Fight the disease of globalized corporate capitalism

Fight the Disease, Not the Symptoms

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organizationand the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.

These proto-fascist forces discredit verifiable fact and history and replace them with myth. They peddle nostalgia for lost glory. They attack the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern, technocratic world. They are xenophobic. They champion the “virtues” of a hyper-masculinity and the warrior cult. They preach regeneration through violence. They rally around demagogues who absolve followers of moral choice and promise strength and protection. They marginalize and destroy all individuals and institutions, including schools, that make possible self-criticism, self-reflection and transcendence and that nurture empathy, especially for the demonized. This is why artists and intellectuals are ridiculed and silenced. This is why dissent is attacked as an act of treason.

These movements are also deeply misogynistic. They disempower girls and women to hand a perverted power to men who feel powerless in the global economy. They blame ethnic and religious minorities for the national decline. They foster bizarre conspiracy theories. And they communicate in the Orwellian newspeak of alternative facts. They claim the sole right to represent and use indigenous patriotic and religious symbols.

India, built on the foundations of caste slavery, has become one of many new neofeudal states, among them Turkey, Poland, Russia and the United States. Its neofeudal structure continues to carry out atrocities against Dalits—the former “untouchables”—and now increasingly against Muslims. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat oversaw a vicious anti-Muslim pogrom, has defended sectarian discrimination and violence even though this year he made a tepid declaration that “[w]e will not tolerate violence in the name of faith” and issued other unconvincing appeals for religious peace. As prime minister he has employed threats, harassment and force to silence those who decry human rights abuses and atrocities carried out in India. He attacks his critics as “anti-national”—the equivalent of “unpatriotic” in the United States.

Modi, like his fellow demagogues in other parts of the world, including Donald Trump, speaks in the language of moral purity and promotes self-serving historical myth. Indians who eat beef—a huge number—are targeted, school history books are being rewritten to conform to right-wing Hindu ideology and its open admiration for fascism, and entertainers considered too political or too salacious are under attack.

There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity. They embrace their own myths—such as the belief that former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians were responsible for the election of Trump—to avoid examining the social inequality that is behind the global crisis and their defeat.

The 400 richest individuals in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population, and the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. This social inequality will only get worse as the weak controls that once regulated the economy and the tax code are abolished or rewritten to further increase the concentration of wealth among the ruling oligarchs. Social inequality at this level, history has shown, always results in these types of pathologies and political distortions. It also, potentially, presages revolution.

The short-term political and economic gains made by the Democratic Party and liberal class in the last few decades came at the expense of the working class. The liberal class, because of its complicity in globalization, has destroyed its credibility as well as the credibility of the “liberal” democratic values it claims to represent. Enraged workers, lied to for decades by “liberal” politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama, delight in Trump’s crude taunts and insults directed at the power structure and elites they loath. Many Americans are perhaps aware that Trump is a con artist, but he at least appears to share their disdain for the “liberal” elites who abandoned them.

It will eventually become apparent to some, perhaps many, of Trump’s supporters that he is cravenly in the service of the 1 percent and has turbocharged the corporate kleptocracy. The Democratic Party, busy purging Bernie Sanders supporters from its ranks, is banking on this epiphany to revive its political fortunes. The Democratic leadership has no real political strategy, other than to hope that Trump implodes. They are backing and funding opposition movements such as Indivisible and the women’s marches, as well as the witch hunt about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, all of which have as their sole focus removing Trump and restoring the Democratic Party to power. This form of resistance is sterile and useless.

But there are other resistance movements—the most prominent being the battle by the water protectors at Standing Rock to block the Dakota Access pipeline—that attack the disease. It is easy to tell the resistance from the faux resistance by the response of the state. During the women’s marches, Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were honored participants. The police were usually courteous and helped facilitate the marches; arrests were few and coverage by the corporate press was sympathetic. In contrast, during the long encampment at Standing Rock, which took place under the Obama administration, the nonviolent resisters were physically attacked by police, the National Guard and private security contractors. These forces used dogs, pepper spray, water cannons in subzero temperatures, sound machines, drones, armored vehicles and hundreds of arrests in their efforts to destroy the resistance.

Attack the symptoms and the state will be passive. Attack the disease and the state will be ruthless.

