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AFGHANISTAN: DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS RECOGNIZED AS THE TOP BRAND IN THE MISERY INDUSTRY

Exhibit Abstract

“‘Great Harm Has Been Done to US,’ declared George Bush in a speech thunderously applauded by the U.S. Congress on 20 September 2001. With this disingenuous slogan the United States directed its unaccountable permanent warfare machine at the people of Afghanistan, a place that few U.S. citizens know much about. Our ‘allies’ jumped aboard, unleashing high-tech weaponry and shock-and-awe destruction on a simple people that have been subject to the nasty prerogatives of Empire since ~ 1838.

Civilians bear the brunt of this ugly war: over the past 4 years far more than 33,000 Afghan civilians were injured or killed. The cowardice of our war includes drone strikes, targeted assassinations, ‘dirty tricks’ black operations, snatch-and-snuff kidnappings, torture—all as policy.  The War of Terror has caused millions of direct / indirect deaths since 2001, and millions more displaced persons, and the U.S. has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Dilawar of Yakubi was a young taxi driver tortured/killed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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“Decades of war means destruction of homes and villages, destruction of crops, croplands mined, failed crops, and rising displacement. Starvation and malnutrition were named in a major New York Times ‘news’ article that appears to be more a plug for the UNICEF brand and the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières brand than any serious reportage on the hunger crisis. The disingenuous title of the January 2014 article was: ‘Afghanistan’s Worsening, and Baffling, Hunger Crisis.’ What is baffling? This is a way to diminish responsibility and deflect attention from the obvious causes of starvation, crop failures, starvation, malnutrition, high infant mortality, and other obvious effects of the illegal U.S. war in Afghanistan. Further, the article notes that ‘despite years of Western involvement and billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, children’s health is not only still a problem, but also worsening’ but nowhere does the New York Times probe the massive corruption and outright (advertising & branding) lies of the for-profit humanitarian sector that, obviously, benefits from our permanent warfare economy.”

“Hunger in Afghanistan is a very real problem. These children play at sunset amidst piles of grain being processed—separating the wheat from the chaff using straw brooms on a dirt ground—by their fathers and uncles. To grasp the gross inequity between the level of suffering for children in Afghanistan (the target population that the AID industry preys upon), consider that combined salaries of the top seven Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières executives total $1,169,715 (* 2016 IRS form 990) and they receive $256479 in ‘other’ compensation. Of course, information about Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres corporate sponsors is not easily discoverable from either their web site or their published reports available therein.”

“This father and his son suffer alike after the child was wounded and rests in critical condition in a hospital bed in Kabul.”

“The landscapes in Afghanistan are vast, and the real reasons for the war are for access to the land and its natural resources. In the calculated equations of predatory western capitalism and the profit motives of unconscious demagogues and warmongers the people of Afghanistan are considered in the way: they are expendable, and the depopulation of Afghanistan is underway.”

“Afghan herders often trip unexploded ordnance and land mines while herding domestic donkeys, sheep and goats. Landmines and other battlefield unexploded ordnance (UXOs) contaminate at least 724 million square meters of land in Afghanistan, more than any other country in the world. Only two of Afghanistan’s twenty-nine provinces are believed to be free of landmines. The Northern Alliance and United Front forces have laid mines, while many Russian-era mines remain. According to Human Rights Watch in 2001, the Taliban had stopped using landmines in 1998, declaring it un-Islamic and punishable by death; after 1998 the Taliban were often falsely blamed for using them. Mine clearance teams in Afghanistan still find UXOs from the former Soviet Union but also from Belgium, Italy, the United States and Britain. The United States dropped about 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets between October 2001 and March 2002 alone; these weapons destroyed the homes and lives of countless civilians.”

“Afghan men discuss war and politics outside a mosque in northern Afghanistan. The people are angry at the U.S. occupation, the corruption of their leaders working with the occupation, and they admit that every U.S. attack redoubles the popular resistance to the U.S. and its goals.”

“Afghan farmers see the profit and value in planting their fields in poppies. The Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military have their fingers in the Afghan opium/heroin trade: heroin processed in Afghanistan by ‘Taliban’ and ‘Isis’ and other factions backed by the U.S. does not leave Afghanistan on the backs of donkeys. Warlords run the heroin business. The heroin is allegedly shipped by air to Bondsteel Air Base in Kosovo, where it is then allegedly distributed to Western Europe by the Albanian mafia.”

“As Dr. Alfred McCoy pointed out: On 16 November 2017 the United Nations released its opium report for 2017: total crop area up from 200,000 hectares in 2016 to 328,000 hectares in 2017; the opium harvest nearly doubled since 2016 from 4,600 to 9,000 tons, well above the 2007 peak of 8,200 tons.”

“A boy of ten years old—another obvious civilian casualty in the U.S.-led war “to win hearts and minds”—rests awake and immobile and terrified, his wounds still fresh and bloody, in the intensive care section of a hospital in Kabul.”

“The LOVE THY ENEMY sign I posted on my family’s farmland in Williamsburg Massachusetts on September 13, 2001, defaced over night by local people directly connected to the war machine. The people responsible for the war in suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Central Africa are the people of the western nations whose soldiers are fighting and killing there, the populations whose complacency and acceptance make these wars in ‘far off places’ possible. There is little discussion of these wars in popular quarters in the United States, Canada or Europe, as they are hidden and downplayed and obfuscated by the western media propaganda system. The U.S. population is deeply divided between those who favor war and killing and ‘putting America first’ at all costs, and those who see the pointlessness of war, and the profits being made to sustain it, at the expense of all people everywhere, and at the expense of nature, and all of planet earth.”

Photographer’s Statement

View Keith Harmon Snow’s stunning exhibition, in it’s entirety:

http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit/keith_harmon_snow

[Keith Harmon Snow has worked as a journalist, war correspondent, genocide investigator and/or photographer in 46 countries — often traveling by simple means (mountain bike, raft, horse, foot) to enable a deeper engagement with the land and people.  He is the 2009 Regent’s Lecturer in Law & Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recognized for over a decade of work documenting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.  He is also a certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, and author of the non-fiction book: The Worst Interests of the Child: The Trafficking of Children & Families Through U.S. Family Courts.  In July 2016 his SDN exhibit Inside the Company, Down on the Farm (plantations in the DR Congo) won an Honorable Mention in the SDN Call for Entries on The Fine Art of Documentary.  He is available for assignment. You can also visit his website All Things Pass.]

 

What a Wonderful World – US Saviour Complex

21st Century Wire

September 16, 2017

by Bruno Guigue

Purveyor of platitudes, the West portrays itself as the epitome of universal values . A paragon of democracy, this champion of human rights always deploys its presumed virtues in support of its hegemonic ambitions. Like the Fairy Godmother, doing her best to match her morals with her interests, she veils her ambitions with the cloak of Law and Justice. 

Thus, the “Free World” goes about bombing foreign nations for the sake of “democracy”, preferably in oil or mineral-rich territories. By combining a simple creed with capitalist greed, it is acting as if it can convert its economic supremacy into moral privilege.

The rest of the world is not fooled by these tactics, but who cares? The “Free World” is always right because it represents the “good fight” and for as long as it is the most powerful, it will not be contradicted. The inherent barbarism that it projects onto others is the counter to its self-proclaimed monopoly on “civilization”. Sanctified by the holy order of “right to intervene”, a marriage of the GI sandbags with the Kouchner-style bag of rice, the West, vassalized by Washington, believes wholeheartedly that they can save the world by subjugating it to the pitiless ravages demanded by the financial vultures and military industrial complex.

This supremacist enterprise was not born yesterday. It was midwived in the historical period dear to Fernand Braudel, that of the emergence of the “world economy”. Driven by its superior technological advances, since the Renaissance, the western world has propelled itself towards the conquest of our planet earth. Patiently, the west has appropriated other cultures, other worlds, and twisted them into its own image, enforcing obeissance and imitation, eliminating all those who would not conform. Its certitude is untroubled by its own hypocrisy, the West perceives itself as a metaphor for this world. The West wanted to expand from being a part of the world into being the “whole” – in the same way, today, we see countries comprising 10% of the world’s population portraying themselves as the “International Community”.

Over the last three centuries, colonial conquest has demonstrated the West’s desire to expand its influence beyond its own boundaries, under the banner of bringing “civilization” to the under-developed. This global domination project was temporarily derailed by the uprising of the colonized peoples in the 20th Century, but it made a triumphant return with its North American branch of hegemony. America, the “Far West” ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus in search of the “Far East”, inherited the “Old Continent” penchant for imperialism and rapacious carpet baggery. The US converted its lack of history into the promise of a ” better future”, emerging suddenly from Anglo-Saxon puritanism, the US magnified the globalist “for profit” ethos. Paid for with the blood of the American-Indian genocide, America was born, the newly minted metaphor for the world.

It is not certain that this change was for the better. Colonial empires collapsed under the weight of their archaic structures, while US hegemony maintains itself through modern technology channels, from Google to drone warfare. Suddenly the US was the most supple and resilient. What imbues it with flexibility also ensures its longevity. From the white pith helmet of the european colonial overlords to the digital screens of US cyber warfare, a revolution took place. The US substituted a shock-colonization, dismantled after bloody decolonization conflict, with a multi-faceted hegemonic enterprise. Taking over from the classic colonial three “M”s, the “made in the US” NGOs replaced the Christian missionary complex, “merchants” became multi-nationals and the “soldiers” converted to cyber supremacy.

