Encircling Empire: Report #22—Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights, and Ice Cream


Freedom, democracy, and human rights–concepts deployed by the officialdom and corporate media of American Empire as if they were to be understood as singular and universal, with the U.S. cast as the zenith of achievement on these fronts, are concepts that heavily mark many of the unfolding events that have transpired since the last report. This report then is as much about the impoverishment of the dominant discourse in North America, where the idea of “democracy” has been narrowed and reduced to some illusion of “liberal democracy” alone, as it is about the many ways the attempt to colonize understanding and marshal knowledge are frustrated by the complications and complexities of reality.

“Freedom, democracy, and human rights” are signals of the ways the U.S. seeks to multiply its access points in other societies where the U.S. situates its “interests.” While spoken of as unproblematic, uncontested, easy-to-define concepts, in reality they connect to a bundle of practices involving the subversion and reorientation of local political systems, the exploitation of other economies, and the redefinition of relations between individuals and states. In order to propagate global American liberalism, a substantial part of this program requires that others believe, that they trust the U.S., that they admire it, and that they see its actions as legitimate.

The events of the past several weeks magnified the continued erosion of that program on all of those levels. Now we witness the acute resurgence of a worldwide contempt for American power, a vast reservoir of indignation with empire, and a generalized delight in denouncing, frustrating, and short-circuiting U.S. imperial dominance. Barely a few months into what many of us see as George W. Bush’s fourth term, Barack Obama finds himself besieged: the continued fallout of the various distortions proffered by his regime in light of the assassination of its ambassador to Libya; new scandals of how the Internal Revenue Service has once again been used against domestic political opponents; eavesdropping on and persecuting journalists; new leaks about the role of the National Security Agency in collecting information by spying not just on citizens, but on all communications from the rest of the world that pass through the U.S.; and generalized gloom about Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. even deeper into the Syrian conflict, turning it fully into another American war. At the same time, the trial of Bradley Manning got underway and already the prosecution’s arguments have become frayed. Meanwhile the U.S. continues its grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks, and threatens nations that allow passage to Edward Snowden into asylum. In response to the (limited) revelations coming from Snowden’s leak, Obama said “I welcome the debate.” And how does he welcome debate? By repeating the superficial sales pitch for surveillance against “insider threats” that he never felt needed justification (or mention) before now; by seeking to convict and imprison the whistle blower; by addressing collaborative corporate media; and by placing congressional committees under a generalized gag order, even as his administration leaked details to a mere Hollywood filmmaker so it could produce CIA propaganda for a domestic audience.

In light of the ongoing Snowden-NSA episode, the U.S. stands embarrassed in front of the world. No longer is U.S. power something that others hold in awe. Options exist, for leakers, and for those who will protect them. The horizon has suddenly expanded. The U.S., both officials and media allies, stand horrified at the realization that the world does not simply consist of nation-states willing to serve as the law enforcement arms of the U.S.–that they have “interests” of their own to defend. As the private media contractors beholden to the U.S. state levy insults and accusations against China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Ecuador, their timing could not have been less appropriate. Washing their mouths with the supposed “oppression” of press freedom in Ecuador, it is the U.S. that stands out as a violator: which state has criminalized whistle blowing and made communicating with the media something worthy of a death sentence? And what do Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador have in common? None of them are massive global human rights violators like the U.S.the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, as Martin Luther King put it. With reference to Iran, a writer for Reuters editorialized that with the recent elections we see an end to eight years of Ahmadinejad’s “belligerence.” Belligerence? Which countries did Iran invade and occupy in those years? Which wars did Iran start? The U.S. is even unable to prove to its own citizens that they benefit from “democracy,” as they watch a president, a political class, and financial elites rule with impunity above the law, as if the Constitution was merely a tool for administering the masses.