Once Trump’s base begins to abandon him—the repression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good example of what will happen—the political landscape will turn very ugly. Trump and his allies, in a desperate bid to cling to power, will openly stoke hate crimes and violence against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, progressives, intellectuals, feminists and dissidents. He and his allies on the “alt-right” and the Christian right will move to silence all organs of dissent, including corporate media outlets fighting to restore the patina of civility that is the window dressing to corporate pillage. They will harness the power of the nation’s substantial internal security apparatus to crush public protests and to jail opponents, even those who are part of the faux resistance.

Time is not on our side. If we can build counter-capitalist movements that include the working class we have a chance. If we can, like the water protectors at Standing Rock, mount sustained acts of defiance in the face of severe state repression, we have a chance. If we can organize nationwide campaigns of noncooperation we have a chance. We cannot be distracted by the symptoms. We must cure the disease.

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 11 books,…
Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for and Mr. Fish’s work has also appeared nationally in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity…

Erdogan Is Using the Failed Coup to Get Rid of the Last Vestiges of Secular Turkey

The number of people detained so far is at 6,000 including soldiers.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The sweeping purge of soldiers and officials in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey is likely to be conducted with extra vigour because a number of close associates of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the 265 dead. The number of people detained so far is at 6,000 including soldiers, and around 3,000 judges and legal officials who are unlikely to have been connected to the attempted military takeover.

On Sunday, Erdogan attended the funeral of the elder brother of his chief adviser, Mustafa Varank. Varank’s older brother, Dr Ilhan Varank, studied at Ohio State University, and was the chairman of Computer and Technology Education Department at Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University, according to Anadolu Agency (AA). It says that the 45-year-old was shot at and killed as he demonstrated in front of the Istanbul Municipality building on the night of the coup, 15 July.

Another name close to Erdogan, Erol Olcak, was shot and killed along with his 16-year-old son at the Bosphorus Bridge, local media reported. Having met the president many years ago when they both belonged to the same Islamic party known as Prosperity Party, Olcak became a prominent name in AKP’s media and publicity campaigns since the party was founded in 2001. Olcak and his son were at the Bosphorus Bridge to protest the coup attempt when they were shot by soldiers.

The coup plotters clearly saw the importance of detaining or eliminating Erdogan but were unable to find him at the holiday resort of Marmaris, in south west Turkey, where he was staying, as is shown by the film of shootings there. They also tried to target his most important aides by taking them into custody. His secretary Fahri Kasirga was taken prisoner by rebel soldiers, according to his son, who tweeted on the night of the coup that “they wanted [pro-coup forces] to force my father to stay in his house, but when he resisted, the bloody traitors took him into an ambulance and drove off.” The story is confirmed by Erdogan himself who said as he headed to the airport at Marmaris that “they took my secretary. What are you going to do with my secretary?”

The failed coup is serving as an excuse for a massive round-up of members of the judiciary and army officers, far greater than anything seen in Turkey for years, and is presumably a bid to secure Erdogan’s grip on the Turkish state. So numerous are those detained that a sports stadium is being used to hold some of them, a development that has ominous similarities with mass arrests in South American coups in the last century. Some 140 out of 387 judges in the Court of Appeal have been detained along with 48 out of 156 from the Council of State.

It may be that Erdogan is using the coup to eliminate the most powerful officials seen as loyal to Turkey as a secular state.

Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East Correspondent for the Independent. He has written four books on Iraq’s recent history—The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the Sunni Revolution, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, The Occupation, and Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession (with Andrew Cockburn)—as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award.

The refugee crisis and the polarization of Europe


11 March 2016

Idomeni, Lesbos, Calais … every day one sees pictures that for decades one could not have imagined in Europe: refugees, including families with small children, living in improvised tents and burrows, drowning in rain and mud, lacking medication and food. And again and again: closed borders, barbed wire and heavily armed police who attack desperate refugees with tear gas and batons.

Large sections of the population look on these brutal scenes with horror and disgust, but the official political debate on the refugee crisis takes place within a narrow spectrum ranging from the right to the ultra-right. In politics and in the media, the only voices allowed are those arguing for unrestrained nationalism and the sealing-off of Europe’s internal borders, or those who, in the name of a “European solution,” support the militarization of the EU’s external borders and a dirty deal with the Turkish government.

