Archive | May 25th, 2018

The Art of War: Nazi F-35 Jet Fighters Already at War

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The Art of War: Israel’s F-35 Jet Fighters Already at War

 

Featured image: Israeli F-35 Flying over Beirut (Source: author)

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East, and have already attacked twice on two different fronts”. General Amikam Norkin, Commander of the Israeli Air Force, made this announcement on 22 May at the conference on aerial superiority at Herzliya (a suburb of Tel Aviv), with the participation of the Air Force chiefs of staff from 20 countries, including Italy.

The general did not specify where the F-35’s had been used, but he hinted that one of the attacks was carried out in Syria. He also showed images of Israeli F-35’s flying over Beirut and Lebanon, but they have almost certainly also been used for non-attack missions in Iran.

Israel, one of the 12 “global partners” of the F-35 program led by US Lockheed Martin, was the first to buy the new fifth-generation fighter, which it renamed “Adir” (Powerful). So far, Israel has received nine of the 50 F-35’s ordered, all model A (conventional take-off and landing), and it is likely to purchase 75. This is a realistic goal, given that Israel receives about 4 billion dollars annually in military aid from the United States.

The training of the first Israeli F-35 pilots began in July 2016, at Luke air base in Arizona. After having attended a three-month course in the USA, in order to be certified as operational, they have to complete several months of training for “real flight” in Israel. Approximately 30 F-35 Israeli pilots have been trained so far. On December 6, 2017, the Israeli Air Force declared its first F-35 fleet fully operational.

Israel’s military industry also participates in the F-35 programme. Israel Aerospace Industries produces wings for the F-35A; Elbit Systems-Cyclone produces fuselage components for the F-35; and Elbit Systems Ltd. are developing the Generation III helmet-mounted display system, which all F-35  fleet pilots will wear.

Video in Italian

Source: PandoraTV

General Norkin’s announcement that the F-35 is finally “combat proven” therefore has the primary practical effect of boosting the F-35 programme, which has already encountered numerous technical problems and needs continual costly upgrades which increase the already enormous cost of the programme. The fighter’s software has been modified over 30 times and requires further updates.

General Norkin’s announcement was therefore particularly appreciated by Lockheed Martin’s Chief Executive Officer, Marillyn Hewson, one of the speakers at the conference on “aerial superiority”.

The announcement that Israel has already used the F-35s in “real war” operations serves at the same time as a warning to Iran. The F-35A’s supplied to Israel are designed primarily for the use of nuclear weapons, in particular the new B61-12 precision-guided bomb. The B61-12, now in its final stages of development, will be deployed by the United States in Italy and other European countries. It will almost certainly also be supplied to Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, whose arsenal is estimated at 100-400 nuclear weapons.

Israeli nuclear forces are integrated into the NATO electronic system, as part of the “Individual Cooperation Program” with Israel, a country which has a permanent mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels, although it is not a member of the Alliance.

Italy, Germany, France, Greece and Poland participated with the USA in Blue Flag 2017, the largest international aerial warfare exercise in Israel’s history, in which nuclear attack tests were also carried out.

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The History of Yugoslavia and Yugoslav Unification

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Part I

 

Yugoslavia as a state was officially created one hundred years ago on December 1st, 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed on January 6th, 1929 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). The country emerged legally from the Corfu Pact of 1917 (signed agreement between Serbia’s government and the South-Slavic representatives from the Habsburg Monarchy) and was the extremely heterogeneous state from ethnic, geographic, historical, confessional and linguistic points of view.

Yugoslavia’s religious and ethnic diversity was expressed in two mutually opposite national-political ideas about the nature and future of the new state. It is true that Slovenia and Croatia had joined Yugoslav state for a defensive reason, to protect their ethnonational territories against the Austrian and the Italian revisionist politics of irredentist pretensions. Political representatives of Slovenia (Kranjska) and Croatia demanded a federal Yugoslavia, which would leave each of three federal units (Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia) with extensive political, economic, cultural and educational autonomy.

However, by contrast, Serbia, which lost ¼ of her population during the WWI[1] and sacrificed her state’s independence in the name of Yugoslavia, advocated a concept of a centralized state as the best solution for the protection of Serbs outside Serbia. As a matter of fact, Serbia was a relatively homogeneous country having a high level of self-confidence since her internationally recognized independence at the Berlin Congress in 1878. Nevertheless, this latter conception became accepted, when a centralized constitution was voted by a narrow parliamentary majority on June 28th, 1921, creating the conflict with the leading Croatian political party – the Croatian People’s Peasants’ Party (HNSS).[2]

Surely, the Kingdom of Serbia was a “Yugoslav Piedmont” and a country which mostly suffered during the WWI for the unification of Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and other South Slavs into a single political entity. The first clear expression of the Yugoslav unification by Serbia as a war aim of Belgrade was delivered to the Entente powers already at the end of August 1914[3] but the idea of a South Slavic political unification had much longer tradition dating back in 1794.

The Origins of the “Idea of Union” (1794)

The development of the “Idea of Union”, i.e. of bringing all South Slavs into one state, originated from the idea of South Slavic common ethnic, historical and linguistic origins, which can be historically traced from the end of the 18th century when the most significant Serbian historian of the time, Jovan Rajić, published in Vienna his most important work in 1794 under the title “A History of Different Slavic Peoples, Especially Bulgarians, Croatians and Serbians”. He pointed out in this work that the Croats are Slavic people who established their own national state in Dalmatia (i.e., that Dalmatia was an original Balkan region of Croatian statehood). The Croatian neighbors, the Serbs, came from the north and settled themselves on the area of Macedonia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, Moesia, Rascia, and Bosnia.[4] Finally, according to his opinion, the medieval writers mixed up the Bulgarians with the Balkan Vlachs.

It was a German historian A. L. Schltzer who in his Allgemeine nordische Geschichte(1771) made the first general systematization of the dispersion of the Slavic tribes after their (false?) “great migrations” in the 6th c., and a scholar who created the term – South Slavs (Sd-Slaven). Further, the Slovenian historian Anton Linhart was a person who for the first time introduced this term into the South Slavic culture (in 1802). The terms Yugoslavia and the Yugoslavs were firstly used in 1834 by the Austrian authorities, and further spread up during and after the Revolution of 1848–1849.[5] However, originally, the term Yugoslavs referred only to those South Slavs living within the Habsburg Monarchy.

A Serbian writer from Habsburg Monarchy, Dositej Obradović, at the beginning of the 19th century anticipated an idea of a mutual community of the South Slavs on the linguistic foundation.[6] He, basically, implied in the Balkan case a West European romanticist idea, advanced by the rationalistic philosophers, that one language can be spoken by one ethnonational community. However, he clearly differentiated a Serbian ethnonational speech (a Štokavian dialect) from similar South Slavic dialects. For him, the borders of a common South Slavic language are at the same time and the borders of the same South Slavic ethnic nation, regardless on the current (and historical) situation that the South Slavs have been living in different political entities (states) and confessing different faiths (by belonging to different, and even antagonistic, churches and theological believes – Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islam).

The French Illyrian Yugoslavism (1809−1814)

With the creation of the French (by Napoleon) Illyrian Provinces (Provinces Illyriennes), composed by Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, a littoral portion of Montenegro, Istria, South Croatia, and South Slovenia, which as political reality existed between 1809 and 1814, it began a period when the South Slavs from these territories started to live under the rule of a single political entity. All of these provinces became after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 incorporated into the Austrian Empire, renamed in 1867 into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This new political circumstance in the Balkans (from 1809 to 1918) had a significant impact on the creation of consciousness among the Western South Slavs about their ethnonational common origin and, therefore, a unity. However, a Napoleonic policy of the Illyrian Yugoslavism of the time was, in essence, anti-Austrian, as “these various peoples had to be educated with regard to the idea of one nation in order for all of them to demonstrate similar spirits and ideas”[7] what practically means to be separated from the Austrian Empire. Actually, the French Napoleonic government carried out a policy of the South Slavic (Yugoslav) political-administrative unification under the features of a single Illyrian language and Illyrian ethnolinguistic nation.[8] It was, in fact, a policy of a national unification of the French South Slavs under the Illyrian (Yugoslav) ethnonational name.

