Cruelty with a Point: The Continuing US Immiseration of Syria

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

By Stephen Gowans

August 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from Barr’s speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why North Korea blew up the inter-Korean liaison office

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

June 20, 2020

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

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

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

http://www.barakabooks.com/

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

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

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

What went wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech

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

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

couvGowa
http://editionsdelga.fr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seoul’s failure to abide by the Panmunjom agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spark tossed upon the accumulated kindling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you think the coronavirus lockdown is worse than the disease, you don’t understand the disease

By Stephen Gowans

May 16, 2020

It’s no accident that one of the world’s great morons—he who thinks injecting disinfectants and shining bright lights into bodily cavities will save the world from COVID-19—should be cheering on one the world’s most moronic public health policy choices.

The novel coronavirus—aptly dubbed the stealth virus—is highly infectious, if not peerlessly contagious. People can be infected by the virus—and spread the disease to others—for up to two weeks before showing symptoms. Or they can experience symptoms so mild that they’re not aware they’re ill. If we believe it’s now safe to co-mingle with people who aren’t visibly sick, we’re mistaken.

It’s estimated that if no measures to limit the spread of the virus are taken, each infected person will pass on the pathogen to three others. If you do the math, it will soon become apparent that left unchecked, the coronavirus will spread like wildfire. According to standard epidemiological models, a virus as contagious as this will reproduce exponentially until 60% of the world’s population is infected, whereupon the spread will begin to slow. In the end, 90% of us will be infected. With an estimated death rate of 1%, COVID-19 will kill 68.4 million people (the world’s population of 7.6 billion X a 90% final epidemic size X a 1% fatality rate)—that is, if we decide that letting the virus spread unfettered is better than continuing the lockdown until the virus is brought to heel.

To be sure, the overwhelming majority of those infected won’t die, and the fatality rate is miniscule, but a miniscule fraction of a large number (the world’s 7.6 billion people) can be surprisingly large. Only 3% of the world’s population was killed by the Second World War, but we would hardly blithely accept a reprise of that conflict simply because most of us would make it out alive.

If the pandemic is allowed to run its course, millions more will die from other conditions than can’t be treated as hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors and nurses are left bedridden by infection. Millions will die from heart attacks, strokes, other infections, postponed surgeries, delayed cancer treatments, and trauma that over-stressed healthcare systems can no longer accommodate. Economies will teeter, and then collapse, from massive absenteeism, as workers succumb to infection or refuse to show up to work to protect themselves from a now raging pandemic. If you think lockdown is tough, just wait to see what happens when the virus spreads unchecked.

On the precipice of a disaster

Fatigued by the lockdown, a number of countries, jurisdictions, and people, are giving up the fight. They’re lifting suppression measures, or ignoring social distancing guidelines, on the grounds that ‘the cure can’t be worse than the disease.’ The trouble is, if the disease is an out-of-control pandemic whose destination is 68.4 million dead, healthcare systems in collapse, and supply chains breaking down under massive worker absenteeism, it will be far worse than they imagine—and unquestionably far worse than the cure.

In North America, some states and provinces are pressing ahead with the phased reopening of their economies despite the counsel of public health officials that it’s too early; the virus has not yet been brought under control. In some jurisdictions, rather than slowing, the virus has resumed a growth path. The R value, a measure of the virus’s reproduction rate, has climbed above 1.0 in many places—indicating that the number of new infections has returned to an exponential path. In jurisdiction after jurisdiction, economies that weren’t supposed to reopen until the number of new infections had unremittingly declined over many weeks, are now throwing caution to the wind, and inviting populations to begin resuming normal activities.

The idea is to sacrifice some people, mainly the elderly, so we can save the economy. But killing off 68.4 million people so we can get back to work, won’t produce the desired outcome. On the contrary, as bodies pile up in mass graves, economies will collapse—the worst of all possible worlds.

UCLA economist Andrew Atkeson explains:

Under the policy of resuming normal activity now, or in 30 days, the disease is likely to spread rapidly. The dynamics of the disease would build to a crescendo over the next several months. At peak, over 10% of the population would have an active infection at the same time, and the daily death rate is likely to be very high – on the order of 20,000 deaths per day. And all of this would be going on in the context of a completely overloaded healthcare system. One naturally wonders whether under these conditions, Americans would lock themselves down, afraid to go out to shop and work given the illness and death around them, meaning that economic activity would grind to a halt then just as it is doing now under lockdown likely to spread rapidly. The dynamics of the disease would build to a crescendo over the next several months. At peak, over 10% of the population would have an active infection at the same time, and the daily death rate is likely to be very high – on the order of 20,000 deaths per day. And all of this would be going on in the context of a completely overloaded healthcare system. One naturally wonders whether under these conditions, Americans would lock themselves down, afraid to go out to shop and work given the illness and death around them, meaning that economic activity would grind to a halt then just as it is doing now under lockdown.

US treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin has been lobbying for the reopening of the US economy on the grounds that it’s being ravaged by the lockdown. In a tense Oval Office meeting, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien—exhibiting more foresight and critical analytic skill than Mnuchin—told the treasury secretary that, on the contrary, the economy would be destroyed if officials did nothing.

A policy that kills the economy, and dispatches 68.4 million people to early graves, is, come to think of it, the public policy equivalent of injecting Lysol in your arm and shining a bright light up your ass.

The US ways of waging war, then and now

Seventy-five years ago Monday, the United States scorched, boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the single greatest terrorist attack in history. Three quarters of a century later, Washington wages war in less dramatic ways, relying on sanctions—economic firebombings—that are carried out silently by the Treasury Department and which kill civilians in even greater numbers than were incinerated in the infamous March 9-10, 1945 raid on Tokyo.

March 7, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

Monday, March 9, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the US firebombing of Tokyo, the single most destructive bombing raid in human history, and the single greatest terrorist attack ever undertaken.

Probably “more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6 hour period than at any time in the history of man,” concluded the official US Strategic Bombing Survey. The “largest number of victims were the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly.” (Selden, p. 84)

“The full fury of firebombing and napalm was unleashed” when 334 US B-29 bombers swept “low over Tokyo from the Marianas. Their mission was to reduce [the Japanese capital] to ruble, kill its citizens, and instill terror in the survivors, with jellied gasoline and napalm that would create a sea of flames,” wrote Mark Selden, the editor of the online Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. (Selden, p. 83)

Curtis_E._LeMay
Curtis LeMay, the primary architect of US policies of putting enemy cities, and later villages and forests, to the torch, from Japan to Korea to Vietnam. Mastermind of the greatest single terrorist attack in human history.

The raid was planned by General Curtis LeMay, “the primary architect, a strategic innovator and most quotable spokesman for US policies of putting enemy cities, and later villages and forests, to the torch, from Japan to Korea to Vietnam.” (Selden, p. 82)

The single bombing raid killed an estimated 100,000 civilians, equal to the total number of US soldiers killed in every action of the entire Pacific War. (Selden, p. 90) One million were left homeless. (Selden, pp. 84-85)

“Whipped by fierce winds, flames generated by the bombs leaped across a fifteen-square-mile area of Tokyo, generating immense firestorms.” (Selden, p. 83) According to Sven Lindqvist, author of A History of Bombing, “People threw themselves into the canals and submerged themselves until just their mouths were above the surface. They suffocated by the thousands with the smoke and lack of oxygen. In other canals the water got so hot that people were boiled alive.” (Lindqvist, p. 107)

“No previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid came close to generating the toll in death and destruction of the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10.” (Selden, p. 85)

LeMay said he wanted Tokyo “burned down—wiped right off the map.” (Selden, p. 85) In his memoirs he wrote, “Nothing new about death, nothing new about deaths caused militarily. We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of  March 9-10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” (Hasegawa, p. 117)

“In the summer of 1950, Japanese civilians at Yokota Air Base loaded the B-29s that had firebombed Tokyo five years earlier, for targets in North and South Korea.” (Young, p. 167) Having perfected the art of incinerating cities and cremating civilians, LeMay now applied what he had learned in Japan to Korea. He recalled that “over a period of three years or so … we burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea, too”. (Selden, p. 93) By 1953, there were only two modern buildings left standing in the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. (Armstrong)

korean-war-atrocities-bombing
LeMay: We burned downed every town in North Korea and South Korea too.

