Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War

NOVANEWS
 

Today, people are finally waking up to the dangers of a world war, which might emanate from the highest levels of the US government.  

We are no longer dealing with a hypothetical scenario. The threat of World War III is real. Public opinion has  become increasingly aware of the impending dangers of an all out US-NATO led war against Iran, North Korea and the Russian Federation.  

WW III has been contemplated by the U.S. and its allies for well over ten years as revealed in Michel Chossudovsky’s 2012 best-seller:  Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War

Excerpt below

The US has embarked on a military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity. US-NATO weapons of mass destruction are portrayed as instruments of peace. Mini-nukes are said to be “harmless to the surrounding civilian population”. Pre-emptive nuclear war is portrayed as a “humanitarian undertaking”.

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While one can conceptualize the loss of life and destruction resulting from present-day wars including Iraq and Syria, it is impossible to fully comprehend the devastation which might result from a Third World War, using “new technologies” and advanced weapons, until it occurs and becomes a reality. The international community has endorsed nuclear war in the name of world peace. “Making the world safer” is the justification for launching a military operation which could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust.

Nuclear war has become a multi-billion dollar undertaking, which fills the pockets of US defense contractors. What is at stake is the outright “privatization of nuclear war”.

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

Central to an understanding of war, is the media campaign which grants it legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion. A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled.

Breaking the “big lie”, which upholds war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

The object of this book is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.

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Special Military Ops Around the World: Crisis within America’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM)

NOVANEWS
 

The current commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, known as SOCOM, General Raymond A. Thomas, addressing the Senate Committee on Armed Services said that Special Operations Forces (SOF) are not able to maintain the current intensity of operations. He stated the servicemen are psychologically exhausted, which is reflected, among other things, in a large percentage of suicides.

The general stressed that 8,000 U.S. Special Forces fighters are now participating in special operations in more than 80 countries around the world. At the same time, 55.3% of servicemen are in the Middle East, 17.3% in Africa and 12.7% in Europe. About 500 commandos are in Syria. Such active involvement of Special Forces has a negative impact on the stress-resistance of the units.

General R. Thomas expressed concerns about the number of suicides among military personnel. At the same time, he did not cite specific data, deciding not to go into the ‘terrible statistics’.

In this situation, attention is drawn to the information of several media, according to which the peak of suicides among servicemen of special units of the United States took place in 2012. Then, an agreement on strategic partnership in the military sphere was concluded between the United States and Afghanistan, and an active phase of confrontation in Syria began. According to Reuters, more than 350 cases of suicide were officially registered then. In 2014 – the beginning of the military intervention of the international coalition in Syria and Iraq – 275 servicemen committed suicide. In 2016, more than 400 cases were recorded.

Moreover, the head of the Special Forces expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that recently Special Forces have been increasingly used as universal means to solve any problems. He believes that U.S. SOF are currently forced to solve tasks that go beyond their usual functions.

According to the American general, the SOCOM experiences difficulties with the staffing, which are caused by the wide geography of troop’s deployment, as well as the long terms of their missions. As an example, Thomas pointed out the operation in Afghanistan, which, according to plan, was to end as early as 2014.

The general stressed that in recent years, the SOCOM command has doubled and even tripled its efforts to provide psychological assistance. With this purpose, two years ago, a contract was signed with the American Association of Suicidology to develop a program to prevent suicides and identify early signs of possible tragedies.

These tragedies are unfortunately not surprising, after almost 16 years of uninterrupted wars. As early as 2015, the former commander of the Special Forces, General Joseph Votel, as well as Adm. William McRaven in 2014, warned of the excessive pressure on them. Now the soldiers of the U.S. SOF negatively speak about the rules of combat, their small number and high mortality in Iraq and Syria.

Special Forces were eagerly waiting for the inauguration of Donald Trump. In December 2016, Trump, speaking in North Carolina, said that the U.S. will concentrate on combating terrorism and defeating the IS, and not at overthrowing governments. It seems that these plans will not come true, as at such a pace, the United States may soon disable its most combat-ready forces.

