Reporting by the U.S. news services frequently takes China to task for its strict preventative measures imposed to prevent Covid-19 infection. Reports point to economic instability and people’s distress supposedly generated by this uncompromising attitude. The slant of New York Times reporting, which skirts over Chinese lives saved, earned a sharp rebuke on September 9 from the fair.org website, a self-styled “national media watch group.”
Reporter Jim Naureckas imagines the lament of Times writers that, “China has hadtheenormous misfortune of avoiding mass death.” He is sarcastically contrasting lives saved in China with lives unnecessarily lost in the United States, where Covid-19 deaths now exceed one million. He reminds us that China now exceeds the United States in life expectancy.
U.S. reporting on the downhill turn of U.S. life expectancy is
fertile ground for the emergence of press bias that agrees with establishment leanings.
The U.S. government recently released statistics indicating that U.S. life expectancy at birth is now 76.1 years That’s a return to the life expectancy level of 1996. The 2021 figures, down from 77.0 years in 2020 and from 78.8 in 2019 represented the greatest multi-year life expectancy decline in 100 years. Life expectancy for men in 2021 was 73.2 years. That level signified an unprecedented male-female gap of almost six years.
U.S. press coverage of bad news on life expectancy barely mentions international comparisons and neglects the political and economic context of the drop in life expectancy.
Reports in the Washington Post, New York Times, and elsewhere have identified adverse biological or medical phenomena. They point to suicides, alcoholism and drug- overdose victims – “diseases of despair” – and spotty distribution of healthcare services. The reporting attributes the life-expectancy decline mostly to excess deaths from Covid-19 infection.
In explaining deaths during the pandemic, The New York Times and Washington Post focus on disaster befalling indigenous peoples in the United States. The combined male-female life expectancy of indigenous peoples as of 2021 registers at 65.2 years. Indigenous deaths rates have recently exceeded those of white people by a factor of 10.
These articles, and others throughout the period of the pandemic, have pointed to the particular risk Covid 19 infection poses for non-white populations. Press reports have cited Black and Hispanic mortality rates that are from two to four times higher than those for white people. Reports have leaned on public health data showing that “communities of color” had suffered from much chronic illness beforehand that compound difficulties in recovering from Covid-19 infection.
Reporters have described medical care for these chronic diseases as poorly accessible or of low-quality. They imply that racism is the factor that largely accounts for the increased Covid-19 death rates among ethnic minorities. If so, getting rid of racial oppression would be the best way to reduce human loss from the pandemic and restore decent life-expectancy figures.
The reports also cast blame for Covid-19 deaths on unhealthy living habits, environmental pollution, and access to guns. Recent articles attribute now deceasing death rates from Covid-19 among Black people to protective actions taken by people themselves (not government action). The Times article, seemingly alone, does mention “a fragmented, profit-driven health care system.”
Otherwise, inquiry into the nature of U.S. healthcare is missing. Unsurprisingly, there are no calls for universal access to healthcare, improved preventative care, additional first-contact care providers, removal of financial barriers, and higher quality of care. Lacking too is discussion of steps taken on behalf of education, housing, adequate nutrition, and safe retirement; all of these, taken together, promote good health.
Not much appears about the disjointed, inaccessible, unavailable care for illnesses, chronic or otherwise, that white people may experience together with Black people. The overall emphasis in the reporting is the special vulnerably of non-white people and, recently, the apparent role of racism in accounting for lowered life expectancy.
There is silence on social class. Seemingly alone among the major U.S. media, Newsweek highlighted the contrast between reduced U.S. life expectancy and Chinese and Cuban gains. The 2021 life expectancy of both countries, 78.2 years and 79 years, respectively, was higher that year than that of the United States
China and Cuba are socialist countries that redistributed wealth and opted for working-class political power. U.S. media and elected officials are reluctant to acknowledge successes of socialist countries, that by nature are oriented toward the good of working people.
Writing in 1991, Vicente Navarro, public policy and public health expert, notes that “class is rarely discussed in the scientific and mainstream media in the United States.” He adds that, “even if blacks and whites died at the same rates, most blacks would still have higher mortality rates.”
“The United States is one of the very few countries that do not include class in its national health and vital statistics. It collects health and vital statistics by race and gender but not by class, even though, as I have shown, class mortality differentials are far larger than race or gender differentials. Class discrimination is the most frequent and least spoken of type of discrimination in the United States.”
Navarro’s remarks provide perspective to the biases in press coverage that are described here. Presumably press silence on developments in which working people have a stake does suit opinion-shapers for whom red-scare is a time-tested tool. Anti-Cuban sentiment and China bashing may play a role, but those postures too may stem from red-scare. Navarro has the last word: “The capitalist class is extremely powerful.”
The heroic journalist John Pilger once explained that, “Journalists can help people by telling the truth, or by as much truth as they can find, and acting not as agents of governments, of power, but of people.” He asked recently: “do we live in a Media Society where brainwashing is insidious and relentless, and perception is filtered according to the needs and lies of state and corporate power?”
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.
E. Martin “Marty” Schotz, M.D., Veteran Activist, U.S. Peace Movement
Our friend Marty Schotz was interviewed August 18, 2022 by Abhishek G. Bhaya of the China Global Television Network, for which Bhaya is a “senior journalist and international affairs commentator.” Schotz lives in Western Massachusetts and is a peace activist and retired physician.
What follows is Schotz speaking uninterruptedly for a little over four minutes. A video presentation of the interview appears here, along with an accompanying article. The link for the article is here.
Prospects for World Peace
I don’t see China as a threat to the American people. As for the peace movement, part of its responsibility is to explain to people that these ideas that Russia and China are threats to us are untrue. We, the common people, are not being represented with this “us” that they are referring to. The ‘us” that is being represented are corporations and rich people, and not ordinary people.
All this talk of democracy, autocracy — it’s all a Cold War narrative, which is created to justify militarization. And there is no future for mankind in militarization. The only future for mankind is in disarmament and cooperation to deal with protecting the environment.
People speak of a “new cold war.” I don’t think old Cold War ever ended. I think it quieted down. And as long as Russia was not asserting itself internationally, things were quiet. But the institutions and all the foundations that were behind the Cold War never went away when the Soviet Union disappeared. They stayed.
Another problem area is the idea that war begins with weapons going off. That’s a mistake. The Cold War is part of the hot war. And when it comes to nuclear weapons, the last thing that will happen is nuclear weapons going off. We have to realize that what is going on is part of a war. Right now. And we have to oppose all of it.
So the minute Russia and China emerged as significant major powers, you then see Cold War institutions re-emerging. Former CIA analyst -turned-political activist Ray McGovern talks about what he calls the MICIMATT – the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-think tank-complex. That’s what we are dealing with. It’s enormous.
War is a process, and peace is a process, and actually these are two processes that are simultaneously competing with each other. This is critical.
Peace is a process of understanding and respecting the other, seeing what their concerns are, finding agreements of mutual benefit. That’s the peace process. And anything that is creating the image of enemies or demonizing other people or other leaders: that is part of war. That is war-making. Of course, it’s extremely dangerous in the present circumstances.
Therefore, what I advocate is that our representatives take a peaceful position and not get caught up in this. And you know I would hope that other powers would not be unnecessarily drawn into conflict and not react to the situation, and, as much as possible, not play into them, not play into the narrative that’s being structured by war forces and Cold War forces. They should keep on articulating what people’s real needs and interests are, because there is, for example, genuine concern in the United States amongst the population about what’s happening to the environment. That is a very significant issue.
If China and other countries in some way could communicate to the American people that they too have the same understanding, then there would be this common concern that from my point of view would be part of a peace process, which would be countering the war process.
E. Martin Schotz, is a retired physician, a Board member of Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, and a member of Massachusetts Peace Action.
Abhishek G Bhaya is a senior journalist and international affairs commentator. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
Children born in socialist Cuba and China can expect to live longer than children born in the capitalist United States. | AP photos
To extend a population’s life expectancy at birth (LEB) requires capabilities that are scarce in the United States. The U.S. LEB has fallen in the recent period, quite abruptly. Meanwhile, life expectancy in China and Cuba continues its long-term rise. To understand why we should explore nations’ varying capabilities to achieve social change and promote social gains.
Medical and sociological causes of death that relate to life expectancy and are specific to the United States will not be explored here. A subsequent report will cover that ground.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics on Aug. 31 set U.S. LEB for 2021 at 76.1 years, the same figure as in 1996. The decline from 77.0 years in 2020 and from 78.8 in 2019 was the greatest continuous U.S. fall in LEB in 100 years. Life expectancy for men in 2021, 73.2 years, represented an unprecedented male-female gap of almost six years (increased male mortality is routine).
