“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.
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.
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.  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.
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.”  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. 
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.  “The government goals are sweeping,” says The New York Times—up to one million new jobs in Xinjiang by late 2023. 
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 —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.”  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 , 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’.”  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”. 
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”  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” —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–a Muslim-majority people–starve if Tehran continues to refuse to renegotiate its nuclear deal with Washington. 
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” —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. 
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.  According to The Wall Street Journal, “Muslims in India say they feel increasingly targeted and vulnerable.” 
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.” 
The New York Times bills Zenz as a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.  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. 
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” —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.  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.” 
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.  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.
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.
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.
21. Singh and Blumenthal.
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.
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.
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.
The growing hostility of Western governments to China is more about the interests of Western investors than legitimate security fears
December 30, 2018
By Stephen Gowans
The United States stations 320,000 troops in the vicinity of China , maintains a continuous B-52 bomber presence in the region, including over waters claimed by the East Asian giant,  and has sent its “most advanced warfighting platforms to the region, including multi-mission ballistic missile defense-capable ships, submarines, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.”  The 2018 US National Defense Strategy lists China first among the United States’s “five central external threats” including “Russia, North Korea, Iran, and terrorist groups with global reach.”  The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has called China the “great threat for the U.S. in the long term.”  According to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, the Trump administration considers China “the real enemy.” 
What has China done to make successive US administrations see it as a major external threat and the real enemy? The answer is that China has developed a state-led economic model that limits the profit-making opportunities of US investors and challenges their control of high-technology sectors, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, essential to US military supremacy. Washington is engaged in a multi-faceted war “to prevent Beijing from advancing with plans … to become a global leader in 10 broad areas of technology, including information technology, aerospace and electric vehicles.”  Washington aims to “hobble China’s plans to develop advanced technology”  and to “force China to allow American companies to sell their goods and operate freely” in China, under conditions conducive to maintaining US economic and military supremacy. 
For its part, China seeks to alter a global economic system in which it is allowed only “to produce T-shirts” while the United States produces high-tech, according to Yang Weimin, a senior economic adviser to China’s president Xi Jinping.  Xi is “determined that China master its own microchips, operating systems and other core technologies”  in order to become “technologically self-reliant.”  But self-reliance in industries like aerospace, telecommunications, robotics, and AI means removing China, a large market, from the ambit of US high-tech firms.  Moreover, since Western military supremacy has always relied on Western technological superiority, Chinese efforts to challenge the Western monopoly on high-tech translates directly into an effort to challenge Washington’s ability to use the Pentagon as an instrument for obtaining investment and trade advantages for US investors.
China’s economic model
China’s economic model is often called “state capitalist” or “market socialist.” Both terms refer to two important elements of the Chinese model: the presence of markets, for materials, products and labor, and a role for the state, through industrial planning and ownership of enterprises. 
The “mainstay of the economy”  is China’s over 100,000 state owned enterprises.  The state has a strong presence in the commanding heights of the economy. “Key sectors such as banking are…dominated by state-controlled companies.”  State-owned enterprises “account for about 96% of China’s telecom industry, 92% of power and 74% of autos.”  Beijing “is the biggest shareholder in the country’s 150 biggest companies.”  The combined profit of state-owned “China Petroleum & Chemical and China Mobile in 2009 alone was greater than all the profit of China’s 500 largest private firms.” 
Industrial planning is carried out by the National Development and Reform Commission. The commission uses various means to incubate Chinese industry in key sectors  and drafts plans “to give preferential treatment” to Chinese firms in strategic areas. 
Beijing is counting on state owned firms “to become global leaders in semiconductors, electric vehicles, robotics and other high-technology sectors and is funding them through subsidies and financing from state banks.”  The planning commission also guides the development of steel, photovoltaics, high-speed trains, and other critical industries. 
Beijing has closed sectors it considers strategic or vital to national security to foreign ownership. These include “finance, defense, energy, telecommunications, railways and ports”  as well as steel. All steel industry firms are state-owned and all are financed by state-owned banks.  In total, “China … has restricted or closed off 63 sectors of its own economy to foreign investors, such as stem-cell research, satellites, exploration and exploitation of numerous minerals and media, as well as humanities and social-sciences research institutes.” 
China also relies heavily on joint venture arrangements to acquire Western technology and know-how. This idea was initially introduced to China by General Motors, which proposed a joint venture in 1978 with the Chinese car industry. GM’s idea was to trade off its technology and know-how for access to a vast market and low-wage labor. 
Chinese leaders saw joint ventures as a way “to propel its industries up the value chain into more sophisticated sectors and the country into rich-nation ranks.”  Technology acquired from Western partnerships diffused into the Chinese economy, allowing Chinese firms to become competitors of the Western companies.  For example, Chinese rail companies used technology acquired through joint ventures with Japanese and European firms to become giants in high-speed rail. 
China seeks to achieve self-sufficiency in high-tech by 2025 under a plan called Made in China 2025. The idea is to vault into the top ranks of high-tech, matching and eventually overtaking the West. Xi has complained that Chinese “technology still generally lags that of developed countries” and that China must “catch up and overtake” the West in “core technological fields.”  To help achieve this goal, Beijing plans to “spend billions in the coming years to make the country the world’s leader in A.I,”  among other areas.
China’s economic model is not new. According to the economist, Chang Ha-joon:
“In a way, what it is doing is actually not that different from what the more advanced countries were doing in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Many countries, including Japan and Germany, like China today, were using state-owned enterprises to develop their strategic industries. You can say that China is going through what all the other economically advanced countries have been through, and examples range from the U.S. in the mid-19th century to South Korea in the 1970s and 80s.”
Countries which dominated the globe economically, politically, and militarily have always been the great champions of free trade. The United States had no use for free trade until it became the dominant economic power in the wake of the Second World War. Until the end of WWII, US tariffs were among the world’s highest. Emerging from the war as the planet’s strongest economic power, the United States did all it could to impose free trade, free markets and US free enterprise on as much of the world as it could, and wasn’t shy about using economic warfare, the CIA, and military force to accomplish its goal.
Today, Washington objects strenuously to the Chinese economic model, to the point that it’s willing to use economic warfare, military intimidation, and perhaps even outright war (see below) to impede it. Access to Chinese markets and low-wage labor is highly valued by the US state, but Washington resents access being made contingent on joint venture arrangements which allow US technology to be absorbed by Chinese businesses. The United States demands that US investors be freed from such conditions, that US corporations be granted unfettered access to all Chinese markets, and that US firms be allowed to compete with Chinese enterprises on equal terms, without favor for Chinese companies. There are two reasons Washington makes these demands: to maximize the profit-making opportunities available to US investors in China and to prevent Beijing from building ‘national champions’ able to compete with US corporations. 
The US economic elite has for years expressed its grievances over China’s state owned enterprises. It complains that it is “denied lucrative government business, which goes instead to the state champions.”  US business people grouse that “In the past few years, China has significantly increased the government’s role in the economy, pumping up the state sector and crowding out private and foreign businesses.”  And they lament that the “heavily protected and subsidized Chinese state-owned enterprises … are pounding U.S. companies not just in China but in competition globally.”  In response to these grievances, Washington is pushing for “reducing the role of state-owned firms in China’s economy.” 
