what's left

Violent Islamist Insurgents or Rebels? It Depends on Whether They’re Helping or Hindering the US Plutocracy

November 3, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

“Syria is home to a violent Islamist insurgency. Syria’s jihadists have carried out hundreds of attacks on security forces.” That’s one way of describing what’s going on in Syria, though it clashes with the accustomed view of the Western news media. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal favor the view that the conflict is one in which rebel militias have taken up arms against a “brutal and vicious” dictatorship which has squandered its legitimacy. In the understanding promoted by the West’s press, Syria is home to a violent civil war where regime forces have carried out hundreds of barrel bomb attacks on civilians, not home to violent Islamist insurgents who carry out attacks on a legitimate government’s security forces.

Yet the view presented at the outset of this article is not so different from the Western news media’s depiction of a little-known conflict in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In fact, I’ve imported the description of that conflict from The Washington Post and altered it with the lone replacement of the word Sinai by the word Syria. The original reads: “Sinai…is home to a violent Islamist insurgency…. Egypt’s Sinai jihadists…have carried out hundreds of attacks on security forces.” [1]

Laurence H. Shoup, who has written a recent study of the CFR, titled “Wall Street’s Think Tank,” says the Council works on “how to expand profit-making opportunities for US corporations abroad, sometimes by working to weaken or overthrow governments that are standing in the way of expansion of corporate capital.”

Laurence H. Shoup, who has written a recent study of the CFR, titled “Wall Street’s Think Tank,” says the Council works on “how to expand profit-making opportunities for US corporations abroad, sometimes by working to weaken or overthrow governments that are standing in the way of expansion of corporate capital.”

The point of replacing Sinai with Syria is to show that interconnected violent Islamist insurgencies in the same neighbourhood can be—and are—depicted in very different ways. From the perspective of the Western media, there’s a “violent Islamist insurgency” in Egypt, but in Syria there’s a civil war. Unmentioned, though significant, is the reality that Egypt is home to a de facto dictatorship allied to the United States, while Syria is home to a government that zealously guards its independence from US domination.

Egypt’s conflict, according to Western news media, involves violent Islamist jihadists, but Syria’s features rebels. Yet the militias battling the Syrian government are dominated by violent Islamist jihadists, most belonging to al-Qaeda offshoots, or who are “enmeshed” with them, as The New York Times [2] delicately describes the fighters the United States backs under a $1B covert CIA train-and-equip program. [3]

And while the Western news media say Egypt has security forces which are under attack by jihadists, Syria is said to have “regime” forces which attack civilians. Implied in all this is that the government in Cairo is legitimate (it’s fending off attacks on its security forces), while the one in Damascus, which is regularly called a “regime”, is not (it’s killing its own people, we’re told.)

Clearly, when it comes to Syria, Western news media are chauvinistically biased. They present countries within Washington’s orbit in a different light from those outside it; those that are allied with the United States different from those that are not. So while we might expect two parallel conflicts to be described in a commensurate way, using the same language, this doesn’t happen. Instead, we get a civil war, rebels and regime forces in one case, and an insurgency, violent Islamist jihadists and security forces in another.

A related example of Western news media chauvinism is found in the reporting of The New York Times’ David E. Sanger, a member of The Council on Foreign Relations, an elite consensus-forming organization presided over by principals of US finance, banking and industry. In its own words, the Council acts to help shape US foreign policy, provide continuing leadership for the conduct of US foreign relations, and inform a wider audience. [4]

I mention the CFR, and Sanger’s connection to it, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

Laurence H. Shoup, who has written a recent study of the CFR, titled “Wall Street’s Think Tank,” says the Council works on “how to expand profit-making opportunities for US corporations abroad, sometimes by working to weaken or overthrow governments that are standing in the way of expansion of corporate capital.” [5]

There’s no doubt that the Council has enormous influence in Washington. Since the Carter administration, if not before, the following key US cabinet positions have, in the majority, been filled by members of the billionaire-directed policy organization: State, National Security, Defense, Treasury, Ambassador to the UN, and CIA. Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush were members, and Carter became one after his presidency. As vice-presidents, Mondale, Bush, and Cheney were members. Joe Biden was once a member. [6]

The CFR is no less strongly represented in the Obama administration. All three of Obama’s national security advisers have CFR pedigrees, as do all of his defense secretaries, as well as secretary of state John Kerry (married to near-billionaire Terisa Heinz, who inherited the Heinz food fortune). Former CIA director David Petraeus is also a member. [7]

Back to New York Times reporter and CFR member Sanger. In a 1 November 2015 article [8] Sanger notes that Washington engages “with some of the world’s most repressive governments” despite its professed commitment to promoting human rights.

Indeed, Washington does engage with many of the world’s most repressive governments, including its allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Israel, even to the extent of establishing military bases on their soil or selling them arms or providing them military aid or colluding in their aggressions or running interference for them in international political forums, or in all of these ways.

But Sanger didn’t have these US allies in mind when he referred to the world’s most repressive governments. Instead, he mentioned just two, neither US allies: Iran and Cuba. Committing a sin of omission, he subtly advanced the misleading view that the world’s most repressive governments belong to the phalanx of countries to which Washington is hostile, drawing a veil over the reality that many of the world’s most repressive governments are key US client states. Worst, their repressions are often amply assisted by Washington militarily, economically and diplomatically, in return for favors to US finance, banking and industry.

For example, Saudi Arabia, a family dictatorship that beheads its citizens for some non-violent crimes, including apostasy, imprisons and flogs bloggers for criticizing the king, and which sequesters women and bans them from driving automobiles, is a source of immense profits to the US banking, finance, resource-extraction and weapons manufacturing industries. Washington dotes on the Saudi tyranny, and the Saudi tyranny dotes on US capital.

