Saturday, April 21, 2018

Democracy Pow! A Lefty Rage Against the Regime

Democracy Now’s “Alt Media” Platform for Humanitarian Imperialism in Syria

by Elliott Gabriel  - MintPress News

April 20, 2018

The “war and peace report,” as progressive as it may often sound, has long ceased to be a purely listener-supported project, and this lack of economic independence has spilled into its politics.

NEW YORK CITYThe dust had barely settled after last weekend’s U.S.-led bombing of Syria before a split in the political class developed. While some Beltway figures, media personalities and former officials hailed the bombings, others decried the “limited” nature of the airstrikes.

At the grassroots level, a somewhat different debate gripped the left and the right — those who opposed the bombings were accused of buying into the propaganda of the Syria-Russia-Iran alliance, while would-be defenders of human rights called for increased military measures to degrade the killing capacity of the “Assad regime.”

Democracy Now! host and producer, Amy Goodman.
(Photo: Flickr/Aditya Ganapathiraju)

Democracy Now!, the daily hour-long news show hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, has long been the flagship institution for U.S. progressives. With its jaunty 90s opening theme, timely coverage of world events, liberal (maybe radical-liberal) take on global affairs, and impressive range of top-tier guests including authors, government officials, policy experts and activists, the syndicated program is seen as an exemplary display of independent journalism.

No doubt, the New York-based show is in a class of its own when compared to the vapidity and sensationalism of shock-jock right-wing radio or smug, Beltway liberalism of Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann or Cenk Uygur. Like a gust of oxygen in the choking smog of AC360-Maddow infotainment, Amy Goodman resembles an enlightened aunt at a Fourth of July party — a female version of Ira Glass who brings a kale, cauliflower, almond cheese and cumin-spiced casserole to the potluck while discussing difficult topics in an unshakeably calm, Zen-like manner.

Despite its reputation as a standard-bearer for left-of-center “alternative media,” Democracy Now isn’t immune to the pressures of U.S. politics: sometimes the Battle of Seattle veterans canvas their suburbs for Barack Obama; sometimes Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky get out the vote for Hillary.

In a similar manner, Democracy Now frequently accommodates narratives that would seem at home on CNN or the state-run Voice of America. With alarming regularity, the “war and peace report” has showcased passionate voices advocating Pentagon or State Department solutions to dire human-rights crises across the globe, including “regime change.”

Case-in-point: Syria. Since the country plunged into the depths of withering all-sided conflict and proxy war pitting the government of Bashar al-Assad against a range of opposition groups – from Gulf Arab-funded jihadists to Western-funded secular armies, with few independent players in between – the program regularly features interviews with activists who feel that Washington can play a progressive role for the people of the region through the deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces, covert aid to factions on the ground, and the routine violation of international legal norms such as the United Nations Charter.

Democracy Now generally isn’t a Pentagon mouthpiece; a large portion of its coverage does consist of decent progressive journalism. Yet interspersed throughout programming covering genuine popular movements, we find narratives covering the left flank of U.S. imperialism, normalizing the use of U.S. military force for ostensibly “humanitarian” purposes.

Interventionist voices for peace

In the course of the last week — since Syria came under cruise missile attack by the trilateral U.S.-U.K.-France alliance — Democracy Now has featured two interviews with activists who unabashedly call for the Pentagon to use military measures against the Syrian government for the sake of easing the Syrian people’s pain. Their arguments resemble the line of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who questioned whether the bombings were the result of a White House “choreographed Kabuki show” with their Russian counterparts rather than the Cuban Missile Crisis-style showdown which seemed apparent prior to the strikes.

On Tuesday, Goodman interviewed Ramah Kudaimi of the Syrian Solidarity Collective. Described as a “grassroots activist” and member of the anti-war movement, Kudaimi argued – as she has for several years now – that the bombings didn’t manage to go far enough in displacing “the regime.”

Noting that the U.S., since Obama, has offered verbal support to the “Syrian people’s revolution” while acting in a manner that “strengthened the regime,” Kudaimi accused the Trump administration of continuing to not go far enough in ensuring regime change.

Meanwhile, she accused the antiwar left of offering uncritical support to the Bush-style “War on Terror” being waged by what she depicts as the virtually united forces of Syria, Iran, Russia, and the U.S.-led coalition of Western powers and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Syrian-American Activist: Limited U.S. Airstrikes Send Signal to Assad He Can Continue Mass Killing

Mocking the very real possibility of the tripartite alliance clashing with the Russian military mission backing Syria’s government, Kudaimi said:

“… it was kind of infuriating to see this being presented as breaking news, this being presented as an apocalypse, that we’re about to embark on World War III, especially as has been made clear again and again by the U.S. actions is — and words — is that this was something very limited, just to kind of send a message to Bashar al-Assad that you can go on and kill people with barrel bombs, with anything, but don’t — limit your use of chemical weapons.”

This was followed by an interview on Thursday with Moazzam Begg, a British Pakistani survivor of illegal detention and torture at the U.S. prisons in Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, who now heads the human-rights group CAGE. In his interview, Begg stressed the need for a No-Fly Zone over the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib to prevent an “unprecedented massacre.”

Maintaining that he is “completely against Western intervention” on account of his own first-hand experience, Begg complained that the U.S.-led intervention in the country continues to target the Syrian opposition rather than the government, dourly noting that the U.S. hasn’t limited itself to fighting ISIS alone but also those groups that fought alongside it or alongside other groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Instead, he implied, the U.S. should attack the root of the conflict: the Syrian air force. Begg said:

“At least we know that in the Kurdish regions, for example, during the Iraq War, there were no-fly zones. Indeed, in Bosnia … it was bad enough, but a no-fly zone at least stopped those who had air forces to carry out even further killing with mass casualties.

Neither guest mentioned the significant proportion of “regime supporters” who reside in Syria, or the need for a resumption of negotiations between beleaguered opposition forces, the government and the various powers who are militarily involved in the conflict.

These are far from the first occasions that Democracy Now’s guests, like the New York City-based Democratic socialists of Jacobin magazine, have propagated a line favoring humanitarian intervention in Syria. Past interviewees and headline readouts enthusiastically supported the NATO-backed uprising in Libya against the government of Muammar Gaddafi as well, regularly citing the inflated figures of government-caused deaths published by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Black Agenda Report head editor Bruce Dixon noted at the time:

“Something is really wrong with this picture. We have to wonder … at least as far as the war in Libya goes, whether Democracy Now is simply feeding us the line of corporate media, the Pentagon and the State Department rather than fulfilling the role of unembedded, independent journalists.”

Humanitarian crises and the pro-imperialist illusions “of idiots”

A denunciation of war crimes and indiscriminate bombings by the Syrian Arab Army or Russian Aerospace Forces — be it through hypersonic missile, artillery shell, barrel bomb, chemical warfare, etc. — is hardly our point of dispute. Nor is earnest solidarity with any people suffering at the hands of a state that disregards or does damage to their life-or-death interests.

