Category Archives: Russia

Build Back Bilderberg-style! ‘continuity of government’ central concern for plutocrats gathered in Washington DC

I am very sorry to announce that Bilderberg is back on the globalist schedule. Following a three year time-out since its previous meet up during June 2019 in Montreux, Switzerland – an event I covered in extensive detail over a series of seven articles – and on the back of last month’s reconvened WEF Davos conference, Bilderberg gathered for a 66th year; its newest location, the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington D.C.

Encamped about a mile to the south of the White House, a short ride from CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia and a just hop across the Potomac River from The Pentagon, this more shadowy sister summit to Davos had arrived in the capital with plenty to discuss. And with so much going on around the world, Bilderberg conspicuously extended its regular list of ‘key topics’ from the usual ten to a far more impressive fourteen. Although in truth there are basically just three major issues preoccupying the transatlanticist ruling class and all involve wars of one kind or another.

Bilderberg agenda 2022 as Venn Diagram

The schematic above is my reinterpretation of this year’s official Bilderberg agenda in the form of a Venn diagram.

With the faltering collapse of US global hegemony, top of their published list are the interrelated concerns over what to do to halt the re-emergence of competing superpowers Russia and China. I wrote an extended article on the subject of escalation against both China and Russia last December entitled “the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran – why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order” in which I made the following concluding points:

America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in February, the stakes were immediately raised of course. In the months that have followed and with the imposition of tough sanctions we have also seen the schism between the West and the rest of the world widen and widen. Furthermore, as the sanctions predictably backfired, the situation for the West (and Europe especially) looks increasingly shambolic with already raging inflation and the likely prospect of fuel shortages. In fact to ameliorate the self-imposed economic damage being caused by its sanctions regime, Europe has quietly sought ways to circumvent their own blockade – this would be laughable were it not for the seriousness.

During this same period events on the ground have also been going badly for Ukraine as the mainstream media is finally starting to confirm, and in response, we are now seeing moves to switch attention and geostrategic policy away from Russia and back on to China; the White House once again stirring up tensions over its longstanding dispute with Taiwan – something I also addressed in greater depth in December’s post.

We must keep in mind that the US is the most militarised power on Earth. It spends more on “defence” than the next ten nations combined! (Far more than both Russia and China together.) Having very recently pulled an occupying force out of Afghanistan, at the present time it remains deeply embroiled in the Saudi war against Yemen, in Somalia and, by proxy, in aiding Ukraine with weapons supplies, training and intelligence. The US also illegally occupies approximately a third of the oil-rich north-eastern territory of Syria. Worldwide there are at least 750 US military bases occupying zones in over 80 countries: a network spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean and extending into South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

US bases worldwide

In 2016, investigative reporter and independent filmmaker John Pilger released a new documentary entitled The Coming War on China saying “The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable”:

In notes attached to the film, Pilger writes:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us. This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

As the crisis in Ukraine consumes public attention, geopolitical analyst and East Asian specialist Brian Berletic highlights other events unfolding in the background that are potentially leading to a much worse crisis:

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Meantime, the ruling class has opened up its third front on the domestic populations of the West under the guise of the most open of open ‘conspiracy theories’ – a conspiracy that proudly announces itself on an official WEF website and that brazenly dares to speak its own name: “The Great Reset”.

This blueprint for a hi-tech future that ensures perpetual austerity and mass surveillance is today proselytised and peddled on the basis of ‘fairness’ and ‘sustainability’. As independent researcher and activist Alison McDowell writes:

We’re living in tumultuous times with polarizing political theater and pandemic providing ample cover for the roll out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the World Economic Forum’s outpost at San Francisco’s Presidio, the tentacles of dispossession triggered by Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset” are rapidly encircling the globe.

We are witnessing the culmination of a century of machinations by western social engineers. We see predatory philanthropy using such euphemistic framing as “Living Cities,” “Healthy Cities,” “Resilient Cities,” and “Build Back Better” to package the profoundly anti-human and anti-life initiatives coming out of Davos as aspirational goals for “smart” living.

The oligarch class asks us to play along and overlook the fact that all of this smartness rests on a foundation of continued growth, fossil-fuel expansion, child labor, toxic waste, and space pollution. They demand we overlook the insatiable energy requirements needed to run the augmented reality Internet of Things illusion. That we put out of our minds the existence of vast data centers cooled 24/7 with the water of a thirsty, poisoned world.

They’ve outdone themselves propagandizing youth to cheer on transnational global capital’s plans to implement a final “green” solution. Though my hope is after months of digital alienation people’s spirits will stir in time to derail the intentions of this cruel biocapitalist regime to push us away from our rightful connection to natural systems and one another and into isolated virtual realms. The spell of faux ICT sustainability must be broken.

Alison McDowell’s presentation embedded above was part of an online forum, “Politics In And Out Of Europe”, hosted by Rutgers University’s Center for European Studies on Monday October 26th 2020. There were two panels followed by an hour of discussion. Alison McDowell was the second presenter, and framing remarks and response was provided by Naomi Klein.

Click here to read the same article interspersed with slides from the full presentation and comments published on Alison Hawver McDowell’s official website Wrench in the Gears on October 27th 2020.

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At Montreux three years ago, China and Russia were already in the Bilderberg crosshairs (listed third and fourth respectively of the ten ‘key topics’), but away from the Alps this year’s backdrop has significantly darkened. From 2019’s rather optimistic tone of “A Stable Strategic Order” and “What Next for Europe?” we move instead to talk of “Geopolitical Realignments”, “Disruption of the Global Financial System” and “NATO Challenges” for which we are impelled to read more straightforwardly “sanctions and war”. This is what happens when empires fall, the Anglo-American oligarchs now desperate to prop up theirs by any means necessary.

As spectacular evidence of the rapid decline in US regional power, this week leaders across Latin America boycotted the ninth Summit of the Americas that was held in Los Angeles. Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said the move was in solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who were not invited to attend:

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Yet arguably the most striking item in this year’s ‘key topics’ is literally tucked away at the very heart of their list: number 7: “Continuity of Government and the Economy”. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘continuity of government’ (COG) I have supplied a description below which is actually the opening paragraph to the current Wikipedia entry on the subject:

Continuity of government (COG) is the principle of establishing defined procedures that allow a government to continue its essential operations in case of a catastrophic event such as nuclear war. [highlight retained]

It seems Bilderberg are surreptitiously warning that the lights are blinking red. And sooner than we might suppose, as the crises start to pile up, and people across the entire world (including the most prosperous regions in Europe and North America) are made desperate for food and energy, drastic contingency measures will need to be instituted. States of emergency. Martial law. Or worse. How else do we translate this most central item on last weekend’s Bilderberg agenda?

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A council of war

This year’s press release is characteristically terse and last minute (doubtless to keep the crowds at bay) and reliably the corporate media with so many close ties to Bilderberg have mostly failed to mention any of it. In fact this year’s British media cohort included Bilderberg stalwart Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist accompanied by colleague and defence editor, Shashank Joshi as well as Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs commentator at The Financial Times. One reliable exception to the general rule of media silence was maverick journalist Charlie Skelton, and he trotted out a brief report smuggled inside the Guardian. Writing on Saturday [June 4th] as the meeting kicked off, Skelton begins:

Bilderberg is back with a vengeance. After a pandemic gap of two years, the elite global summit is being rebooted in a security-drenched hotel in Washington DC, with a high-powered guest list that includes the heads of Nato, the CIA, GCHQ, the US national security council, two European prime ministers, a healthy sprinkle of tech billionaires, and Henry Kissinger.

Skelton’s tidy overview of this year’s list of participants is worth fleshing out a little bit more. For instance, the two aforementioned European PMs were Mark Rutte of the Netherlands (a perennial Bilderberg attendee) and, more noteworthy, Sanna Marin of Finland. Strictly off-the-record, devoid of public oversight or media scrutiny, Marin was doubtless engaged in frequent discussions with head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg about the terms and conditions for membership (generally about 3% of GDP channelled into weapons procurement). This is how open democracy functions today in Finland as in the rest of the western world.

Skelton writes:

The summit is heaving with experts in Russia and Ukraine, including the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Celeste Wallander, and ex-deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow, who has a seat on the elite steering committee of Bilderberg.

The conference room is rigged up with video screens for shy dignitaries to make a virtual attendance, and it’s highly likely that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will Zoom in for a T-shirted contribution to the talks. Just a few days beforehand, Zelenskiy met with a Bilderberg and US intelligence representative Alex Karp, who runs Palantir, the infamous CIA-funded surveillance and data analysis company.

Palantir, which was set up by billionaire Bilderberg insider Peter Thiel, has agreed to give “digital support” to the Ukrainian army, according to a tweet by the country’s deputy prime minister.

The participant list is rife with military advisers, one of which is a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and some hefty cogs from the Washington war machine. Among the heftiest is James Baker, head of the ominous sounding office of net assessment.

Another very high profile politician on the list is Canadian Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, a member of the WEF’s Board of Trustees and a person many see as the power behind the throne of the Trudeau government. The granddaughter of a prominent Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, Freeland was banned by Moscow in 2014. Given her background it isn’t very hard to understand Freeland’s virulent Russophobia or why she was behind the organisation of the so-called Lima Group with its goal of overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist president Nicolas Maduro. At Bilderberg she came to rub elbows with Ukrainian ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, and the CEO of Naftogaz, the state-owned Ukrainian oil and gas company.

The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal spoke with comedian Jimmy Dore about his own attempt to investigate last weekend’s meeting in Washington DC:

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Within the ranks of this year’s participants there were also three senior politicians from the UK. With Boris Johnson days numbered (as I predicted as far back as December 2020!), and Bilderberg’s prodigious historic record as kingmakers (something I have previously documented – a summary also provided below), could it be that Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Tom Tugendhat who marks his second appearance at Bilderberg is finally being groomed for higher office? It is also curious that Michael Gove made a Bilderberg debut. Gove memorably stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in a bid for power during the 2016 Tory leadership contest that he eventually lost to Theresa May. So are we about to see him throw his hat into the ring once again?

Less high profile was the attendance of Labour’s David Lammy. Nominally on the left of the party, his Bilderberg appearance coincides with an invitation of the no less outwardly progressive Democrat Senator, Kyrsten Sinema as well as the reappearance of Mary Kay Henry, who by day is the international president of Service Employees International Union.

We must be aware that Bilderberg (and Davos too) functions along cross-party lines, seeking constantly to straddle some kind of dreamed up political ‘centre’. The ruling class is able to do this by being reactionary and progressive at one and the same time: reactionary in promoting their special interests and protecting the status quo, yet genuinely progressive not only by adapting to the times but in quite deliberately shaping our collective future.

For this secondary reason, a burgeoning contingent go there as representatives of the ever-more powerful tech sector; this year’s roll call featured Bilderberg everpresents Eric Schmidt (chairman of Google), Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Inflection AI and partner of Greylock), and Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies), who were also joined by Yann LeCun (vice-president and chief AI scientist at Facebook); Demis Hassabis (CEO and founder of DeepMind) and Kevin Scott (chief technology officer at Microsoft Corporation)

Of course, the crises we face are a direct consequence of comparatively recent policies. The stagflation was caused by economic mismanagement that stems from the bailouts and misguided policy of QE that was used to tackle the 2008 financial collapse and then pursued more vigorously since the lockdowns and additional bailouts following the covid pandemic. However neoliberal failures can actually be traced further back to the deindustrialisation of western societies.

Meanwhile, the looming prospect of energy and (potentially) food shortages is mostly due to the geopolitical boomerang of sanctions that were intended to cause a regime change in Moscow – sanctions that have evidently failed in every regard. Leaving such details aside, however, late-stage capitalism has been in crisis for at least three decades and the plutocrats at Davos and Bilderberg are perfectly well aware of this fact. So the underlying purpose of WEF’s “Great Reset” is to manage the technologically-driven socioeconomic changes, accepting that change is unavoidable, in order to ensure maximal benefit for the corporations and the oligarchs who own them.

Reminding us of the close ties between Bilderberg and Davos, Skelton points to this matter succinctly:

Bilderberg is sometimes dismissed as a talking shop or crazed imagining of conspiracy theorists. But in reality it is a major diplomatic summit, attended this year as ever by extremely senior transatlantic politicians, from the US commerce secretary to the president of the European Council.

Many consider it an older, less flashy Davos, staged annually by the World Economic Fund. The two events have a good bit in common: namely, three WEF trustees at this year’s conference, and Klaus Schwab, the grisly head of Davos, is a former member of Bilderberg’s steering committee. His “Great Reset” looms large over the Washington conference, with “Disruption of the Global Financial System” at the heart of the agenda.

Concluding his article:

[H]olding court at the hotel bar will be Klaus Schwab’s mentor, Henry Kissinger.

Incredibly, Kissinger, 99, has been attending Bilderbergs since 1957.

The prince of realpolitik has been the ideological godfather of Bilderberg for as long as anyone can remember. And he’s recently co-authored a book, The Age of AI, with Bilderberg steering committee member Eric Schmidt, the former head of Google, and this year’s Washington conference is noticeably rammed with AI luminaries, from Facebook’s Yann LeCun to DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis.

Bilderberg knows that however the global realignments play out, and whatever a reset global financial system looks like, the shape of the world will be determined by big tech. And if the endgame is “Continuity of Government”, as the agenda suggests, that continuity will be powered by AI.

Whatever billionaire ends up making the software that runs the world, Bilderberg aims to make damned sure that it has its hand on the mouse.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article entitled “Bilderberg reconvenes in person after two-year pandemic gap: The Washington conference, a high-level council of war, will be headlined by Jen Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general” published in the Guardian on June 4th.

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As a further insight into the comings and goings at this year’s meeting, here is my categorised guide to the more mentionable delegates:

First, the three intelligence chiefs alluded to in Skelton’s article are Jake Sullivan, director of National Security Council; William Burns, director of CIA; and Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ. They were joined by the director of France’s external intelligence agency, General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), Bernard Émié; Jen Easterly, the director of US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and seasoned Bilderberger, the former chief of MI6 (2009–2014), John Sawers.

Beside the Prime Ministers of Finland and the Netherlands, the political contingent also included Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Wopke Hoekstra; Belgian minister for energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, alongside Polish MEP, Radoslaw Sikorski, the husband of fellow attendee, Anne Applebaum, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a rabid neo-con commentator who routinely calls for war on Russia in her columns for the Washington Post and The Atlantic magazine. In addition there were two top level EU representatives: vice-president of European Commission, Margaritis Schinas and president of European Council, Charles Michel, who is Bilderberg returnee – first invited in 2018 when he was Belgian Prime Minister.

Lastly, a mention to a handful of the usual suspects in attendance: Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis and their close associate David Petraeus (chairman of KKR Global Institute); the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, José Manuel Barroso (no globalist shindig runs without top-level representation from ‘the squid’)… oh, and also just along for the craic, the one and only (presumably) King of the Netherlands!

Click here to read the reliably incomplete official list of participants as published on the Bilderberg website.

Correction:

In the original version it was incorrectly stated that the CIA HQ is at Arlington, Virginia when the correct location is a few miles north at Langley, Virginia.

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List of western leaders previously groomed by Bilderberg:

Gerald Ford attended Bilderberg 1964, 1966 appointed as US President 1974

Margaret Thatcher attended Bilderberg (at least 1975, 1977, 1986) became Prime Minister 1979

Bill Clinton attended Bilderberg 1991 became US President 1993

Tony Blair attended Bilderberg 1993 became Prime Minister 1997

Paul Martin attended Bilderberg 1996 became Prime Minister of Canada 2003

Stephen Harper attended Bilderberg 2003 became Prime Minister of Canada 2006

Angela Merkel attended Bilderberg 2005 became Chancellor of Germany (Nov) 2005

Emmanuel Macron attended Bilderberg 2014 became President 2017 *

* All dates published by wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#United_Kingdom

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Charlie Skelton, China, John Pilger, Russia, Ukraine, USA

voices of reason at a time of war: Michael Tracey, Noam Chomsky & Vijay Prashad

There’s a chap called Tobias Ellwood who’s spent the past week doggedly promoting his latest idea to save Western civilization. “From a military perspective,” Ellwood explained during a recent speaking engagement, it’s never been more urgent to impose a “humanitarian sea corridor” off the coast of Ukraine. This would involve an outright naval intervention by NATO in the Black Sea — with the objective being to prevent Russia from seizing control of the strategically important city of Odesa. Perhaps upon commencement of this mission, Ellwood suggested, listless denizens of “The West” will finally come to appreciate the existential stakes of the conflict now before us, and “accept that we are actually in a 1938 period, but actually worse.” The double “actually” was presumably included for maximum emphasis.

Notably, Ellwood is not some random crank. He is “actually” a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and the chairman of the impressively-titled Defence Select Committee. In that latter capacity, he seeks to exert influence over the Defence policy of Her Majesty’s Government, which is currently led by his Conservative Party colleague Boris Johnson.

This is the opening paragraph of an alarming report by American independent journalist Michael Tracey who managed to receive an invite to a private event recently hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which describes itself as “the world’s oldest and the UK’s leading defence and security think tank”. The same piece continues:

During the private event, hosted by a Think Tank which unilaterally and hilariously decreed his comments “off the record,” Ellwood described the plan he envisaged for how this new phase of military intervention in Ukraine would unfold. It should be up to the UK to “create a coalition of the willing,” he declared — borrowing the terminology once used for countries that participated in the US invasion of Iraq, which memorably included the UK. Ellwood evidently detected no ignominy at all in this historical association.

On the subject of Ukraine, Ellwood’s view is that the UK and Europe must stop waiting around for the US to get its act together, and instead proactively initiate the kind of muscular, unapologetic military action that is currently needed against Russia. The lesson of last year’s Afghanistan withdrawal, Ellwood charged — as well as Joe Biden’s purported Ukraine-related dithering — has been to “expose America to be very, very hesitant indeed.” He explained: “I see the United States almost catching up with where, from a military perspective, a vanguard may actually go.”

Note that Ellwood’s plan certainly does not assume that the US would somehow just sit out whatever forthcoming war the UK may instigate. With the US as the real firepower behind NATO, that’s obviously not feasible. Instead, his idea would simply be for the UK to place itself at the “vanguard” of precipitating the new military action, after which the US would inevitably be engulfed as well. Time is of the essence, Ellwood contends, because China has ominously joined with Russia to set about “dismantling the liberal world order” — a development Ellwood believes will elevate the conflict to a magnitude on par with the Peloponnesian War of Greek antiquity. “China will exploit the war in Ukraine to hasten America’s inevitable decline,” he warned.

Out of these ashes, at least according to Ellwood’s apparent calculus, will rise the UK: “If we want Putin to fail,” Ellwood declared, “then we need to conclude this in months. We need to vow to press forward.” He added, “I underline how critical it is: if Odesa falls, then I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to turn this around.” (Note his use of the pronoun “us,” as though it should be understood that the UK is already an official combatant.)

