Trump Supporters in Denial over New Zealand Massacre

Trump Supporters in Denial over New Zealand Massacre

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 17.03.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Trump Supporters in Denial over New Zealand Massacre

US President Donald Trump condemned the New Zealand massacre of 50 people by a self-declared white fascist as “horrible”. In an ambiguous choice of words, Trump said he sent his “warmest [sic] sympathies” to the victims of the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch. He also seemed to downplay white supremacy violence as a problem.

With several surviving victims still in a critical condition, the death toll could rise in coming days.

Of course, Trump would be obliged to join in the international outpouring of condemnation over the barbaric cold-blooded act of mass murder. How could he not, given the shocking horror and depravity of the crime?

But his repeated nationalistic and nativist rhetoric as well as the ideologues whom he associates with make it very hard for Trump and his supporters to deny that there is a link between the White House occupant and the terrorist attack on Muslims in New Zealand, or white supremacist violence generally.

Supporters of Trump have scoffed at media claims made against Trump following the massacre insinuating the president is associated with “white nationalism” and thereby linked to the violence.

Admittedly, anti-Trump media in the US, such as CNN and MSNBC, will always seek every opportunity to undermine Trump. Nevertheless, on the point of Trump’s dalliance with extremist rightwing groups and their ideological memes there is a valid criticism to be made.

The alleged shooter in the New Zealand attack Friday was named as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen. He openly declared himself to be a fascist, avowing white supremacist ideology. In a so-called manifesto, the suspect refers to Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity”.

More significantly, the themes the alleged murderer espouses are central to the Alt Right movement and numerous other white nationalist groups in the US and Europe, issues which Trump has also promoted for political gain.

The themes of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, white genocide by “invasion” or “replacement” by brown-skinned foreigners are run-of-the-mill talking points for far-right nationalist movements, which Trump has at times endorsed or given credence to.

Only days before the New Zealand massacre, Trump gave an exclusive interview with Breitbart News. The publication is a proponent of many of the themes surrounding fears of the “white race” being over-run by hordes of foreigners, and especially Muslim foreigners.

In his latest interview for Breitbart, Trump appeared to be inciting street violence by imploring his followers in the police and military to “get tough”. He tweeted a link to the publication. But following the horror in Christchurch, Trump deleted his tweet. That move suggests the president is fully aware of the toxic association with Breitbart at such a politically sensitive moment.

Trump and his supporters may try to play the innocent card, decrying what they would call are scurrilous attempt by the “liberal media” to bracket him with the violence of the far-right.

However, what else is one to conclude about Trump when he has personally amplified the touchstone causes of numerous fascist, white nationalist groups?

This week, Trump has pushed on with his border wall project. He has repeatedly sought to justify that project in sensationalist, scaremongering terms of preventing an “invasion” into the US from Mexico. The actual figures of migration over the southern border do not merit such high priority given by Trump to the “problem”. The proposed expenditure of $8-9 billion and declared state of emergency are “dog-whistling” techniques by Trump to mobilize far-right nationalist support.

Look at the people who associate with Trump. He may claim that their association is not reciprocated.

White neo-Nazi groups like Proud Boys and Alt Right have been hosted at Trump rallies. Alt Right leader Richard Spencer is partial to giving Nazi salutes at conferences and declaring “Hail Trump!”

David Duke, the grandmaster of the Klu Klux Klan, has publicly endorsed Trump.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former political strategist in the White House, is a big proponent of the “replacement theory” whereby it is claimed that Muslim, African and other immigrants are “invading” the US and Europe to obliterate traditional white Christian communities. This was a prime motive for the alleged shooter in the New Zealand massacre. It was also a motive for the mass murder in 2011 by Norwegian neo-Nazi Anders Breivik.

Trump has taken up the cause of white South African farmers who claim that they are being expelled from colonial lands by the ruling ANC black government. This theme has also been taken up in Zimbabwe, and is a major touchstone issue for white supremacist, fascist groups around the world. For Trump to dally with the issue is an unmistakable sign of his witting – albeit tacit – support to such ideology, even though he may publicly try to distance himself at times, such as in the aftermath of the Christchurch atrocity.

Typically with Trump there are abundant contradictions. His son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner is Jewish. Yet Trump was accused of giving support to a “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where the torch-bearing marchers chanted slogans about not being replaced by Jews.

