The watchdogs of imperialism and the Uyghur genocide slander

March 2, 2021

By Stephen Gowans

On February 26 the Canadian Parliament passed a motion, by a vote of 226 to 0, expressing the opinion that “the People’s Republic of China has” implemented “measures intended to prevent” Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim births and that these measures are “consistent with” the United Nations Genocide Convention.

The reality is that Beijing is not preventing Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim births, and a report by a German anthropologist widely cited as evidence that it is, contradicts this claim. That report, by Adrian Zenz, a fellow at a US government-created foundation whose mission is to bring about the end of communism and the Chinese Communist Party,  reveals that while Chinese family planning policy restricts the number of children Chinese couples are allowed to have, it does not prevent couples in any group, including Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, from bearing children. Moreover, limits on family size are the same between the Han Chinese ethnic majority and religious minorities. There is, therefore, no discrimination in Chinese family planning policy on the basis of national, religious, or ethnic affiliation.

Perhaps aware their position was untenable, the parliamentarians sought to buttress their motion by citing political opinion in the United States, where “it has been the position of two consecutive administrations that Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims are being subjected to a genocide by the Government of the People’s Republic of China,” the motion observed. In an act of unseemly subservience to imperial power, Canada’s parliament constructed a motion, based on no evidence, to echo a point of view articulated in Washington, also based on no evidence.

Significantly, the last two consecutive administrations have designated China a rival, and therefore have politically-motivated reasons for slandering their challenger. Moreover, apart from using the hyper-aggressive US military to extort economic and strategic concessions from other countries, US administrations have a long record of fabrication to justify their aggressive actions. That “two consecutive administrations” have held that the Chinese are carrying out a genocide is evidence of nothing more than Washington continuing to operate in its accustomed fashion of churning out lies about states that refuse to be integrated into the US economic, military and political orbit. A Serb-orchestrated genocide against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo; hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; moderate rebels in Syria: these are only the tip of the iceberg of US lies and calumnies offered as pretexts for imperial aggression. Genocide in Xinjiang is but the latest.

Below, I look at the genocide slander from four perspectives:

  1. The geostrategic context.
  2. Who is behind the accusation?
  3. How do the accusers define genocide?
  4. What is the evidence?

The geostrategic context

In 2003, Graham E. Fuller, a former vice-chair of the US National Intelligence Estimate and one-time CIA station chief in Kabul, wrote a book for the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Study at the Johns Hopkins University, titled The Xinjiang Problem. His co-author was the academic  S. Frederick Starr.

Fuller and Starr wrote that:

the historical record suggests that the decision of countries and even of international organizations to raise specific human rights issues is often politicized and highly selective. Many countries will devote attention to human rights issues in China in inverse proportion to the quality of their overall bilateral relationship.

It need not be said that today, 18 years later, the quality of overall bilateral relations between the United States and China has deteriorated sharply. China has emerged as a formidable competitor to US economic and technological supremacy, and US policy has shifted, beginning with the Obama administration, toward an explicit program of eclipsing China’s rise.

In recent days, US president Joe Biden has said “American leadership must meet … the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States.” The Wall Street Journal reports that Biden’s “goal is to stay ahead of China in semiconductors, artificial intelligence and other advances that are expected to define the economy and military of the future.” However, the US president, according to the newspaper, intends to portray the conflict as one based on “a clash of values: democracy vs. autocracy,” rather than a clash of economic interests.

At the base of a deteriorating Sino-US relationship, then, lies a commercial rivalry, on top of which Washington has layered a narrative about a clash of values. In a Foreign Affairs article written before he became president, Biden outlined a strategy of confronting China over the economic challenges it poses to US businesses, US domination of the industries of tomorrow, and US technological (and concomitant military) supremacy. Biden said he would use a human rights narrative to rally support for a US-led campaign against China.

Fuller and Starr continued: “It would be unrealistic,” they wrote, “ to rule out categorically American willingness to play the ‘Uyghur card’ as a means of exerting pressure on China in the event of some future crisis or confrontation.” Many “of China’s rivals have in the past pursued active policies in Xinjiang and exploited the Uyghur issue for their benefit.” Almost two decades later, with US hostility rising as Washington’s claim to primacy on the world stage is under challenge, the United States has decided to play the Uyghur card.

Who is behind the accusations?

A network of groups and individuals, animated by an antagonism to the Chinese Communist Party, and supportive of continued US global supremacy, are involved in originating the slanders against Beijing. At the center is the German anthropologist, Adrian Zenz.

Zenz’s opposition to Beijing lies in his religious beliefs. A fundamentalist Christian, he views communism, feminism and homosexuality, as abominations against God. Zenz also believes that he is on a divinely-inspired mission to bring about the demise of communist rule in China.

Zenz is a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. The foundation, created by the US government to discredit a ideology which competes against the United States’ first favorite religion, US state-capitalism (Christianity is the second) seeks to free the world “from the false hope of Marxism” and save it from “the tyranny of communism” (the leitmotif of Hitler’s political career.) This it strives to do by educating future generations that “Marxist socialism is the deadliest ideology in history,” (one that, by this view, is fully capable of carrying out a genocide), a task the foundation sees as especially pressing today, when “Positive attitudes toward communism and socialism are at an all-time high in the United States.”

Zenz has also written anti-Beijing reports for the Jamestown Foundation,  an anti-Communist outfit supported by corporations, foundations, and wealthy individuals, whose mission is to shape public opinion against China and North Korea.

The slanderers also include a number of Uyghur exile groups, including the World Uyghur Congress, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED is a US government-funded organization whose first president conceded that it does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, namely destabilize foreign governments by strengthening fifth columns. The NED does so under the cover of promoting democracy and human rights.  The organization has boasted on Twitter that it has been funding fifth columnists in Xinjiang since 2004.

Another propagator of anti-Beijing slanders is the Epoch Times, the newspaper of the Falun Gong. Like Zenz, the roots of Falun Gong’s anti-Beijing animus lie in reactionary religious convictions. The cult deplores gender equality, homosexuality, and communism as affronts against God.

How do the accusers define genocide?

Those who accuse Beijing of carrying out a genocide employ a ruse regularly used in the corporate world to dupe consumers and employees. The subterfuge is to redefine a word to mean something other than what the word would be reasonably interpreted to mean. For example, a large telecommunication company once promised its customers same or next day service. If customers called before 10 am they would receive service the same day; otherwise, they would have to wait until the following day. What the company didn’t tell its customers was that they would only receive service to this standard, if the company was able to provide it, and that the company would try to meet its promise 80 percent of the time. Even if as many as one in five customers received service two or more days later, the company would boast that it provided same day-next day service. It was able to make this deceptive claim because it had redefined what same-day-next day meant but counted on its customers accepting the phrase ‘same day-next day’ at face value.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo employed the same ruse. He accused Beijing of trying to integrate Xinjiang and its Turkic people into the larger Chinese society. While this did not meet the definition of genocide, Pompeo labelled Beijing’s actions as genocide all the same.  According to the magazine Foreign Policy, State Department lawyers told Pompeo that Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang did not satisfy the UN convention’s definition of genocide. Pompeo, who has no respect for the truth, much less the contrary opinions of government lawyers, was undeterred.

The current US secretary of state Anthony Blinken also accused Beijing of genocide. Using the same ruse, Blinken pointed to non-genocidal actions, namely one million Uyghurs in ‘concentration camps’, to make the claim that Beijing was trying to destroy a Muslim minority.  The claim was a double deception. First, there are no Uyghur concentration camps in Xinjiang. And second, even if there were, concentration camps do not equal genocide. Blinken was likely trying to exploit the association of the Holocaust with German death camps to insinuate that concentration camps and genocide go together, like the artic and snow, and that the Chinese government, and its Communist Party, are contemporary expressions of Nazi horror.    

The source of the concentration camp allegation is yet another of Beijing’s political foes. An Islamist media outlet run by Uyghur separatists in Turkey—which serves as a platform for the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, an al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist outfit which seeks to transform Xinjiang into an Islamic State—originated the slander. ETIM is considered a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States—or was considered a terrorist organization by the United States until Pompeo removed the group from the US terrorism list in October, thereby eliminating an impediment that had limited the contribution the jihadists could make to the US project of destabilizing Xinjiang, propagating calumnies about the Chinese government, and ultimately undermining China’s ability to compete with US businesses on the world stage.

In July of last year, Zenz wrote a paper for the Jamestown Foundation on Uyghur birthrates, which appears to be the basis for the claim cited by Canadian parliamentarians that China is carrying out a genocide in Xinjiang. Zenz’s report raised the question of genocide only in its final sentence, and then only tentatively. It was, instead, the Jamestown Foundation editor, John Dotson, a former US naval officer and US Congressional staff researcher, who concluded in an introductory note that “Zenz presents a compelling case that the CCP party-state apparatus in Xinjiang is engaged in severe human rights violations that meet the criteria for genocide as defined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Zenz, however, concluded only that Chinese policies “might be characterized” as constituting “a demographic campaign of genocide per” the UN convention. To be sure, any policy might be characterized in any particular way one wants, but the ad rem question isn’t, can policy x be characterized as y, but is it y?  Zenz, unlike Dotson, was not prepared to say that Chinese birth control policy constitutes genocide. And there’s a good reason for this; it clearly doesn’t.

Zenz’s paper was a political tract erected on the foundations of a report on Beijing’s family planning policies and their effects on Uyghur and Han birthrates in Xinjiang. What the report showed, notwithstanding Dotson’s politically-motivated misinterpretation, was that:

  • Previously, Han Chinese couples were limited to one child, while Uyghur couples were allowed two in urban areas, and three in rural areas. Family planning restrictions were not rigidly enforced on Uyghur couples.
  • Today, Han Chinese couples are permitted to have as many children as Uyghur couples are permitted (two children in urban areas, and three in rural areas.)
  • Family planning restrictions are now rigidly enforced.
  • The change from lax to rigid enforcement has been accompanied by a decrease in the Uyghur birth rate.

Zenz’s report showed that the Uyghur population continued to grow, despite enforcement of family planning policies; Uyghur couples are not prevented from having children, (they’re only limited in the number of children they can have); and family planning rules apply equally to Han Chinese.

Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, reads as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The relevant consideration is the fourth item, namely, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group. Chinese family planning policy does not prevent births within the Uyghur population; it only restricts them, and the restriction is non-discriminatory; it applies equally to all groups.

What is the evidence?

US State Department lawyers told Pompeo there is no evidence of genocide in Xinjiang. As we have seen, that didn’t stop Pompeo–who once boasted that as CIA director “we lied, cheated, and stole“– from making the accusation. He simply changed the definition of genocide, carrying on the US state tradition of fabricating lies to advance its interests.

Bob Rae, Canada’s representative to the UN, accused China of committing genocide, and then said efforts should be made to gather evidence to demonstrate this to be true.

John Ibbitson, a columnist with Canada’s Globe and Mail, conceded that Chinese government actions in Xinjiang do not meet the UN definition of genocide, but that Beijing is carrying out a genocide all the same.

The watchdogs of imperialism

The United States is waging an economic and information war on China, to preserve its economic,  military, and technological supremacy. Washington is recruiting its citizens, its allies and their citizens, and the progressive community, into a campaign to protect the international dictatorship of the United States from the challenge posed by the peaceful rise of China. Every manner of slander has been hurled at China to galvanize popular opposition to Beijing and mobilize popular support for economic aggression and growing military intimidation against the People’s Republic, from accusations that Chinese officials concealed the spread of the coronavirus; to calumnies about Muslims being immured in concentration camps, subjected to forced labor, and targeted for genocide; that Beijing is violating the one state-two systems agreement in Hong Kong (when in fact it’s only implementing a security law to undergird the one state part of the accord) and that Beijing’s efforts to reunify the country by re-integrating a territory the US Seventh Fleet prevented it from reintegrating in 1950, are really acts of aggression against an independent country named Taiwan.

Progressive forces, from Democracy Now!, which has provided Adrian Zenz a platform to traduce Beijing, to the New Democratic and Green parties in Canada, which voted for the motion declaring that a genocide is in progress in Xinjiang, collude in the campaign to protect and promote the profits of Western shareholders, investors, and bankers from the challenges posed by China’s rise. Lenin, who knew a thing or two about communism, international rivalries, and the betrayal of progressives, described the predecessors of today’s Democracy Nows, Greens, and New Democrats as the watchdogs of imperialism. His words echo through the corridors of time.

The problematic relationship of Canada’s parliament to the concept of genocide

By Stephen Gowans

February 23, 2021

Sadly, a country that has played a significant role in what David E. Stannard called the American Holocaust, the massive depopulation of aboriginal people from the Americas, has blithely debased genocide by ignoring it where it occurs and condemning where it hasn’t.

In a vote of 266 for, and 0 against, the Canadian House of Commons declared on Monday that Chinese authorities committed atrocities in Xinjiang that contravene the United Nations’ Genocide Convention.

Canada’s parliamentarians made this declaration on the basis of dubious evidence, sourced to an ideologically-inspired researcher who opposes communism and openly seeks the demise of the Chinese Communist Party.  

The allegation is politically contrived, not legally defensible.

On the eve of the vote, the magazine Foreign Policy reported that “The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor” had concluded that “there was insufficient evidence to prove genocide.”

Even John Ibbitson, a right-wing columnist with the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper which has led the charge against China, conceded that the case that Beijing has breached the United Nations genocide convention had not been made. (That didn’t stop him, however, from insisting that China had committed genocide notwithstanding.)

The genocide allegation, the fantasy of German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, which was aped by Canada’s parliament, is “ridiculous to the point of being insulting to those who lost relatives in the Holocaust”, intoned Lyle Goldstein, a China specialist and Research Professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department of the Naval War College, quoted by The Grayzone.

The Grayzone’s Gareth Porter and Max Blumenthal showed that the genocide charge—first made by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the dying days of the Trump administration—rests on dubious analyses carried about by Zenz.

Zenz has argued that the evidence for a Beijing-orchestrated genocide lies in the decline in the birth rate of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population. While it is true that rate at which the Uyghur population is growing has slowed, slower growth does not mean no growth, or contraction. Indeed, the Uyghur population continues to grow. Growth has slowed because Beijing is enforcing measures to limit population growth in the form of a two child per couple limit (three in rural areas) which apply equally to Uyghurs, and the Han Chinese ethnic majority, alike. Previously, the policy was not rigidly enforced in Xinjiang. Today it is, with the consequence that the Uyghur population is growing, but not as rapidly as it once was. Zenz has seized on the change in birth rate as evidence of genocide. While the UN Convention would define the prevention of births with the intention of destroying the Uyghurs as genocide, Uyghurs aren’t prevented from having children. On the contrary, with a limit of two children per couple and three in rural areas–the same limit that applies to the Han majority–Uyghurs are hardly being subjected to a discriminatory policy of birth control or a demographic genocide.

The German researcher is a senior fellow with the US-government-founded Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which works toward the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party.

As for Pompeo—who did much to publicize Zenz’s nonsense–he once boasted that under his leadership the CIA “lied, cheated, and stole.”  

It is no secret that the United States, and its ductile and craven subordinate Canada, regard China as an economic and ideological rival. Ever since the People’s Republic of China began to challenge US economic and technological primacy, departing from its Wall Street-desired role as low-wage manufactury for US corporations and market for advanced Western goods and services, the United States has pursued a campaign of information warfare to discredit Beijing and blacken China’s reputation.

Joe Biden endorsed this approach nearly a year ago in an article he wrote for Foreign Affairs.

“The most effective way to meet” the “challenge” of China getting “a leg up on dominating the technologies and industries of the future,” the future president wrote, is “to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations.”

If Biden had said that Chinese human rights violations in their own right merited a campaign to confront Beijing, the sincerity of his entreaty might, for a brief moment, have appeared to possess a jot of credibility. But Washington has shown itself to have an endless tolerance for human rights abuses, as long as they serve US corporate and strategic interests. And he didn’t say that China ought to be confronted over actual human rights abuses; he said that confronting China over human rights (presumably real or imagined) is an effective way to deal with China as an economic rival.

China’s economic rivalry is matched by its systemic rivalry. Where the Chinese government has overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, set its economy once again on a growth trajectory, and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty (a project that continues unabated), governments in North America have proved themselves incapable of meeting the health, human welfare, and economic challenges of Covid-19. While Chinese citizens look to the future with optimism, their living standards ever improving,  North Americans look to the future with pessimism, plagued by governments that fail to deliver, growing inequality, declining economic opportunity for all but the wealthiest, and incomes that, at best, stagnate.

As the former US diplomat Chas Freeman recently pointed out,

This year, China will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party.  Chinese associate the Party with the astonishingly rapid transformation of their country from a poor and beleaguered nation to a relatively well off and strong one.  Most Chinese  … are optimistic that the enormous progress they have experienced in their lifetimes will continue.  China’s decisive handling of the pandemic has bolstered its citizens faith in its system.  Morale is high.  China is focused on the future.

