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Sean is a former sound engineer turned professional record collector living on the NSW south coast. A self described reluctant academic, lazy political commentator and sloppy social analyst, he unabashedly reduces the noble art of citizen journalism to the standard of public nose picking. When he’s not picking his nose in public, you’ll find him in the studio working on a his latest album, tentatively titled Country Songs in C.

The Skripal affair and the Douma chemical attack – Killing three birds with two stones.

“The people will believe what the media tells them they believe.”George Orwell

Anyone watching the alternate media space in recent weeks might be aware that the Syrian Army has recently liberated Eastern Ghouta, a rebel held stronghold near the capital Damascus which has been under occupation since 2011. Large caches of chemical weapons were discovered in the rebel held area, along with rockets and mortars, as well as industrial-scale production of napalm and white phosphorous.

The end of the six month operation in Ghouta is a milestone in the liberation of Syria from rebel forces. Unsurprisingly little of this has been reported by the Western press, who lacking any verifiable first-hand evidence and without any correspondents in the war torn country continue their nonsense narrative and cartoon-like depictions of the evil doctor Assad; a monster who dismembers small children with barrel bombs and gases his own people in a desperate and doomed struggle to cling to power.

Last week the insane clown President Donald J. Trump indulged his penchant for delivering policy by tweet with the announcement that the US would soon be withdrawing from Syria. This week the front pages are ablaze with news of a new chemical attack in a “rebel-held” northern area which according to ‘some humanitarian groups’ has killed up to 100 civilians including children. In characteristic fashion the verdict of the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN came immediately; without investigation, without evidence, and without due process: Assad has crossed the line and must be held accountable for this war crime.

The level of bastardy our political leaders and their presstitute wolf pack will stoop to is beyond shameless. Damning allegations without a shred of evidence are par for the course. Such is the case in the fast-unraveling Skripal affair. Such is the case with the latest events in Syria. Whether or not a false flag event was planned and carried out by rebel forces in cooperation with their Saudi/Israeli/etc sponsors is not even the point. The point, as Jeremy Corbyn made clear in his speech to British Parliament regarding the alleged Skripal poisoning, is that these are serious allegations for which the evidence presented does not justify the conclusion. Unsurprisingly, rather than being welcomed as a voice of reason, Corbyn was scoffed at and labeled the “Kremlin’s useful idiot.” Gee, where have I heard that before?

“There is no alternative explanation” chortled Theresa May, summoning Thatcher’s ghost. The evidence? The poisoning has been attributed to a soviet era “novichok” nerve agent developed in top-secret Russian laboratories at the end of the Cold War. An agent 8 times more powerful than VX (which somehow failed to kill its victims.) An agent which Porton Down, by its own admission, has access to. An agent which any of eight former Soviet republics from Uzbekistan to Ukraine may have had access to and motivation to use.

In considering the overwhelming lack evidence it’s tempting to overlook the sheer absurdity of the claim itself. In the world of international intrigue it’s not uncommon to see important actors mysteriously disappeared. Ambassadors, outspoken journalists, people who know-too-much, perhaps dying from a skiing accident or a sudden heart attack. But what kind of comic book assassin would commit such an obvious crime as this, unless the purpose was self-incrimination?

The two alleged chemical attacks may seem unrelated to the casual reader, but the political and media response has been identical. For all its high ideals of ‘freedom and ‘democracy’, our western so-called liberal political framework is anything but free and democratic. Author Richard Behan nails it when he writes: “Oligarchy is rule by the few. Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy. Corporatocracy is a society governed or controlled by corporations. We have all three.” The idea of a free and independent press is a fantasy. We live in an era of total war, where information is weaponised. The fourth estate, far from being a check on power, has become an instrument of oppression. In such a climate we cannot rely on the dogmatic decrees of corporate media (unless it concerns the extra-marital affairs of politicians or other celebrity gossip, in which case we’re pretty safe.) Vigilance is required, the only rational course being to widen our lens on current events while placing these in historical context and asking pertinent questions.

For instance: Who benefits from the Skripal affair? Certainly not Russia, which has already faced a huge backlash from ‘the international community’ resulting in the expulsion of diplomats and a level of hostility not seen since the Cold War. Who benefits from the chemical attack in Douma? Certainly not Syria and its allies who would seem to be on the cusp of final victory.

Yet both incidents have been and will continue to be milked by the corporate press to rally public opinion against Assad and the Syrian government, against Russia and Putin, and against Jeremy Corbyn and his labour-left platform. A veritable trifecta for our neoconservative imperialist warlords, and a sad indictment on a kool-aid addicted public all too eager to swallow the corporate media swill.

Terror in Myanmar as US faces off against China

China’s Belt and Road Initiative portends a monumental transformation of the global economic order; one which poses an existential threat to the Pax Americana which has existed since the end of the Cold War. Understanding this context is critical to making sense of the current hysteria gushing from the NGO-Industrial complex and being fuelled by Western liberal punditry.

As I’ve argued previously, decisions taken by the Trump administration since January indicate a shift in US foreign policy. No longer concerned with waging petty wars on behalf of the Israel lobby and the billionaire class, attention has been focused acutely on Asia, and in particular China. Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was quite forthright about this in his August 16 interview with American Prospect magazine in which he stated unequivocally “To me, the economic war with China is everything. We have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.” Without a hint of irony, Mr. Bannon later said “China right now is Germany in 1930. It’s on the cusp. It could go one way or the other.” “A hundred years from now, this is what they’ll remember — what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination.” “We have to reassert ourselves as the real Asian power: economically, militarily, culturally, politically.”

China’s BRI is an $8 trillion infrastructure project which aims to rebuild the old Silk Road, integrating the Eurasian continent in a vast network of road, rail and sea routes across 60 plus countries, and absorbing much of China’s current overcapacity in what President Xi Jinping describes as an open, innovative path to win-win cooperation. It also signals the end of permenant US global hegemony.

Significant foreign policy decisions taken so far under the Trump administration include strategic retreat from Syria, increased hostilities toward Iran, dropping the 11-ton mother-of-all-bombs on eastern Afghanistan, and a doubling down on troop deployment in America’s longest war. All of these are signs of a single-minded approach focused on disrupting China’s growing regional influence by any and all means possible.

One of six economic corridors making up the BRI, the 2800 km Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor will link Kolkata in India with Kunming in China’s Yunnan province, via Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Mandalay (Myanmar). The central hub of this corridor is the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (KSEZ), which includes an express railway and deep water port, and has the potential to turn Myanmar into a regional logistics hub drawing in trade from neighbouring Thailand and Laos.

But rather than a great opportunity for regional development, the generals at the Pentagon see the BCIM as an enemy supply line. With the US flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea and eyeing off the Strait of Malacca – a potential choke point for the supply of oil into China – the $10bn Sino-Myanmar pipeline running from the Bay of Bengal to China’s Yunnan province is now critical to China’s energy security. In order to sabotage this project, Myanmar’s Rakhine state is about to become the next Kosovo.

Like the Uighur of China’s Xingxang province, Myanmar’s Rakhine Muslim minority, known more widely as ‘Rohingya’, include insurgents backed by Western political interests, who receive arms and training from the usual sources. Playing the role of agents provocateur in the latest round of psy-ops, their violent crimes against the local Buddhist population have provoked brutal counter attacks against ethnic Muslims across the country – violence which the “international community” blames on the Burmese authorities.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been the darling of the liberal ‘free press’ for two decades. The poster child for Burmese independence, her opposition to Myanmar’s military Junta earned her a Nobel Peace Prize and 15 years under house arrest before her National League for Democracy finally won a landslide victory in 2015. Suu Kyi now finds herself in the illustrious company of Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega and Ngo Dinh Diem – a rogue asset whose lease has expired and who is about to be thrown under the proverbial bus.

So far the Russian foreign ministry is not buying the imperial line on Myanmar, and should the US or NATO seek to place Rakhine State under its protection, China is likely to respond with force.

Turkey has been most vocal in its calls for humanitarian intervention so far. This comes as no surprise given its role within the NATO alliance. It was Turkey after all which led the call to arms on behalf of Libyan Muslims, allegedly the victims of rape and genocide under the brutal dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Embarrassingly Amnesty International would later be forced to admit that these claims weren’t based on any actual evidence. Turkey was also an important player in the six year effort to topple Syria’s secular democracy and replace it with a Wahhabist theocracy favourable to Western oil interests. Unlike Libya, which was completely destroyed and handed over to terrorists within six months, Syria survived, thanks to the dedication and determination of its army and its allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Before we allow our emotions to be manipulated into supporting more humanitarian violence, we should have no illusions about what comes next. Responsibility to Protect is almost always a precursor to genocide. One of the principle advocates for Libyan war was French public intellectual and media personality Bernard-Henri Lévy. When asked by BBC Hard Talk’s Stephen Sackur “Would you agree that the military intervention in Libya is not going the way you hoped it would?”, Lévy replied “No (laughs) No no, I never doubted it would go this way.”

Author’s Note: This is a revised and abridged version of a piece which originally appeared on Counterpunch

Terror Incognita: ‘Demistifying’ the Fog of War

“The Muslim terrorist apparatus was created by US intelligence as a political weapon” – National security adviser to the Carter administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski

“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and any informed intelligence officer knows this. But, there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an intensified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive TV watchers to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the United States.” – Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken

Corporate propaganda is flying so thick and fast lately it’s dizzying just keeping up with it. For regular readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, Vladimir Putin is the new Fuhrer of American Nazism, while Kim Jong Un is the secret architect of a newly revamped Syrian ‘chemical weapons program’. Chinese hackers are suspected responsible for recent collisions involving American war ships, and Russia stands accused of trying to “redraw international borders”. Meanwhile troop deployment to Afghanistan has doubled and the mission of America’s 16 year long war has been re-defined from ‘nation building’ to simply ‘killing terrorists’.

