Archive | May 30th, 2018

What Is Meant by Permanent War?

NOVANEWS

War is not an anomaly, nor an exception to the rule, it has always been with us and it might always be. Militarism and its practice in war are subcategories of waste (the harmful things we produce such as pollution and bombs) and domains of accumulation themselves. They are also prerequisites for the expansion of capital and its market economy. Much is done to portray war as an inherent attribute of human fallibility or an unintended consequence. However, mainstream concepts associated with the promotion of the market economy are weapons of the ruling class. They are all laced with poison. The facts are such that we have never been without wars. Amongst other economic functions, wars invariably act as measures of depopulation, regulating the supply of global labour. 

My hypothesis is that a market economy requires a permanent state of war. Behind the crocodile tears for the human disasters and ‘white man burden,’ people and nature are of value in themselves and war does a good job at consuming both very quickly.

In a globally integrated production process, all idle assets are legal property and, as such, economic categories, influencing the production process and exchange either by being consumed, set aside or destroyed. Nothing escapes the rule of capital and its guns, which means that man and nature are commodified value, either actively or in suspended animation – the latter because commodities obey the time ordained by capital, abstract time as opposed to conventional time. This latter point is not too abstract if we think about it this way: people in power decide the time to engage and act and so we cannot think of time in terms of a conventional or chronological ordering; after all that is what is meant by totality when we say capital is a totality (I revert to this below). Just as hegemonic imperialism controls space, real time is also at its command. All the pollution humanity already produced, all the waste, has now entered the market to be sold for a price. Pollution was never free of charge.It was something of value whose time to enter the market and exchange for a money price is power derived, or decided by the power of capital. 

To put things differently, to say that the nature and people that white colonists encountered abroad and exterminated had no value because they did not yet exchange for a price, implies that the wars and genocides were not a market that fetched a price for the skins of natives. It implies that destruction is not inherent to capital’s activity, and as such, ‘noble savages’ and their territories were just things whose obliteration did not generate any value. What is wrong with the western theory of value is that it assumes that value is an object or a thing. It omits the subject in value, the power relation in control of time and space, whose most ferocious form is imperialism. 

The third world has somewhat become fortunate as a result of the environmental disasters simply because it entered the discourse as a victim of capital and its imperialism, just like nature. Although capital metabolises both man and nature, bourgeois elements such as those of the British royal family still posit that there are too many humans. It is as if, there is an infestation of some mammal species, which requires culling by Safari hunting trips. At any rate, the industry of war, insofar as it consumes people lives in short spans of time, is an intense surplus value producing activity. And as we know, it takes surplus value to undergird profit rates in a global production. 

Across history, wars were always present, as they would be in class society. However, they acquire a distinctively destructive bent in a market economy dominated by finance-monopoly capital. Prior to the current capitalist mode of production, the one in which our lives came to depend on the market, that is before people started to sell their labour for a wage in highly mechanised factories that produce far in excess of society’s needs, empires, more often than not, did not destroy the peasants and their low-tech tools; obviously they needed them for more tribute. Long periods of stagnation and stability took root, longue duree as they have come to be known, because although political regimes may change, the economic base of society experienced little upheavals. A conquering empire would soon have to repair the irrigation canals and restore stability. Pre-capitalist crises were crises of underproduction and underconsumption, namely caused by nature. 

As capitalism and its free market trade dawned, we began to produce for profits and in excess to existing demand. The regulation of the resources employed by society required the setting aside of people along with some of their outdated technological-means. Moreover, the private mode of appropriating moneyed-profits severed the compatibility between what people need and what people produce. We produced many things we did not need, or we literally produced waste and things that harm us. Waste, militarism and wars are foremost examples of what people do not need, yet society continues to produce. They are said to be alienated processes. 

Although wars have always been with us, they are not the same in terms of their specific historical reasons, their forms are not the same, and the way they are conducted is no longer the same. To be scientific is to go beyond the unchangeable Platonic forms, the transhistorical or that which is true and the same across history; the word war itself may be the same, but its content and determinations are different as time and conditions change. Yes, empires still seek tribute and imperial rents, but one must look further into the shifting content of war under capitalism and its market economy. It is for instance complacent to say that ancient empires fought for power whenever a new empire rose, and so the US and rising China will also engage in war. The condition then are not the conditions now.     

Organised capital requires bigger markets, but also cheaper labour and environmental costs. At first, we see that wars in market economies become regulators of production, which reduce the number of labourers or force more people to become refugees and hence reduce the wage bill. They also pillage nature – the depleted uranium in Fallujah still maims new-borns. Just as important, wars are fields of production themselves. US-imperialist spending on wars is the sort of investment that does not infringe on the market of the private sector. Defence, or more appropriately, offence, is not an area the private sector has taken up yet, whereas health and education are areas, it would like to see privatised. War spending and effort absorb excess profits (the economic surplus of which there are huge piles in the monopoly age) that would otherwise not generate much in returns or fuel demand and other crises.

As I have said, imperialist wars have been with us for long, but most recently one need only look at what has occurred in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to discover the new shape and objectives of war. One observes that countries attempting to control their own resources or assert their sovereignty are liable to fragmentation or to the destruction of their states. These new wars are blatant encroachment wars by which imperialism buttresses its own power standing as it destroys and takes control of the country as it tears it apart. It is almost a return to the colonial age but without the modicum of responsibility colonists assumed for the conquered population. 

At any rate, in times of crisis, militarism and war spending are all the more necessary to take the market out of its slump. In a way, war is awful, but it does wonders for the macroeconomy, and it is the macroeconomy that matters. Tangentially, the case of the war in Syria is of particular interest since the presence of so many super powers there may augur bigger future wars. The latest American bombing of Syria in April 2018 could have been a major catastrophe had Russian forces been hit. We are living in an age, where a human mistake can precipitate a nuclear winter. Although remote, it remains a serious spectre that haunts us. 

The last and this century are particularly significant in terms of the degree, frequency and intensity of wars. Imperialist wars and austerity reduce the population of the planet. They cut short population growth way below its historically determined potential; humans die prematurely. As you read this, there are many wars ongoing, there are many human deaths related to poverty, and many species on the planet are perishing. Around 30,000 people daily succumb to hunger and related causes. Not long ago, the human rights rapporteur on the right to food had said that one child perishes every four or five seconds from hunger and other preventable diseases.

These are manmade disasters, which essentially means class-made, because classes are the state of social being for people. Unfortunately, we have come to learn of wars and to cohabitate with them and, oddly enough, accept them as normal. As a society that lives by the proxy of the spectacle (as per Guy DeBord), we reject the gruesome shows of ISIS, yet we seem to be oblivious to the much bigger crimes committed by the western-suited people in charge of the planet. So long as their crimes are not conveyed to us as a spectacular show, they are out of sight out of mind. To paraphrase the astute activist Roger Waters, ‘we have become comfortably numb.’ 

There is a historically specific reason for the wars as I said and our de-sensitisation to them. We were born into a world whose ideas and institutions remake these disasters on daily basis. Indeed, the interlocutors of capital would have to proclaim that they work for peace and the reduction of poverty, but that is not the tendency under capital, the dominant relationship, because as I have mentioned above, the making of profits requires the setting aside or destruction of resources. These institutions and ideas (ideologies) are there before us and they are real; they are the result of past powers putting them in place to promote their interests. This is the objective and impersonal history, the family, the state, the race the nationality, etc., into which we come into life as living beings. To date, we have not changed that order of things, that history, which dictates our lives and will dictate the lives of future generations – that is if there will be more generations in the future. 

In a sense, history happens against the wishes of most people. As to the question of what this history is? Let us just say it is the totality of the social relations of production, which in our case are capitalist relations. These capitalist relations that command history can be summarized as capital, a totalising relation without limits and with a rationality of its own, which transforms everything social into private class wealth and power. It basically rips apart the peasant from his tools or means of production just as it erect barriers between use and exchange value or between the social and the private. It does so mostly by means of violence. 

As you can see what we call value is this particular relationship in which a labourer, through the labour invested in the commodity, produces things that it does not own or have use for, and that such a contradiction (abstract labour vs. use value) resolves as the commodity exchanges for money, from which the labouring class must earn less than what it takes to acquire a decent standard of living relative to the wealth prevailing at the time. Why relative to the wealth prevailing at the time, or the historically determined level of wealth, because it is absurd to compare someone dying from poverty and depleted uranium exposure at the age of say 43, and at the same time, say he should be happy, because in Sumerian or Neolithic times, he or she would have at best lived to 23 years. Time is also of shifting quality and incoherent. Value is a subject to object relationship, it is the commodity (object) and the people organised in social relationships to produce it (subject). 

This value associated with the market phenomenon only arose as our lives became dependent on the market economy under capitalism. True, markets always existed, but never to the point where all of social life depended on them. We all sell our labour on the market for a wage. Again, one should not be formal or platonic with historical concepts. Things or markets have the same name, but they are different in content as time and their underlying conditions change. Prior to capitalism failures in the markets for long distance trade in luxury goods, which were puny, did not cause unemployment and misery on a large scale, as do market failures today. Markets have come to represent the social foundation of our existence and questions of degree matter for scientific investigations. 

Nearly all commodities are destined for exchange under capitalism. Let us follow the classical Marxist line and propose that in these commodities there is some useful side that serves social ends (the apples and oranges), and an exchange side that serves private ends (the money profits for which they are sold). Although of late, nearly all commodities can be said to be underlaid with an environmentally deleterious content, which is in addition to the fact that commodities contain the child or slave-like labour and the blood of wars; their negative waste side trumps the goodness in them. However, for the sake of argument we say in the commodity as it exists objectively, outside of us, the private (exchange value) is set against the social (use value) and they repulse each other. We are in a world where the commodity we created is at war with itself in order to expand in money form as it sells on the market. All the commodities we create constitute our wealth. The owners of commodities create the conditions for the expansion of the market for commodities and always by means of war. They shape both the conditions for production on the cheap and sale on the dear. Through commodity fetishism or as commodities exchange for each other, driven by their own internal contradiction, these things lay down the conditions for their own expansion and always through violence. Not the profiteers, it is these things, the commodities we created, which order us to go to wars. And this is different from any other time prior to capitalism. 

Commodities are not so useful anymore. Not only bombs, even apples and oranges pollute and poison us. Still, the war outside the commodity, has become a magnification of the contradiction of the value relationship within the commodity; that is so long as the product of labour and its usefulness are forcefully alienated from the direct producer and mediated by exchange, we will experience war. At this historical juncture, instead of just going to war for apples and oranges, we war for waste products. We go to war for the sake of war. This is an immensely powerful state of alienation. Such is the power of the commodity form and commodity fetishism. 

Violence emanates from the very heart of the commodity under capitalism, a condition given its dues in the work of Frantz Fanon. For now, capital is an uncontrollable social relation, it is a process of being as a whole and the social map by which the whole reproduces itself is the simultaneous act of wealth creation and destruction. Evidently, waste in general and, war in particular, fall on the destruction side of the capital relationship as it reproduces itself. 

