Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Darkest Hour: Hagiography and Historical Revisionism for a Racist, Retrobate Churchill

What Darkest Hour doesn’t tell you about Winston Churchill

by Callum Alexander Scott - Morningstar


January 12, 2018

The man voted ‘greatest ever Briton’ was a vile racist, imperialist and eugenics enthusiast, writes CALLUM ALEXANDER SCOTT


TODAY the latest Winston Churchill film, Darkest Hour, opens in British cinemas. It is already being tipped for the Oscars, with Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill at the helm of speculation.

I can attest, having already seen the film, that Oldman’s performance is indeed brilliant, but let us be clear; while it is a great piece of cinema that, artistically speaking, deserves, and will almost certainly receive, numerous awards, it is also a film that glorifies a certifiably vile man.

When watching we should bear in mind that Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, the man voted “greatest Briton” by the British public in 2002, was not just a “terribly inconsiderate man,” as one of his secretaries once described him.

In fact, she said she’d “never known anyone who was so inconsiderate.” He was also a staunch imperialist, a racist supremacist and a eugenicist who advocated the forced sterilisation of the mentally ill, prevention of their marriage and their internment in compulsory labour camps.

In December 1910, aged 36, Churchill wrote to prime minister Herbert Asquith warning of the “unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes” (general terms then used to describe the mentally ill and impaired).

Their rapid growth, he argued, coupled with the “steady restriction [of the] thrifty, energetic and superior stocks” (folks like himself, of course), constituted “a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate.”

He argued that they should be “sterilised” or “segregated under proper conditions so that their curse died with them and was not transmitted to future generations.”

He told Parliament of the need for compulsory labour camps for “mental defectives” and that for “tramps and wastrels […] there ought to be proper labour colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realise their duty to the state.”

As he put it,

“100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilised and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race.”

Only a decade earlier, at the age of 26, Churchill had declared his life’s commitment to the “improvement of the British breed.”

As historian John Charmley, author of Churchill: The End of Glory: A Political Biography (1993), wrote, “Churchill saw himself and Britain as being the winners in a social Darwinian hierarchy.”

Indeed, the reality omitted from most depictions of our “greatest Briton,” including from Darkest Hour, is that he was both a right-wing nationalist and a white supremacist. It should be no surprise that the far right has always idolised him, from the BNP, EDL and Britain First to neoconservatives in the US).

When speaking in 1902 of the “great barbaric nations who may at any time arm themselves and menace civilised nations,” he asserted that the “Aryan stock is bound to triumph.”

In 1937, aged 62, he justified mass genocide of indigenous peoples on the grounds of white supremacy, announcing to the Palestinian Royal Commission:

“I do not admit [...] that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia.

“I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

Of Palestinians themselves he said that they are just “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung.”

But what of the argument that he was a product of his time — didn’t everyone think like that back then?

As historian Richard Toye has shown in his book, Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010), they didn’t.

Many of Churchill’s colleagues saw him at the more extreme end of racist and imperialist ideology, referring to him as a “Victorian” because of his outdated views.

Prime minister Stanley Baldwin was warned by Cabinet colleagues not to appoint him and his doctor Lord Moran said of his approach to Chinese and Indians: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”

It should be no surprise then that he was vehemently opposed to Indian independence, declaring that Gandhi,

“ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back. Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be [...] crushed.”

He would later remark: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

It also warrants noting here his advocacy for the use of chemical weapons to repress other peoples under Britain’s imperial rule.

When Iraqis and Kurds revolted against British rule in northern Iraq in 1920, Churchill, then secretary of state at the War Office, said:

“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes. It would spread a lively terror.”

Of course, you will detect none of this side of Churchill from watching the Darkest Hour because, as usual, he is portrayed as a flawed but lovable rogue who endeavoured virtuously to save democracy and the free world from the jaws of fascism.

The problem with this cliched narrative, however, is that, contrary to virtually every mainstream account, Churchill was in fact explicitly and openly supportive of fascism prior to the second world war, notably in Italy.

He wrote lovingly to Mussolini:

“What a man! I have lost my heart! […] Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world […] If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely.”

As late as 1935 he wrote affectionately of Hitler,

“If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”

Like the US government and much of the British Establishment at the time, including the royal family and the intelligence services, Churchill enthusiastically favoured fascism as a bulwark against Bolshevism and only became overtly anti-fascist when German expansionary ambitions directly threatened the empire.

None of this is an exaggeration. You can, as is nowadays fashionable to say, “fact-check” it all. And this is to illustrate but a fraction of Churchill’s odiousness.

The truth is that, behind the cult-like worship and glorification of him that plagues the Anglosphere, manifested in films like Darkest Hour, Churchill was in reality a horrid man who, if around today, would most certainly be ridiculed and reviled by decent-minded folk for the hideously archaic views he possessed.

Follow Callum Alexander Scott on Twitter @CallumAScott.

Trump Paints a Target on Palestinian Refugees

Why is Trump Targeting Palestinian Refugees? 

by TRNN


January 16, 2018


Last week, the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, threatened to cut US aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides vital services to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed US threats to the funding of UNRWA, the UN agency that delivers vital services to millions of Palestinian refugees. We speak to Yara Hawari of Al Shabaka - the Palestinian Policy Network.



Yara Hawari is the Palestinian Policy Fellow for Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. 

Slow Train Wreck Coming: Trying to Understand NDP Logic on Site C

Site C a train wreck in slow motion

by Ken Boon - Alaska Highway News


January 10, 2018 

It has been a month now since the BC government announced that Site C would continue.

The accounting rationale used by Premier Horgan makes absolutely no sense in light of the findings from the recent BCUC review, and the much greater financial woes of continuing the project.

The Site C dam went through the environmental assessment process as a $7.9-billion proposed project, and was bumped up to $8.8 billion when the Christy Clark Liberal government decided to approve it just three years ago. Energy Minister Bill Bennett assured us that price was rock solid, but he was wrong. It took the BCUC review to drag the truth out of a reluctant BC Hydro that the project was indeed over budget and behind schedule already, and Premier Horgan decided to keep this going as a now $10.7-billion project on December 11.

Why does anyone accept this as a good idea, or why is this even acceptable? Even if one ignores the enormous negative impacts and lost opportunity of flooding a diverse river valley for one sole purpose, as Premier Horgan apparently has done, the economics absolutely make no sense.

At just over two years into construction, this project has chewed up $2 billion while the price tag has gone up, you guessed it, $2 billion. This is like slowly walking up the down escalator while throwing money in the air. At this rate, Site C can’t even get to the “point of no return.”