US forces dropped 14,000 tons of napalm during World War II, principally on Japan. The amount was more than doubled, to 32,000 tons, for the war on Korea. The Vietnam War saw a more than ten-fold increase in the use of Dow Chemical’s incinerating jelly. (Lindqvist, p. 162)

The difference between cremating civilians in cities and cremating Jews in death camp ovens is too trivial to mention.

In 1959, the US historian Lewis Mumford wrote, “In principle, the extermination camps where the Nazis incinerated … helpless Jews were no different from the urban crematoria our air force improvised in its attack by napalm bombs on Tokyo.” (Hasegawa, p. 97)

Peter Englund, writing about the July 1943 US-British firebombing of Hamburg, which killed 35,000 German civilians, noted that “When the rescue teams made their way into Hamburg’s shelters, they were faced with scenes reminiscent of those encountered at the same time by Jews forced to clear the bodies of other Jews out of the gas chambers—‘intertwined piles of people, killed by fumes and pressed against the vents of the barricaded doors.’” (Lindqvist, p. 97)

Lindqvist recounts that Freeman Dyson, the recently deceased nuclear physicist, served as an operations analyst for the Royal Air Force Bomber Command “at the time of the firestorm in Hamburg. … ‘I sat in my office until the end, carefully calculating how to murder most economically another hundred thousand people.’ After the war he compared himself to the bureaucratic-murderers working in Eichmann’s death machine: ‘They sat in their office, writing memoranda and calculating how to murder people efficiently, just like me. The main difference was that they were sent to jail or hanged as war criminals, and I went free.’” (Lindqvist, p. 96)

Death camp ovens
Mumford: In principle, the extermination camps where the Nazis incinerated … helpless Jews were no different from the urban crematoria our air force improvised in its attack by napalm bombs on Tokyo.

The arsonist, LeMay, was never sent to jail or hanged as a war criminal. The victors’ war crimes tribunals decided that since the German, US, British, and Japanese militaries all engaged in the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, terror bombing—the bombing of civilians with the express intention of inducing terror to sap their morale—was no longer a war crime. In a circular logic, if the United States did it, it was good…or a least not a crime.

For all its horrors, the March 9-10 air raid on Tokyo produced fewer fatalities than the Allied blockade of Germany during World War I, which killed more than 750,000 German civilians through disease and malnutrition (and which the Allies maintained, even after the Germans laid down their arms.) (Mueller and Mueller) UN sanctions on Iraq from 1990 to 2003 killed over 570,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, according to a UN agency (Crossette) —in only the first five years of a 13-year program of economic strangulation. And while 35,000 German civilians were cremated by US and British bombers at Hamburg in 1943, economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs estimate that sanctions on Venezuela “have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018.” (Weisbrot and Sachs)

The indiscriminate bombing of civilians meets the textbook definition of terrorism: the deliberate use of violence against civilians to achieve a political objective. Economic firebombing is no different. Its aim is to create enough hunger, disease, and death that the civilian population of a sanctioned country has no choice but to pressure its government to bring about the political change desired by the sanctioning power. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s ultimatum to Iran, that its “leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat,” illustrates the point. (Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran)

In an article titled “It’s time we saw economic sanctions for what they really are—war crimes,” the veteran foreign affairs correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that economic firebombing is an “attraction for politicians”, because it “can be sold to the public, though of course not to people at the receiving end, as more humane than military action.” (Cockburn, 2018)

But economic firebombing can, and often does, produce more deaths than military intervention. The United States can silently kill 500,000 civilians through disease and malnutrition and arouse little opposition. But a firebombing raid on Pyongyang that killed many fewer civilians would be met by widespread moral indignation throughout the world.

Invisible war
Sanctions, economic firebombings, are not a humane alternative to war. They are war, even if carried out invisibly.

From the perspective of the US government, it is now much more effective to rely on the US Treasury, the department which now does quietly what LeMay once did visibly, than to rely on LeMay’s successors at the Pentagon. “At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones.” (Cockburn, 2019)

Today the United States and its allies will carry out economic firebombing raids on North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, and Iran, as they did yesterday and have done in the days and months and years and sometime decades before. It’s the new way to wage war. And it can be much more deadly than the old way.

Stephen Gowans is the author of Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform (2019); Patriots, Traitors, and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Fight for Freedom (2018); and Washington’s Long War on Syria (2017). All are published by Baraka Books, Montreal.

Armstrong, Charles. “The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950-1960,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus, Volume 7, March 16, 2009.

Cockburn, Patrick. “It’s time we saw economic sanctions for what they really are—war crimes,” The Independent, January 19, 2018.

Cockburn, Patrick. “Europe doesn’t have the power to be much more than a spectator in the escalating US-Iran conflict,” The Independent, May 11, 2019.

Crossette, Barbara. “Iraq Sanctions Kill Children, U.N. Reports,” The New York Times, December 1, 1995.

Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi . “Where the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?” in Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn B. Young, Eds., Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History, The New Press, 2009.

Lindqvist, Sven. A History of Bombing, The New Press, 2000.

Mueller, John and Karl Mueller. “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999.

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

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 30, 2018.

Selden, Mark. “A forgotten holocaust: US bombing strategy, the destruction of Japanese cities, and the American way of war from the Pacific War to Iraq,” in Yuki Tanaka and

Marilyn B. Young, Eds., Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History, The New Press, 2009, p. 84)

Weisbrot, Mark and Jeffrey Sachs, “Economic sanctions as collective punishment: The case of Venezuela,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 2019

Young, Marilyn B. “Bombing civilians from the twentieth to the twenty-first centuries,” in

Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn B. Young, Eds., Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History, The New Press, 2009.

We should applaud the Syrian military’s actions in Idlib, not deplore them

The US news media perversely view the prospective liberation of millions of Syrians from a Turkish-backed Al Qaeda tyranny in Idlib as a humanitarian tragedy, betraying their allegiance to Washington’s geopolitical agenda and its aim of dominating every country in West Asia without exception, even if it means relying on Al Qaeda to accomplish its goal.

February 23, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

Imagine journalists deploring the Allies’ liberation of Europe because the project created refugees, and you’ll understand the US news media’s reaction to the prospect of the Syrian military liberating Idlib from the rule of a branch of Al Qaeda. Implicit in the condemnation is support for the status quo, since any realistic attempt to end an occupation will trigger a flight of civilians from a war zone. What is in fact support for continued occupation by reactionaries, and their imposition of a terrorist mini-state on millions of Syrians, is slyly presented by the US news media as concern for the welfare of Syrian civilians.

Washington's Long War on Syria
http://www.barakabooks.com/

On February 20, The Wall Street Journal ran an article on what it said could be the “biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century,” namely, the advance of the Syrian military into Idlib, “backed by Russian airstrikes and pro-Iranian militias” which has “forced the flight of some 900,000 people” as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad vows “to retake every inch of Syria.” [1]

To illustrate the so-called impending horror, Journal reporter Raja Abdulrahim follows “Amro Akoush and his family” as they flee “their home in northwest Syria with no time to pack a bag and no vehicle to escape the machine-gun fire and falling bombs.” [2]

“I feel like this is the end, the army will advance and kill us all and that will be the end of the story,” Abdulrahim quotes Akoush as saying. “We no longer have hope for anything other than a quick death, that’s it. That’s all we ask for.” (3)

In Abdulrahim’s narrative, Assad is a tyrant setting in motion a humanitarian catastrophe to satisfy his urge (are we to construe it as greed?) to “retake” every inch of his country (not recover or liberate it.) Assad’s foil, his nemesis in this tale, is Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presented as the personification of the calvary, rushing to the aid of hapless Syrian civilians, by dispatching tanks across the Turk-Syrian border.

