Saturday, November 03, 2018

China Manoeuvres: Trump Prepares for Xi Meet

Trump manoeuvres in lead-up to talks with Chinese President Xi

by Nick Beams - WSWS

3 November 2018  

US President Donald Trump has started to manoeuvre in preparation for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of G20 summit at the end of the month. The aim is either to extract major concessions from China or, failing that, create the best conditions for pressing ahead with trade war measures.

On Thursday, Trump had what he described as a “long and very good conversation” with Xi. He told the press that things were moving along “nicely,” suggesting that there was progress in resolving the trade conflict.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told the Wall Street Journal that there was a “thaw” and “relations and communications are resuming” at the presidential level.

This was followed by a report on Bloomberg TV that Trump had directed key cabinet members to have their staff draw up an agreement to bring about at least something of a ceasefire in the trade conflict.

The basic position of the US is that there will be no meaningful discussions at the G20 unless China sets out concrete responses to its demands, above all on the key questions of intellectual property safeguards and state subsidies, which Washington claims are market distorting.

So far, the Chinese have failed to respond. This is for two reasons: they fear that any negotiating position they put forward will simply be used by the US to extract further concessions, and they consider the US demand that Beijing pull back on industrial development to be totally unacceptable and not subject to negotiation.

The prospect of some easing in the US position initially lifted both US and Asian stock markets. Major corporations are fearful that the further intensification of trade war, including the threat by Trump to impose tariffs on all Chinese goods coming into the US, will have significant consequences on both costs and the organisation of global supply chains.

However, Wall Street took a dive yesterday, partly in response to a statement by Kudlow pouring cold water on any breakthrough on a US-China agreement. “There’s no massive move to deal with China,” he told the business channel CNBC. There was merely a “normal run-through of things we’ve already put together and normal preparation.” He added,

“We’re not on the cusp of a deal.”

Given the attitude of the US towards any deal with China, especially the events of May when Trump scrapped an agreement that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said had put the trade war “on hold,” there was already considerable scepticism about the prospects for a meaningful agreement even before Kudlow’s remarks.

Speaking to Bloomberg on the possibility of a broad deal, Michael Every, head of Asia financial markets research at Rabobank in Hong Kong, said:

“I don’t buy the story for a second. This seems a perfect way to ensure equities rally into election day [Tuesday], put Xi in a box in terms of what is expected of him, and then have someone to blame when the deal then falls through.”

Rather than pointing to an easing of the US stance, the telephone discussion with Xi on Thursday was initiated by Trump under conditions where its basic position is hardening. Hours before the conversation, federal prosecutors laid out charges they are bringing against the Chinese state-owned high-tech firm Fujian Jinhua. The move by prosecutors came in the wake of a decision by the Commerce Department to ban US firms from dealings with Fujian on “national security” grounds.

Fujian, backed by $5.7 billion in state funds, has been set up to develop a world class semiconductor industry in China and lessen the country’s dependence on the import of foreign components. But at this stage, Fujian still depends on US chips and the Commerce Department ban has dealt it a crippling blow.

The Justice Department is charging that Fujian stole trade secrets from Micron, a US semiconductor manufacturer. The indictment also names United Microelectronics, a Taiwan-based chipmaker, in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said was “brazen scheme” to steal secrets worth up to $8.75 billion.

The move against Fujian is part of a broader offensive by the Trump administration against alleged Chinese spying and other activities. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sessions indicated that “a new working group of Justice Department officials, including the top federal prosecutors from districts in California, Texas and other states, would increase law-enforcement engagement with US universities, where the Justice Department contends that Chinese Communist party initiatives target technology and threaten academic freedom.”

The underlying US agenda at the forthcoming discussions between Trump and Xi is indicated by the manner in which the talks are being organised. Overall responsibility on the US side is not in the hands of a cabinet member in charge of economic matters, such as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin or Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, but instead has been given to National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bolton, together with other hard-liners in the administration, including White House economic adviser Peter Navarro and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, consider that the essential issue is not to reach a deal with China on the trade imbalance, but rather to prevent Beijing from undertaking its own development of high-tech industries, which could threaten the economic and military supremacy of the US.

The attitude of these key figures was indicated in a Wall Street Journal article on Thursday. Citing US officials, the article said Lighthizer had been arguing that the time was not ripe for negotiations because China had not yet felt the full brunt of the US tariffs imposed so far.

In other words, the essential US strategy is to inflict more pain on the Chinese economy, already experiencing its lowest growth rate since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 amid significant concerns over rising debt, and open up cracks within the Xi regime that will enable the US to extract significant concessions.

Tyrant's Paradise: John Bolton's Unlikely Return

With “Troika of Tyranny,” Bolton’s Long Standing Push to Target Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua Finally Pays Off

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

Bolton’s new “Troika of Tyranny” speech will serve as the foundation for the next and more aggressive stage of the Trump administration’s Latin America policy.

MIAMIOn Thursday, National Security Adviser John Bolton inaugurated the Trump administration’s version of the Bush-era “Axis of Evil” by singling out the three left-wing governments in Latin America – Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – as the “Troika of Tyranny.”

Bolton — who also used the terms “the three stooges of socialism” and the “Triangle of Terror” to describe the three nations — delivered his comments to an audience of Venezuelan and Cuban opposition exiles at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida.

The speech — which by all indications signals a new, more aggressive approach towards left-leaning Latin American governments — comes less than a week before the midterm elections. This is notable, as Florida has been a major focus of the upcoming elections owing to its status as a swing state, prompting Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama to make recent appearances in support of their favored candidates.
Bolton’s speech seems to have been aimed, in part, at courting portions of Florida’s Hispanic community that favor a hardline approach to the governments that now form the newly minted “Troika of Tyranny.”

During the speech, Bolton firmly stated that the U.S. under President Trump would no longer appease the “dictators and despots” in Latin America, and blamed Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba for causing “immense” human suffering and provoking regional instability.

“Under President Trump, the United States is taking direct action against all three regimes to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region,” Bolton noted.

Bolton also blamed the three nations for fostering a “cradle of communism” in the region, ignoring the fact that most of the targets of his ire are socialist, not communist. Bolton also rather ominously stated that the United States government “looks forward to watching” the governments of all three countries fall and that the “Troika will crumble.”

The aggressive speech was also used to announce new sanctions that the U.S. imposed on Venezuela’s gold industry. Venezuela has the second largest gold reserves in the world.