Made in China 2025 is a significant irritant to Washington. Peter Navarro, US president Donald Trump’s trade adviser, denounces it as “economic aggression” because it “threatens the U.S. technology sector.”  US vice-president Mike Pence calls it Beijing’s master plan to bring “90% of the world’s most advanced industries” under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.  An emblematic US media description of the Chinese plan is: “Made in China 2025 is Beijing’s plan to dominate global markets in a wide range of high-tech products. China’s strategy is to give large government subsidies to state-owned companies and supplement their research with technology” acquired from Chinese partnerships with, or purchase of, US firms.  The description contains within it a diagnosis and implied US treatment plan: Compel Beijing to a) end subsidies to state-owned enterprises; b) lift joint venture conditions which allow Chinese firms to acquire US technology; and c) prevent Chinese companies from buying Western firms as a means of acquiring Western technology.
The New York Times has reported that the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer “wants China to reduce subsidies and other aid to Chinese firms competing internationally in advanced technology”  and that one US “demand is for China to halt its subsidies for its ‘Made in China 2025’ program aimed at giving its companies a foothold in aircraft, robotics and other areas of advanced manufacturing.” 
“Beijing believes in state-driven research to help state-owned industries,” observes The Wall Street Journal, “while the U.S. depends on the private sector, along with a healthy dose of government-funded basic research.”  That’s not entirely true. The privately-owned Chinese telecom equipment maker, Huawei, spent “$13 billion last year … developing its own technologies, outpacing Intel Corp. and spending almost as much as Google parent Alphabet Inc.”  And corporate America’s reliance on government-funded R&D is far greater than usually acknowledged.
Washington started investing heavily in R&D after the allegedly innovation-stifling Soviet economy allowed the USSR to beat the United States into space, and then chalk up a series of other firsts: the first animal in orbit, first human in orbit, first woman in orbit, first spacewalk, first moon impact, first image of the far side of the moon, first unmanned lunar soft landing, first space rover, first space station and first interplanetary probe. Beat by the Russians, the United States was galvanized to take a leaf from the Soviet book. Just as the Soviets were doing, Washington would use public funds to power research into innovations. This would be done through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The DARPA would channel public money to scientists and engineers for military, space and other research. Many of the innovations to come out of the DARPA pipeline would eventually make their way to private investors, who would use them for private profit.  In this way, private investors were spared the trouble of risking their own capital, as free enterprise mythology would have us believe they do. In this myth, far-seeing and bold capitalists reap handsome profits as a reward for risking their capital on research that might never pay-off. Except this is not how it works. It is far better for investors to invest their capital in ventures with less risk and quicker returns, while allowing the public to shoulder the burden of funding R&D with its many risks and uncertainties. Using their wealth, influence and connections, investors have successfully pressed politicians into putting this pleasing arrangement in place. Free enterprise reality, then, is based on the sucker system: Risk is “socialized” (i.e., borne by the public, the suckers) while benefits are “privatized” (by investors who have manipulated politicians into shifting to the public the burden of funding R&D.)
A study by Block and Keller  found that between 1971 and 2006, 77 out of R&D Magazine’s top 88 innovations had been fully funded by the US government. Summarizing research by economist Mariana Mazzucato, former Guardian columnist Seumas Milne pointed out that the
[a]lgorithms that underpinned Google’s success were funded by the public sector. The technology in the Apple iPhone was invented in the public sector. In both the US and Britain it was the state, not big pharma, that funded most groundbreaking ‘new molecular entity’ drugs, with the private sector then developing slight variations. And in Finland, it was the public sector that funded the early development of Nokia – and made a return on its investment. 
Nuclear power, satellite and rocket technology, the internet and self-driving cars are other examples of innovations that were produced with public money, and have since been used for private profit. When he was US president, Barack Obama acknowledged the nature of the swindle in his 2011 State of the Nation Address. “Our free-enterprise system,” began the president, “is what drives innovation.” However, he immediately contradicted himself by saying, “But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”
Today, the United States “is spending roughly $1 billion to $2 billion annually, much of it federal funds, to build the first ‘exascale’ supercomputer—capable of a quintillion calculations a second, which is at least 100 times faster than today’s champion. Such a machine would help in everything from designing futuristic weapons to investigating brain science.”  The US government is also “boosting spending in semiconductor research, an area of intense Chinese interest.”  Meanwhile, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is funding research on “quantum mechanics to eventually make computers and communications operate at speeds and efficiency well beyond anything possible today.”  And on top of these public R&D expenditures, the DARPA continues to fund advanced research, including on A.I.  Simultaneously, Washington is demanding that China halt its own R&D spending in the same areas.
All of this points to a number of important facts. (1) The United States kick-started innovation in its own economy by emulating the Soviet model of state-directed research because free enterprise was not up to the task. (2) Rather than emulate the Soviet model for public benefit, the United States channels public money into R&D for private profit. (3) US high technology supremacy relies significantly on public funding, yet (or rather because of this) Washington demands that China forbear from its own public funding of innovation research. Washington will only tolerate public funding of basic research that benefits US investors.
Explaining US hostility to China
Understanding the economic and political organization of the United States helps understand why Washington is antagonistic to China’s economic model. The following explains the US political elite’s hostility, currently expressed in the declaration of China as the United States’ top external threat; in the US-instigated trade war against China; in the blocking of Chinese purchases of US companies; and in the exclusion of, or threat to exclude, such Chinese corporations as Huawei and ZTE from Western markets.
The US political elite is interlocked with the community of major US investors. US administrations, the US senate, and the top strata of the US bureaucracy, are mainly staffed by wealthy individuals whose wealth derives from investment income. Additionally, organized business groups and major corporations exert significant influence on the political elite through lobbying, via the funding of policy formation think-tanks, and by ownership of the mass media. In their 2014 study of over 1,700 US policy issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page demonstrated that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial impacts on government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”  Accordingly, US foreign policy defines external threats as threats to the interests of US “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests”—the very same community which dominates the formulation of public policy.
The US National Defense Strategy does not define China as a threat to the United States but as threat to US interests. Unlike the United States, which has a significant military presence in the air, sea and land around China, the East Asian giant does not have a military presence in the Western hemisphere, and is not currently capable of projecting force into it. China does not therefore constitute a military threat to the United States. What, then, are the US interests that China’s threatens? Consistent with the interlocked nature of the US political and economic elites, US interests refer to the profit-making interests of US investors.
China’s economic model threatens the profit-making interests of US economic elites and organized business groups in the following ways.
• State-owned enterprises are closed to US investors and compete against US investment.
• Protected sectors deny US investors profit-making opportunities.
• Joint venture requirements limit US investment and are used to acquire technology to develop enterprises which become capable of competing with US firms.
• State incubation of national champions develops competitors to US investment.
• Made in China 2025 locks US investment out of Chinese high-tech markets, competes against US high-tech investment globally, allows China to contest US military supremacy, and undermines US capabilities to use force to obtain trade and investment opportunities under favorable conditions.
China’s economic model also threatens US (investor) interests by offering an exemplar for other countries to follow, which, if followed, would reduce US profit-making opportunities even more significantly. The Chinese model has had undoubted success in lifting China from poverty. In 1984, three-quarters of the Chinese population still lived in extreme poverty. By 2018, extreme poverty had fallen to less than one percent.  And China is poised to challenge the West’s technological supremacy. These extraordinary accomplishments were not the product of Beijing following Washington’s economic advice; they are “due to planning in a socialist market, not conventional capitalism,” observes Robert C. Allen, a specialist in economic development.  Even The Wall Street Journal acknowledges that China’s “rapid economic development” is due to “state enterprises operating under an industrial plan.”  Washington cannot allow such a model to take hold and spread, for if it does, the profit-making opportunities on which US investors depend will shrink. US free enterprise, from Washington’s point of view, must be welcomed everywhere—and the division of the world between exploiting countries and exploited ones must continue ad infinitum.