Yet the position that any resistance to a reassertion of U.S. or European hegemony in Syria is a product of “fake news” indoctrination or a “pro-fascist anti-imperialism of idiots” — as Leila Al Shami argued in a widely-shared blog post — woefully misses the mark and cynically equates principled opponents of imperialist war with reactionary misanthropes on the far right.

To assert that Washington, London or Paris can act as guarantors of human rights or allies of the Syrian people is not only criminally naive, it provides ammunition to ideological fusillades aiming far higher than the low-hanging fruit of the Ba’athist regime alone.

For Washington and its European allies, as well as its junior partners in the region, Damascus is simply a pit-stop on the road to Tehran (and possibly Moscow) — a means by which so-called “Iranian imperialism” and the aims of rival powers can be thwarted, allowing hegemonic powers led by the U.S. to continue a policy of global conquest stretching from the Caribbean through the Mediterranean to the Sea of China.

The assertion that the war-stricken Assad regime is uniquely fascistic — unlike the region’s dynastic/sectarian, Zionist, militarist, or neo-Ottoman regimes — illustrates a selective indignation which dangerously feeds illusions that unlawful wars waged by top-tier Western powers to effect regime change will improve the lives of the most oppressed groups in the region and meet their need for a just peace. In what country, on what planet, do such precedents exist?

Let’s provide a reminder of these actors’ regional deeds in the past century: two world wars, Sykes-Picot, the partition plan, the War on Terror, police-state fascism, Wahhabist despotism, the shredding of the Middle East’s social fabric, and so forth. Doesn’t this offer at least a bit of proof that imperialism, neocolonialism, the military-industrial complex and the finance oligarchy at its helm aren’t in the least bit concerned about advancing human rights, democracy, peace and social justice in the region?

Endless warfare — endless disorientation?

Throughout the late 20th century but especially since the end of the Cold War, the United States arrogated to itself the right of aggressive military intervention across the globe on various pretenses. From Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, across Africa and the Middle East — Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen — the U.S. cited a combination of national security concerns like terrorism and human-rights crimes to justify a total disregard for international law and consensus, not to mention the subsequent war crimes its military carried out in the course of “humanitarian” warfare.

While the U.K.’s successive governments have eagerly played the “poodle” role in support of Washington’s military adventures, the British people still maintain a vibrant anti-war movement. Anti-war and even anti-imperialist voices are frequently heard in the media, while Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing faction of the Labour Party has waged a stiff opposition to Tory Prime Minister Theresa May’s eagerness to participate in attacks on Syria. As a result, only 28 percent of the British public supported May’s “commitment to combat” Syria while 36 percent opposed it, according to a poll by The Independent.

In the United States, Pew Research Center data 
from last year showed that over twice that ratio of Americans
 – 58 percent – supported such missile strikes.

The U.S. anti-war movement stagnated prior to the dusk of the George W. Bush administration and the onset of 2008’s election season, due in no small part to inroads by the Democratic Party and sectarian infighting by dominant leftist groups. In anticipation of the election of Barack Obama, the movement and its peace parades simply ground to a halt.

Following the jubilation of Obama’s electoral success and his post-inauguration resumption of Bush-era policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine-Israel, and Guantanamo, the grassroots opposition never reactivated. Mocking the movement’s co-option by the Democratic Party, activist Cindy Sheehan noted at the time that she began referring to the “anti-war left” as the “’anti-Republican War’ movement.”

In a study of the movement’s failure titled “Partisan Dynamics of Contention,” University of Michigan researcher Michael Heaney wrote:

“As president, Obama maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan. The anti-war movement should have been furious at Obama’s “betrayal” and reinvigorated its protest activity. Instead, attendance at anti-war rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement dissipated … the election of Obama appeared to be a demobilizing force on the anti-war movement, even in the face of his pro-war decisions.”

This grim state of affairs — ideological confusion, misplaced hopes, demoralization, disintegration — gives us ample cause to criticize the humanitarian window-of a center-left that’s now been housebroken, domesticated and rendered oblivious to the main enemy at home: U.S. imperialism.

Who pays the piper calls the tune

The rise and fall of popular left-wing currents — anti-war movements, militant workers’ struggles, and Black, Native American, Puerto Rican and Latin American immigrant liberation struggles — has followed predictable trends: there is the violent counter-insurgency conducted by a reinvigorated repressive state apparatus, white nationalist vigilantes, and other far-right groupings; and then there’s the low-intensity counterinsurgency conducted through the ideological state apparatus of media and academia; the formation of new electoral alliances and installation of minority “faces in the right places” of power; as well as the key factor, which is the co-option of movement figures by non-profit foundations backed by major capitalist philanthropic figures.

While open repression – the iron fist – tends to radicalize movements and galvanize popular support for them, the persuasive approach of the “velvet glove” forms a much more effective, less explosive and more demilitarized way of neutralizing mass opposition — transforming the revolutionary into the reformist, the radical into the tame, and the left to the centrist.

Much has been made of the role of figures like Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, whose proclaimed mission is to protect dissent and “build vibrant and tolerant democracies” through philanthropic grants that ostensibly serve oppressed or marginalized communities. Much of the critique can veer toward the conspiratorial, or exaggerates his role as some all-powerful impresario of the global left. Yet Soros is a major activist financier both abroad and at home, one of many players invested in what’s been called the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex” or NPIC, which comprises a complex web of relations between local and federal governments, the capitalist class, philanthropic foundations, NGO/non-profit social-service and social-justice organizations.

A look at who sponsors Democracy Now! shows just how dependent it is on NPIC. It’s worth quoting last year’s analysis of DN’s funding structure by Danny Haiphong at length:

“Democracy Now runs interference for imperialism because it is beholden to funding sources, as are all non-profits and non-governmental organizations … An analysis conducted in Critical Sociology found that the Pacifica Foundation received upwards of 148,000 USD between the years of 1996-1998 from the Ford, Carnegie, and other foundations to launch Democracy Now.”

The Lannan Foundation gave Democracy Now an additional 375,000 USD packaged in a number of grants, according to the foundation’s IRS 990 forms since 2008. Patrick Lannan, the capitalist mogul who founded the organization, sat on the board of ITT corporation in the late 70s and early 80s. The ITT corporation was instrumental in the CIA-backed fascist coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende in 1973.

“… Foundations wield a form of “soft power” on behalf of U.S. imperialism. Their main purpose is to provide a “civil society” infrastructure in targeted nations capable of fomenting conditions of regime change.

“Fake news” and critical consumption

The compromised nature of Democracy Now doesn’t render it entirely useless for genuine anti-imperialists and listeners opposed to war, be they “humanitarian” or not. Strong critical voices are often heard on Democracy Now – as may be the case on CBS, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, RT, MintPress News, PressTV, even maybe once in a blue moon on Fox News or CNBC.

When looking at any of these organizations we need to remain critical of the banalities they may spew such as a liberal-versus-conservative paradigm that upholds systems of power like global monopoly capitalism (imperialism), despite distracting debates over the finer points of how the system is upheld – is it for a more “humanitarian” world order, a more “secure” one?

All of us have a duty – as media producers and media consumers – to look beyond the rhetoric of social justice deployed by center-left establishment figures, and instead see the structures and principles they both depend on and uphold. “Fake News” in terms of bias, propaganda and lie by omission is unavoidable, but the key question remains “cui bono?” – who benefits from the propagation of this narrative?

