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Russia: a target, not a superpower

Russia: a target, not a superpower

By Sara Flounders

The corporate media’s constant use of Cold War terminology to describe the meeting of the U.S. and Russian presidents as a meeting of the “two superpowers” masks the present relationship of forces.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin met at the Group of 20 summit on July 7 in Hamburg, Germany.

Old preconceptions and terms must be challenged in order to have an accurate view of the present international situation. Russia today, as a capitalist country, is not even a fifth-rate economic power.

The Russian economy is smaller than the economy of Brazil, south Korea or Canada. According to World Bank and International Monetary Fund measurements, Russia now ranks 12th globally in its gross domestic product. This measurement is the market value of goods and services.

Today’s Russian Federation is a vastly different state — socially, politically, economically and militarily — from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of even 27 years ago.

It is important to understand what Russia is today in order to understand the real intent of the constant Russia baiting in the media.

In stockpiled nuclear weapons from the Cold War, the U.S. and the Russian Federation may have somewhat even nuclear firepower — more than enough to incinerate the world in one launch.

But U.S. military expenditures are estimated at 36 percent to almost 50 percent of total global military expenditures. Russia’s expenditures are 4 to 5 percent of the global total.

The Pentagon maintains more than 800 military bases around the world and 300,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. Russia has a naval base in Syria and a few communication centers in former Soviet Republics.

The U.S. Navy has 19 aircraft carriers, each of which includes jet aircraft, helicopters, destroyers and nuclear subs. Russia has one 27-year-old carrier propelled with oil-fired boilers rather than a nuclear reactor.

Russia’s resources a target

Russia is a target of U.S. imperialism because of its vast resources. Eighty percent of Russian exports abroad are now in raw materials, primarily gas and oil. The petroleum industry in Russia is one of the largest in the world. It is the largest exporter of natural gas. Coal, iron, aluminum, precious metals, lumber and cereals are other major exports.

This makes Russia’s economy especially vulnerable to global commodity swings and drastic downturns.

There is an insatiable drive to control Russia’s great wealth by the largest banks and corporations. All currents of the U.S. and Western imperialist ruling class are desperate to have unlimited access to this great stream of profits, which they had finally laid their hands on just a few years ago. Remember: Imperialism’s very survival depends on expansion and profit.

Photo ops, handshakes and reports of cooperation at the G20 meeting do not change or lessen U.S. imperialism’s desperation to hammer down any form of resistance to its global domination. Any country attempting independent development is immediately targeted.

There is an irresolvable contradiction between the need of the majority of countries in the world to develop their productive forces and the need of Wall Street to maintain its place at the center of the world economy. However, Washington’s position is clearly slipping, despite daily military threats that assert its global dominance.

New Russian capitalists

Privatization campaigns of the 1990s facilitated the transfer of significant Soviet-era wealth to a relatively small group of Russian business oligarchs. These pirates were willing to make the most corrupt deals with the West to maintain their stolen wealth.

As long as Russian politicians and privateers were totally compliant with the devastating looting of the country, they were showered with glowing media coverage. The Group of 7, the largest imperialist countries, invited Russia to join.

The problem for the new capitalist oligarchs is that when the Soviet state was overthrown, there was no room for a new capitalist power in the global economy. All the banks and multinational corporations aggressively moved in to take advantage of the chaos.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism and the Western imperialist powers expected to have totally free rein to loot Russia at will. For almost 15 years they did have a free hand. The results in Russia were devastating.

Cost of capitalist restoration

Seumas Milne, a British journalist with the Guardian News, summarized Stephen F. Cohen’s book, “The Failed Crusade,” on this transition to a capitalist economy. Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University.

“In the most cataclysmic peacetime economic collapse of an industrial country in history … [u]nder the banner of reform and the guidance of American-prescribed shock therapy, perestroika became catastroika.

“Capitalist restoration brought in its wake mass pauperization and unemployment; wild extremes of inequality; rampant crime; virulent anti-Semitism and ethnic violence; combined with legalized gangsterism on a heroic scale and precipitous looting of public assets. …

“By the late 1990s, national income had fallen by more than 50 percent. … The market experiment has produced more orphans than Russia’s [20 million-plus] wartime casualties, while epidemics of cholera and typhus have re-emerged, millions of children suffer from malnutrition and adult life expectancy has plunged.”

The 1990s was a downhill slide from “a centralized, publicly owned economy to … robber-baron capitalism. …

“For developing countries, in particular, the destruction of the second superpower — which had championed the anti-colonial movement and later the third-world cause — largely closed off the scope for different alliances and sources of aid and sharply increased their dependence on the West.”

NGOs as Western missionaries

Into the economic chaos and social dislocation came not only Western bankers, stockbrokers, real estate schemers and speculators. Every major corporation, including Rockefeller, Ford and the Soros foundations, religious groups and the U.S. Agency for International Development lavishly funded nongovernmental organizations.

These NGOs set up staffs and funded schools, religious organizations and publications to promote capitalist values, Western “democracy” and civil society and to glorify competition and private property. They wrote property laws and textbooks and were thoroughly enamored with Western capitalism.

The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization reported: “There are at least 600,000 registered non-governmental, non-commercial organizations operating in Russia” in 2005.

Forces in the Russian Duma, the elected assembly, began a nationwide government campaign against foreign-funded NGOs. In 2012 USAID was kicked out of Russia. The “foreign agent” law put 33 percent of Russia’s NGOs out of business in 2013.

NATO expansion

The bankers’ policy was about subjugating and recolonizing not only Russia but all the countries of the former socialist bloc, including the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics.

In order to lock this violent and chaotic transformation in place, the U.S.-commanded military alliance, NATO, was expanded to include every East European country and former Soviet Republic, right up to the borders of Russia. In 2013-14 this untenable absorption came to a crisis over U.S. and German attempts to totally seize Ukraine.

During the years of violent transition to a capitalist economy, the Ukraine had still maintained deep economic ties and extensive trade with Russia, but it also had increasing ties to the European Union. The EU, however, would not settle for sharing Ukraine with Russia. A total break was demanded by the bankers.

U.S. and EU seizure of Ukraine

When Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych was negotiating about Ukraine’s entrance into the EU, the EU refused to allow Ukraine to continue trading with Russia. It also demanded that Ukraine join NATO. This meant that the Crimea, the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and only warm water port, would be handed over to NATO.

To carry out a coup against the elected Ukrainian government, the Euromaidan movement, led by neoliberals and fascists, received enormous Western support and funding. The reactionary movement seized the center of the capital, Kiev, and held it for three months. U.S. and West European media and politicians poured into the encampment with unanimous support.

Despite Russian and Ukrainian government efforts to negotiate, and a Russian pledge of debt cancellation and new funds, the elected Ukraine government was labeled “corrupt” and overthrown by a fascist gang, which seized government buildings on Feb. 22, 2014.

Faced with the loss of its only warm water port, Russia took control of the small peninsula and the Russian port in Crimea.

Fearing a wave of privatizations and quick industrial shutdowns that have come with every step of capitalist restructuring, the workers’ movement in Eastern Ukraine, the industrial heartland, seized factories and communication centers in self-defense against the fascist coup in Kiev.

The result was that Russia lost a major trading partner. Its sphere of economic relations became much smaller, and it faced an all-out effort at economic ­strangulation.

Banks and sanctions

Economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU at this time were specifically designed to hit Russia in its energy sector, where the country is most vulnerable.

Suddenly no U.S. oil company could do business with Russia, nor could any companies sell drilling technology to access oil and gas reserves. The sanctions restrict access to Western financial markets. U.S. banks cannot issue long-term loans to Russian businesses for energy- focused projects.

Russian state banks are now excluded from raising long-term loans in the EU. The U.S. also put sanctions on Russian banks, banning U.S. companies from receiving or loaning money to them.

All this was intended to force the new capitalists around Putin to break with his policies and to submit to a total takeover to protect their own profits.

Russia is now on the defensive, and since 2014 it’s been clear that the imperialists’ plan is total dismemberment. Strengthening the state sector under Putin and tightening controls on foreign-funded NGOs and on capital flight out of the country were a matter of economic survival.

Defense of Syria

The U.S.-led effort to overturn the government in Syria threatens to take another major trading partner away from Russia. Russia’s only naval facility on the Mediterranean is in Syria.

The appeal of the Syrian government to Russia for assistance, after four years of war, tens of thousands of mercenaries and funded extremist forces, and a year of U.S. and 10 other countries bombing Syria, has now led to daily confrontations.

There is a broad agreement that if U.S. plans succeed in overturning the government in Syria, following the overturns that have occurred in Iraq and Libya, then Russia and Iran are undeniably next on the list.

Russia’s assistance to Syria is of a defensive character. Self-defense is a critical link in the global axis of resistance based not on ideology, but necessity. Without Russian help, Syria would have fallen.

But with significant Western funding for development blocked, new avenues have opened. Russia is increasingly relying on China for loans, is now providing 60,000 tons of wheat per month to Venezuela, and has canceled Cuba’s $30 billion Soviet-era debt.

The growing web of trade and economic relations among economic formations like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Chinese One Belt One Road proposal are all signs of growing efforts among many targeted countries to fight isolation and resist imperialist dismemberment.

During discussion about global warming at the G20 meeting, it was the U.S. colossus that appeared increasingly isolated.

Sole superpower status has not benefited population

Military expenditures continually drain every needed social program in the U.S. But they are extremely profitable for the largest corporations, such as DynCorp International, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

According to the World Health Organization, U.S. life expectancy, ranked 31st globally, is one of the lowest in developed countries. It is the same for basic education; at 38th, the United States ranks behind every major industrialized country.

The measures for infant mortality, maternity care, housing and infrastructure reflect the true cost at home of U.S. imperial­­ism’s determination to loot the world.

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Four years of Syrian resistance to imperialist takeover

By Sara Flounders & Lamont Lilly

April 15, 2015

Originally posted at http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/03/17/four-years-of-syrian-resistance-to-imperialist-takeover/

U.S. efforts to overturn the government of Syria have now extended into a fifth year. It is increasingly clear that thousands of predictions reported in the corporate media by Western politicians, think tanks, diplomats and generals of a quick overturn and easy destruction of Syrian sovereignty have been overly optimistic, imperialist dreams. But four years of sabotage, bombings, assassinations and a mercenary invasion of more than 20,000 fighters recruited from over 60 countries have spread great ruin and loss of life.

The U.S. State Department has once again made its arrogant demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down. This demand confirms U.S. imperialism’s determination to overthrow the elected Syrian government. Washington intends to impose the chaos of feuding mercenaries and fanatical militias as seen today in Libya and Iraq.

A delegation from the International Action Center headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark traveled to Syria in late February to present a different message.