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Michael Tracey is certainly not alone in raising concerns over the looming threat of what was until now considered absolutely unthinkable – the prospect of World War III and nuclear annihilation. Noam Chomsky recently gave two interviews and in the first he also addresses the matter head-on:

Right at this moment, you hear heroic statements by people in Congress or foreign policy specialists saying we should set up a no-fly zone, for example, to defend Ukraine. Fortunately, there’s one peacekeeping force in the government. It’s called the Pentagon. They are so far vetoing the heroic statements by congressmen showing off for their constituents about how brave they are, pointing out that a no-fly zone not only means shooting down Russian planes, but it means attacking Russian anti-aircraft installations inside Russia. Then what happens? Well, actually, the latest polls show about 35 percent of Americans are listening to the heroic speeches from Congress and advisors. Thirty-five percent say they think we should enter into the war in Ukraine, even if it threatens to lead to a nuclear war. The end of everything. The country that launches the first strike will be destroyed.

Continuing:

I don’t know if you saw it. But a couple of days ago, there was a very important interview by one of the most astute and respected figures in current U.S. diplomatic circles, Ambassador Chas Freeman. A very important interview [which is also embedded below]. He pointed out that the current U.S. policy, which he bitterly criticized, is to “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” and he gave us an example: President Biden’s heroic statement about the war criminal Putin—[Biden’]s counterpart as a war criminal. And Freeman pointed out the obvious: the U.S. is setting things up so as to destroy Ukraine and to lead to a terminal war.

In this world, there are two options with regard to Ukraine. As we know, one option is a negotiated settlement, which will offer Putin an escape, an ugly settlement. Is it within reach? We don’t know; you can only find out by trying and we’re refusing to try. But that’s one option. The other option is to make it explicit and clear to Putin and the small circle of men around him that you have no escape, you’re going to go to a war crimes trial no matter what you do. Boris Johnson just reiterated this: sanctions will go on no matter what you do. What does that mean? It means go ahead and obliterate Ukraine and go on to lay the basis for a terminal war.

Those are the two options: and we’re picking the second and praising ourselves for heroism and doing it: fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III” published by Current Affairs magazine on April 13th based on an interview with editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson.

Here is ‘The Grayzone’ interview with retired senior diplomat Chas Freeman released on March 22nd that Noam Chomsky references above:

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The following day, Chomsky was interviewed by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill who asked whether there is any aspect of the response by the US, Nato or the European Union that he believes is appropriate. Chomsky replied:

I think that support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself is legitimate. If it is, of course, it has to be carefully scaled, so that it actually improves their situation and doesn’t escalate the conflict, to lead to destruction of Ukraine and possibly beyond sanctions against the aggressor, or appropriate just as sanctions against Washington would have been appropriate when it invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many other cases. Of course, that’s unthinkable given U.S. power and, in fact, the first few times it has been done — the one time it has been done — the U.S. simply shrugged its shoulders and escalated the conflict. That was in Nicaragua when the U.S. was brought to the World Court, condemned for unlawful use of force or to pay reparations, responded by escalating the conflict. So it’s unthinkable in the case of the U.S., but it would be appropriate.

However, I still think it’s not quite the right question. The right question is: What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction? And that’s to move towards a negotiated settlement.

There are some simple facts that aren’t really controversial. There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed.

The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out. So what we should be doing is devoting all the things you mentioned, if properly shaped, but primarily moving towards a possible negotiated settlement that will save Ukrainians from further disaster. That should be the prime focus.

Chomsky continued:

We can’t look into the minds of Vladimir Putin and the small clique around him; we can speculate, but can’t do much about it. We can, however, look at the United States and we can see that our explicit policy — explicit — is rejection of any form of negotiations. The explicit policy goes way back, but it was given a definitive form in September 2021 in the September 1st joint policy statement that was then reiterated and expanded in the November 10th charter of agreement.

And if you look at what it says, it basically says no negotiations. What it says is it calls for Ukraine to move towards what they called an enhanced program for entering NATO, which kills negotiations; — this is before the invasion notice — an increase in the dispatch of advanced weapons to Ukraine, more military training, the joint military exercises, [and] weapons placed on the border. We can’t be sure, but it’s possible that these strong statements may have been a factor in leading Putin and his circle to move from warning to direct invasion. We don’t know. But as long as that policy is guiding the United States, it’s basically saying, to quote Ambassador Chas Freeman, — it’s saying: Let’s fight to the last Ukrainian. [That’s] basically, what it amounts to.

So the questions you raised are important, interesting, just what is the appropriate kind of military aid to give Ukrainians defending themselves enough to defend themselves, but not to lead to an escalation that will just simply lead to massive destruction? And what kinds of sanctions or other actions could be effective in deterring the aggressors? Those are all important, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the primary need to move towards a negotiated settlement, which is the only alternative to destruction of Ukraine, which of course, Russia is capable of carrying out.

Click here to watch the same interview and read the full transcript at The Intercept website.

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On Good Friday (April 15th) as the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered Day 50, Democracy Now! spoke with Vijay Prashad, author and director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and co-author with Chomsky of a forthcoming book The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power. Here is one excerpt from that interview, which is also embedded below:

Of course I criticize Putin for invading Ukraine, Amy. That goes without saying, because he has violated the U.N. Charter. It is a brutal war, as I said when I first started speaking. But I think that’s hardly the question, whether I condemn Mr. Putin or not. The issue is that we’re living in a world where, for a lot of people, it looks like it’s an upside-down world.

It’s not just the question of the treaties you mentioned. The United States government has not signed the international laws of the seas, and yet it prosecutes so-called freedom of navigation missions against not only China in the South China Sea, using this U.N. Charter, which it’s not a signatory of, but it has been provoking clashes with Russia in the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic Sea, again, using these so-called freedom of navigation missions.

Let’s take the question of the International Criminal Court. When special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a file to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan — and, by the way, she was really clear: She said war crimes conducted by everybody — by the Taliban, by the Afghan National Army, by the United States, by other NATO countries, and so on. When she did that, the United States government threatened her, told her that neither she nor her family would ever get a visa to come to the United States, and so on. The U.S. put enormous pressure on the International Criminal Court to shut down that investigation. That’s incredible. This is an investigation of war crimes which are detailed in the U.S. government’s own documents, which have been released by the WikiLeaks foundation, whose founder, Julian Assange, is sitting in Belmarsh prison, is being treated as a criminal, whereas the war criminals in Afghanistan are going free and threatening, with Mafia-like tactics, the special prosecutor at the ICC.

Meanwhile, again, in an afternoon — to quote the Indian high official, in an afternoon, the United States is able to get these bodies, established by international law, which the United States is not a signatory to — the U.S., in an afternoon, is able to get them to open a file and start talking about war crimes. Over a million people killed in Iraq, and no investigation of war crimes. None. Over a million people. Half a million children killed in Iraq during the 1990s sanctions regime, not even the word “genocide.” The West is walking all over the word “genocide,” is reducing the power of an important category of an important convention, the 1951 Convention Against Genocide. This extraordinary, casual weaponization of human rights and the word “genocide” by the West is going to be something that we are going to face in the times ahead, when other countries are going to say, “Well, we can do anything if we are backed by Washington, D.C.” This is extraordinarily perilous.

And I hope people open their eyes to the very cynical way in which Washington, D.C., is approaching this terrible war taking place in Ukraine, a war that has to end with a ceasefire and negotiations. And you’re not going to easily get a ceasefire and negotiations if you’re going to loosely, as Mr. Biden did in Poland at Warsaw castle, loosely call for regime change in Russia. That is not going to help you bring people to the table, whether it’s in Belarus or it’s in Antalya, Turkey. It’s not going to bring Ukraine and Russia to the table. It’s not going to stop Russia’s war. If the Russians think that the United States has a total agenda to annihilate the Russian government, I’m afraid they are not going to get a ceasefire. You’re going to just get more atrocities in Ukraine. And that’s something that the people of the world should not stand for.

Click here to watch the same interview and to read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

*

Returning to Michael Tracey’s excellent piece, I find it truly astonishing how many of the formerly anti-war liberals and anti-war left are now cheerleading for Nato intervention in Ukraine and apparently unaware of the incredible threat posed by an escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. At a recent rally in London a representative of Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, read aloud a message she’d received from the head of the Federation of Trade Unions in Ukraine which included a demand to “secure our Ukrainian sky.”

Similar calls for ‘No Fly Zone’s have been a common feature of liberal demands for “humanitarian interventions” and were used to legitimise Nato’s attack on Libya. In this instance, Nato intervention means nothing less than World War III, and yet elements within the trade union movement, across the ‘liberal media’ and the realigned Labour Party under Keir Starmer seem totally oblivious to these incalculable dangers.

Tracey writes:

Addressing a pro-war rally in London last weekend was Alex Sobel, a Labour Party MP who serves in the Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer, the current Opposition Leader. When I asked Sobel to clarify his policy grievance against Boris Johnson, he told me: “There’s been a lack of military assistance. And there’s been a lack of support within NATO more broadly, in terms of military assistance.” This can be translated as: Boris Johnson, NATO, and the US have not been militarily aggressive enough in Ukraine! That’s the criticism!

Expressing his reluctance to countenance any kind of negotiated resolution to the war, Sobel told me: “The Russians only understand force, they do not understand peace.” This is a weirdly common allusion to a supposed genetic predisposition of Russians that makes them inherently… warlike? Sounds very similar to when James Clapper, the top Intelligence Official in the Obama Administration, would go around intoning that Russians were “almost genetically-driven to co-opt” and “penetrate.”

Much of the UK media shares the view that Boris Johnson has exhibited insufficient “force” in his dealings with Russia. This includes The Observer newspaper — understood to be the UK’s leading bastion of respectable left/liberal opinion — which threw caution to the wind last weekend and published an official unsigned editorial institutionally endorsing “direct intervention” in Ukraine by NATO. In particular, the editorial promoted the very same naval blockade plan touted by Tobias Ellwood — the aforementioned Conservative MP who might otherwise be considered the newspaper’s ideological foe. “Declare the unoccupied city of Odesa off-limits,” the Observer editorial demands of Johnson, “and warn Russia to cease coastal bombardments or face serious, unspecified consequences.” Wariness to start World War III has now turned into a timid “excuse” for inaction, the editorial writers allege.

Continuing:

[B]ehold the recent activism of Owen Jones, the noted left-wing journalist whose “beat” appears to be a never-ending series of exhortatory instructions to some amorphous assemblage he calls “The Left.” Jones is now of the view, amazingly, that supporting the “armed struggle” of Ukraine is the only proper “anti-war” position. So here we have another “anti-war” leftist who happens to be in favor of provisioning tanks, fighter jets, missiles, and grenades into an active warzone, for the purpose of facilitating warfare. As is also the case in the US, these UK left/liberals often find it unpleasant to straightforwardly label themselves “pro-war” — so they have been forced to play word-games galore to avoid acknowledging reality. And the reality is that the policy action they’re advocating must necessarily be enacted by some combination of Boris Johnson, the US military-industrial complex, and NATO — all of whom have now been enlisted to carry out these leftists’ desired war aims.

The most vivid manifestation of this increasingly incoherent left-wing viewpoint could be observed a few days ago at the pro-war march and rally in Whitehall, the governmental corridor of Central London. I found out about the rally because it was endorsed and promoted by Owen Jones on Twitter. Upon arrival, I discovered that leading the march was another left-wing journalist, Paul Mason, who organized the action in concert with a strange Trotyskist faction called the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. “We support Ukraine’s war and demand the West provides weapons,” the group’s pamphlet declares, along with a bitter condemnation of NATO for “steadfastly refusing to fight.”

Mason had many magical moments as rally leader, but his most comical interlude was when he stopped along the march route to bellow, via bullhorn, in the general direction of the UK Ministry of Defence — shouting for the workers inside to come out and join. I asked Mason if he reckoned this was the first “anti-war” and/or “left-wing” rally in British history for which the Ministry of Defence (of a Conservative government!) was considered a natural ally — but he caustically refused to talk, instead denouncing me as a “Putin shill.” (Direct quote.) Clever guy, that Paul. Supremely confident in his convictions, surely, and quick with the novel insult.

A former employee of the BBC and Channel 4, Mason offered up an inventive rationalization for his pro-war advocacy when it was his turn to clasp the microphone that afternoon. “In a war like this, our natural demand for peace — our natural fear of military action — has to take second place,” he proclaimed. Because don’t you know, according to Mason, this particular war is actually being waged on behalf of the vaunted “Working Class”!

“It is in the interest of working class people to support Ukraine in this war,” Mason beseeched from the rally pulpit, expressing his hope to mobilize the whole of the British Labour Movement behind the pro-war cause. “I know how hard that is for many of us, who’ve stood outside here in so many other wars and said — you know, screw your hypocrisy over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the rest,” Mason acknowledged. “It’s hard. But the only way to get arms into the hands of the Ukrainian people right now… is to keep the pressure on the government.”

So there you have it, clear as day: the object of this left-wing “anti-war” rally was to “keep the pressure” on the ruling Conservative Government… to continue ramping up weapons shipments to Ukraine. For use in… intensifying warfare. As Mason barreled forward with his speech, the Ukraine flag shimmered triumphantly in the sunlight atop Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office, located right across the street at 70 Whitehall — a moving symbol of cross-ideological unity.

I found that a very simple line of questioning posed to the assembled leftist demonstrators — merely asking them whether they viewed the event they were partaking in as a “pro-war” rally, or an “anti-war” rally — tended to elicit spells of bewildered anger. When asked this question, a number of the pamphleteers insisted to me that the rally was in fact “anti-war” in nature, even though they were distributing placards featuring the injunction to “Arm Ukraine” — a task which would necessarily have accomplished by the US, UK, and other governments, in conjunction with NATO. One of the chants fervently screamed on the march went as follows: “Put an end to Putin’s reign! Arm, arm, arm, Ukraine!” That’s the new mantra of the British anti-war movement! If nothing else, one has to appreciate this audacious innovation in the fluidity of language.

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Scott Ritter speaks to Richard Medhurst about being banned by Twitter and related issues

“If Twitter had existed in 2002, oh boy I would have been banned for taking the position I did about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Think about that for a second. I’m not saying that I’m right today, I mean I believe I’m right, but my point is if Twitter applied the same standard that they’re using today to silence voices of dissent regarding the war in Ukraine then I would have been banned for telling the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. And if anything should send the shockwave through people about how stupid and counterproductive this Twitter policy is, it’s that they would have banned the only guy – not the only, but one of the few people out there telling the truth. Is that really the policy you want, Twitter? Is that really the policy you want? I think the answer is no. It should be no.” [from 34:50 mins]

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter puts into clearer perspective the dangers posed by the massive ongoing clampdown by social media platforms on freedom of speech after he was temporarily banned on Wednesday from Twitter on the spurious charge of “harassment” – reinstated within 24 hours in response to an anti-censorship outcry and immediate calls for the lifting of his suspension.

The circumstances behind his own ban, Ritter explains below in an extended interview speaking with independent journalist Richard Medhurst. The relevant section is transcribed beneath the embedded video (providing a permanent record in the event that Youtube subsequently removes the content.)

*

Curiously, on the same day as Ritter’s ban, NBC published a story that candidly admitted “Biden administration’s breaking with recent precedent by deploying intelligence as part of an information war against Russia… even when the intelligence wasn’t rock solid”. Specifically, the article reveals:

It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: U.S. officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three U.S. officials told NBC News this week there is no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. They said the U.S. released the information to deter Russia from using the banned munitions.

The fact that the chemical weapons story was unadulterated bunkum should not have surprised anyone who has been following world events during recent decades. Indeed, the entire “war on terror” was ignited by almost precisely this same lie. Moreover, the asinine, since entirely baseless, ‘intelligence claims’ of forthcoming Russian false flags is something I promptly debunked on this site.

Meanwhile, this peculiar piece of US State Department propaganda scantily dressed up as “journalism” tells us that all of the disinformation, the ‘fake news’, and the straight up mainstream lies are perfectly fine:

Observers of all stripes have called it a bold and so far successful strategy — although not one without risks.

If we had a free and independent press, of course, then there would be huge political risks in perpetrating such glaring lies; ones that come with democratic accountability. But as we see from the lack of widespread media reaction to these quite startling admissions, the truth as such has become largely irrelevant – something Scott Ritter returns to in his interview pointing out that:

“They don’t want the truth. They’re trying to shape perception. They’re trying to manipulate information to create a perception that is being manipulated to achieve a policy objective. So the truth, or the search for truth, becomes the enemy, and therefore it must be shut down.”

Twitter won’t be taking down any accounts that are linked to those who deliberately propagated the misinformation and/or lies formally acknowledged by the NBC article. Those lies remain accessible and having been validated by the ‘fact-checkers’ will very likely continue to spread in spite of these latest retractions – and so too all future lies. In the meantime, anyone who dissents from the official narrative, irrespective of its own self-confessed unreliability, can expect to be marginalised, shadow-banned and sooner or later deplatformed altogether.

***

Here is a transcript of the relevant segments of Scott Ritter’s conversation with Richard Medhurst, beginning with Ritter’s account of the tweet he posted that led to his suspension:

“Even though Twitter is not the centre of the universe, I think it has the potential of being a very good platform for the exchange of ideas at 288 characters per go. I take it seriously, meaning that if I’m going to put a tweet out there with my name on it’s, you know… when you get involved in politics I don’t want to be someone (I have worked too long and too hard to be someone) that if I speak on an issue, on a subject, I want to be taken seriously; I want to be someone that people say, you know, he’s assiduous with his facts. It doesn’t mean I’m always right but it means I always try to be right. You know when you’re engaged in complicated issues it’s not so much about being right, it’s about being motivated to promote the pursuit of truth.

“And sometimes the pursuit of truth is accomplished best when you put out an idea, an interpretation, an assessment that challenges the mainstream media or the mainstream direction and forces people to say ‘hmm, let me think. Let me put on my thinking cap.’ And then they come up with their own opinion. Their opinion may differ from yours, which is a success, because they have empowered themselves with knowledge and information derived from their own work; they’re not parroting something somebody told them. And to me it’s that process of debate, dialogue and discussion that makes democracies viable; makes functional democracies possible. And so I view Twitter as a mechanism that encourages this process.

“So if I’m going to put a tweet out there about a serious non-cat or non-dog issue, I’m going to make sure that I’ve researched it, especially on a topic like Bucha and war crime. I can guarantee you that before I wrote down about the Ukrainian national police being the perpetrators of numerous crimes, that I researched the subject – that I dug into various images and videotapes of the dead people; I assessed it using whatever forensic evaluation that one can on something like this; and I saw, for instance, that many of the bodies had the green dry ration packaging of the Russian ration box. It’s a ration pack: the Russian soldiers can get them, but they’ve also been used extensively to support civilians in need. You see the Russians in their trucks handing them out.

“I also noticed that many of the bodies had the white armbands on that signify people who are not a threat to Russia and that the people that didn’t have the white armbands had their hands bound behind their backs using the material that looked awfully like armbands that are no longer on their on their shoulder. So just the first brush if someone said ‘okay, what is this scene telling you?’ The scene is telling me that these are pro-Russian, or Russian sympathisers, or people who have interacted with Russia; people who have been the benefactors of Russian humanitarian aid, and people who are heading in the direction of Russian troops.

