Archive | January 20th, 2020

Pulling Back From War: Trump and the Politics of De-Escalation

by ANTHONY DIMAGGIO

Photograph Source: Anthony Crider – CC BY 2.0

As “the loudest voice” in the room, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo successfully lobbied for President Trump to authorize the illegal assassination strike against Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. This “victory” proved fleeting, however, considering the risks to this administration’s reelection that accompanied all-out war. A full-blown conflict appeared increasingly likely following Iran’s missile strikes on American bases in Iraq’s Anbar province and in Erbil, so it is understandable for Americans to be surprised by Trump’s reversing course, and with the de-escalation he announced in his latest speech to the nation.

American politics has become increasingly carnivalesque in the era of Trump. Making effective predictions is difficult with a leader this volatile. One day, he’s escalating the conflict with Iran by ordering the assassination of a major state leader. The next, he’s pulling back from the precipice of war, showing restraint by avoiding a full-blown conflict. Despite this schizophrenia, I believe there is a coherent explanation for why Trump reversed course with Iran, and it is directly motivated by fear of public fallout in the face of war.

For one, it’s worth pointing out that the Jekyll and Hyde foreign policy approach has become routine with this President. Trump has a long history of playing chicken with foreign leaders, particularly with regard to potential military conflicts. Consider examples that litter his presidency: 1. The threat to “totally destroy North Korea,” followed by rhetorical overtures in the form of a diplomatic PR meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un; 2. Trump’s “escalation-deescalation” against Syria’s Bashar Assad, via the 2017 bombing of the Shayrat air base. The strike was undertaken in the name of stopping Syria from future use of chemical weapons against its own people. But the bombing was largely symbolic, as it was accompanied by Trump providing Russian and Syrian leaders with advance warning, and which wrought minimal damage on the Syrian government’s military capabilities; 3. Trump’s back-and-forth with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he repeatedly insisted, despite seeking to avoid a Turkish invasion of Syria, that Erdogan was free to invade, but that Turkey would be forced to take over anti-ISIS operations following its occupation. These examples, in addition to his latest actions with Iran, reveal a picture of a president who thinks that militarism and aggressive posturing are central to maintaining his “credibility” as a strong-man and a decisive leader, even as he has little interest in pursuing all-out wars with foreign adversaries.

This aversion to all-out war is also apparent with regard to Iran. Trump spoke explicitly in mid-2019 about U.S. military engagement against Iran in terms of avoiding a commitment to American “boots on the ground.” The reluctance to commit ground troops is no sign of principled anti-imperialism, and it is not unique to Trump, but rather has become a structural feature of American politics following Bush’s extremely unpopular war with Iraq. Barack Obama also spoke repeatedly about limiting U.S. military conflicts in the Middle East, about ending conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and promising to avoid “boots on the ground” in Syria. Obama eventually reneged on his promise of no ground forces in Syria, secretly introducing a few thousand troops to commit to the U.S. anti-ISIS campaign from late 2015 onward. Still, Obama’s secret escalation, coupled with the relatively limited military engagement of troops, spoke to a new reality in which mass anti-war sentiment restricts U.S. military engagements abroad, even if it hasn’t ended them.

The reluctance of both Democratic and Republican officials to introduce ground troops in U.S. conflicts overlaps with the public’s opposition to open-ended military campaigns in the Middle East, and with their concern about American military casualties. It’s worth pointing out that one of the first comments Trump made in his “de-escalation” speech with Iran was to note that no American servicemen or women had been killed in Iran’s strikes on U.S. military bases. Clearly, this issue was highly salient for this administration, as it stood at the brink of war. And insider accounts now make it clear that American casualties were a primary concern for members of the Trump administration, as they assessed how to respond to Iran’s missile strikes on U.S. military bases in Irbil and al Asad.

It is probably the case that a prolonged war with Iran would have spelled the end of an already unpopular Trump administration. By going “all-in” on war, any resulting bloodshed and loss of American life would fall squarely at Trump’s feet. The primary obstacle Trump would face in such a campaign is the public itself, which has long been casualty averse. With the U.S. nearly two decades into its “War on Terrorism,” foreign conflicts have cost the country trillions in financial resources, and thousands of lives, not to mention the mass destruction brought upon other nations. And Americans are increasingly unwilling to pay these costs.

It was clear as early as the mid-2000s that Americans were becoming increasingly intolerant of extended wars, in light of steadily rising military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with rising opposition to war. Having studied the period exhaustively, I found that public frustrations with American casualties and with the financial costs of war were significant in encouraging opposition to war. Year after year, I found through analyses of national opinion surveys that there was a (statistically) significant relationship between support for withdrawal from Iraq on the one hand, and feelings that “removing Saddam Hussein from power was not worth the number of U.S. military casualties and the financial cost of war” on the other [1]. Furthermore, I found that opposition to the Iraq war transcended “cost-benefit” calculations, as most Americans believed the war was no longer “morally defensible” by the mid-to-late 2000s. Importantly, perceptions of immorality were the strongest predictor of opposition to war – stronger than competing factors such as partisanship, ideology, or beliefs about the lack of “progress” in the war.

The simplest conclusion to draw from the statistics above is that, short of some traumatizing national event like another September 11th, the American people have little tolerance for war, especially conflicts in which American servicemen and women find themselves in harm’s way. This trend overlaps with public opinion in the era of Trump. The public is heavily split about the legitimacy of war. Gallup polling from mid-2019 found the public was almost evenly split on beliefs regarding whether the war in Afghanistan “made the United States safer or less safe from terrorism,” while a slim majority (51 percent) thought the war in Iraq made the U.S. less safe (39 percent said it made the U.S. safer) [2]. Furthermore, the public was close to evenly split in late-2019 when asked about whether the U.S. had a “responsibility to remain involved” in the war in Syria, with 51 percent believing the U.S. should remain involved, and 43 percent favoring non-involvement [3].

In the case of a full-blown conflict with Iran, it is not clear that Trump would benefit from a “rally-around-the-flag” effect in terms of cultivating greater public support. As past research finds, rally effects are most likely when a president receives bi-partisan support for the initiative in question. But this has not been the case regarding Trump’s strike on Soleimani, which has received sustained criticism from Democratic officials seeking to impose restraints on the ability of Trump to go to war. As with Trump’s pull-back from war, Democratic attempts at restraint are hardly a sign of principled anti-imperialism, since the party has never been shy about going to war. Rather, Democratic reluctance appears to reflect the same calculus that was made by the Trump administration about the low probability of another war gaining mass support.

The public is quite divided on Trump’s assassination order. The most recent Reuters poll conducted from January 6-7, immediately after the drone strike against Soleimani, reveals that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s “handling” of Iran, an increase of 9 percentage points from December 2019, with 39 percent of Americans “strongly disapproving” – a growth of 10 percent from the month prior.

Reuter’s results suggest a deep division among Americans on Trump’s actions. As of this month, nearly all Democratic Americans (almost 9 in 10) disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, while a large majority of Republicans (8 in 10) approve of Trump. Self-described “independents” are split, with 48 percent disapproving and 36 percent approving of the president on Iran. Support among these independents, however, was likely to drop even further over time the longer a conflict with Iran continued, particularly if the U.S. suffered sustained military casualties.

Even without the use of ground troops in a war with Iran, attacks against U.S. servicemen and women throughout the Middle East were likely. These casualties would have resulted in a significant drop in public support the longer a conflict continued. The most recent polling aggregation from this month shows Trump with a 45 percent approval rating. An extended war, if continuing throughout 2020, would likely have produced a significant drop in Trump’s support.

Americans often fall victim to wartime propaganda and deceit, in a nation where roughly half the population pays no attention to politics or votes. But 2020 is not 2001, and short of another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Trump is not going to transform into a popular “war president,” akin to what George W. Bush became after the September 11 attacks. Even if Trump’s job approval saw a bump following the onset of war, that support was unlikely to persist in the event of an extended conflict.

Trump’s decision to pull back from the brink of war should not be interpreted as some sort of philosophical commitment to a principled anti-war politics. The assassination of Soleimani would most certainly have ended in war if Iran’s counter-strike had produced American casualties. Rather, the pull-back from war should be understood within a broader political context that recognizes the power of bottom-up pressures placed on modern presidents by a casualty-averse nation.

Notes

[1] The relationship between feelings that the Iraq war was not worth it due to rising financial and military costs is consistently statistically significant across numerous polls from the mid to late 2000s, after controlling for various factors, including partisanship, ideology, gender, race, age, income, and education. This analysis is based on an examination of polling data from the iPoll database, drawn from Wall Street Journal/NBC polling during those years.

[2] These findings are revealed via Gallup’s August 2019 polling, covering public perceptions of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

[3] CNN’s October 2019 poll surveyed Americans on their beliefs regarding whether the U.S. should remain in Syria following Trump’s claims that he would be withdrawing from the country in light of ISIS’s “defeat.”

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Roaming Charges: All the Pretty Missiles Are Going to Hell

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

LA River beneath Highway 101. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ We have reached that critical moment in world affairs where when the White House hotline rings at 3:30 in the morning, two-thirds of the planet’s population hopes that Barron picks up….

+ I feel fortunate to live in a country that takes freedom of speech so seriously that even the criminally insane have their own TV network: “This president will unleash holy hell on that regime…There will be retaliation and it will be disproportionate,” thundered Sebastian Gorka. “We are not a superpower anymore. We are a hyperpower.”

+ To this point at least, Iran appears to have acted with restraint. It didn’t target Pompeo Maximus or Mike Pence, which might have been considered a “proportionate” response to the assassination of Suleimani. It didn’t strike the diplomatic base at the US embassy. Instead, the regime launched a brace of missiles at military targets, two airbases in Iraq, inflicting, apparently, minimal casualties. Iran is in for the long game. They want the US out of Iraq. And that prospect is getting more and more likely every day.

+ The only way to deal with a bully is to confront him head on, which Iran did immediately and forthrightly, and Trump, like the nervous little man he is, backed down. Now the Iraqis need to treat Trump just as resolutely in their demands that the US leave Iraq once and for all.

+ Trump’s statement the morning after Iran fired a dozen warning shots at two military bases in Iraq was one of his weirdest yet. He entered the room out of a halo of light that must have been staged to excite his evangelic disciples who have anointed him as God’s representative on earth. A cadre of generals stood rigid as pallbearers behind him. He wheezed and sniffed through his text, stumbling over “Suleimani,” “Quds” and repeatedly butchering the word “accomplishment.”

+ As the great Buck Henry, who died at about the same time Trump delivered his speech, once said: “We need a president who is fluent in at least one language.” (Sadly, even the high IQ presidents–Obama, JFK, Clinton–have proved just as ruthless, and a good deal more cunning, than the imbecilic Bush and Trump.) Still it’s bracing to contemplate the possibility that Trump’s drugged-out, incoherent babble this morning may have knocked off Buck Henry, the screenwriter of Catch-22, in an absurd kind of collateral damage that both Henry and Joseph Heller might have appreciated.

+ It’s difficult to enter Trump’s mind under the best of circumstances, but the task is almost impossible when he is reading, perhaps for the first time, words written for him by someone else.

