The Problem of International Law

Modern institutions that hold back the rise of barbarism are being weakened, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson 
To the Point Analysis.com

Several recent events suggest that global warming is not the only thing threatening our future. As if they are running on parallel tracks, some of the modern institutions that help make for stable societies — the ones that hold back the rise of barbarism — are being weakened even as the atmosphere is heating up and the oceans swell. In pursuit of short-term state or personal interests, some national leaders are violating or ignoring international law and, by doing so, putting us all at long-term risk.

The first example is the subverting of the International Criminal Court.

One of the most hopeful developments to follow the catastrophe that was World War II — the war that brought the world the Holocaust, the Blitzkrieg, the carpet bombing of Europe and the use of nuclear bombs against large cities — was the extension and strengthening of international law. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, seeking to give such laws real force, called for the establishment of an international criminal court. That call triggered resistance because such a court would necessarily impinge on nation-state sovereignty. It took 54 years before the court was finally convened in order to enforce laws against the committing of war crimes and other evils, such as genocide. 

Still, there are some nations that refuse to recognize the court’s jurisdiction. Often these are the states most addicted to the barbaric behavior that came close to destroying a good part of the globe during the 20th century. These governments now threaten the very workability of the court. Thus, on Jan. 28 it was reported that “A senior judge has resigned from one of the international courts in The Hague” due to interference and threats coming from both the U.S. and Turkey. The judge’s name is Christoph Flügge.

In the case of the United States, the problem began when the International Criminal Court at the Hague decided to investigate allegations of war crimes, specifically the use of torture, committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

At that point President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton (who reminds one of a modern Savonarola when it comes to ideological enforcement), publicly threatened the court’s judges. “If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the U.S. or investigate an American citizen,” he said, “the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States — and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted.”

It must be said that (a) torturing Afghanis is not a “domestic concern of the U.S.” And, all too obviously, (b) Bolton is a deplorable one-dimensional thinker. Bound tightly by a lifelong rightwing perspective, he has never been able to get past the concept of nation-state supremacy. This means his perspective is untouched by those lessons of history which have shown the nation-state to be a threat to civilization itself. Thus, when in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations, it was with the prior knowledge that the man felt nothing but contempt for this international organization and would disparage it at every turn. At present Bolton has turned out to be just the kind of fellow who fits into the reactionary White House run by Donald Trump. 

Turkey Ignores Diplomatic Immunity 

The leaders of the United States are not the only ones who can purposely undermine international courts. Christoph Flügge tells of another incident wherein the government of Turkey arrested one of its own nationals, Aydin Sefa Akay, who was a judge on the international court at the Hague. At the time, Akay had diplomatic immunity by virtue of his position, a fact that the increasingly statist government in Istanbul ignored.

Akay’s crime was to be judged insufficiently loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flügge and his fellow judges strongly protested the Turkish actions, but they were not supported by the present UN secretary general, António Guterres (who is a former prime minister of Portugal). And, without that support, Akay lost his position as judge and was, so to speak, thrown to the dogs of nation-state arrogance.

Upon resigning, Flügge had some seminal words of warning about the fate of international law. “Every incident in which judicial independence is breached is one too many.” The cases of Turkish and U.S. interference with the International Criminal Court set a fatal precedent, he continued,  “and everyone can invoke it in the future. Everyone can say: ‘But you let Turkey get its way.’ This is an original sin. It can’t be fixed.”

Commenting on the threat leveled by Bolton, Flügge said, “the American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. … The judges on the court were stunned.” Yet, this behavior was quite in accord with nation-state aggrandizement and American exceptionalism; national sovereignty stands above international law.

Suborning of Interpol

It is not only the world’s international laws and international court that are being undermined, but also Interpol, the world’s international police force. Nation-state leaders, particularly the dictators who place their interests and preferences above even their own domestic law, now seek to suborn Interpol and use it as a weapon to silence their critics.

The latest example of this comes out of Bahrain, a wealthy monarchical dictatorship in the Persian Gulf. It is run by a Sunni elite minority which systematically represses the country’s Shiite majority. By doing so, its major “achievement” to date has been to give the religion of Islam a bad name. It is also a staunch U.S. ally, and the U.S. 5th fleet is based in that country. If you want to know where much of the U.S. naval forces supporting the Saudi destruction of Yemen come from, it is Bahrain. 

So how is the dictatorship in Bahrain corrupting the world’s international police force? One of the players on Bahrain’s national soccer team, Hakeem al-Araibi, vocally expressed his dissent over the way Bahrain is run. He was then framed for “vandalizing a police station” even though he was playing in a soccer match, broadcast on TV, at the time of the incident. He was arrested, beaten up in jail, yet still managed to escape to Australia, where he was granted asylum.

At this point Bahrain managed to have Interpol issue a fraudulent arrest warrant. When al-Araibi showed up in Thailand on his honeymoon, he was taken into custody and now awaits possible extradition back to Bahrain, where he may well face torture. By the way, it is a violation of international law to extradite someone to a country where he or she risks being tortured. So far Thailand has not taken advantage of this legal and moral reason to defy the Bahraini monarchy. 

This is not an isolated problem. The watchdog organization Fair Trials has documented multiple cases of the corruption and abuse of Interpol by “governments” which do not feel themselves bound by the rule of law. 

21stCentury Assaults

There is little doubt that the 21st century has begun with an assault on both the climatic and legal atmosphere that underpins the world’s stability. 

Before 1946 the world was a mess: one hot war after another, economic recessions and depressions, imperialism, colonialism, and racism galore. All of this was grounded in the nation state and its claim of sacred sovereignty. The world experienced a sort of climax to this horror show in the form of Nazi racism and the Holocaust, the use of nuclear weapons, and Stalinist Russia’s purges, mass starvations and Gulag exiles. 

After World War II, things got better in a slow sort of way. The trauma of the recent past spurred on the formation of international laws, international courts, a universal declaration of human rights, civil rights movements and the like. We also got the Cold War, which, for all its tensions, was a big improvement on hot wars.

Now things are falling apart again, and rest assured that U.S. leaders and their less-savory allies abroad are doing their part in the devolution of peace and justice. Shall we name just a few U.S. names? Well, there is Donald Trump and his minion Bolton. They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents in such nation-states as Egypt, the Philippines and that pseudo-democracy, Israel. There is also Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has turned into the U.S. version of Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to Washington’s South America foreign policy. He is the one pushing for the overthrow of the legitimate government in Venezuela while simultaneously calling for close relations with the new fascist president of Brazil. 

And the list goes on. How do we do this to ourselves? Is it short memories of the wretched past or almost no historical memory at all? Is it some sort of perverse liking for group violence? This is an important question and a perennial one. But now, with global warming upon us and lifestyles soon to be under threat, things are going to get even messier—and messy social and economic situations are usually good news for barbarians. More than ever, we are going to need uncorrupted international laws, courts and police.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.




Watch the 16th Julian Assange Vigil

Unity4J presented the 16th online vigil for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday. You can watch the replay here. Guests: Mike Gravel, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, Brian Becker, Teodrose Fikre and more.

Among the topics discussed were the Geneva city parliament voting to ask the Swiss government to grant asylum to Assange, a 2008 WikiLeaks release that is relevant again because of Venezuela and Ambassador Tony Kevin’s plan to free Assange from the Ecuador embassy in London.  




Britain and the Iranian Revolution: Arms & Secret Deals

Mark Curtis reviews the expediency that for many decades has marked U.K. policy toward Iran.

By Mark Curtis
British Foreign Policy Declassified

Forty years ago, the Iranian revolution sent a shockwave through the Middle East, overthrowing the Western client, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and bringing to power the Islamic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

While Iran now poses the biggest challenge to Western power in the Middle East, British relations with Islamic Iran were not always so antagonistic. Britain dropped its support for the Shah before the 1979 revolution, seeking to ingratiate itself with Iranian opposition forces led by Khomeini. Once his regime was in power, Whitehall went so far as to arm it, even brutally conniving with it, seeing it as a counter to the Soviet Union.

The Shah was put in power in 1953 in an Anglo-American covert operation – known as “Boot” – instigated by London, removing Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had nationalised British oil operations. “Our policy,” a British official later recalled, “was to get rid of Mosaddegh as soon as possible.” In fact, declassified files show that Britain’s ambassador in Tehran preferred “a dictator” who would “settle the oil question on reasonable terms.”

A little known aspect of the 1953 coup is British plotting with Ayatollah Sayyed Kashani, a predecessor of Khomeini. Kashani helped fund mobs that rioted against Mosaddegh in collaboration with MI6, which had bribed army, police, political and media figures. “These forces,” explained MI6 officer Christopher Woodhouse, who ran the U.K. end of the operation, “were to seize control of Tehran, preferably with the support of the Shah but if necessary without it, and to arrest [Mosaddegh] and his ministers.”

