Archive | March 26th, 2018

Russia Has Been Repeatedly Cheated by America and Its Allies

The record shows that the Russian government is right to be skeptical of Western guarantees.

Exactly four years ago, the United States and its allies were bitterly rebuked by Vladimir Putin when he said, “They have cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our backs, presenting us with completed facts”. The Russian president’s comments were accurate, which one can presume is why the remarks were so universally derided in the West.

Putin had been defending his March 2014 reintegration of the Crimea to Russia. The peninsula had been part of Russian territory from 1783 to 1917, then later under the sphere of the USSR for seven decades. The Crimea’s reunification to Russia was a direct response to the American-led toppling of a democratic government in the Ukraine, a country along Russia’s border.

Russia had a far stronger case to incorporate the Crimea than America had, for example, in its seizure of Guantanamo from Cuba in 1903. Following the 1959 Cuban revolution, which deposed the US-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, repeated demands for Guantanamo’s return have been rejected.

The US has no discernible right to continue holding Guantanamo, except through use of its unmatched force. There are no historical or social connections between the area that contains one of Cuba’s major ports, and the superpower to the north.

Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

What’s more, at the Guantanamo military prison, opened by George W. Bush in 2002, the US has overseen some of the worst human rights violations in the Western hemisphere.

Scratch the surface and other things become apparent. American control over Guantanamo, which is on Cuba’s south coast, hampers the island’s development. It further allows the US easy access not just to the Caribbean Sea, but also to the North Atlantic Ocean, with its huge riches.

Unlike Guantanamo’s non-relationship to the US, the Crimea has extensive historical ties to Russia, including significant local support and cultural links. During the middle of World War II, many thousands of Russian soldiers gave up their lives defending the Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol, from a huge Nazi-led onslaught (Siege of Sevastopol, October 1941-July 1942). The city was later retaken by the Red Army during the spring 1944 Crimean offensive.

Over three quarters of Crimeans speak Russian as their native language, and were largely supportive of the peninsula’s return to Russian territory. Little of this is part of Western accounts, however. The French minister of defense at the time, Jean-Yves Le Drian, condemned the 2014 Crimea takeover by saying that,

“Challenging borders by force is contrary to international law”.

France had previously been a long-time imperial power.

Between 1954 and 1962, for example, over a million Algerians were killed by France during the north African country’s war of independence. Algerian nationalists were attempting to at last rid themselves of a French colonial empire that took control in 1830.

Meanwhile, when Russia reintegrates a past territory (the Crimea) to its control, which saw three people lose their lives, it counts as a major international crime in the Western playbook. When the US and its NATO allies invade Iraq or Libya, killing countless thousands, the consequences are quickly consigned to history.

Continuing his attack on the West, Putin further denounced the US-led “expansion of NATO in the east, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing, ‘Well, this doesn’t involve you’.”

NATO enlargement has indeed moved to Russia’s borders: Latvia and Estonia, both situated along Russia’s frontiers, joined NATO in 2004. The northern section of Estonia’s border is less than a hundred miles from St Petersburg, one of Russia’s landmark cities.

Putin’s assertion that the West has “cheated us again and again”, may refer partly to president Mikhail Gorbachev‘s generous concession as the USSR was collapsing. In 1990, Gorbachev agreed to allow a reunified Germany to join NATO. In return, he was given verbal guarantees by president George Bush senior, and his Secretary of State James Baker, that NATO would not move “as much as a thumb’s width further to the east”, in other words onto East Germany.

Immediately, Bush violated his word by expanding NATO to Germany’s eastern half – explaining to an irate Gorbachev that the agreement was only a spoken one, and not written on paper. In 1999, Bill Clinton accelerated NATO membership with the accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, all former members of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact.

Head and shoulders portrait of a balding man, wearing a suit and tie.

Clinton undertook such policies despite repeated warnings from the likes of George Kennan (image on the right), one of the most highly regarded of America’s post-World War II strategic planners.

In 1998 Kennan, who had always opposed NATO’s existence, described the organization’s impending further expansion as “the beginning of a new Cold War… There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves”.

A former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kennan also lamented the West’s lack of “understanding of Russian history and Soviet history”. Russia has indeed something of a troubled past. The country was not only invaded by Adolf Hitler, in the early 1940s – but over a century before Napoleon Bonaparte had attacked Russia too, even capturing a burnt out Moscow in September 1812. A century later, during the First World War, Russia had also suffered major damage at the hands of the Imperial German Army.

Kennan himself would live to see president Bush add a further seven countries to NATO in 2004 – the aforementioned Estonia and Latvia, but also Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. All except one of these nations (Slovenia) were former members of NATO’s old rival, the Warsaw Pact.

Indeed, the official pretext for NATO’s existence, to counter Soviet influence, had ended with the USSR’s demise in the early 1990s. Regardless, over the past two decades NATO has repeatedly expanded, proving again how little can be believed of Western government assurances.

NATO further performs the function of an intervention force under the guidance of US command. This can be seen with NATO’s illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 (including the killing of journalists), and later murderous attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.

NATO has been attempting to provoke and intimidate Russia for years, in doing so posing a global security threat. In November 1983, during the late Cold War era, NATO conducted aggressive military exercises designed to penetrate Russia’s defenses – mimicking naval and air attacks, and even a nuclear alert.

According to Israeli historian Dmitry Adamsky, these maneuvers “almost became a prelude to a preventative [Russian] nuclear strike” that was “the moment of maximum danger of the late Cold War”. This was more serious than historians had previously believed, with the NATO actions already coming at a time of major tension.

In December 1983, fulfilling a promise from months before, the Reagan administration began deploying 16,000 pound Pershing II ballistic missiles to West Germany – which sparked major protests in the US and Europe, mostly organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Over a million people poured into the streets of West Germany to remonstrate against the missiles’ impending installment, the largest such gathering recorded in postwar Germany.

President Ronald Reagan had recently announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), a ballistic missile system, which coincided with his denouncement of the USSR as “the evil empire” in March 1983. Any such missile “defense” systems were interpreted on all sides as a first-strike weapon, in reality an attack system. All of these actions caused serious concern in Russia, which was vulnerable and lacked the security enjoyed by the US.

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How the Military Industrial Complex Controls America


Unlike corporations that sell to consumers, Lockheed Martin and the other top contractors to the U.S. Government are highly if not totally dependent upon sales to governments, for their profits, especially sales to their own government, which they control — they control their home market, which is the U.S. Government, and they use it to sell to its allied governments, all of which foreign governments constitute the export markets for their products and services.

These corporations control the U.S. Government, and they control NATO. And, here is how they do it, which is essential to understand, in order to be able to make reliable sense of America’s foreign policies, such as which nations are ‘allies’ of the U.S. Government (such as Saudi Arabia and Israel), and which nations are its ‘enemies’ (such as Libya and Syria) — and are thus presumably suitable for America to invade, or else to overthrow by means of a coup. First, the nation’s head-of-state becomes demonized; then, the invasion or coup happens. And, that’s it. And here’s how.