+ The speech felt like a Jared Kushner/Tucker Carlson production to me. There was no Bannon-like talk of carnage and body parts. Instead, Trump began by saying, oddly: “Americans should be happy!”

+ Suddenly, Trump the Unilateralist was NATO Man, making pronouncements like this:  “Today I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.”

+ Still Trump seemed drugged. Many suggested he’d been stuffing his mouth with Sudafed. Others claimed he was wired on Adderall. Isn’t Adderall meant to increase the powers of concentration? Does this mean the wheezing, huffing, sniffing display we got treated to today is Maximum Trump?

+ A few sentences into the speech and the president was already laboring for air, out of breath simply from the mental exertion of reading the teleprompter. If the staffers had set the speed any faster, Pence might have called on to assume command…

+ President Huff-n-Puff: “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, while I’m president.” You just made it a certainty, buddy.

+ Trump praised the “advance warning system” for preventing US casualties. What was the warning system? A notification to the Iraqi Prime Minister from Iran that bombing the Al-Asad and Irbil bases would occur after two hours…The fact the Iranian missiles weren’t knocked down with the advance warning doesn’t say much for US missile defense systems.

+ It’s pretty easy to see why Trump backed down. Middle East wars just don’t sell like they used to.

Trump’s handling of Iran:

Approve 37%
Disapprove 54%

@Reuters/@Ipsos 1/6-7

+ Of course, it’s striking that Trump didn’t have anyone on his speed dial tell him that if he wanted to sell a war, his first call should have been to Hill & Knowlton.

+ Now, if Trump wants to shift those polls numbers, he might have to hire Ari Fleischer, Margaret Tutwiler and Paul Bremer…

+ Maybe Madeliene Albright will come out of retirement to help Trump tighten the screws on Iraqi kids and cancer patients again…

+ If Bolton shows up at the White House banging on the door saying all is forgiven, don’t let him back in…

+ The “adults in the room” were precisely the ones who presented Trump with the extreme option of striking Suleimani, supposedly with the idea of making the other targets appear more reasonable…

+ Republican senator Mike Lee blasted the Trump administrations post-Iran briefing, saying they were told they could not dissent from Trump, couldn’t debate it, and if Trump needed justification to go to war “I’m sure we could think of something.” MIKE The Soleimani briefing “worst I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in 9 years I’ve served in the Senate,” Lee said, adding: “What I found so distressing is one of the messages was do not discuss, do not debate appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran.”

+ Even Ilhan Omar was lamenting Tuesday tonight the danger to US troops in Iraq, instead of the Iraqi conscripts who were killed in the missile strikes. But to put that “threat” in perspective, here’s a stat from a Jon Krakauer story on Mt Everest, in his new collection Classic Krakauer. The death rate for sherpas ferrying millionaires up and down the peak is 12 TIMES higher than for US troops at height of Iraq war–2003 to 2007. The old rule from Vietnam, I believe, was that US troops killed 100 Vietnamese for every American combat death. In Iraq, it was probably more like 500 to 1.

Morning Consult asked voters to identify Iran on an unlabeled map. Only 28% got it right, but 47% support airstrikes regardless of where Iran is. Stephen Miller, of course, pointed to Mexico…

+ Trump’s let’s seize their oil and destroy their cultural legacy (one of the richest in the world) is ISIS with predator drones and cruise missiles. Was the tomb of Cyrus the Great (see below) on the target list?

+ Caution: Constitutional Scholar at Work…

+ Moments after Suleimani’s death was confirmed (by a ring taken from his macerated corpse, allegedly), Trump tweeted this:

+ How many coffins will it decorate?

+ The “imminent attack” justification is falling apart almost as soon as it was deployed: US officials told NBCNews that Soleimani was killed for plotting to strike US targets in Syria and Lebanon, but Congressional aide briefed on the intel said lawmakers saw nothing explicitly linking him to imminent attack and the planning and coordination did not originate with ordinary for Quds Force.

+ Pompeo: “There were a series of imminent attacks. We don’t know when, we don’t know where.” (Gotcha.)

+ In killing Suleimani, the US assassinated a high ranking official of the Iranian government, who was traveling through Iraq on a diplomatic visa, even though the US is not at war with Iran, without authorization from the Iraqi government or US congress, based on evidence no one has seen or is likely to see. Bush was more transparent.

+ Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Mike Pence’s specious attempt to link Suleimani with 9/11: “One thing I’ve learned in my lifetime is to not believe our government when it comes to matters of war. Johnson and Nixon lied about Viet Nam. Bush and Cheney lied about WMD’s in Iraq. Now Pence is lying about Iran/Soleimani’s supposed involvement in 9/11.”

+ Trump: “We have no issue with the Iranian people.” Then why is ICE rudely interrogating Iranian-Americans at the border?

+ The more brazen the war crime, the louder the US proclaims its innocence.

+ Pompeo after the assassination of Suleimani: “We have every expectation that people in Iran will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”

Dick Cheney, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq: “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

+ Michael Bloomberg castigated Sanders for accurately calling the droning of Suleimani “an assassination.” “That’s an outrageous thing to say.” On the proper way to speak about his death, Bloomberg said: “I don’t know, get a dictionary and take your pick.”

+ Warren feeds the flames…

+ Contrast this toxic drivel with Ralph Nader: “As expected, Bloody Donald opens his 2020 re-election campaign with a ‘wag the dog’ act of war against encircled Iran. All without Congressional authority going back to Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

+ Unlike Trump, American liberals don’t want to rashly commit mass murder and cultural genocide. They want a plan for doing so. One that “works.” “Biden called on President Trump to share his plan to keep American troops, embassy personnel, and interests in the region safe, adding that “Iran will surely respond.”

+ The “civil Nikki Haley” was a useful media creation when they wanted an internal foil against Trump. Any reading of her statements as UN Ambassador revealed her to be a bloodthirsty hawk, just as rapacious as Jeane Kirkpatrick or Samantha Power…

+ It could get worse and probably will…Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump are two of the top four choices for Republicans in 2024, along with Pence and Nikki Haley.

+ This pretty much confirms the Wag the Dog Theory, doesn’t it? House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested on Tuesday that Trump wouldn’t have ordered a drone strike on a Suleimani if House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had not pursued impeachment. Isn’t that itself an impeachable offense?

+ Trump on Nov. 16, 2011:

“Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He’s weak and he’s ineffective. So the only way he figures that he’s going to get reelected — and as sure as you’re sitting there — is to start a war with Iran.”

+ When Trump says he’s ending Middle East Wars you can take his word to the (blood) bank

+ Trump raged that “Iran will pay” for the protests outside the US embassy in Iraq. But, of course, Iran has already “pre-paid” with the airstrikes Trump launched in the previous days…and all the shit before that.

+ Here’s Pompeo Maximus once again invoking Cyrus the Great (601 BCE – 530 BCE), who the Evangeli-Cons have adopted as a strange precursor for Trump from Classical Antiquity. (Over to you, Herodotus…)

+ Surprisingly, not only are the evangelical Trumpians (who want to replace the clerics with a Shah-like monarch so devoted to Israel that he will ignite the historical fuse that sucks us all toward that final glorious conflagration at Megiddo) fixated Cyrus, but so apparently was their historical nemesis Thomas Jefferson, the agnostic slave mastah, who owned a densely-annotated copy of Xenophon’s Cyropodea–in dual Latin and Greek translations, thank you very much. Jefferson’s obsessive reading of the ancient text is alleged to have deeply influenced (sorry Mr. Locke) the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. But the influence almost certainly derived more from Xenophon than Cyrus and what Xenophon, whose Anabasis is one of the greatest adventure stories in western literature, knew about government he mostly learned at the feet of his master….Socrates, himself no small-d “democrat” (See: IF Stone’s The Trial of Socrates).

+ I prefer the Omen kid…

+ In 2013, Sheldon Adelson urged Obama to nuke the Iranian desert and then threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on Tehran, if Iran didn’t submit to American demands. There’s every reason to think he still believes it, and the casino magnate does have at least as much influence on Trump as his other top NatSec advisor, Sean Hannity…

+ Trump reportedly held out for 15 minutes before deciding to assassinate Suleimani, which is a whole 12 minutes longer than he lasted with Stormy Daniels.

+ It’s why they play the game…Increased tensions with Iran are boosting US defense stocks.

+ Bingo!

+ Donald Rumsfeld, November 2002: “I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”

+ Calling Lisa Murkowski a “moderate” Republican is like calling Ted Bundy a serial killer with empathy for his victims.

+ Sarah Sanders, now a FoxNews talking head, on war powers: “I can’t think of anything dumber than allowing Congress to take over our foreign policy … The last thing we want to do is push powers into Congress’ hands and take them away from the president.” (How could James Madison have gotten it so wrong!)

+ Meanwhile, the CIA’s election fixers have arrived in post-coup Bolivia…

+ Sound familiar? Here’s Tacitus’ account of the first great Scot, Calgacus, speaking to his troops on the eve of his battle with the Roman general Julius Agricola at Mons Graupius in northern Scotland in 83 AD: “Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”

These days land is at too much of a premium for the imperial powers to annihilate you and leave behind only  “solitude” (often translated as “desert” or “wasteland”). Instead, as Pompeo Maximus said of the Israeli “settlements” in Palestinian territory, they steal your land and call it peace.

+ So many blatant acts of malfeasance to go after HRC over and the Trumpians breathlessly pursued manufactured conspiracies, many concocted by John Solomon and Peter Schweitzer, that fizzle out in their own investigations instead. Of course, the Republicans are complicit in HRC’s true crimes: meddling in Ukraine, the Honduran coup, the globalization of fracking and the overthrow of Qaddafi.

+ After Harris & Castro dropped out & the media spent more than a month pumping liquid oxygen into her campaign, Klobocop is still 14 points behind Sanders in the only state she has a chance of winning before her own. Yet she goes on, scolding every progressive impulse of her rivals.

The latest Iowa poll results from the Des Moines Register…

Sanders 20 (+5)
Warren 17 (+1)
Buttigieg 16 (-9)
Biden 15 (-)
Klobuchar 6 (-)
Yang 5 (+2)
Booker 3 (-)
Steyer 2 (-1)
Gabbard 2 (-1)

+ A general strike was declared in India on Weds., the Bharat Bandh, where 250 MILLION people walked off their jobs in protest of the government’s “anti-people” policies. Wake up, America. It doesn’t have to be like this. The election isn’t going to save us, even if Bernie wins. We have to take our fate into our own hands. And we can. Look around…

+ The incredible, shrinking Liz Warren. First she looted her own health plan, then she called Suleimani a “leading terrorist,” and now she’s announced her support for Trump’s NAFTA v. 2.0.

+ Joe Biden, the senior citizen’s friend, in 1995: “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare & Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits….And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a 3rd time & I tried it a 4th time.”

+ The world’s 500 wealthiest people gained $1.2 trillion this year, boosting their collective net worth 25% to $5.9 trillion.

+ Michael Bloomberg’s net worth:

1996: $1.0 billion
2019: $56.1 billion

+ The percentage of income America’s 10 richest billionaires donated to charities in 2018:

Ellison: 0%
Page: 0%
Brin: 0%
Bezos: 0.1%
D. Koch: 0.1%
C. Koch: 0.5%
Zuckerberg: 0.7%
Bloomberg: 1.5%
Gates: 2.6%
Buffet: 3.9%
(Source: Public Citizen)

+ San Francisco’s black population has evaporated over the thirty years, down to only 5% of the city’s total poulation, but blacks still remain a ripe target for police. 26% of all stops carried out by the San Francisco PD last year were of black people, the largest racial disparity of any city in California.

