Foreign Policy

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Another Step Back for Biden: Attack on Syria Draws Establishment Cheers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 6:52am in

WASHINGTON — Barely a month into his presidency, Joe Biden launched an airstrike on Syria yesterday. The attack was reportedly aimed at militias close to the Iraq border, killing 22 people — considerably more than the White House first claimed. In the attack, 1.75 tons of bombs were dropped on a small border-crossing village, according to The New York Times.

It was commonly reported that the target of the raid was pro-Iran forces — specifically, members of the Popular Mobilization Front, a contingent of Iraqi militia groups formed to fight ISIS that were eventually brought under the command of the Iraqi government. In its headline, the Times described the militias as such, although in the body of its report the paper admitted it had no evidence and was not sure this was the case.

U.S. government spokespersons framed the decision to bomb a country over 6,000 miles away as “defensive in nature” and as a response to attacks on American personnel in the region. The Syrian government characterized the incident as “cowardly” and a violation of international law.

 

Predictable cheers (and jeers)

The news was met with cheers from many of Biden’s more prominent supporters. “Good. Targeting our troops should carry a consequence,” wrote Time columnist David French. Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was of a similar opinion, tweeting his approval of the attack. “So different having military action under Biden. No middle school-level threats on Twitter. Trust Biden and his team’s competence,” reacted Amy Siskind, a prominent liberal writer.

Others in the press were equally delighted. “By authorizing air strikes, the U.S. president showed he won’t ignore Tehran’s provocations while pursuing diplomacy,” wrote Bloomberg columnist Bobby Ghosh. Ghosh claimed that the strike would be sure to snap Iran out of its “sense of impunity” and deter any more “aggression” against the United States.

While the bombing drew applause from establishment Democrats, it also elicited condemnation from anti-war voices. “This is basically the polar opposite of getting back in the peace agreement, which was what [Biden] promised to do. A liar and a warmonger,” concluded political commentator Kyle Kulinski. “You will never bomb your way to peace,” reacted progressive activist and podcast host Jordan Uhl.

 

No step forward, two steps back

The news of the bombing came at the same time as reports that the new administration was planning to drop its attempts to pass a federal $15 minimum wage. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that a $15 minimum wage could not be part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. It is perfectly within the power of the Vice President Kamala Harris, serving in her capacity as president of the Senate, to overrule the decision and push forward with the plan regardless. However, reports suggest the Biden administration is not looking to do so. “Today Biden approved an airstrike in Syria and the Senate parliamentarian shot down the federal minimum wage hike through reconciliation. Dems can overrule her but Biden doesn’t want to. Dems will lose everything in the midterms and possibly the next general election. And they’ll deserve it,” fumed Ana Kasparian of “The Young Turks.”

The news capped off a month marked largely with disappointment for progressives. After campaigning on a promise to “immediately” send out a $2,000 check to every American, Biden has walked back that offer to a means-tested $1,400, something that is still stuck in negotiations and will only be sent out in the spring at the earliest.

Earlier this week, Trump-era child prisons along the Mexican border were reopened, this time with the word “bienvenidos” (Spanish for “welcome”) daubed on their exterior. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent insisted that Biden’s camps were fundamentally different. “What Biden is doing has nothing in common with ‘kids in cages,’” he wrote, describing them merely as “warehouse-like facilities.”

The new president’s Middle Eastern policies have left many pro-peace figures disappointed. While pledging to end the war in Yemen as part of his election campaigning, Biden has merely promised to halt support for “offensive” Saudi actions and pause “relevant” arms sales. Yet his administration simultaneously reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself and immediately began condemning supposed Houthi attacks on its neighbor to the north, suggesting that the change is one of semantics rather than policy. Earlier this week, State Department official Timothy Lenderking also, according to an official communication, bizarrely “expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s generous support over the decades for the people of Yemen.” Biden has also approved the controversial Trump-era decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

While few expected him to be an anti-war president, the expectation on Iran was that Biden would return to the nuclear deal signed by President Barack Obama, a deal that kept a lid on U.S. aggression against the country. However, the 78-year-old Delawarean is dragging his feet on that, too. This latest strike is hardly likely to improve matters.

Feature photo | Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 17, 2021. Alex Brandon | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Another Step Back for Biden: Attack on Syria Draws Establishment Cheers appeared first on MintPress News.

Joe Biden Tells the World “America Is Back” — Not That It Ever Really Went Anywhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 4:04am in

WASHINGTON — “America is back,” President Joe Biden bellicosely proclaimed in his major foreign policy priorities speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 19. Repeating it for effect, Biden signaled the end of the Trump interregnum.

No more assuring words could have been uttered for George W. Bush’s former Defense Secretary Colin Powell and the 70-odd Republican national security officials who had written an open letter endorsing Biden out of fear that Donald Trump would upset the bipartisan foreign policy consensus of regime change, forever wars, and the NATO alliance. Republican neocons now shelter in the Democrats’ big tent, today’s party of war.

