medical care is stark. Today, the Hospitalito is a fully equipped hospital with emergency care and admitted patient beds. There is outpatient care – general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, psychology, natural medicine, a rehabilitation center, and a maternal wait home.

Maternity Care

Ciudad Sandino is just one city – public health care has been revolutionized all over the country, the entire structure and indeed culture of the health system has changed. Today, it is a more holistic system focused on families becoming active participants in their own health, and relying heavily on a small army of community workers doing everything from mosquito elimination door-to-door vaccination to health promotion and education.

Since 2007, the largest public health infrastructure in Central America has been built, now with a total of 1,565 health units. In 14 years, Nicaragua has built 21 new hospitals and remodeled 46 more. It has built or remodeled 1,259 medical posts, 192 health centers and 178 maternity homes. In an effort to see patients who don’t normally go to health centers, MINSA also has 66 fully-equipped mobile health clinics. These are made from semi trucks that have been confiscated in drug busts, and converted into clinics; in 2020 these mobile clinics provided nearly 1.9 million consults. In the midst of the pandemic, MINSA rolled out the My Hospital in My Community program which sees patients at neighborhood health fairs with orthopedists, cardiologists, gynecologists and urologists and includes screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancers. Patients are then referred to a specialist at a hospital for follow up.

Healthy Baby

Access to specialized care has drastically changed – services such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that were once only offered in the capital are now offered at regional hospitals. Prior to 2007, many surgeries were only performed by international brigades; last year 120 child heart surgeries and 4 kidney transplants were performed, all by local doctors. This year, Nicaraguan doctors became the first team in Central America to perform in-utero surgery, on a fetus with spina bifida.

The list of improved health services is comprehensive by any standards: 260,000 cataract surgeries, care of 358,000 older adults and people with disabilities, three prosthetics and orthotics workshops, 91 centers for people with special needs, 265 free daycare centers, and 188 natural medicine clinics, 72 pain clinics, 34 mental health clinics integrated into existing public health centers.

Nicaragua has made a long term financial investment in public health: in 2020, 40 cents of every dollar the government spent was for health care and education. Nicaragua now spends 476% more on health than previous governments, investing 5.2% of its GDP in the sector annually.

In 14 years, total number of health care workers employed in the public sector is up by 66%, doctors up by 123%, free medical consultations are up by 329%, All this, combined with the school lunch program which guarantees a hot meal of beans and rice to 1 ½ million primary school children daily, has resulted in a 46% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children under five and a 66% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children six to 12 years old.

School Lunch

Investment leads to results: a 385% increase in pap tests plus equipping clinics with colposcopy and cryotherapy machines has led to a 25% decrease in cervical cancer mortality, previously one of the biggest killers of Nicaraguan women of child-bearing age.

Both infant and maternal mortality have markedly dropped in the 14 years since the Sandinistas returned to power.

A 212% increase in maternal wait homes has led to an 87% decrease in home births, followed by a 70% decrease in maternal mortality over the more than 1.5 million births attended since 2007, and a 61% reduction in infant mortality.

Moving forward, Nicaragua plans to continue expansion – finishing five more new hospitals before the end of the year, building 12 more new by 2026 and continuing hospital remodeling as well.

It is in this context of more than a decade of these revolutionary changes to the health care system that Nicaragua faced the coronavirus. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Nicaragua was already prepared by having a healthier population with access to the best public healthcare in the region.

Kids with Masks

To date, it has seen fewer cases and fewer deaths than any country in the region; in fact, it compares favorably to the most developed countries in the world. Nicaragua has achieved this by refusing to carbon copy the approach of the developed world like the rest of the region has done – with lockdowns, strictly enforced curfews, and school closures – but rather choosing to fight the pandemic on its own terms, with a strategy devised for Nicaraguan reality. The government recognized that in a country where most people depend on daily earnings to survive, lockdown would result in hunger; that with children depending on their free school lunch for vital nutrition, school closures would result in hunger; and that with the economy already suffering from the failed coup attempt in 2018 (damages are estimated to be equivalent to that of 52 hurricanes like Eta and Iota which hit Nicaragua in 2020), forced economic shut down would cripple the nation. Instead, the government strategy to fight the pandemic played to Nicaragua’s strengths: its well-organized community health system and resilient population.

From late March 2020 when the first coronavirus case in the country was confirmed, through mid-May when the first wave began to peak, lay health promoters carried out 5 million home visits to the country’s 1.3 million homes to share information on the virus, go through symptom checklists and identify possible cases. The public was encouraged early on to learn to live with the virus by going about their business safely, something the international scientific community is now also promoting as the world begins to recognize it is moving from pandemic to endemic COVID-19.

Nicaragua’s adaptation has been agile and widespread: schools, markets, shops, taxis and bus cooperatives came up with creative hand-washing ideas right away. [Author’s note: This was when doctors still thought the virus could be passed through touching surfaces.] The population adapted to wearing masks in crowded areas early on, and we did not see a politicized mask debate. Unlike in countries where the government has made decisions for people what is safe and what is not, Nicaraguans have learned to judge for themselves what is safe, and life has continued.

Cataract Surgery

Nicaragua’s softer approach has resulted in fewer COVID cases than any country in the region, and its economy is in better shape. Nicaragua was forecast to have a 14% loss of its GDP in 2020, but managed only a 2% loss and was the only country in Central America to increase its exports in 2020. Even when adjusting for “excess” deaths – those above the expected death rate – Nicaragua has not only fared better in the pandemic than any other country in the region, but also larger countries like the U.S. and U.K.

Unlike the developing world, the Nicaraguan response has never relied on testing – due to cost and lack of reagents, testing has been necessarily limited; but we also know that testing is also slow and unreliable. Although COVID tests are available – mostly for those who require it for traveling outside the country, at a cost of $150 per test – the current public health protocol calls for only testing at-risk patients: pregnant women, the elderly and healthcare workers. Rather than waiting for a test-confirmed diagnosis, any patient presenting even one symptom is treated as a suspected case. Recently, a member of our community got COVID, so we saw up close what happens when a patient is sick. When she first got a fever and aches, she called the free hotline to ask what to do. The doctors told her to go to the Hospitalito. She was examined and, like all patients with suspected COVID, was given two specific medications, plus others as needed in accordance with her own medical history. She was told to isolate at home for 14 days and come back if she presented more symptoms. Patients are also asked who they have been in contact with, and those contacts are then visited by health care workers, given a round of prophylactic medicines and told to come to see a doctor if they present more symptoms.

Community Health Promoter

In the area of prevention, Nicaragua is vaccinating against COVID-19, but the rollout has been slower than hoped for due to a lack of vaccines. This is especially frustrating because Nicaragua knows how to vaccinate: this country created the internationally used model for how to vaccinate in war zones when it eradicated polio and other childhood diseases with its vaccination campaign during the Contra war in the 1980s. Since 2007, Nicaragua has maintained a nearly universal vaccination rate, and public health workers participate in annual vaccination campaigns door to door throughout the country. Even in the first months of the pandemic, 2 million people were vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia with vaccines made at a lab in Nicaragua.

But, as we have seen around the world, the COVID vaccine rollout is not equal and has been politicized with what is being called “vaccine diplomacy.” The United States – where to date 15 million unused vaccines have been thrown out, enough to vaccinate every Nicaraguan twice – has donated vaccines to every other Central American county except Nicaragua.

Since March, Nicaragua has been vaccinating for free, starting with oldest population – those over 30 are currently eligible. So far, more than half a million people have been vaccinated, with the goal of doubling that by October 9th. Although there was initially some vaccine hesitancy in the older population, as COVID cases have risen in recent weeks, demand for the vaccine has also risen. Fortunately, the health care system’s organization is up to the task of dealing with long lines: I recently went to one of the five hospitals in Managua offering the vaccine. Although I was daunted by the snaking line outside the hospital, once I joined, it moved quickly. Despite the wait, there was a jubilant mood among us all and within two hours we were jabbed and done. We estimated 10,000 people got their vaccine at that hospital that day.

Laboratory

In Nicaragua we are currently experiencing a second wave – which is remarkable since other countries are already on their fourth wave. With this second wave, we are also fighting what Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo calls “health terrorism,” meaning disinformation about the pandemic situation, which has been widespread during both waves. Around the world, the pandemic has been politicized, and that is especially true in Nicaragua. The USAID “regime change” plan for Nicaragua, Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua, or RAIN, which was leaked in July 2020, specifically mentions exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic into a “humanitarian emergency” through what it calls Nicaragua’s “weak healthcare system.” Even before there were reported cases in Nicaragua, we saw this playing out through manipulation of international media, scare tactics via WhatsApp messages and Facebook, and even the creation of a parallel “authority,” the Citizens Observatory for COVID-19 in Nicaragua, an organization of anonymous “interdisciplinary volunteers” with a slick website. Throughout the pandemic they have reported exaggerated “parallel” numbers; and despite the fact that they admit one of their sources is “rumors,” international media have quoted Observatory counts as if they were official numbers.

I personally have been told that hospitals have “collapsed,” there are bodies stacked in corridors, and patients being turned away, only to speak with someone who had been in that hospital or go myself and find out that simply wasn’t true. Unfortunately, this health terrorism has deadly consequences. The constant disinformation scares people, and understandably so – especially older people who remember the neoliberal years when patients did die for lack of care outside of hospitals. So instead of seeking medical care, patients are self-medicating at home, and too often go to the hospital too late and wind up much sicker or even die. To combat it, this week health care workers have again been deployed to go door-to-door checking on people, giving information, and convincing those who are sick to seek medical care.

Nueva Vida 2000

What does the future hold? Nicaragua will keep caring for its people, plugging away to reduce inequities in health and to eradicate poverty. As President Ortega said recently:

The most terrible virus that exists on the planet is the one that causes poverty, because it is in the genes of those who dominate the world economy under capitalism. It is based on the principle of survival of the fittest, no matter how many dead it leaves in its wake.… That is savage capitalism, the most terrible disease on the planet.

Sources: 1

  1. Gobierno de Reconciliación y Unidad Nacional: Plan Nacional de la Lucha Contra La Pobreza Para el Desarrollo Humano 2022-2026 ; Interview with Ivan Acosta, Nicaraguan Minister for Housing and Public Credit; Ministry of Citizen Power for Health Nicaragua: Advances in Health From 2007 to 2020.
The post What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Forbes Reveals Why the US Government Is Trying to Extradite Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab

Alex Saab is “the key that unlocks the Venezuelan monetary mystery—that is, how a country facing sanctions from the US, the UK and the European Union—is still able to export things like gold and oil…and really the only man who can actually explain how the country [Venezuela] survives today,” according to Forbes.

