WA Delegate: None.
Founder: The Bamboo Palace of Kuan Yin
Last WA Update:
Embassies: Genesis Defense Project, Taoism, Buddhism, Angkor Wat, San Francisco, The Sea Of Love, Buddhist Region of Jambudvipan, Sufism, The Himalayas, Psychedelic, Sufi, The Woods, Space Jesus, The Zoo, Weed, Tibet, and 22 others.Zen Buddhism, Libcom, Ego, Buddha, Lhasa, Chiapas, Eswatini, Revolution, Kashmir, Akumal, Tel Aviv, Capitalism, Animal Liberation Front, Antifa Luxemburgist Communist Collective, China, Singapore, Hundred Acre Wood, Allah, Kingdom of Cambodia, Wantai, Save Our Planet, and phoenix partners.
Today's World Census Report
The Most Stationary in Taiwan
Long-term World Census surveillance revealed which nations have been resident in their current region for the longest time.
As a region, Taiwan is ranked 9,549th in the world for Most Stationary.
|1.||The Bamboo Palace of Kuan Yin||Left-wing Utopia||“Namo Gwan Shi Yin Pu Sa”|
|2.||The 36th Chamber of Shaolin of San Te||Left-wing Utopia||“Light the lantern of mind. Keep it bright every day.”|
|3.||The Sea Shrine of Serpents||Left-wing Utopia||“Attempts to enslave may result in severe burns”|
|4.||The Matriarchy of Xiao Meimei||Mother Knows Best State||“Lao pung yo, nee can chi lai hun yo jing shen.”|
|5.||The Wrath of Hayagriva||Left-wing Utopia||“Om Benzra Krodha Haya Griwa”|
|6.||The Most Serene Republic of Keep Your Eyes Open||Iron Fist Socialists||“Fkd up, got ambushed, zipped in”|
|7.||The Wu Wei Brigade of Taoist Extremists||Left-wing Utopia||“No one rules if no one obeys”|
|8.||The Republic of Tai-oan||Left-wing Utopia||“None”|
- : The Republic of The Princeps senatus of the region The Nationstates Senate proposed constructing embassies.
- : Embassy established between Phoenix partners and Taiwan.
- : The 36th Chamber of Shaolin of San Te agreed to construct embassies with Phoenix partners.
- : Taiwan the good china ceased to exist.
- : The Democratic Republic of Indoinastan of the region Phoenix partners proposed constructing embassies.
- : Embassy established between Save Our Planet and Taiwan.
- : Embassy established between Taiwan and Wantai.
- : The Community of State of Taiwan ceased to exist.
- : The Free Land of William Beebe of the region Save Our Planet agreed to construct embassies.
- : The Bamboo Palace of Kuan Yin proposed constructing embassies with Refugia.
Taiwan Regional Message Board
Washington Post and New York Times incite racist campaign against Chinese-Americans
5 November 2019
The Washington Post and New York Times, the newspapers most closely associated with the Democratic Party and the US intelligence agencies, are attempting to incite racially-motivated suspicions of Americans of Chinese ancestry.
Since the 2016 election, the Democrats have waged a hysterical campaign around unsubstantiated allegations of “foreign meddling,” initially focusing on supposed Russian efforts to intervene in American politics. But over the past year a similar sinister campaign has been mounted against China.
As part of this campaign, elements of the racialist thinking that prevails in Trump’s White House are making their way into the Democratic Party and its de facto news outlets.
In May, Kiron Skinner, Trump’s head of policy planning at the Department of State, said the US conflict with China is “the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”
The Diplomat noted: “For the top strategic official in the US Department of State to make race a unit of analysis was shocking.” It commented that the statement prompted an outpouring of “criticism from scholars and analysts.”
In Foreign Policy magazine, Paul Musgrave condemned the “racist, and dangerous, lens of the new US statecraft.”
The South China Morning Post cited Cato Institute fellow Emma Ashford, who commented that “these ideas have been floated around in the Trump administration from day one.”
The newspaper paraphrased Ashford as observing that “Trump and senior officials in his administration had repeatedly made comments along thinly veiled racial and civilizational lines about Mexicans, Muslims and immigration.”
Last year, the Financial Times reported that “Stephen Miller, a White House aide who has been pivotal in developing the administration’s hardline immigration policies, pushed the president and other officials to make it impossible for Chinese citizens to study in the US.”
Miller’s proposal was, at the time, rejected as too radical. The White House adopted a more gradual approach of curtailing the duration of student visas from five years to one year, accompanied with denunciations of Chinese students and academics as potential spies.
But these racist arguments have been taken up with renewed vigor by the Washington Post and the New York Times, as the Democrats increasingly adopt large elements of Trump’s anti-China policy.
In a November 2 editorial, the Washington Post declared: “Nowhere is [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s interest in worming his regime’s way around the world clearer than in the case of Chinese students at US universities; they reside in our physical space but in China’s cyberspace.”
In September, the Post published an editorial that endorsed a report by the Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank, which argued that “it should no longer be acceptable that scholars, journalists, diplomats, and public officials from the People’s Republic of China be afforded unfettered access to American society.”
In September, the Post published an editorial that endorsed a report by the Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank, which argued that “it should no longer be acceptable that scholars, journalists, diplomats, and public officials from the People’s Republic of China be afforded unfettered access to American society.”
The Hoover Institution report declared that the Chinese government saw “the whole worldwide Chinese diaspora” as “overseas compatriots,” owing a measure of loyalty to “the Chinese Motherland,” as “sons and daughters of the Yellow Emperor.” It alleged that the Chinese government engaged in “racial targeting.”
The Hoover report demanded that “all American institutions—governmental and nongovernmental—that deal with Chinese actors should review their oversight and governance practices and codify and exemplify best standards of practice and due diligence.”
The Post editorial embraced the Hoover Institution demand, asserting that “the US State Department should respond in kind by restricting visas and access for Chinese journalists in the United States.”
This incitement has led to what can only be described as an xenophobic witchhunt at American universities and research institutions.
On Monday, the New York Times published a front-page lead under the inflammatory headline “Scientists With Links to China May Be Stealing Biomedical Research, US Says.” Without explanation, the headline was changed to “Vast Dragnet Targets Theft of Biomedical Secrets for China.”
The article reported that “The NIH and the FBI have begun a vast effort to root out scientists who they say are stealing biomedical research for other countries from institutions across the United States.” The targets of the investigation were “scientists of Chinese descent, including naturalized American citizens.”
The Times wrote: “The scale of the dragnet has sent a tremor through the ranks of biomedical researchers… some of whom say ethnic Chinese scientists are being unfairly targeted for scrutiny as Washington’s geopolitical competition with Beijing intensifies.”
Frank Wu, a law professor at the University of California Hastings School of the Law, told the Times: “People are living in fear… I am getting calls and emails constantly now from ethnic Chinese—even those who are US citizens—who feel threatened.”
Even as the New York Times report takes an ambiguously uneasy attitude to this dragnet, the newspaper has repeatedly and explicitly sought to whip up anti-Chinese hysteria, echoing the themes of the “yellow peril” myth used to justify imperialist domination of Asia in the 19th century. Last month, the Times warned of a “dangerous and growing threat” to American liberties by the “aggressive… Communist state.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Steve Bannon, the former CEO of Trump’s 2016 election campaign, declared that his efforts at “maintaining a hardline China policy” were succeeding, despite the ferocious struggle over foreign policy in Washington.
“We’re winning!” declared the far-right ideologue with ties to white supremacist organizations. The Financial Times commented: “As evidence, he [Bannon] noted that Elizabeth Warren and other leading Democrats were moving to the right even of Mr. Trump on trade policy.”
“In a country that’s so divided,” Bannon gloated, “the thing that pulls it together is China.” In stating this, he echoed the talking points of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who said earlier this year that “the new China challenge provides us with an opportunity to come together across the political divide.”
“At least half the battle is at home,” Buttigieg added.
As hinted at by the statements of Bannon and Buttigieg, an escalation of the US-China conflict, combined with the racist incitement by all factions of the American foreign policy establishment, from the White House to the New York Times, will ultimately lead to domestic repression.
One final point must be made. For years, the New York Times has promoted and legitimized racialist modes of thinking, primarily within the framework of promoting identity politics.
In 2016, the Times published an op-ed entitled “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity,” which argued that “experts see a crisis of white identity underlying much of the West’s current turmoil.”
“For decades, the language of white identity has only existed in the context of white supremacy,” the Times asserted. “When that became taboo, it left white identity politics without a vocabulary.” In an implicit effort to break that “taboo,” the Times declared: “Western whites have a place within their nations’ new, broader national identities.”
It is not a far leap from accepting the neo-Nazi myth of “white identity” to endorsing the Trump administration’s implicit statement that the United States is a “Caucasian” civilization and the Hoover Institution’s racialist classification of all ethnic Chinese as “sons and daughters of the Yellow Emperor.”
The racist and xenophobic ideology that accompanied the imperialist carve-up of the world during the 19th century, and which culminated in the horrific, racially-motivated crimes of the Nazi regime, is once again re-emerging amid US imperialism’s turn to “great-power conflict” against China and the threat of war it entails.
AUGUST 9, 2019
We Should Stop Insulting Animals and Own Our Own Humanity
by KOLLIBRI TERRE SONNENBLUME
People are not sheep
Cops are not pigs
Generals are not hawks
They are all humans
The English language contains hundreds of idioms that mention animals: ants in your pants, bull in a china shop, clam up, fish out of water, free as a bird, the lion’s den, like a moth to a flame, playing possum, quick as a bunny, squirrel away, stir up the hornet nest, strong as an ox, and many many more.
These examples are innocuous, but many evocations of animals are not, and that’s my focus here.
Talking politics often includes unfavorable characterizations of one’s adversaries and using animals to insult humans is very common in this context, both online and IRL. But this is neither fair nor accurate, and I often find myself tacking on a comment to that effect, such as: “Describing Republicans as rats is insulting to rats” or “Calling cops pigs slanders pigs.”
Rats are communal creatures who help take care of each other. Pigs are highly intelligent, with some scientists ranking them fourth smartest in the world, close behind dolphins and apes, and before cats and dogs. They are also clean and highly social. Neither one acts with the malevolent intent of either politicians or policemen. Instead of dragging these animals into the discussion, people should cut to the chase and say: corrupt, cruel, dirty-dealing, forceful, greedy, maniacal, rapacious, two-faced, vicious and unethical.
I extend my defense to the so-called “lower” animals as well.
For example, when Trump’s election emboldened some racists to express themselves more openly in public, many commentators compared this to turning over a rock and revealing the creepy-crawly things underneath. In response to one instance, I wrote:
I protest that simile; the creepy-crawly things who live under rocks are simply some of nature’s creatures, living their own lives, and are neither malicious nor self-hating like human bigots. The comparison insults the poor, innocent Arthropods and Annelids.
Another time, I even came to the defense of pond scum:
I agree with your train of thought here. But calling them “scum” runs the risk of insulting photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms that live on the surface of ponds and who are entirely innocent of the crimes you describe.
Writer Upton Sinclair famously declared that “the two political parties are two wings of the same bird of prey.” While this image is useful for illustrating the reality of partisan life in the USA, it denigrates hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and shrikes, among others. None of those birds are like the Republican and Democratic leadership, which is to say: deceitful, dishonest, fraudulent, guileful, perfidious, shifty, swindling, thieving and unscrupulous. “Two sides of the same coin” is more accurate.
We must ask: are predators in nature villains in the same way that politicians are in society? I would say not. In nature, predator and prey are both simply roles that are played by different creatures at various times and they are neither good nor bad; these are just the facts of life. In society, by contrast, the treatment of the poor by the rich, for example, is oppression, and is definitely unjust. A hawk catching mice is neither a good guy or bad a guy, but the general ordering the bombing of a village is evil. Calling the general a “hawk” is not only inaccurate, but it cuts slack for the military man, implying that he is somehow acting in accordance with nature. He is not. His is the behavior of civilized humanity, and we’ve all got to acknowledge that.
The unspoken assumption behind most animal insults is that animals are inferior to humans. So, treating someone “like an animal” is cruel and calling them “an animal” is disrespectful. But that’s just anthropocentrism, which is some b*****t cultural baggage, not the actual state of the world.
“Human supremacy” is a term we should use more often, as it describes a real thing with myriad consequences. In his book, “The Myth of Human Supremacy,” author Derrick Jensen dismantles the concept quite effectively, revealing it for the set of irrational prejudices that it is.
As Jensen and others have pointed out, this is not merely a philosophical issue. Our elevation of ourselves above all other creatures has resulted in material consequences: animal and plant extinctions, decimated ecosystems, pollution of the atmosphere and oceans, all of it on a massive scale. We are threatening to render the planet uninhabitable to ourselves, perhaps abruptly. But even if we survive, it is already too late for many species and places.
A lot of people think it’s scientific to consider animals “lower” on some theoretical ladder than ourselves, but that’s actually a religious concept left over from the Bronze Age that we’ve never shaken. The book of Genesis—which spawned Judaism, Christianity and Islam—declares that humans have “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth.” But like we use to say in the ’90s: “That’s some whack s**t.” Furthermore, the contemporary social demographic that describes itself as “skeptical” is, pathetically, often no more than Victorianism with a 21st Century gloss; i.e., anthropocentrism ornamented with post-modernism. Which is to say, still dishing out the same crap.
The dogmas of the Genesis-following religions are products of our agricultural heritage. That “revolution” was indeed a turning point in human history—a wrong one—where we abandoned sustainability, equality and health for rapacity, hierarchy and debility. Where once we lived in small, anarchic groups, free upon the land, as participants in the beautiful web of life, we turned away from that—it’s still a mystery why—for a sedentary existence cursed with slavery, violence and domination. Though Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution kicked our destruction of the earth into high gear, the trouble started with farming, at least eight millennia earlier.
As an illustration, consider wolves. They’re the bad guys in fairy tales, threatening rosy-cheeked children in the woods and piggies in variously-constructed domiciles. Today, we talk about “keeping the wolves at bay” or “throwing someone to the wolves.” But the human relationship with wolves used to be different.
For example, according to Jayesh Bear, a man of Native American background and practice whom I interviewed in January 2018 for my book, “The Failures of Farming & the Necessity of Wildtending“:
For us, the Wolf was always a relative, an ally. He would signal us when Cougars were lurking around camp. They signaled people when big herds were nearby. There’s something going on there where we were communicating with Wolves, working together… It’s two different worldviews. One that is in fear of the natural world and one that strives to understand it and respect it and live in symbiosis with it.