By contrast, the government in Damascus, which Washington reviles, offers none of the profit-making attractions so richly bestowed on Wall Street by the Gulf tyrannies. On the contrary, Damascus is the last redoubt of an Arab nationalism that views the vast resources of the Middle East and North Africa as the patrimony of the Arab nation, and which seeks to bring those resources under Arab control for the nation’s own internal development, and not to serve the profit-making imperatives of Western businesses and the personal extravagances of US-allied emirs. In the Wall Street-unfriendly view of Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad, Arab states ought to work for the interests of their people, rather than making their people work for the interests of the West. [9]

This was a view shared by another of the United States’ Arab nationalist bêtes noire, Muamar Gaddafi, and he paid the price for acting on it with his life. “We came, we saw, he died,” crowed then US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, after violent Islamist jihadists, aided by NATO warplanes, did corporate America’s dirty work by removing an Arab leader The New York Times said “proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands.” [10] Gaddafi aroused corporate America’s enmity when he announced, “Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.” [11] Clinton’s husband and daughter are both CFR members. [12]

The reality that Washington’s demons are almost invariably defiant champions of interests which conflict with Wall Street’s is a reality which will not be included among all the truth that’s fit to print in The New York Times. Nor this: There is, in Syria, a violent Islamist insurgency. It is fuelled by the United States and by some of the world’s most repressive governments through the provision of money, training and arms to jihadist cat’s paws. The insurgents’ aim is to topple a secular government and replace it with a theocratic one. Their backers’ aim is to eliminate an Arab nationalist orientation which lays too much stress on public ownership of the economy and rule in favor of local interests to suit the preferences of US finance, banking and industry.

Not surprisingly, The Washington Post and The New York Times, newspapers organically connected to the US capitalist class, put a spin on foreign affairs that demonizes countries whose policies fail to accommodate the interests of corporate USA. As noted, Shoup writes that the CFR (and so too the interlocked news media, State Department, CIA and Pentagon) work on “how to expand profit-making opportunities for US corporations abroad, sometimes by working to weaken or overthrow governments that are standing in the way of expansion of corporate capital.” When Wall Street-unfriendly governments are confronted by violent Islamist jihadists, backed by Washington and some of the world’s most repressive governments, they’re depicted as “brutal dictatorships” which kill their own citizens. But when the same “rebels” threaten repressive governments that facilitate the profit-making of US corporations, they suddenly become violent Islamist insurgents who attack “security” forces, or in the case of ISIS when it threatens control of oil fields in Iraq, “the world’s gravest threat.”

The description, then, of violent political Islam as comprising either rebels opposing an illegitimate dictatorship or violent Islamist insurgents attacking the security forces of a legitimate government depends entirely on whether the interests of the US plutocracy are facilitated or hindered. The US capitalist class, through its ownership and control of the mass news media and domination of the State Department, Pentagon, CIA and post of National Security Adviser, both shapes US foreign policy it is own interests, and shapes how we understand and think about it.

Of course, an understanding that comports with the profit-making interests of billionaires happens only to the extent we allow it to, and to the degree we docilely follow wherever the mass news media lead us—and only inasmuch as we uncritically parrot its conclusions, adopt its language, and acquiesce to its manipulations.

1. Eric Cunningham, “No survivors after Russian airliner crashes in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula”, The Washington Post, October 31, 2015.

2. Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon, “Goals diverge and perils remain as U.S. and Turkey take on ISIS,” The New York Times, July 27, 2015.

3. Greg Miller and Karen De Young, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2015.

4. Laurence H.Shoup. Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, Monthly Review Press, 2015, p. 69.

5. Shoup, p. 68.

6. Shoup, Chapter 3.

7. Shoup, pp. 98-99.

8. David E. Sanger, “John Kerry is cautious on Human Rights during Uzbekistan visit”, The New York Times, November 1, 2015.

9. http://www.syriaonline.sy/?f=Details&catid=12&pageid=5835

10. Clifford Kraus, “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins,” The New York Times, August 22, 2011.

11. Steven Mufson, “Conflict in Libya: U.S. oil companies sit on sidelines as Gaddafi maintains hold”, The Washington Post, June 10, 2011.

12. Shoup, p. 98.

Written by what's left

November 2, 2015 at 11:54 pm

The International Dictatorship of the United States, Its Friends (Amnesty International, ISIS and the Nusra Front) and Enemies (Hassan Nasrallah, Cuba and Ana Montes)

October 25, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

In a speech delivered in the southern suburbs of Beirut on October 23, 2015, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a resistance organization rooted in Lebanon’s Shia community, presented a description of US imperialism that largely comports with that of secular leftwing anti-imperialists in the West.

Hezbollah was established in the early 1980s to end Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. With Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, and a subsequent Israeli incursion in 2006 repulsed by Hezbollah fighters, the resistance organization remains on the qui vive against future Israeli aggressions. It is now assisting the Syrian Arab Army in its death struggle against extreme sectarian Sunni Islamists, among them ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra. These al-Qaeda offshoots pose an existential threat to the Shia community in Lebanon, explaining why Hezbollah has chosen to enter the conflict.

Nasrallah: US foreign policy is driven by the owners of oil and weapons companies, not by human rights organizations.

Nasrallah: US foreign policy is driven by the owners of oil and weapons companies, not by human rights organizations.

The following (in italics) is a distillation of Nasrallah’s remarks [1].

The United States wants the Middle East to be under its political, military, security, economic and cultural domination.

Washington uses Israel as a tool to promote this agenda.

Israel depends for its existence on the United States. If the financial, economic and military support that Washington grants Tel Aviv stops, Israel will cease to exist.

The victims of Israel are the Palestinians and the Lebanese, both of whom have suffered occupation and massacres at Israel’s hands.

Blame for Israeli actions, then, lies more with Washington, Israel’s master, than with Netanyahu and his terrorist army.

Therefore, Palestinians and Lebanese are the primary victims of the US domination project in the Middle East.

US foreign policy is aimed at plundering the region’s oil, gas and riches. It is driven by the owners of oil and weapons companies, not by human rights organizations.

Indeed, all of Washington’s talk about human rights and democracy is meaningless. The biggest dictatorships in the region are sponsored by the United States. These dictatorships violate human rights and disdain elections (a reference to US allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain).

US allies in the region are nothing but local administrations headed by a king or a president answerable to Washington. The decisions of war, peace, foreign policy and markets are in the hands of their master, the United States.

The punitive aspects of US foreign policy are aimed at anyone who refuses to submit to US domination, which is to say, refuses to become local extensions of the US government (and by implication, of the large oil and weapons companies that dominate it.) He who takes his own decision on the basis of his country’s interests is unacceptable to the United States.

For example, all of Washington’s hostility to Iran is traceable to the latter’s wanting to be a free and independent country that owns and controls its own economy and preserves the dignity of its people. This rejects US hegemony and therefore is unacceptable to Washington.