The Shah ruled for a further quarter of a century, brutally repressing opposition through his notorious  internal security service, SAVAK, which the U.K.  helped train. A year before the revolution, in April 1978, then Conservative opposition leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited Tehran and described the Shah as “one of the world’s most far-sighted statesmen” who had given Iran “dynamic leadership” and is “leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance.”

A few months later, James Callaghan’s Labour government secretly agreed to the Shah’s request to supply 175,000 CS gas canisters and up to 360 armoured personnel carriers to Iran to help the regime put down growing demonstrations against it.

Switching Sides

By October 1978, with unrest in Tehran threatening the regime, Callaghan wrote: “I would not give much for the Shah’s chances,” and told his foreign secretary, David Owen, to “start thinking about reinsuring,” meaning to develop contacts with opposition figures.

By December, officials concluded that the Shah’s survival was unlikely and that Iran seemed on the verge of a revolution. Foreign Office officials then argued for Britain to completely switch its support to the Iranian opposition, though the declassified files do not state which figures.

The Shah fled Tehran on Jan. 16, 1979, and on Feb. 1, Khomeini returned from exile to Iran. Britain tried to “insure” itself further with the new Islamic regime by avoiding any association with the Shah. London and Washington both refused to allow their onetime placeman political asylum. “There was no honour in my decision,” Owen later wrote, “just the cold calculation of national interest.” He added that he considered it “a despicable act.”

In February, with real power concentrated in the Council of the Islamic Revolution, dominated by fundamentalists loyal to Khomeini, Callaghan recognized the new government of Mehdi Bazargan, a scholar jailed by the Shah. Cabinet Secretary Sir John Hunt wrote to Callaghan saying that “we should lose no opportunity to foster our relationship with the new government.”

Margaret Thatcher also reassured the new government that the arms ordered by the Shah, notably a massive tank deal, would continue to flow, along with “oil, trade and other interests.” Weeks later, an Islamic Republic was declared, with a new constitution reflecting the theocracy.

Arming Iran

Under the new Thatcher government, Britain continued to arm and train the new Iranian regime. By April 1980, months into the U.S.  hostage crisis, Britain was still training around 30 Iranian military officers in Britain. With Soviet invasion forces in Afghanistan, Thatcher saw Iranian theocracy as a counter to Soviet ideology.

This took on brutal proportions in 1982, when Britain secretly helped the Iranian regime nearly destroy the communist Tudeh Party, the main leftist organisation in Iran. MI6, working with the CIA, passed to the Iranians a list of alleged Tudeh agents acquired from a Soviet defector, in order to curry favour with the regime and reduce Soviet influence. Dozens of Tudeh agents were subsequently executed, more than 1,000 members were arrested, and the party was banned.

But Britain went still further, even as it by now regarded the Iranian revolutionary regime as a strategic threat to the West. As Iran fought Iraq in the brutal Gulf war in the 1980s, the Thatcher government armed both sides. From the very first day of the war, Britain sent millions of pounds worth of tank barrels and tank engines to Iran, helping to maintain the tanks Britain delivered to the Shah during the 1970s.

Whitehall also connived with a company called Allivane International to secretly ship arms to Iran in the mid-to-late 1980s, while another project enabled the British company BMARC to export naval guns, spares and ammunition to Iran via Singapore in 1986. Around the same time, a government-owned company exported five shipments of tetryl chemicals, a compound used to make explosives, breaking both the UN embargo and Britain’s own export guidelines.

Unfinished Business

The British tank exports agreed under the Shah are still plaguing relations between the two countries. Declassified files show that the new regime wrote to Britain in February 1979 repudiating six military contracts signed by the Shah for more than 1,500 British tanks worth £1.25 billion. The two countries are still haggling over the interest rate to be paid by Britain to settle a debt for the tanks that were bought by Iran but never delivered. Iran has been seeking to recover its money since 1979.

The British would like to remove the Iranian regime from the Middle East, and extremists in the U.S.  and Israel are now pushing for war. But this is not 1953, and Whitehall surely realises that Iran is much stronger than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.

For now, London will continue promoting its commercial interests with Iran, while sometimes playing the side of the U.S.  in confronting it. British policy towards Iran has often been based on pure expediency. We can only wait to see if the U.K.  ends up playing more of a restraining than supportive role over regime change in Iran.

Mark Curtis is an historian and analyst of U.K. foreign policy and international development and the author of six books, the latest being an updated edition of “Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.”




The ‘Progressive Except Palestine’ Problem

The Jewish community has a special responsibility to fight Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, says Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

As a progressive Jew, I find that many of my family members and friends are still what we call “PEP,” progressive except Palestine. Amid ever-worsening injustices created by the Israeli system of apartheid and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, it is past time for this to change.

I am hopeful that the firestorm sparked by Michelle Alexander’s recent New York Times column, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” will finally generate the heat necessary to force more people and groups on the left to overcome the fundamental hypocrisy of the “progressive except Palestine” approach.

I was deeply inspired by Alexander’s column and her decision to speak so honestly about the difficulty of overcoming the fear of backlash over taking a public stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Striking a comparison between the risk taken by prominent critics of Israel and the risk Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took by publicly criticizing the Vietnam War, Alexander observes, “Those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash.”

Invoking Dr. King’s exhortation that “a time comes when silence is betrayal,” Alexander reflects on “the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.”

Alexander’s words resonated with me, a Jew who uncritically supported Israel for many years until I saw the parallels between U.S. policy in Vietnam and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. My activism and critical writings have followed a trajectory from Vietnam to South Africa to Israel to Iraq to Afghanistan and other countries where the United States continues its imperial military actions.

Although many of my articles are controversial as they criticize the actions of the U.S. government — under both Democratic and Republican regimes — I get the most pushback from my writings about Israel-Palestine. When I analyze Israel’s illegal occupation and crimes against the Palestinians, I am often called a “self-hating” Jew.

My Own Path

I was born in 1948, the year Israel was created out of whole Palestinian cloth. When tasked with finding a destination for Jews displaced by the Holocaust, the United Nations chose Palestine. Thus began a brutal and illegal occupation that continues to this day.

In his book, Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five,” Israeli-American Miko Peled describes the 1948 “ethnic cleansing campaign that was sweeping through Palestine like wildfire, destroying everything in its path.” Palestinians call it the “Nakba,” Arabic for “catastrophe.”

My family was not religious but we were proud of our Jewish heritage. My father fought the Nazis in World War II and relatives perished in the Holocaust. My paternal grandmother was an activist against the Tsar during the Russian pogroms. On her way to a Siberian prison, she escaped and, at the age of 18, boarded a ship bound for the United States.

We revered Israel as the homeland of the Jews. At the Passover Seder, we would raise our glasses and intone, “Next year in Jerusalem!” At Sunday School, we gathered coins to plant trees in the Holy Land. It wasn’t until I left home that I learned the truth about Israel and became an outspoken critic of its policies.

In 1967, during my freshman year at Stanford, I came to oppose the war in Vietnam and joined The Resistance, a group of draft resisters and their allies. The following year, I signed up for Students for a Democratic Society, where I learned the war was not an isolated event, but rather part of a long history of U.S. imperialism. But I was still unaware that the war Israel launched in 1967 “completed its occupation of Palestine,” in the words of Peled.

The anti-Vietnam War movement at Stanford challenged my long-held assumptions about U.S. foreign policy. My commitment to ending an unjust war against a people fighting for liberation eventually opened my eyes to the plight of the Palestinian people and Israel’s role in repressing them.

After college, I went to law school and became a peoples’ lawyer. I joined the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive political-legal organization which I later served as president. The NLG’s guiding motto is, “Human rights are more sacred than property interests.” In the NLG, I met many people who criticized Israel’s illegal policies and U.S. complicity in them.

In 1977, the NLG sent a delegation to Israel and Palestine. The report they issued was the first comprehensive analysis of Israel’s practices published by a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the protection of human rights. It documented violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions by Israel as a belligerent occupant of the West Bank and Gaza.

The allegations in the report disturbed me greatly. They described Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians, including house demolitions, administrative detention and torture. The report documented beatings, burning with cigarettes, forced standing while naked for long periods exposed to heat or cold, dousing with hot or cold water, cutting the body with razor blades, biting by dogs, sensory deprivation, sodomizing with bottles or sticks, inserting wires into the penis, electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, and suspension from the floor with hands or feet tied to a pulley device. Reading the case studies made me physically ill.

Apartheid, from South Africa to Palestine

Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration the Age of Colorblindness, wrote that some of Israel’s practices are “reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.”

After the Palestinians launched the second intifada, or uprising, NLG members went to the region and published a report in 2001. It documented a system of apartheid in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as the United States’ uncritical support of Israel.