Because America (unlike Russia) privatized the weapons-industry (and even privatizes to mercenaries some of its battlefield killing and dying), there are, in America, profits for investors to make in invasions and in military occupations of foreign countries; and the billionaires who control these corporations can and do — and, for their financial purposes, they must — buy Congress and the President, so as to keep those profits flowing to themselves. That’s the nature of the war-business, since its markets are governments — but not those governments that the aristocracy want to overthrow and replace.

The foreign governments that are to be overthrown are not markets, but are instead targets. The bloodshed and misery go to those unfortunate lands. But if you control these corporations, then you need these invasions and occupations, and you certainly aren’t concerned about any of the victims, who (unlike those profits) are irrelevant to your business. In fact, to the exact contrary: killing people and destroying buildings etc., are what you sell — that’s what you (as a billionaire with a controlling interest in one of the 100 top contractors to the U.S. Government) are selling to your own government, and to all of the other governments that your country’s cooperative propaganda will characterize as being ‘enemies’ — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, etc. — and definitely not as being ‘allies’, such as are being characterized these corporations’ foreign markets: Saudi Arabia, EU-NATO, Israel, etcetera. In fact, as regards your biggest foreign markets, they will be those ‘allies’; so, you (that is, the nation’s aristocracy, who own also the news-media etc.) defend them, and you want the U.S. military (the taxpayers and the troops) to support and defend them. It’s defending your market, even though you as the controlling owner of such a corporation aren’t paying the tab for it. The rest of the country is actually paying for all of it, so you’re “free-riding” the public, in this business. It’s the unique nature of the war-business, and a unique boon to its investors.

Thus, on 21 May 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump sold to the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, an all-time-record $350 billion of U.S. arms-makers’ products, which they’re now obligated to buy during the following ten years, with an up-front commitment of $100 billion during just the first year, so as to make even that one-year commitment an all-time record. This deal is by far the biggest part of Trump’s boost to American manufacturers — but it’s only to military manufacturers, the people who depend virtually 100% on sales to governments, specifically to ‘friendly’ governments: to ‘allies’, such as, in this case, to the Saud family. 

In fact, the Sauds’ war against their neighbor Yemen is a good example of just how this sort of operation (profit to the billionaires, bloodshed and destruction to — in this case — the Yemenites) works:

Yemen’s war goes back to the “Arab Spring” revolution in Yemen, which overthrew the U.S.-and-Saud-backed President, former Colonel and then General, Saleh. Wikipedia says of him:

“According to the UN Sanctions Panel, by 2012 Saleh has amassed fortune worth $32-60 billion hidden in at least twenty countries making him one of the richest people in the world. Saleh was gaining $2 billion a year from 1978 to 2012 mainly through illegal methods, such as embezzlement, extortion and theft of funds from Yemen’s fuel subsidy program.[75][76][77]”

And, furthermore:

“New York Times Middle Eastern correspondent Robert F. Worth described Saleh as reaching an understanding with powerful feudal ‘big sheikhs’ to become ‘part of a Mafia-style spoils system that substituted for governance’.[18] Worth accused Saleh of exceeding the aggrandizement of other Middle Eastern strongmen by managing to ‘rake off tens of billions of dollars in public funds for himself and his family’ despite the extreme poverty of his country.[19]”

Saleh fled to Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s Army installed the Vice President, and former General, Hadi to succeed him. Then, there was a second revolution, and, on 21 January 2015, the Shia Houthi tribe took over, and the rabidly anti-Shia Saud family promptly started their bombing of Yemen, using American training, weaponry and tactical and refueling support. The U.S. Government — like its ally the Saud family — is rabidly anti-Shia. That’s to say: The U.S. aristocracy, like Saudi Arabia’s aristocracy (the royal family), is rabidly anti-Shia. But, whereas for the Sauds, this is motivated more by hate than by greed, it’s more greed than hate on the U.S. side, because at least ever since the U.S. coup in the leading Shia country, Iran, in 1953, it’s been purely about greed, specifically that of the oil (and other) companies who also (in addition to the armaments-firms) control U.S. foreign policies. (For example, international oil companies need to extract and sell oil from many countries. They’re highly dependent upon the military, though not nearly to the extent that the weapons-firms are.)

The most recent poll that has been taken of American public opinion regarding America’s arming and training Saudi forces to fly over and bomb Yemen was taken during November 2017, tabulated on 28 January 2018, and finally published a month later, on 28 February 2018. This “Nationwide Voter Survey – Report on Results – January 28, 2018” asked 1,000 scientifically sampled American voters, “Question: Congress is considering a bi-partisan bill to withdraw U.S. forces from the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Would you say that you support or oppose this bill?” It reported that, “Support” was 51.9%, “Oppose” was 21.5%, no opinion was 26.6%; and, so, 71% of the opinions were “Support”; only 29% were “Oppose.” That’s more than two-thirds supporting this bill to consider withdrawing U.S. forces from that war. But, when the vote was taken in the U.S. Senate, it was 55% opposing the bill, opposing, that is, consideration of the matter, and 44% supporting consideration of the matter (and not voting was 1% of the 100 Senators). 55% of Senators didn’t want the Senate to even consider the matter. Here’s how the issue had managed to get even that far:

On 4 December 2017, just weeks after that poll of Americans was taken, Russian Television headlined “Saleh’s death means a fresh hell beckons for Yemen”, and the U.S. Government’s participation in the bombing of Yemen then did increase. This event — the murder of Saleh — raised the Yemen war to broader public attention in the country that was supplying the bombs and the weapons to the Sauds. 

On 28 February 2018, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was the lone sponsor of “S.J.Res.54 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)”:

“This joint resolution directs the President to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen, except those engaged in operations directed at Al Qaeda, within 30 days unless: (1) the President requests and Congress authorizes a later date, or (2) a declaration of war or specific authorization for the use of the Armed Forces has been enacted.” 

On March 19th, NBC bannered “Senators to force vote to redefine U.S. role in Yemen” — that was merely to force a vote in the Senate, not actually to vote on the issue itself. However, given how overwhelmingly America’s voters opposed America’s arming the Sauds to slaughter the Yemenese, this vote in the Senate to consider the measure was the gateway to each Senator’s being forced to go public about supporting this highly unpopular armament of the Saudis; and, so, if it had gotten that far (to a final vote on the issue itself), the arms-makers might lose the vote, because Senators would then be voting not ‘merely’ on a procedural matter, but on the actual issue itself. So, this vote was about the gateway, not about the destination.  

