Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Made in the USA

Who Will Hold the US Accountable for Violations of the NPT?

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by JOHN LaFORGE

The United States is perhaps the principle nuclear weapons proliferator in the world today, openly flouting binding provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Article I of the treaty forbids signers from transferring nuclear weapons to other states, and Article II prohibits signers from receiving nuclear weapons from other states.

As the UN Review Conference of the NPT was finishing its month-long deliberations in New York last week, the US delegation distracted attention from its own violations using its standard Red Herring warnings about Iran and North Korea — the former without a single nuclear weapon, and the latter with 8-to-10 (according to those reliable weapons spotters at the CIA) but with no means of delivering them.

The NPT’s prohibitions and obligations were re-affirmed and clarified by the world’s highest judicial body in its July 1996 Advisory Opinion on the legal status of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The International Court of Justice said in this famous decision that the NPT’s binding promises not to transfer or receive nuclear weapons are unqualified, unequivocal, unambiguous and absolute. For these reasons, US violations are easy to illustrate.

Nuclear Missiles “Leased” to British Navy

The US “leases” submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to Britain for use on its four giant Trident submarines. We’ve done this for two decades. The British subs travel across the Atlantic to pick up the US-made missiles at Kings Bay Naval base in Georgia.

Helping to ensure that US proliferation involves only of the most verifiably terrible nuclear weapons, a senior staff engineer at Lockheed Martin in California is currently responsible for planning, coordinating and carrying out development and production of the “UK Trident Mk4A [warhead] Reentry Systems as part of the UK Trident Weapons System ‘Life Extension program.’” This, according to John Ainslie of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which closely watchdogs the British Tridents — all of which are based in Scotland, much to the chagrin of the Scots.

Even the W76 warheads that arm the US-owned missiles leased to England have parts made in United States. The warheads use a Gas Transfer System (GTS) which stores tritium — the radioactive form of hydrogen that puts the “H” in H-bomb — and the GTS injects tritium it into the plutonium warhead or “pit.” All the GTS devices used in Britain’s Trident warheads are manufactured in the United States. They are then either sold to the Royals or given away in exchange for an undisclosed quid pro quo.

David Webb, the current Chair of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reported during the NPT Review Conference, and later confirmed in an email to Nukewatch, that the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico announced, in March 2011, that it had conducted “the first W76 United Kingdom trials test” at its Weapons Evaluation and Test Laboratory (WETL) in New Mexico, and that this had “provided qualification data critical to the UK [United Kingdom] implementation of the W76-1.” The W76 is a 100 kiloton H-bomb designed for the so-called D-4 and D-5 Trident missiles. One of the centrifuges at Sandia’s WETL simulates the ballistic trajectory of the W76 “reentry-vehicle” or warhead. This deep and complex collusion between the US and the UK could be called Proliferation Plus.

The majority of the Royal Navy’s Trident warheads are manufactured at England’s Aldermaston nuclear weapons complex, allowing both the Washington and London to claim they are in compliance with the NPT.

US H-bombs Deployed in Five NATO Countries

An even clearer violation of NPT is the US deployment of between 184 and 200 thermonuclear gravity bombs, called B61, in five European countries — Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Germany. “Nuclear sharing agreements” with these equal partners in the NPT — all of whom declare that they are “non-nuclear states” — openly defy both Article I and Article II of the treaty.

The US is the only country in the world that deploys nuclear weapons to other countries, and in the case of the five nuclear sharing partners, the US Air Force even trains Italian, German, Belgian, Turkish and Dutch pilots in the use of the B61s in their own warplanes — should the President ever order such a thing. Still, the US government regularly lectures other states about their international law violations, boundary pushing and destabilizing actions.

With so much a stake, it is intriguing that diplomats at the UN are too polite to confront US defiance of the NPT, even when the extension and enforcement of it is on the table. As Henry Thoreau said, “The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterested virtue to sustain it.”

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/27/nuclear-weapons-proliferation-made-in-the-usa/

David Harvey: reclaiming the city from Kobane to Baltimore

By Sardar Saadi On May 26, 2015

Post image for David Harvey: reclaiming the city from Kobane to Baltimore

In this interview with ROAR, the leading Marxist geographer reflects on Rojava, Baltimore and urban life as the terrain of contemporary class struggle.