Put anecdotally in a personal-like structure, for rich people to get richer they must make wars not only because wars make them money, but because wars make things cheap and puts them in control to continue to make money. Even if one tries to simplify reality it remains somewhat convoluted, as it should be, else the answers to everything would be too easy. In the immediate (that is as we observe things that are the products of history now), the interests of the few in leading positions, organised in various social forms, those who inherited the privileges and the wealth from previous generations, they would like to maintain things as they are and continue to expand the markets for more of the private wealth, while at the same time reducing the costs of labour and environmental inputs. The ruling class is the dominant relationship in capital, which in relation to other classes makes history, would not like to keep capital as it is, it would like to expand it. 

Most working people are faced off against their institutions and ideologies (these are the structural forms of history), which like history, exist outside of them and controls them. Naturally enough, these institutions systemically promote the cheapening of labour and the environment by the most gruesome means. Obviously to make people and nature cheap, business and its class must pay people less or put back less into the environment, which means to lessen them in quantity and quality. Militarism as a domain of accumulation and its wars does a great job at both. I will explain why and how briefly.

To give structure to ideas, the world of which I speak is the real world that is governed by huge institutions like the UN the World Bank and the IMF and their mainstream ideologies. To be sure, there is no right or wrong or good and bad in ideology. There are class ideologies, and the ideologies of these institutions serve the imperialist class. These are not democratic institutions. They are principally ruled by the powerful US leading class, which is heir to the colonial European empires and its historically amassed power and wealth. Such a lopsided power structure trailing from the past favouring the western world, western in the ideological not geographic sense, produces game rules and ideas that promote the interest of the Western ruling classes and their allies downstream. It does so by maintaining unequal political, social and trade relations. For instance, heads of states in the powerful nations are the product of such domineering order and they perpetuate such a structure or the status quo. 

That the US holds most power in the most important organisational bodies (the UN, etc.) in the world, is not a conspiracy, it is a fact available for everyone to see. That is, I am not speaking of people conspiring behind closed doors, although that happens too, I am speaking of the obvious: the world has been perpetually made into an uneven power structure, both at the level of institutions and ideas, to promote specific interests, which to date have undermined people and nature. This much we know after the fact, or ipso facto. 

For capital to serve its interest, that is to produce things to sell on a market for profit, it also requires wars to extract raw material, oil extraction that pollutes for example, and union busting to lower wages, etc. Making wars for raw materials is a widely debated point. However, such an imperialist system also has to beautify the ugly reality and to concomitantly initiate ideas that convince even the people that are suffering that this is the best world of all the possible worlds. It cannot just say, we are going to kill the Arabs for their oil. For capital, this is the role of ideological production, which is just as important as commodity production. Capital produces the commodity and, through its schools, temples and media bombardment, etc., it also produces the human being who is submissively adequate for the uncritical consumption of that commodity. 

Capital, that is the beneficial ruling class, would like us to believe that there is no alternative to this system. To this very notion, that there is not alternative, the late professor of logic Istvan Meszarosused to say that he would fail a student who says that there are no alternatives to an existing reality. Yet the catchphrase ‘there is no alternative (TINA)’ and the market economy (capitalism) is progressive still dominate the airwaves. Do not ask me how people can be so ignorant, so as to hear Margaret Thatcher repeat TINA so often. Sections of people can be held hostage to capital for lack of alternatives and fear of transition to a better world. That is a question related to the development of revolutionary consciousness, for which there is not enough space here to address fully.

Is capitalism really progressive? To inculcate such untruthiness, i.e. progressive capitalism, there are so many academic and media apparatuses remaking the language to fit the objectives of history and those of its people in charge. Orientalism, for instance, is one way of depicting the other or the ‘barbarian’ in lesser standing, but demeaning others is standard practice across history and in every class society. The real orientalism, the one that returns further gains to the powerful relationship of capital, to the ruling classes, such as racism, occurs at the juncture where the use of pejorative language can be put to use through a power platform to usurp/undermine the other, as in slavery or colonialism. Only sticks and stones break bones, words alone do nothing.

This orientalism with teeth is different from the salient critique of literature or art. It is based on the violent practice of discrimination in a particular historical phase; in our historical phase, that language and its attendant practice would be for example an R2P to save the Libyans. It is neo-colonial practice, which preserves much of the brutality of colonialism. It deprives the Libyan people from their state as the political platform through which they negotiate better living standards for themselves and, more importantly, from growing and producing in a world that has ‘too many people’ and machines and that already over-produces. Unquestionably, there are never too many people, but the market structures production for profit in such a way that it makes people redundant. It replaces living labour with machines or literally dead labour. That is why only under capitalism, the forcibly unemployed have a right to benefits as opposed to charity. Their unemployment is a constant social handicap, which is historically determined.  

But the reigning ideology is not solely racist or orientalist vis-à-vis the East, it also denigrates and misleads and targets all the working populations east and west. The concepts produced by mainstream social science to convince people of the grandeur of the market economy is quite an insult to peoples’ intelligence and, I think it is a form of class to class racism irrespective of colour or ethnic boundaries. There is also a sort of ‘Occidentalism’ if you like.

For instance, in mainstream academia, the labels conspiracy, determinism and, worse of all, ‘structuralism acts as a god and explains everything’ are levied as derogatory remarks at inquisitive minds and critical students to discipline their thought processes. Let us ask ourselves a few questions to clarify these points. Can there be political action without backdoor negotiations serving disparate interests?

Can there not be determinism in theory; we know history is uncertain, but can we really not be deterministic about laws of development which form a tendency for things to happen? Can any theory be so eclectic to constitute an indefinite collection of facts that does not gel or rely on a specific law of development; or can any theory not be made simple, in the sense that, it can be attributed to the development of a pivotal relationship? Theory is grey, but green is the tree of life, as per Goethe. It is an illusion to amass a multifarious reality in the mind and make it complicated, as in reconstitute all the given phenomena in empirical facts. That is not theory. It is vulgar solipsism. After all, reality is dictated by simple laws and politics.

We as a society follow very simple rules, but the reigning ideology of the marketeers wants to confuse us. We call that method of bamboozling, reification, as in making real, the unreal, and or to separate all things of the social totality and make it look like a salad, instead of the coherent whole, which it is in theory. This is theoretical construction we are talking about and not the absurd enumeration of infinite actuality. That is literally useless, absurd and impossible.

To further illustrate, consider for instance the interrelated concepts of progressive capitalism and its consumer surplus. Capitalism creates wealth, it is progressive, and the consumer surplus is an indication of such improvement. True, capitalism produces wealth, and for a minority on the planet standards of living improve as they buy more things relative to their incomes. But the secular trend is for the majority to suffer and for the environment to bear the brunt of chaotic production. Prices are not innocent, and they allocate resources for a social outcome that serves the people who can manipulate prices. 

Often people confuse prices with the real value of things. Prices are flawed representation of value because value creation is a process of production, or a social relation. Surplus value, which is the source of money profit, is never expressed in prices during its extraction. It is only after its realisation on the market that it assumes a price form determined by the power rapport of that market. For capital, prices/money are a tool, the dollar is a tool, they just need to control/destroy to keep their class power, they use prices to further exploit people by cheapening them and reducing their class power. 

Now most working people can be cordoned off as the inferior others, we can say they do not deserve to share in the wealth because they are too primitive to use advanced machinery, or they are the ‘others’ by their national identity or colour, they can be poor because of constructed labels such as their culture, but not the environment. The degradation of the environment reaches everyone even those behind palace walls. Luckily nature does not belong to a tribe as the American Indian proverb says. And as we live in an age where humans impact the environment most (the Anthropocene) and as the planet under the market/profit way by which we organise to reproduce ourselves may totally become uninhabitable (remember we need to use labour and nature on the cheap), we then ask where is the progress?

Obviously, we must reorganise the way we produce to survive. We must reorganise man and nature. We already produce through social production, that is people getting together and cooperating to produce, and hence, we can cut out the privateers and the private intermediaries. The profit incentive already made extinct more innumerable animal and plant species than ever, and it is putting the planet at risk. There must be a better and more disciplining incentive for humanity in a planned development than otherwise. We must stem the foundational order of the market that requires destruction of nature and people to produce profits, all of this at a time when the very ideology of anything social or socialism, or anything to do with planning, is defunct.  Moreover, rising identity politics divides working people across the globe. The task is daunting, but change is inevitable, because as the market expands and it harms everyone rich and poor. The chance of a turnaround grows as the masters of time, the organised privateers, lose control of social time, or the time it takes to take an initiative and turn things around.  

What is waste-side accumulation?

In my work, I emphasise the intrinsic drive of capital to make wars and destroy people and nature. Of course, killing species including humans is a tragic act, but I look at the value-destruction side of things and how it contributes to production and accumulation. To put things bluntly, killing has always been a part of the market business. I call this side of capitalism the waste side. The market produces trousers and bombs at the same time. The trousers are ok, but the bombs, the pollution, this is the waste side. I think the production of waste has been instituted in forms of organisation and introjected in thought for so long, such that we fail to see it as part of the system. Just like apples and oranges, bombs are also commodities produced and alienated from the labourers who produce them. Just like apple and oranges, they acquire a price determined by the power of monopolists, and as such their exchange price and their money forms, as opposed to what we really need as a society, comes to dictate how we live. What I have added here is that I have just included waste products under what is known as commodity fetishism in political economy. The price or money form of the commodities we produce becomes a weapon against ordinary people, that is, they get less and less in wages in order to leave a higher profit margin. 

It is important to think in holistic terms here. As the products of labour require inputs from all the world, the wages become the wages of all the world’s working people differentially distributed amongst them by the way they construct their own identity or skill differences. The global wage share of total income rises with internationalist solidarity and vice versa. The value, the labour, that society invests in a commodity is like nature: it does not have a tribe.  In a sense, the global business class wins by driving working people apart. So, when one wants to identify capital, instead of pointing out the many rich people who own so much of the global wealth, a real barometer/reflection of the strength of the capitalist class, is how badly working people are divided against each other. The business class can still pay a certain section of working people higher wages, but overall if it destroys or drives hungry many others, it pays less in wages and keeps more for profits. Capital is always aware of the primacy of politics and the social nature of production, that is, the roots of profits are in the control and immiseration of the working class, which also accounts for the severity of inter-imperialist wars.

Like other commodities, bombs are also realised, sold on the market and consumed, but their cycle is an endless cycle engaging labour both as living and as dead people. Militarism unearths the macabre essence of capital. As production stages and areas of production are co-determined, and as capital seeks higher profits or the easy way out via militarism pollution and bombs (waste), wars become a domain of accumulation themselves, sort of like the factory, in its social organisational structure and its industrial culture altogether. Militarism is also an investment area, which unlike other investment areas that dip as time goes on, it always has the potential for growth. Remember states, unlike a single individual, create credit and money as they borrow; imperialist state debt is the credit afforded to growth whereas our debt is debilitating. 

Sadly, war is big business not only for the money it earns as states issue bonds to absorb surpluses, which the financial sector loves by the way, or as private business free-rides on war’s tech-innovation, or as the state invests in the military and leaves health care to the private sector, etc., war is big business because it really lowers the value inherent in human lives, it takes away the will of people by destroying their organisations in order to cheapen them. The modern forms of wars which destroy states are massive forms of enslavement. 

Here war acts as both an adjunct to the capitalist wage system and a wage system in itself. That is to say, it helps lower wages by hijacking the will of people and their states or unions (these are forms of social organisation), and it also employs workers for wages. The state is a form of peoples’ organisation in the third world and its destruction is of use to capital. By way of interjection, the Marxian wage system is far more pessimistic, brutal and aggressive than the Malthusian one. It always requires a diminution of the population because of crisis of overproduction. In my work, I emphasise the point that there are wars to capture natural resources, but what many people fail to recognise is that war is an end in itself. 