The next day, Breitbart News headlined “Administration, Bipartisan Interventionist Establishment Kill Aisle-Crossing Effort to Rein In U.S. Military Involvement in Yemen” and presented a full and documented account, which opened: “The Senate resolution invoking the War Powers Act to demand the administration seek congressional authorization or withdraw American support from Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen was defeated Tuesday by a vote of 55-44.” The peace-activist, David Swanson, headlined at Washingtonsblog, “Why 55 U.S. Senators Voted for Genocide in Yemen”, and he alleged that the vote would have been even more lopsided than 55% for the weapons-industry, if some of the Senators who voted among the 44 non-bloodthirsty ones hadn’t been in such close political races. The weapons-industry won’t hold against a Senator his/her voting against them if their vote won’t even be needed in order to win. Token-votes against them are acceptable. All that’s necessary is winning the minimum number of votes. Anything more than that is just icing on the cake.

So, this explains how the U.S. Government really ignores public opinion and only pretends to be a democracy. It’s done by fooling the public. On the issue of which countries are ‘allies’ and which are ‘enemies’, and other issues regarding national defense, all necessary means are applied in order to achieve, as Walter Lippmann in 1921 called it, “the manufacture of consent.” He wrote:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power.

The CIA virtually controls the ‘news’ media.

Furthermore, even corporations that aren’t on that list of top 100 U.S. Government contractors can be crucially dependent upon their income from the U.S. Government. For example, since 2014, Amazon Web Services has supplied to the U.S. Government (CIA, Pentagon, NSA, etc.) its cloud-computing services, which has since produced virtually all of Amazon’s profits (also see “Cloud Business Drives Amazon’s Profits”), though Amazon doesn’t even so much as show up on that list of 100 top contractors to the U.S. Government; so, this extremely profitable business is more important to Jeff Bezos (the owner also of the Washington Post) than all the rest of his investments put together are.

The most corrupt part of the U.S. Government is the ‘Defense’ part. That also happens to be — and by far — the most popular part, the most respected (by the American public) part. That’s a toxic combination: toxic not only for a government’s domestic policies, but especially for a government’s foreign policies — such as for identifying which nations are ‘allies’, and which nations are ‘enemies’. This type of mega-toxic combination can’t exist in a nation whose press isn’t being effectively controlled by the same general group that effectively controls the Government (in America, that’s the richest few, by means of their many paid agents), the Deep State. In America, one key to it is that the ‘Defense’ firms are privately owned.


On March 24th, Zero Hedge headlined an opinion-article “The Death of Democracy” and Alasdair Macleod said that,

“The Deep State is on course to take control of Congress. If this happens, it will be the next step in a global trend of side-lining democracy in the West, driven in large part by American foreign policy. It has led to governments everywhere increasing control over their people, in an inversion of democratic principles.”


“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified 102 seats as ‘competitive’ in its red-to-blue campaign programme. Eighty of these seats are vulnerable Republicans, and 22 are seats where the incumbent is retiring. 57 of the 221 candidates standing for the Democratic nomination in these 102 districts are current or past agents of the military-intelligence complex. And of those 102 districts, 44 have one of these candidates, 11 have two, and one has three. Furthermore, there are indications that the financial backers of the Democratic Party are supporting this influx of intelligence operatives, and that they are well-funded.”

Macleod went on to say that they’ve already apparently taken over Trump:

“There can be no doubt that the chaos in the White House since Trump’s victory has reflected a fight behind the scenes for control of foreign policy, homeland security and military spending. It has been about the CIA’s ultimately successful attempts to ensure Trump backtracked on relevant electoral promises and complies with its own agenda. So far, Trump has backed down on Russia, North Korea, Iran and on military spending, suggesting he is well on the way to becoming the Deep State’s lackey. It now seems the CIA wants to control the balance of power in Congress.”

His conclusion is:

“If the US military-intelligence complex manages to pack out Congress, it will be the killer blow for any democracy remaining in America. It will clear the field for a secret state organisation, which has shown little or no regard for human life and the rule of law, to accelerate its warlike agenda. It will have unfettered access to the national finances to accelerate its programme of global aggression, and damn the consequences for anyone else.”

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Renaming the 1948 War against Palestine: Partition, Dispossession, and Fragmentation

Controlling the Discourse

Israel has been brilliant over the years in shaping and misdirecting the public discourse on the future of Palestine. Among its earliest achievement along these lines was the crucial propaganda victory by having the 1948 War known internationally as the ‘War of Independence.’ Such a designation erases the Palestinians from political consciousness, and distorts the deeper human and political consequences of the war. Language matters, especially in vital circumstances where there are winners and losers, a reality that applies above all to a war of displacement.

It took decades for the Palestinians to elevate their experience of the 1948 war to even the consciousness of those on an international level who supported the Palestinian national struggle for self-determination. Even now more than 50 years after the war, the ‘Nakba’ by which the 1948 war is known to Palestinians remains internationally obscure. The word signifies ‘catastrophe,’ which is associated principally with the dispossession of at least 700,000 non-Jewish residents of Palestine, what became the state of Israel after 1948, and subsequently, with the denial by Israel of any right of return for those Palestinians who abandoned their homes and villages out of fear or as a result of Israeli coercion. This double process of dispossession and erasure was reinforced powerfully by the bulldozing and utter destruction of 400-600 Palestinian villages in the new state of Israel.

Even those who have this revisionist awareness rarely convey a sense of the Nakba as a process, not just a calamitous event. For those Palestinians dispossessed of home, property, community, employment, and dignity, their life, that of their families, and that of subsequent generations has been generally ‘a living hell’ as a consequence of either enduring the misery and humiliation of long-term residence in refugee camps or experiencing the various vulnerabilities and rootlessness of involuntary and permanent exile. In other words, the tragedy of the Nakba began and did not end with the traumas of dispossession, but rather continued in the ordeals that followed, which must be considered as inseparable from the originating catastrophe.

The UN Partition Resolution

For many reflective Palestinians, the decades since 1948 have intensified the ordeal that followed from the struggle for control of territory and elemental rights that followed from GA Resolution 181 adopted by a vote of 33-13 (with ten abstentions, one absent), in November 29, 1947. The Israeli mastery of the public international discourse was expressed by dramatizing the Zionist acceptance (as represented by the Jewish Agency for Palestine) of the proposed partition of historic Palestine while the Palestinians, their Arab neighbors, as well as India and Pakistan, rejected it declaring above all that partition without the consent of the inhabitants of Palestine was a flagrant violation of the UN Charter promise of the right of self-determination, entailing peoples choosing their own political destiny.

This clash of attitudes was then interpreted in the West as demonstrating the reasonableness of the Zionist approach to the complexities associated with two contradictory claims of right regarding self-determination and territorial sovereignty. The Zionist/Israeli spin claimed a readiness to resolve the conflict by way of political compromise while contrasting and denigrating the Palestinian approach to the future of the country as exclusivist and rejectionist, even as genocidal, implying an alleged Arab resolve to throw Jews into the sea, a contention that naturally agitated an extremely sensitive post-Holocaust Western liberal political consciousness. A more objective rendering of the opposed viewpoints of the two sides supports a set of conclusions almost totally the opposite of what has been sold to the world by an Israeli narrative of the UN partition initiative and its aftermath that despite these contrary considerations remains dominant.

