Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Guest Column By William Blum -- Anti-Empire Report







Guest Column By William Blum
Anti-Empire Report

Official website of the author, historian, and U.S. foreign policy critic.
The Anti-Empire Report #140

By William Blum – Published November 3rd, 2015

Are you confused by the Middle East? Here are some things you should know. (But you’ll probably still be confused.)

  • The US, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the Gulf monarchies have all in the recent past supported al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State (ISIS) with arms, money, and/or manpower.
  • The first example of this was in 1979 when the United States began covert operations in Afghanistan, six months before the Russians arrived, promoting Islamic fundamentalism across the southern tier of the Soviet Union against “godless communism”. All the al-Qaeda/Taliban shit then followed.
  • In addition to Afghanistan, the United States has provided support to Islamic militants in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, the Caucasus, and Syria.
  • The United States overthrew the secular governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and is trying to do the same with Syria, thus giving great impetus to the rise of ISIS. Said Barack Obama in March of this year: “ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” 
  • More than a million refugees from these wars of Washington are currently over-running Europe and North Africa. God Bless American exceptionalism.
  • The Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish Kurds have all fought against ISIS, but Turkey – close US ally and member of NATO – has fought against each of them.
  • Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanese factions have each supported the Syrian government in various ways in Damascus’s struggle against ISIS and other terrorist groups, including the (much celebrated but seldom seen) “moderate” ones. For this all four countries have been sharply criticized by Washington.
  • The United States has bombed ISIS in Syria, but has used the same occasions to damage Syria’s infrastructure and oil-producing capacity.
  • Russia has bombed ISIS in Syria, but has used the same occasions to attack Syria’s other enemies.
  • The mainstream media almost never mentions the proposed Qatar natural-gas pipelines – whose path to Europe Syria has stood in the way of for years – as a reason for much of the hostility toward Syria. The pipelines could dethrone Russia as Europe’s dominant source of energy.
  • In Libya, during the beginning of the 2011 civil war, anti-Gaddafi rebels, many of whom were al-Qaeda affiliated militias, were protected by NATO in “no-fly zones”.
  • US policy in Syria in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which began the whole current mess, was designed to promote sectarianism, which in turn led to civil war with the goal of regime change. 
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry declared on October 22 that in resolving Syria’s civil war the country “should not be broken up, that it must remain secular, and that Syrians should choose their future leader.” (All of which actually describes Syria under Assad.) Then Kerry said: “One thing stands in the way of being able to rapidly move to implement that, and it’s a person called Assad, Bashar Assad.”
Why does the government of the United States hate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with such passion?

Is it because, as we’re told, he’s a brutal dictator? But how can that be the reason for the hatred? It would be difficult indeed to name a brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century or of the 21st century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population; at present the list would include Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

The United States, I suggest, is hostile to the Syrian government for the same reason it has been hostile to Cuba for more than half a century; and hostile to Venezuela for the past 15 years; and earlier to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; and to Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Chile; and so on continuing through the world atlas and history books.

What these governments have had in common can be summarized in a single word – independence independence from American foreign policy; the refusal to be a client state of Washington; the refusal to be continuously hostile to Washington’s Officially Designated Enemies; insufficient respect and zeal for the capitalist way of life.

Democratic Socialism

The candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a “democratic socialist”, for the US presidency has produced an unprecedented barrage of discussion in the American media about just what is this thing called “socialism”. Most of the discussion centers around the question of government ownership and control of the economy versus private ownership and control. This is, of course, a very old question; the meat and potatoes of the Cold War ideological competition.

What’s markedly different now is that a few centuries of uninhibited free enterprise have finally laid painfully bare the basic anti-social nature of capitalism, forcing many of even the most committed true believers to concede the inherent harm the system brings to the lives of all but the richest.

But regardless of what the intellects of these true believers tell them, they still find it very difficult emotionally to completely cut the umbilical cord to the system they were carefully raised to place the greatest of faith in. Thus, they may finally concede that we have to eliminate, or at least strictly minimize, the role of the profit motive in health care and education and maybe one or two other indispensable social needs, but they insist that the government should should keep its bureaucratic hands off everything else; they favor as much decentralization as possible.

