Former Defense Intelligence Head Admits Islamic State Would Not Exist If Bush Hadn’t Invaded Iraq

Posted on Nov 30, 2015

A soldier stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah oil fields in southern Iraq in 2003. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 2012 to 2014, has spoken out about how the Iraq War has led to the rise of the Islamic State terror group.

In an interview with the German Der Spiegel on Sunday, Flynn, who was in Afghanistan and Iraq as director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command from 2004 to 2007, was asked about how the U.S. arrested Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi back in February 2004 and released him, allowing him to go on and establish Islamic State.

When Der Spiegel asked Flynn why the militant was released, Flynn replied:

“We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment. When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”

Below is a portion of the interview in which Flynn goes on to concede that the occupation of Iraq was a mistake:

Spiegel Online: The US invaded Iraq even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

Flynn: First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based. Then we went into Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.

Spiegel Online: The Islamic State wouldn’t be where it is now without the fall of Baghdad. Do you regret …

Flynn: … yes, absolutely …

Spiegel Online: … the Iraq war?

Flynn: It was a huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.

Read more here.

About 500,000 deaths resulted from the near decade-long Iraq War. Researchers estimate that about 60 percent of the deaths were violent and have blamed poor health infrastructure for the remaining 40 percent, emphasizing the importance of providing sufficient health care after conflict.

—Posted by Roisin Davis

Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette: What do Mrs. Pankhurst and an East End laundress have in common?

By Joanne Laurier
28 November 2015

Directed by Sarah Gavron; screenplay by Abi Morgan

British filmmaker Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is a fictionalized account of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain in the pre-World War I period.

The so-called “suffragettes” were led by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. The struggle at times became fierce, involving conflicts with police and minor acts of terrorism. The women were often jailed and tortured during their incarceration. The right to vote for women was eventually won in the UK in 1928.

Carey Mulligan

Gavron’s movie begins in 1912. Its protagonist, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), is a 24-year-old laundress, working and living in poverty-stricken and oppressed circumstances. Gavron uses the character to epitomize the growing social awareness of women and their involvement in the suffrage movement.

In Suffragette, Maud labors like a slave at work and goes home to minister to husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw), who also works at the industrial laundry, but for higher wages. She is a caring mother to her adored young son, Georgie. Marital relations are as good as can be expected for a couple living in abject poverty, even perhaps a little better, provided Maud does not deviate from what is expected of her.

At work, Maud is vigilant in regard to her employer, who, besides working people to their chemically scarred bones, sexually abuses young girls. Maud grew up in the laundry as the daughter of a laundress and sustained years of abuse herself.

An outspoken co-worker Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) makes an impression on Maud. The latter discovers that Violet is a member of the local underground suffragette chapter run by the militant Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter). Edith owns a pharmacy with her supportive husband—the only genuinely encouraging male in the movie—which is used as a front for the meetings of the group.

As Maud begins to express an interest in the fight, she almost immediately finds herself, unexpectedly (and somewhat implausibly), giving testimony at a hearing presided over by Chancellor of the Exchequer and future prime minister David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller) on women’s right to vote, an event that does not shift the government. As Maud’s involvement with the suffragettes grows, so does her alienation from Sonny, who eventually locks her out of the house and, because he has exclusive parental rights over Georgie, bars her from their son—the most painful of all her sacrifices. Furthermore, she is hounded by the dogged Irish-born policeman Steed (Brendan Gleeson), who unsuccessfully tries to browbeat her into becoming an informer.

Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst

The women are inspired by and unswervingly loyal to their leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a cameo performance), who urges them to stand up to the determined efforts of the government to break their wills. The suffragettes are beaten and imprisoned. In jail, Maud and others go on hunger strike and are brutally force-fed. Even Steed is appalled by their “barbaric” treatment. The movie ends, essentially in mid-air, when one of the suffragettes, Emily Davison (Natalie Press), becomes a martyr for the cause in 1913.

Director Gavron has demonstrated a sensitivity and talent for filmmaking in her previous efforts, This Little Life (2003) about a child born prematurely, andBrick Lane (2007) concerning the Bangladeshi community in London. Unfortunately, the broader the panorama and scope of the subject matter, the weaker and more obviously limited in outlook and approach her work becomes.