In the unlikely scenario that there are no further cost overruns, it will now cost us as much to finish Site C as we were told the entire project would cost just two years ago. So, all the money spent so far has literally been thrown away by running over budget. With that in mind, and combined with the final report from the BCUC, the only logical decision was to terminate Site C. However, a very unhappy looking Premier Horgan and two ministers made the opposite announcement.

It’s noteworthy that just two days later, Alberta announced a new Canadian record low purchase price of just 3.7 cents per KW for 600 MW of wind energy. By comparison, that’s about 2.5 times cheaper than the break-even price for Site C power.

Alberta had only planned on purchasing 400 MW, but they decided to lock in for 50% more power at those low prices. By the way, it will only cost $1 billion to build that 600 MW of wind energy, while Site C at $10.7 billion is 1100 MW. These are the sort of numbers energy economist Robert McCullough spoke about in the BCUC review, and that BC Hydro tried to discredit.

So, while there were smiles all around at that Alberta press conference, I can understand why Horgan and his ministers looked so sad; I just cannot understand the decision.

For many of us who took part in the BCUC review process, that decision is shocking and unacceptable. Premier Horgan has been invited to appear at the Site C Summit in Victoria on January 26 to explain.

Allowed to continue, the remaining years of construction will be a train wreck in slow motion with ongoing geotechnical problems, expropriations, trampling of Treaty rights, and destruction of the river valley in full view.

Will Site C now be completed? I would say the jury is still out on that. Thank God this valley does seem to have nine lives, and we pray that the valley and those who care for it will persevere in the end.

— Ken Boon, Bear Flat

From Aleph to Tav: A Study of Israeli Violence

In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence

by Ramzy Baroud


January 16, 2018

Not a day passes without a prominent Israeli politician or intellectual making an outrageous statement against Palestinians. Many of these statements tend to garner little attention or evoke rightly deserved outrage. Just recently, Israel's Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, called for more death and injuries on Palestinians in Gaza.

“What is this special weapon we have that we fire and see pillars of smoke and fire, but nobody gets hurt? It is time for there to be injuries and deaths as well,” he said.

Ariel's calling for the killing of more Palestinians came on the heels of other repugnant statements concerning a 16-year-old teenager girl, Ahed Tamimi. Ahed was arrested in a violent Israeli army raid at her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

A video recording showed her slapping an Israeli soldier a day after the Israeli army shot her cousin in the head, placing him in a coma.

Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, known for his extremist political views, demanded that Ahed and other Palestinian girls should “spend the rest of their days in prison”.

A prominent Israeli journalist, Ben Caspit, sought yet more punishment. He suggested that Ahed and girls like her should be raped in jail.

“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”, he wrote in Hebrew.

This violent and revolting mindset, however, is not new. It is an extension of an old, entrenched belief system that is predicated on a long history of violence.

Undeniably, the views of Ariel, Bennett and Caspit are not angry statements uttered in a moment of rage. They are all reflections of real policies that have been carried out for over 70 years. Indeed, killing, raping and imprisoning for life are features that have accompanied the state of Israel since the very beginning.

This violent legacy continues to define Israel to this day, through the use of what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes as ‘incremental genocide.’

Throughout this long legacy, little has changed except for names and titles. The Zionist militias that orchestrated the genocide of the Palestinians prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948 merged together to form the Israeli army; and the leaders of these groups became Israel’s leaders.

Israel’s violent birth in 1947- 48 was the culmination of the violent discourse that preceded it for many years. It was the time when Zionist teachings of prior years were put into practice and the outcome was simply horrifying.

“The tactic of isolating and attacking a certain village or town and executing its population in a horrible, indiscriminate massacre was a strategy employed, time and again, by Zionist bands to compel the population of surrounding villages and towns to flee,” Ahmad Al-Haaj told me when I asked him to reflect on Israel’s past and present.

Al-Haaj is a Palestinian historian and an expert on the Nakba, the ‘Catastrophe’ that had befallen Palestinians in 1948.

The 85-year-old intellectual’s proficiency in the subject began 70 years ago, when, as a 15-year-old, he witnessed the massacre of Beit Daras at the hands of Jewish Haganah militia.

The destruction of the southern Palestinian village and the killing of dozens of its inhabitants resulted in the depopulation of many adjacent villages, including al-Sawafir, Al-Haaj’s home village.

“The notorious Deir Yasin massacre was the first example of such wanton killing, a model that was duplicated in other parts of Palestine,” Al-Haaj said.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine at the time was orchestrated by several Zionist militias. The mainstream Jewish militia was the Haganah which belonged to the Jewish Agency.

The latter functioned as a semi-government, under the auspices of the British Mandate Government, while the Haganah served as its army.

However, other breakaway groups also operated according to their own agenda. Two leading bands amongst them were the Irgun (National Military Organization) and Lehi (also known as the Stern Gang). These groups carried out numerous terrorist attacks, including bus bombings and targeted assassinations.

Russian-born Menachem Begin was the leader of the Irgun which, along with the Stern Gang and other Jewish militants, massacred hundreds of civilians in Deir Yassin.

“Tell the soldiers: you have made history in Israel with your attack and your conquest. Continue this until victory. As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest,” Begin wrote at the time, describing the massacre as a “splendid act of conquest.”

The intrinsic link between words and actions remain unchanged.

Nearly 30 years later, a once wanted terrorist, Begin became Prime Minister of Israel. He accelerated land theft of the newly-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, launched a war on Lebanon, annexed Occupied Jerusalem to Israel and carried out the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982.

Some of the other terrorists-turned-politicians and top army brass include Begin, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan and Yitzhak Shamir. Each one of these leaders has a record dotted with violence.

Shamir served as the Prime Minister of Israel from 1986 - 1992. In 1941, Shamir was imprisoned by the British for his role in the Stern Gang. Later, as Prime Minister, he ordered a violent crackdown against a mostly non-violent Palestinian uprising in 1987, purposely breaking the limbs of kids accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.

So, when government ministers like Ariel and Bennett call for wanton violence against Palestinians, they are simply carrying on with a bloody legacy that has defined every single Israeli leader in the past. It is the violent mindset that continues to control the Israeli government and its relationship with Palestinians; in fact, with all of its neighbors.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Turkey Announces Move Against US "Terror Army" in Syria

Turkey Notifies NATO Of Imminent Massive Invasion Of Syria To Fight Kurds

by "Tyler Durden" - ZeroHedge


January 16, 2018

Turkey is poised for an imminent massive ground invasion of Northern Syria to quash Kurdish militia groups currently holding Afrin near the Turkish border. Multiple regional outlets have reported a build-up of forces that could constitute the largest external intervening force thus far in the entirety of the Syrian war.

According to Middle East based Al-Sura News, Turkey's military build-up currently underway includes special forces troops, Army units, Turkish-backed Syrian Rebels and Turkey's air force. The Kurdish YPG/J (People's Protection Units) has held Afrin since the Syrian government withdrew from the area in 2012, which constitutes the western-most part of the self-declared Rojava autonomous Kurdish zone.

