US Not Seeking Military Confrontation with Iran, Only Waging Psywar: Senior MP

 May 12, 2019

Trump

A senior member of the Iranian Parliament says the United States does not seek a military confrontation with Iran and is only waging a “psychological war” against the Islamic Republic.

Head of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh made the remarks after a closed-door meeting of lawmakers with the new chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Hossein Salami, on Sunday.

“Analysis of the behavior of Americans shows that they do not seek a military confrontation with Iran and are only waging a psychological war against the Islamic Republic,” the Iranian lawmaker said, adding that the US government is trying to combine its psychological war against Iran with sanctions and other forms of economic pressure.

Referring to heightened presence of American forces in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf, Falahatpisheh noted that Iran is capable of hitting its targets from a distance of 2,000 kilometers in line with its defensive policy, while American warships will be at a maximum distance of 500 kilometers away from Iran and they know that in no other war, their defeat will not be so evident.

The United States is ratcheting up economic and military pressure on Iran, with US President Donald Trump on Thursday urging Tehran to talk to him.

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Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War. The Role of Osama bin Laden and Zbigniew Brzezinski

Part II

Global Research, May 08, 2019

Read Part I from the link below.

Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

By Janelle Velina, April 30, 2019

Below is the second half and conclusion of “Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War”. While the previous sections examined the economic roots of imperialism, as well as the historical context of the Cold War within which to situate the Mujahideen, the following explores the anatomy of proxy warfare and media disinformation campaigns which were at the heart of destabilizing Afghanistan. These were also a large part of why there was little to no opposition to the Mujahideen from the Western ‘left’, whose continued dysfunctionality cannot be talked about without discussing Zbigniew Brzezinski. We also take a look at what led to the Soviet Union’s demise and how that significantly affected the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and many other parts of the world. The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for four decades now, and it will reach its 40th year on July 3, 2019. 

The original “moderate rebel”

One of the key players in the anti-Soviet, U.S.-led regime change project against Afghanistan was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born millionaire who came from a wealthy, powerful family that owns a Saudi construction company and has had close ties to the Saudi royal family. Before becoming known as America’s “boogeyman”, Osama bin Laden was put in charge of fundraising for the Mujahideen insurgents, creating numerous charities and foundations in the process and working in coordination with Saudi intelligence (who acted as liaisons between the fighters and the CIA). Journalist Robert Fisk even gave bin Laden a glowing review, calling him a “peace warrior” and a philanthropist in a 1993 report for the Independent. Bin Laden also provided recruitment for the Mujahideen and is believed to have also received security training from the CIA. And in 1989, the same year that Soviet troops withdrew, he founded the terrorist organization Al Qaeda with a number of fighters he had recruited to the Mujahideen. Although the PDPA had already been overthrown, and the Soviet Union was dissolved, he still maintained his relationship with the CIA and NATO, working with them from the mid-to-late 1990s to provide support for the secessionist Bosnian paramilitaries and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the destruction and dismantling of Yugoslavia.

The United States would eventually turn Bin Laden into a scapegoat after the 2001 terrorist attacks, while still maintaining ties to his family and providing arms, training, and funding to Al Qaeda and its affiliates (rebranded as “moderate rebels” by the Western media) in its more recent regime change project against Syria, which started in 2011. The Mujahideen not only gave birth to Al Qaeda, but it would set a precedent for the United States’ regime-change operations in later years against the anti-imperialist governments of Libya and Syria.

Reagan entertains Mujahideen fighters in the White House.

With the end to the cycle of World Wars (for the time being, at least), it has become increasingly common for the United States to use local paramilitaries, terrorist groups, and/or the armed forces of comprador regimes to fight against nations targeted by U.S. capital interests. Why the use of proxy forces? They are, as Whitney Webb describes, “a politically safe tool for projecting the U.S.’ geopolitical will abroad.”
Using proxy warfare as a kind of power projection tool is, first and foremost, cost-effective, since paid local mercenaries or terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda will bear the burden of combat and casualties rather than American troops in places like Libya and Syria. For example, it costs much less to pay local paramilitaries, gangs, crime syndicates, terrorist groups, and other reactionary forces to perform the same military operations as U.S. troops. Additionally, with the advent of nuclear weapons it became much more perilous for global superpowers to come into direct combat with one another — if the Soviet Union and the United States had done so, there existed the threat of “mutually assured destruction”, the strong possibility of instantaneous and catastrophic damage to the populations and the economic and living standards of both sides, something neither side was willing to risk, even if it was U.S. imperialism’s ultimate goal to destroy the Soviet Union.
And so, the U.S. was willing to use any other means necessary to weaken the Soviet Union and safeguard its profits, which included eliminating the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan even if it had neither the intent nor the means of launching a military offensive on American soil. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had the means of producing a considerably large supply of modern weapons, including nuclear deterrents, to counter the credible threat posed by the United States. To strike the Soviet Union with nuclear missiles would have been a great challenge for the United States, since it would have resulted in overwhelming retaliation by the Soviet Union. To maneuver this problem, to assure the destruction of the Soviet Union while protecting the U.S. from similar destruction, the CIA relied on more unconventional methods not previously thought of as being part of traditional warfare, such as funding proxy forces while wielding economic and cultural influence over the American domestic sphere and the international scene.

Furthermore, proxy warfare enables control of public opinion, thus allowing the U.S. government to escape public scrutiny and questions about legal authorization for war. With opposition from the general public essentially under control, consent for U.S.-led wars does not need to be obtained, especially when the U.S. military is running them from “behind the scenes” and its involvement looks less obvious. Indeed, the protests against the war on Vietnam in the United States and other Western countries saw mass turnouts.

And while the U.S.-led aggression in Vietnam did involve proxy warfare to a lesser degree, it was still mostly fought with American “boots-on-the-ground”, much like the 2001 renewed U.S.-led aggression against Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In contrast, the U.S. assault on Afghanistan that began in 1979 saw little to no protest. The Mujahideen even garnered support from large portions of the Western left who joined the chorus of voices in the Western mainstream media in demonizing the PDPA — a relentless imperialist propaganda campaign that would be repeated in later years during the U.S. wars on Libya and Syria, with the difference being that social media had not yet gained prominence at the time of the initial assault on Afghanistan. This leads to the next question: why recruit some of the most reactionary social forces abroad, many of whom represent complete backwardness?

In Afghanistan, such forces proved useful in the mission to topple the modernizing government of the PDPA, especially when their anti-modernity aspirations intersected with U.S. foreign policy; these ultra-conservative forces continue to be deployed by the United States today. In fact, the long war on Afghanistan shares many striking similarities with the long war on Syria, with the common theme of U.S. imperialism collaborating with violent Sunni extremists to topple the secular, nationalist and anti-imperialist governments of these two former ‘Soviet bloc’ countries. And much like the PDPA, the current and long-time government of the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party in Syria has made many strides towards achieving national liberation and economic development, which have included: taking land from aristocratic families (a majority of whom were Sunni Muslims while Shia Muslims, but especially Alawites, traditionally belonged to the lower classes and were treated as second class citizens in pre-Ba’athist Syria) and redistributing and nationalizing it, making use of Syria’s oil and gas reserves to modernize the country and benefit its population, and upholding women’s rights as an important part of the Ba’athist pillars.

Some of these aristocratic landlords, just like their Afghan counterparts, would react violently and join the Muslim Brotherhood who, with CIA-backing, carried out acts of terrorism and other atrocities in Hama as they made a failed attempt to topple the government of Hafez al Assad in 1982.

The connection between the two is further solidified by the fact that it was the Mujahideen from which Al Qaeda emerged; both are inspired by Wahhabist ideology, and one of their chief financiers is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (as well as Israel, a regional imperial power and a key ally of the United States). In either case, these Wahhabi-inspired forces were vehemently opposed to modernization and development, and would much rather keep large sections of the population impoverished, as they sought to replace the PDPA and the Ba’athists with Sunni fundamentalist, anti-Shia, theological autocracies — Saudi-style regimes, in other words.

These reactionary forces are useful tools in the CIA’s anti-communist projects and destabilization campaigns against independent nationalist governments, considering that the groups’ anti-modernity stance is a motivating factor in their efforts to sabotage economic development, which is conducive to ensuring a favourable climate for U.S. capital interests. It also helps that these groups already saw the nationalist governments of the PDPA and the Syrian Ba’ath party as their ‘archenemy’, and would thus fight them to the death and resort to acts of terrorism against the respective civilian populations.

Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur in response to the following question:

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

[Brzezinski]: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Once again, he makes it clear that the religious extremism of the Mujahideen fighters was not an issue for Washington because the real political value lay in eliminating the PDPA and putting an end to Soviet influence in the Greater Middle East, which would give the U.S. the opportunity to easily access and steal the country’s wealth. And in order to justify the U.S. imperialist intervention in Afghanistan, as well as to obscure the true nature of the Mujahideen fighters, the intervention needed to be accompanied by a rigorous mass media campaign. The Reagan administration — knowing full well that American mainstream media has international influence — continued the war that the Carter administration started and saw it as an opportunity to “step up” its domestic propaganda war, considering that the American general public was still largely critical of the Vietnam War at the time.

As part of the aggressive imperialist propaganda campaign, anyone who dared to publicly criticize the Mujahideen was subjected to character assassination and was pejoratively labelled a “Stalinist” or a “Soviet apologist”, which are akin to labels such as “Russian agent” or “Assadist” being used as insults today against those who speak out against the U.S.-backed terrorism in Syria. There were also careful rebranding strategies made specifically for Osama bin Laden and the Mujahideen mercenaries, who were hailed as “revolutionary freedom fighters” and given a romantic, exoticized “holy warrior” makeover in Western media; hence the title of this section. The Mujahideen mercenaries were even given a dedication title card at the end of the Hollywood movie Rambo III which read, “This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan”; the film itself added to the constructed romantic image as it portrayed the Mujahideen fighters as heroes, while the Soviet Union and the PDPA were portrayed as the cartoonish villains. The Rambo film franchise is well known for its depiction of the Vietnamese as “savages” and as the aggressors in the U.S. war on Vietnam, which is a blatant reversal of the truth.

The Hollywood blockbuster franchise would be used to make the Mujahideen more palatable to Western audiences, as this unabashed, blatantly anti-Soviet propaganda for U.S. imperialism attracted millions of viewers with one of the largest movie marketing campaigns of the time. Although formulaic, the films are easily consumable because they appeal to emotion and, as Michael Parenti states in Dirty Truths, “The entertainment industry does not merely give the people what they want: it is busy shaping those wants,” (p. 111). Rambo III may not have been critically acclaimed, but it was still the second most commercially successful film in the Rambo series, grossing a total of $189,015,611 at the box office. Producing war propaganda films is nothing new and has been a long staple of the Hollywood industry, which serves capitalist and imperialist interests. But, since the blockbuster movie is one of the most widely available and distributed forms of media, repackaging the Mujahideen into a popular film franchise was easily one of the best ways (albeit cynical) to justify the war, maintaining the American constructed narrative and reinforcing the demonization campaign against Soviet Russia and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Now, outside of the cinema, CBS News went as far as to air fake battle footage meant to help perpetuate the myth that the Mujahideen mercenaries were “freedom fighters”; American journalists Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, although decidedly biased against the Soviet Union and its allies, documented this ruse in which the news channel participated. In terms of proxy warfare, these were just some of the ways used to distract from the fact that it was a U.S.-led war.

The dedication title card as it originally appeared at the end of the film Rambo III.

In Afghanistan, proxy forces provided a convenient cover because they drew attention away from the fact that U.S. imperialism was the root cause of the conflict. The insurgents also helped to demonize the targets of U.S. foreign policy, the PDPA and the Soviet Union, all the while doing the majority of the physical combat in place of the American military. In general, drawing attention away from the fact that it has been the United States “pulling the strings” all along, using proxy forces helps Washington to maintain plausible deniability in regard to its relationship with such groups. If any one of these insurgents becomes a liability, as what had happened with the Taliban, they can just as easily be disposed of and replaced by more competent patsies, while U.S. foreign policy goes unquestioned. Criminal gangs and paramilitary forces are thus ideal and convenient tools for U.S. foreign policy. With the rule of warlords and the instability (namely damage to infrastructure, de-industrialization, and societal collapse) that followed after the toppling of the PDPA, Afghanistan’s standard of living dropped rapidly, leading to forced mass migrations and making the country all the more vulnerable to a more direct U.S. military intervention — which eventually did happen in 2001.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: godfather of colour revolutions and proxy wars, architect of the Mujahideen

The late Brzezinski was a key figure in U.S. foreign policy and a highly influential figure in the Council on Foreign Relations. Although the Polish-American diplomat and political scientist was no longer the National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he still continued to play a prominent role in enforcing U.S. foreign policy goals in upholding Washington’s global monopoly. The liberal Cold War ideologue’s signature strategy consisted of using the CIA to destabilize and force regime-change onto countries whose governments actively resisted against Washington. Such is the legacy of Brzezinski, whose strategy of funding the most reactionary anti-government forces to foment chaos and instability while promoting them as “freedom fighters” is now a longstanding staple of U.S. imperialism.