Life expectancy for people in Cuba and for China now exceeds that for people born in the United States. Cuba’s LEB rose from 57.6 years in 1950 to 79 years in 2021—an advance of over 21 years. In those years, China’s LEB moved from 43 years to 78.2 years—a 35.2-year increase—and LEB for Americans rose by 7.9 years. The Cuban and Chinese achievements of drastically improving life expectancy in a few years and from very low levels are remarkable.
Policies put in place following the two countries’ socialist revolutions led to wide-ranging social initiatives that are protective of all people’s lives and, incidentally, crucial for long life expectancy. Capitalist governments, less oriented to social change, are prone to tolerating gaps in social development.
The two socialist countries pursued particular objectives to achieve social gains. Specifically, they have endeavored to establish working-class political power, promote decent and healthy lives for all working people, eradicate major economic inequalities, and build unity.
Some capitalist countries have also attempted to fulfill a few of these objectives when under left-wing governance, with mixed success. A look at how well they may have succeeded, and at some of the consequences when they have not, may shed light on the failings of capitalist states to support the lives of their people, particularly the U.S.’ failure to sustain a LEB that in 2020 was already lower than that of 53 other countries.
The subject of providing social support is, of course, vast. On that account, the discussion here pays more attention to health care and less to other areas. It draws on the insights of Vicente Navarro, professor of public health and public policy at universities in Baltimore and Barcelona.
As regards working-class political power, Navarro maintains that “countries with strong labor movements, with social democratic and socialist parties…have developed stronger redistribution policies and inequality-reducing measures…. These worker-friendly countries consequently have better health indicators [including LEB] than those countries where labor movements are very weak, as is the case in the United States.”
Navarro blames the lack of universal health care in the United States, unique among industrialized nations, on the lack there of a strong labor movement and/or a labor or socialist party. Political power exerted by the organized working class in industrialized nations may vary, but it almost always exceeds workers’ power in the United States, where statistical markers of health outcome are decidedly less favorable.
The political weakness of the organized workers’ movement in the United States is clear. “The working class,” Navarro writes in 2021, does not appear anywhere in the Cabinet nor the Senate, and only appears in the House with an extremely limited representation of 1.3 percent.” Most “members of these institutions belong to the corporate class, closely followed by upper-middle class.” He condemns the “privatization of the electoral process,” in which “there is no limit to how much money can go to the Democratic or Republican party or their candidates.”
Decent and healthy lives are far from routine in capitalist countries, where poor health is associated with low social-economic status. Navarro reports that, in the United States, the “blue-collar worker has a mortality rate from heart conditions double that of the professional class. Mortality differentials by social class are much larger in the United States than in Western Europe.”
He notes that “top level British civil servants live considerably longer than do lower level ones,” and that “members of the [Spanish] bourgeoisie…live an average of two years longer than the petit bourgeoisie…who live two years longer than the middle class, who live two years longer than the skilled working class, who live two years longer than members of the unskilled working class, who live two years longer than the unskilled [and unemployed] working class.”
Alienation under capitalism exacerbates health problems. According to Navarro, “the distance among social groups and individuals and the lack of social cohesion that this distance creates is bad for people’s health and quality of life.” The social isolation he describes adds to challenges faced by social support systems and detracts from the usefulness of interventions.
Attempts by capitalist countries to remove wealth inequalities, especially in the health care arena, show mixed success. As commercialization of healthcare advances, difficulties mount. As the result of profit-taking in that sector, society-wide inequalities are aggravated, and working people lose equal access to quality care.
And yet some form of public overview of, or support for, health care sectors is more or less routine in the various capitalist countries. In many, public authorities operate and pay for hospitals, nursing homes, staffing, drugs, equipment, and training. But the infiltration of market prerogatives and privatization in the health care systems of richer countries now threatens long established goals of accessible health care for all.
In Europe, austerity campaigns under neoliberal auspices have led to cutbacks in publicly provided care. Privatization inroads blunted the institutional response in Europe to the COVID-19 pandemic. Investor groups have been eyeing the hospital and nursing home sectors as profit-making opportunities. According to the Lancet medical journal, privatization within the British National Health Service contributed to an increase in preventable deaths from all causes between 2013 and 2020.
The United States is the poster child of war in defense of privilege. There are stories, from health care:
In 2020 salary and benefits for William J. Caron, Jr., CEO of MaineHealth, a major care provider in the author’s locality, were $1,992,044; for Richard W. Petersen, Maine Medical Center CEO, they were $1,822,185. A commentator notes that “Hospital CEOs are compensated primarily for the volume of patients that pass through their doors—so-called “heads in beds.” Average annual income for U.S. primary care physicians was $260,000 in 2021; for specialists, $368,000.
According to bain.com, “Medtech companies are among the most profitable in the healthcare industry, with margins averaging 22%…profit pools [will] grow to $72 billion in 2024.” And “HME (home medical equipment) retail companies average 45 percent gross profit margin (GPM).”
Researchers found that between 2000 and 2018, the “median annual gross profit margin” (gross profit is revenue minus costs) of 35 pharmaceutical companies was 39.1% higher than that of 357 non-pharmaceutical companies. The CEOs of three major pharmaceutical companies” increased their wealth by “a total of $90 million” in 2018. As for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers: “Moderna’s and BioNTech’s 2021 net profit margins reached 66% and 54%, respectively.”
The matter of creating unity to establish socialism and arrange for the common good needs little comment. Unity within society is a near impossibility under capitalism, inasmuch as divisions there are inherent to a world of greed and individualism. Meanwhile, China, opting in favor of life, put on a magnificent display of socialist unity as its people grappled with the pandemic.
The government imposed strong preventative measures and accepted the inevitability of economic disruption and loss. China’s COVID-19 mortality rate is 1.07 deaths per 100,000 persons. Its U.S. counterpart never seemed to choose and, that way protected economic growth. The U.S. COVID-19 mortality rate is 319.59 deaths per 100,000 persons.
It is important, finally, to lay to rest any suggestion that the riches of the United States and other capitalist nations automatically enable them to offer long life expectancies. Individualized entitlement to wealth is basic to how they operate, and that’s a contradiction and an obstacle.
A society aiming to pursue social initiatives that are comprehensive and directed to all population groups equally is a society that has to redistribute wealth. Wealth redistribution is the necessary adjunct to the objectives already discussed. The message here is that capitalist-inspired measures don’t make the grade and that socialist programs, as in Cuba and China, do work and do offer the promise of decent and secure lives to entire populations.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.
Queen Elizabeth II in Barbados on November 1, 1977. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images/Black Agenda Report)
Originally published in Black Agenda Report, 09.14.2022
It is vital to free ourselves from belief in the systems of white supremacy and imperialism that are inculcated in the educational system and are affirmed and amplified by the media and establishment opinion. The recent death of Queen Elizabeth II puts the need for political and psychological liberation in high relief. We are encouraged to admire an anachronistic monarchy, and are exhorted to join in mourning an individual and a system that have caused great harm to Black and other oppressed people around the world.
It is important to point out that British prime ministers are heads of government while the monarch is head of state. Elizabeth bore responsibility for every UK government action during her 70-year long reign. The concentration camps and torture in Kenya during the independence struggle were her responsibility. So was the U.S. backed decision to undermine the commonwealth nation of Australia, and dispatch Gough Whitlam, the elected prime minister, who strayed too far from the imperialist consensus. The Windrush scandal which deprived Caribbean immigrants of their rights happened under her reign, as did Britain’s invasion of Iraq and support for the destruction of Libya.
Yet anyone who questions the monarchy’s role as part of the western axis of domination is rarely given access to media, making it difficult to be free of propaganda that is used to elicit fealty to monarchs, presidents and the people and institutions who empower them. From childhood we are taught that invaders of other nations, enslavers, and colonizers are worthy of respect and admiration. Centuries of criminality are passed off as benign and we are admonished to remember that the criminals in question were “products of their time” and are to be thought of with fond reverence.
The corporate media didn’t begin lionizing the queen of England just this week. Her private life and that of her ancestors are the stuff of endless histories that permeate popular culture. Eras in British history are directly identified with past monarchs and called Elizabethan or Victorian or Edwardian. The idea that Americans should also be interested in the royals is the result of heavy-handed indoctrination.
This columnist was the recipient of a Eurocentric education, beginning with an emphasis on European history in high school. College continued this unstated belief in the superiority of the people being studied, that is to say white people who either were from the ruling classes or worked to further their interests. History lessons were full of emphasis on the blood lines of monarchs, and stories of which king or queen did what to whom were staples of the curriculum. It is a somewhat interesting factoid that the monarchs of Great Britain, Russia and Germany in the early 20th century were all related but that information doesn’t reveal anything about the causes of World War I. The lede was buried under historical fluff but teachers and professors don’t announce that they are brainwashing students.