After an understandable initial Palestinian reflex to repel Jewish intruders intent on occupying and dividing their homeland of centuries, it has been the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who have been proposing a comprensive compromise and it is the Israelis who, by and large, subscribe to the view that the Jewish ‘promised land’ incorporates the West Bank and the unified city of Jerusalem, and any dilution of these goals would be a fundamental betrayal of the Zionist project to restore fully a mythic ‘biblical Israel’ in the form of a sovereign state. The more ideological Israelis, including Menachem Begin, (commander of the Zvai Leumi Irgun, 6th prime minister of Israel, 1977-83) were outspoken critics of partition in 1947, anticipating correctly that it would produce violence, and believing that Israel would only achieve its security and complete the Zionist Project by engaging in military operations with the object of territorial expansion. David Ben-Gurion, the master Zionist tactician and the first and foremost Israeli leader, shared Begin’s skepticism about partition, but favored it for pragmatic reasons as a step toward the fulfillment of the Zionist Project, but not the end of it. Partition was provisional, to be followed by seeking to complete the Zionist agenda, which is precisely what unfolded ever since 1947.

Partition was a familiar British colonial tactic that complemented their ‘divide and rule’ strategy of occupation was proposed for Palestine as early as 1937 in the report of the Peel Commission, but in view of the desire for Arab cooperation in World War II, the UK uncharacteristically backed away from their advocacy of partition for Palestine. In a later white paper the British declared partition to be ‘impractical’ as applied to Palestine, and somewhat surprisingly abstained from the vote on GA Res. 181.

Prolonging the Palestinian Ordeal

At least since the PLO decision in 1988 to accept Israel as a legitimate state and offer normalization of relations if Israel followed the prescriptive provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 242, that is, withdrawing to the 1967 green line borders and agreeing on arrangements for an effective resolution of the refugee issue. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 added regional inducements to the PLO offer of political compromise, and this too was met by Israeli silence and a lackluster response in the West. The Oslo diplomacy was a one-sided failure. It never produced proposals on the disputed issues in ways that contained any reasonable prospect of bringing the conflict to a sustainable end while allowing Israel valuable time to keep expanding their network of unlawful settlements, a form of creeping annexation that served, as well, to make the two-state mantra more and more of a cruel chimera, useful to pacify international public opinion that sought a sustainable peace for both peoples and an end to the conflict..

More objectively considered, these dual reactions to the partition solution can be deconstructed. The Zionist movement at every stage took what it could get, and then went about creating conditions on the ground and diplomatically for getting more, by expanding their political demands and expectations, or as sometimes observed, ‘shifting the goalposts.’ Reliance on such ‘salami tactics’ can be traced back at least as far as the Balfour Declaration when Zionists accepted the terminology of ’national home’ despite their aspirations from the outset to establish a Jewish state that disregarded Palestinian moral, legal, and political rights. Recent archival research has made it increasingly clear that the real Zionist goal all along was the imagined Israel of biblical tradition, ‘the promised land’ that deemed to encompass all of the city of Jerusalem, as well as the area known internationally as ‘the West Bank’ and in Israel as ‘Judea and Samaria.’

And with respect to the Palestinian response, initially ardently supported by the entire Arab world, as well as most countries with majority Muslim populations, rejection of the UN approach was based on the extent to which partition bisected Palestine without any process of consent by, or even consultation with, the majority resident population. It was an arrogant effort by the UN, then under Western control, to dictate a solution that was not sensitive to Palestinian concerns or in keeping with the spirit or letter of its own Charter. To treat Palestinian rejection of GA Res. 181 as indicative of anti-Semitism or even rejectionism is to accept an explanation of the disastrous legacy of partition that conforms to the Israeli narrative that misses the real dynamic at work that has kept the conflict alive all these decades. To this day Israel continues to create conditions that diminish Palestinian prospects while subtly depicting the Zionist Project as in reasonable pursuit of previously undisclosed ambitions with greater clarity.

This leads to the central question that also includes reasons why the Israelis did also not want partition, but felt correctly that its provisional and temporary acceptance was a way of gaining more political space both for maneuvering and for showing the world its reasonable face that included a commitment to peace. In contract, the Palestinians felt shut out and humiliated by the way the future of their society was treated by the UN and the West, and yet didn’t want to alienate the international community, especially Washington. This kind of attitude meant lending credence to the 1993 Oslo Framework of Principles, and acting as if the ‘peace process’ had something to do with ‘peace.’ This accommodationist mode of diplomacy practiced by the Palestinian Authority over the course of the last 25 years while Israel annexed and Judaized East Jerusalem and penetrated more and deeply into the West Bank created the impression in many circles, including Palestinian and others, that the Palestinian Authority was not nearly rejectionist enough, and either naively playing a losing hand or completely failing to understand the real Zionist game plan.

‘The Partition War’

To circle back to the contention that language is itself a site of struggle, it become desirable, even now, more than 70 years later, to call the 1948 War by a name that reveals more clearly its essential and flawed character, and this name is The Partition War. Only by such a linguistic move can we begin to understand the extent to which the international community, as embodied in the UN, was guilty of original sin with respect to the Palestinian people, and their natural rights, as well as their legal entitlements and reasonable political expectations. Endorsing the partition of Palestine was what I would describe as a ‘geopolitical crime.’

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Three Years of Saudi Bombings: Let’s Call An End to War Profiteering in Yemen

Coming March 26, 2018 Saudi Arabia will have been at war with impoverished Yemen for a punitive 3 years.

Three years of an implacable and murderous military campaign that witnessed the death of over 15,000 people – of which mostly unarmed civilians; saw the destruction of civilian infrastructures to the point where Yemen’s health and sanitation systems have all but collapsed; and architected a humanitarian blockade that led to a grand famine and the spread of diseases.

Yemen’s 26 million people are in a race against time for powers greater and richer than their own seek to impose their will, and their design onto a nation whose only ambition has been to stand free, sovereign and independent.

Yemen has become a terrible statistic – one of death, misery, hopelessness and devastation.

Yemen one would argue exists beyond all manners of contention … when an entire nation sits on the verge of famine, plagued by pestilence, it skies darkened by warplanes, politics quickly becomes irrelevant. And yet, politics we have been told has demanded that more violence still be spent on a people whose lives are but hanging by a thin thread.

When the infamous 1 percent discharges lead and chemicals onto the weakest of the weak, one wonders what point exactly that 1 percent is trying to impress on those it labelled as enemies beside absolute devastation. It seems western liberalism has found its match in the towering ambition of Saudi Arabia’s reactionary theocracy.

For western capitals to argue in the one breath human rights, democracy-building and nation-wasting by military desolation is a paradox we have all learn to dissociate from.

