Archive | October 23rd, 2016

Syria: Latest imperialist war crimes are aimed at saving Islamic State from defeat

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 74 (October 2016)
Image result for Syria: Latest imperialist war CARTOON
The imperialist invaders and their proxies are doing everything in their power to drag out their brutal war of attrition against the brave Syrian people, but success continues to elude them.
As we go to press, the situation is escalating further.

As predicted, the ceasefire was a one-sided affair, with the multifarious jihadi gangs taking advantage of the opportunity to regroup and launch attacks with impunity. But the death blow to the ceasefire was delivered by the US-led coalition itself, with the self-confessed participation of British imperialism, when it struck directly at the Syrian Arab Army in the area of Deir el-Zor, killing some 62 soldiers and injuring over a hundred more.

The two F-16 jet fighters and two A-10 support aircraft that conducted the assault came from Iraq; some reports suggest that an RAF Reaper drone might also have been involved. Right on cue, Islamic State mercenaries took the opportunity to launch new attacks. Understandably, Damascus drew a line under its seven-day truce, a truce that the Syrian Arab Army and its allies alone had observed. Syria’s restraint had been rewarded with what President Assad correctly termed an act of “flagrant aggression”.

As Russian representative Vitaly Churkin told the UN security council: “It is highly suspicious that the US chose to conduct this particular air strike at this time,” adding that the slaughter of the Syrian soldiers did not look like an honest ‘mistake’, as Washington maintained. And if this massacre really was a mistake, what then? Russian defence spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov spelt it out: “If the airstrike was caused by the wrong coordinates of targets, than it’s a direct consequence of the stubborn unwillingness of the American side to coordinate with Russia in its actions against terrorist groups in Syria.”

The imperialists have since done their best to distract attention from their criminal massacre of ceasefire-abiding Syrian forces by blaming Damascus and Moscow for the subsequent attack on an aid convoy approaching Aleppo. But this latest Big Lie began to unravel within days: early assertions that the attack had taken the form of an airstrike were countered by a statement from the UN that all it could confirm was that an attack had occurred.

For its part, the Russian military reported that there were no signs of any ammunition having hit the convoy: there were no craters and the limited damage to the vehicles did not tally with an airstrike. Concluded Konashenkov: “All the video footage demonstrates that the convoy caught fire, which strangely happened almost at exactly the same time as militants started a large-scale offensive on Aleppo.”

The attempt to smear Moscow and Damascus for the attack took another knock back when Russia handed over data demonstrating that a US Predator drone had been present at the time and place of the attack, contrary to the US assertion that it had conducted no missions there at that time. (See US coalition Predator drone spotted at time and place of Syria aid convoy attack – Russian military, RT, 21 September 2016)

Expect the barrage of propaganda lies to intensify in proportion to the progress Syria makes in defending her unity and independence.

*****

The rapidity with which US imperialism is currently being forced to make its Syrian policy shifts, one moment backing the Kurds against Islamic State (IS) and the next moment backing Ankara against the Kurds, all the while talking a good fight against its own unacknowledged Islamic State brat, conveys the impression less of a master puppeteer in total control than of a man caught between three or more fires, dashing from side to side to escape getting scorched.

However tangled the web of treachery and deceit which imperialism weaves, what cannot be concealed is the scale of its humiliating defeat in the proxy war of subversion upon which it has staked so much. It is that galling defeat that now conditions every move the US makes. However nimble its footwork, and however deep its cynicism, it can at best do no more than make the most of a very bad job.

At worst, it is in danger of permanently alienating allies it can ill afford to lose.

A one-sided ceasefire

12 September marked the beginning of a ceasefire in Syria agreed on by Moscow and Washington. For its part, Damascus undertook a seven-day ceasefire. Contrary to the mischievous spin put on the agreement by White House press secretary Josh Earnest (who slyly told reporters that “we need to see Russia make good on the commitments they’ve made in the context of this arrangement to prevail upon the Assad regime to observe the cessation of hostilities”), it is from the ‘opposition’ that real threats to sabotage the ceasefire were to be heard.

One supposedly ‘moderate’ group, Ahrar al-Sham, refused outright to abide by the ceasefire, refusing to break with its buddies in the rebranded Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously known as al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda – what’s in a name?) Quizzed on the attitude of the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition to the ceasefire, a state department spokesman, whilst cautiously professing himself to be “not aware of any single group that has come out rejecting” the ceasefire (hardly a ringing endorsement), was obliged to concede that “certain of them have doubts, have concerns”. (US officials offer mixed reactions to Syrian ceasefire, RT, 13 September 2016)

Following this, over 20 other militant groups declined to honour the ceasefire, including Failaq al-Sham, Nour al-Deen al-Zanki, Jaish al-Islam, Shamia front, Ajnad al-Sham, Jaish al-Nasr and Jaish al-Tahrir.

This shilly-shallying faithfully reflects foot-dragging by the US itself. The head of the Russian reconciliation centre in Syria, Lt Gen Vladimir Savchenko, complained that “the US has still not provided information allowing the identification of the exact operational places of Jabhat al-Nusra in the combat area”, adding that this failure “is hampering the fruitful joint work”. (Syria ceasefire begins, RT, 12 September 2016)

It is of course to imperialism’s disadvantage for a clear distinction to be drawn between ‘moderate sheep’ and ‘terrorist goats’, with open season declared on the ‘goats’ and the onus resting on the ‘sheep’ to break off all relations with their erstwhile brothers-in-arms. It would much better suit imperialism to keep endlessly spinning the kaleidoscope of names and affiliations behind which the jihadi terror gangs shelter, always ready to claim immunity as ‘moderates’ (with the west’s active encouragement).

By contrast, Moscow, now that events have obliged the west at least to parrot the language of peace at Geneva, was businesslike in organising the practical arrangements for the truce. Lt Gen Sergey Rudskoy of the Russian general staff confirmed that “the Russian side has completed all the necessary preparations” for the ceasefire, noting that “the Russian reconciliation centre in Syria has established special monitoring groups in all Syrian provinces to observe the cessation of hostilities”.

He further urged the reinstatement of contact between the Russian reconciliation centre and its US counterpart in Amman. In addition, he announced the plan to establish a joint US-Russian centre to coordinate air strikes. (Over 20 militant groups reject the Syrian ceasefire agreement by Paul Antonopoulos, Al-Masdar News, 13 September 2016)

Kurdish advance at Manbij

We may be certain that, whilst the US feels obliged to talk peace at Geneva or at the UN, it will continue to do all it can to prolong the war and the suffering, still bent on securing either a unified Syria under imperialist tutelage or else the country’s balkanisation.

As of the beginning of August, it seemed that US balkanisation plans were largely staked on the headway that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were making on the ground against IS, bolstered by US air power.

Cynically capitalising upon Kurdish dreams of establishing their own ‘Rojava’ state on Syrian territory, imperialism went all-out to assist the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF, in which the YPG is dominant but which also includes some Syrian terrorist groupings) in the taking of the IS stronghold of Manbij, which sits on top of a key supply route between the Turkish border and Raqqa. For three months, US-led coalition warplanes had bombed and strafed the city, with US officials claiming as many as 2,000 IS fatalities, preparing the way for the SDF’s successful ground offensive.

Celebrations over this success were qualified by the US admission that vehicles carrying between one and two hundred IS jihadis had been given safe passage out of the city after their weapons had been surrendered. US Colonel Carver suggested that there were civilians accompanying the jihadis, some of whom might have been hostages – though if weapons had truly been surrendered it is hard to see what threat the ‘hostages’ faced.

Whilst Carver attributed the decision to the SDF, the outcome accords with the fundamental attitude of imperialism to IS and its kindred spirits: they are to be contained and controlled, not destroyed. (US-backed forces give hundreds of Isis fighters safe passage, RT, 17 August 2016)

Operation Euphrates Shield

It is uncertain whether imperialism ever saw (or sees now) the creation of Rojava on Syrian soil as its best balkanising option, given the threat this would pose to the US relationship with Turkey. For the moment, at any rate, the SDF had served its purpose as the boots on the ground on behalf of the US, and it was time to try to mend fences with Turkish President Erdogan, for whom the sight of Kurdish forces streaming west across the Euphrates was like a red rag to a bull.

So it was that, on 24 August, Turkish forces, backed by US air power and augmented by Erdogan’s own favoured jihadi warriors, crossed into Syria with the declared dual objective of routing both IS and the YPG, targeting first the town of Jarabulus. Just in case the YPG missed the true dimensions of the US treachery, vice president Joe Biden stood shoulder to shoulder with Turkish PM Binali Yildirim to tell the Kurdish fighters that the US would cut off all support unless they returned to the eastern side of the Euphrates: “We have made it absolutely clear that they must go back across the river. They cannot and will not, under any circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment.” (YPG’s short-term gain for long-term loss by Paul Antonopoulos, Al-Masdar News, 25 August 2016)

Ankara has made little secret of its real strategic goal: the imposition of a so-called ‘safe zone’ on the border. In the wake of the incursion, Turkey’s deputy PM stated that proposals to establish an “internationally policed buffer area” should be considered. (Turkey invades Syria, backed by US by Brandon Turbeville, Global Research, 26 August 2016)

De facto, this is what Operation Euphrates Shield aimed to establish: a Turkish land-grab designed to keep the border clear for the transmission of aid and succour to Ankara’s preferred groups of jihadists.

Rubbishing claims that the operation was counter-terrorist in character, the Syrian foreign ministry pointed out: “Any party that wishes to fight terrorism on Syrian soil must coordinate with the Syrian government and army. What is happening in Jarabulus now is not a fight against terrorism. Rather, it is substituting one form of terrorism for another.” (US vice-president Biden meets with Erdogan by Halil Celik, Global Research, 26 August 2016)

The struggle for Aleppo

Meanwhile, back in the real war against terror, the Syrian Arab Army continues to advance, step by step.

It recently regained control over three military academies in Aleppo, cutting off the supply route to the jihadi-held east of the city. The army, assisted by artillery and air cover, recaptured this strategic complex on 4 September.

With the encirclement of east Aleppo re-established and the army in control of the main routes into the city from north and south, the terrorists are being squeezed hard. This means that Russian troops can now be deployed on the main Castello road into the besieged east, offering safe passage to humanitarian aid deliveries agreed under the ceasefire arrangements.

As the struggle intensifies around Aleppo, western propaganda has been painting the picture of a starving city held to ransom by ‘Assad’s regime’, while the west’s role is portrayed as consisting solely of valiant efforts to get humanitarian aid past ‘brutal regime forces’.

In fact, the west’s primary role is to make sure the foreign mercenary terrorists are well supplied with all they need to prolong an agonising war of subversion – a war the west cannot win but dare not be seen to be losing. Conversely, the role of the Syrian Arab Army is to protect all Syrians from the horrors of life under the sway of terrorism.

In Aleppo city, this means keeping up the pressure on the jihadist forces occupying the eastern sector of the city. These, predominantly al-Nusra, are making life hell for those it holds hostage, shooting anyone who tries to flee and using the occupied zone as a launchpad from which to attack the much more populous west of the city that is under government control.

The terror gangs are endlessly lobbing mortars, improvised gas bottle bombs and toxic gas indiscriminately into residential areas – including the main maternity hospital in the city, the al-Dabeet. In a grotesquely cynical move, a photo of 150 doctors demonstrating outside the bombed hospital, protesting against the terrorists and showing their refusal to give in to barbarism, was then stolen and posted on the internet and billed as an anti-Assad demo in the eastern sector.

Completely unreported in the corporate western media are the privations suffered by the inhabitants of the government-controlled western Aleppo at the hands of surrounding terrorist gangs – privations which hopefully will diminish now that the Syrian army controls the main roads north and south of the city.

According to solidarity activist and blogger Eva Bartlett: “Because the ‘rebels’ control the main roads around Aleppo, Aleppo has suffered blockades, sometimes for a few days and other times for many, many weeks. During those many weeks, nothing was able to enter Aleppo: no food, no vegetables, no fruits, no gas, no medical equipment, no drugs … the people of Aleppo suffered a lot.

“The water supply has been cut by ‘rebels’, because the main water stations are in ‘rebel’ areas. Many times they cut the water for weeks or months. So for three years, we had to use the water of wells — we now have in Aleppo 300 wells, which we had to use to provide water for the 1.5 million persons living in Aleppo under the Syrian state. In addition, we don’t have power supply, because the electricity generator and power supply are in the ‘rebel’ portion of Aleppo.” (See Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians by Eva Bartlett, Global Research, 14 August 2016)

Just as in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, in addition to the direct slaughter of men, women and children in war crimes, countless more lives have been blighted or lost indirectly through the policy known as ‘degrading infrastructure’. What lies behind this anodyne phrase was spelt out recently by Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr Bashar Ja’afari.

“Speaking at a meeting of the UN security council, the diplomat stressed that initially the coalition ‘was formed without an approval from the UN and the Syrian government. It [the coalition] began to strike at innocent civilians in Syria and infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, factories, schools and hospitals.’ According to him, the damage caused to Syrian oil and gas facilities during actions of the coalition amounted to at least $2bn.” (US-led coalition’s actions caused multibillion-dollar damage, South Front, 23 August 2016)

These war crimes against the Syrian people, horrific as they are, have only left the nation more stubbornly united in defence of its unity and independence. By contrast, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, key instruments in the waging of the proxy war of destabilisation, are themselves becoming destabilised in the extreme.

Imperialism may for a while be able to prolong the agony of war, tapping new supplies of jihadist nihilism from corners of the world poisoned by imperialist degeneracy. But whilst it can drag the war out, it cannot win it, its resolve broken on the rock of Syria’s steadfast resistance, assisted by Russia.

Victory to the Syrian president, government, army and people!

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Ukraine: Poroshenko playing at peace

NOVANEWS

Image result for Poroshenko CARTOON

The coup government in Ukraine is hoping to transform the OSCE’s ceasefire monitors into armed guards policing the Russian border.

 

As of 15 September, another attempt at a ceasefire between the junta government in Ukrainian capital Kiev and the anti-fascist resistance in the eastern Donbass region (made up of the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk and their surrounding areas) began. The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had flown into Kiev on 14 September, along with his French counterpart, to tell journalists: “We came here with announcements from Moscow that ceasefire would take effect today as of 24:00 hours.” (Steinmeier: Kiev guarantees observance of ceasefire in Donbass, TASS, 14 September 2016)

Ukraine’s west-backed coup president, Petro Poroshenko, assured his guests that he too would abide by the ceasefire. For their part, the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics swiftly announced that their respective militias were under orders not to open fire, even when provoked by the Ukrainian army or the national guard. (Donbass militia leaders forbid their military to open fire, TASS, 13 September 2016)

No man of peace?