How were the aggressive propaganda campaigns which promoted the Mujahideen mercenaries as “freedom fighters” able to garner support for the aggression against the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan from so many on the Western left who had previously opposed the war on Vietnam? It was the through the CIA’s use of ‘soft-power’ schemes, because leftist opinion also needed to be controlled and manipulated in the process of carrying out U.S. foreign and public policy. Brzezinski mastered the art of targeting intelligentsia and impressionable young people in order to make them supportive of U.S. foreign policy, misleading a significant number of people into supporting U.S.-led wars.

The CIA invested money into programs that used university campus, anti-Soviet “radical leftist activists” and academics (as well as artists and writers) to help spread imperialist propaganda dressed up in vaguely “leftist”-sounding language and given a more “hip”, “humanitarian”, “social justice”, “free thinker” appeal. Western, but especially American, academia has since continued to teach the post-modernist “oppression theory” or “privilege theory” to students, which is anti-Marxist and anti-scientific at its core. More importantly, this post-modernist infiltration was meant to distract from class struggle, to help divert any form of solidarity away from anti-imperialist struggles, and to foster virulent animosity towards the Soviet Union among students and anyone with ‘leftist’ leanings. Hence the phenomenon of identity politics that continues to plague the Western left today, whose strength was effectively neutered by the 1970s. Not only that, but as Gowans mentions in his book, Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom:

“U.S. universities recruit talented individuals from abroad, instill in them the U.S. imperialist ideology and values, and equip them with academic credentials which conduce to their landing important political positions at home. In this way, U.S. imperial goals indirectly structure the political decision-making of other countries.” (pp. 52-53)

And so we have agencies and think-tanks such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which has scholarly appeal and actively interferes in elections abroad — namely, in countries that are targets of U.S. foreign policy. Founded in 1983 by Reagan and directed by the CIA, the agency also assists in mobilizing coups and paid “dissidents” in U.S.-led regime change projects, such as the 2002 failed attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, as well as helping to create aggressive media campaigns that demonize targeted nations. Another instance of this “soft power” tactic of mobilizing U.S.-backed “dissidents” in targeted nations are the number of Sunni Islamic fundamentalist madrassas (schools) sponsored by the CIA and set up by Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan — which started to appear in increasing numbers during the 1980s, reaching over 39,000 during the decade. Afghanistan’s public education institutions were largely secular prior to the fall of Kabul in 1992; these madrassas were the direct, ideological and intellectual antitheses to the existing institutions of education. The madrassas acted as centres for cult-like brainwashing and were essentially CIA covert psychological operations (psy-ops) intended to inspire divisiveness and demobilize younger generations of Afghans in the face of imperial onslaught so that they would not unite with the wider PDPA-led nationalist resistance to imperialism.

The NED’s founding members were comprised of Cold War ideologues which included Brzezinski himself, as well as Trotskyists who provided an endless supply of slurs against the Soviet Union. It was chiefly under this agency, and with direction provided by Brzezinski, that America produced artists, “activists”, academics, and writers who presented themselves as “radical leftists” and slandered the Soviet Union and countries that were aligned with it — which was all part of the process of toppling them and subjugating them to U.S. free market fundamentalism. With Brzezinski having mastered the art of encouraging postmodernism and identity politics among the Western left in order to weaken it, the United States not only had military and economic might on its side but also highly sophisticated ideological instruments to help give it the upper hand in propaganda wars.

These “soft power” schemes are highly effective in masking the brutality of U.S. imperialism, as well as concealing the exploitation of impoverished nations. Marketing the Mujahideen mercenaries as “peace warriors” while demonizing the PDPA and referring to the Soviet assistance as an “invasion” or “aggression” marked the beginning of the regular use of “humanitarian” pretexts for imperialist interventions. The Cold War era onslaught against Afghanistan can thus be seen as the template for the NATO-led regime change projects against Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria, which not only involved the use of U.S.-backed proxy forces but also “humanitarian” pretexts being presented in the aggressive propaganda campaigns against the targeted countries. It was not until 2002, however, that then-American UN representative Samantha Powers, as well as several U.S.-allied representatives, would push the United Nations to officially adopt the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine into the Charter — which was in direct contradiction to the law that recognizes the violation of a nation’s sovereignty as a crime. The R2P doctrine was born out of the illegal 78-day NATO air-bombing of Yugoslavia from March 24 to June 10, 1999. And although plans to dismantle Yugoslavia go as far back as 1984, it was not until much of the 1990s that NATO would begin openly intervening — with more naked aggression — starting with the funding and support for secessionist paramilitary forces in Bosnia between 1994-1995. It then sealed the 1999 destruction of Yugoslavia with with the balkanization of the Serbian province of Kosovo. In addition to the use of terrorist and paramilitary groups as proxy forces which received CIA-training and funding, another key feature of this “humanitarian” intervention was the ongoing demonization campaigns against the Serbs, who were at the centre of a vicious Western media propaganda war. Some of the most egregious parts of these demonization campaigns — which were tantamount to slander and libel — were the claims that the Serbs were “committing genocide” against ethnic Albanians. The NATO bombing campaign was illegal since it was given no UN Security Council approval or support.

Once again, Brzezinski was not the National Security Advisor during the U.S.-led campaign against Yugoslavia. However, he still continued to wield influence as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a private organization and Wall Street think tank. The Council on Foreign Relations is intertwined with highly influential NGOs who are essentially propaganda mouthpieces for U.S. foreign policy, such as Human Rights Watch, which has fabricated stories of atrocities allegedly committed by countries targeted by U.S. imperialism. Clearly, unmitigated U.S. imperial aggression did not end with the destruction of the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, nor with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War years were a continuation of U.S. imperialism’s scramble for more spheres of influence and global domination; it was also a scramble for what was left of the former ‘Soviet bloc’ and Warsaw Pact. The dismantling of Yugoslavia was, figuratively speaking, the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of whatever ‘Soviet influence’ was left in Eastern Europe.

The demise of the Soviet Union and the “Afghan trap” question

Image on the right: Left to right: former Afghan President Babrak Karmal, and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Karmal took office at around the same time (December 1979) the PDPA requested that Moscow intervene to assist the besieged Afghanistan.

The sabotage and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that only one global hegemon remained, and that was the United States. Up until 1989, the Soviet Union had been the barrier that was keeping the United States from launching a more robust military intervention in Afghanistan, as well as in Central and West Asia. While pulling out did not immediately cause the defeat of Kabul as the PDPA government forces continued to struggle for another three years, Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision to withdraw Soviet troops arguably had a detrimental impact on Afghanistan for many years to come. Although there was no Soviet military assistance in the last three years of Najibullah’s presidency, Afghanistan continued to receive aid from the USSR, and some Soviet military advisers (however limited in their capacity) still remained; despite the extreme difficulties, and combined with the nation’s still-relatively high morale, this did at least help to keep the government from being overthrown immediately. This defied U.S. expectations as the CIA and the George H.W. Bush administration had believed that the government of Najibullah would fall as soon as Soviet troops were withdrawn. But what really hurt the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s army was when the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991; almost as soon as the dissolution happened and Boris Yeltsin (with U.S. backing) took over as Russia’s president, the aid stopped coming and the government forces became unable to hold out for much longer. The U.S. aggression was left unchecked, and to this day Afghanistan has not seen geopolitical stability and has since been a largely impoverished ‘failed state’, serving as a training ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. It continues to be an anarchic battleground between rival warlords which include the ousted Taliban and the U.S. puppet government that replaced them.

But, as was already mentioned above, the “Afghan trap” did not, in and of itself, cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In that same interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski had this to say in response to the question about setting the “trap”:

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

[Brzezinski]: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Likewise with Cuba and Syria, the USSR had a well-established alliance with the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, one of mutual aid and partnership. Answering Kabul’s explicit request for assistance was a deliberate and conscious choice made by Moscow, and it just so happened that the majority of Afghans welcomed it. For any errors that Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary at the time, may have made (which do deserve a fair amount of criticism, but are not the focus of this article), the 1979 decision to intervene on behalf of Afghanistan against U.S. imperialism was not one of them. It is true that both the Soviet and the U.S. interventions were military interventions, but the key difference is that the U.S. was backing reactionary forces for the purposes of establishing colonial domination and was in clear violation of Afghan sovereignty. Consider, too, that Afghanistan had only deposed of its king in 1973, just six years before the conflict began. The country may have moved quickly to industrialize and modernize, but it wasn’t much time to fully develop its military defenses by 1979.

Image below: Mikhail Gorbachev accepts the Nobel Peace Prize from George H.W. Bush on October 15, 1990. Many Russians saw this gesture as a betrayal, while the West celebrated it, because he was being awarded for his capitulation to U.S. imperialism in foreign and economic policy.

Other than that, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Soviet Union imploded due to an accumulating number of factors: namely, the gradual steps that U.S. foreign policy had taken over the years to cripple the Soviet economy, especially after the deaths of Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov. How Gorbachev responded during the U.S.-led onslaught against Afghanistan certainly helped to exacerbate the conditions that led to the dissolution. After the deaths of Brezhnev and Andropov, the Soviet Union’s economy became disorganized and was being liberalized during much of the 1980s. Not only that, but the Reagan administration escalated the arms race, which intensified after they had scrapped the ‘detente’ that was previously made in the mid-1970s. Even prior to Reagan’s hardline, bombastic rhetoric and escalation against the USSR, the Soviet Union was already beginning to show signs of strain from the arms race during the late-1970s. However, in spite of the economic strains, during the height of the war the organized joint operations between the Soviet army and the Afghan army saw a significant amount of success in pushing back against the Mujahideen with many of the jihadist leaders either being killed or fleeing to Pakistan. Therefore, it is erroneous to say that intervening in Afghanistan on behalf of the Afghan people “did the Soviet Union in.”

In a misguided and ultimately failed attempt to spur economic growth rates, Gorbachev moved to end the Cold War by withdrawing military support from allies and pledging cooperation with the United States who promised “peace”. When he embraced Neoliberalism and allowed for the USSR to be opened to the U.S.-dominated world capitalist economy, the Soviet economy imploded and the effects were felt by its allies. It was a capitulation to U.S. imperialism, in other words; and it led to disastrous results not only in Afghanistan, but in several other countries as well. These include: the destruction of Yugoslavia, both wars on Iraq, and the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya. Also, Warsaw Pact members in Eastern Europe were no longer able to effectively fight back against U.S.-backed colour revolutions; some of them would eventually be absorbed as NATO members, such as Czechoslovakia which was dissolved and divided into two states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Without Soviet Russia to keep it in check, the United States was able to launch an unrestrained series of aggressions for nearly two decades. Because of his decision to withdraw from the arms race altogether, in a vain attempt to transform the Soviet Union into a social democracy akin to those of the Nordic countries, Gorbachev had deprived the Russian army of combat effectiveness by making significant cuts to its defense budget, which is partly why they were forced to evacuate. Not only that, but these diplomatic and military concessions with the United States gave them no benefit in return, hence the economic crisis in Russia during the Yeltsin years. Suffice to say, the Gorbachev-Yeltsin years are not remembered fondly in Russia and many regard Gorbachev as a traitor and Western agent who helped to bring the Soviet Union to its collapse. In more recent years, efforts are being made to assess the actions taken by Gorbachev with regards to Afghanistan; this includes going against and revising the resolution put forth by him which suggested that the USSR intervention was “shameful”.