But guilt cannot be rationalised by arguing sociopolitical cognitive dissonance – not if we consider the implications of our disinterest. When hunger becomes a reasonable asymmetrical weapon of war, and political self-determination the privilege of an elite, we might as well consider hanging Democracy and Civil Liberties on the public square and be done with it.

What value can we put on Freedom if we are not committed to it on principle?

If controversy indeed exists, it has more to do with survival than political preferences, or even ideological inclinations. Political debates have become a luxury Yemenis have lost all taste for … it is death after all which has breached the sanctity of their homes.

Death still, that threatens to steal the very future a people once imagined to be its own to formulate.

Yemen’s war, if once a complicated affair of overlapping and contradictory ambitions, has been reduced to a very simple reality indeed. Millions stand to die … No! millions will die unless war is brought to an end.

The only question left to ask really is: how long before we intervene in favour of peace? If yesterday should have been our first choice, several tomorrows away will do little by way of assuaging our collective guilt.

World Health Organization established that of the 1 million people affected by cholera 600,000 are children.

When it comes to Yemen numbers and statistics are euphemisms hiding an unpalatable reality.

And so it goes: over 2 million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and will not live to see their next birthday, 100,000s have been made homeless, over 15,000 have been killed, 10,000s have been injured with no hope of adequate medical care and millions of civilians are awaiting death by starvation, diseases or war.

Add to the above a widespread propensity to redact mathematics to better manage public opinion, readers will … I hope, grasp that Yemen’s plight is one of despair beyond despair itself.

“The situation in Yemen – today, right now, to the population of the country – looks like the apocalypse,” Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told media in early 2018.

To put it bluntly we all have been lied to. Yemen’s war is not a military exercise aiming to restore constitutional legitimacy; civilian casualties are not involuntary victims of war – they are the targets.

Saudi Arabia we ought to learn is not at war with Yemen but rather its people. Saudi Arabia in all its theocratic might intends to make Yemenis bow to its will just as if they were its subjects.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia you see is not like any other … the kingdom is a breathing institutional anachronism which firmly belongs to the past. Unless of course we regard feudal tribalism and theocratic absolutism as desirable traits in a system of governance. Don’t answer that …

Saudi Arabia is in the business of allegiance and obedience under threat of death, not so much Freedom.

Peace we have been told is a complicated affair … Let’s not reinvent the wheel shall we and let’s begin where it mostly hurts – rather literally in fact.

Let’s start with the proverbial elephant in the room and call for our glorious and liberal western democracies to call back their hounds and stop all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

If the kingdom had less lead to dispense maybe Yemen would have enough of a breath left in its beaten and starved body to formulate a peace plan.

Peace is really not THAT complicated! But it will certainly cost war profiteers millions of dollars in lost revenues.

For weapons to be laid down and guns to be silenced, weapon sales need to be halted.

If indeed it would be folly to consider arming criminals in our streets for it would put the innocent in harm’s way, then it stands to reason to refrain from arming those who have no qualms targeting women and children to score military points.

Most western nations, might it be Canada, the United Nations, France or even Germany prohibit the sale of arms to countries with a persistent record of serious human rights violations or war crimes.

And yet those same governments have sanctioned the sale of weapons of war to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – a country which holds an abysmal human rights track record, and proved feral in its military ways.

The onus is now on those governments to abide by their respective rule of law and hold those principles they say to represent and carry.

If the old adage still holds that:He who kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity … what should we say of silence?

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Three Years of Saudi Bombings: Let’s Call An End to War Profiteering in Yemen

UK Complicit in the Destruction of Yemen


UK Complicit in the Destruction of Yemen. £4.6 billion of UK Weapons to Saudi Arabia Since Beginning of Bombing Campaign

It has been three years since the Saudi-led coalition began its brutal bombardment of Yemen.

The situation has been described by UN agencies as ‘the worst humanitarian crisis in the world’ with over 22 million people in need of assistance. The last year has seen the humanitarian catastrophe getting worse: Save the Children estimates that 50,000 children died in 2017 alone as a result of the crisis.

Despite this, the Saudi military is the world’s largest buyer of UK arms. The UK has licensed over £4.6 billion of UK arms in the three years since the bombing campaign began. These include:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Defence announced that it was close to confirming a new deal to sell the regime 48 more Typhoon jets. This followed a controversial visit by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, who was met outside Downing Street with large protests.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

“Yemen has endured three years of destruction, but the arms sales haven’t stopped. The war is entering its fourth year, and the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse.

Theresa May and her colleagues must end their shameful complicity in the destruction. If the government wants to do the right thing for the people of Yemen then it must stop arming and supporting the brutal Saudi regime.”

A recent poll by Populus for Campaign Against Arms Trade found that only 6% of UK adults support arms sales to the Saudi regime.


Featured image is from Stop the War Coalition.

150115 Long War Cover hi-res finalv2 copy3.jpg

The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” against Humanity

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0
Year: 2015
Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

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Posted in Saudi Arabia, UK, YemenComments Off on UK Complicit in the Destruction of Yemen

Thousands of US-Supported “Rebels” and Family Members Leave Eastern Ghouta ‘Video’


According to Russia Military Sources

About 5,500 members of Faylaq ar-Rahman and their family members left the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on March 25 and were taken to the Idlib province, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The militants left the settlement of Ebreen was carried out under the agreement between the group’s leaders and the Syrian government with help of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties in Syria.

“Some 5,453 militants and their family members were evacuated via a humanitarian corridor on March 25 in 81 buses to the Idlib province,” the Russian military said.

In total, 6,441 militants and their family members have been evacuated from Ebreen to Idlib.

Separately, 4,979 militants [Ahrar al-Sham members] and their family members were evacuated from the area of Harasta to Idlib on March 25.

The Russian military added that a total of 103,606 people have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta with the assistance of the Russian reconciliation center since the implementation of the daily humanitarian pause in Eastern Ghouta.


Featured image is from Farsnews.

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Posted in SyriaComments Off on Thousands of US-Supported “Rebels” and Family Members Leave Eastern Ghouta ‘Video’

Google and Corporate News Giants Forge New Alliance to Defeat Independent Journalism


The “new media” monopolists of Silicon Valley and the once-dominant traditional print media have clearly agreed that the “fake news” frenzy is a convenient pretext to step up their censorship of the internet through new algorithms, allowing them to boost their profit margins and silence opposition through a new framework of “algorithmic censorship.”

Search engine and advertising monolith Google continued to press its offensive against alternative media this week with an announcement unveiling a new $300 million project called the Google News Initiative.

The initiative encompasses a range of new projects announced by the tech giant, which has long been accused of enjoying a monopoly position and of siphoning off digital advertising revenue from traditional news publishers.