The major difference from his predecessor is that the new U.S. president promises a greater reliance on multilateral diplomacy and international cooperative agreements to achieve U.S. imperial goals. Biden pledged to remain in the World Health Organization and to return to the Paris Climate Agreement, although compliance with the latter is voluntary and Biden defends fracking. Where Trump withdrew the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council three years ago, the U.S. will now re-engage as an observer. And Trump’s “Muslim ban” was reversed on Biden’s first day in office.

Regardless of the changing of the guard in Washington, the imperial goal of “full spectrum dominance” endures from one administration to the next. The global network of up to a thousand foreign military bases will not be shuttered.

The fact that the U.S. can with impunity punish a third of humanity (39 nations) with illegal sanctions – what the UN calls unilateral coercive measures  – is a measure of its hegemonic standing. These sanctions are a form of “hybrid warfare,” which can be just as deadly as outright war. Although Biden is reviewing the sanctions policy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is expected to “keep using [the] U.S. sanctions weapon but with sharper aim,” as reported by Reuters.

The new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, asserted that his policies would follow his predecessor’s, but will “more effectively target” official enemies such as Venezuela, and will double down on Russia. Following Trump, Biden is appealing to the UK High Court to extradite Julian Assange.

 

“We’re at an inflection point”

Biden warned, in his foreign policy priorities speech, about “competition among countries that threaten to divide the world,” caused by “shifting global dynamics.” The threat to “divide the world” that concerns the U.S. president is precisely any deviation from U.S. domination. Biden was referring to the emergence of potential rival powers. His warning affirms and extends Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy doctrine of “great-power competition” and swings away from Barack Obama’s earlier and subsequently abandoned conception of “international interdependence.”

Biden’s “shifting global dynamics” are what Obama’s Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel referred to as “challenging the world order that American leadership helped build after World War II.” In other words, the world’s sole superpower is averse to an emerging multipolar world.

Biden’s speech concluded, “We’re at an inflection point” caused by “new crises.” While not identified by Biden, this is implicit recognition of the impending crisis of legitimacy of the neoliberal world order. The U.S. is the main beneficiary, proponent, and enforcer of a global political economy that increasingly is seen as failing to meet people’s needs. Class disparities are ever more evident in the U.S. and internationally during an economic recession. Here in the U.S., billionaires have added $4 trillion to their net worth since the onset of the pandemic.

 

Return to Atlanticism and NATO expansion

While still president, Trump spoke against the U.S. as the world’s gendarme: “The plan is to get out of endless wars to bring our soldiers back home, not be policing agents all over the world.” For a variety of reasons, Trump’s iconoclastic words never found their way into policy. And Biden’s speech writers certainly will never give him similar words to read.

Rather, Biden said in his foreign policy speech that the U.S. is “fully committed to our NATO Alliance” and “welcome[s] Europe’s growing investment in [its] military capabilities.” The U.S. mission in Iraq will be expanded and more U.S. troops will be sent to Germany.

Biden justifies the NATO military encirclement of Russia, with intimations that Ukraine and Georgia may eventually join, by “the threat from Russia.” However, Russian reactions to staging hostile war games and nuclear-capable facilities on its border are plausibly defensive. Meanwhile the U.S.-led military alliance has long since broken loose from its Atlantic-centric borders, with NATO Partners Across the Globe extending to Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

 

Africa and the Middle East

The new administration will expand U.S. military presence in Africa through its Africa Command (AFRICOM), which in 2019 deployed Special Forces in 22 countries and was in active combat in at least 13 of them. The largest ever U.S. military exercise in Africa, African Lions 21, is scheduled for June with “partner nations.”

Biden’s State Department approved a $200 million arms sale to Egypt, a country headed by the man Trump called his “favorite dictator.” The U.S. continues to be the world’s largest purveyor of military equipment, eclipsing the combined sales of the next four highest war profiteers.

Oil and gas are strategic resources, and their international flows are key factors for imperial control. Absent oil and gas sales, 60% of its GDP, Russia would be a minor economy.

Now that the U.S. is a net oil exporter, the oil-rich Gulf monarchies are both allies and potential competitors.

Trump extended the U.S.’s “special relationship” in the Middle East with Israel and Saudi Arabia; Biden continues this trajectory. Trump’s provocative move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will not be reversed by Biden, nor will Palestinian rights be recognized.

Ignoring nuclear-armed Israel, the Biden team continues the U.S.’s obsession with Iran’s nuclear program. Biden has committed to renegotiate “a better deal” regarding Iran after Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; the deal retains Trump’s demand to include Iran’s whole regional policy.

The new U.S. administration will be augmenting troops in Syria and expanding and building new military bases there. Damascus is in a weakened state, facing the pandemic, economic blockade, and continued military hostilities by the U.S. and its “partners.”

