Sunday, July 16, 2017

Halt the U.S. Drive to War with North Korea!


Posted by Nick Wright, July 15, 2017, https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/halt-the-u-s-drive-to-war-with-north-korea/

From the US Peace Council

US television news programs (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox) have been pounding the war drums in the last few weeks and days, since North Korea successfully launched a long- range missile. The long drift to war with North Korea[1] has seemingly become, overnight, a US drive to war with North Korea.

With his usual bluster and saber-rattling, President Trump on his recent tour of Europe continued to threaten “severe action” against North Korea. Trump has made matters worse by devolving authority to battlefield commanders who inflame tensions with their own incendiary statements. Example: the US commander in Korea, General Vincent Brooks, stated publicly “the only thing which separates armistice from war” with North Korea is “our self-restraint, which is a choice.”

Anyone is the US could conclude, quite reasonably, that the US is the aggrieved and threatened party; that North Korea obviously wishes to harm the US people; that the US confronts a new danger; that North Korea is the aggressor; that an innocent and remarkably patient US is the intended victim.

Such a conclusion — all of it — would be false. Almost nothing of what the US mainstream media says about North Korea is true. Only a grasp of the history and the broader context can shed light on this Korea Crisis.

A few key facts:

The US refusal to accept the legitimacy of the North Korean government (DPRK) is part of its long-term policy that any state in the world that follows an independent course is subject to being overthrown by the United States. Economic independence and sovereignty are considered by the US financial and corporate elite as an act of aggression. Therefore, the DPRK, Viet Nam, Cuba, the USSR and now Russia, Syria, Venezuela, China and others have all been targeted by the US politically and militarily. US policy insists that it has the right to curb independent states, to determine a country’s political leaders and socioeconomic system, and to use whatever means it takes – economic sanctions, sabotage, assassination, war — to achieve those goals.
• North Korea acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985.
• In 1994, the DPRK agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for the US providing energy materials and generating stations. In January of 2002, President George W. Bush announced that the DPRK was part of the “Axis of Evil,” and subject to regime change and even nuclear annihilation by the US. By the end of 2002, the DPRK had essentially exited the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
• The notion that North Korea poses a threat to the US is false and absurd. It would be national suicide for the DPRK to start a war with the US or South Korea, which have massively superior military capabilities. The DPRK has never threatened to start such a war, rather it has always asserted that it developed weapons of mass destruction in order to deter the US and its allies from an (often threatened) US attack such as those that decapitated Iraq and Libya. The constant denigration and demonization of the North Korean leadership (they are portrayed invariably as madmen, or clowns, or both) is a strategy to make the Big Lie of a threat from North Korea believable to an ill-informed and fearful US public.
• The DPRK has offered to freeze its nuclear weapons program if the US freezes its war practices targeting that country, actions aimed to precede negotiations. Russia and China have endorsed this approach. The US, however, refuses.

The US is Provoking the Crisis

North Korea would not have a nuclear weapons program if it were not under increasing threat from the US, which has been trying to force regime change in the North since 1945 by war, subversion, diplomatic isolation, and economic strangulation.

A recent article noted that:

1. As University of Chicago history professor Bruce Cumings [a leading US historian of the Korean War], writes, for North Korea the nuclear crisis [1] began in late February 1993, when General Lee Butler, head of the new US ‘Strategic Command,’ announced that he was retargeting strategic nuclear weapons (i.e., hydrogen bombs) meant for the old USSR, on North Korea (among other places.) At the same time, the new CIA chief, James Woolsey, testified that North Korea was ‘our most grave current concern.’ By mid-March 1993, tens of thousands of [US] soldiers were carrying out war games in Korea…and in came the B1-B bombers, B-52s from Guam, several naval vessels carrying cruise missiles, and the like: whereupon the North pulled out of the NPT.” [2]

2. It is the US that has been provoking the DPRK with its stationing of THAAD missile (“Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense”), a first-strike weapon, in South Korea over the last year. The US is now testing the THAAD missiles. US-South Korea practice military maneuvers, which used to recur several times a year, are now almost incessant.

3. Moreover, the US is further militarizing South Korea. Residents of the South Korean island of Jeju have strongly object to the South Korean military setting up a base on the island, with the possible deployment of the US Navy’s newest Zumwalt-class destroyer “to deter North Korean aggression.” At the end of World War II, after the Japanese Imperialists had been defeated, Jeju Islanders rose up against the US-installed colonial dictatorship of Syngman Rhee. The US responded by employing the former brutal Japanese military rulers to violently put down the protests.

It is the US that, again and again, has refused talks with North Korea’s leadership:
• In January [2017], North Korea offered to “sit with the US anytime” to discuss US war games and its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Pyongyang proposed that the United States “contribute to easing tension on the Korean peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in south Korea and its vicinity this year, and said that in this case the DPRK is ready to take such responsive steps as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the US is concerned.”
• The North Korean proposal was seconded by China and Russia and recently by South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in. But Washington peremptorily rejected the proposal, refusing to acknowledge any equivalency between US-led war games, which US officials deem ‘legitimate’ and North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, which they label ‘illegitimate.” (Stephen Gowans, ibid.)
• Having partitioned Korea in 1945, the US permanently stationed about 40,000 of troops in South Korea after the end of 1950-1953 hostilities and the 1953 armistice. The U.S. still denies Korea a peace treaty, which the DPRK has insisted on. But peace was never the intention of US imperialism. US foreign policy sees Northeast Asia only through the lens of domination.
• The permanent occupation of South Korea was aimed at geopolitical control of the region, including elimination of the DPRK and moving US missile and military forces right up to the Chinese and Russian borders. The occupation was symbolized by the giant, yearly provocative military maneuvers by the US and its regional allies, such as South Korea. Such rehearsals for real war with the DPRK have stepped up dramatically in recent months.