Of course that is why the very deliberate confusion continues. The narrative that the U.S. and Britain have a “special relationship” is based on manufactured sentimentality rather than the fact that the founding state acts in concert with its settler colony. The indoctrination process can be like a sledgehammer, as it will be for the next few days, but can also be more subtle. None of my teachers said that the deaths of white people were worse than the deaths of people of color, but the only time I heard the word genocide in a classroom was if the Nazi killings of Jewish people were discussed. I was taught nothing of Belgian King Leopold’s personal theft of the Congo’s resources or of the killing of some 15 million people there. Nor was the word genocide used to describe the trans-Atlantic slave trade or chattel slavery as practiced throughout the Americas or the deaths by invasion, slaughter, and disease of indigenous people which also took place in this hemisphere. The elevation of one group as the sole victims of genocide and the erasure of others as not being worthy of the designation sends a subtle message that seeps into the mind and is imprinted in memory.
Decolonization is hard work and serious business. It requires a rejection of what passes for news and conventional wisdom. Of course, its meaning can be changed at an opportune moment, as recently happened when the neo-conservative fantasy of breaking up Russia was reimagined as decolonization. That sort of trickery is proof that political education is key.
Our political education must take place within revolutionary educational structures. If it doesn’t, we will believe that World War II started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It actually began in 1937 when Japan attacked China. What ought to be a simple and commonly known fact is lost because white supremacy centers the European experience. When we learn new information and unlearn falsehoods, the process of decolonizing begins. At that point no one has to direct us to ignore royal weddings or funerals or unveilings of Barack and Michelle Obama’s new portraits. We know the truth and free ourselves from believing in state propaganda.
Decolonized people know that the prestigious universities they are told to admire receive funds from the Defense Department and the military industrial complex. They know that think tanks that are treated as oracles not to be questioned are also an extension of the state. Corporate media are also compromised. The publisher of the Washington Post played a key role in Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s plan to control the media. Of course the current owner, Jeff Bezos, has CIA contracts through Amazon so little has changed. The decolonized know that the media act as scribes for police departments as much as they do for the state department.
Most importantly, radical and independent media, like Black Agenda Report, are a must for anyone who wants to free their thinking. BAR is one of the few publications, even left publications, which seriously analyzed the NATO attack on Libya, or the coups against the people of Haiti, or the U.S. role that began the current crisis in Ukraine. Reading BAR on a regular basis is an antidote to mental colonization.
So beware when a narrative is spun 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In all likelihood it is one that must be opposed, and in the best decolonized fashion possible.
Sign reads: “Banks are not innocent in our misery.”
Originally published in Canadian Dimension, 09.15.2022
A popular uprising has paralyzed life in much of Haiti. While police are violently suppressing protesters, don’t expect Canadian officials to criticize security forces they fund.
Major centres across Haiti have been blocked for days. Protesters want foreign appointed leader Ariel Henry to go. They are angry about insecurity and the cost-of-living. Stoking the growing protests, the government ended a fuel subsidy on Monday that will have a broad economic implication.
In response to the strikes and marches, as well as some property destruction and looting, foreign embassies and banks have closed. The Dominican Republic reportedly sent special forces to Haiti on Thursday.
On Wednesday in the southern city of Les Cayes protesters held a casket draped with the U.S., French and Canadian flags and a picture of prime minister Henry. After President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated fourteen months ago the Core Group (representatives of U.S., Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, EU, UN and OAS) effectively appointed Henry to lead the country.
Since the U.S., France and Canada overthrew thousands of elected officials and instigated a UN occupation, Haitians have regularly targeted Ottawa at marches. Previously, protesters have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, as well as burned tires, in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Millions of Haitians clearly view Canada as an imperialist force.
As part of its influence Ottawa has devoted significant political capital and resources to the Haitian police. Since the 2004 coup Canada has spent hundreds of million dollars on the Haitian police. Last month the federal government approved the export of Canadian-made armored personnel carriers to the Haitian police. Canadian ambassador Sébastien Carrière recently boasted about Canada spending $30 million on the Haitian police in 2022 and Ottawa is leading the push for the United Nations basket fund to assist the Haitian police.
On Tuesday in Port-au-Prince police shot towards a journalist and when he complained one of the officers walked over and shot him. With video of the incident, BNN Canada reported,
Police open fire on a journalist who states, ‘I’m the press!’ during protests in Haiti’s capital. A police officer approaches and shoots him in the stomach with a handgun hidden behind his riot shield.
But don’t expect ambassador Carrière to criticize this incident or any other police violence. Over the past few weeks, the Haitian police have killed a number of protesters and beat many others with no comment from Canadian officials. Almost without fail Canadian officials have stayed mum about Haitian police repression. Instead, Canada’s ambassador to Haiti regularly tweets about supporting the police.
Recently Carrière tweeted about Haitian police Chief Frantz Elbé addressing the UN and about RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Duheme meeting Elbé. Last week Carrière also retweeted a Miami Herald article about the Haitian police and a few days earlier an Alterpresse story on the same subject.
Canada has chosen a side and it’s not the long-suffering Haitian people. Ottawa has trained and funds police to maintain its chosen leader, Ariel Henry, in office.
Canada’s actions speak loud and clear: ‘We support police violence. Popular uprising be damned. Democracy be damned. Non-interference in other country’s affairs be damned.’ Ottawa is sticking to its guns. Literally.
Originally published in Socialist Voice on September 5, 2022
The recent visit of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan has sharply increased the prospect of war in the region.
The Chinese government and people strongly believe Taiwan to be their territory; and the no. 3 official in the U.S. government visiting Taiwan is a clear provocation.
Taiwan was invaded by Dutch colonists in 1624, only to be repulsed in 1662 by the Chinese national hero Zheng Chenggong. Taiwan became a full province in Qing Dynasty China in 1885. Ten years later the then Qing government lost Taiwan in a war with imperialist Japan. The Japanese were sold weapons by the United States with which to do this.
After the surrender of the Japanese following the Second World War, the Republic of China continued its war against the Chinese communists, who would go on to defeat the nationalist KMT and proclaim the People’s Republic in 1949, thus bringing to an end the Chinese Civil War.
Efforts to defeat the remaining KMT forces on Taiwan were delayed by the U.S. aggression in Korea, with hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers engaging American and other troops; and by the time the Korean War ended the United States had deployed forces to prevent the communists entering Taiwan. This would later increase to tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and nuclear weapons, on the territory.
The present entity known as the “Republic of China” had China’s seat at the United Nations until 1971, when the People’s Republic was recognised by the international community as the true representative of the Chinese people, with even the United States opening diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979—and, in the process, abandoning its military presence in Taiwan.
It was clear that the Taiwan authorities could not seriously claim to represent the Chinese people. Their case only weakened further after China’s “Reform and Opening Up” led to its economic boom and corresponding improvement in the PRC’s global standing. Taiwan remained a dictatorship under the KMT until the late 1980s, with underlying tensions between the mainland KMT elite who arrived in 1949 and those who had emigrated from Fujian province over the centuries. During its rule the KMT brutally suppressed communists and leftists.
After so-called “democratisation” a variety of political forces emerged in Taiwan. These included, for the first time, pro-independence forces, and even some who wanted Taiwan to become the 51st state of the United States! Chief among these was the Democratic Progressive Party, the present ruling party in Taiwan, which is pro-secession.
In recent decades the Taiwan authorities have promoted a distinct “Taiwanese” identity, and political leaders have endorsed abandoning the One China principle.
Of course Taiwan will never be an independent state. Firstly, the PRC has stated that a declaration of independence would force it into military action to retake the territory. Secondly, a hypothetical “independent” Taiwan would essentially be a colony of the United States: its fate would be much the same as U.S. military colonies in Guam, Hawaii, and Okinawa.
Hawaii was a sovereign state until the United States invaded and annexed it in 1895. It is now the site of the U.S. army’s Pacific Command. Okinawa, a part of the Ryukyu Islands, was independent until invaded by Japan in 1879 and then occupied by the United States after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War. Today, while Okinawa only makes up 1 per cent of Japan’s territory, it has 70 per cent of the U.S. military presence in Japan.
In Okinawa alone, more than 576 American military personnel have been arrested for serious crimes, such as murder and rape. No wonder that these bases are sites of regular protests.
The People’s Republic and Taiwan enjoyed developing relations up to very recently, with students from both travelling to attend university, and tourists going on holiday. Taiwan is dependent on the mainland’s economy for its own economic development.
The PRC has offered reunification under the “One Country, Two Systems” model, similar to Hong Kong and Macau. This would bring Taiwan into the People’s Republic as an autonomous region, keeping its own political-economic system for now.