“And so then you have to say ‘okay, who killed them?’ Well, I don’t know by looking at those pictures, but if you’re pro-Russian, or Russian sympathetic, equipped with humanitarian aid provided by Russia, the odds are that the Russians didn’t kill them. Now, that’s not enough now to jump to the Ukrainian national police, though that’s just setting the stage. The initial thought. But now I get the Russian orders – the orders from the Russian high command are to minimise civilian death, minimise damage to civilian infrastructure – so I see the commander’s intent going down to the Russian soldier normally will be translated into actions that reflect that intent. So if I’ve got some pro-Russian people coming at me, I’m not going to kill them. That’s the intent.

“What about the Ukrainians? We have the exact opposite. We have the Ukrainian government calling anybody who collaborates with Russia to include receiving these humanitarian care packages are now classified as collaborators and in the specific instance of Bucha, we have the Ukrainian national police issuing a bulletin speaking of ‘the cleansing of collaborators’ from Bucha on 1st April. We have a senior Ukrainian government official female issuing instructions via social media telling the citizens of Bucha that there is a police action taking place, a cleansing  operation: stay in your [homes], stay indoors, don’t panic, she repeats this over and over and over again. And then we have videotapes that show these Ukrainian national police, including some who are directly affiliated with Azov happily hunting down and shooting people. So now when I look at all this data I have to say it’s more than likely that the Ukrainians are the perpetrators, because we have intent from their commanders saying treat all pro-Russian collaborators as the enemy; we have an instruction from the national police to carry out a cleansing operation; and then we have videotape of the cleansing operation taking place which involves gunfire from a Ukrainian national policeman towards civilians who aren’t wearing the blue armband.

“So if I were compelled to make a decision based upon this albeit incomplete data – because I still (if this was going to go to a court) would need some forensic data to back it up – but the first brush is Ukrainian national police have done this. Now why did I feel compelled to tweet because normally I wouldn’t tweet with incomplete data like this – because, you know, it implies I’m drawing a conclusion that normally I would like to associate a lot more hard facts behind before I put my name on it. But the Ukrainian national police are promulgating a story that says the Russians did it. The Ukrainian government is putting forth a story that said the Russians did it. The western media is putting forward a story that said the Russians did it. And then Joe Biden got out and said the Russians are doing it; they’re war criminals. And so I felt compelled to put a counter narrative out there saying ‘no it’s the Ukrainian national police who have committed these crimes and Biden – and the reason why I picked on Biden soon after he gave that speech (that announcement, the Pentagon came out and said ‘hey buddy, we can’t corroborate anything the Ukrainian government say… we’re not saying it’s false, but we’re saying we can’t say it’s true.’ So the President of the United States is out ahead of its intelligence, meaning he’s speaking – I won’t use the word – it’s coming out from an orphan citizen’s mouth.

“So therefore I felt obliged to say (and again I did the research): these words don’t come lightly. I looked up the Nuremberg tribunal. I looked up what a crime against humanity was. I looked for similar cases that were prosecuted against the Nazis, similar to what I believe the Ukrainian national police did, and they constitute crimes against humanity. So that’s what I said. I also looked up there’s a lot of Nazis that were hung by the neck until dead who never pulled a trigger, who never signed a document ordering death, but they were perpetrators, they were collaborators, they’re co-conspirators, because of the actions they took. And one of the things is to shift blame away, to try and minimise the impact of the crimes, which is exactly what Joe Biden was doing. So I used my words very carefully selected from the Nuremberg tribunal based upon parallel cases that were prosecuted as war crimes and so I didn’t take it lightly. When I said this about Biden, it’s because Biden’s actions mimic those actions that were condemned as war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal.

“Everything there was carefully researched. I mean literally that tweet took me about 30 minutes to research. I don’t know how many people spend 30 minutes to write a 288 character tweet but I do that all the time. So I’m doubly shocked that they decide to pick that tweet and say you’re violating standards, and in my appeal – and I wrote a lengthy appeal – and I broke it down just as I explained to you. Everything in that thing is fact-based.” [from 19:30 mins]

On Wednesday night’s edition of “On Balance With Leland Vittert”, investigative journalist Aaron Maté was asked to speak about the massacre of civilians in Bucha allegedly by Russian troops and gave reasons for why he believes a fully independent investigation is now needed:

*

“It should be that when the United States says something, the world should say ‘yep believe them 100% because they’ve been right every time before. The United States always tells the truth.’ Right now the United States opens its mouth, if I were a betting man I would bet that they’re lying – you know if Vegas took that bet I’d be a rich man, because all the United States knows how to do is lie. We don’t know how to tell the truth anymore, because it’s all a game of public perception, shaping perception. We’re afraid of reality. Sometimes reality is complex. Sometimes reality is nuanced. Reality isn’t black and white. It’s grey. That’s okay. Just tell the truth. People are smart enough once they receive the information to understand what the right thing to do is. You really don’t have to explain it. You just have to be honest with people; trust them, empower them with the information, and they will, by and large, tend to make the right decision. But we don’t trust anybody. We want to manipulate everything.”

Richard Medhurst: “Do you think that’s why they banned you from Twitter? Why they’re banning others – because you tell the truth and they’re afraid of people finding out?”

“Well, you know I have to be careful by saying ‘I tell the truth.’ I want to tell the truth, but you know this isn’t a situation like Iraqi WMD where I was literally empowered with a near totality of the information, so that when I said something you could take it to the bank. On the issue of Ukraine, I try to research it. I try to think it through. I try to put it through various tests. I want it to be the truth. I’m truthful in the way that I present it. But the last thing I want to leave with people is that when I say something about Ukraine that it carries the same weight as a claim I would make, for instance, about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. With WMD, if I said it you could bank on it. It was right. With Ukraine, it’s an opinion. It’s an assessment. I could be right. I think I’m right. I want to be right. But I could be wrong.

“So I don’t think that they fear the absolute correctness of my analysis, because I’m not in a position to be absolutely correct. What they fear is the consequences of allowing me to present my data and my thinking, and the consequences of allowing you to do what you do. The consequences of allowing George Galloway to do what he does. And Chris Hedges to do what they do. Because it’s not that all of us have, you know, we don’t have absolute say over what truth is. I mean I don’t think you’re arrogant enough to say that everything that comes out of your mouth is 100% accurate and truth. You want to be accurate. You want to be truthful, but you know, you do the best you can, and I think people respect that. And if you stumble, people say ‘okay, stumble, but you didn’t do it with ill intent, you did it because you were trying to pursue the truth.’

“But that’s the problem. Is that you’re trying to pursue the truth. You’re trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to inject integrity. You’re trying to inject honesty into a process, which we know they don’t want that. We know, based upon the quote you put up there in the statement made, they don’t want the truth. They’re trying to shape perception. They’re trying to manipulate information to create a perception that is being manipulated to achieve a policy objective. So the truth, or the search for truth, becomes the enemy, and therefore it must be shut down.

“They’re not shutting me down because I have a corner on the market for absolute 100% accuracy. No, they’re shutting me down because I dare challenge what they’re putting out there, and they fear me because my process is actually one that has far more integrity when it comes to the pursuit of truth than their process. Their process isn’t the pursuit of truth, it’s the pursuit of an outcome based upon the manipulation of data. And frankly speaking, it is the easiest thing to pick apart. I mean proving American lies is very easy if you’re assiduous with the pursuit of fact-based evidence. They fear this and that’s why they shut down my Twitter account. That’s why they’ll go after yours.” [from 1:32:00 mins]

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voices of reason at a time of war: Ilhan Omar, Joe Glenton & Thomas Massie

On Tuesday 8th, as US Congress considered imposing a ban on Russian oil in its sanctions war, Democracy Now! spoke with Minnesota Congressmember, Ilhan Omar, who reminded us of the historical precedent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under a CIA programme codenamed Operation Cyclone the US had armed, trained and financed the Mujahideen Islamist insurgency prior to and during the Soviet intervention opening the way for the Taliban and al-Qaeda:

“It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening in Ukraine. We obviously want to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, but I have cautioned my colleagues on what, you know, could be the catastrophe that awaits us if we continue to send billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine instead of really thinking about what kind of weapons we’re sending. You know, if we continue to give small arms and ammunition, those can ultimately get in the hands of the wrong people and can have a lasting effect. We have to be able to learn something from history. We did this in Afghanistan when Afghanistan was fighting against the Soviet, and we ultimately saw what happened with the resources that we gave, the support that we gave in that country, and who we ultimately ended up propping up. And so, I do hope that my colleagues, obviously, learn from history and that we respond in a measured way.”

*

Regarding the imposition of economic sanctions, Omar said:

“It’s hard to see a principle at play here. If our issue is that we don’t want to buy oil from a powerful country that is conducting a devastating war on its weaker neighbour, I just don’t see Saudi Arabia hardly being a principled solution. We know that MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] is obviously going to try to take advantage of this opportunity to once again whitewash his reputation and present himself as a reformer, and we shouldn’t fall for that. The truth is, our dependency on oil means that we depend on tyrants, and that has always been true. So, if we are, obviously, serious about what we need to do in regards to the Ukraine context, we should be supporting and defending democracy and human rights, and we should certainly move away — then we should certainly move away from our dependency on fossil fuels and not be cozying up once again to another tyrant.”

Adding:

“I mean, we are sanction-happy as a nation. And, you know, ultimately, it is important for us to support some sanctions on Putin and his allies to make sure that they feel the pain and the consequences of their actions. But what I do want the American people and everyone around the world to understand is that as we urge, you know, Russians who are antiwar, that these sanctions that we are cheering for and implementing will ultimately have an impact on the very people that we want to rise up and make sure that they are speaking against this illegal, immoral and unjust war on a sovereign country.”

Omar also questioned the growing demand for a ‘no-fly zone’:

“A no-fly zone is not something that, you know, is just implemented. It’s something that has to be militarily defended. And that ultimately means the United States and our NATO allies will be a part and parcel to this war. And when we get involved in this war, it’s not that less Ukrainians are going to die. More Ukrainians are going to die. And we have to be able to have an honest conversation about what an escalation in this war could ultimately mean, not just for Ukrainians but for the rest of the world.”

Click here to watch the interview and read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

***

On the same day, ex-soldier Joe Glenton spoke frankly to Double Down News about the media war porn which now escalating is the risk of nuclear war over Ukraine. A full transcript is provided:

“I’m not a stranger to war. I served in Afghanistan which was itself a particularly brutal conflict, but it is like a bar fight compared to what can happen if the nuclear powers escalate the war which is currently playing out in Ukraine.

“It feels like the most dangerous situation in my lifetime: a nuclear threat; a threat to everybody is very apparent. It feels like we’re teetering on the edge of that and yet we have people who seem to be viewing it as a kind of football match who are painting their faces and cheerleading where all kinds of particularly war-horny takes have been emerging about no-fly zones, about different forms of intervention.”

*

Joe Glenton continuing: “Particular sets of journalists are always fairly war horny. They have an ambient level of war horniness because they think war is glamorous and cool.

“War is appealing for some journalists, particularly the journalists who haven’t experienced it, because with war can go a particular boost to your career – a higher level of attention, more Twitter followers, more likes on Twitter. And I think that is a bad metric by which to measure the need for war.”

“I can remember people talking about Donald Trump: how he could start a nuclear war on Twitter. Many of those same people of the blue tick species are using the platform to lobby for a no-fly zone that could lead to nuclear war. The kind of people who would formulate themselves as the grown-ups in the room are treating the risk of nuclear war as if it is just a kind of tit-for-tat in Westminster or in Washington DC.

“This is not just Labour source says – This is not just handbags in the House of Commons. This is not that. This is bigger.

“Nuclear war doesn’t mean anything good for the world. You could survive potentially, but you wouldn’t want to.

“We actually had some training about this when I was in the army. We have to get togged up in our NBC (nuclear biological chemical) warfare suits with respirators, and we’d be made to run up and down and occasionally there would be CS gas, and we’d be told how to survive a nuclear apocalypse.

“The slogan was used in the videos, which were all from the ’80s would “survive to fight”. So you survive the nuclear apocalypse: the positive blast wave comes and you all lay down (assuming you see it coming), and then you stay down for a bit, because then the negative blast wave comes back and that passes over you, and then you are alive to fight – and all I could think about during these training processes was fight over what? Fight over the mutant wastelands become f—king Mad Max and cut around in your Nissan Micra, or a Ford Escort with a gun on top – what is there left?

“That’s the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction: that everybody is destroyed. I mean that’s the underpinning thing: everybody dies!

“The problem with Twitter and Twitter war hysteria and all the social media stuff. It guides you towards just rapid urgent reaction. It’s very often a kind of appeal to emotion: that something must be done instantly. And clearly things need to be done, because people are dying in Ukraine. But I do think we need to be cautious. We need to be exercising reason rather than emotion.

“I understand why there are a set of people who are kind of like “let’s bomb the 40-mile convoy”. I understand why that is an appealing idea that we can just go and stop that happening, but we need to steer away from the immediate emotional payoff and be reasoned. Doing that is an act of war on top of the war that’s already going, and it would potentially escalate this. It would bring into conflict one nuclear power with another nuclear power, and there is a bigger picture; the biggest picture of all, which we have to consider here.

“World War One kicked off when one guy was murdered and that led to 20 million deaths, because it triggered a series of events which led to gigantic slaughter. When you look at wars historically there are domino effects and there are so many moving parts in the conflict in Ukraine and each part has its own range of moving parts. So we have to be extremely careful when we’re talking about how we intervene and what can be done.

“In our search for clarification and clarity, it may be the case there’s more to be learned from the cold war warriors than there is from the kind of keyboard warriors. It’s definitely worth revisiting what people said who are involved in the periods of extreme tension between the old Soviet bloc and the West.”

[Excerpt of Ronald Reagan speech] “To preserve our civilization in this modern age, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. [from 4:25 mins]

Joe Glenton: “I’m absolutely down with the Ukrainian right to resist invasion. It’s a war of aggression. Russia have invaded. It’s not their country and they should get out and I respect the Ukrainian right to resist. I think we have to. I think that’s the moral position. The Russians should go and leave the Ukrainians to decide their own future.

“Of course, it’s more complex than just that. There are lots of different moving parts. Nato has expanded East [and] that for Putin is used by him to say “Nato is kind of pushing into our sphere of influence”, and he talks about ‘buffer zones’. At the same time that does not justify what Putin does, and he doesn’t justify the Putin regime.

“We’ve heard a lot of stuff about the Azov Battalion and that the National Guard neo-Nazi elements [which] to some degree were integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces. But the idea espoused by some on the left that because there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine somehow everyone in Ukraine is in neo-Nazi is just wrong. There are also other forces in Ukraine. There are various anarchists and progressive left libertarian militias who resist Russian occupation and fascist forces in Ukraine.”

“I think if we’re interested in people’s safety and security, I think we have to look past this seductive thing. To kind of look to Nato, or look to Russia and try and find on the Nato side all kind of liberal democratic values, or on the Russian side anti-imperialist or anti-fascist thing. I think we have to look for another narrative, which doesn’t internalise ‘Nato good’ or ‘Russia good’.

“We have to have a much more sophisticated analysis of what’s going on here. I have no illusions as some census commentators do that Nato is kind of wooferendum or FBPE with guns and missiles. It’s not what it is.

“Nato’s interest is stability in the sense that it’s stability for western capitalism. The bosses club. Wealthy nations, who are the original founder members, and then increasingly, it’s other countries who’ve sought Nato membership. If they’re countries which are in the kind of what would have been the Soviet sphere of influence, I can understand their rationale for wanting to be involved in that, because they’ve been occupied by the Soviets. But again, I find myself just increasingly calling for kind of nuance.

“I have the dubious honour of having a Nato medal. It’s a little thing with a blue ribbon and it says in English and French “in the service of Peace and Freedom” and always jumped out at me because I left it with my little cousin with my granddad’s medal, which is a Great War medal which says “the war to end all wars” and in both cases that’s not very accurate.

“My experience of Nato is in Afghanistan. I was involved in the early stages of the Nato mission in Afghanistan. I understand and recognised Nato’s part in bringing huge amounts of violence in Afghanistan against Afghan people. I have comrades particularly who served in the Royal Air Force who were in Italy attaching bombs to the fighters which would fly over and bomb Libya and destroy Libya. We can see the results in both those countries of Nato’s mission.

“I suppose I find myself in a weird position where I’m not a fan of Nato or of Putin’s regime. I don’t see the need to pick between these two polls. While everyone’s posturing and virtue signalling and doing their uptakes on Twitter, the people who are dying here are working class Russian conscripts and members of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian civilians. That’s the tragedy in all this.

“There’s an element almost of smugness – like Brits and Americans, of all the people on the planet, Brits and Americans are kind of smugly looking on, going: “oh, he’s going to get bogged down – he’s going to get bogged down in the country – get caught up in insurgency with people who don’t want him.” It’s like why are you laughing about this? You’ve literally just done this. The Kabul airlift was last year to 20 years when you got booted out, and historically this has happened all over the world. So I’m not sure why you’re being so smug about it.

“Condoleezza Rice was asked if you invade a sovereign country it’s a war crime…

[Excerpt of Condoleezza Rice interviewed recently on Fox News] “When you invade a sovereign nation that is a war crime… Well it is certainly against every principle of international law and international order.” [from 7:50 mins]

Joe Glenton: “You’ve done all those things yourself and never been held accountable, and yet you can just go on TV and say that. At the level of just sheer neck to do that. I guess part of it is how these people have been reconditioned. We kind of saw it with George Bush where now he’s a harmless old man who just paints a bit, rather than a war criminal. We see with Alastair Campbell, out there Tweeting away about how terrible Vladimir Putin is, and he helped make the case for Iraq. And it astonishes me that these people are still allowed on television and are not pariahs. They can just kind of nod along like they didn’t do the same thing themselves easily within living memory.

“But this is happening in a civilized part of the world…

[Clip of CBS News correspondent recently reporting from Kiev] “But this isn’t a place, with all due respect, um you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, uh relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully too – A city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

JG: “How could this happen here?

[Clip from a different mainstream news report] “This is not a developing third world nation. This is Europe.”

JG: “But there’s no reflection on like why in those places which are ‘uncivilized’; why there is conflict there, or war there; why there is authoritarianism and dictatorship there; and in many cases, it’s because they were colonised – government were imposed because they’ve been brutally oppressed; because different sides have been played off against each other, funded by foreign powers. I find myself in a strange position of liking something before it was cool: being anti-war – and now all of a sudden loads of people who’ve never uttered a word about Yemen, or Palestine, or Afghanistan, are invoking like Tony Benn-type speeches.”

[Excerpt from a speech by Tony Benn] “Responsibility we have too for our fellow citizens and for the human race wherever the war takes place, and now we’re on the eve of nuclear warfare and that would be the end of the human race.”