Compassion for refugees, hospitality, aid, the right to protection and asylum are all banished from the official discourse, which concentrates exclusively on the most efficient way to deter, criminalise and get rid of refugees. The large majority of the European population who, according to every poll conducted, sympathises with refugees and the untold numbers who have donated their savings and their free time to help them go unrepresented in newspaper columns and on talk shows.

In the German federal states holding elections on Sunday, the Greens, the Social Democrats and, indirectly, the Left Party are promoting the policies of Angela Merkel, who advocates hermetically sealing off the EU’s external borders. The only opposition comes from the right wing of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the extreme right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which want to close off the German borders.

The arguments in Germany resemble those in Great Britain, where voters in the Brexit referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union, are faced with two equally right-wing alternatives: to support the reactionary institutions of the European Union or endorse a British “independence” that removes all obstacles to the intensified exploitation of the working class and more ruthlessly chokes off immigration into the country.

The restriction of the public debate to right-wing positions, adhered to by the entire media and all established parties, serves a political purpose: to prevent the defence of and support for refugees from joining up with the fight against the capitalist system, which has nothing to offer to wide layers of the population but social misery, repression and war. Those incensed by the racist agitation and arson attacks of the ultra-right are to be directed into the political channels of a government policy that is just as reactionary and which has provided fertile ground for the growth of the extreme right.

The brutal mistreatment of refugees is the culmination of a rightward turn in European politics that has developed over a period of years. The actions taken against refugees are the sharpest expression of this shift to the right so far, but not its cause. The real cause is the deepening crisis of international capitalism and the accompanying sharp social polarization. As was the case in 1930s, the ruling elites react to this crisis by stirring up nationalism and xenophobia, building up the state apparatus and pursuing their international economic and political interests through the means of war.

In 2008, when the criminal machinations of speculators brought the world financial system to the brink of collapse, the governments of Europe, like those throughout the world, pumped trillions in public funds into failing banks to rescue the fortunes of the rich. When, as a consequence, some weaker European countries almost collapsed under their debts, threatening the stability of the Euro, the EU and the German government insisted that the working class bear the cost. They made an example of Greece, forcing its population into bitter poverty.

In 2014, Germany and the EU supported the right-wing coup in Kiev and provoked a confrontation with Russia which has continued to intensify. This coincided with the escalation of the war in Syria. After the US and its European allies destroyed first Afghanistan and then Iraq and Libya, the Syrian conflict has now developed into a war involving great and regional powers, threatening to plunge the world into a third world war.

The victims of these wars who attempt to escape certain death by fleeing to Europe are treated worse than animals. One sees what the ruling elites of Europe are capable of. What began with austerity dictates in Greece and other countries finds its continuation in the inhumane treatment of refugees, and is a signal of what workers and youth can expect in the future. Historical experience shows that agitation against foreigners and members of different religions (then it was Jews, today Muslims) serves as the prelude to the oppression of the entire working class.

Under these conditions, the defence of refugees, opposition to war and militarism and the fight against capitalism are inseparable. Only an independent movement of the working class, basing itself on an international socialist program, can prevent Europe’s regression into nationalism, barbarism and war.

This requires not only opposition to the extreme right, but also, and above all, a relentless political fight against the influence of pseudo-left tendencies that lull workers and youth with left phrases to secure and support the social assaults, the build-up of the state, and the war policies of the ruling elite.

The experience with Syriza in Greece has shown what such parties are capable of. The Tsipras government was brought to power at the beginning of 2015 because it promised an end to the brutal austerity measures of the EU. Since that time, Syriza has drastically sharpened austerity policies and taken on the role of the border police and prison guards for the EU.

The Left Party in Germany, Podemos in Spain and numerous other parties that promoted Syriza and support it to this day play no other role. They do not speak for the working class, but for affluent layers of the middle class who do not want to overthrow capitalism, but rather seek to preserve it at any cost.

There is massive opposition in Europe to the devastating effects of austerity measures, to the attacks on refugees and democratic rights and against militarism and war. But this opposition lacks a perspective and a political leadership. The International Committee of the Fourth International and its sections fight for the unification of the European working class based on a socialist program, for the United Socialist States of Europe.

Peter Schwarz

NATO operation in Aegean heightens threat of war with Russia

Georgia's Minister of Defence Tinatin Khidasheli (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) address a NATO-Georgia Commission defense ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels February 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Yves Herman

By Johannes Stern
29 February 2016

A NATO convoy under German leadership is to begin operations in the Aegean Sea in the next few days, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday.