The US would far prefer to just quietly extradite Saab to Miami, use whatever means necessary to extract sensitive information from him, and then warehouse him in the world’s largest prison system. Forbes uses the euphemism “under pressure” by US prison authorities as the means to force Saab to “shed light on Venezuela’s post-sanction economic network.” Saab already reports that his surrogate captors in Cabo Verde, described below, have unsuccessfully employed torture to try to break his will and induce him to betray Venezuela.

That an elite business magazine such as Forbes is featuring a diplomat from a country aspiring to become socialist is a testament to the growing international movement to free the imprisoned Alex Saab and an indication of the weakness of the US case against him.

The arrest of a diplomat

Saab is fighting what Canadian lawyer John Philpot, an expert on international law, calls “a flagrant attempt of extra-territorial judicial overreach by the US.”

In June 12, 2020, Saab was on a mission as a special envoy of the Venezuelan government to procure food, fuel, and medicines from Iran, when his plane from Caracas to Tehran was diverted to Cabo Verde for a fueling stop. Saab’s arrest and subsequent detention at the bidding of the US is arbitrary, illegal, and irregular. Further, Saab has been denied treatment for his cancer condition.

Saab, the deputy Venezuelan ambassador to the African Union, is fighting extradition to the US for the “crime” of trying to procure humanitarian supplies in violation of illegal US sanctions. To date, Saab’s legal appeals to Cabo Verdean authorities for freedom have been either denied, rejected, or ignored.

Under the Vienna Convention, a credentialed diplomat such as Saab has absolute immunity from arrest, even in the time of war. Saab appealed to the US 11th Circuit Court on the basis of his diplomatic status. In response, Washington filed an application for an extension to reply in a legal delaying tactic to allow Saab’s pending extradition without recognizing his diplomatic immunity. It is as if the US empire is claiming the authority to qualify who other countries may choose and receive as their ambassadors.

Consider, however, that the US government still does not recognize the democratically elected Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela. In contradiction of the United Nations and almost every other country in the world, Joe Biden continues to claim that the Trump-anointed, US security asset Juan Guaidó is Venezuela’s “interim” head of state.

The US case against Alex Saab

The US alleges Saab culpable of fraud and money laundering to bilk the Venezuelan people who are, in fact, under siege by the US. Specifically, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accuses Saab of “loot[ing] hundreds of millions of dollars from starving Venezuelans.” One would think that Saab would be given a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, given that the US policy of promoting regime change in Venezuela is doing precisely the same thing as Saab is being accused.

The US and its sycophantic allies have imposed unilateral coercive measures on Venezuela that amount to a blockade through the use of secondary sanctions. The UN has repeatedly called such collective punishment illegal and has demanded their repeal. Some three dozen countries and one third of humanity are suffering under US sanctions.

Largely due to the sanctions, the Venezuelan economy has drastically contracted, especially after the targeting of its oil sector, which is its major source of foreign earnings. Attempts by the Venezuelan government to access its own gold reserves held abroad or to use its drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund to pay for COVID relief have been blocked at the behest of the US government. The Venezuelan oil company subsidiary in the US, CITGO, has been appropriated by Washington. Venezuela’s bank accounts abroad have been frozen and looted by the US and its allies. Western Union has suspended money transfers to Venezuela. And third-country ships carrying supplies to Venezuela have been seized by the US in blatant acts of piracy on international waters. The result has been widespread misery and even death in Venezuela.

The real reasons for the US extradition effort on Alex Saab

David Dawkins, the Forbes staff author of the article on Saab, uses the byline “I cover the work and wealth of Europe’s richest.” Because Forbes services the niche of corporate media that is read by elites and those who attend them, their reports are – as in this case – more factual than some of the more popularly oriented media outlets.

For example, Forbes discloses that Saab is believed to have “the means and know-how to help discreetly keep an entire economy moving under the eyes of a watching world.” The “world” that is “watching” is a reference to the US surveillance state. Because Saab has been instrumental in circumventing the illegal US blockade of Venezuela is exactly why the US has persecuted the diplomat and why Washington seeks to bring him to the US.

Indeed, Saab is understood to be, according to Forbes, “a key cog in Venezuela’s national money machine,” who “worked as a key fixer on the country’s housing and food programs, juggling contacts, companies and bank accounts around the world.”

Giving credit where it is due, Forbes notes: “Much to the annoyance of the Trump and Biden administrations, Saab, a creative and capable businessman, found a way to navigate Venezuelan trade in sectors like food, oil and gold between the cracks of US oversight.”

The US case against Saab is political, not legal. Femi Falana, Saab’s lead attorney at the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court in Nigeria, maintains “the case against Alex Saab is indeed rooted in political expediency.” The real reason for the US extradition effort, as Forbes reveals, is that Saab is a “serious information asset for the US in understanding just how the country [Venezuela] does business.”

Underlining the importance of Saab to the US, the Navy cruiser San Jacinto was clandestinely deployed for a period off the coast of Cabo Verde, where Saab was imprisoned. The New York Times described the dispatch of the warship as a “secret mission aimed at helping deal a major blow to President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.”

International effort to free Alex Saab

Forbes correctly reports: “But for many in Venezuela, this [Saab’s activities] is not criminal—Saab is a hero, and his efforts overseas are the actions of a man trying to feed and house the hungry and homeless.” The Venezuelan government recently appointed Saab as an official delegate to the talks in Mexico between them and the opposition United Platform group.

Internationally, Cabo Verde has received diplomatic letters protesting the Saab case from Iran, China, Russia, the United Nations, the African Union, and ECOWAS, based on the principles of immunity and inviolability of consular rights. Over 15,000 internationals have signed a petition to the US and Cape Verdean political leadership to free Alex Saab here.

Forbes says Saab’s extradition is imminent. Saab’s lawyer Femi Falana says, “the legal process is far from over, and His Excellency Alex Saab will not be going to the United States any time soon.” Regardless, Alex Saab says:

For those who dream that my speech or integrity will change if I am extradited, let me spoil that illusion. My integrity does not change with the [political] climate or the type of torture. Venezuela is sovereign.

The post Forbes Reveals Why the US Government Is Trying to Extradite Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab first appeared on Dissident Voice.

U.S. Congressional Support for More War spending and AUKUS Anti-China Pact Exposes Cynicism of Biden’s UN Speech Calling for More Diplomacy

In the same week that Biden delivered a speech at the United Nations where he argued that force had to be “our tool of last resort, not our first,” and that “many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that represented another record-breaking increase in Pentagon spending, was passed in the House of Representatives. The message, following that of the racist Theodore Roosevelt, is that if there is going to be dialog the U.S. is still going to “speak softly and carry a big stick” to keep the natives in line.

The authorization to spend 780 billion dollars on the military, which included an increase of twenty-four billion dollars more than the Biden White House requested, came just a few days after Biden announced to the world that the U.S., United Kingdom and Australian governments (AUKUS) would collaborate to provide nuclear powered submarines for Australia. Without mentioning the real target of that dangerous escalation, the Chinese and the world understood that this was a message intended for them.

So, no one listening to President Biden in that General Assembly gathering took the U.S. administration seriously. And certainly, those of who have been the victims of U.S. violence should not either. We know through painful experience that white supremacist, colonial hubris imprisons U.S. policy makers rendering them unable to change course away from their disastrous commitment to global full spectrum dominance.

U.S. policy makers from both parties are gripped by the pathological belief that they can prevent further erosion of U.S. power and exercise global hegemony through military means. But continued reliance on military power to advance U.S. global hegemony creates a contradictory relationship with the public that makes militarism extremely vulnerable – potentially. Because, in order to allow the plunder of the people’s resources by corporations whose business is war, the consent, or at least acquiesce of the people is required.

There is a complete disconnect between the Congress that continues to be able to muster up bipartisan support for war and the public that has increasingly grown weary of these adventures and their costs in terms of lives, resources, and U.S. prestige.

The obvious commitment to military spending and military pacts like AUKUS and NATO is increasingly being questioned by the public. While Congress is on board to support these agreements and militarization as policies meant to intimidate China and Russia (as well as military interventions into the global South), a majority of the people from both parties are actually in opposition to continued war and militarization. Moreover, the failure to provide protections for the human needs of the people of the U.S., with the debate over a social infrastructure bill stalled in Congress, is only deepening the legitimation crisis.

The sharpening contradictions between a public still reeling from consequences of covid and a Congress that, in its need to support the positions of its rich benefactors, will allow critical support for the working class like the eviction moratorium and emergency unemployment benefits to end, is creating a potentially explosive situation politically.

War is, and has always been, a class issue. The poverty-conscripted U.S. army and the increasingly insecure and suffering civilian working classes are finding it almost impossible to embrace policies that have resulted in a staggering $8 trillion dollar rip-off of the people’s resources, thousands of U.S. lives lost and over a million lives of the targets of U.S. aggression during the twenty year-long phony war on terror.

What does this mean for Black and poor people? The racist spectacle on the Texas border with cowboys whipping Black people primarily from Haiti and the systematic violation of Haitians’ right to seek asylum with the swift deportation of thousands was a metaphor for the real value of Black lives in the U.S. and globally.

It also means more war on African and colonized peoples in the U.S.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) highlighted the connections between the Pentagon’s massive budget, surplus weaponry, and widespread police violence in the U.S., as she argued for an amendment to the NDAA that would have ended the Department of Defense 1033 program, the program that transfers military-grade weapons from the Pentagon to federal, state, and local Law Enforcement Agencies across the country:

“With police departments nationwide set to receive a massive influx of military equipment under the 1033 program following the Afghanistan war,” Pressley told The Intercept, “Congress must take decisive action before further lives are lost and more trauma is inflicted on our communities.”

Her appeal was ignored.

Contained in the 2022 NDAA that the House of Representatives approved on September 24th are resources to continue the 1033 program. The NDAA also contained resources to fund the vast global military command structures like AFRICOM on the African continent and the over eight hundred military bases across the planet.

War, militarism, and subversion is central to the U.S. imperial project. It is not just against Black people. The U.S. is actively engaged in subversion of democracy in Nicaragua, continues the assault on Venezuela and the illegal embargo on Cuba, while imposing economic sanctions on over thirty nations.

