We present below an excellent video made by Studio Joho and based on the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins.
Mr Perkins lives in hope that present-day imperialism is some kind of aberration; that we can somehow ‘return’ or ‘reform’ our way to a fairer and saner version of capitalism. This, however, is not the case. The imperialism we see today is the inevitable result of the development of the capitalism of yesterday.
Marxists long ago pointed out that humanity was faced with a choice between socialism or barbarism. There is no way back: the only way out is forward to socialism.
Captured Nazi standards are thrown down at the foot of Lenin's mausoleum by Red Army officers during the victory parade in Red Square, Moscow, 1945
9 May 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of Hitlerite fascism and the liberation of the peoples of Europe –the culmination of a titanic struggle in which the heroic Soviet Red Army, brilliantly commanded and led by JV Stalin, played the main and decisive role.
Twenty-seven million Soviet soldiers and citizens died in the battle to throw off the fascist jackboot – a power that had been brought into being and nurtured by the imperialists of Germany and elsewhere in order to crush the forces for socialist revolution that were rising across the continent.
On this momentous occasion, the CPGB-ML remembers and extends its gratitude to all those heroic men and women who fought against the most dangerous threat to the working classes and oppressed peoples of the world.
As communists, we celebrate the actions of Marxist revolutionaries and national-liberation fighters from Germany to north Africa, who led the underground resistance against the forces of reaction. Above all, we salute the courage of the Red Army – without whom the liberation of Europe would have been unthinkable.
As members of the British working class, we remember with pride our forbears, who travelled to far-off lands to fight the fascist ascendancy – starting with volunteers in the International Brigades who fought so bravely in Spain – and those who, at home, blocked at every turn the attempts by elements of our domestic ruling class to form a mass fascist organisation in Britain – at the Battle of Cable Street and elsewhere.
We also remember with pride and gratitude the earth-shaking contribution of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese popular forces, who made such great sacrifices in the battle to defeat Japanese imperialism and fascism in the East. The Chinese progressive forces lost between 20 and 25 million people in that epic struggle, and yet their contribution is hardly ever mentioned in our euro-centric narratives.
Yet, despite the decisive, unquestionable defeat of fascism in Europe and Asia in the 20th century, we must still temper our celebrations of this momentous occasion with a note of warning. While fascism in its most traditional and recognisable form might presently appear to be a marginal force in world politics, the capitalist economic crisis is creating once more the conditions for its reappearance.
And, as the imperialist powers attempt to drive east and conquer the former territories of the Soviet Union, we are seeing once again the utilisation of reactionary street forces, as well as the ideological rehabilitation of former fascist movements, along with the rewriting of history to deny both the brutality of fascism and the progressive nature of the communist and liberation forces that fought against and destroyed it.
The new drive to war against Russia and China
As the peoples of the former Soviet Union gather today to remember the tremendous sacrifices made by their forbears, it is important for us to recognise that the next war that the imperialists are planning will be aimed at just those peoples who saved us from the fascist jackboot last time around.
In their bid to save their dying and crisis-ridden system, the imperialists have identified two major obstacles to their domination of the world – anti-imperialist Russia and socialist China.
The martial rhetoric, military threats and economic warfare against both these countries is continuously emanating from the centres of imperialism, particularly from the US and Britain, and is constantly escalating in brinkmanship and hysteria. Make no mistake: we are being prepared by this avalanche of propaganda to hate these enemies of our rulers in order that we will fight in wars against them at some point in the future – or so that we will at the very least not act in any meaningful way to stop such wars taking place.
In their bid to create the conditions for a new war in Europe, our rulers are resuscitating (funding, arming, training and promoting in a myriad ways) the very forces that they pretend to abhor – the various Nazi-aligned fascist forces of eastern Europe that were vanquished by the Red Army and the popular resistance forces 70 years ago.
Moreover, in a bid to deny the pivotal role played by the communist-led forces of the Soviet Union – and to deny present-day Russians and others their share of the reflected glory – imperialism’s journalists and historians have been busy rewriting the history of WW2. So successful have they been in filling western media with such lies that the majority of respondents in a recent survey believed that the war had in fact been won by the USA!
Nothing more perfectly illustrates this phenomenon than the fact that no major newspaper raised a murmur at the exclusion of President Vladimir Putin of Russia from the 70th anniversary commemorations at the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. Gone was any reference to the fact that the camp was liberated by the Red Army, and instead we were greeted with fables about a ‘Ukrainian regiment’.
But the only ‘Ukrainian regiments’ that were put together in the war (as opposed to those Red Army regiments that happened to contain Ukrainians) were the militias of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian fascist leader, who put his anti-communist death squads at the disposal of the Nazi occupiers.