Google sees it differently, however, and asserted in a press statement announcing the initiative that it “paid $12.6 billion to partners” while driving “10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free.” The company is now promising to continue working “with publishers to elevate accurate, quality content and stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.”

The move will likely drive the stake further into the heart of independent media while merging Silicon Valley with mainstream publishers traded on Wall Street and aligned with the agendas of beltway politicians in Washington.

Marginalizing dissident voices en masse

According to Google:

The commitments we’re making through the Google News Initiative demonstrate that news and quality journalism is [sic] a top priority for Google. We know that success can only be achieved by working together, and we look forward to collaborating with the news industry to build a stronger future for journalism.”

Launched in a partnership with a range of traditional corporate media giants – including The Washington PostThe New York TimesFinancial Times, and U.S. newspaper giant Gannett – the project promises to combat so-called “fake news” and misinformation. Many reasonably fear, based on recent trends, that this will mean the further marginalization of non-hegemonic left-wing and conservative media — as well as a sort of “death by algorithm” for already-struggling publishers who once flourished, prior to the hysteria over alleged “Russian interference” and propaganda in the 2016 elections.

The initiative will include a new lab to analyze and parse out what is deemed “mis- and disinformation during elections and breaking news moments;” a fact-checking partnership with Stanford University and corporate media non-profit groups like the Local Media Association and the Poynter Institute; and a new service meant to expedite reader subscriptions to pay-gated news websites, among other new projects.

In the past decade, companies that enjoyed a monopoly in the U.S. media market — such as Gannett, Hearst, and The Times — saw their readership base, as well as the advertising revenue on which they depend, largely evaporate in the face of the rise in online news outlets. Such new competition included state-funded broadcasters like Al-JazeeraPressTV and RT, as well as dissident voices at smaller news sites offering original journalism, like MintPress NewsTruthoutMonthly Review, the World Socialist Website, and a range of alternative and volunteer-based journalism outfits across the globe.

Last April, Google clamped down on alternative media with new structural changes to its algorithms — accompanying the change with an announcement tarring alternative media with the broad black brush of “misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories” as opposed to what it called “authoritative content.”

As a result, organic search-engine traffic to these sites uniformly plummeted to less than half of what it had previously been, devastating many publishers.

Staving off regulation

Google parent company, Alphabet Inc., has seen its stock dive this week amid a broader selloff of tech stocks resulting from the Cambridge Analytica controversy embroiling Facebook.

While former Google and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt once argued that “policymakers should work with the grain of the internet rather than against it [and] allow innovation to flourish,” tech platforms have faced mounting pressure from governments across the globe, which are constant threats to step in and regulate the lawlessness that once reigned across the world wide web.

Indeed, companies from the same corporate-media roster with which Google is now partnering have been leading the charge calling for regulation, arguing that the tech giant failed to protect users from alleged abuse in the form of false information spread by Russian operatives.

By last November, Schmidt was already caving in to pressure on the company resulting from the hue and cry over “Kremlin meddling” in the U.S. electoral process.

Arguing that he was opposed to censorship, the Google leader nonetheless announced that the company would begin to purposefully reduce the presence of “misinformation” sites, like Russian government-owned Sputnik and RT, on Google News by “deranking” the sites in news search results and “trying to engineer the systems” to prevent the classification of “propaganda” as legitimate news.

Facebook, which is witnessing a PR meltdown after the revelation that it allowed the data of 50 million users to be misused by right-wing political operatives, is also undertaking measures to prioritize content from mainstream outlets like The Times while using the fact-checking services of corporate nonprofits and wire agencies like Associated Press.

An algorithmic gag to silence the people

As the share prices of corporate media outlets and Silicon Valley alike begin to tumble and the rise of anti-systemic social movements, anti-capitalist perspectives and opposition voices continues unabated, it’s become a matter of consensus for politicians, billionaire tech geeks and media moguls alike that the internet must be policed in a stricter manner.

The “new media” monopolists of Silicon Valley and the once-dominant traditional print media have clearly agreed that the “fake news” frenzy is a convenient pretext to step up their censorship of the internet through new algorithms, allowing them to boost their profit margins and silence opposition through a new framework of “algorithmic censorship.”

This new model overwhelmingly favors those who see information and journalism as an article of commerce alone. It poses a stark threat not only to internet users’ ability to access information, but to the ability of citizens and social movements that hope to interact with, participate in, and wield influence over the political and economic activities that determine our lives and the fate of communities across the world.

Posted in MediaComments Off on Google and Corporate News Giants Forge New Alliance to Defeat Independent Journalism

6,700 More U.S. Missiles for Saudi Arabia to Shoot at Yemeni Kids


Following a failed attempt by three senators to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war against Yemen, the State Department announced a sale of 6,700 missiles to Saudi Arabia, Ann Wright reports.


How much more slaughter in Yemen is the United State government willing to help with?

We found out when State Department announced on March 23 the sale of 6,700 anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen on March 23 and the missile deal was announced a few hours later. The State Department notified Congress of the proposed sale which is a part of a $1 billion weapons sales deal.

The State Department on Thursday announced the sale of 6,700 anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, hours after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

Coming almost three years to the day that Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., began a campaign of airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the State Department ironically and sarcastically wrote:

“This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East… and will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The U.S. increased its air strikes in Yemen in 2017 by having six times more airstrikes that in 2016.

Secretary of Defense Mattis was unconcerned about civilian casualties in Yemen:

“We have been working very hard with the new U.N. envoy to end the fight in Yemen. And we believe that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution. They have stood by the United Nations recognized government. And we are going to end this war. That’s the bottom line.”

The U.S. is not the only country whose weapons manufacturers are making a killing out of killing Yemeni kids. The U.K., France, Spain and Italy, have sold billions of dollars of weaponry to countries around the world, with Saudi Arabia being one of the biggest weapons purchaser.

A war powers resolution for Yemen that represented an attempt to insert congressional oversight into U.S. military operations in the deadly civil war there was defeated by a vote of 55-44 by the U.S. Senate on March 21.  Co-sponsored by three members of the Senate — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn), the resolution called for the end of the U.S. role in the war.

Under the proposed massive weapons sale, Saudi Arabia will buy 6,696 TOW 2B missiles and associated training materials worth $670 million; parts and repairs support worth $300 million for its Abrams tanks and fighting vehicles, and maintenance equipment worth $100 million for its fleet of AH-64D/E, UH-60L, Schweizer 333 and Bell 406CS helicopters.

Congress now has 30 days to block the whole or parts of the sale through a privileged resolution under the AECA.

To save the lives of innocent women and children in Yemen, let’s hope Congress says no more sales to Saudi Arabia.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on 6,700 More U.S. Missiles for Saudi Arabia to Shoot at Yemeni Kids

A New Strategy for Higher Education in the U.K.