Read about the real situation in U.S. SOCOM and try to analyze the great delusion at the stenographic transcript of the meeting between General Raymond A. Thomas and the Senate Committee on Armed Services that is available here.

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Civilians Killed by US Largely Ignored as Endless “Global War on Terrorism” Continues

NOVANEWS
 

Contradicting a version of events presented by the U.S. military and reported widely by the corporate press, a human rights group and a journalist in Yemen are citing witnesses who said a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on Monday night killed multiple innocent civilians and not just “Al Qaeda militants” as the Pentagon claimed.

Reprieve, a UK-based human rights group, cited witnesses from the village of Al-Jubah in Marib province, where the raid took place, and offered the names of five civilians killed as Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal; Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal; Saleh Al-Taffaf; Yasser Al-Taffaf Al-Adhel; and Shebreen Saeed Salem Al-Adhal.

The witnesses said that none of those five were fighting for al-Qaeda and that Nasser al-Adhal, identified as being approximately 70-years-old and partially blind, was the first one shot by the U.S. soldiers when he mistook them for arriving guests and came out to greet them. According to Reprieve:

The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69-years-old.

Al-Qaeda fighters gathering nearby, who are thought to have been the original target of the raid, were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy SEALs then left with the help of air support from a helicopter.

Independent journalist Iona Craig, who has reported from the ground in Yemen for years, helped corroborate the version of events provided to Reprieve.

“Five tribesmen amongst killed in US raid last night were not AQ,” Craig tweeted on Tuesday. “They were tribesmen of young activists who drove me from Mareb into Yakla.”

Part of the wider “global war on terror” that the U.S. began in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, Yemen has been a target of drone strikes and clandestine operations for years. But as foreign policy experts and the people of Yemen have repeatedly stated, the use of drones and clandestine raids have only hardened Al-Qaeda’s position in the country and the killing of innocent civilians as provided a nearly perfect recruiting tool for the militant group.

In addition to backing the ongoing Saudi-led war against Yemen, the military under President Donald Trump has continued to target Al-Qaeda aligned forces in the country. In January, just days after his inauguration, Trump was roundly criticized for a botched raid that led to the death of one U.S. soldier and as many as thirty civilians, including children.

Kate Higham, head of the Assassinations Programme at Reprieve, said this week’s killing of more innocent Yemenis proves that Trump is no better than his predecessors when it comes to protecting civilian lives.

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian,” Higham said in a statement. “When even a 70-year-old is shot dead, it is clear these attacks are not targeted or precise. President Trump must order an immediate investigation into what went wrong and halt all raids and drone strikes before more innocent Yemenis are killed.”

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Graffiti at a Yemeni village (Source: The National)

Yemen, of course, is not the only place where the U.S. military is claiming innocent lives. On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks casualties amid Syria’s ongoing civil war, reported the number of civilians killed by U.S. bombings over the last month has been the highest ever recorded over a 30-day time period. According to the group, 235 civilians were killed in U.S. airstrikes from April 23 to May 23. That number includes 44 children and 36 women.

“The past month of operations is the highest civilian toll since the coalition began bombing Syria,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence-France Presse in an interview. “There has been a very big escalation.”

According to Rahman’s group, which is also based in the U.K., the U.S.-led coalition has now killed 1,481 civilians since operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) began in 2014. Of that total number, the groups says, 319 were children.

And as people mourned the horrific loss of life in Manchester this week, where innocent children and other concert-goers were targeted by a suicide bomber, it was difficult not to notice the difference between the attention various killings—all of them horrific and none of them possible to justify—received in the dominant western press.

As journalist and columnist Glenn Greenwald, citing the killings of those civilians in Yemen on Monday, asked,

“More reporting that US killed 5 more innocent Yemenis yesterday. Will the media tell their stories, hear from their grieving relatives, etc?”

 

 

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Fascism, Neoliberalism, Endless Wars: Where in Fact Is Fascism?

NOVANEWS
 

Aggression against neighboring countries, endless wars, dismantling states, violent border modifications? Does this remind us of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage or of their political opponents, Clinton and Bush clans, or of Tony Blair and David Cameron?