Washington launches proxy wars against those countries that seek to become independent and strong. The United States is waging a proxy war in the Middle East on everyone who refuses to submit to US domination. The proxies are the extreme sectarian Sunni Islamist jihadists, or takfiris, (including ISIS and the Nusra Front, both progeny of al-Qaeda, and the latter now reframed deceptively by US propagandists as “moderate” rebels.) The real leader and coordinator of the takfiris is the United States, assisted by its regional allies (a reference to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.)

Today, Washington tells us that we will either be slaves of the United States or it will besiege us and send suicide bombers.

The ongoing war is not for the sake of reforms, democracy, human rights, elimination of poverty or countering ignorance, but for subjugating those who reject the United States’ hegemonic ambitions.

Nasrallah calls Israel “an executive tool in implementing US hegemony” in the Middle East. This calls to mind an observation made by the Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi: “To many Arabs, Israel is the beachhead of US imperialism in the Middle East and its executor,” a not unreasonable understanding given the evidence.

Nasrallah describes US foreign policy as predicated on a universalist model of US leadership that leaves little room for other countries to define and follow their own path. At least one person close to US foreign policy acknowledges that this view is accurate. Ana Montes, who on the eve of 9/11 was the top Cuba analyst at the Pentagon, denounced US foreign policy for having “never respected Cuba’s right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice,” [2] paralleling Nasrallah’s complaint that Washington is unwilling to allow Iran to “be a free and independent country” that owns and controls its economy and preserves the dignity of its people, and that it punishes countries “that seek to become independent and strong.”

Ana Montes: The prisoner of conscience you haven't heard of, and Amnesty International won't touch.

Ana Montes: The prisoner of conscience you haven’t heard of, and Amnesty International won’t touch.

Montes struggled unsuccessfully to understand why Washington continued “to dictate how the Cubans should select their leaders, who their leaders cannot be, and what laws are appropriate in their land,” as much as many Syrians must struggle to understand, in Washington’s insistence that their president step aside, why the United States dictates how they should select their leaders and who their leaders cannot be.

“Why,” Montes wondered, “can’t we let Cuba pursue its own internal journey, as the United States has been doing for over two centuries?”

And why can’t Washington let Syria and Iran do the same?

The answer, from Nasrallah’s analysis, is clear. Neither Syria nor Iran, anymore than Cuba, can be allowed to own and control their own economies because this conflicts with the aspirations of the corporate elite that dominates policy-making in the United States.

Troubled by the absence in Washington of “tolerance and understanding for the different ways of others”, Montes followed her conscience. She fed Cuban authorities intelligence on the eavesdropping platforms that US spies had secretly installed in Cuba to help undermine Cuba’s right to make its own journey.

For her efforts to impede an injustice, she was sentenced to almost 25 years in prison for espionage. She has been called “the most important spy you’ve never heard of” [3] but is also among the most important prisoners of conscience you’ve never heard of, and one Amnesty International, a purported champion of prisoners of conscience, won’t touch. This simply adds to the tally of lapses on the side of US imperialism that the compromised human rights organization has become infamous for, including:

• Criticizing Wikleaks for leaking US secrets; [4]

• Propagating without evidence the claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons program; [5]

• Disappearing US sanctions against North Korea—the most comprehensive and longstanding program of economic warfare ever carried out in human history–in a report on the country’s “crumbling health care system.” Instead, Amnesty attributed North Korea’s health care difficulties solely to decisions taken by Pyongyang, roughly equivalent to blaming the death of numberless Iraqi children during the 1990s on Saddam Hussein, and not the US-led sanctions regime; [6]

• Appointing US State Department official Suzanne Nossel to the post of executive director of Amnesty International USA, a woman who supported the illegal US invasion of Iraq as well as a military option to coerce Iran into relinquishing its right under international law to process uranium for peaceful purposes; [7]

• Confining its criticism of US military aggressions to the question of whether they are conducted in compliance with the rules of war and not whether they are initiated in violation of international law. [8] This prioritizes the concept of jus in bello (justice in how a war is conducted) and fails to address altogether the concept of jus ad bellum (the justness of a war), a strategy which spares Amnesty from calling out the most egregious crimes of the United States and its allies, since Washington’s wars, and those of its subalterns, almost invariably fail to meet jus ad bellum standards;

• Calling for an international arms embargo on the Syrian government but not on the rebels who are supplied by the United States and its allies, among which is Saudi Arabia, a human rights abomination. [9]

While Amnesty was critical of the human rights record of apartheid South Africa, it alone among human rights organizations refused to denounce apartheid itself. [10] The organization also refused to condemn the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia [11], even though it was an exercise in imperial predation that denied the rights of many innocent Yugoslavs to life, security of the person and employment. Amnesty excused its inaction on grounds that it is not an antiwar organization, as if war and human rights are not often inextricably bound. But Amnesty’s most egregious service to the propaganda requirements of US foreign policy came in 1991, when the rights group released a report in the run-up to the Gulf War claiming that Iraqi soldiers had thrown Kuwaiti babies from incubators. This was a hoax, perpetrated by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, orchestrated by the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which had been hired to launch a propaganda campaign to galvanize public support for a US war on Iraq. When US President George H.W. Bush appeared on television to announce that he was readying for war on Iraq, he had a copy of the Amnesty report in his hands. [12]

Washington promoted human rights in the 1980s as a cudgel with which to wage a propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It has been used since to extend the war to countries that refuse to submit to Washington’s hegemonic ambitions. Is it not predictable that a Western-based human rights organization, which apparently sees nothing amiss in appointing a former US State Department official to head its US branch, should take center stage in prosecuting this propaganda battle?

The United States and its allies are, according to the preferred narrative—and one largely supported by Amnesty—champions of human rights whose aggressions abroad are aimed at enemies of human rights, and therefore, are valid, and even laudable. The idea that US foreign policy is inspired by human rights, as Nasrallah shows, is complete nonsense. An accurate description of the instrumental role played by human rights in US foreign policy is provided by a senior US State Department official: “The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass (on human rights), whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.” [13]

The Amnesty-ignored prisoner of conscience Ana Montes remains defiant, despite her decade and a half of incarceration in the highest security women’s prison in the United States. “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in,” Montes says, “but some things in life are worth going to prison for.” [14]

How pathetically weak-kneed and addled is the imperialist-friendly Amnesty against the honest analysis and courage of Ana Montes; how contemptible is its collusion with imperialism against the defiance of Nasrallah and the countless other opponents of the international dictatorship of the United States and the bankers, billionaire investors, oil companies and weapons manufacturers in whose service it operates and who hold sway over it.