In the British Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto, the pledges to abolish university tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants were widely seen as vote winners, but that was the extent of the party’s policy commitments toward the sector. Since the election, Labour has supported staff and students in challenging the yawning gap between highly-paid vice-chancellors and principals on the one hand, and part-time academic staff whose work is extremely insecure and poorly paid; and it has supported the industrial action that academic and administrative staff in UCU have taken in defence of their pension rights.

Important though these issues are, Labour’s policies need to be based on a much more comprehensive analysis of the problems in the sector, framed by the ways in which higher education fits in to our wider economy and society. In short, Labour needs a new strategy for higher education. In what follows, I set out key elements of such a strategy, looking in turn at:

  • the overall purpose of higher education (HE);
  • management control and the erosion of collegial culture;
  • growing differentials in pay and job security; and
  • the withering away of part-time and adult education in HE.

What is Higher Education For?

Ever since the 1963 Robbins Report, two principles have remained unchanged: making HE available to all who can benefit from it; and meeting the needs of the economy for skilled labour and knowledge. However, from the 1980s onwards these principles were pursued in the context of a renewed liberal economic philosophy, centred on individual achievement and national competitiveness. As a result, the expansion of student numbers came to be increasingly driven by the allure of a “graduate premium” in life-time earnings, while research was oriented toward improving UK competitiveness in an increasingly global economy, especially through closer links to the private and public sectors.

Labour’s policy through 1997-2010 continued in this vein. The government expanded HE participation toward 50% of the 18-24 age group, and sought to shape the patterns of teaching and research to the needs of the economy primarily through financial incentives. Since the crisis of 2008, there has been a radical acceleration in the role of money and markets, with a major shift in the funding of teaching from central government grants to student fees, and of research from public grants to commercial contracts.

Despite the undeniable successes of UK HE in conventional economic terms, the increasing role of markets has led to significant debate about the wider societal purpose of the sector. Critics have gone back to the concerns of Mill and Arnold (echoed by Robbins) – universities as bearers of public culture and core values, focused on improving the lives of all rather than the profits of the few. While such criticisms cut little ice with committed supporters of the free market model, there is now mounting evidence that they cannot ignore concerning the actual outcomes for students and society. The Economist reported recently1 that the size of the graduate premium has been widely overstated, and that degrees are often used mainly as a way of simplifying recruitment processes to jobs for which graduate skills are not really required. The report argues further that from the point of view of society, the actual premiums accruing to individual graduates are significantly offset by the loss of earnings among displaced non-graduates.

More broadly, universities need to address the ever-deepening educational divide in our society, which many believe has been a key factor in the rise of the new populism, both in the UK and across the developed world. As the research of Diane Reay and others has shown,2 HE remains a major factor in reproducing social inequalities of class, race and gender. In this view, universities should be genuinely universal, as educators of all and as repositories of knowledge for society as a whole.

Markets, Management and Metrics

We are all familiar with the central role of the privatisation of state enterprises in our economy since 1979, but equally important was the ‘new public management’ model which has transformed governance in those parts of the public sector which traditionally did not directly sell their services for money. The HE sector adopted this model in the 1990s, seeking to incentivise both teaching and research through performance measurement (initially Teaching Quality Assessment and the Research Assessment Exercise).

Already by 1997 Michael Power’s study The Audit Society showed how the ‘carrot-and-stick’ private-sector model of top-down management control had spread to the public sector, transforming the culture of an increasing range of organisations. In HE, this new model has seen a major shift in decision powers from academic staff to executive managers. While academics still take part in senior management, the methods and culture of governing bodies have increasingly been shaped by professional executives, partly as a result of the co-option of external members largely drawn from the private sector.

Put simply, the carrot-and-stick approach is based firmly on the assumption that subordinates are motivated solely by a calculus of individual effort and reward, seeking to maximise their financial gain in competition with all others. Such an approach is intrinsically dehumanising in any context, but with the complex nature of teaching and research outputs, relying on ‘metrics’ to assess performance is especially hard to justify.

This top-down and reductionist approach to management has been experienced by many HE staff as profoundly disempowering and oppressive. Both teaching and research are collective activities, motivated by the desire to understand the world and to transform it for the better, rather than by money. The traditional culture of ‘collegiality’ could indeed conceal inefficiencies, but trust and mutual aid were nurtured within it, and these have been greatly eroded.

Labour’s HE strategy should promote governance processes and cultures that build effective management upon a renewal of collegiality and democratic participation.3 Some degree of protection from both immediate market forces and top-down managerial control should be part of this.

The Effects of Financial Uncertainty On Pay and Conditions of Employment

Following the 2011 Higher Education White Paper, the Coalition government introduced major changes in the financing of HE and in the regulation of student numbers.4 The shift from block grants to student fees for meeting the costs of teaching, coupled with the removal of caps on recruitment, appeared to ‘free’ providers from direct state control, and instead subordinate them to market competition. This was intended to lead to more diverse provision, with a wide range of fee levels and a greater responsiveness to changes in the patterns of demand for highly-educated labour. Seven years later, the vast majority of ‘home’ undergraduate students pay £9,000 a year, and the sector seems to fare no better than before in terms of addressing skill shortages.

More importantly, the shift from a largely planned model of governance to one of regulated competition has exposed the utter failure – of both the government sector leaders – to appreciate the obstacles that market competition inevitably faces in HE. These difficulties arise not from any opposition among staff and students, but because modern free-market economics has very largely forgotten to take into account the structural conditions that the newly-freed market faced. For a hundred years, orthodox economics taught that efficient market outcomes required easy access for new entrants, and resource inputs readily to hand and flexible in use: these conditions have never applied in HE, and indeed provided a mainstream (pro-market) rationale for putting the provision of a wide range of such goods and services within the public sector.

Developing new capacity in HE – new courses, new staff, new infrastructure such as housing and learning resources (IT, libraries) – requires substantial up-front investments and takes a significant amount of time. Universities have responded in part by seeking external finance based on future revenue streams, taking advantage of historically low interest rates, but still increasing their debt levels substantially. But the unexpectedly slow pace of recovery since the 2008 crisis, accentuated more recently by Brexit, has led to deepening concerns over the stability of the new system. This has given rise to a range of precautionary responses that are affecting staff at all levels.

First, the shift in power from academics to managers has accelerated. This is partly seen in the centralisation of actual decision-making processes, and the prescriptive imposition of a corporate financial mind-set at all levels of management. It is also seen in the sector’s adoption of pay relativities that increasingly resemble the private sector, with vice-chancellors and principals earning far more than heads of NHS Trusts or chief executives of large local authorities. Typically, strategic decision-making in a university is now exclusively reserved for the Council, with Senate’s role limited to strictly academic matters. Governance arrangements increasingly lack external transparency and accountability, e.g. in relation to remuneration committees for vice-chancellors.

Second, the financial risks associated with a competitive market environment have been offset by reducing the cost and increasing the flexibility of the labour force, through the growing use of fixed-term and/or part-time teaching staff. Any suggestion that this is morally equivalent to the employment practices of Sports Direct, Amazon or Uber is of course greeted with howls of outrage.

