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by Stan Moore
It is well-known that Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Iraqis, but usually left unmentioned is that those victims were in armed revolt against his regime. What would any U.S. President do if American citizens took up armed revolt against the U.S. Government? We have a clue in what took place in Waco, Texas a few years ago. There was no armed revolt, just some citizens with unregistered firearms. The U.S. government considered those armed citizens to be such a risk that the government sent in tanks and military personnel, ultimately using military personnel to set a conflagration which burned scores of women and children alive. Imagine if those people had actually been involved in revolt against the government!
The U.S. stresses "freedom and democracy" as a goal for a reconstituted Iraq. Of course some of the nations providing military support in the "coalition of the willing" are already democracies, and while their citizenry is voicing 90% disapproval of the preemptive war of aggression and conquest, the democratically-elected leadership of Britain, Australia, and Turkey adopt policies directly contrary to the loudly expressed will of their populations. So much for democracy, but proof the coercion and bribery of leadership for corporate interests is what Western-style "democracy" is usually all about.
The U.S. wants to spread democracy and freedom, but their latest attempt at nation building in Afghanistan has resulted in a puppet president Karzai (a former Chevron official) who is afraid to leave his own offices, while brutal warlords remain in control of the county. No democracy yet, while the U.S. military pussy-foots around the warlords and tries not to get in their way.
So, America bravely presses forward towards "liberating" Iraq. But don't mention it to the Kurds up north, who are dreading the recent arrival of a thousand and a half Turkish troops (with more likely to come) for the purpose of preventing the establishment of a Kurdish independent republic, or to prevent an unacceptable refugee burden. A Kurdish Democratic Republic would be too unsettling to the region for the Bush administration (or any American administration) to ever allow or promote THAT much democracy!
What really counts in Iraq is military firepower and corporate economic power. Dick Cheney, American Vice-President has been more or less totally absent from the American public's view, but only because he has basically reverted to his pre-election corporate role of lining up contracts for his old company and others to come in and mop up Iraq with billions of dollars' worth of reconstruction and infrastructure and oilfield repair contracts. Forget democracy, and bring on the corporate bureaucracy and lets get that Iraqi oil flowing to pay the American debts for liberating her! Maybe American corporations will be democratically elected or appointed to do a little "nation building" which seemed very distasteful to Bush when Clinton was President, but seems like a fine idea now.
Was it all necessary? Or was any of it necessary? Well, the U.N. was making great strides in disarming Iraq and would have done so in reasonable time frames without warfare. But Bush needed war like like a cruise missile needs propellant. His presidency didn't even take off and begin flying until 9/11 pushed his military/industrial complex ambitions onto the front burner. No wonder Bush wouldn't allow the U.S. military to shoot down any of the four hijacked planes on 9/11, even after one World Trade Center tower was struck and even though the Pentagon lies under the most heavily defended airspace in the world. The hits had to occur to get the ball rolling for the Bush agenda, and so the military was stood down that day and thousands of Americans, including Pentagon personnel had to die so the Bush agenda could come to life.
From a Bush perspective, which is limited in scope, narrowly focused and myopic as a house mouse's eyesight, the situation looks very good and very promising. Baghdad is burning. Saddam is squirming. Congressional support is firming.
But the rest of the world, and many, many Americans see the hypocrisy of pseudo-democracy. Some of us see a regime change ahead in Washington at the time of the next election. And we see war crimes trials as Perle and Rumsfeld fail to bring down the U.N. and Rumsfeld and maybe even Bush and Powell get charged with crimes against humanity.
At least, there is room for hope.
Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com
bonefisher -> Livemike , 6 Mar 2012 06:52Great post
The problem is that as De Toqueville realises (his quote below) most of the people commenting here are simply living a parasitic existence benefiting from state largesse - sucking the teat of a bloated and overburdened state caring not whether their sustenance is remotely sustainable and just voting for ever more
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy" - Alexis de Toqueville
Mar 01, 2019 | en.people.cn
A popular narrative in the West is that the world would be a much better place if all countries just look and act more like the Western world. Indeed, the West has enjoyed great wealth and growth over the years. But growing instability in the Western world has also raised doubts about the Western-style of democratic governance.
In fact, there is a tendency to put Western-style democracy on a pedestal; but by doing so, we overlook its faults and even potential dangers. From the never-ending gridlock in Washington, to chaos in the House of Commons of United Kingdom over the Brexit mess, to people rioting on the streets of Paris, more and more people are calling into question the effectiveness of Western-style democracy.
Brexit, for some at least, encapsulates the perils and pitfalls of this style of democracy. In June 2016, the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union and, for now at least, the UK will leave the EU by March 29 this year, with or without a plan in place. The irrational jump into the unknown and the chaos that followed has created a troubling situation for the country, as well as other parts of the world, raising serious questions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of UK-style democracy.
Whether to leave or stay in the EU is a complicated issue that requires careful study and rational decisions from knowledgeable, well-informed people. It is irresponsible to just drag people off the streets for a vote on a major policy issue like Brexit. For example, days after the UK voted to leave the EU, a commentary on TIME's website wrote that the referendum was not a triumph of democracy, but an ugly populist fiasco.
Thus, there is good reason why more and more people feel like Western-style democracy has become a big joke. In the UK, the people voted to "take back control" of their country -- but without a plan. In the United States, politics has become a soap opera and the system is pitting Americans against Americans, splitting the country further apart. In fact, the US government has become so divided and dysfunctional that it recently broke the record for the longest shutdown in US history, which forced many government employees to turn to food banks to feed their families.
Yet, a very different story is unfolding in Asia. During the more than month-long government shutdown in the United States, China made history, too -- by landing the Chang'e-4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon. As a US senator pointed out during the shutdown, China has quadrupled its GDP since 2001, but the United States cannot even keep the government up and running. He called the situation in the United States "ludicrous."
Clearly, Western-style democracy is not "the end of history," as some have predicted and hoped for. This is not to say that the Western system is a failure or that China's system is superior to Western-style democracy, but it is fair to say that China's own system is a good fit for the country and it achieves the best results for the Chinese people.
For example, China has built the largest, most advanced high-speed train network in the world. It is the envy for many in the world, even for many Americans, including former President Barack Obama, who, nearly a decade ago, unveiled a plan for a national network of high-speed passenger rail lines that was envisioned to transform travel in America. The plan, like many others, turned out to be an American Dream that never came true. Just recently in California, for example, the state's new governor killed the high-speed rail program that would link Los Angeles to San Francisco -- a project beloved by the just-retired four-term Governor Jerry Brown.
And then there is US President Donald Trump's ambitious plan to "Rebuild America," which he has been unable to deliver. Stuck in an endless battle with Democrats over funding for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border. His decision reflects a difference between the two countries' models. Whereas the Chinese model is people-centered, the American model is vote-centered. With regard to the "security and humanitarian crisis" on the country's southern border, the people are asking, "where is the crisis?" And herein lies the dilemma: Decisions, like Trump's decision to declare a national emergency, are essentially political stunts for votes. The Western model reduces people to a source of votes, essentially turning democracy into a game of likes.
This kind of decision-making is in stark contrast to the decision-making process in China, which makes annual, five-year, and long-term plans to guide the country forward and conducts extensive consultations to reach a broad consensus on major issues. A clear advantage of the Chinese system is that it is constantly exploring ways to adapt to the changing times, including large-scale reform of Party and government institutions to adapt to internal and external changes.
Perhaps there was a time when one could argue that the Western model produced the best results, but that is no longer the case. What we are seeing now is that it is increasingly difficult for Western countries to reach a consensus on major issues and to form a strategic plan. Western-style of democracy has become too rigid and Western democratic institutions are in a state of degradation, making it next to impossible to carry out any substantial reform. This can be seen in the fact that democracy in the Western world has increasingly become a fight for money and a game of manipulating people for votes.
In China's socialist democracy, there is a strong and stable political force that represents the interests of the great majority of the Chinese people. The Chinese government takes a people-centered approach to politics and good governance ensures that results can be delivered. It should be no wonder, then, that the Western model is barreling toward a cliff, while China is making great progress in various aspects, including the nation's ambitious plan to eradicate poverty by 2020. In a world of turmoil, there is reason for China and the Chinese people to be confident in its path.
Javed Mir • 5 days ago ,LarryD Javed Mir • 5 days ago ,
--it is fair to say that China's own system is a good fit for the country and it achieves the best results for the Chinese people--
Putting it broadly 'One Size does not fit All' - as such values of the society, history of the society and potential of the society are different everywhere - as such state management be different. Moroever governance methods be flexible enough so that the decisions be adopted according to the national and international requirements.
.LarryD LarryD • 5 days ago ,
In some Western countries it's not the political system itself that is necessarily bad. In the case of the present "sole superpower", for example, refusal to change policies based on the extermination of over 95% of its indigenous population and centuries of inhuman slavery of black people have perpetuated the present war against oppressed minorities. Further, the continuation of aggressive wars overseas, a habit that prompted Martin Luther King Jr to call his country "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" has ensured the neglect of infrastructure, healthcare, and quality of disenfranchised minorities, especially the Afro-Americans. It's not surprising that in poll after poll, the US have garnered the most votes for being the most dangerous country in the world. The much-maligned North Korea was second.Raymond Hughes LarryD • a day ago ,
Typo: "quality of disenfranchised minorities, especially the Afro-Americans."
Should be "quality of education for disenfranchised minorities, especially that of Afro-Americans"
Millions of poor people of all colours. The Africans used slaves long before the Arabs/ Europeans went to Africa and bought them from Africans, who used them for centuries, rounded them up, for sale to anyone with trinkets. The A-rabs were real big slavers, real big. Russia used Swedish slaves as did all nations use their fellow humans as slaves, only the US Negros get all the publicity.
