Archive | September 2015

“Democratic Socialism”: What Is It and Can It Be Trusted To Bring About Much Needed Change?

 
With the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders for president who calls himself “socialist”, once again the idea of “democratic socialism” has found some followers among liberals and even many progressives, and posts are appearing in social media under that banner that claim to be anticapitalist and socialist. Therefore, it’s important to understand what its proponents mean by “democratic socialism” and what they really want (and don’t want). Specifically, we need to understand if those who claim to be “democratic socialist” are in fact anticapitalist as they say they are and if their “socialism” is indeed socialism as they claim it to be or if this is yet another ploy to try to maintain the current system of capitalism.

The concept of “Democratic Socialism” is not new. In fact, it’s pretty old and has appeared in different times and places, although not always with the same name. It seems to appear every time capitalism comes under fire and socialism finds some followers. 

My intention by writing this is not to hash out old 19th or early 20th Century discussion of revolution versus reformism in general terms. That’s already been done enough times and much of it is still quite relevant, today. My purpose is to shed some light on what it means today and what its proponents are really proposing.

First, let’s see what they have in mind by the “democratic” part of it since I think this is key – how they understand it and what they are trying to contrast it with: “undemocratic socialism”? What is it about socialism that they think is or can be undemocratic, if left alone? Is socialism undemocratic by default that “democratic socialists” want to remedy and make “democratic” or is there something else going on here?

Capitalism and socialism are economic systems. Economic systems have to do with how goods and services are produced, who owns the means of production and the fruit of workers’ labor, which then determines how the wealth is distributed, the position of workers vis a vie the production process, which determines how and by whom the production decisions are made, such as the impact on the environment or on the community and whether the driving force behind production is profits for private owners or the needs of the society. Democracy, on the other hand, is how decisions are made, including what, how, where, how much and for whom to produce, what the priorities of the society should be, what resources should be put into what objectives, etc. 

Both economic systems have their own interpretations and elements of democracy that best suit the economic system and which allow it to function in its own unique way. That’s because each economic system has its own unique needs, demands, constraints and requirements in order to continue to function. These needs and requirements necessarily shape or condition the “democracy” that the system can contain, allow and excercise. In other words, democracy is not some abstract concept that stands on its own, detached from the society and its economic life, but rather follows and is shaped by the system. Within capitalism, for example, individual private producers have the freedom to hire workers and produce whatever they find profitable. They also have the freedom to fire workers when the enterprise is no longer profitable, as it happens periodically after periods of overproduction. In like manner, it also gives workers the freedom to sell or not sell what they own, namely their labor, in order to survive, making them the de facto slaves of owners by necessity, though in theory, they are free to make the trade or not. 

Since independent owners and producers who are otherwise competitors and adversaries, need to govern collectively in a way that the interests of their class as a whole are protected, they need a government as a facilitator and arbiter, giving equal equal voice to them all to reflect and act on the needs of the class. This necessitates a democratic process for all the individual and independent owners to reach consensus for the class as a whole. This is why every few years, they hold elections to see who can best represent their class interests at any given time and under given circumstances. But, this doesn’t mean the class of owners is open to giving up its political power and letting workers get empowered and take the state power and set their own policies and priorities. They have a variety of ways and tools at their disposal to make sure that doesn’t happen and that the state power and all the organs of power and influence, from the military and police to the Congress or parliament to the courts and media, and in general the decision making, stays in their hands. They accomplish this using all the means of power they have. Money and power brings about political clout which then brings more money and power, which in turn increases their influence and control over policies and politics even more, which brings even more power and control and thus the system remains intact and protected from change. Workers thus remain powerless as they also remain locked into having nothing but the strength of their muscles to barter for food.

So, democracy in capitalism is reserved for the owners’ class only – in its true sense that is. Workers can speak up and even organize, as long as they don’t present a threat to the power structure in place and as long as they don’t participate in and don’t have a voice in decision making, either in the ways and means of production where they work or in questions affecting the society as a whole, such as trade, wars, quality of life, treatment of the environment and animals, etc. For the majority, therefore, the democracy offered by capitalism is in essence dictatorship. What’s more, during popular uprisings and revolts, the class in power puts aside any pretense of democracy and rolls its tanks on the streets and shoots into protesters. In the U.S. which is considered democratic, police kill on average about two people a day, mostly from African Americans and the poor, not to mention violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, the massive domestic spy program, punishing of whistle blowers, privately owned media or the literal buying of elections by billionaires.

Socialism, obviously has different needs and requirements and different ways of exercising democracy. Democracy in socialism means deciding democratically what people’s needs are and how to best meet them. It means decisions must be made democratically, but ultimately based on people’s needs and their impact on communities, people’s well being and the environment, rather than the profitability of private owners. what it doesn’t mean is letting capitalists regain their power and influence and retake the state power and reestablish capitalism, just as democracy in capitalism doesn’t mean workers can organize and take state power for their benefit. In other words, again, democracy is tied to the economic system and its needs and ways, not an abstract concept devoid of class content and real life implications. 