By contrast,

….the United States entered this year in an unprecedented state of domestic disarray and demoralization.  A plurality of Americans disputes the legitimacy of the newly installed Biden administration. Despite a booming stock market supported by cheap money and chronic deficit spending, we are in an economic depression.

If a government fails to delivers for its citizens while its rival succeeds, what better way to divert attention from its failure and recover its credibility than to create a dark legend to vilify its successful rival and a golden legend to celebrate itself?  Certain players in the United States and Canada—Biden, Pompeo, the Canadian parliament, and the mass news media—have chosen to follow this course, and are doing so by carelessly echoing accusations of genocide made by an anti-Communist fanatic with an ideological ax to grind. The practice debases the very concept of genocide. Sadly, it is hardly new.

From my window, I can see Canada’s National Holocaust Monument. A short distance away is the site of the as-yet-completed Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Canada commemorates the genocide of the Jews (carried out in another land by another people) but does not commemorate the Canadian Holocaust, carried out on its own territory by its own people. At the same time, it commemorates the Nazis, fascists, and their supporters, who perpetrated the Holocaust Canadians profess to abhor. The ‘victims’ the memorial honors, were, after all, the very same people the communists jailed and executed.

Canada has no monument to the Canadian Holocaust. While it is prepared to ensure “the lessons of the [Nazi] Holocaust … remain within the national consciousness for generations to come,” it makes no such commitment to ensuring the lessons of the Canadian holocaust remain in the national consciousness, much less enter it.

As for The Holocaust, with a capital H, the Canadian government defines that genocide as “the mass extermination of over six million Jews and countless other victims.”

Who are these countless other victims?

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which defines the Holocaust as ‘the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators,” has the answer. Helpfully, the Museum enumerates its victims. Unhelpfully, it lists the victims in a way that obfuscates who the primary victims were.

The Museum claims there were nearly 12.5 million non-Jewish Slavs (comprising Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, and Poles) who were victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, as against the usually cited six million Jews. The Museum breaks out the Slav groups separately, so that individually, neither group preponderates Jewish victims, and in listing the victims this way, the reality that the principal victim category was Slavs, not Jews, is obscured. Richard C. Lukas made a brave attempt to correct this oversight in his 1986 book Forgotten Holocaust.

The conclusion, then, is that while both Canada and the United States commemorate the genocide of the Jews, they have anonymized the more numerous Slav victims, and have largely made them invisible—consonant with the refusal of both countries to commemorate the much larger holocaust against American Indians perpetrated on their own territories.

The elevation of Jews to the status as principal–and in the pedestrian understanding, the sole—victims of the Nazi genocide, did not happen by accident. It is the outcome of a political agenda—one of legitimizing the Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine; sheltering it from criticism; and allowing Zionists to conceal the true motivations for their settler colonialism and aggression on behalf of US foreign policy behind a pretext of Holocaust-prevention. The entire project of Zionism in West Asia, sponsored and bankrolled by the US state, is to promote US corporate, and particularly energy, interests, contra indigenous movements for national independence and sovereignty, rationalizing every action taken on behalf of this project as necessary to prevent another Holocaust.

Likewise, the fabrication of a black legend about a Chinese holocaust in Xinjiang has a political purpose: to discredit an economic and systemic rival.

The holocaust against the Slavs; the Germans’ earlier holocaust against the Nama and Herero people of southwestern Africa; and countless other holocausts perpetrated by colonial powers against defenseless peoples, are marginalized and never memorialized for the simple reason that they were modelled, sometimes explicitly, on the American and Canadian Holocausts. Genocide, as Mahmood Mamdani has pointed out, is an act of nation building, and European settlers in North America provided the template.

Nazi Germany deliberately sought to exterminate the Slavs of Eastern Europe, a territory its leaders saw as equivalent to the North American West. Just as Europeans committed a genocide against the American Indians and stole their land, Germans, following the American model, would exterminate the Slavs and steal their land. It was on this very same territory that the majority of the world’s Jews lived, and were victimized—along with their non-Jewish Slav neighbors—by Germans inspired by the US and Canadian conquest of the North American West.

David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen recounted in their 2010 book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust, that “Hitler told his entourage that the peoples of the East were to suffer the same fate as the ‘Red Indians.’ They were to be exterminated and then simply forgotten. ‘We also eat Canadian wheat’, [Hitler] reminded his audience, ‘and don’t think about the Indians.’”

Beijing has had to contend with jihadist violence in Xinjiang, just as other governments have found it necessary to deal with violent jihadism on their own or other territories. The approach of the United States and Canada to violence inspired by political Islam has been war, military occupation, assassinations, torture, arbitrary detention, massive electronic surveillance of their own populations, and Islamophobia.

Beijing, by contrast, has followed an approach based on job training, economic development, and deradicalization. Part of the reason US and Canadian governments have called for boycotts against goods produced in Xinjiang is to stymy Beijing’s efforts to mitigate the problem of violent Jihadism through economic development.

That China is relying on uplift and deradicalization to conciliate its jihadists, rather than aping the US approach of assassination, torture, and secret prisons, explains why “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians” has “praised China for ‘providing care to its Muslim citizens.’” Similarly, in July, 2019, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates”, signed “a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang.”

If the US response has been decidedly violent, the response of governments with significant Muslim populations has been similar to that of China. Egypt and the Gulf states detain jihadists and Islamist radicals and enrol them in ‘deradicalization’ programs.  It is the similarity in approach to China, according to The Wall Street Journal, that accounts for why Muslim-majority countries have not censured China for its response to Islamist violence. On the contrary, they have praised Beijing for its treatment of China’s Muslim population.

The careless hurling of genocide charges, in the context of a commercial rivalry between a US-led West and China, stamps the practitioners of this regrettable act as chauvinists, prepared to stoop to any depth to give “their” bourgeoisie a leg up in a competition with an international rival. That the so-called progressive wing of Canada’s parliament, the New Democratic Party and Green Party, voted en masse for the anti-Chinese motion, is a stain on their record, but only one of many, and hardly surprising. Progressives have made a habit, dating back to World War One, of backing “their” bourgeoisie, even to the point of siding with their own ruling class in the industrial slaughter of their class cohorts. The infamy continues.

Rather than taking up the jingo’s cry against an emerging China by endorsing a politically-inspired confection concocted by Adrian Zenz, an anti-Communist fanatic who believes a supreme being has inspired him with a mission to destroy the Chinese Communist Party, Canada’s parliamentarians ought to address a genocide that really did happen—the one perpetrated on their own territory, which they continue to ignore.  

US media hide malignant and destabilizing US actions in plain sight, while accusing an official enemy of the same

January 27, 2021

US bombers, says a B-52 pilot at 8:20 of this video, “are what you send over there to change people’s minds when you want to get things done.” He doesn’t say what people’s minds are to be changed to, but there are plenty of indications that “getting things done” means making people ‘over there’ more accommodating to the demands of US investors and corporations. When minds need to be changed to accept unimpeded access to foreign markets by US businesses, protection of US intellectual property, and the opening of strategic industries to US investment, the bomber is a US instrument of choice. [1]

“Basic U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific,” observes Chas Freeman, a retired US diplomat, “remain simple and straightforward:” They are: “Unimpeded access to the region’s markets, products, services, financial resources, and scientific and technological innovations.” [2]

Jacob J. Lew, a former US Treasury Secretary, and Richard Nephew, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, identify fundamental U.S. foreign policy interests as promoting free trade and creating foreign markets for U.S. goods and services. [3]

Which is to say, US foreign policy, backed by B-52 mind-changers, is guided by the goal of securing profit-making opportunities around the world for US investors and corporations. If “people over there” resist, well, the United States has plenty of B-52s to change minds and get things done.  

The Pentagon, the Wall Street Journal informs us, plans to rely on B-52s “to prepare for the wars of the future.”  [4] This suggests that US planners have already queued up a series of foreign aggressions, calling to mind the future wars once planned in Berlin (against a string of European countries) and Tokyo (against China, as well as the East Asian and Pacific colonial possessions of the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands.) Imagine the outcry, entirely warranted, were China’s Global Times to run a story under the headline, For Wars of the Future, PLA Looks to Hypersonic Missiles. Were China openly planning wars of the future, as the United States is, and crowing about them in its newspapers, it would be marked, quite justifiably, as a menace to humanity. The logic applies no less strongly to the United States.

China, it is no secret, will be the target of, if not a future war, then at least unrelenting US military pressure. True, China is very accommodating of US businesses—to a point. US business people lust after the vast Chinese market and cheap Chinese labor, and Beijing, in large measure, accommodates them. But at the same time, US investors and the CEOs of major US corporations complain bitterly about high Chinese import tariffs, competition from state-owned enterprises, and demands that foreign investors take on Chinese partners. [5] And some strategic industries remain closed to US investment.

In an effort to change minds over there, the United States has, since 2004, maintained a “continuous bomber presence” on the verges of Chinese airspace, including over waters claimed by China. [6]

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal featured a story about a B-52 crew “lumbering 100 miles off China’s coast”—part of the continuous bomber presence Washington maintains to “demonstrate the US military’s long reach.” [7] This is an anodyne way of saying that the Pentagon is the ultima ratio regnum of the United States’ global economic empire, as the historian Arno J. Mayer once put it. When the crew was warned by Chinese air traffic control to turn back, it replied with a scripted response: it was conducting lawful military activities in international airspace. Michael R. Gordon, the author of the piece, explained that one of the goals of the Pentagon’s continuous bomber presence is “to preserve” the US “role as the region’s pre-eminent military power.” Gordon, of course, didn’t tarry over the question of why the United States needs to be the region’s pre-eminent military power, perhaps because asking the question would evoke the parallel questions: Why did Germany feel the need to be the pre-eminent military power in Europe, and why did Imperial Japan, like the United States today, pursue military pre-eminence in the Indo-Pacific region?

One would assume that an 18-year long unending US bomber presence on the margins of Chinese airspace might be considered an act of intimidation. Outside of US doctrine, it clearly is. Inside, it is not. That’s because, as the historian Marilyn B. Young once explained, US doctrine rests on “a set of axioms … as unquestionable as Euclid’s,” that purify every US action, no matter how heinous or despotic, and vilify every enemy action, no matter how benevolent. “We can summarize these axioms as follows,” wrote Young.

“The intentions of the United States are always good. It is possible that in pursuit of good ends, mistakes will be made. But the basic goodness of US intentions cannot ever be questioned. The intentions of the enemies of the United States are bad. It is possible that in the pursuit of bad ends, good things will seem to happen. But the basic badness of enemy intentions cannot ever by questioned.” [8]

Hence, an unremitting US bomber presence over the South China and East China seas, and open discourse in a major US newspaper about future wars, can only be good, because these actions are American. But any action, even remotely similar, carried out by a designated enemy, must be evil.

If proof of this is required, consider that on the same day it ran its jingoist encomium to B-52 warriors and the aircraft they fly, the Wall Street Journal also ran a story under the headline “China Flies Warplanes Near Taiwan in Show of Force, Promoting U.S. Warning.”

The story revealed that:

“China sent strategic bombers, jet fighters and a turboprop on 13 sorties into Taiwan’s southwestern air-defense identification zone on Saturday and followed up with 15 fighter and turboprop sorties into roughly the same area the next day, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. On both days, the Taiwanese military responded by deploying aircraft, issuing radio warnings and tracking the Chinese planes with air-defense missile systems.” [9]

While the newspaper presented the projection of US strategic bombers into China’s air-defense identification zone as a legitimate exercise of “upholding the right of international passage in disputed airspace”—and not an act of intimidation—China’s deployment of strategic bombers within its own sovereign territory elicited implied censure and a rebuke from Washington.  “U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price voiced concern over what it called continuing Chinese attempts ‘to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan.’” [10] Washington followed up by admonishing Beijing to cease its military pressure against the Chinese island.

Congruent with its role in enforcing an ideological orthodoxy consistent with the interests of the US state’s corporate-based management committee, the Journal described Chinese, but not, US bombers, as warplanes. Instead, B-52s–the instruments by which US imperialism has spread its dark wings over the lands of oppressed people whose minds needed to be changed to accept their continued oppression–were described only in neutral terms; for example, as military aircraft carrying out lawful activities.  

The narrative on behalf of US imperial objectives didn’t stop there. Taiwan, in the official discourse of the US state, and the unofficial discourse of its public relations arm, the US news media, is a country separate and sovereign from China, rather than what it truly is: a part of China which has never declared independence. China can’t invade, threaten to invade, intimidate, or exert military pressure on, China.

The Chinese island is important to Beijing for two reasons. Washington intervened in China’s civil war in 1950, to prevent communist forces gaining control of the island and unifying the country. This was an act equivalent to its contemporaneous intervention in the Korean civil war to prevent communist forces there from revolutionizing and unifying that country. China, just as much as Korea, remains divided today, as a consequence of US imperialism.

There is also a strategic motive to recover Taiwan. As the writer John MacDonald explains, the island “sits in the middle of a chain of small islands from Japan in the north to the Philippines in the south.” These islands, referred to by US military strategists as ‘the first island chain,’  are either directly or indirectly under US military control. “Together they block China’s access to the Pacific.” A hostile force—in this case, the United States—through its control of the first island chain, has the capability of bottling up China, denying it access to sea lanes—a capability that would allow the Pentagon to impose a naval blockade on China in a time of war. “Taiwan’s return to the mainland would open a crucial break in the wall.” [11] Today, US Marines train to operate from these islands with the explicit goal of bottling up China’s fleet [12], a malign and destabilizing project which the Wall Street Journal has documented on a number of occasions, but prefers to describe in strictly neutral terms. [13] Malignity and destabilization are terms in US propaganda practice that are reserved to describe the actions of official enemies, in order to justify malign and destabilizing actions against them.

Who, then, is intimidating who? Who is the aggressor, and who is aggressed upon?

In the upside-down world of US doctrine, US acts of intimidation against China are lawful exercises of upholding international law. China’s efforts to recover its territory are acts of intimidating a neighbor.

1.  Another method of choice is the use of sanctions, economic warfare, and financial isolation to immiserate foreign populations, with the foreseeable consequence of producing widespread malnutrition and disease.

2. “The United States and a Resurgent Asia,” Remarks prepared for delivery to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), 14 April 2020.

3. Jacob J. Lew and Richard Nephew, “The use and misuse of economic statecraft: How Washington is abusing its financial might,” Foreign Affairs, October 15, 2018.

4. Michael R. Gordon, “For Wars of the Future, Pentagon Looks to Distant Past: The B-52,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2021.

5. James T. Areddy, “Xi Jinping aims to rebrand China—as an importer,” The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2018.

6. Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold, “U.S. bomber flies over waters claimed by China,” The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2015.

7. Gordon.

8. Marilyn B. Young. The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990. Harper Perennial. 1991. p.27.

9.  Chun Han Wong, “China Flies Warplanes Near Taiwan in Show of Force, Promoting U.S. Warning,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2021.

10. Ibid.

11. John MacDonald. When Globalization Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  2015. p. 239.

12. Gordon; Page and Gordon.

13. See for example Gordon and Page.

The Chinese Uyghur Dark Legend and Washington’s Campaign to Counter Chinese Economic Rivalry

October 25, 2020

Dig below the surface of the allegations that Beijing is abusing its Muslim population, and you won’t find concentration camps and genocide, but a US-led effort to create a Chinese dark legend. The roots of the demonization campaign are to be found in Washington’s desire to counter China’s challenge to US economic supremacy.

By Stephen Gowans

US presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden has referred to the US empire obliquely as “the international system that the United States so carefully constructed.” The late Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo called Biden’s “international system” an “international dictatorship of the United States.” That Biden might implicitly agree with Losurdo’s characterization is evidenced by the fact that Biden referred to the US-constructed international system in a Foreign Affairs article he wrote earlier this year to argue the case for “why America must lead.” [1] (Foreign Affairs is considered the unofficial journal of the US State Department.) “Why America must lead” can also be expressed as “why every other country must follow.” Biden promised that as president he would “take immediate steps to…have America lead the world” and by implication make the rest of the world submit to US leadership. He would, in other words, defend and expand a US empire in which Washington dictates to other countries.

The carefully constructed international system to which Biden refers is, at its base, a system of international trade based on the proposition that barriers to the expansion of US economic activity are an anathema; the world economy must be Americanized.

“More than 95 percent of the world’s population lives beyond our borders,” Biden observed, and “we want to tap those markets.” To do so, Biden pledged to take “down trade barriers” and resist foreign “protectionism” and ensure that the United States writes the “rules that govern trade”. When “American businesses compete on a fair playing field, they win,” boasted Biden. One can’t help but think there’s a certain “tails I win, heads you loose” circularity in Biden’s reasoning. Is a fair playing field defined as one on which US businesses win, and is it unfair, by definition, if US businesses lose?