+ Michael Bloomberg, asked about his prior support for how New York City cops and prosecutors handled the Central Park Five case, regurgitated with this disgusting nonsense, which puts him on a moral level with Trump: “There was an awful lot of evidence presented at that time that they were involved. There’s been questions since then about the quality of that evidence.”

+ Professional xenophobe & political bigot Ken Cuccinelli, who CNN employed as a “political commentator,” tweeted that a U.S. citizen accused of stabbing five Jewish people with a machete probably did it because his dad came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and received legal status more than 30 years ago.

+ Just a taste of what we’ve missed as a culture not to have had Richard Pryor around to help us make sense of the last 20 years…

+ Ain’t that America, for you and me…”At least two people were shot and killed today at the Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, while the service was live streamed on YouTube. Witnesses say armed security guards were present.”

+Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno on the #MeToo movement “I feel that women may rue the day that all of this started when no one asks them out on a date, and no one holds the door open for them, and no one tells them that they look nice.”

+ Too bad Charles Bukowski and Scott Fitzgerald didn’t live to see this…While the number of Americans dying from cancer is down, the number of Americans drinking themselves to death has more than doubled.

+ Younger Americans are much more likely than their parents or grandparents to admit there are better countries than the United States. Keep those places a secret, kids, lest we bomb them.

+ I spent two days this week driving the 1000 miles from Portland to Los Angeles. It poured for the first 300 miles down I-5 to Ashland, then, as so often, the clouds dissipated and the rain stopped over the Applegate Valley. The much feared Siskiyou Summit (highest on the I-5 corridor) was dry and soon Shasta emerged in her twin-summited glory…

Mt Shasta. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ I love Mt. Hood, because I know almost every inch of it, but like Rainier, Shasta is a giant among mountains, rising almost fully-grown off the basalt plains. It has magnetism, so strong it creates its own weather.

+ When I think of the words that make up our polyglot language here in the Northwest, Shasta is surely the most beautiful. Maybe one of the most beautiful words in any language. The secessionists of southern Oregon and northern California would be much better advised to name their dream state Shasta rather than Jefferson…

+ I hit Red Bluff around 8 PM, after a good 10 hours on the road.  I checked in at the normally reliable and cheap Super 8 south of town. When I tried to log on to the motel’s WIFI, these were the choices offered me. Who knew Red Bluff was an outpost of sedition?

+ On Monday morning, I zigzagged from Red Bluff up to Paradise, a minor detour on my way to LA. Most of the burnt structures have been fully dismantled and many homes and businesses are being rebuilt, right in the fire zone. Much of the town and surrounding neighborhoods are fenced off. Only the ruins of a carwash and stacks of burnt cars remain, relicts of the once and future Apocalypse….

Gates of Paradise. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Insurance Claim Problems, Paradise. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Paradise Car Wash, ruins. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Car Crypt of Paradise. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Car Crypt of Paradise, 2. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Car Crypt of Paradise, 3. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ The state of Louisiana still hasn’t completed investigations into 540 oil spills after Hurricane Katrina. The state is likely leaving millions of dollars in remediation fines on the table, money that environmental groups say is sorely needed as storms get stronger.

+ The federal Superfund program now has the biggest backlog of unfunded toxic clean-up projects in at least 15 years. Projects in 34 sites in 17 states and Puerto Rico languished for lack of money in 2019.

+ The WSJ warns that Australia’s fires may “upend the way people live.” Let’s hope so. But the evidence from the fire-ravaged towns of the American West, which are rebuilt again and again, doesn’t give one much hope…

+ Where will Australians flee in a few years, when the beaches are under water?

+ With satellite imagery documenting the rapid retreat of glaciers around the world, we may have to stop referring to “slow movements” as a “glacial pace”…

+ Thank Obama, Biden & HRC for the fracking boom that drove a fatal nail into the coffin of the planet…”In 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that in 2019, the U.S. would be producing about six million barrels of oil a day. The reality? We’re now producing 12 million barrels of oil a day.”

+ The enduring Obama Legacy: frackingdeportations and drones (more drone strikes in first year in office, than Bush authorized in his entire presidency)…if only Trump had the guts to undo any of these.

+ A new policy “clarification” from the Trump administration pretty ends any effective punishment for the  illegal killing of wild and migratory birds. These people are forcing the OED to redefine both “pro” and “life”…

+ This must come as a relief to Kanye has he attempts to construct his “mediation bunker” in habitat for the critically endangered sage grouse….

+ At least 10 indigenous people were murdered this year in the Brazilian Amazon; seven were leaders, the highest number in two decades.

+ December 21 was the darkest day ever recorded in the history of Seattle.

Darkness, darkness, hide my yearning
for the rent we can’t afford to pay.
Keep my mind from thoughts of burning
Amazon’s headquarters along my way…

+ On a brighter note, a pack of wolves has been sighted in Colorado for the first time in 70. Keep your heads down, pals…

+ Martin Scorsese on his day-to-day routine, “I go out, they put me in a car, they take me somewhere, they take me out, put me back on a table, take me in. I go in a room, somebody talks to me, I say, ‘Yes.’ Then I come home and try to get in this door without the dogs going crazy.”

+ I was shocked to learn of the death of Neal Peart. I think I saw Rush’s first gig in Indianapolis, which, aside from a 20 minute version of Working Man, wasn’t great, frankly, and I’m not entirely sure that Neil was the drummer in that concert. Then a couple of years later I made a film on Super 8 film with a couple of friends of the 2112 LP, financed by my Grandmother, which was pretty good. Peart was a workhorse and stopped playing live when he couldn’t play has furiously has he had in his youth…

+ Inevitably, Peart’s death sparked an online debate over who’s the greatest drummer: Neil Peart, John Bonham or Keith Moon? How about none of the above and we begin the discussion debating the merits of Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Bernard Purdy, Sly Dunbar, Steve Gadd, Ziggy Modeliste, Al Jackson, Jr., Benny Benjamin and Ringo Starr?

+ Ringo and Charlie Watts basically defined the rhythm sound for modern rock, until Mitch Mitchell came along to show drummers, like Bonham and Peart, how they could play beneath a guitar that screamed as loud as a fighter jet…

+ The smaller the kit, the more accomplished the drummer.

+ For me, the real test for a “rock” drummer is not a 12-minute solo, like Moby-Dick, but how much you could drive the sound in a 3 minute song and no one has done that as well as Al Jackson, Ringo, Watts, Benny Benjamin, DJ Fontana, Steve Gadd, Sly Dunbar and Bernard Purdie…

+ Nick Schou: “Neil Peart was the greatest drummer who also wrote Ayn Rand lyrics.”

+ Soviet propaganda slogan: “Today you play jazz, tomorrow you betray the motherland.”  (Drug warrior Harry Anslinger’s US equivalent was: if you play–or even listen to– jazz, you’ll smoke dope and rape a white woman.)

+ Marx to Engels, 1861: ‘In the meantime, may I wish you in advance every happiness for the new year. If it’s anything like the old one, I for my part, would sooner consign it to the devil’. (H/T Vijay Prashad.)

+ Here’s a New Year’s resolution from Steven Salaita that I’ll try to keep myself and impose as an editorial diktat on CounterPunch writers: “In the new decade, resolve to avoid the phrase ‘Palestinian rights,’ a favorite of pundits and intellectuals auditioning for corporate media. Try ‘Palestinian liberation,’ instead.”

+ Trump Koan of the Week:  “I never understood wind, I know windmills very much, I’ve studied them more than anybody…tremendous fumes, gases are spewing into the atmosphere, you know we have a world, the world is tiny compared to the universe.”

You’re Still Breathing, But You Don’t Know Why

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Sketches of the Criminal World
Varlan Shalamov
Trans. Donald Rayfield
(NYRB)

Canyon Dreams: a Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation
Michael Powell
(Blue Rider Press)

Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick: Stories From the Harlem Renaissance
Zora Neale Hurston
(Amistad)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Saturnian Queen of the Sun Ra Arkestra
June Tyson
(Modern Harmonic)

Ism
Junius Paul
(Internatinonal Anthem)

Up and Rolling
North Mississippi All-Stars
(New West)

The World’s Oldest Nation

“Many countries in the Middle East are artificial creations. European colonialists drew their national borders in the nineteenth or twentieth century, often with little regard for local history and tradition, and their leaders have had to concoct outlandish myths in order to give citizens a sense of nationhood. Just the opposite is true of Iran. This is one of the world’s oldest nations, heir to a tradition that reaches back thousands of years, to periods when great conquerors extended their rule across continents, poets and artists created works of exquisite beauty, and one of the world’s most extraordinary religious traditions took root and flowered.” (Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men)

Posted in MULTIMEDIA, MediaComments Off on Roaming Charges: All the Pretty Missiles Are Going to Hell

Mega Droughts Engulf Countries

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

Photograph Source: Mark Heard from Calgary, Alberta, Canada – CC BY 2.0

Throughout the world, mega droughts are hitting hard with a ferocity not seen in decades and in some cases not seen in centuries. It’s not merely coincidental that as global warming accelerates droughts turn more vicious than ever before. All of which begs the logical question of when will world leaders wake up with a unified plan of action to mitigate carbon emissions, or is it already too late?

Nobody knows for sure if and when it is too late, but the evidence is crystal clear that extraordinarily powerful droughts are decimating regions of the planet like there’s no tomorrow.

An Australian research paper addressed the issue: Multi-century Cool-and Warm-Season rainfall Reconstructions for Australia’s Major Climatic Regions, European Geosciences Union, Vol. 13, Issue 12, Nov. 30, 2017 by Mandy Freund and Benjamin Henley. According to The University of Melbourne headline about the article: “Recent Australian Droughts may be the Worst in 800 Years.”

That study, which identified the “worst droughts in 800 years,” was published two years prior to the recent drought period accompanied by massive fires across the entire continent… these are unprecedented conditions… never before recorded or seen! Thus sending a strong signal that the world’s normalized climate system is broken, caving-in to a new era of “torrid breakaway climate extremes.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology: “The data is in and 2019 has topped the charts for average and maximum temperatures as well as the lowest annual rainfall across the country.”

According to the report, Australia’s annual mean temperature was 1.52°C above the 1961-90 average of 21.8°C. Results: A dried-out continent ignited into torrid breakaway fires. Curiously enough, 1.5°C above pre-industrial is the guardrail danger zone reported at the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meetings.

Meanwhile, severe droughts are hitting throughout the world, e.g., according to NBC News: “Ravaged by drought, farmers in rural Honduras and Guatemala live on the edge of hunger… Central America’s Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate.”

Based upon activity at the U.S. border, Central Americans have selected the migration option, giving up hope, heading north. As the Trump administration rejects the legitimacy of climate change/global warming, forces of climate change drive eco migrants to the States.

According to the UN World Food Program, as for Central America: “Five years of recurring droughts have destroyed maize and bean harvests, leaving poor subsistence farmers in the so-called Dry Corridor that runs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua struggling to feed their families.”