This self-promotion of Poroshenko as a man of peace does not sit well with the Poroshenko who bragged three weeks earlier about the weaponry he planned to use against the Donbass. “Today we’re transferring 141 pieces of military hardware produced and modernised at Ukrainian defence enterprises,” he crowed, adding that: “Our partners have already delivered over 700 pieces of military and special hardware: radar stations, counter-battery radars and we’re already receiving remotely piloted stations, thermal imaging devices and reliable communications means.” (What very thoughtful ‘partners’!) (Poroshenko transfers 141 pieces of combat hardware, TASS, 23 August 2016)

Nor does it chime well with the assassination bid on 6 August that left the head of the Lugansk people’s republic hospitalised, or with the thwarted state terror attacks on Crimea a few days later, which left a number of Russian servicemen dead – state terror, because it turned out that the attacks originated from Ukraine’s own military intelligence and were planned to target Crimea’s critical infrastructure. Along with 20 homemade explosive devices were found ammunition, shells and other weapons used by the Ukrainian army’s special forces.

IMF bends the rules

Significantly, this latest ceasefire announcement was timed to coincide with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision, inadmissible under its own rules, to release the next billion-dollar tranche of its (unrepayable) loan to imperialism’s cyphers in Kiev. This money is to buy imperialism a war: to ensure that, however bankrupt Ukraine’s economy becomes, the country will still be propped up to serve as the launchpad for endless provocations against Russia.

Kiev owes outstanding sovereign debt to Moscow totalling $3bn. Under IMF rules, member states that default on bad debts to another member state (which Kiev has done by declaring a unilateral moratorium on repayment on its debt to Moscow) are ineligible for IMF assistance. But when that debtor state happens to be Ukraine and the creditor happens to be Russia, the rules go out of the window and Poroshenko’s IMF ‘partners’ can keep shovelling cash into the black hole from here to World War Three.

No armed OSCE mission!

Meanwhile, as Poroshenko smiles for the cameras and shakes hands with Steinmeier and co, what he is really angling for is to turn the unarmed Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring team into an armed border patrol that is in effect tasked with keeping the seat warm until the junta finagles its way back into control. In other words, Kiev dreams of achieving via diplomatic channels what it cannot deliver on the battlefield.

Kiev foreign minister Pavel Klimkin has invented his own tendentious definition of what constitutes a secure ceasefire (and can therefore unlock the other provisions in the Minsk accords concerning local elections, autonomy discussions etc). Hear how he has sought to raise the bar, effectively blocking all practical progress: “Security is larger than an efficient ceasefire or further steps towards disengagement of troops. It also implies a hundred percent control on the part of the OSCE across Donbass. We’ll continue working towards the [OSCE monitors’] presence in the districts adjoining the line of contact, as this would impede destabilisation there.”

In short, the OSCE monitors should “get an opportunity to control everything that’s happening along the section of the Ukrainian-Russian border, which is still outside of Ukraine’s control”. (Ukrainian, German, French foreign ministers discuss disengagement, TASS, 15 September 2016)

In fact, in August, a spokesman for Ukraine’s border guard service, Oleg Slobodyan, brazenly announced that the service “was drawing up a scenario to restore control over the state border in the Donbass region. According to it, a buffer zone monitored by OSCE would be set up first, and later the area would come under the Ukrainian army’s control.”

An OSCE spokesman, Mr Sajdik, cautioned: “I think there is some misunderstanding on this point – border control. This is not enshrined in the Minsk agreements, so there are numerous voices from the Ukrainian side; just as in all countries, there are various opinions. However, we need to adhere to an official point of view. There is no such mechanism in the Minsk accords.” (OSCE holding no talks with Kiev on deploying its mission to border with Russia, TASS, 14 September 2016)

How long such an admirable spirit of neutrality and fidelity to the Minsk accords will prevail is doubtful, however, the minute imperialist pressure dictates otherwise. Already at the end of August, for example, the Donetsk people’s republic was obliged to take the OSCE to task for failing to properly register the extensive damage caused by an overnight artillery barrage against Yasinovataya to the north of Donetsk, despite the fact that the attack was visible from OSCE positions.

Fascist poison

What is not being registered by any official ‘conflict resolution’ body and brought to the world’s urgent attention is the way that being roped into imperialism’s anti-Russian crusade is corrupting all national life from the top to the bottom, pouring ultra-nationalist filth upon Ukraine’s proud socialist past and promoting the worship of all that is darkest in the country’s history, best symbolised by the infamous Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera.

Where were the headlines in the west, for example, about the recent forcible expulsion of an entire Roma community from a village in the Odessa region? After the gruesome discovery of the body of a nine-year-old girl who had been raped, suspicion (rightly or wrongly) fell on a young Roma man. The reaction was swift and brutal, and took the form of a collective pogrom against the whole Roma community.

Journalist Andriy Manchuk takes up the tale: “A crowd of local residents smashed homes inhabited by Roma families, and the Roma themselves survived only because they managed to flee Loshchynivka in advance. Aggressive Loshchynivka residents searched for them to commit violence, and police rescued with difficulty three elderly Roma women who could not leave the village in time. Otherwise, representatives of the new police force watched the pogrom passively, as five to seven Roma houses were destroyed – to the astonishment of journalists who arrived on the scene from Odessa and Izmail.

“Local authorities also fully supported the actions of the wreckers. Mikhail Saakashvili, governor of the Odessa region [and formerly the west’s favoured pair of hands in Georgia], without waiting for the investigation and trial, called Loshchynivka ‘a den where there is an active drug trade’, accusing the Roma community. A leader of the Izmail district state administration declared that the Roma would be expelled from the village in 24 hours. ‘They will be given the opportunity to peacefully collect their belongings and leave the village,’ said chairman of the regional state administration Valentin Stoykov.”

Not wishing to be left out, the Nazi-loving Azov Brigade, Pravy Sektor and other filth cheered on the pogrom, whilst Oleg Soskin, self-styled ‘Director of the Institute of Society Transformation’ accused the Roma of ritual murder and called for all Roma to be deported from Ukraine. The same blood libel, taken up by the Nazis and their local supporters in Ukraine, was used to justify the annihilation of 200,000 Roma alone during the second world war. (Anti-Roma pogrom sets dangerous precedent by Andriy Manchuk, Red Star Over Donbass, 1 September 2016)

The would-be ‘nationalist’ Kiev junta has in fact succeeded only in handing the nation’s destiny over lock, stock and barrel to the IMF and Nato, just as their forbears sold the country to German fascism last time around. The workers in Ukraine can only advance on the road to their own emancipation by spurning ultra-nationalism and standing with the people of the Donbass in a common struggle against both the Kiev junta and its imperialist patrons.

Down with the Kiev junta; victory to the Donbass resistance!
Nato out of the Ukraine!

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The war in Yemen

NOVANEWS

yemen

 

 

 

 

 

For the past 18 months Yemen has been subjected to a horrific bombing campaign. Officially in charge of the campaign is the government of Saudi Arabia whose excuse is its desire to defend the interests of what it says is Yemen’s proper government, i.e., the US-approved government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi which was ousted from most of the country, including the capital Sana’a, by the long-standing Houthi led insurrection which in turn is now supported by, and supports, Saleh, the president that the insurrection had earlier overthrown. The combined forces of the Houthis and President Saleh, enjoying overwhelming popular support, were easily able to overwhelm the Hadi puppet government which Saudi Arabia is so keen to restore, but whose supporters are now confined to the south of the country around Aden, which is also rife with Al-Qaeda. Behind Saudi Arabia, however, lie the imperialist governments of the US and the UK who see the bombing of Yemen into the stone age as the best way of defending the interests of the energy multinationals with oil interests who call the US and the UK their homes.

This bombing campaign, so little publicised in the imperialist media, is utterly shocking for the sheer extent of the shameless and overt commission of war crimes against the civilian population of Yemen, which even slightly embarrasses the imperialist puppet masters. Saudi targets regularly include hospitals, schools and factories catering to purely civilian needs, such as the production of bottled water and even coca cola, as well as the seemingly inevitable wedding party. In addition the countryside is being continuously peppered with cluster bombs which, besides harming innocent civilians with the deadly ordinance they spray, also plant ‘duds’ which don’t explode immediately but amount effectively to land mines that will detonate perhaps many weeks or months later when disturbed by children playing or a farmer tending his crops.

Cluster bombs, incidentally, because of the devastating effects they can have on civilian communities, have been declared illegal by over 100 countries and yet “The US and other countries have also sold internationally banned cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. And those cluster bombs are being used in Yemen.” But then, conveniently, ” Neither the United States, nor Saudi Arabia – nor any other member of the coalition bombing Yemen – is party to the 2008 international treaty banning cluster munitions .” (Sharif Abdel Kouddous, ‘With US Help, Saudi Arabia Is Obliterating Yemen’ Global Research, December 03, 2015)

The effect of the bombing has been horrendous:

“Travelling through Yemen’s northern Houthi-controlled cities and towns offers a panorama of the vicious aerial assault. Homes, schools, mosques, retail stores, restaurants, marketplaces, government offices, gas stations, power plants, telecommunications facilities, factories, bridges, roads, and UNESCO World Heritage sites have all been hit.

“Some of the airstrikes display a high degree of precision. On the road north toward Saada, all four bridges – none of them spanning more than 20 yards in length – were struck directly in the centre, causing them to buckle and rendering them impassable. The lack of any visible missile craters nearby indicates they were hit with pinpoint accuracy in a single strike.

“Asiri, the coalition spokesman, brushed off criticism that the coalition has targeted civilian infrastructure. ‘Please don’t be too naive, we are in a war,’ he said. ‘We are talking about military operations, we are not talking about a soccer game’” (Sharif Abdel Kouddous, op.cit.)

Thus it is clear that in the view of the ‘coalition’, i.e., the supporters of Hadi, it is justifiable to commit war crimes in times of war, as it is ” naïve” to imagine that a war can be won in any other way! This is course is true of any war that is waged against the interests and wishes of the overwhelming majority of the population, as is the case with the present war in Yemen. Yet, ironically, the resort to war crimes is the surest indication that the aggressors are losing.

On 20 August the Saudis bombed a demonstration in support of the Yemeni government that Saudi Arabia opposes. This demonstration attracted hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, giving lie to Saudi Arabia’s claim to be backing Yemen’s ‘real’ government. The imperialist press reported a crowd of 100,000. Pictures of the demonstration (see front page) indicate numbers far in excess of that.

What is the cause of this vicious assault on a defenceless country?

These days, when seeking the cause of wars conducted by or on behalf of imperialism, it is more often than not a question of ‘Cherchez l’essence’, i.e., look for the oil. What imperialism likes to call its ‘oil security interests’ lie behind most of the present devastation of the Middle East, the largest source of the world’s oil and of its distribution facilities, be they pipelines or sea routes. The imperialist energy multinationals cannot sleep soundly at night if they don’t feel that all of these are under imperialism’s firm control. Yet the more imperialism seeks to tighten that control, the more it gives rise to resistance from the people living in the areas affected.

Saudi Arabia is a parasitic country living almost exclusively on its very substantial oil revenues. Its government survives only with imperialist backing, and has generally been more than happy to serve imperialism in every possible way, even if some contradictions have arisen in recent times over the conduct of the war against the people of Syria. There are indications, however, that Saudi oil reserves may be beginning to run low, while Yemen would appear to have substantial untapped stocks. Interesting revelations have been made by a US researcher:

Why does Saudi Arabia continue to bomb Yemen back into the Stone Age? The crux of the matter is that Yemen has oil reserves, while Riyadh is steadily running out of the commodity, American political analyst Phil Butler explains …

‘Running out of the last of the nation’s only saleable resource, the Saudi royalty have put their country into a mess, the potential for revolution there being acute, should the people discover the real predicament. This is why we see an “all in” Saudi aggressive stance, on Syria, with Iran, and especially where Yemen is concerned. While Washington think tank evangelists try and play the tensions off as Sunni-Shiite religious friction, new oil reserves are the truth of these matters,’ Butler writes.

“To illustrate his point, the analyst refers to the 2013 Offshore-mag.com report entitled ‘Saudi Arabia dramatically increases rig count, accelerates offshore development.’

“‘Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi, said that the kingdom would not increase production capacity beyond 12.5 MMb/d for the next 30 years in contrast to earlier calls to increase output to 15 MMb/d to meet global demand. Simultaneously, however, Saudi Arabia has massively increased the total number of drilling rigs in recent months; this year, the total number of rigs is set to hit a record of 170, nearly double the 88 rigs in October 2012,’ the report stated adding that Riyadh was also exploring and developing ‘more costly offshore fields.’

“If Riyadh was not planning to increase its production capacity, why did it rush to install new rigs, especially offshore ones, which are 7 times more costly to run, Butler asks. The analyst believes that Saudi Arabia has been lying for decades about its actual oil capacity.

“To stay on top, Riyadh has to maintain control over oil reserves beyond its borders, particularly in Yemen. The Western establishment is assisting Saudi Arabia, and with ‘reason’: in November 2005 the Republic of Yemen expropriated its oil basins – the Marib Al-Jawf Block – from Hunt Oil Company and ExxonMobil affiliates.

“‘And big oil hates countries taking back their resources,’ Butler remarks.

“The analyst points to the fact that the Obama administration has long been aware of Yemen’s substantial gas capacity. He quotes Ambassador Stephen A. Seche’s 2008 secret cable , published by Wikileaks, which reads ‘that the governorates of Shabwa, Marib and al-Jawf have high potential for significant gas deposits.’

“As for oil, according to the detailed 2002 United States Geological Survey (USGS), Yemen possesses vast offshore oil reservoirs in addition to its 3 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the analyst under-scores.” (‘Riyadh’s dirty secret: Saudi Arabia thirsty for Yemeni oil, gas reserves’, Sputnik, 6 April 2016).

While these arguments are, of course, merely speculative at present, they are very persuasive, especially when one considers the huge amount of expenditure that waging these wars represents. Although the cost to the victims is far greater, the cost to the Saudi aggressors, on to whom the imperialists heap the expense, is also staggering.

Cost of the war

According to Global Research (op.cit.), In November, the State Department approved a $1.29 billion deal to replenish Saudi Arabia’s air force arsenal, depleted by its bombing campaign in Yemen. The sale includes thousands of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs, bunker buster bombs and ‘general purpose’ bombs with guidance systems.

