“Something which most other developing countries would envy”: The DPRK’s healthcare system

Medical workers brainstorm at the South Hamgyong Provincial People’s Hospital. Courtesy of The Pyongyang Times.

Since June 19, the bourgeois media has been brimming with reports of the death of 22-year-old White college student from Cincinnati, Ohio, Otto Frederick Warmbier. While the family was happy to hear that their son was released from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), they were the ones that fueled the media firestorm. Warmbier’s father claimed that the DPRK had “murdered” their son, who had died in a coma possibly from an infection or blood clot, leading to anger in subsequent days from unhinged Trump and “reserved” Tillerson, leading to a new “wedge” between the US and the DPRK. [1] As some media reported, the DPRK may have released him in hopes of making a deal with Trump. Of course, the orange menace, the fascist in a suit, didn’t want to make a deal, only knowing his “negotiation” tactics from his days as a ruthless real estate magnate and his overrated “Celebrity Apprentice” show on NBC. As the days went out, the bourgeois media, in another rash of imperial propaganda, cited varied “experts” who said they were “baffled” with the DPRK’s behavior, with John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Mike Turner following suit, and the anti-DPRK columnists coming out of the ground like moles, claiming that the DPRK “murdered” Warmbier, even though he seems to have sought regime change in the country. [2] Even the Republic of Korea (ROK), often called “South Korea” in the West, joined in the criticism. Furthermore, any future tours to the DPRK by Young Pioneer Tours has ended, with a possible ban of US tourism to the country floated. The former should be no big loss because the company seems very Orientalist while the latter is just meant to reinforce the empire’s perceptions on the US populace. [3]

On Otto Warmbier

The murderous empire won’t rest, from its proposed hideous sanctions to condemning the DPRK’s government as brutal and “oppressive.” Tillerson said that much in his remarks on June 19 on Warmbier: “we hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.” Later in this article, I’ll get the subject of whether his imprisonment is “unjust” which I do not think it is. There are three US citizens imprisoned in the DPRK. One of them, a businessperson named Kim Dong Chul admitted to CNN that he spied on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2015, saying that they “asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government,” starting his spy work in April 2013, including bribing residents who would gather “important materials,” which he smuggled south or into China. [4] The other two were an academic named Kim Sang-duk or Tony Kim who committed “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country” which was not related to his teaching, and Kim Hak-song, “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.” As for Warmbier, a student of Virginia University, he was encouraged to rip down a patriotic banner in a restricted area of the hotel by a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, a secretive university organization, and even the CIA, which some scowled at as only an “accusation.” Truthfully, on January 26, DPRK’s government arrested him for perpetrating a hostile act against the country “after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.” [5] He further admitted this about less than months later. He told, to the Supreme Court of the DPRK, the nature of his crime and asked for forgiveness (across the bourgeois media are video clips of him crying):

On December 29, 2015, I entered the DPRK as a tourist. On January 1, 2016, I committed severe crimes against the DPRK. The task was given to me by the Friendship United Methodist Church. At the encouragement of the Z Society and the connivance of the United States Administration, I came to commit this task. The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.This was a very foolish aim…Sharon Webb…deaconess in the Friendship United Methodist Church…said that communist nations rally around political slogans. She asked me to take an important political slogan from North Korea to be hung in her church as a “trophy”. She continued to say that by taking this slogan, we would harm the unity and motivation of the North Korean people and show this country an insult from the West…She offered me a used car worth $10,000 if I was successful. And she said if I was detained and not returned, her church would pay $200,000 to my mother in a way of charitable donations. Since my family is suffering from very severe financial difficulties, I started to consider this as my only golden opportunity to earn money…He said my plan of action would certainly help the Z Society’s goal of spreading “freedom” and eliminating “tyranny”. He said if I was successful, he promised me that he would help me become a member in the Z Society. [6]

The same day, the state media of the DPRK reported that those attending the trial were citizens from “different walks of life” and after his “written indictment confirming his crimes was submitted” the “court sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor” for violating article 60 of the DPRK’s criminal code. After looking at varied sources (here, here, and here) one English translation of the criminal code, [7] stated the following about article 60, which concerns terrorism:

A person who kills, abducts or injures cadres or people with anti-state purposes shall be punished by reform through labour for more than five years. In cases where the person commits a grave offence, he or she shall be punished by life-term reform through labour or the death penalty, and confiscation of property.

In this case, it was a “grave offence.”

Fast forward to the aftermath of Warmbier’s death. The US doctors have belayed propaganda claims, saying that Warmbier was NOT tortured or abused (as his family falsely claims), but that “beyond minor skin blemishes consistent with medical care they found no evidence of fractures or trauma to his body” with the DPRK sending medical records back with him! [8] If they really had tortured him, which they didn’t, they wouldn’t even send any records. Another article says that there is no evidence Warmbier was injured with the MRI scan showing brain damage and that “the medical team at Cincinnati got some medical records from the North Koreans and they said the records show Warmbier has been in this condition since April of last year” but that there is no evidence “of broken bones or other physical abuse, and scans of his head and neck looked normal, except for the damage to his brain.” [9]

Of course, the DPRK released him “according to a humanitarian judgment of the DPRK’s Central Court” on June 13, 2017. [10] In days that followed, with the propaganda about his condition, the DPRK showed they were in the right. The Foreign Ministry said that the US administration is engaging in an ” anti-DPRK smear campaign by abusing the humanitarian measure taken by the DPRK” and said that “Warmbier is clearly a criminal sentenced to reform through labor in accordance with the DPRK law” and that he confessed on February 29, 2016 “in tears that he had committed hostile act against the DPRK,” with the US making “every frantic effort to disparage the prestige of the dignified DPRK and stifle it while imposing heinous sanctions.” [11] They also noted that US doctors argued that Warmbier was provided with medical treatment in the DPRK, with his death a mystery, questioning why the Obama administration never “made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis.” This is worth noting since they “had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state” but provided him necessary medical care anyway. [12]

With Warmbier’s family interestingly declining an autopsy of their son, which will allow rumors to continue, those at least partially (or more fully) sympathetic to the DPRK have not been united. One site, called “Young DRPK watchers” has two opinions on this subject. [13] One says that “Otto Warmbier’s situation arose from neglect and medical incompetence, [rather] than abuse” with American prisoners not “physically harmed at all and are also fed well” and that the DPRK’s medical system is divided into levels for the privileged and everyone else (internalizing imperial propaganda by saying this), concluding that Warmbier “may have fell into the coma as a consequence of an unknown medical condition” with neglect by the DPRK. The other, by the same author, admitting that Warmbier is a victim but is also “an inflated symbol of American privilege.” Both of these opinions are better than that in the bourgeois, they fall into the category of concessions which Vngiapaganda warned about in a post almost a year ago. The same is the case in an article on Stop Imperialism on Warmbier’s death. It accepts ths possibility that the DPRK murdered him, which is giving in too much to the bourgeois media narrative. All in all, these opinions are better than the seething Chinese netizens which seem be in up in arms about the DPRK, which is unfortunate to say the least.

DRPK’s healthcare and medical system

Korean doctor in Pyongyang talking about new medical system in 2013.

With the death of Warmbier,the bourgeois media, capitalists, and their lackeys, along with those not adequately informed by the subject (the US public in general) is acting like the DPRK has a medical system that resembles people conducting voodoo (or their perception of people doing this) to “cure people” or wish them “ill.” I’m specifically thinking of those curses conducted by voodoo practitioner, Minerva, in the Hollyweird box office “bomb” titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, based on the book of the same name. It seemed to be the best example of this mentality which could come to mind, with people acting like the DPRK are in the “dark ages” of medicine and have some archaic medical system.

The propaganda about the DPRK’s health system is nothing new. The Daily NK (an anti-DPRK outlet),  the Los Angeles Times, BBC News, The Week, The Telegraph, NY Daily News have declared that the DPRK doesn’t care about healthcare and has a shotty (or “horrifying”) system, which some even thought was on the “brink of collapse.” [14] Much of this imperial propaganda, only some of the publications named above, with some within medical journals as well, was fed by an Amnesty report in 2010 titled “North Korea: The crumbling state of health care in North Korea.” As the report admitted, they conducted interviews “with North Koreans who have settled abroad” since the DPRK (rightly) has not let these humanitarian imperialists into their country, making the report pure propaganda. [15] Luckily, some on the international level know the report is BS. As the bourgeois media reported, the World Health Organization said that Amnesty’s report was based on a small sample of people of those who left the country, with WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood saying “all the facts are from people who aren’t in the country. There’s no science in the research,” not mentioning recent improvements to healthcare in the country, even as he made the concession that Amnesty’s accounts could be “credible” (they aren’t by definition) while saying that Amnesty is not “taking into account some of the things that are happening today” in terms of healthcare in the DPRK. [16]

Numerous anti-DPRK accounts even admit the advantages of the DPRK’s system. In words criticizing the medical system in the country, one student doctor, had to “grudgingly” admit that the country has well-trained dentists and has a stress on exercise, among other aspects. [17] Even the Library of Congress in their broadly “anti-communist” report on the DPRK, written in 2008, had to admit this. He said that medical care is provided free of charge, that physical exercise is a major focus, and that there are nationwide medical check ups, especially at routine places like schools, factories, offices, and farms. Furthermore, they added that people receive a lifetime health card, the government has been aggressive attacking of diseases that cause epidemics (they say with spraying of DDT and other chemicals), and a high number of physicians and hospitals per capita, one of the highest in the world. [18] They add that more than 75% in the medical profession are women, with most hospitals as general hospitals, many clustered around Pyongyang, and no smoking in hospitals. Even with the supposed drawbacks, like shortages in medicines (because of sanctions), claims of variation in medical care, and economic problems weakened medical system [19], among others, the pages note that there has been a dramatic improvement in life longevity in the country ravaged by famine caused by Western imperial sanctions. Perhaps such “criticisms” shouldn’t be a surprise since most of chapter, which this information is within in, based on declassified CIA report. Even so, it is impressive that the CIA is even admitting the success of socialism in the DPRK and benefiting the Korean people.

Commie Dad’s writing on this topic, within an article about the DPRK’s centrally-planned economy, is worth noting. He notes how UN sanctions prevented a pharmaceutical company “from importing the chemicals it needed for a healthcare project in the DPRK countryside” and that the DPRK “still guarantees universal healthcare to its people,” which the US hasn’t done, a fact even acknowledged by anti-DPRK author Barbara Demick and a CIA report which acknowledges DPRK’s achievements in “free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” [20] He adds that the remarkable public healthcare system of the DPRK, providing ” unconditional universal coverage for citizens”continues to perform well, citing the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s Director-General, calling the country’s healthcare system “something which most other developing countries would envy,” pointing out that the “DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses,” further praising their system for its “very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.” This quote about envy is used in the title of this article, which also notes the country’s comprehensive healthcare, saying that authorities recognize malnutrition is a problem but it is less of an issue than in the past, and the quality of their healthcare system. [21] Of course, the reactionaries are seething at this pronouncement. A Heritage Foundation fellow claimed WHO was “defend[ing] the North Korean government,” citing the horrid Amnesty report and US State Department, along with varied bourgeois media, while American Thinker was shocked at her “praise” of what they called a “totalitarian and rogue nuclear-armed police state.” [22] The only country that falls into that category is the United States (and its client states in the Mideast, along with Western European capitalist states), not the DPRK. These reactionaries would find friends in the US State Department, which warns US citizens to not go into DPRK hospitals…because then they will learn that the system is excellent? [23]

While, in the murderous empire, the GOP fights to pass a healthcare bill that would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million” by 2026 and the Dems fight to keep their insurance-friendly “Obamacare,” the DPRK already has universal healthcare. As I noted in my previous post about the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and democracy within the DPRK, this unicameral legislative body has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” [24] The DPRK not only provides rights and duties of citizens “based on the collectivist principle,” but they have the right to “right to education and free medical care and freedom of scientific, literary and artistic pursuits” along with equal rights for men and women. Furthermore, in January 1947, the DPRK enforced “free medical care for workers, office workers and their dependents” with universal free medical care enforced since January 1953, and complete  “universal free medical care” since February 1960, meaning that the state totally bears “the expenses of medical checkups and treatment, bed and board in hospitals, medicines, and even travel costs to and from sanatoria.” This commitment is manifested not only by the type of care the citizens receive but through the establishment of Pyongyang Medical University, the top medical school in the country which was founded in 1948 “when the Department of Medical Science at Kim Il Sung University became an independent university.” [26]

The achievements of this Korean healthcare system are widely acknowledged. While one Cornell medical student (who talked with “the chair of Pyongyang Medical College’s Department of Neurosurgery for 90 minutes”) grumbled that the free medical system comes with “many costs of personal freedom” (his Western bourgeois concept of freedom) with government permission required, and physicians not more highly paid than others, if we are to believe him on that aspect, did admit the following:

“[The medical students] smiled and very proudly told me that the government sends students to college for free – and that is consistent with the medical system, that it’s also free. Even intensive surgeries do not cost a penny…Everything I saw was very unique. Exploring the city [Pyongyang] was unreal. All buildings were beautiful and big – often with posters of the two great leaders in front, which gave off a little eerie feeling. American media give the idea that North Korea is constantly brewing with missiles, focusing on the unreasonable rulers…but the everyday life of North Koreans, at least in the capital, nearly mirrors ours. It was an incredible privilege to meet North Koreans and hear their sentiments, to physically see the land – and in that I realized that they were my fellow people, that we speak the same language, love our families and are all humans. Understanding is the first key to any peace and compromise.”