That report describes illegal settlements and bypass roads, restricted movement of Palestinians, discriminatory land policies, differential treatment of Jews and Palestinian non-Jews, and Israeli policing of Palestinian political expression. It also analyzed indiscriminate and excessive use of lethal force against Palestinians, indiscriminate and excessive use of force against Palestinian property, delay and prevention of medical treatment, and collective punishment against the Palestinians.

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, pointed to similarities between apartheid in his country and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. “My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws,” Tutu wrote in a Tampa Bay Times article. He noted “Israel’s theft of Palestinian land,” and “Jewish-only colonies built on Palestinian land in violation of international law.”

Tutu cited a 2010 Human Rights Watch report that “describes the two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas in the West Bank under its exclusive control, which provide preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians.” Tutu wrote, “This, in my book, is apartheid. It is untenable.”

On July 19, 2018, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that illegally enshrines a system of apartheid. The legislation, which has the force of a constitutional amendment, says, “The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.” It continues, “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” There is no guarantee of self-determination for the 1.8 million Arabs who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Tutu called on “people and organizations of conscience to divest from . . . Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard,” which profit “from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.” He was advocating participation in the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which Alexander also mentions in her column.

When representatives of Palestinian civil society launched BDS in 2005, they called upon “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era … [including] embargoes and sanctions against Israel.”

Israel continues to attack Gaza, described as the world’s largest “open air prison” as Israel maintains a tight blockade, restricting all ingress and egress. Headlines in the mainstream media falsely portray an equivalence of firepower between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. But Israel’s use of force greatly exceeds that of the Palestinians, and the asymmetric warfare continues to escalate.

In 2014, Israel mounted an offensive called Operation Protective Edge,” relentlessly bombing Gaza for nearly two months, killing 2,251 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. The number of Palestinians wounded was 11,231, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children. On the Israeli side, six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed and 1,600 were injured. Tens of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and the infrastructure was severely damaged. Israel targeted numerous schools, UN-sanctioned places of refuge, hospitals, ambulances and mosques.

As Operation Protective Edge was winding down, the NLG and other legal organizations sent a letter to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging her to investigate war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Gaza committed by Israel and aided and abetted by US leaders. The letter was based on an article I wrote documenting those crimes.

Criticizing Israel is Not Anti-Semitic

I have become sharply critical of Israel. An active member of the NLG’s Palestine Subcommittee, I write frequent articles and do media commentary about Israel’s violations of international law. I am also a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and I work in support of BDS.

Years after I first read the 1977 NLG delegation report, I visited Ellis Island, where my grandparents arrived in the United States. It is now a museum. As I walked the route they traveled, I felt very emotional about what they endured. But my deep feelings about the suffering of my ancestors during the Holocaust are not inconsistent with my criticisms of Israel for subjecting the Palestinians to a different kind of oppression.

As stories continue to emerge about Israel’s killing of unarmed protesters at the Gaza border during the Great March of Return, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the facts. Yet even those who see the truth about Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians worry about reprisals for speaking out.

Alexander describes the silence of many civil rights activists and groups, “not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism.” She mentioned the case of Bahia Amawi, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent, who lost her Texas elementary school job last year after refusing to pledge in writing that she would not participate in the BDS movement. On Twitter, journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out the grave danger anti-BDS laws pose to freedom of speech.

There is a false equivalency between criticizing Israel and being anti-Semitic. Any criticism of Israeli policy is labeled anti-Semitism, even though many Jews—including members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Center for Nonviolence and IfNotNow—oppose the occupation.

The BDS movement is not anti-Israeli, as it targets the policies, not the people, of Israel. And actions against Israel’s policies, including BDS, do not equate to anti-Semitism. Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, says, “As a matter of principle, the BDS movement has consistently and categorically opposed all forms of racism, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia.”

Palestinian human rights activist Omar Barghouti wrote in the The New York Times in 2014, “Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and ‘the Jews’ are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.”

Even though many persist in equating condemnation of Israel with anti-Semitism, groups like Jewish Voice for Peace continue to gain traction. Jews are increasingly willing to examine the facts on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

And although Congress, dominated by the powerful Israel lobby, continues to give more money to Israel than any other country, two new members of Congress — Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) — support BDS.

Alexander is optimistic: “There seems to be increased understanding that criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic.”

We in the Jewish community have a special responsibility to fight against the Israeli system of apartheid and its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. The BDS movement is an effective weapon in this struggle. I urge my fellow Jews to join BDS and oppose Israel’s illegal and inhumane policies in whatever way they can.

Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues,” contains a chapter analyzing Israel’s targeted killing case.




Israel’s Surprise Elections Catch Palestinian ‘Joint List’ in Disarray

Divisions in the coalition could reduce turnout in April and strengthen the right-wing bloc under Netanyahu, reports Jonathan Cook.

By JonathanCook
Jonathan-Cook.net

A political coalition representing Israel’s Palestinian minority – currently the third biggest faction in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset – has been plunged into crisis by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for a surprise general election for April.

Long-simmering ideological and personal tensions within the Joint List, which includes Israel’s four main Palestinian parties, have erupted into a split over who should dominate the faction.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi announced this month that he would run on a separate ticket with his small Taal party, after polls showed he was more popular than the List’s current head, Ayman Odeh.

The move is yet another blow to the coalition, which has been beset by acrimony since its establishment four years ago.

The latest divisions threaten to further alienate Palestinian voters in Israel, potentially weakening their representation in the Israeli parliament and strengthening the right-wing bloc under Netanyahu.

The 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are the remnants of the Palestinian population that was mostly expelled from its homeland in 1948 to create the state of Israel. Today, these Palestinians make up a fifth of the population, but face systemic discrimination.

Voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been in steady decline for decades, reaching a low at the 2013 election, when just over half cast a ballot.

No Palestinian party has ever been invited to participate in any of the complex coalitions that are the basis of Israeli governments.

In addition, the Palestinian parties’ use of the Knesset as a platform to call for an end to the Israeli occupation and for equal rights for Palestinian citizens regularly attracts the ire of Jewish Israeli politicians.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan recently wrote a letter to the Knesset’s ethics committee describing Odeh, the head of the Joint List, as “a criminal and a supporter of terrorism.”

While launching his election campaign this week, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Joint List of “treason” and called it “total lunacy” to let its representatives participate in the Knesset.

Acrimony in the Joint List

The creation of the Joint List in time for the 2015 legislative elections briefly boosted turnout, as Palestinian voters in Israel hoped it would give a stronger voice to their interests on the national stage.

The List won 13 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset, but a recent poll showed that only 44 percent of Palestinian voters thought it represented their interests, with 52 percent disagreeing.

Tibi’s departure threatens to lead to further splintering of the coalition, with the southern Islamic Movement also reportedly considering breaking away or demanding leadership of the surviving List.

Relations between the two other parties – Hadash, a block of communist and socialist groups headed by Odeh, and national-democratic party Balad – are fractious, as they compete for a similar pool of secular Palestinian voters.

According to Tibi, the fact that his party, Taal, only holds a single seat in the Knesset is “clearly unjust.”

“The composition of the List should be decided by the people, not decreed by the parties,” he said.

According to polls, a separate Tibi ticket would be likely to receive six seats, level-pegging with the remnants of the Joint List.

He said an overhaul of the List would make it more democratic and accountable, and revive flagging support from Palestinian voters in Israel.

“The competition between two big lists will actually encourage people to come out and vote,” Tibi said. “Surveys show that we can get 12 seats when we run apart, but together we will drop to 10 or 11 seats.

“The other parties don’t want change because they are afraid of the outcome.”

Tibi said he would consider returning to the List only if it introduced more democratic procedures allotting seats to the parties on the basis of their popularity – either assessed through opinion polls or primaries.

Split Could Backfire

On social media, Odeh harshly criticised Tibi for the breakup, accusing him of prioritising his “personal interests”.

“Netanyahu wants to see the Joint List break up more than anyone else. The extreme right wants to divide and conquer the Arabs,” he tweeted.

According to analysts, the split could indeed backfire, fueling disenchantment.

“Surveys show that people support the idea of the Joint List but want more, not less, unity from its parties. They want it better organized and more effective,” said Asad Ghanem, a political scientist at Haifa University.

“If that trend doesn’t continue, a significant proportion are likely to stay home – or vote for Jewish parties on the basis that at least those parties have some influence within the Israeli political system.”

Ghanem also noted that Tibi, a former adviser to late Palestinian national leader Yasser Arafat, had until now been a largely one-man outfit. In the past, he has always allied with another party at election time.

“On paper, Tibi enjoys a lot of support, but that ignores the difficulty he faces widening his party’s appeal,” he said. “He needs to create a convincing list of candidates and establish a party machine capable of bringing out his voters to the polls.”

