Phoenix and the rebirth of evil part I:

Phoenix and the rebirth of evil part I:

By Ken Leslie for the Saker Blog

The Poglavnik of the East[1]

“I know no way of judging the future but the past.”

Patrick Henry, 1765

“This time, it’s different”

Any gambler bleeding thousands of dollars at a table in Las Vegas

These days we all seem preoccupied with daily events which are taking a turn for the worse. No, not everything is “bad” but only those who are sound asleep do not hear the cold winds of war rattling the windows. My previous essay “Two clicks to midnight” has caused quite a stir with over 20000 views and hundreds of comments. I put it to you that this is not the result of my brilliant writing and analytical skills (I mean this) but the ability to express something that many people keep hidden inside—questions about the true nature of the system in which we live, their inchoate fears and half-buried memories. I believe in the cathartic power of the truth (the way I see it) and it appears that so do many others. This in itself is encouraging because it means that under layers of lies, anxieties, complexes and dogmas, there lies a good human heart capable of love and redemption. Given the current state of the world, this is the only way I know of fighting for a more hopeful tomorrow—warts and all.

Our gracious host has achieved fame (he might disagree!) through a knowledgeable and timely analysis of the Western military-political nexus that is using all its power to destroy Russia and China. His prescient and nuanced assessments of the situation in the “East” have made many of us loyal visitors and contributors to this blog. Now, I can’t hope to offer anything like the military analysis a la Saker of Andrey Martyanov. And that is just as well because they are doing an excellent job. What I can do well is to observe certain historical patterns and try to interpret them in the modern setting. As knowers say, history does not repeat itself but it rhymes. It is these “rhymes” or similarities between historical events that tell us all we need to know about the limited cognitive grasp of the human beings as well as partial predictability of human behaviour. Of course, the complexity of the systems in question precludes any confident claims but nevertheless—past is all we have and we’d better learn how to use its lessons pronto.

Of course, there is danger of overestimating the importance of past events but it is equally dangerous to ignore them. In applied probability, these two types of bias are called “Hot Hand” and “Gambler’s fallacy” and they hamper any analysis of complex events. Yet, as noted by Patrick Henry above, all we have is the past and we’d better study it carefully—if judiciously.[2] And then, there are the emotions—yearning for justice in the face of a blatant injustice and anger at the abandon with which criminal elites hiding behind the holiest of principles have destroyed innocent human lives. After decades if not centuries of demonisation of Russia in all its forms, the time has come to fight back—to turn the light of history on its enemies. As some of you might have noticed, I have focussed almost exclusively on Roman Catholicism at the risk of alienating some readers. This does not mean that evil is the exclusive province of the Vatican but that a large proportion of recent historical tragedies are closely linked with if not caused by it. Given the nature of these tragedies, I intend to explore the nefarious role of this “Official” Christianity in some detail.

In the infernal Encyclopaedia of human beastliness that is kept bound and chained to the gates of Hell there are few events as heart breaking and anger provoking as the War in Vietnam, one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in modern history. “Conflict” is not the right term here. Rather, the Wars in Vietnam which started in 1945 and ended in 1975 represent an archetype of naked criminal aggression and genocide waged by all weapons in the arsenal of the Western “democracy” against an old and proud people which only wanted to see the backs of foreign invaders. 19th Century was very unkind to the peoples of East Asia in that it brought with it an unstoppable surge of Western imperialism greedy for raw materials and cheap labour. The British, the Dutch and finally the French swooped on the rich rubber and timber-growing fields of Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam respectively, crushing any resistance with the aid of modern weapons and advanced political warfare techniques. Although each of these examples deserves in-depth treatment, I wish to devote and dedicate this essay to Vietnam, whose suffering brings tears to any feeling person’s eyes even today 45 years after colonel Ted Serong clambered up the rickety ladder on the roof of the Saigon embassy leaving the long-suffering country in utter ignominy. If you are wondering who this is, you’ll need to wait for part II.

You may ask—why now? There are several reasons. First, historical amnesia is very dangerous and as stated by President Putin, deliberate attempts by those who fought on the side of evil to embellish their role and soothe their ravaged consciences can only bring us closer to another global tragedy. Change is inevitable and needed but not at the expense of the rehabilitation of the worst human instincts and thirst for iniquity. Second, even in the bloody milieu of European colonial conquest, Vietnam stands out as a symbol of martyrdom—in the Christian sense, despite or because most crimes against the Vietnamese people were committed in the name of a Church which calls itself the only true Christian faith. Third, obsessed by Eurocentrism, we tend to forget that lives and struggles of other peoples are equally as important. Finally, the topic I shall focus on is highly relevant in the modern era of limited and “targeted” military and paramilitary operations underpinned by a vast human and electronic intelligence apparatus and the largest military in the world. There are a lot of parallels between what happened in South Vietnam from 1967 to 1973 and more recent US-sponsored or executed crimes in different parts of the world.

Although I’d love to expound, this is not the place to retell the story of the tragedy of Vietnam which began with a mid-19th Century scouting expedition by several French Jesuits on behalf of French capital. Their demise at the hands of Vietnamese patriots served as a pretext for what Wikipedia describes as follows: “Vietnam’s sovereignty was gradually eroded by France, which was aided by the Spanish and large Catholic militias in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885.”[3] Although the Vietnamese fought bravely against the legions of newly-converted “rice Christians”, they could not withstand the onslaught of one of the premiere imperial powers of the day.[4] After a couple of decades of resolute resistance, the kingdom of Vietnam became another French colony to be exploited and visited by adventurers.

In their obsession with the hard-nosed “it’s all about the money” agenda, many seem to ignore the fact that the conquest of a people requires the destruction and erasure of their spiritual and cultural identity. While money is of paramount importance, it is useless if the people resisting are aware of their history and culture. This allows them to draw from deep wells of history and replenish their strength. Very often, they come out victorious in the end. The strategists of the global spiritual conquest in the Vatican have been well aware of the power of religion as a weapon to be wielded against indigenous cultures. The psychology of religious conversion is a fascinating psychological topic which deserves a separate article. Once a person converts (for personal gain or under duress), he or she becomes isolated from or ostracised by their family and wider community. Exposed to the opprobrium and shame, the new convert turns to his new family—priests and laymen who are masters at leveraging the sense of guilt and anger. This is combined with the “carrot”—the convert is told that they are special because they belong to the “true” faith. They are initiated within the new ingroup and are soon ready to turn their anger against their former friends and kin.[5]

In Vietnam, this spiritual war (which for me is the most pernicious and least explored form of aggression) resulted in the formation of a class of Vietnamese Catholic converts who struggled to reconcile their origins with a foreign religion and culture to which they were now irrevocably bound. These people became members of a nascent Vietnamese middle class whose ambition to better themselves involved supporting the French occupation and generally renouncing their Buddhist heritage. They often received a French education and tried to emulate French culture and mores. The ones who excelled were employed as low-level bureaucrats or officers. This soon brought them into conflict with those Vietnamese who saw French presence and religious encroachment for what it really was—a brazen attempt to behead the Vietnamese civilisation (which owes a lot to China) and replace it with a docile population of useful “supplétifs”, that is, deracinated aboriginals who are given just enough incentives to keep them in check. The hatred of their community would do the rest.

The ignominious defeat of the French state in 1940 was momentous for France’s colonies which soon had to decide between Petain’s Vichy and De Gaulle’s Cross of Lorraine. That same year, the seemingly unstoppable Japanese Imperial Army occupied the French Indo-China and hammered out a pragmatic agreement with the Vichy colonial government which allowed the latter to continue governing the colony with the Japanese taking on a largely overseeing role. Needless to say, the fruits of the colonial plunder started travelling due East resulting in deadly famines and the birth of a movement of Vietnamese patriots who were guided by (but never subservient to) the precepts of Marxism-Leninism.[6] This cell of exceptional individuals who devoted their lives to the struggle for freedom having spent (cumulatively) over 300 years in French prisons were led by the most exceptional of their number—one Nguyễn Sinh Cung better known as Ho Chi Minh. A tireless revolutionary, socialist, humanist and fighter against oppression, Ho had led an incredible life of adventure, adversity and reincarnation. After being largely side-lined for most of his political life, Ho grabbed the moment in 1944, when he and his comrades organised and led the indigenous guerrilla resistance to Japanese occupation. The name of the movement for the liberation of Vietnam became world-famous as the Viet Minh.

Following the war, Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of Vietnam in August 1945. He was keen to enlist the help of the United States whose anticolonialism under Roosevelt offered hope to many liberation movements. However, with the death of FDR, the US foreign policy doctrine experienced a U turn. Instead of continuing their assistance to Ho provided by the OSS in the fight against the Japanese, the newly-hatched American Empire decided to defend the colonial status quo on the pretext of fighting communism. Although exhausted and shamed by its wartime record, France reneged on any promises made by the pre-war Blum government and decided to restore its colonial empire in the hope that the false grandeur of pith helmets and white dress shoes would constitute a sufficient recompense for being a willing partner of Hitler’s own empire just a year earlier (resistance excepted).

To cut a long story short, after eight years of bloody struggle, the Vietminh succeeded in liberating their country following a brilliant victory at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. This gave rise to an international conference at which the USSR and China convinced Ho to agree to a temporary partition and a unification following a “free and fair” election in 1956. There was some anger at the time at the role Ho’s two mentors played but their reticence was understandable given the current political and economic situation as well as the hawkishness of the US foreign policy apparatus. Nevertheless, this was the crucial point in the evolution of Vietnamese Golgotha because the names of Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap became household names overnight—the great heroes of the liberation struggle—so much so that even the Americans knew that were an election to take place, the Viet Minh would take the vast majority of votes. This was absolutely unacceptable to warmongering criminals the Dulles brothers and their minions. A free Vietnam friendly to China and the USSR was a nightmare which called for a nightmarish solution. The first task for the dark cabal was to find somebody who could rival Ho as a figure of national prominence and significance. This was impossible in principle because most prominent Vietnamese politicians (including the emperor Bao Dai) were in France’s employ and the people of Vietnam at that point would rather eat raw nettles than countenance another French puppet ruling over them. However, everything was not lost.

In one of many Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States, an austere, celibate Vietnamese man, short in stature but full of noblesse oblige was waiting to be interviewed by one of the leading RC politicians of the era, Senator Michael Mansfield. Diem had left Vietnam in 1950 ostensibly to take part in a Vatican celebration but in reality, to lobby for the RC takeover of Vietnam under his family. Diem’s reputation as a nationalist who equally opposed the French and the Vietminh was played up for the media.[7] What was kept in the background was that Diem was a scion of the most powerful RC family in Vietnam as well as the fact that he had collaborated with the Japanese during the war. One of his brothers, Bishop Ngô Đình Thục was one of the most senior RC clerics in Vietnam and the co-ordinator of the takeover of this largely Buddhist country. Having been vetted by “Hitler’s Pope” Pius XII, Diem immediately acquired access to various offices discretely tucked away inside the massive brownstone buildings of Georgetown in which the fate of Vietnam was being decided at that very moment.[8] Having received the necessary instructions from his Padron in Rome, the ultra-powerful Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Francis Spellman put into motion a process that would result in one of the greatest instances of unprovoked carnage in history.

Diem’s religious zealotry and hatred of Buddhism made him an immediate hit with the Roman Catholic elites in the USA who yearned to redeem the catastrophic “loss of China” to the Communists. Immediately, a “Vietnamese Lobby” was formed consisting of some of the most prominent and influential Roman Catholic personalities on the US scene including Cardinal Spellman, Joseph and John Kennedy, judge William O. Douglass, senator Mike Mansfield and many others. Needless to say, Diem was favoured by the Dulles brothers who would play a crucial role in the formation of his semi-secret system of oppression. Under their tutelage and boosted by American money, the hitherto unknown Catholic zealot would turn Vietnam into a bulwark of anti-Communism modelled on fascist Catholic satrapies such as Spain, Croatia and Slovakia. It did not matter that Diem was almost completely unknown to the people or that up to 90% of Vietnamese population was Buddhist. These inconvenient facts would be overcome by enthusiastic CIA engineers of chaos whose task was to ensure Diem’s rule at all costs.

What happened after this is generally well known. With the help of the CIA man Edward Lansdale, Diem crushed his opponents and became president of Vietnam after a 98.2% victory in a sham election. Soon after, he instituted a reign of terror primarily targeted against Buddhists, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects as well as members of the Viet Minh who had remained in South Vietnam after the partition. On the instigation of his American bosses, he reneged on the promise of reunification and in order to strengthen his shaky hold on power organised a massive transfer of Roman Catholics from North to South Vietnam. Despite the North’s leniency towards their religion, many fell for the expensive and effective propaganda campaign funded by various US Catholic Charities and the CIA. “Virgin has gone to the South” was a potent call for hundreds of thousands of Catholic believers to leave their ancestral homes and start afresh in the newly born Civitas Dei.[9]

This unprecedented demographic shift had a twofold effect: it strengthened Diem’s popular base with Northern Catholics being vastly over-represented in his oppressive apparatus including military, intelligence, police as well as countless Catholic militias strewn around South Vietnam (e.g. Father Nguyen Lạc Hoa’s “Sea Swallows).[10] On the other hand, the population movement increased the political homogeneity of the North making its preparations for a war of liberation easier. Here is a quote from a research essay by Peter Hansen: “Jean Lacouture, for example, suggested that Ngô Đinh Diệm deliberately created a “ring of steel” by strategically placing settlements of loyalist Bắc Di Cư around Sài Gòn to protect himself both from communists and from potential enemies within the RVN: ‘As a result, surrounded by fortifications turning them into strategic hamlets, some villages filled with refugees formed a sort of a belt surrounding Saigon; it was as though the beleaguered [Ngô Đinh Diệm] regime wanted to fortify its capital with an iron guard composed of those people most hostile to communism and most violently attached to militant Catholicism.’”[11]

By 1955 everything was in place. The influx of American military and academic advisers, law-enforcement officials and economic experts gave Diem an ostensibly modern system of state repression together with his own FBI, special units, a plethora of secret services and even his own political party (Can Lao, a child of his brother Nhu’s political ambitions) which underpinned the regime’s security through the infiltration by its members into all important institutions. Diem’s secret police was headed by Dr Tran Kim Tuyen, a Catholic who excelled at cruelty and pro-regime zeal. The signal was given for an all-out campaign of anti-Buddhist and anti-left terror. Tens of thousands of innocent Buddhists were imprisoned in animal-like cages or killed by Diem’s assassination squads (akin to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen).

Like in Croatia, whole villages converted to Catholicism in order to avoid imprisonment, torture and death.[12] Hundreds of thousands were relocated into American-funded Potemkin villages called Agrovilles which were supposed to disrupt the traditional patterns of village life deemed unfriendly to the ways of the Catholic puppet Poglavnik. The terror reached its peak in 1958 and 1959. Hitherto dormant on the orders of the Hanoi government, the surviving remnants of the Vietminh started to organise and offer minimal resistance to the crazed crusader. The signal from the North to transition to armed struggle was issued with great reluctance—only after the vast majority of old and experienced cadres was eliminated by Diem’s death squads and there was a serious risk of a rebellion against the Socialist Lao Dong party by the disgruntled activists in the south.

Despite his best (worst) efforts, Diem could never overcome the ultimate barrier which separated him from the people of Vietnam—his religion. He always viewed his role as that of a Roman Catholic autocrat who holds the power of life and death over his flock. Like most religious transplants, he did not appreciate the deep animistic, Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist roots of the ancient Vietnamese civilisation. He did try to emulate these superficially for the sake of appearance but ultimately failed. He even emulated Pavelic and his successors by trying to create a congregation of “loyal” Buddhists who would support his anti-Buddhist crusade.[13] Nevertheless, for a short time, Diem was lionised by his masters in Washington as… oh, think of something… George Washington of Asia who stood alone in his deadly struggle against “Communist oppression”!. The honeymoon might have lasted longer but for the rapaciousness and zealotry of Diem, his family and his regime enforcers. The rumours of the nation-wide killing spree which had resulted in a large number of dead, imprisoned, dislocated and dispossessed non-Catholics started to reach the pricked ears of the Western media. No amount of slick propaganda could hide the horrors of Diem’s torture chambers and death squads (shades of Papa Doc Duvalier and his Ton Ton Macoutes). Not only did Diem antagonise the absolute majority of Vietnamese people including many hitherto loyal Catholics, but his masters in Washington were starting to get alarmed—similar to the German and Italian unease with the genocidal rage of Pavelic’s Ustashe whose cruelty threatened to upset Hitler’s European apple cart.

John F. Kennedy who had by then replaced an aging Eisenhower was faced with a serious problem. As a loyal Roman Catholic and a protégé of Cardinal Spellman, he was a passionate supporter of Diem and his Independent Croatia on the Mekong. As a young senator, Kennedy owed the support of his (mainly Irish Catholic) Boston constituents who were clamouring for a war against the USSR to his rabidly anti-Soviet and anti-communist pronouncements. Once he reached the top spot, he had to face some hard truths: First, Roman Catholics were still a minority in the USA and he had to moderate his inclinations and instincts in order to appeal to the majority. Second, the instability of South Vietnam caused by Diem’s persecution of the Buddhists (large-scale resistance started only in 1961) was threatening America’s wider interests in South-East Asia. Until the very last moment, he procrastinated. Removing Diem would not only end Spellman’s dream of a Catholic Vietnam but Kennedy would have to betray all that he held dear.

To assuage his guilt, he decided to revamp the war strategy in order to bolster Diem’s regime. First, he ordered a large increase in the number of “military advisers” who by now were taking an active part in the fighting. Second, following the doctrine outlined by General Maxwell Taylor, Kennedy placed the accent on the role of the special forces—specially trained paramilitary units used for targeted attacks, sabotage, training various collaborationist forces and assassination. The so-called Green Berets have their origins in the darkest days of the Cold War when the 10th Special Forces Group was placed in Germany in order to create an elite stay-behind army. The Lodge-Philbin act ensured that large numbers of East European Catholics, many of them with strong Nazi inclinations, received the green headgear and later proved their “mettle” in Vietnam.[14]

Kennedy’s efforts proved in vain. The elan and fighting spirit of the Viet Minh (now called Viet Cong by its enemies) could not be matched even by the heavily armed and US-assisted South Vietnamese ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam). Helicopters and fighter-bombers flown by American officers and large-calibre artillery were largely helpless against a lithe and mobile guerrilla force motivated by patriotism and belief in a better future. The most egregious example of the impotence of Diem’s military and their US advisers was the battle of Ap Bac which took place in early 1963 and was described in great detail by Neil Sheehan in his famous book.[15] The defeat of Diem’s army and the US strategy reverberated far and wide. But this was only a side issue. By the spring of 1963, the Buddhists of Vietnam had had enough. Having failed to stop Diem’s terror through protest and civil disobedience, they resorted to the ultimate weapon of non-violent religions—public suicide.

A number of monks and nuns burned to death in city centres in full view of foreign news cameramen. Diem’s obduracy and unwillingness to heed the protest convinced many in the United States that Diem was beyond salvation (pun not intended) and that America’s interest would be better served by somebody else. The two quarrelling factions bickered for months until the newly-appointed ambassador to Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge (a protestant and a political rival of the Kennedys) started organising a coup. Diem and his brother Nhu were aware of America’s deadly grudge and tried at the last minute to start negotiations with the North Vietnamese government. But time had run out. The ever-loyal Kennedy had to accept his advisers’ recommendation and OK the removal of the would-be Catholic emperor of the East. This was executed by a junta of non-Catholic generals with a little help from an experienced CIA agent of French extraction, Lucien Conein.

Diem was overthrown soon and after an adventurous escape attempt ruthlessly killed, together with his brother while on his way to surrendering to the new government. When he heard the news, Kennedy was genuinely distraught and bereaved. Clearly, his emotions had nothing to do with the fight against communism in which Diem had been failing terribly, and everything to do with the fact that he himself was responsible for the murder of the last openly Catholic leader in Asia. Only three weeks later, he, the first Catholic leader of America would meet the same fate.

The early hope that a less repressive regime in Saigon would motivate the people to turn against the Viet Cong proved empty. Disaster after disaster followed with the guerrillas strengthened by infiltrators from the North Vietnam destroying large ARVN units without suffering major losses. Indeed, the Buddhists were not as good as Diem at killing “commies” and after a couple of years of chaos, the chastened and worried US empire decided to up the ante. The new strategy was two pronged. On the one hand, the old Catholic hands had to be quietly reactivated in order to form a “patriotic” core within the government and the army and second, the fighting would have to be done by the Americans.

By 1964, the stage was set for a drawn-out and bloody denouement of Vietnam’s struggle for freedom and independence. In its attempt to crush the Vietnamese resistance, the Americans employed every weapon and killing technique known to (in)humanity. Having laid out the broad historical context, in part II of this essay I shall analyse the strategy behind and impact of one of the most horrifying weapons wielded in an already horrific war—the Phoenix Programme.

  1. “Poglavnik” was the official title (meaning the Head or Leader) of Ante Pavelic, the leader of one of the bloodiest regimes in modern history—The Independent State of Croatia. 
  2. Another analogy is the distinction between a person suffering from delusions seeing connections and references everywhere (which does not necessarily mean they don’t exist) and another person with amnesia who is incapable of learning from past experiences. 
  3. This is not quite correct. The Jesuit infiltration into Vietnam began much earlier. The fact that these early “explorers” happened to be Portuguese is relevant for what is to follow. Numerous Catholic militias existed well into the 1960s and were an inextricable part of the French and American war efforts. They are also mentioned in Grahame Green’s “The Quiet American”. 
  4. There are close parallels between the Vietnamese struggle and the Chinese Boxer rebellion which was also triggered by the excesses of the (mainly RC) missionaries. 
  5. Please remember this bit because it is directly related to the topic of the essay. Also, what I describe here has been the modus operandi not only of the right wing of the Roman Catholicism but also many militant schools of Sunni Islam. 
  6. An excellent analysis of Vietnamese communism can be found in Gabriel Kolko’s “Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience”. 
  7. That this was total nonsense became clear when Diem started to arrest, kill and torture anyone who had fought against the French. 
  8. This refers to the book by John Cornwell: Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. 
  9. The personal accounts by Catholic refugees largely fail to mention Lansdale (who might have been inflating his own role) and ascribe the decision to move to the local clergy—disciplined soldiers of the Vatican. 
  10. JFK was particularly impressed by Father Hoa and his fiery anticommunism. 
  11. Hansen, P. (2009). Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 4, Issue 3, pps. 173–211. 
  12. Exactly the same thing happened in the Independent State of Croatia. 
  13. From “Vietnam: Why did We Go?” by Avro Manhattan: “Before engaging upon a thorough persecution against the Buddhists, President Diem attempted to form a body of Buddhists who would support his policies of coordination and integration.” 
  14. See William Simpson’s “Blowback” for a detailed account of this infamous episode. 
  15. The book “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam” is an excellent if sanitised source of facts on the American strategy in Vietnam. One just needs to fill in the gaps with executions, secret torture chambers and other CIA special desserts. 

