The Werewolves Who Hated Castro

The Little Havana celebrations of Fidel Castro’s death last month had a touch of mean-spirited delusion since perhaps Castro’s greatest achievement was defying American power and living to die of old age, observes Greg Maybury.

By Greg Maybury

Considering the deluge of bitterness and pique oozing from many in the U.S. political establishment in response to the death recently of Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro, even some folks with more than a passing knowledge of key world events and history in general, might’ve been left wondering what all the fuss was about. Castro — a man as reviled as he was revered — led that country’s 1959 revolution, one of the most portentous tipping points in the Cold War, if not in modern history.

The following might serve at the outset to give such people an idea as to why his passing provoked such a bilious response from Washington. As Wayne Smith, a former U.S. diplomat and ambassador to Cuba in the early years of Castro’s reign under President Dwight Eisenhower (Smith was later President Jimmy Carter’s Cuban representative), once memorably opined, “Cuba seems to have the same effect on US administrations as the full moon has on werewolves.”

Now Smith might’ve said this almost three decades ago, but as the reaction to the Cuban leader’s death indicated, this reality persists, despite the recent thaw in official relations initiated by President Obama. To be sure, there’s rarely been a shortage of countries that could lay claim to having this transformative effect on the collective psyche of U.S. political establishment, Iran being a prime example.

But it is Cuba that stands out as an exemplar, and so much of that has to do with Castro himself. Put simply, among the iconic revolutionary’s many talents was an unerring ability to get up Uncle Sam’s nose, and get away with it so often for so long. Suffice to say, since they seem to have inherited the same basic instincts as their forebears, the bulk of present-day Washington’s “Werewolves” must’ve been privately “howling at the moon” as it were at the Comandante’s demise at age 90.

Castro was the only world leader who resisted U.S. hegemony and lived to tell the tale, surviving by some accounts more than 630 separate assassination attempts over decades. Indeed, it would not be a surprise if the individual who came up with the expression “terminate with extreme prejudice” had Fidel in mind.

Such is the animus towards all things Cuba and Castro, President George W. Bush refused his offer to provide teams of doctors to assist the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in 2005, one of modern America’s worst natural disasters. And with folks like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich labeling Castro a “tyrant” and likewise President-elect Donald Trump dismissing the former Cuban leader as a “brutal dictator” (while also placing in doubt the future of the recent rapprochement with Cuba), it’s clear that “animus” is still alive and kicking. For many, Castro’s passing is unlikely to change this much. The Werewolves have long memories.

A Historic Turning Point

Although Castro came to power at the tail end of the Eisenhower era, he was catapulted to world prominence shortly after the inauguration of President John F Kennedy in 1961. It was on JFK’s watch that the attempts to assassinate Castro began in earnest, all under cover of the infamous Operation Mongoose; this decidedly dodgy “black-op” involved the CIA working in collaboration with the Mafia no less, and assorted pissed-off Cuban expatriates, exiles, and Batista regime “refugees,” all seeking to take back the “farm.” All this was with the full knowledge of JFK’s brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Although there is much conjecture as to whether JFK actually did know himself about Mongoose’s key objective, some find it difficult to accept he didn’t know given the brothers were “joined at the hip.” If indeed JFK did know, then he either ordered those involved — including Bobby — to stop and they were ignored, or JFK acquiesced. In the latter case, while he may not have been happy with doing so, such was the pressure on him over the Cuban “situation,” he may have gone along with it reluctantly. Like with so much of the JFK mythology, we may never know the answer.

Either way, Castro reportedly was deeply disturbed by JFK’s 1963 assassination, and the Comandante had good reason. Quite apart from having his hopes dashed for a rapprochement with the U.S. (JFK had earlier opened a back-channel communication link with the Cuban government, seeking to ease the tensions between them), Castro knew full well that if the U.S. could plausibly blame him for JFK’s murder — which he instinctively felt they’d try to do and which may have been the intention of those who engineered the hit — it would surely have escalated U.S. attacks on Cuba.

The following should further underscore the significant role played by Cuba during the Cold War. When asked in the acclaimed 2003 Errol Morris film Fog of War about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis – specifically, “how close” did the U.S. and the USSR come to an all-out nuclear exchange — then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara chillingly revealed that the two powers came “that close” (picture a grim-faced McNamara putting the tips of his thumb and forefinger so close there was little daylight between them).

The missile crisis was itself precipitated by Castro, who became an ally of the Soviet Union not long after the revolution of 1959 and who feared a full-scale U.S. invasion after the botched attempt at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. He invited Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to put some medium-range nuclear ballistic missiles on the island country (a counterpoint to U.S. missiles installed in Turkey).

As Cuba was located less than 90 miles from Florida, this triggered the scariest, most public, and potentially apocalyptic standoff between the two nuclear superpower archrivals. The stakes for humanity had never been greater.

Botched Regime Change

At this point it’s instructive to look back at some of the pre-revolution history of Cuba and its relationship with its giant neighbor. For our purposes though it is both sufficient and necessary to consider in some detail that other seminal historical tipping point of the Cold War involving Cuba and America, the Bay of Pigs invasion.

For those “buffs” of America’s regime change track record, along with its recidivistic propensity for interfering in the affairs — and ruthlessly exploiting both the resources and people — of other countries, the story of Cuba is one with which most will be well acquainted. From the early-to-mid 1950s, Castro fomented a popular revolution, and in 1959 after years of vicious, oppressive and corrupt rule by the U.S. client-dictator Fulgencio Batista, the rebels ousted him.

This is not an unfamiliar motif in the U.S. foreign policy narrative whereby the world’s loudest exponent of liberty, human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law, consistently relied on “klepto-brutocracies” like Batista’s to deliver anything but the above to their own people, almost always with varying degrees of unerring, bloody, tragic failure for them.

As for Batista, he’d earned his rightful place in the Client Dictators’ Hall of Fame, and then some. For years his rule generated deep-seated discontent, all of which seemed to go unnoticed by the Americans. He, his cronies and the Cuban elites of the era were enthusiastic supporters and beneficiaries of American business involvement in Cuba and, in particular, of the Mob (Batista was in the pocket of the notorious Mafia capo di tutt’i capi Meyer Lansky). All were making millions from gambling, prostitution, hospitality and tourism while bleeding the country dry and leaving the general populace far below the poverty line.

To say the Cuban people then were unhappy campers does not begin to describe the political, economic and social climate at the time. Eventually the chickens came home to roost for Batista as they do for most of America’s client dictators, although usually too late for those who’ve suffered under their sclerotic rule.

Much like the Shah of Iran 20 years later and Mobuto Sese Seko in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 to name just two examples, the U.S. left its hapless client up that brown creek without a paddle when it became obvious just how restless the natives were and how little the Americans could do about it.

In order to avoid having his corrupt and brutal ass tarred and feathered by his ungrateful subjects and run out of town, Batista quit his day job and rode off into the sunset, consoling himself by filling his saddlebags with a large swag of looted booty.

Castro, along with his brother Raul (who in 2008 took over the presidency), aided memorably by Marxist revolutionary, Argentinian doctor Chè Guevara, assumed control of the country. They quickly kicked out the Americans along with the Mafia, and nationalized most of their industries and businesses.

For Lansky and the rest of the Mob in particular, their Golden Cuban Goose was cooked. Yet this was seen as an exceedingly bad development not just for them, but everyone in Washington across the defense, security, intelligence and political establishment and in the boardrooms of those U.S. corporations who’d enjoyed massive profits during the crime/corporate-friendly Batista regime.

Thus was created the circumstances that would eventually lead to the Bay of Pigs invasion (click link here for an info-graphic and timeline), one of most ill-advised, ill-fated, ill-conceived, ill-managed adventure in U.S. history. A defining event of the Cold War to be sure, but also one of the CIA’s biggest cock-ups that set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis and possibly Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

The Bay of Pigs Blowback

Few foreign policy misadventures (those that became public knowledge at least), resulted in more immediate and vociferous response from the American public and international community, as did the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Even fewer ended in such obvious and enduring ignominy. If JFK had been enjoying the ride in Air Force One up until that point then, the “flight” became very bumpy with the Cuban “situation.”

JFK was so rattled by the Bay of Pigs experience, he threatened to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the four winds.” CIA chief Allen Dulles and two of his senior CIA spook colleagues were eventually forced to hang up their trilby hats and trench-coats, a move that Dulles neither forgot nor forgave. The CIA, however, survived as an American institution that was synonymous with fighting the dreaded, so-called “Red Menace,” which – in the Western Hemisphere at least – was personified by Castro.

As for the Agency and its operatives who survived the purge, they never forgot Kennedy’s threat nor his perceived “betrayal” of the Bay of Pigs invaders when the mission went south.

So what exactly happened with the Bay of Pigs? In order to better grasp how it all came together — a phrase not entirely appropriate because when it really counted it all came spectacularly unstuck — some brief background is needed. The original plot was hatched during the Eisenhower administration under Dulles’s direction and in concert with his big brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the archetypal Cold Warrior, a man for whom leaders like Castro were anathema.

It involved utilizing the support of Cuban exiles, all of whom were mightily chagrinned at the new Cuban leader. If anything the Cuban exiles hated Castro more than the Americans did, and were eager to bed down with anyone who’d help restore them to their former glory.

A ‘Perfect Failure’

The truly ironic thing is that the Americans at one point did have opportunities to bring Castro inside the tent before the Soviets did. Despite the fact he’d expropriated the property of some U.S. corporations (including that of the ubiquitous, notorious United Fruit Company of Guatemalan coup fame and the poster child of rapacious, exploitative U.S. corporate fuelled neo-colonialism), he denied being a communist.

Nor were there any signs the as-yet-non-aligned Castro intended to bunk down with the Soviets. On his visit to America in April 1960, Eisenhower refused to even meet with the new leader, despite the fact the U.S. had formally recognized his new government. The sub-text of the Americans’ response might as well have been: “If we can’t own, pillage, plunder and exploit your country and bleed it dry, we don’t wanna know about you. Adios Amigo!”

Whether Fidel might’ve responded positively to any American overtures is now somewhat academic. But the truth is that no one will ever know. One thing we do know was that when the Americans “passed” on Cuba and ratcheted up the hostility, the Soviets didn’t miss a beat. and were “in like Flynn”! The rest as they say, is history, most of it as we’ll see, not so good! And so the stage was set for the Bay of Pigs.