Turkey considers it a "terrorist" enclave as it sees Syrian Kurdish factions as an extension of the PKK, while the US has claimed not to be active in supporting Kurdish operations in Afrin, which lies a mere 40 kilometers from Aleppo where the Syrian Army continues to advance through the Aleppo countryside and into Idlib province.

Over the weekend President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed recent US efforts to ramp up support for the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), saying during a speech in Ankara,

“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders." 

He framed US support to Syrian Kurds as undermining Turkey's security, adding,

“What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born."

Meanwhile a top Turkish general told a meeting of NATO military commanders,

"We cannot and will not allow support and arming of the YPG terror group under the name of an operational partner. We hope this mistake will be corrected in the shortest time."

Regional outlets Al Jazeera and Al Masdar News have confirmed that the large Turkish convoy has entered northwest Syria and that sporadic fighting against Kurdish forces is already underway. Notably the air force is said to be mobilized - a significant factor as Turkish ground forces, including its proxy rebel forces making up its "Euphrates Shield Operation", have had little success in the past dislodging Kurdish fighters without air support.

Should aerial power be utilized by Turkey it would mark a dramatic escalation, especially given that both Russia and the US operate over Northern Syria, with Russia controlling the airspace over Afrin Canton (as well as over Idlib, which have generally frustrated Turkish plans for greater involvement).

Whether the operation against Syrian Kurds moves forward or not into a full scale Turkish assault depends in large part on Russia, which has administered 'deconfliction' zones in the Afrin area, and has sponsored trilateral talks with Turkey and Iran which seeks cooperation among the three powers to wind down the war in Syria.

In response to news of the impending Turkish invasion, US Coalition spokesman Col. said Tuesday of the Syrian Kurds in Afrin, "We don't support them, we have nothing to do with them." Dillon explained further when pressed by Turkish state media journalists,

"We are not operating in Afrin. We are supporting our partners in defeating remaining ISIS [Daesh] pockets along the Middle Euphrates River Valley, specifically in areas north of Abu Kamal, on the eastern side of the Euphrates River."

Turkey's current build-up and offensive comes after Dillon's controversial comments on Sunday in which he announced that the US coalition will establish a 30,000-strong new border security force with the SDF in Syria. In claiming to have "nothing to do with" Syrian Kurds operating in Afrin the Pentagon is seeking to distance itself from entering into direct conflict with Turkey in northwest Syria.

Though Turkey has threatened many times before that it will dislodge Afrin from control of the Syrian Kurds, Erdogan might not be bluffing this time. Late on Tuesday he's reported to have phoned NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in order to inform NATO that the Afrin operation is being launched.

Coming Out of the Putin Closet: A Liberal's Confession

A Liberal Confession

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque


January 16, 2018

I'm ashamed, but I'll go ahead and admit it: For years, I thought Rupert Murdoch was the single worst poisoner of our political system. I thought the Civil Rights movement was a remarkable manifestation of the human spirit.

But now, thanks to our sensible Democratic centrists, I know how wrong I was.

Over the course of the past year, I've finally seen the light. Now I know that Vladimir Putin is behind every malign element in today's political scene.

What's more, I've finally realized that Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and all those other malcontents who moaned about social and economic and racial "injustice" in America were just dupes – or agents! – of the Russians, sowing dissent and disruption in our exceptional land.

With the Russians stirring up all that bother in the Fifties and Sixties, we forgot that we are great because we are good. Any "protest" about US society could only be caused by dezinformatsiya spread by wicked foreigners and their unwitting (or oh-so-witting!) tools. But now, praise God, I'm a good centrist again! If anyone challenges incremental, corporate-funded, hyper-militaristic neoliberalism in any way, I know what to do: Denounce them! And denounce their master, Putin.

I don't have to worry anymore about Murdoch or Mercers or Kochs, about religious cranks or Randian kooks. I don't have to worry anymore about centuries of endemic, deliberately fomented white supremacy used to divide working people from each other so the wealthy few can gorge their fill! I don't have to do the most painful thing of all: look at our actual history and see how Democratic support – and advancement – of a rapacious economic system and all-devouring war machine has been absolutely crucial to the decay and disintegration of US society, and the destabilization and impoverishment of the world at large.

No, I'm here to tell you that I have laid that burden down. Now I know that all our troubles, yesterday, today and tomorrow, are due to the eternal machinations of the Russians. (Why, I bet it was the Czar who baited Abe Lincoln and good ole Jeff Davis into the Civil War!) It was Putin who made Bush invade Iraq, establish death squads and institute systematic torture. It was Putin who tricked Bill Clinton into deregulating Wall Street, expanding the death penalty, gutting welfare and killing half a million Iraqi children with sanctions. It was Putin who cannily lured Obama into arming and supporting Saudi Arabia as it killed thousands of innocent people and caused starvation and deadly epidemics in Yemen.

And today it's Putin who is behind BLM & NODAPL, behind antifa, the push for single payer and the Take a Knee campaign. It's Putin who's behind each and every election challenge to corporate-approved Democrats.

Now that I know this, a great weight has been lifted from me. The scales have fallen from my eyes. Now I can say with every decent liberal: Yes indeed, we are great because we are good! Yes, our goodness can never fail; it can only be foiled by our enemies!

So no more guilt, no more doubts, no more badmouthing our blessed land! I have thrown off the Russian yoke and can finally sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Take that, Vladimir!

Why America Fears Haiti: Sunsetting a "Sh*thole Country"

What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?

by Mark Schuller - CounterPunch


January 16, 2018

On Thursday, the day before the eighth anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti that killed at least 230,000 people, President Trump called Haiti – as well as a single, undifferentiated “Africa” – “shithole countries.”

Of course, the president’s first impulse was to deny the statement, just as he had denied the statement made public through an anonymous source to the New York Times that “all Haitians have AIDS.”

Triggering the conversation is his administration’s denial of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 58,000 people from Haiti currently living in the U.S., some for as much as thirty years.

His comments speak to the callous attitude of an individual that feels no accountability, who thinks he can rewrite history as is convenient.

Photo: MichelleWalz | CC BY 2.0

Senator Durbin (D-IL) confirmed that indeed 45 had spoken these “hate filled words” many times in a conversation about immigration policy, that Trump has been actively sabotaging despite an apparent deal with Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for his “yes” vote on Trump’s tax plan.

It would be unfortunate if the media were to exceptionalize Trump’s comments as the latest gaffe from an individual too accustomed to bullying people on Twitter, recently claiming that his “nuclear button” is bigger than North Korea’s. The comments are also indicative of an unchallenged white supremacy that has unfortunately been allowed to fester in our society. It is more useful to see this as an open expression of often hidden feelings, unresolved cultural aftershocks of the institution of plantation slavery that our nation has to deal with head on and with courage and honesty.