Not helping matters, in her latest movie, she has teamed up with screenwriter Abi Morgan, responsible for the deplorable The Iron Lady (2011), a generally sympathetic portrait of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The chief difficulties with Suffragette arise from what is essentially an act of intellectual sleight of hand on the part of the filmmakers. In the end, the film plays fast and loose with history in the interests of pushing a contemporary political agenda.

Both the scenes of Maud toiling in the laundry and her struggling to make a decent life for her small family are moving. Mulligan, who has often seemed rather bland in the past, gives a restrained and convincing performance here as an oppressed woman whose passionate feelings and opinions only slowly rise to the surface.

However, to a considerable extent, Gavron’s scenes of the abominable laundry and London’s East End belong in a different film.

The WSPU, although it may have had support in certain areas from working class women, was a movement whose leadership and social outlook was overwhelmingly middle class. After all, 40 percent, the poorest layers, of the male population could not vote at the time (including Maud’s husband) and the WSPU advocated women having the right to vote on the same terms as men, i.e., they accepted wealth and property limits on the women who would be able to vote. The Independent Labour Party, which advocated universal suffrage, attacked the WSPU on these grounds.

In all likelihood, a woman like Maud Watts would not have gravitated toward the feminist movement as her consciousness awakened, but toward the socialist movement. The pre-World War I period witnessed an immense growth in the socialist parties internationally and the number of female supporters in particular. The number of women in the Social Democratic Party in Germany, for example, jumped from about 4,000 in 1905 to over 141,000 by 1913. One of its most remarkable leaders, of course, was Rosa Luxemburg.


Maud’s story, so to speak, belongs to a different social and intellectual trajectory than the one the filmmakers imagine for her. They clearly did not want to make a film about an aspiring parliamentarian, lawyer or pharmacist because it would not have had the same emotional or dramatic punch.

A more honest film would have shown women like Maud more attracted to the emerging social struggles of the working class as a whole (the British Labour Party, which also supported universal suffrage, was founded in 1906). A class divide separates the interests of Emmeline Pankhurst and those of Maud and Violet. As Pankhurst says in the movie: “We don’t want to be law breakers, we want to be law makers.” (The phrase actually comes from Anne Cobden Sanderson, another campaigner for votes for women.)

To their discredit, Gavron and Morgan are relying on the generally low level of historical knowledge in removing the socialist movement from the historical equation. Suffragette ’s circumscribed timeline is significant. Had it stretched out a few more years, the film’s creators would have had to show the irreconcilable split that occurred within the Pankhurst family itself.

With the outbreak of World War I, Emmeline and one of her daughters, Christabel, threw their full support behind British imperialism in its conflict with the “German Peril.” Within days of the declaration of war in August 1914, the British government agreed to release all WSPU prisoners and paid the organization £2,000 to organize a patriotic rally under the slogan “Men must fight and women must work.” Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst campaigned tirelessly for millions of young men to be sent into the slaughterhouse of the war. Later, a fervent anti-communist, Emmeline Pankhurst joined the Conservative Party and was chosen as one of its parliamentary candidates.

The film makes much of the WSPU slogan, “Deeds, not words.” There is nothing inherently radical or progressive about such a motto. The character of a movement is determined by its program and social orientation. Many ultra-right organizations would subscribe—and have subscribed—to “Deeds, not words.” In fact, it is worth pointing to the political evolution of Norah Dacre Fox, a leading member, and from 1913 the general secretary, of the WSPU. Fox was one of the organizers of the 1914 pro-war rally and a ferocious anti-German chauvinist. According to The Times in 1918, Mrs. Dacre Fox supported making “a clean sweep of all persons of German blood, without distinction of sex, birthplace, or nationality. … Any person in this country, no matter who he was or what his position, who was suspected of protecting German influence, should be tried as a traitor, and, if necessary, shot. There must be no compromise and no discrimination.” Norah Dacre Fox (later Norah Elam) went on to become a prominent figure in Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.

For many of the upper-middle class women involved in the WSPU, as for many of their present-day counterparts, the “fight for women’s rights” boiled down to a fight for a bigger share of the professional, political and income pie. There is inevitably a sinister and reactionary logic to any movement based on ethnicity or gender. Many contemporary feminists support the imperialist war drive against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria today—and tomorrow, Russia—on the spurious grounds of “women’s rights.”