Visits to hospitals, centers for displaced families and meetings with religious leaders, community organizations and government officials conveyed the IAC’s determination to resist the orchestrated efforts of U.S. imperialism acting through its proxies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Israel.

The IAC’s opportunity to again visit Syria came following its participation in a packed and well-organized meeting of the International Forum for Justice in Palestine, held in Beirut on Feb. 22 and 23. The conference was initiated by Ma’an Bashour and the Arab International Centre for Communication and Solidarity and again confirmed the centrality of the burning, unresolved issue of Palestine in the region.

The solidarity delegation to Syria included Cynthia McKinney, former six-term member of the U.S Congress; Lamont Lilly, of the youth organization FIST – Fight Imperialism, Stand Together; Eva Bartlett, from the Syrian Solidarity Movement; and Sara Flounders, IAC co-director.

The delegation traveled the rutted, mountainous, blacktop road from Beirut to Damascus to the Lebanon-Syria border. On the Syrian side, this road was a modern, 6-lane highway, a reminder of Syria’s high level of infrastructure development. Even after four years of war, this is still a well-maintained highway. Due to sanctions against Syria, hundreds of trucks attempting deliveries stretched for miles on both sides of the border.

Compared to two years ago, when the IAC visited Damascus, this year we didn’t hear the constant thud of incoming rockets from mercenary forces shelling the city. These military forces have been pushed back from their encirclement of the capital. Syrian military units, checkpoints, sandbags, blast walls and concrete blocks were now less pervasive. Markets were full of people and held more produce.

A visit to Damascus’ largest hospital showed the cumulative impact of four years of devastation. At the University Hospital, where children with amputated limbs receive treatments in the ICU, many children had been brought in maimed from explosives and with shrapnel wounds from mortars and rockets fired on Damascus by terrorist forces.

At a visit to a center for displaced families at a former school, we met with university students, who provide sports, crafts, tutoring and mentoring programs. Medical care, free food and education programs are provided by the centers. But conditions are desperately overcrowded. Each homeless family, often of 6 to 10 people, is allocated a single classroom as housing. Almost half the population has been displaced by the terror tactics of mercenary forces.

A Mosaic of cultures

A theme in almost every discussion was Syria’s heritage as a diverse, rich mosaic of religious and cultural traditions. Sectarian divisions and intolerance are consciously opposed. One can see the determination to oppose the rule of foreign-funded forces.

A visit with Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and Syrian Greek Orthodox Bishop Luca al-Khoury reflected the centuries of religious harmony that previously existed in Syria.

Mufti Hassoun stressed the need for reconciliation. He described to the visitors the assassination three years ago of his 22-year-old son, Saria, who “had never carried a weapon in his life.” Saria was gunned down after leaving his university. At the funeral, Mufti Hassoun declared he forgave the gunmen and called on them to lay down their weapons and rejoin Syria. He described his Greek Orthodox counterpart, Bishop Luca al-Khoury, as his cousin and brother.

Bishop Khoury described the ease with which he received a visa to the U.S., while Mufti Hassoun was denied a visa, although both are religious leaders. “Why do they differentiate between us?” said Khoury. “It’s part of the project to separate Christians and Muslims here. It’s over gas pipelines which are supposed to run through Syrian territory. This will only happen if there is a weak Syrian state.

“If the Syrian government would agree to give a monopoly to France to extract gas from Syria, then you would find [President François] Hollande visiting Syria the next day. If the Syrian government would give the monopoly to [the United States of] America, [President Barack] Obama would declare President al-Assad as the legitimate ruler of the Syrian people.”

“Turkey is warring on us,” Khoury continued, “with financial support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and political support from America, Europe and Britain. Drones cross our borders daily, providing coordinates for the terrorists as to where to strike.”

Both religious leaders declared, as did many others in Syria, that the only solution is an international effort to stop the flow of arms: “If the American government would like to find a solution for the Syrian crisis, they could go to the Security Council and issue a resolution under Chapter 7 for a total ban of weapons from Turkey to terrorists in Syria. In one week this would be over.”

Syria’s accomplishments

Political and media adviser to President al-Assad, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, described the problem of stopping the weapons and mercenaries flooding into the country: “With external support and financing, and an over 800-kilometer border with Turkey, it’s very difficult to stop the flow of terrorists.

“Syria was formerly one of the fastest developing countries in the world,” Shaaban continued, “and one of the safest. We have free education and health care. We did not know poverty; we grew our food and produced our own clothing. At universities, 55 percent of the students were women. In whose interest is it to destroy this heritage? Who is the beneficiary of this?”

Shaaban described her time as a Fulbright scholar at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and later as professor at Eastern Michigan University: “I always wanted to be a bridge between Syria and Western cultures. At the beginning of the crisis, they tried to buy me. They urged me to ‘come to a civilized place,’” she said. “We have baths which are over 1,000 years old and still functioning. I studied Shelley: They didn’t have baths 800 years ago in England. We did. We were having baths and coffee.”

Meeting with PFLP Leaders

The delegation headed by Ramsey Clark also had an important opportunity to meet with Abu Ahmad Fuad, deputy general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Abu Sami Marwan, of the Political Bureau of the PFLP, and hear of the ongoing developments in Palestine and the region.

According to a Feb. 25 statement released by the PFLP after the meeting, “The PFLP leaders discussed the nature of the U.S./Zionist aggression against the people of the region, their intervention in Syria and the attempts of colonial powers to impose their hegemony by force and military aggression, through division of the land and people, and by pushing the region into sectarian or religious conflict.

“This U.S. policy is nothing new.” The Front noted that the colonial powers have waged an ongoing war against the Arab people to prevent any real progress for the region on the road to liberation, self-determination and an end to Zionist occupation.

“The U.S. delegation discussed the urgent need for building ongoing solidarity with Palestine in the United States and internationally,” continued the release, “in particular to confront the deep involvement of the United States — militarily, politically and financially — in the crimes of the occupier, and to end its attacks on Syria, Iraq and the people of the entire region.

“The solidarity delegates noted that there is a colonial scheme to divide and repartition the region according to the interests of major corporations and imperial powers, targeting the resources of the people, sometimes through blatant political interference in the affairs of the region and other times through wars and military attacks on states and peoples.

“The two sides emphasized the importance of communication between the Palestinian Arab left and progressive and democratic forces in the United States to confront Zionism and imperialism in the U.S. and in Palestine alike.”

Ramsey Clark described the aim of the visit: “To find more opportunities for dialogue and coordination among the Syrian and American people.  We saw culture and credibility in Syria and we appreciate the struggle of this people. We will disallow them to shift Syria into Iraq or Libya.”

Cynthia McKinney, former member at the U.S. Congress, said that she appreciated “Syria’s heroic stance, as people and leadership, in its war against the U.S. imperialism. The Syrian people are exceptional in their capability of resistance as the acts during four years have failed to achieve their goals.”

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Greek debt, austerity and past military contracts

Greek debt, austerity and past military contracts

By Sara Flounders February 10, 2015

GreekArmsImports_0219Since the 2008 capitalist downturn sparked the debt crisis, Greek working people have held huge demonstrations, general strikes and now have voted in the Syriza government to oppose the brutal austerity program imposed by U.S. and European, especially German, banks. Syriza has pledged to have half the debt written off and to roll back the austerity measures of the previous government. At this time, the European Union’s bankers refuse and are digging in their heels.

While massive unemployment and social service cuts have also hit hard in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy, austerity and unemployment in Greece have brought the proportion of people living under the poverty line from 3 percent in 2010 to 44 percent today. (Public Policy Analysis Group, Athens University).

Why did this austerity hit Greece with the most devastating blow?

The Wall Street Journal of July 10, 2010, answered this question for its business audience: “Greece, with a population of just 11 million, is the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe — and ranks fifth in the world behind China, India, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. Its military spending is the highest in the European Union as a percentage of gross domestic product. That spending was one of the factors behind Greece’s stratospheric national debt.”

Since the 2008 global economic crisis struck, the bankers in Berlin, London and Wall Street have gone into overdrive to convince the Greek workers — and workers everywhere — that the debt crisis in Greece arose because the Greek workers were living “beyond their means.” This was a constant theme, not only of German chancellor Angela Merkel and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, but also of the corporate media internationally. They claimed that the Greek government had taken out unsustainable loans in order to guarantee full health care, a minimum wage, decent pensions, libraries, schools and parks.

But the standard of living of Greek people, modest by European standards, was not the reason Greece had the highest rate of unsustainable debt in Europe.

The corporate media tell the same lie to workers in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, and to the workers in Germany whose incomes have shrunk, and in the U.S. to the working people of Detroit. This lie must be challenged politically on every front so that the people understand that their modest gains are not the source of the problem. The capitalist system and its inevitable crises are the problem.

Military spending

The bankers understand very well, but are not telling the workers who the major culprit is, especially behind the Greek debt.

An article in the April 19, 2012, British newspaper the Guardian explained the impact of the years of weapons purchases:

“According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute … from 2002 to 2006, Greece was the world’s fourth biggest importer of conventional weapons. It is now the 10th.

“‘As a proportion of GDP, Greece spends twice as much as any other EU member on defense. … Well after the economic crisis had begun, Germany and France were trying to seal lucrative weapons deals even as they were pushing us to make deep cuts in areas like health,’ said Dimitris Papadimoulis, who now represents Syriza in the European Parliament.”

For many years, Greece was the biggest customer in Europe for German military corporations and also a major purchaser of French weapons. These are the two imperialist countries that hold the largest share of Greek debt.

The contracts for these weapons purchases and decades of maintenance and parts supplies are provided by bank loans from the countries supplying the weapons — Germany, France and the United States. The incentive for the huge unneeded purchases is a network of bribes from the military corporations, especially to the generals and top political leaders.

Angelos Philippides, a prominent Greek economist, explained: “For a long time Greece spent 7 percent of its GDP on defense when other European countries spent an average 2.2 percent. If you were to add up that compound 5 percent from 1946 to today, there would be no debt at all.

“‘If Athens had cut defense spending to levels similar to other EU states over the past decade, economists claim it would have saved around €150bn — more than its last bailout. Instead, Greece dedicates up to €7bn a year to military expenditure — down from a high of €10bn in 2009.”  (Guardian, April 19, 2012)

“‘Since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, Greece has spent 216 billion euro on armaments,’” said Katerina Tsoukala, a Brussels-based security expert.” (Guardian) This amount is far larger than the Greek debt at the time the 2008 capitalist crisis hit. The purchases included German submarines, Mirage fighter jets from France and F-16 jets from the U.S. and 1,300 tanks.

According to SIPRI statistics, even though Greek military spending has declined since the crisis, Greece is the second-biggest defense spender (in relation to its GDP) among the 27 NATO countries, after the U.S.