Time and again, underdeveloped countries have implemented economic models at the core of which have been state-owned enterprises and industrial planning. In almost every case, Washington has used sanctions, the CIA, or the Pentagon, or all three, to put a stop to this threat to the profit-making interests of the United States’s ‘substantial’ citizens. Today, the US elite is agreed that China must be ‘contained’, even if there is no agreement on how. The think-tank, the RAND Corporation, funded by the US government, US corporations, and US investors, has even contemplated open war as a solution, in a 2016 study titled War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. 
The words of Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who served in Mao’s Eighth Route Army, come to mind.
“Behind all stands that terrible, implacable God of Business and Blood, whose name is Profit. Money, like an insatiable Molloch, demands its interest, its return, and will stop at nothing, not even the murder of millions, to satisfy its greed. Behind the army stands the militarists. Behind the militarists stands finance capital, and the capitalists. Brothers in blood; companions in crime.” 
1. Elisabeth Bumiller, “Words and deeds show focus of the American military on Asia”, The New York Times, September 10, 2012.
2. Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold, “U.S. bomber flies over waters claimed by China,” The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2015.
3. Trefor Moss and Jeremy Page, “U.S. stationing warplanes in Philippines amid South China Sea tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2016.
The United States has a new strategy for Syria, according to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The new direction, however, is simply the old, largely unrecognized, one, transformed from a de facto status to official one by presidential authorization. In other words, an aggressive US policy on Syria will continue to be implemented—one the US president had, for a time, openly mused about reversing, but has now accepted.
The strategy, crafted by “the steady state”, and now acquiesced to by the US president, features the continued illegal and indefinite occupation of roughly one-third of Syrian territory by US forces as well as US interference in Syrian attempts to liberate Idlib from the control of Al Qaeda forces allied to Washington, its Arab monarchist collaborators, and their partner, Israel. It also features US pressure, military and otherwise, to confront Iranian forces and to drive them out of Syria. The overarching goal of the strategy, clearly articulated by US officials, is to dictate the form, nature and raison d’être of the Syrian state, the self-appointed prerogative of a globe-girding dictatorship. In the words of US officials, Washington seeks to build “a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community”. The goal, redolent with the stench of imperialism, can be challenged on democratic and liberal grounds, as well as on legal and moral ones.
First, it might be noted that almost every state in the Arab world was created by the dominant imperialist powers of the day, Britain and France, to serve their own interests at the expense of the Arabs they subordinated to their rule, occasionally directly but usually indirectly. London and Paris partitioned West Asia and North Africa without the slightest regard to the aspirations of the people who inhabited these regions, and imposed rulers upon them, quislings who collaborated with their imperial patrons in plundering the region’s resources. Washington’s plan to establish a government in Syria acceptable to the international community, i.e., the United States, continues a long imperialist tradition of indirect rule by outside powers.
Partisans of democracy should object to this plan for three reasons.
First, a Syrian government doesn’t have to be acceptable to the United States or any other country. It only needs to be acceptable to Syrians.
Second, democracy has both intra- and inter-national aspects. Internationally, it means that peoples have the right to organize their own affairs, free from the interference of foreign states. Governments need only answer to their own people; not to Washington. While the point should be obvious, it is studiously avoided in public discourse and therefore needs to made: US “leadership” and democracy are antitheses.
Third, there can be no democracy intra-nationally, if a government has been imposed on a people by outside powers, as provided for in Washington’s plan. Clearly, a government acceptable to Washington would be a government willing to do Washington’s bidding; one that would assent to reshaping Syria’s economy and politics to comport with US business and military-strategic interests, not with the interests of Syrians. There are already too many quisling governments in the Arab world; another is not needed.
Washington’s objection to the Assad government is of a piece with its fierce opposition to Nasser’s Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq, and Gaddafi’s Libya. All these governments pursued the Arab socialist project of breaking the control of the region’s wealth by the Western oil companies and their Arab Petains in order to direct it to the uplift of Arabs. While the Western-backed emirs, kings and sultans built pharaonic palaces and lived lives of luxury in exchange for allowing Western oil corporations to pile up a Himalaya of profits, their subjects wallowed in poverty. Meanwhile, in Iraq, during the 1970s, the Arab socialists used their country’s oil wealth to build a Golden Age. In Libya, Muamar Gaddafi, inspired by Nasser’s Arab socialism, built a society beyond the dreams of his compatriots who had lived lives of stark under-privilege under the tyranny of the Western-imposed King Idris I. In Syria and Egypt, Arab socialists implemented social reforms to uplift the poor, and asserted the right of women to equality. At the same time, they brought large parts of the economy under public control and implemented plans to overcome the economic legacy of colonialism. In Egypt, the president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the most popular Arab since the Prophet Mohamed, lived in the modest house he occupied as an army colonel, while sending his children to public school. He threatened the West by proclaiming the democratic slogan “Arab oil for Arabs”. All these governments were assisted ably by the Soviet Union. Syria’s government stands in this tradition. It is the only Arab socialist government that has withstood the anti-democratic designs of Washington, Israel and the Saudi kings, to bring the entire Arab world, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, under their uncontested domination.
As part of its campaign to topple the last force of Arab independence, the United States currently controls about one-third of Syrian territory, by means of an unspecified number of US service personnel who direct a mercenary force of Kurds, and some traitorous Arabs under Kurd control. Dennis Ross, who held several senior national security positions in the US state, says that “the U.S. and its partners control about 40% of Syrian territory.” The Pentagon says there are some 2,500 US troops in Syria, but acknowledges the number is higher, since covert forces and aircrew are not counted. The Pentagon, then, is running a semi-covert war on a sovereign Arab state, having obtained no legal authorization for its actions, either from the United Nations Security Council or the US Congress. The point is only partly relevant, since even if the Pentagon had obtained legal authorization for its actions, the legal cover would in no way justify the occupation. Still, failure to obtain legal authorization is significant in bringing to the fore the question of why US forces are in the country. Trump raised the question, though predictably not on moral or legal grounds, but in relation to the implications that US entanglement in Syria have for the US Treasury. This, of course, reflects Trump’s Mattis-identified inability to grasp the subtleties of US imperial strategy.
The ostensible purpose of the US presence in Syria is to defeat ISIS. Washington says that it must maintain its presence in the Levantine country to prevent an ISIS resurgence. This implies an indefinite occupation, based on the pretext of the occupation acting as an anti-ISIS prophylaxis. But US officials acknowledged earlier this year that the Pentagon plans to occupy the territory to a) prevent its recovery by the Syrian government; b) to create administrative structures, i.e., to impose a government on the US-controlled portion of a partitioned Syria; and c) to rebuild the territory under US control, using Saudi financing, while denying reconstruction funds to Damascus.