Sylvia Pankhurst in 1909

By contrast, Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) led East End women in the direction of socialism. She broke from the WSPU in 1914, eventually launching the Workers’ Socialist Federation. She founded the newspaper, the Women’s Dreadnought, which later changed its name to the Workers’ Dreadnought. From her own experiences with women like Maud Watts, Sylvia came to the conclusion that the problem was capitalism.

Sylvia Pankhurst supported the Russian Revolution of 1917 and went to the Soviet Union in 1920-21 where she met Lenin and heard Trotsky speak. (While in London, she received a letter from Lenin in August 1919, urging no delay in “the formation of a big workers’ Communist Party in Britain.”). Coming into conflict with her mother, she agreed with Marxists such as Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote in 1914: “Bourgeois women’s rights activists want to acquire political rights, in order to participate in political life. The proletarian woman can only follow the path of workers’ struggle, which in the opposite way achieves every inch of actual power, and only in this way acquires statutory rights.”

No one on the official “left” today, utterly consumed by identity politics and issues of sex and gender, cares to remember the scorn that socialists like Luxemburg, Eleanor Marx, Luise Kautsky, Clara Zetkin and others heaped on the affluent “women rightsers” of their time.

In that period, it was elementary to view the issue in class not gender terms. Eleanor Marx, for example, wrote: “We are not women arrayed in struggle against men but workers who are in struggle against the exploiters.” And: “The real women’s party, the socialist party … has a basic understanding of the economic causes of the present adverse position of workingwomen and … calls on the workingwomen to wage a common fight hand-in-hand with the men of their class against the common enemy, viz. the men and women of the capitalist class.”

And it was Eleanor Marx who noted that “We see no more in common between a Mrs. Fawcett [the leading light of the women’s rights movement in the late 19th century] and a laundress than we see between [the banker] Rothschild and one of his employees. In short, for us there is only the working-class movement.”

Or Clara Zetkin: “For the proletarian woman, it is capital’s need for exploitation, its unceasing search for the cheapest labour power, that has created the women’s question …

“Consequently, the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be—as it is for the bourgeois woman—a struggle against the men of her own class … The end-goal of her struggle is not free competition with men but bringing about the political rule of the proletariat. Hand in hand with the men of her own class, the proletarian woman fights against capitalist society.”

It should be added that even though Suffragette does have a working class woman as its heroine, it tends to demonstrate contempt for the working class as a whole. The innumerable close-ups of Mulligan’s face speak to the deliberately narrow and confined focus. Virtually all the men in the film are monstrous. In addition, all of Maud’s co-workers, with the exception of Violet, as well as her female neighbors shun and blackguard her for taking up a fight. So while Maud is one of the deserving poor, the rest are portrayed as hopelessly backward and beholden to King and Country.

And what of the fruits of feminism? A study by a UK think tank in 2013 concluded that “fifty years of feminism” has seen the gap between the wages of the average man and woman narrow, while the differences between working class and upper class women “remain far greater than the differences between men and women.”

Morgan-Gavron’s Suffragette attempts to avoid and misrepresent the fact that working class women were thrown into the vortex of political life as part of a class and it was the inescapable logic of the movement of the whole class that imbued them with their “class-conscious defiance.” (Luxemburg)

Putin accuses US of colluding in downing of Russian plane


By Chris Marsden
28 November 2015

Tensions between Russia and the United States continue to escalate, after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of handing Ankara details of the flight path of the Russian plane downed by Turkey in Syria on Tuesday. US President Barack Obama signed a defence bill handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to militias fighting Russian-backed forces in Ukraine and Syria.

The Russian Su-24 bomber was shot down by a Turkish fighter jet based on claims that it had entered Turkish airspace for around 17 seconds. One of the two pilots was killed by gunfire from Turkmen forces in Syria as he parachuted from the burning jet. The other was rescued by Russian and Syrian Special Forces, with the loss of one marine rescuer—prompting Putin to accuse Ankara of acting as “accomplices of terrorists.”

At a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande in the Kremlin, Putin accused the US of passing on to Turkey details of where Russian planes were flying. He said, “The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes’ flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time.”