Jun 09, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
A final matter concerns the problem of imperial chickens coming home to roost. Liberals don't like to hear it, but the ugly, richly documented historical fact of the matter is that their party of binary and tribal choice has long joined Republicans in backing and indeed crafting a U.S. foreign policy that has imposed authoritarian regimes (and profoundly undemocratic interventions including invasions and occupations) the world over . The roster of authoritarian and often-mass murderous governments the U.S. military and CIA and allied transnational business interests have backed, sometimes even helped create, with richly bipartisan support, is long indeed.
Last fall, Illinois Green Party leader Mike Whitney ran some fascinating numbers on the 49 nation-states that the right-wing "human rights" organization Freedom House identified as "dictatorships" in 2016. Leaving aside Freedom House's problematic inclusion of Russia, Cuba, and Iran on its list, the most remarkable thing about Whitney's research was his finding that the U.S. offered military assistance to 76 percent of these governments. (The only exceptions were Belarus, China, Central African Republic, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.). "Most politically aware people," Whitney wrote:
"know of some of the more highly publicized instances examples of [U.S. support for foreign dictatorships], such as the tens of billions of dollars' worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt apologists for our nation's imperialistic foreign policy try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. But my survey demonstrates that our government's support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule ."
The Pentagon and State Department data Whitney used came from Fiscal Year 2015. It dated from the next-to-last year of the Obama administration, for which so many liberals recall with misplaced nostalgia. Freedom House's list should have included Honduras, ruled by a vicious right-wing government that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped install in a June 2009 military coup .
The problem here isn't just liberal hypocrisy and double standards. The deeper issue is that, as the great American iconoclast Mark Twain knew, you cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad. During the United States' blood-soaked invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Twain penned an imaginary history of the twentieth-century United States. "It was impossible," Twain wrote, "to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home."
"Just a decade after Twain wrote those prophetic words," the historian Alfred W. McCoy has observed , "colonial police methods came home to serve as a template for the creation of an American internal security apparatus in wartime." The nation's first Red Scare, which crushed left and labor movements during and after World War One, drew heavily on the lessons and practices of colonial suppression in the Philippines and Cuba. As McCoy shows in his latest book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power , the same basic process -- internal U.S. repression informed and shaped by authoritarian and imperial practices abroad and justified by alleged external threats to the "homeland" -- has recurred ever since. Today, the rise of an unprecedented global surveillance state overseen by the National Security Agency has cost the US the trust of many of its top global allies (under Bush43 and Obama44, not just under Trump45) while undermining civil liberties and democracy within as beyond the U.S.
"The fetters imposed on liberty at home," James Madison wrote in 1799 , "have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers abroad." Those are wise words well worth revisiting amidst the current endless Russiagate madness, calculated among other things to tell us that the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the nation's vast and ever more ubiquitous intelligence and surveillance state are on our side.
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Aug 13, 2017 | ronpaulinstitute.org
The Trump administration's foreign policy often resembles a Mad Hatter's Tea Party or a loose cannon on a ship deck. But every now and then, a good idea emerges from the fracas. Such is the case with a reform that could sharply reduce America's piety exports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is revising the State Department mission statement to focus on promoting "the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally." Washington pundits are aghast that "democracy promotion" is no longer trumpeted as a top US foreign policy goal. Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush's "democracy czar," complained, "We used to want a just and democratic world, and now apparently we don't the message being sent will be a great comfort to every dictator in the world."
But this is like presuming that any preacher who fails to promise to eradicate sin is a tool of the devil. Instead, it is time to recognize the carnage the US has sown abroad in the name of democracy.
The US has periodically pledged to spread democracy ever since President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1913: "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!" Democracy is so important that the US government refuses to stand idly by when foreign voters go astray. Since 1946, the US has intervened -- usually covertly -- in more than 80 foreign elections to assist its preferred candidate or party.
In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." While Bush's invocation thrilled Washington, the rest of the world paid more attention to his support for any tyrant who joined his War on Terror.
President Barack Obama was supposed to redeem the honor of US foreign policy. In 2011, Obama portrayed the US bombing of Libya as a triumph of democratic values. After Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed, Obama speedily announced that Libyans "now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya." But violence spiraled out of control and claimed thousands of victims (including four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012). Similarly, Obama administration officials invoked democracy to justify arming quasi-terrorist groups in Syria's civil war, worsening a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refuges.
But the Obama team, like prior administrations, did not permit its democratic pretensions to impede business as usual. After Egyptian protestors toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, Obama pledged to assist that nation "pursue a credible transition to a democracy ." But the US government disapproved of that nation's first elected leader, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. After the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry bizarrely praised Egypt's generals for " restoring democracy ." Similarly, many Ethiopians were horrified when Obama visited their country in 2015 and praised its regime as " democratically elected " -- despite a sham election and its brutal suppression of journalists, bloggers and other critics.
Democracy promotion gives US policymakers a license to meddle almost anywhere on Earth. The National Endowment for Democracy , created in 1983, has been caught interfering in elections in France, Panama , Costa Rica , Ukraine , Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, Czechoslovakia , Poland , Haiti and many other nations. The State Department has a long list of similar pratfalls, including pouring vast amounts of money in vain efforts to beget democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan .
Democracy at its best is a wonderful form of government but many so-called democracies nowadays are simply elective despotisms. Elections abroad are often herd counts to determine who gets to fleece the herd. Many democracies have become kleptocracies where governing is indistinguishable from looting.
In some nations, election victories legitimize destroying voters en masse. This is exemplified by the Philippines, where the government has killed 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers , including several mayors . After President Rodrigo Duterte publicly declared that he would be " happy to slaughter " three million drug users, Trump phoned him and, according to a leaked transcript, said, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job [you're doing] on the drug problem." Similarly, Trump congratulated Turkish president Recep Erdogan after he won a referendum that awarded him quasi-dictatorial powers.
It is time to admit that America lacks a Midas touch for spreading democracy. Freedom House reported that, even prior to Trump's election, more than 100 nations have seen declines in democracy since 2005.
Rather than abandoning all moral goals in foreign policy, Washington could instead embrace a strict policy of "honesty in democracy promotion." Under this standard, the US government would cease trying to covertly influence foreign elections, cease glorifying tinhorn dictators who rigged elections to capture power, and cease bankrolling authoritarian regimes that blight democratic reforms in the bud. But the odds of Washington policymakers abiding by those restraints is akin to the chances that all of Trump's tweets will henceforth be edifying.
Rather than delivering political salvation, US interventions abroad more often produce "no-fault carnage" (no one in Washington is ever held liable). At a minimum, we should get our own constitutional house in order before seeking to rescue benighted foreigners. Ironically, many of the same people who equate Trump with Hitler still insist that the US government should continue its political missionary work during his reign.
James Bovard, author of Public Policy Hooligan , is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors . Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard
Reprinted with author's permission from USA TODAY .
William Blum's "Cri de Coeur",
February 9, 2013
William Blum's Cri de Coeur
A review of "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy" by William Blum (Zed Books, London/New York, 2013.)
(As it has appeared at DissidentVoice, OpEdNews, etc.):
In activist-author-publisher William Blum's new book, America's Deadliest Export: Democracy, he tells the story of how he got his 15 minutes of fame back in 2006. Osama bin Laden had released an audiotape, declaring:
"If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security... and if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State."
Bin Laden then quoted from the Foreword of Blum's 2000 book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, in which he had mused:
"If I were... president, I could stop terrorist attacks [on us] in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize... to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America's global interventions... have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but... a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. ... That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated."
Unfortunately, Blum never made it to the White House! But, fortunately, for those who have read his books or follow his "Anti-Empire Reports" on the Web, he was not assassinated! And now he has collected his reports and essays of the last dozen years or so into a 352-page volume that will not only stand the test of time, but will help to define this disillusioned, morose, violent and unraveling Age.
America's Deadliest... is divided into 21 chapters and an introduction--and there's something to underline or memorize on every page! Sometimes it's just one of Blum's irrepressible quips, and sometimes it's a matter of searing American foreign or domestic policiy that clarifies that Bushwhackian question of yore: "Why do they hate us?"
Reading this scrupulously documented book, I lost count of the times I uttered, "unbelievable!" concerning some nefarious act committed by the US Empire in the name of freedom, democracy and fighting communism or terrorism. Reading Blum's book with an open mind, weighing the evidence, will bleach out any pride in the flag we have planted in so many corpses around the world. The book is a diuretic and emetic!
Blum's style is common sense raised to its highest level. The wonder of America's Deadliest ... is that it covers so much of the sodden, bloody ground of America's march across our post-Second-World-War world, yet tells the story with such deftness and grace-under-fire that the reader is enticed--not moralized, not disquisitionally badgered--, but enticed to consider our globe from a promontory of higher understanding.
Some of the themes Blum covers (and often eviscerates) include:
- Why they hate us;
- America means well;
- We cannot permit a successful alternative to the capitalist model to develop anywhere in the world;
- We will use whatever means necessary--including, lies, deception, sabotage, bribery, torture and war--to achieve the above idea.
Along the way, we get glimpses of Blum's experientially rich life. A note "About the Author" tells us that, "He left the State Department in 1967, abandoning his aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer because of his opposition to what the US was doing in Vietnam. He then became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first "alternative" newspaper in the capital."
In his chapter on "Patriotism," Blum relates how, after a talk, he was asked: "Do you love America?" He responded with what we may take for his credo: "I don't love any country. I'm a citizen of the world. I love certain principles, like human rights, civil liberties, meaningful democracy, an economy which puts people before profits."