In the case of Democracy Now!, we have incorporated non-profit 501(c)3s and big Wall Street money underwriting the ostensibly “independent” and alternative media. As usual, we should remain on guard.

The “war and peace report,” as progressive as it may often sound, has long ceased to be a purely listener-supported project, and this lack of economic independence has spilled into its politics. The clearest sign of that is an implicit support, especially in the Arab Spring era, of imperialist wars on “authoritarian” regimes who find themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government.

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License. 

After the Cameras Go, the Killing Goes On: Dying for Freedom in Gaza

Israeli Forces Kill 4 Palestinians, Injure 40 on Israel's Independence Day 


April 20, 2018

Palestinians in Gaza continued their Great March of Return, organizing mass protests every Friday against the Israeli siege and occupation of the Gaza Strip. On Friday, Israeli forces shot and killed two unarmed demonstrators and wounded over 40 others. One of the demonstrators at the time, Ebtisam Abu Al-Koumsan, spoke about the protest.

Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip continue to demonstrate even though they know they put their lives at risk because life in the "cage" that is Gaza is intolerable, says Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada.

Tracing Back the Beginnings of the Syria War

The War in Syria Was a US Intervention Since Day 1

by Tony Cartalucci - NEO

April 14, 2018

In the aftermath of US-led missile strikes on Syria, the Western media has attempted to continue building the case for “US intervention.”

However, before the first agitators took to the streets in Syria in 2011, the US was already involved.

The New York Times in its 2011 article, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” would admit (emphasis added):

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
The work of these groups often provoked tensions between the United States and many Middle Eastern leaders, who frequently complained that their leadership was being undermined, according to the cables.

The financing of agitators from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) before the so-called “Arab Spring” was meant to stampede targeted governments from power – paving the way for US client states to form. Nations that resisted faced – first, US-backed militants – and failing that, direct US military intervention – as seen in Libya in 2011.

After the US funded initial unrest in 2011 – the US has armed and funded militants fighting in Syria ever since.

The same NYT would publish a 2013 article titled, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” admitting (emphasis added):

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As the proxy war the US waged against Damascus began to fail, multiple attempts were made to justify direct US military intervention in Syria as the US and its allies did in 2011 against the Libyan government.

This includes repeated attempts to enforce the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, multiple false-flag chemical attacks beginning with the Ghouta incident in 2013 and the emergence of the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) which helped the US justify the deployment of ground troops now currently occupying eastern Syria.

The notion of the US currently “contemplating intervention” in Syria attempts to sidestep the fact that the Syrian conflict itself – from its inception – has been a US intervention.

Long Before “Day 1″

Even before the most recent attempt at US-led regime change in Syria, the US has pursued campaigns of violent subversion aimed at Syria and its allies.

In 2007, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh would write in his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” that (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Hersh’s words would become prophetic when, in 2011, the US would begin arming and backing militants – many with overt affiliations to Al Qaeda – in a bid to destabilize Syria and overthrow the government in Damascus.

The article would also lay out preparations that – even in 2007 – were clearly aimed at organizing for and executing a wider conflict.

Yet, published CIA documents drawn from the US National Archives illustrate how this singular agenda seeking to overthrow the government of Syria stretches back even earlier – by decades.

A 1983 document signed by former CIA officer Graham Fuller titled, “Bringing Real Muscle to Bear Against Syria” (PDF), states (their emphasis):

Syria at present has a hammerlock on US interests both in Lebanon and in the Gulf — through closure of Iraq’s pipeline thereby threatening Iraqi internationalization of the [Iran-Iraq] war. The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad [Sr.] through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey.

The report also states:

If Israel were to increase tensions against Syria simultaneously with an Iraqi initiative, the pressures on Assad would escalate rapidly. A Turkish move would psychologically press him further.

The document exposes both then and now, the amount of influence the US exerts across the Middle East and North Africa. It also undermines the perceived agency of states including Israel and NATO-member Turkey, revealing their subordination to US interests and that actions taken by these states are often done on behalf of Wall Street and Washington rather than on behalf of their own national interests.

Also mentioned in the document are a variety of manufactured pretexts listed to justify a unilateral military strike on northern Syria by Turkey. The document explains:

Turkey has considered undertaking a unilateral military strike against terrorist camps in northern Syria and would not hesitate from using menacing diplomatic language against Syria on these issues.

Comparing this signed and dated 1983 US CIA document to more recent US policy papers and revelations of US funding of so-called activists prior to 2011, reveals not only continuity of agenda – but that attempts to portray the 2011 “uprising” as spontaneous and as merely exploited by the US are disingenuous.

Breaking the Cycle

The current stalemate in Syria is owed to Russia’s involvement in the conflict. This began in 2013 when Moscow brokered a political deal preventing US military intervention then – and again in 2015 when the Russian military – upon Damascus’ request – built up a presence within the nation. Today, it is the threat of Russian retaliation that has hemmed in US options and plunged American special interests into increasing depths of desperation.

The recent missile strikes by the US and its tentative holdings in eastern Syria reflect geopolitical atrophy amid a conflict that was initially aimed at quickly stampeding the Syrian government from power back in 2011.

Washington’s inability to achieve its objectives leave it in an increasingly desperate position – attempting to reassert itself in the region or face the irreversible decline of its so-called “international order.” However, a desperate hegemon in decline is still dangerous.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

‘Be a patriot and kill a priest’: Honduras, Where Corruption IS the Operating System

‘Be a patriot and kill a priest’: life in Honduras

by Phil Little - Prairie Messenger


“Corruption can no longer be understood as merely the iniquitous doings of individuals. Rather, it is the operating system of sophisticated networks that cross sectoral and national boundaries in their drive to maximize returns for their members. Honduras is a prime example of such intertwined, or ‘integrated,’ transnational kleptocratic networks” (When Corruption is the Operating System, Sarah Chayes, 2017).

Padre Melo is a Honduran Jesuit priest, not quite 60 years old, who lives with death threats and is surrounded by death.

Born Ismael Moreno into a poor peasant family, his encounter with death came early when he discovered the body of his father, the president of a farmer’s co-operative, who was assassinated because he opposed a takeover of farmer’s land by wealthy foreigners.

Such an experience in Honduras is the daily bread of life for the poor, in the second poorest country of the Americas.

Padre Melo leads a Way of the Cross, April 2017
(Photo by Phil Little)

More correctly, Honduras ought to be described not as poor, but impoverished, that is, made poor by others. It too was “discovered” by the Spanish, who subjugated the residents with the sword and the cross.

From the earliest days of the conquest, accompanied by the missionaries of the church, the military forces were legitimized by the infamous papal “Doctrine of Discovery.”

Padre Melo is considered to be the most influential Catholic leader in Honduras identified with the struggle and the interests of the poor. In a country like Honduras, where “corruption is the operating system,” a priest like Padre Melo is a threat to the traditional order, and lives under the constant threat of assassination.

