Weaponizing Covid-19: How Washington is Using the Pandemic to Help Destabilize Cuba

July 14, 2021

Stephen Gowans

What follows is based on my reading of Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez’s analysis of the causes of the recent protests in Cuba, plus data from Our World in Data, showing a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases on the island since June 22.

Cubans are facing shortages of critical goods. This is happening at a time Covid-19 cases are sharply climbing.

The pandemic has severely reduced Cuba’s access to its main sources of foreign currency:

  • Tourism
  • Visits of expatriate Cubans

The reduction in foreign currency has restricted Cuba’s ability to buy foreign goods:

  • Food
  • Drugs
  • Raw materials
  • Spare parts

At the same time, fuel imports have been reduced.

Only about 20 percent of the population has been vaccinated. The low level of vaccination is attributable to two factors:

  • Cuba had to develop its own vaccines because it couldn’t afford to buy them from foreign suppliers, most of whom wouldn’t sell them to Cuba anyway.
  • Cuba doesn’t have the capability of producing doses in sufficient quantity to vaccinate the whole population at once. Vaccinating everyone will take time.

To Cuba’s existing economic difficulties, created by Washington’s ongoing attempts to strangle the country economically, are added these new pandemic-related problems. As a consequence, dissatisfaction has increased.

To exploit the growing difficulties, Washington is running a vigorous campaign to portray:

  • The Cuban government as the inept architect of Cubans’ growing misery, and
  • The US as a solicitous neighbor keen to rescue Cubans from the incompetence of their government.

While Washington professes solicitude about the health of Cubans, it presides over its own system of private health care which privileges the rich at the expense of the poor. Its concern for the welfare of Cubans [to say nothing of its concern for the welfare of its own citizens] is insincere. [Plus, Washington has shown gross incompetence in protecting the health of its own citizens against the dangers of Covid-19, posting cumulative deaths per million over 13 times greater than Cuba.]

Some Cubans who are committed to the revolution, but are dissatisfied by the critical goods shortages, participated in the protests. The government is willing to discuss potential solutions with them, so long as they recognize and understand the real causes of the problems Cuba faces.

I’ll add the following to the Cuban president’s analysis.

South Africa offers a similar concurrent case of a political distemper precipitated by pressures produced by a worsening pandemic.

The pandemic has had two main effects in both countries:

  • Increased misery on top of already existing misery. (High unemployment and inequality in South Africa and US-sanctions-created privations in Cuba.)
  • A growing health hazard.

There are, however, important differences between the two countries.

  • South Africa’s political distemper is more severe, marked by rioting and looting.
  • South Africa has not been under a six-decades-long blockade (although its long-running regime of neo-liberal economics has probably had comparable effects for all but privileged South Africans.)
  • Washington isn’t trying to take advantage of the miseries produced by the pandemic to destabilize Pretoria.

Despite these differences, protests in Cuba and South Africa, and political upheavals in Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, are traceable, in part, to the destabilizing force of the pandemic.  

The failure of governments of the right to manage the economic pressures and public health hazards of the pandemic will provide political opportunities for parties of the left to mobilize those whose circumstances have worsened, so long as they offer credible solutions to pandemic-induced problems.

At the same time, the pandemic’s inherent power to destabilize will add to existing US efforts to disrupt and weaken governments that refuse to be brought under US control and influence. (This opportunity, however, is absent in the cases of China and Vietnam, both of which have exhibited peerless competence in managing the public health and economic effects of the pandemic.)

Are the protests in Cuba a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism?

July 13, 2021

Stephen Gowans

Readers of The Wall Street Journal might come to the conclusion that an uprising has erupted in Cuba against ‘authoritarianism’ and the Cuban Communist Party.

But a careful reading of the newspaper paints a more nuanced picture.

There is, according to the Journal, “a pattern of simmering tensions across swaths of the developing world, where people are largely unvaccinated, governments are unable to afford sustained stimulus measures and economies are falling further behind and struggling to rebound from last year’s record contraction.”

In South Africa, for example, the government has “deployed its army … to help quell violent protests” after “hundreds of angry residents ransacked shops and malls, torched cars and blocked major roads.” The police have “arrested nearly 500” protestors.

“At the end of March, 33% of South Africans were unemployed, a figure that rises to 43% when discouraged job seekers are included.” A “record wave of Covid-19 infections across the country….has overwhelmed hospitals and led to shortages of oxygen.”

In another part of the developing world, Cuba, simmering tensions have also spilled over into protests. There, hundreds of “Cubans took to the streets … protesting a lack of food and a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines.” Cubans are registering “their opposition to the economic fallout from Covid-19 … widespread shortages of food and medicine, and numerous daily blackouts from failing electric power.”

Unrest in Cuba matches unrest in South Africa, part of the simmering tension in the global south. The roots are the same.

Yet, despite Cuba’s pandemic-induced economic travails and consequent political distemper fitting a pattern across the global south—exacerbated in Cuba’s case by six decades of US economic strangulation—The Wall Street Journal cast “Cuba’s unrest” as framing the “world’s big struggle: dictators vs. democracies.”

Columnist Gerald F. Seib used the occasion of the Cuban protests to rail against authoritarian regimes, among which he includes Cuba’s government, despite the reality that Cuba has elections and assemblies. But in the US view, an electoral system is not truly democratic unless it bears a close resemblance to the United States’ own plural elite model, one of multiple parties representing the interests of business elites, which periodically vie for the votes of an electorate whose interests are largely ignored.

Bernie Sanders recently referred to the US system as one that doesn’t respond to the needs of the people. Sanders told New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd, ‘It’s absolutely imperative if democracy is to survive that we do everything that we can to say, ‘Yes, we hear your pain and we are going to respond to your needs.’’’

The obvious question for Sanders is: how can a system that doesn’t respond to the people’s needs be called a democracy? And how can responding democratically save democracy. If responding to the people’s needs is a new initiative, then democracy is already dead. More accurately, in the US case, it has yet to be born.

Sanders would have hewed closer to the truth had he said, “It’s absolutely imperative if democracy is to be created for the first time that we not only do everything that we can to say, ‘Yes, we hear your pain and we are going to respond to your needs’ but that we also actually respond to their needs.”

Seib opens his storehouse of demons, condemning them for the crime of autocracy on the basis of how long they’ve been in power: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (32 years); Vladimir Putin (22); Xi Jinping (9). Harvard political scientist Graham Allison calls Xi’s government a “responsive authoritarianism”—which seems to be another of way of saying it’s the democracy that Bernie Sanders says the unresponsive US plural elite system is not.

This “seems a boom time for autocrats,” Seib writes. “Yet the seething unhappiness in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Hong Kong [but not South Africa, Haiti, Colombia, Brazil, and Lebanon] raises the question of how long the authoritarian run can last?”

Apparently, for quite some time, if the autocrats are US allies. The Hashemite monarchy of Jordan’s “U.S.-Backed King”, as the Journal describes him—and aptly, too, considering that US taxpayers pay him more than $1.5 billion yearly—has lasted 75 years. The Khalifa family, which allows the US Fifth Fleet to use Bahrain as its home base, has ruled over the Persian Gulf country for 255 years. The House of Saud, which rules US best friend Saudi Arabia, has clung to power with US assistance for more than three-quarters of a century. And we mustn’t forget Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, Egypt’s military ruler, whom Donald Trump once called his favorite dictator. Like the authoritarian government of Jordan’s autocrat King Abdullah, the government of autocrat President el-Sissi, also receives more than $1 billion yearly from an appreciative United States, for services rendered.

In US propaganda, autocrats are not condemned as autocrats so long as they render services to the beneficiaries of the US plural elite system, i.e., Wall Street, while governments that don’t genuflect to US plural elite needs, and choose instead to respond to their own citizens’ needs, are labelled autocrats, whether they are or not.

Owing to the US campaign of strangling the Cuban economy—a campaign now in its seventh decade—Cubans have lived with a lower standard of living than their socialist economy is capable of producing (which is the point of Washington blockading the island.)

Cuba has, nevertheless, done remarkably well in the face of US-imposed adversity. In 2019, the country’s GDP per capita was $9,100 (current $US), according to the World Bank, not far off China’s $10,217. Of course, neither country is anywhere near US GDP per capita, but, having been looted by great powers, they have steep hills to climb. US sanctions, and now the pandemic—which has slashed tourism by nearly 90 percent—makes the climb all the more difficult for Cuba.

“The truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba,” Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, told reporters on Monday. “That would be a truly humanitarian gesture.”

 Unfortunately, neither Wall Street nor the capitalist system at whose center it lies, are humanitarian.

The US War to Destroy China’s Crown Jewel and Secure US Cyber Supremacy

July 6, 2021

Stephen Gowans

When then US president Donald Trump said he would call off US efforts to extradite from Canada Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to face bank fraud-related sanctions-evasion charges in exchange for trade concessions from China, he effectively admitted to a political kidnapping. The reality that normal US practice is to fine companies that violate US sanctions, not arrest their officers, strengthened the contention that Washington was conspiring with Canada to abduct Meng for political gain.

The Meng case has become the most high-profile aspect of a US campaign to cripple the Chinese tech champion Huawei. But it is also one of the least consequential elements of a multi-layered operation. Since 2010, Washington has spied on Huawei, declared it a national security threat whose equipment must be banned from telecom networks, starved it of US technology, harassed its employees to gather information to use in law suits against the company, and has even gone so far as to pay Huawei’s potential customers to buy from its competitors instead.

The impetus of the campaign is multidimensional and mutually reinforcing. Washington is trying to block China from achieving success in emerging tech industries. Huawei, a global telecom powerhouse, is seen by Beijing as a key player in China’s industrial strategy, a jewel in the country’s crown. Crippling the company could slow China’s technological ascent, condemn China indefinitely to low-wage manufacturing, and ultimately allow US investors, rather than Chinese enterprises, to reap the bounty of tomorrow’s industries.

Moreover, telecom networks are an important part of the infrastructure the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes signal intelligence alliance—Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—use to gather political and business intelligence, and conduct cyberattacks, around the world. As the preferred network supplier, Huawei was on track to blanket the world’s telecom networks with its gear. This was hardly an auspicious prospect for the US intelligence community. As a Chinese company, Huawei is far less likely to cooperate with US intelligence than equipment manufacturers based in countries under US influence. The latter can be expected to accede to Washington’s demands to comply with US intelligence community requests for cooperation; not so Huawei.

In 2019, Huawei was the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer. It had 180,000 employees and the largest R&D budget of any tech company in China. [1] Over 40 percent of its employees worked in research and development. The company was held privately, with an ownership stake divided among 81,000 employees. [2] Renowned for the quality of its gear and the attractiveness of its prices, Huawei was at the forefront of the next-generation 5G networks. [3]

As a global leader capable of outcompeting its US-allied rivals, Huawei was vitally important to Beijing’s industrial strategy. Indeed, so important was the company to Beijing, that Wall Street Journal reporters Bob Davis and Lingling Wei called the company China’s “crown jewel.” [4]

But to Washington, Huawei was a threat. Referring to 5G, US telecom experts prepared a paper for the White House warning that “For the first time in modern history, the United States has not been the leader in an emerging wave of critical technology.” [5]

Huawei’s US competitors were seen as too small to compete with the Chinese firm. [6] As for Huawei’s main competitors, Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung, Washington and London worried that the Chinese tech company was so attractive to the world’s telecom providers that it would drive its rivals out of the 5G business. [7]

In 2010, the NSA secretly broke into Huawei’s computers, looking for evidence that the company was covertly controlled by the Chinese military, and that the company’s CEO and founder, Ren Zhengfei—he had once served in the People’s Liberation Army Engineering Corps.—retained an active role in the Chinese military. The NSA was unable to confirm its suspicions. [8]  All the same, two years later, Congress declared Huawei a national security threat, effectively shutting it out of the US market. [9]

A half a decade later, with Huawei defying Congress’s efforts to slow its rise, US National Security Advisor John Bolton decided to step up the war on Huawei. [10] Washington plotted to insert “the federal government deep into the private sector to stiffen global competition against Chinese telecom giant”. [11] Senator Tom Cotton,  author of an attack plan to “roll back Chinese power”, [12] tweeted: “@Huawei 5G, RIP.” [13]

One of the first salvos in the Bolton-initiated operation was to formalize the exclusion of Huawei from the US market. US president Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting US companies from doing business with China’s crown jewel. [14]

Next, Washington pressured its allies to declare Huawei’s network equipment a potential instrument of Chinese espionage. At its July, 2018 meeting in Halifax, the US-led eavesdropping network, the Five Eyes, announced it would work to ban Huawei 5G equipment from the core of its telecom networks. [15]

Other US allies were pressured to follow suit. Washington designated foreign telecom providers that shunned Huawei as ‘clean telcos’, and implied that those that did business with Huawei were US national security threats to be dealt with accordingly. [16] Frightened of US reprisals, telecom providers turned cool to the Chinese gear provider.  