The diplomats in that great hall at the UN knew that Biden was lying about  U.S. diplomacy. And, like them, those of us at the receiving end of U.S. criminality have always understood that Biden had to lie because state violence is at the core of the settler and imperial projects like the U.S, and even more so when the colonial project becomes an empire. That is the reality we in the U.S. and the world face no matter who sits in the white peoples’ house and no matter what pretty words are read out at the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

The post U.S. Congressional Support for More War spending and AUKUS Anti-China Pact Exposes Cynicism of Biden’s UN Speech Calling for More Diplomacy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War

NOTE: In April of this year, my family had a medical emergency that required most of my time and attention. The result is that I am now the sole legal and physical guardian of two young children with significant needs. I hope to return to writing a regular newsletter now that they are in school. There is a lot going on and a lot to do. Solidarity, Margaret Flowers

This month, the Sanctions Kill coalition (Popular Resistance is a member) released its report: “The Impact and Consequences of US Sanctions.” The 35-page report was written in response to the Biden administration’s January call for a review of the US sanctions to determine if they ‘unduly hinder’ the ability of targeted nations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, there is no word on whether that review has been conducted, but given that the State Department and Treasury are tasked with conducting it, the same institutions that impose sanctions, the Sanctions Kill coalition had no confidence their report would challenge the US’ current foreign policy path of escalating economic war on 39 countries, or a third of the world population.

The Sanctions Kill report found that sanctions, which are being increasingly imposed by the United States in lieu of or in addition to military aggression, cause tremendous suffering and death, violate international laws, harm US industries, place the US in a position of civil and criminal liability and are isolating the US from the community of nations. The corporate media are silent on these harmful effects and criticism of sanctions.

Venezuelan UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada described the impact of sanctions this week at The People’s Forum (view the event here):

Sanctions are killing us…. They are homicidal. One of the awful effects of sanctions as a weapon, because it’s a kind of war, is that you don’t feel it here. You don’t even realize that sanctions are acting abroad…. You don’t feel it in any way. But we feel them…. That’s why they are so insidious and dangerous. [The US] is waging economic war against millions of people.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include restrictions on financial transactions, trade and travel, blockades on foreign loans and aid and the seizure of assets. The Sanctions Kill report found these measures violate the human rights of people in affected countries because they block access to basic necessities such as food, medicines and fuel and they prevent maintenance of important infrastructure such as water services, power generation and transmission and transportation. The so-called humanitarian exceptions that are supposed to prevent sanctions from blocking food and medicine don’t work – banks won’t allow the sales and shipping companies won’t transport the goods.

Technically what the United States is doing are not sanctions but are unilateral coercive measures (UCMs), which violate international law because they operate outside the structure provided by the United Nations. Legal sanctions are used as a punishment after a legal process determines a country violated a law. Unilateral coercive measures are imposed by the US and its western imperialist allies based on lies and without due process in order to effect a desired political outcome, such as regime change or retaliation.

For example, following the failed US-backed coup attempt in 2018 against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, the United States Congress passed the NICA Act, which began an economic war against socialist Nicaragua. With presidential elections being held this November, the United States has ramped up both a propaganda campaign against the popular Ortega, who is expected to win, and Congress is in the process of passing the RENACER Act, which will impose more UCMs against Nicaragua.

Here is what US activists are saying about the RENACER Act and what you can do to stop it. If you want to learn more, BreakThrough News recently interviewed Jill Clark-Gollub of Friends of Latin America about the RENACER Act.

The Sanctions Kill report also found that the US is imposing secondary sanctions on countries that do business with sanctioned countries, another violation of international law, and is using sanctions to target business people, such as Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, and diplomats, such as Alex Saab. Saab is being held in Cabo Verde where he stopped last year on his way to Iran to negotiate the purchase of food and medicines for Venezuela. The US is working to extradite him while international support for Saab, whose imprisonment violates the Vienna Convention, is growing. Clearing the FOG spoke earlier this year with Roger Harris of Task Force on the Americas after he traveled with a delegation to Cabo Verde to visit Alex Saab. Click here to take action.

In front of the United Nations after the People’s Mobe rally and march.  (September 2019. By Yuka Azuma)

Clearing the FOG spoke with two of the authors of the report, international lawyer John Philpot and Latin American solidarity activist David Paul. Philpot predicts a day of reckoning is coming for the United States because the UCMs violate multiple international laws, including the United Nations charter. They are a form of collective punishment, which is a crime against humanity.

As the United States’ status as a global hegemon declines, targeted countries are finding ways to work together to resist the brutal economic wars being waged by the US and build power. For years now, countries have worked on alternative financial instruments to bypass US sanctions in order to do business. One example is INSTEX, a trading mechanism developed by European nations and Iran.

One of the first major acts of defiance against US UCMs was in the spring of 2020 when Iran sent four tankers of oil and equipment to Venezuela despite a large US military presence in the surrounding waters. Recently, Iran defied US UCMs again when it sent a convoy of oil trucks through Syria to Lebanon, which is suffering greatly from an economic crisis and fuel shortage.

Cuba has been under a US economic blockade for more than 60 years but it continues to be a model of international solidarity, especially during the pandemic. Henry Reeves Medical Brigades have been sent to numerous countries to assist them in caring for COVID-19 patients. Now Cuba is in need of aid and Mexico is stepping up to provide it using its naval ships since commercial ships face many barriers due to the UCMs. People and organizations outside Cuba also worked to supply millions of syringes so Cubans can receive vaccinations against COVID-19.

Mexico was the host of the recent CELAC (the community of Caribbean and Latin American states) meetings where leaders openly criticized the Organization of American States as a tool of US imperialism and called for its reform or the creation of a new body. CELAC countries are working on ways to practice greater solidarity in the face of the pandemic, climate crisis and debt.

Similarly, the first African/CARICOM summit was held virtually earlier this month. A third of the countries being targeted by the US’ economic war are in Africa. In fact, almost all of the countries being sanctioned by the US are majority black or brown. Don Rojas covered the summit for Black Agenda Report, writing:

“The Summit was also a recognition of the political and economic imperative that the governments of Africa and the Caribbean must succeed in restructuring if our black and brown people and nations are ever going to assume their rightful place in the world.”

And this week, during the United Nations general assembly meetings, the foreign ministers of 18 countries met as the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and released a statement pledging to work together. They wrote, “…we convey our support to nations and peoples subjected to unilateral and arbitrary approaches that violate both the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms of international law, and renew our call for the full respect to the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as well as the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations.”

By Medea Benjamin

Those of us who live in the United States and its allied imperialist nations that enable these serious violations of human rights and international law have a responsibility to act to stop the use of economic warfare through unilateral coercive economic measures. Global power is shifting and we face multiple worldwide crises. It is imperative that imperialist nations change their foreign policy from death and destruction to diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.

An important step is education so people understand that UCMs are as lethal as bombs and that they affect the whole world, including people living in countries that wage economic war. The SanctionsKill.org website contains numerous resources to help with this including a toolkit that provides you with a power point and script so anyone can give a presentation on sanctions. The toolkit informs about what UCMs are and the specific harms they do.

You can also send the new Sanctions Kill report to your members of Congress and demand they end them now or publicize the report in any way you can – use social media, local or independent media outlets, your organization’s website, etc. We must break through the media blockade and demand the truth be told about the illegality of UCMs and their devastating impact on people in targeted countries. Write letters to the editor when you see articles about sanctions.

Take action to stop the RENACER Act and join the call to free Alex Saab. There are many solidarity organizations that are working to support people in countries attacked through economic measures. One example is the Saving Lives Campaign, a joint effort by people in the US and Canada to provide aid to Cuba.

Ending sanctions will save millions of lives and move us forward on the path toward a world of cooperation, peace and solidarity. Nations like the United States use sanctions because their deadly impacts are not as visible as dropping bombs. We must expose this brutal economic warfare and demand an end to it.

The post New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline?

It is almost taken for granted, if not an article of faith, in the progressive milieu (e.g., here) that the US empire is declining. Does this hold up, or is it comfort food for the frustrated hoping for the revolution?

First, it is essential not to confuse the ongoing decline of the living conditions of US working people with a decline in the power of the US corporate empire. The decline of one often means the strengthening of the other.

In the aftermath of World War II, the US was the world manufacturing center, with the middle class rapidly expanding, and this era did end in the 1970s. It is also true the heyday of uncontested US world and corporate neoliberal supremacy is over, its zenith being the decade of the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies. Now, looming on the horizon is China, with the US empire and its subordinate imperial allies (Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Italy) unable to thwart its rise this century, even more than when China stood up in 1949.

Yet the US imperial system still maintains decisive economic and political dominance, cultural and ideological hegemony, backed by tremendous military muscle. If US ruling class power were in decline, why have there been no socialist revolutions ­­­− the overturning of capitalist rule ­­­− in almost half a century? What would the world look like if the US lacked the muscle to be world cop?

Imperialism continually faces crises; this is inherent to their system. The question is: which class takes advantage of these crises to advance their interests, the corporate capitalist class or the working class and its allies at home and abroad. In the recent decades, capitalist crises have resulted in setbacks for our class, and a steady worsening of our conditions of life.

Previous proponents of US empire decline have predicted its demise with an expanding Communist bloc, then Germany and Japan with their supposedly more efficient capitalist production methods, then the European Union encompassing most of Western Europe into a supra-national entity, then the Asian Tigers, and then BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). All challenges turned out to be wishful thinking. Now the proponents of decline expect China itself will soon supplant US dominion.  We explore a number of the economic, political, and military difficulties the US empire confronts in its role as world cop.

Imperial Decline or Adjustments in Methods of Rule?

A common misconception among believers of US ruling class demise holds that imperial failure to succeed in some particular aim signifies imperial weakening. Examples of setbacks include Afghanistan, the failure to block North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, catastrophic mishandling of the COVID pandemic, and seeming inability to reign in the mammoth US national debt. However, throughout history, successful maintenance of imperial hegemony has never precluded absence of terrible setbacks and defeats. Most importantly, the fundamental question arising from a setback is which class learns to advance its interests more effectively, the imperial overlords or the oppressed.

The US rulers, as with other imperial nations, have proven adept at engineering more effective methods of control from crises, as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine illustrates. For instance, in the mid-20th century the imperial powers were forced to relinquish direct political governance of their colonial empires, often due to costly wars. Until after World War II, the Western nations owned outright most of Africa and much of Asia. Yet this new Third World political independence did not herald the end of imperial rule over their former colonies. The imperialists simply readjusted their domination through a neocolonial setup and continued to loot these countries, such as siphoning off over $1 trillion  every year since 2005 just through tax havens.

Likewise, for seven decades the imperial ruling classes endured repeated defeats attempting to overturn the seemingly invincible Russian revolution. But they only needed to succeed one time, using a new strategy, to emerge victorious.

A third example, the growing US national deficit due to the cost of the war on Vietnam forced Nixon to no longer peg the value of the dollar to gold at $35 an ounce. After World War II, the US had imposed the dollar as the international reserve currency, fixed at this exchange rate.  Today gold is $1806 an ounce, yet the dollar continues as the world reserve currency. The US rulers resolved their crisis by readjusting the manner their dollar reigned in international markets.

