Although the era of US global hegemony is coming to a close, the Middle East – more than most regions – is still reeling from the nasty last jabs of that Empire in decline.
It is little wonder, then, that the US presidential election season is scrutinized carefully in all corners of the Mideast.
Over here, the debate over the likely victor is less about economic, political and social projects than it is about which candidate is least likely to launch wars against us.
Anecdotally, there seems to be a consensus that Hillary Clinton would be the worst for the region, though of course – like in the United States – that perception changes dramatically when the conversation is with regional elites and ‘liberals.’
And just like their American counterparts, Middle Easterners get bogged down in arguments about Donald Trump’s ‘racism,’ Bernie Sanders’ ‘viability’ and Clinton’s ‘hawkishness.’ Media, after all, has never been more uniform in its pronouncements – we all, universally, receive the same talking points.
But US Presidential Election 2016 means a lot more than US polls in decades past. From the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa, borders have never been so frayed, terrorism so pervasive, security and resources so threatened.
The Middle East is a wretched mess. And at the heart of each and every one of these quagmires stands the United States, imposing itself, its military ‘expertise’ and its humanitarian ‘do-gooding’ into our suffering. Ironically, perhaps, there are few problems in the Mideast that have not been caused or exacerbated by the destructive hand of US foreign policy.
The last playground
The Middle East is the last global playground where the US can act with impunity. Part of the reason for this is that most of the two dozen states that make up the region are still headed by US-backed dictators and monarchs – American proxies that prioritize Washington’s interests over those of its citizenry. The US plays hard in this region because it wishes to maintain this remarkably favorable status quo, which it has lost virtually everywhere else.
Even as the Cold War was drawing to a close – vanquishing the old Soviet bloc proxy leaders in the Mideast and replacing them with US-friendly ones – the 1979 Iranian Revolution flipped the region once more, ushering in a new framework for independence from the ‘Anglo imperialist.’
In the aftermath of Iraq’s war with Iran, which had placed Iranian aspirations on hold for eight long, destructive years, Tehran began to forge regional relationships that formed the underpinnings of a new Axis of Resistance to US and Western hegemonic ambitions.
The US expanded its military role in the Middle East mainly to eradicate this ‘Shia’ thorn in its side – but it has not only failed to do so with each consecutive US administration, it has willfully unleashed the well-contained demons of sectarianism to achieve this goal.
Hello, Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism. Hello, Al Qaeda. Hello, ISIS.
Why even get into this recent history? It’s important for one main reason. Even as the US now turns its guns on the Frankenstein monster it created from its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now its intervention in Syria… Washington also has its guns aimed at Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other entities that are fighting this very terrorism.
When Trump debuted his foreign policy vision earlier this week, he pointed out that current US policy was “reckless, rudderless and aimless” – “one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.”
It’s all we’ve heard in recent years – certainly since the start of the Arab ‘uprisings’ – with pundits and commentators alike scratching their heads in confusion over US goals in the region.
American policy is not confused – it is very deliberate. Get your head around this: Washington seeks to thwart the Iranian-led axis by unleashing sectarian, Wahhabi-influenced extremists into parts of the region viewed as Iran’s strategic depth, AND it seeks to counter the proliferation of these extremists by reaching out to Iran, tactically – hence the sudden P5+1 nuclear deal in the midst of all this conflict.
This is what I call America’s “strategic dissonance” – playing both sides to engineer protracted conflict in an effort to gradually drive the two sides into extinction.
Only problem is the unpredictability of it all – and the ensuing chaos, destruction and terrorism that has now poured over these borders into Europe and beyond.
Mr. America versus Ms. Beltway
It is clear that this strategic dissonance has once more led to an American “unintended consequence.” It is equally clear that it will take nothing less than a sledgehammer to alter the destructive bent of US foreign policy.
What’s interesting about this election year is that voters have put their backs behind unlikely candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, mostly, it seems, to buck the establishment.
The two long-shot candidates have delivered scathing reviews of Beltway politicos and the ‘interest groups’ that prop them up – foreign and domestic, both.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton – the ‘deserving’ establishment candidate who was a shoo-in until a few short months ago – has had to fight for every vote in her contests with Democratic Party newcomer Sanders.
And the easiest blows against Clinton have been in the foreign policy arena, where the Beltway hawk has a long record of backing the wrong plan – in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.
In the Mideast, Clinton’s militaristic leanings scuttle any goodwill one would otherwise have for a Democratic Party candidate. Egyptians lobbed tomatoes, shoes and water bottles at her motorcade when the then-secretary of state made an appearance after the ousting of longtime US ally President Hosni Mubarak.
It was under her stewardship at the Department of State when “foreign hands” began to make their marks on the Arab uprisings – none to the benefit of the Arab masses.
Her support for the ill-conceived US invasion of Iraq, which led to the establishment of Al Qaeda in that country, is a constant refrain here in the Mideast – much as it is in the United States. And her refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of US military intervention in Libya remain proof that she never learned from Iraq.
Like him or not, Clinton’s maniacal laughter over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s violent death as she sanguinely declared “We came, we saw, he died,” has been forever imprinted on our collective memories.
We have since learned that US President Barack Obama’s decision to militarily intervene in Libya came down to her vote. Libyan blood cannot be washed off those hands.
And now Clinton wants to escalate in Syria by carving out a “safe zone” – which is how her Libyan adventure started.
If Clinton suffers from a likeability problem in the US, she is downright reviled in the Mideast – except among the usual suspects which include dictators, monarchs and other super-wealthy elites who have either contributed to the Clinton Foundation or are desperate to maintain their cushy positions within a US-dominated region.
Then there’s Trump
The highly controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been roundly bashed in this region for his prejudicial comments against Muslims, but there’s a quiet parade of thinkers in the Mideast – from Arab nationalists to progressives to intellectuals – who have been casting coy second glances his way.
“Trump can turn the system upside down,” says a leading Lebanon-based Arab nationalist. “He’s his own man, he will not be dragged into the trappings of the deep state,” says an influential writer.
“Who else is willing to put the brakes on NATO, disengage from lousy alliances, hook up with Putin and others to fight terrorism the right way, prioritize diplomacy over military options? Not Clinton, no way,” a college student rants.
There is that.
Unlike Clinton, there’s not much we know about Trump. He has no foreign policy record, except of course his non-stop reminder that he opposed the US invasion of Iraq and warned that it would be a “disaster.”
But if you’re going to take a chance on a candidate – if you’re going to try to read between the lines of campaign promises – I suggest taking the unconventional, risky declarations more seriously than predictable, voter-friendly platitudes like “I support the state of Israel unconditionally.”
And Trump has some doozies.
On key US ally Saudi Arabia, arguably ground zero for the militant extremism rampant in the region – and a country that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says was prepared to “fight the Iranians to the last American” – Trump warns that he might halt purchases of Saudi oil unless Riyadh commits ground troops to the ISIS fight. His comments mirror those of Gates – as disclosed in a 2010 Wikileaks cable – who said of the Saudis that it “is time for them to get in the game.”
“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” suggests Trump, quite correctly.
On Russia, Syria and US support of rebels: “Putin does not want ISIS. The rebel groups… we have no idea who these people are. We’re training people, we don’t know who they are… we’re giving them billions of dollars to fight Assad… If you look at Libya, look what we did there, it’s a mess. If you look at Saddam Hussein, with Iraq, look at what we did there, it’s a mess…”
In what seemed like a swipe at US support of questionable militants in Syria and elsewhere, Trump says: “We need to be clear sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies. And believe me, we have groups that no matter what you do, they will be the enemy. We have to be smart enough to recognize who those groups are, who those people are, and not help them.”
Asked if the Mideast would be more secure if Saddam and Gaddafi were still around and Assad were stronger, Trump boldly declares: “It’s not even a contest… Of course it would be.”
And this: “I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS. Putin has to get rid of ISIS because Putin doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia.”
Trump is an unknown quantity, but he is delivering some home truths to restive voters in an unconventional election year.
Clinton is the quintessential establishment candidate, the sure-thing that voters wish they could like, who is running for president at the wrong time for a beltway insider.
Trump has defied all the odds thus far, and there is no reason he can’t continue to do that all the way to the White House. Whether or not he can keep surprising once he is there is anyone’s guess. Will he become co-opted by the system? Will he strike down entrenched Washington dogmas with his trademark arrogance? Nobody knows.
If Trump runs against Clinton, his campaign mantra has to be “Clinton: tons of experience, no judgment.” It’s pretty much the only way he can compete with a seasoned politician who is sure to throw his inexperience back in his face at every opportunity.
For the Mideast, this is not the time to pick the ‘devil we know.’ We know how that story ends every single time: destabilization, chaos, terrorism.
Trump is definitely the lesser evil, whichever way one looks at it. He simply cannot be worse than her.
But there is one solitary upside to a Clinton presidency. If Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States… we will see the world shift decisively into a new multi-polar order. The battle over Syria became a red line for the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and they placed protective arms around key states, in turn forging closer relations with each other – some of these, military dimensions – and with a number of other ‘middle powers’ that threatened to up-end US hegemonic ambitions once and for all.
Imagine then, the reactions of Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and other states irked by US-backed destabilizing campaigns, if a hawk like Clinton is ensconced in the White House.
We’ll slip into a new world order faster than you can say ‘Goldman Sachs.’
Follow Sharmine Narwani on Twitter at @snarwani
U.S. government hypocrisy is, as most everyone knows, boundless. It’s also utterly transparent. Our public officials evidently see no shame in belying their professions of benign intent with awesome malevolence and destruction. After all, there’s always the doctrine of American Exceptionalism to justify the unjustifiable. Take for instance Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign, or “drone war” in media-speak. It is now common knowledge (among the mildly informed, anyway) that said campaign is only nominally discriminate, and furthermore essentially pointless, assuming its point is not to foster Islamic extremism. Last year, leaked government documents confirmed what was already suspected: most of those killed by Barry O’s drone fleet are unidentified people who happen to be standing near the intended target, who for one reason or another (we’re not allowed to know) was selected for summary execution.
What is the effect of this policy? It’s not difficult to figure out. Let’s suppose for a moment that these remote control airstrikes really were “surgical”—that they didn’t result in dead civilians. It would still be an exercise in futility. Wiping out a single jihadist, no matter his rank, doesn’t eliminate his position: he can and will be replaced. Would it disrupt the relevant cell’s operation? Does it matter? Disrupt it enough and it will splinter, and now you’ve got two cells instead of one, and perhaps the new one is more monstrous than the original. ISIS, let’s remember, was first an al-Qaeda franchise. The latter group, whose side we’ve taken against Syria’s elected president, now seems like the “JV team” (credit to Obama for the awkward analogy) to the former’s Varsity. Needless to say, U.S. foreign policy, in its liberal interventionist form, facilitated the rise and expansion of ISIS; the group that now, according to most Republicans, presents the gravest threat to our national security.
To label the drone war as merely futile, however, is disingenuous. Counterproductive is a better word, although probably still too charitable. We take out one militant—reducing him to “a greasy spot on the ground”—and another springs up to take his place. That’s futility. But in the process, people living in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen observe that the U.S. is not bound by any standard principle of law, least of all the one guaranteeing a criminal suspect due process. How, one wonders, are they expected to feel about that? If the American Empire says you’re fit to die, you’re fit to die, and that’s the end of it. Interesting concept. Of course, such tyranny would never be tolerated here at home, where a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial remains (for the most part) inalienable and uncontroversial. Not so for foreigners suspected by the U.S. government of terrorist activity in their own countries, with whom the U.S. is not at war and over whom the U.S. has no jurisdiction in any reasonable sense of the word.
The American public may not care very much about the extrajudicial killing of a few supposedly dangerous Muslims living in Somalia. (CNN doesn’t tell them to worry about it, so why should they?) They do, however, seem to care about anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, the threat of global jihad, etc.—and rightfully so. These are serious issues; they should be treated as such. Here’s an axiom: if we’re going to take an issue seriously, the very least we can do is make an effort to understand it. Why does Salafism (i.e. Wahhabism, i.e. Saudism) continue to spread like wildfire over the Middle East and beyond? Why do so many Muslims have, in the words of Donald Trump, a tremendous, tremendous hatred for the U.S.?
It couldn’t have anything to do with the continuous, illegal bombing of Muslim-majority countries. That would be too straightforward an answer, and moreover contradictory to the narrative our policy-makers, always looking out for the weapons industry, like to spin for us. There is, however, Occam’s razor, which would insist that we stop dismissing simple, obvious explanations. One such explanation might be that Obama’s drone fetish, even without the civilian death toll, certainly doesn’t make the jihadist recruiter’s job any less difficult (and in fact does precisely the reverse). Another might be that, by shoring up the medieval sadists governing Saudi Arabia and oppressing its population, the U.S. indirectly (or perhaps directly) promotes the ideology underpinning every Wahhabi terrorist gang in the world, whether JV or Varsity.
Saudi Arabia. The world’s most prolific exporter of oil. Also the world’s most prolific exporter of Islamic extremism, that omnipresent threat to civilization we’re allegedly so bent on eradicating. It was reported that our dear leader was cold-shouldered upon his recent arrival to the great pious kingdom. The impudence! Have the Wahhabi princes no appreciation for the Obama administration’s generosity? After all, $50 billion in munitions sales is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when those munitions are earmarked for war crimes. The United States has given Saudi Arabia, and its Wahhabi coalition, carte blanche to commit atrocities against civilians in Yemen: American bombs, including illegal “cluster bombs,” are being used to blow up schools, hospitals, mosques, etc., in the name of… well, nothing, really. What more could the Saudis want! More weapons? All they have to do is ask. Obama distributes “smart bombs” like candy.
The civil war in Yemen represents the latest, though not quite the greatest (which says a lot), failure of American foreign policy. With our weapons and whole-hearted support, Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi pals have managed to do to Yemen what NATO did to Libya. In other words, Yemen is now a failed state with no central government and a massive power vacuum—ideal conditions for terrorists, in this case al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, to exploit. Naturally, all of this is underreported by Western media, since we have no enemy on whom to cast blame. You may hear the occasional whisper about Ayatollah culpability, but that’s about it.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen… every time the same result. To say that the U.S. has failed to learn its lesson is erroneous. I’ve seen no evidence that U.S. policy-makers are interested in learning any sort of lesson, nor that they actually desire a better outcome to begin with. They’re not merely inept, as so many like to insist; they’re cynical, and profoundly so.
Terrorism is useful. It can be, and is, cited to justify almost anything: extravagant military budgets, abrogation of civil liberties, alliance with nefarious regimes, arbitrary detention, torture, war. They all matter, but the last one matters most. If the objective really is to defeat terrorism, as defined by us, then our policy is irrational; in fact it meets the famous definition of insanity. Plainly, bombing volatile societies and unleashing dormant sectarian violence does nothing to contain terrorism. Plainly, it has the opposite effect. Terrorists draw strength and support from chaos and carnage; if you think Cheney et al. were oblivious to that fact, I’ve a got a plot of land to sell you…. Bush may be simple, and it’s certainly possible that he derived his conception of war from the pictures, but his cabinet was a sly bunch; a bunch whose loyalty was not to our nation’s security but rather to the Pentagon and the weapons manufacturers.
Before Bush was sworn in by the Supreme Court, Dick was pushing for a bigger military budget. Little did he know that he needn’t bother! The events of 9/11 were a windfall for the jingoists, damage to the Pentagon notwithstanding. Terrorism was no longer an abstract threat; the threat was all too palpable, all too urgent, and nobody was prepared to question the government’s response, which was not to invade the country that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, but rather the one in which the plot’s ringleader, another Saudi, happened to live. The U.S. could have invaded Canada that October (surely there were some Bin Laden sympathizers loitering in that country)—we just wanted a show of military might, projected wherever.
That’s the terrorism effect. That’s why Saddam Hussein, our long-time ally and Israel’s great “existential threat” of the day, was suddenly charged with sponsoring terrorism. Casting Saddam as a Bin Laden advocate, however false, gave us a solid pretext for war. The consequence of that war—ISIS—gives us a solid pretext for more war, etc. As long as terrorism exists, we can go to war, and as long as we go to war, terrorism will exist. Meanwhile the Pentagon’s budget continues to swell. The War on Terror, then, is a self-sustaining enterprise.
The beauty of Obama’s global assassination campaign is that it allows us to bomb without declaring war. We don’t have to worry about running out of countries to invade; we can drone our allies if we so choose. That being said, no war machine is complete, and no Empire content, without the occasional full-scale invasion. Iran has been in the crosshairs for a long time—ever since they had the nerve to overthrow the iron-fisted dictator we kindly installed for them. Predictably, the Iranian nuclear agreement, Obama’s most significant foreign policy achievement, has done nothing to curb the hawks’ appetite. Indeed, many Republican presidential candidates have assured us that, as commander in chief, they would make it their first order of business to tear up the internationally-recognized treaty.
At the other end of the aisle, H.R. Clinton, the “superprepared warrior realist,” derides the prospect of normalizing relations with Iran. Back in 2008, she demonstrated her warrior spirit, boasting of her preparedness to “totally obliterate” the 80 million people who live there, which would steer the U.S. into a nuclear conflict with Russia, quite possibly annihilating us all. (Lest you forget: Trump is the real danger.)