Aptly described by Peter Kornbluh as the “perfect failure,” the Bay of Pigs was a disastrous mix of own goals, “mission myopia,” cock-ups and unalloyed hubris. The plan was so ill conceived that even the normally gung-ho Joint Chiefs of Staff knew it was bound to fail or had serious doubts. There are varying accounts as to whether they properly conveyed this to JFK, or there was some genuine misunderstanding.

But the reality was that the Chiefs had their own agenda — then as now, a not unfamiliar phenomenon in the annals of interagency rivalry within the US military, foreign policy and national security establishment. They wanted a full-scale invasion and knew JFK was not up for that under any circumstances.

Yet in effectively “nodding” a mission they knew had little or no chance of success, they calculated that Kennedy’s hand would be forced politically when that failure became obvious; the JCOS brass would then get their Big Day after all. From there they could claim bragging rights as the guys who came in and cleaned up the CIA’s mess, and Kennedy would cop all the flak for approving this “it seemed like a good idea at the time” operation.

It’s uncertain how the Chiefs were going to explain to Kennedy himself after the fact why they did not actively discourage the mission, or whether indeed they even gave this much consideration. It’s possible they short-changed JFK’s ability to “smell the rat” (that effectively he was set up by the CIA and the Chiefs), or figured that he would be so grateful to them later on when they had in fact cleaned up the mess he’d forgive and forget their treachery.

As it turned out, JFK did detect the “odor of rodent” before the mission was finally aborted. In order to minimize the failure, Kennedy refused to approve the necessary extra air cover that everyone was clamoring for, and that they insisted would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Kennedy didn’t buy this, and, once the penny dropped, seemingly preferred to cut his losses there and then.

From there on, collectively the brass was persona non grata with JFK, as he simply deduced he could no longer trust them. Much to their chagrin, they didn’t get their “boots-on-the-ground” gig as hoped. To underscore how unsettled the JCOS were about this, around 18 months later at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the then U.S. Air Force General Curtis (“Bombsaway”) Le May along with his JCOS colleagues began foaming at the mouth and literally wanted to nuke the Soviets and the Cubans back to the Neolithic Era. That Kennedy prevailed over this pressure is a matter of history of course; the fact we’re all still here talking about it is some testament to that.

Lock ‘n Load

As for the invasion however, with some modification to the original plan, in early April 1961, JFK gave the CIA and the exiled “Cubanistas” — who by this time had foam coming out of their mouths — the go-ahead. Presumably this was partly because he had a measure of respect for Allen Dulles and his judgment. While this was Dulles’s (and Eisenhower’s) baby, JFK accepted the parentage.

In preparation for the invasion, equipment, supplies and materiel were parachuted into the designated invasion location earlier with planes piloted by Cuban exiles accompanied by CIA mercenaries. However as luck would have it, much of this logistical support was lost in the swamp close by. Moreover, a pre-invasion air support strike was supposed to soften up the Cubans, break their morale, and destroy or render inactive most of the Cuban Air Force. As it turned out, the attack destroyed only a handful of planes, with a number of civilians ending up as collateral damage.

The decision not to follow-up with additional air support left the invaders with their “paramilitary peckers” swinging in the Bay of Pigs’ sea breeze, so to speak. They quickly ran out of — or were unable to locate — their supplies. Over the next three days, there was intense fighting between the two forces; but before it even started really, it was all over for the counter-revolutionary wannabes.

Amazingly, before the invasion, the CIA was apparently tipped off by the Soviets — presumably because they wanted to give the Americans pause about any aggressive military ambitions — that Castro was aware of a possible attack and/or invasion. For his part though Castro apparently expected that any such operation would be a full-scale military campaign, not the piddling bunch of deluded, right-wing, rag-tag, rabble-rousing soldiers of misfortune that eventually did do so.

Incredibly, the CIA folk adopted a “need to know” response to this critical piece of information and omitted to tell JFK when there was still ample opportunity, possibly explaining why the normally unflappable president went ballistic later. It’s difficult to see how Kennedy would’ve green-lighted the operation had he been “in the know” on this. In anticipation of such an invasion, the preternaturally charismatic Fidel mobilized all his armed forces and rallied for moral support any and all Cuban nationals who could hold a pitchfork or machete and see over the steering wheels of their Ford convertibles and Chevy pickups.

A Cult Following

The Bay of Pigs invaders eventually were outgunned, outnumbered, out-maneuvered and out-smarted. Having nowhere else to go, the “paramilitaries” high-tailed back to the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Those that weren’t killed, either surrendered or were captured, with some later executed.

There are some further observations about the Bay of Pigs “fiasco” (as JFK aptly defined it) to note. Before the invasion the Cuban revolution was, by some accounts, running out of puff. Either way, after the botched invasion and the resulting worldwide publicity, it was unstoppable.

The location of the Soviet missiles in Cuba in October the next year — the decision taken as a direct consequence of the fallout from the Bay of Pigs to discourage any further thoughts of regime change — was the most provocative, potentially consequential acts in history.

As for JFK, he was both devastated by the failure and humiliated by the fallout of the mission. Given this was a man unaccustomed to failure, it must have been a heavy cross to bear. He’d however get an opportunity to redeem himself with the Cuban Missile Crisis, but his legacy was forever stained. As for the CIA, its senior executives got to understand the meaning of “blowback.”

Interestingly, one of the reasons why the Bay of Pigs operation was unsuccessful was much the same as why the Iraq invasion in 2003 was an unmitigated disaster: like those involved in, and who supported, that monumental foreign policy miscalculation by the U.S., they believed the Cuban people would be grateful for being liberated from Fidel’s tyranny and rise up in  arms against the oppressors. Of course, history tells a different story.

A Historic Moment

The events surrounding Castro and Cuba also resonate throughout the enduring mystery of Kennedy’s assassination, whether the Official Story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his involvement in the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee” or the Unofficial Story that Kennedy was killed as payback for abandoning the Cuban exiles (and friends of the Mafia) at the Bay of Pigs and his retaliation against the CIA.

No other foreign country comes remotely close to having any more connections to the momentous Kennedy assassination than does Cuba. For this reason alone, Cuba — and by extrapolation Fidel Castro — will feature large in any future historical narrative.

That said — love him or hate him – Castro’s place in history is guaranteed, much more so I suspect than most of his critics and enemies, past and present, most of whom are likely to end up as mere footnotes by comparison.

And as we have seen some many times throughout the American Cold War narrative, every fringe-dwelling, Marxist/Leninist and/or AK-47 packing, left-wing-leaning revolutionary wannabee in Latin America will pull out all stops to see if he or she might emulate Castro’s David and Goliath feat and kick the “gringos” where it really hurts.

That none has so far fared as well as Castro is a matter of history. Indeed, we might say this “standing up to the Man” was Castro’s most singular achievement. Even now, in the post-Castro era, Cuba itself will always remain an historically ineradicable symbol of fervent resistance to — and overt defiance of — Uncle Sam’s unerring, recidivistic predisposition for pillage and plunder in other people’s backyards.

For years, the CIA expended more time, money, ingenuity and energy in trying to “off” Fidel than they have in trying to “off” all of the other heads of state together that they’ve ever had in their sights for over 60 years. They cooked up all manner of outrageous, cockamamie Spy v Spy schemes such as placing small exploding devices in his cigars; administering exotic bacteria, viruses or toxic poisons by a multitude of means and methods; and giving him LSD in public so he’d flip out and lose face.

They even considered using non-discernible microbionoculators (lethal darts with undetectable poison fired from a high-powered gun), to all manner of bizarre plots and schemes such as administering chemicals to make the Comandante’s facial hair fall out.

The fact then that Castro still saw off 10 U.S. presidents is a remarkable feat unto itself. His success at survival made the celebrations in Little Havana in Miami, Florida, at the news of his death at age 90 seem pathetic and silly. While the anti-Castro Cubans may have been grinning from ear to ear and jumping for joy, it seems safe to say “Fiddy” had the last laugh on both his enemies in Miami and the Werewolves of Washington.

Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia.




Why Gen. Mattis Is No Gen. Marshall

President-elect Trump’s pick of retired Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis to run the Pentagon raises questions about civilian control of the military, especially compared to the precedent of Gen. George Marshall, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Useful perspective on issues surrounding the nomination of the retired Marine Corps general James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense, including the issue of civilian control of the military, can come from reflecting on the career of the one other general ever to be U.S. Defense Secretary.

Whether the appointment of Mattis turns out to be good or bad will depend as well on other things, but for comparison and context, consider the role and talents of the third Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall. (After World War II, a reorganization transformed the Department of War, which had existed since 1789, into the Department of Defense.)

Marshall had a career as an Army officer but, apart from 18 months as a second lieutenant of infantry during the insurgency in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War, he rose to five-star general without ever commanding troops in combat. He instead was a brilliant planner and organizer.

During World War I, he was a staff officer who was heavily involved in the planning of operations for the American Expeditionary Force. As Army chief of staff throughout World War II, Marshall could be said to have managed the enormous allied war effort as much as any one person did. This was one of two roles that earned him a distinguished place in history.

His other big role was as a post-war diplomat, beginning when President Harry Truman dispatched him to China to try to arrange a political settlement between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists. He served as Truman’s Secretary of State during the critical years of the beginning of the Cold War, from 1947 to 1949. It was during his tenure in that office that he led implementation of the economic recovery program that bears his name — work for which he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

A World-Class Diplomat

Marshall’s service as Defense Secretary (following a stint as president of the American National Red Cross) thus came after he had already been one of the most prominent members of the Truman administration and a diplomat of world-class stature and accomplishment.

Truman’s calling of Marshall back to his administration to be Secretary of Defense was a short-term (Marshall served in the position for only a year) fix to a problem of bad morale and organization in the U.S. military establishment. The job of Secretary of Defense, which had been established in 1947, had not yet enjoyed a leader who would set a strong and positive model for future occupants of the office.

Truman removed each of his first two secretaries of defense (James Forrestal and Louis Johnson) after just a year and a half in the job. Marshall took the position at the low point of September 1950, after three months of the United States reeling from the North Korean invasion that began the Korean War.

