“Massive, dangerous and wasteful”: US imperialism repositions itself in Syria

Comes from the official mouth of the national military establishment.

This post was posted on anti-imperialism.org two days before but somehow I didn’t catch that until yesterday, so it was posted here.

You’ve probably heard the recent news that the Trump Administration is ending the CIA program to fund “anti-Assad” “moderate rebels,” who are actually terrorists. [1] The bourgeois media and run-of-the-mill imperialists cried bloody murder. Some say it was a “victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, although it was seen, even by crusty analysts, as a failed program. Removing CIA support is a victory for the Syrian people, not for the Russians or Trump and his advisers. In defending this action on Twitter, Donald Trump, in his typical bullish style, attacked the “Amazon Washington Post” and CNN, saying they are pumping out “fake news” about his policy and questioned if the Post is being used to keep “politicians from looking into Amazon’s no-tax monopoly.” He, of course, framed the program as his accomplishment, as the end of “massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” although these “rebels” are, again, terroristic elements. Even with US imperialism ending CIA support for such elements, the murderous empire has not given up the goal of toppling the Syrian government. Rather, it has “repositioned” itself.

In the article announcing the end of the CIA program, the CIA mouthpiece, the Washington Post bellowed that there was a “potential risk” of ending the program. They claimed that ending the program would mean that the US may be unable to stop other countries from “funneling more sophisticated weapons” to “anti-Assad” terrorists. [2] This implies a “loss of control” over world events by the murderous empire, and it is part of the anxiety that comes with US imperialism loosing its footing. Still, the murderous empire is not bumbling like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as “acclaimed” journalist Jeremy Scahill (a brand) noted in one tweet some time ago, but it just facing more challenges. The removal of this support, which was reportedly a foreign policy move to improve ties with Russia, ended a program which had begun in 2013 under the supposedly “smart” imperialism of the Obama presidency. [3] The program itself, in the minds of anonymous “US officials” quoted, and perhaps within upper echelons of the empire itself, “produced little success.” Reuters denoted that US support will not end. Quoting the magical (and often deceptive) anonymous “US officials,” it was noted that the US military will train, arm, and support certain Syrian terrorists with airstrikes and other actions. [4] It would not be surprising if this is the case. The Syrians recognize that the ending of the CIA program is a start to to “solving the Syrian crisis” but not a “genuine policy shift.” Rather it was an admission by the murderous empire that they have failed as Syrian government minister Ali Haidar pointed out. [5]

As it seems evident, US imperialism has “repositioned” itself in Syria by allying with the “good” Kurds, by Western standards, the ones clustered around the illegitimate regional government in northern Iraq and those related to Rojava. Stephen Gowans points out that not only is the YPG, one of the groups which is associated with Rojava, basically the PKK, but that they would control regions currently occupied by Arabs, a move supported by Israel and the US. However, Turkey does not support it as they detest the Kurds, but also the Syrian government, with their own designs for “regime change” in the country, and the current Syrian government opposes it as a clear violation of their sovereignty and independence. Such a takeover of Arab areas, which could be a prelude to ethnic cleansing, is supported by illegal no-fly-zones by the US over parts of Syria, and the partition of Syria along “ethno-sectarian lines,” favored by Washington and Tel Aviv. Some will say that the YPG, SDF, and other forces associated with Rojava, are somehow revolutionary. For one, if this was the case, why would they have allowed the US to build two military bases within “their territory” by March 2016? [6]

When Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF, he did not go the US asking for help to fight the white colonists. When Hugo Chavez and his newfangled movement were gaining traction in Venezuela, they didn’t turn to the European imperialists. There are many other examples that could be given. Allowing an imperialist power to create bases within one’s territory means that one’s anti-imperialism is partially, if not completely, non-existent.