The Web site of Democratic Socialists of America says: “At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end.” The “end” is not social justice, ending wars, hunger, atrocities and destruction of the environment, but “democracy”, which presumably applies to all, including the enemies of people who deprive the vast majority of not only democracy but of freedom and a decent and humane life. It doesn’t matter that the capitalists have the advantage of possessing all the levers of power which they use to take our freedom. What matters is to be “democratic” towards all, whatever the outcome, which we should accept as long as it meets their definition of “democracy”. The ruling class is in fact acting out that very same idea of “democracy”. We have the freedom to democratically change things. So, what’s the problem?

Democracy for one group may and often does mean dictatorship for another. That’s not a novel thing. No democracy allows one to shoot a gun in public or to ignore rules of traffic or to scream “fire” in theaters. In all these cases, the safety of the public takes precedence over the rights of the individual. If democracy were in fact absolute and detached from the realities of the society, we would have had those rights and many more. Capitalism imposes on people the rules necessary for the stable and uninterrupted functioning of its economic system, which may or may not be heavy handed or coercive. Its approach depends on the level of political awareness and level of organization among people and more simply, how much of a threat it feels from the working poor. Likewise, socialism has its own rules for a stable and uninterrupted functioning. But, unlike in capitalism, where the perceived threat is from the working class who must be kept out of power, in socialism, the class to be kept out of power and prevented from organizing and returning to power is the capitalist class. 

So, yes, both systems contain within them democracy and dictatorship. The difference is who stays in power and who is kept out. What methods to use to accomplish that depends on the circumstances. For example, if the working class has no viable organization or leadership or even class consciousness, as is the case in the U.S. and elsewhere, capitalism can afford to give some limited and conditional freedoms. But, when people are in the streets in the millions, then that’s a different story altogether and requires a totally different approach. In Cuba, on the other hand, with the corporate empire breathing down their necks and waiting for an opportunity to jump on them and undo their socialism and bring back a corrupt and dependent capitalist regime to serve the interests of multinational corporations, they don’t have the luxury of leaving CIA instigators and provocateurs free to organize and incite violence and destabilize the government. Again, different circumstances require different approaches.

Now, back to our “democratic socialists”, what they forget or ignore is the centrality of the state power which includes the military, the spy agencies, the police, legislature, the judicial, the propaganda organs, the non governmental organizations, the think tanks, etc.; that is, everything that helps keep the capitalists in power. They propose to make reforms within the capitalist system. And, even if they do succeed in making reforms that could in theory amount to any noticeable improvement in the lives of the majority, by leaving the power structure in place, they would leave the door open for the ruling class to undo those reforms anytime they want or find it feasible politically – if not during the presidency of the “socialist” president who supposedly would implement those reforms, then during the next presidency, which would be won “democratically” and would be honored according to the principles of “democratic socialism”. And that would be fine with “Democratic Socislists” because democracy is “the end”.

And this is the crux of the matter; this is what’s really meant by “democratic” socialism. State power in their worldview is independent and plays no role and at best is equally available to all classes for the taking, if they garner enough votes. They forget that it is through this very system that the owner class accumulated all their wealth and power and due to that wealth and power, it’s not a level playing field and that without a change in the power structure, no significant and long lasting change can come about.

There are different ways one can promote the current system and try to maintain the status quo. Some argue openly and unabashedly and without reservations that capitalism is the best system known to man. That’s the most honest way and those who promote it either truly believe in it or have a vested interest in it (these two usually go together). Another group takes a much more coy approach and isn’t so forthcoming about its real intentions. There are two ways to dissuade others from reaching a destination: either try to persuade them that their chosen destination is a bad one or suggest a way for reaching it that you know won’t lead to it.

By advocating “socialism” within the capitalist system and by advocating “democratic” means of achieving it, “democratic socialists” herd disaffected and disenfranchised people back into the voting booths. That may seem harmless and even benevolent, but in reality, it keeps the solution within the capitalist system, instead of organizing at the grassroots and from bottom up for real and fundamental change, which would be backed and guaranteed by state power. 

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Syria: Regime Change or Total Destruction 

  

When a spoiled, greedy and sociopath 32 year old multimillionaire “hedge fund manager”, who has made a fortune without doing any actual work or anything useful for the society, “buys” the rights to an AIDS drug (only in capitalism can an individual buy and own “the rights” to a drug used by millions of people) and immediately raises its price from $13.50 to an unbelievable $750 for each tablet, even people who have yet to realize the sheer absurdity of capitalism are outraged, as they should be. Even a TV channel dedicated to advocacy for unbridled “free market capitalism” (CNBC which is part of the NBC network and owned by GE corporation) couldn’t whitewash the ugliness of such “free market” criminal act.