In the Western countries, more and more often the public is hearing the words “fascism” and “fascists”. Those words are reserved for Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, Marine le Pen and other “right populists”. In addition, the use of such heavy words is justified by the fact that these politicians refer to national values, because they ask mass immigrations to their countries to stop and because of xenophobic outbursts of their supporters.

Fascism is, however, a term whose meaning cannot be quickly and easily determined. After all, it is the same with all political ideologies. There is no generally accepted definition of liberalism, socialism and conservatism. It is well known that the term “fascism” hides very diverse movements such as the Italian fascists, the German Nazis or the Croatian Ustashas. All this, however, should not get us confused and prevent us from understanding this important historical phenomenon.

It is the historical experience that could help us in this task, more than any political simplification or a theoretical explanation. There is one key feature about fascism that is intentionally or not, too often forgotten in the general tumult against Donald Trump or Marine le Pen. The “fascists”, however, are still remembered for their aggressions against other sovereign countries, the endless wars, dismantling states and violent borders modifications. Louis XIV and Napoleon also committed acts of aggression against their neighbors, they led continuous wars, they dismantled countries and changed borders. Hitler’s aggression, however, was followed by the mass destruction of entire populations, such as Jews, Gypsies and Serbs. As such, fascism is especially remembered in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

Aggression against neighboring countries, endless wars, dismantling states, violent borders modifications? Does this remind us of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage or of their political opponents, Clinton and Bush clans, or of Tony Blair and David Cameron? Should we remind you of destructions of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the encirclement of Russia, the provoking of China, Iran? Trump, on the contrary, according to the published statements, is advocating for a traditional diplomacy of interests and negotiations between sovereign states, such as the one widely known since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which is the contrary of endless crusades in the name of “values” assiduously conducted by their liberal opponents.

Ethnically motivated mass destructions of entire populations? These people succeeded in what seemed to be an unattainable ideal for Hitler and Pavelic: they killed and expelled the Serb population from Croatia and parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Metohia. All this, of course, was conducted by their local collaborators, the same way it was done with the Christians in Iraq or Syria. We should not forget the anti-Serb hysteria in the media that allowed unpunished, mass crimes against Serbs. This operation is comparable only with what the Nazi Europe did to the Jews.

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Chauvinist terror and war crimes against the Serbs in the Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) (Source: Serbian Defence League)

Mark Mazower, a professor at Columbia University in New York, stated in his book Hitler’s empire, that Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by the colonial experience of liberal states, the United Kingdom and the United States, for the crimes they committed in Eastern Europe. They simply did to the Europeans what the liberal colonizers did in Africa and Asia. Hitler admired the British foresight and mercilessness in India, as well as the US racist brutality against black people and the Indians. He openly said that the Slavic countries, especially Russia, would be in the future, the India of the united German Europe. During the Germanic colonizing of the Slavic territories in eastern Europe, Hitler was inspired by the experience of the United States. Enclaves of “racially and civilizationally superior people” in the Indian sea, progressively bound together, merged and plundered the lands of the natives.

According to Mazower, the liberal empire’s attempts to force the colonized countries to adopt their modernization and cultural models, are just another side of the indestructible ancient racism. Hitler, as well as Goebbels called for the unification of Europe around Germany, in order to protect and defend its racial and cultural values. In doing so, they openly claimed that the key purpose of uniting Europe was the protection from Russia and the march on Russia. The rhetoric of defense against the Soviet Union was useful in the post-war process of uniting Europe, where, as Mazower proves it, Hitler’s former supporters assiduously worked as senior officials. The Russian threat was an important part of the campaign of the EU supporters during the Brexit referendum in Britain, as well as of the of Hillary Clinton’s supporters campaign during the presidential elections in the United States.

Some people will say that, after all, NATO liberals do not conquer the world in the name of race, but in the name of human rights. However, the bombs were dropped on Republika Srpska, Serbia, Iraq, Libya and Syria, along with the American and the British rock and roll, and not with the German military marches. It is, indeed, a beautiful consolation for millions of their victims.

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Brazil Mainstream Media Admits Spreading Fake News About Lula

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teleSUR 

The mainstream media channel has long claimed that both former leftist presidents were involved in the massive corruption scandal.