China’s recent military exercises, which surrounded the territory of Taiwan, show that the United States cannot prevent China taking military action should the situation continue to deteriorate. The United States has given Taiwan $70 billion in military aid since 1979. It is clear that U.S. imperialism is intent on provoking the Chinese leadership, despite the Chinese having the military advantage when it comes to the region around Taiwan.
The desire of China’s people to reunify with Taiwan needs no justification for an Irish audience, given our own situation in a country partitioned by external forces. The United States is making a mistake in not concentrating on its own problems rather than meddling in China’s internal affairs, as a defeat against China—coming so soon after the war in Ukraine and the withdrawal from Afghanistan—would show U.S. imperialism to be just a paper tiger.
Friedrichstrasse, bisected by the Berlin Wall, in 1961. Operation Red Sox dropped 85 CIA agents into Soviet-controlled territory to gather intelligence about Moscow’s plans. [Source: politico.com]
Originally published in CovertAction Magazine on September 12, 2022
t takes a musical artist to cut through the morass of propaganda to educate American mainstream media (MSM) about the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the roleof the United States in instigating that conflict for its own nefarious ends.
The MSM have constructed an undiluted narrative about “Putin’s War” that disguises America’s imperialist expansion into eastern Europe. It is utterly Orwellian in its effort to project onto Russia what the U.S. and its main imperial ally, the UK (which a British journalist deemed “America’s tugboat”), have been doing non-stop since 1945—and indeed for centuries.
Looking back, the U.S. under Truman began the policy of turning enemies (Germany, Japan) into friends and friends (the important war-time alliance with the USSR) into enemies. The CIA, established in 1947, was the main clandestine instrument of this policy, working closely with the neo-Nazi Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) to carry out acts to sabotage, divide and destabilize the Soviet state.
The OUN, in particular the faction led by the German ally Stepan Bandera and his second in command, Yaroslav Stetsko, OUN-B, was a violently anti-semitic, anti-communist, and anti-Russian organization, which collaborated with the Nazi occupation and actively participated in the slaughter of millions of Poles, Ukrainian Jews, and ethnically Russian and Ukrainian communists in the region. Nonetheless, TheWashington Post treated Stetsko as a national hero, a “lonely patriot.”
The OUN-German alliance in 1941 was backed by the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches. The latter’s archbishop, Andrey Sheptytsky, penned a pastoral letter that declared: “We greet the victorious German Army as deliverer from the enemy. We render our obedient homage to the government which has been erected. We recognize Mr. Yaroslav Stetsko as Head of State … of the Ukraine.”
On the occasion of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the OUN put up posters in the western Ukrainian city of Lvov that read: “Do not throw away your weapons now. Take them in your hands. Destroy the enemy.…People! Know! Moscow, Poland, the Hungarians, the Jews are your enemies. Destroy them!…Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes! Glory to the Leader! [Bandera]”
Notably, this call for ethnic cleansing does not cite the Germans then occupying Ukraine, yet the fascist and neo-Nazi propagandists who are waging a war in the Donbas region today portray their forebearers as heroes for having defended Ukrainian nationalism from the Soviets and Germany. The Pentagon successfully pressed Congress to lift restrictions on training and providing military assistance to groups, such as the Azov Battalion, that are based on fascist or neo-Nazi ideology.
As in the past, U.S. foreign policy is prepared to accommodate such sectors within its circle of allies. On December 16, 2021, a draft resolution of the UN General Assembly was listed as “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
It passed by a recorded vote of 130 in favor (mainly the Third World, constituting the large majority of the world’s population), 51 abstentions (mainly the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada), and two opposed, the two being Ukraine and the United States. The Western European countries that Hitler conquered and occupied would not condemn present-day manifestations of Nazism and fascism.
Harry Truman, infamously declared as a senator in 1940 in response to Operation Barbarossa that “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible.” This showed what little regard he had for the Russian and other Soviet people—which became more evident when he became president.
During his tenure in the White House, the U.S. helped rebuild the industrial capacity of Western Europe (in large part to prevent communists and socialists from winning elections), but he also launched a war on North Korea, destroying virtually every structure in the country through bombing, including incendiary and napalm weapons.
He initiated the Cold War, massively escalated the military budget, organized NATO, and used atomic weapons on civilian populations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in large part to block the allied Soviets from gaining territory in Japan in the last days of the war.
Perhaps Truman’s most destructive initiative was the creation of the CIA, a monster that he later claimed got out of hand, telling a friend “I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo, ”though as president he supported its clandestine activities in Eastern Europe.
The immediate target was Soviet Ukraine, which the CIA hoped through its clandestine projects to “crack apart” with saboteurs behind enemy lines.
Its task was a carry-over from the World War II covert action agency, the OSS, which had worked with partisan groups resisting the Nazi occupation. In Ukraine, the U.S. simply flipped the enemy by supporting Nazi insurgent organizations fighting the Soviet Union, the country that had just saved Europe from the scourge of Hitler’s Third Reich.
The CIA’s plan, part of its “stay behind” operations in Central and Eastern Europe, was to airdrop Ukrainians from the ultra-nationalist groups, in particular OUN-B, that would involve the smuggling of weapons, the uses of covert communication transmissions, spies, commandos, banditry, assassins and sabotage.
A declassified secret CIA history shows that the Agency refused to extradite the OUN war criminal Bandera to the Soviets in order to keep the underground movement and the destabilization efforts in Ukraine intact.
Instead, two branches of the CIA, the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) for covert operations and the Office of Special Operations (OSO) for clandestine projects for which the U.S. government provided cover, both protected the OUN and worked closely with the anti-Soviet Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) “for psychological warfare activities directed against Polish, Czechoslovakian, and Romanian targets bordering Ukraine.”
OPC and OSO “agree[d] that the Ukrainian organization [Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation], the governing body of the OUN, offers unusual opportunities for penetration of the USSR, and assisting in the development of underground movements behind the Iron Curtain.”
The CIA operation was codenamed PBCRUET-AERODYNAMIC, based on a top-secret document dated June 17, 1950.
The OUN party congress in August 1939 called for an “ethnically uniform” state, a concept that escalated after 1941 with its commitment to a “cleansing operation against all enemies of the race.” Ukraine’s Jews, numbering about 1.5 million, were virtually annihilated by the Germans, aided by OUN’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Ukrainian police, and by ordinary Ukrainian citizens. OUN was made up of a range of Ukrainian fascists, Nazis, and other extreme elements but also included Slovak Hlinka Guards, Ukrainian SS from the 14th Grenadier Waffen-SS (Galicia) Division, and mercenary German SS.
After the war, the U.S. saw no problem with working closely with Stetsko who, in his own biography (1941), wrote: “I consider Marxism to be a product of the Jewish mind, which has been applied in the Muscovite prison of peoples by the Muscovite-Asiatic people with the assistance of Jews. Moscow and Jewry are Ukraine’s greatest enemies and bearers of corruptive Bolshevik international ideas.… I therefore support the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating Jewry to Ukraine, barring their assimilation….”
Neither his madness, nor the Nazi death camps, nor the three million Russian POWs who died in concentration camps nor the utter barbarity of the German and allied invasions changed the course of U.S. official thinking about how high-ranking Nazis and fascists could be useful to America’s war with Soviet socialism. Stetsko was given a broad welcome in Washington, where he was fêted by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush as an esteemed leader of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which originally was a Nazi German formation (noted by Stephen Dorril), and permanent ABN delegate to the World Anti-Communist League.
By the early 1950s, after parachuting 85 agents into Ukraine, three-quarters of them captured, the CIA conceded that the project was a dismal failure. This did not deter the cold warriors from using regime-change mercenaries elsewhere, including the failed Bay of Pigs a decade later. With the Ukrainian insurgent movement crushed, many of the Banderites, including Mykola Lebed, one of the founders of the OUN and a lieutenant of Bandera trained by the Gestapo in ruthless methods of torture, became émigrés.
Lebed, who had served as the organization’s foreign minister and head of its notorious secret police, was described by the U.S. Army as a “well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans.” He migrated to Munich after the war, where he played an important role in the newly formed and secretly CIA-run Radio Free Europe, the U.S.-funded propaganda organ that transmitted to Eastern Europe. RFE was joined by Radio Liberty (also run by the CIA and directed to the Soviet Union) and the Voice of America in not only broadcasting propaganda but also for relaying one-way coded messages to “stay behind” saboteurs.
During the war, Lebed was said to have been a good pupil and favorite of the German Gestapo. Afterwards, relocated in Munich, Lebed enjoyed the patronage (as did Bandera) of Nazi intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen, who himself had close operational relations with the CIA.
Gehlen later became head of West German intelligence, employing the Nazis he had worked with during the war, and helping the CIA by sharing information on Eastern Europe. When Lebed fell out with the post-war OUN-B in Germany, the CIA smuggled him and many other Ukrainian ultra-nationalists to the U.S.