There seems little room for denial by Trump or his supporters about his links to the rise of extreme rightwing, white nationalist, fascist groups. His blanket ban on asylum-seekers from Muslim countries, his unhinged rhetoric about “invasion” by foreigners, and Trump’s association with racist, fascistic ideologues all put this president in the dock for incitement. The reckless rhetoric of Trump’s demagoguery is manifest in depraved actions such as the mass murder of 49 Muslims in New Zealand.

Trump can’t wash his hands after cynically dabbling in the cesspool of fascist ideology.

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Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 14.03.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

US imperialists are so desperate in their regime-change predations over Venezuela, they seem to have a problem controlling their drooling mouths.

The latest orgy of American gloating was triggered by the massive power outages to have hit Venezuela. No sooner had the South American country been blacked out from its power grid collapsing, senior US officials were crowing with perverse relish.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio – who has become a point man for the Trump administration in its regime-change campaign in Venezuela – was a little too celebratory. Within minutes of the nationwide power outage last Thursday, Rubio was having verbal orgasms about the “long-term economic damage”… “in the blink of an eye”. But it was his disclosure concerning the precise damage in the power grid that has led the Venezuelan government to accuse the US of carrying out a sabotage.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez noted how Rubio, in his tweeted comments “three minutes” after the power outage, mentioned failure of “back-up generators” in Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, known as the Guri Dam, located in Bolivar State. The dam supplies some 80 per cent of the Venezuelan population of 31 million with its electricity consumption.

Rodriguez mockingly ascribed “mystic skills” to Rubio because the Florida Republican senator appeared to know the precise nature of the power failure even before the Venezuelan authorities had determined it.

The Venezuelan government has since claimed that the failure in the electric grid was caused by a cyber attack on the computer system controlling the Guri Dam turbines. Caracas said it will present proof of its claims to the United Nations.

Apart from Rubio’s apparent insider information, there are several other indicators that Venezuela’s latest turmoil from power blackout was indeed caused by US sabotage, and specifically a cyber attack.

The South American country has experienced recurring power cuts over recent years due to economic problems and Washington’s sanctions. But the latest outage was widespread – at least 70 per cent of the country – and sustained for more than four days, rather than being rectified within hours. That scale of disruption suggests an unprecedented event, way beyond intermittent problems of maintenance.

The duration of the blackout in the capital Caracas and other major cities also indicates that the nature of the problem was difficult to reverse, which would be consistent with a cyber attack on the power grid. “It was a kill-shot,” says American political analyst Randy Martin.

Furthermore, US officials like President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton as well as “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams have been warning that Washington is seeking new ways to pile pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro to stand down.

Abrams was caught out last week in a prank phone call made by two Russian entertainers posing as Swiss President Ueli Maurer in which Abrams openly advocated crushing the Venezuelan banking system in order to topple the government in Caracas. The American envoy, who was convicted over the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s for sponsoring terrorism to sabotage Nicaragua, appeared to balk at using overt US military power against Venezuela. That suggests Washington was persuaded on the efficacy of cyber warfare to inflict social chaos and incite popular anger against the Maduro government.

The immediate reaction by Washington officials and the US-backed political opposition in Venezuela was to blame the Maduro government for the power disorder. The failure was flagged up as a sign of “incompetence” and “mismanagement” of the oil-rich country by the socialist administration. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself the rightful president with Washington’s blessing, conveyed the logic of blackmail when he declared, “the lights will come back on when usurper Maduro is gone”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in with repulsive gloating within hours of Venezuela’s power crisis. Pompeo tweeted: “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The delight openly displayed by Washington officials in regard to aggression against Venezuela has broken new ground in terms of the brazenness of US imperialism.

Only a few weeks ago, Bolton announced that the objective for seeking regime change in Venezuela against the elected President Nicolas Maduro was for US corporations to seize the South American state’s vast oil wealth – reckoned to be the largest known reserves on the planet, far exceeding those of Saudi Arabia.

Such is Washington’s unbridled lust for Venezuela’s natural resources that its imperialist advocates are falling over themselves with naked lies and crimes.

When a US Trojan Horse aid convoy was blocked from entering into Venezuela from Colombia last month, American politicians and media immediately blamed the Maduro government for sabotaging the effort. An aid truck was set alight on a border crossing on February 23. US Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Rubio, as well as CNN, condemned the Venezuelan authorities for “callous” destruction of vital aid delivery to its long-suffering people. It turns out, as even the New York Times has now admitted three weeks later, that the aid truck was torched by US-backed opposition supporters on the Colombian side of the border.