Few Americans grasp the enormity of the trauma suffered by millions of Koreans in the war of 1950-53. The war devastated dozens of Korean cities. The US dropped over 428,000 bombs over the capital Pyongyang alone, and killed 1.2 million people. The US war on Korea included the use of napalm. The US war’s brutal and blatant violations of international humanitarian law remain unpunished.

The real nature of US policy to the Korean peninsula is neo-colonial domination, through occupation and partition. This has been so since 1945. The US has stooped to employ the same quislings that had run Korea as a Japanese colony. Prof. Cumings wrote in the London Review of Books:
• To shore up their [1945] occupation, the Americans employed every last hireling of the Japanese they could find, including former officers in the Japanese military like Park Chung Hee and Kim Chae-gyu, both of whom graduated from the American military academy in Seoul in 1946. (After a military takeover in 1961 Park became president of South Korea, lasting a decade and a half until his ex-classmate Kim, by then head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, shot him dead over dinner one night.)
• After the Americans left in 1948 the border area around the 38th parallel was under the command of Kim Sok-won, another ex-officer of the Imperial Army, and it was no surprise that after a series of South Korean incursions into the North, full-scale civil war broke out on 25 June 1950. Inside the South itself – whose leaders felt insecure and conscious of the threat from what they called ‘the north wind’ – there was an orgy of state violence against anyone who might somehow be associated with the left or with communism.
• The historian Hun Joon Kim found that at least 300,000 people were detained and executed or simply disappeared by the South Korean government in the first few months after conventional war began. My own work and that of John Merrill indicates that somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people died as a result of political violence before June 1950, at the hands either of the South Korean government or the US occupation forces. In her recent book Korea’s Grievous War, which combines archival research, records of mass graves and interviews with relatives of the dead and escapees who fled to Osaka, Su-kyoung Hwang documents the mass killings in villages around the southern coast. In short, the Republic of Korea was one of the bloodiest dictatorships of the early Cold War period; many of the perpetrators of the massacres had served the Japanese in their dirty work – and were then put back into power by the Americans.
• The most important new factor is the destabilizing THAAD missiles. According to the US peace organization, Global Network, an authority on questions of war technology, the US has recently deployed the THAAD “missile defense” system in Seongju, South Korea despite massive protests by South Koreans. It is claimed by US authorities that THAAD is there to intercept missiles from North Korea. But many experts believe China and Russia are the real targets, given the enormous range of THAAD radar, which counterproductively intensifies unnecessary military tension in the region. The US has also deployed other “missile defense” systems through the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East to encircle Russia and China. “Missile defense” is a key element in Pentagon first-strike attack planning.

De-escalate Tensions Now!

The US Peace Council joins with other US antiwar organizations in demanding that:
• The US must reverse course. De-escalate tension now. No more provocations from the US. The United States and South Korea must immediately cease military maneuvers in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate. The THAAD missiles near the North Korea-South Korea border must be de-activated and removed.
• The United States must engage in good faith, direct talks with North Korea. Such talks should include the perspective of a peace treaty to end the Korean War. A commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for talks with North Korea.
• The United States and all states in the region must stop military actions that could be interpreted as provocative, including such actions as forward deployment of additional military forces by the United States, and the testing or assertion of territorial claims by deploying of military forces in contested areas by any state. Withdrawing U.S. naval forces newly concentrated near the Korean peninsula would be an important confidence-building step.

Korea — all of it — has a right to its sovereignty and independence. The recently elected South Korean leader, Moon Jae-in, represents a break with the repressive and reactionary leaders of the past. He campaigned on a number of progressive ideas — more independence from the US; more engagement with the North. But he has had to contend with bullying by a U.S. Administration bent on heightening tensions. The U.S. has no right to enforce the partition of the Korean peninsula and to block steps to unity and social progress desired by the people of Korea, North and South.
War can still be prevented, but only if the antiwar movement compels the U.S. to reverse course.
_______________________

[1] More properly, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK. Here the terms will be used interchangeably.

[2] Stephen Gowans in “The Real Reason Washington is Worried about North Korea’s ICBM Test” (What’s Left, July 5, 2017 https://gowans.wordpress.com)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Urgently needed: a responsible US attitude to North Korea

Professor Martin Hart-Landsberg here gives details of US relations with North Korea, showing that the perverse state is not the North Korean entity but the US itself which has proven to be utterly unreliable and deliberately provocative in its dealing with North Korea…

The US government remains determined to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea and continues to plan for a military strike aimed at destroying the country’s nuclear infrastructure. And the North replies that it would respond to any attack with its own strikes against US bases in the region and even the US itself. What is happening is not new.

  • The US began conducting war games with South Korean forces in 1976 and it was not long before those included simulated nuclear attacks against the North. That was before North Korea had nuclear weapons.
  • In 1994, President Bill Clinton was close to launching a military attack on North Korea with the aim of destroying its nuclear facilities.
  • In 2002, President Bush talked about seizing North Korean ships as part of a blockade of the country, which is an act of war.
  • In 2013, the US conducted war games which involved planning for preemptive attacks on North Korean military targets and “decapitation” of the North Korean leadership and even a first strike nuclear attack.

The cycle of belligerency and threat-making is intensifying, and a miscalculation could trigger a new war, with devastating consequences. Even if a war is averted, the ongoing embargo against North Korea and continual threats of war are costly. They promote/legitimatize greater military spending and militarization more generally, at the expense of needed social programs, in Japan, China, the US, and the two Koreas. They also create a situation that compromises democratic possibilities in both South and North Korea and worsen already difficult economic conditions in North Korea.