Farther south, central Chile is in the midst of what scientists have labeled a “Mega Drought,” an uninterrupted period of dry years since 2010. Half of the country has been designated “Emergency Status.” Farmers are going out of business.

According to Felipe Machado, director of Chile’s Resilience Institute: “We are talking about a process of desertification rather than a temporary drought or absence of rain problem.” (Source: Chile Declares Agricultural Emergency as Extreme Drought Hits Santiago and Outskirts, Santiago Times, August 26, 2019)

As it happens, the classification of “desertification” is an advanced stage of radical climate change and convincing evidence that global warming is beyond the scope of all expectations by world leaders. Otherwise, they’d already have in place a Marshall Plan generic to combat global warming, but they do not.

Furthermore, in South America’s Brazil, “The SPI-12 time series showed that from 2011 to 2019, excluding the south region, the other Brazilian regions have been exposed to the most severe and intense drought events in almost the last 60 years.” (Source: Ana Paula M.S. Cunha, et al, Extreme Drought Events Over Brazil from 2011 to 2019, Atmosphere, October 24, 2019)

Regrettably, the Amazon rainforest is also a victim to Brazil’s worst drought in 60 years, which in and of itself should be alarming enough for the major leaders of the world to call an emergency UN session, but no, that carillon call is dead silent. Hmm. Is it possible that all the leaders of the world are so unenlightened as to ignore the Amazon rainforest’s transition from “carbon sink” to “carbon emitter,” same as their coal-powered plants but without as much soot?

And, along the way, according to NASA, the Middle East’s drought cycle from 1998-2012 was the most severe in 900 years. According to Ben Cook of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the drought has continued “in parts of the Middle East.” Meanwhile, the entire Middle East and southern Mediterranean regions are drying out faster than anywhere else in the world, which is one more source of eco migrants searching for sustenance.

Furthermore, according to The New Humanitarian (June 2019), a severe drought in Africa “leaves 45 million in need across 14 countries, feeling the compound effects of years of drought.”

A CNN World report dated Dec. 14, 2019 says the once mighty Victoria Falls, where water thundered over the precipice on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is nearly dry. A multi-year drought has slowed the enormously powerful waterfalls to little more than a weak stream. That is astonishingly disheartening and representative of massive droughts hitting regions of Africa hard, very hard; one of the world’s great waterfalls turned parched says it all.

Throughout much of Asia drought is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This year alone, according to data from the Manila-based Asia Development Bank, drought has been severe in Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, while Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar have all seen moderate drought. (China Daily News, August 12, 2019)

The Mekong River, known in China as the Lancang (aka: the Danube of the East) which cuts through five countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, turning into the Mekong River 2,703 miles long, has seen water levels drop dramatically. In northeastern Thailand, the river is at its lowest level in 100 years. According to Chinese scientists the glacial headwaters that feed the Lancang River are down 80% because of global warming.

Remarkably, the impact of global warming is just now starting to strut its stuff so visibly and so perceptibly that average people are recognizing its threat.

Whereas, in the past global warming was apparent to scientists over a period of decades. Today, it’s unmistakably apparent year-by-year, as entire countries and populations experience its relentlessness and utter devastation.

Postscript: Global governments plan to increase fossil fuels by 120% by 2030, including the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, and Australia.

Posted in EnvironmentComments Off on Mega Droughts Engulf Countries

Capitalism and the Gut-Wrenching Hijack of India

by COLIN TODHUNTER

Photograph Source: Augustus Binu – CC BY-SA 3.0

In India, the ‘development’ paradigm is premised on moving farmers out of agriculture and into the cities to work in construction, manufacturing or the service sector, despite these sectors not creating anything like the number of jobs required. The aim is to displace the existing labour-intensive system of food and agriculture with one dominated by a few transnational corporate agri-food giants which will then control the sector. Agriculture is to be wholly commercialised with large-scale, mechanised (monocrop) enterprises replacing family-run farms that help sustain hundreds of millions of rural livelihoods while feeding the urban masses.

Renowned journalist P Sainath encapsulates what is taking place when he says that the agrarian crisis can be explained in just five words: hijack of agriculture by corporations. He notes the process by which it is being done in five words too: predatory commercialisation of the countryside. And he takes five works to describe the outcome: biggest displacement in our history.

Why would anyone sanction this and set out to run down what is effectively a productive system of agriculture that feeds people, sustains livelihoods and produces sufficient buffer stocks?

Part of the answer comes down to India being the largest recipient of World Bank loans in the history of that institution and acting on its directives. Part of it results from the corporate-driven US-Indo Knowledge Agreement on Agriculture. On both counts, it means India’s rulers are facilitating the needs of Western capital and all it entails: an inherently predatory economic model based on endless profit growth, crises of overproduction and overaccumulation and market saturation and a need to constantly seek out, create and expand into new, untapped (foreign) markets to maintain profitability.

And as a market for proprietary seeds, chemical inputs and agricultural technology and machinery, India is vast. The potential market for herbicide growth alone for instance is huge: sales could reach USD 800 million by 2019 with scope for even greater expansion. And with restrictions on GMOs in place in Europe and elsewhere, India is again regarded as a massive potential market. And it’s the same for Western food processers and retailers too; the entire sector will be captured from seed to plate.

Saving capitalism

Or course, this trend predates the current administration, but it is as if Modi was especially groomed to accelerate the role of foreign capital in India. Describing itself as a major global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy company, APCO Worldwide is a lobby agency with firm links to the Wall Street/corporate US establishment and facilitates its global agenda. Modi turned to APCO to help transform his image and turn him into electable pro-corporate PM material. It also helped him get the message out that what he achieved in Gujarat as Chief Minister was a miracle of economic neoliberalism, although the actual reality is quite different.

A few years ago, APCO stated that India’s resilience in weathering the global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that the country can play a significant role in the recovery of global capitalism.

Decoded, this means capital moving into regions and nations and displacing indigenous systems of production and consumption. Where agriculture is concerned, this hides behind emotive and seemingly altruistic rhetoric about ‘helping farmers’ and the need to ‘feed a burgeoning population’ (regardless of the fact this is exactly what India’s farmers have been doing).

Modi has been on board with this aim and has proudly stated that India is now one of the most ‘business friendly’ countries in the world. What he really means is that India is in compliance with World Bank directives on ‘ease of doing business’ and ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ by facilitating further privatisation of public enterprises, environment-destroying policies and forcing working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on ‘free’ market fundamentalism.

APCO has described India as a trillion-dollar market. It talks about positioning international funds and facilitating corporations’ ability to exploit markets, sell products and secure profit. None of this is a recipe for national sovereignty, let alone food security. For instance, renowned agronomist MS Swaminathan has stated: “Independent foreign policy is only possible with food security. Therefore, food has more than just eating implications. It protects national sovereignty, national rights and national prestige.”

Despite such warnings, India’s agrarian base is being uprooted. When agri-food corporations say they need to expand the use of GMOs or other technologies or invest in India under the guise of feeding the world or ‘modernising’ the sector, they’re really talking about capturing the market that’s still controlled by peasant agriculture or small-scale enterprises. To get those markets they first need to displace the peasantry and local independent producers.

Politicians are clever at using poor management, bad administration and overblown or inept enterprises as an excuse for privatisation and deregulation. Margaret Thatcher was an expert at this: if something does not work correctly because of bad management, privatise it; underinvest in something, make it seem like a basket case and sell it; pump up a sector with public funds to turn it into a profitable, efficient enterprise then sell it off to the private sector. The tactics take many forms.

And Indian agriculture has witnessed gross underinvestment over the years, whereby it is now wrongly depicted as a basket case and underperforming and ripe for a sell off to those very interests who had a stake in its underinvestment.

Historian Michael Perelman has detailed the processes that whipped the English peasantry into a workforce ‘willing’ to accept factory wage labour. Peasants were forced to leave their land and go to work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of industrial capitalists. Perelman describes the policies through which peasants were forced out of agriculture, not least by the barring of access to common land. A largely self-reliant population was starved of its productive means.

Today, we hear seemingly benign terms like ‘foreign direct investment’ and making India ‘business friendly’, but behind the rhetoric lies the hard-nosed approach of modern-day capitalism that is no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was for English peasants. The intention is for India’s displaced cultivators to be retrained to work as cheap labour in the West’s offshored plants. India is to be a fully incorporated subsidiary of global capitalism, with its agri-food sector restructured for the needs of global supply chains and a reserve army of labour that effectively serves to beat workers and unions in the West into submission.

India’s spurt of high GDP growth was partly fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers: the gap between farmers’ income and the rest of the population has widened enormously. While underperforming corporations receive massive handouts and have loans written off, the lack of a secure income, exposure to international market prices and cheap imports contribute to farmers’ misery of not being able to cover the costs of production.

As independent cultivators are bankrupted, the aim is that land will eventually be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation. Those who remain in farming will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

The long-term plan is for an urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Wal-Mart-type supermarkets that offer highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food contaminated with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security. This would be disastrous for farmers, public health and local livelihoods.

The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development report recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. The recent UN High Level Panel of Experts report concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture. Both reports note the vital importance of smallholder farming.

India needs to adopt a rural-centric approach to development and resist being incorporated further into the globalised food regime dominated by Western agri-food conglomerates. It must move away from a narrowly defined notion of food security and embrace the concept of food sovereignty. This notion of food security has been designed and enacted by Western corporations that have promoted large-scale, industrialised corporate farming based on specialised production, land concentration and trade liberalisation. This has led to the widespread dispossession of small producers and global ecological degradation.

What we have witnessed is an international system of chemical-dependent, agro-export mono-cropping and big infrastructure projects linked to loans, sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF directives, the outcomes of which have included a displacement of the peasantry, the consolidation of global agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries into food deficit regions.

Across the world, we have seen a change in farming practices towards mechanised industrial-scale chemical-intensive monocropping and the undermining or eradication of rural economies, traditions and cultures. We see the ‘structural adjustment’ of regional agriculture, spiralling input costs for farmers who have become dependent on proprietary seeds and technologies and the destruction of food self-sufficiency.

In effect, we see a globalised ‘stuffed and starved’ food regime that benefits the rich countries at the expense of the poor. Given the ecological devastation, water resource depletion (and pollution), soil degradation and the dependency relations that form part of this system, global food security has been undermined.

Whether it involves the transformation of Africa from a net exporting food continent to a net importer or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina, localised, traditional methods of food production have given way to global supply chains dominated by policies which favour agri-food giants, resulting in the imposition of a model of agriculture that subjugates remaining farmers and regions to the needs and profit margins of these companies.

Food sovereignty

On the other hand, food sovereignty encompasses the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems. ‘Culturally appropriate’ is a nod to the foods people have traditionally produced and eaten as well as the associated socially embedded practices which underpin community and a sense of communality. But it goes beyond that.

People have a deep microbiological connection to soils, processing and fermentation processes which affect the gut microbiome – the up to six pounds of bacteria, viruses and microbes akin to human soil. And as with actual soil, the microbiome can become degraded according to what we ingest (or fail to ingest). Many nerve endings from major organs are located in the gut and the microbiome effectively nourishes them. There is ongoing research taking place into how the microbiome is disrupted by the modern globalised food production/processing system and the chemical bombardment it is subjected to.