Europe in 1815 map

At the time of political absolutism in the Austrian Empire after the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), the Austrian emperor retained some institutions and practice, which were established under the Napoleonic rule on the South Slavic territories of the former French Illyrian provinces. For instance, a southern part of present-day Croatia (from Kupa river to Dalmatia) remained in the administrative connection with the Slovenian provinces. In fact, an organization of the Illyrian Kingdom, as an Austrian crown land, marked the beginning of an anti-Hungarian policy by Vienna. However, Vienna, at the same time, carried out a Yugoslav policy, according to which, the Illyrian Kingdomshould be a nucleus of a single South Slavic (Yugoslav) administrative province within the Austrian Empire, in order to avert a South Slavic (or at least a pan-Serbian) political unification under Serbia’s leadership, what means beyond the borders of the Austrian Empire. This “Yugoslav” plan was originally designed by the Austrian chancellor Clemens von Metternich, who intended that the Austrian Illyrian Kingdom would include all Dalmatia in order to be created a South Slavic (Yugoslav) federal unit (province) within the Austrian Empire (Mittägliches Slavisches Reich).[9]

The Croatian National Renaissance – Illyrian Movement(1830−1847)

Originally sponsored by the Austrian authorities, an official propagandistic ideology of the Croatian national renaissance – Illyrian Movement (1830−1847)[10], led by a Croatized German Ljudevit Gaj(Ludwig Gay), understood all South Slavs as a single ethnolinguistic group, who has to live in united national state of Greater Illyria–from the Alps to the Black Sea. It is quite clear from Lj. Gaj’s article Naš narod (1835), in which he thought that in the Magnum Illyricum (as united South Slavic or Yugoslav state, established by the western, central and eastern portions of the Balkans) should be included the Slovenes, Croats, Slavonians, Dalmatians, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Serbs, and finally Bulgarians.[11]

Lj. Gaj formally favored a “total unification” of all South Slavs including and Bulgarians, but for the Serbs and Slovenes, his projected Greater Illyria was nothing else than a renamed Greater Croatia as a part of the Austrian Empire. However, a pan-Yugoslav propaganda in Lj. Gaj ’s writings for the sake to promote an idea of a united Yugoslavia as a common state of all South Slavs was understood by a majority of Serbian and Slovenian intellectuals of the time as a hidden policy of the Austrian imperialism in the Balkans which used the Croats for the realization of foreign policy goals by Vienna. For instance, Lj. Gaj was the first who proposed that a common name for the South Slavs in the Triune Kingdom (Dalmatia, Croatia, and Slavonia) has to be the Serbo-Croats who spoke the common Serbo-Croatian (or Croato-Serbian) language[12] but for the Serbs such proposal was nothing else than a promulgation of the Austro-Croatian policy of denationalization and Croatization of the Austrian Christian Orthodox Serbs who never spoke Serbo-Croatian but only Serbian language.[13]  Therefore, the Serbian and other South Slavic lands had to be Croatized within the artificial political-ideological framework of the Illyrian Yugoslavism and incorporated into Roman Catholic Austria. Nevertheless, Lj. Gaj called a common South Slavic state as the Magnum Illyricum, that was territorially divided into the “higher” (Slovenia), the “middle” (the main part of Croatia) and the “lower” (from Bosnia to the Black Sea) units[14] – exactly following the writings of his Croatized German compatriot Paul Ritter (Pavao Ritter Vitezović) from 1700 (Croatia rediviva…) on all South Slavs as the Croats and all South Slavic lands as a Greater Croatia.[15] In other words, Lj. Gaj and his Croatian Illyrian Yugoslavs incorporated the whole Slavic south – from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea, from Villach (Beljak) and Gorizzia to the lower Hungary, and from Skadar to Varna – into the Magnum Illyricum.[16] However, a political center of their Magnum Illyricum had to be Croatia’s capital – Zagreb. Henceforth, a Croatian Illyrian Yugoslavism was nothing else than a form of Austro-Croatian Roman Catholic imperialism in the Balkans.

Nevertheless, before the political activities by the Croatian Illyrians, Vuk Stefanović-Karaddžić, a famous Serbian language reformer, and philologist, standardized the literal language for the Serbs based on the historical Serbian people’s speech – a Štokavian dialect. However, this model of Serb standardized language was “borrowed” by Lj. Gaj for the literal language of the Croats and as a result, from the first half of the 19thcentury both Serbs and Croats had a common literal language due to the Croatian appropriation of the Serbian national dialect which was soon renamed by the Croatian philologists firstly as a Serbo-Croatian and then as a Yugoslav language. Among the Slovenes, the language-standardization work was completed by France Prešern and the other Slovenian poets at the first half of the 19th century.[17] As a common standpoint by the pro-Yugoslav 19th century South Slavic philologists was an opinion that after the process of a final standardization of the South Slavic “national languages” they, anyway, have to be understood as only different written expressions of a common South Slavic vernacular.

The Serbs: Between a Greater Serbia or a Greater Yugoslavia

After the fall of the Napoleonic Illyrian Provinces and the end of the Serbian Revolution (1804–1833) against the Ottoman lordship, a Serbian society became divided into two camps regarding Serbia’s national policy for the next hundred years:

  • To run a project of a united Serbian national state (a Greater Serbia).
  • To become a “locomotive” of the South Slavic unification (a Greater Yugoslavia).

On one hand, a spirit of anti-Yugoslavism established its center of activity among several leading Serbian politicians and academics who saw the “Idea of Union” as nothing else but only the Austrian-created ideological background for the incorporation of all South Slavs into the Austrian Empire within the province of a Greater Croatia.

Battle of Mišar Afanasij Scheloumoff

The Battle of Mišar took place from 12 to 15 August 1806, with a Serbian victory over the Ottomans

In the mid-19th century, there were very important Serbian political designs with regard to geopolitical future of the Balkan Peninsula.[18] The most important of them was a secret plan of Serbia’s foreign policy – Načertanije (1844), or the Draft, written by Serbia’s minister of interior, Ilija Garašanin, who clearly did not project a common Yugoslav state but only a Greater/United Serbia (i.e., the unification of all Serbian people and historical lands within one political entity – a Principality of Serbia). His geopolitical project practically was designed as a pivotal political program against the Yugoslav unification propagated by the Austrian Croats and accepted by some Serbs from the Austrian Empire. I. Garašanin’s Načertanije was, basically, written to oppose an anti-Russian proposal for Serbia’s foreign policy by the Polish agent in Serbia, Francisco Zach, under the instructions given by the Polish count Adam Czartoryski in Conseils sur la conduite a suivre par la Serbie (1843). A basic A. Czartoryski’s idea was that Serbia had to lead a policy of pan-South Slavic unification for the sake of the creation of the Anglo-French supported Balkan Yugoslavia that would be a focal stronghold against the Austrian and Russian penetrations in the peninsula. In other words, the final goal of Serbia’s foreign policy had to be a creation of the common South Slavic state from the Alps Mts. to the Black Sea.[19] However, I. Garašanin rejected A. Czartoryski’s idea and instead of an anti-Russian Greater Yugoslavia designed a Greater Serbia which would have as a prime protector in the Christian Orthodox Russia.

On another hand, however, there were many Serbian public workers, but primarily from the Austrian Empire, who accepted the politics of Yugoslav unification as the optimal solution for the resolving of the “Serbian Question” in the Balkans. They claimed a political leadership of the union for the Principality of Serbia for two political reasons:

  • Serbia organized two national uprisings against the Ottoman Empire (1804–1813 and 1815) and, therefore, it was together with small Montenegro the only South Slavic land becoming self-independent in the mid-19th century as a consequence of its fighting for the liberation under foreign rule.
  • Serbia started to create herself as the first Balkan nation and South Slavic society without feudal elements according to modern West European tendency – this social feature became soon the crucial impetus for all liberal movements among the South Slavs.[20]

As a good example of the Austrian pro-Yugoslav camp thinkers or of those who were fighting for the creation of a mutual state of the South Slavs in order to solve the “Serbian Question” was Matija Ban, a liberal Serbian Roman Catholic writer from Dubrovnik[21], who came to live in Belgrade in 1844. His main task was to turn Serbia’s foreign policy from an idea of the creation of I. Garašanin’s primarily Christian Orthodox Greater Serbia towards the formation of the Yugoslav patchwork with the Roman Catholic Slovenes and Croats.[22]

To be continued with the second and final part.

