Brief Notes

Why the occupy movement accomplished nothing and never will

From Kate Khatib, Margaret Killjoy and Mike McGuire (Editors), We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, (AK Press, 2012): The occupy ‘movement,’

refuses to acquiesce to our traditional notions of analysis and action, shuns the antiquated idea that there is a single right answer to any problem, scoffs in the face of a single set of demands. Our demand? We want everything and nothing. Our perspective? We are all a little bit right and we are all a little bit wrong. What matters is that we are doing something.

The book might be more appropriately titled, Reflections on the Absence of Movement Strategy from Media Flash-in-the-Pan to Utter Irrelevance. Of course, I could be a little bit wrong here, but then again, I could be a little bit right too, depending on whatever your notion of analysis happens to be.

Axis of Resistance

Countries that voted against a May 14, 2013 UN General Assembly Resolution urging a “political transition” in Syria (i.e., demanding that the Syrian government step down, an event that would almost certainly be followed by the coming to power of a US puppet regime in Damascus.)

• Belarus
• Bolivia
• Ecuador
• China
• Cuba
• Iran
• Nicaragua
• North Korea
• Russia
• Syria
• Venezuela
• Zimbabwe

The Resolution was supported by such paragons of democracy as Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and such champions of peace as France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

North Korea won’t reward US for merely returning to talks

US secretary of state John Kerry said the United States was interested in talks with North Korea, but set a precondition: Pyongyang must first promise to yield to US demands that the country disarm (New York Times, April 19, 2013). In other words, Washington will agree to talk if the North Koreans first agree to do what the United States would have used the talks to demand. North Korea rejected Kerry’s offer, saying that it was not willing to reward the United States for merely returning to the bargaining table.

Provocations on the Korean peninsula: The view from the other side

Joint US-South Korean war games–practice for the invasion of the North–are unremitting, happening many times every year. What are called North Korean “provocations”–nuclear tests, ballistic missile launches, angry threats of retaliation–are defensive responses to unrelieved minatory pressure by the United States and its South Korean marionette. Anti-North Korea provocations come in the form, not only of ceaseless war games, but of economic warfare (the DPRK is the most sanctioned country on earth) and threats of nuclear annihilation. There are, indeed, provocations aplenty on the Korean Peninsula, but the provocations have “Made in the USA” written all over them.

From North Korea’s official news agency (“US, S. Korean provocations push situation to brink of war,” Korean Central News Agency, February 22, 2013):

The war exercises being staged by the U.S. and south Korea in the sky, land and sea from the outset of the year are serious military provocations pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region to the brink of a total war as they are aimed at invading the north to all intents and purposes.

[…]
The programs of the drills involve river crossing, precision strike, infiltration by use of skis and mobile drills for carrying out the scenarios for invading the north.
[…]

All these facts go to clearly prove that the military drills are the war exercises for mounting a surprise preemptive attack…

France and jihadists

“France is fighting against those in Mali whom it once armed in Libya against Gaddafi.”–Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (Eric Schmitt and Scott Sayare, “New drone base in Niger builds US presence in Africa”, The New York Times, February 22, 2013)

For Washington, Islamist terrorism is sometimes a good thing…or at least not so bad that you’d want to condemn it

At the UN on February 21, the United States blocked a Security Council statement condemning a wave of suicide car bombing attacks in Damascus which killed over 50 people and wounded 235. The attacks are believed to have been carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra, a jihadist group linked to Washington’s sometimes arch-enemy, sometimes ally, al-Qaeda. Jabhat al-Nusra announced this month that it was set to carry out a major offensive on the Syrian city. (See Sam Dagher, “Attacks in Damscus target symbols of Assad regime”, The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2013.)

Terrorism, it seems, is only bad when it’s directed at the United States and its allies, and not when its aim is to bring down governments which insist on charting courses independent of Washington and Wall Street and free from US political and economic domination–the course set by Syria and other targets of Western-supported Islamist attack, including Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, Gaddafi’s Libya, and the PDPA’s Afghanistan.

Defying geography and democracy

Here’s the New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon (“North Africa is a new test”, January 20, 2013) explaining why the West needs to intervene militarily in northern Africa: the “region is rich with oil, gas, uranium and other international ventures that clearly represent Western interests and in some cases are poorly defended” (my emphasis).