Clinton and her fellow jingos hate the nuclear deal, and the reason is simple: it eliminates a major pretext for war. After all, the case against Iran is identical to the case against Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism. And Israel at the center of it all. The Zionists lobbied hard for war with Iraq, and no one is lobbying harder for war with Iran. They intend to make Hillary’s obliteration fantasy into reality. Lucky for them, and unlucky for the rest of us, she is almost certainly our next president, and no one is more subservient to their will.
Unsurprisingly, no presidential candidate has been asked whether they plan to adopt Obama’s failed anti-terror policy, which is to fight terror with more terror, forever fanning the proverbial flames. Perhaps “failed” is not quite an accurate description, though, as that word implies a wish to succeed. Presently there’s no excuse to believe the Obama administration was ever serious about checking the scourge of Saudi-inspired terrorism. If Trump is right, and the Muslim world hates us, Obama was very much committed to aggravating that sentiment. He’s done a fine job.
Michael Howard can be contacted at email@example.com
Regime change, the term hundreds of millions hear on the nightly news is rendered innocuous by the sheer repetitiveness. But regime change is almost always accompanied by death and destruction, and after effects that affect us all, no matter where in the world it occurs. The overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by an American president and co-conspirators is truly a case for an international tribunal. Here’s a starting lineup for an international war crimes double header.
Every time I think of Barack Obama’s former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of her gloating and bragging over Libya flood into my mind’s eye. Then my mind races cognitively, to a culvert in a ditch near the town of Sirte, to a bruised and bloodied figure, staring up and fearful of his captors, just before they kicked and beat him, then riddled his body with bullets, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al- Gaddafi’s life surely passed before his eyes. In the blink of a US drone electronic eye, the most powerful man in Africa was dethroned, and the Middle East was set on fire. History will inquire, “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Well I have history’s answer.
Exhibit A: A US President Misleads His People
On March 28th, 2011 the Obama White House issued this transcript of the American president’s address to the people he swore to lead and protect. Within this insulting and misleading address, there are many lies and reversals of fact, but there are also great truths as well. For instance, the nations complicit in the violent coup d’é·tat in Libya were named by Obama, they were: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Qatar along with the United Arab Emirates. Each of these nation’s geo-political interests in Libya and Gaddafi can be traced directly to big business or US surrogacy, this is irrevocable and irreconcilable. The involvement of US, UK and European agents inside Libya, the levers put in place to unseat the standing Libyan government, are just now coming into the daylight. I’ll shine more light on these further on, but right now characterizing the unmitigated audacity of Barack Obama is important. Not only did the US president mislead the American people on March 28th, 2011, his character would not allow him to pass up the opportunity to brag about how swiftly and decisively he had acted. On the mandate for unseating Gaddafi, the president said:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.”
This statement is key for understanding the truth of not only Libya, but Syria, Ukraine, and even for policies as far back as the NATO agenda in Bosnia. In a caveat to this, Obama also frames a hidden strategy beneath by discussing what we now know as the larger European tragedy. The president claims “our interests” were served by preventing:
“A massacre (that) would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Not only did Barack Obama and his administration sell this lie to the American people, he also committed one of his worst political mistakes ever.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
This was 2011, take note of this. The Obama team now openly professed a US and coalition plan to take down Gaddafi, they foretold of a larger scheme, the Arab Spring and western expansionism that grips the world today. Violence on a horrific scale, instigated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The refugee crises, which are clearly “ordained” in the quotes above as “warnings”, these were in fact part of a regional plan of destabilization.
Exhibit B: Obama – the Little Big Man 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not often wrong, but his statement last week about Barack Obama being “strong” enough to admit the mistake of Libya, it’s dead wrong. Barack Obama is not at all strong. He’s a decent actor, and can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business. Being strong in the Putin sense, it means serving the people, and not the hidden masters of the policy universe. In a now famous interview with Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, Obama admits not planning for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi was his biggest mistake as president. Obama says (via the transcript) on being asked “Worst mistake?”, by Wallace:
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the statement of a strong president, it is weak and pitiful in so many respects. The man cannot even come to grips with a truth, let alone take responsibility. “Probably”, the “right thing to do”, “think” – the whole snippet hints at lying or misdirect. Wallace never returns to the issue, the “central issue”, as it were, for America’s role in world terror and upheaval. The “facts” of Barack Obama’s regime change agenda contravene any suggestion Libya was simply an error. Most Americans are completely unaware of the battle in the US Congress to forestall this coup.
“Despite its failure to obtain legal approval from Congress, the Obama administration continued to provide the bulk of the military support for the NATO operation until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October. Before the official termination of Operation Unified Protector, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder said that “the United States led in this operation… It led in the planning of the operation, it led in getting the mandate for the operation, and it led in the execution of the operation… the United States conducted more sorties than any other country in this operation, twenty six percent.”
Barack Obama, with the adamant support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Neocons like Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, and military industrial complex lap dog, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ousted Gaddafi circumvented the people of the United States of America. For those wondering at my vehemence here, General Dynamics and the US Navy will name a new destroyer after Levin, just in case any out there are reticent in disbelief of my assertions. The arrogance, the insolence of these people staggers the imagination, but I must frame another constituent’s part in America’s export of revolution. Obama was not owning up to a mistake in Libya, he was sliding past a question by a sellout Fox reporter. The only reason for him even answering the question was to insert a tenant of plausible deniability later on.
Accept Open Society or Else
No one reading this report will be surprised to hear George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is neck deep in this regime change. The man who essentially got Obama elected in the first place, he and his NGO have been implicated in many political machinations. This Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece casts a blistering light on John McCain, the aforementioned Levin, and a neocon system of levers most are aware of, but know not how to confront. I’ve not the space to go into McCain’s shady past here, but his face on crisis has been adequately established. It was the Soros connection to the defense spending champion that caught my eye.
George Soros’ gift of $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch did not make big news back in 2010. Human Rights Watch was thrilled though. A few months later, Human Rights Watch reported on the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging both Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch’s position in this strategy was to validate and provide presidents for a tribunal, at least in my view. This quote from the report by HRW is telling:
“Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.”
Almost immediately after ICC head prosecutor Moreno Ocampo issued an arrest warrant for the Gaddafis on 7 June 2011, 30 nations recognized the Libyan rebels of the NTC as the legitimate government of the country. A key in understanding how collusion and influence parlay uprisings is in understanding how the Open Society Foundations grants and meetups operate. Central to the legitimacy of Gadaffi’s overthrow, was the notion he was a tyrant and a killer. Legitimacy for the White House agenda comes in many forms.
Legality: The Ultimate Lie
In December of 2005 the Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor was part of a Soros backed roundtable series, which was an initiative of OSI and the Security and Peace Initiative, which is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and an interesting think tank, The Century Foundation. The goals of these organizers, was ostensibly described in the title of published essays by these think tank elites, “Restoring American Leadership: 13 Steps to Improve Global Cooperation.” I believe it was the purpose of these meetings to establish Moreno Campo’s legitimacy and position within the greater scheme of things. After these meetings, and the associated United Nations meetups back then, the ICC played an ever-increasing and interesting role. Please remember, the Center for America Progress is funded by not only Soros, but Bill and Melinda Gates, huge corporations, and even the government of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE should ring bells for their part in the coalition to overthrow Gadaffi.
Subsequent Open Society Foundations rhetoric and policy showed us the ICC’s mission. First in Uganda, then in the crucial case of Sudan, the ICC allegedly became the tool of Soros and the people behind him. While I do not always agree with the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche, there’s no denying his insight and investigations often bear fruit. In this report from 2008, the implications are black and white in this press release:
“The Soros organization also directly funded another agency at the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which prosecuted and judicially murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”
Yugoslavia rises from the mist once again. I’ve drummed on the notion of “templates” enacted by western leadership, on think tanks and their roles, and Yugoslavia in the Clinton era was a crucial turning point. The “legality” in all this, the big lie of democracy’s validity as a new quasi-religious crusade, this is where Soros funding, American leadership role playing, and regime-policy change meet globally. Gadaffi was essentially assassinated. His son is now under a death sentence in Libya, and the old school Cold War warriors want to install a king in his place. It’s all illegality made to look legal, Soros the Nazi sympathizer transformed into the philanthropist. It’s Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the biggest killer of innocent civilians since Idi Amin.
In conclusion, the question I began with remains; “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Why the very people swearing oaths to protect us, that’s who. The champions of industry, the philanthropist, their paid for brain trusts, the money has bought out the entire democratic system of governance. The world has the true war criminals by the scruff of the neck now. But the wrong men and women will die, just as sure as I am writing this. The mission of Soros, his NGO, and the elites in power in the west is the eradication of the idea of the sovereign state. Killing Gaddafi was central to this goal.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
It’s questionable now whether David Cameron will be able to survive 2016 as prime minister. The crushing combination of the #PanamaPapers and the UK Brexit referendum may well be enough to pulverize ‘Teflon Tory’ and bury him.
In Part One of ‘A Charmed Life’, I explained how David Cameron, a man born into great wealth and privilege, had been fast-tracked to power by influential neocons. After just four years as an MP he was anointed as Tory party leader, even though his rivals had much stronger credentials and greater public appeal.
Since his elevation ‘Call Me Dave’ has certainly not let his backers down! His governments, under the pretext of ‘austerity’, have cut welfare payments and social services and helped the one percent become even richer. The top rate of income tax was cut and corporation tax has also been slashed.
Remaining publicly owned assets have been privatized, or have been earmarked for privatization with rich City insiders and party donors benefiting. In 2013, the Royal Mail, in state hands since its inception in the 16th century, was privatized, with a hedge fund whose co-head of development strategy was the best man at Chancellor George Osborne’s wedding, netting a profit of £36m.
The government now plans to sell the Land Registry – in public hands since the days of Queen Victoria.
In foreign policy, Cameron continued where Bomber Blair left off. In the same way that Tony Blair helped destroy Iraq, ‘Tory Blair’ helped wreck Libya. A country that had the highest living standards in Africa was transformed, thanks to NATO’s ’humanitarian intervention’, into a failed state and a haven for radical jihadists and terrorists.
Cameron and his governments also played a very negative and destructive role in relation to Syria, enthusiastically supporting ‘regime change‘ and championing the cause of violent jihadists and terrorists – euphemistically labeled ‘rebels’- who were fighting to overthrow a secular government implacably opposed to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
In 2013, Cameron, faithfully serving neocon interests, tried desperately to get Parliament to support airstrikes on Syrian government targets. Thankfully, that was defeated. Had it not been, then it’s likely that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda affiliates would now be in charge of the whole of Syria.
If ever a British Prime Minister deserved to lose a General Election it was David Cameron in 2015. ‘Call Me Dave’ had presided over the longest fall in living standards in the country for 50 years.
His government had pledged to improve public finances, but in fact had made them worse: the UK’s debt increased by 50 percent under Cameron‘s watch.
Furthermore, Cameron’s foreign policy has undoubtedly made the world a much more dangerous place.
However, helped once again by a very friendly media, and in particular the Murdoch press – which thought it of the utmost importance that we saw a photo of Labour leader Ed Miliband eating a bacon sarnie on the front page of The Sun, Cameron scraped home in last year‘s election.
As I noted in an RT op-edge about the election campaign: “There was little, if any, proper discussion of the Conservatives’ many failures in office… If there had been proper media coverage of the way Tories have sold off public assets to their City chums, and the future privatizations Cameron and Co have planned (Chancellor George Osborne has pledged to sell off £20 billion more of state assets by 2020), then the Tories would not get anywhere near the amount of seats they did.”
It’s clear that Cameron was chosen, from quite early on as the best ‘front man’ for taking the neocon project on to the next stage. The question now is: will those who helped put Cameron into power – and who did everything they could to help him stay in 10 Downing Street during the 2015 General Election campaign, continue to support him?
Up to now Cameron has been the ‘Teflon Tory’ – the man against whom no charge seems to stick. While Tony Blair is rightly reviled for what he did to Iraq, Cameron has largely escaped censure for his role in the destruction of Libya. Even allegations of Cameron taking part in a weird initiation ceremony involving the head of a dead pig at Oxford didn’t do too much harm to his ratings.
The #PanamaPapers leaks, however, could be a game changer. In Parliament last week, Cameron tried to draw a line under the revelations by making a Commons statement. Toadying Tory MPs stood up to declare that The Great Leader had done nothing wrong. One MP, the very wealthy oil trader Sir Alan Duncan, tried to make out that the outrage over the Panama Papers was due to envy over people’s wealth – and made a snobbish reference to ‘low-achievers’.
The smug, self-congratulatory mood was splendidly punctured by veteran left-wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who dubbed the prime minister ‘Dodgy Dave‘.
Shortly afterwards, I sent out a tweet saying that Skinner was a ‘National Treasure’ and asked people to retweet my message if they agreed with it. At the time of writing the tweet has been retweeted almost 6,000 times and liked over 3,000 times.
The tweet, I note, has got more endorsement than any from establishment gatekeepers and members of the elite punditocracy, who were keen to label Skinner as ‘rude’ for having the temerity to voice the views of millions of ordinary Britons.
It’s not just on social media that members of the public are making their voices heard. A poll in the Daily Mirror newspaper asked readers if they thought Skinner should have been thrown out of the Commons for his ‘Dodgy Dave’ remark: 95 percent voted ‘No’.
The Mirror is a Labour supporting publication, so perhaps you’d expect such a result. But another poll in the Daily Express – which does not support Labour – showed that 83 percent of readers thought Cameron should resign over the Panama Papers scandal.
A few days ago, Cameron was overtaken by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in approval ratings for the first time, with almost 60 percent of people saying that he’s doing badly as PM.
‘Call Me Dave’ and his Chancellor George Osborne are now the least trusted politicians on tax avoidance. Meanwhile, over 160,000 people have signed a petition calling for a snap general election.
The neocons who backed Cameron in 2005 are divided over Europe, which also doesn’t help the PM’s cause. Michael Gove, who helped mastermind Cameron’s campaign in 2005, is one of six Cabinet ministers campaigning for Britain to leave the EU in a referendum that Cameron – given the dip in his ratings – could easily lose. Even if the ‘Remain’ side does sneak home narrowly, Cameron would still be very vulnerable.
We know just how ruthless the Conservative Party can be when they feel they’ve got a leader who’s gone past their sell-by date: even the fact that she had won three general elections wasn’t enough to save Mrs. Thatcher in 1990.
Cameron has already declared he won’t serve a third term as prime minister, but it must now be doubtful that he will even be able to survive 2016. Whether it’s the #PanamaPapers or the EU referendum in June which finishes him, the dream ride for the ‘Teflon Tory’ has almost certainly come to an end. About time, too!
Yesterday Philip Hammond, UK foreign secretary, visited a naval base in Tripoli to be shown docking facilities for British military vessels. The authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly published that the 150 strong amphibious Special Purpose Task Group of commandos and special forces is in the Mediterranean on the amphibious warfare vessel Mounts Bay. Obviously purely a coincidence with Hammond’s visit!
Just as in Syria and in Yemen it will not be admitted that British forces are in combat. In classic Cold War fashion, they are “military advisers and trainers.” There is a specific development which disconcerts me in Yemen, where the SAS operatives supporting the devastating Saudi bombings of the Houthi population have been seconded to MI6. There is a convention that military operations are reported to Parliament and MI6 operations are not, so the sole purpose of screening the SAS as MI6 is to deceive the UK’s own parliament.
That of course only adds to the utter immorality of British support of the appalling Saudi bombing campaign. Britain’s supplying the arms to the Saudis and lending direct military assistance amounts to complicity in war crime.
Saudi Arabia pursued the overproduction of oil initially to force out high cost US fracking producers. That objective has largely been achieved with a substantive fall in US production. But Saudi strategists have now been struck by the potential for continued low oil prices to cause pressure for the Russian budget. This was a key factor in the Saudi decision to block any moves towards OPEC production curbs. The Saudis are now obsessed with the notion of full Sunni control over Syria, and aim to pile economic pressure on Russia to achieve this. But it is by no means clear that the level of pain which would be required to force Putin to end military support for Assad, would not also put so much strain on the Saudi budget that it would risk destabilising the Saudi regime itself.
Just what could cause western elites to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia is the largest single problem in the Middle East, and that continued support of the House of Saud is entirely counterproductive, it is difficult to envisage. The problem of course is that what is bad for the world can be very profitable for the 1%.
President Obama never ceases to amaze me.
He has actually cried on stage and grabbed people’s hearts by appealing to emotions, to our yearning to be just, humane and democratic and so on. In recent mainstream media articles, he is seen playing the role of an agonized leader who weighs the delicate balance of humanity and an act of “humanitarian intervention”. Even with his credential as one of the greatest presidents (according to some), his action against Libya caused tremendous suffering to the people of Libya. He has confessed that while it was “the right thing to do”, he regrets the intervention.
That’s that. Right? He is sorry. It was a mistake. He is suffering. He is forgiven and we must move forward.
Well, actually, his act of contrition must be counted as disingenuous by any measure.
The destruction of Libya was a premeditated crime against humanity. It was orchestrated by the Western nations that were about to be squeezed out of colonial business on the African continent. Libyan leader Gaddafi planned to unite Africa and to establish it as an economically independent region cooperating with the rest of the nations of the Global South (1). The intervention was literally an armed robbery to steal the funding and destroy the plan. Tens of thousands were killed as a result of the Western intervention. Libya was literally destroyed. If you are not familiar with the magnitude of the merciless inhumanity of the Western action against Libya, look up a story about the great man-made river of Libya for instance. Or, look up stories about Libyan social programs under Gaddafi, which the US can’t even come close to. It is truly heartbreaking, and the true crime of the Western nations is hidden from the people. The administration and the colluding media have twisted the narrative in the most egregious way to hide the crime, and turned it into a courageous story of an American President with “honesty” and “integrity”. For the good people of the West, the agony of the President appears most tragic.