Michael McCarthy — the founder of Caracas Wire, a consulting group on Venezuela that regularly communicates with the Trump administration — told McClatchy that the administration’s newest sanctions would provide “strategic ambiguity” to target Venezuela’s oil sector in the near future. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves.

Bolton also hinted that the Trump administration would soon issue new sanctions against Nicaragua and Cuba, which has long been under an embargo imposed by the United States.

Notably, the same day as Bolton’s speech, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling for the U.S. to lift its embargo of Cuba. Only Israel and the United States voted against the resolution, while only Moldova and Ukraine abstained.

Bolton’s bombastic rhetoric and the aggressive shift in the administration’s Latin America policy it has signaled, follow the recent and decisive win of the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro in the recent Brazilian elections. Bolsonaro vocally supports an increase in the U.S.’ regional presence. He has also long been a vocal supporter of Brazil’s military dictatorship and has promoted a return to several of the dictatorship’s past policies.

Bolsonaro’s victory was preceded by the inauguration of Colombia’s new right-wing president, Iván Duque, who in August succeeded his mentor Juan Manuel Santos, also of the right; as well as by the inauguration of conservative billionaire Sebastián Piñera as president of Chile this past March.

Piñera’s cabinet includes several politicians who served under the U.S.-installed military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that ruled Chile from 1973 until 1990.

Actual Stooges (3)

Bolton alluded to the recent victories of pro-U.S. conservatives in his speech, stating that the Trump administration was pleased with the recent elections of “like-minded leaders” in Latin America. However, Bolton did not mention the left-leaning president-elect of Mexico, Andres Manuel López Obrador, who won the recent Mexican elections by a landslide. López Obrador has vowed to nationalize Mexico’s oil resources, a policy that had previously prompted U.S.-backed coups in other countries, such as Iran in 1953.

Bolton’s dream finally comes true with new “Axis of Evil” tailor-made for Cuba

Bolton’s declaration of the Trump administration’s plans to counter the “Troika of Tyranny” in Latin America is the logical conclusion of his appointment earlier this year to National Security Adviser, given that he has long targeted the three countries singled out in Thursday’s speech. Indeed, as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton regularly criticized Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela as “undermining U.S. interests throughout the region.” However, it has long been Cuba that has been most aggressively targeted by Bolton. This may explain why Bolton, in his recent speech, singled Cuba out in particular and painted it as the leader of the so-called “Troika of Tyranny.”

Long an advocate for increasing the already strong restrictions against Cuba that were in place at the time, Bolton lobbied the George W. Bush administration in 2002 to add the island nation to its “axis of evil” while serving as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The justification that Bolton offered was his claim that Cuba was covertly developing biological weapons. In a speech to the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation, Bolton asserted that “Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort.”

Bolton originally wrote the speech with a claim that Cuba had “a developmental offensive biological warfare program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs.” To Bolton’s extreme displeasure, concern from other high-ranking officials in the State Department forced him to tone it down. Price Floyd, then a State Department media-affairs official, recalled that there had been “no evidence” for Bolton’s claim. Three years later, U.S. intelligence concluded that “it is unclear whether Cuba has an active offensive biological warfare effort now, or even had one in the past.”

After making the baseless accusation, Bolton tried to pressure intelligence officers and government analysts to endorse his statements, to little avail. Despite having distorted intelligence in service to his political bias, Bolton was subsequently promoted to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations soon after in 2005.

Notably, with Cuba holding a prominent position within Bolton’s “Troika of Tyranny,” it seems that the National Security Advisor has finally secured the country’s inclusion in the Trump administration’s “Axis of Evil,” more than a decade after having failed to convince the Bush administration to do the same.

Bolton’s new offensive very much in character

Venezuela has also long been the subject of Bolton’s ire. For instance, while serving in the Bush State Department in 2002, Bolton actively favored the failed U.S.-backed coup against then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez. Bolton has since claimed that Venezuela is harboring and collaborating with Iranian criminals and “smugglers.” During a 2013 hearing, Bolton claimed that Iran was operating in Venezuela to avoid international scrutiny:

“These are expert smugglers with — the largest Iranian diplomatic facility in the world [which] is in Caracas, Venezuela […] they are laundering their money through the Venezuelan banks.”

He has since asserted that Iran uses Venezuela “to retain access to the country’s extensive uranium reserves,” an apparent effort to link Venezuela to Iran’s nuclear power program. Bolton has long advocated for preemptive military action against Iran, with the country’s alleged ambition to develop nuclear weapons as the pretext.

Bolton has also claimed that the Lebanese political party Hezbollah is a “murky but continuing threat” in Venezuela. Claims of Hezbollah’s involvement are based solely on the ancestry of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who is of Lebanese heritage. Bolton has stated that Hezbollah’s alleged presence in Venezuela is the result of the presence of “expatriate Middle Eastern trading networks in Latin America” — essentially linking Hezbollah’s alleged presence to the presence of Lebanese immigrants, a bizarre association that comes close to conflating Lebanese heritage with Hezbollah membership. Bolton’s claims – for which he has never provided concrete evidence – have been backed by the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Bolton’s often aggressive efforts to undermine both Cuba and Venezuela have more recently manifested themselves in his disdain for the government of current Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a country with which Bolton also has a troubled past. Indeed, during the Iran-Contra affair, when Ortega was leader of Nicaragua, Bolton, then serving as Assistant Attorney General under Edwin Meese, played a key role in hiding U.S. support for Nicaraguan death squads.

Bolton claimed that the information requested by the House Judiciary Committee in its investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal was “highly classified” and that no member of the committee had the “proper clearances” to review it. While serving in the Reagan administration, Bolton repeatedly blocked government probes into the U.S.’ role in Nicaragua by refusing to cooperate with document release requests and invoking executive privilege. He later referred to his efforts to destroy information allegedly pertaining to the Contra affair as “house cleaning” chores so the George H.W. Bush administration could come in with “a clean slate.”

Beyond his past efforts to target these three countries specifically, Bolton is also closely linked to a Washington law firm long known for its role in fomenting military coups throughout Latin America. For years, Bolton was an associate of Covington & Burling, which recently came under scrutiny for its role in the 2009 military coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

When Zelaya raised the minimum wage, Chiquita fruit company paid $70,000 in lobbying fees to Covington, whose long-time partner, Eric Holder, was serving as Attorney General at the time. Chiquita saw its lobbying pay off when the U.S.-backed military coup in 2009 removed Zelaya from power. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton openly admitted the role of the Obama administration in the coup.

