Category Archives: violence

“A Suffocating Groupthink”: Sampling The Corporate Media On Israel, Iran, Syria And Russia

The gaping chasm between reality and unreality is exemplified by recent contrasting statements about journalism from two veteran reporters. On the one side we have Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, who enjoys a public image of principled honesty and a supposedly fierce commitment to news balance and impartiality. But, when he was challenged recently on Twitter about the blatant bias in BBC News reporting, he responded just as one would expect of a well-rewarded, high-profile employee of the national broadcaster:

We are the best source of decent, impartial reportage anywhere in the world.

As Noam Chomsky has observed of elite power and allied corporate journalists:

Heaven must be full to overflowing, if the masters of self-adulation are to be taken at their word.1

In reality, as hundreds of media alerts, and several of our books attest, and also the work of many others, Bowen’s assertion could not be further from the truth.

By contrast, consider a recent interview with renowned journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger on ‘mainstream’ media coverage of Syria, Salisbury, Yemen and Korea. He said:

I’ve never known journalism to be so distorted in order to serve this propaganda […] What we’re seeing is the most intense campaign of propaganda at least since the build-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

Pilger often makes a specific point of including BBC News in his scathing criticism:

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power?

In what follows, we itemise a range of important issues where current ‘mainstream’ reporting is not simply poor or weak; but systematically skewed in the interests of Western state-corporate power.

It is important to grasp that this is not about the so-called ‘failure’ of corporate journalism. Rather, this is a reminder that corporate journalism is performing exactly as it should. As Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky noted when introducing their propaganda model of the media in ‘Manufacturing Consent’, published thirty years ago:

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.2 Our emphasis.

1. Israelis Deliberately Killing Palestinians, Including Children

A recent media alert highlighted the mass killing and wounding of Palestinians in Gaza, including children, by Israeli armed forces in what the media often describe as ‘clashes’. Before the latest major massacre on May 14 (see below), Israeli forces had already killed over 50 Palestinian protesters and injured over 5000, including 1700 by live fire, during Great March of Return protests that began on March 30. UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk condemned Israel’s actions as violations of international law.

On April 21, an Israeli general confirmed in a radio interview that even children have been shot deliberately under clear and specific orders. United Nations peace process envoy Nickolay Mladenov declared the targeting of children ‘outrageous.’

In a sane world, such an appalling Israeli policy would be major headline news. Our searches revealed not a single ‘mainstream’ report about it in the days following the Israeli general’s comments. We asked senior BBC News editors and journalists to point us to the BBC News headlines and follow-up coverage on this revelation. BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was the only one to respond. And that was after we observed that she had previously reported in 2013 that Syrian children had been ‘targeted by snipers’. What about Palestinian children targeted by Israeli forces? She replied:

Thank you for message. Am involved in another story now but will forward to colleagues working in the region now.

Predictably, there was no follow-up on BBC News, as far as we could see. We need only imagine the global outrage if Palestinian snipers were found to be deliberately targeting Israeli children to gauge the current level of media silence.

Even more mass killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers have occurred since. On May 14, on the day that the US controversially opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers killed and wounded huge numbers of Palestinians. By the evening, the UN noted that 55 had been killed, including six children. 2,771 people were reported injured, including 1,359 by live ammunition, with 130 people in a critical condition. By the following day, the death toll had risen to 61, including an eight-month-old baby who died from tear gas inhalation.

All day long, BBC News disgraced itself with headline after headline on the top page of its website masking the truth. Despite weeks of public outrage at previous biased reporting of Gaza protests, BBC News was still using the Israeli-approved word ‘clashes’ to describe the deliberate mass killing of Palestinians.

Compare with the Guardian website which, for once, did not mince its words about Israel’s crimes: ‘Israeli troops kill dozens of Palestinians’. Would that really have been too difficult for someone at BBC News to type out? Clearly so, and no surprise given that the BBC routinely trembles in fear before the pro-Israel lobby. Why else would BBC News choose ‘Dozens die as US opens Jerusalem embassy’ as a headline, masking the fact that Israeli troops had massacred civilians? To be fair to the BBC, the Guardian print edition of May 15 was equally as bad, featuring the headline, ‘Israel: Trump’s new embassy opens – and dozens are killed’.

By the end of the day, the top headline on the BBC News website was: ‘Israel defends Gaza action as 55 killed’. As ever, the Israeli perspective is given prominence, even as it commits abhorrent crimes against civilians. The massacre of unarmed civilians was merely an ‘action’, and the identity of the people murdered by the Israeli army was obscured – perhaps a mix of Israelis and Palestinians had been killed? In fact, there were no Israeli casualties.

On the flagship BBC News at Ten, graphics and headlines proclaimed, ‘Gaza Clashes’, an abomination used by the BBC instead of ‘Gaza Massacre’. The heart-breaking reality behind the lie of ‘clashes’ could be seen in the anguish of a Palestinian father crying in farewell to his little boy:

Oh people, my son

The following day (May 15), the BBC’s truth-mangling headline read:

Gaza braced for further violent protests

A more honest headline would have been:

Gaza civilians braced for a further Israeli massacre

A glimmer of hope for sanity was seen when, following public outrage, The New York Times changed its headline on an article from ‘Palestinians died in protest’ to ‘Israeli soldiers killed dozens of Palestinians’. As Twitter user @FalafelDad observed:

media accountability is NECESSARY and can be achieved.

2. Fact-Checking Trump’s Iran Deal Speech

When Donald Trump announced last week that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, analysis by Now This News website revealed in a short video that, in his speech:

Trump averaged one false claim every 83 seconds.

For example, Trump claimed:

The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and – over time – reach the brink of a nuclear breakout.

As the video pointed out:

False. The deal forced Iran to give up all weapons-grade uranium and barred it from producing more.

Trump continued:

The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity.

And in the real world?

Wrong. The deal gave inspectors unrestricted access to all Iranian nuclear sites and suspicious facilities.

And so on.

In contrast, BBC News at Ten essentially took Trump’s speech at face value. Our challenge to senior BBC editors and correspondents to actually fact-check Trump’s assertions was met with the usual silence.

In an online piece, Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent, did go so far as to say:

The inconvenient truth for Donald Trump is that, as far as it goes, the nuclear deal was working.

Despite this, Mr Trump presented it in stark and frankly erroneous terms – for leaving out things that it was never supposed to cover in the first place.

But two lines couched in rather vague and non-specific terms is scant compensation for flagship BBC News television reporting that is little more than stenography. Senior editors and journalists seem to believe that their job is to tell the public what ‘our’ leaders say, and not to scrutinise claims made. This is galling; all the more so when dangerous rhetoric, making war more likely, goes unchallenged. But then, as John Pilger once wrote, corporate journalists are:

the essential foot soldiers in any network devoted to power and propaganda.

3. Douma And The Salisbury Attack

There is so much that could be said on Douma following our recent two-part media alert. Note, for instance, the corporate media’s response to a press conference at the headquarters of the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW in the Hague on April 26. A number of Syrians, including children, gave their version of events in Douma, casting serious doubt on the official Western narrative of a chemical weapons attack that provided the pretext for missile attacks by the US, the UK and France on April 14. ‘Mainstream’ media dutifully headlined the scathing dismissal by Western powers of the Russia-organised press conference as ‘nothing more than a crude propaganda exercise‘ and an ‘obscene masquerade.’

Meanwhile, the corporate media blanked the assessment of Scott Ritter, the UN weapons inspector vindicated in his detailed appraisal that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed of ‘WMD’ before the 2003 war. Last month, interviewer Dennis Bernstein of Flashpoints Radio asked Ritter:

Isn’t it also the case that there were problems with the allegations concerning Syria using chemical weapons in 2013 and then again in 2015? I believe The New York Times had to retract their 2013 story.

Ritter replied:

They put out a story about thousands of people dying, claiming that it was definitely done by the Syrian government. It turned out later that the number of deaths was far lower and that the weapons systems used were probably in the possession of the rebels. It was a case of the rebels staging a chemical attack in order to get the world to intervene on their behalf.

He continued:

A similar scenario unfolded last year when the Syrian government dropped two or three bombs on a village and suddenly there were reports that there was sarin nerve agent and chlorine gas wafting through the village, killing scores of people. Videotapes were taken of dead and dying and suffering people which prompted Trump to intervene. Inspectors never went to the site. Instead they relied upon evidence collected by the rebels.

Ritter expanded on this vital point:

As a weapons inspector, I can tell you that chain of custody of any samples that are to be used in the investigation is an absolute. You have to be at the site when it is collected, it has to be certified to be in your possession until the laboratory. Any break in the chain of custody makes that evidence useless for a legitimate investigation. So we have evidence collected by the rebels. They videotaped themselves carrying out the inspection, wearing training suits that would not have protected them at all from chemical weapons! Like almost everything having to do with these rebels, this was a staged event, an act of theater.

Ritter then turned to the US/UK/France missile attack on Syria on April 14:

We bombed three targets, a research facility in Damascus and two bunker facilities in western Syria. It was claimed that all three targets were involved with a Syrian chemical weapons program. But the Syria weapons program was verified to be disarmed. So what chemical weapons program are we talking about? Then US officials said that one of these sites stored sarin nerve agent and chemical production equipment. That is a very specific statement. Now, if Syria was verified to be disarmed last year, with all this material eliminated, what are they talking about? What evidence do they have that any of this material exists? They just make it up. [Emphasis in original]’

Serious questions also remain regarding the official story on the Skripal poison attack in Salisbury; not least, why the rebranded D-Notice committee has issued not just one, but two notices in an attempt to shut down aspects of media coverage.

As ever, the views of ‘experts’ and witnesses whose testimony accords with the Western narrative are given heavy coverage in the corporate media; while those whose testimony runs counter to that narrative tend to be either dismissed or simply ignored. As Noam Chomsky once observed:

Under what’s sometimes been called “brainwashing under freedom,” the critics, or at least, the “responsible critics” make a major contribution to the cause by bounding the debate within certain acceptable limits – that’s why they’re tolerated, and in fact even honored.3

4. Today’s McCarthyism

As noted earlier, the ‘intense campaign of propaganda’ described by John Pilger is severely distorting what passes for journalism. A constant target of this distortion is Russia, in a grotesque echo of Cold War propaganda. From Moscow, the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg plays the required role, recently commenting on the inauguration ceremony following Russian president Putin’s re-election:

The symbolism and the message couldn’t be clearer. Putin, the modern tsar. Loved by his people.

Putin and Russia are forever portrayed as flexing their military muscles and representing a threat to the West, not least by BBC News. It is notable that a similar snooty, doom-mongering tone is absent when UK state occasions, or military exercises, are reported.

Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News responded to us on Twitter:

You will find Putin has a little more power than the Queen by the way. Just a tad…

We replied:

UK churnalism endlessly drools over “our” dear leaders. Remember the Blair adulation? And Obama? But that’s okay, because they’re “good guys”, not like Putin.

Thomson followed up with:

I don’t see much drooling. And neither Blair nor Obama routinely liquidate opposition/journalists as happens under Putin’s Kremlin, unarguably.

Our response:

Because you don’t want to see it. But you can see Putin’s crimes. Can you also see that Blair and Obama destroyed entire countries [Iraq, Libya], also unarguably? Can you see that the state-corporate system they served is ferociously violent, exploitative and criminal?

Thomson did not answer, other than to request to be ‘untagged’ from an exchange he had initiated, following a further critical response from another tweeter.