Also, we contemporary people must re-examine our ideas on the nature of predator-prey relationships. Jayesh again:
The Wolves would keep the Elk in check, keep them moving, keep their herds in healthy numbers, cull out the sick and the weak ones. So the herd is really strong and vigorous, always on their toes and moving, so they didn’t ever stay in one spot. You watch the Wolves and it was just like watching a cow dog moving the cattle. The Wolves herd those Elk and move them around and then take one or two. So the lack of predators was a big deal. It’s still a huge controversy. So many people hate the Wolves. They’re scared. Some of them have lost livestock or whatever, you know, but it’s a tough subject. Without an ecosystem, your kids aren’t going to be able to raise in any cattle.
As a cause of death, the percentage of cattle lost to wolves annually is only 0.2%. That’s nothing, but the ranchers insist on waging their war. As noted by the Animal Wellness Foundation:
Since 1900 humans have shot, poisoned and trapped more than 100,000 wolves. Since 1900 there has not been a single documented case of an attack on a human by a healthy, wild wolf. Not one. Ever. In 2012 Congress removed protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies region. Since then trophy hunters have killed 3,000 wolves. Only 5,000 wolves remain today.
This is a tragedy but it is only one of a countless number we are committing on the planet today. Here we witness our separation from nature, the rift that is the source of our troubles and unhappiness. We are not better than anyone or anything else on this planet. We are “higher” animals only in our minds. We’ve got to stop insulting each other for being “bird-brained,” “catty,” “slothful,” “sluggish,” “vulturous” or–this one is the most insidious—”bitchy.” Our enemies are not snakes, sharks, worms, insects, vultures or hyenas. Our acquiescence to them does not make us “sheep”—it marks us as compliant, docile, meek, passive, spineless, submissive, timid, weak and yielding.
This is not a PC thing.
This is about owning our humanity.
We must admit responsibility for our actions and our culture. We are not acting like “animals.” We are being ourselves, as we are, in this time and place, as humans.
We desperately need to transform our relationship with the planet. We need to reintegrate ourselves into the fabric of life. We can not go on this way, believing we are above anything at all.
While we keep talking this way—saying that people are sheep, cops are pigs, and generals are hawks–that’s not going to happen. People, cops and generals are all Homo sapiens. We can’t be anything else. We must acknowledge that reality, with humility and respect, and get to the work of cleaning up our mess.
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume is a writer living on the West Coast of the U.S.A. More of Kollibri’s writing and photos can be found at Macska Moksha Press.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2019
How Animal Researchers Stay Out of the News
by MARTHA ROSENBERG
If you are like most people, you know a lot more about how farm animals are treated on factory farms than dogs, primates and other animals are treated in US labs. It is no coincidence.
Exposure of what occurs behind the Plexiglass Curtain would be so damaging to National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded university research contracts that millions are spent to prevent transparency. For example, in 2009 the University of Iowa was cleared to construct an $11.2 million, 35,000 square foot “subterranean vivarium that will house experimental animals to be used in biomedical research and offer an extra measure of protection from animal rights extremists,” reported The Scientist. The experimental animals include primates, sheep, pigs and rabbits.
Lab animals are the actual currency of government grants to medical centers and universities–a kind of academic pork. At a medical center where I worked, researchers felt they had not “made it” until they were given primates instead of lowly cats or rodents. And while NIH Director Francis Collins, who describes himself as a “serious Christian,” has tackled a lack of minorities and sexism in science, he is strangely silent on the millions, probably billions, of animals he sends to their death.
Animal Research at the Highest Government Levels
Thomas R. Insel directed the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University, one of the world’s largest centers for primate research, before becoming director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health. In one experiment Insel participated in, newborn monkeys were “removed from their mothers within 48 h of birth,” and subjected to “stressors” without being “able to use a social companion to buffer their response to a stressor.” What was learned? “As expected from previous studies, monkeys removed from their mother shortly after birth and raised in standard nursery conditions develop a syndrome characterized by decreased affiliation, increased aggression, and increased self-directed, repetitive behavior.”
In another experiment conducted by Insel on voles, a mouse-like mammal, “an animal was placed in the start box” with 2-8 days old pups. “Parental behavior was recorded as time spent with pups, either nursing, grooming or crouching during a 5-min period. Females were decapitated the same day.”
Similar banal, cruel and taxpayer funded research has been conducted by Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. One research paper co-written by Volkow shows a bloody “pregnant bonnet macaque in transverse position within HR+ PET scanner . . . positioned so that maternal and fetal organs were within same field of view.” The paper concludes that when female primates are dosed with cocaine, fetuses are affected too. Does anyone not know this?
The NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) is also complicit. A few year ago, when I inquired about degrading and mocking primate images posted on its web site from an official NIA workshop created by Wake Forest’s Thomas Clarkson the images were promptly removed with no written explanations. The photos showed monkeys posed with glasses, posed at typewriters and dressed in clothing. “Funny” cartoon bubbles were added.
Defending Their Dollars
There is probably no industry more afraid of transparency than animal research. Ever since Alex Pacheco exposed treatment of the Silver Spring monkeys in 1981, animal researchers have been reduced to uttering “it’s not how it looks” or “let us explain” when unwanted images surface.
And, expectedly, animal researchers turn nasty when their deeds are exposed and career security threatened. For example, when a group called Progress for Science dared to question taxpayer funded primate research conducted at UCLA in 2014, they were met by an angry mob of as many as 40 UCLA researchers and their supporters who yelled obscenities. Some pro-animal research protesters became so livid they had to be restrained by police. It was hard to believe the mob was, by day, men and women of “science” dedicated to advancing human medicine. It was reminiscent of Northwestern University medical students who jeered protestors of their “dog labs” outside their medical building in 1988–future healers.
In the 1980s, the animal research industry tried to spin negative public opinion with campaigns like “your daughter or your dog” implying your child would die if the dog or chimp didn’t. Then researchers replaced dog labs with pig labs, a less loved animal. But by the 2000s, the animal research industry, running scared, pushed through the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which criminalizes interference with “the operations of an animal enterprise” a precursor to “Ag-Gag” laws covering farm operations.
Yes The Public Can Judge Animal Research
In addition to underground vivariums, electronic surveillance, code cards, high tech security and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, the animal research industry has another way of evading scrutiny: the public can’t judge their “high level” science. You can’t judge the work of scientists plus it is for your own good. Yet revealing that maternal deprivation causes harm in babies or maternal cocaine use affects the fetus is not “high level” science–it is a waste of taxpayer dollars, cruelty to animals and an insult to our intelligence.
Millions of restrained, conscious animals–usually albino rabbits but sometimes dogs–are subjected to the “Draize Test” which involves applying test substances to the eye or skin and observing for redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness in the tested eye. Yet when product liability cases actually come to court, these “tests” are thrown out because “animal results cannot be extrapolated to humans.”
The animal-research industry is a vast, macabre enterprise richly supporting medical centers and individual researchers with almost no transparency or accountability. The public is denied a right to “know” even though the public pays for it.
Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).
Hong Kong protests defy police violence and mass arrests
By Mike Head
13 November 2019
As Hong Kong this week enters its sixth month of continuous demonstrations demanding basic democratic rights, there are signs that the increased repression ordered by Beijing is bringing the uprising to a critical turning point. Pitched battles between protesters and police erupted in almost 50 locations on Monday and Tuesday, paralysing some key areas.
Escalated police violence—including the shooting of a demonstrator at point-blank range on Monday and a full-scale attack on students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday—appears to have reinforced the popular support for the protests and their five demands, setting the stage for an even-more bloody confrontation.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping met his government’s Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in Shanghai on November 4, the regime’s drive to suppress the protests has risen to a new level. Xi publicly endorsed Lam’s refusal to meet, or negotiate on, the mass movement’s demands, while insisting on “unswerving efforts to stop and punish violent activities.”
The immediate trigger for this week’s widespread clashes was Monday’s police live-fire shooting of a 21-year-old student, who remains in hospital in a critical condition. It followed the death last Friday of student demonstrator Alex Chow Tsz-lok, who fell from a multi-storey car park while fleeing police tear gas the previous weekend.
Amid vicious baton charges and tear gas barrages, police arrested 287 people on Monday, the highest number of arrests in a single day since the protests started in June, and at least 128 people were injured.
An extraordinary police assault was then conducted at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday, turning the campus into a battlefield for three hours. Police fired volleys of rubber bullets, teargas and a water cannon, defying on-the-spot pleas by both the university’s president and pro vice-chancellor to withdraw to allow negotiations. Students demanded the release of those arrested on campus earlier in the day, with at least one reported to be facing a charge of rioting that carries up to 10 years in jail.
Riot police also fired teargas on demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong’s central business district and other universities on Tuesday. Protesters built street barricades, set fires and threw petrol bombs, chairs and other objects at police. In the city centre, thousands of demonstrators, including black-clad protesters and office workers, held up hands to signal the five demands and heckled police, calling them “murderers.”
A group of academics from across Hong Kong’s universities, the Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom, denounced the police incursions onto multiple university campuses, saying these were places where thousands of students lived and studied and were permitted to hold gatherings.
More than 3,000 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, initially triggered by a bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects in Hong Kong to mainland China. But despite the bill being suspended, tens of thousands of people, led by students, are continuing to demand democratic elections, universal suffrage, an inquiry into the police violence and the dropping of all the charges against protesters.
To justify their stepped-up repression, police chiefs accused protesters of bringing the city to the “brink of total collapse,” while warning residents they would be “accomplices” if they continued to support the demonstrations. Likewise, on Monday, Lam said the protesters were enemies of the people and rebuked “any wishful thinking” that their tactics would push the government to accede to their demands.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, published a commentary online defending Monday’s police shooting as “reasonable and legal.” It demanded that Hong Kong’s government “double down” on support for the police “to carry out more effective and harsher crackdown on the riots.” It said an end to the protests was a prerequisite for holding any “fair elections” in Hong Kong, including district council elections scheduled for November 24.
The comments are in line with a directive passed at a recent meeting of the CCP’s central leadership, which vowed to support Hong Kong to “strengthen law enforcement power.”
Simultaneously on Tuesday, the Chinese state-run Global Times described the protesters as “no different from terrorists like Islamic State.” The editorial stressed the readiness of the People’s Liberation Army—the Chinese military—and Chinese police to reinforce Hong Kong’s security forces when needed.
“Behind you are not only the people of Hong Kong and the whole country who love Hong Kong, but also the national armed police force and the troops stationed in Hong Kong,” the editorial claimed.
The truth is that the mass movement’s legitimate demands for democratic rights, and underlying concerns over lack of access to safe and affordable housing and decent paying jobs in a city dominated by billionaires, are shared by working people across China, as well as globally.
Huge protests are taking place around the world—from Lebanon and Iraq to Chile—against the soaring social inequality and assaults on jobs, wages, basic services and living conditions, while strikes by workers are developing in the United States and Britain.
It is to this emerging international rebellion, as well as the struggles of Chinese workers, that students and workers in Hong Kong need to turn for support and coordinated action. There must be no illusions in the reactionary appeals made by some elements for backing from the US or British governments, which have permitted Beijing to falsely blame the protests on “outside forces.”
From US President Donald Trump to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there is not the slightest concern for democratic rights in Hong Kong, or anywhere else. On the contrary, the fear in capitalist ruling circles is that the uprising in Hong Kong has been a factor in the working-class resistance erupting around the world, and can inspire similar movements in their own countries.
Statements issued by Washington and London on Tuesday struck almost identical tones. US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus called for “restraint” by protesters, as well as police. Johnson’s office urged the Chinese regime to find a solution. “We want to see the Hong Kong authorities agree a path to resolve this situation,” Downing Street said.
The way forward for the Hong Kong students and workers lies in unifying their struggle with those of the working class globally against their common exploiters in the capitalist class—including the fraudulently labelled Chinese “communist” regime—and fighting for genuine international socialism.
Murder Like It’s 1495: U.S.-Backed Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
by NICK ALEXANDROV
NOVEMBER 13, 2019
Two men, soldiers probably, noticed Bai Leah Tumbalang. This was last August. She was in Valencia City, in the Philippine province of Bukidnon. The men drew near on their motorcycle, followed her, then pulled up to shoot her in the forehead. She died immediately.
But her death was not random, not senseless. With it her killers signaled that protecting native lands is a sin, unpardonable. Because Tumbalang “was a leader of Kaugalingong Sistema Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo), an organization whose members campaigned against the entry of mining corporations in Bukidnon and for the defense of their ancestral domain.” And people like her, doing similar work, get gunned down again and again in the Philippines.
In terms of slain environmental activists, “the Philippines was the worst-affected country in sheer numbers” last year, Global Witness reports. Beverly Geronimo, 27, was active in the Tabing Guangan Farmers Association (TAGUAFA), and like Tumbalang against major mining firms. She was walking her eight-year-old daughter home when two men, armed, stopped her and shot her to death. Father Mark Ventura, 37, an anti-mining and indigenous rights advocate, “was blessing children after a Mass” when a man in a motorcycle helmet came from the room’s far side with a gun, firing twice and killing him. Thirteen members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) were occupying part of “a vast sugar cane plantation…when about 40 armed men surprised them,” killing nine— “including three women and two teenage children”— and lighting “three of the bodies on fire.”
Global Witness charges the Philippine military, “working in collusion with powerful private interests”— those Kasilo, TAGUAFA, the NFSW and others oppose— with these murders. You can charge the U.S. government as well. No Southeast Asian military gets more Washington funds than the Philippines, with security aid totaling $1.35 billion from 2000 to 2020. Obama was far more generous than George W. Bush to Philippine forces, bestowing $651 million to his predecessor’s $400 million. For those pining for pre-Trump days, it’s comforting to know Obama worked to leave a legacy.
The best-funded security program is Foreign Military Financing (FMF), funneling nearly $650 million to Manila since 2000. Defense News describes FMF, in general, as “a grant given to U.S. allies to allow them to buy defense equipment”— specifically “goods made in the United States,” making it “a boost for the domestic defense industry.” Washington’s other priorities include Section 1206 authority and Section 333 authority to build capacity, together blessed with $218 million for training and arming Philippine troops.