Given Bolton’s past ambitions targeting these three countries and his connections to Covington & Burling, his recent rhetoric about the “triangle of terror” should be given the attention it deserves, as should his history of forcing the “facts” to fit his long-standing political biases.

Indeed, considering that the current vice president, president and secretary of state have all teased the possibility of regime change in Venezuela, including through a U.S.-backed military coup, it seems that Bolton’s new “Troika of Tyranny” speech will serve as the foundation for the next and more aggressive stage of the Trump administration’s Latin America policy.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile. 

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

Friday, November 02, 2018

By the Numbers: Media Discounts Yemen War Deaths

Catastrophic Death Toll in US-Saudi War on Yemen Has Been Grossly Downplayed


October 31, 2018

The United Nations has warned that 14 million Yemenis are at serious risk of famine as the United States continues backing a brutal Saudi and Emirati war which many observers say borders on the genocidal.

As Yemen suffers from the worst humanitarian catastrophe on earth, the UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock said that the danger of famine is, quote, “much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.”

Amal Hussain aged 7 years. RIP

Mainstream corporate media outlets have largely ignored or glossed over this catastrophic war since it began in March 2015, despite the fact that the U.S. and British governments have played key roles supporting the relentless Saudi bombing campaign. And even when media outlets have acknowledged the war, they have frequently downplayed and whitewashed just how criminal the assault has been.

The UN and corporate media have for years claimed only 10,000 Yemenis were killed in the US/UK-backed Saudi/UAE war. But Yemen’s actual death toll is 70,000 to 80,000. Patrick Cockburn on the whitewashing of the catastrophic war.

One of the most repeated myths that has been endlessly rehashed in the past few years is the claim that only 10,000 Yemenis have been killed from the violence in this war. After 21 months, virtually all major media outlets are still repeating the same death toll, that 10,000 Yemenis have died, which is a figure from January 2017 from the United Nations. Still, in October 2018, this 10,000 death figure is still being repeated by the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, and the New York Times, among other outlets. And this absurd reporting has shown how Yemen’s death toll has been grossly downplayed for years.

Well, a new report in the British newspaper The Independent dispels this 10,000 death toll myth once and for all. In a new piece, titled The Yemen War Death Toll Is Five Times Higher Than We Think, veteran reporter Patrick Cockburn reports that at least 56,000 civilians and combatants were killed in Yemen in the 21 months between January 2016 and October 2018. It’s less than two years. Virtually all of those killed were Yemenis, along with a smaller number of mercenaries hired by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Down Rio Way: Things Set to Get Scary in Brazil

Supporters of Brazil’s Neofascist President Celebrate, Workers Party in Shock


October 30, 2018

They danced. They sang. They chanted for their new president. The far right, former military captain Jair Bolsonaro, is Brazil’s president elect.

Outside of his home in an upscale neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, supporters were ecstatic as the results rolled in.

He won with just over 55% of the valid votes.

With the election of neofascist Jair Bolsonaro as president of Latin America’s largest country, the people of Brazil could hardly be more polarized. An election night field report from Mike Fox

A Restrained Russia Resists Shadenfreude Over Saudi's Khashoggi Discomfitures

The Russian Interest in the Khashoggi Case

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

October 31, 2018

Moscow - A man loses his life while he’s on a mission for one or two countries’ secret services in their attempt to change the regime of a third country. It’s a life or death risk he’s running but he calculates he’s well protected. He miscalculates; the outcome is fatal.

The third country’s regime miscalculates too. Their agents hastened his death (manslaughter), possibly murdered him (premeditation); they certainly disposed of his corpse (class-3 felony).

As they made their escape, their aircraft was intercepted in the air over the first country, but the ruler of that country allowed the aircraft to fly on safely.

Almost everything subsequently announced by officials of each of the three countries, or leaked by them to their media, (also, almost everything announced by employers and spokesmen for the dead man) is incomplete, misleading, fabricated, disinformation, or bald-faced lies.

This is the case of the dead Jamal Khashoggi (pronounced ), willing agent of the US and Turkey for regime change in Saudi Arabia.

None of this involves Russia directly, and until now there’s been no blame cast at Russia’s secret services, the General Staff, or President Vladimir Putin for what has happened. Not even if Russian interests benefit, have the Russia-hating media and the US Congress accused Putin of masterminding the Khashoggi case. But strategically in the Middle East, and tactically on Russia’s war fronts in Syria, Iran, and the Balkans, Russian interests do benefit – although not a single Russian politician, security analyst, academic expert, or media commentator will say so.

They think that gloating or schadenfreude, the satisfaction felt from another’s misfortune, especially an enemy’s, is impossible for Russians in the Khashoggi case because it’s much too complicated.

Russian intelligence-gathering in Turkey is known to be good enough, perhaps, to have monitored, if not assisted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s survival during the attempted military putsch of July 15, 2016; for details, read this.

Follow this timeline of what happened to Khashoggi this month. How much of the Saudi airplane movements into and out of Istanbul, or Khashoggi’s movements, were monitored by the Russians independently of the Turks isn’t known. Nor how much the Turks have subsequently shared with their Russian counterparts.

The official record shows that since Khashoggi’s death in Istanbul on October 2 the first high-level meeting of Russian security, intelligence and military officials including President Putin was on the evening of Khashoggi’s fateful day, October 2. The Kremlin record of the Security Council meeting then reported that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed “the delivery of S-300 systems and other equipment to improve security for Russian service personnel in Syria.”

Sergei Shoigu, second from right, briefs the Security Council on October 2
Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, is next to him at far right.

Putin then travelled to India and Belarus. The next Security Council meeting was not convened until the president’s return on October 12. There is no sign in the communiqué of a Middle Eastern topic in the discussion. The most recent meeting of the Security Council was on October 25.

It is certain the first discussion Putin held on the Khashoggi case with a non-Russian official was in Sochi on the evening of October 16, when he met the President of Egypt, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi had last been in Saudi Arabia in mid-August where the Egyptian media reported his meeting with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense), and Abbas Kamel, head of Egypt’s General Intelligence.

Left: President Sisi with King Salman and Prince Mohammed at Neom on 
August 14; Right: President Putin with President Sisi in Sochi on October 16.