Emboldened by the die-hard spirit of “born again” Midwesterners, the American empire is projecting its devastating Manichaeism upon the rest of the world. Dreaming with its eyes wide open, the US envisages a definitive alliance between good and evil, the indestructible pillar upon which to build a straightforward ethnocentrism. The “law” is on their side as it ’embodies the core values of ‘democracy, human rights and market economy’.  Obviously, this is a crude ideology, a fraudulent mask for its own sordid interests, but it is effective. Its efficacy is proven by the popular consensus that the “US won the second world war, capitalism works, Cuba is a tropical gulag, Assad is worse than Hitler and that North Korea is a threat to the world.”

This process of self-beatification, bestows upon the North-American-Empire zealots, the right to track down all “Evil” in the world. No scruples will impede its saviour frenzy, it is the very incarnation of such an “exceptional civilization”, that it must cleanse the world of barbarism by all means at its disposal. That is why modern imperialism functions as a court of “universal” law, a judge, that rewards or punishes where it sees fit. Before this elevated “moral” jurisdiction, the CIA represents the prosecution, the Pentagon is the secular chamber, the US President is the high court judge, a “deus ex machina”, invoking divine justice, the lightning strike, upon the “Axis of Evil” and any other sinners circulating in the court of the “Empire of Good”.

This tendency for the US to see itself as the moral compass for the world is central to this structure and is unperturbed by the rapid turn-around of Presidents in the White House, a new tenant changes nothing. Washington’s “crusade” against the “barbarians” conceals the unbridled greed of the Military Industrial Complex and the iron claw of the deep state. From Harry Truman to Donald Trump with Barack Obama inbetween, from Korea to Vietnam to Syria, Indonesia, Angola, Mozambique, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, South Africa, Serbia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, death is the cure, by proxy or directly, for all those who oppose the saviour’s kingdom of universal justice.

“Philanthropic America” always harnesses the local labour force to carry out its dirty work.Franco, Hitler and Mussolini (until 1939), Chiang Kai Shek, Somoza, Syngman Rhee, Ngo Dinh Diem, Salazar, Batista, Mobutu, Marcos, Trujillo, Pik Botha, Duvalier, Suharto, Papadopoulos, Castelo Branco, Videla, Pinochet, Stroessner, Reza Shah Pahlevi, Zia Ul Haqq, Bin Laden, Uribe, King Salman, Nethanyahu, Ukrainian Nazis and the “moderate terrorists” in the Middle East have been of invaluable service to Empire.

Undisputed leader of the “Free World”, America claims to embody “civilization” while obliterating entire populations with nuclear weapons, napalm or a rain of cruise missiles. Sometimes it chooses a slow death for  its prey, with Agent Orange, depleted uranium or embargos on medicines and humanitarian aid. While America is never short of sychophants praising their “services to Humanity”, the evidence is irrefutable, that the collapse of this Empire would be a cause for celebration.

 

Translation by Vanessa Beeley for 21st Century Wire

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[Bruno Guigue is a French author and political analyst born in Toulouse 1962. Professor of philosophy and lecturer in international relations for highter education. The author of 5 books including  Aux origines du conflit Israélo-Arabe, l’invisible remords de l’Occident (L’Harmattan, 2002).]

Hysteria at UN Betrays Western Terror Sponsors

Strategic Culture Foundation

September 27, 2016

by Finian Cunningham

 

Hysteria at UN Betrays Western Terror Sponsors 

Hysteria and histrionics at the United Nations Security Council from the three permanent members, the United States, Britain and France, was tantamount to a signed confession. Ironically, one can imagine how the wording of such a «confession» would go: We the intensely vexed members are hereby displaying our boorish displeasure that the terror proxies we covertly sponsor in Syria for regime change are being thrashed.

Such was the tawdry display of undiplomatic conduct by the US, Britain and France, with officials from these countries inveighing against Russia with unsubstantiated, sensationalist accusations of committing war crimes. The intemperance was then followed by tantrums and walk-outs from the Security Council meeting – a meeting that these three members had originally convened.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later lambasted the imperious attitude from the Western trio as an «unacceptable» breach of diplomatic protocol.

During the weekend, the US, Britain and France claimed that Russia was a «partner» with its Syria ally in perpetrating war crimes over the breakdown of the ceasefire that had been declared on September 12.

As usual, it was the American UN ambassador Samantha Power who excelled in the hysteria and histrionics. «What Russia is doing is not counter-terrorism. It is barbarism», declared Power with shrill, puffed up vitriol.

The US official even hinted that she would like to henceforth have Russia sanctioned from Security Council membership. «Russia holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is a privilege and a responsibility. Yet in Syria and in Aleppo, Russia is abusing this historic privilege».

That’s breath-taking delusional hubris coming from an official of a country that is currently bombing seven countries (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen) and which has destroyed dozens more over the past decades with millions of civilian deaths.

The British ambassador Mathew Rycroft chipped into the Russia bashing by adding that «the Security Council needs to be ready to fulfill our responsibilities». He blamed Russia for unleashing «hell on Aleppo».

The concerted American, British and French rhetorical offensive against Russia suggests that these three powers are striving for an unprecedented objective. Perhaps, by delegitimizing Russia through a media process of criminalizing, the Western states are intending to over-ride the Security Council’s veto in order to give themselves a mandate for a large-scale military intervention in Syria – under the well-worn guise of «protecting human rights».

Incredibly, the US, British and French – together with the Western news media – continue to blame Russia for an attack on a UN aid convoy in Aleppo last week. Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that Russia «may have committed a war crime». This allegation is made despite the paucity of any supporting evidence to impute Russia or Syrian forces.

Both Russia and Syria have refuted any involvement in the deadly sabotage, and even the UN aid agencies and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have declined to blame Russia or Syrian forces.

Indeed, the evidence is more indicative of some kind of false flag propaganda incident carried out by the foreign-backed anti-government militants. Suspiciously, the video of the aid convoy attack, which forms the basis of subsequent Western claims, was supplied by the dubious White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense. This group works closely with the Al Qaeda-linked Aleppo Media Center and has been involved in fabricating atrocities with which to smear the Assad government forces. Tellingly, the White Helmet «volunteer» who was filmed commenting in the aftermath of the aid convoy attack last week has since been identified by Syrian patriots as an armed militant in one of the al Qaeda-affiliated terror brigades.

We are thus left to deduce that Western allegations of «war crimes» against Russia are not only false; they are terrorist-sourced fabrications that are a being peddled by Western governments and news media in a desperate attempt to slander Russia.

The escalation of Western media claims demonstrates a full-court psychological operation to rail-road the narrative of Syria and Russia being villainous and illegitimate. The preponderance of Western media reports on the renewed fighting around the northern city of Aleppo invariably attribute their source of information as «according to activists». These «activists» could be the White Helmet propaganda artists or the terrorist groups themselves. But Western media and governments are citing these unverified sources for their figures on «civilian deaths» and «banned munitions» allegedly being used by Syrian and Russian air forces. This is taking Western collusion with terrorists to a whole new level.

The recent broadside at the UN from the US, Britain and France is indicative of a coordinated political effort by these powers to hobble Russia’s otherwise successful military intervention in Syria. Not only has Russia’s intervention succeeded militarily in defeating the West’s covert regime-change war by wiping out the terrorist proxies; Russia’s involvement in Syria has succeeded in the international media war by exposing the true culpability of the Western powers in inflicting their dirty war on Syria.

With astounding arrogance, this Western trio is pounding Syria illegally with warplanes over the past two years and have documented covert links to the illegally armed insurgents. In a recent TV interview on France 24 (September 25), Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also confirmed that special forces from the US, Britain and France were operating in northern Syria, purportedly to assist «moderate rebels» to fight against the al Qaeda-type terror groups. This all amounts to a gross violation of Syrian sovereignty by the NATO powers and warrants a legal prosecution for foreign aggression.

The Western media offensive against Russia also comes within a week of American and British warplanes massacring over 62 Syrian army troops at the airbase near Deir ez-Zor, which led to the ceasefire’s collapse two days later.

Yet the West has managed to blackout that war crime after quickly shoving it down the memory hole as an «accident».

American ambassador Samantha Power was incandescent when Russia called for a Security Council emergency meeting over the Deir ez-Zor atrocity on September 17. She disparaged Russian concerns as a «cynical stunt».

As if to avenge Russian audacity to shame the Americans, the US and its Western allies countered with their own «emergency» meeting alleging Moscow’s «war crimes» the following week. But, as noted, the only «evidence» that the West presents is hearsay from anonymous «activists» who are most probably acting as propaganda conduits for terrorist groups.

Syrian ambassador Bashar al Jaafari reminded the UN Security Council that it was his country’s legal and constitutional prerogative to defend the Syrian nation and defeat illegally armed militants on its territory.

Rather than giving the Syrian representative a modicum of respect, the American, British and French officials stormed out of the Security Council meeting – just as American ambassador Power had done the week before when Russia’s Vitaly Churkin was addressing media about the Deir ez-Zor massacre.

Following the latest ceasefire charade in which Western-sponsored «moderate rebels» were conspicuously indistinguishable from terror groups, Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have every right to launch a renewed offensive to finally bring an end to this foreign-fueled covert war for regime change. The gloves are off. They need to be.

