Empire Versus Democracy and Freedom. Will The Espionage Act Displace the US Constitution?

Global Research, April 18, 2019

The public interest, and democratic political economies, both domestic and internationally, are poison to Empire. But this must be hidden from view, hence war propaganda/fake news is protected by legislation, while Constitutionally-protected, evidence-based real journalism, a dying phenomenon, continues to be attacked.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791,

“prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.” [1]

However, the Constitution is under constant assault by US oligarch[2] ruling classes.

Freedom of the press has been negated by ruling class monopoly ownership and pervasive propaganda. Criminal propaganda is protected while “freedoms of speech” are under constant assault.

The fakery of the news stories is protected by (unconstitutional) laws embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act which blur the lines between reality and spectacle. In an earlier article I wrote,

According to an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Bill H.R 5736 (now law), the federal government of the United States can now legally propagandize the domestic public.

Arguably, this makes staged theatrical presentations, featuring crisis-actors, and purporting to be ‘reality’, legal.

And, as if that isn’t enough, Don North writes in “US/NATO Embrace Psy-ops and Info-War” that,

“As reflected in a recent NATO conference in Latvia and in the Pentagon’s new ‘Law of War’ manual, the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’ “[3]

The Espionage Act[4] also contradicts the US Constitution, but it is being invoked with regard to the indictment against Julian Assange.

Ubiquitous classification of information beneath the mantle of “National Security” serves to sustain the illusion that Empire serves the public interest. Hence, as author and veteran journalist Naomi Wolf asserts, whistleblowers are necessary, as is the transmission of their leaks. This, she says, has been journalism practice for years. It is what real journalists are supposed to do.

The Daniel Ellsbergs and Chelsea Mannings of the world are necessary — Ellsberg is now considered to be a hero.  The Assanges of the world who transmit the truth are also necessary.

If the Espionage Act, the NDAA, and other legislation were to completely displace the U.S Constitution and its First Amendment, then the prospect of real journalism would finally be extinguished. And ruling classes feigning concern for the public interest would be delighted.

In the following video, Wolf walks us through the indictment[5] against Assange and demonstrates the paucity of evidence against him in the government’s on-going efforts to frame him and destroy the messenger with a view to protecting the Supreme International War Criminals currently guiding the Neo-con Imperial Shipwreck.

Notes:

[1] Wikipedia, “First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution) Accessed 18 April, 2019.

[2] Daniel Kreps, “Jimmy Carter: U.S. Is an ‘Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery.’ “ (https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/jimmy-carter-u-s-is-an-oligarchy-with-unlimited-political-bribery-63262/) Accessed 18 April, 2019.

[3] Mark Taliano, “Fake threats and engineered fears.” 16 July, 2016. (https://ahtribune.com/politics/1073-engineered-fears.html?fbclid=IwAR0qHlFivL8c1QIqMxZsiQO43qYN0R-ITQCPa9jUXAWjU9v8_LjzMFiGlJE) Accessed 18 April, 2019.

[4] Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, “18 U.S. Code CHAPTER 37—ESPIONAGE AND CENSORSHIP.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/part-I/chapter-37) Accessed 18 April, 2019.

[5] “In The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, United States of America v. Julian Paul Assange.” 6 March, 2018. (https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/press-release/file/1153481/download) Accessed 18 April, 2019.

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Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning: Martyred Behind Bars for Truth-Telling

By Stephen Lendman
Source

In 2013, Assange said “(Chelsea) Manning has become a martyr, adding:

She “didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these (individuals, Manning, Edward Snowden and others) have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.”

He’s one of them, elevated to martyrdom in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, likely in punishing solitary confinement – ahead of extradition to the US for the crime of truth-telling journalism the way it’s supposed to be. 

Indefinitely detained for invoking her constitutional right to remain silent, her right not to testify before a witch-hunt grand jury, a notorious manipulative process designed to indict, the Trump regime wants Manning (and Assange) punished for doing the right thing.

Will it elevate them both to martyrdom, modern-day Joan of Arc figures? The 19-year-old 15th century French heroin was burned at the stake on false charges, a martyr declared a national symbol of France by Napoleon Bonaparte – beatified in 1909, canonized in 1920.

Will imprisonment of Manning and Assange assure their martyrdom for a just cause, for revealing what’s vital for everyone to know?

At a time of universal deceit, notably in the West, truth-telling is a revolutionary act – with attribution to Orwell. Not according to Hillary Clinton, an unindicted war criminal multiple times over.

Infamous for saying: “We came. We saw. He died” about Muammar Gaddafi’s sodomized death in October 2011, following US-led aggression on Libya she helped orchestrate, she mocked Julian Assange the same way, saying “it’s a little ironic that he may be the only foreigner that (Trump) would welcome in the United States,” adding:

His “indictment (is) not about punishing journalism (sic). It’s about assisting the hacking of the military computer to steal information from the US government (sic).” 

“The bottom line is that he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.” She and husband Bill belong in prison for high crimes gone unpunished. So do their successors and countless others in the imperial state and allied ones.

Led by establishment media, smearing Assange is in high gear. The NYT lied claiming WikiLeaks hacked Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s phones, revealing personal information about him, published on an anonymous website.

It lied repeating Moreno’s Big Lie, falsely accusing Assange of “installing electronic distortion equipment in (Ecuador’s London) embassy, blocking security cameras, confronting and mistreating guards and gaining access to security files without permission.”

It lied claiming WikiLeaks hacked DNC and John Podesta emails, material leaked by a Dem insider published by WikiLeaks.

It repeated the US intelligence community Big Lie, accusing WikiLeaks of acting as a Russian agent.

The neocon/CIA house organ Washington Post published an op-ed by London Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger, an anti-Assange hatchet job, saying:

“(M)aybe his greatest gift is the ability to make enemies (sic). He trusts, likes and respects almost no one (sic). He falls out with his friends and disgusts his opponents (sic).” 

“Now that he has been dragged kicking and shouting (sic) from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London — where he was, by all accounts, the house guest from hell (sic) — he may find few allies in the world outside (sic).”

Fact: The above rubbish and what followed is typical Guardian disinformation, numerous times caught red-handed reporting bald-faced Big Lies.

Rushbridger lied calling Assange “a useful idiot to Russian President Vladimir Putin and an enabler to President Trump.”

He lied saying Assange is “rude, aggressive, pompous, self-regarding, unreasonable and…smelly” – disgraceful stuff.

He lied claiming there’s “not much to love about Julian Assange” – Rushbridger serving as a press agent for the May and Trump regimes, disgracing himself at the same time.

The Boston Globe newspaper I grew up with as a boy, adolescent and youth in the 1940s and 50s was far from what journalism is supposed to be back then.

Owned by the NYT today, it publishes similar rubbish – misinformation and disinformation instead of real news, information and opinion.

“Julian Assange shouldn’t be a free speech martyr,” it roared, falsely claiming Trump regime charges are unrelated to violations of speech and media freedoms – precisely what they’re all about, wanting truth-telling silence, why Manning and Assange were and remain targeted.