An alternative that the US government is unwilling to consider, much less discuss is for the US to accept North Korean offers of direct negotiations between the two countries, with all issues on the table. The US government and media dismiss this option as out of hand. We are told:

  1. the North is a hermit kingdom and seeks only isolation
  2. the country is ruled by crazy people hell-bent on war
  3. the North Korean leadership cannot be trusted to follow through on its promises.

None of this is true.

  1. If being a hermit kingdom means never wanting to negotiate, then North Korea is not a hermit kingdom. North Korea has been asking for direct talks with the United States since the early 1990s. The North was dependent on trade with the communist countries and their fall to capitalism left the North Korean economy isolated. Since then, they have repeatedly asked for unconditional direct talks with the US in hopes of securing an end to the Korean War (it is still not over because no peace treaty was ever agreed) with a peace treaty as a first step toward their desired normalization of relations. They have been repeatedly rebuffed. The US has always put preconditions on those talks, preconditions that constantly change whenever the North has taken steps to meet them.

    The North has also tried to join the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), but the US and Japan have blocked their membership. The North has tried to set up free trade zones to attract foreign investment, but the US and Japan have worked to block them. So, it is not the North that is refusing to talk or broaden its engagement with the global economy; it is the US that seeks to keep North Korea isolated.

  2. The media portray North Korea as pursuing an out-of-control militarism that is the main cause of the current dangerous situation. But it is important to recognize that South Korea has outspent North Korea on military spending every year since 1976. International agencies currently estimate that North Korean annual military spending is $4 billion, while South Korean annual military spending is $40 billion. And then we have to add the US military build-up. North Korea has largely been responding to South Korean and US militarism and threats, not driving them. As for the development of a nuclear weapons program, it was the US that brought nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. It did so in 1958 in violation of the Korean War armistice and threatened North Korea with nuclear attack years before the North even sought to develop nuclear weapons.

  3. North Korea has been a more reliable negotiating partner than the USA. Here, we have to take up the nuclear issue more directly. The North has tested a nuclear weapon five times: 2006, 2009, 2013, and twice in 2016. Critically, North Korean tests have largely been conducted in an effort to pull the US into negotiations or fulfill past promises. And the country has made numerous offers to halt its testing and even freeze its nuclear weapons program if only the US would agree to talks.

North Korea was first accused of developing nuclear weapons in the early 1990s. Its leadership refused to confirm or deny that the country had succeeded in manufacturing nuclear weapons but said that it would open up its facilities for inspection if the US would enter talks to normalize relations. As noted above, the North was desperate, in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, to draw the US into negotiations. In other words, it was ready to end the hostilities between the two countries. The US government refused talks and began to mobilize for a strike on North Korean nuclear facilities. A war was averted only because Jimmy Carter, against the wishes of the Clinton administration, went to the North, met Kim Il Sung, and negotiated an agreement that froze the North Korean nuclear program.

The North Korean government agreed to end their country’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and normalization. And from 1994 to 2002, the North froze its plutonium program and had all nuclear fuel observed by international inspectors to assure the US that it was not engaged in making any nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the US did not live up to its side of the bargain; it did not deliver the aid it promised or take meaningful steps toward normalization.

  • In 2001, President Bush declared North Korea to be part of the “axis of evil” and the following year unilaterally canceled the agreement. In response, the North restarted its nuclear program.
  • In 2003, the Chinese government, worried about growing tensions between the US and North Korea, convened multiparty talks to bring the two countries back to negotiations.
  • In 2005, under Chinese pressure, the US agreed to a new agreement, in which each North Korean step toward ending its weapons program would be matched by a new US step toward ending the embargo and normalizing relations.
  • Exactly one day after signing the agreement, the US asserted, without evidence, that North Korea was engaged in a program of counterfeiting US dollars and tightened its sanctions policy against North Korea.
  • In 2006, The North Korean responded by testing its first nuclear bomb. And shortly afterward, the US agreed to drop its counterfeiting charge and comply with the agreement it had previously signed.
  • In 2007, North Korea shut down its nuclear program and even began dismantling its nuclear facilities—but the US again didn’t follow through on the terms of the agreement, falling behind on its promised aid and sanction reductions. In fact, the US kept escalating its demands on North Korea, calling for an end to North Korea’s missile program and improvement in human rights in addition to the agreed-upon steps to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. And so…
  • In 2009, frustrated, North Korea tested another nuclear weapon.
  • The US responded by tightening sanctions.
  • In 2012, the North launched two satellites. The first failed, the second succeeded. Before each launch the US threatened to go to the UN and secure new sanctions on North Korea. But the North asserted its right to launch satellites and went ahead.
  • In 2013, after the December 2012 launch, the UN agreed to further sanctions and the North responded with its third nuclear test.

This period marks a major change in North Korean policy. The North now changed its public stance. It declared itself a nuclear state, and announced that it was no longer willing to give up its nuclear weapons. However, the North Korean government made clear that it would freeze its nuclear weapons program if the US would cancel its future war games. The US refused and its March 2013 war games included practice runs of nuclear equipped bombers and planning for occupying North Korea. The North has therefore continued to test and develop its nuclear weapons capability.

So, the history shows that whenever the US shows willingness to negotiate, the North responds favourably, and when agreements are signed, it is the US that abandons them. The North has pushed forward with its nuclear weapons program largely in an attempt to force the US to engage seriously because it believes that this program is its only bargaining chip. It is desperate to end the US embargo on its economy.

We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before the country had a nuclear arsenal. Things have changed. Now, the most we can reasonably expect is an agreement that freezes that arsenal. However, if relations between the two countries truly improve it may well be possible to achieve a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, an outcome both countries profess to seek.