US pressure to eschew Huawei was seen by foreign telecom providers as a dishonest ploy to gain leverage in trade negotiations with Beijing, rather than an effort to address legitimate national security concerns. The view was reinforced by Washington’s failure to produce evidence showing Huawei was engaged in espionage or that its equipment could be used by Beijing to eavesdrop on Western governments and businesses.

Some US allies questioned “whether America’s campaign [was] really about national security or if it [was] aimed at preventing China from gaining a competitive edge.” [17] Executives at Canada’s first and third largest telecom providers complained that they were being asked to rip Huawei gear out of their networks to satisfy US trade ambitions and to allay US fears of losing its coveted place as a global technology leader. [18]

While trade ambitions and a desire to reply to China’s challenge to US global technology leadership were playing roles in Washington’s campaign to cripple Huawei, so too was another motivation: Controlling the world’s telecom networks to allow the United States to maintain its dominant role in espionage and cyberwarfare.

When the NSA penetrated Huawei’s computers in 2010, it had two goals: First, to find out whether Huawei was an espionage threat; and second, to look for a backdoor into the company’s network equipment. “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” a N.S.A. document leaked by Edward Snowden said. “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” in order to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world. According to the New York Times, the NSA’s goal was “to exploit Huawei’s technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the N.S.A. could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations.” [19]

Washington argued that as a Chinese company, Huawei is obligated to comply with any request from Beijing to use its equipment as a vehicle for spying and cyberattacks. But Washington’s real concern may have been, not that Huawei was a potential tool of Chinese espionage and cyberwarfare, but that it would be an unwilling tool of US espionage and cyberaggression. In contrast, Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung, as companies based in US satellite countries, would be far easier to recruit, either knowingly or unwittingly, as instruments of NSA eavesdropping and US cyberoperations. From Washington’s perspective, the ideal intelligence scenario would be one in which the guts of a country’s network are provided by manufacturers under US influence. Since Washington has no sway over Huawei, it is undesirable as a provider of equipment to the world’s networks. From the vantage point of US intelligence, Huawei needs to be crippled and blocked so that ductile US-allied manufacturers—Washington’s ‘security’ partners—can take its place.

In order to promote Huawei’s rivals, Washington is paying network equipment buyers to use Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung. Acting through the U.S. International Development Finance Corp, Washington offers “financial incentives and other enticements to countries willing to shun Chinese-made telecom gear.” [20] For example, the DFC has provided a $500 million loan to a consortium of telecom companies led by the UK’s Vodaphone to build a mobile network in Ethiopia. A condition of the loan is that it cannot be used to purchase Huawei equipment. [21] Meanwhile, Congress is expected to pass legislation that will allow Eastern European countries to use US aid to build cellular networks, so long as they use Huawei rivals. [22] In effect, Washington is paying countries not to use the Chinese supplier.

The DFC was created by Congress in 2018 to compete with China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. While its  main goal is to invest in US companies, the corporation is willing to support non-US firms, if doing so hurts Huawei, and pushes NSA-compliant manufacturers to the fore . “We’re not out to play defense,” DFC head Adam Boehler told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re out to play offense.” [23]

On top of promoting Huawei’s competitors, Washington has sought to degrade the company’s products, by denying it access to the US technology it needs. In 2019, Washington banned the export of US-made chips to Huawei, and additionally blocked Huawei’s access to chips made anywhere in the world with US equipment. The aim, according to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, is to decouple “computer technology supply chains from China” and Huawei. [24]

Washington has also mounted a campaign of harassment against the company. According to Huawei, US officials have instructed US “law enforcement to threaten, menace, coerce, entice and incite both current and former Huawei employees”. [25] US prosecutors have brought charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiring to steal trade secrets against Huawei and its partners. [26] FBI agents have visited the homes of Huawei employees to pressure them to disclose information that could be used against the company in US courts. [27]

The most high-profile case of harassment has been the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian officials at Washington’s request. Meng, the daughter of Huawei CEO, Ren Zhengfei, awaits a Canadian decision on her extradition to the United States. US prosecutors allege that Meng helped Huawei circumvent US sanctions on Iran by lying to banks.

On the surface, the case has a number of curious features.

First, the alleged crime appears to have little to do with the United States. Meng’s putative misdeeds occurred in Hong Kong; one of the alleged victims, HSBC, is a British bank; and the accused is a Chinese national. [28] The US connection is the alleged evasion of US sanctions on Iran, but US law does not apply to Chinese nationals or Chinese enterprises outside US jurisdiction.

Second, Washington’s standard practice is to punish corporations that violate its sanctions laws, not arrest company executives. The economist Jeffrey Sachs produced a long list of US and international banks that have paid fines to the US government for sanctions violations. None of their executives were arrested or charged with crimes. [29] Recently, the software giant SAP paid $8 million in fines for selling software to Iran. Not only were company executives spared arrest, the company wasn’t even prosecuted. Instead, it was let off with a promise to improve its compliance. [30] As Canadian political operative Eddie Goldenberg has argued, the arrest of Meng is not a criminal matter. Instead, it lies in “the realm of geopolitics. That is why Ms. Meng was personally targeted when the normal U.S. practice in similar matters is to charge the corporation, not the individual.” [31]

Third, while the Canadian government has presented the Meng affair as a purely criminal matter, when he was US president, Donald Trump told Reuters that he would intervene in her case if by doing so he could secure a better trade deal with China, suggesting Meng had been arrested as a bargaining chip. [32]

US prosecutors argue that the Huawei CFO committed bank fraud by misleading Huawei’s banks in order to evade US sanctions on Iran. The extradition case hinges on the question of whether bank fraud is a crime in both the United States and Canada. Under Canadian law, Meng cannot be extradited for an act that is not recognized as a crime in Canada.

Meng’s lawyers have argued that, notwithstanding US claims, the case pivots on sanctions-evasion, with bank fraud as a red herring. [33] “It is a fiction to contend that the United States has any general interest in policing private dealings between a foreign bank and a foreign citizen on the other side of the world. However, it is the case that the United States has a global interest in enforcing its sanctions policy. Sanctions drive this case.” [34]

Meng’s lawyers have also argued that if the Huawei CFO had misled the banks—a point they do not concede—the banks would have suffered no harm in Canada, since Ottawa has no extra-territorial sanctions which would prohibit Huawei from selling equipment to Iran, and therefore would have no reason to penalize the banks for their actions. The critical point is that deception is not fraud unless harm befalls the deceived party and a benefit redounds to the party practicing the deception. Since the banks would have suffered no harm in Canada, and neither would Huawei have obtained any gain, the necessary condition for extradition of dual criminality—that the actions of the accused constitute a crime in both Canada and the United States—has not been met. [35]

In March, Canadian officials indicated that there was a “strong possibility” that the US Justice Department would drop its extradition request if Huawei admitted guilt and agreed to pay a substantial fine. [36] Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei rejected the offer out of hand. His daughter, he said, had “committed no crime,” adding that “the U.S. is the side that should plead guilty.” [37]

While US prosecutors and the Canadian government argue that the Meng case is non-political, and purely criminal, the United States’ top business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, thinks otherwise. “We might prefer that prosecution of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou … were over something other than violating U.S. sanctions on Iran,” opined editorial writer Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “But the U.S. is nonetheless positioning itself to destroy China’s shiniest success story.” [38]

If the US operation succeeds, not only will the world’s telecom networks be dominated by US-allied equipment manufacturers, but the United States will have secured its position as the world’s top cyberwarfare and cyberespionage threat, with the power to spy on governments and businesses, and carry out offensive cyberoperations, virtually anywhere in the world.

1 Dan Strumpf, Min Jung Kim and Yifan Wang, “How Huawei took over the world,” The Wall Street Journal, December 25, 2018

2 Ibid

3 Stephen Fidler and Max Colchester, “U.K. to Ban Huawei From Its 5G Networks Amid China-U.S. Tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2020

4 Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War, Harper Business, 2020, p. 26

5 Editorial Board, “Huawei and the U.S.-China Tech War,” The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2020

6 Ibid

7 Bojan Pancevski and Sara Germano, “In rebuke to US, Germany considers letting Huawei in,” The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2019

8 Matthew Dalton, “Spy charges put Huawei’s European ambitions in jeopardy,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2019

9 Ibid

10 Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War, Harper Business, 2020, p. 25

11 Drew FitzGerald, Sarah Krouse, “White House Considers Broad Federal Intervention to Secure 5G Future,” The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2020.

12 Gerald F. Seib, “Tom Cotton Has a China Coronavirus Attack Plan,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2020

13 Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War, Harper Business, 2020, p. 27

14 Parmy Olson, “US would rethink intelligence ties if allies use Huawei technology,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2019

15 Matthew Dalton, “Spy charges put Huawei’s European ambitions in jeopardy,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2019

16 Stephen Fidler and Max Colchester, “U.K. to Ban Huawei From Its 5G Networks Amid China-U.S. Tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2020

17 Matthew Dalton, “Spy charges put Huawei’s European ambitions in jeopardy,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2019

18 Christine Dobby, “Bell, Telus warn of 5G delays, higher costs if Ottawa joins peers in banning Huawei,” The Globe and Mail, December 21, 2018

19 David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, “N.S.A. Breached Chinese Servers Seen as Security Threat,” The New York Times, March 22, 2014

20 Stu Woo and Drew Hinshaw, “U.S. Fight Against Chinese 5G Efforts Shifts From Threats to Incentives,” The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2021

21 Alexandra Wexler and Stu Woo, “U.S. Fund Set Up to Counter China’s Influence Backs Covid-19 Vaccine Maker in Africa,” The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2021

22 Stu Woo and Drew Hinshaw, “U.S. Fight Against Chinese 5G Efforts Shifts From Threats to Incentives,” The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2021

23 Editorial Board, “Huawei and the U.S.-China Tech War,” The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2020

24 Ibid

25 William Mauldin and Chao Deng, “US-China talks stuck in rut over Huawei,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2019

26 , Jacquie McNish, Aruna Viswanatha, Jonathan Cheng and Dan Strumpf, “U.S. in Talks With Huawei Finance Chief Meng Wanzhou About Resolving Criminal Charges,” The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 4, 2020

27 William Mauldin and Chao Deng, “US-China talks stuck in rut over Huawei,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2019

28 K J Noh, “Why Canada must release Meng Wanzhou,” Asia Times, October 30, 2020

29 Jeffrey D. Sachs, “The U.S., not China, is the real threat to international rule of law,” The Globe and Mail, December 12, 2018

30 Aruna Viswanatha, “SAP Admits Iran Sanction Violations to Justice Department,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2021

31 Eddie Goldenberg, “Want to bring the Michaels home? Send Meng Wanzhou back to China,” The Globe and Mail, January 16, 2020

32 Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, “China moves to address US economic concerns,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2018

33 Sean Fine, Andrea Woo, and Xiao Xu, “Fraud allegations are a façade, lawyers for Meng Wanzhou argue at extradition hearing,” The Globe and Mail, January 20, 2020

34 Ibid

35 Dan Bilefsky, “Huawei executive goes to court, fighting extradition to US,” The New York Times, January 19, 2020

36 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Canada held secret U.S. talks in bid to free Kovrig, Spavor jailed in China,” The Globe and Mail, June 7, 2021  

37 Robert Fife, Steven Chase, and Nathan Vanderklippe, “Meng Wanzhou in talks with U.S. Justice Department to allow her to return to China, The Globe and Mail, December 3, 2020

38 Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., “U.S. Can Destroy Huawei, Part Two,” The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019

Rev Left Radio, Korea’s Struggle for Freedom

Stephen Gowans joins Breht of Rev Left Radio to talk about his book “Patriots, Traitors, and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom“.

They discuss the history of Korea, Japanese colonial occupation of Korea, WW2 and the Cold War, The Korean War, Kim Il-Sung and guerrilla warfare, South Korea as an American puppet state, the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, American propaganda against the DPRK, the prospects for a unified Korea, and much more! 

Listen to episode.

US black legend journalism blunders in attempt to discredit Chinese vaccine

Stephen Gowans

June 28, 2021

A Wall Street Journal article has attempted to discredit the effectiveness of China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine, even though the article presents data which show the vaccine to be highly effective, but does so in a way that conceals the shot’s efficacy and suggests the vaccine has largely failed.

The article is emblematic of black legend journalism aimed at China—the Western media practice of painting a defamatory picture of the Communist country in order for Washington to better battle it, and to discourage other countries that may be seeking to engage more deeply with Beijing, especially in trade and investment.

Among the defamations are claims that China is perpetrating a genocide against the Uyghur people, is exploiting coerced labor in Xinjiang, is engaged in covering up a coronavirus lab leak, and, now, is peddling ineffective vaccines across the global south.

More than one hundred years ago, Lenin identified the practice of black legend journalism aimed at China. “At the present time, the press is conducting a campaign against the Chinese,” he wrote in 1900, in connection with the Boxer Rebellion. “Journalists who crawl on their bellies before the government and the money-bags are straining every nerve to arouse the hatred of the people against China.”

The latest attempt to inspire enmity against a country which Washington has issued a virtual declaration of war against, is Jon Emont’s June 27, 2021 Wall Street Journal article titled “Covid-19 Killed 26 Indonesian Doctors in June—at Least 10 Had Taken China’s Sinovac Vaccine.”