It is this bequeathed history, the social relations, the rationality behind doing everything and anything to make profits at any expense and using people who believe in the pre-existing idea that ‘the system is great’ to promote that agenda, is also the overdetermining structure. But these people who take us to war and abuse us are unlike their rational master, history, they are irrational, because in the end, they will be hurting themselves, and they have already done too much damage as it is – most extinct species and people are irrepealable. I argue that history is impersonal, objective and rational insofar as it aligns all forces to serve the market, however, it serves the wrongs ends. I also argue that the waste economy, the wars, the militarism, and the pollution, is bigger than the regular economy, and that if we continue the way we are, the current stage of history may be its last. Evidently, to change the social relations, the classes at the helm of history, working people should, as it always has been, take command of history, foremost, the state.

Why is war more important than trade sometimes? 

Let us just take Iraq’s war. Iraq was willing to negotiate, and it would have continued to sell its oil in the dollar, yet it was invaded, and the costs of its war were around 6 trillion in some estimates (estimates differ). But, these same costs were at the same time the investments in militarism, the credit earned by the financial sector and, in terms of money expansion, these trillions go around to create more credit and induce more investment. In short, the money costs of war were also multiple gains to the financial and military industrial sector – the financial first as it gains most. What were the other gains? Iraq as an opponent semi-sovereign state was destroyed reasserting the US’s lead position in the region and globally and millions of Iraqis died or migrated pressuring downwards the global wage. Moreover, the US’s working class is submissively paying for a war that supposedly saved their way of life; and what a way that is. Now had the US just traded with Iraq, which was a 50 billion US$ GDP country in 1990, it may have made off with say tens or a hundred billion in trade gains. So, without going into details, the trillion gains of war are tremendous in comparison to trading in Iraqi dates and oil. In fact, it is the war that forces oil everywhere to be traded in dollars, and for all the excess dollars to support US debt expansion. This is the new form of tribute or imperial rent. 

The same applies to Syria. Why would the US be interested in a few billion dollar trade with a country whose GDP was around 40 billion US$ in 2007, when the pretext for the war in Syria drives a huge militaristic adventure which will be financed by taxpayers to the benefit of the financial sector. One can hardly see a western academic that does not demonise Assad to save Syria, just as happened with Iraq and Libya. There is no limit to the amount of cash that the US will spend on its war effort in Syria, including bribes to journalists and academics, which are also war effort. In macroeconomics, the capitalist class controls the state and earns what it spends and what the state spends to expand its business, especially militarism. To reiterate, these are war costs only to the working people, but are war gains for the financial class. It is the class as opposed to the fictional national divide that captures the flows of value. 

Come to think of it, all of political Islam has been bred by colonialism and later imperialism.Today the US fights alongside AL Qaeda in Syria. What would it mean to Syrian women if a Salafist group assumes the reins of power in Syria. In Iraq, for instance, some reports about the rights of women after the American occupation and the rise of the Mullahs, rank it below Saudi Arabia. What sort of western liberalism supports American aggression in order to put obscurantists in power? One way to answer this question, and possibly the only way, is that liberals derive their consciousness partly from the imperial rents and privileges associated with imperialist wars. 

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Narco-Corruption, ISIS 3.0, and the Terror Drone Attack That Never Happened

NOVANEWS

Pentagon Documents Detail Dystopian Dangers

 

For almost 20 years, U.S. drone warfare was largely one-sided. Unlike Afghans and Yemenis, Iraqis and Somalis, Americans never had to worry about lethal robots hovering overhead and raining down missiles. Until, that is, one appeared in the skies above Florida.

But that’s a story for later. For now, let’s focus on a 2017 executive order issued by President Trump, part of his second attempt at a travel ban directed primarily at citizens of Muslim-majority nations. It begins: “It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.”

That sentence would be repeated in a January report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Meant to strengthen the president’s case for the travel ban, it was panned for its methodological flaws, pilloried for its inaccuracies, and would even spur a lawsuit by the civil rights organization, Muslim Advocates, and the watchdog group, Democracy Forward Foundation. In their complaint, those groups contend that the report was “biased, misleading, and incomplete” and “manipulates information to support its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim conclusions.”

To bolster the president’s arguments for restricting the entry of foreigners into the United States, the DOJ/DHS analysis contained a collection of case summaries. Examples included: the Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; the Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; the Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.

Such cases cited in the report, hardly spectacular terror incidents, were evidently calculated to sow fears by offering a list of convicted suspects with Muslim-sounding names. But the authors of the report simply looked in the wrong places. They could have found startling summaries of truly audacious attacks against the homeland in a collection of U.S. military documents from 2016 obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act. Those files detail a plethora of shocking acts of terrorism across the United States including mass poisonings, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and that “People’s Armed Liberation (PAL) attack on U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, [by] a drone-launched missile.”

That’s right! A drone-launched missile attack! On CENTCOM’s Florida headquarters! By a terrorist group known as PAL!

Wondering how you missed the resulting 24/7 media bonanza, the screaming front page headlines in the New York Times, the hysterics on Fox & Friends, the president’s hurricane of tweets?

Well, there’s a simple explanation. That attack doesn’t actually happen until May 2020. Or so says the summary of the 33rd annual Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Program (JLASS-SP), an elaborate war game carried out in 2016 by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, the training grounds for its future generals and admirals.

PALing Around with Terrorists

The 2016 edition of JLASS-SP was played out remotely for weeks before culminating in a five-day on-site exercise at the Air Force Wargaming Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. It involved 148 students from the Air Force’s Air War College, the Army War College, the Marine Corps War College, the Naval War College, the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the National War College, and the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College. Those up-and-coming officers — some of whom will likely play significant roles in running America’s actual wars in the 2020s — confronted a future in which, as the script for the war game put it, “lingering jealousy and distrust of American power and national interests have made it politically and culturally difficult for the United States to act unilaterally.”

Here’s the scene as set in JLASS-SP: while the U.S. is still economically and militarily powerful into the next decade, anxieties abound about increasing constraints on the country’s ability to control, dictate, and dominate world affairs. “Even in the military realm… advances by others in science and technology, expanded adoption of irregular warfare tactics by both state and non-state actors, proliferation of nuclear weapons and long-range precision weapons, and growing use of cyber warfare attacks have increasingly constricted U.S. freedom of action,” reads the war game’s summary.

While the materials used are “not intended to be an actual prediction of events,” they are explicitly meant “to reflect a plausible depiction of major trends and influences in the world regions.” Indeed, what’s striking about the exercise is how — though scripted before the election of Donald Trump — it anticipated many of the fears articulated in the president’s December 2017 National Security Strategy. That document, for instance, bemoans the potential dangers not only of regional powers like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, but also of “transnational threats from jihadist terrorists and transnational criminal organizations,” undocumented immigrants, “drug traffickers, and criminal cartels [which] exploit porous borders and threaten U.S. security and public safety.”

The JLASS-SP scenario also prefigured themes from that 2018 DOJ/DHS report supporting the travel ban in the way it stoked fears of, above all, a major “foreign-born” — especially Muslim — terror threat in the United States. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report would, however, conclude that, of “the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right-wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”

Two years after the war game was conducted, in a time of almost metronomic domestic mass killings, President Trump continues to spotlight the supposedly singular danger posed by “inadequately vetted people” in the U.S., although stovetops and ovens, hot air balloons, and burning pajamas are far more deadly to Americans. Indeed, since 9/11, terrorism has been a distinctly low-level risk to the American public — at least when compared to heart disease, cancer, car crashes, fires, or heat waves — but has had an outsized effect on the perceptions and actions of the government, not to mention its visions of tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Terror Today

An examination of the threats from international and domestic terror groups, as imagined in JLASS-SP, offers unique clues to the Pentagon’s fears for the future. “Increasingly,” reads the war game’s summary, “transnational organizations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and violent extremist organizations challenge the traditional notions of boundaries and sovereignty.”

That drone-launching terror group, PAL, for instance, is neither Islamist nor a right-wing terror group, but an organization supposedly formed in 2017 in hopes of defeating “globalism and capitalism throughout the world by rallying the proletariat to orchestrate the overthrow of capitalist governments and global conglomerates.” Its ideology, an amalgam of increasingly stale leftist social movements, belies its progressive ranks, a rainbow coalition consisting of “most of the globe’s ethnicities and cultures,” all of whom seem to be cyber-sophisticates skilled in fundraising, recruiting, as well as marketing their particular brand of radicalism.

As of 2020, the audacious drone strike on CENTCOM’s headquarters was PAL’s only terror attack in the tangible world. The rest of its actions have taken place in the digital realm, where the group is known for launching cyber-assaults and siphoning off “funds from large global corporations, banks, and capitalist governments around the world.”

Even though PAL went from a gleam in the eye of its founder, the Bond-villain-esquely named Otto Cyre, to terrorist power-player in just a few short years, the pace of its operations didn’t please its hardest core members who, the war game scenario says, broke away in late 2020 to form yet another organization devoted to even more rapidly eroding “confidence in governmental and institutional bodies by staging events that demonstrate the ‘impotency’ of the establishment.” That splinter group, United Patriots Against International Government (UPAIGO) — in this war game all terror groups have Pentagon-style acronyms — concentrates on “spectacular but deniable actions,” a scattershot campaign of often botched but sometimes lethal efforts that include:

* November 2021: a cyber-attack on the Angarsk Refinery in the Russian Federation, which resulted in a two-week shutdown causing a sharp rise in the price of oil and gas just prior to the 2021-2022 winter heating season.

* April 2022: a failed attempt to assassinate, by IED, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command. Two members of the commander’s security detail and the command’s political advisor were killed in the attack while others, including civilians, were injured.

* January 2022: a failed plot to detonate a dirty [radioactive] bomb, employing medical waste and homemade explosives, at Philadelphia International Airport.

* 2023 fire season: as fires raged in the western United States, UPAIGO established relief efforts designed to compete with the U.S. government’s response, in order to “undermine confidence in government agencies.”

* June 2024: an attack, in coordination with members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), on a U.S. flagged air carrier transporting U.S. military personnel at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Militants fired two surface-to-air missiles at the aircraft, which was damaged but managed to land successfully.”

PAL and UPAIGO are, however, hardly the only terror threats facing the United States in the 2020s, according to JLASS-SP 2016. PAL’s fellow travelers, for example, include the fictional versions of the real Irish National Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). There’s also the Environmentalists Against Capitalists Organization, or EACO, “a lethal environmental anti-capitalist terrorist group with global connections.” Formed in 2010 (though not in our actual world), EACO, according to the war gamers, evolved into an increasingly violent organization in the 2020s, carrying out not just cyberattacks on corporations but also a full-scale bombing campaign “targeting executive board meetings of large corporations, particularly in industries such as oil, coal, natural gas, and logging.” The group even took to planting IEDs on logging roads and employing tainted food as a weapon. By 2025, EACO was implicated in more than 400 criminal acts in the U.S. resulting in 126 deaths and $862 million in damages.