Meanwhile, the increasingly neocon Guardian plastered on its front page, not just one, but three, pieces of anti-Russia propaganda:

Revealed: UK’s push to strengthen anti-Russia alliance
‘Deny, distract and blame’: how Russia fights propaganda war
Clickbait and Skripal jokes: Russia’s RT thrives online

The Guardian, once regarded by many on the left as the vanguard of power-challenging journalism, was clearly pushing the ‘red scare’ agenda hard, in line with UK government priorities.

The big ‘Revealed’ piece was written by Patrick Wintour, the paper’s diplomatic editor. The main message, which could have come straight from a government press release, was this:

The UK will use a series of international summits this year to call for a comprehensive strategy to combat Russian disinformation and urge a rethink over traditional diplomatic dialogue with Moscow, following the Kremlin’s aggressive campaign of denials over the use of chemical weapons in the UK and Syria.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook was rightly critical in a blog piece:

When I trained as a journalist, we reserved a “Revealed” or an “Exposed” for those special occasions when we were able to bring to the reader information those in power did not want known. These were the rare moments when as journalists we could hold our heads high and claim to be monitoring the centres of power, to be fulfilling our sacred duty as the fourth estate.

Cook continued:

But today’s Guardian’s “exclusive” story “Revealed: UK’s push to strengthen anti-Russia alliance” is doing none of this. Nothing the powerful would want hidden from us is being “revealed”. No one had to seek out classified documents or speak to a whistleblower to bring us this “revelation”. Everyone in this story – the journalist Patrick Wintour, an anonymous “Whitehall official”, and the named politicians and think-tank wonks – is safely in the same self-congratulatory club, promoting a barely veiled government policy: to renew the Cold War against Russia.

The author of the second piece on ‘how Russia fights propaganda war’ was, ironically, Luke Harding, the paper’s former Moscow-based correspondent who regularly churned out pro-West propaganda in that role. Former UK diplomat Craig Murray describes Harding as ‘MI6’s most important media conduit (after [BBC security correspondent] Frank Gardner)’. The pinpoint demolition of Harding by Aaron Maté of The Real News Network last year is a must-watch.

A later Guardian piece by Amanda Meade, Guardian Australia’s media correspondent, actually contained this line:

RT is a powerful PR arm of the Russian government which is used as a weapon in the global information war.

When did the Guardian ever write the following line?

The BBC is a powerful PR arm of the British government which is used as a weapon in the global information war.

As Caitlin Johnstone rightly notes, any discussion of ‘Russian disinformation’ is invalid if it sweeps under the carpet previous massive Western propaganda campaigns; not least that leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Those questioning the official Western narratives on Russia and Syria have been subjected to an appalling McCarthyite campaign of vilification and intimidation; in large part initiated by The Times and followed up by others, including Guardian columnist George Monbiot and Huffington Post. This has led to the late rearrangement of a planned conference in Leeds, titled ‘Media on Trial,’ after the city council pulled the plug on allowing Leeds City Museum to be used as the venue. A report on the event’s cancellation, written by Chris York, a senior editor at HuffPost UK, smeared the speakers, including Professors Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, as ‘pro-Assad’. Indeed, York has been relentless in attacking the academics as ‘pro-Assad’.

As for George Monbiot, the Guardian’s long-time resident ‘dissident’, his subservience to the official narrative on Russia and Syria was starkly exposed by journalist Peter Hitchens in recent exchanges on Twitter. Hitchens had previously published a detailed piece on his blog titled, ‘Who Gassed Whom in Syria? We don’t Know. Please Don’t be Rushed into War.’

The Twitter exchange is lengthy and not archived in a single thread, as far as we are aware. But as an indicator of Monbiot’s inability to respond to Hitchens, consider this discussion on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW):

Monbiot:

The OPCW/JIM report on Khan Shaykhun [in 2017] presented a mountain of evidence for a chemical weapons attack by the Assad government

Hitchens:

1. The report is based on a study that breaks the OPCW’s own stated 2013 rule: No assessment without visiting the site. But the OPCW never visited the site. It is full of anonymous judgements of likelihood, phrases such as “appeared to be” and “highly likely”

Followed up by:

2. Sorry to put it like this George (but not very) but any proper journalist knows that “appears to be;” and “highly likely” are phrases used by people who would have loved to say “is”, but haven’t the facts which would allow them to do so.

And:

3. I’d also say that in a long career I have learned to be sceptical of opinions convenient to the person presenting them, originating from unnamed and unidentified sources, and of people with firm views about events they did not themselves witness.

After Monbiot had ‘liked’ a tweet smearing Hitchens as ‘a chemical weapons denier/Assad-Putin stooge’, together with Monbiot’s clear inability to properly respond to reasonable questions from Hitchens about supposed incontrovertible evidence of Assad’s guilt, Hitchens concluded:

I have been dismayed and disappointed by the behaviour of @GeorgeMonbiot on this issue, where he has preferred smear to rational, fact-based debate. What has happened to radicalism in the west, when prominent left-wingers behave like this?

Indeed. Although, when it comes to UK foreign policy, far from being a ‘left-winger’, Monbiot has consistently aligned himself with dubious neocon and ‘interventionist’ voices for some considerable time.

Concluding Remarks

It may have taken several years, but Guardian columnist Owen Jones has come to realise something vital about the ‘mainstream’ media which, to his credit, he has been willing to share:

The main thing I’ve learned from working in the British media is that much of it is a cult. Afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit.

As Ian Sinclair pointed out in the Morning Star:

the indignant responses [from corporate journalists] — perfectly illustrating Jones’s argument — came thick and fast.

The response from Deborah Haynes, Times defence editor, was typical when she proudly declared:

No-one tells me what to think

US writer and media critic Michael Parenti had the perfect response for this recurring facile boast from corporate journalists:

You say what you like because they like what you say.

In other words, journalists are filtered for ‘reliability’; only those who say, write and even think the right things are able to reach senior positions in journalism. The consequences for genuine truth-telling journalism are horrendous, as the above examples show.

  1. Chomsky, Year 501, Verso, 1993, p.20.
  2. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Vintage, 1988/1994, p. 1.
  3. Quoted, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, edited by Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel, The New Press, New York, 2002, p. 13.

High Alert For Palestinian Slaughter and Conflict With Iran

Above: Protest against US war in the Middle East in Los Angeles from DreamsTime.com.

There will be a confluence of trigger events this week that could lead to an escalation of conflict. At the same time that the US has reneged on the nuclear agreement and Israeli missiles are attacking Iranians in Syria, the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and Palestinians will protest the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, capping six weeks of actions.

Palestinians protest move of US Embassy by burning U.S. and Israeli flags in Gaza City. Mahmud Hams for AFP and Getty Images.

United States moves embassy to controversial site

On Monday, May 14, the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem, even though the new US embassy is not yet built. Jerusalem is considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. This action is part of a 100-year history of Zionist colonization of Jerusalem.

When the announcement of the move was made, there was widespread anger. In Gaza, protesters took to the streets bearing Palestinian flags and denouncing the decision. Students held demonstrations in the West Bank. Bernard Smith of Al-Jazeera reported from Gaza, “People here compared the protests to a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on.” The decision unified Palestinians, putting aside their divisions to focus on Trump and Israel.

Arab governments issued statements of condemnation and emergency meetings of both the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were held while the UN voted 128-9 to reject the Trump administration’s decision and approve a resolution urging countries to not move their embassies to Jerusalem. Reuters reported that Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, one of Islam’s most important institutions, said the decision incites “anger among all Muslims and threatens world peace.” Sheikh added, “The gates of hell will be opened in the West before the East.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniya described it as a “flagrant aggression…that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction.”

Thousands of people rallied in Turkey and Jordan on Friday to protest against the decision to move the US embassy. Tens of thousands of Muslims  gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday to protest the United States. Israelis in Jerusalem are also protesting the move.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinians have called for a day of rage and that mass protests are being mobilized for the opening of the US embassy. Choosing to move on the day before the Nakba is a provocation by Israel and the United States.

Israeli Soldiers shoot tear gas at Palestinians in Gaza participating in the “March of Return” (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Israel is illegitimate

The Great March of Return held its seventh Friday of protests last week. At least 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers since the protest began on March 30, and 8,500 have been wounded (see e.g. 9 killed 780 wounded and violence continues 16 killed 1,500 wounded). The protests will culminate May 15 on the Nakba, or Catastrophe when Palestinians memorialize being forced from their homes, their villages being destroyed, hundreds of thousands becoming refugees and scores being killed during the founding of Israel 70 years ago. Land theft and ethnic cleansing have continued, often legalized by property law. Palestinian protesters are demanding the right to return to their homes and marching after decades of Israeli violence and injustice. They proclaim they will not wait another 70 years.

The reality is clear, as Miko Peled, whose grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence of Israel 70 years ago and whose father was an Israeli general, says — that Israel has no legitimacy. Peled emphasizes that people in the US have a responsibility to take action to end the occupation of Palestine and outlines ways to do so, including an aggressive BDS campaign. Peled says “Israel” is an illegitimate state and “the area should be called Palestine.”

Peled is correct to focus on the responsibility of the people of the United States. No other country has been more supportive of Israel. The US gave “more than 250 billion dollars in direct government aid to Israel, [and] the USA has used its veto more than 70 times in the Security Council to prevent passage of resolutions condemning Israeli policies.” Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State who served as chief of staff to Presidents Nixon and Ford and was a four-star general who served as the supreme commander of NATO, told the truth, saying, “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.”

Protests against Israel and AIPAC, the DC-based Israeli lobby, consistently occur in the US, even though the media hides the truth about the Israeli lobby. Even YouTube censors information about Israel but people still see the reality of Israeli violence. Israel works to inject pro-Israel propaganda in the media while US universities censor speech about Palestinian justice. The massacre of nonviolent Palestinians is leading to calls for an arms embargo against Israel, a BDS that includes a military embargo.

The combination of current events reveal the true costs of the creation of Israel. Israel is a fortress-like apartheid state that practices ethnic cleansing and whose government applauds snipers using Palestinians as targets. Some of its citizens watch the slaughter and cheer the death of Palestinians. Israel has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza with a decade-long embargo with intermittent mass destructive bombings. Even people of Jewish faith who criticize the barbarism of Israel are characterized as traitors and threatened by the government.

Press TV reports the Israeli military will be doubling the number of forces around the Gaza Strip and in occupied West Bank territories ahead of the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to hold massive protests along the Gaza fence.

Widespread attacks on Palestinians are expected. In preparation for the massacre, people are urged to donate to help the wounded in Palestine.

May 9, 2018 from Syrian news agency SANA, flames rising after an attack by Israel in Syria in Kisweh, south of Damascus, Syria

Israel is provoking Iran in Syria

On May 4, military and intelligence analyst, the Saker, described how Israel was attacking Iranian bases in Syria in an attempt to get Iran to respond and pull the United States into a war with Iran.

On May 10, Voice of America reported that Israel launched an assault on more than 50 Iranian targets in Syria. Israel hit weapons depots, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by Iranian forces, many near Damascus.

In between these reports, Israel claimed that Iran fired rockets into the Golan Heights (Israeli occupied territory, part of Syria). Iran described the Israeli claims as “fabricated” and “baseless.” Holly Dagres, an Iran analyst for the Iranist questions why Iran would conduct such an attack “right after Trump’s decision and while Tehran is looking for European support to stay in the [nuclear deal]?” Other analysts also doubt the Israeli claim, and Iran says Syria fired into the Golan Heights, quoting a Syrian official. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah describes Syria responding to multiple Israeli attacks in Syria to set new rules of engagement and plans to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.

Dr. Roham Alvandi, a professor at the London School of Economics suggests this is the United States and Israel “working hand in glove to escalate the military confrontation.” He adds, they seek to “provoke the Iranian leadership into taking action that will isolate and ultimately weaken the Islamic Republic.”