America's Deadliest... is a book of wisdom and wit that ponders "how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid?" In a pointillistic approach, sowing aphoristic seeds for thought, Blum enumerates instances of that cruelty, often with wry, pained commentary. "War can be seen as America's religion," he tells us. Reflecting on Obama's octupling Bush's number of drones used to assassinate, collaterally kill and terrorize, he affirms:
"Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left." And, he avers, "Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good." And then turns around and reminds us--lest we forget--how the mass media have invaded our lives, with memes about patriotism, democracy, God, the "good life": "Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore America's young people to fight a foreign war to defend `capitalism'?" he wonders.
"The word itself has largely gone out of fashion. The approved references now are to the market economy, free market, free enterprise, or private enterprise."
Cynthia McKinney writes that the book is "corruscating, eye-opening, and essential." Oliver Stone calls it a "fireball of terse information."
Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable "truths" one has taken for granted--often since childhood--are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: "`We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly,'" Powell said. "`We must have a brute demonstration of power.'
Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! ... Stay strong! ... Kill them! ... We are going to wipe them out!'"
Blum's intellectual resources are as keen as anyone's writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own--us!--flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.
Gary Corseri has published and posted prose, poetry and dramas at hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide, including CommonDreams, Countercurrents, BraveNewWorld.in, OpEdNews, CounterPunch, Outlook India, The New York Times, Dissident Voice. He has published novels, poetry collections and a literary anthology (edited). His dramas have been presented on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons, and at American and Japanese universities. Contact: email@example.com.
Aug 02, 2014 | CounterPunch
A specter is haunting Europe and Western world - it is this time, the specter of fascism. It came quietly, without great fanfare and parades, without raised hands and loud shouts. But it came, or it returned, as it has always been present in this culture, one that has, for centuries, been enslaving our entire planet.
As was in Nazi Germany, resistance to the fascist empire is again given an unsavory name: terrorism. Partisans and patriots, resistance fighters – all of them were and have always been defined by fascist bigots as terrorists.
By the logic of Empire, to murder millions of men, women and children in all corners of the world abroad is considered legitimate and patriotic, but to defend one's motherland was and is a sign of extremism.
German Nazis and Italian Fascists defined their rule as 'democratic', and so does this Empire. The British and French empires that exterminated tens of millions of people all over the world, always promoted themselves as 'democracies'.
And now, once again, we are witnessing a tremendous onslaught by the business-political-imperialist Western apparatus, destabilizing or directly destroying entire nations, overthrowing governments and bombing 'rebellious' states into the ground. All this is done in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom.
An unelected monster, as it has done for centuries, is playing with the world, torturing some, and plundering others, or both.
The West, in a final act of arrogance, has somehow confused itself with its own concept of God. It has decided that it has the full right to shape the planet, to punish and to reward, to destroy and rebuild as it wishes.
This horrible wave of terror unleashed against our planet, is justified by an increasingly meaningless but fanatically defended dogma, symbolized by a box (made of card or wood, usually), and masses of people sticking pieces of paper into the opening on the top of that box.
This is the altar of Western ideological fundamentalism. This is a supreme idiocy that cannot be questioned, as it guarantees the status quo for ruling elites and business interests, an absurdity that justifies all crimes, all lies and all madness.
This sacrificial altar is called, Democracy, in direct mockery to what the term symbolizes in its original, Greek, language.
In our latest book, "On Western Terrorism – from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare", Noam Chomsky commented on the 'democratic' process in the Western world:
"The goal of elections now is to undermine democracy. They are run by the public relations industry and they're certainly not trying to create informed voters who'll make rational choices. They are trying to delude people into making irrational choices. The same techniques that are used to undermine markets are used to undermine democracy. It's one of the major industries in the country and its basic workings are invisible."
But what is it that really signifies this 'sacred' word, this almost religious term, and this pinnacle of Western demagogy? We hear it everywhere. We are ready to sacrifice millions of lives (not ours of course, at least not yet, but definitely lives of the others) in the name of it.
All those grand slogans and propaganda! Last year I visited Pyongyang, but I have to testify that North Koreans are not as good at slogans as the Western propagandists are.
"In the name of freedom and democracy!" Hundreds of millions tons of bombs fell from the sky on the Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside bodies were burned by napalm, mutilated by spectacular explosions.
"Defending democracy!" Children were raped in front of their parents in Central America, men and women machine-gunned down by death squads that had been trained in military bases in the United States of America.
"Civilizing the world and spreading democracy!" That has always been a European slogan, their 'stuff to do', and a way of showing their great civilization to others. Amputating hands of Congolese people, murdering around ten million of them, and many more in Namibia, East Africa, West Africa and Algiers; gassing people of the Middle East ( "I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes", to borrow from the colorful lexicon of (Sir) Winston Churchill).
So what is it really? Who is it, that strange lady with an axe in her hand and with a covered face – the lady whose name is Democracy?
It is all very simple, actually. The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people". Then and now, it was supposed to be in direct contrast to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia), that means "rule of an elite".
'Rule of the people' Let us just visit a few examples of the 'rule of the people'.
People spoke, they ruled, they voted 'democratically' in Chile, bringing in the mild and socialist government of 'Popular Unity' of Salvador Allende.
Sure, the Chilean education system was so brilliant, its political and social system so wonderful, that it inspired not only many countries in Latin America, but also those in far away Mediterranean Europe.
That could not be tolerated, because, as we all know, it is only white Europe and North America that can be allowed to supply the world with the blueprint for any society, anywhere on this planet. It was decided that "Chile has to scream", that its economy had to be ruined and the "Popular Unity" government kicked out of power.
Henry Kissinger, belonging, obviously, to a much higher race and country of a much higher grade, made a straightforward and in a way very 'honest' statement, clearly defining the North American stand towards global democracy: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."
And so Chile was ravaged. Thousands of people were murdered and 'our son-of-a-bitch' was brought to power. General Pinochet was not elected: he bombed the Presidential palace in Santiago, he savagely tortured the men and women who were elected by the Chilean people, and he "disappeared" thousands.
But that was fine, because democracy, as it is seen from Washington, London or Paris, is nothing more and nothing less than what the white man needs in order to control this planet, unopposed and preferably never criticized.
Of course Chile was not the only place where 'democracy' was 'redefined'. And it was not the most brutal scenario either, although it was brutal enough. But it was a very symbolic 'case', because here, there could be absolutely no dispute: an extremely well educated, middle class country, voted in transparent elections, just to have its government murdered, tortured and exiled, simply because it was too democratic and too involved in improving the lives of its people.
There were countless instances of open spite coming from the North, towards the 'rule of the people' in Latin America. For centuries, there have been limitless examples. Every country 'south of the border' in the Western Hemisphere, became a victim.
After all, the self-imposed Monroe Doctrine gave North Americans 'unquestionable rights' to intervene and 'correct' any 'irresponsible' democratic moves made by the lower races inhabiting Central and South America as well as the Caribbean Islands.
There were many different scenarios of real ingenuity, in how to torture countries that embarked on building decent homes for their people, although soon there was evidence of repetitiveness and predictability.
The US has been either sponsoring extremely brutal coups (like the one in Guatemala in 1954), or simply occupying the countries in order to overthrow their democratically elected governments. Justifications for such interventions have varied: it was done in order to 'restore order', to 'restore freedom and democracy', or to prevent the emergence of 'another Cuba'.
From the Dominican Republic in 1965 to Grenada in 1983, countries were 'saved from themselves' through the introduction (by orders from mainly the Protestant North American elites with clearly pathological superiority complexes) of death squads that administered torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. People were killed because their democratic decisions were seen as 'irresponsible' and therefore unacceptable.
While there has been open racism in every aspect of how the Empire controlled its colonies, 'political correctness' was skillfully introduced, effectively reducing to a bare minimum any serious critiques of the societies that were forced into submission.
In Indonesia, between 1 and 3 million people were murdered in the years1965/66, in a US -sponsored coup, because there too, was a 'great danger' that the people would rule and decide to vote 'irresponsibly', bringing the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), at that time the third most numerous Communist Party anywhere in the world, to power.
The democratically elected President of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered in 1961, by the joint efforts of the United States and Europe, simply because he was determined to use the vast natural resources of his country to feed his own people; and because he dared to criticize Western colonialism and imperialism openly and passionately.
East Timor lost a third of its population simply because its people, after gaining independence from Portugal, dared to vote the left-leaning FRETILIN into power. "We are not going to tolerate another Cuba next to our shores", protested the Indonesian fascist dictator Suharto, and the US and Australia strongly agreed. The torture, and extermination of East Timorese people by the Indonesian military, was considered irrelevant and not even worth reporting in the mass media.
The people of Iran could of course not be trusted with 'democracy'. Iran is one of the oldest and greatest cultures on earth, but its people wanted to use the revenues from its oil to improve their lives, not to feed foreign multi-nationals. That has always been considered a crime by Western powers – a crime punishable by death.
The people of Iran decided to rule; they voted, they said that they want to have all their oil industry nationalized. Mohammad Mosaddeq, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, was ready to implement what his people demanded. But his government was overthrown in a coup d'état, orchestrated by the British MI6 and North American CIA, and what followed was the murderous dictatorship of the deranged Western puppet – Reza Pahlavi. As in Latin America and Indonesia, instead of schools, hospitals and housing projects, people got death squads, torture chambers and fear. Is that what they wanted? Is that what they voted for?
There were literally dozens of countries, all over the world, which had to be 'saved', by the West, from their own 'irresponsible citizens and voters'. Brazil recently 'celebrated' the 50th anniversary of the US-backed military coup d'état, which began a horrendous 20 year long military dictatorship. The US supported two coups in Iraq, in 1963 and 1968 that brought Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party to power. The list is endless. These are only some random examples.