While J. Robert Oppenheimer’s gift to humanity may have placed the prospect of great power war officially off the table, so too it seems is the zero sum game of mutually assured destruction. With the recent departure of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and key Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, the US administration is now firmly under military control and US military presence is escalating across multiple theatres. A $600bn defence budget representing an 18% increase in military spending was passed in July, approved by 60% of house Democrats. The latter tidbit is by the way of course – it makes little difference on which side of the aisle you sit in American politics. The US barely wears a fig leaf of democracy. The dismissal of the fraud case brought against the DNC for stealing the presidential nomination from Sanders last year is ample evidence of this. Leaders are chosen over cigars in back rooms. It’s been that way since the uniquely underqualified Harry Truman secured the Democratic vice presidential nomination ahead of Henry Wallace in 1944, long before the advent of the internet or so-called ‘Russian hackers’.

The elephant and the ass are equal in every way that matters, especially so since the fall of the Soviet Union, which marked the end of not just dialectical materialism, but democracy itself. I hate to labour the point, but without a meaningful “LEFT”, there is only “RIGHT”. Choose your flavour, identitarian-environmentalism, or conservative-libertarianism. If you’re lucky you might score a small victory for women’s equality, as long as those women don’t happen live in North Africa or Central Asia, or anywhere else the United States of Amnesia claims the sovereign right to bomb with impunity. The US has but one political party. It is the party of war, owned and controlled by finance.

“The rich and powerful piss on us and the media tells us it’s raining”, so the saying goes. It doesn’t take much to draw back the curtain and see the real machinations in play, most of which are actually rather transparent. But those who do so often find themselves ostracised, or labelled crazy conspiracy theorists, or whatever happens to be the latest fashionable slur – ‘Putin apologist’ comes to mind. I’m not talking about flat-earthers here, rather those who dare to point out the uncomfortable yet incontrovertible facts which should be obvious to all.

Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Summers, Jacob Rothschild and James Woolsey are just a few of the familiar names who sit on the board of Genie Energy, a company intent on drilling for oil and gas in the Golan Heights, internationally recognised as Syrian territory under the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920, and illegally occupied by Israel since the Six Day War of 1967. Let’s look at that list again. A former US vice president, a media magnate, a former head of US treasury, a former energy secretary, a former CIA director and a major international banker all decide they want a slice of Syria’s energy reserves, and the next thing you know we are fighting a humanitarian war against an army of darkness led by Skelator, who mercilessly slaughters millions of his own faithful followers by bombing them with depleted uranium missiles dipped in pigs blood. Oh wait…

Ubiquitous mention should also go to Saddam’s WMD, which might have been found had UN weapons inspectors bothered to look under the Bushes. Excuse the terrible joke but sometimes you have to either laugh or cry. “Mistakes were made” we are told. “We went to war based on faulty ‘intelligence’.” No, we went to war based on a DELIBERATE LIE. The US military presence in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 comprised 191 camps, 174 forward bases and 74 combat outposts. How is it then that ISIS was able to take over 70% of the country? The question is rhetorical.

Since I’m clearly in the mood for labouring the point, perhaps we could take a moment here to revisit the events which kicked off America’s longest war. That is unless anyone reading this is foolish enough to believe that the project of depopulating and recolonising the Middle East has anything to do with fighting Islamic extremism.

Let’s skip the detailed compendium of facts and analysis supported by 2600 architects and engineers and 200 plus senior government and military officials and just consider the question of cui bono.

In September 2000, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative think-tank released a report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” in which it was stated that “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a NEW PEARL HARBOR.” Of the twenty-five people who signed PNAC’s founding statement of principles, ten went on to serve in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. Cheney has since stated that 9/11 achieved the goals of PNAC and was his “highest moment in office”. Cheney’s company Haliburton would net $39.5 billion from contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leaving aside the mountain of evidence casting doubt on the official narrative in which 19 Saudi hijackers armed with box cutters managed to pull off the crime of the century in the world’s most heavily guarded airspace, even if we concede that 9/11 was the work of an al Qaeda terror cell, we are still faced with the uncomfortable fact that al Qaeda is nothing but a tool of US intelligence, funded by its Saudi allies.

Listen to Herman Goring invoke Plato’s idea of the noble lie at his Nuremberg trial:

“Of course, the people do not want war. But it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

To its target audience, the US portrays its mission in the world as safeguarding globalisation and promoting democracy in countries which are ‘disconnected from the global economy’. To those who’ve read more widely than JK Rowling and Dr Seuss, it’s called practicing imperialism. To be fair when we speak of imperium we don’t refer to the US alone. Suffice it to say capital has no borders, and the current class of financial elites aren’t patriotic to any nation state. If these crimes are to be laid at the feet of governments and their intelligence apparatuses – and who else would have the resources to pull off something on this scale – the suspect list would have to include not just the usual US spook agencies, but British, Israeli and French intelligence at the very least.

Those still in denial may like to consider this question. Is there not a single a common denominator in the last 70 years of international armed conflict? Have US and NATO fingerprints not been left at the scene of almost every genocide? How long will we accept the pretext of a phony War on Terror to justify wars of imperial aggression? They lied about Bosnia, they lied about Afghanistan, they lied about Iraq, they lied about Libya, they lied about Syria, and now they are lying about North Korea, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan

Anatomy of a Coup Redux: America’s Chickens Come Home to Roost

“Will Donald Trump be assassinated, ousted in a coup, or just impeached?” – The Spectator

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president? It’s been a while, and I think it’s time” – Johnny Depp

“I’ve thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” – Madonna

“I hope Trump is assassinated” – Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal

 

While its many covert actions aimed at altering or replacing foreign governments have been amply documented, names like Abe Lincoln and JFK serve to remind us that the US also has a long tradition of regime change at home. The last Republican president to substantially challenge the doctrine of global ‘free trade’ was William McKinley, and things didn’t work out so well for him either. Are we about to see history repeat?

From Kathy Griffin holding up a decapitated effigy of the presidential coconut in a controversial tweet, to the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar featuring a Trump-like rendering of the tragic Roman Emperor, the very public calls for the removal of the 45th POTUS by violent means are really quite astonishing. Of course in the land of the free such gestures are readily dismissed as expressions of ‘art’ and ‘free speech’, and not as incitement to murder. Are the American glitterati completely off their meds? At least we can rest easy knowing that – with the exception of one Democratic lawmaker – these calls have not come directly from the halls of power. Or have they? Perhaps before drawing any premature conclusions we should reflect on how power operates in a liberal society, particularly one such as the United States.

Liberalism is a totalitarian ideology which permeates not just western politics, but culture, music, art, and film. It is an ideology which since the fall of communism has ruled the public arena unopposed. This lack of pluralism is not just unhealthy from an intellectual standpoint, but a danger to democracy itself.

In Western countries, particularly Europe and the United States, the cold war period was characterised by ideological differences, and by a breed of capitalism which, despite its usual nasty habits, tended to have a positive impact on the lives of ordinary people. This was largely due to socialist and communist aligned labour movements contributing to a dynamic and robust political discourse. Since the symbolic end of the Cold War however, these socialist characteristics have been systematically stripped away, gradually replaced by environmentalism and identity politics. The social safety net has been dismantled; protections for ordinary citizens have fallen by the way. In place of a generally compassionate society with an upwardly mobile middle class, we now find record levels of mass incarceration and police brutality, and all manner of war being waged against the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, the disabled, the indigenous, refugees and the elderly. Not to mention the neo-colonial War on Terror, the very quintessence of class war.

“Who does not know that the question of the liberation of the colonies is essentially a question of the liberation of the laboring masses of the non-proletarian classes from the oppression and exploitation of finance capital?” – Joseph Stalin, 1924

Absent any countervailing narrative, we have entered what some scholars have termed a ‘post-ideological’ era, the End of History if you will, in which all the levers and mechanisms which propel society now work for and on behalf of capital. Thus Western media has become a propaganda tool for the rich, along with cinema and pop music, education and philosophy.

It seems no matter how many times we see the words oligarchy and plutocracy, we still have it set in our minds that ‘government’ is the ultimate seat of power. It’s tedious to have to repeat over and over that our politicians are just the brazen hussies of the global ruling elite; the one percent which includes not just the familiar big banks, weapons manufacturers, big oil, big pharma, agribusiness, and corporate giants like Amazon and Google, but also a massive nouveau bureaucracy of Hollywood royalty, sporting celebrities, and pop stars. The idea is best articulated by Frankie Boyle:

“Not only will America go into your country and kill all your people, but what’s worse I think is they’ll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad.”

The point here is that when Johnny Depp and Madonna call for Trump’s assassination, they promulgate a meme which you better believe originates from the highest ranks of the social order.

So what has the super-callous-fragile-racist-sexist-nazi-potus done to justify such extreme rhetoric? Has he not acquiesced to the political establishment by approving sanctions against North Korea, Russia and Iran? Was deploying the THAAD missile system into South Korea over China’s objections not enough to stand him in good stead with the Washington war hawks? Did lobbing 59 tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat air base not earn him the respect of the generals? Has his ‘tough talk’ on Venezuela been insufficient to appease the boards of Exxon Mobil and Chevron, Goldman Sachs and JPMC?