As leaders in North America continue to lecture, instruct, and command others on the correct way to do “democracy,” the deep political rot that is the reality of liberal democracy burst into open view especially in Canada. Montreal saw two mayors in less than a year booted for corruption, with many more mayors around Montreal removed (in some cases for “gangsterism”), while the mayor of Toronto was caught on video smoking crack cocaine and using expletives against ethnic minorities. More information came to light of election rigging in Canada, as well as attempts by government to stifle public dissent and freedom of information. This, in a country whose official head of state is a monarch (talk about a “sense of entitlement”), whose senate is also unelected and consists of persons appointed-for-life (entitlement again), and where votes are cast out as a matter of course in a system that lacks fair, proportional representation. Politics continues to be restricted to organized, self-serving parties that answer to their leaders and donors. Adding to this litany, a prime minister held in contempt of parliament, whose practice has been to keep information out of the hands of parliamentarians, while restricting access that the media have in asking him questions. In Canada, “democracy” is increasingly looking like something written, directed, and produced by David Lynch: politics somewhere between Eraserhead and Twin Peaks.

All of this we can say without even getting into discussions of why the practical prospects for direct, participatory democracy continue to be ignored when everything else has been simplified and accelerated by electronic communications technology, in ways acceptable even to dominant classes: everything from banking to commerce to education, to passport applications. Yet, direct democracy by citizens is somehow off limits. As a result, we spend more time in our lives vacuuming our cars or flipping through catalogues of patio furniture than we ever get in making decisions about what kind of system rules us.

Finally, the beginning of June saw the meeting of Bilderberg, a conference of NATO Defence Ministers, and G8, all within mere days of each other. The powers that be still have superior means of organizing, coordinating, and wielding resources beyond a scale that is imaginable. What can we do? We have to seriously pursue real transformation, involving both short-term solutions (demilitarization, income redistribution, accountability), and long-term ones (greater local autonomy, direct democracy, environmental sustainability). We cannot, however, have real transformation while pretending that we can just carry on our current daily lives as normal. Something has to give. To be sure, no amount of cyber-activism or posturing about “being the change you want to see” is going to change any of this. Given the odds, it seems already clear that serious transformation will not come first from the global north, which is not an excuse for abdicating our role to realize social justice.

In this vein, the following featured items and select extracts are just a few of many that have spoken to these issues and that are recommended to ZA readers. Geographically, this report covers Canada, the U.S., Syria, Libya, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

This report covers the period from May 9, 2013 to June 25, 2013.

This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.

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The Silent Death of the American Left: Generation Leftover. By Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, May 24-26, 2013:

…where is our capacity to confront the daily horrors of drone strikes, kill lists, mass layoffs, pension raids and the looming nightmare of climate change? It is a bitter reality, brought into vivid focus by five years of Obama, that the Left is an immobilized and politically impotent force at the very moment when the economic inequalities engineered by our overlords at Goldman Sachs who manage the global economy, should have recharged a long-moribund resistance movement back to life. Instead the Left seems powerless to coalesce, to translate critique into practice, to mobilize against wars, to resist incursions against basic civil liberties, powerless to confront rule by the bondholders and hedgefunders, unable to meaningfully obstruct the cutting edge of a parasitical economic system that glorifies greed while preying on the weakest and most destitute, and incapable of confronting the true legacy of the man they put their trust in. This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.


Irregularities widespread in Canadian elections, report finds. By Stephen Maher, PostMedia News, April 30, 2013:

More than 165,000 people seem to have voted improperly in the last election, a new Elections Canada report has found, and the system for voting needs to be overhauled, although there isn’t enough time to do that before the next election….“Serious errors, of a type the courts consider ‘irregularities’ that can contribute to an election being overturned, were found to occur in 12 percent of all Election Day cases involving voter registration, and 42 percent of cases involving identity vouching.” The auditors estimate that there were irregularities associated with 1.3 per cent of all votes cast in the 2011 election, many involving paperwork errors with the vouching process for voters who need to be sworn in.

The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada. By Adam Kingsmith, Huffington Post, April 29, 2013:

…we’ve become a true north suppressed and disparate — where unregistered civic demonstrations are inhibited and repressed, rebellious Internet activities are scrutinised and supervised, government scientists are hushed and muzzled, and public information is stalled and mired by bureaucratic firewalls.