Interview: Iran’s former ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari on 25-year historic agreement with China.

Source

Interview: Iran’s former ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari on 25-year historic agreement with China.

July 23, 2020

Interview with the Al-Alam News channel, Iran’s former ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari, revealed his thoughts and important details about the comprehensive 25-year historic agreement currently being finalised between Iran and China.

From: http://middleeastobserver.net/irans-fmr-beijing-envoy-on-comprehensive-25-year-long-deal-with-china/

Description:

In an in-depth interview with the Al-Alam News channel, Iran’s former ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari, revealed his thoughts and important details about the comprehensive 25-year historic agreement currently being finalised between Iran and China.

Al-Alam News

Transcript:

Interviewer:

What is the nature of the policy pursued by Tehran with regards to the East, and is it related to the current situation in Iran?

Safari:

Look. To answer your question, I would say, after the success of the Islamic Revolution, the motto of the (foreign) policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran was “Neither East, nor West”. However, the Islamic Republic had and still has diplomatic relations with all states except Israel and America, which we consider to be our enemies; or if we felt that a side is showing hostile behavior (towards Iran).

You used the slogan “Neither East, nor West”. The part “Neither East” existed when the Soviet Union was still a part of the global system and had its own policies, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation changed its policies. You also saw how our relations with our neighboring countries in the north have developed and become stronger.

First of all, China is neither western nor eastern, as it is located in east Asia. Well, this applies to Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India. All of these countries are located in East Asia. We had and will always foster diplomatic relations with the aforementioned countries. Therefore, our policy did not change. All the relationships that existed between us and these countries were mutual and equal. But why did this desire for a relationship with China rise to the surface and why did this relationship become strategic? I would like to give you a clarification. To start with, this relationship is needed by both China and us. After the Americans began to besiege China from the east… If you go back in memory, you would remember the issue of the three islands that were the subject of a dispute between China and Japan. Americans wanted to create a disputed area. Then, after the South China Sea issue (the disputed islands), another issue came up with Vietnam and the Philippines regarding Chinese oil reserves. The Chinese also felt that Obama had revived their closed base in northern Australia. They also felt that if they do not find another path across the sea, they might encounter problems that they don’t have the time to deal with, especially with their current trade situation, and the energy-related crisis in general.

Well, China brought up Mr. XI Jinping’s idea about ​​the west, the west of the country, and revived the principle of “One Belt, One Road”, i.e. the Silk Road. In other words, it is turning towards the East. China could have started (its project) from three routes: (1) through Russia to northern Europe, (2) through the Islamic Republic of Iran towards the central and southern European states, or (3) crossing the ocean to head to the continent of Africa.

China launched this project (for many reasons). (First,) in the past, this country used to import only one million barrels of oil in the past. Six years ago, it imported five million barrels. While today, it imports 11, 500, 000 barrels of oil, 5, 500, 000 barrels of which passes through the Persian Gulf. Well, now let us see. Which country has 2, 200 kilometers of maritime borders? The Islamic Republic of Iran. Which country has oil and gas here (in this region)? The Islamic Republic of Iran also. This is the main factor that enables us (Iran) to become China ‘s strategic partner. From the Chinese perspective, energy security is more important than the provision of energy. If energy provision is important, energy security is even more important. Well, who can provide all of these (services)? In this region, we are the ones who can do that.

Second, China is the world’s top trader, to say the least. I personally believe that China enjoys the world’s number one economy. The reason (for this success) is that Americans, who say “we are number one”, print $600 billion or $700 billion four or five times a year and inject them in the market. Now, China wants to guarantee the security of its trading operations in our region, in the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Oman. It sees that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country fighting terrorism (ISIS) and drug trafficking. So what have these factors succeeded to achieve? It made our country a strategic partner of China.

Interviewer:

Did this policy come after you (Iranians) lost hope in the West? And how is it consistent with the policy of “Neither East, nor West”?

Safari:

First of all, our relationship with China did not begin recently. We have enjoyed strong relations and ties with this country for many years. However, it is a well-known fact that today’s China is significantly different from the China of 10 or 20 years ago. Today’s China is completely different in terms of technology, trade, its construction of power stations, etc. So we can see that China can fulfill our needs. Instead of turning towards Europe and America that are imposing limitations and restrictions on us, we can now get our needs (from China). And when I say now, this does not mean just today. This project was launched 15 or 20 years ago. Take a close look. The Chinese have been working hard and actively in Iran for 20 years. Check the number of dams, power stations, steel plants, mines and petrochemicals (built in Iran by China). Therefore, this relationship did not begin yesterday nor today.

Perhaps China’s political view of the West and America has changed during the past five or six years. Now, it is turning more towards us, to its west – as I’ve mentioned before. The need of the two parties (for this relationship) became bilateral and mutual, which led to setting up a cooperation project that would last for 25 years. Therefore, I can say that this matter (the cooperation) is not related to recent developments. China has been importing our oil for years. We have also been exchanging economic cooperation, finance, and projects in various fields. Why is this subject being discussed now? Regarding our view of the West or East, if we take a look at the comprehensive partnership project with China, we will find that it paves the way for relations with most European states – with Austria, Germany, France, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, or even Sweden – in addition to our neighboring states. I honestly do not know the reason for this great sensitivity over our cooperation with China. Go and take a look at our cooperation and agreements with Austria and Germany. All of these (cooperation) offers were raised in the various specialized joint committees. Therefore, these steps are not new. The motto of the (foreign) policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Neither East, nor West”, hasn’t changed. Our view of the former Soviet Union or the West is still the same. However, when the Soviet Union changed its policies and came to the negotiating table, we came to a balanced agreement and started dealing with the Union.

Interviewer:

Does China’s historic anti-colonial policy play a role in Tehran’s decision to turn to the East?

Safari:

Of course. If you noticed, China never had any conflicts with us, nor did it wage any wars against us. There were no border skirmishes or disputes between us. China is a very rich country in terms of culture, and as you mentioned, it is not opportunistic. These factors were important in (our choice) to deal with China. On the other hand, this country (China) had some needs that led it to turn towards our country. Therefore, these needs from both sides were complementary, which led to the crystallization of this comprehensive partnership.

Interviewer:

Do you feel like you were obliged to turn to China, or is this plan a part of Iran’s foreign policy in general?

Safari:

No, I personally think that this is a real strategy that we have been following for almost 20 years. Today, the cooperation project has reached a state of maturity. This project was brought up six years ago during the visit of Mr. Xi Jinping to Iran, but there was a delay from our end. Now I say that this project shouldn’t be delayed any further. We have to begin this project sooner rather than later.

At the time, we were in the midst of talks with the West, and this was, in my opinion, the reason for the delay in the comprehensive partnership project with China. We had this strategy before us 20 or 25 years ago, and we have been engaging in all kinds of cooperation with China. However, the conditions China is living under led it to conclude and sign such an agreement with us. Of course, as I’ve mentioned earlier, when it (China) was turning to the West (for cooperation), it did not sign (any agreements) with us. It rather signed (agreements) with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Russia, and other countries, because of the reasons I explained earlier. However, the circumstances surrounding China have changed, due to its trade, economic and political differences with America and the West in general.

Interviewer:

Can you tell us more about this agreement (with China)?

Safari:

This comprehensive partnership includes an energy component. This energy component is divided into two subsections: (1) oil and gas, and (2) the construction of power stations and the use of renewable energy. In the energy component, China pledged to buy our oil for 25 years. And (in return) what do we guarantee for 25 years? To sell our​​ oil to them. China also showed its intention to invest in and provide the necessary financing for our refineries and petrochemical plants, and we too would like this (financing) idea to be put into effect, especially on our coastlines which we use for exportation. With regards to energy and the construction of power plants, there is a willingness by both sides to build power stations in various regions jointly (in terms of financing) as it is considered a part of Iran’s infrastructure.

There is also a section regarding investment in renewable energy. Here, I would like to give an example with regards to solar (power) systems, or solar energy plants. As you know this has two implications. On the one hand, the situation of us here in the Islamic Republic of Iran is more favorable than China in this field. On the other hand, China is one of the highly developed countries and it occupies first place in renewable energies. Every year, it generates about 20 GW of these energies per day around the country. Moreover, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a very suitable place for such projects, (especially keeping in mind) the deserts (we have) and how such projects help (us) fight the problem of desertification in the country.

We would like for the Chinese to come and build solar cell (plants) in Iran, and to develop our power stations. Secondly, regarding electrical energy, you know that the Chinese also rank first in the world in (building) private and public vehicles such as buses. Therefore, we are thinking about starting joint work in this sector in Iran

There is also the subject of transportation, which includes roads and railways. Well if China actually wants to turn to the East and revive the Silk Road, then all the aforementioned is included in the project. China must prepare and start making high-speed trains for the transportation and transit of various goods through the Islamic Republic of Iran to the West, and from the North to the South and vice versa. In other words, (we are referring to) the transit of goods from Chabahar to Mashhad, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and vice versa; and from Mashhad to Tabriz, Europe, and other states neighboring Iran. Therefore, transportation offers both parties an incentive to cooperate.

With regards to tourism, China has 250 million tourists (that travel) annually, while we have two million tourists. If every year, three million Chinese citizens came (to Iran) with their rich culture, and wandered in the country, we will witness an increase in job opportunities in the field of tourism and handicrafts. You must know that the Chinese love our handicrafts. If it happened that our handicrafts found their way into the Chinese market, i.e. one billion and four hundred million people, imagine if each one of them bought only a vase! When Coca-Cola went to China, and it should not have been allowed to go there, one of the company’s managers said “if each one of them (Chinese people) drank only one can, this would mean one billion and four hundred million cans!” Our handicrafts and carpets are extremely popular in China. We are looking to create job opportunities. If the Chinese were present in the tourism sector and worked to strengthen our infrastructure, we would succeed in attracting Chinese tourists. Once that is done, you would see the significant outcomes of this project.

Interviewer:

What does China want from this agreement?

Safari:

I have already told you about China’s interests, and the conditions the US put China under. The transit of China’s goods, and having access to raw materials, whether from Iran or from the south, in addition to the provision of energy and the maintenance of energy security, are both very important for China. Any disruption that might occur along the trade route, or any difficulty that might arise in the process of obtaining raw materials, can cause the country great problems.

I have told you that we were very late to sign this agreement. Because of this delay, China has gone its own way, and has concluded agreements and treaties with other countries. China reached Europe via Russia, Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Georgia and Azerbaijan. We took too long to establish this partnership. During my last interview I said frankly, we should have signed this joint cooperation agreement six years ago. China had many interests (in working with Iran). We were the ones who took too long (to sign). As for them (Chinese), they secured their interests through (agreements with) other countries.

Interviewer:

Is there any indication that Iran will grant China any concessions?

Safari:

We fought our neighboring country (Iraq) for eight years (to gain back) two inches of land. So do you believe we would give away our islands (to China)? Where was this news written? Who said that? It is these agents of the West who are creating such an atmosphere after they saw that they have failed to achieve their goals of undermining (the achievements) of the Islamic Republic. China came to invest in power stations, and the manufacture of cars and spare parts in these areas. Chabahar Port was mentioned (in the agreement) but for what? In order to transport goods. Kish and Qeshm Islands were mentioned as places for investment in power stations and construction. The news (about giving away our islands) are totally false and beyond belief.

Interviewer:

There are mixed opinions about this agreement with China. What do you have to say about that?

Safari:

Those who are against (this agreement) fell under the influence of (rumors that circulated) on cyberspace, and began to raise these false issues. They think that they can (break this agreement). If you have noticed, the US Secretary of State is against this agreement. (He said) “If this agreement is to be signed, we should not lift the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran”. This (opposition) indicates that we (Iranians) are on the right track. He (Pompeo) said “for this reason (i.e. lifting the sanctions), we (Iranian) shouldn’t do that (i.e. cooperate with China).” He also says that we and Russia have worked together to kill people in Syria, while (in fact) they (Americans) were supporting ISIS. You (Americans) are claiming that Russia is a bad country, and it kills people. If so, then how do you team up with Russia at the United Nations to maintain sanctions and ensure they are not lifted? That is why it is clear that the West is behind this atmosphere (of opposition to the agreement). Western regimes are creating this atmosphere.

This also applies to reactionary states in the region. How do these reactionary states cooperate with China in the area of ​​investment and give it their oil, but when it comes to the Islamic Republic they say that China should not work with us because (by doing that) it would be supporting terrorism, while we all know that (it is) these (very) states that support ISIS and terrorism in the region?! Therefore, in my opinion, this cooperation is beneficial to both sides. (Certain) foreign states know that such cooperation would help us overcome this impasse.

Interviewer:

Will we witness such an agreement with other states?

Safari:

Let me tell you something. I told other states that a text similar to the text (of this agreement) was presented in most joint committees (between us and these states). It would be interesting for you to know that there are some subjects (that were included in our agreement with China), but we avoided discussing with European states. However, we have signed similar agreements with most European and Asian states.

I hope that we sign the agreement (with China) and launch this project as soon as possible, which is in the interest of both countries. If we start this work (which covers the fields of) tourism, energy, environment, agriculture, health, pharmacy, road construction, and financing, then I promise you we will create more than three million jobs. If about one or three million Iranians got involved with handicrafts, their work will bring prosperity to tourism and handicrafts in our country. We are looking to create jobs. If we get the necessary finance, we will create enough jobs to push our economic wheel forward and begin exporting.

Interviewer:

Which states will oppose this agreement and how are Iran and China planning to face the upcoming obstacles – if there were any?

Safari:

I think that the countries who are against the agreement, and I mean America, Israel and the Arab states, have started to create a hostile environment (regarding this agreement) in cyberspace. I think, for the benefit of our country, we should ignore them. In order to address this issue, we must run these projects as soon as possible so that the Iranian people can witness the results, then these issues will be automatically resolved. Of course, in addition to this atmosphere (of opposition), the West may exert pressure on China to go back on this agreement, and this is an important point. Therefore, we have to further our interests, and implement this agreement in the areas that I’ve mentioned to you. This agreement, especially in (the section regarding) infrastructure projects, can be very beneficial to the Islamic Republic of Iran and to our dear (Iranian) people. Don’t forget my words. I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this or not. Imam Khomeini (may God bless him and grant him peace), once said: “If Westerners praise you, know that you have made a mistake; and if they disparage you, know that you are on the right path, and continue what you have started.

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America’s Sicilian Expedition

Source

July 10, 2020

America’s Sicilian Expedition

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; and from these proceed debt and taxes; and armies, and debts, are taxes of the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few … no nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’’ (My emphasis – FL) (1)

Thus was the initial warning by James Madison to the possible development (and dangers) which lie ahead of the great social and political experiment in what was to become the American Republic. In fact these militaristic/ imperial proclivities were also noted by the more astute members and chroniclers of American history and repeated by Alexis De Tocqueville in 1835. He wrote that:

Among democratic nations the wealthiest, best educated, and ablest men seldom adopt a military profession, the army taken collectively, eventually forms a new nation by itself where the mind is less enlarged, and habits are made rude than in the nation at large. Now this small and uncivilized nation has arms in its possession and also knows how to use them; (My emphasis – FL) for indeed the pacific temper of the community increases the danger to which a democratic people is exposed from the military and the turbulent spirit of the Army. Nothing is so dangerous as an army in the midst of an unwarlike nation; the excessive love of the whole community for quiet puts the Constitution at the mercy of the soldiery. (2)

‘Unwarlike’? Well the Republic was to become very warlike for most of its history. Things got started in earnest in 1846-48 with the US/Mexican conflict. This marked the first U.S. armed conflict chiefly fought on foreign soil. It pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of U.S. President James K. Polk, who believed the United States had a “manifest destiny” to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. A border skirmish along the Rio Grande started off the fighting and was followed by a series of U.S. victories. When the dust cleared, Mexico had lost about one-third of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. So the US got the taste of imperial hubris and easy victories early on. This was the beginning of a will to global expansion which has seen the US develop a penchant for global hegemony.

What could be more apposite and sombre of these measured warnings to the present time and the leadership thereof. The United States has transmuted from being an experimental national democracy into a rampaging imperial juggernaut with all the attendant features of empire. In general and in more recent times these imperial conflicts have been wars of choice. No-body had attacked the US since the half-hearted British attempt in 1812 and the Japanese in 1941. The only war of any significance since independence was the internal conflict between the industrial north and the agrarian south.

The Rise of Empire

This awakening of US imperialism was later extended to the Spanish/American war of the late 19th century. New territories in Latin America and East Asia were added through their annexation. The US had thus become the latest newcomer to the imperialist club although it always insisted (rather unconvincingly) that it was different to the more established British, French, Spanish and Portuguese exploitative models. There was a belief, presumably mandated by the deity, in America’s manifest destiny to rule the world. This is the same patter, which is now trotted out by the neo-cons, the Deep State, NSA, MIC, MSM, and political parties. Whether they actually believe in this is something of a moot point.

Yet now the United States finds itself everywhere in a situation of endless simultaneous wars, occupations, blockades (whoops, I mean sanctions), economic warfare, surveillance warfare and one-sided alliances whereby its ‘allies’ are in many ways worse treated than its chosen enemies and are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their subaltern role. This is particularly instanced in the American German falling out over the question of Russian Gas and Nordstream2. Germany has its own national interests which conflict with those of the US. How exactly is this going to play out? It should be understood in this respect that the US does not have ‘allies’ in the generally accepted understanding of the term, but subaltern hierarchies of the ‘Me Tarzan – You Jane’ variety. The ‘Jane’ in the situation are the assembled and invertebrate species of EU vassal regimes who up to this point in their history have always been willing to prostrate themselves at the command of their transatlantic masters.

One of the stranger anomalies of this US global military-economic posture is the influence of Israel – Israel this tiny country, with its tiny population, in the middle east must be obeyed at all costs. And making sure that it is obeyed are the various interest groups in the US which inter alia includes the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) the Anti-Deformation League (ADL) the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Most, if not all, of the senior members of these organizations are Jewish, Zionists and/or neo-conservatives. To give an example of their influence and reach take the case of uber-hawk and Zionist lackey Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

Amidst the general routine and prevalent corruption in American political and corporate life the Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson – staunch supporter of his particular interests and the Israeli cause – began throwing around tens of millions of dollars to push legislation to ban internet gambling in order to protect his billion dollar oligopoly casino interests against competition. It wasn’t long before Graham introduced a bill to ban internet gambling. When asked about the curious coincidence of timing Graham said that his Southern Baptist constituents in South Carolina (SC) shared Adelson’s aversion to internet gambling so there was no quid pro quo involved.

It should be borne in mind, however, that Graham had held Federal Office in SC since 1995, and yet he had felt no driving urge to introduce such legislation until 2014. This took place when Graham had apparently undergone a Damascene Conversion precisely at the time that Mr Adelson began to shower him with monies. Graham’s transaction with his benefactor apparently did not meet the Supreme Court’s chief Justice, John Roberts’s, narrow definition of an illegal quid pro quo as expressed in the Court’s 2010 Citizens United Decision.

In another unrelated instance involving Graham, which might be considered as being questionable, there were his political liaisons with a foreign state and its leader – Benjamin Netanyahu – whose policies Graham would be disposed to imbibe and support whatever the policies the Israeli Prime Minster might propose, an arresting statement in light of the Senator’s oath to the American Constitution and the voters he represents. (3)

Yet another instance of a corrupt American official in the pocket of Israeli interests. Moreover, it is not merely lower rank officials who willingly take the knee to Israel, the process reaches up to the highest levels of the US political establishment; so much so that It seems difficult to exactly work out who is whose client state in the US/Israel relationship.

Various right-wing think-tanks (see above) most importantly the American Enterprise Institution, or to give it its full name, The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a Washington, D.C. based think-tank which researches government, politics, economics, and social welfare. AEI is an independent non-profit organization supported primarily by grants and contributions from foundationscorporations, and individuals. This of course is a rather misleading description of what it actually does, and what its alleged goals are, in what is a vehemently pro-Zionist neo-con outfit. Leading figures include Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Mr and Mrs Wurmser as well as the rest of the Zionist neo-con gang whose entire raison d’etre seems to be unconditional support for Israel. This was instanced in the policy statement, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (commonly known as the “Clean Break” report) was a policy document that was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith  for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel. The report explained a new approach to solving Israel‘s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values” (i.e., naked imperialism). It has widely been criticized for advocating an aggressive new policy including the removal and murder of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the ongoing war and annexation of parts of Syria by engaging in proxy and actual warfare and highlighting Iraq’s alleged possession of mythical “weapons of mass destruction”.

It would not be an exaggeration to surmise that US foreign policy is now, and has been for some time, subsumed under Israel’s strategic interests and policies in the middle-east. Exactly what the United States gets out of this relationship is not clear other than the mollycoddling and financing of the Zionist apartheid state for no apparent returns.

The US foreign policy enigma:

I think it was Winston Churchill who once described the foreign policy of the Soviet Union as being ‘’ … a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.’’ It seems that much the same is true of the United States and its foreign policy. The cornerstone of the policy was put in place in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO up to Russia’s western frontier and the first and second Iraq wars, as well as the destruction of Libya, ably assisted by the British and French. This period of triumphalism for the Anglo-Zionist empire is ending with the imperial overstretch eventuating from 9/11. This episode has been subject to a myriad of various theories and has never been definitively demonstrated as to who were the brains behind this event. That being said the consequences of the event had deep-going ramifications. As one commentator has noted.

‘’The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the botched response to it delivered a twofold lesson: first, perpetual intervention in conflicts abroad is likely to spawn what the CIA calls ’’blowback’’ an unintended negative consequences of an intervention suffered by the party that intervenes. It is irrefutable that America’s funding and arming of religious based (i.e., Jihadis- FL) resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan created a Frankenstein’s monster that little more than a decade later brought the war back to the United States. But we have been largely unwilling to join the dots beyond that. Invading Iraq in 2003 spawned further instability in the middle-east and the emergence of more terrorist groups. Why is it that so few of our pundits have noticed the obvious fact that the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS are the direct results of our actions in Iraq? Beyond that the United State’s government’s ham-fisted meddling in internal Ukrainian politics helped to set in motion a predictable chain of events that has sparked a new cold war. Actions such as this have drained our Treasury and destabilized large areas of the World. (4)

It also seems pertinent to enquire as to what extent is the United States carrying out policies which could be defined as being the pursuit of its national interests; this as opposed to the interests of internal and itinerant cosmopolitan groups in the US whose sympathies and interests lie elsewhere in overseas climes and not in the US heartlands. But this should be expected from the aims and objectives of these footloose globalist oligarchies in the key positions at the apex of American institutions and exerting what amounts to a stranglehold on policy-making.