David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He was in Diyarbakir for a visit to the region and also to participate in a panel at the 1st Amed Book Fair on his latest book, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, translated in Turkish by Sel Publishing. ROAR contributor Sardar Saadi sat down with him for an interview.

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Sardar Saadi: Professor Harvey, welcome to Kurdistan! Thank you so much for accepting our interview request for ROAR Magazine. It was very difficult to arrange a time for this interview. You have a very busy schedule. Would you tell our readers what brought you to Kurdistan? I heard you have been to Kobane as well?

David Harvey: Well, this is my third visit to this part of Turkey, and I have some strong personal connections with some of the people teaching at Mardin Atikulu University. Mardin is a very beautiful place to visit, so I found a way to combine pleasure and some work. But I’m also here because of the general situation in Turkey and particularly also in Rojava. The Syrian side is fascinating. At the same time, it is pretty horrific. So I have taken a bit of interest in that lately.

I was trying to get to Kobani, too, but the Turkish government has basically closed the border.

As you know, the governments of Turkey and the Kurdish region of Iraq have imposed an ongoing embargo on Rojava. How do you connect this to what is going on in Rojava?

I can only speculate that nobody wants whatever is happening in Rojava to be given any prominence internationally, and nobody wants whatever is happening there to succeed. That would be my guess. It is the most obvious one.

There are so many initiatives for rebuilding Kobane. The airstrikes and bombings have left the city almost entirely destroyed. What is your perspective on reconstructing Kobane, and on the possibilities of creating anti-capitalist alternatives in the area?

I saw this map with satellite data of the level of destruction, and clearly Kobane is about 80 percent destroyed. Reconstruction is essentially going to revolve around surface buildings and bringing the people back in. This offers a range of opportunities to think creatively about an alternative urbanization.

One of the big difficulties, I think, is going to be facing the existing property rights to a degree that the existing population can re-establish itself. They probably want to build their property rights in the way things were before, so they will get back to old-style urbanization, and that is maybe what will happen — in which case the question will be where the resources will come from.

Still I think the opportunity exists to explore anti-capitalist alternatives. Whether this opportunity has been taken, I don’t know. But to the extent that Kurdish thinking has been influenced by somebody like Murray Bookchin, I think there is a possibility for the population to explore something different. I was told there are assembly-based forms of governance in place in Rojava, but I haven’t seen anything yet. I worry a little bit, you know, the left sometime has this romanticism. The Zapatistas said “revolution” and everybody got romantic about what they were doing.

I actually made a comparison between the revolution in Rojava and the Zapatistas. I raised the question if Rojava is becoming like the Chiapas of the Middle East. Do you think there is a similarity between these two struggles?

Not so much of a similarity — in the sense that the Zapatistas were organized, took control of their territory and managed to protect it in a particular way and at a particular time. They were not devastated by war. They did not have many of the problems that the people of Rojava are facing. But they had a pre-existing communal structure in place, so there was a form of governance there already — they didn’t have to implement everything from scratch. So I think there are a lot of differences.

I think the similarity is the romance that some people on the left in Europe and North America may have that, ‘oh well, this is the place, finally!’ And I always say to them that the place we should be constructing revolutionary socialism is in the United States, not hoping that something in Chiapas or in Northern Syria will rescue us from capitalism [laughs]. It’s not going to happen.

How do you think the international solidarity movement can be productive in helping Rojava?

There are some basic things, I would say. No matter what happens there, I think the emancipation of the Kurdish people — to the extent that there is a level of self-government — is something worth supporting. I am happy to support it myself. To the extent that these communities are experimenting with new forms of governance and they want to experience new forms of urban development, I think I will be very interested in talking to them. I am glad that people are thinking about doing something different, and to the extent that I can help or help mobilize help, I would want to be able do it.

Of course, what we are seeing is that there are going to be barriers to that. We are going to have to find ways to circumvent those barriers. For instance, there is an alternative group of people from Europe and North America who are actually trying now to re-design urbanization in Gaza. I think that if they are actually able to do something there, they could mobilize to do something in Rojava as well.