David Rovic’s Song for Ana Belen Montes.

1. “Zeinab Essa, “Sayyed Nasrallah vows from Sayyed Shudadaa Complex: We’re to defeat ‘Israel”, US-Takfiri scheme,” Alahed, October 24, 2015.

2. Montes statement, October 16, 2002, The Centre for Counter-Intelligence and Security Studies, The Ana Belen Montes Case, , Latinamericanstudies.org, Studieshttp://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/montes-articles.pdf

3. Jim Popkin, “Ana Montes did much harm spying for Cuba. Chances are, you haven’t heard of her,” The Washington Post Magazine, April 18, 2013.

4. John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya, “WikiLeaks founder on the run, trailed by notoriety”, The New York Times, October 23.

5. Joe Emersberger, “Debating Amnesty about Syria and Double Standards”, MRZine, July 6, 2012.

6. Stephen Gowans, “2010 Amnesty International botches blame for North Korea’s crumbling healthcare,” what’s left, July 20, 2010.

7. Emersberger.

8. Daniel Kovalick “Amnesty International and the Human Rights Industry,” counterpunch.org, November 8, 2012.

9. Emersberger.

10. Francis A. Boyle and Dennis Bernstein, “Interview with Francis Boyle. Amnesty on Jenin”, Covert Action Quarterly, Summer, 2002. http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=4573

11. Alexander Cockburn, “How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?” Counterpunch, April 1-15, 1999. http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/article0005098.html

12. Boyle and Bernstein.

13. Craig Whitlock, “Niger rapidly emerging as a key U.S. partner,” The Washington Post, April 14, 2013.

14. Popkin.

Written by what's left

October 25, 2015 at 3:33 am

Why Palestinians Attack Israelis

October 22, 2015

To paraphrase Karl Marx, however infamous the conduct of the Sicarii Palestinians, it is only the reflex, in concentrated form, of the Zionists’ own conduct in the land they’ve usurped from their attackers.


Written by what's left

October 21, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Palestine

If the BBC reported on the royal family like it did on North Korea

By Adam Taylor
Washington Post
October 19, 2015

You wouldn’t expect a BBC report on Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday to suggest that “it was a birthday celebration, but it felt more like a cult meeting in adoration of the leader.” Nor would you expect talk of “fearsome missiles” or a “snarling martial threat” in the military parade that accompanied the celebrations.

And yet that’s what the footage above, uploaded to YouTube last week, appears to show.

Appearances can be deceiving. Although the footage in the video is from the Trooping the Color ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a military parade that accompanies the queen’s official birthday each year — the audio comes from a BBC radio report by Stephen Evans, a foreign correspondent who covers extravagant North Korean military parades for the news organization.

It appears that the YouTube user who uploaded the video created it with satirical intentions (it is also worth noting that the video was the only one uploaded by the account, which is under the name John Smith — a common placeholder name).

The altered video succeeds in showing just how different things can appear from a different perspective. Many Britons accept lavish military parades in honor of a hereditary head of state as part of British life. North Koreans can understand that.

Written by what's left

October 21, 2015 at 11:11 pm

Posted in north Korea

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Equals a U.S. Aircraft Carrier

October 17, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

The U.S. political elite is never entirely secretive about its aims. It spells them out, maybe not always clearly and maybe sometimes elliptically, but it is fairly open in declaring its objectives and how it intends to achieve them. When she was U.S. secretary of state, Hilary Clinton adumbrated the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a 2011 article in Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations, an elite-consensus forming organization which Laurence H. Shoup in a recent book dubbed “Wall Street’s Think Tank”, and, in an earlier book, an “imperial brain trust.” [1]

In “America’s Pacific Century,” Clinton announced that the Obama administration was “working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property.” [2] Which is exactly what the TPP sets out to do, except—and this is a significant point—without China.

US defense secretary  Ashton Carter has says the Trans-Pacific Partnership is as important to him as another aircraft carrier.

US defense secretary Ashton Carter says the Trans-Pacific Partnership is as important to him as another aircraft carrier.

Almost without exception, commentary on the TPP from the North American Left has focussed on the potential harm the pact will likely inflict on ordinary North Americans, the 99 percent. The emphasis has been on the TPP as a weapon of the corporate elite—a new battle tank in a class war that billionaire investor Warren Buffet famously acknowledged exists and that his class is winning. [3]

Commentary on the TPP as a weapon wielded against North American workers is important and necessary, but no less important is the reality that the TPP also exists as a weapon wielded against China, a country the U.S. ruling class designates as a rival. Even the U.S. political elite has embraced the weapon metaphor. U.S. secretary of defense, Ashton B. Carter has called the pact “as important to me as another aircraft carrier.” [4]

Who’s Involved?

TPPcountriesmapThe TPP is a U.S.-initiated pact among 11 other Asia-Pacific region countries, including Washington’s anglosphere allies, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, along with Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. Despite their significant place in the Pacific Rim, Russia and China were left out of the pact by Washington. The exclusion of China is significant, because the TPP is said to be the economic arm of “the much-extolled (U.S.) ‘pivot’ to Asia,” aimed at bolstering the United States’ presence in the Asia-Pacific region. [5]

Containing China

Coverage of the TPP in the two principal elite U.S. newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, has portrayed a major aim of the pact as containing China. “The pact…is seen as a way to” raise “a challenge to Asia’s rising power…which has pointedly been excluded from the deal,” wrote Kevin Granville in The New York Times. [6] Jane Perlez in the same newspaper described the pact “as a win for the United States in its contest with China for clout in Asia”. [7] “Critics in China,” noted The Wall Street Journal, are on the same page, viewing “the Trans-Pacific Partnership with suspicion, seeing it as one more way for Washington to seek to contain China’s influence.” [8]

What U.S. ruling circles seek to contain in the Asia-Pacific region is Chinese encroachments on U.S. profits. Chinese industry is taking an ever growing share of the region’s trade, at the expense of corporate USA. “Time is running out,” warns the U.S. defense secretary. “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets.” [9]

As recently as 2004, the United States was the largest trading partner of Asean, a 10 country association of Southeast Asian economies, 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.” Not only is China Asean’s biggest trading partner, it’s the top trading partner of Japan, Korea, India and Australia, notes Cui Tiankai, a Chinese vice foreign minister. [10]

What’s more, “the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China now provide more loans to the region than the (U.S.-dominated) World Bank and Asia Development Bank combined.” [11] And China “has picked off American allies like Britain, Germany and South Korea to join…the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a project started by China in part to keep its own state-owned firms busy building roads, dams and power plants around Asia. China is at the same time setting up other trade pacts around the region so it can use its cash and enormous market leverage to strike deals more advantageous to its interests.” [12] Needless to say, the deals China strikes, the roads, dams and power plants it builds, and the trade it carries out, represent lost opportunities for U.S. banks, corporations and investors.