According to Emont, “At least 10 of the 26 doctors in Indonesia who died from Covid-19 this month had received both doses of the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.”, raising “questions about the Chinese-made shot that is being used in many parts of the developing world.”

Rounding out his attack on CoronaVac, the name of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine, Emont went on to quote two professors, one from the UK, who opined that “the Sinovac vaccine was ‘probably not as effective a vaccine as most of the other vaccines that are on the market’,” and another from Hong Kong, who recommended that Indonesian medical workers be given “a U.S.-developed shot to ensure stronger protection.”

Emont’s message is clear: The Sinovac vaccine is largely ineffective, US-developed vaccines are superior, and Chinese vaccines are leaving the global south unprotected.

The problem is that the data in Emont’s report make a stronger case that the Sinovac vaccine is highly effective than largely ineffective.

According to his reporting, “Around 90% of Indonesian doctors—roughly 160,000 in all—have been vaccinated with Sinovac’s shot.” This information, along with Emont’s lead that at least 10 of the 26 doctors who died had been vaccinated, is all that is needed to estimate the efficacy of Sinovac’s vaccine in reducing Covid-19 mortality among Indonesian doctors.

The table below assembles the data Emont provided. Figures marked by an asterisks were directly cited in his article. The remainder are arithmetic deductions (e.g., if 10 of 26 doctors who died were vaccinated, then 26 – 10 = 16 were not vaccinated.)

Vaccinated (90%)*Not vaccinated (10%)Total (100%)
[A] Died from Covid-1910*1626*
Didn’t die from Covid-19159,99017,762177,752
[B] Total160,000*17,778177,778
Mortality rate [A/B]0.0063%0.0900%0.0146%

At less than one two-hundredths of one percent, the Covid-19 mortality rate among Indonesian physicians is vanishingly small. It’s questionable that a Covid-19 mortality rate this miniscule merits an article in a major US newspaper. Lenin’s imagery of journalists “straining every nerve” is highly relevant here.

The mortality rate is much smaller among vaccinated than unvaccinated doctors. In fact, doctors who were vaccinated with CoronaVac were more than fourteen times less likely to die from Covid-19 compared to unvaccinated physicians. This translates into an efficacy rate of 93 percent, using a formula analogous to the one used to calculate vaccine efficacy (see the note at the end).

Emont blundered by restricting his analysis to doctors who died, rather than comparing the mortality rate of unvaccinated physicians to those who received the vaccine. Because the vast majority of Indonesian doctors are vaccinated, most Covid-19 deaths are going to happen in this group owing to its preponderant size.

Emont’s error is tantamount to arguing that most people who die in traffic accidents were wearing seatbelts, therefore seatbelts are ineffective. Since most people wear seatbelts, it’s likely that most traffic deaths will happen among this majority group. To know how effective seat belts are, traffic accident fatality rates must be compared between two groups: those who wear seat belts and those who don’t. When the analysis is done properly, the conclusion is that seatbelts are effective.

Likewise, to examine the efficacy of a vaccine, those who are vaccinated must be compared with those who aren’t. When the analysis is done this way, it appears that Sinovac’s vaccine has worked well.

It’s possible that Emont is numerically and logically inept, and that he made an honest error, but then we would have to conclude that his editors are equally inept, also a possibility. However, just as some stories are too good to check, so too is some stupidity too good to correct. I have had opportunity on countless occasions to see research of low quality receive unqualified praise when it corroborated a desired political position, while research of high quality was torn apart that challenged the same stance.

It’s possible that Emont’s blunder was overlooked because it said what the Wall Street Journal’s editors and owners, the US government, Wall Street money-bags, and not least, those with investments in Western vaccines, wanted to hear. Or it could have been a crafty construction of a defamatory anti-Chinese message. Whatever the case—stupidity allowed by a system of propaganda to evade all checks, or a deception deliberately constructed to fit such a system—Sinovac’s vaccine appears to have been effective in protecting Indonesian doctors from Covid-19 mortality.   

Blunders of this sort, along with shoddy reporting on the Uyghurs and alleged coerced labor in Xinjiang, all of which rely on patently biased sources, along with the resurrection of a conspiracy theory about a lab leak that is manifestly inspired by the political goal of diverting attention from Washington’s abject pandemic failures, can’t help but recall Lenin’s imagery of journalists crawling on their bellies before the government and the money-bags, straining every nerve to rouse the hatred of the people against China.

Notes

1 The formula used to calculate the efficacy of CoronaVac in reducing Covid-19 mortality among Indonesian doctors is:

Efficacy = (mru – mrv) / mru X 100%

where

mru is the mortality rate among the unvaccinated

mrv is the mortality rate among the vaccinated

2 My analysis of CoronaVac’s efficacy in reducing mortality among Indonesian doctors departs from a proper analysis, which would require random assignment of doctors to vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups. Assuming this didn’t happen, the Indonesian doctors who weren’t vaccinated may be different in important ways from those who were–in ways that make them more or less likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or die from the disease. It cannot, therefore, be concluded from my analysis that CoronaVac is highly effective, but the analysis strongly challenges Emont’s reporting and is far more supportive of the idea that CoronaVac works well in reducing Covid-19 mortality than doesn’t.

Why Washington Rejects a Liberal Democratic Solution to the Problem of Palestine

Freedom does not consist in the dream of independence of natural law, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, 1877.

June 26, 2021

Stephen Gowans

The United States dominates the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is a fairly uncontroversial statement. What’s less uncontroversial is the reason why.

US domination of West Asia is often understood to be related to Washington’s need to secure its energy supplies, but the United States has always been one of the world’s top producers of oil and natural gas, and often the top producer, which has allowed the country to be either energy self-sufficient, or close to it, and when it hasn’t been self-sufficient, it has relied on energy imports from Canada and Mexico to top up its energy supply more than it has relied on West Asia. The idea, then, that the United States needs access to Arab oil to satisfy its energy requirements is a myth.

The US domination of the Arab world has always been an outcome, not of a quest for energy security, but for oil profits, and for the geostrategic advantage that comes with control of a source of oil on which many other countries depend.

China, Germany, and Japan, the United States’ top economic competitors, depend on oil from the Arab and Muslim worlds. By controlling this region and the maritime shipping and pipeline routes through which the region’s oil  travels to its markets in Europe and East Asia, Washington gains enormous leverage over its economic rivals. If any of these countries steps too far out of line, Washington can close the spigot. The dictum of Henry Kissinger, a former US secretary of state and national security advisor, was: Control oil and you control nations.

Expansionary Compulsion

It is the nature of profit-making enterprises that they incessantly look for new business opportunities, to enter new markets and sell more goods and services—in short, to generate more profit. They look to their governments for aid in securing and protecting these opportunities, both at home and abroad. Because business people as a class have enormous sway over governments, the aid is routinely given.

Capitalist expansion often leads to conflict among governments acting on behalf of their profit-driven, perpetually expansion-seeking, business class.

The first is the conflict between competing states to secure profit-making opportunities for their own business people and, if they can, to deny the same opportunities to the business people of other nations.

Conflict among countries for profit-making opportunities led to the First and Second World Wars, but since the end of WWII, and the rise of the United States as an informal world empire, conflict of this sort has been contained.  Washington has absorbed its rivals into an economic order that regulates conflict among rival capitalisms according to rules the United States has established. The rules ultimately serve US interests. The Pentagon acts as the ultima ratio regnum of the “rules-based” system.

However, the conflict is regulated only so far as rivals remain within the system. When they step outside its bounds, the conflict becomes less restrained. This can be seen today in the rivalry between the United States, the system’s architect and superintendent, and China, which has reached a point in its economic development where the constraints of the system have become fetters on its further development. While Washington attributes its hostility to China to the East Asian giant’s “autocracy”, the origins of its animus lie, in point of fact, in the threat Chinese enterprises pose to the ability of US firms to dominate the industries of tomorrow: among them 5G, artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing.  

As The Wall Street Journal observed:

“President Biden portrays U.S. relations with China as a clash of values: democracy vs. autocracy. But his …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.” 

The second kind of conflict arises when people who live on the territories in which profit making opportunities are present, say they want to set the terms of access to their labor, markets, and resources, or monopolize access, locking out or restricting foreign investment and trade.

Conflicts of this ilk have arisen, for example, when an oil industry, owned by foreign firms, has been nationalized, and the foreign firms’ government objects and takes measures to reverse the nationalization. This was done in Iran in the 1950s, by the United States and Britain, which organized a coup d’état against the elected government, in order to recover British oil assets. Also, in the 1950s, Britain and France sought to recover the Suez Canal, which had been nationalized by the Arab nationalist government of Egypt under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, by arranging for Israel to attack its neighbor.

Israel was envisaged by the secular Jews who undertook the project of building a Jewish state, that it would be a state that acted as an instrument of a sponsoring great power (or powers), which would be used to quell the resistance of Arabs to assaults on their sovereignty. Israel’s role would be to overcome the Arabs’ resistance to Western domination and the plunder of their markets, labor, and resources—a domination that would eventually be related to achieving the principal US aim of controlling Arab oil.

Arab oil was seen, in the words of a US State Department official, as a stupendous economic and strategic prize. It was regarded as an economic prize, because a lot of money could be made selling it. And it was viewed as a strategic prize, because whoever controlled it, effectively controlled the countries that were dependent on it.

Political Zionism as a Tool of Empire

Theodore Herzl, an Austrian journalist, pioneered political Zionism, the movement to enlist the help of a European power to build a Jewish state in Palestine. In return, Herzl proposed the Jewish state would look after the interests of its sponsor in the Arab world. Israel’s attack on Egypt in an effort to recover the Suez Canal for Britain and France, was precisely the kind of role Herzl envisaged for the Jewish state.

Acting as the West’s lieutenant in the Arab world would mean that, if the Arabs should seek to use their resources for their own development, on their own terms, that the Jewish state would see to it that they acquiesced to the use of their resources for the enrichment of investors represented by the Jewish state’s sponsors. The Zionist Jews would rent themselves out as an army to whichever European colonial power would back them, and the army would act as the guarantor of the colonial power’s economic interests against the interests of the Arabs.

Herzl said the Jewish state would be a “link in Europe’s rampart against Asia,” and “an outpost of civilization against barbarism” (barbarism being his word for the Arab world.) In this tradition, Moshe Dayan, who held several key posts in the Israeli government is reputed to have said that the “Jewish people has a mission, especially its Israeli branch. In this part of the world, it has to be a rock, an extension of the West, against which the waves of…Arab nationalism will be broken.”  In this vein, Benjamin Netanyahu—until recently Israel’s prime minister—has written that Israel is the West’s outpost in the Middle East.

Arab nationalist leaders have seen the role of Israel in exactly the same light: as an instrument of the United States against the Arabs. Saddam Hussein called Israel a club the United States uses against the Arab world. Nasser, whose name became an eponym of Arab nationalism, described Israel as a poisoned dagger implanted in the heart of the Arab nation. Leila Khaled, the Palestinian revolutionary, called Israel “America and Europe combined in Palestine”, i.e., the face of the West in the Levant, or as Netanyahu wrote, a Western outpost in the Arab world.

The Empire of Liberty

Since 1967, the United States has been the Jewish settler state’s principal sponsor. It shares with Israel two important characteristics: both are European settler states, and both were founded on the belief that they had a mission from God to evict the natives and take their land.

The United States is also an informal or undeclared empire. Current US practice is to avoid the use of the word “empire” or “imperialist” to refer to the country. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, wrote a book, The Grand Chessboard, in which he drew from a deep well of synonyms for empire to describe the United States, but avoided the E word.

However, concealing the United States’ status as an empire hasn’t always been the norm. Thomas Jefferson referred to the United States as an empire of liberty, with a mission to spread freedom across the world, which turned out to mean, in practice, freedom for US business people to dominate the world’s profit-making opportunities wherever they existed—or for US investors to freely take whatever they wanted, aided by US soft and hard power. In the early twentieth century, US presidents openly and accurately referred to the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Hawaii, as US colonies. That’s what they were, and some of these euphemistically named “territories” remain US colonies to this day.

From the moment of its birth, the empire of liberty continually pushed, if not its territorial frontiers, then its military and economic frontiers, outward, guided by various doctrines of empire: Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine, the Atlantic Charter, the Eisenhower Doctrine, the Carter Doctrine, and so on.

Always, US expansion was driven by an economic imperative: a quest, or a need, for: new land (for plantations to be worked by slaves and for the settlement of European immigrants); new markets; new investment opportunities; and territory that had strategic value, places like Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines, that could be used to park a few battleships, to be used in the service of gunboat diplomacy to coerce other countries into opening their markets. The need was to keep US capitalism going, for without new markets, without new investment opportunities, and without access to vital raw materials that could only be obtained overseas, the US economy would sputter, stagnate, and contract. Magnates would lose their fortunes, and the lash of poverty and unemployment would turn the minds of common people to socialism and revolution, i.e., to political and economic arrangements that did’t depend on incessant expansion, with its inevitable foreign conflicts and concomitant possibility of war, to deliver a materially secure existence.