As secretary, Marshall was involved in one of the best-known assertions of civilian control of the military: Truman’s firing of an insubordinate Douglas MacArthur, an action in which Marshall concurred. With that personnel problem resolved and the tide turned in Korea, Marshall retired to private life in September 1951.

In short, Marshall is not a precedent for the Mattis appointment except in the technical sense of having once worn stars on his shoulders. Putting Mattis in the job really would be a departure, in that he is at short remove from being a warrior and has had nothing like the career that Marshall had when he took over leadership of the Pentagon.

It is with good reason that the high school in Fairfax County, Virginia that is named after Marshall calls its athletic teams the Statesmen.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 




Extracting Castro from the Demonization

The mainstream U.S. news media often lacks historical perspective, a problem most acute when the subject, like Fidel Castro, has faced Official Washington’s geopolitical demonization, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

By Lawrence Davidson

There was something both sad and disturbing about popular American reactions to the death of Fidel Castro on Nov. 25. According to The New York Times, news of his death caused much of the Cuban American population of south Florida to “fill Miami’s streets with song.” Those were songs of “rejoicing” rather than dirges. We will examine why these celebrations occurred later in this analysis. However, first we want to give Señor Castro his due.

Fidel Castro was the man who led the successful effort to overthrow the brutal and reactionary dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista – a dictatorship that had the backing of the U.S. government. The Castro-led victory of 1959 began a long period of transformation for Cuba, raising the country from a starkly poor Third World condition to a modernizing socialist state. Here are some of that country’s achievements under Castro’s leadership:

— The expansion of nationwide public education, which uplifted the Cuban population from being largely illiterate to being mostly literate.

— The introduction and development of a modern and accessible public health care system, which all but eliminated death from curable diseases and greatly reduced the infant mortality rate.

— The expansion of services, such as the electric grid, sewage systems, and a reliable water supply, into the countryside.

— The establishment of programs of sustainable development as the nation’s economy diversified according to environmentally safe guidelines. This did involve redistribution of large landed estates to over a quarter million peasants.

— A significant reduction of both racism and sexism through education and new laws.

— A considerable reduction of economic disparities.

There was, of course, a price to be paid for these advances. All of this and more was made possible by instituting a socialist economy and a one-party government. This alienated much of the country’s upper and middle classes. Resistance brought varying degrees of repression. Over time many of those whose economic lifestyles were compromised learned to resent and indeed hate Castro. Tens of thousands of them fled to the United States.

If the socialist road was, predictably, going to divide Cuba in such a drastic way, why did Castro decide to go this route? It was not, as popularly believed, because he came to power a convinced communist. His move to the left was in direct reaction to the policies adopted by the U.S. government.

A Fateful Visit

In April 1959, at the invitation of the American Association of Newspaper Editors, Castro paid a visit to the United States. The trip provided an opportunity for consultations with the U.S. government, although U.S. officials only begrudgingly met with Castro. There was a lot of annoyance at his early, if short-lived, declaration of neutrality when it came to the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower showed his displeasure with Castro by opting for a game of golf. But Castro did manage to get a three-hour audience with Vice President Richard Nixon.

It seems that the meeting did not go very well. Castro refused to promise swift new elections in Cuba. He was convinced that the nation’s priorities were economic and not political. And although Castro protested that he was not a communist, Nixon was suspicious. After the meeting he concluded that Castro was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline – my guess is the former.”

Subsequently, the U.S. government refused any economic assistance to the new Cuban regime. Worse yet, a decision was made to institute “punishment politics.” In March 1960, President Eisenhower set up funding for the overthrow of Castro. A year later the Kennedy administration carried out the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. It was against this background that Castro and his advisers quickly turned to the Soviet Union for the economic and military assistance necessary for their survival.

Rejecting Sacrifice

Do those who jumped for joy in Little Havana on Nov. 25 understand this history? Most of them are the descendants of individuals who rejected Castro’s socialist ideals. Their own loyalties were not to Cuban society as a whole, but rather to family and/or a restricted economic community that was being forced to sacrifice for the greater good. Yet, for many Cubans of means, the notion of the greater good proved too threatening to be identified with their local interests.

Thus, the rejoicers’ immediate ancestors fled to the U.S. with their portable wealth and formed the political lobby (based, by the way, on the strategy and tactics of the Zionist lobby) that kept the U.S. government scheming against Cuba for over 50 years. Is it any wonder that their children should have a biased view of history?

The Cuban Americans are not the only ones to express a one-sided view of things. Members of the American conservative elite also rejoiced at Castro’s death. Here a representative voice is that of George Will, a political commentator whose columns appear in The Washington Post and other newspapers.

Will’s column on Castro’s death appeared on Nov. 28 under the title “Cuba a Tomb of Utopianism.” It is a historically incorrect judgment by virtue of the fact that Cuba’s achievements under Castro’s leadership, some of which are listed above, are not utopian at all, but rather quite real. But Will cannot see this any more than the celebrants of Little Havana. For him Castro is nothing more than a “charismatic totalitarian” whose life was “nasty” and whose “regime was saturated with sadism.” He goes on to compare Castro to Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.

What is his evidence for these morbid exaggerations? Well, the Cuban government imprisoned some of its opponents, though they allowed many more of them to emigrate out of the country. Between 500 and 700 of Batista’s henchmen were tried and executed. Over time the regime manifested increasing authoritarian tendencies largely due to relentless U.S. efforts to destroy the country’s economy and overthrow its government.

In other words, the United States created an ongoing wartime situation for Havana. Under such circumstances the historically usual reaction is for a government – any government – to become more controlling. George Will takes no notice of this.

The Cuban American rejoicing at Castro’s death, and George Will’s misreading it as the a sign of a “dead utopianism,” are both disturbing manifestations of historical narrow-mindedness.

In the case of the celebrants, this attitude is no doubt connected to pent-up anger over the fact that something had been taken from them, or from their relatives, as part of an effort to remake a society that, prior to 1959, had only enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor.

George Will’s attitude is a function of his conservative worldview. He gives no credit at all to the economic and social achievements of Fidel Castro because he can’t get past his ideologically driven interpretation of the political steps taken to realize them.

And neither of the above will admit to the truth that the Cuba policy of the United States over more than 50 years contributed strongly to the road Castro took.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




Italy’s Voters Slap Down the Elites

Exlusive: In another populist blow to the elites, Italian voters rejected a constitutional reform plan that prompted Prime Minister Renzi’s resignation and raised new doubts about the E.U.’s stability, explains Andrew Spannaus.

By Andrew Spannaus

Italian voters sent a strong message to their own government and to all of Europe, declaring through their rejection of a constitutional reform referendum that democracy is more important than efficiency and that the population won’t be bullied by threats from the political and financial elite.

This is the upshot of Sunday’s resounding defeat of the constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has now announced his resignation, opening the country up to a period of political uncertainty.

The higher-than-expected margin for the No side, which prevailed 59 percent to 41 percent and the high turnout for a stand-alone referendum (68.5 percent), makes it clear that the sentiment expressed by Italians went far beyond the merits of the reform. Indeed the proposal itself, which aimed to streamline the political process and thus give more power to the government to avoid gridlock, was too complicated to submit to a popular vote. Even its supporters weren’t sure it would actually work, while most citizens were bewildered by the fact that they were asked to judge something so complicated.

The result was that the vote took on a political significance apart from the reform itself. And thus the Italians added their voice to the popular revolt expressed through the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the success of anti-establishment candidates in the U.S. elections. People went to vote en masse against the reform to show that they won’t be manipulated by a political elite that has not solved the basic problems afflicting most of the Western world, starting with the difficulties of the middle class due to the failed economic policies of financial globalization.

Italy’s political system and bureaucacy is indeed complex, and could benefit from increased efficiency; but reform is difficult without addressing broader political and economic problems. Renzi himself, who rose to prominence as the “demolition man” taking aim at what he defined as entrenched power structures, wasn’t even elected to his post as Prime Minister. He got the job due to a shift in power in the Democratic Party (Pd) in 2014, after years of technocratic governments had already begun to provoke widespread discontent in the population.

His rise was billed as a move back towards the primacy of political power, as opposed to the harsh austerity imposed by national and international financial authorities starting from 2011 on, measures which caused an over 20 percent drop in the country’s industrial production.

Once the austerity was tempered the economy starting doing better, but it never made it past sub-one-percent growth, and the widespread impression was that Renzi’s words were much louder than his actions. The policy that continues to dominate is that of the European Union’s budget rules, which restrict government spending and largely prohibit public intervention to stimulate the economy.

Role of J.P. Morgan

Renzi’s reform, despite having some positive aspects to it, ultimately fell victim to the population’s rejection of the overall political and economic conditions. An example is the impression that international financial interests were keen on obtaining the constitutional changes in order to pursue their own interests.

In May 2013, J.P. Morgan published a report entitled “The Euro area adjustment: about halfway there.” The bank lamented the weakness of the constitutions of countries of the “periphery” (usually referring to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece). Astoundingly, among the complaints listed in the report were items such as “constitutional protection of labor rights” and “the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the status quo.”

J.P. Morgan’s conclusion was that these shortcomings have led to the failure of “fiscal and economic reform agendas,” although it held out hope for Italy, where the Renzi government was aiming “to engage in meaningful political reform.”

The political class scoffed at the “conspiracy theory” of how international banks were pushing the reform, but not surprisingly it made quite an impression on regular people. In the final months of the campaign the opposition grew based on the notion that the reform was anti-democratic, as it aimed to streamline decision-making power by limiting popular input.

Whether J.P. Morgan and other financial interests had a direct role in encouraging the reform or not is open to debate (and investigation), but at this point what matters is that the population has the impression that policy in Europe is made by the banks and multinational corporations, for the banks and multinational corporations, and that governments generally respond to those interests.

Indeed the international reaction to the anti-reform vote in Italy will predictably focus on financial stability and the potential for a banking crisis. Italy’s banks are laden with non-performing loans, with one in particular, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, needing over $5 billion in new capital to avoid collapse. It’s not the largest bank in the country, but the problem of distressed assets is widespread due in particular to the collapse of the internal market during the austerity period of 2011-2014, something that most economic commentators conveniently forget to mention.

The incessant threats of financial calamity due to a No vote that were waved around by supporters of the reform and the international press, likely had the opposite effect: the population refuses to be manipulated, because it doesn’t trust the motives of the press and the politicians.