Washington is responding to the shoot-down of the Russian jet by provocatively escalating its funding of proxy forces fighting Russia.

Yesterday, reports emerged that the $607 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes hundreds of millions of dollars to arm forces in Ukraine and Syria. It includes $300 million for the security forces of the Ukrainian regime, which has fought a bloody civil war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. There are also nearly $500 million to train “moderate rebels” fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Turkey’s response has been equally bellicose. Erdogan bluntly told Putin, “Shame on you. Those who claim we buy oil from Daesh [ISIS] are obliged to prove it. If not, you are a slanderer… I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us.”

“Those who carry out a military campaign with the pretext of fighting Daesh are targeting anti-regime opponents,” he said. “You say you are fighting Daesh. Excuse me, but you are not fighting Daesh. You are killing our Turkmen kinsmen.”

Erdogan said he might speak with Putin at a climate summit in Paris next week, but Putin has so far refused to contact him without receiving an apology, his aide Yuri Ushakov said Friday.

Previously, Erdogan had told France 24 television: “If we had known it was a Russian plane, maybe we would have warned it differently.”

The NATO powers’ bellicose response to the downing of the Su-24 bomber directly poses the danger that their conflicts with Russia will escalate into all-out war. They provoked an angry retort from Putin.

He dismissed the claim that the Turkish government would not have shot down the plane had it known it was Russian, as suggested by Erdogan on French television, as “rubbish.” It was “not possible” that the downed plane could not have been identified as a Russian jet. Russian planes, he said, “have identification signs and these are well visible.”

“If it was an American aircraft, would they have struck an American?” he asked. “What we hear instead is they have nothing to apologise for… One gets the impression that the Turkish government is consciously driving Russian-Turkish relations to a deadlock.”

Putin again asserted that Turkey was buying oil from Islamic State. There was “no doubt” that oil from “terrorist-controlled” territory in Syria was making its way into Turkey, he said. “We see from the sky where these vehicles are going. They are going to Turkey day and night.”

He accused Turkey of sponsoring terrorism: “These barrels are not only carrying oil but also the blood of our citizens because with this money terrorists buy weapons and ammunition and then organise bloody attacks.”

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian military will send its S-400 missile system to Syria’s Latakia province, bordering Turkey, and is deploying the guided missile cruiser Moskva to the area. The S-400 system can hit targets 250 miles away.

Putin said of the decision, “We did not have those systems in Syria because we believed that our air force was working at an altitude which would not be reachable by terrorists… We didn’t even think that we could receive a strike from a party that we thought to be our partner… we thought Turkey to be a friendly country.”

Russia has been engaged in a bombardment of the border region occupied by Turkmen forces.

Major economic sanctions are being imposed by Russia against Turkey. Russia is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, at $30 billion, while Turkey is one of the biggest foreign destinations for Russian tourists.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated Thursday that Moscow would be looking to cut economic ties with Turkey and scrap investment projects within two days in response to an “act of aggression against our country.”

Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said that sanctions would affect TurkStream, the proposed gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey announced by Putin last December, and the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant that was to be built by Russia.

Russia’s Defence Ministry announced Thursday that it had suspended all “channels of interaction” with Turkey’s military, including a hotline set up to avoid clashes in Syrian airspace.

Russia’s tourist board has also suspended all tours to Turkey, which could cost the Turkish economy $10 billion. On Friday, there were calls to ban imports of all Turkish produce. The Russian media reported that trucks carrying Turkish goods were stranded at the border.

In the city of Krasnodar, dozens of Turkish workers were rounded up and arrested for supposed visa violations. In the southern Kuban region, Russia’s Migration Service said it had arrested and deported 39 Turkish businessmen attending an agricultural trade fair.

5 Depressing Signs America Just Isn’t the Country It Used to Be

There exists a common theme amidst these signs of societal decay.

USA flag painted on cracked earth background
Photo Credit: Piotr Krzeslak

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilifiedfor revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his “Outstanding Contributions to Society.”

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as ‘Honest Mistakes’

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America’s greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundationattempts to rationalize, saying “someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a ‘guilty mind.'”

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless.