While the corporate press paints a picture of an ineffective and chaotic presidency, Trump has in fact achieved quite a lot in a short period when compared to previous administrations, fulfilling much of his ambitious policy agenda in his first six months of office. He’s had a record breaking 43 face to face meetings and 102 phone calls with foreign heads of state. He’s cancelled the TPP and forced the G-20 to reconsider its opposition to protectionism and temper its support for free trade. He’s literally ordered the Saudis to cease their support for takfiri terrorists in Syria, and terminated the CIA program which armed and coordinated so-called moderate rebels.

Looking at the larger picture, these decisions seem to reflect a strategic retreat from the much more aggressive economic and foreign policies of his predecessors. Leave it to a six-times-bankrupt billionaire businessman to know how to assess risk. With the neocons and the AIPAC lobby leading a frantic war whoop which can only push the world closer toward a disastrous confrontation between nuclear superpowers, and an internal economy collapsing under the weight of financial globalisation and de-industrialisation, strategic withdrawal makes good sense.

Alas the career politicians and associated elements of finance and industry which effectively govern the United States have not been quiet in their displeasure. Last week saw a mass walk-out of CEOs from Trump’s manufacturing council including Brian Krzanich (Intel), Elon Musk (Tesla), Kenneth C. Frazier (Merck), Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and Bob Iger (Disney), and Travis Kalanick (former Uber). Clearly these captains of industry have little interest in making America great again. Having worked so hard to export jobs, what is the point of bringing them back home, only to drive labour costs up and share prices down?

Trump’s inner circle have also come under heavy artillery fire, with key advisor Steve tax-the-rich Bannon the latest in a long line of recently departed senior staff. With Bannon, Priebus and Flynn now out of the picture, and Trump himself only six votes away from impeachment, many are speculating that he could be forced to resign, or simply call it quits. Failing this, there is still the ‘magic bullet’ option. Will the president who promised no more regime change now find himself on the receiving end of US interventionism? Are the events of Charlottesville a prelude to a Maidan style coup?

“I have an impression they practiced in Kiev and are ready to organize a Maidan in Washington, just to not let Trump take office”– Vladimir Putin, January 2017

For all his bloviating narcissism, Trump clearly has designs which put him very much at odds with the political establishment. Make no mistake, the man is demonstrably a racist, a bigot, a sexist and arguably a fascist, but as Luciana Bohne correctly points out, “they need an INTERNATIONAL fascist, not a stupid, parochial, provincial national one.” And so he will be neutered, or removed, and US imperium will continue its ceaseless march toward its own inevitable collapse.

As far as modern tragedies go, I would have probably chosen Death of a Salesman over Julius Caesar, and where historical parallels are concerned, perhaps a more accurate comparison could be made to the lesser known Romulus Augustus, who ruled Rome from 31 October AD 475 until 4 September AD 476. A diminutive figure who would earn the nickname ‘Augustulus’, meaning ‘little Augustus”, he was widely ridiculed and seen by many as a usurper due to his father’s half-German, half-Roman extraction. Throughout his brief 10 month rule many patricians questioned his legitimacy and authority, choosing to remain loyal to the exiled Emperor Julius Nepos. His short career is generally considered to mark the fall of the ancient Roman Empire.

When Governments Lie: Humanitarian intervention from Serbia to Syria and beyond.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken

“Information that is presumed to be true at encoding but later on turns out to be false (i.e., misinformation) often continues to influence memory and reasoning.” – UK Ecker 

 

While the corporate presstitutes fly into hysterics over Trump’s latest tweet storm, CNN has had to quietly sack three journalists tied to its Russiagate witch hunt, which has finally been revealed to be a complete hoax, engineered for ratings purposes. Also in underreported news, comes veteran journalist Seymour Hersh’s belated revelation that US intelligence were fully aware there was no sarin chemical attack on the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun in April – but went ahead with their strike on the al-Shayrat military airfield anyway.

I guess it’s water under the bridge now. Isn’t that what they say? I should probably leave it alone. I said my piece at the time, turns out I was right. No need to rub it in.

Except they are doing it again!

Just when the Syrian Army and its allies have almost routed out ISIS and retaken control of the country’s south eastern borders, come reports of a new ‘chemical attack’ by ‘government forces’.

The US are losing in Syria and they are desperate. Having backed away from regime change in Damascus, plan B was to force a ‘political solution’ – i.e. to partition the country and create a Sunni “salafistan” in the east. But with recent developments in Turkey, Saudi and Qatar, the defeat if ISIS in Iraq, and Kurdish autonomy looking increasingly off the table, the US are fast running out of proxies to fight their ground war.

It looks like the West’s little killing spree is over, and with it any hope of Balkanising the territory of Syria and Iraq for geopolitical purposes. With help from Russia and Hezbollah, Syria has driven back US backed proxy forces and retaken important strategic territory, isolating the al-Tanf military base in the south, which was being used as a training facility for ‘moderate rebels’. Iraq has also recently declared victory over ISIS in Mosul, marking the end of the line for the Islamic Caliphate. Facing strategic defeat, the US will likely seek to follow the path of humanitarian intervention, aka Right to Plunder, better known by its more polite euphemism ‘responsibility to protect’.

Milosevic, Hussein, Ghaddafi, Assad, Maduro. Five presidents, the same unfaltering script. Venezuela is now in a state of ungovernable chaos, or so the corporate media would have us believe, brought on by repressive government forces responding violently to ‘peaceful protests’. Tell that to the victims of the attack on the Hugo Chávez Frías Children and Maternity Hospital, recently besieged and set fire to by right-wing anti-government extremists.

For those with short historical memories, a similar counter-coup was orchestrated in 2002 against the socialist economic policies enacted by the government of Venezuela following the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez’ ‘crime’ was to take advantage of favourable oil prices to introduce populist policies vastly improving the economic, cultural, and social conditions of the Venezuelan people, through massive redistribution of wealth, land reform, and the creation of self-managed worker co-ops. Chavez’ reforms lifted millions out of the barrio, and still have popular support even after worsening economic conditions brought on by a steep decline in oil prices.

But don’t expect to hear any of this on the evening news. The corporate media, as always, will continue to construct their narrative according to the US’ script, bringing us daily new stories of state violence and corruption, preparing the ground for eventual ‘humanitarian intervention.’

Twenty years after Bill Clinton declared that ‘NATO must stop Milosevic’s atrocities against Kosovo’, few would be aware of the Hague Tribunal’s exoneration of the former Yugoslav president for war crimes alleged to have been committed against Muslims and Bosnian Croats during the 1992-95 war. Sadly the ruling came 10 years too late for Milosevic, who died in a UN prison in 2006 from complications arising from an untreated heart condition. Too late as well for the people of the former Yugoslavia, on whom NATO dropped humanitarian bombs for 78 consecutive days and nights.

In 2011 President Obama grossly exaggerated a ‘humanitarian threat’ to justify military action against Libya which ultimately led to the country’s destruction and the brutal murder of its leader Muammar Ghaddafi. The truth is there was no massacre planned for Benghazi. Neither had there been any mass murder of civilians during counter insurgency operations (let alone rapes by armed forces supplied with viagra.) In fact Ghaddafi had promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away”, even offering the rebels an escape route via an open border to Egypt, rather than letting them fight “to the bitter end”.

Babies thrown from incubators, weapons of mass destruction, sarin gas attacks, attacks on Christian minorities, and on, and on, and on it goes. A stream of endless government propaganda used to justify endless wars of aggression, dutifully reported by prostitute stenographers posing as the western “free press”. Because where would we be without press freedom…

At the risk of triggering Godwin’s law, it should be noted that interference in the affairs of a sovereign state for the protection of a persecuted minority was precisely the argument made by Hitler for invading Poland and Czechoslovakia, and for this specific reason was expressly forbidden under the UN charter. At least this was the position officially held until Clinton’s articulation of R2P.

If you can’t see a pattern yet, you are either blind or wilfully ignorant. Humanitarian interventionism is liberal imperialism by another name, and should be condemned in the strongest terms, especially by those on the left of politics. As a friend likes to say, we are internationalists, NOT anti-nationalists, and have no business meddling in the affairs of sovereign states. Something to think about when the reports of Assad’s next chemical attack begin to circulate, as no doubt they soon will.

MMXVII: Imperium Terminus?

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” – Antonio Gramsci. 

“China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one… If one day China should change her colour and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialist, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” – Deng Xiaoping

“The American century lasted from 1945 to 1955” – anonymous

 

The great game of Empire has raged since Europeans first set sail on the high seas and colonised the world. The Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and of course the British are all historically guilty of genocide, and their crimes will be recorded in the pages of history – or what remains of it should the human race survive.

After the two great wars of the 20th century, the former colonies of the great imperial powers acquired notional independence. But colonialism did not end there, it just shed its outer skin. Today’s world is colonised by the same global empire of ‘free trade’ and mercantile finance which has existed in continuity for half a millennium, from feudalism to capitalism and back again.

In 1600 Queen Elizabeth I chartered the world’s first too big to fail financial entity; essentially a drug cartel which later diversified into banking and arms trading. In the 1840s Britain flooded Chinese markets with cheap manufactured goods, destroying its economy and causing mass unemployment and depression, while bringing opium from India and Egypt, creating an epidemic of drug addiction. The opium wars are but one chapter in a history spanning several centuries – the same pattern of exploitation and intimidation has been repeated wherever the white man has set foot. Along the way there have been pockets of resistance; Lenin and Mao, Castro and Kim, Nkrumah and Lumumba, Nasser, Tito and Sukarno, who’ve struggled for independence and national sovereignty. Most have been neutralised or isolated.