And as the foreign proxy army of terrorist brigades gets wiped out in their last stand at Aleppo, the Western masterminds behind the covert war are becoming increasingly desperate.

The desperation at seeing the regime-change project being lost in Syria could trigger all-out war between NATO powers and Syria’s allies, including Russia. This is a very real danger especially with Turkey, the US, Britain and France expanding military operations in northern Syria.

One thing is for sure though. Washington and its accomplices will step up the media hysteria and defamation against Syria and Russia. Expect more histrionic tantrums at the UN and a barrage of «humanitarian tragedies» – from the three permanent members of the Security Council who brought us the hell of Syria’s catastrophe in the first place.

 

[Finian Cunningham is the Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages.]

Stranger Than Fiction: How to Keep an Antiwar Movement Down

by Emma Quangel

May 9, 2016

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Imagine, if you will, the year 2016. It is a year of war. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkey – just a handful in a long list – are under attack. Covert operations angling at “regime change” take place in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The African continent is engulfed in conflict, the threat of “regime change” knocking against even South Africa’s door. The BRICs are threatened, destabilizing. Thousands drown every year in the Mediterranean while millions more flood Europe, desperate for refuge from the violence and poverty that plagues their homelands. The right is on the rise across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. The global economy is sagging under the weight of its own contradictions.

The United States government, that acts as the hired guns of a global class of jet-setting billionaires, imprisons 2.3 million of its own people. 3.2 per cent of its citizens are under correctional control. The descendants of those once kidnapped and enslaved are particularly tormented – one in three black males in the USA will spend some time in prison. 12,000 children in Flint, Michigan are poisoned by lead in the water. 60,000 people in New York City are homeless. Nearly 1,000 people were killed by the police in the United States last year. Thousands more are tortured – even boiled alive – in US prisons. In the state of Louisiana, black men in chains pick cotton for slave wages while overseers toting shotguns monitor them from horseback. The electoral system is rigged, disenfranchises millions, and offers the same solution, year after year: submit or be crushed.

Imagine, if you will, the year 2016 without a revolutionary movement against such conditions.

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The Black Panther Party was possibly the highwater mark for American revolution in the 20th century because it existed in concert with, and gave guidance to, a broad-based antiwar movement. While the labor struggles of the working class at the turn of the century were integral in improving the lives of millions of Americans and providing a platform for revolutionary socialism, it wasn’t until the radical labor movement started to speak out against the First World War that they were persecuted in full by the government, lynched, deported and imprisoned. Likewise, the Black Panthers were most heavily targeted when they developed a line that connected the suffering of the American people to the suffering inflicted on others by the United States abroad. In both instances, the culprit was imperialism, capitalism made flesh in the form of guns and planes that could stamp out challenges to its hegemony.

That the Black Panther Party even existed should one of the greatest points of pride among radicals in the United States. Indeed, Black Panthers are still on the run from the FBI or languishing in prisons, sometimes for decades under solitary confinement. They were able to serve the people while educating them about the world we lived in. To the Black Panthers, to anyone who would call themselves a dialectical materialist, the idea that the United States Government is an institution that can be reformed is simply absurd. The United States Government, to Marxists, does not exist as a faulty waiter failing to bring free health care and universal housing with the check, but rather, to mediate class conflict in favor of the bourgeoisie – not just in the United States, but worldwide. The Black Panthers saw this, and declared themselves in solidarity with the victims of imperialism. They toured the world, meeting with revolutionaries from North Korea to Vietnam. And this, along with organizing among poor black communities in the United States, is what brought down the wrath of the state on their heads.

It is possible to say that a revolutionary movement in the United States can only exist when there is praxis that recognizes the relationship between oppression in the US and imperialism. I would further venture to say that there can be no praxis without the two elements being present concurrently, and that no honest effort at building a revolutionary movement in the US can be made without recognizing that there must be an antiwar movement to join, and that this antiwar movement must be anti-imperialist.

After all, the wars of today differ greatly from the wars of the early 20th century, the wars that threw Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood in jail. We no longer have the draft – the popular rage over Vietnam saw an end to that – and the US spends more time launching air strikes from unmanned drones than digging trenches or preparing for bayonet combat. Likewise, imperialism doesn’t always take place at the end of a gun. The IMF and World Bank, created at the end of World War II, helped to exert influence over economies and governments where a heavier, more direct hand was once required. The creation of NATO and the Cold War made imperialism seem a war of ideologies, rather than the ham-fisted grab at resources that it was. Now, it seems that while American bombs and bullets murder so many worldwide, we are encouraged to side with imperialism as socialists. We are expected to take on the reasoning of George W. Bush and Samantha Power so long as it is dressed up and marketed in a way that pleases us, even if we consider ourselves “Left” leaning politically. Like soda and smartphones, we are exhorted to find identity in our positions, to represent ourselves by our consumer choices.

An alarming trend is on the rise in the United States and in the English-speaking world more generally: the ubiquitous Op-Ed. What was once relegated to just one page of the newspaper (the term Op-Ed meaning something that ran on the page opposite to Editorial) now makes up large sections of online news media. I imagine it is cheaper to pay a freelancer $250 (optimistic!) for their opinion than finance a foreign bureau. Whole TV networks run on an audio-visual version of the Op-Ed. It is a form of news that directly tells its reader how to think about the current events. Many gain their information on a topic simply from reading Op-eds. Today’s columnist and pundit is a TV show, someone that we can tune into on a regular basis for entertainment and flattery. If one show is boring, if you don’t like what they’re saying – simply switch the channel. It doesn’t matter, as all are trying to sell you a ruling class agenda. And, above all else, in our 24 hour news cycle, we are never allowed to present news in a boring way. The VICE lifestyle brand turned global news channel, with its correspondents pulled from content marketing’s central casting, is a prime example of the desire to “sex-up” news by letting opinions lead coverage. It is a way to engage the youth, as it boasts openly, to not only consume brands, but also official narratives, with enthusiasm.

A narrative example from the Op-ed world of news could be as follows: In Syria, democratic protesters are fighting against a brutal regime that slaughters them with impunity. These democratic protesters, now called rebels, are always at risk of being annihilated by state violence and torture because the Western Left has “failed” them.We must all support these rebels and pressure our government to do the right thing,whatever that might be.

Some articles might be run in conjunction, many that might contradict this narrative. We might learn from respected journalists with years of experience and lauded professional histories that things aren’t so simple. We might learn from State Department press transcripts that these brave rebels take quite a lot of money from the US Government. But it doesn’t matter if half of the paper contradicts the other half. When we are told how to read the news, through the eyes of these pundits, we are happily oblivious of whatever facts might contradict our chosen authority. After all, Thomas Friedman is far more influential and famous than some no-name stringer for The Times. Anyone who might disagree with the official narrative, even if they are respected journalists, scholars or activists, are now called conspiracy theorists, “hacks” or worse.

But while journalists are still nominally held to professional standards, the pundit owes no such thing to her audience. After all, this is just her opinion, and she is not expected to have thoroughly researched differing narratives – nor is she obligated to present opposing views, or to present anything evenly – when publishing her Op-ed. This is not unexpected, nor is it dishonest to the job description of a “pundit”. It’s up to the publication to decide how much of its material is news, and how much of it is entertainment packaged as Op-eds.

Yet, there is danger when a pundit or entertainer decides to call herself a journalist without having been subjected to the same standards we would expect from the NYT stringer. Facts are not checked and sources are not vetted. So-called journalists, such as Michael Weiss or Molly Crabapple, rely heavily on anonymous sources who slip them scintillating information or photographs. And yet, I am unsure who these sources are, who has vetted them, and how they did so. Indeed, as this new generation straddles the line between journalist and pundit, the means by which they communicate are themselves in question. My own WhatsApp number is from Iraq, though I have not lived there since October 2015. So, I think it’s natural to ask how these sources are processed, especially if the Op-ed writers posing as journalists are writing whole books based on their testimony, appearing on talk shows as experts, and building careers off promoting wars. While the content may be biased and one-sided, laden with marketing copy and convenient omissions, we should be incredibly wary on how we define, protect, but also how we verify the “source”. Indeed, I wouldask how these pundits find, vet and receive information, but as many already tried to have me fired from my last job for asking such questions, it’s pointless to attempt from my position – though I welcome corrections and inputs from editorial.

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As it stands, The Guardian admitted last week that it had been fed stories on Syria by the UK Home Office operating from behind a PR firm that was operating a Syrian advocacy campaign. Breakthrough Media joins its American agency Purpose (via The Syria Campaign) in pushing advocacy for pro-intervention narratives on the Syria conflict. What is left out of the discussion of whether or not public funds are being used to propagandize war to the tax-paying public is the disclosure of who the freelance “journalists” are that are being paid or otherwise lobbied to write on Syria. We would expect that journalists taking money or in kind contributions from campaign staff disclose such information when writing on the election – why not the same expectation from those who write on foreign policy matters? Perhaps it is because, in the long run, such issues are far weightier than whatever new jab a candidate throws on social media or a cable news talk show. One of the more chilling revelations from The Guardian, one seemingly lifted straight from my book, is that some of the journalists reported they were unaware that they were being utilized in this way.