These soldiers, empowered with U.S. money and guns, have devoted themselves to a series of counterinsurgency initiatives since the millennium. Oplan Bantay Layalaunched in 2001, spanning President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s two terms (2001-2010) and was, according to human rights organization Karapatan, “by far the bloodiest and most brutal counterinsurgency campaign unleashed on the Filipino people by any president.”
Oplan Bayanihan followed, running from 2010 to 2016 to coincide with Benigno Aquino III’s presidency. The policy aimed, officially, “to reduce the capabilities of internal armed threats” like the Communist New People’s Army (NPA), to “clear” NPA-held land while reducing the number of NPA fighters. In reality, Philippine soldiers stormed indigenous and peasant communities, killing whoever they wanted— a legacy current President Rodrigo Duterte carries forward with Oplan Kapayapaan.
Lito Aguilar’s wedding was imminent. He needed fish for the feast, so he took Christopher Abraham, a fellow abaca farmer, with him to the nearest river. They never returned. Soon after the murders, the Philippine Army issued a statement claiming the two men were NPA members killed in a skirmish with state forces. Leonila and Ramon Pesadilla were active in the Compostela Farmers Association (CFA), an anti-mining peasant group the military decided was really an NPA front. The couple was with their five-year-old grandson one evening when they heard a knock on the door. It was a pair of assassins who shot Leonila five times, Ramon six times and killed them both. Cindy Tirado was guilty of living with an NPA member: Jay Mendoza, her boyfriend. Emma Tirado, Cindy’s mother, claimed soldiers captured her daughter, tortured her, then ended her life. Cindy’s body was found with fractured arms, her genitals “shattered with a bullet.”
These killings, a hallmark of Philippine counterinsurgency, seem to reveal the policy’s real aims. A U.S. mercenary, an ex-Marine, gave perhaps the best possible summary of these goals decades ago. “The army is not killing communist guerrillas,” but rather “murdering the civilians who side with them.” He was in El Salvador in the 1980s, when Washington gave that country’s army $6 billion as it proceeded to slaughter tens of thousands of civilians. Report after report concludes that Philippine forces work, in part, in this tradition.
But their killings of land defenders, of indigenous activists, also conform to older custom. Think of early U.S. history: “With the growth of transcontinental railroads came more settlers, and calls to obtain the raw materials and minerals that lay within the territories remaining under Native American control in the West,” writes historian Adam Burns. “US soldiers often massacred Native peoples who were not willing to sign away their lands and instead stood their ground.”
U.S. officials still see native groups as obstacles in this sense— as barring mineral extraction, for example. Washington was eager to help Manila survey its mineral deposits. In 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey outlined plans “to conduct the first phase of a mineral resources assessment of the Philippines,” to find “major deposits of copper, gold, nickel, chromium, and other minerals,” like cobalt, to exploit. But three years later, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney complained that, on the island of Mindanao, mining had yet to meet its potential. “One of the most significant challenges facing large-scale mining operations is dealing with the current residents of the lands to which they have obtained mineral rights,” she elaborated. She singled out “indigenous people with ancestral, albeit unrecognized by the legal system, claims to the mineral-rich areas” as especially problematic. You saw above the Philippine Army’s treatment of anti-mining activists.
Not that reading about these killings conveys their horror. We’re online. We’re addicted to websites or applications reaping our data, collecting our fossilized Internet records to sell to other firms. There’s gold in our phone circuit boards, cobalt in the batteries. We wait in traffic, for a train, nickel-containing stainless steel in the cars. In our houses, more than 400 pounds of copper wires and plumbing interlace the walls, 300 pounds in our apartments. We live in 2019.
It could have been centuries earlier for Bai Leah Tumbalang, for Father Mark Ventura. It could have been 1495 as that year slipped away from the indigenous Taíno, on Hispaniola— the island Columbus invaded. The Spanish severed the hands of, effectively bled to death, any Taíno failing or refusing to mine enough gold. It was a sin, unpardonable, not to enrich others, not to work so others could profit. The transgressions of Philippine land defenders are much the same. Their deaths show the traces of early modern barbarism in our age.
Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He can be reached at: email@example.com
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
by KATHLEEN WALLACE
NOVEMBER 15, 2019
“War is a racket. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”
This sounds like a modern day comment from the US far left, but the source is hardly that. It’s from a man who was the most decorated Marine ever at the time of his death. He was an expert on the topic. He served in WW I as well as the Mexican Revolution. Smedley Butler was doomed to be a largely forgotten voice in the rush to gloss over the true causes of war and regime change. He pointed out the techniques used to win public approval and the subsequent serving of the corporate needs by entering these ever-repeating violent conflicts. He described his military career as that of “a high class muscleman for Big Business, Wall Street, and the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
This man mapped it all out for us around a hundred years ago, yet the jingoism prevails. The latest bipolar foreign policy evidenced in Bolivia is just the latest chapter of the US pushing for and actively installing those who would further the interests of Big Business. Always at the cost of the poor. In this case, the cure for the bipolar policy is probably going to be lithium.
The moment that leaders begin to step out of a corporate-friendly lane, sh-- gets real. Fast. A treasured ally becomes the perpetrator of election fraud or the nexus of humanitarian affronts to their people. True, pretty much anyone who ascends to a leadership position has issues that can be dissected and critiqued, but even the most horrible actions can be quietly dismissed as quickly as a bone saw can dispatch a pudgy journalist to pieces—if you play the game. Amazing and graphic affronts to decency are ignored when the leaders keep the machinery oiled. Literally oiled.
Gaddafi was a bit of a back and forth US darling until he flirted too much with a gold-based dinar currency aimed at competing with the petrodollar. But things are much better now that he was murdered in the open-air and now Libya can be an open-air slave market. “We came, we saw, he died.” Hilarious. Now those that took over have some very easily refinable oil, if not refined manners.
Saddam Hussein was a similar friend to the US, even an ally– his behavior during the war with Iran was considered nifty. I don’t recall the US going in when he gassed the Kurds either. Maybe someone in DC frowned? Those Kurds sure don’t ever get a fair deal, do they? I can understand why they only trust mountains. And the moves that seemed to be regime threatening in Iraq involved that pesky petrodollar again.
I guess we’ve moved to a greener foreign policy when lithium regime change is replacing petroleum regime change. Thank you green economy.
Didn’t Morales recently step out of a joint deal with a German firm to export lithium (which Bolivia claims to have over 70% of the world’s reserves)? I think he did that like a second before he was discarded. Nationalized resources are not okay and the global south is supposed to be a poverty-stricken supplier. Teslas are for well-heeled Northern Californians, not Bolivians wearing those bowler hats! Ridiculous.
And all through the meddling, as well as the overt actions that cause increased misery in the world, the US public largely continues to believe in it all. The examples are all around us.
Something I noticed recently: This Veteran’s Day a spot on PBS spoke to issues of Native American participation in the military. The slant was broadly complimentary to military service (duh, of course it was on V-Day), but it was perhaps one of the worst widespread examples of Stockholm Syndrome I’ve seen. They were glorifying the sacrifices made by Natives in serving the US government, taking these dignified and proud individuals and supplanting the US Imperialism on the young people who had signed up. Don’t get me wrong, the tribal members were totally having it, deriving enormous self-worth from the experience. Even at the expense of PTSD and lost family members. It was a mind-f--- for sure. I worked on the White Mountain Apache reservation long ago and saw the manipulation first-hand–the desire many had to fit into the broader culture that had back-stabbed them and their ancestors. The end of the piece did a bit on individuals fighting against fracking and made mention that Standing Rock didn’t stop the pipeline, that the government prevailed, but it was framed like this was part of a personal journey for the veterans. I would say this was an example of a warrior culture using that power to try to protect something sacred, the environment—to battle for something that matters, not being hijacked to go kill ________ (insert poor people of choice in latest military misadventure). It was a confused piece, made to tug at the heartstrings. Clearly you can be a minority in this country if you are a useful part of the machine is what I got out of it. This is how consent is manufactured, of course. You are revered if you do what you are supposed to do in that it helps the business of business. They get control of resources and you might get a body bag, but they will frame it as beautiful sacrifice and those of us who aren’t buying it are the ogres who hate rainbows,sunshine and motherhood. And this is just one small arena of propaganda.
The corporate agenda will continue to be pushed and despite all evidence, the average American won’t wonder why one ally can perpetrate horrific acts and another gets cast out for Trumped up reasons. Hell, most people are so tired they can’t think straight, let alone think critically.
Bolivia had a record of success in lifting many out of poverty and illiteracy. This will certainly go the other direction now that Jeanine Añez is at the helm. She seems to be quite adversarial to the indigenous, and they comprise 65% of Bolivia’s population. She has the saccharine hucksterism of a 40’s bible salesman. Definitely Trump ally material, maybe even Trump wife material?
Much like the scientific process strives to look towards the truth of how things really work, Smedley Butler gave us a framework that should be taken seriously—he described correctly how it all works and how these similar situations keep producing repeatable miserable results that keep the world in line for business extraction. He was a principled man who deserves to be remembered—his prescient warning regarding additional regime meddling and outright war have not lost the luster of truth. It’s going on as we speak.
Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest.
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia
Armies, Addicts and Spooks: the CIA in Vietnam and Laos
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR - ALEXANDER COCKBURN
SEPTEMBER 29, 2017
At 7:30 a.m., on March 16, 1968, Task Force Barker descended on the small hamlet of My Lai in the Quang Nai province of South Vietnam. Two squads cordoned off the village and one, led by Lieutenant William Calley, moved in and, accompanied by US Army Intelligence officers, began to slaughter all the inhabitants. Over the next eight hours US soldiers methodically killed 504 men, women and children.
As the late Ron Ridenhour, who first exposed the massacre, said years later to one of the present authors, “Above My Lai were helicopters filled with the entire command staff of the brigade, division and task force. All three tiers in the chain of command were literally flying overhead while it was going on. It takes a long time to kill 600 people. It’s a dirty job, you might say. These guys were flying overhead from 7:30 in the morning, when the unit first landed and began to move into those hamlets. They were there at least two hours, at 500 feet, 1000 feet and 1500 feet.”
The cover-up of this operation began almost from the start. The problem wasn’t the massacre itself: polls right after the event showed 65 percent of Americans approved of the US action. The cover-up was instead to disguise the fact that My Lai was part of the CIA killing program called Operation Phoenix. As Douglas Valentine writes in his brilliant book, The Phoenix Program,
the My Lai massacre was a result of Phoenix, the ‘jerry-built’ counter-terror program that provided an outlet for the repressed fears and anger of the psyched-up men of Task Force Barker. Under the aegis of neutralizing the infrastructure, old men, women and children became the enemy. Phoenix made it as easy to shoot a Vietnamese child as it was to shoot a sparrow in a tree. The ammunition was faulty intelligence provided by secret agents harboring grudges – in violation of the agreement that Census Grievance intelligence would not be provided to the police. The trigger was the blacklist.
The My Lai operation was principally developed by two men, the CIA’s Paul Ramsdell and a Colonel Khien, the Quang Nai province chief. Operating under cover of the US Agency for International Development, Ramsdell headed the Phoenix program in Quang Nai province, where it was his task to prepare lists of suspected NLF (called by the Americans “Viet Cong”) leaders, organizers and sympathizers. Ramsdell would then pass these lists on to the US Army units that were carrying out the killings. In the case of My Lai, Ramsdell told Task Force Barker’s intelligence officer, Captain Koutac, that “anyone in that area was considered a VC sympathizer because they couldn’t survive in that area unless they were sympathizers.”
Ramsdell had acquired this estimate from Col. Khien, who had his own agenda. For one thing, his family had been hit hard by the Tet offensive launched by the NLF earlier in the year. In addition, the NLF had seriously disrupted his business enterprises. Khien was notorious for being one of South Vietnam’s most corrupt chieftains, an officer who had his hand in everything from payroll fraud to prostitution. But Khien apparently made his really big money from heroin sales to US soldiers.
For the CIA, the need to cover its involvement in the My Lai massacre became acute in August 1970, when Sergeant David Mitchell, a member of Task Force Barker, was put on trial for killing dozens of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. Mitchell claimed that the My Lai operation had been conducted under the supervision of the CIA. The Agency’s lawyer, John Greaney, successfully prevented Mitchell’s lawyers from lodging subpoenas against any Agency personnel. But despite such maneuvers, high CIA and army brass were worried that the truth might trickle out, and so General William Peers of US Army Intelligence was given the task – so to speak – of straightening out the furniture.
Peers was a former CIA man whose ties to Agency operations in Southeast Asia dated back to World War II, when he supervised the OSS’s Detachment 101, the Burma campaign that often operated under the cover of Shan opium trafficking. Peers had also served as CIA station chief in Taiwan in the early 1950s, when the Agency was backing the exiled KMT supremo, Chiang Kai-shek and his henchman Li Mi, Peers had helped design the pacification strategy for South Vietnam and was a good friend of Evan Parker, the CIA officer who headed ICEX (Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation), the command structure that oversaw Phoenix and other covert killing operations. It’s not surprising, then, that the Peers investigation found no CIA fingerprints on the massacre and instead placed the blame on the crazed actions of the enlisted men and junior officers of Task Force Barker.
In the immediate aftermath of My Lai the polls may have shown 65 percent approval by Americans, but it’s doubtful whether such momentary enthusiasm would have survived the brute facts of what Operation Phoenix involved. As Bart Osborn, a US Army Intelligence officer collecting names of suspects in the Phoenix Program testified before Congress in 1972,
I never knew in the course of all of these operations any detainee to live through his interrogation. They all died. There was never any reasonable establishment of the fact that any one of those individuals was, in fact, cooperating with the VC, but they all died and the majority were either tortured to death or things like thrown out of helicopters.
One of the more outlandish efforts to protect the true instigators of My Lai came during the 1970 congressional hearings run by Senator Thomas Dodd (father of the present US senator from Connecticut). Dodd was trying to pin the blame for My Lai on drug use by US soldiers. He had seized on this idea after seeing a CBS news item showing a US soldier smoking marijuana in the jungle after a fire-fight. The senator forthwith convened hearings of his subcommittee on juvenile deliquency, and his staff contacted Ron Ridenhour, the man who had first brought the massacre to light prior to Seymour Hersh’s journalistic exposé. Ridenhour had long made it his quest to show that My Lai was planned from the top, so he agreed to testify on the condition that he would not have to deal with any foolishness about blaming the murder of over 500 people on dope.