Third, universities have sought to cut the costs of full-time academic staff through re-writing university statutes in order to reduce employee protection, and now through a coordinated attack on the pension rights of permanent staff; in both cases, the result has been unprecedented levels of industrial action by those staff, with growing support from students.

Access to Higher Education

Thirty years ago, most universities offered schemes for mature entry, and at least some part-time provision of their degree-level programmes. They also provided a wide variety of extra-mural or continuing education opportunities: not only vocational and professional courses leading to qualifications (including many designed for trade unionists), but also traditional ‘liberal arts’ courses taken by local citizens motivated only by a desire to learn.

Since the 1990s, the scope of such ‘non-traditional’ programmes has narrowed almost completely to vocational provision, related to specific job needs or state-accredited return-to-work programmes. This approach has displaced the extra-mural educational purpose which originated in the late 19th century world of Mill, Arnold and Ruskin, and which for a hundred years or more helped to ground universities in the communities surrounding them.

More recently, the sharp rise in student fees since 2011 – albeit deferred in the form of student loans – has been accompanied by sharp falls in the numbers of mature students (defined as those over 21 who have not undertaken any HE already) and part-time students. In this case, the relentless process of marketisation has revealed a serious flaw in the debt-based fee model: older entrants are likely to be already indebted through mortgages or consumer debt, and will have fewer years in which to repay the loans. Not surprisingly, universities prefer to avoid the costs of attracting and preparing such reluctant customers, and focus instead on poaching 18-year-olds from each other.

The role of HE in reproducing social and economic inequalities has already been noted, but we need to see this in relation to the deepening social divisions revealed by the rise of populist politics, and particularly by the EU referendum campaign and its aftermath. Support for Brexit was greatest in towns and counties which either had no HE institutions, or the lowest levels of HE participation by 18-21-year-olds.

It is often argued that the over 50% of our population who do not go into HE should not be expected to shoulder its cost in public support through their taxes. The traditional liberal answer to this is that they do benefit, albeit indirectly through economic growth, better-quality goods and services and improvements in productivity.

But perhaps a more telling response is to argue that a truly universal university system would be designed to meet the life-long educational needs of all our adult citizens. This idea lies behind the recent proposal for a National Learning Entitlement (NLE), providing each person with a fund on which they could draw at any time in their life to meet part of the cost of whatever studies they found appropriate to their needs. An NLE would naturally fit in to a strategy of making HE an integral part of Labour’s proposed National Education Service, bringing the universities firmly under public control. Ideally, this would be accompanied by a devolved system of governance in which HE provision would be tailored to local and regional needs.


The Labour Party’s policies on higher education need to be based on a thorough critical appraisal of the UK’s current market-driven approach, building an alternative strategy based on reducing social and economic inequalities through making knowledge available to all. One element should certainly be the abolition of tuition fees, coupled with the reinstatement of means-tested maintenance grants. Four strategic purposes are suggested here:

  • a genuinely universal role for universities in the service of the public interest, not individual gain;
  • the governance of HE institutions to be rebuilt around their public purpose and democratic control, not market competition and financial metrics alone;
  • staff pay in HE based on greatly-reduced differentials, with security of employment for all;
  • HE as an integral part of Labour’s proposed National Education Service, providing direct benefits, both material and cultural, to all citizens.

Posted in UKComments Off on A New Strategy for Higher Education in the U.K.

Turning cities into sponges: how Chinese ancient wisdom is taking on climate change


Landscape architect Kongjian Yu is making ‘friends with water’ to mitigate extreme weather events in modern metropolises

Sponge cities
 Sponge cities ‘contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground’. Photograph: NGV

How does a city cope with extreme weather? These days, urban planning that doesn’t factor in some sort of catastrophic weather event is like trying to build something in a fictional utopia. For Kongjian Yu, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, the answer to coping with extreme weather events actually lies in the past.

Yu is the founder and dean of the school of landscape architecture at Peking University, founding director of architectural firm Turenscape, and famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialised cities into standard bearers of green architecture.

Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts, floods and so-called “once in a lifetime” storms. At 53, he is best known for his “sponge cities”, which use soft material and terraces to capture water which can then be extracted for use, rather than the usual concrete and steel materials which do not absorb water.

European methods of designing cities involve drainage pipelines which cannot cope with monsoonal rain. But the Chinese government has now adopted sponge cities as an urban planning and eco-city template.

Kongjian Yu
 Kongjian Yu, founder of Turenscape and advocate of sponge cities. Photograph: Turenscape/NGV

Yu spoke in Melbourne on Tuesday at a symposium on water-conscious design held as part of Melbourne DesignWeek at the National Gallery of Victoria. Speaking to Guardian Australia ahead of his appearance, Yu, who is based in Beijing, explained the key benefit of sponge cities is the ability to reuse water. “The water captured by the sponge can be used for irrigation, for recharging the aquifer, for cleansing the soil and for productive use,” Yu said.

“In China, we retain storm water and reuse it. Even as individual families and houses, we collect storm water on [the] rooftop and use the balcony to irrigate the vegetable garden.”

When it comes to water, the mottos of the sponge city are: “Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse.”

His firm now has 600 employees and works across 200 cities in China. The firm has completed more than 600 projects and won a swag of major architecture and design awards.

The strategies Yu uses are “based on peasant farming techniques, adapting peasant irrigation systems to urban environments and experience in adapting buildings to a monsoon climate”.

The first strategy – “based on thousands of years of Chinese wisdom” – is to “contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground. We have to keep the water”.

“In China, there is a shortage of fresh water,” Yu says. “China has only 8% of fresh water of the world and feeds 20% of the population – so any fresh water from the sky will need to be kept in an aquifer.”

Sponge city
 When it comes to water, the mottos of the sponge city are: ‘Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse.’ Photograph: NGV

Yu, who grew up on a farm and later studied architecture at Harvard, understands the need to be water conscious. “The ability to regulate water year-round in dry season is a very critical strategy for the people to survive.

“One thing I learned is to slow down the process of drainage. All the modern industrial techniques and engineering solution is to drain water away after the flood as fast of possible. So, modern tech is to speed up the drainage but ancient wisdom, which has adapted in the monsoonal season, was to slow down the drainage so the water will not be destructive anymore. By slowing the water it can nurture the habitat and biodiversity.”

For Australia, and places where water is scarce: “When it’s dry, keep the water on the ground in an aquifer, so it will not evaporate too much.”

Adaptation to drought conditions is also important: using as little water as possible, and recycling what there is.

As Yu says, it’s important to “make friends with water”. “We don’t use concrete or hard engineering, we use terraces, learned from ancient peasantry wisdom. We irrigate. Then the city will be floodable and will survive during the flood. We can remove concrete and make a water protection system a living system.”

Since you’re here …

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine, Sweden

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