Separately, the Globe called Assange “a bad guy (sic)…a Russian pawn who helped elected Donald Trump (sic).”

When endlessly repeated, Big Lies take on a life of their own. Ecuadorian envoy to the UK Jaime Marchan shamefully accused Assange of “put(ting) put excrement on the (embassy) walls.”

His lawyer called the charge “outrageous,” one of many phony reasons for handing him over to UK authorities.

In cahoots with the Trump regime, Ecuador, Britain and the US are elevating Assange to martyrdom by declaring him guilty by false accusation and holding him behind bars in punishing high security confinement.

Resisting the scourge of tyranny is a universal right and obligation.

When governments fail their people, the way things are today in the West and elsewhere globally, they forfeit their right to rule. 

Civil disobedience becomes an essential tool for change, popular revolution the only solution. Nothing else can work.

Sitrep: ASSANGE and the patriots

Sitrep: ASSANGE and the patriots

April 13, 2019

By Chris Faure for The Saker Blog

It is hard to believe that Assange may end up in the tender care of the vicious: those that run Washington; those that treat Venezuela with state terror; and who daily kill in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, and a dozen other places.

Shame, Shame on those that are celebrating this miscarriage of justice and attack on freedom.  Shame on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin that bellowed:  So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.  The Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair Mark Warner said his hope is that British courts will “quickly transfer” Assange to US custody “so he can finally get the justice he deserves.” Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, another member of the Intelligence Committee, said Assange’s arrest is “good news for freedom-loving people.” and “Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services” and “He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Shame on the Patriots that are thrilled and are literally rejoicing to see Assange arrested.  Their message is the same as that of Senator Manchin.  So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.   They are sure that taking away this man’s freedom, and making him US Property by extraditing him to the US, will force him to testify so that they can ‘lock her up’ and the swamp will be drained. Are you still slave owners Patriots, trying to make this man your property?  You like to say:  “We have the source”.  Are you now into owning others or do you truly not understand what you are saying?  The source does not have you!

You are being led up a garden path. Consider Pompeo:

Wikileaks is a non state hostile intelligence service aided and abetted by the Russians.

Read this again, slowly:  Wikileaks is a non state hostile intelligence service aided and abetted by the Russians. 

This is the administration that is trying to get its hands on Julian Assange.

What is not said in the Patriot youtubes of which I watched too many in the last hours, is that:

Assange lived in an Embassy with a Cat for Company for 7 Years to AVOID this exact same rendition.

Somehow the Patriots do not mention this or pay any attention to the violation to this man’s rights, but they dare rejoice in a rictus of a 4D chess delirium!

It will not be a friendly rendition and he will be moved with handcuffs and ankle restraints.  Is this what you want for this man?  Can you pause your rejoicing for one moment and start working to get him out of the shackles and out of jail?  Or do you want ‘her’ to walk free while you rejoice that Assange is shackled?

Have you no shame, Patriots?  Assange is not your plaything or your slave to sacrifice on your ‘Lock her Up’ Altar.  Are you such wussies that you cannot lock her up all by yourselves?  Can you not fight your fight against the Democrats all by yourselves?

Go and join the rest of the human world and work to get Assange released: https://www.change.org/p/free-julian-assange-before-it-s-too-late-stop-the-extradition

Do you not understand that if this man’s rights are violated to the extent that they are, yours and mine can be violated in a similar way, in a New York minute?  When will they extradite me for saying these things?

Do you not understand that Assange did not skip out of that embassy in joy into the loving Patriot arms to be borne on angel’s wings of innocent rendition to the US to testify of his own free will and volition.  He was dragged out against his will and is in prison – Belmarsh prison, as far as we know.

Do you not understand that this man does not want to be rendered forcefully to the US and has nothing criminal to answer for in the US?

Craig Murray writesTo support the persecution of Assange in these circumstances is to support absolute state censorship of the internet. It is to support the claim that any journalist who receives and publishes official material which indicates US government wrongdoing, can be punished for its publication. Furthermore this US claim involves an astonishing boost to universal jurisdiction. Assange was nowhere near the USA when he published the documents, but nonetheless US courts are willing to claim jurisdiction. This is a threat to press and internet freedom everywhere.

Do you not understand that Assange represents all of the rights of humankind?

And how are you going to make him testify Patriots?  Are you going to coerce him by torture?  The same as what is reportedly being done to Chelsea Manning right at this time because she does not want to testify against Assange.  Have you not thought about that?  Have you not thought about freedom of speech and freedom from persecution for no crime?

Have you not thought that the US could have given him securities of safe passage and freedom before now, in exchange for testimony?  Why did they not do this? Is this not the humane way of doing things instead of jailing the man? Do you really think keeping him in a jail cell before and after rendition is the right thing to do? Do you not think that this rendition under cover of espionage or helping Manning to break a password or ask for more information or some other trumped up charge cannot be increased by further accusations and charges? Of course they will throw their book at Assange.  Do you not get it that Mr Trump did not actually state anything about the separation of powers for a independent judiciary as the Patriots now present, but that the cock crowed when Mr Trump denied knowledge of Assange and Wikileaks just days ago? Do you not get it that the US administration wants to punish Assange for publishing their atrocities and that he is not being extradited to speak on ‘Hitlery’ and her crimes?

Yes, I hear the stories.  Bring him to the US, make him testify and Mr Trump will pardon him and life will be all roses for everyone.

Pardon him for what?  He does not need to be pardoned.  He needs to be set free.

Understanding the timing issues is also necessary.  Theresa May is hanging by a thread.  It was necessary for these authorities to move now against Assange, as the risk of Corbyn taking over is too big. Corbyn would just let the man Assange go free as he said.  Understanding that the Ecuadorian elites were rewarded with a massive IMF loan for their help in this issue, is also necessary. They were bribed and paid off with ‘the Benjamins’ baby!. It stinks to high heaven and yet, the Patriots rejoice and forget this piece.

Note that the usual dehumanization methods are being used against Assange now, to soften up the population to think he was just a dirty and messy filthy person that nobody would want to have around.  We did not see or hear any of this with the former Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa.  Note, that this former president was devastatingly clear in stating what Ecuador did in inviting British Law Enforcers into the Ecuadorian embassy, but I cannot give you a direct quote because they cut off his Facebook account and made him unable to comment.  Does this sound fine to you? Do you realize that just a year ago, one of the Wikileaks reporters was killed?  Do you get it that in Ecuador another Wikileaks reporter has just been arrested?

Does this all portray to you a sweet and innocent rendition of Assange to the US where he will be put into a summer-camp jail and not coerced at all?

Assange should be freed to continue his work and so far the proceedings create a dark precedent that affects us all. Tulsi Gabbard has it right.

Assange Arrest: The message is clear. To journalists and all Americans, if you try to take away our power, you will pay a high price.

Tulsi Gabbard‏Verified account @TulsiGabbard

Shame on those that are celebrating and claiming ownership of this man Assange like property to use shamelessly for their own political purpose and burn him as sacrifice on their own altar.