JG: “It could be a kind of entry point for people to question wars more generally, because the things which are happening in Ukraine now were done in Iraq – in some cases worst things over a much longer period. I mean we’re six/seven days into this illegal invasion by a foreign power and that is what happened in Iraq.”

“We had a weird spectacle of some very mainstream media channels almost celebrating how do you make a Molotov cocktail in five easy steps.”

[Clip from another recent news story] “Really glad you’re able to join us, because we want to show you something that’s pretty extraordinary actually. They’ve sort of grated the styrofoam and they’re now putting it into the bottles. The styrofoam works to make the Molotov cocktail sticky: to help it stick to vehicles to other targets as well… you can see them grating it. It’s really quite extraordinary.” [from 10:05 mins]

Note that: similar news footage was shown at the time of the Maidan as I reported in a previous article from 2014.

JG: “I have friends who are from Derry in Northern Ireland and they’re doing that kind of you know that kind of monkey meme where it’s awkward. Like people who lived through British occupation [and] who would be out throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at occupying troops, who were like “oh, this is cool now”. And I think you could take that lesson and extrapolate it and you could look at Palestine. You could look at people resisting occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a lot of those people are like: “what? why was it not okay where we did it?” And I think that it’s a fair point to make.

“Why is it that now it’s celebrated in what are news pieces? Why is it suddenly tolerable, even good and moral, to do that?

[Sky News clip] “Hello yeah we’ve come to um to join the Ukrainian army or whatever they’re called – what are they called Tom?” [from 11:00 mins]

JG: “We’ve seen a steady procession of characters turning up at the Ukrainian embassy. Jim Bros with no military training going: “I want to go and fight in Ukraine, fight Putin for the for the Instagram likes”! But I don’t know maybe like I understand there are other examples in the past of people going to Spain to fight Franco. I understand the motivation. I would suggest if you have no military training it’s probably a bad idea. I would stay at home and do like your back and buyers or whatever. And there’s a broader point, I think there to be made, about I really agree with the solidarity that people are showing Ukraine. I approve of them kicking Russian teams at Champions League. I’m kind of down with a lot of the sanctions and stuff, but I can’t help but question where that was for Iraq, where that is for Yemen, where that is for Palestine?

“There’s someone we really need to stop and look at there: about why these degrees of solidarity and sanction are being applied to Russia. They never tried to do that with Tony Blair and George Bush in the Iraq War, and I think we have to have a little bit of self-reflection about why that is.

“We’ve seen it just in the last seven days: the lack of nuance and the presence of misinformation, one-sided media and it’s more important than ever to support independent media and alternative voices which can highlight the nuances of big political events that are going on around the world.”

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“They [the Ukrainian people] have a right to self-defence, but the American people shouldn’t be conscripted. Not only should their kids not be conscripted to put boots on the ground, but their tax dollars shouldn’t be conscripted to engage in that war, and, by the way, just kind of summing this all up —

“This shouldn’t be a custody battle for Ukraine. It shouldn’t be whether they’re going to be part of the European Union or the Soviet Union. It’s they should have the right – the people of Ukraine have the right – to self-determination and what that means is without undue influence from the West or from Russia and that’s what I would like to see as an outcome here.” [from 11:45 mins]

This is the view of libertarian Republican Thomas Massie, who was just one of three members of Congress to oppose the March 2nd ‘Stand with Ukraine’ resolution that called for the US and its allies “to deliver additional and immediate defensive security assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats Ukraine is currently facing from Russian forces.” The Senate also passed a similar resolution last month in support of Ukraine ahead of the invasion. 1

As a consequence of holding firm to an anti-interventionist ‘America first’ position, Massie has since been subjected to widespread condemnation and attacks, and has been branded a friend to Russia. On the eve of another vote in Congress which called for a massive package of weapons to Ukraine and Nato, he told Max Blumenthal in an interview for The Grayzone again on March 8th:

“First of all, I support the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their destiny, to have a sovereign country free from invasion. But this bill I feel was counter to the purposes of supporting the people of Ukraine… the bill calls for basically overthrowing the government of Belarus. I mean why should that be in a resolution supporting the Ukrainian people? Why should we expand this conflict to Belarus? Yes, it’s true that Russia has come through Belarus, but did they have much say in it? So that shouldn’t have been in the resolution.”

In fact the resolution explicitly “commits [the US] to ensuring the illegitimate dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is held accountable for permitting the use of Belarusian territory for, and committing Belarusian forces to, Putin’s unprovoked renewed full-scale invasion against Ukraine.”2

Thomas Massie continues:

“But probably the most troubling part of this resolution was it called for open-ended military assistance. It didn’t say only equipment. It didn’t say that there wouldn’t be a no-fly zone. I mean because people are calling for no-fly zone voted for that resolution, I have to assume that resolution would support such a thing; the way that it was worded, or even boots on the ground, which we should never have there.” [from 1:00 mins]

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Asked whether a no-fly zone would be “a recipe for conventional war”, Massie continues:

“A no-fly zone would mean American pilots shooting down Russian pilots in jets, and the next step – I mean there aren’t many escalations above that – but certainly it leads to (and if it weren’t an American plane it would be a Nato plane) and now that country would be the target of Russia presumably. Probably a missile launch that would drag twenty other countries into the conflict expanding this globally. This is not a global conflict at the time and we should do everything we can to keep it localised and not become a global crisis.” [from 2:00 mins]

Max Blumenthal points out that polls appear to show about 73% of Americans now support a no-fly zone even though most probably don’t understand the full implications. He asks Massie how this compares to the mood in Congress and whether we are edging towards nuclear conflict with Russia. Massie replies:

“Well I hope we’re not edging closer, but there’s a vote to send more money to Ukraine and to our Nato allies. In fact it’s to finance troops in Eastern Europe. Two things can’t simultaneously be true: if the news reports that are coming back would lead you to believe that Russia is getting crushed; they’re being devastated by Ukraine, and Ukraine alone. It can’t be a fact that Russia is a paper tiger and they’re being destroyed by the Ukrainian army and National Guard and at the same time we need to send billions of dollars more in weapons and troops to Nato to subsidise the defence of socialist countries.

“I mean that should be polled. We should ask the American people: do you think with 30 trillion dollars of debt that you should be funding the defence of socialist countries in Europe?” [from 2:50 mins]

Max Blumenthal corrects him, saying “you mean like subsidising the social democracy of Germany or the Western European countries, but the Eastern European countries certainly are not socialist. I mean this seems to be a geopolitical play and the arms industry is benefitting.”

On the question of sanctions, Massie says:

“Well there’s two kinds of sanctions. There are those that are meaningless: for instance, Netflix on their own has decided to cancel subscription. It’s in Russia. It might be a good thing, I don’t know it. Might be good for the Russians, but, you know, in all honesty, it was their glimpse into the Western world, and how capitalism works, and how we live. And so shutting that off – they probably shut it off because the credit cards were shut off and they probably weren’t getting any money – so there’s the virtual signalling kind of sanctions that Biden and some private companies have undertaken. And then there are the crippling sanctions. Okay, but who are they crippling?

“They’re not crippling Putin per se. He’ll find a market for his oil. They’re crippling the people here in this country first of all. We’re going to see higher prices. The low income people are being pinched the most by inflation. We’ve got gasoline is about to go to five dollars a gallon at the pump, and it’s not going to stop there.

“And there are lots of other things we bring from Russia like fertilizer; over a billion dollars. Try not putting a billion dollars of fertilizer on the fields in America this year and see what that does to food prices and supply chain issues. So if you think all of these things through there’s two kinds of sanctions: the sanctions that would Russia but it would cripple us as well: it’s kind of mutually assured sanctions economic devastation.” [from 4:00 mins]

Finally, Blumenthal asks “are you able to form any coalition or partnership with the progressives in Congress against escalating this war”, pointing to the example of Ilhan Omar’s outspoken opposition to the sanctions on oil. Massie replies:

“I would have hoped to get some to vote against that resolution, but we didn’t get any. I thought that the true progressives were against war and I have formed coalitions with them in the past – opposing the war in Afghanistan for instance, and getting that to come to an end. I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know when we’ll see it. I have seen them become strong supporters of the right to keep and bear arms though in Ukraine at least, so I’m encouraged by that coalition. […]

“I mean there’s people who can’t see through their partisan lens. Madison Cawthorne’s objection to war is genuine and my objection towards war’s genuine, but I’m gonna admit to you right now, there are some Republicans who object to it solely because it’s what Biden wants to do, and that’s a problem. And there are Republicans who actually want war. I mean you’ve seen them call for war. You’ve seen them call for assassination of… [Max Blumenthla interjects: “Lindsey Graham?”] Yeah, not mentioning names, those are his initials! Uh calling for assassination, that’s insane. Calling for no-fly zone, that’s not wise. That’ll escalate it. So if there is a coalition, it’s for war and it’s on the left and the right and it’s disappointing.” [from 8:20 mins]

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1 From an article entitled “House passes resolution backing Ukraine; Three Republicans vote ‘no’” written by Cristina Marcos, published in The Hill on March 2nd. https://thehill.com/homenews/house/596601-house-passes-resolution-backing-ukraine

2 https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-resolution/956/text

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Irish MP Richard Boyd Barrett calls out the double standards on Ukraine and Palestine

Richard Boyd Barrett is an Irish MP for the People Before Profit/Solidarity party who was elected at the 2011 general election. On Friday (March 4th) he made an impassioned speech at the Dáil calling out Irish parliamentarians and the international community as a whole for its consistent failure to condemn Israeli apartheid after seventy years of systematic oppression of Palestinians and raising the issue of blatant double standards on Ukraine and Palestine describing it as “utter hypocrisy”:

Treating the Arab population as a whole, the Palestinian population as a whole, as an inferior race. I mean it doesn’t get stronger than this and yet you want to be careful about your language. You’re happy to correctly use the most strong and robust language to describe the crimes against humanity of Vladimir Putin, but you will not use the same strength of language when it comes to describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians when it is now being documented and detailed by two of the most respected human rights organisations in the world, and indeed has been alleged by dozens and dozens of non-governmental organisations. And to be honest, anybody who looks honestly at the decades of brutal inhumane persecution of the Palestinians; successive assaults on Gaza; the annexation of the land and territory; the systematic application of apartheid rules; you don’t want to even use the word ‘apartheid’, never mind sanctions.

[It took] five days for sanctions against Putin and his thugs, seventy years of oppression of the Palestinians and it wouldn’t be – what was the word you used? Uh, it wouldn’t be “helpful” to impose sanctions. Amnesty international are calling for Israel to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Will you support it? They are calling for targeted sanctions against Israeli officials who are perpetuating the system of apartheid: just exactly the same types of sanctions you’ve just initiated against Vladimir Putin. Will you support it? And I think the answer is clearly you’re not going to.

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voices of reason at a time of war: Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Hedges & Phyllis Bennis

Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. […]

Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, expressed concern that Ukraine was, in the long-term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership . . . Because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention. Trenin expressed concern that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the U.S. and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.

From a classified US diplomatic cable dated February 1st 2008 addressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO-European Union Cooperative, National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State subsequently released by Wikileaks and featured in Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hedges’ latest article “Chronicle of a war foretold”.

Chris Hedges writes:

The conflict in Ukraine echoes the novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  In the novel it is acknowledged by the narrator that “there had never been a death more foretold” and yet no one was able or willing to stop it. All of us who reported from Eastern Europe in 1989 knew the consequences of provoking Russia, and yet few have raised their voices to halt the madness.  The methodical steps towards war took on a life of their own, moving us like sleepwalkers towards disaster.

Once NATO expanded into Eastern Europe, the Clinton administration promised Moscow that NATO combat troops would not be stationed in Eastern Europe, the defining issue of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations. This promise again turned out to be a lie. Then in 2014 the U.S. backed a coup against the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who sought to build an economic alliance with Russia rather than the European Union. Of course, once integrated into the European Union, as seen in the rest of Eastern Europe, the next step is integration into NATO.  Russia, spooked by the coup, alarmed at the overtures by the EU and NATO, then annexed Crimea, largely populated by Russian speakers. And the death spiral that led us to the conflict currently underway in Ukraine became unstoppable.

The war state needs enemies to sustain itself. When an enemy can’t be found, an enemy is manufactured. Putin has become, in the words of Senator Angus King, the new Hitler, out to grab Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. The full-throated cries for war, echoed shamelessly by the press, are justified by draining the conflict of historical context, by elevating ourselves as the saviors and whoever we oppose, from Saddam Hussein to Putin, as the new Nazi leader.

I don’t know where this will end up. We must remember, as Putin reminded us, that Russia is a nuclear power. We must remember that once you open the Pandora’s box of war it unleashes dark and murderous forces no one can control. I know this from personal experience. The match has been lit. The tragedy is that there was never any dispute about how the conflagration would start.

Click here to read Chris Hedges full article published by Scheerpost on February 24th.

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Yesterday Independent journalist Katie Halper invited Chris Hedges to talk about the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and his experience on the ground reporting from Eastern Europe during the fall of the Soviet Union. They were also joined by Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies who helped found the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and whose books include Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror (2003):

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Embedded below is a short statement from former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn released today by Double Down News:

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Update and correction:

The upload of the Katie Halper show above does not include any contribution from Phyllis Bennis although she did appear in the original livestream broadcast. I shall endeavour to find the full interview and append it to this post and meanwhile I have decided to include an excerpt of Bennis’ latest article below:

If we start the clock in February 2022, the main problem is Russia’s attack on Ukraine. If we start the clock in 1997, however, the main problem is Washington pushing NATO — the Cold War-era military alliance that includes the United States and most of Europe — to expand east, breaking an assurance the U.S. made to Russia after the Cold War.

Many foreign policy experts and peace advocates have called for ending the anachronistic alliance ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But NATO remains and has only encroached toward Russia further, resulting in new NATO countries — bristling with NATO arms systems — right on Russia’s borders.

Russia sees that expansion — and its integration of neighboring countries into  U.S.-led military partnerships —  as a continuing threat. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. But in the past the U.S. and other NATO members have urged its acceptance, and Russia regards Ukraine’s drift toward the West as a precursor to membership.

None of that makes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine legal, legitimate, or necessary. President Biden was right when he called Russia’s war “unjustified.” But he was wrong when he said it was “unprovoked.” It’s not condoning Putin’s invasion to observe there certainly was provocation — not so much by Ukraine, but by the United States.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration made important moves towards diplomacy. But it undermined those crucial efforts by increasing threats, escalating sanctions, deploying thousands of U.S. troops to neighboring countries, and sending tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine — all while continuing to build a huge new U.S. military base in Poland just 100 miles from the Russian border.

Click here to read the article by Phyllis Bennis entitled “Respond to Putin’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine with Diplomacy not War” published on February 25th by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF).

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Stop the War panel discusses Ukraine, Nato and “warmonger in waiting” Keir Starmer

As the clouds of war continue to gather over Ukraine, the British government, alongside the US, is ramping up the threat of war. Even the Ukrainian foreign minister is calling for calm. Yet in the most cynical move of his career so far Boris Johnson has used the threat of war to distract from the implosion of his premiership.

The government is using the crisis as an opportunity to prove itself as America’s most loyal European ally. This is in stark contrast to other European countries – France and Germany in particular – who are keen to see a diplomatic solution prevail rather than a new European war. The British media, in its usual gung ho fashion, has barely mentioned the concerted efforts of our European allies to prevent war, but here we are joined by a number of experts to share an alternative view.

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Meanwhile as drumbeat to war intensifies, opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer seized the opportunity to attack Stop the War. In a backwards-directed pro-war opinion piece in yesterday’s Guardian, Starmer evokes “the failures of appeasement and the spectre of Munich”, concluding his article with the deliberately opaque Atlanticist appeal for “a rule-based system” and a more bilious nationalistic call that emotively sets up on equal pedestals the post-war institutions of Nato and the NHS:

Nato is just one part of the rules-based international system that allows for collective action, but it is a vital one. It should be supported, and its resolve strengthened, not undermined by ill thought-out opposition. That is why Labour’s support for Nato remains as unwavering today as it was when we played an instrumental part in its formation. And that is why I regard both the Ns – Nato and the NHS – as legacies of that transformational Labour government that we need to be proud of and to protect.

In response to Starmer, Stop the War’s Andrew Murray says:

“He has drawn attention I think to one useful thing: Stop the War opposed the war in Afghanistan; it imposed the invasion of Iraq; it opposed the intervention in Libya. All of those were supported by whoever was leader of the Labour Party at the time, and on all those occasions Stop the War was proved to be right, and the leader of the Labour Party was proved to be wrong, and I have every confidence that the same will be true today. But what he has said is a warning that he is backing the government despite his job title being leader of the opposition.” [3:55 mins]

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Other speakers at the event:

  • Christine Buchholz (Die Linke – German MP 2009 – 2021) 10:50 mins
  • Diane Abbott MP (recorded statement) 19:20 mins
  • Nina Potarska (Ukraine National Coordinator – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) 21:45 mins
  • Professor Richard Sakwa (Professor of Russian and European politics at Kent University) 30:25 mins
  • Medea Benjamin (CodePink) 41:20 mins
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP 49:15 mins
  • Chris Nineham (Stop the War) hosts the event

Click here to read the original statement on the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) website.

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‘you want evidence? but I just told you the evidence!’ the day the US State Department went full Alex Jones

On Thursday [Feb 3rd] Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby ‘informed reporters’ of US intelligence claims that Russia is planning to “produce a very graphic propaganda video, which would include corpses and actors”. Later in the day, State Department spokesman, Ned Price, reiterated the same unsubstantiated claim (in a statement issued at the start of the clip embedded below).

In response, Associated Press reporter, Matt Lee, asked if the State Department could provide solid evidence of any Russian plans for simulated mass casualty false flag attack using ‘crisis actors’, pointing out how by making strange accusations of this kind, he was crossing into territory typically held by (as he put it) the “nutty conspiracy theory crowd”:

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The performance of Ned Price is so cringeworthy that his clash with Matt Lee quickly went viral. “Evidence?” he says, at one point, “I just delivered it!” Adding, if I may paraphrase for the sake of brevity: “But we can’t provide any details because of ‘sources & methods’ and ‘deterrence’ – well, that’s how deterrence works, right?” This is so childish that it would be completely hilarious were the situation not so serious.

Having been repeatedly lied into wars throughout this century, you might have imagined there would be a little more reticence in reporting this bizarre story as factual, but instead the mainstream has dutifully played along. As Novara Media’s Michael Walker reminds us:

It isn’t like the US is a stranger to misinformation. In 2016, it was reported that the Pentagon had paid UK PR firm Bell Pottinger $540 million to run a covert propaganda campaign following the invasion of Iraq. They created news packages in the style of Arabic news agencies and also made fake al-Qaeda terrorist videos that could be used to track the people who viewed them.

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Leaving aside the plain silliness, we ought to consider the likely purpose behind these latest accusations. Of course, one answer is that the US just wishes to throw more mud at the Kremlin door in order to maintain tensions over Ukraine. There are however more serious implications.