Past military regime in Greece

Since the beginning of the Cold War between the imperialist West and the Soviet Union, the Greek military has played an extremely privileged and thoroughly reactionary role in maintaining capitalist rule and keeping Greece within the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance. With full support of U.S. and British imperialists and of Greek fascists, the Greek military fought a violent civil war from 1945 to 1949 against anti-fascist workers organized by the Communist Party of Greece — the KKE.  Communist-led partisans had driven out the German occupation forces at the end of World War II.

U.S. President Harry Truman in 1947, in what became known as the Truman Doctrine, pledged unlimited military support to defeat growing workers’ movements throughout the world following the World War II surrender of Nazi-led Germany. This policy facilitated brutal coups and decades of military repression in Greece, Turkey and Iran. In Greece in 1947, the communists were defeated militarily and outlawed.

In 1967, using a NATO strategic plan, Greek colonels again seized power and set up a ruling junta, which stayed in control until 1974. The army moved in 1967 to stop the Socialist Party under George Papandreou from taking office with a center-left coalition. This brutal military junta, called the Regime of the Colonels, ruled by martial law, mass arrests, torture and disappearances. Today’s extreme right-wing fascist party, Golden Dawn, has its origins in the police units that operated with impunity during the junta’s rule.

Although ousted by a mobilized mass movement in 1974, the military and police hierarchy was untouched, except for the prosecution of a handful of coup leaders.

Source of corruption

Greek military contracts have always been the greatest source of corruption, payoffs, kickbacks and secrecy. The bribery by major military corporations infects every level of the military. Continuing scandals surrounding military contracts have rocked past administrations. The most notorious bribery scandal involves billions paid over 12 years and billions still owed for six yet-undelivered German submarines. Former Minister of Defense Akis Tsochadzopoulos was convicted in 2013 of accepting $8 million in bribes connected to these submarines.

Given this history, the appointment of the right-wing Greek Independence Party to head the Defense Ministry in the Syriza cabinet is an especially ominous development. It certainly implies that the past onerous military loans and secret payoffs will not be challenged.

An enormous battle is ahead for the workers in Greece. Political agitation and clear demands targeting the generals enmeshed with the UE bankers who have enriched themselves in the Greek debt trap will help prepare the workers to understand who their enemy is and what they are up against.

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Saudi oil and U.S. hypocrisy

Saudi oil and U.S. hypocrisy

By Sara Flounders January 27, 2015

Few events expose the utter hypocrisy of U.S. politicians’ grand words about democracy so starkly as their praise for the recently deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. For decades U.S. imperialism and all the imperialist powers have given political, military and diplomatic support to the corrupt feudal family that rules Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil.

Heads of state abruptly changed plans and rushed to Riyadh to greet the 79-year-old new ruler King Salman. President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron accompanied by Prince Charles, French President Hollande, Afghanistan President Ghani, Spain’s King Felipe VI, Turkish President Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif were all anxious to be assured of the regime’s continuation.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute and brutal dictatorship. The country is named after the royal Saud family that has expropriated the country’s fabulous oil wealth, and treats it as a wholly owned family asset. Their control is maintained by massive state-organized repression. All forms of political dissent and social organization, from political parties to trade unions, are banned under pain of death.

Executions by decapitation in public squares are held on average once every four days. Capital crimes include adultery, homosexuality and political opposition to the regime. Public stonings are also a common form of execution. Other punishments include eye gouging, limb amputation, tooth extraction, surgical paralysis and public lashings.

Wealth and poverty

Government departments are treated as fiefdoms. Their enormous budgets are unaudited and at the family’s personal disposal. Personal and state funds are completely commingled. All family members are guaranteed astronomical monthly allowances from birth, the amount depending on their proximity to the king’s inner circle. The Saud family, with almost 4,000 members, extends privileges up to 30,000 others related by marriage.

The cabinet is made up of Saud family members. The key ministries — interior, foreign affairs, the military commands, National Guard and regional governorships — are held exclusively by family members.

The government does not gather data on poverty, literacy, unemployment or health coverage. However, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported in July 2012 that 60 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

A third of the country’s population of 27 million are immigrants with no rights, no status and no social benefits, who make up 80 percent of the work force.

Saudi unemployment is estimated at 10 percent by the CIA World Factbook, but 28 percent among young men aged 15 to 24, who lack needed skills. Women are not considered part of the work force.

Women enslaved

Women in Saudi Arabia have the lowest literacy in the region. More than 1.5 million migrant women work in domestic slavery. A 2012 report from the International Trade Union Confederation on workers’ rights in Saudi Arabia reported alarming levels of child labor, discrimination and forced labor.

All women, regardless of their class position, have no rights to employment, property or education. They cannot step one foot out of their homes unless covered head to toe in a long black abaya and accompanied by a male family member.

Women in powerful positions in the West ignore the reality of Saudi women. For example, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, hailed King Abdullah as “a strong advocate for women.” (Washington Post, Jan. 23) U.N. World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin praised King Abdullah: “He was a true humanitarian leader, always on the side of the world’s hungry poor.” (www.un.org, Jan 23)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined in the imperialist outpouring of praise, expressing in the same statement his gratitude for the king’s “generous humanitarian and developmental support” throughout the Middle East.

Because Wall Street, U.S. oil corporations, military industries and banks reap such enormous profits from this gang of thieves, they have done everything possible to arm, train and reinforce the Saudi military. The role of the corporate media is to provide a veneer of respectability to this family of looters.

This narrow ruling elite relies on five U.S. military bases, Western arms and military training for its protection and survival. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in nearby Bahrain, defends the status quo with aircraft carriers, 20 ships, nuclear submarines, 103 strike aircraft and 20,000 sailors and marines.

In return, the Saudi royal family pays protection money to U.S. military industries like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Boeing. Billions also go to British, French and German military corporations. The Saudi military budget in 2013 was $67 billion, the fourth largest in the world, after the U.S., China and Russia.

Saudi spending on weapons comes to 9.3 percent of its gross national product,  the highest in the world. The economy is the least diversified of any oil-producing country, with more than 90 percent of its export earnings coming from oil. Virtually everything else must be imported.

Until the 1970s, four U.S. companies were the sole owners of Saudi oil —  free and clear of taxes and duties. As revolutionary upheavals in the region led many countries to demand full control of their resources, Saudi oil was carefully nationalized into a conglomerate called Aramco. Exploration, drilling, pumping, transport and the building of pipelines, ports and terminals were all structured to return maximum profits to U.S. corporations. While the Saud family can take immense wealth for themselves, the vast majority of these funds must be held in U.S. banks or be used to purchase U.S. materials.

Contras and terror militias

This opaque, unaudited economy makes Saudi Arabia a perfect conduit and funding source for U.S. wars, military adventures and secret agencies. At the same time, the U.S. State Department can claim that it knows nothing about who is funding terrorist militias — from the Nicaraguan contras in 1983 to ISIS in 2015.

When Congress denied funding for the reactionary contras in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan covertly arranged for the Saudis to send them weapons to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Saudi money was a key component in the CIA’s war against the progressive Afghan regime that began in 1979. Working with Washington, it has also funded reactionary militias in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon that have metastasized into a viciously sectarian and destabilizing force throughout the Middle East.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington from 1983 to 2005, is considered a mastermind of the Saudi terror network. He is now director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.

Saudi wealth also keeps other military dictatorships in the region afloat. In Egypt, the Saudis provided $1 billion to help General al-Sisi’s coup against the elected Morsi government. After the coup they pledged an immediate $8 billion to stabilize the military regime and have now committed more than $20 billion to maintaining that dictatorship.

The continued rule of the House of Saud is based on a thin, corrupt layer of extreme privilege. Dependent on immigrant labor, foreign trainers and technical experts, it is hated by its own people. U.S. imperialism has staked its continued domination of the region on a detested and narrow grouping that lacks popular support or legitimacy.

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Charlie Hebdo, the free press and racism

Charlie Hebdo, the free press and racism

By Sara Flounders January 13, 2015

The banner of ‘Youth against racism’ in a protest in Paris, November 2013.
The banner of ‘Youth against racism’ in a protest in Paris, November 2013.

How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on Jan. 7 at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-Muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of Black youth in the U.S.? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?

The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive, even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.

Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.

Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the U.S. confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops, even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.

Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on Jan. 11. French, other European, U.S. and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.

Twice, on Dec. 27 and Jan. 4, thousands of police in uniform from all over the U.S. converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car in Dec. 20. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The U.S. vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.

Not a free speech issue

The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012 the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.

French law allows for the prosecution of “public insults” based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.

However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted Muslims or the prophet Muhammed.

In 2012, as protests swept the Muslim world in response to an anti-Muslim film made in the U.S., French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, Sept. 21, 2012) Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, Sept. 19, 2012)

In the same week Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.

Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the Internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza. France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.

It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.

Role of Nazi caricature

Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.

Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right wing and fascist in character.

In this period when Muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilizations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer with its vehemently anti-Semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as Muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.

The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make Jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.

Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against Muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.

Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilization. It ran cartoons demonizing Serbs during the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported NATO’s attack on Libya.

No free press

Although “free speech” and “free press” are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the U.S. is not free, open or accessible. The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime. A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the Western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the Internet have opened a few cracks in this overwhelming corporate control.

The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping what lives have value and what deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.

The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by U.S. imperialism, and with full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked,  unmourned and callously labeled “collateral damage.” The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a U.S. drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.

The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under U.S. occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of U.S. helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling to kill the family that stopped their van to try to help them.

According to The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites which are supposed to be safe for civilians.” Eight media centers were targeted and bombed.

U.S. bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 U.S./NATO war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.

The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the U.S.-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.

The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticized NATO 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and U.N. resolutions.

If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.

What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, PRESS TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the U.S. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the U.S. Both Press TV and Al Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the Internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.

National oppression

National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from Muslim background, although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.

Just as prisons in the U.S. overwhelmingly imprison Black and Brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, April 29, 2008)

Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used Islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.

Who benefits?

Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.

There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies. We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of U.S. France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.

This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.

In their frantic efforts to recolonize Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organized deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the U.S., France and Britain.

It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa, primarily in the majority-Muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.

The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from their expanding wars and increasingly militarized society. The mobilizations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.

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Hong Kong protests: Why imperialists support ‘democracy’ movement

Hong Kong protests: Why imperialists support ‘democracy’ movement

By Sara Flounders on October 7, 2014

Original URL: workers.org/articles/2014/10/07/hong-kong-protests-imperialists-support-democracy-movement/

Demonstrations in Hong Kong, China, raising demands on the procedures to be followed in city elections in 2017, have become an international issue and a source of political confusion.