Democracy’s Outburst

Lastly, there is the question of democracy, as expressed through elections. Renzi’s resignation will lead to a caretaker government charged with completing the budget law and then making adjustments to the country’s election law, another issue of reform that has been used as a political football between Italian political parties.

The scenario that the institutions wish to avoid at all costs, is elections. The fear across Europe is that the outsider parties, considered as extremist due principally to their criticism of the European Union, will make strong gains if the population is called on to vote.

Indeed the Five Star Movement (M5S), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, is already close to having a plurality of support in Italy. On the right is the Northern League, closer to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Marine Le Pen in France, that could also stand to benefit.

Renzi himself remains popular, in particular with the professional class and in the business community. Given the personalization of the referendum, Renzi announced from the start that it was all about him – the 41 percent vote for the Yes side could even be seen as a reflection of his personal popularity, a very high number in Europe where there are generally at least three large parties in each country. Yet the worry is that the political situation could spiral out of control, with a victory by groups with anti-establishment positions.

Faced with this scenario, European elites seem to be falling into the usual trap. For fear of losing power they aim to buy time by stifling the voice of the protest, ultimately making it worse. It’s the same model used for economic policy: the E.U. institutions are so strongly wedded to their free market and austerity ideology that they try to further centralize decision-making power at the supranational level, refusing to make fundamental changes even if it means aggravating the problem.

In Europe, few seem to have learned the lesson from Brexit and the U.S. elections. The people are restless and fed up with the elites.

Andrew Spannaus is a freelance journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news, analysis and consulting to Italian institutions and businesses. His book on the U.S. elections Perchè vince Trump (Why Trump is Winning) was published in June 2016.

 




Trump’s Reliance on the Military

Given how militaristic the State Department has become, it might make sense for President-elect Trump to turn to generals for his national security team, but there are risks in that, too, says ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman.

By Melvin A. Goodman

President-elect Donald Trump probably never read Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey’s Seven Days in May in 1962 and never saw John Frankenheimer’s film version in 1964, which dealt with the threat of a military coup due to opposition to a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

President John F. Kennedy read the book after the Cuban missile crisis and found the scenario credible, probably because of the opposition and bizarre antics of Air Force Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay, during the crisis. Perhaps Donald Trump should become familiar with the book or the movie before he names one more retired general to his national security team.

In a very few weeks, Trump has surrounded himself with a group of erratic advisers and has appointed several pugnacious and partisan figures to key national security positions.  As a result, the appointment of retired Marine General James Mattis has been welcomed by the mainstream media, including the staid New York Times. The media’s consensus appears to be that, since Mattis, a four-star general, once outranked the controversial national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, a three-star, and, unlike the President-elect, actually reads and collects books that he will bring a voice of reason to the policymaking circle in the White House. Not so fast!

What Trump has done since his election one month ago is to threaten the balance that is needed between the civilian and military communities in national security decision making and to threaten civilian control over the military that has been in place since the Founding Fathers made it so.

Over the past 40 years, we have watched the military lose wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Pentagon has accumulated greater influence over foreign policy. Since the creation of the all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the military has drifted too far away from the norms of American society, has become inordinately right-wing politically, and has become much more religious (and fundamentalist) than the country as a whole.

Over the past several decades, the officer corps has actively opposed the service of African-Americans, women and gays in their ranks. Anyone familiar with the military can testify to the “Republicanization” of the officer corps.

The often-ignored Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 enhanced the political and military role of regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) and marginalized the Department of State and the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense. The CINCs have become more influential than U.S. ambassadors, who actually represent the interests of the President, and various assistant secretaries of state responsible for sensitive Third World areas.

The act created a more powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and made the chairman of the JCS the key military advisor to the president. During Desert Storm in 1991, the chairman often ignored the Secretary of Defense and personally briefed the President on war plans. It is noteworthy that the act passed the Senate without genuine debate and not even one vote of opposition.

Bill Clinton’s Role

President Bill Clinton made major contributions to the civilian-military imbalance in the 1990s, when he abolished the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the United States Information Service and substantially reduced funding for the Agency for International Development. Clinton also bowed to the opposition of the Pentagon when he walked away from international agreements that supported the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the ban on cluster bombs, and the ban on land mines.

President Barack Obama also tilted in the direction of the military in making key national security appointments. His national security adviser was a retired Marine General, James Jones, who failed miserably, and his first intelligence tsar was Admiral Dennis Blair, who also failed. Jones was replaced by Tom Donilon, whose expertise was in domestic affairs and who couldn’t stand up to the Pentagon in decision making on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s unwise decision to retain Robert M. Gates as Secretary of Defense also catered to the interests and preferences of the JCS. The President seemed to have no concern for Gates’s Cold War ideology, let alone his politicization of intelligence on behalf of the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s. When Obama appointed General David Petraeus director of the CIA, the militarization of the intelligence community was virtually complete.

During Obama’s presidency, the Pentagon has taken control over security aid to foreign countries, including allied nations overseas, which was once the province of the Department of State. The Pentagon has permanent control over certain aid programs and, by virtue of its counterterrorism activities in more than 80 countries, has greater control over U.S. policy options.

Once upon a time, the Department of State and the Agency for International Development controlled foreign aid; today the Pentagon can claim the title. Instead of building up foreign militaries, the Pentagon is far more concerned with assistance in assuring U.S. troop readiness.

In view of the international problems that will confront the new president and his national security team throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, let alone bilateral relations with Russia, China and North Korea, it is worrisome that a purely military and authoritarian cast will be making key decisions.  There is an important role for negotiation and diplomacy, including coercive diplomacy, in virtually every geopolitical challenge, but the president-elect has no interest in searching these fields for expertise. Similarly he will be making important decisions on defense spending and weapons acquisition, depending on advisers and cabinet secretaries who never have enough financial resources or weaponry.

There is the additional danger that Generals Flynn and Mattis will reinforce the President-elect’s “garrison mentality,” the notion of Fortress America, which is strategically insolvent and could become economically stagnant. American use of force since the end of the Cold War has served only to weaken the nation, draining resources, and costing the lives of far too many fighting men and women. It isn’t reasonable to assume that the authoritarian style of the senior officer class will reverse these trends.

General James Mattis will need a waiver from both the Senate and the House of Representatives in order to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Since the Department of Defense was created in 1947, only one general, George C. Marshall, has received such a waiver. Mattis should not be confused with George C. Marshall.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA” (City Lights Publishers, 2015).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org, where this article first appeared.




WPost Won’t Retract McCarthyistic Smear

After publishing a McCarthyistic “black list” that smears some 200 Web sites as “Russian propagandists,” The Washington Post refuses to apologize — and other mainstream media outlets pile on, writes Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” — the highly dangerous blacklist that got a huge boost from the newspaper’s fawning coverage on Nov. 24. The project of smearing 200 websites with one broad brush wouldn’t have gotten far without the avid complicity of high-profile media outlets, starting with the Post.

On Thursday — a week after the Post published its front-page news article hyping the blacklist that was put out by a group of unidentified people called PropOrNot — I sent a petition statement to the newspaper’s executive editor Martin Baron.

“Smearing is not reporting,” the RootsAction petition says. “The Washington Post’s recent descent into McCarthyism — promoting anonymous and shoddy claims that a vast range of some 200 websites are all accomplices or tools of the Russian government — violates basic journalistic standards and does real harm to democratic discourse in our country. We urge the Washington Post to prominently retract the article and apologize for publishing it.”

After mentioning that 6,000 people had signed the petition (the number has doubled since then), my email to Baron added: “If you skim through the comments that many of the signers added to the petition online, I think you might find them to be of interest. I wonder if you see a basis for dialogue on the issues raised by critics of the Post piece in question.”

The reply came from the newspaper’s vice president for public relations, Kristine Coratti Kelly, who thanked me “for reaching out to us” before presenting the Post’s response, quoted here in full:

“The Post reported on the work of four separate sets of researchers, as well as independent experts, who have examined Russian attempts to influence American democracy. PropOrNot was one. The Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list of organizations that it said had — wittingly or unwittingly — published or echoed Russian propaganda. The Post reviewed PropOrNot’s findings and our questions about them were answered satisfactorily during the course of multiple interviews.”

Full of Holes

But that damage-control response was as full of holes as the news story it tried to defend.

For one thing, PropOrNot wasn’t just another source for the Post’s story. As The New Yorker noted in a devastating article on Dec. 1, the story “prominently cited the PropOrNot research.” The Post’s account “had the force of revelation, thanks in large part to the apparent scientific authority of PropOrNot’s work: the group released a 32-page report detailing its methodology, and named names with its list of 200 suspect news outlets…. But a close look at the report showed that it was a mess.”

Contrary to the PR message from the Post vice president, PropOrNot did not merely say that the sites on its list had “published or echoed Russian propaganda.” Without a word of the slightest doubt or skepticism in the entire story, the Post summarized PropOrNot’s characterization of all the websites on its list as falling into two categories: “Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were ‘useful idiots’ — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.”

As The New Yorker pointed out, PropOrNot’s criteria for incriminating content were broad enough to include “nearly every news outlet in the world, including the Post itself.” Yet “The List” is not a random list by any means — it’s a targeted mish-mash, naming websites that are not within shouting distance of the U.S. corporate and foreign policy establishment.

And so the list includes a few overtly Russian-funded outlets; some other sites generally aligned with Kremlin outlooks; many pro-Trump sites, often unacquainted with what it means to be factual and sometimes overtly racist; and other websites that are quite different — solid, factual, reasonable — but too progressive or too anti-capitalist or too libertarian or too right-wing or just plain too independent-minded for the evident tastes of whoever is behind PropOrNot.

As The New Yorker’s writer Adrian Chen put it: “To PropOrNot, simply exhibiting a pattern of beliefs outside the political mainstream is enough to risk being labeled a Russian propagandist.” And he concluded: “Despite the impressive-looking diagrams and figures in its report, PropOrNot’s findings rest largely on innuendo and conspiracy thinking.”

As for the Post vice president’s defensive phrasing that “the Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list,” the fact is that the Post unequivocally promoted PropOrNot, driving web traffic to its site and adding a hotlink to the anonymous group’s 32-page report soon after the newspaper’s story first appeared. As I mentioned in my reply to her: “Unfortunately, it’s kind of like a newspaper saying that it didn’t name any of the people on the Red Channels blacklist in 1950 while promoting it in news coverage, so no problem.”