A combination of low turnout and separate parties could mean one or more fail to pass an electoral threshold, dramatically reducing Palestinian representation in the Knesset.

That would likely delight the Israeli right, including Netanyahu, who raised the electoral threshold before the 2015 vote in an undisguised bid to prevent Palestinian parties from winning seats.

When the Palestinian parties responded by forming the Joint List, Netanyahu used scaremongering on polling day to rally his supporters. He warned Jewish voters that the Palestinian minority was “coming out to vote in droves.”

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a legislator for the Hadash party, said those who preferred the Joint List to splinter were “gambling” that they would manage to pass the threshold. “That’s a very dangerous position to adopt.”

Need for Common Platform

Ghanem criticized the Joint List for failing to make an impact on the most pressing socio-economic issues faced by the Palestinian minority. Half of Palestinian families in Israel live under the poverty line, nearly four times the rate among Israeli Jews.

He also accused the List of failing to effectively counter recent legislative moves by the Netanyahu government that have targeted the rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority.

In 2016, the government passed an Expulsion Law empowering a three-quarters majority of the parliament to ban a legislator for holding unpopular political views. It was widely seen as a measure to silence Palestinian Knesset members.

And last summer, Israel voted through the Nation-State Basic Law, which explicitly gives the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination in Israel.

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failure to offer a clear position on the last law, or mobilise Palestinian opinion against it, was especially glaring.

“The problem is that the List has failed to develop a common political programme. It is not enough to have a Joint List, it must have a joint voice too.”

Touma-Suleiman, however, called much of the criticism of the Joint List unfair.

“The Nation State Law showed exactly what the Netanyahu government thinks of our rights. Anything we achieve is like pulling teeth from the lion’s mouth,” she said. “We are operating in a very hostile political environment.”

Crisis of Legitimacy

Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and rumoured to be a future candidate for the Hadash party, agreed with Tibi that the Joint List was suffering from a crisis of legitimacy.

“Who speaks for our community when we address the Israeli public or speak to the Palestinian Authority or attend discussions in Europe?” he asked. “That person needs to be able to say credibly that they represent the community.”

Farah, however, noted that the reality of Palestinians in Israel was “more complicated” than that for most other national minorities. Israeli officials have strenuously objected to any efforts by the Palestinian minority to create its own internal parliament or seek self-determination.

Nonetheless, he said, the Palestinian parties were making themselves irrelevant by focusing on a two-state solution in an era when Netanyahu and the right had imposed on the region their agenda of permanent occupation in the context of a single state.

“We can’t just accept the rules of a political game in which we operate in the margins of a Jewish democracy. It is not enough just to have a leader, we need to offer a new political vision. We have to be creative and bring a new agenda.

“The Jewish majority won’t come to our aid. We have to lead the struggle and be ready to pay the price.”

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failures, combined with the collapse of any peace-making efforts to end the occupation, had encouraged a move away from ideological politics among many Palestinian voters in Israel.

“People are instead increasingly focusing on their own personal concerns,” he said.

He pointed to recent local elections in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian-majority city in Israel, where the main political parties bowed out and left the mayoral race to two independent candidates.

The trend away from ideological politics was being reinforced, as elsewhere, by new media that offered people a wider set of perspectives.

“Generally, people feel more confused, and want clear, strong figures like a Netanyahu or a Trump,” Ghanem said. “Tibi can exploit that trend.”

Tibi said it was vital for the parties to find a way to make alliances with centre and centre-left Jewish parties in the current climate.

“It is not just about getting more Arab legislators into the Knesset,” he said. “It is about having more legislators who can have an influence, who can help shape the choice of the prime minister. That is imperative if we are going to bring down Netanyahu and the right.”

Tibi said he hoped that, by rebuilding the credibility of the Palestinian parties, they would be in a position to form a “blocking majority” in the Knesset, similar to the situation in the early 1990s.

Then, a newly elected center-left coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin needed the support of the Palestinian parties to push through the Oslo Accords, against fierce opposition from the right, led by Netanyahu.

Rabin did so through an arrangement with Palestinian legislators that they would back the coalition from outside the government.

“We helped Rabin achieve his goals and in return the situation of our community improved, with more rights and higher budgets,” said Tibi. “We can be in that position again but only if we can regain the confidence of our community.”

Calls for Boycott

Tibi and others believe that, if the turnout among Palestinian citizens returns to the levels of the 1980s, the minority could elect several more legislators, potentially tipping the balance towards a center-left government.

But for that happen, the Palestinian parties will need to overturn growing apathy and frustration from their voters, warned Ghanem.

Salman Masalha, a Palestinian columnist for Haaretz newspaper, called the Palestinian members of the Knesset “a fig leaf” whose participation served only to “beautify the state to the world, making it look like a vibrant democracy.”

He argued for a boycott of the election, playing on Netanyahu’s 2015 election incitement: “Arab citizens must respond, ‘the Arabs are boycotting in droves’ the scam of Israeli democracy.”

A boycott of the national elections is the official platform of two factions: the small, staunchly secular Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Land) party and the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, under Sheikh Raed Salah, which the Netanyahu government outlawed four years ago.

Ghanem observed that Netanyahu’s fate, as he faces indictment on several corruption charges in the midst of the election campaign, could play a decisive role in the turnout of Palestinian voters.

“If Netanyahu looks vulnerable, more [Palestinian voters] will come out in the hope that their parties will be able to support the centre-left in challenging the right.

“But if he looks likely to win, as seems the case at the moment, then many will conclude that the situation is hopeless and stay home.”

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/.




Dismantling the Doomsday Machines

Dan Ellsberg has given us a book that shows the urgency of re-engaging on nuclear disarmament, writes John V. Walsh.

With Two Minutes to Midnight, Time Is Running Out

By John V. Walsh
Antiwar.com 

“From a technical point of view, he [director Stanley Kubrick] anticipated many things. … Since that time, little has changed, honestly. The only difference is that modern weapons systems have become more sophisticated, more complex.  But this idea of a retaliatory strike and the inability to manage these systems, yes, all of these things are relevant today. It [controlling the weapons] will become even more difficult and more dangerous.”  — Russian President Vladimir Putin commenting on the film, “Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” in an interview with Oliver Stone, May 11, 2016. Putin had not seen the movie and did not know of it before Stone showed it to him.

The “Doomsday Machine,” the title of Daniel Ellsberg’s superb book, is not an imaginary contraption from a movie masterpiece.  A Doomsday Machine uncannily like the one described in “Dr. Strangelove” exists right now.  In fact, there are two such machines, one in U.S. hands and one in Russia’s.  The U.S. seeks to hide its version, but Ellsberg has revealed that it has existed since the 1950s.  Russia has quietly admitted that it has one, named it formally, “Perimetr,” and also tagged it with a frighteningly apt nickname “Dead Hand.” Because the U.S. and Russia are the only nations with Doomsday Machines to date we shall restrict this discussion to them.

Ellsberg’s terrifying message in the book has failed to provoke action in the year since its publication. Instead, on Jan. 24 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists kept its Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight, poised perilously close to Armageddon for a second year, marking a “new abnormal.” 

The first component of a Doomsday Machine is a mechanism of launching nuclear weapons with a command structure not always in the hands of a president in either country, something carefully hidden from the U.S. public. 

The second component is a weapon of such destructive force that it can kill billions at once and then more gradually the entire human race and perhaps all animal life on earth. 

Here is a brief consideration of Ellsberg’s views as a reminder of the nuclear peril we face along with a plan of action that he and others suggest. 

Launch and Command

Russia and the U.S. each have the ability to strike the other with great force, destroy the other’s cities and industrial and military bases.

The essence of this first-strike capacity is the ability to wipe out the deterrent of the other side or weaken it so that the remaining force could be intercepted for the most part. 

How can a targeted nation respond to such a capability?  It must convince the adversary that such a strike is futile because it will not destroy the deterrent of the targeted nation.  The attacker must understand that the nuclear force of the targeted nation, its nuclear deterrent, will survive, and the attacker will be annihilated.

The first approach to ensure this survivability is to build ever more nuclear weapons.  Thus, when the U.S. pioneered its first-strike capability in the Cold War, the Soviet Union responded with a buildup. Quite quickly both had a first-strike capacity with the competitive buildup reaching the insane levels shown here.  Each side also took the following additional measures.

The first measure to prevent the loss of deterrence is to put the nuclear force on Launch on Warning, which is also described as Hair Trigger Alert.

Most of us have heard about this, but we ought to quake in our boots every time it comes to mind.  Since the time to respond to a first strike is only tens of minutes for an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) attack, which takes about 30 minutes to travel between the U.S. and Russia, and even less time for a short or intermediate range missile, a targeted country must have its nuclear force loaded onto delivery vehicles and capable of being launched on warning of a nuclear attack.