Overstretch, Hubris and Messianism

Generally speaking all empires have recognisable contours of development, maturity, and decline; and there is no reason to suppose that America and its empire will be an exception to this general rule. For all that the American ruling class has taken it upon itself to deny these fundamental conditions and processes of empire. A case study was the fate of the British Empire. At the end of WW2 Britain could no longer bear the costs of holding down 25% of the worlds surface. Moreover the populations of empire – particularly in India – did not wish to be held down. Post 1945 the jig was up: the UK was effectively bankrupt, and the US took full advantage of this.

‘’The US concept of multilateralism was expressed in the Lend-Lease programme in its dealings with the UK. The British loan of 1946 and the Bretton Woods Agreements called for the dollar to supplant sterling as the world’s reserve currency. In effect the Sterling Area was to be absorbed into what would be the dollar area which would be extended throughout the world. Britain was to remain in a weakened position in which it found itself at the end of the war … with barely any free monetary reserves and dependent on dollar borrowings to meet its current obligations. The United States would gain access to Britain’s pre-war markets in Latin America, Africa, the middle-east and the far east … the Anglo-American Loan Agreement spelt the end of Britain as a Great Power.’’ (5)

This is the way empires die, new empires arise, decline, and they in their turn also die, and this process admits of no exceptions.

The Big Push

From a geopolitical viewpoint the most important developments in recent years have been the relative decline of America in economic, political, and cultural terms, the rise of China, and the recovery of Russia from the disastrous years of the Yeltsin ascendancy. That being said it should be acknowledged that America is the most powerful global economic and military alliance – but there has been the undermining of this pre-eminence which is symptomatic of its present state. I remember the scene in the film Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen playing Captain Willard who sums up his (and America’s) dilemma: ‘’Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.’’ That pretty much sums up the situation facing America then and now. As for the $ dominance well that worked provided advantage was not taken of its privileged position, but of course, human nature being what it is, advantage was taken. Moreover, the reserve status of the dollar isn’t, as many suppose, a one-way gravy train. Given that the dollar is the world’s global currency demand will fluctuate. Increased demand will push up the value of the greenback meaning that goods and services exported to the US will become cheaper. However a strong dollar will push up the costs of America’s export producers and lead to a hollowing out of US industry. Hence the Rust Belt. The absurdity of having a domestic currency serve as the global reserve currency means that the US monetary authorities need to engineer a situation whereby an equilibrium match of dollar inflows to dollar outflows is attained. A difficult if not impossible trick to perform. Please see the Triffin Paradox.

This is a situation which the US cannot endure. It must act now to reverse its own decline and prevent the rise of other great powers. The ‘Big Push’ mentality whereby the final victorious outcome against an entrenched enemy became a feature of military ‘thinking’ (sic) during WW1. The British and French offensives on the western front, the battles of the Somme 1916, Ypres III 1917 (Wipers 3 as the British soldiers’ called it) and the Nivelle offensives 1917, did not succeed in bringing about a victory over embedded German opposition and cost hundreds of thousands of casualties for a few blood-soaked hundred meters of gain. The situation was reversed in 1918 when the Germans went on the offensive, but the result was a successful counter-offensive by the British, French, and newly arrived American divisions and finally the Armistice of 1918.

Be that as it may this ‘Big Push’ mentality has seemingly insinuated itself into current US’s strategic thinking. This in spite of the fact that the rather inconsistent results of such past policies does not offer a particularly feasible option – but they may just do it anyway. Who knows?

Thumbing through the history books is always a good guide to how the decision makers behave at the inflexion points of history.

The Sicilian Expedition

In the History of the Peloponnesian War the Greek Historian, Thucydides, gives an account of the key moment in the ongoing wars between Sparta and Athens. This was the invasion of Sicily by Athens or more commonly known as the Sicilian Expedition. The view of Pericles in 430 BC was the status quo option: neither expand the Athenian empire nor diminish it. No withdrawal from Afghanistan.

… do not imagine that what we are fighting for is simply the question of freedom or slavery; there is also involved the loss of empire and dangers arising from the hatred we have incurred in the administration of it. Nor is it any longer possible to give up this empire – though there maybe some people in a mood of panic and in the spirit of political apathy actually think that this would be a fine and noble thing to do. Your empire is now like a tyranny; it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go. (6)

Sound familiar? After the acquisition of empire, the costs of this enterprise start to roll in; the process then begins to move and then stagnate under the weight of its own slowing momentum and popular resistance. But like today’s neo-cons the Athenian war party nonetheless prevailed: the empire must at all costs be preserved. In terms of a modern cost-benefit analysis this would in purely rational business terms conclude that the maintenance of empire was not sustainable; it was a loss-making operation.

Sceptics about the wisdom of the Sicilian adventure including Nicias warned about the irrational exuberance of the war party as follows:

It is true that this assembly was called to deal with the preparations to be made for sailing to Sicily. Yet I still think that this is a question that requires further thought … is it really a good thing to send the ships at all? I think that we ought not to give just hasty consideration to so important a matter which does not concern us … I shall therefore confine myself to showing you that this is the wrong time for such adventures and that the objects of your ambitions are not to be gained easily. What I say is this: In going to Sicily you are leaving many enemies behind you, and you apparently want to make new ones there and have them also on your hands. It is with real alarm that I see this young man’s party (i.e., the war party FL) sitting at his (Alcibiades) side in this assembly all called in to support him and I and my side call for the support of the older men among you. If any one of you sits next to one of his supporters do not allow yourself to be browbeaten or frightened of being called a coward if you do not vote for war. (7)

But such reasoned arguments did not move the war party who gave Nicias’ arguments noticeably short shrift. The war party was on heat and there was no stopping the momentum of war pumped up by an adrenalin of mass psychosis. But this was not the end of the matter.

The war 415-413 BC itself turned out to be an absolute disaster for Athens. After achieving early successes the Athenians were checked by the arrival Spartan general, Gylippus, who galvanized the local inhabitants into action. From that point forward, however, as the Athenians ceded the initiative to their newly energized opponents, the tide of the conflict shifted. A massive reinforcing armada from Athens briefly gave the Athenians the upper hand once more, but a disastrous failed assault on a strategic high point and several crippling naval defeats damaged the Athenian soldiers’ ability to continue fighting and also their morale. The Athenians attempted a last-ditch evacuation from Syracuse. The evacuation failed, and nearly the entire expedition were captured or were destroyed in Sicily. Athens never really recovered after this strategic rout.

The whole sorry episode seems remarkably familiar: deadly examples of overestimating your own strength and underestimating the strength of the opposition. This policy (or lack of) has turned out to be a leitmotif in the US wars of choice against small but determined adversaries. The results of deploying the same playbook operationalised by the same incorrigible Neanderthals in the deep state with the same utterly predictable results. This present ongoing American attempt to construct a world empire through political, economic, and military means seems to be gearing up and preparing to launch its own Sicilian Expedition and this process has already been started. A classic example of imperial overreach. Nevertheless, the policy must go on; and it must be soon or never. One is reminded of Einstein’s famous dictum applicable to the PTB who are in charge of US policy. (8) But do the Americans really believe that they can carry this off? Are they actually crazy? Or is the whole thing nothing more than a brilliant bluff. Time will tell.

NOTES

(1) James Madison – ‘Political Observations’ – 1795. Letters and Writings of James Madison – 1865 – Volume IV

(2) Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America – Volume 2 – pp.282/283

(3) ‘Senator Lindsey Graham – Meeting in Israel with PM Netanyahu – Fox News – 27 December 2014.

(4) Mike Lofgren – The Deep State – p.43

(5) Michael Hudson – Super Imperialism – pp.268/269

(6)Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War – The Policy of Pericles – Book 2 – 63

(7) Thucydides – Ibid – Launching of the Sicilian Expedition Book 6 – 8, 9, 10

(8)  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

The deeper roots of Chinese demonization

The deeper roots of Chinese demonization

May 03, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Hegel saw history moving east to west – ‘Europe thus absolutely being the end of history, Asia the beginning’

Fasten your seat belts: the US hybrid war against China is bound to go on frenetic overdrive, as economic reports are already identifying Covid-19 as the tipping point when the Asian – actually Eurasian – century truly began.

Immanuel Kant was the first thinker to actually
come up with a theory of the yellow race. Photo: Google Images

The US strategy remains, essentially, full spectrum dominance, with the National Security Strategy obsessed by the three top “threats” of China, Russia and Iran. China, in contrast, proposes a “community of shared destiny” for mankind, mostly addressing the Global South.

The predominant US narrative in the ongoing information war is now set in stone: Covid-19 was the result of a leak from a Chinese biowarfare lab. China is responsible. China lied. And China has to pay.

The new normal tactic of non-stop China demonization is deployed not only by crude functionaries of the industrial-military-surveillance-media complex. We need to dig much deeper to discover how these attitudes are deeply embedded in Western thinking – and later migrated to the “end of history” United States. (Here are sections of an excellent study, Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia , by Jurgen Osterhammel).Only Whites civilized

Way beyond the Renaissance, in the 17th and 18th centuries, whenever Europe referred to Asia it was essentially about religion conditioning trade. Christianity reigned supreme, so it was impossible to think by excluding God.

At the same time the doctors of the Church were deeply disturbed that in the Sinified world a very well organized society could function in the absence of a transcendent religion. That bothered them even more than those “savages” discovered in the Americas.

As it started to explore what was regarded as the “Far East,” Europe was mired in religious wars. But at the same time it was forced to confront another explanation of the world, and that fed some subversive anti-religious tendencies across the Enlightenment sphere.

It was at this stage that learned Europeans started questioning Chinese philosophy, which inevitably they had to degrade to the status of a mere worldly “wisdom” because it escaped the canons of Greek and Augustinian thought. This attitude, by the way, still reigns today.

So we had what in France was described as chinoiseries — a sort of ambiguous admiration, in which China was regarded as the supreme example of a pagan society.

But then the Church started to lose patience with the Jesuits’ fascination with China. The Sorbonne was punished. A papal bull, in 1725, outlawed Christians who were practicing Chinese rites. It’s quite interesting to note that Sinophile philosophers and Jesuits condemned by the Pope insisted that the “real faith” (Christianity) was “prefigured” in ancient Chinese, specifically Confucianist, texts.

The European vision of Asia and the “Far East” was mostly conceptualized by a mighty German triad: Kant, Herder and Schlegel. Kant, incidentally, was also a geographer, and Herder a historian and geographer. We can say that the triad was the precursor of modern Western Orientalism. It’s easy to imagine a Borges short story featuring these three.

As much as they may have been aware of China, India and Japan, for Kant and Herder God was above all. He had planned the development of the world in all its details. And that brings us to the tricky issue of race.

Breaking away from the monopoly of religion, references to race represented a real epistemological turnaround in relation to previous thinkers. Leibniz and Voltaire, for instance, were Sinophiles. Montesquieu and Diderot were Sinophobes. None explained cultural differences by race. Montesquieu developed a theory based on climate. But that did not have a racial connotation – it was more like an ethnic approach.

The big break came via French philosopher and traveler Francois Bernier (1620-1688), who spent 13 years traveling in Asia and in 1671 published a book called La Description des Etats du Grand Mogol, de l”Indoustan, du Royaume de Cachemire, etc. Voltaire, hilariously, called him Bernier-Mogol — as he became a star telling his tales to the royal court. In a subsequent book, Nouvelle Division de la Terre par les Differentes Especes ou Races d’Homme qui l’Habitent, published in 1684, the “Mogol” distinguished up to five human races.

This was all based on the color of the skin, not on families or the climate. The Europeans were mechanically placed on top, while other races were considered “ugly.” Afterward, the division of humanity in up to five races was picked up by David Hume — always based on the color of the skin. Hume proclaimed to the Anglo-Saxon world that only whites were civilized; others were inferiors. This attitude is still pervasive. See, for instance, this pathetic diatribe recently published in Britain.

Two Asias

The first thinker to actually come up with a theory of the yellow race was Kant, in his writings between 1775 and 1785, David Mungello argues in The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800.

Kant rates the “white race” as “superior,” the “black race” as “inferior” (by the way, Kant did not condemn slavery), the “copper race” as “feeble” and the “yellow race” as intermediary. The differences between them are due to a historical process that started with the “white race,” considered the most pure and original, the others being nothing but bastards.

Kant subdivided Asia by countries. For him, East Asia meant Tibet, China and Japan. He considered China in relatively positive terms, as a mix of white and yellow races.

Herder was definitely mellower. For him, Mesopotamia was the cradle of Western civilization, and the Garden of Eden was in Kashmir, “the world’s paradise.” His theory of historical evolution became a smash hit in the West: the East was a baby, Egypt was an infant, Greece was youth. Herder’s East Asia consisted of Tibet, China, Cochinchina, Tonkin, Laos, Korea, Eastern Tartary and Japan — countries and regions touched by Chinese civilization.

Schlegel was like the precursor of a Californian 60s hippie. He was a Sanskrit enthusiast and a serious student of Eastern cultures. He said that “in the East we should seek the most elevated romanticism.” India was the source of everything, “the whole history of the human spirit.” No wonder this insight became the mantra for a whole generation of Orientalists. That was also the start of a dualist vision of Asia across the West that’s still predominant today.

So by the 18th century we had fully established a vision of Asia as a land of servitude and cradle of despotism and paternalism in sharp contrast with a vision of Asia as a cradle of civilizations. Ambiguity became the new normal. Asia was respected as mother of civilizations — value systems included — and even mother of the West. In parallel, Asia was demeaned, despised or ignored because it had never reached the high level of the West, despite its head start.

Those Oriental despots

And that brings us to The Big Guy: Hegel. Hyper well informed – he read reports by ex-Jesuits sent from Beijing — Hegel does not write about the “Far East” but only the East, which includes East Asia, essentially the Chinese world. Hegel does not care much about religion as his predecessors did. He talks about the East from the point of view of the state and politics. In contrast to the myth-friendly Schlegel, Hegel sees the East as a state of nature in the process of reaching toward a beginning of history – unlike black Africa, which he saw wallowing in the mire of a bestial state.

To explain the historical bifurcation between a stagnant world and another one in motion, leading to the Western ideal, Hegel divided Asia in two.

One part was composed by China and Mongolia: a puerile world of patriarchal innocence, where contradictions do not develop, where the survival of great empires attests to that world’s “insubstantial,” immobile and ahistorical character.

The other part was Vorderasien (“Anterior Asia”), uniting the current Middle East and Central Asia, from Egypt to Persia. This is an already historical world.

These two huge regions are also subdivided. So in the end Hegel’s Asiatische Welt (Asian world) is divided into four: first, the plains of the Yellow and Blue rivers, the high plateaus, China and Mongolia; second, the valleys of the Ganges and the Indus; third, the plains of the Oxus (today the Amur-Darya) and the Jaxartes (today the Syr-Darya), the plateaus of Persia, the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates; and fourth, the Nile valley.

It’s fascinating to see how in the Philosophy of History (1822-1830) Hegel ends up separating India as a sort of intermediary in historical evolution. So we have in the end, as Jean-Marc Moura showed in L’Extreme Orient selon G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophie de l’Histoire et Imaginaire Exotique, a “fragmented East, of which India is the example, and an immobile East, blocked in chimera, of which the Far East is the illustration.”

To describe the relation between East and West, Hegel uses a couple of metaphors. One of them, quite famous, features the sun: “The history of the world voyages from east to west, Europe thus absolutely being the end of history, and Asia the beginning.” We all know where tawdry “end of history” spin-offs led us.

The other metaphor is Herder’s: the East is “history’s youth” — but with China taking a special place because of the importance of Confucianist principles systematically privileging the role of the family.

Nothing outlined above is of course neutral in terms of understanding Asia. The double metaphor — using the sun and maturity — could not but comfort the West in its narcissism, later inherited from Europe by the “exceptional” US. Implied in this vision is the inevitable superiority complex, in the case of the US even more acute because legitimized by the course of history.

Hegel thought that history must be evaluated under the framework of the development of freedom. Well, China and India being ahistorical, freedom does not exist, unless brought by an initiative coming from outside.

And that’s how the famous “Oriental despotism” evoked by Montesquieu and the possible, sometimes inevitable, and always valuable Western intervention are, in tandem, totally legitimized. We should not expect this Western frame of mind to change anytime soon, if ever. Especially as China is about to be back as Number One.

AMERICAN PRAVDA: OUR CORONAVIRUS CATASTROPHE AS BIOWARFARE BLOWBACK?

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Opinion

Nearly 30,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus during the last two weeks, and by some estimates this is a substantial under-count, while the death-toll continues to rapidly mount. Meanwhile, measures to control the spread of this deadly infection have already cost 22 million Americans their jobs, an unprecedented economic collapse that has pushed our unemployment rates to Great Depression levels. Our country is facing a crisis as grave as almost any in our national history.

For many weeks President Trump and his political allies had regularly dismissed or minimized this terrible health threat, and suddenly now faced with such a manifest disaster, they have naturally begun seeking other culprits to blame.

The obvious choice is China, where the global outbreak first began in late 2019. Over the last week or two our media has been increasingly filled with accusations that the dishonesty and incompetence of the Chinese government played a major role in producing our own health catastrophe.

Even more serious charges are also being raised, with senior government officials informing the media that they suspect that the Covid-19 virus was developed in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan and then carelessly released upon a vulnerable world. Such “conspiracy theories” were once confined to the extreme political fringe of the Internet, but they are now found in the respectable pages of my morning New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Whether plausible or not, such accusations carry the gravest international implications, and there are growing demands that China financially compensate our country for its trillions of dollars in economic losses. A new global Cold War along both political and economic lines may rapidly be approaching.

I have no personal expertise in biowarfare technology, nor access to the secret American intelligence reports that seem to have been taken seriously by our most elite national newspapers. But I do think that a careful exploration of previous Sino-American clashes over the last couple of decades may provide some useful insight into the relative credibility of those two governments as well as that of our own media.

During the late 1990s, America seemed to reach the peak of its global power and prosperity, basking in the aftermath of its historic victory in the long Cold War, while ordinary Americans greatly benefited from the record-long economic expansion of that decade. A huge Tech Boom was at its height, and Islamic terrorism seemed a vague and distant thing, almost entirely confined to Hollywood movies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the possibility of large scale war seemed to have dissipated so political leaders boasted of the “peace dividend” that citizens were starting to enjoy as our huge military forces, built up over nearly a half-century, were downsized amid sweeping cuts in the bloated defense budget. America was finally returning to a regular peacetime economy, with the benefits apparent to the everyone.

At the time, I was overwhelmingly focused on domestic political issues, so I only paid slight attention to our one small military operation of those years, the 1999 NATO air war against Serbia, intended to safeguard the Kosovar Muslims from ethnic cleansing and massacre, a Clinton Administration project that I fully endorsed.

Although our limited bombing campaign seemed quite successful and soon forced the Serbs to the bargaining table, the short war did include one very embarrassing episode. The use of old maps had led to a targeting error that caused one of our smart bombs to accidentally strike the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three members of its delegation and wounding dozens more. The Chinese were outraged by this incident, and their propaganda organs began claiming that the attack had been deliberate, a reckless accusation that obviously made no logical sense.

In those days I watched the PBS Newshour every night, and was I shocked to see their U.S. Ambassador raise those absurd charges with host Jim Lehrer, whose disbelief matched my own. But when I considered that the Chinese government was still stubbornly denying the reality of its massacre of the protesting students in Tiananmen Square a decade earlier, I concluded that unreasonable behavior by PRC officials was only to be expected. Indeed, there was even some speculation that China was cynically milking the unfortunate accident for domestic reasons, hoping to ignite the sort of jingoist anti-Americanism among the Chinese people that would finally help bind the social wounds of that 1989 outrage.

Such at least were my thoughts on that matter more than two decades ago. But in the years that followed, my understanding of the world and of many pivotal events of modern history underwent the sweeping transformations that I have described in my American Pravda series. And some of my 1990s assumptions were among them.

Consider, for example, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which every June 6th still evokes an annual wave of harsh condemnations in the news and opinion pages of our leading national newspapers. I had never originally doubted those facts, but a year or two ago I happened to come across a short article by journalist Jay Matthews entitled “The Myth of Tiananmen” that completely upended that apparent reality.

According to Matthews the infamous massacre had likely never happened, but was merely a media artifact produced by confused Western reporters and dishonest propaganda, a mistaken belief that had quickly become embedded in our standard media storyline, endlessly repeated by so many ignorant journalists that they all eventually believed it to be true. Instead, as near as could be determined, the protesting students had all left Tiananmen Square peacefully, just as the Chinese government had always maintained. Indeed, leading newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post had occasionally acknowledged these facts over the years, but usually buried those scanty admissions so deep in their stories that few ever noticed. Meanwhile, the bulk of the mainstream media had fallen for an apparent hoax.

Matthews himself had been the Beijing Bureau Chief of the Washington Post, personally covering the protests at the time, and his article appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, our most prestigious venue for media criticism. This authoritative analysis containing such explosive conclusions was first published in 1998, and I find it difficult to believe that many reporters or editors covering China have remained ignorant of the truth, yet the impact has been absolutely nil. For over twenty years virtually every mainstream media account I have read has continued to promote the Tiananmen Square Massacre Hoax, usually implicitly but sometimes explicitly.

Even more remarkable were the discoveries I made regarding our supposedly accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in 1999. Not long after launching this website, I added former Asia Times contributor Peter Lee as a columnist, incorporating his China Matters blogsite archives that stretched back for a decade. He soon published a 7,000 word article on the Belgrade Embassy bombing, representing a compilation of material already contained in a half-dozen previous pieces he’d written on that subject from 2007 onward. To my considerable surprise, he provided a great deal of persuasive evidence that the American attack on the Chinese embassy had indeed been deliberate, just as China had always claimed.

According to Lee, Beijing had allowed its embassy to be used as a site for secure radio transmission facilities by the Serbian military, whose own communications network was a primary target of NATO airstrikes. Meanwhile, Serbian air defenses had shot down an advanced American F-117A fighter, whose top-secret stealth technology was a crucial U.S. military secret. Portions of that enormously valuable wreckage were carefully gathered by the grateful Serbs, who delivered it to the Chinese for temporary storage at their embassy prior to transport back home. This vital technological acquisition later allowed China to deploy its own J20 stealth fighter in early 2011, many years sooner than American military analysts had believed possible.