With the endorsement of CIA Director Allen Dulles, Lebed worked in New York City (and lived in affluent Westchester County) under a false name as an anti-Soviet intelligence asset and was given citizenship. The far-right Ukrainians then and now have long been instruments of a Cold War policy. “Former members of the Ukrainian underground now in the United States,” the CIA wrote in a top-secret 1950 document, “will be exploited to the fullest extent practicable.”
In the early Cold War years, there were hundreds if not thousands of Nazis, including such war criminals as SS officer Otto von Bolschwing (a leading organizer of the Final Solution and an adjutant of Adolf Eichmann), brought into the U.S. from Germany, Ukraine, the Balkans, the Baltic states, and Byelorussia.
Also among them was Adolf Heusinger, “one of the many high-ranking Nazi and fascist officials who had been integrated into U.S. military and intelligence networks.” Heusinger had been Hitler’s Chief of the General Staff of the Army, and in 1961-1964 was appointed as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, so fluid was the transition from being a high-ranking Nazi to becoming a military commander of the “Free World.”
Meanwhile, Bandera’s demand for total control of the OUN led to friction within the Germany-based fascist leadership. By 1950, the U.S. and UK were planning joint operations into Ukraine, but the CIA at that point decided to work more closely with the ZP/UHVR (foreign representation of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council, the umbrella organization of all right-wing nationalist formations), while the British MI6 took on Bandera as their chief contact among the Ukrainians.
When Bandera was assassinated in 1959 after the U.S. refused to extradite him to the Soviet Union for war crimes, Stetsko took over the OUN.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. thought it at last had Russia in its grasp. Under the autocratic, vodka-driven rule of Boris Yeltsin in Russia, the U.S. was invited in to guide a neoliberal “shock therapy” program, which resulted in the complete destruction of the Russian economy.
American-style capitalism created a severe depression with massive unemployment, falling wages, loss of pensions, oligarchs taking over formerly state-owned industries, increased inequality and poverty, rising alcoholism, and a significant decline in life spans.
Although Yeltsin put up some resistance, the Clinton administration had its way in expanding NATO into Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, a violation of agreements made between George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev on not expanding the military organization “one inch” to the east. This false promise was supposed to be a concession to the Soviets for not blocking German reunification and its NATO membership.
Henceforth, this began a steady progression of NATO enlargement, which certified Ukraine as a future member and a de facto associate member and brought arms deliveries, weapons training, and coordinated war games with the Ukrainian army in anticipation of a war with Russia—along with bank accounts for cooperating Ukrainian politicians.
Vladimir Putin proved to be a far superior Russian leader, turning around the economy, reining in many of the oligarchs, and restoring confidence in the Russian state. In Ukraine, the U.S. saw an opportunity in the 2004 presidential election to pull Ukraine away from the influence of Russia.
Along with visits to the country by high-level officials, the U.S. intervened by using several other channels, including the regime-change organizations, National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, Freedom House, George Soros’s Open Society Institute (now Foundations), and the ever-present CIA, to block the election of Russia-leaning Viktor Yanukovych and install a pro-American neo-liberal Viktor Yushchenko as president.
With U.S. help, Yushchenko prevailed but failed miserably as president. The fire alarm went off again for the U.S. in 2010, when Yanukovych was elected president. By then, Yushchenko was fully discredited as a leader, receiving only 5.5% of the first-round vote, thereby eliminating him. The U.S. has had a hard time picking winners.
The 2013-2014 anti-government protests, which started out peacefully in Kyiv’s Maidan (square), was urged on by visits to the streets by the U.S. undersecretary of state and regime change specialist, Victoria Nuland, who repeatedly met with coup plotters. Joining her were Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), who stood on a platform in the square with the neo-Nazi leader Oleh Tyahnybok to offer America’s support, presumably without formal authorization, for the illegal overthrow of Yanukovych.
This time the CIA was more fully involved in getting rid of the Russia-leaning president and very likely helped prepare the extreme right militia groups that took part in the sniper shootings and massacres of police and protesters in the Maidan, which forced Yanukovych to flee. The New York Times falsely attributed the shootings to his government. This set off resistance in the heavily Russophone Donbas region to the overthrow, which in turn was met by an assault by the Kyiv coup government and the deaths, up to 2022, of 14,000 soldiers and civilians.
In interviews with European reporters in June 2022, Petro Poroshenko, who was a regular informant at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv before he was sponsored by the U.S. to become president in 2014, said that while in office, he signed the Minsk agreements with Russia, France and Germany and agreed to a cease-fire merely as a ploy to buy time in building up the military and preparing for war. “Our goal,” he said, “was to, first, stop the threat, or at least to delay the war—to secure eight years to restore economic growth and create powerful armed forces.”
The Propaganda War
President Biden and other public officials have repeatedly used the phrase “unprovoked attack” to characterize Russia’s motivations as nothing more than territorial aggression. Such claims are made without credible evidence, as if the invocation of the name Putin is enough to establish any statement about him or the Russian state as proof by its mere utterance.
The problem, as many observers have noted, is that the mainstream media serve as little more than a national and international graphic transmission and amplification tool of the state and ruling-class consensus. This, of course, is nothing new, as more than 400 journalists from the MSM were discovered to have served as the eyes and ears of the CIA during much of the Cold War, as reported by Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. There is evidence that at least some journalists continue to act as messengers for the Agency.
Those Washington Beltway insiders have problems understanding what constitutes provocation. The expansion of hostile U.S. and NATO forces and war games carried on to the gates of Russia, including the plan to add Ukraine and Georgia to the list of members, are clearly provocations. And if Biden’s memory is at all intact, he will remember how the Kennedy administration treated the presence of a single Soviet military base in the Western Hemisphere (in Cuba) as a threat to U.S. security. In that case, the Soviets had the good sense to back off.
The Maidan coup in 2014, which even the U.S. puppet president Poroshenko admitted was unconstitutional (i.e., illegal) and the subsequent banning of the Russian language and call for a general ethno-cleansing in public institutions and media by his government were provocations. So too were the military assaults in the Donbas region, instigated by the U.S.-armed and -trained neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, starting in 2015. Just prior to the Russian invasion, Kyiv put a massive formation of troops on the border with the breakaway oblasts, Donetsk and Luhansk.
The secession of Kosovo, following 78 days of U.S. bombing of Russian ally Serbia, had Washington’s full support and for Russians served as a precedent for the Crimea breakaway. Prior to the Russian invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky launched authoritarian purges of opposition parties that were accused of giving voice to Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Poroshenko and Zelensky refused to abide by the Minsk agreements. These too were provocations.
Indeed, the 75-year history of U.S. efforts to destroy the sovereignty of the Soviet and Russian states is an unending provocation. The U.S. and NATO aggression against Russian allies in Syria and Serbia (and China) and the “color revolutions” in Belarus, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet region and the expanding list of sanctions against Russia are further forms of aggression. The amnesia of the MSM in this recent history would be difficult to comprehend were it not for the understanding that they in fact serve as instruments of state propaganda, what Louis Althusser called ideological state apparatuses.
As Noam Chomsky expressed it: “It’s quite interesting that in American discourse, it is almost obligatory to refer to the invasion as the ‘unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.’ Look it up on Google, you will find hundreds of thousands of hits. Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion.” If Chomsky is not convincing enough, perhaps the U.S./NATO warmongers might heed Pope Francis, certainly no Russophile, who ascertained that the invasion is the result of “the barking of NATO at the gates of Russia…. I can’t say if it was provoked, but perhaps, yes.”
The deluge of MSM propaganda against Russia and the embargo of voices that question the official story regarding the 2014 coup and the Russia-Ukraine conflict expose U.S. democracy as a model not worthy of emulation. There are few if any authoritarian states where suppression of news is of such magnitude and so institutionally entrenched as in the U.S.
Elsewhere, I have discussed the wide presence of former military and intelligence officials with ties to defense industries populating the broadcast and cable news channels as “expert analysts,” and the uses of white supremacist ideology by MSM reporters to depict displaced Ukrainians as a special group of “worthy victims.”
A central feature of the MSM reporting and celebrity culture has been the portrayal of Zelensky as a “hero,” selflessly defending Ukraine against tyranny. The hero image in America is an old trope taken from a long line of such larger-than-life military exemplars that include John Wayne’s characters in World War II, the construction of the Vietnam war criminal into “war hero” John McCain, the chicken hawk Ronald Reagan, Rambo, the Indian killer Daniel Boone, and so many others.