If we knew that Fred Hampton or Emma Goldman were taking money from public relations firms (who may or may not have been receiving marching orders from governments) when speaking or writing on the wars they opposed, wouldn’t that change the way we see their positions? And certainly, if we were to discover that some of our favorite, cherished personalities who regularly tell us how to read the news were taking money from PR firms, to confuse, mislead, attack or threaten activists who might otherwise try and build a case against the US government’s wars abroad and at home, wouldn’t that be a scandal?

There may be no antiwar movement today because we live in a media environment that seeks to destroy it in its nascence. Andrew Bacevich, in his recent instructive essay for Harper’s called “American Imperium”, makes the case that:

The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party.

Indeed, before there can be a peace party, there must be an antiwar critique. And the “trivializing din” that Bacevich speaks of is not simply drowning out antiwar critique, it is merciless in seeking to destroy and discredit ideas such as the fact that the United States enjoys unprecedented military, economic, ideological and strategic domination over the entire world. Such ideas, when voiced publicly, are met with derision and laughter. As if, with dozens of bases and tens of thousands of soldiers surrounding Russia, one could seriously argue that Russia is imperialist, or an equal threat to world peace as the US. There are no Russian bases and no Russian soldiers garrisoned on our borders. We cannot even know, as the numbers are not publicly available, how many US soldiers and bases are currently in the Middle East – indeed, how many are currently in Iraq and Syria, where much conflict is currently taking place. Whereas before, reliable journalists and their supportive editors might have been successful in discovering such figures, they are now too focused on revenue and survival. This opens wide the door for propagandists who wish to deride and discredit any remaining “Left” antiwar sentiment in the US. Until this is resolved, building an anti-imperialist antiwar movement will remain an uphill battle, even among smaller groups, as subjectivity and sophistry continues to be taught and promoted over objectivity, materialism, serious study and clear thinking.

 

[“Emma Quangel is the woman who bravely contributed to the outing of Nazi murderer/”Last Rhodesian” Dylann Storm Roof’s blog, which probably spoiled Roof’s chances at the inexorably successful—for white supremacists—insanity defense.  After Quangel, an insanity verdict for Roof would be an insanity verdict for the U.S. white supremacist system: which is to say, in lieu of Aristotelian-bourgeois justice, Artaudian ritual magic, a self-reparative exorcism.”]

Culture-Jamming Social Media: A Public Health Measure

May 30, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

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As I noted in my comments about the unjust transition of the Break Free campaign, sponsored by 350, it is urgent to stop fossil fuel export for a couple reasons: it creates expedited demand for fracking and new terminal development, and it exhausts our reserves for our own future needs–making it more likely we will turn to nuclear power. Indeed, the idea–promoted by 350–of ending fossil fuel use altogether is a charade used to cover for nuclear power development plans.

The financial backers of 350 and other Wall Street, hedge fund and private equity investors know from intensive studies that oil and gas use is going to continue increasing for a long time, so what we get by following the Break Free game plan is increased fossil fuel use, increased toxic pollution from solar cell manufacture, and an increased likelihood of nuclear power dependence.

The only workable plan is to decrease consumer demand for gasoline and petroleum-based plastic products, and to decrease military usage for wars used to maintain access and control of foreign mineral deposits. Anti-consumerism and anti-war campaigns are the two things that promise the largest climate change payback, and they are omitted from the 350 agenda.

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There is, unfortunately, little public discussion about social engineering through social media, which indicates there is little learning taking place–when there is much to be learned.

In the digital era, we live in a society where thought control is consolidated to such a degree, that few recognize how pervasive social engineering has become in our lives. The constant drumbeat by corporate media (mainstream and alternative) to panic the multitudes into actions orchestrated by corporate NGOs, i.e. Avaaz, Purpose, and 350, stampedes many to react according to these campaigns–choreographed by these marketing agents on the payroll of the financial elite.

Public relations (PR) firms, such as 350, and corrupt alternative media such as Democracy Now!, adhere to the prescribed art of manipulating public opinion on behalf of the financial elite, without anyone questioning, for instance, how it is that millions of people–on several continents–could be reacting in exactly the same way, on the same date, chanting the same slogans. It is, I observe, because the herded are not self-organized, participating in action based on independent research and discussion. Rather, they have ceded their judgment to the central authority of NGOs funded by corporations, laundered through private foundations.

In this aspect, privatized activism subservient to Wall Street–just like government, academia, and media–comprises organizers in it for a career, not as a duty of citizenship, who cater to the agenda of corporate philanthropic funders. This is not democracy in action; it is social tyranny.

The Break Free quotes in the media are a mix of official organizers working for the corporations, and the followers that participated in the staged 350 events. For the most part, they repeat mantras about the salvation of ‘clean energy’ that are corporate fabrications, but widely and uncritically accepted, due to the network drumbeat. This is what Netwar (networked psychological warfare) is all about–drowning out other perspectives, and dominating all forms of communication.

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This creates a sense of panicked urgency that, in turn, drives followers to believe they are on a holy mission–one that exempts them from both social conventions and the law, and that limits the choices for public response to those composed by corporate decision-makers, in order to benefit the corporations. What we need to do is take the time for more discussion, research and education–that doesn’t begin by adopting the assumptions prepackaged by the financial elite.

I think it might help to recount other examples where the public has been coerced or seduced by corporate PR firms into accepting or supporting actions contrary to the public interest, yet very much in the interest of those who pay the PR firms, that stand to profit from public ignorance or complacency. The Gulf War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan, War in Libya, and War in Syria were all based on PR fabrications–intended to mislead public opinion, and to stampede public officials into urgent actions–that later turned out to be harmful to the public interest.

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The same thing happened with the bank bailouts, and is now repeating itself in the false hope of 350s corporate-funded propaganda about climate change adaptation. One might get the impression from all this that the public never learns, has given up, or doesn’t care.

On the other hand, perhaps the majority of citizens are now either addicts, cynics or fanatics, resulting in an impossible organizing task for sober, constructive engagement in public affairs. Either way, culture-jamming social media–that promotes hysteria–is a public health measure.

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Western Aggression: The Highest Form of Terrorism

Image: Mark Gould

Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale.. The U.S. invaders of Iraq in 2003 proudly announced a “shock and awe” purpose in their opening assault, clearly designed to instill fear; that is, to terrorize the victim population along with the target security forces. And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.

How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.). This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “They kill reporters, don’t they?” Yes–as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians, Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Metropolitan, 2014).

But even if the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians, including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information, is both a war crime and terrorism. Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder.1

A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces–they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media. This rationale may placate the home population but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules.

The same is true of the retaliation defense. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.

Of course, all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including but not confined to the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e., Western and even many non-Western leaders, not publics) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S.aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowledged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict.2 )

Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria and Russia.

These rules also apply to the major human rights groups. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish. Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target — mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002). Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”

In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC.3

Similarly the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) who are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice.4  The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with “aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court! The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gaddafi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.

In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy–against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds.

All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war OF terrorism.” The propaganda system is, in fact, a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.

 

• First published in Z Magazine, February 2016

 

  1. How America Gets Away With Murder, Pluto, 2004, 46-56 [?]
  2. John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2014 [?]
  3. Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, Real News Books, 2014, 66-70. [?]
  4. On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty, Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice, Baraka Books, 2014. [?]

 

[Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.]

Empire’s “Mimic Men”

Zero Anthropology

October 24, 2015

by Maximilian Forte

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Imperialism by Invitation or Imitation?

US efforts in remaking the international system according to an image reflecting the US are not usually in complete vain since the track has already has already been cut. To continue with the analogy, US policy planners and military analysts are concerned about widening and then paving the track so that it becomes a permanent highway. None of the military or diplomatic documents consulted, not even those with the highest of scientific pretense, ever bothers to go into any detail about the origins, development, and constitutions of the actual people who are constructed as force multipliers. On the other hand, Harvard historian Charles S. Maier addressed these ideas under the lemma of “empire by invitation” or “consensual empire” (Maier, 2002). While US leaders speak in terms of “partners,” “alliances,” and “coalitions,” Maier is not convinced that any of these adequately describe the nature of the US as “a major actor” (in his minimalist terms) in the international system. Instead, it is more accurate to speak of “the subordination of diverse national elites who—whether under compulsion or from shared convictions—accept the values of those who govern the dominant center or metropole,” Maier maintains. What distinguishes an empire from an alliance is the inequality in terms of power, resources, and influence between leaders at the centre of empire and the national subordinates who are, at most, their nominal counterparts. Political, economic, and cultural leaders in the periphery “hobnob with their imperial rulers”. Even those who organize resistance, Maier argues, “have often assimilated their colonizers’ culture and even values”. Maier endorses the Cultural Imperialism thesis in explaining these deep ties between the US core and what V.S. Naipaul (1967) called “the mimic men” of the periphery:

“Empires function by virtue of the prestige they radiate as well as by might, and indeed collapse if they rely on force alone. Artistic styles, the language of the rulers, and consumer preferences flow outward along with power and investment capital—sometimes diffused consciously by cultural diplomacy and student exchanges, sometimes just by popular taste for the intriguing products of the metropole, whether Coca Cola or Big Mac”. (Maier, 2002, p. 28)

As for Naipaul’s “mimic men,” these tend to be members of the new national elites in “formerly” colonized territories, who have acquired the tastes and prejudices of the colonial master, who aspire to the culture and identity of the colonizer, while cringing from the culture of the colonized. Mimic men ultimately find themselves displaced, disenchanted, and alienated, not able to fully join the ranks of the master class in the colonial mother country, but divorced from the culture into which they were born and which causes them shame. It is also important to note that Naipaul’s protagonist in The Mimic Men, Ralph Singh, is a politician, and was educated in the UK.

