Archive | August 3rd, 2020

Time’s Up ‘Israel’: Get Your Knee Off Palestine’s Neck

by SAM BAHOUR

The timer is now ticking on Israel. While Israel historically put Palestinians on the slow burner, gnawing at their lands and livelihoods, time was in Israel’s favor was the world turned a blind eye. Those days are over.

Israel must now choose, allow the state of Palestine to emerge, or have it imposed upon them. The traditional options of two-states vs. one state of Israel without equality for all its citizens have passed long ago. Israel can accept Palestine in all the occupied territory of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, or ultimately be forced to accept Palestine from the river to the sea.

For us Palestinians, like any normal human beings on this earth, it is natural for us to expect to be viewed as a people worthy of our rights, freedom, and independence. The days when this can be ignored are over too.

Today, all have been exposed to the naked eye. Thanks to decades of denial by Jewish Israeli citizens and the Jewish diaspora, US President Trump and his messianic entourage of Jared Kushner and David M. Friedman, Israel’s state-sanctioned settlement enterprise, financier Sheldon Adelson’s fanaticism, Christian Evangelicals bent on personally witnessing the Armageddon, and none other than Israel’s own extremist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation frenzy, a frenzy on steroids attempting to divert his path to jail on three corruption charges.

To force the timer to tick even faster, outgoing Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, in an interview with Stephen Sackur of the BBC Hardtalk program, proudly proclaimed, “I represent not only the people of Israel, I represented [sic] the Jewish people in the U.N.”. He went on, “We [Jews] do have biblical rights to the land. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Jew — you read the Bible, you read the stories of the Bible — it’s all there.” It got worse. He went on to say, “This is our deed to the land. That’s biblical.” This from Israel’s top international diplomat! Regardless of how one views the Bible, it’s a religious text, not a document that can be submitted in a case of international law.

The further back Israel goes in time, the faster today’s timer is ticking. Below I will touch on three momentous developments lubricating the timer.

Peter Beinart, Zionism, and the ‘Jewish State’

Enter Peter Beinart. A prominent and outspoken observant Jewish American columnist, journalist, political commentator, and professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his parents were Jewish immigrants from South Africa. He is a self-defined Zionist, albeit from the flavor that most Israeli Jews would dismiss.

Earlier this month, Beinart penned a long-read essay titled, Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine, and then followed it up with a New York Times opinion piece titled, I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State. He makes a monumental shift from supporting a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine side by side, to arguing that Zionism does not require a ‘Jewish State’ at all and calls for his fellow Jews to come to this understanding.

It is interesting to note that Palestinians have always made the point that they have nothing against Judaism, rather they view Zionism as having hijacked this noble religion to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians alike. To be clear, the only version of Zionism Palestinians have experienced is the one that is a political ideology based on supremacy. This Zionism has held conferences starting in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland, and has left behind an incriminating and bloody paper trail.

Peter is my friend. We have interlocked as editor and writer, spoke on the same panel at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and he has attended many of the talks I have given to Jewish American audiences when they visited Bethlehem. He has universal values and does not discriminate when applying them. He knows how to actively listen, ask probing questions, and analyze in relation to reality rather than blindly forcing reality to fit a set of Israeli state talking points. Most importantly, he has opened the Pandora’s box of global Jewry. For this, he will go down in history next to notable early Zionist thinkers such as Ahad Ha’am, Martin Buber, and Judah Magnes, among others.

There is much to discuss about Peter’s new revelation, but that’s for another day. For now, he will have his hands full within his Jewish communal circles. It’s a shame that Israeli Jews are, for the most part, missing out on this conversation. Israeli media has chosen to pretend that the call for equal rights in one state does not exist.

Yesh Din, Israel, and Apartheid

At the same time that Peter took to the global stage, another storm was brewing closer to Jerusalem. The renowned Israeli human rights organization, Yesh Din (There is a Law), released a landmark legal opinion titled, The Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid: Legal Opinion. This was written by Adv. Michael Sfard, one of Israel’s leading legal minds specializing in international human rights law and the laws of war. The opinion is damning for Israel.

“The conclusion of this legal opinion is that the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank. The perpetrators are Israelis, and the victims are Palestinians.” The report further states that this is the case with or without another round of Israeli annexation, or as Benjamin Netanyahu, Benjamin Gantz, and Ambassador Danon like to call it, “applying sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria.” Call it what you may because it is all illegal.

But that’s not all. Annexation does play a role; the opinion notes that “Continued creeping legal annexation, let alone official annexation of a particular part of the West Bank through legislation that would apply Israeli law and administration there, is an amalgamation of the regimes. This could mean strengthening the argument, which already is being heard, that the crime of Apartheid is not committed only in the West Bank. That the Israeli regime in its entirety is an apartheid regime. That Israel is an Apartheid state. ”

You read that correctly. Israel has gone from attacking former US President Jimmy Carter for using the “A” word in the title of his 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, to having to deal with an Israeli organization making the legal case that the entire state may be an Apartheid state.

Israelis should take note. Yesh Din is not a newcomer to this issue. Neither are the many other Israeli human rights organizations that have been exposing reality for what it is for years. Organizations such as B’Tselem, GishaHaMoked (Center for the Defence of the Individual)Physicians for Human Rights (Israel)Rabbis for Human RightsShalom Achshav (Peace Now)Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence)Who Profits?, and Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit), among many others.

The timer ticks faster and faster.

The above-broken taboos have awakened many Jews around the world. But anyone who missed out on the last three decades of facts being made on the ground, by gunships and bulldozers displaying the “Star of David,” would have found a summary of what was to come in a report released at the end of last year. Read on.

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

One of the most important organs of the UN is The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). This entity is comprised of a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. In short, this body gives the pulse of today’s rules-based world order, country by country.

Israel, being a “State party,” is obliged to submit reports to this Committee and they comply. Also, ever since November 29, 2012, when Palestine became a “non-member observer State,” Palestine also submits reports to this Committee.

In its December 2019 Concluding Observations on Israel, the Committee determined that Israeli policies and practices comprise of racial segregation and apartheid over the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line. This was earthshaking. Palestinian, regional, and international human rights organizations worked hard to bring the facts of the matter to the deliberations. Interestingly, even while Israel’s premiership bad mouths the UN at every opportunity possible, Israel engaged the committee, but to no avail.

However, the Committee’s Concluding Observations report did make an interesting catch. It noted that “While acknowledging the willingness of the State [Israel] party delegation to discuss questions relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Committee regrets that the report did not contain any information concerning the population living in these territories.”

So while the Israeli, and now the American, leaderships claim there is no military occupation to speak of, in the chambers of international law that matter for Israel to remain a member of the community of nations, Israel is actively engaging on issues related to the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” even if they do so blind to the Palestinians they oppress.

Tick, tick, tick. One can hear the timer racing forward in their sleep.

Israel still has a choice

This is not about Peter, Yesh Din, or the UN. It is about Israel finally having to look in the mirror and reckon with itself.

For us Palestinians, our case is crystal clear. We demand our rights, freedom, and independence.

It took US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the Jewish Senator from Vermont who, in November 2019 drew sustained applause from the crowd at the MSNBC/Washington Post Democratic primary debate in Atlanta, to declare, “It is no longer good enough for us to be pro-Israel, I am pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinians with the dignity they deserve.” The audience’s applause was rightly due because Sanders inserted the issue of Palestinians being human into the debate. That is an extremely low bar.

Sanders doubled down at the next Democratic debate in South Carolina in February of this year when he “labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” and said he’d consider reversing President Donald Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

The Israeli Foreign Minister at the time, Israel Katz, slammed Sanders in what he said was a ‘Horrifying Comment’ while proclaiming that Israel does not “intervene in the internal American electoral process…” The latter comment, for anyone even faintly familiar with the pro-Israeli lobby in the US, would be hilarious if the situation were not so dire.

Remember in 2015 when Netanyahu barged into Congress without White House approval which was met by objections from many supporters of Israel including prominent American Jewish leaders? This Bibi blunder sparked a letter from the Washington-based Israeli-American lobby group J-Street where they noted, “Our Congress should not be used as a prop in another nation’s election. One of the central elements that underpins the alliance between our two nations is our common commitment to democracy and elections. That means that both nations stay out of the other’s democratic process.” So much for not intervening in US politics.

Nevertheless, many Jewish Americans and Israelis remain blind to the clear shifts that have already taken place in the Democratic party.

But Palestinians do not need anyone’s affirmation that they are human. If what drives you is solely your love of Israel, even if it is blind love, then common sense is making a clarion call—now is the time to act to save Israel from itself.

Israel can end its 53-year-old military occupation and allow a real Palestinian state to emerge or end up with all the land it wants from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, along with a citizenry of 7 million Palestinians and 7 million Jewish Israelis. Either way, 5 million Palestinian refugees will still be demanding to return home.