Biden announced that the U.S. will no longer support “offensive operations” in the Saudi-led war on Yemen that has precipitated a human rights catastrophe. It remains to be seen what continuing lethal “defensive” aid to the Saudis entails. The Saudis have the world’s fifth largest military, costing an astronomical 8% of their GDP. Some U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been temporarily suspended. In response, the CEO of military merchant Raytheon commented: “Peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon.” He should know, as Biden’s defense secretary formerly sat on his company’s board of directors.

 

“America’s backyard” – 21st century Monroe Doctrine

Treatment of Latin America and the Caribbean as the U.S.’s proprietary backyard, under the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, is being challenged by a rising “pink tide:” recent leftist electoral wins in Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia, and a possibility in Ecuador in April; popular uprisings in Argentina, Haiti, and elsewhere; and continued resistance by Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

Biden, the day he entered office, had the power of executive order to restore Obama’s openings to Cuba that had been reversed by Trump. Now, with over a month in office, Biden has not ended limits on remittances, restrictions on travel, or other illegal sanctions on Cuba. Biden continues the illegal policy of regime change for Cuba of the previous twelve U.S. presidents: covert and overt destabilization, blockade, and occupation of Guantánamo. It should be noted that Obama’s openings to Cuba were not a deviation from previous policy but an attempt to achieve regime change by different means.

Venezuela featured prominently in the presidential campaign speeches of Trump and Biden, with both promoting regime change. U.S.-anointed counterfeit president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has lost his credentials with the European Union. But the farce – initiated in 2019 by Trump – is nonetheless being continued by Biden, who backed down on his campaign pledge to possibly negotiate directly with the democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro.

Biden has already deported thousands of emigres back to Haiti and other countries. This represents “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies,”  according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

Pivot to Asia

U.S. foreign policy reflects the personal qualities of the person occupying the Oval Office, party affiliation, and the constellation of state and corporate powers behind the administration. But eclipsing these factors are larger geopolitical developments, especially now with the emergence of China as the world’s workshop.

China is an upcoming rival but falls short as a peer of the U.S. in terms of economic power. China’s remarkable economic growth has been predicated on its integration into, and indeed dependence on, the international capitalist market, which is dominated by the U.S. Although China is the world’s leading exporter, only a minuscule 4% of the international exchange of currencies is denominated in the Chinese yuan, compared to 88% in U.S. dollars. Tellingly, close to half the trade between China and Russia, two countries sanctioned by the U.S., is denominated in U.S. dollars.

Following Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2012, Biden’s policy portends a continuation of Trump’s hostility toward China, only with further intensification. The U.S. military buildup to confine China includes land, air, sea, and even space forces, with the South China Sea as a hotspot of contention.

Trump negotiated a peace agreement between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, now in its twentieth year of war. The Biden administration has indicated that it will not honor the agreement, which requires a U.S. troop drawdown instead of Biden’s announced buildup.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is entering its 71st year of official war with the U.S. with no end in sight. When Trump met with DRPK President Kim Jong-un in 2019, the Democrats screamed “treason.” To be sure, Biden will not make the patriotic mistake of trying to reduce tension between the two nuclear powers.

 

Nuclear policy – 100 seconds before midnight

The U.S. is ringing Russia and China with “missile defense systems,” which had been illegal until George W. Bush abrogated the U.S.-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002. A “missile defense system” is designed to shield against a retaliatory response after a first-strike nuclear attack. Congress recently authorized a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

China’s official policy is “not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.” Russian policy is to use nuclear weapons only “when the very existence of the state is threatened.” In contrast, the U.S. reserves the right to “first use” of nuclear weapons.

A trillion-dollar-plus nuclear weapons modernization, started by Obama and continued by Trump, lurches on under Biden, with the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal scheduled to be upgraded. The consequences are far greater risks of launching an accidental nuclear war and an accelerated arms race with Russia and China. Head of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, Admiral Charles A. Richard, warned just this month that in a conflict with Russia or China “nuclear employment is a very real possibility.”

Given such an international climate, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the 2021 doomsday clock to 100 seconds before midnight. Although the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons became international law on January 21, the U.S. has not ratified it. On the brighter side, Biden extended the New START nuclear arms treaty for four years.

 

Another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary

The story ends just 100 seconds before disaster, but that is only half the story. The other half is the resistance to U.S. imperialism. “American leadership” of the world, touted by both Republicans and Democrats, is not democratic. No one elected the U.S. to be the world’s nanny. International polls show the U.S. is rated among the most feared, hated, and dangerous countries in the world, and the greatest threat to world peace. The Vox Populi project reports majorities or pluralities of the U.S. people support reducing the military budget, achieving peace by avoiding foreign intervention, negotiating directly with adversaries to avoid military confrontation, decreasing U.S. troops overseas, and constraining the president’s ability to attack a foreign adversary.