Today, hand in hand with the resuscitation of such evil men as ‘national heroes’ in the imperialist-controlled media and throughout those former Soviet territories where the imperialists are trying to gain control, has come the demonisation and even criminalisation of communist organisations and ideas.
Once again, we are living in exceedingly dangerous times, as the latest and worst-ever economic crisis of capitalism is leading our imperialist rulers to ever-more desperate measures to maintain profitability and to contain the people’s anger against poverty, privatisation and war.
Fascism and imperialism: a partnership born out of crisis
By ‘fascism’ we do not simply mean political movements that have ultra-reactionary policies or beliefs. There have been many attempts by bourgeois scholars to define fascism by certain approaches to race, nationalism, corporatism and civil rights – all of which have failed to give even a minimal working definition of fascism in a scientific sense.
This is partly due to the ideological promiscuity, eclecticism and cynical duplicity of the fascist movements in the twentieth century, which, despite their fundamental alignment, were forced to abandon their only real international conference (held in 1934 in Montreux) due to a lack of consensus on all but one issue.
In fact, the parties in attendance were unable to construct any shared policies on economics, race, national integration, women’s suffrage or labour laws. There was one thing on which they were all agreed, however – their opposition to communism and to the communist Third International.
And this is no accident. As Marxists, we understand that we need to look beyond what the fascists say about themselves and find a definition that explains objectively what are the conditions that give rise to fascism and what is the objective role that it plays – what class is serves and how it does so.
The revolutionary anti-fascist and General Secretary of the Communist International Georgi Dimitrov put it very well when he said that fascism is “the power of finance capital itself. It is the organisation of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.” (The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism, 1935)
Fascism is the response of the ruling class to the revolutionary upsurge in the working-class movement that is brought about by economic crisis. It is the naked dictatorship to which the bourgeoisie resorts when its ‘democratic’ veneer can no longer hold the people’s anger in check.
Only this definition can account for the shared international, and divergent national, policies of 20th-century fascism, and for its development out of the inter-imperialist crisis following the first world war.
Ukraine: the hydra of modern fascism
For many onlookers, routinely misinformed by the imperialist corporate media, the trajectory between what was portrayed as the Maidan ‘revolution’ in Kiev and the new government’s assaults on the civilians and militants of the Donbass seems very confusing.
It all becomes much clearer, however, once one understands that the ‘government’ now in power is, in fact, the culmination of 25 years of imperialist meddling in Ukraine. In its attempt to divide the peoples and conquer the territory of the former USSR, the imperialists have been happy to create, nurture and resuscitate nationalist and fascist forces of all stripes, providing them with funding and access to the media in order to sow confusion in the minds of impoverished Ukrainians and to encourage them to blame each other for the problems and poverty that the reinstated capitalist system has brought into their lives.
Whatever the precise shape of its previous current and future incarnations, one thing is sure: fascism is dependent on imperialism for its genesis, dependent on imperialism for its development and, ultimately, dependent on the fall of finance capital as a political force for its complete destruction. In the final analysis, there can be no defeat of fascism without a dismantling of the imperialist system and the building of socialism, and we call on all progressives and anti-fascists to join us in this world-historic task.
Once again, we pay our deepest homage and offer a red salute to those millions of brave Soviet soldiers and citizens who fought so heroically and paid so dearly to defeat the greatest army imperialism has yet assembled. Let us learn from their selfless example and join the struggle to end fascism and imperialism for good.
We reproduce this excellent article from Workers World with thanks.
Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.' Assad: 'That's not what you say when you send them my way.'
By Sarah Flounders
How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on 7 January at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of black youth in the US? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?
The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive — even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.
Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.
Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the US. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the US confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops — even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.
Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on 11 January. French, other European, US and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.
Twice, on 27 December and 4 January, thousands of police in uniform from all over the US converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car on 20 December. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The US vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.
Not a free speech issue
The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012, the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.
French law allows for the prosecution of ‘public insults’ based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.
However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted muslims or the prophet Muhammed.
In 2012, as protests swept the muslim world in response to an anti-muslim film made in the US, French interior minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, 21 September 2012)
Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, 19 September 2012)
In the same week, Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.
Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza.
France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.
It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.
Role of Nazi caricature
Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.
Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago, when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right-wing and fascist in character.
In this period, when muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilisations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer, with its vehemently anti-semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.
The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.
Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilisation. It ran cartoons demonising Serbs during the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported Nato’s attack on Libya.
No free press
Although ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the US is not free, open or accessible.
The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime.
A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the internet have opened a few tiny cracks in this overwhelming corporate control [just as small-scale people's printing presses did formerly].