But, why is it so hard for people to see the incredible level of criminality of the U.S. government, from its president and his cabinet to the members of the Senate and the House and all the rest of the government, which kills millions of people around the world to maintain and expand the military corporate empire of billionaires and multimillionaires so asshole parasites like Martin Shkreli can get rich off millions of poor and sick people? The answer is empire’s media, which controls people’s minds by lying to them day in and day out. The real TV “remote control” is in the hands of the programmers and reporters of the empire.

It’s fair to say that this control is much stronger and tighter now than 50 or 40 years ago when the U.S. was destroying Vietnam and openly and unabashedly massacring the Vietnamese people. Even when the futility of that criminal war had become clear and the decision had been made in Washington to end it, it didn’t stop the Nixon Administration from carpet bombing villages and towns to kill as much as possible and achieve as much destruction as possible before leaving.

But, as devastating and atrocious that war was – and I never thought I’d say this – I wish Syria was another Vietnam. At least, the American people would see and understand the criminality of their leaders and the devastation they’re causing in that country. Like in Vietnam, since they couldn’t do regime change, they decided they’ll just ruin it and turn it into a pile of rubble. The thinking is the same: if you can’t change it, destroy it. During the war on Vietnam, a U.S. General famously said about a Vietnamese village: “we had to destroy it to save it”.

The Pentagon budget that was allocated last year for “training Syrian Rebels” in Syria was $500 million. When General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, was asked on Wednesday, in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, how many US-trained “rebels” were fighting in Syria, he responded, “We’re talking four or five.” A year ago, the Pentagon predicted that it would have trained 5,000 “anti-ISIS rebels” in a year. In other words, they spent the half a billion dollars to train only 4 or 5 fighters, supposedly to fight against ISIS. 

If this sounds absurd, it’s because it is. But, that’s only because it’s a lie. The real plan was never to train “anti-ISIS rebels”. The plan wasn’t really to train, either. Why would they? ISIS fighters are fighting against the Assad government, which the U.S. made no secret of wanting to overthrow, as early as 3 years ago. In fact, the plan was, since even before the Arab Spring of 2011, to overthrow the Syrian regime and install one of their own. Micah Zenko, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Vice News that the strategy was never suited to the administration’s stated goal of destroying the group. Leaked documents published by WikiLeaks show that from 2006 to 2010, the US spent $12 million to instigate demonstrations and propaganda against the Syrian government.

William Roebuck, Chargé d’affaires, US embassy, Damascus, December 13, 2006:

“We believe Bashar’s [Bashar-al-Assad, Syrian President] weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and the signals that the USG [US Government] can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.”

If the stated mission of training “anti-ISIS rebels” has been a failure, after spending half a billion dollars, what has been done successfully in this past year is a massive aerial bombing campaign, supposedly against the ISIS, which has contributed to the refugee crisis we see there today. “Progress is being made,” Austin told the Senate. Indeed! After General’s statements that indicated the existence of US special forces in Syria, Pentagon later retracted and said that the general was “referring to the coordinating relationship that US Special Operations Forces share with Syrian anti-ISIL forces.”

The war of Islamist jihadis against the government began in 2011 and the U.S. and its allies, most notably Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan, began their support for the “rebels” hoping they’d do the job of overthrowing so they could then go in and install their desired puppet government. On June 21, 2012, New York Times reported in an article titled: “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition” that “the weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar”. And, who were the opposition forces that the CIA was helping arm? A report written in 2012 by none other than the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al- Qaeda in Iraq]” supported by “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey.”are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” 

But, this didn’t stop the Obama Administration from pursuing its goal of regime change, even knowing who the opposition “rebels” were, even seeing the massacres that were being committed by these groups and the destruction of the country that was taking place, resulting in the death of over 230,000 and displacement of over 7 million Syrians, 3 million of them becoming refugees in neighboring countries, many dying on the way. 

The U.S. strategy of achieving complete and total hegemony and control over the Middle East, Asia and North Africa, at all costs, has already brought two wars and 12 years of sanctions against Iraq, resulting in about 2 million deaths and the destruction of that country, the war on Libya which destroyed and made it ungovernable, the funding and arming of Islamist jihadis in Afghanistan in 1980’s, followed by the war and occupation of the country which continues after 14 years, the genocide against the people of Palestine by propping up the Zionist settler state and funding its occupation of Palestine, the occupation of and wars against Lebanon by the Zionist criminals with the help of the U.S., the overthrowing of a democratically elected Prime Minister in Iran with its 1979 blowback revolution, after 25 years of US support for the Shah, the support of brutal dictators and corrupt despotic kingdoms in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and elsewhere, assassinations and bombings in Pakistsn, Somalia, Yemen and now the utter devastation, massacres and displacements in Syria. As envisioned in Strategy for a New American Century document, governments must either fall in line and be allied with the empire or must fall period. And if regime change doesn’t work, they will destroy the country and turn it into a pile of dirt. 

This is a unipolar world made for the likes of Martin Shkrelis by the full military might of the U.S. corporate empire. In this world of money and power, there is no room for compassion or humanity, only greed and crimes on scale and duration never seen before.