So, why does the US refuse direct negotiations and risk war? The logical reason is that there are powerful forces opposing them. The tension is useful to the US military industrial complex, which needs enemies to support the build-up of the military budget. The tension also allows the US military to maintain troops on the Asian mainland and forces in Japan. It also helps to isolate China and boost right-wing political tendencies in Japan and South Korea. And now, after decades of demonizing North Korea, it is difficult for the US political establishment to change course.

The outcome of the recent presidential election in South Korea might open possibilities to force a change in US policy. Moon Jae-in, the winner, has repudiated the hardline policies of his impeached predecessor, Park Guen-Hye, and declared his commitment to re-engage with the North. The US government was not happy about his victory, but it cannot easily ignore Moon’s call for a change in South Korean policy toward North Korea, especially since US actions against the North are usually presented as necessary to protect South Korea. Thus, if Moon follows through on his promises, the US may well be forced to moderate its own policy toward the North.

US Americans and we, onlookers and passive supporters of this perfidy, have a responsibility to become better educated about US policy toward both Koreas, to support popular movements in South Korea that seek peaceful relations with North Korea, to progress toward reunification, and to work for a US policy that promotes the demilitarization and normalization of US-North Korean relations.

Professor Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; an Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea. His areas of teaching and research include political economy, economic development, international economics, and the political economy of East Asia. He is also a member of the Workers' Rights Board (Portland, Oregon) and maintains a blog, ‘Reports from the Economic Front’. Here he gives details of US relations with North Korea, showing that the perverse state is not the North Korean entity but the US itself which has proven to be utterly unreliable and deliberately provocative in its dealing with North Korea.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Jo Cox fell short of Sainthood

Jo Cox, the former MP for Batley and Spen, was cruelly murdered by a fascist admirer a year ago. No doubt she was a popular MP and an all round nice person, and as Jeremy Corbyn often said, “any killing is unacceptable”. All of it! So, on the anniversary of her death, the media uniformly offer up eulogies for her as a promising MP and a great humanitarian.

She spent time as an aid worker for Oxfam in such places as Darfur, Uganda and Afghanistan before being selected as a Labour MP in 2015, and yes, she supported Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, and called for the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as opposing efforts by the government to curtail the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, correctly saying:

I believe that this is a gross attack on democratic freedoms. Not only is it right to boycott unethical companies but it is our right to do so.

She also said:

I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed the risk to civilian lives was too high.

But, for all these humanitarian credentials, she seemed to be oddly gullible in other ways, which ought not to be forgotten, particularly in regard to Syria. Because of her background with Oxfam, she seemed to speak with some authority when she said she had met Syrian doctors, humanitarians and activists and heard that they wanted a stop to the aerial attacks that she said were the biggest killer of civilians. She maintained these attacks came, most notoriously in the form of barrel bombs, a concept manufactured by the terrorists in the areas under attack from the Syrian Arab Army to hide or excuse their own shrapnel shells fired into Syrian areas from their aptly named “hell cannon” and “hellfire rockets”. UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, described them as “basically gas canisters full of nails, stones and iron, which are being thrown in a rudimentary way across the other side of the line and to kill civilians”.

She wanted what the US and British themselves wanted to be able to duplicate the blood and mayhem spread in Libya in another Arab country troublesome to US/NATO power grabbing—a “no-fly zone” allegedly simply to make it harder for Assad to bomb what she made out were his own civilians—in reality the areas fortified by ISIS/Al Qaida. She abstained on the 2013 vote on air-strikes in Syria, not out of a desire to stop civilian deaths, but because she wanted action to deal also with President Assad, not just ISIS, adding:

I am not against airstrikes per se, but I cannot actively support them unless they are part of a plan.

The majority of legal scholars agree that enforcing a “No Fly Zone” is an act of war because it violates an independent country’s sovereignty, in direct violation of fundamental principles which underpin authentic humanitarian work. But she must have known what the “no fly zone” meant in Libya—a merciless continual bombing to cover the terrorists who had been shipped into the country from elsewhere in the middle east to unseat Gadaffi in support of US policy. It led to many deaths indeed in that country, far more than the Libyan leader was supposed to have had caused. She co-authored an article in The Observer with Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, arguing that British military forces could help achieve an ethical solution to the conflict, including the creation of “civilian safe havens” in Syria (Andrew Mitchell and Jo Cox, 11 October, 2015). It seems to follow logically that an extension of a no fly zone in Syria must also lead to many many more deaths of Syrian people, the very thing that Jo said appalled her.

These Syrian people and doctors also could not have be the ones that Jo Cox claims to have been meeting because the fake news that fake journalists had been passing off when legitimately allowed in Syria had led to Assad banning all western agents, so she could not have been speaking with “Syrian” doctors, etc, but only with those in areas not governed by the Syrian authorities and so who were supporting Al Qaida and ISIS, the terrorists opposed to Assad. She confirmed her view that Assad and ISIS were no different from each other, something that proves she had no knowledge of the views of ordinary Syrians who were very sure that however bad the West likes to paint their “dictator”, they knew from direct experience that he was infinitely preferable to the terrorists. And that, of course, is why Assad has been able to lead the Syrian people in a war that has lasted longer than WW2 against a brutal invasion of foreign mercenaries financially and militarily supported by Saudi Arabia whose armaments we and the US were supplying at great profit to the arms manufacturers.

Supporting her argument, she claimed as true the Western propaganda that Assad has killed 600,000 people, everyone that had died in the intervention, seven times the number of civilians as ISIS, had helped nurture ISIS and been its main recruiting sergeant, absurd statements that any Syrian would consider laughable if it were not so dangerous. She would not or could not see that the USA were the actual “recruiting sergeant” for ISIS!