The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping which lives have value and which deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.
The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by US imperialism, and with the full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled ‘collateral damage’. The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a US drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.
The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under US occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of US helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling back to kill the family who stopped their van to try to help them.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites that are supposed to be safe for civilians”. Eight media centres were targeted and bombed.
US bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 US/Nato war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.
The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the US-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.
The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticised Nato’s 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and UN resolutions.
If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.
What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, Press TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the US.
Both Press TV and Al-Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.
National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from muslim backgrounds [usually from former French colonies], although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.
Just as prisons in the US, overwhelmingly imprison black and brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are muslim, according to muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, 29 April 2008)
Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.
Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.
There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies.
We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of US, France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.
This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.
In their frantic efforts to recolonise Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organised deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the US, France and Britain.
It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa — primarily in the majority-muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.
The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from its expanding wars and increasingly militarised society. The mobilisations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.
The following statement was issued by the politburo of the Syrian Communist Party in Damascus on 24 September 2014.
Syria will not kneel down.
In the early morning of 23 September 2014, US imperialism, with its allies and agents, began hostile armed actions on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. These actions are a flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the violation of the sovereignty of independent states.
These hostile actions are being carried out under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorist organisations’. But the organisations in question were created in the laboratories of the imperialist intelligence agencies, especially those of the Britain and the US, with the active participation of the zionists. They were formed with the aim of creating a pretext for imperialist intervention and aggression against countries in the region, especially Syria, owing to Syria’s long opposition to imperialist and zionist hegemony, for which stand our people have made great sacrifices.
The experience of our people, and of the peoples of the world, absolutely proves that we are right to place no confidence in the words of the imperialists generally, and in those of US imperialism – the leader of world terrorism – in particular.
It is delusional to imagine that we will be able to neutralise the USA, which is the main enemy of our people and of the national liberation of our homeland, as well as being the enemy of the freedom of all the peoples of the world. The Syrian Communist Party calls on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks.
No pretext of US imperialism, even that of ‘fighting terrorism’, can justify the violation of our national sovereignty. Our people are struggling bravely against the terrorist gangs, and making good progress in this battle. The latest developments confirm that the brave Syrian army, which depends upon the support of the masses, is defeating the obscurantist terrorist gangs.
That is why the imperialist agencies are making a push to speed up their aggressive moves against Syria. The Syrian people will continue to fight, as they have in the past, and will courageously resist any aggression against their national independence and dignity. The victory is ours.
We confirm once again that our fight is not just a duty, but that our victory is assured, and that our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 12 January meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Fire rages at the Tazreen factory in Savar.
The exploitation of proletarians in Bangladesh, helping deliver the superprofits into which imperialism dips to buy off the labour aristocracy at home, is conducted in a more straightforwardly murderous fashion.
Documents and logos retrieved from the factory blaze that killed 112 garment workers and injured many more indicated that the sweatshop death trap was producing clothes for Walmart’s ‘Faded Glory’ line, as well as for other US and foreign companies.
November’s fire at the nine-storey Tazreen factory in Savar, north west of Dhaka, started in a warehouse on the ground floor that was used to store yarn, and quickly spread to the upper floors. Though most workers had left for the day when the fire started, 600 were still inside working overtime, and it was these who were trapped.
About a hundred died inside the building and another dozen lost their lives trying to escape from the upper storeys. One survivor, Mohammad Ripu, tried to run out of the building when the fire alarm rang but was stopped by managers, who said: “Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work.” When people ran for the exit door they found it had been locked from the outside.
Tazreen was not a one-off tragedy. Since 2005, around 700, mostly female, garment workers have perished in similar fires, revealing a systematic flouting of safety rules that amounts to a policy of calculated manslaughter.
These corporate murders, blamed on local sweatshop bosses but carried out to feed monopoly capital’s insatiable hunger for cheap labour, are inseparable from the intense superexploitation that is essential to the country’s annual export of $18bn worth of garments.
Workers are fighting back courageously against this oppression, organising strikes to demand better wages and conditions. One union leader was found tortured and killed outside Dhaka last year, but the struggle will only intensify.
The objective of the war against Libya is not just its oil reserves (now estimated at 60bn barrels), which are the greatest in Africa and whose extraction costs are among the lowest in the world, nor the natural gas reserves, of which there are estimated to be about 1,500bn cubic meters. In the crosshairs of the ‘willing’ of operation ‘Unified Protector’ there are also sovereign wealth funds, capital that the Libyan state has invested abroad.