So far as the capitalist west is concerned, nation-states exist to serve the bureaucratic needs of resource and rent extraction. This may take the form of military deployment, economic sanctions, crippling ‘aid’ packages or multi-lateral ‘free trade’ agreements. Where suitable agreements (read: absolute servitude) cannot be reached, governments are readily deposed, as in the cases of Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Zaire. The list is seemingly endless, but these are just small fish. Since the fall of the Soviet Union recolonising China has been the West’s number one strategic goal, and the reason it is currently at war in seven countries.

War is the engine of the Western capitalist economy. It wasn’t FDR’s New Deal that pulled the US out of the Great Depression, it was 10 million men under arms. Under this model of inverted socialism (Military Keynesianism), the US defence budget currently stands at $700bn, paid for in lost jobs, unaffordable housing, education and healthcare, contaminated water, and veteran suicides.

Neoliberal economics is Cold War economics, framed by Cold War paranoia. In Reagan and Thatcher’s warped view of the world removing the social safety net was necessary to compete with the centralised economies of China and Russia in an arms race. The consequences of this false-logic have been devastating. The West has deindustrialised and financialised its domestic economies, outsourced its labour markets, and created mass unemployment and poverty, while local police are now furnished with army surplus hardware.

It gets worse. When your main gig is manufacturing weapons, you want to sell as many as possible – often this means selling to both sides in the same conflict. War is good for business. The Military-Industrial complex feeds the coffers of Wall Street, the City of London and the European Central Bank, which in turn control the levers of state power, leading to a cycle of perpetual war for profit.

The Anglo-American Empire is threatened by any rising power which might challenge its global hegemony. Having already decapitated pan-Arabism and pan-Africanism, there remains the challenge of Eurasian integration. To this end we’ve seen the invasion and virtual occupation of Afghanistan, and the entire Eurasian plate surrounded in an arc of military bases from the Korean Peninsula to the Persian Gulf. Result? Historic levels of cooperation and dialogue between Russia and China. Well played, not so much.

Another perennial threat to western hegemony is the potential marriage of German industry and Russian resources, which has led to the endless destabilisation of governments from the Black Sea to the Baltic, always making sure Russia and Germany are on opposite sides of each new conflict. This is nothing new, in fact this is the same strategy which was played out through two world wars last century. Today the EU stands on the brink of collapse. The European theatre is as ready for war as it was at any time between 1914 and 1945, but Frau Merkel is not Hitler, and Putin is not the Czar. Furthermore, the real centres of influence are no longer Washington, London and Brussels, but Beijing and Moscow, Tehran and New Delhi.

While the US President was in Europe shaking the can for NATO and pushing his “America First” agenda, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a summit of leaders from 29 countries in Beijing, spruiking his belt and road initiative (BRI) which seeks to promote international trade and investment between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. While the West and its key institutions; the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, the UN, NATO, and the WTO, continue their junket of global plunder, China promises win-win development opportunities for all involved in the revived Silk Road project, pledging $124bn in infrastructure investment to build everything from roads, ports and high speed rail, through to schools and hospitals.

The age of gunboat diplomacy may be drawing to an end. Having hollowed itself out domestically, and overextended itself militarily, the Anglo-American world order now finds itself in deep crisis. This crisis may end with a bang or a whimper. While all out nuclear war is still a possibility, we live in hope that assured destruction will be a sufficient deterrent. Multipolarity has become the new realpolitik; Putin and Xi’s vision of a world order based on national sovereignty under the rule of international law stands in stark contrast to the naked imperialism of the West, which now finds itself with no way forward. Charting a new course for a world gone so insanely wrong was never going to be an easy task, but if we do somehow manage to step back from the brink of nuclear annihilation and throw off the chains of imperialism, there may be cause for cautious optimism.

 

Six down, one to go – Iran named as “world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism”

 

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers”, Major General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket, 1935.

“This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” General Wesley Clark, Democracy Now, 2007.

The reasons for wars are seldom the ones given to the public, for obvious reasons. Geopolitics – the study of geography as it relates to international relations – describes a world of resources and markets: oil and gas; silver and gold; opium and silk, producers and consumers, and the distribution network of pipelines, ports and shipping lanes, and road and rail corridors which connect them.

The great inland rail project was the major driving force behind the rapid industrialisation of the United States from 1860 onwards. With major projects like the Trans-Siberian railway and the Panama Crossing, iron rails began to spread across the face of the earth like a Borg assimilation. It’s hard to believe in 2017 that more than a century ago a planned sea bridge across the Bering Strait would have made it possible to travel all the way from Santiago to Lisbon on a standard 5 foot gauge.

Ultimately it was the Berlin to Baghdad railway which proved to be a bridge too far. The project, commenced in 1903, would have provided Germany with a shortcut to the East through Basra, a connection to its southern colonies in Africa, and access to an unlimited supply of oil. The German-Ottoman partnership posed a threat to established power which would ultimately lead to the outbreak of WWI – but not before Britain concluded a deal with the Baghdad Railway Company recognising southern Mesopotamia and southern and central Persia as the exclusive field of operations of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later BP.)

With the exception of the Bosphorus, which connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and the Strait of Hormuz which joins the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Britain and America control almost all of the world’s key shipping lanes. In 2013 China finalised plans to build a 140 million ton per year deep water port at Yevpatoria in the Crimea. This would have cut 6000km off the current trade route between China and Europe, while providing China with direct access to the Mediterranean. Considering this, one might question whether the putsch against the government of Victor Yanukovych in 2014 was really a push-back against Russian expansion into Europe, or rather a head-on collision between China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the US and EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

A while ago I wrote a piece on the current genocide in Yemen. I was quickly brushed off by a resident well-travelled expert for pointing a finger in what I thought to be the obvious direction, because as everyone knows there is no oil in Yemen, and the violence we are seeing today is the same sectarian blood feud which has raged for centuries whenever Sunni and Shia have been forced to live together under one rule. Naked orientalism aside, there are in fact substantial proven oil reserves in the Rub’ al Khali desert extending into central Yemen, but the real reason for the current mass slaughter and starvation of Yemenis is about more than control of these resources. It is a vital step in preparation for a confrontation with Iran.

Iran is the world’s fourth biggest oil producer, sitting on an estimated 150 billion barrels, but more importantly Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz, a vital choke point through which 40% of the world’s seaborne oil must traverse. Yemen’s real geostrategic value – the reason its people are being slaughtered and its childen starved starved – is its ports. When complete the Bridge of the Horns will span 29 kilometres from Djibouti to Yemen between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. With the port of Aden under the control of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and direct access to 2.7 billion barrels of oil and 4.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in the Ogaden Basin of Ethiopia, the petrodollars are guaranteed to keep flowing for the duration of the upcoming Persian Gulf tournament.

“We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond… Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology—located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.”

The irony of the US President’s speech in Riyadh, the very headquarters of Islamist extremism, should not be lost on anyone. During his recent visit to the Saudi Kingdom, Trump concluded a $110 billion arms deal and met with the leaders of 55 Sunni Muslim countries to discuss the formation of a coalition comprising 35000 troops to fight “terrorism” in the region. Ignore if you will the outrageous hypocrisy, note instead the messaging. Is it just me who thinks “Footsoldiers of evil” sounds like a leftover line from a speech written for Dubya Bush?

This script was written so long ago it’s descended into farce. Put aside the terrifying images from Saudi Arabia of gays being hurled off rooftops and the headless bodies of rape victims dangling from cranes; Iran, according to the US State Department and its corporate media whores, is the new face of evil. Iran which hasn’t waged war against another country in more than 300 years; Iran which while by no means perfect, is still far and away the most democratic state in the Middle East.

The “War on Terror” is approaching its endgame. In the battle for control over resources, markets and transport corridors, Iran may soon find itself pit against the rest of the (Sunni) Muslim world. They will get more than they bargained for. As a friend in the UAE reminded me recently, Iran is fierce – let’s hope we never have to find out how fierce.

Zbig’s last hurrah: Terror strikes the Philippines as US moves to oust Duterte.

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is dead, but the foreign policy he helped to craft under the Carter administration lives on. The Polish-American diplomat, political scientist and imperialist windbag died on Friday at the age of 89, sadly 89 years too late for the numberless victims of said foreign policy.

Without a doubt the most influential Russophobe of the late 20thcentury, Brzezinski was the chief architect of US neo-liberal imperialism; the godfather of the Taliban and its progeny, al Qaeda and Daesh. His legacy is the unimaginable suffering of millions, from Central and Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe; from South Sudan to Northen Nigeria; from the failed states of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to the current war in Syria.

It was Brzezinski who came up with the idea of arming the Mujahideen, who were funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Travelling to Afghanistan in 1979 he posed for a photo op with Osama bin Laden, telling Mujahideen leaders “We know of their deep belief in God, and we are confident their struggle will succeed. That land over there is yours, you’ll go back to it one day because your fight will prevail, and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again. Because your cause is right and God is on your side.” Former British Foreign secretary Robin Cook would later describe bin Laden as “a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies.” But while Cook invokes the law of unintended consequences to cover his own arse, the US and Britain continue to arm Islamists to the nines to fight their proxy wars.