*

Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović is Founder & Editor of POLICRATICUS-Electronic Magazine on Global Politics (www.global-politics.eu). Contact: sotirovic@global-politics.eu. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

[1] Andrej Mitrović, Prvi svetski ratPrekretnice novije srpske istorije, Kragujevac, 1995, p. 82. In some Serbia’s counties the population loss during the war was even up to 80% [Mira Radojević, Ljubodrag Dimić, Srbija u Velikom ratu 1914−1918, Beograd, 2014, p. 245].

[2] Jan Palmowski, A Dictionary of Contemporary World History from 1900 to the Present Day, New York, 2004, p. 706.

[3] Mile Bjelajac, 1914−2014: Zašto revizija. Stare i nove kontroverze o uzrocima Prvog svetskog rata, Beograd, 2014, p. 200.

[4] Jovan Rajić, История разних словенских народов, найпаче Болгар, Хорватов и Сербов, vol. II, Wien, 1794, pp. 168–169; Milorad Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije1790–1918, vol. I, Beograd, 1989, p. 47.

[5] Franjo Ilešić, “O postanku izraza ‘Jugoslovenski”, Prilozi za književnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor, IX, 1–2, Beograd, 1929, p. 153.

[6] Milorad Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790–1918, vol. I, Beograd, 1989, p. 53.

[7] Monika Seknowska-Gluck, “Illyrie sous la domination Napoleonienne 1809–1813”, Acta Poloniae Historica, 41, Warszawa, 1980, p. 100; John B. Allcock, Explaining Yugoslavia, Columbia University Press, New York, 2000, p. 221.

[8] At that time, it was belief that all South Slavs originated from the ancient inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula – the Illyrians.

[9] Arthur G. Haas, Metternich. Reorganisation and Nationality, 1813–1818. A Study in Foresight and Frustration in the Rebuilding of the Austrian Empire, Wiesbaden, 1963, p. 100.

[10] Dragutin Pavličević, Povijest Hrvatske, Drugo, izmijenjeno i prošireno izdanje, Zagreb, 2000, pp. 243−254.

[11] Ljudevit Gaj, “Naš narod”, Danica, 34, Zagreb, August 29th, 1835.

[12] Franjo Fancev, “Ilirstvo u Hrvatskom preporodu”, Ljetopis JAZU, 49, Zagreb 1937.

[13] Petar Milosavljević, Srpski filološki program, Beograd, 2000, pp. 321−322.

[14] Ljudevit Gaj, “Naš narod”, Danica, 34, Zagreb, August 29th, 1835. During the first visiting of Budapest by Ljudevit Gaj in 1846 one of the British intelligence diplomats noticed that he was surely convinced in the fact that “the secret aim of the Croats was and probably is, to create one Illyrian Kingdom which would be consisted by Carniola, Carinthia, Istria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia” [Blackwell to Palmerston, “Memoire on the Agitation in the Austrian Empire. Viewed as a Question of Diplomacy”, London, August 21st, 1846, Public Record OfficeForeign Office, London,  7/333, No 109].

[15] Pavao Ritter Vitezović, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700; Ivo Perić, Povijest Hrvata, Zagreb, 1997, p. 122.

[16] Franjo Tuđman, Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji, vol. I (1918–1928), Zagreb, 1993, p. 16.

[17] According to Tuđman, Karadžić’s idea that all Štokavian dialect speaking population of Serbo-Croatian language is of the Serb origin, written in his article Srbi svi i svuda in 1836 and published in Kovčežić za istoriju, jezik i običaje Srba sva tri zakona(Wien 1849), was the crucial reason for Croats to turn back from the idea of Illyrism towards the idea of Croatism. Tuđman, also, pointed out that Karadžić’s theory was a foundation of the “Great Serbism” for the next generations of the Serbian ideologists and politicians in order to create a Greater Serbia [Franjo Tuđman, Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji, vol. I, Zagreb, 1993, pp. 22–23]. However, Tuđman was wrong in this point for the reason that the Karadžić’s idea of Štokavian Serbdom was in fact taken by him from the leading Slavic philologists at that time and it was publically presented as a Serbian answer to the Croatization of the Roman Catholic Štokavian speakers by the leaders of the Croatian Illyrian Movement.

[18] About this issue see more in [Dragan Simeunović, Iz riznice otadžbinskih ideja. Slobodarski međaši naše političke misli 19. veka, Beograd, 2000].

[19] Dragoslav Stranjaković, “Kako je postalo Garašaninovo ‘Načertanije’Spomenik, 91, Beograd, 1939, p. 13; Vasa Čubrilović, Istorija političke misli u Srbiji XIX v., Beograd, 1958, pp. 166–169.

[20] Milorad Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790–1918, vol. I, Beograd, 1989, p. 165.

[21] Dubrovnik (Ragusa) was a part of the Austrian Empire from 1814 to 1867 and a part of the Austrian half of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy from 1867 to 1918.

[22] Milorad Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790–1918, vol. I, Beograd, 1989, pp. 369–370.

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The Yugoslav wars of disintegration: Graveyard Humor in Belgrade

 

 

 

 

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US-China Trade War, Kim-Trump Summit Collapse, Factional Splits Within America’s Elites

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In previous print articles I argued there were three groups contending for control of US trade negotiations with China: big bankers and multinational corporations in the US primarily concerned with obtaining deeper access and penetration of China markets; the US defense-war faction concerned with China technology transfer involving nextgen technologies (5G, AI, cybersecurity) that have deep military implications; and Trump who is concerned mostly with pandering to his US domestic political base and getting some kind of China-US trade deficit reduction (preferably big increase in China purchase of US goods) that he can then exaggerate and pump up politically to show his domestic political base in the red states that his ‘economic nationalist’ theme (America First) is alive. Trump is looking at trade gains to boost his support in his base, for the upcoming midterm elections and as a potential bulwark against the Mueller decision soon forthcoming.

After the US trade team went to Beijing in early May, it was clear that the US negotiations leadership had defaulted to the US bankers and multinationals, as Steve Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary (and former CEO of Goldman Sachs investment bank) assumed formal leadership and direction of the US team and US-China trade negotiations. Further substantiating this internal power shift, anti-China hardliner and representative of the US war-defense faction on the team, Peter Navarro, was dropped from the US trade team. Subsequent trade negotiations shifted to discussions between Mnuchin and his China counterpart, Liu He, in private formats and one-one communications between Mnuchin-He. The shift meant that getting more access to China markets (the big bankers primary goal), and a little something for Trump to boast about to his base, had now clearly taken precedence over the tech transfer issue of primary concern to the US war establishment.

Since early May, however, the defense-war faction has struck back. The US military and their Congressional allies have upped their anti-China rhetoric and moves. Efforts to scuttle the June 12 meeting with No. Korea were launched, and the US military most recently acted to remove China from the pacific naval joint maneuvers. Their Congressional allies also opposed Trump’s unilateral decision to restore China telecom company, ZTE, business in the US. Having made concessions, lifting blockages on US agricultural imports and merger deals involving US-China companies in China, China responded by retreating as well.

In typical Trump flip-flop, opportunist fashion, the US president then reversed himself on ZTE, and joined in with anti-China rhetoric, blaming China for the likely failure of talks with No. Korea on June 12. As this writer predicted, it was unlikely from the outset that talks with No. Korea would actually occur and, if they did, would have no positive outcome. It’s mostly Trump seeking publicity for his base and opportunistically manipulating the possibility of a peace deal with No. Korea. The US war-defense establishment does not want a resolution of differences with No. Korea; nor does it want a deal with China on trade unless it involves a rollback of China tech transfer and tech development. China will not accede on that, but will increase US banker access to its markets and even increase its purchase of US exports. But for now, the US war faction has blunted both the progress of trade negotiations with China as well as possible negotiations with No. Korea.