There are some real possibilities here. But just speaking personally, I would want to be cautious about saying, ‘oh this is a great thing that happened, everything is great.’ I would want to say: ‘look, I think things are going in an interesting direction worthy of our support and discussions, and we should do our best to try to support whatever it is that the population itself is trying to come up with.’

You mentioned in an interview with Firat News Agency during a conference in Hamburg that the Middle East is a region that’s falling apart. Yet Rojava is flourishing as an alternative in this chaotic environment, don’t you think?

Well, what is going on in this region is a crucial part of the world geopolitically. The Middle East is in a real mess right now. Everybody’s got their finger in the pie: the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans. It is a zone of conflicts, and it has been for some time. I mean, look at what’s happening in Syria — and then there was the Lebanese civil war, the situation in Iraq, and now what is going on in Yemen, in Egypt, and so on. This is a very unstable geological zone and geopolitical configuration of the world, which is producing disaster for local populations.

But one of the things that often happens with disasters is that new things come out of them. These new things can be very, very significant. I think the reason why disaster produces something new is because the typical bourgeois power structure disappears, and the ruling classes are unable to govern. That creates a situation where people can start to govern themselves outside of those traditional power structures. So we are likely to see possibilities emerge, not only in Rojava but also elsewhere. Some of them, of course, will not be very nice — like ISIS. So I am not saying everything is going in the right direction at all. It is a zone of opportunities as well as disasters.

I would like to open another topic in this conversation, and it is about cities — something you have written a lot about. In the last decade or so, we have witnessed the rising importance of cities in Kurdish politics. In Diyarbakir where we are right now, the pro-Kurdish municipality is intervening in the socioeconomic and political life of the city as well as re-appropriating urban spaces according to their agenda. Also, for the first time, Kobane’s resistance is the resistance of a city — unlike previous uprisings in the history of the Kurdish movement that were traditionally more about a tribe, a traditional leader, or a nationalist political party leading the resistance.

I am wondering if we can connect the resistance in Kobane or the example of the municipalist movement in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities in Turkey to the larger global movement we have seen in the last few years in places like Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Occupy movement that started in New York, the Gezi protests in Istanbul, or most recently the riots in Baltimore. Do you see a connection between these emerging forms of urban street politics?

Well, yes, the world is increasingly urbanized and we increasingly see discontent emerging around the quality of urban life. So you can see this discontent producing uprisings in some instances, or mass protests like Gezi and what happened in Brazil shortly after Gezi. There is actually a long tradition of urban uprisings — the Paris Commune in 1871 and other instances well before that — but I think that the urban question is really becoming a central question today, and the qualities of urban life are moving to the forefront of what contemporary protests are about.

But at the same time, increasingly, we see political protest internalized within the cities. What we are starting to see, with the Israeli Defense Forces confronting Palestinians in Ramallah and places like that, is that this is no longer about state-versus-state — it is about the state trying to control the rest of the urban population. We have even seen that in the U.S., in a place like in Ferguson, where an armed force came out to confront the protest. And in Baltimore, too. So increasingly, I think, we are going to see this kind of low-level urban warfare going on between populations, and increasingly we are going to see the apparatuses of the state isolating themselves from the people they are supposed to serve, becoming part of the administrative apparatuses of capital that are repressing urban populations.

So we are seeing these sorts of emerging urban uprisings in a patchy way all around the world: in Buenos Aires, in Bolivia, in Brazil, etc. Latin America is full of this sort of stuff. But even in Europe we have seen major urban unrest: in London, Stockholm, Paris, and so on. What we have to do is to start thinking of a new form of politics, which is what anti-capitalism should fundamentally be about. Unfortunately, the traditional left still focuses narrowly on workers and the workplace, whereas now it’s the politics of everyday life that really matters.

The left is sometimes very conservative in terms of what it thinks is important. Marx and Engels had a vision of the proletariat of a certain kind. Well, that proletariat has disappeared in many parts of the world, even if it has reemerged in places like China and Mexico under different conditions. So as a general matter the left has to be much more flexible in its approach to the anti-capitalist movements emerging in and around the question of urban life that we have seen in the revolts in Baltimore and in Tahrir Square and so on. Which is not to say they are all the same — because they are not — but there is clearly a certain parallel between these movements.