The World’s voices are again raised in collective outrage.

Jimmy Dore:

Jonathan Cooke:  https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2019-04-13/uk-media-mps-unveil-latest-assange-deception/

Chris Hedges: https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-martyrdom-of-julian-assange/

Bill Binny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=19&v=9HPs1RY1wvM

John Pilger: https://consortiumnews.com/2019/04/12/assange-arrest-a-warning-from-history/

Real journalism is being criminalized by thugs in plain sight. Dissent has become an indulgence.

When will they come for you, or for me, or for you Patriot?  The extradition has to be stopped.

The Palestinian Political Scene is in a State of Paralysis: “The People Reject Normalization with Israel”

An Interview with Abdel Bari Atwan

Global Research, April 01, 2019

American Herald Tribune 18 March 2019

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is your analysis of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Gaza?

Abdel Bari Atwan: The Palestinian political scene is in a state of paralysis, which is a direct consequence of the disastrous Oslo process. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not in good health, so the stage is now set for the post-Abu Mazen period. But nobody has a roadmap for where to go. Abu Mazen is the last of the founding fathers, and his departure will cause the Fateh movement to fragment and lose influence, as happened to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) after the death of George Habash. So chaos and confusion prevail. I wouldn’t be surprised if people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip draw inspiration from the demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria.

MA: What about the Palestinians’ right of return to their lands stolen since 1948 and the deal of the century that removes the Palestinian right of return? Has the deal of the century been abandoned or is it still valid?

ABA: The ‘Deal of the Century’ cannot be pulled off. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi consigned it to an early death, as it plunged the deal’s broker into crisis. No Palestinian could accept it anyway. The Palestinian Revolution began in the refugee camps. It was all about the right of return. To abandon it would be to abandon the Palestinian cause. That right and others cannot be bought off with promises of investment or improved economic conditions, as the deal proposes. Palestine is not Northern Ireland.

MA: How do you explain that at the moment when in Europe and in the USA, we see rising a great critical movement of Israel, like the BDS which advocate different forms of boycott, Arab countries are normalizing their relations with the Zionist and criminal entity of Israel?

ABA: These moves towards normalization are not too worrying, as they are confined to the governments and do not extend to the peoples.The peoples reject normalization with Israel, as the cases of Jordan and Egypt show. It’s the same in every other Arab country. Israel is alarmed by BDS and how it may develop in future. This explains its frenetic efforts to brand all criticism and opposition anywhere in the world as anti-Semitic: it fears to become a pariah state and the only way it can avoid that is to criminalize and close down exposure and discussion of its behavior.

MA: What is your reading of the Warsaw conference of February 13 and 14, when we saw the alliance between Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, etc. and the Zionist and criminal entity Israel against Iran?

ABA: The Warsaw Conference was a one-man show, starring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was staged for his benefit, but I believe it was a failure. Its original purpose was to launch a new US-led alliance — a so-called ‘Arab Nato’ — that would act as the spearhead of an international coalition against Iran and include Israel as a member, probably informally at first. But the Gulf States that the US is trying to turn into allies of Israel are not representative of the Arab world as a whole. They account for less than 5% of the Arab population, and their own peoples overwhelmingly reject normalization with Israel. In recent years these states have been able to play a dominant role in the Arab world due to their oil wealth and their manipulation of political Islam. But political Islam has been changing in nature, and the importance of oil in the global energy picture has been declining, so their ‘golden age’ is drawing to a close.

MA: How did we get to the fact that some Arab countries come to betray and sell themselves to the Zionist and criminal entity of Israel?

ABA: It’s not new, and mainly it’s a matter of perceived self-preservation. Regimes see the goodwill of the US as vital, and Israel as the key to the US’ heart. They talk about a shared interest in confronting Iran but that shouldn’t be taken at face value. Israel talks up the Iranian threat as a way of trying to sideline the Palestinian cause, and the Gulf States do the same to bolster the rule of their regimes. This also entails the poisonous fuelling of Sunni-Shii sectarianism.

MA: I did an investigation a few years ago about the activities of the Israeli lobby in Congo. What is your reading of Israel’s strategic redeployment in Africa?

ABA: Africa is currently an arena of rivalry for influence and competing interests involving many countries – the US, China, Turkey, Israel, Russia, and others. Israel does not have much to offer Africa, other than political influence in Washington. It is eager to establish a presence and exert influence on the periphery of important Arab countries like Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt.These countries are all in a weakened state at present and preoccupied with internal problems. But they will eventually recover and their governments will awaken. Sub-Saharan Africa is their natural hinterland and they cannot be prized apart in the long term.

MA: The people of Yemen is experiencing a criminal war waged by Saudi Arabia and its allies in total silence. How do you explain this silence of the international community and the media?

Abdel Bari Atwan 1 48e65

ABA: The West turned a blind eye to the Yemen war when it was launched four years ago because of Saudi influence and interests. It gave Saudi Arabia a chance to resolve the conflict in its favor. But neither Saudi Arabia nor the West appreciated the nature of Yemen or its people into account. They should have heeded the advice of the kingdom’s founder, King Abdelaziz, who ordered his sons Faisal and Saud to withdraw when they tried to invade the country. The latest war on Yemen has had a catastrophic effect, but in military terms, it has been a failure. The international silence is now beginning to be broken, and I hope that continues.

MA: What is your reading of events happening in Venezuela? Do you think that the United States will come to a direct military intervention?

ABA: What is happening in Venezuela is a US-sponsored coup attempt and I believe it will fail.

MA: There is no longer any mention of the Khashoggi case, which showed the true face of the Saudi regime and raised a worldwide outcry. How do you explain that?

ABA: The Khashoggi case is closely linked to Trump’s fate. Trump’s opponents in the US seized on it as a stick with which to beat him, due to his close association with the current Saudi leadership. That’s why there was such an outcry over the killing, however horrific, on an individual, but no similar reaction to Saudi actions that caused thousands of deaths such as the war on Yemen (until recently) and the proxy intervention in Syria. It should not be any surprise, however, that US and Western interests ultimately prevailed over human rights concerns, in this case like so many others. The Israel Lobby has also played a part in suppressing the outcry.  But the affair will have a longer-term impact. It laid bare Saudi Arabia’s high-handedness and dominance in the region.

MA: How do you analyze the events taking place in Algeria against the fifth term of Bouteflika?

ABA: The protests were not so much against Bouteflika as against the ruling elite that was using him as a front and was too divided to agree on a replacement for him, long after he should have been allowed to retire. The powers-that-be made three mistaken assumptions: first, that the fifth term could be pushed through; second, that Algerians would rather have stability than democracy; and third, that the terrifying memory of the bloody decade of the 1990s would deter demonstrations or protests, for fear of repeating what happened in Syria or Libya. They seemed to think, perhaps based on Syria’s experience, that concessions are a slippery slope and not compromising pays off in the longer term. But now they have had to give at least the appearance of backing down due to the strength of popular feeling. The question now is what comes next: a measure of genuine but controlled reform as in Morocco or an Egyptian-style scenario where the army runs things behind a facade of pro-forma elections?