String of terror incidents no reason to ‘commit sociology’: Stephen Harper. By Tobi Cohen, Canada.com, April 25, 2013–an article heavy with evidence of the extreme ignorance inspired by the political class, with everything from a refusal to study and learn, to the torture of “cultural relativism” as if it meant moral relativism and as if that was somehow “multiculturalism”:

“In terms of radicalization, this is obviously something we follow. Our security agencies work with each other and with others around the globe to track people who are threats to Canada and to watch threats that may evolve. I think though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression,” he [Prime Minister Harper] said.

Actually, now’s the perfect time to ‘commit sociology’. By Robert Brym and Howard Ramos, Canadian Sociological Association, April, 28, 2013:

Part of Mr Harper’s thinking is that in the face of disaster and terror many people just want to hear a strong voice of reassurance and authority. The other part is more sinister: If you probe the roots of terrorism or other problems, you might come to the conclusion that Conservative Party “solutions” are suspect. It follows that thinking sociologically is to be avoided at all costs.

Consider the well-documented sociological finding that the measurable demographic and socio-cultural characteristics of people can’t predict whether they will become radicalized and engage in terrorist acts. Much of the impetus for suicide bombing comes instead from a desire to retaliate against what are perceived as repressive actions on the part of foreign powers….

Canada was once known internationally for sound evidence-based policy. Current comments by the Prime Minister suggest we are now on the path to policy-based evidence. Increasingly, facts are ignored, suppressed or distorted to suit government ideology. Doing otherwise has become an offence.

Canada’s Contribution to “Democracy Promotion.” By Anthony Fenton, Canadian Dimension, October 29, 2006:

Since it signed NAFTA (1994) and joined the Organization of American States, the Canadian government has aligned its foreign policy with that of the United States more closely than at any point in recent history. At the same time, the Canadian government has taken an increasing interest in the affairs of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Some attention has been paid to things like joint military exercises in the Caribbean with the U.S. and other allies, support for the damaging practices of Canadian mining companies and the expanding presence of Canadian financial interests in the global South, but a newer area of Canada’s foreign-policy posture warrants scrutiny: Canada’s deepening involvement in the controversial field of international “democracy promotion” activities.

The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), a “quasi-governmental” organization, is a key but under-appreciated actor in assisting Canada’s foreign-policy interests for the region in the name of democracy, private enterprise and free markets. As “the right arm” of the Canadian government in the region, FOCAL is on the vanguard of broader trends in Canadian “democracy promotion” activities in the region. The organization is notable for its material and ideological ties to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other U.S. agencies.


President Obama loves leaks, despises whistleblowers. By Jeff Bachman, The Hill’s Congress Blog, May 21, 2013:

The Obama administration has sent a clear message. Government officials and journalists who wish to work together to create news stories through the leak of classified information that portray the president and his administration in a positive light should have no fear. And to the journalists and whistle-blowers thinking about publishing that other kind of classified information, be prepared to have your emails read, your phones tapped without your knowledge and your life and career turned upside down.


The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’. By Julian Assange, The New York Times, June 1, 2013:

“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas….

The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.

“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book….


Why Libya’s ‘isolation law’ threatens progress. By Anas El Gomati, CNN, May 21, 2013:

The “Political Isolation” law would be sweeping enough if it just stuck to the provisions barring anyone that held a senior position in the Gadhafi regime from holding office again for a decade. But it also states that intellectuals, academics, civil servants, security and army officials and leading media personnel should also be barred from doing so. Even exiles and defectors in opposition during Gadhafi’s reign who held senior positions in the distant past could also be barred from serving again for 10 years.

The law, which will effectively be policed by an “Isolation Commission” tasked with vetting officials, was pushed through in the wake of increased activism by Libyan militias. Indeed, militias were quick to seize on the aftermath of the bombing of the French Embassy on April 23, one of a string of attacks in the past year on foreign interests, to help further their agenda. And, even as Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s cabinet attempted to draw up a response for the international community, revolutionary and rogue militias seized four key ministries at gunpoint, demanding that the law be passed.