The WHO notes that the country has a life expectancy of 67 years, or over 70 years if you are relying on the CIA World Factbook, which is impressive. Other data shows that while 3.7% of population drinks, mostly among men over 15 and not women, 78.9% abstain from drinking, with recorded alcohol consumption is steady over time, not increasing since the 1960s significantly. [27] Furthermore, while tobacco usage is strong among males, with almost half of males, smoking, smoke-free legislation affecting hospitals, non-university educational facilities, and public transit. There is also strong tobacco cessation support, partial funding of tobacco cessation, warning on tobacco packages, no tobacco vending machines.

An event takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture on World No Tobacco Day. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

This is manifested by the fact that late last month, at the People’s Palace of Culture, the country honored World No Tobacco Day. During that day, as the Pyongyang Times reported, officials of the country’s Public Health Ministry, resident diplomatic missions, and international health organizations, talked about how tobacco is a threat to development.The Vice-Director of the Public Health Ministry, Choe Suk Hyon, was quoted as saying that they made achievements in tobacco control the previous year, saying the following:

“What is important in tobacco control is to conduct large scale educational campaigns to publicize the negative impact of smoking on the health and socio-economic life. And we should strengthen scientific research on smoking cessation products which help quit smoking.”

Others, like the representative of the WHO to the DPRK, praised the Korean females in the country for being at the “vanguard of no-smoking campaign” but still wanted them to help their “fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons to quit smoking if they are smokers” and noted that there is a “newly-revised tobacco control law of the DPRK” with no-smoking “information activities were conducted at the central and provincial hygienic information halls and medical institutions across the country.” While the US has developed strong anti-smoking measures as well, there is still a formidable tobacco industry in the United States, something the DPRK doesn’t have.

Apart from strong tobacco control, low alcohol consumption, and general healthcare in the country, there are a number of other accomplishments. For one, infant mortality declined from 1990s to present (same with people with tuberculosis), there has been a relatively steady amount in people with HIV/ AIDS (the country is likely an “AIDS free zone” by now), and immunization for DTP3 among children under 1 almost 100%. Furthermore, maternal death rate has also dramatically declined, less stunting of children than on the past, strong antenatal care, 100% of births attended by skilled health personnel, and broad measles immunization. If that isn’t enough, there almost complete treatment for tuberculosis, obesity is not a major cause for death (like in the US) but rather it is raised blood pressure among those in their twenties, and much of the population is using improved water and sanitation, to name a few. [28] Other WHO reports show that the population receives Vitamin A supplements to counter some deficiencies, and that the under five mortality rate has been dropping rapidly.

In one medical article apart from the others, there is some praise of the DPRK. In an article that is broadly against the country, the medical researchers must admit that “the burden of mortality due to communicable diseases and malnutrition in North Korea is relatively low in terms of both quantity, expressed in the death rate, and quality,” that tuberculosis’s “mortality rates have declined continuously in the past 15 years.” In one article of a “country study” of the DPRK, it is noted that back in 1938-40 life expectancy was only 38 years old, while it was “70.9 years for males and 77.3 years for females” by 1986, with infant mortality declining, a ” substantial increase in the number of hospitals and clinics, hospital beds, physicians, and other health-care personnel since the 1950s,” growing from 285 in 1955 to 2,401 in 1986, with specialized hospitals, “including those devoted to treating tuberculosis, hepatitis, and mental illness, are generally found in large cities,” and preventive medicine a major focus. Adding to this, a public health law was passed in April 1980 saying that the “State regards it as a main duty in its activity to take measures to prevent the people from being afflicted by disease and directs efforts first and foremost to prophylaxis in public health work” while medical examinations are “required twice a year, and complete records are kept at local hospitals” with a high value afforded on “traditional herbal medicine” and physical education an important part of public health with people “encouraged to take part in recreational sports activities such as running, gymnastics, volleyball, ice skating, and traditional Korean games” along with “group gymnastic exercises.”

There are further aspects worth noting. For one, even with the “development of informal health-care practices” in the country since the 1990s, this sector has actually contributed to the “formal socialist health-care system.” In 2007, the DPRK spent 3.02% of its GDP on health expenditures. In 2013, the DPRK spent 38.8% of their budget that year on “health, education, sport, music, art and culture” with an increase of 2.2% for healthcare spending.It is also worth noting that even the World Food Programme must admit that most households aren’t food insecure (see page 33 of this PDF), belaying claims of “famine” in the country.

Recent developments

Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

There have been numerous developments of the DPRK’s socialist healthcare system in recent years. In 2010, with the help of WHO, the country launched a “medical video conference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang.” [29] Three years later, the DPRK developed a  “clinical medicine information service system” which contained “details on 12,000 pharmaceuticals and 154,000 kinds of medicines from more than 50 countries” as Voice of Korea, a state media outlet, noted.

There are other aspects worth noting. While the DPRK has requested medical aid from the UN (since they are under harsh sanctions), they have still made strides. [30] Last year, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology noted that it was testing a 3D printer for use in medical settings, with likely some progress made. This month The Pyongyang Times reported that a two-storey new people’s hospital opened in Tongsinhung-ri with “over  10 rooms for special treatment and sophisticated homemade medical and experimental apparatuses” and is part of “the telemedicine system whereby it is connected to such central hospitals…[and] linked online to provincial, city and county hospitals.” [31] It was also noted that using this system, the “latest medical science and technology are disseminated and training courses are given by medical workers at central hospitals,” with increased abilities, with telemedicine,”in raising their abilities as well as in treating patients.” Less than a week ago, Kim Jung Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, inspected the newly built Dental Care Supplies Factory, which has a floor space of 12,720 square metres, with the factory able to “turn out annually tens of millions of tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash and a variety of dental care supplies.” [32] In that visit he noted that “the Party [WPK] and government are taking full responsibility for the people’s lives and health and that such socialist healthcare is one and only in the world,” adding that factories like this are “needed to ensure the people lead a worthwhile life enjoying themselves the benefits of socialist healthcare.”

Like Cuba, which sends doctors abroad, the DPRK also sends doctors abroad for humanitarian reasons. Even those with anti-DPRK beliefs have to admit this. In July of last year, the DPRK’s ambassador, Jang Myong Ho, visited the al-Assad University Hospital in Damascus, affirming the country’s readiness to support and aid Syria’s health sector, hailing the medical services provided by the hospital, saying that Syrian government had a “just health policy and commitment to provide free treatment to all citizens despite the difficult economic conditions under the current crisis.” He also added that this anniversary of 50 years diplomatic and friendly bilateral relations between the DPRK and Syria is “historical and exemplary,” noting that these relations have been “developed and enhanced” over the years.

With all of this, perhaps it is no surprise that the proposed sanctions would have targeted the healthcare system of the DPRK and their socialist economy also, of course. As I noted in my post on these sanctions,

[while] these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the US Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war…Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year, mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s socialist, centrally-planned economy

Concluding words

At the Korean Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability. Courtesy of Imgur, assembled in an album and posted on /r/communism by yours truly.

The healthcare system of the DPRK should be celebrated as an achievement of socialism, not something to ridicule. While the bourgeois media focus on the country’s “problems” there is no doubt that they don’t want people to know of these successes. With the ROK having one of the “world’s highest suicide rates, having overtaken that of Japan” and the leading “cause of death is cancer, followed by cerebrovascular and heart disease” even with their “universal health insurance system that is compulsory and covers employees and their relatives (National Health Insurance, NHI),” there are high doctor consulting fees, and “long waiting lines for treatment and high costs.” The DPRK doesn’t have those issues and doesn’t work with the US to streamline their system to help the Western capitalist class. There are many other resources I could have consulted to finish up this article. [33] As good comrades, we should stand in solidarity with the DPRK against the clear imperialist aggressors. Anyone who doesn’t do so is not only not a real comrade, but they also are not a communist in name or action.

The life within the DPRK and the country’s policies are not what the West says it is. The country has stood by those fighting for national liberation, has a developed socialistic democracy, and has celebrated the International Day of Persons With Disabilities in 2015, and in years afterward (and before). The country has worked with the UNDP to increase its food security and food production.

Some say that the country became “revisionist” after 1972. Those issues will be addressed in another post when I look at all countries which are called “revisionist.” Here is not the place for that. Rather, it is better to let people make up their own minds about the DPRK. This can come through reading a number of books, or looking at other resources. [34] If a war with the DPRK occurs, started by the unhinged fascist, Trump, who can be easily swayed, we should be prepared to support it even if all many of those in our host country (especially if you live in the West) support the war with a fervor. Not standing by the DPRK and against war would show the weakness of “the Left” and prove the capitalists had “won,” something that none of us want.

Notes

[1] Samuel Smith, “22-Y-O American Otto Warmbier Dies After Spending 17 Months in North Korean Prison,” Christian Post, June 19, 2017; Stacey Leasca, “Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the American student’s capture and release in North Korea,” Mic.com, June 19, 2017; Shreesha Gosh, “Donald Trump Says Otto Warmbier Death Caused By North Korea’s ‘Brutal Regime’,” International Business Times, June 20, 2017; Josh Lederman and Matthew Pennington, “Efforts of one U.S. official bring Otto Warmbier home,” AP, June 18, 2017; David Choi, “‘No words were spoken’ — Otto Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea describes the day Warmbier was arrested,” Business Insider, June 19, 2017; Andy Sharp, “Student’s Death Puts Trump Back to Square One on North Korea,” Bloomberg News, June 20, 2017; Maggie Fox, “What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot,” NBC News, June 20, 2017; Patrick Grafton Green, “Who is Otto Warmbier? Why did North Korea imprison him? How did he die? All we know on late American student,” Evening Standard, June 20, 2017; Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Choe Sang-Hun, “Otto Warmbier’s Death a New Wedge Between U.S. and North Korea,” New York Times, June 20, 2017. Months of diplomacy for this release seemed to fade into the background.

[2] Fuster Kung, “Death of American detained in North Korea baffles experts,” AP, June 20, 2017, reprinted in the Washington Post; CNN Wire, “John McCain: North Korea ‘murdered’ former detainee Otto Warmbier,” NBC 4, June 20, 2017; Fred Haitt, “Remind me again why we ignore the thousands languishing in North Korea’s concentration camps?,” National Post, June 19, 2017, reprinted from the Washington Post; Christian Caryl, “The North Koreans treated Otto Warmbier like one of their own,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Gordon D. Chang, “State-Sanctioned Murder: North Korea Killed Otto Warmbier,” The Daily Beast, June 19, 2017; Danika Fears, “North Korea kills American student,” New York Post, June 19, 2017; Cortney O’Brien, “Rubio Minces No Words: Warmbier Was ‘Murdered’,” TownHall, June 19, 2017; Patrick Maguire, “Otto Warmbier’s death reminds us of North Korea’s brutality,” New Statesman,  June 2017; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Claims Otto Warmbier Sought Regime Change,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2017; Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman, “Otto Warmbier’s death after release from North Korean detention brings sympathy, anger,” Dayton Daily News, June 19, 2017; CBS News, “S. Korean leader says N. Korea bears “heavy responsibility” for Otto Warmbier’s death,” June 23, 2017.

[3] Bill Chappell, “Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea,” NPR News, June 20, 2017; Andreas Litmer, “Warmbier death: Will people still travel to North Korea?,” BBC News, June 20, 2017; Charlie Chappell, “Otto Warmbier’s Death May Spell the End of American Tourism to North Korea. Sadly, That’s About It,” Time.com, June 22, 2017; Neil Connor, “Otto Warmbier’s travel agency stops taking American tourists to North Korea after ‘risk became too high’,” The Telegraph, June 20, 2017; Adly Choi, “Inside the Sketchy Travel Company That Took Otto Warmbier to North Korea,” Nextshark, June 23, 2017. The father of Warmbier did make an honest perception of the horridness of this company even though it has anti-DPRK diatribes within it: “This Chinese company has slick ads on the internet, claiming no American ever gets detained…They lure Americans. And that’s what happened to my son. He was trying to leave the country and he was taken hostage. They advertise it as the safest tour ever. But they provide fodder for the North Koreans. They took him hostage. And the outcome is self-evident.”

[4] Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley, and James Griffiths, “Exclusive: North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN in Pyongyang,” CNN, Jan. 11, 2016; Taehoon Lee, “North Korea detains fourth US citizen,” CNN, May 8, 2017; BBC News, “North Korean university names detained US citizen,” Apr. 24, 2017; Tom Cleary, “Tony Kim aka Kim Sang-Duk: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy.com, May 1, 2017; Anna Fifield, “North Korea detains American at airport,” Washington Post, Apr. 23, 2017; KCNA, “Relevant Institution of DPRK Detains American Citizen Jin Xue Song,” May 7, 2017; James Pearson, “North Korea detains third U.S. citizen,” Reuters, Apr. 23, 2017. On May 7th, KCNA said “a relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Jin Xue Song [Kim Hak-song] on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspicion of his hostile acts against it. He had worked for operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crime.” Currently there are FOUR detained foreign nationals in DPRK, if Wikipedia is right.

[5] Kathy L. Gilbert, “North Korea releases comatose Otto Warmbier,” United Methodist News Service, June 15, 2017; Pyongyang Times, “American Arrested for His Hostile Act against DPRK,” Jan. 23, 2016.