But incessant expansion means resistance. In the decades leading to WWII it meant the resistance of other expanding powers (Germany and Japan), driven by the same needs.  And it also meant the resistance of local forces of independence (such as the Arab nationalist governments in Syria and Iraq, and in the 1950s and 1960s, Egypt)—local forces seeking to use their markets, resources, and investment opportunities on their own terms, for their own development.

Israel has proved helpful to the US project of overcoming the Arab nationalists. Equipped with a US-supplied armamentarium of the world’s most advanced weapons, the Jewish settler state has crushed the Arab nationalists, intimidated them, and weakened their ability to resist. The targets have included the Arabs inspired by the Arab nationalism of Nasser, the Syrians and Iraqis inspired by the Ba’ath Arab Socialist party, and, in the larger Muslim world, the resistance project of the Iranian Revolution and Hezbollah. Had these movements been allowed to pursue their nationalist agendas unopposed, corporate America’s ability to extract wealth from the Arab and Muslim worlds would have been severely compromised.

Overlapping Interests

The interests of Israel largely overlap those of the US state and this makes Israel an effective instrument of US empire. The two states, Israel and the USA, share a common enemy: the peoples of the Arab and Muslim worlds. These peoples oppose Washington, because it imposes its will on them, sometimes directly but typically indirectly, through satraps who govern at the pleasure of Washington (such as the Saud family in Arabia, other Arab monarchies, and Egypt’s military dictator); and they oppose Israel, because it has evicted Palestinians from their homes and from the Palestinians’ country, and is an ongoing threat of further expansion into Arab territory. 

If the United States did not need Israel as a tool of its empire, Israel would soon meet its demise. It is a very small country, its Jewish population comprises only seven million, and it is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs who disapprove of the existence of a racist Jewish settler state implanted on stolen Arab land. Without Washington providing Israel with the means to defend itself, the Zionist state would be toppled by the internal revolt of the Arabs and the invasion of Arab and Muslim nationalist armies and movements.

How does Washington guarantee the survival of a small Jewish settler state amidst a much larger population of injured, dispossessed, aggrieved, aggressed upon, Arabs and Muslims?

First, US legislation compels Washington to provide Israel with a qualitative military edge over its neighbors. The QME policy ensures that, militarily, Israel will always be at least one qualitative step ahead of its neighbors. The Jewish settler state won’t necessarily have more weapons, but it will have superior ones.

Superior weaponry has long been the means by which the Western world and its outposts, comprising one-tenth of humanity, has dominated the remaining nine-tenths. As Hilaire Beloc rhymed:  “Whatever happens, we have got, the Maxim gun, and they have not.” Today, an Israeli might say: “Whatever happens, we have got, the F-35, and they have not.” Or: “Whatever happens, we have got, the atom bomb, and they have not.”

Second, the United States provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid annually, about equivalent to the cost of operating a carrier strike group. This aid travels from the pockets of US taxpayers to the US Treasury, onward to US arms manufacturers, and thence to Israel in the form of weapons superior to those of the Jewish settler state’s neighbors.

In this relationship, there are two winners and two losers. The winners are the dividend collectors, bond holders, and stock market gamblers who have a pecuniary interest in the US arms industry and whose wealth is expanded by arms shipments to Israel. The second winner is the class of Jewish settlers in Palestine who are made more secure and better able to continue their expansion into Arab land. The losers are, first, US residents, whose pockets are picked to confer this largesse on both the US arms industry and Israel; and second, the Arabs whose land, livelihoods, future, and lives are thereby threatened. The immediate cause of the injuries Israel inflicts on the Arab and Muslim worlds is the Jewish settler state itself, but the ultimate cause is the US taxpayer, for without the support they provide Israel by paying for its qualitative military edge, Israel would not exist as a poisoned dagger aimed at the heart of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Third, Washington runs diplomatic interference for Israel, protecting it from attempts by other members of the Security Council to issue punitive resolutions in connection with Israel’s violations of international law, of which there are many. The losers are international law and the Arabs. The winners are Israel, which can act as it will with impunity, as well as the United States, which benefits from the services Israel provides within a framework unfettered by the constraints of international norms.

And finally, the Pentagon is prepared  to intervene on Israel’s behalf on the slim chance that despite Israel being equipped with superior weaponry, that Israeli forces face a threat they cannot readily deter. 

Israel is thus completely dependent on the good will of the United States for survival. This comports perfectly with US aims. As a dependency of the United States, Israel must do Washington’s bidding, or perish.

As The New York Times observed:

“Israel, a small country surrounded by adversaries and locked in conflict with the Palestinians, depends absolutely on American diplomatic and military support. By giving it, the United States safeguards Israel and wields significant leverage over its actions.”

Services to the Empire

What services are provided to the United States by Israel in return for the quid-pro-quo of US protection?

Israel has for years waged an undeclared war on Iran, the principal enemy of the US empire in the Muslim world. The New York Times calls the campaign a years-long shadow war on land, air and sea. It involves assassination, sabotage, cyberattacks, attacks on Iranian shipping, and air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria.

In Arab nationalist Syria, Israel has armed and supported anti-Syrian al-Qaeda elements that operated in the south of the country; provided air cover for ISIS’s war on the Syrian government; and conducted countless airstrikes on Syrian targets and those of Syria’s Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

In 2007, Israel deployed warplanes to destroy a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. The reactor was very likely intended to produce fissile material for a military nuclear program. The Israeli action was a reprise of the country’s earlier bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. Had Israel not acted, and had these Arab nationalist states succeeded in developing nuclear deterrents against US and Israeli aggression, the Arab world would look very different today. The United States would not have invaded Iraq in 2003, and it would not have marched into Syria to set up an indefinite (and little recognized) occupation of one-third of the country.  

Today there are, in Syria, three foreign occupations: A US occupation, which relies on the Kurds as the tip of the US spear; a Turk occupation; and an Israeli occupation. The Israeli occupation covers two-thirds of Syria’s smallest province. The Israelis conquered this territory in 1967, ethnically cleansed it, built Jewish settlements on it, and gave it a Jewish name: Golan. The conquest, ethnic cleansing, settlement, and imposition of a Jewish name on a part of Syrian territory, perfectly recapitulates Zionist practice in Palestine: Conquer territory by force; ethnically cleanse it; implant Jewish settlements on it; and rename it (from Palestine to Israel).

These actions are just the tip of the iceberg. For decades, Israel has either intimidated Arab nationalists into submission or inaction, or has weakened their ability to resist US domination. In return, the United States has appeared to overlook the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians and Syrians; in reality, it has welcomed it.

 To be sure, the Israeli Judaization project does not benefit Washington directly, but it does aid the US imperial project by firmly binding Israel to the United States as a protégé. Israeli encroachments on Arab interests spark Arab enmity. This in turn induces Israel to look to the United States for protection, which Washington is happy to provide, in return for Israel performing services in the Arab world and beyond that benefit the United States directly, such as eliminating Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear weapons programs. The process is self-reinforcing: The services Israel provides to Washington against Arab interests strengthen Arab animosity; growing Arab animosity strengthens Israel’s need for US protection; Israel’s growing need for US protection, strengthens its willingness to ingratiate itself with Washington by doing the empire’s bidding.  

The Anti-Racism Solution

We’ve got to face the fact  that some people say you fight fire with fire. But we say you fight fire best with water. We say you can’t fight racism with racism. We’re going to fight racism with solidarity. – Fred Hampton

There is a solution to the problem of Palestine, that is, the problem of Jewish settlers claiming a right to the territory of the natives, and a right to evict them and to prevent their repatriation, in order to create a Jewish majority state as a haven for the world’s Jews against anti-Jewish racism. Indeed, the problem of Palestine is not the problem of Palestine at all, but the problem of political Zionism, and in a larger context, the problem of racism.

The problem of political Zionism is that its proposed solution to anti-Jewish racism is the practice of anti-Arab racism. Political Zionism is a hierarchical doctrine which elevates Jews to a position of primacy relative to all other groups, with the exception of its US sponsor; vis-à-vis the United States, political Zionism accepts a servile position for Jews. In practice, political Zionism prioritizes the welfare of the Jews over the welfare of the Arabs, while at the same time subordinating Jews to the foreign policy dictates of the United States. Political Zionism says that in defense of Jewish welfare, the welfare of Arabs can be sacrificed, but in defense of Jewish welfare, Jews must do the bidding of their American master as an expedient of maintaining US protection against Arab efforts to overcome the injuries of anti-Arab racism.

The solution to the problem of Palestine qua the problem of political Zionism is the solution to the problem of racism, both anti-Jewish and anti-Arab. The solution, which has existed at least in embryo since the French Revolution, is the solution of universal equality.

It 1947, before the UN promulgated its infamous  resolution to expropriate Palestine from its rightful owners and partition it into Jewish and Arab states, R. Palme Dutt proposed a solution to the problem of racism in Palestine based on universal equality. Dutt called for “the creation of a single, free, independent and democratic state, which would guarantee equal rights of citizenship with full religious freedom and full opportunities to develop their culture to all its inhabitants, Arab and Jew.” This would be one democratic state, not two national states. While the proposal, or those like it, are occasionally acknowledged in the Western world as an idea with growing currency among Palestinians, and some Jews, it is rarely explored.

Gregory Shupak, who teaches media studies at the University of Guelph, has observed that mass media “coverage is written as though ethnic partition in Palestine [the two national states “solution”] were the only way to resolve the conflict—rejecting without consideration the possibility of a single, secular, democratic state, in which all people, Jews and Arabs, have the same rights.”

Why doesn’t Washington favor a single, unitary, democratic state in all of Palestine? After all, such a state would be liberal democratic. And Washington claims to be the world’s foremost champion of liberal democracy. Indeed, Joe Biden is said to be rallying the world’s democracies against Chinese authoritarianism in an effort to strengthen a global liberal democratic order.

The answer is that Washington’s support for liberal democracy is contingent—it’s contingent on whether, at a particular time and place, liberal democracy suits US interests. Liberal democracy doesn’t suit US interests in Palestine.

A racist Jewish settler state, which by its nature must arouse the animosity of the Arab world, and which therefore makes that state dependent on the United States for protection from Arab indignation, and which consequently must do the bidding of the United States as a condition of its survival, is what suits US business interests. An Israel organized to engender the hostility of the Arab and Muslim worlds, guarantees the settler state will act as an instrument of Washington to overcome the region’s resistance to its plunder by corporate America, since, if Israel doesn’t accept this role, Washington will withdraw its support and Israel’s existence will soon come to an end.

On the other hand, a unitary, democratic, state of Arabs and Jews, with equal rights for all, is one that would be more acceptable to its Arab citizens and its Arab neighbors than the current anti-Arab racist Zionist state, and therefore would no longer require the protection of Washington for survival. As a consequence, Washington would lose its leverage over the state as the guarantor of its existence, and could no longer use the state as a battering ram against the Arabs, a poisoned dagger aimed at the heart of the Arab nation, or a rock against which the waves of Arab nationalism are to be broken.

Another reason Washington favors a racist Jewish settler state, is that it facilitates the US project of doing what Zbigniew Brzezinski called preventing the barbarians from coming together.

In the US view, the barbarians are the people who live on territory whose abundant profit-making opportunities Washington covets. The territory stretching from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf—the area in which Arabs predominate—contains a significant proportion of the world’s petroleum reserves. Were the inhabitants of this territory to come together as a single political unit, determined to use their resources and markets for their own benefit and for their own economic, scientific, and military development, they would significantly challenge US political and economic power and deny US investors substantial profit-making opportunities. Hence, an imperative of US foreign policy is to disrupt the potential for unity in this region, and to do all that is possible to aggravate its demographic fault lines.  Accordingly, the United States promotes one ethnic group against another: the Kurds in Iraq and Syria against the Arabs; the Maronite Christians against the Muslims; and the Jews against the Muslim and Christian Arabs.

When Washington wrote Iraq’s post-conquest 2005 constitution, it politicized ethnic and religious divisions within the country, to prevent Iraqis from congealing into a coherent collectivity, in accordance with Brzezinski’s (and imperialists’ longstanding) divide and rule strategy. That is the precise opposite of what the previous Arab nationalist government of Saddam Hussein did. The Iraqi president tried to mute the ethnic and religious divisions within his country, to make them irrelevant to Iraq’s politics, so that for the purposes of politics people regarded themselves as Iraqis, not as Shiites or Sunnis, Arabs or Kurds.

However, Washington doesn’t always create demographic fault lines. Sometimes the barbarians create the fault lines themselves, and Washington simply works with the material it finds.

For example, Arab nationalism has a strength vis-à-vis imperialism in bringing large numbers of people together in a common anti-imperialist struggle on the basis of their Arab identity, but it also has a weakness—it leaves non-Arabs, such as Kurds, outside the struggle. The excluded become opportunities for imperialists; they can be turned against the majority, to act as US agents in return for various Washington-provided benefits. In the case of the Jews and Kurds, these benefits have included US backing for their political autonomy vis-à-vis the Arabs.