But no sooner had Ridenhour presented himself in the hearing chamber than Dodd began to issue pronouncements about the properties of marijuana so outlandish that Harry Anslinger himself would have approved. Ridenhour got nowhere, denounced the proceedings and expostulated outside the hearing room that “Dodd is stacking the evidence. Nobody mentioned drugs at My Lai after it happened and they would have been looking for any excuse. Many, many Americans are looking for any reason other than a command decision.”
Although Dodd had simply wanted to blame My Lai on drugs and move on, the press now began to take an interest in the whole question of drug use in Vietnam by US forces. The attention prompted a congressional delegation to travel to Vietnam headed by Rep. Robert Steele, a Connecticut Republican, and Rep. Morgan Murphy, a Democrat from Illinois. They spent a month in Vietnam talking to soldiers and medics and returned with a startling conclusion. “The soldier going to Vietnam,” Steele said, “runs a far greater risk of becoming a heroin addict than a combat casualty.” They estimated that as many as 40,000 soldiers in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. A follow-up investigation by the New York Times reckoned that the count might be even higher – perhaps as many as 80,000.
The Pentagon naturally preferred a lower figure, putting the total number of heroin addicts at between 100 and 200. But by this time President Nixon had begun to mistrust the flow of numbers out of the Defense Department and dispatched his White House domestic policy council chief, Egil Krogh Jr., to Vietnam for another look. Krogh didn’t spend time with the generals, but headed out into the field where he watched soldiers openly light up joints and Thai sticks and brag about the purity of the grades of heroin they were taking. Krogh came back with the news that as many as 20 percent of the US troops were heroin users. The figure made a big impression on Richard Nixon, who readily appreciated that although Americans might be prepared to see their sons die on the front lines battling communism, they would be far less enthusiastic at the news that hundreds of thousands of these same sons would be returning home as heroin addicts.
Partially in response to these findings Nixon recruited the CIA into his drug war. The man the Agency chose to put forward as coordinator with the White House was Lucien Conein, a veteran of the CIA’s station in Saigon, where he had been involved in the coup in 1963 that saw South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem, assassinated along with his brother Ngo Dhin Nhu. (The Diems were regarded by President Kennedy and his advisers as insufficiently robust in pursuing the war. What the CIA proposed, local South Vietnamese generals disposed, and the Diems died in a hail of machine-gun bullets.) At the time of his death Nhu was one of the largest heroin brokers in South Vietnam. His supplier was a Corsican living in Laos named Bonaventure Francisi.
Lucien Conein himself was of Corsican origin, and as part of his intelligence work had maintained ties to Corsican gangsters in Southeast Asia and in Marseilles. His role in the White House drug war team appears to have been not so much one of advancing an effective interdiction of drug supplies as in protecting CIA assets who were tied to the drug trade. For example, one of the CIA’s first recommendations – an instinctive reflex, really – was a “campaign of assassination” against global drug lords. The CIA argued that there were only a handful of heroin kingpins and that it would be easy to eliminate all of them. A White House policy memo from 1971 records this piece of Agency advice: “With 150 key assassinations the entire heroin-refining industry can be thrown into chaos.” On that list were relatively small-time players and those without any links to the CIA-backed KMT forces that controlled the crucial supply lines out of the Shan States. This discretion was nothing new, since there had been an agreement between Anslinger’s Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the forerunner of the DEA) and the CIA not to run any of Anslinger’s agents in Southeast Asia, lest it discommode the CIA’s complex living arrangements in the region.
Another tactic advanced by Conein was to contaminate US cocaine supplies with methedrine, the theory being that users would react violently when dosing themselves with this potion and turn violently on their suppliers. There’s no evidence that either of these schemes – assassination or methedrine adulteration – was ever put into play. But the Agency was able to convince the Nixon administration that its eradication effort should be directed at Turkey rather than Southeast Asia, said effort culminating in an attempt at export substitution, with opium growers in Anatolia being helped to set up a factory to produce bicycles.
The CIA was well aware that Turkey provided only between 3 and 5 percent of the world’s supplies of raw opium at that time. In fact, the Agency had prepared an internal survey that estimated that 60 percent of the opium on the world market was coming from Southeast Asia and noted the precise whereabouts of the four largest heroin labs in the region, in villages in Laos, Burma and Thailand. This report was leaked to the New York Times, whose reporter relayed the main conclusions, without realizing that these villages were all next to CIA stations with the labs being run by people on the CIA’s payroll.
In April 1971, the CIA’s ties to the opium kings of Southeast Asia nearly sparked a major international confrontation. Crown Prince Sopsaisana had been appointed Laotian ambassador to France. On arrival in Paris, the prince angrily announced that some of his copious luggage was missing. He berated French airport officials, who meekly promised they would restore his property. In fact the prince’s bags had been intercepted by French customs after a tip that Sopsaisana was carrying high-grade heroin; indeed, his luggage contained 60 kilos of heroin, worth $13.5 million, then the largest drug seizure in French history. The prince had planned to ship his drug cargo on to New York. The CIA station in Paris convinced the French to cover up the affair, although the prince was not given back his dope. It hardly mattered. Sopsaisana returned two weeks later to Vientiane to nearly inexhaustible supplies of the drug.
Why the CIA interest in protecting the largest trafficker nabbed on the French soil? The opium used to manufacture the prince’s drugs had been grown in the highlands of Laos. It was purchased by a Hmong general, Vang Pao, who commanded the CIA’s secret air base in Laos, where it was processed into high-grade Number 4 heroin in labs just down the block from CIA quarters. The heroin was then flown to Vientiane on Vang Pao’s private airline, which consisted of two C-47s given to him by the CIA.
Vang Pao was the leader of a CIA-sponsored 30,000-man force of Hmong, which by 1971 consisted mostly of teenagers, fighting the Pathet Lao Communist forces. The Hmong had a reputation for fierceness, in part due to a century of conflict with the Chinese, who had, back in the nineteenth century, driven them into Laos after taking over their opium fields in Hunan. As one Hmong put it to Christopher Robbins, author of Air America, “They say we are a people who like to fight, a cruel people, enemy of everybody, always changing our region and being happy nowhere. If you want to know the truth about our people, ask the bear who is hurt why he defends himself, ask the dog who is kicked why he barks, ask the deer who is chased why he changes mountains.” The Hmong practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, with two crops – rice and opium, the first for sustenance and the latter for medicinal and trading purposes.
Vang Pao was born in 1932 in a Laotian hamlet called Nong Het. At the age of thirteen he served as an interpreter for the French forces then fighting the Japanese. Two years later he was battling Viet Minh incursions into Laos in the First Indochina War. He underwent officer training at the French military academy near Saigon, becoming the highest-ranking Hmong in the Royal Laotian Air Force. In 1954 Vang Pao led a group of 850 Hmong soldiers on a fruitless mission to relieve the beleaguered French during their debacle at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam.
The Hmong were first marshaled into a surrogate army by a French colonel called Roger Trinquier, who confronted a crisis in the French budget for local covert operations and intelligence in a fashion that covered more than one objective. “The money from the opium,” he wrote later, “financed the maquis [that is, the Hmong mercenaries] in Laos. It was flown to Cp. St. Jacques [a French military base sixty miles south of Saigon] in Vietnam in a DC-3 and sold.” The money was put into an account and used to feed and arm the guerrillas. Trinquier cynically added than the trade “was strictly controlled even though it was outlawed.” Overseeing the marketing in Saigon was the local French director of the Deuxiéme Bureau, Colonel Antoine Savani. A Corsican with ties to the Marseilles drug syndicates, Savani organized the Bin Xuyen River gang on the lower Mekong to run the heroin labs, manage the opium dens and sell the surplus to the Corsican drug syndicate. This enterprise, called Operation X, ran from 1946 through 1954.
Ho Chi Minh made opposition to the opium trade a key feature of his campaign to run the French out of Vietnam. The Viet Minh leader said, quite accurately, that the French were pushing opium on the people of Vietnam as a means of social control. A drugged people, Ho said, is less likely to rise up and throw off the oppressor.
During World War II, OSS officers working to oust the Japanese from Southeast Asia developed a cordial relationship with Ho Chi Minh, finding that the Viet Minh leader spoke fluent English and was well versed in American history. Ho quoted from memory lengthy passages from the Declaration of Independence, and chided the intelligence agents, noting that Vietnamese nationalists had been asking American presidents since Lincoln for help in booting out the French colonialists. As with Mao’s forces in China, the OSS operatives in Vietnam realized that Ho’s well-trained troops were a vital ally, more capable and less corrupt than Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang army and the pro-French forces in Indochina. When Ho was stricken with malaria, the OSS sent one of its agents, Paul Helliwell, who would later head up the CIA’s Overseas Supply Company, to treat the ailing Communist. Similar to Joe Stilwell’s view of Mao, many military and OSS men recommended that the US should back Ho after the eviction of the Japanese.
After arriving in Vietnam in 1945, US Army General Phillip Gallagher asked the OSS to compile a detailed background on Ho. An OSS operative named Le Xuan, who would later work for the CIA during the Vietnam War, acquired a dossier on Ho from a disaffected Vietnamese nationalist: Le Xuan paid the man off with a bag of opium. The dossier disclosed to US intelligence agencies that Ho had had extended stays in the Soviet Union, a revelation that doomed any future aid from the Americans for his cause. Le Xuan would later turn on the CIA, showing up in Paris in 1968 to reveal his services to the Agency and denounce its murderous policies in Vietnam.
In 1953, Trinquier’s Operation X opium network was discovered by Colonel Edwin Lansdale, at the time the CIA’s military adviser in Southeast Asia. Lansdale later claimed that he protested about this French role in opium trafficking, but was admonished to hold his tongue because, in his words, exposure of “the operation would prove a major embarrassment to a friendly government.” In fact, the CIA’s director, Allen Dulles, was mightily impressed by Trinquier’s operation and, looking ahead to the time when the US would take over from the French in the region, began funneling money, guns and CIA advisers to Trinquier’s Hmong army.
The post–Dien Bien Phu accords, signed in Geneva in 1954, decreed that Laos was to be neutral, off-limits to all foreign military forces. This had the effect of opening Laos to the CIA, which did not consider itself a military force. The CIA became the unchallenged principal in all US actions inside Laos. Once in this position of dominance the CIA brooked no interference from the Pentagon. This point was driven home by the military attaché to Laos, Colonel Paul Pettigrew, who advised his replacement in Vientiane in 1961, “For God’s sake, don’t buck the CIA or you’ll find yourself floating face down on that Mekong River.”
From the moment the Geneva Accords were signed, the US government was determined to undermine them and do everything in its power to prevent the installation of Ho Chi Minh as president of all Vietnam, even though elections would have clearly showed he was the choice of most Vietnamese, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously admitted. Eisenhower and his advisers decreed that Laos’s neutral status should be subverted. On the ground this meant that the neutralist government of Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma, which had amicable relations with the Pathet Lao, should be subverted by the CIA, whose preferred client was General Nosavan Phoumi. The Agency fixed elections in 1960 in an attempt to legitimize his rule. Also in 1960 the CIA began a more sustained effort to build up Vang Pao and his army, furnishing him with rifles, mortars, rockets and grenades.
After John Kennedy’s victory in 1960, Eisenhower advised him that the next big battleground in Southeast Asia would not be Vietnam but Laos. His counsel found its mark, even though Kennedy initially snooted Laos as “a country not worthy of engaging the attention of great powers.” In public Kennedy pronounced the country’s name as L-AY-o-s, thinking that Americans would not rally to the cause of a place pronounced “louse.” In 1960 there were but a thousand men in Vang Pao’s army. By 1961 “L’Armée Clandestine” had grown to 9,000. By the time of Kennedy’s assassination in late 1963, Vang Pao was at the head of some 30,000 troops. This army and its air force were entirely funded by the United States to the tune of $300 million, administered and overseen by the CIA.
Vang Pao’s original CIA case officer was William Young, the Baptist missionary-become-CIA-officer we met in the preceding chapter. Young never had any problem with the opium trafficking of the Hmong tribes. After Young was transferred out of the area in 1962, the CIA asked the Frenchman Trinquier to return as military adviser to the Hmong. Trinquier had just completed his tour of duty in the French Congo and consented to perform that function for a few months before the arrival of one of the most notorious characters in this saga, an American named Anthony Posephny, always known as Tony Poe.
Poe was a CIA officer, a former US Marine who had been wounded at Iwo Jima. By the early 1950s he was working for the Agency in Asia, starting with the training of Tibetan Khamba tribesmen in Colorado (thus breaching the law against CIA activities inside the US), prior to leading them back to retrieve the Dalai Lama. In 1958 Poe showed up in Indonesia in an early effort to topple Sukarno. In 1960 he was training KMT forces for raids into China; his right hand was by now mangled after ill-advised contact with a car’s fanbelt. In 1963 Poe became Vang Pao’s case officer and forthwith instituted new incentives to fire up the Hmong’s dedication to freedom’s cause, announcing that he would pay a cash bounty for every pair of Pathet Lao ears delivered to him. He kept a plastic bag on his front porch where the ears were deposited and strung his collection along the verandah. To convince skeptical CIA superiors, in this case Ted Shackley in Vientiane, that his body counts were accurate, Poe once stapled a pair of ears to a report and sent it to HQ.
This souvenir of early methods of computing the slaughter of native Americans was not as foolproof as Poe imagined. He himself later described going up country and finding a small boy with no ears, then was told that the boy’s father had sliced them off “to get money from the Americans.” Poe shifted his incentive to the entire heads of Pathet Lao, claiming that he preserved them in formaldehyde in his bedroom.
This man, described by an associate as an “amiable psychopath,” was running Phoenix-type operations into Lao villages near the Vietnam border. The teams were officially termed “home defense units,” though Poe more frankly described them as “hunter-killer teams.” Poe later claimed that he was booted out of Long Tieng because he had objected to CIA tolerance of Vang Pao’s drug trading, but his description suggests more an envy for the French style of direct supervision of the opium trade. In a filmed TV interview at his home in Northern Thailand Poe said in 1987,
You don’t let ’em run loose without a chain on ’em. They’re like any kind of animals, or a baby. You have to control ’em. Vang Pao was the only guy with a pair of shoes when I met him. Why does he need Mercedes and hotels and homes when he never had them before? Why are you going to give him them? He was making millions. He had his own avenue for selling heroin. He put his money in US bank accounts and Swiss banks, and we all knew it. We tried to monitor it. We controlled all the pilots. We were giving him free rides into Thailand. They were flying it [that is, the opium cargoes] into Danang, where it was picked up by the number two man to Thieu [at the time South Vietnam’s president]. It was all a contractual relationship, just like bankers and businessmen. A wonderful relationship. Just a Mafia. A big organized Mafia.