On closer examination, the West has overthrown, or made attempts to overthrow, almost any democratically elected governments, on all continents attempting to serve their own people, by providing them with decent standards of living and social services. That is quite an achievement, and some stamina!
Could it be then that the West only respects 'Democracy' when 'people are forced to rule' against their own interests? And when they are 'defending' what they are ordered to defend by local elites that are subservient to North American and European interests? and also when they are defending the interests of foreign multi-national companies and Western governments that are dependent on those companies?
Can anything be done? If a country is too weak to defend itself by military means, against some mighty Western aggressor, could it approach any international democratic institutions, hoping for protection?
A good example is Nicaragua, which had been literally terrorized by the United States, for no other reason than for being socialist. Its government went to court.
The case was called: The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America.
It was a 1986 case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which the ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua.
The judgment was long, consisting of 291 points. Among them that the United States had been involved in the "unlawful use of force." The alleged violations included attacks on Nicaraguan facilities and naval vessels, the mining of Nicaraguan ports, the invasion of Nicaraguan air space, and the training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying of forces (the "Contras") and seeking to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
Judgment was passed, and so were UN votes and resolutions. The UN resolution from 1986 called for the full and immediate compliance with the Judgment. Only Thailand, France and the UK abstained. The US showed total spite towards the court, and it vetoed all UN resolutions.
It continued its terror campaign against Nicaragua. In the end, the ruined and exhausted country voted in 1990. It was soon clear that it was not voting for or against Sandinista government, but whether to endure more violence from the North, or to simply accept depressing defeat. The Sandinista government lost. It lost because the voters had a North American gun pointing at their heads.
This is how 'democracy' works.
I covered the Nicaraguan elections of 1996 and I was told by voters, by a great majority of them, that they were going to vote for the right-wing candidate (Aleman), only because the US was threatening to unleash another wave of terror in case the Sandinista government came back to power, democratically.
The Sandinistas are now back. But only because most of Latin America has changed, and there is unity and determination to fight, if necessary.
While the Europeans are clearly benefiting from neo-colonialism and the plunder that goes on all over the world, it would be ridiculous to claim that they themselves are 'enjoying the fruits of democracy'.
In a dazzling novel "Seeing", written by Jose Saramago, a laureate for the Nobel Prize for literature, some 83% of voters in an unidentified country (most likely Saramago's native Portugal), decide to cast blank ballots, expressing clear spite towards the Western representative election system.
This state, which prided itself as a 'democratic one', responded by unleashing an orgy of terror against its own citizens. It soon became obvious that people are allowed to make democratic choices only when the result serves the interests of the regime.
Ursula K Le Guin, reviewing the novel in the pages of The Guardian, on 15 April 2006, admitted:
Turning in a blank ballot is a signal unfamiliar to most Britons and Americans, who aren't yet used to living under a government that has made voting meaningless. In a functioning democracy, one can consider not voting a lazy protest liable to play into the hands of the party in power (as when low Labour turn-out allowed Margaret Thatcher's re-elections, and Democratic apathy secured both elections of George W Bush). It comes hard to me to admit that a vote is not in itself an act of power, and I was at first blind to the point Saramago's non-voting voters are making.
She should not have been. Even in Europe itself, terror had been unleashed, on many occasions, against the people who decided to vote 'incorrectly'.
Perhaps the most brutal instance was in the post WWII period, when the Communist Parties were clearly heading for spectacular victories in France, Italy and West Germany. Such 'irresponsible behavior' had to be, of course, stopped. Both US and UK intelligence forces made a tremendous effort to 'save democracy' in Europe, employing Nazis to break, intimidate, even murder members of progressive movements and parties.
These Nazi cadres were later allowed, even encouraged, to leave Europe for South America, some carrying huge booty from the victims who vanished in concentration camps. This booty included gold teeth.
Later on, in the 1990's, I spoke to some of them, and also to their children, in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. They were proud of their deeds, unrepentant, and as Nazi as ever.
Many of those European Nazis later actively participated in Operation Condor, so enthusiastically supported by the Paraguayan fascist and pro-Western dictator, Alfredo Strössner. Mr Strössner was a dear friend and asylum-giver to many WWII war criminals, including people like Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the "Angel of Death", who performed genetic experiments on children during the WWII.
So, after destroying that 'irresponsible democratic process' in Europe (the post-war Western Empire), many European Nazis that were now loyally serving their new master, were asked to continue with what they knew how to do best. Therefore they helped to assassinate some 60,000 left-wing South American men, women and their children, who were guilty of building egalitarian and just societies in their home countries. Many of these Nazis took part, directly, in Operacion Condor, under the direct supervision of the United States and Europe.
As Naomi Klein writes in her book, Shock Doctrine:
"Operación Cóndor, also known as Plan Cóndor, Portuguese: Operação Condor) was a campaign of political repression and terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents, officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program was intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas, and to suppress active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments."
In Chile, German Nazis rolled up their sleeves and went to work directly: by interrogating, liquidating and savagely torturing members of the democratically elected government and its supporters. They also performed countless medical experiments on people, at the so-called Colonia Dirnidad, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose rule was manufactured and sustained by Dr. Kissinger and his clique.
But back to Europe: in Greece, after WWII, both the UK and US got heavily involved in the civil war between the Communists and the extreme right-wing forces.
In 1967, just one month before the elections in which the Greek left-wing was expected to win democratically (the Indonesian scenario of 1965), the US and its 'Greek colonels' staged a coup, which marked the beginning of a 7 year savage dictatorship.
What happened in Yugoslavia, some 30 years later is, of course clear. A successful Communist country could not be allowed to survive, and definitely not in Europe. As bombs fell on Belgrade, many of those inquisitive and critically thinking people that had any illusions left about the Western regime and its 'democratic principles', lost them rapidly.
But by then, the majority of Europe already consisted of indoctrinated masses, some of the worst informed and most monolithic (in their thinking) on earth.
Europe and its voters It is that constantly complaining multitude, which wants more and more money, and delivers the same and extremely predictable electoral results every four, five or six years. It lives and votes mechanically. It has totally lost its ability to imagine a different world, to fight for humanist principles, and even to dream.
It is turning into an extremely scary place, a museum at best, and a cemetery of human vision at the worst.
As Noam Chomsky pointed out:
Americans may be encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is a method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, "That's politics." But it isn't. It's only a small part of politics.
The population has been carefully excluded from political activity, and not by accident. An enormous amount of work has gone into that disenfranchisement. During the 1960s the outburst of popular participation in democracy terrified the forces of convention, which mounted a fierce counter-campaign. Manifestations show up today on the left as well as the right in the effort to drive democracy back into the hole where it belongs.
Arundhati Roy, commented in her "Is there life after democracy?"
The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be?
After all that brutality, and spite for people all over the world, the West is now teaching the planet about democracy. It is lecturing Asians and Africans, people from Middle East and Sub-Continent, on how to make their countries more 'democratic'. It is actually hard to believe, it should be one of the most hilarious things on earth, but it is happening, and everyone is silent about it.
Those who are listening without bursting into laughter are actually well paid.
There are seminars; even foreign aid projects related to 'good governance', sponsored by the European Union, and the United States. The EU is actually much more active in this field. Like the Italian mafia, it sends covert but unmistakable messages to the world: "You do as we say, or we break your legs But if you obey, come to us and we will teach you how to be a good aide to Cosa Nostra! And we will give you some pasta and wine while you are learning."
Because there is plenty of money, so called 'funding' members of the elite, the academia, media and non-government organizations, from countries that have been plundered by the West – countries like Indonesia, Philippines, DR Congo, Honduras, or Colombia –send armies of people to get voluntarily indoctrinated, (sorry, to be 'enlightened') to learn about democracy from the greatest assassins of genuine 'people's power'; from the West.
Violating democracy is an enormous business. To hush it up is part of that business. To learn how to be idle and not to intervene against the external forces destroying democracy in your own country, while pretending to be 'engaged and active', is actually the best business, much better than building bridges or educating children (from a mercantilist point of view).
Once, at the University of Indonesia where I was invited to speak, a student asked me 'what is the way forward', to make his country more democratic? I replied, looking at several members of the professorial staff:
"Demand that your teachers stop going to Europe on fully funded trips. Demand that they stop being trained in how to brainwash you. Do not go there yourself, to study. Go there to see, to understand and to learn, but not to study Europe had robbed you of everything. They are still looting your country. What do you think you will learn there? Do you really think they will teach you how to save your nation?"
Students began laughing. The professors were fuming. I was never invited back. I am sure that the professors knew exactly what I was talking about. The students did not. They were thinking that I made a very good joke. But I was not trying to be funny.
As I write these words, the Thai military junta has taken over the country. The West is silent: the Thai military is an extremely close ally. Democracy at work
And as I write these words, the fascist government in Kiev is chasing, kidnapping and "disappearing" people in the east and south of Ukraine. By some insane twist of logic, the Western corporate media is managing to blame Russia. And only a few people are rolling around on the floor, laughing.
As I write these words, a big part of Africa is in flames, totally destroyed by the US, UK, France and other colonial powers.
Client states like the Philippines are now literally being paid to get antagonistic with China.
Japanese neo-fascist adventurism fully supported by the Unites States can easily trigger WWIII. So can Western greed and fascist practices in Ukraine.
Democracy! People's power!
If the West had sat on its ass, where it belongs, in Europe and in North America, after WWII, the world would have hardly any problems now. People like Lumumba, Allende, Sukarno, Mosaddeq, would have led their nations and continents. They would have communicated with their own people, interacted with them. They would have built their own styles of 'democracy'.