Nuclear warheads that are loaded onto delivery vehicles are said to be “deployed.” They are ready to be launched in minutes.  On each side —both in Russia and in the U.S. — roughly 1,600 such warheads were loaded onto long-range delivery vehicles in 2018. (There are several thousand more warheads in reserve on each side but not “deployed.”)  It is easy to see the danger inherent in this situation.

The second measure to prevent loss of deterrence is “delegation.”  This is not widely known or understood.

One aspect of a first strike would be an attempt to knock out known command centers so that a retaliatory strike could not be ordered.  This is known as “decapitation.”The antidote to decapitation is “delegation,” that is, others besides the presidents and their immediate successors are authorized to press “the button.”  It works this way.  These “others” are located in secret command centers far from Washington or the Strategic Air Command Base in Colorado, both of which will be targeted in a decapitation strike.  If these secret centers find themselves cut off from communication with Washington or Moscow, then the assumption is made that a decapitating nuclear strike has occurred.  In that event these “others” removed from the centers of power are authorized to press the nuclear button.  These others are not elected officials and in fact we do not know who they are. What Ellsberg discovered is that some of these “others” are military people who are concerned that they too could be hit in a decapitating strike.  So they also have the authority to delegate.

In fact, no one, perhaps not even the president, nor his circle of advisors, knows who can launch the nuclear weapons. Is it possible that one might be like the fictional General Jack D. Ripper, the psychotic, delusional fellow who gives the launch order in Dr. Strangelove, or someone lusting after the Rapture?  

In summary, first-strike capability is the source of the problem.  It leads to a nuclear arms buildup, launch on warning and delegation. The idea of having such a capability is deeply imbedded in U.S. “strategic” thinking and will be hard to dislodge.

Weapons of Human Extinction

The second component of a Doomsday Machine is the weaponry. What is the destructive power of the nuclear weapons used in a first strike?  In 1961, when Ellsberg was among those working on nuclear-war fighting strategy for the Kennedy administration, he requested an estimate from the Pentagon of the deaths due to a first strike as the war planners had mapped it out then. To his surprise the estimate came back at once — the Pentagon had made it and kept it hidden.  At a time when the global population was about 3 billion, a first strike by the U.S. would result in the deaths of 1.2 billion from explosions, radiation and fire.  That number was deaths only, not injuries.  And it was only the result of U.S. weapons; it did not include deaths from a Soviet response if they managed one.  The deaths would be concentrated in targeted countries, then and now the U.S. and Russia.  Ellsberg was stunned to learn that the Pentagon would coolly make plans for such a gargantuan and immediate genocide.  And so should we all be. 

 

But the damage does not stop there.  This is the surprise that the Pentagon did not understand at the time.  The ash from the fires of burning cities would be cast up into the stratosphere so high that it would not be rained out.  There it would remain for at least a decade, blocking enough sunlight to prevent crops from growing for 10 years.  That is sufficient to cause total starvation and wipe out the entire human race, with only a handful at most able to survive. Nuclear winter was  publicized in the 1980s and encountered some initial skepticism.

Now with the interest in global warming, better computer models have been developed. When the results of a nuclear first strike are put into these models, nuclear winter again makes its appearance as Brian Toon, Alan Robock and others have shown.  The TED talks of Toon and of Robock describing their findings are well worthwhile; they are brief and well-illustrated.  We are confronted with a genocide of all or nearly all humanity, an Omnicide.”

The launch of the 1600 “deployed” warheads of either the U.S. or Russia is sufficient to give us nuclear winter.  So we in the U.S. have put in place a weapon system on hair-trigger alert commanded by we know not whom that can kill virtually all Americans – along with most everyone else on the planet. 

We have on hair trigger alert a weapon that is in fact suicidal.  Even if we neglect the effects of nuclear winter, the nuclear attacks would be concentrated on Russia and the U.S.  So most of us would be consumed.  Thus MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) is replaced with SAD (Self-Assured Destruction).

Abandoning First-Strike Policy & Capacity

Dismantling the Doomsday Machine with its hair-trigger alert and system of delegation means abandoning a first-strike policy and capacity.  And right now, only two countries have such first strike capacity and only one, the U.S., refuses to take the right to use it “off the table” even when not under attack

What does the elimination of first-strike capacity mean in practice?  This involves two basic steps for the U.S.  First, the land-based ICBMs, the Minuteman III, must be entirely dismantled, not refurbished as is currently being undertaken at enormous cost.  These missiles, the land-based part of the Strategic Triad, are highly accurate but fixed in place like “sitting ducks.” They are only good for a first strike, for they will be destroyed in a successful first strike by an adversary. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and James E. Cartwright, formerly head of the Strategic Air Command and formerly vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have both called for dismantling the Minuteman III. The second step is to reduce the Trident Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) force to the level where it cannot destroy the entire Russian land-based missile force. 

Russia would also need to execute similar measures, taking into account the specifics of its arsenal.  Here negotiations, treaties and verification are necessary.  But these are impossible in the current atmosphere of Russiagate and Russophobia, which is why both are existential threats and must be surmounted. We must talk despite our differences, real or perceived. 

An additional measure has also been proposed.  All nuclear warheads should be removed from deployed status by Russia and the U.S.  (The anodyne term is “de-alerting.”) That is, the warheads should be removed from their delivery vehicles and stored in a way that would take days or even weeks to deploy – that is to remount.    This has been proposed by the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction whose plan is laid out here.

The Work Ahead

Total abolition should be the ultimate goal because no human hand should be allowed to wield species-destroying power.  But it seems that an intermediate goal is not only needed to give us the breathing space to get to zero nuclear weapons.  An intermediate and readily achievable goal can call attention to the problem and motivate large numbers of people.  The Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980s is a very successful example of this sort of effort; it played a big role in making the Reagan-Gorbachev accords possible. 

The effort to kill the Doomsday Machines might well be called something like “Step Away from Doomsday” or simply “Step Away.”  At two minutes to midnight we must make haste to do this.  Abolishing nuclear weapons will require a breakthrough in the way countries deal with one another, especially nuclear armed countries.  Let us give ourselves the breathing space to accomplish that.

An earlier version of this article appeared on Anti-war.com.

 John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com.  He writes about issues of war, peace and empire, and about health care, for Antiwar.com, Consortium News, DissidentVoice.org and other outlets.  Now living in the East Bay, he was until recently professor of physiology and cellular neuroscience at a medical school in New England.




PATRICK LAWRENCE: In Venezuela, US Forgets What Century It Is

Destabilizing other nations in gross violation of international law will no longer go unopposed, writes Patrick Lawrence.

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

The Venezuela crisis worsens by the day. Early last week the U.S. sanctioned PdVSA, the state-owned oil company, by sequestering income from U.S. sales in a blocked bank account. On Sunday President Donald Trump confirmed in a television interview that deploying American troops is “an option.”

Little of what Washington has done in the weeks since it recognized an opposition legislator, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s “interim president” has any basis in international law. But there is much worse to come and much more at risk if the U.S. follows through with its recently disclosed plans to reshape Latin American politics to its neoliberal liking.

Administration officials now advertise the effort to depose the government of Nicolás Maduro as merely the first step in a plan to reassert American influence among our southerly neighbors. The next two targets, Cuba and Nicaragua, are what John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, calls the continent’s “troika of tyranny.”

“The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall—in Havana, in Caracas, in Managua,” Bolton said in a not-much-noted speech in Miami late last year. “The troika will crumble.” There is cold comfort to derive from knowing this forecast reflects the single most deranged worldview of anyone now active in the Trump White House. 

But therein lie considerable dangers. In effect, Trump and his policy minders intend to revive the Monroe Doctrine, in which the fifth U.S. president effectively declared the Western Hemisphere America’s to manage however it wished. But it is 2019, not 1823, when James Monroe made his case in a State of the Union speech to Congress. It is frequently remarkable how blind Washington is to the limits the 21stcentury imposes on its power, and we are about to watch it crash into two of them.

Era of Coups Is Over 

For one thing, the long era of U.S.-cultivated coups— “regime changes” for those who cannot quite face this aspect of America’s conduct abroad—is over. First in Ukraine and a year later in Syria, Moscow has put Washington on notice: Destabilizing other nations in gross violation of international law will no longer go unopposed. One way or another, this will again prove true in Venezuela.

The Ukraine case ranks among the worst foreign policy calls former President Barack Obama made during his eight years in office, and there are many from which to choose. State Department-sponsored NGOs and “civil society” groups such as the National Endowment for Democracy had been up to their customary chicanery in Kiev for years before Obama took office. But it was Obama who green-lighted the operation that led, five years ago this month, to the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine’s duly elected president and the division of the country into pro–Western and pro–Russian halves that remain at war with one another.