China’s growing economic clout has raised concerns on Wall Street and in Washington of “being left on the outside, looking in.” Fearful that U.S. firms and investors “risked being shunted aside in Asia,” Washington initiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership [13] as a means of defending the interests of U.S. finance and business in Asia.

Re-orienting Economies from China to the United States

One of the ways the TPP defends and promotes U.S. profits is by re-orienting the economies of the pact’s other partners toward the United States and away from China. “Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States, described the Trans-Pacific Partnership as ‘economic glue to cement ties with like-minded countries,’ including emerging economies such as Vietnam that are only partly integrated into the global economic order shaped by the United States.” [14] The TPP isn’t as much about free trade as it is about restricting trade and investment within a US-dominated bloc.

During talks, U.S. negotiators “aiming to bolster American exporters” stipulated “that countries joining its new Pacific trade zone cut back on imports from China.” U.S. negotiators demanded that “Vietnam, a major garments exporter, reduce its reliance on textiles made in China… to get preferential market access to the U.S.” Washington’s goal was “to create new markets in Vietnam for the U.S. textile industry.” Since the “U.S. and Mexico are especially large textile producers, Vietnam would simply have to shift its sourcing of yarns and fabrics from China to the U.S. and Mexico.” [15] This exemplifies the entire aim of the U.S.-initiated TPP: to disrupt China’s growing trade relations with its neighbors in order to bolster U.S. profits.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington estimates that the TPP will “cost China about $100 billion a year in lost exports as the partners trade more among themselves and less with China.” [16]

Pressuring China to Abandon State-Directed Development

Another way the TPP seeks to buttress U.S. profits is by leaving open the possibility of China joining the pact if it abandons its development model, which relies heavily on state-owned enterprises and assistance to domestic industry. While China was initially excluded from the partnership, “U.S. officials… say they are hopeful that the pact’s ‘open architecture’ eventually prompts China to join.” [17] But to link up with the 12 economies of the TPP club the “Chinese government would need to work harder at economic reform in order to meet the pact’s standards.” [18] Specifically, China would have to open markets and limit assistance to state-owned companies. [19]

China has “tens of thousands of state-owned enterprises that dominate half of China’s economic output and that the government heavily subsidizes and protects.” [20] They “account for about 96% of China’s telecom industry, 92% of power and 74% of autos. The combined profit of China Petroleum & Chemical and China Mobile in 2009 alone was greater than all the profit of China’s 500 largest private firms.” [21]

In addition, foreign competitors are restricted by government rules, required to share their technology in joint ventures with state companies, and are passed over for lucrative government contracts in favor of state enterprises.

China’s reliance on state-directed development has provoked ire on Wall Street and in Washington. Chinese “state capitalism” restricts profit-making opportunities within China for U.S. firms and investors. At a public forum in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum, then U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner complained that “China does present a really unique challenge to the global trading system, because the structure of its economy, even though it has more of a market economy now, is overwhelmingly dominated by the state.” [22] U.S. President Barack Obama, referring to Washington’s Asian rival, complained that “It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg upon ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.” [23] The point of China’s state-directed development is to raise many more hundreds of millions of Chinese from poverty, as the Chinese Communist Party has already done, even if it means irking U.S. banks, investors and corporations and their political handmaidens in Washington.

U.S. and European corporations have grown “increasingly agitated over what they regard as unfair curbs on their ability to compete with domestic companies in China’s vast and growing market.” [24] The TPP is a response to that agitation. “Prodded by corporate chiefs across the country, U.S. trade officials…launched a coordinated attack on the core of America’s commercial conflict with China: the heavily protected and subsidized Chinese state-owned enterprises that are pounding U.S. companies not just in China but in competition globally.” [25]

Accordingly, one set of the TPP’s “provisions requires that state-owned enterprises…receive fewer government subsidies in the form of low-rate loans, cheap or free land and other assistance,” notes Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “The clause is initially aimed at Vietnam—as well as Malaysia and Singapore to some extent—but it offers a signpost for the direction in which the United States wants China to move.” [26] “The message to China: If you want to join, you have to change.” [27]

The TPP’s Connection to Regime Change in Libya and Syria

The preceding paragraphs point to a significant reality of U.S. foreign policy: U.S. State Department initiatives are “prodded by corporate chiefs” and aim to open up the world to U.S. trade and investment–and keep it open. Trade and investment agreements, and the Pentagon, are both instruments of the U.S. corporate and financial world, deployed by Washington’s political elite to secure the interests of the United States’ most “substantial” citizens. Hence, U.S. secretary of defense Ashton Carter can draw an equivalence between the TPP and an aircraft carrier.

To the U.S. capitalist ruling class, China, with its immense market, represents a potential cornucopia of profits, all the greater if the Chinese Communist Party can be persuaded to abandon its state-directed development model, which severely restricts the latitude of U.S. investors, banks and corporations to manoeuvre within the Chinese economy. The Chinese model has proved worthy of lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, not surprisingly, since its aim is internal development, not the aggrandizement of super-wealthy foreigners ensconced on Wall Street. By contrast, the development model favored by the corporate-based ruling class of the United States predictably favors private enterprise and free trade (within US-dominated blocs)—a model that has proved worthy of creating fabulous wealth for a parasitic elite at the apex of U.S. society, but abject poverty at the other extreme for people in the developing world.

Finally, another reality should be acknowledged. Both Libya and Syria have followed development models that are very much similar to China’s, and have equally irked US corporate and political leaders.