Elsewhere I wrote in similar terms to Maier’s about the relationships between the domestic and international versions of the US (Forte, 2014). As I outlined there, one can discern what we might call a National United States of America (NUSA) and a Globalized United States of America (GUSA). NUSA is a simple reference to the current political geography of the US, filled in by places that can be specified with geographic coordinates, inhabited by people in relatively dense relations with one another. Most of the inhabitants of NUSA refer to themselves as “Americans,” or are “Americans in waiting” (immigrants awaiting eventual citizenship). GUSA is not so neatly geographic, but it can still be found and seen, concretely. GUSA’s existence can be observed (in no particular order of importance) in the adoption of US consumption patterns and standards by local elites around the world, who may also be dual US citizens. The existence of a transnational capitalist class, a large part of which is US-educated, also manifests this globalization of US power. Military leaderships formed by funding and training by the US military, must also be included, as should the tens of thousands fighting in US uniforms with the promise of getting Green Cards. Political parties funded by the US and often led by people who spent some time living and studying in the US, and who adopt the US as a model, form a part of GUSA. GUSA includes upper-class neighbourhoods, districts, and gated communities, and those whose life patterns, choices, and personal orientations have been seriously influenced or remade by US cultural imperialism, in a process commonly referred to as “Americanization”. One of my working hypotheses is that it is GUSA which is now largely responsible for sustaining and extending the imperial reach of NUSA. Leaving the critique of scientism behind, we should now move from this overview of the instrumentality of imperialist logic to consider some of the practices, tools and devices used to multiply, mirror, and extend US power globally.

Neocolonial Cargo Cults

That the so-called force multipliers of US dominance can comprise, to a significant extent, dependent and mimetic bourgeoisies in former colonies is something deeply problematic for scholars and critics such as Ali Shari’ati. As he argued, these elites consist of what has long been known and referred to as the “comprador bourgeoisie,” the functionaries who benefit from the distribution of Western imports and the export of local resources, but also those who are among the most assimilated and who encourage a “modernization” of local tastes and thus expand the market for foreign imported goods (Manoochehri, 2005, p. 297). In Shari’ati’s terms, assimilation applies to,

“the conduct of the one who, intentionally or unintentionally, starts imitating the manners of someone else. Obsessively, and with no reservations he denies himself in order to transform his identity. Hoping to attain the goals and the grandeur, which he sees in another, the assimilated attempts to rid himself of perceived shameful associations with his original society and culture”. (Shari’ati quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 297)

The issue of dependency is also useful in another sense, one related to the broader, critical literature on the political economy of underdevelopment. Since the force multiplier idea is inherently an expression of the cost function of foreign action, it is appropriate to understand it in the terms of political economy as an extractive process. Extraction, and the accumulation of capital (understood in all senses) at the core, is an essential outcome of any formula that posits the use of the most strategic resources at the least expense.

Speaking of the Bulgarian case (see chapter 4), as just one example, the force multiplication of increased “Americanization” in the early 1990s could be viewed as taking on another facet, this one being a specialty of anthropologists who studied cargo cults. As explained better by Eleanor Smollett, an anthropologist with twenty years of research experience in Bulgaria,

“The thought that keeps coming to me is cargo. A mechanical analogy to cargo cults is meaningless of course. There is no cargo cult in Bulgaria. There is no charismatic leader. We are not seeing a revitalization movement (though some monarchists have appeared) or a millenarian religious movement. But still, in this secular, highly educated, industrial society, there are echoes that say ‘cargo’. The wealth that is coveted exists somewhere else, in an external society. The structure of that external society and the manner in which the wealth is produced are poorly understood. The young people who covet what they imagine is the universal wealth of the West were not suffering from unemployment, poverty or absolute deprivation under socialism (although, in the present situation, they are beginning to experience all of these). They were and are, however, experiencing relative deprivation, as compared with their external model. It is this relative deprivation that moves them, as David Aberle made clear long ago in discussion of cargo cults. And as Eric Hobsbawm pointed out in contrasting these movements with revolutions, the leadership of such movements has no clear programme or plan of implementation for a new social system. The expected improvement to society is based on faith. If we strip away the old institutions, then the foreign aid, the investment, the development, the cargo will come”. (Smollett, 1993, p. 12)

The Mexican philosopher of liberation, Enrique Dussel, like Shari’ati, wrote on the fabrication of culture in the image of imperial culture that is represented by the new national elites, those he sees as historically the most assimilated. Dussel notes that imperial culture is,

“particularly refracted in the oligarchic culture of dominant groups within dependent nations of the periphery. It is the culture that they admire and imitate, fascinated by the artistic, scientific, and technological program of the centre….On the masks of these local elites the face of the centre is duplicated. They ignore their national culture, they despise their skin color, they pretend to be white…and live as if they were in the centre”. (quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 294)

Dussel, however, does not see this culture as being confined to the oligarchic minority alone. Instead, a “pop” version is produced, “the kitsch vulgarization of imperialist culture,” one that is encouraged, reproduced and distributed by the elites who thus help to expand the imperialist economy by supplying a willing market for its goods—which resonates in the research of Smollett in Bulgaria. The process then is one where the imperial culture is “refracted by oligarchical culture and passed on for consumption. It is by means of the culture of the masses that ideology propagates imperialist enterprise and produces a market for its product” (Dussel as quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 294).

Shari’ati described the culmination of assimilation as being the creation of monoculture. However, we can add that matters do not stop there, since there is also the growth of something resembling a “monoeconomy” under neoliberal tutelage, and a “monopolitics” that absorbs the nation-states of the global periphery as the new wards and even outright protectorates under UN, EU, and NATO auspices. Thus are US strategists able to speak of growing “alliances” and the spread of “universal values”—monoculture is the smoothest path to acquiring the most efficient machines: the force multiplier.

On the other hand, in US military and diplomatic papers there is no exegesis, no treatment, description or interpretation of the nature of those reduced in their roles to functional force multipliers. One wonders who US writers think these people are, what image of these human beings exists in their minds. It would appear, from the unspoken assumptions, that the average force multiplying person is conceived as being idealistic, one who associates the US with his/her highest ideals, and thus one who suspends judgment, and defers questioning. Above all, the force multiplier, being on the front line, is willing to sacrifice. These are to be sensed then as the perfect Christian Soldiers, in the Church of American Divinity, and the reader’s job is to have faith in these force multipliers.

There is also an “ecological fallacy” at work in US writings about “civil society” and “youth” or other social collectivities as force multipliers. The ecological fallacy is, “a confusion of the forest and the trees or, more accurately, the observing of one and the drawing of inferences about the other” (Stevenson, 1983, p. 263). One result of this fallacy is drawing conclusions about individuals, on the basis of their membership in social groups. Specifically, this fallacy emerges as such in State Department documents that automatically cast “civil society” worldwide as opposed to the state, as pro-US democracy, and as a natural ally of the US. In the writings and speeches that emanate from the State Department, there never can be a “civil society” that comprises ideological adversaries of US power–no such thing exists, they would have us believe.

The Instruments of Imperial Practice

Both the US Departments of State and Defense have created multiple programs for “targeting” foreign audiences and “winning hearts and minds”—a subject that is far broader than what is presented below (or even in previous volumes in this series). Hillary Clinton’s “21st century statecraft” has been mentioned before. The approach involved using communications technologies “to connect to new audiences, particularly civil society” as part of an “engagement” strategy (DoS, 2010, p. 65). As parts of its “public diplomacy,” the State Department created “Regional Media Hubs” in Miami, London, Brussels, Pretoria, Dubai, and Tokyo, in order to “increase official U.S. voices and faces on foreign television, radio, and other media, so that we are visible, active, and effective advocates of our own policies, priorities, and actions with foreign audiences…serving as a resource and tool for amplifying the regional dimension of our message” (DoS, 2010, pp. 60-61). In addition, the State Department created the “Virtual Student Foreign Service,” enlisting the aid of US university students to support US diplomatic missions (DoS, 2010, p. 66). Also dealing with students, the State Department expanded the “ACCESS Micro-scholarships” program so that, “teenagers, particularly in the Muslim world,” could be funded “to attend English classes and learn about America” (DoS, 2010, p. 61), thus utilizing conventional techniques of cultural imperialism, targeting Muslim youths and enforcing the dominance of the English language. While some would say that these programs are “peaceful,” the State Department also announced it was partnering with the Pentagon, in particular by using USAID in support of the Pentagon’s regional Combatant Commands (DoS, 2010, p. 54).