The official goal of the mission is the complete closure of the Aegean to refugees, militarily strengthening “Fortress Europe” against refugees from the war zones in the Middle East. The dispatch of warships to the strategic Aegean Sea also heightens the risk of NATO intervention in the Syrian civil war and war with Russia.

Stoltenberg said in a press release that the goal of NATO was “the disruption of the routes used by smugglers and for illegal migration in the Aegean.” He boasted that the ships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG 2) had already arrived in the mission area 48 hours after the decision of NATO defence ministers was taken two weeks ago. Now it was a matter of collectively finding “solutions” for the “crisis.”

By “solutions” of the refugee crisis, Stoltenberg and NATO mean the military strengthening of the Greek and Turkish coast guard and the European border protection agency Frontex in order to detect and stop refugee boats, also possibly forcing them back.

Stoltenberg said, “Our ships will provide information for the Greek and Turkish coast guard and other national authorities, allowing them to act even more effectively against illegal trafficking networks. We will also establish direct connections to European Frontex … so that it can do its ‘job’ more effectively.”

In other words, Frontex, supported by NATO warships, should conduct its notorious “push-back” operations more intensively, i.e. a refugee boat being tracked should be “towed back where it came from—for example, to Turkey”. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière demanded this last December in an interview with Die Welt. Now it is official EU and NATO policy. Stoltenberg said, “If people are rescued who have come through Turkey, they will be returned to Turkey.”

The operation comes from an initiative by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, agreed at a meeting of NATO defence ministers on 11 February. Berlin is taking over the management of the NATO alliance. In a statement last Thursday, von der Leyen praised the NATO decision “under German leadership” as being “quick and clear”. Last Friday, the German supply ship Bonn, which will lead the naval group, set off from the NATO base at Souda in Crete. On board was the German Commodore Jörg Klein, commander of SNMG 2.

With the military mission, the German government wants to “drastically and sustainably” reduce the number of refugees coming to Greece via Turkey, as de Maizière declared on the periphery of an EU meeting in Brussels. This should happen by March 7. Then a special EU summit would take place attended by Turkey.

The official goal of the Merkel government is to commit the Erdogan regime to a dirty deal on fully closing the borders for refugees and to detain refugee boats before they can even leave Turkey. As “compensation”, the German government will provide financial support to Ankara. Last week in a government statement, Merkel reaffirmed her support for a no-fly zone in Syria, a central demand of the Erdogan government and an important condition for Ankara’s military invasion of Syria.

The NATO mission in the Aegean not only entails increased support for Turkey’s war drive against the Kurds and the Syrian government, but is a direct part of the NATO war preparations against Russia.

An official NATO report indicates that the SNMG 2 force had conducted “intensive operations with the Turkish Navy” in early February. This included carrying out air defence operations, submarine war operations and live firing exercises (GUNEX). Turkish F-16 fighter jets were also involved in the exercise.

According to Klein, the aim was to develop the force’s “own abilities” and “to consolidate a team” out of the units. As well as the German flagship, the “team” that he is currently leading in the Aegean includes two heavily armed frigates, the Canadian vessel HMCS Fredericton and the Greek ship Salamis (F-455), and a Turkish warship. The SNMG 2 group is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF), the NATO rapid reaction force, which was systematically upgraded last year against Russia.

The location and organisation of the exercise alone underscore what NATO is preparing. Russia is currently the only power that is active in the region with larger naval units and warplanes, and is considered as an enemy by NATO. The Russian Air Force is supporting Syria’s Assad regime being combatted by the West, and warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet regularly transit the Aegean between their home ports in the Crimea and Tartus in Syria, where the only Russian naval base is located in the Mediterranean Sea.

The increasing NATO presence in the Aegean heightens the risk of a direct clash between NATO and Russia. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, there was a near-collision off the Greek island of Lemnos in December, between a Turkish fishing boat and the Russian destroyer Smetliwij. Russia regarded the incident as a deliberate provocation by the Turkish Navy, and summoned the Turkish military attaché in Moscow. Since the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey on November 24, 2015, tensions between Turkey and Russia have steadily increased.