However, in reality, by destroying Libya, the Obama administration has achieved profound success in preventing the emergence of the United States of Africa and its central banking system, which would utilize rich African resources for the people of Africa.
Now, there is someone else who plays a major supporting role in this theater of deception: Mr. Bernie Sanders. This seasoned politician has cultivated an unprecedented skill in mobilizing popular support. The accuracy of his act is utterly superb. In order to gain political support for himself, and in turn for the Democratic Party, while preserving the imperial nature of US foreign policy, he has expressed a few calculated thoughts:
Forget about Hilary’s emails
In one of the presidential debates, he strongly characterized the issue of Hilary Clinton’s emails as a political tool to distract people from focusing on “real issues”(2). Her emails, however, include valuable facts regarding the Western war crimes, human rights abuses and other nefarious deeds, including valuable facts confirming Western motives in destroying Libya (3). Ms. Clinton is deeply involved in all of these matters and more(4)
Gaddafi was a terrible dictator
Mr. Sanders recently called Gaddafi “a terrible dictator” in one of the presidential debates. In an interview with Fox News, he remarked, “Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer”(5). But more decisively, Mr. Sanders was one of 10 co-sponsors of the Senate resolution calling for the resignation of Gaddafi. The resolution also asked for UN resolutions demanding such drastic measures as establishing a no-fly zone and asset freeze against Libya (5). The demonization of the Libyan leader had been a part of the systematic campaign to justify military action for a while, leading to the actual operation in 2011. Libya’s standard of living, human rights record, varieties of social programs for the people and so on had been recognized as the best among the African nations by the UN before the Western intervention. Many of the demeaning allegations against the Libyan government and its leader were found to be false as well (6). Mr. Sanders’s disparaging remarks against Gaddafi, as well as the co-sponsorship of the Senate resolution and subsequent UN resolutions, comprise a decisive state propaganda campaign which led to the military intervention.
Regime change created a political vacuum for ISIS
Mr. Sanders is extremely skilled in colonizing ideas that closely approach the edge of the imperial boundary. He is so good at attracting people by pointing out the fence surrounding the empire only to prove, however, that the gate is tightly shut.
In one of the presidential debates, he accused Hilary Clinton of engaging in many “regime change” operations. However, this remark is skillfully rendered harmless by containing the whole argument in official imperial narratives. First, it does not involve a discussion of the deaths and destruction endured by the Libyan people. Somehow the empire is immune from international humanitarian laws and the moral imperative of humanity. Second, it does not deal with the fact that ISIS and other extremist groups are funded by the US and its allies, as proven by the governments’ own documents(7). Therefore, it leaves a solid path to continue the war on terror as business as usual. It is very likely that Mr. Sanders will follow Mr. Obama’s footsteps in fighting the war on terror, according to his praise for the President’s handling of it(8), and his own remarks(9) if he is elected as the President. Third, by refusing to talk about the real reasons for “regime change” he allows himself, as well as anyone else, including Ms. Clinton, to “regretfully” engage in “humanitarian interventions” as soon as there is a targeted nation picked by a team of foreign policy experts who have served various administrations. It is of concern that he has been uttering tough remarks against Russia, China, North Korea and so on. All these nations are surrounded by US military bases while being subjected to systematic state propaganda campaigns.
“War is a racket” (10). Every US military intervention accompanies subsequent restructuring of the society and economy according to the interests of the ruling elites. Military intervention also serves the military strategic goals and financial motives of the military industrial complex. Violence, whether it’s inflicted militarily or economically, has been a primary tool in building the hierarchical structure where a powerful few control the vast majority. People’s communities are built by cooperation of the communities and their people, as well as the efforts of bringing “power to the people”, not by exploitation and subjugation of other communities led by the powerful few with their draconian measures. I believe the essence of socialism lies in this very basic notion of democracy. Unless one is willing to work according to the genuine spirit of socialism, use of such a slogan as “political revolution” while calling himself a socialist is highly misleading and dishonest. Again, this reflects Mr. Sanders’ tendency to colonize ideas in mobilizing people only to bring them into the existing framework of the powerful few.
Here is the Catch 22: In order to truly refute the fascist and racist position taken by, for example, Donald Trump, the Bernie supporters must confront Bernie’s imperialism. How can a nation implement socialist policies in the framework of imperialism? How can that be a “political revolution”? Imperial Socialism? There used to be a country that tried something called National Socialism (11). It turned out to be a disaster.
The US already has an invisible racial and economic caste system to mask it’s own crimes domestically. It’s based on the many inhumane, unjust and undemocratic schemes inherited from slavery. It’s grown tremendously to flourish into mass incarceration, gentrification, police killings and the rest of the symptoms of institutionalized racism. The force of slaves who built the nation has been converted into the lives of today’s Blacks and poor, which are squeezed to create profits for the few by the devastating force of the social restructuring process for the profits of private corporations. Imperialism has extended this mechanism globally. As a result, unfortunately, tens of millions of lives have already perished by the US violence across the globe(12). It has turned out to be a disaster, already.
You see what I am saying here? If we do not confront such a notion as imperial socialism now, the best scenario Bernie Sanders can bring to us will be a normalization of imperialism under an imperial socialism. That is basically a feudal world order with an invisible caste system. Over 1,000 military bases across the globe are encircling Russia, China and other potential obstacles ensuring the economic power of the ruling elites. Extremists and dictators are nurtured while potential enemies are demonized. International treaties, TPP, TTIP, TISA and so on, to codify the colonial rule of transnational corporations are waiting to be implemented.
Or, let me put it this way, if I were a super rich imperialist in the US, I would be a diehard Bernie supporter. Leaders like him would be my last hope in prolonging the life of the crumbling hierarchy of money and violence. I would be willing to pay for a slight compromise if I can hang onto the status quo. He would be the one to protect my business and assets with the dignity and righteousness that I deserve. He sounds scary but check out what he’s done so far. He talks about universal healthcare but he was one of the guys who worked on Obamacare. He opposes TPP, but his objections are nationalistic and based on a good old protectionism. He went along with the crime bill for the prison industry, drug war, “urban renewal” and so on and on. And of course we have no worry about him dismantling the war industry. Actually, he might manage to start a big one or two. Did you hear that his hero is Winston Churchill? You get the idea.
The term Mr. Sanders uses, democratic socialism, is Imperial Socialism. “Democratic” refers to “democracy” which has been brought to those untamed nations with bombs.
If you agree with what I am saying here, please do not despair. You are not alone. There are countless people across the globe who oppose imperialism and its crimes. They are aiming to build a truly democratic world of sharing and mutual respect. There will be more of them. We live in the most exciting time of awakening for our species.
I would like to end this piece with a poem by Eric Draitser.
Libya: African Jewel
by ERIC DRAITSER
Snatched away –
blood and sand
alloyed to lifeless aridity:
add water. A man-made
river stolen, siphoned
assets in frozen accounts,
by the electric gaze
of a once buzzing grid,
The Greeks knew this:
tragedies have heroes
and death, covalent bond –
a binary truth
to build myths upon.
Here the wind dries tears,
breaks skin like stone
and stone like steel.
Still, man and martyr stand,
faces to an unforgiving sun.
And with hands that once
they hoist the Green Flag
We are here.
Flag of Socialist Libya (1977–2011)
Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony.
In his novel ‘Journey to the end of the night’ Louis-Ferdinand Céline provocatively described the soldiers who had died in the First World War as ‘idiots’. The French writer was referring to the fact the soldiers had given their lives for a cause that was not their own- a futile slaughter of the poor for the benefit of the rich. In the book’s many pertinent reflections on the human condition, the Céline notes how, in modernity, the street has come to constitute the place of dreams. “Que fait-on dans la rue, le plus souvent ? On rêve. C’est un des lieux les plus méditatifs de notre époque, c’est notre sanctuaire moderne, la Rue – what do we most often do in the street, we dream. It is the most meditative place of our time, it is our modern sanctuary.”
Since the French government recently introduced legislation reforming labour laws, a new ‘spontaneous’ and acephalous, social movement has taken root throughout French cities- the ‘Nuit Debout- Up All night’ movement. As the title suggests, the social movement is taking place at night time and one of its slogans is ‘Rêve général !’ – general dream, which is a pun on ‘grève générale’-general strike. So, instead of calling for a general strike in order to bring the government to its knees, the activists are calling for dreaming in the streets!
The movement took off after the release on February 23 of journalist Francois Ruffin’s film ‘Merci Patron’- ‘Thank you boss’, a firm critical of French plutocracy.
Although the film criticizes the avarice of contemporary capitalism, it does not treat the relationship between monopoly capitalism, foreign wars of conquest in the service of capital accumulation, class warfare and mass media disinformation.
Nor does Ruffin’s film expose and denounce the complicity of all corporate French media outlets in war crimes and genocide in the Middle East and throughout Africa, through the dissemination of lies and disinformation about the role of Western imperialism in these wars. There is no mention of the fact that the reason President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast was kidnapped in 2010 by French commandos- his country bombed and his character assassinated- was due to the fact that he defied the powerful Club de Paris, the circle of French bankers who control the African neo-colony’s money; Gbagbo had proposed that the Ivory Coast print it’s own currency- a bold move which would have enabled the resource-rich country to build up its own industrial base independent of colonial interests.
Although there is a stand at the place de la Republique claiming to expose the detrimental role of French policy in Africa, there is no real information of what that role is, nor have any of the pan-Africanist intellectuals who have written on the topic been invited to speak and sell their books. The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is predominantly white and middle class.
Ruffin’s film also fails to point out how French bosses in the cereal industry colluded with terrorism against the people of Libya when they secretly met in Paris with Libyan traitors in November 2010 to organise the bombing and destruction of Africa’a richest and most democratic country.
The French ruling class are not just guilty of destroying centuries of social gains by French workers, they are complicit in genocide and crimes against humanity. So why is Ruffin silent about that fact?
Ruffin writes for ‘leftist’ publications which supported the NATO-backed ‘rebels’ in Libya- rebels who were in fact Al-Qaeda terrorists in the service of NATO. In 2011 the ‘left-wing’ Monde Diplomatique published an article on Libya declaring that there was no doubt about the ‘brutality of the regime’, in spite of the fact all of the crimes imputed to Colonel Gaddafi were carried out by the Takfiri ‘rebels’.
Ruffin and the dishonest publications he writes for are all complicit in the genocide waged by NATO against the people of the Southern Hemisphere states, from the Middle East and Africa to Latin America.
No, none of these uncomfortable realities are depicted in Ruffin’s ‘anti-capitalism.’ Instead, we have ultra-leftist slogans, petty-bourgeois irony and the mindless occupation of a public square by youths, who have neither the education nor the experience necessary to understand the structural reasons and deeper implications of the labour reform they claim to oppose.
The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is certainly not spontaneous, nor is it grass-roots and acephalous as so many pundits claim.
On the contrary, it is the result of decades of careful policy analysis by US imperial ideologues. Since the undemocratic dissolution of the USSR in, 1991, the United States has perfected a regime change technique commonly referred to as ‘colour revolutions’. The strategy involves co-opting leftist slogans and symbols to serve a right-wing agenda. Lenin and the Bolshevik party had repeatedly denounced Leon Trotsky for utilizing this counter-revolutionary technique both before and after the October Revolution. It has now become a standard tool of US foreign policy.
The manipulation of youthful naivety and rebellion for the purposes of either overthrowing a foreign government hostile to US interests or creating a ‘left-wing’ opposition movement in imperial countries designed to kill all real opposition- this is a strategy which every would be activist needs to study if he wishes to engage in movements capable of real, social, political and economic change.
The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is being led by petty-bourgeois, bohemians with little or no understanding of contemporary capitalism. The movement is organized on the same principals as the US backed colour revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring- empty slogans, idiotic puns and political infantilism. Although we cannot yet prove it, the use of the clenched fist as the movement’s logo coupled with cretinous slogans, are strongly reminiscent of strategies and tactics of CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies, a regime change youth training organization close to the CIA.
The ruling class in France have evidently spent more time reading Marx than their would-be opponents. For the objective allies of monopoly capitalism in Europe today are the likes of François Ruffin and the other leading bourgeois leftist ideologue of this movement Frédéric Lordon- both of whom mask the reactionary nature of their pseudo ‘anti-capitalism’ or, to be more precise, their ‘anti-neoliberalism’, with a mixture of convoluted semantics, pseudo-intellectualism and ultra-leftist sloganeering.
There are thousands of real, grass-roots organizations in France, and they get much of their information from independent media such as Meta TV, Cercle Des Voluntaires, Reseau Voltaire and many more. Real proletarian analysis of capitalism is provided by communist organizations such as OCF , and URCF. Coherent bourgeois critique of French and EU imperialism is provided by the political party UPR.
The ‘Nuit debout’ activists talk about a ‘convergence of struggle’ yet journalists and activists from these genuinely popular organisations have been forcibly escorted from the Place de la Republique and denounced as ‘fascists’. Antifa is an organisation which purports to fight fascism but spends most of its time attacking all genuine anti-imperialist activists by blackening their name with the label ‘fascist’.
Antifa have been active again in the ‘Nuit Debout’movement where genuine French anti-imperialists such as Sylvain Baron have been forcibly evicted from the square.
This writer repeatedly pointed out in 2011 that the failure of the left to understand the reactionary ideology of the Arab Spring and the role of US agencies in its planning and execution, would have dire consequences for progressive politics. Now, similar techniques are being used throughout the world in order to criminalize real anti-capitalist agitation and create the conditions of military dictatorship. The objective allies of that strategy are petty bourgeois ‘anti-capitalists such as François Ruffin and Frédéric Lordon; these are the phastamagorical, would-be intellectuals who shine in the streets of the nocturnal, metropolitan dream world so eloquently depicted by Céline.
The representation of imperialism’s foreign wars of aggression as ‘revolutions’ and ‘humanitarian interventions’, coupled with an infantile advocacy of vacuous concepts such as ‘social Europe’- this is the nefarious role played by these post-modern ‘revolutionaries’, who are the very avant-garde of reactionary imperialism. A malady when this writer denounced it in 2011, pseudo-leftism has now morphed into a serious planetary pandemic. If this form of leftism did not exist, imperialism would have had to invent it. The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement is now spreading throughout the world. Pseudo-leftist media will zealously present this movement as a global painting of Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ when sadly, it is rather more of a sinister version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
The soi-disant ”anti-fascists” in this movement denounce as ”fascists” those who expose corporate media lies used to justify the crimes of NATO’s foreign wars-the foreign wars of capital accumulation waged by the same corporations imposing austerity and class war at home; but it is they who are the fascists, it is they who are the enemies of the working class!
Ideological confusion is the great political illness of our time. Céline describes war and illness as the two ‘infinities of nightmare’. One could describe the two contemporary ‘infinities of nightmare’ as the proliferation of wars of aggression and the triumph of capitalist repression due to the political illness of ultra-leftist cretinism, which has taken over the labour movement in the last 30 years. Until our youth emancipate themselves from the pernicious influence of controlled opposition and pseudo-leftist ideology- which turns them into useful idiots of monopoly capitalism rather than revolutionaries- their good natured activism is tragically destined to precipitate civilization’s journey to the end of the night.
(Second of two articles)
A recent two-part series in The New York Times laid out in detail the pivotal role that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played in President Obama’s decision to join in France and Britain’s 2011 military campaign against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Times articles make the case that Clinton bears a heavy part of the responsibility for the tragic, increasingly chaotic aftermath of that campaign in which Gaddafi was ousted and killed.
As the Times summaries of the articles put it, Gaddafi’s fall “seemed to vindicate Hillary Clinton. Then militias refused to disarm, neighbors fanned a civil war, and the Islamic State found refuge,” leaving Libya “a failed state and a terrorist haven.”
While neocons, right-wingers and humanitarian interventionists back in 2011 were seeking regime change in Libya, there was one non-governmental organization that was alone among progressive groups in mobilizing public opinion around the world in support of military action in Libya in the form of a no-fly zone.
And this wasn’t just any organization, but the fast-growing, on-line advocacy giant Avaaz.org, which in 2011 had 7 million members and today boasts 43.1-million members in 194 countries. As such, the New York City-based Avaaz is, as we noted in a previous article, the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet.
Through its members’ petitions and a full-page ad last June in The New York Times, Avaaz has for the last few years been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria, as have assorted neocons and war-hawks in congress and think-tanks who favor military operations to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Hillary Clinton (but not other presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) is a staunch advocate for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria.
Like Clinton and other interventionists, Avaaz — in advocating for a no-fly zone in Syria — has not been chastened by what its advocacy wrought in Libya. Some of the same arguments for a no-fly zone that Avaaz made for Libya, it has made again over the last few years for Syria. This, despite as we noted in that earlier article, that top U.S. generals have warned that a no-fly zone in Syria is a “high-risk operation..a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties,” civilian and military.
It’s instructive to examine Avaaz’s no-fly zone advocacy for Libya in 2011 to get a handle on the organization’s continued thinking that — barring a diplomatic settlement growing out of a current tentative ceasefire in Syria — more war, under the cover of humanitarian intervention, would somehow save more civilians’ lives.