Brazil’s largest television channel, Globo, has admitted that is has divulged false information about former Brazilian presidents Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Globo journalist William Waak acknowledged on television Tuesday that previous reports about Lula and Rousseff, allegedly owning offshore accounts, were inaccurate.

The mainstream media channel has long claimed that both former leftist presidents were involved in the massive corruption scandal involving Joesley Batista, owner of JBS, Brazil’s largest meat packing company.

“We said that Joesley Batista had claimed in the awarding statement that he deposited fines on two current accounts abroad, in the name of the ex-Presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff,” Waak said.

“In reality, however, Batista said that the account is in his name, but that money was going to be allocated to Lula and Dilma’s campaigns.”

The correction did not repair damage caused to Lula and Rousseff’s image, since many international agencies and foreign newspapers have since echoed Globo’s false claim, failing to correct them.

Last Friday, Batista confessed that de-facto President Michel Temer had requested and received bribes from his company since 2010.

Batista, the protagonist of a wiretapping scandal incriminating the unelected Brazilian leader, exposed the arrangement to the Brazilian attorney general’s office. He claims he paid Temer roughly US$1 million in 2010 alone. Another US$921,000 was requested by the embattled president in 2012 to support Gabriel Chalita’s bid to become mayor of Sao Paulo.

Batista also claimed that during the impeachment process against ousted former President Dilma Rousseff, Temer requested a payment of more than US$85,000 dollars for online political marketing expenditure.

Temer has repeated that he has no intention of resigning. Contrarily, he’s considering a lawsuit against the owner of JBS in order to strengthen his defense.

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A NATO summit for the Donald Trump era

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By M K Bhadrakumar 

If the expectation was that US President Donald Trump would outline his strategy toward Afghanistan at the summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels (May 25-26), that might not be the case. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in his customary pre-summit press conference at the alliance’s Headquarters, in fact, said the summit’s agenda will focuse on two issues: a) Stepping up of NATO’s contribution to the fight against terrorism. The NATO will not undertake combat missions and its role is to “deal with the root causes of terrorism, training local forces is one of the best tools we have”; and,  b) “Burden sharing”, which meant meeting the pledge that the member countries had made in 2014 to stop the cuts in military budgets, and “gradually increase and move towards” spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade.

This is essentially a summit to get acquainted with Trump. The US’ allies fervently hope that Trump will give decent burial to his famous description of NATO being “obsolete” and, in particular, pledge loyalty to Article V of the alliance’s charter on collective security. There is bound to be some unease because Trump can be very unpredictable.

Stoltenberg was circumspect about Afghanistan, saying,

  • But the security situation remains challenging. We have recently completed our regular review of our training mission. And our military commanders have asked for a few thousand more troops. We are currently in the process of force generation and I expect final decisions to be taken next month.

It appears that Trump is yet to take a final decision on the US troop level in Afghanistan and/or his strategy toward the war.

Interestingly, during the Q&A, Stoltenberg distanced himself from the allegations in the US media (attributed to senior Pentagon commanders) that Russia has been giving covert support to Taliban to undermine the NATO operations. He said, “We have seen reports, but we haven’t seen fine proof of direct support of Russia to the Taliban.”

Importantly, Stoltenberg added, “We urge Russia to be part of an Afghan-led peace process” to reconcile the Taliban. This is a significant remark, because the NATO secretary-general usually takes his cue from Washington. Can this remark be taken as Stoltenberg’s premonition of some sort of US-Russia cooperation sailing into view over Afghanistan in a near term? It is a plausible assumption, if only because, below the radar, US-Russian cooperation over Syria at the military-to-military level is gaining momentum in the fight against ISIS. The US, it seems, is taking a leap of faith, finally.

Earlier today, addressing the upper house of the Russian parliament in Moscow, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu made the stunning disclosure that the Russian and American militaries are engaged in discussions about the Syrian situation in a “round-the-clock mode” and are preparing a “joint project” on the hugely controversial southern zone of “deconfliction” where the competing interests of various external protagonists — Israel, Jordan, Iran, US and Hezbollah —  threaten to bring the roof down. (See my earlier blog US, Iran run into each other in Syria.)