The most troubling is that such widely publicised claims may open the way to the deliberate escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian standoff by means of covert attacks carried out by US or Nato Special Forces, with these accusations of Russian false flags offering plausible deniability for any subsequent provocation. But beyond this, there are potentially alternative forms of provocation that may already be in the pipeline.

For instance, under the unflinching headline “Russia-Ukraine: US warns of ‘false-flag’ operation”, BBC news put together a piece that very confusingly muddles “such specific intelligence determinations” (i.e., these latest unsubstantiated false flag claims) with alleged cyber-attacks that are already happening.

Here is the central passage of the BBC article as it appears without edits:

Ukraine on Friday accused Russia of being behind a cyber-attack on dozens of official websites.

Before the sites went offline, a message appeared warning Ukrainians to “prepare for the worst”. Access to most of the sites was restored within hours.

The US and Nato condemned the attack and have offered support to Ukraine. Russia has not commented on the hack.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday about what he said were Russia’s plans.

“It has pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct what we call a false-flag operation, an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian speaking people in Ukraine as an excuse to go in,” he said.

The operatives were trained in urban warfare and using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against pro-Russian rebels, US officials said.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said similar acts were being prepared against Russian troops stationed in the breakaway Transdnistria region of Moldova.

“Russia has not commented on the hack” is meant to be read as a tacit admission of guilt, of course. Then – without a break in the flow – the piece immediately switches back to what Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has told reporters about coming false flags – reportedly also “on Friday” although this actually took place on Thursday (follow the link at the top – in answer to a question at about 30 mins). In this BBC account, sabotage on the ground is thus directly conflated with cyber-sabotage, when either one might be the tripwire that unleashes a wider war.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian’s report entitled “Russia plans ‘very graphic’ fake video as pretext for Ukraine invasion, US claims”, the latest accusations are once again repeated unchecked. Although the article does finish on a more cautionary note:

Last weekend, Reuters and CNN cited senior US officials claiming Russia had moved blood supplies close to the border, indicating a potential imminent military attack. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, denounced the blood supply claim, calling it a provocation designed “to spread panic and fear in our society”.

On Thursday, Maliar told the Guardian she had checked that claim with Ukrainian intelligence agencies, which had their own sources.

“It simply wasn’t true. We found no information to back this up, we did not see any blood supplies moved to the front or even in the civilian hospitals around the front,” she said, in an interview at a military airfield at Boryspil, outside Kyiv.

“It’s really important to look at the sources. These sources were anonymous, and I don’t think it’s right to use anonymous sources that cannot be checked,” she said.

And yes, to fill in the blanks, the US is presenting more “evidence” based solely on anonymous sources that cannot be checked. Why would this case be any truer than the last time?

The same people who deceived the world with stories of babies out of incubators in Kuwait; WMDs in Iraq which Bush later teased us “have got to be somewhere”; Viagra pills for soldiers in Libya; and the long discredited claims about chlorine gas at Douma (with graphic images of real corpses); are asking us to trust them again. The corporate media plays along as it always has done and always will, but we don’t have to be fooled yet again, do we?

*

A full transcript of the exchange between Ned Price and Matt Lee is also reproduced below.

Ned Price: “We have previously noted our strong concerns regarding Russian disinformation and the likelihood that Moscow might create seek to create a false flag operation to initiate military activity. Now we can say that the United States has information that Russia is planning to stage fabricated attacks by Ukrainian military or intelligence forces as a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine. One possible option the Russians are considering, and which we made public today, involves the production of a propaganda video: a video with graphic scenes of false explosions depicting corpses, crisis actors pretending to be mourners, and images of destroyed locations, or military equipment; entirely fabricated by Russian intelligence.

“To be clear, the production of this propaganda video is one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a fake pretext to initiate and potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine. We don’t know if Russia will necessarily use this, or another option in the coming days. We are publicising it now, however, in order to lay bare the extent of Russia’s destabilising actions towards Ukraine, and to dissuade Russia from continuing this dangerous campaign and ultimately launching a military attack.

“Russia has signalled it’s willing to continue diplomatic talks as a means to de-escalate, but actions such as these suggest otherwise. We will continue to diligently work together with our allies and partners to expose Russian disinformation and other hybrid tactics used against Ukraine. We continue to work to prevent any effort Moscow might make to justify further military action in Ukraine. We again urge Russia to stop its destructive and destabilising disinformation campaign, to de-escalate tensions, and to engage in diplomacy and dialogue for a peaceful solution. Thank you.”

Matt Lee: “Thanks. Okay well that’s quite a mouthful there. So you said actions such as these “suggest” otherwise; “suggest” meaning that “they suggest they’re not interested in talks and they’re going to go ahead with some kind of [action]” What action are you talking about?”

Ned Price: “One: the actions I’ve just pointed to. The fact that Russia continues to engage in disinformation campaigns.”

Matt Lee: “You made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?”

Ned Price: “What we know, Matt, is what I have just said: that they have engaged in this activity. [he overrides Matt Lee’s interjection and continues] because obviously this is not, this is not the first time we’ve made these reports public. You’ll remember that just a few weeks ago…”

Matt Lee: “Well, I’m sorry. Made what report public?”

Ned Price: “If you let me finish I will tell you what report we made public. Uh, we told you a few weeks ago that we have information indicating Russia also has already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine. So that Matt, to answer your question, is an action that Russia has already taken.

Matt Lee: “No, it’s an action that you say that they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that. And I’m going to get to the next question here, which is what is the evidence that they planned – I mean this is like crisis actors – really, this is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting it too now!”

“What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?”

Ned Price: “Matt, this is derived from information known to the US government: intelligence information that we have declassified. I think you know…”

Matt Lee [interrupting]: “Okay, well where is it? Where is this information?

Ned Price: “It is intelligence information that we have declassified.”

Matt Lee: “Well, where is it? Where’s the declassified information?

Ned Price: “I just delivered it.”

Matt Lee: “No, you made a series of allegations.”

Ned Price: “Would you like us to print out the topper? Because you will see a transcript of this briefing that you can print out for yourself.”

Matt Lee: “It’s not evidence, Ned! That’s just you saying it. That’s not evidence, I’m sorry.”

Ned Price: “What would you like, Matt?”

Matt Lee: “I would like to see some proof that you can show that shows that the Russians are doing this…

Ned Price: “You have been doing this for quite a while. You know that when we declassify intelligence, we do so – it’s about protecting sources and methods.” [dialogue is hard to follow]

Matt Lee: “I remember a lot of things [including that ‘Kabul is not going to fall’]. So where is the declassified information other than you coming out here and saying it?”

Ned Price: “Matt, I’m sorry you don’t like the format.”

Matt Lee: “It’s not the format! It’s the content!

Ned Price: “I’m sorry you don’t like the content. I’m sorry you –

Matt Lee: “It’s not that I don’t like it!”

Ned Price [continuing]: “I’m sorry you are doubting the information that is in the possession of the US government.

“What I’m telling you is that this is information that’s available to us. We are making it available to you in order – for a couple reasons: one is to attempt to deter the Russians from going ahead with this activity; two, in the event we’re not able to do that – in the event the Russians do go ahead with this – to make it clear as day, to lay bare the fact that this has always been an attempt on the part of the Russian Federation to fabricate a pretext.”

Matt Lee: “Yeah, but you don’t have any evidence to back it up, other than what you’re saying. It’s like you’re saying ‘we think we have information the Russians may do this’, but you won’t tell us what the information is…

Ned Price [interrupting]: That is the idea behind deterrence, Matt! That is the idea behind deterrence! It is hoped that the Russians don’t go forward with this.”

Matt Lee [continuing]: “… you say I just gave it to you.”

Ned Price: “You seem not to understand the idea of deterrence. We are trying to deter the Russians moving forward with this type of activity. That is why we’re making it public today.

If the Russians don’t go forward with this, that is not ipso facto an indication that they never had plans to do so.”

Matt Lee: “But then it’s unprovable! I mean, my god!

“What is the evidence that you have that suggests that that the Russians are even planning this? I mean I’m not saying that they’re not, but you just come out and say this and expect us just to believe it without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true, other than when I ask – or when anyone else asks – what’s the information, you said: ‘well, I just gave it to you’, which was just you making a statement.”

Ned Price: “Matt, you said yourself, you’ve been in this business for quite a long time. You know that when we make information – uh, intelligence information – public, we do so in a way that protects sensitive sources and methods. You also know that we do so – we declassify information – only when we’re confident in that information.

“If you doubt – if you doubt the credibility of the US government, of the British government, of other governments, and want to, you know, find solace and information that the Russians are putting out.

Matt Lee [laughing]: “Solace?!!!”

Ned Price [continuing]: “…that is for you to do.

Matt Lee: “I’m not asking what the Russian government is putting out. And what is this supposed to mean…?”

Ned Price then turns to another reporter, who says:

“Officials are describing very specific scenes, but do they actually have a video?”

Ned Price: “The fact that we are able to go into such great detail. Obviously I’m not going to spell out what is in our possession, but I will leave it to you – I will leave that to your judgment, your imagination.”

Matt Lee: “There are no facts that you’ve spelled out.”

Another reporter: “Do you have evidence that this was intended to come out in the coming days?”

Ned Price: “We’ve said then for some time now that the Russians have positioned forces. They have undertaken preparations that if Putin decides to move forward with an invasion, they’re positioned to do so. They are poised to do something in the coming days.”

Matt Lee: “Just one last thing, quickly. I’m not buying into Russian propaganda, but I’m also not going to buy into…

Ned Price [interrupting]: “I’m not asking you to.”

Matt Lee: “… an accusation. [continuing] Yes you are! You’re saying the proof is that I just said it. So let me just appeal to you on behalf of all of us, and the American people, and the people of the world, and the Russian people, and the Ukrainian people:

“One piece of evidence to suggest that the Russians are planning to use crisis actors to stage a false mass casualty event to use as a pretext. Just one piece, okay.

“And not you, or [John] Kirby, or Jen {Psaki], or Jon Finer, or Jake [Sullivan] saying: ‘this is what is so’, and then you turning around and saying: ‘well because we said it it’s a fact’. So one piece – one piece of verifiable evidence.”

Ned Price: “Let me make make a couple broad points. I acknowledge this will probably be unsatisfactory to you in the moment, but here’s what I think you know – what I certainly know– uh, what everyone here knows.

“There are a hundred thousand Russian troops encircling Ukraine right now; approaching Ukraine’s borders – close to the borders – there are thousands of Russian troops with the potential for some 30 000 Russian troops to stream in to Belarus. All of these forces are positioned – could well be positioned – if Putin makes that decision to engage on Ukraine in a coordinated assault.

“We also know that the Russians have resorted to these tactics in the past. Have developed a remarkably similar playbook in 2014: amassed troops, engaged in 2014. It is the historical facts. Engaged in disinformation and propaganda to paint Ukraine as the aggressor. Fabricated a pretext for an invasion and went in.

“So with what we know from eight years ago – with what we have seen – you and I both have seen, everyone have seen – with what we have heard eight years ago, in the ensuing eight years, and in recent weeks – it seems to me that it should not be outlandish that the Russians may be engaging in this activity.”

Matt Lee: “But not being outlandish doesn’t mean that you have any proof that that has happened, or being planned.”

Ned Price [interrupting]: “The second point, the second point…”

Matt Lee [continuing]: “Hold on, you can’t just – That all of that may very well be true, probably is true. Okay, but it doesn’t provide any evidence of what you’re alleging now, which is that they’re planning this fake mass casualty event with quote-unquote ‘crisis actors’, which is something that, you know, in the US we rarely hear outside of the kind of, you know, nutty conspiracy theory crowd.”

Ned Price: “Well to be to be clear, we’re not alleging what the United States is doing. This is information available to us about what the Russians are up to. I understand your point, but I just wanna…”

Matt Lee: “You do? Because I mean you’re treading into some serious waters here. And if you can’t provide any evidence other than: ‘well I said so, and so it’s a fact’; that’s a problem.”

Ned Price: “Matt, there’s a second point. This is derived from intelligence: intelligence in which we have confidence.”

Matt Lee [interrupting]: “The same confidence you had in WMDs in Iraq?”

Ned Price: “Otherwise we would not be making it public in the way we are. But here’s the other point: intelligence and evidence – these are two separate things. It is no…”

Matt Lee: “But you’re saying it’s a fact, and that that you have proof, and then you can’t offer any proof to just show this fact…

[clearly exasperated] I’ll drop it. I think we should move on.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Russia, Ukraine, USA

the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran? why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order

While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

These are the sobering thoughts of Daily Telegraph’s International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, as expressed in the opening paragraph in his latest article entitled “The West’s nightmare: a war on three fronts”.

Under the strapline “There has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime – we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict”, the same piece then continues:

The West faces escalating threat of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinksmanship.

Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.

You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Click here to find Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s article published on December 9th behind The Telegraph paywall.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, regular columnist Michael McFaul, Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University teamed up with Oleksiy Honcharuk, former Ukrainian Prime Minister under current President Volodymyr Zelensky, and member of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in an article headlined “The best response to Russia’s threats is a closer relationship with Ukraine”, which states:

Since 1939, the specter of an all-out conventional war in Europe between two major militaries has never been greater.

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post on Dec 1st.

It is quite easy, of course, to write off commentators like Evans-Pritchard and McFaul as alarmists, since what they are speculating on – even forecasting – is more or less unthinkable. War with Russia. War with Iran. War with China. War with all three simultaneously! This is absolute madness, and nothing good could possibly come from a war with any of these three rising powers.

However, if we accept Evans-Pritchard’s account this build up to the terrifying potential of full-fledged global conflict becomes very nearly inevitable, as an unavoidable response to the expansionism of Putin and Xi and/or the belligerence of the Iranians. To have stood by and done nothing, he compares directly with appeasement of Nazism – all three rivals to western hegemony duly compared to the most wicked and unassuageable enemy of humanity in modern times. Such unabashed reduction ad Hitlerum is always deemed permissible when enemies under scrutiny are ours!

Setting aside the partisanship, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is both a well-informed and (for what it’s worth) a respectable mainstream commentator and so his concerns surrounding this growing crisis and the tripartite nature of the envisioned threat surely demand our attention, even when the background he paints overlooks countless and crucial pieces that are required to the complete the picture.

When he says straightforwardly “there has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime” and then announces “we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict” I don’t believe he is exaggerating purely for effect. This is not mere hyperbole. It represents an honest appraisal of the rapidly escalating geopolitical tensions and of the commensurable threat the West is at least potentially facing. Where his analysis fails, however, is in correctly apportioning blame for these crises and in his surprising lack of informed historical context.

In the case of Russia, for instance, he makes no mention of the West’s broken promise to Gorbachev that in exchange for Russia’s consent to German reunification, Nato would not move an inch eastward. Instead it has since expanded 700 miles right up to Russia’s doorstep. This is critical. Without recognising this Nato expansion eastwards, we instantly lose all sense of Russia’s justified fear of invasion – eighty years ago under codename Operation Barbarossa the Nazis launched a massive Blitzkreig attack through the Baltic States and Ukraine: an entirely unprovoked attack that laid waste to towns and cities and was beaten back at the cost of some 25 million Russian lives. The Russian people have not forgotten this.

On December 5th, The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté spoke with Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, and author of Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands and just released Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War:

*

Their discussion took place shortly after UN Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had ended talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and on the eve of the Biden-Putin summit.

Richard Sakwa reminds us:

“This is the second time this year that we’ve seen a war theatre emerging with Russian troop movements, Ukrainian troop movements and so on. The immediate issue clearly is concern on both sides that there’s going to be a forcible attempt to resolve the Donbass question: that is the secessionist republics in that part of Ukraine.

“But the larger context is like a Russian doll – a Matryoshka doll – in which that conflict is nested in a larger one, which in the immediate context is the model of Ukrainian state building since 1991, where a certain Russophone population was objecting to a particular vision of Ukrainian statehood – a lot of authors have pointed this out over the years – and it came to a crunch in 2014. And so then we had the counter movement in Crimea and Donbass.

“But even bigger than that is the failure since 1991 to establish what the Russians would certainly call an inclusive and equitable security order. And that of course is what was being discussed at the OSCE Security Conference just these last few days when Blinken and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister met.” [from 0:50 mins]

Regarding Russia’s true motives, Sakwa continues:

“The idea that Putin is, as an article in the New Statesman (this week’s issue) puts it, ‘the agent of chaos’ and the fomenter of instability is the complete mistake; it’s in fact the opposite. Russia constantly wants stability; it wants a framework for order. And more than that, it is committed still to that international system, and the international law established after 1945…

“Certainly the Russians would argue that it’s the West that has become revisionist; it’s the West that wants to destabilise the order by advancing a military alliance almost to Russia’s borders. And the idea that Putin needs some sort of external adventure in order to consolidate his position at home is also mistaken.

“I think that there’s a whole stack of arguments involved here, including of course the view that what’s going on in Ukraine is a Russian invasion or Russian attack, when there’s the internal domestic – let’s perhaps not call it a civil war but civil contestation about the vision of Ukrainian statehood. It’s homemade.

“And so what we see in this second Cold War is the constant projection of internal contradictions in Ukraine, and indeed in the Western Atlantic power system, onto Russia, which leads to a very mistaken view of the dynamics and motivations of the Russian leadership today, which leads of course to mistaken policies, which leads then to the intensification of the conflict and leads us to the danger of an inadvertent war. This is why the context is just so important…

Any basic realist view would suggest that Russia has national interest, it has concerns. And any power in Moscow would be concerned about a military alliance coming up to its borders. Even if Nato doesn’t expand, as Putin has been saying over the last few months, Ukraine de facto is being armed with very offensive weapons – the Javelin and other things – which of course even Barack Obama refused to give because he warned that this would only intensify and exacerbate the conflict.” [from 5:00 mins]

Moving away from Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, Evans-Pritchard also says nothing of the West’s more recent broken promise to Iran in the form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was painstakingly negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union) and eventually signed off in July 2015.

However, within the term of the very next US administration under Donald Trump, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement doubtless at the behest of Trump’s great friend Netanyahu. Thus, having struck a deal that removed crippling economic sanctions by assent to a rigorous inspection regime to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, this hard-won reward was snatched away and with it the disincentive to pursue a nuclear weapons programme was lost. Nevertheless Iran is back at the negotiating table in Vienna, even while the prospect of a revised deal looks increasingly unlikely:

On Sunday {Dec 5th], amid reports that the talks might collapse, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the countries in Vienna to “take a strong line” against Iran. According to Channel 12 news in Israel, Israeli officials are urging the US to take military action against Iran, either by striking Iran directly or by hitting an Iranian base in Yemen. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Israel says that it reserves the right to take military action against Iran.

This is the assessment of Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, who are respectively cofounder and national co-director of Codepink, in an article entitled “Israel Is Hell-Bent on Sabotaging US Nuclear Negotiations With Iran”, that also reminds us:

Israeli threats aren’t just bluster. Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated, presumably by Israel. In July 2020, a fire, attributed to an Israeli bomb, caused significant damage to Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. In November 2020, shortly after Joe Biden won the presidential election, Israeli operatives used remote control machine guns to assassinate Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Had Iran retaliated proportionately, the US might have backed up Israel, with the conflict spiraling into a full-blown US-Middle East war.