Call for No-Fly Zone in Libya Did Not Turn Out Well for Libyans in Aftermath of U.S./NATO Attacks
In its call for a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011, Avaaz submitted to the United Nations a petition containing 1,202,940 signatures gathered on-line. Demonstrating Avaaz’s impact, 90% of those were collected in just a two-day period between March 15 and 17 of that year, when its reported membership was a more modest, but still impressive, seven million.
And we now know what a sage piece of advocacy that was — as Libya experienced not only a no-fly zone, but U.S./NATO forces’ bombardments, the ousting and killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffy, the rise of ISIS, the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the flood of refugees from the chaotic, failed country that Libya is today.
Even at the time Avaaz was gathering all those signatures back in 2011 in support of a no-fly zone in Libya, there were critics who wondered why a U.S.-based non-governmental organization felt it had to stand up with neocons and war-hawks in advocating for an action that violated Libya’s sovereignty and was likely to lead to more violence against the Libyan people.
As John Hilary writing in The Guardian presciently warned in March 2011: “Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa…A no-fly zone would almost certainly draw NATO countries into further military involvement in Libya, replacing the agency of the Libyan people with the control of those governments who have shown scant regard for their welfare…”
Hilary, executive director of War on Want, the U.K.-based charity that fights poverty and economic injustice, further noted, again presciently: “Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian — putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.”
Noting that support for a no-fly zone in Libya was at that time “rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic,” (just as has been the case in more recent years regarding Syria) Hilary commented: “The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck — those who usually oppose wars” [such as Avaaz] “are openly campaigning for more military involvement.”
On-line progressive organizations constantly seek signatures on petitions calling on the U.S. or other governments to adopt or change or reject certain policies. But Hilary pointed out that calling for a no-fly zone crosses a line into dangerous territory. As he wrote:
“The issue exposes the core of the problem with internet activism: instead of changing the world through a lifetime of education, it aims to change the world through a single click of the mouse. The impacts might be benign, when lobbying a government to stop causing harm. But a positive plan of action in a situation such as Libya requires more thought. Calling for military intervention is a huge step — the life and death of hundreds of thousands of people might hang in the balance. The difference between the ease of the action and impact of the consequence is great.”
Avaaz’s Justification for No-Fly Zone in Libya
It’s worth examining the Libya experience to get some idea of how Avaaz sees using military action to achieve what it contended would be civilian-saving humanitarian results.
Looking back, in calling for a no-fly zone Avaaz appeared to fully accept and spread the Gaddafi-will-systematically-murder-all-opponents line that western governments were trumpeting as the justification for intervention, stating in its March 15, 2011 message to members: “Right now Gaddafi’s forces are crushing the rebellion town by town” and noted that “brutal retribution awaits Libyans who challenged the regime. If we don’t persuade the U.N. to act now, we could witness a bloodbath.”
Avaaz went on to say that while it “is deeply committed to non-violence… enforcing a no-fly zone to ground Gaddafi’s gunships is one case where UN-backed military actions seems necessary.”
On March 17, 2011, just two days into flooding the U.N. Security Council with petitions containing 1,172,000 signatures, Avaaz enthusiastically reported (exclamation point and all) that the United Nations had agreed to take “‘all necessary measures’ short of an invasion to protect the people of Libya under threat of attack, including a no-fly zone!” It seems Avaaz’s expressed deep commitment to nonviolence had expanded beyond a no-fly zone to encompass “all necessary measures” — and Libya was soon on the receiving end of all those necessary measures.
When it was promoting a no-fly zone for Libya, Avaaz — as with its current Syria campaign — did receive pushback from some members. The organization felt it necessary to respond at some length on-line to the criticism before the no-fly zone was put into effect and the onslaught against Libya began.
Avaaz’s then-campaign director Ben Wikler (who is now with MoveOn.org), in an on-line posting responding to John Hilary’s Guardian article quoted above, outlined a number of reasons and procedures Avaaz used in taking up the cause of a no-fly zone for Libya. Among his points:
- “The call for a no-fly zone originated from Libyans – including the provisional opposition government, Libya’s (defected) ambassador to the UN, protesters, and youth organizations…Avaaz staff are in close and constant contact with activists inside Libya and have been repeatedly asked to move forward on this campaign.”
- “In some ways,” Wikler wrote, “we work a lot like journalists… talking to people and weighing the facts before we form conclusions. However, our staff’s personal conclusions also have to pass the test of our membership being strongly supportive of any position we take.”
In the Libya case, though, it would seem that Avaaz scarcely considered the potential negative aspects of military action — such as, when you “win,” what happens afterwards.
- According to Wikler, a random-sample poll taken before the petition was promulgated on-line, showed that “84% of [Avaaz] members supported this campaign, while 9% opposed it. Since launching it, we’ve found intense support for the campaign from around the world.” Avaaz says that petition ideas such as a no-fly zone campaign “are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken” to the wider membership. The organization has not disclosed who within Avaaz was the main instigator of the petitions for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria. Generally speaking, Avaaz says here’s how its petitions develop: “… Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.” Although this doesn’t say so, certainly on a matter of such import and controversy as a no-fly zone the final call would logically come from executive director Ricken Patel.
- Avaaz staff played “a key role in consulting with leading experts around the world (and most of our staff have policy as well as advocacy backgrounds) on each of the campaigns we run, and Libya was no exception.” This begs the question: Who were these experts, and did Avaaz seek out critics of such an action?
- On the question of whether imposing a no-fly zone would lead to a full-blown international war in Libya, Wikler downplayed the possibility at the time: “No-fly zones can mean a range of different things. Some analysts and military figures [none named by Wikler] have argued that it would require a pre-emptive attack on Libya’s anti-aircraft weapons. Others [again, none named], however, contend that merely flying fighter planes over the rebel-controlled areas would ensure that Qaddafi wouldn’t use his jets to attack eastern Libya, because he knows his air force is weaker than that of Egypt or NATO states. The best solution is the one that reduces civilian deaths the most with the least violence. Things might not turn out as expected, but while there are potential dangers to an international war, there are certain dangers to civilians if things continue without a no-fly zone.” [Emphasis added.]
Calling for military action seems a very risky calculation for an advocacy group to make, given even its own nodding recognition that the action it supports might bring on an international war or other “things… not expected.” And to discuss such an issue in a mere one sentence and conclude that the risk is worth it — and after the petition is already out there — is not indicative of a transparent, all-cards-on-the-table process that make for well-informed potential petition signers.
At the very least, now with the benefit of hindsight, you would think that the Libya experience would give Avaaz some second thoughts about supporting a no-fly zone in what top U.S. generals quoted in our previous article have described as the even riskier environment of Syria. But no such soul-searching is evident in Avaaz’s campaign for a Syrian no-fly zone.
For this and the previous article, we submitted a series of questions to Avaaz media personnel and campaign directors, with an emphasis on obtaining specifics as to the organization’s rationale for supporting no-fly zones in Libya and Syria — including whether the tragic outcome in Libya had figured at all in Avaaz’s consideration of whether to call for a no-fly zone in Syria. After requests (and reminders) on five occasions in November, December and January, we finally received a response on February 11 from campaign director Nell Greenberg, but that addressed only a few of our specific questions. Our follow-up questions, submitted on February 12, have gone unanswered.
As with the other questions we submitted to Avaaz personnel, the organization did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when Greenberg stated to us: “Much of what you’re asking for are reflections on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.”
Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any individual Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign today, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya military action had turned out so disastrously. To date, Avaaz has not responded to any of our follow-up questions.
- Regarding whether a no-fly zone would violate Libya’s national sovereignty, Wikler in March 2011 stated: “National sovereignty should not be a legitimate barrier to international action when crimes against humanity are being committed.” Then in perhaps a foreshadowing of the organization’s call for a similar action in Syria, Wikler added: “If you strongly disagree, then you may find yourself at odds with other Avaaz campaigns as well.”
Wikler concluded his defense of the call for a Libyan no-fly zone by saying: “All told, this was a difficult judgment call. Calling for any sort of military response always is. Avaaz members have been advocating for weeks for a full set of non-military options as well, including an asset freeze, targeted sanctions, and prosecutions of officials involved in the violent crackdown on demonstrators.
“But although those measures are moving forward, the death toll is rising. Again, thoughtful people can disagree – but in the Avaaz community’s case, only 9% of our thoughtful people opposed this position [84% approved] – somewhat surprising given that we have virtually always advocated for peaceful methods to resolve conflicts in the past. We think it was the best position to take given the balance of expert opinion, popular support, and most of all, the rights and clearly expressed desire of the Libyan people.”
The figure of 84% approval from a sampling of Avaaz members seem astounding — and raises the issue of whether the questions were worded in the most emotional ways that would produce such an overwhelming result (along the lines of — Gaddafi is slaughtering, and will slaughter, everyone in his path and we must act now to avert a bloodbath). It also raises the question of whether Avaaz offered any counterpoints that a no-fly zone could lead to a wider war and end up killing, maiming and displacing thousands of civilians.
Regardless of the numbers, relying on partisan civilian sources in embattled areas for tactics or military solutions of any sort is both a dubious and frightening proposition and hardly seems the role for an advocacy organization to undertake.
Avaaz’s Origins: Founders and Funders
Even in the U.S. progressive community, Avaaz is far less well-known than its sister advocacy organization MoveOn.org. To put Avaaz in perspective, a little background is in order.
Avaaz was created in 2006 and officially launched in 2007 by MoveOn.org Civic Action and the little known and closely affiliated global advocacy group Res Publica, Inc. Its initial significant financial backing came from liberal philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations (then called Open Society Institute).
Avaaz’s individual founders included three of its current officers/directors — Ricken Patel, Eli Pariser and Thomas Pravda — as well as Thomas Perriello, Andrea Woodhouse, Jeremy Heimans, and David Madden. (More about them later.)
If you don’t know much about Avaaz, or think about it as I long did as a non-U.S. entity (actually, its headquarters is in New York City), that is not so surprising since many of its campaigns are targeted to specific countries other than the United States, and only a little over 5 percent of its 43.1 million members are U.S.-based. (A member being anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition — and that includes me.) Still, even that small U.S. percentage equates to 2.3 million people — a number that would be the envy of most U.S. activist organizations. (By way of comparison, Avaaz’s affiliated member organization MoveOn.org claims more than 8-million members.)
The U.S. membership in Avaaz is about the same as the German membership (2.2 million), and far less than France with 4.3 million and Brazil with a whopping 8.8 million members. Other nations with more than one million Avaaz members include Italy (2.1 million), Spain (1.8 million), the United Kingdom (1.6 million), Mexico (1.4 million), Canada (1.2 million). India has 991,000 members and Russia 901,000. Overall, Avaaz claims members in 194 countries, with its smallest membership — 81 — in the British overseas territory of Montserrat, population 5,100.
Avaaz is organized under the name the Avaaz Foundation, a 501(c)(4) non-profit lobbying organization, with its headquarters in Manhattan. It describes itself as having “a simple democratic mission: To close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”
In its most recent Form 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, signed in September 2015 for tax year 2014, Avaaz reported contributions totaling $20.1 million and net assets of $7.6 million. Avaaz, which says that it is entirely member funded, had previously stated that it accepts no single contribution of more than $5,000, but that was not the case in 2014 as the organization reported that 18 individuals had contributed amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,383. The contributors were not identified by name in the filing. Since around 2010, the organization is on record as not accepting corporate or foundation donations — although it did receive grants totaling $1.1 million from George Soros-connected foundations in the three years before that.
In response to our inquiry about Avaaz funding and the organization’s early link to Soros, campaign director Nell Greenberg responded:
“With regards to Avaaz funding, this movement was founded with the ideal of being completely self sustaining and democratic. 100% of the Avaaz budget comes from small online donations…Avaaz has never taken a contribution from a government or a corporation, and since 2009 has not solicited any contributions from charitable foundations.”
She continued: “We did receive seed funding from George Soros and the Open Society Foundation, but not after 2009. No corporation, foundation or board member has influence on the organization’s campaign directions or positions. This is hugely important to ensuring that our voice is exclusively determined by the values of our members, and not by any large funder or agenda.”
Of Avaaz’s four current officers/directors, only executive director Ricken Patel was listed as full-time, with annual pay of $177,666 for 2014. Chairman Eli Pariser; treasurer Thomas Pravda, and secretary Ben Brandzel are not day-to-day employees and all received no compensation in 2014. Of Avaaz’s 77 employees, the five highest-compensated staff members after Patel received salaries ranging between $111,000 and $153,000.
For its various domestic and overseas campaigns, Avaaz reported providing $3.2 million in grants to U.S. organizations and $932,000 to foreign organizations in 2014. Reported grants of more than $5,000 came in five categories, with the largest recipients being the U.S. Fund for UNICEF ($1 million for education for Syrian refugees), and the Rain Forest Trust ($1 million for “conservation of land and species”).
To help combat the Ebola virus, Avaaz provided $500,000 to the International Medical Corps, $350,000 to Save the Children and $300,000 to Partners in Health. For organizing for the September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, Avaaz provided $27,500 to Align and $10,000 to New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). Rounding out the list, a $10,000 grant went to Amazon Watch for “protection of the Amazon.”
For activities outside the United States, Avaaz spent most heavily in Europe on campaigns, advertising and consulting — $6.2 million, with South America a distant second at $685,000 for consulting services, followed by East Asia and the Pacific with $553,000 for campaigns and consulting services. Expenditures in five other regions ranged from $45,000 to $270,000.
Avaaz reported that the foundation is still comprised of the same two member organizations — MoveOn.org Civic Action and Res Publica, Inc. (U.S.) — which were the original founding groups.
Res Publica, a 501(c)(3), lists the same Manhattan address as the 501(c)(4) Avaaz and presumably provides unspecified assistance to Avaaz. Back at Avaaz’s beginning, the three principals in Res Publica were the aforementioned Patel, Pravda and Perriello. The three men had all served with the International Center for Transitional Justice, which “assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse.” Also in those early days, according to some accounts, Avaaz listed the Service Employees International Union and Australia-based GetUp.org.au as co-founding organizations, but they seem to have long since been out of the picture.
In Res Publica’s most recent Form 990 filing with the IRS for 2013, Patel is listed as executive director, Pravda as treasurer, and Vivek Maru as secretary. All received no compensation. Contributions for 2013 totaled $963,895, of which $846,165 was from “Government grants” for unspecified purposes. The organization reported that it “provides strategic advice to other non-profit organizations… [and] also provides educational and action-based e-mail campaigns to citizens in every country via its website.” It also reported supporting projects “through fiscal sponsorship, that focused on online security and Internet freedom for repressed communities globally…”
Here are profiles of Avaaz co-founders and past and current officers:
Eli Pariser: Avaaz Chairman and Co-founder
Eli Pariser was executive director of MoveOn.org from 2004 through 2009 when the organization experienced explosive growth, and has been its board president since then. MoveOn, in the words of an on-line Pariser biography, “revolutionized grassroots political organizing by introducing a small-donor-funded and email-driven model that has since been widely used across the political spectrum.”
In addition to being a founder of Avaaz and currently serving as its chairman, the Brooklyn-based Pariser has been a member of the boards of Access and the New Organizing Institute. A best-selling author and former fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Pariser is co-founder and executive of the on-line media company Upworthy. He is also currently a member of the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs.
We would note that Pariser appears to be one of the few Avaaz founders and officers whose background is almost entirely in on-line activism, while some others have governmental or otherwise overseas experience working in programs in high poverty and/or war-torn countries.
We submitted several questions to Pariser on March 9, but he has not responded as of this writing.
Ricken Patel: Avaaz Executive Director and Co-founder
Prior to the founding of Avaaz in 2007, the Canadian-born Ricken Patel consulted for a number of international and well-established non-profit organizations — the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Harvard University, CARE International, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. He worked in several countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan. He also was the founding executive director of Avaaz-affiliated Res Publica, which among its past projects “worked to end genocide in Darfur.” As executive director of Avaaz since its begining, Patel is the face of the organization and has been termed “the global leader of online protest” by The Guardian.
Thomas Pravda: Avaaz Treasurer and Co-founder
Through two of its co-founders — Tom Perriello and Thomas Pravda — Avaaz has connections to government officialdom in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Perriello (discussed below) is now with the State Department as U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa.
Pravda is currently serving as the (unpaid) treasurer and a director for Avaaz, while at the same time holding down a post as a diplomat with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly known as the Foreign Office. He is also co-founder and officer in Res Publica.
As the Foreign Office is “responsible for protecting and promoting British interests worldwide,” this could raise conflict-of-interest possibilities regarding U.K. and U.S. foreign relations and military issues that might be taken up by Avaaz. This would include the organization’s advocacy for a no-fly zone in Syria, in which both the U.S. and U.K. would be expected to participate. Our research, though, found no example of anyone raising a specific issue about Pravda’s dual role as U.K. diplomat and Avaaz officer, but this relationship looks problematic on the face of it.
Pravda’s self-provided biography shows he has been with the Foreign Office since October 2003, and with Avaaz since 2006, and that he was also an advisor to the U.S. State Department in 2009-2010 regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In his diplomatic assignments Pravda has worked on E.U. trade and development policy; as an advisor to the Special Representative for Climate Change, and as the U.K. Representative in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also consulted extensively on political, security, research and advocacy issues for such institutions as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations Development Program, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Oxford Analytica.