In Sochi, the day after their evening talk, Putin and Sisi and their delegations held discussions on a lengthy agenda and signed an “Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation.” As Sisi said during the following press conference, this includes improving “the information exchange process between our countries’ special services as part of counterterrorism efforts.”

Arab sources believe Sisi and Putin discussed the special protective relationship Egypt has with the Saudi ruling family, and the threats posed by the Turks. Days later, on Saturday October 22, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced unqualified backing for the Saudis against the allegations from the Turkish media and President Erdogan.

“Egypt finds that the brave and decisive decisions and actions taken by the Saudi King in this [Khashoggi] matter,” reads the Cairo text, “align with his majesty’s approach that respects the principles of law and application of effective justice.”

The legal measures taken by Saudi Arabia will uncover the truth and prevent “all attempts to politicize the issue,” the Egyptian statement added. The Egyptian Foreign Minister then flew to Riyadh for more talks with the Saudis.

No Russian source has so far connected Putin’s discussion of the Khashoggi case with Sisi to what has followed. A brief comment was made by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova on October 17. She was dismissive of the Turkish-fed media reporting on Khashoggi.

“I can say once again that, first, it is law enforcement that should act as the principal source of information. Second, we welcome the joint effort announced by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to investigate. As for many politicians having commented on this…I can say that the many comments that have been made failed to add clarity… I would prefer the world to learn the truth and the political declarations to follow, not precede, the verdict rendered by law enforcement.”

On October 23 Putin met the US national security advisor, John Bolton. Zakharova revealed, dismissively, that Bolton mentioned the Khashoggi case.

“Frankly, I cannot say the Russian side was informed of anything significant on the issue. The US involvement in this story is completely understandable – he was a journalist who worked for the American media after all. It is also clear why John Bolton raised this issue, as a representative of the country the journalist worked for. Unfortunately, this indisputable fact seems to constantly get lost amid the general array of statements we hear.” 

No mistake – Zakharova identified the US as the country Khashoggi worked for.

On October 25, Putin chaired a session of the Security Council, and among the issues reported as discussed was Putin’s trip to Istanbul, planned for two days later on October 27. It was also agreed at the Council meeting that Putin would talk to the Saudis about Khashoggi. Shortly afterwards, according to the Kremlin record, Putin held a telephone conversation with King Salman. According to the communiqué, “the leaders exchanged views on the Syrian issue and the state of affairs in the Middle East in general. The situation around the ‘Jamal Khashoggi case’ was also addressed.”

The Saudi version of the call was that Salman “stressed that the actions of those involved in this crime do not represent the principles and values ​​of the Kingdom, stressing that justice will take its course fully and resolutely.” Putin, according to the Saudi record, followed the Egyptian line.

“Putin expressed confidence in the integrity of the measures taken by the Kingdom and in the transparency of the ongoing investigation.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zakharova (right), briefed the press the same day. She was asked by a reporter from Al-Jazeera to comment on the Khashoggi case:

“What is Russia’s opinion of the new developments in the murder case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi? If it is proved that the Saudi authorities are involved will it influence Russia-Saudi relations?”

Al-Jazeera is owned by the Qatar government, which is in bitter political conflict with the Saudis and is supported by Erdogan and by Turkish military forces at the first official Turkish military base in an Arab country since the Ottoman defeat in 1918.

Zakharova replied sardonically, reminding the Qatari state journalist of Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish backing for regime change in Syria and for the violence that has caused.

“First of all, I would like to welcome Al Jazeera to this briefing. Fingers of one hand would be enough to count the times you have attended any of our briefings. I really do hope that this matter and the fate of one person is not your only concern. Perhaps, you would be interested in hearing about the fate of Syrian civilians and children who, unfortunately, have been killed for years in Syria. We speak about this here on a regular basis. Do come and visit us more. We will share this information with you and will be glad to answer your questions.”
“As concerns your question about the journalist’s fate, I do not think that I need to repeat myself once again. I announced our view at the briefing two weeks ago. Russian officials and President Vladimir Putin, in particular, also expressed their opinions. This incident has been fully addressed. But if we do not close the question yet and rather summarise what has happened, it should be noted that there needs to be an investigation. As I have already said, at this point political statements must give place to an objective, comprehensive and unbiased investigation. When this investigation is complete according to all procedures and applicable law, we will be able to offer our views and make political statements. We welcome the joint probe started by the parties, specifically, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The next day, October 26, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, a fluent Turkish speaker and one of the highest-ranking Kremlin officials to promote Turkey’s interests in Russian policymaking, issued an announcement backing the Saudis, confirming the crime in Khashoggi’s fate, but opposing culpability for Prince Mohammed.
“We have heard the statement of the royal family with condemnation of this murder, about the non-participation of the royal family in it. All the rest is a question of investigation which is also the wish of the royal family. We welcome it.”

Peskov also dismissed a reporter’s question of whether the Kremlin trusts the Saudi Government’s disclaimer of participation in the murder.

“I consider this question inappropriate. There is an official statement of the King, the statement of the Crown Prince. There shouldn’t be any basis not to trust anybody in principle.” 

The ambiguity in Peskov’s last phrase was the closest he came to supporting Erdogan’s version of Khashoggi’s fate, and the Turkish campaign against Mohammed bin Salman. Nothing comparable to Peskov’s ambiguity has been said in public by other Russian officials. No Russian analyst has reported noticing.

Putin was in Istanbul the next day. He met Erdogan first, as the host of the four-Power meeting with Germany and France. At the formal session Putin was seated between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Shoigu; Peskov was seated behind them. According to Erdogan, he briefed the other leaders on the Khashoggi case; how little the detail, or how much, isn’t publicly reported.

“We talked on this topic,” Erdogan later told reporters.
“I gave my colleagues important information about the investigation.” 

During the summit press conference, Erdogan talked at length on the Khashoggi case.

French President Emmanuel Macron followed, telling French reporters in Istanbul:

“For me, things are clear. Firstly, some facts have been established. We must fully investigate the nature of these facts, and who’s responsible…Sanctions must be taken on this basis and these sanctions must be coherent and complete, and be extremely concrete and proportional.” 

Macron reported intelligence-sharing between the French and Turks, conceding there were still “some dark spots [which] will have to be illuminated.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her media:

“We agreed that when we have more clarity, and we are counting on that, when we know who was behind this then we will try to find a unified European solution or reaction from all member states of the European Union to show that we negotiate on the basis of common values.” 