Another plank of the US strategy is to interfere in the Syrian government’s campaign to liberate Idlib from Al Qaeda. “Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the international coalition fighting Islamic State, has called Idlib ‘the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.’” The joint Syrian-Russian campaign will resemble other campaigns that have been waged by Syria, Russia, the United States and Iraq to wrest control of territory captured by Islamist guerillas. What has distinguished these campaigns is not the military methods used, but the way they have been presented by the Western media. Western news organizations have condemned ISIS as the bad jihadists and lionized Al Qaeda as the good ones. The US-directed campaigns in Mosul and Raqqa to wrest control of these cities from ISIS were portrayed as laudable US-Iraqi military victories against a foe, ISIS, of ineffable depravity, whose fighters were branded as “terrorists.” In contrast, the Russia-Syria campaigns in Aleppo and now Idlib have been painted as murderous projects aimed at good jihadists, Al Qaeda, branded as “opposition fighters”. In the former case, civilians caught in the crossfire were presented as a grim but necessary cost that regrettably needed to be incurred to eradicate the ISIS evil. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in reference to the US campaign to capture Raqqa, intoned: “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.” In the latter case, civilian casualties become a humanitarian tragedy that evidences the evil of the Russian and Syrian governments. The fact of the matter is that Mattis is right: civilian casualties are unavoidable.
Added to the patent double standard is a clear attempt to build public support for US intervention against the Idlib campaign and therefore on behalf of Al Qaeda by announcing that the United States has information that Damascus is planning to use chemical weapons in liberating Idlib. Making the allegation appear credible to an all too frequently lied to public is facilitated by the single voice with which the Western media proclaim matter-of-factly that Damascus has built a track record of using chemical weapons in the long-running war. And yet the only so-called evidence presented of Syrian chemical weapons use are assessments by US officials that amount to: “We believe the Syrians have used chemical agents, but have no definitive evidence to back up our claim; still this is the kind of thing the evil Assad would do.”
Inasmuch as the Syrians dismantled their chemical weapons under an internationally supervised process and inasmuch as no credible evidence exists that they have retained or regained access to weaponized chemicals, any discussion of the possible future use of chemical arms by the Syrian military represents a descent into a world of fantasy. What’s more, even if Syrian forces had gas to use, “with the Russians positioning forces to carry out naval and air bombardments,” they have no need to use gas, as former US national security official Dennis Ross argues.
Lest we take Syria’s previous possession of chemical weapons as emblematic of a unique Syrian evil and menace, we ought to give the matter some thought.
First, Israel, with which Syria remains in a state of de jure and de facto war, has its own stock of chemical weapons. If Syria’s former possession of chemical weapons makes it evil, then what are we to make of Israel?
Second, the United States and its satraps, Israel included, use their military superiority to dominate, oppress, and exploit poor countries. What options are open to Syria to defend itself? Achieving parity in conventional arms is out of the question. On top of monopolizing the world’s wealth, the United States and its allies monopolize the world’s weapons systems. Syria can’t hope to compete with the United States or US-subsidized Israel in conventional military terms.
Israel’s function within the US Empire is to weaken Arab and Islamic nationalism and prevent either from becoming a significant force that would challenge US control of the Arab world’s oil resources. As the last bastion of Arabism, Syria quite naturally is a target for Israeli aggression. Munificent US military aid has made the Jewish nationalist settler colonial state into the region’s military Leviathan. Not only is it more formidable than every Arab country in conventional arms, it is also much stronger militarily than the Persian country, Iran. Additionally, Israel holds a regional nuclear weapons monopoly, and boasts stocks of chemical and biological weapons. Moreover, the United States exempts Israel, as it does itself, from any legal constraints on its right to use force. The only way Syria can defend itself against the imperialist predations of the United States and its Jewish nationalist janissary, both bursting at the seams with the world’s most sophisticated conventional arms and formidable collections of WMD, and unrestrained by international law, is to develop an equalizer. That means nuclear weapons, or, failing that, chemical and biological arms. It also means achieving parity with its adversaries by operating outside the constraints of international law.
We’re taught to shudder at the idea of chemical weapons (that is, when they’re used by a country that defies the international dictatorship of the United States, not when they’re used in its service, as they were in the 1980s by Iraq, then a temporary US ally of convenience against Iran, a US target. Washington accepted Iraq’s use of the chemical weapons it had helped the Arab state acquire.) But why should we shudder at the thought of chemical weapons any more than we do at cruise missile strikes, the Pentagon’s Mother of All Bombs, the incendiaries fighter pilot John McCain dropped on Vietnamese peasants and light bulb factory workers, Israeli snipers gunning down unarmed Palestinians in Gaza demanding their internationally-recognized right of return, and so on? In all these cases, the outcome is death or disability, often brutal, regularly painful, and frequently prolonged. Does it matter how the death was brought about? The United States doesn’t use guillotines on the battlefield to kill quickly, painlessly and humanely; it maims, crushes, pulverizes, vaporizes, incinerates and leaves bodies to slowly bleed to death. And it reserves to right to use nuclear weapons, and assorted other WMD.
Shuddering at the methods available to the weak, the oppressed, the exploited, and the plundered, to fight back and defend themselves while accepting the more formidable weapons of the strong as legitimate makes no sense. Insisting we shudder at one but not the other is part of a class war of the oppressors against the oppressed, of tyrants against the tyrannized, carried out at an ideological level. To deplore the weapons of the weak is to concede ground in this war of class. Syria hasn’t a stock of chemical weapons to use, but if it did, far from condemning their use, the only defensible course would be to welcome it as one of the few effective means by which a secular, republican, Arab socialist state can assert its independence and preserve its freedom against the intolerable despotism and anti-democratic machinations of the world’s paramount tyranny, the United States.
In the view of Syrians, the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, and his ally, Iran, have more support than do the forces arrayed against him, according to a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. 
The poll’s findings challenge the idea that Assad has lost legitimacy and that the opposition has broad support.
The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments,  found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
At the same time, more see Assad’s ally, Iran, as having a favorable influence (43%) than view the Arab Gulf States—which back the external opposition, including Al Nusra and ISIS—as affecting Syria favorably (37%).
The two Arab Gulf State-backed Al-Qaeda linked organizations command some degree of support in Syria, according to the poll. One-third believe Al-Nusra is having a positive influence, compared to one-fifth for ISIS, lower than the proportion of Syrians who see Assad’s influence in a positive light.
According to the poll, Assad has majority support in seven of 14 Syrian regions, and has approximately as much support in one, Aleppo, as do Al-Nusra and the FSA. ISIS has majority support in only one region, Al Raqua, the capital of its caliphate. Al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, has majority support in Idlip and Al Quneitra as well as in Al Raqua. Support for the FSA is strong in Idlip, Al Quneitra and Daraa.
An in-country face-to-face ORB poll conducted in May 2014 arrived at similar conclusions. That poll found that more Syrians believe the Assad government best represents their interests and aspirations than believe the same about any of the opposition groups. 
The poll found that 35 percent of Syrians saw the Assad government as best representing them (20% chose the current government and 15% chose Bashar al-Assad). By comparison, the level of the support for the opposition forces was substantially weaker:
The sum of support for the opposition forces, 31 percent, was less than the total support for Assad and his government.
Of significance is the weak support for the FSA and the “genuine” rebels, the alleged “moderates” of which British prime minister David Cameron has improbably claimed number as many 70,000 militants. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has pointed out that if the ranks of the moderates were this large, the Syrian Arab Army, which has lost 60,000 soldiers, mainly to ISIS and Al-Nusra, could hardly survive. Fisk estimates generously that “there are 700 active ‘moderate’ foot soldiers in Syria,” and concludes that “the figure may be nearer 70,” closer to their low level of popular support. 