The obscenity of American imperialism is that it has inflicted huge social misery in Venezuela from years of sanctions and illegal confiscation (theft) of billions of dollars in assets belonging to the nation. Then it has the audacity to mount a charade seeming to deliver humanitarian aid.

The latest twist to this sadistic game played by Washington is turning the lights off across the entire nation, in homes, hospitals, airports and schools, among other essential services, and attempting to lay the blame on the Venezuelan government.

We may, however, be thankful for Washington’s overweening arrogance and criminality. Because, as Marco Rubio’s rash remarks concerning the latest power outage show, the American gangsterism towards Venezuela is being exposed for the naked aggression that it is.

US-based political analyst Randy Martin, in comments for this column, says that what Washington is doing to Venezuela is tantamount to the “rape of democracy”. “American imperialism has no longer any shame,” he said. “It used to rape countries under the cover a seedy alleyway of false excuses and hollow claims of righteousness. Now it has its trousers around its ankles and trying to rape Venezuela right on the global Main Street.”

Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

With stupendous double-think, Western news media claimed this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “threatening” the United States and its NATO allies with nuclear missiles.

The New York Times accused the Russian leader of “nuclear saber-rattling” while Radio Free Europe headlined: ‘Putin threatens to target the US with missiles’. Many other news outlets conveyed the same depiction of Russia somehow escalating bellicose tensions, based on Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address this week.

Buried beneath the sensational headlines was a little more context that hints at the gross distortion being propagated by the Western media.

The New York Times disdained Putin was speaking with an “aggressive tone” and “doubling down on threats against the United States”.

The Times then went on to report: “President Vladimir Putin used his state-of-the-nation address to make some of his most explicit threats yet to start a nuclear arms race with the US after [sic] the Trump administration said this month that America was withdrawing from a landmark arms control treaty.”

Obliquely, but crucially, what the Western media coyly admit is that Putin’s remarks this week on deploying new missiles systems are in response to Washington’s decision to unilaterally abandon the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

In other words, decisions have consequences. But for the Western media, they seem to be only preoccupied by consequences.

Furthermore, the Washington Post added somewhere lurking in the bowels of its coverage: “Putin emphasized that Russia will only respond if the United States makes the first move.”

That is, if the US instals short- and medium-range missiles in Europe then Russia will take symmetrical measures to target America territory and that of its NATO allies.

Radio Free Europe even breezily reported Putin as saying, “we don’t want confrontation” and added: “Putin said Russia wanted friendly relations with the United States and remained open for arms control talks with Washington.”

So, Western media are correctly – albeit coyly – noting that the Russian leader is acting in response to actions taken by Washington, and that he is explicitly appealing for friendly relations instead of confrontation. And yet the headlines were all screaming that Putin was “threatening the US”.

This willful distortion is reprehensibly adding to already dangerous international tensions. It is also a baleful failure to accurately determine which party is actually responsible for the brooding confrontational climate. Russia is being blamed for “threatening” the US and its allies when the reality is the reverse: it is the US that is unleashing the dangers of nuclear conflict, as even the Western media obliquely admit.

The Trump administration’s decision to walk away – unilaterally – from the 1987 INF Treaty is the key here. The US side claims that Russia has violated the treaty with its development of a land-launched cruise missile within the banned range of 500-5,500 kilometers. Moscow counters that the 9M729 (also known as SSC-8) missile has an operating range below the lower limit banned by the INF. Last month, in an unprecedented move, the Russian ministry of defense publicly disclosed the missile’s flight specifications at a press conference. Moscow points out that the US has not provided substantiating details to back up its claims that Russia is in breach of the treaty.

For its part, Russia accuses the US side of violating the INF treaty by already installing missile systems in Romania and Poland which can deploy offensive cruise warheads as well as performing as anti-missile systems. The US says its Aegis Ashore system is solely defensive.

However, rather than negotiating through the claims and counter-claims, it is the US side which decided to terminate its participation in the INF Treaty – just like it did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty back in 2002 under President GW Bush.

The abandonment of a second major arms control accord is solely the responsibility of the US. The third remaining treaty, New START, is also at risk from redundancy by Washington.

With the INF now being trashed, the US has freed itself to potentially deploy additional missile systems in Europe right on Russia’s borders. The eastward expansion of NATO over the past three decades means that US nuclear weapons could be deployed with a strike capability on Moscow within 10-12 minutes, not hours as with strategic warheads.