‘Life for most Libyans is worse than it was under Gaddafi’. RT, May 11, 2013:

RT: Just two years ago, the UK lobbied for military intervention in Libya. Was that a good decision?

Mark Almond: I think it was a terrible decision. I’m afraid if Colonel Gaddafi had suppressed the opposition in March 2011, possibly hundreds of people would have died. Perhaps as many as 30,000 have died since, and the country is in a deep state of disorder and uncertainty. Life for most Libyans is worse than it was under Colonel Gaddafi. And of course Gaddafi’s regime was supposed by the Western countries to be the bad regime. Anything must be better, we were told. But now we see that it’s not so clear.

NATO to send expert team to Libya to assess aid request. NATO, June 4, 2013:

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ahead of the start Tuesday’s (4 June 2013) NATO Defence Ministerial that Allied nations have decided to send an expert-level delegation to Libya to identify areas where NATO can provide assistance. “Last week the Libyan government requested NATO’s advice in the security field. We have already moved fast to respond,” the Secretary General said….

The Terror Diaspora: The U.S. Military and the Unraveling of Africa. By Nick Turse, The American Empire Project, June 18, 2013:

Recent history indicates that as U.S. “stability” operations in Africa have increased, militancy has spread, insurgent groups have proliferated, allies have faltered or committed abuses, terrorism has increased, the number of failed states has risen, and the continent has become more unsettled.


Syria and the Sham of Humanitarian Intervention: The Normalization of War. By Ajamu Baraka, CounterPunch, June 4, 2013:

I continue to be amazed with the ease with which the dividing line is blurred between what is real and what is fiction in the reporting on Syria by the Western media. The press in the U.S. continues to dutifully report on the “objective diplomacy” by the Obama administration to broker a “peaceful” resolution to the conflict in Syria. However, those stories of noble and innocent efforts to avert the catastrophic human suffering that has eventually engulfed Syria has sanitized the bloody complicity of U.S. policy. Diplomacy, for the U.S., has meant calling for regime change from the outset and then encouraging Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel, their client states in the region, to arm, train and provide political support for a military campaign with the objective of effectively dismembering the Syria State.

The Naked Imperialism of Humanitarian Intervention: Syria and the Effort to Normalize War. By Ajamu Baraka, CounterPunch, June 19, 2013:

…the recent decision by the Obama Administration to “up the ante” in Syria with more direct military involvement only confirmed my original thesis that humanitarian intervention has nothing to do with humanitarian concern, and instead is a propaganda tool that affords “the U.S. State the perfect ideological cover and internal rationalization to continue as the global “gendarme” of the capitalist order.”….the immediate priority for anti-war, anti-imperialist, human rights activists in the U.S., for countering the government’s effort to normalize war is to strip away the moral pretext of humanitarian intervention and expose its ugly, imperialist reality. No other group has the power and the responsibility other than us to do this….we must be the ones to boldly point out that while strutting around the globe clothed in the fiction of humanitarian concern, imperialism is actually naked, and the sight is offensive.

Syria Is Becoming Obama’s Iraq: Empire Carries On. By Shamus Cooke, CounterPunch, June 19, 2013:

In perfect Bush-like fashion, President Obama has invented a bogus pretense for military intervention in yet another Middle East country. The president’s claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons — and thus crossed Obama’s imaginary “red line” — will likely fool very few Americans, who already distrust their president after the massive NSA spying scandal.

Obama has officially started down a path that inevitably leads to full-scale war. At this point the Obama administration thinks it has already invested too much military, financial, and diplomatic capital into the Syrian conflict to turn back, and each step forward brings the U.S. closer to a direct military intervention.

Much like Obama’s spying program, few Americans knew that the United States was already involved, neck deep, with the mass killings occurring in Syria. For example, Obama has been directly arming the Syrian rebels for well over a year. The New York Times broke the story that the Obama administration has — through the CIA — been illegally trafficking thousands of tons of guns to the rebels from the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. If not for these Obama-trafficked guns, thousands of deaths would have been prevented and the Syrian conflict over.