But what if part of the 95 percent of the world’s population that lives beyond US borders doesn’t care to share its markets with US investors and corporations? Are they to be permitted the liberty to decide how to organize their own economies? And what if they’re willing to open their markets, but only on terms suitable to their own requirements? Is there a reason, beyond the self-interest of corporate USA, why a country tilting the playing field to favor its own enterprises, is wrong?

In a world led by the United States, economic sovereignty—except for that of the United States—is verboten. The international dictatorship of the United States makes two demands of the world: First, the economic playing field must be global; no country can opt out. Second, the playing field must allow US businesses to win; it can’t be tilted to achieve a country’s legitimate public policy objectives—not, for example, full employment, or overcoming a historical legacy of underdevelopment.  

While China has agreed to the first demand, it has rejected the dictatorship’s second. “If China has its way,’ Biden warned, it will continue to use “subsidies to give its state-owned enterprises … a leg up.” It could, by this means, end up “dominating the technologies and industries of the future.”  And, from the point of view of the US ruling class, Beijing’s realization of this possibility must be prevented.

US free enterprise, of course, has long had a leg up in international markets. Over more than two centuries, US land speculators, slave-owners, manufacturers, and financiers grew immensely wealthy, by the plunder of the first Americans, centuries of chattel slavery, and years of expanding colonialism, both veiled and overt. Their wealth came at the expense—indeed, from the labor—of the people and countries they exploited, plundered, and held down. Having accumulated a rich storehouse of capital, corporate USA is in a position to win whatever economic contest is conducted on a “fair” playing field (one on which it wins.) Is it any wonder, then, that “tapping the world’s markets” and “fair playing fields”—the guarantors of continued US domination and wealth-accumulation—are the foundations of US trade and investment policy? 

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so too is fairness. The “fair trader” Joe Biden, who demands the permanent opening of all foreign markets to US businesses, and the prohibition of state subsidies and assistance to foreign firms, is prepared, if he wins the presidency, to introduce “an ambitious ‘Buy American’ proposal that would earmark more federal funds for U.S. companies.” [2] This hardly sounds fair to foreign firms competing in the US market.

Biden’s proposed Buy American program would complement numerous state subsidies Washington showers upon US businesses.  “In 2004, the U.S. took European countries to the WTO over subsidies to Airbus, and Europe responded soon after with a case against U.S. support for Boeing. WTO rulings since then have found that both sides provided prohibited subsidies.” [3]

On another front, the U.S. Energy Department spends “over $6.5 billion a year on research in the basic sciences,” more than any other country. US government-conducted basic research finds its way into tomorrow’s technologies, to be sold by US firms for private gain. [4] The same firms that benefit from Uncle Sam’s largesse will sing paeans to their ingenuity and inventiveness, while concealing the swindle that their role has been limited to privatizing the ingenuity and inventiveness of government scientists on the public payroll.

And then there’s 5G, robotics, and artificial intelligence, the so-called industries of the future, which China has said it wants to dominate, to the alarm of Washington. Any move to dominate these industries would be unfair to corporate USA, Washington contends. And so, the United States fights back with its own subsidies and government-financed R&D, while thundering sanctimoniously against Beijing’s assistance to China’s state-owned enterprises. “Through the AI Next campaign, a next-generation AI research project by the Defense Department-affiliated Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US has been pursuing government-led R&D on areas such as AI and heterogeneous chip stacking and integration and neuromorphic chips,” reports the South Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh. [5] Meanwhile, “Biden aides say they would expand the American-government-backed campaign to compete in strategic high-tech sectors such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and the next-generation 5G wireless standard”. [6] At the same time, Biden, along with Trump and his cabinet, US business lobbies, and The Wall Street Journal, grouse about the Chinese government doing the same.

The hypocrisy of fulminating against Beijing lavishing subsidies and assistance on state-owned enterprises while Washington heaps public subsidies on privately-owned US enterprises, goes largely unmentioned in public discourse. Instead, the backlash against China’s refusal to accept the international dictatorship’s demand that it place the profit-making interests of US firms first, and return to its assigned role as a source of cheap labor for US manufacturers and a vast market for US goods and services, uncontested by Chinese competitors, is waged in another domain: that of human rights.

“The most effective way to meet” the “challenge” of China getting “a leg up on dominating the technologies and industries of the future” is “to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations,” Biden argued. If he had said that Chinese human rights violations in their own right merit a campaign to confront Beijing, the sincerity of his entreaty might, for a brief moment, appear to have an iota of credibility. But he didn’t say that China ought to be confronted because it has engaged in human rights abuses; he said that confronting China over human rights is an effective way to deal with China as an economic rival. In other words, human rights are to be treated as an instrument to protect and promote the profit-making interests of corporate USA, not as ends in themselves. In this is revealed the origin of US-directed campaigns to create a Chinese dark legend based on Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong, the former British colony, and Xinjiang, the autonomous region in northwestern China, which is home to dozens of minorities, including the largely Muslim Uygurs.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Beijing of locking up Uygurs in concentration camps and seeking their destruction as a people, in a campaign spearheaded by a fanatical anti-communist crackpot, Adrian Zenz, who believes a supernatural being has given him a mission to destroy Communist China. [7] The campaign is funded by a US government foundation whose first president, the historian Allen Weinstein, confessed to The Washington Post that  ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.” The CIA has a long history of trying to destabilize foreign governments that aren’t sufficiently accommodating of US free enterprise. [8] Under pressure by the Church Committee, a US Senate select committee that investigated abuses by the CIA and other US governmental agencies, the CIA spun off part of its destabilization apparatus to an organization that would work openly under the banner of democracy promotion. It is called the National Endowment for Democracy, a major source of funding for activists involved in confronting China over human rights.

The United States is not a credible interlocuter on either human rights or democracy promotion. Its retinue of allies is littered with despots who unabashedly reject democracy and oppress their people, but buy US weapons, preside over friendly foreign investment climates, and accept that the United States must lead the world. As one of numerous examples of tyrants who count themselves as valued US allies, consider Mohammad bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

Doted on by Washington, MBZ, as he is known, “has long argued that the Arab world is not ready for democracy.” [9] In place of democracy, he favors a socially liberal autocracy. [10] MBZ  is so vehemently opposed to even the mildest campaign for suffrage, that last year, he arrested “five activists for organizing a petition for democratic reforms (signed by only 132 people).” He crushes dissent, observed The New York Times. [11]

Will Biden urge the self-professed human rights champion and democracy promoting US government to confront MBZ, as it is confronting China? Of course not. MBZ obediently does what foreign rulers are supposed to do under “the international system that the United States so carefully constructed”, namely,  promote US economic and strategic interests, and he is able to do so precisely because he denies Emeritis the suffrage they seek. If Washington demanded its allies free their people to organize their economies and politics as they see fit, and not as Washington does, the US empire would immediately collapse. The international dictatorship is based on servitude, not democracy. Indeed, the entire notion that the United States must lead the world is anti-democratic to its core.

The UAE, then, is a perfect example of how the US empire is based on the creation of an Americanized world without borders. The emirate is an extension of the Pentagon, CIA, and US economy. Any notion of a genuine, meaningful, sovereignty is illusory.  (China is neither an extension of the Pentagon or the CIA, and, while its economy is partly integrated with that of the United States, it is also its key economic competitor.)

MBZ “has recruited American commanders to run his military and former spies to set up his intelligence services.” Before becoming secretary of defense, Jim Mattis worked as an unpaid advisor; at the time, he was a board member of General Dynamics, which did extensive business with the UAE. [12]

“Prince Mohammed hired a company linked to Erik Prince, the founder of the” US mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater, “to create a force of Colombian, South African and other” soldiers for hire. [13] The “800-member battalion”, assembled at a cost of $529 million, includes among its missions the suppression of “internal revolts”. [14]  The Emeriti population objects to being tyrannized by an aristocrat who asserts that Emeratis are ill-suited to democracy owing to their lack “of education” and “backward religious attitudes”. [15]

From 2006 to 2010, the UAE filled the coffers of the US arms industry with proceeds from the purchase of 80 F-16 fighters and 30 Apache helicopters. [16] Last year, the country entered into a deal with the Trump administration to buy a further $8 billion worth of US weapons. [17] Investors in the US arms industry smiled. MBZ is clamoring to buy a fleet of F-35s, which Israel has agreed to waive its objection to, in exchange for Washington supplying Tel Aviv with even more advanced weaponry than it supplies the UAE, in order to maintain its Congress-mandated QME—qualitive military edge over all other countries in the region. US arms industry investors smiled with ever greater pleasure. The so-called Abraham Accords, the formalization of the informal anti-Iran, anti-Syria, anti-Hezbollah alliance between Israel and Washington’s veiled colonies in the Arab world, is proving to be a boon for shareholders with interests in US arms companies.

“The United Arab Emirates began allowing American forces to operate from bases inside the country during the Persian Gulf war of 1991. Since then, the prince’s commandos and air forces have been deployed with the Americans in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as against the Islamic State.” [18] MBZ has also paid for jihadists to wage war against the Syrian government. The UAE is home to 5,000 US troops. [19]

As The New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick wrote, “To many in Washington, Prince Mohammed” has “become America’s best friend in the region, a dutiful partner who” can “be counted on for tasks from countering Iranian influence in Lebanon to funding construction in Iraq.” It is well known that if you need something done in West Asia, the Emiratis will do it. [20]

The Heritage Fund/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom—which measures the degree to which countries cater to US free enterprise—ranks the UAE as the freest (the most US investor-friendly) country in the Arab world, and the 18th freest in the world. (China, in contrast, is ranked 103rd.) Kirkpatrick’s colleague, Robert Worth, likens the U.A.E. to “a hyper-capitalist slave colony” [21]—just the kind of place business-connected US politicians and state officials can love. Is it any surprise, then, that they turn a blind eye to MBZ’s crushing of even the mildest petition for suffrage?  

This, then, is the record of a valued US ally. Not the slightest censure of the UAE passes the lips of even the most muscular of self-declared human rights champions and democracy promoters among US politicians and officials.

But we don’t have to scrutinize the records of Washington’s valued allies to recognize that the US commitment to human rights and democracy is a sham. The United States’ own record shows the country’s self-professed leadership on the question of human rights is the acme of hypocrisy. Indeed, the gulf between US rhetoric and US reality is so wide that Stalin’s observation that the US view of itself is the exact opposite of its record [22] can hardly be contested.

Limiting consideration to the US war on Al Qaeda and allied Islamists who challenged US domination of the Arab world, consider the following:

  • The US invasion of Iraq, by itself, is a gross human rights violation and assault on democracy. (Democracy does not consist of coercing others to organize their economies and politics to suit US goals.)
  • Abu Ghraib, the US prison in occupied Iraq, at which US military and CIA personnel committed a litany of vile abuses against prisoners, including torture, beatings, sexual assault, rape, indecencies against dead bodies, and murder. [23]
  • Guantanamo Bay, the prison on US-occupied Cuban soil, in which militants who have fought against veiled US colonialism in the Arab world have been subject since 2002 to torture under a regime of indefinite detention.
  • In 2009, US General Barry McCaffrey admitted, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.” [24] In fact, 100 prisoners or more were tortured to death by US thugs. [25] Former US president Barak Obama offered an anodyne description: “We tortured some folks,” he said. [26]
  • Obama ended the detention and torture of Islamist militants, in favor of deploying the presidency’s unaccountable army, the CIA, to assassinate Islamist militants by means of drone strikes. The definition of an eligible target was expanded to include all military age males in whatever zone the CIA chose to strike. [27]
  • The US invasion of Syria, under the pretext of fighting ISIS, apart from being an assault on human rights and democracy, is a flagrant violation of international law—revealing Washington’s commitment to ‘the rule of law’ to be yet another case of US mendacity. The truth is that the class of laws the US ruling class follows is whatever law in the moment happens to serve its interests; otherwise, “the rule of law” is ignored.
  • US president Donald Trump admitted that US troops are in Syria for one reason: not to fight ISIS, but to plunder Syria’s oil fields; [28] US special representative to Syria, James Jeffrey, revealed that the US goal is to impose a level of control over Syria commensurate with the control Washington had over Japan at the end of the Second World War; [29] the United States had planned a full scale invasion of Syria in 2003, as a complement to the invasion of Iraq, but abandoned its plan after the occupation of Iraq presented unanticipated challenges. [30]

Amnesty International summed up US human rights abuses against Muslims as follows:

  • “People have been held for years at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba without even being charged with a crime. Prisoners have been tortured and mistreated, and they are not given fair trials.
  • “Surveillance and targeting of Muslims – based on who they are, not what they’ve done – has fueled harassment, discrimination, and violence.
  • “For years, the U.S. government allowed officials to torture people through horrific techniques that violate U.S. and international law. President Trump has vowed to expand the use of torture even further in the years ahead.” [31]

These abuses are mechanically acknowledged by US officials and US media and then quickly forgotten. They fade from the public mind because the golden legend of fundamental US benevolence is carefully and unremittingly cultivated by US politicians, US mass media, and US schools, until it crowds out all inconsistent data. Even the acknowledgement of US abuses is carried out within the framework of the golden legend. Torture, invasion, occupation, rape, physical abuse, colonialism, arbitrary detention, assassination, chattel slavery, despoliation of the first Americans—these actions and institutions never reflect “who we are as a nation,” but are said to be aberrations or mistakes made with the best of intentions. According to this carefully nurtured mass deception, the United States is forever “the beacon on the hill,” no matter what it does; the golden legend can never be tarnished, for it is impervious to experience, invulnerable to reality.  One contribution to the strengthening of the golden legend is the claim made with astounding boldness that fundamental US benevolence is evinced by the abolition of slavery! Reparations to the descendants of the vile institution the United States allowed to flourish for four and half generations, much to the benefit of slave holders, including a number of US presidents and the country’s revered founders, would evidence a desire to correct an intolerable injustice; but it’s not on the agenda.

This is the record of a country that professes to be “a shining light on the hill” and “the world’s last best hope.” It is indeed a “shining light on the hill” for exploiters and “the world’s last best hope” for a system of exploitation that makes the labor of many the wealth of the few. But it is no emissary of a better future, no sentinel of the oppressed, and no champion of human rights, least of all those of Muslims. 

China’s Response to Radical Islam

Xinjiang, officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is a territory in the northwest of China with a population of 25 million. It shares borders with eight countries: Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, and Tajikistan. It is home to dozens of minorities. The Uygurs – a Turkic, mainly Sunni Muslim people – constitute the largest ethnic group in Xianjang, making up a plurality, but not a majoritym of the region’s population.

Xinjiang is China’s top natural gas-producing region and is an important rail and pipeline route linking China to the rest of Eurasia.

The Uyghurs have a long history of armed struggle aimed at establishing political control over a territory they regard as their homeland. In pursuit of this goal, they have operated under the banners of Islam and Turkism. Uyghur jihadists have carried out attacks on civilians for political objectives, i.e., engaged in terrorism.

In 2014:

  • Two Uighur militants staged a suicide bombing outside a train station in Urumqi, the regional capital, that injured nearly 80 people, and killed one.
  • Militants with knives went on a “rampage at another railway station, in southwest China, killing 31 people and injuring more than 140.”
  • Uyghur “assailants tossed explosives into a vegetable market in Urumqi, wounding 94 people and killing at least 39.”[32]

Five years earlier, “156 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured when angry Uighurs attacked Han civilians and battled with security forces.” [33]

Noting that some Uyghur militants had received or were likely to receive “real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan” which they might use “at any time to launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang,” [34] the Chinese government responded.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping advocated a two prong program. First, develop the economy to give Uyghurs jobs and train them in the skills they would need for employment. This would stifle unrest in Xinjiang, he argued. Second, implement educational programs to overcome religious extremism. [35] This was the rationale for developing a system of vocational training and ‘deradicalization’ detention facilities.

The detainees would include: 

1. “People … who participated in terrorist or extremist activities in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime;

2. “People who … participated in terrorist or extremist activities that posed a real danger but did not cause actual harm;

3. “People who were convicted and received prison sentences for terrorist or extremist crimes and after serving their sentences, [were] assessed as still posing a potential threat to society.” [36]

In other words, the detainees comprised Uyghurs, inspired by political Islam, who were not currently serving a sentence in the regular prison system, and were deemed to constitute a continuing terrorist threat.

The centers delivered a curriculum that included “standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills, and deradicalization,” according to government documents. [37] Detainees were enrolled in courses on distinguishing “between lawful and unlawful religious activities,” and understanding “how religious extremism runs counter to religious doctrine,” with a view to persuading militants to renounce political Islam and violent struggle. [38]

In 2018, The Wall Street Journal described the detention program this way: “China began the mass detentions about two years ago as part of a drive to snuff out an occasionally violent Uighur separatist movement that Beijing says has links to foreign jihadists. Some Uighurs have joined Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” [39]

The United States has subjected the detention facilities to fierce criticism, but US censure represents the height of hypocrisy. Consider how the United States has dealt with violent jihadists, including Uyghurs who have joined ISIS. Rather than rehabilitating them and giving them jobs, as the Chinese have done, the United States has tortured them at CIA black sites, immured them indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, and deployed a drone strike program to assassinate them.