A fourth example is the world historic defeat dealt the empire at the hands of the Vietnamese. Yet Vietnam today poses no challenge to US supremacy, in sharp contrast to 50 years ago.

The US ruling class is well versed in the lessons gained from centuries of Western imperial supremacy. They have repeatedly demonstrated that the no longer effective methods of world control can be updated.  Bankruptcy in methods of rule may not signify a decline, but only the need for a reset, allowing the domination to continue.

Part 1:  US Economic and Financial Strength

Decline in US Share of World Production

A central element of the waning US empire argument comes from the unparalleled economic rise of China. As a productive powerhouse, the US has been losing ground. As of 2019, before the COVID year reduced it further, the US share of world manufacturing amounted to 16.8%, while China was number one, at 28.7%.

Similarly, the US Gross Domestic Product itself (GDP) slipped from 40% of the world economy in 1960 to 24% in 2019. GDP is the total market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country.

When GDP is measured by the world reserve currency, the dollar, the US ranks first, at $21 trillion, with China number two at $14.7 trillion. Using the Purchasing Power Parity measure of GDP,  which measures economic output in terms of a nation’s own prices, China’s GDP surpasses the US at $24.16 trillion. By either measure, a steady US erosion over time is evident, particularly in relation to China, and a major concern for the US bosses.

Worsening US balance of trade reflects this decline. In 1971 the US had a negative balance of trade (the value of imports greater than the value of exports) for the first time in 78 years. Since then, the value of exports has exceeded that of imports only two times, in 1973 and 1975. From 2003 on, the US has been running an annual trade deficit of $500 billion or more. To date the US rulers “pay” for this by creating dollars out of thin air.

Ballooning US National Debt

The ballooning US national debt is considered another indicator of US imperial demise. The US debt clock puts the national debt at $28.5 trillion, up from $5.7 trillion in 2000. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) numbers, the US debt is 118% of the GDP, near a historic high point, up from 79.2% at the end of 2019.

The international reserves of the imperialist nations do not even cover 2% of their foreign debt. In contrast, China tops the list with the largest international reserves, which covers 153% of its foreign debt.

However, today US debt as a percent of GDP is lower than in World War II, at the height of US economic supremacy. Germany’s debt to GDP ratio is 72%. Japan’s is 264%, making its debt over two and a half times the size of the country’s GDP. China’s is 66%.

Yet a key concern with the ballooning national debt − inflation caused by creating money backed with no corresponding increase in production − hasn’t been a problem in any of these countries, not even Japan. The immediate issue with debt is not its size in trillions of dollars, but the degree annual economic growth exceeds the annual interest payment on the debt.

In the US, this payout costs almost $400 billion a year, 1.9% of GDP. Federal Reserve Board president Powell stated: “Given the low level of interest rates, there’s no issue about the United States being able to service its debt at this time or in the foreseeable future.” Former IMF chief economist and president of the American Economic Association, Olivier Blanchard likewise declared: “Put bluntly, public debt may have no fiscal cost” given that “the current US situation in which safe interest rates are expected to remain below growth rates for a long time, is more the historical norm than the exception.” According to these ruling class economists, the huge size of the US national debt presents no economic difficulty for their bosses.

Technological Patents

Patents are an indicator of a country’s technological progress because they reflect the creation and dissemination of knowledge in productive activities. Today China is on the technological cutting edge in wind power, solar power, online payments, digital currencies, artificial intelligence (such as facial recognition), quantum computing, satellites and space exploration, 5G and 6G, drones, and ultra-high voltage power transmission. In 2019, China ended the US reign as the leading filer of international patents, a position previously held by the US every year since the UN World Intellectual Property Organization’s Patent Cooperation Treaty System began in 1978.

The failure of the US rulers to thwart China’s scientific and technological advances threatens the preeminence the US holds on technological innovation. Rents from the US corner on intellectual property is a major contributor to the US economy. The drastic measures the US has taken against Huawei exemplify the anxiety of the empire’s rulers.

US technological superiority is now being challenged. Yet, as John Ross points out, “Even using PPP measures, the US possesses overall technological superiority compared to China…. the level of productivity of the US economy is more than three times that of China.”1

The US Still Controls the Global Financial Network

While the world share of US manufacturing and exports has shrunk, the US overlords still reign over the world financial order. A pillar of their world primacy lies in the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency,” an innocuous term referring to US sway over the global financial and trade structure, including international banking networks, such as the World Bank and the IMF.

Following the 1971 end of the dollar’s $35 an ounce peg to gold, Nixon engineered deals with the Middle East oil exporting regimes, guaranteeing them military support on condition they sell their oil exclusively in dollars. This gave a compelling new reason for foreign governments and banks to hold dollars. The US could now flood international markets with dollars regardless of the amount of gold it held. Today, most of the world’s currencies remain pegged directly or indirectly to the dollar.

To facilitate growing international trade, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) was created in 1973. SWIFT is a payment and transaction network used by international banks to monitor and process purchases and payments by individuals, companies, banks, and governments. Dominated by the US, it grants the country even greater mastery over world trade and financial markets. Here, China poses no challenge to US supremacy.

After the euro became established, the percent of world reserves held in US dollars diminished from the 71% share it held in 2001. Since 2003, the dollar has kept the principal share, fluctuating in the 60-65% range. Today, the percent of world nations’ currency reserves held in US dollars amounts to $7 trillion, 59.5% of international currency reserves.

In 2021 the dollar’s share of total foreign currency reserves is actually greater than in the 1980s and 1990s.

Because only a few reserve currencies are accepted in international trade, countries are not free to trade their goods in their own money. Rather, over 90% of nations’ imports and exports requires use of the dollar, the euro, or the currencies of other imperial states. The Chinese RMB, in contrast, constitutes merely 2.4% of international reserves, ranking China on the level of Canada. The US continues as the superpower in world currency reserves, while China is a marginal player.

The US Dollar as the World Reserve Currency

The US maintains preeminence because banks, governments and working peoples around the world regards US dollar as the safest, most reliable, and accepted currency to hold their savings.

A capitalist economic crisis, even when caused by the US itself, as in 2008, actually increases demand for the dollar, since the dollar is still viewed as the safe haven. People expect the dollar to be the currency most likely to retain its value in periods of uncertainty. Ironically, an economic crisis precipitated by the US results in money flooding into dollar assets, keeping world demand for dollars high. The 2008-09 crisis enabled the ruling class to advance their domination over working people, fleecing us of hundreds of billions of dollars.

SWIFT data show that China’s RMB plays a minor role in world trade transactions.  While China has become the world exporter, its currency was used in merely 1.9% of  international payments, versus 38% for the US dollar, with 77% of transactions in the dollar or euro. This means almost all China’s own imports and exports are not traded in Chinese currency, but in that of the US and its subordinates.

Being the leading force in SWIFT gives the US a powerful weapon. The US rulers can target countries it seeks to overthrow (such as Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Iran) with sanctions declared illegal by the United Nations. SWIFT enables the US rulers to prevent those countries’ access to their overseas bank accounts, blocks their access to international trade as well as loans from the World Bank, the IMF and most international banks. The US uses its authority in the World Trade Organization to prevent countries like Venezuela from demanding the WTO punish the US for disrupting Venezuela’s legitimate trade by means of these sanctions.

Arguments that China and Russia are abandoning the dollar point out that, while in 2015 approximately 90% of trade between the two countries was conducted in dollars, by spring 2020 the figure had dropped to 46%, with 24% of the trade in their own currencies. This shows some increasing independence, yet almost twice as much China-Russia trade still takes place in the dollar rather than in their own money. Further, their moves from the dollar have been in reaction to US imposed sanctions and tariffs, forcing them off the dollar, not from their own choice to cast aside the dollar as the international currency.

If China and Russia had the means to create a new world economic order they could withdraw their over $1.1 trillion and $123 billion invested in US Treasury bonds and use the funds to start their own international financial structure.

That China pegs the RMB to the dollar, rather than the dollar pegged to the RMB, also indicates the economic power relations between China and the US. China has expressed unease about the US potential to cut China off from the SWIFT network. Zhou Li, a spokesperson for China’s Communist Party, urged his party’s leaders to prepare for decoupling from the dollar, because the US dollar “has us by the throat… By taking advantage of the dollar’s global monopoly position in the financial sector, the US will pose an increasingly severe threat to China’s further development.”

While China has displaced the US as the primary productive workhouse of the world, it remains far from displacing the US as the world financial center. The size of China’s economy has not translated into a matching economic power.

Part 2: Military and Ideological Forms of Domination

The US regards as its Manifest Destiny to rule the world. The US bosses equate their national security interests with global security interests; no place or issue is insignificant. The US sees its role as defending the world capitalist order even if narrow US interests are not immediately and practically involved.

The Question of a US Military Decline

The second central element of the waning US empire argument is based on the US armed forces failures in the Middle East wars. However, they overlook that the US rulers suffered more stinging defeats in Korea 70 years ago and Vietnam 50 years ago, when the US was considered at the height of its supremacy. While over 7000 US soldiers and 8000 “contractors,” a code word for mercenaries, have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is much smaller than the 41,300 troops killed in Korea, or the 58,000 in Vietnam. Although in wars against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, the US ruling class could not achieve its aims, these peoples’ anti-imperial struggles were derailed, a US key objective. To the extent the peoples of these countries “won,” they inherited a country in ruins.

Likewise, the rising British empire suffered defeats at the hands of the US in 1783 and 1814, but this had little impact on 19th century British global ascendancy.

Save Iraq in 1991, the US has not won a war since World War II. Yet even in its heyday, the US military did not take on and defeat another major power without considerable outside aid. Spain was mostly defeated in Cuba and the Philippines before the US attacked. The US entered World War I after the other fighting forces were reaching exhaustion. In World War II, the Soviet Red Army broke the back of the German Wehrmacht, not the US. Only against Japan did the US military play a key role in crushing an imperial rival, though even here, the bulk of Japanese troops were tied down fighting the Chinese.

While today, the US military is reluctant about engaging in a full-scale land war, this has been mostly the case for the whole 20th century before any alleged imperial deterioration. Previously, the US rulers proved adept at not entering a war until it could emerge on top once the wars ended.

The “Vietnam syndrome,” code word for the US people’s opposition to fighting wars to defend the corporate world order, continues to haunt and impede the US rulers when they consider new military aggressions. This “syndrome,” which Bush Sr boasted had been overcome, has only deepened as result of the Afghanistan and Iraq debacles. Yet the corporate class took advantage of these wars to loot trillions from public funds, with working people to pay the bill.