A November 2007 U.S. State Department cable warned that those “who dominate Libya’s political and economic leadership are pursuing increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector” and that there was “growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism.” [28] The cable cited a 2006 speech in which then Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi said: “Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.” [29] Gaddafi’s government had also forced companies to give their local subsidiaries Libyan names. Worse, in the view of the oil companies, “labor laws were amended to ‘Libyanize’ the economy,” that is, turn it to the advantage of Libyans. Oil firms “were pressed to hire Libyan managers, finance people and human resources directors.” The New York Times summed up Washington’s objections. “Colonel Gaddafi,” the newspaper said, “proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands.” [30]

Similar complaints are heard in Washington about Syria. The U.S. Library of Congress country study of Syria refers to “the socialist structure of the government and economy,” points out that “the government continues to control strategic industries,” mentions that “many citizens have access to subsidized public housing and many basic commodities are heavily subsidized,” and that “senior regime members” have “hampered” the liberalization of the economy. [31]

united-states-mother-of-terrorism-altagreerRegime change operations in Libya and Syria originated in the U.S. ruling class goals of opening the world to U.S. banks, investors and corporations and crushing development models which refuse to yoke markets, labour and resources to U.S. corporate interests, not to (contrived) alarm over an (invented) impending massacre in Libya or revulsion over the way the Syrian state has defended itself against an uprising by violent sectarian Sunni Islamists (in reality egged on, funded, trained and armed by the United States and the marionette Middle East tyrannies it counts as allies.) Equally, U.S. corporate goals of defending U.S. profit-making opportunities in Asia animated the activities which led to the TPP as an instrument of disrupting Chinese trading relations and pressuring Beijing to change its economic regime of internal development to one favoring Wall Street. U.S. military intervention against a resource nationalist government in Libya, the deployment of Islamist proxies against an economically nationalist government in Syria (in other words, the mobilization of religion for profane ends), and an exclusionary trade and investment bloc aimed at harming and pressuring China over its policy of state-directed development, have one thing in common: they are prodded by a parasitic elite at the apex of US society rooted in Wall Street and are intended to serve its interests by clearing away impediments to its further accumulation of capital on the world stage.

1. Laurence H. Shoup, Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, Monthly Review Press, 2015.

2. Hilary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century”, Foreign Policy, November, 2011.

3. Ben Stein, “In class warfare, guess which class is winning,” The New York Times, November 26, 2006.

4. Jane Perlez, “U.S. allies see Trans-Pacific Partnership as a check on China,” The New York Times, October 6, 2015.

5. Perlez, October 6, 2015.

6. Kevin Granville, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Accord explained,” The New York Times, October 5, 2015.

7. Perlez, October 6, 2015.

8. Brian Spegele and Thomas Catan, “China suggests shift on U.S.-led trade pact”, The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2013.

9. Helene Cooper, “U.S. defense secretary supports trade deal with Asia,” The New York times, April 6, 2015.

10. Jane Perlez, “Clinton makes effort to rechannel the rivalry with China”, The New York Times, July 7, 2012.

11. Perlez, “October 6, 2015.

12. David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, “As Obama plays China card on trade, Chinese pursue their own deals,” The New York Times, May 12, 2015.

13. Perlez, July 7, 2012.

14. Jonathan Soble, “Failure of Obama’s Trans-Pacific trade deal could hurt U.S. influence in Asia,” The New York Times, June 16, 2015.

15. Tom Wright and Mark Magnier, “Fabric of a trade deal: U.S. asks Vietnam to cut out Chinese textiles,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2015.

16. Bob Davis, “U.S. blocks China efforts to promote Asia trade pact,” The Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2014.

17. Granville, October 5, 2015.

18. Perlez, “October 6, 2015.

19. Spegele and Catan, May 31, 2013.

20. John Bussey, “Tackling the many dangers of China’s state capitalism”, The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2012.

21. Bussey, September 27, 2012.

22. Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2012.

23. Aaron Black, “U.S. raps ‘damaging’ China policies”, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2012.

24. Michael Wines, “Behind a military chill: A more forceful China”, The New York Times, June 8, 2010.

25. John Bussey, “U.S. attacks China Inc.”, The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2012.

26. Joseph E. Stiglitz, “On the wrong side of globalization,” The New York Times, March 15, 2014.

27. Bussey, February 3, 2012.

28. Steven Mufson, “Conflict in Libya: U.S. oil companies sit on sidelines as Gaddafi maintains hold”, The Washington Post, June 10, 2011.

29. Mufson, June 10, 2011.

30. Clifford Kraus, “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins,” The New York Times, August 22, 2011.

31. U.S. Library of Congress. A Country Study: Syria. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sytoc.html

Written by what's left

October 17, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Avoiding the Failure of Libya: US Strategy in Syria

September 27, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

While Washington toppled a resource nationalist in Libya who annoyed US oil companies, it failed to install a successor government in a stable environment in which US interests could be effectively advanced. US policy in Syria emphasizes “an orderly political transition” in which Arab nationalists vacate the Syrian state, yielding to anti-nationalist US marionettes. The political transition is to be brought about by proxies, militant jihadists, who the United States and its allies will strengthen enough to weaken and dispirit the current government in Damascus but not enough to topple it and plunge the country into a Libya-style chaos.

Washington’s strategy in Syria is an implicit admission that its direct military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have failed to bring about its desired foreign policy objectives of establishing stable conditions in which pro-US regimes can carry out policies to advance Wall Street’s economic, and Washington’s interlinked political and military agendas, in those few remaining parts of the world that refuse to submit to US hegemony, alternatively described as the international dictatorship of US business interests .

To be sure, the objectives have been partially met. There’s a US-installed regime in Kabul, but the active resistance of the Taliban limits its room to maneuver to advance US goals. Sectarian strife in Iraq, largely the consequence of the divide and rule policies forced upon Iraqis by US occupying forces in the mid-2000s, has produced tension among Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian communities, while Iran competes with Washington for influence in the country. And the US-led (from behind) military operation in Libya—essentially a marriage of NATO air power with al-Qaeda foot soldiers to topple a “resource nationalist” whom US oil companies could no longer abide—has produced a failed state, utter chaos, and no reliable US puppet to take control of the country to reshape it in the interests of corporate USA.