It is now de rigueur in the Western press to date the Ukraine crisis—and the sanctions regime that remains in place—to Russia’s re-annexation of Crimea after a referendum held in March 2014. This is ahistorical nonsense. It is a matter of record that Vladimir Putin convened his national security advisers the night of Feb. 22, a day after Yanukovych was forced to flee Kiev. By dawn on the 23rd, the Russian president had decided there was no alternative to reclaiming Crimea if Russia was to prevent NATO from assuming control over its only warm-water naval base.

A middling graduate student in international relations could have told the State Department’s Victoria Nuland and Vice President Joe Biden, who carried the administration’s Ukraine portfolio, that precipitating a coup in Kiev was a reckless, amateurish business. And so it has proven.

In the Syrian case, the U.S. had been training, arming, and financing radical Sunni jihadists since 2012 at the latest. But it was only in September 2015, a year after the Ukraine debacle, that Moscow—at the invitation of the Assad government in Damascus—entered the conflict militarily. The result speaks for itself: The Syrian Arab Army is now finishing its mop-up phase and the European powers, along with Turkey and Russia, are negotiating a variety of political, social, and economic reconstruction plans.

It is stunning, in the context of these two events, that the U.S. now proposes to embark on a series of three coup operations in Latin America, the first of which unfolds as we speak. But learning from past errors has never been among Washington’s strong suits, to put the point too mildly. The Maduro government warns the U.S. of “another Vietnam” if it intervenes militarily in Venezuela. Moscow warns of “catastrophic consequences.”

Let us not misread this last remark. It is highly unlikely, if not unimaginable, that Russia would counter direct U.S. intervention in Venezuela through military support. Moscow has all but said as much, indeed.

Russian and Chinese Interests 

But we now come to the second limitation on American power in the 21stcentury. In an era of virtually unlimited economic interdependence, Russia and China have considerable interests in Venezuela, and you can bet your last ruble or renminbi that they will exert themselves to protect them.

China has developed a series of oil-for-loans agreements with Venezuela over the past dozen years, and these total more than $50 billion in value. At this point Caracas is some $20 billion in arrears  on these deals, according to official Chinese sources as quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Russia has also invested many billions in Venezuela since the years of the Hugo Chávez presidency. Logically enough, both Moscow and Beijing question whether a post–Maduro government would honor these obligations. 

China and Russia are also Venezuela’s largest arms suppliers, and both have intelligence-gathering installations on Venezuelan soil. Two days after Washington recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim leader, reports surfaced that Moscow had dispatched a team of private contractors—read: mercenaries—to support the Maduro government.

The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank known for its anti–Russian biases and its close ties to various intelligence agencies, put out a paper over the weekend suggesting that the Venezuela crisis marks the beginning of “great-power competition” in Latin America. For once, the council seems to have gotten it roughly right.

No, this is not likely to resemble the Cold War in its superficial aspects. While Washington appears likely to fight it with hunger-inducing sanctions, semi-covert subterfuge, and possibly armed interventions, Russia and China will rely on diplomatic and possibly military support, economic aid, and investment. Both Moscow and Beijing continue to back the Maduro government and have encouraged political negotiations between the Venezuelan president and his adversaries.

The best way to read this competition at the moment is to recall the years prior to the Obama administration’s diplomatic recognition of Cuba (which the Trump administration has all but officially dismantled). Obama was more or less forced to act, because decades of merciless economic embargo and non-recognition had thoroughly alienated the rest of Latin America. Depending on how events turn in Venezuela, Trump and his policy minders could easily land Washington back in the same unenviable predicament. 

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.

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The Conflicted Boeing Executive Running Trump’s Pentagon

To truly avoid a conflict of interest, the Boeing executive appointed acting secretary of defense would have to avoid many significant decisions, write Mandy Smithberger and William D. Hartung of Tom’s Dispatch

By Mandy Smithberger and William D. Hartung
Tom’s Dispatch

The way personnel spin through Washington’s infamous revolving door between the Pentagon and the arms industry is nothing new. That door, however, is moving ever faster with the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense.

Shanahan had previously been deputy secretary of defense, a typical position in recent years for someone with a significant arms industry background. William Lynn, President Obama’s first deputy secretary of defense, had been a Raytheon lobbyist. Ashton Carter, his successor, was a consultant for the same company. One of President George W. Bush’s deputies, Gordon England, had been president of the General Dynamics Fort Worth Aircraft Company (later sold to Lockheed Martin).

But Shanahan is unique. No secretary of defense in recent memory has had such a long career in the arms industry and so little experience in government or the military. For most of that career, in fact, his main focus was winning defense contracts for Boeing, not crafting effective defense policies. While the Pentagon should be focused on protecting the country, the arms industry operates in the pursuit of profit, even when that means selling weapons systems to countries working against American national security interests.

The closest analogues to Shanahan were Charlie Wilson, head of General Motors, whom President Dwight Eisenhower appointed to lead the Department of Defense (DoD) more than 60 years ago, and John F. Kennedy’s first defense secretary, Robert McNamara, who ran the Ford Motor Company before joining the administration. Eisenhower’s choice of Wilson, whose firm manufactured military vehicles, raised concerns at the time about conflicts of interest — but not in Wilson’s mind. He famously claimed that “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

Shanahan’s new role raises questions about whether what is in the best interest of Boeing — bigger defense budgets and giant contracts for unaffordable and ineffective weaponry or aircraft — is what’s in the best interest of the public.

Rampant Conflicts of Interest

Unlike Wilson, Shanahan has at least implicitly acknowledged the potential for conflicts of interest in his new role by agreeing to recuse himself from decisions involving his former employer. But were he truly to adhere to such a position, he would have to avoid many of the Pentagon’s most significant management and financial decisions. Last year, after all, Boeing received nearly $30 billion in DoD contracts for working on everything from combat, refueling, training, and radar planes to bombs, drones, missile-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and military satellites. If Shanahan were to step back from deliberations related to all of these, he would, at best, be a part-time steward of the Pentagon, unable even to oversee whether Boeing and related companies delivered what our military asked for.

There is already evidence, however, that he will do anything but refrain from overseeing, and so promoting, his old firm. Take Boeing’s F-15X, for example. Against the wishes of the Air Force, the Pentagon decided to invest at least $1.2 billion in that fighter aircraft, an upgraded version of the Boeing F-15C/D, which had been supplanted by Lockheed Martin’s questionable new F-35. There have been reports that Shanahan has already trashed Lockheed, Boeing’s top competitor, in discussions inside the Pentagon. According to Bloomberg News, the decision to invest in the F-15X was due, in part at least, to “prodding” from him, when he was still deputy secretary of defense.

And that’s just one of a slew of major contracts scooped up by Boeing in the past year. Others include a $9.2 billion program for a new training aircraft for the Air Force, an $805 million contract for an aerial refueling drone for the Navy, two new presidential Air Force One planes at a price tag of at least $3.9 billion, and significant new funding for the KC-46 refueling tanker, a troubled plane the Air Force has cleared for full production despite major defects still to be addressed. While there is as yet no evidence that Shanahan himself sought to tip the scales in Boeing’s favor on any of these systems, it doesn’t look good. As defense secretary, he’s bound to be called on to referee major problems that will arise with one or more of these programs, at which point the question of bias towards Boeing will come directly into play.

Defenders of Shanahan’s appointment to run what is by far the largest department in the federal government suggest that key Boeing decisions won’t even reach his desk. That, however, is a deeply flawed argument for a number of reasons. To start, when making such decisions, lower-level managers will be aware of their boss’s lifetime connection to Boeing — especially since Shanahan has reportedly sung the praises of his former firm at the Pentagon. He has insisted, for example, that the massive F-35 program would have had none of the serious problems now plaguing it had it been run by Boeing.

In addition, Shanahan will be developing policies and programs sure to directly affect that company’s bottom line. Among them, he’ll be setting the DoD’s priorities when it comes to addressing perceived threats. His initial message on his first day as acting secretary, for instance, was summarized as “China, China, China.” Will he then prime the pump for expensive weapon systems like Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, designed specifically to monitor Chinese military activities?

He has similarly been the Pentagon’s staunchest advocate when it comes to the development of a new Space Force, something that likely thrills President Trump. He’s advocated, for example, giving the Space Development Agency, the body that will be charged with developing military space assets, authority “on steroids” to shove ever more contracts out the door. As a producer of military satellites, Boeing is a major potential beneficiary of just such a development.