State Department Faults Assad for Letting ISIS EXIST!!

  

State Department spokesman John Kirby blamed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for the existence of Islamic State terrorists in his country! No, this is not a joke, even though it came from a clown. He said in a State Department briefing: “He [Assad] is the reason ISIL, and other terrorist groups, have been allowed to fester and grow and sustain themselves inside Syria,” Kirby said. “Assad regime has allowed groups like ISIL to fester and grow inside the country.”

How does a government purposely allow a terrorist group that’s bent on overthrowing it in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate to exist in the country? And why? Why would they allow that? Does the State Department mean the Assad government didn’t fight them hard enough? Haven’t they been accusing the regime of bombing the “opposition”, causing deaths and refugees?

The U.S. hasn’t been particularly concerned about how ridiculous they sound to the rest of the world when telling such outrageous and ridiculous lies. But, the shamelessness of the Obama Administration is absolutely astounding. They’ve made no secret of their intention to do regime change in Syria. They’ve been saying “Assad must go” for four years, while rejecting all Russian offers for a peaceful resolution, including those calling for Assad to step down, which shows what they’re really after: a corrupt puppet pro-West regime that would take orders from Washington, and have been supporting the “opposition”, which they admit consists of Islamist extremists and terrorists. They have themselves said that the opposition includes “no moderates” in their ranks, which still didn’t stop them from supporting them. And while shamelessly supporting the so-called “rebels”, while the latter continued to massacre people who didn’t agree with their Islamic Caliphate, they’ve been complaining that the secular government forces are bombing the Muslim “rebels”, causing casualties. Then, they begin bombing the country, without a congressional declaration of war or a mandate from the UN, which clearly is not just meant against ISIS, but against the government to materialize the regime change they’ve been after. And, now, they try to preempt criticism of their actions by making the ridiculous claim that the regime allowed ISIS to exist! 

Do they think we’re brain dead? I understand might makes right and that they feel they can do and say whatever the hell they please since they’re the only superpower in the world, but there was a time when even imperialism had a sliver of shame. The arrogance and shamelessness is just astounding. Lying is as common for US presidents as having lunch, but Obama has elevated the level of lies to new heights.

Can a U.S. President Implement Progressive Policies While Also Representing the Corporate Empire?

 
The idea that neoconservatives were waiting in the wings to come to power when Republicans took the White House and succeeded to implement their aggressive foreign policy when Bush was elected in 2000 may have some truth to it, but it gives the false impression that Democrats and Republicans have different foreign policies. In reality, if you analyze the policies of US presidents in the last hundred years or so and especially since WWII, you’ll see that they’ve been remarkably consistent, without much variation, discontinuity or interruption from one president to the next. One administration takes off precisely where the previous leaves off. Perhaps the most clear example of this was the transition from Bush to Obama, whether it was his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, his support and aid for Israel even in the face of their massacres of Palestinians and settlement building, his “Pivot to Asia”, his aggression in Africa, etc. 

Now, I know what some might say: that Bush and Cheney or other Republicans would never have entered into talks with Cuba and established diplomatic relations with them. That may be true, but what they don’t realize is that there is never 100% consensus among the ruling class on all issues, at all times. Such differences of opinion can even happen within the same party and during the same presidency. Sometimes, a Republican adopts a policy that’s considered dovish and characteristic of Democrats, such as Nixon traveling to China for talks or Reagan negotiating with the Soviets on arms control. Other times, Democrats resort to hawkish policies typically associated with Republicans, such as Clinton’s massive bombardment of Yugoslavia or Obama’s war on Libya and intervention in Ukraine, among others. It has more to do with what the ruling class thinks is in its best interests, than which of the two parties is in the White House. Sometimes, it’s not so much a policy difference between the two parties, but rather a matter of timing and political, military and geopolitical considerations that might lead the ruling class to adopt one policy over another. For example, if Obama pulled back from a full-fledged bombardment of Syria a few years ago and opted to wait and see where the civil war leads to, to see if the regime falls by the Islamist “rebels”, it was based on factors such as timing and diplomatic and political considerations, rather than a real policy difference with Republicans. He did decide to intervene militarily after all, when the stalemate continued. A Republican might have taken the same approach. Another case that in my opinion is a matter of timing rather than real policy difference is Iran. While Republicans who are screaming that the nuclear deal with Iran is a bad one and should be annulled, a Republican president in Obama’s shoes might have taken the same approach, after all the different factors and constraints affecting that decision were taken into consideration.

Having said that, contrary to the belief of some among the left, there are differences between the two parties. But, those are mainly differences of opinion as to the best way to reach their objectives – both short and long term – that are the same and for the same ruling class, which both parties represent, rather than differences of objectives and goals.