The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) manages sovereign wealth funds estimated at about $70bn, rising to more than $150bn if you include foreign investments of the Central Bank and other bodies. But it might be more. Even if they are lower than those of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, Libyan sovereign wealth funds have been characterised by their rapid growth.
When the LIA was established in 2006, it had $40bn at its disposal. In just five years, the LIA has invested over one hundred companies in North Africa, Asia, Europe, the US and South America: holding, banking, real estate, industries, oil companies and others.
In Italy, the main Libyan investments are those in UniCredit Bank (of which the LIA and the Libyan Central Bank hold 7.5 percent), Finmeccanica (2 percent) and ENI (1 percent), these and other investments (including 7.5 percent of the Juventus Football Club) have a significance not as much economically (they amount to some $5.4bn) as politically.
Libya, after Washington removed it from the blacklist of ‘rogue states’, has sought to carve out a space at the international level focusing on “diplomacy of sovereign wealth funds”. Once the US and the EU lifted the embargo in 2004 and the big oil companies returned to the country, Tripoli was able to maintain a trade surplus of about $30bn per year, which was used largely to make foreign investments.
The management of sovereign funds has, however, created a new mechanism of power and corruption in the hands of ministers and senior officials, which probably in part escaped the control of Gaddafi himself: This is confirmed by the fact that, in 2009, he proposed that the $30bn in oil revenues go “directly to the Libyan people”. This aggravated the fractures within the Libyan government.
US and European ruling circles focused on these funds, so that before carrying out a military attack on Libya to get their hands on its energy wealth, they took over the Libyan sovereign wealth funds. Facilitating this operation is the representative of the Libyan Investment Authority, Mohamed Layas himself: as revealed in a cable published by WikiLeaks.
On 20 January Layas informed the US ambassador in Tripoli that the LIA had deposited $32bn in US banks. Five weeks later, on 28 February, the US Treasury ‘froze’ these accounts. According to official statements, this is “the largest sum ever blocked in the United States”, which Washington held “in trust for the future of Libya”.
It will in fact serve as an injection of capital into the US economy, which is more and more in debt. A few days later, the EU ‘froze’ around €45bn of Libyan funds.
The assault on the Libyan sovereign wealth funds will have a particularly strong impact in Africa. There, the Libyan Arab African Investment Company had invested in over 25 countries, 22 of them in sub-Saharan Africa, and was planning to increase the investments over the next five years, especially in mining, manufacturing, tourism and telecommunications.
The Libyan investments have been crucial in the implementation of the first telecommunications satellite Rascom (Regional African Satellite Communications Organization), which entered into orbit in August 2010, allowing African countries to begin to become independent from the US and European satellite networks, with annual savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Even more important were the Libyan investment in the implementation of three financial institutions launched by the African Union: the African Investment Bank, based in Tripoli, the African Monetary Fund, based in Yaoundé (Cameroon), and the African Central Bank, based in Abuja (Nigeria).
The development of these bodies would enable African countries to escape the control of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, tools of neo-colonial domination, and would mark the end of the CFA franc, the currency that 14 former French colonies are forced to use. Freezing Libyan funds deals a strong blow to the entire project. The weapons used by ‘the willing’ are not only those in the military action called ‘Unified Protector’.
“America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam.” (President Barack Hussein Obama, Al-Azar University, Cairo, 4 June 2009)
George W Bush embarked on the casual snuffing out of uncounted, unique, human lives in majority muslim populations, chillingly called it a “crusade”. President Barack Hussein Nobel Obama did not go that far, he left that to the French Minister of the Interior, Claude Gueant who, on 21 March, praised President Nicholas Sarkozy for having: “headed the crusade”.
For the “change we can believe in” president, reducing another ancient land of eye-watering archeological gems, massive oil and water resources and a population of six million - little more than Scotland - it is, reportedly, a “turd sandwich”.
Humanity is not “at the crossroads”. It is on the Cross, scourged, nailed (in all senses) and utterly inconsequential, in face of murdering, marauding, looting Empire.
When President Obama “updated the American people on the international effort we have led in Libya” on 29 March, he stated that: “we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges” and referred to “our interests” being “at stake”. Reluctance would be a first. America’s bombing for “interests” would be an encylopaedia.
Colonel Gaddafi, had, of course, stated the president: “denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorised innocent people around the world”. Busy man. Heaven forbid ‘Nato’s’ blitzkrieg should send the occasional shiver down a spine.
However, interestingly, at the end of March, a report was due to be presented by the UN Human Rights Council leading to a resolution commending Libya’s progress in a wide aspect of human rights. Numerous quotes from UN diplomatic delegations of many countries commented. Citations included: “achieving a high school enrolment rate and improvements in the education of women“, Libya’s: “serious commitment to, and interaction with, the Human Rights Council … enhanced development of human rights … while respecting cultural and religious traditions“.