The splits within the US trade team and the three factions will continue contending with each other, reducing the likelihood of any trade deal with China. Meanwhile, China continues its trade negotiation efforts with Europe, and in particular Germany, which the Trump administration and Congress are intent on increasingly alienating.

Even in defense of its own interests, US capitalists appear intent on shooting themselves in the foot, as they say. The quality of US capitalist leadership, and even more so of its political representatives, has deteriorated badly in the 21st century. Like Trump, their arrogance over-estimates their power to bully and push around allies and adversaries alike. Trump’s pursuit of his ultra right economic nationalist policies, combined with the aggressiveness of US war-defense faction, will have the long run effect of reducing US hegemony in the global economy and not re-establishing it in a new Neoliberal structure int he 21st century.

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Amidst threats and defiance, Venezuelans head to the polls

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May 17 marked the end of the political campaign for the upcoming presidential and legislative council elections, that will take place on Sunday May 20. In Caracas, in the traditional rally-holding place in Avenida Bolívar, Nicolás Maduro gave his closing campaign speech, surrounded by a large crowd that had mobilised in the early hours of the morning and converged from multiple locations in Caracas.

 

In his speech, Maduro reiterated some of the main tenets of his campaign: the promise to take on the economic “mafias” and to bring forth an “economic revolution” (1), the rejection of foreign interference in Venezuelan affairs, and a call for participation in the upcoming elections. He also renewed a call for dialogue addressed to all sectors of Venezuelan society.

This final rally brought the curtain on a campaign that saw Maduro all over the country, supported by what has become an impressive electoral machine, with a big ability to mobilise people. Multiple sectors inside the heterogeneous chavismo also voiced their support for Maduro. Even groups that have kept a critical line with regard to government policy in recent times have it clear that only a Maduro victory can guarantee the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution and the possibility to continue the struggle for socialism.

Maduro delivering his final campaign speech (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

The two main opposition candidates on 20M are Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci (out of the other two initially running, Reinaldo Quijada is expected to have a very small showing and Luis Ratti joined Falcón). For a while the possibility of a unified front with a single candidate hung in the air, but did not materialise in the end, which makes Maduro the favourite for the upcoming vote.

Henry Falcón “disobeyed” instructions and threats from the US and the main opposition parties of the MUD, stepping forward as a candidate. His main proposal is to dollarise the economy, as well as appeal to instances such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for support. However with the main anti-chavista figures and parties insisting in their non-recognition of the elections and calling on people to stay away, he will find it hard to mobilise the middle class, which historically has been the core anti-chavista vote.

While Falcón focused mainly on holding meetings and press events, evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci made use of his experience and mobilising capacity to hold a few massive events on the streets. Bertucci refused to step out of the race in favour of Falcón, believing (or having us believe) that he is in a better position than his rival. In any case, his arrival on the political scene is surely with a view beyond these elections, looking to capitalise on the disastrous decisions of the opposition in the recent past to present himself as a political alternative in the future, in a similar fashion to what has been seen with evangelical movements in other Latin American countries.

Main opposition candidates Henri Falcón (left) and Javier Bertucci (right) (Photos from respective twitter accounts)

These elections arrive with Venezuelan suffering from a deep crisis and growing economic war. Prices have skyrocketed in recent months, and the government response through salary increases and bonuses has failed to keep up with inflation, resulting in a very difficult reality for ordinary Venezuelans. There is also an important international dimension to this. The US empire, and its loyal allies, have been ramping up the attacks against Venezuela, for example barring all access to credit or making it more difficult to pay for imports.

Giant Chávez puppet during the closing Maduro rally (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

Along these lines, the US and its echo chamber, the Lima Group, have railed against these elections, arrogantly demanding they be suspended and announcing, months in advance, that they would not be legitimate and that they would not recognise the results (2) (3). This is simply a consequence of the fact that an anti-chavista victory was far from certain. After a growing wave of violence in the first half of 2017, chavismo responded with remarkable strength, achieving peace with the Constituent Assembly elections and then going on to win regional and municipal elections. In light of all this, the decision was to abandon the electoral route and look for a different “regime change” avenue.

Taking all of this into account, the 20M elections are a key moment in the history of Venezuela and Latin America. A chavista defeat would imply a massive setback for the left in Latin America, and it would bring about a merciless onslaught against poor and working-class Venezuelans. But at the same time a Maduro victory will be greeted with even greater imperialist hostility, with further sanctions and an eventual oil embargo on the horizon.

All of this does not discard that there are important choices and changes to be made in terms of government policy, especially in what concerns the repeated appeals, always followed by preferential dollars or credit, to private businessmen, so that they will produce or import. At the end of the day the strength and creativity of the pueblo are the only resource that really matters, and the mobilisation in defence of the revolution, even in the difficult current circumstances, show that the political conscience that was built is perhaps the most important achievement of the past 20 years. And it shows that there is no way forward except to radicalise the revolution. There is a tough battle coming up on May 20, and then another one the following day.

 

Notes

(1) With plenty of goodwill we can grant that a strong electoral showing will give Maduro some backing to implement tough measures, but on the other hand one cannot help but wonder why these tough measures were not put into place in recent months and years.

(2) Trying to out-Trump his master, Colombian president Santos announced that he was aware of a months-long evil plan by the Venezuelan “regime” to register and transport hundreds of thousands of Colombians and have them vote!

(3) Here we also have to wonder what the “recognition” from the US and its followers is actually worth. We only have to go back a few months to the Honduran elections, where there was a blatant display of fraud, and nevertheless results were “recognised”.

Cover photo: Closing rally of the Maduro campaign (Photo: Presidential Press)

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Amidst threats and defiance, Venezuelans head to the polls

Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

NOVANEWS

The Empire Is Obsessed with Perverse Types Of Punishment

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

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

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

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

Brits enjoying Africa (photo by Andre Vltchek)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the symptoms?

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

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

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

“Treating a sadistic personality disorder takes a long time…”

And many sites and publications carry a clear disclaimer:

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

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

Punjabi man being flogged by British colonialist (photo by Andre Vltchek).

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

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

How horrible will the “punishment” be?

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

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

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

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

Poster of human zoo at Military Museum in Paris (photo by Andre Vltchek)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How symbolic!

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

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

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

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

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

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Do you want to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

NOVANEWS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli tank being moved towards Golan Heights (photo by Andre Vltchek).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey bulding new huge wall on Syrian border (photo by Andre Vltchek).

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

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

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

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

Empty Jordan – Syria border post (photo by Andre Vltchek).

Flying around the region has become a Kafkaesque experience.

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

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

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

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

Flight from Doha to Nairobi (photo by Andre Vltchek).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Do you want to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

In praise of negotiation

NOVANEWS

No effective form of cooperation has been devised or put in place through multilateral negotiation to end arms and drugs trafficking and prostitution. Meanwhile Islamic terrorism has found funding and dubious allies among Westerners, who have used them for their own purposes, before IS turned against the rest of the world. The European Union has not even been capable of negotiating a rational policy to tackle the refugee crisis, when in fact it is at least partially responsible for the migratory flux caused by the wars and the economic pillaging it has forced upon some countries.

“Let’s gather around a table – pleads Umberto Eco – to negotiate intelligently and find a solution that will grant respect to all”, “among my wishes for the century to come, I hope for a new ethics in negotiation”, aptly concludes the Bologna University professor, troubled by the West’s millennial ills. The European Union is showing “inconsistent intelligence, made up of a bedlam of received opinions, prejudice and political and financial double speak” (1)

The Charter of the United Nations mirrors these thoughts in both its political and legal phrasing. All the provisions under Chapter VI (Articles 33 to 38) establish that, to reach a “pacific settlement of disputes” among States, the parties should “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation” (Article 33).

The Security Council “shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means” (Article 33).