In April 2021, as diplomatic efforts were underway between the Biden administration and Iran, sabotage attributed to Israel caused a blackout at the Natanz. Iran described the action as “nuclear terrorism.”

Ironically described as Iran’s Build Back Better plan, after each of Israel’s nuclear facility sabotage actions, Iranians have quickly gotten their facilities back online and even installed newer machines to more rapidly enrich uranium. As a result, American officials recently warned their Israeli counterparts that the attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive. But Israel replied that it has no intention of letting up.

Obviously if the original deal had not been so rashly torn up by Trump there is every reason to presume Iran would have stayed disarmed, but instead, with so much sabre-rattling out of Israel and America, there is every incentive to follow North Korea’s lead and join the nuclear club. As the same piece points out:

Stakes are high for the talks to succeed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed this month that Iran is now enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity at its underground facility at Fordo, a site where the JCPOA forbids enrichment. According to the IAEA, since Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, Iran has furthered its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity (compared with 3.67% under the deal), steadily moving closer to the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon. In September, the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report that, under the “worst-case breakout estimate,” within a month Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold published by Jacobin magazine on December 12th.

Nor does Evans-Pritchard give proper context to the question of Taiwan, which first separated from the mainland when the governing Kuomintang (KMT) and its leader Chiang Kai-shek had fled there following their catastrophic defeat to the communists. Both sides soon after advocated a “One-China Policy” although each disputed the right of the other to rule over a future reunited China. Prior to 1971, it had actually been the Taiwanese Republic of China (ROC) that held the seat on the UN Security Council.

Then, when the great reformer Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s, he proposed an updated constitutional arrangement of “One Country Two Systems”, according to which partial autonomy would be granted, permitting Taiwan to operate an unfettered free-market economy and an independent military although under mainland sovereignty. This offer was formally rejected by Taiwan, but still a “One-China Policy” has been long-standing and officially recognised by successive American presidents – at least until now.

To quote from the current Wikipedia entry:

Today, ROC is the de facto government of Taiwan; whereas the PRC is the de facto government over Mainland China. However, each government claims to be the legitimate government of all China de jure.

In short, Taiwanese independence remains a highly contentious issue on both sides of the strait.

Stepping back therefore we should acknowledge that China has both political and strategic interest in Taiwan and the sovereignty issue remains an exceedingly complex one. Likewise, Russia has historical and cultural ties to the people of the breakaway republics of the Donetsk and Luhansk, who are still embattled and fighting for independence against Ukrainian Nationalists (including neo-Nazis) in response to oppressive measures introduced in the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup of 2014.

So although it is easy to characterise each of these conflicts as revanchist on the part of the Russian and Chinese regimes, which then in turn validates the prevailing argument that we must not repeat the historical error of appeasement, this is actually a dangerous misrepresentation of the full picture. It denies the basic fact that all nations have interests, and that some of interests are non-negotiable.

Returning to Evans-Pritchard’s cited example of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, which involved an American response to a perceived as a Soviet threat that was in turn a Soviet retaliation after the US moved its missiles to Turkey, we see that both sides considered the danger posed by the other as a just cause for nuclear brinksmanship.

In 2016, John Pilger released his 60th documentary film The Coming War on China which is embedded below. In the notes on the official website, Pilger writes:

This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

In secrecy, the biggest single American-run air-sea military exercise in recent years – known as Talisman Sabre – has rehearsed an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca, cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is largely this fear of an economic blockade that has seen China building airstrips on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Last year, Chinese nuclear forces were reportedly upgraded from low to high alert.

This is not news, or it is news distorted or buried. Instead, there is a familiar drumbeat identifying a new enemy: a restoration of the psychology of fear that embedded public consciousness for most of the 20th century. The aim of The Coming War on China is to help break the silence. As the centenaries of the First World War presently remind us, horrific conflict can begin all too easily. The difference today is nuclear.

*

All of today’s escalating crises have been – and continue to be – inflamed, in the most part deliberately, by Western interference. The Ukrainian Maidan was initially sparked by the actions of the European Union although the violent protests that ended in the toppling of elected President Viktor Yanokovych and installation of Western puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk were directed by Washington as a notorious leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt revealed.

Having helped to orchestrate a coup, America continues to supply arms and offer military and intelligence support to the Ukrainian nationalists in their war against the peoples of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Meanwhile Nato sails its warships provocatively on the Black Sea, while occasionally buzzing the still disputed territory of Crimea. Likewise, America and Britain now regularly send their warships to the South China Sea for large-scale exercises. Why are the British and American navies patrolling waters so far from their own shores? What other purpose than provocation?

On December 1st, the German newspaper Die Welt published an opinion piece by its Chief Foreign Policy Correspondent Clemens Wergin under the headline “The West must finally treat Moscow like the pariah regime it is acting as”, in which it boldly asserts in the language of this new Cold War era that: “Moscow is trying, as in Soviet times, to force parts of Eastern Europe under its thumb.” Yet in reality, most of the former Soviet Bloc countries including Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, are now fully-fledged members of Nato.

Richard Sakwa says:

“Ultimately the question is ‘what is the US strategic goal’? It should be peace. It should be some sort of framework in which Russia is part of the solution, instead of which being constantly externalised as an enemy… There’s a marvellous book which I’m sure you know [by] William Hill called No Place for Russia which describes how since 1991 desperate attempts by Yeltsin and then Putin to establish an inclusive security order – and indeed Medvedev with his ideas in 2008 – so the idea is that you can’t negotiate with Moscow because it doesn’t want to deal, or that any negotiation effectively is appeasement.

“It is sort of crazy talk. That means there can be no diplomacy. There can be no engagement, no dialogue, no working on common issues, though Biden of course after the Geneva Summit has established a working party on cyber issues and on strategic security, which is very welcome, and so there is talk going on, but in an atmosphere of fundamental distrust.” [from 10:35 mins]

In fact these crises are happening because the world’s superpowers are butting heads, just as they did during the first Cold War. And throughout that first Cold War the public was constantly informed about the Soviet Union’s abysmal human rights record and their tremendous eagerness to invade the West. The first claim is provably true, of course, but the follow-up claim was false; a cheap propaganda trick that instilled fear and maximised the expansion of the military-industrial complex.

Nor do the Russians or Chinese have plans to invade us tomorrow, but threatened by western expansion up to their borders, both are now preparing to defend their national interests. The latest threats of pre-emptive strikes on Ukraine and Taiwan are reactive. Thus Evans-Pritchard’s parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis are entirely valid. And keep in mind that in 1962 the world only narrowly escaped disaster thanks to courage of Soviet submarine commander Vasily Arkhipov, who overrode a decision to launch a nuclear strike that otherwise might have ended civilisation and annihilated much of the life on this planet.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are not, as Evans-Pritchard states in his article, on the immediate brink of testing a bomb, but instead, and unlike their Israeli adversaries, lack any nuclear capability. Nevertheless another Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear facility – especially if it is a civilian one that causes widespread radioactive contamination – might yet be the trigger that ignites a war to end all wars.

As John Pilger describes in his notes to The Coming War on China:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us.

As a youth I was a member of CND and also subscribed to their in-house magazine which carried the apt title Sanity to helpfully distinguished the group’s unilateralist disarmament position from the multilateralist principle of deterrence known as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD. Today instead of MAD we have a more frank if utterly absurd discussion that considers nuclear first-strike to be an option; crazy nonsense that mostly comes from the neo-con factions inside the US and Israel. These are the Strangeloves; not merely psychopaths, but madmen with a death wish, because adopting such a strategy is far, far madder than MAD ever was! How did our democratic systems fail so badly as to enable these certifiable lunatics ever to come to power? (That’s a question for another day.)

Writing for the Quincy Institute journal Responsible Statecraft, British policy analyst and Orwell Prize-winning journalist, Anatol Lieven, goes so far as to describe Washington’s antagonist relationship with Russia, including the tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions as “absurd and reckless”. An article published on December 1st begins:

Official U.S. behavior towards Russia is suffering from a pretty acute case of what might charitably be called obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a result of this affliction, it has often lost touch not only with basic strategic common sense, but with the overall goals and strategy of the current U.S. administration.

The latest manifestation of this has been the U.S. refusal to extend the visas of Russian diplomats in Washington, which this week naturally and inevitably led to a new round of tit for tat expulsions of U.S. diplomats from Moscow. As a result of an escalating cycle of retaliation in recent years, the U.S. embassy in Moscow is now the only U.S. diplomatic presence in that country, and the number of its staff is barely one tenth of its previous figure.

While being unwilling to seek any real compromises with Russia, President Biden and his team are clearly anxious to avoid new crises if possible; and there are the most obvious and sensible reasons for this desire. The administration has made meeting the challenge (whether real or imagined) from China the core of its entire global strategy. Any new confrontation with Russia would be a colossal distraction from this strategy, and would in fact be a magnificent strategic gift to Beijing.

In these strategic circumstances, the obvious course for America would be to carry out the “opening to China” of the 1970s in reverse, and aim for a grand strategic compromise with Russia that would neutralize U.S.-Russian tensions and split Moscow from Beijing. Even if such a move is beyond the vision and moral courage of U.S. leaders today, at the very least one would expect that U.S. policy would avoid all purely gratuitous and unnecessary gestures of hostility towards Russia, especially when these are absolutely bound to provoke an equal Russian response.

Yet since the Biden administration took office, efforts to defuse tension with Russia have been interspersed with episodes of insulting language, symbolic affronts and meaningless but deeply provocative statements. It is as if the U.S. establishment simply cannot control itself when it comes to jabbing at Russia.

Concluding:

The result is to damage or eliminate precisely those lines of communication which it is essential to keep open if minor incidents are to be prevented from escalating into major and unnecessary crises.

If these moves were part of a U.S. considered strategy, they would be deeply foolish and reckless; but at a time when the U.S. leadership actually wants to reduce tension with Moscow, they verge on the insane.

Click here to read Anatol Lieven’s full article entitled “Tit for tat diplomatic expulsions by Russia and America are absurd and reckless: At a time when Washington wants to reduce tension with Moscow, these acts verge on the insane” published in Responsible Statecraft.

*

America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

*

Under UN Resolution 2758, passed on 25 October 1971, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was recognised as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all organizations related to it.” An earlier General Assembly Resolution 1668 passed in 1961 had ensured this change in recognition had required a two-thirds majority of all voting members.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, did you see?, Iran, Israel, John Pilger, Russia, Ukraine, Uncategorized, USA

football’s ‘great reset’ and why it actually concerns everyone

I love football. Playing it (when I could). Watching it (from the stands when I could, now live on TV). However, many subscribers to this blog and readers who might stumble across this post will in all likelihood care very little for football or for sport in general and fair play. My purpose here is not to convert you. Instead, my goal is simply to alert you – indeed, if you’d prefer to know my thoughts beyond the football then please skip past the third asterisk below.

Update!

This is the first time I’ve ever attached an update to an article prior to posting it, but the story surrounding football’s “European Super League” has moved on so rapidly that within hours of completing the piece below, the whole venture was completely sunk – and hallelujah for that!

In light of the abject and finally hilarious failure of the billionaire owners of the ‘dirty dozen’ clubs and investment firm JP Morgan who backed them, it is doubtful that we will see a fresh attempt any time soon, since the extraordinary events of the last 48 hours are likely to produce lasting effects both in English football and abroad. The immediate questions for football are how will these clubs now be punished? Can their owners be removed? And what is the future for ownership of football clubs? But the article I wrote yesterday also draws comparisons between this latest power grab in football and the corporate blueprint for a post-covid society as conceived by the billionaires at Davos. (Read more about ‘The Great Reset’ here.)

Lastly, a huge thank you to Gary Neville, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Pep Guardiola, Jamie Carragher, Jordan Henderson and James Milner amongst many players and ex-professionals who spoke out and to the fans who took their protests to the grounds at Leeds, Chelsea and Liverpool and indeed to everyone who has spoken out and taken a stand in defiance to stop this abomination. Unity is strength!

Further update:

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez still insists the European Super League is not “dead” despite the competition collapsing just 48 hours after it was announced:

Mark Goldbridge of The United Stand agrees and says that although the first battle was won, the war against football will go on. Here’s his reaction to Perez remarks:

But finally, John Barnes puts it better than anyone. You’ll know when the revolution is won!

*

Firstly, a confession: Football fans are a delusional bunch. As a consequence we have slowly allowed the game we love become to be fully captured by big money. Indeed, when the English Premier League formed as the breakaway in 1992, its entire purpose was to serve the greedy interests of just a handful of the richest clubs, and, by virtue of the TV rights, it also gave a massive kick-start to Rupert Murdoch’s newly launched Sky. In the same year and principally for the same reasons, Europe’s premier cup tournament was likewise rebranded and expanded: the old European Cup upgraded to the UEFA Champions’ League, which soon became a total misnomer as the majority of the competing teams were no longer national champions anyway.

As fans, we mostly kept the faith, putting up with every stupidity and inconvenience as the formats and fixtures constantly shifted to maximise TV audiences. At the same time, we also lived in the quiet hope that our own clubs might also get a lucky break and land a billionaire owner; someone to launch us on similar trajectories to Chelsea after Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich acquired the club in 2003, or when Sheikh Mansour of the United Arab Emirates bought the entirety of the shares in Man City in 2008. Of course, these are two of the ‘dirty dozen’ European clubs who have suddenly announced their intention to form this preposterously self-entitled breakaway “European Super League”. The moral as always: be careful what you wish for…

Incidentally, the reason this proposed ESL has been universally castigated (including by the true fans of the ‘dirty dozen’) is that it strikes a death blow to everything we love about the game. No relegation means the curtailment of any true competition, and puts an end to the hopeful dreams of the vast majority of fans whose clubs must remain as outsiders to this forever exclusive pool. Contrary to the ESL spin, these excluded clubs left behind in our existing leagues and competitions will then be sapped of finances, becoming ever more impoverished in relative terms. Thus, if the ESL does succeed, football as we know it with its rich heritage of nearly a hundred English league clubs, many hundreds of non-league clubs, and our 150 years of league and cup history, will be effectively killed off at a stroke.

I found my own club Wolves’ response to the ESL proposal an amusing one (not that in truth I believe our own Chinese corporate owner Fosun would have behaved any differently if given the chance):

(To explain: we finished seventh and only behind the six English clubs who may now face permanent expulsion from the Premier League.)

*

In short, this is the ‘great reset’ for European football and in common with the Great Reset currently being engineered and imposed by the plutocrats at the World Economic Forum, it is sold to us as an unavoidable response to a forthcoming financial crisis that will be blamed on the pandemic lockdowns, when in reality these are both glaring instances of pre-planned disaster capitalism. As with systemic failures in the global economy, the financial problems that beset many of the top football clubs, including most notably Barcelona and Real Madrid, are pre-existing and a result of decades of mismanagement.

Meanwhile, the outcry you are hearing from supporters, former professionals, and even coming from football’s inherently shady governing bodies, FIFA, and European equivalent, UEFA [more below], is happening because the rug has been pulled from under all of us. A tiny cartel of top clubs backed by JP Morgan is abruptly applying the squeeze much like every other mafia does: making us an offer we can’t refuse! Although given the coordinated backlash which manages somehow to bring together rival fans and politicians alike, perhaps they have already overplayed their hand.

Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar (Spurs fan) was joined yesterday by Laurence McKenna (Liverpool fan) to talk about how a sport created by the poor was stolen by the rich – and just what can be done to take it back:

*

If you couldn’t care less about football that’s perfectly fine, but here’s why I believe this moment may yet be a pivotal one with wider ramifications. It is a wake-up call and one that rouses many who are typically indifferent to politics at least in ordinary times. But these are far from ordinary times, since our western societies are fully under assault from a rather closely-related cartel that also seeks to franchise every aspect of our lives. We could name all the names but the full list of villains is a considerable one: though again most influential are the global financiers like JP Morgan, then there are the corporate giants in energy, agriculture, drugs, healthcare, retail, armaments, etc, and last but not least, the tech giants.

While JP Morgan openly tries to steal the soul of football, the collective aim of all of these corporate behemoths, is, albeit more stealthily, to steal the lot. They want to own every corner of our world – not just the profits from the few products built or assembled on their own premises, but everything else besides – what their CEOs recognise only as “resources”: every acre of land, every drop of water, every tree and blade of grass, every invention, every detail of your private life, and every gene in our bodies. They want the whole human world and the natural world beyond; all of it fully audited and made ready to be privatised. Though couched in the soft language of “sustainability” and “stakeholder society” this is what the Great Reset is really all about.

So to the non-football supporters I say this: while you may watch the outcry from football fans in cool detachment, please keep in mind that our distress is only the tip of a far larger iceberg. As delusional fans, yes assuredly we are only reaping what we have allowed to be sown in our names. But more broadly, so long as we – the people – permit this steady encroachment into every corner of our lives by these faceless corporations acting on behalf of their self-interested plutocratic owners, then we, the people, can finally expect the same treatment across the board.

Unrestrained and deregulated, this is where the free market inevitably leads. Always seeking new ways to exploit our individual hopes and dreams, and endlessly justifying its ceaseless exploitation in the name of the greater good. When we have sold out to them entirely and have no bargaining chips left, then we will fully appreciate that no corporation cares about anything at all beyond the bottom line.

And finally, I turn to any fellow fans who may have also read down this far. I know how passionately you feel about your own clubs and I share your anxieties. Let us come together then in solidarity to fight this, and then to carry the fight on to bigger concerns. For football is still only football and not a matter of life and death; Bill Shankly was always speaking in jest as we know! More soberly he also said this:

“The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.”

*

In an interview on Granada TV (May 20th, 1981), Bill Shankly famously told this anecdote:

Someone said to me ‘To you football is a matter of life or death!’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.

Wikiquote reference for Shankley’s second quote:

Powley, Adam; Gillan, Robert (2015). Shankly’s Village: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Glenbuck and its Famous Footballing Sons. Worthing, UK: Pitch. ISBN 9781785310706. OCLC 931595421. Retrieved on 2016-08-18.

Additional:

On Tuesday 20th, the Liverpool Echo reported that Bill Shankly’s grandson, Chris Carline, who runs the Shankly Foundation charity and is a director of the city centre Shankly Hotel has called for Bill Shankly’s statue to be removed from outside the ground.

***

To mark ten year’s blogging, this is the second of my re-uploads from the WoC archive. Originally posted on June 5th, 2015, FIFA is patently corrupt, but what’s this FBI sting really been about…? highlighted the scandals surrounding the Clintons and then-UEFA chief Michel Platini and their involvement in the Qatari World Cup bid and explored the sequence of events that led up the de facto coup against football’s international governing body FIFA.