In short, Afghanistan did not cause the Soviet Union’s demise even if it required large military spending. More accurately: it was Gorbachev’s impulsive decision to quickly discard the planned economy in favour of a market economy in order to appease the United States, who made the false promise that NATO would not expand eastward. If there was a real “trap”, it was this and Gorbachev played right into the hands of U.S. imperialism; and so, the Soviet Union received its devastating blow from the United States in the end — not from a small, minor nation such as Afghanistan which continues to suffer the most from the effects of these past events. For many years, but especially since the end of WWII, the United States made ceaseless efforts to undermine the USSR, adding stress upon stress onto its economy, in addition to the psychological warfare waged through the anti-Soviet propaganda and military threats against it and its allies. Despite any advances made in the past, the Soviet Union’s economy was still not as large as that of the United States. And so, in order to keep pace with NATO, the Soviet Union did not have much of a choice but to spend a large percentage of its GDP on its military and on helping to defend its allies, which included national liberation movements in the Third World, because of the very real and significant threat that U.S. imperialism posed. If it had not spent any money militarily, its demise would most likely have happened much sooner. But eventually, these mounting efforts by U.S. imperialism created a circumstance where its leadership under Gorbachev made a lapse in judgment, reacting impulsively and carelessly rather than acting with resilience in spite of the onslaught.

It should also be taken into account that WWII had a profound impact on Soviet leadership — from Joseph Stalin to Gorbachev — because even though the Red Army was victorious in defeating the Nazis, the widespread destruction had still placed the Soviet economy under an incredible amount of stress and it needed time to recover. Meanwhile, the convenient geographical location of the United States kept it from suffering the same casualties and infrastructural damage seen across Europe and Asia as a result of the Second World War, which enabled its economy to recover much faster and gave it enough time to eventually develop the U.S. Dollar as the international currency and assert dominance over the world economy. Plus, the U.S. had accumulated two-thirds of the world’s gold reserves by 1944 to help back the Dollar; and even if it lost a large amount of the gold, it would still be able to maintain Dollar supremacy by developing the fiat system to back the currency. Because of the destruction seen during WWII, it is understandable that the Soviet Union wanted to avoid another world war, which is why it also made several attempts at achieving some kind of diplomacy with the United States (before Gorbachev outright capitulated). At the same time, it also understood that maintaining its military defenses was important because of the threat of a nuclear war from the United States, which would be much more catastrophic than the Nazis’ military assaults against the Soviet Union since Hitler did not have a nuclear arsenal. This was part of a feat that U.S. imperialism was able to accomplish that ultimately overshadowed British, French, German, and Japanese imperialism, which Brzezinski reveals in his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives: an unparalleled military establishment that, by far, had the most effective global reach which allowed the U.S. to “project forces over long distances”, helping it to assert its global domination and impose its “political will”. And what makes the American Empire distinct from the Japanese Empire, British Empire, and other European empires is that one of the bases for its ideology is the socially constructed international hierarchy of nations, and not races as was the case with the other aforementioned empires. This constructed international hierarchy of nations is more effective because it means not only greater expansionism, but also the greater ability to exercise global primacy and supremacy. More specific to Central Asia and the Middle East, the Wahhabist and Salafist groups propped up by the CIA were always intended to nurture sectarianism and discord in order to counter a mass, broad-based united front of nations against imperialism — an example of divide-and-conquer, which is an age-old tradition of empire, except this time with Neoliberal characteristics.

Therefore, the Mujahideen against Afghanistan should not be thought of simply as “the Afghan trap”, but rather as the U.S. subjugation and plundering of West and Central Asia and an important milestone (albeit a cynical one) in shaping its foreign policy with regards to the region for many years to come. If one thing has remained a constant in U.S. foreign policy towards West and Central Asia, it is its strategic partnership with the oil autocracy of Saudi Arabia, which acts as the United States’ steward in safeguarding the profits of American petroleum corporations and actively assists Western powers in crushing secular Arab and Central Asian nationalist resistance against imperialism. The Saudi monarchy would again be called on by the U.S. government in 2011 in Syria to assist in the repeated formula of funding and arming so-called “moderate rebels” in the efforts to destabilize the country. Once again, the ultimate goal in this more recent imperial venture is to contain Russia.

Cold War 2.0? American Supremacy marches on

The present-day anti-Russia hysteria is reminiscent of the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Cold War era; while anti-communism is not the central theme today, one thing remains the same: the fact that the U.S. Empire is (once again) facing a formidable challenge to its position in the world. After the Yeltsin years were over, and under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s economy eventually recovered and moved towards a more dirigiste economy; and on top of that, it moved away from the NATO fold, which triggered the old antagonistic relationship with the United States. Russia has also decided to follow the global trend of taking the step towards reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar, which is no doubt a source of annoyance to the U.S. capitalist class. It seems that a third world war in the near future is becoming more likely as the U.S. inches closer to a direct military confrontation against Russia and, more recently, China. History does appear to be repeating itself. When the government of Bashar al Assad called on Moscow for assistance in fighting against the NATO-backed terrorists, it certainly was reminiscent of when the PDPA had done the same many years before. Thus far, the Syrian Arab Republic has continued to withstand the destabilization efforts carried out by the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups and Kurdish militias at the behest of the United States, and has not collapsed as Libya, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan did.

But what often gets overlooked is the repeated Brzezinskist formula of funding highly reactionary forces and promoting them as “revolutionaries” to Western audiences in order to fight governments that defy the global dictatorship of the United States and refuse to allow the West to exploit their natural resources and labour power. As Karl Marx once said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Such a phenomenon is no accident or a mere mistake. The geopolitical instability that followed after the overthrow of the PDPA ensures that no sound, united, and formidable opposition against U.S. imperialism will emerge for an indefinite number of years; and it seems that Libya, where the Brzezinskist-style of regime change also saw success and which is now a hotbed for the slave trade, is on the same path as Afghanistan. This is all a part of what Lenin calls moribund capitalism when he discussed the economic essence of imperialism; and by that, he meant that imperialism carries the contradictions of capitalism to the extreme limit. American global monopoly had grown out of U.S. foreign policy, and it should go without saying that the American Empire cannot tolerate losing its Dollar Supremacy, especially when the global rate of profit is falling. And if too many nations reject U.S. efforts to infiltrate their markets and force foreign finance capital exports onto their economies in order to gain a monopoly over the resources, as well as to exploit the labour of their working people, it would surely spell a sharp decline in American Dollar hegemony. The fact that the United States was willing to go as far as to back mercenaries to attack the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and fight the Soviet Union, as well as to spend billions of dollars on a highly elaborate but effective propaganda campaign, shows a sign of desperation of the American Empire in maintaining its global hegemony.

Since the end of World War II the United States has been, and is by and large still, the overwhelming world-dominating power. It is true that the American Empire is in decline, in light of increasing trends towards “de-Dollarization,” as well as the rise of China and Russia which pose as challenges to U.S. interests. Naturally, Washington will desperately try to cling on to its number one position in the world by accelerating the growth of its global monopolies — whether it is through placing wholly unnecessary tariffs against competitors such as China, or threatening to completely cut Venezuelan and Iranian oil out of the global market — even if it means an increasing drive towards World War III. The current global economic order which Washington elites have been instrumental in shaping over the past several decades reflects the interests of the global capitalist class to such an extent that the working class is threatened with yet another world war despite the unimaginable carnage witnessed during the first two.

When we look back at these historical events to help make sense of the present, we see how powerful mass media can be and how it is used as a tool of U.S. foreign policy to manipulate and control public opinion. Foreign policy is about the economic relationships between countries. Key to understanding how U.S. imperialism functions is in its foreign policy and how it carries it out — which adds up to plundering from relatively small or poorer nations more than a share of wealth and resources that can be normally produced in common commercial exchanges, forcing them to be indebted; and if any of them resist, then they will almost certainly be subjected to military threats.

With the great wealth that allowed it to build a military that can “project forces over long distances,” the United States is in a unique position in history, to say the least. However, as we have seen above, the now four decade-long war on Afghanistan was not only fought on a military front considering the psy-ops and the propaganda involved. If anything, the Soviet Union lost on the propaganda front in the end.

From Afghanistan we learn not only of the origins of Al Qaeda, to which the boom in the opioid-addiction epidemic has ties, or why today we have the phenomenon of an anti-Russia Western “left” that parrots imperialist propaganda and seems very eager to see that piece of Cold War history repeat itself in Syria. We also learn that we cannot de-link the events of the 2001 direct U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and what followed from those of 1979; Afghanistan’s colonial-feudal past, its break from that with the 1978 Saur Revolution, and the U.S.-led Mujahideen are all as much of a part of its history (and the Greater Middle East, by extension) as the events of 2001. It cannot be stressed enough that it is those historical conditions, particularly as they relate to U.S. foreign policy, that helped to shape the ongoing conflict today.

Obviously, we cannot undo the past. It is not in the interests of the working class anywhere, in the Global South or in the Global North, to see a third world war happen, as such a war would have catastrophic consequences for everyone — in fact, it could potentially destroy all of humanity. Building a new and revitalized anti-war movement in the imperialist nations is a given, but it also requires a more sophisticated understanding of U.S. foreign policy. Without historical context, Western mass media will continue to go unchallenged, weaning audiences on a steady diet of “moderate rebels” propaganda and effectively silencing the victims of imperialism. It is necessary to unite workers across the whole world according to their shared interests in order to effectively fight and defeat imperialism and to establish a just, egalitarian, and sustainable world under socialism. Teaching the working class everywhere the real history of such conflicts as the one in Afghanistan is an important part of developing the revolutionary consciousness necessary to build a strong global revolutionary movement against imperialism.

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Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velina is a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org and LLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

THE NEXT ECONOMIC CRISIS AND THE LOOMING POST-MULTIPOLAR SYSTEM

The Next Economic Crisis and the Looming Post-Multipolar System

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

The Impending Crisis

At one time, specifically during the post-World War 2 Bretton Woods era, it looked like as if the capitalist model could be indefinitely sustainable and avoid plunging the world into major world conflicts. That era began to come to an end during the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, and came to a complete end at the end of the Cold War which ushered in the era of the so-called “globalization” which took form of unbridled competition for markets and resources. At first this competition did not show many signs of trouble. There were many “emerging markets” created as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc into which Western corporations could expand. However, the law of diminishing returns being what it is, the initial rapid economic growth rates could not be sustained and attempts to goose it using extremely liberal central bank policies, to the point of zero and even negative interest rates, succeeded in inflating—and bursting—several financial “bubbles”. Even today’s US economy bears many hallmarks of such a bubble, and it is only one of many. Sooner or later the proverbial “black swan” event will unleash a veritable domino effect of popping bubbles and plunge the global economy into a crisis of a magnitude it has not seen since the 1930s. A crisis against which the leading world powers have few weapons to deploy, since they have expended their monetary and fiscal “firepower” on the 2008 crisis, to little avail. The low interest rates and high levels of national debt mean that the next big crisis will not be simply “more of the same.” It will fundamentally rearrange the global economy.

The Once and Future Multipolar System?

While the 1944 Bretton Woods  conference sought to re-establish a global economic order that was destroyed in the Great Depression, the formation of the United Nations served a rather different aim. The UN Security Council, with five veto-wielding permanent members, meant that for as long as these five countries abided by its rules, there would be five spheres of influence and therefore also five relatively exclusive economic zones. British leaders in 1945, for example, hardly desired the dissolution of their empire; records of wartime discussions between FDR and Churchill show the two clashed repeatedly over the tariff barriers separating British colonial possessions from international trade.  That which became known as the “Iron Curtain” was a feature, not a bug, of that system—Churchill himself wanted one for his empire, after all. However, is the apparent multi-polar system of today any more viable than the one which appeared to emerge after 1945?

“We have always been at war with Eurasia”

The post-WW2 multipolar world did not come to pass because the French and British empires collapsed and its newly independent states became aligned with either the United States or the USSR, and the PRC was in no shape to exert much power outside of its own borders since it was recovering from decades of civil war and foreign occupation. Seven decades after WW2’s conclusion, however, one can readily see that the era of US and European economic dominance is giving way to a multipolar world in which Russia and China are once again capable of standing up for their economic interests.

However, a return to genuine multipolarity does not appear very likely. Russia and China need each other too much to risk conflict by pursuing their own separate and mutually exclusive economic spheres of influence. Rather, we can expect a gradual merger of the two, with Russia playing the leading role in certain geographical areas (for example, the Middle East and the Arctic), while China in others. When it comes to the US and the EU, the situation is slightly more complicated.