Sixteen percent of Syrians polled said that Moaz Al Khateeb best represented their aspirations and interests, a level of support on par with that for Assad. Khateeb, a former president of the National Coalition for Syrian and Revolutionary Forces—which some Western powers unilaterally designated as the legitimate government of Syria—called on Western powers to arm the FSA and opposed the designation of Al-Nusra as a terrorist group. The so-called “moderate” Islamist, who favors the replacement of secular rule with Sharia law, is no longer active in the Coalition or a force in Syrian politics.
Neither is the FSA a significant force in the country’s politics, despite its inclusion in the ORB survey. According to veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn, the FSA “largely collapsed at the end of 2013.”  Fisk says that the FSA is “virtually non-existent.” 
Assad has repeatedly challenged the notion that he lacks popular support, pointing to the fact that his government has survived nearly five years of war against forces backed by the most powerful states on the planet. It’s impossible to realistically conceive of the government’s survival under these challenging circumstances, he argues, without its having the support of a sizeable part of its population.
In a 11 December 2015 interview with Spanish media, Assad observed:
[I]f…the majority of…Syrians (oppose me) and you have…national and regional countries…against me, and the West, most of the West, the United States, their allies, the strongest countries and the richest countries in the world against me, and…the Syrian people (are opposed to me) how can I be president? It’s not logical. I’m…here after five years—nearly five years—of war, because I have the support of the majority of Syrians. 
Assad’s view of his level of support appears to be largely corroborated by the ORB poll.
The persistence of the myth that Assad lacks support calls to mind an article written by Jonathan Steele in the British newspaper the Guardian on 17 January 2012, less than one year into the war. Under a lead titled, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know it from western media,” Steele wrote:
Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news? Especially as the finding would go against the dominant narrative about the Syrian crisis, and the media consider the unexpected more newsworthy than the obvious.
Alas, not in every case. When coverage of an unfolding drama ceases to be fair and turns into a propaganda weapon, inconvenient facts get suppressed. So it is with the results of a recent YouGov Siraj poll…ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go.
Steele reminds us that Assad has had substantial popular support from the beginning of the war, but that this truth, being politically inconvenient, is brushed aside, indeed, suppressed, in favor of falsehoods from US, British and French officials about Assad lacking legitimacy.
Steele’s observation that inconvenient facts about Assad’s level of support have been “ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go,” raises obvious questions about the independence of the Western media. Private broadcasters and newspapers are, to be sure, formally independent of Western governments, but they embrace the same ideology as espoused by key figures in Western governments, a state of affairs that arises from the domination of both media and governments by significant corporate and financial interests. Major media themselves are major corporations, with a big business point of view, and Western governments are made up of, if not always “in-and-outers” from the corporate world, by those who are sympathetic to big business.
Wall Street and the corporate world manifestly have substantial interests in the Middle East, from securing investment opportunities in the region’s vast energy resources sector, the construction of pipelines to carry natural gas to European markets (cutting out Russia), access to the region’s markets, and the sale of military hardware to its governments. Saudi Arabia, for example, a country of only 31 million, has the world’s third largest military budget, ahead of Russia , much of its spent buying expensive military equipment from Western arms manufacturers. Is it any wonder that Western governments indulge the Riyadh regime, despite its fondness for beheadings and amputations, official misogyny, intolerance of democracy, propagation of the violently sectarian Islamist Wahhabi ideology that inspires Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and ISIS, military intervention in Bahrain to crush a pro-democracy uprising, and a war of aggression on Yemen?
The research firm also conducted a broadly similar poll in Iraq in July . Of particular interest were the survey’s findings regarding the view of Iraqis on the possible partitioning of their country into ethno-sectarian autonomous regions. A number of US politicians, including in 2006 then US senator and now US vice-president Joseph Biden, have floated the idea of carving Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states. Indeed, US foreign policy has long fostered the deepening of ethno-sectarian cleavages in Iraq, and US government officials have long labored to shape public opinion in the West to the view that Iraqis self-identify on tribal, sectarian, and ethnic grounds, to a far greater degree than they identify as Iraqis. If US government officials are to be believed, Iraqis themselves are eager to see their country split into ethno-sectarian mini-states.
But the ORB poll strongly rejects this view. According to the survey, three of four Iraqis oppose the partition of their country into autonomous regions, including majorities in both Sunni and Shiite communities. Only in the north of Iraq, where the Kurds already have an autonomous regional government, is there any degree of support for the proposal, and even there, only a slim majority (54%) is in favor.
Robert F. Worth, in a 26 June 2014 New York Times article , pointed to earlier public opinion polling that anticipated these findings. Worth wrote, “For the most part, Iraqis (with the exception of the Kurds) reject the idea of partition, according to recent interviews and opinion polls taken several years ago.”
US foreign policy favors the promotion of centrifugal forces in the Middle East, to split the Arab world into ever smaller—and squabbling—mini-states, as a method of preventing its coalescence into a single powerful Arab union strong enough to take control of its own resources, markets and destiny. It is in this goal that the origin of US hostility to the Syrian government, which is Arab nationalist, and to Iraqi unity, can be found. US support for Israel—a settler outpost dividing the Asian and African sections of the Arab nation—is also related to the same US foreign policy objective of fostering divisions in the Middle East to facilitate US economic domination of the region.
4. Robert Fisk, “David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria—and whosever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov anyway?”, The Independent, November 29, 2015
5. Patrick Cockburn, “Syria and Iraq: Why US policy is fraught with danger ,“ The Independent, September 9, 2014
6. Robert Fisk, “Saudi Arabia’s unity summit will only highlight Arab disunity,” The Independent, December 4, 2015
7. “President al-Assad: Russia’s policy towards Syria is based on values and interests, the West is not serious in fighting terrorists,” Syrian Arab News Agency, December 11, 2015, http://sana.sy/en/?p=63857
8. Source is The Military Balance, cited in The Globe and Mail, Report on Business, November 25, 2015
The West has portrayed Russia’s annexation of Crimea as an aggression, but the re-integration of Crimea into Russia can be understood as a pre-emptive measure on the part of Moscow to preserve Russian access to a strategically important naval base at Sevastopol, from which the Russian Black Sea fleet likely would have been ejected by the new Russophobe regime in Kiev. While a highly visible campaign has been mounted in the West of demonizing Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to mobilize popular support for tough measures against Russia, the West has supported major aggressions by Saudi Arabia in Bahrain and Yemen. While Western politicians and commentators have vociferously condemned Russia’s “aggressions,” they have met the Saudi aggressions, which are on another scale entirely, with almost complete silence.
August 29, 2015
By Stephen Gowans
France cancelled the sale to Russia of two Mistral warships in response to “Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine,”  but announces that it is perfectly happy to sell the same warships to a coup government in Egypt, which has a deplorable—though in the West, largely glossed over—human rights record. Since Egypt’s Western-backed dictator Abdel Fattah Sisi “came to power in a coup two years ago, his government has criminalized street protests, sentenced hundreds to mass death in mass trials, and, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, imprisoned some 40,000 political opponents and their supporters.”  On top of the possible sale of the Mistral warships to Cairo, France announced in February “the sale of nearly $6 billion worth of military hardware to Egypt, including two dozen Rafale fighter jets and a naval frigate.” 