Erdogan, Abdulrahim writes, “has threatened to launch a full attack on Syrian government forces if Mr. Assad doesn’t halt the military offensive. Turkey has sent more than 10,000 troops and more than 2,000 pieces of artillery, tanks and armored vehicles into Idlib.” (4)

It all seems fairly simple: Assad is a brute who has launched a military offensive “to defeat the remnants” of Syria’s “armed opposition”, sparking a humanitarian catastrophe in embryo, while Erdogan, our hero, acts to stay the tyrant’s hand.

It’s a good story, but wrong. The “armed opposition” is not a group of plucky liberal democrats fighting for freedom, but Al Qaeda; Turkey is not the calvary, but a foreign aggressor with designs on Syria that has long backed Al Qaeda as its proxy in Idlib; and Erdogan’s goal isn’t to rescue Syrians from a tyrant, but to impose a Turkish tyranny by proxy on Idlib. All of this has been reported previously in the US news media, including in Abdulrahim’s own Wall Street Journal, but has since been lost down to the memory hole. Additionally, other realities have been minimized, including the continued Al Qaeda attacks on the Syrian military and Syrian civilians.

In early March, 2015 Erdogan flew to Riyadh to meet Saudi Arabia’s recently crowned King Salman, to agree on a new strategy to oust Assad. Both leaders were keen to see Syria’s Arab nationalist republic dissolved. Erdogan, an Islamist with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, objected to Syria’s secularism and long-running war with the Muslim Brotherhood. Salman, a misogynistic, democracy-abominating monarch backed to the hilt by Washington, objected to Syria’s anti-monarchism, Arab nationalism, and insistence that the Arab world achieve independence from US domination–ideologies which threatened his family’s rule over the Arabian peninsula and its vast oil resources.

To overcome the Syrian menace, Erdogan and Salman agreed to establish a joint command center in Idlib in order to coordinate the activities of Al Qaeda (operating in Syria at the time under the alias Jabhat al-Nusra.) Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups had taken up the Muslim Brotherhood’s struggle against the Assad government’s secularism and Arab nationalism. The jihadists were threatening to seize control of all of Idlib, and the Turkish Islamist and Saudi despot were eager to lend a hand. [5]

Erdogan wanted to run Idlib through his Al Qaeda proxies to gain leverage in order to shape the outcome of post-conflict talks on a new political arrangement for Syria. [6] This would allow him to further his Islamist agenda in a neighboring country—he had taken numerous steps to Islamize his own country—and to acquire profit-making opportunities in Syria for Turkish business people.

Erdogan’s plans were soon brought to fruition. By February, 2018, Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the US campaign against ISIS, could call Idlib “the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” [7] The veteran foreign affairs correspondent Robert Fisk would refer to the Syrian province as a territory teeming with “the Islamist fighters of Isis, Nusrah, al-Qaeda and their fellow jihadists.” [8] In September, 2019 The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt said that Idlib province contained “a witch’s brew of violent Islamic extremist groups, dominated by the larger Qaeda-linked organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front.” [9] Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would control 99 percent of Idlib and surrounding areas. [10], creating what Cockburn dubbed an “al-Qaeda-run mini-state” [11]—behind which sat Erdogan, on the Sultan’s throne.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Al Qaeda are one and the same. After undergoing a previous rebranding as Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch morphed once again, this time into HTS. As the Syrian delegate to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, explained to the UN Security Council in May,

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham … is the Al-Nusra Front, which itself is part of Al-Qaida in the Levant, which in turn is part of Al-Qaida in Iraq, which in turn is part of Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Therefore, we are all talking about Al-Qaida, regardless of its different names; all are designated by the [UN Security] Council as terrorist entities. [12]

The Washington Post described Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as “an extremist Islamist group that began as al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and has tried to rebrand itself several times during the war.” [13] The New York Times says Hayat Tahrir al-Sham “is affiliated with Al Qaeda,” [14] while The Wall Street Journal lists the group as “a branch of al Qaeda.” [15]

But of Western mainstream journalists, Cockburn perhaps describes the group best. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, he wrote in early 2019, is “a powerful breakaway faction from Isis which founded the group under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra in 2011 and with whom it shares the same fanatical beliefs and military tactics. Its leaders wear suicide vests studded with metal balls just like their Isis equivalents.” [16]

HTS’s size is a matter of dispute. Cockburn estimates that it “can put at least 50,000 fighters into the field” [17] while The New York Times puts the number closer to “12,000 and 15,000 fighters.” [18] The Syrian government says that the group has “tens of thousands of foreign terrorists, including 15,000 Europeans.” [19]

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has “centered its agenda on combating the government of Mr. al-Assad, with no interest in conducting attacks abroad, according to a recent United Nations assessment.” [20] This makes the Al Qaeda group acceptable to the United States, and, in train, to the US news media. It also explains why an organization seen as terrorist outside of Syria, is often described by US new media in neutral language when it operates in Syria, like “armed opposition” and “rebels.” Following this convention, we could talk of the “armed opposition” and “rebels” who attacked the United States on 9/11, and Washington’s 19 year war on Al Qaeda as the war on “the armed opposition to the US regime.”

“In September 2018, Russia and Turkey brokered a cease-fire agreement for Idlib to forestall a military offensive,” explained The Wall Street Journal. “The deal required that” Al Qaeda fighters “withdraw from a demilitarized buffer zone along the front line.” [21] Rather than withdrawing, Al Qaeda expanded areas under its control. [22] while continuing to carry on its fight against the Syrian military. The jihadists attacked Syrian army positions, targeted the Russian airbase at Khmeimim, and shelled towns and villages, “killing civilians and forcing more than 10,000 to flee,” according to the United Nations. [23] Turkey stood by while its proxies violated the cease-fire, failing “to meet its commitment to disarm” its fighters. [24]

In response, the Syrian army, backed by its Russian and Iranian allies, launched an offensive to liberate Idlib. It has done this because Al Qaeda’s attacks have never stopped and because the government of Syria has an obligation to protect its citizens and control its own territory.

When Ja’afari addressed the Security Council in May he asked:

When will it be recognized that the right we are exercising is the same right others have exercised in confronting terrorist attacks against the Bataclan theatre and the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, as well as terrorist acts in Niece, London, Boston and other cities? The terrorists that members have confronted in their own countries were not equipped with Turkish rocket launchers and tanks. [25]

Apart from glossing over such inconvenient facts as the true character of the “armed opposition” and Erdogan’s connection to it, the US news media have failed to address a number of key questions.

First, is it legitimate for a government to use force to recover territory occupied by an armed enemy, even if the use of force endangers civilians or sparks their flight? If the answer is no, then the Allies acted illegitimately during World War II in liberating Europe from Nazi occupation, for their project was impossible without endangering some civilians and creating refugees.

Moreover, if civilian casualties and their displacement were acceptable consequences of US forces taking Raqqa from ISIS—the US defense secretary at the time, James Mattis responded to concerns about the effect of the US siege on civilians by noting that “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation” [26]—how is it that they are unacceptable in the case of Syrian forces liberating Idlib from Al Qaeda?

A still more basic question is, Is it acceptable to respond in force to attacks from an enemy? The answer is obvious, which may be why it is never asked, for if asked, Syrian military operations against continued Al Qaeda attacks would have to be accepted as legitimate, rather than falsely portrayed as acts of aggression against Syrian civilians.

Third, is Turkey’s presence on Syrian soil legitimate? The answer is categorically in the negative. The invasion of Syria by Turkey and the occupation of part of Syrian territory by Turkish forces is no different in law, politics, or morality than the Nazi invasion of Poland, France, the low countries, the Soviet Union, and so on. It is clearly illegal, and an affront to the ‘rules-based international order’ to which the United States, Turkey, and other NATO countries so conspicuously and hypocritically profess allegiance. The invasion and occupation have been carried out in defense of Turkey’s Al Qaeda proxy, and to advance the interests of Turks and Islamists against the interests of Syrians and secularists. Erdogan is no hero, but a villain, whose hands are as maculated by the blood of Al Qaeda’s Syrian victims as are those of his Al Qaeda proxies.