The French and German statements weren’t exactly endorsements of what Erdogan has been broadcasting in the Turkish media.

At the joint press conference in Istanbul, Putin made no mention of the Khashoggi case; he was the only one of the four to do so.

For the full one-hour video film, with English voice-over translation, 
plus transcript in English of Putin’s remarks, click.

Instead, Putin defended the agreement he and Erdogan had reached in Sochi on September 17. For analysis of their pact on the future of Idlib city and governorate in Syria, read this and then this.

Putin’s position in Istanbul was that the Turks can be trusted to stick to the terms of last month’s agreement, although Putin also insisted the terms require Turkish occupation of Idlib to be temporary, and recruitment of the jihadi opposition forces under Turkish military command disallowed.

“Mr Erdogan and I,” Putin told the press, “gave a detailed account to our European colleagues of the progress achieved in implementing Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib. We assume that the establishment of a demilitarised area as well as the de-escalation zone in Idlib is a temporary measure. We expect the Turkish side to make sure that the opposition withdraws heavy weapons and military units from the demilitarised area. We see that our Turkish partners are doing everything in their power for that. In case the radical elements impede the implementation of this task, if they conduct armed provocations from the Idlib zone, Russia reserves the right to render effective support to the decisive actions of the Syrian government on eliminating this hotbed of terrorist threat.”

The Joint Statement agreed by all four leaders was positive towards the Russian role in Syria – a tactical achievement by Putin over US policy. The preamble of the statement says the four leaders had “expressed their determination to reject separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries; welcomed the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area, signed by the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation in Sochi on 17 September 2018; commended the progress in terms of withdrawal of heavy weapons as well as radical groups from the demilitarized zone established pursuant to the Memorandum.”

There has been no Russian review, neither by officials leaking to the press nor by Russian analysts close to the intelligence services, of the evidence on Khashoggi’s fate provided by the Turks. Saudi and Egyptian sources say they are sure the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was not bugged, as the Turks claim. Technical experts believe the report of audio evidence relayed by Khashoggi’s telephone to his Turkish companion outside to be false.

Arab sources dismiss the claim that Khashoggi, who had been negotiating for some time with Mohammed’s brother Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi Ambassador to the US, needed to go to the Istanbul consulate for papers related to a purported divorce.

The Arab sources believe that Khashoggi thought he was negotiating – exactly what the sources don’t know – and that the October 2 meeting became violent when Khashoggi refused to return to Saudi Arabia. These sources believe rendition of Khashoggi had been planned by the Saudis — forced if Khashoggi resisted — but not assassination. The Turkish-source media reporting of the cutting-up of Khashoggi’s body is not believed by the Arabs.

The Arab sources, as well as Russian sources, are equally dubious about the US intelligence version of the case as they are towards the British version, and Israeli leaks. This Turkish press report reveals much higher level Turkish involvement in the case as it was unfolding on October 2, than has been reported in the non-Turkish press; there has been no independent corroboration.

“It is understood that at one point, the plane carrying a part of the Saudi team was stopped in the skies above Nallihan (a rural district in the Ankara Province) and ordered into a holding pattern, before being allowed to continue its way. If the plane had been forced to land, and its passengers put under questioning, a great deal of now unknown information would have been obtained.”

Published Russian commentaries express scepticism that the case will lead to a decisive breach in the US-Saudi alliance against Iran, or that US and European sanctions will either topple Prince Mohammed or reorient him towards Russia.

Russian sources are hopeful that in Mohammed’s current predicament, a public show of Russian neutrality, with private assurances conveyed by the Egyptians, will lead to a softening of Saudi confrontation with Iran. The sources were asked if they see evidence of coordination or common policy between Russia and Egypt in relation to Mohammed bin Salman? They were also asked what role they believe Putin has agreed with the Saudi leadership in the Khashoggi affair?

No Russian military analyst will answer. One adds that it’s too early to jump to the conclusion of a common policy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Meeting the 'OneCure': 10,000 Ton Tankers Take BC

Meeting the 'OneCure'

by Ingmar Lee - 10,000 Ton Tanker

October 29, 2018

Today I set out to meet the American ATB (articulated tug/barge) petroleum tanker, "OneCure."

I intercepted the tanker as it passed abeam of Gale Pass, about I mile north of the wreck site of the American ATB tanker, " Nathan E Stewart," which sank there about 2 years ago.

To this day, in the aftermath of the NES wreck, the waters of Seaforth Channel continue to be polluted and are off-limits to seafood harvesting.

This is the second incursion into Seaforth Channel, Return Passage, Johnson Channel and Fitzhugh Channel by the ATB "OneCure" in the last 2 months, and they are the first ATB passages through these waters since the NES wreck.

Today, the "OneCure" was pushing the "Zidell Marine 277," -which is the same 10,000 deadweight-ton capacity petroleum barge which broke apart from the ATB tanker, "Jake Shearer," exactly one year ago, and which then drifted, fully loaded and out of control to within a stones throw of the Goose Islands group, also near here.

I called the the American ATB tanker, "OneCure" 3 times on Channel 16, after which I was informed by Prince Rupert Coast Guard radio that the "OneCure" only monitors Channel 11...

The "OneCure" is equipped with the very same PROVEN FAILED "Articouple" locking pins which failed so dramatically in its identical twin sistership ATB "Jake Shearer."

The only reason that the "OneCure" has begun seeking shelter in the Inside Passages of the BC Central Coast, is because these rickety vessels simply cannot handle even rather ordinary Hecate Strait sea conditions, such as the Gale that is currently blowing outside this evening.

There has never been any Transport Canada investigation, or any other investigation for that matter, on why, and how those "Articouple" locking pins failed in the "Jake Shearer." For the powers that be, a maritime oil disaster is only a legitimate problem if it actually crashes and leaks. No crash, no leak? Business as usual.

Currently, the "OneCure" has made a "HailMary" dash across Cape Caution, -because there's no sheltered alternative- and is now steaming through Queen Charlotte Sound.

Once again, an American ATB tanker is threatening the entire BC Coast. Just as they do, on average, once every two weeks, Once again, nothing was learned and once again, nothing has changed.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Yves Engler, Michael Parenti*, Janine Bandcroft November 1, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

November 1, 2018

Last week saw yet another far right government ascend the World stage. Whether neo, crypto, or proto fascist, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro represents a further ebbing of Latin America's so-called Pink Tide movement.