Based on France’s purported commitment to the principles of equality, fraternity and liberty, one might think its government would have some reservations about striking weapons deals with a politically repressive regime which gags journalists, marches tens of thousands of political opponents into jail, and has condemned to death the elected president it overthrew. Certainly, France makes much of its commitment to liberal democratic values. How, then, could it support a regime that represents the very antithesis of the values it professes to cherish–unless the profits of France’s substantial citizens are senior to all other considerations?
Not to be outdone, in either arming an Arab dictator or exhibiting stunning hypocrisy in doing so, the United States gives Cairo $1.3 billion annually in military aid—effectively a pre-paid credit card for use in the US arms bazaar. The annual largesse, briefly suspended as a pro forma response to the coup for public relations purposes, has been resumed. In March, US “President Barack Obama agreed to release to Egypt a dozen F-16 attack aircraft and other military equipment,” including 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles, and 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits. 
Meanwhile, the Canadian government, which, along with France, has made a show of deploring Russian “intervention” in Ukraine—and met it with its own interventions in encouraging the Maidan uprising, and in providing military training to Ukrainian militias—has facilitated a $15 billion sale of light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada. Significantly, “it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising.”  So, while France cancelled a deal to deliver Mistral warships to Russia owing to Russian intervention in Ukraine, Canada arms Saudi Arabia with the very same equipment the kingdom’s military used to intervene in Bahrain to suppress protestors demanding a representative, democratically-elected, government. France too is arming the Saudi defenders of illegitimate royalist rule. In June, it “announced plans to sell $12 billion worth of equipment to Saudi Arabia, including civilian helicopters and naval patrol boats.”  No pressure is exerted on Canada or France by the EU or Washington to suspend their deals with the Saudi tyranny.
That Canada and France have any dealings with Saudi Arabia is remarkable, considering the country is a human rights sewer, where woman have no rights, the state regularly amputates the heads (a la ISIS) and limbs of people convicted of crimes, and there is no democracy, procedural or otherwise. Its foreign policy is as ugly as its domestic policy. It has initiated a war of aggression on neighboring Yemen, part of which involves a blockade in which one in five faces starvation.  It exports its benighted, medieval Wahhabi ideology, backing anti-secular, misogynistic, sectarian religious fanatics to break the backs of socialist, communist and secular national forces in the Arab world, all to the delight of the Western imperialist powers that benefit. The Saud family plunders the country’s oil wealth, investing it abroad in US banks and on arms purchases that swell the coffers of US, French and Canadian weapons manufacturers, rather than investing it at home in Arab economic development—which explains why Ottawa and Paris haven’t the slightest reservations about arming this regionally aggressive abomination. The only reservation Canada’s government has is whether the arms deal it has approved with the Saudi tyranny is acceptable to another abomination, Israel , whose founding principle is the dispossession of one Arab people from its land, the Palestinians, to make way for Jewish settlers from other lands. Diderot remarked that humanity would never be free until the last king was strangled with the entrails of the last priest. It might be said that the Arab world will never be free until the last Arab king is strangled with the entrails of the last Jihadi. (As Robert Dreyfuss has pointed out, the oil monarchies are ruled by royal kleptocracies whose legitimacy is nil. Most Arabs know that the monarchies were established by imperialists building fences around oil wells.  The kleptocracies have a symbiotic relationship with the imperialists. They loot the country and share the stolen wealth with the imperialists who provide military support.
Regarding Russia’s “intervention” in Ukraine, let’s be clear that the annexation of Crimea followed in the wake of the emergence of two major threats that arose from Washington’s sponsorship of a coup d’état in Kiev to bring to power a Russophobe government. 
The first threat was expressed in the European Association Agreement, whose signing became the immediate raison d’être of the Maidan rebellion that preceded the coup. The terms of the agreement direct Ukraine to reorient its economic and foreign and military policies to the West.  Since Ukraine is Russia’s largest trading partner, the signing of the agreement has overwhelmingly important and deleterious economic consequences for Russia. Imagine Canada and Mexico signing agreements to reorient their economies toward Russia.
There are compelling geographic and economic reasons why Russia ought to be Western Europe’s principle economic partner, and not the United States. It’s close to Western European markets and production, and offers a vast treasure trove of natural resources, easily transportable over comparatively short distances to Western European markets. A significant role for Russia in Western Europe, however, threatens US economic hegemony. To eclipse the threat, US foreign policy has long sought to weaken and isolate Russia, by keeping Western Europe locked in the US orbit, while at the same time drawing countries on Russia’s periphery into the US-superintended circle, severing their historical and geographically natural connections to Russia’s economy. Washington’s sponsorship of the Russophobe coup in a country that is Russia’s principal economic partner is part of the larger US strategy of weakening Russia through isolation from its natural markets and peripheral economies.
The second threat was expressed in the probability that the coup government in Kiev would try to evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, significantly undermining Russia’s security environment. Russian self-defense would be further threatened by the probability that the base would be transferred to the US Sixth Fleet. As Putin explained, “What did our partners (the West) expect from us as the developments in Ukraine unfolded?…[W]e could not allow our access to the Black Sea to be significantly limited, and could not allow NATO forces to come to Crimea and Sevastopol.” 
Hence, the narrative that Western foreign policy is animated by opposition to foreign aggression is challenged by the arms deals that France and Canada—whose governments profess to oppose foreign intervention—have struck with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi tyranny has intervened militarily in Bahrain against a movement for a representative political democracy, and, to the shame of the Canadian government, using light armored vehicles sold to Saudi tyrants by a Canadian arms manufacturer, approved by Ottawa.
The Saudi tyranny has also launched a blood-soaked intervention into neighboring Yemen, with the ostensible goal of restoring to power a pro-Saudi president who was ousted in an uprising. That president, Abd-Rabbu Hadi, has virtually no support in Yemen.  There is some resemblance to Ukraine, i.e., a president ousted in a coup and a military response by a neighboring country, though the toppled Ukraine president was neither pro- nor anti-Russian, had far more support in Ukraine than Hadi has in Yemen, and Russia isn’t bombing Ukraine or enforcing a blockade to starve Ukraine into submission. Nor does Russia seek the restoration to power of Victor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukraine president. Yet bombing and blockade happen in Yemen, and there’s only silence in the West. US and British warships assist in maintaining the blockade. The Pentagon provides logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi bombing campaign. 
The entire affair is a blatant breach of international law, and an assault on authentic democracy and self-determination. Yet it is met by silence in the West (whose Saudi partner in robbing the Arabs of their oil wealth is the perpetrator.) Western politicians who rail against “Putin’s aggressions” and commentators who counsel tough measures against Moscow’s “belligerence”, have nothing to say about the US- and British-assisted Saudi war of aggression on Yemen, just as earlier they could find no words to condemn the Saudi march into Bahrain.
Imagine that Russia was bombing Ukraine and blockading its borders, instead of the Saudis doing the same to Yemen. The outcry would be deafening. Already, there is a full-throated call for aggressive economic and military action against Russia. And yet, what, in truth, was Moscow’s offense? Has it bombed Ukraine? No. Is it blockading its neighbor’s borders? No. It annexed Crimea, historically part of Russia, whose residents opposed the coup government in Kiev and welcomed their reintegration into Russia , and which is the site of an important Russian naval base. Russia’s actions were a predictable defensive measure against an aggressive US-led campaign to deprive Russia of its principal economic partner and its strategically important naval base on the Black Sea.