Welcome to Oceania, Citizen

While George Orwell imagined the future of Russia (Eurasia) and China (Eastasia) as imperial entities unintegrated with one another, a prediction that does not appear to be coming true, the establishment of Oceania, governed from the United States and UK playing the role of “Airstrip One” seems to be looming every closer. Only the status of Europe remains unclear at this point. The European Union is still unfit to shoulder world power responsibilities, it has barely weathered the last economic crisis, and the next one could easily be the final nail in its coffin. It certainly does not help that the United States is attempting to thoroughly economically dominate the European Union in order to deal with its own economic problems. Reducing European exports to the US and expanding US energy exports to the EU is very high on the list of White House priorities, to the point of risking trade war. Europe’s behavior following the US unilateral JCPOA withdrawal shows that the Europeans are incapable to oppose US power, even if it means defending important economic interests.

On the other hand, and in response to the Trump administration increasingly brazen attempts to subjugate Europe in political and economic terms,  France and Germany are pursuing efforts to establish a solid EU “core”. This “core” would boast a European army, a concept whose popularity has grown in recent years, and be capable of collective action in the event of a crisis even if it means shedding the less well integrated eastern and southern EU members or at least relegating them to second-class status. However, it remains to be seen whether anything viable can be created before the next crisis topples the European house of cards and leads to power struggles over the political and economic alignment of the individual European states.

Hybrid War Forever

Once that process of coalescence is complete, proxy wars will continue over certain parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, even Latin America, as the two power blocs will struggle over vital markets and resources, using the full array of military, political, economic, cyber, and information weapons that we have seen used in Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela. This hybrid warfare will be accompanied by a level of official propaganda that will make the current “Russiagate” reporting pale in comparison, however, at the same time, the rhetoric will be considerably more heated than the actual level of hostilities between the two nuclear weapons-wielding power blocs. Instead, that propaganda will be used to justify internal political censorship and repression, on a scale even greater than we have seen used against the Yellow Vests protests in France.  Deprived of the ability to expand into ever new territories, the West will gradually sink into stagnation , poverty, and domestic disorder. At that point, the world will be in a state of a genuine bi-polar Cold War, a war of political and economic attrition whose outcome is currently impossible to predict.

Reshaping the Middle East: Why the West Should Stop Its Interventions

Syria: the project of creating a” jungle state” instead gave birth to a powerful Resistance movement

Foreign intervention has pushed many Middle Eastern populations into poverty, at the same time making them more determined to confront and reject the global domination sought by the USA. The number of Middle Eastern countries and non-state actors opposed to the US coalition is relatively small and weak by comparison with the opposite camp, but they have nevertheless shaken the richer and strongest superpower together with its oil-rich Middle Eastern allies who were the investors and the instigators of recent wars. They have coalesced as a Resistance movement attracting global support, even in the face of unprecedented propaganda warfare in the mass media.

The soft power of the US coalition has been undermined domestically and abroad from the blatant deceit intrinsic in the project of supporting jihadist takfiri gangs to terrorize, rape and kill Christian, Sunni, secular, and other civilian populations while allegedly fighting a global war on Islamic terrorism.

The small countries targeted by the US coalition are theoretically and strategically important due to their vicinity to Israel. Notwithstanding the scarcity of their resources and their relatively small number of allies in comparison with the opposite camp, they have rejected any reconciliation on the terms offered by Israel.

Israel itself is progressively revealing more overt reconciliation and ties with oil-rich Arab countries: we see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strolling in Warsaw, discussing and shaking hands with Arab leaders. These are obviously not first meetings: recent years have shown a progressively warming rapport and openness between Israel and many Arab leaders.

These Middle East countries have long been supportive of Israel’s aggression against Lebanon and its inhabitants. And in the last decade, this support expanded to include a plot against the Palestinians, Syria and Iraq.

The US has exerted huge pressure on Syria since 2003, following the invasion of Iraq. During Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Damascus in March 2003 he offered long-lasting governance to President Bashar al-Assad in exchange for submission: Assad was asked to sell out Hamas and Hezbollah, and thus join the road map for the “new Middle East”.

When Powell’s intimidation failed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the US’s main Arab allies and the countries responsible for cash pay-outs to help the US establishment achieve its goals (and those of Israel), promised to inject untold gold and wealth into Syria.

Assad was not willing to comply with this US-Saudi influence and pressure. The influence belonged to the US; Saudi Arabia and Qatar stood behind, holding the moneybags. A war against the Syrian state became essential, and its objectives and prospective benefits immense.

In a few paragraphs, this is what the seven years of war in Syria were about:

The Palestinian cause was pushed to the periphery by the mushrooming of ISIS, a group that terrorised the Middle East and participated in the destruction of the region’s infrastructure, killing thousands of its people and draining its wealth. It was also responsible for numerous attacks around the globe, extending from the Middle East into Europe. ISIS didn’t attack Israel even though it was based on its borders under the name of “Jayesh Khaled Bin al-Waleed.” Nor did al-Qaeda attack Israel, although it also bordered Israel for years, enjoying Israeli intelligence support–and even medical care!

All this was done in order to destroy Syria: dividing the state into zones of influence, with Turkey taking a big chunk (Aleppo, Afrin, Idlib); the Kurds realising their dream by taking over Arab and Assyrian lands in the northeast to create a land of Rojava linked with Iraqi Kurdistan; Israel taking the Golan Heights permanently and creating a buffer zone by grabbing more territory in Quneitra; creating a failed state where jihadist and mercenary groups would fight each other endlessly for dominance; gathering all jihadists into their favourite and most sacred destination (Bilad al-Sham – The Levant) and sealing them into “Islamic Emirates”.

It also involved, strategically, stopping the flow of weapons from Iran through Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon; weakening the Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi-Lebanese “Axis of Resistance” by removing Syria from it; preparing for another war against Lebanon once Syria was wiped off the map; stealing Syria’s oil and gas resources on land and in the Mediterranean; building a gas pipeline from Qatar to Europe to cripple Russia’s economy; and finally removing Russia from the Levant together with its naval base on the coast.

At no point in the Syrian war was a single leader proposed to rule the country and replace Bashar al-Assad. The plan was to establish a zone of anarchy with no ruler; Syria was expected to become the jungle of the Middle East.

It was a plan bigger than Assad and much bigger than the Syrians. Hundreds of billions of dollars were invested by Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to kill Syrians, destroy their country and accomplish the above objectives. It was a crime against an entire population with the watchful complicity of the modern and “democratic” world.

Many pretexts were given for the Syrian war. It was not only about regime change. It was about creating a jungle state. Think tanks, journalists, academics, ambassadors all joined the fiesta by collaborating in the slaughter of Syrians. Crocodile tears were shed over “humanitarian catastrophes” in Syria even as the poorest country in the Middle East, the Yemen, was and still is being slaughtered while the same mainstream media avert their gaze and conceal the nature of the conflict from the general public.

Anyone who understood the game, or even part of it, was called “Assadist”, a designation meant as an insult. The savage irony? This epithet “Assadist” was freely wielded by the US chattering class- who themselves have evidently never publicly counted and acknowledged the millions killed by the US political establishment over the centuries.

So, what has this global intervention brought about?

Russia has returned to the Levant after a long hibernation. Its essential role has been to stand against the US world hegemony without provoking, or even trying to provoke, a war with Washington. Moscow demonstrated its new weapons, opening markets for its military industry, and showed its military competence without falling into the many traps laid in the Levant during its active presence. It created the Astana agreement to bypass UN efforts to manipulate negotiations, and it isolated the war into several regions and compartments to deal with each part separately. Putin exhibited a shrewd military mind in dealing successfully with the “mother of all wars” in Syria. He ventured skilfully into US territory against its hegemonic goals, and he has created powerful and lasting strategic alliances with Turkey (a NATO member) and Iran.

Iran found fertile ground in Syria to consolidate the “Axis of the Resistance” when the country’s inhabitants (Christian, Sunni, Druse, secular people and other minorities) realised that the survival of their families and their country were at stake. It managed to rebuild Syria’s arsenal and succeeded in supplying Hezbollah with the most sophisticated weapons needed for a classic guerrilla-style war to stop Israel from attacking Lebanon. Assad is grateful for the loyalty of these partners who took the side of Syria even as the world was conspiring to destroy it.

Iran has adopted a new ideology: it is not an Islamic or a Christian ideology but a new one that emerged in the last seven years of war. It is the “Ideology of Resistance”, an ideology that goes beyond religion. This new ideology imposed itself even on clerical Iran and on Hezbollah who have abandonned any goal of exporting an Islamic Republic: instead they support any population ready to stand against the destructive US hegemony over the world.

For Iran, it is no longer a question of spreading Shiism or converting secular people, Sunni or Christians. The goal is for all to identify the real enemy and to stand against it. That is what the West’s intervention in the Middle East is creating. It has certainly succeeded in impoverishing the region: but it has also elicited pushback from a powerful front. This new front appears stronger and more effective than the forces unleashed by the hundreds of billions spent by the opposing coalition for the purpose of spreading destruction in order to ensure US dominance.

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The US Syria Withdrawal and the Myth of the Islamic State’s “Return”

February 7, 2019 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – At face value – the notion that the US occupation of Syria is key to preventing the return of the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) to Syrian territory is unconvincing.

Regions west of the Euphrates River where ISIS had previously thrived have since been permanently taken back by the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian and Iranian allies – quite obviously without any support from the United States – and in fact – despite Washington’s best efforts to hamper Damascus’ security operations.

Damascus and its Russian and Iranian allies have demonstrated that ISIS can be permanently defeated. With ISIS supply lines running out of NATO-territory in Turkey and from across the Jordanian and Iraqi border cut off – Syrian forces have managed to sustainably suppress the terrorist organization’s efforts to reestablish itself west of the Euphrates.

The very fact that ISIS persists in the sole region of the country currently under US occupation raises many questions about not only the sincerity or lack thereof of  Washington’s efforts to confront and defeat ISIS – but over whether or not Washington is deliberately sustaining the terrorist organization’s fighting capacity specifically to serve as a pretext for America’s continued – and illegal – occupation of Syrian territory.

The US Department of Defense Says It Best 

A recent report (entire PDF version here) published by the US Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General himself would claim:

According to the DoD, while U.S.-backed Syrian forces have continued the fight to retake the remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria, ISIS remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that “could likely resurge in Syria” absent continued counterterrorism pressure. According to the DoD, ISIS is still able to coordinate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency.

The report also claims:

Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory in the [Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV)].  

By “continued counterterrorism pressure,” the report specifically means continued US occupation of both Syria and Iraq as well as continued military and political support for proxy militants the US is using to augment its occupation in Syria.

The report itself notes that the last stronghold of ISIS exists specifically in territory under defacto US occupation or protection east of the Euphrates River where Syrian forces have been repeatedly attacked – both by US-backed proxies and by US forces themselves.

The very fact that the report mentions ISIS is “regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria” despite the US planning no withdrawal from Iraq seems to suggest just how either impotent or genuinely uninterested the US is in actually confronting and defeating ISIS. As to why – ISIS serves as the most convincing pretext to justify Washington’s otherwise unjustified and continued occupation of both Syria and Iraq.

US DoD’s Own Report Exposes Weakness, Illegitimacy of “Kurdish Independence” 

The report is all but an admission that US-backed militants in Syria lack the capability themselves to overcome the threat of ISIS without constant support from Washington. That the report claims ISIS is all but defeated but could “resurge” within a year without US backing – highlights the weakness and illegitimacy of these forces and their political ambitions of “independence” they pursue in eastern Syria.

A Kurdish-dominated eastern Syria which lacks the military and economic capabilities to assert control over the region without the perpetual presence of and backing of US troops – only further undermines the credibility of Washington’s Kurdish project east of the Euphrates.

The Syrian government – conversely – has demonstrated the ability to reassert control over territory and prevent the return of extremist groups – including ISIS.

Were the United States truly dedicated to the destruction of ISIS – it is clear that it would support forces in the region not only capable of achieving this goal – but who have so far been the only forces in the region to do so.

ISIS as a Pretext for Perpetual US Occupation 

In reality – the US goal in both Syria and Iraq is to undermine the strength and unity of both while incrementally isolating and encircling neighboring Iran. The US itself deliberately created ISIS and the many extremist groups fighting alongside it.

It was in a leaked 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo that revealed the US and its allies’ intent to create what it called at the time a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria. The memo would explicitly state that (emphasis added):

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

On clarifying who these supporting powers were, the DIA memo would state:

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

The “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State) would indeed be created precisely in eastern Syria as US policymakers and their allies had set out to do. It would be branded the “Islamic State” and be used first to wage a more muscular proxy war against Damascus – and when that failed – to invite US military forces to intervene in the conflict directly.