Of course, even without the explicit protection of Congress, CEOs are rarely charged for their crimes. Not a single Wall Street executive faced prosecution for the fraud-ridden 2008 financial crisis.

2. Unpaid Taxes of 500 Companies Could Pay for a Job for Every Unemployed American

For two years. At the nation’s median salary of $36,000, for all 8 millionunemployed.

Citizens for Tax Justice reports that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2 trillion in profits offshore to avoid taxes that would amount to over $600 billion. Our society desperately needs infrastructure repair, but 8 million potential jobs are being held hostage beyond our borders.

3. Almost 2/3 of American Families Couldn’t Afford a Single Pill of a Life-Saving Drug

62 percent of polled Americans said they couldn’t cover a $500 repair bill. If any of these Americans need a hepatitis pill from Gilead Sciences, or an anti-infection pill from Martin Shkreli’s company, they will have to do without.

An AARP study of 115 specialty drugs found that the average cost of a year’s worth of prescriptions was over $50,000, three times more than the average Social Security benefit. Although it’s true that most people don’t pay the full retail cost of medicine, the portion paid by insurance companies is ultimately passed on to consumers through higher premiums.

Pharmaceutical companies pay competitors to keep generic drugs out of the market, and they have successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. The companies claim they need the high prices to pay for better medicines. But for every $1 they spend on basic research, they invest $19 in promotion and marketing.

4. Violent Crime Down, Prison Population Doubles

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period.

Meanwhile, white-collar prosecutions have been reduced by over a third, and, as noted above, corporate leaders are steadily working toward 100% tolerance for their crimes.

5. One in Four Americans Suffer Mental Illness, Mental Health Facilities Cut by 90%

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 25 percent of adults experience mental illness in a given year, with almost half of the homeless population so inflicted. Yet from 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from over 200 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000, and after the recession state cutbacks continued.

That leaves prison as the only option for many desperate Americans.

There exists a common theme amidst these signs of societal decay: The super-rich keep taking from the middle class as the middle class becomes a massive lower class. Yet the myth persists that we should all look up with admiration at the “self-made” takers who are ripping our society apart.

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites, and, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached

Syria and the South China Sea: Two flashpoints for world war


27 November 2015

The downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish fighters this week dramatically escalated global tensions and posed point blank the danger of a conflict between nuclear-armed powers. Yet even as the US-led war in the Middle East was placing the world on a knife-edge, President Barack Obama spent last week ramping up the confrontation with China over its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Obama took part in top-level Asian gatherings—the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Manila and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-sponsored East Asia Summit—determined to drive home the point that the US would continue to challenge Chinese maritime claims, even if that led to war.

In the lead-up to the summits, the Pentagon last month provocatively sent the guided missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, within the 12-mile-territorial limit around Chinese-controlled islets and flew nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers close to the same area. Like the shooting down of the Russian aircraft, a provocation, accident or miscalculation on either side in the hotly-contested South China Sea could become the trigger for a catastrophic conflict.

Obama’s first engagement in Manila was on board the Philippine navy’s flagship, the Gregorio del Pilar, speaking to assembled military officials, including the country’s defence secretary and armed forces chief. He used the occasion to again declare his commitment to “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea and announce $250 million to provide “maritime security assistance to our allies and our partners across the region.”

The Obama administration has exploited “freedom of navigation” as the pretext for intervening in the maritime disputes between China and its neighbours ever since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in 2010 that the US had a “national interest” in the South China Sea. While regularly lecturing China over its failure to adhere to international law, Washington has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is supposed to determine the competing maritime claims.

Obama’s announcement in Manila was a deliberate slap in the face to Beijing. China had insisted that the South China Sea not be discussed at the APEC summit, which focusses on trade and economic issues. Obama followed this up in his meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. He specifically named China, rather than referring to it indirectly, as the chief culprit and demanded it halt reclamation activities, new construction and militarisation.

Over the past five years, the Obama administration has transformed the South China Sea into a dangerous flashpoint. It has encouraged the Philippines and Vietnam, in particular, to more aggressively press their territorial claims against China. The deliberate whipping up of tensions in the area is part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia”—a comprehensive diplomatic, economic and military strategy aimed at establishing unchallenged American domination in Asia and subordinating China to US interests, if necessary by military means.