As Haitian literature professor Regine Jean-Charles has written, she was not surprised by the comments, as “evidence of a brand of racism that has always been present in U.S. society, which since the 2016 campaign has been fanned into virulent flame.”

What is behind Trump – and white America’s – obsession with Haiti?


Haiti has been targeted for its decisive role in challenging what Southern planters – including eight U.S. Presidents – called a “peculiar institution.” The Haitian Revolution was the first time slaves were able to permanently end slavery and forge an independent nation. It also was a tipping point in U.S. history, leading to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, paving the way for U.S. “Manifest Destiny” stretching from sea to shining sea and eventual dominance. Chicago, the country’s third largest city, was founded by a Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who Haitian historian Marc Rosier called an “agent” of the Haitian government to pursue a pro-freedom international policy.

Haiti’s contribution to U.S. “greatness” has long been unacknowledged. The pivotal Haitian Revolution was literally “unthinkable,” as Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillotargued. The demonization of Haiti was so strong, its inspiration to slaves so dangerous, that Congress imposed a gag order in 1824, preventing the word Haiti from being uttered in Congress, a year after the imperialist Monroe Doctrine.

White supremacy was not defeated in the Appatomox Court House in 1865, nor the 13th Amendment that allowed for a back-door legalization of slavery, nor in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, nor in the 1965 Voting Rights Act following “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, nor in the 2008 election of the first African American President.

Through it all, as Haitian anthropologist Gina Athena Ulysse analyzed, Haiti has served as the “bête noir” in a deliberate smear campaign against the descendants of the people who said no to white supremacy.

These narratives of Haiti continued throughout the initial response to the 2010 earthquake, from the likes of televangelist Pat Robertson and the New York Times’ David Brooks. As New Yorker contributing writer Doreen St. Felix pointed out, this obsession with Haiti has to do with white society’s rejection of black self-determination.

These discourses have definite and powerful material consequences.


France, which in 2001 declared slavery a “crime against humanity,” extorted 150 million francs from Haiti as a condition of recognition of Haitian independence, plunging Haiti into a 120-year debt that consumed up to 80% of Haiti’s tax base. Socialist president Jacques Chirac scoffed at Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s demand for reparations before being the first to call for his resignation in 2004.

Calling Haiti “ungovernable” provided justification for U.S. intervention: The United States invaded Haiti twenty-six times from 1849 to 1915, when U.S. Marines landed and occupied the country for nineteen years. During the U.S. Occupation, the Marines set up the modern army, opened up land for foreign ownership, solidified class and racial inequality, laying the groundwork for the 1957-1971 Duvalier dictatorship.

Incorrectly blaming Haiti for its role in the AIDS epidemic killed the tourist industry, which, along with the deliberate destruction of Haiti’s pig population, sent the economy in a nosedive. Neoliberal capitalist interests seized the opportunity to take advantage of the massive rural exodus to build sweatshops, exploiting people’s misery by offering the lowest wages in the world. With poverty wages, and a crippling foreign debt that according to the IMF’s own record-keeping went to the paramilitary tonton makout, Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns had no services and no government oversight. These foreign interventions were the main killer in the 2010 earthquake.

Fearing Haitians as “looters” or the other familiar racist scribes, and calling Haiti a “failed state” led to the invisibility of Haitian people’s heroic first response, and also to the complete exclusion of Haitian state and non-state actors in rebuilding their own country and providing aid. Bill Clinton co-chaired the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, making decisions about aid, and humanitarian aid was coordinated in a UN Logistics Base, where Haitian people were excluded by foreign soldiers responsible for the cholera epidemic that killed almost 10,000 people or the English language of the meetings. Nongovernmental organizations reproduced a top-down, hierarchical structure that excluded people living in the camps from decisions. These humanitarian aftershocks led to, among other consequences, the breakup of Haitian families and increasing violence against women.

Calling the world’s beacon of freedom a “shithole” sullies not only Haiti’s ten million residents on the island and three million in the U.S., but is an affront to human freedom and equality.

As award-winning Haitian author Edwidge Danticat argued, “today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.”
 
Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. He is the author or co-editor of six books, including forthcoming Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti. Schuller is co-director/co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009), and active in several solidarity efforts.
More articles by:Mark Schuller

Wrecking Crew: Destroying a Republic to Save an Empire

The World According to Trump: Or How to Build a Wall and Lose an Empire

by Alfred W. McCoy - TomDispatch


January 16, 2018

As 2017 ended with billionaires toasting their tax cuts and energy executives cheering their unfettered access to federal lands as well as coastal waters, there was one sector of the American elite that did not share in the champagne celebration: Washington’s corps of foreign policy experts.

Across the political spectrum, many of them felt a deep foreboding for the country’s global future under the leadership of President Donald Trump.

In a year-end jeremiad, for instance, conservative CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria blasted the “Trump administration’s foolish and self-defeating decision to abdicate the United States’ global influence -- something that has taken more than 70 years to build.”

The great “global story of our times,” he continued, is that “the creator, upholder, and enforcer of the existing international system is withdrawing into self-centered isolation,” opening a power vacuum that will be filled by illiberal powers like China, Russia, and Turkey.

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Tweeting While Rome Burns

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Historian Alfred McCoy is proving to be the Edward Gibbon of our age. Of course, Gibbon wrote his decline and fall of the Roman Empire hundreds of years post-decline. McCoy is following the decline of our modern Rome contemporaneously, hence today’s piece. His hit new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, is simply a must-read. If, as 2018 begins, you’re in the mood to offer some support to TomDispatch, for a $100 donation ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can get a signed, personalized copy of the book as our thank you for helping us through the age of Trump. Check out our donation page for the details. Tom]

In 1956, in an interview with journalist Anna Louise Strong, Chinese leader Mao Zedong famously said of American imperialism: “In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of; it is a paper tiger.” It wasn’t the first time he had used the image. Ten years earlier he had told Strong that, even with its new world-ending weapon, the atom bomb, the U.S. was a paper tiger, adding of that bomb, “It looks terrible, but in fact it isn't. Of course, the atom bomb is a weapon of mass slaughter, but the outcome of a war is decided by the people, not by one or two new types of weapon.”

More than half a century later, with nuclear weapons once again on the table, Mao’s language seems a bit dated. Paper? What’s that? And America as a tweetable (or Twitter) tiger doesn’t exactly do the trick, does it? Still, whatever its truth at the time, that ancient Maoist image might possibly have a second life in a new century. You know, the century in which the United States was finally led by a “very stable genius.”

As TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, suggests today, we finally seem to have reached the paper-tiger stage of American imperial history. After all, we have a president who just screened The Greatest Showman, the new movie on P.T. Barnum and the founding of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, at Camp David and is himself, tweet by tweet and statement by statement, turning the empire into a failing sideshow in the ever more riveting three ring circus of Trump. Perhaps it’s fitting that 2017 was the year Barnum’s circus had its final performance. Tom

The World According to Trump: 

Or How to Build a Wall and Lose an Empire

by Alfred W. McCoy 

 

The editors of the New York Times remarked ruefully that the president’s “boastfulness and belligerence and tendency to self-aggrandizement are not only costing America worldwide support, but also isolating it.” Discarding the polite bipartisanship of Washington’s top diplomats, Obama’s former national security adviser, Susan Rice, ripped Trump for dumping “principled leadership -- the foundation of American foreign policy since World War II” -- for an “America first” stance that will only “embolden rivals and weaken ourselves.”

Yet no matter how sharp or sweeping, such criticism can’t begin to take in the full scope of the damage the Trump White House is inflicting on the system of global power Washington built and carefully maintained over those 70 years. Indeed, American leaders have been on top of the world for so long that they no longer remember how they got there. Few among Washington’s foreign policy elite seem to fully grasp the complex system that made U.S. global power what it now is, particularly its all-important geopolitical foundations. As Trump travels the globe, tweeting and trashing away, he’s inadvertently showing us the essential structure of that power, the same way a devastating wildfire leaves the steel beams of a ruined building standing starkly above the smoking rubble.

The Architecture of American Global Power


The architecture of the world order that Washington built after World War II was not only formidable but, as Trump is teaching us almost daily, surprisingly fragile. At its core, that global system rested upon a delicate duality: an idealistic community of sovereign nations equal under the rule of international law joined tensely, even tenuously, to an American imperium grounded in the realpolitik of its military and economic power. In concrete terms, think of this duality as the State Department versus the Pentagon.

At the end of World War II, the United States invested its prestige in forming an international community that would promote peace and shared prosperity through permanent institutions, including the United Nations (1945), the International Monetary Fund (1945), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947), the predecessor to the World Trade Organization. To govern such a world order through the rule of law, Washington also helped establish the International Court of Justice at The Hague and would later promote both human rights and women’s rights.

On the realpolitik side of that duality, Washington constructed a four-tier apparatus -- military, diplomatic, economic, and clandestine -- to grimly advance its own global dominion. At its core was an unmatched military that (thanks to hundreds of overseas bases) circled the globe, the most formidable nuclear arsenal on the planet, massive air and naval forces, and an unparalleled array of client armies. In addition, to maintain its military superiority, the Pentagon massively promoted scientific research, producing incessant innovation that would lead, among so many other things, to the world’s first system of global telecommunications satellites, which effectively added space to its apparatus for exercising global power.

Complementing all this steel was the salve of an active worldwide diplomatic corps, working to promote close bilateral ties with allies like Australia and Britain and multilateral alliances like NATO, SEATO, and the Organization of American States. In the process, it distributed economic aid to nations new and old. Protected by such global hegemony and helped by multilateral trade pacts hammered out in Washington, America’s multinational corporations competed profitably in international markets throughout the Cold War.

Adding another dimension to its global power was a clandestine fourth tier that involved global surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and covert operations on five continents by the Central Intelligence Agency. In this way, with remarkable regularity and across vast expanses of the globe, Washington manipulated elections and promoted coups to insure that whoever led a country on our side of the Iron Curtain would remain part of a reliable set of subordinate elites, friendly to and subservient to the U.S.

In ways that to this day few observers fully appreciate, this massive apparatus of global power also rested on geopolitical foundations of extraordinary strength. As Oxford historian John Darwin explained in his sweeping history of Eurasian empires over the past 600 years, Washington achieved its “colossal Imperium... on an unprecedented scale” by becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia” through its military bases and mutual security pacts.

While Washington defended its European axial point through NATO, its position in the east was secured by four mutual defense pacts running down the Pacific littoral from Japan and South Korea through the Philippines to Australia. All of this was, in turn, tied together by successive arcs of steel that ringed the vast Eurasian continent -- strategic bombers, ballistic missiles, and massive naval fleets in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and the Pacific. In the latest addition to this apparatus, the U.S. has built a string of 60 drone bases around the Eurasian landmass from Sicily to Guam.

The Dynamics of Decline


In the decade before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, there were already signs that this awesome apparatus was on a long-term trajectory of decline, even if the key figures in a Washington shrouded in imperial hubris preferred to ignore that reality. Not only has the new president’s maladroit diplomacy accelerated this trend, but it has illuminated it in striking ways.

Over the past half-century, the American share of the global economy has, for instance, fallen from 40% in 1960 to 22% in 2014 to just 15% in 2017 (as measured by the realistic index of purchasing power parity). Many experts now agree that China will surpass the U.S., in absolute terms, as the world’s number one economy within a decade.

As its global economic dominance fades, its clandestine instruments of power have been visibly weakening as well. The NSA’s worldwide surveillance of a remarkable array of foreign leaders, as well as millions of the inhabitants of their countries, was once a relatively cost-effective instrument for the exercise of global power. Now, thanks in part to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the agency’s snooping and the anger of targeted allies, the political costs have risen sharply. Similarly, during the Cold War, the CIA manipulated dozens of major elections worldwide. Now, the situation has been reversed with Russia using its sophisticated cyberwarfare capabilities to interfere in the 2016 American presidential campaign -- a clear sign of Washington’s waning global power.

Most striking of all, Washington now faces the first sustained challenge to its geopolitical position in Eurasia. By opting to begin constructing a “new silk road,” a trillion-dollar infrastructure of railroads and oil pipelines across that vast continent, and preparing to build naval bases in the Arabian and South China seas, Beijing is mounting a sustained campaign to undercut Washington’s long dominance over Eurasia.

Fortress America


During just 12 months in office, Donald Trump has accelerated this decline by damaging almost all the key components in the intricate architecture of American global power.

If all great empires require skilled leadership at their epicenter to maintain what is always a fragile global equilibrium, then the Trump administration has failed spectacularly. As the State Department is eviscerated and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discredited, Trump has -- uniquely for an American president -- taken sole control of foreign policy (with the generals he appointed to key civilian posts in tow).

How, then, do those who have been in close contact with him in this period assess his intellectual ability to adapt to such a daunting role?