Capitalism colonises (and degrades) all aspects of life but is colonising the very essence of our being – even on a physiological level. With their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the human body. As soon as we stopped eating locally-grown, traditionally-processed food, cultivated in healthy soils and began eating food subjected to chemical-laden cultivation and processing activities, we began to change ourselves. Along with cultural traditions surrounding food production and the seasons, we also lost our deep-rooted microbiological connection with our localities. We traded it in for corporate chemicals and seeds and global food chains dominated by the likes of Monsanto (now Bayer), Nestle and Cargill.

Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, neurotransmitters in the gut affect our moods and thinking. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease.

Science writer and neurobiologist Mo Costandi has discussed gut bacteria and their balance and importance in brain development. Gut microbes controls the maturation and function of microglia, the immune cells that eliminate unwanted synapses in the brain; age-related changes to gut microbe composition might regulate myelination and synaptic pruning in adolescence and could, therefore, contribute to cognitive development. Upset those changes and there are going to be serious implications for children and adolescents.

In addition, UK-based environmentalist Rosemary Mason notes that increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes. Mason lays the blame squarely at the door of agrochemicals, not least the use of the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, a strong chelator of essential minerals, such as cobalt, zinc, manganese, calcium, molybdenum and sulphate. Mason argues that it also kills off beneficial gut bacteria and allows toxic bacteria.

To ensure genuine food security (and good health), India must transition to a notion of food sovereignty based on optimal self-sufficiency, agroecological principles and local ownership and stewardship of common resources – land, water, soil, seeds, etc. Agroecology outperforms the prevailing resource-depleting, fossil-fuel dependent industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health and efficient water use.

Moreover, it is important to note that such a system would not be reliant on oil or natural gas. Virtually all of the processes in the modern food system are now dependent on finite fossil fuels, from the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides to all stages of food production, including planting, irrigation, harvesting, processing, distribution, shipping and packaging. The industrial food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels.

A food system so heavily reliant on fossil fuel is fragile to say the least, especially given the geopolitical machinations that affect the supply and price of oil. Consider the UK, for instance, which has to import 40% of its food; and much of the rest depends on oil to produce it, which also has to be imported.

The scaling up of agroecology has the potential to more effectively tackle hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation and climate change. By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work, it can also address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out the outsourced jobs.

The principles of agroecology include self-reliance and localisation. This model does not rely on shipping food over long distances, corporate owned or controlled seeds or proprietary inputs. It is potentially more climate resilient, profitable for farmers and can make a significant contribution to carbon storage (and draw down carbon from the atmosphere), water conservation, soil quality and nutrient-dense diets.

However, this represents a challenge to international capital: low input, agroecological models of food production and notions of independence and local self-reliance do not provide opportunities to global agribusiness or international funds to exploit markets, sell their products and cash in on APCO’s vision of a multi-billion-dollar corporate hijack of India.

Posted in IndiaComments Off on Capitalism and the Gut-Wrenching Hijack of India

What the US Wants in the Near East: an Interview With The Saker

by MICHAEL HUDSON

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)


The Saker: Trump has been accused of not thinking forward, of not having a long-term strategy regarding the consequences of assassinating General Suleimani. Does the United States in fact have a strategy in the Near East, or is it only ad hoc?

Michael Hudson: Of course American strategists will deny that the recent actions do not reflect a deliberate strategy, because their long-term strategy is so aggressive and exploitative that it would even strike the American public as being immoral and offensive if they came right out and said it.

President Trump is just the taxicab driver, taking the passengers he has accepted – Pompeo and VP Pence saying “Take us to the Rapture,” along with Bolton’s progeges and the Iran-derangement syndrome neocons – wherever they tell him they want to be driven. They want to pull a heist, and he’s being used as the getaway driver (fully accepting his role). Their plan is to hold onto the main source of their international revenue: Saudi Arabia and the surrounding Near Eastern oil-export surpluses and money. They see the US losing its ability to exploit Russia and China, and look to keep Europe under its control by monopolizing key sectors so that it has the power to use sanctions to squeeze er countries that resist turning over control of their economies and natural rentier monopolies to US buyers. In short, US strategists would like to do to Europe and the Near East just what they did to Russia under Yeltsin: turn over public infrastructure, natural resources and the banking system to U.S. owners, relying on US dollar credit to fund their domestic government spending and private investment.

This is basically a resource grab. Suleimani was in the same position as Chile’s Allende, Libya’s Qaddafi, Iraq’s Saddam. The motto is that of Stalin: “No person, no problem.”

The Saker: Your answer raises a question about Israel. In your recent article you only mention Israel twice, and these are only passing comments.  Furthermore, you also clearly see the US Oil lobby as much more crucial than the Israel Lobby, so here is my follow-up question to you: On what basis have you come to this conclusion and how powerful do you believe the Israel Lobby to be compared to, say, the Oil lobby or the US Military-Industrial Complex? To what degree do their interests coincide and to what degree to they differ?

Hudson: I wrote my article to explain the most basic concerns of U.S. international diplomacy: the balance of payments (dollarizing the global economy, basing foreign central bank savings on loans to the U.S. Treasury to finance the military spending mainly responsible for the international and domestic budget deficit), oil (and the enormous revenue produced by the international oil trade), and recruitment of foreign fighters (given the impossibility of drafting domestic U.S. soldiers in sufficient numbers). From the time these concerns became critical to today, Israel was viewed as a U.S. military base and supporter, but the U.S. policy was formulated independently of Israel.

I remember one day in 1973 or ’74 I was traveling with my Hudson Institute colleague Uzi Arad (later a head of Mossad and advisor to Netanyahu) to Asia, stopping off in San Francisco. At a quasi-party, a U.S. general came up to Uzi and clapped him on the shoulder and said, “You’re our landed aircraft carrier in the Near East,” and expressed his friendship.

Uzi was rather embarrassed. But that’s how the U.S. military thought of Israel back then. By that time the three planks of U.S. foreign policy strategy that I outlined were already firmly in place.

Of course, Netanyahu has applauded U.S. moves to break up Syria, and Trump’s assassination choice. But the move is a U.S. move, and it’s the U.S. that is acting on behalf of the dollar standard, oil power and mobilizing Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi army.

Israel fits into the U.S.-structured global diplomacy much like Turkey does. They and other countries act opportunistically within the context set by U.S. diplomacy to pursue their own policies. Obviously Israel wants to secure the Golan Heights; hence its opposition to Syria, and also its fight with Lebanon; hence, its opposition to Iran as the backer of Assad and Hezbollah. This dovetails with US policy.

But when it comes to the global and U.S. domestic response, it’s the United States that is the determining active force. And its concern rests above all with protecting its cash cow of Saudi Arabia, as well as working with the Saudi jihadis to destabilize governments whose foreign policy is independent of U.S. direction – from Syria to Russia (Wahabis in Chechnya) to China (Wahabis in the western Uighur region). The Saudis provide the underpinning for U.S. dollarization (by recycling their oil revenues into U.S. financial investments and arms purchases), and also by providing and organizing the ISIS terrorists and coordinating their destruction with U.S. objectives. Both the Oil lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex obtain huge economic benefits from the Saudis.

Therefore, to focus one-sidedly on Israel is a distraction away from what the US-centered international order really is all about.

The Saker: In your recent article you wrote: “The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control the region’s oil reserves.”  Others believe that the goal was precisely the opposite, to get a pretext to remove the US forces from both Iraq and Syria.  What are your grounds to believe that your hypothesis is the most likely one?

Hudson: Why would killing Suleimani help remove the U.S. presence? He was the leader of the fight against ISIS, especially in Syria. US policy was to continue using ISIS to permanently destabilize Syria and Iraq so as to prevent a Shi’ite crescent reaching from Iran to Lebanon – which incidentally would serve as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. So it killed Suleimani to prevent the peace negotiation. He was killed because he had been invited by Iraq’s government to help mediate a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. That was what the United States feared most of all, because it effectively would prevent its control of the region and Trump’s drive to seize Iraqi and Syrian oil.

So using the usual Orwellian doublethink, Suleimani was accused of being a terrorist, and assassinated under the U.S. 2002 military Authorization Bill giving the President to move without Congressional approval against Al Qaeda. Trump used it to protect Al Qaeda’s terrorist ISIS offshoots.

Given my three planks of U.S. diplomacy described above, the United States must remain in the Near East to hold onto Saudi Arabia and try to make Iraq and Syria client states equally subservient to U.S. balance-of-payments and oil policy.

Certainly the Saudis must realize that as the buttress of U.S. aggression and terrorism in the Near East, their country (and oil reserves) are the most obvious target to speed the parting guest. I suspect that this is why they are seeking a rapprochement with Iran. And I think it is destined to come about, at least to provide breathing room and remove the threat. The Iranian missiles to Iraq were a demonstration of how easy it would be to aim them at Saudi oil fields. What then would be Aramco’s stock market valuation?

The Saker: In your article you wrote: “The major deficit in the U.S. balance of payments has long been military spending abroad. The entire payments deficit, beginning with the Korean War in 1950-51 and extending through the Vietnam War of the 1960s, was responsible for forcing the dollar off gold in 1971. The problem facing America’s military strategists was how to continue supporting the 800 U.S. military bases around the world and allied troop support without losing America’s financial leverage.”  I want to ask a basic, really primitive question in this regard: who cares about the balance of payments as long as 1) the US continues to print money 2) most of the world will still want dollars.  Does that not give the US an essentially “infinite” budget?  What is the flaw in this logic?

Hudson: The U.S. Treasury can create dollars to spend at home, and the Fed can increase the banking system’s ability to create dollar credit and pay debts denominated in US dollars. But they cannot create foreign currency to pay other countries, unless they willingly accept dollars ad infinitum – and that entails bearing the costs of financing the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit, getting only IOUs in exchange for real resources that they sell to U.S. buyers.

This is the situation that arose half a century ago. The United States could print dollars in 1971, but it could not print gold.

In the 1920s, Germany’s Reichsbank could print deutsche marks – trillions of them. When it came to pay Germany’s foreign reparations debt, all it could do was to throw these D-marks onto the foreign exchange market. That crashed the currency’s exchange rate, forcing up the price of imports proportionally and causing the German hyperinflation.

The question is, how many surplus dollars do foreign governments want to hold. Supporting the dollar standard ends up supporting U.S. foreign diplomacy and military policy. For the first time since World War II, the most rapidly growing parts of the world are seeking to de-dollarize their economies by reducing reliance on U.S. exports, U.S. investment, and U.S. bank loans. This move is creating an alternative to the dollar, likely to replace it with groups of other currencies and assets in national financial reserves.

The Saker: In the same article you also write: “So maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency became a mainstay of U.S. military spending.”  We often hear people say that the dollar is about to tank and that as soon as that happens, then the US economy (and, according to some, the EU economy too) will collapse.  In the intelligence community there is something called tracking the “indicators and warnings”.  My question to you is: what are the economic “indicators and warnings” of a possible (probable?) collapse of the US dollar followed by a collapse of the financial markets most tied to the Dollar?  What shall people like myself (I am an economic ignoramus) keep an eye on and look for?