US hypocrisy has not been lost on the veteran foreign affairs correspondent Patrick Cockburn. It “would be naive to imagine that the sudden interest of the west in” the fate of the Uyghurs, wrote Cockburn,  “has much to do with” their cause. “President Xi Jinping has been chosen as the new demon king in the eyes of the US and its allies, his every action fresh evidence of the fiendish evil of the Chinese state.” The US criticism of Xi, Cockburn noted, amounts to “manipulation of public opinion” by calling attention to the acts of “one’s opponents and keeping very quiet about similar acts … by oneself and one’s allies.” [40]

All of this is true, except that the response of the United States to violent jihadists and that of China can hardly be called similar. The US response has been based on overwhelming violence; the Chinese response, on raising living standards and education.

That difference may explain why “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians” has “praised China for ‘providing care to its Muslim citizens.’” [41] And in July, 2019, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates”, signed “a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang.” [42]

Compare the approval of China’s approach, to Amnesty International’s condemnation of the US approach, cited above. To repeat:

  • “People have been held for years at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba without even being charged with a crime. Prisoners have been tortured and mistreated, and they are not given fair trials.
  • “Surveillance and targeting of Muslims – based on who they are, not what they’ve done – has fueled harassment, discrimination, and violence.
  • “For years, the U.S. government allowed officials to torture people through horrific techniques that violate U.S. and international law. President Trump has vowed to expand the use of torture even further in the years ahead.” [43]

If the US response has been decidedly violent, the response of governments with significant Muslim populations has been similar to that of China. Egypt and the Gulf states detain jihadists and Islamist radicals and enrol them in ‘deradicalization’ programs. [44]  It is the similarity in approach to China, according to The Wall Street Journal, that accounts for why Muslim-majority countries have not censured China for its response to Islamist violence, [45] and, on the contrary, have praised China for its treatment of its Muslim population.

In contrast, China’s efforts to quell radical Islam have been described by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Orwellian, a “gross human rights violation” and “one of the worst stains on the world of this century”. But The New York Times has observed that US “diplomats have offered only muted public criticism of” a litany of anti-Muslim abuses by the Hindu-nationalist Modi government in India. US silence on India, the newspaper noted, originates in US hostility to China. “Both the United States and India oppose … China’s Belt and Road Initiative to link the economies of Asia, Europe and Africa — and put Beijing at the center of global trade and enhance its geopolitical ambitions.” To avoid alienating the Modi government, Washington has raised no objection to Hindu-nationalist antagonization of India’s Muslim community. “We need like-minded partners,” Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said in New Delhi in August, adding that Washington needed to preserve “the vitality of the U.S.-India partnership” in order to enlist India in efforts to counter China.  [46]

Meanwhile, the actions of Paris to stifle radical Islam in France are accepted by the US government and US media with equanimity, despite their resemblance to the actions of China. French President Emmanuel Macron plans to outlaw what he calls “Islamic separatism” in communities where he says “religious laws are taking precedence over civil ones.” “Groups that practice radical forms of Islam, Mr. Macron said, were trying to create a parallel society governed by different rules and values than those espoused by the Republic.” To supress the rough equivalent of the Islamist-inspired Uyghur separatist movement, Macron is seeking the authority to “shut down associations and schools that he” claims “indoctrinate children,” while at the same time, monitoring “foreign investment in religious organizations in France.” [47]

“France’s banlieues—the working-class suburbs that ring its major cities—have become fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist groups. France was one of the West’s biggest sources of Islamic State militants when the terror group controlled swaths of Iraq and northern Syria. Hundreds of French nationals traveled to Islamic State territory, many bringing children. Others have mounted terrorist attacks in France that have killed more than 250 people over the past five years.” [48] The parallels with Islamist-inspired Uyghurs in Xianjang are obvious, though never remarked on in US media or by US officials.

Recently, “two people were seriously wounded in a knife attack near the former office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo,” [49] which should have recalled “a bomb-and-knife attack in April 2014 that rocked Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi”, [50] but in the West’s frenzy to build a Chinese dark legend, wasn’t.

Paris “has been working on a plan for years to tackle radical Islam. It recently started rolling out pilot programs in 15 different areas. Since February 2018, it has shut down 212 bars and restaurants, 15 mosques or prayer rooms, 13 associations, 11 children’s homes and four schools.” [51]

Adrian Zenz, the US-government-supported propagator of an anti-Chinese dark legend will not be leading a God-given mission to destroy Republican France over its “suppression” and “maltreatment” of its “Muslim population.” However, were France a formidable US economic competitor, refractory to the idea that the United States must lead the world and write the rules of international trade and investment (to suit the US ruling class), his indignation against Marianne may very well be aroused.

Partisans of the US effort to counter Chinese economic competition by building a dark legend as a basis for a confrontation with China on human rights have gone so far as to accuse Beijing of perpetrating a genocide against the Uyghurs. If rehabilitating jihadists is genocidal, then the Gulf states, Syria, Egypt, France, and every other country that has implemented ‘deradicalization’ programs are engaged in a genocide against their Muslim citizens. Inasmuch as the US response to radical Islam is to exterminate radical Islamists (not to rehabilitate them), a stronger case can be made that it is the United States that is perpetrating a genocide.

What’s more, if genocide means population reduction, the charges against Beijing collapse. Uyghur women are allowed to “give birth to more than one child without having to pay a fine, unlike the Han” [52]—hardly the kind of policy you would expect from a government bent on genocide. “Between 2010 and 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang rose from 10.17 million to 12.71 million, up by 25 percent, a growth rate much higher than that of the Han population or the whole population of Xinjiang. There are 24,000 mosques in the region, one for every 530 Muslims,” a higher ratio than in many Muslim countries. [53]

Not only is China not perpetrating a genocide, its efforts to rehabilitate violent Islamist-inspired militants is for from the stain on humanity of Pompeo’s Goebbelsian propaganda. On the contrary, it is largely of the same stamp as the ‘deradicalization’ programs of US allies with significant Muslim populations. It is, moreover, far more defensible than the preferred US practice of dealing with radical Islam by bombing campaigns, secret torture sites, indefinite detention, assassination, illegal occupation (Syria), and predatory war (Afghanistan). US actions serve two purposes: to suppress radical Islamist challenges to US domination of the Arab and Muslim worlds; and to fill the coffers of the US ruling class with profits from arms sales.

Constructing a Chinese Uyghur dark legend also serves a US foreign policy goal, as revealed by one of the US ruling class’s most valued lieutenants, Joseph Biden. The goal is to counter China’s challenge to a future in which US investors monopolize the profit-making opportunities of tomorrow’s industries. A bipartisan article of faith is that the United States must lead the world, shared as much by Donald Trump, as Biden.  Any country that defies the international dictatorship of the United States will become the object of a campaign of vilification whose end state is the construction of a dark legend.  The US ruling class faces a formidable challenge to its international dictatorship from the Chinese Communist Party and has prepared a formidable information war, of a Goebbelsian stamp, to counter it.

1 Joseph R. Biden, “Why America Must Lead Again,” Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2020

2 Jacob M. Schlesinger, “What’s Biden’s New China Policy? It Looks a Lot Like Trump’s,” The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2020

3 Josh Zumbrun and Daniel Michaels, “Boeing Subsidies Merit EU Tariffs on $4 Billion in U.S. Goods, WTO Rules,” The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2020

4 Daniel Yergin, “The New Geopolitics of Energy,” The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2020

5 S. Korea, US, China, Taiwan embroiled in fierce competition to dominate AI semiconductors, The Hankyoreh,  October13, 2020

6 Jacob M. Schlesinger, “What’s Biden’s New China Policy? It Looks a Lot Like Trump’s”, The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2020

7 See my “Washington’s Xinjiang smear,” what’s left, January 1, 2020, https://gowans.blog/2020/01/01/washingtons-xinjiang-smear/

8 Hernando Calvo Ospina, “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2007, https://mondediplo.com/2007/08/04ned

9  David D. Kirkpatrick, “The most powerful Arab ruler isn’t MBS, it’s MBZ,” The New York Times, June 2, 2019

10 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020

11 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019

12 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019

13 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019

14 Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager, “Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011.

15 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020

16 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019

17 Ruth Eglash and Karen DeYoung, “Peace deal or arms race? Proposed sale of F-35 jets to UAE prompts fears in Israel”, The Washington Post, September 14, 2020

18 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019

19 Miriam Berger, “Where US troops are in the Middle East and Afghanistan, visualized,” The Washington Post, January 4, 2019

20 Kirkpatrick,  June 2, 2019

21 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020

22 William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, p. 20

23 Seymour M. Hersh, “Chain of Command”. The New Yorker, May 17, 2004.; Mark Benjamin, “Taguba denies he’s seen abuse photos suppressed by Obama: The general told a U.K. paper about images he saw investigating Abu Ghraib – not photos Obama wants kept secret”, Salon.com, May 30, 2008 ; Seymour M. Hersh, “The general’s report: how Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties”, The New Yorker, June 25, 2007

24 Glenn Greenwald, “The suppressed fact: Deaths by US torture,” Salon.com, June 30, 2009

25 Seaumus Milne, “Sending troops to protect dictators threatens all of us,” The Guardian, December 10, 2014  

26 Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland, “Obama says that after 9/11, ‘we tortured some folks’”, Reuters, August 1, 2014

27 Milne, December 10, 2014.

28 “US convoy transports stolen Syrian oil to Iraq: SANA,” Press TV,  20 September 2020

29 Patrick Cockburn, “A choice between bread and masks’: Syrians face calamity as Trump’s new sanctions combine with surging coronavirus,” The Independent, August 21, 2020

30 “Lawrence Wilkerson on Trump’s Iran aggression: same neocon lies, new target,” The Grayzone, January 7, 2020.

31 Amnesty International, NATIONAL SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTS, https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/national-security/

32 Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley, “‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims,” The New York Times, November 16, 2019

33 Edward Wong, “Clashes in China Shed Light on Ethnic Divide”, The New York Times, July 7, 2009

34 Ramzy and Buckley, November 16, 2019

35 Ramzy and Buckley, November 16, 2019

36 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019

37 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019

38 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019

39 Eva Dou, “China acknowledges re-education centers for Uighurs,” The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2018

40 Patrick Cockburn, “The rise of nationalism has led to increased oppression of minorities around the world – but the Uighur and Kashmir are reported differently,” The Independent, August 7, 2020

41 Jane Perlez, “With pressure and persuasion, China deflects criticisms of its camps for Muslims,” The New York Times, April 8, 2019

42 Jon Emont, “How China persuaded one Muslim nation to keep silent on Xinjiang camps,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019

43 Amnesty International, NATIONAL SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTS, https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/national-security/

44 Jared Malsin, Corinne Ramey, and Summer Said, “ Shooting at navy base in Florida is probed as terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2019

45 Yaroslav Trofimov, “The Muslim world looks on as China persecutes its Muslims,” The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2019

46 Lara Jakes, “Why the State Dept. has largely been muted on India’s moves against Muslims,” The New York Times, December 17, 2019

47  Noemie Bisserbe, “France’s Emmanuel Macron Targets ‘Islamic Separatism’ With Proposed Law”, The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2020

48 Bisserbe, October 2, 2020

49 Bisserbe, October 2, 2020

50 Chun Han Wong, “Xi Says China Will Continue Efforts to Assimilate Muslims in Xinjiang”, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 26, 2020

51. Bisserbe, October 2, 2020

52  Edward Wong, “Clashes in China Shed Light on Ethnic Divide,” The New York Times, July 7, 2009

53 Li Mengyuan, “A flawed investigation of the Uighurs”, The Washington Post, September 11, 2020

Washington’s Long War on Syria: An Update

October 22, 2020

Washington’s long war on Syria has not been kind to the country’s citizens. The war has been fought in many ways over many decades, occasionally as a hot war, mainly as a cold war, at times visible, at other times concealed, at times fought directly, at other times fought through proxies, at times pursued through military means, and often through economic measures.

The war has by no means diminished in its intensity, despite the Syrian government largely prevailing, with the assistance of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, in its struggle against foreign-sponsored jihadists.

Here are the consequences of the war for the people of Syria.

  • The economy has contracted by two-thirds since 2011 [1], the year the United States and its Western allies, along with the Turks, Saudis, Emiratis, and Qataris, assisted by the Israelis, fanned the embers of an Islamist insurgency that has burned since the 1960s into a conflagration.
  • Over 80 percent of Syrians now live below the poverty line. [2]
  • Once classified as a lower middle income country, the World Bank in 2018 reclassified Syria as a low-income country. [3]
  • According to the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, Syrians are trapped “between hunger and poverty and deprivation [created by the long war] on one side and death [from the coronavirus] on the other.” [4]
  • Food prices have increased more than 23 times over the past decade. [5]
  • The World Food Program warns of an impending famine. [6]
  • Syria’s healthcare system, once one of the finest in the region, is in disarray. The country suffers a dearth of doctors, drugs and medical equipment. [7]
  • Dams and oil fields barely function. [8]
  • Industrial areas have been completely devastated. [9]
  • Schools and hospitals lie in ruins. [10]
  • Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble. [11]

Conditions are so desperate, that the lash of poverty has spurred a number of Syrians to enrol in Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing army of Syrian mercenaries. They fight in Libya and Azerbaijan, and in their own country, in the service of a neo-Ottoman sultan, trying to recover the old Ottoman domains. [12]

Syria badly needs to be rebuilt. But the United States and it allies have acted to ensure that reconstruction does not happen.  Having arranged the incineration of Syria, the United States intends that the country—or rather those parts of it under the control of the legitimate government—remain a heap of ashes. 

Here’s the intended future of Syria if Washington has its way. The knee of US sanctions, designed to economically suffocate, will remain on the collective neck of the Syrian people, as it remains on the collective necks of Venezuelans, North Koreans, Cubans, and Iranians, until they do what the United States demands of them, namely, clear the way for governments acceptable to Washington to come to power. 

According to The New York Times, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said “the administration will not end the pressure campaign on Mr. al-Assad and his backers unless they agree to a …. transition of power,” [13] which is to say, unless they agree that Assad will be replaced by a successor vetted and approved, but more likely hand-picked, by Washington.

To give you an idea of what kind of leader Washington might choose for Syria, a declassified 1986 CIA report prepared by the agency’s Foreign Subversion and Instability Center, expressed the view that “US interests would be best served by a Sunni regime controlled by business-oriented moderates [who] would see a strong need for Western…investment to build Syria’s private economy.” [14]

Why is Washington so keen on replacing the Syrian government?

We can answer the question if we acknowledge that the United States is a society dominated by business interests, and that those interests must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere, if they are to thrive. In contrast, the Syrian government exists not to help US investors and corporations find markets and investment opportunities, but to be responsive to the needs of Syrians. In the US view, the contradiction must be resolved: Either the Assad government serves US corporate and investor needs and the underlying US strategic interests that support them, or it exits the stage.

In the preface to the Russian edition of his book on imperialism, Lenin wrote that it was impossible to understand and appraise modern war and modern politics, without understanding the fundamental economic question, which he defined as the question of the economic essence of imperialism. [15]

Following Lenin, I’ve tried to explicate, in my book Washington’s Long War on Syria, the economic imperatives that underly the US predation. Free trade, or an open door policy, or even more descriptively, a we-need-you give policy,  is central to the story of why the United States has waged a long war on Syria. The Syrian government’s failure to open its economy to US investment and exports on US terms, and insistence on independent economic development, is the causa sine qua non of US hostility. 

In December Assad said, “We didn’t have a [neo-]liberal policy, we’re still socialist, we still have a public sector, a very big public sector.”  [16]

If you examine the United States’ list of countries whose governments must be replaced, you’ll discover that those countries all have substantial public sectors, that is, monopolies closed to the profitable investment of US capital, or which compete with US enterprises, or which restrict or narrow US profit-making opportunities.

Since the Second World War, the United States has incorporated most of West Asia into its empire, largely relying on a system of veiled colonialism, in which Washington exercises influence indirectly through local rulers, who act as de facto viceroys behind a cover of constitutional independence.  These viceroys ensure that their governments establish attractive climates for foreign investment and for the pursuit of the US strategic interests that support investor opportunities.

But one country in West Asia, over the post-war period, has not allowed itself to be integrated into the US empire; has refused to become a party to the practice of veiled colonialism: Syria. Syria is the last remaining independent Arab nationalist state dedicated to independent economic development guided by local interests rather than Wall Street demands. Today, in West Asia, only two governments, and one movement, exist independent of the US empire: Iran, since 1979; Hezbollah, founded in the wake of Iran’s Islamic Revolution; and Syria.