Based upon this analysis, Lee argued that the Chinese embassy was attacked in order to destroy the Serbian retransmission facilities located there, while punishing the Chinese for allowing such use. There were also widespread rumors in China that another motive had been an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the stealth debris contained there. Later Congressional testimony revealed that the among all the hundreds of NATO airstrikes, the attack on the Chinese embassy was the only one directly ordered by the CIA, a highly-suspicious detail.

I was only slightly familiar with Lee’s work, and under normal circumstances I would have been very cautious in accepting his remarkable claims against the contrary position universally held by all our own elite media outlets. But other sources he cited completely shifted that balance.

Although the American media dominates the English-language world, many British publications also possess a strong global reputation, and since they are often much less in thrall to our own national security state, they have sometimes covered important stories that were ignored here. And in this case, the Sunday Observer published a remarkable expose in October 1999, citing several NATO military and intelligence sources who fully confirmed the deliberate nature of the American bombing of the Chinese embassy, with a US colonel even reportedly boasting that their smartbomb had hit the exact room intended.

This important story was immediately summarized in the Guardian, a sister publication, and also covered by the rival Times of London and many of the world’s other most prestigious publications, but encountered an absolute wall of silence in our own country. Such a bizarre divergence on a story of global strategic importance—a deliberate and deadly US attack against Chinese diplomatic territory—drew the attention of FAIR, a leading American media watchdog group, which published an initial critique and a subsequent follow-up. These two pieces totaled some 3,000 words, and effectively summarized both the overwhelming evidence of the facts and also the heavy international coverage, while reporting the weak excuses made by top American editors to explain their continuing silence. Based upon these articles, I consider the matter settled.

Few Americans remember our 1999 attack upon the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and if not for the annual waving of a bloody June 6th flag by our ignorant and disingenuous media, the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” would also have long since faded from memory. Neither of these events has much direct importance today, at least for our own citizens. But the broader media implications of these examples do seem quite significant.

These incidents represented two of the most serious flashpoints between the Chinese and American governments during the last thirty-odd years. In both cases the claims of the Chinese government were entirely correct, although they were denied by our own top political leaders and dismissed or ridiculed by virtually our entire mainstream media. Moreover, within a few months or a year the true facts became known to many journalists, even being reported in fully respectable venues. But that reality was still completely ignored and suppressed for decades, so that today almost no American whose information comes from our regular media would even be aware of it. Indeed, since many younger journalists draw their knowledge of the world from these same elite media sources, I suspect that many of them have never learned what their predecessors knew but dared not mention.

Most leading Chinese media outlets are owned or controlled by the Chinese government, and they tend to broadly follow the government line. Leading American media outlets have a corporate ownership structure and often boast of their fierce independence; but on many crucial matters, I think the actual reality is not so very different from that in China.

I tend to doubt that the Chinese leadership has any overwhelming commitment to the truth, and the reasons for their greater veracity are probably practical ones. American news and entertainment completely dominate the global media landscape and they face no significant domestic rival. So China recognizes that it is vastly outmatched in any propaganda conflict, and so as the far weaker party must necessarily try to stick closer to the truth, lest its lies be immediately exposed. Meanwhile, America’s overwhelming control over information may lead to considerable hubris, with the government sometimes promoting the most outrageous and ridiculous falsehoods in the confident belief that a supportive American media will cover for any mistakes.

These considerations should be kept in mind as we attempt to sift the accounts of our often unreliable and dishonest media to extract the true circumstances of the current global coronavirus epidemic. Unlike careful historical analysis, we are working in real-time with our analysis greatly hindered by the ongoing fog of war, so that any conclusions are necessarily very preliminary ones. But given the high stakes, the attempt should be made.

When my morning newspapers first began mentioning the appearance of a mysterious new illness in China during mid-January, I paid little attention, absorbed as I was in the aftermath of our sudden assassination of Iran’s top military leader and the dangerous possibility of a yet another Middle Eastern war. But the reports persisted and grew, with deaths occurring and evidence growing that the viral disease could be transmitted between humans. China seemed unsuccessful in its initial efforts to halt the spread of the disease using convention methods.

Then on Jan. 23rd and after only 17 deaths, the Chinese government took the astonishing step of locking down and quarantining the entire 11 million inhabitants of the city of Wuhan, a story that drew worldwide attention. They soon extended this policy to the 60 million Chinese of Hubei province, and not longer afterward shut down their entire national economy and confined 700 million Chinese to their homes, a public health measure probably a thousand times larger than anything previously undertaken in human history. So either China’s leadership had suddenly gone insane, or they regarded this new virus as an absolutely deadly national threat, which they must take all possible steps to control.

Given these dramatic Chinese actions and the international headlines that they generated, the current accusations by Trump Administration officials that China had attempted to minimize or conceal the serious nature of the disease outbreak is so ludicrous as to defy rationality. In any event, the record shows that on December 31st, the Chinese had already alerted the World Health Organization about the strange new illness, and Chinese scientists published the entire genome of the virus on Jan. 12th, allowing diagnostic tests to be produced worldwide.

Unlike other nations, China had had no advance warning of the nature or existence of the deadly new disease, and therefore faced unique obstacles. But their government implemented public health control measures unprecedented in the history of the world and managed to almost completely eradicate the disease with merely the loss of a few thousand lives.

Meanwhile, many other Western countries such as the US, Italy, Spain, France, and Britain dawdled for months and ignored the potential threat, consequently now suffering well over 100,000 dead, with the numbers still rapidly mounting. For any of these nations or their media to criticize China for its ineffectiveness or slow response represents an absolute inversion of reality.

Some governments took full advantage of the early warning and scientific information provided by China. Although nearby East Asian nations such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore had been at greatest risk and were among the first infected, their competent and energetic responses allowed them to almost completely avoid any major outbreak, and they have suffered minimal fatalities. But America and several European countries largely ignored adopting these same early measures such as widespread testing, quarantine, and contact-tracing, and have paid a terrible price for their insouciance.

A few weeks ago British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that his own coronavirus plan for Britain was based upon rapidly achieving “herd immunity”—essentially encouraging the bulk of his citizens to become infected—then quickly backed away after his desperate advisors recognized that the result might entail a million or more British deaths.

By any reasonable measure, the response to this global health crisis by China and most East Asian countries has been absolutely exemplary, while that of many Western countries has been equally disastrous. Maintaining reasonable public health has been a basic requirement of functional governments since the days of the city-states of Sumeria, and the sheer and total incompetence of our own government and those of many of its European vassals has been breathtaking. If the Western media attempts to pretend otherwise, it will permanently forfeit whatever remaining international credibility it still possesses.

I do not think these particular facts are much disputed except among the most blinkered partisans, and the Trump Administration probably recognizes the hopelessness of arguing otherwise. This probably explains their recent shift towards a far more explosive and controversial narrative, namely claiming Covid-19 may have been the product of Chinese research into deadly viruses at a Wuhan laboratory, thereby suggesting that the blood of hundreds of thousands or millions of victims around the world will be on Chinese hands. Dramatic accusations backed by overwhelming international media power may deeply resonate across the globe.

News reports appearing in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are reasonably consistent, and cite senior Trump Administration officials pointing to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a leading Chinese biolab, as the possible source of the infection, with the deadly virus having been accidentally released and then spreading first throughout China and later worldwide. Trump himself has publicly voiced similar suspicions, as did Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo in a FoxNews interview. Private lawsuits against China in the multi-trillion-dollar range have already been filed by rightwing activists and Republican senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham have raised similar governmental demands.

I obviously have no personal access to the classified intelligence reports that have been the basis of these charges by Trump, Pompeo, and other top administration officials. But in reading these recent news accounts, I noticed something rather odd.

Back in January, few Americans were paying much attention to the early reports of a disease outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was hardly a household name. Instead, overwhelming political attention was focused upon the battle over Trump’s impeachment and on the aftermath of our dangerous military confrontation with Iran. But towards the end of that month, I discovered that the fringes of the Internet were awash with claims that the disease was caused by a Chinese bioweapon accidentally released from that same Wuhan laboratory, with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and ZeroHedge, a popular right-wing conspiracy-website, playing leading roles in backing the theory. Indeed, the stories became so widespread in those ideological circles that Sen. Tom Cotton, a leading Neocon, began promoting them on Twitter and FoxNews, thereby provoking an article in the NYT on those “fringe conspiracy theories.”

I suspect that it may be more than purely coincidental that the biowarfare theories which erupted in such concerted fashion on political websites and Social Media accounts back in January so closely match those now publicly advocated by top Trump Administration officials and supposedly based upon our most secure intelligence sources. Perhaps a few intrepid citizen-activists managed to replicate the findings of our multi-billion-dollar intelligence apparatus, and did so in days while the latter required weeks or months. But a more likely scenario is that the wave of January speculation was driven by private leaks and “guidance” provided by exactly the same elements that today are very publicly leveling similar charges in the elite media. Initially promoting controversial theories in less mainstream sources is supposedly a fairly standard intelligence practice.

Regardless of the origins of the idea, does it seem plausible that the coronavirus outbreak might have originated as an accidental leak from that Chinese laboratory? I am not privy to the security procedures of Chinese government facilities, but applying a little common sense may shed some light on that question.

Although the coronavirus is only moderately lethal, apparently having a fatality rate of 1% or less, it is extremely contagious, including during an extended pre-symptomatic period and also among asymptomatic carriers. Thus, portions of the US and Europe are now suffering heavy casualties, while the means taken to control the spread has devastated their national economies. Although the virus is not likely to kill more than a small sliver of the population, we have seen to our dismay how a major outbreak can easily wreck our entire economic life.

During January, the journalists reporting on China’s mushrooming health crisis regularly emphasized that the mysterious new viral outbreak had occurred at the worst possible place and time, in the major transport hub of Wuhan just prior to the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese usually travel to their homes for the celebration, thereby potentially spreading the disease to all parts of the country and producing a permanent, uncontrollable epidemic. The Chinese government avoided that grim fate by the unprecedented decision to shut down the entire national economy and confine 700 million Chinese to their homes for many weeks. But the outcome seems to have been a very near thing, and if Wuhan had remained open for just a few days longer, China might easily have suffered long-term economic and social devastation.

The timing of an accidental laboratory release would obviously be entirely random. Yet the outbreak seems to have begun during the precise period of time most likely to damage China, the worst possible ten-day or perhaps thirty-day window. As I noted in January, there seemed no solid evidence that the coronavirus was a bioweapon, but if it were, the timing of the release seemed very unlikely to have been accidental.

If the virus was released intentionally, the context and motive for such a biowarfare attack against China could not be more obvious. Although our disingenuous media continues to pretend otherwise, China’s economy surpassed our own in size several years ago, and has continued to grow much more rapidly. Chinese companies have also taken the lead in several crucial technologies, with Huawei becoming the world’s leading telecommunications equipment manufacturer and dominating the important 5G market. And China’s sweeping Belt and Road Initiative has threatened to reorient global trade around an interconnected Eurasian landmass, greatly diminishing the leverage of America’s own control over the seas. I have closely followed China for over forty years, and these trend-lines had never been more apparent. Back in 2012, I published an article bearing the provocative title “China’s Rise, America’s Fall?” and I have seen no reason to reassess my verdict.

For three generations following the end of World War II, America had stood as the world’s supreme economic and technological power, while the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years ago left us as the world’s sole remaining superpower, with no conceivable military challenger. A growing sense that we were rapidly losing that unchallenged position had certainly inspired the anti-China rhetoric of many senior figures in the Trump Administration, and sparking the major trade war that they launched soon after coming into office. The increasing misery and growing impoverishment of large sections of the American population naturally left these voters searching for a convenient scapegoat, and the prosperous, rising Chinese made a perfect target.

Despite America’s growing economic conflict with China over the last couple of years, I had never considered the possibility that matters might take a military turn. The Chinese had long ago deployed advanced intermediate range missiles that many believed could easily sink our carriers in the region, and they had also generally improved their conventional military deterrent. Moreover, China was on quite good terms with Russia, which itself had been the target of intense American hostility for several years; and Russia’s new suite of revolutionary hypersonic missiles had drastically reduced any American strategic advantage. Thus, a conventional war against China seemed an absolutely hopeless undertaking, while China’s outstanding businessmen and engineers were steadily gaining ground against America’s decaying and heavily-financialized economic system.

Under these difficult circumstances, an American biowarfare attack against China might have seemed the only remaining card to play in hopes of maintaining American supremacy. Plausible deniability would minimize the risk of any direct Chinese retaliation, and if successful, the terrible blow to China’s economy would set it back for many years, perhaps even destabilizing the social and political system. Using alternative media to immediately promote theories that the coronavirus outbreak was the result of a leak from a Chinese biowarfare lab was a natural means of preempting any later Chinese accusations along similar lines, thereby winning the international propaganda war for America before China had even begun to play.

A decision by elements of our national security establishment to wage biological warfare in hopes of maintaining American world power would certainly have been an extremely reckless act, but extreme recklessness had become a consistent American pattern since 2001, especially under the Trump Administration. Just a year earlier we had kidnapped the daughter of Huawei’s founder and chairman, who also served as CFO and ranked as one of China’s most top executives, while at the beginning of January we suddenly assassinated Iran’s top military leader.

These were the thoughts that came to mind during the last week of January once I discovered the widely circulating theories suggesting that China’s massive disease epidemic had been the self-inflicted consequence of its own biowarfare research. I saw no solid evidence that the coronavirus was a bioweapon, but if it were, there seemed an overwhelming likelihood that China was the innocent victim of the attack, presumably carried out by elements of the American national security establishment.

At that point, someone brought to my attention a very long article by an American ex-pat living in China who called himself “Metallicman” and held a wide range of eccentric and implausible beliefs. I have long recognized that flawed individuals can often serve as the vessels of important information otherwise unavailable, and this case constituted a perfect example of that. His piece denounced the outbreak as a likely American biowarfare attack, and provided a great wealth of factual material I had not previously considered. Since he authorized republication elsewhere I did so, and by the end of January his 15,000 word analysis, although somewhat raw and unpolished, was attracting an enormous amount of readership on our website, probably being one of the very first English-language pieces to suggest that the mysterious new disease was an American bioweapon. Many of his arguments appeared doubtful to me or have been obviated by later developments, but several seemed quite telling.

He pointed out that during the previous two years, the Chinese economy had already suffered serious blows from other mysterious new diseases, although these had targeted farm animals rather than people. During 2018 a new Avian Flu virus had swept the country, destroying large portions of China’s poultry industry, and during 2019 the Swine Flu viral epidemic had devastated China’s pig farms, destroying 40% of the nation’s primary domestic source of meat, with widespread claims that the latter disease was being spread by small drones. My morning newspapers had hardly ignored these important business stories, noting that the sudden destruction of China’s domestic food sources might constitute a huge boon to American farm exports at the height of our trade conflict, but I had never considered the obvious implications. So for three years in a row, China had been severely impacted by strange new viral diseases, though only the most recent had been deadly to humans. Although this evidence was merely circumstantial, the pattern seemed highly suspicious.

The writer also noted that shortly before the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, that city had hosted 300 visiting American military officers, there to participate in the 2019 Military World Games, an absolutely remarkable coincidence of timing. As I pointed out at the time, how would Americans react if 300 Chinese military officers had paid an extended visit to Chicago, and soon afterward a mysterious and deadly epidemic had suddenly broken out in that city? Once again, the evidence was merely circumstantial but certainly raised dark suspicions.

Scientific investigation of the coronavirus had already pointed to its origins in a bat virus, leading to widespread media speculation that bats sold as food in the Wuhan open markets had been the original disease vector. Meanwhile, the orchestrated waves of anti-China accusations had emphasized Chinese laboratory research on that same viral source. But we soon published a lengthy article by investigative journalist Whitney Webb providing copious evidence of America’s own enormous biowarfare research efforts, which had similarly focused for years on bat viruses. Webb was then associated with MintPress News, but that publication had strangely declined to publish her important piece, perhaps skittish about the grave suspicions it directed towards the US government on so momentous an issue. So without the benefit of our platform, her major contribution to the public debate might have attracted relatively little readership.

Around the same time, I noted another extremely strange coincidence that seemed to attract no interest from our somnolent national media. Although his name had meant nothing to me, in late January my morning newspapers carried major stories on the sudden arrest of Prof. Charles Lieber, one of Harvard University’s top scientists and Chairman of its Chemistry Department, sometimes characterized as a potential future Nobel Laureate.

The circumstances of that case seemed utterly bizarre to me. Like numerous other prominent American academics, Lieber had had decades of close research ties with China, holding joint appointments and receiving substantial funding for his work. But now he was accused of financial reporting violations in the disclosure portions of his government grant applications—the most obscure sort of offense—and on the basis of those accusations, he was seized by the FBI in an early-morning raid on his Cambridge home and dragged off in shackles, potentially facing decades of federal imprisonment.

Such government action against an academic seemed almost without precedent. During the height of the Cold War, numerous American scientists and technicians were rightfully accused of having stolen our nuclear weapons secrets for delivery to Stalin, yet I had never heard of any of them treated in such a manner, let alone a scholar of Prof. Lieber’s stature, who was merely charged with technical disclosure violations. Indeed, his treatment recalled accounts of NKVD raids during the Soviet purges of the 1930s.

Although Lieber was described as a chemistry professor, a few seconds of Googling revealed that some of his most important work had been in virology, including technology for the detection of viruses. So a massive and deadly new viral epidemic had broken out in China and almost simultaneously, a top American scholar with close Chinese ties and expertise in viruses was suddenly arrested by the federal government, yet no one in the media expresses any curiosity at a possible connection between these two events.

I think we can safely assume that Lieber’s arrest by the FBI had been prompted by the coronavirus epidemic, but anything more is mere speculation. Those now accusing China of having created the coronavirus might surely suggest that our intelligence agencies discovered that the Harvard professor had been personally involved with that deadly research. But I think a far more likely possibility is that Lieber began to wonder whether the epidemic in China might not be the result of an American biowarfare attack, and was perhaps a little too free in voicing his suspicions, thereby drawing the wrath of our national security establishment. Inflicting such extremely harsh treatment upon a top Harvard scientist would greatly intimidate all of his lesser colleagues elsewhere, who would surely now think twice before broaching certain possible theories to any journalists.

By the end of January, our webzine had published seven articles and columns on the coronavirus outbreak, totaling tens of thousands of words, and probably established itself as the primary English-language source for a particular perspective on the deadly epidemic, with our coverage eventually attracting many hundreds of thousands of pageviews. A few weeks later, the Chinese government began gingerly raising the possibility that the coronavirus may have been brought to Wuhan by the 300 American military officers visiting that city, and was fiercely attacked by the Trump Administration for spreading anti-American propaganda. But I strongly suspect that the Chinese had gotten that idea from our own publication.

As the coronavirus gradually began to spread outside China’s own borders, another development occurred that greatly multiplied my suspicions. Most of these early cases had occurred exactly where one might expect, among the East Asian countries bordering China. But by late February Iran had become the second epicenter of the global outbreak. Even more surprisingly, its political elites had been especially hard-hit, with a full 10% of the entire Iranian parliament soon infected and at least a dozen of its officials and politicians, some of them quite senior, soon dying of the disease. Indeed, Neocon activists on Twitter began boasting that their hatred Iranian enemies were now dropping like flies.

Let us consider the implications of this. Across the entire world the only political elites that have yet suffered any significant human losses have been the Iranians, and they died at a very early stage, before significant outbreaks had even occurred almost anywhere else in the world outside China. Thus, we have America assassinating Iran’s top military commander on Jan. 2nd and then just a few weeks later large portions of the Iran’s ruling elites became infected by a mysterious and deadly new virus, with many of them soon dying as a consequence. Could any rational individual possibly regard this as a mere coincidence?

Biological warfare is a highly technical subject, and those possessing such expertise are unlikely to candidly report their classified research activities in the pages of our major newspapers, perhaps even less so after Prof. Lieber was dragged off to prison in chains. My own knowledge is nil. But in mid-March I came across several extremely long and detailed comments on the coronavirus outbreak that had been posted on a small website by an individual calling himself “OldMicrobiologist” and who claimed to be a retired forty-year veteran of American biodefense. The style and details of his material struck me as quite credible, and after a little further investigation I concluded that there was a high likelihood that his background was exactly as he had described. I made arrangements to republish his comments in the form of a 3,400 word article, which soon attracted a great deal of traffic and 80,000 words of further comments.

Although the writer said that he had absolutely no proof, he said that his experience led him to strongly suspect that the coronavirus outbreak was indeed an American biowarfare attack against China, probably carried out by agents brought into that country under cover of the Military Games held at Wuhan in late October, the sort of sabotage operation our intelligence agencies had sometimes undertaken elsewhere. One important point he emphasized was that high lethality was often counter-productive in a bioweapon since debilitating or hospitalizing large numbers of individuals may impose far greater economic costs on a country than a biological agent which simply inflicts an equal number of deaths. In his words “a high communicability, low lethality disease is perfect for ruining an economy,” suggesting that the apparent characteristics of the coronavirus were close to optimal in this regard. Those so interested should read his analysis and assess for themselves his credibility and persuasiveness.

One intriguing aspect of the situation was that almost from the first moment that reports of the strange new epidemic in China reached the international media, a large and orchestrated campaign had been launched on numerous websites and Social Media to identify the cause as a Chinese bioweapon carelessly released in its own country. Meanwhile, the far more plausible hypothesis that China was the victim rather than the perpetrator had received virtually no organized support anywhere, and only began to take shape as I gradually located and republished relevant material usually drawn from very obscure sources and often anonymously authored. So it seemed that only one side was waging an active information war, and that side was not China’s. The nearly simultaneous launch of such a major propaganda campaign may not necessarily demonstrate that an actual biowarfare attack had occurred, but I think it tends to support such a notion.

When considering the hypothesis of an American biowarfare attack, certain natural objections come to mind. The major drawback to biological warfare has always been the obvious fact that the self-replicating agents employed are not prone to respect national borders, raising the serious risk that the disease might eventually return to the land of its origin and inflict substantial casualties. For this reason, it seems quite doubtful that any rational and half-competent American leadership would have unleashed the coronavirus against China.

But as we absolutely see demonstrated in our daily news headlines, America’s current government is grotesquely and manifestly incompetent, more incompetent than one could almost possibly imagine, with tens of thousands of Americans having now already paid with their lives for such extreme incompetence. Rationality and competence are obviously nowhere to be found among the Deep State Neocons that President Donald Trump has appointed to so many crucial positions throughout our national security apparatus.