Finally, what are the costs of Al Qaeda’s continued rule over millions of Syrians in Idlib? Are they greater than the costs in civilian casualties and displacement of bringing that rule to an end? The US news media have been generally supportive of the immense costs in blood and treasure Washington has incurred to wage its war on Al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. While noting the civilian cost of driving ISIS from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, the US news media have never denounced the US war on ISIS as a humanitarian horror story, a term it uses to denounce Syria’s war on Al Qaeda. Instead, ISIS itself is portrayed as a humanitarian horror story, and efforts to undermine and defeat it are welcomed. This should be true too of Syria’s war on Al Qaeda. It is Al Qaeda that is the humanitarian horror story and it is the actions of the Syrian military in undermining and defeating it that ought to be welcomed and met with approbation.

The Syrian military advance to recover Idlib and liberate it from Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization which has imposed a harsh regime of religious intolerance and Islamist despotism on millions of Syrians, has not been welcomed by the US news media. Although the campaign is praiseworthy on multiple levels—it recovers national territory held by proxies of a foreign aggressor, and aims to liberate millions of people who have been tyrannized by a rule imposed on them by an organization made up of thousands of foreign fighters—US media, betraying their commitment to US geopolitical agendas, portray the commendable as indefensible. We ought to applaud the actions of the Syrian military, along with those of its Russian and Iranian allies, not deplore them. These actions are blows against reaction, oppression, and foreign aggression, and in defense of democracy on an international level, as well as in the furtherance of the welfare of the Syrian people.

1. Raja Abdulrahim, “’I feel like this is the end’: A million fleeing Syrians trapped by Assad’s final push,” The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2020.
2. Abdulrahim, February 20, 2020.
3. Abdulrahim, February 20, 2020.
4. Abdulrahim, February 20, 2020.
5. Desmond Butler, “Turkey officials confirm pact with Saudi Arabia to help rebels fighting Syria’s Assad,” AP, May 7, 2015.
6. Carlotta Gall, “Syrian attacks draw Turkey deeper into Syrian war,” The New York Times, February 12, 2020.
7. Sune Engel Rasmussen and James Marson, “Syrian offensive creates new frictions among foreign powers,” The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2018.
8. Robert Fisk, “To unlock the diplomatic mysteries behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, take a look at Syria,” The Independent, November 22, 2018.
9. Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Officials Warn of Rising Threat From Qaeda Branch in Northwest Syria.” The New York Times, September 29, 2019.
10. Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch, “Russian-backed Syrian offensive kills dozens, displaces tens of thousands,” The Washington Post, December 25, 2019; Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian forces move into strategic town, tightening grip on rebels,” The New York Times, August 20, 2019; Patrick Cockburn, “Trump says Isis has been defeated, but he is ignoring the bigger and much more worrying picture,” The independent, February 8, 2019; Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia, 553rd meeting of the United Nations Security Council, June 18, 2019.
11. Patrick Cockburn, “Trump says Isis has been defeated, but he is ignoring the bigger and much more worrying picture,” The independent, February 8, 2019.
12. Mr. Ja’afari (Syrian Arab Republic) United Nations Security Council, 8535th Meeting, May 28, 2019.
13. Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch, “Russian-backed Syrian offensive kills dozens, displaces tens of thousands,” The Washington Post, December 25, 2019.
14. Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian forces move into strategic town, tightening grip on rebels,” The New York Times, August 20, 2019.
15. Raja Abdulrahim, “Syrian government captures strategic town in last opposition stronghold,” The Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2019.
16. Patrick Cockburn, February 8, 2019.
17. Patrick Cockburn, February 8, 2019.
18. Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Officials Warn of Rising Threat From Qaeda Branch in Northwest Syria.” The New York Times, September 29, 2019.
19. Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, 553rd meeting of the United Nations Security Council, June 18, 2019.
20. Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Officials Warn of Rising Threat From Qaeda Branch in Northwest Syria.” The New York Times, September 29, 2019.
21. Raja Abdulrahim, February 20, 2020.
22. Raja Abdulrahim, February 20, 2020.
23. Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian forces move into strategic town, tightening grip on rebels,” The New York Times, August 20, 2019; Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia, 553rd meeting of the United Nations Security Council, June 18, 2019.
24. David Gauthier-Villars and Nazih Osseiran, “Turkish troop losses mount after clash with Assad forces,” The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2020.
25. Mr. Ja’afari (Syrian Arab Republic) United Nations Security Council, 8535th Meeting, May 28, 2019.
26. Raja Abdulrahim and Nour Alakraa, “Civilian casualties mount as coalition moves to oust ISIS in Raqqa,” The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2017.

Soleimani assassination only one of many (and not the most consequential) US acts of war against Iran

January 5, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

While the assassination of an Iranian general by a US drone attack in Iraq has been construed in some quarters as a consequential act of war, it is only one, in a long series of US actions, that constitute de facto acts of war by the United States against Iran that have caused considerable harm to the country.

Ever since Iranians overthrew the US puppet ruler, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1979, Washington has pursued an unceasing campaign of aggression against the sovereign state with the aim of returning Iran to its orbit. Since 2018, US aggression has intensified. In a stepped up effort to topple the independence-minded government in Tehran, Washington has undertaken campaigns of destabilization on top of information-, cyber-, and economic-warfare—significant aggressions against which the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani is but a minor act.

Press TV

The roots of anti-Iranian US hostility can be summed up in one sentence: Tehran rejects the hegemony of the United States and its allies over the Middle East and the Muslim world. [1] This is consistent with the view of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Iran, they testified before the US Congress in 2017, seeks to “counter the influence of the U.S. and our Allies.” [2] Accordingly, the Iranian government has been declared an enemy of the United States. In short, Washington insists on imposing its will on the Middle East, and Tehran refuses to submit to US despotism. A former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once expressed the Iranian position this way: “We tell [the United States] that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” [3] Insisting there should be no limit to its global influence, Washington targets for elimination any force that insists limits must be imposed. Advocacy of local independence and national assertiveness, in the US view, is an act of war against the United States, and must be met by aggression. That, at its base, explains Soleimani’s demise, and explains the character of US foreign policy—thuggery in the service of an international dictatorship.

The immediate goal of Washington’s campaigns of destabilization and information- and economic-warfare “is to spur uprisings in Iran that would lead to the overthrow of the cleric-led government,” according to The New York Times. [4] Washington is using economic tools to destroy the Iranian economy, along with US influence over media to mislead the Iranian population into attributing the collapse of their economy to government mismanagement, and therefore to view the solution to their misery as the overthrow of their own government.

Acts of war I: Economic terrorism

To destroy Iran’s economy, Washington has acted to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero. Additionally, by “sanctioning many of the country’s largest banks, including its central bank, it has severed most of Iran’s financial ties to the world. Other major non-oil sources of revenue have also been targeted—including the auto, aluminum, and petrochemical sectors—and insurers are prohibited from covering Iranian shipments,” according to The Wall Street Journal. [5] The sanctions, in the words of US president Donald Trump, are “massive.” [6] Indeed, the United States has used its economic weight and pressure on other countries to impose a total embargo on Iran, adding the Islamic republic to the list of countries now facing a total US embargo, including Venezuela, North Korea, Syria and Cuba. [7] Significantly, all of these countries share a single thing in common: refusal to submit to US domination.