Then there’s Anonymous. In the Pentagon’s fictional war-game, this real-world hacktivist group is characterized as a “loose organization of malicious black-hat hackers” that employs its digital prowess to “distribute bomb-making instructions, and conduct targeting for options other than planes, trains, and automobiles.” In the past created by the military’s imagineers, Anonymous was declared a terrorist organization after it conducted an August 2015 digital attack on Louisiana’s power grid with something akin to the Stuxnet worm that damaged nuclear centrifuges in Iran. That cyber-assault was meant to protest the state’s restrictions on online gambling — an affront, according to the fictional Anonymous, to Internet freedom. (In the real world, Louisiana lawmakers actually just deep-sixed online gambling without an apparent terrorist response.) Taking down that power grid “resulted in the death of 15 elderly patients trapped in a facility denied air conditioning as a result of the power outage.”

Also included among domestic terror groups is Mara Salvatrucha 13 or MS-13, the Los Angeles street gang, born of the American-fueled Central American civil wars of the 1980s, that was transplanted to El Salvador and has since returned to the United States. This violent American export — the product of deportations in the 1990s — has paradoxically become a key justification for President Trump’s crackdown on immigration. “MS-13 recruits through our broken immigration system, violating our borders. And it just comes right through — whenever they want to come through, they come through,” said Trump earlier this year during a White House roundtable focused on the gang. “We’ve really never seen anything quite like this — the level of ferocity, the level of violence, and the reforms we need from Congress to defeat it.”

In the real world, the U.S. branch of MS-13 operates in loose local cliques under a franchised name, dabbling in small-time drug dealing, gun-running, prostitution, and extortion (primarily of recent immigrants). Many of its crimes are committed against its own affiliates or members of other gangs. The president nonetheless baselessly claimed that MS-13 has “literally taken over towns and cities of the United States.” He also continues to portray the gang, which reportedly makes up less than 1% of the estimated 1.4 million gang members in the U.S., as a sophisticated international cartel.

And that’s precisely how MS-13 was also portrayed in the fantasy world of JLASS-SP. In that war game, Mara Salvatrucha has developed “the resources to wage full-scale insurgent campaigns in Central America and the capability to cause serious disruption in the United States and Canada,” while rumors swirl of contacts between its members and foreign militants. “If cooperation between foreign terrorist groups and MS-13 ever blossomed, the potential for terrorist attacks within the borders of the United States would increase significantly,” the war game scenario warns.

President Trump has been accused of conflating members of MS-13 with undocumented immigrants (and referring to both groups as “animals”). Regardless, there’s no question that he kicked off his presidential run in 2015 by disparaging Mexicans. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he infamously declared. The JLASS-SP documents reverse Trump’s formula by first noting that “most illegal immigrants crossing into the United States are just trying to make a better life for themselves,” only to suggest that the U.S.-Mexican border also “serves as an infiltration point for terrorists.”

Unlike in the real world, where such fears circulate primarily as a conspiracy theory, in the Pentagon’s future fantasy there is “substantial evidence… that terrorists from the Middle East and North Africa transit the Mexican-U.S. border.” Worse yet, radical Islamists even “camouflage themselves as Hispanics” to cross the border. The military’s fantasists point to “a flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels along the Texas border with Middle East and North Africa terrorism.”

That represents a Trumpian-style nightmare-cum-fantasy even the president hasn’t yet dreamed up — a Hispanic-surnamed, cartel-supported group of Islamist terrorists. But by the 2020s, according to the Pentagon’s futurists, such worries are well-founded. And this will occur at the same time that Mexican and South American drug gangs have grown so rich and powerful they can regularly buy protection from U.S. government officials.

“Popular opinion in the United States is beginning to believe the ‘Narco-corruption’ is affecting the ‘rule of law’ north of the border,” according to their scenario, with the cartels spending $20 billion in 2022 alone to buy off U.S. officials or get candidates of their choice elected. That same year, allegations of election tampering in mayoral races across the American South come to light and the number of corruption convictions of U.S. Border Patrol agents and law enforcement officials skyrockets. Perhaps most shocking is the discovery of a “vast irrigated grow site” (evidently a massive marijuana farm) tended by “a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s” in — wait for it! — “remote areas of Illinois.”

Mexican farmers, El Salvadoran gang members, Islamists masquerading as Hispanics, eco-terrorists, and anti-globalization militants aren’t the only threats foreseen by the military’s futurists. Much-ballyhooed reports of the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, like the much-hyped defeat of its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, turn out to be premature. In the 2020s, the re-re-branded group, now known as the Global Islamic Caliphate, or GIC, draws “support from Sunni-majority regions in Syria and Iraq; refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey; and internally displaced persons in Syria and Iraq,” while continuing to launch attacks in the region.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has grown in reach, size, and might. By 2021, the group has 38,000 members spread across Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger with bases reportedly located in Western Sahara. On May 23, 2023, AQIM carries out the most lethal terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11, detonating massive truck-bombs at both the New York and New Jersey ends of the Lincoln Tunnel, killing 435 people and injuring another 618. The bombing prompts President McGraw — you remember him, Karl Maxwell McGraw, the independent Arizona senator who rode his populist “America on the Move” campaign to victory in the 2020 election — to invade Mauritania and become mired in yet another American forever war that shows every indication of grinding on into the 2030s, if not beyond.

The Age of Terrorism

In the real world, the lifetime odds of an American dying from “walking” are one in 672. The chance of being killed by a foreign terrorist? One in 45,808. By an illegal immigrant terrorist? One in 138 million. And the odds of being killed by a “chain migration” immigrant sometime this year? One in 1.2 billion! In other words, you have a far greater chance of being killed by a dog, a shark, lightning, or the government via legal execution.

This is not to say terrorism isn’t a major threat to others around the world or that terror groups are not proliferating. Since 9/11, the number of terrorist organizations recognized by the U.S. State Department and battled by the Pentagon — from Africa to the Middle East to Asia — has grown markedly.

“States are the principal actors on the global stage, but non-state actors also threaten the security environment with increasingly sophisticated capabilities,” reads an unclassified synopsis of the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy. “Terrorists, trans-national criminal organizations, cyber hackers and other malicious non-state actors have transformed global affairs with increased capabilities of mass disruption.”

In the fictional future of the Pentagon’s JLASS-SP 2016, this menace only expands to include various hybrid threats and new homegrown groups with increasing capabilities for death and destruction.

While it may be “the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks,” as President Trump’s 2017 executive order declares, the Pentagon envisions a future in which such policies are increasingly ineffective. In their dystopian war-game future, more than two decades of fighting “them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America” (as former President George W. Bush put it in 2007) proves unequivocally futile. In this sense, the Pentagon’s fantasies bear an eerie resemblance to the actual present. In the dystopian scenario used by the Pentagon to train its future leaders, today’s forever wars have proven ineffective and future threats are to be met with new, similarly ineffective, forever wars.

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Trump declared that we’re living in the “age of terrorism.” His solution: wielding “unmatched power,” loosening the rules of engagement, and establishing an unfettered ability to detain, question, and “annihilate” terrorists.

All of these tactics have, however, been part of the Pentagon’s playbook since 2001 and, according to the military’s best guess at the future, will lead to an increase in terror groups and terror attacks while terror networks and terrorist ideologies will grow in strength, resilience, and appeal. Almost two decades in, it seems we’re still only in the opening days of the “age of terrorism” and, if the Pentagon’s war-gamers are to be believed, far worse is yet to come.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Narco-Corruption, ISIS 3.0, and the Terror Drone Attack That Never Happened

Brexit: Second EU Referendum Campaign Kicks Off

NOVANEWS
  

TruePublica Editor: I spoke to some influential Brexiteers just before the decision was made by the electorate to Brexit. The reasoning by one was not that he thought the EU was bad for Britain but that everybody in the EU thought the EU was bad and when the EU27 started to break down, Britain would be in the premier league once again – on its own to benefit from the fallout.

This may still prove right as the EU is now facing some terrible decisions and dilemma’s as a result of defying an angry electorate across the bloc, especially as 2019 will be holding the EU’s MEP elections. Italy, is just one more of quite a few member states who have spawned anti-EU political parties getting into power. More on that another time.

Since the divisive referendum decision was given by a Conservative party bent on saving itself from implosion, more than thinking of Britain’s economic welfare, there’s been talk of a second EU referendum. Well, now we have confirmation that a real effort is underway.

The campaign for a second Brexit referendum will start next week according to none other than – George Soros, who has pumped £700 million into the ‘Best for Britain’ campaign. Best for Britain is registered with The Electoral Commission.

The campaign starts with demanding that MPs recognise its right to see another vote on EU membership:

Regardless of how people voted in 2016, it’s become clear that there is growing public demand for a new chance to decide our country’s path as new facts come to light.

Speaking at an event held by the European Council for Foreign Relations think tank in Paris on Tuesday, Soros described Brexit as an example of “territorial disintegration” and blamed it for impairing the workings of the EU, according to the Times that is.

Most of the damage is felt right now when the European Union is in an existential crisis, but its attention is diverted to negotiating a separation agreement with Britain. That’s a lose-lose proposition, but it could be converted into a win-win situation,” Soros said.

Got that. The European Union is in an “EXISTENTIAL CRISIS.” The billionaire investor has described the EU as being in disintegration mode.

Soros confirms that Brexit will, and I quote cause a “hard-to-fill hole in the European budget.”

The EU needs to transform itself into an association that countries like Britain would want to join, in order to strengthen the political case,” Soros also said.

Soros has, in no uncertain terms confirmed that without a major political transformation, a massive financial hole is about to appear in the EU’s budget, that the bloc is in disintegration mode and the worst crisis it has ever faced, an existential one, is just months away.

Finally, Soros said:

“The economic case for (Britain) remaining a member of the EU is strong, but it will take time for it to sink in.”

About £700 million he thinks will be needed for that to sink in.

From the man who blatantly attacked Britain’s currency through the raid against the Bank of England in September 1992, that taxpayers had to be replace from the treasury and walked off with the equivalent of one thousand million pounds for personal gain – Isn’t all that a bit contradictory George?

His campaign is not about Britain’s welfare, it’s about the EU’s welfare – clearly.

It’s all very confusing now. Many people I have spoken to have changed their minds in both camps but make no mistake, Soros will be joined by others, £700 million is just the start. By this time next year, could Britain be back in Europe’s biggest club?

In the meantime, as has just been pointed out to me since posting this article, a campaign started a month back to achieve the same – it’s called The People’s Vote and it’s being organised by a coalition of about 9 pro-EU groups (see: this).  They all work closely together and as one group they will NOT work with ‘Best for Britain’ because it is funded by Soros.  That doesn’t mean that ‘Best for Britain’ supporters won’t be welcome to march with the everyone on June 23rd, but they cannot claim it is ‘their’ march.

The People’s Vote campaign has two aims; first, that the people must have a vote on the ‘final’ deal (whatever May’s mess of a government comes up with) and, second, one of the options  must be to remain with the EU.  The plan is to press for the vote first because that will bring those who voted to leave on board (a lot of them aren’t happy with what’s going on) and then insist on the remain option being included.

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Brexit: Second EU Referendum Campaign Kicks Off

On the Liberation of The Yarmouk Refugee Camp from ISIS. Syrian and Palestinian Struggles Indivisible

NOVANEWS

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), allied Palestinian militias, and the government of Syria deserve high praise for the recent liberation of Yarmouk refugee camp from ISIS.