Some on the left also posit that elections are all fake and for show and distraction and of no consequence as to the policies that are implemented. Although, objectives are the same, tactics can and do vary. Through time, those who prefer more aggressive tactics gravitate towards the party that best represents their point of view and those who think the longevity of the system is best protected through a softer, less confrontational and less openly belligerent approach may find the other party most representative of their views. But, since the power structure doesn’t change with either party taking the office and the ruling class remains in power and their interests are protected either way, the class gets to choose which approach and which party is best for them at any given time and under any given circumstances. So, elections are inconsequential for the people, who are kept out of the loop, but do serve a purpose for the class in power. They give the class the chance to evaluate their options and pick the one they think best suits the current conditions.

The trap many progressives fall into is with domestic policies. This is where many draw the conclusion that Democrats are better than Republicans. However, there are two things that these liberals forget. First, domestic policies aren’t separate from foreign policies. You can’t have a corporate military industrial empire with military spending that dwarfs every other type of spending, with some 1400 military bases around the world and engaged in endless and several wars simultaneously and have progressive policies at home. You can’t have an imperialist government that imposes its corporate policies on other nations in the name of “trade agreements” and not have the rights of the domestic workers taken away, their wages depressed and people’s liberties curtailed. These things are all interrelated. 

While praising Obama as a “geopolitical grandmaster” and a “genius” politician who cured and remedied many of the mistakes of his neocon predecessor’s “disastrous” policies and while crediting him with his Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaties as major accomplishments, the Nation magazine was nevertheless compelled to admit in an article yesterday his “indifference to any resulting collateral damage at home or abroad”. “These two treaties, so central to Obama’s geopolitical strategy”, adds the article “will bring in their wake both diplomatic gains and high social costs. Think of it in blunt terms as the choice between maintaining the empire abroad and sustaining democracy at home”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

The article goes on to say what any Obama supporter has to admit, namely, that these treaties are “likely to degrade labor and environmental laws in the United States”. So much so, in fact that, “in June 2015, he needed Republican votes to win Senate approval for ‘fast track’ authority to complete the final round of negotiations in coming months. By transferring control over consumer safety, the environment, and labor from democratic states to closed, pro-business arbitration tribunals, argues a coalition of 170 European civil society groups, the TTIP, like its Pacific counterpart, will exact a high social cost from participating countries”. So much for liberalism of our Democrat President in domestic sphere! It’s no coincidence that the only voice of opposition to these trade agreements on national cable TV, namely that of Ed Schultz, who regularly exposed it’s terrible consequences for workers and the environment though he still supported other foreign and domestic policies of Obama) was silenced by canceling his show on MSNBC, which now is the only network cautiously supportive of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential run.

In addition to criticizing Bush and Cheney who “wasted $2 Trillion on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq”, The Nation has harsh criticism also for Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, whom Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admits to have consulted with regularly; “Henry Kissinger”, says the Nation article, “was as inept as he was ruthless, extending the Vietnam War by seven bloody years to mask his diplomatic failure, turning East Timor over to Indonesia for decades of slaughter until its inevitable independence, cratering US credibility in Latin America by installing a murderous military dictatorship in Chile and mismanaging Moscow in ways that extended the Cold War by another 15 years”. 

But, how different are those imperial and “ruthless” policies from the “grandmaster” Obama’s, who carpet bombed Libya and turned a stable state into a chaotic and ungovernable one run by ruthless warlords and a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists? And how about Obama’s drone program that has killed thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of children? Doesn’t that “crater US credibility”? Is he also not “mismanaging Moscow” by his aggressive and belligerent policy of intervention in Ukraine, which has the longest border with Russia, resulting in heightened tensions and confrontation? And what about his support for Syria’s “opposition” and attempt at another regime change, while they have to admit “there are no moderates among the opposition”? The funny thing is that they call Obama’s “maneuvers” in “defending” the U.S. “superpower status” “subtle”! I don’t know what’s subtle about any of that.

Nation compares Obama with two other politicians whom it credits with expanding the power of the U.S. worldwide. One of them is Elihu Root, whom it praises as the “architect” of US imperialism, who as Secretary of War (1899–1904) and Secretary of State (1907–09), modernized the U.S. military, initiated an “activist foreign policy” and helped turn the U.S. into a global power and “became an increasingly agile force for overseas expansion—in China, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Latin America, and, ultimately, Europe itself”. But, says the Nation, “With his eye firmly fixed on America’s ascent, Root also covered up atrocities that accompanied the army’s extraordinarily brutal pacification of the Philippines”. Root also believed that “the Constitution’s protection of individual liberties” had created an inherently weak federal bureaucracy, ill suited for the concerted projection of American imperial power beyond its borders”, showing further that projecting imperial power ultimately goes against individual liberties. That’s why with “endless wars”, civil liberties had to be curtailed, domestic espionage expanded, government whistle blowers punished and police force militarized. 

The other politician Nation holds in high regard in addition to Obama and Root is former National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom it credits with destroying the Soviet “empire”. He “would prove particularly adept at applying Sir Halford’s famous dictum: ‘Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the world’.”  