[6] Pyongyang Times, “American Arrestee Interviewed,” Pyongyang Times, March 1, 2016; Pyongyang Times, “American Student Sentenced to 15 Years of Hard Labor in DPRK,” Pyongyang Times, Mar. 16, 2016.

[7] This English translation is very close to another I found from WIPO records.

[8] Jason Hanna, Joshua Berlinger, and Emanuella Grinberg, “Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury,” CNN, June 16, 2017.

[9] Maggie Fox, “Otto Warmbier Has Extensive Brain Damage, Doctors Say,” NBC News, June 16, 2017.

[10] “American citizen released,” Pyongyang Times, June 16, 2017.

[11] KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Accuses U.S. of Slandering Humanitarian Measure,” June 23, 2017.

[12] KCNA, “DPRK bashing by the US and s. Korea prompts firestorm of protest,” Pyongyang Times, June 25, 2017.

[13] Jonathan Allen, “Otto Warmbier’s family declines autopsy for US student released by North Korea,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “An objective assessment of Warmbier’s fate: Challenging U.S mythologies,” June 20, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “Otto Warmbier as a symbol of American Privilege,” June 18, 2017.

[14] Daily NK, “The dire reality of “universal health care” in North Korea,” June 2, 2015; Barbara Demick, “North Korea’s healthcare is a horror, report says,” Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2010; Caroline Gluck, “N Korea healthcare ‘near collapse’,” BBC News, Nov. 20, 2001; The Week Staff, “North Korea’s ‘horrifying’ health care system,” The Week, July 19, 2010; The Telegraph, “North Korea’s health system ‘on its knees’,” July 15, 2010; Laura Oneale, “North Korea’s Health Dilemma,” June 22, 2013; Freekorea.us, “A guerrilla health care system for North Korea’s poor,” Sept. 28, 2015; Radio Free Asia, “North Korean Health Care ‘Fails’,” July 20, 2010; Sean Alfano, “North Korea’s health care horror, doctors sometimes perform amputations without anesthesia: report,” NY Daily News, July 15, 2010.

[15] I’m not even going to link this horrible report, just the title page if those who are skeptical want to “prove” that I’m right, which would be utterly obnoxious. If you want to read hideous, digusting, orientalist propaganda and fill your mind with lies, go right ahead, but you’ll be no comrade of him.

[16] BBC News, “Aid agencies row over North Korea health care system,” July 16, 2010.

[17] Josiah Cha, “‘Every patient had malnutrition’ – on a medical mission in North Korea,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015. I think this is the same medical mission.

[18] See pages 126, 127, 128, 129, 130.

[19] As CNN (“Red Cross: North Korea medical system near collapse,” Nov. 6, 1997) and hateful “North Korea watchers” (Liberty in North Korea, “SONGBUN | Social Class in a Socialist Paradise,” June 25, 2012) admit, if you read between the lines, capitalism almost caused the DPRK’s healthcare system to collapse in the 1990s.

[20] The report also acknowledges the achievement in “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; [and] genuinely free housing.”

[21] Jonathan Lynn, “North Korea has plenty of doctors: WHO,” Reuters, Apr. 30, 2010.

[22] Brett Schaefer, “United Nations Defends North Korean Health Care System,” The Daily Signal, July 22, 2010; Sierra Rayne, “WHO’s Delusions on North Korea’s Health Care System,” American Thinker, July 24, 2013.

[23] In their travel guidelines for the DPRK, it almost sounds Orientalist, implying that US hospitals are wonderful, shining, and happy compared to those in the DPRK: “Medical facilities in the DPRK lack resources and electricity. Medical personnel have inadequate or outdated skills. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Avoid surgery. If you have an accident outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be lengthy and without medical assistance.”

[25] They have also “adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.””

[26] The ROK claims that chemical weapons were developed here, but it undoubtedly a total lie.

[27] 95% of those who drink, drink spirits. There is also strong alcohol consumption by males, more than among females.

[28] This information also says that stroke leading cause of death, with probability of dying highest among men over 70, low in all other categories. It also says that people under age 5 mostly die of prematurity and other causes, that over 60% of population in urban areas, and that life expectancy varies depending on age. It is also worth noting that 16.3% of parliament is composed of women.

[29] Sangwoon Won, “North Korea launches medical videoconference network with help of WHO,” Associated Press, 2010. Reprinted on http://www.wellness.com/.

[30] Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea requests medical aid from U.N. agencies,” UPI, July 6, 2015. There are also claims they were trying to learn from China about AIDs.

[31] Han Ryo Gyong, “Rural hospital benefits from telemedicine,” Pyongyang Times, June 24, 2017.

[32] Pyongyang Times, “Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory,” June 20, 2017; Rodong Sinmun, “Kim Jong Un Inspects New Dental Sanitary Goods Factory,” June 20, 2017.

[33] See data here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (likely on archive.org), and this book.

[34] See here for the following books: “Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim Il Sung“; “Modern Korea: The Socialist North, Revolutionary Perspectives in the South, and Unification“; “The Historical Experience of the Agrarian Reform in Our Country“; “North Korean Journey: The Revolution Against Colonialism“; “Modern History of Korea.” Bruce Cummings is no help here. Neither is this article. As for “Jaka Parker” I haven’t watched any videos to have a viewpoint one way or the other.

“Until imperialism is defeated in the region”: The Kurds and the Syrian Arab Republic

Overlay of oil/gas pipelines with Rojava territory. I created this for one of the articles on Rojava I wrote, posting it on Imgur. I am sharing here since I feel it is relevant to this topic. As I said in my article, this map overlay “shows that oil and natural gas pipelines snake through it [Rojava], including one north from Aleppo, and others going through the heart of the territory in Northeast Syria where there is also a concentration of oil and gas fields.”
Recently, I read an article in Worker’s World by an author called Damien or “D. Angelpoulos,” a man who may be a student at a Michigan University. For reasons not yet known, it was deleted (also see here). Regardless, I feel it is only a fair to address his article after writing a two-part series on Dissident Voice about Rojava. The first part, titled “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava” focused on the broad contours of the supposed “state” while the second one, titled the “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics” focused on how this entity is illegal and had illegitimate sovereignty under existing law. Each of those pieces will be quoted and summarized below.

Responding to Mr. Angelpoulos’s article

Mr. Angelpoulos has a very different, while informed, perspective than yours truly. He writes that..

For the past six years, the United States, Israel, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council have waged an unrelenting proxy war against the sovereign, secular state of Syria. The U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army, called “moderate rebels” in the corporate-owned media, fights openly alongside forces backed by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These forces, really mercenaries or contras, which include the Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra (al-Qaida in Syria), Jaysh al-Islam and others, are largely constituted of foreign fighters.

While this is undoubtedly true, it is more than just the Free Syrian Army or FSA. As I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics,” herein called “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” there is a new “rebel” group in town: the Free Idlib Army or the FIA, a part of the FSA:

…the Free Idlib Army (FIA), [is] a division of the FSA which would theoretically fight “jihadist groups and pro-government forces in [the] northwestern Idlib province” even as it faces likely targeting from such “al-Qaida-linked factions,” even though it has coordinated with them before. The FIA entity, consisting of 30,000 to 35,000 people, is undoubtedly, as one analyst put it, “100 percent an American project,” with weaponry, financial aid, and more, funneled through Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi (MOM), an operations center based in Turkey, operated by the CIA with the supervision of the Turks.

I do not know why Mr. Angelpoulos did not mention this in his article. He almost seems to play the clickbait tab, saying that the “anti-imperialist left” of which he does not define is missing out on “one front in this proxy war” omitting it from their analyses of the situation:

Since last August [2016], the U.S. has been engaged in Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, claiming this is an attempt to “liberate” Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State…The U.S. has aided the Turkish-led operation in an alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

For one, this is confusing way of wording it, since Operation Euphrates Shield is actually a name for the Turkish military invasion of the sovereign Syrian state, not a US-led operation. However, articles from the “Turkish military intervention in Syria” Wikipedia page, only a good starting point on this subject, not a good source in general, indicate that the US has provided air support for Turkish military operations (and in general), but seemed to halt such support in November of last year. Furthermore, there are reports that the operation has “ended” which he also doesn’t say.

The SDF’s largest fighting force is the YPG…The YPG is allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and both are allied with the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long fight for self-determination of the Kurdish region inside Turkish boundaries against the brutally oppressive Turkish state.

This is partially deceptive. Although I admit that I do not know everything about this conflict, I think it is worth pointing out that while the PKK has been involved in a decades-long fight within Turkish in which they have been brutally attacked by the Turkish state, they dropped their demand for an independent Kurdistan when Abdullah Öcalan, the “Wizard-of-Oz” of Rojava, was arrested. Furthermore, lest us forget, as I noted in “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava,” called “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” in the rest of this article, the YPG and SDF were helped by US airpower in their efforts to seize control of about 26,000 sq km of Syria, including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” which basically constitutes Rojava.

In a sign of the contradictions inherent in U.S. imperialist policy toward Syria, on April 25 Turkish planes attacked units of the YPG in northern Syria, killing as many as 70 fighters. While U.S. diplomats said they raised concerns with NATO-ally Turkey regarding this strike, nothing concrete was done to stop future Turkish attacks against Kurdish fighters. (Reuters, April 25) This is one example in Washington’s long history of apparently backing one oppressed people and then turning on them.

You could call this an imperialist contradiction. However, but I would also say it fits with the imperial divide-and-rule tactics to break up the Syrian Arab Republic and nearby “hostile” states so they can ruled effectively to benefit Western capitalists. So, in many senses it isn’t as much as a contradiction as you might think, since the Turks AND and these Kurdish fighters are assisting Western imperialist objectives.

Many progressive people see the YPG, which is mostly made up of Kurdish fighters but includes other ethnic minorities as well as Western “foreign volunteers,” as representing the just struggle for Kurdish national liberation. Organized along democratic principles without a vertical chain of command, the forces of the YPG and their movement in northern Syria claim to model their “non-state” on anarchist, eco-socialist principles. The YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, provide an active leadership role for women in their struggle.

I think that “progressive people” who see the YPG as representing a “just struggle for Kurdish liberation” and as organized “along democratic principles” is typical of the Western and some across the international left. However, as I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” the “state” itself is ILLEGAL. Not only does its creation clearly violate the Syrian Constitution, tearing at the national fabric of unity, but it violates the UN Charter. Hence, it is an illegal entity with illegitimate sovereignty. As I said throughout my series on this topic, Rojava would not exist if it was not for intervention of Western capitalist powers.

The Kurds are a historically oppressed nation of 30 million to 35 million people. They are the world’s largest nation without a state. Most live in the contiguous, underdeveloped, mountainous region spanning four countries and speak their own language. About 14.5 million to 16 million Kurds live in Turkey, 6 million in Iran and 5 million to 6 million in Iraq. The 1.5 million to 2 million Kurds in Syria are the smallest grouping of this nation.

The estimates of how many Kurds there are worldwide vary. The Kurdish Project, a rabidly pro-Kurd website, claims there are 30 million within the ethnic community whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica says it could be as low as 25 million and Cultural Survival says it is 18 million. So, for him to say that they are the world’s largest group of people who is stateless seems questionable if best. This puts his other claims of population figures into question. As I noted in “A Liberated Area in the Middle East,” some have said that there are 4.6 million people within the illegal entity of Rojava. I am aware that the UN Charter talks about self-determination and that the principle, as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is that all peoples “have the right of self-determination” and the ability to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Some would say that Rojava falls under their requirements, which could be interpreted in an anti-imperialist manner. However, I would argue that just because people have that right, which the good “Kurds” have shown they have exercised, does NOT mean they have to use that right. In this case, the right should be waived and not enforced as that would mean, ultimately, victory for the sneering imperialists. Furthermore, it is worth noting that “self-determination is limited by conditions on territorial integrity” as an anti-Soviet bourgeois scholar even admitted (also see here).

Mr. Angelpoulos goes on to say that

During the Kurdish people’s fight for liberation from Turkey, Washington has supplied arms, logistical and satellite assistance, and political support for the Turkish ruling classes against the PKK, which the U.S. labels as “terrorist.” Yet in Syria, Washington has a cynical, opportunistic alliance with the YPG, using those forces to accomplish its aims of destroying the Syrian state. At times, the Syrian Democratic Forces/YPG have coordinated with the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against IS and other mercenary armies. However, SDF/YPG now operate in coordination with the U.S. military. Despite the SDF/YPG’s progressive principles and organizational structure, the Pentagon’s aim is to have it function as an effective proxy for the U.S. geopolitical goal of dismantling the Syrian state.

There is no doubt that the US has allied with the Turks to suppress the Kurds in the past. I think he is right that the YPG, along with other “good” (by Western standards) Kurds, unlike the “bad” (by Western standards) pro-Syrian government Kurds, as I note in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” is serving as an US proxy force. However, I think he is giving the SDF and YPG too much credit.

It is not obvious what aggression the U.S. plans next for Syria after its deadly April 6 strike on the Sharyat airfield and the May 18 bombing of a Syrian government convoy. If Washington significantly steps up direct U.S. intervention, it will expect cooperation from the SDF in providing ground forces. The Pentagon has already been able to build two air bases in northeastern Syria in the past few months.