Anti-war activists took a lot of flak from some people in North America and Europe, describing themselves as Palestine solidarity activists and “leftists”, when, in 2012, Yarmouk was invaded and occupied by proxy armies of western powers and Arab monarchs. Because we condemned the US-led attack on Syria and defended the Syrian government’s resistance to the terrorist occupation of Yarmouk, we were among the activists denounced by the misguided persons above as being “Assad apologists.”

This would be a good time to set the record straight and reaffirm our position that Palestinians and Syrians have strong common national aspirations. The aspiration of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Palestine is recognized as part of the common struggle of all Syrians. And both nations seek to reclaim from the State of Israel all the territories in Syria and Palestine which it currently occupies.

Background

Yarmouk was originally a refugee camp for Palestinians who had been displaced by the “Nakba”, the catastrophe of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of historic Palestine which accompanied the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. It was a .81 hectare of land which, in 1957, was outside the boundaries of Damascus but which, by 2011, had turned into a lively suburb of the city housing about one million people of whom about 160,000 people were Palestinians. It was the largest and most prosperous settlement of Palestinians anywhere in Syria.

It is important to note that the government of Syria treated its hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees better than most Arab countries and as equals to Syrian citizens themselves. Palestinians in Syria received the same levels of free health care and education as Syrians and were allowed to rise in all areas of employment as high as their abilities carried them. There was only one formal legal distinction between Syrians and Palestinians. Palestinians were not given Syrian citizenship – in order to maintain their internationally-recognized right of return to their homes in Palestine – and therefore were not allowed to participate in Syrian elections.

Finally, the Syrian government, along with Iran and Hezbollah, was part of the Coalition of Resistance against Israel for many years. It was no accident therefore that, before the US-led aggression against Syria in 2011, the Palestinian factions chose to locate their headquarters in Damascus.

In short, the Assad government was a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.

The proxy war on Syria

In 2011, a group of western countries and Arab monarchies, led by the USA, unleashed scores of proxy armies of terrorist mercenaries on Syria with the purpose of achieving regime change, a scheme clearly illegal under international law. Importantly, the State of Israel participated heavily in this regime change operation, supporting terrorist mercenaries using the illegally-occupied Golan Heights as their base to fight against the Syrian government inside of Syria. Israel also used its air force to bomb Syria more than one hundred times during the course of the seven-year long war and supplied aid and weapons to separatist Kurdish elements in eastern Syria with a view to aid the USA in trying to partition that country.

In this context, negotiations took place for the Palestinians in Syria to remain neutral in the war. The Syrian government supported this view but the terrorists didn’t.

Image result for yarmouk refugee camp

Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk

In 2012, the so-called “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) invaded and occupied Yarmouk. Some Palestinian factions facilitated their entry. The FSA was soon joined by al Qaeda and other militant factions. In 2015, ISIS entered the camp and, after some internecine warfare, drove out the other terrorist factions.

As they did in many other pockets of Syria, the terrorists evicted many Palestinians from their homes, looted and plundered everything of value, arrested anyone with known sympathies for the government and/or religious beliefs different from theirs and proceeded to torture and execute them, sexually assaulted and/or kidnapped women and girls, turned Yarmouk into a fortified camp, and hoarded all the foodstuffs for themselves. As in every other terrorist enclave, the vast majority of the inhabitants promptly fled to government-held areas.

The Syrian government did not directly attack Yarmouk until just a few weeks ago. Instead, it patiently armed and supported the courageous fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) who, for many years, led the unremitting struggle against the terrorists inside the camp. In other words, the Syrian government respected the neutrality requested by the Palestinian organizations.

The Syria Solidarity Movement notes,

“the patience of the Syrian hosts in allowing the Palestinian refugee population to try to reconcile its differences and take the lead in expelling ISIS and al-Qaeda and their affiliates from Yarmouk since early in the conflict is especially remarkable. In the end, the SAA took over responsibility for eliminating these terrorist groups from neighbouring Hajar al-Aswad, which allowed the Palestinian militias and their Syrian allies to remove the remainder from Yarmouk, the last remaining source of terror attacks on the civilian population in Damascus. We send our sincerest congratulations to all the people of Damascus and the surrounding metropolitan area for their liberation from fear of such attacks, which they endured for seven long years.” 1

Lies and distortions about Yarmouk

In 2012, certain self-styled Palestine solidarity activists and western “leftists” sought to twist the facts about the second displacement of the Palestinians – this time from their homes in Yarmouk. They sought specifically to lay the blame for this second victimization of the Palestinians in Yarmouk on the Syrian government and effectively gave left cover and support to the western regime-change operation. According to the nay-sayers, the Syrian government was simply to cave in to the armed militants and ignore its duty to protect its citizens and the Palestinian refugees, who lived under its protection, from foreign aggression.

From personal experience in Canada, we can attest to the fact that the Left cover provided by these misguided people for the attempted US regime-change operation in Syria was poisonous to the Canadian anti-war movement. It made it hard to organize people against the illegal war. In fact, it became difficult, thanks to threats by anarchists and other intervenors, even to find a venue to hold a public meeting in Canada for outspoken and courageous opponents of the war on Syria, such as Mother Agnes Mariam and Eva Karene Bartlett. In a few short years, because some of these misguided people, specifically members of the International Socialists (IS), were in positions of authority within the pan-Canadian anti-war movement, the movement dried up and died.

We note that many people got it wrong at the time. It’s heartening that some of them, such as journalists, Max Blumenthal, Rania Khalek, and Ben Norton have publicly acknowledged that their earlier analysis and criticisms were wrong.2 Others, such as UK professor Gilbert Achcar, who travelled to the World Social Forum in Montreal in 2016 to villify the Syrian government, will probably dance to empire’s tune until they die. It has taken seven years but the recent string of victories of the Syrian government over the terrorists have forced many honest people on the left to open their eyes wide and realize that what has transpired in Syria is not a popular uprising and or a “revolution”, but a deadly plan by the US, its western allies, and regional clients criminally to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria and to target Iran and the Coalition of Resistance.

Thankfully, with the help of its international allies – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and several Palestinian popular militias – the Syrian Arab Army and government, after much sacrifice, has finally gained the upper hand and has driven the terrorists out of many of the enclaves they seized and occupied, including Yarmouk, thus defeating the US regime change plan.

In response to the failure of that plan, the USA moved to its Plan B: direct attacks on, and the occupation of, a large swath of Syria with a view to partition the country. On April 13, 2018, in response to a fraudulent “chemical attack” staged by the White Helmets3, the USA, UK, and France launched 100+ missiles against Syria. Interestingly, the Palestinian peak organizations immediately condemned the missile attack, and came out strongly in support of the government in Damascus, thereby abandonning any pretence at neutrality.

Fatah (the majority faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO]) declared that it

“stood unreservedly with the unity of Syrian territory and rejected efforts at destroying it or harming its unity and sovereignty.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad “condemned the Western aggression against Syria” and “expressed solidarity (to) stand by Syria and its people and with all Arab and Islamic peoples in the face of all threats and challenges to their security, stability and unity.” The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) “considered the aggression of America and its allies on the Syrian territory as a blatant aggression against the nation, aimed at confiscating its lands and destroying its capabilities in order to preserve the existence of the Israeli entity and (to advance) its schemes.” The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “strongly condemned the American-British-French aggression, which targeted Syria with their missiles.” The Front added that

“the aggression and its objectives will be destroyed on the rock of the steadfastness of the Syrian people and the Syrian state” for whom it expressed its support and solidarity.4

Syrian and Palestinian struggles indivisible

The liberation of Yarmouk and the angry Palestinian reactions to the April 13 missile attacks put a satisfying end to a chapter of disunity in Palestinian and Syrian history. They show that the Palestinian and Syrian struggles are one and the same. There can be no ultimate victory for Palestine if Syria is destroyed. There can be no ultimate victory for the Syrian people without also freeing the Palestinians from the tyranny of occupation in Palestine.

The moral of the Yarmouk story can be summed up thus: if you are for Palestine, you must also be for Syria!

Those self-styled Palestinian solidarity activists and “leftists” in Europe and North America who slammed the Syrian government for resisting the terrorist proxy armies of the West need to reflect on the consequences of their de facto support of the US empire’s meddling in Syria: half a million deaths, millions of injured people (both physically and emotionally), enormous destruction of civilian infrastructure (including housing, schools, and hospitals), the transformation of 12 million Syrians into displaced persons and into a wave of refugees that swept over Europe, the descent of thousands of Syrian women and girls into the international human trafficking trade, and much much more… Will there ever be a day of reckoning for these apologists of empire?

Conclusion

The liberation of Yarmouk refugee camp is a significant milestone in Syria’s struggle to regain its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Eventually, all of Syria will be liberated from the terrorists and from the direct occupations of the USA (east of the Euphrates), of Turkey (in the north), and Israel (in the south). In the meantime, the Palestinian residents of Yarmouk will soon be able to return to their homes in southern Damascus. And, when Syria is completely liberated, they will be able to organize once again – with the help of the Syrian government – for the Day of Return to Palestine.

*

Ken Stone is a veteran antiwar activist, a former Steering Committee Member of the Canadian Peace Alliance, an executive member of the SyriaSolidarityMovement.org, and treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War [hcsw.ca]. Ken is author of “Defiant Syria”, an e-booklet available at Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Notes

1 “Statement… on the liberation of Yarmouk”, Syria Solidarity Movement, May 27, 2018, syriasolidritymovement.org;

2 Blumenthal and Khalek recant their previously held views on Syria:

https://soundcloud.com/moderaterebelsradio/syria-rania-khalek-episode-17

https://soundcloud.com/moderaterebelsradio/syria-palestine-salafism-wahhabism-islamophobia-rania-khalek-episode-18

Ben Norton recants: http://bennorton.com/syria-war-views/

Vanessa Beeley on the Douma incident: http://21stcenturywire.com/2018/05/11/syria-vanessa-beeley-speaks-to-uk-column-about-eastern-ghouta/

4 Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA), April 16, 2018

Posted in SyriaComments Off on On the Liberation of The Yarmouk Refugee Camp from ISIS. Syrian and Palestinian Struggles Indivisible

Tightly Bound: The United States and Australia’s Alliance-Dependent Militarization

Contemporary Australia is a case of dependent, high-technology liberal militarization, but with distinctive characteristics pointing to a model that must look beyond standard concerns with increasing national defense budgets, more and better weapons systems, an “exceptionalist” approach to immigration security and a predilection for use of military force in international affairs.

In a world and time where militarization is a global norm embedded in globe-spanning military alliances and world-wide networks of foreign military bases, discerning the lineaments of one particular national instance can be both difficult and potentially misleading. In liberal democracies, national self-conceptions resist identification with the harsh implications of reliance on, or valorization of, military force, unless it can be viably represented as defense of freedom, just war, or wars against unspeakable Others. And in the case of liberal democracies originating in a settler state with ongoing unrecognized conquest of indigenous peoples – think Australia, the United States, Canada and Israel – the racially inflected violence at the foundations of state-formation and national identity continues to ramify through the default settings of contemporary foreign policy. All three qualities distinguish the contemporary pattern of Australian militarization from the standard versions of either exceptionalist or liberal militarization.