The protests, called Occupy Central, have received enormous and very favorable U.S. media coverage. Every news report describes with great enthusiasm the occupation of central business parts of Hong Kong as “pro-democracy” protests. The demonstrations, which began on Sept. 22, gained momentum after Hong Kong police used tear gas to open roads and government buildings.

In evaluating an emerging movement it is important to look at what political forces are supporting the movement. What are the demands raised by the movement, who are they appealing to, and what is the social composition of those in motion?

The U.S. and British governments have issued statements of support for the demonstrations. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to heed the demands of the protesters. Wang responded by calling for respect for China’s sovereignty. Britain, which stole Hong Kong from China in 1842 and held it as a colony for 155 years under a government appointed by London, is supporting the call for “democracy” in Hong Kong. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg summoned the Chinese ambassador in order to convey the British government’s alarm.

At the present time these imperialists may not expect to overturn the central role of the Chinese Communist Party in governing China. But Occupy Central in Hong Kong is a battering ram, aimed at weakening the role of the state in the Chinese economy.

The imperialists hope to embolden the bourgeois elements and encourage the increasingly strong capitalist class within China to become more aggressive and demand the overturn of socialist norms established after the 1949 socialist revolution, including the leading role of the Communist Party in a strong sovereign state.

Police repression: Mexico, Italy, Philippines

In Mexico, tens of thousands of students have been protesting curriculum changes and new fees. More than 50,000 demonstrated in Mexico City for the third time. In western Mexico, 57 students from a teaching college went missing after gunslingers fired on a demonstration they were attending, killing three students and wounding three others. A Guerrero official says witnesses identified the shooters as local police officers. Mass graves have now been uncovered in an area terrorized by police and gangs.

On Oct. 2, in Naples, Italy, national police attacked demonstrators protesting against austerity and a meeting of the European Central Bank. Cops fired tear gas and water canons at thousands of protesters.

Thousands of courageous demonstrators in Manila opposed the signing of an agreement with the U.S. for an escalating rotation of U.S. troops, ships and planes into the Philippines during President Obama’s visit last April. They faced water cannons, tear gas and mass arrests.

Did any White House officials meet with Mexican officials to express concern for the killed or missing students? Did any British officials summon Italian officials to convey alarm at the tear gas and water cannons? Was there world media attention to the attacks on Philippine youth? Where was the media frenzy?

Why is it so dramatically different regarding Occupy Central in Hong Kong?

The use of tear gas by Hong Kong police is denounced by the same officials who have been silent as militarized police in U.S. cities routinely use not only tear gas but tanks, armored personnel carriers, live ammunition, electric tasers, rubber bullets, stun guns, dogs and drones in routine police sweeps.

To hear U.S. officials denouncing restrictions on candidates in Hong Kong is especially offensive to anyone familiar with the election procedures in the U.S. today. Millions of dollars are required to run a campaign here. Candidates go through multiple layers of vetting by corporate powers and by the two pro-imperialist political party apparatuses. Restrictive ballot measures are in place in every state and city election.

‘Color revolutions’

Officials and publications in China characterize the actions of Occupy Central as a U.S.-funded “color revolution” and compare it to the upheavals that swept Ukraine and former Soviet republics.

Several commentaries have described in some detail the extensive role of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and the Democratic National Institute, along with corporate foundations’ funding of leaders and the protest movement in Hong Kong.

Thousands of nongovernmental organizations with large staffs are based in Hong Kong. Their stated goal is to build democracy. Their real purpose is to undermine the central role of the Chinese Communist Party in the organization of Chinese society. Hong Kong, unlike the rest of China, has allowed these U.S.-funded NGOs and political associations almost unlimited access for decades.

Hong Kong’s special status

Hong Kong’s importance is not due to its size. Its population of 7.5 million people is half of 1 percent of the population of China. But Hong Kong is a leading center of finance capital. According to the 2011 World Economic Forum, Hong Kong had already overtaken London, New York and Singapore in financial access, business environment, banking and financial services, institutional environment, nonbanking financial services and financial markets.

Hong Kong acts as the financial gateway to China. It has a guaranteed, banking-friendly, special administrative status. It is known for its financial services with insurance, law, accounting and many hundreds of well-established professional service firms. Capitalists based in Hong Kong are today the largest foreign investors in China.

The city of Hong Kong also has the greatest extremes of wealth and poverty in the world. The city is famous for glittering skyscrapers and luxury malls and is home to some of the world’s richest people. But half live in overcrowded and crumbling public housing. One-fifth live below the poverty line.

More than 170,000 “working poor” live in cage-like, subdivided flats. The stacked wire “dog crates” are 6 feet long by 3 feet high and wide, with 30 crates to a room. The city has no minimum wage.

Occupy?

Although using the name, street tactics and appeal of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Central has not made one demand on the banks in Hong Kong.

In contrast, Occupy Wall Street was a movement that focused the outrage of tens of thousands of youth on the criminal role of the Wall Street banks, particularly in extracting from the U.S. government a trillion-dollar bailout that saved the largest banks while leaving millions of homes of working people in foreclosure, along with millions unemployed.

In Hong Kong the role of the banks is enshrined in law for the next 50 years. How can this be overlooked? Understanding the special status of the former British colony of Hong Kong within China is a key part of understanding who Occupy Central represents.

Colonial status

Hong Kong, as a British colony from 1842 to 1997, had no elections nor any form of democracy. For 155 years its governors were appointed by Britain.

Hong Kong came into existence as a colony based on a series of unequal treaties imposed by British imperialism. Rather than pay in silver, Britain imposed the sale of opium into China in exchange for tea, spices, silk and porcelain, valuable trade items coveted in the West. The growing sale of opium was resisted by the Qing Dynasty, which confiscated more than 2 million pounds of opium in 1838.

British armored and steam-powered gunboats, in the name of “free trade,” opened fire on Chinese cities on the Pearl and Yangtze rivers, where bamboo, wood and thatch were common building materials. Cities and warehouses burst into flames. British forces seized the island of Hong Kong with its many natural harbors at the mouth of the vital Pearl River as a naval base and military staging point for future wars in China.

The 1842 Treaty of Nanking demanded China pay heavy indemnities and gave Britain and other foreign nationals a privileged position of extraterritoriality in China, along with ceding open treaty ports and turning over the Island of Hong Kong. Racist segregation of Chinese people was the practice in Hong Kong and all the “foreign concessions.”

In the Second Opium War 15 years later, British, French, U.S., Japanese and imperial Russian merchants made further demands, involving gunboats and thousands of troops. China was forced under duress to lease additional territory and open more cities. The demands continued. A 99-year lease for the islands surrounding Hong Kong, called the “new Territories,” was signed in 1898. China lapsed into a period of devastating famines, civil wars and contending warlords, with underdevelopment and great poverty for the great majority.

Revolution of 1949

The Chinese Revolution that culminated in 1949, under the revolutionary leadership of Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist Party, ended the unequal treaties and the racist treatment of Chinese people in their own country and began the reorganization of the Chinese economy on a socialist basis.

But Hong Kong remained in British imperialist hands; Macau continued in the hands of old Portuguese colonialists; and on the island of Taiwan the defeated, reactionary Kuomintang  regime led by dictator Chiang Kai-shek survived as a U.S. protectorate. The imperialist countries in the West and Japan denied technological and industrial development to the impoverished and underdeveloped People’s China.

In the 1980s socialist China began opening to Western capitalist investment on a steadily expanding basis. The capitalist market in China and the influence of capitalist property relations have seriously eroded socialist ownership. But the centrality of the Communist Party in politics and the economy has not been broken.

Just as the imperialists 100 and 200 years ago sabotaged any restraint on their economic domination, today Wall Street continues scheming to regain unimpeded access to all of China’s markets.

HKSAR: Special Administrative Region of China

In 1997, the 99-year British lease was scheduled to end on the British colony of Hong Kong. In 1984, China signed an agreement with Britain on the future status of Hong Kong. It was called the Hong Kong Basic Law.

In order to avoid instability and closing of the foreign investment flowing through Hong Kong, the Chinese government, while insisting on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, agreed to guarantee capitalist relations there for 50 years under an agreement called “One Country, Two Systems,” an idea originally proposed by Communist Party General Secretary Deng Xiaoping.

Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. In the agreement with British imperialism, the HKSAR would retain the status of an international financial center with free flow of capital. The Hong Kong dollar remained freely convertible.

The status of property rights, contracts, ownership of enterprises, rights of inheritance and foreign investment was all guaranteed. The agreement stipulated that Hong Kong’s capitalist system itself and its “way of life” would remain unchanged until 2047. A network of private schools, universities and the large corporate media did not change hands. The Hong Kong Basic Law further stated that the socialist system and socialist policies would not be practiced in HKSAR.

Hong Kong bankers, financiers and industrialists were assured autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs, where the People’s Republic of China would have full say. It is this minimal control that Occupy Central is now challenging with the demand that Chief Executive Cy Leung must resign.

An antiquated judiciary based on British Common Law upholds the laws that defend the harshest private property relations. Small claims courts, landlord courts, labor courts, juvenile courts, coroner’s courts and courts of appeals all enforce old capitalist laws, not the laws in place for the 99.5 percent living in the rest of China.

Hong Kong judges still wear British-style outfits, including wigs made of horsehair, with white gloves, girdles and scarlet robes added for official ceremonies.

The guarantee of unrestricted capitalism in Hong Kong for 50 years means that some of the starkest extremes of wealth and poverty exist side by side.

U.S. funded NGOs

Fearful of democratic change coming from the working class as soon as the British signed the agreement in 1984, the ruling class began to violate it, putting in place new political parties and organizations to operate after the return of the territory to China. After 145 years of appointed government, they pompously called for democratic change.

Three years before the 1997 handover of sovereignty, the British changed the constitution and set up district boards, urban and regional councils, and a legislative council. These top-down reforms were strongly opposed by the Chinese government as a violation of the agreement and a tactic to subvert its political system.

But more insidious than the official changes was the vast expansion of U.S. “soft power” in Hong Kong.

Today more than 30,000 NGOs are registered in Hong Kong. They cover every aspect of life. (Social Indicators of Hong Kong)

The U.S. funds NGOs for political subversion through the U.S. State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which makes grants to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), National Democratic Institute (NDI), National Republican Institute, Ford Foundation, Carter Center, Asia Foundation, Freedom House, Soros’s Open Society and Human Rights Watch, among others.

All these groups and many more fund projects that claim to be supporting and promoting human rights, democracy, a free press and electoral reform. This funding of social networks operates for the same purposes in Latin America and the Caribbean, throughout the Middle East and Africa, and in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

U.S. imperialism has not established democracy in any of its hundreds of interventions, wars, drone attacks, coups or global surveillance. But “promoting democracy” has become a cover for attacks on the sovereignty of countries all around the world.