It is a good point that U.S. plans for Syria after the April 6 act of aggression and imperial show of force, are not clear. However, as I see it, that attack was a turning point. It meant that US foreign policy was basically being handed over to the Pentagon carte blanche, without restriction. Instead of colluding with the imperialists like Obama, Trump seems to be willing to let them do whatever they want.

Since last year, the U.S. has been sending special forces troops to northern Syria. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated since the U.S. sent several hundred more ground troops to Syria in the beginning of March, “All foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.” Assad, who is constantly demonized in the U.S. corporate media, is the democratically elected leader of the people of Syria.

On this count, Mr. Angelpoulos is right. As I said in the opening of “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” currently over 17.1 million living in the socially democratic and secular  Syrian Arab Republic which is “ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations” the government led by the duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syria’s parliament, reaffirmed in April 2016 elections by the Syrian people. It is recently that Trump dealt such Syrians “a blow” by directly supporting the “good” Kurds.

The YPG has been bolstered not only by U.S. special forces but also by foreign volunteers including people from the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries. Among them is Brace Belden, who had a Rolling Stone magazine centerfold feature on his role and inspired an upcoming Hollywood film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the “punk florist-turned-revolutionary.” Another volunteer is Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman and former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the first foreign volunteer in the Women’s Protection Units. These individuals violate Syrian sovereignty and package the  U.S. invasion of Syria as a progressive, “socialist” struggle against Islamic state fascism.

This is undoubtedly true. In “A Liberated Area of the Middle East” I noted how that fact that the YPG were US proxy forces dismayed “two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia”.” If you were going to fight at all in Syria, why not fight on behalf of the Syrian state. To fight on behalf of the YPG and the “good” Kurds is a violent act aimed at the Syrian proletariat and makes those that engage in such acts clear and blatant class traitors. There is no question about this. Such people undoubtedly violate Syrian sovereignty as well, there is no question.

The Rand Corporation think tank has drawn up various “peace plans” throughout the war, detailing the U.S. and its allies’ latest plans for the partition of Syria. The most recent, dated this year, projects large swathes of Kurdish-administered territory extending about halfway to Raqqa in the south and almost to Manbij in the west, as well as a corner encompassing Azaz in northwestern Syria. Buffering these zones are “proposed international administration” zones, code words for NATO occupation and Turkish-controlled areas. Notably, these “Kurdish zones” in northeastern Syria encompass much of the country’s greatest natural wealth, including its largest oil reserves.

I would not be surprised by the fact that Rand would engage in such politicking and call for the break-up of the country. After some searching, I found the report (I think) referenced here, and is one of RAND’s “scenarios” on what could happen:

In Syria, a peace process has resulted in recognized “zones of control” divided among the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the regime, and the opposition…After the zones are announced, a wave of internal displacement further consolidates Kurdish populations in the PYD zone of control; minorities including ‘Alawis, Christians, and Druze in the regime zone of control; and Sunni Arabs in the opposition zone of control. Mixed towns and border areas where the zones abut are the sites of particular ethnosectarian bloodletting. Even in microstates too small to partition, Sunni and Shi‘a self-segregate by neighborhood, with Manama and Kuwait City, particularly, divided between heavily Sunni and heavily Shi‘a neighborhoods…On the one hand, less interaction between sects decreases the daily incidence of conflict. On the other hand, the segregation of communities deepens prejudices, foreshadowing a brewing conflict

Hence, this does not seem to be what they are advocating, but it is a proposal they have under advisement to say the least. Another report actually seems to advocate intervention in the region, showing that the “good” Kurds can (and should stay) allies for the murderous empire:

…Located almost entirely in the north of the country, Syrian Kurds have a longstanding history of opposition to the Assad regime…Syrian Kurds are pressing forward against IS with U.S. military support, and their surging confidence led them to claim an independent state in the northwest…the most effective Kurdish forces engaged with IS…[are more] effective at offensive operations and, ostensibly, more useful for postconflict stability…the extreme violence of the Syrian war has made reconciliation with al-Assad all but impossible…this option seeks to protect Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-Alawi Syrians; create safe spaces for the return of refugees; and establish alternative governance in non-Alawi areas. Military force, including ground forces, may be used to expel GoS military forces from southern Syria and to expel IS from urban area. All military activities will focus on the reduction of the IS threat and the creation of safe zones for Syrian civilians. In the medium term, the United States and the coalition will invest in repatriation and reconstruction activities within these safe zones, focusing on the eventual development of legitimate local and regional governance. These efforts will be leverage to press Russia to negotiate and help remove Bashar al-Assad from power, while retaining Russian and many Iranian equities in Syria…To defeat IS and prevent its return, the United States will have to help mitigate or resolve all the major issues currently destabilizing Iraq. This means that the United States will have to remain heavily engaged in Iraq for many years, perhaps decades, just as it has remained engaged in Korea after the mid-20th century Korean War and in Kosovo more than two decades after U.S.-led coalition intervention there…this plan would…[include] a national program to recognize the bravery of Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish militia fighters… the incorporation of Kurdish paramilitary units into the ISF [Iraqi Security Force]…As Iraq stabilizes, it will become far more attractive to regional states as a safe investment for both private and capital wealth funds…the United States could ignore the civil war and focus on the tactical defeat of IS, leveraging Kurdish; Arab; and, if necessary, American and coalition military forces to expel the group from Raqqa and render it incapable of international terror attacks…All efforts should be made to keep the Kurds within a legitimate Syrian state, at least until Syria is fully stabilized…Ideally, Turkey will be a signatory to the Syria agreement and will accept the incorporation of YPG and other groups into the Syrian armed services in exchange for reduced Kurdish independence in the north

Not only does this raise the idea of creating zones for certain ethnicities so they can be easily controlled by the West within Syria, but it would mean, if implemented, a stronger military presence in Iraq (and in Syria undoubtedly), accompanying the overthrow of the duly elected Syrian government with the installation of a “friendly” government. Then after all of that, the US would use the Kurds as imperialist enforcers! Additionally, as a result, the US could easily accept the creation of a Kurdish state by this logic, as the above quote makes clear. This is a terrifying prospect because such a state and these machinations would lead to more chaos and destruction in the Mideast.

If the U.S. aids the SDF to annex northeastern Syria, this will not lead to any meaningful form of Kurdish independence. Rather, it will mean the Kurdish forces will be subordinate to and will collaborate with the U.S., much as the Kurdish regime does inside Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. will destroy what remains of Syria and purge any progressive forces in the Kurdish movement.

While I could see this as a possibility, based on the RAND report quoted above, a Kurdish state could be created, but it would be subservient to US imperialism. If what he says occurred, there is no doubt that Syria would be destroyed and any progressives in the Kurdish movement could be purged, although the latter may not matter as long as such progressives are willing to bow to their new masters in Washington. More worrying is the fact that Trump seems to be taking DIRECTLY out of the RAND playbook by sending arms and equipment to the “good” Syrians:

Washington has found an effective partner in the mixed Kurdish and Sunni Arab Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which is dominated by a Syrian Kurdish faction closely linked to a violent separatist movement in Turkey in conflict with the Turkish state. This force has isolated Raqqa and is poised for an assault on the city, but lacks the weaponry that may be necessary for success. Turkey is strongly opposed to any further extension of Kurdish control within Syria and equally opposed to any American effort to arm the SDF. Washington must therefore choose whether to ignore Turkish objections and arm the SDF, seek direct Turkish army participation in the assault as a substitute, or add some American units to the assault force. Waiting for the Turkish army and its Syrian allies to arrive will require postponing the operation several months, with an uncertain end result. Arming the Kurdish‑dominated SDF and introducing additional American forces into Syria,beyond the special operations troops already there, may be the fastest and surest way of retaking Raqqa and other Islamic State territory…Employing Kurdish led forces to liberate Raqqa requires the United States to convincingly assure Turkey that Kurds will not occupy this region once it has been cleared of the Islamic State. This will in turn require some clear understanding between Washington and the Syrian Kurdish authorities. It also requires the availability of some alternative hold force. Once Raqqa and the surrounding region have been cleared, the United States will need to help that hold force resist attacks from residual Islamic State fighters, other violent extremist groups, and the regime…We suggest Washington should offer to place Raqqa, once liberated, under some form of international administration

Once again, these Kurds would be serving Western imperialism, and Raqqa would be in the hand of gleeful imperialists. There is no doubt about that.

At this point, Washington sees the claims to a separate Kurdish region based out of northern Syria as fitting its goal of dividing Syria. With the Syrian state under siege, the attempt to create a Kurdish “autonomous” zone under U.S. guidance is in direct contradiction to the preservation of Syrian sovereignty in defense against imperialism. The U.S. has made this abundantly clear, saying that it plans to station its forces in Syria even once IS has been eliminated.

He is right about that. Creating a Kurdish region that is “autonomous” would clearly violate Syrian sovereignty. But it also would serve the interests of imperialist destruction. Hence, it could be a precursor to further US presence in the county.

Moreover, all of these events obscure the fact that the Syrian government and Kurdish groups have negotiated greater autonomy for the latter on their own terms before. If there is to be any change in the relationship between the Syrian state and its Kurdish inhabitants, it is clear that this change cannot be imposed by the imperialist powers. The U.S., NATO and their allies should have no say in this history.

In this case, I think he is exaggerating the relations between the “good” Kurds and Syrian government. Such relations seem to include possibly partial recognition, but also have been in question since the Syrian government may see such groups as imperial proxies. They likely prefer the “bad” Kurds better, those groups that want to work with the Syrian government, not against it. I definitely agree with the sentiment that there should be non-interference in Syria, which means no meddling by the US imperialists.

The imperialists in the U.S. and elsewhere have planned a grim end for Syria: the destruction of the sovereign secular state in favor of Balkanized ethnic enclaves in the manner of Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and any other state that has defied destruction and imperialist plundering since the fall of the Soviet Union. This includes the current aggression against Syria, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I understand his viewpoint here, but I would not say that Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia are Balkanized ethnic enclaves. In fact, the US imperialists failed in that endeavor in Iraq, and likely in Libya which is in the midst of the bloody civil war, from what I can tell. However, it is true that this measure did happen in Yugoslavia, a place where the most of the inhabitants of this former system of federalism “seem willing to share their societies with ethnic and religious groups different from their own” with a few exceptions. Hence, in that case, US imperialism did not succeed either. But, undoubtedly this idea is carried over to Venezuela (which Trump wants to “fix,” whatever that means) and the DPRK as well, which is troubling and should be stopped at all costs.

There can be no genuine liberation for any peoples — Arab, Kurdish or otherwise — until imperialism is defeated in the region and the right of self-determination is fully realized and respected. Anti-war and other activists in the U.S. and NATO states must stand in full solidarity with the right of all nations to develop their collective livelihood, culture and economy without interference from imperialists. Hands off Syria! All mercenaries out of Syria! Uphold self-determination!

Again, he is correct. Defeating imperialism in the Middle East is needed for genuine liberation of any people to occur. As I noted in a footnote of “The Illegal Entity of Rojava,” if circumstances were different, with the “good” Kurds asking “for direct support from Russia, China, and the Syrian government, instead going directly to grinning Western imperialists, then I would be inclined to engage in international solidarity with them.” I still stand by that claim. I would add Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe (which is facing its threats of violence against the elected government coming from the US-backed opposition) to the list of nations under attack as well, along with others that could easily be added to the list.

Further comments on the “notion of American empire” (a.k.a. the murderous empire)

“The action of U.S. warplanes bombing a Syrian government military convoy near the town of al-Tanf on May 18 marks a sharp escalation of the U.S. campaign to overthrow the elected Syrian government and to dismember the country. It must be protested by all who oppose U.S. imperialism’s aggression. With bloody irony, the Pentagon claimed it attacked the Syrian government convoy because the Syrian trucks had entered “an established ‘de-confliction zone’.”The convoy had moved within 18 miles of a U.S. military base…The Pentagon set up this base without permission by the Syrian government…The Russian government called the U.S. attack a breach of Syrian sovereignty. The air attack took place as President Donald Trump left the U.S. to visit Saudi Arabia…The U.S. bombing also comes just after an agreement creating “de-escalation” zones in Syria was signed by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and non-al-Qaida groups that operate in Syria…The U.S. bombing was clearly designed to torpedo this agreement. Its goal is to re-enforce U.S.-defined “safe zones”…partition Syria and overturn the Bashar al-Assad government.”- Workers World Party, May 22.

While some telling the Kurds what they should focus on, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, head of the DIA, is declaring that “Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad,” showing that the imperialists are accepting the “inevitable.” Furthermore, are the stories about how the US-Turkey relationship could be permanently damaged if the “good” Kurds stay in Raqqa while the US gives the “good” Kurds armored vehicles, arms, “machinery, equipment, supplies” along with, as NPR even admitting, in their pro-military manner: “more American troops to head into Syria – maybe a couple of hundred” who are trainers along with “maintenance people to help with these armored vehicles” which would be there along with “some American troops close to the front lines in Syria, special operations forces like Green Berets and Navy SEALs, helping these local forces.”

Hence, the destruction of Syria will continue full force. I stand by what I said at the end “The illegal entity” about possible next steps for everyone reading the article:

…the next steps forward are up to everyone out there reading this and…the international “left[,]” which needs to get its act together with a strong message of international solidarity with governments (and peoples, but not the “good” Kurds) under attack, not division on countries such as Syria.