Although since his election campaign Trump has repeatedly bragged about his excellent education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School as a qualification for office, he started there in the late 1960s thinking he already knew everything about business, prompting his marketing professor, who taught for more than 30 years, to brand him “the dumbest goddam student I ever had.” That brash unwillingness to learn carried into the presidential campaign. As political consultant Sam Nunberg, sent to tutor the candidate on the Constitution, reported

“I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before... his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

As Michael Wolff has recounted in his bestselling new book on the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, a few months later, at the close of a phone conversation with the president-elect about the complexities of the H-1B visa program for skilled immigrants, media mogul Rupert Murdoch hung up and said, “What a fucking idiot.”

And last July, as no one is likely to forget, after a top-secret Pentagon briefing for the White House principals on worldwide military operations, Secretary of State Tillerson seconded that view by privately labeling the president a “fucking moron.”

“It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns,” one White House aide wrote in an email, according to Wolff.

“Trump won’t read anything; not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up half-way through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.” 
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh claimed that dealing with the president was “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

Those qualities of mind are amply evident in the administration’s recent National Security Strategy report, a vacuous document that wavers between the misguided and the delusional. “When I came into office,” Trump (or at least whoever was impersonating him) writes darkly in a personal preface, “rogue regimes were developing nuclear weapons... to threaten the entire planet. Radical Islamist terror groups were flourishing... Rival powers were aggressively undermining American interests around the globe... Unfair burden-sharing with our allies and inadequate investment in our own defense had invited danger.”

In just 12 short months, however, the president -- so “his” preface indicates -- had singlehandedly saved the country from almost certain destruction. “We are rallying the world against the rogue regime in North Korea and... the dictatorship in Iran, which those determined to pursue a flawed nuclear deal had neglected,” that preface continues in a typically Trumpian celebration of self.

“We have renewed our friendships in the Middle East... to help drive out terrorists and extremists... America’s allies are now contributing more to our common defense, strengthening even our strongest alliances... We are making historic investments in the United States military.”

Reflecting his administration’s well-documented difficulties with the truth, almost every one of those statements is either inaccurate, incomplete, or irrelevant. Setting aside such details, the document itself reflects the way the president (and his generals) have abandoned decades of confident leadership of the international community and are now trying to retreat from “an extraordinarily dangerous world” into a veritable Festung America behind concrete walls and tariff barriers -- in some eerie way conceptually reminiscent of the Atlantic Wall of beachfront bunkers Hitler’s Third Reich constructed for its failed Festung Europa (Fortress Europe). But beyond such an obviously myopic foreign policy agenda, there are vast areas, largely overlooked in Trump’s strategy, that remain critical for the overall maintenance of American global power.

All you have to do is note headlines in the daily media over the past year to grasp that Washington’s world dominion is crumbling, thanks to the sorts of cascading setbacks that often accompany imperial decline. Consider the first seven days of December, when the New York Times reported (without connecting the dots) that nation after nation was pulling away from Washington. First, there was Egypt, a country which had received $70 billion in U.S. aid over the previous 40 years and was now opening its military bases to Russian jet fighters; then, despite President Obama’s assiduous courtship of the country, Myanmar was evidently moving ever closer to Beijing; meanwhile, Australia, America’s stalwart ally for the last 100 years, was reported to be adapting its diplomacy, however reluctantly, to accommodate China’s increasingly dominant power in Asia; and finally, there was the foreign minister of Germany, that American bastion in Europe since 1945, pointing oh-so-publicly to a widening divide with Washington on key policy issues and insisting that clashes will be inevitable and relations “will never be the same.”

And that’s just to scratch the surface of one week’s news without even touching on the kinds of ruptures with allies regularly being ignited or emphasized by the president’s daily tweets. Just three examples from many will do: President Peña Nieto’s cancelation of a state visit after a tweet that Mexico had to pay for Trump’s prospective “big, fat, beautiful wall” on the border between the two countries; outrage from British leaders sparked by the president’s retweet of racist anti-Muslim videos posted on a Twitter account by the deputy leader of a neo-Nazi political group in that country, followed by his rebuke of British Prime Minister Theresa May for criticizing him over it; or his New Year’s Day blast accusing Pakistan of “nothing but lies & deceit” as a prelude to cutting off U.S. aid to that country. Considering all the diplomatic damage, you could say that Trump is tweeting while Rome burns.

Since there are only 40 to 50 nations with enough wealth to play even a regional, much less a global role on this planet of ours, alienating or losing allies at such a rate could soon leave Washington largely friendless -- something President Trump found out in December when he defied numerous U.N. resolutions by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The White House soon got a 14-1 reprimand from the Security Council, with close allies like the Germans and the French voting against Washington. This came after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had ominously warned that “the U.S. will be taking names” to punish countries that dared vote against it and Trump had threatened to cut aid to those that did. The General Assembly promptly voted 128 to 9 (with 35 abstentions), to condemn the recognition -- eloquent testimony to Washington’s waning international influence.

Next, let’s consider the “historic investments” in a central pillar in the architecture of American global power, the U.S. military, mentioned in Trump’s National Security Strategy. Don’t be distracted by the proposed whopping 10% increase in the Pentagon budget to fund new aircraft and warships, much of which will go directly into the pockets of giant defense contractors. Focus instead on what once would have been inconceivable in Washington: that the proposed Trump budget would slash funding for basic research in strategic areas like “artificial intelligence” likely to become critical for automated weapons systems within a decade.

In effect, the president and his team, distracted by visions of shimmering ships and shiny planes (with their predictable staggering future cost overruns), are ready to ditch the basics of global dominion: the relentless scientific research that has long been the cutting edge of U.S. military supremacy. And by expanding the Pentagon while slashing the State Department, Trump is also destabilizing that delicate duality of U.S. power by skewing foreign policy ever more toward costly military solutions (that have proved anything but actual solutions).

Starting on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump has also hammered away at another pillar of American power, attacking the system of global commerce and multilateral trade pacts that have long advantaged the country’s transnational corporations. Not only did he cancel the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which promised to direct 40% of world trade away from China and toward the United States, but he’s threatened to void the free-trade pact with South Korea and has been so insistent on recrafting NAFTA to serve his “America first” agenda that ongoing negotiations may well fail.

The Crumbling U.S. Geopolitical Position


As serious as all that might be, Trump revealed the deepest damage he was capable of doing to the geopolitical foundations of the country’s global power in two key moments on his trips to Europe and Asia last year. In both places, he signaled his willingness to deliver hammer blows to Washington’s position at those strategic axial ends of Eurasia.

During a visit to NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels in May, he chastised European allies, whose leaders reportedly listened “stone-faced,” for failing to pay their “fair share” of the military costs of the alliance and, while he was at it, refused to reaffirm NATO’s core principle of collective defense. Despite later attempts to ameliorate the damage, that sent shudders across Europe and for good reason. It signaled the end of more than three-quarters of a century of unchallenged, unquestioned American supremacy there.