The US is spending over a trillion dollars to “upgrade” a nuclear capacity which could wipe out life on the planet.  Even if US military capacity were diminishing in some areas, this is immaterial so long as the US still can, with a push of the button, annihilate all it considers opponents, even if this means a likely mutually assured destruction. The US also possesses similarly dangerous arsenals of biological and chemical weapons. It is not rational to think the US rulers spend mind-boggling sums of money on this weaponry but will not use them again when considered necessary to preserve their supremacy.

The US empire’s military dominion remains firmly in place around the world. Peoples’ struggles to close US military bases have met with little success. US ruling class de facto military occupations overseas continue through its over 800 bases in over 160 countries. These constitute 95% of the world’s total foreign military bases.

To date, if there has been any lessening of US military destructive capacity, no new armed forces or uprisings have dared to take advantage of this. If some national force considered it possible to break out of the US world jailhouse, we would be seeing that.

Hybrid Warfare: US Regime-Change Tools Besides Military Intervention

Military victory is not necessary for the US rulers to keep “insubordinate” countries in line. It suffices for the US to leave in ruins their attempts to build political and economic systems that prioritize national sovereignty over US dictates.

When incapable of overturning a potential “threat of a good example” through military invasion, the US may engineer palace coups. Since 2000, it has succeeded in engineering coups in Honduras, Bolivia, Georgia, and Haiti, to name a few.

Alternatives to fomenting a military coup include the US conducting lawfare to overturn governments, as seen in Paraguay and Brazil. The US ruling class also skillfully co-opts “color revolutions,” as seen in the Arab Spring and in the implosion of the Soviet bloc. Worldwide, the US regularly violates the sovereignty of nations through its regime-change agencies such as the CIA, USAID, and NED.

Besides invasions, coups, lawfare, election interference, and color revolutions, the US relies on its command over the global financial system and the subservience of other imperialist nations. This enables the US overlords to impose crippling sanctions and blockades on countries that assert their national sovereignty. The blockades on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria constitute a boot on their neck, which have only become more severe the more these peoples valiantly defend their independence.

Condemnation of these blockades by working people and nations worldwide has yet to have material effect in constraining this imperial cruelty against whole peoples. Rather than a decline of the US empire’s ability to thwart another country’s right to determine their own future, there have been changes in method, from overtly militaristic to more covert hybrid warfare. Both are brutal and effective means of regime change.

US-First World Ideological Hegemony

The corporate leaders of the West wield world dominion over the international media, including news services, social media, and advertising. Their Coke and Disney characters, for instance, have penetrated even the remotest corners of the world. Today most of the world’s viewers of the news are fed a version of the news through media stage-managed by the US and its subordinate allies. In addition, there are almost 4 billion social media users in the world, with six social media companies having more than one billion users. China owns just one of these. Only the US and its subordinates have world reach in their control of news and social media, while China does not.

Ramon Labanino, one of the Cuban 5, illustrated how the US rulers use their media to foment the July 12 regime change operation in Cuba:

We are in the presence of an international media dictatorship, the big media are in the hands of imperialism and now the social networks and the alternative media also use them in a masterful way. They have the capacity, through data engineering, bots, to replicate a tweet millions of times, which is what they have done against Cuba. A ruthless attack on social networks and in the media to show a Cuba that is not real. On the other hand, we have an invasion in our networks to disarticulate our computer systems so that even we cannot respond to the lies. The interesting thing is the double purpose, not only that they attack us, but then we cannot defend ourselves because the media belong to them… Within the CIA, for example, they have a special operations group that is in charge of cyber attacks of this type and there is a group called the Political Action Group that organizes, structures and directs this type of attack.

Worldwide use of media disinformation and news spin plays a central role in preserving US primacy and acceptance of its propaganda. As Covert Action Magazine reported:

United States warmakers have become so skilled at propaganda that not only can they wage a war of aggression without arousing protest; they can also compel liberals to denounce peace activists using language reminiscent of the McCarthy era. Take the case of Syria. The people and groups one would normally count on to oppose wars have been the ones largely defending it. They have also often been the ones to label war opponents as “Assad apologists” or “genocide deniers”—causing them to be blacklisted.

The ruling class media’s effective massaging of what is called “news” has penetrated and disoriented many anti-war forces. This illustrates the appalling collapse of a world anti-war opposition that almost 20 years ago had been called “the new superpower,” not some decline of the US as world cop. Corporate media operations play a role comparable to military might in perpetuating US global control.

Part 3: The Threat US Rulers Perceive in China

Secretary of State Blinken spelled it out:

China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system, all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to Washington’s view that the international system operates primarily to advance US corporate interests:

The ‘rules-based order’ claimed by the US…refers to rules set by the US alone, then it cannot be called international rules, but rather ‘hegemonic rules,’ which will only be rejected by the whole world.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently said:

The United States has declared limiting the advance of technology in Russia and China as its goal…They are promoting their ideology-driven agenda aimed at preserving their dominance by holding back progress in other countries.

The Challenge China Presents to US Rulers Differs from that of the Soviet Union

China’s development poses a threat to imperialist hegemony different from the former Soviet bloc. China competes in the world markets run by the Western nations, slowly supplanting their control. China’s economic performance, 70 years after its revolution, has been unprecedented in world history, even compared to the First World countries. In contrast, the Soviet economy after 70 years was faltering.

China does not provide the economic and military protection for nations striving to build a new society the way the Soviet Union had. The importance of the Communist bloc as a force constraining the US was immense and is underappreciated. The Communist bloc generally allied itself with anti-imperialist forces, encouraging Third World national liberation struggles as well as the Non-Aligned Movement. The Communist bloc’s exemplary social programs also prompted the rise of social-democratic welfare state regimes (e.g., Sweden) in the capitalist West to circumvent possible socialist revolution.

Now, with no Soviet Union and its allies to extend international solidarity assistance to oppressed peoples and nations, countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea are much more on their own to defend themselves against US military maneuvers and blockades.

As John Ross points out, China is capable of slowly supplanting US-First World power over a long period of time, but in no position to replace these imperial states as world hegemon, nor does it desire to do so. US products are being driven out by China’s cheaper high-quality products and China’s more equitable “win-win” business arrangements with other countries, offering the opportunity for Third World countries to develop. However, China cannot displace the US in the world financial system, where the US and its allies retain overwhelming control.

The US has proven incapable of impeding China from becoming an independent world force. No matter the tariffs and sanctions placed on China, they have had little impact. Yet, the US has caused China to digress from its socialist planned economy, through US corporations and consumerist values penetrating the Chinese system.

Part 4:  The World if the US were in Decline

Revolutions on the International Stage

A weakened US imperialism would encourage peoples and nations to “seize the time” and score significant gains against this overlord’s hold on their countries. Yet since shortly after 1975, with the victories in Vietnam and Laos, a drought in socialist revolutions has persisted for almost half a century. If the US empire were in decline, we would find it handicapped in countering victorious socialist revolutions. However, the opposite has been the case, with the US rulers consolidating their hegemony over the world.

This contrasts with the 40-year period between 1917 and 1959, when socialist revolutions occurred in Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, eleven countries across eastern Europe, and Cuba. These took place in the era of US rise, not decline. During this period, the US empire had to confront even greater challenges to its dictates than presented by today’s China and Russia in the form of the world Communist bloc, associated parties in capitalist countries, and the national liberation movements.

During the period of alleged US imperial demise, it has been socialist revolution that experienced catastrophic defeats. In the last 30 years, the struggle for socialist revolution has gone sharply in reverse, with the US and its subordinates not only blocking successful revolutions but overturning socialism in most of the former Communist sphere. The last three decades has witnessed greater consolidation of imperial supremacy over the world, not a deterioration.

The socialist revolutions that continue − North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba − have all had to backtrack and reintroduce private enterprise and capitalist relations of production.  North Korea has allowed the growth of private markets; Cuba relies heavily on the Western tourist market. They have this forced upon them to survive more effectively in the present world neoliberal climate.

A victorious socialist revolution, even a much more limited anti-neoliberal revolution2 , requires a nation to stand up to the imperial vengeance that enforces neo-colonial subjugation. Small countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela, have established political and some economic independence, but they have been unable to significantly advance against crushing blockades and US-backed coups in order to create developed economies. Historically, the only countries that have effectively broken with dependency and developed independently based on their own resources have been the Soviet Union and China.

Raul Castro made clear this world primacy of the US neoliberal empire:

In many cases, governments [including the subsidiary imperial ones] do not even have the capacity to enforce their sovereign prerogatives over the actions of national entities based in their own territories, as these are often docilely subordinated to Washington, as if we were living in a world subjugated by the unipolar power of the United States. This is a phenomenon that is expressed with particular impact in the financial sector, with national banks of several countries giving a US administration’s stipulations priority over the political decisions of their own governments.

A test of the US overlords’ decline can be measured in the struggle against US economic warfare in the form of sanctions. To date, the US can arm twist most countries besides China and Russia into abiding by its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and Iran. The US rulers still possess the power and self-assurance to ignore United Nations resolutions against economic warfare, including the UN General Assembly’s annual condemnation of the US blockade on Cuba. The peoples and nations of the world cannot make the US rulers pay a price for this warfare.

Domestic Struggles by the Working Class and its Allies that Shake the System

If the US empire were weakened, our working class could be winning strikes and union organizing drives against a capitalist class on the defensive. But the working class remains either quiescent, its struggles derailed, or most strikes settled by limiting the degree of boss takebacks. The 1997 UPS and 2016 Verizon strike were two that heralded important gains for workers. So far, however, the weakening class at home is not the corporate bosses, but the working class and its allies.

The workers movement has not even succeeded in gaining a national $15 minimum wage. The US rulers can spend over $900 billion a year on its war machine even during a pandemic that has killed almost 700,000, amid deteriorating standard of living  − no national health care, no quality free education, no raising of the minimum wage − without angry mass protests. This money could be spent on actual national security at home: housing for the homeless, eliminating poverty, countering global warming, jobs programs, and effectively handling the pandemic as China has (with only two deaths since May 2020). Instead, just in the Pentagon budget, nearly a trillion dollars a year of our money is a welfare handout to corporations to maintain their rule over the world. This overwhelming imperial reign over our workers’ movement signifies a degeneration in our working class organizations, not in the corporate overlords.

A weakened empire would provide opportunities for working class victories, re-allocating national wealth in their favor. Instead, we live in a new Gilded Age, with growing impoverishment of our class as the corporate heads keep grabbing greater shares of our national wealth. Americans for Tax Fairness points out:

America’s 719 billionaires held over four times more wealth ($4.56 trillion) than all the roughly 165 million Americans in society’s bottom half ($1.01 trillion), according to Federal Reserve Board data. In 1990, the situation was reversed — billionaires were worth $240 billion and the bottom 50% had $380 billion in collective wealth.