Also mentioned was: “ … establishment of the national independent institution entrusted with promoting human rights, which had many of the competencies set out in the Paris Principles“. The country had: “become party to many human rights conventions and had equipped itself with a number of institutions, national, governmental and non governmental tasked with promoting human rights …”
The country was commended: “for the progress made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, namely universal primary education [and] firm commitment [to] health care“. There was praise for “cooperation with international organisations in combating human trafficking and corruption” and for cooperation with the International Organization for Migration.
“Progress in enjoyment of economic and social rights, including in the areas of education, health care, poverty reduction and social welfare” with “measures taken to promote transparency“, were also cited. Malaysia “Commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for being party to a significant number of international and regional human rights instruments.” Promotion “of the rights of persons with disabilities” and praise for “measures taken with regard to low income families” were cited.
In May 2010, Libya had also been voted on to the UN Human Rights Council by a veritable landslide, 155 of 192 UN General Assembly votes. As noted previously (i), Libya comes top in Africa on the Human Development Index, which measures longevity (the longest) infant mortality (the lowest) education, health services, well being. (ii)
All that said, before this publication is flooded with complaints about the writer’s naivety, ‘propagandist flights of fancy’ (an orchestrated old favourite) or whatever, some of the countries making positive recommendations regarding Libya did not have the most shining human rights records. But then the US, UK and Nato member countries pontificate from the high moral molehills of the mass graves of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, overtly, and Yemen, Somalia and other countries, covertly. And of course there are Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, rendition flights and secret torture programmes and prisons across the globe for US/UK convenience. (iii)
Further, in a train wreck of factual inaccuracies in President Obama’s speech, a (possibly) Freudian slip crept in. “Benghazi”, he said, was “a city nearly the size of Charlotte” in danger of suffering “a massacre (staining) the conscience of the world”.
A quick check shows that Charlotte, North Carolina “has a major base of energy orientated organisations and has become known as ‘Charlotte, USA - The New Energy Capital’. In the region there are 240+ companies directly tied to the energy sector … Major players are AREVA, Babcock and Wilcox, Duke Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, Fluor, Metso Power, Piedemont Natural Gas, Siemens Energy, Shaw Group, Toshiba, URS Corp and Westinghouse.The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a reputation in energy education and research and its ‘Energy Production and Infrastructure Center’ trains energy engineers and conducts research.” (Wikipedia)
Whilst many respected oil experts have argued that since so many western energy companies operate in Libya, this is not about oil, there are some points worth pondering. All companies operating in Libya must have Libyan partners, entitled to 35 percent of profits. (iv) Trading is via the Libyan Central Bank, in the Libyan Dinar, not US$. The Libyan Central Bank is also independently outside the IMF and the World Bank.
There are only five nations without a Rothschild model central bank: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Libya.
There were two others: Afghanistan and Iraq, but they were gobbled up by the international banking system within a heartbeat of the invasions.
“It has always been about gaining control of the central banking system in Libya. Oil is just a profitable side issue like every other state asset that is waiting in Libya to be privatised and sold off to multinational corporations like Bechtel, GE, and Goldman Sachs. Oil is important and it is certainly a target but it isn’t the driving force behind these global wars for profit. Banking is.” (v)
That said, as President Obama was busy being inaugurated, Colonel Gaddafi (January 2009) was mooting nationalising “US oil companies, as well of those of UK, Germany, Spain, Norway Canada and Italy”. “Oil should be owned by the state at this time, so we could better control prices by the increase or decrease in production”, stated the Colonel. (vi)
So how does the all tie together? Libya, in March, being praised by the majority of the UN for human rights progress across the board, to today being the latest, bombarded international pariah? A nation’s destruction enshrined in a UN resolution?
The answer lies in part with the Geneva based UN Watch. (vii) UN Watch is “a non-governmental organisation whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations“. With consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council, with ties to the UN Department of Public Information, “UN Watch is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee” (AJC).