To quote Shoigu,

  • We did not halt contacts and cooperation with them (Americans), this is also happening almost in a round-the-clock mode, we are talking with them during the day and the night, and we are meeting at different venues. A great work is underway with them. We would like it to be completed and presented as a project ready for implementation. But we are working with them and working, naturally, on the southern zone of de-escalation.

The “great work” in progress on Syria can stimulate similar cooperation in Afghanistan as well. Indeed, the US and NATO snubbed repeated Russian overtures over the years for cooperation in Afghanistan, including at the level of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. But Trump is perfectly capable of deciding that Russian help is useful and necessary in Afghanistan in the fight to defeat the ISIS and to bring the war to an end through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

By the way, Stoltenberg’s 48-minute press conference in Brussels today was free of any of his past rhetoric against Russia. It will be interesting to see what, if any, Trump will have to say tomorrow on “Russian aggression”, which had been the leitmotif of such high-level NATO events in the recent years during the Barack Obama administration. The video of Stoltenberg’s press conference is here.

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‘US military lost track of $1bn worth of weapons’

NOVANEWS

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Press TV

The US military has admitted to losing track of around $1 billion worth of weapons in Iraq and Kuwait, according to a US Defense Department audit reviewed by Amnesty International.

In the September 2016 document, which was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the Pentagon stated that it “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a large amount of weapons it had moved into Iraq and Kuwait to arm the Iraqi government forces, Amnesty reported Wednesday.

The transfers were part of the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) program and following appropriation by Congress of $1.6 billion to allegedly stop Daesh (ISIL)’s advances in 2015.

The items included tens of thousands of assault rifles worth $28 million, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armored vehicles.

The Pentagon audit found that personnel in charge of tracking the ITEF weapons often logged them “across multiple spreadsheets, databases and even on hand-written receipts.”

The faulty records-keeping also meant that people in charge of locating the weapons or determining their status would not be able to do so.

According to the document, the Pentagon had no responsibility for tracking the items after handing them over to Iraqi authorities.

This amounts to a clear violation of the department’s own Golden Sentry program, which requires the Pentagon to perform post-delivery checks.

Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty’s arms control and human rights researcher, said the government audit shows how “flawed – and potentially dangerous” the US military’s controlling mechanisms are for overseeing the transfer of weapons in a “hugely volatile region.”

“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq,” including Daesh (ISIL), he added.

“The need for post-delivery checks is vital. Any fragilities along the transfer chain greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering,”  Wilcken further argued.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said June last year that of the thousands of armored vehicles supplied by the US to Iraqi security forces, some 2,300 or two-thirds of them had fallen into the hands ISIL and the group was turning them into moving bombs.

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Canadian companies caught with hands in African colonial cookie jar

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By Yves Engler 

The recent seizure of phosphate from a Moroccan state company in South Africa and Panama is a blow to corporate Canada and a victory for national independence struggles. It should also embarrass the Canadian media.

This month courts in Port Elizabeth and Panama City okayed requests by the POLISARIO Front asking South Africa and Panama to seize two cargo ships with 100,000 tonnes of phosphate from Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory in north-western Africa occupied by Morocco. Ruled by Spain until 1975, Moroccan troops moved in when the Spanish departed and a bloody 15-year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighbouring Algeria, where they still live in camps.

No country officially recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The UN calls it “occupied” and the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the Rome Statute prohibit an occupying power from exploiting the resources of territories they control unless it’s in the interest of, and according to, the wishes of the local population. In 2002 the UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell described the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources as a “violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Saskatoon’s PotashCorp and Calgary’s Agrium, which are merging, have a partnership with Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s OCP Group to export phosphate mined in Western Sahara. The two Canadian companies buy half of Western Sahara phosphates and it was an Agrium shipment that was seized in Panama.

To deflect from its complicity in violating international law, PotashCorp says OCP’s operations benefit the Sahrawi people. A 2014 PotashCorp statement claimed: “OCP has established a proactive affirmative action campaign to the benefit of the local people and, importantly, is making significant economic and social contributions to the entire region. As a result, we believe those who choose to make a political statement about OCP are effectively penalizing Saharawi workers, their families and communities.”