Ben Brandzel: Avaaz Secretary and Co-founder
In addition to currently serving as the (unpaid) secretary for Avaaz, Ben Brandzel is the founder and director of OPEN (Online Progressive Engagement Network), described as an alliance of the world’s leading national digital campaigning organizations. Besides being a founding board member and former senior campaigner at Avaaz, Brandzel is the chief founding advisor for OPEN member groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland. He also served as the original advocacy director for MoveOn.org and in 2009-2010 directed new media campaigns and fundraising for President Obama during the health reform campaign. He writes frequently on digital organizing and transnational movement building.
Tom Perriello: Avaaz Co-founder
If I were going to name one chief suspect among Avaaz’s founders as the architect of its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria, it would be Tom Perriello. More than anyone else connected with Avaaz from its earliest days, Perriello, since leaving the organization — first for Congress and then for the think-tank world before going to the U.S. State Department — has shown himself to be a reliable advocate for war: For continuing the war in Afghanistan, for bombing Libya and ousting Gaddafi, and for taking military action to support Syrian rebels and remove Assad from power.
Perriello champions “humanitarian intervention” and lauded the NATO bombing campaign in Libya — before the U.S./NATO “victory” there and before the country subsequently went all to hell — as a prime example of how this approach can succeed .
We asked Avaaz whether Perriello’s thinking had influenced the organization’s campaigns for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, and received a stern denial from Avaaz’s Greenberg: “Tom Perriello, specifically, was an Avaaz board member at the founding of the organization but has not been on the board since December 2009, and has had no role in Avaaz’s Syria campaigns.”
Perriello’s career, like some others with Avaaz, has been more one of public service through established organizations than of activism. According to an on-line biography, in 2002-2003 Perriello was special advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, and then served as a consultant to the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kosovo (2003), Darfur (2005) and Afghanistan (2007). In 2004, he co-founded Res Publica with Patel and Pravda. Perriello has also been a fellow at The Century Foundation and is a co-founder of DarfurGenocide.org. He said in his on-line bio that he had “spent much of his career working in West Africa and the Middle East to create strategies for sustainable peace, and he was involved in the peace processes that helped end the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
A Democrat, Perriello was elected to Congress from Virginia’s 5th District in 2008. (It would appear from the statement we received from Avaaz that if Perriello left the organization in December 2009 then he was still on the Avaaz board during his first year in Congress.)
In his one term, Perriello was a staunch supporter of the global war on terror, the military appropriations to continue U.S. wars, and keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Defeated in his 2010 bid for reelection, Perriello went on to serve as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and counselor for policy also at Center for American Progress, a Democratic party-supporting think tank. From 2014 to the present he has been with the State Department, first as the Special Representative to the Secretary of State for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and since last summer as the U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa. Although said not to be involved with Avaaz currently, his humanitarian intervention philosophy seems alive and well at Avaaz with its calls for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria.
In this excerpt from his 2012 article on humanitarian intervention, Perriello sounds absolutely eager to send in the bombs wherever “egregious atrocities” are occurring and human beings are suffering. And this, as Perriello writes, would give “progressives” the “opportunity… to expand the use of force to advance key values.” Following are two paragraphs from Perriello’s article that give the flavor of the “humanitarian intervention” philosophy he advocates. It would certainly be helpful if Avaaz would tell us if it subscribes to its co-founder’s rather bloodless and creepy prescription for advancing progressives’ “key values.”
“Operational developments since the end of the Cold War have substantially improved our capacity to wage smart military operations that are limited in time and scope and employ precise and overwhelming force,” Perriello wrote. “This presents progressives with an opportunity—one that is too often seen as a curse—to expand the use of force to advance key values. Our technical capacities, ranging from accuracy of systems intelligence to smart weaponry, now allow for previously impossible operations. Today, we have the ability to conduct missions from the air that historically would have required ground troops. And we possess an admittedly imperfect but highly improved ability to limit collateral damage, including civilian casualties. Among other things, this means fewer bombs can accomplish the same objectives, with early estimates suggesting that the Libyan air campaign required one-third the number of sorties as earlier air wars…
“We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering.”
Imagine the nerve of those other nations Perriello refers to — failing to see that the United States selflessly engages in “values-based” bombing: Bombs for a better world.
Andrea Woodhouse: Avaaz Co-founder
Another Avaaz co-founder, Andrea Woodhouse, describes herself as a development professional, social entrepreneur and writer. She has worked in many countries experiencing conflict and political transition, including Indonesia, Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma/Myanmar. In Indonesia, she reported working on one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the world, which she said became the model for a national program of post-conflict reconstruction and state-building in Afghanistan. She has worked for the World Bank and the United Nations and was a founder of the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program.
Jeremy Heimans: Avaaz Co-founder
According to an on-line biography, Jeremy Heimans in 2005 co-founded GetUp, an Australian political organization and one of that country’s largest campaigning communities. It has campaigned for same-sex marriage and in support of Julian Assange of Wikileaks. In addition to being an Avaaz co-founder, Heimans in 2009 co-founded Purpose, an activist group that launched several major new organizations including All Out, a two-million member LGBT rights group.
David Madden: Avaaz Co-founder
David Madden, another Avaaz co-founder, is a former Australian Army officer and World Bank and United Nations employee. With Jeremy Heimans, he co-founded GetUp. Madden has worked for the World Bank in Timor Leste, and for the United Nations in Indonesia. In 2004, Madden was one of the founders of Win Back Respect, a web-based campaign against the foreign policy of U.S. President George W. Bush.
George Soros’s Role in Avaaz Early Years
For the last few years, various on-line bloggers have questioned whether Avaaz is somehow doing the bidding of philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, or of the U.S. government (or portions thereof). (See an example here.)
There is no question that there was a close connection between Avaaz and Soros and his organizations dating back to Avaaz’s early days, but what — if anything — does that translate into today?
As noted earlier, in one of the few of my questions that Avaaz answered directly, there was an acknowledgement of early Soros “seed money” to Avaaz, but a denial of any continuing involvement with the organization.
Of all individuals or organizations outside the Avaaz structure, though, Soros’s foundations played the most significant role in helping get Avaaz off the ground with generous grants. Additionally, the Open Society Institute (the previous name of the Open Society Foundations) served as Avaaz’s “foundation partner” on campaigns of joint interest, most notably in connection with the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz still has a Soros connection — notably, as indicated above, Eli Pariser serving on an Open Society advisory board. And both Avaaz and Soros seem to share an antipathy to what they characterize as Russian aggression as exemplified by Avaaz’s sometimes over-the-top statements about Russia in Syria. (For example, as noted in our previous article, Ricken Patel holding Putin’s government responsible for being complicit with the Assad government in “coordinating atrocities” and “targeting the assassinations of journalists” in early 2012. Also, see this September 30, 2015 Avaaz posting using flimsy evidence to accuse Russian planes of deliberately bombing civilian neighborhoods.)
Donations by Soros’s Foundations
Over a three-year period beginning in 2007, Soros’s foundations — either directly or passed through Res Publica — gave Avaaz a total of $1.2 million.
In 2007, the Open Society Institute gave $150,000 to Res Publica for general support for Avaaz, and $100,000 for Avaaz’s work on climate change.
In 2008, Open Society Institute again gave a total of $250,000 to Res Publica — with $150,000 of that again for general support for Avaaz and the remaining $100,000 for Avaaz’s climate change work.
The following year, Soros was even more generous to Avaaz. His Foundation to Promote Open Society in its Form 990 filing for 2009 (page 87) reported giving a total of $600,000 to Res Publica for Avaaz’s use — $300,000 for general support and $300,000 for climate campaigning.
Avaaz increased its ties to the Soros organization in 2008 by selecting the then-named Open Society Institute (OSI) as its “foundation partner” to oversee some $325,000 in donations that Avaaz had received from its members — in just four days — to support the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz said it was linking up with OSI — “one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world” — for the purpose of OSI monitoring Avaaz’s grant awards and expenditures. OSI was “taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups” for technology, organizing, support for the regime’s victims and victims’ families, and international advocacy.
In June 2009, OSI reported that its Burma Project grantees — including Avaaz — had rallied global support around democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On that occasion, Avaaz partnered with the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! Campaign to collect more than 670,000 signatures asking for UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s support for Aung San Suu Kyi and some 2,000 other political prisoners.
From available information, it does not appear Soros or his foundations have contributed financially to Avaaz or directly engaged in projects with the organization in the last five to six years. And Avaaz itself says the Soros financial connection ended in 2009. Whether the substantial assistance Soros’s foundations gave Avaaz in its first three years of existence carries any lasting influence, though, is certainly hard to show.
Avaaz’s Impressive Record of Advocacy
As noted in our previous article, even allowing for organizational self-hype, Avaaz has an impressive record of advocacy — a record that mostly seems off-kilter with its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria. For example, here are some other Avaaz campaigns not previously mentioned:
- Avaaz has played a prominent role in a number of actions directed at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
- Avaaz was a key player in a successful campaign (including a petition with more than 1.7 million signatures, coupled with occupations and protests at some 15 Barclays bank branches across the United Kingdom) to pressure Barclays to divest its $2.9 million holdings in an Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems.
Avaaz received plaudits from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for its role in that campaign. Elbit Systems is the major Israeli-based arms and security company that manufactures drones used in surveillance and attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. It also provides electronics for the “apartheid wall” being constructed on the West Bank.
- A petition directed to the government of Israel and to the U.S. Congress netted 185,000 signatures in support of the portion of President Obama’s Cairo speech in June 2009 in which he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
- In 2011, some 1.6 million people — more than 300,000 of them in just the first two days — signed an Avaaz petition to European leaders and U.N. member states, urging them “to endorse the legitimate bid for recognition of the state of Palestine and the reaffirmation of the rights of the Palestinian people. It is time to turn the tide on decades of failed peace talks, end the occupation and move towards peace based on two states.”
- In March 2013, at the time of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) annual conference and congressional lobbying days in Washington, D.C., Avaaz joined with Jewish Voice for Peace to erect hundreds of anti-AIPAC posters across Metro stations in central D.C. The signs read: “AIPAC does not speak for me. Most Jewish Americans are pro-peace. AIPAC is not.”
- Through its petitions, Avaaz has strongly opposed governmental surveillance of U.S. citizens, and has defended Wikileaks and national security whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
- In April 2011, amid news reports of Manning’s brutal treatment while imprisoned at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia before facing a court martial for providing classified documents to Wikileaks, almost 550,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The petition, headlined “Stop Wikileaks Torture,” called on those officials “to immediately end the torture, isolation and public humiliation of Bradley Manning. This is a violation of his constitutionally guaranteed human rights, and a chilling deterrent to other whistleblowers committed to public integrity.”
- A December 2010 Avaaz petition, calling “the vicious intimidation campaign against Wikileaks” by the U.S. and other governments and corporations “a dangerous attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” produced 654,000 signatures — more than 300,000 of those in the first 24 hours the petition was circulated on-line.
- In June 2013, just days after the first reports of the National Security Agency’s illegal worldwide spying appeared, some 1.38 million people signed a petition, headlined “Stand with Edward Snowden,” to President Obama. The petition read: “We call on you to ensure that whistleblower Edward Snowden is treated fairly, humanely and given due process. The PRISM program is one of the greatest violations of privacy ever committed by a government. We demand that you terminate it immediately, and that Edward Snowden be recognized as a whistleblower acting in the public interest — not as a dangerous criminal.”
- In April 2012, some 780,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to members of Congress, and another to Facebook, Microsoft and IBM (with 626,000 signers), to drop their support for the Internet surveillance bill known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The bill, the petition stated, would place “Our democracy and civil liberties… under threat from the excessive and unnecessary Internet surveillance powers” that it would grant to the U.S. government without requirement of a warrant.
- In the face of widespread hunger strikes at the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2013, Avaaz gathered 690,000 signatures on a petition to transfer the 86 men who had already been cleared for release, and to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it would be to close down the prison. Said the petition: “This shameful complex is a scourge on humanity, is destroying lives, and fuels hate across the world. Close it down!”
- Avaaz is also in the front ranks on various other issues — fighting global warming, seeking an end to U.S. and European arms sales to Saudi Arabia, protecting rain forests, saving endangered species, promoting clean energy, challenging Rupert Murdoch’s bid for a greater media monopoly in the United Kingdom, defending human rights in a number of countries, etc.
In none of those other campaigns do we see Avaaz proposing military action of any sort. Why this anomaly when it came to Libya and now Syria? Especially, when military action’s aftermath turned out so badly in Libya, and when even the nation’s leading generals say a Syria no-fly zone would escalate the war and endanger the very civilians Avaaz has the stated goal of protecting?
John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
RFA Mounts Bay, a Bay class auxiliary landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. © Graeme Main / Wikipedia
UK officials deny troops will go to Libya, refusing to comment on current SAS operations. Yet a shipload of commandos, intelligence operators and landing craft specialists is quietly positioned within striking distance of the war-torn North African state.
The existence of the 150-strong amphibious Special Purpose Task Group (SPTG) was revealed on Thursday by the IHS Jane’s defense website, which claims to have seen a Royal Marines briefing document.
While it is normal for Royal Navy vessels to have a ‘ship’s company’ of commandos aboard, the SPTG is an unusual case.
It also has soldiers from the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment – an army unit which contains landing craft specialists – and marines from the shadowy 30 Commando military intelligence unit which specializes in “information exploitation.”
The SPTG departed Southampton’s Marchwood military port in January aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) landing vessel Mounts Bay for what the briefing document terms “contingency operations in the Mediterranean.”
On Tuesday the Mounts Bay was reported to be in Gibraltar for routine maintenance, so it did not have to leave its area of operations to return to the UK.
Between setting sail and docking in Gibraltar, the MOD claims the ship was carrying out anti-trafficking operations in the Aegean by “identifying smugglers taking migrants to Greece and passing the information to the Turkish coastguard so they can intercept these boats.”
In earlier reports, the presence aboard the RFA Mounts Bay – or even existence – of the SPTG do not appear or have not been mentioned. The unit was only added to the Royal Navy’s standing deployment Wikipedia page on Thursday.
However, the special purpose of the Special Purpose Task Group is not entirely clear given the range of warfighting equipment on-board.
Before maintenance at Gibraltar’s Gibdock, a local newspaper reported that up to 42 land vehicles were unloaded from the ship which is apparently charged with seaborne anti-people-smuggling operations.
The images of the unloading also appear to show a military crane and an Oshkosh bulk fuel transporter being lifted from the Mounts Bay onto a ferry.
The deployment has been reported during a row between MPs about what the UK’s plans for Libya are.
It had been thought that the arrival in Tripoli in March of the new UN-brokered unity government could see UK troops deployed as part of a 6,000-strong Italian led brigade – a move blasted by both politicians and high-ranking military veterans of 2011 Libyan war.
On Thursday the Libyan united government publicly turned down UK troops out of fear that Western backing would make them appear to be foreign puppets and that outside forces would serve to unite warring militias.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been asked for comment.
On Thursday, the outspoken chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, argued that government should come clean on the presence of UK Special Forces in Libya and attacked Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for being “less than candid” about UK military activity there.
While the government refuses to comment on Special Forces operations as matter of policy, it was reported by the Guardian on 25 March that leaked conversations between King Abdullah of Jordan and senior US Republicans confirmed the SAS’s presence in Libya since at least January 2016.
(First of two articles)
- “I worry sometimes that, when people say ‘impose a no-fly zone,’ there is this almost antiseptic view that this is an easily accomplished military task. It’s extraordinarily difficult. Having overseen imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, a force that is vastly inferior in air forces and air defenses to that which exists in Syria, it’s a pretty high-risk operation…It first entails — we should make no bones about it. It first entails killing a lot of people and destroying the Syrian air defenses and those people who are manning those systems. And then it entails destroying the Syrian air force, preferably on the ground, in the air if necessary. This is a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties and increased risk to our own personnel.” — Now-retired four-star General Carter Ham, former commander, U.S. Africa Command, who oversaw U.S. military enforcement of the Libyan no-fly zone in 2011 [CBS News]
- “It is quite frankly an act of war and it is not a trivial matter… I know it sounds stark, but what I always tell people when they talk to me about a no-fly zone is . . . it’s basically to start a war with that country because you are going to have to go in and kinetically take out their air defense capability.” — Four-star General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s current supreme allied commander, U.S. European Command [Stars and Stripes ]
- The New York Times reported that in 2012 General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the White House that imposing a no-fly zone in Syria — in the Times paraphrasing — “would require as many as 70,000 American servicemen to dismantle Syria’s sophisticated antiaircraft system and then impose a 24-hour watch over the country.” [New York Times ] (Dismantle being a Times polite euphemism for bombing the bejeezus out of Syria’s antiaircraft defenses.)
Readers of the national edition of the June 18, 2015 New York Times were greeted with a dramatic full-page ad featuring a photo of an apparently injured baby fitted with a breathing device and being tended to by a partially visible adult beneath a big, bold-type headline: “PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” (A partial picture of the ad can be found here.)
In smaller type, under the picture of the baby and the adult, was the message: “Trapped and under chemical attack, the Syrian people are desperate for help.”
And below that in slightly smaller type was the risky military operation that the ad’s sponsors wanted the reluctant President to undertake. To wit: “A majority of Americans support a No-Fly Zone in Syria to save lives and 1,093,775 people around the world [in an on-line petition] are calling for action now.”