By the time Poe left this area of Laos in 1965, the situation was just as he described it twenty years later. The CIA’s client army was collecting and shipping the opium on CIA planes, which by now were flying under the American flag.
“Yes, I’ve seen the sticky bricks come on board, and no one challenged it,” Neal Hanson, an Air America pilot, said in a filmed interview in the late 1980s. “It was as if it was their personal property. We were a freebie airline. Whoever was put on our plane we flew. Primarily it was the smaller aircraft that would visit outlying villages and bring it [the opium] back to Long Tieng. If they put something on the airplane and told you not to look at it, you didn’t look at it.”
The Air America operation played a key role in expanding the opium market. CIA and US Agency for International Development funds went to the construction of more than 150 short, so-called LIMA landing strips in the mountains near the opium fields, thus opening these remote spots to the export trade – and also ensuring that such exports went to Vang Pao. The head of AID in that area at the time, Ron Rickenbach, said later, “I was on the air strips. My people were in charge of supplying the aircraft. I was in the areas where the opium was grown. I personally witnessed it being placed on Air America planes. We didn’t create the opium product. But our presence accelerated it dramatically.” In 1959 Laos was producing about 150 tons. By 1971 production had risen to 300 tons. Another boost to opium production, much of which was ultimately destined for the veins of Americans then fighting in Vietnam, was enabled by the USAID’s supplying rice to the Hmong, thus allowing them to stop growing this staple and use the land to cultivate opium poppies.
Vang Pao controlled the opium trade in the Plain of Jars region of Laos. By buying up the one salable crop the general could garner the allegiance of the hill tribes as well as stuff his own bank account. He would pay $60 a kilo, $10 over the prevailing rate, and would purchase a village’s crop if, in return, the village would supply recruits for his army. As a village leader described it, “Meo [that is, Hmong] officers with three or four stripes came from Long Tieng to buy their opium. They came in American helicopters, perhaps two or three men at one time. The helicopter leaves them here for a few days and they walk to the villages, then come back here and radio Long Tieng to send another helicopter for them and take the opium back.”
John Everingham, an Australian war photographer, was at that time based in Laos and visited the Hmong village of Long Pot; he recalled in the late 1980s that
I was given the guest bed in a district village leader’s house. I ended up sharing it with a military guy, who I later discovered was a leader in Vang Pao’s army. I was wakened by a great confusion of people and noise at the bottom of the bed, where there was a packet of black sticky stuff on bamboo leaves. And the village leader was weighing it out and paying quite a considerable amount of money. This went on several mornings. I found out it was raw opium. They all wore American uniforms. The opium went to Long Tieng by helicopters, Air America helicopters on contract to the CIA. I know as a fact that shortly after Vang Pao’s army was formed, the military officers gained control of the opium trade. It not only helped make them a lot of money. It also helped the villagers who needed their opium carried out, a difficult task in wartime. The officers were obviously paying a very good price because the villagers were very anxious to sell it to them.
In the early 1960s the trading chain from Long Tieng was as follows: the opium would be shipped into Vietnam on Laos Commercial Air, an airline run jointly by Ngo Dinh Nhu and the Corsican Bonaventure Francisi. Nhu, brother of South Vietnam’s President Diem, had presided over a huge expansion in Saigon’s opium parlors in order to fund his own security operation. But after the Diem brothers’ assassination, Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky, the man selected by the CIA as South Vietnam’s new leader, began bringing the opium in from Long Tieng on Vietnamese air force planes. (Ky had previously been head of South Vietnam’s air force.) A CIA man, Sam Mustard, testified to this arrangement in congressional hearings in 1968.
At the Laotian end, General Phoumi had placed Ouane Rattikone in charge of overall opium operations, and his dealings resulted in about a ton of opium a month being landed in Saigon. For his services, however, Rattikone was getting only about $200 a month from the parsimonious Phoumi. With the backing of the CIA, Rattikone rebelled and launched a coup in 1965 against Phoumi, driving his former boss into exile in Thailand. Rattikone now wanted to drop the contract with the Corsican’s Air Laos, which, despite Marshall Ky’s switch, was still doing business. Rattikone’s plan was to use the Royal Lao Air Force, entirely funded by the CIA. He referred to the opium shipments on the national air force as “requisitions militaires.” But CIA air commander Jack Drummond objected to what he deemed a logistically inefficient use of the Royal Lao Air Force’s T-28s and instead decreed that the CIA would furnish a C-47 for the dope runs “if they’d leave the T-28s alone.”
That’s precisely what happened. Two years later, in 1967, the CIA and USAID purchased two C-47s for Vang Pao, who opened up his own air transport company, which he called Xieng Khouang Air, known by one and all as Air Opium.
At the time the CIA decided to give Vang Pao his own airline, the CIA station chief in Vientiane was Ted Shackley, a man who had gotten his start in the CIA’s Paperclip project, recruiting Nazi scientists. Before he came to Laos Shackley had headed the Agency’s Miami station, where he orchestrated the repeated terror raids and assassination bids against Cuba and consorted with the local Cuban émigrés, themselves deeply involved in the drug trade. Shackley was an ardent exponent of the idea of purchasing the loyalty of CIA clients by a policy of economic assistance, calling this “the third option.” Tolerance – indeed active support – of the opium trade was therefore a proper military and diplomatic strategy. He also had a reputation for preferring to work with a team of long-term associates whom he would deploy in appropriate posts.
Thus one can follow, through the decades, the Shackley team from Miami, to Laos, to Vietnam (where he later became CIA station chief in Saigon) to his private business operations in Central America. When Shackley was in Vientiane, his associate, Thomas Clines, was handling business at Long Tieng. Another CIA man, Edwin Wilson, was delivering espionage equipment to Shackley in Laos. Richard Secord was supervising CIA operations, thus participating in a bombing program depositing more high explosive on peasants and guerrillas in the Plain of Jars than did the US on Germany and Japan during the whole of World War II. Shackley, Clines, Secord and Air America cargo kicker Eugene Hasenfus show up later in our story, in Central America, once again amid the CIA’s active complicity in the drug trade.
By the time Shackley moved to Saigon in 1968, the war had turned against Vang Pao. The Pathet Lao now had the upper hand. Over the next three years the story of the Hmong was one of forced marches and military defeats, and as the ground war went badly the CIA took to bombing campaigns that killed yet more Hmong. As Edgar “Pop” Buell, a missionary working in the hills, wrote in a memo to the CIA in 1968, “A short time ago we rounded up 300 fresh recruits [from the Hmong], 30 percent were 14 years old. Another 30 percent were 15 or 16. The remaining 40 percent were 45 or over. Where were the ages between? I’ll tell you – they’re all dead.”
By the end of the war in Laos a third of the entire population of the country had become refugees. In their forced marches the Hmong experienced 30 percent casualty rates, with young children often having to put their exhausted parents, prostrated along the trail, out of their misery. By 1971 the CIA was practicing a scorched-earth policy in Hmong territory against the incoming Pathet Lao. The land was drenched with herbicides, which killed the opium crop and also poisoned the Hmong. Later, when Hmong refugees in Thai refugee camps reported this “yellow rain,” CIA-patronized journalists spread the story that this was a Communist essay in biological warfare. The Wall Street Journal editorial page ran an extensive propaganda campaign on the issue in the early Reagan years. Vang Pao ended up in Missoula, Montana. General Ouane Rattikone went into exile in Thailand.
This CIA-transported opium engendered an addiction rate among US servicemen in Vietnam of up to 30 percent, with the soldiers spending some $80 million a year in Vietnam on heroin. In the early 1970s some of this same heroin was being smuggled back to the US in the body bags of dead servicemen, and when DEA agent Michael Levine attempted to bust the operation, he was warned off by his superiors because it might have led to exposure of the supply line from Long Tieng.
In 1971 a second-year grad student at Yale named Alfred McCoy met the poet Allen Ginsberg at a demonstration for Bobby Seale in New Haven. Ginsberg found out that McCoy had studied up on the drug trade and also knew several Southeast Asian languages as well as the political history of the region. He encouraged McCoy to research allegations about CIA involvement in the drug trade. McCoy finished his term papers and traveled to Southeast Asia in the summer of 1971, where he embarked on a courageous and far-reaching investigation that yielded brilliant results. He interviewed troops and officers in Saigon, and there also met John Everingham, the photographer who had witnessed the opium dealings in Laos. Everingham took him back into Laos to that same village. McCoy interviewed Hmong, both villagers and chiefs. He tracked down General Ouane Rattikone in Thailand. He interviewed Pop Buell and the CIA agent William Young.
Back in the United States by the spring of 1972, McCoy had finished the first draft of what was to be the path-breaking The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. In June of that year he was invited to testify before the US Senate by Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin. Following that testimony, he was called by his publisher Harper & Row, demanding that he come to New York and meet with the company’s president, Winthrop Knowlton. Knowlton told McCoy that Cord Meyer, a top-ranking CIA officer, had paid a visit to the owner of Harper & Row, Cass Canfield, and had told Canfield that McCoy’s book posed a national security threat. Meyer demanded that Harper & Row cancel the contract. Canfield refused, but did agree to let the CIA review McCoy’s book before publication.
While McCoy was deliberating what to do, the CIA’s approach to Canfield leaked out to Seymour Hersh, then working at the New York Times. Hersh promptly published the story. As McCoy wrote in the preface to a new edition of his book published in 1990, “Humiliated in the public arena, the CIA turned to covert harassment. Over the coming months, my federal education grant was investigated. My phones were tapped. My income tax was audited and my sources were intimidated.” Some of his interpreters were threatened with assassination.
The book was duly published by Harper & Row in 1972. Amid Congressional disquiet, the CIA told the Joint Committee on Intelligence that it was pressing forward with an internal review by the CIA’s Inspector General. The Agency sent twelve investigators into the field, where they spent two brief weeks in interviews. The report has never been released in its entirety, but this is its conclusion:
No evidence that the Agency or any senior officer of the Agency has ever sanctioned, or supported drug trafficking, as a matter of policy. Also we found not the slightest suspicion, much less evidence, that any Agency officer, staff or contact, has ever been involved with the drug business. With respect to Air America, we found that it has always forbidden, as a matter of policy, the transportation of contraband goods. We believe that its Security Inspection Service which is used by the cooperating air transport company as well, is now serving as an added deterrent to drug traffickers.
The one area of our activities in South East Asia that gives us some concern has to do with the agents and local officials with whom we are in contact and who have been or may still be involved in one way or another in the drug business. We are not referring here to those agents who are run as penetrations of the narcotics industry for collection of intelligence on the industry but, rather, to those with whom we are in touch in our other operations. What to do about these people is particularly troublesome in view of its implications for some of our operations, particularly in Laos. Yet their good will, if not mutual cooperation, considerably facilitates the military activities of the Agency-supported irregulars.
The report admitted that “the war has clearly been our over-riding priority in Southeast Asia and all other issues have taken second place in the scheme of things.” The report also suggested that there was no financial incentive for the pilots in Air America to be involved in smuggling, since they were “making good money.”
Reviews of McCoy’s book were hostile, suggesting that his hundreds of pages of well-sourced interviews and reporting amounted to conspiratorial rumor-mongering by a radical opponent of the war. McCoy’s charges were dismissed out of hand in the Church hearings of 1975, which concluded that allegations of drug smuggling by CIA assets and proprietaries “lacked substance.”
As McCoy himself summed it up in 1990, in words which no doubt strike a chord in the heart of Gary Webb, “Although I had scored in the first engagement with a media blitz, the CIA won the longer bureaucratic battle. By silencing my sources and publicly announcing its abhorrence of drugs, the Agency convinced Congress that it had been innocent of any complicity in the Southeast Asian opium trade.”
This article is adapted from Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.
“Country music was the most segregated kind of music in America, where even whites played jazz and even blacks sang in the opera. Something like country music was what lynch mobs must have enjoyed while stringing up their black victims. Country music was not necessarily lynching music, but no other music could be imagined as lynching’s accompaniment. Beethoven’s Ninth was the opus for Nazis, concentration camp commanders, and possibly President Truman as he contemplated atomizing Hiroshima, classical music the refined score for the high-minded extermination of brutish hordes. Country music was set to the more humble beat of the red-blooded, bloodthirsty American heartland.” - Viet Thanh Nguyen
Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink co-written with Joshua Frank. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.
The Assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani
by GARY LEUPP
JANUARY 6, 2020
In 2003 the U.S. committed the crime of the century, invading, destroying and occupying the modern state of Iraq, ushering in an era of misery, terror and chaos in the region. Or one could say that the invasion continued an era launched by the ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, justified by the 9/11 attacks, which—have you noticed?—is ending in abject failure and humiliating retreat.
Within a year after the invasion of Iraq, a branch of al-Qaeda appeared in the wrecked country, where (despite the lies of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and others) it had never, ever existed before. It quickly found recruits among the Sunnis, whose basic institutions (the Baath Party and the national army) had been dissolved by the clueless occupiers. Largely suppressed during the U.S. “surge” in 2007, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia morphed into ISIL, establishing a base in Raqqa, Syria by 2013. Therefrom it fanned back across Iraq, taking the cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit and Fallujah as the demoralized, incompetent U.S.-trained Iraqi forces bolted in 2015.
For a decade, the U.S. had inflicted misery upon misery on the Iraqi people. Now the worst type of fiends imaginable—men who enslaved Yezidis, raped non-Muslim women, crucified and beheaded children, pulverized monuments, buried people alive, burned a captured pilot alive in a cage—were taking over Iraq. The situation was so dire that the Iraqi government requested a return of the (hated) U.S. troops to aid in the war against the even worse threat of ISIL.
But it also called on Iran. It was the most natural thing to do. Iran was the friendly neighboring country. It is predominantly Shiite, like Iraq. Iraq is, aside from tiny Bahrain, the only majority-Shiite Arab nation. Iranians and Iraqis share a dread of Sunni intolerance (such as prevails in Saudi Arabia and among the Taliban in Afghanistan).