MA: Intelligence reports indicate a redeployment of Daesh to Libya. Can we end the terrorism of Daesh and Al Qaeda without really fighting the ideological matrix of these groups? Is it enough defeating these groups militarily?

ABA: Daesh is finished above ground in the Arab world. But it will continue to exist underground because the conditions that incubated still exist. In my view, the challenge is not so much to fight the ideology as to address those conditions. The ideology, or at least its adoption or acceptance in some places and by some people, is a product of these ‘failed-state’ conditions and the marginalization they cause. In many cases – Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen – they are a consequence, in whole or in part, of direct or indirect Western military intervention. Putting an end to these interventions would be a step to tackling the problem.

MA: Are we not witnessing the continuation of the Cold War between the US administration on one side and Russia and China on the other? How do you explain the need for the United States to have an enemy?

ABA: The US can’t sleep unless it has an enemy. It has become an obsession, though creating or talking up external enemies has always been a means of advancing the interests of domestic power elites.But the picture is changing. America is no longer rules the world in matters of war and peace. Its real power is not its military might but the US Dollar. Its abuse of its financial and commercial power has become so extensive that an international alliance is taking shape to deprive it of this weapon.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Abdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian journalist born in 1950 in Deir al-Balah, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He lived in a family of 11 children. After graduating from primary school in the refugee camp, he continued his studies in Jordan. He then studied journalism at Cairo University. After working for many Arab newspapers, he ran until 2013 al-Quds al-Arabi, a newspaper he founded in London in 1989 with other Palestinian expatriates. Today, he is the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website. He lives and works in London.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen is an independent Algerian journalist. He wrote in several Algerian newspapers such as Alger Républicain and in different sites of the alternative press.

All images in this article are from American Herald Tribune

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A necessary revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series (1/8)

March 26, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

A necessary revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series (1/8)

Perhaps the most important unresolved dichotomy in the West today is not the male-female divide but the urban-rural divide. The #MeToo Movement is making advances towards better gender equality – a direct result of the election of US President Donald Trump – but city and country remain locked in a most ungratifying combat.

In the US this is known as the “red state-blue state” socio-political war, which essentially pits liberal metropolitan areas against allegedly-backwards conservative rural areas; in the UK it’s sovereignty-demanding Leavers versus allegedly more intelligent anti-Brexiteers; in France it is the Yellow Vest movement engaging in civil disobedience on the Champs-Elysées due to the dismissive neglect and icy snobbery of those who can afford to live in the major centre-villes.

This is all explains why I feel that studying China’s Cultural Revolution (CR) is more important than ever: no modern nation has made such sincere and drastic efforts to correct this rural-urban imbalance, an imbalance which exists in all nations and which is as fundamental to human existence as female/male or yin/yang.

However, especially for developing countries, in places like India, Africa and Latin America, where rural farming is still often done in a manner similar to pre-21st century China, the incredible rural gains – economically, politically and culturally – which were the explicit goal of the CR are not just important but staggeringly inspirational. This article will quickly prove why that is not hyperbole, because the facts of these “incredible rural gains” will get a rare unveiling instead of another heaping of obfuscating capitalist-imperialist propaganda.

Unfortunately, most Westerners are as uninterested in China’s CR as they are in their own rural areas. I am certain this is true, because as a journalist I am 100% aware of my field’s failures in reporting on, from, or about rural areas. What’s worse, Western journalism has exacerbated their urban-rural divide by reporting from a starting point that rural areas are not morally equal to urban areas. This is a major shift from previous times: for example, during the US Revolution the farmer-citizen was Thomas Jefferson’s ideal man, and their Electoral College was created in part to ensure rural voices are not drowned out by city-slickers.

Let me give a personal anecdote which exemplifies modern journalism’s endemic failure on modern China and the Cultural Revolution:

Just prior to writing this series I was at a social function where I was introduced to an Anglophone journalist from a top international news organization (which I will not name). He had spent 10+ years based in China, spoke Chinese, and he was told I was publishing a book on China (more on this later). I told him the book is more about “Chinese socialism” than “China” per se, and he was very surprised that my goals were to rebut the vilification of Mao, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, etc. This journalist pounced firstly on my defense of the CR, and said that their media had him interview many people in China about the horrors of the CR – he couldn’t imagine that I would want to defend it? I didn’t start defending it to him – I simply asked: “The people you interviewed – what class were they from?” He evaded the question in order to stress the CR’s horrors and failures, so I repeated, “From what class?” The reason I did this was because – contrary to Western belief – class still matters, and the view of the CR changes drastically in China depending on one’s class. At this point the person looked to our mutual acquaintance in mock horror and said, “What have you gotten me into with this guy?!” LOL….

Clearly, the lens of “class” never even came into this Western mainstream journalist’s mind, and just bringing up the concept created shock and disbelief. This journalist is not atypical of his class.

Furthermore, I am certain he (or she) did not go into China’s rural areas and dig out the truth of the CR because… I myself never go outside of Paris to do journalism for PressTV. The reality is that city journalists just don’t have the monetary resources, the time and often the inclination, and their editors do not care / can’t get more funding.

We have new research and new journalism on the Cultural Revolution so… please buy our books!

That’s why The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han is such an important book. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my new book, and I have written this series to popularize and discuss his far, far more important book on Chinese socialism.

My book, incidentally, has just been published by Badak Merah Publishing house, which publishes the indispensable, inspirational and unrepentantly leftist journalism of Andre Vltchek, Jeff J. Brownand others. It is titled, I’ll Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China, and is now available on Amazon in English, and very soon in Mandarin Chinese as well. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 300 closest friends.

My book is not bad, but I think that Han’s book is incredibly necessary, and for an obvious reason: that mainstream journalist did not venture into rural areas to discover the opinions of rural Chinese on the CR, whereas Han did.

Han, who is now a professor in the United States, grew up in Jimo County, China. It’s a place with over 1,000 villages, 30 townships and 1.1 million people today, located along the eastern seaboard and in Shangdong Province. In yet more proof that it’s a small world, my cousin married a woman from rural Shangdong Province. The county seat, Jimo, has a population of just 61,237… which should indicate that this is a highly rural area. It is also historically a poor area: Jimo ranked the 16th-poorest in (the former) 17-county Yantai Prefecture.

Han’s work is an academic, technocratic, specialized study of the CR, but it is also investigative, long-form journalism: Thanks to his background, open mind and obviously sincere aims, Han was able to interview more than 200 farmers, CR rebel leaders, students, parents and local leaders in Jimo County. He ate, worked, and even slept in the homes of those he interviewed – pretty in-depth stuff, and so in-depth that he can’t fudge the data to fit his preconceived notions. For quantitative research he pored over decades of local records, which became available shortly after the year 2000 in China.