Around the same time that it was revealed that the US had two military bases in Syria, the special presidential envoy to the coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk, visited Rojava, showing the US-“good” Kurd alliance was in the making. Since then, the murderous empire has increased their support for these Kurds. The same Kurds who tortured two Arab prisoners to demand they tell them

“where are the Daesh fighters,” threatening their life and limb when they didn’t answer “correctly.” Recently, the murderous empire armed these Kurds directly to mount an assault on Daesh’s de facto capital, Raqqa. More than that, over 1,000 US special forces are within Syria, with the US helping Rojava-associated forces, since 2014, take control of territory with their “overwhelming” air power. Furthermore, not only are these Kurds wedded to their alliance with the Western imperialists, who also back, with arms, those in Northern Iraq, but they are liked by Western European, Japanese, and Scandinavian governments, along with some in Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. This is indicated by their diplomatic outposts all across Europe to spread the “reality” of their supposed “struggle,” with the impression that they are a “real” country. Even the Russian Federation seems to favor them to an extent. Such favoritism, mainly by those in the West, is related to the fact that Rojava is opposed to the Syrian government is a “resources-rich” mine for imperialism even though it is basically an illegal entity. Its existence violates the UN charter, especially article 2, and the Syrian Constitution (at least 5 articles). Some may cry that Rojava and the Kurds need “self-determination” but the entity itself violates Syrian sovereignty and such a claim to self-governance by the “good” Kurds is utterly (and completely) illegitimate.

If arming and providing direct military support to these Kurds is not enough, the US had reportedly provided advice on branding, a feature of modern capitalism in the Western world. Raymond Thomas, General and commander of US Special Operations, said at the Aspen Forum recently that the US told the YPG that they needed to re-brand because of their ties to the PKK, and called the name of SDF a “stroke of brilliance” since “democratic” was within the name. This account was also posted on SoL international, a site run by the Turkish Communist Party. In their summation, it was noted that Thomas said that the YPG and PKK have to “work on their own branding,” acting like they are separate. In response, Erdogan, a murderous leader of Turkey who represents that country’s bourgeoisie, said that “friends” should not deceive each other, implying that the US and Turkey are still “friends.” This is true to an extent, but the US and Turkey are pursuing different methods to overthrow the Syrian government. This is indicated by stories in the Turkish state media, which has an anti-Kurdish flair to it, such as one claiming that a US Army Magazine showed a PYD individual, associated with Rojava, with a patch displaying the face of the PKK’s jailed leader, Ocolan. To put it simply, relations between the murderous empire and ethno-nationalist Turkey are fraught. This is proven not only by Erdogan’s remarks noted above but declarations by the Turkish government that it will not allow a “terrorist state” of Rojava on their borders and claims that hundreds of trucks from the US are aiding the Kurds with a large amount of weapons. The latter article, which lists the exact location of 10 US outposts/bases in Rojava, was also written up by The Daily Beast. [7] This article notes that there is US presence from “one end to the other end” of Rojava, with two bases in northern Syrian and eight outposts, one of which is the communications center for the US-led coalition “fighting” Daesh.

With ten bases, effectively, in northern Syria, US imperialism has easily positioned itself to assist covertly and overtly in the overthrow of the Syrian government. Add to this the illegal US presence in Syria coupled with the bombing of Syria and Iraq which has killed a minimum of 600 people with the actual total likely topping over 7,000 civilians. Take for example a raid in Syria on July 4, by US bombers, which killed nine civilians and damaged civilian housing. Assisting the murderous empire in its “regime change” operation are the Israeli Zionists who frequently bomb inside Syria, directly helping the “anti-Assad” terrorists, accompanied by propaganda from outlets, such as National Geographic, to smear the Syrian government, as represented in their upcoming documentary which is totally fraudulent. If that isn’t enough, there have been direct provocations in Syria by the murderous empire. In June, the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet which was carrying out attacks on Daesh, a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.” This was only part of such provocations stemming from the dropping of thousands upon thousands of bombs on Syria, since 2014, thousands of US troops being sent into the region, false stories of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, and other provocations, sometimes with the help of British special forces. Additionally, the UAE, the Turks, Qatar, the Saudis, and numerous others, want a piece of the action, sending “tens of thousands of mercenary and reactionary forces to bring down the Syrian government.