Once recruited as an ally, the ethnic minority’s role as US lieutenant is to pull the trigger of the US-supplied gun whenever Washington gives the order. As the immediate perpetrator of the injury to the majority, the ethnic minority absorbs the blame, while the puppeteer behind the curtain escapes culpability. In this way, Washington has been able to deceptively present itself as a neutral arbiter of a conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, when in fact it is the principal instigator.

Another way Washington has contributed to disunity among the “barbarians” is to promote highly sectarian brands of political Islam. Since the early 1950s, acting both directly and through its proxies, especially Saudi Arabia, Washington has promoted sectarian political Islam as an alternative to secular Arab nationalism and atheistic communism. Both doctrines emphasize the unity of Arabs against outside domination, and therefore work against Brzezinski’s dictum of preventing the “barbarians” from coming together. Communism, however, goes one step further than Arab or Muslim nationalism, promoting the unity of all oppressed peoples, including those within Arab-majority countries who aren’t Arab, and those within Muslim-majority countries who aren’t Muslim.   

Political Islam can also be a doctrine of unity. The political Islam of the Iranian revolution, for example,  encourages Muslims to unite against foreign oppression across sectarian lines. But Washington has always promoted a sectarian brand of Sunni political Islam, in which fanatical Sunni fundamentalists seek to settle theological scores with Muslims they abominate as heretics. This explains why the United States is antagonistic to the political Islam of Iran, with its emphasis on Muslim unity, but covertly encourages all forms of political Islam which regard other interpretations of Islam (as well as secular Arab nationalists and communists) as enemies to be destroyed.  

Unfortunately, political Islam, in either its sectarian or non-sectarian forms, is a barrier to any solution to the problem of Palestine which seeks to bring Jews and Arabs together in a secular, unitary, democratic state as equals. Political Islam’s solution to the problem of the eviction of Muslims by Jews from Palestine, is not the repatriation of the Muslims, and the assignment of equal rights to all people, but the repatriation of Muslims combined with either the eviction of the Jews or their relegation to a second class citizenship in a state in which Islam has primacy. 

Washington has no real objection to political Islamists who, viewing themselves as modern-day Salah al-Dines, want to recover Palestine for Islam. The more political Islam presents the Israelis with a future that denies them a place in Palestine as equal citizens, the stronger the Israeli attachment to the United States as a protector against what is, from their perspective, an intolerable future. If Jews are to leave the political Zionist highway, they must have an exit ramp to a secure future. Political Islam offers no exit ramp.  

Arab nationalism also stands as a barrier, so far as it defines Palestine as an Arab country. An Arab Palestine as a national state for Arabs, would be no less an apartheid state against Jews than a Jewish Palestine as a national state for Jews is an apartheid state against Arabs. Washington can have no real objection to Arab nationalists who want an Arab Palestine, for the same reason it can have no real objection to political Islamists who want a Muslim Palestine. Exclude Jews from a fair and just political settlement, and you guarantee that they will continue to identify with the United States as their protector and the surrounding population as their enemy—all to Washington’s benefit.

What is needed is a state of all its citizens.    

A Just Solution

Returning to Dutt’s 1947 analysis, the British communist argued that the United States and Britain were using political Zionism in pursuit of a policy of divide and rule; that they were deliberately setting Jews against Arabs.

Dutt wrote:

“We warn all Jewish people that Zionism, which seeks to make Palestine a Jewish state as an ally of the United States and Britain and their base in the Middle East, diverts Jewish people from the real solution of the problem of anti-Semitism, which is along the lines of democratic development and full equality of rights within the countries in which they live. It is in the interests of Jews to oppose the Zionist conception which seeks to put them in the position of being an instrument of great powers in the Middle East.”

In Dutt’s view, Jews should unite with Arabs, in a unitary, secular, democratic state, a state for all its people, rather than what it is today: a state that elevates one ethnoreligious group above another, and whose existence depends on its acting on behalf of Washington to serve up the territory of the “barbarians” as a field of lucrative business opportunities for US dividend collectors, coupon clippers, and stock market gamblers.  Instead, Palestine must be an end in itself, not a means to religious ends (whether Muslim or Jewish), nor a means to ethnic ends (whether Arab or Hebrew), nor a means to Wall Street’s ends, but a state in which all its citizens, individually, are ends in themselves.

Stephen Gowans is the author of Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform (Baraka Books, 2019).

A Brief History of Two Koreas

How an American Korea and a Korean Korea came to blows over the same territory on this day 71 years ago

June 25, 2021

By Stephen Gowans

Korea, as a nation, has existed within the same space for over a thousand years, but it is only since 1948 that it has been divided into two states, and the division is the consequence of a US decision taken in pursuit of US geopolitical aims, without the slightest regard for the wishes or aspirations of Koreans, who didn’t want their country divided politically.

Had the United States not intervened in Korea at the end of the Second World War, historians agree that the nation would have emerged from the war, and from its years of colonization by the Japanese, with a politics that favored communism, or at the very least, favored a very robust leftist agenda, because that’s what Koreans, in the majority, wanted.

Koreans were, in the main, peasants, who were exploited by a tiny landlord class. And they lived in a country that was oppressed by the Japanese. They would naturally be inclined toward communist politics, since communist politics aimed at overcoming exploitation at all levels, including the levels of class and nation.

Today there are two states on the Korean peninsula, the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, the creation of the United States, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, the creation of Koreans, and the successor to the People’s Republic of Korea, the state Koreans proclaimed for themselves at the end of WWII, before the United States arrived on the peninsula, and refused to recognize it.

These two states—one an American Korea, the other a Korean Korea—each claim to be the sole legitimate state in the country.

Kim Il Sung, who was the first leader of North Korea, worried that the division of Korea into US and Soviet occupation zones, which was done at the end of the Second World War to accept the Japanese surrender, would inevitably lead to the division of Korea into two states—one of patriots, and one of traitors.

The patriots, in Kim’s view, would be the Koreans who fought the Japanese colonization of Korea, and aspired to an independent Korea. The traitors would be the Koreans who collaborated with the Japanese, who, Kim believed (correctly it turns out), would also collaborate with the Americans. Kim recognized that the United States was an imperialist power that would seek to dominate Korea, as Japan had done, and would recruit collaborators to assist it, also as Japan had done.

Coveted by Great Powers

Koreans have had the great misfortune of inhabiting territory that has been either coveted by powerful states or dominated by them. China (which Korea borders), Russia (which Korea borders), Japan (which lies nearby across the Sea of Japan), and the United States (which regards itself as an Asia-Pacific power) have all, at one time or another, sought to make Korea, if not their own, then at least subservient.

Korea was long a tributary of its neighbor China.

After Japan modernized, and fell under a compulsion of its capitalist economy to seek markets for its industrial products, sources of raw materials, investment opportunities, and territory to settle its surplus population, its rapacious gaze fell upon Korea. The Sino-Japanese war was fought over the question of who would control the country: China or Japan. The Japanese won the war and therefore won Korea.

Russia was also interested in Korea. Japan and Russia fought the Russo-Japanese War over control of Korea (and Manchuria), a war the Russians lost, to the great consternation of the West, for this was the first time a Western power had been defeated by an Eastern one.

Finally, the United States fought Japan over control of all of East Asia, and when it defeated Japan in 1945 with the help of Britain and the Soviet Union, its intention was to supersede Japan as the hegemonic power in the region. Its goal was to make all of East Asia an American neo-colony.

Japanese Colony

Japan formally colonized Korea in 1910 and remained the colonial power for the next thirty-five years.

These were very harsh years for Koreans.

Korean culture was outlawed. All Korean political organizations were disbanded. Korean newspapers and public gatherings were prohibited. The education system was Japanized. Koreans were forced to speak Japanese, take Japanese names, and worship at Shinto shrines, even though Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan, was foreign to Korea.

Koreans were coerced into service as conscripted laborers, sent to every corner of the empire to satisfy the requirements of Japan’s military and economic expansion. At the close of World War II, one third of industrial workers in Japan were Koreans.

At the same time, Korea was transformed into a Japanese granary. Agriculture was steered away from Korean needs to Japanese needs. The Japanese ate more Korean rice per capita than the Koreans did.

Korea, thus, became a means to Japanese ends, a country that existed to serve Japan, not itself.

Inspired by the Soviet Union and Communism

Koreans found themselves in a dual debased condition. Most were peasants, exploited by landlords. And they lived in a country oppressed by a foreign power. Such a people couldn’t help but be inspired by a Soviet Union that called for an end to the exploitation of man by man, and an end to the division of the world into oppressor and oppressed nations.

Moreover, the Soviet Union was not only calling for an end to these debased conditions, it was showing how they could be overcome. For example, the Bolsheviks had given land to the peasants and ended the rule of the landlords, something that would certainly appeal to Korean peasants who toiled under the oppression of Korean landlords. They also successfully repelled a dozen capitalist powers that tried to bring Russia under their control in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Later, the USSR emerged victorious from the greatest colonial war ever waged, that of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, impelled by the German imperialist aim of enslaving the peoples of Eastern Europe. Germany said its war for lebensraum would create its own American West or its own East Indies in Eastern Europe. The Soviet victory in repelling the attempted colonization of Eastern Europe was an inspiration to colonized people everywhere, Koreans included.

What’s more, communists were at the forefront of the struggle against Japanese colonialism. Kim Il Sung and Mao Tse Tung were major figures in the resistance.

Finally, the Soviet economy offered oppressed people a model of how to modernize and industrialize.

Washington’s Interest in Korea

The United States had the same interests in East Asia as Japan had—to exploit the region as a market, source of raw materials, and sphere for investment. 

Koreans hated the United States because they saw the country quite correctly as another imperialist power, no different from Japan. Washington had blessed Japan’s colonization of Korea in return for Tokyo blessing the United States’ colonization of the Philippines.

Thus, in the view of Koreans, these two countries were robbers, seeking to divide up East Asia between themselves.

Kim Il Sung made fun of Syngman Rhee, the anti-communist Washington picked as the first president of South Korea, because Rhee had spent over four decades in the United States lobbying Washington to free Korea from Japanese rule. Kim said this was like asking a robber who waits outside your house to help you evict the robber already inside your house.

Koreans, with the exception of people like Rhee, had no illusions about what the United States was, namely, a predator, waiting outside their door to rob them once the Japanese were evicted.

The US-Orchestrated Political Division of Korea

The United States created the Republic of Korea in 1948, over the objection of most Koreans, who saw the American project of establishing a state in the US occupation zone as an attempt to create a permanent political division of their country. Few Koreans wanted this. What they wanted was a unified, independent, communist Korea.

But the only way Washington could prevent Korea from becoming a communist state, or at the very least, a country with a robust leftist agenda and preference for political independence, was to artificially implant an anti-communist Gestapo-like police state in the US occupation zone to crush the political aspirations of Koreans who favored a unified communist country.

As mentioned, to accept the Japanese surrender, the peninsula had been divided at the end of WWII into two occupation zones, an American one, and a Soviet one. By agreement, the occupations and division were to last no longer than five years. Before the end of this period, elections were to be held for a pan-Korean government and the occupying armies were to leave. (The Soviets departed at the end of 1948. The Americans stayed and have never left.)

It was clear to Washington, that the election would be won by anti-imperialist, pro-communist forces, who would oppose a continued US presence on the Korean peninsula. Washington, then, had a choice. Lose all of the peninsula or keep the half it controlled. It chose to keep the half it controlled. To retain its influence in Korea, the United States created a puppet state in its own occupation zone. And then it boldly claimed that the state it created was the sole legitimate state in Korea, representing all Koreans.

The only possible response to this attempt to preempt the creation of an independent, unified Korea, was for Koreans who held out the hope of a Korean Korea to create their own state, as the sole legitimate state in the country.

That was why the DPRK was founded. It was also how the division of Korea between an American Korea and a Korean Korea came about.

The Patriot

Bruce Cumings, the leading US historian of Korea, recounted in his book, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History, that when “the leading scholar of Korean communism, Dae-sook Suh, was finally allowed to explain the real story to a large audience of young people in Seoul in 1989, upon hearing that Kim Il-sung was in fact a hero of the resistance, they all burst into applause.”

That, in short, is who Kim Il Sung was – a hero of the anti-Japanese resistance. Kim was so important as a guerilla leader that the Japanese established a special Kim unit to hunt him down, and they staffed it with Korean traitors who would later be recruited by the Americans to play leading roles in the South Korean military.

Kim spent 13 years in top positions in the armed struggle against the Japanese, and on the eve of his return to Korea after the Japanese surrender, the major Korean leaders of the resistance agreed that, owing to Kim’s reputation, his charisma, and his abilities, that he should become the principal political leader of a Korean Korea.

He wasn’t selected by the Soviets, but was chosen by his peers in the resistance. Indeed, the Soviets never fully trusted Kim, but within their occupation zone, they allowed Koreans to administer their own affairs independently, and to promote Kim as the leader of a Korean Korea.  

The Korean War

There are many views of what the Korean War was, or is.