Pushing McCarthyism

As much as the Post news management might want to weasel out of the comparison, the parallels to the advent of the McCarthy Era are chilling. For instance, the Red Channels list, with 151 names on it, was successful as a weapon against dissent and free speech in large part because, early on, so many media outlets of the day actively aided and abetted blacklisting, as the Post has done for “The List.”

Consider how the Post story described the personnel of PropOrNot in favorable terms even while hiding all of their identities and thus shielding them from any scrutiny — calling them “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

So far The New Yorker has been the largest media outlet to directly confront the Post’s egregious story. Cogent assessments can also be found at The InterceptConsortium NewsCommon DreamsAlterNetRolling StoneFortuneCounterPunchThe Nation and numerous other sites.

But many mainline journalists and outlets jumped at the chance to amplify the Post’s piece of work. A sampling of the cheers from prominent journalists and liberal partisans was published by FAIR.org under the apt headline “Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?

FAIR’s media analyst Adam Johnson cited enthusiastic responses to the bogus story from journalists like Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar and MSNBC’s Joy Reid — and such outlets as USA TodayGizmodo, the PBS NewsHourThe Daily BeastSlateAPThe Verge and NPR, which “all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback.” On the MSNBC site, the Rachel Maddow Show’s blog “added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that ‘it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.’”

With so many people understandably upset about Trump’s victory, there’s an evident attraction to blaming the Kremlin, a convenient scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. But the Post’s blacklisting story and the media’s amplification of it — and the overall political environment that it helps to create — are all building blocks for a reactionary order, threatening the First Amendment and a range of civil liberties.

When liberals have green-lighted a witch-hunt, right wingers have been pleased to run with it. President Harry Truman issued an executive order in March 1947 to establish “loyalty” investigations in every agency of the federal government. Joe McCarthy and the era named after him were soon to follow.

In media and government, the journalists and officials who enable blacklisting are cravenly siding with conformity instead of democracy.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.




New Navy Ship Leaking Tax Dollars

Exclusive: The New Cold War with Russia provides a stronger budgetary lifeline for the Military-Industrial Complex than the War on Terror does while helping to quiet critics of wasteful spending, as Jonathan Marshall describes.

By Jonathan Marshall

The world’s mightiest navy is at risk of being sunk — not by a superior enemy, but by its own inability to acquire ships that work at a price that even the richest military on the planet can afford.

The U.S. Navy today has only 272 deployable warships — a decline of more than 50 percent in just the last three decades — of which fewer than a third put to sea at any given time. Although the U. S. Navy remains by far the strongest force of its kind, current fleet trends call into question its future ability to meet inflated global missions that include tracking Russian submarines in the Arctic, patrolling the Persian Gulf, and defeating China on its home seas.

Rather than rethink those missions, the Navy is clamoring for more appropriations to pay for budget-busting weapons systems. For example, the Navy wants a dozen new ballistic-missile-carrying nuclear submarines at an estimated cost of about $140 billion. A single new Ford Class nuclear aircraft carrier will cost taxpayers nearly $14 billion — and that doesn’t include the inordinately expensive aircraft it will carry or the support ships needed to help protect it.

Now soaring costs and operating snafus are crippling a class of vessels the Navy was counting on to bulk up the fleet at relatively low cost: the littoral combat ship (LCS). A senior Pentagon official just admitted to Congress that ill-managed attempts to fast-track the design and construction of the LCS have all but “broke the Navy.”

The LCS began entering the fleet in 2008 for various missions in coastal waters. With high performance engines and fast hull designs, the ships were meant to outrun speedy patrol boats. With a modular design, they could be reconfigured for different missions, including surface combat, mine-sweeping and hunting submarines. Smaller and less heavily armored than a frigate, they were supposed to be highly affordable.

Crippled Ships

But over the past 12 months, five of the eight LCS ships acquired so far have been crippled by construction defects, design errors, or crew mistakes. The USS Milwaukee broke down just 20 days after putting to sea and had to be towed back to Virginia. The USS Freedom limped back to port after seawater leaks rusted its engine during a 26-nation exercise in the Pacific. The USS Fort Worth crawled back to San Diego from Singapore after discovering a mechanical fault.

In August, the Navy ordered all LCS ships to “stand down” for 30 days and focus on evaluating crew training and operating practices. Even so, the USS Coronado broke down that month en route to Singapore. In September, the USS Montgomery suffered engine problems just three days after it was commissioned, forcing it to head back to Florida for repairs.

That was the backdrop for more bad news delivered Dec. 1 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Paul Francis, an expert for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported that the cost per ship has more than doubled, from $220 million to $478 million, since the early days of the program. Delivery is running about nine years behind schedule. The LCS fails to meet Navy objectives for speed and range and its mission capabilities “remain largely unproven.”

He explained that the Navy, rushing to acquire the ships, adopted a “buy before you fly” approach, committing to a large number of ships (originally 55, now 40) before the design was complete and the kinks had been worked out.

“The miracle of LCS didn’t happen,” Francis testified. “We are 26 ships into the contract and we still don’t know if it can do its job . . . Once the money wheel starts to turn, the business imperatives of budgets and contracts and ship construction take precedence over acquisition and oversight principles.”

At the same hearing, the director of the Pentagon’s weapons testing office delivered a devastating, 30-page assessment. The LCS, he said, “has not yet demonstrated effective war-fighting capability in any of its originally envisioned missions: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and antisubmarine warfare . . . Furthermore, all of the ships have suffered from significant and repeated reliability problems. . . . Unless corrected, the critical problems . . . will continue to prevent the ship . . . from being operationally effective or operationally suitable in war.”

Near Zero Chance

Based on current performance, he added, the ships “have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission (the Navy’s requirement) without a critical failure of one or more . . . subsystems essential for wartime operations.”

He also warned that the thinly armored aluminum ship is vulnerable to being knocked out of commission by a single enemy hit. Its one onboard gun defends poorly against aircraft or swarming patrol boats, and to date the LCS has “no capability to detect or defend against torpedoes.”

No problem; the Navy just “defined down” the ship’s mission. In 2012, the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, said he planned to keep the LCS out of a shooting war — using them instead for peacetime exercises, port visits, humanitarian assistance, and fighting pirates. By sending them to such relatively safe venues as Latin America and Africa, he explained, the Navy could free up more capable warships for riskier theaters.

The latest Navy plan is to buy 14 more of the ships, on top of the 26 already delivered or under contract, and to call a dozen of them frigates. The GAO’s expert asked the committee, “does a program that costs twice as much but delivers less capability than planned still warrant an additional investment of nearly $14 billion?”

You can be sure that Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and other military contractors with a stake in the program, will insist yes, of course.

So will the Navy, which hates losing battles of the budget as much as those at sea. Indeed, a joint statement to the committee by an assistant secretary of the Navy and the commander of naval surface forces insisted that the LCS “is of critical importance to our Navy,” provides “increased warfighting flexibility to our Fleet,” and offers “game changing [anti-submarine warfare] capability at an affordable cost.”

Although some members of Congress in both parties decry the program’s dismal record, most just want the pork to keep on coming. When the Pentagon last December proposed cutting the LCS program to 40 ships, hawks cried foul.

“Our Navy is at risk across the world and the weak and impotent Obama Administration seeks to further undermine our position with this ill-considered decision,” thundered Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Make no mistake about it, from Mobile to Marinette, from San Diego and Jacksonville, the bell has rung, and those in the Pentagon need to hear that this will not stand.”

With the GOP soon to be in charge of both the White House and Congress, the Navy will likely get what it wants in the short term. Why “drain the swamp” when you can sail right through it? But if current budget trends continue, the math will inevitably defeat even the Navy’s greatest champions and force a fundamental reexamination of how it does business.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic . Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews include “Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” “European Union’s Imperial Overreach,” and “Kosovo Chaos Undercuts Clinton ‘Success.’”




The Remarkable Story of Fidel Castro

Since Fidel Castro’s death, the mainstream U.S. news media has been on a flashback to the Cold War presenting one-sided denunciations of the “communist dictator,” but there is another side to the story, explains Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

When Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25 at the age of 90, we lost one of the most remarkable leaders of the Twentieth Century. No other head of state has so steadfastly stood up to the United States and survived.

In 1959, the Cuban Revolution, led by Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, overthrew the ruthless Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power in a coup d’état. Batista’s government had protected the interests of the wealthy landowners. In order to control the populace, Batista had carried out torture and public executions, killing as many as 20,000 people. During his regime, Batista was supported — financially and militarily — by the United States. Indeed, the U.S. Mafia’s gambling, drug and prostitution operations flourished under Batista’s government.

Led by Castro, the new Cuban government expropriated U.S.-owned property, companies and holdings in Cuba. The United States responded with a punishing economic embargo, which later became a blockade. The CIA attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the revolution in the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Since 1959, the U.S. government and the expatriated Cuban-Americans who fled Cuba after the revolution have tried mightily to topple the Castro government, without success. Castro survived more than 630 assassination attempts.

Legacy of Fidel Castro

“What’s amazing here is you’ve got a country that’s suffered an illegal economic blockade by the United States for almost half a century and yet it’s been able to give its people the best standard of health care, brilliant education,” Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, said in 2006. “To do this in the teeth of an almost economic war is a tribute to Fidel Castro.”

Castro practiced a unique form of internationalism. Nelson Mandela credited Cuba with helping to bring down the system of apartheid in South Africa. Cuba fought with the revolutionaries in Angola. And Cuba regularly sends doctors to other countries and provides foreign nationals with free medical education.

As Nelson Valdes noted in 2013, Castro, together with others, “shaped a foreign policy and national movement around the fundamental concept of national sovereignty, yet devoid of any self-centered nationalism.” He added, “This unique form of national self-determination incorporated other countries on an equal footing. In fact, national sovereignty and solidarity had precedence over ideology.” Thus, Valdes wrote, “Cuba has aided countries, despite the economic and political differences they may have.”

In 1953, in what is considered the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, Castro, his brother Raul and more than 100 other rebels mounted a failed attack against the Batista regime at the Moncada Barracks. Castro was arrested, tried, sentenced to 15 years in prison and released in an amnesty deal two years later.

At his trial, Castro famously said in his defense, “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

U.S. Interference in Cuba

The U.S. economic embargo was initiated in 1960 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in response to a memorandum written by L.D. Mallory, a senior State Department official. Mallory proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.”