Han’s book gives us a comprehensive view of Jimo County before, during and after the CR – both anecdotal and statistical – and one which we should not expect any journalist to better anytime soon. Also, as Han notes, there is no reason we cannot extrapolate Jimo’s experience to the rest of rural China – Jimo County was not atypical. Han has given us the West a foundational text for modern understanding of the CR.

Han was objective like a journalist as well, because he did not go into his CR analysis with a bias, unlike mainstream journalists and Western academics. His starting point was: What was the effect and view of the CR from the rural perspective?

I can’t read Chinese, but I can say this regarding English language CR studies: That is a revolutionary perspective. Normally we only have the urban perspective, the perspective of college professors, the perspective of those judged guilty by the CR – we never, ever hear the perspective of anyone who might have possibly benefitted from the CR.

I encourage readers to not just read this series – which condenses Han’s book, discusses the key points and occasionally offers a different perspective on his data and global socialism trends and history – but to buy and read Han’s book. It is not long, it is not written in boring academic-ese, and has many interesting anecdotes which only a Chinese farmer living during the CR could relate. Truly: Where else can you read in English what a Chinese farmer honestly has to say about the CR?!

The reality is that because of China’s success since the Great Recession – in contrast with the West’s economic failure – everybody is starting to realize that our perceptions of China’s society, government and economy are misguided, because the West is failing as China is thriving. They must be doing something (many things) right, no? The idea that China’s success is due to being a “Western sweatshop” is no longer tenable and was always a way for the capitalist-imperialist West to try and co-opt credit for Chinese success.

The only way to right our misguided perceptions of China in 2019 is to listen to Chinese people themselves. That is what Han did, and that is what this series does. I hope it will prove useful to you.

Dazzling & quick data which will blow the minds of those in Developing Countries and rewrite the Cultural Revolution

The thesis of Han’s book is far more interesting than, “The CR was really not so bad….” This is his thesis:

The CR’s educational reform, which became approved following changes to political culture, produced an explosion in rural economic development and rural human capital, and thus China’s economic boom actually came before Deng’s reforms in 1978.

This contradicts the narrative that it was only after the introduction of (drastically regulated, and still-socialist) market-based reforms that China’s economy began to produce major wealth. Han’s book directly challenges what you always hear by pushing the start of China’s economic explosion back a decade earlier, i.e. with the very start of the CR.

I’m going to give you my opinion after reading Han’s academic & investigative evidence: He is 100% correct, and it is totally undeniable.

You can argue all you want about the CR’s effect on intellectuals, disgraced party cadres, urban residents, pro-capitalist artists, witch doctors, Buddhist monks, etc., but the hard data of the CR’s success for the majority of Chinaas revealed by Han’s work is stunningly, stunningly convincing.

There is only one perception shift which is required to allow one to accept this obvious conclusion – prioritize the rural perspective ahead of these urban, elite, minority perspectives.

That’s never done in the West, despite the fact that it is the only truly democratic viewpoint to have when discussing China: after all, China’s rural population was 82% of the overall population in 1964. Therefore, if the CR targeted and benefitted rural areas – which it undoubtedly did – then there is no doubt that the CR was a fundamentally democratic sociopolitical event.

I’d like to immediately give just a few of Han’s data-based examples, because they are so overwhelming that I think anyone who reads them will sit up with interest:

1965 primary schools in Jimo County: 8 schools, 3,600 students. In 1976: 269 primary schools, 52,000 students. Increases of 3,400% and 1,400% respectively.

1965 high schools in Jimo County: 2 high schools, 400 students. In 1976: 84 high schools, 13,200 students. Increases of 4,200% and 3,300% respectively.

1965 government & village teachers for middle & high school in Jimo County: 315 total staff. In 1976: 4,230 total staff. Increase of 1,300%.

As Han reminded me during a discussion, by 1976 almost all school-age students (including high school-age) were enrolled in the rural school system free of charge, something which has not even been achieved in the US today.

Clearly, this is hugely at odds with the well-known belief that the CR was a time of Chinese academic regression! That propaganda only works if one focuses solely on university-level (elite-level) education and only for a short period of time, but such a view simply does not fit the data when examining rural areas.

Just as clearly: for developing countries, this type of an explosion in rural education is urgently needed and even more-urgently desired by their inhabitants.

So that was the impact of the CR on rural mass education – and it’s staggering – what about rural industry?

Early 1960s in Jimo County: 10 rural industrial enterprises, employing 253 people. By 1976: 2,557 enterprises (2.5 per village), employing 54,771 people. Increases of 26,000% and 22,000% respectively.

In both education and industrial activity Han relates a stunning explosion during the CR decade; it’s no exaggeration to say that the CR finally brought the industrial revolution to China’s rural areas!

1965 total horsepower for farm machines in Jimo County: 8,272 HP. In 1975: 116,856 HP. Increase of 1,412%.

With all that new horsepower at their disposal, did farming productivity improve? Of course:

1964 grain output for Jimo County: 136,630 tons with a unit yield of 69.5 kilos. In 1975: 369,000 tons with a unit yield of 191 kilos. Increases of 270% and 275%, respectively.

1965 area and output of cash crops for Jimo County (peanuts, hemps, vegetables & tobacco): 9,660 tons with a unit yield of 79 kilos. In 1975: 33,350 tons with a unit yield of 129 kilos. Increases of 345% and 63% respectively.

1965 annual per capita grain and income possession and income in Jimo County: 230 kilos and 37 yuan. In 1975: 421 kilos and 80 yuan. Increases of 183% and 216% respectively.

What on earth did I just read?!

You just read about 2 times more food and 2 times more money for the average Chinese person, 14 times more horsepower (which equates to 140 times manpower), 50 times more industrial jobs, 30 times more schools and 10 times more teachers during the CR decade in rural areas.

This is the Unknown Cultural Revolution in China; this was not achieved by capitalism. (I add “in China” to differentiate it from Iran’s CR, which was the world’s only other state-sponsored CR.)

Can we have some of that, please?!

How did they do it?

Can we replicate it?

For under-developed nations the idea that such increases could actually be made in only 10 years must sound like a gift from heaven.

What we can dispense with is the idea that it was luck: The increase came despite the worst and longest drought in Jimo in several decades (1967-1969), so in many ways the CR succeeded where the Great Leap Forward failed, as the GLF was famously handicapped by weather disasters.

In these 10 years, Jimo suffered no less serious and no fewer natural disasters than in previous decades. There were altogether four serious droughts, four serious floods, four wind disasters, nine hailstorms and three serious insect disasters. Nevertheless, agricultural production steadily and rapidly increased,” as Han notes.

The rural-urban divide exists because the rural viewpoint is historically repressed – Mao knew this, the CR aimed to fix it

Such stunning data allows Han to make a hugely exciting, revolutionary declaration on the CR, and one which directly contradicts both the Western propaganda view as well as the official Chinese view today:

The radical egalitarianism of the Cultural Revolution decade (1966-1976), official history maintains, led to economic disaster. The official assessment is widely endorsed by Chinese intellectuals and echoed by Western academics.”