Otherwise, Israel, and Jews everywhere, must forever hold their peace (and hasbara) because history is about to be made, again, based on the facts that successive Israeli governments have imposed on the reality between the river and the sea with their ‘might is right’ policies over 73 years.

Soon, the choice will no longer be Israel’s to make. Tick, tick, tick.

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The Nazi Colonists Burn Two Palestinian Cars Near Nablus

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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Several fanatic illegal Nazi Jewish colonists infiltrated, on Tuesday at dawn, into Far’ata Palestinian village, west of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and burnt two cars in addition to writing racist graffiti.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors the Nazi illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the colonists came from Havat Gilad colony, which was built on Palestinian lands near the village.

The colonists also wrote racist anti-Palestinian graffiti on several walls and cars, before fleeing the area.

Daghlas stated that the two cars, a Skoda and a Mercedes, model 2017, are owned by Marwan Ahmad Nofal and Sharhabeel Ahmad Nofal. One of them was just recently bought before the Al-Aqsa Muslim feast.

The attacks are part of frequent violations by the illegal Nazi colonists against the Palestinians, their homes, lands, and holy sites in several parts of occupied Palestine.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on The Nazi Colonists Burn Two Palestinian Cars Near Nablus

Palestine: Soldiers Abduct Fifteen Palestinians

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that the Nazi soldiers abducted, overnight until dawn hours Tuesday, fifteen Palestinians, including a young woman, during extensive and violent searches of homes across the occupied West Bank. The soldiers also shot two Palestinians in Jericho.

The PPS office in Jenin, in northern West Bank, said the Nazi soldiers abducted Mo’tasem Abu Arrana at a sudden military roadblock, and added that the army also stormed and ransacked homes before abducting Ahmad Salah and Mohammad Abu az-Zaki, from Jenin refugee camp, in addition to Amir Sharqawi from Zababda town.

In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted a young woman, identified as Tasneem al-Qadi, 28, from her home.

The Nazi soldiers also abducted Fadi Abu Sneina, from his home in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank.

In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted a young man, identified as Rashid Ali Awad, from his home in Beit Ummar town, north of the city.

In Bethlehem, south of the Nazi occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted two young men, identified as Ayman Yacoub Ghazal and Ala’ Haroun Ghazal.

In addition, the soldiers abducted Ali Mohammad Raslan, a student of the Al-Quds University, from his home in Aqbat Jabr refugee camp, in Jericho, in addition to Hikmat Oweidat.

Protests erupted during the military invasion into Jericho, and the Nazi soldiers shot two young men with live rounds.

In Nablus, in northern West Bank, the Nazi soldiers abducted Mohannad Shehada and Yousef Shehada from their homes in Orif town.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Palestine: Soldiers Abduct Fifteen Palestinians

Bethlehem: The Nazi army Confiscates 327 Dunams

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The Nazi occupation authorities have issued orders from the confiscation of 327 Dunams (80.8 Acres) of Palestinian lands to build hundreds of units in an illegal colony east of Bethlehem, south of occupied Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Hasan Breijiyya, the head of the Bethlehem office of the Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission, said that the Nazi regime recently decided to confiscate 327 Dunams of Palestinian lands to build 224 units in Abie Hanahal colony, which was built on privately-owned Palestinian lands.

Breijiyya added that the lands are in the eastern part of the village, and that the villagers already lost large areas of farmland when the Nazi regime built the illegal colony.

It is worth mentioning that the Nazi regime recently confiscated 700 Dunams (172.9 Acres) of Palestinian lands near al-Ferdis village, east of Bethlehem.

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Nazi regime played ‘key role’ in pushing war against Iraq

IF AMERICANSKNEW 

Israel played ‘key role’ in pushing war against Iraq

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair recently testified that concerns about Israel and Israeli officials were a major part of his discussions with Bush in 2002. BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Numerous Israeli leaders and pro-Israel lobby groups pushed for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a fact that some have tried to obscure…

Given all the problems that the lobby’s prescriptions have produced in recent years, you’d think U.S. leaders would have learned to ignore its advice. But there’s little sign of that so far, which means that these past errors are likely to be repeated. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By Stephen M. Walt, reposted from Foreign Policy

Probably the most controversial claim in my work with John Mearsheimer on the Israel lobby is our argument that it played a key role in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Even some readers who were generally sympathetic to our overall position found that claim hard to accept, and some left-wing critics accused us of letting Bush and Cheney off the hook or of ignoring the importance of other interests, especially oil. Of course, Israel’s defenders in the lobby took issue even more strenuously, usually by mischaracterizing our arguments and ignoring most (if not all) of the evidence we presented.

So I hope readers will forgive me if I indulge today in a bit of self-promotion, or more precisely, self-defense. This week, yet another piece of evidence surfaced that suggests we were right all along (HT to Mehdi Hasan at the New Statesman and J. Glatzer at Mondoweiss). 

In his testimony to the Iraq war commission in the U.K., former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered the following account of his discussions with Bush in Crawford, Texas in April 2002. Blair reveals that concerns about Israel were part of the equation and that Israel officials were involved in those discussions.

Take it away, Tony:

As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this.”

Notice that Blair is not saying that Israel dreamed up the idea of attacking Iraq or that Bush was bent on war solely to benefit Israel or even to appease the Israel lobby here at home.  But Blair is acknowledging that concerns about Israel were part of the equation, and that the Israeli government was being actively consulted in the planning for the war.

Support for Israel is a key tenet of neoconservatism

Blair’s comments fit neatly with the argument we make about the lobby and Iraq. Specifically, Professor Mearsheimer and I made it clear in our article and especially in our book that the idea of invading Iraq originated in the United States with the neoconservatives, and not with the Israeli government. But as the neoconservative pundit Max Boot once put it, steadfast support for Israel is “a key tenet of neoconservatism.” Prominent neo-conservatives occupied important positions in the Bush administration, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they played a major role in persuading Bush and Cheney to back a war against Iraq, which they had been advocating since the late 1990s.

Iraq the first step in a broader campaign of “regional transformation” that would eventually include Iran.

We also pointed out that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials were initially skeptical of this scheme, because they wanted the U.S. to focus on Iran, not Iraq. However, they became enthusiastic supporters of the idea of invading Iraq once the Bush administration made it clear to them that Iraq was just the first step in a broader campaign of “regional transformation” that would eventually include Iran.

At that point top Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum became cheerleaders for the invasion, and they played a prominent role in helping to sell the war here in the United States.

Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, DC in April 2002 and spoke in the U.S. Senate, telling his audience “the urgent need to topple Saddam is paramount,” and that the campaign “deserves the unconditional support of all sane governments.” (It sure sounds like he was well aware of the discussions in Crawford, doesn’t it?)

In May, foreign minister Shimon Peres said on CNN that “Saddam Hussein is as dangerous as bin Laden,” and that the United States “cannot sit and wait.”

A month later, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post recommending that the Bush administration “should, first of all, focus on Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein.”

This chorus continued through the summer and fall, with Barak and Netanyahu writing additional op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journaleachcalling for military action to topple Saddam.

Netanyahu’s piece was titled “The Case for Toppling Saddam” and said that “nothing less than dismantling his regime will do.”

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s official spokesman, Ra’anan Gissen, offered similar statements during this period as well, and Sharon himself told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in August 2002 that Iraq was “the greatest danger facing Israel.”

According to an Aug. 16 article by Aluf Benn in Ha’aretz, Sharon reportedly told the Bush administration that putting off an attack would “only give [Saddam] more of an opportunity to accelerate his program of WMD.”

Foreign Minister Peres reiterated his own warnings as well, and told reporters in September 2002 that “the campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must.” (For sources, see pp. 233-38).

If that’s not enough evidence of where Israel’s leaders were in the run-up to the war, consider that former President Bill Clinton told an audience at an Aspen Institute meeting in 2006 that “every Israeli politician I knew” (and he knows a lot of them) believed that Saddam Hussein was so great a threat that he should be removed even if he did not have WMD.

Nor is this testimony at all surprising, given that we are talking about the leader who had fired Scud missiles into Israel during the first Gulf War in 1991 and had been giving money to the families of suicide bombers. If the Bush administration was bent on taking him out and then turning its gun-sights on Syria and Iran, one can easily understand why Israelis would welcome it.

Israel lobby groups sell the war

Now, what about key groups in the lobby itself?

If the neoconservatives deserve the blame for dreaming up the idea of invading Iraq, key groups and individuals in the lobby played an important role in selling it on Capitol Hill and to the public at large.

AIPAC head Howard Kohr told the New York Sun in January 2003 that one of the organization’s “success stories” over the previous year was “quietly lobbying Congress” to approve the resolution authorizing the use of force, a fact confirmed by journalists such as Nathan Guttman of the Forward, Michelle Goldberg of Salon.com, John B. Judis of the New Republic, and even Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker (see p. 242).

Pundits at pro-Israel think tanks like the Brookings Institutions’s Saban Center were openly backing war by the fall of 2002, with Martin Indyk, the head of the center, and Kenneth Pollack, its director of research, playing especially prominent roles.