With these failures in mind, Washington has approached the project of purging Damascus of its governing Arab nationalist ideology more judiciously and with greater caution than it approached similar regime change projects in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The strategy is to force a political settlement in which the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his Arab nationalist colleagues step aside, leaving the infrastructure of the Syrian state in place, to be taken over by reliable anti-nationalist US marionettes. The political settlement is to be brought about by forcing a military stalemate between the Syrian government and Islamist rebels. At some point, it’s hoped, the Arab nationalists in Damascus will realize that their situation is hopeless, and sue for a graceful exit.

The key to the strategy is ISIS and other groups of fanatical Islamist militants. They must be allowed to be strong enough to maintain unrelenting military pressure on Damascus but not so strong that they topple the Syrian government. To achieve this delicate balance, ISIS is held in check by a US-led air campaign of containment, while other jihadists are managed through controls on the amount of arms, money and training they receive from their sponsors, the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf oil dictatorships.

The nature of the US strategy has long been discussed openly in major US newspapers. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post have revealed that: “The White House has drawn up elaborate plans for a post-Assad Syria that includes an orderly political transition that keeps the country together and preserves Western interests.” “U.S. officials are hoping for a diplomatic solution to keep national institutions in place.” “The U.S. … wants to keep technocratic elements of the state in place, seeking to avoid a repeat of what happened in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion”. “American policy is not to oust Mr. Assad precipitously, risking an extremist takeover, but to push him to a political settlement.” The United States doesn’t want “wholesale regime change, institution collapse, state collapse (as it) saw in Iraq.” Christine Wormuth, US undersecretary of defense for policy, points to “a political transition that would see Mr. Assad step down while preserving a government structure to avoid chaos.”

Major U.S. newspapers have also revealed that “The (US) end game requires a very careful calibration that doesn’t tip the meter in an unintended way toward groups that could produce the kind of post-Assad Syria that (the United States isn’t) looking for.” Underscoring this point “The Obama administration doesn’t want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests”. “The White House wants to strengthen the opposition but doesn’t want it to prevail.”

Significantly, “The CIA’s mission…has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result…limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that … U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.” “Gen. Martin Dempsey, (when he was) chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (was) particularly outspoken with lawmakers about his concerns that weakening Mr. Assad too much could tip the scales in favor of al Qaeda-linked fighters.”

Washington’s policy of forcing competing forces in Syria to bleed each other into exhaustion is looked upon favorably by the Israelis, who see it as coming straight out of the playbook of setting Arabs against each other, leaving the Zionists free to continue their project of usurping Arab territory as the Arabs descend into a hell of intra-ethnic internecine warfare. This is congenial to the Zionists’ “imperialism by the inch” as novelist Susan Abulhawa terms it. “Israeli officials have told their American counterparts they would be happy to see its enemies Iran, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and al Qaeda militants fight until they are weakened.” Meanwhile, Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, notes that “This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie. Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

It seems clear now that US planning for a post-Assad Syria foresees an end to aid to its jihadist allies—the United States “has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years” through a covert CIA program—and an intensification of the US campaign against ISIS, if, and when, a political settlement is reached to purge the Syrian state of its Arab nationalist elements. Obama’s choice of words in declaring war on the self-proclaimed caliphate was not insignificant. The US president said that the Pentagon would “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. So far US and allied forces have only degraded the militant group’s capabilities, holding it in check so that it doesn’t grow strong enough to topple the Arab nationalists, while not pressing so hard that ISIS is destroyed. The Pentagon won’t turn to destroying ISIS until its usefulness in advancing the US agenda of forcing a military stalemate and Assad’s exit through a political settlement has been realized. At that point, and only then, will the hammer come down.

The character of the Pentagon’s ISIS campaign is reflected in the complaints of many people, from Assad to Obama’s critics in Washington, that the campaign has been ineffective and seemingly half-hearted. Assad points out correctly that the Syrian Arab Army has borne the brunt of the fight against ISIS, and that the Syrian air force, small by comparison with US coalition forces, flies more missions.

When you follow media reports…you see that the rate of the airstrikes conducted by what they call a coalition against terrorism is sometimes less than 10 strikes a day or a little more…We are talking about a coalition which includes 60 countries, some of which are rich and advanced. On the other hand, the Syrian air force, which is very small in comparison… conducts in a single day many times the number of airstrikes…That’s why we say simply that there is no serious effort to fight (ISIS’s) terrorism, and what is being achieved by Syrian forces on the ground equals in one day what is being achieved by these states in weeks.

Veteran journalist Robert Fisk echoes Assad’s assessment. “I don’t think the U.S. is serious. Very occasionally, you can hear the rumble of American bombs. But they’re certainly not having much effect.”

According to US secretary of state John Kerry, “Our focus remains on destroying ISIL and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria.” US strategy might be more aptly summed up this way: “Our focus remains on destroying ISIL eventually and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria to be brought about, we hope, partly by the pressure ISIS and other jihadists can bring to bear on Damascus.”

According to Western dogma, Kerry, along with British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, are champions of democracy, on a moral plane far higher than that on which the Syrian president operates. After all, Assad is a dictator, or so we’re told, whose ‘brutal repression” of “largely” (i.e., not entirely) peaceful demonstrations in 2011 sparked an Islamist rebellion. It’s not clear how a peaceful call for democracy can almost instantly metamorphose into a violent rebellion on behalf of the anti-democratic project of creating a state based on the Quran. But this is not the only reason to question the narrative. The story suffers from another problem.

Islamist rebellions have been an ongoing feature of Syria’s modern history, antedating Bashar al Assad’s presidency. Tensions between secular Arab nationalists on the one hand, and conservative Islamists on the other, have been a staple of Syrian politics. The conflict has often been deliberately stoked by London and Washington, seeking to use political Islam to counter communist and nationalist threats to their domination of the Near East and its immense petroleum resources, no less in Syria than in Egypt (against Nasser), Iraq (against Saddam Hussein) and in Afghanistan (against a leftist, secular, modernizing government committed to eliminating discriminations based on race, sex and property.) Britain and the United States don’t want the populations of Western Asia owning and controling their own natural resources for use in their own interests. As Bernard Lewis put it in a 1992 article in the virtual house organ of the US State Department, Foreign Affairs, the danger to the United States of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was the possibility that it would lead to ”monopolistic control (by Arab nationalists) of (Arab) oil.” Damascus is perhaps the final redoubt of the kind of Arab nationalist thinking that inspired Lewis to call for a rethinking of the Middle East.