“Saudi Arabia has been one of the US arms industry’s most avid customers. Between October 2010 and October 2014, the US signed off on more than $90 billion in weapons deals with the Saudi government, according to the Congressional Research Service. US arms manufacturers have also sold billions of dollars’ worth of material to the other Gulf states that are participating in the bombing of Yemen, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the latest acquisition will ‘enable Saudi Arabia to meet regional threats and safeguard the world’s largest oil reserves’.”

British arms manufacturers are also coining it at the expense of Saudi Arabia (not to mention the well-being of the people of Yemen!): according to The Independent, new figures released by the Government show that British bomb and missile exports to Saudi Arabia have increased by 11,000 per cent from £9 million to £1 billion over three months last year ” (Jon Stone, ‘David Cameron accused of silently taking Britain into Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen’, 20 January 2016).

In fact, according to Diane Abbott writing in The Independent of 9 June this year, ”UK arms companies made £2.8bn in revenues in the first year alone” out of their provisioning of Saudi Arabia for the purposes of its war of annihilation against Yemen (see ‘The Government has finally admitted we’re at war in Yemen – thanks to our relationship with Saudi Arabia’).

As for the financial cost of the war to Yemen, according to a Reuters report of 6 May quoting confidential joint report by the World Bank, United Nations, Islamic Development Bank and European Union, the Saudi-backed war in Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the world with its pre-conflict per capita GDP standing at a mere $1,097 a year, cost the country $14 billion in its first 14 months.

This is the price that imperialism imposes on the oppressed countries of the world. What have the ‘socialist’ supporters of the renewal of the Trident missile system because of the need to protect the jobs of skilled British workers have to say about that? Must the jobs of our skilled British bomb makers, to say nothing of the profits of our flourishing British arms manufacturers, also be so tenderly safeguarded at the expense of the suffering of millions of people around the world?

Direct imperialist military involvement

However, it should not be imagined that the military aspect of the campaign against Yemen has been left to Saudi Arabia alone. There is a great deal of military technology, for a start, that even the imperialist profiteers have kept back from countries such as Saudi Arabia, in part to protect Israel and in part because of fears that it might end up in the hands of fundamentalists prepared to use it against imperialism. For that military technology to be deployed, therefore, US military personnel must also participate in the war. As a result “The US has been a party to the conflict since the first months of the fighting. In June 2015, a US military spokesperson stated that the US was helping the coalition with ‘intelligence support and intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, advisory support, and logistical support, to include aerial refueling with up to two tanker sorties a day.’” (Human Rights Watch, ‘Saudi Coalition Airstrikes Target Civilian Factories in Yemen’, 11 July 2016).

Global Research (op.cit.) adds: “As of Nov. 20, US tankers had flown 489 refueling sorties to top off the tanks of coalition warplanes 2,554 times, according to numbers provided to GlobalPost by the Defense Department”.

But again, US imperialism is joined by its British counterparts, eagerly prepared to ‘do their bit’:

Jon Stone, (op.cit.) cites Angus Robertson, SNP leader at Westminster, saying during Prime Minister’s Questions: ” Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen, including a large number by the Saudi air force and they’ve done that using British-built planes, with pilots who are trained by British instructors, dropping British-made bombs, who are coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisors .”

British-made ordinance has regularly been found among the ruins of several civilian targets in Yemen, making a total mockery of Cameron’s response to Angus Robertson which was: ” But yes – do we provide advice, help and training in order to make sure that countries actually do obey the norms of humanitarian law? Yes we do.” (cited by Jon Stone, op.cit.). Cameron, of course, was merely echoing the US imperialist excuse made in March 2016 and cited by Human Rights Watch (op.cit.):“The things we are doing, providing intelligence and precision guided munitions, those are things that prevent civilian casualties,” despite the fact that Human Rights Watch has found remnants of US laser-guided or satellite-guided munitions at sites involving civilian casualties.

Could any further proof be needed of the malign, corrupt, dangerous and toxic nature of imperialism? How is it possible for the vast masses of humanity to tolerate the continued existence of this vile system that exists only for the benefit of the 0.1 per cent?

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on The war in Yemen

A world war has begun. Break the silence

NOVANEWS

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I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”

Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated.  Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.

Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.

On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.”  A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.

Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious  superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.

I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us.  The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was all fake. He was lying.

The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories.  Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.

A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it. General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable.”

In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier.  Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.

Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union –  has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian speaking minority.

This is seldom news in the West, or it is inverted to suppress the truth.

In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — next door to Russia – the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy weapons. This extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power is met with silence in the West.

What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.

Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”.  According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.

What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.

What does this really mean?  It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China.  Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.

I made a film called The War You Don’t See, in which I interviewed distinguished journalists in America and Britain: reporters such as Dan Rather of CBS, Rageh Omar of the BBC, David Rose of the Observer.

All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and  hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.

The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or  China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” — a Dan Rather equivalent, say –asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.

The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear -armed bombers.

This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and  across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.

In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist.  He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure.  That alone should arouse our scepticism.

Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.

According to one prodigious liberal commentator, Trump is “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them?

This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.

No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenceless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image”.  The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.

Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.

As presidential  election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”. And the drool goes on.

Described by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as “funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician”, Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia.  He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons.  As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of State, who has attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary”. This is the same Madeleine Albright  who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it”.

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East.  She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.

A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported — such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton;  such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality,  racism and sexism.

Today, the long sleep may be over. The young are stirring again. Gradually. The thousands in Britain who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening – as are those who rallied to support Senator Bernie Sanders.

In Britain last week, Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally, his shadow treasurer John McDonnell, committed a Labour government to pay off the debts of piratical banks and, in effect, to continue so-called austerity.

In the US, Bernie Sanders has promised to support Clinton if or when she’s nominated. He, too, has voted for America’s use of violence against countries when he thinks it’s “right”. He says Obama has done “a great job”.

In Australia, there is a kind of mortuary politics, in which tedious parliamentary games are played out in the media while refugees and Indigenous people are persecuted and inequality grows, along with the danger of war. The government of Malcolm Turnbull has just announced a so-called defence budget of $195 billion that is a drive to war.  There was no debate. Silence.

What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?

Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?

Posted in USA, Europe, WorldComments Off on A world war has begun. Break the silence

US imperialism’s military aggression is the major factor behind South China Sea disputes

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 73 (August 2016)

Image result for US imperialism’s military CARTOON

Hague Tribunal hands out decisions beyond its jurisdiction.

 

The South China Sea is a long way from the United States, but the latter is claiming that its domination is necessary there in order to protect vital US interests and ‘freedom of navigation’.

However, as was pointed out in the July 2015 issue of Lalkar: “In the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the east European people’s democracies, and the defeat of Iraq in the first Gulf War, the US proclaimed more brazenly than ever that its goal was nothing short of unrivalled global hegemony.

“A Pentagon report leaked to the New York Times in March 1992 asserted that ‘America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to insure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union … The classified document makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behaviour (sic) and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.’ (US strategy plan calls for insuring no rivals develop, by Patrick E Tyler, 8 March 1992)”

As a decadent imperialist power, the US can only prolong its anachronistic existence by extending its economic and military domination to every corner of the globe in order to squeeze out every ounce of profit for the benefit of a handful of billionaires at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world. The latter, naturally and quite rightly, must put up resistance.

Context: imperialism and the drive to war

Since shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the strongest countries resisting US expansionism have become China and Russia. Many decades of socialist construction enabled both countries to establish strong and independent industrial, scientific and military foundations, on the basis of which the encroachments of western imperialism can be effectively resisted. Russia may have abandoned socialism, but its socialist legacy is still a boon.

However, to US, Japanese and European imperialism, resistance to their domination is an unacceptable and outrageous obstacle to their desperate need for economic expansion – a need that is inexorably propelling them to war. Unlike their unceasing wars against weaker nations – Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc – which are almost entirely contained within the areas under attack (although even there victory for imperialism is elusive), war waged against Russia and/or China would inevitably involve the imperialist countries themselves as theatres of war. London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York could easily find themselves the targets of the kind of bombing that western imperialism thinks nothing of inflicting on others.

Despite this, imperialist desperation is such that it is being driven to war regardless, for which purpose it is making frantic preparations. This can be demonstrated by the enormous increase in ‘defence’ (read ‘offence’) spending, as well as by the ever more adventurous ‘war games’ being carried out by the imperialists. These practice runs include the Anaconda exercises conducted recently in eastern Europe with the intention of intimidating Russia, and the largest-ever provocative military exercises this spring around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), simulating a nuclear attack on that country, which are also intended as an intimidation of China.

The drive to war also explains the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) in south Korea, whose purpose cannot possibly be defence – since China does not have ambitions to take over the United States – but, on the contrary, is to facilitate US military attacks on China by blocking the effects of any Chinese retaliation.

As the Lalkar article cited above pointed out, the US has openly boasted of its aggressive military build-up in the South China Sea. Its spokesman, US defence secretary Ashton Carter, announced that the defence department would “deepen longstanding alliances and partnerships, diversify America’s force posture, and make new investments in key capabilities and platforms”.

He continued: ”The department is investing in the technologies that are most relevant to this complex security environment, such as new unmanned systems for the air and sea, a new long-range bomber, and other technologies like the electromagnetic rail-gun, lasers, and new systems for space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones.”

Carter emphasised that the US would “bring the best platforms and people forward to the Asia-Pacific”. These include ”the latest Virginia-class [nuclear] submarines, the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, the newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, and brand-new carrier-based E-2D Hawkeye early-warning-and-control aircraft”.

Having outlined this dangerous military build-up, Carter went on, apparently without a trace of irony, to declare that the US opposed “any further militarisation of disputed features” in the South China Sea – a reference to two small mobile artillery guns that the US claims China has placed on one of the islets.

The present disputes

It is against this background that the various disputes over ownership and control of a few largely uninhabited islands and rocks needs to be viewed. At bottom, China and the US are vying for control of a waterway that lies off the Chinese coast, many thousands of miles from the nearest US landfall.

Nevertheless, China has held these islands as a part of its national territory for centuries. “Successive Chinese governments have marked Nanhai Zhudao [the Chinese island territories in the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal] as Chinese territory on official maps, such as the 1755 Tian Xia Zong Yu Tu (General Map of Geography of the All-under-heaven) of the Huang Qing Ge Zhi Sheng Fen Tu (Map of the Provinces Directly under the Imperial Qing Authority), the 1767 Da Qing Wan Nian Yi Tong Tian Xia Tu (Map of the Eternally Unified All-under-heaven of the Great Qing Empire), the 1810 Da Qing Wan Nian Yi Tong Di Li Quan Tu (Map of the Eternally Unified Great Qing Empire) and the 1817 Da Qing Yi Tong Tian Xia Quan Tu (Map of the Unified All-under-heaven of the Great Qing Empire).

“Historical facts show that the Chinese people have all along taken Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters as a ground for living and production, where they have engaged in exploration and exploitation activities in various forms. The successive Chinese governments have exercised jurisdiction over Nanhai Zhudao in a continuous, peaceful and effective manner. In the course of history, China has established sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea. The Chinese people have long been the master of Nanhai Zhudao.

“China has always been resolute in upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.” (Full text: China adheres to the position of settling through negotiation the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, Xinhua, 13 July 2016)

In fact, it was not until the 20th-century imperialist incursions that China’s rights were seriously disturbed.

Of course, geographical distance makes it impossible for US imperialism to argue with any credibility that it has any maritime rights – or any rights at all except those enjoyed for peaceful purposes by all countries over the high seas. So it acts through proxies – economically and militarily weak countries such as the Philippines, to whom it offers its ‘protection’ in true mafia boss style.

Since the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of various countries in the region overlap, this has given rise to disputes from time to time between China and some of its neighbours over ownership of maritime rights, and it is these contradictions that US imperialism has eagerly – especially since Obama announced its ‘pivot to Asia’ policy in January 2013 – sought to exploit in order to further its own interests.

However, the Chinese position has always been to enter into negotiations with any neighbouring country with which disputes arise with a view to finding solutions advantageous to all parties – a policy that has worked very well in the past (indeed, China has successfully and amicably resolved its disputes with regard to land borders with nearly all its neighbours), and is only now being undermined by US imperialist interference.

Interests in the South China Sea are not purely military, although strategic interests are of course of prime importance. Fishing rights and the rights to the minerals and hydrocarbon resources lying below the sea bed are extremely valuable, and all the various countries – not least the US – want to have their ‘fair share’, which in the case of the US is undoubtedly the lion’s share. “The 4m sq km sea is crossed by ships carrying $5tn worth of cargo every year and also has large energy reserves, including an estimated 11bn barrels of oil and 190tn cubic feet of natural gas.” (Tribunal rules against Beijing in South China Sea dispute by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Dyer, Financial Times, 13 July 2016)

The map above shows the area, and also what is called the ‘nine-dash line’, which China claims represents the frontier of its territorial waters. This nine-dash line made its first appearance in maps published by the Chinese Republic in 1947 – ie, two years before the founding of the People’s Republic of China – and it represented what was generally agreed at the time to represent China’s historic rights. This included sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal. These rights had been violated by imperialist powers, especially Japanese imperialism, but that violation came to an end with the defeat of Japan in the second world war, and therefore China reclaimed all that had been hers before the Japanese incursions.

At the time, China had the full support of the United States in reclaiming its sovereignty of the islands, as was explained by Professor Dai Bingguo, honorary president of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University and previously the state councillor in overall charge of China’s foreign policy at a conference recently jointly organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace of the United States and Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“Historical materials of China and many western countries corroborate the fact that it was the Chinese people who were the first to discover, name, develop and administer the islands in the South China Sea, and that the Chinese government was the first to peacefully and effectively exercise continuous sovereign jurisdiction on South China Sea islands. During the second world war, Japan illegally invaded and occupied China’s South China Sea islands, which were restored to China after the war. Pursuant to the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, which were cornerstones of the post-war international order, Japan shall return the stolen Chinese territory to China. Following the end of the war, China restored [recovered] Taiwan, Penghu Islands [presently administered by Taiwan], Xisha [Paracel] Islands and Nansha [Spratly] Islands illegally occupied by Japan.

“Many of you were probably not aware of this, but China’s actions to restore [recover] the islands were supported by General Douglas McArthur. China’s military and government personnel were ferried by US-provided military vessels to Xisha and Nansha Islands to hold the restoration ceremony. After that, the US filed applications to Chinese authorities on Taiwan to conduct geodetic survey in some of the Nansha Islands on many occasions.