Hudson: What is most likely is a slow decline, largely from debt deflation and cutbacks in social spending, in the Eurozone and US economies. Of course, the decline will force the more highly debt-leveraged companies to miss their bond payments and drive them into insolvency. That is the fate of Thatcherized economies. But it will be long and painfully drawn out, largely because there is little left-wing socialist alternative to neoliberalism at present.

Trump’s protectionist policies and sanctions are forcing other countries to become self-reliant and independent of US suppliers, from farm crops to airplanes and military arms, against the US threat of a cutoff or sanctions against repairs, spare parts and servicing. Sanctioning Russian agriculture has helped it become a major crop exporter, and to become much more independent in vegetables, dairy and cheese products. The US has little to offer industrially, especially given the fact that its IT communications are stuffed with US spyware.

Europe therefore is facing increasing pressure from its business sector to choose the non-US economic alliance that is growing more rapidly and offers a more profitable investment market and more secure trade supplier. Countries will turn as much as possible (diplomatically as well as financially and economically) to non-US suppliers because the United States is not reliable, and because it is being shrunk by the neoliberal policies supported by Trump and the Democrats alike. A byproduct probably will be a continued move toward gold as an alternative do the dollar in settling balance-of-payments deficits.

The Saker: Finally, my last question: which country out there do you see as the most capable foe of the current US-imposed international political and economic world order?  whom do you believe that US Deep State and the Neocons fear most?  China? Russia? Iran? Some other country?  How would you compare them and on the basis of what criteria?

The leading country breaking up US hegemony obviously is the United States itself. That is Trump’s major contribution. He is uniting the world in a move toward multi-centrism much more than any ostensibly anti-American could have done. And he is doing it all in the name of American patriotism and nationalism – the ultimate Orwellian rhetorical wrapping!

Trump has driven Russia and China together with the other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), including Iran as observer. His demand that NATO join in US oil grabs and its supportive terrorism in the Near East and military confrontation with Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere probably will lead to European “Ami go home” demonstrations against NATO and America’s threat of World War III.

No single country can counter the U.S. unipolar world order. It takes a critical mass of countries. This already is taking place among the countries that you list above. They are simply acting in their own common interest, using their own mutual currencies for trade and investment. The effect is an alternative multilateral currency and trading area.

The United States is now turning on the screws demanding that other countries sacrifice their growth in order to finance the U.S. unipolar empire. In effect, foreign countries are beginning to respond to the United States what the ten tribes of Israel said when they withdrew from the southern kingdom of Judah, whose king Rehoboam refused to lighten his demands (1 Kings 12). They echoed the cry of Sheba son of Bikri a generation earlier: “Look after your own house, O David!” The message is: What do other countries have to gain by remaining in the US unipolar neoliberalized world, as compared to using their own wealth to build up their own economies? It’s an age-old problem.

The dollar will still play a role in US trade and investment, but it will be as just another currency, held at arms length until it finally gives up its domineering attempt to strip other countries’ wealth for itself. However, its demise may not be a pretty sight.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on What the US Wants in the Near East: an Interview With The Saker

American Murder

by PAUL EDWARDS

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Clausewitz said, “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, but  American Presidents have modified his apothegm.  No one knows when it was first judged–How to put it?  Not legal, no; not moral, no, surely not.  Conceiveable..?  Permissible..?–politically safe, for a nation to assassinate a human being, a foreign enemy.  There is no record of that meeting of our government’s most powerful men–only such a group could plan so radical an action–when one of them first dared to say, “Suppose we kill him?”

Those souls shocked and wounded by our latest murder, need to know that meeting was not recent: didn’t happen under the Suppurating Pustule that infects the White House today, nor the charming Grand Bullshitter who preceded him, nor the aphasic buffoon before him.  It was a century ago.  There’s no dating it to a particular hit but it was certainly held before our deviously arranged murder of Sandino in Nicaragua in 1934.

For the last century the US government has made it its regular business to execute, or to buy the execution of, men it deemed geopolitically damned.  There isn’t space here to review the long roster of America’s secret victims, nor any need for that.  The uninformed need to take their own education in hand or continue mooing meekly down the chute toward who knows what end?  Perhaps even their own date with the stungun.

Skipping past our more notorious standard issue deep cover CIA murders–Lumumba, Che, Allende, Diem–and excepting killings during phony “police actions” and “incursions”, gets us to the phase of dedicated, clandestine extermination outfits, to the era of “terminating with extreme prejudice” by quasi-military units like the Phoenix Program that murdered thousands of Viet Cong and NVA.  It was a short step then to creation of specialized military hit squads.  Navy SEALS with their Osama murder are typical.

In this era of magical tech innovations–GPS wizardry, HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT and MASINT–America vaunts the uncanny accuracy of drones that slaughter wedding parties instead of jihadi honchos, and Hellfire missiles that maim and eviscerate more peasant children than diabolized hajjis.  Targeted assassination has, in its current iteration, thrown over the traces and expanded its lethal reach so that nailing its purported target is now irrelevant.  Busloads of Yemeni kids will do.  It’s now a case, as a Marine buddy told me in Khe Sanh, of “Kill ‘em all; let God sort ‘em out.”

It needs to be clear that none of this cowardly murder was done in the heat of authorized battle.  None of it has come during legally declared war.  These assassinations are just that: murders without acknowledgment, much less official justification that, when exposed, are flatly denied by implausible baldfaced bullshit from our robotic, faux-Christian Mandarins.  Our government always keeps, among its court jongleurs, trained slugs whose unique sociopathic gift consists in being able to look a clueless public in the face and solemnly assure them that dogshit is ice cream.

What is notable about this sordid history is not that it happened, since this country has foisted the dirtiest, most flagrant deceptions on the world and its own people as a matter of course for generations, but this: that from the beginning of our state murder program enormous effort has gone into  keeping the fact of it hidden or, at least, deniable.  It remained to Jabba, the President, not only to end that charade, to blow that cover in the Soleimani murder, but also, with idiot vanity, to celebrate himself as its author.

Quite apart from being astoundingly, stupidly reckless, since The Empire’s functionaries, military and other, become immediate potential targets, it is an offence against the laws of nations and of war.  America, the full rogue state, cares nothing for such laws, of course, but some quaint nations still do and it puts it in seriously bad odor with the few suckup lackeys it still may have despite Trump’s relentless campaign to demean and alienate them.  Candidates for another “coalition of the willing” to mask America’s brute adventurism are going to be scarce as birdshit in a cuckoo clock.

So much for side effects.  This murder of Soleimani was, to cop a line from Hamlet, a “Murder most foul, as in the best it is, but this most foul, strange, and unnatural”, because of his history as a once critical American ally.  He, with forces loyal to him, was key in defeating ISIS after our multi-billion dollar, half-assed, spit-and-baling wire Iraqi Army’s meltdown and flight.  America murdered no Takfiri barbarian, no crazed, fanatic Jihadi in him, but a temperate, judicious statesman, and a hero to most Iranian people.

If the intent was crude, direct provocation of war with Iran, that intent may now be realized.  With millions of Persians in the streets mourning him and Khamenei vowing stern vengeance, symbolic rockets are no expression of that outrage.  If retaliation does come, as it may, the world will know it.

At that point, Trump has to fish or cut bait.  If his authority is heeded then– which is not certain–by a military that much prefers no-risk bullying of weak entities that generate big money for little blood, and a Congress at once warmongering and cowardly, the balloon could go up.  If so, speculation is useless beyond one ineluctable reality: the US will be, at a minimum, badly hurt and the world economy will be shaken to pieces.  Needless to say, the results of Big Power war would be orders of magnitude more catastrophic.

Very Serious People, men who make regular appearances on the MSM– the PR arm of the Deep State–and their owners who don’t, are betting that nothing so insane as Great Power war could come about as a result of this murder and they’re probably right.  It would take an interlocking set of wild errors of judgment and calculation on the part of the powerful men who control world order, such as it is, for a major cataclysm to be triggered.

That was the case in 1914, as Tuchman detailed in The Guns Of August.  Men of broad experience and vaunted acumen, in charge of armies, fleets, and nations, slow marched in their egotism, arrogance, and wilful rigidity, into the most devastating war in history, mesmerized by their own folly.

A wag has said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.

Wisdom and sound judgment are not unattainable by men who value them.  They forever elude the arrogant, the egoist, and the sociopath.  The men and women who now lead us are such people, enlisted by, and devoted to, our Capitalist rulers, and their voracious quest for dominion of the world and the acquisition of its wealth that is their only purpose and goal.  People of this barren, soulless, biophobic creed are incapable of rational, humane, and life-affirming decisions.  The impending dangers of rape economics, climate change, and world war do not appear to these defectives as the horrifying, immanent threats they are.  We are hostage to their inadequacy.

It is not impossible that the murder of Soleimani could result in a disaster of greater magnitude than did that of the Archduke Ferdinand, and that we may, in the days ahead, suffer our own 1914 and its dreadful aftermath.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, Iran, Middle EastComments Off on American Murder

Where is the Reporting on PetroCaribe?

by MARK SCHULLER

Photograph Source: Colin Crowley – CC BY 2.0

January 12 marks ten years since Haiti’s deadly earthquake. Usually, Haiti appears in international news when there’s a scandal, a disaster, violence. There was a flurry of coverage in October when daily protests, begun with a nine-week general strike – in Haitian Creole, peyi lòk – met with government repression, including the death of three journalists. The mobilization has been ongoing since July 2018, leading to a partial report naming high-ranking government officials of mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds published at the end of May 2019.

Most articles are without context, many led by images of burning tires that, to foreign capitalist press, represents violence. The first independent Black nation, Haiti has always suffered under white supremacist and racist ideology. Other mobilizations such as Yellow Vests in France can engage the same tactic, but in the minds of imperialist countries’ media and leaders, white activists are “mobilizing” while Black ones “commit violence.”

Suddenly, after a few individual stories, Haiti disappeared again from the international press. It’s almost as if Haiti is no longer here. But the ghost of “violence” still haunts people who saw or heard the news.

But Haiti is here. And it will be here. And Haitian people are still pushing back against the State that serves the interests of dominant classes and imperialist countries, the “Core Group.”[1]

People are not only marching in the streets, they are also thinking, analyzing, denouncing, posing solutions, dreaming of another Haiti, another relationship with the world system. We write this series of articles to amplify the voices of people who are analyzing the current situation and are trying to find the path to another Haiti. In this series of articles, we try to diversify people’s voices, analyses, realities, and demands.

This short introductory test begins to situate where the PetroCaribe mobilization originated. Consult the article that the Kolektif Anakawona wrote for more details.

PetroChallengers represent several segments of society, including youth and Diaspora actors. Middle-class residents of Delmas, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, or the Diaspora became involved. However, the movement is a people’s struggle. The movement is not without its contradictions, with politicians positioning themselves as “leaders.” Some are named in the PetroCaribe scandal. Some of the wealthiest bourgeois in the country attempt to weaponize this momentum.

The meeting that concluded on June 19 with some Organization of American States (OAS) representatives highlighted that the dominant countries in the region, certainly the U.S., still support President Jovenel Moïse for the moment. Moïse was elected during a round of elections canceled because of corruption spanning 2015-17. OAS and Core Group rushed to accept the election results. In the second round, with a 21% voter turnout, Moïse was finally elected.