Chapter VI is the heart of the Charter, and its scope is to prevent the use of armed forces by seizing from States their traditional power to wage wars. There is no “just” or legal war unless for legitimate defence after an aggression. The United Nations alone have the power to use force, following a decision by the Security Council, if negotiations have not been possible, if they have failed, and only as a last resort.

The Security Council steps in as soon as peace is threatened by issuing recommendations, which, implicitly, consist of bringing the parties together in order to negotiate, by inviting them to “conform with provisional measures” of a peaceful nature.

“Such provisional measures shall be without prejudice to the rights of the parties,which shall arise following negotiations” (Article 40). Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter give powers to the Security Council to take various measures in the form of sanctions in order to prevent the use of armed forces.
Articles 43 and 44 establish that the Security Council and member States shall enter negotiations with the aim of concluding an agreement with measures that will avoid or put an end to conflict through the employment of armed forces.

Once more, negotiations are required to set up a Military Staff Committee (Articles 46 and 47) in order to ensure the “strategic direction” of the UN armed forces so that they are not made up of unqualified troops coming exclusively from the countries of the South that are not suited to play an intermediary role.

For negotiations to become possible, Articles 1(2) and 2(1) of the Charter establish “equal of rights of peoples” and “sovereign equality” of all its Members. These are not merely formal principles that aim to respect the dignity of the members of the United Nations, whatever their actual powers may be: these are tools that are essential to make negotiations possible and to safeguard them so that peace is maintained.

Only after negotiations and any other conceivable measure laid down in Article 33 – mediation, conciliation, arbitration, etc., – fail to bring the dispute to a solution, Chapter VII enters into force. Clearly, the Charter provides for sanctions if and only when negotiations fail.

Negotiation is also the basis for international laws. Bilateral and multilateral treaties are the fruit of negotiations among States, which are a more or less faithful expression of the collective interests of peoples (2).

In spite of the fact that States are not equally powerful, and that the content of treaties reflects this, when trying to establish a relative balance negotiation is the least unfair method in today’s world. Every State can express reservations, which protects their right to consent and the overall consensus expressed in the treaty.

The rule of law, resulting from the negotiation of a treaty, sanctions the compromise that underlies the balance of powers and sets it in law.

The outcome of negotiations may not be ideal, but is the least worst outcome in a society that is made up of States with contrasting interests and which is in no way close to a “community”.

As Professor Jean Salmon underlines, most often States do not resolve their disputes in this fashion. Negotiations allow to put them on hold, and this is a step forward in shaping international law, a slow and difficult process per se.

A bizarre lack of clarity has become pervasive among academics, particularly in the English-speaking world, who in fact reject negotiations as a defeat for the West. They profess that since 1945 wars have been waged between democratic and non-democratic States (where “non-democratic” chimes with wrong), yet never between democratic States alone (which allegedly proves their more civilised condition). (3)

Based on this misconception, democratic States are considered historically better at “compromising” and negotiating, whereas “non-democratic” states are naturally more inclined to warfare. (4)

These “non-democratic” States, whose definition is equally inaccurate, are consequently less entitled to partake in international laws and may be subjected to “soft” or armed interference, as the “responsibility to protect” civilian populations against their own government is a quasi-legal principle, and Western States do not consider the UN authorisation as binding.

Negotiating is apparently only conceivable among Western States, namely those who have a lesser need to
strengthen their relations and seek conciliation. In reality, negotiating only serves an economic
purpose in economic transactions.

Furthermore, these self-proclaimed “democratic” States claim the right to use force against others, in the name of democracy itself, so as to turn it into a universal political system. The legal system need not be universal, yet politics and economics appear to follow different rules.

It is Western powers, i.e. the States that have less to fear for their safety and development because of their strength, who give this injurious “tone” to international relations. It is precisely because they have superior means (in terms of financial resources and weapons) compared with others, that they refuse to negotiate and end up violating decisions. The idea of compromising does not proceed from the powerful, because armed violence has, for centuries, been a source of profit for them. Kant’s argument that democracy is by nature peaceful because those who decide to wage a war are the same who pay for it, no longer holds: the powers that be often stage proxy wars, winning their “zero casualties” goal, or at least making considerably fewer victims than their enemies.

What’s more, the Powerful – just like the privileged minorities at home – categorically refuse to relinquish their control: in the course of history wealth has never been shared gladly. The preaching tone used by the US expresses first and foremost an imperialistic wish to enjoy other peoples’ resources: NATO is the armed expression of a need to pillage, even at the risk of causing several, more or less “intense” conflicts. Examples range from performing military manoeuvres and setting up camps in Poland on the border with Russia, to plunging countries such as Iraq and Libya in total chaos.

Paradoxically, Western States complain against countries who are actually in a position to resist them of refusing to negotiate and of not complying with agreements – such as the Minsk II agreement on Ukraine (5).

These “resisting” States, e.g. Russia, are guilty of “reacting” with essentially defensive measures, a
far cry from the “provocations” they are accused of using. The root of the problem is clearly that this violates the agreement concluded initially between NATO and Russia in the early 90s when a number of former Soviet Republics became independent. Back then, NATO committed not to set up camp on the Russian borders.

In Syrian issue, Russia has been accused of staunchly supporting the regime, when in fact the US and their allies, in particular Turkey, have used the so-called Islamic State to topple the Syrian government. When Russia intervened following a Syrian request, the West had to abandon their strategy. Russian military actions forced the so-called Islamic State to retreat, a result that the West had not been capable of. Connections between the IS and Turkey stalled, depriving the IS of a large part of their resources.

Russia was accused of fighting essentially against those opposed to the Syrian regime. It then offered military cooperation to the US, imposed a partial curfew and tried to appease the until-then hostile Ankara regime. (6)

There is no denying that the battery of conflicts which have been unfolding over the past decades has not led Western countries to attempt any form of negotiation.

More than 70 years of Israeli-Palestinian fights have not been met with strong actions that should have finalised negotiations between the parties and led to Palestine’s independence.

Korea has been divided for over 70 years – i.e. since WWII and after a fierce Japanese colonisation – without a hint at negotiations that should have lead to a peace treaty between the opposing countries after the 1950-53 war.

We mustn’t forget the decades of separation suffered by the Cypriots since 1967, who have been placed under NATO protection, with no interest shown toward negotiations. Unsurprisingly, the US have important military bases the North of Cyprus, which is under Turkish domain.

And neither have any negotiations been imposed to end the conflict that started in 1973 in Western Sahara without having to wait for the UN-approved referendum for self-determination.

Again, no negotiation talks are being held to resolve the Kurdish issue, while the victors of WWI had pledged to recognise the Kurdish nation in 1919, when the Ottoman empire was dismantled.

No effective form of cooperation has been devised or put in place through multilateral negotiation to end arms and drugs trafficking and prostitution. Meanwhile Islamic terrorism has found funding and dubious allies among Westerners, who have used them for their own purposes, before IS turned against the rest of the world.

The European Union has not even been capable of negotiating a rational policy to tackle the refugee crisis, when in fact it is at least partially responsible for the migratory flux caused by the wars and the economic pillaging it has forced upon some countries.

Why are there no global or regional negotiations on nuclear disarmament, if the reason is not that the US and France believe that nuclear weapons are dissuasive, whereas they are considered provocative and threatening when produced, for instance, by North Korea?

Why isn’t there a large-scale negotiation within the IAEA for a global disarmament, while the US and their allies wish to ban the nuclear weapons of their enemies and their dissemination, while they develop their own? (7)

The lack of political negotiating intentions is due to deep inequalities between States and the exponential increase in unbalanced confrontations from which the “strongest” hope to benefit. International negotiation is not a monopoly of the State any more. Diplomacy cannot escape the pressure coming from the heftiest financial and commercial groups. One of them is Total, who are putting pressure on the French government and in return for sponsoring cultural events in other countries. (8)

The principle of the UN Charter on equal sovereignty of the States should serve as a basis for developing negotiation, conditional on imposing it as a political caveat.

The call for international “morals” and “inclusive solidarity” that rest on a shared idea of “common good” – which each State is supposed to protect – stems from unrealistic humanitarian ideas. (9)
Thinking that the parties will spontaneously wish to negotiate is a hope that is not based on century-old or on current practices. Such a thought begs the question of whether negotiations could be imposed to the powers that be, unless these powers change.