The “massive” sanctions are hardly limited, surgical, or targeted—that is, restricted to government figures with exemptions for the civilian population. On the contrary, as the Iranian diplomat Majid Takht-Ravanchi explained to the United Nations Security Council in June,

The sanctions are basically designed to harm the general public, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as women, children, the elderly and patients. The sanctions harm the poor more than the rich, the ill more than the healthy and infants and children more than adults. In short, those who are most vulnerable suffer the most. For instance, patients who have severe conditions and therefore need scarce and expensive medicines and advanced medical equipment, which in most cases must be imported, suffer the most. [8]

“Sanctions aren’t an alternative to war,” tweeted Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in June. “They ARE war.” [9] Indeed, if we define war as the use of harm to achieve political ends, then harmful coercive economic measures are acts of war. As Takht-Ravanchi told the Security Council,

The United States is weaponizing food and medicine against civilians, which is a clear manifestation of the collective punishment of an entire nation, amounting to a crime against humanity and thus entailing international responsibility. [10]

Terrorism is the deliberate harm of civilians to achieve political goals. Economic warfare is terrorism. Washington’s anti-Iranian sanctions program has a clear political aim: to topple the independence-minded government in Tehran in order to re-assert US hegemony over the country. And there is no question it is aimed at civilians. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, acknowledged the terrorist nature of the US economic warfare campaign when he said “The Iranian leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” [11]

“These days, the biggest, baddest weapon in the American arsenal isn’t a missile, or a tank, or a fighter jet. It is America’s economic clout,” remarked Gerald F. Seib, a columnist with The Wall Street Journal. [12] Patrick Cockburn, the veteran Middle East correspondent with The Independent, echoed Seib:

Because the media and much of the political establishment in Washington and western capitals are so viscerally anti-Trump, they frequently underestimate the effectiveness of his reliance on American economic might… At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones. [13]

The US drone strike on Soleimani killed a handful of soldiers, people who had devoted their lives to local independence and national assertiveness. The Treasury Department’s sanctions have harmed vastly more people—of a different category: civilians, the victims of the United States’ crazed drive to extend its dictatorship over as many countries as will bow to US coercion.

Pompeo’s threat to starve Iranians unless Tehran capitulates to US demands was anticipated by Martinique-born Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretch of the Earth. ”’When a colonial and imperialist power is forced to give independence to a people, this imperialist power says: ‘you want independence? Then take it and die of hunger.’ Because the imperialists continue to have economic power,” remarked the late Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo, “they can condemn a people to hunger, by means of blockades, embargoes, or underdevelopment.” [14]

Acts of war II: Information warfare

Annihilating the Iranian economy is easily within the Treasury Department’s power, but misleading tens of millions of Iranians into understanding their misery as originating in their own government’s mismanagement, rather than US economic terrorism, is a task of an altogether different sort. In an effort to “win over the Iranian public” Washington has launched “an information campaign blaming the country’s economic hardship on its leaders and discrediting those who oppose the White House’s policies,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “The campaign aims to erode public support for the leadership in Tehran with hashtags, YouTube videos and traditional pro-U. S. media outlets broadcasting in the Middle East.” [15]

To this end, Washington “has helped anti-Iranian government hashtags to trend on Twitter, including #40YearsofFailure that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the country’s revolution. It has used Persian-language social media to blame deadly floods … on government mismanagement, tapping into a complaint many Iranians have made.” Additionally, Washington relies on its formal propaganda apparatus, the Voice of America, to beam messages aimed at discrediting the Iranian government to 14 million residents of Iran. [16] The propagation of lies to discredit a state in order to destabilize it and bring down its government is every bit as much an act of war as the assassination of Soleimani.

And when Washington isn’t using its influence over information media to try control the minds of Iranians, it’s acting to silence those who present an opposing point of view. Last year, Instagram cancelled Soleimani’s account, after Washington designated him the head of a foreign terrorist organization—an act of stunning hypocrisy, considering that the US government is targeting the entire Iranian population with harm in order to achieve its political goals, i.e., is practicing terrorism. What’s more, US terrorism is carried out on a massive scale, far in excess of anything the insurgents Washington labels as terrorists could ever hope to emulate. Additionally, Washington moved to discredit expatriate Iranians who contested the US war on Iran by dubbing them as propagandists for the Iranian government. According to The Wall Street Journal, “an online platform funded by the State Department, the Iran Disinformation Project, spearheaded a campaign to discredit Iranian journalists and scholars living in the U.S. and Europe, accusing them of being mouthpieces for the Iranian regime.” Their offense was to support the 2015 nuclear deal. [17]

Acts of war III: Covert CIA action

The total embargo of Iran is the principal means by which Washington intends to destabilize the country. But Washington is also relying on CIA covert action to help foster political instability. In 2017, The New York Times, citing multiple US defense and intelligence officials, reported that the Trump administration intended to use US “spies to help oust the Iranian government.” [18] The CIA destabilization program would be led by Michael D’Andrea, nicknamed “the Dark Prince”, who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the years after 9/11, D’Andrea was “deeply involved in the detention and interrogation program,” which resulted in the torture and deaths of a number of prisoners. [19]

Citing a former US military commander, The New York Times reported that “there was a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. could pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have ‘crystal-clear attribution’ to the United States.” [20] These included putting a bounty “on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces” to encourage “mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies.” It could also include spreading “information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders.” Additionally, Washington could provide assistance to Iran’s labor movement to make its protests against the government more effective. [21]

Acts of war IV: Cyber options

On top of these acts of war, Washington has carried on an ongoing campaign of cyberwarfare against the Iranian state. According to The New York Times, “The head of United States Cyber Command, Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, describes his strategy as ‘persistent engagement.’” According to a senior US defense official, US operatives “are carrying out constant low-level digital attacks.” [22] One of the most ambitions campaigns of cyberwarfare ever launched, namely, the Stuxnet virus, was developed jointly by the United States and Israel to disrupt Iran’s entirely legal uranium processing activities.

Of the multiple means Washington has used to try to impose its will on Iran and negate the country’s sovereignty—from total embargo, to the deliberate spreading of lies, to the suppression of alternative voices, to aid to dissidents, to persistent harassment of the Iranian state through cyber-operations—the assassination of the Quds Brigade commander has been the least significant in producing harm to Iran and perhaps the most likely to backfire and harm the United States.

Fighting back

What measures may a state legitimately take, in a de facto or de jure state of war, to protect itself from an aggressor? In 1939, the British authorities rounded up and jailed members of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. While Mosley’s followers were not accused of crimes, [23] their loyalty was deemed to be questionable. Accordingly, they posed a credible threat to national security during a period of acute crisis, and were duly incarcerated. Few people today would challenge the British government’s decision to lock up British fascists while the country was at war with a fascist state. Neither would they question the decision to suspend elections and confer extraordinary powers on the prime minister, that is, to establish a totalitarian state, while the country was at war.

There is no question that Iran finds itself in a state of emergency and a de facto state of war, arising through no fault of its own, but through Washington’s unceasing efforts to project its influence over the entire face of the globe and negate the sovereignty of other states. Whatever political police state measures Tehran takes to protect itself from US despotism are fully justified under the standards invoked by leading Western democracies during two world wars and other national emergencies.

I make this point because there is a principle that lies at the heart of Iran’s struggle against US tyranny—the principle of independence and local sovereignty, one which partisans of the tradition of equality, liberty, and international solidarity must defend. Defending this principle, however, can be difficult. Witness Washington’s attempts to discredit expatriate Iranians who have spoken out against the de facto US war. To avoid such difficulties, some seek an escape route. A favored tactic is to eschew support for states deemed official enemies of the United States on the grounds that they are police states, or authoritarian, or have abridged human rights. Of course, all of these descriptions fit. But if official enemies are police states, it is because they have been made so by US actions, in the same way the crises of world wars made leading Western democracies into robust police states. If we’re genuinely concerned with human rights, political openness, and political democracy, the way to make these institutions flower is to stop Western governments from poisoning the soil in which the institutions thrive.

Deciding one’s attitude to targets of US aggression on the basis of whether they’re police states sets an impossible standard. It mandates that countries attacked by the West must deny themselves the same defenses their own countries have taken in times of emergency to merit our support. In this view, our solidarity and assistance are available only to those who allow themselves to be victimized, while those who act in the real world, in realistic and consequential ways in defense of laudable principles and aims, are shunned, deplored, ostracized, and excoriated. The consequences of this for the preservation of the principles of democracy on an international scale, for self-determination, and for equality, are not difficult to discern.