“All this shows that the return of the Nansha Islands to China is part of the post-war international order and relevant territorial arrangements.” (Speech by Professor Dai, Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, 5 July 2016)

None of this was seriously disputed until the 1970s. But, in 1968, “a survey conducted by an affiliate of the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) indicated rich oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea. Starting from the 1970s, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia began to occupy China’s Nansha islands and reefs, of which twenty-nine were occupied by Vietnam, eight by the Philippines and five by Malaysia.” (Uphold peace and prosperity in South China Sea by His Excellency Mr Huang Huaguang, Chinese embassy in Tonga, 5 May 2016)

These countries’ excuse for violating Chinese sovereignty was that the islands were within 200 miles of their coastline and therefore part of their ‘exclusive economic zone’. However, this argument is totally absurd, since any ‘exclusive economic zone’ necessarily ends where another state’s sovereign territory begins. Were that not the case, Britain could claim the right to occupy Holland and large parts of France, for example, since they are within 200 miles of the British coastline! What you have is overlapping economic zones, not the economic zones of one party wiping out the sovereign rights of another.

While it is true that some of these islands are closer to the coastline of the Philippines or Vietnam than they are to the Chinese mainland, that does not mean they cannot be part of China – one only has to think of the Channel Islands, which, while close to France, belong to Britain, or the various Greek islands that are much closer to Turkey than they are to the Greek mainland.

Professor Dai continued:

“For a long time, the South China Sea had remained trouble free and calm. But, since the 1970s, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries have illegally occupied 42 islands and reefs in China’s Nansha Islands by force, which gave rise to disputes over territory in these islands and reefs. Over several decades, the Philippines and Vietnam carried out large-scale construction and deployed armaments on them and continued to take provocative actions at sea … The world can see that on the South China Sea issue, China is by no means a wrongdoer or trouble maker, but rather a victim.

“According to international law, China has every right to self-preservation and self-defence. It possesses the ability to recover the above-mentioned islands and reefs. However, in the interest of regional peace and stability, China has all along exercised enormous restraint, and sought peaceful settlement through negotiations. In recent years, China has taken actions only as a compelled response at a minimal level to unbridled encroachments by certain countries on China’s rights and interests. Stand in China’s shoes for a moment: if it was the US who was challenged with such provocation, it would have long since resorted to force to recover the illegally occupied islands and reefs.”

As it is, US imperialism was able to take advantage of the scramble of the various far-eastern countries to establish rights to oil at each other’s and China’s expense. So long as these contradictions exist, US imperialism is able to take advantage of them. China, however, has countered US imperialism’s troublemaking in a very intelligent manner, persuading the various countries that they will be far better off settling differences by negotiation and agreeing solutions that are to the advantage of all parties.

US imperialism, however, has been encouraging the Philippines to claim the whole of the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal, and Vietnam to claim the Paracel Islands. Japan is also being encouraged by US imperialism to assert its illegal claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea – again, mainly for the purpose of helping US imperialism dominate navigation in the area for its own predatory and hegemonic purposes. The excuse is that only in this way can freedom of navigation over these seas be guaranteed – but China has never interfered with the free navigation of vessels in the maritime areas over which it claims sovereignty, or the right of overflight.

What is really at issue is quite different:

“By playing up the issue of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, the US is actually pursuing its hidden agenda. First, by alleging that its massive military presence in the South China Sea is essential for freedom of navigation and overflight, the US attempts to take all the credit. Second, by portraying China’s growing military strength as a major threat to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, the US assigns its own motive to China and dishes up another version of the ‘China threat theory’.

“Third, by playing countries in the region off against each other, the US creates an excuse to meddle in the South China Sea and bolster its global strategy and maritime hegemony. The US’s statements and actions concerning freedom of navigation reveal its own political and military calculations in the South China Sea. Politically, the US wants to create and hype up tensions in the South China Sea. Militarily, it looks for legal grounds for close-in reconnaissance activities off the coasts of relevant countries.” (China’s stance in upholding peace in South China Sea, Chinese embassy in Tanzania, 25 May 2016)

China no doubt would like to interfere with the ‘right’ US imperialism claims to flood the area with its military warships in order to prevent it or any other hostile power from using the waterways as a base from which to attack China. And this is in fact precisely the ‘right’ that US imperialism is claiming for itself. US imperialism is known sometimes to deploy some 70 percent of its naval force in the Asia Pacific.

Jude Woodward of the New Cold War website pointed out on 19 July: “In 2010, the US declared that the South China Sea was within its sphere of ’national interest’ as a prelude to stepping up its military presence. US navy surveillance intensified; US air sorties for close reconnaissance increased from about 260 in 2009 to over 1,200 in 2014; more than 100 US planes have been stopping over each month at Clark, the former US airbase in the Philippines.

“In 2003, there were six visits by US warships to Malaysian ports; in 2012, there were over 50. More recently, US navy ships have sailed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese installations. US warships and planes have also made frequent so-called ‘innocent passage’ transits through China’s territorial waters and airspace. Japan has threatened it will also send warships to ‘defend freedom of navigation’ in the sea.

“In 2012, Manila agreed the US could return to its old Subic Bay naval base from which it had been kicked out in 1992. Australia agreed to a new US Marine base in Darwin, within striking distance of the South China Sea.” (The US, UNCLOS and the militarisation of the South China Sea)

Anybody can see that this situation is an unacceptable provocation. If China has not risen to it, it is because China does not want war – but the US clearly is doing all it can to position itself to crush China and any country allied to it when the war it is provoking finally breaks out.

The UNCLOS arbitration

Since the 1970s, the various governments of the Philippines have allowed themselves to be used as puppets of imperialism seeking to militarise the South China Sea as a means of encircling China. They have illegally occupied some of the Chinese islands and then set out to build military facilities on the Spratly Islands.

“In the 1990s, the Philippines continued to build airfields and naval and air force facilities on these illegally-occupied islands and reefs; centred on Zhongye Dao, the construction has extended to other islands and reefs, with runways, military barracks, docks and other facilities built and renovated, so as to accommodate heavy transport planes, fighter jets and more and larger vessels. Furthermore, the Philippines made deliberate provocations by frequently sending its military vessels and aircraft to intrude into [other Chinese islands], and destroyed survey markers set up by China…”

Moreover, “The Philippines has repeatedly intruded into relevant waters of China’s Nansha Qundao, harassing and attacking Chinese fishermen and fishing boats conducting routine fishing operations. Currently available statistics show that from 1989 to 2015, 97 incidents occurred in which the Philippines infringed upon the safety, life and property of Chinese fishermen: eight involving shooting, 34 assault and robbery, 40 capture and detention, and 15 chasing. These incidents brought adverse consequences to close to 200 Chinese fishing vessels and over 1,000 Chinese fishermen. In addition, the Philippines treated Chinese fishermen in a violent, cruel and inhumane manner.” (White paper: China adheres to the position of settling through negotiation the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, Chinese state council information office, 13 July 2016)

In 2013, although it was treaty bound to pursue negotiations in the case of disputes over rights in the South China Sea, the Philippines instead decided to pursue its illegal claim to Spratly Islands by taking a case to an arbitration that would be effectively run by imperialism under the provisions for dispute resolution contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Naturally, this move was very much to the liking of US imperialism in its ambition to reduce Chinese influence in the region.

There were, however, major obstacles to referring this matter to UNCLOS arbitration. In fact, the arbitration tribunal has no jurisdiction under the convention to determine any issue of sovereignty. It has no power to determine that China does not have sovereignty over the various islands that are disputed. In the case of the Philippines, its territory was clearly defined in treaties made between Spain and the United States – namely, the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the Treaty of Washington in 1900, and also the Anglo-American Treaty of 1930.

As clearly defined by treaty, the territory of the Philippines does not include any of the islands that the Philippines is now illegally occupying and claiming. So what the arbitration tribunal has craftily done, in the decision it has just published, with the typical weasel words of the bourgeois lawyer defending predatory ‘rights’, is to decide that the islands are territories over which under international law nobody can have full sovereignty, which is just another way of determining that China does not have sovereignty.

And, because the islands are within the ‘exclusive economic zone’ of the Philippines, even though the Philippines can obviously not have sovereignty over them either, nevertheless China has no right to try to develop the islands or to block Philippine vessels trying to prevent it from doing so. Moreover, only the Philippines and not China has fishing rights in the area. The Philippines, however, even though it doesn’t have, and can’t have, sovereignty, is free to develop the islands in any way it pleases!

China has made it quite plain that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS tribunal in this matter and considers its findings null and void. The Philippines had signed a treaty with China agreeing to deal with any maritime disputes by bilateral negotiations, and, that being the case, UNCLOS specifically states that matters cannot be referred to its determination unless and until all negotiations have failed. The Philippines has never entered into any negotiations on this issue and therefore UNCLOS can have no conceivable jurisdiction, regardless of the question of sovereignty.

Finally, UNCLOS makes no provision for any sanction on any party that is in breach of any arbitration determination, so no party, least of all the United States (which is not even an UNCLOS signatory), has any legal right to try to use that determination to impose any kind of sanction on China.

To the extent that the UNCLOS arbitration tribunal (arbitrary tribunal might be a better name in the light of its decision in this case) arrogates to itself the right to apply international law to the dispute brought before it by the Philippines, the law is as follows:

“If the tribunal says a particular land feature is a low tide elevation [ie, if it is covered by the sea at high tide], no country may claim sovereignty over it unless that land feature is itself within that country’s territorial sea. If the tribunal says that the land mass is an ‘island’ or ‘rock’, that has several consequences:

“(a) Countries may claim islands and rocks as sovereign territory (although the tribunal itself will not decide which country has sovereignty);

“(b) If the land feature is deemed an island, the country having sovereignty over that island also has rights to a 12 mile territorial sea and a 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and a continental shelf.

“(c) If the land feature is deemed a rock rather than an island, the country with sovereignty gets only a 12 mile territorial sea, not an EEZ or a continental shelf.” (The limits of law in the South China Sea by Paul Gerwitz, The Brookings Institution: Centre for East Asia Policy Studies)

To prevent China from building on various parts of the Spratly Islands, the tribunal, though it had no jurisdiction to say China had no sovereignty over any island or rock, could – and did – designate an island as a mere rock, which brought into play a provision of UNCLOS prohibiting any country from building within another country’s EEZ (unless it was also its own). ‘Rocks’ give no rights to an EEZ, so China’s building would be declared illegal.

One particular island, Taiping (also known as Itu Aba), which is administered by Taiwan, covers 110 acres, has been continuously inhabited by Chinese people for at least 60 years, and currently has a population of about 200 people. Yet, contrary to all common sense, the tribunal has declared it to be a mere rock in order to give the Philippines exclusive EEZ rights and deny China’s claims! This has incensed not only the People’s Republic of China but also the Taiwan authorities.

What the arbitration tribunal’s decision does is to give US imperialism an excuse to intervene militarily to ‘defend’ any country it can cajole into exercising the ‘rights’ that the tribunal has declared it has. The countries concerned may, however, find that the ‘rights’ in question are not worth defending at the cost of a regional war – particularly as China continues to be very accommodating to their economic interests.

Despite the bad behaviour of its neighbours, China has not tried to eject them forcefully from the areas that they have illegally occupied. It is well aware that US imperialism is doing its utmost to exacerbate the contradictions between them and has been careful to assist its neighbours, for instance by facilitating their oil exploration. While making it absolutely clear that in no way will it accept the illegal ruling of the arbitration tribunal, China has also emphasised that it is still willing to engage in bilateral negotiations.

The new President of the Philippines, Duterte, shows every sign of being willing to negotiate, unlike his predecessor Aquino who was a complete US puppet. Duterte in the meantime is getting a bad press in western imperialist countries for wiping out drug dealers with little regard for their human rights.

It should be noted that the bourgeois press in this country is doing its utmost to rally public opinion in favour of the US warmongers. Charles Clover of the Financial Times wrote recently: “Beijing has been working behind the scenes to blunt Tuesday’s precedent-setting rejection of its claims in the South China Sea by a tribunal based in The Hague, offering economic inducements if the Philippines would ‘set aside’ the decision.

“The strategy is a time-tested one for China – using its economic might to cajole, threaten and outright buy cooperation from its neighbours on internationally recognised territorial claims. It underlines the difficulty for Washington in convincing countries in the region to present a united front to Beijing.”

But for “the US and other key allies” to “put maximum pressure on the Duterte administration to release a strong statement and call for compliance [with the arbitration tribunal’s findings]” – ie, to use their “economic might to cajole, threaten and outright buy cooperation” – well that’s quite all right, of course! (Beijing to focus on blunting impact of South China Sea ruling, 12 July 2016)

For our part, we are firmly on the side of China in these disputes. It is only China’s control of the South China Sea that can guarantee the maintenance of peace and of navigation rights for all commercial shipping, as it has been doing hitherto, even in the face of severe provocation. It is only through cooperation with China that the various neighbouring countries can fully exert their own independence from imperialism and maximise their economic wellbeing.

US imperialism has no business to be in the area at all. Its continued presence can only lead, sooner or later, to world war.

Posted in USA, EuropeComments Off on US imperialism’s military aggression is the major factor behind South China Sea disputes

The drive to war against Russia

NOVANEWS

Image result for Russia MAP

Why are the US and Britain so set on a war with Russia, and what can we as workers do to prevent such a cataclysm?

It cannot have failed to attract the notice of our readers that we are witnessing an increasing drive to war against both Russia and China by our own and other imperialist ruling classes. The first question we have to ask is: why?

For the purposes of this article, we will focus our remarks on Russia, but many of them apply equally to China, against which the imperialists – the US and Japanese imperialists in particular – are also making fevered war preparations.

If one looks at the world situation – the crisis of imperialism and the desperation of the billionaire rulers of the capitalist world to save their failing system – this question of why the imperialists are so desperate to bring Russia down becomes easier to answer.

A century ago now, Lenin pointed out that imperialism strives for domination. It strives for control over resources, control over markets and control over opportunities for profit-taking. It strives to extract maximum profit – no matter what the human or environmental cost – and each imperialist power strives to keep profits, markets and resources away from both its imperialist rivals and from the great mass of non-imperialist countries (see Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916).

At a time of deep economic crisis, when markets are saturated and profitable opportunities are becoming ever fewer, this drive becomes desperate and cutthroat. If capitalists cannot make profits, they go under. If they cannot make maximumprofits, they lose the war of competition to more efficient or ruthless rivals and go under. If they cannot control the flow of resources – and not least of energy resources, without which no modern economy can function – they go under.