It's a trend that's seen political reversals already in Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Honduras, and now threatens the Sandinista and Bolivarian revolutions of Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The bitter fruits of this social change can be seen on the faces of the thousands currently fleeing Central America, desperate to escape the counter-revolution regimes put in place, ironically enough, through the agency of El Norte countries like ours, Canada.

Listen. Hear.

Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist, essayist, and author. His articles appear at Dissident Voice, The Palestine Chronicle,, and Pacific Free Press among other places. The latest of his ten books, 'Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada' is freshly off the presses and questions, Why, despite all evidence to the contrary, Canadians still suffer under the delusion that they and their nation’s government are "a benevolent force in the world"?

Yves will be at UVic tonight at 7pm in the Hickman Building for a presentation on, and book launch of 'Left, Right, Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada'.

Yves Engler in the first half.

And; from GR's wayback files, Michael Parenti from February 2003:

All that’s missing from media reports of the long-rumoured Battle of Civilizations, (coming to a TV screen near you) is Reason. Rarely mentioned, and presumably soon to be forgotten, is any information providing a context for the conflict in the middle east. Amid the rabid rhetoric emanating from the Bush administration and its media organs, you may be forgiven your struggle to make sense of it all. Michael Parenti is one of America’s most astute, and persistent critics of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. ‘Democracy for the Few’, ‘Against Empire’, and ‘History as Mystery’, are just a few of his many books.

Michael Parenti provides a bit of context for the coming storm and to discuss his newest book, ‘The Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond’ in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin with some of the good things to do in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Yves Engler and marching to the Imperial beat.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Fly in the Social Media Ointment: NeoCon Insider Spills, Facebook Censorship "Just the Beginning"

Facebook Censorship of Alternative Media "Just the Beginning," Says Top NeoCon Insider

by Max Blumenthal and Jeb Sprague  - GrayZone Project

October 22, 2018

At a Berlin security conference, hardline neocon Jamie Fly appeared to claim some credit for the recent coordinated purge of alternative media. 

This October, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets maintained by American users.

Among those wiped out in the coordinated purge were popular sites that scrutinized police brutality and U.S. interventionism, like The Free Thought Project, Anti-Media, and Cop Block, along with the pages of journalists like Rachel Blevins.

Jamie Fly, a senior fellow and director of the
Asia program at the influential think tank the
German Marshall Fund

Facebook claimed that these pages had “broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” However, sites like The Free Thought Project were verified by Facebook and widely recognized as legitimate sources of news and opinion. John Vibes, an independent reporter who contributed to Free Thought, accused Facebook of “favoring mainstream sources and silencing alternative voices.”

In comments published here for the first time, a neoconservative Washington insider has apparently claimed a degree of credit for the recent purge — and promised more takedowns in the near future.

“Russia, China, and other foreign states take advantage of our open political system,” remarked Jamie Fly, a senior fellow and director of the Asia program at the influential think tank the German Marshall Fund, which is funded by the U.S. government and NATO.

“They can invent stories that get repeated and spread through different sites. So we are just starting to push back. Just this last week Facebook began starting to take down sites. So this is just the beginning.”

Fly went on to complain that “all you need is an email” to set up a Facebook or Twitter account, lamenting the sites’ accessibility to members of the general public. He predicted a long struggle on a global scale to fix the situation, and pointed out that to do so would require constant vigilance.

Fly made these stunning comments to Jeb Sprague, who is a visiting faculty member in sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara and co-author of this article. The two spoke during a lunch break at a conference on Asian security organized by the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin, Germany.

In the tweet below, Fly is the third person from the left who appears seated at the table.

 Garima Mohan

A rare opportunity to discuss Asian security in Berlin, 
with an excellent group of experts from the region @SWPBerlin

The remarks by Fly — “we are just starting to push back” — seemed to confirm the worst fears of the alternative online media community. If he was to be believed, the latest purge was motivated by politics, not spam prevention, and was driven by powerful interests hostile to dissident views, particularly where American state violence is concerned.

Jamie Fly, rise of a neocon cadre

Jamie Fly is an influential foreign policy hardliner who has spent the last year lobbying for the censorship of “fringe views” on social media. Over the years, he has advocated for a military assault on Iran, a regime change war on Syria, and hiking military spending to unprecedented levels. He is the embodiment of a neoconservative cadre.

Like so many second-generation neocons, Fly entered government by burrowing into mid-level positions in George W. Bush’s National Security Council and Department of Defense.

In 2009, he was appointed director of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a rebranded version of Bill Kristol’s Project for a New American Century, or PNAC. The latter outfit was an umbrella group of neoconservative activists that first made the case for an invasion of Iraq as part of a wider project of regime change in countries that resisted Washington’s sphere of influence.

By 2011, Fly was advancing the next phase in PNAC’s blueprint by clamoring for military strikes on Iran. “More diplomacy is not an adequate response,” he argued. A year later, Fly urged the US to “expand its list of targets beyond the [Iranian] nuclear program to key command and control elements of the Republican Guard and the intelligence ministry, and facilities associated with other key government officials.”

Fly soon found his way into the senate office of Marco Rubio, a neoconservative pet project, assuming a role as his top foreign policy advisor. Amongst other interventionist initiatives, Rubio has taken the lead in promoting harsh economic sanctions targeting Venezuela, even advocating for a U.S. military assault on the country. When Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign floundered amid a mass revolt of the Republican Party’s middle American base against the party establishment, Fly was forced to cast about for new opportunities.

He found them in the paranoid atmosphere of Russiagate that formed soon after Donald Trump’s shock election victory.

PropOrNot sparks the alternative media panic

A journalistic insider’s account of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Shattered, revealed that “in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss.” Her top advisers were summoned the following day, according to the book, “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up … Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

Less than three weeks after Clinton’s defeat, the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg published a dubiously sourced report headlined, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news.'” The article hyped up a McCarthyite effort by a shadowy, anonymously run organization called PropOrNot to blacklist some 200 American media outlets as Russian “online propaganda.”

The alternative media outfits on the PropOrNot blacklist included some of those recently purged by Facebook and Twitter, such as The Free Thought Project and Anti-Media.

Among the criteria PropOrNot identified as signs of Russian propaganda were “Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the EU and Eurozone” and “Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance to Assad.” PropOrNot called for “formal investigations by the U.S. government” into the outlets it had blacklisted.