Among those involved in UN Watch are Co-Chair, AJC’s David A Harris. Core values: “AJC has long believed that the development of a comprehensive US energy programme is essential to the economic and social well-being of our country.” AJC’s website is an exceptionally instructive listen and read. (viii)
Ambassador Alfred Moses, former US Ambassador to Romania, heads UN Watch. His company, Secure Energy’s mission: “Improving US energy security“, “Securing America’s energy future“. (ix)
Board Member Ruth Wedgwood is “an international law expert … at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) a former member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defence Policy Board (formerly headed by Richard Perle.)“, closely associated with “a number of neo-conservative and rightist pro-Israeli groups - including Freedom House, UN Watch and Benador Associates - a neo-con dominated public relations firm“. She “has been a vocal advocate of the war on terror … strong defender of the Patriot Act and decision to invade Iraq“. (x)
Executive Director Hillel Neuer has served as law clerk to the Supreme Court of Israel, is a Graduate Fellow at the Shalem Center think tank and holds a host of law degrees. In addition to extensive human rights legal advocacies and testimonies, as associate in the international law firm of Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison llp (New York), “He was associate in the legal team that successfully represented Raytheon Company in various claims against Hughes Electronics Corporation.” Neuer was also instrumental in achieving victory for the California Public Utilitites Commission in: “various disputes with Pacific Gas and Electric Company“. (xi)
Speakers at events hosted by the company have included Hillary “I met the rebel leader in Paris” Clinton (xii) and Vernon Jordan, former political advisor to Bill “I would be inclined to arm the rebels” Clinton. (xiii)
UN Watch’s relentless campaign “to remove Libya from the Human Rights Council” began in May 2010, “working closely with Libyan dissident Mohamed Eljahmi“. (vii) Mr Eljahmi is “a Libyan/American human rights activist. He is a co-founder and former Communication Officer of American Libyan Freedom Alliance. ALFA was founded 2003 to help educate and inform US government and media about Libya. Mr Eljahmi actively educates and informs US government, national and international media and NGOs about Libyan affairs.” (xiv)
An aspect of especial ire for UN Watch has been Libya’s place on the five-member investigation by the Human Rights Council into the use of mercenaries. Given their woeful excesses from Blackwater’s (now Xe) shoot-ups to CACI’s man-management at Abu Ghraib (then there’s Paravant, an Xe subsiduary at Bagram; Guantanamo and KBR), it is a supreme irony that UN Watch’s cry of “foul” over Libya has won out, while the US’s place on the council is unsullied. (Libya was suspended from the Human Rights Council on 25 February this year.) And did Libya employ ‘black African mercenaries’, to fight the rebels? In the fog of disinformation, certainties are scarce, but it is a story which would seem to be unravelling.
Then there is the water. Gaddafi’s project to make Libya’s vast desert bloom has been dubbed by some “The eighth wonder of the world.” A succinct overview cites: “the large quantities of water in Libya deep beneath the desert … Libya’s Great Man-Made River Project. A project worth 33 billion dollars. The value of the small reservoirs is about 70,000,000,000,000 dollars.” (xv) When the project was announced in September 1991, London and Washington were reported to be “ballistic“. At a ceremony attended by Arab and African heads of state, foreign diplomats and delegations, including President Mubarak of Egypt, King Hassan of Morocco, Gaddafi called it a gift to the Third World. He also said: “American threats against Libya will double.” (xvi)
Looking at the all, it is impossible not to think the truth of an attack of over thirty nations on a country of six million is buried deeper than Libya’s aquifers. ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ was well named. An odyssey indeed. Odysseus’s tortured journey lasted ten years.
Libyan rebels in Benghazi said they have created a new national oil company to replace the corporation controlled by leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose assets were frozen by the United Nations Security Council.
The Transitional National Council released a statement announcing the decision made at a 19 March meeting to establish the “Libyan Oil Company as supervisory authority on oil production and policies in the country, based temporarily in Benghazi, and the appointment of an interim director general” of the company.
The council also said it “designated the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and the appointment of a governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi“.
And of course, given Israel’s chronic water shortage, Libya’s abundant underground blessings, and the close geographical proximity of the two countries, there might be other regional advantages mooted in regime change.
In a previous article I pointed to three factors to explain the West’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya to prevent the government there from putting down an armed rebellion while it tacitly approves the Gulf Cooperation Council’s military intervention in Bahrain to put down a peaceful rebellion there. The double-standard, I argued, reflects dramatic differences between Libya and Bahrain in their relationship with the United States and its dominant investor and corporate class.
Bahrain is the home of the US Fifth Fleet, has long-standing warm relations with Washington, and strongly caters to western corporate and investor interests. Since the Khalifa regime supports US corporate profit-making and military interests, and a new regime might not do the same to the same degree, Washington is prepared to allow Saudi and other GCC troops and tanks to assist Bahraini authorities in violently quelling a peaceful rebellion.
Libya, I pointed out, doesn’t provide bases for the US or other western militaries, hasn’t had long-standing warm relations with Washington, and isn’t particularly accommodating of western corporate and investor interests. From a neo-colonialist standpoint, western powers could do better in Libya.