Of course, religious groups and other states, especially those in the European Union, also fund political associations and social networks in Hong Kong and everywhere across the globe. A few of these groups may genuinely operate independently and provide aid to immigrant workers, help low-paid workers organize, or address housing and health needs of the most unrepresented in Hong Kong. But for the most part, the NGOs are a network of “civil society” organizations controlled by and for U.S. corporate power.

A growing number of articles in the Chinese press have connected the dots of the leaders of Occupy Central and the U.S.-funded NGOs.

According to China.org.cn, “Each and every ‘Occupy Central’ leader is either directly linked to the U.S. State Department, NED, and NDI, or involved in one of NDI’s many schemes.” (Oct. 6)

Occupy Central’s self-proclaimed leader, Benny Tai, is a law professor who has received NDI and NED grants and was on the board of the NDI-funded Center for Comparative and Public Law. He attended many NDI-funded conferences. This is also true for another prominent Occupy Central figure, Audrey Eu.

Also, according to China.org.cn, “Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democrat Party, is another prominent figure who has come out in support of Occupy Central. Just this year, Lee was in Washington meeting directly with Vice President Joseph Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi and even took part in an NED talk hosted specifically for him and his agenda of “democracy” in Hong Kong. Lee even has a NED page dedicated to him after he was awarded NED’s Democracy Award in 1997. With him in Washington was Anson Chan, another prominent figure currently supporting the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong’s streets.”

A number of publications in the West are picking up on these exposés, including Counterpunch in “Hong Kong and the Democracy Question” and Global Research in “U.S. Now Admits It Is Funding Occupy Central in Hong Kong.”

Even a Hong Kong poll showed that most of those making $10,000 a year or less opposed the protests, while support was highest among people making $100,000 a year or more.

Wall Street is not satisfied with the deep inroads that capitalism has made into China and is increasingly fearful of Chinese competition in global markets. The U.S. pressure for political liberalization in China is to promote further economic opening and further privatization of state industries.

U.S. and British imperialism hope to use Hong Kong as they did 150 years ago as a stronghold for pushing deeper politically into China. Today, however, they are not facing a backward feudal dynasty.

As U.S. corporate dominance in production and finance slips, the Asia pivot of the Obama administration means that the U.S. ruling class and its military apparatus has made the decision to become more confrontational toward Russia and China.

Opponents of U.S. wars and organizations defending workers’ interests in the U.S. can play an important role by refusing to align with U.S. schemes aimed at overturning pro-socialist norms inside China and undermining Chinese sovereignty.

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The Pentagon — the climate elephant

The Pentagon — the climate elephant

Expose the Pentagon, the world’s largest & most dangerous climate criminal!

By Sara Flounders on September 14, 2014

Originally published at http://www.iacenter.org/environment/pentagon-climate091614/

download this article as a PDF

There is an elephant in the climate debate that by U.S. demand cannot be discussed or even seen. This agreement to ignore the elephant is now the accepted basis of all international negotiations on climate change.

It is well understood by every possible measurement that the Pentagon, the U.S. military machine, is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and the world’s worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many other toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

Ever since the Kyoto Accords or Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1998, in an effort to gain U.S. compliance, all U.S. military operations worldwide and within the U.S. are exempt from measurement or agreements on reduction. The U.S. Congress passed an explicit provision guaranteeing U.S. military exemptions. (Interpress Service, May 20, 1998)

The complete U.S. military exemption from greenhouse gas emissions calculations includes more than 1,000 U.S. bases in more than 130 countries around the world, its 6,000 facilities in the U.S., its aircraft carriers and jet aircraft. Also excluded are its weapons testing and all multilateral operations such as the giant U.S. commanded NATO military alliance and AFRICOM, the U.S. military alliance now blanketing Africa. The provision also exempts U.S./UN-sanctioned activities of “peacekeeping” and “humanitarian relief.”

After gaining this giant concession the U.S. government still refused to sign the Kyoto Accord, thus sabotaging years of international effort at an agreement.
The provisions of the Kyoto Protocol nevertheless became the basis of all future proposed international meetings on a climate treaty, including Copenhagen 2009, Cancun, 2010, Durban 2011, Doha 2012 and the United Nations upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change meeting in Paris in 2015.

In all past international conferences it was again and again the U.S. government that sabotaged the meetings and refused to be bound by any treaty. The Obama Administration on Aug. 27 again confirmed that at the UN meeting in New York in September to prepare for the 2015 Paris meeting that only a non-binding agreement could be put forward.

Role of grassroots activists

Unless the climate activists at the grassroots level challenge this exemption of the U.S. military and begin to focus a laser light on the most dangerous source of global warming and climate change, the movement will be lost in vague generalities, utopian hopes and toothless accords.

The only hope that the mass outpouring in September in New York will have an impact is if independent voices can begin to consciously challenge the greatest global polluter.

Exposing the horrendous social costs of U.S. militarism must also be part of the challenge. Washington’s military role acts to constantly reinforce at every level the repressive state apparatus.

For decades, and at an accelerated pace since 2001, the military has provided an endless stream of free war equipment to local city and state police, National Guard units and sheriffs’ offices. Youth of oppressed nations within the U.S. become targets of a vastly expanded police state. The fresh images of tanks and armored police in Ferguson confirmed for millions the results of this racist policy.

Exposing the devastation of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is essential. These U.S. wars have contaminated the soil and water of vast regions under U.S. occupation with depleted uranium, benzene and trichloroethylene from air base operations and Perchlorate, a toxic ingredient in rocket propellant.

More than 1,000 military sites in the U.S. are filled with these toxins, topping the Superfund list of contaminated sites. The poorest communities, especially communities of color, are the most severely impacted by this continuing military poisoning.

It is essential to connect the Pentagon exemption from international negotiations to its primary role as the protector and expander of corporate power on a global scale. The most powerful and profitable corporations are the oil and military corporations; these are the other primary polluters.

Pentagon admits climate change

Unlike the climate change deniers, the Pentagon’s own published studies confirm the danger to the planet. But U.S. officer corps is committed to what they call full spectrum dominance. So every study of climate change by the military planners is based on evaluating how to take advantage of the future crisis to more firmly entrench U.S. corporate power and protect the irrational capitalist system that has created this crisis.

The Pentagon studies are not on plans to deliver emergency aid in the face of climate disasters such as floods, droughts, famines, epidemics, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, water shortages and damage to infrastructure. Their war colleges and think tanks’ plans are on how to extract political concessions on docking rights and future military access during a besieged countries’ hour of greatest emergency need.

For example the U.S. Department of Defense releases every four years a broad outline of U.S. military strategy. The 2014 Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review describes the threat of climate change as “a very serious national security vulnerability.” This QDR discusses how to maintain global U.S. military hegemony in the face of ever worsening global climate disruptions. (tinyurl.com/pn4awm8)

The military officer caste is focused on maintaining Wall Street rule and capitalist property relations during a crisis. There is concern with preserving the authority of their puppets, allies and collaborators.

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating.”

“The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities… The Department’s operational readiness hinges on unimpeded access to land, air, and sea training…”

Military and corporate planning is callously focused on how to take advantage of the life-threatening changes.

A most frightening example is the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. This White House Report opens by praising the Arctic as “an amazing place.” But then quickly defines the need for focusing on strategic priorities to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The essence of the report is that the melting of the polar ice cap and the “new Arctic environment” means “ocean resources are more readily accessible as sea ice diminishes.” This is an opportunity to access the vast untapped oil, gas and mineral resources and increase the flow of fossil fuels — big profits for big oil. (tinyurl.com/cw2dvhk)

In 2014 the Center for Naval Analysis issued a study titled: “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change.” This report, a follow-up report to their 2007 report, prepared by eleven retired generals and admirals sees climate change as the source of international instability and the greatest threat to the established capitalist order.

This study is not on how to use the enormous technological ability of the U.S. military machine to provide solutions or emergency assistance. Everything is posed in terms of national security in the face of alleged potential terror threats. (tinyurl.com/lreswx8)

Based on these reports and on the U.S. role in every climate meeting in over 20 years it is clear that U.S. corporate power and the monstrous military machine it has funded must become a focus of class-conscious climate activists. This would contribute greatly to an understanding of the source and the real solutions to this global crisis.


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IRAQ – U.S. Promotes Deadly Divisions

IRAQ – U.S. Promotes Deadly Divisions

No U.S.  intervention in Iraq!

Wall Street has no interest in strong, unified states, whether secular, Sunni or Shia. The imperialists want an all-out Sunni-Shia civil war that would spread and weaken Iraq, Syria and Iran.

By Sara Flounders on June 25, 2014
Originally published at www.workers.org/articles/2014/06/25/intervention-iraq/

Thirty-five years of U.S. subversion, intervention and then direct occupation of Iraq are the primary cause of the violent sectarian divisions now pulling that country apart.

Any further U.S. intervention will have even more disastrous consequences for the population as a whole and the entire region. This may well be Washington’s plan.

Since the Iranian Revolution, the U.S., through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other absolute monarchies in the Persian Gulf, has exacerbated religious and national differences in Iraq to destabilize the entire region. It has funded and supported the most extreme sectarian organizations to divide Sunni and Shia Muslim Iraqis and Kurdish and Arab Iraqis. Divide and conquer has been a consistent option through six U.S. presidents, Republicans and Democrats.

President Barack Obama’s announcement on June 19 that he was sending 300 U.S. Army Special Forces into Iraq shows the continued danger to the entire region.

Obama promised there would be no U.S. boots on the ground — ignoring the 1,500 troops already there. He said he was just sending “advisors,” plus additional troops to guard the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

But he added that the U.S. “will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we conclude that the situation on the ground requires it.” (National Journal, June 19) Six U.S. warships are in the Persian Gulf and 5,000 U.S. soldiers are just across the border in Kuwait. A total of 30,000 U.S. troops are in the region to back up the real possibility of military action.

In a June 18 White House press conference, Obama said the U.S. is acting because “obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continue to be important.” Control over oil is the real reason for decades of divisive U.S. policy.

U.S. role in Iran-Iraq war

In 1979 the repressive and corrupt U.S.-supported Pahlavi monarchy in Iran, which had ruled for 25 years, was overthrown by a popular revolutionary upsurge that the U.S. was powerless to prevent or reverse. It shook the entire region. Wall Street and its client states were deeply concerned for their future as anti-imperialist sentiment swept the Muslim world.

National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly urged Iraq to use the opportunity to attack Iran and take back the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. This conflict was posed as a Sunni-Shiite struggle.

The U.S. arranged for massive loans to Iraq from client states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. U.S., British, French and German firms collaborated in helping Iraq. Iraq took the bait and attacked Iran.