But there was obviously no disaster…? Why China maintains this official stance will be explained later in this series, but only after we ask: “How could such an amazing socio-economic success occur?”

Han’s thesis is: “…this study contends that that the political convulsions of the Cultural Revolution democratized village political culture and spurred the growth of rural education, leading to substantial and rapid economic development.”

Simple: empower the average person and they will reach their full potential, improving all of society – that’s the absolute essence of socialism.

Just as excitingly, Han proves (yet again) that collectively-organized economies can be not just more stable than market-based economies, but even more dynamic. And let’s not forget the increased social cohesion they also provide….

Thirdly, Han shows that the CR was a glorious affirmation and victory for the 2nd of the socialism’s twin pillars (the first being redistribution of wealth, the second being redistribution of socio-political power). After all, a collective & redistributive economy simply cannot function properly without democratic empowerment of the overall culture and the political culture in favor of the average person / worker.

Ignore the Cultural Revolution… in order to keep pushing 1%-er neoliberal policies and failed ‘trickle-down’ economics

The CR’s political changes actually produced enormous economic development – why aren’t Western capitalists jumping at this?

The simple answer to that is: While any form of democracy is based on a well-educated citizenry – so the best decisions can be chosen in order to ensure the collective good – capitalism most certainly is not.

But Han gives us a global answer specific to the CR: “The official assessment is largely the work of officials and scholars who, because of their social positions, were subject to attack during the Cultural Revolution. Almost all published accounts are written from the perspective of urban elites. This book presents a rural perspective, one rarely found in the current literature on the Cultural revolution.”

So we return to the start of this article: the urban-based elite are the ones who write the journalism, who get interviewed by journalists, who write the textbooks, who draft the education policies without local input, who draft economic policies without rural input, who own the commodities exchanges which exploit rural toil… and Han’s book challenges them by using the rural viewpoint as both the start point and the end point when analyzing the CR. Why not? We are talking about 82% of the country, after all.

Given the depth of his investigations, resources, local knowledge and analysis, it’s impossible to argue with Han’s conclusion:

“This investigation of the history of Jimo County has challenged this official account. The take-off of the rural economy in Jimo began not with market reforms, I have shown, but rather during the Cultural Revolution decade. Agricultural production more than doubled and a network of rural factories were established which fundamentally transformed the county’s rural economy in less than 10 years. Jimo’s story is not unique. … Once it has been established that the economic take-off began during the collective era, the claims of market reformers have to be put in perspective.”

The few figures I gave you fully back up Han’s claims about Jimo County; it is up to the reader to provide a theory as to why Jimo’s history would be unique or an aberration in China.

Bottom line: increased horsepower is great, but the best capital is human capital. The CR created immense human capital, where there was previously very little, and this best explains the foundation of China’s dominance in 2019.

Cultural Revolutions are scary to the minority holding power, but not for the average citizen

As I wrote, a new perspective is needed in order to properly explain modern Red China’s success, and therefore we must investigate a new perspective on the Cultural Revolution. Han’s book and this series aim to provide that.

For the West there is only one path: stop trying to appropriate credit for China’s success, and start listening to Chinese people. This is what Han provides.

For the Chinese, who officially disavow the CR – even if it is not disavowed in rural areas, the solution is more complicated than that but amounts to the same thing: disregard the official party line – the thinking of the establishment – on the CR and start looking at it honestly. Indeed, openly criticizing the Party line was perhaps the single-most important message of the Mao-backed CR!

LOL, the closed-minded will not believe me, but that’s why I have penned this series.

What’s certain is that the CR era – being such a vibrant episode of human political activity – has much to teach everybody, even the Chinese themselves.

I do not and will not disavow the CR, nor will I condemn the Chinese Communist Party for officially doing so today because I know that – much to the happiness of anti-revolutionaries everywhere – revolutionary spirit waxes and wanes. All revolutions show this – the Revolution of Islam in the 7th century, the Soviet Revolution, etc. – because Revolutions are human phenomena, and therefore it could not be otherwise.

If the CR is not thought well of in China today, it will come back into fashion eventually for this simple fact: it was such a huge success that it doesn’t take only an ardent leftist to appreciate. It only appears that way, especially in the West, because of the massive propaganda which has been designed to prevent the appearance of a CR in the capitalist-imperialist West.

I’ll make a spanning-the-decades prediction: if Chinese dominance falters, we’ll see a Cultural Revolution #2 – because the CR worked! (Because it is truly socialist democratic, of course….)

The Cultural Revolution undoubtedly represented a decade-long waxing of leftist revolutionary spirit – what were the real results for the average Chinese person, i.e. a Chinese rural inhabitant? Han’s book and this series discusses the CR’s invaluable contribution in the fight for socio-economic equality which the various forms of socialism incarnate.

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This is the first article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A necessary revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red ChinaHis work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

‫«المستقبل» يستخدم سلاح المذهبية لمنع المحاسبة: السنيورة هو الطائفة!

«المستقبل» يستخدم سلاح المذهبية لمنع المحاسبة: السنيورة هو الطائفة!

اتهم «المستقبل» التيار الوطني الحر بتقديم أوراق اعتماد جديدة لحزب الله (هيثم الموسوي)

في معركة «الدفاع» عن نهج «الحريرية السياسية»، يبدو تيار المستقبل مُستعدّاً لأن يُحرق كلّ الأوراق. بنى سور حماية حول فؤاد السنيورة، مانعاً أي تدقيق في حسابات الدولة، ومُخفياً عن اللبنانيين مصير أموالهم المفقودة والمسروقة. مستعيناً بمحطته التلفزيونية، للردّ على التيار الوطني الحرّ، رفع «المستقبل» الفيتو المذهبي: السنيورة هو الطائفة!

الإسفين الذي لم يتمكّن رئيس الحكومة السابق فؤاد السنيورة من دقّه سياسياً بين التيار الوطني الحرّ وتيار المستقبل، منذ التسوية الرئاسية وحتى يوم الجمعة الماضي، نجح به من الباب المالي. انطلقت مواجهة بين التيارين الحليفين، قادتها المحطتان التلفزيونيتان التابعتان لهما. ومن غير المعلوم إن كان الخلاف سيُطوق، أم ستكون له ارتدادات أكبر من ساحته الإعلامية. افتتحت قناة «أو تي في» جولة الخلاف، بمقدمة اعتبرت فيها أنّ السنيورة «يخوض معركة استباقية بأسلحة الماضي ورجالات الماضي الغابر والربيع العابر الذين أضحوا في خريف المسيرة وسن اليأس السياسي. السنيورة يخشى سوء العاقبة وفتح الأوراق القديمة في عهد الأب بعدما تخلّى عنه الابن وأفرد من النيابة والوزارة ورئاسة الوزارة واستفرد في الفساد من دون سائر العباد (…) حزب الله الذي لم ينسَ دور السنيورة في حرب تموز وما تلاها من انهيار حكومي و7 أيار وما سبقها من تلاعب بالخيار وتوجيه القرار». فأتى الردّ أمس من مقدمة «المستقبل»، بالقول إنّ «الإبراء المستحيل، فيمكنهم أن يبلّوه ويشربوا المياه الآسنة التي نشأت عنه. تقديمٌ لحزب الله أوراق اعتماد جديدة للمعارك السياسية المقبلة. هذا شأنكم». أما الأخطر في مقدمة التلفزيون الأزرق، فهو اللعب على الوتر الطائفي، الطريق الأسهل للتجييش وشدّ العصب الشعبي وتحوير القضية عن مسارها الصحيح: «فؤاد السنيورة اليوم هو تيار المستقبل، وهو الحزب والموقع، وهو رئاسة الحكومة وهو الطائفة التي يمثلها إذا شئتم».