In its latest edition, news weekly Der Spiegel describes the consequences, including those unintended, of the NATO mission. It says of the growing “risk of war between Russia and Turkey”: “It is the year in which the world stands as close to a nuclear war as never before in the history of the Cold War. Provocations, red lines, which are crossed, airspace violations, a shot-down aircraft. A missile fired in error or a submarine commander who loses his nerve can trigger a world war.”

Sticking point in Syria truce: Washington’s support for Al Qaeda


25 February 2016

Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry faced intensely hostile questioning as he defended a Syrian “cessation of hostilities” reached with Moscow that is supposed to go into effect this weekend.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California suggested that the agreement might be little more than a “rope-a-dope” deal, while the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, warned that Russia would “continue to kill the folks that are our friends and allies.”

Kerry responded by stressing that there was a “significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B,” presumably entailing a major escalation of the US military intervention in Syria and a potential armed confrontation with Russia, should the truce deal fail to further Washington’s aims.

The key sticking point in the US-Russian deal is precisely the status of those to whom Senator Corker referred as “the folks that are our friends and allies.” He, like the Obama administration, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the entire political and media establishment, carefully avoided any precise identification of these “folks.”

The dirty secret they are all doing their best to conceal is that Washington’s most important “friend” and “ally” in the war for regime change in Syria has been, since its inception nearly five years ago, Al Qaeda. It is this criminal relationship that is at the heart of the difficulties in brokering any kind of negotiated halt to the grinding sectarian war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Syrians and turned 11 million more into homeless refugees.

The cessation of hostilities that is supposed to take place on Saturday specifically excludes both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s designated Syrian franchise. The High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian “rebel” front cobbled together by the Saudi monarchy for the purpose of UN-sponsored negotiations, has rejected any ceasefire that fails to protect al-Nusra.

US intelligence analysts have warned that al-Nusra and the so-called “moderate” terrorists promoted by Washington are “intermingled.” Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s envoy to the “coalition” participating in the US-led war in Iraq and Syria, told a White House press briefing Tuesday that the supposed moderates and the Al Qaeda group “are marbled together.”

Behind such awkward formulations, the reality is that Al Qaeda and related groups have long constituted the principal proxy ground forces utilized by US imperialism and its allies in the brutal war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. They have served as a mercenary army, which has been massively funded and has received an avalanche of arms from the US and its principal regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. What is commonly referred to as the Syrian civil war is nothing less than a massive CIA regime-change operation.

This bloody intervention in Syria exposes as a fraud the entire “war on terror,” which has served as the linchpin for the conduct of war abroad and the buildup of state repression at home for nearly 15 years, under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The US is not involved in some existential struggle against terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular. Rather, it is employing Al Qaeda killers to do its dirty work in the struggle to establish US hegemony in the Middle East.

The latest incarnation of this supposed struggle, the campaign against ISIS, has, within the space of less than five months, been exposed as a phony war. Russia’s intervention, with far fewer military resources than can be brought to bear by the Pentagon, has reversed the tide of battle in Syria, cut off routes used by ISIS to receive arms and supplies, and destroyed its lucrative oil business with Turkey. Washington had failed to prosecute any such campaign because ISIS served as an instrument of US policy in the war to overthrow Assad and was therefore effectively protected.

A revealing report in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday quoted senior Obama administration officials who indicated increasing “discord” between the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department over the course of the Syrian regime-change operation. The CIA, the Journal reported, is “infuriated” because Russian airstrikes “have aggressively targeted relatively moderate rebels [i.e., the al-Nusra Front and its allies] it has backed with military supplies, including antitank missiles.”

The article suggests that there are differences within the US state apparatus over whether to supply these same “rebels” with Manpads, advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, that could bring down Russian jets, potentially triggering a wider war pitting the US against Russia. The CIA, at the same time, is warning that if action isn’t taken to defend the Islamist militias, Saudi Arabia or Turkey could “decide to break ranks with Washington and send large numbers of Manpads into northern Syria to shoot down Russian bombers.” In other words, the incredibly reckless policy pursued by Washington may yet unleash a conflict that could end in a nuclear exchange.

Al Qaeda and related groups constitute a kind of Frankenstein’s monster created and cultivated by Washington as an instrument of imperialist intervention and counterrevolution. As is well known, Al Qaeda itself was born as a creature of the CIA, together with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence, during the US-instigated war against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It served then, as it does now in Syria, as an agency for funneling money, arms and foreign Islamist fighters to prosecute Washington’s proxy wars.