Moreover, the extremely lackadaisical notion that a massive coronavirus outbreak in China would never spread back to America might have seemed plausible to individuals who carelessly assumed that past historical analogies would exactly apply. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

Reasonable people have suggested that if the coronavirus was a bioweapon deployed by elements of the American national security apparatus against China (and Iran), it’s difficult to imagine why they didn’t assume it would naturally leak back in the US and start a huge pandemic here, as is currently happening.

The most obvious answer is that they were stupid and incompetent, but here’s another point to consider…

In late 2002 there was the outbreak of SARS in China, a related virus but that was far more deadly and somewhat different in other characteristics. The virus killed hundreds of Chinese and spread into a few other countries before it was controlled and stamped out. The impact on the US and Europe was negligible, with just a small scattering of cases and only a death or two.

So if American biowarfare analysts were considering a coronavirus attack against China, isn’t it quite possible they would have said to themselves that since SARS never significantly leaked back into the US or Europe, we’d similarly remain insulated from the coronavirus? Obviously, such an analysis was foolish and mistaken, but would it have seemed so implausible at the time?

As some must have surely noticed, I have deliberately avoided investigating any of the scientific details of the coronavirus. In principle, an objective and accurate analysis of the characteristics and structure of the virus might help suggest whether it was entirely natural or rather the product of a research laboratory, and in the latter case, possibly indicating whether the source was China, America, or some third country.

But we are dealing with a cataclysmic world event and those questions obviously have enormous political ramifications, so the entire subject is shrouded by a thick fog of complex propaganda, with numerous conflicting claims being advanced by interested parties. I have no background in microbiology let alone biological warfare, so I would be hopelessly adrift in evaluating such conflicting scientific and technical claims. I suspect that this is equally true of the overwhelming majority of other observers as well, though committed partisans are loathe to admit that fact, and will eagerly seize upon any scientific argument that supports their preferred position while rejecting those that contradict it.

Therefore, by necessity, my own focus is on evidence that can at least be understood by every layman, if not necessarily always accepted. And I believe that the simple juxtaposition of several recent disclosures in the mainstream media leads to a rather telling conclusion.

For obvious reasons, the Trump Administration has become very eager to emphasize the early missteps and delays in the Chinese reaction to the viral outbreak in Wuhan, and has presumably encouraged our media outlets to focus on this topic.

As an example of this, the Associated Press Investigative Unit recently published a rather detailed analysis of those early events purportedly based upon confidential Chinese documents. Provocatively entitled “China Didn’t Warn Public of Likely Pandemic for 6 Key Days”, the piece was widely distributed, running in abridged form in the NYT and elsewhere. According to this reconstruction, the Chinese government first became aware of the seriousness of this public health crisis on Jan. 14th, but delayed taking any major action until Jan. 20th, a period of time during which the number of infections greatly multiplied.

Last month, a team of five WSJ reporters produced a very detailed and thorough 4,400 word analysis of the same period, and the NYT has published a helpful timeline of those early events as well. Although there may be some differences of emphasis or minor disagreements, all these American media sources agree that Chinese officials first became aware of the serious viral outbreak in Wuhan in early to mid-January, with the first known death occurring on Jan. 11th, and finally implemented major new public health measures later that same month. No one seems to have disputed these basic facts.

But with the horrific consequences of our own later governmental inaction being obvious, sources within our intelligence agencies have sought to demonstrate that they were not the ones asleep at the switch. Earlier this month, an ABC News story cited four separate government sources to reveal that as far back as late November, a special medical intelligence unit within our Defense Intelligence Agency had produced a report revealing than an out-of-control disease epidemic was occurring in the Wuhan area of China, and widely distributed that document throughout the top ranks of our government, warning that steps should be taken to protect US forces based in Asia. After the story aired, a Pentagon spokesman officially denied the existence of that November report, while various other top level government and intelligence officials refused to comment. But a few days later, Israeli television revealed that in November American intelligence had indeed shared such a report on the Wuhan disease outbreak with its NATO and Israeli allies, thus seeming to independently confirm the complete accuracy of the original ABC story and its several government sources.

It therefore appears that elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency were aware of the deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan more than a month before any officials in the Chinese government itself. Unless our intelligence agencies have pioneered the technology of precognition, I think this may have happened for the same reason that arsonists have the earliest knowledge of future fires.

Back in February, before a single American had died from the disease, I wrote my own overview of the possible course of events, and I would still stand by it today:

Consider a particularly ironic outcome of this situation, not particularly likely but certainly possible…

Everyone knows that America’s ruling elites are criminal, crazy, and also extremely incompetent.

So perhaps the coronavirus outbreak was indeed a deliberate biowarfare attack against China, hitting that nation just before Lunar New Year, the worst possible time to produce a permanent nationwide pandemic. However, the PRC responded with remarkable speed and efficiency, implementing by far the largest quarantine in human history, and the deadly disease now seems to be in decline there.

Meanwhile, the disease naturally leaks back into the US, and despite all the advance warning, our totally incompetent government mismanages the situation, producing a huge national health disaster, and the collapse of our economy and decrepit political system.

As I said, not particularly likely, but certainly a very fitting end to the American Empire…


By Ron Unz
Source: Unz Review

Is the United States About to Engage in Official State Piracy Against China? Strong Precedent Points to Worrying Trend

April 18, 2020

by A. B. Abrams for The Saker Blog

Is the United States About to Engage in Official State Piracy Against China? Strong Precedent Points to Worrying Trend

The Coronavirus crisis appears set to herald a new era of much poorer relations between China and the Western world, with Western countries having borne the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic and, particularly in the United States, increasingly blaming China at an official level for the effects.[1] Looking at the U.S. case in particular, at first responses to the virus were if anything optimistic – the fallout in China was seen as a ‘correction’ which would shift the balance of global economic power back into Western hands. Indeed, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated on January 30th that the fallout from the virus in China “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America” with millions at the time placed under lockdown in Wuhan and elsewhere.[2] Western publications from the New York Times to the Guardian widely hailed the virus as potentially bringing an end to China’s decades of rapid economic growth – with a ‘rebalancing’ of the global economy towards Western power strongly implied.[3],[4] Against North Korea, the New York Times described the virus as potentially functioning as America’s “most effective ally” in achieving the outcome Washington had long sought – “choking the North’s economy.” [5]

The result, however, has if anything been strong resilience to the virus across much of East Asia, with Vietnam and South Korea being prime examples of successful handling alongside Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland – in contrast to a very sluggish and often ineffective response in the West.[6] From rot filled and broken emergency supplies in the U.S. national reserve[7] to nurses wearing bin bags due a lack of protective equipment,[8] the commandeering of supplies heading to other countries, [9] and the enlistment of prison labour to build mass graves in New York City[10] – signs have unanimously pointed to chaos. It should be pointed out that the U.S. reported its first case on the same day as South Korea – which had the virus fully under control several weeks earlier due to more effective handling and a lack of complacency.[11] The U.S. and wider Western world had a major advantage in its warning time over China in particular, but effectively squandered it.[12]

The results of the fallout from the Coronavirus in the Western world, and in the U.S. in particular, could be extremely serious given the context of escalating American pressure on China in the leadup to the outbreak. Blaming China for the virus across American press and in the White House itself – despite it having reached America primarily from Europe rather than Asia[13] – has heralded mass hate crimes against the Asian American community of unprecedented seriousness and scale since the targeting of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s.[14] Perhaps even more seriously, however, the official American response as public opinion is directed against China appears set to place the world’s two largest economies on a potentially catastrophic collision course. On April 14th U.S. Senator Josh Hawley unveiled highly provocative legislation which would strip China of its sovereign immunity in American courts and allow Americans to sue China’s ruling Communist Party directly for the damages caused by the coronavirus crisis.[15] Such legislation relies heavily on growing anti-Chinese sentiments and depictions of China as directly responsible – and contradicts evidence from the World Health Organisation among others that China’s response effectively stalled the global spread of the virus at its own expense with its lockdown.[16]

An unbiased analysts shows that the disproportionate fallout in the Western world relative to East Asia is overwhelmingly due to poor preparation – and had effective South Korean style measures been implemented from the outset America would have seen only a small fraction of the cases it currently suffers from.[17] Nevertheless, calls from the U.S. and to a lesser extent from within other Western states[18] to make China foot the bill are manifold. Scholars from the American Enterprise Institute and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution among others have made direct calls for Western states to unilaterally “seize the assets of Chinese state-owned companies,” cancel debts to China and expropriate Chinese overseas assets “in compensation for coronavirus losses.”[19] The Florida based firm the Berman Law Group has already filed two major lawsuits suing China calling for compensation for the outbreak – and the situation looks set to worsen considerably with many more suits to follow. Regarding how the crisis could play out, and how the U.S. could act on its massive claims against China over the virus which are expected to be in the hundreds of billions at least, there is an important precedent for American courts providing similar compensation to alleged victims of an East Asian government and the American state taking action accordingly – that of the Otto Warmbier case in 2018. Assessment of the Warmbier case sets a very important precedent with very considerable implications for the outcome of a Sino-American dispute.

Otto Warmbier was an American student arrested in North Korea in 2016 for stealing a poster and violating a restricted high security area in Pyongyang. The student was returned to the U.S. the following year in a comatose state, with his parents alleging that his teeth had been artificially rearranged and his body showed signs of torture. This was strongly contradicted by medical analyses, with the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office carrying out an external examination of Warmbier’s body and dismissing the claim by his father that his teeth had been pulled out and rearranged by the North Koreans. “The teeth are natural and in good repair,” the office concluded, after Warmbier’s father had sensationally claimed that “his bottom teeth look like they [the Koreans] had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged them.” Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco stated addressing the claim of forced rearranging of Otto’s teeth: ”I felt very comfortable that there wasn’t any evidence of trauma. We were surprised at the [parents’] statement.” She said her team, which included a forensic dentist, thoroughly evaluated the body and assessed various scans of his body.[20] Medical assessments showed no signs of mistreatment or any trauma to the student’s head or skull, with a blood clot, pneumonia, sepsis, kidney failure, and sleeping pills were also cited as potential causes of death.[21] Nevertheless, Warmbier’s parents would continue to claim against all available evidence that their son had been tortured to death – filing a lawsuit against the North Korean government. Where a full autopsy could have provided data to more completely undermine their claims, and was strongly recommended by doctors, they were adamant in their refusal and no autopsy was carried out. Forensic scientists were highly critical of this unusual and unexpected decision in this critical case.[22]

In response to the Warmbers’ claim against the North Korean state, which amounted to a staggering $1.05 billion in punitive damages and around $46 million for the family’s suffering in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Washington in October 2018, Pyongyang was asked to pay the couple $500 million.[23] This was despite no evidence for the couple’s claims of Korean culpability, but at a time when public opinion was strongly against North Korea and would have supported the motion. To seize the Warmbiers’ compensation, the United States Navy would later that year commandeer a North Korean cargo ship, the Wise Honest, and escort it to American territory where it was subsequently sold at auction. The couple was provided with a part of the ship’s value, and future seizures of Korean merchant shipping to meet the remainder of the American family’s claim remain possible under U.S. law.[24] The seizure of the ship, one of North Korea’s largest, represented a considerable loss to its fleet and complemented the effects of ongoing Western sanctions to undermine the country’s economy.

The significance of the Warmbier case is that it provides a strong precedent for the U.S. Military, should China inevitably refuse to pay the hundreds billions expected to be demanded in compensation, to engage in effective state level piracy against Chinese merchant shipping to provide funds for its increasingly struggling economy.[25] With trade war having failed to significantly slow Chinese economic growth and foreign trade, which had been its primary goal,[26] more drastic means may be adopted for the same end using the Coronavirus crisis as a pretext. Other similar recent cases of do exist, including unilateral seizure and sale of Iranian government owned properties by the Canadian government in 2019 to compensate alleged victims of terror of conflicts with Hezbollah and Hamas. This was despite neither of these being UN recognised terrorist organisations and Iran’s support for these non-state actors being entirely legal under international law.[27] The fact that these properties were on Canadian soil and governed under Canadian law however, rather than in international waters, makes this a considerably less provocative case than the Warmbier case one or than what is being proposed against China.

Further evidence that the U.S. would consider unilateral commandeering of shipping against China was provided by the U.S. Naval Institute, which in April published an important paper titled ‘Unleash the Privateers’ highlighting that it remained legal under American law for U.S. security firms to be tasked with commandeering and either sinking or capturing and selling Chinese merchant ships in the event of conflict. It highlighted that China was the largest trading nation in the world with a merchant fleet several times the size of its American counterpart – and that this provided a vulnerability the U.S. should be willing to exploit.[28] Taken together, the circumstances surrounding claims against China and moves to strip it of its sovereign immunity, the Warmbier precedent, the well timed and extremely radical naval institute paper and above all America’s need to reverse its losses and undermine China’s growing trade and economic prosperity to perpetuate its own hegemony, between them point to a high possibility of the U.S. adopting state level piracy against Chinese shipping as a future policy. While evidence strongly contradicts claims that China is responsible for the Coronavirus and the massive fallout the U.S. is now experiencing – much as evidence from American coroners and forensic scientists contradicted the claims of the Warmbier family – these inconvenient facts are highly unlikely to prevent the U.S. from taking action to secure its perceived rightful place as the leader of the global economy by seizing what it sees as its rightful property through attacks on Chinese trading vessels.

It is by no means a certainty that the United States will engage in such an escalatory course of action, and the nature of the overall Western response beyond the current harsh rhetoric and unfounded accusations is yet to be seen. It is important at this stage, however, to highlight the not insignificant possibility such a course will be taken by the U.S. and other Western parties to reverse the trend towards a decline in their economic positions relative to China. Repercussions from such seizures will almost certainly be far more severe than the relatively muted global response to the seizure and sale of a commandeered North Korean ship two years prior. While China’s Navy is concentrated in the Western Pacific and is poorly placed to defend its trade routes from the global reach of Western warships, Beijing and its allies have a wide range of means to retaliate which could deter the Western powers from taking such a course of action.

  1. ‘Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak,’ New York Times (accessed April 16, 2020). 
  2. Staracqualursi, Veronica and Davis, Richard, ‘Commerce secretary says coronavirus will help bring jobs to North America,’ CNN, January 30, 2020. 
  3. Bradsher, Keith, ‘Coronavirus Could End China’s Decades-Long Economic Growth Streak,’ New York Times, March 16, 2020. 
  4. Davidson, Helen, ‘Coronavirus deals China’s economy a “bigger blow than global financial crisis,”’ The Guardian, March 16, 2020. 
  5. Koettl, Christoph, ‘Coronavirus Is Idling North Korea’s Ships Achieving What Sanctions Did Not,’ New York Times, March 26, 2020. 
  6. Graham-Harrison, Emma, ‘Coronavirus: how Asian countries acted while the west dithered,’ The Guardian, March 21, 2020.Inkster, Ian, ‘In the battle against the coronavirus, East Asian societies and cultures have the edge,’ South China Morning Post, April 10, 2020. 
  7. Chandler, Kim, ‘Some states receive masks with dry rot, broken ventilators,’ Associated Press, April 4, 2020. 
  8. Glasser, Susan B., ‘How Did the U.S. End Up with Nurses Wearing Garbage Bags?,’ The New Yorker, April 9, 2020. 
  9. ‘US Seizes Ventilators Destined for Barbados,’ Telesur, April 5, 2020.Willsher, Kim and Holmes, Oliver and. McKernan, Bethan and Tondo, Lorenzo, ‘US hijacking mask shipments in rush for coronavirus protection,’ The Guardian, April 3, 2020.Lister, Tim and Shukla, Sebastian and Bobille, Fanny, ‘Coronavirus sparks a ‘war for masks’ as accusations fly,’ CNN, April 3, 2020. 
  10. Crane, Emily, ‘Workers in full Hazmat suits bury rows of coffins in Hart Island mass grave as NYC officials confirm coronavirus victims WILL be buried there if their bodies aren’t claimed within two weeks after death toll rises to 4,778,’ Daily Mail, April 9, 2020. 
  11. ‘Special Report: How Korea trounced U.S. in race to test people for coronavirus,’ Reuters, March 18, 2020.‘Once the biggest outbreak outside of China, South Korean city reports zero new coronavirus cases,’ Reuters, April 10, 2020. 
  12. Johnson, Ian, ‘China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It,’ New York Times, March 13, 2020. 
  13. ‘New York coronavirus outbreak originated in Europe, studies show,’ The Hill, April 9, 2020. 
  14. De Souza, Alison, ‘Asian Americans tell harrowing stories of abuse amid coronavirus outbreak in the US,’ Straits Times, April 1, 2020.Chapman, Ben, ‘New York City Sees Rise in Coronavirus Hate Crimes Against Asians,’ Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2020. 
  15. Schultz, Maarisa, ‘Sen Hawley: Let coronavirus victims sue Chinese Communist Party,’ Fox News, April 14, 2020. 
  16. Wang, Yanan, ‘New virus cases fall; WHO says China bought the world time,’ Associated Press, February 15, 2020.Johnson, Ian, ‘China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It,’ New York Times, March 13, 2020. 
  17. ‘Special Report: How Korea trounced U.S. in race to test people for coronavirus,’ Reuters, March 18, 2020.‘Once the biggest outbreak outside of China, South Korean city reports zero new coronavirus cases,’ Reuters, April 10, 2020. 
  18. Cole, Harry, ‘China owes us £351 billion: Britain should pursue Beijing through international courts for coronavirus compensation, major study claims as 15 top top Tories urge “reset” in UK relations with country,’ Daily Mail, April 5, 2020. 
  19. Stradner, Ivana and Yoo, John, ‘How to Make China Pay,’ American Enterprise Institute, April 6, 2020. 
  20. Nedelman, Michael, ‘Coroner found no obvious signs of torture on Otto Warmbier,’ CNN, September 29, 2017. 
  21. Lockett, Jon, ‘Tragic student Otto Warmbier ‘may have attempted suicide’ in North Korean prison after being sentenced to 15 years for stealing poster,’ The Sun, July 28, 2018.Basu, Zachary, ‘What we’re reading: What happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea,’ Axios, July 25, 2018.Tingle, Rory, ‘Otto Warmbier’s brain damage that led to his death was caused by a SUICIDE ATTEMPT rather than torture by North Korean prison guards, report claims,’ Daily Mail, July 25, 2018.Fox, Maggie, ’What killed Otto Warmbier?’ NBC News, June 20, 2017.Tinker, Ben, ‘What an autopsy may (or may not) have revealed about Otto Warmbier’s death,’ CNN, June 22, 2017.Nedelman, Michael, ‘Coroner found no obvious signs of torture on Otto Warmbier,’ CNN, September 29, 2017. 
  22. Tinker, Ben, ‘What an autopsy may (or may not) have revealed about Otto Warmbier’s death,’ CNN, June 22, 2017.Nedelman, Michael, ‘Coroner found no obvious signs of torture on Otto Warmbier,’ CNN, September 29, 2017. 
  23. Brookbank, Sarah, ‘Family of Otto Warmbier awarded $500 million in lawsuit against North Korea,’ USA Today, December 24, 2018. 
  24. Lee, Christy, ‘U.S. Marshals to Sell Seized North Korean Cargo Ship,’ VOA, July 27, 2019.‘Seized North Korean cargo ship sold to compensate parents of Otto Warmbier, others,’ Navy Times, October 9, 2019. 
  25. Blyth, Mark, ‘The U.S. Economy Is Uniquely Vulnerable to the Coronavirus,’ Foreign Affairs, March 30, 2020.Schulze, Elizabeth, ‘The coronavirus recession is unlike any economic downturn in US history,’ CNBC, April 8, 2020.Schwartz, Nelson D., ‘Coronavirus Recession Looms, Its Course “Unrecognizable,”’ New York Times, April 1, 2020.Davies, Rob, ‘Coronavirus means a bad recession – at least – says JP Morgan boss,’ The Guardian, April 6, 2020.Lowrey, Annie, ‘Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance,’ The Atlantic, April 13, 2020. 
  26. Wei, Liu, ‘Trump’s Trade War on China Is About More Than Trade,’ The Diplomat, July 20, 2018. 
  27. Bell, Stewart, ‘Iran’s properties in Canada sold, proceeds handed to terror victims,’ Global News, September 12, 2019. 
  28. Cancian, Mark and Schwartz, Brandon, ‘Unleash the Privateers!,’ U.S. Naval Institute, vol. 146, no. 2, issue 1406, April 2020. 

Can “Coronavirus Diplomacy” Bring the European Union (EU) Closer to Eurasia?

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research, April 03, 2020

The European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), an association of post-Soviet states, effectively serve a similar function to each other as an economic bloc. Unlike the 27-member EU, the EEU has only 5-members as many post-Soviet states allege it is nothing but an attempt to revive the Soviet Union, which the countries of the West do not want to promote. The West’s resistance has brought no economic benefit to it and this geopolitical duel was reflected in the limited success of sanctions against Russia. However, the credibility of the EU and the liberal orders continues to diminish as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, the coronavirus pandemic actually creates a unique opportunity for the EU and EEU to integrate into a single system, or at least move closer together.

Russia’s dominance of the EEU is both a positive and a negative for Eurasian integration. Russia’s large market forms the basis of the integration potential of the EEU, however, limited economic growth, sanctions and its participation in global geopolitics create risks for the Eurasian integration process. However, Eurasian integration would be in the interest of EU as it will connect European states to new markets in Central and East Asia far more efficiently and quickly then by other means. The EU claims that it works towards common markets and efficiency but does not seriously consider connecting Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean.

The EU is losing its position as a top trading partner of the EEU, and it’s not just because of China’s growing importance. As a trading partner of the EEU, China has already surpassed most of Europe. The role of the EU as a trading partner of the whole EEU is due to the important role of the EU for Russia. However, Russia has been slowly turning eastward from the EU for years now as the future leading economies of the world will shift from the West to Asia.

Coronavirus is certainly accelerating this reality as the entirety of the Anglosphere and Western Europe head towards a severe recession unable to handle the economic pressures of the pandemic. This pandemic and economic downturn effectively means that only China and Russia will compete for investments in the extremely resource rich Central Asia. As EU economies begin to recover in the aftermath of the coronavirus and their energy demands are not being met access to Central Asia may become a priority. Ironically, Russia is the only means for the EU to enter the markets of the post-Soviet countries outside of Eastern Europe. Therefore, with the liberal order severely damaged in the face of coronavirus, it will have to be acknowledged in the West that the EEU project as a whole is a force for good and the EU will have to admit it made a mistake by not initially recognizing the EEU.

With this in mind, the EU must show independent foreign policy and resolve its disputes with Russia, even if Washington insists on enacting hostiles relations with Moscow. As the EU originally began as an economic union without much of a political nature, by returning to their roots will mean naturally a change in foreign policy. If the economy is the concentrated expression of politics, then mutual economic interests should be the foundation of reconciliation between Brussels and Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the leading voices in normalizing relations with Russia, despite his harsh rhetoric against Moscow time to time. Let’s consider Macron’s Facebook post from last year where he said

“progress on many political and economic issues is evident, for we’re trying to develop Franco-Russian relations. I’m convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia.”