While US imperialism under Trump is “re-positioning” itself by seeking new alliances and harsher policies toward alleged US enemies, the goal in Syria has not changed. As noted earlier, the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state. Gowans explains this simply. He notes that the murderous empire is angry that Bashar Al-Assad hasn’t integrated the Syrian economy into the “US-superintended economy,” while possessing principles of “Arab socialism,” anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Such ideas also come with Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah. Hence, since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria, with the idea since 2003 that the US would eliminate Arab nationalists in the region by invading their countries.

Iran puts a damper on such regime change plans, as does Russia. Already Iran and Russia have developed close relations, like Syria and Russia, with the idea that Iran-Russia contact can prevent Washington’s further intervention in Syria. As Raymond Thomas, quoted earlier, admitted, since Russia has established a “more credible foothold” in Syria, it could, in his summation, use this influence to expel US forces from the country. Whether this would actually happen is not known. As the murderous empire sees it, Iran, Syrian, and Russia are part of an “evil axis” to them. That is why the CIA’s mouthpiece, the Washington Post, declared that the US is threatening Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf whether a “shot across the bow” actually happened or not. [8]

The same goes for the 98-2 vote in the US Senate in favor of increased sanctions on Iran and Russia in mid-June. Only two Senators, with enough political capital, voted against it: “socially democratic” imperialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian-Republican Rand Paul. The sanctions themselves, introduced by Bob Corker, did not pass the House. The legislation not only claims that Iran threatens the US (and allies) in the Mideast, North Africa, and beyond, but it shows US apprehension about Iran’s influence.

In the past month, a new round of sanctions passed both legislative houses, incorporating some of Corker’s legislation on Russia and Iran, but also adding harsh sanctions against the DPRK. On July 25, the House passed the legislation 419-3, with only Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Jimmy Duncan voting no, all of whom were Republicans. The vote in the Senate two days similar was similar to the one the month before: Sanders and Paul voted against it.

Specifically, the new sanctions are slapped on Iran for its missile program and “human rights abuses” while squeezing the Russian economy and removing authority from the presidency to ease Russian sanctions. The latter is due to the unsubstantiated and feverous phobia over Russia, propagated by the US intelligence establishment, desperate Democrats and complaint Republicans, and much of the bourgeois media. The fact that Trump approves of the sanctions legislation flushes away all possibility he is “pro-Russia” in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, the fact that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership declared that the US’s diplomatic mission in Russia has to “reduce its staff by 755 employees” was a justified “aggressive response” that the New York Times, in typical fashion, called something which was seemingly “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.” Russia cannot respond by military force to these sanctions, so this reduction is a way of firing back, sending a message to Washington that the sanctions are not OK. [9]

As it seems evident, the murderous empire wants to weaken Iran (and Russia to an extent) to cause the dominoes (Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas) to fall so that imperial hegemony can reign across the region. [10] The Russians, Syrians, and Iranians aren’t standing for it. With Iran having “Washington’s moves under close surveillance,” they have worked to build military cooperation with Iraq, a major step forward in regional security to counter destabilization by the US and its affiliates.

Such an agreement, which disappoints the US, involves both countries working together to improve border security while providing the military forces of each country with “training, logistical…and military support.” Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament recently allocated $600 million to strengthen the country’s defensive missile program and the IRGC’s Quads force. Even with such measures, the moderate Iranian leadership is trying to create linkages with European capitalists created by the nuclear deal they negotiated with the West. The idea is that Iran should be “self-reliant and self-sufficient” since it has strong bilateral relationships with Russia, China, and a “remarkable number of European countries.” As Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently put it, there is an opportunity of strong relations between Iran and Europe, with creation of “indigenous technology using international advanced technology.” The Iranians also likely see such linkages as a way to partially deter some of the effects of sanctions imposed on them. Some capitalists, like the French, have jumped at the bit. Just recently, Total S.A., a French oil giant, signed a 20 year contract with Iran, with an “estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars.” This would result in 30 wells, 2 offshore platforms, and two pipelines as part of the Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) they signed with the Iranian government.