In Kuala Lumpur last Saturday, Obama sealed a “strategic partnership” with ASEAN leaders, with an emphasis on “ensuring maritime security and safety.” In the closed door leaders’ session of the East Asia Summit, key US allies, including Japan and the Philippines, lined up to criticise Beijing, prompting Chinese officials to hit back. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin defended China’s actions as “beyond reproach” and branded the USS Lassen’s intrusion as a “political provocation” by Washington.

The driving force behind Washington’s actions in the Middle East and Asia is the worsening crisis of world capitalism that erupted in 2008. Determined to maintain its global hegemony, US imperialism is increasingly resorting to military might to offset its historic economic decline. The Obama administration’s willingness to recklessly risk war to achieve its ends in seemingly disparate areas of the globe points to the huge stakes involved.

American geo-political strategists such as former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski have long regarded the huge Eurasian landmass, its people and resources as the key to world domination and thus view China and Russia as the chief obstacles to US ambitions and interests. Washington’s confrontations with Moscow in Syria and Beijing in the South China Sea are components of an overarching strategy aimed at securing a dominant position across this vast region.

China’s emergence as the world’s second largest economy cuts across US plans. Beijing has reacted to the US “pivot to Asia” by elaborating an ambitious grand scheme to integrate Eurasia. Announced in 2013, it is known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Silk Road, or One Belt, One Road (OBOR). President Xi Jinping has indicated that China is willing to commit $1.4 trillion to create a comprehensive network of high-speed railways, roads, air and sea links, pipelines, transmission grids and electronic cables linking Europe and Asia.

Beijing is clearly hoping to entice European powers to sign on and, in the process, marginalise the United States. As Wang Yiwei, one of the project’s proponents, declared in May: “The New Silk Road Initiative could help redirect the centre of geopolitical gravity away from the US and back to Eurasia. Europe is faced with an historic opportunity to return to the centre of the world through the revival of Eurasia.”

US imperialism cannot tolerate such a development. Just as the “pivot to Asia” involves the consolidation of military alliances and partnerships throughout Asia directed against China, so the US seeks to disrupt and prevent the emergence of ties between its European allies and Russia and China. There is no question that, given the potential for a conflict involving NATO, Washington gave the green light to Turkey to shoot down the Russian war plane. By doing so, the US effectively sabotaged French plans for closer collaboration with Russia over the war in Syria.

Neither Moscow nor Beijing has any progressive answer to Washington’s military provocations and threats of war. Both regimes represent the class interests of the super-wealthy oligopolies that emerged through the processes of capitalist restoration and accumulated their fortunes at the expense of the working class. Their responses oscillate between cringing appeals to imperialism, and military bluster and actions that only heighten the danger of war.


Peter Symonds

Thanksgiving: celebrating the privilege to forget

By Sarah Yozzo On November 26, 2015

Post image for Thanksgiving: celebrating the privilege to forgetForget the past and today’s suffering, and join in the collective act of giving thanks. But beware not to remember and mourn all that has been lost.

Photo showing Navajo environmental protesters, by Nihígaal bee Iiná.

America is the land of amnesia. “Forget who you were, so that you can become American,” we are told.

Because who we were has no buying power in the colony. This is the land of skyrisers, not basements. Turn in our luggage, our languages. Uproot our identities, in exchange for new and better selves, complete with a well-earned white picket fence and an office with a view. Happy hour, golden retriever, two-week-paid vacation in Barbados, summering in the Hamptons. Take it now and leave everything else behind, this place was made for us.

Who we were would only confuse or anger those who have already properly assimilated. My blood is Sicilian, but I speak no Italian. I don’t even know how to pronounce my own last name correctly. The pasta maker in my mother’s kitchen is the only remaining vestige of my Mediterranean ancestry; the only connection I have to the lost.

But actually, this experience applies only for the privileged among us. Those of us whose parents and grandparents were allowed to choose forgetfulness in pursuit of capital, the American dream, are now encouraged to participate in the broader process of suppressing those who were never given this choice.

So on this thanksgiving, we are all American. We must all sit at the dinner table and choose forgetfulness: “Don’t bring up politics and rain on everyone’s parade. This holiday isn’t about ethnic cleansing; it’s about sharing and giving thanks now.”