President Putin this week noted that Washington has not indicated if it will refrain from installing medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

But the Russian leader emphatically specified the condition that “if” the US does embark on such a threatening deployment then Russia will take “symmetrical measures”. He warned that new hypersonic and submarine-launched missiles will be deployed to match the 10-12 minute flight time that the US could poise against Moscow. The Russian weapons will target European launch sites for the US missiles as well as “decision-making centers” in American territory.

Of course, such a dramatic proximity of nuclear capability is extremely alarming and deplorable. The risk of error is manifold greater in such a scenario in a way that far exceeds the Cold War decades. Putin noted that the scenario recalls the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when the world almost witnessed a nuclear war. The reference point is apt for today’s predicament. The Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 after the US installed ballistic missiles in Turkey the year before in 1961. Again, as now, it is the US side that is initiating the dynamics of provocation.

Any objective observer can see that it is the US that is continually upping the ante for nuclear war. The jettisoning of the ABM is now followed by the US discarding the INF based on dubious, unverified claims. Russia in fact views the ulterior rationale of the US as covertly wanting to free itself from the arms controls restriction in order to exert threatening pressure on Moscow for geopolitical goals: those goals may include forcing Russia to be compliant with American foreign policy interests, or opening up Russia’s natural resources to American capital exploitation, and so on.

Putin’s remarks this week are clearly consistent with Russia’s defensive doctrine for using nuclear forces. Moscow is patently stating that it will take “reciprocal steps” if Washington follows through on its offensive trajectory. Yet Western media invert the situation to portray Russia as “threatening” the US.

This is analogous to a gang marauding outside a home. Then the mob ringleader announces that projectiles are to be readied to lob over the garden wall. The homeowner shouts out: just try it and we’ll shoot your henchmen. Nobody in their right mind could fault the homeowner. It’s called self-defense.

But in Russia’s case, self-defense is twisted by dutiful, brainwashed Western news media as “unacceptable threat”.

.Trump Finds Re-Election Slogan – ‘Evil Socialism’

Trump Finds Re-Election Slogan – ‘Evil Socialism’

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 15.02.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Trump Finds Re-Election Slogan – ‘Evil Socialism’

The 2020 US presidential elections are well underway with at least six Democrat contenders so far throwing their hats into the ring. For his part, incumbent President Donald Trump has newly minted a cause for his re-election – saving America from creeping socialism.

During his State of the Union speech last week, Trump conspicuously warned “fellow Americans” of the putative evil of socialism. He lambasted the “socialist dictatorship” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, then fatuously and falsely leveled all the economic misery of the South American country on the alleged failings of socialism. As if years of US economic sanctions against the country and recent confiscation of oil assets have nothing to do with Venezuela’s turmoil.

In the next lines of his annual nationwide address, Trump then linked US political opponents with Venezuela’s socialist President Maduro, retorting: “And some people want to bring socialism to the United States!”

The logic is revealing. First, that the president should even mention socialism in this Union address in such a pointed way shows that there is a foreboding concern among the American oligarchy – of which supposed “maverick” Trump is a consummate insider – that there is a surging interest in working class rights, propelled by a popular disdain towards capitalism and a growing affinity with socialism.

Secondly, the pejorative bracketing of political opponents in the US with the “Maduro regime” in Venezuela is a tried-and-trusted method of political smearing. Any would-be contender for the White House who speaks out about class issues and the systematic social failings of capitalism will be, it is calculated, denigrated as a “socialist stooge” in league with Venezuela’s Maduro.

For the 2016 election, Trump ran on the ticket of “Make America Great Again”. For the 2020 campaign, the emerging re-election slogan will be along the line of “Keep Socialism out of America”.

Trump’s erstwhile promises to salvage the “American carnage” and reinvent American greatness have transpired to be empty gimmicks of a sales conman. More than halfway into his presidency, the vast majority of ordinary working Americans are no better off, maybe even worse off. Trump’s bragging about overseeing the world’s “hottest economy” is all hot air, as detailed by American economics professor Richard Wolff. The boost in stock market indicators rather than a reinvigoration of the real productive economy is very much down to the massive tax giveaways to the super-rich and corporate executives that this real-estate-magnate-turned-president has bestowed.

The continuing deterioration in social conditions for most Americans has resulted in an increased popular hostility towards corporate capitalism, Wall Street and what more and more citizens correctly perceive as a plutocracy masquerading as “democracy”. The alienation from capitalism and the myth of the “American Dream” has resulted in a growing openness among ordinary citizens to socialism. The corruption and misery of capitalism is driving people to search for alternatives. Polls have shown majorities of US public expressing a positive identity with socialist politics. It is no longer a taboo concept. This is quite a shocking achievement in the US, where decades of government, news media and academic propaganda have tried to expunge any notion of socialism from the American mind.