US billionaire wealth increased 19-fold over the last 31 years, with the combined wealth of 713 billionaires surging by $1.8 trillion during the pandemic, one-third of their wealth gains since 1990.

This scandalous appropriation of working people’s wealth by less than one thousand bosses at the top without causing mass indignation and working class fightback, encapsules the present power relations between the two contending classes.

With a weakened empire, we would expect a rise of a militant mass current in the trade unions and the working class committed to the struggle to reverse this trend. Instead, trade unions support corporate governance and their political candidates for office, not even making noise about a labor party.

With a weakened empire, we would expect the US working people to be turning away from the two corporate parties and building our own labor party as an alternative. In 2016 the US electorate backed two “outsiders,” Bernie Sanders and Trump, in the primaries against the traditional Democratic and Republican candidates, but this movement was co-opted with little difficulty. That the two corporate-owned parties still wield the power to co-opt, if not extinguish, our working class movements, as with the mass anti-Iraq war movement, the Occupy movement, the Madison trade union protests, the pro-Bernie groundswells in 2016 and 2020, shows the empire’s continued vitality, not deterioration.

In 2020 most all liberals and lefts capitulated to the Democrats’ anti-Trumpism, under the guise of “fighting fascism.” The “resistance” became the “assistance.” The promising Black Lives Matter movement of summer 2020 became largely absorbed into the Biden campaign a few months later. If the corporate empire were declining, progressive forces and leftist groups would not have bowed to neoliberal politicians and the national security state by climbing on the elect-Biden bandwagon. The 2020 election brought out the highest percent of voters in over a century to vote for one or the other of two neoliberal politicians. This stunning victory for the US ruling class resulted from a stunning surrender by progressive forces. To speak of declining corporate US supremacy in this context is nonsense.

Likely Indicators of a Demise of US Supremacy

For all our political lives we have been reading reports of the impending decline of US global supremacy. If just a fraction of these reports were accurate, then surely the presidential executive orders that Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, and Cuba are “unusual and extraordinary threats to the national security of the United States” would have some basis in reality.

If US corporate dominion were declining, we might see:

  • The long called for democratization of the United Nations and other international bodies with one nation, one vote
  • Social democratic welfare governments would again be supplanting neoliberal regimes
  • Replacement of World Bank, WTO, and IMF with international financial institutions independent of US control
  • Curtailing NATO and other imperialist military alliances
  • End of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency
  • Dismantling of US overseas military bases
  • Emergence of regional blocs independent of the US, replacing the current vassal organizations (e.g., European Union, OAS, Arab League, Organization of African Unity)
  • Nuclear disarmament rather than nuclear escalation
  • Working peoples of the world enforcing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • A decline of the allure of US controlled world media culture (e.g., Disney, Hollywood)

Part 5: Conclusion:  US Decline looks like a Mirage

Proponents of US decline point to two key indicators: its diminished role in global production and ineffectiveness of the US ruler’s military as world cop. Yet, the US rulers, with the aid of those in the European Union and Japan, maintain world financial control and continue to keep both our country and the world under lock and key.

The US overlords represent the spokesperson and enforcer of the First World imperial system of looting, while compelling subservience from the other imperial nations. None dare pose as potential imperial rivals to the US, nor challenge it in any substantial manner.

It is misleading to compare China’s rise to the US alone, since the US represents a bloc of imperial states. To supplant US economic preeminence, China would have to supplant the economic power of this entire bloc. These countries still generate most world production with little prospect this will change. A China-Russia alliance scarcely equals this US controlled First World club.

To date, each capitalist crisis has only reinforced the US rulers’ dominion as the world financial hub. Just the first half of this year, world investors have poured $900 billion into the safe haven US assets, more than they put into funds in the rest of the world combined. So long as the US capitalists can export their economic downturns to other countries and onto the backs of its own working people, so long as the world turns to the US dollar as the safe haven, decline of US ruling class preeminence is not on the table.

The last period of imperial weakening occurred from the time of US defeat in Vietnam up to the reimposition of imperial diktat under Reagan and his sidekick, Margaret Thatcher. During this time, working peoples’ victories were achieved across the international stage: Afghanistan, Iran, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Grenada; Cuban military solidarity in Angola, Vietnam’s equivalent in Cambodia; revolution in Portugal and in its African colonies, in Zimbabwe, and seeming imminent victories in El Salvador and Guatemala. At home, a rising class struggle current arose in the working class, as in the Sadlowski Steelworkers Fight Back movement and the militant 110-day coal miners strike, which forced President Carter to back down. This worldwide upsurge against corporate rule ended about 40 years ago, as yet unmatched by new ones.

Proclamations of a waning US empire portray a wishful thinking bordering on empty bravado. Moreover, a crumbling empire will not lead to its final exit without a massive working peoples’ movement at home to overthrow it. Glen Ford observed that capitalism has lost its legitimacy, especially among the young: “But that doesn’t by itself bring down a system. It is simply a sign that people are not happy. Mass unhappiness may bring down an administration. But it doesn’t necessarily change a system one bit.”

Capitalism is wracked by crisis – inherent to the system, Marx explained. Yet, as the catastrophe of World War I and its aftermath showed, as the Great Depression showed, as Europe in chaos after World War II showed, capitalist crises are no harbinger of its collapse. The question is not how severe the crisis, but which class, capitalist or working class, takes advantage of it to advance their own interests.

A ruling class crisis allows us to seize the opportunity if our forces are willing to fight, are organized, and are well-led. As Lenin emphasized, “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.” In regards to organization, we are unprepared. Contributing to our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our profound disbelief that a serious challenge at home to US ruling class control is even possible.

Whatever the indications of US deterioration as world superpower, recall that the Roman empire’s decay began around 177 AD. But it did not collapse in the West until 300 years later, in 476, and the eastern half did not collapse for 1000 years after that. Informing a Roman slave or plebe in 200 AD that the boot on their necks was faltering would fall on deaf ears. We are now in a similar situation. The empire will never collapse by itself, even with the engulfing climate catastrophe. Wishful thinking presents a dysfunctional substitute for actual organizing, for preparing people to seize the time when the opening arises.

  1. John Ross, “China and South-South Cooperation in the present global situation,” in China’s Great Road, p. 203.
  2. There is a continuous class struggle between popular forces demanding increased government resources and programs to serve their needs, against corporate power seeking to privatize in corporate hands all such government spending and authority. This unchecked corporate centralization of wealth and power is euphemistically called “neoliberalism.”  An anti-neoliberal revolution places popular forces in political control while economic power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.
The post Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan

The United States has always been a bad loser. Whether it has viewed itself as an imperial power, a military superpower or, in today’s preferred terminology, the “world’s policeman”, the assumption is that everyone else must submit to its will.

All of which is the context for judging the outcry in western capitals over the US army’s hurried exit last month from Kabul, its final hold-out in Afghanistan.

There are lots of voices on both sides of the Atlantic lamenting that messy evacuation. And it is hard not to hear in them – even after a catastrophic and entirely futile two-decade military occupation of Afghanistan – a longing for some kind of re-engagement.

Politicians are describing the pull-out as a “defeat” and bewailing it as evidence that the US is a declining power. Others are warning that Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for Islamic extremism, leading to a rise in global terrorism.

Liberals, meanwhile, are anxious about a renewed assault on women’s rights under the Taliban, or they are demanding that more Afghans be helped to flee.

The subtext is that western powers need to meddle a little – or maybe a lot – more and longer in Afghanistan. The situation, it is implied, can still be fixed, or at the very least the Taliban can be punished as a warning to others not to follow in its footsteps.

All of this ignores the fact that the so-called “war for Afghanistan” was lost long ago. “Defeat” did not occur at Kabul airport. The evacuation was a very belated recognition that the US military had no reason, not even the purported one, to be in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden evaded capture.

In fact, as experts on the region have pointed out, the US defeated itself. Once al-Qaeda had fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s chastened fighters had slunk back to their villages with no appetite to take on the US Robocop, each local warlord or tribal leader seized the moment. They settled scores with enemies by informing on them, identifying to the US their rivals as  “terrorists” or Taliban.

US commanders blew ever bigger holes through the new Pax Americana as their indiscriminate drone strikes killed friend and foe alike. Soon most Afghans outside the corrupt Kabul elite had good reason to hate the US and want it gone. It was the Pentagon that brought the Taliban back from the dead.

Deceitful spin

But it was not just the Afghan elite that was corrupt. The country became a bottomless pit, with Kabul at its centre, into which US and British taxpayers poured endless money that enriched the war industries, from defence officials and arms manufacturers to mercenaries and private contractors.

Those 20 years produced a vigorous, powerful Afghanistan lobby in the heart of Washington that had every incentive to perpetuate the bogus narrative of a “winnable war”.

The lobby understood that their enrichment was best sold under the pretence – once again – of humanitarianism: that the caring West was obligated to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

That deceitful spin, currently being given full throat by politicians, is not just there to rationalise the past. It will shape the future, too, in yet more disastrous ways for Afghanistan.

With American boots no longer officially on the ground, pressure is already building for war by other means.

It should not be a difficult sell. After all, that was the faulty lesson learned by the Washington foreign policy elite after US troops found themselves greeted in Iraq, not by rice and rose petals, but by roadside bombs.

In subsequent Middle East wars, in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US has preferred to fight more covertly, from a greater distance or through proxies. The advantage is no American body bags and no democratic oversight. Everything happens in the shadows.

There is already a clamour in the Pentagon, in think tanks, among arms manufacturers and defence contractors, and in the US media, too, to do exactly the same now in Afghanistan.

Nothing could be more foolhardy.

Brink of collapse

Indeed, the US has already begun waging war on the Taliban and – because the group is now Afghanistan’s effective government – on an entire country under Taliban rule. The war is being conducted through global financial institutions, and may soon be given a formal makeover as a “sanctions regime”.

The US did exactly the same to Vietnam for 20 years following its defeat there in 1975. And more recently Washington has used that same blueprint on states that refuse to live under its thumb, from Iran to Venezuela.

Washington has frozen at least $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s assets in what amounts to an act of international piracy. Donors from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the European Union, Britain and the US are withholding development funds and assistance. Most Afghan banks are shuttered. Money is in very short supply.

Afghanistan is already in the grip of drought, and existing food shortages are likely to intensify during the winter into famine. Last week a UN report warned that, without urgent financial help, 97 percent of Afghans could soon be plunged into poverty.