Top 10 warning signs of ‘liberal imperialism’. By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, May 20, 2013:

Are you a liberal imperialist? Liberal imperialists are like kinder, gentler neoconservatives: Like neocons, they believe it’s America’s responsibility to right political and humanitarian wrongs around the world, and they’re comfortable with the idea of the United States deciding who will run countries such as Libya, Syria, or Afghanistan. Unlike neocons, liberal imperialists embrace and support international institutions (like the United Nations), and they are driven more by concern for human rights than they are by blind nationalism or protecting the U.S.-Israel special relationship. Still, like the neocons, liberal imperialists are eager proponents for using American hard power, even in situations where it might easily do more harm than good. The odd-bedfellow combination of their idealism with neocons’ ideology has given us a lot of bad foreign policy over the past decade, especially the decisions to intervene militarily in Iraq or nation-build in Afghanistan, and today’s drumbeat to do the same in Syria….

Divided Europe imperils Syrian arms embargo. By Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, The Independent, May 26, 2013:

It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms,” the [EU] diplomat said. “If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.”

Bad Idea, Mr. President. By Ramzy Mardini, The New York Times Sunday Review, June 14, 2013:

For nearly two years, the Obama administration has described the Syrian regime as having “lost all legitimacy” and “clinging to power.” And yet, it has surprisingly endured. That’s because neither assertion is really accurate. Mr. Assad still has strong support from many Syrians, including members of the Sunni urban class. While the assistance Syria receives from its external allies, like Iran and Russia, is important, it would be inconsequential if the Assad regime were not backed by a significant portion of the population.

Interventionists tend to detach their actions from longer-term consequences. This myopia is often coupled with a prevalent misunderstanding of the political and cultural context of where they want to intervene. Both problems are present in the current American approach to Syria.

The Syrian revolution isn’t democratic or secular; the more than 90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide — and human rights violations have been committed on both sides.

Moreover, the rebels don’t have the support or trust of a clear majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr. Assad; likewise, the possibility of chemical weapons’ falling into the hands of terrorist groups only grows as the regime weakens.

Best way for Obama to help Syria is with aid and diplomacy – not weapons. By David Cotright, Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 2013–the narrative on the war is typical and predictable, but the recommendations are of the kind that are in obvious short supply in Washington:

As onlookers gaze in horror at the civil war raging in Syria, many naturally feel a compulsion to do something to relieve the people’s suffering. Many have called for arming the Syrian rebels – a move President Obama is now reportedly considering as Bashar al-Assad’s forces are apparently poised to attack the key city of Homs. But such a step would worsen the devastation and might involve the United States in yet another Middle East war. A better way to help the Syrian people is to pursue diplomatic efforts to end the killing and provide greater support for humanitarian relief efforts.

Giving military aid to the rebels will only add fuel to the fire, prolonging the war, producing more death and destruction, and increasing the risk of sectarian conflagration in the region….

Five reasons to stay out of Syria. By Derek Burnley and Fen Osley Hampson, The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2013:

Just before the Group of Eight summit, Mr. Obama finally relented and announced that Washington will begin arming the rebels because Mr. al-Assad has crossed a “red line” by using chemical agents against his own people.

The decision is bad one. It marks the beginning of a slide down the slippery slope to deeper military engagement. It could follow with a repeat of the battle to unseat Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, by way of a no-fly-zone.

Syria: Intervention Will Only Make it Worse. By Zbigniew Brzezinski, TIME, May 08, 2013:

The various schemes that have been proposed for a kind of tiddlywinks intervention from around the edges of the conflict—no-fly zones, bombing Damascus and so forth—would simply make the situation worse. None of the proposals would result in an outcome strategically beneficial for the U.S. On the contrary, they would produce a more complex, undefined slide into the worst-case scenario….