Several years onward, and with the abject failure of the US proxy war in Syria all but complete, the shattered remnants of ISIS are sheltered exclusively in regions now under the defacto protection of US forces and are being used as a pretext to delay or altogether prevent any significant withdrawal of US forces.

While many see the announcement of a US troop withdrawal from Syria by US President Donald Trump and attempts to backtrack away from the withdrawal as a struggle between the White House and the Pentagon – it is much more likely the result of a collapsing foreign policy vacillating between bad options and worse options.

The inability – so far – of Israeli airstrikes to even penetrate Syrian air defenses let alone cause any significant damage on the ground in Syria has further highlighted Western impotence and complicated Washington’s plans moving onward into the future.

Turkey’s teetering policy regarding Syria and the prospects of it being drawn deeper into Syrian territory to“take over” the US occupation – as described by the DoD  Inspector General’s report – will only further overextend and mire Turkish forces, creating vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by everyone sitting at the negotiation tables opposite Ankara.

It is still uncertain what Ankara will do, but as an initially willing partner in US-engineered proxy war in Syria – it is now left with its own unpalatable options of bad and worse.

It is interesting that even the DoD Inspector General’s report mentions ISIS’ continued fighting capacity depends on foreign fighters and “external donations” – yet never explores the obvious state sponsorship required to sustain both. The DoD report and US actions themselves have all but approached openly defending the remnants of ISIS.

While the prospect of violently overthrowing the Syrian government seems to have all but passed, the US is still trying to justify its presence in Syria at precisely the junctions ISIS and other terrorist organizations are moving fighters and weapons into the country through – in northern Syria, in southeast Syria near the Iraqi border, and at Al Tanf near the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Were the US to seek to consolidate its proxies and initiate a “resurge” of ISIS – the very scenario it claims it seeks to prevent – its control of these vital entry points into Syria and Iraq would be paramount. Allowing them to fall into Syrian and Iraqi forces’ hands to be secured and cut off would – ironically – spell the end of ISIS in both nations.

While Washington’s words signal a desire to defeat ISIS – its actions are the sole obstruction between ISIS and its absolute defeat.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Dr. T. J. Coles: “Unlike War, Peace Is Not a Profitable Pursuit”

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Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your masterful book “Britain’s Secret Wars”, you demonstrate the hidden face of British politics and its direct involvement in major conflicts via its intelligence services. Do not you think that Britain is responsible, like its US ally, for the chaos that reigns in areas like the Middle East and the Sahel?

Dr. T. J. Coles: Yes. Britain has both historic and contemporary responsibilities for much of the carnage in the Middle East, Central Asia, and elsewhere. There are different degrees of responsibility. When a gang commits a crime, for example, a murder and armed robbery, each member of the gang is sentenced by a court of law in accordance with the degree of their participation in the crime. The person who pulled the trigger is the murderer, their associate is the accomplice, and so on. The same principle applies, or if we care about morality should apply, to international affairs. At the moment, the US is the global superpower, so the US bears most of the responsibility for invading Afghanistan, firing drones at Pakistanis, Somalis, and Yemenis, invading Iraq, and using proxy terrorists in Syria and Libya.

But Britain and more recently France are also involved. So, the leaders of these countries must also take responsibility for their actions.

As far as Britain is concerned, the UK has a long history of using violence against Arabs, Kurds, and other peoples of the region. Afghanistan has never invaded the UK, yet Britain’s recent military operations in Afghanistan mark the fourth invasion of that country in less than 200 years. Historically, the UK wanted to ensure that Afghanistan would serve as a trading route with and a bulwark against invasions of its main colonial prize, India. With the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919), colonialists using the newly-created British air force were asking about “the rules for this kind of cricket” (Sir John Maffey), meaning the casual murder of Afghans by air power. The same applies to Iraq. Britain essentially invaded Iraq in the late-1830s, when armed trading ships sailed the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, bringing what the colonialists called “civilization” to “the sons of lawlessness” (later private secretary to Sir Percy Cox, R.E. Cheeseman). By the 1920s, British air power was being used against Iraqis, too. The colonialists of the time called this “spanking” the naughty Iraqis, whom they regarded as children (colonial administrator B.H. Bourdillon). By then, Britain’s interests in Iraq, Iran, and what became Saudi Arabia concerned those nations’ oil reserves.

This kind of direct responsibility for atrocities against colonial subjects continued until after the Second War World, when the US became the superpower and subjugated growing numbers of people, particularly in Latin America but increasingly in the Middle East, which was recognized to be the oil-center of the world. Britain and the US killed at least half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s with the blockade and then went on to murder another million people with the US-led “shock and awe” invasion (2003) and the destabilization of the already fragile country that followed. Western media simply suppressed the news that the US-British puppet governments, especially that of Nouri al-Maliki, were as bad in terms of human rights abuses as Daesh (Islamic State), which arrived on the scene a few years later. Under al-Maliki, whose forces were armed and trained by Britain and the US, a thousand Iraqis were put on death-row, many of them students, trade unionists, activists, and so on. The police tortured prisoners with broken glass and drills. Many journalists were killed. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported on this, most of the media did not.

In fact, the British public, thanks to the media’s omission of facts, underestimates the level of the damage wrought upon Iraq after 2003: and even before with the sanctions. Most Britons, when polled a few years ago, thought that 10,000 Iraqis had died when epidemiological studies estimate that over 1 million lost their lives.

Among the so-called intelligentsia, there is a slight recognition that the kind of crimes committed over a century ago did indeed happen and that they were morally unacceptable. Richard Gott is one such historian. Others, however, like Niall Ferguson, continue to use racist language. He described Iraq as a “sun-scorched sandpit” and ridiculed what he called the Middle East’s “retarded political culture” (quoted from his book, Colossus).

But try to find any sustained criticism of British foreign policy when it comes to more modern wars, particularly less known ones. Just ten years ago, the UK, quite apart from supporting US interests, participated in ethnic cleansing. In 2013, I was the first researcher or journalist (writing in the US journal Peace Review) to document British arms supplies to the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka. Britain sold the arms before, during, and after the Sinhalese government’s ethnic cleansing of 40,000 Tamil civilians between March and April 2009. Since then, only one other person, journalist Phil Miller, has documented British involvement. But Miller’s research has appeared in alternative media, not in the mainstream. Miller (who hates me for some reason) was recently able to publish a piece in the Guardian about Britain’s historical role in Sri Lanka (in the 1970s), but he could not say much about current or recent crimes there. This is the nature of the media. The same is happening now in Burma (Myanmar). Nobody is reporting the fact that the British armed forces are training the Burmese Army at a time when it is committing an ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people.

The French-British intervention in Libya that has destabilized the Sahel and all Africa and caused chaos is it not a serious political mistake whose political leaders must answer in courthouse, namely President Sarkozy for France and Prime Minister David Cameron for Britain?

There is a pattern. It is also recognized by the Belgian journalist, Michel Collon. First, the US and Britain organize, train, arm, and instruct a terrorist network. Next, they label that terrorist network “freedom fighters” or “moderate rebels.” They then instruct or authorize that network to attack the government of a sovereign nation. None of this is reported in Western media, so politicians and the public who might otherwise know what’s really going on and oppose war remain ignorant of the geopolitical turmoil being created by Western proxies. The sovereign government under attack by the terrorists then tries to defend its interests, using violence to do so. Only then do Western media report on the situation. They report the violence of the government defending itself, ignoring all of the provocations of the terrorist proxies. Finally, a plea for “humanitarian intervention” is issued by the Western governments working with the proxies. The plea is to save innocent civilians from the foreign government, which is, in fact, defending its own interests.

As far as I can tell, this pattern was laid in Serbia in 1999. There was a region of Serbia, Kosovo, comprised mainly of Kosovar-Albanians. These were ordinary civilians who were not particularly nationalistic. The majority seemed to want to remain Serbian. But the US and Britain wanted to break up Serbia because an energy pipeline intersected there, hence the US constructed the military Camp Bondsteel on the intersection. Future-NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Schefer, said years later that energy companies essentially lobbied NATO to “intervene” in Serbia. “Let’s be glad that the gas is flowing again,” he said. So, the US and Britain, using the public relations company Ruder Finn, put together the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to stoke secessionist sentiments in Kosovo. The KLA leaders were quite open about their intentions to attack government and even civilian targets. Furthermore, several British House of Commons Library reports published prior to the NATO bombing confirm this.

When Serbia’s leader Milošević responded with violence, the US and Britain, or “international community” as the media claim, made increasingly absurd allegations, that tens- to hundreds-of-thousands of Kosovar-Albanian civilians had been killed by Milošević. No evidence was provided. The British government at the time confirmed that 2,000 people on both sides had been killed in the civil war: not the hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, as we were told. In violation of international law, NATO began bombing Serbia in March 1999. NATO killed a couple of thousand people (we don’t really know because we don’t investigate our own crimes) and has left tens of thousands of cluster bomblets (little, cluster-type bombs which can be carried by the wind) scattered all over the fields of Serbia for children to step on and get blown up, according to the Red Cross. So much for humanitarian intervention.

The same pattern was repeated in Libya. For years, the UK sheltered Islamist fanatics like Anas al-Libya and Ramadan Abdei in London and Manchester. The right-wing Daily Mail newspaper reported that in October 2010, the British were training anti-Gaddafi forces on a “farm” (which means training camp in intelligence nomenclature). At the same time, the British continued training and arming Gaddafi’s forces because, in 2004, Gaddafi had agreed to let Western energy companies exploit Libya’s resources. But the same companies involved in the exploitation of Libyan energy complained that Gaddafi’s privatization “reforms” were too slow. At the same time, the US was pushing for regime change in Syria by funding the opposition to Bashar al-Assad. The date of October 2010 is important because it predates the Libyan Arab Spring by about four months. So, contrary to media claims, the anti-Gaddafi “rebels” were not part of the Arab Spring. These and other terrorists, or “rebels” as the Western media called them, essentially hijacked the otherwise peaceful Libyan Arab Spring. With British weapons and training, Gaddafi’s military used force to crush the protestors, but also the terrorists who were also being trained and armed by Britain. This is the old divide and rule tactic. As with Serbia in 1999, Western politicians claimed, again with no evidence, that Gaddafi was about to launch an “ethnic cleansing” in Benghazi (which just happened to be where most of the Islamists were based. In reality, Gaddafi might have defeated the Western proxies). On this lie, 30,000 Libyan civilians were wiped out by NATO and the terrorists, according to the puppet TNC government installed by Britain, the US, and France.

The only difference with the pattern in Syria is that NATO did not get involved and Daesh clashed with the “moderate rebels” (terrorists) used by the US, France, and Britain to depose Assad.

As far as international law is concerned, each of these actions are war crimes. The British government still refuses to release in full the advice given to it by the Attorney-General over Libya, which suggests that the Attorney-General had advised the Prime Minister, David Cameron, against the invasion in March 2011. But powerful people do not face justice from the very courts that they create and support. The International Criminal Court at The Hague has lost all credibility if it even had any. Tony Blair and George W. Bush committed the most blatant act of aggression by invading Iraq in 2003. Ministers try to argue, not very convincingly, that “humanitarian intervention,” as in the cases of Serbia and Libya, are different; that they are somehow at least legally questionable. But the reality is that these were war crimes. Iraq, though, is an even more blatant case. Blair and Bush were never tried, even though the UN Secretary-General at the time, the late Kofi Annan, said that the invasion was a war crime, and even the British government’s Chilcot Inquiry said so, using polite language. It’s mostly Balkans war criminals and Black people from African being put on trial at the Hague. It’s a neo-colonial arrangement. In response, Uganda led the call for other African nations to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Court, citing its hypocrisy.

The United States and Great Britain, supporting and arming terrorist groups that ended up bombing Europe, are they not guilty before their people for having made a pact with the devil?

There’s even a semi-official name for it. Extremist preachers, like Omar Bakri, call it “the covenant.”The unwritten arrangement is that they work for the British intelligence services and in exchange, they are left alone to preach their extreme interpretations of Islam, free from legal prosecution and deportation. But it’s not really a covenant, given that Britain has been successively attacked, supposedly by associates of these people; assuming we believe the official story, of course. Bakri himself left the UK and has access to mainstream media, supposedly from Lebanon. Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada have also been extradited. So, the “covenant” is just a smokescreen for journalists or politicians who ask too many questions. The reality is that these men are just proxies of the intelligence services.