Feature photo | Biden tours the African Americans in Service Corridor at the Pentagon, Feb. 10, 2021, Patrick Semansky | AP

Roger D. Harris is with the human rights organization Task Force on the Americas and on the executive committee of the U.S. Peace Council.

The post Joe Biden Tells the World “America Is Back” — Not That It Ever Really Went Anywhere appeared first on MintPress News.

Biden Puts Trump’s Foreign Policy in Reverse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/02/2021 - 5:25am in

In a speech at the State Department, President Biden argued that foreign policy is an integral part of domestic policy. It requires that the government address the needs of ordinary Americans. Continue reading

The post Biden Puts Trump’s Foreign Policy in Reverse appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

JFK and the Strategy of Peace 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 3:31am in

John F Kennedy (JFK) was inaugurated as president of the United States nearly sixty years ago today. In the less than three years before he was assassinated in November of 1963, he managed to initiate major changes in America’s foreign policy.

Those changes are documented in books such as “JFK and the Unspeakable” and “Betting on the Africans” and most recently, in an article by one of the foremost scholars on JFK, James Di Eugenio, who just published, “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’Etat over Foreign Policy?.”  Despite the literature, many in the West do not realize the extent to which JFK was an exception when it came to U.S. foreign policy.

 

A departure

While he was a staunch advocate for capitalism and the “free world” in competition with the Soviet Union and communism, he promoted acceptance of non-aligned countries and supported nationalist movements in Africa, the Middle East, and Third World generally. In the summer before he was killed, he reached out to the Soviet Union and proposed sweeping changes to promote peace and prevent war, a sweeping change from the previous Eisenhower administration which was hostile to post WW2 nationalist movements in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

In 1953, the CIA supervised the overthrow of Iran’s elected government. They supported the Saudi monarch and undermined popular Egyptian nationalist Gamel Abdul Nasser. In contrast, Kennedy was sympathetic to the “winds of change” in Africa and beyond. He criticized France’s repression of the Algerian independence movement and was sympathetic to Patrice Lumumba leading the Congo’s independence from Belgium. Kennedy worked with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to preserve Congo’s independence and try to restore Lumumba to power. Still, the CIA managed to have Lumumba executed three days before Kennedy’s inauguration.

Under Kennedy, the United States started voting against the European colonial powers in Africa and Kennedy even provided tangible aid to Nasser in Egypt. After his death, the U.S. policy returned to support for European powers and CIA intervention and supported NATO ally Portugal in its wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau. It supported secessionist and tribal forces in the Congo, Angola, Somalia, and many other countries with hugely damaging results and backed apartheid South Africa until the very end. The U.S. government even went so far as to support the sectarian Muslim Brotherhood against the secularist Nasser.

 

Israel’s bomb

This was also a critical time for Israel and Palestine. JFK was more objective and balanced than most U.S. politicians. Just 22 years old in 1939, Kennedy visited Palestine and wrote his observations in a four-page letter to his father. In it, he is thoughtful and recognizes the Palestinian perspective. He speaks of the “unfortunately arrogant, uncompromising attitude” of some Jewish leaders.

Download the PDF file .

In May 2019, more documents were released from the National Security Archives. They show that JFK, as president, was intent on stopping Israel from surreptitiously building a nuclear weapon. In a letter to the new Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol, Kennedy gives a diplomatic ultimatum that U.S. support of Israel will be “seriously jeopardized” if Israel did not comply with inspection visits to Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona.

After his death, the Johnson administration was submissive to Israel and pro-Israel supporters. It showed the ultimate political subservience by preventing the rescue and hiding the Israeli treachery regarding the USS Liberty. That Israeli attack killed 34 and injured 172 U.S. sailors. Would Israel have had the arrogance and chutzpah to do this if Kennedy had been in the White House? Unlikely.

 

A strategy of peace

The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs took place just three months after Kennedy took office. The CIA and the military’s top brass expected Kennedy to provide air support for the anti-Castro attackers. Kennedy said no and resolved to get rid of the long-standing CIA Director who had managed the operation. Allen Dulles and two Deputy Directors were forced to resign by the end of the year. The Pentagon, CIA, and anti-Castro Cubans were furious at JFK. When the Soviet Union sent nuclear-capable missiles to Cuba, the hawks demanded that the U.S. attack. Kennedy opposed the move and negotiated an agreement whereby the United States removed its nuclear missiles in Turkey as Soviet nuclear missiles were removed from Cuba.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country with vast natural resources and strategic location. President Sukarno led the country to independence and was a leader in the global Non-Aligned Movement seeking a middle ground between the poles of the United States and the Soviet Union. The Eisenhower-Dulles administration tried to overthrow Sukarno. In contrast, JFK changed the policy from hostility to friendship. Sukarno invited JFK to visit the country and the invitation was accepted. Following his assassination, U.S. policy returned to hostility, and just two years later, in 1965, a U.S.-engineered coup led to the murders of about half a million Indonesian citizens suspected of being communist.