With a budget of $100 million, Brzezinski “drove radical Islam from Afghanistan into the ’heartland’ of Soviet Central Asia, drawing Moscow into a debilitating decade-long Afghan war that weakened Russia sufficiently for Eastern Europe to finally break free from the Soviet empire. With a calculus that couldn’t have been more coldblooded, he understood and rationalized the untold misery and unimaginable human suffering his strategy inflicted through ravaged landscapes, the millions his policy uprooted from ancestral villages and turned into refugees, and the countless Afghan dead and wounded. Dismissing the long-term damage as ’some stirred-up Moslems,’ as he saw it, none of it added up to a hill of beans compared to the importance of striking directly into the Eurasian heartland to free Eastern Europe, half a continent away, and shatter the Soviet empire. And these results did indeed mark Brzezinski as a grandmaster of geopolitics in all its ruthless realpolitik. (Mind you, the future suffering from those ’stirred-up Moslems’ now includes the rise of Al Qaeda, 9/11, and America’s second Afghan War, as well as the unsettling of the Greater Middle East thanks to the growth of the Islamic extremism he first nurtured.)” 

The article credits him for “freeing Eastern Europe from the Soviet Empire”, as if that was a good thing for either the people of the Soviet Union or Eastern Union or the working people anywhere in the world, even though they admit it had some undesired consequences, some of which it mentions. What it doesn’t mention is the disastrous wars that the U.S. waged after it succeeded in breaking the Soviet Union, wars which in most likelihood would not have taken place were the Soviet Union to still exist and continue to present a counterweight to US global power and its penchant for military interventions. And, what were the Eastern Europeans being freed from and for whose interest and advantage? Will the workers of Ukraine, for example, thrive now under the rule of U.S. and E.U. international banks, IMF imposed loans and neoliberal policies?

The question one must ask is: how different have the policies of Obama whom the Nation calls “the defender of US global hegemony” been in comparison to others before him, Republican or Democrat, who became the leader of the corporate empire to advance the global interests of US imperialism? And, will another liberal such as Sanders or any other Democrat, who supposedly won’t make the Republicans’ mistakes, be any different or any better for workers here and abroad, for democracy, for the environment and for peace and justice, when they not only do nothing to curtail the power and reach of the empire, but do everything to bolster it? Won’t “later historians” say similar things about Obama, as well as Sanders, if he wins the job of leading the empire, who, like Obama, has voted to fund every war that the U.S. has initiated, as they will about Kissinger? Won’t another Democrat like Sanders have to continue the empire’s policies without a change in the power structure at the top?

And, that is the second point many progressives forget: that the ruling class remains in power regardless of which of the two parties wins the elections and will therefore push for and enact policies that protect its interests, as opposed to the working poor. This is what makes US policies consistent and uninterrupted during transitions from one corporate party to the other. You can’t have the 1% in power and calling the shots and even affecting elections, as they have all along, and expect a liberal like Bernie Sanders change the direction and priorities of the nation in any meaningful way. All that that does is keep people in a holding position as corporations continue to grow bigger and stronger and grab more political power and get richer at the expense of everyone else and we gradually become a police state and move closer to fascism.

So, those who say “I disagree with Bernie’s foreign policy and support for Israel, but you can’t have everything”, expecting meaningful changes are not connecting the dots.

Disaster and Tragedy in Syria: Who’s Really to Blame?

  

Aylan Kurdi, (on the left), the 3 year old boy whose lifeless body was washed ashore in Turkey, along with his brother (on the right), who also drowned when their family tried to escape the war in Syria into Greece, are among the latest casualties of US crimes against humanity. As revealed by correspondences of US Ambassador to Syria that was leaked and then published by WikiLeaks in 2010, long before there was an opposition movement in Syria, Washington was planning the overthrow of the government there. 

The U.S. and its allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia Turkey and Israel, immediately jumped on the opportunity that was created by that movement and began supporting the Islamist terrorists who descended upon the nation from neighboring Arab countries to overthrow the regime and establish their Islamic Caliphate. The intervention later backfired when ISIS began beheadings Western journalists, almost exactly similar to how the Mujaheddin of the 1980’s who were being funded and armed by the CIA to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, turned against the U.S. in the 1990’s, which resulted in the 9/11 attacks in 2001. 

ISIS terrorists were in turn later used as the pretext for the U.S. to begin openly bombing Syria, presumably to destroy ISIS, when they realized that the “opposition” wasn’t winning against the government. Although, ISIS fighters are supposedly the target of US bombers, they don’t exist in some isolated area in some desert, away from the Syrian population, for US jets to go and bomb. They’re in Syrian towns and villages where people live. Besides, the U.S. has made it abundantly clear that what they want is the downfall of the Assad regime. So, obviously, they’re not going to only bomb ISIS forces, when they consider the government a bigger enemy. In fact, ISIS is only the excuse. What they’re really after is yet another regime change in the region, which is contributing to the devastation and ruin of the country and death of hundreds of thousands and displacement of millions. Already, about 7 million Syrians have become refugees, 4 million within the country and 3 million in neighboring countries, mostly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and some in Europe.