The indigenous peoples subjected to genocidal brutality were replaced by African slaves to work the plantations of the European colonizers. The original purpose of the colonies was to enrich the coffers of the European royalty, but, with independence, the shift only benefited the white descendants of the new landed oligarchy.

In the late 19th century Honduras came under the dominion of the new American empire through the interests of two businesses: the United and Standard Fruit companies. Honduras became the original, quintessential “Banana Republic.” The United States defended the economic interests of its business interests by controlling the judiciary, the military and the government of Honduras.

Honduras has a long history of dictatorships, some more brutal than others. Sham elections were permitted to satisfy the needs of national pride and U.S., laws, but in a few instances, when the election brought in the wrong candidate, Americans sent in their troops to set things right.

The church in Honduras has for the most part been a colonial church, focused on the requirements of European Catholicism and bound to agreements between the Vatican and national governments. Bishops, to be appointed, needed approval of the civil government (precisely the old oligarchy). In return the church received certain benefits and protections. Thus in the 20th and 21st centuries, the church in Honduras still has a dominance of foreign clergy, including among the bishops.

While the church was present among the poor, with its clergy and the men and women religious, its loyalty was to the upper classes and service to the poor was “from above” and not in solidarity with the poor. Of course, there have been clergy and religious who identified with the poor and were in solidarity with their pain and struggle. After Vatican II and the CELAM conference of Medellin, many who served the rich and privileged began an exodus to the land of insecurity, lost prestige and sometimes death that came with the “preferential option for the poor.”

“A church that is not persecuted in an unjust society must itself be an unjust church.” — Rev. Harvey Steele, SFM (writing about the murder of Rev. Arthur MacKinnon, SFM, in Why Kill A Priest!, Crown Publications, 1982)

In 1975 Fathers Ivan Betancourt (right) and Jerome Cypher were tortured and then executed along with 12 other leaders from poor farmer communities who called for land reform. Penny Lernoux in “Cry of the People,” her study of the persecution of the church in the late 20th century, said that the brutality of the Olancho Massacre was the worst she documented.

In 1983 the American Jesuit priest, James Carney, known as “Padre Guadalupe,” was captured by a Honduran death squad working with American troops. Padre Guadalupe became radically committed to working for the very poor and was considered to be an enemy by the U.S. banana corporations. After torture, according to testimony by a member of the elite death squad, Padre Guadalupe was thrown alive from a helicopter, along with others, over the jungle of the Patuca River.

Padre Melo is considered to be the most influential Catholic leader in Honduras identified with the struggle and the interests of the poor. He is in the minority but is not the only one inspired by the changes in the church and the witness of the martyrs. Among these are the more well-known bishops such as Angelelli of Argentina, Gerardi of Guatemala, and Romero of El Salvador. There are the many priests, like Ivan and Jerome, Vicente Hondarza of Peru, Rutilo Grande of El Salvador, Carlos Mugica of Argentina, Camilo Torres of Columbia, and so many more from most countries.

There are the sisters who have been murdered — Ita Ford and companions in El Salvador, and Dorothy Stang in Brazil. And lay people, not hundreds but thousands: catechists, teachers, nurses, community leaders, activists and human rights defenders and today especially environmental defenders who add to a martyrology that rivals the Age of Martyrs of the early church.

What these modern-day martyrs all have in common that is different than the early church is that they have been murdered by persons and groups who call themselves Christians or “muy Catolicos” (very Catholic) defending the old order of privilege and power. These very “Christian” assassins have had the support of some official leaders in the church and the new evangelical organizations.

According to Honduran government documents, the Cardinal Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras and the head of the Evangelical Union each receive a generous annual stipend worth more than US$4 million from the office of the president. It is not a surprise that both religious leaders supported the coup d’état of 2009 and continue to support the dictatorship.

On Feb. 2 of each year the military leadership gathers at the Basilica of Suyapa, the Honduran Marian shrine, to pay their respect and receive their recognition as defenders of the nation. The families of the oligarchy, many of them deeply embedded with the drug cartels, also show their gratitude for the support of the traditional religious leadership. As reported by The Tablet on Jan 2, 2018, the Vatican has ordered an investigation into the financial affairs of the Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez.

A priest does not end up on a military hit list because he has had too many first communions in the parish. Particularly since Vatican II, and especially in Latin America after the Conferences of Medellin and Puebla, the “church” has been more conscious of its social function in society.

The church recognizes the divine in the life of the people, not just in religious liturgies. John XXIII called for an attentiveness to “the signs of the times” while the poor became evangelizing agents more than the objects of pity and charity. Church people were called to “a preferential option for the poor” which, surprisingly, seemed to parallel the way Jesus reached out to the poor. “Go sell what you have and give it to the poor,” he said. But still many in the church continue to go away sad.

Many of the clergy, foreign and national born, have experienced a profound conversion when they listened to the “cry of the people.” Until the mid-20th century most religious orders and congregations preferentially served the rich and the powerful. When they entered into this conversion experience to work among the poor from the perspective of the needs and suffering of the poor, the privileged classes felt betrayed and abandoned.

Padre Melo recently has spoken about the process used by the power elites to bring the clergy back into their sphere of influence. First they offer gifts and financial support. If, however, they cannot buy you, they then look for ways to discredit or smear your reputation. You might even be called a communist, which is more than name calling, for it recalls the campaigns to “Be a patriot and kill a priest.” If that does not at least persuade the clergy to pull back or soften their tone, the third phase would lead to accusations and criminalization.

The final fourth step in this process is to kill or “disappear” the troublesome clergyman. And thus are born the martyrs who really don’t go away, because they become the seeds of a new generation of disciples. As Bishop Romero said, “If they kill me I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

Radio Progreso and the human rights Institute called E.R.I.C. (Teams for Research, Investigation and Communication), which are Jesuit apostolates and directed by Padre Melo, have been a constant irritation to the dictatorship and the oligarchy and have even attracted the attention of the American State department. In November in the run-up to the fraudulent national elections, one tower of the radio station was toppled by the military so the people of the capital city could not receive messages contrary to the official government propaganda broadcast by state and private stations.

Two hit lists were published and distributed accusing Padre Melo of connections to organized crime and embarrassing the nation with his criticisms. Other members of his team have also received death threats, most recently in February 2018.

One of his radio managers was killed in 2014. Since 2001 a total of 66 journalists have been assassinated in Honduras, with only six of these cases being investigated by the police. In one year between November 2015 and October 2016 a total of 27 human rights and environmental defenders were assassinated. Since 2010 more than 120 lawyers have been assassinated in Honduras.

Padre Melo has survived previous assassination attempts by professional killers. His own personal history did not require a conversion, but rather a commitment to be true to his roots and his people. He stands with the poor farming communities threatened with expropriation by agribusiness that want more land to produce palm oil. He goes into the prisons to defend political prisoners, and sometimes just prisoners too poor to defend themselves.

He has stood in front of military lines threatening to kill peasant communities who resist the loss of their lands and rivers to foreign and national financial interests. He has testified in Washington about human rights abuses and has spoken in different international forums about the dismal human rights situation in Honduras. He has gone into hiding to accompany communities in Guatemala that were hunted by the military during the genocide period.