Before this, ever since the 1959 overthrow of its British-installed monarchy, Iraq had been outside Western imperialist control. With Soviet assistance, it had developed a modern infrastructure, advanced full and free education, a free health care system, and a nationalized oil industry to pay for it all. It was a secular state with a rich mosaic of religious and national cultures.

From 1980 to 1988 the two major powers of the region were tied up in an exhausting and destructive conflict against each other. The U.S. found ways to send arms to both — openly to Iraq and in secret to Iran, as the Iran-Contra scandal confirmed.

The most cynical description of U.S. strategy in this war came from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said: “I hope they both kill each other” and “Too bad they can’t both lose.” Over 1 million soldiers died in the war.

When both countries were exhausted, they finally reached a ceasefire. Iraq was now tied to the West and the Gulf monarchies through an unpayable debt of $80 billion.

Iraq found itself almost immediately a target of U.S. imperialism. Disarray in the Soviet Union in 1990 whetted the appetite of Wall Street to regain total control over Middle East oil resources.

Suddenly Kuwait demanded immediate repayment of war loans. Through slant drilling, it tapped into Iraqi oil fields. Overproduction of oil created a glut; oil prices dropped so low that Iraq was in crisis.

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, appeared to have U.S. approval and blessing, as revealed in a taped conversation on July 25 between Saddam Hussein and U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie. But it was a setup. The Pentagon immediately froze Iraqi funds and rammed a resolution imposing an international economic blockade on Iraq through the U.N. Security Council. The Pentagon began a massive military mobilization. The U.S. war on Iraq started Jan. 16, 1991.

‘Desert Storm’

In 42 days of relentless destruction, with a bombing attack once every 30 seconds, U.S. aircraft destroyed 90 percent of Iraq’s power plants and communications. Most damaging was the destruction of the water system. Water pumping stations, storage dams, hydroelectric power stations and sanitation, sewage, drainage and irrigation systems were destroyed. Cluster bombs, napalm and thousands of tons of radioactive and toxic depleted uranium rounds were used.

Iraq’s agriculture — food processing, warehousing, distributing, fertilizer and pesticide facilities — was systematically destroyed. Hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical factories were targeted. All major cement plants were destroyed, along with Iraq’s oil refineries, pipelines and storage tanks.

At the end of the bombing campaign, then-President George H.W. Bush tried to unleash a sectarian war. Bush called on the Kurdish population in the north and the Shiite Muslim population in the south to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government.

The U.S. military imposed a no-fly zone on both regions, and a U.S.-protected Kurdish Autonomous Republic was established, dividing Iraq.

Sanctions imposed on all imports and exports from 1990 to 2003 then killed more than 1.5 million people, or 10 times as many as had died in the U.S. bombing. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, asked about the half million Iraqi children who died of starvation and disease due to sanctions, said in a televised interview in 1996: “We think the price is worth it.”

2003 U.S. invasion

But the U.S. ability to enforce the sanctions waned. So in 2003, using the completely fabricated charge that Iraq was producing “weapons of mass destruction,” the Pentagon launched “shock and awe,” a bombing campaign that far exceeded the 1991 destruction.

After the bombing, more than 200,000 U.S. and NATO forces rolled into a destroyed Iraq.

From the first day of occupation, the U.S. promoted Iraqi organizations founded on religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect while outlawing political parties, especially the secular Ba’ath Party.

Sectarianism was brought to Iraq by the U.S. This was a foreign concept for a population that had been religiously and ethnically mixed for hundreds of years.

Under the U.S. occupation every ID card, checkpoint and neighborhood was divided by sect. Funds, resources, food and government positions were allocated by sect. Meanwhile, intelligence networks and thousands of secret operatives carried out horrendous crimes aimed at keeping sectarian fires burning.

As resistance to the brutal U.S. occupation gained momentum across Iraq, sectarian militias were established. U.S. administrators employed the “Salvador option” in Iraq to divide the national resistance. This was a form of organized mass terror the U.S. used in Central America, especially in El Salvador and Guatemala, against revolutionary movements in the 1980s.

John Negroponte, who had implemented the murderous U.S. policy in Central America, was named ambassador to Iraq. Sectarian death squads were created to divide Iraq along sectarian lines. Kissinger’s formula of “Let them kill each other” became a guiding policy.

U.S. supports religious militias

More recently, Negroponte’s top aide in Iraq, Robert S. Ford, was named U.S. Ambassador to Syria, just two months before the armed insurgency and orchestrated destabilization began there.

The Saudi and Kuwaiti monarchists funded reactionary mercenaries and religiously based militias like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Both Turkey and Jordan provided secure bases, while Israel provided medical care and safe havens in the Golan Heights — territory seized from Syria — for this well-funded army. ISIS weapons overwhelmingly came from the Pentagon, but the process of acquisition was covert.

This same sectarianism has been sustained by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who came to power in 2006 under the U.S.-led occupation. Maliki’s corruption and repression have earned him hatred throughout Iraq. But the U.S. may be interested in dumping the Maliki government because it made deals with Iran —  much to the frustration of the imperialists who put him in office to serve Wall Street’s interests. Washington is far more concerned about Iran’s growing influence in Iraq than they are about ISIS seizure of cities.

The greatest crime in Washington’s eyes was the Maliki government’s refusal to sign a 2011 agreement that would leave thousands of U.S. troops in place. The sentiment in Iraq against the occupation was so great that even the U.S.-vetted Iraqi Parliament refused to accept this insult. Official U.S. troops had to depart, but covert operatives remained to subvert social cohesion.

Now, as the ISIS militia have captured key cities with little or no resistance from the Iraqi Army, there is growing speculation that the central government may collapse. There is controversy, however, as to whether ISIS or other Iraqi elements — tribal, Baathist — are the major force behind the uprising.

As demonstrated years ago in the Iran-Iraq war, the U.S. is not against arming both sides of a conflict — one side openly, the other through covert operations. At the same time U.S. politicians piously call for peace, unity and reconciliation. This destabilization policy is so well understood that it has a name: “constructive chaos.”

Anti-imperialist unity the only solution

Baghdad still has up to 1 million Kurds. Approximately 20 percent of Basra’s population in southern Iraq is Sunni. Samarra, a mostly Sunni city north of Baghdad, is home to two sacred Shia shrines. Every tribe and town in Iraq contains Sunnis and Shia.

A three-way national breakup of Iraq, so often discussed by U.S. think tanks and policy makers, means continuing chaos and a permanent state of war in which only the oil companies, the arms suppliers and the warlords prevail.

Wall Street has no interest in strong, unified states, whether secular, Sunni or Shia. The imperialists want an all-out Sunni-Shia civil war that would spread and weaken Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Opposing every form of U.S. intervention is the only way forward.

Sara Flounders is co-director of the International Action Center and has contributed to four books on Iraq. She has traveled to Iraq and Syria and helped coordinate major anti-war demonstrations in the U.S.

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NATO expansion — Yugoslavia to Ukraine

NATO expansion — Yugoslavia to Ukraine

By Sara Flounders on March 18, 2014

nato expansionBehind Washington’s hypocritical talk of “national sovereignty,” “territorial integrity” and “international law” in its efforts to undercut the overwhelming vote of the people of Crimea to join Russia stands a stark struggle over whether Ukraine will be dragged into the ever expanding, U.S.-commanded NATO military web.

Since 1995, the year NATO waged its first aggressive war against Yugoslavia, NATO has expanded into nine countries of Eastern Europe and three former republics of the former Soviet Union.

The Obama administration is using more than words in this deepening struggle.

The Pentagon has moved F-16 fighter-bombers, F-15 fighters, C-130 transport planes and RC-135 aerial tankers to Russia’s borders and sent the USS Truxtun destroyer, armed with cruise missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads, into the Black Sea. Washington threatens economic sanctions, putting pressure on Germany and other EU members to join in. A lot is at stake.

NATO membership was a key provision in the agreement that Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych balked at signing with the EU last November. The Maidan Square occupation in Kiev, the capital, aimed at stampeding the government into joining the EU and NATO. Fascist ultraright paramilitary organizations, such as Right Sector and the neo-Nazi Svoboda party took the lead.

During the Kiev occupation and since, these openly armed terror organizations burned political offices of communists, pulled down revolutionary statues, attacked gay people and defaced homes of Ukrainian Jews. Despite their open fascist symbols and criminal acts, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Secretary of State John Kerry and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland openly met with and embraced these reactionaries.

On Feb. 21-22, the fascist forces overthrew the elected government, seized Parliament and expelled government officials, even though Yanukovych had just reached an agreement with the EU, including many concessions and the scheduling of new elections. The first act of the coup government, after deposing Yanukovych in a rump parliament, without a quorum, was to ban Russian and Greek language usage by Ukrainian minorities and to end Crimea’s autonomy within Ukraine.

Within days, the coup regime named fascists to key posts in the new state — the Svoboda Party’s Andriy Parubiy as secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Right Sector head Dmytro Yarosh as his deputy and Svoboda’s Ihor Tenhyok as minister of defense. The U.S.-favored right-wing banker Arseniy Yatsenyuk became prime minister.

The immediate attack on Crimea’s autonomy confirms how well the coup government fell in line with NATO’s plan for expansion. The Crimea is the only non-Arctic base to provide a port for the Russian Navy.

Washington and Berlin immediately granted recognition to this coup government. In an effort to lend further legitimacy, the unelected Yatsenyuk was invited to a meeting at the White House and to the United Nations Security Council.

It should be no surprise then that the gut response of most of the population of the Crimea to this fascist threat was to hold a referendum on whether to continue autonomy or rejoin Russia. Nor that Russian Prime Minister Putin decided to order Russian troops, whose presence in Crimea is approved of by treaty with Ukraine, to secure their position in the peninsula. The collective memory of the Russian-speaking majority in Crimea is shaped by stories of the Nazi invasion and massive destruction in World War II.

Remember Croatia and Kosovo

This is not the first time that U.S. imperialism has used terror tactics and economic destabilization, and publicly embraced paramilitary monsters.

The videos of Blackwater mercenaries and right-wing militias operating in eastern Ukraine and movements of Ukrainian military and National Guard raised great apprehension.

If the fascist coup government could in one measure end Crimea’s long held autonomy, the likely next step would be to order the Russian Navy out of its own base. Perhaps it would expel a large part of Crimea’s population. If that seems unbelievable, consider what happened in other U.S. supported rightist coups in Croatia and in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, and their similarities with the Ukraine situation.

During World War II, the fascist Ustashe had welcomed the Italian fascist and German Nazi occupation and carried out genocide against the Jewish and Serbian populations of Croatia. A united multinational partisan resistance movement throughout Yugoslavia finally defeated the fascists, drove out the German army and laid the basis for the Yugoslav Socialist Federation as the war ended.