Last week, as the Western press focused almost exclusively on the Manchester bombing, ISIS affiliated terror group Abu Sayyaf launched an insurgency in the Philippines city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao, killing up to 80 soldiers of the Philippine Armed Forces. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte responded swiftly, cutting short his visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and immediately declaring martial law on the island. Duterte told the press on Wednesday “I do not have a quarrel with the moral people — I am with you — there will be no abuses, none at all. — everything in government functions — but in Mindanao it is different — because they forced my hand into it” [sic]. Already condemned by international humanitarian agencies for his ruthless assault on police corruption and zero tolerance drug policy, Duterte is now certain to face the admonition of the international community and will be demonised by the Western press in the customary manner.

It was writer and analyst Chalmers Johnson who popularised the term “blowback”, first used by the CIA in 1954 to describe the unintended results of US actions abroad. The argument goes something like this: How do you create a terrorist? Murder the innocent child of a man who never did anything to harm you. This argument, championed by liberal apologists keen to defend Islam as a “religion of peace”, misses the point entirely, while pushing an intrinsically false narrative. Wahhabism is a creation of Western imperialism, not a reaction to it.

The story of western collusion with the forces of radical Islam is spelled out in chapter and verse in publicly disclosed official documents for anyone willing to take the time to read. Countless books and scholarly articles have been written on the subject, from TE Lawrence’s daring adventures to the ousting of Mahommad Mossadegh; from the overthrow of the Sukarno government to the murder of Moammar Gaddafi. In each case, the trail of cash, weapons and dead bodies leads directly back to Western intelligence agencies, who work hand in glove with Islamist groups to achieve their political ends. (The timing of the Manchester attack, 17 days out from an election, when Donald Trump has just concluded a $110bn arms deal with the Saudis and when Britain has the opportunity to commence attacks in Syria without the tedium of a parliamentary vote, should at least raise an eyebrow.)

Brzezinski was first and foremost an anti-communist. “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” he said in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. Alas the capitalist restoration of Russia did not herald the end of the cold war, any more than China’s shift toward market socialism would under Deng Xiaoping. Nor did it signal, as neoliberal scholars would have it, the end of history. Russia and China remain in the crosshairs of US foreign policy in its quest for global dominance.

With Russia now flexing its military muscle and China setting out on its $800bn one belt one road (OBOR) initiative, the globalist empire of free trade and finance capital must once again confront the reality of geographic determinism. Eurasia covers 50% of the world’s land mass, contains 70% of its population, 75% of its energy resources, and represents 70% of its GDP. The prospect of regional integration would leave the US and Britain, and potentially half of Europe cut off from these markets, and is not something the West can let slide.

Duterte’s embrace of China and Russia’s multipolar strategy and desire to put aside historic differences with Beijing runs counter to Washington’s strategic objectives in the region as it seeks to contain Chinese influence. It is however crucial to the rapid and sustainable economic recovery he’s promised to deliver. Notably, the cessation of joint patrols with the US Navy in the South China Sea is a direct trade-off for Chinese investment in high-speed rail in the Philippines.

Such industrial integration indicates a shifting balance in the region, as does Duterte’s hard-line stance on terrorism. (For the last two decades the US has covertly sponsored Islamist groups in the southern islands seeking territorial independence from Manila.) The US operates five military bases in the Philippines. The country is of vital strategic importance if it is to maintain its dominance in the Pacific. Duterte’s insubordination will not go unpunished. With regime change in Manila now high on Washington’s wish list, the people of Mindanao, including some 4,838,060 Sunni Muslims, face a perilous future.

“Kill everyone over the age of ten” and make the island “a howling wilderness” were the official orders given last time the US went to war with the Moors of the southern Philippines – words for which General Jacob Hurd Smith would later face court martial. In 1906 American soldiers murdered nine hundred Moro men, women, and children trapped in the crater of an extinct volcano called Bud Dajo. In 1913 when Moros took refuge in another volcanic crater called Bud Bagsak, Americans killed over five hundred of them. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to commanding officer General Leonard Wood after Bud Dajo: “I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms, wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.”

Media breaks silence over Yemen

“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i) – Nuremberg principles 

I had to do a double take today when a story appeared in my newsfeed from the Guardian, titled “Questions mount over botched Yemen raid approved by Trump”. Seriously, since when does the liberal press give a god damn about Yemen? Apparently since Hillary lost the election it is now safe to talk about this monstrous war, which would have surely continued regardless of who was commander in chief.

Let’s recap.

Billed as yet another in a long line of “civil wars” sparked by the “Arab Spring”, the Saudi led invasion of Yemen has been met with resounding silence by the Western press. Typically, the war has involved the use of banned weapons and the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including not just roads, electricity and water, but homes and farms. These are war crimes by any measure, and while the official death toll so far is estimated to exceed at 10 000 plus 40 000 injured, a systematic blockade on food, fuel and aid means that 21 million Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance. It is reported that a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes of starvation or malnutrition.

Where the six year war in Syria has been acknowledged by the West as a regime change operation, the notional purpose of the campaign in Yemen has been to reinstate “legitimacy”, i.e., to restore the US-friendly government which was recently ousted by Shia Houthi rebels with the support of the majority of Yemen’s armed forces. ‘Restoration’, accompanied by the requisite changes to the Yemeni constitution would leave the “empty quarter” of the Arabian Peninsula, and significant oil and gas reserves in the Rub’ al Khali desert, under the effective control of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In short, this is just another case of Americans, British and French displaying their arrogant disregard for human life in the pursuit of empire.

Glenn Greenwald writes:

“In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September 2011 drone strike…Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemen killed his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The U.S. eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.””

Like much of the Nobel Peace laureate’s ironic legacy, the above mentioned incident received very little press at the time. What some might describe as reckless criminality, for example the murder of 35 innocent women and children using cluster munitions, appears to be perfectly acceptable when you’re following “due process” – never mind that this process may be little more than ready-aim-fire.

Five days ago US Navy Seal Team 6, using armed reaper drones for cover, carried out a raid on the heavily guarded home of an alleged al Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in remote central Yemen, killing 30 civilians, including at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13. Among those killed was Anwar Awlaki’s 8-year-old daughter Nawar, who was shot through the neck and left to bleed to death. The raid had evidently been planned months in advance by Obama’s officialdom, but left for the incoming POTUS to approve and sign off on.

So why all the fuss? This war has been going on for years. Why has it suddenly become newsworthy?

Greenwald goes on to cite the late Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana, who told Congress in 2013:

“Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants. Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen… During George W. Bush’s presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush’s policies.”

When it comes to war and peace, the left was silent under Obama, just as it was under Clinton in the 90s. Remember Yugoslavia? Sudan? Haiti? For eight years there has been no one to protest the starvation of Yemen, just as no one protested the coups in Ukraine and Honduras, the destruction of Libya, or the dirty war against Syria. All of this was conveniently swept aside by the liberal press while we celebrated gay marriage equality and insisted that black lives matter. Can you imagine if any of these war crimes had happened under Bush 43? I can. I was there in 2003 when we marched and burned flags in one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations in history.

The monstrous atrocities perpetrated under the guise of the War in Terror have been part of a political continuum which existed long before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Barack Obama or George W Bush. Make no mistake, Trump is evil, but there is something refreshingly authentic in his manner compared to the suave yet sinister Obama who pursued exactly the same policies, but with apparent grace and charm. I am reminded of this quote from historian Carroll Quigley:

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy… Either party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.”

It’s easy to scoff and jeer at the women’s march – literally nothing but an outpouring of politically correct outrage. It’s easy to call out the hypocrisy of Trump’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim countries which the US has either threatened or directly attacked in support of the genocidal Saudi regime. But when it comes to protesting war I am the first to acknowledge we must all rally to the call. I suppose we should be grateful that the anti-war left has finally begun to stir from its 8 year hibernation, but we must also tread carefully. It’s important that we don’t allow our protest to be co-opted by liberals who have proven time and again that they stand for nothing; who would have eagerly embraced the warmongering Clinton and said not a word when she continued to prosecute the same foreign policy agenda as her predecessor. This is not about Trump. It’s about the whole rotten political establishment.

A final word of caution. Of course one should always call out hypocrisy wherever it is found, but when approaching liberal lefties, it is wise to exercise care and restraint. As tempting as it is to poke and prod, such creatures tend not to like having their darling little feathers ruffled, and have been known to attack viciously.

Fake news, soft-coups, and the truth behind Urine-gate.

The unbearable triteness of the deep state.

Four days before the October general election of 1924, the British conservative newspaper The Daily Mail published a document purporting to be a directive from the Communist International in Moscow, addressed to the Communist Party of Great Britain, calling for closer relations between the two countries. The letter was signed by Grigory Zinoviev, head of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, and Arthur MacManus, a British representative of the Executive Committee of the British Communist Party. The letter in part read:

“A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionising of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc. will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies”

The publication of Moscow’s letter to the reds led to the downfall of Britain’s minority Labour government, and the dampening of Anglo-Soviet relations at a time when the Soviet Union had begun opening up to the capitalist world. A 1968 book by three British researchers argues Britain pushed Russia into isolation “largely because the two middle-class parties suddenly perceived that their short-term electoral advantage was best served by a violent anti-Bolshevik campaign.”

By November British intelligence (MI5) had declared the letter a forgery.

Tragedy and farce

With less than a week remaining before the 45th POTUS’ inauguration, history seems to be taking the piss. On Monday both the president and president-elect were briefed by the intelligence community on the existence of “highly compromising” material on Trump, allegedly obtained by Russian spy agencies. The supposed kompromat file relates to Trump’s sexual conduct, and follows allegations in the conservative press that Trump has been cultivated by Russian intelligence agencies – presumably the same agencies responsible for hacking the election.