Then there’s missile defense, another new presidential favorite. Shanahan presided over Boeing’s missile defense division at a time when one of the systems being developed was the Airborne Laser, meant to zap launched nuclear missiles with lasers installed on Boeing 747 aircraft. The project, a dismal failure, was cancelled after more than $5 billion in taxpayer funds had been sunk into it. The Pentagon’s latest “Star Wars”-style anti-missile technology, whose development was just announced by President Trump, calls for a major investment in an equally impractical set of technologies at a price that Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund suggests could reach $1 trillion in the decades to come.

Among Boeing’s current missile-defense programs is the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System, an array of land-based interceptor missiles that has already failed the majority of its tests. It’s unlikely that it will ever function effectively in a situation in which incoming warheads would be accompanied by large numbers of decoys. The Congressional Budget Office has identified the cancellation of the program as one obvious decision that could save significant sums. But what chance is there that Shanahan would support such a decision, given all those years in which he advocated for that missile-defense system at Boeing?

Or take nuclear policy. His former company is one of two finalists to build a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Critics of such weapons systems like Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Perry point out that ICBMs are the most dangerous and unnecessary leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, since in a potential war they might need to be launched on only minutes’ notice, lest they be lost to incoming enemy nukes. Even some of their supporters have questioned the need for a brand-new ICBM when older ones could be upgraded. Nuclear hawks might eventually be persuaded to adopt such a position, too, since the cost of the Pentagon’s across-the-board $1.5 trillion “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (including the production of new nuclear bombers, missiles, and warheads) will otherwise begin to impinge on department priorities elsewhere. But how likely is Shanahan to seriously entertain even such modest critiques when they threaten to eliminate a huge potential payday for Boeing?

Finally, there is the issue of U.S. support for the brutal war launched by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen nearly four years ago. Boeing’s combat planes, bombs, and attack helicopters have played a central role in that conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians, while a Saudi blockade of the country has put millions more at risk of famine. In addition, Boeing continues to benefit from a $480 million contract to service the F-15s it has supplied to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Here, President Trump is firmly in that company’s corner. “Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon… I don’t wanna hurt jobs,” he told 60 Minutes. “I don’t wanna lose an order like that [from the Saudi government].” Before his resignation, Secretary of Defense James Mattis was regularly called upon to comment on the Saudi war and help craft U.S. policy towards both that country and the UAE. Where will Shanahan stand on a war significantly fueled by the products of his former company?

There is, in fact, a grim precedent for Shanahan’s present situation. The Intercept and The Wall Street Journal have both reported that State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Charles Faulkner, a former lobbyist for Raytheon, advocated giving Saudi Arabia a clean bill of health on its efforts to avoid hitting civilians in its air strikes in Yemen, lest Raytheon lose a lucrative bomb deal. So much for draining the swamp.

The Revolving Door Spins Both Ways

Shanahan and Faulkner are far from the only former defense executives or lobbyists to populate the Trump administration. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson is a former lobbyist for Lockheed Martin. Ellen Lord, who heads procurement at the Pentagon, worked at Textron, a producer of bombs and military helicopters. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper — rumored as a possible replacement for Shanahan as secretary of defense — was once a top lobbyist at Raytheon. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood was a senior vice president at Lockheed Martin. And the latest addition to the club is Charles Kupperman, who has been tapped as deputy national security advisor. His career includes stints at both Boeing and Lockheed Martin. (His claim to fame: asserting that the United States could win a nuclear war.)

All of the above, including Patrick Shanahan, spun through that famed revolving door into government posts, but so many former DoD officials and top-level military officers have long spun in the opposite direction. In 1969, for example, Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire, a legendary Pentagon watchdog, was already describing the problem this way:

“The easy movement of high-ranking military officers into jobs with major defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse. How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

Or, as a 1983 internal Air Force memo, put it, “If a colonel or a general stands up and makes a fuss about high cost and poor quality, no nice man will come to see him when he retires.”

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump appeared to recognize the obvious problem of the revolving door and proposed a five-point ethics reform plan to slow it down, if not shut it down entirely. Unfortunately, the ethics executive order he put in place once in office fell wildly short of his campaign ambitions, leaving that revolving door spinning madly. A new report from the Project On Government Oversight has documented 645 cases in 2018 alone in which former government officials held jobs at the top 20 Pentagon contractors. The leader among them? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s Boeing, with 84 such hires.

Retired Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, who led the Pentagon’s arms sales office, is a case in point. In that role, he helped promote sales of U.S. weaponry globally. Perhaps as a result, he “earned” himself a position as president for global services and support at Boeing less than a year after he retired. He’s far from alone. Retired Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis, a program officer for Navy air systems, also joined the company, as did retired Air Force Major General Jack Catton Jr., who served as the director of requirements for the Air Combat Command before moving to Boeing. Retired Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, the former head of the Defense Logistics Agency, charged with managing $35 billion in goods and services across the DoD annually, similarly became a vice president at Boeing.

Slowing the Revolving Door

Candidate Donald Trump saw the revolving door between government and industry as a problem. “I think anybody that gives out these big contracts should never ever, during their lifetime, be allowed to work for a defense company, for a company that makes that product,” he said. As the continuing flow of officials through it suggests, however, as president, he’s done anything but drain that swamp.

In order to do so, he would, as a start, have to focus his administration on closing the many loopholes in current federal ethics laws, which, however imperfectly, seek to limit conflicts of interest on the part of government officials who move to jobs in industry. Under current law, lobbying restrictions on such former officials can be circumvented if they label themselves “consultants” or “business development executives.” Similarly, former Pentagon officials can go to work for an arms maker they once awarded a contract to as long as they’re hired by a different division of that company. In addition, while Congress requires that the Pentagon track whoever’s moving through that revolving door, the database that does so is both incomplete and not available for public viewing.

Candidate Trump was onto something. However, rather than curbing the blatant conflicts inherent in the revolving door — the ultimate symbol of the military-industrial complex in action — President Trump is actually accelerating them. America is indeed great again, if you happen to be one of those lucky enough to be moving back and forth between plum jobs in the Pentagon and the weapons industry.

Mandy Smithberger is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.”




PEPE ESCOBAR: MAGA Misses the Eurasia Train

While China and Russia solidify their economic and political alliance, the U.S. is missing an historic chance to join a multilateral world, clinging instead to military empire, argues Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
in Milan
Special to Consortium News

We should know by now that the heart of the 21stCentury Great Game is the myriad layers of the battle between the United States and the partnership of Russia and China.

Even the U.S. National Defense Strategy says so: “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by … revisionist powers.” The recently published assessment on U.S. defense implications of China’s global expansion says so too.

The clash will frame the emergence of a possibly new, post-ideological, strategic world order amidst an extremely volatile unpredictability in which peace is war and an accident may spark a nuclear confrontation.

The U.S. vs. Russia and China will keep challenging the West’s obsession in deriding “illiberalism,” a fearful, rhetorical exercise that equates Russian democracy with China’s one party rule, Iran’s demo-theocracy and Turkey’s neo-Ottoman revival.

It’s immaterial that Russia’s economy is one-tenth of China’s. From boosting trade that bypasses the U.S. dollar, to increasing joint military exercises, the Russia-China symbiosis is poised to advance beyond political and ideological affinities.

China badly needs Russian know-how in its military industry. Beijing will turn this knowledge into plenty of dual use, civilian-military innovations.

The long game indicates Russia and China will break down language and cultural barriers to lead Eurasian integration against American economic hegemony backed by military might.

One could say the Eurasian century is already upon us. The era of the West shaping the world at will (a mere blip of history) is already over. This is despite Western elite denials and fulminations against the so-called “morally reprehensible,” “forces of instability” and “existential threats.”

Standard Chartered, the British financial services company, using a mix of purchasing power exchange rates and GDP growth, has projected that the top five economies in 2030 will be China, the U.S., India, Japan and Russia. These will be followed by Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and the UK. Asia will extend its middle class as they are slowly killed off across the West.

Hop on the Trans-Eurasia Express

A case can be made that Beijing’s elites are fascinated at how Russia, in less than two decades, has returned to semi-superpower status after the devastation of the Yeltsin years.

That happened to a large extent due to science and technology. The most graphic example is the unmatched, state-of-the-art weaponry unveiled by President Vladimir Putin in his March 1, 2018 speech.

In practice, Russia and China will be advancing the alignment of China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with Russia’s Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

There’s ample potential for a Trans-Eurasia Express network of land and maritime transport corridors to be up and running by the middle of next decade, including, for instance, road and railway bridges connecting China with Russia across the Heilongjiang River.

Following serious trilateral talks involving Russia, India and Iran last November, closer attention is being paid to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km long lane mixing sea and rail routes essentially linking the Indian Ocean with the Persian Gulf through Iran and Russia and further on down the road, to Europe.