Israel is concerned about Iranian soldiers amassing in Syria close to its border. As Peled reports, the Israeli media and political leadership are banging the drums for Israel’s own war with Syria and Iran.

The Independent describes the situation as “bringing two of the region’s major powers closer to the brink of direct confrontation than ever before.” While Russia and European countries urged de-escalation, the United States repeated their refrain, “Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”

Protest in support of nuclear deal and for peace with Iran. Source CODE PINK.

US withdraws without cause from the Iran Agreement

All of this comes when Trump has decided to renege on The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement between France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, the United States and Iran. In a belligerent speech filled with lies, Trump provided no evidence that Iran had violated the agreement and leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China tried to convince the US to live up to the agreement.

Israel urged Trump to leave the agreement, presenting an intelligence dossier that claimed Iran had violated it. However, the dossier contained information weapons inspectors had already found to be false. Netanyahu made a big public relations presentation to urge Trump to get out of the agreement. Telesur summarizes the reaction, writing, “After Netanyahu’s speech the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has ‘no credible’ evidence Iran was developing nuclear arms since 2009.”

US activists published an open letter apologizing to Iran. The letter described Trump’s decision as “reckless, baseless, and dangerous” and expressed that we are “ashamed that our government has broken a deal that was working.” The signers promised, “We will do everything in our power to stop Donald Trump from strangling your economy and taking us to war with you.” People in Iran took to the streets to protest the US’ decision.

The decision is part of the long history of the US trying to dominate Iran going back to the 1953 coup, continuing in recent years, during which the US has spent tens of millions of dollars annually to build opposition inside Iran, and to the US’ involvement in recent protests. Activities today are consistent with a 2009 Brookings Institution report, Which Path To Persia? Options For A New American Strategy For Iran,” which put forward various paths to regime change, including Israel taking the lead and the US and Israel falsely claiming that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

Richard Johnson, a top US nuclear expert, handed in his resignation after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal. And the chief inspector of the UN nuclear agency stepped down unexpectedly, a few days after the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

The decision may hurt the United States in many ways. The sanctions Trump will reintroduce do not just limit U.S. dealings with Iran, but will also penalize other countries, causing a riff with US allies. John Bolton threatened to enforce the sanctions against European corporations and countries, while Europe punched back supporting the Iran agreement and planning legislation to protect European companies. Iran is entering agreements with Russia and China, who are its protectors. Iran will seek to build its relationship with European and Latin American countries as well. The US may be left out, its credibility damaged. Given the failure of US military power in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, traditional allies recognize the limitations of the US as a super power.

2007 anti-war protest. Photo: Thiago Santos/cc/flickr.

There are many reasons a war with Iran would be a disaster for the US and Israel. Moon of Albama describes that the Bush administration considered it but war games ended badly for the US. This remains true. So, if the US is rational, war can be averted.

No war on Iran

While escalation makes no sense, the leaders of Israel and the US may see a political benefit.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing charges of corruption.  Prosecutors recently questioned him and his wife for five hours at the same time but at different locations, both as suspects. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, had his home and office searched and documents and tapes were seized by prosecutors. Trump’s legal team is a mess. Rudy Guiliani recently resigned from his law firm after making counterproductive comments in the media. Israeli and US leaders may seek to change the subject and play to their conservative political base; a military conflict could aid both.

The 2018 election, which currently looks like a potential Democratic sweep, is also a factor. Sheldon Adelson, a top donor to Trump and Republicans in 2016 who gave $83 million to the campaigns and $5 million to Trump’s inauguration, pushed for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, even offering to finance the move, and for quitting the Iran nuclear pact. Adelson also urges a US nuclear attack on Iran.

The day after Trump left the pact, Adelson had lunch with him in the White House. Not long after, Paul Ryan went with former senator, Norm Coleman, who chairs the Republican Jewish Committee, and others from a Republican PAC, to meet Adelson and his wife at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. They urged support for keeping Republican control of the House. Ryan left the room (since he is not legally allowed to ask for seven-figure donations) and Coleman made the ask, with the Adelsons donating $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, doubling their cash on hand. Adelson’s company recorded a $670 million income tax windfall from the GOP tax law in the first quarter.

The forces are aligning right now in a disastrous way. We must not allow the administration to lie us into another prolonged and costly war. We must oppose the slaughter of more Palestinians. We must be clear that we do not support war and that we do support the rights of Palestinians. Protests are being planned across the US. Join them or organize your own. And spread the truth to your neighbors and your community. You can also support the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, which has left Norway, to bring supplies to Gaza.

Do You Want to Travel Around the Middle East? Think Twice!

Do you think it is that simple to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

Ask Palestinians, about trying to get from a point A to a point B in their own nation.

Some time ago, sitting in an old Ottoman hotel in Bethlehem, I asked a waiter what it takes to travel from there to Gaza, where he said, several of his relatives were living. He looked at me as if I had fallen from the Moon:

There is no way I could travel there. If my relatives get very sick or die, then, in theory, I could apply for an Israeli travel permit to go there, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they would approve, or that I could get to Gaza on time…

Israeli wall in Bethlehem

I tried to appear naïve: “And what if someone from an Arab country which does not recognize Israel, wants to come here, to Bethlehem? Like, a Lebanese pilgrim or just a tourist? Could he or she enter from Jordan?”

The waiter weighed for a while whether to reply at all, but then had mercy on me:

West Bank… You know, it only appears on the maps as some sort of autonomous or independent territory. In reality, the borders and movement of the people have been fully controlled by the Israelis.

My friend, a legendary left-wing Israeli human rights lawyer and a staunch Palestinian independence supporter, Linda Brayer, downed another cup of coffee and made several cynical remarks. She was actually illegally ‘smuggled’ by me into Bethlehem. As an Israeli citizen, she was not allowed to enter the West Bank at all, but since I was driving and she was with me, a foreigner, and on top of it she wore a headscarf (she converted to Islam several years earlier), the Israeli soldiers just let us pass without askin too many uncomfortable questions.

Bizarre, disgusting, and even mind-blowing? Not for us who live or operate in this part of the world! All this is by now considered as “business as usual”.

During the last Intifada, I hired a taxi in Jerusalem to the border with Gaza driven by a Russian-Israeli Jew, a student, who literally clashed with a border guard, demanding to be allowed to enter Gaza, in order to “see what my fxxxxing government is doing to the Palestinian people.”

They did not let him into Gaza. They detained him. As a foreigner, I entered. During my work in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at my hired car. It missed… But at least I was allowed to enter and work in Gaza. It is like Russian roulette: sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, and no explanations are given.

That was the time when the new Gaza International Airport had just opened. After few days of fighting, the runway was bombed by the Israelis, all flights cancelled, and I had to, eventually make my way out through Egyptian Sinai.

Later, I also witnessed how brutal the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been; how it has divided countless families and communities. People are forced to shout at each other through the Israeli barbed-wire electric fences. The only way for the families to reunite, at least for a day or two, was to somehow get to Jordan.

An Israeli tank being moved towards Syrian Golan Heights

The Syrian Golan Heights used to be famous for its delicious apples and ancient Druze community. It used to attract travelers from all over the world. Now it is occupied by Israel, and it is de-populated and monstrously militarized.

You want to travel there? You cannot; not anymore. It is off limits.

*****

For years and decades, this insanity of travel bans and restrictions, as well as barbed wire and watch towers, has been applying mainly (although not exclusively) to the territories occupied by Israel. However, now almost the entire Middle East is divided by conflicts, insane regulations and travel prohibitions.

Empty Jordan-Syrian border

Unless you are a war correspondent, a Western ‘advisor’, an intelligence agent or a ‘development worker’, don’t even think about going to Iraq. Almost like Afghanistan and Libya, Iraq had been thoroughly wrecked by the Western coalition and its allies. On top of it, to get visa there is now close to impossible. In the recent past, the Westerners flooded Erbil and its surroundings; the main city of what was called, unofficially, ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’. The place used to be governed by the independence-seeking and shamelessly pro-Western ‘elites’, and it used to have its own visa regime. Now even this area is more or less off limits to foreigners.

Syria is still a war zone, although its government, which is supported by the majority of the Syrian people, is clearly winning the brutal conflict ignited and fueled by the West and its ‘client’ states.

Syria used to be one of the safest, the most educated and advanced countries in the region, built on solid socialist principles. It used to have an impressive scientific base, as well as dozens of world-class tourist attractions. Therefore, applying Western imperialist logic, it had to be first smeared, and then attacked and destroyed.

Logically, Syria is not issuing tourist visas to the citizens of the countries that are trying to destroy it.

Next door, Lebanon is still suffering from the flood of refugees, from geographical isolation and from the various dormant and semi-active terrorist cells.

Travelling from Lebanon to Syria is now almost impossible, or at least very dangerous and difficult. Lebanese citizens can still enter, but ‘at their own risk’.

In the not so distant past, people used to drive from Beirut to Europe and vice-versa, via Turkey and Syria. Now this option is just a sweet memory. But then again, in the very distant past, I am often reminded, it was not unusual for the Lebanese middle class to spend a weekend in Haifa, driving their own cars. Now the border between Lebanon and Israel is hermetically sealed. Both countries are technically at war. The U.N. patrols the so-called Blue Line. Apart from drones and Israeli war planes en-route to bombing Syria, nothing can cross.

Turkey building a new huge wall on the Syrian border

All along the Turkish-Syrian border, both sides are suffering. Of course, the Syrian people are suffering much more, being victims of the direct Turkish military adventures. But also Turks are now paying a very high price for the war: they are suffering from terrorist attacks, as well as from the total collapse of trade between the two countries. Many villages around Hatay and Gaziantep are quickly turning into ghost towns.

For instance, cities like Adana in Turkey and Aleppo in Syria used to be connected by motorways, enjoying constant flows of people from both ends. There was bustling trade, as well as tourism, and social visits. Now, Ankara has been building an enormous concrete wall between the two countries. No traffic can pass through the border, except Turkish military convoys.

*****

For years and decades, it has been impossible to enter Saudi Arabia as a tourist. This fundamentalist Wahabbi ‘client’ state of the West simply does not recognize the existence of tourism, or leisure travel. To enter the KSA, it has to be either for business or religious pilgrimage.

With its huge territory, the KSA effectively divides the entire Gulf region, when it comes to transportation and the movement of people. There are some loopholes, and ‘transit visas’ can be obtained (with some luck, difficulties and expense), for instance, for those people driving their own vehicles or taking a bus from Jordan to Bahrain, or to Oman.

Traveling to culturally the most exciting country in the Gulf – Yemen – is now absolutely impossible. Yemen used to be one of the jewels of historic architecture and civilization, counting such cities as Sanaa, Zabid and Shiban. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is occupying the city of Aden and the coast, while Saudi forces are brutally bombing the rest of the country, which is controlled by the rebels.

Then, there is a bizarre conflict which is brewing between Qatar (the richest country in the Gulf with the substantial U.S. military presence as well as huge local business-controlled media conglomerate Al-Jazeera), and several other Arab allies of the West, including Saudi Arabia. Borders are presently closed and insults are flying. There is the growing possibility of a military confrontation. Qatar is being accused, cynically, of ‘supporting terrorism’, as if the KSA was not doing precisely the same.

*****

Flying around the region has become a Kafkaesque experience.

Flight from Doha to Nairobi

All Middle Eastern and Gulf airlines are avoiding Israel. Some fly over Syria but most of them, don’t. The once mighty and now deteriorating Qatar Airways is clearly forbidden to enter the airspace of Saudi Arabia as well as of the United Arab Emirates.