Even with Iran’s moves to court Western European capitalists, there are evident challenges. For one, Trump is continuing to push for “regime change” in Iran, dismantle the “Obama-era balance of power” and return to anti-Iran policies of Bush II. This isn’t much of a surprise since his foreign policy team is filled with Iran hawks, those who want to be more aggressive toward the country. Additionally, there are individuals like the chain-smoking, brutish, covert to Islam, whose name is “Mike Roger” when undercover and nicknamed “Ayatollah Mike.” [11] His full name is Michael D’Andrea. He is leading the anti-Iran campaign but previously ran the drone program, is brash, and was involved in the illegal torture program. [12] As one person quoted, in the CIA propaganda-filled New York Times, says, this is a sign of an “aggressive line toward Iran.”

For having a man who is a Muslim (converted because his wife was Muslim) leading a covert effort to undermine (and ultimately topple) a government rooted, bourgeois liberals and progressives will likely scream “intersectionality!” In reality, it is just imperialism with a nice bow on it, but the same tactics as before. Nothing has changed in that way at all.

In a recent article in the Monthly Review, Fred Magdoff noted that when corporations of “leading capitalist states have problems abroad,” they use the international structure they helped shape, also working to create “more favorable conditions at home and abroad to increase their flexibility and ability to make profits with the fewest restraints” evidenced by thirty CEOs of major US corporations visiting “Saudi Arabia with Trump.” He adds that economic elites and corporations use the power “of their home nation to secure advantages globally” with the nation state’s power of a “significant use to capital” with corporations, no matter the historical era, using “whatever leverage is at their disposal…to get their way,” to gain access to “foreign markets and investment opportunities.”

What Magdoff writes has relevance for the geopolitical position and relation of Iran, Syria, Russia, and the United States, to name a few international “actors” at the current time. Each of these countries has their respective bourgeoisie. For Iran and Syria, their national bourgeoisie is revolutionary in character. Specifically for Iran, this bourgeoisie, especially the reformist faction, is trying to entice European capitalists to invest in their country in order to become “self-sufficient” and create their own products. The principalist or “hardline” faction seems to not be fundamentally opposed to the prospect of self-development, as they support investment, but they are wary of Western influence from capitalists of Europe (mostly) since the involvement of Western international capitalist combines had a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossedegh in 1953 and were part of the pillaging of their country up until the victory of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The reformist faction, which was reinforced by the recent election in Iran’s populace, seems to be in a current truce with the “hardline” faction, the latter of which wants a “revolutionary economy” as Ayatollah Khomeini puts it, but does not oppose privatization, for example. The Western capitalists are salivating at the opportunity for a new market with US companies likely furious about the new sanctions since this closes markets for them, inadvertently giving the Europeans a head start in this new market, benefiting them and isolating the United States. Iran needs capital for its self-development, but accepting this capital means that Western capitalists will be able to use the “universal whore, the universal pimp of peoples,” money, as Karl Marx once described it, to try and corrupt Iranian society to make it more consumerist, accepting more and more Western values. [13] If that ultimately happens, then the Iranian Revolution will have failed and capitalism will be triumphant in Iran.

Like Iran, Syria has a national bourgeoisie. Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states. As Karl Marx wrote in 1844,

“…it is precisely the ability of the capitalist to direct his capital elsewhere which either drives the worker into starvation or forces him to submit to the capitalist’s demands” [14]

In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances, to be part of what Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), once called the “international left alliance.” Still, they are affected by competition among capitalists, as this influenced policies of those countries which are attacking them.