One view is that the Korean War began in the early 1930s when Kim Il Sung created his first guerilla unit, and began to fight Korean traitors who collaborated with the Japanese, traitors who would then form the core of the US-created Republic of Korea, while Kim and his colleagues formed the core of the DPRK. According to this view, the Korean War is a war between the traitors of the American Korea and their descendants and the patriots of the Korean Korea and their descendants, and that, so long as these two states independently exist, the war between patriots and traitors, between those who oppose imperialism and those who collaborate with it, between American Korea and Korean Korea, never ends.

Another view is that the Korean War began in 1945, when the United States arrived on the peninsula and went to war with the People’s Republic of Korea, and five years later, with its successor, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A third view is that the war began in 1948, when the United States created a permanent political division in the nation by setting up an American Korea in the form of an anti-communist, Gestapo-like police state, staffed at the highest level of its military with pro-Japanese traitors, over the objections of the majority of Koreans. This presented Koreans with no choice, if they were to have a Korea that met their preferences, but to go to war to liberate their country.

This view, as the preceding one, sees the Korean War as a war of the United States on Koreans, whereas the first view sees the Korean War as a civil war, between those who fought against imperialism and those who collaborated with it.

The conventional view of the war is that it began on June 25, 1950 when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, and immediately drove the South Korean army deep into the south. The United States soon after intervened, driving the North Korean forces out of the south, and deep into the north, up to the Yalu River, which divides Korea and China. At that point, China intervened, and China and North Korea drove US forces back across the 38th parallel where the war bogged down for the next two years. The war ended in an armistice in 1953 and a peace treaty has never been signed.

What most Americans don’t know about the war is that there was no moral or legal basis for US intervention.

There was no moral basis because American Korea was unacceptable to most Koreans. Because the collaborator government had little popular support, its army immediately collapsed. North Korea would have quickly won the war, millions of lives would have been saved, Koreans would have achieved the communism they desired, and an independent, unified, Korea would have been born, had the United States not intervened.

Fundamentally, the war was a civil war between Korean Koreans and American Koreans, a quarrel over how to organize the social, political and economic life of the nation. At the heart of the quarrel was the question of equality. Are nations equal, or are some nations destined to lead others, and to have rights and privileges senior to others?  Should exploitation be prohibited or welcomed? Should the country be integrated into the US Empire, or independent? And who should form the governing elite—collaborators with the Japanese Empire, or those who waged war against it? These questions were at the heart of the conflict.

Also, there was no legal basis for the US intervention, because there was no aggression across an international border. When North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 they crossed an imaginary line drawn in 1945 by two US colonels to separate US and Soviet occupation armies. This was not an international border separating two countries. It was simply a dividing line that came to separate two Korean armies. Koreans cannot invade Korea. What’s more, North Korea’s military action against territory occupied by a foreign power and its Korean collaborators was not an invasion; it was an attempt at liberation.

The War’s Aftermath

Open hostilities came to an end because the United States threatened a nuclear strike unless the North Koreans and their Chinese allies came to terms with Washington. Because the United States wielded a nuclear sword, it was able to drive a hard bargain, and the North Koreans and Chinese had little choice but to accept many US demands.

The United States left behind tens of thousands of troops and brought tactical nuclear weapons onto the peninsula which weren’t withdrawn until 1991. North Korea believes those weapons remain. At about the same time, the United States retargeted some of its strategic nuclear missiles away from the Soviet Union, which had dissolved at this point, to North Korea. Thus, for decades, the United States has cast a nuclear shadow over the Korean peninsula.   

That’s a key point in any talks about denuclearizing the peninsula. To North Korea, denuclearization means that the nuclear shadow Washington casts over Korea must be lifted. To Washington, denuclearization means North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons but that the US nuclear shadow can remain.

Thesis and Antithesis

From 1961 until 1979, South Korea was ruled by Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who had served in the Imperial Japanese Army, and who had hunted down Korean guerillas liked Kim Il Sung. During this period, Park served as the largely figurehead ruler of an American Korea and Kim Il-Sung ruled in Korean Korea—the traitor versus the patriot.

From 2013 to 2017 Park’s daughter was president of South Korea and Kim Jong Un, Kim Il Sung’s grandson, was leader of North Korea.  As Bruce Cumings has pointed out, the conflict between traitors and patriots carried on in their descendants.

Park nurtured a capital-centered economy, in which South Koreans “had the right to work the longest hours in the industrial world at wages barely able to sustain one’s family,” as Cumings wrote. Kim preferred a people-centered economy, and had introduced an eight-hour work day and social security within months of coming to power.

Park was greatly hemmed in by the influence exercised behind the scenes by the US military commander, US ambassador, and CIA station chief—the decision-makers with ultimate authority in American Korea. Tens of thousands of US troops occupied the domain over which the southern leader’s state ruled. And his military reported, not to him, but to a US general. In the north, there were no foreign troops, and Kim preached a doctrine of self-reliance, which eschewed dependency on foreign powers.

In the south, the top political leader was a traitor to the Korean project of national liberation; in the north, the top political leader was a patriot who had devoted his life to Korea’s liberation.

In the south, the state was part of an empire. In the north, the state rejected empire.

The state of the south was founded by a foreign hegemon. The state of the north was founded by guerrilla leaders who had fought against foreign hegemony.

US Propaganda

US propaganda paints a false picture, not only of the DPRK, but also of the Republic of Korea.

It doesn’t tell you that South Korea is not an organically created Korean state, but a state created by Washington to serve US aims: an American Korea.

It doesn’t tell you that for decades, until the 1990s, South Korea was ruled by a series of vicious anti-communist military dictators, who ran a Gestapo-like police state that locked up communists and leftists, for infractions as mild as having something good to say about the DPRK or reading Marx and Engels.

It doesn’t tell you that there was a massive guerilla war in the south from 1945 to 1950 against the United States and its South Korean puppet, and that American Korea built concentration camps to hold the tens of thousands of Koreans who opposed the US presence in their country.

 It doesn’t tell you that the military of American Korea has always been under the command of US generals.

It doesn’t tell you that 300,000 troops of American Korea fought on the American side in Vietnam in return for injections of economic aid from the United States, making the American Korea a mercenary state, on top of a traitor state.

It doesn’t tell you that the South Korean military has been trained and equipped by the United States to kill communists. It killed communists in the south from 1945 to 1950, communists in the north from 1950 to 1953, and communists in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s. It is being trained by Americans today to kill the communists of a country Washington deems its enemy: China.

And it certainly doesn’t tell you that while Washington has done all it can to ensure that American Korea succeeds economically, it has also done all it can to immiserate Korean Korea.

The Future

North Korea’s manufacture of nuclear arms and ballistic missiles capable of striking US targets effectively forecloses the possibility of a US invasion of North Korea and a US nuclear strike. By using nuclear weapons to substantially enhance its means of self-defense, the DPRK is able to re-allocate resources from its military to its civilian economy, to mitigate the effects of the world’s longest and most comprehensive sanctions regime. No country has been the target of as long and comprehensive a campaign of economic warfare as the DPRK.

Concerning the prospects for a unified Korea, the key question is: Will it be a Korean Korea or an American Korea?

Washington’s favored unification scenario is one in which North Korea follows the East German path of annexation by its neighbor and absorption into the US empire. Since the early 1990s, US officials have expected this scenario to play out. Three decades later, their expectation has proved to be wide of the mark.

A Korean Korea, on the other hand, cannot be born unless the American Koreans evict US troops from the peninsula. Since the collaborators of the South Korean government evince no strong predilection for parting company with their American master—and since the possibility of North Korea unifying the peninsula by force is beyond the DPRK’s capabilities—the possibility of a unified Korean Korea is remote. But it’s the nature of anti-colonial struggles that they’re often long-term projects.

Kim Il Sung recognized that Korea’s fight for freedom might last hundreds of years. He wrote, “India won its independence from England after 200 years of colonial enslavement. The Philippines and Indonesia won their independence after 300 years. Algeria after 130 years. Sri Lanka after 150 years and Vietnam after nearly 100 years.”

It may take 200 years, maybe longer, for Korea to win its struggle, but one day all of Korea will be Korean.

Stephen Gowans is the author of Traitors, Patriots, and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Fight for Freedom, Baraka Books, 2018, available at https://www.barakabooks.com/catalogue/patriots-traitors-and-empires/

.

What does humanity have to look forward to? Not what Canada represents

June 11, 2021

By Stephen Gowans

I wrote this on July 1, 2017. July 1 is Canada Day, Canada’s equivalent of the fourth of July. July 1, 2017 was Canada’s sesquicentennial.

I am reposting it, with some edit, in light of calls, initiated by Idle No More, to cancel this year’s Canada Day.

Idle No More is an organization which “calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty and which protects the land, the water, and the sky.” Equating Canada Day with a celebration of “stolen indigenous land and stolen indigenous lives,” the organization proposes that on July 1 “any individual, group or community who wants to challenge and disrupt Canada’s ongoing colonialism” undertake various actions in support of their call.

The call comes on the heels of the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children at a school in Kamloops, British Columbia, formerly run by the Catholic Church under Canada’s residential school system. The residential school system, which operated from 1831 to 1961, separated aboriginal children from their parents, and sequestered them in schools run by the Catholic Church or Canadian government. The aim was the forcible assimilation of indigenous peoples and the extermination of their cultures. Many children were subjected to abuse, rape, malnutrition, and unsanitary living conditions. Searches are underway at other sites and it is expected that more bodies will be found.

The city of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, has announced it will cancel upcoming Canada Day festivities.

+++

Canada Day is an annual fete to honor the birth of the country. In Ottawa, the capital, Canadians, drunk on patriotism, dress in the red and white of their country’s flag, set baseball caps with CANADA emblazoned across the front atop their heads, clutch mini Canadian flags in their hands, and make their way to the annual spectacle on Parliament Hill, home of the country’s legislative building. The spectacle features massive flags, marching soldiers, and Canadian war planes roaring overhead—the same ones that engaged in foreign bombing missions, including in Libya, where Canadian pilots quipped facetiously but accurately that they were al-Qaeda’s air force.

Canadians have been led to believe by the people who foster mindless patriotism that their country stands for peace, democracy, equality, and freedom. This is eye wash.

Norman Bethune

A Canada that embraced the commitments of Norman Bethune, a talented surgeon who fought fascism in Spain, helped overcome feudalism and foreign tyranny in China, and pioneered the fight for universal healthcare in Canada, might provide a model of a world that humanity could look forward to, in contrast to a Canada that hammers out arms deals with medieval tyrannies, supports a racist settler state in the Levant, and whose military helps enforce the international dictatorship of the USA.

Consider a departure in deed from the country’s self-declared but infrequently adhered to values. The Trudeau government, the latest in a long line of governments committed to facilitating the profit-making of the country’s substantial citizens, no matter what the consequences for peace, democracy, equality, and freedom, forged ahead with a $15 billion arms deal secured by the previous Harper government to sell light armored vehicles to an oil rich medieval monarchy in Arabia. Named after its ruling Saud family, this Arab tyranny abhors peace, democracy, gender equality, and religious freedom, wages an illegal, unprovoked, war on Yemen, and was one of the main arms supplier to al-Qaeda and its allies in Syria—the sectarian militants who carried out terrorist attacks which, on the occasions they spilled over into Europe, provoked great outcries of indignation in Ottawa, but when they occurred on an almost daily basis in Syria, were met by silence by Canada’s leaders.

Add to this the deplorable realities that the tyranny’s retrograde and hate-filled version of Islam was the ideological inspiration for al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and that, difficult as it is to credit, the kingdom’s male despots refuse to allow women to exercise much autonomy at all, and you would think that a country that prides itself as standing for peace, democracy, equality, religious tolerance, and all that is virtuous, would regard its client as so noxious as to steer a wide berth around any business transactions with it.

Diderot once remarked that humanity would never be free until the last monarch was strangled with the entrails of the last cleric, which may sound anachronistic, considering that Europe was delivered from the oppressions of aristocracy at the end of World War I, or soon after. But the vile institution persists in the Arab world, concentrated among Canada’s principal Arab allies, and Diderot’s words hardly seem anachronistic or harsh to anyone who still has to bear monarchy’s oppressive weight. How could ostensibly democracy-loving Canada be so committed to such vigorously anti-democratic allies?

Ottawa hammered out a deal with six Arab Gulf monarchies, including the aforesaid Saudi tyranny, “that spells out how Canada might deepen its relationship with these countries in coming years,” reports the Globe and Mail’s Steve Chase. To repeat: Ottawa plans to deepen its relationship with these vampires, not eschew them as affronts to humanity, as one might expect a country would which professes to be deeply devoted to progressive humanitarian values.

“The Joint Action Plan,” writes Chase “sets out areas of co-operation between Canada and Arab Gulf states on everything from politics and security dialogue to trade and investment, energy, education and health.”

And to ensure that Canadians continue to be deceived by twaddle about how their country is a paladin of so many virtues, Ottawa won’t let them see what’s in the agreement.

