By Andre Vltchek | New Eastern Outlook | 27.05.2017
Watch blockbuster movies from the “south” and chances are you will start to believe that the world is not really such a desperate place. Perhaps you might even get convinced that under the present imperialist and turbo-capitalist global arrangement things can always get better. If you live in a gutter somewhere in Sub-Continent or Africa, you could simply try hard, you could “believe in yourself and love yourself”, you could “listen to your instincts”, and everything may eventually fall into the right places. You could get acknowledged, rewarded and even catapulted from your misery into some plush pastures that are covering the tall green hills of success.
Think twice! Or… don’t think at all – just bury your head in the sand.
There were always books written and films produced just in order to please the Western funding agencies and propaganda machine. I described the process, colorfully, in my recent political/revolutionary novel “Aurora”.
Just think about Kite Runner written by an Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini, or about all those bestsellers by Salman Rushdie or Elif Shafak, books about India or Turkey, but intended almost exclusively for a Western audience, and often despised in their native countries.
The works of Rushdie and Shafak can at least qualify as “literature”. But now both the Western markets and mainstream media are demanding more and more of ‘feel good’ rubbish books and movies from poor countries, more and more of those simple, picturesque and ‘positive’ stories that are actually confusing and give false hopes to the local population of many poor countries.
Do you still remember Slumdog Millionaire? How realistic a scenario was that? First of all, it was not even an Indian film; it was a 2008 British movie, directed by Danny Boyle, who also had directed Trainspotting. It took place in the Juhu slum of Mumbai.
In 2011, I filmed in the same Mumbai slum where the movie was produced. I asked many, how likely was such a ‘success scenario’ in that filthy and hopeless neighborhood? The dwellers of the Juhu slum just dismissed the entire charade with derogatory gestures; why even waste precious words?
Now more films are coming – more and more… and more! Feel good; feel very good about the world! Drop a few tears as you are departing from the cinema. Utter under your breath: “Everything is possible.” Collaborate with the establishment. Forget about the revolution, think ‘positively’ (the way the system wants you to think) and above all, think about yourself!
A film about a real Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi, created by the Indian director Mira Nair (Fire, Water among her other work), Queen of Katwe, is a tour-de-force of true individualism. And again, if you think you are actually watching a Ugandan or even Indian film, you are squarely wrong: it is supposed to feel like an African one, but it is a US movie, produced by Walt Disney Pictures. And it is actually intended and even proudly promoted as a “feel good movie”.
The plot is simple and predictable: a little girl grows up in total misery, in one of the toughest slums of Africa – Katwe, at the outskirts of Kampala. Her father has already died of AIDS, her mother is unable to pay the rent, and her older sister is barely surviving as a prostitute. Phiona, just 10-years old, is forced to drop from school.
Her life is approaching total collapse. But then, suddenly, a miracle! Hallelujah!
Phiona enrolls in a state-sponsored chess program. She is talented. She climbs and climbs, soon travelling to Sudan by a plane, and a few months later, even to Russia.
It is supposed to be a ‘true story’. And yes, there was a poor girl, growing up in a Ugandan slum. She was talented although she never reached the zenith, and never won any gold medal. In the film, she wins tournaments, makes loads of cash, and buys a villa (looking like a palace), for her family.
Is this what young poor girls watching the film in the Katwe slum should be aiming at? Would such a dream be realistic, or is this an absolute mirage?
I also filmed in Katwe, for my damning documentary Rwanda Gambit. And when I was a young kid, I could pass for a talented chess player, taking part in several tournaments and competitions. Somehow, the film – Queen of Katwe – did not make any sense. To become chess champion takes much more than some luck and zeal. Like a concert pianist, a chess player has to spend years and years of hard training, literally killing himself or herself, to play at a certain level.
When I was a kid, my father, a scientist, was obsessed with turning me into a champ. Frankly, I was not too interested, although I worked hard, for years. I won a few medals, but never went further. Could Phiona, hungry, almost without a roof over her head, become a grand master, just after a few months of unhurried coaching?
I wish she could. But I doubt it, knowing Uganda, knowing its slums, fully realizing how merciless their reality really is, and of course, knowing chess.
Who benefits from such films? Definitely not the poorest of the poor, and definitely not Indians or Africans!
It appears that the only beneficiaries are those people who are trying to uphold the status quo, in the West and in the colonies. They don’t want people to realize: that there is almost no hope left, and only some radical change, a revolution, can reverse and improve things in their plundered countries.
A revolution is a ‘communal’ event. It is never about one person suddenly advancing, or getting ‘rescued’ or ‘saved’. It is not about one person or one family ‘making it’. It is about an entire nation fighting for its rights, for progress, and it is about social justice for all.
Little ‘success stories’ actually divide communities, offering false hopes.
Phiona’s story coming from pro-Western, turbo-capitalist Uganda, has nothing in common with the great communal projects in Venezuelan slums: like the classical Youth Orchestras, or cable cars, childcare centers, public libraries, community learning centers, and free medical posts.