Some readers objected, arguing that in recent years Libya has sought to open itself to western corporations and investors and has struck a number of deals with western oil companies. It cannot be concluded, they continued, that the West’s decision to intervene military in Libya was motivated by western profit-making considerations, for Libya is already catering to western business interests.
To be sure, Libya has opened itself to the West, but doing deals with western corporations is not the same as engineering a wholesale subordination of domestic interests to those of foreign bankers and corporations — typically, what corporate-and investor-oriented western governments look for in third-world ‘partners’. For the wealthy scouring the globe for investment opportunities and corporations seeking export markets, an opening door in Libya doesn’t necessarily mean that Libya’s business climate is fully conducive to maximising profits.
That Libya allows some western corporations to operate in the country doesn’t guarantee that investments are safe from expropriation, that performance requirements aren’t imposed on foreign investments, that repatriation of profits isn’t controlled, that taxes aren’t high, or that there is a commitment to labor market ‘flexibility’. In short, the Gaddafi government may, in recent years, have sought to expand western access to investment opportunities in Libya, but that alone doesn’t mean that the conditions of access were regarded by corporations and investors as being as desirable as they could be, or as desirable, for example, as those provided by the government of Bahrain, or a desirable as those a future government might provide.
The Heritage Foundation provides a guide to how accommodating countries are to the profit-making interests of US corporations and investors. Every year the foundation publishes an Index of Economic Freedom, which ranks countries on how open they are to exports and foreign investment, how low their taxes are, how committed they are to protecting property rights, and so on; in short, how strongly a country favors foreign businesses and investors over its own people.
Significantly, governments that are perennially targets of US government regime change efforts rank at or near the bottom of the index. This year’s list identifies the following 10 countries as the least economically free (ie, least accommodating to foreign businesses), in order, from worst to slightly better:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Seven of the bottom 10 (North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela, Myanmar, Libya and Iran) are the targets of open regime change operations by the United States and its allies, carried out ostensibly because the targeted countries are not protecting human rights, threaten regional stability, or in the case of Libya, because the government is said to be attacking its own people.
That these countries happen to be considered the least accommodating of foreign business profit-making points to an ulterior motive on the part of western governments to bring about regime change, and to use human-rights and humanitarian rhetoric as a cover for pursuing the economic interests of western corporate and investor elites.
Significantly, not one country in the top 10 is a target of western regime change efforts. If regime change were linked to human-rights concerns and not unfavorable investment and export conditions, we might expect to find regime change targets scattered throughout the rankings, rather than bunched up at the bottom.
One counter-explanation is that economically free countries tend to respect human rights, which is why the worst offenders on both counts are found at the bottom of the list. However, this couldn’t possibly be true, for the United States, which has an atrocious human rights record (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture and rendition of prisoners, arrest and detention without charge, extrajudicial assassination, weakening of Miranda rights, spying on its own citizens, restrictions on travel to Cuba, and so on) ranks as the ninth freest country in the world in economic terms, and Saudi Arabia, the least free country in terms of political and civil liberties and perhaps the most contemptuous of human rights, ranks in the top half.
Bahrain, as it turns out, is ranked number 10 of 179 countries on the Heritage Foundation list, next to the United States. Regionally, Bahrain is top ranked in North Africa and West Asia, while Libya, ranked 173 over all countries, falls dead last in regional rankings.
Bahrain’s higher ranking is based on an array of government policies aimed to please foreign businesses. Property ownership is secure and expropriation is unlikely, whereas in Libya foreign companies are vulnerable to expropriation. Bahrain welcomes foreign investment and allows new businesses to be 100 percent foreign owned and controlled, while Libya screens foreign investment, imposes performance requirements on foreign investors that domestic investors are not required to meet, and demands that Libyans have a 35 percent stake in foreign companies that operate in the country. And while Bahrain imposes no restrictions on repatriation of profits, Libya does.
On trade, Bahrain imposes few restrictions on imports, while Libya maintains a variety of tariff and non-tariff barriers to help local firms develop. With the exception of oil companies, businesses that operate in Bahrain pay no corporate tax, while businesses in Libya are subject to a tax rate as high as 40 percent. Personal income tax is extremely low in Bahrain, but can reach as high as 90 percent in Libya. And while Bahrain provides businesses maximum flexibility in dealing with employees, even allowing them to pay desperation-level wages, Libya demands that businesses meet minimum standards on pay and working conditions.
In short, the Bahraini monarchy runs a foreign-investment- and import-friendly regime, while Libya’s economic policies favour local investors and businesses and provide a minimal standard of protection for labor. A government that was more like Bahrain’s, and less like Gaddafi’s, would unquestionably be congenial to foreign business interests.