In 1951, JFK visited Vietnam as French colonial powers were trying to assert control. He saw the situation as 400,000 French soldiers were losing to the Vietnamese nationalist movement. Thus, when he became president, he was skeptical of the prospects and authorized an increase in U.S. military advisers, but never sent combat troops. As the situation deteriorated, JFK finally decided that policy was wrong, and in October 1963, he issued National Security Action Memorandum 263 directing U.S. withdrawal to begin in December and to be completed by the end of 1965. After his death, President Johnson reversed course and began sending massive numbers of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam. Twelve years later, after 58,000 American and about two million Vietnamese deaths, the U.S. military departed without a victory.

 

From confrontation to mutual acceptance

The Soviet Union was the largest communist bloc and the primary challenger to the United States and to the capitalist system. The Cold War included mutual recriminations and a huge amount of military spending as both sides designed and produced ever more hydrogen bombs, air, and sea delivery systems. During the Cuba crisis, Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khruschev both realized how dangerous the situation was with a nuclear war well within the realm of possibility.

In June of 1963, JFK delivered the commencement address at American University. It was probably his most important speech yet is little known. In it, he called for a dramatic change in U.S. posture, from confrontation to mutual acceptance.

MintPress News · JFK Calls for re-examination of US attitudes toward peace, the Soviet Union and the Cold War

He called for a re-examination of American attitudes toward peace, the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and peace and freedom within the United States itself. He called for a special line of communication between Washington and Moscow to allow direct communications between their leaders. And then Kennedy declared that the United States would end nuclear testing as a first step toward general and complete disarmament.

In the last months before his death, JFK opened secret communications with Soviet Premier Khruschev and used a journalist to communicate directly with Fidel Castro. He proposed face-to-face talks aimed at reconciliation with Cuba.

His initiatives toward reconciliation and peace were opposed by the CIA and militarist elements in the government. As reported by the New York Times, Kennedy privately told one of his highest officials he “wanted to splinter the CIA in thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”. Before that could happen, JFK was assassinated, and his policy changes reversed.

From Moscow to Cairo to Jakarta, Kennedy’s death was met with shock and mourning. Leaders in those countries sensed what the assassination meant.

The day after JFK’s funeral, President Johnson supplanted Kennedy’s planned withdrawal from Vietnam with National Security Action Memorandum 273. This resulted in 12 years of aggression and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. Coups were carried out in the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. The U.S. resumed support for South African apartheid and Portuguese colonial wars. Assassination attempts on Fidel Castro escalated while military coups took place in numerous Latin American countries. In the Middle East, the U.S. solidified support for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Jim Douglas, the author of “JFK and the Unspeakable,” writes “President Kennedy’s courageous turn from global war to a strategy of peace provides the “why” of his assassination. “Because he turned toward peace with our enemies, the Communists, he found himself at odds with his own national security state.”

Feature photo | President Kennedy delivers the commencement address at American University, Monday, June 10, 1963. Photo | Public Domain

Rick Sterling is a journalist based in the San Fransico Bay area. He can be reached at rsterling1@protonmail.com

The post JFK and the Strategy of Peace  appeared first on MintPress News.

So long, we’ll miss you – we Europeans see how much you’ve helped to shape us | Fintan O’Toole

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 8:00pm in

History will judge that the near 50-year relationship between the UK and Europe has been good for both. Best to forget the rancorous ending

Now that a deal has been done, the end of Britain’s life as a member of the European Union can be decently mourned. As funeral orations go, the one William Shakespeare put into the mouth of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar is, well, world-beating: “The evil that men do lives after them,/ The good is oft interred with their bones.” Before we throw the last handful of earth on the corpse of Britain’s membership of the European Union, we might briefly disinter the good things about the relationship.

A bad ending gets projected backwards. A messy divorce obliterates the years of reasonably happy marriage. Brexit has projected into the future a sour story of resentment and rancour. Almost 50 years of history are squeezed into a deterministic story of irreconcilable incompatibility. The evil lives on; the good rots in the earth.

Continue reading...

It’s Almost Twenty Years Since 9/11

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/12/2020 - 3:45am in

Maybe this time we can finally ask whether trying to prop up a dying empire actually makes us — or indeed the world — any safer. Continue reading

The post It’s Almost Twenty Years Since 9/11 appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

2021’s Most Pressing Humanitarian Crises Are All Victims of US War, Regime Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 5:27am in

The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) yearly report on the world’s most pressing humanitarian situations has just been published, with the three most disastrous cases — Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria — all the product of decades of interventionist U.S. foreign policy.