And finally, the typically contradictory and illogical argument for intervention from the Canadian “Responsibility to Protect” lobby:

Syria: The G8 should call for for intervention, now. By Paul Heinbecker, The Globe and Mail, June 17, 2013:

First the author notes: “The reasons for not intervening militarily are not trivial. In the first place, inside the country and out, Syrians are divided, with no clarity about who would lead if president Bashar al-Assad fell and what would happen to minorities and their rights. Absent a controlling authority, horrific retributions for atrocities already committed are all but guaranteed, no matter which side prevails. Further, the Free Syrian Army is not an army but a collection of militias, some with democratic aspirations and others fundamentalist. Nor is the FSA fully Syrian; foreign jihadis have been coming to the fight from other conflicts, hoping to brand their own fundamentalism onto a state that heretofore has been more secular than sectarian. A further reason for not acting is the prudential, Hippocratic concern not to make things worse.”

And yet the author somehow manages to conclude that what is needed is a “no-fly zone”: “Implementing a no-fly zone would require the suppression of Syrian air defences, a significant military task but one that could be eased somewhat by Cruise missiles and other weapons systems operating from offshore. Incirlik, the major Turkish air base in southern Turkey, which is protected by Patriot missile systems, would put much of Syrian airspace within reach of coalition aircraft. A counterpart base in Jordan would cover much of the rest.”

As for international law, out the window it goes again whenever convenient to the rogue R2P lobby: “No legitimizing UN mandate is obtainable….Because of Russian intransigence in New York, such a no-fly zone or zones would likely have to be imposed by a coalition of the willing without a Security Council resolution as was also done in the Kosovo war a decade ago.”


Ecuador: Correa pushes free speech, challenges ‘media dictatorship’. By Fred Fuentes, Green Left Weekly, September 1, 2012:

A closer look at the international media campaign against Ecuador shows how “free speech” is being used, again, as a smokescreen to protect powerful interests ― in this case, a media dictatorship. Like the campaign against Assange, the corporate media campaign against Correa is driven by the threat the example of his government poses to the powerful….

ECUADOR APRUEBA NUEVA LEY ORGÁNICA DE COMUNICACIÓN QUE GARANTIZA LA PLENA LIBERTAD DE EXPRESIÓN (Ecuador Approves New Communications Law That Guarantees Full Freedom of Expression). La Iguana TV, June 14, 2013:

Just a few hours after the law was approved in parliament, Ecuadorean and foreign media linked to private capital, and using as spokespersons both opposition politicians and members of NGOs, an onslaught started that attacked the law as a gagging free expression.

These arguments, reminiscent of those used against Venezuela in 2004 when it approved the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, were used to attack the government of Ecuador and to class it as authoritarian.

Ecuador’s President Attacks US Over Press Freedom Critique. The Real News, May 21, 2013:

RAFAEL CORREA, ECUADORIAN PRESIDENT: Don’t come lecturing us about liberty. You need a reality check. Don’t act like a spoiled rude child. Here you will only find dignity and sovereignty. Here we haven’t invaded anyone. Here we don’t torture like in Guantanamo. Here we don’t have drones killing alleged terrorist without any due trial, killing also the women and children of those supposed terrorists. So don’t come lecturing us about life, law, dignity, or liberty. You don’t have the moral right to do so….

Please let us all understand what goes on in Latin America. Out of the seven TV Networks in Ecuador, five used to belong to the banks. When we wanted to regulate the banks to avoid executive malpractices and an eventual crisis like the one now taking place here in Spain, we used to have all the TV networks against us. There is a conflict of interest.


Guatemala Suffered for U.S. Foreign Policy (Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, a member of the K´iche´ ethnic group, is a social anthropologist. She writes a weekly column for El Periodico, a national Guatemalan newspaper). The New York Times, May 19, 2013:

The United States financed brutal counterinsurgency campaigns with forces it trained in the School of the Americas. By interfering in state policies and it shared responsibility for the genocidal campaigns carried out by the military regimes in Guatemala, including the government of Ríos Montt.