But all that came from the Bandung Conference of 1955, from the ideals of the Non-Aligned movement, was ruined and bathed in blood. The true hopes of the people of the world cut to pieces, urinated on, and then thrown into gutter.
But no more time should be wasted by just analyzing, and by crying over spilt milk. Time to move on!
The world has been tortured by Europe and the United States, for decades and centuries. It has been tortured in the name of democracy but it has all been one great lie. The world has been tortured simply because of greed, and because of racism. Just look back at history. Europe and the United States have only stopped calling people "niggers", but they do not have any more respect for them than before. And they are willing, same as before, to sacrifice millions of human lives.
Let us stop worshiping their box, and those meaningless pieces of paper that they want us to stick in there. There is no power of people in this. Look at the United States itself – where is our democracy? It is a one-party regime fully controlled by market fundamentalists. Look at our press, and propaganda
Rule of the people by the people, true democracy, can be achieved. We the people had been derailed, intellectually, so we have not been thinking how, for so many decades.
Now we, many of us, know what is wrong, but we are still not sure what is right.
Let us think and let us search, let us experiment. And also, let us reject their fascism first. Let them stick their papers wherever they want! Let them pretend that they are not slaves to some vendors and swindlers. Let them do whatever they want – there, where they belong.
Democracy is more than a box. It is more than a multitude of political parties. It is when people can truly choose, decide and build a society that they dream about. Democracy is the lack of fear of having napalm and bombs murdering our dreams. Democracy is when people speak and from those words grow their own nation. Democracy is when millions of hands join together and from that brilliant union, new trains begin to run, new schools begin to teach, and new hospitals begin to heal. All this by the people, for the people! All this created by proud and free humans as gift to all – to their nation.
Yes, let the slave masters stick their pieces of paper into a box, or somewhere else. They can call it democracy. Let us call democracy something else – rule of the people, a great exchange of ideas, of hopes and dreams. Let our taking control over our lives and over our nations be called 'democracy'!
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called "Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear". He has just completed the feature documentary, "Rwanda Gambit" about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
Jul 28, 2015 | Antiwar.com
Cold wars freeze despotism in place, and thaws in foreign relations melt it away
The recent Iran nuclear deal represents a thaw in the American cold war against that country. It is a welcome sequel to the Obama administration's partial normalization with Cuba announced late last year.
Hardliners denounce these policies as "going soft" on theocracy and communism. Yet, it is such critics' own hardline, hawkish policies that have done the most to ossify and strengthen such regimes.
That is because war, including cold war, is the health of the state. Antagonistic imperial policies - economic warfare, saber-rattling, clandestine interventions, and full-blown attacks - make the citizens of targeted "rogue states" feel under siege.
This activates what Randolph Bourne called their "herd mind," inducing them to rally around their governments in a militaristic stampede so as to create the national unity of purpose deemed necessary to defend the homeland against the foreign menace. When you lay siege to an entire country, don't be surprised when it starts to look and act like a barracks.
Rogue state governments eagerly amplify and exploit this siege effect through propaganda, taking on the mantle of foremost defender of the nation against the "Yankee Imperialist" or "Great Satan." Amid the atmosphere of crisis, public resistance against domestic oppression by the now indispensable "guardian class" goes by the board. "Quit your complaining. Don't you know there's a cold war on? Don't you know we're under siege?"
Moreover, cold wars make it easy for rogue state governments to shift the blame for domestic troubles away from their own misrule, and onto the foreign bogeyman/scapegoat ("bogeygoat?") instead. This is especially easy for being to some extent correct, especially with regard to economic blockades and other crippling sanctions, like those Washington has imposed on Cuba, Iran, etc.
Imperial governments like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian populace of a rogue state will pressure them to blame and turn against their governments. In reality, it only tends to bolster public support for the regime.
The imperial "bogeygoat" is an essential prop for the power of petty tyrants, just as rogue state bogeymen are essential props for the power of grand tyrants like our own. Thus, it should be no surprise that the staunchest opponents to the Iran nuclear deal include both American and Iranian hardliners. Just as there is a "symbiosis of savagery" between imperial hawks and anti-imperial terrorists (as I explain here), there is a similar symbiotic relationship between imperial and rogue state hardliners.
The last thing hardliners want is the loss of their cherished bogeygoat. Once an emergency foreign threat recedes, and the fog of war hysteria lifts, people are then more capable of clearly seeing their "guardians" as the domestic threat that they are, and more likely to feel that they can afford to address that threat without exposing themselves to foreign danger. This tends to impel governments to become less oppressive, and may even lead to their loss of power.
Thus after Nixon normalized with communist China and belatedly ended the war on communist Vietnam, both of those countries greatly liberalized and became more prosperous. Even Soviet reforms and the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union only arose following American detente.
Simultaneously, as the American cold wars against communist Cuba and communist North Korea continued without stint for decades, providing the Castros and Kims the ultimate bogeygoat to feature in their propaganda, the impoverishing authoritarian grip of those regimes on their besieged people only strengthened.
Similarly, ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the puppet dictator that the CIA had installed over Iran in a 1953 coup, the Ayatollahs have been able to exploit ongoing hostility from the American "Great Satan" to retain and consolidate their repressive theocratic power.
All this is an object lesson for US relations with Putin's Russia, Chavista Venezuela, and beyond. Disastrously, it is being unheeded.
Even while thawing relations with Iran, the Obama administration has triggered a new cold war with Russia over Ukraine. This has only made Russian President Vladimir Putin more domestically popular than ever.
And even while normalizing relations with Cuba, Obama recently declared Venezuela a national security threat, imposing new sanctions. As journalist Alexandra Ulmer argued, these sanctions "may be godsend for struggling Venezuelan leader," President Nicolas Maduro. As Ulmer wrote in Reuters:
"Suddenly, the unpopular leader has an excuse to crank up the revolutionary rhetoric and try to fire up supporters, copying a tactic used skillfully for more than a decade by his mentor and predecessor, the late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez.
A new fight with the enemy to the north may also help unite disparate ruling Socialist Party factions and distract Venezuelans from relentless and depressing talk about their day-to-day economic problems."
If intellectuals replace the current professional politicians as the leaders of society the situation would become much worse. Because they have neither the sense of reality, nor common sense. For them, the words and speeches are more important than the actual social laws and the dominant trends, the dominant social dynamics of the society. The psychological principle of the intellectuals is that we could organize everything much better, but we are not allowed to do it.
But the actual situation is as following: they could organize the life of society as they wish and plan, in the way they view is the best only if under conditions that are not present now are not feasible in the future. Therefore they are not able to act even at the level of current leaders of the society, which they despise. The actual leaders are influenced by social pressures, by the current social situation, but at least they doing something. Intellectuals are unhappy that the real stream of life they are living in. They consider it wrong. that makes them very dangerous, because they look really smart, while in reality being sophisticated professional idiots.
September 29, 2015
In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence of revolution.
This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a "democracy." In making this hardly veiled threat, he redefined the word in the international political vocabulary. Democracy is the CIA's overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia. Democracy is the Ukrainian coup behind Yats and Poroshenko. Democracy is Pinochet. It is "our bastards," as Lyndon Johnson said with regard to the Latin American dictators installed by U.S. foreign policy.
A century ago the word "democracy" referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word "democracy," he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies. No matter if a country is a military dictatorship or the government was brought in by a coup (euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A "democratic" government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an "independent" central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.
Given this American re-definition of the political vocabulary, when President Obama says that such countries will not suffer coups, violent revolution or terrorism, he means that countries safely within the U.S. diplomatic orbit will be free of destabilization sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Treasury. Countries whose voters democratically elect a government or regime that acts independently (or even that simply seeks the power to act independently of U.S. directives) will be destabilized, Syria style, Ukraine style or Chile style under General Pinochet. As Henry Kissinger said, just because a country votes in communists doesn't mean that we have to accept it. It is the style of "color revolutions" sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.
In his United Nations reply, Russian President Putin warned against the "export of democratic revolution," meaning by the United States in support of its local factotums. ISIL is armed with U.S. weapons and its soldiers were trained by U.S. armed forces. In case there was any doubt, President Obama reiterated before the United Nations that until Syrian President Assad was removed in favor of one more submissive to U.S. oil and military policy, Assad was the major enemy, not ISIL.
"It is impossible to tolerate the present situation any longer," President Putin responded. Likewise in Ukraine. "What I believe is absolutely unacceptable," he said in his CBS interview on 60 Minutes, "is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR Republics, through "color revolutions," through coup d'états, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United States have supported those who ousted Yanukovych. … We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."
Where does this leave U.S.-Russian relations? I hoped for a moment that perhaps Obama's harsh anti-Russian talk was to provide protective coloration for an agreement with Putin in their 5 o'clock meeting. Speak one way so as to enable oneself to act in another has always been his modus operandi, as it is for many politicians. But Obama remains in the hands of the neocons.
Where will this lead? There are many ways to think outside the box. What if Putin proposes to air-lift or ship Syrian refugees – up to a third of the population – to Europe, landing them in Holland and England, obliged under the Shengen rules to accept them?
Or what if he brings the best computer specialists and other skilled labor for which Syria is renowned to Russia, supplementing the flood of immigration from "democratic" Ukraine?
What if the joint plans announced on Sunday between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia to jointly fight ISIS – a coalition that US/NATO has refrained from joining – comes up against U.S. troops or even the main funder of ISIL, Saudi Arabia?
The game is out of America's hands now. All it is able to do is wield the threat of "democracy" as a weapon of coups to turn recalcitrant countries into Libyas, Iraqs and Syrias.