According to Craig Timberg, the Washington Post correspondent who uncritically promoted the media suppression initiative, Propornot was established by “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Timberg quoted a figure associated with the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, Andrew Weisburd, and cited a report he wrote with his colleague, Clint Watts, on Russian meddling.

Timberg’s piece on PropOrNot was promoted widely by former top Clinton staffers and celebrated by ex-Obama White House aide Dan Pfeiffer as “the biggest story in the world.” But after a wave of stinging criticism, including in the pages of the New Yorker, the article was amended with an editor’s note stating,

“The [Washington] Post… does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet.”

PropOrNot had been seemingly exposed as a McCarthyite sham, but the concept behind it — exposing online American media outlets as vehicles for Kremlin “active measures” — continued to flourish.

The birth of the Russian bot tracker — with U.S. government money

By August, a new, and seemingly related initiative appeared out of the blue, this time with backing from a bipartisan coalition of Democratic foreign policy hands and neocon Never Trumpers in Washington. Called the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), the outfit aimed to expose how supposed Russian Twitter bots were infecting American political discourse with divisive narratives. It featured a daily “Hamilton 68” online dashboard that highlighted the supposed bot activity with easily digestible charts. Conveniently, the site avoided naming any of the digital Kremlin influence accounts it claimed to be tracking.

The initiative was immediately endorsed by John Podesta, the founder of the Democratic Party think tank the Center for American Progress, and former chief of staff of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Julia Ioffe, the Atlantic’s chief Russiagate correspondent, promoted the bot tracker as “a very cool tool.”

Unlike PropOrNot, the ASD was sponsored by one of the most respected think tanks in Washington, the German Marshall Fund, which had been founded in 1972 to nurture the special relationship between the US and what was then West Germany.

The German Marshall Fund is substantially funded by Western governments, and largely reflects their foreign-policy interests. Its top two financial sponsors, at more than $1 million per year each, are the U.S. government’s soft-power arm the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the German Foreign Office (known in German as the Auswärtiges Amt). The U.S. State Department also provides more than half a million dollars per year, as do the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the foreign affairs ministries of Sweden and Norway. It likewise receives at least a quarter of a million dollars per year from NATO.

US government and NATO are top donors to the German Marshall Fund

Though the German Marshall Fund did not name the donors that specifically sponsored its Alliance for Securing Democracy initiative, it hosts a who’s who of bipartisan national-security hardliners on the ASD’s advisory council, providing the endeavor with the patina of credibility. They range from neocon movement icon Bill Kristol to former Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan and ex-CIA director Michael Morell.

Jamie Fly, a German Marshall Fund fellow and Asia specialist, emerged as one of the most prolific promoters of the new Russian bot tracker in the media. Together with Laura Rosenberger, a former foreign policy aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Fly appeared in a series of interviews and co-authored several op-eds emphasizing the need for a massive social media crackdown.

During a March 2018 interview on C-Span, Fly complained that “Russian accounts” were “trying to promote certain messages, amplify certain content, raise fringe views, pit Americans against each other, and we need to deal with this ongoing problem and find ways through the government, through tech companies, through broader society to tackle this issue.”

Yet few of the sites on PropOrNot’s blacklist, and none of the alternative sites that were erased in the recent Facebook purge that Fly and his colleagues take apparent credit for, were Russian accounts. Perhaps the only infraction they could have been accused of was publishing views that Fly and his cohorts saw as “fringe.”

What’s more, the ASD has been forced to admit that the mass of Twitter accounts it initially identified as “Russian bots” were not necessarily bots — and may not have been Russian either.

“I’m not convinced on this bot thing”

A November 2017 investigation by Max Blumenthal, a co-author of this article, found that the ASD’s Hamilton 68 dashboard was the creation of “a collection of cranks, counterterror retreads, online harassers and paranoiacs operating with support from some of the most prominent figures operating within the American national security apparatus.”

These figures included the same George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security fellows — Andrew Weisburd and Clint Watts — that were cited as experts in the Washington Post’s article promoting PropOrNot.

Weisburd, who has been described as one of the brains behind the Hamilton 68 dashboard, once maintained a one-man, anti-Palestinian web monitoring initiative that specialized in doxxing left-wing activists, Muslims and anyone he considered “anti-American.” More recently, he has taken to Twitter to spout off murderous and homophobic fantasies about Glenn Greenwald, the editor of the Intercept — a publication the ASD flagged without explanation as a vehicle for Russian influence operations.

Watts, for his part, has testified before Congress on several occasions to call on the government to “quell information rebellions” with censorious measures including “nutritional labels” for online media. He has received fawning publicity from corporate media and been rewarded with a contributor role for NBC on the basis of his supposed expertise in ferreting out Russian disinformation.

 Clint Watts has urged Congress to “quell information rebellions”

However, under questioning during a public event by Grayzone contributor Ilias Stathatos, Watts admitted that substantial parts of his testimony were false, and refused to provide evidence to support some of his most colorful claims about malicious Russian bot activity.

In a separate interview with Buzzfeed, Watts appeared to completely disown the Hamilton 68 bot tracker as a legitimate tool. “I’m not convinced on this bot thing,” Watts confessed. He even called the narrative that he helped manufacture “overdone,” and admitted that the accounts Hamilton 68 tracked were not necessarily directed by Russian intelligence actors.

“We don’t even think they’re all commanded in Russia — at all. We think some of them are legitimately passionate people that are just really into promoting Russia,” Watts conceded.

But these stunning admissions did little to slow the momentum of the coming purge.

Enter the Atlantic Council

In his conversation with Sprague, the German Marshall Fund’s Fly stated that he was working with the Atlantic Council in the campaign to purge alternative media from social media platforms like Facebook.

The Atlantic Council is another Washington-based think tank that serves as a gathering point for neoconservatives and liberal interventionists pushing military aggression around the globe. It is funded by NATO and repressive, US-allied governments including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Turkey, as well as by Ukrainian oligarchs like Victor Pynchuk.

This May, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) to “identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world.”

The Atlantic Council’s DFRLab is notorious for its zealous conflation of legitimate online dissent with illicit Russian activity, embracing the same tactics as PropOrNot and the ASD.

Ben Nimmo, a DFRLab fellow who has built his reputation on flushing out online Kremlin influence networks, embarked on an embarrassing witch hunt this year that saw him misidentify several living, breathing individuals as Russian bots or Kremlin “influence accounts.” Nimmo’s victims included Mariam Susli, a well-known Syrian-Australian social media personality, the famed Ukrainian concert pianist Valentina Lisitsa, and a British pensioner named Ian Shilling.