مقالات مرتبطة

يُصرّ تيار المستقبل وفؤاد السنيورة، على تحويل قضية الحسابات المالية للدولة، إلى معركة شخصية موجّهة ضدّهما. يُركّزان على مبلغ الـ11 مليار دولار التي أنفقتها حكومة الـ2005 – 2008 متجاوزة القاعدة الاثني عشرية، ويتجاهلان أن القضية هي قضية حسابات الدولة، منذ العام 1993. يريدان لهذه القضية الخطيرة أن تبقى في إطار «المناكفات الإعلامية»، أما حين تجهز الأوراق الرسمية ويُصبح بالإمكان تحويله إلى القضاء من أجل كشف الثغرات التي واجهت الحسابات منذ الـ1993 حتى الـ2013، فينبري «المستقبل» لمنع أي «إصلاح» و«مكافحة فساد».

وكان عضو المجلس المركزي في حزب الله الشيخ نبيل قاووق، قد أكّد أمس إن هدف حزب الله «التدقيق في الحسابات المالية، وليس تصفية الحسابات السياسية، فضلاً عن حماية المال العام، ونحن لسنا بوارد الانتقام من أحد». ولفت إلى أنّ حزب الله أعلن مشروعه في مكافحة الفساد «وهو يتوقع مسبقاً أنّ هناك متضررين سيحاولون أن يحرضوا ليحجبوا الحقيقة، ونحن نتوقع المزيد من الافتراءات لأجل حماية المفسدين».

من ناحية أخرى، قرّرت «القوات» استلحاق نفسها، بإطلاق مبادرة لعودة النازحين السوريين إلى أرضهم. طيلة سنتين في الحكومة السابقة، لم تُبادر «القوات» إلى أي خطوة من أجل حلّ هذه المسألة، بل على العكس من ذلك، تصرّفت بطريقة «تُرضي» المجتمع الغربي، معارضة نهج رئاسة الجمهورية ووزارة الخارجية والمغتربين وفريق 8 آذار السياسي، القائم على فصل العودة عن الحلّ السياسي في سوريا، وتشجيع العودة الآمنة وإعطاء المساعدات للنازحين في أرضهم وليس في البلدان المضيفة. وصلت «القوات» متأخرة، بعد أن عُيّن في وزارة الدولة لشؤون النازحين وزيرٌ من خلفية سياسية حليفة لسوريا، ويريد العمل مباشرةً معها لحلّ الملّف، مدعوماً من القصر الجمهوري. أعلن عن التوجه القواتي الجديد وزير الشؤون الاجتماعية ريشار قيومجيان، مُوضحاً بأنّ المبادرة أُطلقت «لأنّ موضوع النازحين السوريين بات يشكل أزمة وطنية كبرى، ولأنّ الخلاف السياسي على التطبيع والعلاقة مع النظام الحاكم في سوريا يجب ألا ينعكس على إرادتنا المشتركة لإيجاد الحلول الآيلة لعودة النازحين إلى بلادهم». وقد تضمنت المبادرة الآتي: «المكان الوحيد لبحث حلّ العودة هو مجلس الوزراء، تشكيل لجنة وزارية لمتابعة الموضوع، الإناطة بهذه اللجنة الوزارية بحث عودة النازحين بالتنسيق مع الجهات الدولية المعنية، لتحفيز السوريين على العودة عبر إمدادهم بالمساعدة داخل سوريا، كما التنسيق مع الدول الكبرى ولا سيما روسيا، صاحبة المبادرة، على الحكومة أن تطلب من المجتمع الدولي مزيداً من الضغط على النظام السوري لتسهيل العودة (تسمح «القوات» لنفسها بالتدخل في شؤون دولة أخرى، و«نصح» المجتمع الدولي بالضغط لإلغاء الخدمة العسكرية الإلزامية، وإعادة النظر بقوانين إثبات ملكية العقارات…)، الأمن العام اللبناني هو الجهاز الصالح لتنسيق عودتهم عبر الحدود. ولتحفيز العودة، تلغي الحكومة اللبنانية كل رسوم تسوية أوضاع الإقامة للسوريين العائدين، ستكون وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية على استعداد، وفق الخطة التي ستقرها الحكومة، للطلب من الفرق العاملة في خطة الاستجابة للأزمة السورية، المساهمة أولاً في حث النازحين على العودة وثانياً أخذ أسماء العائلات الراغبة بذلك».