The return of this same criminal Ustashe organization, its 1991 declaration of independence for Croatia and separation from the Yugoslav Federation were immediately recognized by Berlin and soon by Washington. This political support for a right-wing separatist movement by the U.S. and Germany, combined with the 1995 attack on Bosnia and the 1999 NATO air war, led to the breakup of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation.

After declaring Croatian independence in 1991 and taking command of the police and military, the Ustashe carried out  attacks on the Serbian population. It outlawed the rights of the Serbian minority, who had lived in Croatia since the Middle Ages, expelling them from their farms, evicting them from apartments, firing them from state jobs and cancelling their pensions and social services.

Fearing the mass executions like those these fascists had carried out during World War II, the Serbs in Croatia resisted and civil war broke out. By 1995, more than 200,000 Serbs had been driven from the Krajina region in Croatia.

Similar rightist forces unleashed the civil war in Bosnia, another republic of the Yugoslav Federation. This led to even deeper ethnic divisions, great destruction and loss of life.

Before the Ustashe seized power in Croatia, the annual U.S. Foreign Appropriation Law 101-513 in 1990 created a political and economic crisis in the Yugoslav economy. It cut off all aid, trade, credits and loans until each of the six Yugoslav republics held separate elections for independence. At the same time, secretly funded mercenaries and militias flooded into the region, spreading terror.

In both Russia and Ukraine, many are aware of the U.S. role in shaping the civil war in Bosnia to justify NATO intervention. First, in 1995, U.S./NATO used 400 aircraft and 5,000 personnel from 15 nations in the 21-day bombing of Serbian-held positions in Bosnia. Then, Washington imposed the Dayton Accords, which stationed 60,000 NATO troops in Bosnia.

This bombing and occupation of Bosnia was the first crucial step in the expansion of the NATO military alliance into the Balkans, and then into East Europe and the former Soviet republics.

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military-machine alliance under U.S. domination and run to project Wall Street’s interests. NATO has a U.S.-commanded military structure imposed by U.S. corporate policy since it was founded in 1949, at the peak of U.S. power.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has aggressively expanded until it is now the biggest political-military alliance in history, with 28 member countries. Its “partnership programs” bring the total number of countries trapped in this U.S.-spun military web to 70 countries. U.S. taxpayers pay 70 percent of NATO expenses, a huge subsidy to U.S. military corporations.

The combined defense expenditures of all 28 NATO countries in 2013 amounted to $1.02 trillion or over $1 million millions. In comparison, Russia spends $90 billion. Iran spends under $7 billion. (Stars and Stripes, Feb. 25 — tinyurl.com/o332a4e)

In addition, NATO troops are part of the 13-year continuing U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. From 2004 to 2011, tens of thousands of troops under NATO command participated in the eight-year occupation that destroyed Iraq.

Starting March 24, 1999, NATO carried out a 78-day bombardment of Serbia that included 38,000 combat missions, using 1,000 aircraft along with cruise missiles fired from aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines. The targets were overwhelmingly civilian, including bridges, railroads, factories, refineries, power stations, telecommunications facilities, embassies, 480 schools and 33 hospitals.

NATO cut Kosovo province out of Serbia, creating a NATO protectorate with 50,000 troops and building Camp Bondsteel, a massive U.S. military base. Despite the U.S. pledge that Kosovo was historically part of Serbia and would remain so, Washington quickly recognized Kosovo’s independence in 2008.

In 2011, NATO bombed Libya for 220 days, with 26,500 sorties, overwhelmingly flown by the U.S. Air Force, but with 19 countries pulled into the imperialist aggression. Communications centers, apartment buildings, water networks and the electric grid were targeted. The reactionary militias that U.S./NATO funded and backed up militarily brutally tortured and murdered Moammar Gadhafi, the leader of this African country.

The imperialists fraudulently called each of these blatant aggressions “humanitarian acts” to prevent “genocide” or to protect peace. In fact, each NATO operation was a brutal act of colonial conquest and expansion.

Transforming NATO

NATO’s main task at its 1949 founding was to confront and challenge the Soviet Union. But it was also established to secure U.S. military and economic domination in Western Europe, a check against working-class uprisings and the rise of any imperialist competitors. It wasn’t until 1955 that the USSR and East European countries established the Warsaw Pact to counter NATO’s Cold War pressure.

In 1990, as the Soviet Union was retreating under the pressure of 45 years of Cold War, U.S. Secretary of State Baker and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl made a commitment that was quickly broken. They said NATO troops would not expand “one inch” further east, not even into the former German Democratic Republic.

The USSR’s conciliatory Mikhail Gorbachev leadership swallowed this commitment and agreed to withdraw the 380,000 Soviet troops from East Germany, where by treaty they had a right to be stationed since the end of World War II in 1945. This in effect ended the Warsaw Pact military alliance. (Counterpunch, March 13; The Atlantic, March 3)

Despite these talks and agreements, the expansion of NATO right up to the borders of Russia has been the focus of U.S. policy through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Although U.S. policy had long been to support and fund dissident individuals and organizations of opposition throughout the Warsaw Pact countries, after 1990 the floodgates opened. Western corporations and banks sought resources. Exiled wealthy families surged back into the region to attempt to reclaim ownership of industries, vast estates and swaths of land they had previously owned that had been collectivized.

Fascist groups from the Ustashe in Croatia to Svobodo and the National Socialist Party in Ukraine, the war criminals whom the CIA had smuggled west at the end of WW II and helped to secretly maintain in exile for decades, surged back in. They returned awash in funds for offices, staff, publications, political parties, nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations.  They drafted and printed anti-communist schoolbooks full of extreme sectarian nationalism and ethnic hatred. They also established militias and hired armed thugs to defend their newly seized assets.

For the past 20 years, a handful of pirates and privateers in each of the formerly socialist countries were absorbed in laying hold of every resource, industry or source of formerly collective wealth and making deals and partnerships with U.S. and EU corporations and moving vast sums of money to the West.

These new oligarchs assumed that they would be offered an equal seat at the capitalist table. They foolishly did not realize that they were the main course. This is the age of capitalist overproduction, decline and commodity super abundance. There is no more room at the table.

By clear majorities, country polls of almost every new NATO member showed that the people opposed joining NATO.  But imperialist conquest takes place through stealth and deception and through bloody wars and massive destruction, not democratic choice. The lessons of past NATO crimes and the rich history of resistance to fascism throughout the region serve as a model for the anti-fascist, progressive and working-class forces throughout Europe today. The only way to defeat fascism and imperialist domination is through multinational working-class unity, organization and a will to struggle.

The author was in Yugoslavia during the 1999 U.S./NATO bombing and witnessed the massive civilian destruction. She is a co-author and editor of “NATO in the Balkans,”  (1998) and “Hidden Agenda — U.S./ NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia,” (2002), both published by the International Action Center.

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Iraq: 10th anniversary of U.S. crime against humanity

Iraq: 10th anniversary of U.S. crime against humanity

By Sara Flounders
March 19, 2013
originally published at http://www.workers.org/2013/03/19/iraq-10th-anniversary-of-u-s-crime-against-humanity/

The corporate media in the U.S. play a powerful role in preparation for imperialist war. They play an even more insidious role in rewriting the history of U.S. wars and obstructing the purpose of U.S. wars.

They are totally intertwined with U.S. military, oil and banking corporations. In every war, this enormously powerful institution known as the ‘fourth estate’ attempts, as the public relations arm of corporate dominance, to justify imperialist plunder and overwhelm all dissent.

The corporate media’s reminiscences and evaluations this week of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, which began March 19, 2003, are a stark reminder of their criminal complicity in the war.

In the many articles there is barely any mention of the hundreds of news stories that totally saturated the media for months leading to the Pentagon onslaught. The news coverage in 2003 was wholly unsubstantiated, with wild fabrications of Iraqi secret ”weapons of mass destruction,” ominous nuclear threats, germ warfare programs, purchases of yellow cake uranium, nerve gas labs and the racist demonization of Saddam Hussein as the greatest threat to humanity. All of this is now glossed over and forgotten.

No weapons were ever found in Iraq, but no U.S. official was ever charged with fraud. Heroes such as Private B. Manning, however, face life in prison for releasing documents exposing the extent of some these premeditated crimes.

Today, in the popular histories, the barest mention is made of the real reason for the war: the determination to impose regime change on Iraq in order to secure U.S. corporate control and domination of the vast oil and gas resources of the region. Iraq was to be an example to every country attempting independent development that the only choice was complete submission or total destruction.

Now it is no longer even a political debate that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq were a howling disaster and major imperialist blunder for U.S. strategic interests. Despite every determination to occupy Iraq with 14 permanent military bases, the U.S. army of occupation was forced to withdraw in the face of fierce Iraqi national resistance.

 Bush stood on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Lincoln on May Day 2003, with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, to declare the war over. But what the U.S., puffed up by its imperialist arrogance, did not foresee was that the resistance had just begun.

U.S. strategists, so full of conceit about their powerful weapons, ignored the message displayed on signs, billboards and headlines of every Iraqi newspaper. It was even the headline of an English-language newspaper there, when this reporter was in Iraq with a solidarity delegation just a few weeks before the U.S. “shock and awe” onslaught.

The oft-repeated slogan was: “What the jungles of Vietnam were to their resistance, the cities of Iraq will be for us.”

The Iraqi government opened the warehouses and distributed six months of food rations to the population in advance of the war. Each package bore the sign: “Remember to feed a resistance fighter.” Small arms, explosives and simple instructions for making improvised explosive devices were publicly distributed.

Ultimately U.S. corporate power was defeated in Iraq due to its inability to be a force for human progress on any level. It was incapable of reconstruction.

The overpowering force of U.S. weaponry was able to destroy the proudest accomplishments of past decades of Iraqi sovereignty and inflame old sectarian wounds. But it was unable to defeat the Iraqi resistance or even gain a vote on a status of forces agreement in an Iraqi Parliament that the U.S. planners created.

U.S. media non-coverage

In covering the 10th anniversary, the same media that sold the war 24/7 recount  the criminal decision to invade and occupy Iraq as just mistaken intelligence or wrong information. At the same time that they wring their hands over lost opportunities and lack of foresight, they give a passing salute to the 4,448 U.S. soldiers who died and the 32,221 wounded. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors died as well, a number barely mentioned or under-reported.

More than 1.1 million U.S. soldiers served in Iraq. The National Council on Disabilities says up to 40 percent of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was the most widely and closely reported war in military history. Yet the enormity of the crime committed against the Iraqi people, the hundreds of thousands of silent deaths from lack of medical infrastructure, the millions of refugees, the environmental catastrophe, the radioactive and chemical waste left behind were ignored in coverage then, and today are barely noted.

At the start of the war in March 2003, 775 reporters and photographers were registered and traveling as embedded journalists. The number grew to thousands. These reporters signed contracts with the military that limited what they were allowed to report on.