No surprise that these are the forces which Washington deems its West Asian enemies—enemies around which it has created black legends, depictions of irredeemable evil, contrasted with the golden legend of fundamental US benevolence.

Washington also deems as a West Asian enemy those Islamist groups which are inspired by the Osama bin Laden strategy of carrying the war to the distant enemy, defined as the United States. Washington, in contrast, cultivates the Islamist groups which follow the alternative strategy of war on the local Arab nationalist, communist, and religious minority enemy. The so-called Al Qaeda Khorasan group plans operations against the United States, and remains a target of US overt and covert warfare. By comparison, the various name-changing, shape-shifting, locally oriented Al Qaeda organizations which focus exclusively on doing battle with what they define as the local Takfiris, or the unbelievers, remain the United States’ allies of convenience in the fight against secular Arab nationalists and communists. These fanatical and intolerant sectarian Islamists have proved to be a useful instrument of US imperialism in dividing the Arab world by attacking Shia, Alawi and other religious minorities and waging war on Arab nationalists and communists.

From the birth of the US empire as 13 English colonies in a stolen land to the present day, the foundation of the empire’s foreign policy has been to crush any force of local independence and national assertiveness that stood in the way of enlarging the empire’s dominant economic interests, whether it was those of land speculators, slave holders lusting after land, manufacturers seeking foreign markets, or financiers pursuing profitable investment opportunities abroad.  In the grips of an expansionary profit-making imperative, Washington is driven to replace all foreign governments which resist integration into the US economy, including the Syrian, Cuban, North Korean, Venezuelan, and Iranian governments.

Sadly, the largely successful struggle of the Syrian Arab Army, backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, against the foreign sponsored Islamist insurgency, has not brought the profit-driven juggernaut of US imperialism to a halt.

As Lenin argued, “An imperialist war does not cease [until] the class which is conducting the imperialist war, and is bound to it by millions of economic threads (and even ropes), is really overthrown and is replaced at the helm of state by the really revolutionary class, the proletariat.” [17]  We’re far from that.

Some believe, with an unduly sanguine cast of mind, that because the jihadist war in Syria is largely over, that the forces of local independence and national assertiveness have won, and that the United States has been defeated. Nothing could be further from the truth. What Lenin called the imperialist predatory war may appear to have been succeeded by what he also called the imperialist predatory peace, but the imperialist predation continues, as does the war, even if the war is now largely concealed.

Having reduced Syria to rubble and its citizens to penury,  the United States silently wages war by blocking the reconstruction of Syria. It does this in two ways:

First, through the so-called Caesar Act, a sanctions regime introduced last summer to punish individuals and corporations anywhere in the world dealing with those sectors of the Syrian economy crucial to restoring Syria to some semblance of economic health. These sectors are:  construction, electricity, and oil. Any company that deals with the Syrian government in any reconstruction effort will be sanctioned by the US Treasury Department and prohibited from accessing the US banking system—a virtual economic death sentence. The Act is deliberately designed, as two US scholars put it, “to make reconstruction impossible.” [18]

The second way the United States prevents Syrians from rebuilding their country is by denying Damascus access to the revenue it needs to fund whatever reconstruction projects might be undertaken by firms willing to defy US sanctions. It does this through a large-scale military occupation that goes virtually unnoticed.

US forces, assisted by opportunistic Kurds—who believe that the United States is about to help them establish a second Israel in West Asia on territory stolen from Syria, (just as Israel was founded on land pilfered from what was once called Greater Syria)—have established an open-ended occupation of territory comprising one-third of Syria, and containing most of Syria’s oil wealth and its best farm land. The ostensible purpose of the US occupation is to continue the fight against ISIS, but the genuine purpose, is otherwise.

The larger purpose, as acknowledged by US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, is to turn Syria into a Japanese-style veiled US-colony, in which the United States installs an open-ended military occupation and writes the country’s constitution. Jeffrey revealed that the goal is to establish “a degree of control over Syria similar to what it had in Japan at the end of the Second World War.” [19]

The more immediate purpose, as acknowledged by the bloviating US president, is to prevent Syria from recovering its oil fields. This Washington does to deny Damascus a source of revenue for reconstruction. 

To quote Trump:

“We are out of Syria other than we kept the oil. I kept the oil. We have troops guarding the oil. Other than that, we are out of Syria.” [20]

No reference to ISIS.

So, the United States says to Syria: We will not rebuild your country, and we will not allow our allies to do the same, and we will prevent your allies from rebuilding your country by occupying your oil wells and your best farmland to deny you revenue to underwrite reconstruction.

There’s another US goal, also acknowledged by Jeffrey, and that is to turn Syria into “a quagmire” for Russia, like the one the United States faced in Vietnam, in order to evict the Russians from the region. [21] The thinking is that if Russia gets bogged down in Syria, it will eventually surrender its military bases in the country and retreat from the Mediterranean, leaving West Asia and the Mediterranean free for total US domination. 

How many troops has Washington in Syria?

Officially 750. But that was before another 100 were added in August. So, let’s say 850. Insignificant.

But the official number is what the Pentagon calls an “artificial construct”[22]—in other words, it’s meaningless. The number doesn’t include aircrew, which enforce a no-fly zone over US occupied territory, and are a very important part—perhaps the most important part—of the occupation, for US air supremacy makes the occupation zone virtually impregnable.

Neither does the artificial construct number include Special Operations personnel, or US personnel assigned to classified missions.  [23]

And it doesn’t include the assistance US occupation forces receive from the Israeli air force, which regularly carries out airstrikes on targets in Syria. [24]

Moreover, it doesn’t include what The Wall Street Journal called “an unspecified number of contractors,” [25] or what, in plain language, means, a whole lot of mercenaries.

In December 2019, Assad said:

“The funny thing in American politics is that they announce the number between thousands and hundreds. When they say thousands: it is to make the the-pro-war lobby – particularly the arms companies, happy that they are in a state of war. When they say hundreds: they are addressing the people who oppose the war by saying that they are only ‘a few hundred.’ In actual fact, both figures are incorrect for a simple reason … they are based on the number of American soldiers and not the number of individuals fighting with the American army. The American regime relies significantly in its wars on private firms like Blackwater… So even if they had a few hundred American soldiers in Syria, they still have thousands – maybe tens of thousands [of mercenaries fighting alongside acknowledged US troops.]” [26]

The occupation is flagrantly illegal. US forces weren’t invited into Syria. On the contrary, the Syrian government has stated repeatedly that US forces need to withdraw.

Syrian oil is being plundered. Indeed, a US energy company, Delta Crescent Energy, manages the oil wells and sells the oil to the Turks, just as earlier ISIS did the same. [27] It’s piracy, pure and simple.

“The Americans,” said Assad in March, “ are occupiers; they occupy our lands. The Americans are thieves stealing our oil.” [28]

And US forces are not the only occupier. There is also a Turkish occupation zone in the north, an Al Qaeda occupation zone in Idlib, and an Israeli occupation zone (which has lasted 53 years) in Al Qunaytirah (Syria’s smallest province, two-thirds of which Israel conquered and ethnically cleansed in 1967. The conqueror changed the name to the Golan Heights.)

While the United States has arranged for Syria to be burned to the ground; while it has organized and connived in the partition of Syria into multiple occupation zones; while it acts to prevent Syria from rebuilding, it has, despite these predations, failed to achieve its ultimate goal of replacing the Syrian government—a government acceptable to the Syrian people and responsive to its needs.

What’s more, the United States has failed to crush Syria’s will to overcome US imperialism.

Quoting Assad.

“[O]ur policy is to … liberate remaining territories to restore our territorial integrity and protect our people. Timing will depend on the readiness of our armed forces to march into battle. When the battle starts, we will not distinguish between … Zionists, Turks, and Americans. On our territory, they are all enemies. [29]

“We have said that we’re going to liberate every inch of Syria…This is our land [and] this is our duty. “[30]

There is another duty—one that falls on the shoulders of internationalists—the duty to ruthlessly expose the machinations of our “own” countries; to support—in deed, not merely in word—Syria’s efforts to resist its recolonization and recover its territory; to demand the end of foreign occupations; and to inculcate in the hearts of our compatriots an attitude of true brotherhood with Syrians acting to liberate and defend their country from the imperial predations of the United States and its satellites. [31]

1. Raja Abdulrahim and Nazih Osseiran, “Reviving Syria’s economy is an uphill battle for Assad after years of war,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2020

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

4. Ben Hubbard, “Syria’s Economy Collapses Even as Civil War Winds to a Close,” The New York Times, June 15, 2020

5. Patrick Cockburn, “A choice between bread and masks’: Syrians face calamity as Trump’s new sanctions combine with surging coronavirus,” The Independent, August 21, 2020

6. Patrick Cockburn, “The next Gaza Strip? Daily battle of survival for those left in Idlib,” The Independent, October 7, 2020

7. Aleksandr Aksenenok, “War, economy and politics in Syria: broken links,” Russian International Affairs Council, April 17, 2020

8. Abdulrahim and Osseiran

9. Ibid

10. Ibid

11. Ibid

12. Kareem Fahim, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Zakaria Zakaria, “Deaths of Syrian mercenaries show how Turkey, Russia could get sucked into Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” The Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2020

13. Pranshu Verma and Vivian Yee, “Trump’s Syria Sanctions ‘Cannot Solve the Problem,’ Critics Say,” The New York Times, Aug. 4, 2020

14. “Syria: Scenarios of Dramatic Political Change, 30 July 1986, Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP86T01017R000100770001-5.pdf

15. V.I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline, International Publishers, 1939, p. 8.

16. “The interview that Italian Rai News 24 refrained from broadcasting…President al-Assad: Europe was the main player creating chaos in Syria,” SANA, December 9, 2019

17. V.I Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918, Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1974, pages 227-325

18. Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, “The Pointless Cruelty of Trump’s New Syria Sanctions, Foreign Affairs, August 17, 2020

19.Cockburn,  August 21, 2020

20. “US convoy transports stolen Syrian oil to Iraq: SANA,” Press TV,  20 September 2020

21. Cockburn, August 21, 2020

22. John Ismay, “US says 2,000 troops are in Syria, a fourfold increase,” The New York Times, December 6, 2017

23. Ibid

24. Han Goldenberg, Nicholas A. Heras, Kaleigh Thomas, and Jennie Matuschak, “Countering Iran in the Gray Zone: What the United States should learn from Israel’s operations in Syria,” Center for a New American Security, 2020

25. Nancy A. Yousef, “US to remain in Syria indefinitely, Pentagon officials say,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2017

26. “President al-Assad: ‘The Belt and Road Initiative’ constituted worldwide transformation in international relations…There will be no prospect for US presence in Syria,” SANA, December 16, 2019

27. Lara Seligman and Ben Lefebvre, “Little-known U.S. firm secures deal for Syrian oil,” Politico, August 3, 2020; “US convoy transports stolen Syrian oil to Iraq: SANA, Press TV”, 20 September 2020; “Another US convoy smuggles Syrian oil to Iraq: SANA”, Press TV, 11 October 2020

28. “President al-Assad: Erdogan fights beside terrorists out of his brotherhood ideology…Our military is Idleb as its liberation  means that we move towards liberating the eastern regions,” SANA, March 5, 2020

29. Quoted in Statement by H.E. Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Syrian Republic at the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 26, 2020

30. “President al-Assad to Mail on Sunday: UK publicly supported White Helmets that are a “President al-Assad to Mail on Sunday: UK publicly supported White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda, US and French existence in Syria is invasion,” SANA, June 10, 2018

31. See condition 8 of V.I. Lenin, The Terms of Admission to Communist International, 1920, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x01.htm

Did Putin order the assassination of Alexei Navalny?

By Stephen Gowans

September 25, 2020

The question of whether the Russian president ordered the killing of a marginal Russian politician is unclear; at the moment, there’s no evidence he did, only an accusation by the United States. And since Washington has a clear political motive to blacken the reputation of the president of a country it deems a peer competitor, its accusation, unencumbered by evidence, can be readily dismissed. What’s not so readily dismissed, however, is the reality that the US government and major Western news media are using the events surrounding the alleged poisoning to call for the cancellation of a pipeline that would transport Russian natural gas directly to Germany. The cancellation would simultaneously hurt Russia and benefit the United States. Washington proposes to sell liquefied natural gas to Germany, at a higher cost to Germany than the Germans would pay to import natural gas from Russia. The cancellation of the pipeline and its replacement by US LNG shipments, would bind Germany more strongly to the United States, by making the country more dependent on the United States for its energy needs, and less dependent on Russia, while creating a handsome profit-making opportunity for US energy and shipping firms. Putin had a very weak motive to eliminate Navalny. The latter is a marginal opponent, but the United States has a strong motive to create a pretext to call for the cancellation of the pipeline; the cancellation would open the door to US LNG sales to Germany. That motive may have impelled Washington to use the Navalny incident to opportunistically accuse Putin of an attempted assassination and to call for the cancellation of the pipeline in retaliation, or worse, may have involved the United States in faking an assassination attempt, relying on the complicity of Navalny, who has in the past received US government funding.

Introduction

I can’t know whether Alexei Navalny, a low-profile Russian politician, was the target of a Putin-ordered assassination attempt, but I do know that the account offered by Western governments and news media, alleging that the Russian president or his underlings ordered Navalny eliminated, is far from convincing. Indeed, the narrative is nonsensical, and requires the suspension of critical judgment to be believed. To this point, it is nothing more than an accusation without evidence.

The fact of the matter is that the events surrounding the collapse of Navalny on an airplane and his subsequent hospitalization in Germany are murky. There are many questions about the Navalny affair that remain unanswered, observed The New York Times in a September 22 editorial. “And this will likely remain so. Chief among them is whether President Vladimir Putin ordered or approved the attempted assassination.” [1]

Basis for the accusation

On what basis does The New York Times raise the question of whether Putin tried to murder Navalny?

To begin, we’re told that it “is now an established fact, confirmed by laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, that Alexei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union.” [2] Embedded in this observation is an insinuation, namely, that if Novichok was developed by the Soviet state, then only the agents of its successor state, Russia, could have used it. This was the argument used by the British government to explain a previous alleged Novichok poisoning—that of Sergei Skripal, a Russian intelligence agent who spied for the British, was caught and jailed in Russia, and later released in a prisoner exchange. Since no one else had the means and motive to do this, argued London, the Russian state must have been involved.

It needn’t be pointed out that it doesn’t follow as a logical necessity that because the nerve agent was developed in Russia that it remains exclusively in Russian hands. For “a number of years specialists from Western states and relevant NATO centres have been developing chemical substances related to the ‘Novichok’ group,” contends The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union.  The Mission claims the United States “has issued more than 150 patents for combat use of the mentioned chemical substances.” [3]

The claim, of course, may or may not be true; I’m in no position to verify it. But arguing that because Novichok was made by Soviet scientists that only Russian agents could have used it, is akin to attributing the death of anyone who has ever been killed by an AK-47 to Moscow, since the machine gun was developed by a Soviet engineer. It also converges on blaming the Swedish government for every hit and run death involving a Volvo.

Considering that Putin was accused in the West of ordering Skripal’s assassination, it would seem highly unlikely that Novichok would, at this point, be the murder weapon of choice for Russian assassins. “The perpetrators knew that Novichok had been identified in the attack against Mr. Skripal,” observed the Times, “and that its use was a violation of international law.” [4] This, the editorial board offered as evidence of Putin’s culpability. But far from inculpating the Russian president, the Times’ observation seems, on the contrary, to point to a different explanation: That whoever poisoned Navalny (if indeed he was poisoned) did so with the intention of framing Moscow. Novichok, as a consequence of the Skripal case, and the ‘Made in the USSR’ label stamped on it by Western officials and news media, has turned the nerve agent into a Russian calling card. Only the most incompetent assassin would leave a calling card behind as an identifier. Indeed, if we’re to believe the conspiracy theory favored by Western governments and news media, we must believe that Russian intelligence is so incompetent that it’s (i) incapable of  successfully carrying out assassinations (both Navalny and Skripal survived their putative poisonings), and that (ii) it has a self-defeating penchant for littering crime scenes with signs the West can use to point an accusatory finger at Moscow.

What’s more, how credible is a narrative that relies on a nerve agent as a murder weapon? A bullet to the head, a garrote around the neck, a stiletto to the heart, or maybe even a plastic bag over the head, followed by dismemberment by a bone-saw, much favored by Mohamed bin Salman’s henchman, are surely simpler and more effective ways of eliminating a political foe. Death by Novichok has a Hollywood feel about, more James Bond than reality.

Chauvinist hypocrisy

Significantly, MBS, the day-to-day ruler of the Saudi feudal tyranny, can order the carving up of a critic, Jamal Khashoggi, and still The New York Times editorial board eschews any reference to the Saudi government as a regime, in contrast to the fondness it has for tarring with the R word any state that refuses to genuflect to US global primacy, Russia included.  Neither do the same Western officials and news media demand accountability of MBS, a US client, as they do Putin, the head of a government which does not bow to the international dictatorship of the United States.  