The most blatant case was that of Salman Abedi.I mentioned his father Ramadan above. Then-Home Secretary and now PM Theresa May had, what former MI6 officer and intelligence expert Alastair Crooke called, an “open door” policy on migration for jihadis. The Abedi family were allowed to travel from the UK to Libya, even being rescued by the Ministry of Defence, apparently, during and after the 2011 war. By the time Daesh was a significant force in Libya, Salman had come of age and went to train with them. If we are to believe the media, he murdered 22 British people in May 2017 in an alleged suicide bomb attack. That single act alone should have collapsed the British government. Newspaper headlines should have read: “PM Theresa May had ‘open door’ policy for suicide bomber.”But nothing was said. A few people on the fringes, like Nafeez Ahmed (an excellent journalist) and Mark Curtis (a brilliant historian) noticed. John Pilger on the progressive left and Peter Oborne on the libertarian right were only mainstream voices.

But this is just one case. Extremists have been linked to the intelligence services for a long time:Abu Qatada (described as “bin Laden’s right-hand man”); Abu Hamza (of the Finsbury Park Mosque); Haroon Aswat (a suspect in the London 2005 bombings); Michael Adebolajo (alleged co-killer of Fusilier Lee Rigby); and so on. The right-wing screams that the government of the day (even if it is a right-wing government) is “too soft” in allowing these extremists to live in the UK. The left-wing replies, “Well, these people don’t represent Islam.” But neither side can admit that these people are puppets of the intelligence services. The services use them for a variety of reasons, including as proxies. What is particularly disturbing is that in open-source Ministry of Defence documents, which the media don’t report, it is acknowledged that “proxies” will be used by states where direct warfare cannot be engaged in and that such proxies “may prove difficult to control,” hence the risk of blowback to domestic civilians.

We should also remember that, as horrifying as the London 2005 attacks and Manchester 2017 attacks were, people in the Middle East and North Africa endure this kind of terrorism every day, namely from US-British-French drone strikes. But in the UK, we don’t think of daily drone blasts and the threat of being eliminated at any second as terrorism. By 2014, around 2,500 people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan had been murdered by US drone operators: the overwhelming majority were civilian and the rest were suspects, not “terrorists.” Calling them terrorists is a matter for international or domestic law courts, not media propagandists. Many of the peoples in those regions live in constant fear of being instantly incinerated by machines called Predators and Reapers that fire missiles called Hellfire in operations like “Widowmaker.” Western media carefully shield domestic publics from the reality of what drones do to the flesh and bone of men, women, and children, as well as to their mental health. So, when revenge acts of terrorism occur in Europe and the US, to the domestic populations it seems as if these acts have come out of nowhere. The explanation offered by the right-wing is that Muslims hate our freedoms, and so on.

You wrote the book very interesting and very researched “Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-based Mind Control, from Ancient Babylon to Internet Algorithms”. The mainstream media have been involved in imperialist wars by relaying propaganda from the US military and its allies. Today we notice that there is a debate about the fake news. Have mainstream media kept their credibility? Do not they serve the dominant interests and is this debate on fake news not just wrong and biased? Can we receive journalistic ethics lessons from some media that claim to be references like NY TimeCNNBBC, etc. while they are propaganda media of dominant interests, watchdogs?

Fake news isn’t confined to the media. The medical industry spreads fake news about the brilliance of its products, even going so far as setting up fake journals to give their drugs positive reviews. Industry experts write papers and hire academics to put their names to them. In the early days of war reporting, when film and photography came into use, the technology was so novel that war correspondents could get away with faking battle scenes, using actors. Many “classic” war photos are actually re-enactments. Today, we can tell that some images are frauds, but at the time they looked real to an audience unfamiliar with the new technology. Then there’s colonial fake news: that the famines in Ireland in the 19th century were caused by potato blight, when in fact colonial Britain understood perfectly well that the blight was merely a trigger. The underlying causes of the famine were the transformation of Irish agriculture by the British into monocultures for export and domestic markets, like potatoes, as well as the exportation of food to the UK during the starvation period.

So fake news is nothing new and its general aim is to keep the public subordinated to power.

Has that changed with the internet, where information can come from the ground up? Not much. If you look at the most popular blogs and websites from ten or 15 years ago – Huffington PostPolitico, the Daily BeastVice — you find that many were set up by figures who worked for mainstream newspapers. Ariana Huffington, for instance, was already a millionaire when she co-founded the Huffington Post with Andrew Breitbart, who, with the backing of the billionaire Robert Mercer, later established Breitbart News. So, under the pretense of using this revolutionary new medium, the “alternative” sites were dominated by establishment figures. In addition, it’s important to remember that we hear claims that the mainstream media–CNNBBCNew York Times, etc,–have declined in audience ratings. It’s true that print revenues for newspapers are down, but if you look at the rankings online, the most popular news sites are not generally the alternative sources, they are the establishment: Daily MailBBCNew York Times, Yahoo!(which sources from the Associated Press, Reuters), and so on.

Trust in mainstream sources has been declining for years. Some polls suggest that even the respected BBC is now less trusted than Wikipedia, which is itself a source of disinformation, as journalist Helen Buyniski has documented. This steady decline in trust has occurred for the very simple reason that media coverage of events do not reflect the everyday experiences of ordinary people. In the US and Britain, most media are private corporations that have an interest in presenting to people a picture of the world that reflects the interests and, crucially, experiences of the major shareholders and CEOs of corporations. Occasional articles here or there present a different picture, but the general tone is one conducive to elite interests. The so-called “liberal” media, like the New York Times, tend to be culturally liberal in terms of supporting gay rights or empathizing with refugees. This annoys the right-wing, whose media are culturally “conservative” (meaning antihuman). But when it comes to key issues, such as workers’ rights or economic regulation (the kind of things that could really help ordinary people), neither left nor right media reflect most people’s major concerns.

If we look at the issues that matter to most people, they are the economy, employment, and migration. A study by the Reuters Institute and Oxford University analyzed hundreds of media articles published after the financial crisis of ’08. They found that the vast majority of reporting was either neutral or pro-financial sector. That simply didn’t reflect reality, so why would anyone trust that kind of reporting, either on the left or on the right? This generalizes. When it comes to foreign policy, the mainstream consensus is that war is good. The “conservative” Fox News sold the invasion of Iraq in 2003 on a pack of lies, just as much as the “liberal” New York Times did. More recently, President Trump’s rhetoric, though not the reality, has been against foreign wars. The alternative far-right media support this narrative, but they do so with strong anti-Islamic bias, to the point of Islamophobia, in fact. Take, say, Breitbart News’ coverage of Daesh. Breitbart claimed that in its Issue 15 of its jihadi magazine Dabiq, Daesh said that it will always attack Westerners because most of us are non-Muslim. The BBC, which is considered to be a liberal news organization reported on it, too. The only difference between the reporting is that the BBC implied that not all Muslims are extremists, whereas as Breitbart implied that Issue 15 of Dabiq was typical of Islam.

The trouble is that Issue 15 was a fraud, probably published by US intelligence. Daesh issued a statement warning its followers not to read Issue 15. So, the BBC a respect organization was quoting from a fraud as if it was real. This important revelation about the fakery was reported in a single news outlet, as far as I can see: Vice online. So, we cannot trust the so-called alternative any more than we can trust the mainstream. We have to evaluate evidence and be skeptical about everything we see, hear, and read—including about what I’m saying.

We should also be wary of self-appointed fact-checkers. You shouldn’t let some else check facts on your behalf. How do you know if they’re telling you the truth? Take Snopes and its article on the Iran nuclear deal. Nowhere in that article do you see the reports from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists or other experts who say that not only does Iran have a right to develop nuclear energy but various UN reports have confirmed that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. The Bulletin’s reporters also note that the US has pressured the UN to unconstitutionally probe Iranian weapons facilities to a greater extent than the agreements require. So, as usual, the US is a bully. But an even bigger question is, what right does the US have to impose any kind of “deal” on Iran or indeed any country? If we want to follow international law, that’s for the UN to decide. The idea that the US has an inherent right to make Iran or North Korea adhere to a deal is also fake news.

About your enlightening book “Great Brexit Swindle“, do not you think that the vote for Brexit was a scam that serves the interests of the ruling classes, bankers, billionaires, the 1%, at the expense of the disadvantaged classes?

The British elites, including politicians and businesses, are split over whether to Leave or Remain in the EU. A majority of elites clearly favor Remain, hence the Leave agenda has stalled, for the time. However, a powerful lobby wants to exit the EU for its own financial interests, not in the interests of ordinary working people, or even in the class interests of fellow elites. I call the two camps the Heseltine Faction, after the neoliberal Remainer, Michael Heseltine: and the other, the Lawson Faction, after the ultra-neoliberal Leaver, Nigel Lawson; both of whom are former Conservative cabinet ministers. So, the pro-Leave agenda was a scam by a small number of the ruling elite, namely those who want to deregulate financial markets (the Lawson Faction).

It’s important to remember that more than 50% of Conservative party funding comes from hedge funds and other financial institutions, so Remain politicians are financially blackmailed to push through Brexit by the financial institutions and party donors that want to Leave.

It’s pretty clear that the majority of business owners and politicians wanted to Remain in the European Union. For them, slow economic growth in a neoliberal Union was preferable to the uncertainty of Leaving. Investment banks call this “stability” and “predictability,” which is why they like to promote multilateral trade and investment deals or unions, like the EU, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and so on. But for the last 20 years or more, a new breed of profiteer class has grown in importance: financial services and their specialists. Financial services include insurance companies, hedge funds, liquidity firms, and so on. They have an opposite view to the more traditional neoliberals. They believe that bilateral trade and investment work best because they aren’t importing and exporting products that need assembling and reimporting, the way traditional producers are. They rely on digital transactions that require very little human resources. For them, the new and more profitable economy is pure money: making money from money. They see lucrative markets in the growing economies of Asia. These are ultra-neoliberals. So the neoliberal EU is terrible for working people, but the ultra-neoliberal financial markets economy is even worse.

Brexit and the political fallout is due to this battle between the status quo neoliberals who think they ought to Remain part of the EU and the ultra-neoliberals who want to Leave. Elements of the Conservative party in the UK have always hated Europe because some of the strongest players, notably France, have retained some state controls over their economies. The ultra-neoliberals in the UK want as few state controls as possible, except where state controls benefit their cronies. For example, they were happy to have state intervention to bail out the banks after the crisis in ’08-09. But they were not happy when the EU imposed some rules (MIFID and MIFID II) on financial transactions. The government’s Bank of England was not under the control of the European Central Bank, contrary to what a lot of Britons thought. But private financiers were constrained by EU directives.

The interests of the ultra-neoliberal faction coincided with the anger of a large number of working-class Britons who were conditioned by media propaganda to believe that the EU was responsible for their economic misery. Had the British been Greek or Irish, it would have been true. In those countries, the deliberate choice to impose brutal financial austerity on the public of Europe came from the EU bureaucrats and Troika: the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the US-led International Monetary Fund. But British fiscal and monetary policy is not determined by the EU due to the fact that Britain never accepted the euro as its currency or accepted European Central Bank jurisdiction. In fact, Britain was, in some ways, never really part of the EU. It never accepted the euro as its currency, never signed onto the Schengen Area of free movement, and it opted out of a record number of agreements. On occasion, EU Directives are cited by the British government as the pretext to privatize public assets. For example, the privatization of Royal Mail, the British postal service, was enacted under an EU Directive that made privatization mandatory. But successive British governments were committed to privatization anyway, regardless of EU membership.

As this was going on politically, serious public discontent over the status quo was brewing among working-class Britons, particularly Northerners. The City of London, in the South, has disproportionate influence over people’s lives. It is in London where policy is set and budgets are finalized. Ordinary people who have little control over their lives are at the mercy of hated, London-centric political elites. There’s also a lot of racism and xenophobia in the UK. People say that foreign workers are taking “their” jobs and “their” housing. There’s some truth to that. There is a shortage of affordable housing and decent, well-paying jobs. But instead of pushing the government via local political representatives to spend more money building council houses and investing in skills for British working people, the public have been trained by the right-wing media–the Sun, the Daily Mail, and others–to blame economically vulnerable people (the immigrants) for their plight.EU arrangements on freedom of movement made it possible for migrants from Poland and elsewhere to get easy access to the UK. It was after the mid-2000s that the real Euroscepticism (i.e., hatred of Europe) accelerated among the British working-class. The lack of government investment, particularly in the North, an aging population (people tend to get more right-wing as they get older), and an influx of migrants created a powder keg.