The on-line petition cited in the ad also has an urgent headline calling for a “Safe zone for Syrians, now!” The body of the petition demands the establishment of an “air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.” The petition — slightly different than the New York Times ad — was addressed not only to Obama, but also to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron “and other world leaders.”
Now it’s not surprising to see such an expensive ad in the current political climate in which Syrian war fever has seized much of the U.S. political establishment. A climate in which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (but not Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump), and every neoconservative and “humanitarian interventionist” and chicken-hawk in creation have, at the very least, called for a no-fly zone in northern Syria as part of a greater U.S. military involvement to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
What stood out about this ad, then, isn’t so much the neocon-like call to action — a move toward a wider war in Syria which could entail even more U.S. and western military air bombardments, as well as additional displacement and death for civilians — but rather the ad’s sponsors.
This ad wasn’t the product of a gaggle of bellicose Republicans or acolytes of the Brookings Institution’s war-enthusiast-in-chief Michael O’Hanlon — or even supporters of regime change advocate Hillary Clinton — offering one of their bold, armchair-military solutions to the many-sided, complex Middle East conflicts.
Rather, the ad and its supporting on-line petition were the handiwork of the Internet phenom activist organization Avaaz.org. With the staggering claimed number of 43.1-million members in 194 countries as of mid-March 2016 (anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition is considered by the organization to be a member), the New York City-based Avaaz is easily the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet. (Having myself signed many Avaaz petitions over the years, I am counted as one of those 43 million.)
Avaaz, which means “voice” or “song” in many languages, was started in 2006 and officially launched in 2007 by the U.S. online powerhouse MoveOn.org Civic Action and the little known global advocacy group Res Publica. With initial significant financial backing from — and some blogger critics allege, continued influence of — financier and liberal philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations (then called Open Society Institute), Avaaz has grown at a mind-boggling pace each year. Since 2011, the organization has increased six-fold to its current membership of almost 43-million. (The second of our two articles on Avaaz will provide more background on the organization, its key issues, its founders and current officials, and funding sources.)
Although widely regarded as liberal to progressive in its campaigns, Avaaz stands alone on the left as the one major on-line activist organization to call for an escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria — just as before that it was alone on the left in 2011 in campaigning successfully for a no-fly zone for Libya, with subsequent disastrous consequences for that country. (More about this in a follow-up article.)
For this article, we submitted a series of questions to Avaaz media personnel, with an emphasis on obtaining specifics as to its rationale for its support for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria. These questions included why the organization had not informed its members of the warnings (cited above) of top U.S. generals and other experts about the potential dangers to civilians and military personnel inherent in the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria.
After requests (and reminders) on five occasions in November, December and January, we finally received a response on February 11, but that addressed only a few of our specific questions. The organization ignored our question as to why Avaaz had not presented petition-signers with the potential dangers of a Syrian no-fly zone that the prominent generals had warned of. Our follow-up questions, submitted on February 12, have gone unanswered.
What Avaaz spokesperson Nell Greenberg did tell us is: “When it comes to Syria, millions of Avaaz members have repeatedly over the last six years demonstrated that they believe the world has an obligation to protect civilians in Syria as well as those who have fled the country as refugees. In addition to Avaaz members calling for a targeted no-fly zone back in spring of 2015, Avaaz members have called for diplomacy, negotiations and ceasefire as well as raising over a million dollars for the victims inside and outside Syria and volunteering to house and support refugees displaced by this war.”
Avaaz and signers of its no-fly zone petition, “see every human life as equally precious and deserving of protection,” Greenberg said, adding: “At the time of the Syria no-fly zone campaign, a majority* of our membership supported the call for a targeted no-fly zone in northern Syria. But there were deep questions and concerns brought up by other members of the Avaaz movement that we did not ignore. A Q and A was written to go along with the campaign that you can find here, which spoke to many of their questions and I think addresses the heart of yours: http://avaaz.org/en/syria_safe_zone_faq/. To be clear, this Q and A was written by the Avaaz Campaign Director [John Napier Tye] who developed this campaign and is his personal perspective, which is why he signed it. It is not a statement from the Avaaz community.” (* A majority of a random sample of 10,000 Avaaz members, not a majority of its entire membership, supported the campaign for a no-fly zone.)
What exactly those last two sentences of Avaaz’s statement mean is anyone’s guess. Someone ostensibly speaking for the organization is really speaking only for himself? The buck stops with John Tye and not with executive director Ricken Patel and others in the Avaaz hierarchy? And, curiously, the Q and A link cited above was disabled sometime in March and no longer worked as of this writing.
Interestingly, Tye himself is a former U.S. State Department official who upon leaving the agency in April 2014 filed a whistleblower complaint. The complaint alleged, as The New York Times reported, that the National Security Agency’s practices abroad — as authorized by Reagan-era Executive Order 12333 permitting the NSA to gather and use U.S. citizens’ communications overseas — “violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights” to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. While at the State Department from 2011-2014, Tye “worked on Internet freedom issues and had top-secret clearance.” Unlike whistleblower Edward Snowden, Tye wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post that he had gone through channels in making his complaint and had not disclosed any classified information.
Greenberg’s response did not address my questions about the generals’ warnings about a no-fly zone in Syria. Instead, she stated: “In addition, as with all of our campaigns, the emails about this campaign included links to articles with multiple viewpoints to support deliberative discussion of the issue and provide resources for members to fact check and do more research on their own.”
Contrary to this statement, I found no link in the Avaaz materials to any article quoting the generals or other critics of imposing a no-fly zone in Syria. Nor did I see even a generic statement, suggesting this is a controversial issue that might merit further research before an Avaaz member would consider signing.
Avaaz Involved on the Ground in Syrian Conflict; Without Proof, Blamed Russians for ‘Coordinating Atrocities’ Against Journalists
It’s important to note that Avaaz’s past activities regarding Syria have gone far beyond petitions calling for a no-fly zone. In 2011-2012 (and perhaps beyond), Avaaz interjected itself into the Syrian conflict in a controversial manner not usually associated with on-line activism — spiriting several dozen western journalists in and out of Syria; helping rescue trapped journalists and other civilians; smuggling in medical supplies; training and then providing “citizen journalists” with cameras to document Syrian government forces’ war crimes; and serving as a major conduit of war information from inside Syria to western journalists outside the country.
As The New Republic’s Simon van Zuylen-Wood reported, Avaaz’s Wissam Tarif, a Lebanese activist, “helped smuggle medical supplies into Syria, as well as more than 35 western journalists… He also oversaw the training of ordinary Syrians who subsequently re-entered their country to report on what was going on. As Syria became increasingly dangerous and difficult to penetrate, Western journalists came to rely ever more on Avaaz’s daily e-mail briefings, which compiled information from 200 such Syrian ‘citizen journalists.’”
Several hundred reporters were reportedly receiving Avaaz’s email briefings at the time, putting the organization in a unique position of being the major source of anti-regime news and propaganda coming out of Syria. For example, as NPR’s Deborah Amos reported, Avaaz’s “citizen journalists” provided casualty figures that “Many media organizations, as well as United Nations officials” relied on “to track the violence inside the country.”
Amos reported in March 2012 that Avaaz “has given crucial support to the uprising and the Syrian activist networks that aim to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Amos’s piece raised the question of whether Avaaz had overstepped its role by engaging in operations in which a large number of Syrian activists had been killed (as many as 23, Avaaz’s executive director Ricken Patel subsequently said).
Amos’s report appeared shortly after Avaaz, in February 2012, announced that it had coordinated the rescue of British photographer Paul Conroy of the London Sunday Times, who had been wounded when government security forces attacked the Baba Amr neighborhood in the city of Homs. Two journalists — Marie Colvin, also of the London Sunday Times, and French photographer Remi Ochlik — were killed in the attack. Conroy was evacuated by his rescuers to Lebanon. Thirteen Syrian activists were initially reported killed in the rescue operation, and Avaaz’s Patel told the BBC at the time that seven others were arrested by government forces and then “shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs.”
The Avaaz press release on the rescue said: “This operation was carried [out] by Syrians with the help of Avaaz. No other agency was involved” — a claim that Avaaz later had to retract.
Around the same time, in another interview with the BBC4 radio program PM, Patel stated that more than 50 Syrian activists had agreed to participate in the rescue operation — and 23 of them had been killed (a slightly higher number than initially cited.)
In that interview, Patel asserted that repeated attacks on the Homs media center by Assad’s forces were “targeted assassinations” of journalists — and he contended on the flimsiest of information that either the Russians or Iranians — most likely the Russians — “were coordinating these atrocities.” Asked about his evidence for this, Patel said that a drone constantly positioned over Baba Amr conducted surveillance of the area. “…(T)o our knowledge,” Patel said, “the Syrians certainly have not been able to build a drone themselves or own one, so it’s got to be coming from Russia or from Iran, actually coordinating these atrocities.”
Patel said he assumed the drone was Russian operated because the Russians were providing large amounts of military assistance to Assad. Patel said “common sense would suggest there is some sort of cooperation going on” between Russia and Syria’s government and the Russians would have to know the Syrians are “targeting citizens and civilians.”
The New Republic’s Zuylen-Wood subsequently challenged Avaaz’s initial claim of being the sole coordinator of the Conroy rescue, and got Patel to back off to correct both his earlier statement and the Avaaz press release. Patel said that he and Avaaz had made an honest mistake in the confusion and chaos of the rescue, and that the opposition Free Syria Army “played a significant role” in the operation but with substantial planning, input and backing from Avaaz. Although guilty of over-hype in claiming sole credit, Avaaz in its back-and-forth with The New Republic certainly showed that it had, indeed, played an important part in the rescue operation.
Whether this was an appropriate role for an activist organization is another question. Amos’s NPR piece raised the issue, stating: Given the deaths “of so many Syrian activists in the operation” this might suggest that “Avaaz has crossed a line, not just a border.”
For her report, Amos interviewed Randa Slim, a research fellow at the New America Foundation and a specialist in the Syrian opposition, who said: “I am not questioning their motives. But lives are at stake. Are they the right entity to do it. Is an NGO the right outlet?”
Answering press criticism at the time — and giving an indication of its success in getting the opposition’s view of the Syrian conflict to western journalists — Avaaz stated it was “proud of 18 months of outstanding work by our staff and our community to support the voices of the Syrian people to reach the world in thousands of news articles assisted by citizen journalists we have supported or helped connect to the media.”
Additionally, Avaaz commented, “Our community has donated almost $3 million for communications equipment, humanitarian aid and advocacy, and taken millions of actions including petition signatures, messages, phone calls and advocacy visits to press governments to take action to support the Syrian people.”
It is not clear whether Avaaz has continued to provide the same sort of on-the-ground assistance to opposition forces and civilians as it was offering a few years ago, although it indicated at the time that it would continue such activities.
In Forefront of Many Progressive Causes, Avaaz’s Advocacy for Military Actions in First Libya and Now Syria Seems Out of Sync
At first blush, the petition advocating for a Syria no-fly zone was a jolt to those not familiar with Avaaz’s swing toward “humanitarian” military action in recent years. It seemed surprising because Avaaz has on other occasions called for negotiated peaceful solutions to various conflicts (including in Syria itself), and has been substantially in sync with other major progressive organizations on scores of U.S. and international issues in its nine years of existence.
Based on the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of Avaaz petitions I have seen over the years and in preparation for this article, I had assumed that the organization adhered to a basic principle of nonviolence in international affairs — and it has even said so on occasion. But as one person who has had close connections to Avaaz noted to me: Although favoring diplomatic solutions, Avaaz does not rule out the use of military force, as its no-fly zone advocacy for Libya and Syria amply demonstrate.
On its website home page, Avaaz does not have an out-front display of its past campaign for a no-fly zone in Libya and its current one in Syria (and does not ever mention the ongoing disaster in Libya, or its support for a no-fly zone there). Rather, it focuses its out-front materials on its multitude of campaigns that involve nonviolent, political, diplomatic and public relations remedies. And even allowing for organizational self-hype, Avaaz has an impressive record of advocacy.
Through its petitions, street actions, billboards and newspaper ads, Avaaz has been highly visible on hundreds of issues worldwide — including Palestinian rights, support for U.S. government whistleblowers including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, campaigns for endangered species, etc. This is, after all, an organization that played a major role along with 350.org and other activist groups in organizing the massive People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014; it was also an organizer of the Global Climate March that was to coincide with the opening last November of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in France. That march was blocked by the French government in the aftermath of coordinated attacks attributed to ISIS that killed at least 130 people in Paris earlier in November.
Most — if not all — of Avaaz’s campaigns seem right in line with current day activism of various groupings on the political Left. Even on Syria, an Avaaz campaign urging the United States to take in more refugees is in a more traditional humanitarian vein (that is, one that doesn’t involve military hardware, needless to say). Typical was Avaaz’s full, back-page color ad in the March 10, 2016 Politico headlined (in a play on a Republican presidential debate topic): “IT TAKES BIG HANDS (and a Bigger Heart) TO WELCOME 25,000 SYRIAN REFUGEES.” The ad praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “showing the world what it means to have a giant heart” through Canada’s acceptance and resettlement of 25,000 refugees in the previous four months — “while America debates the size of candidates’ hands” and has taken in fewer than 1,000 refugees. The ad urged President Obama and Congress to “do better, and show the world the size of our hearts, not our hands.”
Also recently, in February 2016, more than 749,000 people signed an Avaaz petition that called on members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France to “suspend all arms deals with Saudi Arabia until they end their assaults in Yemen and begin a genuine peace process.” The campaign, which also included targeting MEPs with phone calls and personal messages, won a major success when the European Parliament voted on February 25 “for an embargo on arms sale to Saudi Arabia,” in response to a United Nations report documenting 119 Saudi violations of international law in Yemen. Because European Union states are not bound by the action, Avaaz is continuing the campaign to get the European governments and the United States to follow the European Parliament’s lead.
This Saudi campaign makes Avaaz’s repeat advocacy for a no-fly zone — first in Libya and now in Syria — appear on initial impression to be way out of sync with progressive thought and most other Avaaz campaigns, and so much in line with neocon and “humanitarian interventionist” regime-change advocates.
Avaaz Has Long Favored No-Fly Zone in Syria, Based in Part on the Dodgy Sarin Gas Story
The organization’s renewed campaign in the spring of 2015 for a Syrian no-fly zone was no sudden philosophical switch by Avaaz. In fact, as noted earlier, Avaaz had in 2011 campaigned for a no-fly zone in since-devastated Libya, and then turned its attention to a no-fly zone for Syria. It continued that Syrian effort in 2013-2014, while at the same time pushing for President Obama to get together with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to work out a diplomatic solution. That diplomacy petition netted 1,126,000 signers.
This diplomatic approach seemed more in line with what progressive individuals and organizations could get behind. But with no such diplomatic talks forthcoming, Avaaz then continued with its no-fly zone strategy.
Even in calling for negotiations, though, as well as in points raised in its on-line advocacy for a no-fly zone, Avaaz has regularly repeated a now-questionable allegation against the Syrian government — made on numerous occasions by Secretary John Kerry and then President Obama. The U.S. leaders and war advocates used the allegation as a justification for war when it appeared that the United States was going to launch a bombing campaign against Syria in September 2013: Namely, that Assad’s forces had used sarin gas on the civilian population near Damascus in August 2013. This charge that Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people has provided a continuing emotional selling point for Avaaz and other interventionists in the campaign for upping the military ante against the Assad regime.
“Right now,” the message accompanying the Avaaz diplomacy petition stated, “the global drums of war are beating over Syria, but if enough of us make sure Rouhani and Obama know the world wants bold diplomacy, we could end the nightmare for thousands of terrified Syrian children under gas attacks. We have no time to lose…”
But as pointed out repeatedly by Robert Parry of Consortium News and a few other independent journalists over the last two years — as well as recently by an organization of former U.S. intelligence professionals, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) — the Obama administration has publicly offered not one shred of evidence to back up its early claims that Assad gassed his own people in August 2013.
To the contrary, recent disclosures in Turkey provide evidence that strongly suggest it was not Assad’s military that carried out the sarin gas attack.
As Parry recently wrote, summing up his findings from his earlier articles, there is “growing evidence that it was a jihadist group, possibly with the help of Turkish intelligence, that staged the outrage as a provocation to draw the U.S. military into the conflict against Syria’s military by creating the appearance that Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’ on using chemical weapons.” The sarin gas attack, it should be recalled, came at a very tense time when Obama was considering military action against Assad, and seemed in the eyes of many hawks to provide final justification for attacking Syria and removing Assad from power.
The VIPS group, in a December 22, 2015 memorandum it sent to Kerry and to Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov, noted comments made in the Turkish Parliament 12 days earlier by member Eren Erdem from the opposition Republican People’s Party. In his remarks in Parliament, and four days later in an RT television interview, Erdem confronted the Turkish government on its possible role in the sarin gas issue. He cited a closed criminal case, official reports and electronic evidence documenting a sarin gas smuggling operation that was allegedly carried out with Turkish government complicity.
In the RT interview, according to the VIPS memo, “Erdem said Turkish authorities had acquired evidence of sarin gas shipments to anti-government rebels in Syria, and did nothing to stop them.” The General Prosecutor in the Turkish city of Adana “opened a criminal case, and an indictment stated ‘chemical weapons components’ from Europe ‘were to be seamlessly shipped via a designated route through Turkey to militant labs in Syria.’” Erdem cited evidence implicating the Turkish Minister of Justice and the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation in the smuggling of sarin.”
This bombshell piece of information, largely ignored by the mainstream news media, is a strong indication that the original sarin gas story linking the chemical attack to Assad’s forces is either false or at best unproven.
This information also undercuts one of the major shocking and emotion-filled underpinnings for Avaaz’s campaign for a no-fly zone — as well as the rationale repeatedly voiced by other advocates of stepped-up military action against the Syrian government.
Gassing your own people is about as low as a dictator can get. True or not, it’s a powerful piece of propaganda that provides a clinching bit of information to someone considering whether or not to sign something like the Avaaz no-fly zone petition. Since the mainstream media have ignored the Turkish Parliamentarian’s disclosures, it’s a safe bet that most of the petition signers to this day harbor no doubts about the source of the sarin gas attack, since no one in the Obama administration, much less Avaaz or other no-fly zone advocates, has ever publicly offered any contrary information to suggest it might not have been Assad who unleashed the attack.
The shaky nature of the sarin gas allegation is one of the areas about which ExposeFacts queried Avaaz further, but we have received no response to date.
Avaaz Didn’t Tell Members That Top U.S. Generals Warned Against Syria No-Fly Zone
Among our unanswered questions submitted to Avaaz were ones noting that the organization’s Syria petitions and accompanying supporting materials made no mention of the warnings by top U.S. generals (cited earlier) of the dangers inherent in establishing a no-fly zone there — including risking drastically expanding that bloody, many-sided war and thereby endangering civilians.
Without any indication of such dangers, potential petition signers could very easily get the idea that there is little down-side to a no-fly zone. And, after all, if lives could be saved and there is little down-side, isn’t that a course of action every compassionate human being could get behind? Especially if the organization calling for it has built up trust with its members through its hundreds of other liberal and progressive petitions?
Also, in information provided by Avaaz in its emails to members and on its website relating to its Syria no-fly zone petition, there was no mention of Libya, or any explanation of what Avaaz leaders thought, in retrospect, about the chaos, death, destruction, displacement and rise of ISIS there in the aftermath of the military intervention by NATO including its use of a no-fly zone. (Or, more recently, what Avaaz might think of news reports that the United States is going back into Libya with airstrikes and commando raids to counter ISIS — which did not exist in Libya until after the NATO bombing campaign and the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.)
Surely, you would think that the experience in Libya would limit an organization’s willingness to push once again for a no-fly zone, this time in Syria. Yet, despite that ongoing disaster in Libya, Avaaz was apparently not chastened. (See our follow-up article for an in-depth discussion of Avaaz’s advocacy for no-fly zone in Libya.)
As with our other questions, Avaaz did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when it stated to us: “Much of what you’re asking for are reflection on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.”
Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya enterprise had turned out so disastrously.
No-Fly Zones As an Act of War
Regardless of the sincerity of petition-signers who believe no-fly zones can save civilians’ lives, the recent history in Iraq and Libya demonstrate that no-fly zones are actually precursors to — or accompanists of — stepped-up military action by the United States and other western powers to bring about regime change.
And many of those signing the Libya and Syria petitions — having developed trust in Avaaz after signing some of the organization’s previous, meritorious petitions — are inclined to accept Avaaz’s version of events and the benign explanation that a no-fly zone poses little risk and will save thousands of civilians’ lives.
Whatever humanitarian clothes you dress it up in, though, establishing a no-fly zone using air power is by its very nature a provocative act, an act of war, a threat to a sovereign nation (no matter how reprehensible that nation’s government might be).
It is one thing for an activist organization to push its members in support of a diplomatic solution, or to provide food, shelter and other humanitarian assistance to civilian war victims; it is quite another to buy into a dubious no-fly zone notion, which actual generals — not humanitarian armchair generals — warn would involve the deaths of multitudes of civilians.
Yet, in its petition and accompanying materials on Syria, Avaaz gives little hint that a no-fly zone is a move toward an expanded war and likely even more displacement and death for civilians. Instead, it appeals to people’s humanitarian instincts and downplays the risk to both civilians and military personnel.
Typical of the emotional appeal to members’ humanitarian instincts was a September 30, 2015 Avaaz posting that pressed the urgency of a no-fly zone even with the Russians having recently entered the air war in Syria in support of Assad’s government. On the basis of just one eyewitness to an alleged Russian bombing of civilian neighborhoods near Homs, Avaaz said this makes the further case for a no-fly zone.
The September 30 posting, in line with Avaaz’s general practice of casting the Russians as the arch-villains in the war in Syria, was headlined “Russian bombing of Syrian civilian neighbourhoods kills women and children – eyewitness,” and quoted Emma Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of Avaaz, thusly:
“Russia says it’s bombing ISIS, but eyewitnesses say their brutal attacks targeted areas way outside of ISIS control. This will only sow instability and radicalization and should be a wake-up call to the U.S. and its allies to enforce a targeted no-fly zone to save lives, counter ISIS and alleviate the refugee crisis. Syrian civilians need protection now, not further attacks from Russian bombs.”
Now it just might be that everything in this posting is true — that Russian planes bombed a bakery and a vegetable market, killing four children and two women — but we are asked to accept this on the word of just one person. We are also asked to accept that neither ISIS nor other anti-regime units operated in the area, on the basis of the one eyewitness who is apparently quoting local residents. We are also asked to believe that this is conclusive justification for going full speed ahead with a no-fly zone — never mind that the Russians might not want to give up Syrian air space without a fight and possibly send the ongoing disaster in Syria into a whole new dimension of slaughter.
Despite the lies and propaganda emitting from all of the many sides in the Syrian conflict, despite the uncertainties of just who is bombing whom in some situations, Avaaz sticks to its narrative that the Syrian regime — now along with its Russian bombing partners — are virtually alone in endangering civilians and that a no-fly zone is somehow going to make all that right without posing much of a problem, really.
The possibility that a no-fly zone could increase the likelihood of a direct U.S.-Russian confrontation and an even wider war was apparently not part of Avaaz’s equation. How the no-fly zone would counter ISIS is not explained, since ISIS does not have an air force, but Avaaz presents it and its claims of saving lives and easing the refugee crisis as some sort of sure thing.
Stephen Wrage, a professor of American foreign policy at the Naval Academy, and Scott Cooper, national security outreach director at Human Rights First and a retired Marine Corps aviator, make the point that a no-fly zone in Syria would fail in its mission to protect civilians. As they wrote last October in Defense One in an article titled, “The History of No-Fly Zones Doesn’t Bode Well for Syria”: “If the no-fly zone is a humanitarian instrument aimed at saving innocents…it will not be effective because it cannot separate the killers from their victims. Saddam and Qaddafi were constrained by geography: by Iraq’s Zagros Mountains and the Libyan Desert. In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, now protected by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s air cover, would have no difficulty reaching the people he intends to kill.”
And as noted in the introduction to this article, the nation’s leading generals — no shrinking violets they — have repeatedly warned over the last several years of the drastic consequences of establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.
And all of these generals gave these warnings before Russian aircraft entered the fray.
It isn’t often I would say this, but in this instance of Syria the war-makers — the generals — are presenting the real-world, provocative implications of establishing a Syria no-fly zone, while Avaaz with its stated goal of protecting Syrian civilians presents a sugar-coated, little-harm version. And its petition and related materials, with a focus on the despicable Assad government’s violence against the civilian population, doesn’t adequately take into account the violence against civilians by ISIS and other opponents of Assad’s regime.
Near the end of each year, Avaaz (as do other on-line organizations) asks people on its email list to weigh in on a self-generated organizational list of priorities for the coming year. In no year has that list of priorities included setting up no-fly zones in, first, Libya, and now in Syria. The 2016 list of priorities, as voted on by members, includes a reference to peace in Syria, but no mention of a no-fly zone, stating: “Peace in Syria – campaign for the Syrian regime and all warring parties to stop brutal violence on innocent Syrian families, and ensure Syrian voices are heard in international peace talks.”
On its home page and in messages sent periodically to members to report on the organization’s campaigns and accomplishments, the call for a no-fly zone is not included as one of its showcase items. Nevertheless, Avaaz keeps raising the issue in dramatic ways throughout the year.
In an email sent to members last June, three days after publication of its New York Times ad, Avaaz renewed its call for a no-fly zone as it reported that a humanitarian worker had informed the organization that the “Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children.” Noting that a number of countries — including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey and France — were “seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria,” Avaaz added: “Advisors close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in… Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.”
Avaaz said that the unnamed humanitarian worker told it that “I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks my heart forever.”
Whatever the veracity of Avaaz’s source — and, again, it’s just one source at that moment — and whatever Avaaz’s good intentions, there is still that notion that setting up a no-fly zone is a walk in the park, rather than a dangerous move toward a wider war. The sense of frustration in that Avaaz missive is palpable: People are being slaughtered as the world watches. Something must be done. We want action!
Journalist and Middle East expert Charles Glass reported on the war in Syria in The New York Review of Books after a September 2015 trip there. Citing the United Nations’ latest “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” Glass said the report “paints a depressing portrait of the population’s unimaginable torment at the hands of government and opposition forces alike.”
Wrote Glass: “The regime drops barrel bombs in Aleppo, and the rebels respond with gas canisters of explosives and shrapnel. ISIS rapes and brutalizes Yazidi women whom it has declared slaves to be bought and sold. The regime’s security forces practice torture on an industrial scale. Both sides besiege villages, and both sides commit massacres. The UN report’s forty-four pages of horrific war crimes should be sufficient for the outside powers to budge and call a halt to this war. What are they waiting for?”
Unlike Avaaz’s posture of diplomacy and a no-fly zone, Glass was calling strictly for diplomacy, not escalation of the violence. He was seeing the civilian population suffering “at the hands of government and opposition forces alike.”
Avaaz — unlike, for example, Human Rights Watch on occasion — does not emphasize human rights abuses or killings of civilians by all forces involved in the Syrian fighting, concentrating instead on the abuses by Assad’s forces.
In a 79-page report on Syria in March 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded: “Opposition armed groups in Syria have indiscriminately attacked civilians in government-held territory with car bombs, mortars, and rockets…The attacks have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure in violation of the laws of war…[The report] documents scores of attacks in heavily populated, government-controlled areas in Damascus and Homs between January 2012 and April 2014, and which continue into 2015. The findings are based primarily on victim and witness accounts, on-site investigations, publicly available videos, and information on social media sites.”
Many of the attacks, Human Rights Watch found, were indiscriminate, were carried out in areas where there were no government forces, and “seemed primarily intended to spread terror among the civilian population.”
An earlier 2013 HRW report, titled “Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels — Planned Attacks on Civilians Constitute Crimes Against Humanity,” contained similar findings of abuses by opposition forces.
This is not about who is the worst human-rights abuser or murderer of civilians — Assad or ISIS or the various other groupings of the opposition — but rather about what a trusted organization such as Avaaz tells its members in getting them to sign a petition aimed at halting a humanitarian crisis that involves the killing and maiming of civilians. By its singular focus on Assad’s military and its supporters as the sole killers and abusers of the civilian population, Avaaz is not being straight with its members. It is holding back key information — information that just might make a potential signer think twice before opting for a military action that Avaaz is selling as a tactic that in its view would lessen a horrible humanitarian crisis.
Also absent in Avaaz’s pitch for no-fly zone signatures is any note to members that its stated humanitarian-inspired stance puts it in the company of the neocons, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and assorted congressional and think-tank war hawks who see a no-fly zone as part of a bigger military strategy to oust Assad from power. A no-fly zone, in the interventionists’ view, is a step toward this end, not an end in itself.
People like Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Clinton ally and president of the nonpartisan centrist think tank New America, who in an article last summer called — as she has before — for establishing a no-fly zone in Syria in order to save civilians’ lives. But that’s only the beginning. Slaughter, who was director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department for two years under Secretary Clinton, writes that the U.S. government had finally come to “the recognition that a new Syrian government is vital to defeat — or even contain — the Islamic State.”
While mentioning that civilians are also sometimes killed by rebel and Islamic State fighters, Slaughter posits that “Assad represents the greater threat, and thus will have to be removed from power before attention can be focused on defeating the Islamic State.” Hillary Clinton makes basically the same argument — and, like Slaughter, can’t really enlighten us as to what a successor Syrian government would look like.
Avaaz is thus allied with those for whom a no-fly zone is a euphemism for — a stalking horse for — regime change in Syria, regardless of the organization’s stated goal of protecting civilians and saving lives, and not of producing regime change.
But as Adam Johnson put it in an article for FAIR :
“… A no-fly zone would only be applied to Assad because anti-Assad forces don’t have an air force… While it may sound like a simple humanitarian stop gap — and that’s no doubt how it’s being sold — literally every no-fly zone in history has eventually led to regime change. Which is fair enough, but those pushing for one should at least be honest about what this means: the active removal of Assad by foreign forces. Indeed, if one recalls the NATO intervention in Libya was originally sold as a no-fly zone to prevent a potential genocide, but within a matter of weeks, NATO leaders had pivoted to full-on regime change.”
Johnson also makes the important point — in reference to the devastating, poignant picture late last summer of the drowned Syrian Kurdish refugee, 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach — that this boy and his family were not fleeing the Assad government’s bombing of cities. Rather, they were “escaping ISIS and the U.S. bombing of his hometown of Kobani, far from anything the Assad government is doing. A no-fly zone would not have saved his hometown…”
Since Johnson wrote that, and since Avaaz’s dramatic New York Times ad last June, the Russians entered the air war on the side of Assad and in opposition to rebel forces and ISIS. Although Russia announced its withdrawal from military action in Syria in mid-March, it is keeping in place “its powerful S-400 air defense system… That would maintain Russian dominance of Syrian airspace…” This would mean that any U.S./NATO effort to impose a no-fly zone would surely meet with Russian and Syrian resistance.
So the questions for Avaaz and other advocates of a no-fly zone in Syria include: Are you thinking beyond a no-fly zone? If not, why not? Doesn’t it matter? What comes next or in conjunction with a no-fly zone? Ousting Assad? Replacing him with whom? How? Full-scale bombardments and drone strikes that somehow miraculously avoid killing masses of civilians, and that avoid triggering more killings by Assad’s forces? More special ops assassination missions? Those “boots on the ground” so beloved of armchair militarists everywhere?
What if Turkey and Saudi Arabia invade Syria, as they have threatened to do? What happens in the fight against ISIS if Assad is out of the picture? What does Russia do? Does some minuscule crew of supposed Syrian moderates that the U.S. has identified take power, and ISIS just pauses while the new government organizes itself (or rather is organized for it by the ever-helpful United States, United Kingdom and other enlightened western governments)? What happens to Assad’s military? How will a no-fly zone affect not only government violence, but also ISIS violence, or other opposition violence, against civilians? And on and on.
Shouldn’t the still unfolding Libya tragedy make an organization like Avaaz a little gun-shy (so to speak) in calling for the same kind of policy in the even more complicated, confusing case of Syria — what with the Syrian military, various countries, the anti-Assad rebel opposition groups, ISIS and al Qaeda and al Nusra and their spinoff groups, and Kurds, and Assad loyalists all slugging it out to the death?
In a Syrian war with atrocities on all sides, isn’t there something to be learned from the Libya experience in which Gaddafi’s crimes were exaggerated to inflame the western public against his regime? As Patrick Cockburn of The Independent in London reported in November 2014, human rights groups in Libya “discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicized atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the U.S., Britain, France and elsewhere.”
These included, Cockburn continued, “the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.”
And, wrote Cockburn, “The majority of Libyans are demonstrably worse off today than they were under Gaddafi, notwithstanding his personality cult and authoritarian rule. The slaughter is getting worse by the month and is engulfing the entire country.”
Writing more than a year later, The New York Times reported on February 29, 2016 that in the aftermath of the killing of Gaddafi and regime change in Libya, that country “dissolved into chaos, leading to a civil war that would destabilize the region, fueling the refugee crisis in Europe and allowing the Islamic State to establish a Libyan haven that the United States in now desperately trying to contain.”
Syria, of course, is not Libya. But there is a lesson there that “humanitarian interventionists” should learn.
When Members Pushed Back, Avaaz Defended Its Syria No-Fly Zone Advocacy
Although Avaaz has ignored most of our specific questions, it did last summer post on its website a “Syria No Fly Zone Questions & Answers” page in response to “thoughtful concerns” expressed by members that, according to Avaaz, boiled down to these main objections: “a) Avaaz is relying on unverified news reports and has the facts wrong. b) Avaaz is pushing for more war in the Middle East. c) Avaaz is serving the imperial interests of western powers, notably the U.S.” (As noted earlier, the Q&A page was deleted sometime last month, and when you click on the above link you get a blank Avaaz page as of this writing.)
To this, I would again add, among other things, Avaaz completely ignoring — or not even considering — the warnings of top U.S. generals and other experts expressed earlier in this article. These warnings are not even mentioned in Avaaz’s Q&A, nor is there any mention of Avaaz’s previous disastrous “humanitarian” call (along with interventionists from across the political spectrum) for a no-fly zone in Libya.