He is not fearless, nor does he seek to be provocative. He is clear about from where he comes. His deep almost mystical faith calls him to be present to those who suffer and are oppressed. Like the preacher from Galilee, he is known to associate with the poor and those feared by the State: human rights defenders, environmentalists, lawyers (well some of them anyway!), indigenous communities, and women activists. His influence as a religious leader is also resented by the temple priests and Pharisees.

In a country like Honduras, where “corruption is the operating system,” a priest like Padre Melo is a threat to the traditional order. When once asked if he has much hope, he said no. Asked then to define his ministry, he said it was “to accompany the victims.” These are the victims of colonialism, the 65 per cent living in poverty and half of these in “extreme” poverty, the First Nation Topupan and Lenca peoples facing massive destruction of their traditional lands, the young workers mostly women working in the foreign-owned sweatshops, the peasant communities threatened by agribusiness, feminist and LGBT activists, human rights and environmental defenders, and lay church workers such as the “delegates of the word.”

Father Ismael Moreno, SJ, known as Padre Melo, understands his situation very well. He is a Jesuit doing the work of the Jesuits of Central America who have made a commitment to working with the poor.

His work is reflective of that of Jesus: “to tell the good news to the poor, to announce release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set oppressed people free” (Lk 4:18).

Phil Little is a retired teacher living on Vancouver Island. Born in Alberta, he went to university in Ottawa. As a member of the Oblate congregation he went to Peru as a missionary from 1972 to 1980. Returning to Canada he married and taught in the Toronto Catholic school system for 26 years until retirement.

Crediting Korean Cooperation Correctly

Korean Peninsula in Historic Peace Talks - Thanks to Activists, Not Trump 


April 20, 2018

After six decades of conflict, it looks like the war on the Korean peninsula may finally be coming to an end. Since the early 1950s, South and North Korea have technically been at war with each other. From 1950-1953 the United States waged a devastating war on North Korea in which the U.S. killed some 3 million people, 20 percent of the nation's population. The U.S. burned most of the country's major cities to the ground. After this U.S.-led war, South and North Korea never signed a peace treaty, which means generations of Koreans on both sides of the demilitarized zone have grown up in a perpetual state of war.

Well, now that all appears to be changing.

South and North Korea are considering a peace treaty after six decades of war. Simone Chun says this is the result of years of grassroots organizing and protests.

Dr. Simone Chun has taught at Northeastern University in Boston, and served as an associate in research at Harvard University's Korea Institute. She is an active member of the Korea Peace Network, and a member of the steering committee of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Theresa May and the Unmistakable Stank of Imperial Decay

The Stench of Imperialism: The Statement of Theresa May

by Christopher Black - NEO

April 20, 2018

On April 16 British prime minister, Theresa May made a speech to parliament setting out “justifications” for Britain’s participation in aggression against Syria in the dead-of-night missile attack of April 14. Throughout her speech she dramatically referred to barrel bombs and the smell of gas in the air yet in the hall where she spoke it was the stench of imperialism that filled the air.

Like all fascists serving the cause of imperialism and capitalist exploitation of working people the world over who rely on created illusions to stay in power, she repeated the same mantra of false accusation against Syria and Russia as have all NATO leaders in obedience to the imperial overlord.

There is no democracy when the people who have hold of the government machine lie to the rest to accomplish their crimes. That is what she has done, at length, in fact committing treason, by misinforming parliament and the British people about the reasons for the aggression against Syria which have nothing to do with chemical weapons, the pretext, and everything to do with the geo-political and geo-strategic ambitions of the USA, Britain and France to control the resources of the middle east and beyond to Iran, Afghanistan and finally Russia itself. Their ambition is not to save people, as May claims, but to destroy any sovereign government that gets in their way and the consequences for the people of those countries be damned.

Her speech was blatant war propaganda, designed to incite the people to call for war. But more than distorting and fabricating facts, she and the other NATO powers purport, once again, to rewrite international law and purport to make themselves the supremos of international law, in effect tearing up the Charter of the United Nations. Their law, is might makes right, and the world must tremble as it waits the next blow.

May stated, with all her stunning humbug,

The Leader of the Opposition has said that he can “only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it. The House should be clear that would mean a Russian veto on our foreign policy.

Yes, indeed it would Mrs. May, exactly as its designed to do and as Britain agreed to when it became a member of the United Nations. Application of force against a sovereign country can only take place if the Security Council agrees. Action taken in violation of the UN Charter is an act of aggression, the primary war crime from which all others flow. Those that are involved in ordering, arranging and taking part in such military aggression are war criminals. That is the law.

But Mrs. May doesn’t like the law so decides to evade it by false statements of what the law is. She states,

When the Cabinet met on Thursday we considered the advice of the Attorney General. Based on this advice we agreed that it was not just morally right but also legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering.

That statement is a lie. It was neither morally right, since there was no credible evidence presented that a crime had been committed, nor legally right, since the attack was conducted without UN approval, and was carried out not as a punishment but as an act of aggression.

She went on,

This was not about intervening in a civil war. And it was not about regime change. It was about a limited, targeted and effective strike that sought to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use.”

Another string of lies, for it is not a civil war but a war of international aggression against Syria by Britain, the USA and their allies and the Syrians long ago eliminated their chemical weapons stocks and equipment as certified by the USA itself and the UN and other bodies.

The Russian military stated at their briefing that the majority of missiles were not fired at fantasy targets but at military airfields and military positions, and that the majority of the missiles were intercepted and all of them aimed at airfields.

In fact, two cruise missiles failed to explode and were located almost intact and handed over by the Syrians to the Russians to examine. So it was completely ineffective except to confirm their intentions to continue their aggression against Syria and Russia.

The attack was not meant to “alleviate suffering of the Syrian people” but to add to and prolong their suffering by trying to degrade and destroy their ability to defend themselves against the proxy forces of the west who have slaughtered them for these many years. And no it was not about “regime change” for there is no “regime” in Syria, but a government duly elected by the people.

The attack was about trying to overthrow the sovereign government of Syria against the will of its people, and the will of the civilized world.

May continued,

And we have published the legal basis for this. It required three conditions to be met. So governments of all colours have long considered that military action, on an exceptional basis, where necessary and proportionate, and as a last resort, to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe is permissible under international law.

Another lie, because “governments of all colours” means only the NATO powers and because vigilante military action by one nation-state or a gang of them against another constitutes the crime of aggression. There is no “humanitarian intervention” doctrine known to international law. It’s a fascist invention for fascist purposes; conquering the world for the pursuit of profit against all the laws of civilization, disguised by invented quasi-legal sounding phrases. The “humanitarian intervention” doctrine, sometimes known as the “responsibility to protect” is nothing but an expression of their supreme hypocrisy, an admission of their moral degradation, their fascist morality and justice. For not only does it destroy the fabric of the UN Charter and allow aggression by any nation based on all sorts of pretexts and lead to world chaos, it can never be applied to them.

It is not a doctrine of universal application but of selected application, to be used only against those that stand in their way; one law for them, another law for the rest. For a “law” that is only applied by the powerful against the weak and can never be applied against the powerful is not a just law and as St. Augustine said ‘an unjust law is no law at all’. But they know this as they spout their lies and laugh up their sleeves at those that believe them or pretend to.