International solidarity activists have called on businesses to stop exploiting Western Sahara’s resources, which has led the Ethical Fund of Vancity credit union, four pension funds in Sweden and Norway’s $800 billion pension fund to divest from PotashCorp. A number of fertilizer companies have also severed ties to OCP, Morocco’s largest industrial company. The POLISARIO Front national liberation movement and African Union claim deals with OCP to export Western Sahara phosphate contravene international law and prop up Morocco’s control.

While only preliminary, the recent court decisions are important for national independence struggles. The South Africa case is thought to be the first time an independence movement has won legal action to intercept the export of state property.

Aside from a handful of stories in the business press, the Canadian media has basically ignored PotashCorp and Agrium’s role in violating international law. In the lead-up to the 2015 Saskatoon launch of Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation I submitted a piece about PotashCorp’s role in buying the non-renewable resources of Africa’s last remaining colony. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix opinion editor, who I’d communicated with on a few occasions when writing op-eds for a union, told me he was considering it and then responded a week later. “Hi Yves, Thanks, but I will pass on your op-ed. This issue has been on our pages in the past, with both sides of the debate making their points.” But when I searched the Star Phoenix database for articles on the largest publicly traded company in Saskatoon ties to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara there was a single 264-word letter to the editor criticizing PotashCorp’s policy two and a half years earlier (and a rebuttal from a company representative). Apparently, the Saskatoon business titan’s role in violating international law only warrants 264 words.

As part of writing this story, I searched Canadian Newsstream for coverage of PotashCorp and Agrium’s ties to Western Sahara. I found eight articles (a couple appeared in more than one paper) in major dailies on the subject, as well as three letters to the editor, over the past six years. Yet, as if violating international law is only of interest to those making investment decisions, all but one of the articles appeared in the business pages. When the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland brought a resolution to PotashCorp’s 2015 shareholder meeting about Western Sahara, the Canadian Press reported on it but only a few news outlets picked up the wire story.

While the Sahrawi struggle is unfamiliar to Canadians, it is widely known in African intellectual circles. An international solidarity campaign, with a group in Victoria, has long highlighted corporate Canada’s ties to the Moroccan occupation. I wrote about it briefly in my Canada in Africa and in an article for a number of left websites. In September 2015 Briarpatch did a cover story titled A Very Fertile Occupation: PotashCorp’s role in occupied Western Sahara and last week OurSask.ca published a long article titled Why a Segment of Saskatchewan’s Economy, and Our Ethical Compass, Hinges on an Undeveloped, War-Torn African Nation. An activist in Regina has been crowd funding for a documentary project titled Sirocco: Winds of Resistance: How the will to resist a brutal occupation has been passed on to two women by their grandmothers.

As my experience with the Star Phoenix suggest, the mainstream media is not unaware of the subject. Rather, there is a deeply held bias in favour of the corporate perspective and unless activists politicize the issue editors will ignore corporate Canada’s complicity in entrenching colonialism in Africa.

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US boosting Nazi military aid by millions

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Nazi Prime Minister Benjamin Naziyahu says the US has increased its military aid to Tel Aviv by tens of millions of dollars.

“Three days ago, the US added another $75 million to the aid package,”  Naziyahu said on Wednesday, without giving a time frame for the money’s arrival.

The announcement comes just days after Naziyahu personally greeted US President Donald Trump on his first visit to ‘Israel’.

Trump had arrived from Saudi Arabia where he signed a massive $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh.

Based on a September 2016 agreement, the US will be bankrolling Nazi military spending to the tune of around $38 billion dollars effective from 2019 for the next 10 years.

Under the deal, Nazi regime will be allowed to upgrade most of its fighter aircraft, improve its ground forces’ mobility and strengthen its missile systems.

Washington has also been providing the Nazi regime with $3.1 billion annually since a 2007 agreement with the administration of former President George W. Bush.

In April, Washington approved a proposal to sell the Nazi regime more weapons, including naval guns and technical support worth an estimated $440 million.

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Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

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By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis 

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

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