A reflection of the trend is seen in the increasingly critical rhetoric among certain Democrat politicians about economic injustice. The Bernie Sanders wing of the party, which includes new wave Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tulsi Gabbard, have openly articulated the word “socialism” – which again is something of a dramatic development in the US after decades of McCarthyite witch-hunting and Edgar J Hoover-like demonization of socialists as “traitorous Reds”.

The latest Democrat to announce their bid for the White House is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. During her contender speech last weekend at a rally for Blue Collar communities, Warren spoke scathingly of “the failure of the American system”. She talked about the chasm between the oligarchic one per cent in American society and the massive poverty of the rest. It was an implicitly radical speech.

Trump is very much in that top one per cent of super-rich who have siphoned off America’s wealth during decades of neoliberal capitalism, overseen by both Republican and Democrat administrations belonging to the two parties of Big Business.

There is, however, an awareness among the more leftwing side of the Democrats that the party has to break from its sponsorship links to Big Business and Wall Street – as epitomized by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race – if it is to win the White House in 2020.

Trump should be an easy target for a genuine contender who can expose his empty conman talk about caring for “American workers”. Trump’s blatantly pro-rich tax banditry would also be a field day for a socialist candidate to make huge political hay. So too would his continuation of American imperialist warmongering, as most clearly manifested in the Trump administration’s outrageous interference in Venezuela’s democracy.

Donald J Trump, the big-mouth realtor, knows that he is vulnerable to a genuine political offensive from the left. There is a groundswell of opposition to “the system” among ordinary citizens – if it can harnessed by a confident socialist candidate. That would explain why Trump has lately “discovered” the threat of socialism to “our great country”.

The trouble is that it is doubtful if such a counter-candidate exists in the present US political landscape. In Elizabeth Warren’s rally at the weekend, she seemed to studiously avoid using the words “capitalism” or “socialism”. Her rival Democrat candidate, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, reportedly distanced herself in media interviews from being identified as a socialist following Trump’s Red-baiting State of the Union speech last week.

Over the next year in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, we can expect more such withering attempts by Trump and the establishment political class to find common cause in denigrating any opponent who sounds too much like a socialist, even if that opponent doesn’t actually use the word themselves.

The irony is rich, or maybe that should be super-rich. Trump has complained about opponents in Washington and the corporate media for waging a witch-hunt against him over his alleged links to Russia. Yet this oligarchic conman has no scruples or hesitation in using witch-hunt tactics to defile opponents who are labelled as “evil socialists”.

This desperate maneuver by Trump to use socialism as a bogeyman is unwittingly a signal that America’s plutocracy does actually view the resurgence in class politics and socialism as a real threat to its privileged siphoning off of wealth under capitalism.

Can American voters find a candidate who courageously takes up their cause? That is the kind of breakthrough that America and the rest of world needs.

The Venezuela Phase of US Global Demise “The end of America’s unc

The Venezuela Phase of US Global Demise

The Venezuela Phase of US Global Demise

“The end of America’s unchallenged global economic dominance has arrived sooner than expected,” wrote US political economist Michael Hudson in a recent cogent essay.

Hudson goes on to point out with copious irony how the “end of US monetary imperialism” has been accelerated by a rightwing former real estate magnate, President Donald Trump, surrounded by a cabal of Neocons in his White House administration.

The author, whose earlier book, ‘Super Imperialism’, prefigured much of today’s geopolitical configuration, contends that: “International finance and foreign investment have become the key flash point in global power politics today.”

Central to the historic loss of US global economic dominance is the imminent demise of the dollar as the premier international currency, and thereby its use as a monetary weapon for Washington.

The latest blow-up in international relations involving Venezuela and Washington’s designs for regime change is but the latest in a whole gamut of international developments, tensions and confrontations which ultimately stem from America’s desperate attempt to maintain its global hegemony.

Over the past 12 months, there has been a slew of countries dumping their holdings of dollars and US Treasury bills. Russia, China, Japan, Turkey and others have been offloading the American currency with spades. Meanwhile, Russia and others have been busy stockpiling gold reserves as a more secure strategic asset.

That is surely a sign of systematic “de-dollarization” owing to a general declining confidence in the American currency, as well as a tacit political decision to discreetly disarm Washington’s “monetary imperialism”.