Then, at an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam in November, the president launched “a tirade” against multilateral trade agreements and insisted that he would always “put America first.” It was as if, in an Asia in which China was rising fast, he were again announcing that Washington’s post-World War II supremacy was an artifact of history. Appropriately enough, at that same meeting, the remaining 11 Trans-Pacific partners, led by Japan and Canada, announced major progress in finalizing the TPP agreement he had so symbolically rejected -- and did so without the United States.

“The U.S. has lost its leadership role," commented Jayant Menon, an economist at the Asian Development Bank. “And China is quickly replacing it.”

Under Trump, in fact, Washington’s close relations with three key Pacific allies continue to weaken in visible ways. During a courtesy phone call upon taking office, Trump gratuitously insulted Australia’s prime minister, an act that only highlighted that country’s mounting alienation from the U.S. and a growing inclination to shift its primary strategic alliance toward China. In recent polls when asked what country they preferred as a primary ally, 43% of all Australians chose China -- a once-unimaginable transformation that Trump’s version of diplomacy is only reinforcing.

In the Philippines, the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2016 brought a sudden shift in the country’s foreign policy, ending Manila’s opposition to Beijing’s bases in the South China Sea. Despite an aggressive courtship by Trump and a certain temperamental affinity between the two leaders, Duterte has continued to scale down the joint military maneuvers with the U.S. that were an annual event for his country and has refused to reconsider his decisive tilt toward Beijing. That realignment was already evident in a leaked transcript of an April phone call between the two presidents in which Duterte insisted that the resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue should rest solely with China.

It is, however, on the Korean peninsula that Trump’s limitations as a global leader have been most evident. In two uncoordinated, ill-informed initiatives -- denigrating the Korean War-era U.S. alliance with South Korea and demanding total nuclear disarmament by the North -- Trump fostered a diplomatic dynamic that has allowed Beijing, Pyongyang, and even Seoul to outmaneuver Washington.

During his presidential campaign and first months in office, Trump repeatedly insulted South Korea, demeaning its culture and demanding a billion dollars for installing an American missile defense system. No one should then have been surprised when Moon Jae-in won that country’s presidency last year on a “say no” to America platform and on promises to reopen direct negotiations with the North Korea of Kim Jong-un. Then, during a state visit to Washington last June, the new South Korean leader was blindsided when Trump called the free-trade agreement between their two countries “not fair to the American worker” and blasted Moon’s proposal for negotiating with Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un oversaw 16 rocket tests in 2017 that left his country with missiles that could potentially deliver a nuclear weapon to Honolulu, Seattle, or even by year’s end New York and Washington, while testing its first hydrogen bomb. Convinced that North Korea “seeks the capability to kill millions of Americans,” Trump became obsessed with curtailing Pyongyang’s nuclear program by any means, even threatening last August to unleash on that country “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Within days, however, then-White House strategist Steve Bannon exposed the empty bluster of all of this by telling the press, “There’s no military solution until somebody solves the part of the equation that... ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons.” So the threats failed and Trump flailed, repeatedly trash-tweeting Kim Jong-un as “little Rocket Man” and bragging that his own “nuclear button” is “much bigger” than the North Korean leader’s. These 12 months of bizarre, destabilizing presidential twists and tweets, almost without precedent in the annals of modern diplomacy, have pushed Seoul toward direct talks with Pyongyang -- excluding Washington and weakening what had been a rock-solid alliance.

In the war of nerves with North Korea over its missile tests, Trump’s strategy of triangulation with China (that is, Washington nudges Beijing, Beijing shoves Pyongyang) has already inflicted a major, unrecognized defeat on American power in the Pacific. For the last six months, to encourage Beijing to pressure Pyongyang, the White House has suspended the “freedom of navigation” patrols that challenge Beijing’s spurious claims to territorial control over the South China Sea, effectively conceding this strategic waterway to China.

In a deft bit of dissimulation, Beijing has made a show of cooperation with Washington by expressing “grave concerns” over Pyongyang’s missile tests and imposing nominal sanctions, while playing a longer, smarter strategic hand. In the process, it has been working to curtail joint American-South Korean military maneuvers and neutralize the U.S. Navy in what China considers its home waters.

In this diplomatic edition of The Art of the Deal, Beijing is trumping Washington.

Taking Down the Empire


Quite understandably, many Americans have focused on the damage Trump’s first months in office have done domestically, from opening pristine wilderness areas and offshore waters to oil and natural gas drilling to threatening access to medical care, skewing the progressive tax code to favor the rich, cancelling net neutrality, and voiding environmental protections of every sort. Most if not all of these regressive policies can, however, be repaired or reversed if the Democrats ever take control of Congress and the White House.

Trump’s strikingly inept version of one-man diplomacy in the context of America’s ongoing global decline is an altogether different matter. World leadership lost is never readily recovered, particularly when rival powers are prepared to fill the void. As Trump undercuts the U.S. strategic position at the axial ends of Eurasia, China is pressing relentlessly to displace the United States and dominate that vast continent with what New York Times correspondent Edward Wong calls “a blunt counterpoint... synonymous with brute strength, bribery and browbeating.”

In just one extraordinary year, Trump has destabilized the delicate duality that has long been the foundation for U.S. foreign policy: favoring war over diplomacy, the Pentagon over the State Department, and narrow national interest over international leadership. But in a globalizing world interconnected by trade, the Internet, and the rapid proliferation of nuclear-armed missiles, walls won’t work. There can be no Fortress America.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, the now-classic book which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the recently published In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2018 Alfred W. McCoy

Monday, January 15, 2018

America's Other Syrian Army: Turkish President Charges US Forming "Terror Army"

Erdogan: US Trying to Form 'Terror Army' in Syria

by Al Jazeera


January 15, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the US is working to form a "terror army" on his country's southern border by training a new force in Syria that includes Kurdish fighters.

"What we are supposed to do is to drown this terror army before in comes into being," he said in an address in the capital, Ankara, on Monday, calling the Kurdish fighters "back-stabbers" who will point their weapons to the US in the future.

His comments came after reports revealed Washington's plan to establish a 30,000-strong new border security force with the involvement of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

According to media reports quoting US officials, the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group will recruit around half of the new force from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of fighters dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG).

YPG is considered by Turkey to be a "terrorist group" with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long fight inside the country.

PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies. More than 40,000 people in Turkey have been killed since the 1980s after the PKK launched its rebellion.

The US views the YPG as a highly effective fighting force against ISIL.
 
Erdogan said that Turkey's armed forces had completed preparations for an operation against the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin in northwest Syria and the town of Manbij.

Warning Turkey's allies against helping "terrorists" in Syria, he said: "We won't be responsible for consequences".

In a statement late on Sunday, the Turkish foreign ministry had called "wrong and objectionable" any cooperation with the YPG.