So, as an MP, Jo Cox repeatedly appealed for the UK to lead international efforts to airdrop aid to “civilians” besieged by Assad, but really enclaves of ISIS beheaders, while the innocents who really suffered were the villages of Syrian loyalists besieged by ISIS, Kafarya and Foua. These are two Idlib villages under full siege by Ahrar al Sham and Nusra Front (Al Qaida in Syria) since March 2015. But Jo Cox had admitted she could not tell the difference.

She was also a founder and co-chair with Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Friends of Syria. It was a gross misnomer for the people whom the group were friends of were not Syrians loyal to Syria and its elected leader, but were so-called “rebels” who were a front for the foreign mercenaries encouraged by the US in their task of overthrowing Assad whom the US regarded as the real enemy, rather as Jo Cox did. She in turn was supported by the Syria Campaign, supposedly a non-political solidarity NGO but one set up to push the US into toppling another formerly stable Middle Eastern government, according to Middle East authority, Max Blumenthal.

Jo was a passionate advocate of the White Helmets—supposedly a self-sacrificing voluntary NGO to help the casualties in war zones—writing to the Nobel Committee praising their work, and nominating them for the Nobel Peace Prize:

In the most dangerous place on earth these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need regardless of religion or politics.

In fact they were a US, UK, EU creation established in 2013, and not an independent NGO. The White Helmets receive assistance from the US government’s Agency for International Development—something they have not denied—so it is a multi-million dollar US Coalition funded organisation. In short, it is funded by the governments involved and invested in the Syrian conflict, and not at all a grass-roots Syrian organisation. The White Helmets funding was, from the UK ($65m via UK Foreign Office), the US (US State Dept via USAID $23m), Holland ($4.5m), Germany ($ 7.87m) and Japan (undisclosed sum from the International Cooperation Agency), Denmark (undisclosed sum)—all via the Mayday Rescue “foundation” set up by James Le Mesurier, a former British Army officer working as an adviser on Syria civil defence at the UAE. They are based in Gaziantep, Turkey and largely trained in Turkey and Jordan not inside Syria.

Curiously, the White Helmets are embedded exclusively in areas of Syria occupied by listed terrorist organisations including Al Nusra Front and ISIS, along with various so-called “moderate rebels” such as Ahrar al Sham (JFS) and Nour Al Din Zinki. CBC Canada now tells us, curiously enough, “Al Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, formerly known as Al Nusra Front and then Jabhat Fateh Al Sham, has been removed from the US and Canada’s terror watch-lists, since July 2016, after it merged with fighters from Zenki Brigade and hardline jihadists from Ahrar al Sham and rebranded itself as Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in January this year’. The US gradually reveals its previously officially undisclosed associations with the terrorist groups. Even so plenty of investigators have discovered and attempted to publicise these links but the main stream media have kept them hidden from the general public in the interests of fomenting war.

The US State Department is hesitant to label Tahrir al-Sham a terror group, despite the group’s link to al-Qaida, as the US government has directly funded and armed the Zenki Brigade, one of the constituents of Tahrir al-Sham, with sophisticated weaponry including the US-made antitank TOW missiles.

Adulatory publicity about the White Helmets is the result of a multimillion dollar sustained commercial marketing and social media promotional campaign via a network that is funded by George Soros and various US, UK and Middle Eastern enterprises. The PR network is as follows: Avaaz–Purpose–Syria Campaign–White Helmets.

The White Helmets claim to be neutral and “non-aligned”, yet they actively promote and lobby for US/NATO state intervention, including the “no fly zone”. The White Helmets are also referred to as the “Syria Civil Defence”. However, there is an existing Syria Civil Defence—the REAL Syria Civil Defence—established in Syria in 1953 and recruited and trained inside Syria. It operates in both terrorist and government held areas.

The day after Cox died, 17 June 2016, her husband set up a GoFundMe page named “Jo Cox’s Fund” in aid of three charities which he described as “closest to her heart”: the Royal Voluntary Service, Hope not Hate, and the White Helmets.

She was also a friend of Staffan de Mistura, a man of dubious affiliations in this connection. Thus, in January 2010, Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, revealed de Mistura had been offered the job as the UN special representative in Afghanistan, suggesting if, indeed, he was not the USA’s own nominee, he was regarded as a politically safe pair of hands from their viewpoint. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, himself a US puppet, confirmed the appointment soon afterwards. He was similarly regarded by the EU a little later in late 2011 when it obliged Italy to accept an EU government of technocrats headed by Mario Monti, Mistura being nominated Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. Then, in May 2014, de Mistura was named president of the board of governors for the European Institute of Peace (an EU-backed NGO) in Brussels. The EIP is the putative facilitator of the European Union’s global peace agenda, pursuing “multi-track diplomacy” and promoting conflict resolution. Yet the EU is multiply involved in NATO which is the USA’s main military ally in everything it does wherever it does it, like Syria, the member states being obliged to help each other! Mistura therefore was practiced in the art of seeming to be what he was not—a peacemaker—when he was really covering for militarism via NATO. On 10 July 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he had appointed de Mistura as the new special envoy tasked with seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. Can we be sure he was actually ever intent on peace or was ever fair in his assessment of the warring parties? Plenty of evidence suggests not. Thus, he stated in one of his briefings:

To defeat Islamic State, you have to have a political approach that also includes those that feel disenfranchised, the Sunnis.

Yet the terrorists who are trying to bring down the Assad regime are Sunnis, and Sunnis of the extreme and odious Saudi sect called Wahhabis—the ones fond of punishment by chopping off bits of the human body, including heads! Mistura does not sound at all objective in this statement, but it does suits US/NATO/Saudi policy of bringing all dissident nations in the middle east to heel.