May then raved on about there being convincing evidence of a chemical attack when there is none. On the 19th of April the Russian ambassador showed a video to the Security Council of an interview with a Syrian boy and his father explaining how the British intelligence service connected group, the White Helmets, staged the scene for their videos. May compounded her crime by bragging that these bogus reasons were the same reasons used by NATO in its aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 which she calls an “intervention,” their euphemism for international gangsterism. She then babbled that the reason they did not wait for an investigation by the OPCW team already on its way to Syria was due to Russian interference when Russia and Syria had paved the way for the team to do its work and then, tongue in cheek, eyes fluttering, nose lengthening with each word, like Pinocchio, she stated that she had not followed Washington’s orders but had committed the crimes all on her own. But the indictment to be drafted in her war crimes trial will include the count of conspiracy against her for agreeing with the US and France to attack Syria.

Then, near the end of her speech she referred to the Skripal affair, once again accusing Russia of being involved, and yet not once informing the people as to the whereabouts of the Skripals who have not been seen since the incident was claimed to have taken place. They have simply been disappeared.

On the BBC in an interview on April 18th, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, in London for a visit, adopted exactly the same words that May used in her speech, in a fawning, servile expression of Canada’s role as bum-boy of the USA making himself liable for prosecution as a war criminal as well. The other “allies” of the USA followed suit and so the world continues its descent into disorder, chaos and war as these gangsters run amok on behalf of their capitalist class, making money off the backs of the dead and maimed, off the backs of the working people who pay for the wars while they get rich. The war on “terror” which was always a phoney war, is now over and the war on Russia and its allies is openly declared. More anti-Russian “sanctions”, meaning economic warfare, are pending, designed to make life miserable for Russians, warfare that the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in an interview on BBC’s Hard Talk programme, stated, rightly, was tantamount to trying to commit genocide against the Russian people.

And where is the International Criminal Court in all this as war crimes are committed on a daily basis by these thugs? Not a word said. The prosecutor may not have jurisdiction over Syria but she has a moral obligation to speak out and condemn these crimes as violations not only of the United Nations Charter but also of the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions and the Treaty of Rome. Instead, she sits n her office in The Hague, drinking tea and wondering how to spend her large salary, and making herself and the ICC a laughable irrelevancy.

International justice is dead, and swings from a tree, lynched by the NATO powers and their allies. World peace lies on the ground covered in blood, her throat cut from ear to ear. Freedom of speech and association are on the run, pursued by the hounds of propaganda, government, mass media intimidation and outright censorship and the risk of world war is now ever present. Yet the people, aside from a few groups and individuals, a mass drugged by propaganda and the struggle of their daily lives, say nothing, do nothing against these criminals to bring them under control,

And so there is only one certainty; that these wars will continue until the imperialism that drives it is defeated. But to do that the capitalist system itself has to be brought down and since there is little chance of that happening any time soon the matter will be decided by war, and a world war, beyond anyone’s imagining or comprehension.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Can Radio-Convulsive Therapy Cure John Bolton?

Gorilla Tries Radio-Convulsive Therapy to Cure John Bolton of His Psychopathological Urges

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

April 20, 2018

A politician becomes a psychopath when he or she acts without calculating the consequences on approval ratings and voter support. The same goes for ministers and their advisers urging military operations abroad which make voters feel unsafe at home. Fear and insecurity are bad for incumbents.

Donald Trump and Theresa May both made this miscalculation when they launched their April 14 attack on Syria.

In the latest political polls they are now worse off than they were before the attack. The military operation, according to US and UK poll compilations, has reversed the positive trend in their standing with voters since the start of this year.





The US polls identify the reason for Trump’s gains with voters this year has been their perception that the president’s economic policies are good for them. When his job approval is measured on the economy, Trump’s approval rating exceeds disapproval by 48.3% to 46%. Click to see. By contrast, voter approval of Trump’s foreign policy performance is 40.2%, while disapproval is 53.2%. The political calculus is obvious – a positive spread between approval and disapproval on domestic policy of 2%; a negative spread for foreign policy of 13%.

A similar picture can be seen from the British opinion polls over the past year. The crossover point, when Prime Minister May began to gain at the expense of her Labor rival Jeremy Corbyn, coincides with the Salisbury event when the Skripals were poisoned on March 4. Summing up the results of the major opinion polls conducted in the UK, this is how May and her advisers interpret what has happened.

“The Salisbury poisoning and Labour’s anti-Semitism row may have harmed Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity among the British public, with new YouGov favourability data revealing the Prime Minister is now seen more favourably than the Leader of the Opposition for the first time since the general election.

At the end of January Corbyn was still comfortably ahead of May, with a net favourability rating of -12 versus the Prime Minister’s -25, scores which had been fairly consistent since August 2017. However, by mid-March the Prime Minister had essentially drawn level (on -15 to Corbyn’s -19), and now Theresa May leads her rival by -13 to -23.”


It is also clear from the British polls that the prime minister has drawn all the voter gain from the Skripal affair. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s conduct attracted more negative sentiment from the electorate than any other minister. For Johnson the spread between approval and disapproval is now a negative 26; this compares with May’s negative 6, and Corbyn’s negative 27.

Johnson’s score is as bad as it was last year; his anti-Russian stance since the Skripal case began has gained him nothing. Compared to May as a candidate leader of the Conservative Party, Johnson has lost.

Look closely, however, at voter intention between the Conservative Party and Corbyn’s Labor Party, and these personal differences evaporate. There has been almost no change, statistically speaking, in the spread between the two parties since the start of the year. They are deadlocked at 40-40, with shifts of one or two percentage points in either party’s favour having no statistical significance.


The party choice at election time is dominated by domestic policy issues, not foreign policy ones. When she joined Trump in the attack on Syria, May risked much of the gain she had earned from the Skripal case. The Syrian attack has been regarded by British voters as adding to their fears and reducing their security.


It’s too soon for British voters to be able to count the strategic damage which Trump’s and May’s military operation did to American military power among their allies.

For a discussion of this with Chris Cook, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia, starting at Minute 2:40:

Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria. The radio station can be heard here. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

'Unpersoning' Them


by William Blum - The Anti-Empire Report #157

April 18th, 2018
One reason it’s so easy to get an American administration, the mainstream media, and the American people to jump on an anti-Russian bandwagon is of course the legacy of the Soviet Union. 
To all the real crimes and shortcomings of that period the US regularly added many fictitious claims to agitate the American public against Moscow. That has not come to a halt. 
During a debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, candidate Ben Carson (now the head of the US Housing and Urban Development agency) allowed the following to pass his lips: 
“Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: Our spiritual life, our patriotism, and our morality.” 
This is a variation on many Stalinist “quotes” over the years designed to deprecate both the Soviet leader and any American who can be made to sound like him. The quote was quite false, but the debate moderators and the other candidates didn’t raise any question about its accuracy. Of course not.