Hence, there needs to be a united front. After all, Trump is unpredictable in many ways, which some may say is positive but actually bodes badly in trying to counter US imperialism as it is hard to predict what will happen next. This reality of Trump was noted in a fawning Time magazine cover story. This piece said that Trump is not only tuning out “bad news about himself” but he “comes to office with no well-formed ideology,” which sounds a bit like Obama and the “blank screen.” The article further claims that he has “an evolving understanding of history and government” which is clear from his comments about Andrew Jackson ending the Civil War, and uses “his business acumen to help is more fervent supporters” while he is “extremely confident in his own judgment.” The article also notes that Trump has a social media director, Dan Scavino, formerly the general manager of Trump’s Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and that his “willingness to fight is unabated and unfiltered.”

Beyond that, the recent visit to Saudi Arabia seems to indicate that the US has its sights set on the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the Parliament Speaker of Iran, Ali Larijani, argued “it was both interesting and unbelievable to hear that the US President clearly announced the volume of cash he had received in order to make the visit” which seems to be true since he was not only there for US imperialism but to benefit his cronies (also see here) a sort of “foreign triumph” as he faces the never-ending “Russia conspiracy” the Democrats are using to push him out of office, to unseat him, to overthrow him. I say this even as I dislike Trump very much and feel he is an utter monster. Still, I don’t believe the claims of a such a conspiracy in the slightest. It is all a smokescreen to me even if questions about his stability in the future. Focusing on such a conspiracy distracts from the damage Trump and his loyal minions are doing to public lands, education, public assistance, and worldwide imperial aggression of course, while supporting increased police brutality at home. As for the journey to Saudi Arabia, it is part of a plan to create an “Arab NATO” which is an idea that threatens the region, which would cause increased instability since the Saudis sponsor many of the Islamic reactionary groups within the region. Clearly, this an anti-Iran move, anger at their measures to mitigate US imperialism.

The looming threat of war against Iran seems to be occurring at the same time the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seems to be winning on the battlefield, implying that Washington wants to stop such successes. As Al-Jaafari put it, their goal is to combat terrorism, but “state terrorism is being practiced against Syria” with violations of international humanitarian law. I could go on, but the reality is that the Russian and Syrian government forces are the only ones earnestly fighting terrorists. The US and their international coalition which killed 255 civilians last month as the worthless piece of junk, the Syrian Observatory for “Human Rights” (SOHR) which is an imperialist, anti-Syrian government outlet, claimed. The Syrian government is even moving its planes back to the airfield the US bombed in April, showing that the US show of force was worthless and pathetic. At the same time, the Russians seem to be willing to weaken the Syrian state and benefit the “good” Kurds possibly because they have a capitalist class as well and see something positive in the “good” Kurds. This is happening at the same time that the US slaps more sanctions on the Syrian government and by extension the Syrian people as a whole.

The Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds, and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice.

The Trump administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized Trump’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about Trump’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of Trump may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-Trump action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest Trump’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of Trump basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to Trump’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting Trump, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]

 

Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017;

Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

Trump’s strategy to fight ISIS: more imperialism?

This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.
This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.

While the bourgeois media is focused on Trump’s racist immigration ban, something has been missed by these complaint media outlets. I’m not talking about the five year lobbying ban (which may not be fully enforced) or the negotiating with Big Pharma to “bring down” drug prices (which just seems like an elaborate nothingness) but rather the long-awaited strategy of Trump to fight ISIS which has “arrived” on our doorstep.

A memorandum, published on January 28, declares a “Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Apart from the preamble which paints ISIS as a horrid, brutalistic, and barbarian organization, the short memo says that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated” (section 1) with the policy coordination, review, guidance, and other aspects of this memo described elsewhere (section 2). The document referenced in section 2 is one issued the same day, a document that reshuffles the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. It declares that the National Security Advisor and Homeland Security Advisor will determine the agenda of each of these committees, headed by Trump (or Pence in his place), with regular attendees including the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, State, and Treasury, the Attorney General, and US Ambassador to the United Nations, along with allowing, depending on the issue at hand, the Secretary of Commerce, US Trade Representative, and National Intelligence Director Without getting into any more detail, this memo could be said to engage in a major overhaul of the upper echelons of the National Security apparatus in the United States.

The document outlining the anti-ISIS “Plan” goes on, saying that a “new plan to defeat ISIS (the Plan)” will be developed “immediately” with the Secretary of Defense writing a draft. This draft will be, within a month, submitted to Trump, comprising “a comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS…recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions…public diplomacy, information operations, and cyber strategies to isolate and delegitimize ISIS…identification of new coalition partners in the fight against ISIS…mechanisms to cut off or seize ISIS’s financial support…[and] a detailed strategy to robustly fund the Plan.” The memo ends by saying that the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence (DIA), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Homeland Security Advisor, will develop the plan, compiling all the relevant information, and seeking any further information from “any appropriate source,” likely even right-wing and bigoted ones.

The two memos issued on January 28 don’t exactly outline the actions that the Trump Administration to “fight ISIS,” only proposing possible avenues. One way to tell how the policy will unfold in the coming months is to look at who will be developing the plan: Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, DIA Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. If Mnuchin, Bosser, and Coats are confirmed, working with Tillerson and others, then the policy will involve working with NATO, working with regional US imperial proxy states like Jordan, and continued support for the Saudi bombing in Yemen. Beyond this, the formulated policy would likely include a push for more markets, “ground troops” in countries like Syria, striking at “Islamist terrorism” with Islamophobic policy, and a continued war in Afghanistan. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Recent actions shine a light on how the possible strategy will unfold. Raids by US special forces will continue as part of national policy, along with drone strikes, to fight ISIS and any group deemed as “radical Islamic terrorists,” the new code words for the “enemy” in this era. While some thought that the recent raid in Yemen, which the Trump administration justified even though dozens of civilians were killed, including young children, would result in the government there stopping such strikes, this does not seem to be the case at all. Such raids may even bolster Al-Qaeda, though in saying this one should not be caught in the idea of “blowback” which many bourgeois progressives use as a reason for why the bombing is “bad.” Simply, Trump has revealed himself to be a war criminal, there’s no other way to put it.

As Nick Turse wrote on January 5, on the eve of the Trump Administration, we live in, as a result of the Obama presidency, a “gray zone,” a time when there is a “murky twilight between war and peace,” a time when elite troops were deployed in 138 countries across the world last year, with deployments across the African continent and ringing China, Russia, and Iran. For what we know so far, especially from his recent speech in which he called SOCOM‘s troops “legendary warriors” who engage in “the most secret, sensitive and daring missions in defense of the United States of America” with no enemy standing “a chance against our Special Forces — not even a chance.” Additionally, it seems evident that this horrid reality, coupled with private mercenaries for hire, will continue full force under Trump’s watch.

In terms of seeking “new coalition partners” to fight ISIS, there is a possibility these new partners would include Russia or maybe even Syria, the army of which is advancing in their fight against Western-backed terrorists. However, cooperation with Syria may be too optimistic since “safe zones” still seem to be on the mind of Trump. A Reuters report, on January 29, said that Trump and King Salaman of Saudi Arabia agreed to mutually “agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen,” purportedly for refugees. As anyone with sense knows, this is just a dressed up version of no-fly-zones and expanded US imperialism in the Syrian Arab Republic. In terms of safe zones in Yemen, this implies continued US support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, which has, already, killed over 11,000 people, and destroyed much of the country, including its vital infrastructure. There is no doubt that that Trump administration will ally with Gulf autocracies such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar, along with Yemen of course.

In the same Reuters report, it said that the White House agreed to work with Saudi Arabia to counter “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and debating if the Muslim Brotherhood should be deemed a terrorist organization by the US, then subject to sanctions. Clearly, on the issue of Iran, fundamentally little will change from Obama under the Trump administration. Sure, the agreement on Iran’s non-existent nuclear program will go away and Western mega-corporations will lose out on the “new” market in Iran, but the aggressive feelings of the United States toward the Islamic Republic will not go away. This much was indicated when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in a “muscular” response, declared that recent Iranian actions “underscore…Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” saying that the missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, claimed that the Iranians backed the Houthi forces in Yemen, and said that the Obama Administration was “weak and ineffective” in responding to “Tehran’s malign actions” but that the Trump Administration will condemn “such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk,” with this stance meaning that they are “officially putting Iran on notice.”

After the recent immigration ban, under which Trump gave the Saudis a free pass, which will likely harm the US, there have been calls to ban Americans from Iran, which will lead to continued aggression of an imperial nature. This also means that Saudi funding of terrorists in Syria (and across the region) may also get a pass, which would show the continuation of policy from Obama to Trump. Additionally, it seems very evident that war may be in the cards, with Trump directly threatening Iran, and possible war with Iran in the cards.

Other articles recent add to this, noting that more threats and sanctions (also see here) are being used against Iran by the United States (which could inflame the region), with the Trump Administration wanting to contain Iran, with Russia (and China for that matter) standing on the side of Iran in this war of words and actions. Iran is also preparing itself for self-defense if need be with new military equipment and other measures (also see here) while a Trump cabinet pick paid by MKO terrorists, Iran stands against partition of Iraq, and Iranian army commanders seeing the threats as nonsense, as they defy the United States to the best of their ability.

It is worth quoting what Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said in a recent speech:

“The new U.S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for creating ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation…Trump says fear me! No. The Iranian nation…will show others what kind of stance the nation of Iran takes when threatened. We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights. The incident of the February 8, 1979 [referring to the day that the Army Air Force began its allegiance with Imam Khomeini (Homafaran Allegiance) and about the final days of the Iranian revolution] was unexpected for the regime and a blessing from God we were not counting upon. An unexpected provision should be hoped for in anything that the believing front does: it is true that logical and material calculations are necessary, but sometimes we should open up to counting on the supernatural too…if we use wisdom and prudence along with trusting the Satan, the result will be a mirage. In any matter, including diplomacy and the country’s problems it is true that trusting demons and the materialistic power, which oppose your essence, leads to a mirage.”

James Petras, a Marxist who seems to take the side of Trump, even said, in a recent piece, that Trump will continue the murderous reign of the empire. While he praised Trump for his seeming “protectionism” and certain “critiques,” Petras admitted that Trump ignores “the enormous regional economic and military power of Iran” and has proposed to “re-negotiate the recent six-nation agreement with Iran in order to improve the US side of the bargain” possibly to placate Israel, and then said that “Trump will most probably maintain, but not expand, Obama’s military encirclement of China’s maritime boundaries which threaten its vital shipping routes.” Petras, who describes Trump as a “market realist who recognizes that military conquest is costly and…losing economic proposition for the US” who views “Russia as a potential economic partner and military ally” and sees China as a “powerful economic competitor,” said that Trump is a “capitalist-nationalist, a market-imperialist and political realist.” Still, he seems unsure about what will happen next in his administration.

Of course, Petras is not seeing through the smoke of “economic nationalism” of Trump, which is tied with his anti-worker nature and racist imperialism. While there is no doubt that Trump is different than Obama in his actions or behavior, on US imperial foreign policy, to say the least, it is clear that Trump will support the Zionist project in Israel and US imperialism worldwide in his own patented way, even if that includes playing both sides of the “anti-ISIS war.” Hence, all of Trump’s “critiques” of elites are worthless junk not worth paying attention to since he will benefit the capitalist elites, already infusing his advisors with Goldman Sachs, engaging in a “globalism of the 1%” which supports empire and buttressing Islamophobia, making it national policy. Of course, he will also not oppose continued militarization of the country (and world) and expansion of the security apparatus, coupled with mass surveillance. Hence, it is accurate to describe Trump as a president who has “openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-statist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neo-fascist sentiments and values.”

Where the murderous empire goes next is clear. While countries like the Philippines are plying the double game by claiming to resist the United States but also crack down on communist forces and allow US troops in the country, China is rising more so on the world stage. The latter will hopefully pose as a possible counter to the horrid (and racist) imperialism that will spew out of the Trump administration like left over trash falling out of a garbage truck, policies that leave destruction in their wake.Perhaps Chinese media has a point in saying that “the court,” “the media,” “the public,” “domestic and international politics,” and the “economy” could  keep Trump in check, but they might be believing too much in those elements.

Those who think that Trump will change US policy, be anti-interventionist, or end the slew of wars, are dead wrong. As he declared in a speech just a couple of days ago, he said, following typical dogma, said that the US military is “fighting for our security and freedom,” while also saying that “defense of our nation” is important to him, at least in his mind, that the military will never be “forgotten” by the Trump administration (i.e. it will get more money), and that the US strongly supports NATO. In his speech, he declared that SOCOM and Central Command will be the “very center of out fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” saying that more focus will be placed not only on Central Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt, but across the world. He also declared to the “forces of destruction” by which he means ISIS, Al Qaeda, and “associated forces,” that “America and its allies will defeat you.  We will defeat them,” while saying, as typical militaristic boilerplate, but also showing his loyalty to the war machine, that the “men and women of the United States military provide the strength to bring peace to our troubled, troubled times.”

It seems obvious that the military will expand, with Trump acting as a bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets, using his “twitter diplomacy” and imperial might, along with other “tools” at his disposal. Cuba, the DPRK, and China will remain under imperialist assault. Zimbabwe and Venezuela likely will as well. In the end, one must cast off any illusions about Trump, recognizing his racist and imperialist nature, while rejecting the arguments of bourgeois liberals and progressives who do not challenge the fundamental nature of the murderous empire.