The key to Ottawa’s commitment to deepening its relationship with the Arab Gulf dictatorships is the promise of a cornucopia of profits for Canadian investors, banks and corporations. And in Canada, as in all countries where wealthy investors, banks and corporations use their wealth to dominate politics and the state, the decisive organizing principle of the society is not peace-keeping, or democracy, or equality, or religious tolerance, but what matters to banks, wealthy investors, and major corporations: profits.

In the pursuit of private, profit-making, interests, Canada has generally been on the wrong side of history since its founding more than 150 years ago. And when it has been on the right side, it has been on the right side, for the wrong reasons.

My first rebellion against the cult of Canadian patriotism occurred more than 35 years ago when on a visit to the country’s war museum I came upon a celebratory reference to Canada’s 1918-1919 military intervention in Russia. The glorified Canadian military intervention was directed against a social revolution engendered by centuries of a Tsarist tyranny and the chaos, destruction and disorganization wrought by World War I. How was an intervention to quash a movement which authentically embodied the values of liberty, equality and fraternity, worthy of celebration? And what business was it of Canada’s to intervene militarily in the affairs of another people who posed not the slightest threat to Canada? Ottawa was terrified that the Bolsheviks were a source of inspiration to Canadians who might seek to replicate in Canada what was underway in Russia; that Canada might be made to stand for something meaningful to ordinary people, like: jobs for all; free education at all levels; universal public health care; public day care; inexpensive public transportation; an end to the exploitation of humans by humans; and recognition of the humanity of all people, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, and sex; in other words, all the virtues the Bolsheviks brought to the former Tsarist empire, and for which they are almost never recognized and to which Canada tried to put a stop. To paraphrase Victor Hugo’s remarks about the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution may have been a great blow to the Russian aristocracy and the industrialists and financiers of the world, but it was a warm caress for the rest of us.

Canada’s participation in the imperialist charnel house of World War I—a kind of holocaust against the working people of Europe and the colonial slaves whom the European elites threw into the conflagration—is in no way defensible, and was a reflexive, unthinking commitment to a mother country, Britain, whose reason for entering the war had nothing whatever to do with the rights of small countries, as it was mendaciously professed to be, and everything to do with preserving the access of the British land-owning, industrial and financial elites to markets, investment opportunities, and raw materials in competition with their German rivals. Britain declared war on Canada’s behalf, and the Canadian government dutifully committed its sons to the Moloch.

In 1950, my maternal grandfather, who had enlisted in the Canadian Army during the Great Depression through a kind of economic conscription, joined other Canadians in the UN-denominated US-led “police action” in Korea—a project of frustrating the attempts of Koreans to liberate and revolutionize their country, in favor of maintaining a US puppet state on the Korean peninsula, to provide Washington with a geostrategic perch from which to dominate East Asia on behalf of Wall Street financiers. The Americans, who arrived on the peninsula in 1945, and immediately swept away the People’s Republic of Korea, the first independent Korean government in decades, are still there.

Ever since, Canada has been willing to help the United States fight most of its subsequent wars of domination—in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, now in Syria, and on the horizon, possibly in Russia and China.

Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa. If it is unacceptable for Germans and Japanese to honor their countries’ wars of aggression (and it is), is not equally unacceptable for Canadians to honor Canada’s wars of aggression, including the war on Korea and the war on Afghanistan?

As for World War II, Canada was on the right side of that conflict, but for the wrong reason. The country entered the war, because the mother country, Britain, did, and not to fight fascism or the Nazi persecution of communists, socialists, trade union leaders, Slavs, Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and the disabled, or to defend the Soviet Union, or to give teeth to the Atlantic Charter, which promised sovereign rights and self-government, but which, as Churchill made clear, would only apply in practice to people under the Nazi yoke, not the British yoke, which included the hundreds of millions of Indians subjugated by Britain. Indeed, Britain’s great colony of India, along with the conquered space of the American West, were models Hitler sought to emulate for Germany. He would build Germany’s American West, or its East Indies, in Eastern Europe. And if the project was carried out on a mountain of corpses it would hardly be without precedent. “We eat Canadian wheat,” remarked Hitler, “and don’t think about the Red Indians.”

Mackenzie King, Canada’s wartime prime minister, admired Hitler, and hated Jews. Before the war, Churchill also admired Hitler, and sang paeans to Mussolini. The fascist dictators were admired, not only by King and Churchill, but by large parts of the British and North American establishment, for their ardent anti-communism.

Mackenzie King, Canada’s wartime prime minister, admired Hitler, and hated Jews. Before the war, Churchill also admired Hitler, and sang paeans to Mussolini. The fascist dictators were revered, not only by King and Churchill, but by large parts of the British and North American establishment, for their ardent anti-communism. Canada’s prime minister at the time, Mackenzie King, who had worked as head of industrial relations research for the Rockefeller Foundation to develop methods for big business to co-opt organized labor, was sympathetic to Hitler’s virulent antipathy to Jews (and communists.) King, who met Hitler, and expressed admiration for the Fuhrer in his diary, wrote that “I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the city, and were taking possession of it in the most important way…It was necessary to get them out, to have the German people really control their own City and affairs.”

Neither did Ottawa have trouble with fascists, so long as they confined their attention to fighting communists and organized labor and focused their wrath on the citadel of communism, the Soviet Union. So-called premature anti-fascists, like Norman Bethune, who travelled to Spain to fight Franco’s reaction to the country’s democratically elected Popular Front government, were looked upon with suspicion, and Ottawa erected legal impediments to Canadians traveling abroad to join the fight. Following World War II, Canada found that it could get along quite comfortably with fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal, to say nothing of the police state dictatorship it helped to defend on the Korean peninsula, or apartheid South Africa.

+++

Behind Parliament, on a small island in the Ottawa River, sits a mock village of the indigenous people on whose land the capital—and country—has been built, an unintentional reminder (lost on most Canadians) that Canada was founded on the dispossession and genocide of the land’s aboriginal people. Canada is, after all, an expression of British settler colonialism, one of the most vile, destructive, brutal, sanguinary forces, in human history. The sun, it has been said, never set on the British Empire. But nor did the blood ever dry on it either. As Richard Gott has written,

“Wherever the British sought to plant their flag, they were met with opposition. In almost every colony, they had to fight their way ashore. While they could sometimes count on a handful of friends and allies, they never arrived as welcomed guests, for the expansion of empire was invariably conducted as a military operation.”

The British hacked, cut, pushed and slaughtered their way into other people’s lands to plant their flag, and to steal the land and natural resources of the natives. Canada, a country founded by settlers, was no exception.

It’s consistent, then, that Ottawa should maintain an unwavering commitment to the racist Jewish settler state in the Levant, known as Israel, made possible by Britain’s conspiring with France and Tsarist Russia during the Great War to carve up the dying Ottoman Empire, and turn over the southern Levant (Palestine and Transjordan) to a British League of Nations mandate, in which was ensconced a commitment to create a Jewish homeland. Canada, not surprisingly, allies itself with the Jewish settlers, and therefore against the indigenous people of the Levant, and was opposed to the efforts of the autochthonous peoples of Zimbabwe to take back their land from the descendants of the British settlers who hacked, cut, pushed, and slaughtered their way into land they dubbed Rhodesia, after the great paladin of British imperialism, Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes is to the indigenous people of southern Africa what Hitler is to the Slavs and Jews. This raises a question about whether Egerton Ryerson, the architect of the residential school system, can be similarly compared. [A statue honoring Ryerson, situated on the campus of the eponymous Ryerson University in Toronto, was recently, and thankfully, toppled.]

The Bolsheviks, who were reviled in Ottawa, established suffrage for all, including for national minorities, before Canada did. Canada didn’t offer universal suffrage, even Herrenvolk (master race) suffrage until after WWI, and true universal suffrage had to wait until 1960, when aboriginal Canadians, the dispossessed original inhabitants of the land, were belatedly allowed to vote.

The United States, another Herrenvolk democracy, didn’t effectively achieve universal suffrage until as late as 1965, when its regime of white supremacy was formally dismantled and the civil and political liberties of black Americans were finally formally secured throughout the country. This late and grudging surrender of white supremacy was partly due to Washington’s need to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where racial discrimination—and the idea of a master race—were unthinkable.

What many of us in the United States, Canada and Western Europe hold to be the great social achievements of our countries—the mitigation of discrimination on the basis of sex and religion and racial and national origin, and the development of the welfare state—owe much to the pressures Western elites felt to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where discrimination on these grounds was inconceivable and where a robust social welfare state prevailed. With the USSR now defunct, a suicide carried out by the country’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev—who, for obvious reasons is celebrated in the West, but is widely reviled in Russia—the ideological competition has ceased, and with it, large parts of the welfare state have been dismantled and continue to be demolished.

The French novelist Henri Barbusse, once wrote that the burning question of all time is what is the future of the human race, so martyred by history. To what, he asked, has humanity to look forward to?

Not $15 billion arms deals with monarchs whom Diderot, where he alive, might say ought to be strangled by the entrails of the last Wahhabi cleric; not the dispossession of peoples of their land by usurping settlers from abroad; not denial of self-determination; not wars of neo-colonial re-conquest; not acting as al-Qaeda’s air force to re-colonize the world on behalf of the planet’s dominant imperialist power.

If Canada offered something for humanity, so martyred by history, to look forward to, I would celebrate its founding, or at least, the moment it changed course, and set itself to the service of the vast majority of us—not the centimillionaires and decabillionaires, not the Saudi and Emirati monarchs, not the Jewish usurpers in the Levant, not the international dictatorship of the United States, not the continued colonial dispossession of the aboriginal peoples—but to a world free from the exploitation of humans by humans, where each person is an end in their self and not means to others’ ends.

How deadly has Covid-19 been compared to the United States’ major wars?

There have been as many plaques as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise. – Albert Camus, The Plaque, 1947 

June 9, 2021

Updated June 11, 2021

By Stephen Gowans

The quote above from Albert Camus’s 1947 novel, The Plague, implicitly categorizes plagues and wars as congeneric events—what I’ll call death events.

Five great wars in US history have produced major US fatalities. The deadliest was the Civil War, which claimed 620,000 lives, more than perished in WWI, WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

How do these wars compare to the Covid-19 pandemic?

In absolute number of deaths, the pandemic has been more deadly in the United States than four of the five great wars, with only the Civil War producing more deaths. More have died to June 7 (almost 600,000, with more deaths to follow) than died in WWII (418,500).

But comparing absolute numbers presents a problem. The longer a death event lasts, the greater the opportunity for fatalities to accumulate. In order to compare like to like, we need to place fatalities on a common scale. One way is to look at the average number of deaths per day over a death event’s course.

When death events are examined this way, the pandemic reveals itself to be more deadly than the great wars. Over 1,100 US citizens have died daily, on average, from Covid-19, from 19 January 2020, the day the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the United States, to 7 June 2021. The deadliest war, the Civil War, at 427 deaths per day on average, is a distant second.

Covid-19 vs. war deaths, United States
 DeathsDaysDeaths per day, (avg.)
Covid-19*597,5925241,140
Civil War620,0001,451427
WWII418,5001,365307
WWI116,516591197
Korea36,5161,12732
Vietnam58,2094,38013
*Jan 19, ’20 – June 7, ’21

And while US politicians and journalists speak as if the pandemic is all but over in their country (and many US citizens act as if this is true), the numbers suggest the celebration is premature. The average number of Covid-19 deaths per day from June 1 to June 7 was 324, according to Our World in Data, greater than the average daily number of US fatalities in WWII. This means that US citizens are dying today from Covid-19 at a greater daily rate than US soldiers perished in combat every day from late 1941 to late summer 1945.

Yet, no matter how deadly the current pandemic has proved to be, there was one more deadly: the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. That pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 US citizens, or 1,232 per day on average, somewhat higher than the daily number killed to date by the novel coronavirus.

Covid-19 vs. 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, United States
 DeathsDaysDeaths per day, (avg.)
Influenza pandemic 1918-1919675,0005481,232
Covid-19*597,5925241,140
*Jan 19, ’20 – June 7, ’21

The rough parity in deaths between the two pandemics is misleading. The US population was much smaller in 1918. Adjusting for population growth, the influenza pandemic was much more deadly, carrying away a greater percentage of the population than Covid-19 has. How do the various death events compare if historical differences in population size are taken into account?

Looking at fatalities per million, the Civil War is by far the deadliest event in US history*, both in the cumulative number of deaths and the average number of deaths per day. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 comes second, while the Covid-19 pandemic comes a distant third. The coronavirus pestilence and the twentieth century wars comprise a class of their own, much less deadly than the Civil War and the 1918-1919 influenza. Even so, compared to the wars of the last century, the current pandemic is more deadly, even controlling for population growth.

Pandemic vs. war deaths, United States, per million
 DeathsDaysDeaths per day, (avg.)
Civil War19,7261,45113.6
Influenza pandemic 1918-19196,54154811.9
Covid-19*1,7965243.4
WWII3,1371,3652.3
WWI1,1285911.9
Korea2401,1270.2
Vietnam3034,3800.1
*Jan 19, ’20 – June 7, ’21

What these findings reveal is that the Covid-19 pandemic is a major death event. More US citizens have perished in the pandemic to date than in any of the four major twentieth century wars, controlling for the number of days the death event lasted and population size.