Propaganda is now openly a major part of the U.S. war arsenal, and the government does little to hide the fact. Apart from the massive arms shipments the U.S. and NATO allies are supplying Ukrainians to kill domestic and foreign Russians, some 150 American and other global PR firms, according to PRWeek, including a British company with close ties to the ruling Conservative Party, have offered to supply Ukraine with propaganda tools—weapons of mass deception.
At the same time, there has been close to no reporting on Zelensky’s less than sterile record on corruption, an endemic problem for Ukraine, which is ranked the by U.S.-, UK- and corporate-funded Transparency International as the most corrupt country in Europe. Apart from failing to bring down the oligarchs who rule the country (50 of whom hold 45% of the country’s wealth), including his own patron, the corrupt and U.S.-sanctioned Ukrainian-Israeli-Cypriot billionaire Igor Kholomoisky, Zelensky himself has been exposed in the Pandora Papers as a goniff, with millions stashed away in offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands and in properties in London. His shuttering of the entire political, media and intellectual opposition makes it difficult for Ukrainians to get wind of his less-than-heroic financial machinations.
Exposure of these realities in the U.S. and UK social media or in books and journals leads to being labeled a Russian “bot” or “Putin’s useful idiot.” Perhaps the most authentic useful idiot is Russiagate Rambo Adam Schiff, Democrat from California and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who on the occasion of the Trump impeachment hearings in January 2020, said, “We fight Russia over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”
This is what passes for intelligence in Congress.
One must take seriously the insight of German political theorist Carl Schmitt, who argued that powerful nation states need to have enemies in order to define who they are, and that their “political actions and motives can be reduced to the distinction between friend and enemy.” For Schmitt, the “enemy” need not be construed as evil, but for the U.S., the enemy is always embedded with religious notions of immorality.
Schmitt ultimately lent his intellect to the service of the Third Reich, but the U.S. itself confirmed by its early “stay behind” actions in Ukraine and other parts of Europe that it was prepared to adopt some of the same tactics, if not ideology, of their Nazi recruits.
Constructing the Soviet Union, later Russia, as an enemy had at least three utilities: creating a national threat to divert public attention from the massive inequities within the corporate capitalist economy; justifying the building of a national security (police, imperialist) state and empire, built upon a military-industrial-media complex, with an extraordinary level of military spending as a hedge against depression; and organizing a broad propaganda complex modeled on the Office of War Information in World War II to maintain the legitimacy of the state as a moral force in a world threatened by evil leaders who seek to take away Americans’ freedom.
In reality, it is the U.S. itself which is stripping the country of its vaunted “four freedoms” and denying other countries, particularly in the Third World, of their independent paths to development and freedom.
The main point of the anti-imperialist argument is not to defend the war in Ukraine but to look more deeply into its causes. The U.S. has long been a highly militarized society and indeed has been out of war for only15 years of its existence.
And when the U.S. is not directly invading (into 84 countries to date), it sponsors invasions and coups against countries that run against its strategic interests (Chile, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Yemen, Brazil, Argentina, Angola, Venezuela, D. R. Congo, Gaza, Greece, Ecuador, Ghana and many others).
The Ukraine crisis is also a sponsored war, as Kyiv’s assault on the Donbas region is ultimately in the U.S. interest, as its resources, including a “highly developed coal industry, ferrous-metallurgy industry, machine building, chemical industry, and construction industry, enormous energy resources, diversified agriculture, and a dense transportation network” are lusted over by transnational capital and finance.
Beyond Ukraine lies the vast territory of Russia and untold wealth of energy, strategic minerals, and other resources that call out to a globally expansionist and militarist corporate capitalist system like the U.S. There are certainly ways out of the present crisis in Ukraine, but they require the neutralization of the country and its conversion to a demilitarized state that, with the U.S. alliance, respects and enforces the rights and equality of its ethnic Russian population.
The West also has to acknowledge on some level Russia’s legitimate security interests, which have become compromised by the horde of NATO forces far too close to its borders. The concept of state security is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and the avoidance of an even larger catastrophe requires that the U.S. act in compliance with UN dicta for peace and remove its obstacles to a negotiated settlement, which is in the long-term interest of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world.
Members of Veterans for Peace rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Letter to President Biden from Gerry Condon, former president of Veterans For Peace.
Dear President Biden,
I am writing you as a proud member of Veterans For Peace and its former president. We have been following the war in Ukraine closely, since well before the Russian invasion on February 24 of this year. We were alarmed when you and President Obama supported the regime-change coup in Ukraine in 2014, which was openly cheered on by the State Department’s Victoria Nuland, and spearheaded by self-described Nazis.
We watched in horror as those same self-described Nazis set fire to an Odessa union building full of Ukrainians who were protesting a new law outlawing the Russian language as an official language of Ukraine. 50 people were burned alive or shot and beaten to death. This in a country with a long history with Russia and millions of Russian speakers.
Appalled at the aforementioned atrocities, the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine declared their independence from Ukraine, and were soon attacked by Nazi militias. These self-described Nazi militias were then incorporated into the Ukrainian army, and the attacks continued. By the time that Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 of this year, 14,000 Ukrainians had already been killed in that terrible civil war.
Russian president Putin repeatedly warned and almost begged the US and NATO: Do not push your hostile military forces any further onto Russia’s borders. Taking Ukraine into NATO would cross a serious “red line.” Russian troops then massed along the border with Ukraine, in a clear show of force.
Mr. President, you might have stopped this war from happening merely by announcing that Ukraine would not become part of NATO and that you would end the militarization of Ukraine. You could have accepted President Putin’s offer to negotiate a new security arrangement in Europe. We looked on in disbelief as you rather cavalierly brushed aside Russia’s legitimate concerns. It looked like you were saying, “Bring it on!”
Well, Russia brought it on. We were horrified by the Russian invasion as well as by your response. You armed Ukraine to the teeth and fanned the flames of war. Ukraine (and the Black market in Europe) is now awash with high-tech US weaponry. A full-on war has killed many thousands of civilians, made millions homeless, and destabilized much of the world. We are now facing economic disasters and fearing the all-too-real possibility of nuclear war. Why?
As veterans who have experienced the carnage of war, we are concerned about the young soldiers on both sides who are being killed and injured in the tens of thousands. We know all too well that the survivors will be traumatized and scarred for life. These are additional reasons why the Ukraine war must end now.
We ask you to listen to veterans who say “Enough is Enough—War is Not the Answer.” We want urgent, good faith diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine, not more US weapons, advisors, and endless war. And certainly not a nuclear war.
It is not too late to do avoid further disaster, Mr. President. It is never too late to do the right thing. Show us a Profile of Courage and save the world from World War III, a war that could literally destroy human civilization as we know it. You must distance yourself from the neocons and weapons manufacturers who are giving you terrible advice. You must reverse course now. Drop the weapons and embrace diplomacy. For the sake of Ukraine. For the sake Russia, Europe and the United States. For the sake of the all the peoples of the world.
Negotiate, Don’t Escalate!
Gerry Condon, former president VETERANS FOR PEACE
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Gerry Condon is a Vietnam-era veteran and former president of Veterans For Peace.
“Fight Poverty Not the Poor.” (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Despite the encouraging policy-making that hit the headlines this summer, America remains a significant sacrifice zone with economic policies that justify their painful impact on the poor and marginalized as necessary for the greater good.
In the American ethos, sacrifice is often hailed as the chief ingredient for overcoming hardship and seizing opportunity. To be successful, we’re assured, college students must make personal sacrifices by going deep into debt for a future degree and the earnings that may come with it. Small business owners must sacrifice their paychecks so that their companies will continue to grow, while politicians must similarly sacrifice key policy promises to get something (almost anything!) done.
We have become all too used to the notion that success only comes with sacrifice, even if this is anything but the truth for the wealthiest and most powerful Americans. After all, whether you focus on the gains of Wall Street or of this country’s best-known billionaires, the ever-rising Pentagon budget, or the endless subsidies to fossil-fuel companies, sacrifice is not exactly a theme for those atop this society. As it happens, sacrifice in the name of progress is too often relegated to the lives of the poor and those with little or no power. But what if, instead of believing that most of us must eternally “rob Peter to pay Paul,” we imagine a world in which everyone was in and no one out?
In that context, consider recent policy debates on Capitol Hill as the crucial midterm elections approach. To start with, the passage of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) promises real, historic advances when it comes to climate change, health care, and fair tax policy. It’s comprehensive in nature and far-reaching not just for climate resilience but for environmental justice, too. Still, the legislation is distinctly less than what climate experts tell us we need to keep this planet truly livable.
In addition, President Biden’s cancellation of up to $20,000 per person in student loans could wipe out the debt of nearly half of all borrowers. This unprecedented debt relief demonstrates that a policy agenda lifting from the bottom is both compassionate and will stimulate the broader economy. Still, it, too, doesn’t go far enough when it comes to those suffocating under a burden of debt that has long served as a dead weight on the aspirations of millions.