In such a situation, any area of economic activity that is not already producing maximum profit for imperialism becomes a target – as does anything that stands in the way of that goal. Whether it’s cuts to benefits (a social tax that reduces profits), the privatisation of health and education services (service provisions that are not creating profits) or war against independent countries like Syria and Libya (countries that have refused to allow full imperialist control of their resources and markets), the driver is the same: the imperialists’ desperate quest to invest profitably all the capital that is sloshing around the globe.

Looked at with this understanding, it becomes clear that, just by existing as a large, independent state, Russia is one of the biggest obstacles to imperialist hegemony in the world – and to US imperialist hegemony in particular.

China, of course, is another of these impediments.

Russia’s role in the world today

Russia covers a large and diverse territory. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it remains the world’s largest country by land size. It has huge mineral resources, powerful industrial and agricultural spheres, advanced scientific capability and a strong intelligentsia. Moreover, its nuclear military capability is second only to that of the United States. It is therefore able to a large extent to resist imperialist pressure to fall in line and to protect its territory and its people from the most aggressive forms of imperialist plunder and control.

The presently dominant group within the Russian ruling class has, to a considerable extent, turned its back on the immediate post-Soviet era, when gangster capitalists looted the wealth and resources of the once-proud USSR and turned many of them over to British, German and US imperialists for a song. The Russian national bourgeoisie has taken back the control of the most important levers of the country’s economy and is determined to retain control in its national interest. It quite clearly does not wish to become merely a facilitator for imperialist plunder and super-exploitation.

As a strong military power, Russia is also able to offer military, as well as (to a certain extent) economic, support to less powerful allies that are seeking to break or remain free of the imperialist stranglehold. Syria is a perfect example of this.

On 30 September 2015, Russia launched an air campaign in support of the Syrian government and people’s fight against the west-backed invasion of jihadi death squads that had then been terrorising the country for four and a half years.

This timely intervention proved that Russia’s existence as an independent force not only curtails the imperialist bloodsuckers’ ability to expand their tentacles into all the places they might otherwise reach, but even poses a threat to present avenues of super-exploitation.

After all, if Syria can resist the mighty US imperialism with Russian help, who is to say that other hard-pressed states might not follow suit?

Just a week after Russia launched its campaign in Syria, the chairman of the parliamentary defence committee in neighbouring Iraq, where the government issupposed to be a stooge regime facilitating US plunder of the region, declared the country’s interest in gaining Russian assistance against the Islamic State murder battalions that have been running rampant there ever since the US and its allies started funding them.

We are seeking to see Russia having a bigger role in Iraq … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” said Hakim al-Zamili. This was reinforced by a statement from Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who told France 24 that his government would welcome Russian war planes in Iraq (see ‘We are seeking bigger role for Russia than Americans’ – Iraq defence committee chairman, RT, 7 October 2015).

Clearly such an invitation would be extremely difficult for Iraq to make at present, given the continued US military presence in the country (presently consisting of 12 US bases housing a massive arsenal along with 4,500 official troops and unknown numbers of mercenaries). Nevertheless, calls officially to delegitimise the US occupation force in order to eject its troops and invite the Russians in have been gathering pace in the country (see Tyler Durden, ‘Iraq seeks to cancel security agreement with US, will invite Russia to fight IS’, Zero Hedge, 9 December 2015).

Unsurprisingly, the US, in return, is using the excuse of the ‘fight against IS’ to boost the numbers of ‘military advisors’ in Iraq, and the Pentagon declared back in October that it was officially ‘in combat’ there (see Pentagon: ‘We’re in combat’ in Iraq by Jeremy Diamond, CNN, 30 October 2015).

Still, whether or not the Iraqis can find a quick way out of their present dilemma, the fact remains that just a single week of Russia’s real, fraternal and highly effective assistance to Syria provided a stark contrast to the devastation wreaked by more than a decade of allegedly ‘humanitarian’ war and ‘friendly’ occupation by the US and its genocidal partners in crime in Iraq.

To add to imperialism’s nightmare, a joint information centre was quickly established by Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria to help coordinate efforts against IS and other terror groups. After decades of stirring up fratricidal tensions between Iran and Iraq in an effort to fan the flames of sectarianism and keep the people of the Middle East divided, US imperialism’s wars have ultimately led to a situation where Iraq, the country it has supposedly subjugated, is not only showing worrying signs of a renewed independence but is developing ever-closer relations with neighbouring Iran, the country whose independence the imperialists most desperately want to destroy (see Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria setting up ‘joint information centre’ to coordinate anti-IS operations, RT, 26 September 2015).

Indeed, the whole point of the war against Syria, besides the desire to be rid of an independent, secular, anti-imperialist government, is that independent Syria’s destruction is the first vital step in destroying independent, anti-imperialist Iran – and Iran is the key lynchpin of anti-imperialism in the vitally-important oil-rich Middle East (see ‘Which Path To Persia? Options for a new American strategy toward Iran’, Brookings Institute analysis paper, 20 June 2009).

Moreover, in recognition of the danger that is posed by imperialist hegemony to its own people, Russia has become part of the drive to create a multipolar world. It is a key part of the movement of non-imperialist countries to band together to defend themselves and develop their economies as they see fit – outside of the standard neo-colonial arrangement of IMF loans backed up by Nato guns.

The Brics grouping of large, populous, non-imperialist states comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is a prime example of this type of anti-imperialist independence and solidarity. Like the proverbial playground bullies, the imperialists are both angered and terrified by the success of such good examples.

Russia’s attitude to imperialist war

The Russian ruling class understands that the imperialists view Russia’s strength and independence with hostility. During the years of national development in the post-Yeltsin era, Russia’s leaders have done everything possible to stay out of direct conflict with the USA.

The idea that Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin has been in any way aggressive or has courted conflict (as is so often asserted by western media pundits) is laughable. If anything, it has bent over backwards in its efforts toavoid conflict.

The US therefore grew accustomed to thinking that, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, it and its Nato allies could act with complete impunity on the world stage. Gorbachev’s crumbling USSR abandoned its former ally and shamefully acquiesced in the first war against Iraq. Putin’s emerging nationalist Russia refused to support the resolution that paved the way for the second war against Iraq but did nothing actually to impede its inception. However, the last time that Russia turned a blind eye to a supposedly ‘humanitarian’ resolution cloaking the drive to a new imperialist war was in relation to Libya in 2011.

Whether or not the Russians understood what they were doing when they allowed the lie to pass that the Libyan government was a ruthless dictatorship engaged in killing its own people and that there was a popular uprising in Benghazi that needed protection from the forces of Colonel Gaddafi is a moot point. Russia, like China, took what appeared to be the path of least resistance and failed to veto the UN Security Council resolution that approved the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ for the ‘protection of Libyan civilians’.

This was immediately interpreted by the imperialists as a carte blanche for a Nato blitzkrieg that wiped out 40 years of independent, secular, people-centred development in Libya and led directly to today’s tragic situation.

The destruction of Libya didn’t only lead to the brutal murder of the anti-imperialist leader Muammar Gaddafi. It didn’t only destroy the country’s water and electricity infrastructure, roads, housing, healthcare provision and education system. It didn’tonly lead to the destruction of the means of life for six and a half million Libyans.

It didn’t only lead to the massacres of tens of thousands of black Libyans in racist pogroms unleashed by West-backed death squads. It didn’t only lead to the slaughter of unknown thousands of civilians and resistance fighters and the poisoning of the air, ground and water with chemical and uranium-tipped weapons in centres of resistance like Sirte.

It didn’t only lead to the overnight appropriation of an entire people’s wealth by imperialist banksters and oil profiteers. It didn’t only lead to the destruction of the most prosperous country in Africa. It didn’t only lead to a flood of desperate refugees, prepared to exchange all their worldly goods for a chance to escape their war-torn and devastated homeland.

It also led to the further economic and military destabilisation of the entire region, cutting short plans for wider African economic development, cooperation and independence. It also removed vital Libyan support from many progressive governments around the world. And it also unleashed a tsunami of heavily-armed mercenaries, ready and willing to do imperialism’s bidding across Africa and the Middle East – and even in Europe.

This is what the brutal destruction of an anti-imperialist country means, no matter where it is in the world. This unjust, aggressive, illegal war wasn’t only a succession of heinous war crimes against Libyans; it was also a disaster for the peoples of the entire world.

The imperialists may not have achieved their aim of stabilising Libya under a proxy government in order efficiently to control the country’s resources and extract maximum superprofits, but it did achieve its aim of forced regime change; of ridding itself of a government that had stood for anti-imperialist independence for more than four decades.

Russia and China, for all their diplomatic talk about ‘partnership’, and for all their desire not to antagonise the imperialists and invite the devastation of an aggressive imperialist war onto the heads of their own peoples, are actually the principal cornerstones of today’s axis of anti-imperialist resistance. The spread of imperialist-backed terrorism around the globe affects them both directly (as in the case of Chechnya and Xinjiang) and indirectly (by undermining many of their key allies such as Syria, Iran, etc).

Libya serves as a powerful warning as to the dangers of appeasement. Imperialism in crisis is like a rabid dog; you cannot reason with it, and you cannot expect it to be satisfied with anything less than total hegemony. For its own long-term survival, Russia has had to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no further’.

In this context, where it is a question of defending the world’s people from the kind of brutal all-out wars that have devastated Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Iraq, progressive people should be truly thankful that both China and Russia have been working hard to raise their level of military preparedness and to catch up with and even overtake the US in terms of their technological capabilities.

Imperialism ultimately respects only one thing: force of arms. As even tiny socialist Korea, with a very small stock of nuclear weapons, has clearly demonstrated over the last 20 years, the best deterrent against an all-out war between Russia and the US is if Russia can convince the imperialists that the price would simply be too high.

The demonisation of Russia

It is in the light of all this that must be understood the increasingly rabid tone of US and British media, academia and politicians in relation to Russia. The obstacle that Russia presents to free imperialist plunder of significant parts of the globe is the sole motivator of the bucketfuls of bile that are poured over President Putin and his colleagues on a daily basis in the pages of the democracy-loving free press of Murdoch and Co, as well as spewing from the mouths of BBC pundits and government spokespeople.

The hypocrisy of presstitutes and politicians who defend the most ruthless and bloodthirsty rulers humanity has ever seen is staggering to those who know the truth, but nevertheless understandable – it is, after all, their job to try to convince workers to support (or at least not actively to oppose) British imperialism and its aggressive wars.

What is entirely unforgivable is that so many prominent leaders of what passes for the British left, whether they be the reformists of ‘left’ Labour or allegedly ‘revolutionary’ Trotskyites – all of whom claim to speak for and in the interests of the working class – are busy echoing the same lies about Russia as the directly-employed servants of British capital.

The position of the oh-so r-r-revolutionary Trotskyites is particularly noteworthy, and sets the tone for all the rest of the criticism of Russia ‘from the left’ in which the working-class movement is drowning.

While they were happy in 1991 to applaud the collapse of the world’s first, most extensive and most successful socialist state and of the people’s democracies of eastern Europe as a ‘great step forward’ and to greet with glee the seizure of the country’s wealth by a handful of mafiosi (the liberators of the people, no less!), they characterise the nationalist anti-imperialist bourgeoisie of today’s Russia as ‘gangster capitalists’ and describe any attempt by Russia to come to the defence of its allies and neighbours as ‘imperialism’.

In each case, while posing as friends of the Russian people and pretending to be great progressives, they objectively manage to come down firmly on the side of British imperialism.

A typical example of apparently ‘left’ form masking essentially imperialist content can be seen in an article published by the inappropriately-named Socialist Party in August 2014:

We cannot and should not support, even critically, Putin’s Russian regime and its alleged approach that it was fighting a ‘fascist’ government in Kiev. It was pursuing a policy primarily determined by the interests of the Russian state and those it represents, the oligarchic gangster capitalists .

” Initially, there were big elements of independent movements of the working class in the creation of their own militias and independent councils but this was obscured by the presence of Svoboda, the Right Sector and fascists in Ukraine …

“We support self-determination for Crimea but ‘foreign liberation’ can ultimately undermine this. Only a democratic constituent assembly, convened by a united movement or a democratically-controlled referendum can guarantee this in Crimea and South-Eastern Ukraine.

“Neither do we support the Kiev regime but seek an independent working-class axis, and critical support of the socialist forces, even though they might be weak ” (‘Capitalist crisis continues’, The Socialist, 6 August 2014, our emphasis).

As usual, this typical Trotskyite position combines pious wishes for a ‘pure’ (and purely imaginary) ‘working-class, democratic’ force with a virulent hatred for the actual, living forces that are really expressing the will of the people of the Donbass by fighting the imperialist-backed coup regime and its fascistic paramilitary henchmen.

This expression of the British ruling class’s endemic antipathy towards Russia explains the hostility of much of the ‘left’ to the anti-fascist resistance in the Ukraine, some of whom have gone so far as to describe the resistance as ‘red-brown fascists’ in their attempts to undermine sympathy for their cause amongst British workers (see Gerry Gable, ‘Warning to anti-fascists invited to meeting at SOAS’, Searchlight, 1 June 2014).

It also explains why so many of these self-styled ‘revolutionaries’ joined the imperialist outcry against the Crimean people’s firm decision to secede from a state that had been taken over by fascists and return to being part of Russia (as Crimea historically was).

Alex Callinicos, theoretical guru (don’t laugh) of the SWP, drew typically inverted conclusions in his analysis of the Crimean referendum, describing the west-backed ‘euromaidan’ movement against Viktor Yanukovych’s ever-so-slightly Russian-leaning government as a “genuinely popular” one. He dismissed the role of the fascist forces in Ukraine as merely unfortunate and characterised the perfectly correct description of an IMF-backed fascist coup as “Moscow propaganda“.

Most importantly, he said, the conflict in Ukraine is an expression of “inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia and the West“. In case we should still be inclined to view our own imperialists as the principal aggressors, Callinicos went on to assert (without a shred of supporting evidence) that ” Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it does to the United States or the EU” (Alex Callinicos, ‘Putin raises the stakes in imperialist Crimea crisis’ , Socialist Worker, 3 March 2014).

A classic example of the same kind of disinformation ‘from the left’ was written by Owen Jones in January this year and published in the Guardian, from where it was immediately disseminated across Facebook, the twittersphere and a host of other social media networks.