What do you think of the possible outcomes of something that happened in a place like Baltimore for the global movement against capitalism? Are they just momentary protests in their specific spatio-temporal conditions, or can they be seen as indications of something fundamentally wrong with the system?

One of the biggest difficulties, politically speaking, is to get people to see the nature of the system in which they live. The system is very sophisticated in disguising what it does, and how it does it. One of the tasks of Marxists and critical theorists is to try to demystify, but you can see this happening intuitively sometimes. Take the indignados movement: something happens in Spain and then, next thing, suddenly it happens in Greece — and then suddenly it happens elsewhere. Take the Occupy movement: suddenly there are occupations going on all over the place. So there is connectivity here.

A specific event like Baltimore doesn’t do anything in itself. What it does do, when you add it to Ferguson and you add it to some of the other things that are going on, is to show that large populations have been treated as disposable human beings. This is going on in the United States as well as elsewhere. Then, people suddenly start to see this is a systemic issue. So one of the things we should be doing is to emphasize the systemic nature of these type of events, showing that the problem lies within the system.

I used to live in Baltimore for many years — and what is happening there now is really a re-run of what I encountered in 1969, one year after a lot of the place was burnt down. So we went from 1968 to 2015, and things are still the same! You kind of go, ‘hey, what is keeping it all the same?’ Despite of all the promises of those who claimed they were resolving the situation in the 1970s, or those who claim to be resolving it today, it doesn’t happen — it just doesn’t happen. In fact, a lot of it is getting worse.

Baltimore is interesting not only because of what happened in the poor areas. The rest of the city has actually become extremely affluent and gentrified — so it has really become two cities. There always were two cities, but now there are two cities with a much wider gap in between, and everybody sees the difference. I read an interview with somebody in Tahrir Square, and one of the things they said was that they always lived in not very affluent conditions, but what they noticed was that some people were getting filthy rich. They couldn’t understand why those people were getting filthy rich while the rest were going down or just staying the same. And it is the anger over this disparity that turned them against the system. This is true in Baltimore as well: ‘their part of town is fine, and my part of town is in a nose-dive.’

This is actually true for most cities. You look around and see it in Istanbul, and you see it everywhere. What is government doing about it? Well, it is clearing people out of their so-called slum areas because they are sitting on high value lands, and they could give them to developers who can then build shopping malls and office spaces — and people say ‘this is not right!’ That is how you get to the point where people begin exercising their right to the city, which is to use the city for their own purposes.

We want to exercise our right to the city in our particular way, which is radically different from that of capital. We want to make a different kind of city. How do we do that? Can we do it? These are difficult questions. When people raise this demand, a further question arises: can you do this within the existing structure of property rights? There is a belief in the United States that private property and land ownership are not a problem. Part of the solution, I suppose, lies in people starting to realize that it is part of the problem. Then you will begin to see that we have to come up with an alternative structure of property rights that are not private. They are collective. They are common. And at the same time they have to offer security and take away the fear of speculation for capital.

I want to end by asking what inspired you on your trip to Kurdistan. Is there anything that will bring you back here?

Well, as I said, this whole region is a rather critical region. I actually had fantasies not so long ago that I would relocate entirely to somewhere around. I thought I could base myself in Athens, and I would then spend my time working a bit in Turkey, a bit in Lebanon, a bit in Egypt, because it is that zone between Europe and the region. What is going on here seems to be fascinating, so I like to be in the region. I also have very good friends here, and I have a wonderful publisher, Sel Publishing. I must say they have done a wonderful job of both translating and generally inviting me here and getting me to see things. If I get into Kobane, it is because they have worked really hard on it.

I hope we soon see your books translated in Kurdish as well — and I am sure the people of Diyarbakir will be happy to host you if you ever wanted to relocate in the region. Thank you so much for your time, Professor Harvey. I hope you will get into Kobane soon.