That Navalny survived his poisoning, as did Skripal, despite the lethality of the nerve agent—surely low probability events—invites another question: How likely is it that an assassin’s target would survive poisoning by a deadly toxin? Is it not reasonable to ask: Were Navalny and Skripal really poisoned by Novichok? If so, has the nerve agent’s deadliness been accurately described?  

Navalny: US hero, Russian nobody

Western officials and news media present Navalny as a major political figure in Russia, but in seven polls conducted from April 2014 to December 2019 by The Levada Center, a Russian polling organization, Navalny’s support never exceeded 2 percent of Russian voters. [5] According to Fred Weir, the veteran Russia correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, “Navalny, who is part of the extra parliamentary opposition, he’s kind of like, say, the Communist Party would be in the United States. Or something like that. He’s definitely on the margins.” [6] Which invites the question: Why would the Russian president seek to assassinate a figure who’s definitely on the margins? Doing so would only raise Navalny’s meager profile, and provide ammunition to Western governments and news media to further their war on Russia. “Navalny,” concludes Weir, “is little more than a nuisance, and I can’t believe that Putin would rocket him to the top of the world political agenda through a botched attempt to assassinate him or even an effective one.” [7] This would be self-defeating. The preferred Western narrative demands that we suspend critical judgment to believe that Russian assassins are the world’s most incompetent, incapable of successfully carrying out their missions, and that Putin is an inept practitioner of the political arts.  

Nord Stream 2

As Navalny rockets to the top of the world political agenda, his name is invoked increasingly in connection with Nord Stream 2, a pipeline to carry natural gas from Russia directly to Germany, by-passing such US clients as Ukraine. The pipeline, nearing completion, will join Nord Stream 1 as a second direct Russia-to-Germany route. US president Donald Trump has criticized Berlin, opining that the pipeline should never have been allowed to have been built, and has vowed to impose sanctions to stop it. Germany’s purchase of Russian natural gas, Trump charges, will make the US satellite “captive to Russia” and enrich Moscow. [8] The reality, of course, is that the pipeline will make Germany less captive to the United States. Furthermore, Nord Stream 2 will allow Germany to reduce its imports of Persian Gulf oil, eroding US oil company profits. Successive US administrations, reported The Wall Street Journal, “have pushed Europe, and Germany in particular, to create the infrastructure required to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas from the U.S.—a potential source of large revenues” for US big business, as an alternative to buying from Russia. But liquefied natural gas “from the U.S. needs to be shipped over the Atlantic and would be considerably more expensive than Russian gas delivered via pipelines. A senior EU official working on energy regulation said Russian gas would be at least 20 percent cheaper.” All the same, Washington wants Europe to “agree to some sort of racket and pay extortionate prices,” as one EU official put it. [9] In order to maintain Germany’s energy dependency on the United States, Trump has ordered the Germans to stop Nord Stream 2, and a plan is being bruited about in Washington to sanction companies involved in the pipeline’s construction.

As Canadian journalist Eric Reguly explains:

“U.S. President Donald Trump has condemned the project, and several senior Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz, have called for sanctions against the German port that is helping to build the pipeline. The Novichok poisoning in August of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has heightened calls outside and inside Germany to kill Nord Stream.” [10]

Navalny may very well be an instrument of a racket developed by Washington to coerce Germany into paying extortionate rates to US energy firms. The New York Times editorial board has added its voice to the growing chorus of calls for “the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” [11] and for the silent but implied call for the purchase by Germany of US liquefied natural gas. How convenient that there’s a surplus of US natural gas ready to be transported across the Atlantic if and when the pipeline is cancelled in retaliation for Putin’s alleged assassination of a political opponent.

In contrast, the Times has not called for an end to US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and US senators haven’t demanded that the United States impose sanctions on the Saudi kingdom, even after US intelligence concluded that MBS ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi; indeed, even after the kingdom’s de facto ruler ordered the assassination of not a single man but a whole nation when he initiated an unprovoked war on Yemen. To be sure, the complication here is that the war on Yemen is led from behind by Washington [12] and arms sales to the Saudis are highly lucrative and a source of Brobdingnagian profits for the US arms industry. By comparison, Russian natural gas sales to Germany deny US investors a profit-making opportunity, while at the same time increasing German dependence on Russia while concurrently reducing it on the United States. What’s more, while there is credible evidence MBS ordered the Khashoggi dismemberment, there is no evidence that the attempted assassination of Navalny was ordered by Putin. 

The US-Navalny nexus

It should be pointed out that while Navalny is a marginal figure in Russia, he is a figure to which the US government is willing to give money. As evidenced by the contradictory way he his portrayed by Western news media and his derisory status in Russia, Navalny’s significance is many times greater in the West than it is in his home country. He is Washington’s man.

The National Endowment for Democracy, a discreditable organization created by the US government to overtly undertake civil interventions abroad that the CIA once undertook covertly, has provided Navalny with financial assistance, according to The New York Times. This was reported under the headline, “Russia isn’t the only one meddling in elections. We do it too.” [13] In an August 2007 article titled “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique reported that the NED “was created in 1983, ostensibly as a non-profit-making organisation to promote human rights and democracy. In 1991 its first president, the historian Allen Weinstein, confessed to The Washington Post: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.” [14] In other words, the NED overtly works to destabilize governments Washington doesn’t like, namely, those that in the interests of democracy refuse to submit to rule from Washington. That US meddling in other peoples’ affairs is carried out under the bold guise of promoting democracy and human rights reveals the boundless hypocrisy of the US government. Navalny is an instrument of this apparatus, a tool for Washington to try to destabilize a country it regards as a peer competitor, and to use in the project of upending a pipeline project that favors Russia at US investors’ expense.

Assassins R US

The spectacle of US officials and news media expressing moral repugnance at the assassination of political opponents is, frankly, vomit-inducing. The US government runs the world’s largest assassination program. The Pentagon and CIA, working together, regularly assassinate by means of drone strikes anyone who takes up arms against the United States’ political, military, and economic domination of their homeland—a domination which challenges the concepts of democracy, self-determination, and human rights. One particularly gruesome weapon used by US assassins is named appropriately, the Ninja; it’s a “modified Hellfire missile” which carries  “six long blades tucked inside, which deploy seconds before impact to slice up” its prey, [15] recalling the bone-saw used to slice up Jamal Khashoggi.

Conclusion

The Russian president “had the greatest motive, means and opportunity” to attempt an assassination of Navalny, reasons the New York Times editorial board, pointing to Putin as the perpetrator of a botched assassination, and demanding that he be held to account (by, inter alia, cancelling Nord Stream 2, thus preparing the way for US energy and shipping companies to step into the breach and profit handsomely.) The reasoning is flawed. While the Russian leader may have had the motive, means, and opportunity, others also had the motive, means, and opportunity, and perhaps to a greater degree. It doesn’t make sense for Putin to have targeted an inconsequential opponent unless he is a fool; indeed, such an act would be self-defeating, and no one questions the nous of the Russian president. Moreover, it makes no sense that if Navalny were truly the object of an assassination attempt that Russian operatives would use Novichok, since Western officials and news media had already run a campaign, in connection with Sergei Skripal, to indelibly stamp “Made in Russia” on the toxin. As mentioned above, using Novichok would be akin to leaving a calling card, an act more befitting agents trying to frame Russia than Russian agents trying to evade detection. At the same time, the US government, which decries Russia as a peer competitor and has entered into a low-level war against it, has its own motive. It is forever on the look out for opportunities to demonize the Russian president, in order to justify new actions to weaken Russia, including calling for the cancellation of Nord Stream 2, an event that should it transpire will create an important profit-making opportunity for US businesses. The events surrounding the Navalny incident offer a pretext for actions by the United States against Russia and on behalf of US investors. The possibility that the affair is a politically motivated operation run by Washington in aid of US corporate interests (both directly in securing a market for US LNG exports and indirectly in keeping one economic competitor, Germany, under the US thumb, and another, Russia, deprived of natural gas revenues) cannot be easily dismissed.

1. The Editorial Board, “Vladimir Putin Thinks He Can Get Away With Anything,” The New York Times, Sept. 22, 2020.

2. Ibid.

3. Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union Comments on the situation with Alexey Navalny, Sep 15, 2020, https://russiaeu.ru/en/novosti/permanent-mission-russian-federation-european-union-comments-situation-alexey-navalny .

4.  The Editorial Board

5. https://www.levada.ru/en/2020/02/18/presidential-election-2/

6. Aaron Maté, “In Navalny poisoning, rush to judgment threatens new Russia-NATO crisis,” The Grayzone, September 6, 2020.

7. Ibid.

8.  Emre Peker, “Trump slams Germany over gas imports from Germany,” The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2018.

9.  Bojan Pancevski, “Trump Presses Germany to Drop Russian Pipeline for Trade Deal,” The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2018.

10. Eric Reguly, “A dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean has brought Turkey and Greece close to war once again. But this time it’s different,” The Globe and Mail, September 11, 2020.

11. The Editorial Board.  

12. Stephen Gowans, “The US-Led War on Yemen,” what’s left, November 6, 2017, https://gowans.blog/2017/11/06/the-us-led-war-on-yemen/

13. Scott Shane, “Russia isn’t the only one meddling in elections. We do it too.” The New York Times, February 17, 2018.

14. Hernando Calvo Ospina, “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2007, https://mondediplo.com/2007/08/04ned .

15.  Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Commandos Use Secretive Missiles to Kill Qaeda Leaders in Syria,” The New York Times, September 24, 2020.

Cruelty with a Point: The Continuing US Immiseration of Syria

[We] take our rewards in the goodies of the imperial marketplace and in the false coin of self-righteousness. – William Appleman Williams*

By Stephen Gowans

August 19, 2020

Two US scholars, writing in the unofficial journal of the US State Department, Foreign Affairs, have denounced the cruelty of US intervention in Syria, while passing over its criminal and imperialist nature, and accepting as legitimate assumptions underlying US foreign policy about the fundamental goodness of the United States and the fundamental depravity of its victims.

In The Pointless Cruelty of Trump’s New Syria Sanctions, Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma, and Steven Simon, Senior Director for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2012, denounce the sanctions Washington has inflicted on Syria. However, far from being an anti-imperialist j’accuse, the piece perpetuates myths about the aims of US foreign policy and sanitizes the nature of the US intervention.

washingtons-long-war-on-syriaThe problem with US sanctions, the authors argue, is that they’re pointlessly cruel, which is to say that they are at the same time highly punitive and incapable of achieving the goals they are putatively designed to achieve. Presumably, cruelty, if it worked, would have a point, and would be acceptable; but the current cruelty does not work and therefore is pointless and should be brought to an end, the scholars contend.

What sanctions have failed to achieve, and will continue to fail to achieve, Landis and Simon argue, is the replacement of the current Syrian government with one acceptable to the United States. If the Syrian government has yet to fall, despite the enormous efforts the US government has made to see that it does, more sanctions are not the answer. Landis and Simon write:

“Assad and his supporters won the country’s civil war against considerable odds. They did not crack when rebels massacred their entire national security team early in the war; they did not crack when they lost Palmyra, Idlib, half of Aleppo, the oil fields, the northeast, or the southeast; they brushed off Trump’s 60-second bombing campaign; and they withstood an energetic U.S. effort to equip and train the armed opposition. If nine years of brutal violence … did not defeat Assad and his military, economic embargoes are unlikely to faze him.”

The most conspicuous aspects of the US intervention in Syria are its flagrant illegality and manifest imperialism, yet at no point do the scholars point out that the US occupation of northeastern Syria, the US take-over of Syria’s oil fields, US training and funding of insurgents, US missile strikes on Syria, and the imposition of coercive economic measures, are criminal, murderous, and anti-democratic, though they openly acknowledge that Washington has pursued all of these means to achieve its goal of overthrowing the Syrian government.  It’s as if Landis and Simon set out to write an article about the history of Hiroshima and somehow overlooked the fact that it was the site of the first atomic bombing. Landis and Simon fail to mention the following additional expressions of US imperialism: US complicity in Turkey’s military occupation of northern Syria and US endorsement of the Israeli annexation of two-thirds of the Syrian province of Al Qunaytirah, conquered by Israel in 1967 and then ethnically cleansed and illegally settled. The invaders changed the name of the territory to the Golan Heights.

The goal of the US intervention, thoroughly anti-democratic in stamp, is to impose the US will on another people. Landis and Simon fail to question the legitimacy of this goal. Instead, they accept the aim as a desirable part of a larger US project of constructing “an international liberal order premised on the conviction that free trade and a vital middle class [will] produce democratic governance and societal well-being.”  What free trade will produce, pace Landis and Simon, is not democratic governance and societal well-being, but continued poverty for poor countries, and continued affluence for the wealthy. Poor countries are incapable of competing on a global level against rich countries, and can only develop economically by emulating the policies rich countries themselves pursued to become rich: tariff barriers to nurture infant industries, industrial planning, subsidies, state-owned enterprises, and restrictions on foreign investment. [1]

Free trade is central to the story of why the United States has waged a long war on Syria. The Syrian government’s failure to open its economy to US investment and exports on US terms, and insistence on independent economic development—emulating what the rich countries did to become prosperous—is as much a part of the reason Washington has tried to oust the Assad government as is the fact that Damascus has long irritated Washington by acting as a beacon of local independence and national assertiveness in the Arab world.  Assad vowed in 2013 that “Syria will never become a western puppet state” and that his government would do whatever was necessary to “best serve the interests of the Syrians,” not the West.  [2] Promoting the interests of a republic’s citizens is what a president is supposed to do, remarked Robert Mugabe during an address to the United Nations General Assembly, but under a US-superintended liberal order, what presidents are really supposed to do is submit to a global order based on free trade designed to promote the interests of US investors. Syria has been non-compliant with the US-agenda, operating what US government researchers described in a 2005 report as a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy based on “Soviet models” while supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, [3] enemies of US-attack dog, Israel, the Zionist state in colonized Palestine.

From the birth of the US empire as 13 British colonies in a stolen land to the present day, the foundation of the empire’s foreign policy—guiding its continental expansion, and then its extra-continental enlargement through formal and informal colonialism—has been to crush any force of local independence and national assertiveness that stands in the way of US economic interests.  Washington must replace the Syrian government with one that accepts the international liberal order, an order which various figures in the US foreign policy establishment have described as: created by US officials with US interests in mind and US prosperity (though unmentioned, specifically that of corporate America) as its goal.

The late John McCain wrote that “We are the chief architect and defender of an international order governed by rules derived from our political and economic values. We have grown vastly wealthier and more powerful under those rules.” [4] Barak Obama described the US-superintended international order as one upon which US prosperity depends. [5] The recently deceased Brent Scowcroft, a US national security power broker,  “for decades mentored generations of national security professionals … in a realist brand of foreign policy that championed a U.S.-led international order … and looked on revolutionary change with suspicion.” [6] Revolutionary change, it should be noted, often involves transferring ownership of economies from foreign investors to local governments or local business people, an act inimical to US investor interests.

If we’re to be honest, the prosperity of investors and high-level executives of major corporations is the principal aim of the liberal (note, not liberal democratic, but liberal sans democratic) international order which Landis and Simon cite as the desired end of US policy. The prosperity of US citizens en masse—Main Street not Wall Street—is not the primum mobile of US foreign policy. Neither is building democratic governance and middle-class societies abroad an authentic goal, however much this deceit figures in the rhetorical flourishes of various US experts in casuistry, Landis and Simon included.

One need only look at Latin America, a region on which Uncle Sam has long imposed his will. The outcome of the United States’ smothering influence after hundreds of years is that Latin America remains poor, despite its being forced, often at the point of a US gun, to accept US economic prescriptions based on free trade, a regime William Appleman Williams once described as a piratical “We need, you give.” [7] Those prescriptions, while dishonestly presented as the key to a future Latin American prosperity, have left the region stagnating in poverty. Meanwhile, the United States has prospered.

Landis and Simon have constructed their argument within a framework of assumptions that accepts without question that the United States wants to “make a positive contribution to regional development” and create “freedom and advancement” in Syria (presumably just as it promised but failed to do in its Latin American backyard.) Clearly, the United States has delivered neither freedom nor advancement to either Syrians or Latin Americans. Instead, in Syria, US policies have led to the strangulation of the Syrian economy, immiseration of the Syrian people, and creation of public health and refugee crises.

To explain the contradiction of an allegedly benevolent US foreign policy producing obviously malevolent results (the foreign policy equivalent of the theodicy problem—How can an omnipotent God be benevolent if he allows misery and cruelty to flourish?), Landis and Simon point, not to the obvious answer that US foreign policy is not benevolent, but to US-produced malignancies as the unintended consequences of policy missteps by the US foreign policy establishment. US intentions are good, they contend, but US officials have blundered; they’ve drawn from the wrong policy set. Economic warfare ought never to have been pursued against Syria, they argue, because “there is little evidence that economic sanctions ever achieve their objectives. Even the best designed sanctions can be self-defeating, strengthening the regimes they were designed to hurt and punishing the societies they were supposed to protect.”