Cuba turned to the U.S.S.R. for assistance, which supported the Cuban Revolution until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1962, in response to the stationing of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. After a tense standoff, Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy negotiated a withdrawal of the missiles from both Cuba and Turkey.

The economic blockade continues to this day. It is an illegal interference in the affairs of the Cuban people, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Charter of the Organization of American States. Every year for 26 consecutive years, the United Nations General Assembly has called on the United States to lift the blockade, which has cost Cuba in excess of $ 1 trillion.

U.S. meddling in Cuban affairs did not start in 1959. Since 1898, when the United States intervened in Cuba’s war for independence, the U.S. government has tried to dominate Cuba. The United States gained control of Guantanamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the U.S. Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain.

Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay.

The 1903 agreement gave the United States the right to use Guantanamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained U.S. control over Guantanamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantanamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to arbitrary detention or torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which have been documented at the prison.

Castro, who called the Guantanamo base “a dagger plunged into the heart of Cuban soil,” refused to cash the rent checks the U.S. government sends annually. “An elemental sense of dignity and absolute disagreement with what happens in that portion of our national territory has prevented Cuba from cashing those checks,” he noted. The United States, according to Castro, transformed the Guantanamo base into a “horrible prison, one that bears no difference with the Nazi concentration camps.”

It is no accident that President George W. Bush chose Guantanamo Bay as the site for his illegal prison camp. His administration maintained that Guantanamo Bay is not a U.S. territory, and thus, U.S. courts were not available to the prisoners there. But, as the Supreme Court later affirmed, the United States, not Cuba, exercises exclusive jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay, so habeas corpus is available to prisoners there.

Amnesty International aptly described the irony: “Given the USA’s criticism of the human rights record of Cuba, it is deeply ironic that it is violating fundamental rights on Cuban soil, and seeking to rely on the fact that it is on Cuban soil to keep the U.S. courts from examining its conduct.”

Since the revolution, anti-Cuba organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba and anyone who advocated normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. These terrorist groups have operated with impunity in the United States with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

For example, Ruben Dario Lopez-Castro, associated with several anti-Castro organizations, and Orlando Bosch, who planted a bomb on a Cubana airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard, “planned to ship weapons into Cuba for an assassination attempt on [Fidel] Castro.”

In the face of this terrorism, the Cuban Five came from Cuba to gather intelligence in Miami in order to prevent future terrorist acts against Cuba. The men peacefully infiltrated criminal exile groups. The Five turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working with Cuba to fight terrorism, the U.S. government arrested and convicted the five men of unfounded charges.

Human Rights in Cuba

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contain two different sets of human rights, respectively.

Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention.

Economic, social and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, health care, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; prevention, treatment and control of diseases, as well as the rights to form and join unions and strike.

The U.S. government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, health care, education and its guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal-pay rates.

Unlike in the United States, health care is considered a right in Cuba. Universal health care is free to all. Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients in the world, at 6.7 per 1,000 people. The 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births — one of the lowest in the world.

Free education is a universal right, up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its gross domestic product on education than any other country in the world.

Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join trade unions. Unions are legally independent and financially autonomous, independent of the Communist Party and the state. Unions have the right to stop work they consider dangerous. They have the right to participate in company management, to receive management information, to office space and materials, and to facility time for representatives. Union agreement is required for layoffs, changes in patterns of working hours and overtime, and for input on the annual safety report.

As of 2018, the date of the next Cuban general election and the date Raul Castro has promised to step down from the presidency, there will be a limit of no more than two five-year terms for all senior elected positions, including the president. Anyone can be nominated to be a candidate. It is not required that one be a member of the Communist Party. No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties (including the Communist Party) are permitted to campaign during elections. Military personnel are not on duty at polling stations; school children guard the ballot boxes.

In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund, a leading global environmental organization, determined that Cuba was the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo.

Cuba is criticized for its restrictions on freedom of expression. Castro learned from the Guatemalan experience what would happen if he did not keep a tight rein on his revolutionary government. Jacobo Arbenz, a democratically elected president of Guatemala, carried out agrarian land reform, which expropriated uncultivated lands, compensated the owners and redistributed them to the peasantry. This program raised the hackles of the United Fruit Company, which enlisted the U.S. government to overthrow Arbenz. The CIA and the State Department obliged.

Stephen Kinzer wrote in his biography of the Dulles brothers that Guevara “told Castro why [the CIA coup in Guatemala] succeeded. He said Arbenz had foolishly tolerated an open society, which the CIA penetrated and subverted, and also preserved the existing army, which the CIA turned into its instrument. Castro agreed that a revolutionary regime in Cuba must avoid those mistakes. Upon taking power, he cracked down on dissent and purged the army.”

Obama Opens the Door

In 2006, Castro suffered a serious illness and turned over the reins of power in Cuba to his brother Raul, who became president in 2008.

On March 21, 2016, President Obama and Raul Castro held a joint press conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. Obama notably declared, “Perhaps most importantly, I affirmed that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation. Cuba is sovereign and, rightly, has great pride. And the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.” Unlike all prior U.S. presidents, Obama understands the significance of treating Cuba with respect.

This is a lesson Donald Trump will hopefully learn. The President-elect has sent mixed signals about whether he will continue Obama’s steps toward normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The businessman in him will be receptive to investment, and, indeed, hotel building, in Cuba.

But, pandering to Cuban-Americans in Florida during the election, Trump talked tough against Cuba’s government. “Many of our leaders seem to view Florida’s Cuban conservatives, including the assassins and terrorists among them, as People Who Vote,” Alice Walker wrote in The Sweet Abyss.

On the Cuban side, Raul Castro has made it clear that normalization cannot occur until the blockade is lifted and the United States returns Guantanamo to Cuba. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Harvard lecturer Jonathan Hansen wrote, “It is past time to return this imperialist enclave to Cuba,” adding, “It has served to remind the world of America’s long history of interventionist militarism.”

Normalization of relations will not happen overnight, Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, told me when I visited Cuba last year. “We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal.” Antonio Guerrero, another member of the Five, added that normalization will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade.”

Castro survived 90 years. And Castro’s revolution survives, notwithstanding 57 years of aggression and assassination attempts by the United States.

“Fidel Castro was an authoritarian. He ruled with an iron fist. There was repression and is repression in Cuba. In Fidel’s kind of argument, he did it in the name of a different kind of democracy, a different kind of freedom — the freedom from illness, the freedom from racism, the freedom from social inequality,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “And Cuba has a lot of very positives that all the other countries that we don’t talk about don’t have. There isn’t gang violence in Cuba. People aren’t being slaughtered around the streets by guns every day. They defeated the Zika virus right away. There is universal health care and universal education.”

In a 1998 NBC interview with Maria Shriver, Castro wryly noted, “For a small country such as Cuba to have such a gigantic country as the United States live so obsessed with this island, it is an honor for us.”

History has absolved, and promises to continue to absolve, “El Comandante” Fidel Castro.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Visit her website and follow her at Twitter @marjoriecohn.

This article first appeared on Truthdig [http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_remarkable_legacy_of_fidel_castro_20161202

.

 




Picking a War with China

As Official Washington obsesses about Russia, the Obama administration is mounting a similar strategy against China, surrounding it and then accusing it of “aggression,” as John Pilger explains.

By John Pilger

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, “disappeared”, a political embarrassment.

I have spent two years making a documentary film, The Coming War on China, in which the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency. The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way. They are in the northern hemisphere, on the western borders of Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, confronting China.

The great danger this beckons is not news, or it is buried and distorted: a drumbeat of mainstream fake news that echoes the psychopathic fear embedded in public consciousness during much of the Twentieth Century.

Like the renewal of post-Soviet Russia, the rise of China as an economic power is declared an “existential threat” to the divine right of the United States to rule and dominate human affairs.

To counter this, in 2011 President Obama announced a “pivot to Asia”, which meant that almost two-thirds of U.S. naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific by 2020. Today, more than 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and, above all, nuclear weapons. From Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India, the bases form, says one U.S. strategist, “the perfect noose.”

More Unthinkable Thinking

A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled, War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. Commissioned by the U.S. Army, the authors evoke the Cold War when RAND made notorious the catch cry of its chief strategist, Herman Kahn — “thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a “winnable” nuclear war against the Soviet Union.

Today, his apocalyptic view is shared by those holding real power in the United States: the militarists and neoconservatives in the Executive Branch, the Pentagon, the intelligence and “national security” establishment and Congress.

The current Secretary of Defense, Ashley Carter, a verbose provocateur, says U.S. policy is to confront those “who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us”.

For all the attempts to detect a departure in foreign policy, this is almost certainly the view of Donald Trump, whose abuse of China during the election campaign included that of “rapist” of the American economy. On Dec. 2, in a direct provocation of China, President-elect Trump spoke to the President of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province of the mainland. Armed with American missiles, Taiwan is an enduring flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.

“The United States,” wrote Amitai Etzioni, professor of international Affairs at George Washington University, “is preparing for a war with China, a momentous decision that so far has failed to receive a thorough review from elected officials, namely the White House and Congress.” This war would begin with a “blinding attack against Chinese anti-access facilities, including land and sea-based missile launchers … satellite and anti-satellite weapons”.

The incalculable risk is that “deep inland strikes could be mistakenly perceived by the Chinese as pre-emptive attempts to take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into ‘a terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma’ [that would] lead to nuclear war.”

In 2015, the Pentagon released its Law of War Manual. “The United States,” it says, “has not accepted a treaty rule that prohibits the use of nuclear weapons per se, and thus nuclear weapons are lawful weapons for the United States.”

In Search of an Enemy

In China, a strategist told me, “We are not your enemy, but if you [in the West] decide we are, we must prepare without delay.”

China’s military and arsenal are small compared to America’s. However, “for the first time,” wrote Gregory Kulacki of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “China is discussing putting its nuclear missiles on high alert so that they can be launched quickly on warning of an attack. … This would be a significant and dangerous change in Chinese policy. … Indeed, the nuclear weapon policies of the United States are the most prominent external factor influencing Chinese advocates for raising the alert level of China’s nuclear forces.”