All of this compounds Afghanistan’s troubles under the US occupation, when the number of Afghans in poverty doubled and child malnutrition became rampant. According to Ashok Swain, Unesco’s chair on international water cooperation, “more than one-third of Afghans have no food, half no drinking water, two-thirds no electricity”.

That is an indictment of US misrule over the past two decades when, it might have been assumed, at least some of the $2tn spent on Afghanistan had gone towards Washington’s much-vaunted “nation-building” project rather than guns and gunships.

Now Afghans’ dire plight can be used as a launchpad for the US to cripple the Taliban as it struggles to rebuild a hollowed-out country.

The real aspiration of sanctions will be to engineer Afghanistan’s economic collapse – as an exemplar to others of US power and reach, and vindictiveness, and in the hope that the Afghan people can be starved to the point at which they rise up against their leaders.

Deepen existing splits

All of this can easily be framed in humanitarian terms, as it has been elsewhere. Late last month, the US drove through the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for free travel through Kabul airport, guarantees on human rights, and assurances that the country will not become a shelter for terrorism.

Any of those demands can be turned into a pretext to extend sanctions to the Afghan government itself. Governments, including Britain’s, are already reported to be struggling to find ways to approve charities directing aid to Afghanistan.

But it is the sanctions themselves that will cause humanitarian suffering. Unpaid teachers mean no school for children, especially girls. No funds for rural clinics will result in more women dying in childbirth and higher infant mortality rates. Closed banks end in those with guns – men – terrorising everyone else over limited resources.

Isolating the Taliban with sanctions will have two entirely predictable outcomes.

First, it will push the country into the arms of China, which will be well-positioned to assist Afghanistan in return for access to its mineral wealth. Beijing has already announced plans to do business with the Taliban that include reopening the Mes Aynak copper mine.

As US President Joe Biden’s administration is already well-advanced in crafting China as the new global menace, trying to curtail its influence on neighbours, any alliance between the Taliban and China could easily provide further grounds for the US intensifying sanctions.

Secondly, sanctions are also certain to deepen existing splits within the Taliban, between the hardliners in the north and east opposed to engagement with the West, and those in the south keen to win over the international community in a bid to legitimise Taliban rule.

At the moment, the Taliban doves are probably in the ascendant, ready to help the US root out internal enemies such as the ISKP, Islamic State group’s offshoot in Afghanistan. But that could quickly change if Washington reverts to type.

A combination of sanctions, clumsy covert operations and Washington overplaying its hand could quickly drive the hardliners into power, or into an alliance with the local IS faction.

That scenario may have already been given a boost by a US drone strike on Kabul in late August, in retaliation for an ISKP attack on the airport that killed 13 US soldiers. New witness testimonies suggest the strike killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, not Islamic militants.

Familiar game plan

If that weren’t bad enough, Washington hawks are calling for the Taliban to be officially designated a “foreign terrorist organisation“, and the new Afghan government a state sponsor of terrorism, which would make it all but impossible for the Biden administration to engage with it. Others such as Lindsey Graham, an influential US politician, are trying to pile on the pressure by calling for troops to return.

How readily this mindset could become the Washington consensus is highlighted by US media reports of plans by the CIA to operate covertly within Afghanistan. As if nothing has been learned, the agency appears to be hoping to cultivate opponents of the Taliban, including once again the warlords whose lawlessness brought the Taliban to power more than two decades ago.

This is a game plan the US and Britain know well from their training and arming of the mujahideen to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan in the 1980s and overthrow a few years later Afghanistan’s secular communist government.

Biden will have an added incentive to keep meddling in Afghanistan to prevent any attacks originating from there that could be exploited by his political opponents and blamed on his pulling out troops.

According to the New York Times, the CIA believes it must be ready to “counter threats” likely to emerge from a “chaos” the Taliban will supposedly unleash.

But Afghanistan will be far less chaotic if the Taliban are strong, not if – as is being proposed – the US undermines Taliban cohesion by operating spies in its midst, subverts the Taliban’s authority by launching drone strikes from neighbouring countries, and recruits warlords or sponsors rival Islamic groups to keep the Taliban under pressure.

William J Burns, the CIA’s director, has said the agency is ready to run operations “over the horizon“, – at arm’s length. The New York Times has reported that US officials predict “Afghan opponents of the Taliban will most likely emerge who will want to help and provide information to the United States”.

This strategy will lead to a failed state, one immiserated by US sanctions and divided between warlords feuding over the few resources left. That is precisely the soil in which the worst kind of Islamic extremism will flourish.

Destabilising Afghanistan is what got the US into this mess in the first place. Washington seems only too ready to begin that process all over again.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Next After US Defeat?

There may no longer be US military boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but there are still plenty of Afghan boots that Washington can mobilize to destabilize the country and, more importantly, the region.

Already there are tribal leaders in the Panjshir province declaring the beginning of anti-Taliban resistance. One of them, Ahmad Massoud, the young leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post last week in which he appealed to the US for weapons and support to “once again take on the Taliban”.

Another allied leader is former Vice President of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, who is also based in Panjshir province – the only area not under the control of the Taliban* – and who has vowed that he will never share the same roof as the dominant militant group.

This week marks a historic and shameful defeat for the United States in Afghanistan after 20 years of futile, destructive military occupation. Two decades since launching a war in the country to oust the Taliban rulers, the latter is back now in power. And what’s more, they are militarily stronger than ever after inheriting entire arsenals of American weaponry abandoned by the fleeing US troops.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, trying to put a positive spin on the debacle, said the military mission was over and “a new chapter” of diplomacy was opening. We can safely bet that “diplomacy” here is a euphemism for Washington’s political sabotage and machinations to ensure Afghanistan feels the full wrath of Uncle Sam’s vindictiveness for years, if not decades, to come.

Early signs indicate the form. Since the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, Washington has frozen some $7 billion in foreign assets belonging to the state of Afghanistan. The Americans have also ordered the International Monetary Fund to cut off nearly $400 million in immediate funds that were due to Kabul. This suggests that the US is shaping up for a new chapter of economic warfare against the Taliban in much the same way that it has inflicted on Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 against the US-backed Shah, and also more recently against Syria following the defeat of America’s proxy war for regime change.Many other nations that defy the US militarily end up incurring economic terrorism from Washington. Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela, among others.

However, in addition to economic warfare, the United States could also exercise the option of fueling a proxy military conflict – a civil war – in Afghanistan by sponsoring the anti-Taliban factions. These factions can be traced to the Northern Alliance and the Haqqani Network which the US-backed in the proxy war against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. No doubt, the CIA and Pentagon still maintain contact lines with these warlords. The fact that one of them was given a high-profile platform in the Washington Post last week to appeal for weapons to fight against the Taliban is a clear sign of such deep state influence.

It is significant that Russia, China and other regional countries are wary of security repercussions stemming from an unruly Afghanistan. Russia has rebuked the US over its freezing of Afghanistan’s assets, saying that the country needs international support, not isolation, in order to aid war reconstruction and stability. Likewise, China has engaged with the new Taliban authorities with promises of massive economic investment to develop infrastructure and industries in return for guarantees of regional security.

This alludes to a wider strategy by Washington. Fomenting proxy conflict in Afghanistan through military and economic means is not just a matter of narrow vindictiveness against the Taliban conquerors who gave Uncle Sam a bloody nose for all the world to see. Such machinations provide the US with opportunities to cause regional security problems for Russia and China. One can reasonably surmise that the Americans have been exploiting Afghanistan as a spoiler against Russia and China for at least 40 years, not just the last two decades.

Afghanistan could potentially become a linchpin in China’s global economic development plans. The country sits at the crossroads of China’s new silk routes crisscrossing between Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Given that the Biden, Trump and Obama administrations have all prioritized “containing” China and Russia as “great power rivals”, it seems that postwar Afghanistan presents a different opportunity for American imperial ambitions.

From Washington’s cynical point of view, such a new phase of proxy war in Afghanistan and, more widely in the region, would be a lot less costly compared with the full military occupation over the past 20 years involving $2 trillion expenditure. Plus there are no disturbing scenes of body bags arriving back on American soil.

Thus, celebrating the defeat of the US in Afghanistan comes with caution. The next chapter could be an even more murky and sinister story.

* The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.

* First published in Sputnik

The post What Next After US Defeat? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty

Millions of Afghans have been displaced by the war.  Photo: MikrofonNews

Americans have been shocked by videos of thousands of Afghans risking their lives to flee the Taliban’s return to power in their country – and then by an Islamic State suicide bombing and ensuing massacre by U.S. forces that together killed at least 170 people, including 13 U.S. troops.

Even as UN agencies warn of an impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the U.S. Treasury has frozen nearly all of the Afghan Central Bank’s $9.4 billion in foreign currency reserves, depriving the new government of funds that it will desperately need in the coming months to feed its people and provide basic services.

Under pressure from the Biden administration, the International Monetary Fund decided not to release $450 million in funds that were scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan to help the country cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. and other Western countries have also halted humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. After chairing a G7 summit on Afghanistan on August 24, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that withholding aid and recognition gave them “very considerable leverage – economic, diplomatic and political” over the Taliban.

Western politicians couch this leverage in terms of human rights, but they are clearly trying to ensure that their Afghan allies retain some power in the new government, and that Western influence and interests in Afghanistan do not end with the Taliban’s return. This leverage is being exercised in dollars, pounds and euros, but it will be paid for in Afghan lives.

To read or listen to Western analysts, one would think that the United States and its allies’ 20-year war was a benign and beneficial effort to modernize the country, liberate Afghan women and provide healthcare, education and good jobs, and that this has all now been swept away by capitulation to the Taliban.

The reality is quite different, and not so hard to understand. The United States spent $2.26 trillion on its war in Afghanistan. Spending that kind of money in any country should have lifted most people out of poverty. But the vast bulk of those funds, about $1.5 trillion, went to absurd, stratospheric military spending to maintain the U.S. military occupation, drop over 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghans, pay private contractors, and transport troops, weapons and military equipment back and forth around the world for 20 years.

Since the United States fought this war with borrowed money, it has also cost half a trillion dollars in interest payments alone, which will continue far into the future. Medical and disability costs for U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan already amount to over $175 billion, and they will likewise keep mounting as the soldiers age. Medical and disability costs for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could eventually top a trillion dollars.

So what about “rebuilding Afghanistan”? Congress appropriated $144 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2001, but $88 billion of that was spent to recruit, arm, train and pay the Afghan “security forces” that have now disintegrated, with soldiers returning to their villages or joining the Taliban. Another $15.5 billion spent between 2008 and 2017 was documented as “waste, fraud and abuse” by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The crumbs left over, less than 2% of total U.S. spending on Afghanistan, amount to about $40 billion, which should have provided some benefit to the Afghan people in economic development, healthcare, education, infrastructure and humanitarian aid.