There is much to condemn and oppose: The Saudi interventions in Yemen and Bahrain; Western support for the Arab kleptocracies; the economic and military threats from the US against Russia that provoked Moscow’s defensive annexation of Crimea; royalist oppression in Saudi Arabia and the Western arms manufacturers and their partners in government who furnish the Saudi kleptocrats with weapons to suppress internal revolts. “Putin’s aggressions”—largely a fantasy—are not among them.
1. Matthew Dalton, “Egypt in talks to buy Mistral warships from France,” The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2015.
2. Tamer el-Ghobashy, “Egypt’s leader reinvents himself as bulwark against terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2015.
3. Nicola Clark, “Egypt to purchase fighter jets and a warship from France,” The New York Times, February 12, 2015.
4. Bryon Tau and Adam Entous, “Obama administration releases military aid to Egypt,” The Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2015.
5. Steve Chase, “Foreign Affairs found no ‘red flags’ for Israel is Saudi arms sale,” The Globe and Mail, August 27, 2015.
7. Shuaib Almosawa, Kareem Fahim and Somini Sengupta, “Yemeni government faces choice between a truce and fighting on,” The New York Times, Aug 14, 2015.
9. Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, Holt, 2005, p. 99.
10. The arguments developed in connection with Ukraine are based mainly on Richard Sakwa, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands, I.B. Taurus, 2015.
11. Sakwa, p. 75.
12. Sakwa, p. 167.
13. Patrick Cockburn, “In the Middle East, our enemy’s enemy must be our friend,” The Independent, April 12, 2015.
14. Ian Sinclair, “Yemen: Britain lurks behind Saudi atrocities,” The Morning Star, July 20, 2015; Shuaib Almosawa, Kareem Fahim and Somini Sengupta, “Yemeni government faces choice between a truce and fighting on,” The New York Times, Aug 14, 2015; Jay Solomon and Asa Fitch, “U.S. met secretly with Yemen rebels,” The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2015; Maria Abi-Habin and Adam Entous, “U.S. widens role in Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2015; Hakim Almasmari and Maria Abi-Habib, “Saudi-backed forces set back in Yemen,” The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2015.
15. Peter Hart, “Radioactive Putin is ‘Stalin’s Spawn’”, Extra!, May 1, 2014.
While the United States and its allies warn that a military attack on Iran is an option they won’t rule out, this doesn’t mean that a war on Iran is only a future possibility, not a present reality. The war is underway, and has been for years. “I often get asked when Israel might attack Iran,” says Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I say, ‘Two years ago.’”
Clawson has a point, but two years is too short. A case can be made that the war has been going on since 1979, when Iranians booted out the US-backed dictator, the Shah, and set out on a path of independent development.
It’s just that in the last decade, the intensity of the war has been ratcheted up.
True, cruise missiles haven’t smashed into downtown Tehran. And Israeli bombers haven’t flown missions to reduce Iranian nuclear sites to rubble, despite Tel Aviv’s incessant threats to do so. But the United States and its allies have:
• Imposed crippling sanctions
• Kept up threats of military intervention
• Used cyber-warfare to cripple Iran’s uranium enrichment program
• Assassinated Iran’s nuclear scientists
• Met with Iranian dissidents to plan covert actions to destabilize the government
• Funded opposition groups
• Financed anti-government media
• Worked to foment a popular revolution under the guise of democracy-promotion
• Created Farsi language satellite television programming to broadcast anti-government propaganda into Iran.
One view is that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and so must be stopped. Of course, we might question whether it’s legitimate for countries that have nuclear weapons aplenty, Israel included, to demand that no other country challenge their monopoly.
And since many of these countries have threatened Iran militarily on numerous occasions, we might wonder whether Iran should indeed have nuclear weapons to deter the threats.
But lay these considerations aside, for Iran’s leaders say they’re not developing nuclear weapons, and the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the US intelligence community say they believe them. It’s not only the absence of evidence, but also the evidence of absence, that leads the intelligence agencies to this conclusion. There are certain things the Iranians aren’t doing that you would expect them to do if they were developing warheads.
We can also quickly dispense with the canard that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map. While war-mongering Machiavellis trot out this myth whenever they wanted to whip up fear of Iran, it has long been disproved. See here.
The likely reasons for the war can be separated into an immediate one and a strategic one. The immediate reason is to prevent Iran from acquiring the capability of building nuclear weapons. The strategic reason is to recover Iran as a US sphere of influence. The latter means replacing the current regime, committed to Iran’s independent development, with a government amenable to Iran’s economic domination by the United States and integration into the US military machine. Since a nuclear-armed Iran would be better able to resist US pressure to kow-tow to Washington and Wall Street, it must be denied even the threat of (nuclear) self-defence.
The recent talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) on Iran’s nuclear program broke down because the two sides are completely at odds. Iran wants the big powers to acknowledge its right to enrich uranium. The big powers want to deny Iran the right. And so economic sanctions—which have already driven consumer prices up by 40 percent, cut the value of Iran’s currency in half, and led to the lay-off of 100,000 factory workers this year—will be ratcheted up.
The style of war the US and its allies is waging against Iran is hardly new. The United States has conducted “low-intensity” warfare against other countries outside its sphere of domination before. North Korea and Cuba have been the targets of this style of warfare for decades. Low-intensity wars mobilize:
• Economic sanctions
• Funding and support for a political opposition and overthrow movements
• Broadcasting anti-government propaganda
• Threats of military intervention
Here’s how it works: Economic sanctions cripple the economy. Standards of living plummet. To counter threats of military intervention, the besieged country spends more on defence. This, in turn, exacerbates the country’s economic troubles.
Economic difficulties create popular discontent. The West’s anti-government propaganda, which blames the slumping economy on the government’s “mismanagement”, inflames discontent and strengthens opposition. The Western-aided political opposition channels the discontent into demands for the government to step down.
To survive, the government curtails civil and political liberties. And this, plus the sanctions-induced economic crisis, provides the West with pretexts for continued low-intensity warfare.
Low-intensity warfare doesn’t inspire anti-war movements. Hot wars do. This is a shame, because politically their effects are the same. And sanctions—as should now be evident from the hundreds of thousands, if not more than one million sanctions-related deaths in Iraq, and the sanctions-driven collapse of North Korea’s healthcare system—can have more devastating consequences than the hot wars anti-war movements have traditionally opposed.
New York Times reporter William J. Broad wrote today about the apocalyptic vision of fiction-writer and Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich warns that U.S. bêtes noire Iran or North Korea could send the United States back to the Middle Ages, detonating a nuclear missile high above the United States, which would create an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out anything that runs on electricity.
“Millions would die in the first week alone,” Gingrich cautions in the foreword to “One Second After,” a novel written by William R. Forstchen, a Gingrich friend and co-writer with Gingrich of historical novels. The novel describes a calamitous scenario in which an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack cripples the United States.
Gingrich announced before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in May 2009 that he favored “taking out Iranian and North Korean missiles on their sites” to prevent either country from delivering an EMP Armageddon to the United States.
Gingrich is not alone in calling for strikes on Iran and North Korea.
In a March 30, 2010 piece, Washington Post columnist Walter Pincus wrote that the then head of the US strategic nuclear command, former astronaut General Kevin P. Chilton, had told US senators that “no nuclear power has been conquered or even put at risk of conquest.” Chillingly, Pincus added that Chilton’s observation is something that “others in government ought to ponder as they watch Iran and North Korea seek to develop nuclear capability”…a not so veiled call for wars to prevent North Korea and Iran from eliminating the risk of their being conquered. 