Curiously, Kerry and Hammond appear to be able to work themselves up into great fits of outrage over Assad, the “dictator”, who, contrary to the odious appellation Western officials and media have foisted upon him, is not as dictatorial as may be supposed. He was elected in a multi-candidate contest, and Syria has an elected legislature. At the same time, the two Western foreign ministers feel only the warmest regard for Saudi dictator, King Salman, the head of a family of parasites who owes his political position, privileges and immense wealth to hereditary succession and the patronage of his imperialist sponsor, the United States. The West recognizes no limits to its indulgence of the misogynistic, anti-Shia, sectarian, belligerent, democracy-abominating brutes in Riyadh, whose reciprocal indulgence of Western business interests is no less limitless. Apart from facilitating the Western oil industry’s accumulation of profits, the Saudi royal dictatorship uses oil revenues, not to develop the Arab nation as the Arab nationalists would do, but to keep the pipeline of money flowing to New York investment banks and Western weapons companies.

For their services in expanding the wealth of the West’s corporate elite, the Saudi despots get a pass. They can send Canadian-supplied light armored vehicles into Bahrain to violently repress protestors who call for a parliamentary democracy without fear the Canadian government will allow its rhetoric about promoting human rights scuttle future sales of more light armored vehicles to Riyadh. Recently asked to justify his policy of arming a repressive regime, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper could only lamely reply, “They’re our allies.” This was the same lame defense invoked by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, when asked by a journalist for his reaction to the jaw-dropping news that Saudi Arabia, which has executed more than 100 people this year, mostly by beheading, has been selected to head a key U.N. human rights panel. “I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it,” said Toner. “I mean, frankly it’s—we would welcome it. We’re close allies.”

The nature of the blatant hypocrisy that indulges a medieval tyranny while seeking to regime-change an elected president was spelled out clearly in the pages of The Washington Post by a senior US official. “The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.” We need look no further to understand why the United States and its allies are using jihadists to try to force a political settlement in Damascus that would cleanse the Syrian state of a non-cooperative Arab nationalist ideology while giving a pass to the cooperative Saudi dictatorship to behead and crucify, sequester and veil women, prevent them from driving automobiles and subordinate them to male domination, and illegally invade, bomb and blockade Yemen (amply assisted, incidentally, by Washington and London whose high state figures never tire of singing paeans to the rule of law they have no intention of being bound by themselves.)

To return to Kerry and Hammond, the alleged democrats, and Assad, the alleged anti-democrat, which of the following statements reflects the spirit of democracy, and which reflects the spirit of its opposite, rule of a people without representation from abroad, (the very arrangement that American colonists rebelled against King George III over)?

Assad: For us, the president comes through the people and through elections, and if he goes, he goes through the people. He doesn’t go as a result of an American decision, a Security Council decision, the Geneva conference or the Geneva communiqué.

Hammond: “Assad has to go. He can’t be part of Syria’s long-term future.”

Who is Philip Hammond, a member of the British political elite, resident of a country half a world away from Syria, to say who Syrians can and can’t have as their president?

Hammond’s arrogance, as US policy on Syria, is an affront against both geography and democracy.

Written by what's left

September 26, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Syria

Visible and Invisible Victims

September 26, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

Why is it that this photograph of a young Syrian refugee who drown in flight from the war in Syria has been made an iconic image…

Syrian refugee

…while this similar photograph of a young Palestinian killed by the Israeli military while playing on a Gaza beach has not?


Which isn’t to say that one tragedy is more worthy of attention than the other, but that’s just the point. One has been made more worthy than the other.


The answer, I think, has much to do with how politics pervades the mass media and uses it to draw attention to some events and not others.

Why has a media spotlight been shone on the pitiable plight of refugees, now, and not earlier? Syrians have been displaced in countless numbers by the jihadist rampage through their country for more than four years. For four years their plight has been largely invisible.

What of refugees fleeing the chaos created by the war on Libya—essentially a marriage of NATO air forces with al-Qaeda foot soldiers to oust a resource nationalist, Muammar Gaddafi, whom US oil companies could no longer abide?

Why has little attention been paid to the exodus of refugees from the ongoing tumult in Afghanistan, and Iraq?

And the little boy slaughtered on a Gaza beach: He too is forgotten, if he was ever really noticed in the first place.

Could the invisibility of these victims have something to do with reality that they were victimized by the United States, by NATO, by Israel, the supposed “good guys”?

And could the visibility of the drowned little Syrian refugee boy, on a beach, serve a political purpose—to blame the tragedy of the Syrian war on the supposed “bad guy”, Bashar al-Assad, a man the West wants to step aside from his job as president of Syria, because he, like Gaddafi, is a nationalist, and the United States doesn’t like nationalists?

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman, not a nationalist, is illegally bombing, invading, and blockading his neighbor Yemen (with the assistance of the United States.) The United States likes Salman. Journalist Glen Greenwald recently wrote that “Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.”

Earlier, Saudi Arabia invaded neighboring Bahrain to violently repress protesters demanding a parliamentary democracy. They used Canadian-supplied light armored vehicles. The Canadian government has organized the sale of more light armored vehicles to the Saudi royal dictatorship. This is all pretty much invisible.

A US official explains that “The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.” That goes a long way toward explaining visibility and invisibility. A free pass, the reward for cooperation, is a cloak of invisibility.

If the image of a drowned Syrian refugee is being used in an attempt to blame the tragedy of the Syrian war on the supposed “bad guy”, Bashar al-Assad, that too, would be another feat of deflection, of concealing the crimes of the West, namely, that the chaos of Syria that ultimately led to the death of a little child on a beach (and the death of numberless others in far more gruesome ways), is as much as the chaos of Afghanistan, of Iraq, and of Libya, a product of decisions taken by the United States and its allies to impose their wills, their politics, their militaries, their economics, their religions, and their proxies, on other peoples’ countries.

The United States has trained and equipped almost 10,000 rebels and sent them into Syria to foment chaos, misery, and terror, part of a covert CIA program. Its allies have showered fanatical Islamist militants with money, weapons and training, to destabilize Syria, to force a political settlement that would see the current government in Syria step down, to make way for one that is willing to cooperate with the United States politically, militarily and economically.

Two little boys lying dead on beaches killed by governments that present themselves as the “good guys.” Neither are.

Written by what's left

September 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Palestine, Syria


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 707 other followers

%d bloggers like this: