Casuistry, which one dictionary defines as “specious, deceptive, or oversubtle reasoning, especially in questions of morality” is, rightly or wrongly, inextricably linked to the history of Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. And the rise of the Jesuit order is deeply enmeshed with the Counter-Reformation, a set of measures designed to roll back the spread of Protestantism in Europe during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The control center of the movement was Spain, the world-striding superpower of that historical moment.
Rightfully fearful that Protestantism’s rejection of long-standing modes of clerical privilege and the Church’s “right” to collect vast sums of money from parishioners would undermine their ability to bully and bribe Italian, French, Dutch and German potentates into compliance with their political demands, the Spanish Monarchy undertook an endless series of military adventures against “heretics” across the Continent in the years between 1530 and 1648. This military thrust was accompanied by a well-organized propaganda campaign in which the highly educated Jesuits priests played a crucial role.
Appearing morally and intellectually reasonable while serving as a convinced advocate for the systematic subjugation of other people and their animating ideals is not a simple task. In the long run it is, in fact, an impossible one. No amount of argument can convince a person or group of persons who see them selves as suffering under the boot of another that their bondage is a good and necessary thing. What such a rhetorical posture can do, for a time at least, is convince the subjects of the hegemonic country of, if not the inherent nobility of their bloody mission, its generally benign nature.
A key, if generally unstated, goal of the 16th and 17th century Jesuits was to insure that the highly problematic matter of Rome’s corruption, and the brutal Imperial designs of the Spanish monarchy that lay behind it, never be allowed to occupy the center zone of what then passed for “public” discourse.
When confronted by the emergent Protestant movements about the clear violations of Christian morality practiced by the Church of Rome, they responded with complex disquisitions on the largely circumstantial nature of all moral reasoning. By constantly parsing the intricacies of how overarching moral rules should, or should not, be applied in each particular circumstance (and teaching others to do the same), they very effectively prevented the emergence within the Church, and by extension in the leadership class of the Spanish Empire, of a frank discussion of the quite real and deeply-felt grievances of their many enemies.
I am reminded of all this when I read or watch the news after every so-called “terrorist” attack against a US or European target. Within minutes of the violence, mainstream journalists, begin intense speculation about what particular ethnic group the assailant came from, how he or she became “radicalized” (as if the desire to kill was akin to some sort of contagious moral flu) and whether the “West’s” latest stand-in for PURE EVIL™ (e.g. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL) was behind the act.
What will almost never be talked about are the many very good reasons a person from the vast region stretching from Morrocco in the west, to Pakistan in the east, have to be very angry at, and to feel highly vengeful toward, the US, its strategic puppeteer Israel, and their slavishly loyal European compadres like France, Germany and Great Britain.
There is never any talk of that group of august “democracies” long-standing penchant for implanting, then staunchly supporting, ruthless and deeply corrupt regimes in that region.
No talk of the very long Algerian experience of French colonialism, nor the US and French- backed coup of that country’s government in 1992 which led to a civil war that left 200,000 people dead.
No talk of the coup against the legally elected president of Egypt in 2013, nor the cold-blooded massacres carried out by his US-backed successor upon hundreds of that same president’s followers.
No talk of the decision of the US to back elements of ISIS in order to cynically extend a Syrian Civil War that was on its way to peace—albeit an imperfect one—by means of a Syrian government victory by late 2013.
No talk of the planned destruction of Libya in 2011 and its enormous effects on the stability of life in that once wealthy country as well as all of northern Africa.
No talk of the US-Israeli nullification of the results of the Palestinian elections of 2006, Israel’s coldly planned siege of Gaza nor the “shoot-fish-in-a barrel” assaults on that benighted enclave by Israel in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014.
No talk of the ongoing Saudi—and therefore US-approved—war on Yemen, nor the ruthless Saudi march on Bahrain in 2011 in which several dozen people died and thousands of democracy activists were tortured and/or carted off to prison.
No talk of the 18-year Israeli—and therefore, US-backed—occupation of Southern Lebanon nor Israel’s 1993, 1996 and 2006 assaults upon that same country.
Oops, I almost forgot. There is no talk of the small matter the calculated US destruction of Iraq, pre-invasion Libya’s rival as the Arab world’s most wealthy and socially progressive state.
But hey, why talk about all that off-putting stuff when you can boil it all down to neat tales of personal ideological contamination, Svengali-like recruiters lurking in mosques, and that old standby, the development of an urgent need to bang virgins in the hereafter.
It seems the media believes that the delicate imperial mind must be left free from understanding the effects of the actions for which it regularly cheers and prays.
The best way to insure this? Casuistry, as the old saying goes, “Pure casuistry”.
Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.
The sensational headlines following the arrests of Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, as well as Ebrahim and Fatima Patel, in Johannesburg and the West Rand, have dominated the South African media over the past few weeks. The #TerrorArrests, as they have been dubbed on social media, came a month after the US embassy issued its umpteenth terror alert warning of imminent Daesh attacks in the country. Even though there are still questions around the legality of the Thulsie arrests, the word “terror” has been used freely. The South African Jewish Report claims that it dubbed the Thulsies the “Terror Twins” and the “name has stuck like glue in all media reports on the case,” gloated journalist Ant Katz.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the court of public opinion has already found the accused – all of whom are Muslims – guilty of being Daesh recruits. They were, it is claimed widely, planning attacks on American sites and Jewish cultural institutions.
There has been much speculation about Daesh recruitment in South Africa — indeed, around the world — but I would argue that the extremist group has no need to make any real effort to recruit anyone; the West does a good enough job in that respect. It is the West’s support for tyrannical Arab and Israeli regimes that draws people to extremism. Daesh’s use of terminology such as “Caliphate” and “jihad”, and its Hollywood-style video clips purportedly confronting the imperial invaders, also attract marginal support from the naive.
In 2003, the South African government introduced US-inspired anti-terrorism legislation, despite warnings from civil society on the impact that this would have on the Muslim community. Since then, there has been a slew of clandestine arrests and detentions of South African Muslims, in collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies like the FBI.
Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute reports that the FBI treats Muslims like “terrorists-in-waiting”, encouraging, pressurising and sometimes paying them to commit crimes that they would not ordinarily have committed. Informants trawl through Muslim communities, mosques and community centres, monitor and engage social media, and talk of radical Islam in order to identify possible targets sympathetic to such ideas. If suitable suspects are identified, FBI agents then run a sting, often creating a fake terror plot in which it helps supply weapons and targets. Then, dramatic arrests are made, press conferences held, terror “experts” paraded and lengthy convictions secured.
Are the authorities in South Africa headed in the same direction? It seems that we might well be seeing such a scenario. The investigating officer for the Thulsie case, Wynand Olivier, admitted in court that foreign intelligence agents prompted the Hawks — SA’s elite anti-terror police squad — to arrest the Thulsie and Patel siblings. So desperate were the authorities to effect an arrest that even paintball guns have been presented as “evidence” of an arms cache. More disturbing still is Olivier’s understanding of the word “jihad”, a term that has become central to the case against the Thulsies. The legal official has admitted that no Islamic or Arabic language experts were consulted to guide the authorities on the use of the word.
The word “jihad” is actually used widely by all Muslims, and refers to both individual and social struggles. In fact, if the Hawks were to monitor the use of “jihad” thoroughly, then every South African Muslim would qualify as a “terror” suspect. That is a day we must ensure never comes. The Muslim community is woven firmly within the fabric of South African society, a fact recognised by the government.
However, if we are to retain this social harmony, then the authorities must revisit the anti-terror laws we were coerced into adopting. Furthermore, an independent, enlightened and prudent foreign policy must be followed; it would be the best way to protect us all by ensuring that we do not give Daesh the metaphoric ammunition to entice gullible people to join the movement. Such a policy will be infinitely more effective at countering extremist ideology than a witch-hunt based on myths, stereotypes and misinformation.
When NATO murdered Gaddafi and blitzed his country in 2011, they hoped the socialist ‘Jamahiriya’ movement he led would be dead and buried. Now his son has been released from prison to a hero’s welcome with his movement increasingly in the ascendancy.
There were various moments during NATO’s destruction of Libya that were supposed to symbolically crown Western supremacy over Libya and its institutions (and, by implication, over all African and Arab peoples): the ‘fall of Tripoli’ in August 2011; Cameron and Sarkozy’s victory speeches the following month; the lynch-mob execution of Muammar Gaddafi that came soon after. All of them were pyrrhic victories – but none more so than the death sentence handed down to Gaddafi’s son (and effective deputy leader) Saif al-Gaddafi in July 2015.
Saif had been captured by the Zintan militia shortly after his father and brother were killed by NATO’s death squads in late 2011. The ‘International’ Criminal Court – a neocolonial farce which has only ever indicted Africans – demanded he be handed over to them, but the Zintan – fiercely patriotic despite having fought with NATO against Gaddafi – refused. Over the next two years the country descended into the chaos and societal collapse that Gaddafi had predicted, sliding inexorably towards civil war.
By 2014, the country’s militias had coalesced around two main groupings – the Libyan National Army, composed of those who supported the newly elected, and mainly secular, House of Representatives; and the Libya Dawn coalition, composed of the militias who supported the Islamist parties that had dominated the country’s previous parliament but refused to recognize their defeat at the polls in 2014. After fierce fighting, the Libya Dawn faction took control of Tripoli. It was there that Saif, along with dozens of other officials of the Jamahiriya – the Libyan ‘People’s State’ which Gaddafi had led – were put on trial for their life. However, once again the Zintan militia – allied to the Libyan National Army – refused to hand him over. After a trial condemned by human rights groups as “riddled with legal flaws”, in a court system dominated by the Libya Dawn militias, an absent Saif was sentenced to death, along with eight other former government officials. The trial was never recognized by the elected government, by then relocated to Tobruk. A gloating Western media made sure to inform the world of the death sentence, which they hoped would extinguish forever the Libyan people’s hopes for a restoration of the independence, peace and prosperity his family name had come to represent.
It was a hope that would soon be dashed. Less than a year later, the France 24 news agency arranged an interview with Saif Al Gaddafi’s lawyer Karim Khan in which he revealed to the world that Saif had in fact, “been given his liberty on April 12, 2016″, in accordance with the amnesty law passed by the Tobruk parliament the previous year. Given the crowing over Saif’s death sentence the previous year, and his indictment by the International Criminal Court, this was a major story. Yet, by and large, it was one the Western media chose to steadfastly ignore – indeed, the BBC did not breathe a single word about it.
What is so significant about his release, however, is what it represents: the recognition, by Libya’s elected authorities, that there is no future for Libya without the involvement of the Jamahiriya movement.
The truth is, this movement never went away. Rather, having been forced underground in 2011, it has been increasingly coming out into the open, building up its support amongst a population sick of the depravities and deprivations of the post-Gaddafi era.
Exactly five years ago, following the start of the NATO bombing campaign, Libyans came out onto the streets in massive demonstrations in support of their government in Tripoli, Sirte, Zlitan and elsewhere. Even the BBC admitted that “there is no discounting the genuine support that exists”, adding that “’Muammar is the love of millions’ was the message written on the hands of women in the square”.
Following the US-UK-Qatari invasion of Tripoli the following month, however, the reign of terror by NATO’s death squad militias ensured that public displays of such sentiments could end up costing one’s life. Tens of thousands of ‘suspected Gaddafi supporters’ were rounded up by the militias in makeshift ‘detention camps’ where torture and abuse was rife; around 7,000 are estimated to be there still to this day, and hundreds have been summarily executed.
Black people in particular were targeted, seen as symbolic of the pro-African policies pursued by Gaddafi but hated by the supremacist militias, with the black Libyan town of Tawergha turned into a ghost town overnight as Misratan militias made good on their promise to kill all those who refused to leave. Such activities were effectively legalised by the NATO-imposed ‘Transitional National Council’ whose Laws 37 and 38 decreed that public support for Gaddafi could be punished by life imprisonment and activities taken ‘in defence of the revolution’ would be exempt from prosecution.
Nevertheless, over the years that followed, as the militias turned on each other and the country rapidly fell apart, reports began to suggest that much of southern Libya was slowly coming under the control of Gaddafi’s supporters. On January 18th 2014, an air force base near the southern city of Sabha was taken by Gaddafi loyalists, frightening the new government enough to impose a state of emergency, ban Libya’s two pro-Gaddafi satellite stations, and embark on aerial bombing missions in the south of the country.
But it was, ironically, the passing of the death sentences themselves – intended to extinguish pro-Gaddafi sentiment for good – that triggered the most open and widespread demonstrations of support for the former government so far, with protests held in August 2015 across the country, and even in ISIS-held Sirte. Middle East Eye reported the following from the demonstration in Sabha (in which 7 were killed when militias opened fire on the protesters):
Previous modest pro-Gaddafi celebrations in the town had been overlooked by the Misratan-led Third Force, stationed in Sabha for over a year – originally to act as a peacekeeping force following local clashes. ‘This time, I think the Third Force saw the seriousness of the pro-Gaddafi movement because a demonstration this big has not been seen in the last four years,’ said Mohamed. ‘There were a lot of people, including women and children, and people were not afraid to show their faces … IS had threatened to shoot anyone who protested on Friday, so there were no green flags in towns they control, apart from Sirte, although there are some green flags flying in remote desert areas,’ he said. ‘But if these protests get stronger across the whole of Libya, people will become braver and we will see more green flags. I know many people who are just waiting for the right time to protest.’
In Sirte, demonstrators were fired at by ISIS fighters, who dispersed the group and took away seven people, including four women. The same Middle East Eye report made the following comment:
The protests have been a public representation of a badly kept secret in Libya, that the pro-Gaddafi movement which has existed since the 2011 revolution has grown in strength, born out of dissatisfaction with the way life has worked out for many ordinary citizens in the last four years… [Mohamed] added that some people who had originally supported the 2011 revolution had joined the protests. Most Libyans just want a quiet life. They don’t care who takes over or who controls Libya’s money, they just want a comfortable life. That’s why Gaddafi stayed in power for 42 years. Salaries were paid on time, we had good subsidies on all the essentials and living was cheap.
Mohammed Eljarh, writing in the conservative US journal Foreign Policy, added that,
These pro-Qaddafi protests have the potential to turn into a national movement against the 2011 revolution, not least because a growing number of Libyans are deeply disillusioned by its outcome… there is now a building consensus that the atrocities and abuses committed by post-Qaddafi groups since the revolution exceed by far those committed by the Qaddafi regime during its rule.
At the same time, the Green resistance is becoming an increasingly influential force within the Libyan National Army, representing the country’s elected House of Representatives. Earlier this year, the Tobruk parliament allowed Gaddafi’s widow back into the country, whilst the LNA entered into an alliance with pro-Gaddafi tribes in the country’s East, and began to recruit open supporters of Gaddafi into its military structures. Gaddafi’s Tuareg commander General Ali Kanna, for example, who fled Libya following Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, has now reportedly been welcomed into the LNA. The policy is already bearing fruit, with several territories near Sirte already seized from ISIS by the new allies.
The Jamahiriya, it seems, is back. But then, it never really went away.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says projects by the Israeli and Saudi Arabian regimes to portray Iran as a threat to the world have been falling flat over the past years.
Speaking to a group of Iranian expatriates in the Ghanaian capital city of Accra on Monday evening, Zarif said Tel Aviv and Riyadh, “two like-minded regimes,” are investing heavily in Iranophobia to draw attention away from their crimes and their collaborations.
“It is obvious that the cooperation of the Zionist regime (Israel) and the Saudi regime, which are two like-minded and congruent regimes, has today become known and can no more be concealed,” Zarif said.
He said the two regimes are concerned about their collaboration having become publicly known and are thus “investing further in Iranophobia” as a means of distraction.
He said, however, that, “The world has today waken up to the fact that the danger of Wahhabism is the real threat.”
Wahhabism is an extreme ideological strand openly preached by Saudi Arabian clerics, who have the blessing of ruling Saudi authorities. It is the main ideological feature of Takfiri terrorist groups — particularly Daesh — which declare people of other faiths and beliefs as “infidels” and, based on “decrees” from clerics, rule that they should be killed.
Most Arab governments have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Egypt and Qatar are the only two Arab states to have open diplomatic ties with Israel.
Some Arab governments, however, while posing as Israel’s traditional adversaries, have been revealed to have secret ties with the Tel Aviv regime. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are two such countries.
Last week, a retired general in the Saudi military traveled to Israel at the head of a delegation, meeting with Israel’s foreign ministry director general Dore Gold Yoav Mordechai and a number of Knesset members.
Both Riyadh and Tel Aviv were and continue to be fiercely opposed to a nuclear deal between Iran and a group of six world powers.
In his Monday remarks, Foreign Minister Zarif said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), succeeded in proving to the world the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
The JCPOA was struck between Iran and the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on July 14, 2015.
Zarif is in Ghana on the second leg of a four-nation African tour. He was in Nigeria before arriving in Ghana and will be traveling to Guinea-Conakry and Mali on the third and fourth legs of his tour.
In April, the French and British foreign ministers visited Tripoli to show support for Libya’s UN-backed unity government. France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault urged Libya’s neighbours to get behind the government, adding, “There is no other possible path.” Reports have however recently surfaced showing that Western forces, including France, have been assisting General Khalifa Haftar – a figure who has been threatened with EU sanctions for refusing to support the unity government and who has been fighting some groups involved in the Western-backed campaign against Daesh.
Earlier this month, air traffic control recordings obtained by the Middle East Eye showed that British, French, Italian and US troops, have been coordinating air strikes in support of Haftar. On Wednesday, the death of three French soldiers led to the first official confirmation that French special forces are operating in Libya, something the unity government say they were not informed of. France’s presence in the country was first reported by Le Monde in February, with reports claiming that a detachment was aiding Haftar in his battle against Daesh from a base at Benghazi airport. Earlier this year, the Pentagon said its units were deployed to “partner” local militias against Daesh and Britain has admitted sending RAF reconnaissance flights over the country.
Since the fall of the Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi in 2011, the country has struggled to stay on course. Today Libya is in the middle of a civil war and is split between two warring parliaments. The political vacuum has allowed for the powerful militant group Daesh to gain a foothold and criminal networks to flourish.
General Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA), has been the key force fighting against Libya Dawn, an umbrella of several armed groups who have supported Omar Al-Hassi’s General National Congress (GNC). The GNC was replaced by the House of Representatives (HoR) following an election but political opponents of the new parliament challenged its legitimacy and revived the GNC in Tripoli. Fighters from Libya Dawn forced the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani and the HoR to Tobruk. Haftar’s crackdown is known as Operation Dignity.
The UN-backed unity government, effectively Libya’s third parliament, was formed in Tunisia in December 2015, with the aim of bringing an end to the conflict. It has the difficult task of replacing the two governments, bringing unity to the fractured country and dealing with security concerns arising from the presence of Daesh.
But it has faced endless opposition. The government only managed to sail into Tripoli in March 2016 as opposition groups prevented them from flying in. Daesh has also made things difficult – in the run-up to the January 16 2016 deadline for its formation, the militant group led a sustained attack against Libya’s vital infrastructure. While the unity government does have the mandate to call for the UN to militarily intervene, unsanctioned military actions by Western countries only works to undermine the already very thin veneer of legitimacy it has.
In Libya, the response to the news of the French soldiers has been strong, with condemnations from the UN-backed government and angry protests in Tripoli. As Fayez Serraj, the Prime Minister of Libya, said in a recent op-ed, “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) is not our greatest enemy. National division is.” The divisions within Libya have allowed it to veer into civil war, with groups such as Daesh managing to exploit the cleavages in the country. The growth of Daesh is a symptom of conflict in Libya not the cause.
Serraj continues, “The stark lesson from the past five years of turmoil is that when Libyans fail to work together they empower those who would destroy our country… terrorists will be defeated by our Armed Forces uniting under civilian command, not rival militias rushing to claim a political prize.” This applies to achieving peace in Libya- by backing one side politically while supporting another militarily, divides that are preventing peace only widen. In supporting Haftar whose power base is in the east, it undermines the unity government’s struggle to gain control of this heavily divided area.
Aside from the implications of peace for the country, there is also a question of the legality of the action. As Libya’s Supreme State Council put it, it is a “clear deception by a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a sponsor of the [December 2015] political agreement”. Stop the War Coalition’s Chris Nineham told RT: “They are not backed by the UN, these interventions. They are not checked anywhere. They are just unilateral acts of military aggression.” Some have gone even further. “This is a sort of coup against the political process and against the democratic path chosen by the Libyan people,” Mansour Al Hasadi, a member of the GNA, told Al Jazeera.
Britain and France took the lead in pushing for military intervention in 2011. While the intervention led to rapid results and was initially considered successful, the country now contends with three parliaments, the growing presence of Daesh and continued violence. Peace seems a distant prospect. Yet the same international powers have not learned from their mistakes.
Arms firms like Airbus, which are cashing in on border security deals to hold back refugees, paid for exclusive access to ministers of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), a new report claims.
Airbus, the seventh-largest arms producer in the world, makes jets, helicopters and even drones, which are marketed for border security purposes.
The ‘Border Wars’ report by Dutch group Stop Wapenhandel claims that arms firms, including Airbus, “provide the equipment to border guards, the surveillance technology to monitor frontiers, and the IT infrastructure to track population movements.
“Most perverse of all, it shows that some of the beneficiaries of border security contracts are some of the biggest arms sellers to the Middle East and North African region, fueling the conflicts that are the cause of many of the refugees,” the group said.
The report claims that such businesses are cynically “creating the crisis are then profiting from it.”
“Moreover they have been abetted by European states who have granted the licenses to export arms and have then granted them border security contracts to deal with the consequences.”
Airbus allegedly enjoyed privileged access to MSPs as part of its membership of the Scottish Parliament and Business Exchange (SPBE).
The SPBE does not regard itself as a lobbying group and is a registered charity in Scotland, however firms must pay to sign up. Companies involved in the past include security giant Serco and energy firm Shell.
Speaking to the Ferret investigative news website on Wednesday, Mark Akkerman of Stop Wapenhandel said arms firms are determined to influence “national government and politicians in European countries.”
“Even though the lobbying by Airbus in Scotland is probably not focused on military or border security issues, I think the company’s business of fueling conflicts and profiting from the refugee crisis should be reason enough to be very cautious about maintaining any relationship with it.”
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman Andrew Smith told the Ferret that Airbus “has sold military equipment to regimes with appalling human rights records. The Eurofighter, which it has worked closely on, has been central to the Saudi-led devastation of Yemen.”
He warned that arms firms enjoy a “totally disproportionate voice in the corridors of power” and that the Scottish Parliament should reject their advances.
Scotland’s Holyrood parliament canceled its own membership of the SPBE in March.
Like peace itself, the military-industrial complex sees internal stability as bad for business. A new report has exposed the activities of military and security companies that are profiting from the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, which have also successfully lobbied the EU to react by buying their security equipment.
The joint report by the European NGO Stop Wapenhandel and the Transnational Institute (TNI), called “Border Wars: The Arms Dealers Profiting from Europe’s Refugee Tragedy,” reveals the most prominent winners of security contracts which were issued in Europe as a result of the migrant crisis, and Europe’s acquiescent response to their lobbying.
“Some of the beneficiaries of border security contracts are some of the biggest arms sellers to the Middle-East and North-African region, fuelling the conflicts that are the cause of many of the refugees. In other words, the companies creating the crisis are then profiting from it.”
The big players in Europe’s border security complex include arms companies Airbus, Finmeccanica and Thales, which are also three of the top four European arms traders and have been particularly prominent winners of EU contracts aimed at strengthening borders.
Other companies to benefit from the EU’s policy response to Middle Eastern conflict are French defense and aerospace company Safran, the Spanish IT and defense systems firm Indra Sistemas, and some Israeli companies like BTec Electronic Security Systems, which promote their expertise based on equipment installed at the Israeli-Palestinian border.
French companies Airbus and Thales, and Italian Finmeccanica, are part of the European Organisation for Security (EOS), which has been most active in lobbying the EU for increased border security. The report notes that many of its proposals, such as its push to set up a cross European border security agency, have eventually ended up as policy.
According to the report, the booming border security market was worth an estimated 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) in 2015, and is predicted to rise to over 29 billion euros ($32 billion) annually in 2022.
New EU member states have been required to strengthen borders as a condition of membership, creating additional markets for profit.
“The arms business, in particular sales to the Middle-East and North-Africa, where most of the refugees are fleeing from, is also booming. Global arms exports to the Middle-East actually increased by 61 per cent between 2006–10 and 2011–15. Between 2005 and 2014, EU member states granted arms exports licenses to the Middle East and North Africa worth over 82 billion euros ($91 billion).”
On Tuesday, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel newspaper revealed that the arms industry could benefit even further from a new direction in the EU’s African policy.
According to the report, the EU Commission intends to direct some funds from its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace towards equipping African militaries.
The fund was established in March 2014 and has a 2.3 billion euro ($2.5 billion) budget, to be disbursed between 2014 and 2020.
“Development without security and stability is not possible,” a source in the Commission told the newspaper.
“The Commission is therefore considering increasing its support for security actors,” and “in some very special cases,” this will include security forces.
The proposal to spend African development funds on security forces was criticized by the German Green Party MEP Reinhard Butikofer, who described it as “breaking a taboo.”
Die Linke MEP Sabine Losing called the idea “scandalous,” and criticized the “misuse of aid.”
She said the proposal is one of a series of “steps in the militarization of EU foreign policy.”
We can be sure that the British exit from the European Union represents a profound crisis for the global capitalist order. We know this because the Lords of Capital and their political minions and media all over the world are in panic over Brexit. The capitalist order is built on five centuries of European plunder, enslavement, and extermination of the rest of humanity. Blood oozes from every edifice of the European Union – and yet, the victims, and the descendants of the victims of this horrific and ongoing capitalist carnage, often behave as if they have some kind of stake in keeping the old order intact. Like Malcolm X’s house Negroes, their first instinct when they see the master’s house on fire, is to put the fire out. If the master gets sick, they start sneezing. And, when the referendum went against Britain staying in the European Union, house Negroes of all colors on both sides of the Atlantic acted like their own worlds were coming to end.
On Comedy Central’s Daily Show, this week, host Trevor Noah interviewed Cynthia Erivo, who plays Celie in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” Noah lampooned those Brits that voted to leave the EU as a bunch of Donald Trumps with Cockney accents. He said nothing about the EU’s pro-corporate, pro-banker austerity policies – maybe because there’s nothing funny about those policies, or maybe because he works for a rich corporation. Noah drew Ms. Erivo into the Brexit discussion. She was born in London to parents who emigrated from Nigeria. She explained her opposition to Brexit, saying, “If my mom didn’t get to the UK, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, on that stage on Broadway.”
Cynthia Erivo is grateful that her West African parents were allowed into Britain, so that she could be born in London and pursue a successful career. Her parents were permitted to settle in Britain because Nigeria was a British colony, and later became part of the British Commonwealth. It actually had nothing to do with the European Union. By Cynthia Erivo’s logic, it was a good thing that Britain invaded, plundered, enslaved, and stole her parent’s homeland. By colonizing Nigeria, the Brits saved her from being born an African. The millions who died in the British conquest of Nigeria, and in the Middle Passage to the America’s, or on the plantations of Virginia or Jamaica, or in forced labor to the British in Nigeria, or who die today in the oil soaked wasteland of the Niger River Delta – all of this past and present suffering and human degradation is balanced out by the fact that a daughter of Nigeria gets to star in a Broadway show. This super-exploitation of Africa made Britain and France and Spain and Belgium and the Netherlands and other members of today’s European Union rich – but Cynthia Erivo and Trevor Noah, the South African, come to the defense of the European Union.
They like the house that slavery and genocide built, and where global capitalism now rules. They fear anything that might create disorder in the House of Europe, just as their counterparts in Black America fear anything that might disturb the tranquility of the U.S. ruling class and its institutions. The House Negroes are truly international, always ready to put out fires in their masters many houses around the globe.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Why is it that many people who consider themselves left-wing have such difficulty grasping that the EU is a deeply reactionary institution? The mere fact that those running the EU present it as an internationalist venture dedicated to the creation of a world free of nationalist enmities does not make it so. If we want to examine the EU in its proper light, then we should ignore the high-flown rhetoric in which its supporters indulge, and consider its actual record. And what is the record of the EU, once we penetrate the obfuscatory rhetoric about ‘internationalism’ that surrounds EU policy? Without a doubt, that record is one that should cause those on the left now defending it acute embarrassment, as it starkly contradicts the ideals that the left has always claimed to uphold.
Across the Continent, the unelected officials who have usurped the power of national governments and asserted their right to determine the fates of countless millions, through their adherence to the damaging creed of neoliberalism, have wrought suffering on an unimaginable scale, casting millions into poverty and removing the last vestige of dignity people cling to in an economy that has fallen prey to the voracious claims of big business. They have foisted austerity on unwilling populations, creating a cycle of endless unemployment and ever increasing woe, compelling ordinary workers struggling to eke out an existence in the wake of the most painful recession in living memory to shoulder the burden of repaying a debt which was originally incurred as a result of the criminal behaviour of Europe’s financiers. With brazen contempt for the views of the peoples of Europe they claim to serve, they have connived to topple left-wing governments and deny the citizens of the countries most affected by austerity their one remaining means – their inalienable right to elect a government subservient to their will – of resisting the vicious policies that have reduced them to their present abject state.
It is worth detailing the ways in which the actual practice of the EU diverges sharply from the propagandistic image endorsed by elements of the left.
The Crushing of Greece
One word should be engraved on the minds of those who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, persist in believing that the EU is an inherently progressive body: ‘GREECE.’ What the EU did to Greece should have dispelled forever the fanciful idea that such an institution has as its fundamental aim the material welfare of ordinary Europeans. But such is the power of the delusional thinking which holds sway amongst the ‘liberal’ apologists for ‘internationalism’ that nothing it seems, not even the destruction of an entire country, the decimation of its industries, and the despoliation of its people, can shake their belief in the manifest virtues of the EU.
After five years in which Greece was forced to undergo the most far-reaching programme of austerity ever implemented by any European government, selling off its public infrastructure and slashing spending on social services to please its creditors, even the economists at whose insistence this policy had been carried out were grudgingly admitting that it had been an unmitigated disaster. By 2015 Greece had seen its economy contract by 27% as a result of the government’s futile efforts to meet the continually mounting debt repayments demanded of it by the troika. As GDP fell and Greece’s ability to repay the debt was further reduced, rather than provide relief the ECB chose to extend fresh loans to the Greek government to enable it to service the interest on its existing liabilities, thereby adding to its overall level of debt and enmeshing the country in an interminable process of austerity from which it could never hope to extricate itself. The needless suffering caused by the single-minded pursuit of austerity had resulted in scenes of poverty and despair more appropriate to the 1930s than 21st century Europe. Entire families were starving on the streets, deprived of even the bare minimum they required to survive; thousands of people, reduced to absolute despair by the unrelenting attacks on their living standards, had committed suicide. The IMF, in an extraordinary departure from its long-standing commitment to free market dogma, published a report bluntly stating what had become apparent to all well-informed experts on the matter, which was that Greece would never be able to rid itself of the debt, not unless it was significantly reduced and a 30-year moratorium on repayments was imposed.
What was the response of the managers of the eurozone to the tragedy unfolding before their very eyes, to the unbearable spectacles of suffering for which they, as the economic masters of Greece, bore responsibility? The response was callous indifference. When in desperation the Greek people elected the far-left party Syriza to power, on a platform of ending austerity and negotiating a debt restructuring, the EU steadfastly refused to treat with such a government on terms of equality and outright rejected the democratic mandate with which it had been recently invested at the polls, insisting that, regardless of the outcome of elections, Greece had no right to seek a change in rules which had been autocratically decided upon by the bureaucratic elites in Brussels. There would be no substantive negotiations leading to an end to austerity; there would be no concessions to the democratically expressed will of the population. When Syriza attempted to resist the diktats of Brussels, calling a referendum on its negotiating stance, which it won resoundingly, the EU bullied and cajoled little Greece, threatening to punish the refractory population of this wayward country, which had dared to question the entire basis on which the eurozone was run, by cutting off the money supply and rendering even more people destitute if Syriza should refuse to acquiesce in the harsh financial terms of the proposed deal, which mandated yet more spending cuts to service a debt that everyone knew to be unsustainable. Under extreme duress Syriza surrendered to these demands and the worsening cycle of unemployment and declining wages, in which Greece has been trapped for at least the last 6 years, was resumed, inflicting a historic defeat on the people of Greece who had misguidedly believed that, by exercising their democratic rights, they could decide the future of their own country.
Greece illustrates the failings of an economic policy that is being implemented over the objections of the great majority of Europe’s citizens. Indeed, in its unwavering support for neoliberalism the EU represents nothing less than an attempt to perpetuate an economic model which advantages European businesses, whilst eroding the living standards of most Europeans. Particularly in the countries of the eurozone, democracy has been eviscerated by the adamant insistence of the EU on more cuts to government spending. The Growth and Stability Pact effectively prevents large-scale public spending on vital social services to alleviate the effects of a recession, limiting deficits to 3% of GDP. As part of this neoliberal model, national governments are also required each year to submit their budgets to the Commission for its approval, which has increasingly demanded that the rights of workers take second place to paying off the debts accumulated by the financial sector. Whilst the desperate scenes in Greece are an extreme case, high unemployment and chronic poverty have become fixed features of the eurozone, with the number of jobless in Spain, for example, amounting to over 20% of the workforce. Moreover, employers have been given the freedom to disregard the rights of their employees in a bid to raise productivity, sparking a series of labour revolts by workers driven to the edge of despair. In France, to cite the most recent instance, the much hated El-Khomri law, which seeks to increase the working week to 46 hours and is currently being contested by striking unions, was originally based on the recommendations of the Commission.
Thus, it is transparent that the hardships experienced by workers across Europe are an inescapable product of the economic policies enforced by the EU.
The myth of a pacifist EU
It is difficult to fathom how anyone save the wilfully blind could continue to view the EU as a progressive force in light of the destruction it visited upon Greece. But to understand the mindset that leads otherwise enlightened people to extol the benefits of an institution which is the cause of so much distress throughout Europe it is necessary for the moment to ignore facts. Faith in the EU is not grounded in any rational analysis of reality, but rests on a series of founding myths the truth of which its defenders have never paused to consider. They are regarded as unquestionably true and are never scrutinised, much as devout Christians in centuries past would never have thought to examine the articles of faith on which their belief in God was based.
The myth from which the EU derives much of its strength is that of an organisation which has overcome the bitter divisions of the past to fashion a new identity for the once warlike people of Europe. The narrative goes something like this: for millennia Europe was plagued by nationalist rivalries which produced wars of unparalleled violence. In the twentieth century, as a result of these rivalries the entire world was plunged into two conflicts which witnessed bloodletting on a scale never seen before, and following the second and most devastating of these wars, a band of far-seeing European statesmen resolved that never again would the nations of Europe battle against one another and be a cause of such misery to the rest of the planet. In a spirit of high-minded idealism they took the first steps toward the establishment of a supranational body which would bring countries together in harmony and peace, consigning to history the internecine feuding and jingoistic war-mongering that had rent the political fabric of Europe apart. Henceforth, the people of this war-torn continent, divided though they might be by borders, were to consider themselves Europeans in the truest sense, part of an organic union that would only grow in strength with the passage of the years.
To any serious student of history this account of the EU’s origins must appear as a gross distortion of the facts. But such is the comforting myth that underpins the faith many people, who should know better, exhibit in relation to an organisation they credit with having maintained the peace in Europe and prevented another plunge into barbarism for more than half a century. This romanticised view of history explains why in 2012 the Nobel Committee was able to award the Peace Prize to the EU, and also why in a poll conducted on the same occasion it was found that 75% of Europeans agreed with the Nobel Committee that ‘peace and democracy were the most important achievements of the EU’. The people who believe this are prepared to forgive the EU anything, because its failings in their eyes are as nothing when set against its tremendous success in averting another world war.
The reason this myth should cause offence to campaigners for peace everywhere is that it is based on a version of events which is utterly contradicted by the known facts about how the EU came into being. That there has not been another conflict to compare with WW2 in the seventy years following its end owes not to the moral vision of the politicians who presided over the birth of the EEC, the precursor to the EU, but is purely a result of shifting power dynamics. By 1945 the great powers of Europe had been so reduced in strength by the most savage war in human history that they soon realised they would never be able to recover their former status as global hegemons in a world the US had come to dominate. Indeed, such was the overwhelming preponderance of power enjoyed by the US, the only state to emerge from the war with its standing massively enhanced, that the idea of opposing its designs for Europe was swiftly set aside, and to retain what small measure of influence they could hope to wield in this unipolar world the formerly great powers agreed to be integrated into a military and economic alliance headed by the US. The creation of pan-European institutions that would foster the growth of a single European market, which would trade freely with US corporations, was made a condition of Marshall Aid by the American architects of the new economic order, who greeted every significant move in the direction of greater European unity with satisfaction. In the military sphere, membership of NATO, the armed alliance of states that the US established to further its imperialist interests, required Western European countries to devote a significant part of their budgets to military expenditure and maintain an armed truce with the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, effectively dividing the Continent into two hostile camps, constantly teetering on the edge of nuclear war, for much of the latter half of the twentieth century.
The roots of the EU are therefore to be sought not in the sentimental desire for peace felt by leading statesmen in the wake of war, though this was undoubtedly a desire expressed by masses of ordinary people, but in the essential fact of the post-1945 world that the US displaced Europe as the centre of global power and influence. Power politics not pacifism explains why there has not been another war between the major European states. Anyone who doubts the truth of this need only consider the foreign policy of Europe during the period when the basis for the EU was being laid. For most of the inhabitants of the third world these years were not ones distinguished by peace but by a series of brutal wars to free themselves from the yoke of imperialism. The founding members of the EEC, at the same time they were joining together in a spirit of ‘harmony’ and ‘peace’, unleashed a torrent of blood in their colonial possessions, obstinately clinging to the remnants of empire and crushing demands for liberty with shocking violence. In Algeria the French prosecuted a terrorist campaign against the population that resulted in 1.5 million deaths, the effects of which are still felt acutely by France’s Muslims, treated as second class citizens by the Republic, and are a source of deeply-felt divisions even now. In Vietnam, with funding from the US, the French also sought to retain control over their colony and defeat the Vietminh, eventually handing over to the Americans when they could no longer sustain the cost of such a military campaign. In the Congo, Belgium initially met demands for independence with violence and continued to interfere in the politics of the region following independence, playing a role in the assassination of the elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. In Kenya, the British, who were to join the EEC in 1973, waged a brutal war against the native Kikuyu throughout the 1950s in order to uphold the rule of the white settler elite, interning many Africans in concentration camps where they were subjected to torture.
The danger of peddling a false narrative of the growth of European unity in which base geopolitical considerations do not figure is the immunity granted the EU against criticism for its actions in the present. Far from waning, the attachment of European states to militarism remains as strong as ever, and has continued to find an outlet during the 21st century in a number of wars of aggression across the Middle-East and Africa, which differ little from the hey-day of 19th century imperialism, when great powers bestrode the world looting defenceless countries with utter abandon. There is, however, one significant difference between these past exploits and European imperialism in its modern guise. In recent years the EU has arrogated to itself an increasing array of powers in the field of foreign policy, establishing the office of High Representative for Foreign Affairs with a view to eventually dictating the relations of European nations with the outside world. Given fully 22 of the 28 member states that comprise the EU are members of NATO, it is unsurprising that the policy followed by this fledgling branch of the Commission is little more than an extension of the goals that Europe’s political leaders have long held in common with the US.
Through vesting power, however, in an unaccountable body of bureaucrats who cannot be voted from office, unlike elected politicians in member states, the EU seeks to make it all but impossible for the citizens of Europe to alter the foreign policy trajectories of their respective governments, and draw back from the reckless path of unabashed war-mongering upon which we are embarked. A case in point, and one that the former MP George Galloway cited in a recent speech, is Syria. Although most of the people who argued for Britain to intervene against ISIS towards the end of last year have effaced it from their memory, barely three years ago Cameron’s government, supported by much of the media class, favoured military intervention on the opposite side of the Syrian civil war, calling for air strikes against the Syrian army and support for those jihadist elements which subsequently morphed into ISIS. Thankfully, to the dismay of Cameron, this move was narrowly voted down in the Commons, but had this question fallen within the purview of the EU’s High Representative, it is unlikely that Britain’s Parliament would have even been permitted a vote on the matter.
The crowning achievement of the EU in the arena of foreign affairs has undoubtedly been its contribution to resurrecting the Cold War, fomenting a civil war in the Ukraine that still rages along the historically fraught border region that stretches between the EU and Russia. Few people in the West know of the EU’s role in igniting this conflict, or of the policy, drafted by the Commission, and relentlessly pursued during the last twenty years, of expanding the influence of the EU into Eastern Europe so as to isolate Russia behind a ring of hostile states. The degree of ignorance that the media has fostered regarding the crisis in Ukraine has reached the point that the supporters of remain even cite, with positive pride, the aggressive posturing of the EU during the recent crisis as a reason to vote against Brexit, contending that only as part of a larger entity can we stand up to the Russian bear, which is engaged in an attempt to subjugate its neighbours and reconstitute the Soviet Empire. If anything, the reverse is true, and the perilous brinksmanship of the EU with respect to Russia, its unceasing efforts to provoke an escalation in tensions between the two, should be considered grounds enough to vote leave.
For in reality Ukraine is merely the latest in a long line of countries which the EU has sought to annex to a Western alliance controlled by the US, with EU membership proceeding hand in hand with membership of NATO. This military organisation, formed in 1949 with the supposed aim of defending Western Europe against the USSR, has since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than doubled in size, with many of the new additions former Communist countries situated on Russia’s periphery, revealing its true character as an alliance that exists to extend the global reach of the US. The EU, by incorporating these countries into a political union closely linked to NATO, and in some cases laying the ground-work for their eventual accession to NATO through the Eastern Partnerships, a proto-form of EU membership, has in many ways acted to reinforce the bonds linking the various members of this alliance.
In the case of Ukraine, the action that set in motion the chain of events leading to civil war was the offer by the EU of an Association Agreement. This has frequently been depicted as a generous arrangement under which Ukraine would have benefited from most of the advantages enjoyed by EU member states, without, however, formally becoming a member. In actual fact the agreement would have required Ukraine to sever economic relations with Russia, a country to which it was intimately bound by a shared history, and was linked to a package of swingeing austerity measures that would have resulted in the ruination of Ukraine’s economy. Moreover, despite the outraged denials of its framers, the deal also mandated military cooperation between the EU and Ukraine and was clearly intended as a prelude to NATO membership. Given the fact that approximately half of Ukrainians, mainly living in the East of the country, were opposed to NATO and favoured better relations with Russia, it was hardly likely that the Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovych, who by all accounts had pro-EU leanings, would ever have been able to implement the terms of such a deal without splitting the country in two. When at the end of 2013 he therefore rejected the Agreement, prompting protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square, in which Ukraine’s fascist parties, which are driven by a racist hatred of the country’s ethnic Russian population, played a prominent part, both the EU and the US chose to back the protesters agitating for his removal. After Yanukovch was overthrown in a putsch in February 2014, spearheaded by those same fascist elements within the opposition, instead of spurning the interim government that was installed following his ouster the EU immediately proceeded to signal their approval by securing its assent to the Association Agreement that Yanukovych had originally refused to sign. When Eastern Ukrainians rose in revolt against the putschist government, which had removed the democratically elected President from office and concluded an Association Agreement in spite of their objections, the EU disingenuously attributed Ukraine’s descent into civil war to Russian interference.
The defenders of the EU refuse to acknowledge its contribution to the turmoil that has engulfed Ukraine, or its part in bringing about a new cold war, even arguing that Russia’s opposition to the European project stems from a distaste for democracy and human rights, rather than simple geopolitics. Some, indulgently, recognise that Russia is genuinely fearful about the threat to its position from the extension of NATO eastwards, but claim that these fears derive from a 19th century habit of mind whereby the world is divided up into spheres of interest between competing powers, which vie with each other for global domination. Unfortunately, they argue, the EU is hampered in its relations with Russia by the failure of Europe’s leaders to grasp that they are a 21st century power dealing with a country that has still not freed itself from old modes of thinking about international affairs. But the chronology of the crisis is clear, as is the role the EU played in prompting it, and few who have studied the matter would deny that the actions of the EU with respect to Ukraine appear in the grand tradition of imperialist politics.
The question confronting Britain
The question of whether to remain or leave will likely not be decided on the basis of what is being done on the Continent in the name of ‘internationalism’. But a broader perspective is needed to refute the contorted arguments of many liberals who all too often give too much credence to the rhetoric of the European project, whilst paying little heed to its record. The current debate in Britain suffers from the entrenched tendency of the mainstream left to identify support for remain with opposition to petty-minded nationalism, and to chide Brexiters for being too insular and self-interested to appreciate the sense of high moral purpose that drives the EU. The briefest look, however, at the destructive polices that have been imposed on the countries of the eurozone, and the chaos that has ensued from imperialist meddling in foreign affairs, is enough to counter the baseless assertion, constantly repeated by those in the remain camp, that in opposing Brexit people will be voting for a worthy attempt to replace nationalist discords with a shared identity based on a commitment to democracy and human rights. The EU is not internationalist in any sense that a genuine member of the left would support. It exists to advance the interests of the business class as against workers, and in its zeal to enrich corporations at the expense of ordinary people it has succeeded in creating such disaffection with the political establishment that fascism, the very phenomenon the EU was in theory designed to prevent, has once more become a formidable force in countries languishing in the grip of high unemployment and low wages.
There are both altruistic and more self-interested considerations that should be factored into any decision on how to vote in the upcoming referendum. Both kinds of analysis, however, dictate a vote for Brexit. The supporters of remain commonly react to the argument that Britain has much to gain from leaving by speaking vaguely of showing solidarity with the many millions of people in the eurozone to whom that option is not available. They seem not to understand that by voting to remain, far from showing solidarity with the rest of Europe, Britain would be electing to prolong the life of an institution which is conducting a bizarre neoliberal experiment in how far it can push Europeans before they lose all hope. There is a moral case for leaving, based on the fact that Brexit would probably result in the dissolution of the EU and ease the suffering of nations currently held captive by neoliberal economics. The evidence for this is compelling. It is doubtful, for example, that the EU could long survive the withdrawal of one of its principal sources of funding. Far more worrisome from the point of view of those running Europe than the financial repercussions of Brexit, however, would be the example that it would set for the stricken populations of the Continent, especially in the southern countries, who have been led to believe that escape from the economic straitjacket of the eurozone is impossible. Presented with the spectacle of a people freely choosing to exit the EU, it is conceivable that workers suffering the consequences of EU-enforced austerity in countries like Spain and Italy would place pressure on their representatives to grant a referendum.
There is also an argument for leaving based on the benefits that Britain is currently well-placed to reap from such a move. The landslide election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party last year has indicated the widespread support that exists for a socialist alternative to the centre-ground politics which has held sway in Britain for the last thirty years, showing that the Blairites, who were roundly defeated in the election, were wrong to dismiss socialism as a spent force and place their faith in the free market. Consequently, a reforming Labour government may well assume the reins of government in the very near future. If it takes power in the context of a vote to remain, however, such a government would face real obstacles to implementing its programme in the form of the capitalist safeguards against reform that the EU has established. It would not be able to nationalise the railways, despite the overwhelming support of the public, because the EU has made public ownership of the railways illegal. A Labour government would find it difficult to increase expenditure on the NHS and other much needed public services because of the strict economies that the EU pressures member states to adopt by limiting the budget deficit to 3% of GDP. Furthermore, a social-democratic government of the kind that Corbyn could potentially head, with its commitment to decoupling the economy from its damaging dependence on financial services, would soon discover that competition rules forbid us from subsidising our manufacturing sector or even protecting our steel industry from Chinese dumping through raising tariffs on imports. In short, any government that seeks to overturn the neoliberal consensus will find that, within the confines of the EU, even limited reforms toward that end are a practical impossibility, liable to be struck down by the European Court of Justice as incompatible with EU law at any time.
It is regrettable that, instead of focussing on the impediments Labour would face in the event of a vote to remain, the mainstream left has chosen to fix its attention on the perceived boost that Brexit would give the current Conservative government. A myth has gained ground amongst large sections of the left that the rights which British workers have come to take for granted, such as maternity leave and paid holidays, were gifted to Britain by the EU, and that Brexit would free the Conservatives to intensify their assault on the working class, uninhibited by a social Europe which at present exercises a restraining influence over neoliberal governments. Even supposing that the remain camp is right in assuming that the Conservatives will hold onto power until the next general election in four years time, a questionable assumption in light of the fact the Conservatives are deeply split over the referendum, it is simply false to claim that we owe whatever rights we enjoy to the EU, As others have documented, most of the rights that are invoked by the mainstream left as a reason to vote remain were already in place when we joined the EEC in 1973, and they owe not to a beneficent bureaucracy of Eurocrats but to Britain’s working classes, who won these rights over the course of many years and after a series of hard-fought struggles with the capitalist class. Likewise, the retention of these rights will depend not on the good-will of a remote bureaucracy, which is actively undermining those same rights elsewhere, but on the determination of workers to band together in defence of their standard of living.
Unfortunately, many of the left apologists for the EU have been aided in their efforts to paint their opponents as backward nationalists by the fact that the Brexit campaign is largely dominated by the right. Almost all of the political figures who favour Brexit that the British public are regularly exposed to on TV are drawn from the far right of the Conservative Party, such as the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson and the current justice minister Michael Gove. (The noteworthy exception is Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP – a right-wing party formed for the sole purpose of taking Britain out of the EU.) At times the debate has resembled, and has often been reported as, an internal squabble between factions of the Conservative Party over the direction Britain should take as well as, on a more personal level, a battle between Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of the remain group, and Boris Johnson, who is widely believed to be the most likely successor of Cameron in the event of Brexit. The left-wing case for leaving, which has been eloquently articulated by a number of prominent intellectuals and activists, has been given relatively little attention by the media, with the result that many voters have been kept in ignorance of the existence of such arguments, and various Blairite MPs on the right of the Labour Party have been able to assert that they alone represent what the left’s position should be in the debate over Britain’s attitude to the EU.
Paradoxically, however, the near monopoly of the right over the Brexit campaign is not proof that opposition to the EU is intrinsically right-wing, but testifies instead to the weakness of a left which has been steadily stripped of its commitment to economic justice. Thirty years ago the most forceful advocates of Brexit were to be found among the members of the Labour Party, not on the right, and calls for Britain to withdraw from the EU, or the EEC as it was then called, were considered a standard feature of Labour’s policy platforms. The great left-wing MP Tony Benn campaigned in the 1975 referendum for Labour to leave the EEC on the grounds that such an arrangement was contrary to the basic democratic principle that people should be allowed to vote on the policies affecting them. Events since 1975 have only proved the truth of Benn’s original argument, made all those years ago, that these undemocratic tendencies were destined to grow with time, posing a grave risk to our ability to decide the most basic of policy issues. Moreover, unlike the MPs campaigning for remain today, politicians like Benn understood that the lack of democracy at the heart of the EU was not an oversight on the part of its founders, but an essential component of a project which sought to supplant national governments with a supranational authority divorced from the concerns of ordinary people. So long as power was vested in national assemblies, these institutions, however imperfect, were at least answerable to their voters, but once power over economic policy was ceded to bureaucrats then the business elites which effectively governed Europe were easily able to overcome popular resistance to their policies by dispensing with the need for elections.
Unfortunately, this basic point has been forgotten by the members of the Labour Party now campaigning to remain. Thus, the left-wing opponents of Brexit frequently give the impression that they regard the EU’s democratic deficit as a minor flaw, something that could easily be rectified if only Britain stays within the EU and works with other countries to reform it. Not a few even deny that the EU is undemocratic, reasoning that because the Council of Ministers, which concludes the treaties which form the basis for the EU, is composed of elected government figures from the member states this amounts to an indirect form of democratic accountability. These supporters of remain seem oblivious to the fact that the whole purpose of enshrining in various treaties the neoliberal principles on which the EU rests, treaties which once concluded cannot be repealed except through the agreement of all 28 member states, is to ensure that such weighty questions are forever removed from the sphere of democratic debate. The electorate of a particular country can vote their government out, but they cannot revoke the set of laws that this government agreed to, nor exercise any control over the unappointed Commission which is granted broad discretion to implement these laws.
The referendum is perhaps the one chance that this generation will ever have to vote on our membership of an institution which now wields an inordinate amount of power. It is the only opportunity we will be given to affirm our democratic right to rule on the fundamental questions with which we are confronted, and at the same time administer a blow to the undemocratic vision of a corporate Europe, rooted in neoliberal economics and a disdain for workers, that has crushed underfoot the aspirations of so many Europeans who were never even offered the choice of agreeing to such a project. A vote to leave will not usher in an age of socialist egalitarianism, but it is nonetheless, as socialists agitating for Brexit have observed, a necessary steppingstone without which the fairer society we are striving to achieve will be rendered a more distant prospect.
Members of the mainstream left who are campaigning to remain have only been able to maintain their enthusiasm for the EU by averting their eyes from its shameful record, adhering instead to an exalted image of a progressive body which has never existed outside of their imaginations. Ordinary voters must spurn such consoling myths, and recognise the EU for what it is: a deeply reactionary institution that is holding back progress throughout Europe.
Quite revealingly, the self-proclaimed crusader against genocide, Samantha Power, was awarded the 2016 Henry A. Kissinger Prize in Berlin. That Power would be awarded a prize named after one of the world’s great génocidaires, and that she would happily accept it, proves what many of us have believed all along – that she is more the clever apologist for U.S. crimes than a bona fide human rights advocate.
The problem with Power all along has been that her refusal to acknowledge the incontrovertible fact that the U.S., as exemplified by such figures as Henry Kissinger himself, is in reality the world leader in war crimes commission, and an active facilitator of genocide. The U.S. is not, as Power has claimed throughout her career, a force for halting such evils. However, Power has done an impressive job in advancing this myth, and in the process in perpetuating the false belief that the world would be better off if only the U.S. were more active militarily throughout the world. In so doing, Power, who is lauded as some great human rights advocate, probably does more than any other public figure to harm the cause of global human rights.
Power’s acceptance speech, entitled, “Remarks on ‘Twenty-First Century Realism’ at the Awarding of the 2016 Henry A. Kissinger Prize,” is very illustrative of the delusions Power promotes in the interest of U.S. power projection and the grave harms done by this projection. 
First of all, Power, in full agreement with Kissinger, condemns what she refers to as “the rise of extremist and isolationist voices in the U.S.” who dare challenge “the internationalist assumptions that have undergirded U.S. foreign policy across party lines since the Second World War.” This statement is pregnant with meaning and deserves some dissecting.
As an initial matter, it is stunning that Power would characterize those who call for the U.S. to stop, or even slow, its aggressive, interventionist policy around the globe as “extremist” when it’s so clear to any rational observer that it is this interventionist policy itself which is so extremist as to be insane.
Indeed, it is hard to point to any great successes, especially in terms of human rights, that the U.S.’s post-WWII “internationalism” (I would prefer to call it imperialist aggression) achieved, and Power in her speech tellingly does not point to even one such success. And, how could she with a straight face? The innumerable U.S. interventionist adventures since WWII have done nothing to advance human rights or even national security, at least if national security means the protection of U.S. citizens like you and me.
Rather, the U.S.’s “internationalism” has consisted of overthrowing constitutional democracies in countries like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), Haiti (2004), Honduras (2009), just to name a few. It has consisted of carrying out mass slaughter in an attempt to put down national liberation struggles, for example in Vietnam and in Southern Africa, costing the lives of millions. And, it has involved sowing instability throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East, in such countries as Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Power’s complete blindness to such realities – though she ironically entitles her speech, “Twenty-first Century Realism” – is hard to fathom. For example, she explains the current rise of ISIL in Iraq as the product of “the deeply sectarian, corrupt, and abusive rule of Prime Minister Maliki . . . .” There is no mention, however, of the 1991 and 2003 military interventions in Iraq by the U.S., nor of the intervening sanctions regime, which destroyed the social fabric of that country and left hundreds of thousands of civilians, including at least half a million children, dead. No, those acts of “internationalism” apparently do not deserve even a mention in Power’s distorted view.
In addition, Power does not mention the U.S. intervention in Libya in 2011, though that was an intervention which she and her soulmates Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice played a key role in bringing about. Again, the undisputed result of this intervention has been instability in Libya and surrounding countries, such Mali and Tunisia, and the accompanying rise of armed extremist groups in those countries. But again, this deserves no mention. Instead, Power attempts to explain the “instability roiling the Middle East” as the product of almost mystical forces beyond the purview of the U.S., thus criticizing those who would “presume that the United States had within our control to put the Arab Spring genie back in the bottle . . . .”
Power, repeating her long-time refrain which has given her the reputation as a human rights advocate, ends her speech by stating that “we no longer live in an era in which foreign policymakers can claim to serve their nations’ interests treating what happens to people in other countries as an afterthought. . . . What happens to people in other countries matters. It matters to the welfare of our own nations and our own citizens.” Of course, there is nothing particularly profound about this statement, and it would be hard to find many who would admit to disagreeing with it.
However, as with all Power says, what is absent is any discussion about how the actions of the U.S., and of even of Power herself, has undermined the welfare of people in other countries. For example, in addition to her role in pushing for the disastrous intervention in Libya, Power has also been active in giving diplomatic cover to the U.S.-backed Saudi slaughter in Yemen which continues to this day. Thus, in an episode quite reminiscent of those she criticizes in her Pulitzer-prize winning book, A Problem From Hell, Power helped the Saudis scuttle a resolution at the United Nations that called for an investigation into the civilian toll of the Saudi coalition war against Yemen , in which at least 6,000 civilians have been killed and 14 million civilians find themselves on the brink of starvation. In the end, even for Power, whether “people in other countries matter” inevitably depends upon who the people are, and whether the state impacting their interests is a friend of the U.S. or not.
In short, Power is really the perfect exemplar of U.S. foreign policy. She is a hypocrite and a phony idealist who believes her own lies about the role of the U.S., and even herself, in the world, and who does a great job of convincing the public that these lies are truth. But sadly — like Kissinger himself who will never be able to wash the blood of the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Chileans, Argentines and East Timorese off his hands, but who nonetheless is treated as an elder statesman — Power will most likely never be brought to account. She will continue to live out her days watching Boston Red Sox games and hanging out with the rich and powerful, while other, lesser criminals are sent to The Hague. Regrettably, this is what passes for human rights these days . . .
 See, Power speech at http://usun.state.gov/remarks/7320
Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.