With Macron stressing that Russia is part of Europe, he expanded on General de Gaulle’s famous phrase that Europe stretches “from Lisbon to the Urals,” to say that Europe extended to Vladivostok, close to the North Korean border. Macron is one of the most powerful voices in Europe and strongly endorses a weakening of U.S. influence in Europe through various means, including criticism of NATO and suggestion to have it replaced with a European military.

The EEU’s vision of Lisbon to Vladivostok as a common space is the best way to avoid a crisis on the Eurasian landmass. For countries like Ukraine who are stuck between both East and West, the integration of the EU and EEU would actually serve as a stabilizing factor. Therefore, as the coronavirus has exposed weaknesses in the liberal globalized order, an opportunity has actually emerged where the EU and EEU can more closely align and integrate.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

Featured image is from InfoBricsThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Paul Antonopoulos, Global Research, 2020

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 30.08.2018

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

Pepe ESCOBAR

Get ready for a major geopolitical chessboard rumble: from now on, every butterfly fluttering its wings and setting off a tornado directly connects to the battle between Eurasia integration and Western sanctions as foreign policy.

It is the paradigm shift of China’s New Silk Roads versus America’s Our Way or the Highway. We used to be under the illusion that history had ended. How did it come to this?

Hop in for some essential time travel. For centuries the Ancient Silk Road, run by mobile nomads, established the competitiveness standard for land-based trade connectivity; a web of trade routes linking Eurasia to the – dominant – Chinese market.

In the early 15th century, based on the tributary system, China had already established a Maritime Silk Road along the Indian Ocean all the way to the east coast of Africa, led by the legendary Admiral Zheng He. Yet it didn’t take much for imperial Beijing to conclude that China was self-sufficient enough – and that emphasis should be placed on land-based operations.

Deprived of a trade connection via a land corridor between Europe and China, Europeans went all-out for their own maritime silk roads. We are all familiar with the spectacular result: half a millennium of Western dominance.

Until quite recently the latest chapters of this Brave New World were conceptualized by the Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman trio.

The Heartland of the World

Mackinder

Halford Mackinder’s 1904 Heartland Theory – a product of the imperial Russia-Britain New Great Game – codified the supreme Anglo, and then Anglo-American, fear of a new emerging land power able to reconnect Eurasia to the detriment of maritime powers.

Nicholas Spykman’s 1942 Rimland Theory advocated that mobile maritime powers, such as the UK and the U.S., should aim for strategic offshore balancing. The key was to control the maritime edges of Eurasia—that is, Western Europe, the Middle East and East Asia—against any possible Eurasia unifier. When you don’t need to maintain a large Eurasia land-based army, you exercise control by dominating trade routes along the Eurasian periphery.

Even before Mackinder and Spykman, U.S. Navy Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan had come up in the 1890s with his Influence of Sea Power Upon History – whereby the “island” U.S. should establish itself as a seaworthy giant, modeled on the British empire, to maintain a balance of power in Europe and Asia.

It was all about containing the maritime edges of Eurasia.

In fact, we lived in a mix of Heartland and Rimland. In 1952, then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles adopted the concept of an “island chain” (then expanded to three chains) alongside Japan, Australia and the Philippines to encircle and contain both China and the USSR in the Pacific. (Note the Trump administration’s attempt at revival via the Quad–U.S., Japan, Australia and India).

George Kennan, the architect of containing the USSR, was drunk on Spykman, while, in a parallel track, as late as 1988, President Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters were still drunk on Mackinder. Referring to U.S. competitors as having a shot at dominating the Eurasian landmass, Reagan gave away the plot: “We fought two world wars to prevent this from occurring,” he said.

Eurasia integration and connectivity is taking on many forms. The China-driven New Silk Roads, also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), and myriad other mechanisms, are now leading us to a whole new game.

How delightful that the very concept of Eurasian “connectivity” actually comes from a 2007 World Bank report about competitiveness in global supply chains.

Also delightful is how the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski was “inspired” by Mackinder after the fall of the USSR – advocating the partition of a then weak Russia into three separate regions; European, Siberian and Far Eastern.

All Nodes Covered

At the height of the unipolar moment, history did seem to have “ended.” Both the western and eastern peripheries of Eurasia were under tight Western control – in Germany and Japan, the two critical nodes in Europe and East Asia. There was also that extra node in the southern periphery of Eurasia, namely the energy-wealthy Middle East.

Washington had encouraged the development of a multilateral European Union that might eventually rival the U.S. in some tech domains, but most of all would enable the U.S. to contain Russia by proxy.

China was only a delocalized, low-cost manufacture base for the expansion of Western capitalism. Japan was not only for all practical purposes still occupied, but also instrumentalized via the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose message was:

We fund your projects only if you are politically correct.

The primary aim, once again, was to prevent any possible convergence of European and East Asian powers as rivals to the US.

The confluence between communism and the Cold War had been essential to prevent Eurasia integration. Washington configured a sort of benign tributary system – borrowing from imperial China – designed to ensure perpetual unipolarity. It was duly maintained by a formidable military, diplomatic, economic, and covert apparatus, with a star role for the Chalmers Johnson-defined Empire of Bases encircling, containing and dominating Eurasia.

Compare this recent idyllic past with Brzezinski’s – and Henry Kissinger’s – worst nightmare: what could be defined today as the “revenge of history”.

That features the Russia-China strategic partnership, from energy to trade:  interpolating Russia-China geo-economics; the concerted drive to bypass the U.S. dollar; the AIIB and the BRICS’s New Development Bank involved in infrastructure financing; the tech upgrade inbuilt in Made in China 2025; the push towards an alternative banking clearance mechanism (a new SWIFT); massive stockpiling of gold reserves; and the expanded politico-economic role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

As Glenn Diesen formulates in his brilliant book, Russia’s Geo-economic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia, “the foundations of an Eurasian core can create a gravitational pull to draw the rimland towards the centre.”

If the complex, long-term, multi-vector process of Eurasia integration could be resumed by just one formula, it would be something like this: the heartland progressively integrating; the rimlands mired in myriad battlefields and the power of the hegemon irretrievably dissolving. Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman to the rescue? It’s not enough.

Divide and Rule, Revisited

The Oracle still speaks

The same applies for the preeminent post-mod Delphic Oracle, also known as Henry Kissinger, simultaneously adorned by hagiography gold and despised as a war criminal.

Before the Trump inauguration, there was much debate in Washington about how Kissinger might engineer – for Trump – a “pivot to Russia” that he had envisioned 45 years ago. This is how I framed the shadow play at the time.

In the end, it’s always about variations of Divide and Rule – as in splitting Russia from China and vice-versa. In theory, Kissinger advised Trump to “rebalance” towards Russia to oppose the irresistible Chinese ascension. It won’t happen, not only because of the strength of the Russia-China strategic partnership, but because across the Beltway, neocons and humanitarian imperialists ganged up to veto it.

Brzezinski’s perpetual Cold War mindset still lords over a fuzzy mix of the Wolfowitz Doctrine and the Clash of Civilizations. The Russophobic Wolfowitz Doctrine – still fully classified – is code for Russia as the perennial top existential threat to the U.S. The Clash, for its part, codifies another variant of Cold War 2.0: East (as in China) vs. West.

Kissinger is trying some rebalancing/hedging himself, noting that the mistake the West (and NATO) is making “is to think that there is a sort of historic evolution that will march across Eurasia – and not to understand that somewhere on that march it will encounter something very different to a Westphalian entity.”

Both Eurasianist Russia and civilization-state China are already on post-Westphalian mode. The redesign goes deep. It includes a key treaty signed in 2001, only a few weeks before 9/11, stressing that both nations renounce any territorial designs on one another’s territory. This happens to concern, crucially, the Primorsky Territory in the Russian Far East along the Amur River, which was ruled by the Ming and Qing empires.

Moreover, Russia and China commit never to do deals with any third party, or allow a third country to use its territory to harm the other’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

So much for turning Russia against China. Instead, what will develop 24/7 are variations of U.S. military and economic containment against Russia, China and Iran – the key nodes of Eurasia integration – in a geo-strategic spectrum. It will include intersections of heartland and rimland across Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the South China Sea. That will proceed in parallel to the Fed weaponizing the U.S. dollar at will.

Heraclitus Defies Voltaire

Voltaire

Alastair Crooke took a great shot at deconstructing why Western global elites are terrified of the Russian conceptualization of Eurasia. It’s because “they ‘scent’…a stealth reversion to the old, pre-Socratic values: for the Ancients … the very notion of ‘man’, in that way, did not exist. There were only men: Greeks, Romans, barbarians, Syrians, and so on. This stands in obvious opposition to universal, cosmopolitan ‘man’.”

So it’s Heraclitus versus Voltaire – even as “humanism” as we inherited it from the Enlightenment, is de facto over. Whatever is left roaming our wilderness of mirrors depends on the irascible mood swings of the Goddess of the Market. No wonder one of the side effects of progressive Eurasia integration will be not only a death blow to Bretton Woods but also to “democratic” neoliberalism.

What we have now is also a remastered version of sea power versus land powers. Relentless Russophobia is paired with supreme fear of a Russia-Germany rapprochement – as Bismarck wanted, and as Putin and Merkel recently hinted at. The supreme nightmare for the U.S. is in fact a truly Eurasian Beijing-Berlin-Moscow partnership.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has not even begun; according to the official Beijing timetable, we’re still in the planning phase. Implementation starts next year. The horizon is 2039.

(Wellcome Library, London.) 

This is China playing a long-distance game of go on steroids, incrementally making the best strategic decisions (allowing for margins of error, of course) to render the opponent powerless as he does not even realize he is under attack.

The New Silk Roads were launched by Xi Jinping five years ago, in Astana (the Silk Road Economic Belt) and Jakarta (the Maritime Silk Road). It took Washington almost half a decade to come up with a response. And that amounts to an avalanche of sanctions and tariffs. Not good enough.

Russia for its part was forced to publicly announce a show of mesmerizing weaponry to dissuade the proverbial War Party adventurers probably for good – while heralding Moscow’s role as co-driver of a brand new game.

On sprawling, superimposed levels, the Russia-China partnership is on a roll; recent examples include summits in Singapore, Astana and St. Petersburg; the SCO summit in Qingdao; and the BRICS Plus summit.

Were the European peninsula of Asia to fully integrate before mid-century – via high-speed rail, fiber optics, pipelines – into the heart of massive, sprawling Eurasia, it’s game over. No wonder Exceptionalistan elites are starting to get the feeling of a silk rope drawn ever so softly, squeezing their gentle throats.

consortiumnews.com

إغلاق مضيق هرمز

‫خنق إيران نفطياً: عقل إسرائيلي… وعضلات أميركية

خنق إيران نفطياً: عقل إسرائيلي... وعضلات أميركية

لم ينتظر قائد فيلق القدس، قاسم سليماني، رئيسه «المعتدل» حسن روحاني في خطاب المحارب الذي استحق عليه وعداً بتقبيل يديه. روحاني هدّد ألا يتمكن أحد «من تصدير نفطه إذا لم تتمكن إيران من ذلك» وإذا ما توصّلت الولايات المتحدة إلى خنق إيران نفطياً

‫العالم تغيّر لدى الرئيس حسن روحاني، والعالم الذي تحاول إدارته الولايات المتحدة وإسقاط النظام في إيران تغيّر أيضاً. هو العالم الذي أدارته خلال الحرب الباردة ومكّنها مطلع التسعينات، وفي منتهى أكثر من سبعين عاماً، من إسقاط النظام السوفياتي في استراتيجية باتت تعرف بـ«عقيدة ريغان». يذهب مستشار الأمن القومي، جون بولتون، إلى حد «التفاؤل» بأن يعيد التاريخ نفسه، دونما أدنى شك، والتنبؤ أن يكون عام ٢٠١٩، عام سقوط النظام الإيراني. أما وزارة الخارجية والبيت الأبيض، فيطلقان العد التنازلي للسقوط الإيراني المقبل بإعلان الرابع من تشرين الثاني المقبل، موعداً نهائياً، لإغلاق التعاملات النفطية والاقتصادية مع إيران، وإشعال الداخل الإيراني.

فخلف الهجوم الذي بدأته الولايات المتحدة يكمن شيء من ذلك الاعتقاد أنه بوسعها أن تفعل في إيران ما فعلته بالاتحاد السوفياتي، فتسقط طهران من دون تعكير مياه الخليج أو تطلق رصاصة واحدة، كما سقط السوفيات آنذاك. فما يتوسله أميركيون وإسرائيليون معاً لإسقاط النظام في طهران لا حرب نجوم فيها، ولا سباق إلى أسلحة تستنزف مداخيل الدولة الإيرانية، كما استنزفت السوفيات. وبدلاً من ذلك تستل الولايات المتحدة سلاح «الدمار النفطي الشامل» لإغلاق الأسواق أمام ٢،٤ مليون برميل من النفط الإيراني يومياً، وتجفيف عائداته المتوقع أن تتجاوز ٥٠ مليار دولار، والتي لا تزال تشكّل أكثر من ٧٥ في المئة من العائدات النقدية لموازنة طهران، فتنفجر عندئذ إيران من الداخل.

لا يباشر الأميركيون مشروعهم «الريغاني» الجديد في الألفية الثالثة وحدهم، كما لا يباشرونه بما يمكن أن يطلق عليه استراتيجية متكاملة ولدت من بنات أفكارهم. فإذا كانت عضلات الهجوم أميركية إلا أن عقله إسرائيلي.

فقد تكون عمليات التطهير التي قادها مايك بومبيو في أروقة «لانغلي» من المحللين وخبراء الشؤون الإيرانية، قبل انتقاله إلى وزارة الخارجية، قد أسهمت في إخضاع دولة الأمن القومي للمجموعة الجديدة التي تحيط بالرئيس دونالد ترامب، ومهدت للاتجاه الجديد بجعل إيران أولوية الأولويات.

يفتقر الأميركيون على جبهة محاصرة إيران اليوم إلى استراتيجي من معدن جورج كينان صانع احتواء السوفيات، ليرسم استراتيجية متكافئة ومتجانسة، ولا يجعل من الهجوم الجديد ارتجالاً يستند إلى أفكار متفرقة لا قوام لها، على ما يقوله خبير عربي في واشنطن، والتي تملأ فراغ ذات اليد من الاستراتيجية المتجانسة الممكنة التحقق، بأفكار إسرائيلية المنشأ، بعد أن اختارت الإدارة الجديدة تل أبيب شريكاً لها في التخطيط لعملية «الانقلاب» الثنائية الجارية ضد النظام في طهران. في هذا السياق، كشفت صحيفة «معاريف» أنّ «فريقاً أميركياً – إسرائيلياً جرى تشكيله منذ اندلاع الاحتجاجات في إيران لدعم المعارضين». عرض الجنرال عاموس يدلين، ما يشبه إلى حد بعيد، الأفكار التي تقود خطاب الإدارة الترامبية، كما عبّر عنها حرفاً بحرف، المسؤولون في البيت الأبيض ووزارة الخارجية. ففي مقابلة في «لو موند» الفرنسية، ومقالة في مجلة «ذا أتلاتنيك» أسهب رئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية السابق في الحطّ من فائدة أي خيار عسكري ضد إيران، وما قد يؤدي إليه من نتائج عكسية من توحيد الإيرانيين خلف النظام. وأشار على الأميركيين بتشديد العقوبات الاقتصادية وتحميل الإيرانيين عواقب حصار جديد، وتدمير اقتصادهم اليومي وضرب مدخراتهم، وتقويض تجارتهم… وتشتعل إيران.

يرتبط نجاح الهجوم الأميركي ــ الإسرائيلي على إيران إلى حد كبير بإغلاق شرايين النفط بموقف مستوردين رئيسيين هما الهند والصين من العقوبات الأميركية المعلنة. ففي امتناعهما أو موافقتهما على مواصلة شراء وتقاسم مليون و٣٠٠ ألف برميل يومياً، بالتساوي تقريباً، يتحدد مصير خمسين في المئة من العائدات النفطية الإيرانية التي يوفرها بيع مليونين وستمائة ألف برميل من النفط يومياً، إلى عشر دول أوروبية وآسيوية. والسؤال الذي يبدو ملحّاً هو ما إذا كانت الصين أو الهند ستنصاع أم لا للعقوبات الأميركية. يسود لدى المحللين الأميركيين الاعتقاد بأن الصين ستتخلى عن إيران في مواجهة الولايات المتحدة.

لكن خبير الشؤون الصينية، ليونيل فيرون، يقول إنّ الصينيين يتدارسون الموقف قبل اتخاذ قرار حاسم في شأن نفطهم الإيراني، ويبحثون عن استراتيجية تحافظ في وقت واحد على مصالح شركاتهم التي لا ينبغي أن تخضع للعقوبات الأميركية، كما تحافظ على العلاقة الاستراتيجية التي تربطها بإيران. يتقاسم الصينيون مع الهند تقييماً مشابهاً، فالمقاربة الصينية – الهندية واحدة لخطر الانصياع للمطالب الأميركية بوقف مشترياتهم من إيران، والخوف واحد من أن يؤدي ذاك حكماً إلى وضع الأمن الطاقي (والقومي استطراداً) بيد الولايات المتحدة، وهو ما لا يمكن لأي من البلدين المخاطرة بالسير به. إذ لا تنظر الصين إلى إيران باعتبارها فقط المصدر الخامس للنفط إليها أو جزءاً من المدى الحيوي لتوسعها الاقتصادي فحسب، بل تعتبر إيران ركناً استراتيجياً في تأمين تدفق النفط اليها بصفتها مصدراً نفطياً آمناً لاستقلاله عن الولايات المتحدة، بعكس الدول الخليجية التي تخضع سياستها الخارجية والنفطية للإملاءات الأميركية.

وللمفارقة، تعتبر الصين أن خروج الشركات النفطية الأوروبية من المشاريع الإيرانية بفعل الضغوط الأميركية، فرصة للشركات المحلية للحلول محلها، لا سيما بعد خروج «توتال» من مشروع تطوير حقل «بارس٢». ويقول ليونيل فيرون إن هناك احتمال أن تتوقف الشركات المتوسطة والصغرى عن التعامل مع إيران خوفاً من العقوبات الأميركية، لكن الشركات الصينية النفطية الكبرى، «سي أن بي سي» و«سينوبك» و«بترو تشاينا»، التي تؤمن أكثر من ٩٠ في المئة من مشتريات الصين من النفط الإيراني، لا تخشى هذه العقوبات، وستواصل التعامل مع إيران عبر مصرف «كونلون» الصيني الذي أُنشئ في مرحلة العقوبات الأميركية الماضية لتنظيم العلاقات التجارية مع إيران عبر الدفع بـ«اليورو» أو «اليوان».

تنتظم أهمية إيران مع الهند لتتساوى مع المطالب الاستراتيجية الصينية نفسها في تأمين مصادر الطاقة والاستقلال الاستراتيجي عن الولايات المتحدة وغيرها. تؤمن العلاقة للهند مع إيران توازناً مع الانتشار الصيني الذي يطوقها في باكستان وسريلانكا والمالديف ونيبال، وتحفظ للهند ممرها البري الرئيسي والوحيد نحو آسيا الوسطى وأفغانستان، وروسيا عبر شبكة من ٧ آلاف كيلومتر من الطرق البرية انطلاقاً من مرفأ «تشابهار» الإيراني. وكانت اتفاقية مشتركة وقعت قبل عامين مع طهران قد وضعت جزءاً منه تحت إدارة هندية لمدة عام ونصف العام. يمثل «تشابهار» ممراً استراتيجياً يبعد ١٤٧ كيلرمتراً من مرفا «غوادار» الذي تموّل الصين بناءه في باكستان في شبكة من الطرقات تشق باكستان من الشمال إلى الجنوب بطول ٣ آلاف كيلومتر.

وإيران هي مصدر الهند الثالث من النفط، التي تقوم أيضاً بتشغيل مصافي التكرير الهندية الكبيرة. والأرجح أن تعود الهند هي أيضاً من أجل الحفاظ على تدفق النفط الإيراني إليها إلى تفعيل اتفاقية سابقة مع إيران للدفع بالروبيه بديلاً من الدولار لحماية مشتريات شركاتها من العقوبات الأميركية.

قد تنجح الولايات المتحدة في إلزام حلفائها الغربيين بالسير في مغامرتها الجديدة ضد إيران لكن القوى الآسيوية الصاعدة التي باتت بمثابة قلب الاقتصاد العالمي، لن تنساق خلفها حفاظاً على مصالحها الاستراتيجية الحيوية.

الحرس الثوري الإيراني يهدد بقطع النفط من الخليج

التعليق السياسي

يوليو 5, 2018

ـ المعادلة الجديدة التي أطلقها الرئيس الإيراني حسن روحاني بسيطة وتقوم على قاعدة أنّ واشنطن تهدّد بمنع شراء النفط الإيراني بوضع كلّ من يدفع ثمن هذا النفط بوضع مصارفه على اللائحة السوداء وتعتبر واشنطن هذا الأمر شأناً سيادياً أميركياً ومثلها ستفعل إيران بمنع مرور ناقلات النفط في المياه الإقليمية الإيرانية في مضيق هرمز الذي لا مجال لعبوره إذا قرّرت إيران إغلاقه، فالسيادة عليه ثنائية لإيران وعمان ووحدهما تطلان عليه وتملكان منفردتين حق إغلاقه بينما إتاحة العبور قرار ثنائي.

ـ ترامب يعلن حرباً تجارية على إيران ويريد أن تتلقاها وتتقبّلها إيران وفقاً لقواعده واليوم سيكون أمامه أن يتوقع الكثير فلم تضع إيران كل ما بين يديها دون دخول الحرب العسكرية فبيدها الذهاب للعودة للتخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم كمثل ما تقدر على إقفال مضيق هرمز وعلى من يعترض أن يأتي هو بقرار الحرب العسكرية إن كان قادراً.

ـ يقول ترامب وتقول إدارته إن سلفه باراك أوباما كان متخاذلاً بقبول التفاهم النووي، ويردّ أوباما أنه تفادى قرار حرب مدمّرة بلا جدوى وعلى ترامب كي لا يتبيّن أنه أحمق وغبي أن يظهر أن بيده خيارا غير الحرب المحكومة بالفشل لمحاصرة إيران وها نحن نقترب من اللحظات الفاصلة.