*

A precursory note to the disinterested:

I did not originally intend to post an article (certainly nothing so extended) about the ongoing investigations into football’s world governing body, FIFA. However, once I began to scratch just a little beneath the surface of this developing scandal, I found that it immediately led into areas completely unanticipated. Behind the cartoon kleptocracy running the show at FIFA HQ up popped more familiar faces: the gone, but not so easily forgotten Nicolas Sarkozy, the ubiquitous Benjamin Netanyahu, and — never far from any scandal — the unwanted opinion of John McCain. Added to which, there are political entanglements that ought to have a bearing on the current US Presidential election campaign – what is the role the Clintons have played?

*

World Cup fever

When, in 2010, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter announced that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup a few eyebrows were raised… Moments later, however, as Blatter slipped his hand into a second envelope before revealing to the assembly of hopeful delegates that Qatar were to host in 2022, you could barely hear the feigned applause above the sound of jaws collectively dropping around the world.

Russia is a country very much riddled with corruption as we know (after the fall of communism, the so-called “liberalisation of markets” left the way wide open for the rise of the gangster oligarchs), but Russia is also a proud footballing nation. Supporters of the game recognised that Russia had at least earned its right to host football’s greatest tournament. The Qatar decision, on the other hand, instantly turned FIFA into a laughing stock.

Qatar has zero footballing tradition, effectively zero facilities, and due to its arid climate, close to zero blades of grass. What it had instead, and in prodigious abundance, was oil and money, and the political clout that goes with both. In other words, graft had again won the day – and just look who is smiling broadly beside the delegation of Qatari sheikhs as they jump for joy – bottom left of the screen [16 mins in], the sleek, silvery head of former President and (very likely, heaven forfend) soon-to-be (first) First Husband of the United States, Bill Clinton (a lot more on this Clinton connection later):

*

Whatever lingering hopes we’d had that FIFA may recover a little of its horribly sullied reputation were gone forever (though most supporters knew the score long before 2010), and all that was left was to marvel at the temerity of football’s world governing body, so casually throwing off any last pretence to probity and respectability.

With the rigged voting in 2010, it may be argued that the writing was on the wall for both FIFA and its seamy president Sepp Blatter, but with friends like Qatar around to watch your back, neither FIFA nor Blatter were about to be quite so unceremoniously deposed. Certainly the stage had been set, but the future remained secure for the heads of FIFA, or so it seemed until last week…

*

It wasn’t exactly extraordinary rendition. But when Swiss police arrested seven officials of FIFA, the international football federation, for extradition to the United States, there were some echoes of the secret terrorism arrests. Soccer is a global game, and it matters more to almost everyone than to Americans. So why is the US acting as the international sheriff and grabbing up non-US citizens to try them domestically for corrupting the sport worldwide? And, more to the point, why is this legal?

So writes Noah Feldman, who is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard.

Feldman’s questions are germane. But before we come to addressing them, it is worthwhile considering more closely the person in charge of so aggressively pursuing the case, Obama’s newly appointed US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Lynch has a point to prove, as an article published by the Guardian in February explains:

Opposition to Barack Obama’s nominee for US attorney general over her handling of the HSBC scandal is growing in Congress after she admitted deciding not to prosecute the bank for money laundering offences without hearing from key regulators or a separate investigation into tax secrecy. […]

“These decisions by the [Department of Justice] and Ms Lynch’s office raise troubling questions about whether pertinent information of public concern regarding HSBC was ‘swept under the rug’, if justice was served, and why HSBC was given special treatment that allowed it to walk away from such serious offences unscathed,” [Senator David] Vitter writes in a letter to current attorney general Eric Holder. “This case is increasingly relevant and pressing now that Ms Lynch has been nominated as the next attorney general.”

Lynch has confirmed she was not aware of the damning tax allegations against the bank when negotiating a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over it facilitating money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and helping clients evade US sanctions.

This was despite a separate investigation into documents from whistleblower Hervé Falciani showing HSBC’s role in colluding with Swiss bank clients to hide their assets from tax authorities, which were passed to the US government by French authorities.

“To my knowledge, my office did not have access to the Falciani documents prior to execution of the DPA [Deferred Prosecution Agreement],” said Lynch in responses published on Thursday. “I am not aware of whether or how the information was conveyed to the department, nor do I have information about why my office did not have access to it.”

The admission has angered campaigners who say the crucial Facliona [sic] documents were “lost in the haystack of information” at the DoJ but their public existence could have been easily verified.

“She could have looked it up on Wikipedia,” said Bart Naylor, an expert at Public Citizen. 1

Click here to read the full article.

Thanks to Lynch’s oversight (in both senses of the word), HSBC escaped prosecution despite proven charges of laundering money for drug cartels and for terrorists – setting an extremely dangerous “too big to jail” precedent. After this remarkably softly, softly approach to Wall Street, however, Lynch is now taking an altogether more muscular stance in the case of FIFA.

An approach which potentially sets a differently dangerous precedent as she risks accusations of judicial overreach, especially given the comparatively speaking, minor felonies – bribery and kickbacks of around £100 million over 24 years is the charge against the accused FIFA officials (close to the price Real Madrid paid Spurs for Gareth Bale), and not the multiple billions of the never-ending banking “scandals”, or, to offer a very different example, the child trafficking allegations for which both DynCorp and Halliburton have been implicated (but no prosecutions brought). Furthermore, these alleged offences were committed by officials not at the head of a multinational corporation, but of a sports body that the average American cares very little about. So, why is the FBI so bothered? Why now? And on what grounds did the FBI make last week’s arrests outside America? Back to Noah Feldman:

It turns out the legal basis for the FIFA prosecutions isn’t all that simple or straightforward – and therein lies a tale of politics and sport. The prosecutions are being brought under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act of 1970, which was designed to prosecute crime syndicates that had taken over otherwise lawful organisations. […]

Generally, as the US Supreme Court has recently emphasised, laws passed by Congress don’t apply outside the US unless Congress affirmatively says so. RICO on its face says nothing about applying beyond US borders. So you’d think it can’t reach conduct that occurred abroad, and much of the alleged FIFA criminal conduct appears to have done so.

But in 2014 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that RICO could apply extraterritorially – if, and only if, the separate criminal acts required by the law, known as “predicate acts”, violated statutes that themselves apply outside US borders. […]

But what’s most remarkable, and even incendiary, about the indictment comes in the fine print. RICO requires the existence of a criminal enterprise. As part of its case, the US Department of Justice is alleging that FIFA, the organiser of the World Cup, became a criminal enterprise as a result of its use of systematic corruption. In effect, the US government is saying that FIFA became the Mafia. 2 [Emphasis added]

*

Sepp Blatter has not (yet) been indicted, but for most of last week he was decidedly the man most in the (media) frame. In spite of this, delegates at the 65th Congress re-elected him as FIFA president and then for days afterwards, Blatter brazenly refused to step down. During this period of prolonged ignominy, it had been Michel Platini, chief of European football’s ruling body, UEFA, who was most vociferous in calling for Blatter’s resignation:

[Blatter’s] speech came just hours after Frenchman Platini said the latest crisis had left him “absolutely sickened”, adding: “People have had enough, they don’t want this president any more.” 3

That was on Thursday 28th, the day before FIFA’s election for president, and after Platini had personally requested that Blatter step down. The same day, Platini also called for delegates to join him in voting for Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, saying:

“Sepp, I like to speak to you man to man, face to face. Listen we started together, now I am asking you to leave FIFA because we give a terrible image and this can’t go on.” 4

Now, it is here worth briefly reflecting upon Michel Platini’s reputation as a player. For Platini wasn’t just any old player, but acclaimed by many as the greatest player of his generation. Creative, imaginative, tremendously skilful, Platini had been lauded not only for his prodigious talents, but also for his clean approach to the game. That said, after becoming head of FIFA’s European affiliate UEFA, Platini, like Blatter (who was always a bureaucrat), moved into politics. The politics of sport is politics nevertheless.

Since Platini took the helm at UEFA, he too became deeply embroiled in scandals seemingly of his own making – scandals I will return to in a moment. Yet at the present time, the media have collectively latched onto Platini and adopted him as football’s knight in shining armour. So whatever Platini is reported to have said is often presented as though Platini himself has no political ambitions. But this is nonsensical. And in actual fact, Platini’s own decisions as a footballing chief also played a significant part in FIFA’s downfall too – if, that is, we accept that FIFA’s real troubles began with the absurd 2010 vote and Qatar’s moment in the sun.

*

Qatar

In a 20-page investigation headlined “Qatargate”, the respected magazine France Football said that “acts of collusion and corruption” shaped the much-criticised FIFA decision to award the 2022 competition to the tiny, oil-rich Gulf state.

Among the alleged “acts of collusion”, the magazine listed a secret meeting called by President Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace on 23 November 2010. Ten days later – to worldwide astonishment – Qatar was chosen by a FIFA executive committee meeting in Zurich to host the World Cup in June-July 2022, despite summer temperatures in the Gulf of up to 50C.

This is taken from an article published by The Independent in January 2013. It continues:

Mr Sarkozy’s lunch guests included the crown prince of Qatar, Tamin bin Haman al-Thani, Michel Platini, president of the European Football Association (EUFA), and a representative of the investment fund which owned the then struggling French football club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

France Football said that Mr Platini – a star of the France team of the 1980s – came under pressure at the lunch to switch his vote from the United States to Qatar.

The article ends with a quote from Nicolas Sarkozy:

One of the few international figures to have consistently supported the choice of Qatar is Mr Sarkozy. Just after the FIFA vote in 2010, he said: “Sport does not belong to a few countries. It belongs to the world… I don’t understand those who say that events should always be held in the same countries and the same continents.” 5

Click here to read the full article.

Eighteen months later, as the scandal rumbled on, we learned that Platini not only voted for Qatar in the ballot, but that he had been involved in another private meeting linked to the Qatar bid:

The Telegraph has unearthed evidence that Mr Platini, a former leading French international and the president of Uefa, European football’s governing body, had a private discussion with Mohamed Bin Hammam, the controversial Qatari [a former Fifa executive committee member and ex-president of the Asian Football Confederation] who paid millions of pounds to football officials around the world. […]

It is understood that the meeting took place shortly before Fifa awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and that Mr Bin Hammam personally lobbied Mr Platini to support the Emirate’s bid.

Fifa executive committee members vote in secret, but Mr Platini has disclosed that he voted for Qatar in the ballot, which was held in 2010. 6

Platini, whose son Laurent happened to be the chief executive of Qatar owned sports company Burrda, quickly denied the allegations, writing in response to The Telegraph article:

“I find it astonishing that conversations with a fellow member of the FIFA Executive Committee could suddenly be transformed into a matter of state.

I have obviously met with Mr. Mohamed Bin Hammam on many occasions in 2010 as we were both members of the same FIFA Executive Committee since 2002.

During those conversations with Mr. Bin Hammam, the topic of the discussions was my potential candidature for the FIFA Presidency. Mr. Bin Hammam was indeed trying to convince me to become a candidate for the 2011 FIFA Presidential elections.

Additionally, I wish to reiterate that I am the only member of the FIFA Executive Committee who publicly stated for which bid I have voted – proof of my full transparency – and that no one ever dictates terms or conditions to me.

Unfortunately, I am no longer surprised by the circulation of unfounded rumours which aim at tarnishing my image, especially in such an important time for the future of football.”

*

Ukraine and Russia

[Nonetheless,] the bid was still considered the outsider of the three.

Poland is still recovering from a match-fixing scandal and its government has been warned by Uefa and Fifa about political interference in the country’s football governing body.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has been hit by a political crisis, with the president trying to dissolve parliament. 7

This was how the BBC reported on the surprise victory by the joint Poland-Ukraine bid to host the Euro 2012 tournament. At the time, Italy had been favourites to win, even though their own bid was similarly overshadowed with issues relating to crowd violence as well as to a match-fixing scandal. The Italian authorities have always accepted the result, however, one person, and not an Italian but a Cypriot, would later publicly claim that he held evidence of backroom deals. UEFA’s response was swift:

European football’s governing body, Uefa, says it is taking legal action in response to allegations of corruption in the bidding race for Euro 2012.

Spyros Marangos, a former treasurer of the Cyprus Football Association [CFA], claimed this week that money had changed hands before the championship was handed to Poland and Ukraine.

He was told to provide evidence within two days to back up his claims.

But, according to Uefa, Mr Marangos had complained that was too short notice.

His lawyers told the BBC on Monday that Mr Marangos had tried for the past two years to draw the football body’s attention to the allegations for which he had witnesses. 8

Spyros Marangos, who had left the CFA in 2007, “made the allegations in German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung before telling Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had proof to back up his claims.” In response, UEFA filed for damages in the Swiss courts and lodged a complaint with the Cypriot Attorney General. They also released an official statement:

‘UEFA has been obliged to take legal action firstly in order to establish whether any of the claims made by Mr Marangos have any substance to them, and therefore to make available any tangible elements in order to substantiate these claims. And secondly, to protect the integrity and the good name of UEFA and European football in general, which have been seriously damaged by these allegations.’ 9

Not that scandal surrounding the Euro 2012 tournament ended with Spyros Marangos’ unsubstantiated allegations. There have since been claims that once construction for the tournament started, as much as £2.5 billion (compare this with the £100 million in alleged bribes currently being investigated by the FBI) went missing in Ukraine alone:

Uefa, the governing body of football in Europe, is under pressure to investigate claims of massive corruption during Ukraine’s preparations for Euro 2012, amid allegations that as much as $4bn (£2.5bn) in state funds allocated for the tournament was stolen by officials.

Rebecca Harms, the leader of the Green faction in the European parliament, said Uefa had to investigate why Ukraine cancelled competitive tenders for all Euro 2012 projects in 2010. Instead, contracts for building stadiums, roads and other infrastructure projects were awarded to a handful of shadowy companies, including one based offshore in Belize. […]

Harms, a German MEP who visited Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, last week, told the Guardian: “I will confront Uefa with these questions. I will also raise them in parliament. In whose private pocket did the money go? Uefa [under Platini’s watch – my note] must take responsibility.” 10

This comes from a Guardian article published in 2012, a time when former Prime Minister “the gas princess” Yulia Tymoshenko had been jailed for her own part in a corruption scandal soon after her fierce opponent Viktor Yanukovych was re-elected into office. With pro-western Tymoshenko behind bars and more Russophilic Yanukovych back in power, the corporate media was much keener to switch its spotlight on to Ukrainian criminality.

But for reasons of political expedience, Ukraine and its oligarchs now get a more or less free pass. The media turns a blind eye, not merely to its corruption scandals, but to Kiev’s deliberate bombing campaign against civilians (a million people forced to flee to Russia), to its complicity in a massacre, and to the overt rise of fascism both within government spheres and military brigades. When searching out stories of corruption, attention has instead shifted solely to the misdemeanours of Russian oligarchs and to crimes committed (“allegedly” is a word reserved for western misdemeanours and indiscretions) by the Kremlin. Which brings us back to FIFA…

Given the sordid history of FIFA, the allegations will likely have a solid foundation. Four other people and two companies have already pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Allegations of bribery have long dogged FIFA. Vast fortunes are at stake when it comes to hosting prestigious sporting events, such as the World Cup and Olympics. Bribery has become endemic in the allocation of these events.

Mass sporting events, which are backed and sponsored by gigantic corporate interests, are fundamentally managed no differently than anything else organised by big business and the imperialist powers.

The decision by the Obama administration to pursue and file the charges, however, is both hypocritical and politically motivated. Indeed, the sums cited in the criminality within FIFA are dwarfed by the corrupt practices associated with the US and global financial system.

Following the arrests, FBI Director James Comey said, “If you corrupt our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or using our world-class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption. Nobody is above or beyond the law.”

Loretta Lynch, the Obama administration’s attorney general, spoke of a culture of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. In the attempt to justify action against individuals residing in and largely operating outside of the US, Lynch said, “In many instances, the defendants and their co-conspirators planned aspects of this long-running scheme during meetings held here in the United States.”

Comey and Lynch speak as representatives of a US elite that is guilty of criminality on a much larger scale. Their “world-class financial system” is one that allowed a parasitic elite to indulge in financial skulduggery that collapsed the world’s banking system in 2008, leading to a global recession. And they rewarded these same people for their criminal behaviour with trillions of dollars of public money.

“Rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption is an apt description of the daily operations of US banks, yet no executive of a major bank has been arrested or prosecuted.

The well-documented financial corruption within football’s ruling body is being utilised by the US primarily as a propaganda weapon against Russia.

That comes from an article published on the World Socialist Web Site. I reprint such an extended passage simply because it so cogently summed up my own thoughts upon hearing that FIFA had been busted by the FBI. Can anyone honestly fail to make the same connection? Especially since, as the same article goes on to point out:

Moscow’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup has been turned by figures with the US ruling elite and their allies internationally into a question of paramount importance.

Senator Robert Menendez, who in April was indicted on federal corruption charges, said he was “especially pleased that Swiss and US authorities are investigating FIFA’s granting of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022”, as he had “long been concerned about FIFA’s selection of Russia.”

He was supported by Senator John McCain, who jointly authored a letter to FIFA declaring, “In light of President Blatter’s continued support for Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup—despite Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and other challenges to the post-WWII security architecture—we ask that you reconsider your support for President Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA President.

This follows a letter to FIFA last month from 13 US senators requesting that Blatter step in to take the World Cup away from Russia. 11 [Emphasis added]

As the new Cold War sets in, this action is rather blatantly about Russia – an Anglo-American desire to embarrass Putin – although there are more reasons besides why this meeting taking place in Zurich about the immediate future of “global soccer” might have been troubling some on Capitol Hill…

*

Israel

In 2007, FIFA suspended Kuwait from all international matches because of “governmental interference in the national game”. In 2013, Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) was suspended, and then last year, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was also suspended “on account of government interference.” This year, both FIFA and UEFA were threatening to sanction Greece, who had previously been suspended briefly in 2006 when they were then-reigning European champions, before the threat was dropped.

This time around, however, it was the Israeli FA that were facing possible suspension, and not because of “governmental interference in the national game” (as is usually the case), but on the more aggravated grounds that Israel had violated rules relating to free movement of players and of racism. In fact, Israel was about to be called to account for its abuses against Palestinian footballers that have included harassment, assaults, arrests, deliberately targeted shootings 12 and actual killings 13. One of the most high profile cases involved Mahmoud Sarsak, who at 14 years old was the youngest-ever player in the Palestine League:

Its abuse of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak undermined a promising career. In 2009, Israeli security thugs arrested him for trying to cross from Gaza to the West Bank to participate in a match – his legitimate right.

He was horrifically abused, lawlessly kept in administrative detention for three years uncharged. His lawyers were denied access to fabricated evidence against him.

He was guilty of the crime of football – freed in summer 2012 after a 92 day hunger strike. Israel ruthlessly targets other Palestinian footballers like Sarsak. 14

A more detailed list of Israel’s violations are available at the Stop the War Coalition website.