Other significant indicators include China’s denomination of its enormous oil trade with Saudi Arabia and other petrodollar sources henceforth in the Chinese Yuan.

Russia and China have already innovated bilateral trade using each other’s currencies. This is another example of how Washington’s bullying use of sanctions and control over the international payment system is leading inevitably to the establishment of alternative, non-dollar trade mechanisms.

The launch last week by the European Union of a non-dollar payment system for trade with Iran in order to avoid US sanctions is evidence of further international movement away from dependency on the American dollar as the erstwhile international reserve currency. Again, Washington has been overplaying its hand here too.

Threatening to sanction European nations for doing business with Iran under the terms of the 2015 international nuclear accord – which Trump unilaterally abandoned last year – has forced the Europeans to protect their own vital interests, which necessarily entails circumventing the US dollar system.

In short, the American rulers are unwittingly digging their own grave.

As Michael Hudson points out, the erstwhile US hegemony is entering into an accelerated decline, largely brought on by its own hubris and unilateral aggression – even towards supposed allies.

It seems that in order to avert this collapse of power, the US is amping up the aggression and militarism in a desperate bid to assert itself.

Hence we see the US taking the reckless step of walking away from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia. Many informed arms control experts around the world, including in the US, are deeply concerned that the Trump administration is gravely damaging global security and “moving the world closer to a nuclear war”.

Behind the US decision to tear up the INF treaty is the calculation in Washington of trying to intimidate Russia and China militarily, whom several recent American planning documents target as “great power rivals”.

Washington’s aggression and threats towards Iran also fit into this ramped up militarism as a form of political power play.

America’s dramatic escalation of tensions with Venezuela over the past two weeks is another page from the same playbook. It is almost staggering the audacity of Washington’s threats of military attack on the South American country.

The Trump administration’s brazen ultimatums for regime change and confiscation of Venezuela’s oil wealth are a shocking violation of international law, according to former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas.

Pathetically, many European states are kowtowing to Washington’s aggression towards the government of President Nicolas Maduro, even though these same states have themselves been humiliated of late by American bullying.

Venezuela can thus be best understood as another phase of the US dollar’s historic demise, and the concomitant bigger demise of American global power.

The South American country is believed to hold the largest reserves of oil on the planet, exceeding that of Saudi Arabia. Much of its trade is dedicated to the US market. Unfortunately, that has given Washington a lot of leverage for economic warfare against Caracas.

Again, however, the arrogant Americans are in danger of overplaying their hand. Threats of military aggression – while criminally reprehensible – are easier said than done. If Venezuela can weather this current geopolitical storm, the country will no doubt turn its prodigious oil business further towards Russia, China, Turkey and others in the East who have not joined Uncle Sam’s lynch mob running amok in the Caribbean.

As with Washington’s aggression on so many other fronts – towards Russia, China, Iran, Europe – the American gross misconduct against Venezuela is augmenting the very direction it most fears: a multipolar world where US hegemony no longer prevails.

The configuration of chaos and conflict is a very dangerous one. The volatile mix could blow up into a global military confrontation. Washington’s desperation to avert its fate of demise could result in a one reckless aggression too far. A foolhardy invasion of Venezuela could be such a detonator.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand the present international precariousness as stemming from inherent American economic problems. That is the key factor that links up all the other seemingly disparate tensions and conflicts. Venezuela is but another demonstration of a wider structural problem centered on American capitalism’s collapse.

Russian, Chinese and other informed planners are presumably well aware of the fraught transition in global politics away from US imperial dominance. Moscow and Beijing hardly want a sudden collapse of American power because that could precipitate a disastrous military reaction. A gradual undermining and weakening of the dollar in a phased withdrawal is probably the safest way to defuse the American time bomb.

Photo: Pixabay

A Convenient Killing of US Troops in Syria

A Convenient Killing of US Troops in Syria

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 18.01.2019

A Convenient Killing of US Troops in Syria

With unseemly haste, US news media leapt on the killing of four American military personnel in Syria as a way to undermine President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from that country.

The deadly attack in the northern city of Manbij, on the west bank of the Euphrates River, was reported to have been carried out by a suicide bomber. The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group reportedly claimed responsibility, but the group routinely makes such claims which often turn out to be false.

The American military personnel were said to be on a routine patrol of Manbij where US forces have been backing Kurdish militants in a purported campaign against ISIS and other terror groups.

An explosion at a restaurant resulted in two US troops and two Pentagon civilian officials being killed, along with more than a dozen other victims. Three other US military persons were among those injured.