Ronald Reagan, in particular, supported and exalted the regime of Ríos Montt, reducing the massacres and dehumanization of indigenous communities to a “bum rap” for Ríos Montt. The anticommunist sentiment shared by the two leaders provided an incentive for the armed forces to continue carrying out a genocide against the 22 Maya groups of the country.

The long-term effects of the massacres are not only visible in the loss of lives and brilliant minds but on the current fragmentations of Guatemalan society. U.S. foreign policy tore apart the social fabric of the country.


A Timeline of Venezuelan Opposition Reactions to the Recent Elections. By Stephan Lefebvre and Dan Beeton, Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 23, 2013.

Noam Chomsky, Scholars Ask NY Times Public Editor to Investigate Bias on Honduras and Venezuela. NACLA Report on the Americas, May 14, 2013:

….In the past four years, the Times has referred to Chávez as an “autocrat,” “despot,” “authoritarian ruler” and a “caudillo” in its news coverage. When opinion pieces are included, the Times has published at least fifteen separate articles employing such language, depicting Chávez as a “dictator” or “strongman.” Over the same period—since the June 28, 2009 military overthrow of elected president Manuel Zelaya of Honduras—Times contributors have never used such terms to describe Micheletti, who presided over the coup regime after Zelaya’s removal, or Porfirio Lobo, who succeeded him. Instead, the paper has variously described them in its news coverage as “interim,” “de facto,” and “new.”…

Venezuela’s Election System Holds Up As A Model For The World. By Eugenio Martínez, Forbes, May 14, 2013:

Venezuela employs one of the most technologically advanced verifiable voting systems in the world, designed to protect voters from fraud and tampering and ensure the accuracy of the vote count. Accuracy and integrity are guaranteed from the minute voters walk into the polls to the point where a final tally is revealed.

Maduro recibe a nombre del pueblo distinción de la FAO por lucha contra el hambre y la pobreza [Maduro, in the name of the people, receives an award from the FAO for fight against hunger and poverty]. PSUV, June 16, 2013:

The President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, won recognition from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with an award that pays respect to Venezuela for being within the group of 15 countries that have made exceptional progress by reducing the prevalence of hunger undernourishment….

Recent estimates by the FAO located Venezuela in the group of 15 countries (among which are Cuba, Nicaragua, Guyana, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil) who have made exceptional progress to reduce the prevalence of undernourishment from 13.5% in 1990-1992 to less than 5% during the period 2010-2012, thus achieving the target of the Millennium Development Goals relating to hunger.

U.S. Media Continues to Treat Capriles’ Complaints Seriously Despite Lack of Evidence. By Dan Beeton, Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 20, 2013:

As we have noted previously, statistical analysis shows that Venezuelan opposition challenger Henrique Capriles has an almost impossible chance of seeing the April 14 election result change through a full audit of voting machines, as he had demanded.

We have issued two press releases about this, as well as our full paper detailing our calculations step-by-step, and CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot had an op-ed on this in Aljazeera English. Mark also presented these findings at a recent high-profile conference at the Celso Furtado Center in Rio. Despite being reported in a variety of Latin American and Spanish media, including Spanish newspaper El País, Argentine media outlet Télam, and Venezuela’s Panorama, the U.S. media has ignored this important part of the story. We have corresponded with several reporters who initially expressed interest in the one-in-25-thousand-trillion figure. None of them has since cited the statistical improbability of Capriles’ seeing the election results change through the full audit, nor have other major U.S. media outlets. One reporter writing for a major U.S. newspaper has told us that his editors refuse to publish anything related to our statistical analysis or regarding the audit and its significance more generally.


libya-global-natoGlobal NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya
Lessons for Africa in the Forging of African Unity

by Horace Campbell
Monthly Review Press, 2013.

In this incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO’s intervention in Libya. He traces the origins of the conflict, situates it in the broader context of the Arab Spring uprisings, and explains the expanded role of a post-Cold War NATO. This military organization, he argues, is the instrument through which the capitalist class of North America and Europe seeks to impose its political will on the rest of the world, however warped by the increasingly outmoded neoliberal form of capitalism. The intervention in Libya—characterized by bombing campaigns, military information operations, third party countries, and private contractors—exemplifies this new model.