After the financial crisis in 2007-08, the EU imposed some very minor financial reforms on the institutions that caused the crash. Some of them didn’t like this and lobbied the Conservative party in the UK to Leave the EU in order to avoid the regulation. They were able to exploit working people’s hatred of the EU and thus we have Brexit. It’s very easy to prove what’s going on, but try finding a mention of it in the media.

US politicians have always been in the pockets of big business. But Trump has taken it even further, writing in his book The America We Deserve (2000) that “nonpoliticians,” meaning businessmen (and most of them are men) “represent the wave of the future.”So, Trump is what happens when big business takes over.

Trump portrayed himself as a rebel, an outsider. That’s nonsense. Trump is or was friends with the Clintons. There are photos of him golfing with Bill. He went from “lock her up” (referring to Hillary) on the campaign to, “They’re good people. I don’t wanna hurt them…”(the Clintons) as President-elect. The Trump supporters and fanatics like Alex Jones like to ignore these facts. Trump is also a pure opportunist. He’s not a far-right ideologue like Steve Bannon. Back in 1999 with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, Trump was asked what he thought of the Republicans. He said that they were “too crazy right.” Trump’s view at the time simply reflected the mood of the country, not his personal ideology. Most Americans were relatively Democratic, hence the electoral win of Democrat Al Gore a year later, which was stolen for George W. Bush by the electoral college. But as the Democrats under Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton moved further to the right, many potential Democrat voters gave up on the party. As this was going on, an insurgency in the form of the Tea Party was taking place on the right, and gaining momentum. Although he distanced himself from the Tea Party because it was not right-wing enough, Steve Bannon associated with them for a while. Trump sensed that enough of the country had been radicalized against the Democrats and against the so-called “moderate Republicans” (whom he called “crazy right” in the late-90s) to make his presidency tenable. It’s pure careerism.

How did Trump succeed? He won, technically, because of the electoral college system. But the roots go deeper. Why were there enough Americans willing to vote for this disgusting figure? From the end of the Second World War until the mid-to-late-1970s, the US was a kind of state-capitalist nation. Banks invested in communities: in housing, cars, people’s futures, and so on. The economy was relatively stable, minus a couple of comparatively small recessions. To counter those, there were some significant social programmes, like President Johnson’s Great Society project, or “war on poverty.” Even President Nixon was forced to enact legislation written by progressives like Ralph Nader. But the financial elites also pushed for economic deregulation. Over the next few decades, the entire political spectrum drift further to the right, where the Democrats became Republicans and Republicans became far-right lunatics, or at least the Trump faction.

The socioeconomic consequences were serious. The poor largely gave up voting as the Democrats, their traditional representatives, simply turned to the Wall Street elites for funding. The middle- and upper-middle classes, the kind of people who voted for Trump in the 2016 election, not only saw their share of the wealth decline over the previous few decades, they also saw demographic changes. The Bill Clinton-signed NAFTA “free trade” deal led to an increase in Mexican migration, as 2 million Mexican farming jobs were wiped out. NAFTA was actually finalized by George Bush I, but Trump supporters dismiss that by saying that Bush was really too left-wing(!). In addition, the Black population has continued to grow. So, many white, middle-class Americans, particularly rural ones, see their income decline, their quality of life suffer, their children’s lives get harder, and what they see as “their” country being taken over by “illegals” and Blacks. Until Trump, the Republican voters and backers were split over Tea Partiers and those who held less extreme views. But neither faction particularly appealed to the kind of voters whose lives had been getting progressively worse, hence the major hedge fund backers gave up on candidate Ted Cruz and reluctantly shifted their money over to Donald Trump, who appealed to these generations of unfortunates with his catchy slogans: “lock her up!”, “Drain the swamp!”, “Make America Great Again,” etc.

Trump’s only “rebellious” qualities are his public displays of vulgarity. In the real world, his major donors were the very same people who deregulated and wrecked the economy; the financial sector. As the media eat up the nonsense about his alleged senility, sex life, dietary habits, and so on, the real policies, his Executive Orders, are signed behind closed doors with little comment:the setting up of a task-force on more financial markets and financial technologies (which will ultimately lead to another crash in thirty or so years’ time);the ripping up of climate regulations to make air quality even worse and extract more fossil fuels;the renegotiation of NAFTA to make it easier to export more US biotech (which could include genetically-modified goods);expanding the bombing of the Middle East; and the continuation of the missile system aimed at Russia, which could lead to nuclear war.

In your book “Fire and Fury”, you make a statement of what is happening in Southeast Asia. In your opinion, what is behind the Trump administration’s dubious game targeting China and North Korea?

Trump is being berated by the “liberal” mainstream media for doing what any sensible politician would do (not that Trump is sensible!), namely making moves to de-escalate tensions with North Korea. The situation is extremely precarious, with US-EU sanctions on North Korea pushing the population literally to the edge of survival, plunging many (we don’t have the exact numbers) into famine; and with North Korea test-firing missiles over Japan, a close US-ally.

There is a history behind this. After WWII, the US carved Korea into two entities, North and South. In the South, the US worked with a dictatorial regime that murdered tens of thousands of Koreans. The pretense for supporting this regime was anti-communism. The North was essentially ceded to Soviet control in the form of US appeasement to Stalin. Now-declassified US military documents reveal that Western war planners understood that Stalin did not want to invade the South. Other declassified documents reveal that the North’s invasion of the South in 1950 was a response to US-South Korea military build-ups. Not that it was justified, but it could be read as a form of pre-emptive war; the mantra of George W. Bush in 2003 when he invaded Iraq. In response to the North’s predicted invasion of the South, the US, by its own military records, wiped out 20% of the population of the North and destroyed 90% of its buildings. Other documents reveal that, having learned its lesson about the sheer brutality of the US empire and war machine, the North Korean regime built fortified subterranean bunkers in case of future attacks.

Since then, the US has violated treaty after treaty with the North. Far from being this weird country closed off to the world, as Western media claims, North Korea has been deliberately isolated by the US. Violating the Armistice Agreement, the US positioned weapons, possibly nuclear, in South Korea in the 1950s. Despite this, a CIA report says that there was a “decade of quiet,” until the US invaded Vietnam and provoked North Korea into starting tit-for-tat maneuvers as a warning to the US. This began four phases of build-ups, mainly involving US-South Korean military exercises which have increased in size since the 1960s. The US even war-games nuclear attacks on the North. The right-wing Heritage Foundation acknowledges that it was as late as 1994 that the US attempted diplomacy with the North. But when George W. Bush came to power and labeled North Korea part of the “Axis of Evil,” the diplomacy vanished. The US never lived up to its commitments to replace North Korea’s nuclear reactors, supply fuel, and so on. So, in response, North Korea re-initiated its nuclear weapons programme, which even US military experts—like the annual threat assessments to Congress—agree are designed to deter US attacks against it. Try finding that in the media.

But it’s important to remember that the US has no legal or moral right to make North Korea give up its nuclear programme, any more than North Korea has a right to make the US give up its own.

In terms of Trump’s strategy, I think we need to look at the bigger picture. When it comes to foreign policy, the Pentagon is in charge. There are lobbyists and the media are very pro-war. Congresspeople who vote against military budgets and war, if there are any, are told that they’re being unpatriotic. The Pentagon sees itself as the military guarantor of a global architecture that enables the US to run the world. They call it “full spectrum dominance” and cite the satellites that enable our internet, banking, GPS, air traffic control, shipping, and so on, to operate. Their mission is to “protect” this infrastructure and in doing so shape the world for US corporate interests. Until the 1980s, South Korea was a kind of capitalist economy. It had some state controls and traded and exported via relatively normal tariffs with the rest of the world. But by the 1990s, that had changed. South Korea is now a neoliberal economy. The same pattern is repeated, but less successfully in China, which is now a semi-neoliberal economy with state controls. North Korea is getting there, very slowly. So the entire region is shifting toward US-led neoliberalism.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect that the US wants a united, neoliberal Korea to act as a strategic bulwark against China: to make China continue with the kind of neoliberal policies that benefit US corporations like Apple and to ensure that, militarily, China doesn’t get too big for its boots. The US wouldn’t suddenly allow peace and the possibility of reunification between the two Koreas unless it served some, as-yet unclear, interest.

Your important book “Human Wrongs: British Social Policy and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” goes against the popular belief relayed by propaganda and the media lies (you mention the deaths of 20,000 pensioners a year who can not pay for their heating, 40,000 people who die every year from air pollution, the limits on freedom of speech, the massive surveillance of the British by deep State, etc.). This book has the merit of showing the true face of Britain. Do not you think it’s nonsense to talk about human rights and democracy in Britain?

It’s not nonsense to talk of human rights in Britain. Britain has more domestic human rights than, say, Saudi Arabia. But it is nonsense to think that rights were given by elites. The history of rights is a long one. In various history books like A.L. Morton’s A People’s History of England or E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, we see that the origins of trade unions, the women’s movement, enfranchisement for working people, and so on, were hard-won by popular resistance. For example, by the year 1700 just 3% of the population, the aristocratic class, had the right to vote. By 1800, so-called Combination Acts were passed in order to prevent working people from forming associations. These became known as trade unions. Next year will mark the 200thanniversary of the Peterloo Massacre—the massacre of 15 people who had protested the socioeconomic conditions of the time. It was as late as 1884 with the passing of the Third Reform Act that working-class men over the age of 21 won the right to vote. The rights that exist today should not be dismissed out of hand, but more rights need to be won. The elites can pass more laws to hinder unions, but they can’t, for example, massacre Britons in the street as they did 200 years ago.

However, by comparison to other European countries, Britain’s rights are seriously lacking. On all sorts of measures, from maternal and infant mortality to child well-being and life expectancy, Britain’s level is very low. In fact, Britain is like an Eastern European, ex-Soviet country. The reason for this is economic neoliberalism and, unlike European countries, which are also neoliberal to an extent, the dissolution of state controls over the economy. After the Second War World, Britain was so wrecked that national investment and rebuilding was required. The nascent Labour Party, then just 45 years old, succeeded in convincing enough people to back comprehensive state reconstruction. The National Health Service was established and social security guaranteed for everyone. The Conservatives (Tories) hated the idea but conceded that both had popular support. By the 1970s, the so-called New Conservativism was established. The Labour Party moved further to the right, with the help of American money (Giles Scott-Smith has good material on this). By the 1980s, socialism was old-hat and even derided as dangerous. Increasingly brutal financial austerity and anti-union laws were passed against the backdrop of a “greed is good” culture.

The socioeconomic consequences have been horrendous. Since the year 2010 and with the imposition of more austerity following the financial crisis, 120,000 people have died due to social cutbacks. It’s a death-toll that Islamic State could only dream of inflicting. And it is a choice. If we compare Britain to other economies like Germany, France, and Italy, those which have tighter controls, we see fewer deaths and less social misery. That’s changing now with the neoliberal Macron in power in France, but the situation continues to remain markedly better for Britain’s counterparts in Europe.

I wrote the book Human Wrongs in response to this year being the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The kind of social policies that I mentioned have extreme consequences for the poorest. In fact, Britain has violated all 30 articles of the UDHR in recent years; and that’s on domestic issues alone, never mind foreign policy. These include the right to life and the right to be free from torture, to more subtle rights, like the right to decent housing and the right to adequate pay. The people in power want to exploit the population as much as possible, even if societal collapse is the result. Dominic Raab, a Tory and ephemeral Brexit Secretary, is a lawyer by training. He wrote a book explaining that in his view (typical of a Tory), rights should not extend beyond vagaries like “liberty.” In his book The Assault on Liberty, Raab is quite clear that free healthcare and decent housing should not extend to the level of rights, contrary to what the UDHR says.

Do not you think that the dramatic situation in which Julian Assange is left since years is inhuman and that the incredible fury that targets him reveals the true face of these false Western democracies?

Assange’s mental torture at the hands of the UK, which has effectively imprisoned him, and the US, which has not withdrawn the threat to arrest and possibly execute him, sets an example to potential whistleblowers: do this and be punished.