One of the more central and consistent tools used to deepen US intervention has arisen from the exploitation of gender issues to win “hearts and minds” as part of the US’ globalization of its counterinsurgency practices (see Byrd & Decker, 2008, p. 96; Pas, 2013; King, 2014). The State Department itself officially announced that the “protection and empowerment of women and girls is key to the foreign policy and security of the United States….women are at the center of our diplomacy and development efforts—not simply as beneficiaries, but also as agents of peace, reconciliation, development, growth, and stability” (DoS, 2010, p. 23). As “women are increasingly playing critical roles as agents of change in their societies,” the US would, “harness efforts and support their roles by focusing programs to engage with women and expand their opportunities for entrepreneurship, access to technology, and leadership” (DoS, 2010, p. 58). Also, as Pas points out under the heading of “security feminism,” the fetishizing of oppressed women is used as an opportune asset to ideologically advance the cause of imperialist intervention: “the war becomes about her. In this process the host country is also feminized and the American heterosexual pursuit becomes about gallantly ‘saving’ the Muslim woman from Islam. While America strives to save the Muslim woman from her alleged theological oppression she is effectively put on the front lines” (Pas, 2013, p. 56).

The CIA has also instrumentalized gender issues as part of a covert campaign to bolster international support for US wars. In 2010, after the Dutch government fell in part because of the issue of its participation in the war in Afghanistan, the CIA began to worry about a possible electoral backlash in the upcoming elections in France and Germany, both of which suffered mounting casualties among their forces in Afghanistan. According to a confidential CIA memorandum made public by WikiLeaks,

“Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties and if a Dutch-style debate spills over into other states contributing troops”. (CIA, 2010, p. 1)

A CIA “expert on strategic communication” along with public opinion analysts at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) came together to “consider information approaches that might better link the Afghan mission to the priorities of French, German, and other Western European publics” (CIA, 2010, p. 1). This was critical to the US since Germany and France respectively commanded the third and fourth largest troop contingents in Afghanistan, and any withdrawal would have been a significant blow not just to military operations but especially to the public image of the US-led occupation effort, leading to a crumbling in the credibility of the US-led NATO alliance and its “International Security Assistance Force” in Afghanistan. The CIA was already aware that, though not a top election issue, the majority of public opinion in Germany and France was against participation in the Afghan war (CIA, 2010, p. 1). The CIA’s strategic information exercise in Europe was based on the following logic,

“Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes in Afghanistan and their own priorities. A consistent and iterative strategic communication program across NATO troop contributors that taps into the key concerns of specific Western European audiences could provide a buffer if today’s apathy becomes tomorrow’s opposition to ISAF, giving politicians greater scope to support deployments to Afghanistan”. (CIA, 2010, p. 2)

The question of girls in Afghanistan was thus brought to the fore: “The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties” (CIA, 2010, p. 2). The CIA proposed that,

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission”. (CIA, 2010, p. 4)

The CIA thus advanced the idea that, “media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences” (CIA, 2010, p. 4).

While there is no chain of leaked documents to show that this CIA-organized strategy session led to the formulation and then implementation of a specific propaganda effort that followed these guidelines, we do know that Western media, as well as the messages widely and prominently circulated by Western human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have over the years tended to heavily capitalize on the image of Afghan women and girls allegedly suffering from “Taliban oppression” as a major impulse toward supporting at least some US aims in Afghanistan. Even the otherwise anti-war US activist organization, Code Pink, sent a delegation to Afghanistan that spoke out about what could happen to Afghan women and girls if the US-led NATO occupation should come to an abrupt end: “We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline,” said Medea Benjamin to the Christian Science Monitor, adding: “That’s where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, ‘If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We’d go into civil war.’ A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that” (Mojumdar, 2009/10/6; for more, see Code Pink, 2009/10/7a, 2009/10/7b, and Horton, 2009).

The goal of instrumentalizing Afghan women for pro-war public relations reappeared in another of the documents released to WikiLeaks, published by the Media Operations Centre of the Press and Media Service of NATO headquarters in Brussels. The document titled, “NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative as at 6 October 2008,” laid out a series of propaganda talking points oriented toward the domestic mass media in troop contributing nations, which NATO spokespersons were to follow. NATO’s “master narrative” concerning Afghan women was to tell the public that, “Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial elections have taken place and women are now sitting in the Afghan Parliament. 28% of the MPs of the Lower House are female. Legitimate and representative government is now in place” (NATO, 2008). What is standard about these approaches is their superficiality, stressing numbers over qualitative realities, or in some cases inventing numbers outright, hence the recent admission that a large number of “ghost schools” exist in Afghanistan, that were either never constructed (but were paid for), or that were but have no teachers of pupils.

As with gender, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, has become another vehicle for the US to sell itself politically, or to create another wedge device for intervention and for practicing divide and rule. Thus in 2011, the State Department launched, “the Global Equality Fund to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT persons by supporting civil society organizations to protect human rights defenders, challenge discriminatory legislation, undertake advocacy campaigns, and document human rights violations that target the LGBT community”. Consequently, “over $7.5 million was allocated to civil rights organizations in over 50 countries; more than 150 human rights defenders have been assisted” (DoS, 2014b, p. 24). There is very little in the realm of “human rights,” LGBT and women’s activism, NGOs and “civil society” that is not touched by the US in nations that it is targeting—as the State Department itself proclaims, “advancing human rights and democracy is a key priority that reflects American values and promotes our security” (DoS, 2010, p. 42). The concept of “human security” has also been effectively reworked as part of a militarized, absolute security agenda (see McLoughlin & Forte, 2013).

In its search for more “force multipliers,” the State Department, particularly under the Obama administration, has established a series of programs to attract and enlist US and foreign students, corporate executives, and new media users. A program titled “100,000 Strong in the Americas”1 was launched by Obama in order to increase the number of US students studying throughout the Americas to 100,000, and likewise to increase the number of students from the Americas studying in the US to 100,000, by 2020. There is no explanation as to why 100,000 is the magic number—unless it is in fact founded on numerological mysticism. To fund the program, the State Department was joined by Partners of the Americas (see below) and NAFSA: Association of International Educators (NAFSA, 2013). US universities, without any known exception, are participants. The “Innovation Fund” that supports the program is hailed as a “public-private partnership,” in line with the growing corporatization, privatization, and outsourcing that now dominates ostensibly public institutions in North America. Obama’s program promises a propaganda boost to private corporations: “Highlight your corporate efforts to create jobs and international education for young people through media placement and recognition”.2 This connection between government, private business, and universities, brings to the foreground the widening idea of force multiplication employed by the US.

As just mentioned, Partners of the Americas is part of the above program. Partners of the Americas was first formed as part of the Alliance for Progress in 1964,3 during an earlier phase of US-led hemispheric counterinsurgency, marked by a developmentalist and militarized drive against “communism” as the US sought shore up its dominance by countering the example of revolutionary Cuba. Partners of the Americas involves itself in elections in Latin America, and in mobilizing people to impact on the selection of candidates for positions in justice systems such as Bolivia’s, until Partners’ partner, USAID, was expelled from the country. Partners boasts of funding hundreds of unnamed “civil society organizations” in 24 countries in the Americas.4

Among similar initiatives launched by the Obama administration, again by turning over part of US foreign policy to gigantic corporate entities, is the so-called “Alliance for Affordable Internet” (A4AI), which includes Google and the Omidyar Network. The program has clear political, strategic, and neoliberal aims. One of its top aims is to “reduce regulatory barriers and encourage policies to offer affordable access to both mobile and fixed-lined internet, particularly among women in developing countries”.5 A4AI is active in an unspecified number of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the only ones mentioned thus far being Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, and the Dominican Republic. Understanding that limitations to Internet access persist, the US government is directly involved in expanding the potential market of those listening to its messages, watching its corporate advertisements, and consuming US exports, both material and ideological.

A program that specifically targets Africa and what could be its future leaders, is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which has launched the “Mandela Washington Fellowship” (MWF) program. The State Department partnered with RocketHub on a crowdfunding campaign to support projects created by graduates of the MWF. The first class of 500 Mandela Washington Fellows arrived in June 2014, “to study business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management at U.S. campuses, followed by a Presidential Summit in Washington”.6 The target audiences, as expected are women, youths, and “civil society”. So far 22 MWF projects have been funded. In undertaking this initiative, the US is reinforcing classic patterns of cultural imperialism.

It should become clearer how the employment of “force multipliers” can be seen as a threat to target states, when it comes to Western reactions to penetration of their own states. For example, when speaking of China’s force multipliers—or “agents of influence”— Western agencies such as the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) speak in no uncertain terms of their presence as a threat, constructed in terms of espionage, specifically naming “the mass of ordinary students, businessmen and locally employed staff” who work on behalf of China’s state intelligence gathering apparatus (MoD, 2001, p. 21F-2; see also WikiLeaks, 2009). What may be presented as innocuous ties of friendship, partnership, and aid when it comes to Western use of force multipliers, is instead dramatically inverted when speaking of Chinese influence, using a markedly more sinister tone:

“The process of being cultivated as a ‘friend of China’ (ie. an ‘agent’) is subtle and long-term. The Chinese are adept at exploiting a visitor’s interest in, and appreciation of, Chinese history and culture. They are expert flatterers and are well aware of the ‘softening’ effect of food and alcohol. Under cover of consultation or lecturing, a visitor may be given favours, advantageous economic conditions or commercial opportunities. In return they will be expected to give information or access to material. Or, at the very least, to speak out on China’s behalf (becoming an ‘agent of influence’)”. (MoD, 2001, p. 21F-2)

 

[Maximilian C. Forte has an educational background in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Spanish, International Relations, and Anthropology. He lived and studied for seven years in Trinidad & Tobago, for four years in Australia, and for three years in the U.S. He is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen, and had previously achieved Permanent Resident status in Trinidad & Tobago. His primary website is that of the Zero Anthropology Project.]