» إيران تهدّد بإقفال مضيق هرمز أمام الصادرات النفطية إذا حُرمَتْ من بيع نفطها

 

كتب المحرّر السياسي

فيما فشلت مساعي التوصل لتسوية تنهي القتال في جنوب سورية، بتسليم الجماعات المسلّحة لسلاحها، وتسهيل انتشار الجيش السوري حتى الحدود الأردنية، ودخوله أحياء مدينة درعا وقرى وبلدات ريفها، عادت المعارك إلى الواجهة كخيار وحيد لحسم المشهد، بينما تبدو واشنطن خلف الكواليس تلعب لعبة كسب الوقت لبلوغ قمة هلسنكي بين الرئيسين الأميركي دونالد ترامب والروسي فلاديمير بوتين، قبل أن يكون الوضع في جنوب سورية قد حُسِم.

استحقاق ثانٍ يداهم مفكرة الرئيس الأميركي يتصل بكيفية تصرّف إيران تجاه العقوبات الأميركية في حال فشل أوروبا بتقديم الضمانات اللازمة التي تطلبها إيران للبقاء في قلب التفاهم النوويّ. والضمانات تعني هنا بوضوح إحباط المسعى الأميركي لحرمان إيران من تسويق نفطها، وحرمانها من موارد العملات الصعبة والتبادل المصرفي. وفشل أوروبا بات يعني وفقاً للمواقف التي أطلقها الرئيس الإيراني وقادة الحرس الثوري، والجنرال قاسم سليماني، ما هو أبعد من عودة إيران للتخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم، بعدما صار إغلاق مضيق هرمز أمام ناقلات النفط التي تخرج بقرابة عشرة ملايين برميل يومياً من الخليج، موضوعاً على الطاولة كواحد من الإجراءات التي قد تسلكها إيران، ما يضع إدارة الرئيس الأميركي أمام تحدٍّ فوري، في ظل مبادرته لإعلان الحرب التجارية والمالية على إيران، باستخدام نقاط القوة التي تتموضع فيها مصارفه في النظام المالي العالمي، مقابل تهديد إيراني بالردّ باستخدام نقاط قوتها التي تتموضع فيها جغرافيتها في الممرات المائية الحيوية لنقل الطاقة.

من ضمن الانتظارات التي تفرضها قمة هلسنكي تبدو الانتظارات اللبنانية لمصير الحكومة الجديدة، مع المواقف الصادرة عن الأطراف المعنية بالعقد الحكومية، حيث تبدّدت بسرعة مناخات التفاؤل التي انطلقت مع لقاء رئيس الجمهورية العماد ميشال عون بكل من رئيس حزب القوات اللبنانية سمير جعجع ورئيس الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي وليد جنبلاط. فجاء كلام جنبلاط بعد لقائه عون عن التمسك بالمواقف السابقة تجاه التشكيل الحكومي، مشابهاً لمواقف أطلقها رئيس التيار الوطني الحرّ وزير الخارجية جبران باسيل ليلاً تجاه التمثيل القواتي والاشتراكي.

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CHINA AND U.S. SHOWCASE FORCES IN SOUTH CHINA SEA. TAIWAN PREPARES TO REPEL “CHINESE INVASION”

24.04.2018

China And U.S. Showcase Forces In South China Sea. Taiwan Prepares To Repel "Chinese Invasion"

A Chinese frigate launches a missile during a naval drill in the East China Sea. Photo: Weibo

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy conducted a series of live-fire drills and formation maneuvers in a large show of force off Hainan Island in the South China Sea and nearby areas in the period between March 24 and April 11. The drills involved the Liaoning aircraft carrier and more than 40 vessels from China’s North, East and South Sea fleets.

Following the exercises, on April 12, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping reviewed the PLA Navy in the South China Sea, saying that the need to build a strong navy “has never been more urgent than today”, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. More than 10,000 service personnel, 48 vessels and 76 aircraft took part in the review.

On April 10, the USS Theodore Roosevelt conducted aircraft operations as it was passing the South China Sea on its way to Manila, the US newspaper Navy Times reported. In turn, the US Navy regularly patrols the South China Sea in an attempt to limit the Chinese influence in this vital region.

As always, China condemned the US navy operations. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying accused Washington of having “violated the Chinese law and relevant international law” and “put[ting] in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands”, according to the official statement on March 24.

On April 24, Xinhua news agency said the vessels, led by China’s sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning, “took part in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare training” with a simulated “opposing force” in the Taiwan Strait.

Furthermore, China’s first indigenously constructed aircraft carrier is poised to begin sea trials this week.

The Type 001A is quite similar to China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier, a Soviet-built hull that Beijing purchased from Kiev in 1998. Beijing modernized the ship and commissioned it with the PLA-Navy in 2012.

Taiwan blamed the Chinese operations for “sabre rattling” and preparing for invasion to Taiwan. The Taiwan Defense Ministry stated that it would simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major airbase and using civilian operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on April 24. The major part will be a live-fire field training exercise from June 4 to June 8, including “enemy elimination on beaches”, the ministry said.

The recent military developments fueled military hysteria in some mainstream media outlets and think tanks.

For example, Taipei Times newspaper reported on April 20 that Taiwan Foundation for Democracy had released a poll asking what “if China invades Taiwan?”. According to the released poll, nearly 70 percent of Taiwanese “are willing to go to war if China were to attempt to annex Taiwan by force”.

All the events of the escalating tensions are conducted amid the shifting balance of power in the region, especially in the South China Sea. China’s construction of artificial islands with military facilities in the South China Sea, has sparked concern that it is establish its de-facto control over the entire sea.

The US, a powerful supporter of Taiwan and other regional competitors of China, is concerned about the Chinese capability of controlling the strategic waterway. Washington has repeatedly slammed the militarization of the Chinese artificial islands.

Commander of the US Fleet Forces Command Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written statement that the military urgently needs hypersonic and other advanced weaponry to defeat China’s People’s Liberation Army in a future conflict.

“In the future, hypersonic and directed energy weapons, resilient space, cyber and network-capabilities, and well-trained soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen will be crucial to our ability to fight and win,” the four-star admiral said in written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee. “In the South China Sea, the PLA has constructed a variety of radar, electronic attack, and defense capabilities on the disputed Spratly Islands, to include: Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.”

“These facilities significantly expand the real-time domain awareness, and jamming capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea, presenting a substantial challenge to U.S. military operations in this region.”

The Chinese jamming technology has already been used against the US military in the region, according to some sources.

“The mere fact that some of your equipment is not working is already an indication that someone is trying to jam you,” an EA-18G Growler pilot told GMA News on April 14, adding that “we [the US] have an answer to that.”

The military and diplomatic conflict is developing in the South Chinese Sea amid the worsening relations between the USA and China. The US imposed tariffs on certain Chinese goods. Beijing responded by imposing sanctions on 106 US products.  Both Beijing and Washington don’t seem to be willing to step back in the erupted trade war. The same attitude the powers have towards the South China Sea standoff.

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Rohingya Muslims stood by Britain in WWII. Now they are dying, where is our loyalty?

Rohingya Muslims stood by Britain in WWII. Now they are dying, where is our loyalty?

The victims are Muslim, and the persecutors are Buddhist – which doesn’t neatly fit our Western world-view.

  • A human catastrophe is unfolding in Burma, largely unremarked and unreported. Over the past ten days, between 70,000 and 90,000 people have fled Arakan province for neighbouring countries, a decades-long trickle of emigration turning into a torrent. There are credible reports of villages being torched and bodies cremated to hide the evidence of atrocities. The Burmese authorities have prevented the UN from delivering aid in the stricken areas.

    And yet, until the weekend, the abominations were largely ignored except in Muslim-oriented media. No government other than Turkey’s raised its voice strenuously on behalf of the persecuted Rohingya, whose agonies have never attracted as much attention as those of, say, the Palestinians, or the Yazidis or the migrants pouring across the Mediterranean.

    Why not? Several reasons. For one thing, the horrors are far away. When boat people wash up on Spanish holiday beaches or Greek islands, they are arriving in places familiar to British TV viewers. But how many of us have been to Arakan?

    To the problems of distance we can add those of inaccessibility. There are few Western journalists in the area. Most reports depend on eye-witness descriptions, some of which will necessarily be partial. The numbers pouring into neighbouring Bangladesh are not in doubt, and the similarities in the refugees’ stories are telling: yesterday IBTimes reported on some truly sickening accounts of torture and murders. Even so, an aerial photograph of a burned-out village, or of a column of fleeing villagers, will never have the same force as an image of a drowned toddler on a beach.

    There may also, I’m afraid, be a dash of sectarian bias, conscious or not. When Boko Haram kidnaps schoolgirls, or when Daesh murders civilians, writers can press the event into a familiar narrative about Islamist extremism. Here, though, the victims are largely Muslim, and the persecutors are largely Buddhist – a religion we associate with martyred Tibetans and Californian hippies.

    Once we have identified people as “victims”, we can’t easily place them in the mental category of “oppressors”, and vice versa. As the psychologists Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray have shown, we tend to classify others either as agents or patients, as those who give it out or those who take it. We find it surprisingly hard to accept the obvious truth that most people are both.

    Which brings us to the biggest mental block. The Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is established in our world-view as a victim of almost saintly qualities: a woman who endured years of separation from her family under house arrest, but who eventually emerged to triumph over Burma’s brutal junta.

    We don’t like the idea that she might be turning a blind eye to atrocities for the sake of appeasing the generals, let alone that she might herself be flirting with Buddhist nationalism.

    Many of us therefore want to believe the alternative narrative: that what is underway is a counter-terrorist operation aimed, not at the population in general, but at militants. And it’s true that, after decades of being harassed and attacked by state forces and local militia, some Rohingya have started to hit back. But that is to misunderstand the nature of what is going on.

    The Rohingya, sometimes called “the world’s most persecuted minority”, have long been denied the most basic civil freedoms. Burma insists that they are not a national minority at all, but are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, having arrived during the British Raj.

    Not that this view is shared by Bangladesh: overwhelmed by the refugee crisis, it is doing what it can to prevent any more Rohingya entering its territory. Since 1982, Rohingyas have effectively been treated as stateless.

    Why are they so resented by their Burmese neighbours? Largely because, in 1942, when many Arakanese Buddhists sided with the invading Japanese, the Rohingya stayed loyal to Britain.

    The army commander, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, pointed explicitly to that conflict in order to justify the current repressions, telling his countrymen: “We will never let such a terrible occurrence happen again”.

    Britain, in short, is already involved. Involved not only in the sense that we owe an ancestral obligation to our Rohingya auxiliaries; but also in the immediate sense that we, more than any country, helped bring about the recent democratisation of Burma. Part of the deal was that the civil rights of all Burmese, including the Rohingya, would be guaranteed.

    To his credit, Boris Johnson has become the first foreign minister of a major Western country to speak out about the current persecution. The rest of us should back him

israel arming Myanmar amid ongoing Rohingya crackdown

Source

Thousands of Rohingya refugees continue to flee Myanmar as the army intensifies its crackdown against the minority group

Satellite images showed Rohingya villages in the Rakhine state burned to the ground (AFP)

Israel has continued to sell weapons to Myanmar as thousands of Rohingya refugees flee the military’s violent crackdown in the Rakhine state.

The weapons sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats used to police the country’s border, according to human rights groups and Burmese officials. 

Israeli arms companies such as Tar Ideal have also been involved in training Burmese special forces who are currently in the Rakhine state where most of the violence has taken place.

Images previously posted on the arms company’s website showed its staff instructing members of the Burmese special forces on combat tactics and how to use specific weapons.

Petition to ban arms exports to Myanmar

In September, the Israeli High Court of Justice is expected to hear a petition, launched by activists, urging the Israeli government to stop arms exports to Myanmar.

The US and EU have an arms embargo against Myanmar. 

Eitay Mack, the lawyer presenting the petition, told Middle East Eye that Israel has “no control” over its arms exports once they are sent overseas.

“Israel has no control of what’s happening with its weapons once it sends its weapons to Burma,” said Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer based in Tel Aviv.



A Rohingya village, burned by Burmese forces (Reuters)

“But from Tar Ideal’s website, we know that they are arming and training Burmese special forces who are operating in the Rakhine state right now.

The petition was submitted in January, following visits by Israeli officials to Myanmar to discuss arms deals, and vice versa.

After the petition was submitted, the Israeli Defence Ministry in March said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue and claimed that arms sales to Myanmar were “clearly diplomatic”.

Israel has shared a strong relationship with Myanmar and maintained trade relations over the years. These relations existed before the military junta stepped down.

Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as ‘field-tested’ to some of the worst regimes on the planet

– Ofer Neiman, human rights activist

Ofer Neiman, an Israeli human rights activist, said Israel’s relationship with Myanmar is linked to its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

“Successive Israeli governments have been selling arms to the military dictatorship in Burma for years,” Neiman told MEE.

“This policy is strongly related to Israel’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as ‘field-tested’ to some of the worst regimes on the planet.”

Myanmar’s military chief on Friday defended the clearing of villages, attempting to justify it as “unfinished business” dating back to World War Two. 

‘Supporting genocide’

Penny Green, an academic who has documented alleged war crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya people, told MEE that many governments “have lent their support to the current genocide”.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMiddleEastEye%2Fvideos%2F1481356531929730%2F&show_text=0&width=476

“It’s not at all surprising that the latest escalation in Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya has not moved the Israeli state to cease its supply of weapons to Myanmar’s military,” said Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University.

“Its own record of violence and terror against the Palestinian people of Gaza is clear enough evidence that the Israeli government is unmoved by ethical concerns and human rights.

“Last year the British government spent over £300,000 of tax-payer’s money in training the Myanmar military and Commander in Chief General Min Aung Hlaing was welcomed by EU heads of military eager to engage in arms sales and training,” she added, citing figures from the Burma Campaign organisation.

More than 60,000 Rohingya refugees have fled their homes to seek refuge in Bangladesh as violence escalates in the Rakhine state.

Satellite images show dozens of Rohingya villages burned to the ground by the Myanmar army.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Myanmar of perpetrating a genocide against the Rohingya.

Neither the Israeli defence ministry or the Israeli embassy in the UK have replied to a request for comment.

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 07.02.2017

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

Can the U.S.-China relationship survive a Twitter president?

Thomas J. SHATTUCK

After a president of the United States takes office, he normally enjoys what is called a “honeymoon period,” which is when the public and Congress generally approve of his actions and policies. During this time period, the president often receives high approval ratings. The same can be said for the relationship between the president and foreign leaders. They, too, grant him time to understand the intricacies of the position and get a feel for how the United States works with their respective countries. The U.S. president receives much goodwill from many actors in order to ensure a smooth transition between administrations. With President Donald Trump, it does not appear that there will be much of a honeymoon period with the American public or even with some foreign countries—particularly the People’s Republic of China.

All signs point to China taking advantage of the transition between administrations, and Trump’s inexperience at governing, to have its own sort of honeymoon. The Chinese—along with the rest of the world—face a similar situation. Other countries will wait to see what form a Trump presidency takes. Will his actions and policies be as aggressive as his tweets? Will his online Twitter persona differ from face-to-face interactions and negotiations with foreign leaders? At the same time, they will wait to see which of Trump’s foreign-policy campaign promises and statements will take precedent over others. Which region will he focus on? Which bilateral relationships will he view as most important? Which countries will be ignored at the get-go? How will he respond to aggression by another country? While other countries adopt a wait-and-see approach, China will test the limits of Trump’s patience.

The failures of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, and Trump’s promise not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, give China the opportunity to become the major power in the region. Its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will become the dominant multilateral trade organization in Asia, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “One Belt One Road” initiative will ensure that all trade is centered on China. It has the mechanisms in place to dominate Asia economically and militarily as a Trump administration seeks to disengage from the world.

China Sets an Early Tone

After China seized a U.S. underwater drone in December 2016, Trump responded to the situation with harsh tweets against China’s actions. In response to Trump, the Global Times, a newspaper run by the Communist Party in China, published an op-ed that expressed the country’s rationale for dealing with the impending Trump presidency. “Trump is not behaving as a president who will become master of the White House in a month,” the op-ed states. “He bears no sense of how to lead a superpower. . . . One thing for sure is that Trump has no leverages to maneuver the world, nor can he reshape China-U.S. relations and the way the two major powers interact. . . . If he treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets, China will not exercise restraint.” Recent actions taken by China indicate that it will continue its push for an increased presence throughout Asia and the Pacific, and it certainly will amp up pressure against Japan, Taiwan and claimants of islands in the South China Sea.

Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, China has incrementally increased its military presence throughout the region. In late November, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted a flyby through the Miyako Strait, south of Okinawa. This move prompted the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force to scramble its jets. While the PLAAF did not enter Japanese airspace, the Chinese have increased the number of such flybys in 2016, angering Japan. Another such incident occurred in December. That time, both Japanese and Chinese government officials accused one another of engaging in dangerous activities that threatened the lives of the pilots. Then, in early January, both South Korea and Japan had to scramble their jets after Chinese aircraft flew between the two countries and over the Sea of Japan. According to Japan, the number of times it has had respond to Chinese aircrafts by scrambling its Defense Force has almost doubled from 2015.

Also, China has ramped up its military presence vis-à-vis Taiwan. Before and after the infamous “Trump call,” China flew H-6K bombers—capable of carrying nuclear weapons—around the island. The pre–Trump call mission was the first time that Chinese aircraft encircled Taiwan. Then, two weeks later, Chinese aircraft conducted a similar mission using the same types of aircraft. The Taiwanese air force tracked and photographed the planes during the entire mission. At no point in either mission did Chinese aircraft breach Taiwanese airspace, but these missions indicate an ever-encroaching Chinese military presence beyond the Taiwan Strait. These two missions show Chinese power not only to Taiwan, but also to the United States.

And China’s strategy is not limited to flybys. In early January, China sailed its only aircraft carrier into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean and also into the Taiwan Strait. Though the carrier remained in the western part of the strait, Taiwan still launched F-16 jets and a frigate to monitor the situation. The Taiwan Strait is international waters, so the United States does not have a problem with such a maneuver as long as China abides by international laws. However, the timing is no coincidence, since it occurred as Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen was out of country on a series of state visits in Central America. It also came after another Global Times op-ed called for an increase in China’s maritime capabilities.

China became even more active in the Asia-Pacific region in 2016 than in previous years, but since the election of Donald Trump, it has conducted even more drills and exercises, which have caused Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to respond in kind. As the op-ed above promised, China has been resolute and has not let other countries’ protests and responses affect its plans.

Expect the Expected

With Donald Trump in office on January 20, the Chinese can no longer expect the measured, diplomatic responses of the Obama administration. Its recent actions in the region were tests to see what a President Trump would do in response to military drills targeted at its neighbors and a show of force to demonstrate that China will not allow the change in U.S. administrations to affect its own interests. The flybys near Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, along with the Liaoning carrier’s journey, did not warrant a response from Trump, but the Chinese seizure of a U.S. underwater drone did. He has only responded to provocations directed by China against the United States, but not toward its allies or friends. His responses and nonresponses have not gone unnoticed.

Throughout Trump’s first year in office, expect China to do much of the same with some twists. Expect more nationalistic overtones used in the rationale for any perceived aggressive actions. Expect newspapers and party officials to ratchet up anti-Taiwan rhetoric. Expect more frequent flybys near Japan and South Korea. Expect more Chinese surveillance missions to circumnavigate Taiwan. Expect Chinese aircraft to fly closer to the airspaces of these countries and their defense zones. Expect the Liaoning’s next journey through the Taiwan Strait to be closer to the “Taiwan side” or have more flourish. Expect China to be more aggressive in its claims in the South and East China Seas. Expect China to continue its current course of action and buildup.

Donald Trump has previously expressed that U.S. allies do not spend enough to defend themselves, so it is unlikely that he will care much about China annoying its neighbors as long as it does not directly threaten the United States. Make no mistake: China does not desire to start a war with the United States or drag it into one. Despite any chest-thumping by either country, the United States and China both need each other to thrive economically. China does, however, want to dominate the region and be recognized as the true power that it is.

As the Trump presidency unfolds, expect China to take advantage of that same honeymoon period. China has a limited timeframe to assert itself vis-à-vis Trump and the Asia-Pacific region. Expect China to have a different sort of honeymoon.

nationalinterest.org

2017: A Year of Transition and Trouble

December 24, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Predictions aside, there are obvious trends, plots, and paradigm shifts that will continue onward into the new year, that geopolitical observers should be distinctively aware of.

1. The War in Syria is Not Over 

The United States conspired as early as 2007 to overthrow the government of Syria through the use of armed militants – particularly those aligned to Al Qaeda and who enjoy state sponsorship from America’s Persian Gulf allies.

The goal of eliminating the Syrian government was not an isolated objective, but rather fits into a much larger geopolitical agenda – including the overthrow of the Iranian government and the movement of militant proxies back into southern Russia and even into western China.

Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and the duration of the conflict itself complicates, even sets back US efforts toward these ends, but Washington and Wall Street’s desire for global hegemony will simply see these plans attempt to adapt and overcome current setbacks.

According to the Brookings  Institution’s 2009 policy paper, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran,” one option proposed includes the US arranging with Israel for Israeli forces to conduct what would appear to be a unilateral attack on Iran.

The paper states:

…the most salient advantage this option has over that of an American air campaign is the possibility that Israel alone would be blamed for the attack. If this proves true, then the United States might not have to deal with Iranian retaliation or the diplomatic backlash that would accompany an American military operation against Iran. It could allow Washington to have its cake (delay Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon) and eat it, too (avoid undermining many other U.S. regional diplomatic initiatives).

For this to be convincing, the US and Israel would need to feign a diplomatic fallout, one the current administration of US President Barack Obama has been performing and just recently ratcheted up at the UN Security Council. With President-elect Donald Trump – undeniably and very publicly pro-Israel – coming into office in January, the window is closing for this option to be convincing.

 

 One aspect of a covertly US-backed Israeli attack on Iran includes an opportunity for the US to subsequently intervene militarily if Iran were to retaliate. It is essentially a trap baited for Tehran. The trap could be sprung before President Obama leaves office, and US military intervention executed as President-elect Trump enters office.

Of course, Iran now possesses Russian S-300 anti-air defense systems, has a more formidable army today than when Brookings and other US policymakers first concocted war plans against Tehran, and the dynamics in the region have changed considerably as well. However, President-elect Trump has surrounded himself both during his campaign for president and amongst his incoming cabinet, with men who have promoted war with Iran for years.

This is perhaps one of the first, and greatest dangers that will need to be navigated around in 2017.