What Landis and Simon don’t accept, despite the evidence staring them in the face, is that sanctions were never intended to protect foreign populations. Instead, they were deployed to do precisely what they almost invariably do—immiserate.  If the stated aim of policy x is to produce y but almost always produces z, at what point do you accept that z is the real aim and that y is a misdirection?

The point of immiserating a people—what makes the cruelty rational, rather than pointless—is to weaken local forces of independence and national assertiveness to the point that they’re no longer capable of challenging US power. A further objective is to make an example of such forces so that other countries never emulate them, seeing subordination to the US will as preferable to being sanctioned (and in some cases bombed) back into the stone age. For the United States, the fewer independently-minded rich countries to compete against, the better. Washington doesn’t want Syria or Iran following a development model that will monopolize profit-making opportunities, exclude US investors and exports, and set the two countries on a path to becoming future Chinas (though on a much smaller scale.) The US grievance against China is that it used its opening to US economic penetration to acquire the capital and know-how necessary to build, under a regime of dirigisme and industrial planning, home-grown enterprises which now compete against—and sometimes out-compete—US enterprises for the same profit-making opportunities. Washington is dead-set against allowing Syria and Iran do the same.

In her study of the Vietnam wars, Marilyn B. Young wrote that by the early 1950s, the US foreign policy establishment “had accepted a set of axioms … as unquestionable as Euclid’s.” The first axiom, she wrote, could be summarized as follows:

“The intentions of the United States are always good. It is possible that in pursuit of good ends, mistakes will be made. But the basic goodness of US intentions cannot ever be questioned. The intentions of the enemies of the United States are bad. It is possible that in the pursuit of bad ends, good things will seem to happen. But the basic badness of enemy intentions cannot ever by questioned.” [8]

The axiom reverberates throughout the Landis and Simon piece; indeed, it is the glue that holds it together. Not only are US intentions in Syria good, but the basic badness of the Syrian government (demonized accordingly as a regime) cannot be questioned. This leads Landis and Simon to argue that sanctions should be abandoned because “Assad doesn’t care if more of his people starve.”

We have no evidence of whether Assad cares or doesn’t care about whether Syrians starve, except this: By failing to bow to US aggression, he allows US sanctions policy to continue, and therefore condemns Syrians to starvation as victims of US policy. This is tantamount to saying that FDR didn’t care about whether US conscripts died in a terrible war, citing his failure to bow to Japanese aggression as evidence. According to the axioms of US foreign policy, standing up to foreign aggression is heroic when it’s done by US leaders, but sinister when done by foreign leaders in response to US aggression.

While we don’t have evidence of indifference to the suffering of Syrians on the part of Assad, we do have evidence of US indifference to the fate of Syrians. It is after all, Washington, not Assad, that pulled the trigger on the starvation policy. Blaming sanctions-related Syrian deaths on Assad is equal in principle to attributing WWII US military casualties in the Pacific to Roosevelt.

We have further evidence of Washington’s indifference to the misery of foreign populations. Washington cared not one whit that it killed over half a million Iraqi children under the age of five through sanctions-related disease and malnutrition. When this figure was cited by a UN agency in 1995, and accepted by the US government as valid—and moreover, defended as ‘worth it’—sanctions continued for another eight years, and the US-produced Golgotha grew ever larger. No tears were shed by US leaders.

What’s more, the US government doesn’t care if Iranians starve.  The “Iranian leadership,” warned US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, “has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” [9] Unless Tehran accepts US demands—a long list that amounts to Iran surrendering the right to make consequential decisions independent of US oversight—Pompeo is prepared to see this grim outcome brought to fruition.

But in the morally astigmatic view of Landis and Simon, it is Assad, Saddam, and the Ayatollah who starve their people by refusing to submit to a US-superintended international liberal order of free trade, and not the United States, which punishes states that are refractory to this demand by strangling their economies and starving their populations.  Domenico Losurdo cited Frantz Fanon. “When a colonial and imperialist power is forced to give independence to a people, this imperialist power says: you want independence? Then take it and die of hunger.” Losurdo continued: “Because the imperialists continue to have economic power, they can condemn a people to hunger, by means of blockades, embargoes, or underdevelopment.” [10]

For all its failings, the Landis and Simon article reveals the depravity of the US intervention in all its repugnant detail. The scholars acknowledge that:

a) Washington is pursuing a “scorched-earth policy” whose aim is “to gain enough leverage to reconstitute the Syrian government along the lines that the United States imposed on Japan after World War II.”

b) To that end, the US is “systematically bankrupting the Syrian government.”

c) “To increase pressure” on Syria, Washington has “endorsed Israeli strikes against Syrian territory and Turkish expropriation of Syrian energy resources. It has also closed the main highway to Baghdad to choke off trade.”

(d) Washington has hired “a U.S. firm to manage the oil fields”  (that are now under an illegal US military occupation. Not only is Turkey freebooting in Syria; so too is the United States.)

e) Washington has designed its sanctions “to make reconstruction impossible. The sanctions target the construction, electricity, and oil sectors, which are essential to getting Syria back on its feet.”

f) The United States has added humanitarian exemptions to its sanctions, but the exemptions are “deliberately vague” to produce “overcompliance”—a phenomenon in which nongovernmental organizations decline to provide humanitarian aid out of fear that they will become inadvertently entangled in complex legal issues and will themselves to be subjected to US sanctions.

g) “Blocked from reconstructing their country and seeking external assistance, Syrians face mass starvation or another mass exodus.”

It is important to emphasize that the opposition of Landis and Simon to US intervention in Syria is predicated, not on the intervention’s  imperialist and criminal character, but on its cruelty. This suggests a parallel with the opposition that arose in the West to the rape of the Congo by Belgium’s King Leopold.  There were two classes of critics: those who opposed Leopold’s imperialism (mainly ignored) and those who viewed the intervention as legitimate but objected to the cruelty of Leopold’s methods (frequently lionized.) The latter believed that Africans were inferior to Europeans and should submit to European rule, but felt that European rule ought to be more humane. Their attitude to Africans paralleled that of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; dogs and cats were clearly inferior creatures, which must be kept in servile relations to their masters, but they were to be treated humanely. So too Africans.

Another parallel exists between those who criticize US military interventions on the grounds that they are unjust and imperialist, and those whose concern is limited to whether the interventions conform to conventions related to the just conduct of war. The following oppositions are equivalent in principle: to Leopold’s intervention in the Congo because it was cruel (not imperialist); to the wars on Iraq, because they violated the principle of jus in bello (not because they transgressed the principle of jus ad bellum); to the US intervention in Syria, because its methods are cruel (not owing to the repugnance of Washington seeking to replace the Syrian government with another acceptable to the United States and US investor interests.)

Landis and Simon believe that Syrians ought to submit to US rule, but that US rulers ought to avoid pointless cruelty in bringing Syrians under their boot. In their Foreign Affairs article they have set out to portray the US war on Syria as a masterpiece of incompetence and pointless cruelty which dishonors the basic goodness of US goals. In reality, US intervention in Syria has been a masterpiece of cruelty with a point—an enterprise redolent with the stench of criminality and imperialism, aimed at imposing the US will on a foreign population for the benefit of corporate America.

That Landis and Simon should have a favorable attitude to a US-led liberal international order based on free trade is no mystery. They are a fellow and research analyst respectively at The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank funded by some of corporate America’s largest foundations: among others, The Charles Koch Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and billionaire investor George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Foreign Affairs, the journal in which the scholars’ article appears, is owned by The Council on Foreign Relations, an organization Laurence H. Shoup has described in books by the same names as Wall Street’s Think Tank and an Imperial Brain Trust.

*  William Appleman Williams, America Confronts a Revolutionary World, 1776-1976, William Morrow & Company, 1976, p. 183.

1) Erik S. Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, Public Affairs, 2007.

2) Syrian Arab National News Agency, August 27, 2013.

3) Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.

4) John McCain, “John McCain: Why We Must Support Human Rights,” The New York Times, May 8, 2017.

5)  Letter of outgoing US President Barack Obama to incoming President Donald Trump.

6) Warren P. Strobel, “Brent Scowcroft, a U.S. National Security Power Broker, Dies at 95,” The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2020.

7) William Appleman Williams, “Confessions of an Intransigent Revisionist,” in ed. Henry W. Berger, The William Appleman Williams Reader, Ivan R. Dee, 1992, p. 343.

8) Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990. Harper Perennial.1991. p.27.

9) Mike Pompeo, November 7, 2018, quoted in ”Iran letter to the UNSG and UNSC on Pompeo provocative statement,” Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 30, 2018.

10) Domenico Losurdo, “The New Colonial Counter-Revolution,” Revista Opera, October 20, 2017.

What South Korea’s ballistic missiles say about South Korea, the United States, and the UN Security Council

By Stephen Gowans

July 30, 2020

A Choe Sang-Hun report in the New York Times of July 28 indirectly revealed three points of significance, neither of which Choe mentioned, but which, in an ideological environment less subservient to US foreign policy goals, might be brought to the fore.

The report concerned the go-ahead the United States recently gave South Korea to loft five surveillance satellites into space in 2023. The satellites would be used to spy on North Korea and to add to the enormous military advantage South Korea already has vis-à-vis the DPRK. Since 1979, Washington has imposed limits on the range and payload of the ballistic missiles Seoul is permitted to deploy. In March, South Korea test-launched a ballistic missile with a range of 800 kilometers, with US approval.

What Choe’s report indirectly reveals is:

#1. That the United States severely limits South Korean sovereignty.  While an authentically sovereign country would make its own decisions about its missile capabilities, decisions about South Korean missile deployments, range, and payloads are made in Washington.

This is only one aspect of South Korea’s truncated sovereignty. In times of war, command of South Korean forces falls to a US general. Richard Stilwell, a former commander of US forces in Korea, remarked that this is the “most remarkable concession of sovereignty in the entire world.”

#2.  South Korea continues to flout the commitments it made at the April 2018 Panmunjom Summit to  “completely cease all hostile acts … in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict.”

Plans to loft spy satellites into orbit are clearly provocative. Additionally, South Korea is buying advanced F-35A jet fighters from the United States, providing its military with fighting capabilities well beyond those of North Korea. These developments contradict South Korea’s professed desire for peace.

South Korea wants ballistic missiles to enhance its military intelligence capabilities in order to undermine North Korea’s security. North Korea wants ballistic missiles as delivery systems for nuclear warheads in order to deter US aggression. With the military balance titled decisively in South Korea’s favor, ballistic missiles are unnecessary to South Korea’s defense, but redound to its project of bringing about North Korea’s collapse.

#3. South Korea’s US-approved ballistic missile program has not been condemned by the UN Security Council, unlike North Korea’s independent ballistic missile program, which has been. In an effort to pressure Pyongyang to relinquish its ballistic missiles—a campaign which, if successful, would denude the country of a vital means of self-defense—the Security Council, at Washington’s instigation, has imposed a near-total blockade on the North Korean economy.

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Choe’s report makes no comment on the obvious dissonance between international norms of national sovereignty, on the one hand, and Washington’s dictatorship over South Korean missile policy, on the other. At best, Pyongyang’s charge that South Korea is a puppet state controlled by Washington is dismissed as hyperbole in Western media and scholarship, but the charge cannot be dismissed so readily. To be sure, South Korea’s sovereignty is not so severely restricted that the country can be legitimately characterized as a US-puppet state, tout court, but it does submit to US direction in many important ways, to a degree most other allies of the United States do not.

Neither does Choe comment on the provocative nature of the South Korean plan to loft spy satellites above its northern neighbor. The obvious hypocrisy of the Security Council invoking ballistic missiles as a rationale for sanctioning North Korea, while South Korea is allowed to develop its own missile program unmolested (except by the United States), is also passed over without comment.

These omissions are predictable. They fit with the fundamental narrative that informs all Western discourse on Korea. That narrative rests on the assumptions that the state in the south seeks peace, contra the state in the north, which is bent on war. The south, according to this narrative, has entered voluntarily and gratefully into an alliance with the United States, which seeks no end but the defense of its ally.

The narrative is a fairy-tale. Militarily, North Korea is no match for its much larger and much richer neighbor. South Korea, moreover, is equipped with US-supplied weapons systems far superior to anything in North Korea’s conventional armamentarium. The DPRK poses no significant threat to South Korea; its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons are purely defensive, and its conventional capabilities are meager compared to those of its peninsular neighbor.

The United States exploits its South Korean satellite as a military outpost and source of manpower for a vast East Asian reserve army, fully interoperable with the US military, and under the de facto, and in times of war, de jure, control of US flag officers. From the US point of view, South Korea is geopolitically significant owing to its proximity to the two countries Washington designates as its peer competitors, China and Russia.

The US military presence in Korea, and the informal US dictatorship over Seoul, is only weakly related to the United States protecting its militarily robust satellite from any effort by the militarily weak DPRK to unify and revolutionize the peninsula, a project North Korea was unable to bring to fruition 70 years ago when the balance of forces was much more favorable to its cause; the DPRK is completely incapable of mounting any such effort today.

The informal US dictatorship over South Korea serves the same purpose as US military occupations serve in other US allied states, including Germany, Italy, Japan, and Britain (formerly imperial rivals of the United States.) The purpose is to ensure these countries remain within the US economic sphere, and outside of the Chinese and Russian orbits; and in the case of Japan and Germany, to prevent them from nurturing latent drives to contest US hegemony. With regard to Germany, the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Russell Mead described the U.S. troop presence in the country as reassuring “Germany’s neighbors east and west that Berlin will never again disturb the peace of Europe or threaten their security,” another way of saying that the US occupation ensures that the United States, not Germany, dominates Europe.

What South Korea’s ballistic missiles reveal, then, is that South Korea is a tool of US foreign policy; the United States has a dictatorial relationship with Seoul; and the UN Security Council acts, at times, as South Korea does, as an instrument of US policy.

US attorney general explains the real reason Washington is hostile to China

In a major speech, US Attorney General William Barr dwelled at length on the threat Chinese-owned firms pose to corporate America’s domination of the global economy, but said little about Chinese policy on Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea, the usual reasons Washington cites for its growing anti-Chinese animus. 

July 19, 2020

In a 17 July speech on China policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, US Attorney General William Barr explained why the United States has escalated its cold war on China. The cold war began in earnest when the preceding Obama administration initiated the US military ‘pivot to China,’ a project to ‘contain’ the rapidly developing nation.

The roots of the US-initiated war lie in the threat the People’s Republic of China poses to US technological supremacy, according to Barr.

In his speech, the attorney general argued that the “prosperity for our children and grandchildren” depends on the global economy remaining Americanized. Chinese-owned firms, in his view, must be prevented from dominating key emerging growth sectors, including 5G, robotics, and AI; these sectors must remain the preserve of Western (and preferably US) investors.

Barr’s analysis comports with the widely held view in Washington and on Wall Street that the PRC’s desired role in the global economy is one of facilitating US profit-making, not competing against it. China, in this view, must return to the role originally envisaged by US policy-makers of a vast consumer and low-wage labor market teeming with investment and profit-making opportunities for corporate America, not as a rival for economic supremacy.

Significantly, Barr’s speech was mostly free from the rhetoric that has marked the accustomed Sinophobic diatribes and slurs which nowadays are de rigueur in Washington. Mainly absent were references to alleged Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong and accusations of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

These allegations and accusations ring hollow, coming from a US state whose principal allies in West Asia—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and Israel—are hostile to the human rights and democratic values Washington professes falsely to champion, to say nothing of the United States’ own egregious human rights failings (witness, for example, the events that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement) and its robust imperialism (including continued direct colonialism; consider Puerto Rico, for example.)

Washington’s substantive grievance with China is that the Chinese Communist Party has pursued a state-directed development model which has vaulted China from the ranks of poor countries relegated to the role of serving US profit-making interests, to a level of technological and economic prowess which threatens to topple corporate America from its perch atop the global economy.

Barr’s speech is important in revealing the material basis of US anti-Chinese hostility. Washington routinely conceals its struggles for commercial advantage behind Olympian rhetoric about democracy, human rights, and selfless devotion to humanitarian causes. The practice resonates with an observation Hitler made in Mein Kampf. “[Man] does not sacrifice himself for material interests…[He] will die for an ideal, but not for a business.” Recognizing that its citizens will not support a struggle for Wall Street’s narrow interests, Washington, as much as Hitler, has resorted to rhetoric about ideals rather than plainspoken references to profit-making, to mobilize public opinion behind, what is at its base, a struggle for commercial supremacy.