To end the successful Syrian/Russian air campaign against the terrorist stronghold of Aleppo, the UN special envoy wanted to give the 900 or so head-lopping fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly linked to al-Qaida and known as al-Nusra Front, safe passage to leave Aleppo for another Syrian city. At the same time, the Syrian government had to agree to recognise the current anti-Assad political administration in eastern Aleppo, led by Brita Haj Hassan, and leave it in power at least in the short term—effectively allowing the terrorist rulers of the city to remain in power though they had lost the power struggle! De Mistura even offered to accompany the terrorists personally if they were willing to leave Aleppo, but reneged on his offer when a humanitarian lane was actually opened to let them leave. He plainly thought it a risky business.

De Mistura explained in a briefing that President Assad had discussed with him the issue of his concerns about Da’esh, and his feeling that he himself was concerned about terrorism—ISIS and basically Al-Nusra. He said he had been listening to that and hearing that this could be an opportunity for him [De Mistura] also to prove whether he [Assad] was, as he [de Mistura] wanted to believe—against Da’esh and Al-Nusra. Since those terrorist organisations were trying to eliminate Assad and the secular Syria he was defending, and de Mistura had admitted, “Syrians overall emphasize their own vision for a united, sovereign, independent—they’re very proud people—non-sectarian, multi-confessional, all-inclusive state with territorial integrity...” it is remarkable, indeed unbelievable, that de Mistura could have doubted that Assad was “against” the terrorists! Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies thought de Mistura should resign.

Finally, Cox was a “Remain” supporter in the campaign leading to the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, which working people largely rejected. She and fellow MP Neil Coyle both nominated Jeremy Corbyn as leader, then when he did better than they had exppected, regretted it. Well she did say:

I never really grew up being political or Labour.

So there we have it. A promising talent but with deep flaws of discernment and judgement regarding imperial military designs, little internationalist human feeling despite her experience in disaster zones abroad, and no soundly entrenched political convictions to give her a solid basis for it anyway.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Labour’s manifesto recognises the economic status quo can’t be kept going for much longer.

»Ten years ago this month, Tony Blair was going to stand down as prime minister after 10 years in the job, during which time he had won three elections on the trot with his "New Labour" (read "NOT Labour") neoliberal (read Tory) policies. His legacy?
• Britain was in debt
• the public sector was on the brink of meltdown
• the country was trying to play the part of world policeman on the cheap
• the growing trade deficit exposed the perils of allowing manufacturing to shrivel
• then, a month after Blair’s departure from Downing Street, the biggest financial crisis in a century erupted!

Remember, it was "NOT labour" not Labour that brought all this on.

As in 2007, the economy is still over-dependent on the financial sector and on the willingness of households to load up on debt. When the housing market slows--as in 2011-12 and currently--so does the economy. Income and wealth are highly concentrated because not only has growth been slow it has also been unevenly distributed. In the workplace, management is strong and unions are weak, which helps explain why real wages have grown more slowly since 2007 than in any decade since the 19th Century. London is rich and thriving but might as well be a separate country given how different it is from other, less prosperous, regions. Relative poverty, as the former prime minister Gordon Brown has shown, is heading for levels not experienced even under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Labour’s draft manifesto at least tries to tackle some of these glaring weaknesses. There is plenty of good in the manifesto:
• Employers who whinge constantly about the poor quality of school leavers and graduates will be asked to contribute more to the education budget through higher corporation tax.
• Labour plans to broaden stamp duty to a wider range of financial instruments, including derivatives, which will raise £5bn and help lessen volatility.
• There is a recognition that macro-economic policy since the crisis has been flawed, with far too much emphasis on ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing and too little on tax and spending measures.
• Austerity has been tested to destruction, with both deficit reduction and growth much weaker than envisaged.
• There is a strong case, as the International Monetary Fund has noted, for countries to borrow to invest in infrastructure, especially when they can do so at today’s low interest rates.

It is sign of how much ground has been ceded by the left since Blair's "NOT Labour" took over the Labour party, that these ideas are seen as dangerously radical. They were not radical in 1945 when a mild mannered Labour leader, Clement Attlee, was given no chance of winning against the victorious war leader, Winston Churchill.

Germany and France have higher levels of corporation tax than Britain, but they also have better trained workforces and higher levels of productivity. A group of countries are planning a financial transactions tax. Balancing day-to-day spending while borrowing for roads, railways and superfast broadband, which is what John McDonnell is suggesting, is more Keynesian (the principles applied for the first 35 post war years--until Thatcher in this country and Reagan in the USA abandoned them to give wealthy people even more wealth!--when the Western world had more equal societies and more productive economies) than Marxist--the fake fact the Tory press apply to Corbyn's policies. What’s more, these essentially social-democratic ideas will seem even more mainstream if--as is entirely possible--there is another crisis.

And where we are is that:
• Real incomes are falling.
• Inequality is rising.
• The NHS is kept going on a wing and a prayer.
• The economy is barely rising despite more than eight years of unprecedented stimulus from the Bank of England.
• Personal debt is heading back towards its previous record levels.
• International co-operation has rarely been weaker.
• There is a profound disconnect between the financial markets, where asset prices regularly scale new heights, and the state of the real economy.

Now ask yourself this. As this is so, what is the real fantasy, Labour’s manifesto ideas that income, wealth and power should be more evenly distributed or the idea that the current state of affairs can be sustained very much longer?