In response to the criticisms, the previously mentioned Avaaz campaign director and former State Department official John Tye emphasized that his organization was only trying to save lives and was not seeking more war in the Middle East or doing the bidding of U.S. or other imperial interests. Tye wrote that with “more than 210,000 killed. Over 10 million people driven from their homes. More than half the country’s hospitals damaged or destroyed. Millions of children out of school. This is the worst refugee crisis since World War II… the humanitarian disaster of our generation, and it continues to crush innumerable lives.”
Tye went on to note that Avaaz had tried everything short of recommending military action to alleviate the plight of Syria’s civilians. Wrote Tye:
“… We supported civilians and non-violent activists to document human rights abuses, and gave millions of dollars for food, medicine, and humanitarian supplies and to put refugee children in school. We campaigned to stop arms dealers from sending weapons to the country, called for sanctions, and then urged the U.N. to help stop the fighting. More than a million of us from across the world called on the U.S. and Iran to come together to help craft a negotiated solution, and then once again we backed UN-sponsored negotiations. This community has worked for nearly four years to stop the war and help the needy, but the crisis continues and is spreading.”
Tye wrote that having tried all these other forums and methods, “it is up to a community like ours to continue to look for legal ways to intervene to stop the carnage.” And this is where the no-fly zone comes in.
Rather than being “the deceitful ‘pre-emptive war’ doctrine advocated by neo-conservatives looking to remake and dominate the Middle East,” Tye — presumably drawing primarily on his State Department and other governmental contacts — wrote that the Avaaz call for a no-fly zone (NFZ) “is a very serious strategy made only after intensive consultation with diplomats, regional experts, and Syrians to save tens of thousands of civilians’ lives. [My emphasis.] After four years of brutal violence on all sides, the war in Syria will be extremely difficult to end. But a NFZ could help curb the violence and bring the warring parties into peace negotiations. Right now Assad has no incentive to negotiate peace. He believes he can continue exterminating his people until they submit. A NFZ will show Assad that the world will act to stop this carnage, and it will change Assad’s calculus.”
Additionally, Tye wrote, a no-fly zone “will also provide a safe place for the Syrians who have been driven into extremists’ territory as they are fleeing from the regime’s terror. Lastly it would reinforce the international military campaign against ISIS.” He added that an NFZ “that protects civilians in northern Syria could strengthen the conditions for a negotiated, political solution to the conflict.”
Tye continued that the most common criticism of Avaaz is that it claims as fact certain allegations of Syrian government forces’ atrocities that had not been confirmed when Avaaz published them — such as Avaaz alleging chlorine gas attacks from the air killing civilians, when it lacked corroboration for the allegation. While acknowledging that “it continues to be difficult to independently and unequivocally confirm details on the ground in Syria,” Tye said the Syrian military “have relied on non-chemical weapons dropped from aircraft to kill thousands upon thousands of civilians in northern Syria. Even if, contrary to current evidence, it somehow turns out that the Assad regime was not responsible for this recent chlorine attack, it is still the case that a no-fly zone in northern Syria would dramatically reduce civilian deaths.”
As to the criticism from some Avaaz members that the organization is pushing for more war in Syria, Tye responded: “The answer is an unqualified ‘no’. U.S. and allied aircraft are already patrolling airspace in northern Syria, as part of the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, so a no-fly zone would not require significant new deployments. Bloodshed in Syria will continue with or without a no-fly zone, but a no-fly zone would dramatically decrease civilian casualties.”
Yes, Tye is saying, take it from us that this is exactly how a no-fly zone would work out. Ignore those pesky generals who say otherwise — and I do mean ignore them. Do not let their warnings enter the Avaaz dialogue.
Avaaz’s only acknowledgement of possible dangers comes in this one paragraph from Tye: “As with any military mission, a no-fly zone may endanger the pilots enforcing it, or Assad forces trying to break it.”
Tye continued: “Those possibilities are real, but we know what will continue to happen until there is a no-fly zone: weaponized chlorine bombs will fall on sleeping families; and near daily barrel bombing will continue over Aleppo. Thousands and thousands of people will die, for years to come, if we turn away and wring our hands…Prior efforts to put an end to this, through diplomacy and sanctions, have all failed. If nothing changes, another 100,000 could be killed” in 2015 alone.
Note again, there is no mention that a no-fly zone could — and in Syria, likely would — endanger not only U.S. and NATO pilots and Assad’s forces, but the very civilians Avaaz says it wants to protect.
Responding to comparisons to U.S. involvement in Iraq, Tye said: “A no-fly zone over Syria is not the same as the disastrous war in Iraq… This campaign for Syria is not invasion or regime change, it’s about protecting defenseless families.”
As for one of the other criticisms — that Avaaz is serving U.S. and western interests “to (re)shape and exercise imperial ambitions in the Middle East,” Tye responded: “The answer again is a very definitive ‘no’. Our community regularly campaigns against morally unjustifiable foreign engagement in the Middle East, whether it be Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian lands or the U.S. and E.U.’s rapprochement with a new tyrant in Egypt. We understand the tragic and often cynical legacy of foreign engagement in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Tye wrote that he understands that a no-fly zone “could conjure up images of George W. Bush’s foreign policy and illegal Western interventions. This is a different thing.” In Avaaz’s vision, a targeted no-fly zone can’t just be a U.S. undertaking. “It must be an international effort, with a clear objective: the protection of civilians. And the states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates that have openly called for a no-fly zone, and the protection of civilian populations in Syria, must take the lead in providing resources to implement it. France’s Socialist government has also voiced strong support for a targeted no-fly zone. But, these governments won’t act without some support from the United States, which has the diplomatic and military resources to serve as coordinator for a limited period of time — until the safety of civilians is secured.”
Finally, Tye said, Avaaz is a member organization and as such was responding to tens of thousands of Syrian members who were calling for a no-fly zone. It should be noted that Avaaz shows 54,000 members in Syria in a population of 23 million — which means that even if every Avaaz member supported a no-fly zone, this would still mean that only one of every 426 Syrians had “voted” for one.
Nevertheless, Tye concluded, “The Avaaz community has repeatedly stood behind the principle that defenseless civilian populations should be protected — and these tens of thousands of Syrian Avaaz members deserve no less.”
It seems an odd notion that it is “Syrian Avaaz members” — rather than Avaaz staffers in New York promulgating petitions for a no-fly zone — who are somehow responsible for the direction of this campaign. Seriously?
In its call for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, Avaaz has turned the concept of progressive advocacy on its head and appears to be untrue to the direction it has followed in the overwhelming majority of its campaigns. Advocacy organizations should be about stopping wars, not asking their members to buy into a dubious military tactic for Syria that even leading U.S. generals say “entails killing a lot of people… [and is] a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties” for those very Syrian civilians that Avaaz argues it is trying to protect.
John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
British troops may not be deployed to Libya after all because the head of the North African state’s new unity government turned down the offer of Western soldiers to help eliminate Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The move may come as a shock to some in the British establishment who had expected a request for soldiers now that the war-ravaged state’s UN-brokered unity government has assembled in Tripoli.
A UK government source told the Times on Wednesday the request had not materialized. The source felt the force structure being floated – an Italian-led brigade of 6,000 with a 1,000-strong British component – would exacerbate internal divisions.
Its aims would have been to tackle people-trafficking and train Libyan forces to fight IS.
Another unnamed source, a British minister, told the Times it was thought the head of the unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, may wait until he is more established before requesting foreign military help.
Al-Sarraj and his government only arrived in the country a fortnight ago amid fears their entry would spark violence among the rival militias.
“The idea that the PM is yet able to give the green light to anything is premature, he needs to make sure he has the necessary support,” the minister told the Times.
“We are in a sensitive period. Nobody has drawn any firm conclusions. We’ve got a long way to go but there is a recognition things are extremely serious.”
European Council on Foreign Relations Libya specialist Mattia Toaldo told the paper that officials in the new administration are afraid of being seen as “foreign puppets” and hope “people in Europe will stop talking about this for a few weeks.”
Some military and political figures in the UK seem to have learned one tough lesson from the ill-fated campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, where US-appointed governments were treated with suspicion and substantial resistance ensued.
On April 1, as Al-Sarraj arrived in Tripoli, Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chair Crispin Blunt MP warned that although the UK has a “moral obligation” to clean up the “mess” it had left in Libya, any UK troop deployment would look like an “invading force.”
On Monday, the former British Army Colonel who briefly led a mission to Libya in the wake of the 2011 war, which removed the old regime, warned that if anything could unify the competing militias it would be a foreign military intervention.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Wieloch also told the Telegraph he questioned the wisdom of involving Italy, a former colonial ruler, in any Libya operation.
Coercive Engineered Migration: Zionism’s War on Europe (Part 11 of an 11 Part Series)
During the 1920s General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Josef Stalin formulated what he considered to be the essential contribution of Lenin to Marxist political economy. Leninism, he wrote, is Marxism in the era of proletarian revolution. Since 1989 proletarian and national liberation revolutions throughout the world have been overturned by a general, global counter-revolutionary upsurge. It is a a political phenomenon that has seen the onslaught of US colour revolutions, which seek to do away with the bourgeois nation-state itself, the last barrier to the total exploitation of the world by the global corporate and financial elite.
In this essay I have argued that the contemporary form of this counter-revolutionary ideology, of this imperial drive for global domination, is Zionism. One could therefore, echoing Stalin’s definition of Leninism, assert that Zionism is imperialism in the age of capitalist counter-revolution. In other words, Zionism is the very form of contemporary Western imperialism. However, unlike Russian and Chinese imperialism, Western imperialism or Zionism has both a religious and ethnic dimension. Zionism is a Messianic and racist ideology which is not based simply on secular, Jewish nationalism but has its roots in Talmudism.
Zionism, through its control of Western finance capitalism, is striving for global governance. Lenin, writing in 1915, described as ‘indisputable’ the fact that ‘development is proceeding towards monopolies, hence, towards a single world monopoly, towards a single world trust’. But Lenin also pointed out that this drive towards unipolar global power would also intensify the contradictions in the global economy. A cogent example of this today is the low-intensity covert war currently being waged by the United States/Israel against Germany: The Western imperial alliance is turning on itself.
However, no people’s resistance to Zionism can be mounted if the empire continues to outsmart its opponents. The aforementioned General Barnett understands his enemies well. He used to teach Marxism in Harvard university and has written a book comparing the African policies of the German Democratic Republic and the Socialist Republic of Romania. In his book Blueprint For Action, he points out that the father of Fourth Generation Warfare is Mao Zedong. Imperial grand strategy is now waging war using techniques developed during the Chinese revolution, one of the greatest anti-colonial struggles in history. The key for anti-imperialist resistance today, therefore, has to be to understand how to turn the tools of imperialism against imperialism.
Marxism is an indispensable tool for understanding capitalism, but is insufficient for a full comprehension of the complexities of imperial strategy and tactics in the information age. Barnett and many other US and Israeli military strategists are keen students of social psychology, and in particular General Boyd’s OODA Loop Theory. The OODA stands for observation, orientation, decision, action. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.
One could see this psychology at work during the Arab Spring. The rigid ideological orientation of the average ‘leftist’ saw the uprisings in Tunisia as proof that people were rebelling against a US-backed dictator and his ‘neo-liberal’ regime. This interpretation was reinforced by strategically placed ‘critics’ of US-foreign policy in the news station of Zionism’s ancillary regime, Qatar, while the initial indifference of the Western press confirmed the interpretation of the Tunisian revolt as a genuine, grass roots uprising against US imperialism.
US and Israeli strategists were capable of doing this through their deep understanding of ‘leftist’ discourse. They also understood that the ‘anti-globalisation’ form of the protest movement would fool genuine critics of US imperialism, thereby impeding their ability to react to the US-orchestrated revolutions in a rational manner.
In the Arab Spring, inverted Marxian dialectics, Systems Theory, Psychology, Military Science and Utility Theory were waged against a feckless and discombobulated anti-war movement who would repeat the sound bites of ‘popular uprising’ and the ‘defeat of US imperialism in the Middle East’ implanted in their minds by one of the most impressive and successful US/Israeli geostrategic operations in modern history.
On the eve of NATO’s bombing of Libya, the BBC predictably called upon an old reliable ‘critic of US foreign-policy’ Noam Chomsky. The veteran American philosopher agreed that the West had a “duty” to “stop the massacres” in Libya thus ensuring there would be no moral outrage among the so-called “anti-war movement” to a NATO military intervention. The invitation of Noam Chomsky by the Zionist-controlled BBC illustrates the importance for British intelligence of ideologically disarming potential ‘leftist’ opponents in the run-up to meticulously planned wars of aggression, disguised as ‘humanitarian interventions’.
Chomsky stated that ‘there may come a time when it would make sense for the West to become involved… but the question is has that time come.’ No anti-imperialist would ever suggest that it could make sense for the West to intervene militarily in another country, under any circumstances.
Given Chomsky’s anarchist ideology — the very ideology instrumentalised by the CIA in colour revolutions — the BBC knew he would go along with their fake ‘popular uprising’ in Benghazi; thus providing justification to wage ‘humanitarian’ warfare in support of the ‘revolution’.
In 2013, a massive military destablisation of Brazil was undertaken by US NGOs, operating under the guidance of the CIA, in order to weaken the popularity of a government moving far too close to Russia and China in the eyes of Washington. Again, the CIA’s ‘Vinegar Revolution‘ received full support from most ‘leftist’ quarters. Once again, military geostrategy had triumphed over anti-imperialist analysis.
The current refugee crisis proves that US/Israeli military geostrategy is running circles around its opponents who, instead of identifying the culprits who are using human beings as weapons, are unwittingly collaborating with Zionism’s plan to inundate Europe with migrants for the purposes of fomenting civil war in the European peninsula. It is a desperate effort to prevent Eurasian integration, a prospect inimical to what the Pentagon refers to as ‘full spectrum dominance’.
Those who have joined in the chorus of welcoming the refugees/migrants are unwitting participants in an extension of Zionism’s neo-colonial wars in Africa and the Middle East. They are also complicit in the endorsement and cover-up of a modern slave trade. Opposing imperialism requires study of the logic of its geostrategic operations. Imperialism’s deliberate flooding of Europe with a Wahhabised lumpen-proletariat from a war-torn Southern Hemisphere will not help the cause of labour, the cause of human freedom. Rather, it will contribute to preventing the unification of the European-peninsula with the Eurasian Heartland. It will also contribute towards the further colonisation and destruction of independent African and Middle Eastern nations such as Eritrea and Syria.
An example of Marxist Leninist parties’ inability to deal with imperialism’s weaponization of migrants comes from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist). Their argument in favour of immigration is sound under normal circumstances but they fail to address the problem of when immigration becomes a tool of imperialism, a specific geopolitical strategy aimed at destabilizing both the country of origin and the destination of the migrant.
The recent resolution of the CPGBML is worth reproducing here in full:
This party firmly believes that immigration is not the cause of the ills of the working class in Britain, which are solely the result of the failings of the capitalist system.
Immigration and asylum legislation and controls under capitalism have only one real goal: the division of the working class along racial lines, thus fatally weakening that class’s ability to organise itself and to wage a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of imperialism.
These controls have the further effect of creating an army of ‘illegal’ immigrant workers, prey to super exploitation and living in dire conditions as an underclass, outside the system, afraid to organise and exercising a downward pull on the wages and conditions of all workers.
The scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism. But since immigration can no more be abolished under capitalism than can wage slavery, our call should not be for the further control and scapegoating of immigrants, but the abolition of all border controls, as part of the wider fight to uproot racism from the working-class movement and build unity among workers in Britain, so strengthening the fight for communism.
The problem here is that no distinction is made between immigration into imperialist countries and immigration into semi-colonial type countries. For example, Syria has been forced to close its borders due to the passage of terrorists in the service of imperialism. In such circumstances, it would be ludicrous to condemn the Syrian government for erecting fences to protect its borders. Similarly, Hungary, a small country which has just taken modest steps towards escaping from the clutches of US imperialism under the control of the IMF, has decided to erect fences to protect its borders from what it perceives as an attempt by US imperialism to destabilize the country. Under these conditions, such a decision is entirely justified. The CPGBML argues correctly that “the scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism.” The erection of fences in Hungary is part of that fight against imperialism, when migrants are clearly being used as weapons of imperialist strategy against recalcitrant nation-states.
The fact that Zionism is using the refugee crisis to further its imperialist agenda does not mean, however, that all refugees in the world are being used for this purpose. Rather, just as in the Arab Spring where the social inequalities of capitalism were used by imperialism to further the cause of capitalism, many refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa are being used for the same purpose.
Throughout the world Homo sapiens is being supplanted by Homo economicus: a vacuous, brain-washed, rootless cosmopolitan, a deterritorialised and acculturated nomad, hopelessly blown hither and thither by the exigencies of capital. Meanwhile, Zionism continues to stoke up the incessant and utterly fraudulent War on Terror, with omnipresent mass surveillance of the “nations” (goyim) while at the same time Jews are being encouraged by the Israeli regime to leave Europe for settlement on Arab lands, ruined and depopulated by Zionism’s wars.
The ‘refugee crisis’ is indubitably one more step towards the creation of a Greater Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu recently told the Israeli National News that Israel must become a “world power”.
To politically correct pundits, Victor Orban’s fence might appear inhumane and xenophobic, but at this moment in history the concrete choice presented to us is between temporary fences designed to protect nations from imperialism or Zionist walls built to imprison humanity.
Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a journalist and political analyst based in Paris. His work focuses on globalization, geopolitics and class struggle.