No matter how ‘lovely’ is Mira Nair’s cinematography, winning the lottery, or getting lucky here and there, is not going to change the entire country. That is exactly why those small individualist acts and triumphs are being celebrated and glorified in the centers of Western imperialism. There, no real change is ever welcomed, whether it takes place at home or in the colonies. On the other hand, all selfish little victories are treated as sacred. One should live for himself or herself, disregarding the context.
How many other deeply ‘positive-thinking’/ unrealistic/ ‘feel-good’/ ‘false-hope’ films have I seen, lately? Many. For instance Lion, a 2016 Australian/UK co-production, about a poor Indian boy who jumps on a train, loses his hometown, and eventually gets adopted by a loving and dedicated Australian family.
It looks like a downpour, an avalanche of similar films and books and news stories. It looks like some kind of new wave of ‘positive thinking’, or ‘there is nothing really too wrong with our world that couldn’t be fixed by some personal luck and individualism’ dogma. Most of the stuff is somehow connected to the epicenter of Western ideological indoctrination – the United Kingdom (a country, which is successfully nullifying all revolutionary zeal of its own citizens, of the immigrants arriving from desperate and colonized countries, and even those people who live in despair in various far away places).
The West is busy manufacturing ‘pseudo reality’. And in this grotesque pseudo-reality, several deprived individuals like starving chess players, street vendors and slum dwellers are suddenly becoming rich, successful and fulfilled. Millions of others, all around them, continue to suffer. But somehow, they don’t seem to matter much.
There is a new celebrity group in making – let’s call them the ‘glamorous poor’. Those ‘exceptional individuals’, the glamorous poor, are easy to digest, and even to celebrate in the West. They are swiftly and cheerfully integrating into the ‘mainstream’ club of the global ‘go getters’ and narcissist rich.
Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books.
President Emmanuel Macron: Reversing Five Decades of Working-Class Power — James Petras | James Petras Website
27 Saturday May 2017
Posted by Norman Pilon in Current Affairs, Europe, France ≈ Leave a comment
Tags40 billion euro tax cut for businesses, 99GetSmart, a minority President, a Rothschild senior executive, ‘anti-fascism’, ‘reconstructed choirboy’, ‘the lesser evil’, Emmanuel Macron, hyper-capitalist ideology, James Petras, Labor “reforms”, the veteran ‘fascist’ Marine Le Pen
By James Petras, 99GetSmart
Whatever has been written about President Emmanuel Macron by the yellow or the respectable press has been mere trivia or total falsehood.
Media lies have a purpose that goes beyond Macron’s election. Throughout Europe and North America, bankers and manufacturers, NATO, militarists and EU oligarchs, media moguls and verbal assassins, academics and journalists, all characterized the election victory of Macron as a ‘defeat of fascism’and the ‘triumph of the French people’.
Macron and ‘What People’?
First of all, Macron received only 46% of the actual vote. Over 54% of eligible French voters either abstained, spoiled their ballots or voted for Marine Le Pen, the nationalist populist. In other words, 26 million voters rejected or ignored Macron’s candidacy versus 20.6 million voters who endorsed him. This was despite an unremitting push for Macron from the entire French and European mass media, all of the major political parties and the vast majority of academics, journalists, publishers, undertakers and doormen.
In a word: Emmanuel Macron is a minority President, unpopular to most of the French electorate.
There are some very sound political and socio-economic reasons why Macron’s candidacy would be rejected by most of the French people, while receiving full support from the ruling class.
Secondly, there was a phony image of Macron as the ‘novice, untainted by old-line corrupt politics’. The financial and business press busily painted an image of the virgin Manny Macron bravely prepared to introduce ‘sweeping reforms’ and rescue France – a sort of banker-Joan of Arc against the veteran ‘fascist’ Marine Le Pen and her ‘deplorable’ supporters.
The reality is that Macron has always been a highly experienced member of the most elite financial-political networks in France. He served as a senior executive in the notorious Rothschild banking conglomerate. In a few short years ‘Saint Manny’ had accumulated millions of euros in commissions from fixing corporate deals.
Macron’s financial colleagues encouraged him to accept the post of Economic Minister under the decrepit regime of President Francois Hollande. Banker Macron helped the ‘Socialist’ President Hollande shed any of his party’s pro-labor pretensions and embrace a radical anti-worker agenda. As Economic Minister Macron implemented a 40 billion euro tax cut for businesses and proposed far-right legislation designed to weaken workers collective bargaining rights.
The Hollande-Macron proposals faced massive opposition in the streets and parliament. With the government’s popular support falling to the single digits, the anti-labor legislation was withdrawn or diluted … temporarily. This experience inspired Macron to re-invent (or re-virginized) himself: From hard-assed rightwing hack, he emerged the novice politico claiming to be ‘neither right nor left’.