US media highlighted the bombing as the biggest single death toll of American forces in Syria since they began operations in the country nearly four years ago.

The US and Kurdish militia have been in control of Manbij for over two years. It is one of the main sites from where American troops are to withdraw under Trump’s exit plan, which he announced on December 19.

Following the bombing, the New York Times headlined: “ISIS Attack in Syria Kills 4 Americans, Raising Worries about Troop Withdrawal”. The report goes on, “the news prompted calls from Republicans and Democrats for President Trump to reconsider his plans to withdraw troops from the country.”

A more pointed headline in The Washington Post was: “Killing of 4 Americans in Syria Throws Spotlight on Trump’s Policy”.

The Post editorialized, “the bombing showed that [ISIS] is likely to be a force to be reckoned with in Syria for the foreseeable future.” It quoted politicians in Washington claiming the “bombing deaths… were a direct result of a foolish and abrupt departure announcement [by Trump], and made the case for staying.”

Democrat Senator Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said: “From the beginning, I thought the president was wrong [in ordering the withdrawal]. It was a strategic mistake for the whole region.”

With macabre smugness, anti-Trump politicians and news media appeared to exploit the death of US troops in Manbij to score points against Trump.

The president’s claims made just before Christmas of having defeated ISIS were widely replayed following the Manbij attack this week by way of ridiculing Trump’s order to pullout US troops from Syria.

Nevertheless, despite the deaths, Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence stated they were still committed to bring the 2,000 or so US troops home. Some military figures also went on US media to defend Trump’s pullout plan in spite of the terror attack in Manbij.

There clearly is a serious division in Washington over Trump’s policy on Syria. For Democrats and supportive media outlets, anything Trump does is to be opposed. But there are also elements within the military and intelligence nexus which are implacably against, what they see as, his “capitulation to Russia and Iran” in Syria. That was partly why his Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned days after Trump made his announced withdrawal at the end of last month.

Having invested years and money in regime-change machinations in Syria, there is bound to be US military and intelligence cabals which are resistant to Trump’s move to pack up. Not that Trump’s move portends a peace dividend for the region. It is more a “tactical change” for how US imperialism operates in the Middle East, as his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Cairo last week.

That is why Trump’s order to take troops out of Syria may not be a clear-cut withdrawal. His National Security adviser John Bolton on a tour of the Middle East last week has already tried to undermine Trump by attaching all sorts of vague conditions to the troop pullout. Bolton and Pompeo have talked about the need to ensure the total defeat of ISIS and of the countering of Iranian presence in Syria.

This brings up the question of who may have carried out the bombing in Manbij? Was it really a suicide bomber? Was it really ISIS? Several observers have pointed out that ISIS have not had any presence in Manbij for the past two years since the Americans and Kurds took control of the city.

As always, the key question arises: who stands to benefit from the killing of the American troops? The scale of the attack suggests it was carried out with a sharp political message intended for Trump.

One potential beneficiary are the Kurdish militants who are being abandoned by the putative US withdrawal. Without their American sponsor on the ground, the Kurds are in danger of Turkish forces launching cross-border operations to wipe them out, as Ankara has vowed to do. A Machiavellian Kurdish calculation could be to “disprove” Trump about “ISIS being defeated”, and that US forces are needed to prevent any resurgence of the terror group in Manbij and northeast Syria.

Another sinister player is the CIA or some other element of US military intelligence. It is certainly not beyond the realm of plausibility that the CIA could facilitate such an atrocity against American personnel in order to discredit Trump’s withdrawal plan.

Certainly, the way the anti-Trump media in the US reacted with such alacrity and concerted talking points suggests there was something a bit too convenient about the massacre.

It would in fact be naive to not suspect that the CIA could have pulled off such a false flag in Manbij. As in 1950s Vietnam, as told by Graham Greene in ‘The Quiet American’, the CIA have been doing such dirty tricks with bombing atrocities and assassinations for decades in order to precipitate wars in foreign countries that the agency calculates are in America’s geopolitical interests.

French Lessons

Yellow vests mass protests against the rise in fuel prices in the French capital of Paris

Finian Cunningham

French people are standing up for their rights and speaking out for many others around the world who are sick at the injustice of capitalism. None more so than people of Western states who have had to endure decades of economic austerity while a tiny elite become ever more obscenely wealthy.

In addition to the irrational malign distribution of wealth that capitalism bestows, Western states — that is, the oligarch-serving politicians — spend and waste inordinate financial resources on militarism and waging criminal wars.