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for worker-owned cooperatives.

There is much to be said about such systems, but the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

You cannot follow the mass media without being confronted every day with story after story of one corporation or another trying to swindle the public in one way or another; the latest egregious case being that of the much revered Volkswagen, recently revealed to have manipulated the measurement of the car’s pollution emission. The fact that half of the company’s Supervisory Board – responsible for monitoring the Management and approving important corporate decisions – consists of employee representatives elected by the employees did not prevent this egregious fraud; the company is still obliged to strive to maximize profit and the firm’s stock-market value. It’s the nature of the corporate beast within a capitalist jungle.

Only removal of the profit motive will correct such behavior, and also keep us from drowning in a sea of advertising and my phone ringing several times each day to sell me something I don’t need and which may not even exist.

The market. How can we determine the proper value, the proper price, of goods and services without “the magic of the marketplace”? Let’s look at something most people have to pay for – rent. Who or what designed this system where in 2015 11.8 million households in the US are paying more than 50 percent of their income to keep a roof over their head, while rent is considered “affordable” if it totals some 30 percent or less of one’s income.  What is the sense of this? It causes more hardship than any other expense people are confronted with; all kinds of important needs go unmet because of the obligation to pay a huge amount for rent each month; it is the main cause of homelessness. Who benefits from it other than the landlords? What is magical about that?

Above and beyond any other consideration, there is climate change; i.e., survival of the planet, the quality of our lives. What keeps corporations from modifying their behavior so as to be kinder to our environment? It is of course the good old “bottom line” again. What can we do to convince the corporations to consistently behave like good citizens? Nothing that hasn’t already been tried and failed. Except one thing. Unmentionable in a capitalist society. Nationalization. There, I said it. Now I’ll be getting letters damning me as an “Old Stalinist”.

But nationalization is not a panacea either, at least for the environment. There’s the greatest single source of environmental damage in the world – The United States military. And it’s already been nationalized. But doing away with private corporations will reduce the drive toward imperialism sufficiently that before long the need for a military will fade away and we can live like Costa Rica. If you think that would put the United States in danger of attack, please tell me who would attack, and why.

Most Americans, like other developed peoples, worship the capitalism they were raised with. But do they? See the chapter in my book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower: “The United States invades, bombs, and kills for it but do Americans really believe in free enterprise?” Written in 2000/2005, the examples given in the chapter may need some updating, but the ideas expressed are as valid as ever.

Nationalization, hand-in-hand with a planned society, would of course not preclude elections. On the contrary, we’d have elections not ruled by money. What a breath of fresh air. Professor Cornel West has suggested that it’s become difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic society, without great concentrations of corporate power, would look like, or how it would operate.

Who are you going to believe? Me or Dick Cheney?
I’ve spent about 30 years compiling the details of the criminal record of US foreign policy into concise lists, and I’m always looking for suitable occasions to present the information to new readers. The new book by Dick Cheney and his adoring daughter is just such an occasion.

“We are, as a matter of empirical fact and undeniable history, the greatest force for good the world has ever known. … security and freedom for millions of people around the globe have depended on America’s military, economic, political, and diplomatic might.” – Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney, “Why the world needs a powerful America”

Well … nothing short of a brain and soul transplant would change the welt anschauung of Dr. Strangelove and his carefully-conditioned offspring, but for all of you out there who still live in a world of facts, logic, human rights, and human empathy, here’s the ammunition to use if you should happen to find yourself ensnared in the embrace of the likes of the Cheney reptiles (including mother Lynne who once set up a website solely to attack me and seven others for holding a teach-in on September 18, 2001 in which we spoke of US foreign policy as the main provocation of what had happened exactly a week earlier.)

These are the lists:

Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:


  • Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
  • Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  • Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
  • Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
  • Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries. 
  • Plus … although not easily quantified … more involved in the practice of torture than any other country in the world … for over a century … not just performing the actual torture, but teaching it, providing the manuals, and furnishing the equipment.



  • Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books areThe Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West

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