An international society subjected almost exclusively to a single power must give way to a multipolar society in which various powers balance each other out, limiting the risk of conflict as the past “peaceful coexistence” between the East and the West.

The West’ ambition to hoist itself as a super power is dangerous. The international community needs counter-powers: the countries that are already playing this role are objectively progressive and are set on bringing about peace.

Once they are well established and clearly settled, negotiations among these powers will allow humanity to progress to the full.

Notes:

1. Cf. Entretiens sur la fin des temps. Fayard. 1998.

2. It must be noted that, although there are many “non-democratic” States, and those who claim to be so are only partial democracies, the State still remains the most apt tool to resist uncontrolled influences and overly technocratic international institutions.

3. See, for instance, D. Battistella. Théories des relations internationales. Presses de Sciences Po. 2003 and the many English-speaking jurists cited by the author.

4. This misconception has been gainsaid since ancient times: Athens had stronger expansionist ambitions than Sparta.

5. Western media have reacted in a telling way to these agreements: they barely covered the preparatory phase, were doubtful about their success, then once again scarcely presented their content – which included obligations for the Ukrainian government – and uttered not a word on the Ukranian violations of these obligations, while at the same time implying that Russia was solely responsible for the underlying problems.

6. Russian diplomacy can be compared with the French. The socialist Minister for Foreign Affairs opposed actions in Syria until the end of 2015. He also demanded the resignation of Bachar El Hassad as a prerequisite for any talks on Syria (See V. Jauvert. La face cachée du Quai d’Orsay. Enquête sur un ministère à la dérive. R. Laffont. 2016, p. 111).

7. The French government refuses to officially recognise the DPRK, under the pretext that Pyongyang is creating nuclear weapons (for an estimated 10 million euros), that the DPRK are armed with missiles, including – he said – sufficiently powerful to cover the South China Sea.

8. It might seem surprising to witness the looming presence of business men, who assisted Laurent Fabius in his ascent to government, such as Serge Weinberg, Chair of Sanofi; Lionel Zinsou, in charge of an investment fund with BNP Parisbas; Louis Schweitzer, former CEO with Renault and former head at Médef. It must also be noted that former diplomats have transferred their skills to the private sector and represent their companies in the countries were they were formerly posted.

9. Some eminent authors call for politicians and entrepreneurs to be made accountable, whether it’s multinational companies with a “social responsibility”, as the European Commission has called for, or States that the ILO has incessantly been reminding that “a long-lasting peace can only be based on social justice” (See M. Delmas-Marty. Résister, responsabiliser, anticiper. Comment humaniser la mondialisation. Seuil. 2013)

Posted in USA, EuropeComments Off on In praise of negotiation

Robert Charvin: “it is because of its sovereignty that North Korea still exists”

NOVANEWS

The diplomatic crisis between the United States and North Korea has resurfaced this summer. The declarations of president Trump, who threatened to unleash a war of “fire and fury like the world has never seen before”, set the tone. Rather than address the key questions, the political and media coverage in the West does not contemplate neither the reunification of Korea nor diplomacy as a starting point for a solution. Is the insatiable appetite of the corporate world trying to justify another war? In his book, “How can one be (North) Korean?” (in French, « Comment peut-on être Coréen (du Nord)? »), Robert Charvin, an expert in international law, guides us through this dangerous political crisis inherited from the Cold War.

 

Alex Anfruns: What are the stakes of the crisis that erupted between North Korea and Trump?

 

Robert Charvin: The current crisis is only a continuation of a state of tension tension that has not ceased for decades (except for the short periods in which Seoul and the United States agreed to initiate a dialogue). It can only be resolved by negotiation, so that a peace treaty can finally be achieved to do away with the state of belligerence that has been in place since 1953!

This treaty must guarantee normal diplomatic and trade relations, allowing a progressive reconciliation between the North and the South of the Peninsula with a view towards reunification down the road, which would solve many socio-economic problems.

 

For many Pyongyang is a “dictatorial regime” that threatens world peace. As someone who knows North Korea well, what is your take?

 

North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), a member state of the United Nations, is not a “provocative” power: they are not the ones with military bases in the immediate vicinity of the US borders, armed with nuclear weapons, since the end of the Second World War. The US empire imposes its hegemony over a large part of the world, but not over the DPRK.

The theory of Juche, ideology of Pyongyang, does not impose itself on peoples like the American Way of Life! If, however, we fear the DPRK’s armed forces, why not endorse a regional de-nuclearisation agreement that it has been proposing for a long time, and which obviously includes the United States?

As for the human rights champions, civilians and politicians from the West (of course), why are they not proposing detente, which is the only way to promote all the rights of the Korean people, in the North and in the South?

 

The views from Pyongyang are systematically dismissed in all debates… Why is there such a consensus?

 

North Korea has been a textbook case for several decades. Unfortunately, neither the media nor the Western political parties treat it as such. One is allowed to say anything about this country, “incarnation of evil”, led by “crazy fanatics”, also “still” communist, even if it is a brand of socialism tinted with Confucianism.

The reasons for this consensus, which went on to absorb various progressive forces that were afraid of being further weakened by going “too much” against the current (electoralism and parliamentary cretinism so compel!), are not mysterious. Korea is far from the United States and Europe: it is difficult to separate the truth from what is politically useful to certain interests.

The average citizen is more easily convinced by facile arguments, cultivated by pseudo-intellectuals and a repetitive press, than by historical, sociological and economic explanations, not to mention the fact that geopolitics are ignored, forgotten even by a “left” that is becoming more and more out of touch.

Nevertheless, the capitalist world has for a long time used, as a way to legitimate its hegemony, the difficulties that it is often responsible for, but which cause suffering to the “hostile” peoples: it is a matter of making the case that “in other places it is even worse” and that it is therefore necessary to accept the “kind masters” who reign in Paris, Brussels or Washington.

Obviously, they cannot take aim at friendly dictatorships because they are good for business, Saudi-style or amenable African states whose elections are masquerades, and the repression of opposition is the norm. They must be “red” or close, from Chile of Salvador Allende to Kim Jong Un, via Castro, Chávez or Maduro… These are “excellent” weapons against those in the West who denounce the worship of money and the (always distorted) free market.

The United States and its local allies have been able to kill Lumumba, Allende and many others, and to overthrow many fragile powers because it is very difficult to build socialism, breaking totally with the dominant world. But the DPRK remains, scandalous and provocative!

 

How do you explain the tenacity of the political system in power in Pyongyang?

 

The Korean people have “thick skin”: almost half a century of (ruthless!) Japanese colonialism; a devastating war with the United States in 1950-1953: a single building was left standing in the capital, Pyongyang, in 1953! Nearly 70 years of a unilaterally imposed embargo – and thus illicit – have created a “siege mentality” which is cynically described as paranoia!

Not to mention the dramas caused, including on food costs, by the disappearance of the Soviet ally, the Eastern European states and the evolution of China, which only delivers “minimal services” to Pyongyang , with Seoul being economically more “profitable”. In spite of everything, and paying the price for it, the People’s Republic of Korea has remained sovereign, counting only on its own capacities, creating a spirit of uncompromising resistance to this day, blending in its ideology Marxism and Confucianism, in which journalists from the great Western press do not have the least bit interest.

In short, this is a model not to be followed according to the West, which lives only by plundering the planet. It would take 5 whole planets for the inhabitants of the Earth to live like Americans. North Korea is a shortcoming that must not be contagious; it occupies a strategic position on the borders of Russia, China and Japan. It must be “contained” to the maximum and, if possible one day, disappear thanks to the actions of the North American military armada (based in South Korea, Guam, etc.).

While this downfall is awaited, North Korea serves as a pretext for maintaining the North American military presence thousands of miles away, but very close to the borders of Russia (an ally of Pyongyang) and China, whose “ambitions are threatening,” if we are to believe Western economists!