Professor Ted Postol was scientific adviser to the head of U.S. naval operations. An authority on nuclear weapons, he told me, “Everybody here wants to look like they’re tough. See I got to be tough … I’m not afraid of doing anything military, I’m not afraid of threatening; I’m a hairy-chested gorilla. And we have gotten into a state, the United States has gotten into a situation, where there’s a lot of saber-rattling, and it’s really being orchestrated from the top.”

I said, “This seems incredibly dangerous.”

“That’s an understatement,” Postol replied.

In 2015, in considerable secrecy, the U.S. staged its biggest single military exercise since the Cold War. This was Talisman Sabre; an armada of ships and long-range bombers rehearsed an “Air-Sea Battle Concept for China” – ASB – blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca and cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is such a provocation, and the fear of a U.S. Navy blockade, that has seen China feverishly building strategic airstrips on disputed reefs and islets in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Last July, the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China’s claim of sovereignty over these islands. Although the action was brought by the Philippines, it was presented by leading American and British lawyers and could be traced to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In 2010, Clinton flew to Manila. She demanded that America’s former colony reopen the U.S. military bases closed down in the 1990s following a popular campaign against the violence they generated, especially against Filipino women. She declared China’s claim on the Spratly Islands – which lie more than 7,500 miles from the United States – a threat to U.S. “national security” and to “freedom of navigation.”

Handed millions of dollars in arms and military equipment, the then government of President Benigno Aquino broke off bilateral talks with China and signed a secretive Enhanced Defense Co-operation Agreement with the U.S. This established five rotating U.S. bases and restored a hated colonial provision that American forces and contractors were immune from Philippine law.

The election of Rodrigo Duterte in April has unnerved Washington.

Calling himself a socialist, Duterte declared, “In our relations with the world, the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy” and noted that the United States had not apologized for its colonial atrocities. “I will break up with America,” he said, and promised to expel U.S. troops. But the U.S. remains in the Philippines; and joint military exercises continue.

‘Information Dominance’

In 2014, under the rubric of “information dominance” – the jargon for media manipulation, or fake news, on which the Pentagon spends more than $4 billion – the Obama administration launched a propaganda campaign that cast China, the world’s greatest trading nation, as a threat to “freedom of navigation.”

CNN led the way, its “national security reporter” reporting excitedly from on board a U.S. Navy surveillance flight over the Spratlys. The BBC persuaded frightened Filipino pilots to fly a single-engine Cessna over the disputed islands “to see how the Chinese would react.” None of these reporters questioned why the Chinese were building airstrips off their own coastline, or why American military forces were massing on China’s doorstep.

The designated chief propagandist is Admiral Harry Harris, the U.S. military commander in Asia and the Pacific. “My responsibilities,” he told the New York Times, “cover Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins.” Never was imperial domination described as pithily.

Harris is one of a brace of Pentagon admirals and generals briefing selected, malleable journalists and broadcasters, with the aim of justifying a threat as specious as that with which George W. Bush and Tony Blair justified the destruction of Iraq and much of the Middle East.

In Los Angeles in September, Admiral Harris declared he was “ready to confront a revanchist Russia and an assertive China … If we have to fight tonight, I don’t want it to be a fair fight. If it’s a knife fight, I want to bring a gun. If it’s a gun fight, I want to bring in the artillery … and all our partners with their artillery.”

These “partners” include South Korea, the launch pad for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system, known as THAAD, ostensibly aimed at North Korea. As Professor Postol points out, it targets China.

In Sydney, Australia, Admiral Harris called on China to “tear down its Great Wall in the South China Sea.” The imagery was front-page news. Australia is America’s most obsequious “partner”; its political elite, military, intelligence agencies and the media are integrated into what is known as the “alliance.” Closing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the motorcade of a visiting American government “dignitary” is not uncommon. The war criminal Dick Cheney was afforded this honor.

Although China is Australia’s biggest trader, on which much of the national economy relies, “confronting China” is the diktat from Washington. The few political dissenters in Canberra risk McCarthyite smears in the Murdoch press.

“You in Australia are with us come what may,” said one of the architects of the Vietnam War, McGeorge Bundy. One of the most important U.S. bases is Pine Gap near Alice Springs. Founded by the CIA, it spies on China and all of Asia, and is a vital contributor to Washington’s murderous war by drone in the Middle East.

In October, Richard Marles, the defense spokesman of the main Australian opposition party, the Labor Party, demanded that “operational decisions” in provocative acts against China be left to military commanders in the South China Sea. In other words, a decision that could mean war with a nuclear power should not be taken by an elected leader or a parliament but by an admiral or a general.

Pentagon Ascendance

This is the Pentagon line, a historic departure for any state calling itself a democracy. The ascendancy of the Pentagon in Washington – which Daniel Ellsberg has called a silent coup – is reflected in the record $5 trillion America has spent on aggressive wars since 9/11, according to a study by Brown University. The million dead in Iraq and the flight of 12 million refugees from at least four countries are the consequence.

The Japanese island of Okinawa has 32 military installations, from which Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq have been attacked by the United States. Today, the principal target is China, with whom Okinawans have close cultural and trade ties.

There are military aircraft constantly in the sky over Okinawa; they sometimes crash into homes and schools. People cannot sleep, teachers cannot teach. Wherever they go in their own country, they are fenced in and told to keep out.

A popular Okinawan anti-base movement has been growing since a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by U.S. troops in 1995. It was one of hundreds of such crimes, many of them never prosecuted. Barely acknowledged in the wider world, the resistance has seen the election of Japan’s first anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, and presented an unfamiliar hurdle to the Tokyo government and the ultra-nationalist prime minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to repeal Japan’s “peace constitution.”

The resistance includes Fumiko Shimabukuro, aged 87, a survivor of the Second World War when a quarter of Okinawans died in the American invasion. Fumiko and hundreds of others took refuge in beautiful Henoko Bay, which she is now fighting to save. The U.S. wants to destroy the bay in order to extend runways for its bombers.

“We have a choice,” she said, “silence or life.” As we gathered peacefully outside the U.S. base, Camp Schwab, giant Sea Stallion helicopters hovered over us for no reason other than to intimidate.

Across the East China Sea lies the Korean island of Jeju, a semi- tropical sanctuary and World Heritage Site declared “an island of world peace.” On this island of world peace has been built one of the most provocative military bases in the world, less than 400 miles from Shanghai. The fishing village of Gangjeong is dominated by a South Korean naval base purpose-built for U.S. aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile system, aimed at China.

A people’s resistance to these war preparations has been a presence on Jeju for almost a decade. Every day, often twice a day, villagers, Catholic priests and supporters from all over the world stage a religious mass that blocks the gates of the base. In a country where political demonstrations are often banned, unlike powerful religions, the tactic has produced an inspiring spectacle.

One of the leaders, Father Mun Jeong-hyeon, told me, “I sing four songs every day at the base, regardless of the weather. I sing in typhoons — no exception. To build this base, they destroyed the environment, and the life of the villagers, and we should be a witness to that. They want to rule the Pacific. They want to make China isolated in the world. They want to be emperor of the world.”

Very Modern China

I flew from Jeju to Shanghai for the first time in more than a generation. When I was last in China, the loudest noise I remember was the tinkling of bicycle bells; Mao Zedong had recently died, and the cities seemed dark places, in which foreboding and expectation competed. Within a few years, Deng Xiopeng, the “man who changed China,” was the “paramount leader.” Nothing prepared me for the astonishing changes today.

China presents exquisite ironies, not least the house in Shanghai where Mao and his comrades secretly founded the Communist Party of China in 1921. Today, it stands in the heart of a very capitalist shipping district; you walk out of this communist shrine with your Little Red Book and your plastic bust of Mao into the embrace of Starbucks, Apple, Cartier, Prada.

Would Mao be shocked? I doubt it. Five years before his great revolution in 1949, he sent this secret message to Washington. “China must industrialize.” he wrote, “This can only be done by free enterprise. Chinese and American interests fit together, economically and politically. America need not fear that we will not be co-operative. We cannot risk any conflict.”

Mao offered to meet Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, and his successor Harry Truman, and his successor Dwight Eisenhower. He was rebuffed, or willfully ignored. The opportunity that might have changed contemporary history, prevented wars in Asia and saved countless lives was lost because the truth of these overtures was denied in 1950s Washington “when the catatonic Cold War trance,” wrote the critic James Naremore, “held our country in its rigid grip.”

The fake mainstream news that once again presents China as a threat is of the same mentality.

‘New Silk Road’

The world is inexorably shifting east; but the astonishing vision of Eurasia from China is barely understood in the West. The “New Silk Road” is a ribbon of trade, ports, pipelines and high-speed trains all the way to Europe. The world’s leader in rail technology, China is negotiating with 28 countries for routes on which trains will reach up to 400 kms an hour. This opening to the world has the approval of much of humanity and, along the way, is uniting China and Russia.

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” said Barack Obama, evoking the fetishism of the 1930s. This modern cult of superiority is Americanism, the world’s dominant predator. Under the liberal Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, nuclear warhead spending has risen higher than under any president since the end of the Cold War. A mini-nuclear weapon is planned. Known as the B61 Model 12, it will mean, says General James Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “going smaller [makes its use] more thinkable”.

In September, the Atlantic Council, a mainstream U.S. geopolitical think tank, published a report that predicted a Hobbesian world “marked by the breakdown of order, violent extremism [and] an era of perpetual war.” The new enemies were a “resurgent” Russia and an “increasingly aggressive” China. Only heroic America can save us.

There is a demented quality about this war mongering. It is as if the “American Century” — proclaimed in 1941 by the American imperialist Henry Luce, owner of Time magazine — has ended without notice and no one has had the courage to tell the emperor to take his guns and go home.

John Pilger’s film, “The Coming War on China,” is released in UK cinemas and will be broadcast on the ITV Network on Dec. 6 at 10.40 pm. RT Documentaries will broadcast “The Coming War on China” worldwide on Dec. 9,10 & 11. www.johnpilger.com

 




Clinton’s ‘Russia Did It’ Cop-out

Exclusive: In a last-ditch effort to salvage Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establishment Democrats are slinging McCarthyistic mud, joining in smearing independent journalists and blaming everything on Russia, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Clinton machine – running on fumes after Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid – is pulling out all remaining stops to block Donald Trump’s inauguration, even sinking into a new McCarthyism.