Recently I travelled with Qatar from Beirut to Nairobi, Kenya. It used to be a simple, comfortable commute, which has recently turned into a terrible nightmare. Unable to fly over Syrian and Saudi airspace, a plane has to first fly in totally the opposite direction, northwest, over Turkish airspace, then over Iran, making a huge, almost 90 minutes detour. On the second leg, a trip of less than 4 hours now takes more than 5 hours and 30 minutes! The plane flies directly away from Africa, towards Iran, and then makes a huge loop, avoiding both the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Lebanese MEA (Middle Eastern Airlines) is one of the few airlines that ignores all this, flying directly over Syria, and towards the Gulf states. Most of the others don’t dare. But MEA has to avoid Israeli airspace, making often interesting final approaches to Rafik Hariri Int’l Airport.

The exception is Turkish Airlines which basically flies over everything and into everywhere, including Israel itself.

*****

This essay is not only about the politics and what has led to the present situation, although it is clear that we are talking here, above all, about the neo-colonialist arrangement of the world.

Political nightmare unleashed by the ‘traditional’ Western colonialist powers and their ‘client states’, has led to the geographical divisions; to a perverse state of affairs in this part of the world. Increasingly, the people are losing control over their own nations and the entire region. They have already lost the ability to move about freely through it.

Of course, something similar exists in many other places, including the South Pacific. There, I described the situation in my book Oceania. An entire huge part of the world has been literally cut to pieces by the neo-colonialist powers and their geo-political interests and designs: the U.S., France, Australia and New Zealand have plainly overrun and shackled Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. A once proud and unique part of the world has been fragmented internally: people are brutally separated and forced to depend almost exclusively on the West.

In the Middle East, divisions, walls and barbed wire, are now everywhere; they are visible to the naked eye, but they are also ‘inside’ peoples’ minds, damaging the human psyche, making dreams of unity and a common future look very unlikely, and sometimes even impossible.

A bridge blown up by ISIS near Mosus, Iraq

This used to be one of the cradles of our civilization – a deep, sane and stunningly beautiful part of the world. Now everything is fragmented. The West rules, mainly through its ‘client’ states, such as Israel, the KSA and Turkey. It controls everything. It governs almost the entire Middle East; nothing moves without its knowledge and permission.

A suicide car bomb near Mosul, Iraq

Yes, nothing and no one moves here, unless it suits the West. We don’t read about it often. It is not discussed. But that is how it is. This bizarre concept of ‘freedom’ implanted from the outside. The rulers who were injected into the Gulf and various other occupied nations. The result is horrid: the electric wires, walls and travel restrictions everywhere; the old pathological British ‘divide and rule’ concept.

*****

As I am working on this essay, my plane which is supposed to be flying south-west, is actually hovering north-east, in order to avoid the airspaces of the various so-called hostile states.

Local people may be getting used to the fact that their part of the world has already been ‘re-arranged’. Or perhaps they have already stopped noticing.

The computer, however, keeps showing the absurd flying path of the airliner. Computers can be programmed and re-programmed, but they cannot be indoctrinated. Without judging, they are simply demonstrating the absurdity that is unrolling around them, on their screens.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Toronto Van Attack: Toxic Msculinity and the Canadian Forces

Progressive online commentary about Monday’s van attack in Toronto has focused on the influence of “toxic masculinity”. The analyses should be expanded to include the alleged perpetrator’s ties to a powerful patriarchal institution that is Canada’s biggest purveyor of violence.

Early reports suggest alleged mass murderer Alek Minassian may have targeted women and been motivated by sexism. Before carrying out his horrific attack he posted on Facebook about the “Incel Rebellion”, a community of “involuntarily celibate” men who hate women, and praised misogynistic US mass murderer Elliot Rodger. Minassian reportedly wrote: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

It should surprise no one that alongside his call for an “Incel Rebellion” the misogynist Minassian cited his (short) military service. Last fall he joined the Canadian Forces, which has one hundred thousand active members and three hundred thousand retired members. A 2015 investigation led by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women and LGTBQ members.” While women now represent 15% of military personnel, the Deschamps report concluded that “the overall perception is that a ‘boy’s club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.”

Until 1979 women were excluded from the Royal Military College. Until 1989 women were excluded from combat roles in the CF. In 2000 the submarine service was finally opened to women.

A 1992 Department of National Defence survey found that 26.2% of female CF respondents were sexually harassed in the previous 12 months. Subsequent investigations have shown steady improvements, but 27.3% of women in 2016 still reported having been victims of sexual assault at least once since joining the CF. The Deschamps review “found that there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF.” In 2017 plaintiffs in five separate cities united to sue over sexual assault, harassment and gender-based discrimination in the CF.

When Nichola Goddard became the first female CF member to die in Afghanistan it came to light that she wrote her husband about sexual violence on the base. Goddard wrote about “the tension of living in a fortress where men outnumbered women ten to one” and “there were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night.” But, the CF only admits to investigating five reports of sexual harassment or assault in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2010. Valerie Fortney, author of Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard said she “hit a brick wall” when seeking to investigate sexual harassment in Afghanistan.

Male veterans have repeatedly engaged in gender-based violence. Last year Lionel Desmond killed his wife, daughter, mother and himself while Robert Giblin stabbed and threw his pregnant wife off a building before killing himself in 2015.

After the worst incident of patriarchal violence in Canadian history members of the elite Airborne Regiment reportedly held a celebratory dinner to honour Marc Lepine. In 1989 Lepine massacred fourteen women at the Université de Montréal while shouting “you’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!”

Not only is the CF a patriarchal social force, it is the country’s greatest purveyor of violence. The Canadian military spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year promoting militarism and during the past quarter century it has fought wars of aggression in Libya, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Iraq (not to mention helping to overthrow an elected government in Haiti and engaging in gunboat diplomacy in a number of locations).

To a large extent the CF is the institutional embodiment of toxic masculinity and therefore it’s not surprising that Minassian was drawn to it. His connection to an organization that receives over $20 billion a year in public funds while upholding patriarchy and promoting violence ought to be part of the discussion of this horrible act.

Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’). Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.

Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, The New York Times from April 12. 2018: “Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time”.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

Poster of human zoo at Military Museum in Paris (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

The extreme form of sadism is a medical condition; it is an illness. And the West has been clearly demonstrating disturbing and dangerous behavioral patterns for many centuries.

Let’s look at the definition of sadism, or professionally, Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD), which both the United States and Europe could easily be diagnosed with.

This is an excerpt of a common definition of the SPD, which appears in Medigoo.com and on many other on-line sites:

…The sadistic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of gratuitous cruelty, aggression, and demeaning behaviors which indicate the existence of deep-seated contempt for other people and an utter lack of empathy. Some sadists are “utilitarian”: they leverage their explosive violence to establish a position of unchallenged dominance within a relationship…

It is familiar, isn’t it? The Empire’s behavior towards Indochina, China, Indonesia, Africa, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

US sponsored coup in Chile on 9-11-1973 (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

What about the symptoms?

…Sadistic individuals have poor behavioral controls, manifested by a short temper, irritability, low frustration tolerance, and a controlling nature. From an interpersonal standpoint, they are noted to be harsh, hostile, manipulative, lacking in empathy, cold-hearted, and abrasive to those they deem to be their inferiors. Their cognitive nature is considered rigid and prone to social intolerance, and they are fascinated by weapons, war, and infamous crimes or perpetrators of atrocities. Sadists classically are believed to seek social positions that enable them to exercise their need to control others and dole out harsh punishment or humiliation…

Just translate “sadistic individuals” to “sadistic states”, or “sadistic culture”.

Is there any cure? Can a sadist be effectively and successfully treated?

Treating a sadistic personality disorder takes a long time…

And many sites and publications carry a clear disclaimer:

The above information is for processing purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency…

And humanity is right now clearly at the crossroads, facing annihilation, not only a ‘medical emergency’. The world may soon have to literally fight for its survival. It is because of the SPD of the West and its Empire.

*****

So, what is in store for us now; for instance, for Syria?

What will the sadistic psychopath do to a country that refused to kneel, to prostitute itself, to beg for mercy, to sacrifice its people?

How horrible will the “punishment” be?

We have just witnessed 103 missiles being fired towards Damascus and Homs. But that is only what the Empire did to entertain its masses. It has been doing much more evil and cruel things to the nation which constantly refuses to glorify the Western imperialist and its neocon dogmas. For instance, the Empire’s ‘professionals’ have been manufacturing, training and arming the most atrocious terrorist groups and injecting them into the body of Syria.

The torture will, of course, continue. It clearly appears that this time the script will be based on some latter adaptation of the Marquise de Sade’s work, on his novel Juliette, not Justine. You see, in Justine, women were ‘only’ tied up, slapped and raped. In Juliette, they were cut to pieces, alive; they were burned and mutilated.

While Justine can still be read, no normal human being could go through the 700 pages of pure gore that is Juliette.

But our planet has somehow got used to the horrors that have been administered by the sick Western Empire.

People watch occurrences in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Libya as ‘news’, not as the medical record of a severely ill psychiatric patient.

The most terrible ‘novel’ in the history of our Planet has been written, for centuries, by the appalling brutality and sadism of first Europe and then by its younger co-author – the United States.

And the human beings in many parts of our Planet have gotten so used to the carnage which surrounds them that they do not throw up anymore; they do not feel horrified, do not revolt against their fate. They just watch, as one country after another falls; is violated publicly, gets ravaged.

The mental illness of the perpetrator is undeniable. And it is contagious.

Names of, and photos of, murdered Chilean people by pro-US military junta (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

In turn, the extreme violence that has been engulfing the world has triggered various neuroses and mental conditions (masochism, extreme forms of submission, to name just two of many) among the victims.

*****

Exposure to the constant and extreme violence ‘prescribed’ and administered by the West, has left most of the world in a neurotic lethargy.

Like a woman locked in a marriage with a brutal religious fanatic husband in some oppressive society, the world has eventually stopped resisting against the Western dictates and tyranny, and ‘accepted its fate’.

Many parts of the planet have developed ‘Stockholm Syndrome’: after being kidnapped, imprisoned, tormented, raped and humiliated, the victims have ‘fallen in love’ with their tyrant, adopting his worldview, while serving him full-heartedly and obediently.

This arrangement, of course, has nothing to do with the healthy or natural state of things!

Poster of Human Zoo at Military Museum, Paris (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

In Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, bizarre things are happening! People from those nations that have been robbed and devastated for centuries by the European and North American despots, have been flying happily and proudly to Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, New York and other Western cities, in order to ‘learn’, to ‘study’ how to govern their own countries. There is usually no shame, and no stigma attached to such obvious intellectual prostitution.

Many victims are still dreaming about becoming like their victimizers, or even more so.

Many former and modern-day colonies of the West are listening, with straight faces, to the Europeans preaching to them (for a fee) about ‘good governance’, an ‘anti-corruption drive’ and ‘democracy’.

The media outlets of non-Western nations are taking news reports directly from Western press agencies. Even local political events are explained by those ‘wise’ and ‘superior’ Europeans and North Americans, not by the local thinkers. Locals are hardly ever trusted – only white faces with polished English, French or German accents are taken seriously.

Perverse? Is it perverse? Of course, it is! Many servile intellectuals from the ‘client’ states, when confronted, admit how sick the continuous global dictatorship is. Then they leave the table and continue to do what they have been doing for years and decades; the oldest profession in short.

Freedom Equality Brotherhood. For French maybe but not for colonized Vietnamese (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

Such a situation is truly insane. Or at least it is extremely paradoxical, bizarre, absurd. Even a mental clinic appears to make more sense than our beloved planet Earth.