Imagine cargo transiting from all over India to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, then overland to Bandar Anzali, an Iranian port on the Caspian Sea, and then on to the Russian southern port of Astrakhan, and after that to Europe by rail. From New Delhi’s point of view, that means shipping costs reduced by up to 40 percent, and Mumbai-to-Moscow in only 20 days.

Down the line, INSTC will merge with BRI – as in Chinese-led corridors linked with the India-Iran-Russia route into a global transport network. 

This is happening just as Japan is looking at the Trans-Siberian Railway – which will be upgraded throughout the next decade – to improve its connections with Russia, China and the Koreas. Japan is now a top investor in Russia and at the same time very much interested in a Korea peace deal. That would free Tokyo from massive defense spending conditioned by Washington’s rules. The EAEU free trade agreements with ASEAN can be added to that.

Especially over these past four years, Russia has also learned how to attract Chinese investment and wealth, aware that Beijing’s system mass-produces virtually everything and knows how to market it globally, while Moscow needs to fight every block in the book dreamed up by Washington.

The Huawei-Venezuela “Axis of Evil

While Washington remains a bipartisan prisoner to the Russophobic Platonic cave – where Cold War shadows on the wall are taken as reality – MAGA is missing the train to Eurasia.

A many-headed hydra, MAGA, stripped to the bone, could be read as a non-ideological antidote to the Empire’s global adventurism. Trump, in his non-strategic, shambolic way, proposed at least in theory the return to a social contract in the U.S. MAGA in theory would translate into jobs, opportunities for small businesses, low taxes and no more foreign wars.

It’s nostalgia for the 1950s and 60s before the Vietnam quagmire and before “Made in the USA” was slowly and deliberately dismantled. What’s left are tens of trillions of national debt; a quadrillion in derivatives; the Deep State running amok; and a lot of pumped up fear of evil Russians, devious Chinese, Persian mullahs, the troika of tyranny, the Belt and Road, Huawei, and illegal aliens.

More than a Hobbesian “war of all against all” or carping about the “Western rules-based system” being under attack, the fear is actually of the strategic challenge posed by Russia and China, which seeks a return to rule by international law.

MAGA would thrive if hitched to a ride on the Eurasia integration train: more jobs and more business opportunities instead of more foreign wars. Yet MAGA won’t happen – to a large extent because what really makes Trump tick is his policy of energy dominance to decisively interfere with Russia and China’s development.

The Pentagon and the “intel community” pushed the Trump administration to go after Huawei, branded as a nest of spies, while pressuring key allies Germany, Japan and Italy to follow. Germany and Japan permit the U.S. to control the key nodes in the extremities of Eurasia. Italy is essentially a large NATO base.

The U.S. Department of Justice requested the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from Canada last Tuesday, adding a notch to the Trump administration’s geopolitical tactic of “blunt force trauma.” 

Add to it that Huawei – based in Shenzhen and owned by its workers as shareholders – is killing Apple across Asia and in most latitudes across the Global South. The real the battle is over 5Gin which China aims to upstage the U.S., while upgrading capacity and production quality.

The digital economy in China is already larger than the GDP of France or the UK. It’s based on the BATX companies (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi), Didi (the Chinese Uber), e-commerce giant JD.com and Huawei. These Big Seven are a state within a civilization – an ecosystem they’ve constructed themselves, investing fortunes in big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet. American giants – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google – are absent from this enormous market.

Moreover, Huawei’s sophisticated encryption system in telecom equipment prevents interception by the NSA. That helps account for its extreme popularity all across the Global South, in contrast to the Five Eyes (U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) electronic espionage network.

The economic war on Huawei is also directly connected to the expansion of BRI across 70 Asian, European and African nations, constituting a Eurasia-wide network of commerce, investment and infrastructure able to turn geopolitical and geo-economic relations, as we know them, upside down.

Greater Eurasia Beckons

Whatever China does won’t alter the Deep State’s obsession about “an aggression against our vital interests,” as stated by the National Defense Strategy. The dominant Pentagon narrative in years to come will be about China “intending to impose, in the short term, its hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region, and catch the United States off-guard in order to achieve future global pre-eminence.” This is mixed with a belief that Russia wants to “crush NATO” and “sabotage the democratic process in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.”

During my recent travels along the northern part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), I saw once again how China is upgrading highways, building dams, railways and bridges that are useful not only for its own economic expansion but also for its neighbors’ development. Compare it to U.S. wars – as in Iraq and Libya – where dams, railways and bridges are destroyed.

Russian diplomacy is all but winning the New Cold War — as diagnosed by Prof. Stephen Cohen in his latest book, War with Russia: From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate.

Moscow mixes serious warnings with diverse strategies, such as resurrecting the South Stream gas pipeline to supply Europe as an extension of Turk Stream after the Trump administration also furiously opposed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow ramps up energy exports to China.

The advance of the Belt and Road Initiative is linked to Russian security and energy exports, including the Northern Sea Route, as an alternative future transportation corridor to Central Asia. Russia emerges then as the top security guarantee for Eurasian trade and economic integration.

Last month in Moscow, I discussed Greater Eurasia– by now established as the overarching concept of Russian foreign policy – with top Russian analysts. They told me Putin is on board. He referred to Eurasia recently as “not a chessboard or a geopolitical playground, but our peaceful and prosperous home.”

Needless to say, U.S. think tanks dismiss the idea as “abortive”. They ignore Prof. Sergey Karaganov, who as early as mid-2017 was arguing that Greater Eurasia could serve as a platform for “a trilateral dialogue on global problems and international strategic stability between Russia, the United States and China.”

As much as the Beltway may refuse it, “The center of gravity of global trade is now shifting from the high seas toward the vast continental interior of Eurasia.”

Beijing Skirts the Dollar

Beijing is realizing it can’t meet its geo-economic goals on energy, security, and trade without bypassing the U.S. dollar.

According to the IMF, 62 percent of global central bank reserves were still held in U.S. dollars by the second quarter of 2018. Around 43 per cent of international transactions on SWIFT are still in U.S. dollars. Even as China, in 2018, was the single largest contributor to global GDP growth, at 27.2 percent, the yuan still only accounts for 1 percent of international payments, and 1.8 per cent of all reserve assets held by central banks.

It takes time, but change is on the way. China’s cross-border payment network for yuan transactions was launched less than four years ago. Integration between the Russian Mir payment system and Chinese Union Pay appears inevitable.

Bye Bye Drs. K and Zbig

Russia and China are developing the ultimate nightmare for those former shamans of U.S. foreign policy, Henry Kissinger and the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski.

Back in 1972 Kissinger was the mastermind – with logistical help from Pakistan – of the Nixon moment in China. That was classic Divide and Rule, separating China from the USSR. Two years ago, before Trump’s inauguration, Dr. K’s advice dispensed at Trump Tower meetings consisted of a modified Divide and Rule: the seduction of Russia to contain China.

The Kissinger doctrine rules that, geopolitically, the U.S. is just “an island off the shores of the large landmass of Eurasia.” Domination “by a single power of either of Eurasia’s two principal spheres – Europe or Asia – remains a good definition of strategic danger for America, Cold War or no Cold War,” as Kissinger said. “For such a grouping would have the capacity to outstrip America economically and, in the end, militarily.”

The Zbig doctrine ran along similar lines. The objectives were to prevent collusion and maintain security among the EU-NATO vassals; keep tributaries pliant; keep the barbarians (a.k.a. Russians and allies) from coming together; most of all prevent the emergence of a hostile coalition (as in today’s Russia-China alliance) capable of challenging U.S. hegemony; and submit Germany, Russia, Japan, Iran, and China to permanent Divide and Rule.

Thus the despair of the current National Security Strategy, forecasting China displacing the United States “to achieve global preeminence in the future,” through BRI’s supra-continental reach.

The “policy” to counteract such “threats” is sanctions, sanctions, and more unilateral sanctions, coupled with an inflation of absurd notions peddled across the Beltway – such as that Russia is aiding and abetting the re-conquest of the Arab world by Persia. Also that Beijing will ditch the “paper tiger” “Made in China 2025” plan for its major upgrade in global, high-tech manufacturing just because Trump hates it.

Once in a blue moon a U.S. report actually gets it right, such as in Beijing speeding up an array of BRI projects; as a modified Sun Tzu tactic deployed by President Xi Jinping.

At the June 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Professor Xiang Lanxin, director of the Centre of One Belt and One Road Studies at the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, defined BRI as an avenue to a “post-Westphalian world.” The journey is just beginning; a new geopolitical and economic era is at hand. And the U.S. is being left behind at the station.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

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CN Radio: Australian Ambassador Tony Kevin’s Plan to Free Assange

Tony Kevin, a former Australian ambassador, defends Julian Assange & WikiLeaks & reveals a plan to get him safely from Ecuador’s London embassy back to Australia. He is interviewed by CN Editor Joe Lauria for Unity4J.