Of course Baghdad would want to draw upon the talents of General Qasem Soleimani. He had been a hero of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s (in which the U.S. had backed Saddam Hussein in invading Iran). He was a decisive link among Shiite forces in the region, including Lebanon’s Hizbollah that had driven out the Israelis in 2006, and the Syrian regime struggling to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra, and U.S.-backed forces hell-bent on regime change. Iran had opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but was pleased that it had led to the formation of a Shiite-led government. Tehran has sought cordial relations with a series of U.S.-back administrations, who have themselves struggled to maintain neutrality in the U.S.-Iran confrontation.
But the U.S. having conquered Iraq has sought to deny it an independent relationship with Iran. It has sought to integrate Iraq into a pro-Saudi, pro-Israel, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, anti-Hizbollah alliance. But it has failed. (The architects of the criminal war had no idea about the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, no realization that their moves would strengthen Iran.) In the decisive battles against ISIL in 2015 Soleimani and the “Iran-backed” Shiite militia played a key role. They are appreciated, while the U.S. is despised, for obvious reasons.
And now Donald Trump has murdered him, and multiple others who have fought ISIL, including nine Iraqis in the Popular Mobilization Forces. It is a crime comparable to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi ordered by the Saudi crown prince, a Trump family pal. Mainstream media commentators who deadpan “He was a bad actor” (hence, it was not thaT bad to kill him) are simply following script and confirming that under capitalism you must at the end of the day kiss the ass of the ruling class.
Far from rallying behind the U.S. following the assassination of Soleimani, the elected representatives of the Iraqi people in Baghdad are now—as the State Department warns all U.S. citizens to flee Iraq immediately—demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. That will be a major step towards the restoration of national dignity. Iran will as usual show restraint; it has not attacked another country in 300 years. Soleimani will be glorified as a martyr throughout the Shiite world, and even by some Sunnis (Hamas has issued a statement mourning the murder of the general); Iraq will bond more tightly with Iran and if ISIL resurfaces Iran will again help combat it.
As we speak the world condemns the U.S. action. The UK, France, and Germany all criticize it. Pompeo looks angry and perplexed; he’s indignant that the Europeans aren’t on board the program. Russia is outraged, China indignant at the murders. Only Netanyahu’s Israel stands with the assassin-president.
Trump warns Iran to not retaliate for Soleimani’s murder, lest the U.S. destroy 52 sites in Iran, including cultural ones. A vicious sadist, Trump demands Iran to accept U.S. impunity. It must obey. That’s all the Iranians can do—call Trump, praise him, negotiate a deal with him that prohibits their ties to mass-based organizations around their region. Pompeo’s list of 12 demands to Iran, presented in May 2018, as the price of a U.S. return to the nuclear deal offend the whole world in their sadistic, idiotic arrogance.
Now the U.S. has committed a high-level, acknowledged crime virtually announcing to the Iraqi and Iranian peoples that it craves their hatred. Bring it on! thinks the bone-spur president, champion of war criminals, hero of the attack on Syria following the (fake) Douma chemical attack in April 2018, and the deployment of MOAB (the biggest non-nuclear bomb) in Afghanistan, to make some point in April 2017. The president who’s boasted as being “the most militarist person there is” (Aug. 17, 2015) has sealed himself off from the civilized world by a remarkably stupid decision.
This could be the end of the post-9/11 world of U.S. hegemony, the birth of a multilateral world in which the actions of the moron-ruled country necessarily focus the efforts of the anxious others on containment of U.S. madness.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: email@example.com
Iran and US State Terrorism
by GAITHER STEWART
JANUARY 6, 2020
You can’t kill the national hero of a third country and get away with it. Especially not of an ancient and powerful country like Iran that threatens no one. Not only did the US strike kill the second most powerful man of Iran, beloved General Qassem Soleimani, chief of the Revolutionay Guards-Quds Force on the road to the Baghdad Airport. The US helicopter killed also Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandi, Deputy Head of Iraq’s PMU, Popular Mobilization Units and seven others. Clearly an unprovoked act of state terrorism.
Persia, as Iran was once called, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. It is still distinct from the main body of the Islamic world in that it has maintained its language, Farsi, or Persian, and is of the Shia strain of Islam as is the majority of the population of its neighbor, Iraq.
In 1979, Iran was the center of world attention when a popular revolution overthrew the American supported Pahlavi monarchy and a unique Islamic republic was declared. The clergy, headed by Ayatollah Khomeni, who returned from exile in Europe, took over political control.
The following period was unstable and bloody as the revolution devoured its own children, the same youth of various political shades who fought against the tyranny of the Shah and for a free Iran. That period included an eight-year war with its neighbor Iraq supported by—who else but the USA—which cost a million lives and in which Iran’s oil wealth plummeted.
On Khomeni’s death in 1989, Ayatollah Khameni was named Supreme Leader for life. As such he appoints the chief of the powerful judiciary, military and security leaders and media chiefs.
Then two decades after the 1979 revolution, Iran appeared to be entering an era of political and social transformation with the victory of liberal reformists over the clergy-backed conservative elite in parliamentary elections of 2000. The reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s support for greater social and political freedoms made him popular with youth, who today make up half of Iran’s population of 80 million. Azar Nafisi describes that moment well in her best-seller, Reading Lolita in Tehran.
But reformist ideas put the new President at odds with hardliners in the government and judiciary reluctant to lose sight of Islamic traditions. Khatami’s reformist legislation was blocked , his supporters disqualified, and he isolated.
In June, 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran’s ultra-conservative mayor defeated former President Rafsanjani and became Iran’s first non-cleric president in 24 years. The relatively free press under reformist Khatami was targeted by conservatives, pro-reform publications closed and reformist writers, journalists and editors jailed. The reform movement in the government was crushed though it apparently is still alive and strong among youth.
Promising a new era for Iran, an era of peace and progress, President Ahmadinejad vowed to plough ahead with Iran’s controversial nuclear program. He also created a furor in the world when he said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map and that the holocaust was a myth.
Iran is a big Middle Eastern country, and like Israel non-Arab. The two countries will forever compete for leadership in the Middle East.
Though the gap between rich and poor remains, Iran has apparently made major social advances. Important sections of urban youth know English and are in contact with the world via millions of internet accesses, cell phones, texting and TV. But they too love their country.
Contemporary Iran needs nuclear energy. Europeans concede Iran the right to develop nuclear energy, aware that control is next to impossible. However, Washington charges that Iran in reality wants the bomb; therefore regime change is necessary. Still, Iran sees that many of its neighbors have nuclear weapons: Israel, India, Pakistan, China, Russia.
In the same way, Washington needs an enemy and in its language aims “at a regime change” in Iran. How that is to be achieved is the point. European observers warn that the USA cannot afford to err again as in Iraq, where, as Condoleeza Rice once admitted, “America has made thousands of mistakes.” Iran is simply too strong. Europe has recommended supporting youth and reformism and is today straining at the US leash over Iran and Russia.
Every thinking person knows that oil is the major factor in any assessment of the Middle Eastern crisis. The motives for western aggression in the Middle East has always had to do with oil. In 1944, US interests in oil output there was only 16%. In 1955, those interests had grown to 58%. Profits from Middle Eastern oil are greater than elsewhere because of low labor costs and the high productivity of the wells. The result is extremely high profits.
Western oilmen were shocked when in 1951 the reformist Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq decided to nationalize it oil industry. When Great Britain retired from the scene, the USA stepped in. The coup d’état that overthrew Premier Mossadeq and re-installed the amenable Shah Pahlavi on the throne was one of the newly-founded CIA’s first major actions. The justification of the then CIA Director Allen Douglas was: “Where there begins to be evidence that a country is slipping and Communist takeover is threatened (such was his English!) … we can’t wait for an engraved invitation to come and give aid.”
When I worked in Tehran during the year 1979, Western businessmen, when warned that revolution against “their government of Iran” was brewing and threatened their interests, answered with great assurance: “A regiment of US Marines will put things right.”
Seventy years ago just as today! In 1953—Mossadegh. In 2020—Soleimani.
America Escalates Its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East
by MICHAEL HUDSON
JANUARY 6, 2020
The mainstream media are carefully sidestepping the method behind America’s seeming madness in assassinating Islamic Revolutionary Guard general Qassim Suleimani to start the New Year. The logic behind the assassination was a long-standing application of U.S. global policy, not just a personality quirk of Donald Trump’s impulsive action. His assassination of Iranian military leader Suleimani was indeed a unilateral act of war in violation of international law, but it was a logical step in a long-standing U.S. strategy. It was explicitly authorized by the Senate in the funding bill for the Pentagon that it passed last year.
The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.
I sat in on discussions of this policy as it was formulated nearly fifty years ago when I worked at the Hudson Institute and attended meetings at the White House, met with generals at various armed forces think tanks and with diplomats at the United Nations. My role was as a balance-of-payments economist having specialized for a decade at Chase Manhattan, Arthur Andersen and oil companies in the oil industry and military spending. These were two of the three main dynamic of American foreign policy and diplomacy. (The third concern was how to wage war in a democracy where voters rejected the draft in the wake of the Vietnam War.)
The media and public discussion have diverted attention from this strategy by floundering speculation that President Trump did it, except to counter the (non-)threat of impeachment with a wag-the-dog attack, or to back Israeli lebensraum drives, or simply to surrender the White House to neocon hate-Iran syndrome. The actual context for the neocon’s action was the balance of payments, and the role of oil and energy as a long-term lever of American diplomacy.
The balance of payments dimension
The major deficit in the U.S. balance of payments has long been military spending abroad. The entire payments deficit, beginning with the Korean War in 1950-51 and extending through the Vietnam War of the 1960s, was responsible for forcing the dollar off gold in 1971. The problem facing America’s military strategists was how to continue supporting the 800 U.S. military bases around the world and allied troop support without losing America’s financial leverage.
The solution turned out to be to replace gold with U.S. Treasury securities (IOUs) as the basis of foreign central bank reserves. After 1971, foreign central banks had little option for what to do with their continuing dollar inflows except to recycle them to the U.S. economy by buying U.S. Treasury securities. The effect of U.S. foreign military spending thus did not undercut the dollar’s exchange rate, and did not even force the Treasury and Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to attract foreign exchange to offset the dollar outflows on military account. In fact, U.S. foreign military spending helped finance the domestic U.S. federal budget deficit.
Saudi Arabia and other Near Eastern OPEC countries quickly became a buttress of the dollar. After these countries quadrupled the price of oil (in retaliation for the United States quadrupling the price of its grain exports, a mainstay of the U.S. trade balance), U.S. banks were swamped with an inflow of much foreign deposits – which were lent out to Third World countries in an explosion of bad loans that blew up in 1972 with Mexico’s insolvency, and destroyed Third World government credit for a decade, forcing it into dependence on the United States via the IMF and World Bank).
To top matters, of course, what Saudi Arabia does not save in dollarized assets with its oil-export earnings is spent on buying hundreds of billion of dollars of U.S. arms exports. This locks them into dependence on U.S. supply o replacement parts and repairs, and enables the United States to turn off Saudi military hardware at any point of time, in the event that the Saudis may try to act independently of U.S. foreign policy.
So maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency became a mainstay of U.S. military spending. Foreign countries to not have to pay the Pentagon directly for this spending. They simply finance the U.S. Treasury and U.S. banking system.
Fear of this development was a major reason why the United States moved against Libya, whose foreign reserves were held in gold, not dollars, an which was urging other African countries to follow suit in order to free themselves from “Dollar Diplomacy.” Hillary and Obama invaded, grabbed their gold supplies (we still have no idea who ended up with these billions of dollars worth of gold) and destroyed Libya’s government, its public education system, its public infrastructure and other non-neoliberal policies.
The great threat to this is dedollarization as China, Russia and other countries seek to avoid recycling dollars. Without the dollar’s function as the vehicle for world saving – in effect, without the Pentagon’s role in creating the Treasury debt that is the vehicle for world central bank reserves – the U.S. would find itself constrained militarily and hence diplomatically constrained, as it was under the gold exchange standard.
That is the same strategy that the U.S. has followed in Syria and Iraq. Iran was threatening this dollarization strategy and its buttress in U.S. oil diplomacy.
The oil industry as buttress of the U.S. balance of payments and foreign diplomacy
The trade balance is buttressed by oil and farm surpluses. Oil is the key, because it is imported by U.S. companies at almost no balance-of-payments cost (the payments end up in the oil industry’s head offices here as profits and payments to management), while profits on U.S. oil company sales to other countries are remitted to the United States (via offshore tax-avoidance centers, mainly Liberia and Panama for many years). And as noted above, OPEC countries have been told to keep their official reserves in the form of U.S. securities (stocks and bonds as well as Treasury IOUs, but not direct purchase of U.S. companies being deemed economically important). Financially, OPEC countries are client slates of the Dollar Area.
America’s attempt to maintain this buttress explains U.S. opposition to any foreign governments steps to reverse global warming and the extreme weather caused by the world’s U.S.-sponsored dependence on oil. Any such moves by Europe and other countries would reduce dependence on U.S. oil sales, and hence on U.S. ability to control the global oil spigot as a means of control and coercion, are viewed as hostile acts.
Oil also explains U.S. opposition to Russian oil exports via Nordstream. U.S. strategists want to treat energy as a U.S. national monopoly. Other countries can benefit in the way that Saudi Arabia has done – by sending their surpluses to the U.S. economy – but not to support their own economic growth and diplomacy. Control of oil thus implies support for continued global warming as an inherent part of U.S. strategy.
How a “democratic” nation can wage international war and terrorism
The Vietnam War showed that modern democracies cannot field armies for any major military conflict, because this would require a draft of its citizens. That would lead any government attempting such a draft to be voted out of power. And without troops, it is not possible to invade a country to take it over.
The corollary of this perception is that democracies have only two choices when it comes to military strategy: They can only wage airpower, bombing opponents; or they can create a foreign legion, that is, hire mercenaries or back foreign governments that provide this military service.
Here once again Saudi Arabia plays a critical role, through its control of Wahabi Sunnis turned into terrorist jihadis willing to sabotage, bomb, assassinate, blow up and otherwise fight any target designated as an enemy of “Islam,” the euphemism for Saudi Arabia acting as U.S. client state. (Religion really is not the key; I know of no ISIS or similar Wahabi attack on Israeli targets.) The United States needs the Saudis to supply or finance Wahabi crazies. So in addition to playing a key role in the U.S. balance of payments by recycling its oil-export earnings are into U.S. stocks, bonds and other investments, Saudi Arabia provides manpower by supporting the Wahabi members of America’s foreign legion, ISIS and Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda. Terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of today U.S. military policy.