However, clinical psychiatrists and psychologists are very rarely involved in analyzing the neuroses and psychological illnesses of the brutalized and colonized planet. They hardly ever ‘analyze’ the perpetrators, let alone expose them for what they really are.

Most of psychologists and psychiatrists are busy digging gold: encouraging human egotism, or even serving big corporations that are trying to ‘understand their employees better’, in order to control and to exploit them more effectively. Other ‘doctors’ go so far as to directly serve the Empire, helping to oppress and to ‘pacify’ the billions living in the colonies and new colonies of the West.

In 2015, I was invited as one of the speakers to the 14th International Symposium on the Contributions of Psychology to Peace, held in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa (hosted by legendary UNISA).

During that fascinating encounter of the leading global psychologists, I spoke about the impact of wars and imperialism on the human psyche, but I also listened, attentively. And I learned many shocking things. For instance, during his chilling presentation, “Human Rights and U. S. Psychologists’ Wrongs: The Undermining of Professional Ethics in an Era of ‘Enhanced Interrogation’”, Professor Michael Wessells from Columbia University, New York, spoke about U.S. psychologists and their participation in torturing political prisoners.

Instead of diagnosing the Empire with SPD and other violent and dangerous conditions, many psychologists are actually helping to torture those who are opposing this unacceptable arrangement of the world.

*****

Those who refuse to ‘learn from the West’, to fall in love with it, or at least to serve it faithfully, are being brutally punished.

Lashes are hitting exposed flesh. Entire nations are being destroyed, genocides distributed to all continents. East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq: it never stops.

I follow the discourses of the US and especially British UN delegations, ‘discussing’ Syria and even Russia. What comes to my mind is Punjab in India. I recall those old, historic photos of Indian men being hanged by the Brits, pants down, and flogged in public.

Flogging-on-Punjabi-man-by-British-colonialist

They have been doing this kind of stuff for centuries. They like it. It clearly excites them. This is their democracy, their respect for human rights and for other cultures!

If someone refuses to take his or her pants down, they catch the person, rape him or her, then do the flogging anyway.

I also recall what my Ugandan friend used to tell me:

When the Brits came to Africa, to what is now Uganda, their army would enter our villages and first thing they’d do was to select the tallest and strongest man around. They’d then tie him up, face towards the tree. Then the British commander would rape, sodomize him in front of everybody. This was how they showed the locals who is charge.

Brits enjoying Africa

How symbolic!

How healthy is the culture that has been controlling our world for centuries!

One of the most frightening things about mental illnesses is that the patient usually does not realize that he or she is suffering from them.

It is about the time for the rest of the world to treat the West as a mental patient, not as the ‘leader of the free and democratic world’.

We have to think, to gather, to develop a strategy of how to deal with this unfortunate, in fact, terrible situation!

If we refuse to understand and to act, we may all end up in the most dangerous situation: as complacent servants of the perverse whims of a frustrated, extremely aggressive and truly dangerous SPD patient.

Global Weirding

Oh, what fun it truly was to experience the “bomb cyclone” in January in New England: the snowfall gave a sense of peace and calm, the winds were less strong than predicted, and the snow, while heavy, was not dense enough to take down trees and power lines in most areas. The following period of intense cold through February and March in the eastern half of the US, on the other hand, seems a harbinger of climate instability which will most likely worsen in upcoming years. As the jet stream weakens and buckles due to climate change, storm intensity and temperature fluctuations are certain to get worse.

The biggest danger for East coasters will remain the hurricane, as September 2017 registered as the most active month in recorded history for the Atlantic.

On the West coast, things are getting a bit Biblical: raging fires alternate with intense flooding and mudslides in Montecito and southern California a few months ago. The 2017 fire season set aflame over eight million acres mainly in the Western states. It’s not just a domestic issue: Portugal faced an epic firestorm in June of last year, killing close to 100, partly due to the monocultures of eucalyptus trees planted across the country. Millions face conditions of famine and drought worldwide.

Sadly, most reporting and discussion of global warming and climate change serves to abstract the issues into a diversionary attitude that the Earth is in crisis. Well, the planet, as a self-regulating super-organism, will do just fine without us, even if it takes millennia to recover from our misdeeds. It is stable and abundance-providing ecosystems that are in crisis, species that are going extinct at 1000 times the background rate, and humanity is the culprit.

Even though man-made global warming is acknowledged by most people, there is still a conflation going on in the West that the all-devouring Earth-mother is out to get us. Rather, it is Western civilization which is stalking any chance for future generations to live and prosper.

Ecosystems in Crisis

In Germany, a study was done measuring insect populations in nature reserves, and it was discovered that there was a 75% drop in total insects collected in only 25 years. Scientists estimate that 30-50% of all species may become extinct by 2050.

Tragically, regarding honeybees, scientists have discovered an important link between fungicide use and the herbicide glyphosate (Round-Up), showing a negatively synergistic effect on bee colonies and resistance to fungal infection. Bees seem to actually prefer honey set in traps with a small percentage of Roundup or fungicides added. Humans are not the only species to enjoy mind-altering drugs, even poisonous ones.

All of our problems involving the destruction of habitat are ultimately bound up in the fact that there are too many of us, conditioned to respond in violent outbursts, consuming too many resources, leading to stress, war, and unimaginable acts of cruelty. These acts are often sanctioned by the state or the corporation or religion or patriarchal vertical hierarchies.

The exponential population growth from the industrial revolution is already slowing and bound to top off at anywhere from 10-12 billion people by 2050-2100, if we manage to avoid the many catastrophes hurtling our way. Thus the growth curve will resemble an S-curve barring unforeseeable circumstances, with small waves and ripples due to the complexities of changing times, food sources, and a multitude of variables. In theory this population model could then lead to a steady decrease in total population due to a voluntary decision by humanity to slowly and carefully have fewer children due to stresses on ecosystems and natural resources. If we don’t convert to decentralized renewable energy and organic, communal-based agriculture, however, there is another model we may follow, and it’s not pretty one. Fossil fuel use is the habit that must be kicked for humanity to help recreate a sustainable world.

One of the most famous examples from studying mammalian populations is the debacle of St. Matthew Island, a warning to humanity. A tiny island located in the Bering Strait, with no carnivores, some lonely US coast guard officers decided to introduce reindeer onto the island. From a starting population of 29 in 1944, the hungry caribou ate through the entire island’s many lichen species, ballooning to 6,000 by 1963. Within two years and no other food source, the die-off was drastic, and only 42 remained in 1965. The entire population vanished by the 1980s. If our coal, gas, and oil run out without a democratic and scientific plan to make the leap to renewables, we are doomed to the same path.

The Unspoken Links

It would be simplistic to relegate these new and unprecedented levels of strangeness to the spheres of ecology and climate science. The deep wounds Western man has inflicted on fellow species and the planet are also inflicted on ourselves. From everything to decreased attention spans, the rise of xenophobia and mistrust towards minorities and immigrants, and billions living in poverty, these are by and large self-inflicted wounds. We must learn to see ourselves in the other, and see the other in ourselves

Cell phone, TV, tablet, and computer use, dubbed “screen time”, can now be understood to have a net-negative effect on human communities when consumed in vast quantities, as it drives anti-social behavior and isolation from the wider community. A recent study concluded the average screen time for US adults was around 70 hours per week. Keep in mind, that means for every person getting 40 hours of screen time there is another getting 100 hours per week.

The rising rates of cancer, autism, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions may be partly due to the stressors and conditions of modern life, including longer lifespans, but they do not account for the majority. Our polluted world and environmental crises play a mostly invisible role in the West, as our federal agencies such as the EPA and FDA have become corrupted by pharmaceutical and corporate interests.

With no way to systemically study or properly account for the rise of ill health and mental stupefaction of the public, medical and health professionals, shackled in their dim caves staring at shadows, have designated the “genetic” component to dis-ease as the Holy Grail. There is some truth to this: undoubtedly certain forms of breast cancer are linked to specific areas on chromosomes, etc. The idea, however, that billions of dollars in research must be shunted into the reductionist model of DNA manipulation and gene therapy is a huge waste of time, resources, and brainpower. (No, I don’t have mainstream “credentials” or a PhD, but I was happy to have my suspicions about targeted gene therapy confirmed straight out of the mouth of a former top researcher at the National Cancer Institute.)

The best way I’ve heard it phrased, regarding chronic disease and our toxified world, is like this: genetics is the loaded gun, and the environment is the finger pulling the trigger. Yes, many people are at risk due to genetic inheritance for many forms of cancers, diabetes, and the list goes on, but magnifying the capacities of the double helix as the primal cause of these conditions is not only dubious, it’s intellectually dishonest and dangerous. One may be at higher risks for certain disorders, but a healthy lifestyle can often slow, negate, or reverse chronic disease.

Many of today’s chemical dangers are invisible and thus fly under the radar of doctors and scientists. Yet, there are visible changes in our bodies that have manifested with the rise of industrial agriculture after World War Two. One change being the rise in obesity worldwide. Yes, we have increased meal portion sizes and live more sedentary lifestyles, and yes, food serves as a palliative for depression and anxiety.

Yet, this does not explain the study (summarized in an Atlantic article here) which concluded that between 1988 and 2006 a person with the same diet, nutrient and exercise routines would be 10% heavier in 2006. This is a historic finding, and I can find nothing in the literature which reports a change in size of any other species in such short a time frame (18 years), other than weight gain in the abhorrent factory farming conditions of chickens, pigs, and cows.

The problem is, as the authors of the study note, there are so many factors it’s nearly impossible to determine what the culprit is. There are persistent organic pollutants, hormones in our food which act as endocrine disruptors, prescription drug overuse which leads to weight gain, and the possibility of a change in our gut bacteria due to mass antibiotic use in animal produce. In all likelihood, it is a combination of all of these factors that is driving the obesity and cancer epidemics. While many researchers are waking up to effects from increasing use of digital technology and social media, hardly anyone in the scientific community and academia have bothered to think about the huge changes to our bodies in the past few decades.

For every one human cell in our bodies, there are about 10 symbiotic bacterial cells. We are in very real sense super-organisms, and the huge influx of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics in our food is forming a negatively synergistic effect on our ability to reason, to exercise, to relax, and to resist these new forms of genetic-biologic oppression.

This comes down to the nexus of corporate agribusiness, complicit federal health “experts”, lack of funding for research and grants for responsible scientists, and a poisoned food and water supply which has hijacked and somehow rewired our metabolism, endocrine system, and immune-response pathways. Have no doubt, this is an uncontrolled experiment being run on us all, without our permission.

The rise in cancer in particular can be tied to the atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1950s, as I and many others have posited. Estimates range that anywhere from 1 million to 50 million or even higher have already died/may die in the coming century earlier than they otherwise would have, because of cancer due to nuclear radiation from these tests.

The chance of getting cancer in one’s lifetime is expected to rise to a 33% chance for women and a 50% chance for men by 2050. This is the microcosm within the macrocosm of a world system based on infinite growth on a finite planet. The ideology of capitalism is death, and there should be no mystification as to why the clear unhealthiness of the hegemonic socio-economic system has been transported into our very bodies via cancer.

A major problem is that modern medicine has become ideological and insular, with predictably deadly results. There can be no patents for plants, herbs, mushrooms, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices, thus no conglomerate, multinational, corporate money to be made.

If it becomes clear on a mass scale that traditional practices including, but not limited to, herbal medicine, meditation, yoga, holistic traditional healing, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine has immense value beyond the instrumental rationality of allopathic medicine, the gig is up for mainstream pill-pushers. Most health professionals would be unveiled as the educated fools that they are, drug pushers promoting dangerous drugs for children and the elderly, not to mention endless unnecessary tests and procedures which make billions for Big Pharma and medical technology companies.