In an interview with Sky News, Shilling delivered a memorable tirade against his accusers.

“I have no Kremlin contacts whatsoever; I do not know any Russians, I have no contact with the Russian government or anything to do with them,” he exclaimed.
“I am an ordinary British citizen who happens to do research on the current neocon wars which are going on in Syria at this very moment.”

With the latest Facebook and Twitter purges, ordinary citizens like Shilling are being targeted in the open, and without apology. The mass deletions of alternative media accounts illustrate how national security hardliners from the German Marshall Fund and Atlantic Council (and whoever was behind PropOrNot) have instrumentalized the manufactured panic around Russian interference to generate public support for a wider campaign of media censorship.

In his conversation in Berlin with Sprague, Fly noted with apparent approval that, “Trump is now pointing to Chinese interference in the 2018 election.” As the mantra of foreign interference expands to a new adversarial power, the clampdown on voices of dissent in online media is almost certain to intensify.

As Fly promised, “This is just the beginning.”

Jeb Sprague is a visiting faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of “Globalizing the Caribbean: Political economy, social change, and the transnational capitalist class” (Temple University Press, 2019), “Paramilitarism and the assault on democracy in Haiti” (Monthly Review Press, 2012), and is the editor of “Globalization and transnational capitalism in Asia and Oceania” (Routledge, 2016). He is a co-founder of the Network for the Critical Studies of Global Capitalism.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, The Fifty One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, and The Management of Savagery, which will be published later this year by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie and the forthcoming Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

The Grayzone relies on readers like you. Become a Patron here and help us produce more original investigative journalism like this.

China "Steps Up" Preparation for War

Chinese president tells military to prepare for war

by Peter Symonds - WSWS

30 October 2018

In another sign of rapidly rising US-China tensions and the danger of conflict, President Xi Jinping has told his country’s military to prepare for war. His speech last Thursday to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Theatre Command was a response to the Trump administration’s aggressive actions not just in intensifying trade war, but overtly readying for military conflict with both China and Russia.

Xi, who is also the Chinese military commander-in-chief, stressed the need for military forces that can “fight and win wars” and told the command to “concentrate [on] preparations for fighting a war.”
US Carrier Group, Pacific
Photo: DoD

Xi declared:

“We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”

“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi declared. The command had a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly,” he said.

The PLA’s Southern Theatre Command is responsible for the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait—two dangerous flashpoints for war. Under the Trump administration, the Pentagon already has conducted more provocative Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea—eight in all—than under President Barack Obama.

The latest US provocation, earlier this month, resulted in a close encounter between a Chinese warship and the USS Decatur, which deliberately challenged Chinese maritime claims by sailing within the 12-nautical mile limit of Chinese-controlled islets in the Spratly Islands. Needless to say, if Chinese warships conducted such operations off the US coastline in the vicinity of sensitive military bases, that would provoke an outcry in Washington and a clamour for retaliation.

The US is also sending an increasing number of warships through the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates China from Taiwan, which Beijing has long claimed at its territory. The Trump administration is deliberately inflaming tensions over Taiwan by strengthening military ties with Taipei.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe declared last week that Taiwan “touches upon China’s core interests.” He bluntly warned:

“On this issue, it is extremely dangerous to repeatedly challenge China’s bottom line. If someone tries to separate out Taiwan, China’s military will take the necessary actions at any cost.”

Yet that is exactly what the Trump administration is doing. Earlier this month, CNN reported that the US Navy was preparing for “a major show of force” in November as a warning to China. The draft proposal recommended a concentrated series of operations over a week involving the dispatch of US warships and warplanes near Chinese territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

Such plans are part of far broader US preparations for war with China, which along with Russia, the Pentagon branded at the beginning of the year as “a revisionist power” and strategic competitor. In a bellicose speech earlier this month, US Vice President Mike Pence signalled a dramatic escalation in the Trump administration’s confrontation with China, which has already led to a worsening trade war.

The Trump administration has also taken two major military steps this month that certainly would have sounded alarm bells in Beijing.

A day after Pence’s speech, the Pentagon released a report that can be interpreted only as the economic preparation for total war. It urged an end to US dependence on imports of strategic materials and items, particularly from rivals such as China, and the establishment of “a solid defence industrial base and resilient supply chains” in order to sustain a protracted military conflict.

The second move—Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty—is even more inflammatory. The treaty signed between the US and the former Soviet Union in 1987 formally prohibited the development of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles. By pulling out of the agreement, Donald Trump signalled his intention to massively expand the US nuclear arsenal directed not only against Russia, but above all, at ringing China with nuclear weapons based in Asia.

The growing danger of a nuclear conflict between the US and China was the subject of an article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs entitled “Beijing’s nuclear option: Why a US-Chinese war could spiral out of control.” Analyst Caitlin Talmadge concluded that any US conventional conflict would necessarily threaten China’s relatively small nuclear arsenal.

If that were the case, the Chinese military would be confronted with the choice of using its nuclear weapons or losing its ability to retaliate against a US nuclear attack. Talmadge dismissed the Pentagon’s routine assurances that there was no likelihood of a nuclear war between the US and China.

“If deployed against China, the Pentagon’s preferred style of conventional war [to knock out an enemy’s military assets] would be a recipe for nuclear escalation,” he warned.

There is nothing progressive about the response of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the threat of US aggression. The CCP regime represents the interests of the tiny layer of super-rich oligarchs who have amassed enormous wealth though the processes of capitalist restoration that began in 1978. As such, Beijing is organically incapable of making any appeal to the working class in China and internationally to mount a unified class offensive against capitalism and its outmoded nation-state system. Instead, Xi has sought to appease US imperialism, offering concessions, while at the same time accelerating China’s own military build-up—a recipe for war.

The US drive to war against China, initiated under Obama and accelerated under Trump, is a product of the deepening crisis of global capitalism, centred in the United States. In a desperate attempt to counteract its own historic decline, US imperialism regards China as the chief current threat to its world hegemony and will stop at nothing to subordinate China to its economic and strategic interests.

The rising danger of nuclear war must be answered through the building of a unified anti-war movement of the working class in China, the United States and internationally based on a socialist perspective to put an end to the capitalist system that threatens to plunge humanity into barbarism.

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