The totally discredited ‘Socialist’ Hollande, following the example of France’s financial elite, supported presidential candidate Macron. Of course, whenever Macron spoke of representing ‘all France’, he meant ‘all’ bankers, manufacturers and rentier oligarchs – the entire capitalist sector.
In the first round of presidential voting, Macron’s candidacy divided the elites: Bankers were split between Macron and Fillon, while many social democrats, trade union officials and ‘identitarian’-single issue sectarians would end up voting Macron.
Macron won by default: Fillon, his far right bourgeois rival was snared in a political- swindle involving ‘family’ and his finicky supporters switched to Macron. The Socialists defected from their discredited Hollande to the ‘reconstructed choirboy’ Macron. Meanwhile, the ‘left’ had rediscovered ‘anti-fascism’: They opposed the national-populist Le Pen and slithered under the bankers’ backdoor to vote for Macron.
Almost one-third of French electorate abstained or showed their contempt by spoiling their ballots.
Throughout the election theatrics, the media breathlessly reported every frivolous ‘news’ item to polish the halo of their ‘novice’ Macron. They swooned over the ‘novelty’ of Macron’s teen age ‘love affair’ and subsequent marriage to his former schoolteacher. The media played-up the charmingly ‘amateurish’ nature of his campaign staff, which included upwardly mobile professionals, downwardly mobile social democrat politicos and ‘off the street’ volunteers. The mass media downplayed one critical aspect: Macro’s historic ties to the big bankers!
Behind the carefully crafted image of a ‘political outsider’, the steely eyed Macron was never influenced by the swooning media propaganda: He remained deeply committed to reversing fifty years of working class advances in France in favor of the financial class.
Macron’s Power Grab: En Marche to Defeat the Working Class
Immediately upon his election, Macron presented his first major piece of legislation: The ‘liberalization’ (reversal) of France’s progressive and socially protective labor laws.
President Macron promised to eliminate industry-wide labor-capital negotiations, in favor of factory-by-factory negotiations. Undermining industry-wide collective power means that each monopoly or conglomerate can dominate and isolate workers in their work place. Macron envisions a complete shift of power into the hands of capital in order to slash wages, increase work hours and reduce regulations on workplace safety and worker health. The proposed anti-labor laws represent a return of capitalist power to the golden age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – precisely why the financial elite anointed Macron as ‘President of all France’.
Even more important, by destroying a unified, labor movement and the power of workers’ solidarity, Macron will be free to radically restructure the entire socio-economic system in favor of capital!
Concentrating all power and profits in the hands of the capitalist class, Macron’s legislative agenda will free him to fire over 150,000 public employees, drastically reduce public spending and investment and privatize critical public financial, energy and industrial sectors.
Macron will shift the balance of power further away from labor in order to increase profits, reduce middle and working class social, health and educational services and to decrease corporate taxes from 33.3% to 25%.
Macron plan will strengthen the role of the French financial elite within the European Union’s oligarchical structure and allow the bankers to impose harsh ‘austerity’ policies throughout Europe.
In the sphere of foreign and military affairs, Macron fervently supports NATO. His regime will back the aggressive US military policies toward Russia and the Middle East – especially the violent breakup of Syria.
President Macron’s reactionary, ‘liberalizing’ agenda will require his party and allies to gain a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections (June 2017). His strategy will consist of ‘diversity in appearance and hard, single-minded reactionary policies in content’.
The ‘diverse’ groups and individuals, allied with Macron, are largely composed of fragmented collections of opportunists and discredited politicos mainly in search of office. Under Macron, the parliament will include everything from old-line rightwing social democrats, as well as single-issue environment and gender opportunists, allied with conservatives looking for a chance to finally savage France’s labor laws.
If successful in the coming elections, Macron’s parliament will legitimize the policies of his far right Prime Minister and Cabinet. If Macron fails to secure an outright majority, he is sure to patch together a coalition with veteran right-wing politicos, which, of course, will be ‘balanced’ with 50% women. Macron’s coalition of dinosaurs and ‘women’ will eagerly smash the rights and living standards of all workers – regardless of gender!
Macron hopes to win sufficient parliamentary votes to negotiate alliances with the traditional conservative parties and the rump of the Socialist Party to consolidate the rule of the Troika: the bankers, the EU and NATO.
President Macron: By the Ballot or the Bullet
There is no doubt that the French working class, the salaried public and private employees, the unemployed youth, students and public health workers will take to the streets, with the backing of 60% or more of the public, including the 33% who voted for Marine Le Pen.
Strikes, general and partial, of long and short duration, will confront the Macron regime and its far right, self-styled ‘transformative’ agenda.
Rothschild’s errand boy, Manny Macron cannot mobilize supporters in the streets and will have to rely on the police. Many parliamentary backers are fearful of both the problem (strikes) and the solution (police repression).