As for Russia, it is an interesting case. It is clearly capitalist, but it also has a progressive foreign policy. Partially this policy was forced on it by “isolation” pushed upon it by the US, but also due to its effort of building alliances with those countries under harsh attack by the murderous empire. Still, we cannot forget the Russian oligarchs, who are the Russian bourgeoisie. Even so, they are not like the US in interfering in the affairs of other countries, seeming to follow the principle that sovereignty is the “essence of the state” and that the sovereignty of the leader is based on the people since the “political state is…only a self-determination of the people.” [15] They are, as was noted by the Workers World Party at discussion at the Left Forum earlier this year, wanna be imperialists. Rome, and now the murderous empire, along with competing neo-colonial Western capitalistic states, treats “conquered countries….as private property.” [16] Russia, even if you said that it “conquered” Crimea, which it didn’t since there was a referendum where the people of the peninsula voted to be part of the Russian Federation, is not treating this area or any other area under their influence as their “private property.” Due to US restrictions and that of Russophobic European capitalist states, their markets are limited, so their imperialistic tendencies have not been developed as of yet. If these restrictions were lifted they would become a semi-imperialist state.

The murderous empire has “re-positioned” itself when it comes to Syria, and states associated with it, but as noted in this article, the goals remain the same. This was indicated in a recent speech by Vice President Mike Pence who bemoaned the “grave and growing threat posed by the missile capabilities of dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran” and noted that Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran.” If this sentiment is held by numerous other policymakers in the echelons of the intelligence and military establishments, which it likely is, it means they see Russia as the “puppetmaster,” directing other countries like Iran and Syria. This could not be farther from the truth. Both Iran and Syria have self-interested and justified reasons for their amiable relations with Russia” to counter the aggression of the murderous empire.

As those who care about the world around us, whether we are communists, socialists, or radicals of any flavor, we should recognize what Marx said in September 1843: “nothing prevents us from…taking sides in politics…we simple show the world the way it is struggling and…[push for] the reform of consciousness.” [17] If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction. We should take heed from Marx when he says that revolutions are “not made by shame” and arguing that

“A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.” [18]

While Marx was talking about Germany in March 1843, this sentiment applies to the present. The capitalists and their lackeys, imperialists of any character, of the murderous empire are the “fools” and they can be usurped by a revolution. In closing, we should believe it possible to engage in such actions to undermine (and ultimately overthrow) the capitalist class wherever, whether in the core, the periphery, and semi-periphery, standing in solidarity, in whatever way we can, with those fighting against the beast of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Anti-Assad is in quotation marks because that is how they are framed, although the Syrian government is much more than just Bashar Al-Assad, who was duly re-elected, like the rest of the government last year.

[2] Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017.

[3] BBC News, “Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’,” July 20, 2017.

[4] John Wolcott, “Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels – US officials,” Reuters, July 19, 2017.

[5] Dahila Nehme, “Syria says US halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war,” Reuters, July 25, 2017.

[6] Reuters, “US builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report,” Mar. 6, 2016.

[7] Roy Gutman, “Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria,” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2017.

[8] Andrew deGrandpre, “An Iranian ship refused to heed the Navy’s warning. Then shots were fired,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

[9] Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders US to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755,” New York Times, July 30, 2017.

[10] It is clearly not a big “conspiracy” as they might think it is.

[11] Greg Miller, “CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post,” Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2015.

[12] Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, “Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.’s Drone Missions,” New York Times, Apr. 25, 2015; Matthew Rosenburg and Adam Goldman, “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

[13] Karl Marx, “Money” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 377. On page 295, also within the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Marx describes capital as the power to command labor and products, and stored up labor.

[14] Karl Marx, “Wages of Labor” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 283.

[15] Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State” in 1843 within Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 82, 85, 89.

[16] Ibid, 179.

[17] Marx’s letter to Ruge in September 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 208-209.
[18] Marx’s letter to Ruge in March 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 200.

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).