While allegations within the dossier remain unsubstantiated, or in some cases have been proven plainly false – meetings which never took place, hotel stays which never occurred – this hasn’t deterred news outlets like CNN and Newsweek from going full steam ahead with the character assassination. During Wednesday’s press conference Trump asserted his populism by refusing to answer a question from CNN’s Jake Tapper, shutting the reporter down with “your organisation is terrible”, and “you are fake news”.

The current mass media obsession with Russia comes at a critical time. Last week one of the largest shipments of American military hardware since the fall of the Soviet Union arrived at the German port of Bremerhaven, set for deployment across seven countries including Poland, the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Romania, and Germany, as part of what Washington calls “defence against Russian aggression.” As well as 4000 additional US troops to bolster NATO’s ground forces, the shipment comprises 2800 pieces of military hardware including US Abrams tanks, Paladin artillery, and Bradley fighting vehicles. This escalation, coming mere days before Trump’s inauguration, should raise a few eyebrows, if not neck hairs.

The US has been at war for 224 of its 241 years. It has 800 odd military bases in 153 countries and Special Forces active in 132. But let’s not call it a rogue state, lest the cognitive dissonance sends our brains into meltdown. Suffice it to say, Russia is so determined to invade Europe it recently slashed 30% from its defence budget.

The Chessboard  

The political and economic reasons for wars are seldom discussed in history books or the mainstream media. To guarantee public support, wars must be pitched as just and moral and above all one-off humanitarian interventions, never as the inevitable consequence of deliberate and continuous foreign policy. To understand the real causes of conflicts , one needs to take a more realistic approach. As historian Michael Parenti argues, the ultimate aim of modern U.S. imperialism (aka foreign policy) is to make the world safe for multinational corporations. Therefore, when discussing imperialism, the prime unit of analysis should be the economic class rather than the nation-state.

The underlying reason for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was to put down an attempted coup by the Euro against the dollar. In eliminating Saddam, putting sanctions on Iran, and removing the insubordinate Hugo Chavez, a clear a message was sent to oil producers not to mess with the petrodollar. Today the Chinese Renminbi poses a comparable threat.

The underlying reason for the coup against Trump appears to be a struggle within the capitalist establishment itself; a confrontation between Wall Street – proudly sponsored by Boeing, Raytheon Lockheed-Martin, Big Pharma, and the taxpayer – and the oil industry, represented by the world’s 4th biggest stakeholder, of which Trump’s new secretary of State is a former CEO.

Trump’s openness to friendlier relations with Russia actually makes a lot of geo-political sense. The sanctions put on Russia following the annexation of Crimea, combined with attempts to restrict Chinese navigation in the South China Sea have made China a ready market for Russian oil, and become a catalyst for a stronger relations between the two countries. To make matters worse, with Saudi Arabia losing its position as China’s number one oil supplier, US treasuries are becoming as unpopular as unbleached toilet paper.

Since OPEC agreed to cut production a surge in oil prices has added 12% and 15% to Gazprom and Lukoil stock prices. Exxon want in on this deal. By pulling NATO out of Ukraine and calling off the dogs in Syria, Trump is throwing Putin a bone. The long game is to keep control of the oil market and isolate China.

Out of the frying pan.

The US political establishment is at a critical crossroads. While drilling in the arctic may not be every environmentalist’s cup of tea, it must be weighed against the threat of direct confrontation with a nuclear armed superpower, and ongoing bloodletting in the Middle East. Loyalty to the War Party runs deep, and they aren’t going down without a fight. To this end we’ve seen a disinformation campaign twice as audacious and every bit as false as Saddam’s WMD being prosecuted by Killary, McNasty, and O’Bomber, with the full cooperation of the intelligence community.

If Trump survives his first 100 days without impeachment (or worse), there could be reason for cautious optimism. “No more blood for oil” has always been at the top of my list of global priorities, followed closely by “Just say no to thermonuclear extinction”, and “How do we save the planet from the fossil fuel industry?”. Perhaps I have my priorities wrong, I don’t know, I’m still trying to deal with the brain melt.

Accusing your enemy of that which you are guilty – The CIA and the “fake news” conspiracy.

“We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” – William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

In 1933, Joseph Goebbels, following closely the recommendations of Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, created some of the most effective propaganda the world has ever seen. Bernays’ prescription demanded the complete domination of communications media to stamp out any opposing view, the participation of artisans, celebrities, academic authorities and community leaders to influence popular opinion at a group level, and a Freudian appeal to base instincts – the need for food and shelter, community and leadership, and the influence of entertainment and fashion – to promote conformity among the German populace.

By now we are all familiar with the idea of German propaganda. In the West it is known by a more polite euphemism, public relations. PR is a lucrative business, with scores of non-government organisations competing for their share of generous funding. Once the province of legacy media such as Voice Of America, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Iraq, Radio Free Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Worldnet Television and Radio/TV Marti, today it comprises think tanks, print media, arts and entertainment, the humanitarian-industrial complex, as well as new technology platforms such as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia, and a plethora of so-called independent media outlets and ‘fact checking’ sites and apps.

The emergence of strategic communications as a soft power option combines psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under a single umbrella. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), working in cooperation with George Soros’ False Flag Factories Open Societies, currently has a budget of US$40m to provide aid to so called ‘independent media organisations’ in 30 countries, including trouble spots such as Syria and Ukraine. The National Endowment for Democracy, set up by former CIA director William Casey under the Reagan Administration to help finance “perception management”, also receives tens of millions in federal funding, as do various “humanitarian NGOs” such as Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, and AVAAZ, who control Syria’s White Helmets.

Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program describes the CIA as “the organized crime branch of the US government, [which] functions like the Mafia through its old boy network of complicit media hacks.” “When it comes to the CIA and the press,” he writes, “one hand washes the other. To have access to informed officials, reporters frequently suppress or distort stories. In return, CIA officials leak stories to reporters to whom they owe favors.”

Less talked about is the agency’s relationship with Madison Avenue and Hollywood. From Animal Farm to Three Days of the Condor, from the thinly veiled torture advertisement Zero Dark Thirty to glamorised fictions like JJ Abrams abysmal Alias, it has often sought to influence popular opinion and whitewash its own reputation through popular media. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is all around us, even if most of us fail to see it in a present day context. For a better understanding of how we have been bamboozled however, we need only look into the recent past.

The Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the CIA, was responsible for running psychological operations in the European theatre during WWII. Its network of journalists, editors, book publishers and stringers was carried over to the new agency under the oversight of Frank Wisner in 1948. The 1975 Church Committee congressional hearing revealed that the CIA maintained a network of several hundred individuals around the world who provided intelligence to the agency and sought to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda, while domestically it spent the equivalent of $1bn a year in today’s money in under-the-table bribes to major American news outlets to act as government gatekeepers. Chief among these were the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, Newsweek, the New York Herald Tribune, and Time Magazine. In his autobiography, convicted Watergate co-conspirator and former CIA officer E Howard Hunt also identifies ABC, NBC, the Associated Press, UPI, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, and Scripps-Howard as key players.

The close relationship between the CIA and the news media is examined in detail in former Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein’s 1977 Rolling Stone cover story entitled The CIA and the Media – How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up. Of particular interest is the close relationship between then NYT director Arthur Hays Sulzberger and CIA director Allen Dulles. While many of the CIA’s relationships with the press were informal, Sulzberger actually signed secrecy agreements with the agency. Given this history it is little wonder that there has never been an article in the Times questioning the Warren Report and clandestine operations such as Mockingbird, Gladio and Condor, or casting doubt on the official story of 9/11.

While maintaining the appearance of objectivity, news outlets such as Washington Post and the New York Times have been crucial in establishing consensus where military intervention has been desired. The Post was the first to report that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003, a claim which has since been revealed as a complete fabrication. The previous Iraq war as it happens was also based on a lie, specifically the testimony of a young woman who went only by the name Nayira, who claimed she had been a volunteer at Kuwait’s al-Adan hospital and had seen Iraqi troops pull babies from incubators, leaving them to die on the floor. It was later revealed that Nayira was the daughter of a Kuwaiti official who had been coached in her lines by New York PR firm Hill & Knowlton. Sadly, the story was swallowed hook line and sinker by the corporate press, resulting in the massacre of 130,000 retreating Iraqi soldiers by US and British forces on the infamous Highway of Death.

Recent history is full of examples of such official conspiracies, from the Gulf of Tonkin to the USS Liberty, from CIA black sites to mass surveillance. Indeed the very term “conspiracy theory” was first adopted by the CIA to discredit public skepticism around the obvious cover up of the Kennedy assassination by the Warren Commission. Today, as “official versions” lose traction with an increasingly cynical public, the intelligence community are becoming more desperate in their attempts to discredit truth seekers. Most recently, and quite ironically, any dissent from official US government positions as reported by its corporate media gatekeepers has been labelled as “fake news” or “weaponised information”.

Just as they did with the Warren Commission, the intelligence community are now using a pejorative label to discredit anyone who dares challenge their crimes and cover-ups. As part of a broader psychological operation aimed at silencing dissident voices, US Congress and the European Parliament are introducing bills to combat, among other things, “Russian propaganda”. At the same time newly formed anonymous group PropOrNot has recently published a McCarthyist black list of 200 ‘fake news’ websites including many well established and reputable journals such as WikiLeaks, CounterPunch, Truth-Out, Truth-dig, Consortium News, South Front, Black Agenda Report, Films For Action, New Eastern Outlook, Global Research and others. At a time when doublethink, cognitive dissonance, conformity, and groupthink have replaced healthy skepticism, this move toward internet censorship sets a dangerous and sinister precedent.