In fact, a dual response to those developments and others over the past months seems in order. As a start, a striking departure from the neoliberal dead zone in which our politics have been trapped for decades should certainly be celebrated. Rather than sit back with a sense of satisfaction, however, those advances should only be built upon.
Let’s begin by looking under the hood of the IRA. After all, that bill is being heralded as the most significant climate legislation in our history and its champions claim that, by 2030, it will have helped reduce this country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% from their 2005 levels. Since a reduction of any kind seemed out of reach not so long ago, it represents a significant step forward.
Among other things, it ensures investments of more than $60 billion in clean energy manufacturing; an estimated $30 billion in production tax credits geared toward increasing the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, and more; about $30 billion for grant and loan programs to speed up the transition to clean electricity; and $27 billion for a greenhouse gas reduction fund that will allow states to provide financial assistance to low-income communities so that they, too, can benefit from rooftop solar installations and other clean energy developments.
The IRA also seeks to lower energy costs and reduce utility bills for individual Americans through tax credits that will encourage purchases of energy-efficient homes, vehicles, and appliances. Among other non-climate-change advances, it caps out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, reduces health insurance premiums for 13 million Americans, and provides free vaccinations for seniors.
As the nation’s biggest investment in the climate so far, it demonstrates the willingness of the Biden administration to address the climate crisis. It also highlights just how stalled this country has been on that issue for so long and how much more work there is to do. Of course, given our ever hotter planet and the role this country has played in it as the historically greatest greenhouse gas emitter of all time, anything less than legislation that will lead to net-zero carbon emissions is a far cry from what’s necessary, as this country burns, floods, and overheats in a striking fashion.
Pipelines and Sacrifice Zones
Earlier iterations of what became the IRA recognized a historic opportunity to enact policies connecting the defense of the planet to the defense of human life and needs. Because of the resistance of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, as well as every Senate Republican, the final version of the reconciliation bill includes worrying sacrifices. It does not, for instance, have an extension or expansion of the Child Tax Credit, a lifeline for poor and low-income families, nor does it raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even though that was a promise made in the 2020 election. Gone as well are plans for free pre-kindergarten and community college, in addition to the nation’s first paid family-leave program that would have provided up to $4,000 a month to cover births, deaths, and other pivotal moments in everyday life.
And don’t forget to add to what’s missing any real pain for fossil-fuel companies. After all, coal baron Manchin seems to have succeeded in cutting a side deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for a massive natural gas pipeline through his home state of West Virginia and that’s just to begin a list of concessions. Indeed, the sacrificial negotiations with Manchin to get the bill passed ensured significantly more domestic fossil-fuel production, including agreement that the Interior Department would auction off permits to drill for yet more oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and possibly elsewhere, all of which will offset some of the emissions reductions from climate-change-related provisions in the bill.
It’s important to note as well that, although progress was made on reducing fossil-fuel emissions, expanding health care, and creating a fairer tax system, for the poor in this country, “sacrifice zones” are hardly a thing of the past. As journalist Andrew Kaufman suggests, “One thing that does seem assured, however, is that the arrival—at last—of a federal climate law has not heralded an end to the suffering [of] communities living near heavy fossil-fuel polluters.” And as Rafael Mojica, program director for the Michigan environmental justice group Soulardarity, put it, the IRA “is riddled with concessions to the big carbon-based industries that at present prey on our communities at the expense of their health, both physically and economically.”
Keep in mind that Michigan is already anything but a stranger to sacrifice zones. Case in point: the water crisis in the city of Flint as well as in Detroit. The Flint Democracy Defense League and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have battled lead-poisoning and water shut-offs for years in the face of deindustrialization and the lack of a right to clean water in this country. Such grassroots efforts helped sound the alarm during the Flint water crisis that began in 2014 and have since linked community groups nationwide dealing with high levels of toxins in their water supply so that they could learn from that city’s grassroots organizing experience. Meanwhile, so many years later, Michiganders are still protesting potential polluters like Enbridge’s aging Line 5 oil pipeline.
And there are many other examples of frontline community groups protesting the ways in which their homes are being sacrificed on the altar of the fossil-fuel industry. Take, for example, the communities in the stretch of Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that contain hundreds of petrochemical facilities and has, eerily enough, come to be known as Cancer Alley. There, among a mostly poor and Black population, you can find some of the highest cancer rates in the country. In St. James Parish alone, there are 12 petrochemical plants and nearly every household has felt the impact of cancer. For years, Rise St. James and other local groups have been working to prevent the construction of a new plastics facility near local schools on land that once was a slave burial ground.
Then, of course, there are many other sacrifice zones where the issue isn’t fossil fuels. Take the city of Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County, Washington, once home to a thriving timber and lumber economy. After its natural landscape was stripped and the local economy declined, that largely white, rural community fell into endemic poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse. Chaplains on the Harbor, one of the few community organizations with a presence in homeless encampments across the county, has now started a sustainable farm run by formerly homeless and incarcerated young people in Aberdeen as part of an attempt to create models for the building of green communities in places rejected by so many.
Or take Oak Flat, Arizona, the holiest site for the San Carlos Apache tribe. There, a group called the Apache Stronghold is leading a struggle to protect that tribe’s sacred lands against harm from Resolution Copper, a multinational mining company permitted to extract minerals on those lands thanks to a midnight rider put into the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015. Along with a growing number of First Nations people and their supporters, it has been fighting to protect that land from becoming another sacrifice zone on the altar of corporate greed.
On the east coast, consider Union Hill, Virginia, where residents of a historic Black community fought for years to block the construction of three massive compressor stations for fracked gas flowing from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Those facilities would have potentially subjected residents to staggering amounts of air pollution, but early in 2020 community organizers won the fight to stop construction.
Consider as well the work of Put People First PA!, which, in Pennsylvania communities like Grant Township and Erie, is on the tip of the spear in the fight against an invasive and devastating fracking industry that’s ripping up land and exposing Pennsylvanians to the sort of pollutants that leaders in Union Hill fought to prevent. Note as well that, in many similar places, hospitals are being privatized or shuttered, leaving residents without significant access to health care, even as the risk of respiratory illnesses and other industrially caused diseases grows.
Such disparate communities reflect a long-term history of suffering—from the violence inflicted on indigenous people, to the slave plantations of the South, to the expansion (and then steep decline) of industrial production in the North and West, to pipelines still snaking across the countryside. And now historic pain inflicted on low-income and poor Americans will increase thanks to a growing climate crisis, as the people of flooded and drinking-water-barren Jackson, Mississippi, discovered recently.
In a world of megadroughts, superstorms, wildfires, and horrific flooding guaranteed to wreak ever more havoc on lives and livelihoods, poor and low-income people are beginning to demand action commensurate with the crisis at hand.
Dark Clouds Blowing in from the “Equality State”
While reports on the passage of the IRA and student debt relief dominated the news cycle, another major policy announcement at the close of the summer and far from Capitol Hill slipped far more quietly into the news. It highlights yet again the “sacrifices” that poor Americans are implicitly expected to make to strengthen the economy. Just outside of Jackson, Wyoming, one of the wealthiest and most unequal towns in this country, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell committed his organization to take “forceful and rapid steps to moderate demand so that it comes into better alignment with supply and to keep inflation expectations anchored.”
Couched in typically wonkish language, his comments—made in the “equality state”—may sound benign, but he was suggesting capping wages, an act whose effects will, in the end, fall most heavily on poor and low-income people. Indeed, he warned, mildly enough, that this would mean “some pain for households and businesses”—even as he was ensuring that the livelihoods of poor and low-income people would once again be sacrificed for what passes as the greater good.
What does it mean, for instance, to “moderate demand” for food when more than 12 million families with children are already hungry each month? It should strike us as wrong to call for “some pain” for so many households facing crises like possible evictions or foreclosures, crushing debt, and a lack of access to decent health care. It should be considered inhumane to advocate for a “softer labor market” when one in three workers is already earning less than $15 an hour.
It is disingenuous to say that the economy is “overheating,” as if what’s being experienced is some strange, abstract anomaly rather than the result of decades of disinvestment in infrastructure and social programs that could have provided the basic necessities of life for everyone. Nonetheless, Powell continues to push a false narrative of scarcity and the threat of inflation to smother the powerful resurgence of courageous and creative labor organizing that we’ve seen, miraculously enough, in these pandemic years.
At this point, as a pastor and theologian, I can’t resist quoting Jesus’s choice words in the Gospel of Matthew about how poor people so often pay the price for the further enrichment of the already wealthy. In Matthew 9, Jesus asserts: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The Greek word “mercy” is defined as loving kindness, taking care of the down and out. In Jesus’s parlance, mercy meant acts of mutual solidarity and societal policies that prioritized the needs of the poor, which would today translate into cancelling debts, raising wages, and investing in social programs.