Jones’s career-enhancing attack on Russia took the now standard form of a virulent personal attack on President Vladimir Putin, asserting in its ‘bold’ (or should that be ‘sycophantic’?) headline: “Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out.” (26 January 2016)

The many spurious assertions in this article have been ably rebutted on the Off Guardian website in an article well worth reading in full. We reproduce a few salient highlights below.

Refuting the claim that President Putin is an oligarch, the author pointed out: ” Mr Jones doesn’t know what ‘oligarch’ means. (Hint, it doesn’t mean ‘nasty man’, Owen.) The definition is very simple, and none of it applies to Putin, who is not a business magnate and has never worked in anything but government.

“‘An oligarchy is ‘a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next …’ (Oligarchy definition taken from Wikipedia)

“Russia is actually a democracy, though you’d be forgiven for not realising this if you only ever read the Guardian, and Putin is an elected head of state – and a popular one at that. Not an autocrat. Not an oligarch. You can’t force a lie to become true simply through repetition.

“Interestingly enough, according to researchers at Princeton (that well-known den of pro-Kremlin spies), the USA actually is an oligarchy ” (see Zachary Davies Boren, ‘The US is an oligarchy, study concludes’, The Telegraph, 16 April 2014).

Refuting assertions about President Putin’s ‘right-wing’ agenda, the article points out: ” Economically speaking, Putin would actually be considered rather left-wing in Britain or the US. When was the last time a British government renationalised an industry? Russia has a far more socialist economy than we do.

“Is he right-wing racially? No. There’s no racial discrimination in Russian government. Russia has dozens of ethnic minorities, all protected under law, unlike – and I’m just pulling a random example out of the air here – ethnic Russians in Ukraine …

“Putin is ‘in bed’ with rapacious oligarchs? The Russian government, under Putin, does business with all sorts of oligarchs. Like Berezovsky, who moved to London after Putin was elected. Or Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was stripped of his assets and arrested for fraud. Or Sergei Pugachev, who is currently on the run after being prosecuted for embezzling.

“When Putin stripped the oil-based oligarchs’ control of Russia’s energy reserves, who was he in bed with then? When he renationalised those industries and poured the money into rebuilding Russian infrastructure … at which oligarch’s behest was that?

“We live in a country where Google, Vodafone, Amazon et al regularly dodge billions of pounds’ worth of taxes, with no repercussions; can we really afford to start throwing stones about government corruption? Is there any chance at all that Cameron would permit the arrest of a British bankster?”

Regarding Jones’s hysterical repetition of the ruling class’s latest anti-Russia propaganda attacks, the author points out: “Yes, with the recent (farcical) Litvinenko ruling, Russia-bashing is back in vogue. Well done Owen, it seems your moral outrage has peaked at the time most likely to get you thousands of shares on Facebook. Lucky you.

“There’s a common thread in all of [Jones’s] accusations – there’s no evidence to back up any of them. In the case of Litvinenko, the court actually ignored evidence he was poisoned before 1 November in order to make its narrative fit together, and as for the BBC’s ludicrous Panorama episode, well, let’s just say it’s getting its own article.

“Jones’ portrayal of the second Chechen war as ‘Putin’s war’, and his later use of the phrase ‘Putin’s savage war in Chechnya’, are both quite interesting. Firstly, it suggests an ignorance of military history on Owen’s part …

“In response to an invasion by Islamic insurgents, Russia sent in the army – I’m not sure if Owen considers this savage, or not – and pushed the invaders back into the neighbouring republic, Chechnya. The constant, low-level insurgency in Chechnya then spilled over into all-out war.

“The Russian and Chechen authorities on the one side, and Chechen rebels, Islamic International Brigade (IIB) and mujahideen on the other. Yes, that mujahideen. The ‘Islamic extremists are fine as long as they are killing Russians’ model, so successfully set up in Afghanistan in 1979 and deployed in Syria last year was used in Chechnya too.

“Is war bad? Obviously. Did the people of Chechnya suffer? Immeasurably. But to lay that at the Kremlin’s door, as if Chechnya were a vanity project of the Russian leadership, is so terribly dishonest that you wonder how Jones can sleep at night.

“To then compare Chechnya and Crimea, as Jones does … is to step sideways into madness. Putting aside the pathetic parroting of the ‘annexation’ meme, I’m curious to know how much outrage defending your country from islamic insurgents should merit, and – indeed – what course of action Owen would recommend in place of ‘savage’ self-defence.

“I suppose the western press is just of the opinion that, if an army turn up at your border, you don’t ask who they are or why they are blowing up your buildings, and you certainly don’t shoot back, you just let them in and apologise for the mess.”

Jones concluded his noxious article by calling on British workers to express solidarity with Russia’s “embattled democrats and leftists”, but, as the Off Guardianarticle correctly pointed out, the truth is that “Russia’s ‘democrats’ are in charge. They were democratically elected, they are very popular.

“I know western definitions of democracy are shifting at the moment, but there’s nothing intrinsically more fair about being ruled by a government nobody voted for; it doesn’t mean the system works.

“And Russia’s ‘leftists’? The communist party is the second biggest presence in the Duma. They are the majority of Putin’s opposition – a role usually attributed to political no-names likes Nemstov or Navalny in a British press that increasingly has little to no interest in physical realities” (Kit, ‘Owen Jones: tough on meanness, tough on the causes of meanness’, 28 January 2016).

Anti-imperialists have to learn how to ignore the prevailing bourgeois mythology and instead follow the Marxist method, which was popularised by Chairman Mao as ‘seeking truth from facts’. This means making efforts to understand the world as it really is, and not as we might wish it to be; examining every phenomenon in its context and as it changes, and not as something static or isolated.

Following this strategy, we find that the facts of the matter paint a very different picture. The truth is that Ukraine, in common with many of the other former Soviet states, has gone through more than one change in direction since the collapse of socialism. Outside imperialist powers have several times facilitated a changing of the guard in the country, when any government looked like it might be becoming too independent.

The ‘Orange revolution’ was one such example of a somewhat less pro-imperialist, slightly more Russia-oriented government being forcibly deposed and replaced with a regime that could be better relied upon to facilitate US and EU looting of the country’s extensive riches. This was naturally described in the British media as a ‘peaceful’, ‘democratic’ and ‘popular’ movement to replace a government that was a ‘vassal of Russia’ with one that wanted to bring ‘democracy’ and ‘western values’, and which (quite coincidentally, of course) wished to join the eurozone.

Similarly, last year’s coup was carried out when Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych backed off from signing a deal with the EU that would have meant the decimation of Ukrainian industry and would have cost the Ukrainian people $16-20bn a year for the following eight years as a condition of loans being granted to the cash-strapped Ukrainian government.

Enraged at this last-minute change of heart, the imperialists of the US and the EU decided to get their way by force, once more dressing up a violent and anti-popular coup as a peaceful and popular movement for democracy. Those Ukrainians who have stood in the way of the success of this scheme have been branded as terrorists and attacked with all the forces the new regime could muster.

In their attempts to crush all resistance, the coup leaders have bolstered Ukraine’s standing army with western armaments and training, and have supplemented their wavering conscript forces with large numbers of ideologically-driven fascistic militia, who are the direct inheritors of the Nazi collaborators of the second world war.

These blackshirts are essentially Nato’s bully boys – the enforcers of IMF austerity on the people of the Ukraine, who are seeing wages, pensions and public services decimated and their once-proud country brought to its knees.

All this has also to be placed in the wider context of the imperialist campaign to destroy Russia as an independent state. Not only do the imperialists want free access to Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, its industrial resources, scientific and intellectual capability and its considerable mineral wealth; not only do they want to be able to freely exploit the workers of Ukraine with minimal expense for such trifles as social welfare, workers’ rights, pensions and environmental protections, but the US in particular wishes to turn the country into yet another base for Nato weapons and for surrounding Russia.

At the time of the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, US President George Bush Sr gave firm assurances to the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the peaceful intentions of Nato towards the former Soviet states, essentially promising that Nato would never try to expand into or even further towards their territories. The intervening 20 years have shown us just how much these promises were worth – and, of course, it is now everywhere denied that any such assurances were ever given (see Joshua R Itzkowitz Shifrinson, ‘Put it in writing: How the West broke its promise to Moscow’ Foreign Affairs, 29 October 2014).

Two decades after the collapse of socialism in Europe, Nato bases and missiles now surround Russia in an aggressive ring that has nothing to do with defence and everything to do with US plans for the domination of Eurasia and the destruction of Russia’s independence (see illustrations in ‘The US and Nato have been trying to encircle Russia militarily since 1991′, The Fourth Media, 14 May 2014).

The anti-war movement in Britain

How should all this inform the workers’ movement against imperialist war and for socialism in Britain?

Well, for a start, an anti-war movement that ignores all these facts and merely echoes in a disconnected way the imperialist media’s lies about Russia being ‘aggressive’ and ‘imperialist’ is worse than useless – it is an impediment to the cause of human progress and an obstacle in the path of peace.

When they repeat the lies about ‘Russian imperialism’, supposed anti-war leaders – whether they mean to or not – turn themselves into tools of British imperialism in the working-class movement. They strengthen the imperialist case for war by helping to create an atmosphere where the lies put out by the Sun, the Guardian and the BBC are much more readily accepted as fact. This in turn undermines any call for opposition to the British war machine and transforms the struggle for a just peace into mere liberal pacifist hand-wringing.

In effect, all the justifications given by the imperialists for their criminal, aggressive, imperialist wars are being endorsed by these traitors to the working class, and all that is ‘objected’ to (and in the politest possible way) is the method of bringing about what is presented as being a wholly desirable aim: deposing Saddam, or Ahmadinejad, or Gaddafi, or Assad, or Putin, or whoever else happens to head a government that is prepared to stand up for its people.

This was taken to its logical extreme in the case of Libya, when the imperialist drive to war was reinforced by ‘Stop the War’ calling for a picket outside the Libyan embassy to protest against the ‘crimes of Gaddafi’. For pointing out the disgusting treachery of this action by Stop the War’s leaders, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist} was summarily (and unconstitutionally) expelled from the coalition.

This is how we end up with a meaningless slogan like ‘Don’t bomb Syria’ (which is handily applicable to Russian fraternal support for the Syrian people as well as to British imperialist aggression against them). This slogan is not backed up by athorough exposure of imperialism’s lies and an explanation of why a blow against anti-imperialist Syria is a blow against workers everywhere, but is insteadundermined by endless diatribes against the ‘evil dictator Assad’ and the need to support a ‘democratic opposition’.

And this line is, of course, perfectly acceptable to British imperialism, since a ‘democratic opposition’ is precisely what it claims to be supporting through its armed intervention in Syria!

The only ‘anti-war’ action that we are asked to undertake by Stop the War is to write an email to our MP, or possibly (if we’re really feeling energetic) to turn up to a parliamentary lobby or to a stroll around our local town centre on a Saturday afternoon.

This is not anti-war work, it is conscience-salving. It is allowing the ruling class to continue with its crimes unopposed while giving a few of the more conscientious among us the illusion that we have ‘tried’ to avert the impending crime and that we therefore need feel no guilt for the blood that is being shed.

Any attempt to sharpen the movement so it can do real damage to the British imperialist war machine would drive away the ‘support’ Stop the War receives from ‘left’ Labour MPs and trade-union bureaucrats, who would immediately disaffiliate their unions. What an indictment of the British left that it succumbs to the blackmail of these defenders of imperialist interests!

Only this explains why the real power of workers, as the people who actually have to do the fighting, produce the weapons, transport the materiel and transmit the war propaganda – whether it be in Ukraine, Syria, Palestine or elsewhere – is not justoverlooked by our anti-war movement, but actively suppressed.

The prospect of a militant working class getting off its knees to deliver a real blow against its own rulers’ interests, and some real solidarity to its brothers and sisters who are being massacred abroad, by organising a mass movement of non-cooperation with the imperialist war effort chills our oh-so-respectable anti-war leaders to the bone. No leader of such a movement would be given airtime on Radio 4 or column inches in the back pages of the Guardian or the Independent.

It is our firm view that British workers need and deserve better. What is needed is an anti-war movement that is prepared strongly and unashamedly to counter the imperialists’ war propaganda and to tell workers the truth.

The truth about Syria today, for example, is that Russia’s timely and fraternal assistance to the Syrian people is helping them to beat imperialism’s violent regime-change plans for the third time in five years.

The original attempt at an allegedly ‘peaceful’ (though secretly armed) phony ‘Arab spring’ was defeated as soon as it surfaced in Daraa (see Tim Anderson, ‘Syria: how the violence began in Daraa’ , Op Ed News, 13 May 2013).

The US-created ‘Free Syria Army’ (a pretended ‘secular opposition force’ which was conjured into existence after the failure of the ‘colour revolution’ scheme of 2011) had also been defeated and its last positions were in the process of being routed, when, as if by magic, the latest version of US imperialism’s ‘useful mujahideen’ surfaced in the form of Islamic State in Iraq and surged across the border with the help of financial, logistical, medical, armament and propaganda assistance from the US’s regional proxies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Qatar (see ‘Isis: imperialism gets tangled up in its own traps’, Proletarian, August 2014).

Today, the imperialists are caught between a rock and a hard place. In their quest to counter the independent, anti-imperialist axis of resistance in the Middle East, they have nurtured reactionary stooge regimes such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the various gulf feudal autocracies.

But pressure from the forces of anti-imperialist resistance is causing these stooge regimes to become increasingly unstable and rabid. And the very desperation of imperialism’s henchmen is diminishing their reliability as dependable allies, for the brutal measures needed to maintain their power are weakening their stability and thereby undermining the strength of their imperialist masters.

This can been see in the crazed actions of Turkey in shooting across the Syrian border at Russian and Syrian forces and calling on Nato to back it up.

It can also be seen in the crazed actions of Saudi Arabia in executing a leader of peaceful opposition forces as a ‘terrorist’, cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran and sending troops to Turkey while calling for a ground invasion of Syria (see Syria: imperialism on the back foot, Lalkar, March 2016).

So far, the US has refused to take the bait, but it may well yet decide that an all-out war against Russia in Syria is its last chance of success in toppling the popular government of President Bashar al-Assad – a government that has proved unexpectedly resilient up until this point.

In this context of the drive towards an all-out war between the neo-nazi Nato imperialists and Russia, an anti-war movement is needed that is prepared to robustlydefend the enemies of imperialism to the hilt and to organise acts of real solidaritythat make it impossible for the British war and war-propaganda machines to function effectively.

In this way, not only will it be possible to help stop Britain waging illegal and aggressive wars abroad, but it will also help the British working class to learn to use its power and to organise itself for the revolutionary class war at home.