Conclusion

While the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani was an act of international barbarity, emblematic of the thuggish nature of US foreign policy, it was neither the only de facto act of war the United States has undertaken against Iran, nor the most harmful. Indeed, against the total embargo Washington has imposed on Iran with the intention of starving Iranians into submission or inducing them to overthrow their government, the killing of Soleimani is a act of little consequence, even if its significance in provoking widespread outrage and galvanizing opposition to US aggression is undoubted.

1. Said K. Aburish, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud, Bloomsbury, 2005, p. 137.

2. Posture statement of 19th Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff before the 115th Congress Senate Armed Services Budget Hearing, June 13, 2017.

3. Howard Schneider, “Iran, Syria mock U.S. policy, Ahmadinejad speaks of Israel’s ‘annihilation’”, The Washington Post, February 26, 2010.

4. Edward Wong, “U.S. Turns Up Pressure on Iran With Sanctions on Transportation Firms,” The New York Times, December 11, 2019.

5. Ian Talley and Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump imposes sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, others,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2019.

6. Michael R. Gordon, Ian Talley and Laurence Norman, “US plans new Iran sanctions as Europe tries to defuse tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019.

7. Vivian Salama, “US expands sanctions against Venezuela into an embargo,” The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2019.

8. Takht Ravanchi (Islamic Republic of Iran) 8564th meeting of the United Nations Security Council, 26 June 2019.

9. Laurence Norman and Stacy Meichtry, “Iran threatens to pull out of nuclear treaty, like North Korea,” The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019.

10. Takht Ravanchi.

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

12. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks in overusing America’s big economic weapon,” The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2019.

13. Patrick Cockburn, “Europe doesn’t have the power to be much more than a spectator in the escalating US-Iran conflict,” The Independent, May 11, 2019.

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

15. Sune Engel Rasmussen and Michael Amon, “US aims a megaphone at Iranian public as part of pressure campaign,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2019.

16. Rasmussen and Amon.

17. Ibid.

18. Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman, “CIA names the ‘dark prince’ to run Iran operations, signaling a tougher stance,” The New York Times, June 2, 2017.

19. Ibid.

20. Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “White House is pressing for additional options, including cyberattacks, to deter Iran,” The New York times, June 23, 2019.

21. Ibid.

22. Julian E. Barnes, “US cyberattack hurt Iran’s ability to target oil tankers, officials say,” The New York Times, August 28, 2019.

23. David A. Price, “’Agent Jack’ review: Tell it to Hitler.” The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2019.

Kim Jong Un: Until the US shows it’s interested in peace, North Korea will continue to build strategic weapons

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

January 2, 2020 

By Stephen Gowans

On January 1, North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, presented the DPRK position on the current state of US-North Korean relations, as articulated by Kim Jong Un at a high-level meeting. I’ve summarized the report below, retaining some of the English language text as it originally appeared in the KCNA report, but editing for clarity. I’ve included the Castro quote at the head of this article for the sole reason that, in my opinion, it succinctly sums up the North Korean position.

Kim’s main message is that the DPRK has seen no interest on the US side in peace. On the contrary, despite professing to be interested in a dialogue with the DPRK, the United States has persisted in conducting war games (despite promising to suspend them), has stepped up provocations (by transferring new weapons systems to South Korea), and has intensified it efforts to bring about the collapse of the DPRK (by adding still more sanctions.) This has left North Korea with no option but to continue to build its strategic nuclear defense, while resolving to endure the sanctions. 

http://www.barakabooks.com/

My summary of the KCNA report follows: 

The United States has labelled the DPRK an enemy, part of an “axis of evil,” and a possible target of a pre-emptive nuclear strike. It has applied the most brutal and inhuman sanctions against the country and posed a persistent nuclear threat to the DPRK over the past seven decades. 

Despite the DPRK halting its nuclear tests, suspending the test firing of ICBMs, and shutting down its nuclear-test site—measures taken to build confidence—Washington has not reciprocated with comparable confidence building measures; instead it has continued to conduct joint military drills which US president Donald Trump personally promised to stop. At the same time, Washington has threatened the DPRK by shipping ever more lethal arms and weapons systems to South Korea. On top of these hostile actions, Washington has imposed additional tranches of sanctions on North Korea. The United States’ ambition to stifle the DPRK is undiminished.

In light of the continued US hostility toward the DPRK it can only be concluded that there is no commitment on the US side to arrive at an agreement on denuclearization and that the United States is feigning interest in dialogue and negotiations in order to buy time to allow sanctions to further weaken the DPRK. Accordingly, the DPRK no longer feels bound to take confidence building measures. 

It is true that we urgently need an external environment favourable to our economic development, but the DPRK cannot trade security for visible economic results. Washington’s current posture indicates that the confrontation with the United States will be a long one. 

The DPRK-United States stand-off began in the last century and persists into this one. The DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles are a pretext for US hostility. Absent the nuclear issue, the United States would find fault with the DPRK for some other reason. The United States’ military and political threats will never end. 

This reality urgently requires us to resolve to live with sanctions for as long a necessary and also to actively push forward the project of developing strategic weapons. 

A long history of overcoming difficulties and defending our rights and dignity in the face of harsh opposition has shown us that through self-reliance we can foil the enemies’ sanctions and blockade and preserve our sovereignty and dignity. 

Our goal is to build a national defense strong enough to deter any power from using its armed force against us. We must be sufficiently armed to keep hostile forces at bay so that they will never dare to undermine our sovereignty and security. As part of our continuing effort to achieve this goal, we will soon reveal a new strategic weapon. 

If the United States persists in its hostile policy towards the DPRK, the Korean peninsula will never be denuclearized. Instead, the DPRK will steadily develop strategic weapons for the security of the state. It will continue to do this until the United States rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and a lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism is built. 

Source: “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020.

* William R. Long, “Radicalism not necessary, Castro advises Sandinistas,” The Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1985.

 

Washington’s Xinjiang smear

With help from The New York Times and an anti-communist fanatic of questionable mental competence, Washington orchestrates a smear campaign in an effort to widen one of China’s ethnic fault lines

January 1, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

A Chinese government campaign to bring jobs to a poor region of the country plagued by Islamist-inspired secessionist violence is being depicted by The New York Times as “ethnic subjugation,” “social re-engineering,” and a “crackdown on Muslims.” This echoes the US State Department descriptions of the economic development campaign as “Orwellian,” a “gross human rights violation,” and “one of the worst stains on the world of this century.”

“Chinese leaders have struggled for decades to suffocate separatist sentiment in Xinjiang, a mountainous expanse abutting Central Asia that 12 million Uighurs—nearly half the region’s population—regard as their homeland,” according to The Wall Street Journal. [1] Beijing’s efforts to more fully integrate the predominantly Muslim Uighurs into China’s multi-ethnic community have sparked recriminations in the West. Chinese leaders have been accused of incarcerating a million or more Uighurs in “indoctrination” camps.

Adrian-Zenz-Uyghurs-China-Christian-fundamentalist
Democracy Now! labels a fanatical anti-communist who is employed by a US government-established foundation and believes he’s on a mission from God to destroy the People’s Republic of China as “an independent researcher.” 

For the past two decades the United States has waged war on Islamist-inspired anti-US violence in the Middle East, a campaign marked by assassinations, invasion, occupation, torture, incarceration of Islamist militants, gross violations of international law, and programs to re-educate Islamist radicals. In contrast, Chinese efforts to deal with Islamist-inspired violence, (and within its own borders, in contrast to a US “war on terror” which is carried out in other peoples’ countries), have been mainly based on job training, job creation, and re-education.

Chinese leaders “attribute ethnic tensions and sporadic violent attacks in Xinjiang to the influence of radical Islam.” [2] Creating jobs has been central to the government’s strategy. “A person with a job will be stable,” said Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2014. [3]

In a campaign to end poverty nationwide by late 2020, Xi has pushed Xinjiang officials to create economic opportunity for Uighurs, as a way not only of ameliorating the material conditions of China’s Muslim population, but also of more fully integrating it into Chinese society. [4] “The government goals are sweeping,” says The New York Times—up to one million new jobs in Xinjiang by late 2023. [5]

Dozens “of factory zones have emerged across Xinjiang,” The New York Times reports, attesting, it says, to Beijing’s ambitions to end poverty nationwide by late 2020 [6]—a laudable goal.