Washington’s promotion of reactionary jihadist currents goes back much further—to the 1950s and the US attempts to utilize these forces as a means of combating Arab nationalism and the influence of socialism, which were both deemed mortal threats to the domination of the Middle East by the American oil corporations.

Ever since, the relations between the American intelligence agencies and Al Qaeda and similar jihadist outfits have remained intimate. This is what explains why, in virtually every terrorist incident, from 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing and beyond, the perpetrators were well known to US agencies and allowed to travel freely in and out of the country with no questions asked.

Today, US imperialism is more heavily invested than ever in these forces, and not only in the Middle East, where they have been employed to bring down the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and in the attempt to do the same to Assad in Syria.

Among the foreign fighters who poured into Syria, one of the largest contingents is made up of Chechens and other Islamists from Russia’s North Caucasus region. China has reported that significant numbers from its Uighur Muslim minority in the western Xinjiang region have gone there to join ISIS. These forces are being trained in the Syrian bloodbath in preparation for their utilization in far more dangerous imperialist operations aimed at subjugating and dismembering Russia and China.

Having organized, armed and funded such organizations, the US military and intelligence apparatus has no doubt made them various pledges of support, which are now being called into question by a Syrian truce deal that, in the final analysis, has been forced upon Washington by Russia’s intervention. This is what accounts for the explosive anger within both official US circles and the Al Qaeda-dominated Syrian rebel fronts over the deal reached by Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

There is an obvious danger that the Islamist outfits will devise their own “Plan B” involving retribution against their imperialist patrons for what they see as a betrayal. This is a familiar pattern, seen in the evolution of those around Osama bin Laden who were abandoned after the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. The ultimate result was the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

The criminal and reckless actions Washington is carrying out in Syria and elsewhere pose the imminent threat of spawning an even more deadly blowback operation by the “moderate” terrorists that the CIA has armed and supported.

Bill Van Auken

German Chancellor Merkel’s refugee policy and the growing danger of a war with Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts at a news conference after an energy "summit" with German state premiers at the Chancellery in Berlin...German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts at a news conference after an energy "summit" with German state premiers at the Chancellery in Berlin May 23, 2012.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY - Tags: POLITICS ENVIRONMENT HEADSHOT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

By Ulrich Rippert
19 February 2016

In her government statement on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her well-known positions on refugee policy. In the process, she declared her intention to expand Germany’s close collaboration with Turkey, which is pressing for a military confrontation with Russia in Syria.

At the beginning of her speech, Merkel stressed that her policy was geared towards a “significant reduction” in the number of refugees arriving in Europe. This anti-refugee policy had three aspects, she said. First was the fight against the causes of flight. This required intensive political and diplomatic initiatives and financial assistance to support refugee camps in the immediate vicinity of war and crisis.

Second, the EU’s external borders must be effectively protected before, thirdly, the distribution of refugees within the European Union could be tackled. The differences within the ruling classes of Europe on this last point are well known. Of the 160,000 refugees that the EU agreed to distribute via a quota system last autumn, less than a thousand have been accepted. The question of refugee quotas will not be central to the summit, Merkel said. What was more important was the effective protection of the EU’s external borders.

On this issue, Merkel answered her critics who are demanding the closure of national borders by arguing that such a move would destroy free movement within the Schengen Area and with it one of the most important foundations and achievements of the single European market.

As an alternative, she proposed the “securing of Europe’s external borders”, which means nothing more than the expansion of Fortress Europe. The EU must learn to protect its external borders effectively, she said, adding, “Therefore, I am for the use of NATO in the Aegean”. NATO units should be sent to support Frontex and the Turkish army “in the fight against people smuggling” and to secure the maritime border between Greece and Turkey.

Therefore, in Merkel’s view, cooperation with the Turkish government is essential. Much had already been achieved in talks with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, she said. Once the three billion euros promised to Turkey were released by the European Union, the construction of a huge internment camp for refugees will proceed on the Syrian border.

However, the real significance of the cooperation with the Turkish government became clear when Merkel reiterated her call for a no-fly zone in Syria, a demand repeatedly raised by the Erdogan government with far-reaching and explosive military consequences.