Sardar Saadi is a Toronto-based activist and a PhD student in anthropology at the University of Toronto. Please contact Sardar first before translating this interview into Turkish: sardarsaadi[at]gmail[dot]com.

http://roarmag.org/2015/05/david-harvey-interview-rojava-baltimore/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

NSA affair creates tensions between Berlin and Washington

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By Gustav Kemper
27 May 2015

Tensions have been growing between Berlin and Washington and within the German ruling coalition since it became known at the end of April that the German foreign intelligence service (BND) had spied on European politicians, businesses and individuals for the American National Security Agency (NSA). In particular, the demand of the Bundestag (parliamentary) NSA committee of inquiry for the list of so-called selectors–the phone numbers, names and keywords by which digital communications were searched–has led to fierce conflicts.

According to a report in the Bild newspaper, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper threatened to restrict cooperation with the German secret services, or completely discontinue it, because confidential US documents had been leaked to the media by the parliamentary committee of inquiry. The paper quoted an American intelligence official as saying, “What the German government is organizing is more dangerous than the Snowden revelations.”

Two years ago, whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the close cooperation between the BND and NSA under the code name “eikonal”. Since then, numerous other details have been made public.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the BND tapped into a major telecoms hub in Frankfurt and passed the data through a direct fibre optic cable to Pullach and Bad Aibling in Bavaria. There, digital communications from all over the world were searched by the BND using keywords (selectors) provided by the NSA, and then supplied the data back to the NSA.

There are supposed to be lists with a total of 800,000 selectors. Those affected include not only terrorist suspects, but also European politicians, institutions and companies, including ones in Germany. Among others spied upon were the aerospace and defence company EADS (Airbus Group), its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Helicopters and Siemens. Via the Frankfurt network node, the NSA and the BND are able to monitor a large portion of the world’s population, including Germans.

This cooperation between the BND and NSA was established in April 2002 under SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the then Chancellery Minister and present Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The BND took over a US monitoring station in Bad Aibling, and in exchange filtered the digital data flow for the NSA.

In the Bundestag investigative committee, not only the opposition Left Party and the Greens, but also the SPD, which is part of the government, are now demanding access to the list of selectors. According to Bild am Sonntag, SPD General Secretary Yasmin Fahimi posed an ultimatum to the Chancellor and loudly demanded “that the chancellor’s office finally provides clarity about how the Bundestag can examine the list of selectors by the parliamentary session next week”.

Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel also called for greater self-confidence. He demanded that the list of selectors be presented to the parliamentary inquiry committee for consideration without US consent, so that it can determine whether more industrial enterprises were affected by the spying. “No Congress and no Senate in the United States would let itself be refused this right to information,” he said. The German parliament should be “at least as confident. We are neither immature nor order takers.”

“What we are experiencing now is an affair, a secret service scandal, which is capable of rendering a very severe concussion,” Gabriel added. He tried to draw the Chancellor into the affair, claiming she had assured him there was no industrial espionage beyond what was previously known. Should this turn out to be false, this would place a heavy “burden on the trust of government action,” he threatened.

Most editorials suggest that Gabriel, who is also SPD chairman, has played up the issue on tactical grounds. The SPD has not yet succeeded in rising above its current 25 percent support in opinion polls. However, the SPD is not seeking a break in relations with Washington.

It is striking that Frank-Walter Steinmeier–who as a former head of the chancellery and long-time foreign minister is deeply involved in the affair–is holding back. In the Welt am Sonntag, SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann promised, “We cannot and will not end cooperation with the American services. The world has not become more secure in recent years. We thank the Americans for important information.”

On the “Berlin Direct” programme of broadcaster ZDF, even Gabriel declared that the functioning of the intelligence services was in the “national interest”.

Chancellor Merkel has kept a low profile, but stressed, “The fitness for purpose of the intelligence services can only be achieved in cooperation with other services. This includes the NSA.” She will only make the selector lists available to the committee of inquiry when the NSA gives its permission.

Testifying before the parliamentary committee of inquiry, the president of the Federal Intelligence Service, Gerhard Schindler, defended the cooperation with the NSA. He said that Germany was dependent on the American service and not vice versa. The NSA did not threaten Germany’s security but protected it.

Schindler warned that the sustainability of the BND was at stake if more details came to light. “First partner services in Europe review the cooperation with the BND,” he said. “The first meetings without the BND” had already occurred at the European level. “The signals we hear are anything but positive.”

Schindler also claimed that the clarification of European objectives–i.e. spying on EU partners–was not contrary to German law. This was immediately contradicted by chancellery chief Peter Altmaier (CDU), responsible for the secret services. Whether the BND should monitor European targets was not a matter of opinion, and “was to be answered by those who are called to serve”, he wrote on Twitter.

However, there are also those who regard the conflict with the NSA as an opportunity to emancipate the German secret services from those of the US. The taking on of more “German responsibility in the world” and the “end of military restraint”, which the Federal President Joachim Gauck and members of the federal government have advocated for a long time, not only demands a stronger army but also more powerful intelligence services. The corresponding demands are being raised in both the ruling parties and in the opposition.

This view is most clearly expressed by Left Party leader Gregor Gysi. He accused the BND of “treason”, a term that the nationalist right uses mostly as a rallying cry against internationalists and socialists. “It’s about treason. It’s about intelligence activity, possibly against German interests, against German companies, at least companies with German participation, against friendly politicians”, Gysi said on Deutschlandfunk.

The SPD is working on a law that will restructure the BND. It should only collect and pass on data that meet its own task profile. “We need a fundamental new beginning in communications intelligence abroad”, said Christian Flisek, the SPD representative in the NSA committee of inquiry.

The German government also wants to strengthen the BND. Since it became known that the NSA had intercepted the private mobile phone of the German Chancellor, she has repeatedly called for a return to an “equal footing” with the Americans. However, this is difficult.

In 2013, the budget of all American intelligence agencies, with 107,000 employees, amounted to $52.6 billion (at that time about 40 billion euros), many times the nearly 800 million euros allotted to the German secret services in the same year, with a total of about 7,000 employees. The daily Die Weltnames a sum of 496 million euros for the BND, 206 million for the Secret Service and 72 million for the Military Counterintelligence Service.

There is no doubt that the government will massively increase these amounts, as well as funding for the armed forces, at the expense of already reduced social spending.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/05/27/bnds-m27.html

China warns of war with US in South China Sea

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26 May 2015

In the face of mounting American pressure and provocations in the South China Sea, the Chinese government announced yesterday that it had lodged an official complaint over a highly publicised surveillance flight close to Chinese-claimed territory and urged the US to back off.

Washington’s extraordinarily reckless actions are threatening to plunge the Asia Pacific and the entire world into conflict. From a media campaign condemning Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea, the US has moved to military challenges. While last week’s reconnaissance flight did not breach China’s 12-mile territorial limit, the Pentagon is preparing plans to do just that under the pretext of defending “freedom of navigation.”

At a press briefing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying condemned the flight as “utterly dangerous and irresponsible” and declared it was “highly likely to cause miscalculation and untoward incidents in the waters and airspace.”

An editorial in yesterday’s Global Times, a hawkish state-run tabloid, warned: “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea.” The article went on to state that if the US wanted to teach China a lesson by “provoking and humiliating,” then “China will have no choice but to engage.”

The US has deliberately placed the entire region on a knife edge, posing a real and imminent danger of war. An accident or miscalculation by US or Chinese military aircraft or warships in the South China Sea could set in train a series of actions and reactions that would bring the two nuclear-armed powers to blows.

One has only to consider how the US would react to Chinese aircraft or ships engaged in “freedom of navigation” operations near Hawaii or off the coast of California to appreciate the sheer hypocrisy of American propaganda over the South China Sea. These waters are not only essential to Chinese trade but are immediately adjacent to key naval bases on Hainan Island in southern China.

The US has further heightened the risk of war by pushing other claimants in the South China Sea, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, to more assertively press their territorial demands against China. It has also encouraged Japan to conduct its own patrols in the region. All of these steps multiply the danger of an incident, not necessarily immediately involving the United States, precipitating a far broader conflict.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared yesterday that his country’s aircraft “will still fly the routes we fly based on international law.” Philippine Air Force spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya told the media that its planes flew in contested areas, including the route taken last week by the US reconnaissance flight.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he would ask for a “stronger commitment” from the US for assistance to counter Chinese “bullying” when he meets his American counterpart Ashton Carter this week. What the Philippines is seeking is a public pledge that the US will support it in a war with China similar to the guarantee already provided to Japan in its dispute with China over rocky outcrops in the East China Sea.

The looming confrontation in the South China Sea has been long in preparation. The Obama administration’s aggressive stance towards China on every front—diplomatic, economic and military—began in 2009 and was formalised in the “pivot to Asia” in 2011. As part of the “pivot,” the US has engaged in a comprehensive build-up and restructuring of its armed forces in the Indo Pacific, focussed on fighting a war with China.

Throughout Asia, Washington has strengthened its already formidable network of military alliances and partnerships. It has concluded formal basing agreements with Australia, including “rotating” US Marines, warplanes and naval ships through its bases, and with the Philippines, providing virtually unlimited access to that country’s military facilities. The US is repositioning and boosting its forces in Japan and South Korea, has placed warships in Singapore, and is consolidating closer relations with every country on China’s periphery.

Washington has also encouraged closer cooperation between countries it regards as the cornerstones of “the pivot”—Japan, Australia and India. The Australian government has announced that Japanese troops will take part for the first time in the huge biennial Talisman Sabre war games held at locations around Australia and involving up to 30,000 US, Australian and New Zealand troops.

The US is not about to back off its confrontation with China in the South China Sea. To do so would result in a loss of confidence in its strategic commitments among US allies in Asia and around the world. More fundamentally, American imperialism is being driven to increasingly rash military actions as a means of shoring up its hegemony in Asia and internationally.

Washington bitterly resented the decision by Britain in March to ignore its advice and sign up to the China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The move prompted a rush by other countries to follow suit, undermining the monopoly position of longstanding American-dominated institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. US actions in the South China Sea are, in part, a means of hitting back by underscoring the military vulnerability of China.

There is absolutely nothing progressive about the response of the Chinese regime, which rests on and defends the interests of a tiny layer of super-rich oligarchs. Deeply hostile to the working class, the Beijing bureaucracy is engaged in a frantic arms race that only heightens the danger of a catastrophic war.

The drive to war is being fuelled by the fundamental contradictions of capitalism expressed in the deepening breakdown of the world economy following the 2008 financial crisis. Whatever the immediate outcome of the present standoff in the South China, war is inevitable if the international working class does not disarm the imperialist war-mongers by means of socialist revolution.

Peter Symonds

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/05/26/pers-m26.html

Why the Rest of the World No Longer Wants to be Like U.S.

Chomsky: 

Many countries in the world see the U.S. as the single greatest external threat to their societies.

During the latest episode of the Washington farce that has astonished a bemused world, a Chinese commentator wrote that if the United States cannot be a responsible member of the world system, perhaps the world should become “de-Americanized” — and separate itself from the rogue state that is the reigning military power but is losing credibility in other domains.

The Washington debacle’s immediate source was the sharp shift to the right among the political class. In the past, the U.S. has sometimes been described sardonically — but not inaccurately — as a one-party state: the business party, with two factions called Democrats and Republicans.

That is no longer true. The U.S. is still a one-party state, the business party. But it only has one faction: moderate Republicans, now called New Democrats (as the U.S. Congressional coalition styles itself).

There is still a Republican organization, but it long ago abandoned any pretense of being a normal parliamentary party. Conservative commentator Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute describes today’s Republicans as “a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”: a serious danger to the society.

The party is in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector. Since votes cannot be obtained on that platform, the party has been compelled to mobilize sectors of the society that are extremist by world standards. Crazy is the new norm among Tea Party members and a host of others beyond the mainstream.

The Republican establishment and its business sponsors had expected to use them as a battering ram in the neoliberal assault against the population — to privatize, to deregulate and to limit government, while retaining those parts that serve wealth and power, like the military.

The Republican establishment has had some success, but now finds that it can no longer control its base, much to its dismay. The impact on American society thus becomes even more severe. A case in point: the virulent reaction against the Affordable Care Act and the near-shutdown of the government.

The Chinese commentator’s observation is not entirely novel. In 1999, political analyst Samuel P. Huntington warned that for much of the world, the U.S. is “becoming the rogue superpower,” seen as “the single greatest external threat to their societies.”

A few months into the Bush term, Robert Jervis, president of the American Political Science Association, warned that “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” Both Huntington and Jervis warned that such a course is unwise. The consequences for the U.S. could be harmful.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, the leading establishment journal, David Kaye reviews one aspect of Washington’s departure from the world: rejection of multilateral treaties “as if it were sport.”

He explains that some treaties are rejected outright, as when the U.S. Senate “voted against the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999.”

Others are dismissed by inaction, including “such subjects as labor, economic and cultural rights, endangered species, pollution, armed conflict, peacekeeping, nuclear weapons, the law of the sea, and discrimination against women.”

Rejection of international obligations “has grown so entrenched,” Kaye writes, “that foreign governments no longer expect Washington’s ratification or its full participation in the institutions treaties create. The world is moving on; laws get made elsewhere, with limited (if any) American involvement.”

While not new, the practice has indeed become more entrenched in recent years, along with quiet acceptance at home of the doctrine that the U.S. has every right to act as a rogue state.

To take a typical example, a few weeks ago U.S. special operations forces snatched a suspect, Abu Anas al-Libi, from the streets of the Libyan capital Tripoli, bringing him to a naval vessel for interrogation without counsel or rights. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informed the press that the actions are legal because they comply with American law, eliciting no particular comment.

Principles are valid only if they are universal. Reactions would be a bit different, needless to say, if Cuban special forces kidnapped the prominent terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in Miami, bringing him to Cuba for interrogation and trial in accordance with Cuban law.

Such actions are restricted to rogue states. More accurately, to the one rogue state that is powerful enough to act with impunity: in recent years, to carry out aggression at will, to terrorize large regions of the world with drone attacks, and much else.

And to defy the world in other ways, for example by persisting in its embargo against Cuba despite the long-term opposition of the entire world, apart from Israel, which voted with its protector when the United Nations again condemned the embargo (188-2) in October.

Whatever the world may think, U.S. actions are legitimate because we say so. The principle was enunciated by the eminent statesman Dean Acheson in 1962, when he instructed the American Society of International Law that no legal issue arises when the United States responds to a challenge to its “power, position, and prestige.”

Cuba committed that crime when it beat back a U.S. invasion and then had the audacity to survive an assault designed to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba, in the words of Kennedy adviser and historian Arthur Schlesinger.

When the U.S. gained independence, it sought to join the international community of the day. That is why the Declaration of Independence opens by expressing concern for the “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”

A crucial element was evolution from a disorderly confederacy to a unified “treaty-worthy nation,” in diplomatic historian Eliga H. Gould’s phrase, that observed the conventions of the European order. By achieving this status, the new nation also gained the right to act as it wished internally.

It could thus proceed to rid itself of the indigenous population and to expand slavery, an institution so “odious” that it could not be tolerated in England, as the distinguished jurist William Murray, Earl of Mansfield, ruled in 1772. Evolving English law was a factor impelling the slave-owning society to escape its reach.

Becoming a treaty-worthy nation thus conferred multiple advantages: foreign recognition, and the freedom to act at home without interference. Hegemonic power offers the opportunity to become a rogue state, freely defying international law and norms, while facing increased resistance abroad and contributing to its own decline through self-inflicted wounds.

© 2013 Noam Chomsky — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT.

Memorial Day Thoughts

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Today, Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their lives in service to this country. It especially pains me to remember those friends who died in that horrible, useless Vietnam War. But I think it’s important to transcend politics when considering these individual sacrifices lest it diminish the profound, unselfish quality of these acts. To give one’s life for someone or something: that amazes me. I know enough about war to understand that most soldiers make this ultimate sacrifice for their comrades and families and not for some abstract concept of state or philosophy, but that in itself is the purest act of love for others. The best gift we can give these dead soldiers is to make sure we end war as an instrument of politics.

 

MEMORIAL DAY

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Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead. Veterans’ Day is the holiday where we honor all who served. Wishing people a “Happy Memorial Day,” therefore, seems a bit callous and Memorial Day sales are an abomination. But that’s just me…