By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is "KILLING THE HOST: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy."
nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 10:22 am
"We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovich, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."
That sounds like a pretty clear threat to the Democratic front runner for the Presidency to come to terms, or else. While it is good to see someone threatening accountability, it would be nice if it didn't have to come from Russia.
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 1:41 pm
September 29, 2015 at 11:49 am
Accountability will not come from an Administration that made Victoria Nuland an Assistant Secretary of State in the first place.
No doubt, but I was kind of hoping that the progressive caucuses might make more of a fuss than they did over our "the king is dead, long live the king", foreign policy. That is, after all, what got many of them elected. It never ceases to amaze me how fast candidates become coopted by the establishment once elected.
Synoia, September 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm
The establishment has files on them. Hudson's piece reads as a prelude to war.
Nick, September 29, 2015 at 10:38 am
This post is nothing but tinfoil-hattery. I can assure you, the US is shedding no tears for the pain Russia is about to inflict on itself by putting Russian boots on the ground in Damascus.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:10 am
Did a latter-day Charlie Wilson tell you that? I have no doubt that the stuck-in-the-past meatheads in DC have a wet dream over just such a scenario. I also have no doubt that Russia (as well as China and Iran) have no intention of falling into such a trap. The ongoing peeling-off of Euro/NATO lemmings is as clear indication as any that the US will end up either backing off or try to go it alone. The latter is a recipe for disaster, as even Obama realizes. So right now it's all posturing for domestic consumption, behind the scenes things are a bit different as certain recent incidents would seem to indicate. But hey, we can dream the Russophobic/Slavophobic dreams, amiright?
lylo, September 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm
Yeah, my reading too.
I also have to point out how ironic it is that a country stuck in several unresolved conflicts that continue to drain resources and produce instability years later is hoping that, somehow, their opponents get suckered into a quagmire in a country they are already stuck in.
So, sure, I guess that's what they're hoping for. Makes about as much sense as anything else they've come up with recently (including direct confrontation with Russia just to enrich a few ME and corporate pals.)
And "tinfoil hattery" is generally used as things not accepted and proven. Which part of this isn't proven? US toppling democracies and installing dictators who we then call democratic? That we have less pull on the international stage than anytime in our lives? That the other bloc has a serious advantage in this conflict, and going forward? These are all facts…
washunate, September 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm
Give Nick a little credit now; there is a shred of cleverness to the comment(!). He's trying to plant a big lie inside of the framing – namely, that the rise of IS is a legitimate rebellion within Syria.
When of course the truth is the opposite. It's IS that is the foreign invader; Russian boots on the ground would be working with the recognized government, not against it. Indeed, the comparison might inadvertently be quite apt. Syria looks more and more like a marker on the road from Pax Americana to a multipolar world. Just like the Soviet-Afghan war was a marker on the road from the Cold War to Pax Americana.
Perhaps another incident is a better comparison. Maybe Syria is our Suez moment.
Thure Meyer, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am
Tinfoil-hattery, interesting choice of words. So who's conspiracy are you talking about?
As to your assurance; well it would be a bit more convincing if you were to unveil your identity so that I know who speaks for all of us (US)...
readerOfTeaLeaves, September 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm
Oh, crikey Nick.
As near as I can tell, the US Foreign Policy establishment is driven by think tanks that are funded by oil companies, Saudis, Israelis, and others for whom 'putting America first' means covering their own asses and letting the US military (and well-compensated military contractors) do all the heavy lifting.
As if that weren't bad enough, we also have the R2Pers ("responsibility to protect"), whose hypocrisy could gag a maggot - the R2Pers seem to think it is urgent to solve every other nation's (and corporations) problems - indeed, so very urgent that kids from Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, etc should all be sent into harm's way in distant lands, whose languages the R2Pers don't happen to speak, whose histories the R2Pers are ignorant about, and whose cultural nuances are unknown to the R2Pers.
IOW, Washington DC appears to be awash in egoism and careerism.
I think that Russians have managed to figure that out.
washunate, September 30, 2015 at 11:54 am
I find it rather amusing that this is the best the Democratic establishment can throw at posts pointing out the idiocy of imperialism. How the Obots have fallen.
steelhead23, September 29, 2015 at 10:56 am
It isn't just the lies and abject stupidity that keeps the U.S. constantly at war, it is our alliances with repressive dictators, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is leading the U.S. toward confrontation with civilization, and Russia. Not so much a leader, the U.S. has become the militant vassal of KSA. The undying irony is that it was wealthy Saudis who started the most recent mess on 9/11/01. This will not end until the U.S. turns its back on the KSA.
Sufferin' Succotash, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am
Or KSA self-destructs.
Ranger Rick, September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am
Russia has always maintained that the Ukrainian revolution was CIA-backed if not -instigated. It's a shrewd move given the US's track record with regime change. No one will ever be sure if the new Ukrainian government is entirely legitimate or not.
What really gets terrifying is when you take a step back and realize that the 1800s imperialist regime never really changed. When you start talking about "superpower" or "regional power" you are no longer talking about power in the military or economic sense. These countries regularly meddle in, if not directly control, the politics in other countries. It honestly does not matter to the United States or Russia or any other country what your government chooses to do as long as it does what the other country wants.
NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 11:48 am
The Kiev rump failed to meet constitutional standards for impeachment even with the threats of the mob, and with elections just three or four months away in September following the Maidan event, there was no practical reason for a forceful removal of the government. Third party or not, the Kiev rump government has the same legality as the Confederacy. The "separatists" and the Crimeans saw their country dissolved by a mob, not an election with a regularly scheduled one on the horizon. The Ukraine was not a case where they would be waiting four years under a tyrant. If they had made it to September with electioneering issues, then the situation would be different, but as the current cabal didn't do that, they are akin to Jefferson Davis just with a better hand.
Americans as celebrators of the Declaration of Independence should note it is not legitimate to change established governing customs because your side might lose there has to be a litany of grievances with no possibility of redress. By Mr. Jefferson's standards, this country should have nothing to do with the Kiev government until the concerns of the separatists have been addressed. Unfortunately the use of law doesn't exist in this country.
Eureka Springs, September 29, 2015 at 11:11 am
Obamacrats rhetoric and behavior (policy) are both reminiscent and escalation of Bushco in so many ways.
Wasn't it Bush Jr. who said something along the line of "Democracies don't attack each other"?
NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm
It's just the old Democratic peace theory. It's utter garbage. I'm sure 43 said it because he repeated the last thing he heard anyway. World War I is pitched as a battle between old world tyrannical such as Germany (with universal male suffrage for its power base) versus shining beacons of democracy such as the UK and France which weren't quite democracies yet. Hitler sort of won a national election. Churchill was selected in a secret meeting when Chamberlain had to step down. So where is the democratic line? It's always been subjective test.
Of course, all governments rule by the consent of the governed.
JerseyJeffersonian, September 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm
Actually, Leander, the vaunted "independence" of the central banks of the US, Great Britain, and Deutschland is largely a fiction. And this very fiction has the effect of hyper-empowering both the financial sector and the oligarchs with whom the financial sector exists in a symbiotic relationship; in point of fact, these "independent" central banks are largely mere creatures of the financial sector and the symbiont oligarchs. The carefully cultivated appearance of independence is a sham under whose cover the truth about how central bank policies cater slavishly to the interests of the financial sector and oligarchs remains unrecognized.
Careerist movement back and forth between the central banks and the financial sector (along with the academic and think tank communities in which neo-liberalism reigns supreme as the only accepted school of economics) facilitates the group-think that culminates in the intellectual capture of the "independent" central banks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Welcome to Naked Capitalism; our hosts provide us with a rich spread of knowledge and analysis, rather as Col. Lang does at his blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, at which I have also read your posts.
MaroonBulldog, September 29, 2015 at 11:13 pm
In United States administrative law, the word "independent" has an interesting meaning: it refers to an executive regulatory agency that is "independent of the president," in the sense that the president cannot easily remove the head of the agency. The Fed is independent in this sense: the president cannot easily fire Chair Yellen or any other member of the Fed's board of governors.
An agency can be "independent" in this sense and still completely captured by the industry it purports to regulate.
Yves Smith, September 30, 2015 at 3:42 am
The Fed is NOT owned by banks.
Banks hold shares of non-voting preferred stock in regional Feds. The Board of Governors, which approves the hiring of all regional Fed presidents, is most assuredly part of the Federal government. The regional Feds are more like a nasty public-private partnership with a bad governance structure (as in the regional Fed boards on which banks have some, and I stress some, director seats, cannot hire or fire ANYONE at a regional Fed, they do not approve budgets or other policy actions. Their role is strictly advisory, although the regional Feds, being more than a little captured cognitively, give that advice a fair bit of weight.
To give an idea how much power those banks you incorrectly deem to be owners have: Congress is looking at passing a bill to cut the dividends of the all but small banks how hold shares in the Fed by 75%. Pray tell, can Congress tell a private company to cut its dividends?
TedWa, September 30, 2015 at 10:21 am
Hi Yves : I don't see any Fed "independence" in action and haven't for quite some time.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 11:40 am
Ah yes, the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke? Has Michael Hudson ever read a book about the Afghan civil war, a highly complex, decade-plus asymmetrical conflict with constantly shifting actors and allegiances? Reducing it to a narrative about US imperialism is intellectually dishonest on its own (there is no evidence that the US ever provided material support to the Taliban – everything from HRW to internal US documents to the academic consensus to journalistic accounts such as Ahmed Rashid's Taliban (2001?) contradicts that claim), nevermind that the Khalqi-Parcham government was a Soviet puppet government and an imperial construct in its own right. Check out any works by Barnett Rubin (U Nebraska?) or Thomas Barfield (B.U.)