They also show that notwithstanding the unduly sanguine pronouncements of the pandemic’s imminent end in the United States, the rate of mortality continues to be high relative to the major wars of the last century. Only by redefining “almost over” to mean a death rate better than abysmal but still higher than WWII—and no better than that of the world as a whole, as the chart below shows—can the pandemic be said to be nearly over. If deaths per million in the United States have reached a point where this is true, then the pandemic can also be said to be nearly over in the world as a whole, since deaths per million globally are at the same level. But who believes that on a world scale, the pandemic’s demise is imminent?

The figures also confirm, for the Covid-19 pandemic, the observation implicit in Camus’s words, namely, that plagues and wars are, in their deadliness, of the same sort.

A caveat: The United States is an anomaly, and the findings above cannot be considered as representative of the world in toto.

First, US fatalities in major wars have been very low by comparison with other belligerents, and have comprised but a very tiny fraction of total, word-wide, deaths.  

Second, US authorities have exhibited considerable ineptitude in meeting the challenge of the pandemic. Favoring a pharmaceutical solution (which offers a cornucopia of profits to the biopharma industry) over a zero-Covid public health approach (which, through business closures, would have severely attenuated profits in the larger business community temporarily but whose efficacy was demonstrated early on by the Communist-led Chinese government), deaths accumulated to a level commensurate with what would be expected from a failed state. The conclusion is that capitalism is a comorbidity–a condition whose presence amplifies the deadly effects of the pandemic.

Only now, nearly a year and a half after Washington should have taken swift and decisive action to smother the infant pandemic in its cradle, is the roll out of vaccines starting to have an effect. This is hardly a consolation for the loved ones of the nearly 600,000 US citizens whose deaths could have been prevented.

Embarrassed by its abject failure to contain the pandemic, especially in light of Communist successes in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea, Washington has redefined success; it now means the fruition of its strategy, namely, the mass uptake of vaccines, but this metric bears little relation to the question of whether the virus continues to scythe through the population, which it does, as this analysis has shown.

And it’s doubtful that Washington’s pharmaceuticalization strategy will succeed. No pathogen has ever been eliminated by vaccination alone, and nor does it seem likely that Washington is about to set a precedent, given the realities of vaccine hesitancy, the expectation that it will be two or more years before low income countries are fully vaccinated, and the expected continued emergence of variants—some of which may prove resistant to current vaccines.

For these reasons—the US anomalies of low war fatalities and high Covid-19 deaths—US figures cannot be taken as indicative of what is true of the world as a whole. In a follow-up post, I’ll examine the question globally, comparing the death event of Covid-19 with the death events of WWI and WWII.

A final caution. Covid-19 has likely been deadlier than the official numbers indicate. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “Epidemiologists believe [the official] numbers represent only a portion of the pandemic’s true toll, due in part to missed Covid-19 deaths and collateral damage from issues like healthcare disruptions. In the U.S., for example, experts believe limited test availability hampered the ability to correctly identify many Covid-19 deaths early in the pandemic.” (Covid-19 Deaths This Year Have Already Eclipsed 2020’s Toll, June 10, 2021)

*In terms of absolute number of deaths, the genocide of the Amerindians and the slave trade, the foundations of US capitalism, almost certainly preponderate the death events examined here.

Washington’s Lab Leak Playbook Revealed?

By Stephen Gowans

June 7, 2021

On June 5, Joe Biden wrote an editorial in the Washington Post in which he reiterated what has long been apparent: that Washington regards China as an enemy. [1]

Biden says China’s enemy status is based on Beijing’s rejection of “market democracy” and adoption of what he calls ‘authoritarianism.’ But this can’t be true.

  • The United States counts a number of ‘authoritarian’ governments among its most cherished allies (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and so on).
  • Washington was quite willing to pursue amicable relations with China for many years, from the point Beijing opened the country to US trade and investment and became a cornucopia of profits for corporate USA, until Chinese capitalism became a rival to, rather than a prop for, US capitalism. During this period, Washington had no trouble befriending China despite Beijing’s authoritarianism.

What has changed is that China has rejected its place in the global economy as a low-wage manufacturing appendage of the US economy. In pursuit of its goal of building a prosperous, independent, China, the Communist Party has presided over a mixed economy and dirigiste capitalism which has come to challenge Wall Street’s primacy. That’s the source of Washington’s hostility.

There are other reasons for Washington to take an inimical stance to China. Not only does corporate USA face stiff competition from the East Asian giant, but a Communist-led China is challenging Washington in other ways, too.

Beijing has lifted countless millions out of poverty, and Chinese citizens face the future with optimism, expecting their standard of living to continue to rise. Meanwhile, US citizens are pessimistic, as US capitalism leaves millions behind, in low-wage, precarious work, with little hope for a bright future.

What’s more, Washington’s self-proclaimed leadership role in the world has been badly damaged by its failure to deal competently with the Covid-19 pandemic.  While US newspapers hubristically declare that, with the roll out of vaccines, the end of the pandemic is imminent, in terms of Covid-19 deaths per million, the United States has only gone from being a failed state to no better than the rest of the world.

In contrast, China acted swiftly and decisively to eliminate community transmission of the virus, allowing Beijing to reopen its economy quickly. As an article in the medical journal The Lancet concluded, the model pursued by China has been superior to the model of inaction and privileging profits over public health favored by US authorities. The model’s superiority is evident in better health and economic outcomes, and (because the Chinese approach allowed the country to reopen quickly) better civil liberty outcomes. [2] Had Washington emulated China, it would have prevented over 550,000 Covid-19 deaths. [3] A government that caters to business interests before public health hardly has the moral standing to claim world leadership.

Even on the matter of vaccines, on which the United States professes leadership, it has produced fewer doses than China, and exported fewer to other countries. [4]

Clearly, if Washington wants to claim global leadership in the face of its own failures and China’s undeniable successes, it is going to have to turn the tables on China.

Part of the fight back is positive. The Biden administration plans to emulate China through a program of industrial planning and major investments in infrastructure to “deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world.” [5] The program might be called Meeting the China Challenge.

Another part is negative. It involves efforts to undermine China’s economic growth through tariffs, target Chinese companies like Huawei for destruction, block Chinese investors from buying Western economic assets, and prevent Western investors from investing in a number of Chinese firms.

Additionally, Washington seeks to discredit China. One way to do so is to blame Beijing for the pandemic. Trump made early efforts in this direction, referring to Covid-19 as the Wuhan flu, the kung flu, and the China virus. His state department insinuated that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab. Biden—different from Trump in style but largely continuous with the previous administration on foreign policy—has resurrected Trump’s lab leak theory.

Insight into Washington’s playbook on discrediting China may have been provided by Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, who wrote an editorial in The Washington Post on June 4. It was titled “China could pay if nations come to believe the virus leaked from a lab.” [6]

The Council on Foreign Relations is a Wall Street funded and directed think tank that provides policy advice to the State Department. It is firmly interlocked with the US foreign policy establishment and the Biden administration. Typically, members of the council fill top cabinet positions. The current secretaries of state, treasury, defense, and commerce are members of the council, as are the UN ambassador, the national security advisor, CIA director, Indo-Pacific czar, and chief of staff, among others.  [7] As A.B. Abrams explained in Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power (Clarity Press, 2020, p. 453)

The CFR’s members were described by the Washington Post as ‘the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States’ and includes almost all CIA Directors, National Security Advisors, UN Ambassadors, Federal Reserve Chairs, World Bank Presidents, and Directors of the National Economic Council, several presidents and vice-presidents, the majority of state secretaries … and many high ranking NATO and military commanders. According to the Post, the council members were part of a foreign policy establishment with shared values and world views, whose role was not limited to analyzing foreign policy but also included taking an active hand in shaping it. … Stephen F. Cohen [himself once a member] described the council as ‘America’s single most important non-governmental foreign policy organization,’ with the power to ‘define the accepted, legitimate, orthodox parameters of discussion.’

Huang’s editorial at the very least reflects the kind of thinking that takes place in US foreign policy circles and may in fact reveal a playbook the CFR-interlocked Biden administration is actually following to turn the tables on China.

Huang notes that “China has, until now, enjoyed prestige on the world stage for its containment of the pandemic, especially compared with many Western countries” but adds that “if missteps by Chinese scientists” were seen to be “the cause of that pandemic, such praise would quickly fade.”

“Even a belief in a coverup without firm evidence of wrongdoing would be damaging”, he says. Moreover, if US intelligence were seen as exposing a coverup, it could re-establish “America’s reputation for competence.”

Huang believes that fostering a belief in a Chinese coverup, even without firm evidence, would:

  • “Precipitate a free fall in China’s relationship with the outside world”;
  • Provide a pretext for the United States to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics;
  • Raise questions in China about whether the Communist Party is fit to rule;
  • Force China to close in on itself in a fit of angry isolation as it is shunned by the rest of the world.

In other words, there are strong reasons for Washington, which makes no secret about viewing China as an enemy to be contained and countered, to manufacture a belief in a coverup.

However, US intelligence is of the view that it is unlikely that firm evidence of a lab leak can be obtained [8]. Accordingly, the pursuit of these policy benefits will depend on innuendo. Western journalists are working diligently to provide it, and, writing dozens of features in which, claiming powers of ratiocination equivalent to those of a Sherlock Holmes, they claim to have deduced Chinese culpability (see, for example, Nicholas Wade in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist.)  Of course, all of this is nonsense. There is no evidence for a lab leak, and no matter how brilliant some journalists believe their powers of deduction are, their exercises in ratiocination remain pure speculation. Speculation is not evidence. Speculative arguments can also be constructed on the other side, and have been. [9]

The Wuhan lab leak theory has, within the context of US foreign policy, become the equivalent of the magician’s misdirection; it draws attention from the deception that the Western model works. The model, as it relates to the pandemic, has clearly failed.

It is clarifying to consider that in the rush to create a misdirection, two separate questions are being conflated:

  • Where did the virus come from?
  • How did the pandemic start?

We don’t know where the virus came from, and may never know. We still don’t know where the virus came from that killed tens of millions of people worldwide in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 to 1920 .

But we do know how the Covid-19 pandemic started, which is the more consequential question. The pandemic started when “Chinese doctors and scientists working in international collaborations,” provided information “showing a deadly virus had emerged that had no treatment and could be passed between people”, and the United States, Canada, and Europe did precious little with this information, failing to act, unwilling to disrupt business activity and the continued tranquil digestion of profits, as the Lancet’s editor Richard Horton has pointed out. [10][11] Had these countries acted as swiftly and decisively to eliminate community transmission as China did, not only would they have been able to safely open their own economies long ago, they would have spared the world a deadly pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of more than 3.7 million people, and will carry off many more.

Much as Washington professes to disdain conspiracy theories, it is one the world’s principal creators of them, and vehicles for their propagation, amply aided by the Western mass media. The paragon case is the Washington-manufactured conspiracy theory about Saddam Hussein covering up weapons of mass destruction. As the Council on Foreign Relation’s Yanzhong Huang makes clear, a lab leak conspiracy theory has the potential to pay substantial dividends to the US position in the world, one badly bruised by China’s successes and Washington’s abject failures.

[1] Joe Biden, “Joe Biden: My trip to Europe is about America rallying the world’s democracies,” The Washington Post,  June 5, 2021

[2]  Miquel Oliu-Barton et al., “SARS-CoV-2 elimination, not mitigation, creates best outcomes for health, the economy, and civil liberties,” The Lancet, April 28, 2021, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00978-8

[3] With (a) a US population of 328.2 million and (b) 1,796.26 deaths per million to May 31, there were (a)/1,000,00 x (b) = 589,533 covid-19 deaths in the United States. If the fatality rate had been as low as that of China, there would have been  (a)/1,000,00 x 3.221 = 1,057 covid-19 deaths, or 588,475 fewer.

[4] Yuka Hayashi, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Andrew Restuccia, “U.S. to Increase Covid-19 Vaccine Exports Amid Global Pressure,” The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2021

[5] Biden.

[6] Yanzhong Huang, “The origin of the virus is a scientific question — but one with huge political implications.” The Washington Post, June 4, 2021.

[7]  See Laurence H. Shoup, “The Council on Foreign Relations, the Biden Team, and Key Policy Outcomes,” Monthly Review, May 2021.

[8] Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, “U.S. Is Said to Have Unexamined Intelligence to Pore Over on Virus Origins,” New York Tines,  May 27, 2021.

[9] See for example Angela L. Rasmussen and Stephen A. Goldstein, “Labs like the one in Wuhan are essential to preparing for future pandemics,” The New York Times,  June 4, 2021.

[10] “Lancet editor Richard Horton quoted in “West suffering because it failed to listen to China on COVID-19, says Lancet editor,” CGTN, May 3, 2020

[11] “COVID-19 in the USA: a question of time,” The Lancet, April 18, 2020