But WikiLeaks has a background. There is a global movement, much of it funded by the same kind of elites who gave us Donald Trump, to bring down governments. It’s ridiculously called “anarcho-capitalism,” as if anarchism and capitalism could ever go together. WikiLeaks began in this context. As far as I know, the organization has not received a penny from Trump’s backers, but these self-styled “libertarians” and “anarchists” are the same kind of people that supported WikiLeaks. Vaughan Smith in the UK is one such example; a wealthy, land-owning elite who wants to shatter the system and who offered Assange some protection for as long as possible. If you look at WikiLeaks’ earliest exposés, they tended to focus on the governments of poor countries, like Somalia and Kenya, exposing corruption there. This, presumably, interested the US State Department, which likes to condemn the corruption abroad as a weapon against countries that do not have or do not honor business contracts with the US. However, WikiLeaks also exposed the US. Their aim was to expose everyone. Assange didn’t seem to care from whom he received funding. Emails reveal that he was perfectly happy to “fleece,” in his words, the CIA and other organizations. Assange’s handle was “Mendax” which means Liar in Latin.

Nobody asked why the elite mainstream media was paying attention, i.e., giving a platform, to WikiLeaks and ignoring more significant whistleblower sites, like Cryptome.

It seemed that Assange thought that he could use the system, but the system has used him. Don’t get me wrong: WikiLeaks has done fantastic work. I visit the site frequently and quote its leaks in my own books. But being interested in so-called libertarian causes meant that Assange was expected to back those claiming to be libertarian. Notice that WikiLeaks has little dirt on Trump. WikiLeaks released carefully-timed emails during the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that caused her approval rating, which was already low, to drop even lower. This played a part in Trump becoming president. Progressives were alarmed by this, including the great journalist Allan Nairn and Democracy Now! presenter, Amy Goodman (both of whom are old colleagues).They raked Assange over the coals during an interview because of his politicization of WikiLeaks. At that point, WikiLeaks basically exposed itself for what it is: a tool for more anarchic elites, as I’ve been trying to tell people for years(no one on the “left” would publish my findings because everyone wants to believe in a hero; Assange in this case).

But, as I say, regardless of its politics, WikiLeaks has done great work and put the mainstream to shame. Initially, the New York Times and Guardian rode the coattails of Assange’s success. Then, they turned against Assange. The only people sticking up for him were the progressives. But when he pulled that trick and released the Clinton emails in time for the presidential elections, the progressives turned against him. If self-styled libertarians who support Trump thought that Trump would save Assange, having previously declared his “love” of WikiLeaks, they were horribly mistaken. Assange is now trapped in some kind of legal limbo. The British have violated articles of the UDHR, mentioned above, by detaining Assange; a point flagged by the UN, which declared that his treatment by Britain is contrary to international law.

You draw attention to activism against free trade agreements in Privatized Planet: Free Trade as a Weapon Against Democracy, Healthcare and the Environment. Do not you think that we need a united front of resistance against the globalized capitalism and ultra-liberalism that lead the human race to extinction and the planet to death? Is it too late to influence the balance of power and to bring people back to decide their future?

It’s difficult to form a united front against corporation globalization for a number of reasons. The major one is that people’s jobs rely on corporations. In the UK, and I assume it’s similar elsewhere, 9 out of 10 businesses fail in the first couple of years. Eight out of ten businesses, roughly, employ fewer than 20 people. So globalization is a privilege of the large, monopolistic employers. That means that most people rely on larger businesses for their employment. How are people to protest against the very system that employs them? That’s a crucial catch-22.

Next comes the issue of advantage. Until the 1970s, roughly, most Americans and Europeans benefited from corporate globalization and a regulated economy. Most people were middle-class. They had opportunities to buy a home and raise children, who would go on to have an even better future. That wasn’t true of everyone, of course: ethnic minorities were, on the whole, the major exception. But generally, the picture is correct. By the 1970s, that started to change. In response, self-styled heroes like Donald Trump come along and appeal to core elements of the shrinking middle-class; the very people who could once again benefit from corporatism. So, how can we appeal to people like that and encourage them to push for a more equal form of grassroots globalism?

There are all kinds of events taking place around the world. If working people could learn about these events via democratized media, there might be a greater chance of solidarity and cooperation against elites. In the early-2000s, there were textile strikes in Bangladesh over the awful working conditions there. Had British workers, who sell the garments made in Bangladesh, been aware of these conditions they might have been able to lend their support. Instead, the Bangladeshi military was called in, Operation Clean Heart, to suppress the social uprising. Britain supplied the arms. A few years later in neighboring India, women protested outside one of the central banks of India to cancel the debts that are leading Indians to sell their body organs to survive. That was reported by Reuters, if I recall, but received little attention elsewhere. Unionization is one of the key tools in overcoming the corporate abuses of human beings and the environment. Colombia is one of the worst cases. The UK’s companies, or at least co-owned companies, have really exploited the civil war and government oppression of self-styled Marxist elements. Oil giant BP, brewer SABMiller, and mining firm AngloGold Ashanti operate in Colombia. The Colombian military and its links to paramilitaries (now gangs) have set conditions in which corporate operations are highly profitable. Unionists, students, left-wing politicians, environmental activists, and others, are bullied, intimidated, kidnapped, tortured, and even killed. There are some links between British unions and Colombian unions; a link which raises awareness of Colombians’ plight in the UK.

But we should be careful not to believe the professed aims of leaders like Trump. Trump tore up the corporate globalization treaties like TPP and renegotiated NAFTA for a simple reason: those “deals” weren’t profitable enough for US businesses. TPP contained tax loopholes to allow foreign countries to charge the US hidden value-added taxes. The public who don’t know or care about the details of so-called free trade deals were duped into believing that Trump cares about American workers. The fact is that Trump’s team prefer one-on-one or bilateral deals. In a bilateral set-up, the US is the dominant of any two countries, including China. (China’s economic rise is largely a myth, given that major investors are US-based.) But in a political union, like the EU or the TPP, the US is weaker. The interests of working Americans, i.e., not to sign on to TPP, coincided with the interests of big business; to have a “free trade” deal that included provisions against hidden taxes. It was a bit like Brexit: it benefited some elites and coincided with public opinion. In addition, growing numbers of corporations are relying on automation. Foreign countries simply haven’t the infrastructure to assemble US products with robots, so US companies are on-shoring (coming home). Trump can claim credit for this by claiming that he’s bringing jobs back to America.

The major hope and indeed action comes in the form of political engagement. Syriza of Greece totally sold the Greek people out to the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank—the Troika. But at least it has some leftist policies. Its failings have led the way for the right-wing New Democracy, which is currently leading in the polls. Podemos in Spain is another example of moderately leftist progress which, if successful, could be pushed even further by grassroots activism. Though not yet in power in the UK, Corbyn’s Labour Party is by now the biggest political party in terms of grassroots membership in Europe. There are dangers, too, with Austria and Italy now led by far-right governments. Both far-right and far-left parties profess an anti-globalization agenda but neither fully commit to ending their support for corporate globalization.

We need to act fast because it’s not at all certain that a neoliberal corporate agenda can survive. Last year, I wrote an article for Truthout documenting the numerous indigenous peoples around the world, “tribes” as we dismissively call them, who are literally facing extinction. That’s what our civilization and its reliance on corporate greed has done, driven thousands of endangered peoples to the edge of literal extinction. Their plight is a taste of things to come. If we look at social data in societies that have been first hit with financial crises and then by neoliberal programmes, we see massive mortality rates. Neoliberalism literally kills. Neoliberalism is a system of institutionalized greed which measures everything in terms of its financial value. A global system based on those inhuman principles can’t survive for long.

You have published “Voices for Peace”, a book co-authored by several personalities of which I interviewed some of them, such as Kathy Kelly and Noam Chomsky.According to you, are the voices of these personalities not very important in the fight of the resisters around the world?

These voices are important representatives. Each author has contributed different things to humanity in different ways. In the 1970s, journalist John Pilger raised millions of dollars to help Cambodian famine victims. He literally saved lives. Today, John does other vital work in raising awareness about the lies of government. Kathy Kelly is associated with numerous groups, particularly Voices for Creative Non-Violence, in Afghanistan, providing blankets, emotional support, and more. Brian Terrell is a dedicated anti-war, anti-drone activist who has been arrested on multiple occasions. Bruce K. Gagnon pioneered raising awareness about the weaponization of space and continues to keep the momentum going by organizing protests, doing interviews, and writing articles. For Palestinians, it’s an important psychological boost to have Israeli Jews like Ilan Pappé speaking up for their rights.

The book begins by talking about grassroots activists, like those who drop water bottles in the deserts of the border between the US and Mexico, so that dying refugees might survive,or the brave volunteers who take boats out into the waters of Europe to look for men, women, and child refugees who would otherwise drown or catch hypothermia. These grassroots activists have an acute sense of humanity and compassion. They don’t need high-profile figures like Chomsky to motivate them, but high-profile names are important to represent them and their causes, directly or indirectly, to wider audiences. Featuring big names is a way of attracting attention to important, on-the-ground work often done by others; but also done by many of the people featured in the book.

You are the director and founder of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research. Can you introduce your organization to our readers?

PIPR was founded in 2014 by my partner and I to commemorate the start of the First World War and to draw attention to the wars and oppression going on today. PIPR is a website. It is an independent organization funded out of pocket; in other words, it has close to zero funding. This was a deliberate choice, as I did not want the agenda to be shaped by financial backers—not that I had any offers. Unlike war, peace is not a profitable pursuit. The only thing for sale on the site are my books. There is no advertising. The site has a document archive consisting of what I consider to be the most important documents: The US military’s drone expansion plan; the US Army-Air Force “owning the weather” agenda to test climate-change technologies; the US Space Command’s declaration of war on the world, it’s “full spectrum dominance” agenda; and others.

The site also hosts videos, in particular, a BBC documentary acknowledging MI6 and CIA terror attacks across Europe after World War II, Operation Gladio. There is a Links page to other (what I regard to be) progressive and anti-war organizations, like Amnesty International and Code Pink. There is an Honorary Members page. Honorary members include: Suaad Genem, an Israeli-Palestinian who was basically bullied out of her homeland due to her commitments to secular political parties advocating Palestinian rights; Kathy Kelly, whom I mentioned above; John Pilger; and Dr. Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman and activist. Some Honorary Members contributed nothing to the site and were removed. Others turned out to be charlatans and were also removed. The Events page supports Bruce K. Gagnon of Space4Peace. We also publish articles on a range of topics. Over the last few years, we’ve acted as a mirror site for Kathy’s group, Voices for Creative Non-Violence by re-publishing the articles on their site, most of which concern their on-the-ground work in Afghanistan.

PIPR was established when my partner and I lived in Exeter, UK, and were involved in a number of peace-related activities close to or inside the city: Palestine Solidarity, anti-slavery, the Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament, and so on. It seemed sensible to establish and use PIPR as a kind of hub in which these seemingly disparate activities could coalescence under the general banner of peace. In terms of practical, grassroots activism: We marched in protest and held vigils against Israel’s further demolition of Gaza in 2014; joined the protests against the drone factory UAV Engines in Shenstone, UK; supported Exeter’s Music for Peace events; manned stalls to sell books and distribute peace-related leaflets at the Exeter Respect festival; spoke at the local Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival in Dorset, UK; and gave talks elsewhere, including to the Cambridge Stop the War Coalition.

Moving from Exeter to a more rural area has made it more difficult to keep up the grassroots activism, hence my current focus on writing. As the First World War commemorations, such as they were, come to an end, the site has served its purpose. At its peak, we were getting around one thousand unique hits per day, with no advertising or promotion. This resulted solely from the popularity of interviewees and contributors, including those mentioned above as well as Ilan Pappé. Our biggest academic successes included interviewing Noam Chomsky and publishing Bruce K. Gagnon’s article which was cited by Sonoma State University’s Project Censored in its Censored 2016 book. Public attention was drawn to PIPR by accident when Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, which shares its title with one of my books, received publicity from Newsweek. The latter ran a story on books with the same title as Wolff’s. PIPR was mentioned in the article. It’s a shame that the mainstream considered us to be of peripheral interest piqued by the coincidence of the success of Wolff’s mainstream book. Wolff’s book is mostly unsubstantiated gossip. But that says a lot about the culture of fame and the respect and attention given to people of high status.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Dr. T. J. Coles is a postdoctoral researcher at Plymouth University’s Cognition Institute, working on issues relating to blindness and visual impairment. A columnist with AxisOfLogic.com, he has written about politics and human rights for a number of publications, including CounterPunch and Truthout. Books include Union Jackboot (with Matthew Alford), Manufacturing Terrorism(Clairview Books), Britain’s Secret WarsHuman WrongsReal Fake NewsVoice for PeaceThe Great Brexit Swindle,  President Trump, Inc.and Fire and Fury.

Facing Propaganda The dirty war on Syria مواجهة بروباغندا الحرب القذرة على سوريا

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