The Corporate Elite: President Macron Adopts Napoleonic Decrees
In 2016 when Macron was the Economic Minister in the President Francois Hollande’s regime, he introduced a new regressive labor policy dubbed the ‘El Khomri’ law (named after the reactionary Labor Minister Myriam El Khormi). This led to massive street demonstrations forcing Hollande to withdraw the legislation. Now as President, Macron proposes a far more rigid and destructive labor law, which his corporate colleagues insist he implement by the ‘ballot’ if possible or the ‘billy club’ if necessary. In other words, if he cannot win the support of the National Assembly, he will implement the labor law by presidential decree.
The President of MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France), the employers’ federation, Pierre Gattaz, has demanded immediate implementation of policies to crush labor. Macron will outlaw labor protests via presidential decreeand cut parliamentary debate in order to transform the elite’s ‘El Dorado’ of all (labor) reforms (sic) into reality.
The entire leadership of the capitalist class and financial press backs Macron’s bid to govern by decree as a ‘good idea in the circumstances’, (Financial Times, 5/10/17, pg. 2). Macron’s ‘Napoleonic’ pretentions will inevitably deepen class polarization and strengthen ties between the militant trade unions and Le Pen’s industrial working class supporters.
We face an approaching time of open and declared class war in France.
Reality has quickly cut through the lies about the origin of Emmanuel Macron’s electoral victory. Brutal police truncheons, wielded in defense of Macron’s election triumph, will further reveal the real faces of French ‘fascism’ better than any editorial by the French ‘left’. The fascists are not to be found among Le Pen’s working class voters!
The fools within the French academia, who backed the Rothschild candidate in the name of ‘fighting fascism at all cost’, will soon find themselves wandering among the workers’ street barricade, dodging the clouds of teargas, on the way to their cafes and computers.
The ruling class chose Macron because they know he will not back down in the face of street demonstrations or even a general strike!
The intellectuals who backed Macron as ‘the lesser evil’ are now discovering that he is the greater evil. They are not too late to be … irrelevant.
Macron’s grandiose vision is to introduce his hyper-capitalist ideology throughout Europe and beyond. He proposes to transform the EU into a ‘competitive capitalist paradise under French leadership’.
Given the historic role of the French worker, it is more likely that Macron will not succeed in implementing his ‘labor reforms’. His decrees will surely provoke powerful resistance from the streets and the public institutions. When he falters, his parliamentary supporters will fracture into little warring clans. Factory owners will bemoan the workers who occupy their plants and bankers will complain that the farmers’ tractors are blocking the roads to their country villas.
The Germans and British elite will urge their ‘little Napoleon’ to hold firm, for fear the ‘French contagion’ might spread to their somnolent workers.
On the one hand, Macron’s successful decree can open the way for a transformation of capital-labor relations into a modern 21st century corporate state.
On the other, a successful general strike can open the door to a Europe-wide revolt. Macron’s enigmatic (and meaningless) slogan ‘neither right nor left’ is now exposed: He is the “Bonaparte of the Bourse”!
Who Controls the Information Space and Why
By Jean Perier – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2017
Recently behind-the-scenes rules and restrictions being used by Facebook have fallen into the hands of Guardian reporters. According to their report, moderators employed by the tech giant are entitled to decide what exactly the 2 billion users of this social network can or cannot publish on their pages. This report has provoked a massive discussion on the absence of any ethical norms that could prevent the tech giant from exercising censorship, along with disputes about the determination of US intelligence agencies to spy on their citizens in violation of the USA Freedom Act.
The fact that the US created the Internet as a tool of exercising control over information space, as a convenient environment for espionage, collecting dirty facts and spreading lies has been established long ago. For those naive few who refuse to believe the facts, one can only be reminded of the old saying: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. But who owns the allegedly free Internet? Who created it and why?
According to Reuters, last year alone the US National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted 151 million phone calls of American citizens, in spite of the fact that Congress has allegedly limited the ability to exercise surveillance for intelligence agencies by adopting the USA Freedom Act, according to which courts must decide when to allow intelligence agencies to collect information about a person suspected of criminal activity.
However, the all-encompassing control of US intelligence services over the world’s information space has been uncovered by an unending stream of publications in American and foreign media sources, showing that the United States is grossly violating even the most basic human rights, by creating a system of electronic interception and processing of all sorts of data about users on the Internet.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that every aspect of our day-to-day lives is being controlled: phone conversations, short text messages, everything we write on social media networks or send via email. Thus, the British Guardian confirmed the existing exchange of information about intercepted electronic messages of both US citizens and British citizens established by US intelligence agencies and the British Government Communications Headquarters. Even British courts recognized that such cooperation that existed for at least seven years is unlawful, since they were carried out in violation of international conventions on human rights.
In addition, the Guardian has also revealed that phone tapping that Mi-5 and Mi-6 authorized in order to intercept private consultations between UK citizens and their lawyers in a bid to guarantee the authorities an upper hand during trials, constitutes a violation of both national laws and international norms.