Bernie Sanders: an imperialist worth despising

In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is "great" and worrying about helping our "enemies." Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist one.
In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is “great” and “respected” along with worrying about helping our “adversaries” while declaring his commitment to defending “American values” and citing the opposition of US military leaders against torture as part of his argument. Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist, militarist, and uber-nationalist one.

Editor’s note: After this piece was ignored by CounterPunch and rejected by Dissident Voice, which told me “Thank you for your submission to Dissident Voice. I am sorry but DV will not be publishing this time,” it is being published here.

Recently, Graham Vyse, a staff writer at The New Republic, bellowed with pain, like a deer wounded with an arrow, declaring that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was courting white Trump voters, said something positive about President Donald Trump, refused to vote against Jeff Sessions, and had “blind spots” on identity politics, which was all summed up in the title of “Bernie Sanders Is a Big Letdown.” To put it mildly, Senator Sanders is more than a “letdown” but is a downright imperialist. Maybe the Sandersnistas should have realized that before they looked to their new savior to “fight” the big banks and Wall Street, like Elizabeth Warren, or to stand up to Trump, with Sanders calling him “delusional” even as he voted in favor of Trump appointees John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland “Security”) and James “fun to shoot some people” Mattis (Secretary of “Defense”) on January 20th. Not surprisingly, the same people who supported Sanders were also “shocked” and “surprised” that he would endorse war criminal and corporate slave Hillary Clinton, while not recognizing his deep connection with the Democratic Party’s machinery and establishment.

Sanders’s imperial foreign policy is nothing new. In May 1993, Sanders voted for the use of US troops in Somalia. Years before the intervention, Mohamed Said Barre, who had taken power in a military coup in 1969, originally allied with the Soviet Union as a socialist. By 1977 he was charting his own course, with expansionist desires by declaring war on Ethiopia, then helped by the Soviets, and at that time, the US assisted his country. By 1991, after his methods became more ruthless, a group of rebels drove Barre from Mogadishu, leading to a vacuum in the country and civil discord of monumental proportions. By 1993, when the US intervened, there had been a UN operation (Operation Restore Hope or UNITAF) to provide humanitarian assistance the previous year, under President Bush’s direction, with US troops comprising the major part of the effort, but this faltered, leading to another operation. This ensuing operation, continuing until 1995, was challenged by “rebel” Somali military commander Muhammad Farah Aideed, an individual that the US-led UN force was trying to kill, leading to two Black Hawk helicopters in a fiery battle being shot down. As a result, this incident led President Clinton to pull U.S. troops out of combat not long after and “all U.S. troops left the country in March 1994,” resulting in supposed “curtailed” US interventions in the future, with the UN mission ending on March 1995 even as fighting continued.

This intervention, which was “memorialized” in numerous books and a film, Black Hawk Down, a Hollywood flick which predictably portrayed the Somali people as “wild savages” who don’t know what they are doing, even though Somalis has good reason to be angry about the US military presence. The movie’s pro-military narrative showed that it aligned with the position of Brigadier General John S. Brown who declared that the intervention was about rescuing “a people and a state from anarchy and chaos” and called those who fought in the a supposedly “humanitarian” conflict “heroes.” Such deception was also repeated by the compliant corpoate media, which hyped up the pictures of starving Somalis, of course. As Brendan Sexton III put it, “one of the true tragedies of the war in Somalia [which some rightly call a debacle] was the support that it received from liberals and even radicals,” by which he means people like Sanders. Apart from having the blood of thousands of Bosnians on his hands, Sanders also, by voting for US troops in Somalia, was expressing his consent for the killing of almost 10,000 people in the ground war for Mogadishu before the one-day battle in early October 1993. He was also consenting to the continued destruction of Somalia in a civil war which has raged since 1986, which begun with the Somali rebellion. It continues today with the US military, federal Somali government, and African Union troops fighting against Islamic reactionary groups, continuing the trend of US military intervention on the African continent.

In 1999, he justified the brutal US bombing in Bosnia, voting to use US ground troops in 1995, and quoted a member of the German Green Party, Joschka Fischer, in favor of the campaign. He argued that “if anyone thinks there is a simple solution to this problem [in Bosnia], then you know very little about this problem…[this bombing] means standing up against genocide. It’s a contradiction, but we have to live with it. If we accept Milosevic as a winner, it would be the end of the Europe I believe in.” He went on to, after an audience member told him that he had “sold out,” justify the bombing by declaring that “I ask you to think about what happens to the eight hundred thousand men, women, and children who have been pushed out of their homes!…What do you do to a butcher who has lined up people and shot them?” and then, after saying he opposed a massive ground force in Bosnia, weirdly said, “I don’t know what to do, but I’ll tell you what I am doing, what I am trying to do.” He later said he was “on the phone…with the White House” to help negotiate a settlement, aligning with his defense of Clinton the year before from Congressional Republicans who called for his impeachment.

The bombing in Bosnia was more than a “simple” military operation. It was one of the many military operations the Clinton administration conducted in the 1990s, this one to degrade the infrastructure of Serbia because the socialist-inclined leader, Slobodan Milosevic, had not gained the “green light” from the US before attacking the Albanian minority in the country. These problems were nothing new, as they grew out of the break up of the Yugoslavian republic ten years earlier which led to ensuing conflicts. In the later 1990s, international leaders proposed two terms: NATO control of Kosovo and NATO military occupation of the remaining parts of Yugoslavia. Both were rejected by the national assembly of Serbia, which called for negotiations toward an agreement on Kosovo’s autonomy. But, this was ignored, and US-led bombing began, lasting for 78 days, leading to displacement of 800,000 people after the first three months, and an untold number of killed civilians. Likely as a surprise to some of Sanders’s supporters, he did not mention the Serbian legislature’s proposal, supporting humanitarian imperialism instead, which is part of the reason that Michael Parenti parted ways with Sanders.

Stephen Gowans expanded on the reasons for the bombing, adding that the military campaign was meant to turn Milosevic’s own people against him, that an sanctions campaign was engineered to target areas where Milosevic had strong support, and that Washington spent “$10 million in 1999 and $31 million in 2000 to train, equip and advise an overthrow movement to destabilize the former Yugoslavia and oust Milosevic,” with him being thrown out of power in a “US-UK engineered uprising.” It is also worth pointing out that under the guise of bombing Serbia and parts of Montenegro in 1999 because “US officials said they were convinced the Milosevic government was carrying out a genocide in Kosovo,” the reality was very different. The Western capitalists were mad because Milosevic was a communist who “told the Americans to go fuck themselves” meaning that he refused “to turn Yugoslavia into a western puppet state.” More specifically, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia was sanctioned and bombed because, as Gowans put it, it was a “social democracy that resisted a free-market take-over,” not due to the ill-treatment of ethnic Albanians. You can have your different viewpoints about Milosevic and not like him, for one reason or another, but I think this is more accurate that most left narratives on the bombing.

In more recent years, Sanders declared that he supports arming the Kurds or “those people who we can trust” with air support, benefiting arms manufacturers. The imperialist positions don’t end there. He has also supported helping “so-called Syrian moderates” and said that “President Obama is absolutely right in his efforts to judiciously use air strikes, which at this point have shown some success” which sounds like apology for the killing of civilians on Obama’s watch. If these positions don’t cry imperialism, I don’t know what does. Of course, Sanders does not want the drone program to end, saying that “there are times and places where drone attacks have been effective…we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively,” only wanting to “limit” it to his own parameters. This in and of itself is not a surprise, as Sanders voted to confirm Harold Koh as Legal Advisor for the US State Department, a Reagan lawyer who infamously declared that drone killing was legal, a position that Koh took after confirmation but Sanders never expressed an objection to.

Some readers may be saying that Sanders is a “social democrat” and harshly criticizes the banks (and their crimes), but that, even if it is not an act and is thoroughly genuine, pales in comparison to his imperialist positioning. Sanders has, on record, supported sanctions against Iran, declared that Iran is on the stage to “obtaining a nuclear weapon” despite evidence from US and Israeli intelligence agencies to the contrary, voted against closing the Guantanamo Bay Prison in 2009, saying it is “complicated” and should be decided by a presidential commission even as he says rhetorically that the prison should be shut down “as soon as possible,” and said that the F-35 program in Vermont is “very controversial” and “incredibly wasteful” but is still supporting it regardless. If that isn’t enough, Sanders, beyond his declarations against ground troops, didn’t oppose Obama’s “anti-ISIS” bombing campaign, saying to bourgeois progressive commentator Thom Hartmann that the US should be involved. He told Hartmann that his “solution” was a multilateral international effort where “these guys in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, these multi-multi-billionaire authoritarian countries who have made huge amounts of money from oil” should help fight ISIS. This ahistorical and ignorant position ignores that US imperial proxies across the Arab World, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar, along with other Gulf autocracies, have made the Syrian civil war more bloody with their support of reactionary terrorist groups, and such a policy would reinforce these authoritarian states while further destabilizing the Middle East.

Such positions make his declaration that he is “kind of conservative on getting involved in all kinds of wars abroad” have a different meaning than one would first perceive, showing that his “admission” that he is “not a pacifist but…always understood war is the last recourse” and that he he “understand[s] the cost of war” to be deceptive at best. He seems to be contradicting himself in supporting the “anti-ISIS” war, admitting in 2014 that “while we focus all of our attention on ISIS, the middle class in this country continues to collapse.” Despite saying that, he has taken a pro-military, and purportedly antiwar, position, declaring that “our guys are doing a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances” even as he called for the Afghanistan war to end while declaring that the US should have “the strongest military in the world” and should act militarily if “people threaten the United States…threaten our allies or commit genocide,” supposedly using military force only as the “last resort.” That sounds like blatant imperialism regardless of what “good” you can say about Sanders.

To add to this, Sanders said that we should support “those elements in China fighting for a democratic society” or the elements backed by the US government, argued that it is his “strong opinion that Bashar al-Assad has to go” since he is “a terrible dictator at war with his own people” meaning that the US should still support “opposition groups,” and told Bill O’Reilly that “the entire world has got to stand up to Putin. We’ve got to deal with sanctions, we’ve got to deal with freezing assets,” calling for isolating Putin and Russia politically and economically, and calling for “international corporations [that] have huge investments in Russia” to pull them out, to punish Russia. That means he would be right at home with the Russophobic rhetoric supporting US imperialism in the media, by the intelligence agencies, and by politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties.

At this point, it should be clear to any reasoned person that Sanders doesn’t oppose the imperialist agenda of the murderous empire. He is much more than a “big letdown,” but is a pimp for empire. There is much more to say about Sanders, with this article only scratching the surface. Anyone with sense should remember this as Sanders continues his milquetoast opposition to the Trump administration just like the rest of the Democratic Party, which is, as a result, showing its uselessness with each passing day of 2017.

Obama’s legacy: nice, kind imperialism?

Obama's statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.
Obama’s statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.

Recently, the Chinese Communist Party publication, Global Times, rated Obama positively in a “fair review” of his legacy. They mentioned Obama’s farewell speech, saying that  Obama’s accomplishments included “economic performance…better than other major Western nations” with an increased GDP per capita, lower unemployment rate, and a long bull run for the US stock market. The piece then declared that one of Obama’s legacies is Obamacare, devoting himself to “Affordable Care Act and gun control” which they almost implied was worth the effort. They even said that Obama was not as “bold” as Bush, relatively “cautious in military actions,” saying that he was the most “peaceful US president compared with several of his immediate predecessors,” not leading the US into any new wars, and not taking a leading role in the war in Libya. Even on the East Asia/Pacific pivot, which was “unsuccessful” in their view, they said that Obama was “not radical in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy,” which prevented ruptures in Sino-US relations, adding that there are “mechanisms for bilateral exchanges” between the US and China, with ties between the two complicated but “mature” at the same time. They ended by saying that “Obama is a nice person, calm and not too extreme” but that he failed “show his special leadership,” and criticized Donald Trump without naming him, calling Trump a person who “wants to be different in every category…and is obsessed with seeking the limelight.” In terms of criticisms of Obama’s presidency, the piece only mentioned that the US had “made the Syrian civil war last for five years, which led to the emergence of the Islamic State and the refugee crisis” leading to a weakening of “Washington’s control over the Middle East” and that “the gap in income distribution is growing larger,” with US citizens “feeling little sense of accomplishment.” Since such revisionist thought does not accurately describe the Obama legacy, it is important to set the record straight.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Obama was an imperialist of the highest order. Clearly the Global Times was writing a hit piece on Trump, who I wrote about two days ago, which should surprise no one since Trump is spewing BS on the issues of pharmaceuticals, the F-35 program, hacking, and others. For these, he may be partially right in one aspect but wants to push his image as a “tough” president, including supporting Taiwan to the hilt. As for Obama, the idea that he was a “nice person, calm and not too extreme” (or a “Woodrow Wilson“) is invalidated by his imperialist declaration last month that Russia was a “smaller” and “weaker” country that didn’t “produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” but still said it could pose a serious threat, somehow (that doesn’t even make sense!). I guess this is no surprise for a president who loves Reagan and has an administration that promotes the Russian hacking conspiracy, not a “kinder” imperialist by any stretch. With Trump administration coming in it is clearly time for armed self-defense.