Although the U.S. has repeatedly insisted that “Assad must go”, their goal isn’t just replacing Assad. Nor is it a democratic Syria. Their goal is a puppet government that would be allied with Washington and its allies in the region, namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel, to help advance US hegemonic interests and to better control the region’s politics and policies towards a total domination in the region and beyond. As reported by the Guardian today (September 15). The U.S. rejected a Russian offer in 2012 to have Assad step aside. “Senior negotiator describes rejection of alleged proposal – since which time tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced”, says The Guardian. Russians proposed similar peaceful negotiations between the government and the opposition even in 2011, not long after the start of the civil war, which the U.S. again rejected. 

This is a devastation of Biblical scale made in Washington and the 230,000 casualties, including more than 22,000 children and millions made refugees many of whom continue to die, are just collateral damage to the empire. This tragedy that’s unfolding before our very eyes is yet another crime against humanity in the long list of such crimes by the evil empire. Aylan Kurdi and countless others who perished before they were done holding and playing with their teddy bears have known and identifiable killers who roam free in Washington.

Imperialism and the Continued Pillage of Asia and Africa

 
 The unevenness of development and industrialization between Europe and elsewhere, especially Africa, Asia and the Americas, has had a devastating effect on the peoples of less developed nations, ever since Europeans looking for riches on foreign shores set foot on their lands. They traversed the seas not to discover new places and cultures for the sake of discovery, but to loot, to plunder and to enslave the natives. They were neither refugees like today’s Syrians who are fleeing a devastating war and indiscriminate massacres because their country has been marked for regime change by imperialism, nor were they trying to escape extreme poverty and drug wars like today’s Central Americans who try to come to US. Unlike today’s refugees of wars and poverty, migrant Europeans came with heavy guns and mercenaries. Their ships headed for Africa were fitted with chains and whips and built to transport slaves back to Europe and America.

Indigenous Americans too paid a heavy price – perhaps the heaviest of all. They lost tens of millions of their inhabitants, as a result of the migration of heavily armed and militarized people, who came to pillage, maraud and take what they could and ended up just about wiping out the indigenous population. It’s almost as if some hundred atomic bombs were dropped on them. 

The pillage of Africa and Asia has continued to this day, though in somewhat different form. Today’s imperialism is more slick and deceptive and less transparent in its goals, objectives and actions, but substantively, it isn’t much different from colonialism of the last few hundred years. The objective is still to loot and plunder and make the rich in richer countries even richer, whether through outright invasions, occupations, destabilizations, military coups and regime changes, like it’s being attempted right now in Syria in the name of fighting terrorists, or through neoliberal policies of crushing debts and unfair trade agreements that lower wages for all workers, both here and abroad, or through export of capital to poor countries with compliant, “friendly” and repressive governments that practically enslave their workers on behalf multinational corporations, in sweat shops that too often end up to be those cheap workers’ morgues.

Today, Europeans and Americans do go to less developed and impoverished countries for discovery and sightseeing – to try their food, to hear their music and to get a glimpse at their nature. But, the unevenness is still apparent, as Western tourists come face to face with crushing poverty. Many of these tourists don’t have to travel thousands of miles to see such poverty. They could seen it in inner cities of their own capitalist societies only a few miles from where they live, but they couldn’t be served exotic food in exotic restaurants, set in the midst of people who are just like them, except much poorer. In a way, maybe racism isn’t such a bad thing, after all. It had the benefit of hiding that fact from European migrants of the past. It’s easier on your conscience when you don’t realize that they too are human beings.

But, not all Europeans, Americans, Canadians and Australians, who go to impoverished Asian or African countries, go for sightseeing or discovery. Many still go with the mindset of their European ancestors who went to exploit and abuse. Men in their forties, fifties and sixties go to Asia to sleep with underage girls, as young as 13, 14 and 15, who have nothing to trade for food except their bodies which they sell to rich men from the West out of desperation. Others go for entirely different purpose. They go with their rifles and bows and arrows to hunt down and kill large, exotic and rare animals, some of which are on endangered animals list, just for fun and “sport”. Is there any other way for people of European descent to exploit Asia and Africa that they haven’t already done?

But, did it have to be this way? Did that first interaction and every other afterwards between the disparate and uneven cultures have to be so abusive, violent and exploitative? What socioeconomic system, culture and mindset drove the Europeans to such barbarism and usurpation? What was it about their own class relations within their own societies that produced the mode of thinking that made them view other nations as subject of exploitation and plunder? Wasn’t it their mode of production, which rose in Europe in the 18th Century, which was based on exploitation of man by man that created that mindset? Indeed, by the time Europeans got to foreign lands, they already had the mindset and drive to accumulate wealth at the expense of others and were after newer and bigger riches and loots. Capitalists were already enslaving their own workers, after their previous kings and elite landowners had exploited their peasants for hundreds of years and those before them had done the same to slaves. Europeans weren’t the only ones to have experienced exploitation of their own kind for millennia, but Europe was the first to become industrialized and acquire modern and powerful weapons and set sail to conquer new lands. They knew nothing but wars of conquest, pillage and exploitation. So, how could it have been otherwise?