The Mujahideen debacle (Which is both a separable and conjoined issue to the rise of the Taliban depending on time frame) was a result of poor US oversight of Pakistan, an internal US policy failure (no accountability or human intelligence on the ground) and of course intimately tied to the USSR's campaign of genocide in Afghanistan. Yes, the CIA gave the ISI $2-3bil in loose change to funnel into the Mujahideen (which were not united in any meaningful sense at any point in time, and frequently factionalized over pork-barrel / ethnic / tribal issues), however, the US policy at the time was hands-off with regard to how that money was spent, and if you read Peter Tomsen's book about his time as HW's special envoy it becomes quite clear that the blinders were on in Washington with regard to what was actually happening there on the ground.
Here's a quick and outdated overview for anyone who would like to educate themselves about this conflict: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghan2/Afghan0701-02.htm
I understand that the Russophilia on this blog runs strongly but the inhumane destruction visited upon the Afghan people by the USSR's geopolitics is and was sickening, imperialistic and functionally a genocide. How am I supposed to take any of this polemic seriously when the author can't even be bothered to read about a conflict? This is a prime example of ideology driving discourse. There are plenty of fair-game examples to call out the US's short-sighted and globally destructive foreign policy. I do not see the point in allowing ideology to cover for misinformation and misrepresentation of historical facts – that's the playbook of neoliberal hustlers.
Faroukh Bulsara, September 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm
"…the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke?"
Umm, Max buddy, where in this article did Hudson say such a thing? Right, he didn't. But thanks for the Afghan history lesson anyway.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:13 pm
"Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia."
It's right there in the opening paragraph, and the accusation is rather explicit.
juliania, September 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm
That's an awkward sentence to be sure, Max – I puzzled over that one myself. I'm more in favor of this extract from Putin's speech at the UN:
". . .We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress. . ."
Sort of 'puts paid' to trying to equate the Russian Federation with the Soviet Union, doesn't it?
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm
Is that the same HRW that can't find evidence of Kiev purposefully targeting and killing civilians? The same HRW that has never said a thing about the US support for murderous regimes in Latin America? Or about US war crimes? Yeah OK, I will take their word on how Afghanistan went down, over the US' proven track record of destroying any and all left-leaning Third World governments from 1950 onward.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm
Attack one of my sources, fine – the others still exist in far greater numbers. Barnett Rubin is my favorite, his book "Blood on the Doorstep" is excellent.
Is everything part of the US capitalist plot or is there some verifiable source that you will accept without dismissing out of hand? You didn't even attempt to read the source.
The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:55 pm
IOW, the Soviets and the US were like peas in a pod. Funny that the "accomplishments" cited by Empire apologists also used to include gender equality and the creation of insular elites. So what's your point, that the Soviets tried to prop-up their flunkies by force? Pot calling the kettle black, much like 0bama's speech yesterday. And HRW has often acted in concert with the US to cover up its crimes while hypocritically calling out those who weren't "our sonzofbiatches."
likbez, September 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm
The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.
That's plain vanilla propaganda. Or more charitably you are oversimplifying the issue and try to embellish the USA behavior. Which was a horrible crime. Soviets were not that simplistic and attempts to abolish Islam were not supported by Soviets. They tried to create a secular country that's right but with Islam as a dominant religion.
And how many years Afghan government survived after the USSR dissolved and financial and technical aid disappeared. You need to shred your post and eat it with borsch. It's a shame.
fajensen, September 30, 2015 at 5:35 am
Ah, but: "A man is known by the company he keeps".
Whatever Putin is besides, he is *not* a friend, ally and global protector of Saudi Arabic Wahhabism!
With friends like that, it is clear o everyone else that you people are circling pretty close to the drain already and we non-USA-nian un-people prefer to not be sucked into your decline via TTIP et cetera.
Michael Hudson, September 29, 2015 at 11:17 pm
Max, your comment does not make sense.
All I can say is that this blog is NOT Russiaphilia. That's name calling. It is not Russiaphilia to note the effect of U.S. foreign policy on bolstering the most right-wing fundamentalist Islamic groups, Latin American right-wing kleptocracies or other dictatorships.
Whatever Soviet oppression was in Afghanistan, it did not back religious extremism. Just the opposite.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:38 pm
Nick was probably one of those who screamed about cheese-eating surrender monkeys while stuffing themselves with supersized freedom fries orders.
September 29, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Ahem. Egypt. Egypt had a brief democracy.
Iran had a very real and true democracy (1955) but it was wiped out by the US.
Lot's of countries actually have democratic elections but when the people elect someone the US disapproves of, that democracy has to go and is ALWAYS replaced by a dictatorship.
Obama's a corrupt idiot. Syria is a mess only because the US made it that way, NOT because Assad is a meanie.
September 30, 2015 at 2:50 am
It's possible that Assad is a meanie AND that Syria is a mess because as usual we half assed support people who are just as horrible as him. It isn't like Saddam wasn't our great friend before we declared him horrible, terrible awful leader.
OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL, September 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm
The words in their respective UN speeches were very clear. Obomba: "I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies". Putin: "No one is obliged to conform to a single development model that is considered by someone else as the right one".
Ask yourself which statement the Founding Fathers of the U.S. would agree with. Yankee go home.
bh2, September 29, 2015 at 10:40 pm
"Hope and change", baby! The long arc of history bends toward despotism.
Knute Rife, September 29, 2015 at 11:25 pm
This has been a favorite US tactic since the Marines hit Tripoli (anti-piracy myths notwithstanding), took off with the Spanish-American War, went through the roof when the Latin American interventions started in earnest in the 20s, and became our peculiar and cherished institution with the Cold War. Obama is just continuing the tradition.
cwaltz , September 30, 2015 at 2:37 am
I'll give him this- it's as close to being transparent on our foreign policy as I've seen any of his predecessors come.
At least, he's admitting that our end game has always been first and foremost about our own interests. Now if he'll only admit that THIS is why the world really hates us. Being selfish and protecting only your own interests at the cost of others is never going to be a winning plan to encourage people to like you or trust you(particularly when you collude behind closed doors to carry out those interests.)
*Sigh* We're America. We set the bar low when it comes to caring about how others wish to govern themselves, our only criteria is that your leader always consider US interests first(nevermind that they aren't actually a US leader and should be putting their own inhabitants first.)
The public keeps losing and losing and losing to big finance because financiers have made an art form of using complexity, opacity, and leverage to cover their tracks.
The last example comes in an anodyne-seeming article in the Financial Times about collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs. CLOs are a structured credit product, in this case, made from leveraged (as in risky) corporate loans. Think of it as the corporate lending analogy to subprime bonds. The major differences between CLOs and RMBS are that CLOs are not secured by collateral (houses) and that CLOs turned out to be much better diversified than RMBS (the mortgage bond designers thought that a geographic mix would provide adequate diversification, since the modern US had never suffered a nation-wide housing market price decline. Whoops!)
CLO volumes exploded in the runup to the crisis due to a cheap-debt-fueled M&A boom, with private equity firms the big source of increased deal demand. And when the music stopped, the big banks were stuck with lots of unsold inventory. While their losses were no where near as bad as the ones they suffered on CDOs, they were still well above what was thought to be consistent with AAA rated paper. In the spring and summer of 2008, Bloomberg would report intermittently on the sorry state of the CLO market, with prevailing prices in the mid to low 80s. There were also reports of dealers selling small lots to compliant hedge funds at inflated so they could use those values to justify the marks on their positions.
Now the banks seem to have amnesia as far as the crisis is concerned, but US regulators (at least for the moment) have taken an uncharacteristic interest in reducing the risks banks carry, including those of CLOs. But the unfortunate aspect of the discussion in the Financial Times, and we assume elsewhere, is that this issue is being framed too narrowly, as being a matter of bank and financial system safety. Absent is the notion of the societal cost of making cheap debt too readily available to what in the 1980s were called takeover artists.
As an unnamed insider noted in Ron Suskind's Confidence Men, private equity depends on being able to load companies up with debt, and (according to him) only one in ten deals needs to succeed for the fund to do well. Many industry professionals would argue a bigger proportion of deals to work out for a PE player to be deemed successful, but the general point still holds: a leveraged buyout firm can drive a lot of companies into the ditch and still come out a winner. And low cost debt allows them to operate at a much higher level of activity. As we noted in ECONNED:
Cheap funding similarly played a major role in the breakneck pace of mergers and acquisitions, which became more and more frenzied until the onset of the credit contraction, in the summer of 2007. Global mergers for the first six months of 2007 were $2.8 trillion, a remarkable 50% higher than the record level for the same period in 2006. And takeovers for the full year 2006 ran at a stunning seven times the level seen four years prior.
The EU has decided it does not like the nasty propensity of PR funds to lever up corporations, pull out a lot in the way of special dividends, and too often overdo the cash extraction and leave a bankrupt hulk in their wake. The EU has been working on a proposal to restrict investors in the EU from putting funds in private equity and hedge fund firms outside the EU, and also limit the ability of foreign investors to buy European companies. The response was huffing and puffing, that this move would "seriously disturb" the biggest PE firms. So? That was the plan, wasn't it?
But in the US, the home of the biggest players, you hear nary a peep of this sort of talk, one that would likely argue for even bigger curbs that the ones being contemplated (and sure to be watered down). And the banks are certain to fight hard against any restriction, because M&A is a source of big advisory fees as well as new issue profits. Key extracts from the Financial Times:
Wall Street is set to pick another fight with regulators as the loan industry and big banks push back against new rules that they say could limit lending to companies with low credit ratings…
The desire among regulators – the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of Comptroller of the Currency – to prevent another financial crisis carries the risk of unintended consequences; namely that tough rules could impair market liquidity and ultimately hurt the broader economy.