The worst of it is the cynicism of the “observers”: everything has been put in place for decades to smother North Korea, but it is reproached for breathing improperly! As a result, the Pyongyang authorities have only one choice: to resist or capitulate and align themselves with Seoul, which is directly subjected to Yankee dollars and soldiers.

 

Pyongyang seems to be pretty isolated in the global political scene. How do you explain it?

 

This is a political drama: internationalism is dead. There is no obstacle to the anti-communism that is raging against North Korea. Having lost most of the ideological battles, some communist parties have abandoned the field of international solidarity: being on the side of the Koreans is too “costly”, North Korean socialism is too “different”; monolithic ideological thought is the opposite of the “human rights” talk that is so in vogue. We have abandoned the idea of a unique “model” of socialism, but Westernism and ethnocentrism still permeate many Western communists.

Ultimately, the few Gaullists who have survived in France understand the Korean will to have a nuclear deterrent better that the “progressive” circles who refuse any geopolitical considerations and are less sensitive to the issue of national independence!

It is evident that if socialism is to be capable of resisting neoliberal globalisation, and the speculative plundering interests of transnational corporations, it needs to rely on the nation, on historical characteristics and heritage: history is made of syncretisms.

French, Belgian, American or Italian socialism cannot be “standard”: only the market, that is to say, a world centered on business and capital, standardises, to the detriment of popular values. Korea is Korean: it is because Pyongyang is above all sovereign, and uncompromisingly so, including with respect to China, the great but very different neighbour, that the DPRK, a member state of the United Nations, a developing country in spite of everything, still exists.

 

Do you have a message of hope concerning the outcome of this conflict, which is deeply connected to our recent history?

 

It is possible that in the near future, as a result of the imperial madness of someone like Trump, Wall Street maneuvers, or this or that power, each people, obviously in the South, but also in Europe, will come to rely only on itself. Because there is no such thing as international philanthropy, alliances and cooperation can only work in a complementary role.

This is the message of the DPRK: it is honorable in the sad times we live in. On the other hand, the violence and threats from the big powers are worthy only of contempt. There are no excuses for those who, beyond all borders, believe that everything is allowed.

Posted in North KoreaComments Off on Robert Charvin: “it is because of its sovereignty that North Korea still exists”

Syrian War Report – May 22, 2018: Damascus Is Secured, Daraa Is Next

NOVANEWS

…from SouthFront

Late on May 21, Russian air defense systems, allegedly a Pantsir-S short to medium range system, launched at least four missiles at “unidentified” targets over the Khmeimim air base in Syria, according to local sources.

Later, the Russian military revealed that one unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had been shot down. No damage or casualties occurred as a result of the incident.

A similar incident took place on April 24 when Russian forces shot down at least two UAVs armed with projectiles.

The repeated UAV attacks on Russian facilities in Syria are another sign of the changing situation in the country. After a de-facto military defeat of militants in central Syria, they have shifted their activity to sabotage operations, which may allow them to get more public attention from the media and support from their foreign sponsors.

Syrian experts also believe that the possibility of terrorist attacks in the liberated areas is growing.

On May 21, the Syrian Defense Ministry officially announced that government forces had fully liberated southern Damascus from ISIS thus securing the entire countryside of the country’s capital. According to an official version, there was no deal with ISIS. However, photos and videos from the ground confirm that a group of terrorists and their relatives was indeed allowed to evacuate from the besieged area.

Reports also appeared that General Suheil ‘the Tiger’ al-Hassan, a commander of the elite Tiger Forces, has moved to southern Syria in order to prepare and oversee the expected operation against militants in the province of Daraa. However, this still has to be confirmed.

Depots with weapons produced in NATO member-states and production facilities for explosives have been found by the Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation and government forces in the settlement of Zaafarana in the province of Homs.

“We can see here a large number of gas masks, weapons produced abroad, for example, TOW-2 anti-tank guided missiles. The facilities are very well-equipped,” the center’s representative Andrey Nekipelov said on May 21 commenting on the discovered facility, which had belonged to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda).

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi announced that his country is going to keep forces in Syria at the request of the Syrian government and nobody can force Teheran to do anything because it “has its own independent policies”.

“Those who entered Syria without the permission of the Syrian government are the ones that must leave the country,” Qasemi noted.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran does not comply with the initial list of 12 demands, which includes the withdrawal from Syria, disarming Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, halting support to Hezbollah and ending its missile program. In other words, Pompeo demanded from Iran to stop prusuing an independent policy in the region. Tensions between the US and Iran are increasing.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syrian War Report – May 22, 2018: Damascus Is Secured, Daraa Is Next

“Sanctions on Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Korea or Iran, are the economic equivalent of atom bombs”

NOVANEWS

On April 13, the US, UK and France launched an attack on Syria. The reason, backed by an enthusiastic mainstream media, was retaliation over an alleged chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta. We have interviewed Stephen Gowans to discuss this incident, US foreign policy in Syria, comparisons to foreign policy in Iraq, and the recent de-escalation in the Korean peninsula. Gowans is one of the most important voices when it comes to dissecting the war propaganda of the mainstream media. He is the author of Washington’s Long War on Syria(2017) and Patriots, Traitors and Empire – the Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom (2018).

Despite a lack of evidence, US, British and French governments have tried to legitimize the latest attack on Syria using the humanitarian approach. What has been the evolution on the ground in recent months and how can we understand those attacks?

The Western missile attacks were carried out ostensibly in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian Arab Army in Eastern Ghouta, an area Syrian forces were about to liberate, and soon thereafter did liberate. A few days prior to the alleged gas attack, US president Donald Trump had called for the exit of US troops from the nearly one-third of Syrian territory US forces occupy illegally.

The conditions on the ground—imminent victory in Eastern Ghouta and the prospect of US withdrawal from Syria—were highly favorable to the Syrian government. It is highly unlikely that Damascus would sabotage these auspicious developments by crossing a chemical weapons red-line that would trigger a US response.

On the other hand, from the perspective of Syria’s Islamist insurgents and high-level officials in the US departments of defense and state (who regard Trump’s withdrawal plans as ill-considered) there was much to recommend the fabrication of an incident, in order to scotch Trump’s troop withdrawal plans. This is not to say that this is what happened, but it’s a far more plausible scenario than one that depicts the Syrian government as acting against its interests.

Based on the reporting of The Independent’s Robert Fisk, a bombing attack in Eastern Ghouta had stirred up dust, which filled the basements and subterranean shelters in which civilians had retreated to escape. Choking on dust, and suffering from hypoxia, many fled to a nearby hospital. With cameras rolling, someone shouted “gas!” The scene, captured on video, resembled the aftermath of a gas attack.

Apart from the question of whether a gas attack occurred, is another, more important, question.

Imagine, if you will, that there was irrefutable evidence that the Syrian military, ignoring its own interests, did in fact use chemical weapons. Would this justify the US, British, French response? The answer, I think, is absolutely not. Hence, the question of whether chemical weapons were used is irrelevant to the question of whether the missile attack was justified.

The missile attack certainly had no legal basis. Neither of the countries that attacked Syria were acting in self-defense. They had no mandate from the Security Council. Even from the point of view of US law, the US contribution to the attack was illegal, since the US president has no legal authorization to wage war on the Syrian state. And while a humanitarian agenda may be invoked as a justification, there’s absolutely no evidence that the countries involved in the missile attack were inspired by humanitarian considerations; on the contrary, there’s plenty of evidence they weren’t.

The United States and its allies have very likely created more suffering in Syria than has been created by all the chemical weapons used in the country. They have done so through collateral civilian deaths related to their air war against ISIS and siege of Raqqa and through a devastating sanctions program that has lasted nearly two decades. This is to say nothing of the United States deliberately inflaming the long running civil war in Syria (which dates to the late 1940s) and keeping it going by financing the Islamist insurgency, both directly and through its allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

If the United States and its allies were truly animated by humanitarian concerns, they wouldn’t be killing Syrians through their own bombs, through the disease and malnutrition caused by sanctions, and indirectly through the insurgents they support.

Finally, let’s consider a parallel. During Friday protests in Gaza leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Israeli soldiers have killed scores of Palestinians and have wounded hundreds more, who have posed at best a trivial threat to Israel. Would China or Russia be justified in raining a barrage of missiles upon Tel Aviv in response?