What makes America’s oil war in the Near East “democratic” is that this is the only kind of war a democracy can fight – an air war, followed by a vicious terrorist army that makes up for the fact that no democracy can field its own army in today’s world. The corollary is that, terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of warfare.
From the U.S. vantage point, what is a “democracy”? In today’s Orwellian vocabulary, it means any country supporting U.S. foreign policy. Bolivia and Honduras have become “democracies” since their coups, along with Brazil. Chile under Pinochet was a Chicago-style free market democracy. So was Iran under the Shah, and Russia under Yeltsin – but not since it elected Vladimir Putin president, any more than is China under President Xi.
The antonym to “democracy” is “terrorist.” That simply means a nation willing to fight to become independent from U.S. neoliberal democracy. It does not include America’s proxy armies.
Iran’s role as U.S. nemesis
What stands in the way of U.S. dollarization, oil and military strategy? Obviously, Russia and China have been targeted as long-term strategic enemies for seeking their own independent economic policies and diplomacy. But next to them, Iran has been in America’s gun sights for nearly seventy years.
America’s hatred of Iran starts with its attempt to control its own oil production, exports and earnings. It goes back to 1953, when Mossadegh was overthrown because he wanted domestic sovereignty over Anglo-Persian oil. The CIA-MI6 coup replaced him with the pliant Shah, who imposed a police state to prevent Iranian independence from U.S. policy. The only physical places free from the police were the mosques. That made the Islamic Republic the path of least resistance to overthrowing the Shah and re-asserting Iranian sovereignty.
The United States came to terms with OPEC oil independence by 1974, but the antagonism toward Iran extends to demographic and religious considerations. Iranian support its Shi’ite population an those of Iraq and other countries – emphasizing support for the poor and for quasi-socialist policies instead of neoliberalism – has made it the main religious rival to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni sectarianism and its role as America’s Wahabi foreign legion.
America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing.
Already in early 2018, President Trump asked Iraq to reimburse America for the cost of “saving its democracy” by bombing the remainder of Saddam’s economy. The reimbursement was to take the form of Iraqi Oil. More recently, in 2019, President Trump asked, why not simply grab Iraqi oil. The giant oil field has become the prize of the Bush-Cheney post 9-11 Oil War. “‘It was a very run-of-the-mill, low-key, meeting in general,” a source who was in the room told Axios.’ And then right at the end, Trump says something to the effect of, he gets a little smirk on his face and he says, ‘So what are we going to do about the oil?’”
Trump’s idea that America should “get something” out of its military expenditure in destroying the Iraqi and Syrian economies simply reflects U.S. policy.
In late October, 2019, The New York Times reported that: “In recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has “secured” oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there. ‘We have taken it and secured it,’ Mr. Trump said of Syria’s oil during remarks at the White House on Sunday, after announcing the killing of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”  A CIA official reminded the journalist that taking Iraq’s oil was a Trump campaign pledge.
That explains the invasion of Iraq for oil in 2003, and again this year, as President Trump has said: “Why don’t we simply take their oil?” It also explains the Obama-Hillary attack on Libya – not only for its oil, but for its investing its foreign reserves in gold instead of recycling its oil surplus revenue to the U.S. Treasury – and of course, for promoting a secular socialist state.
It explains why U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.
American politicians have discredited themselves by starting off their condemnation of Trump by saying, as Elizabeth Warren did, how “bad” a person Suleimani was, how he had killed U.S. troops by masterminding the Iraqi defense of roadside bombing and other policies trying to repel the U.S. invasion to grab its oil. She was simply parroting the U.S. media’s depiction of Suleimani as a monster, diverting attention from the policy issue that explains why he was assassinated now.
The counter-strategy to U.S. oil, and dollar and global-warming diplomacy
This strategy will continue, until foreign countries reject it. If Europe and other regions fail to do so, they will suffer the consequences of this U.S. strategy in the form of a rising U.S.-sponsored war via terrorism, the flow of refugees, and accelerated global warming and extreme weather.
Russia, China and its allies already have been leading the way to dedollarization as a means to contain the balance-of-payments buttress of U.S. global military policy. But everyone now is speculating over what Iran’s response should be.
The pretense – or more accurately, the diversion – by the U.S. news media over the weekend has been to depict the United States as being under imminent attack. Mayor de Blasio has positioned policemen at conspicuous key intersections to let us know how imminent Iranian terrorism is – as if it were Iran, not Saudi Arabia that mounted 9/11, and as if Iran in fact has taken any forceful action against the United States. The media and talking heads on television have saturated the air waves with warnings of Islamic terrorism. Television anchors are suggesting just where the attacks are most likely to occur.
The message is that the assassination of General Soleimani was to protect us. As Donald Trump and various military spokesmen have said, he had killed Americans – and now they must be planning an enormous attack that will injure and kill many more innocent Americans. That stance has become America’s posture in the world: weak and threatened, requiring a strong defense – in the form of a strong offense.
But what is Iran’s actual interest? If it is indeed to undercut U.S. dollar and oil strategy, the first policy must be to get U.S. military forces out of the Near East, including U.S. occupation of its oil fields. It turns out that President Trump’s rash act has acted as a catalyst, bringing about just the opposite of what he wanted. On January 5 the Iraqi parliament met to insist that the United States leave. General Suleimani was an invited guest, not an Iranian invader. It is U.S. troops that are in Iraq in violation of international law. If they leave, Trump and the neocons lose control of oil – and also of their ability to interfere with Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese mutual defense.
Beyond Iraq looms Saudi Arabia. It has become the Great Satan, the supporter of Wahabi extremism, the terrorist legion of U.S. mercenary armies fighting to maintain control of Near Eastern oil and foreign exchange reserves, the cause of the great exodus of refugees to Turkey, Europe and wherever else it can flee from the arms and money provided by the U.S. backers of Isis, Al Qaeda in Iraq and their allied Saudi Wahabi legions.
The logical ideal, in principle, would be to destroy Saudi power. That power lies in its oil fields. They already have fallen under attack by modest Yemeni bombs. If U.S. neocons seriously threaten Iran, its response would be the wholesale bombing and destruction of Saudi oil fields, along with those of Kuwait and allied Near Eastern oil sheikhdoms. It would end the Saudi support for Wahabi terrorists, as well as for the U.S. dollar.
Such an act no doubt would be coordinated with a call for the Palestinian and other foreign workers in Saudi Arabia to rise up and drive out the monarchy and its thousands of family retainers.
Beyond Saudi Arabia, Iran and other advocates of a multilateral diplomatic break with U.S. neoliberal and neocon unilateralism should bring pressure on Europe to withdraw from NATO, inasmuch as that organization functions mainly as a U.S.-centric military tool of American dollar and oil diplomacy and hence opposing the climate change and military confrontation policies that threaten to make Europe part of the U.S. maelstrom.
Finally, what can U.S. anti-war opponents do to resist the neocon attempt to destroy any part of the world that resists U.S. neoliberal autocracy? This has been the most disappointing response over the weekend. They are flailing. It has not been helpful for Warren, Buttigieg and others to accuse Trump of acting rashly without thinking through the consequences of his actions. That approach shies away from recognizing that his action did indeed have a rationale—do draw a line in the sand, to say that yes, America WILL go to war, will fight Iran, will do anything at all to defend its control of Near Eastern oil and to dictate OPEC central bank policy, to defend its ISIS legions as if any opposition to this policy is an attack on the United States itself.
I can understand the emotional response or yet new calls for impeachment of Donald Trump. But that is an obvious non-starter, partly because it has been so obviously a partisan move by the Democratic Party. More important is the false and self-serving accusation that President Trump has overstepped his constitutional limit by committing an act of war against Iran by assassinating Soleimani.
Congress endorsed Trump’s assassination and is fully as guilty as he is for having approved the Pentagon’s budget with the Senate’s removal of the amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that Bernie Sanders, Tom Udall and Ro Khanna inserted an amendment in the House of Representatives version, explicitly not authorizing the Pentagon to wage war against Iran or assassinate its officials. When this budget was sent to the Senate, the White House and Pentagon (a.k.a. the military-industrial complex and neoconservatives) removed that constraint. That was a red flag announcing that the Pentagon and White House did indeed intend to wage war against Iran and/or assassinate its officials. Congress lacked the courage to argue this point at the forefront of public discussion.
Behind all this is the Saudi-inspired 9/11 act taking away Congress’s sole power to wage war – its 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, pulled out of the drawer ostensibly against Al Qaeda but actually the first step in America’s long support of the very group that was responsible for 9/11, the Saudi airplane hijackers.
The question is, how to get the world’s politicians – U.S., European and Asians – to see how America’s all-or-nothing policy is threatening new waves of war, refugees, disruption of the oil trade in the Strait of Hormuz, and ultimately global warming and neoliberal dollarization imposed on all countries. It is a sign of how little power exists in the United Nations that no countries are calling for a new Nurenberg-style war crimes trial, no threat to withdraw from NATO or even to avoid holding reserves in the form of money lent to the U.S. Treasury to fund America’s military budget.
 https://www.axios.com/trump-to-iraqi-pm-how-about-that-oil-1a31cbfa-f20c-4767-8d18-d518ed9a6543.html. The article adds: “In the March meeting, the Iraqi prime minister replied, ‘What do you mean?’ according to the source in the room. And Trump’s like, ‘Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil.’”
 Michael Crowly, “‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for new Syria Troop Mission,” The New York Times, October 26, 2019. . The article adds: “‘I said keep the oil,’ Mr. Trump recounted. ‘If they are going into Iraq, keep the oil. They never did. They never did.’”
Michael Hudson is the author of Killing the Host (published in e-format by CounterPunch Books and in print by Islet). His new book is J is For Junk Economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
52 Pick-Up: Trump’s Deranged Threats to Bomb the Past
by DAVID PRICE
JANUARY 7, 2020
On January 4th, President Trump tweeted that his military response to any Iranian military reactions to his assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani could include attacks on “52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.” For an administration whose acts in the present routinely require Orwellian carpet-bombing campaigns on the past (consider Mike Pence’s lie this week that Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks), the obliteration of our world’s links to the past is but a physical extension of the Trump administration’s daily ideological practices.
Within hours of Trump’s threat to attack cultural sites, various pundits, legal scholars, and archaeologists voiced concerns that such targeting of cultural heritage sites would constitute war crimes. I have little to add to such observations, other than to stress the correctness of these critiques, but I think it is worth considering where such a list of bombing targets came from.
I read a tweet by one of my favorite writers, Ron Rosenbaum, suggesting that any Pentagon archaeologists generating a list targeting Iranian cultural heritage sites should be identified by the House and tried in the Hague for war crimes. I would certainly favor this, but my guess is that whatever role anthropologists or archaeologists played in identifying archaeological sites that Trump claims are on his target list was likely less direct but equally disturbing than I think might be assumed.
First, we have no idea whether such a list targeting historical heritage sites even exists. On the one hand, Trump is our most unreliable national narrator. His specialty appears to be off the cuff improvisational even absurdist lies–his creation of the number 52 had an air of Senator Joseph McCarthy waving his list ever changing list of supposed communists working in the Federal Government. On the other hand, Trump is an unstable weak man with limited intellect, no concern for law, completely capable of ignoring advisors warning him that a given course of action would be a war crime. We don’t know if Trump is serious, but we do know he’s a serious threat.
Let us assume such a list exists. It wouldn’t be the first time that US military targeted cultural resources for bombing campaigns—during the Second World War, anthropologists and other American intellectuals worked for the Civilian Morale Division of the US Strategic Bombing Survey. This was why Dresden, a site of no military significance but great cultural meaning, was selected for a barbaric firebombing campaign. A few weeks ago I was in Nara, Japan—whose temple complex is on the must exquisite World Heritage Sites I have ever visited—weighed down by the knowledge that it had been shortlisted with Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a candidate for demonstrating the power of America’s secret weapon at the end of the war. Though these heritage targetings were prior to the US becoming a 1954 signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, it is not unthinkable that Trump would again commit such acts to stab at the heart of an enemy as part of his campaign to make America great again.
If a list of archaeological and cultural heritage sites to be targeted by US bombing strikes exists, my guess is that we know enough about how the Pentagon and intelligence agencies today recycle knowledge to speculate how such historic sites could be identified. I have met enough archaeologists working on Defense Department cultural resource projects to find it suspect that such archaeologists would intentionally help design a targeting list of archaeology sites. But we do know how information from the US military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training programs—designed to train US soldiers to withstand interrogation if captured—were repurposed after 9/11 to form a basis for US torture programs. Such repurposings are at the core of dual-use relationships, where knowledge is created for one use, and later put to completely difference uses. I have no firsthand knowledge of whether military archaeologists helped identify sites on Trump’s claimed cultural heritage target list, but my guess is that if they did, they likely produced a list of sites never to be targeted, that was later repurposed by others. There’s a long history of the military repurposing cultural knowledge for its own uses. A history that not only clarifies why there are dangers for anthropologists working for military and intelligence agencies, but also carries warnings for anyone writing on topics of interest to the military.
At present we don’t know if Persepolis and other priceless links to the past are in Trump’s bombing sights, much less whether anthropologists or archaeologists played a direct role in any such targeting. But we do know Trump is testing his abilities to wag the dog and create global distractions that divert attention from his impeachment and domestic incompetence, I see no reason to think he is incapable of committing war crimes to accomplish this goal.
David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.
Trump vs. Iran: Has the US Crossed the Escalation to War Rubicon?
by JACK RASMUS
JANUARY 7, 2020
Wars occur when ideologues and/or reckless leaders in position of power are willing to engage in high risk brinksmanship in foreign policy military adventures–often as a distraction from their growing domestic problems. Their megolomania often leads them to misread the potential response of their targeted adversary, setting off a process of unavoidable tit for tat escalation by both sides until war actually breaks out.