Let’s go through the “accomplishments” and “legacy” of Obama and his administration one by one:

  1. Voting AGAINST UN resolutions condemning glorification of Nazi and denial of Nazi war crimes in 2014 and 2016, supported by 115 member states in 2014 and 131 in 2016, a resolution proposed by the Russian Federation since 2006 reportedly. Last year, the US claimed that the resolution had an “overly narrow scope and politicized nature” and said it called for “unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression,” showing that the murderous empire values speech of Nazis (and white supremacists) above all others.
  2. As Nick Turse wrote in an investigative piece earlier this month, US special forces can be found in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, partnering with “unsavory types” (you know who they are). Specifically, he noted that 70,000 special forces under Special Operations Command (SOCOM). across the world, are engaged in “shadow wars against terror groups…[along with] activities…outside acknowledged conflict zones…every single day” with the most elite forces of the US, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets “deployed to 138 countries in 2016” which is the highest Obama’s presidency, typifying “what has become the…murky twilight between war and peace.”
  3. Continuing the imperialist war in Afghanistan, with 8,400 troops STILL stationed there, with no end in sight under Trump.
  4. Increase in the use of private mercenaries under Obama’s watch, who may be threatened by Trump. However, Erik Prince of Blackwater backed Trump, with the latter with an even more direct connection manifested in the fact that the brother of his Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, is Erik Prince! As of August 2016, the “number of U.S. service members in Afghanistan is dwarfed by the nearly 29,000 Department of Defense private contractors [private mercenaries in actuality] in the country, outnumbering American troops three to one” which is a decrease from the past, but the use of them is a still major part of imperial operations. Even The Atlantic bellowed that “America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars” with such contracts as big business for those cashing in.
  5. As Cornel West recently argued, “today we are on the edge of an abyss…[in] the most powerful empire in the history of the world” leading to a “postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world” where Obama’s reign contributed to the “nightmare of Donald Trump.” West also argued that Obama followed the advice of his “neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street,” that no Wall Street executives went to jail (doing too little too late), he continued drone strikes killing civilians, he replied to Black Lives Matter with “with words about the difficult plight of police officers” and in response to Israeli aggression he funded the Israeli army with many more millions of dollars, along with calling black youth in Baltimore “criminals and thugs” (so did Jay Carney). West also reminds us that “Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones,” “labor insurgencies” in the Northwest overlooked, demonizing “truth-tellers” (mainly whistleblowers), creating a market-based healthcare policy which “provide[d] healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered.” West finally added that Obama was a “deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch” which prefigures “Trump’s barbaric plans.”
  6. As Glen Ford wrote last month, “looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.”
  7. As Jon Reynolds argued, “…when President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they [pro-Obama liberals and progressives] said nothing. When President Obama’s mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent…when President Obama spent his first term in office outspending his predecessor on raids against legal marijuana dispensaries , his supporters had little to say…When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found. When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless…when it came to light that President Obama had a “kill list” and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process — again, barely a peep. When Obama granted legal immunity to telecom companies that had conducted invasive spying during the George W. Bush years, when he extended the Patriot Act, when he prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act…when he expanded the NSA’s surveillance programs, and…green-lit indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, Democrats remained complacent. From January 2009 to the end of 2016, there has been a near-virtual silence from those identifying as Democrats against a variety of violations committed under President Obama, violations which were widely protested during the George W. Bush years…under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America’s nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongeringObama, like Bush before him…offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women…from 2008 to 2014, one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses, often due to low-level marijuana possession. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality…Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire [all under Obama].”
  8. Expanded Bush’s drone program to create a “kill list” where he would select people to be killed in the world every Tuesday, what is called “terror Tuesday” by some, killed by the secretive JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), engaging in what are arguably war crimes.
  9. Hopes that race relations between whites and blacks would improve were quickly dashed, the bourgeois “middle class” continued to be “hollowed” out, income inequality reached its highest level since 1928, more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico than those who enter the US, partisan divides are harsher than ever, ordinary Americans were skeptical of the government’s economic policies toward the populace (and toward national policies in general), serious concerns about privacy rose, anger at the established media remained, and pessimism in the US is rising as noted in a recent Pew Research report.
  10. “Normalizing” relations with Cuba and Iran, which allowed US capitalists to salivate even as restrictions remained on these “new” markets ready for Western capitalist exploitation of the highest order.
  11. The auto bailout in 2008 and 2009, begun by Bush and continued by Obama, which “saved” the auto industry but didn’t change ANYTHING about it, even though the industry was temporarily nationalized and new jobs could have been created, maybe even in renewable energy, who knows.
  12. The refusal to prosecute ANY Bush administration officials for torture.
  13. The failure to close the hellish Guantanamo Prison Camp, which still has 55 detainees, where people are routinely tortured and numerous people have died from hunger strikes, or the huge naval base there. The base at Guantanamo which occupies over 5,880,483 square feet, with 1,362 buildings, according to the US military’s count. Furthermore, the base, which occupies 45 square miles, according to the official site, ensures, “regional security” in the Caribbean, supports U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard ships, while helping the wicked Department of Homeland (In)Security “care” for migrants, and helping “control the flow” of undocumented immigrants into the United States. The “official history” of the base which boasts about their “self-sufficiency” doesn’t mention, context for seizure of Gitmo or the US military’s three imperialist occupations of Cuba (1898-1902, 1906-1909, 1917-1922), with the land taken “during the [imperialist] Spanish-American war of 1898, then codified in the Cuban-American treaty of 1903″ which was signed during a time when the sovereignty of Cuba was limited.
  14. The New York Post says Obama’s legacy is a “devastated Democratic Party,” an assessment which is actually pretty accurate to be honest.
  15. The presence of 5,000 troops in Iraq, one of the wars that Global Times forgets for some reason.
  16. As noted by NBC News, “the president’s policy moves…firmly aligned Latinos with the Democrats…[while] white, economically-insecure American increasingly drifted from his party [to Trump], despite Obama policies aimed at them.”
  17. Even a pro-Obama tepid liberal in Truthout argued that under Obama, “as with the torturers, none of the Wall Street thieves who eviscerated the economy to their great profit were ever prosecuted for any of their crimes…[he] all but ignor[ed]…Standing Rock as he champions fracking and tar sands oil pipelines…[he] champions the middle class while peddling the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership [along with other “free trade” treaties and he] sold more weapons to the world than any administration since World War II.”
  18. Beyond an increase in national debt, he escalated US presence in Syria with special forces rushing to the country, backing “moderate” Syrian rebels who are actually terrorists and “rebels” in Ukraine to fight “Russian aggression.”
  19. Pushing for a war or some sort of conflict with Russia, an idea advocated by US intelligence agencies, Democrats, the US media, and numerous others like Joy Ann Reid, and so on
  20. As James Bovard argued, Obama “became judge, jury, and executioner” when it came to drone bombing, the US is bombing, as of now, “seven foreign nations” (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan). rebels backed by the Pentagon and those backed by the CIA have battled each other. Beyond this, the opinion notes that during the US bombing in Libya in 2011, the US joined “the French and British assault on the Libyan government” and toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, while “federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests – especially from the media” with numerous FOIA denials, and the TSA “became far more intrusive and abusive” to say the least.
  21. As further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state” including increasing its propaganda abilities, to “curtail speech and control information” [which I talked about here] connecting to its legacy of “increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers.” Baraka said that the “latte left” and liberal allies have fully collaborated with this, with efforts to “weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm,” with Trumpism becoming “a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus,” leading to the reappearance of the phenomenon of neo-fascism, nothing new to Black America who which has “suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project.”
  22. Said “no” to Israel recently, but has consistently supported Israel through its numerous bombing campaigns over the years. Trump aims to be even more Zionist than Obama, which is apparently possible.
  23. Leading on the “environmental movement” and bourgeois environmental groups so they would “await” his rejection of Keystone XL which happened, but also didn’t since he approved the southern half in 2012 (when he boasted about more pipelines) and “disapproved” of the northern half but actually didn’t since oil-by-rail continues onward as noted on Wrong Kind of Green and elsewhere.
  24. Continuing the imperialist assault on states like Zimbabwe, Russia, Eritrea, the DPRK, and others full force, without stop. Trump will likely increase this with his “Trumpian diplomacy” with intervention in the African continent on the rise.
  25. Using states ranging from Saudi Arabia (including voting against that 9/11 bill) to Qatar as imperial proxies to carry about US policies of mass murder over the years.
  26. As I noted in my post in July, President Obama “extended the imperial war and occupation in Afghanistan beyond his time in office, leaving more troops “than planned” with the empire as “strong as ever” despite “growing US debt from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I also pointed out the lack of domestic opposition to imperial adventures, with most peace groups as bourgeois, noted that there have been “US-backed coups in Ukraine (2014), Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Maldives (2012), and Brazil (2016), coupled with drone strikes across the Muslim world from secretive drone bases, shadowy attack teams (JSOC, CIA, and so on), private mercenaries-for-hire, and authoritarian imperial proxy states such as Saudi Arabia.” Additionally I noted that “Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Cuba, Syria, Belarus, and the DPRK are under fierce overt and covert imperial assault coupled with imperial destabilization efforts” along with saying that “the United States certainly has colonies like the “empires of old” manifested in its inhabited territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa (supposedly “self-governing” since 1967), Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands” along with the “mainstay of the murderous empire comes in the hundreds of military bases, numbering 500 at minimum (most of which the military calls “installations” [11]), scattered across the world.” This shows that quotes like these are true.

There’s no doubt that even if Obama was “better” than Bush in some regards (which I seriously doubt), he was a bloody imperialist. There are numerous aspects I didn’t touch on here, especially in the realm of social policy, but I wanted to avoid praise here as I’m trying to be critical in this area rather than having the idea of “balance” whatever that entails. I could go on and give other aspects of Obama’s legacy. However, rather than continuing the list I’d like to show some charts:

cxgszapxaaamzry
As noted from a revised map I put on twitter.
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
sofmap1_large
This map displays, as noted by Nick Turse, “the locations of 132 of those countries” with 129 (blue) supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command and 3 (red) — Syria, Yemen and Somalia — “were derived from open-source information.”
U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 138 nations in 2016. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.
As Nick Turse notes in the original caption for this image, “Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.”
sofmap3baltic_large
Original caption by Nick Turse: “a closer look at the areas of the “undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine” mentioned by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. The one in red was derived from open-source information.”
US bases near Iran, as of 2015
US bases near Iran, as of 2015, an image usually used to demonstrate US imperial power in the region
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan.
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan. Data here comes from the CFR, but also uses this map and bombs from this anti-US poster in Iran. A US flag was put on each bomb, with some countries, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, representing the exact number of bombs, while others (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) are just representational
libya-2016-bombs-dropped
A graphic I made, putting into place each bomb individually (taking about an hour at least) showing ALL the bombs dropped on Libya in 2016, using this map as a basis, with data from CFR.
us-bombs-dropped-in-2015-300x184
After making all those maps, I’m a bit tired, so here is a chart of US bombings in 2015 also from the CFR. Part of the reason I didn’t make a map also is that Iraq & Syria are put into one category.

I don’t really have anything else right now since I’m tired and this post is going out later today. But, comments are welcome.

Acceptance of Trump and imperial white propaganda

beckermann
Not only are Democratic leaders falling in line with Trump but so are tech leaders.

Recently, Congress passed a military spending bill of over $618 billion dollars, with wide margins (92-7 in the Senate and 375-34 in the House) in both houses. [1] Like with Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers, there is a level of fake outrage at play once again. Some articles have decried that the spending bill gives Trump power over a US propaganda arm named “Voice of America” (VOA). [2] While this is correct, there is more to the story than this simplistic analysis pushed around by the bourgeois media.

In order to determine what this media is talking about, one has to look at the actual law itself. The one section they are referring to is section 1288 of the law (titled “Modification of United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994′). This section declares that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will continue to exist but will led by a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, with a term of three years. This section also abolishes the “Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau” position, with the CEO as the head of the BBG which oversees “RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, or the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.” Additionally, this section also removes the International Broadcasting Bureau, replacing it with an International Broadcasting Advisory Board, with members appointed by the President, and consisting of five members including the Secretary of State, with their terms lasting three years, advising the CEO of the BBG. [3] Of the four other members other than the Secretary of State, they would be appointed from lists drawn up by the Chair and a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the same in the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Finally, this section says that the CEO of the BBG may “condition annual grants to RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks on the consolidation of such grantees into a single, consolidated private, non-profit corporation,” with the mission of the BBG to

“counter state-sponsored propaganda which undermines the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States and its allies…provide uncensored local and regional news and analysis to people in societies where a robust, indigenous, independent, and free media does not exist…help countries improve their indigenous capacity to enhance media professionalism and independence…promote unrestricted access to uncensored sources of information, especially via the internet, and use all effective and efficient mediums of communication to reach target audiences.”