Merkel did not speak in such terms, however. Rather, she portrayed a no-fly zone as a humanitarian corridor to protect refugees. “That would be a sign of good will,” she said. “It would in any case, reassure many, many people if no one else had to perish in Aleppo and in the territory up to the Turkish border, and no more people had to try and escape.”

But this is just a smokescreen. The demand for a no-fly zone in Syria has nothing to do with humanitarianism and helping refugees. Rather, it is part of a further intensification of the military confrontation between NATO member Turkey and Russia.

Since Russia intervened militarily in Syria last September, the Erdogan government has responded with increasing aggression. In November, when a Russian fighter jet supposedly violated Turkish airspace for a few seconds, it was shot down by the Turkish Air Force.

Syrian government troops, with the active support of Russian bombers, have now launched a military offensive in the battle for Aleppo. They have recaptured rebel-held areas and simultaneously cut an important supply route for the Islamist militias.

The US government and its allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have reacted furiously. The rebels, among whom Islamist militias like the Al-Nusra Front play a leading role, have long been supported by Ankara, Riyadh and Washington with arms, money and logistical assistance.

A no-fly zone would create the conditions for Turkey to once again build up its military and logistical support for the Islamist anti-Assad militias. Moreover, Ankara wants at all costs to prevent the Syrian Kurds from gaining ground under the protection of the Russian Air Force on the Turkish border. This could quickly lead to the formation of a Kurdish state.

To counter this, the Turkish government has intensified its attacks and is preparing for the deployment of ground troops. Such an escalation could quickly lead to a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Just hours before the chancellor spoke, the Süddeutsche Zeitung published an article with the headline, “When the Cold War gets hot.” It began, “NATO against Russia—such an escalation is no longer unthinkable.” The trial of strength has long since become a showdown in which an escalation is dependent on decisions made in the US or Russia, the newspaper wrote. The two countries are overestimating their ability to control the situation.

The editorial then describes the events of recent weeks in Syria and poses the question: What happens if there is a further conflict between Turkish and Russian troops, and Turkey demands the support of NATO? “To deny Ankara support under the NATO mutual defence clause would mean the end of the alliance; to invoke it would mean ending a cold war and starting a hot one.”

Almost exactly five years ago, the UN Security Council approved a no-fly zone over Libya. The action was justified by citing the protection of civilians and support for insurgents against a dictatorial regime. In reality, it marked the start of a terrible bombing campaign by the imperialist powers, in which countless people died and the Libyan state was destroyed, resulting in endless streams of refugees.

At that time, Germany was not involved and regarded the western intervention as a major foreign policy mistake. Since then, Berlin has undertaken a sharp rightward turn in foreign policy and made the decision to pursue great power politics and military rearmament.

Merkel’s collaboration with the Turkish government and her support for a no-fly zone in Syria has far-reaching consequences. It underlines the intention of the German government to sharply escalate its participation in the war in Syria and beyond.

Syria fighting escalates as ceasefire deadline approaches


By Bill Van Auken
16 February 2016

Fighting in Syria continued to escalate Monday, posing the threat of a far wider and more dangerous war even as the deadline for the “cessation of hostilities” agreed to in last week’s talks in Munich drew nearer.

Turkish artillery shelled towns south of Turkey’s border with Syria for a third straight day in a bid to halt an offensive by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The human cost of the war’s escalation was made clear Monday with the United Nations report that at least 50 people had been killed in attacks on hospitals and schools. Turkey and its Western allies blamed Russia and Syrian government forces for the attacks, while Moscow and Damascus insisted they had been carried out by Turkey and the so-called “coalition” led by the US.

Two of the hospitals hit were in the northwestern Syrian city of Azaz, which occupies a strategic point on the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, vowed to reporters Monday that Ankara would “not let Azaz fall” and would mount “a severe response” to the Kurdish advance.

The intensifying clashes on the Syrian-Turkish border have placed the five-year-old conflict in Syria on a hair trigger for provoking a global confrontation involving a dizzying array of antagonists and contradictory alliances.

The gravest danger stems from the mounting tensions between Russia and Turkey, both of which are now involved in military strikes against contending armed groups within Syria.

Since September 30, Russia has carried out air strikes against Sunni Islamist militias that have been backed, funded and armed by Turkey and Washington’s other principal regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the coordination of the CIA.