But, as in Iraq, the government the U.S installed in Afghanistan was notoriously corrupt, and its corruption only became more entrenched and systemic over time. Transparency International (TI) has consistently ranked U.S.-occupied Afghanistan as among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Western readers may think that this corruption is a long-standing problem in Afghanistan, as opposed to a particular feature of the U.S. occupation, but this is not the case. TI notes that ”it is widely recognized that the scale of corruption in the post-2001 period has increased over previous levels.” A 2009 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that “corruption has soared to levels not seen in previous administrations.”

Those administrations would include the Taliban government that U.S. invasion forces removed from power in 2001, and the Soviet-allied socialist governments that were overthrown by the U.S.-deployed precursors of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the 1980s, destroying the substantial progress they had made in education, healthcare and women’s rights.

A 2010 report by former Reagan Pentagon official Anthony H. Cordesman, entitled “How America Corrupted Afghanistan”, chastised the U.S. government for throwing gobs of money into that country with virtually no accountability.

The New York Times reported in 2013 that every month for a decade, the CIA had been dropping off suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags stuffed with U.S. dollars for the Afghan president to bribe warlords and politicians.

Corruption also undermined the very areas that Western politicians now hold up as the successes of the occupation, like education and healthcare. The education system has been riddled with schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. Afghan pharmacies are stocked with fake, expired or low quality medicines, many smuggled in from neighboring Pakistan. At the personal level, corruption was fueled by civil servants like teachers earning only one-tenth the salaries of better-connected Afghans working for foreign NGOs and contractors.

Rooting out corruption and improving Afghan lives has always been secondary to the primary U.S. goal of fighting the Taliban and maintaining or extending its puppet government’s control. As TI reported, “The U.S. has intentionally paid different armed groups and Afghan civil servants to ensure cooperation and/or information, and cooperated with governors regardless of how corrupt they were… Corruption has undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fuelling grievances against the Afghan government and channelling material support to the insurgency.”

The endless violence of the U.S. occupation and the corruption of the U.S.-backed government boosted popular support for the Taliban, especially in rural areas where three quarters of Afghans live. The intractable poverty of occupied Afghanistan also contributed to the Taliban victory, as people naturally questioned how their occupation by wealthy countries like the United States and its Western allies could leave them in such abject poverty.

Well before the current crisis, the number of Afghans reporting that they were struggling to live on their current income increased from 60% in 2008 to 90% by 2018. A 2018 Gallup poll found the lowest levels of self-reported “well-being” that Gallup has ever recorded anywhere in the world. Afghans not only reported record levels of misery but also unprecedented hopelessness about their future.

Despite some gains in education for girls, only a third of Afghan girls attended primary school in 2019 and only 37% of adolescent Afghan girls were literate. One reason that so few children go to school in Afghanistan is that more than two million children between the ages of 6 and 14 have to work to support their poverty-stricken families.

Yet instead of atoning for our role in keeping most Afghans mired in poverty, Western leaders are now cutting off desperately needed economic and humanitarian aid that was funding three quarters of Afghanistan’s public sector and made up 40% of its total GDP.

In effect, the United States and its allies are responding to losing the war by threatening the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan with a second, economic war. If the new Afghan government does not give in to their “leverage” and meet their demands, our leaders will starve their people and then blame the Taliban for the ensuing famine and humanitarian crisis, just as they demonize and blame other victims of U.S. economic warfare, from Cuba to Iran.

After pouring trillions of dollars into endless war in Afghanistan, America’s main duty now is to help the 40 million Afghans who have not fled their country, as they try to recover from the terrible wounds and trauma of the war America inflicted on them, as well as a massive drought that devastated 40% of their crops this year and a crippling third wave of covid-19.

The U.S. should release the $9.4 billion in Afghan funds held in U.S. banks. It should shift the $6 billion allocated for the now defunct Afghan armed forces to humanitarian aid, instead of diverting it to other forms of wasteful military spending. It should encourage European allies and the IMF not to withhold funds. Instead, they should fully fund the UN 2021 appeal for $1.3 billion in emergency aid, which as of late August was less than 40% funded.

Once upon a time, the United States helped its British and Soviet allies to defeat Germany and Japan, and then helped to rebuild them as healthy, peaceful and prosperous countries. For all America’s serious faults – its racism, its crimes against humanity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its neocolonial relations with poorer countries – America held up a promise of prosperity that people in many countries around the world were ready to follow.

If all the United States has to offer other countries today is the war, corruption and poverty it brought to Afghanistan, then the world is wise to be moving on and looking at new models to follow: new experiments in popular and social democracy; renewed emphasis on national sovereignty and international law; alternatives to the use of military force to resolve international problems; and more equitable ways of organizing internationally to tackle global crises like the Covid pandemic and the climate disaster.

The United States can either stumble on in its fruitless attempt to control the world through militarism and coercion, or it can use this opportunity to rethink its place in the world. Americans should be ready to turn the page on our fading role as global hegemon and see how we can make a meaningful, cooperative contribution to a future that we will never again be able to dominate, but which we must help to build.

The post Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab Fights Latest US Extradition Maneuvers

Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab remains defiant after over 14 months under US-ordered arrest in the African archipelago country of Cabo Verde. A special envoy of the Venezuelan government, he is fighting extradition to the US for the “crime” of trying to procure humanitarian supplies of food, fuel, and medicine from Iran in violation of illegal US sanctions. To date, Saab’s legal appeals for freedom have been either denied, rejected, or ignored as his extradition to the US is becoming increasingly imminent.

The legal case

Saab continues to fight this flagrant attempt of extra-territorial judicial overreach by the US. In response to Saab’s recent appeal to the US 11th Circuit Court, the US filed on August 24 an application for an extension to reply on October 7. This legal delaying tactic is likely a US ploy to allow Saab’s pending extradition without recognizing his diplomatic immunity.

Under the Geneva Conventions, a credentialed diplomat such as Saab has absolute immunity from arrest, even in the time of war. The US does not recognize Saab’s diplomatic status as if Washington has the authority to qualify who other countries may choose and receive as their ambassadors.

To begin with, Saab’s arrest on June 12, 2020, was arbitrary, illegal, and irregular. While on his way from Caracas to Tehran, his plane was diverted to Cabo Verde for a technical fueling stop. Saab was forcibly removed from the plane by Cabo Verdean police who did not have an arrest warrant.

The day after the arrest and detention, the US had INTERPOL issue a Red Notice, which was subsequently annulled by INTERPOL. And when the arrest warrant arrived after the fact, it was made out in the name of a person who was not Alex Saab. Such is the truly farcical legal basis for the diplomat’s detention.

Cabo Verde is a member of. and under the jurisdiction of, the Economic Organization of West African State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, which ordered Saab to be released and even paid damages by the Cabo Verde government. Cabo Verde appealed the ruling, lost, and then claimed – even though it had recognized the authority of the court by participating in the proceedings – that it did not have to obey the court’s orders.

Subsequently, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called for Saab’s release.

Saab’s legal team went to the Cabo Verde Supreme Court with a writ of habeas corpus. This was denied on the absurd grounds that Saab was at “liberty” under “house arrest.” In fact, he was not only detained but not allowed to be treated for a cancer condition by his doctors or even meet with family who came to support him when they first came to Cabo Verde. Only after pressure was Saab allowed minimal visitation.

On August 13, Saab’s case came before the Cabo Verde Constitutional Court contesting his detention on twelve constitutional grounds. Saab was not allowed to appear in person at the court. Although the Constitution Court is bound to respond, it has simply run the clock so far.

The political case

This legal theatre around the Saab case serves as an obfuscation for what is fundamentally a political case of the US attempting to impose regime-change on Venezuela through its punishing unilateral coercive measures; measures which amount to an unlawful blockade of the Latin American nation.

The US wields an inordinate amount of influence on one of the smallest nations in the world with a larger Cabo Verdean population in the US than on the home islands. With few natural resources, Cabo Verde is dependent on remittances from abroad and more unfortunately is “a waypoint for illicit drugs and other transnational organized crime,” according to a US government report. With a GDP of only $1.7bil, the current $400mil US embassy building project is a considerable carrot for Cabo Verde.

The political nature of the case is in effect recognized by the US. Saab is accused by the US of being the mastermind behind a network of sources that has allowed Venezuela to bypass the US blockade and procure needed supplies, which is the reason for targeting Saab. In pursuit of enforcing its illegal sanctions, the US would likely want to extract from Saab information on how Venezuela has tried to circumvent the blockade, which the US has imposed to asphyxiate Venezuela into submission.

Saab alleges that he has been tortured while in Cabo Verde. He has reason to expect that he would face more of the same, if he were extradited to the US, to force him to not only disclose his trade contacts and channels but to denounce the government of Venezuela.

Saab in his own words

Saab, however, remains defiant. On August 19, Saab legally charged Cape Verdean authorities with gross misconduct in his case including torture. The following are his own words in a statement released through his lawyers August 25:

“Cape Verde has not decided yet because despite having all legal terms expired and having clear knowledge that innumerable laws have been violated, the fact of now having to totally violate its own constitution in order to extradite me, upsets the conscience of those judges of the Constitutional Court, who have been honest until now, but who are strongly pressured by the US.

In Cape Verde, its president, the prime minister, the corrupt attorney general, and even the humblest people, know and recognize that I am kept kidnapped.

For those who dream that my speech or integrity will change if I am extradited, let me spoil that illusion. My integrity does not change with the [political] climate or the type of torture. Venezuela is sovereign. It is the country that adopted me.

It is the country for which all decent people fight. We do not go around the world lying and asking for sanctions against the people.

Venezuela will win this battle, whether in Cape Verde or in North America, we will win. I hope to see the sanctions lifted soon, and that priority will continue to be given to the people who need at least 30 more years of electoral victories, led by a people united around the PSUV [socialist party] and our President Nicolas Maduro Moros.

So, leave the emotions out wondering if the plane arrived, if it didn’t arrive, if I will ‘sing’ as a tenor in case they extradite me, etc. Let go of that ridiculous illusion, first because there is nothing to ‘sing’ about and second because as I have said many times, I will never betray the Homeland I serve.”

International effort to free Alex Saab

Internationally, Cabo Verde has received diplomatic letters protesting the Saab case from Iran, China, Russia, the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and, of course, Venezuela based on the principles of immunity and inviolability of consular rights. Over 15,000 internationals have signed a petition to the US and Cape Verdean political leadership to free Alex Saab at https://afgj.org/free-alex-saab.

The post Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab Fights Latest US Extradition Maneuvers first appeared on Dissident Voice.