Welcome to our Shangri La; our exclusive paradise where as long as one is an owning class, educated, white, able-bodied, cis-gender, heterosexual male English speaker with proper documentation, one has a seat at the table and a voice that will be heard. Regardless of whether one has a seat at the table, we all damn well better be thankful.

In many regards, those at the table are free: free from concern about losing property as it is appropriated in land grabs by the state, free from the burden of considering racial, gender, and legal-status categories as crucial determinants in ability to survive.

It is a freedom that provides suburban families central air while people of the Navajo nation choke on coal dust. Capitalism eats the lives of occupied peoples, collateral damage in a process of wealth accumulation. Our industries seep up, contaminate the ground water that once sat fresh and clean beneath what is left of the Navajo lands, so that America can maintain a healthy middle class with access to affordable electricity.

Black lives are cut short with the shot of a police gun, the poison of an unjust food system, countless violences of inherited dispossession and systemic racism. Beyond territorial borders, the finances of the American colonial project, for which so many nice families are thankful, fund the ammunition of other colonies, where other colonized people continue to resist the encroachment of capitalism’s beneficiaries.

Subhuman, those subaltern people always already are, just as other black and brown people have been throughout contemporary history. “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” How many homes have been destroyed, how many humans have been killed by those whose white-supremacist, euro-arrogant hallucinations transform children into serpents.

Gently, let’s all be thankful for forgetfulness.

Those of us whose grandparents turned in their cultures in exchange for capital and social inclusion, we must be thankful for, though not overly cognizant of, our privileges. Everyone else must forget the past, forget the present dispossessions in order to join in the act of giving thanks. And in giving thanks, no space will be left for us to collectively remember and mourn all that has been lost.

Sarah Yozzo teaches English Literature at a high school in Nablus, Palestine. She is a graduate from New York University’s Near East Studies program.

Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet and the danger of world war


25 November 2015
 The downing of a Russian fighter-bomber by Turkish fighter jets yesterday on the Turkish-Syrian border is a flagrant act of war. Turkish authorities have seized on the alleged Russian violation of their airspace to launch a monumental escalation of the proxy war in Syria between Islamist opposition fighters supported by NATO and the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It threatens to provoke all-out war between Russia on the one hand, and Turkey and the rest of the NATO alliance on the other.

Turkish officials claimed that the Russian SU-24 had violated Turkish air space for one minute, while Russian officials said that it never left Syrian air space at all. The Turkish air force did not scramble jets to warn the Russian fighter or escort it back to Syrian air space, but, after allegedly warning the Russian jet for five minutes, shot it down.

It is unthinkable that Turkey would have taken a decision against a powerful neighbor, fraught with incalculable consequences, without direct prior approval from the US government.

US officials supported the Turkish downing of the Russian plane, making clear that they are willing to accept a direct military clash with Russia, a nuclear-armed power, in order to crush its intervention in Syria to defend the Assad regime.

At a press conference yesterday with French President François Hollande in Washington, Obama endorsed the downing of the Russian jet, claiming that Turkey “has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.” This amounts to a blank check to Turkish forces to attack Russian fighter jets again, should similar circumstances arise.

Obama then bluntly warned Russia not to attack Islamist opposition militias in western Syria that are supported by NATO: “I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border, and they are going after a moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries. And if Russia is directing its energies towards Daesh and ISIL, some of those conflicts, or potentials for mistakes or escalation, are less likely to occur.”

After Obama spoke, former US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns again made clear that the Turkish government had acted as a proxy for Washington by shooting down the Russian plane. He told PBS News that US officials were considering declaring a no-fly-zone in the Syrian-Turkish border area. This would mean shooting down Russian fighters overflying the area in order to protect the Islamist opposition forces—that is, doing precisely what Turkey did.

The comments of Obama and Burns underscore the fraud of Washington’s claims to be waging a “war on terror” aimed at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia. While claiming to oppose Islamist terrorism, Washington is in fact protecting Islamist militias in the Lattakia mountain areas that include the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, as well as Chechen Islamist fighters. On the pretext of fighting ISIS, Washington is in fact recklessly pursuing its geopolitical ambitions, which in the Middle East currently center on removing Assad from power.