For the third year in a row, Yemen has topped the IRC list, the report estimating that 80% of the country’s 29 million citizens are in need of humanitarian assistance. “The world is facing unprecedented humanitarian emergencies—as well as a political crisis of inaction by world leaders,” they warn.

20.5 million people inside Yemen lack access to clean water and sanitation. This is in no small part due to the five-year-long Saudi-led coalition onslaught against the country, which has seen over 200 targeted attacks against medical or sanitation infrastructure — equivalent to one air raid every ten days. As a result, half of all health facilities are not functioning properly, and over half of the country’s children are permanently physically stunted due to malnutrition. The Yemeni rial has lost a quarter of its value this year, with food and fuel prices increasing amid shortages. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis; one million pregnant women are also malnourished.

Despite the devastation, humanitarian support to the country has actually been decreasing, thanks to the work of the Trump administration. Throughout 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been successfully pressuring the United Nations and its donor nations to scale back aid to Yemen in an attempt to starve the Houthi Rebels into submission.

“A consequence of over five years of war and severe underfunding that has pushed the country to new lows in 2020,” the report notes, although it does not point any fingers at the United States. “Yemen faces a triple threat from conflict, hunger, and a collapsing international response,” said Abeer Fowzi, the IRC’s deputy nutrition coordinator.

At the end of 2020, malnutrition for children under 5 was the highest ever recorded, yet, in the face of an unprecedented threat, the world has turned its back on Yemen. Never before have Yemenis faced so little support from the international community – or so many simultaneous challenges.”

The other countries on the IRC’s top ten most concerning humanitarian situations included:

2. Afghanistan

3. Syria

4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

5. Ethiopia

6. Burkina Faso

7. South Sudan

8. Nigeria

9. Venezuela

10. Mozambique

 

The common denominator

What is striking about the three most pressing cases is the role of the United States in worsening the problem. The U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan 19 years ago and continues to refuse to leave, flooding the country with arms and propping up its chosen political factions. Syria, meanwhile, is the site of a bitter international conflict confusingly labeled a civil war, where the great powers, including the U.S., vie for control of the Middle Eastern nation, fuelling continual violence that has led to a crisis of 5.6 million refugees and a further 6.7 million internally displaced people, according to the IRC report. While once a reasonably prosperous nation, today 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Venezuela has faced years of crippling American sanctions that one United Nations rapporteur compared to a medieval siege, estimating they had cost the lives of over 100,000 Venezuelans.

However, the obvious role that the U.S. government has played in destabilizing or destroying so many nations on the list is not remarked upon. Indeed, the words “United States” are not mentioned anywhere in the 59-page report. One potential reason could be that the IRC, headquartered in New York City, is substantially funded by the U.S. government through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the U.S. has contributed over $2.5 billion in aid to Yemen, that number pales in comparison with weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the chief driver of the violence in the country. American made bombs continue to be dropped by American made jets, maintained by American operatives, and flown by American trained pilots. And even as he leaves office, President Trump is making a point of showering the Saudis with gifts.

While the damage 2020 has done to the world cannot be undone, the IRC warned that 2021 could be just as important from a humanitarian point of view. “2020 will go down as one of the most turbulent years in history, but the next year will be remembered for how we either helped or turned away from those suffering the most,” they stated.

Feature photo | A Syrian boy selling snacks looks at a U.S. soldier standing guard in the so-called “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, near Tal Abyad, Syria, Sept. 8, 2019. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post 2021’s Most Pressing Humanitarian Crises Are All Victims of US War, Regime Change appeared first on MintPress News.

Collapse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 5:01pm in

Like bankruptcy, societies and complex systems collapse slowly and then all at once.

The cycles that civilisations go through are well documented. And whilst in hindsight it's glaringly obvious to understand what drove the breakdown, in real time we're often too close and too invested to recognise our own demise.

Writer, Indi Samarajiva, and Journalist, Matthew Ehret, met up with Renegade Inc. host, Ross Ashcroft to discuss.

The post Collapse appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Collapse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 5:01pm in

Like bankruptcy, societies and complex systems collapse slowly and then all at once.

The cycles that civilisations go through are well documented. And whilst in hindsight it's glaringly obvious to understand what drove the breakdown, in real time we're often too close and too invested to recognise our own demise.

Writer, Indi Samarajiva, and Journalist, Matthew Ehret, met up with Renegade Inc. host, Ross Ashcroft to discuss.

The post Collapse appeared first on Renegade Inc.

How Joe Biden Plans to Make The American Empire Great Again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 8:47am in

Throughout his campaign, Joe Biden railed against Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy, claiming it weakened the United States and left the world in disarray.

He pledged to reverse this decline and recover the damage Trump did to America’s reputation. While Donald Trump called to make America Great Again, Biden seeks to Make the American Empire Great Again.