Campbell points out that while political elites in the West were quick to celebrate the intervention in Libya as a success, the NATO campaign caused many civilian deaths and destroyed the nation’s infrastructure. Furthermore, the instability it unleashed in the forms of militias and terrorist groups have only begun to be reckoned with, as the United States learned when its embassy was attacked and personnel, including the ambassador, were killed. Campbell’s lucid study is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand this complex and weighty course of events.

libya-francis-boyleDestroying Libya and World Order:
The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution
by Francis A. Boyle
Clarity Press, 2013.

It took three decades for the United States government—spanning and working assiduously over five different presidential administrations (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II , and Obama)—to terminate the 1969 Qaddafi Revolution, seize control over Libya’s oil fields, and dismantle its Jamahiriya system. This book tells the story of what happened, why it happened, and what was both wrong and illegal with that from the perspective of an international law professor and lawyer who tried for over three decades to stop it. Francis Boyle provides a comprehensive history and critique of American foreign policy toward Libya from when the Reagan administration came to power in January of 1981 up to the 2011 NA TO war on Libya that ultimately achieved the US goal of regime change, and beyond. He sets the record straight on the series of military conflicts and crises between the United States and Libya over the Gulf of Sidra, exposing the Reagan administration’s fraudulent claims of Libyan instigation of international terrorism put forward over his eight years in office. Boyle reveals the inside story behind the Lockerbie bombing cases against the United States and the United Kingdom that he filed at the World Court for Colonel Qaddafi acting upon his advice—and the unjust resolution of those disputes. Deploying standard criteria of international law, Boyle analyzes and debunks the UN R2P “responsibility to protect” doctrine and its immediate predecessor, “humanitarian intervention”. He addresses how R2P served as the basis for the NATO assault on Libya in 2011, overriding the UN Charter commitment to state sovereignty and prevention of aggression. The purported NATO protection in actuality led to 50,000 Libyan casualties, and the complete breakdown of law and order. And this is just the beginning. Boyle lays out the ramifications: the destabilization of the Maghreb and Sahel, and the French intervention in Mali—with the USA/NATO/Europe starting a new imperial scramble for the natural resources of Africa. This book is not only a classic case study of the conduct of US foreign policy as it relates to international law, but a damning indictment of the newly-contrived R2P doctrine as legal cover for Western intervention into third world countries.

Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period, providing links and representative extracts or key passages from each resource, usually focusing on certain countries/continents and/or processes in each report. The focus of the reports ranges from imperialism discussed in broad strokes, to specific facets of imperialism: militarization and militarism; militainment; “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect”; regime-change; nation-building; counterinsurgency; state terrorism; the economics of empire; soft power, psychological operations, and strategic information operations; and, the ideologies and moral constructions of contemporary imperialist thought. In keeping with the dualistic theme–the empire that encircles us, and the encircling of empire by resistance and collapse–we also attempt to provide coverage of anti-imperialism, anti-war struggles, and the direct resistance against imperialist intervention, as well as covering the decline of U.S. and European geopolitical hegemony.

(When links expire–and they certainly will in many cases–either use the full title of each item, inside quotation marks, and use that as a search term, or use the expired URL and use http://web.archive.org to do a search in its Wayback Machine.)

The Libyan people should protect their identity, achievements, history and the honourable image of their ancestors and heroes. The Libyan people should not relinquish the sacrifices of the free and best people. I call on my supporters to continue the resistance, and fight any foreign aggressor against Libya, today, tomorrow and always. Let the free people of the world know that we could have bargained over and sold out our cause in return for a personally secure and stable life. We received many offers to this effect but we chose to be at the vanguard of the confrontation as a badge of duty and honour. Even if we do not win immediately, we will give a lesson to future generations that choosing to protect the nation is an honour and selling it out is the greatest betrayal that history will remember forever despite the attempts of the others to tell you otherwise. ~ Muammar Gaddafi

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