 

Notes

  1. The website for “100,000 Strong for the Americas” can be found at http://www.100kstrongamericas.org/100000-strong-explained
  2. http://www.100kstrongamericas.org/get-involved-opportunities
  3. Partners of the Americas presents a brief history of the organization at http://www.partners.net/partners/History.asp
  4. http://www.partners.net/partners/Overview12.asp
  5. Alliance for Affordable Internet: http://www.state.gov/s/partnerships/releases/reports/2015/238828.htm#A4AI
  6. Details on YALI and the MWF were presented at http://www.state.gov/s/partnerships/releases/reports/2015/238828.htm#YALI

References

Byrd, M.W., & Decker, G. (2008). Why the U.S. Should Gender Its Counterterrorism Strategy. Military Review, July-August, 96–101.

CIA. (2010). CIA Red Cell Special Memorandum, March 11. Langley, VA: US Central Intelligence Agency.
https://file.wikileaks.org/file/cia-afghanistan.pdf

Code Pink. (2009/10/7a). Afghan Women Speak Out: Dr. Roshnak Wardak. Code Pink, October 7.
http://web.archive.org/web/20101012084530/http://codepink.org/blog/2009/10/afghan-women-speak-out-dr-roshnak-wardak/

————— . (2009/10/7b). Afghanistan: Will Obama Listen to the Women? Code Pink, October 7.
http://web.archive.org/web/20101012092038/http://codepink.org/blog/2009/10/afghanistan-will-obama-listen-to-the-women/

Forte, Maximilian C. (2014). Surveillance, Dissent, and Imperialism. Zero Anthropology, March 1.
http://zeroanthropology.net/2014/03/01/surveillance-dissent-and-imperialism/

Horton, S. (2009). Is Medea Benjamin Naive or Just Confused? Code Pink Rethinks Afghan Withdrawal. AntiWar.com, October 8.
http://original.antiwar.com/scott/2009/10/07/is-medea-benjamin-confused/

King, H. (2014). Queers of War: Normalizing Lesbians and Gays in the US War Machine. In Maximilian C. Forte (Ed.), Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism (pp. 89–101). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://openanthropology.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/good_intentions_ch4_queers_of_war_king_2014.pdf

Maier, C.S. (2002). An American Empire? The Problems of Frontiers and Peace in Twenty-First-Century World Politics. Harvard Magazine, November-December, 28–31.

Manoochehri, A. (2005). Enrique Dussel and Ali Shari’ati on Cultural Imperialism. In Bernd Hamm & Russell Smandych (Eds.), Cultural Imperialism: Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination (pp. 290–300). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

McLoughlin, K., & Forte, M.C. (2013). Emergency as Security: The Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad. In Kyle McLoughlin & Maximilian C. Forte (Eds.), Emergency as Security: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad (pp. 1–19). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://app.box.com/s/b95e1i7vmqo3ovkxwcoe

Ministry of Defence (MoD). (2001). The Defence Manual of Security (Volumes 1, 2 and 3, Issue 2). London: Ministry of Defence.

Mojumdar, A. (2009/10/6). “Code Pink” Rethinks Its Call for Afghanistan Pullout. Christian Science Monitor, October 6.
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2009/1006/p06s10-wosc.html

NAFSA. (2013). Strategic Plan 2014–2016. Washington, DC: NAFSA, Association of International Educators.

Naipaul, V.S. (1967). The Mimic Men. New York: Vintage International.

NATO. (2008). NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative as at 6 October 2008. Brussels: Media Operations Centre, Press and Media Service, NATO HQ.
https://file.wikileaks.org/file/nato-master-narrative-2008.pdf

Pas, N. (2013). The Masculine Empire: A Gendered Analysis of Modern American Imperialism. In Kyle McLoughlin & Maximilian C. Forte (Eds.), Emergency as Security: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad (pp. 47–71). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://app.box.com/s/32cmeh58cc86diqcb8k5

Smollett, E. (1993). America the Beautiful: Made in Bulgaria. Anthropology Today, 9(2), 9–13.

Stevenson, R.L. (1983). A Critical Look at Critical Analysis. Journal of Communication, 33(3), 262–269.

US Department of State (DoS). (2010). Leading Through Civilian Power: The First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Washington, DC: US Department of State.

————— . (2014b). State of Global Partnerships Report. Washington, DC: The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, US Department of State.

WikiLeaks. (2009). UK MoD Manual of Security Volumes 1, 2 and 3 Issue 2, JSP-440, RESTRICTED, 2389 pages, 2001. WikiLeaks, October 4.
https://wikileaks.org/wiki/UK_MoD_Manual_of_Security_Volumes_1%2C_2_and_3_Issue_2%2C_JSP-440%2C_RESTRICTED%2C_2389_pages%2C_2001


zaniv5smExtracted from:
Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism
Edited by
Maximilian C. Forte
Montreal, Alert Press, 2015
Available in print, or as a
Free E-book

 

Western Intervention and The Colonial Mindset

conformity-is-unity-3
Poster courtesy of Mark Gould
January 20, 2015
By Prof. Tim Anderson
+++

In these times of ‘colour revolutions’ language has been turned on its head. Banks have become the guardians of the natural environment, sectarian fanatics are now ‘activists’ and the Empire protects the world from great crimes, rather than delivering them.

Colonisation of language is at work everywhere, amongst highly educated populations, but is peculiarly virulent in colonial culture. ‘The West’, that self-styled epitome of advanced civilisation, energetically reinvents its own history, to perpetuate the colonial mindset.

Writers such as Fanon and Freire pointed out that colonised peoples experience psychological damage and need to ‘decolonise’ their minds, so as to become less deferential to imperial culture and to affirm more the values of their own cultures. The other side to that is the colonial legacy on imperial cultures. Western peoples maintain their own culture as central, if not universal, and have difficulty listening to or learning from other cultures. Changing this requires some effort.

Powerful elites are well aware of this process and seek to co-opt critical forces within their own societies, colonising progressive language and trivialising the role of other peoples. For example, after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the idea that NATO forces were protecting Afghan women was promoted and gained popularity. Despite broad opposition to the invasion and occupation, this ‘humanitarian’ goal appealed to the missionary side of western culture. In 2012 Amnesty International put up posters saying ‘NATO: keep the progress going’, on women’s rights in Afghanistan, while the George W. Bush Institute collected money to promote Afghan women’s rights.

The unfortunate balance sheet of NATO’s 13-year occupation is not so encouraging. The UNDP’s 2013 report shows that only 5.8% of Afghan women have had some secondary schooling (7th lowest in the world), the average Afghan woman has 6 babies (equal 3rd highest rate in the world, and linked to low education), maternal mortality is at 470 (equal 19th highest in the world) and average life expectancy is 49.1 years (equal 6th lowest in the world). Not impressive ‘progress’.

In many ways the long ‘feminist war’ in Afghanistan drew on the British legacy in colonial India. As part of its great ‘civilising mission’ that empire claimed to be protecting Indian women from ‘sati’, the practise of widows throwing themselves (or being thrown) on their husband’s funeral pyre. In fact, colonial rule brought little change to this isolated practice. On the other hand, the wider empowerment of girls and women under the British Raj was a sorry joke. At independence adult literacy was only 12%, and that of women much less. While India still lags in many respects, educational progress was much faster after 1947.

Such facts have not stopped historians like Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James attempting to sanitise British colonial history, not least to defend the more recent interventions. It might appear difficult to justify colonialism, but the argument seems to have a better chance amongst peoples with a colonial past seeking some vindication from within their own history and culture.

North American language is a bit different, as the United States of America claims never to have been a colonial power. The fact that US declarations of freedom and equality were written by slave-owners and ethnic-cleansers (the US Declaration of Independence famously attacks the British for imposing limits on the seizure of Native American land) has not dimmed enthusiasm for those fine ideals. That skilful tradition certainly influences the presentation of Washington’s recent interventions.

After the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq we saw a change in approach, with the big powers enlisting sectarian fanatics against the independent states of the region. Even the new Iraqi state, emerging from the post-2003 rubble, was attacked by these fanatics. An ‘Arab Spring’ saw Libya trampled by a pseudo-revolution backed by NATO bombing, then delivered to a bunch of squabbling al Qaeda groups and western collaborators. The little country that once had the highest living standards in Africa went backwards decades.

Next came brave Syria, which has resisted at terrible cost; but the propaganda war runs thick. Few in the west seem to be able to penetrate it. The western left shares illusions with the western right. What was at first said to be a nationalist and secular ‘revolution’ – an uprising against a ‘dictator’ who was killing his own people – is now led by ‘moderate rebels’ or ‘moderate Islamists’. The extremist Islamists, who repeatedly publicise their own atrocities, are said to be a different species, against whom Washington finally decided to fight. Much of this might sound ridiculous to the average educated Arab or Latin American, but it retains some appeal in the west.

One reason for the difference is that nation and state mean something different in the west. The western left has always seen the state as monolithic and nationalism as something akin to fascism; yet in the former colonies some hope remains with the nation-state. Western populations have never had their own Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela, Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. One consequence of this is, as much as western thinkers might criticise their own states, they are reluctant to defend others. Many who criticise Washington or Israel will not defend Cuba or Syria .