Moïse is the heir apparent to President Michel Martelly, who came to power in 2011 with the strong hand of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton was at the same time UN Special Envoy, President of the Clinton Foundation, and co-President of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC). Martelly, who was elected with a single Deputy (equivalent to U.S. Representative) from his party Parti Haitien Tèt Kale (Haitian Party of Baldheads, PHTK), consolidated his power thanks to the Clintons’ intervention. Martelly managed the large flows of money for Haiti reconstruction and humanitarian aid, under the control of the IHRC for a while and the UN mission, MINUSTAH.

This context is important to remember. Without this context, the PetroCaribe scandal plays into the hands of Trump, who called the country that did away with slavery a “shithole.” Most foreign capitalist media speak about “corruption in Haiti” as a product of the Haitian state and people on their own, wherein Haiti can’t manage or govern. It’s the same racist discourse Haiti has faced for a long time, which justified a “humanitarian occupation” or the “Republic of NGOs.”

Secondly, most of the $4.2 billion in PetroCaribe funds was done under the control of the Clintons, the “King and Queen of Haiti.” The Clintons’ disaster capitalism in Haiti played a role in Trump’s election in Florida.[2]

Finally, Washington is attempting a coup d’état in Venezuela to replace President Nicolas Maduro with Juan Guaidó, close to right-wing networks. President Hugo Chavez created PetroCaribe in 2005. It is a project of solidarity between peoples, another alternative for development. Haiti received PetroCaribe funds in 2008, after 4 hurricanes had stricken. Haiti had tried to maintain the delicate balance of friendly relations with the U.S. and its allies on the one hand, Venezuela and its allies on the other.

The PetroCaribe scandal underscores not only the contradictions of the neocolonial PHTK state but the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy. At the same time that the U.S. is calling to respect Haiti’s presidential elections it is pushing the reverse in Venezuela. The two countries’ destinies are intertwined. Since 2017, the U.S. imposed an embargo on Venezuela, freezing assets. Consequently, PetroCaribe’s gas subsidies had to stop. Two serious impacts of the embargo were the rise in gas prices and the collapse of the value of Haiti’s currency, the gourde: on January 11, 2018, it was less than 65 gourdes to the dollar, but today it is more than 93.

Faced with U.S. maneuvering in Venezuela, President Jovenel Moïse was forced to pick a side. No surprise, the former director of Agritrans, who received funding from the U.S., chose to cut Haiti’s historic ties with Venezuela[3] in the OAS meeting on January 2019. June 27, right after the last OAS meeting, President Moïse gave a final gift to the Core Group, authorizing a new UN mission. A previous mission, MINUSTAH, lasted over 13 years and was responsible for bringing cholera and a wave of unpunished sexual assaults.

But in this game, President Moïse forgot the Haitian people. On July 6 of last year, during the Brazil match in the World Cup, he applied the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) policy to increase gas prices. The people barricaded the streets all over the country. Haiti was locked down for the following two days, which shocked and scared the bourgeoisie and imperialist powers.

But the people weren’t done speaking. In a campaign on Twitter, August 2018, a challenge was launched: “where is the money from PetroCaribe”? Kòt kòb PetwoKaribe a?

And every symbolic date, like October 17, the assassination of country founder Dessalines; November 18, the last battle in Haitian independence; February 7, when the people uprooted the Duvalier dictatorship, the mobilization got stronger.

Without this mobilization in the streets, the Superior Appeals Court wouldn’t have published these reports.

Where did the mobilization come from and in what context? We will get to this question shortly…

Like Marx wrote in the 18th Brumaire, people can make history but within historical conditions they cannot create.

Note: most links are to articles written in Haiti, which can be accessed via Google Translate, etc.

Posted in HaitiComments Off on Where is the Reporting on PetroCaribe?

Australia on the Chasm of Climate Catastrophe

by EVAGGELOS VALLIANATOS

Fires burning East Australia, December 2019. Courtesy NASA. Public Domain.

Australia: coal and Murdoch are kings 

Australia has had a series of bad governments beholden to the coal industry and to the Rupert Murdoch propaganda machine. The media empire of Murdoch controls about 60 percent of the newspapers and television stations.

The Murdoch message, just like the message of Fox TV in America, is in defense of the oligarchs and against environmental protection of any kind. This propaganda is in accord with the continued use of fossil fuels and the ceaseless destruction of the natural world. Young people brought up on this diet of lies become vociferous in their advocacy of violence and undemocratic politics.

I used to write for an Australian journal. However, my articles triggered a vicious reaction. Some readers threatened me with death.

Coal conservatism

It’s people like these that embrace conservatism. Like the American conservatives, Australian conservatives are not smart enough to understand that the coal companies and Murdoch exploit them or that the anthropogenic fury of nature will kill them and their children.

Scott Morrison, the present conservative prime minister, exactly like Trump, denies global warming while his country fuels itself primarily with coal, including petroleum and natural gas. In addition, Australia has been exporting huge amounts of coal to China and other countries.

Ecological holocaust

Simultaneously, large sections of the country the size of West Virginia have been burning with holocaust-like effects on wildlife and forests. Australian scientists report that something staggering like half a billion wild animals (mammals, birds and reptiles) have already perished in the raging fires since September 2019. Another estimate raised the dead animals to a billion.

Even if this calculation is overblown, the implications are cataclysmic. The fires probably pushed thousands upon thousands of species to extinction. The surviving animals have practically no habitat or water or food left for them. Heat waves follow one another. Smoke of the Australian fires is seen around half of the world. Drought is threatening farmers, agriculture and food.

The 1,500 miles long Great Barrier Coral Reef and kelp forest, home to countless fish, are dying from the rising temperature of the oceans.

This ecological upheaval and nightmare is mobilizing young Australians who demand that their government takes climate change seriously.

Tyranny in Australia   

Richard Flanagan, an Australian novelist, is outraged by the climate change destruction of his beautiful homeland. He denounces the criminal negligence of the conservative government denying the truth of climate change to please the fossil fuel magnates and Murdoch. “Tyranny is emerging in Australia,” he says. “Murdoch should be ashamed.”

Murdoch and his News Corp and government officials are spreading disinformation and doubt about climate change, questioning the veracity of climate science and connecting the fires to arson rather than climate emergency.

Murdoch’s news outlets are smearing and criminalizing ecological thinking and action, especially the followers of the Green Party criticizing the fossil fuel industry. Environmentalists are very angry and desperate. The fires of climate change are destroying their homes and dreams.

Dark ages

Flanagan speaks like an angry and desperate prophet seeing the end of good life in Australia. He says Australia in the first days of 2020 “is ground zero for climate catastrophe.” He paints a science fiction-like reality of Australia that combines the dark ages and no less destitution than that of days after nuclear war:

“The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.”

The civilized world should be up in arms and in the streets over this climate inferno in Australia because the ecological holocaust in Australia has no borders, sooner or later reaching China and the United State and Europe. It is already seething in the Amazon and the forests of California.

Flames reached the heavens

It’s utterly stupid to ignore the climate superpower we have brought out of the chasm of Tartaros. Like the mighty monster Typhoeus, the new fossil fuels-climate has the power of making our Mother Earth uninhabitable.

Hesiod tells us that fires from two wars came close to destroying the Earth. The first war was between the Titans (born of Ouranos (Sky) and Gaia, the Earth) and the gods (born of the Titans Kronos and Rhea). The second war included Zeus and the monster Typhoeus (Τυφωεύς, son of the Earth and Tartaros, a chasm under the Earth. These wars were primarily fire wars. They burned forests, land and water. The flames nearly set the sky οn fire as well. Fires nearly melted the Earth. In both wars, Zeus relied on his almighty Thunderbolts and lightnings. He was especially effective against the monster Typhoeus, which attacked with intense fires coming from the eyes of a hundred serpent heads sprouting from his shoulders (Theogony 624-739, 835-868).

Typhoon, the windy and destructive hurricane, comes from Typhoeus.

Zeus and the gods won the wars against  the Titans and Typhoeus. They imprisoned them into Tartaros.

Throw fossil fuels to Tartaros

We can do the same thing. Form a global coalition against fossil fuels companies and their political stooges. Shut down fossil fuels and imprison and dump into Tartaros their executives and  other serial polluters.

I applaud the protests in Australia. But that is not enough. Australians must get rid of their conservative government, just like Americans must impeach Trump and defeat conservative Republican politicians.

We have Zeus’ weapons in the inexhaustible energy of the Sun, wind, and water.

The climate fires in Australia signal a moral and existential crisis. We cannot afford another billion dead animals. Fires in Australia are a warning we overlook at our mortal peril.

Posted in Australia, EnvironmentComments Off on Australia on the Chasm of Climate Catastrophe

Iranian Opposition—1970s to 2020

by RON JACOBS

Photograph Source: Fars News Agency – CC BY 4.0

In the mid-1970s, I did a fair amount of organizing work with Maryland members of the Iranian Student Association. Our goal was to end the rule of the US-installed Shah of Iran. Some of my work involved helping the Iranian students write their leaflets in American English. In 1976, I attended some meetings in Washington, DC to help plan protests against the Shah, who was scheduled to visit Jimmy Carter and Congress in 1977. At the time, the Shah’s Iran was one the largest recipients of US aid. In addition, its military was trained and outfitted by the United States and its war industry, at no small cost to the Iranian people. Besides the hundreds of millions spent on armaments, the US aid also involved training the Shah’s secret police apparatus—the SAVAK. Naturally, much of this training was done by the Central Intelligence Agency and its affiliates.

Among the things I learned about while working with the Iranian students was the incredibly repressive nature of the Iranian state. Imprisonment without trial, torture and warrantless raids were expected if one was involved in political work against the government. It didn’t matter if one’s opposition was based in a religious philosophy or a secular political understanding. Indeed, another, more important aspect of Iranian radical politics I learned about was the breadth of the opposition to the Shah’s regime among the Iranian people. Communists aligned with Moscow, non-aligned communists, Islamic Marxists, workers’ councils and a multitude of radical religious formations—all of these tendencies found common ground in their opposition to the Shah. It was a coalition that would splinter in dangerous and even murderous ways after the Shah’s regime was overthrown. I saw the beginnings of this rupture during my work in DC and Maryland; meetings of the ISA would erupt into sectarian disputes. Eventually, the organization split into two groups in the United States. In retrospect, it seems reasonable to attribute this fracturing at the time to the fact that the expatriate students were intellectuals physically separated from the struggle in their nation. The growing abstraction of the struggle tended to exacerbate the differences in the coalition.

As it turned out, it was the religious elements of the revolutionary forces that ended up gaining power in the wake of the Shah’s fall. They were best represented by their leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Their rise to the top of the revolutionary stew was the result of armed and parliamentary conflict, superpower interference, and severe cultural and political repression. Adding to the power plays of the theocratic forces were the decisions by the groups on the Left—some of whom decided to work with the religious revolutionaries while others rejected their leadership. The latter elements were harshly and quickly repressed. Some in the former forces stuck it out for months until it became clear that if they wanted to keep their freedom (and perhaps their lives), they needed to leave Iran. Indeed, the first elected President of Iran, the democratic socialist Abolhassan Banisadr, left the country after he was forced out of the government by the religious forces. Crucial to the rise of Khomeini and the theocrats was the support they received from what are known as the bazaaris—a once very powerful merchant class in Iran. Part of their support for Khomeini and his forces lay in their fears of the democratic socialist government touted by most of the secular forces in the revolution.