US F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in flight testing. The Australian government has approved the purchase of a further 58 of the warplanes at a cost of $12.4bn. Photograph: Lockheed Martin/AAP.

By the standard indices of national-level militarization, Australia is now a serious instance, albeit an unusual one. The world’s sixth-largest arms importer, post-9/11 Australia embarked on a large capital expenditure program on defense that will see virtually all major weapons systems and support platforms replaced or upgraded in the next two decades.

Defense spending has been growing continuously since 2000, reaching $27.3 billion in the current fiscal year, a 6.5 percent increase in real terms over the previous year, including a billion dollars for current overseas deployments in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Current government planning to bring defense spending from 1.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to a sustained 2.0 percent in coming years will involve annual real increases of 4.7 percent, meaning that defense spending will have doubled in real terms from 2005-2025, including $153 billion for increased defense materiel capacity.

Over the past half century or more, the standard historical parameters of Australian defense policy have focused on oscillations around a set of policy-polar tensions:

  • self-reliance vs imperial or super-power dependence;
  • confidence in sufficient warning time to prepare for emerging major threats identity rooted in fear of invasion;
  • acceptance of limited resources and influence borrowed grandiosity by association with imperial allies; and
  • force structure designed for the defense of continental Australia and the immediate region “operations in distant theatres.”

These tension-sets derive at root from the anxieties of a small, settler-colonial state, uneasily occupying a conquered continent, identifying deeply with its imperial origins on the other side of the world, and fearfully anxious about its relations with its geographical and cultural environment. Identity powerfully structures how the map is read for strategic interests. On the standard Australian reading, “help” looks far away. Serious pursuit of “self-reliance” is seen as a brave gamble.

With a nod to the shade of past self-reliance policy, the essence of Australian defense policy post-9/11 and in renewed fear of China today is an intensified, broadened and tightened version of the alliance relationship with the United States. Now in its seventh decade, the Australia-US alliance is an historical chameleon, shape shifting from its original rationale as a US guarantee against post-Second World War Japanese remilitarization, to an imagined southern bastion of the Free World in the global division of the Cold War, on to a niche commitment in the global war on terror, and now a new, if slightly hesitant, role in a US-led faux containment revenant against a rising China.

The century-long tradition of deployment of Australian armed forces in distant theaters in service of its alliance protector – first Britain, then the US – continues today, with substantial Australian ground, sea and air force elements still deployed in the US-led wars in Afghanistan (almost continuously since 2001 to the present), Iraq and the Western Indian Ocean (2003-2009; and 2014 – present ) and Syria (2015 – present ), and large support elements in Persian Gulf bases (2002 – present ).

Servicing alliance requirements has meant that Australian force structure reflects these underlying tensions, as can be seen, for example, in the roles assigned in theory and practice to Australia’s range of new major weapons-platforms upgraded in recent years, in all three services.

To take the example of advanced military aircraft, Australian doctrine today still nominally emphasizes the defense of the sea-air gap surrounding the continent, immediate South Pacific and archipelagic Southeast Asia. Accordingly, defense planners have always sought a “knowledge edge” over neighboring armed forces rooted in preferential access to US military technology denied even to other close US allies such as Japan as the “reward” for a US-deputed sheriff role in the region and in constant support for US-led wars.

Accordingly, the Royal Australian Air Force’s large but aging F/A-18 fighter-bomber force, mainly deployed to the continent’s northern approaches, are to be replaced in coming years by more than 70 F-35 Lockheed-Martin Joint Strike Fighters. But RAAF Hornets and Super-Hornets have also long been deployed to Iraq and now Syria in high-tempo alliance operations. For the US, the bombing contribution of the Australian F/A-18s, while politically helpful, has been outweighed by the utility of the accompanying deployment of a technologically advanced US-sourced RAAF Wedgetail E-7 airborne early warning and control aircraft, based on a Boeing 737, and designed to be highly interoperable with US forces.

A similar set of defense doctrine contradictions was embodied in the protracted and intense intra-government debate about replacing an ageing small submarine fleet. This was eventually resolved in 2016 with the decision to commit $39 billion to build 12 4,000 tonne conventional diesel-electric submarines based on a DCNS-Thales design derived from the French Barracuda-class nuclear submarine. Once again, doctrinal concerns for a submarine capability designed for defense of the continental sea/air gap and archipelagic Southeast Asian areas of direct strategic interest to Australia appeared to be trumped by advocacy rooted in alliance concerns for capacity to conduct very long-range coalition-support operations centering on a blockade of Chinese waters – a choice with considerable consequences for design requirements and for the Australian strategic relationship with China.

Antennas of Pine Gap Richard Tanter, “Antennas of Pine Gap image gallery”, Australian Defence Facilities Pine Gap, (Source)

Australia hosts a number of US-related military facilities. Today, none of these are solely US bases, but are joint facilities, each with a greater or lesser extent of US access, although in important cases such as the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap, the degree of “jointness” is highly asymmetrical, with Australian staff sharing operations of a facility built and paid for by the US and only operating as part of global US space-based surveillance systems.

Outside Australia, perhaps the best-known example involves the initiative of former US President Barack Obama’s administration to deploy up to 2,500 marines to Darwin in the Northern Territory and US Air Force fighters, refueling tankers and B-52 and B-2 bombers to Northern Territory air bases. The Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is on permanent rotation for half of each year, avoiding the tropical wet season where major military ground activity becomes all but impossible, when its core elements from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit return to Okinawa aboard a US Navy Expeditionary Strike Group. The number of marines in Darwin is small compared with their presence in South Korea, Okinawa and Guam, and in some respects the significance of their Australian presence is as much political as military. However, with their ADF counterparts increasingly highly integrated with US forces through training, doctrine, logistics pre-deployment, interoperability, and combined operational planning, including for coalition operations in Korea, the military significance is becoming clearer. The MAGTF and USAF aircraft utilize large ADF ground and air weapons-training ranges in northern Australia – one of which, Bradshaw Field Training Area, is the size of Cyprus – which are densely electronically connected by optical fiber in real time to both ADF headquarters and Pacific Command in Hawaii to facilitate training activities and evaluation. The clear US intention is to develop the Darwin hub into a combined contribution to US-led regional rapid deployment capability for East and Southeast Asia.

Australia in a networked alliance

To best understand the important implication of not only hosting US facilities in Australia but also the more general Australian national pattern of militarization, a wider vantage point is needed, shifting the focus of militarization from the essentially standalone characteristics of an individual nation-state to the implications of that state’s place in a networked alliance system. These networks involve US and allied military bases and deployed personnel, globally distributed elements of US-controlled but coalition-accessed space and terrestrial surveillance sensor systems, communications and computing systems – all tied to US and coalition military operations.

The physical manifestations of these systems include not only easily recognizable conventional military bases with large numbers of military personnel, logistics and transport facilities and weapons platforms, but also US-controlled but coalition-accessed and hosted bases for space and terrestrial surveillance sensor systems and worldwide communications and computing systems that are essential to US and coalition military operations, and that are technologically dense, but personnel light. These make up a globally distributed, materially heterogeneous landscape of digital technology, much of which exists in an invisible Hertzian landscape constituted by the electromagnetic spectrum operated through all-too-material antennas, advanced computing facilities, sensors, data banks, communications satellites and globe-spanning webs of dedicated optical fiber.

Two essentially US facilities in Australia regarded by both governments as “joint facilities” and governed by agreements under which they operate with “the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian government” exemplify this alliance-induced global aspect of Australian militarization: the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap in Central Australia and the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station at North West Cape in Western Australia.

Between the two of them, Pine Gap and North West Cape are now operationally closely involved with – and indeed for the most part critical for – US nuclear-war targeting, US-Japanese missile defense, US drone and special forces extra-judicial counter-terrorism killings, the rapidly growing US capacity for space warfare, and direct support for ground and air operations in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and for US combat operations in any outbreak of armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

The idea that an intelligence facility in the center of Australia will be central to US planning and operations for a Korean war, nuclear or conventional, may appear exaggerated from the outside. This is far from the case. Pine Gap’s longstanding primary role involves its massive signals intelligence capabilities in space and on the ground, listening to a vast range of radio signals, cell phones, and radars over more than half the world from the west of Africa to the mid-Pacific, and all areas of current US military interest and operations.

For half a century, one essential role of Pine Gap has been to provide US strategic planners with the locations and characteristics of enemy radars and air defenses, the better to evade, jam, or destroy them as a prelude to airborne nuclear or conventional attack.

In preparation for a possible Korean war, Pine Gap’s signals-intelligence tasking schedules will have been in overdrive contributing to updates to the North Korean Electronic Order of Battle – the key to the effectiveness of US attacks on enemy assets. This will include listing the locations and characteristics of every North Korean radar, missile launcher, command center, tank and artillery array, logistics hub, ship and aircraft, and political leadership cell phones and bolt holes.

Pine Gap’s secondary nuclear role involves downlinking data from US infrared surveillance early-warning satellites detecting enemy nuclear missile launches, giving the US a few minutes of warning of nuclearattack – and also priming a second strike by establishing which enemy ICBM silos have fired, and which remain to be targeted. But beyond this, through these same infrared satellites, Pine Gap detects the first seconds of enemy missile launches and calculates the missiles’ likely trajectories, passing the information to US and Japanese and South Korean missile defense systems, cueing their fire radars to search a tiny portion of the sky where the missiles are gathering enormous speed. If cued by Pine Gap, and if the missile defense system works as the Pentagon and the manufacturers advertise, US missile defenses might, just might, have a chance of firing their own missiles to hit and destroy the enemy missiles. Without Pine Gap’s contribution, at the current stage of US missile defense technology, the chances of successful interception are probably not much more than zero.

North West Cape, once vital for communications with submerged US Polaris nuclear submarines, has a new critical role in an ever-more important area of US military planning, with enthusiastic Australian acquiescence. The US has installed two ground-based space surveillance systems at North West Cape under a Space Surveillance Partnership Agreement with Australia, as part of its worldwide collaborative Space Surveillance Awareness network. A refurbished Cape Canaveral Missile Range C-Band space radarhas been transferred to Australia, now operated by the RAAF to monitor space objects in low earth orbit. And a new highly advanced US space surveillance telescope to take advantage of Australia’s southern location for observation of objects in geosynchronous orbit. Both the radar and the telescope are dual purpose. Great public emphasis is given to their utility as an undoubted global good to track space debris threatening the use of congested space. Rather less publicly, great importance is attached by both the US Space Command and the ADF to the role of both in determining the locations, characteristics and behavior of adversary satellites – a critical requirement for US planning for space dominance. What is striking in this pattern of militarization is the dramatic upgrading of alliance operational integration at the heart of US planning.

A third “joint facility” confirms this pattern of militarization of Australia through its willing insertion into a wider global pattern. The Australian Defense Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) at Kojarena near Geraldton in Western Australia was originally a solely Australian facility, and still functions together with Pine Gap and a companion Australian satellite communications interception station at Shoal Bay outside Darwin as a major Australian contributor to the US-led Five Eyes global signals intelligence network. However, in the past decade, two new compounds at Kojarena have been constructed to house two ground stations for US global military communications systems. One houses three giant antennas to uplink and downlink to the satellites of the Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS, the US military’s ruggedized 3G smart phone system providing worldwide access for individuals’ narrow-band (limited volume and speed) voice, data and video communications, and military-auspiced internet-capacity military communications. The four worldwide MUOS satellite ground stations, including Kojarena, are linked by a dedicated 18,000 mile-long optical fiber network.