In joining a recount effort with slim hopes of reversing the election results, Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias cited a scurrilous Washington Post article that relied on a shadowy anonymous group, called PropOrNot, that issued a “black list” against 200 or so Internet sites, including some of the most respected sources of independent journalism, claiming they are part of some Russian propaganda network.

In classic McCarthyistic fashion, no evidence was supplied, simply an anonymous smear. But The Washington Post, which itself has devolved into a neoconservative propaganda conveyor belt, published the attack apparently without contacting any of the targeted groups.

Despite the obvious journalistic problems with this article, the desperate Clinton campaign treated it like a lifeline to its drowning hopes for reversing the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.

Announcing that the Clinton campaign would join the recount started by Green presidential nominee Jill Stein aimed at three key Trump states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – Clinton’s campaign counsel Elias mentioned the Post story as one of the reasons.

“The Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the ‘fake news’ propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election,” Elias wrote.

Pro-Clinton media outlets piled on. Daily Kos wrote that “Even if they never touched a voting machine, there’s absolutely no doubt: Russia hacked the election.”

Besides the three recounts, the Clinton campaign’s last-ditch scheme to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton’s failure also involves lobbying the electors to the Electoral College to flip their votes from Trump to Clinton. The argument is that Trump must be part of some grand Russian conspiracy along with those 200 Web sites.

As bizarre as this conspiracy mongering has become, it is quickly emerging as a new Washington “group think.” All the “smart people” at the major networks and newspapers – as well as many Democratic insiders – are just sure that it’s all true.

They have conflated the hysteria over some “fake news” sites – apparently run by some entrepreneurs who realized that pro-Trump “news” got lots of clicks whether the stories were real or not – with the reality that some independent news sites have questioned the U.S. government’s extreme anti-Russian propaganda.

Plus, there was the claim by James Clapper, the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence, that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Russian hackers were responsible for giving Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks. There, too, however, Clapper has provided no evidence to support his claim, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied receiving the leaked emails from the Russian government.

The Russians Did It!

Nevertheless, the Russians have become the latest scapegoats for why Hillary Clinton lost. It wasn’t that she had severe problems as a candidate, carrying heavy baggage from a long line of controversies and recording extremely high negatives from voters. It couldn’t have been that lots of Americans didn’t like or trust her or that she offered no inspirational message or coherent narrative of how she would govern.

No, it had to be the Russians. Of course, previously, the Clinton campaign had blamed the defeat on FBI Director James Comey, who announced just days before the election that he had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s private email server and then closed the inquiry for a second time, thus reminding voters of Clinton’s self-inflicted email scandal.

Though presumably the Clinton campaign is not suggesting that FBI Director Comey is another Russian agent or “useful fool,” blaming him at least had some evidentiary logic, in that he did reopen and then re-shut the Clinton email investigation.

But the Clinton campaign’s Russian complaint comes across even more like a dog-ate-my-homework excuse, except that it also has this ugly side of accusing professional journalists of treason because they wrote skeptical articles that some anonymous Web site didn’t like.

The complaint about alleged Russian hacking of emails also represents an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the information published by WikiLeaks appears to be entirely true. By all accounts, the leaks revealed genuine communications between Democratic Party leaders and people in the Clinton campaign.

WikiLeaks also revealed the contents of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other special interests, words that she delivered to these groups of insiders but wanted to keep from the American voters.

However, somehow this truthful information has morphed into “fake news” without anyone explaining how that transformation occurred. Through the black magic of simply saying “Russians” a few times, truthful information becomes “fake” and everyone’s judgment becomes hopelessly clouded.

The point is that even if the Russians did uncover this information and did deliver it to WikiLeaks, the reason that it was “news” was that Clinton had decided to make millions of dollars in speeches, trading off her government service, and then chose to conceal the contents of her speeches from the public.

However, instead of criticizing Clinton for her excessive greed and her obsessive secrecy, these Democrats are blaming the Russians, a classic case of sending out a red herring.

The Truth as ‘Fake News’

The same point holds true for Secretary of State Clinton’s disastrous decision to evade State Department regulations on handling official documents by instead channeling her emails through a private home email server, thus endangering national security secrets. That was her choice. The Russians weren’t involved (unless someone thinks that Hillary Clinton is also a “Russian agent” set on sabotaging her own campaign.)

And, regarding WikiLeaks’ disclosures that the Democratic National Committee was working hand-in-glove with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and others to ensure that the nomination was delivered to Clinton, the problem was not the source of the information, again it was the information itself. Rank-in-file Democrats had every right to expect a legitimate competition for the party’s nomination, not a rigged process designed to deliver the prize to the establishment favorite.

The reason for the party’s reforms after the raucous 1968 convention was to take the presidential selection out of the hands of party insiders and give it to the voters. What the emails revealed was that the Clinton machine had become the new-age Democratic Party bosses making sure their candidate prevailed.

Again, even if the Russians were behind the hack, they would only have been providing the American people with newsworthy information about how their democracy was being turned into a sham. The Russians didn’t create the sham; the Democratic insiders did.

And, regarding the anonymously developed “black list” of independent media sites, there is no evidence there either that these sites were distributing “fake news,” the focus of the current mainstream media hysteria. It was just news that PropOrNot — and presumably its fellow-travelers at The Washington Post — didn’t like.

As for Consortiumnews, which was one of the sites that was slimed, we are very careful to present well-reported and well-researched information. Granted, it sometimes isn’t what the U.S. State Department wants the American people to hear, but that is because the State Department has become a manufacturing center for propaganda and disinformation during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It is not the job of independent journalists to simply retail the propaganda that the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government produce, or that any other government produces. But that seems to be the anti-journalistic attitude that we now see at The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Mainstream Media’s Shame

Tragically, the mainstream U.S. media has become a major disseminator of endless amounts of “fake news,” including highly misleading and false coverage of the Middle East and of the New Cold War. Possibly the most destructive modern case of “fake news” was the reporting by the Post and Times about the existence of Iraq’s fictional WMD.

But there are more recent cases. For instance, the Times and Post have studiously ignored the reality of neo-Nazi and other ultranationalists serving as the tip of the spear for the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014. Occasionally, one of their field reporters will mention the inconvenient truth about the Azov and other battalions running around with Swastikas and SS symbols, but the newspapers will then turn a blind eye to this ugly reality or minimize its significance.

So, neo-Nazis are okay in Ukraine – and if any independent news outlet mentions their existence, you end up on a Washington Post-promoted “black list.” However, if some claim is made linking Russia to a neo-Nazi outfit or to some coup plotting – no matter how hazy or dubious the claim – it is trumpeted as loudly as possible.

For example, the Post’s lead editorial on Friday asserted, “In NATO member Hungary, Russian agents have been fingered for training with a neo-Nazi militia; in the tiny Balkan state of Macedonia, which is on the verge of joining the [NATO] transatlantic alliance, Moscow is accused of plotting a violent coup.”

Though the Post admits the evidence is “incomplete,” it presses ahead with the allegations. Yet there is no self-awareness or self-criticism; since the Post strenuously supported the violent coup in Ukraine that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych, a putsch spearheaded by armed neo-Nazis, many of whom have since been incorporated into Ukraine’s security forces and have received U.S. military training.

In the weeks before the coup, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught conspiring with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on how to “midwife” or “glue” the change in Ukraine’s leadership. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland enthused about Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was indeed installed as prime minister after Yanukovych was forced to flee for his life.

However, simply recalling that history apparently now is forbidden in Official Washington.

Behind the Clinton Machine

There’s also the little-discussed issue of how the Clinton machine evolved and currently works. A short version of that history is that the Democrats got pummeled in 1988, in part, because Republicans “weaponized” their advantage in campaign cash to launch devastating attack ads against Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, including the race-baiting Willie Horton ads.

Sensing that they couldn’t beat the Republican money while trying to represent the average citizen, the national Democrats largely abandoned the working class to join the dollar chase. They developed a pro-corporate agenda pushed by the Democratic Leadership Council and its brightest star, Bill Clinton.

After winning in 1992, Clinton and his understudies, the likes of John Podesta, institutionalized this relationship between the Democratic Party and various financial and other special interests. Then, after Clinton left office in 2001, his money machine’s business model adapted, with the Clinton Foundation and various Democratic-led Beltway consulting firms expanding or setting up shop.

The key to the strategy was always that Hillary Clinton would eventually become president and therefore foreign governments and domestic interests had to stay on the Clintons’ good side.

The expectation was that Hillary Clinton would get elected in 2008, but her path was blocked by the charismatic Barack Obama. Obama, however, bailed the Clinton machine out by naming her Secretary of State. So, the Clinton influence with foreign potentates remained.

After Clinton left the State Department in 2013, the business model still thrived because she was widely viewed as the clear front-runner to succeed President Obama – and both Clintons cashed in by giving speeches to various business groups and foreign interests for several hundred thousand dollars a pop, totaling in the millions of dollars.

You might have thought that the Clinton machine would have shielded Hillary Clinton from this apparent pay-to-play operation but instead she joined Bill Clinton in raking in the dough, a sign of startling arrogance or stunning greed.

The idea that Hillary Clinton could “power through” the obvious conflicts of interest that these speeches presented and that she could hide from the voters what she told Goldman Sachs and other well-heeled groups further revealed an extraordinary hubris. Clinton and her entourage brushed aside demands from Sen. Bernie Sanders and his populist backers that she disclose what she had said to the rich and powerful.

That brazenness made her vulnerable to the WikiLeaks disclosures late in the campaign revealing her friendly advice to Goldman Sachs and the others. Again, the only reason that was “news” was because Clinton and her team had stonewalled public demands for the information earlier. But rather than taking the blame for that judgment, they blamed the Russians.

The next question for the national Democrats is what will replace the Clinton machine or will it just be retooled in some new way that keeps the money pouring in. Clearly, the old business model of hitting up donors with the implicit club of a Hillary Clinton presidency in the closet will no longer work.

That means possibly leaner years for both the Clinton Foundation and Clinton-related businesses, such as the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm led by John Podesta’s brother, Tony, which has collected annual lobbying fees in the tens of millions of dollars.

But the Democrats risk a bleak political future if they don’t break away from the corporatist model that Bill and Hillary Clinton have personified over the past quarter century. Or maybe the Democrats can just keep on blaming the Russians.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Orwellian War on Skepticism“; “The Fake News About Fake News“; and “Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt.“]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).