In the decades that followed, the theocrats tightened their hold on the Iranian government and the leftist forces devolved, going underground or disappearing completely. Some formed a council of resistance based in Paris. In fact, Bani Sadr was a leading member of that group until 1983, when he left. His reason for leaving centered around the domination of the group by the People’s Mujaheedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the MEK. This group was a small but influential armed organization in the resistance to the Shah, but became alienated from most of the secular opposition over the years. Nowadays, the MEK is believed by many to work with the Mossad and CIA in staging terror operations inside Iran. They enjoy the support of numerous US politicians, most of them rightwing members of the neocon tendency in US politics. The rest of the organized opposition in exile includes a group hoping for a return of the monarchy calling itself the National Council on Iran. This writer is not familiar with any existing expatriate leftist groups actively opposing the Iranian government. However, after studying the recent outbreaks of protest in recent months in Iran, the possibility of such opposition seems to exist inside the country.

When compared to the massive outpouring of emotion following the assassination of General Soleimani by the United States, the protests against the accidental downing of the Ukrainian airliner and various government policies in Iran are small. Even smaller are those chanting slogans against the police and the Revolutionary Guard. Even smaller are those calling for a leftwing revolution. Given that the primary sources of information about the protests for those outside Iran are media outlets with a vested interest in seeing the Iranian government fall, it is extremely hard to judge the breadth and depth of the opposition to that government. It is even more difficult to judge the politics of that opposition. That being said, it seems reasonable to assume that some of it is funded by governments and others opposed to Tehran, some of it is financed by Sunni elements opposed to the Shia philosophy and actions, some is composed of liberal and progressive elements hoping for more political and cultural freedom, and some is the result of Marxist-informed groups of intellectuals and workers hoping to revive the aborted 1979 revolution. Naturally, all of these elements (and those not mentioned) enjoy some support among the Iranians carrying their banners.

If the history of Iran since before the 1979 revolution up to the present day is any indication (and history usually is a pretty good indicator), those outside agencies hoping to turn any Iranian protest in their favor will fail. One thing I remember best from my work with the ISA almost fifty years ago was the Iranian understanding of the potential power of grassroots organizing and the power of the people. It was that understanding that overthrew one of the most repressive regimes in the world at the time. It appears that another great change in that nation might be on the horizon. This statement doesn’t mean it will take place in the near future or that it would be a revolution like the one in 1979. Indeed, if the current government listens to its people, that transformation (should it occur) could take place with a minimum of violence and displacement. As residents of those nations working to return Iran back to its previous status as a client of imperialism, our task is to oppose the sanctions demanded by the United States and the war moves accompanying those sanctions.

In other words, let the Iranians determine their own future.

Posted in Middle East, IranComments Off on Iranian Opposition—1970s to 2020

Assassination, Lies and the Trump Difference

by PAUL STREET

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020. Photograph Source: Mehr News Agency – CC BY 4.0

United States presidents have long lied about the pretexts for, and the nature of, their murderous and criminal foreign policy actions. Remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s fraudulent claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq government possessed vast stocks of “weapons of mass destruction” that threatened the world and that Iraq had participated in the September 11, 2001 jetliner attacks?

Lyndon Johnson obtained Congressional authority to escalate the crucifixion of Vietnam by spreading disinformation about a 1964 naval incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. He campaigned that year on a pledge not to “send American boy 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” The following year he did exactly that, using the Tonkin lie as his justification.

Richard Nixon campaigned for the presidency promising to end the “Vietnam War” while working with Henry Kissinger to undermine peace negotiations in Paris to ensure Hubert Humphrey’s defeat in the 1968 election. Nixon went on to extend and expand the U.S. was on Southeast Asia with the secret bombing of Cambodia.

Ronald Reagan ludicrously justified his regime-change invasion of Grenada with the idiotic claim that the tiny Caribbean island’s radical government posed a lethal threat to the U.S.

George H.W. Bush absurdly sold the U.S. regime-change invasion of Panama as a defense of “democracy” and “human rights.” He advertised his mass-murderous attack on Iraq (“Operation Desert Storm) with the lie that Washington was committed to defending small and peace-loving nations against “wanton aggression.”

Bill Clinton lied when he claimed: that the U.S. bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant because it was manufacturing a chemical nerve agent; that the U.S. bombed Serbia to protect Kosovar Albanians; and that he ordered the military occupation of Haiti to “restore democracy.”

Barack Obama deceptively described his savage aerial destruction of the Libyan government as a noble humanitarian attempt to stop the slaughter of civilians. His assault quickly became an imperial regime-change war with disastrous consequences across North Africa.

Obama promised to end the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 16 months. He never moved to fulfill that promise. Along the way, he never felt the need to tell Americans the truth about the endless Afghan campaign. In the words of an Obama national security official quoted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Did anyone seriously think the terrible truth-trashing tyrant Donald Trump – a president who has so far totaled up more than 15,000 junk statements (surely a world record) – and his underlings would not contribute to the rich U.S.-presidential tradition of bold imperial mendacity? Trump and his supine bootlickers Mike Pence (Christian Fascist Vice President) and Mike Pompeo (“Secretary of State”) have preposterously claimed that the White House’s assassination of a top Iranian commander on Iraqi soil – an epic war crime – was required because Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani presented “imminent threats to American lives.”

There is no evidence for the claim. “According to one United States official,” the New York Times reported, “the new intelligence indicated ‘a normal Monday in the Middle East’ — Dec. 30 — and General Soleimani’s travels amounted to ‘business as usual.’” Pompeo had been nagging Trump to murder Soleimani for months, the Washington Post has divulged.

Pence even claimed that the assassination was defensible because Soleimani’s Quds Force helped al-Qaida in the 9/11 attacks — a preposterous charge disproved by George W. Bush’s own 9/11 Commission. Yes, Pence went there.

Pompeo denied that Trump threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites even though the videotape of the tangerine-tinted despot doing precisely that is crystal clear.

In a pathetic teleprompter speech awkwardly uttered with stone-faced generals by his side, the United States’ freshly impeached president absurdly argued that the missiles Iran fired at U.S. military bases in retaliation for the assassination “were paid for with funds made available by the last [Obama] administration.” That’s a farcically Orwellian take on Obama’s agreement to unfreeze Iranian assets in return for Teheran agreeing to dismantle its supposed nuclear weapons program.

From the start of his sick presidency and before, Trump has been falsely claiming that Obama and Europe’s nuclear deal left Iran “free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”

It isn’t just about Trump and his subordinates, of course. Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin lie was spawned in a bigger Cold War sea that falsely portrayed the Vietnamese national independence and social justice movement as nothing more than an arm of international Communist expansions directed out of Moscow and Beijing.

In a similar vein, Trump’s assassination lies swims in a richly bipartisan sea of U.S.-imperial falsehood on Iran and the Middle East. Democrats, conservatives, and the dominant U.S. media have long and fully participated in advancing the fabricated and dishonest notion that Iran is a uniquely evil, dangerous, belligerent, destabilizing, and terrorist actor in the Middle East – a totally absurd narrative (as I argued in my last CounterPunch essay: ‘By comparison to the Saudis, Israel, and above all their sponsor the U.S., Iran is a defensive power. Its modest interventions beyond its borders are about standard realpolitik defense of regional allies [the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Shiite government in Baghdad, not destabilizing regime change and terrorism.’)

Since they buy into all the idiotic doctrinal nonsense about Iran’s special “terrorist” evil, all but a few establishment politicos pull their punches on the arch criminality of Trump’s assassination of Soleimani. They concede endlessly that Soleimani was a “really evil guy” and “bad actor” who “deserved to die” because he was supposedly responsible for the death of “hundreds of American troops” in Iraq – as if Superpower America (which surrounds Iran with U.S. military bases) hasn’t directly and indirectly killed more than a million people in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen in this century alone; as if Muslims both Persian and Arab don’t have the right to defend themselves against imperial intervention and violence.

Soleimani “won’t be missed,” the talking heads say, dismissing the millions mourning their fallen national hero Soleimani in the streets of Iran.

The pundits fault Trump not so much for committing a war crime as for operating impulsively and without a “clear idea of the [unmentionably imperialist] strategic path forward.” One gets the distinct impression that they would have been perfectly fine with a President Hillary Clinton murdering Soleimani as part of a strategy designed and approved by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Why the timing of Trump’s criminal, high-risk assassination? The most likely explanation is that was an attempt to divert the U.S. media and populace’s attention away from his impeachment trial and to make Trump look strong as he enters the election year with remarkably low approval ratings for a president riding a “strong economy.”

That is not without precedent in U.S. presidential history. Recall that the phrase “wag the dog” was invented in connection with the sociopath Bill Clinton’s launching of bombs and missiles while Congress pursued his impeachment for lying about extra-marital fellatio.

So, same as it ever was with lying imperial presidents in the case of the Soleimani assassination? Yes and no. Consistent with the numerous other indications that Trump has made a qualitative neofascist break with the normal bourgeois conduct of the U.S. presidency, the Trump difference here is at least five-fold:

#1. The remarkably reckless and provocative audacity involved in directly assassinating a top military and political figure in a foreign sovereign state on the territory of another government without the government’s permission.

#2. The strong likelihood that Trump impulsively ordered the Soleimani assassination over and against the advice of most top U.S. military and intelligence officials.

#3. The almost complete absence of any effort to wrap Trump’s brazen crime in the flags of international law and coalition-building.

#4. The strong link Trump made between his action and his determination to demean and discredit the other major U.S. capitalist-imperialist party (the Democrats) and his predecessor.

#5. The openly thuggish, mob-like threats to quickly devastate Iraq (a not-so veiled brandishing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal) and to attack Iran’s cultural sites (also a war crime).

Postscript

For what it’s worth, I sent this this email to Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton this Thursday: ‘Ms. Glanton: did you really write the following in today’s Tribune: “But Wednesday morning, Donald Trump gave us a gift. And we are grateful…Instead of retaliating with military force against Iran for bombing an American military base in Iraq, Trump chose to implement harsher sanctions designed to further weaken the country’s ability to sustain itself economically”? Good God, Ms. Glanton. So, you do not understand that ordinary civilians suffer and die when they live in a nation that cannot “sustain itself economically”? (Perhaps you recall the half-million plus Iraqi children killed by US sanctions in the 1990s). You do not grasp that economic sanctions are a form of crippling and murderous warfare – and part of the context that gives rise to full-on military war? Ms. Glanton, you appear to have lost your moral bearings because you have a “loved one” – you mention your 20-year old nephew – among the US troops who are currently occupying Iraq. Where is your love for the ordinary people, the women, boys, girls, and men of Iran? And why do you think the U.S. has any business occupying the sovereign territory of Iraq (a country “we” criminally and mass-murderously assaulted and occupied in 2003) with military bases in the first place?’ (Email Ms. Glanton at dglanton@chicagotribune.com)

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Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, IranComments Off on Assassination, Lies and the Trump Difference


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