The historical examples are undeniable of the role of personality in the precipitation of War in the 20th-21st Century:
Germany’s Kaiser 1914 mobilization of allies in response to Serbian archduke’s assassination that set in motion quid pro quo escalations; Hitler’s assumption that Britain-France would do nothing in the case of Poland as they in Czechoslovakia; Japan Tojo’s belief that war with the USA would be short should the US navy’s pacific forces be decimated in Hawaii and driven from Philippines; South Korea president Syngman Rhee’s incursion into North Korea in 1950 that started the Korean war. LBJ’s Tonkin Gulf lie and subsequent military escalation in Vietnam to destroy the Vietcong, based on the assumption that North Vietnam forces would thereafter not join the conflict. Saddam Hussein’s miscalculation to invade Kuwait, based on (false) assurances from the US that the US would not respond. Osama bin Laden’s and Taliban’s assumption US would not mobilize and invade after 9-11. George W. Bush’s embracing of US neocons’ advice that military conquest of Iraq would mean the end of war there, not just the beginning. And now Trump’s provocation of war with Iran by assassinating its most senior military general. Miscalculations all, by reckless, high risk-taking political leaders, with little understanding of the dynamics that often lead up to war.
Three questions to consider in light of the recent US killing of Iran’s top general:
Does anyone doubt what would be the response of the USA if its top general and commander in Europe were assassinated by Iran–and Iran followed it up with a declaration that they did it and he deserved it?
Is it just coincidence that Trump’s ‘crossing the Rubicon latest escalation’ has nothing to do with the timing of impeachment proceedings in Congress? Or what appears to be an increasing probability of US economic recession in an election year.
Trump could not unilaterally go to war with Iran without US Congress approval beforehand, given the US War Powers Act. Were he to do so it would constitute yet another violation of the US Constitution. But he could provoke Iran to start one, attack US military forces, which under that same Act would allow him to respond militarily with as much force as he wanted. Is Trump trying to provoke Iran, in order to have it precipitate an equivalent response so that he, Trump, can bypass a Congressional vote to go to war he knows he won’t get?
Who’s Running the Trump Foreign Policy Show?
Trump has already fired or driven out all the military generals and advisers from his administration who might have cautioned him on his growing military brinksmanship. US foreign policy for months has now been the policy of US neocons now running his administration in State, Defense, and elsewhere. (And recall it was the Neocons back in 2002-03 that advised and drove Bush to attack Iraq).
In all the foregoing historical cases, wars are precipitated by radical ideologue and non-military intellectuals and bureaucrats who advise the high risk taking and brinksmanship action by political leaders willing to ‘roll the dice’ on military adventures. Politicians who are short sighted about the dynamics of how wars are started, and once started aren’t easily stopped (if at all). Politicians and intellectuals-advisers precipitate the conflict; but the conflict soon sets in motion forces of its own that are not controllable. The reckless, high risk politicians are then dragged along by the forces of war, controlled by it instead of controlling it.
Trump is dragging the US toward war, whether by choice (by creating a distraction from domestic troubles); or by advice (by intellectuals-advisers Neocons whose ideologies serve their fantasy imaginations of wielding power and advancing empire); or by the inevitable accident forthcoming once escalation passes a point of no return (as it always does if allowed to continue).
Know Them by the Company They Keep
Trump is now in infamous company: with the Kaiser, Tojo, Hitler, and all the others after who have always miscalculated and pushed their countries to the brink of war–and over.
All reckless, high risk taking, believers in their own egos, and over-estimators of their ability to judge their opponents, the course of events, and their outcomes.
The similarity in personalities–and the errors they typically make that lead to war and destruction–is not easily ignored.
You can know the person by the company they keep! And that goes for Trump, as well.
Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com.
迎春接福 Have a Happy Lunar New Year of The Rat! Happy travels!
We are wishing you all great happiness and prosperity for the forthcoming Lunar New Year.
Instead of releasing sky lanterns which can cause great harm and suffering to living things as we observe this occasion, please consider planting trees and other plants instead, and you will be enlightened from within and will be helping all living beings and the earth, everywhere.
Added to the links in Taiwan's world factbook is Mongabay, a website dedicated to Enviromental news across the world.
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
JANUARY 24, 2020
by CESAR CHELALA
The happy expectations for the week-long Chinese New Year holidays has been dampened by a new viral infection that is spreading rapidly in China (cases have been confirmed in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong province) and other countries. Since late 2019, people from Wuhan had been infected with a viral pneumonia whose cause was unknown. Now the virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus.
Two other types of coronaviruses are SARS and MERS. The new virus is raising concern about the possibility of a new SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)-kind of epidemic, which killed thousands of people in 2002 and 2003. As of now, people infected with this new virus have been found in China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea. On January 21, 2020, the first case was reported in the United States, in a man who was returning to the U.S. from a trip to Wuhan.
Major Chinese city in lockdown as novel coronavirus spreads internationally
By Benjamin Mateus
24 January 2020
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing health officials around the world with situational updates and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan on New Year’s Eve.
Coronaviruses were first described in the 1960s and derive their name for their characteristic appearance under electron microscopes, where they resemble a royal crown or solar corona. Coronaviruses cause diseases in mammals and birds, with symptoms of diarrhea in farm animals such as pigs and cows and respiratory symptoms in birds. The lethal infection of humans has been rare historically.
China’s Coronavirus Outbreak Reminds Me of the Irish Polio Epidemic I Survived
by PATRICK COCKBURN
JANUARY 28, 2020
China is responding to the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan much as countries have always reacted to life-threatening epidemics. At every level of society and government, fear of death – or, more accurately, fear of being held responsible for death – drives decision-making, which is consequently often ill-judged.
Officials do not want to cause a panic – but then again, nor do they want to be accused of inaction, or of hiding dire truths about the health crisis (many people have become convinced that more people have been infected, have even died, than the authorities are admitting).
I have been struck in the past few days by the similarity between reactions to two epidemics, though they took place 64 years apart in cities that could not be more different. One is currently taking place in Wuhan in central China, with its population of eleven million; the second struck Cork, an Irish city with a population of 114,000, in 1956.
Dispatch From China: Flu is Bigger Concern But Wuhan Virus Grabs Headlines
by TOM CLIFFORD
JANUARY 30, 2020
The virus will infect millions across the globe and lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. It can be easily spread and will especially strike the young and the elderly. But this is not what has been described as the Wuhan virus. The common flu is far deadlier. This is not to downplay the Wuhan coronavirus flu, or to give it its medical name, 2019-nCoV.
The common flu causes up to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide and kills up to 650,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization.
Keeping track of Wuhan virus figures is difficult, not least because of the two-week incubation period. The coronavirus outbreak, which is concentrated in Wuhan, a major transport hub in central eastern China, has so far killed 56 and infected almost 2,000. The initial symptoms of coronavirus are typically similar to those of a cold or flu, which means it is hard for people to know if they are infected, especially given that the outbreak has coincided with flu season. The mayor of Wuhan said on Sunday evening that he expected another 1,000 or so new cases. But the National Health Commission in Beijing said the number of people currently under medical observation for the virus is 30,453. This raises immediate questions about how and where they are being observed.
Om Bekandze Bekandze
Radza Samudgate Soha
May the many sentient beings who are sick, quickly be freed from sickness. And may all the sicknesses of beings never arise again.
Medicine Buddha Mantra
Taiwan accepted an embassy proposal recently in good faith, but since that embassy proposal was accepted, the WA Delegate of the region concerned has added the tags ‘Patriachal’ and ‘Imperialist’ to their region’s tags.
Taiwan is Feminist and Anti-Imperialist, and on that understanding, we are closing embassies with that region.
Update: The region concerned has removed the fore-mentioned tags, so the newly created embassies will continue to remain.
Coronavirus: Jane Goodall believes ‘disrespect for animals’ caused pandemic
The primatologist said animal markets and farming create conditions where animals are crowded together and viruses jump the species barrier
She welcomed the closure of live wild animal markets in China, and said every individual can take steps to make a difference
World-renowned British primatologist Jane Goodall believes the coronavirus pandemic was caused by humanity’s disregard for nature and disrespect for animals.
Goodall, who is best known for trailblazing research in Africa that revealed the true nature of chimpanzees, pleaded for the world to learn from past mistakes to prevent future disasters.
During a conference call ahead of the release of the new National Geographic documentary ane Goodall: The Hope, the 86-year-old also said everyone can make a difference.
When asked for her views on the Covid-19, Goodall said a pandemic was predicted long ago.
“Because as we destroy, let’s say the forest, the different species of animals in the forest are forced into a proximity and therefore diseases are being passed from one animal to another, and that second animal is then most likely to infect humans as it is forced into closer contact with humans."
“It’s also the animals who are hunted for food, sold in markets in Africa or in the meat markets for wild animals in Asia, especially China, and our intensive farms where we cruelly crowd together billions of animals around the world. These are the conditions that create an opportunity for the viruses to jump from animals across the species barrier to humans,” the primatologist said.
Poachers kill 3 near-extinct giant ibises amid pandemic pressure in Cambodia
by Elizabeth Claire Alberts on 21 April 2020
While poaching incidents have been recorded in northern Cambodia in the past, there’s been a sudden upsurge in poaching since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shut down ecotourism in the area. In addition to the three ibises recently killed, more than 100 painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala) were poached at Cambodia’s Prek Toal sanctuary, a Ramsar Site, in late March, according to WCS. Hunters have also poisoned white-winged ducks (Asarcornis scutulata), sarus cranes (Antigone antigone), and many other bird species in recent weeks.
“As income streams dry up, what alternatives do people have but to turn to cutting trees or hunting birds?” Poole said. “It’s going to be a really challenging time, and we need to work out how we can get direct support into these villages so they don’t need to turn to natural resources for survival. We’re looking at ways of trying to increase employment opportunities — to employ more rangers, employ more bird guards, employ people to upgrade and fix the ecotourism facilities we have.”
This rise to poaching during the COVID-19 crisis isn’t a problem unique to Cambodia, but a trend happening across Southeast Asia, Poole said.
“I’ve been talking to some of my colleagues, and we’re all seeing an increase in issues like poaching, hunting, illegal land clearance, and we’re wondering how to deal with it,” he said. “Things are probably going to get worse before they get better, so I think that we as conservationists have to work out how we can engage with people and help them get through these difficult times so we all have something left to … conserve and to benefit from in six months or 12 months’ time.”
While the killing of a giant ibis can land a poacher into jail for about 5 years, Poole said he believes that education and community engagement, rather than punishment, are the best ways to curb these incidents.
“We’ll continue to do education work in the villages,” he said. “We’re trying to help people understand the status of the birds, and the fact that a lot of ecotourism is linked to the continued survival of these birds, and also the long-term health risks of eating birds that have been poisoned.”
Obstacles abound in bid to protect Indonesia’s forests and cut emissions
by Hans Nicholas Jong on 22 April 2020
JAKARTA — Indonesia has little wiggle room to keep clearing its forests if it’s to meet its emissions reduction goals, and will need to step up the conservation of even non-protected forests, experts say.
The government plans to cut emissions by 29% from the business-as-usual scenario by 2030. The vast majority of its emissions come from deforestation and land-use change, so to meet the target it will have to scale back those forestry-related emissions by 70%, according to an analysis of official data by the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB).
But a key obstacle to doing that, says Rizaldi Boer, the director of IPB’s Center for Climate Risk and Opportunity Management in Southeast Asia and Pacific, is that much of the standing forest has already been parceled out to plantation and logging firms and can be cleared at any time. Pulpwood logging concessions hold 2.92 million hectares (7.22 million acres) of natural forest, and oil palm plantations have 1.44 million hectares (3.56 million acres).
“Of course if all these concessions are converted into agricultural plantations and industrial forest plantations, there would be 4.3 million hectares [10.6 million acres] of deforestation,” Rizaldi said.
That exceeds the cap of 3.96 million hectares (9.79 million acres) that IPB calculates Indonesia must stick below to meet its goal by 2030.
Now Do You See How Evil They Are?
by DAVID SWANSON
APRIL 24, 2020
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is happy to sacrifice the lives of old people for “the economy.” A Congressman from Indiana doesn’t discriminate; he’s willing to let anybody lose their life to maintain what he calls their “way of life.” How they can have a way of life without a life becomes clear when he explains that by “way of life” he means the economy. The President of the United States is afraid that the cure of isolating ourselves is worse than the disease, even though the latter is deadly for some who get it. Trump also tries claiming, though nobody believes him, that protecting ourselves from a deadly disease will result in more deaths, not fewer.
This is how U.S. politicians have talked from the very beginning of the United States and prior to it about human beings outside the United States, about Native Americans, about enslaved people, about minority groups and immigrants. Yet, many have been able to avoid recognizing the evil. Now do you get it?
Trump openly says he wants troops in Syria for oil, Bolton openly says he wants a coup in Venezuela for oil, Pompeo openly says he wants to conquer the arctic for oil (with which to melt more of the arctic into a conquerable state). But the general rule, prior to these fits of honesty, has been to claim that wars were meant to spread democracy and happiness. Pointing out that every war is based on lies runs into great resistance from people who know governments lie but who don’t want to believe governments are quite that evil.
Believe it. When Pompeo talks about crushing Iran (or Venezuela or Syria or Cuba or North Korea, etc.) with sanctions, he’s talking about imposing death on numerous people. When Obama and Trump target people around the world with drone murders, and then target some U.S. citizens too, they’re valuing non-U.S. lives at their usual nonexistent level and devaluing U.S. lives to the same. When Trump and Biden compete for who can hate China the most, they’re talking about a significant percentage of the world’s population.
Locking immigrants up in cages is just as evil as locking U.S.-born children up in cages. People who will do the former are unlikely to draw the line at the latter. Don’t you get it? Evil sadistic politicians will be cruel to the People Who Matter just as they’ve always been cruel to everyone else. Truth be told, they were never nice to the majority of U.S. workers, but their cruelty was often too slow to be recognized as murderous.
What we need is not a little tweaking. We need the revolution of values that many tried to find an approximation of in Bernie Sanders. We need a society that empowers and rewards kindness instead of viciousness, decency instead of outrageous evil.
Right now we have a sick parody. The U.S. is badgering Mexico to reopen factories, cramming workers in together to produce parts for U.S. weapons that can be sold to the world. Mexicans must die like U.S. “essential” weapons builders must die so that the weapons can be shipped off to the world’s worst governments so that people everywhere can die. We’re all in this together!
We could all be in something else together. We could all be in a world utterly transformed. We could quite easily end all human suffering with absolutely zero new scientific developments. But we have to want to do it. And we have to start by refusing to stop being outraged by evil.
"What happened when we all stopped" narrated by Jane Goodall