Let me be clear here: I am not by any means trying to scapegoat every medical professional, as researchers and people who treat medical emergencies, trauma, surgeons, and doctors dealing with acute medical conditions do amazing work every day. What I’m driving at is the allopathic way of treating most chronic conditions is a farce, and our society should return to promoting preventative, holistic treatments.

Thanato-politics

Sadly, there is a legitimate reason why so much of society is organized around ignorance, fear, violence, denial of the body, and consumption: the death-drive. One does not have to subscribe to Freud’s exposition of thanatos to understand this: the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the desertification of our world, the razing of habitat shows this quite clearly.

Modern civilization does not only lead to obedience, submission, and structural violence, but also to a certain form of captivity. Humans tend to rebel against such a depraved social order, even if only symbolically, with varying amounts of success. Some do so constructively, forming social movements and protests, yet masses have fallen prey to the siren-songs of nationalism, consumerism, addiction, and war. Along with the enclosure of public land and the destruction of the commons (“There is no such thing as society”) comes a culture of fear, cruelty, and ultimately projections of the outer world as scary and downright evil.

Captivity in action: consider the recent missile alert in Hawai’i. Was this not an example of a captive audience, doomed by elites to worry and scatter over a phantom nuke over the horizon? None of us asked for this. Most of humanity simply wants to be left alone from the vagaries of government and corporate rule to live stable, happy lives. Yet the sad truth of the matter is the elites are not going to leave us alone. Their appetite is insatiable, and they will, in fact, drag down the entire biosphere, because in their current state of mind, they hate life, and want to transcend this world, either to heaven (the Christian fundamentalists) or have their consciousness uploaded or bodies cryogenically frozen for future immortality (the Kurzweillian techno-futurists).

Evil, or rather, a disdain for authentic living, is banal in many senses: one of these is the utter unimaginativeness resting in the dark hearts of our political leaders. Evil is a lack, a poverty of the soul. It is incapacity to create, an absence of imagination, spontaneous creativity, and compassion. You can sense this in our “technocratic” leadership, pushing us ever closer to the abyss of economic depression and ecological ruin.

It often conjures up a chuckle when I remind people of David Graeber’s comments (paraphrasing here) on the elitist corporate/managerial/bureaucratic mindset: “These are the most unimaginative people ever.” This is basically a gallows humor, as the elite are numbing citizens of the will, mental capacities, and physical abilities to organize and resist effectively, and are setting up the masses for collapse of our civilization.

Reclaiming Eros

If there does exist some sort of death drive (most explicitly recognized in Nazi, Italian, and Spanish fascist ideology: “¡Viva la muerte!”) that modern civilization is imposing on us, is there a countervailing force?

Countering the bleak pessimism of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization offers clues. We can extrapolate and widen their focus on libido to consider Eros as an analogy for life-force or life-energy, similar to Eastern notions of prana and chi. If modern society has, in fact, regimented our lives around a Marcuse-esque performance principle, it does so at the cost of our very souls. It was no mythological coincidence that the ancient Greeks wedded the god Eros in immortal bliss with Psyche. One cannot exist without the other.

Alienation in the workplace is so all-pervasive it often goes unnoticed or unremarked upon. Perhaps this orientation around surplus repression is most visible in leisure activities such as today’s gyms, the insular form of physical exercise for the corporate workers and bosses. Regimenting the mind in the office is not enough: bodies must be splayed across endless rows of treadmills and metal strength-enhancing machines like legions of marching ants, with the requisite phone or Ipod and headphones attached. As for the flabby and out-of-shape, it is once again a lack of discipline and failure to take individual responsibility, rather than any oppressive social structure which is the causal factor.

These are the pod people, exemplified in a New York Times piece about a former Nike exec and artist who has refused to watch or read any news since Donald Trump became elected, who even goes to far as to use noise-canceling headphones blaring white noise in coffee shops to not overhear any chatter about world affairs. Why not just play music? “Stray conversation can creep in between songs.” The same game goes for the power elite: stray news about the poor and oppressed, and any possibilities of social transformation, are simply shushed away.

Thus, when the business and political elite blurt the snide “Be reasonable!” they are at the same time using the cynical trope of “no grand ideologies” (read: Marxism) which, of course, hides behind the moral relativism and lack of conception of the good life which liberal democracy has always played at, which is ideology at its purest: “the end of history”, “there is no such thing as society”, “there is no alternative”.

These people, whose ideas simply parrot the cultural hegemonic ruling class framework, are asserting the “logic of domination”. Drawing on Arendt and Orwell, Alexander Stern has dubbed this “Bingespeak”. Following Marcuse:

Reason is to insure, through the ever more effective transformation and exploitation of nature, the fulfillment of the human potentialities. But in the process the end seems to recede before the means: the time devoted to alienated labor absorbs the time for individual needs- and defines the needs themselves. The Logos shows forth as the logic of domination. When logic then reduces the units of thought to signs and symbols, the laws of thought have finally become techniques of calculation and manipulation.1

This corrupted Logos seems to have pushed aside Eros in the modern world. Nietzsche would call it Apollonian overtaking the Dionysian. As the socially-constructed ego has developed under patriarchy, civilization, and capitalism, it has done so with the fear of the maternal-based clan, and the Earth-based tribal modes of life. Returning to Marcuse:

The Narcissistic phase of individual pre-genitality ‘recalls the maternal phase of the history of the human race. Both constitute a reality to which the ego responds with an attitude, not of defense and submission, but of integral identification with the ‘environment.’ But in the light of the paternal reality principle, the ‘maternal concept’ of reality here emerging is immediately turned into something dreadful, negative. The impulse to re-establish the lost Narcissistic-maternal unity is interpreted as a ‘threat,’ namely, the threat of ‘maternal engulfment’ by the overpowering womb. The hostile father is exonerated and reappears as savior who…protects the ego from its annihilation in the mother.2

Does this fear not play out between the lines of today’s discourse around the environment? It cannot be the patriarchal, murderous version of global capitalism which is at fault, but rather, an all-consuming mother planet bent on destroying us all (even though it’s all our own fault due to rampant fossil fuel use). In fact, the father figure of global capital now swoops in to act as a savior for everything he has destroyed.

Contrast, for example, the rush to space and immortality that the Silicon Valley techno-utopian folk seem to prefer, or even the “pragmatism” of Steward “we are as gods and have to get good at it” Brand; with the ecocentric approach of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, co-creators of Gaia theory. Corporate-funded mainstream environmentalists would have us geo-engineer the planet and proliferate dangerous 5G technology via an internet-of-things around the globe. Rather, we should convert to small scale, decentralized renewable tech, and attempt to live in harmony with the biosphere by adhering to an ecological precautionary principle.

Thus, the “primal father” version of the future which Brand and his “green capitalist” (an oxymoron) acolytes believe in necessarily involves sacrifice of the masses and more exploitation of natural resources We are told this everyday: “austerity” is needed for economic recovery; delay gratification to pay off debts; foreigners must be killed and are simply collateral damage to protect the world from terrorism, public land is off-limits or only for recreation, not sustainable agriculture and agroforestry; etc.

Reconciling Apollo and Dionysus, Logos and Eros, a less repressive society would not simply focus on what we must sacrifice, but allow space for passion, imagination, and desire. A democratic society would allow for collective decision-making regarding the scale and scope of a host of socioeconomic issues, including sustainable agriculture, genetic research, preventative medicine, animal testing, as well as chemical use in farming and industry.

With a healthy balance between Logos and Eros, we can transcend the deadly framework of instrumental reason and positivism to build a livable future. Some like to call this a “supra-rational” outlook, a transpersonal and holistic view of the world, where emotional intelligence is blended with the analytic, intuition with abstract logic.

What lessons can we draw here? There must be a concerted effort to blend work and play, especially in regards to communal farming, collective home building, and low-scale renewable energy, to create the grounds for authentic liberation from capitalism.

Sustained and coordinated efforts to build autonomous zones free from governmental and hierarchical organization are paramount: indigenous movements throughout South America and worldwide, the mass strikes in France, Christiania in København, freedom fighters in Chiapas and Rojava, and the MST in Brazil offer models of resistance.

We are going to have to adopt a type of bricolage (Levi-Strauss) culture, scavenging what has not been absorbed by global capital, to create beauty in the ruins of empire. Thus, we can begin the Herculean effort to deterritorialize (as in Deleuze and Guattari) and thus reassemble a heterogeneous, co-evolving, transformational commons; to decolonize our minds from a simulated, mechanical mode of life; to detach from the Spectacle; to unlearn and deschool ourselves (Illich) from the oppressive social systems designed to rob and eventually destroy everything we know and care for.

  1. Marcuse, Herbert. (1974) Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon Press. Originally published 1955. pp. 111-112.
  2. Ibid., p. 230.

Bordering On Insanity

In lieu of building his promised wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops to the border. General James Mattis authorized the deployment of up to 4,000 troops to beef up border security, though they will not be permitted to perform law enforcement missions. Where precisely they will be and for how long is not yet clear.

Along with the 16,000 Border Patrol Agents, Texas Rangers, and previously mobilized Texas National Guard troops already on duty – not to mention ICE – it is not certain what the mission of these new forces will be. Trump’s motives are political, not tactical. Fortunately, no troops will be under his direct command. President George W. Bush spent $1.2 billion to send 6,000 Guardsmen to the border to assist with the “War on Drugs” in 2006-2008, while President Obama sent 1,200 in 2010 for the same reason, at a cost of $110 million.

Formed from the original separate state militias, the National Guard has evolved since the Civil War to serve a variety of national and corporate functions. The Guard has often been deployed to break up labor strikes and demonstrations at mines and factories.

On September 23, 1957, defying the desegregation order of the U.S. Supreme Court, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Guard to block the entry of black students into Little Rock High School. The following day President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard, who then escorted nine black students safely into the school. The Guard is a blunt instrument, as easily wielded for nefarious purposes as for good.

Various state Guards further demonstrated their versatility from the 1960s to the present, helping quell race riots or providing disaster relief after floods or hurricanes. Notoriously, on May 4, 1970, when the governor of Ohio summoned troops to help contain an anti-war protest at Kent State University, members of the Ohio Army National Guard opened fire on a crowd of students, killing four and injuring nine. Elements of the Texas National Guard helped the FBI incinerate seventy-six men, women and children in Waco, Texas in 1993, in one of the earliest and least necessary atrocities of the Clinton administration.

Will the National Guard bring stability to the U.S.-Mexico border area? Or add to the volatility of that inherently dangerous, deadly place? “Tragedy hangs over the border like a Mexican piñata,” in the words of Elena Poniatowska. In 1997 a U.S. Marine on patrol at the Texas-Mexico border shot and killed an American teenager herding goats, having mistaken him for a drug smuggler.

The last large-scale mobilizations of Army and National Guard troops along the border with Mexico occurred more than one hundred years ago, during the volatile era of the Mexican Revolution. In 1910, Mexican dictator Porfirío Díaz, who had ruled his country without mercy for 34 years, decided to allow a national election he was certain he would win. But he underestimated the extent of his unpopularity. Anti-Díaz forces – forbidden to assemble within their own country – mobilized along the Texas border.

Concerned about the threat to American lives and property, President William Howard Taft created a “Maneuver Division” of the U.S. Army in the spring of 1911, sending 20,000 men – about one-fourth of all U.S. Army troops – to the U.S. border. American investments in Mexico – in agriculture, mining, railroads and especially oil – were substantial and vulnerable.

When Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States in 1913, U.S. interference in Mexican affairs increased dramatically, taking on a moralistic tone. Unlike Trump’s impulsive, vindictive, ego-driven actions, Wilson’s motives were imbued with self-righteous missionary zeal. Deploring the violence of the Mexican Revolution, Wilson offered to intervene in Mexican affairs “for their own good” and openly advocated for the removal of Mexico’s president.

When Wilson found out a German ship loaded with armaments for the Mexican government was bound for Veracruz, he ordered the U.S. fleet to occupy that port to prevent the ship from docking. Mexican naval cadets and civilians resisted the American blockade. A twelve-hour battle left 125 Mexicans and 19 Americans dead. Wilson, the critic of violence, had launched his own deadly invasion. The U.S. occupation of Veracruz, which lasted seven months, caused anti-American demonstrations throughout Latin America and denunciations from the leader of the Mexican faction Wilson had tried to help.

Pancho Villa, a Mexican bandit turned revolutionary, courted the favor of the Wilson administration. But Wilson could not abide such an unsavory character, opting instead to back one of Villa’s rivals. Shocked and embittered by Wilson’s rebuff, Villa decided to take radical action against the Americans, whose support he had sought for years.

On January 10, 1916, Villa’s men stopped a train in northern Mexico and murdered sixteen American mining engineers. The massacre created a clamor for action in the U.S. Congress, but Wilson managed to avoid a Congressional call for intervention in Mexico. On March 9, about five hundred Villistas attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, looting, burning buildings and killing nineteen Americans. Now the president had no choice. Against his own desire, he ordered a second attack on Mexico.

On March 15, about five thousand U.S. soldiers, commanded by General John J. Pershing, crossed into the Mexican state of Chihuahua on a punitive expedition in pursuit of Pancho Villa. By June Pershing’s forces numbered more than eleven thousand.

As one historian noted, for Pershing, “Going into Chihuahua to lay hands on Villa was like the Sheriff of Nottingham entering Sherwood Forest expecting the peasants to help him hang Robin Hood.” Many Mexicans despised Villa, but they loved the way he outfoxed the gringos. Violence escalated on both sides of the border.

On June 18, Woodrow Wilson federalized the National Guards of all the states, ordering all units – more than 100,000 men – to the Mexican border. They joined the 30,000 regular army troops already stationed there. A U.S. invasion of Mexico appeared imminent. But, despite ongoing violent incidents, Mexico and the United States held off from all-out war.

Pershing’s punitive expedition floundered around northern Mexico for nearly eleven months without finding Pancho Villa. Facing rising tension in Europe, Wilson ordered the U.S. troops withdrawn from Mexico in January 1917. But his punitive expedition and his massive border troop deployment had grave consequences for U.S.-Mexican relations. Under threat from the United States, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza contacted Germany, proposing closer economic and military cooperation between Germany and Mexico. In response, Germany sent Mexico the infamous Zimmerman telegram.

German Secretary of State Arthur Zimmerman wired the German ambassador in Mexico. British intelligence intercepted and decoded the telegram, then presented it to the Americans. Zimmerman proposed an alliance with Mexico to fight the United States, with the promise that “Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.” Zimmerman asked Carranza to invite Japan to join the alliance. President Wilson read Zimmerman’s proposal on February 25 with great indignation.

Wilson had run for re-election to the presidency on his pledge to keep the United States out of the European conflict. But Zimmerman’s proposal was too brazen. The United States declared war on Germany April 2, 1917. After the World War ended in 1919, Wilson remained focused on Europe and his doomed plan for the League of Nations.

By 1920, after ten anguished years of revolution that cost more than a million lives, the agrarian structure of Mexico remained fundamentally unchanged. The large estates and the majority of their owners had survived better than the peasants. Also by 1920 American investments in Mexico were more important than ever, as the Europeans had been driven out. American interference in the Mexican Revolution had eliminated foreign competition and forestalled genuine reform.

“Poor Mexico,” in the words of Porfirío Díaz, “so far from God and so close to the United States.”

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric, his paranoid fictions about an immigrant invasion and his threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement – that he called “Mexico’s cash cow” – are posturing for his followers in lieu of a coherent foreign policy. The President of Mexico, the Mexican Senate and all the candidates in Mexico’s upcoming presidential election unanimously condemned Trump’s statements and his border troop deployment.

But for Trump, as he has shown repeatedly, all the world’s a shithole. Other people exist to be used or abused. He only cares about himself.

Swiss Mining Corporations in Flagrant Violation of Human Rights: Swiss Government Complicit

Peru, Espinar (Cusco Province), 4 April 2018 – Violent attacks have been carried out by the copper mining giant Glencore’s security forces and Glencore-contracted national police on defenseless women and even children, on the poorest of the poor segment of Peru’s population. Glencore is a Swiss registered Anglo-Swiss mining corporation, exploiting mineral resources in developing countries around the globe, where they pay almost no taxes, as their profit center is in Switzerland, in Baar, Canton Zug, one of the Cantons, that has the lowest tax rates in Switzerland.

In addition, none of the socio-environmental standards to protect the environment and the local communities are generally applied in developing countries. In the specific case of Peru, local laws are totally ignored. In fact, never mind Peruvian laws; they are like non-existent for the corporate world. They are simply bought. Never mind Glencore’s own “Due Diligence” rules. They are not respected in a country so corrupt, where laws, judges, lawyers, police, politicians – and even medical facilities are bought.

Above Espinar, on about 4,000 to 4,200 m elevation, Glencore operates open pit copper mining complexes, Tintaya and Antapaccay (“Antapaccay” was a Peruvian mining company bought by Glencore in 2013). The mine is also yielding gold (copper and gold usually go together), at the tune of some 221,000 tons of copper and 115,000 Troy ounces of gold per year (Troy ounce = 31.1 grams). Both figures are for 2016. To do so, Glencore moves some 80,000 to 100,000 tons of earth and rock per day.

An adjacent new mining area, Coroccohuayco, is being explored for continuous exploitation as the current mine is approaching its end. The capacity of this mining complex is estimated at 20 to 30 years, about two and a half generations of rural dwellers will be exposed to this horrendous Glencore atrocities and injustice if nobody takes actions in their defense. Plus, after the mine is fully exploited, the miners usually pack up and leave – leaving an environmental disaster of poisoned soil and water – what’s left of it – behind. Restauration of such huge areas of mining ruins can take hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Glencore, with a total production of 1.23 million tons (2016) is the world’s third largest copper producer, employing some 55,000 people in 30 countries. According to MarketWatch, Glencore’s profit for 2017 registered a massive increase to $5.78 billion, from $1.38 billion in 2016 (compared to the Swiss food Giant, Nestlé, with CHF 8.3 billion, or US$ 8.6 billion, equivalent – 2017).

Glencore would have no shortfall of money to respect socioenvironmental laws, which includes compensating local communities for confiscated land and water, for avoiding deadly contamination of water and soil, spreading into human and animal bodies, causing countless deaths. They have plenty of means to take such protective measures. But it’s obviously cheaper and less cumbersome to corrupt Peruvian authorities, so that nobody dares opening their mouth and speaking up in front of such abuse. Local authorities are all afraid or bought, or both.

Anti-mining riots in 2012, when the new pits “Antapaccay” opened, caused 3 deaths and more than 100 injured. The mayor, who supported the protesting campesinos was temporarily jailed. Peruvian central government authorities have taken full position in favor of the mining corporations; and this throughout the country, where similar disasters are repeated — no respect for local communities, force-expropriating them, poisoning their waters and soil with toxic heavy metals — mercury, cyanite, cadmium, arsenic and others — causing slow countless deaths and destroying the landscape, water and soil.

Arriving in Espinar in the early morning hours of 4 April, we were hit by the news of violent physical aggressions having been perpetuated by Glencore’s security forces and hired national police, on destitute defenseless, unarmed women around noon the day before, 3 April. This happened when the men were out working either at the mine or in the fields, eking out a modest living for their families.

The mine is surrounded by some 6 mountain communities of an average of 1,200 people. None of them have running water or electricity. They are extremely poor and would fall way below the World Bank standard of extreme poverty (less than US$ 1/day). The community that was attacked has a well and a close-by small river which the mine wants for refining purposes and for diversion to other mining communities where water had already been stolen. There was not even an attempt of negotiating compensations. A local leader, advised about the violence, reached the community towards the end of the assault and took video testimonies of the beaten women.

In an exercise of intimidation, the assault was executed by some 30 to 50 Glencore security forces and hired police. The police were equipped with government provided riot gear. They were beating down on the totally vulnerable women with their typical police batons. In one case, four men grabbing a 65-year-old woman, beating her almost to death. A bulldozer was ready to destroy their modest stone shacks. While one house was already destroyed about two weeks ago, thanks to the protesting women and the village men that eventually came to their rescue, it didn’t happen this time.

We met with activists, including the former mayor of Espinar. They all confirmed the Glencore assault. Then we went to the mining area, surrounded by small impoverished farmer communities. We met with the women who told us in tears what happened, showing their bruises all over their bodies – crying. The elderly 65-year-old woman was so badly beaten, she almost died. She was laying in her rickety stone hut that was earlier demolished and shakily rebuilt, moaning from pain, possibly with several broken ribs, no medication and no medical attention. Her situation is highly precarious. In addition to her state of health, her stone hut could collapse at any moment from the tremors of the daily mining explosions.

This bullying campaign is by no means new. It’s a common practice, as was confirmed by former mine workers and farm laborers of the area. Glencore wants to expropriate the peasants without compensation, because they want their water. Mining needs a huge amount of water to the detriment of the population, and Glencore doesn’t pay a penny for the water they consume and pollute with toxic heavy metals. Glencore doesn’t even offer the peasants alternative housing and living areas. The women attempted to file complaints with the local police, but the police refused to even hear them. Of course, they are paid and fully under Glencore’s control.

Other leaders and activists told us about their health situation. How people die like flies from cancer around them and living in the vicinity of the mine even if they are not directly working for the mine. Water, earth and vapor contamination of the air they breathe is so toxic, affecting every living being in the surrounding area, eventually dying a slow death.

Corruption is almost unimaginable. Glencore buys literally not only all police, lawyers, judges, politicians, but also medical doctors, clinics, laboratories in the vicinity. Two community inhabitants told us how already three months ago they were giving blood and urine samples to be tested for heavy metals. The analysis results have not been returned yet and will probably never be handed out to the victims, as they would reveal the heavy intoxication. One of them said under tears that he had lost one of his sons (31) to mine-induced cancer.

According to them, a similar fate afflicts a number of other inhabitants living in the zone. Some 1,200 victims suffer from various heavy-metal related diseases, mostly in their lungs and joints, extreme tiredness, memory loss and lack of concentration. Heavy metals accumulate in the body and are known to affect the nervous system. Several of the people interviewed said they and many of their neighbors and friends were resigned to simply die without any help.

Not only does Glencore not provide for medical assistance, but mine workers are hired from other regions of Peru. When they get sick, protest or die they are immediately ‘repatriated’ to their home region, so as not to cause havoc in the Espinar vicinity. Hence, it follows Glencore’s unethical logic: They pay doctors, clinics and labs not to reveal the level of toxins they discover in the victims’ bodies.

According to testimonies from several inhabitants of the region, including the ex-mayor of Espinar, mental retardation of children and other birth defects are increasing exponentially since Glencore first started operating in 2006 under Xstrata which later merged with Glencore.