Equally chillingly, in a July 18, 2008 New York Times op-ed, Israeli historian Benny Morris urged the United States “to use bombs to stave off war”…that is, for “the US to use its formidable military to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities”. (Using bombs to stave off war is like using famine to stave off hunger.) To make his case, Morris constructed a fantasy about Israel being “threatened almost daily with destruction by Iran’s leaders,” adding bizarrely that they “are likely to use any bomb they build…because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption.”  In other words, because Israel threatens to pre-empt Iran, Iran must be pre-empted, otherwise it might pre-empt Israel’s pre-emption.
As the Cold War drew to a close, Colin Powell, at the time the top US solider, warned: “I’m running out of demons, I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and (then North Korean leader) Kim Il Sung.”  On the eve of the Soviet Union’s demise, cold warriors Robert McNamara, Carl Kaysen and George W. Rathjens echoed Powell’s warning in an autumn 1991 Foreign Policy piece: “With the end of the Cold War,” they wrote, “it is hard to construct even a semi-plausible military threat to the United States.” 
Keen to keep US taxes flowing to the Pentagon and straight to the bottom lines of Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and other profit-soaked US defense contractors, US officials took on what the cold warriors envisaged as a difficult task. They puffed up military midgets into military Gargantua, and found dire threats—an alleged genocide in Kosovo and WMDs in Iraq—where none existed. 9/11 sealed the deal.
Today Pentagon chief Leon Panetta can cite “North Korea and Iran as persistent threats” which the US military must remain bulked up to “to deter and defeat,”  with few people batting an eye. At $700 billion per year , US military spending is greater than that of the next 19 biggest spending countries combined,  many of which are US allies, and none of which are North Korea or Iran. And the New York Times turn over its pages to the Benny Morrises of the world as a platform to urge the United States to prevent wars by waging more of them. It turns out that Powell’s and McNamara’s fears that the United States had run out of demons to justify the pumping of billions in profits into defense contractors were based on a misjudgment of the prowess of the propaganda system to crank out compelling fiction.
Maybe it was a desire to discredit Gingrich, a Republican whose hand on the tiller of the ship of state may be too frightening for the liberal New York Times to contemplate that led Broad to puncture some of the myths that have been carefully constructed about Iran and North Korea as nuclear menaces–myths the Times itself has been no stranger to lending credence to. Whatever the case, the Broad article ran against form, challenging Gingrich’s fear-mongering.
Broad cited Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of Pentagon arms testing, who has complained that Gingrich and his fellow fear-mongers are puffing up Iran and North Korea “with the capabilities of giants.” Broad then pointed to other military experts who say that North Korea and Iran “are at the kindergarten stage of developing nuclear arms.” To this might be added that it’s far from certain that Iran is even at the kindergarten stage, while North Korea, the most sanctioned country on earth , will find its US-imposed poverty keeps it at the kindergarten stage well into the future.
“To even begin to attempt to do what Mr. Gingrich fears,” Broad writes, Iran and North Korea “would have to perfect big rockets, powerful bombs and surreptitious ways to loft them high above America.” Yet “Iran is having trouble keeping its missile bases from blowing up and North Korea cannot seem to get a big rocket off the ground without it tumbling out of control.”
Broad’s reporting deflates myths about an EMP attack, but it is just as damning to the more widely-circulated myths about North Korea and Iran threatening the United States and its allies with a garden variety nuclear strike.
The Real Threat
Still, it’s true that both countries pose a threat—though not a military one and not to the bulk of US citizens. Iran and North Korea, like Gaddafi’s Libya, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, defy a US-favored regime of free-trade, free-markets and free-enterprise–one that opens doors to US enterprises and keeps foreign profits pouring into Wall Street.
According to the US Congressional Research Service, numerous US sanctions have been imposed on North Korea for reasons listed as either “communism”, “non-market economy” or “communism and market disruption.”  Iran, as the US Congress of Library’s country study documents , favors a host of state-led economic development measures that, like North Korea’s publically-owned and planned economy, walls off large parts of the country’s markets, resources and labor from foreign corporations, banks and investors.
It is the limitations on US elite economic interests, and the threat of their becoming a model for other developing countries, that drives Gingrich, Pincus and others to puff up military pipsqueaks into giants and to elevate kindergarten students into MIT graduates. Transformed into threats, they become seemingly legitimate targets for all manner of aggressions—sabotage, economic warfare, funding of overthrow movements, military harassment, and, at times, overt war. The aim is replace leaders who favor independent, self-directed economic development, with puppets who will throw open the country’s doors to US exports and investment and co-operate with the United States militarily.
Burhan Ghalioun is a fine example of an aspiring puppet. He is the president of the Syrian National Council, an exile group linked to the Movement for Justice and Development . The latter has received $6 million in US government funding to organize opposition to the Assad government, according to a WikiLeaks cable . The supplicant marionette, who has met with Hilary Clinton and has already persuaded French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and British Foreign Secretary William Hague to declare his organization “a legitimate representative of the Syrian people”  is promising US officials that if they bring him to power he will “cut Damascus’s military relationship to Iran and end arms supplies to Middle East militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas” while integrating Syria with “the region’s major Arab powers”,  a reference to the Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of US-allied oil tyrannies which recently used military force to crack down on a democratic uprising in Bahrain, a member country, and home to the US 5th Fleet, the main military threat against Iran. (Bahrain, for the record, is a foreign investor’s paradise, ranking number 10 on the Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom). Ghalioun’s eagerness to become entangled with a conspiracy of democracy-abominating absolute monarchies speaks volumes about his commitment to democracy and the direction of a possible Syrian National Council-led revolution in Syria.
1. William J. Broad, “Among Gingrich’s passions, a doomsday vision”, The New York Times, December 11, 2011.
2. Walter Pincus, “As missions are added, Stratcom commander keeps focus on deterrence”, The Washington Post, March 30, 2010.
3. Benny Morris, “Using Bombs to Stave Off War,” New York Times, July 18, 2008.
4. Carl Kaysen, Robert S. McNamara and George W. Rathjens, “Nuclear Weapons After the Cold War”, Foreign Affairs, Fall 1991.
6. Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Weighing Pentagon cuts, Panetta faces deep pressures”, The New York Times, November 6, 2011.
8. “Defence spending: The world’s biggest armies in stats,” The Daily Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8002911/Defence-spending-the-worlds-biggest-armies-in-stats.html
9. Then US President George W. Bush had called North Korea “the most sanctioned nation in the world”. U.S. News & World Report, June 26, 2008; The New York Times, July 6, 2008.
10. Dianne E. Rennack, “North Korea: Economic sanctions”, Congressional Research Service, October 17, 2006. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/crs/rl31696.pdf
11. The Library of Congress. Iran: A Country Study. 2008. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/irtoc.html
12. The leader of the Movement for Justice and Democracy is Anas Al-Abdah. He is a member of the SNC.
13. James Rosen, “U.S. Fears Syrian Reprisals After WikiLeaks Disclosure,” FoxNew.com, April 18, 2011.
14. Jay Solomon, “Clinton Meets With Syrian Opposition”, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2011.
15. Jay Solomon and Nour Malas, “Syria would cut Iran military tie, opposition head says”, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011