Another new Kojarena compound also houses three antennas as ground terminals for a different kind of US communications system, the equally important Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. Australia paid for one of ten WGS satellites to gain global access to the entire WGS network, especially for operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and two Australian WGS ground access terminals have been built for ADF use.

Wideband communications networks transport huge amounts of data, and are critical operating and downlinking data from long-range armed and surveillance drone aircraft. In mid-2014, the US Defense Department informed Congress that “warfighters” would be denied access to the WGS system for “months or years” without construction at Kojarena of a communication gateway known as a teleport, for which there was “a desperate need” in the region (in addition to those in Hawaii and Okinawa). A DoD Teleportenables both the WGS and MUOS communications satellites’ ground terminal to connect to the terrestrial optical fiber network known as the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN), and through that to the “network of networks” the US military calls the Global Information Grid (GIG).

Such “joint” facilities indicate a new globalizing dimension to alliance structures and to what had previously been considered as standalone national patterns of militarization, in this case of liberal democratic states. Cooperation with and reliance on US-led planet-wide communications and surveillance systems produce a type of dependent militarization that is rather different from, and deeper than, dependence derived from, say, force structure dependent on imported weapons systems.

“Entanglement” takes on quite new and binding dimensions of linkage multiplicity, complexity andpotentially unavoidable consequences. The implications of such globally organized alliance drivers of national militarization may vary in time and place, but as the Australian case shows, warrant serious consideration as a new dimension of liberal militarization, and its attendant dangers.

Posted in USA, AustraliaComments Off on Tightly Bound: The United States and Australia’s Alliance-Dependent Militarization

Nazi regime Carries Out Massive Strike on Gaza, Protest Against US-backed Forces in Syria ‘Video’

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Video: Israel Carries Out Massive Strike on Gaza, Protest Against US-backed Forces in Syria

 

Tensions between the local population and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are growing. Protests against the SDF have recently erupted in the cities of Manbij, Hasakah and Raqqah.

The predominantly Arab local population protested against behavior and policies, including forced conscription, implemented by the SDF. Forces of the US-led coalition were even forced to intervene into the situation in Raqqa in order to stop infighting between the Kurdish YPG and local Arab units.

The SDF and the SDF-held area is de-facto dominated by Kurdish YPG/YPJ militias and their political wing PYD. This is also one of the factors triggering tensions with the local population.

11 militant groups, including Faylaq al-Sham and the Free Idlib Army, have merged in the Syrian province of Idlib forming a new Turkish backed force entitled Jabhat al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir (the National Front for Liberation). According to local observers, the formation of this military group is a part of the Turkish plan to increase its influence in the militant-held parts of the provinces of Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo.

From May 29 to May 30, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) struck at least 65 targets in the Gaza Strip. The targets were allegedly belonging to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement and included facilities allegedly manufacturing rocket launchers and rocket engines. The IDF also claimed that its forces are operating in Gaza.

This round of escalation started with mortar shelling from Gaza early on May 29. Throughout the day, Palestinian forces launched at least 70 mortar shells and rockets at Israeli targets. The situation is developing.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Nazi regime Carries Out Massive Strike on Gaza, Protest Against US-backed Forces in Syria ‘Video’

Not for Sale: Congo’s Forests Must be Protected from the Fossil Fuels Industry

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The largest protected tropical rainforest in Africa – Salonga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo – is at risk from oil exploration thanks to a secretive deal with an opaque company.

As we have previously revealed, the Democratic Republic of Congo government is attempting to reclassify swathes of two UNESCO protected World Heritage Sites – Salonga and Virunga National Parks – to allow oil exploration to take place. In our new investigation, we shine a light on the opaque ownership and secret deals of one company that potentially stands to gain from government attempts to open up the area to oil, COMICO, which was allocated an oil block that partially overlaps Salonga National Park.

Download the full briefing here: Not For Sale – Congo’s forests must be protected from the fossil fuels industry.

We expose how individuals involved in the original deal to purchase these controversial oil rights include a politically connected individual, a convicted fraudster, a businessman embroiled in the Brazilian ‘Car Wash’ scandal and mysterious shell companies.

Moreover, the details of the contract remain unknown, in contravention of Congo’s own oil law. The opacity surrounding both the company and the terms of the deal raises serious concerns.

The prospect of oil work represents an urgent threat to Salonga’s important and fragile ecosystem, while the lack of transparency is especially concerning as the country remains embroiled in a political crisis.

World’s second largest tropical rainforest under threat

One of the three oil blocks assigned by the government to COMICO, a part UK-owned company, encroaches on Salonga National Park, the world’s second largest tropical rainforest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. The park is home to up to 40 percent of the world’s Bonobo population and many other endangered and rare species such as forest elephants, Congo peacocks, hippopotamuses and giant pangolins.

At the heart of the Congo basin, Salonga National Park stretches over 36,000 square kilometres – an area larger than Belgium. Its size means it plays a fundamental role in climate change mitigation and carbon storage.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is clear that any form of mineral, oil and gas exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status. If even World Heritage status cannot protect fragile ecosystems from oil work, it sends a message that the entire planet is up for sale to the fossil fuels industry, with potentially devastating environmental consequences.

Salonga and COMICO oil blocks

As well as the huge environmental risks associated with the deal, it is alarming that we don’t know in full who is behind COMICO or the terms of the deal.

At its formation in 2006 COMICO was controlled by two men: Montfort Konzi, a former Congolese politician and businessman, who was a cabinet member of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Congolese political party Mouvement de Libération du Congo; and Idalécio de Oliveira, a controversial Portuguese businessman linked to the Brazilian Car Wash scandal.

Various companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions appeared to have obtained shares in COMICO just as it was in the process of acquiring Congolese oil permits. We have been able to trace links between two of these companies and Norman Leighton, a former business associate of Oliveira who was previously convicted of playing a part in a fraudulent investment scheme.

Despite our best efforts, we were unable to trace the ownership of one of these offshore companies – Shumba International, which held a 1.5 percent share of COMICO as of 2007. Shumba is now listed as ‘defunct’ on the Mauritius company register.

The adjustment of COMICO’s structure in this way, involving opaque offshore companies picking up shares just as COMICO was in the process of obtaining its contract, raises serious red flags, as does the presence of a former Congolese politician, Konzi, in the historic ownership structure.

Without full disclosure of the owners of these offshore companies we cannot be sure who benefits or has benefitted from this company that now owns controversial oil exploration rights in Salonga National Park. When contacted by Global Witness, lawyers representing the COMICO shareholders we have been able to identify, said the confidentiality around the full ownership of COMICO was for “legitimate commercial reasons unconnected with bribery and corruption or other financial crime”, and they stated “none of the other beneficial owners have been convicted of bribery, corruption, fraud or other financial crime.”

The opacity around COMICO’s ownership is matched by the lack of transparency surrounding the contract.

COMICO’s production sharing agreements (PSAs, i.e. its contract) were initially signed over 10 years ago, but the company was not able to begin exploration until Congo’s President Joseph Kabila signed an ordinance in February this year.

Congo’s oil law, passed in 2015, stipulates that new contracts should be published within sixty days of being approved. However, sixty days after President Kabila gave presidential approval authorising COMICO’s contract, there was – and, as of 28 May 2018, still is – no sign of the contract being made public.

Lawyers for COMICO told Global Witness that a $3 million signature bonus had been made in 2007, but that “no other payment, direct or indirect, have [sic] been made to the Congolese government or its officials or its representatives.” However, as the contract has not been made public, it is impossible to assess the terms of this oil deal, to understand whether it is beneficial for the people of Congo, or to know whether potentially significant payments into government coffers, such as signature bonuses (upfront payments made by companies to governments upon the completion of a contract), have been paid.

Need for transparency more urgent than ever

There is a long history of companies and political elites swooping in at times of crisis to exploit Congo’s natural resources behind closed doors, to the detriment of its people and natural habitats. Now, more than ever, the need for transparency in Congo’s natural resource deals is key.

The Congo still ranks among the poorest countries in the world and is 176th out of 187 on the most recent Human Development Index calculated by the UN. It had the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa last year, with almost 2.2 million people forced from their homes. Furthermore, the country is currently in the midst of an Ebola outbreak and the risk of famine and conflict is looming large.

In such a dire context, and with the Congolese economy depending almost entirely on its natural resource sectors for export revenues, it is vitally important that deals in these sectors are conducted transparently and that the revenues are used for the benefit of Congo’s people.

Moreover, the political climate in Congo is currently very tense as presidential elections due to be held in November 2016 have been repeatedly delayed, sparking widespread protest. Conflicts have been re-erupting across the country and appearing even in a region that had historically been peaceful. President Kabila has overstayed his constitutionally allowed two terms in power and has not ruled out changing the constitution to remove term limits so that he could stand for election a third time.

Congo’s political crisis is likely to worsen as it approaches the new December 2018 deadline for elections. In this atmosphere, opening up Salonga National Park to oil raises the possibility that the Kabila regime is seeking to extract more revenue from the country’s natural resources during this precarious time – possibly to build up a financial war chest for elections.

Our key recommendations

In light of our investigation, we are calling for the relevant actors to take the following key actions:

  • COMICO to commit to keeping out of Salonga National Park and to reveal a complete list of beneficial owners of the company both today and since 2006.
  • The Congolese government should publish its contract with COMICO, as stipulated by the oil law, and all payments made by the company to the Congolese government should also be made public.
  • Governments everywhere should stop allocating natural resource contracts in fragile ecosystems and the integrity of UNESCO World Heritage sites should be respected and preserved.
  • Congo should cancel all oil blocks that overlap or are adjacent to protected areas and national parks.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Not for Sale: Congo’s Forests Must be Protected from the Fossil Fuels Industry

Lavrov meets Kim in Pyongyang, gifts him ‘box for secrets’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)

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Lavrov meets Kim in Pyongyang, gifts him ‘box for secrets’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already exchanged several firm handshakes with Kim Jong-un during his visit to Pyongyang on Thursday. Photos show the two engaged in pleasant diplomatic protocol.

In one of the photos, Lavrov has a relaxed, good-natured expression, while Kim apparently took a more formal approach to the photo-op. The Russian diplomat has travelled to the North Korean capital to hold talks with senior officials aimed at supporting intra-Korean negotiations and de-escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

Lavrov added a bit of suspense to his meeting with Kim when he presented him with a box, leaving bystanders guessing what’s inside.

“You can lock secret things here,” the top Russian diplomat said with a smile as he gave the North’s leader a key to it.

During the meeting, Lavrov and North Korea’s leader pledged to do their utmost to secure peace talks to ease the Korean knot. Next time, both may hold talks in Moscow, as Lavrov has invited Kim to pay a visit to Russia. “We’ll be happy if you come visit,” Lavrov said, with Kim in turn sending his best wishes to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

МИД России ??

@MID_RF

во время встречи с Председателем Госсовета КНДР Ким Чен Ыном: Заинтересованы в том, чтобы как на Корейском полуострове, так и в целом в Северо-Восточной Азии была обстановка мира, стабильности и процветанияhttp://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3244581 

Russian Foreign Minister also caught up with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho. Lavrov stressed that the ultimate goal of Korean denuclearization cannot be reached as long as sanctions against Pyongyang are in place.