The Intercept has also revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British partners from the Government Communications Headquarters stole the encryption keys of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer – Gemalto, situated in the Netherlands. This allowed intelligence agencies from both nations ever since to tap all sorts of phone conversations and intercept any data sent via a mobile device carrying a SIM card produced by Gemalto.
In late 2014, the Wall Street Journal has also revealed the practices that allowed US intelligence agencies to record information stored on millions of cell phones across the US through the use of special spyware. Additionally, Wikileaks released CIA documents that show this agency is capable of intercepting messages sent via encrypted message apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
It should be noted that US intelligence agencies have been pretty methodical in the collection of information that in one way or another could be used not just against ordinary citizens, but even against leading political figures. When in October 2013 a scandal erupted with the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, it turned out that the NSA had been carrying out such intrusions for more than ten years by that time. Back then, the scandal was downplayed and no actual changes in those malicious practices were pursued.
So how many more revelations about the total control that US intelligence agencies exercise over information space should be published before Washington’s open mockery of human rights and freedom of speech is finally challenged and stopped?
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East.
Source: US Policymakers Openly Plot Against Venezuela
The US media has been paying increasing attention to the unfolding crisis in the South American nation of Venezuela. As the US media has done elsewhere, it is attempting to portray the unfolding crisis as a result of a corrupt dictatorship fighting against a “pro-democracy” opposition.
In reality, it is simply a repeat of US-driven regime change aimed at toppling Venezuela’s independent state institutions and replacing them with institutions created by and for US special interests.
The “opposition” is comprised of US-backed political parties and US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) many of which are listed on the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website.
The UK Independent in a 2016 article titled, “Venezuela accuses US of plotting coup as Washington warns of ‘imminent collapse’,” would even admit:
…observers of the region point out that the US has a long history of seeking to interfere in the politics of Venezuela, as well as elsewhere in Latin America. In addition to supporting those who ousted Mr Chavez in 2002, the US poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to his opponents via the so-called National Endowment for Democracy.
To understand America’s actual role amid Venezuela’s unfolding crisis, one must read policy papers produced by organizations called “think tanks” which devise and promote US policy.
The Brookings Institute is a Fortune 500-funded policy think-tank. It is populated by policymakers who represent the collective ambitions of some of the world’s most powerful corporate-financier interests including big-oil, defense, agricultural monopolies, pharmaceutical corporations, media interests, and more.
Image: Just some of the Brookings Institute’s corporate-financier sponsors.
Brookings and think-tanks similar to it have regularly produced policy and media guidelines later disseminated across the Western media and Western legislatures through public relations firms and lobbyists. Think tanks are where the real agenda of the West is agreed upon and promoted from.
A recent piece featured upon the Brookings Institution’s website titled, “Venezuela: A path out of crisis,” lays out a 5-point plan toward escalating Venezuela’s already precarious situation (emphasis added):
1. The United States could expand its assistance to countries that until now have been dependent on Venezuelan oil, as a means to decrease regional support for and dependence on the Maduro government.
2. The United States could increase monetary assistance to credible civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations able to deliver food and medicines to Venezuelans. By doing so, the United States should make clear that international pressure aims to support democracy, not punish the Venezuelan people.
3. The United States could support efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to build an “off-ramp” that would split moderate elements of the government away from hardliners, encouraging the former to acquiesce to a transition to democracy by lowering their costs of exiting government.
4. The United States could coordinate with international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offer financial incentives for holding free and fair elections in 2018, and for the opposition to unify and compete in those elections. Such coordination would also involve developing and publicizing a credible plan to restart Venezuela’s economy.
5. As a last resort, the United States could consider raising economic costs to the government through an expanded sanctions regime that aims to limit Venezuelan earnings from oil exports and block further financing. This policy is risky, given that the Maduro government would be able to more credibly shift blame for the economic crisis onto the United States, and should be accompanied by well-publicized efforts to deliver humanitarian aid through credible civil society and nongovernmental organizations.
It is a prescription for further economic isolation, US-funded political subversion, and with its reference to “a transition to democracy,” an oblique call for regime change.
The US media – particularly organizations operating from under right cover – have portrayed Venezuela’s economic crisis as primarily related to “socialism” and corruption. In reality, factors that would have only impeded the full realization of Venezuela’s economic progress have been intentionally compounded through US sanctions, economic sabotage, and political subversion to precipitate the currently unfolding socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis.
Venezuela would not be the first nation the US targeted for economic implosion in South America.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its own online archives available to the public under a section titled, “CIA Activities in Chile,” would admit (emphasis added):
According to the Church Committee report, in their meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms and Attorney General John Mitchell on 15 September 1970 President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, directed the CIA to prevent Allende from taking power. They were “not concerned [about the] risks involved,” according to Helms’ notes. In addition to political action, Nixon and Kissinger, according to Helms’s notes, ordered steps to “make the economy scream.”