Among the president-elect’s pledges is to end the so-called forever wars – the decades-long imperial projects in Afghanistan and Iraq that began under the Bush administration.

Yet Biden – a fervent supporter of those wars – will task ending them to the most neoconservative elements of the Democratic party and ideologues of permanent war.

Michele Flournoy and Tony Blinken sit atop Biden’s thousands-strong foreign policy brain trust and have played central roles in every U.S. war going back to the Clinton administration.

In the Trump era, they’ve cashed in, founding Westexec Advisors – a corporate consulting firm that has become home for Obama administration officials awaiting a return to government.

Flournoy is Biden’s leading pick for secretary of defense and Blinken is expected to be national security advisor.

 

Biden’s foxes guard the henhouse

Since the 1990s, Flournoy and Blinken have steadily risen through the ranks of the military-industrial complex, shuffling back and forth between the Pentagon and hawkish think-tanks funded by the U.S. government, weapons companies, and oil giants.

Under Bill Clinton, Flournoy was the principal author of the 1996 Quadrinellial Defense Review, the document that outlined the U.S. military’s doctrine of permanent war – what it called “full spectrum dominance.”

Flournoy called for “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.”

As Bush administration officials lied to the world about Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD’s, Flournoy remarked that “In some cases, preemptive strikes against an adversary’s [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities may be the best or only option we have to avert a catastrophic attack against the United States.”

Tony Blinken was a top advisor to then-Senate foreign relations committee chair Joe Biden, who played a key role in shoring up support among the Democrat-controlled Senate for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

As Iraq was plunged into chaos and bloodshed, Flournoy was among the authors of a paper titled “Progressive Internationalism” that called for a “smarter and better” style of permanent war. The paper chastised the anti-war left and stated that  “Democrats will maintain the world’s most capable and technologically advanced military, and we will not flinch from using it to defend our interests anywhere in the world.”

With Bush winning a second term, Flournoy advocated for more troop deployments from the sidelines.

In 2005, Flournoy signed onto a letter from the neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century, asking Congress to “increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps (by) at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.”

In 2007, she leveraged her Pentagon experience and contacts to found what would become one of the premier Washington think tanks advocating endless war across the globe: the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

CNAS is funded by the U.S. government, arms manufacturers, oil giants, Silicon Valley tech giants, billionaire-funded foundations, and big banks.

Flournoy joined the Obama administration and was appointed as under secretary of defense for policy, the position considered the “brains” of the Pentagon.

She was keenly aware that the public was wary of more quagmires. In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, she crafted a new concept of warfare that would expand the permanent war state while giving the appearance of a drawdown.

Flournoy wrote that “unmanned systems hold great promise” – a reference to the CIA’s drone assassination program.

This was the Obama-era military doctrine of hybrid war. It called for the U.S. to be able to simultaneously wage war on numerous fronts through secret warfare, clandestine weapons transfers to proxies, drone strikes, and cyber-attacks – all buttressed with propaganda campaigns targeting the American public through the internet and corporate news media.

 

Architects of America’s Hybrid wars

Flournoy continued to champion the endless wars that began in the Bush-era and was a key architect of Obama’s disastrous troop surge in Afghanistan. As U.S. soldiers returned in body bags and insurgent attacks and suicide bombings increased some 65% from 2009 and 2010, she deceived the Senate Armed Services Committee, claiming that the U.S. was beginning to turn the tide against the Taliban.

Even with her lie that the U.S. and Afghan government were starting to beat the Taliban back, Flournoy assured the senate that the U.S. would have to remain in Afghanistan long into the future.

Ten years later – as the Afghan death toll passed 150,000 – Flournoy continued to argue against a U.S. withdrawal.

That’s the person Joe Biden has tasked with ending the forever war in Afghanistan. But in Biden’s own words, he’ll “bring the vast majority of our troops home from Afghanistan” implying some number of American troops will remain, and the forever war will be just that. Michele Flournoy explained that even if a political settlement were reached, the U.S. would maintain a presence.

In 2011, the Obama-era doctrine of smart and sophisticated warfare was unveiled in the NATO regime-change war on Libya.

Moammar Gaddafi – the former adversary who sought warm relations with the U.S. and had given up his nuclear weapons program  – was deposed and sodomized with a bayonet.

Flournoy, Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and corporate media were in lockstep as they waged an extensive propaganda campaign to deceive the U.S. public that Gadaffi’s soldiers were on a Viagra-fueled rape and murder spree that demanded a U.S. intervention.

All of this was based on a report from Al Jazeera – the media outlet owned by the Qatari monarchy that was arming extremist militias to overthrow the government.

Yet an investigation by the United Nations called the rape claims “hysteria.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found no credible evidence of even a single rape.

Even after Libya was descended into strife and the deception of Gadaffi’s forces committing rape was debunked, Michele Flournoy stood by her support for the war.