Despite almost complete control of mainstream media, evidence which disproves and discredits official conspiracies is plentiful. Anyone who has seen the Zapruda film knows that Kennedy was not shot from behind, disproving the lone gunman theory. And yet the crime was covered up in plain view, and those responsible never prosecuted. Similarly the collapse of WTC 7 into a pile of fine dust puts the lie to the argument that 9/11 was anything but a planned demolition using explosives. Despite the refusal of many to accept proven facts surrounding the events of 9/11, it is inarguable that these attacks were used as a pretext to launch a war which has upturned the Muslim world and justifiably set entire populations against the West; which has created more acts of terror than it ever purported to avenge; and from which nobody has benefited except arms manufacturers and oil companies.

And now the same intelligence community have the unmitigated gall to tell us that Vladimir Putin sought to influence the outcome of the US presidential election through a network of dissident news sites and that this has the potential to undermine faith in democracy in the West. If this claim is not ridiculous enough, we’re also invited to believe that Putin is actively promoting white supremacist neo-nazis in Hungary and France. Need we be reminded how well things worked out for Russia the last time white supremacists came to power in Europe?

So the agency which has a proven record of lying about just about everything now wants to censor our newsfeeds to keep us safe from false and misleading information. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. As best as one can make out, the authority to label as “fake news” anything which doesn’t fit the approved mainstream narrative seems to derive from the moral right to be obeyed – the “because I said so” argument, or the “argument from authority”. The whole thing would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous. The argument from authority can be easily countered with sound reasoning based on agreed facts, but what happens in a post-fact internet space where truth is defined as anything which suits the purposes of US government, NATO and other Western interests, and everything else is picked up by our spam filters?

Obviously any determination as to what is fake or real must be based in methodology rather than ideology. The “because I said so” argument may work on small children, but it rather begs the question – official news channels are eminently qualified to report the news, in virtue of being official news channels! Fortunately it is possible to assess factual claims based on a number of criteria other than questioning the authority of the source (attacking the messenger.) Does it match with our own observations? Is it consistent with other known facts? Can it be independently verified? Is it simply an opinion or editorial piece masquerading as news? Arguments of the form “small government is good for the economy” are obviously not based in observable fact and therefore cannot be proven or disproven. Arguments such as “Regime barrel bombs kill dozens in Aleppo hospital strike”, on the other hand, are ‘factual’ claims which require serious interrogation and critical thinking, faculties which have fallen conspicuously out of fashion among modern consumers of mass media.

Exhuming McCarthy: Putin accused of stealing US election for Trump.

“Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked.” – William Binney (former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA)

In scenes reminiscent of the 1938 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Western media is losing its shit over the ‘Russian hack’ of the US election. This despite a complete lack of evidence and some pretty serious doubts that any such ‘hack’ ever occurred. But rather than confront the content of the leaked Podesta and HRC emails which expose Hillary and the Clinton Foundation’s crooked dealings and how the Democratic party rigged its own primaries to steal the presidential nomination from Bernie Sanders, the powers that be are engaging in a game of blame-the-messenger, à la Snowden and Manning.

While a few reputable journalists have been quick to point out that the Podesta and HRC emails were clearly “leaked”, rather than “hacked”, citing sources close to the leak including Julian Assange of Wikileaks and former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray (who claims to have had direct contact with the source), most of the mainstream press is swallowing the CIA story hook line and sinker.

Of course Russia did not “hack” the US election, any more than it was stolen by internet bloggers or youtubers. As much as some would like to fantasise, the election result was not determined by Facebook, InfoWars, Wikileaks or by the so-called democratisation of information brought about by the internet. Trump’s victory, just as Michael Moore predicted a year ago, was the political expression of an embattled and embittered working class. There is nothing at all unique about this.

The breakdown of demographics shows that Clinton’s oft-cited ‘popular vote’ lead came down to a few densely populated key urban areas which make up the democratic heartland. In New York City for example, she received well over 2 million more votes than Trump, who won the rust belt in a landslide. (if a mere 58% voter turnout can be considered a landslide.) This is of course why the Electoral College system exists – so that a few large cities don’t get to decide the vote for an entire country.

Consequently, pressure is now being brought to bear on the Electoral College to sway the Dec. 19 vote. With the votes of 270 republican electors needed to put Trump in the Oval Office, the hope is to convince 37 of those voters to vote in bad faith, against the wishes of their electorates. To this end the Democrats and certain actors within the “intelligence community” are pulling out every dirty trick in the book including exhuming the long decomposed remains of McCarthyism. If the vote doesn’t have the desired results, President Obama has ordered a full review of allegations of Russian interference by January 20, which just happens to be inauguration day. In the event of a constitutional crisis the whole election may end up being decided by the House of Representatives, with a very real chance that Trump could be sidelined, leaving us with a far more hawkish acting president Pence or even vice-President Clinton. In any event we can expect legal challenges in the months ahead.

The rank hypocrisy that nobody seems to be talking about is Obama’s claim that the so-called Russian hack allegedly “casts doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process”. This from a country whose Central Intelligence Agency has been interfering in other countries elections since at least 1948. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. What is even more tragic is that this latest psy-op seems to be going viral, with both the UK and Germany now accusing Russia of aggressive propaganda.

Trump’s preferred appointment of former Exxon chief Rex Tillerson to Secretary of State, tho thoroughly consistent with his mandate to make trade not war, has given the Democratic establishment another reason to point the finger at his alleged Russia connections. Herein may lie a clue as to the nature of the rift within the establishment which has the neoconservatives maneuvering so desperately to keep Trump out of the White House.

Quite clearly both Clinton and Trump had little in common with the average American. Both are very much insider figures, but each represents a different face of the establishment. Trump appeals to the billionaire (capitalist) class, where Obama and Clinton represent the trillionaire (finance) class. Where Obama and Clinton are aligned with the globalists of Wall Street, Trump’s interests are nationalist, leaning toward isolationist. His brand of populism appeals to a forgotten tradition of American nativism expressed in the famous words of John Quincy Adams “…she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

It is precisely this point which has the globalists in such a panic. With a defence budget black hole amounting to 54% of all federal discretionary spending, some $598.5 billion annually, it is not just those at the top who stand to lose their perks under a Trump administration. Trump’s desire to tighten the reins on federal defence spending puts him at loggerheads with the military industrial complex which has kept Wall Street afloat these last 70 years.

The permanent war economy has transformed the institutions of American capitalism so that they now work against the people. As one reader notes: “by putting the capitalist West on an economic war footing, by using the industrial might of the West to show the world that capitalism can wipe the floor with communism economically, if it gets rid of the welfare state, removes trade barriers, and focuses entirely on industrial and military production.”

It’s easy to see why Trump’s anti-interventionist prerogative makes him public enemy number one. Public enemy number 2 has to be Vladimir Putin. Putin’s refusal to roll over, incrementally re-asserting Russian sovereignty and its place in the international community, and most recently frustrating US led efforts at regime change in Syria, make him the perfect scapegoat for these fictitious allegations. The claim that Putin personally ordered the alleged hacks serves both to avert attention from the chaos which the US political establishment has brought upon itself, and to re-ignite cold war tensions with Russia.

There is an obvious problem with this hypothesis tho. Doubling down on Russophobia didn’t work for the Democrats during the election, so why would it work now?

 

 

Aleppo has been liberated, so why isn’t anyone talking about it?

Suspension of disbelief: a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.

After 4 years of brutal occupation by Western backed terrorists, the ancient city of Aleppo has finally been liberated, thanks to the tireless work of the Syrian Arab Army with support from its Russian allies, and no thanks at all to the US and its partners in crime who have supported the rebels at every turn, whether materially through directly and indirectly supplying them with weapons, or logistically by helping to precisely coordinate strikes on enemy positions and providing air cover.

The Old City of Aleppo was occupied by terrorists in 2012, and some of the most important historical sites of the ancient world looted and destroyed, including the Ommayad Mosque and the ancient soukh which was razed by rebels (contrary to Western media reports which state it was bombed by the Syrian army.) Up to 150 000 Syrians who have been held hostage by rebels in the Old City are finally being reunited with their loved ones. The scenes on the ground are as you would expect.

Of course none of this is being reported by the Western corporate media. “A Complete Meltdown of Humanity: Civilians die in fight for Eastern Aleppo” reports the NY Times. “Death of a revolution: Aleppo’s civilians ‘massacred’ as Assad forces take back city” reports The Independent. “Executions reported in Aleppo as Syrian army closes in” reports CNN. The propaganda is being laid on thick and fast with usual outlets like Washington Post, the New York Times, and The Guardian now accusing the Syrian army of slaughtering civilians en masse. No doubt we will soon be hearing talk of “genocide” and the Bush era R2P (responsibility to protect) doctrine being invoked at the UN level.

As with previous war efforts, reporting in the West has been tightly controlled by governments and intelligence agencies. But where western presstitutes sit in their comfortable office chairs in London and New York obediently parroting “news” handed down from above, eyewitness accounts from civilians and independent citizen journalists tell a very different story. Reporters such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley and others have reported fearlessly from the front lines of this conflict since it began. Reputable journalists and academics such as Craig Murray, former British diplomat, and Prof. Tim Anderson have provided informed commentary and scholarly articles, while Wikileaks has produced mountains of evidence substantiating their claims and refuting the mainstream media narrative. A recent press briefing by the US Peace Council Representatives on Syria also makes for essential viewing. For those prepared to engage with disturbing facts rather than comforting fiction, evidence of this ‘dirty war’ is abundant and incontrovertible.