Another feature of Stalinism that was routinely hammered into our heads was that of the “non-person” or “unperson” – the former well-known official or writer, for example, who fell out of favor with the Stalinist regime for something he said or did, and was thereafter doomed to a life of obscurity, if not worse. In his classic 1984 George Orwell speaks of a character who “was already an unperson. He did not exist: he had never existed.” 
I was reminded of this by the recent sudden firing of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Matthew Lee, the courageous Associated Press reporter who has been challenging State Department propaganda for years, had this to say in an April 1 article:

Rex Tillerson has all but vanished from the State Department’s website as his unceremonious firing by tweet took effect over the weekend.
The “Secretary of State Tillerson” link at the top of the department’s homepage disappeared overnight Saturday and was replaced with a generic “Secretary of State” tab. When clicked, it leads to a page that informs visitors in a brief statement that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “became acting Secretary of State on April 1, 2018.” It shows a photo of Sullivan signing his appointment papers as deputy in June 2017 but offers no explanation for the change in leadership.

In addition to that change, links that had connected to Tillerson’s speeches, travels and other events now display those of Sullivan. The link to Tillerson’s biography as the 69th secretary of state briefly returned a “We’re sorry, that page can’t be found” message. After being notified of the message, the State Department restored the link and an archive page for Tillerson’s tenure was enabled.

The most repeated Cold War anti-Communist myth was of course Nikita Khrushchev’s much quoted – No, eternally quoted! – line: “We will bury you.” On November 20 1956 the New York Times had reported: 
“In commenting on coexistence last night Mr. Khrushchev said communism did not have to resort to war to defeat capitalism.
“Whether you like it or not, history is on our side,” he said. “We will bury you.”

Obviously, it was not a military threat of any kind. But tell that to the countless individuals who have cited it as such forever.1 So, as matters turned out, did communism, or call it socialism, bury capitalism? No. But not for the reason the capitalists would like to think – their superior socio-economic system. Capitalism remains the world’s pre-eminent system primarily because of military power combined with CIA covert actions. It’s that combination that irredeemably crippled socialist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, the Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Angola, Grenada, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Albania, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, El Salvador, etc., etc., etc.

We’ll never know what kind of societies would have resulted if these movements had been allowed to develop without US interference; which of course was the idea behind the interference. 

Political assassination. Political propaganda.

In the Cold War struggles against the Soviets/Russians the United States has long had the upper hand when it comes to political propaganda. What do the Russkis know about sales campaigns, advertising, psychological manipulation of the public, bait-and-switch, and a host of other Madison Avenue innovations. Just look at what the American media and their Western partners have done with the poisoning of the two Russians, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in the UK. How many in the West doubt Russia’s guilt?

Then consider the case of Hugo Chávez. When he died in 2013 I wrote the following: 
“[W]hen someone like Chávez dies at the young age of 58 I have to wonder about the circumstances. Unremitting cancer, intractable respiratory infections, massive heart attack, one after the other … It is well known that during the Cold War, the CIA worked diligently to develop substances that could kill without leaving a trace. I would like to see the Venezuelan government pursue every avenue of investigation in having an autopsy performed.” (None was performed apparently.)

Back in December 2011, Chávez, already under treatment for cancer, wondered out loud: “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking a day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Evo take care of yourself. Correa, be careful. We just don’t know,” Chávez said, referring to Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, both leading leftists.

Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. 
“Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.”2

When the new Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, suggested possible American involvement in Chávez’s death, the US State Department called the allegation “absurd” even though the United States had already played a key role in the short-lived overthrow of Chávez in 2002. I don’t know of any American mainstream media that has raised the possibility that Chávez was murdered.

I personally believe, without any proof to offer, (although no less than is offered re Russia’s guilt in the UK poisoning) that Hugo Chávez was indeed murdered by the United States. But unlike the UK case, I do have a motivation to offer: Given Chávez’s unremitting hostility towards American imperialism and the CIA’s record of more than 50 assassination attempts against such world political leaders, if his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA was not doing its job. The world’s media, however, did its job by overwhelmingly ignoring such “conspiracy” talk, saving it for a more “appropriate” occasion, one involving their favorite bad guy, Russia.

If I could speak to British prime-minister Theresa May and her boorish foreign minister Boris Johnson I’d like to ask them: “What are you going to say when it turns out that it wasn’t Russia behind the Skripal poisonings?” Stay tuned. 

Another of the many charming examples of Cold War anti-communism

Nostalgia is on the march in Brazil, a longing for a return to the military dictatorship of 1964-1985, during which nearly 500 people were killed by the authorities or simply disappeared. It was a time when the ruling generals used systemic brutality, including electric shocks, as well as psychological torture in their effort to cement power and ward off what they called “communism”. They also stole many of the very young children of their victims and gave them to their followers, whom the children then believed to be their parents.

Crime is the main problem in Brazil today, the leading reason for the desire to return to the good old days of dictatorial rule. An estimated 43 percent of the Brazilian population supports at least a temporary revival of military control, according to a 2017 poll, up from 35 percent in 2016. Fear of violence, whether it be terrorism or street crime, has fueled support for authoritarian parties and bolstered populist leaders with tough-on-crime, anti-immigrant platforms around the world, from President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria to a fellow named Trump in the good ol’ US of A.

“Thanks to you, Brazil did not become Cuba!” the crowd chanted at a recent demonstration in Brazil, some snapping salutes.3

This is indeed the height of irony. In all likelihood many of those people were not strangers to hunger, struggling to pay their rent, could not afford needed medical care, or education; yet, they shouted against a country where such deprivations are virtually non-existent.

The United States of course played a significant role in the 1964 overthrow of the Brazilian democracy. How could it be otherwise in this world? Here is a phone conversation between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:

MANN: I hope you’re as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ: I am.

MANN: I think that’s the most important thing that’s happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ: I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.4

Does the man ever feel embarrassed?

In his desperation for approval, our dear president has jumped on the back of increased military spending. Speaking to the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania he said that he should be given “credit” for pressuring countries like theirs to give more money to NATO. None of presidents had the nerve to ask Mr. Trump why that is a good thing; perhaps pointing out that some of the millions of dollars could have been used to improve the quality of their people’s lives.

A few days later, at the White House Easter Egg Roll the president “bragged to a crowd of children about increasing military spending to $700 billion.” One can imagine what their young minds made of this. Will they one day realize that this man called “The President” was telling them that large amounts of money which could have been spent on their health and education, on their transportation and environment, was instead spent on various weapons used to kill people?

The size of the man’s ego needs can not be exaggerated. The Washington Post observed that Trump instructed the Lithuanian president

to praise him on camera, just as he said she had done privately in the Oval Office. She obliged, saying changes to NATO would not be possible without the United States and that its ‘vital voice and vital leadership’ are important. Trump pressed her: ‘And has Donald Trump made a difference on NATO?’ Those in the room laughed, as she confirmed he has made a difference.5

Thank God some of those in the room laughed. I was beginning to think that all hope was lost.
The stars we honor

Is it a sign of America’s moral maturation that numerous celebrities have been forced to resign or retire because of being exposed as sexual predators?

Maybe. To some extent. I hope so.