Moreover, in this same period both the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to endorse the use of force “as a last resort.”

Mortimer Zuckerman, a well-connected businessman and publisher who was then the chairman of the Conference of Presidents, was especially convinced about the futility of U.N. inspections and the need to topple Saddam, and wrote several editorials making that case in his magazine (U.S. News and World Report).

Still skeptical? Consider the following passage from an article by Matthew Berger of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, published just after President Bush’s September 2002 appearance at the United Nations, where he threatened military action if Iraq did not comply with U.N. resolutions:

Despite their caution and without specifying a formal policy, Jewish leaders predominantly expressed support for Bush’s words at the United Nations.

They said he detailed a strong case that Saddam has consistently ignored U.N. resolutions, that he was seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam has shown a propensity towards using them.

“Iraq is the single most important threat right now to world peace and to our safety,” said Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, executive vice president of the Orthodox Religious Zionists of America.  He described Saddam as a “maniac” who “has proven that he will gas his own people.”

“The fanaticism that exists throughout the Middle East is best addressed by first dealing with Iraq,” agreed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Many American Jewish leaders expressed the fear that Saddam has not been quiet for the past decade because of a loss of will, but because he has been using the time to garner weapons for an eventual attack on U.S. interests and allies.

“Do we have to wait until a target is hit, and the world says, ‘Ah, yes, he did have weapons of mass destruction,’” asked David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.”

Not to be outdone, the editor of Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt, wrote an editorial in mid-December 2002 saying that “Washington’s imminent war on Saddam Hussein is . . . an opportunity to rid the world of a dangerous tyrant who present a particularly horrific threat Israel.”

He went on to say “the Torah instructs that when you enemy seeks to kill you kill him first. Self-defense is not permitted; it is commanded.”

Even the relatively liberal Rabbi David Saperstein of the Union of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center told journalist Michelle Goldberg that “the Jewish community would want to see a forceful resolution to the threat that Saddam Hussein poses.” “Forceful resolution” means war, and Saperstein also offered comparisons to the Bosnian conflict and the Nazi era to reinforce his call for military action.

Finally, consider the following passage from an editorial in the Jewish newspaper Forward, published in 2004:

As President Bush attempted to sell the war .. in Iraq, America’s most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense.  In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Some groups went even further, arguing that that the removal of the Iraqi leaders would represent a significant step toward bringing peace to the Middle East and winning America’s war on terrorism”

The editorial also noted that “concern for Israel’s safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.”

The Forward, it is worth noting,is well-connected and has a well-deserved reputation for probity in its reporting on the American Jewish community.  It is hard to see how its editors could be mistaken about such an important issue or why they would lie about it.  And they never issued a retraction.

We can therefore assume that the writers of this editorial knew what they were talking about: key groups in the lobby supported the war.  Reasonable people can disagree about how important their influence was, of course, but at a minimum these groups reinforced the Bush administration’s resolve and made it less likely that other politicians or commentators would conduct a serious debate about the wisdom of the invasion.

Finally, it bears reiterating that I am talking about key groups and individuals in the Israel lobby, and not about the American Jewish community in toto

Indeed, my co-author and I have repeatedly pointed to surveys showing that American Jews were less supportive of the decision to invade Iraq than the American population as a whole, and we have emphasized that it would be a cardinal error (as well as dangerous) to try to “blame the Jews” for the war.

Rather, blame should be reserved for Bush and Cheney (who made the ultimate decision for war), for the neoconservatives who dreamed up this foolish idea, and for the various groups and individuals — including those in the lobby — who helped sell it.

Nor am I suggesting that these individuals advocated this course because they thought it would be good for Israel but bad for the United States. Rather, they unwisely believed it would be good for both countries. And as we all know, they were tragically wrong.

That misconception helps us understand why the Israelis and their American friends who promoted the Iraq war didn’t do a better job of covering their tracks and obscuring their enthusiasm for the endeavor. I suspect it is because they genuinely believed that the war would be easy and would bring great benefits for both Israel and the United States.

If the war was a smashing success, then they would reap the credit and no one would spend that much time probing the war’s origins. And even if someone did, its proponents would be hailed as strategic geniuses who had conceived and planned a stunning victory.

Once the war went south, however, and numerous people began to probe how this disaster came about, an extensive dust-kicking operation to veil the role of Israel and the lobby was set in motion.

This campaign won’t work, however, because too many people already know that Israel and the lobby were cheerleaders for the war and with the passage of time, more and more evidence of their influence on the decision for war will leak out.

The situation is analogous to what happened with the events surrounding the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964. The Johnson administration could dissemble and cover its tracks for a few years, but eventually the real story got out, as will happen with Iraq. Indeed, Blair’s testimony is evidence of that process at work.

For sure, many Israelis and their friends in the United States will continue to maintain that the Sharon government actually tried to stop the march to war and that groups in the lobby – including AIPAC — stayed on the sideline and did not push for war.

But these post hoc fairy tales will be increasingly hard to sell to the American people, not only because there is a growing body of evidence which directly contradicts them (see pp. 261-262) , but also because the internet and the blogosphere is allowing the word to spread.  Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on the mainstream media to get the story straight.

The war has been a disaster

Finally, let’s not forget that while the Iraq war has been a disaster for the United States, it has also been very bad for Israel, not just because its principal patron has been stuck in a quagmire in Iraq, but also because the biggest winner from the war was Iran, which is the country that Israel fears most.

All of this shows that despite the lobby’s openly-stated commitment to promoting policies that it thinks will benefit Israel, it did not work out that way with the Iraq war. Nor is it working out that way with its unyielding support of Israel’s self-destructive drive to colonize the Occupied Territories, a process that is turning Israel into an apartheid state. And the same warning applies to its efforts to keep all options-including the use of force — “on the table” vis-à-vis Iran.

Given all the problems that the lobby’s prescriptions have produced in recent years, you’d think U.S. leaders would have learned to ignore its advice. But there’s little sign of that so far, which means that these past errors are likely to be repeated. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.


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Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, IranComments Off on Nazi regime played ‘key role’ in pushing war against Iraq

Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That

No one can right the wrongs perpetrated in the past and yet we must address the injustices of the present.

byTodd CronanCharles Palermo

A crew removes the statue of confederateMatthew Fontaine Maury located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and N Belmont Avenue in Richmond, VA on July 2, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

A crew removes the statue of confederateMatthew Fontaine Maury located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and N Belmont Avenue in Richmond, VA on July 2, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

At this moment faculty, students, and administrators at our universities are busily meeting to discuss the renaming of buildings. At Emory in Atlanta, there is a call to rename Longstreet Means residence hall. The case against the name is this: Augustus Longstreet fought for the confederacy and Alexander Means supported the confederacy and wrote about his family’s slaves in his journals. William & Mary has begun a working group of administrators, alumni, students, faculty and staff to “develop principles on the naming and renaming of buildings, spaces and structures” on campus. While these are new efforts emerging in the wake the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, they are also part of an ongoing effort by universities to address the sins of the past.

In 2011 Emory made a very public apology for the university’s ties to slavery. “Emory regrets both this undeniable wrong and the university’s decades of delay in acknowledging slavery’s harmful legacy,” then-President James Wagner said. In 2015 William & Mary worked in earnest “to remove the most visible manifestations and iconography of the Confederacy from campus.” Every version of the argument for redressing faults in the past takes a similar form (in President Wagner’s words): “society must admit its mistakes [in the past] so it can deal with future challenges.” Emory, Wagner says, “must live by those words as well.”

Emory and William & Mary are anything but unique in this ongoing process of atonement. Statues are coming down across the United States and in Europe. Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate War Memorial in Dallas, Silent Sam in Chapel Hill have all come down, confederate flags are no longer welcome at state capitols and sporting events. To this we say: good riddance.

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that students at the University of Wisconsin are calling for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue on the Madison campus. Not only did Lincoln lead the United States in a civil war against southern traitors and their slave economy, but the statue was paid for in part by freedmen, a celebratory dedication to a hero. At this moment, debate is swirling around the fate of a statue in Washington, DC. The statue depicts Lincoln holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Kneeling at his feet is an unshackled black man. This week the Boston arts commission voted unanimously to remove a replica of the statue that stands in the Boston Common. What is the argument against the sculpture? Some say it “diminishes the agency of black people in securing their own liberation.” Others suggest it promotes white supremacy. Like the Lincoln statue in Madison, the Boston and DC statues were paid for by donations from freed slaves. When the statue was unveiled in 1876, Frederick Douglass delivered his most famous speech, the “Oration delivered on the occasion of the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument.” And if the Freedmen’s Monument is up for destruction, what do we do about Douglass himself? It was Douglass who, on his travels to Ireland to meet with the great abolitionist Daniel O’Connell, came to the conclusion that the “main cause” of the “extreme poverty and beggary” devastating Ireland during the potato famine was “Drunkenness.” Even Douglass repeated the colonial power’s racist rationale for dominating and starving a colonized people. If our monuments are memorials to moral purity, then our streets may end up very clean.

From the sublime heights of statue iconoclasm, to the more mundane business of commodity rebranding, name changes are under way for some commodity icons including Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s. All of these products are in the process of a rebrand—and of course a new rollout—in light of their dubious racial associations. Consider as well the fact that several Realtor groups are dropping the “master” bedroom and bathroom terms from their listings, and the owners of a popular Jewish deli will “implement new training and have changed bagel names that referred to Black athletes and musicians” on the menu.

No doubt every moment of protest and unrest is accompanied by confusion and mistakes as well as progress and success. Some of these actions are a long time in coming and bring about positive changes. Others, less so. But what we want to address here is the fact that all of them are politics in the symbolic register. Consider, for instance, the logic of Wagner’s claim; it is basic to every version of the naming controversy: “society must admit its mistakes so it can deal with future challenges.” The thought is right, but the logic is unclear.

We are inevitably invited to read it as saying “white people” must admit to their “racist past and to their current (unconscious or institutionally supported) racist actions.” The implicit claim that slavery is motivated by racism and that the problem is that white people have not taken responsibility for it. Whom does this mea culpa serve? Since virtually everyone in the audience for this statement, and those in support of renaming efforts, is certainly antislavery and antiracist (however imperfectly), there is a real danger that the aim of these efforts is to bask in our own disapproval of the past, to broadcast our superiority to past racists, while leaving unaddressed exploitation occurring in the present. This formulation misidentifies the historical wrong by substituting racism for slavery. It likewise substitutes whiteness, an ascriptive category, for slaveholding, which is an activity. Both moves render the actual historical wrong harder to see. What ends does this confusion serve?

“A symbolic politics has meaning of a certain kind, but no urgency. Scrubbing ignominious names off buildings is progress, but whatever symbolic efficacy it holds should not displace the immediate aim of confronting the exploitation that occurs within and around the walls of our newly named buildings.”While the renaming campaign goes forward it might also be worth asking a few questions about actually existing minorities (so to speak)—rather than the long dead racists—at our universities: Were your custodial and food-service staff paid a living wage before COVID? Did they receive good healthcare? And job protections? Were they paid throughout the shutdown? Will cleaning crews be supplied proper PPE, and a living wage, as they clean our classrooms every day? Did contingent faculty lose salary and healthcare to protect an endowment (or because an endowment was so heavily invested in risky, illiquid funds that the university suddenly experienced a cashflow problem)? These are the questions that determine who gets to put food on the table and whether the way they do it is fair to them and conducive to general wellbeing.

Adolph Reed Jr. reflected on the last round of monument controversy as it swept through his hometown of New Orleans. Reed was happy to see confederate monuments come down, but as he also observed, “removing them is ultimately a rearguard undertaking and one entirely compatible with the dominant neoliberal ideal of social and racial justice.” As in that earlier moment, so it is today that “antiracist activists believe that struggle over symbolic residues of an obnoxious past can fuel or condense challenges to inequalities in the present.” But if the aim is to address inequalities in the present, Reed writes, then it can’t be the case that “white supremacy” was the problem. Rather, the “monuments [themselves] were about legitimizing a social order by displacing its political-economic foundation and imperatives onto a celebratory narrative of white racial-cultural heritage.” That being the case, then the antiracist critics today—the ones in charge of the destruction and renaming process—“accept that [legitimizing] narrative, that order’s ideological halo, on its own terms and demand only that its nonwhite victims and opponents be acknowledged and celebrated instead in the interest of righting past wrongs at the level of symbolic recognition.”

The question we’re asking here is what kind of work is renaming doing and supposed to do? What aspects of racism and discrimination is it addressing, what does it exclude, and what do these controversies aim to exclude? Black people remain disproportionately exposed to the worst of capitalism’s exploitation, so the real question going forward is will there be further exploitation or will there be fair labor practices? A symbolic politics has meaning of a certain kind, but no urgency. Scrubbing ignominious names off buildings is progress, but whatever symbolic efficacy it holds should not displace the immediate aim of confronting the exploitation that occurs within and around the walls of our newly named buildings. 

What does symbolic politics distract us from? In spring 2010, students at Emory began raising concerns about contract labor, roughly 10 percent of the university’s total nonacademic workforce, while part-time employment is around 20 percent. In response, a Committee on Class and Labor was convened to study labor issues at the school. In its “Report and Recommendations,” the committee concludes that the “challenge is to find ways to honor positive dimensions of class differences—such as increased diversity of experience and background—while minimizing their inappropriate and unjust impact on the quality of our work life together.” What could they possibly mean by “positive dimensions” of class difference? They can only mean what we think they mean: poverty is an identity, being rich is an identity, vive la différence. The point about class difference—versus race, gender, culture—is to get rid of it, not to celebrate it. But the report assumes class difference is intractable and recommends we combat an attitude rather than exploitation, focus on an identity rather than our policies.

When we turn to Appendix D, class difference is once again about money. There, employee compensation is broken out into segments—minimum, maximum, and the deciles that separate the two. (Executive administrators are palpably absent from the data.) The weighted average minimum compensation figure is $23,510. The first decile is $26,246. A comparison between each segment and the Atlanta labor market follows, which shows that, while Emory stacks up against the local economy better the higher up the compensation scale one travels, it is roughly equivalent to the local labor market.

The problem is that Atlanta is the current and perennial champion of income inequality in the United States. Atlanta scored a Gini coefficient of 0.57 in 2018. A Gini coefficient of 0.0 indicates a perfectly even distribution of income; a 1.0 indicates a perfectly uneven distribution. The U.S. as a whole scored a 0.38 in the same year. Norway received a 0.25. Atlanta came in right between Namibia’s 0.55 and South Africa’s 0.58, among the countries studied the number one and number two most unequal countries in the world. To assuage fears that you’re exploiting your workers by pointing to your parity with the wider Atlanta labor market is a sordid strategy. It is quite literally to reassure those protesting workers’ unfair compensation by saying it’s every bit as just as South African labor, and nearly as good as Namibian. 

A few years after the 2013 study was submitted, the university reported on IRS forms 990 compensation paid to its vice president of investments and chief investment officer, Mary Cahill, of $1,750,936 (fiscal year 2016) and $3,300,143 (fiscal year 2017, which includes severance and other compensation in excess of base pay and bonuses). Assuming that the compensation of the least well-paid workers at Emory remained roughly flat between the report and fiscal year 2016, Cahill’s compensation was about 74 times that of the lowest paid workers. In 2017, the year of her windfall, it’s more like 140 times.

What came of the Committee on Class and Labor’s report? It’s hard to say. It arose from students’ concerns about contract labor—specifically concerning the food-service contractor Sodexo. Sodexo was removed and replaced in 2015 by Bon Appétit Management Company. So how do things stand now under the new regime? Under Sodexo, with their historic commitments to union-busting and low wages, full-time workers still typically received 40 hours and overtime. Under Bon Appétit, as one cook described the new situation, “They cut you off at 37 or 38 hours—they make sure nobody works overtime.” Bon Appétit management seemed to confirm the new reality. According to their communications director, while the company tries to give its full-time employees 40 hours per week, it “must also focus on balancing the needs of our business.” The general manager at the dining hall described the reduced hours as an effort to provide staff with “a sustainable lifestyle.” According to Bon Appétit’s mission statement, they aim to provide “sustainable foods,” a mission that is apparently made possible by the enforcement of a “sustainable lifestyle” among their employees on the floor. A healthy lifestyle that does not include benefits, overtime, or a living wage.

Sean Connelly, CEO of ConAgra, the company that owns the Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, one of the consumer products undergoing a precipitous rebranding campaign, made about $14.4 million in 2019, which is about 550 times what a “laborer” at ConAgra makes. That’s much worse than Cahill’s multiple of 140, but it’s the same order of magnitude. Of course, if we wanted to calculate the multiple using the compensation of a Bon Appétit worker, the task would be of a different kind. Apparently, even the Bon Appétit worker doesn’t know what the month’s wage will be.

Why do we bring up these facts and figures? Because they describe a problem to which our symbolic politics offers not a solution but an alternative. No one had to protest to convince Connelly that Mrs. Butterworth’s needed a rebrand. Whoever made that decision understood it was about selling a product, and not about improving the lives of its employees.

No one can right the wrongs perpetrated in the past. At best, we can revise the way we represent our relation to them. What we can set right is the injustice committed here and now.

Posted in Campaigns, PoliticsComments Off on Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That

Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That

No one can right the wrongs perpetrated in the past and yet we must address the injustices of the present.

by: Todd CronanCharles Palermo

A crew removes the statue of confederateMatthew Fontaine Maury located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and N Belmont Avenue in Richmond, VA on July 2, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

A crew removes the statue of confederateMatthew Fontaine Maury located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and N Belmont Avenue in Richmond, VA on July 2, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

At this moment faculty, students, and administrators at our universities are busily meeting to discuss the renaming of buildings. At Emory in Atlanta, there is a call to rename Longstreet Means residence hall. The case against the name is this: Augustus Longstreet fought for the confederacy and Alexander Means supported the confederacy and wrote about his family’s slaves in his journals. William & Mary has begun a working group of administrators, alumni, students, faculty and staff to “develop principles on the naming and renaming of buildings, spaces and structures” on campus. While these are new efforts emerging in the wake the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, they are also part of an ongoing effort by universities to address the sins of the past.

In 2011 Emory made a very public apology for the university’s ties to slavery. “Emory regrets both this undeniable wrong and the university’s decades of delay in acknowledging slavery’s harmful legacy,” then-President James Wagner said. In 2015 William & Mary worked in earnest “to remove the most visible manifestations and iconography of the Confederacy from campus.” Every version of the argument for redressing faults in the past takes a similar form (in President Wagner’s words): “society must admit its mistakes [in the past] so it can deal with future challenges.” Emory, Wagner says, “must live by those words as well.”

Emory and William & Mary are anything but unique in this ongoing process of atonement. Statues are coming down across the United States and in Europe. Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate War Memorial in Dallas, Silent Sam in Chapel Hill have all come down, confederate flags are no longer welcome at state capitols and sporting events. To this we say: good riddance.

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that students at the University of Wisconsin are calling for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue on the Madison campus. Not only did Lincoln lead the United States in a civil war against southern traitors and their slave economy, but the statue was paid for in part by freedmen, a celebratory dedication to a hero. At this moment, debate is swirling around the fate of a statue in Washington, DC. The statue depicts Lincoln holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Kneeling at his feet is an unshackled black man. This week the Boston arts commission voted unanimously to remove a replica of the statue that stands in the Boston Common. What is the argument against the sculpture? Some say it “diminishes the agency of black people in securing their own liberation.” Others suggest it promotes white supremacy. Like the Lincoln statue in Madison, the Boston and DC statues were paid for by donations from freed slaves. When the statue was unveiled in 1876, Frederick Douglass delivered his most famous speech, the “Oration delivered on the occasion of the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument.” And if the Freedmen’s Monument is up for destruction, what do we do about Douglass himself? It was Douglass who, on his travels to Ireland to meet with the great abolitionist Daniel O’Connell, came to the conclusion that the “main cause” of the “extreme poverty and beggary” devastating Ireland during the potato famine was “Drunkenness.” Even Douglass repeated the colonial power’s racist rationale for dominating and starving a colonized people. If our monuments are memorials to moral purity, then our streets may end up very clean.

From the sublime heights of statue iconoclasm, to the more mundane business of commodity rebranding, name changes are under way for some commodity icons including Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s. All of these products are in the process of a rebrand—and of course a new rollout—in light of their dubious racial associations. Consider as well the fact that several Realtor groups are dropping the “master” bedroom and bathroom terms from their listings, and the owners of a popular Jewish deli will “implement new training and have changed bagel names that referred to Black athletes and musicians” on the menu.

No doubt every moment of protest and unrest is accompanied by confusion and mistakes as well as progress and success. Some of these actions are a long time in coming and bring about positive changes. Others, less so. But what we want to address here is the fact that all of them are politics in the symbolic register. Consider, for instance, the logic of Wagner’s claim; it is basic to every version of the naming controversy: “society must admit its mistakes so it can deal with future challenges.” The thought is right, but the logic is unclear.

We are inevitably invited to read it as saying “white people” must admit to their “racist past and to their current (unconscious or institutionally supported) racist actions.” The implicit claim that slavery is motivated by racism and that the problem is that white people have not taken responsibility for it. Whom does this mea culpa serve? Since virtually everyone in the audience for this statement, and those in support of renaming efforts, is certainly antislavery and antiracist (however imperfectly), there is a real danger that the aim of these efforts is to bask in our own disapproval of the past, to broadcast our superiority to past racists, while leaving unaddressed exploitation occurring in the present. This formulation misidentifies the historical wrong by substituting racism for slavery. It likewise substitutes whiteness, an ascriptive category, for slaveholding, which is an activity. Both moves render the actual historical wrong harder to see. What ends does this confusion serve?

“A symbolic politics has meaning of a certain kind, but no urgency. Scrubbing ignominious names off buildings is progress, but whatever symbolic efficacy it holds should not displace the immediate aim of confronting the exploitation that occurs within and around the walls of our newly named buildings.”While the renaming campaign goes forward it might also be worth asking a few questions about actually existing minorities (so to speak)—rather than the long dead racists—at our universities: Were your custodial and food-service staff paid a living wage before COVID? Did they receive good healthcare? And job protections? Were they paid throughout the shutdown? Will cleaning crews be supplied proper PPE, and a living wage, as they clean our classrooms every day? Did contingent faculty lose salary and healthcare to protect an endowment (or because an endowment was so heavily invested in risky, illiquid funds that the university suddenly experienced a cashflow problem)? These are the questions that determine who gets to put food on the table and whether the way they do it is fair to them and conducive to general wellbeing.

Adolph Reed Jr. reflected on the last round of monument controversy as it swept through his hometown of New Orleans. Reed was happy to see confederate monuments come down, but as he also observed, “removing them is ultimately a rearguard undertaking and one entirely compatible with the dominant neoliberal ideal of social and racial justice.” As in that earlier moment, so it is today that “antiracist activists believe that struggle over symbolic residues of an obnoxious past can fuel or condense challenges to inequalities in the present.” But if the aim is to address inequalities in the present, Reed writes, then it can’t be the case that “white supremacy” was the problem. Rather, the “monuments [themselves] were about legitimizing a social order by displacing its political-economic foundation and imperatives onto a celebratory narrative of white racial-cultural heritage.” That being the case, then the antiracist critics today—the ones in charge of the destruction and renaming process—“accept that [legitimizing] narrative, that order’s ideological halo, on its own terms and demand only that its nonwhite victims and opponents be acknowledged and celebrated instead in the interest of righting past wrongs at the level of symbolic recognition.”

The question we’re asking here is what kind of work is renaming doing and supposed to do? What aspects of racism and discrimination is it addressing, what does it exclude, and what do these controversies aim to exclude? Black people remain disproportionately exposed to the worst of capitalism’s exploitation, so the real question going forward is will there be further exploitation or will there be fair labor practices? A symbolic politics has meaning of a certain kind, but no urgency. Scrubbing ignominious names off buildings is progress, but whatever symbolic efficacy it holds should not displace the immediate aim of confronting the exploitation that occurs within and around the walls of our newly named buildings. 

What does symbolic politics distract us from? In spring 2010, students at Emory began raising concerns about contract labor, roughly 10 percent of the university’s total nonacademic workforce, while part-time employment is around 20 percent. In response, a Committee on Class and Labor was convened to study labor issues at the school. In its “Report and Recommendations,” the committee concludes that the “challenge is to find ways to honor positive dimensions of class differences—such as increased diversity of experience and background—while minimizing their inappropriate and unjust impact on the quality of our work life together.” What could they possibly mean by “positive dimensions” of class difference? They can only mean what we think they mean: poverty is an identity, being rich is an identity, vive la différence. The point about class difference—versus race, gender, culture—is to get rid of it, not to celebrate it. But the report assumes class difference is intractable and recommends we combat an attitude rather than exploitation, focus on an identity rather than our policies.

When we turn to Appendix D, class difference is once again about money. There, employee compensation is broken out into segments—minimum, maximum, and the deciles that separate the two. (Executive administrators are palpably absent from the data.) The weighted average minimum compensation figure is $23,510. The first decile is $26,246. A comparison between each segment and the Atlanta labor market follows, which shows that, while Emory stacks up against the local economy better the higher up the compensation scale one travels, it is roughly equivalent to the local labor market.

The problem is that Atlanta is the current and perennial champion of income inequality in the United States. Atlanta scored a Gini coefficient of 0.57 in 2018. A Gini coefficient of 0.0 indicates a perfectly even distribution of income; a 1.0 indicates a perfectly uneven distribution. The U.S. as a whole scored a 0.38 in the same year. Norway received a 0.25. Atlanta came in right between Namibia’s 0.55 and South Africa’s 0.58, among the countries studied the number one and number two most unequal countries in the world. To assuage fears that you’re exploiting your workers by pointing to your parity with the wider Atlanta labor market is a sordid strategy. It is quite literally to reassure those protesting workers’ unfair compensation by saying it’s every bit as just as South African labor, and nearly as good as Namibian. 

A few years after the 2013 study was submitted, the university reported on IRS forms 990 compensation paid to its vice president of investments and chief investment officer, Mary Cahill, of $1,750,936 (fiscal year 2016) and $3,300,143 (fiscal year 2017, which includes severance and other compensation in excess of base pay and bonuses). Assuming that the compensation of the least well-paid workers at Emory remained roughly flat between the report and fiscal year 2016, Cahill’s compensation was about 74 times that of the lowest paid workers. In 2017, the year of her windfall, it’s more like 140 times.

What came of the Committee on Class and Labor’s report? It’s hard to say. It arose from students’ concerns about contract labor—specifically concerning the food-service contractor Sodexo. Sodexo was removed and replaced in 2015 by Bon Appétit Management Company. So how do things stand now under the new regime? Under Sodexo, with their historic commitments to union-busting and low wages, full-time workers still typically received 40 hours and overtime. Under Bon Appétit, as one cook described the new situation, “They cut you off at 37 or 38 hours—they make sure nobody works overtime.” Bon Appétit management seemed to confirm the new reality. According to their communications director, while the company tries to give its full-time employees 40 hours per week, it “must also focus on balancing the needs of our business.” The general manager at the dining hall described the reduced hours as an effort to provide staff with “a sustainable lifestyle.” According to Bon Appétit’s mission statement, they aim to provide “sustainable foods,” a mission that is apparently made possible by the enforcement of a “sustainable lifestyle” among their employees on the floor. A healthy lifestyle that does not include benefits, overtime, or a living wage.

Sean Connelly, CEO of ConAgra, the company that owns the Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, one of the consumer products undergoing a precipitous rebranding campaign, made about $14.4 million in 2019, which is about 550 times what a “laborer” at ConAgra makes. That’s much worse than Cahill’s multiple of 140, but it’s the same order of magnitude. Of course, if we wanted to calculate the multiple using the compensation of a Bon Appétit worker, the task would be of a different kind. Apparently, even the Bon Appétit worker doesn’t know what the month’s wage will be.

Why do we bring up these facts and figures? Because they describe a problem to which our symbolic politics offers not a solution but an alternative. No one had to protest to convince Connelly that Mrs. Butterworth’s needed a rebrand. Whoever made that decision understood it was about selling a product, and not about improving the lives of its employees.

No one can right the wrongs perpetrated in the past. At best, we can revise the way we represent our relation to them. What we can set right is the injustice committed here and now.

Posted in USAComments Off on Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That

Rising Autocracy

by RICHARD C. GROSS

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

This is not only one of the worst times for American democracy, it is one of the most dangerous times.

The creeping – and creepy – autocracy that is the hallmark of President Donald Trump and his inept, ineffective administration of court loyalists has slithered further into upending America’s freedoms with the dispatch of federal officials onto the streets of Portland, Oregon., despite the repeated objections of federal, state and local leaders.

The purpose: to police and detain protesters who have staged daily demonstrations since the May 25 cop killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement to secure more racially just law enforcement.

This is the tactic of police states, a red line in any true democracy that should not be crossed. Every day something new, unexpected and usually distasteful from the White House. Every day something worse than the previous one.

Trump, the self-described law and order president, ran into stiff opposition when he wanted to federalize soldiers to “dominate” protesters exercising their constitutional right of peaceful assembly in cities around the country to demand criminal justice for minorities, particularly those who have been treated unfairly by white police. So he substituted troops for law enforcement officials from various federal agencies. He often seems to get what he wants.

Let’s take a step back for some perspective.

Novelist Hari Kunzru, in his review of the nonfiction book “Surviving Autocracy” by New Yorker staffer Masha Gessen in the July 2 edition of The New York Review of Books, denounced Trump’s June 1 Rose Garden speech while explosions were heard as police and other authorities tried to scatter demonstrators from outside the White House with flash-bang rounds and other devices.

“It became apparent that the protest had been dispersed to allow Trump to finish his speech and walk over ‘recaptured ground’ to St. John’s Episcopal Church,” Kunzru wrote. “The cynical use of violence, to allow the president to stage a photo op, constitutes a new moral low in a presidency that has not exactly been short of them.

“The deployment of the U.S. military against Americans exercising their First Amendment right to protest is a red line. If it is crossed with impunity, the transition to autocracy will be complete.”

That’s what’s been happening in Portland.

Federal police and agents dressed in camouflage military gear who gave the appearance of regular soldiers reportedly fired teargas and swept through the streets in minivans devoid of markings that were used to haul in protesters.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler characterized the paramilitary forces as Trump’s “personal army.”

“This is part of a coordinated strategy out of Trump’s White House to use federal troops to bolster his sagging polling data and it is absolute abuse of federal law enforcement,” he said. “As we were starting to see things deescalate, their actions last Saturday (July 11) and every night since have actually ratcheted up the tension in our streets.”

“A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump’s secret police,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., tweeted Thursday.

Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenbaum, has filed a lawsuit that charged several federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Protection, with unlawful law enforcement and sought a temporary restraining order against federal officials from detaining Oregon residents. She also named up to 10 “John Does” for not wearing badges, making it impossible to identify them.

Oregon’s American Civil Liberties Union Foundation said it sued DHS and the U.S. Marshal’s Service to prevent them from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest or using force against journalists or legal observers.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted that he and Wyden would seek to amend the Pentagon’s authorization legislation to stop the Trump administration “from sending its paramilitary squads” into the nation’s city streets.

The acting DHS deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, told NPR in an interview Friday in defense of federal intervention in the “law breaking going on in Portland” that “this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.”

In his review of Gessen’s disturbing book, Kunzru strikes with convincing precision to tell us where we are in our developing autocracy under Trump:

“The book is a snapshot of how far American public life has been degraded, how the vaunted democratic system of checks and balances has collapsed, and how the conventions of journalism and policy debate have hampered the task of holding power to account.”

He defines Trump “as an attempting autocrat,” then he directly quotes Gessen, 53, who lived in the Soviet Union as a child and, later, as a journalist and thus knows something about autocracy. He quotes from the book:

“The first three years [of Trump in office] have shown that an autocratic attempt in the United States has a credible chance of succeeding. Worse than that, they have shown that an autocratic attempt builds logically on the structures and norms of American government: on the concentration of power in the executive branch, and on the marriage of money and politics.”

Posted in USA, C.I.A, PoliticsComments Off on Rising Autocracy

Money Capital vs Life Capital: the War of Values We Live or Die By

by JOHN MCMURTRY – JEFFERY KLAEHN

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Author of UNESCOs ‘Philosophy and World Problems’, Professor John McMurtry is questioned on the planetary life-system crisis by media critic Dr. Jeffery Klaehn.

Klaehn: You have  stated that ‘the war of values is what is least comprehended in our multi-level world crisis’.  What is this war of values?

McMurtry: The blind spot at the highest levels of critical thought is on the underlying value system we are ruled by.  The dominant assumption is that ‘moral compass’ and ‘values’ are a matter of individual preferences, or are ideological masks for ruling-class interests. The value system we in fact live by is presupposed as economic necessity and inevitable. We are in this way trapped within a life-blind value program conceived as laws of nature. The Covid-19 crisis is a test of how deep the disorder is.

JK: What is this ‘life-blind value program’? 

JM: Under the name of ‘growth’, self-multiplying private money sequences turn all that exists into ever more of their own demand with no life necessity regulating them. We now know a few billionaires own more than the majority of the world. What is not tracked is how they exponentially increase their fortunes by massive pollution and depletion of all that supports life to auto-maximize their profits – from the air and the water to the ice-caps and the biomes of our soil and guts. This is shamefully called ‘the free market’, and ‘overpopulation’ of the poor is still blamed for the results.

JK: Where does climate warming fit in?

JM: ‘Climate change’ and warming’ are euphemisms for ever greater climate destabilization and extremes. But as overwhelming a problem as it is, climate is only one of the life support systems despoiled for external profits in a feeding frenzy which only Covid-19 has slowed down. Public health crisis is the test of a society’s social immune system, its life security system. But even in the Covid pandemic, the money-sharks are after more, and in the Trumped US and Brazil the pandemic has run out of infection control. Wall Street churns the NY stock market up and down daily to swallow small fry while fixing financial pathways for big corporate customers to capture hundreds of billions of public dollars. Amazon, Big Pharma and HMO’s, and telecommunication giants profit more than ever on the back of the disease and low-wage workers. No-one knows how much more debt will be owed to Wall Street by an already skinned public. US society collapses just when it could re-set to a universal health system, life-protective law, energy economy, and public banking. All are more necessary and possible than before.

JK: But as we know, this global system is thought to be driven by unavoidable ‘economic laws’. How do we begin to re-set at the conceptual level?  

JM: The starting point of understanding is beneath what is miscalled economics. It is the life capital base that all economics and other value systems have presupposed away.

JK: What is life capital?

JM: Life capital denotes the ground of all life value through generations, and what every breath we take depends on – life wealth that produces more life wealth without loss and cumulative gain through time. Not more money demand, but more life capacity producing more – for example, your own life capacities becoming more fit and able through time, or a society becoming more disease-free, literate and ecologically biodiverse than before. The money-capitalist society steers in the opposite direction. It is structured only to produce more profitably priced commodities whose cycles cumulatively degenerate all life systems.

JK: Can you contextualize this in relation to the concepts of ‘progress,’ ‘development’ and ‘growth’ as they’re typically utilized in contemporary public discourses?

JM: These are cover-up slogans which refer only to more profitably priced commodity outputs and all the looting, polluting and waste that goes with them. They are the opposite of flourishing life and support systems. The ruling axiom of rationality here is atomically self-maximizing private money value positions who take nothing else into account. But only collective life capital gain or loss measures real economic development or decline. Don’t take my word for it. Try to find any other metric that can do the job.

JK: In terms of our paradigmatic understandings of these issues and the language and concepts used to discuss them, is the dominant system of thought merely parochial?

JM: The lenses are parochial in narrowness, but they are life-blind at the global level. Game theory is the perfect example. It is used everywhere across disciplines and great powers. But like so-called economics, it excludes any common life ground a-priori.

JK: You recently published an article – ‘Will Covid Awake Us? The Unconscious System Plague’ – in which you wrote of ‘the emergent principle of life-coherent government.’ Can you elaborate on this here?

JM: Life coherent government seeks to protect and enable life capacity development at organic, social and ecological levels. If it effectively regulates for life security and against commodity carbon pollution and extinctions of species and habitats, it becomes life-coherent. It is not government as now in service to more money demand and private commodities as society’s ‘growth’. Anti-growth activists understand this, but lack any life capital measure to replace GDP.

JK: Has your thinking here been influenced by Karl Polanyi?

JM: I originally dismissed Polanyi’s The Great Transformation as class-evasive and vague on its anchoring concept of ‘the human and natural life substance’. I was then working out The Structure of Marx’s World-View in a decade-long research published by Princeton in 1978. I scoured his entire corpus to provide a life-ground for his theory, but productive force development is undeniably his determining independent variable of history. I think this technological determinism accounts for Marx’s justification of the destruction of pre-industrial peoples and classes. His lack of any defined life-grounded ethic has allowed for subsequent Stalinist mechanism, theoretical anti-humanism, and ecological ruins in worship of industrial mass production. I seek to expose and overcome this problem in a recent monograph online ‘150 Years after Capital: Reading Marx as Life-Grounded’.

JK: ‘Life-ground’ and ‘human and natural life substance’ sound a lot alike, and Polanyi like you departed from Marx. What is the ultimate difference?

JM: Technological determinism is where I see the problem unsolved by any deeper life-value principles to guide it. It is the primary failure of our entire epoch. Many like Ellul and Heidegger recognize the technological juggernaut, but lack any demystified and life-based alternative to it. Karl Polanyi fleetingly grounds in the ‘human and natural life substance’, but with no criterion, no normative framework beyond the past, and no governing relationship to industrial production. It is by what his work lacks while appearing to provide what is missing, and I would say much the same of eco-feminism. Each is an historic marker on the way to working out a principled understanding of a life-coherent industrial society.

JK: You think then that life capital is the key to solve the world crisis. Are there examples of life capital in action now to draw on?

JM: Life capital is the universal value unit across individual, social and ecological systems, the missing baseline and measure of all lasting worth on the planet. But it is repelled by the ruling economic mind-lock, including the Marxist heresy, like the Church refused to admit the moving earth. Once understood, it becomes self-. evident. Life capital is what any person, society or ecosystem must reproduce through time for any true sustainability. The examples are everywhere, but their unifying principle is not penetrated.

At the most general level, the public and scientific knowledge base of a society is collective life capital. So too are all of society’s natural resources and support systems, as well as every species and the biodiverse environment and the biosphere itself. Everything and every process that produces more of itself through time without loss and cumulative gain is life capital, and it is the only concept that can capture this meaning at the individual or collective level. Its principle is most revealing in connecting across domains what is being cumulatively looted, polluted and wasted by the private money-value system. Only this concept finds the universal line of life versus death in process.

JK: Do you think it is a case of the ruling paradigm in collapse?

JM: Yes, and at the most general level. Our philosophies and sciences have no concept of the life-ground itself, no generic measure of life value, and no life-need economics. At the same time, private money-value maximization is masked as ever more ‘goods’ at lower prices while in fact poisoning , depleting and destroying primary life capital in every form – the breathable air, the potable and life-giving water, the forest habitats, the arable soil, the fish-stocks, oceans and rivers, the ice-cap towers, even our cellular reproduction. There is no end or limit to this moving line of life-system depredation. Yet media, states and specialist sciences do not connect across catastrophes except to inanely blame human nature itself or ‘the anthropocene’.

JK: So the ‘war of value systems’ is ultimately between money capital and life capital. But it seems to be an unconscious war if no-one recognizes the life capital that is everywhere at risk and warred upon.

JM: It is like a cancer not recognized by its life host. This is the model I use – not a metaphor – to explain the disorder at all levels of life organization. Every life capacity that produces more life capacity through time – life capital – can be measured as more or less in the present compared to the past. For centuries, we have paid attention only to aggregate money-value demand and supply for profit as the bottom line. Life carrying capacities and functions across domains have no value in this pseudo economics. Every form of life can be under attack with no received science connecting the degenerate life trends and their common cause. Even ecological economics does not distinguish between sustaining a biodiverse forest habitat and a tree-plantation resource for the market.

JK: But what the social agency to respond? There seems to be no historical agency like ‘the working class’ to stand for the ‘common life-ground’ itself.

JM: Collective meaning does not exist in the ruling economics. Only aggregates of atomic individuals compute. Marx goes beyond this in understanding collective agency in class terms. But the life foundation of society is beneath class. It is the civil commons which distinguishes the human species from all others in its evolution – all social constructs which enable universal access of its members to life goods, from language and knowledge transmission across generations to water, food and shelter provisions organized for all members of the community.

The tribal and village commons have been stripped of all this by the private money-capital system which underlies ever-mutating technologies and semiotics. But societies have still historically instituted civil commons with no profit take – from non-toxic water supplies, waste disposal and minimum incomes to universal healthcare, public paths, arts and libraries, to common knowledge bases and higher education. Yet all of these civil commons are under attack in the false name of ‘efficiencies’, ‘cost-saving innovations’ and, most revealing of the system superstition at work, ‘the magic of the free market’. Mass media, privately funded think-tanks, the corporate academy, and bought political parties then narrate it all as rational and necessary. Ever more labyrinthine financial drains are devised to draw out the lifeblood of society and nature’s reproduction. Yet the levels and domains of disbelief, de-legitimation, resistance, reclamation and alternative multiply so that what was publicly assumed months ago is now history.

JK: Why is this not twenty-first century Marxism in different words?

JM: Besides the fact that the historical agency of the civil commons goes underneath class, Marxism has no concept of life capital. It argues that capitalism itself will develop productive forces to negate itself in an inevitable socialist revolution. It is striking how both orthodox and revolutionary economics believe in opposite ways that the system necessarily produces the best of possible worlds in the end.

JK: So what then of technological development reaching a stage that ‘breaks the fetters of the capitalist integument’?

In reality, technological advances now only make money capitalism stronger and the working class objectively weaker. But civil commons agency has in recent decades been enormously empowered by electronic communications outside ruling control – why the Wikileaks founder is being tortured, and why the reader can access this text now. More deeply, there is no life base in any other model to the steer the economy in accordance with the universal life necessities of society and nature. Without a life capital base, nor community deeper than the proletariat, the worst can still happen.

JK: Following from this, how does the political economy of the media keep the system and the public ‘life-blind’?

JM: The old saw that the free press belongs to those own one is a good starting point. A few multinational corporations control over 90% of the news-feed and public commentary on it, and all are governed by an underlying syntax of censorship. In whatever language these media speak, any fact or argument contradicting or conflicting with this control of the media – or of the wider economy – is selected out in one way or another. Determinatio est negatio. Determination is negation. Since the media are advertising vehicles in which all major corporate interests come together as one, they are a unifying public relations chorus for the ruling value system. Censorship of whatever is opposed to it is built into their function.

This selection/exclusion syntax of the media is thus predictive. In foreign affairs, one will not read that the US is the aggressor state in the past or next wars it leads, or that it holds the world record of killing civilians by terrorist acts and sponsorship. These grim realities are not only selected out in the corporate media, but this second-order fact is itself unspeakable. So too is, for example, the undeniably true report that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is an ongoing war crime and its daily actions are crimes against humanity under international law. Less known is the fact that the ‘humanitarian’ US-NATO bombing of defenseless Serbia and Kosovo was a cover for the US-supported ‘free Kosovo’ criminal gang put in government to murder hundreds of people to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market (as the International Criminal Court has finally charged President Thaki and 9 others after 12 years of investigation. One can go on a long time with life-and-death examples of what the media predictably silence or gag. A good overview source is your article on how western media supports state terror.

All demonstrate the underlying general principle of selection and exclusion of fact, narrative, and – most insidiously –point of view of those warred upon which is always suppressed or presented as irrational. When any of this does get out in the media, it operates as an inoculation to sustain their credibility. My original 1988 analysis of the underlying selection/exclusion system of corporate and state media across lines of enmity is found here.

JK: How about the language of the media and what you here call ‘validating and invalidating predicates’ of so-called ‘objective reporting’?

JM: The most pervasive operation of selection lies in the language itself. Societies and leaders opposing the surrounding system are portrayed as irrational, reckless, dictatorial, hard-line, brutal, and so on. There is a list of stock abuses to invalidate opposition–‘communist’ has been a civil death sentence in many places and times. On the other hand, those supporting US empire are characterized as strong, no-nonsense, courageous defenders of the free world, bulwarks against communism or Islamicism, and so on – even if they rule by mass torture and persecution of organizing community leaders, workers and environmentalists. Only validating predicates are used, unless for geo-strategic advantage the favored dictators are later demonized (like Noriega and Saddam formerly on the CIA payroll, and bin Laden earlier leading the Islamic ‘freedom fighters’ against the USSR).

This is where borderless money-capital multiplication backed by bombs against all limits and oppositions is covered up as ‘defense of the free world.’ Perhaps the deepest examples of invalidating predicates and exclusion of evidence in the US mass media today are on universal health-care (which centrist David Brooks of NYT attacks as ‘frightening’ on PBS), public banking (which is taboo to track in US media even though the 1776 Revolution was fought for it), and government by ‘the general welfare’ clause of the Constitution (which remains inconceivable even in an uncontrolled pandemic).

Posted in USA, PoliticsComments Off on Money Capital vs Life Capital: the War of Values We Live or Die By

Laos Has Tackled COVID-19, But It Is Drowning in Debt to International Finance

by VIJAY PRASHAD

Photograph Source: Torbenbrinker – CC BY-SA 3.0

On June 11, Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)—a country of 7 million in Southeast Asia—said it had temporarily prevailed over COVID-19. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said that his country had “gained an important victory in the first campaign against this vicious enemy.” The first cases of COVID-19 detected in Laos were registered on March 24; a total of 19 people had been infected with the virus by April 12, and—after 58 days of no new cases—the last patient was discharged on June 9. There were no new cases of COVID-19 in Laos since April 12 (93 days of no new cases as of July 14). There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Laos.

Laos is a landlocked country, surrounded by the People’s Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. It shares a 423-kilometer border with China, across which traders and tourists routinely travel. Nonetheless, Laos—like its neighbor Vietnam—has had no deaths from COVID-19. Laos has been particular about the possibility of transmission through travelers who have crossed from neighboring countries (which is why they are being held in quarantine centers for two weeks).

How Did Laos Do It?

News came from Wuhan, China, in the first week of January of the spread of a new coronavirus. On January 6, Laos’ Prime Minister Thongloun was in Beijing for talks with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, where their conversations were mainly about economic development. In particular, the leaders of the two countries discussed the China-Laos railway, which has been in the works since 2016 and will run for 414-kilometers from Vientiane (Laos’ capital) to Boten (on the China-Laos border). At the time, too little was known about the coronavirus for it to have been a likely focus of the meeting. Until January 20, there was no clarity that this virus could be transmitted from human to human. As soon as the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, the government of Laos set up a Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control to monitor the virus and prevent its spread in Laos.

The first sign of trouble came on February 1, when Zhang Biao, who had recently visited Laos, was found to have the virus upon his return home to Chongqing, China. On January 26, Zhang arrived in Vientiane on a China Express Airlines flight as part of a tourist group. He traveled with the group to Vang Vieng, a tourist destination four hours away from Vientiane. He returned to China on January 31, where he was found to be infected. In response, the Laotian authorities retraced his steps, tested people who had come into contact with him, and aggressively moved to prevent any further infections. Laos suspended the issuance of visas to Chinese nationals, and Lao Airlines reducedits flights to China (not only is China the main market for Lao Airlines, but the tourist trade in Laos is also almost entirely reliant upon China). There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Laos until almost two months later, March 24.

On March 5, Laos’ Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Phouthone Muongpak held a press conference where he said that there had been 53 suspected cases of COVID-19 in the country, but each of the patients had tested negative. “We are confident in our surveillance system,” said Dr. Phouthone, the deputy head of Laos’ Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control. Teams of epidemiologists traveled to places in Laos where there were reports of deaths that appeared to be from COVID-19; samples taken from the bodies were tested at three laboratories: the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology (which had WHO experts oversee the test), the Institut Pasteur du Laos and the Microbiology Laboratory at Mahosot Hospital. They all came back negative. Additionally, samples were also sent to the WHO laboratory in Australia and came back negative, said Dr. Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, the director-general of Laos’ Department of Communicable Diseases Control.

The Vientiane Times credited the lack of cases in Laos to the rigorous scanning and testing done at ports of entry and the quarantines imposed on those who entered the country. Even those who showed no symptoms when they entered Laos were told to go into self-imposed quarantine for two weeks. Showing an abundance of caution, on March 9, the government declared that celebrations of Lao New Year (April 13-15) would be canceled.

In fact, there were no cases in Laos from January 30 until March 24, when the first two confirmed cases were reported: they were a 28-year-old male hotel worker from Vientiane who most likely contracted the virus during a work trip to Bangkok, Thailand, in early March, and a 36-year-old female tour guide from Vientiane who most likely contracted it from a tourist (as reported to me by a government official). Both patients were taken to the Mittaphab “150 Bed” Friendship Hospital in Vientiane, which was soon to be designated as a COVID-19 hospital.

Five days later, on March 29, the Lao government announced a full lockdown of the country. Any necessary activity would have to follow the strict WHO protocols of physical distance, mask wearing, and hand washing. The task force was enjoined to train medical professionals and the security services, develop plans to break the chain of infection (including testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and treatment), and use the public sector to procure necessary medical equipment (including protective gear and ventilators). The government agencies were told to “provide detail[ed] guidance” in an easy-to-understand format through the various government media and through a special website; only science-based information was to be transmitted to the public.

On July 8, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research released a report called “CoronaShock and Socialism.” The text looks closely at the experience of four parts of the world with socialist governments—Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Kerala, India—and how these parts of the world were able to substantially break the chain of infection. The analysis showed that these countries were better able to deal with the virus because they took a science-based approach, they had a public sector that they could rely upon for the production of the materials they needed to combat the virus, and they cultivated public action. Laos very much followed these principles, as two officials at the Ministry of Health informed me via telephone in early July. In addition, Laos received essential materials (protective suits, masks) from both Vietnamand China (Chinese medical personnel also came to assist the Laotian medical service).

In June, Prime Minister Thongloun said that—for now—Laos appeared to have beaten back the virus. Dr. Howard Sobel, the WHO representative in Laos, concurred. The response of the government of Laos, Dr. Sobel said, “was exemplary. The government anticipated the arrival of this terrible disease and did all the right things to stop it spreading.” Doubts about the low number of cases and the lack of deaths were set aside by Ludovic Arnout of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “It’s difficult to hide [coronavirus cases],” he said, “so I believe it.”

Impact

Laos has not fully recovered from the impact of the U.S. bombing of the country: 2.5 million tons of U.S. bombs dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973, with the soil in many parts of the country polluted for generations. When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Laos in 2016, he regretted the “biggest bombing in history,” but he did not apologize for it. He promised $90 million over three years to remove an estimated 75 million unexploded bombs that continue to claim lives and damage agriculture decades after the “secret war” ended.

Nonetheless, the communist government in Laos has—with investment from China—persisted in a development pathway that has brought some gains for its population. Basic human indicators have improved, and for the past two decades unemployment has remained under 1 percent.

But the coronavirus recession will strike Laos very hard. In April, Anousone Khamsingsavath, director-general of the Department of Labor Skill Development at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, said, “Poverty in Laos will be exacerbated because large numbers of people have been laid off from their jobs.” Her ministry “reported recently that the unemployment rate had surged from the average of 2 percent to 25 percent at present,” according to the Vientiane Times. The World Bank noted that while Laos has “so far avoided a health crisis,” it has not been “immune from the global economic downturn.” Growth rates, which had been estimated before the pandemic to be secure at 7 percent, will collapse to near zero as a consequence of the global coronavirus recession.

Most terrifyingly, this will mean that Laos, which had a relatively stable economy, will slip into debt and chaos. In May, Fitch Ratings downgraded Laos’ Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating to B- and revised its overall outlook from “Stable” to “Negative.” This change in Laos’ economy is mostly due to the effects of the coronavirus on the global economy. Laos is slated to make a debt servicing payment of about $900 million in 2020, money that it simply cannot afford to pay (its foreign exchange reserves are a mere $1 billion).

“We defeated the virus crisis,” a government official told me. “Now we are going to be defeated by the debt crisis, which we did not create.”

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on Laos Has Tackled COVID-19, But It Is Drowning in Debt to International Finance


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