2. Economic Paradigm Shift, Driven by Technology 

It could be easily said that alternative energy and electric cars are already creating shifting trends in global economics and the geopolitical power derived from it. The cost and proliferation of solar power continues to favor its use against traditional forms of power production, and electric cars are finally being taken seriously by traditional manufacturers in the face of stiff competition from newcomers like Tesla Motors.

Nations that depend on petroleum and other fossil fuels for a substantial fraction of their GDP will need to begin planning how they will navigate what will inevitably be a total transition away from these sources of energy.

Automation is also a growing economic trend. Jobs are being taken from workers from North America to Asia by increasingly capable robots and forms of computer-controlled manufacturing. However, another component of this shifting trend is a drastic drop in prices and an exponential climb in capabilities of these automated systems. This makes it possible for smaller companies to use automation to manufacture locally, disrupting industrial monopolies and distribute the wealth obtained through automation through local entrepreneurship.

An example of this is 3D printing – with some machines with price tags comparable to a desktop computer. People working as freelance designers can now also include – and profit from – physical prototyping services once only possible from larger firms. As automated systems drop in cost and improve in capabilities, local companies will be able to do more with less, decentralizing manufacturing from the current, globalized model that now defines it.

How nations manage this transition – from China to Europe to the United States – will determine how much social upheaval is created as automation continues to take over. Those nations with highly unskilled workforces and with weak, inflexible education systems will suffer most, while those who retrain their populations to be designers and local entrepreneurs will survive, even thrive.

3. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence 

Science fiction horror stories aside, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning, is already taking over a large number of highly specialized tasks – and doing them far better than traditional computers or human workers could ever do.

These tasks include everything from energy efficiency studies and automation, providing advice to doctors, and gaming financial markets, to providing protocols for advanced genetic engineering and image recognition and automatic tagging on social media websites like Facebook. Other possible applications include teaching AI systems to hack faster and more adaptively than any human could. AI systems are also being taught to write news articles and even manage social media accounts like Twitter.

While AI will not manifest itself as sentient machines seeking to usurp humanity yet, these highly focused uses of AI give their human operators uncontested advantages in whatever realm they are applied in. An AI arms race of sorts has erupted, and in 2017, AI will increasingly be used to provide world leaders in AI research and development economic and geopolitical edges over their competitors and enemies.

A balance of power must be struck between nations and within nations to prevent the very sort of technological disparity that left the United States in 1945 as the only nation wielding atomic weapons. With that uncontested advantage, the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would use its advantage in the field of nuclear weapons as leverage geopolitically for years – threatening to use the weapons everywhere from the Korean Peninsula to Vietnam.

The sort of damage caused by such disparity in the field of AI cannot be predicted – but what can be predicted with absolute certainty, is that any advantage the world affords aspiring hegemons like the US, will be used and abused eagerly and without hesitation.

4. China and Asia Still Face American Designs for Regional Primacy 

The United States’ “pivot to Asia” has turned into a second front in its global quest for hegemony. In order to encircle and contain the rise of China, the US has committed to series of economic, politically subversive, and military maneuvers throughout Southeast and East Asia.

In 2017, the US will continue cultivating proxy opposition fronts across the region in hopes of challenging or toppling increasingly Beijing-friendly governments everywhere from Malaysia and Thailand, to the Philippines and Indonesia. In Myanmar, the US and its Saudi allies appear to be inflaming the Rohingya crisis by arming militants to fight the very government the US spent decades putting into power.

The result will be an attempt to establish a US military presence in Myanmar under the guise of “combating terrorism,” just as the US did in the Philippines shortly after 2001. In reality, the US military presence in Myanmar will be next to impossible to remove – just as it has become in the Philippines. And while “fighting terrorism” will be the pretext, adding another point of pressure in America’s encirclement of China will be the main objective.

The prospect of direct military confrontation between the US and China is difficult to predict, but US policymakers have admitted that as time passes, the possibility of the US winning any confrontation against China in Asia Pacific diminishes. The temptation to provoke a conflict sooner than later will exist, and regardless, the decades-long efforts by Washington to maintain primacy in Asia at Asia’s expense will continue in earnest under President-elect Trump when he takes office.

The agendas of powerful special interests and the march of technological progress and its impact on human civilization are not divided into neat chapters as they appear in retrospect upon the pages of our history books. They transcend “New Years,” presidential administrations, popular culture, and even “eras” in our collective history. Understanding the actual motives, money, and machinations that drive those with wealth and power help us see what lies before us and gives us a chance to prepare ourselves and intervene rather than sit by as helpless spectators. This year, perhaps more people than ever will realize that our best interests, and even the fate of our future depends on us doing the former, and abandoning forever the latter.

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

What Does Trump Victory Mean for Asia? Nothing New

November 9, 2016 (The New Atlas) – With the victory of Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential elections, many commentators, analysts and academics have “predicted” a more isolationist America. For Asia specifically, particularly those in need of US intervention to prop up their unpopular, impotent political causes, they fear an ebbing of US support.

However, as history has shown, the whims of US voters rarely has an impact on US foreign policy, particularly amidst the more subtle use of US “soft power.”

US policy toward Asia has been a historical, socioeconomic and military continuum marked by a consistent desire for geopolitical and socioeconomic primacy in the region stretching back for over a century. Since World War 2, the US has attempted to contain a rising China, temper and exploit emerging developing nations across Southeast Asia and prevent nations subjugated to US domination (Japan, South Korea and the Philippines) from achieving anything resembling an independent foreign and domestic policy.

This is a continuum that has transcended presidential administrations and congressional shifts of power for decades.

To believe that the recent victory by Donald Trump amid America’s 2016 presidential election will suddenly change this decades-long continuum is naive and folly.

The networks that primarily seek to establish, protect and expand US primacy in Asia are driven by corporate and financial special interests including banks, the energy industry, defence contractors, agricultural and pharmaceutical giants, the US entertainment industry and media as well as tech giants.

They achieve primacy through a variety of activities ranging from market domination through incremental advances in “free trade,” the funding of academic and activist groups through organisations like the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Open Society, Freedom House and USAID as well as direct pressure on the governments of respective Asian states through both overt and covert political, economic and military means.

This is a process that takes place independent of both the White House and the US Congress.

Regardless of how elections turn out, this process will continue so long as the source of these collective special interests’ power remains intact and unopposed.

For Asian states, in the wake of Trump’s victory, keeping track of and dealing with the actual networks used to project American primacy into Asia Pacific is more important than weighing the isolationist rhetoric of president-elect Donald Trump.

Until networks like NED and USAID are either entirely reformed or dismantled, and Asian alternatives are able to permanently displace US economic and institutional domination in the region, the threat of American primacy asserting itself over the interests of Asia itself will persist.

The New Atlas is a media platform providing geopolitical analysis and op-eds. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

China, Russia must join hands to counter USA in Asia

China, Russia must join hands to counter US in Asia: Chinese state media

4:51 am

South Korean protesters hold placards during a rally against the deployment of the advanced U.S. missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2015 [Xinhua]

South Korean protesters hold placards during a rally against the deployment of the advanced U.S. missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2015 [Xinhua]

Chinese state media on Friday urged Moscow and Beijing to join  hands to offset the growing threat posed by the deployment of a US anti-missile defence system in South Korea and a possible deployment in Japan.

“It is only a matter of time before Japan has THAAD on its soil,” an editorial in the Global Times warned.

“Washington is ambitious to build a global anti-missile system so missile activities in China and Russia can be put under close surveillance, which will disable China and Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrence against the US,” it said.

Beijing has said Washington’s decision last month to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would only worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Both Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi have criticised the US move.

On Friday, Beijing newspaper Global Times, known for its strident editorials, questioned why the US was deploying new anti-ballistic missile stronghold in Northeast Asia with an excuse of dealing with threats of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.

“As THAAD is approaching its doorstep, China must speed up the upgrading of its offensive weaponry to offset the threat caused by the US global anti-missile system,” the editorial of the influential Chinese daily published by the ruling Communist Party argued on Friday.

A US-Japan-South Korea coterie linked by THAAD is forming in Asia that could threaten peace in the region, the state-run paper warned.

“China and Russia should cooperate on the joint work of developing strategic offensive weaponry, and acquire an overwhelming advantage against the US anti-missile system. Both countries can conduct military simulations, which can include strategic nuclear weapons, against THAAD,” it added.

Editorials of state-owned media in China, like Global Times, generally reflect the Communist Party viewpoint.

After a UN Security Council meeting last week, US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, rejected suggestions the decision to deploy the anti-missile defence system in South Korea had provoked ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

China and Russia have increased their security, economic and diplomatic relationship in recent years.

Even as the US continues with what it calls “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea, China has got support from Moscow on the dispute.

Attempts to internationalize the issue must be stopped, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said repeatedly in the last few weeks.

“I am convinced that they (attempts to internationalize the issue) are completely counterproductive,” said Lavrov. “Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing can bring the desired result, namely, mutually acceptable agreements.”

The Pentagon’s Great Wall of Impotence

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
© AFP
No one ever lost money betting on the Pentagon refraining from exceptionalist rhetoric.

Once again the current Pentagon supremo, certified neocon Ash Carter, did not disappoint at the Shangri-La Dialogue – the annual, must-go regional security forum in Singapore attended by top defense ministers, scholars and business executives from across Asia.

Context is key. The Shangri-La Dialogue is organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which is essentially a pro-Anglo-American think tank. And it takes place in the privileged aircraft carrier of imperial geostrategic interests in South East Asia: Singapore.

As expressed by neocon Carter, Pentagon rhetoric – faithful to its own estimation of China as the second biggest “existential threat” to the US (Russia is first) – revolves around the same themes; US military might and superiority is bound to last forever; we are the “main underwriter of Asian security” for, well, forever; and China better behave in the South China Sea – or else.

This is all embedded in the much ballyhooed but so far anemic“pivoting to Asia” advanced by the lame duck Obama administration – but bound to go on overdrive in the event Hillary Clinton becomes the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Real threats are predictably embedded in the rhetoric. According to Carter, if Beijing reclaims land in the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, “it will result in actions being taken by the both United States and … by others in the region.”

What’s left for China, in Pentagonese, is just to be a member of a hazy “principled security network” for Asia – which will also help protect the East against “Russia’s worrying actions”. Carter mentioned “principled” no less than 37 times in his speech. “Principled” cheerleaders so far include Japan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia.

So here’s an instant translation: we do a NATO in Asia; we control it; you will answer to us; and then we encircle you – and Russia – for good. If China says no, that’s simple. Carter proclaimed Beijing will erect a “Great Wall of self-isolation” in the South China Sea.

If this is the best Pentagon planners have to counteract the Russia-China strategic partnership, they’d better go back to the classroom. In elementary school.

Navigate in freedom, dear vassals

Predictably, the South China Sea was quite big at Shangri-La. The South China Sea, the throughway of trillions of US dollars in annual trade, doubles as home to a wealth of unexplored oil and gas. Stagnated and increasingly irrelevant Japan, via its Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani, even advanced the Japanese would help Southeast Asian nations build their “security capabilities” to deal with what he called “unilateral” and “coercive” Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Cynics could not help to draw similarities with Imperial Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Beijing delegation kept its cool – to a point. Rear Admiral Guan Youfei stressed, “The US action to take sides is not agreed by many countries.” Youfei – the head of the Chinese office of international military cooperation – did not refrain though from condemning a “Cold War mentality” by the usual suspects.

As for Japan, China’s Foreign Ministry detailed that “countries outside the region should stick to their promises and not make thoughtless remarks about issues of territorial sovereignty.” Japan has absolutely nothing to do with the South China Sea.

Beijing’s reclamation work on reefs in the South China Sea naturally put it in direct conflict with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. So US meddling – under the convenient cover of “freedom of navigation” – had to be inevitable.“Freedom of navigation” operations are a silly intimidation game in which a US Navy ship or plane passes by a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.

It was up to Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, to cut to the chase, stressing “the provocation of certain countries” and adding that “selfish interests” have led to the South China Sea issue becoming “overheated”. He slammed the Pentagon for double standards and “irresponsible behavior”. And he slammed the Philippines for taking the conflict to a dubious UN arbitration court after breaching a bilateral agreement with China; “We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble.”

U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with South Korea's Minister of Defence Han Minkoo (R) and Japan's Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani for a trilateral at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. © Reuters

The Chinese position prefers dialogue and cooperation – and Jianguo re-stressed it, calling for ASEAN to make a move. In fact China has already reached what is called a four-point consensus with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on the South China Sea two months ago. The Philippines are a much harder nut to crack – as the Pentagon is taking no prisoners to lead Manila “from behind”.

Even Vietnam, via Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh, made it clear – in the same plenary session as Admiral Jianguo – that Vietnam prefers solutions via the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as negotiation between China and ASEAN.

Bend over to our rules – or else

After Shangri-La’s rhetorical excesses, the action moved to Beijing, the site of the 8th China-US Strategic and Development Dialogue. That’s the annual talkfest launched in 2009 by Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang painted a rosy picture, stressing the exchange of “candid, in-depth views on important and sensitive issues of shared concern.” Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai once again needed to point out that the relationship is just “too important” to be “hijacked” by the South China Sea. And yet this is exactly the Pentagon’s agenda.

Beijing though won’t be derailed. As State Councilor Yang Jiechi put it, ASEAN-China dialogue is progressing via what Beijing calls the “dual-track” approach, according to which disputes are negotiated between the parties directly involved. That implies no Washington interference.

Beyond what is discussed either at Shangri-La or at the China-US dialogue, the Big Picture is clear. ‘Exceptionalistan’ planners have molded a narrative where China is being forced to make a choice; either you bend over to “our” rules – as in the current unipolar geostrategic game – or else.

Well, Beijing has already made its own choice; and that entails a multipolar world of sovereign nations with no primus inter pares. The Beijing leadership under Xi Jinping clearly sees how the so-called international “order”, actually disorder, is a rigged system set up at the end of WWII.

Wily Chinese diplomacy – and trade – knows how to use the system to advance Chinese national interests. That’s how modern China became the “savior” of global turbo-capitalism. But that does not mean a resurgent China will forever comply with these extraneous “rules” – not to mention the morality lessons. Beijing knows ‘Exceptionalistan’ would not agree even to divide the spoils in a geopolitical spheres-of-influence arrangement. Plan A in Washington is containment – with possibly dangerous ramifications. There is no Plan B.

The bottom line – thinly disguised by the somewhat polite responses to Pentagon threats – is that Beijing simply won’t accept anymore a geopolitical disorder that it did not create. The Chinese could not give a damn to the New World Order (NWO) dreamed up by selected ‘Masters of the Universe’. Beijing is engaged in building a new, multipolar order. No wonder – alongside with strategic partner Russia – they are and will continue to be the Pentagon’s top twin threat.

Obama: Saudi Eager to Drag US into Grinding Sectarian Conflicts in ME

Local Editor

ObamaUS president Barack Obama stated that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, needs to learn how to “share” the region with Iran, adding that KSA has showed eagerness to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts in the region, The New York Times wrote in an article that is based on a series of interviews with The Atlantic magazine published Thursday.

Obama lashed out at Saudi, saying a number of American allies in the Persian Gulf — as well as in Europe — were “free riders,” eager to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts that sometimes had little to do with American interests. He showed little sympathy for the Saudis, who claimed that they have been threatened by the nuclear deal Obama reached with Iran.

According to NYT, the Saudis, Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s national correspondent, “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” The US president said, “would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

Obama placed his comments in the context of his broader struggle to extract the United States from the bloody morass of the Middle East so that the nation can focus on more promising, faster-growing parts of the world, like Asia and Latin America, NYT added.

The US paper reported that Obama also said his support of the NATO military intervention in Libya had been a “mistake,” driven in part by his erroneous belief that Britain and France would bear more of the burden of the operation. He stoutly defended his refusal not to enforce his own red line against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, even though Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. argued internally, the magazine reported, that “big nations don’t bluff.”

The US president disputed criticism that he should have done more to resist the aggression of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Ukraine. As a neighbor of Russia, Obama said, Ukraine was always going to matter more to Mr. Putin than to the United States. This meant that in any military confrontation between Moscow and the West, Russia was going to maintain ‘escalatory dominance’ over its former satellite state.

“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said. “This is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.”

The portrait that emerges from the interviews is of a president openly contemptuous of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, which he said was obsessed with preserving presidential credibility, even at the cost of blundering into ill-advised military adventures.

“There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow,” Mr. Obama said. “And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses.” This consensus, the president continued, can lead to bad decisions. “In the midst of an international challenge like Syria,” he said, “you are judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons.”

The paper mentioned that Obama dismissed the argument that his failure to enforce the red line in Syria, or his broader reticence about using military force, had emboldened Russia. Putin, he noted, invaded Georgia in 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush, even though the United States had more than 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.

Similarly, the president pushed back on the suggestion that he had not been firm enough in challenging China’s aggression in the South China Sea, where it is building military installations on reefs and islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines and other neighbors.

“I’ve been very explicit in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China,” Obama said.

According to NYT, the US president refused to box himself in as a foreign-policy thinker. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. But he went on to describe himself as an internationalist and an idealist. Above all, Obama appeared weary of the constant demands and expectations placed on the United States. “Free riders aggravate me,” he said.

He put France and Britain in that category, at least as far as the Libya operation was concerned. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, he said, became distracted by other issues, while President Nicolas Sarkozy of France “wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses.”

The New York Times pointed out that only on the threat posed by ISIL did Obama express some misgivings. The Middle East, Obama claimed, a corrupt metropolis. “Then ISIL comes in and lights the whole city on fire,” Obama said.

Still, Obama acknowledged that immediately after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he did not adequately reassure Americans that he understood the threat, and was confronting it, NYT noted.

“Every president has his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “And there is no doubt that there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

Source: Newspapers

10-03-2016 – 21:05 Last updated 10-03-2016 – 21:30

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Beware of Bears and Dragons in Their Own Backyards

Beware of Bears and Dragons in Their Own Backyards

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | 03.03.2016 | WORLD

At the UN General Assembly in September last year President Obama declared without a trace of irony that «History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires, who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case. You can count on that».

A week later the US-NATO military alliance approved a plan to double the size of its expeditionary force to 40,000 and decided to create «two more NATO force integration units… in Hungary and Slovakia, in addition to the headquarters already set up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania» surrounding Russia. This is a regrettable case of believing that «might always makes right» as these actions are intended for no other purpose than to menace Russia, which Washington considers to be essential for growth of its domestic weapons’ industry and the «military-industrial complex» in general.

(President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Address to the nation in 1961, in which he coined the evocative and damning phrase ‘military-industrial complex’, is rightly regarded as one of the most predictive and far-sighted speeches in US history.)

US Defence Secretary Carter is proud of the fact that the US armed forces have «more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat» – which is more than the total number of troops deployed outside national borders by every other country in the world.

Two weeks after US-NATO announced the most recent of its confrontational threats against Russia, the US Navy destroyer USS Lassen was ordered to conduct a «Freedom of Navigation Operation» in the South China Sea, by sailing close to the territory claimed and occupied by China. This needlessly provocative exploit succeeded only in making it clear to China that it was being challenged militarily in its own backyard by a country that has no territorial rights or interests in the region.

According to Reuters «a senior Obama administration official» said, the aim of the South China Sea confrontation operation was to «advance our strategic objectives in the Pacific region, including on maritime issues».

Modern-day American international perceptions resemble more and more those of the Cold War era, when President Reagan, for example, had an election advertisement showing a predatory bear roaming the woods with the commentary that: «There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear?»

It was obvious that the bear was Russia. The dangerously bellicose General Breedlove, military leader of the US-NATO group, «said that for too long, the United States has ‘hugged the bear’ of Russia. But now, he said, it’s time to get tough. This toughness should come in the form of more US troops to Europe, he said, and more ‘high end’ training to prepare American forces for a potential battle against the former cold war foe».

Naturally he ignores the fact that Russia wants to forge mutually beneficial trade ties with its neighbours, and especially with European Union countries, and it would be pointless to try to destroy such economic links.

The bear wants to trade and prosper. But if the bear is prevented from doing so and continues to be maliciously provoked, there might be problems ahead for the «indispensable nation» .

* * *

When contemplating the future, it is advisable to reflect on Napoleon’s reply when asked during his final exile what he considered might be the greatest concern to the world in centuries to come. It is said he declared that this would be «when the Dragon wakes».

Now the Dragon has woken and is being challenged for doing so.

The South China Sea has nine littoral states of which most have sovereignty claims within the Sea, and some are more reasonable than others. The United States has a vast fleet and military bases throughout the western Pacific, surrounding China, just as it menaces Russia in Europe. («450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat» as proudly declared by Defence Secretary Carter, who, Forbes states, was «a consultant to defence contractors and when he went back to the Pentagon in 2009, had to get a special waiver because of his work for companies like MITRE Corp, and Global Technology Partners, a defence consulting firm».)

None of the islets in the South China Sea was taken over by imperialists in the days of colonial expansion, but more recently there has been considerable interest in the region. Naturally this is based on economic imperatives, although estimates of the amounts of oil, gas and rare minerals under the waves vary greatly.

No matter what nationalistic advantage may be sought, there is the problem of legally apportioning spots of rock to any one country. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS; ratified by China – but not by the United States) says sensibly that «Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no Exclusive Economic Zone or continental shelf». But if a subaqueous oil gusher spouts a few kilometres away from your tiny lump of rock, you’re going to build a platform on it and grow vegetables and then declare that your rocky paradise is inhabited and self-sufficient. It therefore has an Exclusive Economic Zone extending for 200 nautical miles all round. The US objects to this.

So over the years the US has stepped up its military might in the region – and has now 70 warships, over 300 aircraft and 40,000 Marines to confront China in its own backyard. Washington’s Pentagon chief claims that it does this in the interests of «freedom of navigation» – ignoring the fact that not one single commercial vessel of any nation has been or ever will be prevented by China from traversing the South China Sea. Indeed, it would be commercial suicide for Beijing to even attempt to interfere with such shipping, which carries such vast quantities of China’s exports and imports.

The US is confronting China, and the fact that conflict is looming closer is hardly the fault of the Chinese whose position, in the words of Xinhua, is that «the tree craves calm but the wind keeps blowing». There is one thing certain, however: the Chinese tree will whip back if the Washington wind increases its intensity. China and Russia are aware that the world in general craves calm, but have been forced to realise that the out-of-control US military machine, in an expansionist wave of unprecedented energy, is hell-bent on global domination.

President Obama boasts that the US is «the one indispensable nation in world affairs» but he would be well-advised to exercise care in his policy of aggressive confrontation.

Washington’s war-lovers should bear in mind what Napoleon said two centuries ago, and realise that the Chinese Dragon has woken. And when Dragons wake it’s not altogether clever to threaten them. They had better beware of Bears, too.

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