But I’d be much more impressed if talk shows and other media stopped inviting and honoring much worse people as guests – war criminals, torturers, serial liars, and mass murderers; people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, and many military officials.

1. For a book-length discussion of cold-war anti-communist propaganda see Morris Kominsky, The Hoaxers (1970)
2. The Guardian (London), December 29, 2011
3. Washington Post, March 16, 2018
4. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The White House Tapes 1963-1964 (1997), p.306
5. Washington Post, April 5, 2018

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to is provided.

← Issue #156

Bear Meets Duck: What Does the End of Anglo-American Axis Air Superiority Mean?

The Revolution Which the US Raid on Syria Launched - No More US Air Superiority Means Everyone is on Their Own (Pass the S-400 Please)

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

April 19, 2018


US President Donald Trump didn’t mean to start a revolution. President Putin tried persuading him not to. But on April 14 the revolution was launched by American warplanes, surface ships and a submarine.

The outcome is, the US can no longer count on air superiority anywhere in the world where Russian air defences operate, backed by Russian command-and-control systems. Sans air superiority, the US has no force-multiplier on the ground of the magnitude required for Pentagon attacks; that is, the ratio of men and firepower it calculates for making sure enemies on the ground can be defeated.

This is revolutionary, and has spread instantly to every war front - Russian lines with NATO; the Korea-Japan front; Taiwan Straits and South China Sea for China; and Indian Ocean for India and Pakistan.

The treaties which promise US allies that an attack on them will draw US military support for their collective defence – Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), Article 4 of the Australia New Zealand US Treaty (ANZUS), Article 3 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio), and the Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan and Israel defence treaties – are dead letters.

So long, shock and awe – that was the American warfighting doctrine against people who lack Russian-standard defences.

The official Pentagon version of the April 14 attack on Syria, led by Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, can be read here. The video presentation of what the junior Pentagon spokesman called “Happy Saturday”, with target pictures and maps, can be watched by clicking to open here.

The Russian Defence Ministry has given two briefings, the first on April 14 by the General Staff spokesman, Lieutenant General Sergei Grudskoy (pictured below, left); follow the text and visuals here. The second briefing was given on April 16 by the Defence Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov (right). Click to open.

Since so much is at stake for future military strategy in the assessment of the April 14 attack, and in the coordination between the forces on both sides, the discrepancies between the official accounts are very large. They are exaggerated in media reporting from all sides; the truth will take more time to become clearer.

The key differences are:

  • Russia says there were 8 targets, the majority of them Syrian air force bases. The US says there were 3 targets, all chemical warfare sites.
  • Russia says there were 103 incoming missiles, fired by aircraft, ship and submarine; the US says 85.The difference appears to be accounted for by the UK and France, which are reported as firing 18 or 19 air to ground missiles.
  • Russia says 112 ground-to-air missiles were fired at the incoming weapons — Buk, Osa, Strela, Pantsir, Kvadrat, S-125, S-200 – and the interception rate for each reported by Konashenkov. The overall kill rate was 69%; the US says it was zero.
  • Russian military sources say the US did not use jamming and electronic suppression (ECM) against the Syrian air defence systems; the Pentagon says ECM aircraft were deployed on both the eastern (Mediterranean) and western (Arabian Gulf, Red Sea) attack fronts. This was repeated by the Israeli media. Russian sources add that the ECM systems of the US naval vessels engaged in the operation were too far out of range of the Syrian defences to be useful.

If the interception rate was 69%, as Russia claims, this is one of the greatest air-defence victories against missile attacks ever recorded. If three targets were destroyed with 100% accuracy, with no release of chemical weapons stocks, no casualties, and no collateral damage, this was the largest firepower-to-destruction ratio ever launched by the US military.

The unresolved uncertainties, as well as the calculated probabilities, add up to the same thing to Russian military analysts. “A strange umbrella” (Чужой зонтик) Ilya Kramnik, military analyst for Izvestia, titled his report. The US avoided every target defended by Russia, and succeeded against targets which were not defended by the Pantsir and other missile systems delivered to Syria in recent weeks. The range of detection, speed of coordination, and effectiveness of fire control between the Russian military and their Syrian counterparts have never been achieved at this level of operation before.

At the Defence Ministry Konashenkov acknowledged that the S-200 system launched 8 missiles at the attackers, and none was hit. This, Russian sources and the Defence Ministry explain, is because the S-200 was designed to combat aircraft, not missiles. The Syrian S-125, according to Konashenkov, was more successful, firing 13 missiles and intercepting 5. This was achieved, Russian sources say, because the Syrian S-125 has been upgraded by Belarus specialists. The S-300, which Iran and Greece operate, and the S-400, which guards the Russian naval and air bases in Syria and which Turkey is acquiring, are capable of striking both aircraft and missiles. This is the game-changer for Syrian defence against Israel if the S-300 is delivered, as the Russian Defence Ministry is now proposing.

Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defence Magazine in Moscow, believes the April 14 outcome is confirmation of the effectiveness of Russian defence against the most advanced weapons in the American armoury.

“Well, if even old Soviet AAD [anti-aircraft defence] systems in Syria could repel the missile attacks and fight against modern US and Israel aircraft, I think the latest Russian AAD systems are more effective. But the key to success is the training of crews for these systems. Now they are getting the necessary experience in Syria.”

In short, it is the Russian assessment that the Americans launched an armada which was blown off course by a Russian wind.

But Korotchenko (right) warns that the lesson the Americans will draw is a doctrine of surprise and swarm. Swarm means the multiplication of attack forces from every direction at once in such weapons numbers as will penetrate even the densest defensive screen.

It is the opposite of precision or smart, as US officials like to describe their targeting.

“Of course, if the US fires very large numbers of missiles as a swarm tactic, they will penetrate through the defensive system. The outcome for them, I would say, would be more effective, especially if they also use systems of radio-electronic suppression [ECM]. This time in Syria they didn’t use [ECM], so the Syrian AAD could work effectively.”

Russian analysts judge that while swarm is likely to be the American tactic, surprise is contradicted because the larger the swarm, the longer the time required to prepare it, and the more visible the preparations become in advance. This, according to the Defence Ministry and repeated speeches by President Vladimir Putin, is the Russian interpretation for US pre-positioning of missile batteries in Poland and Romania, on US Navy vessels in the Black Sea, as well as ground weapons in the Baltic states. For Putin’s “cross-hairs” warning, read this.

While the tactical results of the April 14 attack continue to be debated with fresh evidence, the US operation has removed strategic uncertainty for Russia’s military leadership in its debate with Putin. The General Staff are convinced the US is at war with Russia on all fronts, and readying to attack with military force. Consequently, Russia must prepare to defend to the point where the US will lose the advantage of both surprise and swarm – and lose its own forces as well.

Such a defence requires the Russian doctrine of red-line surprise so that, once crossed, the US cannot be confident it can defeat Russian defences, nor confident the US can defend itself against the launch of the newest Russian weapons.

War by miscalculation between US and Russian forces is therefore much closer now.

“I hope,” says Korotchenko, “that all sides will come to a common decision on this conflict, because ‘hot war’ will mean the end for all mankind. And we don’t want it.”