Posted in North Korea, RussiaComments Off on Lavrov meets Kim in Pyongyang, gifts him ‘box for secrets’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)

US Sanctions on Iran: The Unraveling of Pax Americana

NOVANEWS
 

Amid current news headlines about North Korea and related nuclear issues, it is important not to ignore the potential schism that could occur in the G7 world as a consequence of the practical fallout from Donald Trump’s decision on May 8 to exit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

What Will Happen to European Investments in Iran?

One practical issue is what is going to happen to European investments in Iran. The most high profile example is French energy company Total’s investment in a giant Iran gasfield. Total said this month it would pull out of Iran and its development of the giant South Pars gasfield unless it is specifically protected from US penalties and related sanctions (see Financial Times article “Total threat to pull out of Iran dents EU hopes of saving accord”, May 17, 2018).

Obviously, some form of compromise may be negotiated. But if Washington takes a hard line, such as claiming US jurisdiction as regards dollar transfers between two sovereign countries as was the case in 2014 with the US$9 billion fine levied on French bank BNP, then a confrontation is seemingly inevitable and, as a result, a growing questioning of the US hegemony implied by the US dollar paper standard, a concern which has long been shared by both China and Russia.

Questioning the US’ Role as the “Economic Policeman of the Planet”

In this respect, the most interesting reaction to the Iran issue since Donald Trump made his announcement on May 8 was that of the French finance minister Bruno Le Maire when he said on May 9 that it was not acceptable for the US to be the “economic policeman of the planet”.

In this respect, France is the European country to watch since it has a history of being willing to stand up to Washington in the post-1945 world. That cannot really be said of Germany and certainly not of Britain.

Pompeo Warns Iran of Escalating Sanctions

Staying on the subject of Iran, US Secretary of State and former CIA boss Mike Pompeo made an ultra-aggressive speech on Monday threatening Iran with escalating sanctions. In his first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State, Pompeo stated:

Sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming… This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course… These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.

The above rhetoric hardly suggests a willingness to compromise with the European position. The significance of all of the above is that Europe and the US remain on a collision course.

Iran’s Exports Booming Since Sanctions Ended

The importance of Europe for Iran can be seen in the fact that Iran’s exports to Europe have surged almost ninefold since the end of sanctions in January 2016.

Thus, Iran’s exports to the EU have risen from US$1.3 billion in 2015 to US$11.4 billion in the 12 months to January, according to the IMF Direction of Trade Statistics (see following chart).

There is also of course the growing trade between Iran and China. Iran’s total trade with China rose by 18%YoY to US$27.5 billion in the 12 months to January (see following chart). All this makes Iran a good example of the increasingly multipolar world where American influence or interests appear to be fading.

Iran Annualized Exports to EU

Iran annualized exports to EU

Source: IMF – Direction of Trade Statistics

Iran Annualized Total Trade with China

Iran annualized total trade with China

Source: IMF – Direction of Trade Statistics

Iran’s Currency Takes a Hit

Meanwhile, Iran’s currency has been hit hard in recent months as a result of the uncertainty created by Trump’s previous repeated earlier threats to pull out of the nuclear deal and now subsequent follow-through decision.

The rial has depreciated in the black market by 33% against the US dollar year-to-date (see following chart). This followed a period of comparative stability where the currency traded in a 13% range for two years, helped by the optimism created by the nuclear deal as well as by very high real interest rates. Iranian treasury bill yields peaked at 27% in early 2017 and bottomed at 16% late last year. They are now back at 19% as a result of the market pressure created by the threat of renewed American sanctions.

Iranian Rial/US$ (Inverted Scale)

Iranian Rial-USD (inverted scale)

Note: Based on black market rate after Iran unified its dual exchange rates on 9 April. Source: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, Bonbast.com

Substantial Foreign Investment in Iran

With a classic bullish emerging market demographic profile, in terms of a population of 80 million, 60% of whom are under the age of 35, Iran has, naturally, attracted a lot of foreign direct investment in recent years, most particularly following the 2015 nuclear deal.

The biggest of late was the previously mentioned Total’s US$4.8 billion investment signed in July 2017. But Total says it has only invested under €40 million so far, according to the above mentioned FT article, which is precisely why the French company wants to know if it can get a specific waiver from the sanctions.

In terms of the aggregate data, Iran’s actual FDI inflows surged by 64%YoY to US$3.37 biilion in 2016, according to United Nations data. While an Iranian government report published last year disclosed that Iran has approved US$11.8 billion in FDI during the 12 months to December 2016, with Spain and Germany accounting for US$3.2 billion and US$2.9 billion of that total respectively.

Iran FDI Inflows

Iran FDI Inflows

Source: UNCTAD World Investment Report 2017

Will We See a Retreat from Pax Americana?

The point, therefore, remains that a confrontation between the US and the Eurozone on this issue is potentially a landmark development in the retreat from Pax Americana.

But for now it is probably the case that most of Europe, in the spirit of appeasement, will be content to fudge the issue in the hope that Donald Trump may not be re-elected to the US presidency for a second term and life will return to “normal”.

Iran’s Economy

Turning away from geopolitical issues, Iran’s economy and financial markets spring some positive surprises. The country has an open capital account, while there is no tax on capital gains or dividends. The Tehran Stock Exchange celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

But if FDI has been coming into the country in recent years, foreign portfolio investment activity has been much more limited, with estimates of only US$100 million invested in aggregate. This is the consequence in terms of equities of both a lack of inclusion in benchmark MSCI indices and, of course, of sanctions.

No Foreign Banks in Iran

There is still no foreign bank in Iran and therefore a lack of familiar custodians acceptable to international portfolio investors. Indeed, despite the 2015 nuclear deal, it is still not possible to use foreign credit cards to pay for hotel bills or any other transaction.

Foreign credit rating agencies are also absent which may not surprise given the three biggest are owned by the Americans. This is a pity for the Iranian Government given that, with minimal foreign currency debt and total government debt to GDP of only 35% of GDP, it would make a lot of sense to do a landmark sovereign bond issue. Total external debt is now only US$10.8 billion or just 2.5% of GDP, according to the Central Bank of Iran (see following chart).

Iran External Debt as % of GDP

Iran external debt as % of GDP

Source: Central Bank of Iran, IMF

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on US Sanctions on Iran: The Unraveling of Pax Americana

West’s failure to act will be cause of the next Gaza massacre

Massacre in Gaza 2018

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

The contrasting images coming out of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories could not have been starker – or more disturbing.

Faced with protests at the perimeter fence in Gaza, Israeli snipers killed dozens of unarmed Palestinians and wounded more than 2,000 others, including children, women, journalists and paramedics, in a hail of live fire. Amnesty, the international human rights organisation, rightly called it a “horror show”.

Such horror is now so routine that TV anchors could only headline the news as the worst day of bloodshed in Gaza in four years, when Israel massacred civilians in its last major military assault.

Already gasping from the chokehold of Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza, local hospitals are now collapsing from the weight of casualties.

Champaign and slaughter

A few kilometers away, meanwhile, Israelis were partying.

So-called “liberal” Tel Aviv was busy “chicken dancing” with Netta, who had just won the Eurovision Song Contest and gave a free open-air performance to celebrate.

The champagne-quaffing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while Gaza drowned in blood left a profoundly sour taste in the mouth.

And in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was glad-handing a bevy of US officials, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and policy adviser. They were there to beam for the cameras as the US opened its embassy in the occupied city.

The move pre-empts negotiations over the city’s fate and sabotages Palestinian ambitions for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s grin said it all. As he mouthed platitudes about “Middle Eastern peace”, he finally had Washington’s blessing for all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And next year Europe will give its implicit blessing too by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest there.

But amid the euphoria, a few Israeli commentators understood that politics is about more than power – it’s about imagery too. The champagne-quaffing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while Gaza drowned in blood left a profoundly sour taste in the mouth.

Western hypocrisy

There was more than a whiff of hypocrisy too in statements about “defending borders” from a state that has refused to declare its borders since its creation exactly 70 years ago – as well as from a Netanyahu government currently trying to establish a Greater Israel over the Palestinian territories.

But the hypocrisy was not restricted to Israel and Washington, which parroted Netanyahu’s talking points.

There was an ugly equivocation from other Western leaders. They spoke of “regret”, “tragedy” and “concern at the loss of life”, as though an act of God had struck Gaza, not an order from Israeli commanders to quell the Palestinian urge for freedom with live ammunition.

Equally dishonest was talk of the “need for restraint from both sides” and “clashes”, as though the protesters had been tussling with Israeli soldiers in hand-to-hand combat rather than being coldly picked off through telescopic sights.

While thousands of Palestinians have been executed or maimed, how many Israelis have been harmed in the past six weeks of Gaza’s protests? Precisely none.

Israeli politicians and media have desperately searched for a moral justification for these executions. They have talked of “kite terrorism” and a supposed stone-throwing threat to soldiers positioned hundreds of yards away.

While thousands of Palestinians have been executed or maimed, how many Israelis have been harmed in the past six weeks of Gaza’s protests? Precisely none.

This is a strange kind of terror.

Locked up in a death chamber

The reality is that tiny Gaza is becoming rapidly uninhabitable, as the United Nations has repeatedly warned. For more than a decade Israel has blockaded it from land, air and sea, while intermittently pummelling the enclave with missiles and military invasions.

A senior New York Times correspondent tweeted that Gaza’s Palestinians looked as though they had a “death wish”. But two million Palestinians – a population rapidly growing – are inmates in what is effectively a shrinking prison, whose store rooms are almost bare.

Tens of thousands of them have shown they are prepared to risk their lives not for some death cult but to win freedom, the most precious human impulse of all.

And they have preferred confrontational, non-violent resistance as a way to shame Israel and the world into recognising their plight.

And yet instead, Israel has stripped them of all agency by falsely claiming that they are pawns in a game by Hamas to pressure Israel.

But in so far as Hamas is trying to influence Israel, what is its aim?

Last week, a gloating Israeli media reported that Hamas was quietly appealing for a long-term truce with Israel, effectively renouncing the Palestinians’ right to violently resist Israel’s occupation.

It would not be the first time. But whereas once Hamas sought a truce in return for a two-state solution, now it is said to have requested simply an end to the blockade and a chance to rebuild Gaza.

Even this minimal concession is rejected by Israel. Instead an Israeli minister responded to the slaughter in Gaza by proposing that Israel assassinate the Hamas leadership.

Shameless

Israel may be without remorse, but are Western leaders feeling shamed?

Apart from South Africa and Turkey, none has so far withdrawn an ambassador. There are no calls for embargos on sales of arms, no demands for war crimes investigations, no threats of trade sanctions.

And no plans, of course, for the kind of “humanitarian intervention” Western governments have keenly promoted in other parts of the Middle East where civilians are under threat.

For seven decades, the West has pampered Israel at every turn. The lack of any meaningful punishment for violating Palestinian rights led directly to the massacre in Gaza.

And the failure to inflict a price on Israel for this massacre – in fact, the reverse: visible rewards with a relocated US embassy and the chance to host the Eurovision Song Contest – will lead to the next massacre, and the one after.

Handwringing is not enough. It is time for anyone with a conscience to act.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Europe, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on West’s failure to act will be cause of the next Gaza massacre


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