Moreover, if Britain and the US do indeed start a war against Russia, it is our view that true anti-imperialists and socialists will support the defence of anti-imperialist Russia and work for the defeat of their own ruling class in that war. They will make it clear to British workers, suffering under the dual burdens of austerity and war, that the destruction of independent Russia will put back the movement to defeat imperialism by decades, while the defeat of British and US imperialism in such a war can only advance the cause of socialism.

In the meantime, let us do everything in our power to wake up the British people to the threat that hangs over their heads. It is far preferable to avert the next war by overthrowing the ruling class and establishing a socialist state in Britain than to be forced to learn the lesson of the need for a socialist revolution through the devastating school of a third world war.

LINKS

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch09.htm

https://www.rt.com/news/317853-iraq-russia-airstrikes-isis/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-09/iraq-seeks-cancel-security-agreement-us-will-invite-russia-fight-isis

http://militarybases.com/iraq/

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/29/politics/iraq-isis-military-combat/

https://www.rt.com/news/316592-russia-syria-islamic-state/

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2009/6/iran%20strategy/06_iran_strategy.pdf

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/19056

http://www.searchlightmagazine.com/blogs/searchlight-blog/warning-to-anti-fascists-invited-to-meeting-at-soas

https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/37577/Putin+raises+the+stakes+in+imperialist+Crimea+crisis

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/26/vladimir-putin-russia-oligarch-british-left-speak-out

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

http://off-guardian.org/2016/01/28/owen-jones-tough-on-meanness-tough-on-the-causes-of-meanness/

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2014-10-29/put-it-writing

http://www.4thmedia.org/2014/05/america-has-waged-a-brutal-dirty-tricks-campaign-against-russia-for-70-years/

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Syria-how-the-violence-be-by-Tim-Anderson-130513-875.html

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=1050

http://www.lalkar.org/article/2392/syria-imperialism-on-the-back-foot .

Posted in RussiaComments Off on The drive to war against Russia

The Birth of a Nation: Revisiting the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831

Film released during an escalation in racial strife in the United States
ThingLink

This film by Nate Parker makes an important contribution to rewriting the actual history of the African people in the U.S. and consequently world studies. Without an accurate understanding of the development of America as the leading imperialist nation in the world it is impossible to design a program for transforming the present conditions of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.

Nate Parker has produced a masterpiece, which will evoke the legacy of one of the greatest African slave rebellions in the history of the United States.

The Birth of a Nation is a dramatic film which attempts the arduous task of conveying the story of the African known as Nat Turner, who was enslaved and led a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. This film is co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker. It stars Parker as Turner, with Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union in supporting roles.

In order to launch the project Parker obtained financing to invest in the movie eventually obtaining $10 million in order to start the production in May 2015 in Georgia. The film represents a much needed effort aimed at reinterpreting the legacy of resistance among African people in North America as seen through the eyes of the oppressed and their descendants.

This film is being released 185 years after the Nat Turner Rebellion in August 1831 which took place in Southampton County, Virginia, but had national ramifications. This former British colony was the entry point of enslaved Africans into the region of North America in 1620.

Some five decades after the much-flaunted 1776 Declaration of Independence of the white settlers, the importation and trade in Africans was growing at a fever pitch. Nonetheless, the economic system of slavery was already beginning to decline as is reflected in the film.

The failure of the slave system to secure a future for the Southern planters created the conditions for the intensification of the exploitation and brutality against Africans. Slave catchers of the period in Virginia and throughout the South are the forerunners of modern-day law-enforcement in their purpose and behavior.

After two centuries of super-exploitation and the development of a system of national oppression based upon institutionalized racism, Nat Turner and his comrades sent a profound warning to the slave masters that their plantations were not secure from unrest in its deadliest form. This episode in U.S. history reminds residents and observers of U.S. society that the plague of racism is very much alive and well in the second decade of the 21stcentury.

Parker’s work deliberately utilizes the same title as the notoriously racist silent film released in 1915 under the direction of D.W. Griffith. The cinematic innovation of the film a century ago through close ups and panning, made its propaganda incendiary. Historians say that the release of Griffith’s film just two years prior to the American intervention in World War I under the-then President Woodrow Wilson prompted a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

Wilson hosted a screening of the film at the White House in part due to his friendship with novelist Thomas Dixon, whose 1905 book, The Clansman, provided the storyline of the 1915 release of The Birth of the Nation. Wilson is noted for his efforts in reinstituting strict segregation in Washington, D.C. Many believe he was an ideological racist and in recent times there have been demonstrations demanding the removal of his name from buildings and institutions at Princeton University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

In an article published by the New York Times on November 18, 2015, its says “The students’ demands include the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from anything named after him at the university; cultural competency training for the faculty and the staff; the inclusion in Princeton’s core curriculum requirements of a course on the history of a marginalized people; and the creation of a cultural space on campus dedicated to black students. During tense discussions between Mr. Eisgruber (university president) and more than 100 students spilling out of his office, Mr. Eisgruber refused to sign on to the demands. Though he personally agreed that Woodrow Wilson was a racist, he refused to remove his name. He said that Wilson, a former president of the university, had done some things that were honorable and some that were blameworthy. Mr. Eisgruber also said he would not require competency training for all faculty members, even though he and his cabinet had attended such training.”

The political economy of slavery and the racist intellectual culture of historical revisionism

The contemporary The Birth of a Nation from 2016 reveals the financial unviability of African slavery as an economic system. The protagonist, Nat Turner, a preacher, is exploited by the planters in efforts to solve the problems of incorrigibility among the enslaved Africans.

Nat Turner is sent around the area to preach a doctrine of docility and obedience to the master class. Nonetheless, his exposure to the system in its most egregious aspects including horrendous working conditions, the selling of family members by the planters, the mass rape of African women and the deliberate division sewn among the enslaved themselves in order to maintain the dominance of the white slave owners and their functionaries, fueled his anger leading to a historic rebellion resulting in the deaths of many whites and the destruction of their property.

The field of American historical studies has been enriched by scholars such as W.E.B. Du Bois, CLR James, Eric Williams, Herbert Aptheker and others who rejected the notions of the “happy slaves” fostered by the apologist for institutional racism and national oppression such as Ulrich B. Philipps, Walter Lynwood Fleming and William Archibald Dunning. The racist approach to historical studies dominated the major universities in the U.S. during the late 19th and 20th centuries.

In taking such an approach to the history of slavery and the failure of Reconstruction, the Southern and indeed the entire ruling class of the post-antebellum period, were provided with a pseudo-scholarly rationale for the maintenance of national oppression and economic exploitation of the former enslaved Africans. This same justification continues into the 21st century as Africans seek to realize their inherent right to self-determination and national liberation.

The so-called Dunning school of Southern history blamed the Africans themselves for the failure of Reconstruction in the aftermath of the Civil War fought from 1861-65. Fleming, the son of an Alabama slave owner who taught for years at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, was so imbued with racism that he refused to even capitalize the word “Negro”, as Africans were known in the period leading up to the 1960s, when the term was overturned by the Black Power and Pan-Africanist movements.

Fleming wrote in one of his major works that “The [N]egro is the central figure in the reconstruction of the South. Without the [N]egro there would have been no Civil War. Granting a war fought for any other cause, the task of reconstruction would, without him, have been comparatively simple.”

This film by Nate Parker makes an important contribution to rewriting the actual history of the African people in the U.S. and consequently world studies. Without an accurate understanding of the development of America as the leading imperialist nation in the world it is impossible to design a program for transforming the present conditions of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.

Africans will of course be integral to the reshaping of international affairs amid the decline once again of the dominant economic class within the U.S. As slavery had outlived its usefulness and profitability in the mid-decades of the 19th century, so has imperialism in the 21st century. Whether its ultimate decline can be realized in the absence of another world war is largely dependent upon the role of the nationally oppressed in alliance with the working class in the U.S. and around the world.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on The Birth of a Nation: Revisiting the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831

Political will is vital to curb terrorism financing, money laundering and recovery of Africa’s looted assets

Abiyamo

Africa has lost $1 trillion over the past five decades through illicit financial flows. International mechanisms for getting this looted wealth back exist. While some African countries have often claimed that the existence of tax havens hinders assets recovery efforts, lack of political will has been cited as the key problem.

The use of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) to curb illegally acquired wealth looks like an answer to Africa’s long-term problem of recovering its looted assets. This is because UWOs can lead to suspects being stripped of such wealth by a court of law if they fail to prove that it was legally accumulated by transferring the burden of proof to the beneficiary. Its success will, however, depend on the cooperation and political will especially from respective African countries that have the capacity to block access to crucial information on suspicious transactions.

During an anti-corruption summit of about twenty global leaders in London in May 2016, former British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the formation of a global forum for assets recovery, bringing together the cooperation of governments, law enforcement agencies and the private sector in combined efforts to recover stolen assets. [1] The climax of the summit was the signing of a global declaration against corruption and a consensus to hold the first gathering in the US next year, dedicated to the recovery of assets from Nigeria, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Tunisia. UWOs was one of the outputs of the summit.

This new development is particularly significant to Africa because it is estimated that the continent has lost about $1 trillion in illicit financial flows in the last 50 years. [2] Annually, up to $50 billion is lost from the continent through theft and evasion of tax and tariffs, which is about double the amount it receives in official development assistance. [3] The impact of this is the deepening of income inequality by benefiting mainly the political class, long-term consequence for social capital and loss of accountability especially in public institutions. [4] This is also reiterated in the 2015 report of the High Level Panel (HLP) on illicit financial flows from Africa established by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU).

Efforts to recover stolen assets are governed by a transnational legal regime based on criminal law. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (2005), also known as the anti-corruption treaty, is the main legal framework under which recovery of stolen assets is managed and establishes provisions on international cooperation for proceeds and asset recovery acquired through corruption and other illicit means. The law obliges member states to ensure confiscated assets are managed by a competent authority, and that assets should be retuned to legitimate owners and victims of offenses compensated and if it involves another state, returning them to that state. In such a situation, the requested state may deduct reasonable expenses incurred in the investigation, prosecution, or judicial proceedings leading to the return or disposition of confiscated assets. Cooperation and agreements between states should be done on a on a case by case basis. [5]

Despite this, legal challenges exist in relation to assets recovery such as the demand for proof that the assets in question were acquired illegally and so two practical examples illustrate this legal gap: Nigeria and the DR Congo.

Attempts to recover looted assets of the former Nigerian ruler Sani Abacha (an estimated $2.3 billion, $1 billion worth of contracts to front companies and bribes worth of $1 billion from foreign companies) led to discoveries of accounts in Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, Jersey Channel Islands, USA, Switzerland and Britain. Investigations outside Nigeria proved more productive than at home partly due to the support of the US and various European governments. [6] In the end, the legal threat for proof that was missing led to an out of court settlement that allowed the family to keep $100 million and leaving a sum of $300 million. The family returned $1 billion while $535 million was released from Swiss banks, $200 million from banks in Britain and $300 million from Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. [7] The amount retained by the family was undeserved.

In the case of the DRC, Mobutu Seseseko’s son, Francois-Joseph Mobutu Nzanga Ngbangawe, had become prime minister when attempts to recover stolen assets by his father were launched. Nzanga shattered the process of releasing recovered funds back to DRC leading to Switzerland being legally bound to unfreeze the funds to him. [8]

These two cases and others such as Switzerland’s ‘Lex Duvalier’ of 2011 and UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 demonstrate the double-aged nature of the law: providing opportunities for assets recovery while at the same time taking it away by demanding proof of illegality for the authorization of return of assets to be effected. [9] With UWOs, however, it is expected that the burden of proof will shift to the suspect and so if the two cases were to be subjected to UWOs, the families of Abacha and and Seseseko could have been compelled to show proof of how they acquired the wealth in question. [10]

While some African countries have often claimed that the existence of tax havens was a hindrance to their assets recovery efforts, their lack of political will has been cited as the problem. [11] In the case of the US and Switzerland pressure was largely applied from the former, forcing Switzreland to change some of its banking secrecy laws (such as the Swiss Banking Law of 1934). Although it was largely in relation to cases involving American defendants, it is a good case to emulate as it indicates that where there is political will there is a way.

The summit’s proposition to use UWOs and other methods such as intelligence sharing, provision of mutual legal assistance between states and creation of public registers to reveal real company beneficiaries, although driven by the UK, and motivated by the fact that foreign companies owned about 100,000 properties in England and Wales and that more than 44,000 of these were in London, it is indeed a welcome breakthrough that can succeed if accorded the necessary political will. However it is also important to consider that emphasis on cooperation must take into account the tendency of corrupt elites to hide looted assets in locations where laws are weak, something that can frustrate cooperation between states. Other initiatives such as public registers can therefore only follow when the problem of proof has been tackled.

In the context of increased global terrorism that has shone light on money laundering, some of which is suspected to be used to fund terrorist activities and amidst leaked information of the Panama Papers, some 11.5 million records of offshore secret bank accounts and transactions of the clients of the Panamian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, [12] there is no better time to finally explore opportunities of curbing illicit financial flows.

 

End notes

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-announces-new-plan-at-anti-corruption-summit-to-recover-stolen-assets

[2]http://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/iff_main_repor…

[3] http://www.uneca.org/pages/iff-background

[4] http://concernedafricascholars.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/caploss05-…

[5] https://www.baselgovernance.org/theme/icar

[6] file:///Users/Noor/Downloads/ASR14NO4F2[1].pdf (page 20)

[7] file:///Users/Noor/Downloads/ASR14NO4F2[1].pdf (page 21)

[8] https://www.issafrica.org/iss-today/swiss-battle-to-return-africas-stolen-loot  

[9] The EastAfrican (2016). Recovering the Millions Stolen by Crooked Elites. February 20th -26th, pp 26.

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11814901/Suspiciously-rich-coul…

[11] https://www.issafrica.org/iss-today/swiss-battle-to-return-africas-stolen-loot

[12] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/world/panama-papers-explainer.html?_r=0

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Political will is vital to curb terrorism financing, money laundering and recovery of Africa’s looted assets

Maps for Africa: Why they matter

africaguide.com

Given the value of mapping, African governments need to raise funds from different sources, including from their development partners, the private sector, international foundations and other users to support not only the training of qualified cartographers and surveyors but also to procure new equipment and software to assist in the design of  quality maps.