We just cannot risk the current state of affairs being perpetuated under May's complacent Tories.«
(Adapted from Larry Elliott, The Guardian)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Media on Trial: Contextual Notes

Probably every conflict is fought on at least two grounds—the battlefield and the minds of the people, via propaganda. Propaganda is to rally people behind a cause, often a miliary or political one, by publicising it, but also by exaggerating, misrepresenting, and lying about it. Some of the tactics used in propaganda include:

• selective stories
• partial facts and background
• exaggerating threats to people’s security and reinforcing reasons and motivations for them to respond to them
• offering only a narrow range of insights into the situation, vouchsafed as undeniable (rather than one viewpoint among others that are not considered) and needing to be confirmed—viz, only official government sources or retired military personnel for conflicts
• denigrating as “bad guys” and name-calling the opponent or the enemy for supposed dastardly acts
• jumping to judgement based on inadequate information and before adequate or often any valid discussion, especially of the facts and the options available, has been considered.

These ploys are constantly used by our media to “persuade” people to the stance preferred by the group controlling the sources of propaganda—usually the vested interests of big businesses or the party of the ruling clique, and internationally, the USA, NATO and the West generally. All of these approaches have been used in the latest interventions by the West in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but extend back over much of recent history through a multiplicity of US interventions since WWII including Chile, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War against the USSR and China, and continue still against Venezuela, Brazil and other South American states. Since the end of WWII, the United States has:

• attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected
• dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries
• attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders
• attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries
• grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries
• been more involved in the practice of torture than any other country in the world for over a century (although not easily quantified), not just performing the actual torture, but teaching it, providing the manuals, and furnishing the equipment.

These are facts not loony “alternative facts” or “fake news” and can be found in the Western liberal media (WLM), but are not constantly plugged as the propaganda points are, so are quickly forgotten even if they were originally noticed at all by the typical receiver of the media’s news. The WLM pretends to have a “watchdog” role, an independent voice that somehow assists social accountability. Yet it has really been the source of propaganda and public enthusiasm for wars like those on Iraq, Libya and Syria. By describing bloody and vicious interventions as being “humanitarian”, journalists deliberately switched off their critical faculties and thereby switched off ours! Thus they hid a murderous spree of US/NATO “regime change” across the region.

For the US and the UK criminal enterprise against Syria, the challenge was as ever selling it to their electorates—public relations! Justifying the dirty war called on mass disinformation. Seeking “regime change” the US and its NATO allies hid behind proxy armies of “Islamists” accusing the Syrian Government of atrocities, and so a narrative had to be built and promoted. It required a relentless propaganda campaign demonizing the Syrian government and everything it did. So, the mild-mannered optometrist, Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, was described as worse than Hitler. They did this by constant reliance on partisan sources, such as the UK-based Rami Abdul Rahman (SOHR, the self-styled Syrian Observatory on Human Rights), the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), the latter two firmly embedded in a “revolving door” relationship with the US State Department, at least under Democrat administrations.

As western peoples we have been particularly deceived by this dirty war, reverting to our worst traditions of intervention, racial prejudice and poor reflection on our own histories. The popular myths (manufactured lies) of the dirty war are that…

• It is a “civil war”—a “popular revolt” in 2011 was violently quashed by Assad.
• Assad is a brutal dictator who enjoys killing “his own people”.
• The opposition are actually Syrian rebels who want rid of their hated leader.
• The US/NATO/Saudi Arabia/Qatar are justified in backing the rebels.
• So “terrorists” in Syria are really just dissident Syrians fighting for their freedom.
• The Syrian forces backed by their ally Russia’s airforce are deliberately killing Syrian people not terrorists.
• The Syrian people will welcome regime change and the replacement of Assad with a US/Nato approved government.

Each and every one of these assertions can be shown to be lies from the Western press itself, though finding the rebuttals is not easy amid the mass of propaganda. It is easier to find the detailed rebuttals from the alternative media as represented by some of the speakers here (and listed below), and sometimes from honest academics, also represented in tonight’s addresses. Their articles will often cite the confirmatory references in the main stream media.
Some reliable authorities worth looking up online and reading…

Prof Tim Anderson
Chris Hedges
Craig Murray
Finian Cunningham
Glen Greenwald
Jon Pilger
Jonathan Cook
Pepe Escobar
Thierry Meysanne
William Blum
Robert Parry
Neil Clark
Michel Chossudovsky
Piers Robinson

And some of the websites and political online magazines where counter propagandist material can be found…

Global Research
Counterpunch
Dissident Voice
21st Century Wire
BS News
Consortium News
Truthdig
Naked Capitalism
Zero Hedge
Truthout
Morning Star

Friday, May 5, 2017

What is at stake in terms of inequality in the UK General Election

Danny Dorling at Class explains what's at stake in terms of inequality.

"Whether measured by the Gini coefficient for OECD countries, or by the take of the top 10%, income inequality rates in the UK today are the worst in all of Europe. Of all the countries of Europe, the UK was the only country to see no improvement in life expectancy between 2011 and 2015 (the latest year for which data has been released). In most countries economic inequalities have been reducing or stable in recent years. Our main problem is being governed by people who have no interest in policies that address inequality, and in telling the public that they believe most people do not deserve to be well off."

Yet, the Conservatives on present trends are likely to win a large majority of seats without a large majority of votes (because the media have succeeded in portraying the Labour leader as ineffective, when he is in fact the only leader to have presented policies capable of changing our situation) and, unless the electorate realise it and return to supporting Labour, the growth of inequality and the decline of Britiain will continue. The Tories, along with most other parties are hoping to benefit from the media denigration of the Labour leader, abetted by far too many Blairite MPs still in parliament.