These Cold War attitudes persisted into the Pinochet era. After Pinochet came to power, senior policymakers appeared reluctant to criticize human rights violations, taking to task US diplomats urging greater attention to the problem. US military assistance and sales grew significantly during the years of greatest human rights abuses. According to a previously released Memorandum of Conversation, Kissinger in June 1976 indicated to Pinochet that the US Government was sympathetic to his regime, although Kissinger advised some progress on human rights in order to improve Chile’s image in the US Congress.
With violence increasing in the streets of Venezuela and many of the rhetorical tactics used to set the stage for violent regime change and humanitarian catastrophe in Libya and Syria now being used to topple the government in Caracas – the world must get ahead of the propaganda and begin exposing this open conspiracy against yet another sovereign nation.
Venezuela’s political system is for the Venezuelan people themselves to decide – without US interference. A government dominated by US-backed opposition members will leave Venezuela as an extension of US corporate-financier special interests, not an alternative or check against them This only serves in inviting further abuse by these interests not only in South America, but all around the world – Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Ukraine for example – where America’s unwarranted wealth and influence is sowing instability, conflict, and catastrophe.
by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
May 26, 2017
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Originally published under the title “Race for the Ruins.”
Islamic State lacks the manpower to defend its diminishing territory in eastern Syria, as suggested by this U.S. military propaganda leaflet.
Events taking place in a remote stretch of southeast Syrian desert in recent days reveal the current direction of US Middle East strategy.
An observable ratcheting up of US and allied air and special forces activity in eastern Syria is currently under way. This in turn appears to derive from a new, hard-nosed understanding of the nature of the strategic game in the large, strife-ridden area covering what was once Syria and Iraq.
On Thursday, May 18th, US aircraft launched strikes on a column of Assad regime vehicles including tanks and earth-movers, 18 miles from the town of al-Tanf, on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The strikes took place after the vehicles entered an agreed deconfliction zone around the town. US and British special forces are currently training “vetted partner forces,” i.e. Syrian Sunni Arab rebels, in the town.
This was the second occasion in recent weeks that US aircraft have directly engaged against Assad’s forces. On the first occasion, the target was the al-Shayrat airbase. That raid took place on April 6. It was a clear retaliation for the regime’s use of sarin gas at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. The Shayrat raid was generally interpreted as a belated attempt to enforce the American “red line” against further regime use of chemical weapons. As such, it was not widely seen as indicating a more general change of policy.
The attack on the column near al-Tanf, by contrast, was not preceded by any unusual regime activity, apart from the approach of the column itself, and its too close vicinity to Western forces. On Monday, the pro-opposition website Syria Direct quoted an un-named US military spokesman as saying that “if pro-regime forces move further south or east from their current positions, this will be considered a threat.” The website also reported that regime forces are preparing to move toward the Badia area, a stretch of desert to the north east of al-Tanf.
The battle for the territorial holdings of the Islamic State in Syria is reaching its final phase.
What is the significance of this butting of heads?
The battle against the territorial holdings of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is reaching its final phase. The re-conquest of Mosul is almost done. The assault on Raqqa city, the capital city of the Caliphate is about to begin. It is set to be a hard and bloody fight. But its eventual outcome is not in question. Islamic State as an entity controlling ground will be destroyed. At which point the movement will revert back to its former status as a clandestine terror network. As the eclipse of the Caliphate draws near, the race is opening up to inherit its former domains.
The competitors in this contest are Iran and its various allies and proxies, and forces associated with the West and the Sunni Arab states.
The Iranians and their allies want to penetrate IS territory from west to east – with the Iraqi Shia militias pushing westwards from Tel Afar and Assad regime forces and pro-Assad militias (including Hizballah) probing east.
The regime forces nosing around in al Tanf are in the process of seeking to seize border areas with both Jordan and Iraq. The US is determined to prevent that. The town of Deir al-Zour and the surrounding oil rich areas will form an important part of the prize.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters on the northern outskirts of Deir Ezzor, Syria.
Pro-Western forces, meanwhile are pushing north from Jordan and south from the Kurdish-controlled area north of the IS enclave. The forces engaged on this side are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish YPG, and the Maghawir a-Thawra (Commandos of the Revolution, formerly the New Syrian Army) rebels, supported by the US, UK and Jordan, from the south.
The outcome of this contest is of strategic significance, despite the remote and arid nature of much of the territory concerned. The Iranians want to create a contiguous line of territory controlled by themselves and their allies stretching from Iraq into Syria, and thence to the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Israel.
Islamic State has formed a buffer against the achievement of this goal. But Islamic State, in the usual manner of Sunni Salafi organizations when they control territory, declined to be satisfied with the stewardship of a small domain. Instead, the Sunni jihadis elected to declare war on the West, using the territory as a base to hold and execute captured Western prisoners, to prepare attacks against Western civilian targets, to administer a regional network of franchise groups, and to attempt genocide against a non-Muslim population, the Yezidis. As a result, the West, unsurprisingly, made it a goal to destroy the Islamic State.