Tony Blinken, then Obama’s deputy national security advisor, also pushed for regime change in Libya. He became Obama’s point man on Syria, pushed to arm the so-called “moderate rebels” that fought alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS, and designed the red line strategy to trigger a full-on U.S. intervention. Syria, he told the public, wasn’t anything like the other wars the U.S. had waging for more than a decade.

Despite Blinken’s promises that it would be a short affair, the war on Syria is now in its ninth year. An estimated half a million people have been killed as a result and the country is facing famine,

Largely thanks to the policy of using “wheat to apply pressure” – a recommendation of Flournoy and Blinken’s CNAS think tank.

 
When the Trump administration launched airstrikes on Syria based on mere accusations of a chemical attack, Tony Blinken praised the bombing, claiming Assad had used the weapon of mass destruction sarin. Yet there was no evidence for this claim, something even then-secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted.

While jihadist mercenaries armed with U..S-supplied weapons took over large swaths of Syria, Tony Blinken played a central role in a coup d’etat in Ukraine that saw a pro-Russia government overthrown in a U.S.-orchestrated color revolution with neo-fascist elements agitating on the ground.

At the time, he was ambivalent about sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, instead opting for economic pressure.

Since then, fascist militias have been incorporated into Ukraine’s armed forces. And Tony Blinken urged Trump to send them deadly weapons – something Obama had declined to do.

Trump obliged.

 

The Third Offset

While the U.S. fuelled wars in Syria and Ukraine, the Pentagon announced a major shift called the Third Offset strategy – a reference to the cold war era strategies the U.S. used to maintain its military supremacy over the Soviet Union.

The Third Offset strategy shifted the focus from counterinsurgency and the war on terror to great power competition against China and Russia, seeking to ensure that the U.S. could win a war against China in Asia. It called for a technological revolution in warfighting capabilities, development of futuristic and autonomous weapons, swarms of undersea and airborne drones, hypersonic weapons, cyber warfare, machine-enhanced soldiers, and artificial intelligence making unimaginably complex battlefield decisions at speeds incomprehensible to the human mind. All of this would be predicated on the Pentagon deepening its relationship with Silicon Valley giants that it birthed decades before: Google and Facebook.

The author of the Third Offset, former undersecretary of defense Robert Work, is a partner of Flournoy and Blinken’s at WestExec Advisors. And Flournoy has been a leading proponent of this dangerous new escalation.

In June, Flournoy published a lengthy commentary laying out her strategy called “Sharpening the U.S. Military’s Edge: Critical Steps for the Next Administration”.

She warned that the United States is losing its military technological advantage and reversing that must be the Pentagon’s priority. Without it, Flournoy warned that the U.S. might not be able to defeat China in Asia.

While Flournoy has called for ramping up U.S. military presence and exercises with allied forces in the region, she went so far as to call for the U.S. to increase its destructive capabilities so much that it could launch a blitzkrieg style-attack that would wipe out the entire Chinese navy and all civilian merchant ships in the South China Sea. Not only a blatant war crime but a direct attack on a nuclear power that would spell the third world war.

At the same time, Biden has announced he’ll take an even more aggressive and confrontational stance against Russia, a position Flournoy shares.

As for ending the forever wars, Tony Blinken says not so fast.

 

The end of forever wars?

So Biden will end the forever wars, but not really end them. Secret wars that the public doesn’t even know the U.S. is involved in – those are here to stay.

In fact, leaving teams of special forces in place throughout the Middle East is part and parcel of the Pentagon’s shift away from counterinsurgency and towards great power competition.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy explains that “Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities” and the U.S. will “consolidate gains in Iraq and Afghanistan while moving to a more resource-sustainable approach.”

As for the catastrophic war on Yemen, Biden has said he’ll end U.S. support, but in 2019, Michele Flournoy argued against ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Biden pledged he will rejoin the Iran deal as a starting point for new negotiations. However, Trump’s withdrawal from the deal discredited the Iranian reformists who seek engagement with the west and empowered the principlists who see the JCPOA as a deal with the devil.

In Latin America, Biden will revive the so-called anti-corruption campaigns that were used as a cover to oust the popular social democrat Brazilian president Lula da Silva.

His Venezuela policy will be almost identical to Trump’s – sanctions and regime change.

In Central America, Biden has proposed a 4 billion dollar package to support corrupt right-wing governments and neoliberal privatization projects that create even more destabilization and send vulnerable masses fleeing north to the United States.

Behind their rhetoric, Biden, Flournoy, and Blinken will seek nothing less than global supremacy, escalating a new and even more dangerous arms race that risks the destruction of humanity. That’s what Joe Biden calls “decency” and “normalcy.”

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News

Dan Cohen is a journalist and filmmaker. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. Dan is a correspondent at RT America and tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post How Joe Biden Plans to Make The American Empire Great Again appeared first on MintPress News.

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