The mainstream media has been presenting the Syrian conflict especially as a civil war. In your book Washington’s Long War on Syria, you refute the idea by claiming that the United States started this war before 2011. What is this claim based on?

Civil war between political Islam and secular Arab nationalism has bedevilled Syria since the late 1940s. The intensity of the war has waxed and waned, and the war has assumed various forms at different times—pitched street battles, strikes, demonstrations, riots, and armed revolt, not only since 2011, but also including the bloody 1982 Hama uprising. The civil war has been a constant of Syria’s political life for more than half a century.

The United States has taken advantage of the civil war, supporting one side of it, that of the Islamists, to bring about a long-standing US goal of regime change. As a state committed to Arab nationalist objectives, allied with the Soviet Union, and later Russia, and at war with Israel, Syria has long been a US foreign policy target.

Washington doesn’t seek to replace the Arab nationalist government with Islamists. Its preferred end state is a government of Sunni business people more interested in making money than in politics. But it does exploit Islamists as a means of pressuring the Arab nationalists to agree to an orderly transition to a secular free enterprise-oriented government more to Washington’s—and Wall Street’s—liking.

It is often forgotten that in 2002, Washington added Syria to the infamous Axis of Evil, the list of countries, originally including Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, but extended to include Cuba, Libya and Syria, that Washington intended to effect regime change in. The Bush administration’s initial plan for Syria was to append it to the invasion of Iraq as Act II. The Pentagon, however, concluded that a Syrian invasion was too ambitious. Resistance forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were stronger than anticipated, and the Pentagon was forced to focus its resources on its two initial invasion targets. Regime change in Syria, then, would have to be brought about through other means.

The other means were sanctions and US intervention in Syria’s civil war. Sanctions would sabotage the Syrian economy, create misery, and foment instability. This would create the kindling that could be ignited at the touch of spark. The spark would be provided by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Principal figures in the Islamist organization—the forerunner to Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Al Nusra–were whisked to Washington to meet with Bush at the White House and with his national security staff. As the sanctions took their expected toll on Syria and deepened fissures in the Syrian economy, US-backed Islamist forces reignited the long-running civil war by launching an armed confrontation with Syrian security forces in the town of Da’ara.

In your essay you describe the de-Ba’athification strategy in Iraq, conducted by US consul in Iraq. Has a similar plan been drawn up for Syria?

“De-Ba’athification” refers to lustration of Arab nationalists from the state. It’s no secret that the United States has conspired against nationalist movements for decades. Indeed, the history of US foreign policy is largely one of efforts to suppress or destroy radical nationalists, whether in Latin America, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, or elsewhere.

Saddam’s Iraq was governed by Ba’athists, which is to say Arab nationalists. It was predictable that the United States would purge Arab nationalists from the Iraqi state and, in creating a constitution for its post-Saddam neo-colony, build into it provisions preventing the re-emergence of Arab nationalist influence. This was predictable since eliminating Iraqi Arab nationalism was the raison d’etre of US wars against the oil-rich Arab state.

As I’ve already mentioned, Washington linked Iraq and Syria as members of an Axis of Evil to be “taken out,” as former US Army General Wesley Clark once remarked, and initially linked its aggression against Iraq with an intended follow-up invasion of Syria. The nexus between Assad’s Syria and Saddam’s Iraq, in Washington’s view, was their Arab nationalism. Saddam belonged to the Ba’ath party. So too does Assad. If the United States had invaded Syria and toppled the Syrian president, there’s no doubt that de-Ba’athification would have been carried out in Damascus, as well, followed by a US-supervised rewriting of the Syrian constitution with Arab nationalists barred from ever holding elected office, just as in Iraq.

After having analyzed the example of Iraq, in your book you emphasize that some peace activists embraced sanctions “as an alternative, viewing them erroneously, not as a form of warfare, but as peaceful coercion”. What are the consequences of current US sanctions on countries like Syria and Yemen?

The sanctions, imposed in 2003, as an alternative to abandoned plans to invade Syria, devastated the country. In October 2011, The New York Times reported that the Syrian economy “was buckling under the pressure of sanctions by the West.” By the spring of 2012, sanctions-induced financial hemorrhaging had forced Syrian officials to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country.

By 2016, US and EU economic sanctions on Syria were causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report. The report revealed that aid agencies were unable to obtain drugs and equipment for hospitals because sanctions prevented foreign firms from conducting commerce with Syria.

The sanctions resembled the economic warfare Washington had waged on Arab nationalist Iraq in the 1990s—a campaign which killed over 500,000 Iraqi children due to disease and malnutrition, according to the UN. The British foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn likened the sanctions on Syria to the sanctions on Iraq. Sanctions on any country, whether Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Korea or Iran, are the economic equivalent of atom bombs. They have enormous, but largely invisible, consequences in malnutrition, hunger, disease, breakdown of healthcare and water treatment systems, and death.

Two political scientists, John and Karl Mueller, writing in Foreign Policy, the unofficial journal of the US State Department, showed that sanctions in the twentieth century had killed more people than all the weapons of mass destruction in history, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all the chemical weapons used in the First World War. They conferred on sanctions the apt designation “sanctions of mass destruction.” If we’re going to shudder at the horrors of the atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we ought to also shudder at the horrors of sanctions, which have been far more devastating.

After a period of ever-growing tension between Trump and Kim Jong-un, the announcement of a Korea peace agreement has been a relief for the international community and peace activists around the world. What is your view on this unexpected outcome? What would be the next steps?

The North Koreans have repeatedly petitioned the United States to sign a peace treaty to end the state of war that has existed between the two countries for the last 68 years. Just as often, the United States has dismissed North Korea’s pleas out of hand. Both the North Korean desire for peace, and Washington’s absent interest in it, are explainable with reference to US goals vis-à-vis North Korea and the reality that the United States threatens North Korea while North Korea poses not the slightest threat to the United States.

US North Korea policy is “The End of North Korea,” as John Bolton once dubbed it. This has been US policy since 1948, the year North Korea was founded. Apart from the attempt to destroy the tiny East Asian country by direct military intervention from 1950-1953, the United States has sought to bring about the end of the communist state by ruining its economy. This goal is pursued in two ways: First, by imposing crippling, and nowadays near total, economic sanctions; and second, by maintaining unrelieved military pressure on North Korea, forcing Pyongyang to starve its domestic economy, in order to fund its national defense.

A peace treaty, and normalization of relations, implies abandonment of the US “terminate North Korea” policy. This explains why North Korea fervently desires peace (it brings an existential threat to an end) and why the United States doesn’t (it offers Washington nothing and on the contrary implies the abandonment of a longstanding US foreign policy goal.)

North Korea—even a nuclear-armed one—poses, a best, an insignificant danger to the United States. It can’t strike the United States militarily. A nuclear attack would be suicidal, and US officials acknowledge that the country’s leadership isn’t burdened by a death wish. Moreover, both the CIA and the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, acknowledge that Kim Jong-un is “coolly rational”.

The view within the US foreign policy establishment is that talks between Washington and Pyongyang can have no other goal than North Korea’s capitulation. That’s what peace means to Washington. Pyongyang must surrender its nuclear weapons, agree to intrusive inspections, accept a permanent US troop presence on the Korean peninsula, and accede to integration into a US-led global economic order. If not, the policy of economic strangulation will continue.

Figures in the US administration fear that Trump, seeking to prove he’s a deal-maker of incomparable talent, and besotted with dreams of winning a Nobel Peace Prize, might give away too much, in pursuit of a deal. If this happens, whatever concessions Trump makes, will be revoked in time.

We shouldn’t delude ourselves that the United States is suddenly going to abandon a 70-year-old policy of bringing about the end of militarily inconsequential and non-threatening country that rejects US domination. As Mao once observed, imperialists will never lay down their butcher knives and become Buddhists. And there’s no evidence that Washington is about to make a conversion to pacifism.

Posted in USA, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, YemenComments Off on “Sanctions on Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Korea or Iran, are the economic equivalent of atom bombs”

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