The failed state NATO created

Western governments sometimes describe countries they want to intervene in as failed states, to justify their intervention. But Libya has escaped the “failed state” label, even though it is one. Studiously avoiding the use of the term in connection with Libya has much to do with the fact that NATO is the author of the state’s failure.

Here’s the New York Times’ Kareem Fahim (“Benghazi violence is beyond the control of even the city’s most powerful militias”, November 28, 2012) describing today’s Libya:

• “[A] feeble government lacks the power to protect citizens or to confront criminal suspects. It barely has the means to arm its police force, let alone rein in or integrate the militias or confront former rebel fighters suspected of killings.”

• “[F]oreign intelligence services, like the C.I.A., are active around the country without answering to anyone… Every day, an American drone circles Benghazi, unsettling and annoying residents. Police officers share Kalashnikovs. The courts are toothless.

• “[M]ilitias…by virtue of their abundant weapons hold the…real power.”

Washington quivers with irritation that the militias are an opposing pole of power to the Pentagon, the CIA and its Libyan marionettes.

Former Israeli PM Olmert dispels the myth of Israeli independence

“What’s all this talk, that we will decide alone on our fate and that we won’t take anybody else into consideration? Can someone please explain to me with which airplanes we will attack if we decide to attack alone, against the opinion of others — airplanes that we built here in Israel? With which bombs will we bomb, bombs that we made by ourselves? With which special technologies will we do it, those that we made by ourselves or those that we received from other sources?” (Jodi Rodoren, “Netanyahu says he’d go it alone on striking Iran”, The New York Times, November 5, 2012.)

Puppets Helping puppets

The Syrian National Council says that it has received $40.4 million in aid since it was founded in October 2011, half of it, or $20.4 million, from Libya. Qatar contributed $15 million and the UAE $5 million.

Libya has recognized the SNC—largely seen as an instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood—as Syria’s legitimate government.

“In parallel, a large number of Libyan fighters have fought alongside the armed opposition groups on Syrian territory and considerable amounts of weapons from Libya are said to have been channelled to these groups.” (Valerie Stocker, “Libya the main funder of the Syrian opposition”, The Libya Herald, November 5, 2012)

The US and democracy in Bahrain

Here’s Michael H. Posner, US assistant secretary of state for (wink-wink) democracy, human rights and labour, on why Washington refuses to do anything meaningful to back Bahraini “marchers demanding that the monarchy be replaced with an elected government”: “We have been very clear from the get-go that we have a strong national security interest in Bahrain, a 60-year military history, and they are a key ally. We are going to continue to engage on that level.” (Kevin Sullivan, “In Bahrain, anti-government violence rising again amid calls for more forceful U.S. policy”, The Washington Post, November 2, 2012)

Yesterday’s ‘pro-democracy’ heroes, today’s extremists

The Pentagon and State Department are speeding up efforts to help the Libyan government create a commando force to combat Islamic extremists like the ones who killed the American ambassador in Libya last month”…and, come to think of it, like the ones who overthrew the Gaddafi government with the Pentagon’s and State Department’s help.

What really matters in US foreign policy

On March 14 (2011), White House officials awoke to a nasty surprise: the Saudis had led a military incursion into Bahrain, followed by a crackdown in which the security forces cleared Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, by force. The moves were widely condemned, but Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton offered only veiled criticisms, calling for “calm and restraint on all sides” and “political dialogue.”

The reasons for Mr. Obama’s reticence were clear: Bahrain sits just off the Saudi coast, and the Saudis were never going to allow a sudden flowering of democracy next door…In addition, the United States maintains a naval base in Bahrain…crucial for maintaining the flow of oil from the region.

“We realized that the possibility of anything happening in Saudi Arabia was one that couldn’t become a reality,” said William M. Daley, President Obama’s chief of staff at the time. “For the global economy, this couldn’t happen. Yes, it was treated differently from Egypt. It was a different situation.” Helene Cooper and Robert F. Worth, “In Arab Spring, Obama finds a sharp test”, The New York Times, September 24, 2012)

The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?

Answer: Mostly people embedded with the US ruling class.

Reason behind the US pivot to Asia—wresting southeast Asian trade and investment from China

“’China is the biggest trading partner of Asean, Japan, Korea, India and Australia…and the biggest source of investment for many countries in the region.’