Yves here. Ah, yes, the perennial threat: cut off our cheap leverage, and you'll damage the economy. I'd love to see an analysis of how many levered loans went to fund corporate investment as opposed to takeovers (although the percentages deemed a failure vary, pretty much every study that has looked at corporate takeovers has concluded that most fail, so discouraging corporate acquisitions would also be salutary).
The FT article does mention, in a single sentence, that the levered loans used in CLOs stoked acquisitions during the credit bubble. But the political argument is over a proposed increase in capital for CLOs kept on bank balance sheets as a way to reduce systemic risks. This debate may seem a bit overdone, since CLO issuance was a mere $12.5 billion this year versus $97 billion in 2006. But in many ways, these debates are not simply over how the rules should read, but what form of capitalism will have. And unfortunately, despite occasional tough gestures by regulators, the framework and assumptions that produced the last crisis remain largely intact.
Topics: Banana republic, Banking industry, Credit markets, moral hazard, Politics, Private equity, Regulations and regulators, Risk and risk management
THE THOUSAND YEARS OF WESTERN REVOLUTION
AND THE GATHERING RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Why is it that Europe alone among the civilizations of the world has been continually shaken and transformed by an energy of spiritual unrest that refuses to be content…? It is because its religious ideal has not been the worship of timeless and changeless perfection, but of a spirit that strives to incorporate itself into humanity and change the world.
Christopher Dawson in Christianity and the New Age (1931), pp. 94-96
As the above Roman Catholic philosopher of history remarked, the West has always been the seat of unrest and revolt.
It was present in the original first phase, the still glorified Western Revolution of 1054. This was led by the tyrant Hildebrand and carried out by his Norman shock-troops against the Christian Church and the spiritual authority of the Tradition. This was justified by its individualist filioque ideology, which replaced the Spirit of God, received through Christ, by a mere man.
It was present in the later extension of this revolt in the still glorified anti-Papal revolution and terror of Luther in the early sixteenth century. This was justified by its individualistic protest ideology, which replaced the Spirit of the Pope, received through the clergy, by mere human interpretation.
Whatever the case, the essence of Western ideology has always been the revolt of the individual and the terrorization of the masses. And this so that the egoistic wants of the most powerful individuals might reign supreme over the primary needs of society as a whole.
Indeed, after the second revolution, that of Luther, Western history was further punctuated by a series of terrorist revolts, called 'wars of religion'. Thus, in England there came Henry VIII, who pillaged his way through England. Then came the English Lenin, Cromwell, who ordered the beheading of the King and the massacre of half a million Irish peasants, as 'enemies of the people'. Then, a few decades later and also in England, there came the still glorified 'Inglorious Revolution' of 1688, when a handful of greedy capitalist Parliamentarians, supported by the same 'get rich quick' Protestant ideology as Cromwell, sent the pro-Catholic King of England packing and usurped him with a Dutch Protestant princeling, who would support their capitalism.
In the eighteenth century, Cromwell's heirs, the English colonists in America, followed with their still glorified Masonic Revolution. A few years later men of evil in France went even further with their still glorified and most bloody episode in Western history, regicide and twenty-five years of Bonaparte's permanent Revolution and incessant wars. The aim, to spread Revolution Europe-wide, was later to be imitated by Bronstein-Trotsky with his schemes for World Revolution. As a result of the catastrophe of 1789, the French peasantry of the Vendee became the first to understand the meaning of the word 'genocide', the peasantry of every European nation following them. By the end of that period, in 1815, the peasantry of uninvaded England had also been abolished – through starvation achieved by the collectivization of the 'Enclosures'. This ensured that there were plenty of hands willing to enter into the serfdom of the Industrial Revolution. That creation of cheap labour was further guaranteed by the starvation of the potato famine in Ireland, which, some eighty years later, Stalin accurately imitated in the Ukraine.
Other countries followed the English Industrial Revolution, carrying out the same processes. These were the same well-trodden path of regicide, devastation of the spiritual and moral conscience of the nation through attacks on the Church, destruction of the peasantry and their factory enslavement and lumpenization. Notably, in 1917, Russia, a country originally outside the Western ideological sphere, entered into the same downward spiritual spiral.
The first phase of its anti-Russian Revolution was organized by the West through Russia's Westernized elite, created through 200 years of propaganda. This elite, jealously hating the Anointed Monarch, later fled to Paris, from where some of their descendants to this day continue their anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox propaganda. The Soviet Revolution imitated every phase of the Western Revolution. It concentrating all the violence and terror of every tyrant in some nine centuries of Western history, from Hildebrand to Luther, from Cromwell to Bonaparte, into just a few decades of Russian history. The result was a genocide, both physical and spiritual, on a scale never before seen in world history and moreover made worldwide.
The slaughter carried out by the Westernized, anti-Russian leaders of the 'Soviet Union' and their materialist ideology was interrupted by another Western demon, Hitler. On 22 June 1941, the day that the Russian Church commemorated All the Saints Who Have Shone Forth in the Russian Land, invaded the Soviet Union. Only this catastrophe brought some sense to the Bolshevik tyrants. This was a punishment allowed in order for Russia to repent. Even the leaders of the regime realized that they could not win a war against Hitler without the support of the martyred Russian Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the end of the Western–inspired Soviet regime. Nevertheless, even after the Russian, and not Soviet, victory over Nazi-Germany had come in 1945, the Bolshevik nightmare was to continue for over another forty years, with all of Eastern Europe now also tyrannized by Western Marxist-Leninist materialist ideology.
When in 1991 Communism at last fell in Russia, the West was horrified as Russians began to repent for, and nor glorify, their Revolution and regicide. Therefore, first of all, the Western powers destroyed the unity of the Russian people, dividing peoples and cutting off Belarus and the Ukraine from Great Russia. Then it attempted to put its 'New World Order' ideology into position in those and surrounding countries, so that their troops, arms and propaganda could later be positioned there. This they did by replacing the brutal dinosaur of old Western Communism with the subtle beast of modern Western Secularism, deluging Russia with pseudo-democracy, pornography and pseudo-spiritual ideologies, conceived to weaken the will of the people to resist.
For most of the 1990s, it seemed as though Non-Russian oligarchs, who had stolen large chunks of Russian national assets through so-called 'privatization' (i.e. legalized mass theft), were winning the battle on behalf of Western secularism. However, those oligarchs were later exiled to their spiritual homes in London and Tel-Aviv. Moreover, today, Western secularism is being challenged in Russia by the Orthodox Church and those inside the Russian government who support Orthodox moral, spiritual, social and economic values.
The battle is bitter, as the secularists, with the full support of the Western media, launch massive hate-attacks on the Russian national idea – ultimately, Orthodox Christianity. Using as a shield Western humanist liberalism with its political correctness and 'human rights', the secularists, who so dominate Russian television in particular and its policy of zombyization, are bent on promoting individual 'freedom'. This, of course, is not freedom in the Christian sense, freedom from passion, but enslavement to sin, the freedom to be enslaved to passion, to the mental and physical illnesses caused by narcotics, alcohol and tobacco, to venereal disease and sexual perversion, to abortion and the refusal to have children, resulting in a dramatically falling population. And although abortion in Moscow, for example, has decreased fourfold in the last few years, nevertheless the secularists appear to be winning in many domains, as ever dividing and ruling.
This is the struggle which is going on in Russia today. Will Russia return to its own, historic path and destiny of Orthodox Christian values, becoming the spiritual leader of the rest of the Orthodox Christian world, or will it become just another Westernized secular and spiritually insignificant State? Will the Orthodox Russia that has been through Golgotha and seen the Resurrection be able to inculcate its values to the whole of Russian society and indeed witness to them before the atheist West that lost its Orthodox roots a thousand years ago, or will it wither beneath the onslaught of Western secularism? Will the demons of secularism occupy the vacuum in so many Russian souls, or will those souls be filled by the love of Christ and His Church? Will, in other words, the Apocalypse, that has now been brought so near by the Western Revolution that goes back to 1054, be postponed by the Russian Orthodox Counter-Revolution of Faith and the restoration there of Orthodox Monarchy, or will the end come within a relatively short space of time?
We do not know the answers to any of these questions. However, nearly ninety years ago, speaking in English in St Paul's Cathedral in London on 16 December 1919, the greatest Serbian saint of the twentieth century, the seer St Nicholas of Zhicha, looks to us today and prophesies thus in his address 'The Spiritual Rebirth of Europe':
If you see that the Church in Russia is the victor in its struggle against atheism, then you can be sure that you have been counted worthy to witness the sign of the spiritual rebirth of Europe…And if you see that for a whole century and more Europe has indeed been the most unChristian continent on earth, then your whole soul will tremble from fear. Your trembling will be the surest sign of the postponement of the coming of the end of the world. Nothing changes the human spirit and leads to its spiritual awakening so forcefully as the realization of its sins and fear in the face of the truth of God…
When the religious spirit – the only authentically life-giving and creative spirit – becomes the spirit that reigns supreme in family life, education, literature, art and journalism; when you see it on the streets and in the shops, in the towns and in the villages, not only in England, but all over Europe, then know that God has forgiven Europe and that it is on the path to becoming a new Europe.
Let him who is able to labour, labour and further this rebirth. Do not stop him who wishes to pray from praying. Let him who can reflect on this give birth to thought. All of this will no doubt help the common cause. These first lightning flashes of the religious rebirth of Europe must be clearly discerned and filled with living power. Otherwise, there will be nothing in history to compare with the drama of a whole Continent shaken to its very foundations…
Priest Andrew Phillips
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