"The establishment of the so-called Syria Border Protection Force was not consulted with Turkey, which is a member of the coalition," it said.

"To attribute such a unilateral step to the whole coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight against Daesh," the ministry added, using an alternative acronym for ISIL.

Turkish forces pounded US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria with artillery fire on Sunday, after the plan to establish the new force was announced.

Later on Monday, an official source in Syria's foreign ministry denounced the US plan about the formation of the border force.


"Syria strongly condemns the US announcement on the creation of militias in the country's northeast, which represents a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity and unity of Syria, and a flagrant violation of international law," said the source, according to state news agency SANA.
"Syria considers any Syrian who participates in these militias sponsored by the Americans as a traitor to their people and nation, and will deal with them on this basis." 

US' YPG move


US President Donald Trump decided to arm YPG fighters, despite Turkey's objections and a direct appeal from Erdogan at a White House meeting in May 2017.

The US arms shipments began before the launch of a months-long offensive to oust ISIL from the Syrian city of Raqqa, its self declared capital. The YPG played a prominent role in the eventual defeat of the group later in 2017.

Tensions between US and Turkey - two NATO allies - remain high, despite Trump saying last November that Washington would no longer supply weapons to the YPG.
 
A senior Syrian Kurdish official said on Sunday that fighting between the YPG and Turkish forces was already under way.

"There are attacks and clashes on the border between Turkey and the People's Protection Units YPG," Hediye Yusuf said on Twitter.

She called Turkey's operation against Afrin a "violation" that "undermines international efforts to reach a political solution in Syria".

Ankara has been reinforcing its southern border by sending armoured vehicles, tanks, and heavy machine guns, according to local media.

Turkey has been working closely with Russia and Iran to end the long-running Syrian war, despite Moscow and Tehran supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and Ankara backing the anti-Assad opposition.

In 2016, Turkey began a military campaign called Euphrates Shield Operation, which targeted ISIL and the YPG. That eight-month battle officially ended in March 2017.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like (in Honduras)

Honduran Military Clash With Protesters, Over 20 Injured

by TeleSur


January 13, 2018

"We will continue, together with the people, in the streets until the right thing is done with respect at the polls," said former president Manual Zelaya.

More than 200 people were injured during Friday's protests in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to contest the controversial re-election of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández.

According to a release from the country's Ministry of Security, state forces suffered the bulk of injuries, with the final number of casualties totaling 17 soldiers and six civilians.

“Everyone is going to die” said a Military Police soldier to Dixon who described the attack against him, “they kicked me, threw me on the ground, & put a boot on my neck” #Honduras #HondurasEnCrisis


Jari Dixon, LIBRE Congressman, injured
Friday in protest in #Tegucigalpa.

However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other independent observers have countered the state's claims, pointing to the extreme measures used by security forces against protesters upon their approach to the Presidential Palace.

According to observers, four journalists from UNE TV were beaten, along with several others. Video and photographic evidence has also been provided which appears to show former president Manuel Zelaya, deposed in a coup in 2009, being attacked with tear gas launched by security forces.

Reports indicate that the incident occurred when Zelaya approached members of the Military Police, who threw the canister at him and then physically assaulted him, according to a report in El Heraldo. He was later led to safety by his bodyguards.

Lawmaker Jari Dixon, of the Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) party, was also injured during the protest. According to reports, Dixon was beaten by members of the security forces after he attempted to defend protesters who were being accosted.

"We will continue, together with the people, in the streets until the right thing is done with respect at the polls," Zelaya said.

Protesters were also attacked at a nearby Marriot hotel, as well as the Council of Private Enterprise, where 27 organizations convened in support of the incumbent president.

"We are going to prevent Hernandez from taking office on January 27," said Nasralla and Zelaya.

The national strike, which is set to run from January 20 to 27, is calling on Hondurans to deny Hernandez the presidency and recognize Nasralla as president because "the elections were fraudulent."

As part of the boycott, Nasralla and his team are urging Hondurans not to use public transportation, banks or pay tolls for the week. The opposition is also calling on Hondurans to boycott several US-based restaurant chains, including Wendy's, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, Denny's and Pizza Hut.

Gitmo Heart Beats

41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo

by Kathy Kelly - CounterPunch


January 15, 2018

January 11, 2018 marked the 16th year that Guantanamo prison has exclusively imprisoned Muslim men, subjecting many of them to torture and arbitrary detention.

About thirty people gathered in Washington D.C., convened by Witness Against Torture, (WAT), for a weeklong fast intended to close Guantanamo and abolish torture forever. Six days ago, Matt Daloisio arrived from New York City in a van carefully packed with twelve years’ worth of posters and banners, plus sleeping bags, winter clothing and other essentials for the week.

Matt spent an hour organizing the equipment in the large church hall housing us. “He curates it,” said one WAT organizer.

Later, Matt reflected that many of the prisoners whose visages and names appear on our banners have been released. In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. Shaker Aamer has been reunited with the son whom he had never met while imprisoned in Guantanamo. Mohammed Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, has finally been released. These encouraging realities don’t in the slightest diminish the urgency we feel in seeking the release of the 41 men still imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Not even one of the 41 prisoners now in Guantanamo was captured by the U.S. military on a battlefield. Afghan militias and the Pakistani military were paid cash bounties for selling 86 percent of these prisoners into US custody. Imagine the “green light” given for other countries to practice buying and selling of human beings.

Aisha Manar, working with the London Campaign to Close Guantanamo, points out that “the rights violating practices surrounding Guantanamo are now a model for the detention and incarceration polices of the US and other states.”

This chilling reality is reflected in Associated Press reports revealing that the United Arab Emirates operates a network of secret prisons in Southern Yemen, where prisoners are subjected to extreme torture. This has included being trussed to a rotating machine called “the grill” and exposed to a roasting fire.

“Nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons,” the AP reports, “a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.”

One of the main detention complexes is at Riyan Airport in Yemen’s southern city of Mukalla. Former detainees, speaking on condition of anonymity told of “being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the ‘grill,’ and sexually assaulted.”

A member of the Yemeni security force set up by the United Arab Emirates told AP that American forces were at times only yards away.

“It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty International’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.

On January 9, 2018, WAT members tried to deliver a letter to UAE Ambassador Yusuf Al Otaiba, seeking his response to these reports. Security guards took our pictures but said they were unable to accept our letter.

Two days later, joining numerous other groups for a large rally, we donned orange jumpsuits and black hoods, carried placards bearing the number “41” and displayed two main banners. One said: “It would take a genius to close Guantanamo.” And the other: “We are still here because you are still there.

Forty-one hearts still beat in Guantanamo prison cells. That’s forty-one too many.

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org
More articles by: Kathy Kelly 

A version of this article was first published on The Progressive website.