تقول مصادر القوات إنها ضدّ موقف الحريري المؤيد للعودة الطوعية

اللافت للنظر، أنّه في 3 شباط 2019، كان نائب القوات اللبنانية بيار بو عاصي، يختتم مسيرته كوزيرٍ للشؤون الاجتماعية، بالمشاركة في مؤتمر «خطة الاستجابة للنزوح السوري للعام 2019»، التي تهدف بشكل واضح إلى منع النازحين السوريين من العودة إلى بلدهم، وتوفير كلّ المُساعدات النقدية والعينية لهم وللبلدان المضيفة، من أجل أن يؤسّسوا لحياتهم خارج سوريا. فماذا فعلت وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية، لمواجهة هذا المُخطّط؟ وهل حاولت «فرض هيبة» الدولة، برفضها دخول الأموال الغربية إلى البلد من دون المرور أولاً بالمؤسسات الرسمية، الواجب عليها أن تُشرف على كيفية إنفاق هذه المبالغ؟ «لا عمل» وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية مع بو عاصي، لمواجهة مشكلة النزوح، كان جزءاً من سياسة القوات اللبنانية العامة، التي بدت مُتماهية إلى حدّ بعيد مع الرغبات الدولية في منع عودة النازحين إلى أرضهم، تحت ستار «عدم التواصل مع النظام السوري»، واختلاق أعذارٍ شتّى بدءاً من غياب الأمان في سوريا، وصولاً إلى نظرية أنّ الرئيس بشار الأسد لا يريد للنازحين أن يعودوا. كان ذلك، قبل أن تعتبر «القوات» أنّ العودة الطوعية للنازحين السوريين، «قرار غير سيادي». وترى ضرورة في عودتهم السريعة، فأفضل مئة مرّة أن يسكن المرء داخل خيمة في بلده من أن يسكن بخيمة خارجه، على حدّ قول نائب «القوات» فادي سعد خلال مناسبة حزبية يوم السبت. تُصرّ مصادر «القوات» على أنّها من أول المُتحدثين عن عودة آمنة، «إلى المناطق التي يغيب عنها النزاع المُسلّح»، فأتى القرار بأن تبدأ حملة «لتوضيح موقفنا حتى لا يستمرّ أحد في غشّ الرأي العام، ولنشنّ حملة ضدّ التطبيع مع النظام السوري، بعد أن ارتفع في الآونة الأخيرة الحديث عن ربط العودة بالتطبيع». دولتان تتبادلان البعثات الدبلوماسية، تتواصلان وزارياً، وتربطهما علاقات اقتصادية وتجارية، ولا تزال «القوات» تتحدّث عن رفض لـ«التطبيع»؟ تردّ المصادر بالقول: «فلتبقَ هذه حدود التواصل. نحن غير موافقين على تبادل السفراء وزيارات الوزراء، ولكن القرار ليس بيدنا. خلاف ذلك، سنواجه محاولات تعويم النظام السوري». مبادرة «القوات» فيها تناقض أساسي، وهو استنجادها من جهة بـ«المجتمع الدولي» للضغط على النظام السوري، وفي المقابل مطالبتها بتقديم المساعدات للنازحين في سوريا وتشجيع عودتهم غير الطوعية (حديث فادي سعد). تردّ المصادر بالقول: «لا نستنجد بالمجتمع الدولي، بل نُقدّم له رؤيتنا، وسنضغط من أجل إقناعه بها. كما أنّنا سنتحاور مع سعد الحريري، لأنّنا ضدّ موقفه المؤيد للعودة الطوعية، ليكون موضوع العودة مُتفق عليه داخل الحكومة».

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We’ve seen the west’s approach to Venezuela before – in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, need I go on?

Instead of pleading with those who will not support him, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela might want to take a closer look at who his foreign friends are

By Robert Fisk

February 13, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –    The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”

Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

And those who defended Yasser Arafat – over a long period a super-terrorist, a super-diplomat and then a super-terrorist again – against those who would oust him as leader of the Palestinians, were abused as “pro-Arafat”, “pro-Palestinian”, “pro-terrorist” and, inevitably, “anti-Semitic”. I recall how George W Bush warned us after 9/11, that “you are either with us or against us”. The same threat was made to us about Assad.

Erdogan has used it in Turkey (less than three years ago) and it was a common line in the forgotten 1930s used by none other than Mussolini. And now I quote Trump’s US secretary of state Michael Pompeo on Maduro: “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side … either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

You get the point. Now is the time for all good people to stand alongside the United States, the EU, the nations of Latin America – or do you support the Russkies, Chinese, Iranian headbangers, the perfidious Corbyn and (of all people) the Greeks? Talking of the Greeks, European pressure on Alexis Tsipras to conform to the EU’s support for Guaido – proving that the EU can indeed bully its smaller members – is a good argument for Brexiteers (though far too complex for them to understand).

But first, let’s take a look at our favourite tyrant, in the words of all who oppose him. He’s a powerful dictator, surrounded by generals, suppressing his people, using torture, mass arrests, secret police murders, rigged elections, political prisoners – so no wonder we gave our support to those who wish to overthrow this brutal man and stage democratic elections.

Not a bad precis of our current policy towards the Maduro regime. But I am referring, of course, word-for-word, to the west’s policy towards the Assad regime in Syria. And our support for opposition democracy there wasn’t terribly successful.

We were not solely responsible for the Syrian civil war – but we were not guiltless since we sent an awful lot of weapons to those trying to overthrow Assad. And last month the notepad of US national security advisor John Bolton appeared to boast a plan to send 5,000 US troops to Colombia

And now let’s tick the box on another Maduro-lookalike – at least from the west’s simplistic point of view: the military-backed elected field marshal-president al-Sisi of Egypt, whom we love, admire and protect. Powerful dictator? Yup. Surrounded and supported by generals? You bet, not least because he locked up a rival general before the last election. Suppression? Absolutely – all in the interest of crushing “terrorism”, of course.

Mass arrests? Happily yes, for all the inmates of Egypt’s savage prison system are “terrorists”, at least according to the field marshal-president himself. Secret police murders? Well, even forgetting the young Italian student suspected by his government to have been allegedly tortured and bumped off by one of Sisi’s top Egyptian cops, there’s a roll call of disappeared activists.

Rigged elections? No doubt about it, although al-Sisi still maintains that his last triumph at the polls – a cracking 97 per cent – was a free and fair election.

President Trump sent his “sincere congratulations”. Political prisoners? Well, the total is 60,000 and rising. Oh yes, and Maduro’s last victory – a rigged election if ever there was one, of course – was a mere 67.84 per cent.

As the late sage of the Sunday Express, John Gordon, might have said: it makes you sit up a bit. So, too, I suppose, when we glance a bit further eastwards to Afghanistan, whose Taliban rulers were routed in 2001 by the US, whose post-9/11 troops and statesmen ushered in a new life of democracy, then corruption, warlordism and civil war.

The “democracy” bit quickly came unstuck when “loya jurgas”, grand councils, turned into tribal playpens and the Americans announced that it would be an exaggeration to think that we could achieve “Jeffersonian democracy” in Afghanistan. Too true.

Now the Americans are negotiating with the “terrorist” Taliban in Qatar so they can get the hell out of the Graveyard of Empires after 17 years of military setbacks, scandals and defeats – not to mention running a few torture camps which even Maduro would cough to look at.

Now all this may not encourage you to walk down memory lane. And I haven’t even listed the sins of Saddam, let alone our continuing and cosy relationship – amazing as it still seems – with that Gulf state whose lads strangled, chopped up and secretly buried a US-resident journalist in Turkey.

Now just imagine if Maduro, tired of a journalist critic slandering him in Miami, decided to lure him to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and top the poor guy, slice him up and bury him secretly in Foggy Bottom. Well now, I have a feeling that sanctions might have been applied to Maduro a long time ago. But not to Saudi Arabia, of course, where we are very definitely not advocating democracy.

“Now is the time for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” quoth John Bolton this week. Oh, yes indeed. Maduro runs an oil-soaked nation yet its people starve. He is an unworthy, foolish and vain man, even if he’s not Saddamite in his crimes. He was rightly described by a colleague as a dreary tyrant. He even looks like the kind of guy who tied ladies to railway lines in silent movies.

So good luck to Guaido. Palpably a nice guy, speaks eloquently, wise to stick to aid for the poor and fresh elections rather than dwell on just how exactly Maduro and his military chums are going to be booted out.

In other words, good luck – but watch out. Instead of pleading with those who will not support him – the Greeks, for example – he might take a closer look at who his foreign friends are. And do a quick track record on their more recent crusades for freedom, democracy and the right to life. And by the way, I haven’t even mentioned Libya.

This article was originally published by The Independent“-

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 The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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