But rather than depicting the Chinese campaign in meritorious, or even neutral, terms, The New York Times echoes the US State Department, turning what would appear to be a welcome job creation program into something dark, namely, “an aggressive campaign to remold Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities … into an army of workers for factories and other big employers.” [7] A program of job training and placement for “idle villagers” is described as “social re-engineering,” while lifting Xinjiang residents out of poverty is demonized as “a major effort by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to entrench control over this region.” We would soon enough dismiss as rank propagandists Chinese journalists who would decry a US job creation program for impoverished areas of the United States as a major effort by the US president to entrench control over disadvantaged regions. We ought to do the same when US journalists propagate the same nonsense.

To portray China as the site of a massive assault on human rights, New York Times’ reporters Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy turn to the Uyghur Human Rights Project [8], an organization backed by the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED). In an August 2007 article titled “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique reported that the NED “was created in 1983, ostensibly as a non-profit-making organisation to promote human rights and democracy. In 1991 its first president, the historian Allen Weinstein, confessed to The Washington Post: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.” [9] In other words, the NED overtly works to destabilize governments Washington doesn’t like, under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights. It does so by providing funding and encouragement to dissident groups, like the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Drawing on the testimony of the CIA-surrogate-funded group, The New York Times depicts Beijing’s vigorous poverty reduction program as an effort to “remold Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor,” as part of a program of “ethnic subjugation”. [10]

If the negative spin isn’t enough to raise questions about The New York Times’ agenda, the newspaper’s reference to Beijing’s efforts to deal with Islamist-inspired secessionist violence as a “crackdown on Muslims” [11] is. If the campaign could indeed be described fairly in these terms, we would have to redefine ‘crackdown’ to mean ‘education and job creation’ and ‘Muslims’ to mean ‘violent Islamist-inspired secessionists.’ The New York Times would never describe the US ‘war on terror’ as ‘a crackdown on Muslims,’ for the obvious reason that it doesn’t target all Muslims, but only a very small violent, anti-US, subset. The newspaper, however, finds itself unable to make the same distinction where a strategic US competitor is concerned, preferring instead to portray measures of repression against a small, Islamist-inspired violent subset of Chinese Muslims as measures directed at all of them.

In July, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, joined North Korea, Myanmar and others in signing a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang” [12]—an indication that Beijing’s campaign to address secessionist violence in the remote Chinese region is not the Orwellian stain on humanity that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have us believe. A better candidate for ‘gross human rights violation’ – another of Pompeo’s slurs on the Chinese job training program—might be the State Department supremo’s warning that the United States will see to it that the Iranian people starve if Tehran continues to refuse to renegotiate its nuclear deal with Washington. [13]

In a resolution on protecting the rights of Muslim minorities around the world, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians, praised China for “providing care to its Muslim citizens” [14]—another endorsement at odds with the US campaign to smear its rising strategic competitor as an anti-Muslim power.

Meanwhile, as Washington poses as the champion of China’s Muslims, it has little to say about the litany of abuses heaped upon India’s Muslims by its friend, the Hindu-nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. Any unbiased effort to identify crackdowns on Muslims would arrive at India’s doorstep long before it arrived at China’s. In the recent past, Modi—on whom Washington relies to execute its Indo-Pacific Strategy to eclipse the rise of China as a strategic competitor—has been responsible for banning a method of divorce allowed under Muslim religious law and ending the autonomy of India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir. To add insult to injury, Modi welcomed a Supreme Court decision that would allow Hindu groups to build a temple in the city of Ayodhya on a site where Muslims want to rebuild a mosque torn down by a Hindu mob in 1992. [15]

On top of these anti-Muslim actions, senior leaders of Modi’s party say they want to introduce a citizen registry that would require all residents to produce documents proving their citizenry. Muslims who are unable to produce the required documents would be treated as immigrants, while all others would be able to naturalize. [16] According to The Wall Street Journal, “Muslims in India say they feel increasingly targeted and vulnerable.” [17]

Washington, then, is prepared to overlook the anti-Muslim actions of an ally, while presenting the efforts of a strategic competitor to improve the material conditions of its Muslim population as a dark, communist-guided Orwellian campaign to brainwash Muslims in order to subordinate them to Han rule. This is the same kind of nonsense Hitler and other counter-revolutionaries used to serve their own reactionary ends, except in their case they depicted communist efforts on behalf of Europe’s working class as a dark, Orwellian campaign by Marxists to bring Germans and Russians under Jewish control.

Some Western newspapers allege that a million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps, and that the figure is based on a UN report. But as The Grayzone’s Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal have pointed out, the figure is not based on a UN report, but on a report submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group backed by the CIA-surrogate NED. It is more apt to label the report, not as a UN-produced document, but as report bankrolled by a US destabilization agency.

Not only does the network’s backing by the US government constitute prima facie evidence of a pro-US, anti-China bias, but the dubious methodology by which the US-backed group arrived at its estimate of one million Uighur detainees further calls its claims into question. The estimate is based on the testimony of eight Uighur opponents of the Chinese government who were asked to guess how many Muslims from their respective villages had been detained by authorities. Their answers were then projected regionally. The methodology, in its reliance on an extremely small and non-random sample—without making the slightest effort to identify who the detainees are (violent radical Islamists or Muslims selected at random?)—is so compromised as to be virtually useless, if not a complete joke. No legitimate researcher or reporter would take it seriously.

Neither would anyone of an unbiased mind take seriously Adrian Zenz, anointed by Western governments and their faithful scribes in the mainstream (and even progressive) media, as a Xinjiang expert. Zenz has become the go-to guy for Western media and governments for commentary on China’s treatment of its Muslim citizens.

According to Singh and Blumenthal, Zenz is “a far-right fundamentalist Christian who opposes homosexuality and gender equality, supports ‘scriptural spanking’ of children,” but more importantly “believes he is ‘led by God’ on a ‘mission’ against China.” [18]

The New York Times bills Zenz as a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. [19] The foundation’s name speaks volumes about its agenda, but it also helps to know that it was created by the US government, and that its mission is to discredit communist governments, including China, by calling their human rights records into question.

The foundation’s view of the world, according to its website, reposes on the following  premises:

• Communist regimes commit the worst human rights abuses on the widest scale in the world today.
• Communists have killed more than 100 million people over the past century.
• Communism promises to make everyone equal, but delivers radical inequality.
• Every time it is tried, it ends either in economic collapse or a police state. [20]

It’s a virtual certainty that Zenz, as a researcher at an anti-communist foundation, has an a priori anti-China agenda. Laying aside questions about his mental competence—indicated in his belief that “God has sent him on a holy crusade against the People’s Republic of China” [21]—there is no possibility that he is anything but an advocate for a US-friendly, anti-Chinese point of view. In other words, he has zero credibility. All the same, he has appeared before the US Congress and Canadian Parliament as a Xinjiang expert, and has been sought out by Western media from The New York Times to Democracy Now! for commentary. [22] Here’s one of Zenz’s gems from The New York Times: “The long-term strategy [of the Chinese jobs program] is to conquer, to captivate, to win over the young generation from the beginning.” [23]

Washington’s reasons for trying to strengthen secessionism in Xinjiang, and for attempting to discredit Beijing’s efforts to allay it, are not difficult to find. From the Obama Administration forward, US policy has focused on countering the rise of China. A standard tactic states use against rivals is to provide assistance and encouragement to dissident groups to weaken rivals internally. The idea is to find existing fault lines, and then to press on them. In China, Washington has targeted four weak links: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. “Xi told Trump that China is deeply concerned about ‘the negative words and deeds’ of the United States on issues related to” these four regions. [24] The negative deeds include the flow of funding from the CIA-surrogate NED to pro-secessionist groups, as well as Western government and media support for phony China experts who are paraded before global audiences to portray China as a human rights abuser. This is part of the United States’ larger project of eclipsing the rise of a strategic competitor in order to protect US global hegemony.