All this makes proxy wars more marketable in the west. We could even say they have been a relatively successful tactic of imperial intervention, from the contra war on Nicaragua to the proxy armies of Islamists in Libya and Syria. So long as the big power is not seen to be directly involved, western audiences can find quite attractive the idea that they are helping another people rise up and gain their ‘freedom’.

Even Noam Chomsky, author of many books on US imperialism and western propaganda, adopts many of the western apologetics for the intervention in Syria. In a 2013 interview with a Syrian opposition paper he claimed the foreign-backed, Islamist insurrection was a repressed ‘protest movement’ that had been forced to militarise and that America and Israel had no interest in bringing down the Syrian Government. He admitted he was ‘excited’ by Syria’s uprising, but rejected the idea of a ‘responsibility to protect’ and opposed direct US intervention without a UN mandate. Nevertheless, he joined cause with those who want to ‘force’ the Syrian Government to resign, saying ‘nothing can justify Hezbollah’s involvement’ in Syria, after the Lebanese resistance group worked with the Syrian Army to turn the tide against the NATO-backed jihadists.

How do western anti-imperialists come to similar conclusions to those of the White House? First there is the anarchist or ultra-left idea of opposing all state power. This leads to attacks on imperial power yet, at the same time, indifference or opposition to independent states. Many western leftists even express enthusiasm at the idea of toppling an independent state, despite knowing the alternatives, as in Libya, will be sectarianism, bitter division and the destruction of important national institutions.

Second, reliance on western media sources has led many to believe that the civilian massacres in Syria were the work of the Syrian Government. Nothing could be further from the truth. A careful reading of the evidence will show that almost all the civilian massacres in Syria (Houla, Daraya, Aqrab, Aleppo University, East Ghouta) were carried out by sectarian Islamist groups, and sometimes falsely blamed on the government, in attempts to attract greater ‘humanitarian intervention’.

The third element which distorts western anti-imperial ideas is the constrained and self-referential nature of discussions. The parameters are policed by corporate gatekeepers, but also reinforced by broader western illusions of their own civilising influence.

A few western journalists have reported in sufficient detail to help illustrate the Syrian conflict, but their perspectives are almost always conditioned by the western ‘liberal’ and humanitarian narratives. Indeed, the most aggressive advocacy of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in recent years has come from liberal media outlets like the UK Guardian and corporate-NGOs such as Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Those few journalists who maintain an independent perspective, like Arab-American Sharmine Narwani, publish mostly outside the better-known corporate media channels.

Imperial culture also conditions the humanitarian aid industry. Ideological pressure comes not just from the development banks but also the NGO sector, which maintains a powerful sense of mission, even a ‘saviour complex’ about its relations with the rest of the world. While ‘development cooperation’ may have once included ideas of compensation for colonial rule, or assistance during a transition to independence, today it has become a $100 billion a year industry, with decision making firmly in the hands of western financial agencies.

Quite apart from the dysfunction of many aid programs, this industry is deeply undemocratic, with powerful colonial overtones. Yet many western aid workers really believe they can ‘save’ the poor peoples of the world. That cultural impact is deep. Aid agencies not only seek to determine economic policy, they often intervene in political and even constitutional processes. This is done in the name of ‘good governance’, anti-corruption or ‘democracy strengthening’. Regardless of the problems of local bodies, it is rarely admitted that foreign aid agencies are the least democratic players of all.

For example, at the turn of this century, as Timor Leste gained its independence, aid bodies used their financial muscle to prevent the development of public institutions in agriculture and food security, and pushed that new country into creating competitive political parties, away from a national unity government. Seeking an upper hand amongst the ‘donor community’, Australia then aggravated the subsequent political division and crisis of 2006. With ongoing disputes over maritime boundaries and petroleum resources, Australian academics and advisers were quick to seize on that moment of weakness to urge that Timor Leste’s main party be ‘reformed’, that its national army be sidelined or abolished and that the country adopt English as a national language. Although all these pressures were resisted, it seemed in that moment that many Australian ‘friends’ of Timor Leste imagined they had ‘inherited’ the little country from the previous colonial rulers. This can be the peculiar western sense of ‘solidarity’.

Imperial cultures have created a great variety of nice-sounding pretexts for intervention in the former colonies and newly independent countries. These pretexts include protecting the rights of women, ensuring good governance and helping promote ‘revolutions’. The level of double-speak is substantial.

Those interventions create problems for all sides. Independent peoples have to learn new forms of resistance. Those of good will in the imperial cultures might like to reflect on the need to decolonise the western mind.

Such a process, I suggest would require consideration of (a) the historically different views of the nation-state, (b) the important, particular functions of post-colonial states, (c) the continued relevance and importance of the principle of self-determination, (d) the need to bypass a systematically deceitful corporate media and (e) the challenge of confronting fond illusions over the supposed western civilising influence. All these seem to form part of a neo-colonial mindset, and may help explain the extraordinary western blindness to the damage done by intervention.

 

 

References

Tim Anderson (2006) ‘Timor Leste: the Second Australian Intervention’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, No 58, December, pp.62-93

Tony Cartalucci (2012) ‘Amnesty International is US State Department propaganda’, Global research, 22 August, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/amnesty-international-is-us-state-department-propaganda/32444

Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley (2012) ‘Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley’, Consortium News, June 18, online: https://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/18/amnestys-shilling-for-us-wars/

Noam Chomsky (2013) ‘Noam Chomsky: The Arab World And The Supernatural Power of the United States’, Information Clearing House, 16 June, online: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35527.htm

Bush Centre (2015) ‘Afghan Women’s Project’, George W, Bush Centre, online: http://www.bushcenter.org/womens-initiative/afghan-womens-project

Some detail of Syria’s ‘false flag’ massacres can be seen in the following articles:

Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online:http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Rainer Hermann (2012) ‘Abermals Massaker in Syrien’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 June, online: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html

Stephen Lendman (2012) Insurgents Named Responsible for Syrian Massacres’, ICH, 11 June: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31544.htm

Richard Lloyd and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013’, MIT, January 14, Washington DC, online:https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045-possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.html#storylink=relast

Marinella Correggia, Alfredo Embid, Ronda Hauben, Adam Larson (2013) ‘Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May 2012’, CIWCL,May 15, online: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Seymour Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, LRB, 19 December, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Souad Mekhennet (2014) ‘The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them’, Washington Post, August 18, online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/08/18/the-terrorists-fighting-us-now-we-just-finished-training-them/

Marat Musin (2012b) ‘THE HOULA MASSACRE: Opposition Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government’, Global research, 1 June, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-houla-massacre-opposition-terrorists-killed-families-loyal-to-the-government/31184?print=1

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Syria: the hidden massacre’, RT, 7 May, online: http://rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Joe Biden’s latest foot in mouth’, Veterans News Now, October 3, online: http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2014/10/03/510328joe-bidens-latest-foot-in-mouth/

Truth Syria (2012) ‘Syria – Daraa revolution was armed to the teeth from the very beginning’, BBC interview with Anwar Al-Eshki,YouTube, 7 November, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoGmrWWJ77w

The Humanitarian Industry: A “Force Multiplier” for Imperialism

WSWS

December 30 2013

By Nancy Hanover 

Humanitarianism Contested, Where Angels Fear to Tread, by Michael Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss

Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November, once again highlighted the nature of internationally-organized humanitarian aid: the paucity of real help and the exploitation of such crises by the Great Powers to further their own geo-strategic and military agendas.

The pattern, from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has become brutally apparent. Food and medical support is woefully inadequate, administered by a patchwork of uncoordinated agencies, each with its own agenda. No lasting improvements are made to forestall the next disaster.

The most striking continuity to the pattern is, however, the fact that humanitarian responses by International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) are increasingly dominated by the military. In the wake of the typhoon in the Philippines, the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, with its seven warships, reflects the preoccupation of the American government with its “pivot” to Asia and associated military preparations against China.

The role of INGOs as a Trojan Horse for world imperialism was also demonstrated in the propaganda lead-up to the planned shock-and-awe style assault against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last August-September. Among the most strident voices was that of Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders—MSF) and former foreign minister in the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy. He impatiently asked in late July, “The famous American drones, where are they?” imploring the imperialist powers to take military action in the name of humanitarianism.[1]

Big, Glitzy Marches Are Not Movements

In 1963 and today, the real work happens elsewhere.

Boston Review

August 28, 2013
Robin D. G. Kelley

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vpickering/

 

Anyone paying attention to the events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington should know by now that this historic gathering rallied under the banner of “jobs and freedom.” It has become common knowledge that economic justice was at the heart of the march’s agenda, and the main forces behind the event had roots in socialist movements—Bayard Rustin and veteran black labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who threatened a similar march two decades earlier after a black woman activist proposed the idea at a Civil Rights conference in 1940.  Thanks to the penetrating scholarship of William P. Jones’s March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, Gary Younge’s The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Dream, and Michael Honey’s eye-opening collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, forgotten speeches on labor, All Labor Has Dignity, among many other books and films, we have finally begun to crack a half century of myth portraying the march as a moment of Civil Rights triumph culminating in Dr. King’s optimistic and iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  While King’s speech remains the focus of every commemoration, A. Philip Randolph’s opening remarks are now getting some attention.  Echoing Karl Marx’s oft-quoted line in Capital, that “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded,” he presciently warned,

This civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. . . . [W]e have no future in a society in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty.  Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?

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