So it should come as no surprise that what is completely missing from coverage is any responsibility for the calculated destruction of Iraq, the massive corruption and systematic looting, or the conscious policy of inflaming sectarian hatred and violence as a tactic to demoralize the resistance.

Statistics cannot convey the human loss. One out of every four Iraqi children under 18 lost one or both parents. In 2007, there were 5 million Iraqi orphans, according to official government statistics. By 2008, only 50 percent of primary-school-age children were attending classes. Iraq was reduced from having the lowest rate of illiteracy in the region to having the highest. Women suffered the greatest losses in education, professions, childcare, nutrition and their own safety in the brutal occupation.

According to figures of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, there are now 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis and 2.2 million refugees, mostly in neighboring states. More than one-fourth of Iraq’s population is dead, disabled or dislocated refugees due to the years of U.S. occupation. This is hardly liberation.

Missing in the many 10th anniversary evaluations is the essential historical context. The 2003 war was a continuation of the 1991 war to destroy Iraq as a sovereign nation in control of its own resources. There is barely a mention of the targeted destruction in 1991 of drinking water, sanitation, sewage, irrigation, communications and pharmaceutical industry facilities, as well as the civilian electric grid and basic food supply. Erased today is all mention of 13 years of U.S./U.N. starvation sanctions imposed on Iraq from 1990 to 2003, which caused the deaths, through hunger and disease, of more than 1 million Iraqis, more than half of them children.

Despite the horrendous toll, the failure of U.S./U.N.-imposed sanctions to create a total collapse in Iraq compelled U.S. corporate power to opt for a military invasion to impose regime change.

Second anniversary of wars in Libya, Syria

Also missing from evaluations of the U.S. war on Iraq is any mention that this is a week of two other war anniversaries.

March 19 is the second anniversary of the U.S./NATO war on Libya — the seven months of bombing that destroyed the modern, beautiful cities, schools, hospitals and cultural centers built with nationalized oil and gas of Libya. The NATO operation assassinated the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and laid waste to the whole country. But it has not yet secured a stable source of U.S. profits.

March 15 is the second anniversary of the continuing U.S./NATO effort to destabilize and utterly destroy modern, secular Syria.

Despite U.S./NATO backing and funding from the corrupt feudal monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, diplomatic support, the arming of death squads and mercenaries, and the setting up of safe havens and bases in Turkey, the Syrian government has mobilized the population and resisted another U.S.-orchestrated regime change. The conflict is at a stalemate. The death toll has passed 70,000.

The Salvador option: mass terror

The clearest expose that the years of sectarian violence in Iraq following the U.S. invasion, death squad assassinations, mass terror campaigns and the harrowing use of torture by trained commando units were deliberate acts sanctioned and developed at the highest level of U.S. political and military command was published the week of March 18 in the London Guardian, with an accompanying BBC documentary film. The expose was based on 18 months of research.

The expose names Col. James Steele, a retired Special Forces veteran, who was sent to Iraq by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to organize paramilitaries to crush the Iraqi insurgency. Another special adviser, retired Col. James Coffman, worked alongside Steele and reported directly to General Petraeus.

This U.S. policy of counterinsurgency was called the “Salvador option” — a terrorist model of mass killings by U.S.-sponsored death squads. It was first applied in El Salvador in the 1980s’ heyday of resistance against a military dictatorship, resulting in an estimated 75,000 deaths. One million out of a population of 6 million became refugees.

The Salvador option is the central tenet of General David Petraeus’ often-praised counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guardian researchers analyzed a number of documents from Wikileaks and assembled a huge number of reports of torture carried out by militias trained and supported by the U.S. under this program. The BBC and The Guardian report that their requests for comment to key members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, which could investigate the allegations, were declined or ignored.

But in Samarra, an Iraqi city where Iraqis were tortured in a library and that the BBC documentary focuses on, residents held mass demonstrations against the government and planned to set up big screens in the central square to show the whole film.

‘Shock and awe’ = terror

From the very beginning of  war preparation, U.S. plans were calculated to use the most extreme forms of terror on the Iraqi people to force submission to U.S. domination. “Shock and awe” is terrorism by another name.

“Shock and awe” is technically known as rapid dominance. By its very definition, it’s a military doctrine that uses overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze and destroy the will to fight. Written by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade in 1996, the doctrine is a product of the U.S. National Defense University, developed to exploit the “superior technology, precision engagement, and information dominance” of the United States.

This well-known military strategy requires the capability to disrupt “means of communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure.” According to these criminal military strategists, the aim is to achieve a level of national shock akin to the effect of dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

War profiteers

The looting and pillage of Iraq on a grand scale were also planned from the very beginning. It was hardly an accident, a mistaken policy or the fog of war.

The official who had total authority in Iraq immediately following  “shock and awe” destruction, the chief of the occupation authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III,  enacted 100 orders which turned Iraq overnight into a giant U.S.-dominated capitalist free market. The 100 orders guaranteed 100 percent foreign investor ownership of Iraqi assets, the right to expropriate all profits, unrestricted imports, and long-term 30- to 40-year deals and leases. In the official turnover to Iraqi sovereignty, these colonial orders were to stay in place.

Billions were stolen outright from Iraq. According to Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussells Tribunal, U.S. administrators, as the occupation “authority,” seized all Iraqi assets and funds all over the world — totaling U.S. $13 billion. They confiscated all Iraqi funds in the U.S. (U.S. $3 billion). They enforced transfers of funds from the Iraqi UBS account (Swiss bank) to the U.S. forces. They demanded and received from the U.N. the accumulated oil-for-food program funds up to March 2003 (about U.S. $21 billion).

In the first weeks of the occupation, U.S. troops got hold of about U.S. $6 billion as well as U.S. $4 billion from the Central Bank and other Iraqi banks. They collected this money in special government buildings in Baghdad.

Where did all these funds go? Instead of setting up an account in the Iraqi Central Bank for depositing these funds, as well as the oil export funds, the occupation authorities set up the “Development Fund for Iraq” account in the American Central Bank, New York Branch, where all financial operations are carried out in top secrecy. Around $40 billion is “missing” from a post-Gulf War fund.

According to the BBC, in June 10, 2008, another $23 billion in Western aid funds to Iraq were lost, stolen or “not properly accounted for.” Tales abounded of millions of dollars in $100 bills that went missing from skids at airports and of deliveries of pizza boxes and duffle bags full of cash.

According to BusinessPundit.com’s list of the 25 most vicious war profiteers, these stolen funds were just the beginning of the theft. Major U.S. corporations reported record profits. In the years 2003 to 2006, profits and earnings doubled for Exxon/Mobil Corp. and ChevronTexaco.

Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division, which was directly connected to Vice President Cheney, bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003 to 2006 alone.

The cost of war

Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz calculated the cost of the Iraq war, including the many hidden costs, in his 2008 book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” He concluded: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”

Stiglitz lists what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or health care for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to universities for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America’s so-called Social Security problem for half a century.

According to a Christian Science Monitor report, when ongoing medical treatment, replacement vehicles and other costs are included, the total cost of the Iraq war is projected to cost $4 trillion. (Oct. 25, 2012)

Peoples resistance & the anti-war movement

The corporate media play another important role in rewriting history. Their aim is always to do everything possible to marginalize and disparage the awareness of millions of people in their own power.

While the “shock and awe” attack of March 19, 2003, is still described today, it is rare in the major media to see any reference to the truly massive demonstrations of opposition to the impending war that drew millions of people into the streets. it is projected that before the war, more than 36 million people in more than 3,000 demonstrations mobilized internationally to oppose it — in the two coldest winter months. This was unprecedented.

In Iraq, despite the overwhelming force of “shock and awe,” the planned use of sectarian war and mass use of death squads — despite the destruction of every accomplishment built by past generations, along with the destruction of schools and the confiscation of resources — the U.S. war failed on every count. Despite horrendous conditions, the Iraqi resistance drove the occupation out of Iraq. This is an accomplishment of great significance to people all around the world.

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Six hospital evacuations in NY-NJ

Six hospital evacuations in NY-NJ

  • Hospitals closed for a Drone weapons site
  • Hundreds of unused generators
  • Capitalist priorities intensify storm crisis

By Sara Flounders
Nov 7, 2012

The storm that hit the U.S. East Coast Oct. 29 exposed the harm done by capitalist priorities in the crucial areas of essential health care and electric power for millions.

Some 400 available industrial-scale generators sat unused while four major New York City hospitals located in flood zones and two New Jersey hospitals were forced to evacuate on an emergency basis. In the hospitals both the main energy source and emergency backup generators failed, providing the clearest possible example of bone- deep hospital and infrastructure maintenance cuts.

Meanwhile, high-rise apartment houses and entire neighborhoods went for days without electric power. That meant days without drinking water, flush toilets, heat or functioning elevators. This creates life-threatening conditions, especially for seniors, the disabled and infants.

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Non-Aligned Movement meets in Iran, defies U.S.

Non-Aligned Movement meets in Iran, defies U.S.

By Sara Flounders on September 2, 2012

A meeting in Tehran starting Aug. 26 puts into the sharpest perspective the waning position of U.S. imperialism globally and especially in the Middle East. Both the U.S. and Israel’s demands for a boycott of the meeting were ignored. Clearly the U.S. hold is slipping.

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Anti-war gathering discusses Iran

Anti-war gathering discusses Iran

IAC leader says: “Don’t echo imperialist hypocrisy”

By Sara Flounders on July 24, 2009

The following is based on a presentation by Flounders, a coordinator of the International Action Center, during a discussion of the latest events in Iran at the National Assembly anti-war conference held in Pittsburgh July 10-12.

If the U.S. government was interested in supporting democracy or in building respect for the will of the people in a democratic election, it should have started by respecting the outcome of the 2006 Palestinian election. The Palestinian people voted in large numbers, electing Hamas candidates to parliament with large enough votes to form the Palestinian government. In Gaza, Hamas had a total sweep.

The U.S./Israeli response was a starvation blockade of Gaza, a siege and then a brutal all-out war on the entire population. When the Israelis attacked Gaza last December and January, they killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, using U.S.-supplied weapons including white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

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Why The U.S. Is Targeting Iran

Why The U.S. Is Targeting Iran

By Sara Flounders on May 5, 2007

Why is Iran increasingly a target of U.S. threats? Who in Iran will be affected if the Pentagon implements plans, already drawn up, to strike more than 10,000 targets in the first hours of a U.S. air barrage on Iran?

What changes in policy is Washington demanding of the Iranian government?

In the face of the debacle U.S. imperialism is facing in Iraq, U.S. threats against Iran are discussed daily. This is not a secret operation. They can’t be considered idle threats.