Things aren’t much different today. The exploitative mindset lives and thrives within the capitalist economic system, as it did during slavery and serfdom and is perpetuated by the capitalist elite since their existence as a class depends on it. Yesterday’s kings and lords have been replaced with corporate owners. In fact, the nature of the relations between the imperialist states and people of impoverished nations is just as abusive, violent and exploitative as in the past. What is different is that poorer nations are more easily accessible and the abuse and plunder is less transparent. What’s also different now is that the number and scale of imperialist wars, invasions and regime changes has reached a critical level and so has devastation of the environment and the disparity between rich and poor of the world. 

Capitalism as a system that’s based on exploitation and which produces disparity and wars has run its course and brought us to the brink of mass annihilation. Humanity has seen too many wars, too much destruction, devastation, exploitation, conflict, racism and disparity. Isn’t it time for new values, new mindset, new thinking and new relations? Isn’t it time for humanity to rise above all that madness and create a different world? Isn’t it time for capitalism and its incessant obsession for greed and wealth accumulation at the expense of billions of people and the wars, injustices and destruction it causes to be thrown in the dustbin of history. Isn’t it time for change?

The Police Attack on James Blake and Its Coverage by New York Times: A Lesson in Mind Control by Corporate Media

 
When six plainclothes New York police officers went to look for a credit card fraud suspect in Midtown Manhattan, they saw a biracial man and assumed he was the suspect and without questioning his identity and without any provocation or resistance on the part of the “suspect”, threw him to the ground, roughed him up and arrested him, before realizing they had the wrong man. They then went on as if nothing had happened and didn’t even report the incident. The wrongly arrested man turned out to be retired professional tennis player, James Blake, who spoke out about it, which prompted apologies from Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton. 

Now, notice how New York Times reports the incident (September 10, 2015). First of all, they report it not as news of another incident of racial profiling and police brutality, which is an ongoing and nationwide problem that has reached a boiling point and spawned a movement for change, but as news of “Criticism swirled over whether Mr. Blake had been mistreated because he was biracial”. So, to NYT, this only shows there is a question of racial bias, which they hint at and don’t even mention by name.

They add that “The incongruity of a Harvard-educated professional athlete being manhandled by six white plainclothes officers on a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan quickly became an embarrassment for the Police Department and a headache for Mr. de Blasio”. Again, the issue and the news worthy of reporting for NYT isn’t racial profiling and police misconduct and lawlessness, which this incident is an example of and which would never have come to light had the victim not been a “Harvard-educated professional athlete”, but the “embarrassment for the Police Department and a headache for Mr. de Blasio”. So, we’re supposed to sympathize with the Mayor and Police Chief because they were embarrassed by it, not the victim of the brutality, who could have easily been injured or killed, under slightly different circumstances, as it so often happens. Do you see how they manipulate the news and subtly shift the focus to manage and control its effect on people?

They then go on to vindicate and credit not only NY Mayor and Chief, but “elected leaders across the country”, by claiming that they “have sought to stamp out unprovoked aggression” by police, without providing any evidence for their claim. What have these “elected leaders across the country” done to “stamp out unprovoked aggression” by police? They don’t say. 

There is more: “The officer’s decision to throw an unarmed, compliant man to the ground added to the sense that black people are often roughed up by the police out of view, with few resources to bring attention to their grievances”. So, it’s not like it’s a fact “that black people are often roughed up by the police out of view, with few resources to bring attention to their” plight, but a “sense”, which could be wrong. Black people have the sense that they’re being wronged. How silly of them! Also, notice how they talk about the issue as “their grievances”, rather than a critical and life and death problem of the whole society! In a single sentence, they claim that 1) there is only a sense of police misconduct, 2) that there is a grievance about it and 3) that it’s “their” grievance. Am I the only one who wishes these writers would be the ones getting beaten up by NYPD police officers?

Newspapers and other media aren’t unbiased observers and spectators of the society that can give us unbiased news and analysis. There is no such thing as unbiased. If you live in and are part of the society, then you’re not unbiased. That of course includes me and the words I write. The media have a vested interest in how the majority think and are in fact tools in the hands of the ruling class tasked with mind control and manipulation to protect their class interests. What this means is that they don’t even try to be unbiased and on the contrary, are deliberately directed and controlled to support and perpetuate the groupthink of the ruling class. This is why revolutions that succeed shut down the media of the old regime and replace reporters with those with the new ideas and ideology. It’s the same with the police, the military, the courts and of course the political leadership who are all in the service of the ruling elite and have their biases, their ideology and their mindset. They all push and advance the interests of the ruling class which, in a capitalist society like ours, are a small minority of the population, who end up accumulating the vast majority of the wealth of the nation and in our times of the whole world.