READ MORE: Yellow Vests Revolution Drives Beyond France’s Borders — Author

For the fourth weekend in a row, the French public have taken to the streets of Paris and other major cities to demand economic justice.
They also want President Emmanuel Macron to resign. Macron has so far kept his usual aloof silence on the protests, leaving it up to his prime minister Edouard Philippe to placate the angry nation.

Bringing the country to almost a standstill by blocking transport links and fuel supply, the French have demonstrated “people power” and what can be achieved when we organize for our rights.Macron’s government has caved in to scrap plans for tax hikes on the transport fuel. Those proposed price hikes is what triggered ordinary people’s fury, donning the now symbolic “yellow vests” that all drivers in France are obliged to carry in vehicles for safety reasons.

The French public say the new taxes would hit their livelihoods.
Macron claimed the new fuel levies were for raising government funds in order to pay for transition to a more ecologically sustainable society.

However, ordinary citizens point out that Macron — whom they disparage as “president for the rich” — recently abolished taxes for the very wealthy. That giveaway could have been used instead by the government to fund whatever green projects it is planning.

Macron’s administration is also planning major tax reductions for big business and corporations. Again, that move shows the elitist priorities of this president and his ministers. The Élysée Palace is intent on making the majority of working people pay for social changes, rather the rich class who could easily afford it.

READ MORE: Yellow Vests Protests: Paris Police Countermeasures Reportedly Leaked

In addition, the French state spends about $50 billion a year on military. If that expenditure was, say, halved, then there would be no need for austerity and arbitrary cuts in public services and welfare.
The French extravagance on military is typical of all Western states and NATO members in particular. If they slashed their militarism, then other countries like Russia and China would also be able to reduce their military budgets, which are maintained out of defensive posture owing to the aggressive stance of Western states.

The French yellow vest movement appears to be at a momentous turning point. It could go either of two significant directions.Already, the Macron government has capitulated over its brazen tax burdens on ordinary citizens. There is a sense that the elitist president and his administration are teetering to stay in office. For the French people their protest movement has gone beyond fuel levies.
They are questioning the entire neoliberal capitalist system, and why they have been made to endure decades of economic exploitation and oppression.

Moreover, there are signs that the yellow vest movement is inspiring the public in other European countries to likewise take to the streets and finally hold the oligarchic system to account. There are reports of similar solidarity protests taking place in neighboring Belgium. We can be sure that governments across Europe are wary of a tidal wave of people power.

There is also a more ominous, sinister direction. A foretaste of that was seen last week when French riot police arrested dozens of high school students rallying against education reforms, and made them kneel on the ground, hands on head. Some of the students were forced to kneel with their faces against a wall.

That scene has horrified many people in France and further afield. It bore the actions of a police-state dictatorship and the abrogation of legal rights. Some commentators even remarked that the detained students cowering in front of armed officers looked like a mock-execution scenario.

This weekend ahead of the planned protests in Paris, hundreds of people traveling to the capital to join demonstrations were arrested “preemptively” by police, and taken into custody. The French authorities claim they were preventing “trouble makers” from inciting violence.

Though many other French citizens fear that what is really going on is the beginning of repressive crackdown by the state against democratic rights to free speech and public assembly.

READ MORE: 950 People Detained During Yellow Vests Protests in Paris — Reports

Recall too how only a few weeks ago, during World War One commemorations, President Macron sparked a hue and cry when he praised former General Philippe Pétain for his battlefield bravery. Pétain later became the leader of Vichy France which collaborated with the German Third Reich during World War Two. Ignominiously, the French state functioned as a fascist regime, rounding up tens of thousands of its citizens, and dispatching them to Nazi death camps.

Arguably, capitalism is an irrational, anti-democratic system that always has a tendency towards oligarchy, militarism and fascism. When the economy is doing relatively well, then the system tolerates forms of “liberal democracy”. But when the system is running on empty, then more extreme powers are exercised to control the restless masses.Decades of economic austerity and mass impoverishment across Western states show that capitalism can no longer disguise itself as liberal democracy. The people are rightly becoming restless and angry for their human rights: to have decent jobs, salaries and public services.

The rebellious French are inspiring all people to demand what is their natural rights and to overthrow the injustice of capitalism. That could go in an historic progressive direction, not just in France, but across all Western oligarchic states.

There again, the powers-that-be may, out of desperation to retain their privileges and wealth, go full fascism. The liberal mask of Western democracies appears to be slipping to reveal the brute force beneath.

We seem to be at a historic juncture.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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