The Swiss Government is fully aware of and consequently complicit with these corporate crimes. They know what is going on outside the Swiss borders — inside of which the same corporations would have to adhere to strict rules and follow the rule of law. About four years ago, a Swiss parliamentary delegation visited the Glencore site in Espinar. The visit was announced much in advance, so that Glencore had plenty of time to “clean up”, getting rid of potentially protesting voices. The delegation met with the then mayor, who worked in defense of the people and who gave the Swiss parliamentarians a dose of reality. Nevertheless, the delegation was wined and dined during two days by Glencore. The report back to Parliament was accordingly benign.

When recently approached on another case of flagrant mining abuse, including child work, prostitution and drug trafficking – in this case goldmining related to Metalor in Rinconada, near Puno, Peru – representatives of the Swiss Foreign Ministry’s Ethics Office simply said they had nothing to do with this case. Each one of these companies observed their “Due Diligence” and the government trusts them to adhere to their own standards. In case they wouldn’t, it was up to the host government where they work; i.e., Peru, to hold them responsible. Period.

That’s the noble stand of the Swiss authorities, who know very well that in Peru, like in many other countries where these Swiss-registered corporations operate, corruption is so rampant that they buy themselves out of every crime, including homicide caused by intoxication of heavy metals from their mining operations. After all, Switzerland, like other countries, has diplomatic representations in almost all countries, reporting back home on the state of their host country.

It is not widespread knowledge among the Swiss people that the highest echelons of the Swiss Government meet regularly with CEOs of key corporations to discuss Switzerland’s future finance and economic policies. This may be common practice also in Germany, France and other EU countries — typical for neoliberal economies, that big business decide on the economic fate of the people.

Switzerland is the only OECD country where parliamentarians are allowed to sit in as many Boards of Directors of the business and finance sectors as they please. It is a virtually built-in lobby. This accepted inherent conflict of interest is diagonally opposed to the democratic principles of which Switzerland boasts itself as being a model.

Switzerland has long ceased being the Switzerland where I was born. I feel deep pain for the peasant women living in the area of the Glencore exploited mine, the victims of Glencore’s abject and shameless human rights abuses, and for other sufferers of unethical corporate misconduct.

Why Israel Feels Threatened by Popular Resistance in Palestine

Why did Israel kill many unarmed Gaza protesters and wound over 2,000 on Friday, March 30 and on the following days, when they clearly posed no threat to Israeli soldiers?

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers, many of them snipers, were deployed to the deadly buffer zone that the Israeli army has created between besieged Gaza and Israel, as tens of thousands of Palestinian families held mass rallies at the border.

“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people,” tweeted the Israeli army on March 31. “We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

The tweet, which was captured by the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, was soon deleted. The Israeli army must have realized that killing children and bragging about it on social media is too cruel, even for them.

Palestinian popular mobilization deeply concerns Israel, partly because it is a PR nightmare. By killing and wounding this number of Palestinians, Israel had hoped that the masses would retreat, the protests would subside and, eventually, end. This was not the case, of course.

But there is more to Israeli fear. The power of the Palestinian people, when united beyond factional allegiances, is immense. It disrupts Israel’s political and military tactics entirely, and places Tel Aviv wholly on the defensive.

Israel killed those Palestinians precisely to avoid this nightmarish scenario. Since the cold-blooded murder of innocent people did not go unnoticed, it is important that we dig deeper into the social and political context that led tens of thousands of Palestinians to camp and rally at the border.

Gaza is being suffocated. Israel’s decade-long blockade, combined with Arab neglect and a prolonged feud between Palestinian factions, have all served to drive Palestinians to the brink of starvation and political despair. Something has to give.

Last week’s act of mass mobilization was not just about underscoring the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees (as enshrined in international law), nor about commemorating Land Day, an event that has united all Palestinians since the bloody protests of 1976. The protest was about reclaiming the agenda, transcending political infighting and giving voice back to the people.

There are many historical similarities between this act of mobilization and the context that preceded the First Intifada (or ‘uprising’) of 1987. At the time, Arab governments in the region had relegated the Palestinian cause to the status of ‘someone else’s problem’. By the end of 1982, having already been exiled to Lebanon, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) along with thousands of Palestinian fighters, were pushed even further away to Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and various other countries. This geographic isolation left the traditional leadership of Palestine irrelevant to what was happening on the ground.

In that moment of utter hopelessness, something snapped. In December 1987, people (mostly children and teenagers) took to the streets, in a largely non-violent mobilization that lasted over six years, culminating in the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993.

Today, the Palestinian leadership is in a similar state of increasing irrelevance. Isolated, again, by geography (Fatah holding the West Bank, Hamas Gaza), but also by ideological division.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah is rapidly losing its credibility among Palestinians, thanks to long-standing accusations of corruption, with calls for the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign (his mandate having technically expired in 2009). Last December, US President Donald Trump compounded the isolation of the PA, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in defiance of international law and UN consensus. Many see this act as the precursor designed to further marginalize the PA.

Hamas – originally a grassroots movement born out of the refugee camps in Gaza during the First Intifada – is now similarly weakened by political isolation.

Recently, there seemed to be a ray of hope. After several failed initiatives towards reconciliation with Fatah, a deal was signed between both rival parties in Cairo last October.

Alas, like previous attempts, it began to falter almost immediately. The first hurdle came on March 13, when the convoy of PA Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, was the target of an apparent assassination attempt. Hamdallah was en-route to Gaza through an Israeli border crossing. The PA quickly blamed Hamas for the attack which the latter vehemently denied. Palestinian politics went back to square one.

But then, last week happened. As thousands of Palestinians walked peacefully into the deadly ‘buffer zone’ along the Gaza border into the sights of Israeli snipers, their intention was clear: to be seen by the world as ordinary citizens, to show themselves as ordinary human beings, people who, until now, have been made invisible behind the politicians.

Gazans pitched tents, socialized and waved Palestinian flags – not the banners of the various factions. Families gathered, children played, even circus clowns entertained. It was a rare moment of unity.

The Israeli army’s response, using the latest technology in exploding bullets, was predictable. By shooting dead 15 unarmed protesters and wounding 773 people on the first day alone, the aim was to discipline the Palestinians.

Condemnations of this massacre flooded in from respected figures around the world, like Pope Francis and Human Rights Watch.  This glimmer of attention may have provided Palestinians with an opportunity to elevate the injustice of the siege up the global political agenda, but is, sadly, of little consolation to the families of the dead.

Aware of the international spotlight, Fatah immediately took credit for this spontaneous act of popular resistance. Deputy Chairman, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, said that the protesters mobilized to support the PA “in the face of pressure and conspiracies concocted against our cause,” undoubtedly referring to Trump’s strategy of isolation towards the Fatah-dominated PA.

But this is not the reality. This is about the people finding expression outside the confines of factional interests; a new strategy. This time, the world must listen.

Indulgent Violence: The Legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

There was nothing of the Siddhartha about her.  Modest and sombre middle ways are not the stuff of revolutionary ardour.  Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s mark on history was always going to render the violent normal, the blood stain a perceived, even psychopathic necessity.  If society itself was prone to sanguinary realisations, she would oblige and flourish within its confines.

Everyone has their take on the Madikizela-Mandela legacy, and a few are compiled in the publication The Penguin Dictionary of South African Quotations (1999).  These observations point to a terrifyingly colourful variety, a figure part saint and part gargoyle.  She was “a political figure of almost Shakespearean tragic proportions,” opined Judge Dennis Davis.  Her hands dripped with the blood of South Africa’s people, went a reflective Xoliswa Falati, who formerly knew her and claimed to have gone to prison for her.

As for those defenders of the apartheid state?  “Whenever her name was mentioned in security circles,” came that rueful assassin and former commander of the Vlakpaas counterinsurgency unit, Eugene de Kock, “a shudder went through the ranks.”

The problem with such assessments of ecstatic violence, if it be a problem, is its circular hopelessness. Is the circle ever broken to enable an escape to be forged for the peace makers?  To place her in dramatic pose and see her as Shakespearean leaves the mistaken sense that she is more dramatic than volitional, bound by destiny and text rather than consciousness and will.  It ignores another point she could be charged with: indulgence.

The biography by Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob focuses on that staple view of “women’s ability to face difficulties and misfortune with grace, tenacity and humour, and still embrace life with delight”.  Du Preez Bezdrob engages in a tendency typical in one strand of Madikizela-Mandela hagiography.  Her politics are considered secondary, even if her status is not.  Her claim, made in 2003, was that “her community involvement was not an extension of her role as a politician, but a result of the fact that she still saw herself primarily as a social worker and mother.”  Winnie, suggests du Preez Bezdrob, can be counted among “the millions of nameless women who chose to confront oppression and injustice when it is safer to turn and look the other way.”

With her passing, various South African figures insisted that she be remembered as a monumental female role model.  Consider the words of South African Airways CEO Vuyani Jarana: “She would have loved to see young women being at the forefront of that struggle for development, building the country, building the economy.”

In the ethical spring cleaning and catharsis that was the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Madikizela-Mandela did not fare well.  Members concluded in 1998 that she was “politically and morally responsible” for various “gross violations of human rights” committed by her fashioned weapons in the form of the Mandela United Football Club.  These youthful, often brutal supporters were not averse to inflicting appalling cruelties.  In the words of the TRC, she was “implicated directly in a range of incidents – including assaults, abduction and the murder and attempted murder of at least a dozen individuals.”

Activists and campaigners against the apartheid regime also found her methods hard to stomach.  Paul Trewhela, a veteran underground journalist, communist and former political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort, acknowledged the crushing difficulties she faced, even as her husband of growing legend remained confined on Robben Island.

She worked with activists in Soweto prior to the school student uprising of June 16, 1976.  For eighteen months, she was a resident of Pretoria Central Prison, where she suffered spells of torture.  Then came those eight years of exile in the “little Siberia” of Brandfort. “There is no question,” he writes sympathetically, “that she provided inspiration across those decades under the apartheid regime.  All praise to Winnie Mandela for her outstanding, exceptional courage and daring, her unrelenting defiance.”

All that said, prison, confinement and surveillance transformed her.  In Trewhela’s words, courage and defiance are never enough – even those inclined to brutality can have them.  On her return to Soweto in 1985, she busied herself with terrorising “an already terrorised people. She returned as a psychopath.”

Her exploits came back to haunt her, though she proved dismissive of them.  The child figure of Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, kidnapped along with three other youths from the Soweto Methodist Manse, featured in all its gore in the Rand Supreme Court in 1991.

Winnie’s vicious charges certainly loved their work, though some would suggest that part of their dedication was inspired by raw fear.  Stompie was murdered; Katiza Cebukhulu, another victim of abduction, was scalded by boiling water and rendered to Zambia three days prior to the trial and held for two years in Lusaka.  Cebukhulu suggested that Stompie was finished “off with a sharp, tiny object”, the coup de grace administered by Madikizela-Mandela herself.  Jerry Richardson, the “coach” of the Mandela United Football Club, supplied a different account, claiming in 1997 before the TRC that he had “slaughtered [Seipei] like a goat” under the instructions of “Mami” with shears.

Her reading of post-apartheid South Africa was a repudiation of Nelson Mandela’s softly-softly approach.  Much of this was evident in her London Evening Standard interview in 2010.  The Truth and Reconciliation Committee, designed to neutralise vengefulness in the post-apartheid trauma, was a “charade”; Mandela erred in going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with his “jailer” De Klerk. “He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside.  The economy is very much ‘white’.”

To remember Madikizela-Mandela, then, is to remember the blight of cruelty in South Africa, the hideous distortions of a system marked by race, the barbarism of an order that feeds trauma rather than abates it.  It is also to note those jottings of courage and defiance.  It will be a difficult reckoning, for with her came a vision less of reconciliation than revenge, the spirit of which still persists with tenacity.