According to Warren (2004), “Maps are more than pieces of paper. They are stories, conversations, lives and songs lived out in a place, and are inseparable from the political and cultural contexts in which they are used’’. Other scholars see maps as social documents, created in a particular social and cultural context. However, whichever way they are viewed, maps have been used since time immemorial and have played an important role in the history of humankind. They ignited the spirit of adventure in many people, especially those from Europe, and the desire to discover continents and places yet unknown to them.

The relationship between maps and Africa is particularly charged. As Africa was the last continent to be fully explored, its maps were always seen as the most mysterious and alluring. Tellingly, a map of Africa hangs on the wall in Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya, symbolizing the unknown, the romantic “other”, to which the characters in the play long to escape from their dreary provincial reality.

But Africa is mysterious and unknown no longer and its maps are no longer repositories of mysteries and speculation, but a record of its infrastructure, resources and potential. At least, that is what their role should be. Maps continue to attract both proponents and critics, especially when it comes to the coverage of certain regions of the world. For example, many areas of Africa are still not adequately covered in the continent’s maps. This is the result of either deliberate policy or a lack of interest on the part of African governments after their states achieved independence. There are several possible reasons for this state of affairs, including a lack of funds to invest in map making, a lack of skilled professionals, a lack of up-to-date data, to name but a few. This brief paper will try to discuss the challenges that map making faces in Africa and some of the opportunities.

  1. Lack of funds

Many people do not know how to use a map. There is, therefore, a lack of demand for new or updated maps and little pressure on government authorities to allocate the funds necessary to produce them. The cost can be prohibitive and, as Wan (2014) argues, mapping has become privatized because no individual country, in particular those from Africa, has the vast resources needed to compete in map making with big companies such as Google.

Irrespective of who is funding maps, be it the private sector or individual governments, they have a reason for so doing and a purpose. Google’s maps, for example, are driven by commercial interests. It would make no sense for Google to make its maps free. There are some African governments that are very active in the field and have set aside funds for the production of new maps and other related products. For their part, those African governments and organizations that have limited financial resources need to come up with innovative ways of raising funds for map making, such as joint ventures with the private sector. In addition, government survey offices could make available specialized maps for sale to individuals and organizations that want specific information, such as on areas good for farming, with reference to specific crops.

2. Lack of trained personnel

Qualified and certified cartographers are needed for the design of credible maps. For example, to design a map of soils, forestry and the environmental situation of a particular place, a country needs the services of qualified cartographers and surveyors, in addition to specialists in environmental issues. In many African countries, few people are qualified to design or update quality maps.

Based on findings from a survey of the African region conducted on behalf of the University of Edinburgh, Stuart et al. (2008) recommend that African member states should increase the pool of trained staff and encourage international organizations to support funding of the training. They argue that, in South Africa, the limitations for the production of maps centre on personnel rather than on funding; furthermore the shortage of trained personnel is due to the lack of awareness and support among senior managers responsible for GIS and related technologies.

Another significant challenge faced by cartographers or researchers designing maps relates to the hardware they use. In many African countries, the hardware and software sed for training personnel have become outdated and are expensive to replace. This problem continues to inhibit efforts to upgrade the skills of cartographers and surveyors.

In addition, poor or inadequate salaries and allowances to attract and retain trained staff represent another challenge in Africa, especially in the cartography sector. African governments and private sector enterprises in African countries should therefore offer competitive salaries to professional cartographers, surveyors and other related staff.

3. Lack of data

Creating or updating maps requires high-quality information and data, obtained by carrying out baseline studies and research. Once the research is over and the information has been collected, it should be reviewed and approved before it is given to the cartographers to plot it on the maps. Once information is represented on a map, a panel of experts should review the work again and confirm whether it is credible or not.

According to Professor Monmonier (1996), maps can lie and at times can be misleading. Yet, as a rule, maps are very useful. For instance, it is difficult to find the residential address of the inhabitants of many African cities or towns. This is because of the lack of data needed to enable cartographers and surveyors to draw maps clearly identifying streets and locations for easier access, as is done in more developed countries. In a recent article by Waweru (2016), on Cameroon, the author notes that getting around town could be a puzzle without a grasp of the landmarks and how the residents know them. To avoid these challenges, the Mayor of Yaoundé has begun a project to bring some order across the city, not only by naming every street but also by numbering every plot and coming up with an urban plan. This will help not only emergency services but also foreigners visiting the city. A similar urban mapping exercise is under way in Addis, where cadastral information has always been scrappy and chaotic, where it existed at all.

According to Christopher Groskopf (2016), in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Africa, which includes nine countries, seems to disappear most frequently. This is because of data missing for the entire sub-region. Interestingly, missing or a complete lack of data was recognized during the 18th century by the poet Jonathan Swift (Untold News, 2016)when the experts of the day decided to fill the blank spaces in maps with the few things they knew at the time to reside in an exotic place like Africa, namely, monkeys, lions and elephants. Although narrow in scope and scanty in detail, the other missing information and data on Africa was provided by the earlier explorers and the rest of Africa remained incognito to Western society for many years to come.

The lack of data is being addressed currently by the rise of Google Maps, which are being disseminated by the Google apps. Thus, Google information is enabling users to see aerial photographs and street maps in many parts of the world. In the future, with these advances in information gathering, it may be possible to deal effectively with subjectivity in map making and finally design objective maps. As pointed out by Wan (2014), paraphrasing the statesman and writer Lennart Meri, the information a map can convey is limited, but the symbol of power it can convey is almost limitless.

4. Lack of policies and laws for mapping

As the saying goes, “information is power”; collecting and analysing information, however, is not cheap. African governments should ensure that they protect their available information as well as their maps. For example, when carrying out any serious research, the researcher requires permission to use information, especially from government sources and from other organizations. At the end of the project, the researcher has to acknowledge the sources of information. This is standard practice in many African countries under prevailing policies and laws.

Clearly, existing policies could assist African governments and organizations sponsoring the maps to make money. For instance, Google continues to offer maps over the web as a goodwill gesture. Developers who use Google Maps, such as Apple and others, not only support Google’s advertising efforts but also their businesses use the Google logos on these maps for a fee. There is, however, information in the form of data or maps that could pose a security risk and some governments will not release security documents or maps. India, for example, drafted a bill in May 2016 that controls the acquisition, dissemination, publishing and distribution of geographical information in and outside the country (Government of India, 2016). This bill could make the daily use of maps illegal, since it demands a three-month vetting and approval process for any use of mapping.

There are various viewpoints: some people feel that if India enacts this bill in its present form, it will seriously affect the economic opportunities of the country. Others feel that the government is doing the right thing. Whatever one’s standpoint, the example from India suggests that each African country should formulate laws and policies to sensibly regulate the mapping of areas of vital national security interest. Moreover, the African governments should determine the sections of the laws and policies relating to mapping which need updating or amendment.

African governments should make sure that geospatial data and sensitive maps receive the protection they need. Most importantly, African governments should set the rules that determine the standards and protocols applicable to data collection, storage, labelling, integration, ownership, confidentiality, privacy, and copyright protection.

5. Opportunities for map making in Africa

An area where maps have played an important role is in public health. For instance, Dr. John Snow, a physician in England in the mid-1800s, traced a cholera outbreak in the City of London. Thereafter, he plotted his data on a street map of London; he convincingly showed that an individual outbreak was centred around a particular well (Eros, 2015). Based on his data, he convinced authorities to close down the offending pump and helped to stop a more massive outbreak of the disease.

Another example is the effort to combat Ebola virus disease in the Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), which was difficult and complex. Emily Eros (2016), of the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team, confirmed that public health workers solicited the services of the remote mapping volunteers to add roads and buildings to the base maps of the Mano River countries. This exercise was very useful in tracking the people affected by Ebola. Given that the region remains vulnerable, with a fragile public health system, there is a need to update the Open Street Map to add useful information. This information would be critical not only for development purposes but also in case there is another health crisis.

In addition, in 2015 the American Red Cross carried out a massive fieldwork mapping campaign covering 5,000 villages in the border regions of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The mapping exercise focused on collecting important information relating to public health resources, different aspects of vulnerability, and amenities such as markets that would draw people across borders – of particular importance should another Ebola outbreak occur. Lessons from the Ebola outbreak demonstrate that a detailed map could facilitate the public health response to any outbreaks as well as other humanitarian and development activities.

Despite the challenges mentioned earlier regarding data, Kreutz (2009) acknowledges that open maps are excellent examples to demonstrate several ways in which to use and link information in creative ways. Likewise, under the Harvard Africa Map Project, the continent of Africa can be viewed through different data layers. Using open map data around the issue of climate change can provide planners with useful information on where to build new infrastructure. Whatever the case, online map making needs to adhere to the ethical principles of respecting confidentiality, obtain prior approval from government authorities and avoid exposing knowledge holders at risk (Kreutz, 2009).

Governments in some regions of Africa – notably, that covered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – are using maps and other cartographic processes to identify and chart the most poverty-stricken areas, enabling them to pint-point their assistance interventions. In addition, topographical maps are proving invaluable in guiding mineral exploration and development ventures, revealing areas most propitious for the exploitation of oil, gas, diamonds, rutile and other resources, and for agricultural development. Accordingly, African governments should revisit their position on maps and be prepared to invest more in the necessary data collection.

Conclusion

Given the value of mapping, African governments need to raise funds from different sources, including from their development partners, the private sector, international foundations and other users to support not only the training of qualified cartographers and surveyors but also to procure new equipment and software to assist in the design of  quality maps. Collaboration in map making will offer great opportunities to African governments, organizations, academia and others to unlock the potential of economic sectors such as tourism, agriculture, transport and civil aviation as well as to support emergency services. In short, maps can help African governments, various organizations, academic institutions and individuals to make good choices and decisions.

Moreover, maps could provide individual leaders, governments, and organizations with suggestions and solutions to tackling both simple and complex development problems.  As in developed countries, African governments should manage their information assets and enforce restrictions on access to confidential data and maps.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Maps for Africa: Why they matter

Guterres’ choice as next UN chief is profoundly historic

UN

Guterres has not only gathered valuable experience as head of the UN Refugee Agency for ten years until December 2015, and as prime minister of his country in critical times, but also as president of the Socialist International.

The choice of former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres as the next United Nations Secretary-General is profoundly historic, though it has not come as a surprise.

Guterres has not only gathered valuable experience as head of the UN Refugee Agency for ten years until December 2015, and as prime minister of his country in critical times, but also as president of the Socialist International.

This global social democratic organisation played a significant role at the height of the Cold War and in the Middle East under the stewardship of the late Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Nobel Laureate and (West) German Chancellor Willy Brandt.

It is not surprising therefore that he has pledged to show “the humility that is needed to serve especially those that are most vulnerable,” victims of conflict, terrorism, human rights violations and poverty.

Guterres, in his late 60s, will replace Ban Ki-moon on January 1, 2017 after the incumbent finishes his second five-year term on December 31, 2016.

His choice did not come as a surprise because the Security Council’s colour-coded ballot on October 5 clearly showed that there was only one candidate – Guterres – who was likely to receive more than nine ‘threshold’ votes and no veto in a formal vote.

All the other candidates had fewer than nine votes, as well as between one or more potential vetoes. This prompted an unusual media stakeout with all 15 Council members present, where Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, as president of the Council in October, announced: “Today after our sixth straw poll we have a clear favourite and his name is António Guterres”.

Guterres – whose formal choice by the Security Council has to be confirmed by the General Assembly this month – had maintained his lead in all the previous five informal ‘straw polls’. In the poll on September 26, he topped for the fifth time running with 12 “encourage”, two “discourage” and one “no opinion” vote, the same numbers as in the fourth poll.

If there had been more than one possible candidate, before adopting a resolution on October 6 recommending a candidate to the General Assembly, the Council might have needed to vote in a secret ballot on the candidates.

In addition to Guterres, 12 other candidates were in the running to succeed the current UN Secretary General.

However, with only one candidate going forward to the formal vote, members agreed that the Council would proceed directly to adopting the resolution recommending Guterres by acclamation. This was the same process used for both Kofi Annan (1996) and Ban Ki-moon (2006) when the Council recommended them.

On an official visit to Italy, Ban said in Rome on October 6 that Guterres is “an excellent choice,” noting that he had worked closely with him during his “long and outstanding tenure” as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“He showed deep compassion for the millions of people who were forced to leave their homes,” Ban said, adding: “His past experience as Prime Minister of Portugal, his extensive knowledge of world affairs and his keen intelligence will serve him to lead the United Nations at a crucial period.”

What makes the decision by the Security Council on October 6 historic is that the selection of a new Secretary-General, traditionally decided behind closed-doors by a few powerful countries, has for the first time in history, involved public discussions with each candidate campaigning for the world’s top diplomatic post.

These so-called ‘informal briefings’ between the candidates, UN Member States and civil society representatives kicked off on April 12, when the first three candidates presented their ‘vision statements’ and answered questions on how they would promote sustainable development, improve efforts to create peace, protect human rights, and deal with huge humanitarian catastrophes should they be selected to lead the world body.

In addition, in July, the UN held its first-ever globally televised and webcast townhall-style debate in the General Assembly Hall, where the confirmed candidates at the time took questions from diplomats and the public at large.

The credit for making the process of the selection of the new UN Chief goes to Morgens Lykketoft of Denmark in his capacity as president of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

He was backed by the civil society organisations such as the ‘1 for 7 Billion’ campaign, which includes the World Federation of UN Associations, among others.

Reacting to the choice of Guterres ‘1 for 7 Billion’ said: “The result is a triumph for the more open, inclusive and meritocratic process which 1 for 7 Billion has worked hard to achieve. The . . . nomination of Mr Guterres shows that UN Security Council could not ignore the widespread call for merit to prevail over regional considerations and the political interests of Council members.”

It added: “Guterres was not seen as a frontrunner at the beginning of the race. He was ‘wrong’ in terms of gender and region, but was widely considered to have done well in his General Assembly dialogue and in other events, with many commenting on his experience and ability to inspire.”

Natalie Samarasinghe, co-founder of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, stated that the number of negative votes for late entry Kristalina Georgieva (of Bulgaria) is an indication that the Security Council has taken seriously the UN General Assembly resolution 69/321 that states that candidates should “be presented in a timely manner”.

“1 for 7 Billion is pleased that the Council has agreed on a well-qualified candidate who has engaged in dialogue with the General Assembly and civil society, and participated in a public debate organised by 1 for 7 Billion’s partners,” Samarasinghe added.

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign is continuing to call for the next UN leader to stand for a single, longer term of office, possibly of seven years. This would provide future Secretaries-General with the necessary political space to get his commitments achieved without the distraction of considering re-appointment.

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