Beyond this, not only will the “officers and directors of RFE/RL Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks” may be named by the CEO of the BBG but “additional [propaganda] brands may be created as necessary.” [4]

Basically, the concern, among some in the bourgeois media, is that Trump would appoint the CEO of Breitbart to head this information agency, becoming propaganda that would benefit him. However, most of the articles only focus on VOA, and NOT other forms of (arguably) white propaganda outlets, under the BBG’s umbrella, such as RFE (Radio Free Europe)/RL (Radio Liberty) which is thoroughly anti-Russian, Radio Free Asia (RFA) which promotes imperial policy in East Asia, Radio y Televisión Martí which is anti-Cuban, Alhurra which was imagined as a counterweight to Al Jazeera, and Radio Sawa which has failed in its mission. Three of these outlets (VOA, RFE/RL, Radio y Televisión Martí, and RFA) have their roots in anti-communist propaganda against the Soviet Union (and Communist China until they became “friendly” with the US), and other socialist states, but the white propaganda aim of these outlets is evident. For instance, VOA can publish an article saying that “the gradual collapse of the Soviet Union…had wide-ranging effects across Africa [affecting deeply] Marxist-inspired governments and movements,” with a ripple effect in Angola, Ethiopia, Benin, while “U.S. and European backed anti-communist authoritarian governments also slowly turned to multi-party elections” while also saying that “in Africa…the late Fidel Castro was both loved and despised…Castro is not remembered fondly in Somalia today…Castro’s influence in Africa greatly declined,” which while acting like they are “progressive” is messaging that reinforces US imperial power with false “objectivity.”

The other dimension to this is that the Obama administration is giving Trump and his cronies more power! So, basically, there is not really an opposition party (who some would say are the Democrats) to his policies. This is buttressed by the fact that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid declared that Trump is “not as bad as I thought he would be” citing Trump saying he isn’t going to repeal Obama’s executive order on dreamers, and “not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton criminally,” while also saying  that he does not “have hate in my soul for Donald Trump” but hopes that Trump “does well….hopeful that he will lessen his rhetoric and work toward a safer, more productive America.”

The outrage over Trump gaining this power over propaganda networks is understandable, but why isn’t the outrage directed at Obama for passing this power to Trump? Also, the outrage is misguided because the spending bill has many other horrid elements. Apart from the other aspects of the bill [5], which I will not go into detail here, these elements are worrying enough. The expansion of imperial might by building a new aircraft carrier by 2022 (sec. 127), limits on money to destroy cluster bombs (sec. 143), along with the expansion of expansion of “electromagnetic spectrum warfare” and “electronic warfare” (sections 234, 240) is problematic enough. Additionally, the strengthening of the military’s position into cyberwarfare, possibly with “cyber professionals,” with a “unified combatant command for cyber operations forces” and into space with a the newly created “Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center” which is supposed to “create unity of effort and facilitate information sharing across the national security space enterprise” is also not good (sections 509, 923, 1615).

These efforts are only scratching the surface of this bill which increases and reinforces the duties of empire. The bill also declares that the military will continue to assist in “counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime” of other Federal organizations, foreign law enforcement, or other government bodies, along with extending the “unified counterdrug and counterterrorism campaign” of the military to Colombia (sections 1011 and 1013). There is also the declaration that no military spending can be used to “transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions” any detainee, at Guantanamo prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval base, to facilities in the United States (sections 1032, 1033). Interestingly, not only are detainees from Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are specifically also prohibited from being released from the prison, but no military spending can be used to close to abandon the naval base at Guantanamo Bay (sections 1034 and 1035). If that isn’t enough, the military is apparently interested in “directed energy weapons” and systems, with a senior military official having principal responsibility for them, the Air Force now “piloting” drones instead of the CIA, and the military told to “better align its posture and capabilities to meet the growing array of challenges” in the Arctic, “a region of growing strategic importance to the national security interest of the United States” (sections 219, 1052, and 1095). There are also, in keeping with the anti-Russian declarations across the media, prohibitions on

  1. “bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the Governments of the United States and the Russian Federation” until Russia ends their supposed “occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities” and abide by “the Minsk Protocols regarding a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine”
  2. money to “implement any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea”
  3. spending to “invite, assist, or otherwise assure the participation of the Government of Cuba in any joint or multilateral exercise or related security conference between the Governments of the United States and Cuba” until Cuba stops its supposed “human rights abuses against civil rights activists and other citizens of Cuba,” ceases assistance to “the military and security forces of Venezuela,” ceases supposed “persecution, intimidation, arrest, imprisonment, and assassination of dissidents and members of faith-based organizations,” drops its demand that “the United States relinquish control of Guantanamo Bay,” and other measures (sections 1232, 1234, 1286).

The latter section would mean that Cuba would have to be run by a government that is not anti-imperialist and is pro-US which is doubtful despite “Cuban moderates” like Raul Castro, who seem to be willing to be friendly with the US to an extent, in power at the present. There is no doubt that all of these measures will strengthen the empire and assist Trump in his diplomatic maneuvers except for his possible “good relations” with Russia in the future.

The military spending bill also reinforces other elements of existing US policy. For one, there is the development and production of the “Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program” in cooperation with Israel, taking actions “as may be necessary to…recognize India’s status as a major defense partner of the United States,” helping sub-Saharan African countries develop free trade agreements, with help of USAID and other monies, and preventing the “use of rocket engines from the Russian Federation for the evolved expendable launch vehicle program” (sections 1292, 1293, 1601, 1602, 1690). The US relationship with the murderous Zionist state of Israel, which will likely remain unchanged under Trump, is also supported by one section which says that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report on “the potential for cooperative development by the United States and Israel of a directed energy capability to defeat ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, and improvised explosive devices that threaten the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel” (section 1274). Apart from the outlining of a “strategy for United States defense interests in Africa” by the Secretaries of State and Defense in the next year, the bill establishes a Global Engagement Center, by the Secretaries of State and Defense, along with other federal organizations, which will “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests” (section 1273 and 1287).

Very few articles have mentioned the Global Engagement Center apart from the horrid Human Rights First organization, the Center for Research on Globalization, and a few other places. The Washington Post defended this, with Craig Timberg, the same one who wrote the article promoting Prop Or Not (with its list of “Russian propaganda” news organizations which almost seems like a Cold War relic) and spreading Russophobic propaganda, by declaring that the bill “calls on the State Department to lead government-wide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects…[and] would be the most significant initiative against foreign governments’ disinformation campaigns since the 1990s,” a sentiment shared by Senators Rob Portman, Ron Wyden, Chris Murphy, and others to fight a supposed “heavy tide of Russian propaganda” and other “propaganda campaigns by…other foreign powers, including China.” [6]

There are only a number of other aspects of this bill worth mentioning. For one, the bill gives Trump tools to increase his hostility toward China. While one section says that the Secretary of Defense shall “carry out a program of exchanges of senior military officers and senior officials between the United States and Taiwan designed to improve military to military relations between the United States and Taiwan,” another says that the military will revise its assessment of China to include a “summary of the order of battle of the People’s Liberation Army, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, theater ballistic missiles, and land attack cruise missile inventory…A description of the People’s Republic of China’s military and nonmilitary activities in the South China Sea” (sections 1271 and 1284). So, Trump could use, this, in conjunction with the measure in the law allowing the President to impose sanctions on

“any foreign person…[who] is responsible for….gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country who seek…to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials; or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms” (sec. 1263)

Of course, such humanitarian imperialism was likely meant for someone like President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, or Kim Jong Un of the DPRK, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. However, it could easily be used against Xi Jinping, President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, along with other top Chinese government officials for “human rights violations” and would be cheered on by the CIA (which calls China a “communist state”), Human Rights Watch (which calls China “a one-party authoritarian state”), and Amnesty International (which describes China in a similar light). There is only one good part of the law I can see: that the military and other departments will “post on the public Internet website of the Department of Defense the costs to each United States taxpayer of each of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria” (section 1090). This transparency obviously will not stop wars, but can be used as propaganda against the national military establishment itself, as much as the counters on the National Priorities Project of military costs can be used in the same way.

I was going to originally end this post with an analysis of Trump’s cabinet picks, but that will be for another day. For now, I think it is important to oppose the horridness of Trump while rejecting the liberal fake outrage about him, which seems to be centering around “his ties” to Russia now or the Podesta emails, and standing against US imperial propaganda by recognizing the anti-imperialist front of those countries opposed to the United States from time to time.

Notes

[1] Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Congress passes $618.7 billion annual defense bill,” Reuters, December 9.

[2] David Folkenflik, “An Obama-Backed Change At Voice Of America Has Trump Critics Worried,” NPR, December 14, 2016; Lauren Fox, “Report: Big Changes To Voice Of America Could Make It Trump’s Mouthpiece,” Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2016; “VOA promises editorial ‘firewall’,” BBC News, December 13, 2016; Taylor Link, “Will Donald Trump have complete control of America’s propaganda arm?,” Salon, December 12, 2016; Tara Palmeri, “Trump to inherit state-run TV network with expanded reach,” Politico, December 12, 2016; Howard Kurtz, “Double Standard? Media warn Trump could exploit US ‘propaganda’ arm – under bipartisan law,” Fox News, December 13, 2016.

[3] Those who are currently on the BBG board will be the first members of this board until vacancies are filled.

[4] Finally, this section also says that if RFE/RL is not carrying out its functions in an economical and effective manner, another entity may be granted its duties. The section also talks about the duties of the Inspector General in “checking” the BBG, the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.

[5] Other provisions include: (1) says the Secretary of the Army can purchase AH–64E Apache helicopters (sec. 111 and 112); (2) says secretary of army can order training of certain military units (sec. 113); (3) determination of delivery of navy vehicles (sec. 121); (4) construction and design of “the LHA Replacement ship designated LHA 8” (sec. 122); (5) report on Littoral Combat Ship (sec. 123); (6) limits on some naval shipbuilding (sec. 124); (7) limit on funds for advanced arresting gear on numerous vessels such as the U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (sec. 125); (8) limit on funds for procurement for the U.S.S. Enterprise (sec. 126); (9) report on P-8 Poseidon Aircraft (sec. 128); (10) design of a landing ship (sec. 129); (11) Compass Call aircraft (sec. 131); (12) repeal of requirement (secs. 132, 133); (13) A-10 aircraft cannot retire (secs. 134, 135); (14) Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft cannot retire (sec. 136); (15) elimination of annual report on aircraft inventory (sec. 137); (16) standardization of certain rifle ammunition (sec. 138); (17) fire suppressment and other standards for vehicles (sec. 142); (18) report on military use of munitions for combat situations (sec. 144); (19) reporting on combat ammunitions is annual instead of quarterly (sec. 145); (20) review of F-35 Lightning II (secs. 146, 147); (21) briefing on ground utility vehicle (sec. 148); (22) capabilities of aircraft (sec. 149); (23) technology reinvention labs created and still funded (secs. 211-213, 217); (24) research and development at National Defense University (sec. 214); (25) manufacturing engineering education program established (sec. 215); (26) certain activities (sec. 216); (27) Distributed common ground system (sec. 220); (28) Limiting funds for “countering weapons of mass destruction situational awareness information system commonly known as “Constellation”” (sec. 221); (29) Limiting funds for experimental military unit (sec. 222); (30) limitation of funds for JSTARS program (sec. 223); (31) annual reports on f-35 strike fighter modernization (sec. 224); (32) access to trusted microelectronics (sec. 231); (33) evaluating commercial information technology (sc. 232); (34) more technology testing (sec. 233); (35) pilot program on disclosure of certain information to federal research and development centers (sec. 235); (36) advanced interaction between DARPA and service academies (sec. 236); (37) review of certain procedures (sec. 237); (38) b-21 bomber development program (sec. 238); (39) study on helicopter crash prevention (sec. 239); (40) fielding of certain systems (sec. 241); (41) energy installations (sec. 311); (42) alternative fuel requirement (sec. 312); (43) data management for facilities (sec. 313); (44) alternative technologies for munitions disposal (sec. 314); (45) report on how to reduce military costs of installations (sec. 315); (46) sense of congress related to climate change (sec. 316); (47) rating system (sec. 321); (48) guidance related to corrosion control (sec. 322); (49) manufacturing and retooling initiative (sec. 323); (50) repair, and other duties at drydocks (sec. 324); (51) private sector port loading (sec. 325); (52) revitalizing organic “industrial base” of the army (sec. 326); (53) modifications to quarterly readiness report to congress (sec. 331); (54) report on travel costs (sec. 332); (54) report on certain helicopter rescue program (sec. 333); (55) air navigation (sec. 341); (56) contract working dogs (sec. 342); (57) review related to explosive ordinance disposal (sec. 343); (58) process of communicating for surplus ammunition (sec. 344); (59) cords in military units (sec. 345); (60) access to military installations (sec. 346); (61) secretary of army should assess capacity of Apache helicopters to attack, “chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear capabilities and modernization needs” and capability of field artillery (sec. 114); (62) outlining specifics of claims of retaliation with report of sexual assault in the military (sec. 543); (63) creation of anti-hazing database (sec. 549), (64) Defense Sec. will “ensure the effective organization and management of the electromagnetic spectrum used by the Department of Defense” (sec. 1065), (65) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226); (66) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226), (67) military has a “biological select agent and toxin biosafety program” which is supposedly safer now (sec. 218) and many more.

[6] Craig Timberg, “Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, November 24, 2016. Other articles show where Timberg stands and how he spreads propaganda, with examples including “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” (November 15, 2016), “Could better Internet security have prevented Trump’s shocking win?” (November 10, 2016), “Tech investments show an Iran eager to end isolation” (April 6, 2015); “Sony Pictures hack appears to be linked to North Korea, investigators say” (December 3, 2014), “Iraq tries to censor social media to disrupt ISIS communication, but its success is limited” (July 13, 2014), “Vast majority of global cyber-espionage emanates from China, report finds” (April 22, 2013); “Chinese cyberspies have hacked most Washington institutions, experts say” (February 20, 2013).