The truth, as any Syrian will tell you, is that that the crisis in Syria is not the result of a ‘civil war’ or ‘popular uprising’, but rather a planned operation by the West and its client states, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to remodel Syria in the image of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan – that is, to turn it into a failed state for purposes of resource and rent extraction. The last truly independent Arab country; the last secular democracy in the Middle East; the last socialist Arab republic to champion noble ideas such as free education and healthcare for all its citizens; one of the few remaining countries in the world without any external debt – currently stands as a roadblock to the march of global corporate capitalism and an impediment to neo-colonialism.

The fact that any of this is controversial is worrying in itself. This is a topic which has been written about at great length by journalists and academics far more qualified than myself, and yet even among ‘alternate media’ readership I have encountered constant opposition when expressing honest and fact-based commentary. This speaks at best to a willing suspension of disbelief; at worst to Stockholm Syndrome on a global scale.

The West now acknowledges that the disastrous war in Iraq led directly to the rise of ISIS, and leaked documents show that Western powers have directly and indirectly supported this terrorist group with the objective of isolating the Syrian ‘regime’ and establishing a Salafist principality, i.e., an actual Islamic State in the Levant.

Recent polling shows that 60% of Britons will never forgive Tony Blair for the Iraq War, while just 8% think he did nothing wrong. In 10 years time the same will doubtless be said of Syria. Of course 10 years will be too late for the millions of Syrians who will die if the West decides on a path of “humanitarian intervention”.

The only thing which can positively sway this outcome at the present time is a massive change in public opinion. It therefore falls on all of us to reject the blatant and hollow lies of the mainstream corporate media and demand truthful, factual reporting. Additionally, it goes without saying that those who identify as left-leaning in their politics have a moral duty always to oppose war. With the US congress currently debating a bill which will legitimise the supply of arms to terrorist groups, there has never been a more important time to make our voices heard.

 

Standing Rock: The true face of fascism

With all the frenzied hysteria comparing the election of Donald Trump to the second coming of Hitler, the media has been strangely silent on the assault by police, government, military and private security on water protectors protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Over the course of months, peaceful protesters have been sprayed with water cannons in sub freezing temperatures, pepper sprayed, maced, shot with rubber bullets, had dogs set on them and concussion grenades thrown at them – one woman reportedly losing an arm – for standing in the way of oil companies and their rapacious quest for profit.

A few facts to be clear on:

  • The land in question is under treaty. It does not belong to the United States, but to the sovereign Lakota Nation.
  • Energy Transfer, the company behind DAPL, is owned by Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, with a personal net worth of $4bn
  • DAPL and its subsidiaries are acting in a criminal manner. The law requires a Environmental Impact Statement and cost benefit analysis be submitted for work to commence on the project. To date these have not been forthcoming.
  • This pipeline will impact water quality for millions. The 1,172-mile pipeline was originally to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted after complaints from local (non-indigenous) residents fearing for the safely of their communities and water.

Many progressives are quietly hoping President Obama will take action to help the people of Standing Rock. His remarks from Cushing Oklahoma in March 2012 suggest they are probably dreaming:

”Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (APPLAUSE.) That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

So we are drilling all over the place — right now. That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go — both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There’s a bottleneck right here because we can’t get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible.

Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” (APPLAUSE.)

In a letter addressed to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has expressed its plans to remove Water Protectors from the site on December 5. Of course there is nothing new about forcing indigenous people from their ancestral lands – this is the nature of colonialism, usually overlooked or brushed off as the relic of a distant past. But when the government employs state violence, using militarised police to act with extreme prejudice against its citizens on behalf of private capital, you can forget the idea that you live under a democracy.

North Dakota’s Emergency Commission voted on Wednesday to borrow a further $7 million to cover the cost of enforcement related to the pipeline. With some 2000 veterans set to join the demonstration this weekend, things are likely to heat up. If tensions escalate, this has the potential to make WACO look like a Sunday stroll.

This is unacceptable on so many levels, not least that a nation which sees itself as a beacon of liberty and democracy should continue to hold its indigenous people in such utter contempt. Former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone on Wednesday that America is rapidly headed towards an “economic and political oligarchy”. It seems the good senator has been living under a rock. When private profits are put before citizens’ rights and police are employed to operate as a private security force for big oil interests, you no longer have the conditions for either a constitutional republic or a democracy. This is fascism writ large.

Vale Fidel Castro: August 13 1926 – November 25 2016

“A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.”

Fidel Castro Ruiz, leader of the Cuban revolution and hero to generations, has died, aged 90.

The media response has been largely what one would expect, running the gamut from tepid praise for the “controversial leader”, to condemnation/celebration of a “dead communist dictator”.

In the wake of the recent US election it’s fair to say mainstream reporting has been a little more slanted than usual. Jingoism and neo-McCarthyism are rampant in the press, even though Russia has been capitalist for 25 years, and China has morphed into hybrid state-capitalism. Throughout the years of change Cuba has remained a torch bearer for socialism and a beacon of resistance against US imperialism.

It’s no surprise to see the new US president-elect denounce Fidel as a brutal tyrant and murderer of his own people – in his former career as real estate tycoon, Trump would have liked nothing better than to put a chain of Casinos on the island. The irony here is easily lost on our short historical memories. Illegal gambling and prostitution were among the things which drove the revolution 57 years ago. Those who operated the brothels and gambling dens were the first to flee rather than face discipline at the hands of the new regime, many making their way to the Florida coast in rickety boats.

Still the criticisms keep coming from the conservative press and people who really should know better. I awoke on Sunday to find this comment on my facebook wall. “This is the most backward country. They have cars that are from the 1950s era. Not to mention that there is no productivity in general, to speak of. Total oppressive regime [sic]”, to which I responded in short shrift:

What do you think happens to a country when the greatest power on earth, which happens to be Cuba’s closest neighbour, places a completely restrictive trade embargo on it so they can’t even sell their sugar to anyone? THIS IS WHY CUBANS DRIVE CARS FROM THE 50s. This is why people are poor, NOT because of a socialist government who stood up to US imperialism. Do you know what life was like BEFORE Fidel? Have you even heard the name Fulgencio Batista? Have you read history AT ALL or do you just go along with what you hear in the western press? The US has wanted to own Cuba for 200 years. Lincoln wanted to annex Cuba as a holding pen for black slaves. Read the Ostend Manifesto from 1854 calling for war with Spain over the colony. In fact there was scarcely a president up until the American Civil War who didn’t seek to Annex Cuba. Backing the Cuban revolutionaries in 1898 was not about Cuban independence, rather an opportunity for the US to lay the boot into a fading colonial power and make its own debut on the world stage. Kicking the Spanish out of Cuba and taking control of Guam and Puerto Rico was a cakewalk, but seizing the Philippines became a quagmire – America’s first Vietnam – Even warmonger-in-chief Teddy Roosevelt would be left catatonic by the end of it. The US has been invading other countries and overthrowing their governments ever since. Why do you think there is constant war in the Middle East? Do you not see who the aggressor is? Or do you really believe in America’s manifest destiny to spread freedom and liberty throughout the world? Ever considered that other countries might also want the right to independent self-rule – the right to choose their own governments and not be dictated to by US policy makers?

Cubans love Castro because he stood up to US bullying. In spite of strangling economic sanctions, Cuba’s successes have been many. Cubans have the highest literacy rates, best healthcare, lowest infant mortality, and best social services in Latin America and indeed most of the developed world. Cuban doctors were on the frontline responding to the Ebola outbreak. Cuban emergency workers were the first respondents to the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Mathew in 2016. If this still fails to make the point, Cuba currently sponsors an adult literacy program in Wilcannia in north western New South Wales. Not the NSW government. Not the federal government. Cuba. Let that sink in.

There is a certain sense of irony when those who denounce Castro as a “communist dictator” refuse to acknowledge their own slave-like conditions under the dictatorship of capital. Are these not the very same people who complain about the unaffordable cost of healthcare, housing, and the burden of student debt? The same ones who will be condemned to poverty when they’ve outlived their usefulness because pensions have become an ‘unsustainable’ burden on the economy?

When the closest thing to humanist values we can show for ourselves is the guarantee of ‘equal opportunity’ to fend for one’s self or be damned, are we really in a position to criticise others? Does the fact that we imprison would-be migrants in tropical hell holes to stop them “taking our jobs” make us any more civilised than those backward Cubans with their 1950s cars?

This is a time of mourning for the Cuban people, and a time for the rest of us to reflect. How did the United Sates, a nation built on the principles of individual liberty and popular self rule, become the greatest imperialist power the world has ever seen? What right does the West have to impose its will on other countries? Cuba has eliminated homelessness and child malnourishment, given the world 4 vaccines against cancer and become the first country to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV – all whilst in the choke hold of a crippling US embargo. What might this poor Latin American county of 10 million people have achieved without this intervention?

Newt Gingrich, likely pick for Secretary of State in Trump’s new cabinet, says he wants to reinstate the House Un-American Activities Committee. But perhaps instead of trembling in terror at a reanimated “red scare” in all its cartoon-like absurdity, we should instead confront what was widely known in the late 19th century as The American Peril. At a time when the jackboot of US imperialism poses such an enormous threat to human endeavour, Cuba stands as a beacon of hope, thanks to the courage and vision of a great man.

Vale Fidel Castro, and Vive la Revolución!

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