Danny Dorling tells us the 2017 General Election will determine whether the many negative changes in life chances that began in 2011 become cemented for a generation. For example:
• For the first time ever, as you became older in Britain you now become less likely to escape private renting. If current trends continue, then most people aged under 50 should assume they will spend the rest of their lives renting from a private landlord. The wealth of private landlords rose by £177bn between 2010 and 2015 as landlords bought up more and more properties and as the price of all properties rose because of their frantic purchases, all fuelled by high and rising rents.
• The failure of the Conservative government to see any improvement in public health since coming to office is the worse health record of any UK government since at least 1945. People in the UK now live shorter lives than people in Greece. Life expectancy in Greece, at 81.1 years, is today higher than in the UK, at 81.0 years. Greece fared worse than the UK in 2011. Now it does better. If the Conservative majority is greatly increased, we should not expect to live as long as other people in Europe.
• The average child in the UK should expect to be taught at schools that are increasingly poorly resourced compared to what school children elsewhere in Europe will experience, and more than one in four children will be poor.
• For working adults wages will remain low, rents will climber even higher, even more people will be forced to take any job, or any number of jobs, they can find. Most will spend most of their adult lives working to allow their landlord to become richer. Adults not in work will suffer even more.

To address inequality in the UK, Dorling says we need a bold package of interventions. The package should include
• good job creation
• the universal provision of high quality, affordable childcare
• a fairer, more progressive tax system
• a programme for affordable housing.

There is no lack of available policies. Labour are offering them. The Tory problem is a refusal to identify inequality as a problem in the first place. In fact, the Conservative party has celebrated high and rising economic inequality.

Even under Blair Labour were not as bad as the Tories became! Twenty years ago in 1997, 27% of all children and 26% of all pensioners in the UK lived in poverty. By the time Labour were replaced by the LibDem Tory coalition power in 2010, those proportions had fallen to 18% and 17% respectively, a reduction in economic inequalities. The reductions could have been greater had the take of the top 1% not been allowed to continue to rise under Labour, but that was a critical failing of New Labour. It was, as Mandelson said, "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Media: Railroading the Electorate

The Guardian correspondent, Jonathan Steele, continues to plug the insane Guardian line of opposing the UK referendum decision to leave the EU. He goes so far as to say the Labour Party manifesto should declare that an incoming Labour government would abort the negotiations immediately. There will be no Brexit and no talks about how to achieve one!

Steele and his paymaster, the Guardian, seem to think it makes sense to defy a democratic decision, taken by 52% of the electorate, to pander to the 48% who did not get the result to remain in the EU that they wanted. He backs this up by saying over 60% of Labour supporters voted to remain, and are now "in despair", he claims. That is, of course, utter rubbish. Even if it were originally true, many of those Labour remainers are now pig sick of the LibDems and Greens harping on in defiance of a decision we have already taken--TO LEAVE!

Moreover the "two thirds of labour supporters" actually includes mostly urban liberals tempted to Labour by the Liberal Labour focus-group mentality of the Blairite years when winning the election was more important than having socialist policies. Traditional Labour Party members were already asking, "what is the point of winning then implementing Tory policies?". Quite! And the result was an erosion of faith in Labour and consequently loss of support in successive elections until we were conned into the unelected ConDem coalition of 2010 that led to our present sorry state (and the deserved collapse of the Liberal Democrats!).

Steele and the Guardian will be glad to see the present continuous false emphasis on Brexit and the perpetual attacks on Corbyn confusing the electorate to the extent that they achieve a similar collapse of Labour. We need to remember that most of the traditional Labour areas outside the metropolitan zone are the very areas (and some LibDem areas) that voted to leave, and the reason is plain--it is because the neoliberal policies of all the main parties for more than 50 years neglected the concerns of the voters in those deprived places--the "rust belt" of the UK--abandoned since Thatcher to decay with no prospects for their futures.

Labour must campaign vigourously for the votes of those neglected working people, and to persuade them that the Party is not backward looking, as the media are trying to persuade the young, but has a policy of "back to the future" to restore all that was good that Labour brought in after WWII and that successive right wing governments have been eroding ever since, and especially in the last 7 years.

The media and the present government in power are doing their utmost to persuade people that Corbyn is an ineffective leader, but that is not true. He has put forward a prospective programme that would benefit us all (except the over rich!), none more than the young! What is true is that the media are refusing to cover what Labour is offering, so the policies that everyone agrees are what are needed are not being associated with the Labour leader and his party in the minds of the electorate. Instead only negative associations are being propagated.

It is quite deliberate. One lesson that is always difficult to get over is that the media are not, and never have been fair. They offer biased views constantly, one of which is, of course, that they are actually fair, and it would be undemocratic to change the situation. The hacking scandal and the Leveson enquiry prove otherwise. An important question we should always ask when considering potential bias is, "who benefits from this opinion being accepted as true?" (Cui Bono? in Latin). In other words, in this case is the beneficiary of the view or the policy the rich or the poor? If it is not beneficial to poor people, or if it is vastly more beneficial to the rich, then there is cause for doubting it as a fair viewpoint. Why? Because the newspapers are owned by a handful of very rich people who run them for the benefit of their own kind--the very rich! Note, the VERY rich, not the slightly richer than the rest!

The Morning Star is the only daily paper in the UK to be biased toward the ordinary people, and the Peoples World is the equivalent in the USA. Yes, they are biased too, but they are biased against the rich. But an unbalance can only be corrected by an opposite force. If you must read media like the Guardian, then the opposite pan in the scales should be equally weighted by reading the Morning Star (or Peoples World) to get a balance.

The media are trying to railroad the electorate into a dead end by bad mouthing the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, though the failures of Labour are the failures of Corbyn's predecessors like Tony Blair (who always has a platform in the anti-Corbyn media). Corbyn, like the late Tony Benn, does not engage in slagging matches. That is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Anyone dismayed by Corbyn's fairness and politeness has the answer, as did Benn, in his policies, in the issues. Corbyn's policies address the issues important to working people, May and the Tories aggravate them because they aim to benefit the rich, and that they do at the expense of the poor!