The following excerpts from Barr’s speech elucidate the fundamental economic question underlying US hostility to China. Lenin observed in 1917 that it is “impossible to understand and appraise modern war and politics”, without understanding “the fundamental economic question”, namely, the “question of the economic essence of imperialism.”

Excerpts from Barr’s speech

“Since the 1890’s, at least, the United States has been the technological leader of the world. And from that prowess, has come our prosperity, the opportunity for generations of Americans, and our security. It’s because of that that we were able to play such a pivotal role in world history. … What’s at stake these days is whether we can maintain that leadership position and that technological leadership. Are we going to be the generation that has allowed that to be stolen- which is really stealing the future of our children and our grandchildren?

“[At] the dawn of America’s reengagement with China, which began obviously with President Nixon in 1972 … it was unthinkable that China would emerge after the Cold War as a near-peer competitor of the United States.

“Deng Xiaoping, whose economic reform launched China’s remarkable rise had a famous motto: “hide your strength and bide your time.” That is precisely what China has done. China’s economy has quietly grown from about 2 percent of the world’s GDP in 1980, to nearly 20 percent today. And by some estimates based on purchasing parity, the Chinese economy is already larger than ours. The General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping … now speaks openly of China moving closer to the center stage, building a socialism that is superior to capitalism…From the perspective of its communist rulers, China’s time has arrived.

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg—an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent technological superpower.  A centerpiece of this effort is the Chinese Communist Party’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, a plan for PRC domination of high-tech industries like robotics, advanced information technology, aviation, and electric vehicles, and many other technologies.  Backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, this initiative poses a real threat to U.S. technological leadership.  Despite World Trade Organization rules prohibiting quotas for domestic output, “Made in China 2025” sets targets for domestic market share (sometimes as high as 70 percent) in core components and basic materials for industries such as robotics and telecommunications.  It is clear that the PRC seeks not merely to join the ranks of other advanced industrial economies, but to replace them altogether.

“‘Made in China 2025’ is the latest iteration of the PRC’s state-led, mercantilist economic model. … To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of … tactics [including] tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions … [and] state subsidies,

“The PRC also seeks to dominate key trade routes and infrastructure in Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific.

“Another ambitious project to spread its power and influence is the PRC’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.  Although billed as “foreign aid,” in fact these investments appear designed to serve the PRC’s strategic interests and domestic economic needs.

“I have previously spoken at length about the grave risks of allowing [China] to build the next generation of global telecommunications networks, known as 5G.  Perhaps less widely known are the PRC’s efforts to surpass the United States in other cutting-edge fields, like artificial intelligence.  Through innovations such as machine learning and big data, artificial intelligence allows machines to mimic human functions, such as recognizing faces, interpreting spoken words, driving vehicles, and playing games of skill, much like chess or the even more complex Chinese game, Go.  In 2017, Beijing unveiled its “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan,” a blueprint for leading the world in AI by 2030.  Whichever nation emerges as the global leader in AI will be best positioned to unlock not only its considerable economic potential, but a range of military applications, such as the use of computer vision to gather intelligence.

“The PRC’s drive for technological supremacy is complemented by its plan to monopolize rare earth materials, which play a vital role in industries such as consumer electronics, electric vehicles, medical devices, and military hardware.  According to the Congressional Research Service, from the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States led the world in rare earth production.  “Since then, production has shifted almost entirely to China,” in large part due to lower labor costs and lighter economic and environmental regulation.

“The United States is now dangerously dependent on the PRC for these essential materials.  Overall, China is America’s top supplier, accounting for about 80 percent of our imports.  The risks of dependence are real.

“For a hundred years, America was the world’s largest manufacturer — allowing us to serve as the world’s “arsenal of democracy.”  China overtook the United States in manufacturing output in 2010.

“How did China accomplish all this?  … [No] one should doubt that America made China’s meteoric rise possible.  China has reaped enormous benefits from the free flow of American aid and trade.  In 1980, Congress granted the PRC most-favored-nation trading status.  In the 1990s, American companies strongly supported the PRC’s accession to the World Trade Organization and the permanent normalization of trade relations.  Today, U.S.-China trade totals about $700 billion.

“Last year, Newsweek ran a cover story titled “How America’s Biggest Companies Made China Great Again.”  The article details how China’s communist leaders lured American business with the promise of market access, and then, having profited from American investment and know-how, turned increasingly hostile.  The PRC used tariffs and quotas to pressure American companies to … form joint ventures with Chinese companies.

“Just as American companies have become dependent on the Chinese market, the United States as a whole now relies on the PRC for many vital goods and services.  The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a spotlight on that dependency.

“China’s dominance of the world market for medical goods goes beyond masks and gowns.  It has become the United States’ largest supplier of medical devices.

“America also depends on Chinese supply chains in other vital sectors, especially pharmaceuticals.  America remains the global leader in drug discovery, but China is now the world’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, known as “APIs.”  As one Defense Health Agency official noted, “[s]hould China decide to limit or restrict the delivery of APIs to the [United States],” it “could result in severe shortages of pharmaceuticals for both domestic and military uses.”

“To achieve dominance in pharmaceuticals, China’s rulers went to the same playbook they’ve used to gut other American industries.  In 2008, the PRC designated pharmaceutical production as a “high-value-added-industry” and boosted Chinese companies with subsidies and export tax rebates.

“To secure a world of freedom and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, the [United States] … will need to win the contest for the commanding heights of the global economy. ”

(Transcript of Attorney General Barr’s Remarks on China Policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Friday, July 17, 2020)

Why North Korea blew up the inter-Korean liaison office

“But peace cannot be hoped for on the basis of some making concessions and the others making none. Peace based on the demands of the other side is not peace, it is ignominious surrender, and no revolutionary country sells itself or surrenders.” Fidel Castro. [1]

June 20, 2020

North Korea recently blew up the “inter-Korean liaison office in the western border town of Kaesong,” an act The Wall Street Journal described, and other Western news media saw as, “provocative.” [2]

The liaison building, located in North Korea, opened “following a 2018 inter-Korean pledge to tone down military hostilities and bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.” “At the 2018 opening ceremony, a large white-and-blue unification banner, showing the entire Korean Peninsula, was draped down the building’s front.” [3]

Now the banner, and the building, are gone. Hopes for peace between the two Koreas have, according to Western press accounts, dissolved in a puff of North Korean smoke.

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In late April 2018 the leaders of the two Koreas, Kim Jong Un, from the north, and Moon Jae-in, from the south, met at Panmunjom, a village located in North Korea where the 1953 Armistice Agreement had been signed. The armistice brought the open hostilities of the Korean War to a close. Officially, however, the war continues, a peace treaty having never been signed.

At the ‘peace village’ Kim and Moon “solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there” would “be no more war on the Korean Peninsula” and that a new era of peace had begun. [4]

A little over two years later, the Panmunjom declaration is in shreds. North Korea no longer sees South Korea as a peace partner, but as an enemy.

What went wrong?

At Panmunjom both governments “agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict.” [5]

They also agreed to stop broadcasting propaganda through loudspeakers and through the distribution of leaflets, usually carried by balloons. [6]

Additionally, they pledged to embark on programs of mutual disarmament. [7]

In short, both leaders committed to refrain from provoking or threatening the other side. This presumably meant that the South Koreans would bring to a halt the war games they regularly conducted with the United States which the North Koreans regarded as dress-rehearsals for an invasion of their country.

Moreover, they would forbear from acquiring new and more lethal weaponry. In fact, they would do the opposite—reduce arms. And they would stop denigrating each other through broadcasts and the launching of propaganda balloons across their shared border.

Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech

On January 1 Kim Jong Un briefed his country on the status of peace talks with the United States, the other piece of the puzzle of how to bring about a new era of peace on the peninsula. The United States is, through the UN Command, a party to the Armistice Agreement, has nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, and has orchestrated the campaign to coerce North Korea into abandoning its nuclear arms.

Kim was frustrated. While Pyongyang had proposed that the two states engage in a series of reciprocal confidence-building measures, Washington was pursuing a campaign of maximum pressure, designed to strongarm Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear weapons. [8] The campaign was, on the world stage, what Derek Chauvin’s knee on the neck of George Floyd was on the streets of Minneapolis—an act of suffocation designed to bring about submission, even death. Washington’s aim was to starve North Korea of oxygen by organizing a near-total blockade of the country, using occasional summits and meetings with the North Koreans as platforms for demanding a North Korean surrender.

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Kim observed that while he had halted his nuclear tests, suspended his missile tests, and closed his nuclear-test site—measures taken to persuade Washington he was sincere in his intentions to work out a durable modus vivende with the West—Washington had done little in return. To the contrary, rather than acting to mitigate tensions, Washington had acted to escalate them. It continued to conduct joint military drills with South Korea (despite US president Donald Trump promising to suspend the exercises and Moon declaring at Panmunjom that all hostile acts against North Korea would cease.)

Washington had also escalated the military threat against North Korea by sending to South Korea state-of-the-art weaponry that far out-classed anything in North Korea’s conventional arsenal. Additionally, Washington had intensified its economic war on North Korea.

Kim said that Washington had evinced no commitment to peace and was simply buying time to allow sanctions to bring about North Korea’s surrender or collapse. Washington’s professed interest in dialogue and negotiations was pure theater, he said. North Korea had been played.

This, by the way, wasn’t the first time the United States had played North Korea. To dissuade the North Koreans from building nuclear weapons, after they had threatened to do so in the wake of the US Air Force announcing in the early 1990s that it was re-targeting some its strategic missiles away from the now dissolved Soviet Union to North Korea, the Clinton Administration promised to build two proliferation-safe light-water reactors in North Korea in return for Pyongyang shuttering its plutonium reactor. But Washington tarried on construction of the reactors, figuring that with the demise of the USSR, and the disintegration of the socialist bloc on which Pyongyang had depended for trade, North Korea would follow East Germany down the path of absorption by its capitalist neighbor. Why live up to the terms of the deal, when North Korea’s days were numbered? But when the prediction of an imminent North Korean collapse failed to pan out, Washington reneged on the deal, issuing a virtual declaration of war on the revolutionary government, listing it as part of an “Axis of Evil,” along with Iraq and Iran, two other countries that had also insisted on independence from the United States.

Kim acknowledged that North Korea urgently needed peace to afford the space, trade, and resources necessary to develop his country’s economy. That’s why he had agreed to talks. But he would not give up security for economic rewards.

The North Korean leader also observed that while the United States professed that its hostile actions were motivated by its opposition to North Korea’s nuclear arms program, the reality was that Washington had pursued a policy of unrelenting hostility to North Korea from the very first moments of the country’s birth more than seventy years earlier. Indeed, North Korea had built its nuclear arsenal as a response to US hostility. He reasoned that Washington would always find some fault with North Korea, and would never abandon its campaign to destroy the North Korean state qua state committed to achieving the freedom from foreign domination of Koreans as a nation.

As a consequence, North Korea must resolve, Kim said, to live with sanctions for as long as necessary. It would also expand its strategic weapons program to strengthen its ability to deter US aggression. North Korea’s goal, Kim said, was to build a national defense strong enough to deter any power from using its armed force against North Korea. We must be sufficiently armed, he declared, to keep hostile forces at bay so that they will never dare to undermine our sovereignty and security. [9]

Seoul’s failure to abide by the Panmunjom agreement

As Washington dissimulated negotiating peace with Pyongyang, Washington’s junior partner, South Korea, flouted the commitments Moon had made at Panmunjom. Seoul was buying advanced F-35A jet fighters from the United States, providing South Korea, already more advanced militarily than North Korea, with war-fighting capabilities light years ahead of anything North Korea could muster with its aging fleet of obsolete and frequently ground MiG fighters, acquired from the old Soviet Union.

At the same time, the South Koreans were allowing US pilots to fly strategic bombers through Korean airspace, rattling the North Koreans.

And while all this happened, Seoul continued to participate in war games with the United States. The exercises, as the North Koreans like to point out, are rehearsals for an invasion of their country.

Last year, North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, complained that South Korea “has persisted in the introduction of offensive weapons including F-35A and held more aggression war drills with outsiders … maintaining that ‘there is no change in military posture despite the south-north agreement in the military field’ [10] – a reference to South Korea’s declaration at Panmunjom to “cease all hostile acts” that produce “military tension and conflict.”

The North Koreans further complained about the Janus-faced actions of their southern compatriots. As the South Korean military dismantled military posts and removed land mines from the Demilitarized Zone, it simultaneously carried out “military exercises with the foreign force and brought the latest military hardware aiming at [its] fellow countrymen” [i.e., North Koreans.] [11]

What’s more, despite explicitly committing at Panmunjom to end the distribution of propaganda leaflets, the practice continued. North Korean officials said balloons were released across the border 10 times in 2019 and three times in the first six months of 2020. [12]

When balloons were launched in June, Pyongyang had had enough.

A spark tossed upon the accumulated kindling

“Having seen that the balloons are still being launched and having observed reports that South Korea-US joint military exercises are continuing to take place at the battalion level and lower, North Korea” saw “South Korea as breaking the inter-Korean agreement,” explained Korean National Diplomatic Academy Chancellor Kim Joon-hyung. “There’s been discontentment building up over that, and it looks like it has now erupted over the balloon issue.” [13]

While talking peace, the United States and South Korea refused to depart from their hostile maximal pressure strategy. As always, the two countries cooperated to exert military, political, economic, and propaganda pressure on the Kim government—placing their conjoined knees on the DPRK’s neck—hoping the North Korean state would either surrender, or expire. Kim had grasped the open hands of Trump and Moon, at summits that had been billed as ‘historic’, but he finally had to concede that his interlocutors brandished knives behind their backs.

“When we say ‘imperialism is ferocious’,” Mao once observed, “we mean that its nature will never change, that the imperialists will never lay down their butcher knives, that they will never become Buddhas, till their doom. Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . until their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. [14]

Despite their lofty words about peace, Trump and Moon have not become Buddhas.

This, however, isn’t the story told in the West. The Wall Street Journal says that “Seoul has long exercised restraint with its provocative northern neighbor, in hopes of drawing Pyongyang into peace talks,” and that Moon continues to encourage “the North to not give up on peace.” [15]

But a country that regularly carries out war games, incessantly expands its military budget, buys ever more deadly weapons systems, colludes with the world’s principal military power in incessant acts of intimidation against its neighbor, and continues to allow the scattering of propaganda leaflets denigrating its ‘peace-partner,’ can hardly be described as exercising restraint. Nor can such a country be described accurately as setting conditions favorable to the pursuit of peace on mutually agreeable terms.

So, rather than offering an account of the parties’ records in meeting their commitments, and then noting which party has succeeded and which has failed, we’re treated to an explanation of the breakdown of the Korean peace regime that lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of the North Korean leadership. “North Korea’s near-term aim appears to be distracting its domestic audience from immediate economic challenges caused by U.S.-imposed sanctions and the spread of the coronavirus,” writes Andrew Jeong, The Wall Street Journal’s Korea reporter. “By labeling South Korea as an enemy, the North can blame any internal dysfunction on an external threat.” [16]

But wait. In creating economic challenges for North Korea by imposing ever more onerous sanctions, is the United States committed in any discernable way to peace on the Korean peninsula? Yes, if peace means elimination of an enemy. In Tacitus’s formulation, peace is the annihilation of the other side. And since North Korea’s economic challenges originate in Washington’s organizing a near total economic blockade of North Korea—to say nothing of the incessant US-South Korea military pressure which forces North Korea to divert scarce resources needed for economic development to its military—how could blaming “internal dysfunction on an external threat” be anything but a true and uncontroversial assessment?

If we believe the Western news media, by blowing up the inter-Korean liaison office, North Korea has scorned hopes for peace on the Korean peninsula. But neither Washington nor Seoul were ever interested in peace, except on US terms, and US terms require North Korea’s surrender and its absorption into a hierarchy of nations in which the United States sits at the top.

North Korea has given its answer. It will not happen.

1. William R. Long, “Radicalism not necessary, Castro advises Sandinistas,” The Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1985.
2. Timothy W. Martin, “North Korea Blows Up Liaison Office With South, Seoul Says”, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2020.
3. Ibid.
4. “Full text of Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” The Strait Times, April 27, 2018.
5. Ibid
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. “Remarks of Vice President Pence at the 6th US-ASEAN summit,” November 14, 2018.
9. “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020.
10. “KCNA commentary urges S. Korean authorities to be prudent,” KCNA, October 24, 2019.
11. “S. Korean Authorities Deserve Punishment: KCNA Commentary”, KCNA, June 19, 2020.
12. Ibid.
13. “Likelihood of N. Korea launching ICBMs or escalating military tensions is low, former S. Korean ambassador to Russia says”, The Hankyoreh, June, 15, 2020.
14. Mao Tse-tung, “Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle” (August 14, 1949), Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 428.
15. Andrew Jeong, “South Korea Takes Harder Line After North Blows Up Liaison Office”, The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2020.
16. Ibid.