Heritage Foundation's 2011 evaluation of economic freedom in Bahrain and Libya
Some readers contend that western military intervention in Libya is aimed at preventing the slaughter of Libyan civilians. But a stronger case can be made that western military intervention is aimed at regime change, and that, far from protecting civilians, Nato bombing is only setting the stage for a prolonged civil war by weakening loyalist forces and thereby allowing the rebels to contest for power.
There are a number of reasons why the Nato operation in Libya can be seen as a regime change effort, apart from the motivation of replacing the current government with one more congenial to western profit-making interests, as discussed above.
First, the decision of the French government to recognise the rebel opposition as the legitimate government was a declaration that France, at least, is manoeuvring to install a new government in Libya. (1) Indeed, both France and Britain have acknowledged that they are seeking the ouster of Gaddafi. (2)
Second, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton said “Gaddafi’s ouster was the ultimate goal of the UN resolution” (3), and while US president Barack Obama denied this, he did say that the military “campaign will likely continue as long as Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is in power”. (4) If the intervention’s goal is to protect civilians and not install a new government, how can the aims of France and Britain and the comments of Clinton and Obama be reconciled?
Third, Washington hopes that sanctions “combined with Nato air power, will be enough to turn the tide militarily”. While the UN Security Council resolution authorises the use of military means to protect civilians, it doesn’t authorise the use of military means to aid rebel forces. Yet newspapers on 23 March 2011 were full of stories on how fresh airstrikes were allowing rebel forces to recover lost ground. For example, the Wall Street Journal commented that,
“The hope for the West is that a continuation of military pressure on Col Gaddafi’s forces, even at somewhat lower levels in coming days, combined with continued forward movement by the rebels, will be enough to make the Libyan army either buckle or turn on the Libyan leader. That would produce the outcome the West hopes for – the removal of Col Gaddafi.” (5)
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that “the airstrikes have lifted the rebels back from the brink of defeat in the eastern city of Benghazi and enabled them to rush west along the coast past their farthest gains of the previous peak weeks ago”. (6)
It is clear that the intention of the military intervention, which was authorised when the rebels’ defeat by loyalist forces was imminent, was to weaken the government side to allow the rebels to rally and seize the momentum. This hardly favors a quick resolution of the conflict. The conflict could go on for some time, perhaps taking more lives than would have been lost had the UN sent a fact-finding mission in return for a cease-fire, or had loyalist forces successfully put down the uprising weeks ago.
The potential for the conflict to drag on, fuelled by the aid Nato provides the rebels through its airstrikes, was acknowledged by US secretary of defense Robert Gates. The Pentagon boss said “he couldn’t be sure Nato would have finished its mission by year-end”. (7)
The idea, then, that the UN Security Council authorised military intervention to protect civilians has no substance. Furthermore, the idea that the intervention is protecting civilians, whether that is the real intention of the intervention or not, seems unlikely, since the outcome so far has been to create the conditions for a protracted civil war – one moreover, that will be worsened by civilian deaths caused by Nato bombing on behalf of rebel forces.
If the rebel forces prevail and extend their control to all of Libya, or eventually settle for partition of the country, we can expect the economic policies of the future government to be closer to those of Bahrain, and therefore closer to the profit-making interests of western corporations and investors. In this sense, the UN Security Council, and the military operation it authorises, can be seen as investments in making Libya a more attractive place to do business in.
Finally, it might be pointed out, as Johnstone has, (8) that the Gaddafi government has invested a considerable part of its oil revenues in sub-Saharan Africa, contrary to the usual practice among Arab oil states of shipping the proceeds of their oil sales to New York investment banks, the London stock exchange, and US arms manufacturers. These practices are more conducive to western business interests than Gaddafi’s investments in Africa, and might be expected to become the standard practice in Libya if the rebel movement succeeds in ousting Gaddafi.
1. ‘Why are they making war on Libya?’ by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 24 March 2011
2. ‘Obama bets on limited engagement’ by Jay Solomon and Carol E Lee, Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2011
3. ‘Allies rally against Gadhafi’ by Keith Johnson, Yaroslav Trofimov and Sam Dagher, Wall Street Journal, 19 March 2011
4. ‘Allies strain to mend split’ by Nathan Hodge, Sam Dagher, Stephen Fidler and Stacy Meichtry, Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2011
5. ‘Fresh airstrikes aid rebels’ by Sam Dagher and Stephen Fiddler, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2011
6. ‘Libyan rebels march toward Qaddafi stronghold’ by David D Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim, New York Times, 27 March 2011
7. ‘Fresh airstrikes aid rebels’ by Sam Dagher and Stephen Fiddler, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2011
8. ‘Why are they making war on Libya?’ by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 24 March 2011