This is only one step in a further confrontation with any powers posing a military obstacle to the ambitions of US imperialism, including Assad’s key allies, Russia and Iran, as well as China. Even as he was preparing to escalate the conflict in the Middle East, Obama exploited top-level summits in Asia over the past week to ramp up the US confrontation with China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

It is becoming ever clearer that ISIS itself emerged and was presented in the international media primarily in line with the shifting needs of the imperialist powers as a pretext for their wars. After the Obama administration sought to justify the pullout from Afghanistan by assassinating Osama bin Laden in 2011—when he was hiding in Pakistan, a key US ally—there was no clear target for the “war on terror.” Washington and the other NATO powers worked directly with Islamist militias as proxies, in the 2011 Libyan war and the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

The situation changed, however, when Washington and Paris were forced to pull back from a planned war in Syria in 2013, due to its unpopularity and deep divisions in the foreign policy establishment. As the NATO powers sought to find a way to justify a war, the claim that they were fighting against Islamist terrorism—though completely belied by their actual record of relying on these forces—again became attractive to them as a way of marketing the war.

Though its operations were little different than the bombings and atrocities carried out by other Islamist militias in Syria, ISIS was selected for attack in the media, while other similar Islamist groups continued to enjoy tacit and even explicit US support.

Yesterday’s events further darken the cloud of suspicion that hangs over the November 13 attacks in Paris, and the terrorists’ astonishing ability to pull off an operation under the noses of the intelligence services. In fact, close connections exist between Islamist terror groups and the NATO powers. The security panic whipped up by ruling circles in Europe after the attacks, along with confusion sown over the phantom war with ISIS, helps these powers create the political climate for the pursuit of their ambitions through catastrophic global wars.

The timing of the shoot-down is highly significant, coming also against the backdrop of conflicts between Washington and imperialist powers in Europe, particularly Germany and France, over the degree of Russian involvement in a planned neo-colonial settlement of the Syrian war. Washington has moved to decisively scuttle European attempts to negotiate a deal with Russia.

After the ISIS attacks in Paris and November 14 talks in Vienna, Hollande announced plans to forge a united coalition of the United States, Russia, and the European powers to fight ISIS in Syria and negotiate the ouster of Assad on terms acceptable to all the major powers.

As Hollande arrived for talks with Obama in Washington, however, the downing of the Russian jet presented him with a fait accompli, cutting off his diplomatic overtures towards Russia. The attack, USA Today noted, “badly damaged France’s drive to build an alliance with the United States and Russia to defeat the Islamic State in retaliation for the Paris attacks.”

Since the US- and German-backed coup in Ukraine last year, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) has repeatedly warned of the danger of world war. These warnings are being realized with extraordinary speed.

Today, the danger of war between nuclear-armed Russia and the nuclear powers of the NATO alliance is openly referred to in the media and by leading politicians. This danger does not, however, give pause to the reckless assertion of imperialist interests, above all by the United States. Instead, they are stepping up the war drive.

The Russian and Chinese regimes offer no counterweight to the ever more unhinged policies of the imperialist powers.

Events in Syria again point to the catastrophic geopolitical consequences of the dissolution of the USSR a quarter century ago. Moscow is desperate to defend its residual influence in the Middle East and to stop Islamist fighters from Chechnya and other regions of Russia from toppling Assad and returning to fight in Russia, where they can easily exploit the anger caused by disastrous social conditions and by the Russian-chauvinist policies of the Kremlin.

The warning made by Trotsky, that the restoration of capitalism in Russia would be followed by its transformation into a semi-colony, is being fulfilled. Putin’s delusion that the offensive of imperialism can be answered by using Russia’s military might is not only hopeless, it leads to catastrophic consequences. The policy of the Kremlin oscillates between surrender to imperialism and reckless military measures posing the danger of world war with the imperialist powers.

A world war is not only possible, it is inevitable, unless it is stopped by the emergence of a revolutionary movement in the international working class.

The war in Syria emerged and grew into an explosive proxy war, devastating the lives of millions and drawing in all the major powers in the region, as the imperialist powers sought to crush the Egyptian revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The next political offensive of the international working class must base itself on the struggle for socialism against the looming danger of imperialist world war.

World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board