Iran wants to control a contiguous line of territory stretching from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel’s borders.
The question now is who will inherit. The Americans, it appears, have understood that to stand a chance of re-establishing influence and standing in the region, and beginning the process of turning back the Iranian advance, it is necessary to have skin in the game, i.e., to develop reliable proxies and have them control ground, in this pivotal area.
Only thus can a contiguous line of Iranian control from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean and Israel be prevented. Only thus will the US be able to prevent an eventual outcome in Syria and in Iraq entirely favorable to the Iranians. Hence the development by the US Department of Defense of the relationships with the YPG and elements among the Jordan-supported Sunni Arab rebels in the south.
It is worth also noting that the outcome in eastern Syria is not of primary interest to the Russians. Russia wants to preserve the regime in existence and to keep its naval investments in Latakia Province. Neither of these interests is threatened by events further east. Controlling the east is an Iranian and Assad regime goal only.
The outcome in eastern Syria is not of primary interest to the Russians.
The outcome of this emergent contest will be of deep interest also to Israeli strategic planners. While some recent analysis has suggested that Israel favors or should favor allowing IS to continue in existence as a quasi-state, it is obvious that this is no longer an option. Syria as a state has largely ceased to exist. The question now, as it is parceled out into zones of influence, is who will gain and who will lose.
Alongside the military jockeying on the ground, the diplomatic processes in Astana and Geneva will sputter on. Their eventual outcome, though, will depend on the balance of forces on the ground. Iran wants its contiguous line not least in order to move weaponry and fighters both in preparation for and no less importantly in the course of a future war with Israel. Preventing this is an Israeli national security interest par excellence.
This emergent US strategy has not yet been officially confirmed. Indeed, Defense Secretary James Mattis was quoted by Agence France Presse after the al-Tanf strike as denying that the raid heralded any “increased role” for the US in the Syrian war.
The pattern on the ground suggests otherwise. The US administration has defined the Iranians and the Sunni jihadis of IS as its main adversaries in the region. Eastern Syria is an area where the defeat of the latter by pro-Western forces will constitute also a setback also for the former. This is a game which is now afoot. Much depends on its outcome.
Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
Source: Canadian Missionaries in Africa and the NGO Model
By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | April 24, 2017
For more than a century Canadians have gone abroad to do “good” in poorer parts of the world. Whether they spurred positive change or simply became foreign agents should be of interest to international non-governmental organizations.
Last week the Globe and Mail reported on the Canadians Christians who set off to proselytize in China in 1891. Focused on their medical achievements, the laudatory story hinted at a darker side of their work. It quoted a missionary who was “critical of the lifestyle most of the missionaries led, with their large houses, many servants and imported comforts which contrasted with the far lower standard of living of their Chinese fellow Christians.”
Of more consequence than their opulence, Canadian missionaries aggressively supported colonial officials, as I discovered researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. By the end of the colonial period 2,500 Canadian missionaries were proselytizing in Africa and Canadian churches raised large sums to support mission stations across the continent.
Four Québec Jesuit fathers left for the Zambesi Mission in southern Africa in 1883. Alphonse Daignault rose through the ranks of the Catholic male congregation to become Prefect Apostolic of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Then Superior of the Jesuits’ Zambezi Mission, Daignault backed the British South Africa Company’s invasion of Mashonaland (Zimbabwe) in 1890. With their evangelizing shunned by the Ndebele people, the Jesuits and other foreign missionaries supported the “destruction of [the] Ndebele system.”
Granted a charter from London in 1889, Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company offered white men in Kimberley, South Africa, 3,000 acres of land and mining rights if they joined the Company’s fight to conquer part of today’s Zimbabwe. Daignault offered the invading force chaplaincy services, mobile ambulances and nurses. The British South Africa Company paid the Jesuit nurses’ costs and compensated Daignault’s mission with conquered territory, including a major piece of land on the outskirts of today’s Harare. In A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe C. J. M. Zvobgo writes that the Harare “farm which consisted of 12,000 acres, beautifully surrounded by hills, was given to the Jesuits by the BSA Company in recognition of FR Alphonse Daignault’s service to the [Company’s] sick.”
The Québec Jesuit leader worked with Rhodes and British officials for years. He also supported the colonial authorities’ efforts to drive Africans from their traditional economies into wage work. Reflecting the settler community’s attitude in 1897, Daignault told the deputy administrator of the city of Bulawayo in 1897 that the “natives of this country… are but grown-up children” prone to “idleness”. “Men in authority who have the true interests of the natives at heart ought to treat the natives not only as children but are also to do all they can to make them acquire habits of work. As this cannot be obtained by mere moral persuasion, authority must necessarily be used.”
To the north, dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies in the early 1900s. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography of the founder of the White Father in Canada describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”
In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.” British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.