Scratch the surface, and the US campaign is revealed as a bad joke. It depends on portraying Beijing’s efforts to lift China’s Muslims out of poverty as an Orwellian plot to enforce Han ethnic rule over Uighurs and relies on groups funded by a foundation created to carry out destabilization operations once entrusted to the CIA. At the same time, it elevates a fanatical anti-communist who believes he’s imbued with a mission from God to destroy the People’s Republic of China to the role of the world’s leading expert on Xinjiang.

1. Josh Chin, “China stresses investment, invokes New Zealand massacre in defending treatment of Muslims,” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2019.
2. Chin.
3. Eva Dou and Chao Deng, “Western companies get tangled in China’s Muslim clampdown,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019.
4. Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, “Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities into an Army of Workers,” The New York Times, December 30, 2019.
5. Buckley and Ramzy.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Hernando Calvo Ospina, “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2007, https://mondediplo.com/2007/08/04ned
10. Buckley and Ramzy.
11. Amy Qin, “In China’s crackdown on Muslims, children have not been spared,” The New York Times, December 28, 2019.
12. Jon Emont, “How China persuaded one Muslim nation to keep silent on Xinjiang camps,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
13. Mike Pompeo, November 7, 2018, quoted in “Iran letter to the UNSG and UNSC on Pompeo provocative statement,” Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 30, 2018.
14. Jane Perlez, “With pressure and persuasion, China deflects criticisms of its camps for Muslims,” The New York Times, April 8, 2019.
15. Eric Bellman, “India says the path to citizenship will get easier, but Muslims see a Hindu plot,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
16. Vibhuti Agarwal and Krishna Pokharel, “With protests, India Muslims push back against Modi government,” The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2019.
17. Eric Bellman, “India says the path to citizenship will get easier, but Muslims see a Hindu plot,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
18. Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal, “China detaining millions of Uyghurs? Serious problems with claims by US-backed GO and far-right researcher ‘led by God’ against Beijing,” The Grayzone, December 21, 2019.
19. Qin.
20. https://www.victimsofcommunism.org/vision
21. Singh and Blumenthal.
22. Ibid.
23. Qin.
24. Steve Holland and Roxanne Liu, “Xi accuses US of interfering in China’s internal affairs in phone call with Trump,” Reuters, December 20, 2019.

US-Led Efforts to Overthrow Maduro Spurred by Business Interests, Not Democracy

January 24, 2019

By Stephen Gowans

The US-led and coordinated intervention to overthrow Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro by recognizing Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly as the interim president, has nothing whatever to do with restoring democracy in Venezuela (which was never overturned) and everything to do with promoting US business interests.

Washington’s imperial arrogance in effectively appointing Guaidó as president, attempting to go over the heads of Venezuelans—who alone have the right to decide who their leaders are—is motivated by the same concerns that have motivated other US interventions around the world: toppling governments that put their citizens’ interests above those of US investors.

That Washington has a propensity to engage in destabilization operations against leftwing governments is hardly a secret. From 1898 to 2004, the US government undertook 41 successful regime change interventions in Latin America, an average of one every two-and-a-half years. And that excludes the unsuccessful ones, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In almost every instance, US regime change interventions around the world have been motivated either directly or indirectly by commercial considerations, and were undertaken to restore or protect the primacy of US business interests in foreign lands. And in many cases, the interventions paved the way for the installation of rightwing dictatorships.

One ultimately unsuccessful US intervention was the 2002 coup d’état against Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor. Washington immediately recognized the coup, hailing it as a victory for democracy, but privately recognized it as a major win for US business interests in an oil-rich state teeming with potential profit-making opportunities for US free enterprise.

Washington disliked Chavez because the charismatic leftist leader promoted the welfare of ordinary Venezuelans, rather than pandering to US investors. But the coup against Chavez was short-lived. In a blow against tyranny, the regime change was quickly reversed and Chavez, the country’s legitimate leader, was restored to the presidency.

Determined to eliminate leftist governments in Latin America, Washington stepped up its campaign of economic warfare against the South American country, aiming to plunge its economy into ruin and the Venezuelan people into misery. This was a game plan Washington had followed countless times before and since, in China, Cuba, North Korea, Chile, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, and Iran: ruin the target country’s economy, attribute the chaos to “the failures of socialism” and economic mismanagement, and wait for the people to rise in revolt against their misery.

http://www.barakabooks.com
The idea that Washington’s intervention in Venezuela has even the slightest connection to protecting democracy is laughable. The US government has notoriously supported a string of rightwing dictatorships throughout Latin America, including that of Augusto Pinochet, who was installed in the wake of a 1973 US-engineered coup against Salvador Allende. Allende crossed Washington by doing what Maduro, and a host of other Third World leaders, had done: put the interests of the local population ahead of those of corporate America.

In the Middle East, the United States’s closest Arab allies are a military dictatorship (Egypt) and absolutist monarchies, chief among them Saudi Arabia, whose abhorrence of democracy is absolute. Washington rewards Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, and robustly supports the Saudi tyranny.

Saudis regard their parasitical royal family as completely unacceptable. To protect itself from its own population, the monarchy maintains a 250,000 troop-strong National Guard. The Guard exists, not to defend Saudi Arabia from external aggression, but to protect the monarchy from its own subjects. The al-Saud family’s protectors are trained and equipped by the United States and its satellites, including Canada, which has a $10-billion contract to supply the force with armored personnel carriers, used to put down the frequent uprisings of disgruntled Saudi subjects.

The National Guard’s armorer, Canada, also recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, dishonestly attributing its decision to follow the US-lead to its purported commitment to democracy. Ottawa has colluded with the dictators of Riyadh in their crackdown on long-suffering, democracy-deprived, Saudi citizens, at the same time supporting General Dynamics Canada’s efforts to rake in Pharaonic profits from arms sales to the democracy-hating Saudi despots.

Let’s be honest about a few things.

First, the agendas of US and Canadian political leaders are set by the economic elites and organized business interests on which they depend for campaign contributions, policy recommendations, and lucrative post political career job opportunities, and with which they’re tightly integrated personally and professionally. Accordingly, they care about the profits of US and Canadian investors, not about the welfare, freedoms or democracy of ordinary Venezuelans. Indeed, they secretly harbor contempt for the bulk of their own citizens and wouldn’t, for a moment, tolerate the flowering of an authentic, robust, democracy in their own countries. The idea that they care about the residents of a distant South American land is a fantasy for political innocents and the weakly naïve.

Second, US-led campaigns of economic warfare do make people’s lives miserable, and many people may attribute their misery to the actions of their own government and wish to see it step down. Others may recognize that sanctions are the cause of their misery, and may support regime change as a way of winning relief from foreign-imposed misery. Indeed, the logic of economic warfare depends on these assumptions being true.

Third, governments threatened by foreign-sponsored regime change face legitimate national emergencies. Maduro is not a dictator. He is the elected head of a government confronting a genuine national emergency engineered by hostile foreign powers. Measures taken by the government to defend its citizens against the determination of the United States to impose on Venezuela policies which cater to the interests of corporate America at Venezuelans’ expense are wholly legitimate; they represent the actions of a democracy against a US-led international tyranny.

It is important to remember that Maduro’s government, like Chavez’s, has sought to put the interests of ordinary Venezuelans ahead of those of US investors. As a result, it has provoked Washington’s enmity. The US intervention in Venezuela in recognizing Guaidó as interim president is emblematic of countless other US regime change interventions. Invariably, these interventions are targeted at leftwing governments that threaten the profit making interests of US businesses. The interventions have nothing whatever to do with democracy; on the contrary, where successful, they are almost always followed by rightwing regimes that build US investor-friendly business climates and integrate their countries economically, militarily, and diplomatically into the US-superintended and Wall Street-led global order. Foreign investors are indulged, and the local population is treated harshly. Far from spurring transitions to democracy, US regime change interventions aim to reverse democracy, and strengthen US global tyranny. The latest US-led intervention in Venezuela is no different, and is just a repeat, with local variations, on similar efforts in Syria, Iran, Cuba and North Korea.