Then, in November, a deliberate ambush of a Russian jet by Turkish warplanes on the Syrian-Turkish border brought the two countries to the brink of war.

Within recent weeks, an offensive by Syrian government forces, backed by Russian warplanes as well as Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Shia militias based in Iraq, has succeeded in cutting off a main supply route from Turkey into Syria while nearly encircling the “rebel”-held eastern part of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and commercial center.

At the same time, the YPG and its allies in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces have overrun areas close to the Syrian border that had previously been held by the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, along with allied Sunni Islamist militias.

The Turkish government has branded the Syrian Kurdish party and militia as “terrorist” organizations because of their links with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in Turkey itself. The government broke off a two-year ceasefire with the PKK last year, using its supposed entry into the US campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a cover for air strikes against PKK camps in neighboring Iraq. Since then, Ankara has launched a bloody crackdown against Turkey’s Kurdish population, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

The Turkish government’s principal aim in Syria is not to fight ISIS, which it has supported with arms and funding, but to prevent the consolidation of a Kurdish enclave on its southern border.

The latest escalation has also been driven by tensions between the US and its NATO ally Turkey over the role of the YPG. Washington has supported Turkey’s branding of the PKK as a terrorist organization, but has balked at imposing the same designation on the YPG, which has collaborated with the US in the anti-ISIS campaign, proving itself one of the few reliable and effective ground forces inside Syria.

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was outraged by the January 30 visit by the Obama administration’s diplomatic envoy dealing with the US war in Iraq and Syria to the Syrian town of Kobane, where he met with Syrian Kurdish representatives, including one who is reportedly wanted by Turkish authorities for activities as a PKK militant.

Erdogan publicly challenged the Obama administration, demanding that it choose between its alliance with Ankara and the “YPG terrorists.” This challenge was subsequently answered by the State Department, which declared its solidarity with the Turkish regime’s internal crackdown on the Kurds while insisting that it viewed the Syrian Kurdish militia as an “effective force…in fighting Daesh [ISIS] and in taking—retaking territory.”

Last week, asked about the US-Turkish tensions over the YPG, Prime Minister Davutoglu replied cryptically, “Just wait, you’ll see.” The meaning of his words has been made clear by the Turkish army’s long-range howitzers pounding the Syrian border region for the past three days.

Speaking after the Munich Security Conference on the weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia “could enter into a ground operation” inside Syria, adding that the Saudi monarchy was sending its warplanes to the Turkish base of Incirlik.

Moscow has denounced the Turkish bombardment as a “provocative” act of aggression and “obvious support for international terrorism,” vowing to bring the matter to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has called for Turkey to halt its shelling and for the Kurdish YPG to stop taking territory from the Al Qaeda-linked militias. Ankara responded with an angry condemnation of the State Department line, saying that it “put Turkey on a par with a terrorist organization.”

A ground invasion by either Turkey or Saudi Arabia would almost certainly result in a military confrontation with Russian and Iranian forces backing the Assad government, posing not only the outbreak of a far wider regional war, but also a US response in support of its two key regional allies, bringing the world’s two largest nuclear powers into a military confrontation.

In a further indication of the dangers of military escalation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Stuttgarter Zeitung that she now supports Turkey’s proposal for the imposition of a “no-fly zone” over Syria. “In the present situation it would be helpful if there were an area over which none of the warring parties would fly air attacks—a sort of no-fly zone,” she said.

Turkey has been pressing for the creation of such a zone for years, seeing it as a means of carving out a buffer area to halt the influx of Syrian refugees while at the same time imposing military control that could block the advance of the Syrian Kurds.

Merkel suggested that such a zone could be created through negotiations, stating, “If it’s possible for the anti-Assad coalition and the Assad supporters to come to an agreement, that would be helpful.”

This is, of course, nonsense. The “anti-Assad coalition” does not exist. The main forces on the ground in the border area are the Al Qaeda-linked militias, including ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, which have rejected any negotiations.

None of the sectarian militias opposing the Assad government have embraced the so-called “cessation of hostilities” agreed to by the US, Russia, and the other 15 members of the International Syria Support Group in Munich last week. No Syrians, either for or against the government, were party to the deal.

The deadline for the so-called cessation is this coming Friday, but the events on the ground indicate that the US-backed war for regime change will produce only a continued escalation of death and violence.