During World War I, Canadian White Fathers Ernest Paradis and Wilfred Sarrazin helped Brigadier General Edward Northey conquer German East Africa. Serving as civilian transport officers, Paradis and Sarrazin focused on organizing African carriers, who were generally press ganged into service. Paradis became Senior Transport Officer for all British forces east of Nyasaland and North of Zambesi in today’s Malawi and Zimbabwe.
By volunteering to join the war, the White Fathers sought “respectability … in the eyes of planters and government officials.” Afterwards, Paradis used his heightened status to gain the colonial administration’s support for the White Fathers’ educational work.
Paradis evangelised in Malawi for several decades. He led the White Fathers campaign to supress “the Nyau”, a religious belief among the Chewa and Nyanja people that included elaborate dances. In May 1929 Paradis wrote an East Africa article titled “Devil Dancers of Terror” that claimed Nyau dances were seditious.
Another Canadian missionary engaged in the White Fathers’ efforts to outlaw Nyau customs in Nyasaland. Father Superior David Roy called on colonial officials to criminalize their dances and in 1928 Christians in the Likuni district, which he oversaw, killed two Nyau.
Thomas Buchanan Reginald Westgate was a Canadian missionary who joined the Church Missionary Society in German East Africa in 1902. With the support of the Ontario branch of the Church Mission Society, Westgate remained in Tanzania for over a decade. The Watford, Ontario, born missionary translated parts of the Old Testament into Cigogo, the language spoken by the Gogo nation in the central region of the colony.
Westgate worked with the colonial administration. His son, Wilfrid Westgate, authored a book about his father’s life titled T. B. R. Westgate: A Canadian Missionary on Three Continents. In the biography, Westgate writes: “Governor [Heinrich] Schnee looked upon the mission as an asset to this part of the German colonial empire.” German soldiers protected the Canadian’s mission post when the population rose up in 1905 against the colonial authority. Dissent was sparked by measures to force Africans to grow cotton for export, and an uprising known as the Maji Maji rebellion swept across the vast colony. It lasted two years. During the rebellion, Westgate coordinated with German Captain von Hirsch. Westgate’s wife, Rita, later wrote, “at times we feared the Germans could not suppress the rising.” The Germans succeeded, however, and the Westgate’s fears did not come to pass. In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, Isabel Hull writes that 15 Europeans and 389 allied African soldiers were killed by the rebels. By contrast, writes Hull, whole areas of the colony were depopulated with 200,000 to 300,000 Tanzanians killed between 1905 and 1907.
Another Ontario native by the name of Marion Wittich (later Marion Keller) felt called to missionary work while working as an Anglican schoolteacher in Parry Sound, Ontario. She set off with her husband to proselytize in Tanzania in 1913. Her husband died in Tanzania and several years later she remarried a man by the name of Otto Keller, a German born US émigré, who the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada sponsored to set up a mission station in western Kenya. In 1914 Otto Keller claimed that “here [Africa] we see the power of the devil in an astonishing form, almost beyond belief. The noise of drunken men and women, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh come to our ears. All seemingly bound and determined to fulfill the cup of their iniquity.” By the time Marion Keller died in 1942, the socially conservative Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada had over 200 branch churches in Kenya.
An official history of the Canadian church attacked the anti-colonial movement in Kenya as “a resurgence of primitive animism.” Published in 1958, What God Hath Wrought: A History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada notes: “Unfortunately, sinister forces were bidding high for the souls of Kenya’s millions. In the 1950s there was to be a resurgence of primitive heathenism which had as its aim the expulsion of the white man from Kenya and the extinction of everything Christian in their land. This was the Mau Mau uprising.” In putting down the uprising the British killed tens of thousands.
In 1893 Torontonians Walter Gowans and Rowland Victor Bingham founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent: the Sudan Interior Mission (Though SIM initially focused on modern- day Nigeria, at the time “Sudan” generally referred to the area south of the Sahara and North of the equator from the east to west coast of the continent.) Head of SIM for four decades, Bingham described “facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism” and “seeing the people in all their savagery and sin.”
In the 1950s SIM described growing Nigerian nationalism as “dark and threatening”. Adeleye Liagbemi writes that “the nationalist upsurge of the post Second World War era engendered a new spirit of independence and experimentation; positive, forward-looking, purposeful and militant. The situation sent chills down the spines of some Christian missionary organizations in the country — including the S.I.M.” In response SIM ramped up its literature output, deciding to “take the offensive out of Satan’s hands”, which it felt had “been winning the war of words among the new literates” of Africa.
Official Canada generally supported these Christian activists. Missionary leaders were well-regarded and received sympathetic media coverage. Leading business people financed mission work and Ottawa sometimes looked to missionaries for advice.
Most of the Canadians who proselytized in Africa were “good Christians” who saw themselves as helping to “civilize the dark continent”. While formal colonialism is over and paternalism has been tempered, Canadians supportive of international NGOs should reflect on missionary history.
Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.