Despite the encouraging policy-making that hit the headlines this summer, America remains a significant sacrifice zone with economic policies that justify their painful impact on the poor and marginalized as necessary for the greater good. It’s time for us to fight for a comprehensive, intersectional, bottom-up approach to the injustices that continually unfold around us.
A Venezuelan couple use the Francisco De Paula Santander Bridge to cross between Urena, Venezuela, and Cucuta, Colombia, Aug. 6, 2022. | Matias Delacroix / AP
Colombia’s new president Gustavo Petro wants peace. Colombia’s military, the largest in Latin America, except for that of Brazil, stands in the way. It benefits from U.S. largesse while attending to U.S. needs. Its intelligence branch, discussed here, is not about peace and reconciliation.
The U.S. government, militarily involved in Colombia for decades is likewise an obstacle to peace. As explained recently by analyst Hernando Calvo Ospina, military cooperation has been central to the U.S.-Colombian alliance. He details how since World War II the United States has partnered with Colombia in dominating the entire region to maintain access to strategic resources, exclude Communism, and suppress left-wing movements. Calvo Ospina mentions Colombian-U.S. drug-war operations and the two countries’ addiction to military and ruling-class power. This is the setting for the intelligence operations described below.
Colombian intelligence operations serve U.S. imperialist objectives as they target Cuba and Venezuela. Colombian governing authorities appear to have forgotten the legacy of independence hero Simón Bolívar who, up against Spanish rule and U.S. pretentions, fought for Latin American unity. In 1829 he remarked that, “The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” He was denouncing unencumbered U.S. license to control Spanish America, as proclaimed in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and still in force.
Trump-era national security advisor John Bolton recently boasted he had planned coups to unseat the Maduro government in Venezuela. Current White House advisor on Western Hemisphere affairs Juan González took a different tack while speaking in Colombia in August: “40 years ago the United States would have done everything possible to avoid the election of Gustavo Petro and, once elected would have done everything possible to sabotage his policies.” Now, says González, the United States wants to collaborate and “navigate that change.”
Meanwhile, Petro wants young people to choose social service and not do military service. His government will be negotiating peace with National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas. He rejects the U.S.-promoted drug war and has re-established diplomatic relations with Venezuela, the object of U.S. hybrid war. On August 12, Petro named new military chiefs and replaced 40 generals and admirals because of corruption and human rights violations.
This report turns to Colombian military intelligence. The Revista Raya website, directed by Edinson Bolaños, recently published three articles on Colombian intelligence operations that began in 2016 and continued for almost six years. (See the end note for possible translations in English of “raya.”)
Face-off against Cuba
The first article, titled “International Espionage: Operation Cuba,” appeared on the website on August 19. One learns that, “Revista Raya had access to thousands of classified Colombian military intelligence documents where evidence appears of spying on Cuban diplomats and officials, left-leaning [Colombian] political leaders, journalists, and social leaders.” The folders contained “profiles of targeted personnel, photographs, videos of subjects being followed, maps, sketches and drawings.”
Agents posing as journalists or photographers mapped routes to facilities used by diplomats. They photographed the interiors of the Cuban embassy, consulates, and diplomats’ quarters, and also diplomats’ automobiles and license plates. They monitored diplomats’ encounters with Colombian activists and politicians. Operatives gained access to phones, computers and on-line communications.
They were able to alter the text of the Cubans’ email communications. Colombian intelligence operatives communicated their findings with U.S. counterparts. U.S. documents with responses and commentary show up in the files.
Operatives attended solidarity gatherings in Colombia and farther afield – at a Sao Paolo Forum of leftist political parties, for example. At these venues, they identified attendees, monitored conversations, gained access to email communications, and informed intelligence agencies in home countries of their citizens’ participation in leftist or pro-Cuba activities. They spied on solidarity gatherings at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp near Havana.
People attending various events had their phone calls intercepted, among them: Cuban ambassador José Luis Ponce and Vice Consul Kendry Sosa, leftist senators Iván Cepeda and Gloria Flórez; Communist Party leaders Jaime Caycedo and Carlos Lozano Guillén; and FARC lawyer Diego Martínez. Among attendees monitored at the Sao Paolo Forum in 2019 were Communist Party member Gloria Inés Ramírez, now President Petro’s labor minister, and leftist senator Piedad Córdoba.
One purpose for the phone monitoring, according to Revista Raya, was to unearth or install material suggesting that Cuban operatives were promoting the protest demonstrations that rocked Colombia in 2019 and later, and contributed to the election of President Petro. The intelligence units also sought to connect Cuba’s government with leftist insurgents in Colombia, particularly the National Liberation Army (ELN).
According to documents in the report, agents “sewed” information in the computers of ELN guerrilla leaders suggesting the “complicity of Cuba’s government with the ELN in manufacturing the violence associated with the social protests.” Nothing appeared in the files indicating that Cuba’s government actually did promote anti-government activities, according to Revista Raya.
Agents planted “evidence” of alleged terrorism undertaken by ELN guerrilla leader Andrés Vanegas Londoño, alias “Uriel,” and sent it to Colombian prosecutors and to Interpol. They communicated his location in Choco department. Uriel died in a bombardment of his camp 20 days later, on October 25, 1920.
Encouraged by its U.S. partner, Colombia’s government has long taken steps to destabilize Venezuelan society and government operations, and more so recently. Secret operations have taken place in Venezuela’s border region with Colombia. Colombian narco-traffickers are active there, and also Colombian paramilitaries. A small U.S.-Colombian force, Operation Gideon, carried out a maritime invasion of Venezuela in 2020.
Colombian military intelligence engaged with agencies and personnel of Venezuela’s government. On August 24, Revista Raya published “International Espionage: Objective Venezuela. The survey covers destabilization plans and monitoring of Colombian and Venezuelan politicians and Venezuelan diplomats.
Colombia’s intelligence service secreted 28 spies within various branches of Venezuela’s military. As part of so-called “Operation Vengeance,” operatives “tried to encourage the Venezuelan Army to carry out military operations against the ELN,” whose detachments were active in Venezuelan territory. They created hostile pamphlets and audio recordings and attributed them to the ELN.The spies “totally infiltrated” the communications of a Venezuelan press attaché in Bogota and monitored his contacts with prominent Colombian politicians of the left. Colombian officials later expelled him.
Citing “another hundred documents,” Revista Raya shows that, during the presidency of President Iván Duque (2018 -2022), Colombian spies entered, photographed, and took material from the Venezuela’s consulate in Cartagena. The Colombian intelligence operatives attended primarily to consul Ayskel Torres.
Under “Operation Sunset,” they “monitored her contacts with leftist social leaders in the region and her “sentimental relationship” with the “military attaché of a Caribbean country.” They were blackmailed and the latter provided a list of “cooperating” contacts.
Spying ceased after February 23, 2019, when The Maduro government broke relations with Colombia. The spies had monitored Venezuelan diplomats’ communications about the safety of money and sensitive documents lodged in an Embassy strong box. After the Venezuelans had departed, spies entered the building, took photographs, opened the strong box and stole documents and money.
The last section of this three-part Revista Raya series is titled “International Espionage: Massive Profiling.” Documents were cited that contained “telephone numbers, homes addresses, political preferences, work places, email addresses, nationalities, and date of identification” for 450 persons. The article presents political profiles of eight individuals as examples of other profiles that were created. Dozens of images appear.
The targeted individuals included “political, social, and union leaders and also diplomats and officials of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.” Intelligence agents descended on them when they attended “commemorations and political events relating to socialist countries,” or “peaceful mobilizations and … political events in Colombia.”
This last article in the series identifies the chief of Navy Intelligence as the individual primarily responsible for the illegal spying.
Rear Admiral Norman Iván Cabrera Martínez heads that agency now. He served as naval attaché at the Colombian Embassy in Washington and the U.S government awarded him a Meritorious Service Medal. Cabrera Martínez assumed his post on August 27, 2022.
Colombian Communist Party secretary general Jaime Caycedo, the object of spying, commented to Revista Raya: “We … think this is a violation flagrant of our rights and constitutional liberties …[We] attach great importance to the journalistic work you are doing. You showed how we fell into their hands. You explained how public resources and public entities were used to maltreat citizens with this illegal profiling and to spy on diplomats of friendly countries with diplomatic relations.”
Note: The meaning in English of “raya,” as used in the website’s name, is mysterious here. We opt for “line-by-line review.” “Raya” may signify victim or despised person in that a “tienda de raya” in Mexico was a store operated by a company or hacienda relying on a laborer’s written line for a signature. A possibility from Colombia is “detective.” Another commentator suggests “memorable happenings.”
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.