“[The] United States was Asean’s largest trading partner in 2004, with total trade of $192 billion. But now China, which was an inconsequential trading partner of Asean as recently as the late 1990s, is by far the region’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade of $293 billion in 2010.

“President Obama, fearful that the United States risked being shunted aside in Asia, embraced an initiative last fall known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that aims to create a new free trade group among some Asian countries, several Latin American nations and the United States. Canada and Mexico were invited to join the talks at the recent G-20 summit meeting in Mexico.”

China was not invited to participate.

“Washington is worried about being left on the outside, looking in.” (Jane Perlez , “Clinton makes effort to rechannel the rivalry with China”, The New York Times, July 7, 2012)

When will Israeli officials be charged with crimes in Gaza? Here’s a clue. The answer begins with “N”.

“Charges of crimes in Gaza will never be investigated, international justice experts say, because of the ties between the United States and Israel.” (The United Nations Security Council would have to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, and the United States has a veto.) (Lydia Polgreen, “Arab uprisings point up flaws in global court”, The New York Times, July 7, 2012)

Meanhwile, in Bahrain, the unseen Arab Spring no one wants to talk about limps along

“So many crimes have been committed here,” said Nabeel Rajab, a rights activist in Bahrain, where the royal family, with help from Saudi Arabia and the acquiescence of the United States, has used force to put down a pro-democracy uprising. “But because of the close relationship between Western powers and the government of Bahrain, how can we hope for justice?”

[...]

“Is Syria the kind of situation that should get the court’s attention? Absolutely,” said Kevin Jon Heller, a leading scholar of international justice and an international defense lawyer who teaches at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “But there is an inherent selectivity. As long as any country has a patron on the P5,” he said, referring to the veto-holding members of the Security Council, “it will never get referred.” (Lydia Polgreen, “Arab uprisings point up flaws in global court”, The New York Times, July 7, 2012)

Buying Syrian defectors

Regional powers have even raised the prospect of offering tens of millions of dollars to woo potential defectors from government, said two people familiar with such offers. “A lot of money is being paid to ply people away,” said one of these people.” (Nour Malas, “Syria defector’s little-traveled path”, The Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2012.)

US intelligence says Turkish warplane not shot down in international waters

U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria’s account and at odds with Turkey.

Some current and former American officials believe Ankara has been testing Syrian defenses. The version of the Turkish F-4 Phantom that was shot down typically carries surveillance equipment, according to U.S. defense officials. (Juluan E. Barnes, Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson, “Doubts cast on Turkey’s story of jet”, The Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2012)

Oil sanctions as tool of coercion

The round of penalties (embargo on oil imports from Iran) that come into full effect on Sunday, some historians say, represent one of the boldest uses of oil sanctions as a tool of coercion since the United States cut off oil exports to Japan in 1940. That experiment did not end well: The Japanese decided to strike before they were weakened. (Anne Lowrey and David E. Sanger, “U.S. bets new oil sanctions will change Iran’s tune”, The New York Times, June 30, 2012)

Upholders of sovereignty and the rule of law

Pakistan has protested a recent flurry of American attacks, including the strike on Monday that killed al Qaeda operations chief Abu Yahya al-Libi.

Islamabad summoned Deputy U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland to reiterate its view that the drone strikes were unlawful and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Mr. Panetta rejected Islamabad’s argument. “This is about our sovereignty as well,” Mr. Panetta said. “Because there were a group of individuals who attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 of our citizens.” (Julian E. Barnes, “Panetta defends drone hits in Pakistan”, The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2012)

The Obama administration has made clear that drone strikes will continue to target what remains of al Qaeda’s network in the tribal areas of Pakistan, whether Islamabad agrees or not. (Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman, “U.S.-Pakistan talks hit snag”, The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2012)

The cyber-bombing of Iran

…the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple [Iran’s] infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what [once] could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives. (David E. Sanger, “Obama order sped up wave of cyberattacks against Iran”, The New York Times, June 1, 2012.)

Motive behind austerity

…“austerians”…almost always retreat to assertions along the lines of: “But it’s essential that we shrink the size of the state.” So the austerity drive…isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. (Paul Krugman, “The Austerity Agenda”, The New York Times, May 31, 2012)

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