The Palestinian Football Association (which has been recognised by FIFA since 1998 and is led by president Jibril Rajoub) had been granted a vote on Israel’s suspension at last week’s FIFA Congress, and Palestine supporters were also gathered outside to lend vocal support to the call for Israel’s expulsion. Although delayed because of a bomb scare, the Palestinians  remained optimistic that the ballot would return a decision in their favour:

The Palestinian Football Association will push ahead Friday for a vote calling for the suspension of Israel from the world football organisation at Fifa’s scandal-riven congress in Zurich.

Despite last-ditch attempts at mediation by world football officials, the Palestinian delegation insisted it would push for a vote unless Israel expels five teams based in illegal Israeli settlements from its football league. […]

Both Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Zurich have been working around the clock since arriving in the midst of the biggest scandal to hit the world football organisation.

Twin Swiss and US investigations focussing on a far-reaching culture of kickbacks in Fifa have thrown the congress in Zurich into chaos, including both the re-election bid of Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other business on the agenda including the Palestinian bid to have Israel suspended.

Israel has sought the support of the European regional grouping UEFA of which it is a member to vote against the proposed suspension. [I will come back to this]

Its efforts to avoid a vote – which some see as damaging in itself as a vote for suspension – have seen it enlist Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs as well as the lobbying of key Fifa officials.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, weighed in on Thursday, telling reporters that if Israel is suspended “it would be a blatant politicisation of sport and the result will be Fifa’s collapse”. 15

[Emphasis added]

That was taken from a Guardian article published on the morning of Friday 29th, the day of the vote, but by the evening everything had changed:

The Palestinian Football Association has withdrawn its call to have Israel suspended from Fifa in a chaotic last minute climbdown at the congress of football’s governing body in Zurich. Following days of negotiations, and the mediation of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, the Palestinian moves at the scandal-ridden congress appeared comprehensively outmanoeuvred by feverish Israeli lobbying and the opposition of senior Fifa officials, including Blatter.

As details of an impending deal emerged, the Palestinian delegation came out of the last round of talks expecting the congress to vote on an amendment to refer the main sticking point, the status of five Israeli clubs based in illegal settlements on the West Bank, to the United Nations.

But the Palestinian move was overruled by Blatter, to the clear dismay of the Palestinian delegation, whose lawyer tried to appeal from the floor. Instead, the issue will be referred to a new Fifa committee. […]

Palestinian sources confirmed that Rajoub had been under huge pressure to withdraw the suspension motion from delegates. “It is true everyone was putting pressure on him to withdraw,” said one. Blatter has always made clear he opposed a vote on suspension.

Following the withdrawal of the request to suspend Israel over claims of its racist and discriminatory policies towards Palestinian football, 90% of delegates voted to set up a new monitoring inspections committee to oversee a mechanism to ensure movement of players and equipment.

The size of the vote in favour of the motion – 165-18 – is likely to be the only consolation for the Palestinian side, which has been pushing a long-term campaign over what it says are Israeli abuses of Palestinian football.

The outcome seemed certain to be a cause for celebration for Israel. […]

Commenting on the outcome, Netanyahu said: “Our international effort has proven itself and led to the failure of the Palestinian Authority attempt to oust us from Fifa.” 16

Click here to read more of this follow-up Guardian article

Afterwards, Israeli minister, Yisrael Katz, posted this on Facebook:

Rajoub failed in his mission of throwing Israel out of FIFA.  Now’s the time to imprison him in the Muqata [like Israel did to Arafat] and let him play Stanga [hackysack] with his pals 17

Newly re-elected president Sepp Blatter, who had stated his opposition to the suspension of Israel, tried to be conciliatory, but what he said was all the more risible for his attempt:

“This has been an issue for the past two FIFA Congresses and I’m so happy that we’re coming to a solution. I’m sure both sides will apply the basic principle of FIFA which is solidarity, it is up to Israel to help and share a little bit more with Palestine.”

But Blatter was not alone in defending the indefensible. Back in April, Platini too had given his backing to Israeli Football Association (IFA) officials. The IFA later releasing a statement saying:

“Platini stressed that Israel is an inseparable part of UEFA and is an equal member that is welcome in the UEFA family.”

Then, at a press conference on the eve of the FIFA congress, Platini reiterated that:

[The] football’s world governing body ‘wouldn’t accept’ the Palestinian FA’s bid to ban Israel from FIFA, should the motion be put to a vote tomorrow. 18

So punishment that was thought good for Cameroon, Nigeria, Greece and many others, including even oil-rich Kuwait (should anyone suppose this is simply about money), was withheld from Israel. All the turmoil going on at FIFA can hardly have helped the Palestinian cause.

*

Back to Qatar (and the Clintons)

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents. 19

This is the opening to one of the earliest mainstream reports on the use of slave labour in constructing the World Cup infrastructure ready for Qatar 2022.

As this whole corruption fiasco has played out, and when not conducting the growing chorus of disapproval towards the disgraced but shameless Blatter, the media has also occasionally drawn a little more attention to the unseen costs of FIFA’s shock decision in 2010. For this is apparently what it takes to get our western media to fully investigate and to seriously challenge conditions within the despotic regimes of our Gulf State partners. And, on a similar note, we may now also return to consider the role of the Clintons in this whole debacle:

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass.

The former US president, who had spent two years travelling the world glad-handing members of football’s governing body, Fifa, could not believe America’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup had been beaten by, of all places, Qatar. 20

Hmmm, well he certainly doesn’t look like a man about to throw an ornament into a mirror in a fit of pique in that footage (embedded above), but then Bill is a renown diplomat, so presumably he was just putting a brave face on it. But hold up, what’s this…?

Former President Bill Clinton served as the honorary chairman of the U.S. committee that worked unsuccessfully to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The surprise winner that year was Qatar–and it turns out that the Qatari committee now planning the massive event has been a major donor to Clinton’s charitable foundation. […]

The foundation’s donor records, posted on its Web site, show that FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton foundation. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which was formed in 2011 to build stadiums and other infrastructure after Qatar was named the 2022 host, has given between $250,000 and $500,000 to the foundation.

Naturally therefore, top of Loretta Lynch’s list will now be inquiries regarding these donations into the Clinton funds… Well, no:

U.S. officials Wednesday unsealed indictments against 14 top officials involved with soccer, accusing the group of bribery, money laundering and fraud.

While the [Clinton] foundation has no involvement with the investigations, it’s a reminder that the global philanthropy has accepted donations from many of the world’s richest and most powerful players. Its donor list runs to 200,000 names, and includes foreign governments, Wall Street and foreign financial institutions, energy conglomerates and others. The government of Qatar, for instance, which aggressively sought the World Cup, has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. 21

[Emphasis added]

Other “philanthropic” donations to the Clinton Foundation have come from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric and another less well-known aerospace manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, who were part owned by Goldman Sachs. Coincidentally, many of these state and corporate donors had trade deals approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department:

The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Department for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Department authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750 million sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. 22

To read more about how these Clinton Foundation donors received contracts from Hillary Clinton’s State Department click here.

So let me pose this: is the bigger story here the one about a few (so far numbering fourteen) corrupt FIFA officials, or is it one about the financial irregularities of a former US President and his warmongering Presidential candidate wife?

[There are a great many other “scandals” surrounding and involving the Clintons, but I prefer to hold back from writing more about the misadventures of Bill and Hillary until a later date.]

*

Beyond Blatter

Now that Blatter is gone, what about the future of world football itself? The consensus amongst supporters – in Europe at least – appears to be that FIFA as a whole ought to be reformed, or even abolished. But here (as always) I believe it is wise to be very careful what we wish for.

During my time as a football fan (a period that encompasses nearly my whole life) there have been enormous changes in the sport. In England, surely the most significant of these was the establishment of the Premier League.

Prior to the Premier League, the wealthiest clubs in England were already in the habit of pestering for a bigger share of the television revenues. Breakaway threats would come and go, but nothing very much altered. It happens, however, that there have always been two ruling bodies in English football – The Football League and the Football Association (FA) – and eventually all this talk of divorce was formalised by the oldest and grandest of two, the FA, who foisted a deal against The League’s broader interests and on behalf of the richest “big five” clubs. In consequence, the top division became effectively a league of its own, administered under the auspices not of The League, but the FA. Extra money from the new TV rights could then be divvied up amongst the clubs in the new Premier League. Thus greed won out over democracy, as was the fashion in the early 1990s (and as now).

There have been many consequences to the formation of the FA Premier League. Increased revenues have enabled its clubs to attract star players from across the world, and the standard of top level English football has certainly improved. But the new money mostly went into players’ wages, and as salaries and bonuses rapidly inflated, ticket prices also escalated, squeezing out many of the game’s long-standing supporters. As clubs’ loyalty to their supporters waned, so too did the players’ loyalty to their clubs. Loyalty in football has all but disappeared.

In short, the establishment of the Premier League has helped to accelerate the corporatisation of English football. Thirty years ago there were arguments about whether players’ shirts should be allowed to carry advertisements (the BBC allowed ads on Formula One cars but baulked at letting football go the same way), and debate over whether football matches could be played on Sundays (a day of rest, for those who remember). Who could have envisaged a future when TV executives (primarily at Sky) would demand football matches are played literally every day of the week and three times on Sundays! Meantime, the supporters, who often travel great distances to watch their teams, and who cling to the belief that the game belongs to them (I remain one of the millions of likewise deluded fools), have in truth become little more than an advertising backdrop. Colourful scenery for corporate giants to hang their logos on.

As this latest FIFA scandal unfolded, it was the corporate sponsors, we have repeatedly been informed, who pushed hardest for Blatter’s resignation, deeply concerned that their own brand may become tarnished with ties to FIFA’s corruption. Hurrah for enlightened self-interest; this is what we’re supposed to think. Forgetting how those very same offshore (for tax purposes) multinational entities, exploit their distant workers in third world sweatshops, twisting every health and safety and environmental regulation in unremitting efforts to maximise profit. We ought really to laugh out loud, if only it didn’t hurt so much.

Likewise, the news is that UEFA may soon be split from FIFA altogether. A move which the corporations would doubtless prefer – two tiers in world football, very much along the lines of the two-tiered English league. So is UEFA about to usurp FIFA just as the FA usurped the Football League in the early ’90s? I sincerely hope not.

One thing I have learned about FIFA during the last week or so that surprised me in a good way, is how its voting systems are actually more democratic than those for most other global institutions. Each affiliated football association, irrespective of its size or importance, gets just one vote. It is this equality amongst nations that has helped to preserve the World Cup as a genuinely international competition. The diversity surviving by virtue of one simple but surprising fact: that it is very much easier for teams from Oceania, Asia, Africa and even North America to qualify than for those from the footballing superpowers in Europe and South America. Such handicapping makes the World Cup what it is – and FIFA deserve credit for keeping the playing field unlevel.

FIFA’s “one association one vote” system is arguably the very epitome of what footballing democracy ought to be, and not as the media has repeatedly presented it, another measure of corruption within the organisation itself. Of course, FIFA’s system does make the buying-off of local officials in smaller and poorer nations worthwhile, whereas if the major nations were prioritised (as is usually the case), corruption of a different but more familiar form would likely proliferate instead. Meanwhile, the insinuation that only officials of the “lesser nations” are prone to corruption is one that smacks very much of racism.

In any case, once the pressure has built to overhaul the existing system, the great tendency will be to make changes to benefit the superpowers of the game. And with more control in the hands of those in Europe (assuming UEFA prevails), western domination of the world’s favourite sport will also mean football imperialism.

I would like to finish on a related issue presented again by Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard, as he concluded his piece for Bloomberg View:

How will the rest of the world react to the claim that soccer’s international governing body is a criminal enterprise under U.S. law? One possibility is that international observers will be grateful that someone finally stepped in to do something about endemic corruption within FIFA. It’s been a more or less open secret over the years that FIFA was corrupt in the ordinary, nontechnical meaning of the word. Perhaps – just perhaps – fans will be pleased or relieved that someone has taken on the task of cleaning up the mess.

That interpretation is optimistic, given America’s reputation for extraterritorial imperialism. The relative unimportance of soccer in the U.S. compared with every place else on earth makes concerns about imperialism still more pressing. Through creative and aggressive use of a highly unusual American law, the U.S. may well be seen as attempting a takeover of international soccer. 23

*

Additional: The 3 Horse Race at FIFA

“This guy, if he gets in, will make Blatter and co seem like saints.” So wrote a very good friend of mine after hearing rumours (months ago) that another ex-footballer Luis Figo might be standing for the FIFA presidency.

Well, I have just looked at the odds for the various candidates and it appears to be roughly a three horse race. Prince Ali Al-Hussein is favourite – the bookies not the people’s. Platini is a close second, and next is indeed Luis Figo. So might it be that Platini was only the stalking horse — perhaps, Prince Ali too? Although if you are looking for a really long shot, then the bookies are offering 500-1 on Vladimir Putin (in the same spirit, I’m offering 1000-1 on both Bill or Hillary Clinton — take your pick!)

*

Update: Where were the auditors?

Auditors are fond of telling anyone prepared to listen that they cannot be expected to spot every fraud or impending disaster when they comb through a company’s books.

But the Fifa affair, which has finally claimed the scalp of president Sepp Blatter, raises questions about long-term auditor KPMG, which did not raise an alarm despite the openly lavish lifestyles of some officials.

It is just the latest embarrassment for KPMG – the firm audited a string of scandal-hit clients including HSBC, HBOS, the Co-op Bank and US mortgage lender Fannie Mae, apparently without noticing anything amiss.

It is not alone. Its peers, EY, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte also stand accused of not spotting impending disasters on their client lists.

The latest furore inevitably raises questions not only over the conduct of KPMG, but the wider issue of how accountable are the accountants.

‘The Fifa affair begs a question of exactly what are audits good for,’ says Professor Prem Sikka of Essex University Business School.

‘If the auditors can’t spot millions of pounds going astray over many years, what can they do?

Click here to read the full article at thisismoney, which questions the ‘revolving door syndrome’ between accountancy firms, corporate boardrooms and our financial regulators.

*

1 From an article entitled “Loretta Lynch confirmation as attorney general dogged by HSBC scandal” written by Dan Roberts, published in the Guardian on February 20, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/20/loretta-lynch-confirmation-attorney-general-hsbc-scandal

2 From an article entitled “U.S. Treats FIFA Like the Mafia” written by Noah Feldman, published by Bloomberg View on May 27, 2015. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-27/u-s-treats-fifa-like-the-mafia

3 From an article entitled “Fifa: Blatter refuses to quit as president & vows ‘to restore trust’” published by BBC news on May 28, 2015. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/32914907

4 Quoted here: http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/news/AN_1432819609175844000/platini-calls-on-blatter-to-step-down-uefa-to-attend-fifa-congress.aspx

5 From an article entitled “Nicolas Sarkozy ‘colluded’ to get Qatar 2022 World Cup” written by John Lichfield, published in The Independent on January 29, 2013. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/nicolas-sarkozy-colluded-to-get-qatar-2022-world-cup-8471758.html

6 From an article entitled “Qatar World Cup 2022: France embroiled in corruption scandal” written by Claire Newell, Holly Watt & Ben Bryant, published in The Telegraph on June 2, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/10871065/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-France-embroiled-in-corruption-scandal.html

7 From an article entitled “Poland and Ukraine host Euro 2012” published by BBC news on April 18, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/6562527.stm

8 Uefa to sue Cypriot over Euro 2012 corruption claim” published by BBC news on October 28, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11645694

9 The quote and details above are taken from an article entitled “UEFA launch legal action over corruption allegations surrounding Poland and Ukraine” published in the Daily Mail on October 30, 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1325142/UEFA-launch-legal-action-corruption-allegations-surrounding-Poland-Ukraine.html

10 From an article entitled “Euro 2012: Uefa urged to investigate $4bn corruption allegations in Ukraine” written by Luke Harding and David Leigh, published in the Guardian on June 20, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/football/2012/jun/20/euro-2012-corruption-allegations-ukraine

11 From an article entitled US seizes on FIFA corruption to pursue campaign against Russia” written by Robert Stevens and Chris Marsden, published on the World Socialist Web Site on May 29, 2015. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/05/29/fifa-m29.html

12

Outrage has surfaced over the case  of two Palestinian teenage football players [two teenagers, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17] who were reportedly shot in the feet at an Israeli checkpoint on their way home from practise on January 31. Israeli security forces said  the two were trying to throw bombs at police officers.

Doctors reportedly said  the two teens will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, and will need months of treatment before assessing whether they can walk.

From an article entitled “Shooting renews calls for FIFA to kick out Israel” published by Al Jazeera on March 5, 2014. http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201403052234-0023531

You can also read more on the same story here: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/palestinian-teenagers-shot-feet-by-israeli-soldiers-after-playing-football-calls-fifa-israel-ban-1439183

13

Ahed Zaqout, a former Palestinian national team player, has been killed by an Israeli bomb that hit his apartment in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said on Thursday.

“Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had,” Gaza sports journalist Khaled Zaher told Reuters.

From an article entitled “Former midfielder on Palestinian national team killed in Gaza air strike” written by Nidal Al-Mughrabi, published by Haaretz on July 31, 2014. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.608224

14 From an article entitled “Soccer Politics: Palestinian Bid to Expel Israel from FIFA Dropped” written by Stephen Lendman, published by Global Research on May 30, 2015. http://www.globalresearch.ca/soccer-politics-palestinian-bid-to-expel-israel-from-fifa-dropped/5452598

15 From an article entitled “Palestinian Football Association to push ahead for Israel’s suspension from Fifa” written by Peter Beaumont, published in the Guardian on May 29, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/29/palestinian-football-association-to-push-ahead-for-israels-suspension-from-fifa

16 From an article entitled “Palestine withdraw call to suspend Israel from Fifa” written by Peter Beaumont, published in the Guardian on May 29, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/29/palestinians-withdraw-call-to-suspend-israel-from-fifa-west-bank

17 Read more and find translation here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/did-israel-buy-its-way-out-of-fifa-suspension/5452609 

18 From an article entitled “Platini: FIFA ‘won’t accept’ Palestinian bid to suspend Israel” published by Jewish News on May 28, 2015. http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/platini-fifa-wont-accept-palestinian-bid-to-suspend-israel/

19 From an article entitled “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’” written by Pete Pattisson, published in the Guardian on September 25, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/revealed-qatars-world-cup-slaves

20 From an article entitled “Qatar World Cup 2022 scandal: Bill Clinton’s fury at vote triggered global search for truth” written by Holly Watt, Claire Newell & Ben Bryant, published by The Telegraph on June 3, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/10871114/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-scandal-Bill-Clintons-fury-at-vote-triggered-global-search-for-truth.html

21 From an article entitled “Clinton Foundation donors included FIFA, Qatar host committee” written by Rosalind S. Helderman, published in the Washington Post on May 27, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/05/27/clinton-foundation-donors-included-fifa-qatar-host-committee/

22 From an article entitled “Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department” written by David Sirota and Andrew Perez, published in the International Business Times on May 26, 2015. http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

23 From an article entitled “U.S. Treats FIFA Like the Mafia” written by Noah Feldman, published by Bloomberg View on May 27, 2015. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-27/u-s-treats-fifa-like-the-mafia

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